Slow Process to Redemption
by Keren Olivero
* * * * * * * *
During home economics class one day, Miss Akiyama had drawn a piece of fabric on the chalkboard. She proceeded to explain step by step how to make darts in the fabric and how to make an article of clothing out of it. She sounded as if she were drained and in a daze. She was not aware of it, but many of her students had noticed how differently she sounded. Usagi had fallen asleep as a result of her boredom. This was unusual because Home Economics was her favorite course and one of the only classes she actually didn't sleep in its entirety.
But not that day. This was like Math and English to her. She proceeded to daydream about her favorite goodies. "Another chocolate parfait, please," she moaned sleepily.
Naru found the class to be boring as well but not to the point where it would put her to sleep. She was wondering if the sensei was unwell and that was why she had a hard time focusing. "Miss Akiyama, are you feeling all right?" she asked.
"Oh I'm just fine, Naru." Her cheeks were slightly flushed. Naru wasn't sure if she believed her.
As much as the students liked Miss Akiyama, they were glad when her class ended. It was also the end of another school day, which made Usagi very happy. She and Naru decided to stop at a nearby ice cream parlor before going home. The two girls bought their ice cream cones and sat at a table outside of the parlor.
* * * * * * * *
"Home Ec was so boring today," said Usagi. "Don't you think so?"
"Uh-huh. I wonder what's wrong with Miss Akiyama. She is usually so enthusiastic about sewing." She was about to start eating her ice cream when she was interrupted by Umino popping up between her and Usagi, asking," Want to hear today's gossip?"
Usagi was so startled she nearly dropped her ice cream cone. Luckily, she didn't. "Umino Gurio, why do you always show up unexpectedly?!" the girls yelled in unison.
And Usagi added, "Just be glad you didn't make me spill my ice cream, Buster!" She proceeded to devour the frozen treat.
Umino ignored the annoyance the two girls showed him. This time he was sure they would want to hear this news he had for them. "I have big news. I know what's behind Miss Akiyama's daze. You see, she is still single at the age of 34, but that will change soon. All her adulthood she had been waiting for the right man, and she wants to be able to afford the nicest fabric for a wedding dress she designed."
*Flashback of proposal*
A petite middle-aged man with a receding hairline nervously approached Miss Akiyama, holding out a bouquet of roses. He had been dating her for quite some time and desperately wanted to take it to the next level so they would be in a more committed relationship.
"Higure-san, I know I am a lowly business man with no savings and I cannot give you a very big wedding or reception, but would you do the honor of marrying me?" He squirmed, hoping she wouldn't reject his offer.
Although he wasn't her ideal man, at least he reminded her of what was truly important. And she realized her feelings toward him were mutual. "Oh of course I'll marry you." She took the bouquet from him and he gave a happy sigh. He was so relieved, it took every ounce of courage he had inside him to say those words.
"Isn't that great news?" asked Umino. "That's what I call true love."
Naru realized this must be why Miss Akiyama was in such a dream-like state. She would be that way too if she were in her situation. "I wish her all the best of luck." The red head noted her ice cream was beginning to melt, so she proceeded to eat it.
Usagi was happy for her teacher, but the goals didn't sound like her cup of tea. "Yes well, I plan to get married to my Mr. Right before I'm 25, and my wedding will be fancy!" She raised her ice cream cone for emphasis.
* * * * * * * *
Miss Akiyama was at the fabric shop, looking at all the different pieces of cloth. So far, she didn't find any that was worth using to create a wedding dress. She was becoming a bit frustrated.
'Oh dear…time is running out and I still haven't anything. I suspect all the beautiful ones are sold out. I should have bought it when I first accepted the proposal. I may have to settle for something simple, which I really don't want to do for such a special occasion.'
The teacher wondered if she should check an upscale fabric store. After all she longed for something fancy so she was sure such a store would have something she liked. The question was would she be able to afford it.
"Higure-san?" said a familiar voice. It was Usagi's homeroom teacher, Miss Haruna.
Miss Akiyama wasn't sure what her friend was doing there, but she wasn't complaining. "Hello Sakurada-san. What brings you here?"
"Oh, just to see how you are. How come you didn't tell me you were set to wed?" Miss Haruna looked slightly hurt.
"Oh, I was going to announce it as a surprise." She couldn't help but wonder how Miss Haruna knew of her engagement.
"All right. Did you find a fabric you like?"
"No I haven't." She looked very dejected. "I think I will just get something simple."
"Come on! This is the most special occasion of your life! I am sure there is nice fabric you can afford. You can't give up your search so easily," said Miss Haruna, giving Higure a look.
"In that case, will you help me?"
"Of course I will."
"Oh thank you very much."
"The pleasure is all mine. Who says we even have to shop here? We can also check Cloth Azabu Juuban. I'm sure you'll find something in there."
That was true, but she had never been at Cloth Azabu before. She might know her way around as well as she knew Azabu Juuban Dressmaker.
Miss Haruna led her away from the store before she could say anything. Unbeknownst to the two women, there was a red Ferrari parked outside the shop. It was Nephrite, who had just come from another shopping spree. When he saw the teacher, he felt a strong force from her and sensed that her energy potential was very great. He left to consult the stars about this so she would be confirmed as the next target.
* * * * * * * *
Yukari was in the planetarium, stargazing. She and the other youma had begun to do that on their own, and would do so whenever they had nothing to do. Their master had taught them about all the different constellations in their spare time, until they knew enough. She had decided to take a break from training with her comrades. She was waiting for her master to return from his shopping trip. She had something important to ask him. She knew he would probably use the power of the stars to find his next target and she would have to wait a little while, but that was okay.
She did not have to wait for one more minute. He showed up that very instant.
"Stars know everything. I seek your guidance for my new victim. The star Vega weeps because she cannot cross the Milky Way to see her soul mate. She shines her light on the school teacher Higure Akiyama, who is wasting valuable energy planning her wedding, precious energy that can be fed to the Great Leader. It'll be mine for the taking, and I will also lure in those bothersome sailor senshi." He certainly hoped this would work. Having the senshi constantly thwart his schemes could get old very quickly. Even though Beryl had been pretty gracious towards him so far as a result of the fact that he succeeded in gathering the energy, he was sure her grace would not last much longer.
Seeing the image of Miss Akiyama in the shop with Miss Haruna, Yukari was on to Nephrite's strategy, and she thought she could help. It was not much, but she wouldn't have to let him do all the work. He was about to leave. She realized this was her chance.
"Excuse me Master Nephrite," she said, bowing politely. He turned around, enough to face her. He wondered what was on her mind.
"You intend to use a possessed piece of fabric to drain this human's energy, am I correct?"
The star shitennou gave a small smile…his minion was so intuitive. "You are right."
"I think I will be able to help you there somewhat."
"Oh? And which way is that?"
"Well I can purchase the fabric. I am sure I can find something suitable." Plus she was secretly curious about what the humans used for their wedding dresses, though she wouldn't tell her master that.
Nephrite thought her offer would be a big help. Not only because it would be safe for her to do, but he had his pride to worry about. Even if it was a part of his mission, he would feel strange in a women's store. He took out some yen bills and handed them to his youma.
"I thank you, my master," she said, bowing again. "I won't be gone long." She placed the money in one of the pockets of her mini-dress and teleported to the fabric shop.
* * * * * * * *
When Yukari saw all of the pieces of cloth, she was in awe. Not only by how beautiful the pieces of cloth were, but there were also a huge plethora of colors. White, cream, bright pink, lavender, pale blue….
'Wow, who knew these things called wedding dresses can be so many different colors…with so many different possibilities, how will I know which one to choose?'
She knew she'd better make haste and make up her mind. She didn't have all day. And who knew what could happen.
Just then an elderly woman came over to her. "Hello, Miss. Do you need any assistance?"
Yukari was startled by how unexpectedly the old lady approached her, though she didn't show it. She found the woman to be creepy-looking. She was actually tempted to accept this human's help as it would save time, but she didn't want to risk getting to close to her. Her master wouldn't be pleased if she got distracted.
"That's very kind of you, but I am sure I can manage on my own," she said. Hopefully the woman would take the hint.
Thankfully, she did. "Well all right. You know where to find me if you do need help." She left to assist someone else.
'Whoa…that was odd,' the youma thought to herself. She went back to looking at the different pieces of fabric. Now that she took the time to really look through them, she decided she wasn't very impressed. She considered some to be too plain and not worth the money she was given. Some were attractive enough, but they didn't seem to be just right. She was looking for a piece of fabric that was hard to come by. Like…
There was a lavender colored fabric that caught her eye. It wasn't plain or overly ostentatious. Not to mention it was possibly her new favorite color. She took it off the shelf.
For a moment she was lost in a daydream and tempted to wrap the cloth around her shoulders to see how it would look on her. She thought maybe she could make a wedding dress someday. She woke up from her little fantasy and mentally chided herself for having such childish dreams. She went to pay for the fabric. Her job in the shop was done. 'Master Nephrite will be very pleased.'
* * * * * * * *
Usagi was walking home, and passed Juuban Hall on the way. She saw a multitude of people gathered around a middle-aged man and decided to stop and see what the commotion was all about. She went a little bit closer and saw that a wedding ceremony was taking place.
