Slow Process to Redemption
by Keren Olivero

Chapter 4

* * * * * * * *

Usagi and Rei went to one of Ami's favorite parks with her. It was one of the spots the blue-haired senshi frequently hung out at during her free time. The girls were very fond of the atmosphere and the sounds of nature.

"Oh, this place is perfect for a would be so romantic," said Usagi dreamily. She gave a blissful sigh as she thought about her ideal date at the park with Tuxedo Kamen or Motoki. Of course, it didn't matter to her which one. Either one of them would do.

Usually Rei would chastise Usagi for not being serious enough, but she didn't. Not this time. "For once I agree with you, Usagi. I would love to have a boyfriend to come out here with." She had a bit of a smug look on her face. 'And I know just the guy, too.' She was beginning to have a crush on Mamoru.

Usagi was glad that Rei was actually agreeing with her, though she didn't trust the look on her friend's face. "Well, I'm glad you agree for once."

Ami was glad that so far, Usagi and Rei were getting along. Their bickering tended to give her a migraine. "Oh, I think this park is perfect for going out on the lake and reading a really good book. I think we should do that next time we come out here."

"Sounds good to me," said Usagi, even though she hated reading unless it was manga.

"Hey, would you like to come with me to see Mr. Kunitachi?" asked Ami.

"Sure," replied Usagi and Rei. Ami had told them lots of things about him and from what they heard, he sounded like a very nice person. Usagi asked, "Where is he?"

"In the garden. Come, let's go." So the two girls went with her to the garden. There was an old man planting a flower.

"Hi there, Mr. Kunitachi," Ami greeted her elderly friend.

The old man turned around from his work and gave Ami and her friends a very warm greeting. He was glad to see Ami and have a chance to meet the friends she had told him about time and time again. He could use a break anyway.

Mr. Kunitachi and the three girls sat on a nearby bench.

"So," said Usagi, gathering her thoughts, "Ami told me that she has known you since she was just a little kid."

"That's right. I have taught her everything I could about my job. Sadly, I am about to lose it. My colleagues are about to change this park into an office building. I'm so angry about it; they're going to wipe out the whole park."

Ami didn't like what she was hearing. It seemed like people had no respect for the environment nowadays. "That's terrible. You have to find a way to stop them. And I will do all I can to help."

Mr. Kunitachi sadly shook his head, as if to say don't bother. "That's very kind of you Ami, but it's no use. I did everything I could to stop them, but they wouldn't listen. It appears that I am the only one who has ever taken this job seriously."

Usagi was saddened by the news, too. From what she saw in the garden, she could tell that he had worked very hard. And she appreciated the beauty of nature as well. "Oh no. Not your beautiful flowers."

"Oh, my co-workers will bulldoze those down too. Enjoy the park while you can, girls. It will be gone next week. "

Rei was not going to give up on saving the park so easily. Mr. Kunitachi had worked too hard and spent too much time beautifying the place for it to be gone just like that. 'I will talk to Grandpa. There's gotta be a way to save this park.'

Later Usagi and her friends prepared to head over to the crown arcade, remembering that Luna had called for a meeting to discuss the next phase of the plan to train. Although Usagi found the meeting part to be boring, she had no qualms going to the arcade since she wanted to play a quick game before she went home. Luna had decided to go ahead of them, to update Central Control on how the battle with the new agent of the Dark Kingdom was going so far, as well as the search for the moon princess. Central had told the feline to keep encouraging Usagi to do her best. She patiently waited for the girls to show up.

'It was impressive of Usagi to defeat the first youma without the help of the other senshi. If only she could keep it up all the time,' thought Luna. She thought it was so frustrating how the moon senshi could be so erratic. She hoped that she would not have to wait for too long.

All of a sudden, a little kid sped by on a go-cart, and Luna happened to be in its trajectory. She was so surprised and even her sprinting would not be enough for her to get out of the way in time. Luckily, Mamoru happened to stop by and when he saw what was happening, he quickly pulled the black cat out of harm's way. She was so grateful to him, but she dare not reveal her secret to him that she could talk.

"Are you all right? You didn't get hurt?" the raven haired young man asked Luna.

Usagi finally showed up and when she saw her least favorite person holding her cat, she looked like smoke was about to come out of her ears. "What have you done to her?" she asked angrily.

It never ceased to amaze Mamoru how the blonde was so blinded by her hatred for him that she jumped to conclusions. "I saved her life. If it weren't for me, she would be as flat as a jelly bun. You should be thanking me," he said calmly.

Usagi rolled her eyes. "Yeah right. I'm not as stupid as you think. Come here, Luna!"

Luna leapt out of Mamoru's arms and Usagi scooped her up.

Just then, Motoki came outside to see what all the commotion was about. He spotted his best friend. "Hello, Mamoru."

"Yo. What's up, Motoki?"

Usagi was surprised by the interaction between the two young men. It was more than civil. They were talking as if they were best friends. Now that was news to her. "Motoki! You know this jerk? He was harassing my kitty before you came out here." She gave her archrival the stare of death.

Motoki ignored the hostility, though. "Yes I know him. We are best friends and we both go to the same college."

Usagi's eyes nearly popped out of her head at the fact that Mamoru was college age. But it also made her reassured her that she wasn't crazy to be annoyed by his taunting.

In the meantime, Nephrite was in the planetarium with his youma, about to choose his next target. He had delivered the first ounce of energy he gathered to Queen Beryl. To his relief, she congratulated him on having a semi-successful plan, but advised him not to repeat Jadeite's failures. That was something he did not need reminding of, since he had already made up his mind that he would succeed where his predecessor had failed. Being turned into a human icicle was certainly not a part of his contract. His queen was right about one thing; if he intended to live up to his position, he was going to have to take his game up a few notches, when it came to destroying his enemies.

"The stars know everything. Point me to my next victim, a human who is reaching his maximum energy output. I shall snatch it to feed the great Metallia..." An image of Mr. Kunitachi working in his garden was revealed. He gave an evil chuckle. "What's this? It seems that Albireo has chosen and will be influencing Kunitachi, the gardener!" The image dissolved.

Ruby thought of something she could do that would be extremely helpful. Nothing major, but it was a good way to make herself feel useful. "Master Nephrite, would you like me to gather more information so that it would be easier for you to proceed?"

The star shitennou considered this. Usually he would decline an offer if it would put her life in danger, but this one was different. "Yes. Please do."

The red head curtsied. "Thank you, my master. She disguised herself, and disappeared in a swirl of crystal shards.

Nephrite gave an evil smirk. 'It won't be too long before this miserable planet ceases to exist!'

When Ruby saw all of the trees, flowers and plants that surrounded the park, she was astounded by the beauty.

'So this is how the humans decorate their gardens? I must say, this is rather lovely. Who knew that humans were capable of preserving their surroundings this way? A pity we'll have to destroy it along with the rest of this planet.' She thought about talking her master into creating a garden of his own.

Ruby was so caught off guard by the tranquility that she nearly forgot that she had a job to do. She was pretty annoyed and embarrassed with herself for that, since she was anything but a space cadet. She remembered when she saw the old man.

'Ok, how to approach this old manI know! Politeness should work."Excuse me, Mr. Kunitachi."

The old gardener turned around and saw a tall and thin young woman with long wavy dark crimson hair. He had never seen her before. "Hello there. What can I do for you?"

Ruby felt a little uncomfortable at such warmth shown towards her. "My name is Ruby and I was just looking around your garden. It's beautiful. I can tell you've put a lot of energy into it. "

Kunitachi appreciated the kind words, yet one more reason why his boss' decision angered him. "Why thank you. And yes I did work hard as a gardener. But now it has been for naught."

That was something the youma wasn't expecting to hear. She had thought humans liked their work. She furrowed an eyebrow. "Oh? Why do you say that?"

The old man's suspicions were confirmed, that the young woman must be at least a newcomer, otherwise she would have heard the news. Once again he glumly told the news about the park being turned into an office building, getting rid of the park in the progress.

The news was even more shocking than what Ruby just heard about Mr. Kunitachi saying the hard work he did was not worth the effort. She never believed that humans were capable of destroying their surroundings. It made her feel a tinge of contempt. "Awwww, what a shame." In actuality, while she observed his facial expression and realized how distraught he seemed, she was thinking of what a good way his frustration would help her master's plan. 'Wait until Master Nephrite hears about this.'

"It certainly is." He gave a sad sigh.

Being around Mr. Kunitachi was making the red head feel gloomy and she was feeling soft, too. That was something she couldn't afford. "Look inside your heart and you will find a way to stop this plan. Thank you for your time, sir."

"Thank you for your concern. It is wonderful to see young people as compassionate as you are."

Ruby thought to herself about how nave the man was. If he only knew. But all she said was, "Of course. I will see you later. Remember what I said." She left the garden.

Usagi and her friends were inside the arcade. Usagi was playing her favorite video game and Ami was standing over her, watching. She was also waiting for her turn to try again since she had only played it once before.

So far, the game was not going too well for Usagi. She was becoming frustrated. "Oh man! I love this game, but it's so hard! What is it that I'm doing wrong?" the blonde whined.

"You just need practice, that's all," said Ami. "And the challenge will be very good for you."

A part of Usagi was thinking, easy for you to say. You got a high score on your first try, but she knew deep down that there was some truth to what Ami said. The game was so challenging that it was not expected for anyone to get a high score at first. And she minded the difficulty, but not enough to quit playing altogether.

Motoki and Rei were having a conversation. "So tell me how you became Usagi's friend," Motoki said to Rei.

"Oh we met at the Hikawa Shrine. From the moment I saw her I felt a connection to her." Rei didn't feel like talking about the time she mistakenly attacked Usagi. Every time she recalled that she felt embarrassed.

"Oh I see. It does seem like when you're just becoming friends with Usagi, she has a way of making you feel like you've known her for a very long time."

"I guess that's true." She still had yet to have more patience with the blonde's childish antics. Her mind switched to Mamoru. 'Oh he is so dreamy.' She wanted to get to know him so badly. She thought she would get along great with him. She rested one foot on the stool and proceeded to think of possible things they could do together. She thought about riding a row boat with him, telling him all about what training to be a Shinto priestess was like, and sharing a milkshake with him.

'Hmm, I wonder if he is any good at martial arts,' thought Rei. She was so lost in her little fantasies that her foot came off the stool, causing her to fall down and bump her head.

"No way!" Usagi was heard screaming. It was game over for her even though she managed to dodge the enemy attack. She decided to let Ami have a turn.

Motoki became worried when he saw Rei lying on the ground and clutching at her head. She seemed fine before, when she was talking to him. He wondered what had happened. "Rei? Are you all right?"

Aside from some lightheadedness and ear ringing, Rei felt okay. She slowly sat up. "Yes. I'm okay."

Mr. Kunitachi was still in his garden. He had been thinking about what Ruby had said. 'Hmm...if only it were that simple.' While chances were that the young woman was right and there was one possible way to stop this scheme that he had not thought of, he had given up. "After all, having false hope is more of a waste than spending all those years planting this garden. Well, I will never plant another flower."

"So you have something against this project?" asked a deep voice, rather incredulously.

Kunitachi glanced up. He could have sworn that he was alone, but now it seemed that he had another visitor. This time it was a young man. The second stranger he would have confided in. "Yes. Nothing matters anymore."

That was something Nephrite didn't expect to hear, especially not after the encounter with his minion. Ruby certainly wasn't kidding when she had said that the old man looked so pathetic. The star shitennou could see that he had some work to do to soften up Kunitachi, but he didn't mind. He had an ingenious plan B. "Of course it does. It's despicable that those colleagues of yours would do such a thing to this park. This is an excellent place for children to play and be educated on the laws of nature. And I have come up with a way to ensure that such gifts would not be taken from them."

"Who are you?" inquired the old man.

Nephrite was startled by such a question. It was not for Kunitachi to know exactly who he was. But he knew better than to say something like that and risk losing this human's trust. "I am a friend who wishes to help you find a way to cease this injustice."

This was interesting. Mr. Kunitachi thought he had exhausted every possible way. He would have hated if the answer was right in front of him the whole time and he just didn't know it. "Oh? Which way is that?"

"Something that I cannot do without your help." 'Or at least your measly human body.'

"I will gladly help you with whatever it is that you have in mind."

"Good." 'As if you can escape your destiny anyway.' Nephrite went closer to the old gardener and touched and pressed on his forehead, or rather, his hat, engraving his evil power crest on it.

Mr. Kunitachi felt strange and couldn't understand what Nephrite was doing to him. It was almost as if he was receiving a major energy rush. He groaned like a wounded animal as the power surged within him.

'I call upon the power of the star Albireo! Increase this human's anger to its maximum peak of energy!' Nephrite ordered mentally. He then removed his hand from the man's cap. Mr. Kunitachi started panting profusely. He was out of breath from Nephrite's maneuver.

"Now use the energy boost I gave to your anger to teach those conceited, destructive humans about the boons of nature!"

In the spur of the moment the elderly gardener was wondering why he didn't think of that in the first place. He was beginning to think that he was far too kind to his coworkers. Well, never again. The spell that Nephrite put on him begun to take effect and he was suddenly very angry. "Yes master!" he cried out in a very gruff sounding voice. He possessed all of the animals with the negative energy and in a rage the butterflies flew towards the construction site workers and proceeded to attack them. This nearly gave them heart attacks since they were not expecting that.

"Get off of me! Aaaah!" the men screamed.

Nephrite was delighted to see that his victim's anger had climaxed in a matter of minutes. Seemed like his plot was going to be much simpler than he thought. 'Excellent. I will capture the energy of both Kunitachi and all those creatures. And with some luck, I will lure in those irritating senshi as well! They won't be so lucky this time!' He gave an evil laugh and exited the garden.

* * * * * * * *

return to Index / go to Chapter 5

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury