Slow Process to Redemption
by Keren Olivero

Chapter 13

* * * * * * * *

Hiromi had completed the corrections to her first batch of drawings that she handed in to Director Asatou, and was about to work on some more.

"Hiromi? You've completed all of those drawings already?" asked Kazuko, eyeing the folder in her best friend's hand.

"No," answered the black haired girl. "It's only half of what I had done. The director has the others." 'He will soon see how much better I am at drawing than you are.' "And Kazuko?"

"Yes?" 'Maybe she's going to finally tell me what's wrong.'

No such luck. What Hiromi said was, "I will be using this office alone from now on, so you'll have to find somewhere else to work. Okay?" She proceeded to walk away.

"Hiromi, wait a minute! Wait!" cried Kazuko. Hiromi ignored her protests and entered the office, shutting the door behind her. She locked it just to be safe.

"Something's wrong," said Kazuko. 'What am I going to do about Hiromi?' She was beginning to wonder if Hiromi still thought of her as a friend.

"Hahahaha!" cackled Hiromi. "I am a far better student than Kazuko could ever hope to be! Thanks to this pencil, Kazuko and those other students will be blown out of the competition!" The pencil, which was previously a stub, grew in length thanks to Nephrite's evil magic crest. Hiromi felt another energy rush.

* * * * * * * *

(next day-lunch time)

Naru and Usagi were in the classroom, eating lunch together. It felt good for them to really spend time together this way and was the first time they had done so in two weeks.

"I'm so glad you're better, Usagi-chan," Naru said to her best friend.

"So am I, even though school is so boring." It felt strange, but Usagi had to admit there were days she was going stir-crazy when she was out of commission.

"Are you nervous about getting yesterday's spelling test back?" asked Naru.

Usagi tried not to look as annoyed as she felt. "What's to be worried about? I am sure I got at least half of the words right."

Naru gave the blonde an amused look. "You know how your parents feel about your attitude towards school."

"Bah. Don't remind me." Usagi had been trying her hardest not to think about it. It wasn't so pleasant to think about all of the possible punishments she could have, like no more shopping and no video games for a month. She was about to take a bite of one of her jelly buns when all of a sudden, her cell phone started ringing. "For crying out loud, who's calling now?" Usagi muttered under her breath. "Excuse me."

"No problem," said Naru. She proceeded to nibble on a rice cake.

Usagi answered the phone. "Hello?"

"Usagi, this is Rei," said a young lady's voice.

'This is the first time Rei called me during school...something must be up.' "Hi Rei. What's going on?"

"Why didn't you tell me about the meeting you guys had yesterday?!"

Usagi bristled with anger. 'I should not have bothered answering the phone.' "You mean to tell me you interrupted my lunch just to ask me that?" Before Rei could answer with one of her nasty remarks, Usagi said, "Now that you've mentioned it, I meant to call you after school to tell you about our investigation this afternoon."

"Oh? Which investigation is this?" Rei sounded interested—investigations were one of her specialties.

Usagi hesitated for a moment. 'Oh I hope I don't regret this. She'll steal my chance to meet Sailor V. What do I tell her?'

"Hello? Are you still there?" asked Rei. Waiting was not something she enjoyed doing.

"Oh yeah I'm here," answered the blonde girl. "So sorry about that. Spaced out for a second."

"That's a big surprise."

"I said I was sorry," answered the blonde defensively. "Geez! Anyway, Nephrite made an appearance at the animation studio and we're trying to find out what he was doing there and whether he did any damage. So if you can make it, meet me after school so we can go together."

"Okay, I will meet you after school," answered the raven haired senshi. A nagging thought came to her. She knew Usagi's mentality. "You thought you would get away with meeting Sailor V without me, didn't you?"

"No. What made you say that?"

"Never mind." Rei didn't feel like arguing with Usagi anymore. "Just call me when you're leaving."

"Will do." Usagi hung up.

* * * * * * * *

(after school)

As soon as the bell had rung, most of the students exited the classroom. Usagi started to speed out of the classroom as well. 'Have to get out of here before Ms. Haruna chews me out for the F I got on the Spelling test...I know I am in it for sure.' Before she could walk out the door, Ms. Haruna reached out and grabbed the blonde by one of her pigtails. "Where do you think you're going?" she yelled.

Usagi was so startled she nearly fell down. "Yeoww, that hurt!" wailed the blonde girl.

