Slow Process to Redemption
by Keren Olivero

Chapter 7

* * * * * * * *

Usagi had realized that Ami couldn't and wasn't going to help her the way she wanted, so she had left. She was now walking with Naru to Miss Akiyama's house. One thing she could say about her home ecs teacher was she felt like she could approach her teacher for any help she would need—she was no Miss Haruna.

"Why did you want Miss Akiyama's help so badly?" inquired Naru. She was surprised she agreed to come along with her best friend for a cause that was rather superficial, from her point of view."You nod off in Home Economics class almost all the time."

"Well this is different. I am really desperate to get this dress done for the contest."

"Don't you know how hard it is to make a wedding dress?"

"Yes. That's why I came over here. Who better to help than Miss Akiyama herself?" Usagi thought Naru of all people would get it.

"But she is busy with her own dress. She wouldn't have time to help you, too."

"Oh right." Usagi felt like a complete fool. She didn't even think of that possibility. She forgot all about it. "Well you know what they say. A woman's conviction can crack a rock."

Naru looked at her best friend strangely. "And what exactly does that mean?"

"What?" asked Usagi defensively. "Did I say that wrong?"

Luna had been watching and couldn't help but groan. 'What is this girl up to now? If she would only use half of her energy to anticipate the enemy's next move, then this mission would be a breeze.'

Before Naru could respond to Usagi, she noticed a petite middle-aged man approaching Miss Akiyama's apartment. Usagi noticed, too.

"Oh, it looks like Miss Akiyama has a visitor," said Naru. "I wonder who he could be."

"Whoever he is, he looks like such a nerd," said Usagi.

Naru had a shocked expression on her face. "Usagi, you shouldn't say things like that!" Boy, her friend could be so rash when forming judgment.

She and Usagi stopped their little exchange and watched the gentleman. He climbed up the steps to Miss Akiyama's house. "What does he think he's doing?" Naru wondered. "You don't think he could be…."

Usagi noticed the flowers in the man's hand and recalled when Umino told her and Naru about Miss Akiyama's engagement earlier that afternoon. Usually she was not that bright, but she knew.

Naru had figured it out, too. "Miss Akiyama's fiancé!" she and Usagi said simultaneously.

'Boy, he must be a really nice guy if Miss Akiyama agreed to marry someone like him,' thought Usagi.

The businessman knocked on Miss Akiyama's door. "Higure-san? Is everything all right? You haven't been answering my calls. Higure-san, are you there?"

The door opened so suddenly that the man couldn't get out of the way in time, and he was hit in the face. He rubbed the bridge of his nose and took a good look at the woman standing before him. He barely recognized her. If he didn't know any better, he would have thought he came to the wrong apartment. He saw the scowl on her face. 'Why does she look so angry? Well, whatever the reason, these flowers will be sure to brighten her day.' "Here. These flowers are for you." The man held out the flowers to his fiancée.

The home economics teacher's scowl deepened and she looked at the flowers with distaste. She knocked them out of her fiancé's hand. "Listen here, you nuisance! Don't come on my property until the wedding contest at Juuban Hall is over or I won't marry you anymore! Got that?!"

The gentleman was speechless. He wasn't expecting that reaction at all. He wondered what he had done to her.

Miss Akiyama cringed. "Oh no! At this rate I will never finish my dress in time!" She rushed inside and slammed the door behind her.

Feeling stunned and dejected, the businessman left. 'Oh I wish I knew what upset her so.'

Usagi and Naru were also in shock by their teacher's behavior. "It's not like our Miss Akiyama to be so short tempered," Naru commented.

"I agree." Usagi felt sorry for her teacher's fiancé, but that wasn't the full reason why she was disappointed. "Oh, this can't be! Miss Akiyama is entering the contest as well. The competition will be even harder for me to win!"

"You know, Usagi…" The red head didn't quite know what to say to Usagi for still thinking about the contest after what just happened.

Luna sensed an evil aura. 'I think a youma has possessed the teacher.'

* * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, Nephrite and his trio of youma were monitoring the progress of Miss Akiyama's energy level.

'Excellent work. Soon, your energy will be mine!' thought the star king.

"Oh the way that human handled her fiancé was amusing," commented Yukari. Surprisingly she was able to keep her laughter under control this time.

"Not quite," her twin disagreed. "I think she was far too kind." Miki didn't think she would even acknowledge the businessman's presence, much less give him the time of day.

"Never mind that, Miki," said Nephrite. "My evil curse has just taken effect."

"Oops. That's right." Miki had just been reminded of her patience. She had made a resolution to be more patient and so far she was still working on it.

"Such a shame such beautiful flowers had to go to waste," said Ruby. "It seems like these humans have not changed a bit since the Kunitachi incident."

Miki and Yukari glanced at each other, but had no comment. They knew Ruby had grown to love nature, so of course she would feel strongly about the situation.

* * * * * * * *

Luna told Ami about the incident at Miss Akiyama's house and they were now on their way to find Rei and Usagi. They opted to find Rei first.

"I agree with you that this is a Dark Kingdom trap. Miss Akiyama is far too kind for such behavior," said Ami.

"Yes, not to mention she seems a little too wrapped up in this contest…even more wrapped up than Usagi and that's saying a lot."

"That's true." Ami and Luna walked the rest of the way to the shrine in silence. "I love the tranquility that surrounds this shrine."

Luna was about to respond, but she and Ami were interrupted by a man's voice yelling.

"What's going on?" wondered Ami. In a minute she saw what the racket was about. Rei was running around carrying something white which seemed to be sheets of some sort. Grandpa Hino was chasing her.

"You come back here with those wedding Shinto robes!" Ami heard him yell.

Rei was so busy running away from the elderly man that she didn't notice Ami and Luna standing nearby, and she crashed into Ami. The senshi of ice screamed, partly in pain and partly in surprise and she fell on top of Luna, practically squishing the cat.

Grandpa Hino snatched the robes from his granddaughter. "You were going to elope with some guy, weren't you?" he accused. "You know you're not even allowed to date until you're sixteen."

Rei bristled with anger. Her grandpa could be so controlling and paranoid, though not nearly as bad as her father. "What are you saying? That you don't trust me?!"

Grandpa Hino ignored Rei's tone. "Don't play innocent with me. I saw you were about to use such sacred items for the Juuban Hall's self-promotion. Shame on them for planning such an event!"

'Hmm...maybe we should leave and come back another time,' mused Ami. She didn't want to get on the bad sides of Mr. Hino and Rei. She got up and smoothed the skirt of her sailor outfit.

Mr. Hino forgot about Rei for awhile and noticed Ami standing there. "Hello there, young lady. How about having your wedding at this shrine?"

Ami blushed a little bit. "That's very kind of you, but I haven't found my potential soul mate yet," she told the elderly man.

Grandpa Hino grinned slyly. "Well, I happen to be single." All of a sudden he felt a sharp blow to the top of his head, which made him yelp. He didn't even have to look up to know it was Rei.

"Can't you have some manners for once?" Mr. Hino. He rubbed his head. He hoped no brain damage was done.

"Can't you talk to a girl without sounding like a pervert?" Rei shot back.

* * * * * * * *

Usagi was tiptoeing in her mother's bedroom in a very unusual disguise. She had a scarf tied around her head. Not a very impressive disguise she knew, but she thought it would do. 'It is Usagi, the beautiful thief.' She spotted her mother's curtains and proceeded to feel them. "Nice and smooth...perfect," she said out loud. Though chances were she would not win the contest with Miss Akiyama in it, desperation had reared its head for her.

"Excuse me, but what exactly are my curtains perfect for?"

Usagi was so lost in her thoughts that she nearly jumped a mile. She looked up, only to see her mother standing there with her hands on her hips, frowning deeply.

'Uh oh. Looks like I've been caught!' thought Usagi. She squirmed a bit, wondering how she was going to talk her way out of this one.

"Do you care to explain what you're doing in my bedroom?" asked Mrs. Tsukino, walking towards Usagi and pointing the spatula at her.

"Oh please have mercy on me, Governor Tsukino! I need the fabric for a project I am doing in school because I don't want to spend all of my allowance at the store for it," begged Usagi, leaning against the older woman. Of course, there was not nearly enough money to begin with, but the blonde teen wouldn't tell her mom that.

Ikuko gave an embarrassed look at her daughter's flaky behavior. "How about a proposition? For even thinking about using my curtains and spending your money lavishly, I'm thinking of suspending your allowance for three months."

"Oh no, Mom, you can't do that!" the young girl whined.

"Besides, the contest is only a few days away. Do you honestly think you can have a decent dress finished by then?" asked Mrs. Tsukino.

Knowing that the answer was no, Usagi started bawling uncontrollably.

* * * * * * * *

Miss Akiyama was feeling the energy rush more than before. She spun around her bedroom like a madwoman, holding up the piece of fabric Nephrite gave to her and laughing maniacally. "This fabric is perfect! I will win the contest for sure!" The teacher spun around until she felt dizzy, and so she sat back down in her chair. 'Oh dear. I really need to get to work.' She got out the drawing of her design, as well as the sewing materials she needed.

At that moment, the phone started ringing. Higure simply ignored it, and started drawing the darts on her material. "Those mortal fools have no respect for a busy woman," she muttered under her breath, and continued with her work.

The telephone started ringing again. It seemed like the person wasn't taking no for an answer, or maybe it was someone else calling. Feeling very annoyed, Miss Akiyama raced over to where the phone was and yanked it off the hook. She also found her cell phone and turned it off just in case anyone was thinking of trying to reach her on it.

'There, no one will be bothering me for the rest of the evening.' Miss Akiyama sat down again. She finished creating the darts and without interruptions this time. 'Maybe I will get this dress done in time after all.' Finally she cut out the design from the cloth she had drawn and began to sew the pieces together.

Miss Akiyama worked busily for several hours to complete her dress and veil for the contest. When she decided that her work was done, she gave it one last look over. 'Perfect,' she thought. 'If I do not win this contest, I will be very angry. '

* * * * * * * *

(day of wedding contest)

Usagi, Ami and Rei showed up at the Juuban Hall among the crowd of people who were there for the contest, be it contestant or spectator. But they were only there to investigate and be prepared just in case the Dark Kingdom struck.

Usagi's final attempt to be in the contest failed miserably, as it ended up with all of her fingers on one of her hands heavily bandaged. She wished she had stayed home. She held out her stinging hand and started to whimper.

Ami noted the blonde's disappointment. "Don't cry, Usagi-san. You can have the satisfaction in knowing you gave it your all."

Usagi wasn't sure if Ami was being sarcastic or she really meant it but she did commend her for at least trying to make her feel better.

"Oh I will acknowledge the effort," said Rei. "Even though it is so pathetic that all you did was stab your fingers repeatedly, probably."

Usagi wailed at Rei's insensitivity, and the raven haired girl only giggled softly.

"Rei, stop it!" Ami scolded.

"Ami is right. This is not the time for arguing," said Luna. "Usagi, I want you to infiltrate the contest and find your teacher."

"You're so mean!" wailed Usagi. "You know I don't have a dress."

Rei groaned at her friend's selective memory. "You have the Luna Pen, don't you remember?"

Usagi smacked her forehead. "Oops, I forgot about that." She took out her pen. "Moon Power! Turn me into a beautiful bride!"

Usagi's sailor outfit turned into a beautiful white and pink gown and her hair was pinned up. She was also holding a bouquet of flowers. "Do I look gorgeous in this dress or what?" She noticed how Rei was staring at her. "Don't you wish you can wear this dress as well as I do, Rei?"

"Usagi-chan…."groaned Luna.

"You're only participating to save Miss Akiyama," Ami reminded the blonde.

"Not to mention you wouldn't win fairly," said Luna.

Usagi didn't feel like being reminded of the facts. "I know, but it's fun to pretend."

Just then, the lights were turned off and the announcer came out. "Hello, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our wedding contest, starring our beautiful contestants. There will also be a guest hostess. We have a great show for you, so don't go away!"

Usagi followed the other contestants onto the stage while her friends stayed with the spectators. Although Usagi wasn't participating, it felt nice to be onstage and be in the spotlight. She looked around for her teacher.

"I don't see Miss Akiyama anywhere," Rei said to Ami.

"Me neither," answered Ami. "Maybe she didn't come." 'If that's true, we're going to have to find another way to free her from this plot.'

"I now present….." the host announced. He opened the curtains to reveal the guest host, whoever it was. Standing behind the curtains was none other than Miss Akiyama. And she was wearing a dress that could possibly rival the dress Usagi wore in her disguise. It was lavender with a crimson colored bodice.

"Oh, it looks like Miss Akiyama showed up after all…" Usagi mumbled. 'If she wins this contest, she deserves it.'

"What do you think you're doing?" inquired the host. "You're not the guest host."

"Silence and bow before me!" ordered Miss Akiyama.

The announcer took a look at this new contestant's dress and felt very lightheaded. He kneeled before her and pink hearts appeared in his eyes. "Oh, you're the most beautiful bride I've ever seen! Will you marry me?"

"Men like you are beneath me! I am the most beautiful woman in this world and everyone needs to bow before me! I am the only one who has what it takes to win this contest, no other!" She placed a finger on the left side of her temple and proceeded to cackle. Her eyes started to blaze as well.

Luna got a bad feeling about what was going on. "Usagi-chan, whatever you do, don't look in Miss Akiyama's eyes."

Usagi was starting to doze off and Luna's voice woke her up with a start. She just noticed where Luna was. "Hey, what are you doing under my dress?! You nasty pervert!"

"No time for that! Prepare to strike!"

* * * * * * * *

Nephrite had just gotten another energy draining ball from Ruby. The timing was perfect, too. "Her energy has reached its peak! Come forth, youma Widow!" The star king made himself invisible, teleported to the hall and used the crystal ball to capture Miss Akiyama's energy. The half humanoid, half spider youma came out of the teacher's chest and she collapsed onto the stairs from the energy loss. Nephrite retreated, now that his work was done.

"Master Nephrite? Do you think Widow has what it takes to crush those irritating senshi?" asked Ruby.

"I am sure she can."

"I hope so. I mean, yes her abilities do have potential, but the question is are they enough to obliterate those nosy senshi forever?"

Nephrite could see his henchwoman had doubts, and he sort of understood why. Widow wasn't one of his strongest combat youma. "Just keep watch. While she might not have what it takes to destroy the senshi, she may be able to uncover a weakness."

"That's true." Sometimes Ruby had trouble keeping up with her master, but she had an idea of where he was getting at.

* * * * * * * *

The three girls were transformed and prepared for battle. They were going to make the youma pay dearly for toying with the dreams of the contestants.

Widow cackled and shot a web like cloth at the senshi. Mars and Mercury managed to evade the attack—but just barely. Sailor Moon, however, was snared in the trap. "AAAAH!" screeched the senshi of the moon.

"No!" Mars and Mercury cried.

"I'm gonna weave you into my beautiful web," taunted the spider youma.

The moon senshi squirmed in the web's grasp. "It's so slimy and sticky! I can't stand it!" she whined.

The youma just laughed at the senshi.

"Shabon Spray!"

The barrage of bubbles disoriented Widow. She was also freezing cold. "Drat! What is this? I can't see!"

"Fire Soul!"

The fireball melted the web that was on Sailor Moon and the flames sizzled on her. She was still trying to shake the cloth off of her. "Get it off, get it off, get it off!"

"You can calm down now. It's gone," said the fire senshi. "You're acting immature right now."

"But I can't help it, I hate spiders," protested Moon. "Besides I still feel icky."

"Where are those nosy sailor brats?" demanded Widow, desperately looking around. She shot another one of her web-like cloths in the hopes of it being able to seek and destroy the senshi, although she couldn't see them.

Sailor Moon saw this as her cue. "Moon Tiara Action!"

The discus repelled the web and hit the spider-like youma. "AAAAAAH!" she shrieked. Within seconds she was moon dust. But even though the monster was destroyed, the energy still hadn't returned to Miss Akiyama.

"Ugh, not this again!" complained Sailor Moon. It killed her not knowing why the victims didn't get their energy back after the youma was defeated.

This was the one time Mars decided not to scold her friend. "I am sick of it too. It's time for us to figure out what is causing this." She clenched her fists in anger. 'Whoever did this is going to be sorry.'

"Yes, something must be done," agreed Sailor Mercury. "But first we must get help for Miss Akiyama."

"Yeah, but how?" pondered Sailor Moon.

"We get her to a doctor. We can't afford to keep giving up our life energy every time this happens."

"Which is why something must be done," Mars muttered to herself.

The contest host came up to the senshi. "Are you girls acquainted with the unconscious woman?" he asked.

"Yes," the senshi answered.

"Well I have just called an ambulance, so help is on the way."

"Good." Sailor Mars' anger was appeased, but she was still determined to find out who was behind this.

* * * * * * * *

After a week of hospitalization and bed rest, it was finally Miss Akiyama's wedding day. It was as small as her fiancé said he was able to afford. Only family members, a few close friends and the senshi were present.

Miss Akiyama walked next to her husband to be. "I love you," she told him.

"Miss Akiyama is such a beautiful bride," Ami commented.

"That she is," Usagi agreed. She couldn't help but feel slightly jealous of her teacher. "Such a shame I couldn't even try to participate in the contest."

"Well, even if you did, you probably would not have won," pointed out Rei. "Your teacher's dream has come true, after all. You should be happy for her."

Usagi gave Rei a raspberry in her annoyance.

"Usagi-chan, did you know that the person who catches the bouquet when the bride throws it will be the next person to get married?" asked Luna.

Usagi's eyes brightened. "Really?!" she squealed.

Of course, Usagi wasn't the only one excited. Miss Haruna rushed over to the three girls. "Then that bouquet will be mine!" she declared.

And just Miss Haruna's luck, Miss Akiyama threw the bouquet in the direction of her, Usagi and Rei. She could feel her dream coming true. All three of them argued over whom it belonged to and each were desperately trying to be the first one to catch it. Much to their chagrin, they only ended up knocking it in Ami's direction and she was the one who caught it. She had an embarrassed expression on her face, for she didn't really plan on getting married in the future.

"A-mi!" all three young women cried in unison.

"Oh man!" Usagi moaned.

* * * * * * * *

return to Index / go to Chapter 8

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury