A/N: Once again, Sailor Moon belongs to Naoko Takeuchi, not me. However, Alexandrite, Ametrine, Miki, Yukari and Ruby belong to me so do me a favor and don't steal them. This novel continues where "Slow Process to Redemption" left off and is the final book in the Nephrite series. As usual, Japanese names will be used as well as a mixture of NA dub, a pinch of PGSM and original anime influences. Twists of events will occur here and there as well as some usage of dialogue from the show. Although this fic will be based on the anime, I like PGSM Zoisite, so the Zoisite in this fic will eventually have some of his personality characteristics. Rated T for violence. Feedback is much appreciated but no rude comments will be tolerated.
After school, Usagi and Naru went over to Juuban Park to have a talk. The entire walk there had been in silence, as Naru seemed to be in her own world and Usagi wanted to save what she had to say for when she was alone with her best friend. 'Oh goody,' thought Usagi when she saw that aside from some birds flying around chirping, the park was mostly empty. 'Absolutely perfect for our talk.' She could feel the breeze blowing on the back of her neck. Her long blonde pigtails proceeded to blow in the wind. 'Oh that feels so nice.'
Naru sat on the ground with her legs stretched out in front of her and glumly rested her head in her lap. She was so confused and didn't know what to make of the turn of events that occurred the previous night. There she witnessed Nephrite being just as vicious as the monsters she was nearly attacked by in the past, yet he showed concern for her when she protected him and saved her from Yasha. Not to mention when she woke up she discovered he had left her his phone number. 'Surely he must want to have something to do with me if he gave me a way to contact him. Not sure if I will, though. I don't want to be a nuisance to him.' The red head heaved a loud sigh. 'I wanna know more about those ladies who were with him, too.'
Usagi shot a glance at her best friend, and had a hunch about what was on her mind. 'She must be thinking about Nephrite again. What should I tell her? I don't want her to be mad at me, but I can't let her get hurt, either, although it remains to be seen that my wish will not come true.' She knew enough not to tell Naru to just forget him, as it would only upset the girl further. She took a deep breath. "Naru-chan, about Masato Sanjouin, I was only looking out for your best interest. I didn't mean to upset you. Please believe me."
Naru looked up slightly. She could see the blonde looking at her with pleading eyes, begging her for forgiveness. Her heart softened. "I know you were just trying to help. And it is okay. I have seen how bad he can be, but I still love him. I can't get over my feelings for him, even though I probably should."
The blonde smiled sadly at how quickly Naru seemed to have matured. No puppy love or silly crush for her. "You really love him that much?"
"I do," the red head answered. "Very, very much." She was not ashamed to admit her true feelings, even if people laughed at her for having them. She paused. "Do you have someone you love?"
"Sort of," Usagi admitted. "With two guys, actually." 'Although my love isn't nearly as mature as yours.'
Naru felt better hearing that, although she had to hold back a chuckle at the thought of her best friend loving two guys at once. "I am glad you understand."
"I do now," said Usagi. "I hope everything works out for you."
Naru's eyes brightened a bit. "You mean that?" She hoped her friend wasn't just pulling the wool over her eyes.
"Sure I do. Something tells me your love may change him." 'I hope she doesn't ask me how I know that. I would have to reveal my identity and it is forbidden to do so.' She helped Naru to her feet. "Best friends again?"
"Of course." The red head and Usagi hugged each other.
Usagi was so glad the little argument was just a small misunderstanding. It was only on occasion that she and her friend argued, but she hated their fights all the same. "Let's go." 'Thank goodness it's the weekend…no thanks to the boatload of homework Ms. H gave us.'
"Okay." As Naru left the park with her best friend, there was something that puzzled her. 'I wonder how she knows so much about Masato-san. ' She shrugged the nagging feeling off. 'Maybe it's just a coincidence or something. It is really bugging me, but now is not the right time to ask her about it.'
Meanwhile, Ruby was in the den, flipping pages in a fashion magazine. For the first time in years she was feeling a little less stressed, thanks to being able to rid herself of the feelings she had whenever she heard the voice of Queen Beryl. 'Speaking of which, I wonder what Beryl is up to now….if she even knows about what transpired last night.' There was no doubt in her mind if the witch queen did know about what had happened, there would certainly be hell to pay…if not from Beryl, definitely from Zoisite or Kunzite. So why was there so much quiet? It didn't make sense. 'Not that I am complaining…I will enjoy this quiet while it lasts.' She twirled one of her cherry colored hair strands around her finger.
Just then, Miki and Yukari entered the den. Miki was holding a glass of ice tea.
Ruby looked up from the magazine she had been reading and placed it aside, for she was a bit too distracted to read anyway. "Oh, hello there, girls. What's going on?"
"Just wanted to see if you would like a glass of iced tea," said Yukari.
"Well sure," answered the crimson haired young woman. "Thank you."
Miki handed Ruby the glass filled with the coffee colored liquid. "Actually, this is part of the reason we have come to see you."
"Oh?" Ruby took the glass from her friend and took a sip, enjoying the flavor. 'A nice relaxing drink on a nice relaxing day.' "So what is it?"
"What has been on your mind today?" asked Miki. "You seem a bit distracted."
'Oh darn it. I was hoping she wouldn't notice. She would never let me live it down.' "Well, don't you find it a bit odd that Beryl has been so quiet about last night's turn of events?"
"Yes, you're right," answered Yukari. "And it's about time, too. I thought I was going to have to stock up on aspirin once again."
Miki gave her twin an amused look. "I do understand what you mean, but don't you think it means Beryl could be plotting against us as we speak? After all, Master Nephrite did save Naru-san, and you know it's not something the witch queen will take kindly to. Don't get me wrong, I would have done the same thing, but we need to protect ourselves somehow."
Yukari looked thoughtful and felt so annoyed with herself. "Yes. You're right." She shuddered at the thought of being turned into a human ice sculpture like Jadeite had been, for his failure.
Ruby took another sip of iced tea and rested the cup on the floor. "That has also been on my mind, Miki. We have to find a way to escape the Dark Kingdom, but we must plan carefully. It would be foolish to expect those vultures to let us leave alive."
Yukari gave a wistful sigh and ran a hand through her curls. "I never thought I would say this, but it certainly would be nice to be free from the Dark Kingdom. Sure, the idea of world domination was fun for awhile, but thanks to Naru I am beginning to see there is more to life than that."
"I agree," said Miki. "I concede that I cannot hope to compete with Naru-san." For the longest time, she had been disgusted by the thought of taking second place to a school girl, but the courage the young girl displayed the previous night showed who would be the better soulmate.
Yukari and Ruby looked at each other. They never thought Miki would be one to freely accept defeat.
'I would love to get to know that girl better.' "I do not know what Master Nephrite plans to do, but I will talk to him and see if he is willing to leave the Dark Kingdom." Ruby was hopeful he would, as he seemed to be deeply affected by Naru's love.
Later that night, Nephrite sat on the throne in his planetarium. He had sensed Beryl summoning him all day, but just like before, he had no interest in hearing what she had to say, nor would he ever be again. He felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders, now that he knew why the black colored crystal kept reacting to Naru's energy. He was still unsure of the next step he should take.
The star shitennou pulled out the kurozuishou and examined it. "The kurozuishou is no longer of any use to me." It was still hard for him to come to grips with the fact that the stars were leading him down a different path from the one he thought he had in mind.
Naru saw the moon tiara heading for Nephrite. Filled with fear for what the Frisbee weapon could do to him as well as adrenaline, she dashed in front of the chestnut haired young man. "I'll protect Sanjouin-san!"
Moon screamed with fright as she watched the tiara travel closer and closer to her best friend. "Tiara, please stop!"
Naru wrinkled her brow and looked away as the tiara headed for her. To everyone's surprise, the tiara weapon dropped onto the ground. Moon picked it up. "I can't believe it stopped."
"I won't allow you to hurt him!" said Naru in a no-nonsense tone.
"Naru, we can't let him escape," said Mercury.
"Step aside right now!" ordered the raven haired senshi.
"Not a chance!" replied the red head stubbornly. "You will have to kill me too!"
'Why would she protect someone like me?' wondered Nephrite. Sure, Ruby had protected him before but this was different when coming from a human.
"Why would you protect such an evil man?" asked the senshi of ice.
Tears streamed down the red head's face as she answered, "Because I love this man with all my heart. I will protect him at all costs, even if it means my own death."
Nephrite's recollection of Naru protecting him from Moon's tiara as well as her giving him a rose and telling him she loved him very much made his heart feel very warm inside. 'Could this be the feeling of love?'
"Impossible. I'm getting soft," muttered the star shitennou as he stood up. It was the same feeling he had when he danced with her at the Diamond ball a few weeks prior, when he walked by her side with an arm around her shoulders and when he wrote down his contact information for her, although he was not sure why he did the latter.
"Excuse me, Master Nephrite."
Nephrite glanced up to see Ruby standing before him, bowing respectfully. "Yes, Ruby. What is it?" He noted the young woman had somewhat of an earnest look on her face, which she would only wear when there was something on her mind she was desperate to discuss with him.
"There is something I must speak with you about, sir. I hope I haven't disturbed you." Ruby always hated to interrupt her master from something important.
"No you haven't. Go on."
The red head youma took a deep breath, trying to collect her thoughts. "First, I have a question regarding the girl Naru. You are fond of her, are you not? You don't have to be ashamed to admit that to me."
Nephrite was a bit taken aback by the question. He was not one to admit his feelings to anyone in the Dark Kingdom, but he knew Ruby and his other henchwomen enough to know he could trust them, as for the longest time they were the closest individuals he had to companions. Not to mention he could not deny his feelings any longer, even though he still had yet to fully understand them. 'Come on, admit it. You have no reason to lie to her,' said a voice in his head. "Yes I am."
Ruby looked relieved Nephrite didn't bite her head off for asking him a question he might or might not consider really personal. "In that case, I feel you should leave the Dark Kingdom," she advised.
The star shitennou's eyebrows raised slightly, a bit surprised at what just came out of the mouth of Ruby. Such a possible option had actually crossed his mind, but he wasn't sure how his trio of youma would feel about it. Though why he should be surprised, he didn't know, since their hatred for Beryl was immense. "Oh? What brought this on?"
Ruby looked sure of herself as she answered, "Well, you have met someone who is showing you a better life, which is more than the Dark Kingdom could ever offer. Also, wouldn't you like to learn more about the positive human emotions? I know I am curious about them."
Nephrite smiled for the first time that night. It was true, Ruby could be just as curious as a kitten at times. And she did make a strong point about the human world. There were quite a bit of likable aspects, so on the one hand, he knew he would be crazy to try and destroy it. 'On the other hand, would it be foolish to give up such power?'
The cherry haired young woman didn't know what to make of her master's silence. Not that she blamed him; such an awesome position of power was a lot to give up. At the same time, she hated to bring back bad news to her two friends. "Please sir. Consider what I am saying. And I hope you know that whatever happens after this, Miki, Yukari and I will back you up. Remember, we pledged our loyalty to you, not Beryl."
Of course, Nephrite definitely knew that, for his henchwomen had proven their loyalty to him a long time ago. And although he would usually scoff at what Ruby had been telling him, oddly enough, he wouldn't this time. 'Ruby never ceases to amaze me.' "I will give it some thought and let you know my decision in due time."
Not quite the answer Ruby was hoping for, but it gave her a bit of hope. "Take your time planning. We do need to be careful after all."
'Ruby is indeed correct when she mentions careful planning.' One more act of deception was in order. Nephrite recalled Sailor Moon's interactions with Naru when she warned the red head about him. He knew she would not be so vehement about her warnings unless...
"Sailor Moon seems to have a close connection to Naru. Maybe Naru-san knows who Sailor Moon is." Nephrite chuckled lightly. "Sailor Moon, I hope you didn't think you have seen the last of me." He started to have a feeling of…guilt? 'Insane. Why would I feel guilty about this plan of revealing Sailor Moon's identity? It seems Naru has had more of an influence on me than I thought.' He placed the kurozuishou back in his pocket and disappeared in a swirl of brownish red light.
Unbeknownst to both Nephrite and Ruby, Zoisite was in the mansion as well, spying on them from behind a stone white pillar near the throne. He smirked when he saw the kurozuishou in his rival's hands. 'So Nephrite created the kurozuishou to help him find the ginzuishou, did he? Well if he does not want it anymore, I will gladly take it off his hands. Doing so should be a piece of cake considering how distracted he has become…and I suspect he is not to be trusted. I had better keep a close eye on him.' The blonde shitennou snickered.
Ruby heard the sickening laughter which caused her to look up sharply, and nearly made her lose her dinner. 'Show yourself, you slimeball.' She spotted a figure standing by the stone pillar, disappearing in a flurry of cherry blossoms. The red head youma pinched the bridge of her nose in disgust. 'Zoisite.' She was so annoyed with herself for not sensing his presence sooner, but she somehow knew he was up to no good. 'I had better keep my eyes on that worthless little worm.' She disappeared from the planetarium as well, and went to find the twins to inform them of this.
Nephrite stood in Naru's dim room and watched her sleep for awhile. 'So this is what the girl's room looks like. I suppose it is fitting for a girl of her age.' He smiled at how peaceful she looked while asleep. 'Such an innocent, fragile, beautiful girl.' He had the strongest urge to run his fingers through her short, thick, wavy red hair that was spread across her pillow, to let her know of his presence. To resist the temptation, he hid behind the curtains.
Naru heard the sound, which caused her to stir in her sleep and wake up with a start. She saw a silhouette of her ideal soulmate, which made her heart burst with joy, just as she thought she would go insane worrying about whether she would see him again. "Sanjouin-sama, is that you? "
Nephrite was somewhat amused by how much trust the young girl had placed in him, although he had been deceiving her most of the time. But now his conscience was nagging at him for it. 'It is time to show her some honesty.' "Masato Sanjouin is just a disguise. My real name is Nephrite. I do not wish to lie to you anymore. Please forgive me for having done so."
'So Sailor Moon and Usagi had been telling me the truth all along.' Naru wanted to kick herself for being so explosive with Usagi during their little spat, but she knew it was in the past now. 'I thought it was weird when Ruby referred to him as Master Nephrite before…she and those other ladies with her must be his servants or something.' "Of course I will." She knew how hard telling the truth could be at times and it took guts. For that reason, her respect for Nephrite grew even more. She started to reach out to him.
"Stay where you are and just listen."
'Rats! So much for getting closer to him.' Naru pulled her hand away and gave him her best attentive look. "I'm listening."
"You're a wonderful girl, Naru-san. It is because of you I have come to understand love for the first time in my life. There is no love in the evil organization I had inhabited, the Dark Kingdom. There is nothing but deceit and betrayal, ruthless creatures that will say and do anything to get what they desire. In fact, my servants are the only ones to display emotions remotely similar to yours. I thought that was the way things were everywhere, but your love has opened my eyes to the truth. You have impacted my servants as well."
"Awww…" Naru never thought someone like her would be able to impact anyone the way Nephrite just described. She didn't feel like a silly girl with a silly crush anymore. "Nephrite-san...sorry if I am asking too much, but won't you please come closer? I have something I want to say to you as well." She scooted over a bit, so she was in the center of her bed. She looked a bit sheepish at making such a request. 'That was real smooth. However, I felt like there was such a distance between us.'
"All right." The star shitennou reappeared in the young girl's room and sat in the space she left for him. 'I think I know what she wants to tell me.' He faced her and looked directly into her greenish blue eyes, letting her know she had his full attention.
'Oh his eyes are even more beautiful than I remember them being.' Naru drew in a deep breath. For some reason, her confession was becoming harder to do than before, which she found strange. She hoped it wasn't fear, as it seemed like he wasn't bothered by her at all. 'Come on Naru, you can do it. You have before.' "I love you very much, Nephrite-sama. I've loved you since the first moment we met." 'There. That wasn't so bad. I hope I won't scare him off.'
"And I love you," confessed Nephrite. Somehow it was easier to admit his true feelings the second time than it was at first.
Naru's eyes widened with shock. At first she didn't know what to say. She had been hoping he would return her feelings, but with everything that happened, it was too good to be true. "Really?!" she finally squeaked out, reaching up a hand and gently stroking Nephrite's hair. The corner of her lips started to curl up into a smile.
Smiling, the chestnut haired young man held her small, dainty hand in one of his gloved hands, which gave her butterflies in her stomach. "Yes Naru-san, and from this moment forward, I want to become allied with the sailor senshi. Help me, Naru-chan. If you know who Sailor Moon is, please tell me where I can find her."
The small smile on Naru's face faded. "I'm sorry, I really don't know."
"You do trust me, don't you?" asked Nephrite, feigning hurt.
"Of course I do, Nephrite-san. But I just don't know. I only see her when I am in danger. She hasn't given me any way to contact her." Tears streamed down her cheeks.
Nephrite frowned, but decided to take Naru's word for it. He dried her tears. It pained him to see her in distress. "I see. Well if you do find her whereabouts, you know how to contact me." He stood up, leaned over, kissed the girl on the cheek and disappeared.
"Nephrite-sama, wait!" She opened the curtains. She touched her cheek where he had kissed her. 'At least I now have an excuse to call him…but who knows how long it will take me to find out that information?'
Nephrite stood outside the red head's room, arms crossed. 'I am sure she will find a way to contact Sailor Moon.'
Across the street from Naru's place, Zoisite stood on top of a building with his trio of youma known as the Plant Sisters. The sakura shitennou thought it seemed suspicious back when Nephrite said he was doing his task for himself and not Beryl, as well as when he overheard the conversation with Ruby. He now knew where the older shitennou's loyalty lie. Zoisite gave an evil smirk, as these interesting, yet outrageous turn of events gave him the perfect way to punish his rival for attempted assignment theft.
"My oh my, the fact that Nephrite has fallen so deeply in love with that earthling female proves he is more of a foolish man than I thought," commented Zoisite, with an amused expression on his face. 'Certainly more sickening than those love sick youma of his.'
"Hmm?" The tawny haired shitennou glanced up to see one of the sisters, Grape, with hair that was half blonde, half purple and an arm that was made up of thorns, approaching him.
"So girls, what do you think about such a sickening display of affection?" Zoisite asked his trio of plant-like youma. Just saying the words made him feel queasy.
"He's so stupid," the sister with deep purple hair and bangs streaked with red, known as Housenka, answered.
"Let's kill him right away!" said Grape. 'He shall feel the wrath of my extendable thorn arm for his treachery!'
The sister with long navy-bluish black hair called Suzuran remained silent. She seemed to be a bit neutral on the situation.
Zoisite smiled at the fact that his plant-like youma were on the same page as he, but at the same time, he was not surprised by it. They wanted nothing more than to prove their loyalty to him as well as punish those who caused him pain in any way. But they were also being rash as well. "Do try and calm down a bit. I think we should bide our time. Nephrite is extremely fierce in battle, and a direct confrontation can cost us our lives. Let's attack him in a more subtle way. Why not take this little girl hostage and lure him into our trap?"
"That works, too," said Housenka. She had been so intent on destroying her master's rival that she forgot about the importance of perfect strategy. She looked at Suzuran, who had just been standing by and listening. "Suzuran, what's on your mind? You have been so quiet. You are in agreement of this plan, are you not?"
The ebony-haired sister looked sheepish. "Of course I am. But I was also wondering, what about those insolent wenches who surround Nephrite? Shall we dispose of them, too?"
'She must be referring to the youma called Miki, Yukari and Ruby,' thought Grape. Before she could answer, Zoisite responded, "No, let them be. After all, they can be disposed of at any time. Let's show them how nice we can be by having them watch their master suffer."
"Understood," said Grape. She and her two sisters left to carry out the plan.
'Nephrite…I will never lose to you again,' thought Zoisite as he watched his youma go.