Slow Process to Redemption
by Keren Olivero

Chapter 9

* * * * * * * *

Nephrite stood before his queen, cautiously waiting for her to say whatever she had to. He wondered if Beryl intended to chew him out for failing both to capture the energy and defeat the senshi. He tried his best to seem nonchalant. Still, the possibility of being cast into Eternal Sleep like Jadeite was not a pleasant consequence to think about.

"Nephrite!" barked the witch queen. "Tell me what is happening with those nosy sailor senshi. You have been doing exceptionally well gathering vast amounts of energy, until now."

"Not to worry. It's no task I cannot handle," answered Nephrite tightly.

Before Beryl could respond, she and Nephrite heard very familiar chuckling. The star shitennou gave a deep scowl as Zoisite revealed himself. What could he want this time?

"Are you sure about that, Nephrite? It seems that those pesky little girls are more than you can handle. I would be more than happy to help you." said Zoisite, smiling sweetly. "Would that be all right with you, Queen Beryl?"

"Excellent idea. I am sure Zoisite has some ideas that would be of great help to you."

"No way!"

Zoisite gave an expression of mock surprise. "But Queen Beryl said we should work together. You intend to defy her? Not a very smart decision, if you value your life."

The sakura king's naivety never ceased to amaze Nephrite. "I never had any intentions of doing this for Beryl. I do as I like. I won't accept assistance from a lowly general-in-training like you. Excuse me." He turned around and left.

The wicked queen pounded at her crystal ball. "Nephrite..." she muttered, disgusted that the star shitennou dared to contradict her command.

Zoisite, on the other hand, was filled with glee. 'My plan is working. It won't be long before Queen Beryl will have lost confidence in Nephrite. Hmmhmmhmmhmm.'

* * * * * * * *

That morning, Usagi was ready for school early enough to spend a bit of time with her family. 'Great! I'm actually going to be able to sit down and enjoy my breakfast for a change. Hadn't done that on a school day in ages.' The blonde girl raced down the stairs, her backpack thumping against her back. She saw her father and younger brother sitting at the table. "Good morning," she said, smiling brightly.Shingo didn't do anything but give his sister a funny look, but Mr. Tsukino smiled slightly.

"Well, well, Usagi, it's nice to see you up this bright and early," said Kenji.

"Big deal you got out of bed for once," scoffed Shingo. "In my book, you're still brainless."

Usagi started to say something nasty, but then decided her pesky little brother wasn't worth the effort.

Kenji ignored the comments and picked up the copy of that day's newspaper. He glanced at the first story inside. "Shingo, there's an article about your best friend, Mika. It says here that her doll has won first prize in the French Doll contest."

"Really? That's awesome!"

"I think Mika is well on her way to following in her mother's footsteps," said Mrs. Tsukino.

Usagi knew just how she would get back at her brother for his insulting remark earlier. She pointed the spoon towards him as if it were a microphone. "This is reporter Usagi Tsukino. How does it feel to be friends with a celebrity?"

Shingo's face looked like a tomato. "Stop it!" He ran from the table.

Usagi pretended not to hear her brother. "That concludes this morning's news coverage at the Tsukino's."

Shingo made a face at the blonde. "See I know you couldn't keep up the early streak, you silly girl! Hope you're ready for detention!"

"Nuh-uh. For once I will be early for school." Usagi grinned and glanced at her watch. To her horror she had spent more time talking with her family than it had felt like. "Oh no! Shingo is right! I will be late!" She ran out of the house as fast as she could.

* * * * * * * *

Despite the blonde's speed, she was still late. She tried to get to her seat without Miss Haruna noticing her tardiness.

"Late again, Usagi? Out in the hallway you go!"

Usagi reluctantly exited the classroom. 'This is so unfair…I hope the principal doesn't see me. But at least I wouldn't be falling asleep from waking up so early this morning. Still, standing out here all day is not a part of my contract.' She had a feeling it would be a very long day.

Fortunately, Miss Haruna only made Usagi stand out in the hall for the first class. Even so, the blonde was never happier when the school day finally ended. She and Naru decided to walk home from school together.

"How come you're always late for school, Usagi-chan? Don't you get tired of that?" asked the red-head as she and Usagi exited the schoolyard.

"Oh, just leave me alone," said Usagi. Suddenly two girls of about age eleven walked up to her and Naru.

"Aren't you Usagi-san, Shingo's sister?" asked the girl with the bright auburn hair.

Usagi looked surprised. "Yes, that's me. Why? What's up?"

"Shingo-kun is a jerk. We're not his friends anymore," answered the navy-haired girl impetuously.

'Well the part about him being a jerk is true,' Usagi couldn't help thinking. "How so? Did he do something?"

"It was really mean," said the blue haired girl.

*Flashback begins*

"Shingo-kun…Shingo-kun," the young boy heard a girl's voice call. He looked up and saw his best lady friend Mika standing before him. She was holding something tied in a satchel.

"Hi Mika. Congratulations on winning the contest."

"Shingo-kun, this is for you."

"For me?"

"It's the doll I made that won the contest," Mika explained.

"Are you sure? It is very precious to you." Shingo also was worried what Mrs. Kayama would think.

"You're my best friend. I want you to have it."

Shingo hesitated, for he still had doubts about whether he should accept such a present. While he was deciding, some boys marched over to him and Mika. "Oooh, look at the lovebirds," taunted one of the boys. "Shingo and Mika, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!"

That did it. Shingo had to get rid of those boys or else they would tease him mercilessly for the rest of the school year. "I don't want it!" He pushed it away. Taken off guard, Mika couldn't catch the satchel. It felt to the ground and she heard a loud crack.

"I didn't do it," said the teaser. He and his friends decided to leave.

Mika had a bad feeling about the sound she heard. She picked up the satchel, untied it and took a look at her doll. To her horror, a piece of the doll's head was broken off and the remainder of the body had cracks. She hugged it close to her and tears stung at her eyes.

Shingo was at a loss for words.

Flashback ends

"Shingo-kun didn't even say he was sorry," concluded the blue haired girl.

"Mika-chan cried all afternoon," said the auburn haired girl. "Please talk to Shingo about this."

Usagi was furious but tried to control it. "Not to worry. You bet I'll talk to him."

"Thank you!" both girls said in unison, and they left.

"What happened to Mika's doll was just awful," said Naru. "You have to make Shingo listen to you."

"It'll be a piece of cake. I'm his older sister. He's going to apologize to Mika whether he wants to or not," said Usagi.

* * * * * * * *

Mika had finally stopped crying, but was still feeling bad. She took out materials to work on a new doll. 'I was gonna work on a new one anyway, even if Shingo hadn't broken the one I was going to give him.' She turned off the light and got to work. 'I hope Mommy doesn't notice I've been crying…because then I will have to tell her about the broken doll…she'll be very upset. But then again, maybe she'll give me advice on what to do about Shingo.'

Just as Mika was finishing the doll's face, her mother entered her bedroom. "Why is it so dark in here, Mika?" asked Mrs. Kayama.

"I concentrate better this way," the little girl answered.

Mrs. Kayama walked over to her daughter's desk and looked at her new doll. "I see you have started work on a new doll. She looks as if she's going to cry."

Mika didn't notice it before. 'Did I somehow put how I am feeling into this doll without knowing it?' "Really?" She hoped it didn't mean her mother didn't like the doll.

"Anyway, it's a very pretty doll. Let's compare it with your prizewinner. Do you have it with you at the moment?" The older woman noticed Mika didn't answer, but that both of her shoulders were shaking. "Darling? What's wrong?"

"Mommy, please don't be angry, but Shingo broke the doll today," she said, sniffling.

That was news Mrs. Kayama didn't expect to hear. "What? Why would he do such a thing?"

"I don't know." Mika opened the drawer she had been hiding her shattered doll in and took it out to show to her mother. "Look!"

Mrs. Kayama examined the doll. "Oh my…how terrible. I am sure it was an accident. "

Mika wanted to believe that, but she wasn't so sure, considering how he didn't bother to apologize.

