* * * * * * * *
Nephrite awoke suddenly. There had been an oppressive weight on his mind and in the atmosphere all day, and he sensed that the Dark Kingdom was finally making its move. The deciding battle between the Dark Kingdom and the Senshi was imminent. He got up; he couldn't just lie there without trying to find out what was going on. "Something is happening between the Senshi and the Dark Kingdom," he said to Issoril, who was on watch while the other two priestesses slept.
She looked up from her book and scowled at him, but she opened a portal for him.
In his mansion he changed into his Dark Kingdom uniform, then went out into the city to find out what was going on. A stormy, oppressive darkness had gathered over Tokyo; the taint of Metallia in the atmosphere was almost palpable. He searched the city, all the previous battlegrounds, but could find no trace of the Senshi. The final battle wasn't taking place on Earth, then. He was about to go to the Dark Kingdom to join the battle when a strong feeling brought him up short. Given the choice between helping the Senshi and fighting against them to give Naru more time, what would he choose? His presence would only complicate things, and would almost certainly lead to disaster, one way or another. He invoked the blessing of the stars upon the Senshi, and then, with a pang of regret for turning his back on them, returned to the Sun Priestesses' tent.
When he tried to sleep again, he didn't think he would be able to, but he must have because he suddenly found himself sitting up, sweating and breathing hard as his mind exploded with light and memories. The meaning of this was clear: the Senshi had won, the Dark Kingdom and Metallia had been defeated.
He was free. Metallia's grip on his mind and soul were gone. He looked at his hands and wondered what color the blood would be if he were to cut himself.
The memory of his Prince filled his mind. Endymion, whom he had sworn to serve, and whom he had betrayed. Nephrite buried his face in his hands, recalling how he had first resisted, then listened, and then finally been seduced by Beryl's promises of knowledge and power beyond imagining. How could he have betrayed his Prince and given up everything that was his as a Shitennou? He thought of the other three, Zoisite, Kunzite, and Jadeite. At one time, before Beryl, they had been the best of friends. Not always agreeing, and sometimes competing with each other in ways that treaded the line between friendship and rivalry, but any of them would have given his life for any of the others; any of them would have taken his own life rather than harm one of the others.
And now -- Zoisite dead, Jadeite encased in the Crystal of Eternal Sleep and very likely dead with the destruction of the Dark Kingdom, Kunzite probably dead because if he had lived to fight it was doubtful that the Senshi could have won. Had Beryl turned on him, too, or was he the only one of them to actually be killed by the enemy? "My brothers," he said to himself, and resolved that once Naru's situation was worked out he would find out what had become of them, help them if help was possible, and honor them if nothing else could be done.
If the priestesses had told the truth about this Star Swallower, now that Metallia was no longer a threat it could appear at any time. Since he knew nothing of the creature, he had no idea whether or not Naru was ready to face it. Before anything else happened, they needed to try to discover the truth.
He looked at Naru, sleeping a little more than an arm's-length away from him in her white robe, and another memory slipped into place. A grand ball at the Palace on Earth, with delegations of royalty from all the kingdoms of the Silver Millennium, including the small group of white-robed women who represented the nomadic People of the Sun. A dying people, it was said. Except for their Princess, who was forbidden to marry outside of their tribe, the only ones left were too old to produce any more children. The women of the Sun People kept to themselves at the ball, not even greeting the other guests. Among them, her white robe trimmed with gold, her red hair like a flame across the ballroom, was the Princess of the Sun, and Nephrite felt like the moth drawn to the flame...
He knew what he needed to do, and with what he had learned of the Sun Priestesses' portal-making and locating techniques, he was sure he knew how to do it.
Nephrite decided to keep his knowledge of the Dark Kingdom's defeat from the priestesses. They would certainly find out about it on their own, but he wasn't going to make it any easier for them.
The next 'morning,' as usual, he took Naru to his hideout to train. There, in the low voices they always used for private conversations, he said, "The Senshi defeated the Dark Kingdom last night."
"The Senshi won?" Naru beamed up at him, then her smile faded as she looked at his face. "Is Usagi okay? And the other Senshi?"
"I don't know. It wouldn't have been an easy fight."
"How do you know the Dark Kingdom was defeated?"
"The hold it had on my mind is gone. And my memories of the time before I joined the Dark Kingdom, when Usagi was the Princess of the Moon and I served the Prince of Earth and you were the Princess of the Sun People, are coming back."
"That was the last time that they -- I -- fought against the Star Swallower. Right before the war against the Dark Kingdom. If you served the Prince of Earth, you must have heard all the news about wars and stuff. You might have heard something about the Star Swallower. Maybe if you try really hard, you might remember something."
"Perhaps. My memories are still indistinct. But we can do better than that."
"What do you mean?"
"With what I've learned from the priestesses about portal-making, and using this pocket in between the dimensions of space and time as a base, we should be able to go back to the Silver Millennium and find out for ourselves. It won't be easy, and it'll be dangerous, but with my knowledge and skills it can be done."
"Well, it isn't like there isn't anything dangerous going on in my life already, right? So, all right. Let's do it. I don't trust any of the priestesses, and I think there's things they aren't telling us that would be good to know."
"All right, then. It'll take me a day or two to prepare. I want to make sure I do this right."
"What if the Star Swallower appears sooner than that?"
"I don't think it will. If it's smart enough to be afraid of Metallia, it'll be smart enough to remain in hiding long enough to be absolutely certain she's really gone. We'll act as though nothing has changed, but while we're here I'll work on setting up the portal while you practice on your own." It would be tricky to do this without the priestesses knowing that he was up to something, but it was their best chance to get the knowledge that Naru would need to win the coming fight. And he was eager to find out why the memory of her at that ball stood out so clearly in his mind.
* * * * * * * *
That evening, while Serare was teaching Naru to read the scrolls, Nephrite mentally reviewed all the formulas, techniques, and spells used in portal building and teleporting. There was no way he could ask for paper and pencils to work out his calculations in writing, but he went over and over them in his head until he was certain he had found the right way. Tomorrow, at the hideout, he could write it all down and make sure there were no errors. And then he and Naru could make their journey to the Silver Millennium.
"Lord Nephrite," Sifabi said. He looked up at her. "There was some kind of strange disturbance in the fabric of the universe last night. We are unable to discover its exact nature, though we believe that the Ginzuishou, the crystal of the Moon Princess, was somehow involved. Can you tell us anything about this?"
Nephrite pretended to think for a moment. "No, I'm sorry, I can't." Inwardly, he blessed the talent for lying he had developed during his long years in the Dark Kingdom. "Obviously, if the Ginzuishou was involved, then Sailor Moon must have been too, but the last time I fought the Senshi, they seemed even more demoralized and frightened than ever. I wouldn't worry about it."
She gave him a long, hard look, as though trying to decide whether or not to believe him. He kept his face impassive and bored-looking. "I'll take your word for it, for now," she finally said. "Something made the Ginzuoishou activate very powerfully. I'm not sure that Sailor Moon, in her present incarnation, is capable of using it with such power. If you can't tell me more, I will have to find out for myself. For the Princess's sake, it would be best if the Star Swallower is not yet free to show itself."
"She's nearly ready. We will make the best use of whatever time remains." He would use time to his own advantage, and Naru would soon be free of these dictatorial old women.
* * * * * * * *
Detective Katayama appeared at the door of Kimiko's office, accompanied by Suzume. "Come in," Kimiko said before Suzume could ask.
"Mrs. Osaka. It's nice to see you again." He bowed slightly and she returned the bow.
"It's nice to see you too, Detective." In fact, she was surprised at how nice it was; nicer than she wanted to admit. "Please, have a seat. What brings you here?" she asked as he took the chair on the other side of the desk.
"I've been doing a little investigating into these 'business rivals' of Sanjouin Masato's. And I've learned a few things that are very interesting. Mrs. Osaka, what do you know about Sailor Moon?"
"Sailor Moon?" Kimiko was completely floored. This was the last thing she would have expected the detective to bring up. "She's, well, she's just an urban legend. She doesn't really exist."
"I beg to differ, Mrs. Osaka. Both Mr. Sanjouin and your daughter are known to have been at the scene of a number of incidents that Sailor Moon was involved in. And don't tell me again that she's nothing more than an urban legend. I've interviewed too many people the last several months who claim to have seen her and to have been rescued by her, and whose stories are consistent even though there's no way they could have been in collusion. And they all knew details that were never released to the public. In fact, at least two of the incidents on record involving Sailor Moon took place in your jewelry store. I'm convinced that Sailor Moon is real, and that this business with your daughter and Mr. Sanjouin is somehow connected to her. Now, what, if anything, can you tell me about this connection?"
Kimiko sighed. Being caught in a lie would only undermine her credibility and make things worse for her and Naru. Detective Katayama seemed convinced that she hadn't done anything to harm Naru, and she didn't want to give him any reason to begin doubting her. "All right," she said. "I'll admit there is a connection, and that I do know about Sailor Moon. In fact, I know who she really is, we've known her for years, but I'm not at liberty to reveal her identity. I hope you understand."
"I -- I didn't want to tell you any of this because I didn't want you to think I was crazy or something. After the horrible things that reporter said to me -- she implied that I might have sold my daughter into prostitution, or even killed her for insurance money. You seemed willing to believe that I would never do anything to harm my daughter, and I didn't want to give you reason to doubt me."
"You can tell me the truth, Mrs. Osaka. Or as much of it as you feel at liberty to reveal. Believe me, I've interviewed parents who were capable of doing those kinds of things to their children, and you aren't one of them. If you tell me as much of the truth as you can, I'll see to it that the investigation is closed. As for Miss Iwasaki, she seems to have disappeared. No one has seen or heard anything from her in at least two or three days, either at her workplace or at her apartment."
"The last time I saw her was right after you were here the other day. I think... I'm not sure, but I think she was working for Sanjouin's enemies. When they couldn't get information about Naru out of me one way, they must have decided to try a different approach."
"In any case, I have a feeling she won't be bothering you any more. Organizations like that tend to be rather severe with employees who fail in their assignments."
"I hope you're right, Detective. At any rate, yes, it's true that my daughter was involved in a number of incidents where Sailor Moon appeared to fight those monsters that keep appearing in the city. The reason that Mr. Sanjouin was also involved in those incidents is because he used to be one of the people who were controlling the monsters. As strange as this may sound, it seems that his feelings for my daughter made him decide to leave the group. They used my daughter to bait a trap for Mr. Sanjouin. In retaliation for leaving, I suppose. When he rescued her, she revealed certain talents that Mr. Sanjouin was afraid would make her valuable to this organization, and that they would stop at nothing to be able to control her. So he took her into hiding, to protect her. I really don't know any more details than that. But Sailor Moon has assured me that she believes that Mr. Sanjouin is doing his best to keep my daughter safe, and I have to believe her."
"All right then." The detective had been making a few notes in a small spiral-bound notepad. "This is all consistent with the other things you've told me and with what I've learned and observed. I'll tell my superiors that you know the whereabouts of your daughter and that she is safe, but to remain safe her location must not be revealed at this time. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, that should be enough to suspend the case, at least temporarily." He closed his notebook and tucked it into in the pocket of his jacket. "I'll be in touch. Please contact me if you have anything further to report, or if your daughter returns."
"I hope it won't be much longer," Kimiko said.
"So do I." The tall detective stood to leave. "Good day, Mrs. Osaka."
* * * * * * * *
return to Index / go to Chapter 10
The Nephrite and Naru Treasury