"Come to my desk at once!" barked the teacher, ignoring the girl's cries and moving back towards her desk.

Usagi sheepishly walked up to her teacher's desk. 'So much for trying to escape the earful. I am definitely in for it now!' "Y-Yes Ms. H?" she stammered, preparing herself for a long tirade.

"Explain the failing grade on the spelling test!"

"I-I'm not sure how to explain it."

"You'd better have an explanation or else you'll be severely punished!" Ms. Haruna's voice was very stern.

Usagi was quivering now. 'What do I say? What do I say? I can't tell her how I feel about school. She won't go for that.' "I don't know…the spelling test was harder than it usually is." There. Not the best answer, but she was being truthful. It had seemed like the words were becoming more difficult with each quiz. 'Surely honesty has to count for something.' The blonde nervously twiddled her thumbs, not daring to look up at her teacher.

Ms. Haruna gave Usagi one of her hard looks. "The test would have been simple if you had studied! You were absent for two weeks! You have had more than enough time to prepare. At this rate you will end up repeating the eighth grade! Tomorrow you will have detention and will use that time to do a makeup spelling test! You had better use tonight to study! Do I make myself clear?"

At this point Usagi was trying her hardest not to burst into tears, but wasn't doing a very good job. A tear rolled down her cheek. She quickly dried it. "Yes Ms. H," she answered in a wavery voice.

The red haired young woman's expression softened a smidge. "Good. You may go now."

"Thank you." Usagi ran out of the classroom before she really lost it. She met Ami standing in the hall. "Hi Ami, thank you for waiting for me." She and Ami walked out of the school together.

"No problem." Ami shot a quick glance at the blonde and noticed that her cheeks were a bit blotchy. "Is something the matter? You seem sad. And what took you so long to leave the classroom?"

Usagi didn't really feel like talking about it, but felt she could talk to Ami. After all, Ami was very easy to talk to. "Ms. Haruna wanted to see me…she was yelling at me for how I did on the spelling test."

"You failed it?" asked Ami. Ever since she met Usagi, she realized lectures for not working up to her potential was practically a ritual. Sometimes she felt frustrated about the blonde's hatred for school. 'If only I can get her to see that education is important.'

"Yeah…I did," answered Usagi. "It was so hard…tomorrow I will have to do a makeup test."

'It is awfully nice of Ms. Haruna to do that…she wants Usagi to succeed just as much as I do.' "Well that's good. If you want, I will help you study for the makeup test, as well as the next one."

"Awww, thank you Ami," said Usagi. "You're the best friend ever. Don't know what I'd do without you."

"You're more than welcome," replied Ami. She was about to say something more when all of a sudden, Rei approached her and Usagi.

"Hi guys," said the raven haired girl. Her facial expression turned into a cross one whilst glancing at the blonde. "Why are you so late?"

Usagi didn't feel like talking about her meeting with Ms. Haruna all over again, especially not to Rei. She quickly thought up an excuse. "It's because Umino talks too much!" Luna groaned at the fact that the blonde was telling lies.

"So why didn't you call me to tell me you would be late?" Rei asked, still agitated.

"Ms. Haruna was yelling too loudly! You would not have heard her," said Luna.

"Shhhh!" the blonde hissed. "Don't tell her about that!"

Ami noticed the pink overalls Rei was wearing, and frowned. She wondered if Rei had even been to school. "Rei? Did you skip school today?"

"No of course not!" snapped the senshi of fire. She shot a glare in her friends' direction, one that was meant for Usagi. "While you two took forever at school, I went home and did a quick change of clothing. Anyway, let's go." She was about to lead the way, but a bunch of index cards fell from the bottom of her bag. "Oh no!" she bent down to pick up the cards. "Funny, I didn't see any hole in this bag this morning."

Usagi stooped down as well, and examined the cards. "What's this? Autograph cards? I should have known you wanted Sailor V's autograph as badly as I do."

Rei was about to say something about what a hog Usagi was, but Ami put up a hand for silence. "Don't start," she said. "And Rei, remember the real reason we are going to the school."

"Of course! This will be an opportunity for us to teach Nephrite a lesson!" Just thinking of how the shitennou sucked people's energy dry made Rei's blood boil.

* * * * * * * *

Nephrite was sitting at a table just outside his mansion, sipping some white wine. He had been monitoring the progress of Hiromi's energy increase, and was satisfied with what he saw. His henchwomen were in the kitchen, baking what they said would be a surprise for him. He couldn't help but be amused, as he had an idea of what it was.

