Chapter Five - Seperation

Nephrite followed the sound of Mercury's scream. He hadn't left the Dark Kingdom for awhile, but he could still teleport.
He found the dark senshi kneeling on the floor, her eyes wide, staring blankly into the distance. In her arms she cradled the fallen Sailor Moon, her tiara cracked and broken on the floor alongside her shattered weapon.
He hurried over to Mercury, paying only enough attention to Sailor Moon as he needed to make sure he didn't step on her.
Mercury didn't seem to see him, her eyes fixed on a point in the middle distance, though it seemed unlikely that she was actually seeing anything.
"Mercury?" he crouched down in front of her, waving his hand in front of her eyes.
The senshi didn't even blink.
When he shook her gently she moved side-to-side, loose like a ragdoll.
Nephrite bit his lip. He had to get her out of here. He pried her arms off Sailor Moon.

"... U..sa..gi..." she whispered, reaching for Sailor Moon again.
"Mercury!" he exclaimed, "What's wrong with you?"
"I... did this..."
He blinked, "So?"
"I did this... to Usagi-chan." She gathered Moon into her arms and tried to wake her.
Nephrite blinked as it suddenly registered what Mercury was calling her. "Mercury," he tried to get her to let go, "Let her go... you defeated her. That's what you were trying to do."
"Usagi-chan!" she wailed desperately, clinging harder to Moon.

The spell was wearing off... he was going to lose her. She was going to go back to the senshi...
All of a sudden, Nephrite realized what she was... and what he was going to lose. His friend.
He wrapped his arms around her, running his fingers through her hair. This had comforted her last time but it didn't seem to be working this time,
Poor Mercury seemed to have gone into a state of shock.
He tried pulling her away from Sailor Moon again.
"Iie!" she screamed, clinging tightly to the fallen senshi.
Her scream hurt his heart... He couldn't pull her away. "Mercury, wake up..." he pleaded.

"Mercury." Another voice cut over Nephrite's.
Kunzite stalked over, walking past Nephrite as if he were invisible, "Mercury."
The senshi didn't move.
Nephrite wanted to tell Kunzite to leave her alone, but he knew the taller shitennou would just ignore him.
"Mercury!" Kunzite grabbed the senshi under the arms and bodily hauled her away from Moon.
After she was dropped back to the floor, however, she just slowly, ever so slowly, started to crawl back towards Moon, her eyes huge and watery, her breathing jagged. She had almost reached Moon when Kunzite swirled his cloak, and all three disappeared.

Nephrite headed back to the Dark Kingdom to start looking for her. Wherever she was, it wasn't where easy to find. What had Kunzite done to her?
It was a lot easier to find the other shitennou at least.

Kunzite was playing what appeared to be a game of chess. Nephrite couldn't see it clearly, but Kunzite seemed to be amused by it.
The place shook and Kunzite laughed. Somewhere, faintly, Nephrite could hear Mercury shriek. His heart skipped a beat. He wanted to ask what Kunzite was doing, but he knew he wouldn't get an answer.
So instead, he crept as close as he dared, and tried to see.
It was an odd looking chessboard... there were two white pawns and two black pieces on either side.
The pawns started moving away from the black pieces, and Kunzite chuckled.

Suddenly, Nephrite understood. Mercury - and Moon - were the pawns and the black pieces... well that was why Mercury was screaming.
He bit his lip.
If he had to choose between Kunzite and Mercury... well it was no contest there.
He moved a bit further away, and a red stone appeared in his hand. He set it down on the ground and used some of his own power to bring it to life, sending it to where Mercury was.

Ami's eyes widened as another youma appeared, this one with a more reddish tint than the others. Nephrite's youma had always been red... This wasn't good.
The youma lumbered towards them, stopping a few feet in front of them. Behind Nephrite's youma, she could see another youma that had been waiting to attack them, but now that they clearly weren't coming that way, it had come into view.
The red youma started towards them, so Usagi grabbed Ami's hand and started running the opposite direction away from the youma.
When Ami had a chance to glance back, she could see that Nephrite's youma wasn't chasing after them.

