A Ranma ˝ / Sailor Moon crossover story
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon belongs to Takeuchi Naoko, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC.
Interlude Two: Inducted
Nephrite leaned back against the log, night having fallen some time ago. The stars shone in the night sky and the negawarrior relaxed, and thoughts of his protégé were slowly submerged within the quiet blanket of Morpheus' realm. The fire had long since burned to embers, and the pungent smell of wood smoke permeated the small clearing where the dark general lay. In his mind, the brown haired man once more relived memories of a time so long ago…
Nephrite stood at attention with the other seven Candidates in the east courtyard, either de facto training ground in the Palace of Terra. Actinolite, commander of the king's Guardians and their primary trainer, walked slowly down the line inspecting each Candidate in turn. The brown haired man knew that only four of the eight would be chosen to be young Endymion's Guardians, and so four of his fellow Candidates would still have to be eliminated. Originally, there had been over thirty, so the former Special Operations captain counted himself lucky to still be present for Guardian training.
Of the other Candidates still in the running, Nephrite knew Jadeite the best. He was a quiet man with short blonde hair and a hard, unyielding face, formerly of the Naval Special Forces Department, so Nephrite had a somewhat similar history with the man. They had found that they had a great deal in common with each other in their military backgrounds, and both men would have long conversations about their past deployments, comparing Navy and Army in command structure and deployment practices. While Jadeite seemed somewhat cold, Nephrite understood how anyone with their kind of background could be.
Another Candidate, Kaersutite, had been a commander in the Royal Marine Corps. The woman, her long emerald hair and exotic green eyes an uncommon occurrence in the inner system, was a native of the southern polar regions of Terra, and her eyes were as cold as her birth place. She wasn't one to talk much, but when she did, it was apparent that she'd seen some very rough engagements in her time.
Tauriscite, a tall, brown haired man that had lived in the capital city of Terra almost all his life, was what most soldiers would have termed a 'lordling'; that is, he was born into his position and never gained any military experience. Although being in the final eight Candidates did afford him a great deal of respect from Nephrite, Tauriscite still had to fight for acceptance every step of the way.
An intelligence operative for the Crown, Zoisite, stood at attention next to Tauriscite, his medium length strawberry blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail. While Nephrite couldn't fault the man's combat expertise or skill in infiltration, the fact that he was such a pretty boy the Nephrite had mistaken him for a woman on first sight was entirely too weird for the brown haired Candidate to strike up any real friendship with him. Besides, Zoisite only seemed to want to be around another of the Candidates, Kunzite.
Kunzite had long white hair and darker skin than any of the other remaining Candidates, but his face didn't reach the levels of bishonen that Zoisite's exceeded every day. The man, slightly taller than Nephrite, was also from intelligence, and it was obvious that he and Zoisite had known each other for quite a while before being selected as Candidates for Guardianship.
Ferrihydrite was from Atlantis, and the man's short blue hair showed it. Another Naval officer, he was very proud of his heritage in the underwater city. Other than to boast of his and his ancestors' exploits as a Naval Operations Specialists, he was a quiet man. Nephrite had a feeling that he had something to hide, but the brown haired Candidate couldn't quite put his finger on it.
The last Candidate, Welinite, was… slowly walking toward the exit of the courtyard, and Nephrite knew what that meant: another one eliminated. Now there were only seven Candidates left. The brown haired Candidate was shaken from his musings by the sound of Actinolite's voice, a deep baritone that contained a tone of command that brooked no opposition.
"Candidates," he began. "You may have noticed that, once again, there are fewer of you here for training than yesterday. The day of Selection is close at hand, and only four of you seven will become Guardians for Prince Endymion upon his coming of age."
Actinolite paused to allow his words to sink in, and Nephrite began to wonder what the next challenge of elimination would be. Luckily, he did not have long to wait as Actinolite spoke again. "There is only one more test, Candidates. As you know, the Royal Guardians of Terra are negawarriors, and as you may have noticed, none of you have yet attained that status."
Again, Actinolite paused, and Nephrite felt his breath quicken. If the final elimination challenge was the final test to become a negawarrior, then it was dangerous indeed. Before he could ponder further, Actinolite continued.
"The final test to become a negawarrior is highly dangerous and failure is always lethal. You each have received the training to complete this test and take a place as a negawarrior, but without complete confidence in your skills, you should not attempt this challenge. However, refusing to compete this challenge will eliminate your Candidacy, and you will be released back to what ever you did before becoming a Candidate. I will ask now: does anyone wish to leave now?"
Actinolite stood in silence, seeming to consider each Candidate in turn, and Nephrite felt the older Guardian's probing gaze on his face, seeming to penetrate into his innermost being. Silence reigned in the courtyard as each Candidate asked him- or herself if they were willing to risk their lives to attain Guardianship, and after a full ten minutes of contemplation, it seemed that all seven remaining Candidates believed that they were worthy.
Nodding slightly to himself, Actinolite spoke once more. "Very well then, Candidates. I will see all of you in the Crystal Chamber in fifteen minutes. Dismissed!"
With that, the Guardian Commander turned and strode away, not looking back. Nephrite stared after the man long after he was out of sight, and he was so intent on his thoughts that a hand on his shoulder startled him.
"Are you ready for this?" asked Jadeite, the owner of the hand. "I mean, this last test is pretty brutal, but I guess they have to be absolutely certain that we will be good Guardians."
"Yes," replied Nephrite, wishing that his voice sounded a bit stronger. "I suppose I am ready."
"You'd better be more certain than that, my friend," was Jadeite's response, the cocky smile on his face obvious in his voice. "Or the battle will not go in your favor."
The relaxed attitude Jadeite exuded seemed to put Nephrite at ease, and when he spoke it was with his normal confidence. "Yes, I am ready."
The blonde haired man actually flashed one of his rare, real smiles Nephrite's way and said, "That's better. I'm gonna go by my room before meeting Actinolite. You wanna come?"
"Nah," replied Nephrite. "I'm just going to go there."
"Alright, I'll see you there."
With that, Jadeite walked back toward the Candidate barracks, and Nephrite began his slow walk toward the Crystal Chamber, his thoughts a bit confused. 'After today, I'll be a negawarrior or I'll be dead… Doesn't leave much room for error…'
The Kingdom of Terra had been in alliance with several of the nations of the Negaverse since time immemorial, even before allying with the House of Serenity and joining the Silver Millennium. The oldest of these alliances was with a nation called the Dark Kingdom, one of the largest nations of the Negaverse. The first contact with the youma of the Dark Kingdom and the first Negawarrior were lost in the mists of time before reliable recorded history, but the alliance was a strong one. Both Kingdoms prospered, and the Royal families had even intermarried.
The Dark Kingdom was ruled by negalytes, strange half youma half human people. Once, long ago, full blooded youma ruled there, but after making contact with the Kingdom of Terra, their Royal family intermarried with some of the first negawarriors and became negalytes. In fact, Duchess Beryl was a negalyte, though she was the King's cousin and held her rank in the universe rather than the Negaverse.
While nominally incompatible, there were a few places in both the Negaverse and the universe that were mutually co habitable to denizens of both worlds. On Terra, such areas were usually at mana nexuses at the crossing of the mystic lei lines that wound about the planet. Such lines did not exist in the Negaverse, and it was not well understood why certain areas of the Negaverse were habitable by normal humans. However, Nephrite himself had been to the Negaverse a few times for negawarrior training in an area called Dark Moon. The only beings that could exist normally anywhere in either the Negaverse or the universe were a few negalytes with the right balance of lifeforce and negaforce and a few highly trained negawarriors and youma.
As Nephrite neared the Crystal Chamber, he reflected on the nature of his destination. The Chamber was the biggest negaforce reactor in the known universe or Negaverse, and it served to keep the Guardians fully charged with both lifeforce and negaforce, as well as to power the defenses of the Palace itself. Little about the Crystal Chamber was known to non-negawarriors, so Nephrite had very little understanding of its actual workings.
Finally, Nephrite was standing before the iron and crystal doors that lead into the Crystal Chamber, and at that point he hesitated. 'Am I ready to do this?' he asked himself. 'Am I ready to kill my own reflection?'
As he stood there, Kunzite and Zoisite passed him, and Nephrite got his first good look inside the Chamber. It reminded him of the teleportation matrix except far larger and more complex. The blue glow of lifeforce crystals and the black aura of negaforce crystals cast the room in a strange mosaic of light and shadow, and the eight silver mirrors, one set at each of the cardinal directions, that stretched from floor to twenty meter high ceiling gave the room the illusion of infinite size. The center of the room was a raised dais of shining white crystal with four platforms set equally around its center, but the most impressive feature floated above the center of the dais. An amorphous ball of brilliant white energy coalesced above the dais like a miniature sun, power flowing into it from several of the lifeforce and negaforce crystals surrounding the room. A dull roar from the annihilation engine Nephrite saw before him permeated the room, resonating the crystals that continued to feed it. This was true power, Nephrite realized in abject awe. The true annihilation of lifeforce and negaforce, a hundred times the power of a star contained in a ball only three meters across, used to power the most secure place in the Sol system short of the Imperial Palace on Luna…
Nephrite was still gaping at the sheer realization of the Crystal Chamber when once again a hand fell on his shoulder, startling him enough to jump. Jadeite's cocky grin met his face as he spun toward the source of his surprise and the blonde man said, "You'd better stop being so jumpy, Nephrite. It'll get you kill some day."
Nephrite joined the other man with his own grin and chuckled a bit at that. "Honestly," he replied, his amazement at the Crystal Chamber returning as he spoke. "I doubt we'll ever see more power in a single room than here."
As the brown haired Candidate turned back to the Chamber, Jadeite said, "I'll agree with you there, my friend. Just don't let it get to you; assuming we are both selected, we'll be spending a good deal of time in here."
Nephrite nodded mutely, and together they entered the Chamber. Nephrite still couldn't fathom the enormity of power packed into such a small room, and he was still gaping at the sphere of power when Actinolite arrived, followed by the other three Guardians of King Endymion: Kainite, Andradite, and Hematite. Each elder Guardian took one of the platforms surrounding the dais, and when they had each of the Candidates' undivided attention, Actinolite spoke.
"Alright, Candidates. From this chamber you will embark on the final test to become true negawarriors."
Kainite spoke next, continuing for his commander. "We cannot tell you what to expect beyond a fierce battle. This test is different for each aspiring negawarrior."
Then it was Andradite's turn. "We will create the constructs necessary for you to cross into the nul-space between our universe and the Negaverse."
Finally, Hematite finished the speech. "Once you've passed through, we will wait for three days. If you have not returned in that time you will be considered dead. No one has ever taken longer than three days to return from the final challenge if they return at all."
"Candidates!" Actinolite intoned. "Ready yourselves. Each of you, stand before a separate mirror. Guardians, form the matrix!"
Nephrite watched in awe as, with all four Guardians drawing on the power of the reactor at the center of the Crystal Chamber, the sphere of power actually dimmed perceptively. Shaking himself from his stupor, the brown haired candidate walked quickly to one of the mirrors in the Chamber, the north east one if he could still trust his direction sense in this place, and waited. After a moment, a ripple seemed to pass through his reflection with a corresponding tingle through his body, and after the ripple, there was a slight delay between his movements and the mimicking of his reflection. Nephrite watched in amazement as another ripple passed and a greater delay asserted itself. After a full twelve ripples, his reflection dropped into a neutral stance, and a second later the mirror turned solid black.
"Candidates!" came Actinolite's voice, strain actually apparent in his tone. "Pass through the portals and meet your destinies!"
Nephrite took a deep breath and stepped forward into Darkness.
Lying against the log in the campsite, Nephrite stirred briefly as the fear of that moment, even only remembered, caused the dark general to shudder unconsciously, and he briefly opened his eyes to look at the stars and check the locator and warning construct. After another moment and finding nothing amiss with his construct, he closed his eyes once more and again let memories overcome his conscious mind.
This was Darkness, and though he had read about it before, Nephrite was still unprepared for the feel of it on his skin, like oiled silk. The smell and taste of it on the air served to force adrenaline into his blood, and the cloying, claustrophobic sensations screamed to his mind of the unnatural truth of his presence in nul-space. Still, Nephrite forced himself forward, and after an eternity of walking, he passed out of the Darkness into a sight that took his breath away for the umpteenth time that day.
It was a dome within the Darkness, the floor a silvery, mirror like surface, but that wasn't what amazed the Candidate. Stars shone in every direction, and a small part of Nephrite's mind that remembered his mother's astrological lessons from his childhood recognized the constellations: if Terra were in the center of the dome, these were the same stars one would see from the planet's surface, minus the other celestial bodies of the Sol system.
Movement from the other side of the dome caught his attention, and Nephrite stared at his reflection as it stepped forth from the Darkness. It looked at the brown haired Candidate briefly, and then began to walk a strange, zigzag path across the arena toward him.
Nephrite's eyes narrowed at the activities of his mirror image, and he attempted to take a step forward.