The chestnut haired shitennou was about to take another sip of the drink when all of a sudden he heard footsteps. He dared not to look up…he wouldn't be disturbed from his relaxation. He knew from the vibes emitted that it was an unwelcome person. Zoisite.

'How amusing and unusual to see Nephrite like this,' thought Zoisite. He couldn't help stifling a laugh. He was used to Nephrite as a hard worker. He wondered why the sudden change. 'He must have realized no matter what he does, he cannot succeed.'

"Well, hi there, Nephrite," greeted Zoisite in the sweetest tone he could muster. "It's so nice to see you looking so relaxed. Stress is not good for you, you know."

'Hmph. His pretense nauseates me greatly but I won't give him that satisfaction.' "Well if it isn't Zoisite. What brings you here this time?"

"Oh, no reason…just to see your progress," answered the blonde sakura. He eyed the bottle of wine as well as the glass and gave a curious frown. "So what will you do to Sailor Moon? Intoxicate her? "

Nephrite looked disgusted at such a ridiculous possibility. "No, you twit!"

Zoisite pretended to look offended. "Now now, dearest Nephrite, no need for name calling. Oh, by the way, Queen Beryl noticed heavy activity in the Gemini sector, and she wants to make sure you know what you're doing."

"Of course I do," the star shitennou answered impatiently. He hoped that would make the annoying little sakura get lost so he could enjoy his drink in peace.

"If you say so," said Zoisite, disappearing in a flurry of cherry blossoms.

'Peace at last,' thought Nephrite as he took the sip of wine he was about to take before being rudely interrupted. It always annoyed him to pieces when Zoisite found ways to bypass his protection spells. 'No matter. He cannot get past every spell. He is no match for my superior skills.'

Just then, Ruby emerged from the kitchen. She was holding a plate of freshly baked gourmet chocolate chip cookies. The scent was absolutely marvelous…much more so than the Dark Kingdom chef's indigestion inducing concoctions.

"Ah. So that's the surprise you spoke of," said Nephrite knowingly. 'And a very pleasant surprise at that.'

"Yes sir. Also, Miki and Yukari are baking the second batch as we speak," said Ruby. For her, it was like pulling teeth convincing Yukari not to eat too much raw cookie dough. 'I am fond of the girl, but she sure can be a goof sometimes.' "Would you like to try one?" She held out the plate towards her master.

"Certainly." Nephrite took a cookie and proceeded to nibble on it. 'Mmm, this is heavenly.' He eyed the glass of wine and realized it wasn't exactly the best thing to drink with sweets.

"Do you like it?" Ruby asked once her master swallowed the last bite of cookie.

"That I do." 'When this planet ceases to exist, a celebration will be in order!'

Ruby smiled. She couldn't help but think about how the other girls would be happy. "I'm going to see how Miki and Yukari are coming along. I'll be back." 'Hopefully Yukari would not have eaten them all.'

* * * * * * * *

The senshi were over at the animation studio. Hiromi, of course, was nowhere in sight. However, most of the students who attended the school were there. And Kazuko had been gracious about letting the girls tour the school. She tried her best to hide her depressed feelings. She sat at her desk. 'No point in trying to work, because I won't be able to concentrate.'

Rei and Usagi decided to look at the type of animation work the other students were doing. Ami opted to talk to Kazuko to get information. She saw the auburn haired girl sitting down, looking dejected. "Hi there, Kazuko."

Kazuko looked up slightly. "Hello. It's so nice to see you again."

"Likewise," responded Ami. "Is something the matter? You seem down."

Kazuko wondered whether she should confide in Ami how she was feeling, seeing as how she barely knew the girl. But there was something about Ami's aura that made her feel right at ease. 'She is so warm and friendly...I think I can trust her.' In the background she could hear Rei and Ami making squeals of excitement, but she didn't pay any attention, though she was scared they would feel of Hiromi's wrath. "I'm worried about Hiromi. She seems to be very angry with me and I have no idea why."

Ami had noticed how cold the black haired girl seemed when she came to return the folder. "Oh. I am sorry to hear that," she said. "By the way, where is she?"

"She's still locked up in the office."

Ami didn't like the sound of that. 'So it is Nephrite who got to her but I can't tell Kazuko that.' "Really? Did anything out of the ordinary happen?"

Kazuko frowned in thought. "The only thing I would say is strange is the change in Hiromi's behavior. She used to be such a nice person, but now she treats me like a nuisance. When I try to ask her what's wrong, she wouldn't tell me. I don't know what to do anymore." 'I wonder if we're even friends anymore.'

"Did you notice anyone you've never seen before?" ventured the blue haired girl.

"No. Not at all."

"SILENCE!" a shrill voice yelled suddenly. Instantly the room was filled with silence.

Kazuko glanced up and saw Hiromi standing there, looking furious. 'I guess the noise finally got to her, but the way she yelled at them was still uncalled for.' "See what I mean? She has become really short tempered."

Hiromi glared at Rei and Usagi. "You two keep your mouth shut, do I make myself clear? This isn't the playground, it's a workplace! And we don't need dingbats like you disturbing us!" She switched her glare to Kazuko.

That was all it took for Kazuko to regain her assertiveness. "That was not called for! You apologize to them right now! We invited them to see how we do things!"

"That was a huge mistake since they don't know how to behave like civilized people!" Hiromi snapped. "If they're gonna keep up the noise, I have no problems throwing them out!"

For a moment, Kazuko was dumbfounded. This angry person just could not be her friend. "I'm so surprised at you! You were never this combative before. What's gotten into you?"

"What do you mean by that?"

"You've become such a workaholic and very short tempered lately," the auburn haired girl pointed out. "What's up with that?"

"I've realized what a slacker I was, that's what!"

The two girls had been so busy arguing that they barely heard when the phone rang. It was no matter though, for someone had answered. There was a long enough silence between them to hear the animator informing Hiromi that Mr. Asatou wanted to speak with her.

Hiromi took the phone. "Yes, sir. Is something wrong? Did I screw up on a drawing?" 'I've worked my butt off more than usual…if he still isn't happy I'm gonna be pissed!'

"No, not at all." The director laughed. "I see a lot of improvement. In fact, you have done exactly what I was looking for."

The ebony haired artist could feel a smile forming as well as overwhelming excitement. She had done it! However, she bit her lip and remained nonchalant. Still she was fighting the urge to smirk at Kazuko. "Thank you, sir." She said it so softly that the director almost didn't hear her.

"My pleasure. In fact, as a reward, I will let you choose the ending for the anime."

The old Hiromi would have thanked him over and over. But this new Hiromi felt he was obligated to choose her. 'I suppose I should thank him, though. Because I have just an ending in mind.' "In that case, I will have Sailor V destroyed! " Unfortunately she said that a bit too loudly. Everyone in the studio gasped in horror.

"Are you insane?!" roared the director. He began to regret giving Hiromi the honor of choosing the ending. "That's not the type of ending children would want! Call Kazuko to the phone this instant!"

"Nonsense! Children can appreciate sad endings as well!" scoffed the young aspiring animator. "That's why as a sequel I will create a series about the Glory of the Dark Forces!"

"Who do you think you are?!" yelled the director. "This is not your movie to do with as you please!"

Hiromi didn't want to hear any more. She held the phone away from her ears and promptly hung up.

Kazuko was upset over what her best friend had said, but she was determined to remain somewhat calm. "You really need to get some rest! All this working is causing you to have a nervous breakdown."

"A lot you know." Hiromi sneered. "But you know I don't blame you for being jealous of me. Until now you have been a better artist than I was. Well I have found the secret to success."

Kazuko's eyes widened. 'My my, has Hiromi always been this competitive?' "This anime creation wasn't meant to be about winning and losing, it's about touching the hearts of children! You'll be kicked out! Is that's what you want? Because all you're doing right now is causing drama!"

Hiromi gave an amused look. "Does it look like I care? I realized I wasn't going to get very far in life with that view! So in that case, he can't throw me out because I quit!"

Everyone, especially Usagi and her friends was stunned. "The Dark Kingdom is definitely behind this," Rei whispered to Usagi.

"I know," Usagi whispered back.

"Farewell, weaklings," said Hiromi, walking stiffly out of the studio.

"Hiromi, wait!" Kazuko couldn't let the friendship be thrown away when she didn't even know what was wrong. The other artists started to go after Hiromi, but Kazuko put an arm back. "Let me handle this." She went after Hiromi. Usagi, Ami and Rei followed, just in case the auburn haired teen would need assistance.

At first the girls hadn't seen Hiromi. "Where did she go?" wondered Usagi. She was about to start panicking. It looked like the Dark Kingdom would succeed.

"Well she had just walked out," Ami reminded the blonde. "She couldn't have gone too far."

"That's right," said Rei.

Usagi glanced up and saw Hiromi upstairs. "What on earth? How'd she get up there so fast?!"

All of a sudden Hiromi's eyes started to flash and an evil aura surrounded her. "Oh no, what's happening to her?!" the three girls yelled in unison.

Kazuko was scared by the sight of dark energy surrounding her friend as well, but she would not be deterred. She hurried up the steps. "Hiromi, I need to talk to you!"

Hiromi looked at her friend with ice-cold eyes. She could see tears in the girl's eyes but they didn't move her one bit. 'This wimp is like a virus that refuses to go away. To think I was pathetic enough to consider her my friend.'

"Hiromi, what's wrong?" inquired Kazuko earnestly. "Are you angry with me?"

"Nothing is wrong! I'm just sick of coming second place to you!" the black haired girl spat.

Kazuko felt as if she had been slapped. "What do you mean by that? I don't understand."

"Don't play dumb with me! You've always been a better artist than me, but not anymore! Not as long as I have this pencil!" She held up the striped pencil. Dark energy proceeded to pulsate around it.

"That's the special pencil!" gasped Kazuko. She had secretly used hers too. Now she didn't feel so guilty. 'I wonder if that's why she had been acting so strangely. But it still doesn't explain what she just said.'

* * * * * * * *


Nephrite could feel it was time to snatch the animator's energy. And seeing as how she was filled with anger and envy, he was correct in his assertion that Beryl would be satisfied.

"Her energy level is at its maximum level! Come forth, Castor and Pollux!" Pink and blue energy ribbons surrounded the girl's body. Nephrite made himself invisible, teleported to the site and captured the energy with the crystal ball. Hiromi collapsed from the energy loss. 'Hmhmhm…your days as an artist are over,' thought the star shitennou as he disappeared back to his mansion.

* * * * * * * *

(animation studio-outside)

"No! Hiromi!" cried Usagi and Kazuko.

Two youma arose from Hiromi's pencil. They looked so much alike they could practically be twins, but their coloring was different. One was orange and red and had pale brown hair, and the other was light blue and had pale blue hair. Though they were humanoid shaped, they were unusual in that they had tails. The ends of their tails were tied together in a knot.

'Oh great. Nephrite sent more of his cronies,' thought Rei. 'When is he going to face us like a man and stop being a coward?'

Kazuko laid her best friend in her lap and studied her. 'Oh she looks so pale. I'll have to get her to a doctor.' She rested the young girl's unconscious form on the ground and raced inside.

'My suspicions are correct! The Dark Kingdom is behind this!' thought Luna. "Girls, time to transform!"

"Right!" said Usagi. "Moon Prism Power, Make Up!"

"Mercury Power, Make Up!"

"Mars Power, Make Up!"

Once the girls transformed, they took their battle stance.

* * * * * * * *

Nephrite's trio of youma had just finished cleaning up the kitchen and teleported to the planetarium, thinking they were late.

"Did we miss anything, sir?" asked Yukari.

Nephrite chuckled. "No you didn't."


Just then, the three henchwomen heard chuckling—from someone who was not welcome. Zoisite appeared. Instantly the young women felt queasy.

'Arrgh! I knew I shouldn't have had seconds on those cookies,' thought Miki.

"What are you doing here?" demanded Ruby. 'Seriously, he has no shame.'

Zoisite laughed at the young woman's hostility. As far as he was concerned, she was no threat to him. "What kind of question is that?" he responded. "Did you girls and Nephrite really think I was going to miss this battle?"

'Yeah right. He just wants to have something to gloat about if Moon was to thwart this plan. Which she won't.' A big surprise to Miki and the other two was that Nephrite hadn't told Zoisite to get lost when he was usually the first to do so. 'Gee, I hope he hasn't decided to pull the wool over our eyes.'

It was almost as if the star shitennou read Miki's mind. "Now Miki, as much as I despise the very sight of that creature Zoisite, I am willing to make an exception this time."

That was something the henchwomen wasn't expecting to hear. Before Miki could ask how come, Nephrite continued, "It would be fitting for him to witness the destruction of the irritating senshi so he'll be silenced forever!" The latter would especially be the icing on the cake for him.

'Dream on, Nephrite. That would never happen, but it'll be interesting to see,' thought Zoisite, chuckling.

"Oh. I understand," said Miki. 'Have to admit, it would be good for the creature to witness Lord Nephrite's victory. Then he will see that Master Nephrite is a superior general to him in every way.'

There was so much tension and uncomfortable silence. Zoisite wasn't used to it. 'I know. I'll pretend to be friendly with Nephrite.' thought Zoisite. "So Nephrite, it seems as if the senshi have fallen for your trap once again."

Nephrite frowned…what was with Zoisite? He was actually trying to make civil conversation. Knowing how pretentious the sakura was, he didn't trust him...but he was in a relatively good mood-as good a villain could be. "Yes. Their meddling is going to be the end of them. Now watch as they get a taste of their own medicine."

"Something definitely worth seeing," responded Zoisite.

* * * * * * * *

"You've toyed with the dreams of young artists!" accused the senshi of fire. "That is unforgivable!"

"You will be punished for your offense!" said Sailor Mercury.

"I will be the one to do it!" added Sailor Moon. "I'm the pretty sailor senshi of love and justice, Sailor Moon!"

"Likewise, Sailor Mercury!"

"Along with Sailor Mars!"

The Gemini twins glared at the senshi. Such weak looking girls couldn't possibly stand a chance against them. 'However, Master Nephrite warned us about how troublesome they are, so we'd better not underestimate them. Not that it matters, since both of us have the perfect weapons to counter their pathetic attacks.'

"Sorry, girls, but your scare tactics won't work on us!" said Castor.

"Yeah, we can see through your entire strategy!" agreed Pollux.

"Huh!" Mars snorted as she gave them the stare of death. "You've got nothing on us!"

The twins laughed. The empty threats never ceased to amaze them. "That's where you're wrong, little girls!" They showed how their tails were bound together. "We have the power of friendship and we will show you what it can do!"

Moon nearly burst out laughing. Villains teaching heroes about friendship? Not in this universe!

"This I can't wait to see," Mars muttered under her breath. 'Seriously this is like a demon telling me I'm not spiritual enough.' She was trying her best to suppress her anger at being mocked.

"Take this! Fire Soul!" The fireball traveled the exact same way as Mars' version, but this one made the senshi stumble.

Pollux chuckled at her friend's accomplishment. She enjoyed seeing her adversaries on their knees. "How about this?!" She launched a barrage of bubbles very much like Mercury's Shabon Spray attack, only this one had more of an impact—such an impact that it sent the senshi careening.

The Gemini Twins laughed again. "This was a piece of cake!" boasted Pollux.

The senshi were stunned. The twins were amongst the most formidable of Nephrite's youma they had ever faced.

"Our victory chances look very slim right now," said Mercury grimly. "They have attacks similar to ours, even if we strike back, they'll just counterattack."

"How is it that they can copy my attack?!" wondered Mars angrily. "Mars Power is mine!" The senshi of fire didn't take kindly to copycats. She clenched her teeth. 'I wouldn't be surprised if Nephrite trained them to do that.'

'Unless some miracle happens, we're finished,' thought Moon. 'There is no way we can win.'

"I'll finish them off!" volunteered Castor.

Pollux had a look of horror and anger on her face. "What?! You glory hog! That's my job!"

"Your shirt must be on too tight but to refresh your selective memory it was my fireball that brought these sailor wimps to their knees!" said Castor. "And look who's talking about being a glory hog."

Pollux took offense to that. "Are you saying my powers are weak?!"

"What do you think genius?" A fully fledged argument ensued between the two.

"You know what? This is stupid!" snapped Pollux. "Friendship is over!" She loosed her tail from Castor's.

The senshi of fire shook her head. 'Just as I thought. They don't know anything about friendship.'

* * * * * * * *


For some reason, Yukari had a bad feeling about the battle. She conjured her crystal ball and once it showed her the image, she knew why. She was horrified to see that Castor and Pollux had another one of their stupid fights. "Oh brother! I should have known something like this would happen."

"What's the matter, sister?" asked Miki, looking concerned.

"Yeah. What's going on at the battle?" added Ruby.

Yukari held up her crystal ball for Miki and Ruby to see. Their facial expression matched Yukari's.

"Won't those two ever learn?" Miki shook her head in disgust. "For crying out loud!"

"Obviously not," answered Ruby. "They have made themselves look like idiots over and over again, after all."

