* * * * * * * *
Nephrite tried to follow the priestesses and Naru, but the portal between the tent and his hideout had disappeared. It didn't matter, if he looked hard enough he was sure he could find the tent. But right now it would be better if he worked on their plans for dealing with the Star Swallower.
He had no trouble locating the individual Senshi, but couldn't find them all together. Though it was Sailor Moon whose help he and Naru needed, he was certain she would want to consult with the other Senshi before agreeing to use the Silver Crystal to help Naru. If she was going to be able to help at all. For three days he followed Usagi. He let her catch glimpses of him, but she looked right past him as though he was a stranger. When he saw her and the girl who was Sailor Mars walk right past each other with no sign of recognition, he realized they didn't remember each other. It must be an after-effect of the final battle against the Dark Kingdom, or the use of the Crystal. Usagi probably didn't even remember that she was Sailor Moon.
This was a problem; he and Naru had pinned their strategy on help from Sailor Moon. Time could run out before Usagi remembered, if she ever did. And Nephrite couldn't think of anything else that would help.
After several days, there was a disturbance in the city, and Sailor Moon and the Senshi reappeared. The next day, Nephrite found them gathered at the Hikawa Shrine. They looked up, startled, when he appeared in the room. "Nephrite!" Usagi said. "Is Naru all right?"
"She's fine. We're working on a plan for her to destroy the Star Swallower, but we need some help from you. Naru was able to recover her memories of the last time she fought against the Star Swallower. The Star Swallower is actually a spell cast by the Sun People centuries before she lived, to try to make the Sun habitable."
"But that would have caused the deaths of everyone else in the solar system, if the sun was cool and dim enough to be habitable," Sailor Mercury pointed out.
"Exactly. The spell backfired and began consuming the souls of the Sun People. Those souls are trapped in it, still alive, still aware of what's happening to them. Instead of destroying them along with the Star Swallower, Naru would like to try to free them first. I remembered rumors of certain powers possessed by the Silver Crystal, and was wondering if you could use it to free the souls trapped by the Star Swallower."
"I might," Usagi said thoughtfully. "The Silver Crystal can do all kinds of things. It kept our souls so we could be reborn, and freed the people who were possessed by the Rainbow Warriors, and brought us back to life after we all died fighting against the Dark Kingdom, and --"
"Wait," Nephrite said. "It brought you back to life?"
"Yeah," Usagi said. "We all died, but right as I died I wished we could be alive again, plus our work wasn't done yet so the crystal brought us all back. Anyway --"
"I wonder..." He paused, considering if what he was about to ask would undermine their trust in him, then decided to go ahead. He had made a promise. "I wonder if it would work on the other Shitennou."
"The Dark Kingdom Generals? You want to try to bring them back to life? Why?"
"We were friends once. Good friends, almost brothers. After I got free of the Dark Kingdom I made a promise that I would do what I could to help them. Even if they've died, they might be in a place where it's still possible to bring them back."
"Even Zoisite? The one who tried to kill you?" Sailor Mars asked.
"He also tried to kill Tuxedo Kamen-sama," Sailor Moon added.
"And Beryl executed him for that," Nerphite said. "There was a time, before Beryl warped us, when Zoisite would have given his life for me. Any of us would have died for any of the others, any of us would have gladly died to protect Endymion."
Sailor Moon chewed her lower lip. "It might work. It would depend on how far they've gone, and if we could find them, and if the Crystal thinks it's the right thing for them to come back. I can't make any promises."
"I understand," Nehprite said. "But after Naru has finished what she has to do, will you try to help me?"
"All right. If you promise that they won't try to attack us. We've already got our hands full with some new enemies, we don't need a bunch of old ones showing up too."
"I think I can safely promise that they won't try to hurt you. If they do, I'll help you fight them."
"Okay, you've got a deal," Sailor Moon said. "Now, about the thing with Naru. I don't know for sure, but the Crystal has done a lot of other stuff kind of like that, so it might work. When will you need me?"
"Soon," he said. "The priestesses said we don't have much time. Naru needs to practice the attack she's going to use to destroy the Star Swalloweronce the souls it captured have been freed. But they're holding her and won't let her out to train with me until we have a plan. I'd like you to come with me now and tell them that you've got the secret to freeing the souls but you won't help unless they allow Naru to finish training with me."
"Okay, I think I can do that. Can the rest of you handle these Cardian things if they show up while I'm gone?" she asked the other Senshi.
"Don't worry," Sailor Jupiter assured Sailor Moon. "We can handle that bunch for a little while."
"All right," Sailor Moon said. "I can come with you. Where are these priestesses?"
"I don't know," he said. "They removed the portal between their tent and my hideout, and also the one to my headquarters here. I'm going to have to look for them."
"I can help." Sailor Mercury produced her little blue hand-held computer. The blue visor slid out in front of her eyes. "Tell me what you know, and I'll find them."