'Oh, that girl is so lucky. Her dream is coming true for her,' thought the blonde. She was a little jealous about the fact that it wasn't her out there getting married. She couldn't wait until she was old enough.
The wedding was interrupted by two men bringing a large sign and placing it down. Usagi moved close enough so she see what it said. It read: BRIDES AND GROOMS TO BE ENTER THE WEDDING CONTEST TODAY! ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS SEW A WEDDING DRESS. THE CONTESTANT WITH THE BEST LOOKING WEDDING DRESS WILL WIN A TRIP TO HAWAII!'
Usagi gave an excited squeal, not caring if anyone heard her or not. "Hawaii has got to be the perfect place for a honeymoon! It'll be so romantic." She drifted off into a daze.
Usagi had just gotten married, and she was dancing with Motoki and Tuxedo Kamen—they had been her crushes for many years and now her dream had just become a reality.
"Oh I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to be loved by two men I have loved for years. I never thought it would happen. You guys are my only kings."
The dream felt almost too real for Usagi. When she woke up she was so disappointed. "I knew it was too good to be true. Neither of them have an idea how much I love them and I can only choose one anyway." She couldn't think of that for long because she had heard Rei's voice, yelling at the minister.
"It's not fair to limit your contest just for people getting married. It should be for anyone who knows how to sew!"
The gentleman looked at Rei and noted her displeased expression. He thought she had forgotten her place just a bit, but decided now wasn't the best time to tell her that. She did have a valid point after all."It does not have to be very soon, Miss. As long as you plan to get married at Juuban Hall someday, you are welcome to enter, even if it is many years from now."
This made Rei very happy and excited. "Hooray! I'm signing up!" 'I just hope I find the man I love who will return my love...whenever that'll be.' She bumped into Usagi. "Oh Usagi, what brings you here?"
Usagi wasn't very happy to see her. "I would ask you the same question."
Rei, on the other hand, was actually pleased to see Usagi. She did not know how to sew, but she had an idea of how she could do a nice wedding dress anyway. "Hey, your mom is a housewife, isn't she?"
The blonde thought Rei was being a bit too inquisitive. "Yeah. What's it to ya?"
The raven haired teen gave her friend an amused look.
Usagi didn't trust that look at all. "Why are you looking at me like that?" she asked.
Rei didn't answer her. Instead, she grabbed Usagi by the arm and pulled her away from the chapel, ignoring the girl's protests.
Miss Akiyama stopped by and noticed the sign. She thought about entering the contest and surprising her fiancé with a trip to Hawaii for their honeymoon, as he happened to love the place. But she would need a piece of cloth to make a dress first. She hoped she would find one in the store Miss Haruna showed her.
* * * * * * * *
Rei was seated in the living room at the Tsukino residence. It had only been a few minutes, but the fire senshi felt comfy there already. The house looked really nice, from what she saw. She thought Mrs. Tsukino did a wonderful job taking care of it. And she especially liked the warm and friendly manner Usagi's mom greeted her.
"It's so nice to meet you, Rei," said Ikuko.
"Likewise. Usagi is lucky to have a mom like you. You're so kind."
"Why thank you. So tell me how you and my daughter met. I can't seem to remember about that."
"We met at my grandpa's shrine. I go to a different school from her, that's why you've never seen me around."
"Oh I see." Miss Tsukino suddenly remembered she never offered her guest anything to eat and felt very ill-mannered. She excused herself and went to the kitchen. She took out a plate and placed the last piece of short-cake on it. She brought it out to Rei.
Usagi thought that was unfair. She had planned to have a piece of the cake as an afternoon snack. "Hey Mom, that's my piece of cake!" she protested.
"Usagi!" Ikuko scolded. She thought her daughter really needed to learn to be more altruistic. "Don't listen to her. She is impossible at times. Go ahead."
"So I see. Thank you so much." She took the plate from the blue haired woman and took a bite of the pastry. She thought it was very scrumptious.
Luna noted Usagi's grumpy look. "Usagi, why are you in such a strange mood?"
"I don't trust her at all," Usagi answered, almost snarling.
"This cake is really delicious!" the ebony-haired teen raved. "You're so great at baking; you should open your own bakery."
Ikuko was speechless and flattered at the same time. She never had anyone shower her with compliments like this. Rei was such a delight. "Do you mean that?"
Usagi, who was still sore about her cake being given away, snippily pointed out, "The cake is store-bought, you numbskull!"
Ikuko, appalled by her daughter's manners, smacked Usagi in the head.
"Oww! Mom!" she whined, rubbing her head.
Mrs. Tsukino decided to ignore her and just give her a good talking-to later. "What were you saying, Rei?" For no reason at all, she started to chuckle.
Rei didn't notice this though. "Well, I need to ask for a favor. I am entering a contest where you have to sew a wedding dress. I was wondering since you are a housewife, can you help me?"
"Sewing, you say?" asked Mrs. Tsukino through her laughter. She was laughing too hard to say she didn't know how to sew.
By now Usagi had forgotten about the cake and she joined in her mother's laughter. Now she knew why Rei was so hyped up to meet her mom. She thought it served her right when her mom told her the truth.
For a moment, Rei was confused. Why were Usagi and her mom laughing at her? Then she realized this must mean Mrs. Tsukino did not do needlework otherwise she wouldn't be laughing. "I'll take your response as a no. Thanks anyway." She never felt so embarrassed in her life. She rested the plate down and stormed off. Usagi went after her.
"Thanks for letting me come over, even though you're the worst friend ever! How come you didn't tell me your mom couldn't sew beforehand? Then I would not have made such a fool of myself!"
Usagi looked sheepish at first. "I forgot. But then it serves you right for bulldozing the competition, you brat!"
Rei turned around, blew her a raspberry and stomped off.
"Right back at you!"
Luna groaned. Watching the two girls argue was so tiresome. She really wished they would stop it. "Good grief. If you spent a tenth of your energy doing your responsibilities, you would accomplish things more easily."
But Usagi didn't want to hear it. She decided to go over to her friend Ami's house. Ami was good at practically everything she tried, and was averaging an A in Home Economics. Surely she would be able to help. There was no way she would allow Rei to have the prize she wanted.
* * * * * * * *
Over at Ami's house, Usagi told her the whole story. This was her first time hearing of the contest but she didn't understand why Usagi was so upset. School was hard enough for her when she attended every day so she really didn't think she should miss that much school.
"You really want to win the prize that badly?" she asked Usagi.
"Well of course! Wouldn't you like to be married and spend your honeymoon in a relaxing place with the man you love?"
Ami never really thought of such a dream before, but it wasn't her first priority. "Well, not particularly. What I really want is to be educated enough to be a good doctor, just like my mother."
That wasn't what Usagi expected to hear. "You've got to be kidding me! That's every girl's dream! There's more to life than your career, you know." She began to get scared, thinking maybe this meant her friend wouldn't help her after all. She began to beg nervously. "In spite of that, will you help me?"
The senshi of ice sighed. She could see her friend was desperate. "All right, I'll help you out," she caved in.
"Yay! " The moon senshi proceeded to gloat about how she would show Rei. But much to her dismay, Ami placed a stack of books in front of her.
"There you go! You will have to learn the basics in these books before I can give you any actual sewing lessons."
Usagi gave a sad sigh. She was beginning to think she had come to the wrong person. "Ami, you're something else."
* * * * * * * *
Miss Akiyama had gone to Cloth Azabu Juuban with Miss Haruna to look for the fabric for her wedding dress. Miss H. had told her to wait outside and leave everything to her. Higure was glad to do that, as she trusted Miss Haruna on this. But so far it didn't look like she was making any progress, as the scene at the shop was chaotic. She could hear people arguing over the different pieces of cloth. All of a sudden, she saw a red Ferrari pull up and stop in front of the store, a few feet behind her. It was Nephrite, coming with the piece of cloth his youma had purchased. He had to say, she really knew how to shop and had great taste in clothing.
The home ec teacher didn't pay much attention though. She could hear her friend saying, "I'm purchasing this piece!", and a man yelling, "No! It's mine!"
Miss Akiyama gave a frustrated sigh. "All that hostility just for a piece of fabric...at this rate I will never be able to make my dress in time for the deadline in this contest." She thought they ought to be ashamed of themselves, since they were adults after all. Just when she was contemplating leaving, a lavender piece of cloth was tossed in front of her. She picked it up, assuming it was for her. "Where did this come from..?" she wondered, examining the fabric.
"Beautiful," she heard a deep voice say. She glanced up and saw a young man with long wavy chestnut colored hair walking towards her. She wondered if the fabric had come from him and if so, how could he have known she needed one? "I beg your pardon?" she asked.
"That piece of fabric is beautiful," Nephrite told her.
The woman agreed with him there. She wondered why she couldn't find any as nice as that the first time. It surprised her when Nephrite took the cloth from her and wrapped it around his shoulders.
"It's perfect for you," he said. "If I were you I would snap it up right away. I can see you walking beneath the stars side by side with your soul mate in a dress made of this material, which will suit you beautifully." He marked it with his evil magical crest and wrapped it around her shoulders. "I wish you happiness." He left her standing there speechless.
All of his compliments made her blush. He was such a charming young man, whoever he was. 'Oh he's such a life saver and a sweetheart,' she thought.
* * * * * * * *
return to Index / go to Chapter 7
The Nephrite and Naru Treasury