A Ranma ½ / 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.
Chapter Three: Dreaming in Moonlight
Part One: Pure Light
The standard cry in the Tsukino household echoed from the room of the eldest child, heralding her normal status.
"I'm LATE!!" cried Tsukino Usagi as she raced from her room and down the stairs. "Mom! Why didn't you call me sooner?!"
"I did, dear," replied Usagi's mother, Ikuko. "You just didn't wake up."
The older Tsukino woman held out a cloth wrapped bundle as her daughter franticly put on her shoes. "Don't forget your lunch, dear."
Without looking, Usagi snagged the bento from her mother's outstretched hand and raced out the door. Her hurried cry of, "Thanksmomseeyoulaterloveyou!" followed her out the door, barely intelligible to anyone but her mother. Ikuko smiled as she watched her daughter run toward school and thought, 'If only that girl would apply herself in school the way she does when fighting with her brother, I think she'd be a good student.'
Sighing, Ikuko walked back into the kitchen to continue her usual morning routine with her second cup of coffee and a newspaper.
Queen Beryl surveyed the three dark generals standing before her, their bows of loyalty complete; however, she wondered where Nephrite had gone for so long. Thinking for a moment and then remembering that she had told him that there was no hurry in returning, she dismissed her musings on his whereabouts for the moment in favor of commanding the negawarriors presently standing before her.
"Jadeite," she intoned formally.
The blonde general stepped forward and placed his fist over his heart. "Yes, my Queen?"
"Since we have yet to detect the ginzuishou, I believe it is time to begin collection of lifeforce," Beryl said in a commanding tone. "I will entrust this task to you. It requires a great deal of energy to train youma to survive on Terra and to transport them there, so I expect you to gain more lifeforce than you use. It is, as you know, a very precious commodity."
"Yes, my Queen," replied Jadeite. "The task is already begun, and I have already infiltrated a few of my youma in the Terran city of Tokyo. It seems that the city is one of the areas on Terra that allows for survival on both sides of the Barrier, like Dark Moon here."
"Hmm." Beryl put a finger to her chin in thought. "Perhaps we should concentrate our efforts there, then. It would save a great deal of energy since the youma would require less training to simply survive."
"My thoughts exactly, my Queen," replied Jadeite, his mouth curling into a smirk.
"Very well, Jadeite," the redhaired queen said, a cruel smile slowly spreading across her face. "Go and make certain that your operations are successful."
"At once!" said Jadeite, and in a black flash of power, the dark general was gone.
"Zoisite," Queen Beryl turned to the next general. "I am giving you the task of searching for the ginzuishou, but I want you to remain discreet in your inquiries. The last thing we need is for anyone remembering the Silver Millennium to know of our search, and the guardians of the crystal will almost certainly be such persons."
Placing fist over heart, Zoisite bowed to his Queen. "I understand, your Majesty. I will begin work at once."
Rather than teleporting out, Zoicite turned once Beryl gave him a nod of dismissal and walked away, disappearing in the darkness of the throne room.
"And what of me, my Queen?" asked Kunzite, lowering his eyes in deference.
"Kunzite," Beryl intoned, raising one of her eyebrows. "It is unlike you to speak out of turn."
"My apologies, your Majesty," he replied, keeping his gaze upon the steps to the throne.
"No matter," she said with a dismissing wave of her hand. "I require your expertise in training the youma. You are the most experienced and powerful negawarrior we have in the Dark Kingdom, and so I will entrust you to outfit our warrior youma and train them to survive on Terra."
Fist over heart, Kunzite gave a short bow accompanied with the words, "Of course, my Queen."
A moment later he strode into the darkness of the throne room leaving Beryl to her thoughts. 'Where are you, Nephrite?'
Ranma looked at his sensei from the corner of his eye as the two negawarriors walked through the streets of Hong Kong, the younger man regarding the older one. Nephrite's training was intense and difficult, but that was just how Ranma liked it.
On the week long walk to the island city, Nephrite had been teaching Ranma many of the most basic constructs, those used for sensory enhancement and lifeforce collection. While Ranma was a bit dubious about harvesting 'fuel' from other humans, the one time he'd tried to draw from a plant was highly disappointing. While the tree did have ki, it was not of the grade and concentration necessary to combine with negaforce for any real effect, and when focused to the degree needed to become useful, there was so little actual lifeforce as to make the effort of collection pointless. In the end, the pigtailed negawarrior decided that he would simply make the effort not to kill or permanently harm those from whom he 'harvested'.
Ranma unconsciously shrugged his shoulders. It was an uncomfortable feeling, the ki in his reserves not being his own, but it was the best way. He spied another subtle glance at his sensei; Nephrite, he supposed, was used to the feeling, but Ranma, having been aware of his ki for so long, felt the foreign lifeforce in his aura as a strange, almost slimy, sensation over his skin. Still, in line with how his father had trained him, he was keeping his reserves full in an attempt to 'toughen himself up' against the feeling. He figured that he had maybe another week or two, judging by how long it took him to toughen his body this way, before it would no longer bother him.
He sighed, finally eliciting a response from his sensei; the pigtailed negawarrior was tired from a long week of training and travel.
"What's wrong, Ranma?" asked the brown haired negawarrior. "You've made great strides as a negawarrior, more than I'd have ever thought you would in such a short time."
Ranma veritably glowed with pride as Nephrite said this, but his emotions still troubled him. It was as though the foreign ki was affecting his ability to center himself, and that was not a feeling that Ranma liked. "I feel like I haven't learned enough in the past week, sensei," the younger man replied.
"What on Terra do you mean, Ranma?" asked Nephrite, concern and puzzlement obvious in his tone. "I've never seen a neophyte negawarrior learn anywhere near as quickly as you."
"I guess so…" Ranma sounded dubious. "But… Shouldn't I be able to do some of the combat maneuvers you showed me in the mountains? Or maybe even control my curse?"
Nephrite smiled. "Don't trouble yourself, apprentice. All things in time, as one of my sensei once told me. The sensory constructs are the basis of all others: if you cannot sense what you wish to alter, how can you possibly make the correct change?"
Ranma nodded along with this line of reasoning; it made a great deal of sense to him. However, before the young negawarrior could reply, Nephrite continued.
"As for affecting your curse," he said, his voice seeming more grave than before. "I doubt that there is a construct that could affect it."
Ranma's face fell, but Nephrite continued, not seeing his apprentice's distress. "I took a look at your curse just after you revealed it, and it is not mana-based magic. It is a form of magic that we called 'divine' in the Silver Millennium, and neither mana-based magic nor negaforce constructs could affect it."
The pigtailed man sighed again; it seemed that he would be doomed to become a girl forever if something as powerful as negawarrior constructs could not affect the curse.
"Don't let it bother you, Ranma," said Nephrite, trying in inject a bit of cheer into his voice. "No matter the outside form, you're still the same person."
Ranma nodded unconsciously at the statement, knowing it to be true.
As the two men had talked, Ranma had stopped paying attention to his surroundings. When he finally looked up, he noticed that they were at an airport, the loud roar of jet engines propelling multi-ton flying machines high into the sky cutting through his introspective mood.
"Sensei?" he asked, a bit puzzled by their destination.
"I'm going to buy you a ticket to
"You make it sound like you're not coming with me," replied the pigtailed youth.
"I'm not, technically," Nephrite continued. "I need to visit the Kingdom and find out what is going on. I will meet you in Tokyo; just use that beacon construct I taught you yesterday when you arrive and I'll find you."
Ranma nodded absently, but then said, "Hey! Why not let me come with you?"
"You are not ready to survive the Negaverse at large, and I'm not going to leave you alone in Dark Moon," replied Nephrite in a voice that brooked no argument. "I will meet you there."
After staring at his sensei for a few more seconds, Ranma nodded in an almost sullen manner. He didn't like the idea of leaving his sensei so early in his training, but if Nephrite thought it best, he would comply. Without further argument, Ranma followed the older negawarrior toward the ticket counter for Japan Airlines.
"Oh, I almost forgot," said the dark general, digging into the pocket of his uniform and drawing out a plastic card and a piece of paper. "Here's some money, Ranma. I opened an account with a bank in Tokyo, and I put enough money on that card to last you until I can get there. The pin for the account is on that piece of paper. Try to get us an apartment or something when you get there. It may be a day or two until I can join you, so you also might want to enroll in school."
After taking the card and paper and sliding them into his pocket, Ranma looked at the older negawarrior incredulously. "School? Why would I want to do that?!"
Nephrite sighed. "Unless humans have changed quite a bit since we were sealed away, I believe that it is customary for teenagers to go to school when in urban areas where they are staying on a semi-permanent basis, right?" Ranma nodded in a sullen manner at this, and the dark general continued. "So if you don't go to school, then it will look suspicious, and we don't want to attract any attention."
Now it was Ranma's turn to sigh; Nephrite had a good point. "Alright," he said after a moment's thought. "I'll enroll in school…"
Nephrite nodded almost absently, and Ranma thought, 'Good thing I got a passport even though me an' Pop swam here…'
Usagi raced toward her school, her mind on nothing but the sign she would surely be wearing in the hall for her first class. She knew that her family and friends thought her to be lazy, but she really wasn't. She just had a really, really hard time waking up in the morning.
Her breaths came in gasps as she made top speed toward Juuban Junior High, and her feet beat the ground in surprisingly long strides. Nonetheless, when she heard the angry, pain-filled yowling of a cat in distress, she managed to stop.
