24 Hours to Life
by Moon Momma

7:00 am Tokyo

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"So what are we going to do?" Usagi asked the rest of the group. She sounded far too discouraged for Nephrite's liking.

"If we move the Earth back to that other reality, where the fight against the Dark Kingdom happened, we'll get attacked by those monsters that are the ghosts of things that happened in this reality that will unhappen if we move," Rei answered.

"What about the ghosts of things that didn't happen in the other reality, that will happen if we move back to it?" Minako asked.

"Those things never happened, so they don't have ghosts," Ami pointed out.

"So we only get the monsters if we try to move back," Makoto said.

"But if we don't move back, Nephrite and those guys won't get to have their new chance to live," Usagi said.

Nephrite was listening to the conversation with a growing sense of doom. Never mind the monsters, moving Earth from one reality to another would disrupt an unknown number of lives, stealing families, memories, accomplishments that had all happened in this reality. What right did he and the other Generals have to do that to so many people just for the sake of their own lives? He looked at Naru, whose worried expression showed that she also clearly understood the implications of what the Senshi were saying.

He didn't want to lose her again. He didn't want to put her through losing him again. But the way things looked now, there was no possible way he and the other Generals could fulfill the conditions of the offer they'd been given without doing something even worse than the wrongs they were supposed to make up for. How was he going to tell them? Did he even have the right to make this decision for them, instead of just for himself? Maybe he should just bow out and let Jadeite, Kunzite, and Zoisite decide for themselves whether or not they wanted the Senshi to move the Earth back for them.

He looked at Naru's sweet, pensive face. He couldn't give up so easily on the chance to be with her. If she had been happy with that boy she was dating - Umino, that was his name - that was one thing. At least she would still be happy. But she wasn't happy, and it would only make her more unhappy if he just gave up.

After the long night of fighting and little sleep, he could hardly think any more. He looked at his watch; there were less than two hours left before he was supposed to meet Jadeite, Zoisite, and Kunzite at the harbor walk. More than half of the allotted twenty-four hours was gone. He hoped the other Generals were winning lots of money; he sure wasn't making any progress, except with Naru-chan. For all the good that would do him.

"Maybe there's another way," Naru said to him. "I don't know what, but there has to be something. Whoever it was that gave you guys this chance, it seems like they should have known you would run into this problem. I don't think they would have given you a chance if it was impossible for you to do what you're supposed to do."

Her optimism sounded forced. Nephrite could hardly bear to see the fear in her eyes. "It wouldn't surprise me if that is what they did. It's no more than we deserve, after the things we've done." Despite his pessimistic words, he couldn't help turning his mind to the problem. Was there some other way? He thought back over everything he remembered of what the mysterious voice had said, looking for double meanings and loopholes. He couldn't recall any, but then he was so tired he could barely think at all. If only he could get some sleep... But he was afraid if he went to sleep he would sleep right through the six o'clock deadline that evening.

"What do you think, Nephrite?" Mamoru asked. "Should we still try it?"

"I think we're damned if we do and damned if we don't," he said. "And I mean that literally. Let me sleep on it for a bit. Someone wake me up at quarter to nine; I'm supposed to meet Jadeite, Zoisite, and Kunzite at nine." He retreated to a secluded corner of the room; he trusted the Senshi and Tuxedo Mask more than he had before, but he didn't trust them enough to leave himself vulnerable by sleeping in front of them. He stretched out on his back on the floor, one arm pillowing his head, the other arm blocking the early morning light from his eyes, and tried to fall asleep.

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The Nephrite and Naru Treasury