Slow Process to Redemption
by Keren Olivero

Chapter 12

* * * * * * * *

Two weeks after the battle at the mall with Nephrite and his minions, Usagi fully recovered from the wounds Leo the Lion had inflicted on her. She was glad to have the two weeks off from school but one thing she was not thrilled about was all the work she would have to catch up on.

'Oh great,' thought the blonde teen. 'Have school tomorrow. I'm so gonna miss being able to fall asleep and not get detention or sent outside for it.' Usagi went to the living room and turned on the television. 'Surely there will be something on TV that'll take my mind off of school.' Just as she turned on the TV, a commercial came on. Excitement filled the young teen as her number one idol appeared on the screen.

_'She's strong! She's beautiful! She's Sailor V! The Sailor V anime will be coming to TV stations all over the world!'

Usagi gave an excited squeal. It seemed like things were continuing to improve for her. "Man, oh man, Sailor V's anime is gonna be fantastic! I'm so excited I can't stand it! At least I will be able to read my manga to pass the time."

"Good grief," groaned Luna. "If only she would be this enthusiastic about her studies and senshi duties."

However, Usagi didn't hear her feline guardian. She reached for one of her manga to read. 'Hmm, maybe one of these days I'll be able to make a name for myself and have my own anime too.'

* * * * * * * *

Hiromi and her best friend Kazuko were walking down the street to the anime studio. Both of them were carrying a folder that contained the drawings for the project.

"Aren't you honored to be working on the Sailor V anime?" Kazuko asked.

Hiromi gave a dejected sigh. "I was, but not so much anymore," she answered.

Kazuko had a shocked expression on her face at the response. She remembered when her best friend was psyched about the project when it was first announced. "Huh? Why not? Did something happen?"

"It is just so hard. The director is so particular and the way he explains the flaws my work has is so confusing."

*Flashback begins*

Hiromi and her friend showed Director Asatou their drawings. He carefully looked at each one. The girls were so proud of their work and eager to know what he thought.

"Excellent attempt, girls, but it needs a bit more work," said the director.

Hiromi's heart sank when she heard that. "But I worked so hard on it!" she protested.

"Yes, I can see that. However, it lacks passion. You need to put more passion that would attract the children, particularly in Sailor V's leg."

Hiromi was as lost as Alice in Wonderland. "How am I supposed to do that?" asked the young girl. "By making her legs look sexier?"

"Don't be ridiculous!" snapped the director. "I am trying to say you must make her appear as if she is dedicated to her cause."

Hiromi nodded, even though she was still puzzled as to what he meant.

*Flashback Ends*

"Yeah, I remember now," said Kazuko. "Director Asatou certainly is a perfectionist. "

"I can never please him. I think I'm just talentless. If I can't figure out what the director means, I think I'm going to just quit."

Kazuko gave her friend a funny look. "No, don't do that. Just keep at it until you get it right. At least wait until the development of the anime is complete. Don't let the others see you as a quitter."

The raven haired girl thought about this for awhile and thought her friend was making a lot of sense. "You're right! I'll prove my naysayers wrong if it's the last thing I do!"

"That's the spirit!" Sometimes it was hard for Kazuko to have that kind of determination. "The last one to the studio is a rotten egg!" The auburn haired girl took off running.

"Wait! No fair!" Hiromi sprinted after Kazuko. She ran so fast in order to keep up with her best friend that she dropped her portfolio. Of course she hadn't noticed.

Ami happened to be walking by, and she saw when Hiromi dropped the folder. "Wait! You dropped something!" Ami yelled after the girl. However, the young animator didn't seem to hear her. The blue haired girl picked up the folder. 'I wonder if there is a name on it.' She glanced at the folder and it listed Hiromi's full name and other relevant information. 'Hiromi Matsuno...she attends animation school. Very interesting.'

* * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, Nephrite was in his planetarium with his henchwomen. It took him longer to come up with a plan than usual, as he wanted to be sure it was ingenious. He knew he had gotten lucky when he was spared from Beryl's wrath and he was sure it wouldn't happen again. 'I have to make the most of this final energy gathering scheme.'

"The stars know everything," murmured the chestnut haired shitennou. "Point me to my next victim." The stars revealed an image of a girl with ebony coloured hair that was cut low, and she wore glasses. "The constellation Gemini has chosen Hiromi Matsuno, the top animator. I will harness her energy and unleash Castor and Pollux, two of my most powerful warriors. This time, the senshi will be defeated at their own game!"

'Looks like Master Nephrite finally got it. The perfect weapon to defeat those miserable girlie girls…if they can keep it together,' thought Miki.

"Wonderful!" said Yukari. "This will be a battle I'll be looking forward to."

"Yes—if they can pull it off," said Ruby.

Nephrite glanced at the cherry haired henchwoman in surprise, not expecting her to say that at all. "You have very little faith."

"Oh, I'm sorry, sir," said Ruby meekly. "It's just that they are prone to get caught up in one of their arguments, and that will give the senshi an opportunity to strike back."

"Oh, too true…very embarrassing to think about." Miki shuddered at the thought of the Gemini Twins losing as a result of some type of rivalry. She could remember the last time they bickered...they had driven her and the other girls so insane that all of them had terrible migraines.

Nephrite thought the women had a valid concern. He knew he was taking a huge risk sending Castor and Pollux knowing they could make fools of themselves. 'However, it is the only way.' "We will see what happens." He then left to carry out his sinister plan.

* * * * * * * *

Ami was preparing to leave the area of the animation studio. She looked at her watch. "I have homework to do…but now that I know her name, I can return it later." Just then, the blue haired senshi saw a red Ferrari speeding by. She took a good look at the driver. "It's Masato Sanjouin…Nephrite!" 'I don't know why he's here, but I am sure he is up to no good. I should stay nearby just in case.'

Hiromi was in the studio office, busily making corrections to one of her drawings. She gave a loud sigh."Oh what's the matter with me?! I have finally figured out what Director Asatou was talking about but then I messed up on something so simple! I'm way in over my head, it seems!" 'Maybe I should take a little break to clear my head.' "Let me see how Kazuko is progressing." The ebony haired girl stood up and walked over to her best friend's desk. Sure enough, her folder was there.

Hiromi took a look at the drawings in Kazuko's folder and to her horror, her best friend had completed the drawing she was at and then some. "I can't believe this! Kazuko is far ahead of me. If I have any hope of catching up with her, I'm gonna have to really work nonstop. Otherwise, I'll get kicked out of class." 'The question is how am I gonna surpass her, much less catch up with her? '

For a second, Hiromi was at a loss for what to do…that was until she gazed at her own desk and saw her teal colored pencil case. She picked it up. A guilty feeling arose in her. "I don't want to do this, but I have no other choice if I wanna catch up."

*Flashback begins*

Hiromi and Kazuko were shopping at a school supply store. They were looking for some new pencils. They couldn't go wrong, but the pencils they saw so far were the ordinary type anyone would use. Their drawings were not up to par when using the regular ones. They wanted something special. Like…..

Some fancy looking pretty striped indigo and hot pink pencils were encased in a display window. The girls immediately spotted the pencils.

"Oh wow. Those are the pencils professional animators use," Hiromi exclaimed softly. "We're on our way to becoming professional animators."

"It seems like they're almost out, too," added Kazuko.

"Oh I wish I had some of those pencils. I am sure my drawings will improve even more," said Hiromi.

"Same here. Maybe we should buy some."

"I wish I could, but the price is much too steep. I would be spending my entire allowance." Hiromi looked disappointed.

"You don't know that," said Kazuko. "Besides, it may be worth it."

"If you say so." All Hiromi could think about was how her mother would lecture her for not budgeting her money properly. 'Oh well, she doesn't have to know, I guess.'

Kazuko waved at the saleswoman. "Excuse me!"

The lady looked up and walked over to the auburn haired girl. "What can I do for you?"

"My friend and I would like to purchase some of the striped pencils. Can you give me the price?"

"Certainly." The saleswoman got a striped pencil and used the price check.

Kazuko started to sweat nervously. 'What if Hiromi is right? What if we cannot afford them?' Her fears were alleviated when the saleswoman told her, "one hundred sixty yen per pencil."

'Whew! That's not too bad,' thought Hiromi.

In the end, the two girls settled on pooling their monies to purchase the pencils.

"Have a wonderful day," said the saleswoman, smiling.

"You too!" The pair of best friends left the store. Kazuko divided the pencils in half, placed them in a teal colored pencil case with a pink ribbon tied around it and handed it to her best friend. "Here you go."

"Thanks a lot."

"You're welcome. Now we have to work on our applications for animation school," said Kazuko with a small grin. "Do you want to come over to my house on Saturday?"

"Sure," answered Hiromi. 'I can't thank Kazuko enough for helping me pay for the pencils.' "So when do you think we should use our pencils? They're too special to use every day."

"You are right about that. Because they are so expensive, we will only use them for special projects. Promise?"

The black haired girl nodded. "Promise."

"And neither one of us will use them without the other's permission." Kazuko hooked pinkies with her friend.

*Flashback Ends*

Hiromi gave a sad sigh. "The Sailor V anime does count as a special project, so I am sure Kazuko would understand," she mumbled to herself. "Not to mention she wouldn't want me to get kicked out. Still I broke my promise and used the pencils without her knowledge. She's gonna be so angry when she finds out. She may never speak to me ever again." She glanced up and saw a young man with long wavy chestnut hair. "Who are you?"

Nephrite tried not to show how surprised he was that the girl didn't know his name. "I am a fan of yours, and I wanted to come here to let you know that."

'What does he know?' thought Hiromi. "Thanks, I think. I am very flattered."

"In fact, I feel you have the potential to do even better if you had more tools to work with." Nephrite picked up Hiromi's pencil and studied it.

"Wait! That's the only pencil I have!"

Nephrite ignored the young teen's protests. 'Well, all of that is about to change. Mmhahahaha!' The star shitennou engraved his magical energy draining crest on the striped pencil, and then threw it back onto the desk. He exited the studio. "That girl's energy should be enough to complete the revival of Queen Metallia."

"Nephrite!" yelled a girl's voice.

Nephrite looked up sharply, half taken aback, half annoyed at the interruption. He saw a senshi with short blue hair standing on top of his car. 'Audacious fool!'

"Explain yourself! Why are you here? Whatever it is, you're not getting away with it!"

Nephrite almost laughed at the ice senshi for making such empty threats, but then he remembered the nerve she had to stand on the roof of his car. "Insolent fool! Get the hell off my car!" He jumped at Sailor Mercury and used telekinesis to knock her off. The force of his maneuver caused her to tumble off. Fortunately, she didn't sustain any bumps or bruises in the process.

The star shitennou climbed into his Ferrari. Just before he shut the door he taunted, "You and your wimpy little friend Sailor Moon will feel the wrath of my powerful youma very soon!" He sped off.

"What was Nephrite doing here?" Sailor Mercury wondered. 'I'll have to tell Usagi and Rei about the meantime, I'd better go.' The blue haired teen detransformed and raced off to do her homework.

* * * * * * * *

Later on, Kazuko came to the studio, clutching a plastic bag. "Hi there, Hiromi. I bought you your favorite dish for supper. I thought you would be starving after working so hard on your drawings."

Usually Hiromi would gladly take a break for her favorite, but not this time. "Well, you thought wrong, because I'm not hungry," the ebony haired girl answered. "Besides, I am busy."

Kazuko had a look of surprise on her face. She didn't expect her best friend to sound so cold. She was about to ask her what the matter was when she heard an unfamiliar voice saying, "Excuse me."

Kazuko turned to face Ami. "Hello there. May I help you?"

"My name is Ami. I'm sorry if I have disturbed you two. I just came to return this folder."

"Oh. Thank you very much." The auburn haired teen took the portfolio from Ami. "Hiromi, Ami found the folder you lost."

Hiromi stood up and proceeded to walk away. 'Those losers have no respect for someone who wants to work.'

Kazuko was taken aback by Hiromi's reaction, and the fact that she was walking as if she hadn't heard her. "Hiromi? Did you hear me?"

Hiromi responded by entering the office and closing the door.

Kazuko gave Ami an apologetic look. She didn't want the blue haired girl to get the wrong impression. "I don't know what's going on with Hiromi. She is usually a very nice person. Maybe she is stressed out over the Sailor V anime."

Ami nodded. "I can understand how she would. It is probably hard work." 'I think Nephrite has something to do with her negative mood. I have to tell Luna and the other girls about this.'

* * * * * * * *

(next day)

After school, Usagi and Ami waited for their classmates to leave, and gathered by a large tree in the school yard. Luna was waiting for them.

"You're on time, Usagi-chan," observed Luna.

"Of course I'm on time!" protested Usagi, giving her guardian a look.

"Now now, Usagi-chan, calm down," said Ami. She rubbed her forehead. There was a slight headache coming on.

"So Ami-chan, what is the big crisis?" asked Usagi, pretending to be interested.

"Yesterday I saw Nephrite at the animation studio," answered Ami. "I don't know why he was there, but I had a bad feeling about his appearance. When I confronted him, he escaped. Also, he said you were wimpy, Usagi-chan."

"Oh brother." Luna gave a frustrated sigh. She was annoyed with herself for not seeing that coming. 'After all, Usagi was fortunate enough to have survived the attempted murder during the previous battle, but Nephrite is relentless enough to make sure he gets the job done right this time.'

Usagi looked as if smoke was coming out of her ears at Nephrite's insult. 'He's lucky I wasn't there!'

"What should we do?" asked Ami.

"We should check out the school. Ami, it was careless of you to challenge someone as powerful as Nephrite on your own," said Luna.

"You're right," agreed Ami. "I don't know what I was thinking."

"Wimpy?! He called me wimpy?!" yelled the blonde girl. "How dare he call me that?!"

Luna sighed again. "Well, he was being truthful when he said that."

Usagi wasn't listening. "That pompous creep! Wait till I see him next time! He will wish he was never born!"

"This from a girl who cries during pillow fights," groaned the feline guardian. 'Although admittedly, it would be quite an amusing sight.'

"My greatest fear is that he has targeted one of the top animators, Hiromi," said Ami. "She seemed to be in a foul mood when I went to return the folder she had dropped."

Luna knitted her eyebrows together knowingly. She knew what happened whenever Nephrite cursed an item belonging to a human.

"Then we must go soon!" said Usagi.

Luna looked at Usagi in surprise. 'Is she really becoming serious about her duties as a senshi or does she have some sort of ulterior motive?'

"If Sailor V will be there, we can meet her and get her autograph!" the blonde teen babbled.

A sweatdrop appeared on Luna. "Oh, I should have known."

Usagi ignored Luna's remark. She had never been so happy to do a mission in her life. She was bursting with so much excitement that she had half a mind to not even bother to tell Rei about this meeting.

"We need Rei to help with this investigation, too," said Ami.

'Oh, rats!' thought Usagi. 'There goes my chance of getting Sailor V's autograph.' Usagi gave a devious smile. 'I got it! I won't tell her what the meeting is all about.'

* * * * * * * *

return to Index / go to Chapter 13

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury