You can guess the crossover. Ranma won't wear a fuku, and also no tuxedo. He won't be some re-incarnation. He is just... Ranma. I want to avoid numerous stuff that became the norm in these crossovers but that actually is pretty stupid. I also will make it clear that while Ranma and the Senshi learn new techniques, I won't sink to the insane levels of the canon, where it became an absurd arms race in the later parts of both series. It's a common weakness in anime series that the power level increases to ridiculous levels. (In my opinion, DBZ is the worst offender in that regard in the anime world) I will try to stay on Earth and try to give everything a bit more realistic feeling (as much as it as it is possible) but don't worry... hilarity will still ensure!

Needless to say that I will slaughter the canon of both series, but I guess you expected this. Also I don't have any rights to both series, but I guess you know that, too.

Finally the final chapter of the Nephrite arc. The whole arc had been harder to write than I first had thought. I'm actually glad that it finally is done and over with. I seem to get better, as this time I only needed two months instead of six. Cutting it down to one month is the goal.

Note that specific notes are at the end of the chapter, to avoid spoilers.


Chapter 14: The Fall of Nephrite

She felt like she was like a ghost, slowly hovering above the Moon. She saw a huge, domed city with a beautiful palace in its center. It was a breathtaking view. Then, she slowly started to glide away from it.

"You came from a long time ago, my little rabbit."

The city as a whole was now beneath her.

"I will always love and never leave you, my daughter, even in the face of my own death."

The lunar landscape was as alien as it was familiar.

"You were reborn to loving parents in a peaceful time, and for that I'm glad."

She was slowly moving away from the Moon.

"I gave you all my remaining strength as a final gift. You'll make my strength you own. Use is wisely. Use it for good..."

Suddenly a cloud of complete darkness reached out for the Moon and everything fell into darkness. A darkness so unnatural and cold, that nothing could survive. And a prosperous time came to an end.

...

"Huh...?" Usagi needed some moments to realise that she was back in her bed at home. Sleepily looking around in her dark room, she spotted Luna sleeping peacefully on her pillow on the floor. She then realised that it had all been a dream. A dream mixed in with stuff from her former life.

She had no idea what to make of it. The others regularly had dreams of their past life - some good, some bad - and always told her that it was like reading an exciting story: you experience it but you know its not your own memory, therefore you had a healthy distance from it. She'd been even a little envious that she hadn't so far had any dreams about her past life. Up until now.

Well, as much as it could be called a past memory.

The whole thing had been weird and confusing. It certainly had not played out like a real-life event; it was more like a movie scene. Had this been the voice of the mother of her previous life? After all, she - it had been a female voice - had called her 'daughter'.

Usagi felt her head spinning. Whatever it was, it could wait until tomorrow. For now she still was tired and needed more sleep. After all the excitement at the embassy, she really needed her sleep.


...in the Dark Kingdom...

"So, the jewel had been a dead end. Too bad," Queen Beryl concluded after hearing Nephrite's report on the whole confrontation at the embassy. "It would have made things easier... but it doesn't matter in the long run."

Nephrite at first had been nervous when reporting to her, since the throne room seemed unusually empty, devoid of all the Youma that usually hung around. Only when seeing that the queen looked tired did he understand, that she'd already dismissed the court and was ready to retire. Her being tired had perhaps softened her reaction.

"Now go, Nephrite. I want to retire," she dismissed him.

Making a final gesture of respect, Nephrite teleported away.

Neither of them had noticed Zoisite hiding behind one of the pillars. Having hear what she wanted to, she quickly walked away, until she'd reached Kunzite's and her's rooms. "Kunzite, Nephrite of course failed. The crystal had been a dead end."

The white-haired general chuckled, while pouring himself some wine. "Very good. I want us to be the only ones to find it, so that we alone get the rewards."

"He will never find it," she replied, while accepting a glass. "I have also ordered my most trustworthy Youma to spy on him. They will report every single suspicious thing. Hm hm, considering the pressure he's under, it's only a matter of time before he slips."

"And the beauty of it is, that he won't even know until it is too late," Kunzite added.

Zoisite chuckled. "He thinks he's so powerful and knows everything. It gives me a certain satisfaction that we pull this off directly under his nose, without him knowing."

"And it give me satisfaction that this will be the sweet payback for everything he said against you," Kunzite reassured her.

"I wonder what punishment our queen will give Nephrite, once he has made the one wrong step?" Zoisite openly wondered, although it appeared she already knew.

"I don't think it is much of a mystery."

Both of them laughed darkly at the thought what fate would await their hated rival. They had no doubt that Nephrite in his growing panic to still stay in their queen's favor would do something stupid, making it easy to frame him in the process. And even if he didn't, he'd be disgraced by his failure and the thought that Jadeite would laugh into his face would be nice compensation in case Nephrite wouldn't become desperate. It was a win-win situation for them, regardless of the outcome.

Yes, this had been a really good day, and they felt the best was still to come.


...next day, Neko-Hanten...

"Wonder why you called me. It's not like I'm needed right now," Ranma asked Khu-Lon, while they walked down the stairs into the basement, where the training area was.

Ranma had been more than surprised, when the elder had called him over the phone to come to the Neko-Hanten after the training of the girls was over for the day. He couldn't imagine why she wanted him to be present, but he hadn't asked questions and simply arrived as asked and that was where he was right at the moment.

He was still a bit sour over yesterday. First the whole deal of having to wear a dress as a disguise, then having to fend off pimple-faced teenagers and having to watch the fight instead of getting involved. On top of that, the bad guy got away, the whole thing had been pointless anyway and Akane was angry. Yes, Ranma just wanted to forget the previous day.

"Oh, it's nothing like that. It's just that the girls are more likely to listen to you when it comes to combat analysis and I will be a bit busy," the elder cryptically told him.

Ranma really wondered what she meant, until the door opened up and he was greeted with the sight of Sailor Pluto standing in the middle of the big training mat, acting as if it was the most normal thing in the world. That they saw her so soon was surprising, since it had been just yesterday when they'd told her of the false lead with the crystal at the embassy. The girls looked a bit nervous about what could happen next and Xian-Pu seemed a bit uncomfortable with the woman's presence. Ranma slowly understood why she wanted him here.

"I see we are now complete," Pluto said, looking so utterly relaxed that it was suspicious.

Ranma finally couldn't stand it any long. "All right, what exactly is going on?"

"Oh, not much. Just when I visited after training was done to talk about some details with elder Khu-Lon, some of the girls commented off-hand that it was unfair that they have to work out while I don't," Pluto lightly explained, barely able to hide how much she was anticipating what was to come.

"Not me!" Ami hastily said, before noticing what she was doing. "Eh... I meant that they didn't believe me what you said concerning Pluto."

Ranma did remember. His schooled eye had caught right away that Pluto was holding herself like a schooled and very experienced fighter. He would never dare to underestimate her, especially since he could also see that she was hiding some of her potential. No, as peaceful and not threatening Sailor Pluto appeared and mostly actually was, she was very capable of fighting. That was something the other girls had obviously not understood and now would get a reminder of.

"You want me to observe a fight between you and her and then explain to them what happened?" Ranma guessed, feeling really eager to finally see the oldest Senshi in action to see her fighting style.

"You got it, sonny," Khu-Lon said, while Pluto remained silent. "All of you are in for a real treat. A taste of what you can be capable if you keep up with training for years."

"Wouldn't that be unfair?" Minako suddenly interrupted her. "I mean, she has her magic to sustain her and..."

Pluto held up a hand to silence Minako. "Of course I have my magic, yet I will not use it for offensive or defensive measures in this fight. And think about it: your magic just makes you as endurable enough for these fights the same way that Ranma's training did. So I won't have any advantage against Khu-Lon."

"And what if you aren't...?" Usagi began, but then stopped herself.

Pluto however could guess what she had tried to ask. "You mean when I'm not transformed? Of course I won't have my magic then, but like Ranma I managed through hard training to store life energy inside myself, so even when not transformed I can fight the same, even if I do not look that way."

"That's a secret I want to learn. Any more muscles and I start to look like a bodybuilder," Makoto grumbled, annoyed that Pluto had managed to keep such a feminine figure, while she herself was struggling with getting too muscular.

"Well, enough chatter! Let this get started!" Khu-Lon called.

And with that, the fight was on and the girls couldn't help but stare at it with their mouths open in awe. They were double surprised. They of course had doubted that Pluto could be a physical fighter, since all the time she had done nothing physical. And now they saw that she was actually good. REALLY good. The second surprise was Khu-Lon. They hadn't expected the elder to much of a fighter anymore, considering her very high age. Cue in the nasty surprise when seeing that for looking so frail, the old woman proved to be of devastating skill.

Watching the fight, Ranma was busy with analyzing the two women.

He had already expected that the old ghoul would be good, despite her high age. It was very interesting to see how she was compensating the shortcomings of her old body, which made him glad that he didn't have to fight against her for real. Right now he wasn't skilled enough to win such a fight. That actually gave him a very good lesson to not dismiss an opponent just by their age. And watching Khu-Lon using her wooden walking stick as a weapon drove the point home that she was from a society where fighting power was the norm.

Sailor Pluto was even more fascinating. From the way the woman held herself, one would see a dignified person who could never possibly fight. Big error. Ranma had to admit that Pluto can bend her body in ways that would make most acrobats and gymnasts green with envy. She also knew quite well how to use that staff of hers as a weapon. And watching her then stand upside-down on one hand while whirling around and delivering nasty kicks, he knew that she had an amazing body control and was very good and beating down the embarrassment at the exposure this stance was causing.

Both of them were in a league of their own.

As good as he was, right now Ranma didn't want to get into a fight with either of these women, as much as he hated to admit it. Their rapid dance of staff strikes, fists and kicks was proof of their sheer experience. Part of it was since he suspected they had more destructive techniques up their sleeves but wouldn't use them here. They also seemed fairly even matched, getting no crushing advantage over the other.

The girls were simply amazed that the elegant Lady Pluto could get this down and dirty in a fight. It pretty much drove the point home why there should be another reason they should have a healthy respect for her. Just looking at her, they knew that even without using her magic she could cream all of them in an all-against-her fight. It also was a sobering thought that if Pluto was keeping that back for really hard enemies, they wondered how difficult it would get.

Finally the fight was over and Pluto right away brushed her long hair back into place before observing the girls and giving them a smile when seeing how impressed they looked. "You still think I need training?

None of the girls said anything, looking at her in astonishment.

Pluto had wholly expected this reaction. After all, no one would suspect her being a fighter, as dignified as she was. Of course she wouldn't say that it took centuries for her to get to this point, since she had been quite a slacker for the longest time regarding physical combat, until getting the lesson herself - in the form of getting her ass kicked severely.

Ranma then noticed Xian-Pu not looking too surprised. "You seem to take this awfully well."

Xian-Pu shook her head. "I knew Great-Grandmother all my life, so that was no surprise to me. And Lady Pluto had beaten the snot out of several young warriors when she visited my village, so no surprise there, either."

"Why would she do that?" Ranma wondered, since after all Pluto didn't seem like a mean woman.

Xian-Pu snorted. "These arrogant cows openly insulted her constantly until she'd had enough. Everyone gave her respect after she was through with them, hanging them upside-down and naked aside from countless bruises from the challenge log. These three really made themselves rare after this."

Ranma winced. He did remember that stupid log which had almost made Xian-Pu bash his head in with a mace. Although the idea of three young women being hung upside-down from the log while completely naked was strangely funny. "You don't sound too sorry for them."

"Well, I don't! They tormented me for years, so it was nice to finally see someone beating the shit out of them and put humiliation on top of it," Xian-Pu said, her smirk showing how much she'd enjoyed seeing this.

Ranma was still thinking at how much more complex Pluto was, when he heard her call: "Well, Ranma, now it's your turn to explain it to them."

The girls groaned, feeling that it now would be more like a long and boring lecture, while Ranma looked like he'd just won the grand prize.


...Monday, July 10th, school...

With the start of Monday, school was back and after all the excitement of the weekend, everyone agreed that school would be best to get back to the ground and go on with their lives. After all, you didn't live alone for being a hero. Even though most of them didn't like going to school - something for which Ami had given them a look of annoyance - the routine felt good, as it was something familiar.

Inside the classroom of the class were Ranma was, the students were relaxing and chatting among themselves while they waited for Ms. Haruna to appear for the roll call and English class, which was the first class of the day. However, it was still over ten minutes before she'd arrive and the students wouldn't let the time go to waste.

In the middle of that, Naru Osaka couldn't help but to watch her friends.

Ranma and Makoto looked like they were bursting with energy while talking about something involving a martial arts stance. It was no wonder they looked so awake, since both of them were early risers and liked to begin the day with activity; Ranma by sparring with his father and Makoto by jogging for several kilometers. She'd never understand how someone could enjoy such activity at the morning, but then again, she was no sports nut and didn't have the right mindset.

Her eyes then fell onto Usagi, who was a complete contrast to these two. She still looked sleepy and also a bit annoyed. Ever since Akane had started living with her family, it had improved Usagi's sleeping habits. From what she'd heard, Akane had made true of her threat of waking her up with a bucket of cold water one morning. Ever since then, Usagi no longer protested, since she now knew it was no empty threat. Still, Usagi didn't actually like it; not being a morning person.

And speaking of Akane... Naru had to admit, the girl was holding up much better than she would have in such a situation when seeing her talking animatedly with the class representative. Akane was deeply disappointed but not depressed, had said that while she felt hurt, she wouldn't let this drag her down. Naru had to admire this - and at the same time felt sad, since it were the events in her past that had hardened Akane and made her who she's now.

Seeing that her friends were occupied, she let her view go trough the classroom.

She then spotted Ukyo. The girl had not tried to speak with either of them at all ever since that day where her energy had been stolen by a Youma. Perhaps it was better this way, as she felt that it could quickly lead to nasty words being exchanged. Yet, Naru couldn't help but to see how lonely the girl looked, and she also could have sworn to see a bit of remorse in her eyes when seeing Ukyo watch Ranma. Perhaps she'd finally become aware that she'd alienated a possible friend.

Naru shook her head. It was a bit depressing to see Ukyo this miserable. Perhaps she should approach her sometime?

Putting that at the back of her mind, her eyes landed on Umino, who right now was busy with typing something on his laptop. Naru by now had given up on guessing what he was doing, since that would be futile. She'd known him for years and he was still good for a surprise. Speaking of surprises... Naru couldn't help but to blink when she saw him taking off his thick glasses to rub his eyes. Strangely enough, she never in all these years had seen him without them and it was quite a contrast.

Intrigued, she approached him. "Uhm, Umino?"

Umino blinked and put his glasses back on. "Oh, hello Naru."

Naru wondered for a moment how she should ask her question, She could hardly tell him that he looked surprisingly good without his ultra-thick glasses. "I just noticed that you've worn the same style of glasses since elementary school. Is your eyesight really that bad?"

"To be honest, I have no idea," Umino honestly answered, wondering why Naru would ask.

Naru blinked. "You have no idea?"

"Yes, my mother said one day that I obviously need them like she and my father do. It's been like this ever since and they get me new glasses if I outgrow them," he explained, seeing nothing wrong with that.

Naru couldn't believe this explanation. "And you've never seen a ophthalmologist to test your vision?"

"Should I have?" Umino asked, oblivious.

Naru wondered again how stupid his parents had to be, just to guess that Umino's sight problems would be the same as theirs and that they'd know best without ever getting his eyes checked in the first place. His occasional trouble with reading things now made much more sense. She wondered what was worse: his parents being that stupid, or him being oblivious to the problem despite his high intelligence.

"It can't hurt can it?" Naru suggests, trying hard to not appear too pushy.

Umino seemed to think about it for a moment. "Maybe I do that tomorrow. I have these glasses for some time now and they start to feel old and worn."

"Just do so. Perhaps the results surprise you," she said, then saw Ms. Haruna entering. She quickly walked over to her own desk for the start of class.

Everyone felt that it would be the start of another, boring school day.

Naru couldn't help but to look to Umino one final time during roll call. He actually does look good, especially without these ridiculous glasses.


...a bit later that day...

Nephrite was pacing and he was in a very bad mood.

That perhaps was because he wasn't in the best of shapes, either. The dreams had intensified over the last days, robbing him of what little sleep he could get. While the dreams had been bad before, ever since the fiasco at the embassy, they'd become sheer torture and his lack of sleep was slowly draining him of his energy.

They were all dreams of his role in the fall of the Earth Kingdom and the Silver Millennium, things he already knew but were slapped into his face with brute force. And yet he still had no clue about the why. He knew there was a meaning to these dreams, but yet it still eluded him, much to his complete frustration. It helped little to lift his already bad mood, since it now only was a short time before Jadeite would start his big plan, leaving him with the disgrace of failure. And the worst was, there was nothing he could do against it, as there was no time left to gather the needed energy.

Another headache shot through his skull, reminding him of his lack of sleep.

Great, lack of sleep is slowly driving me insane and I'm about to fail big time. How much worse can things get? he wondered.

Finally sitting down, he pulled out the Black Crystal. And I thought that it could give me a fast success... He then stopped when noticing that the crystal had gathered some energy.

"That's interesting," he said to himself, when checking what had happened, as he'd completely forgotten to do so. "It has come into contact with traces of the energy signature of the Silver Crystal."

That was interesting, since the Silver Crystal was perhaps his final chance to save face, but he'd given up on finding it, feeling that it was a wild goose chase after the most recent failure. This new discovery however re-ignited his hopes, since it was the closest they'd yet to come to the crystal. It was a chance he wouldn't waste.

"Crystal, show me the one."

The air over the upper tip of the crystal wavered, showing exactly the time when it had detected the energy traces of the Silver Crystal. To say that Nephrite was surprised was an understatement, since it showed him dancing with Akane Tendo in the embassy. He never would have suspected her to have any connection to the Silver Crystal.

That however put him into a dilemma, since while checking out this lead was worth everything, he was less eager to again meet the girl after the confrontation at the embassy. After the whole thing had been over, he'd felt surprisingly bad about how things had turned out. He had seen the look she'd given him, before he'd disappeared. For someone who had nothing against killing people, this was surprising.

Still, he reasoned, if he didn't do anything, he'd surely be in heaps of trouble with their queen, and he didn't want to risk that.

Perhaps checking her without her noticing is possible, he thought.

The other Generals would have laughed at the idea that he, Nephrite, didn't want to get caught spying on a girl. If it weren't such a serious situation, he would find the humor in it. He also couldn't have known that his search would be futile anyway, since the traces had been on Akane because she had been in regular contact with Usagi, living at her house and all that.

o

The sky was slightly overcast, but the weather forecast had said it would stay dry and the temperatures were pleasant, so many of the students of the Juban Highschool were enjoying their lunch break outside, which 'recovering' from the tiring experience that school life was. Even girls with magic powers or martial artists were not immune to the draining effect it had.

Near one tree, Ranma was enjoying his lunch, while listening to Ami's recount of her recent training sessions with Khu-Lon. He just wished that they would learn the basics soon, so that the elder would show him these ultra-advanced techniques. Ranma was mighty glad that he didn't train together with the girls after hearing that they were doing so in the nude. While he was physically turning into a girl, his mind stayed male and he would not be able to stay in a room full of naked girls - whom he on top of that all personally knew - without having a complete meltdown.

Although while he felt he'd still act like an idiot, the idea of seeing Ami in her birthday suit, like he'd done once by accident, was certainly tempting. His sleep as of late was visited by dreams of him and Ami doing things he'd thought belong into these hentai manga the other boys were reading. It was especially weird during the week locked as a girl. Up to now he'd managed to get through these nights without... manual assistance, although he knew it was only a matter of time until he'd do that.

In a way, Ami was glad for the current training arrangements as well, since right now, the idea of Ranma seeing her in the nude - although he already had done so on accident during her first transformation - was making her blush. This was not helped by some VERY interesting dreams she'd had recently. Sure, she'd never seen Ranma naked, but seeing him in nothing but his boxers had been quite the treat as well, not to speak of how often he trained shirtless. Her imagination did the rest to conjure... interesting dreams.

Ami thought of herself as a good girl, but her imagination as of lately was determined to prove to her, that she was a closet pervert. Heavily X-rated dreams had become a regular occurrence for her. If that went on for much longer, her mother was bound to ask questions when seeing the laundry and the unusual amount of panties. Yet, even though she knew there was a way to release the tension, she couldn't yet bring herself to do so. After all, she was a good girl, and as such was not supposed to that.

The others meanwhile were enjoying lunch break as well.

Naru, Minako and Makoto were sitting together, being busy with exchanging gossip, while Usagi was more concerned with her lunch and only gave a comment now and then. They'd accepted that there simply were some times were it was best to leave Ranma and Ami alone. That was not only for the sake of Ranma and Ami, but also for their own. Although they of course were happy for these two, it sometimes was good to not be constantly reminded that Ami was the only of them who had a boyfriend.

Akane was missing from their circle. The girl had said that while she enjoyed having friends around her, she wanted to have a little alone-time today.

That was, why Akane was currently walking to a rather secluded part of the yard, where no other students were around, to enjoy a peaceful lunch. She was mostly over the events of some days ago. While she still felt stupid how easy it had been to fool her, the prominent emotions were disappointment and the reminder, that life simply wasn't fair.

She did not notice someone watching from the bushes.

Nephrite had wondered when would be the best time to check out the girl and logically should have waited until night time, since he had through research found out were she was currently staying, but his impatience made him try an earlier attempt. He didn't even have to get that close to her, just close enough that the Black Crystal could do a more thorough check. Of course, he still had no idea what to do in case it was a positive.

Good thing that the girl had decided to have her lunch break at such a secluded part of the school, making things easier for him.

Taking out the crystal, he silently went a little closer, until he felt confident that it would be close for a through scan of her body. Trying to make no sound, he tried to now find out, if there was anything true about his theory. However, while the crystal was scanning her, he became disappointed. While she still had the faint traces on her, something he still couldn't explain to himself, she clearly didn't hold the crystal in her body.

However, he wasn't as discreet as he'd thought he was.

At first Akane had just felt a little strange, as if a strange wind was brushing her. And while she was in no way in Ranma's league as a martial artist, she was skilled enough to have a higher awareness of her surroundings. And right now she could tell by a very faint reflection in a window, that there was someone else present. She carefully put down her chopsticks, before suddenly jumping up, aiming a kick at whoever that was, since no one friendly would try to sneak up at her.

"Woah!" -Crash- Akane knew she wasn't the best, but no person without serious training could dodge that quickly, causing her to fall onto her butt.

Looking up, she saw someone she'd wished she wouldn't. "You! Didn't you get enough of making a fool out of me?"

Akane knew that this was quite stupid after what she'd seen some days ago, but she couldn't help it. Once her anger would get the better of her - like now - rational thought had it hard to get through. She was working on it, but right now the smart thing, running away, didn't come to her mind. Instead, her eyes focused on the man, her gaze hardening.

Nephrite had expected fear of him after she'd seen him commanding a monster, but not anger. "Look, I... I didn't..." he stammered, trying to come up with an answer to this unexpected situation.

"Didn't try to hurt me?" Akane snorted. "You did a really great job at that. Could have just stayed away from me."

Nephrite hadn't expected this reply, either. After all, he could have stayed away. "No, I didn't..."

She didn't give him the chance to continue. "Yes, you didn't think. You just wanted to enjoy yourself and didn't think about how I'd feel if I get out who you really are."

Nephrite knew she was right. "I... I have no excuse. But the opinions I told you were really the truth. I just thought... we wouldn't see each other again in the future anyway."

Akane was weary, after all this was someone from the Dark Kingdom. On the other hand, he'd had enough time already to dispose of her, yet he didn't. "That doesn't make it right. You do remember what I told you the first time we met?"

"Trust, loyalty and honesty. I haven't forgotten. Again... I have no excuse."

Akane could only shake her head. Despite the fact this man was an enemy, it was a bit pitiful to see him act almost as nervous as a teenage boy. "Why are you doing these things? Don't you care at all about how much suffering you are causing? Why would you willingly do this?"

"I... I..." Nephrite had no answer to this, only his headache suddenly became way stronger, as if his head was ready to explode. It was as im something had been set free inside his head and...

"HEY YOU! What are you doing here?"

Akane looked to her side to see someone approaching, namely Ukyo. Akane didn't know what the girl was doing here, but she didn't look very happy. However, when she turned her head back to Nephrite, he was gone without a trace. Looking around, Akane couldn't even spot where he'd vanished to and guessed that he'd used magic to escape.

"Where did he go? He suddenly disappeared into thin air!" Ukyo said, while looking around.

In a way Akane was glad that Ukyo had interrupted them, since she'd had no idea how things would have continued. "Why are you so steamed?"

"How would you react if you see a stranger confronting a girl in a secluded part of the school yard?" Ukyo asked her, looking at her as if that had been a stupid question. Ukyo had by now forgotten her brief meeting with Nephrite.

Akane was a little surprised. Ukyo had avoided talking to any of Ranma's friends, which included her, after the incident with the Youma. She had obviously felt embarrassed and was trying to save face. Personally, she didn't know what to make of the girl. Ukyo seemed to have given up on any ideas of getting her revenge, but otherwise seemed a little lost; just living through the school day without attracting much attention.

Akane nodded to that. "Good point. For a moment I had feared you wouldn't do it because it was me." She knew right away that this had been the wrong thing to say when Ukyo looked hurt.

"Just because I have no personal dealings with you doesn't mean I would enjoy you getting hurt by some weirdo." Before Akane could reply, Ukyo left.

I and my big mouth. She did look quite hurt by that comment, Akane cursed herself.

She knew she would have to tell the others about Nephrite, but she decided to keep Ukyo out of it. Since the girl hadn't done anything wrong since the initial trouble, Akane felt that she deserved to be left out of the whole thing.


...at night...

"We are being called to the courtyard. I really wonder what this is about, since Endymion is currently on the Moon. You think it's again that nutty red-head noble?" Jadeite wondered aloud, while they walked down the corridor to the northern courtyard.

That yard was particularly out of the way and only few visited it, even during the day. Why Lady Beryl had asked for them, they had no idea. They however didn't like meeting the woman. Ever since the Prince had turned down Beryl's offer of courtship, the woman had become increasingly irritating to deal with. They all hoped it wouldn't take too much time.

"Relax! We'll just find a convenient excuse to keep it short," Zoisite told the men.

"Endymion made it clear to her that he's courting Princess Serenity. Why does she insist on wasting her time?" Kunzite wondered, shaking his head at such foolishness.

"Well, unlike you, she has horrible people skills," Zoisite sweet-talked, giving Kunzite a smile. The other two snorted at this blatant display, but they'd gotten used to it over the years.

"Better be quiet, there she is," Nephrite said, when they reached the northern courtyard, where Lady Beryl was waiting.

She looked even more arrogant than usual and the Generals really wondered why she insisted on always carrying that long, golden scepter with the crystal ball on top with her. They guessed it was to make herself more important than she actually was. What was disconcerting however was, that instead of her usual looks of anger, she seemed to look downright happy.

"Lady Beryl, you want to meet with us?" Kunzite asked her, being the highest in rank of the four.

"Oh yes. Very nice of you that you want to meet with me," she told them.

All of a sudden, the crystal ball, which they'd thought to be a harmless prop, erupted in something that could only be described as black light, swallowing all of them in under a second, giving them no time to react or to call for help.

The scene changed...

"They will soon find out that we are missing. You won't get far!" Zoisite shouted to Beryl; and effect that was somewhat ruined by the enchanted chains holding her.

They were in a sparsely dungeon cell of what they were sure was Beryl's mansion, having woken up after the strange black light in chains down in this cell. They didn't have any idea about the why, but Beryl had visited them only a little later and seemed very amused by Zoisites outburst of anger towards her.

"Now they won't," she calmly told them, "no one will miss you for several days. I made sure of that."

This did little to calm them down. Jadeite was especially red with anger. "What in the name of the Abyss do you want from us?"

Beryl chuckled. "Oh, a time of change is about to happen, and you will be on the forefront of it."

"You must be really sick in the head if you think we will help you with whatever you plan to do," Nephrite spat.

Beryl's chuckles now became downright menacing. "I didn't say that you will have a choice in this."

The scene changed again...

"Finally you have the power we need. Now we just need those to lead you into battle so that you can serve our Great Master!" she announced to the gathered new-born Youma, then turned towards the four unwilling guests of the whole event, raising her scepter, which now looked more like made of bone than gold.

"Yes, Queen Beryl!" the crowd of Youma cheered, while watching what would happen next.

The four captured Generals had been horrified at the disgusting transformation these people had willingly went through, turning them into the opposite of life; twisted and evil. And Beryl's comment was hint enough what she intended for them. And they also had a good idea what would happen next, but that didn't stop them from speaking up.

"We will never follow you willingly! We will resist you with all our strength!" Kunzite spat is disgust.

Beryl laughed. "Who said that I am giving you a choice?"

Walking closer, she showed them her dark glowing crystal ball. "You minds... It is everything you see, hear or think. It is everything..." She then put on a nasty smile. "How would you know, if someone alters your mind?"

There was a burst from the crystal ball, and then... darkness.

...

"Ah! No... NO!" Nephrite gasped.

It had been hours since he'd teleported back to his hideout. These simple words the girl had given him had triggered something in him - something that had been growing for some time now. The quickly rising pressure in his head had made him black out in the main room under the moving stars of his starfield mechanism.

And then, the dreams had come.

"This can't be true! Never! This can't be!" he gasped, bathed in sweat.

There was no answer at first, until the stars lit up and bathed him in their gentle light. Holding his head, he trembled when the stars, which hadn't communicated with him for a long time, finally were sharing their wisdom with him. But what they told him was not what he had expected. It was as if there had been a wall in his mind and after a hole had appeared in it, the stars were using it to tear down the entire wall. It all smashed into him without mercy.

However, instead of trashing on the ground in pain, he was just looking blankly into the stars while it washed over him. His life, pledging loyalty to King Endymion, seeing the prince grow up, being a good friend to him instead of just doing his official business. Finally, his memories from these horrible events returned in full and it was like looking from the outside how he'd acted after his mind got altered. He finally understood.

"What have I done?"

Nephrite couldn't believe that he, who had sworn to protect Earth from its enemies, could have done such a thing. Yet, the truth was undeniable: he had become a traitor. Maybe not of his own will, but still a traitor. And he had destroyed everything which he'd sworn to protect.

"I'm such a bastard."

It would have been so simple to say that it hadn't been him - that his mind had been altered. But even though that was true, a part of him was responsible for all these things he had done under Beryl. And he also knew why he was the only one of the four who had broken out of it. His special connection to the stars had ensured that mind was not completely closed off, and the stars were trying to open his eyes to the truth, making the control Beryl had over his mind very thin. The words from this girl had put a crack into that control which had widened over time.

On his own he would have never managed to free himself and part of him shamefully wished it would have stayed that way, since now he was confronted with the results of everything he'd done while being turned. It wasn't pretty at all.

Trying to get himself to get up, Nephrite felt ashamed about his weakness.

It would be useless to drown in regret; the damage had already been done. The only way for him to make up for all what he had done would be, throw himself at the mercy of the Senshi and reveal all he knew to them. And Endymion... Oh yes, Nephrite now had no doubt that that man in evening wear which Jadeite had reported was in fact the reborn prince. Only with him back to normal, he made the connection, the others obviously had forgotten in the bitterness that had poisoned their minds.

Problem was... how to contact the Senshi?

It was not that he knew their phone number. Also, they'd hardly trust him, since he after all was the enemy. And trying to do something to get their attention would surely arouse the interest of the Dark Kingdom. On the other hand, they would be soon after him anyway so he'd only prolong the inevitable for a short time. So it was back to giving them a signal they couldn't miss and pray they'd be there first.

Feeling around in his pocket, he took out the Black Crystal, looking at it. As much as he'd have loved to smash it right there, he'd built it too well and the power needed would expose him right away. "I can't destroy it right now, nor can I allow the others to get their hands onto it. Guess I will have to give it to the Senshi."

But before I do all that, I have to do one last thing, he decided, feeling his honor commanded him to do so.

He had not noticed a spy watching him.

Appearing on the street near a residential home, Nephrite saw that the lights in the house, apart from the room directly under the roof, were already out, meaning that its inhabitants were already sleeping. Holding the crystal, he checked for the energy signature of the girl, which still was stored inside the crystal's memory, and found her in the one still lit room directly under the roof.

He decided he would keep it short, since there wasn't much time.

Teleporting up to the roof, an outsider would have found it amazing how this man could stand on the roof gutter without causing it to collapse under his weight. Looking to the window, he saw that it open and the curtains were closed but he could see a shadow sitting at a desk directly at the window. And judging by her sudden movement, she had noticed him as well.

"Do not open your curtains. I won't take much of your time," he told her.

On the other side of the curtains, Akane wondered what he wanted here and how he even knew where she lived. She was very tempted to run for help, but then considered that he'd had already many opportunities to harm her, so she'd listen, regardless how stupid of a decision this seemed to be right now.

"What do you have to say?" she asked a bit more coldly than she had intended.

"You asked me why I did these things, if I don't care about the suffering I cause. I can finally answer your question: I do care. I care so much that I can't do it any longer," he told her.

"What?" Akane thought she hadn't heard right.

"I was not myself, my mind altered by outside forces, but that is no excuse for everything what I have done in that time. I am here so that I can confess that I do regret that I led you on and lied to you. I couldn't live with myself not to tell you, before it is too late," Nephrite told her further.

Akane gulped hard. This suddenly had taken a very different turn. "Before it is too late?"

"Yes. I can no longer do all this. I will surrender to the Senshi in the park, sending them a signal to find me. I hope that's before the other ones find me. Please don't try to find me. I do not want you to get caught in a potential crossfire. Please stay safe." With that said, he vanished from the roof.

Akane stood there for a moment, before racing down the stairs to Usagi's room.

She knew she had to warn them right away so that they hopefully had a chance to reach the park before the Dark Kingdom could. She knew somehow that this was genuine and Nephrite was in serious danger. She might still not like him, but even he didn't deserve to die - especially after what he had revealed to her moments ago.

She had no idea that everything had been listened in to by a spy, who now hastily made a retreat home to report the findings.


...only minutes later...

"Are you absolutely sure?" Queen Beryl hissed, her mood having gone sour as soon as the news had reached her.

"Yes, my queen!" Kunzite confirmed. "Our spy has confirmed that Nephrite has decided to abandon us and hand himself over to the Senshi. There is no telling how much damage this could do to us if he tells them everything he knows. I swear on my personal honor to you that it is the truth."

The confirmation sent a shudder of fear through the crowd of gathered Youma when the eyes of their queen started to glow an angry yellow and electrical charges arced over the surface of her crystal ball - witness of her exteme anger. Some Youma cowered away and it seemed energy could blast out, until finally Beryl got her temper back in check for the matter at hand.

Beryl knew, that such a vow from Kunzite was dead serious, and as such it could only be the truth. She did have a good idea what could have happened that made Nephrite to abandon her. That couldn't be tolerated, so an example had to be made of Nephrite. It wouldn't be a big loss, Nephrite had made himself replaceable due to is constant blunders. She could easily compensate for his loss with her three remaining Generals.

"Jadeite!" she called "Before my throne! Right now!"

It took only several seconds for Jadeite to appear before Queen Beryl. He looked around and right away saw the tense mood in the room and the other two present Generals. He right away knew that something big must have happened and that this was why he had been called by his queen. He quickly fell into position beside his fellow Generals.

"You have called, my queen?" he asked.

"Now that all three of you are here... Nephrite has decided to commit treason and wants to change sides. I can not tolerate such treachery! You three will get him back to me! Alive!" she commanded them. "Should you kill him and deprive me of punishing him personally, you will be severely punished yourselves! Now go!"

At these news, all three of the Generals smirked, before teleporting away.

After all, all three of them had one reason or another to severely dislike Nephrite and now they had the chance to get rid of him and the competetion he represented. Zoisite and Kunzite were jubilant that their plan had bore fruit, while Jadeite felt a deep inner satisfaction that Nephrite would now finally pay for all the insults and his arrogance.

o

"I hope we can reach him in time! It's really difficult to not notice this kind of signal!" Sailor Ceres groaned, while they were running into the park.

She was right in, that a huge, glowing ball of stars over the park was difficult to miss. Nephrite's signal had been a bit too obvious and it had alerted not only them. They could already hear the police sirens. They could only hope that the police were smart enough to not enter the park and let them deal with the problem at hand. Considering past events, the police should keep out of it.

Right now, Moon, Ceres, Jupiter and Mercury were together in a group while going deeper into the park. Venus had called them over the communicator that she'd meet up with them shortly, while Mars had the longest way to go and therefore would be last to arrive. They had no idea when to expect Ranma. Ami had insisted to call him over the phone (as he didn't have a communicator) but they had no idea when he would arrive. Mamoru hadn't picked up his phone, but they had no idea what it could mean.

Compared to the brightly lit city surrounding it, the park itself was only sparsely lit by lantern posts, putting most of it into a twilight. What normally would create a romantic atmosphere now was a darkness and twilight out of which any kind of enemy could attack them all of a sudden. Even Mercury could point her visor with her scanning equipment in only so many directions after all.

"It's not that far anymore!" Mercury called to them, checking the area ahead. "Just several hundred meters. We'll meet the others there."

"I don't like this. There's no cover, we'd be like sitting ducks," Jupiter cursed.

"Nice of you to tell me this."

They stopped dead when hearing someone saying this. All of a sudden a shadow appeared in their way, yet three of them knew this voice only too well. When the shadows peeled back, they revealed someone they would've loved to never see again.

"Ahh! Jadeite!" Sailor Moon gasped in fear, having not expected him to appear.

Jadeite chuckled when seeing this reaction. "Good that you remember me, must have been really boring during my absence."

"Don't be stupid! We'd miss you as much as cavities," Ceres growled, seeing Jadeite really wasn't good for her nerves, as some memories of her previous life returned to the surface.

This only seemed to make Jadeite's ego grow even more. "Oh, and my favorite Senshi is here. I again have to disappoint you that I left my sword at home. Not that it will matter in the end, you won't get to Nephrite in time."

Out of the four Senshi present, Jupiter had never met Jadeite in person, only heard stories of him. Seeing how her three fellow Senshi tensed up when seeing him told her right away that this guy was bad news for them. That, and his arrogant smirk and demeanor was pushing all her buttons. Yet, she kept her anger at bay when she saw what Jadeite was doing.

"He's stalling us! Spread out, he can't keep back all of us!" she called to the others.

"Oh no, you won't!" Jadeite called, when seeing them start to run off in four different directions, raising his hands to cast his spells.

Suddenly a huge, thorny wall of bushes emerged in front of Moon, threatening to engulf her. Ceres was stopped by earthern hands growing out of the ground and grabbing her by the ankles. Jupiter suddenly had to battle with some metal artwork having come to life and chasing her around, snapping at her with razor-sharp metal teeth. Only Mercury managed to vanish into the darkness of the night further towards the center of the park, escaping Jadeite.

Jadeite looked a little disappointed. "Well, the three of us can still have fun together."

It was then, when the pain started.

On almost the other side of the park meanwhile, Sailor Mars and Venus had finally arrived and managed to slip by the police. Running as fast as they could, they hoped to arrive in time so that they could meet up with the others. That however was made more complicated when suddenly a seriously flat-chested (at least as far as they could tell with the uniform) woman appeared out of nowhere, blocking their path.

"Oh no, don't you know the park is closed at night?" she mockingly told them.

Taking a step backwards, they had little difficulty to see that it was a foe, thanks to the uniform that identified her as a General from the Dark Kingdom, although they had no idea who exactly she was supposed to be. She seemed to take the whole thing as a game and slowly advanced towards them.

"However, I can't allow you to give Nephrite any aid," she said further.

"So what do you want to do against it?" Mars spat.

Venus could only hope that this wouldn't be an error. "Mars..."

The woman seemed really amused by the threat. "How cute! Oh, but I forgot... Before I spank your cute butts, I have to tell you my name. I'm Zoisite, one of the Generals of the Dark Kingdom... As for what I can do... ZOI!"

They all of a sudden were engulfed in a storm of flower petals. It would have been funny, if not for the fact that these petals were hitting them like fists and forced them to run away from Zoisite. They had been lucky that these petals hadn't been as sharp as razor blades. Her laughter echoed through the night while she gave chase.

That all wasn't noticed by two other people making their way into the park.

Ranma still didn't exactly like turning female on purpose, but she had to admit, some situations simply called for it. And right now the combination of her being a girl and wearing her ridiculous ninja outfit made sure that no one would recognise her. Yet, that was not what was occupying her mind. Instead, the lack of Senshi combined with the faint sounds of battle in the distance made clear that the others were busy. However, Ami had made been insistent over the phone that their first priority was to protect Nephrite from getting killed.

Ranma didn't like at all that the girls, and especially Ami, were left in danger, but she knew that Ami hadn't said this lightly. Jumping from tree to tree, she could see the flashing lights of police cars outside the park. It meant at least that no one else would be hurt. Then finally closing in on the center of the park, Ranma finally saw her target, when she noticed someone else approaching the same way as her, finally landing beside her on the tree. The outfit left no doubt who it was.

"Nice jumps," she commented to Tuxedo Mask. "Seems the stupid outfit is good for something after all."

"It buffs me up nicely, so I won't complain," he replied, then looked around. "I got a strange feeling that I'm needed here and I'm sure it has something to do with Endymion. What's exactly going on, especially with this thing here?"

Ranma looked at the fading star ball, then shook her head. "From what I was told, Nephrite had a sudden change of heart and wants to give up. No idea if that's true, but we will find out. He's down there."

Looking down, Mask spotted the lone man waiting, while constantly looking around. "That explains it. Since he was close to Endymion, some of the connections still seems to be there... There's someone coming."

Jumping down, they were about to confront whoever it was, when they saw that it was Mercury. "Where are the others?" Ranma asked, worried. It was not like Ami to leave the others.

"We got separated... Jadeite suddenly appeared and tried to stop us," she told them, while catching her breath. "They are dealing with him... We should better move on."

That she was so short on words proved how serious the situation was. Not losing any time, they made their way towards Nephrite, always on their guard. The Dark Kingdom General finally noticed them and it seemed that seeing Tuxedo Mask gave him new energy. However, just before they could reach him, dark energy ripped out of the ground, surrounding them in a dome of dark energy and cutting them off from getting any closer.

"Oh no, you won't..."

"Kunzite!" Nephrite managed to get out, when he saw the white-haired General appear. Even though he knew he would lose, he did prepare himself for a confrontation. "If you want me dead, you will be in a hell of a fight!"

"Oh, don't worry. Our queen wants you alive." The a sinister smirk appeared on his features. "She however had said nothing about not roughing you up."

That said, the battle was on.

Back with Jadeite, the General was still having his fun. Since he just had to delay then Senshi he didn't waste too much energy in his attacks, so the three of them were just bruised, Moon roughed up by a thorny hedge and Jupiter's leg was bleeding from where the animated artwork had sunk its teeth into her. He had the time of his life, but he also had become rather careless.

"Just as I though, three teenage brats who just think they can play the hero," he mocked them, while using his telekinetic powers to throw a park bench at Ceres.

"Brats?" Moon whined, while running from a thorn bush.

"Shut your trap!" Ceres hissed, while finally using her sickle to cut off the earthern hands that had held her and barely jumped out of the way of the big projectile. "Or better, I shut it for you!"

She had never really managed to find a way to train her biggest - and only - true magic power: her power over plants. There simply weren't tat many situations where she could use it to her advantage, but right now Jadeite himself had given her the perfect opportunity and her sheer determination to show him what she was made off seemed to fuel her magic, making it glow brightly within her.

"Ha, I want to see you... What the...?" Jadeite stopped laughing when suddenly the thorny bushes stopped attacking Moon and came after him. "Damn it!" Fire shot out of his palm, incinerating the bushes to ashes instantly.

Damn it, I should not have taken this so lightly! he cursed himself.

Turning around, he barely managed to throw up a shield to protect himself from a rain of metal shrapnel when Jupiter blew apart the artwork with a lightning bolt. He was cursing himself again that he'd taken all this too lightly when he spotted Sailor Moon doing something unusual. The gemstone in her tiara seemed to be glowing, and suddenly a white flash blinded him. In the few seconds it took him to regain sight, the Senshi fled.

"How did you do that?" Jupiter wondered, while the three of them ran towards the center of the park and away from Jadeite, who most likely was angry now.

"I honestly have no idea," Moon had to admit, although despite it not exactly being an attack, it had been really convenient to discover this magic moments ago.

Mars and Venus were faring worse at the same time.

"Where are you naughty girls? You can't hide from me forever!" Zoisite sing-songed mockingly, while occasionally blowing up a bush in order to find out where the two Senshi had hidden themselves away. So far she had no found them after they had escaped the initial beating.

Said two Senshi knew that if they'd try to make a run for it right now, Zoisite would get them for sure. They really needed something to distract her for a short time. Before they could create a plan however, they suddenly saw Zoisite pointing at their hiding space and they ran out, just before an explosion blew it apart.

"Finally. Are you now ready for your spanking?"

Mars didn't let her finish and tried to conjure the biggest fireball possible and threw it at her. It was a good effort and Zoisite seemed to struggle for a moment, but her shield held and she looked only slightly singed.

"My hair!" she hissed when seeing that a small part had burned away. "You'll regret that!"

Mars barely could react before the ground blew up beneath her, throwing her several meters away, leaving Venus to face Zoisite. Right now Venus felt horribly exposed and she doubted that her magic at the moment was strong enough to really hurt Zoisite. She just wished she had some sort of weapon, something she could fight her physically with. Something... something. As if her magic had waited for this, she felt something poking her from her subspace pocket and pulled upon it.

"Ohhhh, I didn't know you were that kind of girl," Zoisite mocked when seeing what Venus held in her hands.

It indeed was an unusual weapon. Venus held a golden chain, whose links were shaped like hearts. It looked really tacky and she felt a little embarrassed that it look so cliché for her. Nonetheless she didn't hesitate to use it and whipped it out in Zoisite's direction.

"Ha! You missed!.. I..." -Cronch- "Arrrgh!"

She had not missed. She had aimed for the stone sundial directly behind Zoisite and cleanly pulled it off and directly onto Zoisite. The General cursed and struggled a little, before pushing the large and heavy object off. Looking around she cursed when seeing no sign off her prey. They had used this distraction to flee into the darkness.

-Bllluuunnng-

"Damn it!" Ranma cursed, while seeing how little effect the strike had had on the field that shut them in. Some ripples went over the surface, but that was it.

They had really fast determined that trying to use any destructive magic would be more likely to hurt them due to the blast radius. Mercury was still busy with trying to find a weak spot, while Ranma felt a better approach would be to see if the shield would crack. The really frustrating thing was, that the strikes did seem to have an effect, just not enough to do any serious damage to it.

Being locked in as they were, they were helpless to watch the events unfold. While Kunzite seemed to be quite good at fighting and magic - although Ranma commented not as good as him - the blasts that Kunzite threw at him were simply overwhelming. It gave them at taste of what they would have to fight against in the future and it was sobering to see Nephrite now barely standing, his uniform torn and bleeding out of numerous wounds.

"You do have an effect. Your life-force weakens the field, but it's not enough. The dome is meant to keep us in. Even a weak attack from the outside could shatter it," Mercury finally said, looking up from her computer.

Ranma cursed. Right now, knowing that ki-blast technique would have gotten them out. But since she didn't know it yet...

Right then, Nephrite finally fell to the ground and something fell out of his pocket. Kunzite picked it up. "Very interesting," he said, while inspecting the Black Crystal. "I knew you dabble into alchemy and this looks like it could please our queen. Not that it would help you."

Zoisite then suddenly appeared from a cloud of petals. "Kunzite, watch out, I couldn't stop them."

"They managed to slip by?" Before she could answer, Jadeite appeared as well. "Don't tell you let them get away as well."

"What does it matter?" Jadeite asked, when looking at the defeated Nephrite. "We have what we want. No need to waste anymore time."

-PLIIINNNNGKLLLIIIRRR-

They had to shield their eyes when suddenly the energy dome shattered. When they were able to see again, they saw that not only had their enemies been freed, but that all the remaining Senshi had arrived. Standing together as a group, they faced the three Generals, who in turn didn't waste a moment to assume attacking positions, read for the standoff.

"It is enough!"

The loud, booming voice made everyone stop. Looking up, they saw the hologram of Queen Beryl float above them. "Queen Beryl?" Kunzite asked, also surprised by her sudden appearance.

"As interesting as such a stand-off could be, we have other things to do. Bring the traitor back to me, now!" Beryl then looked to the Senshi. "As for you... You stopped me once already. You won't be so lucky this time."

There then all of a sudden was a cloud of darkness, obscuring view. When they could see again, not only had Beryl vanished, but also all of the Generals, meaning they had taken Nephrite with them. Everyone just looked at the spot where he had been, just some blood on the ground remaining. It had happened so fast... just like that. And they had been unable to do anything about. Not anything at all.

"We failed... just like that," Sailor Moon said in disbelief.


...in the Dark Kingdom...

"Ahhhrrggh!" Nephrite screamed in pain when he was dropped in front of Queen Beryl's throne, aggravating his injuries.

Queen Beryl looked down at him in dislike, then turned to her three other generals. "Good work."

"He had this in his possession. It seems to be a very powerful artifact," Kunzite reported, giving the Black Crystal to Beryl.

She inspected the crystal. "Very interesting. It seems our traitor has been busy. This will aid us. Now, leave us alone. I shall put my judgement on him. Wait outside until I call for you!"

Jadeite, Zoisite and Kunzite wondered why she would give these orders, but obeyed without question. As soon as the heavy doors had closed behind them, leaving the injured Nephrite alone with Beryl and her court of Youma, the queen got up, walking in front of the beaten man, tsking as if scolding an unruly child - a strange contrast to her earlier mood.

"My, my, my. I would have never thought that you would find the courage to openly go against me," she told him, walking around him like a dangerous predator.

If Nephrite was intimidated, he didn't show it and still held up well for a man in his position. "I have no loyalty to you! Not after what you have done to the four of us to betray everything we loved!"

Beryl looked taken aback for a moment, before gathering herself. "Well, I should have known if anyone would be able to throw off my spell, it would be you with your special connection to the stars. But do not get any wrong ideas. The others don't have this connection and will stay loyal to me until the bitter end."

"Yes, too bad. Also too bad that your spell made it impossible for you to question them about the secret of the kingdom," Nephrite said mysteriously.

That made Beryl raise an eyebrow. "What secret?" she wondered, having no idea what it could be. It her position as a minor noble, she'd gotten most of the information, but this was new. It seemed like something that would be kept very close to the royal family.

Nephrite laughed dryly. "Ha, I won't tell you; not even under the threat of torture. It will be one of these things that in the end will bring you down."

Beryl looked disappointed. "If you wish it to be this way... You know what your future looks like?"

"I have have a good idea."

"Oh yes. The Eternal Sleep. The ones who are put into it fall into the darkness to never return." It seemed that she had a sort of fondness for this spell. "Do you have any last words before the sentence is put through?"

Nephrite stood up under pain, facing her with his face calm. "Yes, there is something... LONG LIVE ENDYMION!"

Beryl snarled, these words enraging her, before a blast from her scepter encased Nephrite in a greenish crystal, freezing him in mid-motion. She looked at his frozen form, while the doors opened and the remaining generals walked back in, looking at the crystal with Nephrite in it. Despite their loyality and their glee at seeing the punishment of Nephrite, they still shuddered a little.

Queen Beryl addressed them. "See? This is the punishment for disloyalty: the Eternal Sleep. Trapped in a never-ending nightmare. Remember this well." She then turned to the Youma in the room. "Get him to the hall where the others are... A gallery of disloyal subjects for everyone to see as a warning."

Watching the Youma drag off the big crystal, Beryl couldn't help but to wonder about what Nephrite had said.

What could it be that I don't know about? And why wouldn't these three know it while under my control? Well, it won't matter once this world is ours, she thought.

After all, the true war would start soon.

to be continued...

Next Episode:

"The Music-Connection, Part I"


Notes:

I guess now you understand why putting it into one chapter wouldn't have worked, it simply is too much content. Splitting it in two also gave me the opportunity to give Nephrite some more focus. Be assured, we have not seen the last of him.

It was devlishly complicated to write three different groups at the park, so excuse if it seems a bit disjointed at times.

Finally, here something that will appear in a later chapter, but felt I should share with you now. It basically plays in Princess Serenity's memories and I call it that "Song of Serenity". I admit I lifted it from somewhere else, since I felt it fits very nicely to the situation of the Princess before meeting Endymion.

Scene:

Princess Serenity was looking into her vanity mirror, feeling the weight of the world on her shoulders after her mother had announced that she had entered the age for courtship and that there soon would be possible suitors entering her life. She then gently began to sing to herself.

Grow up, young lady, that's what they all say

It's time to settle down, put childish things away

Aren't you happy, thrilled, delighted

You're going to be a bride

Yes! I'm so excited, I want to run and hide

Serenity looked in nostalgia at the picture of her and her parants when she had been six years old. She still missed her father and knew her mother had never fully gotten over his premature death. That also was, why she was pushing the courtship issue.

They tell me it's my duty, a princess must be wed

You'll learn to love the handsome prince, there's nothing you should dread

But I'm not prepared to set my freedom on the shelf

How can I trust with someone what I don't understand myself?

Walking to the open window, she looked outside to see the blue and green orb of Earth on the dark horizon, feeling a longing for it. The planet which the Moon was revolving around held beauties that the dull grey orb she currently was on could never have.

I want to go to a land beyond dreams

Where everything's new, not really what it seems

Enchantment adventure are waiting for me

I'll find that magic land

A land beyond dreams

Leaning with her elbows on the windowsill, she sighed in longing, wondering if her dream would ever be fulfilled, ignoring Luna, who had come in earlier and watched her in silence, understanding the inner turmoil her charge was going through.