Nephrite told her the coordinates he remembered from when they had been using the portal between the tent and his hideout, and the coordinates for the portal between his hideout and the shrine. "I don't know where they are now, though. Apparently this tent can travel through time and space at the priestesses' will."
Sailor Mercury's face was furrowed in concentration as she tapped at her little computer. "It should have left a trail, though. Nothing can pass through time and space without leaving some signs of its passing. Like the wake of a ship... Ah. Here's the trail." She tapped for a few more moments. Numbers and symbols flowed past her face on the visor. She stopped entering data and waited for the computer to finish its calculations. "Here it is." She showed Nephrite the new coordinates that had appeared on her computer screen.
A quick study of the numbers and symbols fixed the physical location in Nephrite's mind; his study of the stars had given him a familiarity with locations all through the galaxy and beyond. Reading the numbers that Sailor Mercury showed him was like looking at a specific point on a map. "I've got it. Sailor Moon, are you ready?"
"Hang on," she said. "Let me just transform really quick." There was a flash and swirl of light, and then Sailor Moon stood in her full battle fuku. "Ready!"
"All right," Nephrite said. "Hang on. As soon as I've got the portal open, we're going."
Sailor Moon grabbed onto his arm.
"I need my arm," he said. "Stand behind me, so you won't be in my way."
Sailor Moon's face went red. "Umm. This is really weird. I've never especially wanted to hug you. No offense."
"Just hold on," he said. Obediently, Sailor Moon wrapped her arms around him from behind. Nephrite focused on the location and coordinates that were fixed in his mind, and began the incantation while forming the portal with gestures of his arms. With his mind he located the tent, far away, then he pulled the opening back to where he and Sailor Moon stood. As soon as the opening reached them, he stepped into it, pulling Sailor Moon along behind him.
* * * * * * * *
Several days after her last conversation with Detective Katayama, Kimiko answered her office phone to find him on the other end.
"How are you, Mrs Osaka?" he asked.
"I'm quite well, considering. Thank you. And you?"
"I'm well, too."
"Is there any news?"
"No, nothing new. Mrs. Osaka, this may seem somewhat irregular, but..." He cleared his throat. "I've been rather concerned for you. For your safety, since you told me that Mr. Sanjouin's enemies had found where you live. There's been a resurgance of mysterious activity in the city. And also, well, I've been concerned about your emotional well-being. This must be very difficult, having your daughter gone for so long, and knowing that she's in danger, although her absence is, as you've said, for her protection."
Kimiko's insides did a little dance. She tried to calm herself; this was very irregular, and she shouldn't jump to conclusions. "Well, yes, it has been difficult. I do trust Mr. Sanjouin, or at least as much as I can trust someone I barely know. It's more instinct than a rational knowledge that he's trustworthy, but I really have no choice and I'm convinced that he really does care about my daughter, and Sailor Moon did vouch for him..." She realized she was babbling, and tried again to calm down. "Yes, it's been difficult. But at least my apartment hasn't been attacked again, and that Iwasaki woman does seem to be gone for good." Again she remembered how the reporter's eyes had glowed with dark light at their last encounter, and she shuddered to think what kind of danger she had been in without even realizing it.
"That's good to know. Still, though, I was wondering... Would you care to meet me for coffee this afternoon? If you have time, of course. We can discuss the situation further, if you like..."
Coffee. This afternoon. A date. He had actually asked her out on a date. Kimiko almost didn't know what to say; she had been asked out a number of times since her husband died nine years ago, but she had never actually encouraged or accepted the invitations. Her life had revolved around Naru and the store, but sometimes she longed for more. Naru wasn't going to be living at home forever. The store kept her busy, but it wasn't much good for companionship. It was time to start expanding her horizons. "I'd be delighted, Mr. Katayama," she said. "This is quite a surprise, but yes, I'd enjoy that very much."
"Oh, good. Good. Perhaps the Black Cat Cafe, at three o'clock?"
The Black Cat was near the OSA*P shop, just right for a quick break. Suzume could manage things just fine without her for half an hour or so. "That sounds wonderful, Mr. Katayama. I'll see you then."
* * * * * * * *
The half hour turned into an hour and a half. Detective Katayama told her he had been divorced for twenty years and had a grown son who was in medical school. He enjoyed classic American western and mystery movies, and practiced several different martial arts. He asked about Kimiko's late husband, and what it was like for a woman running a jewelry store in the highly competitive, male-dominated jewelry business while raising a daughter. Neither of them said a word about the investigation into Naru's whereabouts. The time flew by, and when Kimiko looked at her watch and saw that it was four-thirty, she realized that it had been years since she had spent so much time in conversation with one person. He walked her back to the shop and left her with an agreement that they would have dinner together very soon. Kimiko went back to work looking forward to that dinner appointment more than she had looked forward to anything in a very long time.
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return to Index / go to Chapter 14
The Nephrite and Naru Treasury