"Oh well. I can still see the similarities between this and your new doll," said Mrs. Kayama, giving her daughter back the doll and patting her on the shoulders. She left the room to give her some time alone. Mika put the mop of hair on her new doll, cradled her ruined doll and wept some more.

* * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, Nephrite was back in his planetarium. He figured Beryl was angry that he refused to carry out her order to team up with Zoisite, but he didn't care. Accept help from Zoisite? Not in this universe. And he was sure his youma wouldn't go for that, either, since they wanted more than anything to help him.

"The stars know everything," he murmured. "They will guide me to the next victim, a person whose energy is reaching its peak." The reddish colored laser went through the center of the shitennou's forehead and the stars revealed an image of a small girl with dark auburn hair. "Ah, Orpheus the musician is playing his harp. Orpheus has chosen my next target. Mika Kayama, your energy is mine!" Nephrite gave an evil laugh.

'Now how do I trap this little girl?' pondered the star shitennou. That would be rather difficult, for he had never trapped anyone in grade school before. It meant he would have to pretend to be even friendlier than he ever had. 'How nauseating.' Also, there was the issue of having to get permission from her parents to speak with her.

'Of course.' The answer was in front of him. He knew Mika's mother was also a doll designer so he would use flattery on her before he preyed on the young girl. He was annoyed with himself for not thinking of it sooner.

* * * * * * * *

Shingo was sitting at his desk in his room, working on an apology letter to Mika. "Mika, I am sorry I broke your doll. It was an accident," he read out loud. Nothing sounded right. "He crumpled up the paper in frustration. "Dang it, I can't get the letter just right!" All of a sudden he heard someone banging on his bedroom door.

"Shingo! May I please talk with you?" a female's voice screamed through the door. Usagi. Ordinarily Shingo would tell her to get lost, but she sounded angry for some reason.

"Come in," the young boy stammered.

The blonde opened the door and marched in. For the first time in ages, Shingo looked scared, especially when Usagi walked closely toward him. He sat still, wondering what she was doing. She smacked him on the head. "Oww!" he cried. "What was that for?"

"So, let's talk about Mika!" Usagi said in her most stern and serious voice. "You broke Mika's doll today, and I want you to apologize to her right now!"

Shingo flinched. 'Is that all people can talk about today? How did she know? Was she spying on me?' "That's none of your business! Get out of my room!"

Usagi was unfazed by her little brother's outburst. "So I guess I will have to tell Mom and Dad about this. What do you think will happen then?"

The little boy shuddered at the thought of that. Oh, if his parents did find out. He would have his allowance taken away or possibly be grounded for a long time. Maybe he wouldn't be able to have friends over, either. "No! Please don't!"

Usagi suppressed a smirk at seeing her authoritative tone was effective. "I thought so. Does that mean you'll do what I'll say?"

"Yeah, I guess."

"So go over to Mika's house and say you're sorry right now!"

"Okay, okay. I'll go already." Anything to get Usagi off his case.

* * * * * * * *

Shingo made his way over to Mika's house. He never figured out just the right thing to say in his apology letter. He had been hoping to deliver a heartfelt apology. "Mika, I'm so sorry. I'll make it up to you if it takes the rest of my life!" 'I think that'll do.' He started to carefully cross the street to his best friend's house, but a red car sped towards him. It took every ounce of adrenaline he had in his body to get out of the way just in time so he wouldn't be hit.

Shingo took a look at the car. "Wow, what an awesome car! I'd sure love to have a car like that when I'm old enough to drive!" 'Of course it would take pulling teeth to get Mom and Dad to buy me one. Whoever it belongs to is very lucky.'

Nephrite got out and went to the door, and rang the doorbell.

"Yes?" a woman's voice answered.

"My name is Masato Sanjouin. There is something I need to speak with you about."

"I'll be there in a minute!" A few minutes later, Mrs. Kayama opened the door. "Come on in, Mr. Sanjouin."

Shingo watched as Nephrite entered his friend's house. 'Looks like Mika will have a guest. I'll come back later.' He left the Kayama's property.

* * * * * * * *

Nephrite was sitting on a couch in the living room with one leg crossed over the other. This was his first time in a mortal's home but he had to admit, he felt at ease, given the amount of time he had spent amongst the humans in the past. Even so, the last thing he wanted was to be distracted from doing what he had come there for. That's why he was almost glad when Mrs. Kayama asked, "So Masato-san, what can I do for you today? What's on your mind?"

"I thought only Pierre Jumeau was capable of classical doll making, but your works have changed my mind. You have created masterpieces."

Mrs. Kayama's face turned bright red. "Oh, thank you for the compliment."

"And your daughter is quite talented as well."

"How kind of you to say so. I am sure she appreciates your kind words."

"Mika's doll that won first prize in the contest was very beautiful! "continued Nephrite. "I wonder, could I see it again?"

Mrs. Kayama's facial expression turned grim when she said, "I am sorry to say it has been destroyed." She turned to her daughter. "Why don't you show him the one you're working on?"

"All right." The little girl went to her room, got her satchel and opened it, and revealed her work in progress doll.

"Oh, she's wonderful." Nephrite picked up the doll and studied its expression. "I love her face. Her expression is very sad. "He touched the doll's forehead, engraving it with his evil crest. 'I bestow the forces of evil which will increase Mika's energy to its peak that I shall steal it for Queen Beryl.' The doll's sad expression changed into a smile—but a wicked smile at that.

Mrs. Kayama didn't notice the sinister look, though. She was just happy that the doll no longer looked sad. "Wow! That was magnificent!"

"I was wondering if you would make ten copies of this doll just for me," said Nephrite.

Mika looked surprised. What could a guy like him do with ten dolls? "Um...sure I suppose so...but why so many?"

"I am sure there are some people who would love to purchase your handiwork."

"My exhibition will open next weekend," said Mrs. Kayama. "Some of Mika's work will be there as well. Can you try to come and see it, Mr. Sanjouin?"

'Perfect. What better way to monitor Mika's energy progress? These humans are so gullible, it's pathetic.' "That I can. I look forward to it."

* * * * * * * *

Mika was back in her bedroom, hard at work on the dolls she was making for Nephrite. Although she thought his request was a bit farfetched, she felt compelled to do it for him.

Mrs. Kayama came to see if Mika was getting ready for bed. "My my, I see you've finished one doll already."

"Yup. I feel so full of energy I think I can finish at least half of these dolls in one night."

Mrs. Kayama smiled. "I understand how you feel, but it is bedtime now. You have school in the morning."

"But I'm still wide awake," the little girl protested.

Mrs. Kayama sighed. It was hard getting through to Mika when she was usually very compliant. 'It seems like I will have to be firm with her.' "Put your things away now," she said, moving her daughter's working materials off her desk.

All of a sudden a feeling of rage surged within Mika. "Get out of here!" she yelled, shoving her mother away. She stood up and glared at her.

Mrs. Kayama was stunned and felt like she was slapped in the face. Mika was usually very giving and amiable. 'What brought on this change?' Not knowing what to do, Mrs. Kayama left the room.

* * * * * * * *

(Nephrite's planetarium)

Ruby wanted to jump for joy when she saw Nephrite return from the Kayama's residence. She was desperate to know how it went, considering this was his first time having a little kid as a victim.

"So Master Nephrite, how did it go, luring such a young girl into your trap?" asked Ruby. Not that she doubted he would be able to trap Mika, given how cunning he could be.

"It was simpler than I thought. All it took was to lavish her with compliments."

"Of course."

"I have also been invited to attend the Doll Exhibit. It will be a perfect opportunity to seize Mika's energy once it reaches its peak."

"It definitely will." 'Oh it would sure be nice if I can go to this exhibit to see how talent this girl is at doll making. But what if Master Nephrite says no if I ask him? And who knows if this event is an open invitation for everyone or not?' Ruby nervously twirled one of her cherry coloured curls around her finger.

Nephrite turned to the henchwoman and told her, "You, Miki and Yukari are welcome to come along if you girls wish to."

It was as if the star shitennou had read Ruby's mind. She tried not to let it show in her face she was hoping he would say that. "I thank you, sir. I'll tell the others."

* * * * * * * *

return to Index / go to Chapter 10

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury