Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon is the property of Takeuchi Naoko, Toei Animation, and Kodansha Comics.

Offstage Preparation

By Gita Toronjil-Lee

He wasn't quite sure exactly how he had come up with his current plan. Certainly, he had to admit it had merit, and certainly it followed his own, perverse kind of logic, but then…

…it was weird, too, and not something that he would particularly like doing.

But he had made all the necessary preparations, and now all he had to do was dress for battle. A look in the mirror made him sigh sadly -- he didn't want to appear as anyone but himself. He'd always benefited from his distinctive looks -- he'd never met another whose hair even matched his lovely auburn waves, or whose eyes were as piercing a deep blue, and this uniqueness made him all the more effective when dealing with the easily-swayed human population.

Tonight, however, he wasn't going after the entire population -- he just had to defeat his single enemy by focusing on her greatest weakness. And therefore he had to wear a different persona than his real self, or even the human businessman he'd been masquerading as.

So he glared at the mirror, his vision traveling to his shoulders, sporting red epaulettes rimmed in gold, and then to his chest, clothed in a standard uniform designating one of the Shitennou, lined in yellow, and tried to imagine himself as he would look in a few moments. It didn't come -- probably because he didn't want it to. He knew, though, that it was too late to go back.

The lord Nephrite stripped himself of his uniform.

"So, her greatest weakness," he said aloud, looking at his crumpled gray uniform on the floor and then at the costume that hung in midair, hangerless, in his private chambers of his ghastly pseudo-earthen mansion. "It shouldn't have taken the Stars to tell me that."

He slipped on the black trousers.

Sending the letters had been an easy task -- after all, every girl-child of appropriate age in Tokyo was registered with the school districts, and the ever-charismatic Sanjouin Masato had a way of getting even the dullest of secretaries to yield the information. It was such fun, at times, to charm and manipulate humans into becoming thoroughly silly for him. And they often reacted just how he wanted them to -- it was possible that it was due to the subtle, different air that clung to him as a Dark Kingdom King, but he liked to think that it was his own personal appeal.

On went the white button-up collared shirt.

The hard part was the writing of the letters. It wasn't easy pretending to be a foolish, romantic dullard with a tendency for bad speechmaking. But he'd always been good at telling lies smoothly, and this reflected in the way he'd written the false messages. He knew plenty well that any teenage female would appreciate a mysterious letter telling her that someone loved her more than anyone else, but only Sailormoon would appreciate that it was from her Tuxedo Kamen-sama. She would definitely show up.

He looped the white bow tie around his neck and tied it.

And such an easy place for a trap -- a department store. Lots of room for a battle, an easy-to-find location, and the knowledge that no one would be around after hours. If he had to, Leo was in the Stars right now, and that would grant him a power that was both strong and reliable. There was no doubt in his mind that he'd be the victor in the upcoming battle.

Sitting briefly on the floor, he pulled his black boots on and arranged his pants accordingly.

Already he had a suspicion of who Sailormoon might be. There was that girl, that little redheaded girl who had asked him if he was the sender of the message. Osaka Naru. Granted, she didn't look like the blonde heroine, but as a man of magic he knew plenty well how easily an illusion could disguise a person from even eyes as perceptive as his. She did seem unnaturally intuitive, and her aura, filled with a sickening sort of innocence, was not unlike that of his enemy.

He put his gloves on -- his own, for this was an article that was part of his everyday attire.

"The prettiest girl at Juuban Junior High…" he murmured thoughtfully, remembering what he had told the child. If she was Sailormoon, and she truly believed he was her Tuxedo Kamen-sama, then she'd be sure to take that to heart, making him all the more assured that she'd show up. And it wasn't totally a lie -- Nephrite had always had a soft spot for redheads. He was more-or-less one himself, after all. Plus, she played tennis -- and that sport, plus driving his hot car and drinking fine wine, were the only human pastimes he considered even moderately worthy of his precious time.

Rising, he fastened his cufflinks, shooting what remained of the outfit the evilest eye he could muster.

It was a very good thing that as of now Sailormoon wasn't even aware of his existence. For all she knew, the person sending out all the youma of late could still be Jadeite. No one on earth knew that Nephrite's predecessor was currently in freezer-storage. And since Sailormoon didn't know who he was or his methods, she couldn't formulate a strong defense. Not that she would anyway. The young warrior didn't exactly strike him as being the brightest star in the sky.

He slipped his arms through the holes in the white vest. It was a little loose, but he could manage.

Wishing desperately that he could smack whoever tailored such a ridiculous costume, he shook out his long hair and wriggled a bit. Human formal wear just had this -- this fit, always the same fit to it, that made him uncomfortable. It was funny, and he knew it, as his official uniform was high-necked, high-booted, and very formal, but it felt like a part of him. What he was wearing now felt strikingly uncomfortable, as did his loose-fitting human disguise. But he was an expert at putting on a good face about it.

And then the jacket. Black, with the black-and-red cape already pinned to the shoulders.

Now that was going to get annoying, the whole swishy-swishy flamboyant cloth thing. That was one of the reasons he'd never attempted to take the lord Kunzite's position as first king, (the biggest reason was that he wasn't strong enough to beat him) because as first king he'd have to wear a cape. He would choose different colors, of course, if he had to wear one all the time, but he still would never like the feel, never like the drag behind him. That aspect of this guise was going to bug him.

With a definite wince, he balanced the mask on his nose and magically held it in place.

Then he looked again into the mirror, and straightened his tie, feeling, frankly, stupid. He could blame Beryl all he wanted -- after all, his assigned job was energy collection, not senshi destruction, and he was good at his work. Sure, he could be angry at her for the stupid task she'd loaded on him (he didn't think Kunzite was doing anything important besides the occasional romantic interludes with his disciple that were the gossip of the youma legions, but no, Nephrite has to do it. It's not like he has anything better to do…), but he still knew the way things worked in the Kingdom -- bitch all you want, but get it done. Or else. And don't talk back. It chafed him, but he supposed he could give the job a chance to succeed before he got too angry. The wisdom of the Stars was guiding him, and he couldn't deny the combination of them plus the queen.

He very nearly looked like he needed to now. All he needed was a bit of illusion, which was no problem at all.

Well, his method of obtaining success here would be over with and forgotten in a matter of hours, as long as Zoisite didn't find out about this. Little nosy annoying thing could just feed himself to his own youma, for all he cared. In fact, that would be nice. Nephrite knew plenty well that if his young arrogant rival found out about this plan he would never hear the end of it, whether he succeeded or no. He would show that kid -- would show them all! -- that the Star King was indeed the most powerful, the most worthy, the wisest, the best of them all. And then, at the pinnacle of his valor, he would finally get the reverence he'd always felt he deserved.

But it wasn't yet time for rewards. He put on the worst thing -- the high top hat -- and collected his thoughts for battle.

Now the mirror showed a copy of the hero who was his target's weakness. His long locks still flowed down his back, but the illusion would take care of that, and he refused to injure his own vanity further than to tuck his hair up in the horrible hat. His face was the same, as were his size and his stance -- all also covered by the illusion and apparent only to his eyes. But though he could still see a bit of himself in the image, he still had to, for a short while, actually be Tuxedo Kamen.

"This is going to be embarrassing," he informed the insulting looking glass. Mildly queasy, he turned away from the sight of his current appearance. He unconsciously adjusted his jacket, then his hat, and lastly, the mask. "Really, truly embarrassing."

Then, with a flick of the irksome magician's cape, he teleported to the MS Department store to do what had to be done.


Notes: Just a vision out of nowhere, of Nephrite putting on the Tuxedo Kamen costume and the thoughts that must have been running through his head. I like episode #19, by the way. It's one of my favorites. And I like Nephrite, though he's more difficult to write about for me.

And be thankful that this story wasn't of Zoisite preparing to be Sailormoon. Now that would have been awkward. Or maybe that's an idea that I'm still working with…


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