Screaming, Nephrite threw himself back to his original position, and the pain subsided. Looking again at the movements of mirror-Nephrite, the real Candidate had a sudden, startling realization: his reflection was walking only the astrological paths between stars and constellations, and never straying from the Stars' Way. Wracking his brain for almost forgotten memories of the astrological lessons his mother had taught so long ago, Nephrite slowly began to perceive the correct paths through the arena.
Nodding to himself, Nephrite began his own zigzagging path through the dome, and if his estimations were correct, he would meet his double in the constellation known as the Gladiator. The brown haired man almost smirked at the fitting nature of their battle taking place in that constellation, but he didn't allow such wry thoughts to interfere with his walking the correct path.
Dropping his hand to his side, he felt the reassuring texture of his sword hilt, confident that he still had the only weapon permitted to a candidate. Having been a soldier in the Special Operations Department, Nephrite was proficient with not only modern crystal-plasma weaponry, but also with the more esoteric blade weapons and hand-to-hand combat. The further he walked, the more confident Nephrite became in his ability to complete this test.
Finally, Nephrite reached the edge of the Gladiator, and just as he stood above the first star in its belt, his reflection leapt. Mirror-Nephrite launched himself to stand next to the real man and managed to land a hard punch to Nephrite's chest, knocking the man back. Nephrite stumbled a bit, but one of his feet accidentally touched an area outside the Stars' Way, and pain enough to rip a scream from his lips shot up that leg, momentarily stunning him.
Mirror-Nephrite did not hesitate has its opponent was stunned, and rushed forward to attack. At the last moment before the knife hand strike would have hit his neck, Nephrite overcame the pain and caught the lethal blow just centimeters from impact. Spinning with his opponent's momentum and jerking hard on the arm, Nephrite managed to throw his reflection off of the Stars' Way and dislocate its arm in the same movement.
The brown haired Candidate heard his double scream with the same pain Nephrite had felt when he stepped off of the Way, and the negawarrior in training turned just in time to see his reflection leap back to the Way on the Gladiator's arm.
Nephrite wasn't willing to give his opponent a break, and he leapt to an adjacent star on the blade, briefly thinking, 'This is like fighting in a mine field!'
Then there was no time for thought; the battle was well and truly joined with neither side asking for or giving quarter. Blows and attacks were always lethal in their intent, and the pain of stepping off the Stars' Way forced the opponents to remain close.
Finally, after receiving a black eye and a broken left arm and giving three cracked ribs, Nephrite stepped up the battle another notch by drawing his sword, his reflection following suit.
The clash of steel against steel echoed in the arena as the battle continued to increase in intensity, Nephrite getting a shallow slash down his left side as he managed a thrust through his opponent's thigh. Following up from the slash and ignoring Nephrite's blade buried in its leg, the reflection tried for a decapitating horizontal slash, Nephrite barely ducking in time to only get a nasty gash on the side of his head. With that attack, Nephrite twisted his blade and wrenched it free of his opponent's leg, eliciting a scream from mirror-Nephrite, momentarily stunning the reflection. A moment was all the real man needed, and he brought his sword up, slashing through his double's wrist. On the reverse swing, Nephrite aimed to take off the image's head, the blade moving inexorably toward his opponent's neck…
Nephrite jolted awake as the warning construct screamed its call in his mind, and for a moment, the dark general didn't understand the significance. Then, suddenly and all at once, the importance of the signal made itself known, and Nephrite was actually smiling ear to ear. Ranma was back, and that, of course, meant that he was also successful!
The negawarrior was about to call up the locator portion of his construct when he sensed a great deal of negaforce being channeled nearly thirty five kilometers to the south west, and the brown haired man's face fell.
'No!' he thought, fear and anger filling his mind. 'Damn it, I didn't think about induction madness!'
With that thought, Nephrite abandoned all thoughts of stealth or subtlety and leapt into the air, a flight construct speeding him to the south west. He had to reach Ranma before the young man destroyed himself trying to channel too much negaforce so soon…
To be continued.
Author's notes: Chapters are coming fast and furious now, and that just makes me happy. I can only hope that I can keep up this pace, but don't kill me if I don't… I can only work on chapters on the weekends.
I know I'm a bastard for leaving the story like this… but you'll just have to deal with it. The next section is the third and final part to Chapter Two entitled "Shampoo — Dying Embers."
On a minor rewrite side note, I changed names to reflect real minerals, and I had to change a great many names, too. The only one left alone (other than the names of real characters from SM canon) was Kainite, which surprisingly is a real mineral. Later, all.
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