Three little boys had cornered a small black cat in a parking lot and were using it for target practice with pieces of gravel. Just as the blonde haired girl stopped, a small stone glanced off of the kitty's bandage covered forehead, and it spun to face the aggressor, hissing.
Usagi's blood boiled at the sight. 'Of all the cruel, heartless things to do!' she thought indignantly. 'How dare they pick on a poor, sweet little kitty cat!'
Running into the parking lot, Usagi yelled, "Hey you little brats!! Stop picking on that poor cat!"
The three boys, obviously still in primary school, or maybe even younger, looked up from their sport to see an angry, teenage girl shouting at them. A moment later, that same girl raced forward with a fist raised to attack, and they yelled at her unintelligibly as they ran away.
Gritting her teeth at the boys, Usagi shouted after them, "Yeah! And don't pick on poor, helpless animals anymore!!"
After a couple more seconds of fuming, the blonde haired girl turned to the cat she'd saved. Kneeling down and lifting the cat into her arms, she said, "There there, kitty. Those boys won't hurt you any more."
Absently, she began to pick at the bandage that was taped to the cat's forehead as she was petting it, but just as she lifted a corner of the bandage, a bright light blinded her for a moment. Usagi gasped, and the cat yowled, jumping from her arms and running away. The blonde teen's eyes cleared just in time to see the small crescent moon on the cat's forehead.
"Well," she said in a huff. "That's gratitude for you. Now, what was I doing?"
Usagi lifted a finger to her chin, and then yelled. "Gaagh! I'm late!" With that, the blonde, ponytailed girl raced off toward school at top speeds, amazing her normal spectators by not tripping along the way.
Osaka Naru glanced at the empty desk to her right. It was pretty normal for Usagi to be late, but if she didn't shape up soon, her friend would be in a lot of trouble. School had been in for only three weeks, and Usagi hadn't been on time for more than two days for her second year in junior high. A moment later, Naru's eyes found the teacher's desk, and the fact that Haruna-sensei wasn't already there was more than a little disturbing to the short haired girl. Haruna-sensei was always there when she arrived for class; every day, that is, until today. It was really weird.
Naru jumped, broken from her reverie by Umino's voice. She scowled at the unfortunate boy and said, "Umino! How many times do I have to tell you not to sneak up on me?!"
Though it was hard to tell through the boy's thick glasses, Naru thought that she'd hurt his feelings, so she moderated her tone as the scowl left her face. "Sorry Umino-kun," she said in a much kinder tone. "What's up?"
The hurt look vanished from the nerdish boy's face, and he continued with his normal exuberant nature. "I saw Haruna-sensei going to the gym last night, and boy does she look good now!" Umino pulled a few photos from his pocket and showed them to Naru.
Naru's eyes narrowed as she looked at the photos. "Umino," she said, a slightly dangerous tone seeping into her voice. "Why do you have these pictures?"
"Well," he replied in seeming obliviousness. "I'm kind of the school information dealer, right? But I can't get good prices on info if I don't have proof." Finally noticing Naru's anger, Umino showed that he had at least SOME perceptive ability when it came to other people. "Of course, I still want to go out with Usagi."
Then again, maybe he still needs to work on that particular form of perception. Naru's face once more turned down into a scowl, and the girl with the wavy, reddish hair crossed her arms over her chest and sat down with a huff, pointedly ignoring the boy beside her.
"Naru-san," whined Umino plaintively. "Don't ignore me like that!"
Still angry, the girl snappishly replied, "Well, if you want to date her so much, why don't you go see that new fortune teller on Tenth Street. Maybe then you'll have a snowball's chance of going out with Usagi-chan."
Totally missing her anger, Umino sighed. "Usagi… chan…" he said in a sickeningly besotted voice that only served to feed Naru's anger. Of course, she didn't want to go out with him, but he shouldn't blatantly ignore her and talk about her best friend!
Just then the door to the class room slammed open, and Naru's eyes immediately found the cause, her eyes widening. Where she thought she would see an angry Haruna-sensei, she instead found Usagi, huffing and puffing as if the blonde haired girl had run the entire distance from her house to the school.
"Sorry… I'm late… Haruna-sensei," she gasped out between breaths. A moment later it seemed that she had noticed Haruna-sensei's very conspicuous absence, and her eyes searched the room for the reason.
"Usagi-chan!" called Naru, pleased that, for once, her best friend had made it to class before the teacher. "Over here!"
Usagi smiled even though she was still breathing hard and walked over to her desk and dropped into the seat. "Naru-chan! What's going on? Where is Haruna-sensei?"
Before Naru could reply, Umino spoke, "Usagi-chan! Good morning!"
All Naru could do was sigh; the idiot's entire world was Usagi now. However, Usagi didn't seem to notice either of her friends' moods, and she replied, "Good morning, Umino-kun. Where is Haruna-sensei?"
Umino opened his mouth to speak, but before any words could come out, the question was answered.
"Good morning, class," said an obviously worn out Haruna, her voice listless. Her eyelids were drooping as she slowly walked through the door, and the enervated woman's clothes were rumpled as though she'd slept in them. The teacher slowly made her way to the desk at the front of the room, her feet dragging on the ground. Once she sat, she spoke again in the same exhausted tone. "If anyone is absent, please raise your hand."
After briefly scanning the room with tired eyes, she continued. "Okay, everyone is on free study today." And with that, she dropped her head atop her crossed arms, instantly asleep.
The entire class blink-blinked along with Naru as the teacher began to snore, and surprisingly enough, it was Usagi who recovered first.
"Yay!" cried the happy blonde as she dropped a small, cloth-wrapped bundle onto her desk. "No school work for the whole day!"
As Usagi started unwrapping her lunch, Naru continued to stare in shock at Haruna-sensei. This was completely unlike her teacher, and it gave Naru a bad feeling. Trying to ignore her foreboding, the auburn haired teen turned her attention back to Usagi and Umino.
"…and Sailor V caught a jewel thief last night!" the male of the trio was saying with a bit more exuberance that even his normal attitude, and Naru rolled her eyes at what she'd termed 'the Usagi effect' on Umino.
"Sailor V?" Usagi asked, genuinely perplexed. "Who is Sailor V?"
Umino's eyes widened and he said, "What?! You've never heard of Sailor V?!"
Putting a finger to her lips in a thoughtful expression, Usagi replied, "Nope."
The geeky boy managed what sounded like an exasperated but indulgent sigh, and Naru's mood continued to slide toward anger at him. 'Quit hamming it up, nerd-boy,' she thought.
"I can't believe you've never heard of Sailor V, Usagi," Umino finally continued, his eyes seeming to gain some intensity behind his thick glasses. "Sailor V is a superhero that fights crime in a sailor fuku! She showed up in Juuban about a month ago, and crime rates are really down since then."
"Hmm," replied Usagi through a mouthful of her bento. "Muff mmm mungerand…"
"Usagi," Naru said, stopping her friend. "Wait until you swallow."
The happy blonde nodded vigorously at her friend, proceeded to almost choke because of her action, and finally swallowed her food. She gasped for breath for a moment before saying, "Sorry, Naru-chan. I was saying that I can understand why someone would want to steal jewels after seeing how much they're worth at your mom's shop."
"Oh yeah," Naru replied, her eyes lighting up. "That's right! I was going to invite you over to my mom's shop tonight; she's having a big sale!"
Usagi's eyes lit up at that, and she spoke, if possible, with triple her normal excitement. "Really?!?! Okay, let's go after school!!"
Then the girls started talking about jewelry, which led rings, and that, to cute boys. Naru saw Umino walk away, dejected by the complete ignorance the girls turned toward the nerdish boy, but she only thought it served him right.
JAL flight seven twenty one from Hong Kong to Tokyo would have been a mind numbing four hours even though Nephrite had sprung for a first class ticket, but Ranma was able to spend the time going through what few possessions he'd taken from his father's pack after the old man was killed. With everything that had been going on, Ranma hadn't taken the time to inventory the items, but on the long flight…
First he found four martial arts scrolls and three manuals, among them the Nekoken. Shivering slightly as he returned that particular manual to his pack, he took a look at the scrolls. Two of them were sealed with spirit wards, the names Yama Sen Ken and Umi Sen Ken as well as the character for 'forbidden' written on them. Ranma set them inside his pack with the Nekoken manual; no sense in tampering with the forbidden… right now.
The other two manuals were techniques he remembered Genma teaching him when he was younger as was one of the scrolls, though Ranma resolved to read them later to see if he could glean any greater knowledge from them. The last remaining scroll detailed an interesting technique for drawing ki out of the environment or objects for personal use, in concept not too different from the energy draining constructs Nephrite had recently taught him. The problem with the technique was that the ki had to be highly emotionally charged to be of any use, so the scroll suggested stealing women's undergarments and groping them in private areas to make it work. Ranma could only shake his head at doing something so perverted just to get a little energy, and resolved to find a way to make the technique work without any kind of hentai activity. After returning that last scroll to his backpack, Ranma idly wondered about the scroll's author, someone named Happosai.
Also among his father's belongings was a letter and a postcard, and those
two items, written in his father's hand, were of particular interest to Ranma.
The letter was to his mother and detailed a bit about their training journey
as well as asking her to meet them at the Tendo dojo in Nerima. Unfortunately,
there was no address for his mother anywhere on the letter, and the envelope
was blank, not yet addressed. The post card, the picture of a panda in a
bamboo forest on the back seeming almost prophetic in a mildly disturbing
way, was addressed to that same dojo, and it read very simply: 'Sorry Tendo.
Bringing Ranma from
Ranma was a bit puzzled by that one, but both letters pointed to a place called the Tendo dojo, so he guessed that he would have to go there at some point. Right now, however, he wanted to get away from thoughts of his father. The pigtailed negawarrior could already feel his brief musings threaten to pull him back into his deep depression, so he resolved to think about that later.
That had been two hours ago, and since then Ranma had landed at Narita airport and taken the train over to Shinjuku, remembering from the last time he'd been in Japan that Shinjuku was a pretty populated area. After catching lunch at a noodle shop, Ranma made his way through the city looking for likely apartments, but none seemed to be available in Shinjuku. Not really paying attention to his direction or location, Ranma headed in a basically south east direction, and after some walking, he found himself in Minato, only realizing it when he saw the Tokyo Tower in the near city skyline.
Now he sat at a table outside of a small kissa near the tower, sipping some tea and thinking how nice it was to be back in Tokyo, especially in mid April. Looking at a convenient clock, he saw that it was nearly two o'clock, and that meant that he had only three hours to find an apartment or he'd be sleeping in one of these parks tonight. Leaning back and throwing back his head to finishing the hot beverage, the pigtailed youth stood and walked into an area of Minato known as Azabu Juuban.
School had just ended, and Gurio Umino watched as Naru and Usagi left together. A second after the two girls walked out of sight, Umino let his overly exuberant demeanor slide away, his depression coming to the forefront. The boy sighed; he didn't understand why they shied away from him. He was honestly trying his best!
After a moment's contemplation, Umino began his lonely trek home. As he walked, his mind analyzed the day's events. Certainly, Haruna-sensei's complete exhaustion and the subsequent free time at school was a surprise, but as an information dealer, he had to remain objective about most things. He was commonly in contact with the information dealers at other schools, and there was always the boss, Tendo Nabiki, over at Furinkan to emulate. However, he just couldn't manage the total Ice Queen (or King, in his case) demeanor that Tendo-sama was able to project, so he went for the hapless nerd look in stead. It kept most people off his back, and even if he didn't have the intimidation factor or gambling rings that the Ice persona would have allowed, he was content to simply sell or give information as he wished. After all, he wasn't in high school yet, so he still had time to prepare before entering the 'big leagues'.
In the end, though, there was no way that only his mastery of information handling would impress either Usagi or Naru, and this made the young man very upset. He liked the two of them far more than he even liked himself, but he could never seem to get their attention. Or, at least, their favorable attention.
Suddenly, his brief chat with Naru that morning returned to his mind. "Well, if you want to date her so much," Naru had said, "why don't you go see that new fortune teller on Tenth Street? Maybe then you'll have a snowball's chance of going out with Usagi-chan."
While he still ignored the 'snowball' comment, Umino immediately perked up. So what if Tendo-sama said that fortune tellers were a complete scam? As long as he kept that in mind and only followed advice he found sound, what was there to lose? His decision made, he turned at the next avenue and made his way to Tenth Street.
After a bit more walking, he arrived at the small park on Tenth Street where
a wagon was parked. Umino almost laughed aloud at the idea of a gypsy in
Three quick, precise knocks elicited a call of, "Enter," from within the wagon, and the teenage boy turned the knob, opening the door to a strange scene, at least to a Japanese. There were all sorts of books and candles littered about the interior of the wagon, and quite a few wicks burning to give the only light. Recognized from some old western films, a woman sat at a small, round table with her eyes closed, a crystal ball forming the centerpiece of the table.
While no wrinkles covered her face, she still had enough bearing and mystery to seem ageless to the young information dealer. A traditional scarf covered her head, and her dress was voluminous, covering her entire body short of her face, neck, and hands. The woman had a slight smirk adorning her face as her eyes opened for the first time since he'd arrived.
"Sit down, Gurio Umino," she said quietly in a calm, knowing voice, her Japanese accented like that of a Russian, but that command was nearly enough to break his cool demeanor and have him running out the door. 'How did she know my name?!?!' he thought in compete shock. However, with thoughts of Tendo-sama being proud of him shoring up his courage, he managed to keep his persona as a cool and collected individual, and he sat in the chair opposing the gypsy woman.
"I see that you have come to me with a problem, Gurio-san," she continued after he sat down, her hands moving to almost cup the crystal ball and her eyes gazing into its depths. "You wish for the company of a certain young woman, but you don't know how to get her attention."
Umino found himself nodding along with the woman, but quickly stopped himself. What would Tendo-sama think if some bogus fortune teller was able to psyche him out? Taking an iron grip on his emotions, Umino decided that he would weather the storm of the woman's supposed all knowing nature.
The woman looked up just as Umino once again had control of his emotions, and she commanded, "Gaze into my eyes, Gurio-san."
Without thinking, Umino did as she asked, and the red glow that suffused those blue orbs of absolute intensity seemed to latch onto his soul. Her eyes widened as she captured his, and she spoke in a soft, seductive tone.
"You, Gurio Umino, are the powerful servant of a great and mighty daemon." The words seemed to take hold as truth in his clouded mind as the glow of her eyes burrowed deep into his spirit. The woman raised her hand, and he looked down to see a small, black crystal fragment lying on the table before him. His hand twitched with the desire, almost need, to reach out and take it for his own.
"As long as you possess this artifact, the power of your master goes with you," she continued in the same tone. "You can do anything you desire, and anything you desire will be yours, so long as you carry this crystal with you."
An ugly, cruel smirk made its way over Umino's face as he heard those words, and his hand darted out to grab the crystal from the table. "Then I will go," he said to the fortune teller, and with that the young man left the wagon, dark deeds alone on his mind as his glasses flashed in the mid-afternoon sunlight.
The door slammed shut, and the fortune teller smiled a smile that deformed her human-looking face into something dark and terrible, a cruel look that could never rest on a human face. "Master Jadeite," it whispered; the sound of its true voice would have caused a human to shudder if one had been present. "I will have a great deal of lifeforce for you when next you come."
Nephrite appeared in the antechamber to Queen Beryl's throne room, the excess energy of his transfer from Terra bleeding off like a black mist in the dimly lit room. The dark general slowly opened his eyes to the very familiar architecture of the Dark Palace that had been his home for over five thousand years.
After only a moment's wait, a youma, one of the queen's elite guard, stepped forward to greet him, her serpentine lower body slithering sinuously across the ground. The youma's upper body was that of a nominally beautiful human woman with fairly bountiful assets, especially when one considered that she wore absolutely no clothing. Of course, the image of beauty was marred, at least in a human's eyes, by her strange diamond-shaped pupils surrounded by yellow irises and the thin, forked tongue that lent her words a disturbing hiss. "General Nephrite," she said, her voice in a deadly but respectful tone. "Queen Beryl has been expecting you. Please follow me."
The brown haired negawarrior nodded to the youma and immediately followed as she slithered toward the doors to the throne room, the two youma standing guard there like yellow furred skeletons saluting, fist over heart, as they passed. The doors to the seat of Beryl's kingdom glinted dully in the wan light of the antechamber, their black crystal construction lending them an other-worldly feel, and that feel was enhanced as the doors apparently swung open of their own accord. To Nephrite, all of this was normal, but for some reason he was reminded of his first time here, and he was only just barely able to suppress the shudder from that memory.
The Dark Palace was not the original capitol of the Dark Kingdom; that honor was given to a distant and almost forgotten ruin far away from the current seat of power. This fortress was built just outside of Dark Moon, and was a fairly recent addition in the history of the Dark Kingdom, some forty millennia long. Being built only five thousand years ago, give or take a decade, the dark general well remembered the grand ceremony that had transferred the throne from its former position to this dark place. The Palace itself was a gift Metallia constructed it from a single, enormous black crystal using the pure negaforce that was the source of that deific being's power; this place served both as the seat of government for the Dark Kingdom and as the Cathedral of Metallia, the center of her worship. The very architecture of the Dark Palace exuded menace and fear, and Nephrite thought it fitting that this place would hold the throne of a kingdom ruled by one such as Beryl.
The throne room itself was a wonder to behold, the delicate mixing of indirect light and deep shadow a mirror for the personality of the ruler of the Dark Kingdom. Glancing about, Nephrite noticed the conspicuous lack of fawning courtiers and sycophants that normally populated the chamber; the only being present besides himself and his escort was Beryl herself. The red haired queen of the Dark Kingdom and ruler of the vast majority of the Negaverse itself sat straight in her throne, the light only illuminating half of her pale face. That face, one that Nephrite had seen display emotions from cruelty to anger and hatred, was expressionless, and her eyes were closed.
Being not a fool, the entering negawarrior knew that his queen was aware of his presence, but as his escort saluted him and left, he simply knelt, fist over heart, awaiting his queen's word. For five minutes he waited still and silent, and just as he was beginning to think that he should speak, Beryl's quiet voice broke the silence better than an explosion, the energy and intensity that was the ruler's trademark filling the words regardless of their volume.
"Nephrite. It has been some time since I last saw you, nearly three months if I'm not mistaken."
The kneeling negawarrior did not reply to his queen's rhetorical question, patiently waiting for her to continue.
"Well," Beryl continued after a full minute, and Nephrite could hear the smile in her voice, casually cruel as always. "I suppose that since I specifically told you that there was no time requirement for returning, I will forgive your absence during the final briefing."
Nephrite felt his control slip, just a little, with a slight widening of his eyes, but Beryl saw the slight movement and continued, the smile in her voice becoming more apparent.
"Yes, Nephrite. The operation to retake Terra has already begun, but do not trouble yourself. I am more concerned with what was so interesting or important that one of my generals would be gone for three months on a scouting mission that, if I remember your previous missions, should have taken no longer than a week. Please, rise and enlighten me as to what detained you on Terra for so long."
Obeying her command, Nephrite stood and looked up at his queen, her beauty having never faded in all the years since he first saw her standing next to King Endymion when he'd been chosen as a Candidate for Guardianship, and the dark general paused a few seconds to gather his thoughts.
"My Queen," Nephrite began in a respectful tone. "It is true that under normal circumstances I would have returned much sooner, but upon reaching Terra, I discovered something, or rather, someone, who could be a powerful ally to our cause."
The dark general paused, and into his brief silence Beryl raised a knuckle delicately to her chin with a thoughtful expression and interjected, "Hmm. Most interesting. Please continue, Nephrite."
Nodding once, Nephrite spoke once more. "I found a boy with an incredible amount of lifeforce and a great deal of talent at manipulating it. I managed to gain the boy's trust and tested him; he has great potential to become a powerful negawarrior, and I know that we have very few negawarriors at our disposal."
Beryl nodded slowly, but the queen's eyes narrowed as she spoke. "While what you say is true, the time required to train a person even to the lowest levels of negaforce use is prohibitively long, far too long for our current needs. As I recall, the average candidate for induction requires three years of training to undertake the final challenge, and then another year before they can wield even the simplest of constructs easily enough for battle. Not to mention that even this level can only be achieved if the teacher is diligent and knowledgeable, all his time spent on the training. Considering that the invasion has already begun, this boy could not be ready in time to aid us in our quest. Even if he was able to attain negawarrior status as quickly as you, the timetable has Terra once again in our possession within the year, so I would deem his training a waste of time and resources at this juncture."
"Normally, I would agree with you, my queen," Nephrite replied, unable to keep a smug expression from his face though Beryl's face darkened. "However, he was ready for induction after only nine weeks of training."
At this revelation, all pretense of emotional control left Beryl's face, and for just a moment, her eyes widened and her mouth fell open. Of course, she quickly recovered her superior expression, but Nephrite was very pleased at the ruler's reaction.
"Absolutely amazing!" Beryl said after regaining her control. "In fact, if it had come from any mouth but yours, I would have the speaker tortured for lying, but I know that none of my generals would ever lie to me." The last few words of her speech were accentuated by a hard, soul delving stare into Nephrite's eyes, the power of which he could feel testing his resolve.
For nearly a minute, silence reigned in the throne room; then Beryl continued, an eyebrow raised. "I see. So he is already inducted?"
The brown haired negawarrior nodded to his queen, and the red haired negalyte asked, "What of his loyalty? I will not have a negawarrior of dubious allegiance, trained by our hand, turning on us. It has been a long time since we recruited a human."
"My Queen," replied Nephrite in a tone of absolute confidence. "He is completely loyal to me as his teacher, and I've been educating him in our ways and cause. Once his training is complete, I will be able to present to you a negawarrior of excellent skill and power, one who has no loyalty above the Dark Kingdom."
Slowly, and for the first time in millennia, a real smile spread across Queen Beryl's face, her eyes almost shining with possibility. "If all that you say is true, Nephrite," she said in a truly pleased tone, "then your mission is one of the most successful in a very, very long time. I shall leave you to training your apprentice for the time being; however, if I have a mission for you, I expect you to set the training aside and complete it without delay."
"Of course, My Queen."
"Very well, then," Beryl continued in a formal tone. "You are dismissed, Nephrite. Be sure to bring me a powerful negawarrior at the completion of his training."
Nephrite saluted his queen and knelt once more before marching smartly from the throne room, the doors to the antechamber once again opening of their own accord to release him from his audience. Even before he exited the chamber, the dark general couldn't keep the satisfied smile from his lips.
Usagi and Naru walked along the street, idly chatting about nothing as they made their way slowly toward Osa P, Naru's mother's jewelry store. In no particular hurry, the girls flitted from storefront to storefront, window shopping like professionals. School had been out for over an hour before they finally arrived at Osa P, and the crowded jewelry store made them wish they'd made better time from Juuban Junior High.
"Wow…" exclaimed Naru, her shock obvious to Usagi. "I knew Momma was having a big sale, but I never expected this!" The blonde could only nod to her friend, the same shock covering her own face.
Pushing through the crowds, Naru led Usagi to the counter and cheerfully called out "Momma!" to the woman standing there trying to serve the mass of customers. The auburn haired woman's eyes lit up at the sight of her daughter, and she quickly finished her current sale and made her way over to the two girls.
"Naru-chan!" she said, a bright smile coming to her face. "How was your day at school?"
"It was just fine, Momma," replied the younger woman with reddish brown hair. "We came by to see the sale. It looks like it's going really well!"
"Yes, dear," said Osaka Kiiroko, her smile increasing a bit more. "It is."
Turning to the blonde standing next to her daughter, Kiiroko said, "And how are you, Usagi-chan?"
The blonde, pony tailed teenager smiled brightly, replying, "Very good, Osaka-obasan!"
Naru's mother smiled brighter still, and turning her attention back to both girls, she said, "Actually, since the sale is going so well, I think I can give you an extra special price on some of the jewelry, Usagi-chan."
Usagi's eyes lit up at the prospect of new jewelry, and Kiiroko reached inside the display case. After fumbling around for a moment, the elder Osaka withdrew a small black box saying, "I think you'll like this one, Usagi-chan."
Opening the box before the teenage girl's wide blue eyes, Kiiroko revealed a beautiful diamond pendant on a thin gold chain at which the two girls 'Oooh'ed.
"I thought you'd like it," said Kiiroko, the smile still on her face apparent in her tone. "Normally, this would sell for five hundred thousand yen…" Usagi's eyes widened at the figure: it was more money that she'd ever seen! "However," she continued, "It is currently on sale for one hundred thousand, and since you're a friend of the family, I'd be willing to give it to you for just thirty thousand yen!"
Usagi was about to ask her friend's mother to hold it for her until she could ask her parents, but the teenager suddenly found herself on the floor.
"I WANT IT!!" screamed an obtusely large woman, her eyes staring greedily at the pendant. "I'll pay the whole one hundred thousand!!"
A few tears leaked out of Usagi's eyes at being so rudely thrown to the floor, and she tried to call out to Naru and Kiiroko in a slightly tearful voice. "Naru! Osaka-obasan!"
However, the crush of people was too much, and after three people had already stepped on her, she finally crawled out of the store, crying.
After making it outside, Usagi ran toward home, tears running down her cheeks. 'It's not fair!' she thought, anger and sadness warring for dominance in her mind. 'That lady is so MEAN!!'
Suddenly, Usagi skidded to a halt, a flash of color in the window of a shop catching her eye. Looking over, she saw a large poster for a Sailor V video game in the window. Above, Usagi spied the name of the store: Crown Game Center. 'I wonder if Motoki is working?' she thought automatically at seeing the name, but then put thoughts of cute boys out of her mind. Or, at least, as far from her mind as she could, and focused on the poster.
'Oh wow!' thought the blonde haired girl, thinking back to Naru's and Umino's explanations about Sailor V. 'If she's so awesome that she caught a jewel thief then the game must be really good too!'
Looking at a nearby clock, she noted the time. 'Ohh… It's already four forty five!' she thought, still distracted by the poster. 'I should be getting home, but I really REALLY wanna try that game!'
Raising a hand to her chin, Usagi tried to think of a way to decide what to do. "Oh!" she said out loud, and then continued in her mind, 'I know! If it's heads, I'll go in, and if it's tails, I'll go home.'
Without further thought, Usagi kicked her left shoe off and high into the air, eagerly anticipating the outcome. The teenage girl craned her neck to watch as the shoe flew over her head; it was going to land behind her.
"Ouch," came a male voice from behind her, and she spun around to see a slender, tallish man with black hair and dark eyes wearing a green sport coat and black shirt. He was also holding a shoe and rubbing the top of his head. "That hurt, odongo atama."
The apology that had been on her lips died when he insulted her. 'Of all the nerve!' she thought indignantly, conveniently forgetting that it was her shoe that hit him even as she walked up and snatched it from his hand. Putting on her most irritated look, she replied, "You shouldn't insult people!"
"Hey," he shot back. "You shouldn't be hitting people in the head with shoes!"
Usagi blushed at that statement, but her irritation still didn't vanish. After a moment more of trying to stare the annoying boy down, she stuck out her tongue at him and turned into the arcade with a huff, completely forgetting that the shoe was supposed to tell her whether or not she should be going home.
'Now that was strange…' thought Ranma as he watched the blonde haired girl walk into a store. The guy she'd hit with her shoe hesitated for a moment, and then followed the girl with the strange hair style. 'Oh well.'
As it was almost five o'clock in the evening now, Ranma decided to put the strange incident out of his mind and continue walking. He still needed to find an apartment, and there didn't seem to be a decent one in this entire city that was up for rent. The pigtailed youth sighed; at least he hadn't been splashed all day.
"Oops," came a female voice from above. "I dropped my wash tub!" A reciprocating male voice replied, "Be more careful!"
Of course, neither noticed the somewhat depressed looking red head below, dripping soapy water. 'Great…' Ranma continued in her mind. 'Just great…'
The pigtailed girl's mood had been steadily deteriorating since leaving that little kissa near the Tokyo Tower, and this little incident took the cake. 'Oh well,' she decided as she started walking once again. 'I'll just get some hot water from the next yattai.'
That's when she saw it, and a smile blossomed on the red head's face for the first time in hours. 'It' was a sign, an advertisement actually, for a newly built apartment building in the eastern portion of Juuban, away from the college. Since it was the first building she'd seen with vacancies since arriving in Shinjuku, Ranma quickly noted the address and raced off at top speed, startling a few other pedestrians as she ran at speeds scarcely seen at the Olympics.
It was a quick seven minute run to the lobby, and there was a single man working the key in the door. Ranma's heart sank as she realized what was happening: it seemed that they were just locking up, leaving for the day.
"Wait!" she shouted at the suit-clad man, and he spun around at the voice, startled. The pigtailed negawarrior ran up to him as she unconsciously turned on the 'cute innocent girl' look. "Please tell me you can help me!"
"Umm… umm… umm…" the man stammered.
"You're not closing for the day, are you?" the former martial artist turned cute negawarrior continued. The man nodded mutely, and Ranma didn't even realize that she had a pout on her face. "But can't you see me before you go?"
The man's eyes got wide and there was a bit of sweat forming on his brow at Ranma's proximity and appearance. Finally, the man succumbed and nodded dumbly, opening the door for the cute girl. Ranma's whole face lit up when he acquiesced, and she walked into the darkened office with a bright smile.
The man, who now introduced himself as the property manager, Umishi Ichiro, led Ranma back to his office, and by the time he was seated across from the young girl, he seemed much more composed.
"So, young lady," he began in a stronger, more business-like voice. "What can I do for you?"
"Well," replied Ranma, still unknowingly throwing off some, though many fewer, 'cute rays', "I've been through Shinjuku and most of Minato looking for an apartment I can rent, but I haven't found any vacancies anywhere! Then I saw your advertisement, so I came right over."
"I see," replied Ichiro. "So you wish to inquire about renting here? Okay, is it just you, or will you have room mates?"
Ranma was about to answer that it would just be her and one other when she suddenly thought about something. 'I don't really want to explain my curse,' she thought with a little bitterness, 'but if I don't say something then I'll have to be a girl when ever I'm here!' She was at the edge of despair when an idea struck her.
"There are two others, Umishi-san," Ranma said, her smile coming back as though it had never left. "My brother and our guardian."
The older man nodded slowly, jotting down some notes. "Alright," he replied. "So you will need a two or three bedroom if you want any kind of privacy." Looking up briefly to see her affirming nod, he continued, "What kind of price range were you looking at?"
Again, Ranma's face scrunched, unknown to the girl herself, into a very cute 'deep thought' expression, but after a moment she came up blank. "Honestly, Umishi-san, I have no frame of reference."
Umishi nodded one more time and said, "That's alright; you're young yet. I have four apartments that meet your specifications: two two bedrooms and two three bedrooms. Would you like to take a look at them?"
Ranma nodded concisely, and Umishi ushered her out of the office and down a hall. As they walked, Umishi said, "Oh, I'm sorry, miss. I never asked your name."
"Oh," replied Ranma absently. "My name is Saotome Ran… ko."
'Good save!' Ranma congratulated herself. 'Ranko… just so long as I write it 'wild child', I'll be alright with that…'
Umishi obviously didn't notice the pigtailed youth's slight fumble, and he continued. "Well, I'm pleased to meet you, Saotome-san."
The two arrived at an elevator labeled 'Tenants,' and Umishi pressed the call button. A scant few seconds later, the doors slid silently open, and Umishi gestured for Ranma to precede him. Once they were in the elevator, the property manager pressed the button for the eleventh floor, and they were off.
Ranma briefly looked at the clock in the elevator. 'Five forty five… I hope this place is good enough; I really wouldn't mind sleeping under a roof for once…'
Osaka Naru was unhappy. Usagi hadn't even said good bye when she left, and now, the customers at Osa P were getting more and more violent. It was quite disturbing to see several women actually fighting over this ring or that bracelet, scary even. Finally, she left the store to her mother and went to find a snack since dinner would not come for some time.
Walking the short distance to the Crown Game Center, or more precisely, the Parlor above, Naru continued to think about her mother. 'Why are all those ladies getting so riled up,' she thought with a little distress. 'I know it's a big sale, but that was ridiculous!'
As she entered the Game Center, Naru briefly looked around for Motoki, but failing to see her favorite arcade employee, she headed up the stairs to the restaurant.
When she reached the top of the stairs, a cheerful voice rang out, "Welcome! Come on in!"
Turning to the voice, Naru saw one of her older friends, Furuhata Unazuki, Motoki's younger sister. "Hi Unazuki!" she called back.
"Hi Naru," the slightly older red head replied. "Aren't you usually at home eating dinner around now?"
"Yeah," said Naru, her face falling ever so slightly. "But Momma is having a big sale, so she won't be able to close the store before dinner."
"Oh," Unazuki said, her tone sounding very understanding. "Then I guess I should give you a table, then."
Naru smiled, and the older girl led her to a table near the door to the kitchen. "So," asked the ponytailed red head, "what can I get for you?"
"Hmm," thought Naru aloud. "I think… I'll just have a fruit salad and a chocolate milkshake."
Unazuki looked a little puzzled at her younger friend and asked, "Are you sure that'll be enough? I mean, that's not much to have for dinner."
"Oh, this isn't dinner," replied Naru with a smile. "It's just a snack to tide me over until Momma can get off work."
Winking at her, the green eyed girl cheerfully answered, "Gotcha. I'll be back in a few!"
With that, Unazuki walked into the kitchen, and Naru returned to her somber musings, her eyes staring sightlessly out of the window next to her table. An indeterminate amount of time later, a hand waving in her face returned Naru to the real world.
"Huh?" she asked intelligently of Unazuki, who was sitting across from her in the booth.
"Wow," the ponytailed girl said. "You were really spaced there. You okay, Naru-chan?"
"Yeah," Naru replied, just now realizing that her fruit salad and milkshake were sitting in front of her. "It's just that the customers at Momma's store were getting really worked up over the sale. I honestly saw three or four women almost FIGHTING over some of the jewelry!"
Unazuki nodded as she sipped her own vanilla shake through a straw. "I see," she said, and then her face brightened. "But hey, I guess that means that the sale is a big success, then!"
"I suppose so…" Naru trailed off as she almost lost herself once more to her heavier thoughts.
"Hey!" called the older red head, her voice louder than normal. "Don't go getting all depressed on me now. Let's just talk about something else, Naru-chan. For instance, there was this really cute guy in here earlier…"
Naru smiled as Unazuki chattered about this and that, and slowly, the foreboding feeling that had been rolling icily in her gut since she left the store receded. She ate and chatted with her friend for the better part of an hour before deciding that she needed to go back to the store for her mother.
When the younger red haired girl said that she had to leave, Unazuki nodded and snagged their glasses and the bowl from the table. "Tell you what," she said in her ever cheerful voice. "I'll let this one go on the house! You have a good night, Naru-chan."
As she left the Crown Center, Naru had a big smile on her face, but as soon as she was in sight of Osa P, the icy feeling returned full force. 'I don't think I want to go back there…' the red head thought as she felt a chill down her spine.
After nearly a minute of consideration, a look at a nearby clock decided the teenager. 'It's already seven forty five,' she thought in some consternation. 'Momma should have closed the store almost an hour ago. Finally, Naru continued on her path back to Osa P, but the moment she opened the door to the store, she wished she had stayed at the Parlor.
Everywhere in the store, customers were lying unconscious, or at least, Naru hoped that they were only unconscious. However, even that sight paled in comparison with the sight of her own mother, the cruel smile stretching the woman's face in ways that were impossible for a human. Involuntarily, Naru gasped.
"Well hello, Naru-chan," the creature that was supposedly Naru's mother said in a voice like steel sliding over a gravestone. "You're just in time…"
It had taken an hour to see the four possible apartments, and Ranma had already decided which one she liked best. Umishi had lead the teenaged red head back to his office, and now he was telling her the true bottom line for each one.
"The price on the two furnished apartments will be significantly higher than the other two," Umishi was saying. "But the furnished ones will probably save you money in the end since you won't have to buy any furniture."
"Actually, Umishi-san," replied Ranma. "I really liked that two bedroom on the west side of the building."
"The unfurnished one?" asked the man in the suit, though his tone made the question sound rhetorical. "Alright, then. Let me look up the pricing."
Umishi turned to his computer and quickly typed up the reference number of the room in question, Ranma looking over his shoulder. When the datasheet came up, the red head's eyes bulged. 'Four hundred and eighty thousand yen a month!' she thought in both awe and depression. 'How on earth can I afford that?!'
"Ah," Umishi said, oblivious to Ranma's thoughts. "Here it is. The normal, monthly rent is four hundred and eighty thousand, but with the current special, we've dropped it to four hundred. Also, if you're willing to sign a year lease, we're willing to reduce it further. With the lease, the rent will only be three hundred and fifty thousand a month."
Turning back, Umishi finally saw the despair that was plainly written on Ranma's face, and his sympathy was obvious. "We may be able to work with you on payments. How much do you have?"
At that simple question, Ranma blinked. "Actually," she said after a moment's thought. "I have no idea… I forgot to check, and now the banks are all closed."
"Hmm," replied the black haired man, his hand reaching for his chin as he thought. "Do you have a debit card?"
Nodding quickly, Ranma pulled the debit card Nephrite had given her from her pocket. Seeing this, Umishi spoke again. "Usually, banks have a number to call so that you can check your balance and what not after hours. It's normally on the back of the card."
Flipping the card over, Ranma gave it a quick scan. Sure enough, there was a phone number labeled 'automated support' printed on the back. "May I use your phone?"
Nodding, Umishi turned his phone toward the cute red head, briefly mentioning that she had to dial nine to get out.
Ranma quickly called the number indicated on the card, and when the responding machine asked for her account number, she punched in the number on the front. Then it asked for her pin, and the recording had to repeat the request twice before the teenage girl could fish the scrap of paper out of her pocket. Finally, the machine droned off the balance in the account.
The handset dropped from Ranma's hand and clattered to the floor as the girl's eyes grew to the size of dinner plates and her mouth fell open. Umishi became alarmed at this action, and he said, "Ranko-san? Are you alright?"
Shaking her head, Ranma blinked a couple of times and replied, "Hai, Umishi-san. I was just surprised, that's all."
Before he could speak further, Ranma continued, "I think I'll sign that year's contract and pay the full amount up front."
Now it was Ichiro's turn to goggle. "Are you certain, Saotome-san?" he asked, his tone filled with surprise. "That would be four million five hundred and fifty thousand yen including security deposit."
While the figure was certainly more money than Ranma had ever seen in her life, the recording from the bank and named a much higher figure. "Well, I think I can afford it," she replied in a quiet, still stunned voice.
After spending all of her money playing the Sailor V game and then whining about her lack of ice cream money to Motoki, Usagi finally left the Crown Game Center. As she walked out, she looked at the clock above the doors, and the ponytailed girl's walk immediately became a sprint. 'Seven fifteen!' she thought as she blazed homeward. 'Mom's gonna kill me!'
Making record time to her house (about seven minutes), she rushed through the front door and collided with her mother.
"Owww…" moaned Usagi as she pushed herself back to a standing position, but she quickly cringed at her mother's expression. In a weak voice she said, "Hi Mom…"
"Hello, Usagi-chan," replied Ikuko in a stern voice, her arms crossed beneath her breasts and a very cross expression on her face. "Where have you been?"
"Umm," Usagi said, looking away from her mother's face. "I kind of lost track of time at the arcade…"
As her mother launched into a tirade about worrying her parents, Usagi kept her eyes trained on the toes of her shoes, cringing more with each angry word but tuning it all out. This was a regular lecture, and Usagi knew by heart when to nod or say "yes Ma'am."
Finally, Ikuko finished tearing into her daughter, and even as Usagi looked up at the blue haired woman with tears in her eyes, mother embraced daughter. "Even so, Usagi-chan, I'm glad your home, safe and sound," the Tsukino matriarch finished as Usagi tried vainly to breath in a crushing hug.
Ikuko sighed. "Well then," the older Tsukino woman said, her tone actually cheerful. "Why don't we go eat dinner then?"
As her mother turned away, Usagi could only blink before following, for once silent.
Dinner was a relatively quiet affair with only a few questions about her day, and since her mother had already berated her for coming home late, her father said nothing about the incident. Finally, as dinner drew to a close, Usagi said, "I'm really tired tonight. I think I'll go to bed early."
Kenji only smiled at his daughter as she moved to leave the table. "Good night, dear," he said in a pleasant voice, this mirrored by her mother.
"Gosh," said Shingo in an insulting tone. "You sleep more than anyone I've every met!"
"Shut up you little brat," replied Usagi in a haughty voice, lifting her head in a snobbish fashion. "I've had a long day."
Her little brother stuck out his tongue at her, but she was only peripherally aware of the action and didn't retaliate. Usagi slowly made her way up the stairs, the long day out finally catching up with her, and when she entered her room, she immediately fell on the bed without even undressing.
A dark shape crouched among the stuffed animals at the foot of Usagi's bed. The shape tensed as the door opened but quickly relaxed as it saw its target enter the room, bristling fur smoothing. The girl it had been following all day made her way slowly across the floor, eyelids drooping and obvious fatigue in her step. Without even attempting to undress, the blonde haired girl with the strange hair style simply fell on her bed.
The shape's eyes narrowed as it watched the girl, looking for signs of injury, but when the girl began to quietly snore, a small sigh emitted from the pile of fuzzy toys. After watching for a few more seconds, the shape emerged and pounced.
"Wake up, young one," came the obviously female voice of the small black cat as she leapt onto Usagi's back, careful not to use her claws. "You must wake up, Usagi. There is evil about tonight."
Still the blonde slept on, and the black cat began to form a sweat drop, frustration, while hard to read on a cat, showing easily on her face. She tried three more times before using her claws, shouting as loud as she could without alerting the rest of the house, but in the end, the claws did the trick.
"Yeow!" cried Usagi as she jumped, inadvertently throwing the slight weight that had been perched on her back across the room. "That hurt…"
A couple of tears leaked from her eyes as the cat recovered, and a moment later, it seemed that the girl had noticed the animal. "Ohhhh," she said. "You're that little cat I saved with the crescent shaped bald spot."
Almost growling, the cat replied, "It's not a bald spot! How rude!"
Usagi's eyes widened to the size of serving platters as the cat spoke, and Luna could only sigh as the girl stammered, "T- t- tal- talk- ing c- c- c- CAT!"
That last was delivered in a yell that could wake the dead and a leap across her bed… falling off the other side to lie sprawling on the floor. Luna quickly attempted damage control. "Usagi," she said in a calm, kind voice. "Don't be afraid. I'm not here to hurt you."
"Ohhhh," Usagi replied, and Luna finally thought that the girl understood. "I'm dreaming, right?"
As Luna managed to recover from her face fault, she sweat dropped. "No, Usagi," she replied in a patient voice. "You are not dreaming. I've come here to give you something and then advise you in its use."
Before allowing the girl to say more, the black cat jumped into the air and performed a quite impressive double flip maneuver. At the apex of the spin, a circular brooch fell from her subspace pocket onto the bed, and when she landed, she watched Usagi's forehead.
'Ah HA!' Luna thought triumphantly as a crescent moon glowed brightly on Usagi's forehead in response to her production of the brooch. 'I WAS right!'
"My name is Luna," began the cat. "And you are destined to be Sailor Moon, the Senshi of the Moon!" Even as she said it, something felt off about referring to a Senshi of the Moon, but Luna shrugged it off. Her memories were quite jumbled since she awoke, but the small cat was sure that she would figure it out eventually.
"What's a Senshi?" asked the ponytailed girl, though it was obvious to Luna that Usagi had heard the capital 'S' in its pronunciation. Briefly running through what she remembered, Luna decided that it would be easier to simply show Usagi rather than try to explain.
"Just pick up that brooch and say, 'Moon Prism Power, Make Up'," Luna said in reply. "You'll understand then."
Nodding dubiously, the blonde complied with the cat's request.
Usagi picked up the small brooch that the cat, Luna, had given her. Something tickled her mind, like a memory of a dream, as she fingered the circular item, but the teenager put the feeling aside for later.
"Okay," she said. "Here goes. Moon Prism Power, Make Up!"
For the briefest of instants, nothing happened, but suddenly, in a flash of light too bright for eyes accustomed to darkness, Usagi felt power. And the oddest sensation of her clothing disintegrating. Spinning involuntarily with the energy engulfing her, new clothing formed around the girl, and after about five seconds, Usagi found herself wearing a white body suit with very short blue skirt, her feet encased in knee high red boots and elbow length white gloves trimmed in red. A red bow adorned her chest to be complimented by a ribbon of the same color tied at the back of her skirt, and several pieces of jewelry, including ear rings and a choker sporting a crescent moon, rounded out the ensemble.
Wide eyed and blinking, Usagi stared at herself in the mirror, a gasp coming quietly from her mouth as she examined her new appearance. As she continued to stare, Luna spoke. "Sailor Moon," she said urgently. "There have been many strange events in Tokyo recently! The enemy has arrived! Reach out with your senses and feel the dark emanations of the enemy!"
Without really understanding what she was doing, Usagi did as Luna asked, and her face became a mask of shock. 'Please,' came Naru's voice inside the blonde superhero's mind. 'Help me… Help my mother… Help us…'
"Oh no," Usagi said under her breath. "Naru-chan."
Without further thought, Sailor Moon leapt from her window and raced toward Osa P, a small black cat trailing her.
Ranma dropped her pack in the room she'd decided to claim in the two bedroom apartment she'd rented, a sigh escaping her lips. It wasn't the largest apartment on earth, but it would certainly do. The front door opened into a medium sized living area, including a tiled area for shoes, with an attached kitchenette, and a short hallway opposite the front door allowed access to the two bedrooms and the single bath with a western-style shower stall. All in all, probably the nicest place Ranma had lived since starting her training journey with her father.
'Father…' Ranma thought briefly before shaking her head. 'Now is not the time to get depressed,' she continued in her mind, and the pigtailed negawarrior's stomach seconded that with a loud grumble. 'I guess I should get something to eat…'
As she walked toward the bathroom to get some hot water, Ranma decided to use some of the constructs that Nephrite had recently taught her to examine the area. Drawing a tiny amount of negaforce from the small silver mirror she now kept on her person, Ranma formed the constructs necessary to sense her surroundings and fueled them with annihilation energy.
'Hmmm,' she thought as she splashed her face with hot water. 'Most everyone in the building is eating.'
The thought brought another rumble to his stomach, and he decided not to wait any longer. 'There isn't any food here, so I guess I'm going out for dinner.'
Pausing briefly to snag the apartment key from his pack, Ranma left his new home in search of dinner, still scanning the evening with his construct enhanced senses.
Without knowing where any particular restaurants were located, the pigtailed boy simply wandered back toward the commercial area where he'd found the advertisement for his new apartment. 'There's bound to be some…' he thought, but he trailed off as something struck him like a two by four between the eyes. 'Something is using a lot of negaforce around here…'
Quickly considering his stomach versus the feel of negaforce, Ranma decided that food could wait, and the newest negawarrior began to follow his senses to the source, unconsciously masking his presence with an instinctual construct.
Sailor Moon raced for Osa P, Luna close at her heels, and as she neared the glass entryway to the jewelry store, she gasped. It wasn't from the running; Usagi had never had an easier time running. No, it was from the sight within the shop. Naru hung from the hand of a monster vaguely resembling the dark red haired girl's mother, the clawed appendage slowly choking the life from her. The sight was enough to push the odongoed superhero forward at a speed even she didn't think possible, and as she burst through the entryway amid shattering glass, she called out, "For love and justice, I'm the sailor suit beautiful girl fighter! Sailor Moon!"
In her mind, Usagi blinked. 'Where on earth did that come from?' she questioned herself silently even as the creature turned to face her, its weakly writhing victim forgotten in its hand.
"I'm sure you're very pretty," replied the monster with a horrible, cruel sneer. "But you're no fighter."
With that, the monster threw Naru away like the nearly unconscious girl was a piece of trash, but her friend's agonized cry as she clipped one of the display cases was not lost on Moon. Sparing a glance at Naru's fallen form, the blonde Senshi could see that Naru's leg was bent at an odd angle where there should be no joint, and she tried desperately to keep her dinner in her stomach at the sight. By its next words, her green complexion was obviously not lost on the monster.
"Ha!" the beast called out mockingly. "If you're supposed to be a fighter, then why does a little injury like that even faze you? You couldn't last through even a light torture session, even if you were only watching!"
Still a bit green, Sailor Moon turned back to the monster, and a fire lit in the blonde's eyes. Clenching her teeth hard, Moon rushed forward and delivered a hard slap to the creature's face followed by a kick to its midsection. 'Alright, Usagi!' she crowed in her mind. 'That'll teach that stupid monster!'
A flash of brightness and pain across her face as the monster delivered a vicious backhanded slap was quite a shock to Tokyo's newest devil hunter, and the resulting flight into a concrete pillar across the store did nothing to reassure her. The fact that she didn't seem to have more than bruises while the column was badly cracked didn't enter the blonde Senshi's mind as she started to cry, bawling her eyes out in front of the enemy.
"Maybe there is something to you after all, girl," said the monster with a small amount of grudging respect as it held its midsection, but that respect vanished a moment later. "That little love tap was all it took to take you down!?! You are absolutely pathetic, little bitch!"
Regardless of the monster, Usagi could do nothing but sob. 'That really HURT!' she thought. 'Why should I be a superhero?'
"Damn," the being that looked vaguely like Naru's mother spat. "You aren't even worth my time." Then, looking around at all of the fallen women, it continued in a strong, loud tone. "Arise, my servants! Arise and destroy that pretender!"
Moon's crying finally began to abate as the women lying scattered about the tile floor began to stir. One by one, the women rose from their prone postures into trance-like zombiedom, and the newest superhero cowered next to the column, petrified.
Luna was pleased with her charge's actions at first, but her face began to sink as first Sailor Moon was backhanded into a pillar, and then more as she watched the Senshi of the Moon start to cry. Embarrassing was the only word to describe her feelings on the matter, but when the youma began to raise and control its victims, the black cat put her feelings aside. Rushing up to Sailor Moon's side, she spoke urgently with the Senshi.
"Sailor Moon!" cried Luna, her voice a mixture of concern and embarrassment. "You must fight it! The youma cannot be allowed to succeed!"
Moon broke off her sobbing fit and looked at the small black cat. "What are you talking about, Luna? I can't even hurt it, and I'm so s- s- sca- SCARED!!"
Almost rolling her eyes, but fortunately keeping herself from the derisive action, Luna replied, "Do you really think that your improved strength and speed is all you have? You must fight them before they kill you! When the time is right, use your 'Moon Tiara Action' attack, and destroy the youma!"
Hesitantly nodding, Moon stood and faced the onrushing crowd of zombified women, and Luna felt some small amount of renewed confidence in her young charge.
Ranma watched the blonde girl in the pervert's wet dream outfit run into what looked like a jewelry store, careful not to get too close. As he crept closer, the former martial artist heard the girl yell, "For love and justice, I'm the sailor suit beautiful girl fighter! Sailor Moon!"
The pigtailed negawarrior almost couldn't keep his laughter contained. 'Who does she think she's kidding?' he thought contemptuously. 'That has to be the stupidest name I've ever heard anyone ever use… And that outfit! Is she TRYING to get raped or something?"
Ranma's mental beration of the girl ground to a halt as the blonde superhero leapt forward and dealt a hard slap to the negaforce-wielding woman followed by a hard kick to her abdomen. 'If this keeps up,' thought Ranma in a more considering tone, 'then I might have to help that negawarrior out…'
All his thoughts of helping the strange, daemonic-looking woman died as she backhanded the odongoed idiot into a concrete pillar. 'Looks like the girl is in over her head,' he thought. 'I guess I don't need to interfere.'
As a small, dark shape ran up to the hapless superhero, Ranma saw something out of the corner of his eye, and he turned to see what it was. A man wearing a tuxedo was leaping from rooftop to rooftop toward the jewelry store, and the former martial artist couldn't help but gape. A tuxedo was hardly the right outfit to use for roof hopping, and as the masked man approached the jewelry store, Ranma began to pay closer attention to the battle within.
Sailor Moon only barely managed to keep herself from dropping to the ground and bawling her eyes out as the women approached, but she knew instinctually that she needed to fight, or Tsukino Usagi would never be heard from again. Glancing about, Moon noticed her fallen friend, still lying on the tiled floor, unconscious. For that, the first Senshi was glad. She didn't want Naru to watch her mother get killed…
At that thought, Usagi gasped. Since when did she think like that?! Some small part of her rebelled at the thought that she could so callously disregard a woman's life, but the vast majority of the new superhero almost shrugged. After all, this was war, and in war sometimes people got hurt… or even killed.
'NO!!!!' Usagi rebelled from the foreign thoughts. 'No one has to die here!'
Finally, after shaking herself from the internal debate, Moon attacked. It wasn't the attack of a hesitant, scared school girl; it was the attack of a warrior, born and bred. She laid into the opposing force with a vengeance, her fists and feet flying. However, each blow was only enough to render that person to full unconsciousness; it was never enough to permanently damage or kill. As the women fell, Sailor Moon gained a satisfied smirk, and this she turned on the youma.
"What the fuck!" cried the monster in disbelief. "How could you go from sobbing baby to this so quickly?! I'll take care of you myself."
Seeming to manipulate the attacking humans as though they were a part of her body, the youma leapt at Sailor Moon as the attackers parted. The superhero stared, wide eyed, at the oncoming monster, but the attack so fully anticipated by the blonde Senshi never came. A rose, pure red and crimson as blood, struck the youma's shoulder, and the female creature went down hard.
"Sailor Moon!" cried a voice from behind, and Usagi whirled to see a masked man in a tuxedo addressing her from a small ledge near the ceiling. "You must never forget that you fight for love and justice! Defeat the youma and all can return to normal!"
With that, Moon spun once more to the youma, and as the creature began to rise from its prone position, she felt it. It was time to use her attack, time to destroy this abomination, this antipode of life.
Moving on pure instinct, Sailor Moon lifted her hand and grasped the jewel at the center of her tiara. "Moon," she began as the jewel glowed and her tiara lifted from her brow. "Tiara." The partial circlet transformed into a glowing disk of pure light, floating above Moon's hand, and the new superhero drew it back for a throw.
"Action!" the Senshi of the Moon finished, and she let the disk fly forth. The youma's eyes widened as the disk of pure energy sailed toward her on a curved trajectory, and she could only scream in agony as it struck, immediately reducing her to dust.
"Great work, Sailor Moon," the masked man in the tuxedo commented as the creature fell away. "I'll remember what happened tonight!"
With that, Usagi watched as the absolute hunk in the tuxedo leapt out of the window and ran into the distance across the rooftops, her eyes becoming twin pink hearts at the sight.
Ranma watched in horrified fascination as the girl's attack killed the female negawarrior, or what ever she was. Of course, his senses were enhanced, and so he realized what the tiara had done.
First, it used some sort of mana-based spell to nullify the woman's shield construct, but Ranma could tell that that particular portion of the spell could only work on a weakened shield. After that, and mana in the spell had interacted with the negaforce in the woman's body, becoming a conduit for all the lifeforce within the immediate surroundings. Considering the amount of negaforce contained in the woman, Ranma was almost green as he watched the ensuing flood of planetary ki flow into the woman, but the explosion Ranma had expected never came. Instead, the woman fell to dust, and Ranma finally perceived the final part of the mana spell: it contained the explosive reaction of lifeforce and negaforce to a molecular level, so reducing the target to dust without causing massive collateral damage.
The teenaged negawarrior shuddered at the attack spell, his blood chilling with the thought of anyone willing to use such a thing against a living being. As he turned away from the scene of carnage, he briefly noted that the masked man that had helped the strange girl was leaping away across the rooftops.
'Oh well,' Ranma thought as he walked away. 'I guess that woman was doing wrong… but did her actions deserve a death sentence? And one so painful…'
Luna was beaming when the possessed women fell once more to the ground, Moon's tiara having killed the youma. After it returned to her brow, Luna rushed forward to congratulate her charge, but the girl paid her no mind, speeding her way to the girl who had fallen early in the battle.
As she reached the unconscious girl's side, Moon spoke. "Luna, can you tell if she will be alright?"
Coming up short and feeling shame at having no concern for this poor girl, Luna briefly used a status spell to scan the fallen red head. "Sailor Moon," she replied after a moment. "She will be alright if she gets medical treatment soon. Her injuries are a broken leg, three broken ribs, and partial asphyxiation, but she seems to be well enough to survive."
Seeing a few tears escape Moon's eyes as she nodded, Luna decided not to press the issue of crying in the face of the enemy with her new charge. It seemed that the girl had had enough for one night.
Still musing, Luna almost missed the Moon Senshi standing and walking to the counter. "What are you doing, Sailor Moon?" she asked, perplexed.
"I'm calling the police," the blonde Senshi replied. "Naru and the others need medical help, and the authorities will know what to do."
Luna swelled with pride at her charge's responsible behavior, but before the new superhero could dial, Luna said, "Sailor Moon, we shouldn't be here when the police arrive. You must keep your identity a secret or the enemy will try to attack your family."
"You're right…" replied Sailor Moon. "I guess I'll just have to settle for visiting Naru tomorrow."
With that, the Senshi of the Moon dialed for the police and told them the situation, minus the youma. After they told her to stay on the line until an officer arrived, Usagi hung up the phone. "Luna," she said in a tired voice. "Let's go home…"
With that, Sailor Moon and her faithful advisor Luna walked away from Osa P, sirens clearly coming nearer.
Ranma practically collapsed into the booth the cute, red haired waitress led him to, his mind reeling with the brutality of Sailor Moon's final attack. 'Well,' he supposed. 'I guess it wouldn't look so brutal if I hadn't watched it with my enhanced senses. I would have simply looked like that woman fell to dust after screaming, but watching it like I did…'
The young man's dark musings continued until he perceived a hand waving in front of his face. Startled, he looked up at the girl who'd led him to the table.
"Are you alright?" she asked hesitantly.
Ranma took a moment to compose himself before answering. "Yeah," he finally said, thought certain that the slight green pallor of his face had not gone away. "I'll be alright."
"Seriously," replied the waitress. "You look awful. Would you like to talk about it?"
The pigtailed negawarrior considered the question. Most assuredly he would like to discuss the matter, but he didn't think the girl would understand. Finally, Ranma answered, "No. I think it would be better if I just got my mind on something else." Managing to affix a smile on his face, he introduced himself. "Name's Ranma."
The red haired waitress smiled at him and extended a hand in greeting, seemingly happy at her customer's achievement of happiness. "I'm Unazuki," she smiled back, and they shook quickly.
"Well, Ranma," Unazuki continued. "What can I get you tonight?"
Glancing quickly at the menu, Ranma replied, "How 'bout a triple cheese burger plate?"
Smiling, the red haired waitress said, "Coming right up! Do you want something to drink?"
"A chocolate shake."
"Alright," Unazuki said as she walked away, and Ranma returned to his musing.
An indeterminate amount of time later, the pigtailed man was once more returned to the real world by a hand flashing across his eyes.
"Hey!" called an annoyed Unazuki. "This is the second time tonight I've had to revive someone and your second time as well! Is there something going on out there that I don't know about?"
Shaken, Ranma hesitantly replied, "N- no. Nothing that I can think of."
Her smile brightened the booth, and Ranma finally noticed that his dinner and shake, along with a vanilla shake for the girl sitting opposite him, sat on the table. Digging in with a gusto, Ranma began to talk to his booth-mate. By the end of the night, the most recent addition to the Dark Kingdom's negawarrior roster had made a fast friend of the cute, red ponytailed waitress.
Usagi walked home slowly, not yet having released the magic that had transformed her into Sailor Moon. Behind her, Luna chattered unintelligibly to the blonde superhero. The newest Senshi's mind was entirely focused on the battle and the ensuing condition of Naru, her heart heavy with worry for her friend.
During the fight, it seemed that she could ignore all her injuries, but slamming into a concrete pillar with the force of a speeding train had hurt her even through her Senshi armor, though she hadn't felt it at the time due to the adrenaline. As she slowly moved from worry about Naru to concern for her own wounds, she felt where the creature had cracked her ribs in that horrific backhand.
The pain was intense, and Usagi felt her eyes begin to tear up as she realized just how severe the damage was. 'How did I fight like this?' she asked herself as the pain of cracked ribs, intensified by the healing nature of her fuku, began to seep into her brain in earnest. 'This really, REALLY hurts."
The cuts and bruises across the rest of her body paled in comparison to the feeling of her ribs mending themselves as she walked, and Moon felt herself slump against a lamp post, the latest of Luna's words finally seeping into her conscious mind.
"Sailor Moon!" she said with great concern. "Are you alright?"
Usagi assessed her condition dispassionately, entirely the soldier that her transformation had changed her into. "I'll be fine, Luna," she answered in a voice devoid of emotion. "I have a few cracked ribs and some bruising, but it it'll be healed by morning."
Moon could almost feel the black cat's hesitation while it processed that information, and her voice continued as a whisper. "Alright, Sailor Moon," she said in a voice almost overwhelmed with emotion. "We need to get you home so that you can rest."
Nodding absently, Usagi continued on her trek toward bed.
Ranma lay on his bedroll, his mind wandering. Dinner had been good, and the company had been better. As his mind drifted toward Unazuki, warm feelings encompassed his mind. 'She's even in the same year as me… at least when I start school…' he thought in his half dreaming state.
After nearly half an hour of musing, something occurred to Ranma. 'Awww, crap… I never signaled Nephrite!"
In his sleep-fogged brain, Ranma formed the beacon construct and briefly powered it, sending a call out to Nephrite including location and, unbeknownst to him, his status and current condition.
'Good enough,' Ranma thought as he drifted off to sleep. 'Good enough…'
Luna watched as her new charge dropped onto her bed, still transformed for healing purposes. Sailor Moon had done well tonight; at least, that was Luna's opinion on the whole matter. Despite the crying fit, Usagi had performed admirably and destroyed a youma. Certainly, they had caused a major setback to the plans of the enemy.
"Sailor Moon," she said to the prone form on the bed. "You did very well tonight."
An indeterminate response came from the figure sprawled on top of the sheets, and Luna decided to continue. "I know that the youma will become stronger, but I also remember that we will get some help. You aren't the only Sailor Senshi, Sailor Moon."
This time there was no response, and Luna began to hear the familiar sound of quiet snoring coming from the bed, 'Alright,' she thought patiently, almost indulgently. 'You've had a long night, Usagi, and you should rest. However," she continued, a harder tone touching the black cat's thoughts. 'This was only the opening battle. Be ready for things to get harder, Sailor Moon. Much harder.'
To be continued.
Author's notes: Oh… My… God… At fifteen thousand words, this is the longest posting I've ever written, and it is part one of (currently) seven for the current chapter! Maybe I should explain: this chapter was originally slated to have three parts, but when I got to about page seventeen of this part, I decided that I needed to re-evaluate my partitioning. I mean, this was originally only one third of the first part of chapter three!! Since then, I've changed the partitioning to include a full seven parts. Please note, this fic is slated to have eight chapters, a prologue, and an epilogue. This will not change, but the number of parts per chapter has changed and may yet again. Be forewarned that the projected length of this fic continues to grow even as I write it…
Okay, I'm certain I've gotten a few people mad with my callous depiction of Moon's thoughts during the battle. Here's my explanation: the Senshi are, by definition (or translation) soldiers, and their transformed minds would perceive situations as soldiers. The canon Sailor Moon series did this with the Outers, but the inners thought more like idealistic little girls than the battle hardened warriors they were supposed to be. In this fic I will remedy this, but that doesn't mean that any of the Senshi have to like it…
Another possible point of contention will be Ranma's description of the Moon Tiara Action attack. This is not to say that Ranma truly understands how the attack works, but that his construct enhanced senses can perceive the effects of mana, lifeforce, and negaforce. In this case, his explanation is accurate in that he saw the mana cause certain effects on the lifeforce and negaforce in the area and made the right deductions.
I now have two new pre-readers in addition to Malichite helping me with the fic now: DarkJackel and Pale Wolf. Thanks guys, I appreciate all the support and commentary.
In all my research on the series, I couldn't find Naru's mother's name, so I named her Kiiroko. I'm not sure why I chose 'brown girl' as her name, but there you have it. Umishi Ichiro is a completely original character, and once again, I'm not certain why Ranma's apartment manager would be named 'first son of the dead sea'. I did a fair amount of research to write this chapter, including looking up maps of Tokyo so that I knew the various spatial relationships between the wards and areas and looking up prices on apartments in the Tokyo area. Scary part is, the pricing in this part is pretty accurate, and the dollar has fallen in comparison to the yen so much that a yen is almost worth a penny. That means that in the current economy, a good, unfurnished two bedroom in Tokyo would cost $4000 a month!
This is probably indicative of the chapter length from now on, so my update time may be impaired. Please forgive me for the time between chapters; between work and school I'm amazed that I have any time at all to write. Later all.
If you've read this far, you can read my strange entomology solution of this chapter. I have found the root of all western modesty in the word embarrass. First, remove the prefix 'em'. Then you have: imbue with a bare ass. Hence, no one wants to be displayed with a naked buttocks, so we have the root of all western modesty: embarrass. Just my little corner of the fanfic world; don't get too close or you'll fall irreparably into the gutter as well.
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