Usagi let out a groan - they had come back to the beginning again. Ami's dark transformation watch was on the ground next to them.
"Oh no..." Ami whispered.
The soft growl of a youma made both girls look up.
"This way!" Ami grabbed Usagi's hand again and pulled her along down the path once again.

When they reached a fork in the road, they skidded to a stop. Ami knew one of the paths led them in a big circle, but she couldn't remember which one.
The red youma came plodding down one of the paths.
Ami's eyes widened and she took off down the other path, pulling Usagi along with her.
For once, the scenery started to look different. Ami and Usagi slowed to a walk.
Every time the path split in two directions the now-familiar-youma was guarding one of the paths, giving them no choice which way to take.

A little thought started nudging at Ami's mind as she walked down the only path they could take. Either Nephrite was helping Kunzite confuse them more, or... or he was helping them get out.
And given the way things were lately... she hoped, she really hoped, that he was helping her. She had to trust him.

Kunzite was watching his 'chess board', a little bemused by the sudden addition of a new 'piece' that was helping the pawns maneuver through the board.
He frowned and picked up the piece to look at it. His eyes narrowed when he saw it was red. "Nephrite," he growled, throwing the piece against the wall and shattering it.
"Nephrite!" he shouted, "I know you can hear me!"
The red-head stepped into the room.
"Stay out of this," Kunzite warned.
"I want to play too."
"I said, keep out of it," he snapped.
"Fine," Nephrite muttered.
"Now get out!"

Nephrite sighed and walked out of the room with as much dignity as he could manage. He hadn't gone far when he heard a roar of frustration from Kunzite's room.
There was a loud smash and then... silence.
Nephrite perked up a bit. Maybe she had gotten out. That was a relief. Maybe she was safe... and back with the senshi... he would never see her again...
He was back to being alone.

When he felt Kunzite teleport away, Nephrite decided to follow his trail, just in case.
Just in case of what, he wasn't sure, but he followed him anyway.
Nephrite came out of the teleportation just in time to see a bright flash of light swallow Kunzite and a youma.

Nephrite pressed back against the wall, looking around for the senshi.
All five of them stood there, looking quite triumphant, but Nephrite only had eyes for Mercury... back in her old senshi outfit.
He held back a sigh. She really was gone. But he had always known in the back of his mind that this could happen... she always had been one of the senshi...
But... he didn't want to fight her... he didn't think he could.

"Mercury." Kunzite's voice suddenly rang out in the echoing hall.
Mercury turned towards the sound and let out a scream as Kunzite swung his sword down at her.
And then, Kunzite stopped. His sword had hit on something metal.
It was hard to say who looked more surprised, Kunzite or Mercury.
Nephrite's entire body was tense, as he used his own sword to hold Kunzite back.
"What are you doing?" Kunzite growled.
"I'm getting in your way," Nephrite responded, pushing back against Kunzite as hard as he could. Kunzite could attack any of the other senshi - any of them! But to get at Mercury, he'd have to go through Nephrite first.
Finally Kunzite stumbled backwards. He regarded Nephrite for a long moment and then sheathed his sword. "Baka," he muttered. He span on his heel and flicked his cloak, disappearing.

Nephrite finally let himself breathe again. He slowly turned to face Mercury.
Her eyes were wide. Why had he done that? Surely he should have just let Kunzite do away with her.
But... she couldn't quite push away the memories of being in the Dark Kingdom, and the strange companionship she had shared with him.

There was an almost sad look in his eyes. Her eyes widened a bit more. Somehow, she didn't want him to be sad.
He held her gaze a long moment before he vanished.

Mercury stared at the spot where he had stood, feeling a slight sense of loss. The next time she saw him, she would have to fight him, and that idea made her feel a little ill.

Nephrite went back to the Dark Kingdom, alone again. Completely alone. He sank down onto his pile of blankets. Mercury had just arranged them that morning, like she did every day. Their scent reminded him of her.
It was hard to believe that she wouldn't be coming back.
It was strange, but while she was looking after him, he hadn't minded his exile so much, but now... without her... what was he going to do?
Once, being in Beryl's favor was enough, but now he wasn't so sure.
Still, if he worked on getting back in her favor, maybe that would help.
But he wasn't so sure anymore.