Yukari smacked her forehead. She regretted that action immediately because as soon as she did, a headache formed. "I can't believe this! The senshi will be victorious all because of some petty argument the Gemini twins had." 'Not to mention I will need to stock up on aspirin once again.'

'Not if I can help it.' Nephrite understood his henchwomen's feelings because he felt the same way. He hated the idea of losing two of his best battle youma because of rivalry. He projected an image of himself at the scene.

* * * * * * * *

(battle field)

"Castor and Pollux, retreat at once!"

The two women nearly jumped a mile. "Master Nephrite?"

"Return immediately!" Nephrite could hear the senshi talking about combining their powers.

"Yes sir." The youma forgot about their argument momentarily. They knew how unwise it was to disobey their master. They turned to face the senshi. "Well, girls, consider yourselves lucky. Don't think you have seen the last of us!" With that, they teleported away, and Nephrite's image disappeared, too.

"Rats!" spat Moon. "We nearly had them!"

Just then, the ambulance arrived. Once it came to a complete stop, two of the EMT workers came out, wheeling a stretcher. They saw Hiromi lying on the ground unconscious. "Is that the girl?" one of them asked.

"Yes," answered Mars. The latest turn of events put her in a bad mood but she hoped it didn't show.

"Please take care of her," said Mercury.

"Sure thing." One of the men gently picked up the unconscious girl and laid her on the stretcher. They wheeled it inside and the doors shut. The ambulance driver drove away, blaring sirens.

* * * * * * * *


'That was really pathetic but amusing to see.' "Well Nephrite, I am sure it was very embarrassing for you to have to call your youma back. However, it was fun while it lasted!" Zoisite said, laughing and disappearing.

'Hmph! Easy for him to say,' thought Nephrite. 'We'll see who laughs last.'

"Good riddance!" said Ruby. "I had a hard time keeping my lunch down the entire time he was here. I will be right back." The red haired youma excused herself.

"Don't listen to Zoisite, that scumbag," said Miki. "You will shut him up sooner or later and he'll be sorry he messed with you." She put an arm around her master's broad shoulders. She usually felt she was being unprofessional to consider doing it, but this time she couldn't resist. Yukari did the same. They needed for him to know that they would still be there for him.

For a moment, Nephrite looked surprised, but relaxed a bit. The loyal spirits of his henchwomen was certainly reassuring. And he did feel consolation knowing he still had the captured energy and the fact that the energy from all of his victims put together was more than enough to revive Queen Metallia. It was a wonderful feeling knowing he had done his job.

* * * * * * * *

(a week later)

Hiromi had no memory of how she treated her friends when she was under Nephrite's evil influence the previous week. So Kazuko was pleasantly surprised when Hiromi said to her during a break, "We need to talk. "

"Yes. We do." She turned her chair around to face Hiromi. "So…how are you these days? Are you okay?"

"Yes, but I feel like a rotten friend, based on what you told me," answered Hiromi. "The thing is, I can't remember any of it. Even so, I am very sorry. Please forgive me. "

"Of course I do. I was just as bad a friend as you, maybe even worse." She was so relieved that Hiromi was her old self again. It looked like their open, honest relationship was on the mend.

"How so?" asked Hiromi. "You didn't do anything wrong."

"That's not quite true." She hesitantly took out her pencil case. "It has something to do with the special pencils. May I see your case?"

"I have it, but there is nothing to show. I used the last pencil."

Kazuko glumly opened her pencil case and revealed three pencils that were practically stubs. "I nearly did as well."

Hiromi gasped. She realized what a worrywart she had been in thinking her best friend would hate her for what she did.

"I was scared to tell you," Kazuko admitted. "I thought you wouldn't want anything to do with me anymore."

"Same here." She paused for a second and asked, "Why did you use yours?"

"Your drawings were always better than mine and there were times I got jealous, you know? I panicked."

It was a real shocker for Hiromi when her friend admitted to being jealous of her. She never suspected it at all. "I understand."

"I hated being that way but I couldn't help myself," continued Kazuko. "But let's just focus on making the Sailor V anime an enjoyable one for children."

"Deal. Does that mean we're friends again?"

"Of course," answered Kazuko. She and Hiromi hugged each other tightly. "Promise me that from now on we will talk when we have a problem."

"I promise."

"You can be sure I'll keep this promise."

Luna smiled. "It looks as if the Sailor V anime has gotten its happy ending back."

"Mmmhmm!" the girls agreed in unison.

* * * * * * * *

return to Index / go to Chapter 14

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury