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.
Chapter Three: Dreaming in Moonlight
Part Three: Dark Leader
Luna looked over her charge as she slept, still in her transformed state to heal the injuries of the previous day. The blonde Senshi slept fitfully, obviously having a nightmare as she tossed and turned, and even with her transformed state's improved healing, she still bore the scars from a day of serious fighting. Luna had expected the battle to be bad, but this was well beyond what even she thought the Dark Kingdom would be capable of in such a short time.
The fortuneteller youma was bad, and the riot it caused had shut down access to several parts of the ward. Over one hundred people had been arrested due to the rioting, and the property damage was estimated to be in the millions of yen, according to the late news report Ikuko had watched.
Still, the second youma was worse, and that battle had pushed Usagi nearly to the breaking point. Between forcing those children to attack her and taking control of her brother, Moon had been badly hurt both physically and psychologically. Even though the bloody bite marks on her thigh and shoulder were nothing more than white lines and bruises now, the marks on Usagi's innocent mind were still quite fresh. 'I'll have to keep a close eye on her for the next few days,' thought the small black guardian. 'This could have further reaching effects than I'd like.'
Sighing, the moon cat glanced at her charge's alarm clock, reading the time as three thirty in the morning. 'Well,' she thought. 'I should probably head over the communicator with central now if I'm going to be here when Usagi wakes up.'
With that thought, Luna padded over to the window, and with a deft swipe of a forepaw, she unlatched it. Nosing the window open, the black cat stole down the roof of the Tsukino residence and made her way to the street. At this time of night, little stirred in Usagi's neighborhood, and Luna had no trouble making her way through the pools of light and shadow cast by the street lamps to the small commercial area where the Crown Game Center stood.
As she approached the locked doors of the Game Center, Luna sub-vocalized the activation words for a spell she imbedded in the entryway when she set up the terminal, and with a shimmer, the lower glass on the right door vanished just long enough for her small black form to pass. Luna stole silently between the various arcade machines, seeking the one with the small addition of a crystal-matrix transceiver, and when she spotted the Sailor V game, she hopped up on the consol and again sub-vocalized an activation phrase, one to activate the transceiver's energy conversion system. The monitor on the game winked on, but nothing resembling the Sailor V game appeared on the screen.
"This is Luna, Moon Guardian, reporting in," she whispered to the blank screen. "Authorization Crescent five two three, standard report."
A voice, monotone and masculine, replied, "Authorization accepted. Please make your report, Guardian Luna."
"Matters are worse than we expected," Luna informed the machine. "In the past two days, Sailor Moon has defeated a total of three Dark Kingdom youma, and I still do not feel a lessening of negaforce use in the city. They are moving faster than we thought."
"Yes," answered the terminal in the same monotone voice. "Similar reports of increased Dark Kingdom activity are coming in from other listening posts."
When central didn't continue, Luna stated, "I'm not certain how long Sailor Moon can continue to handle these situations alone. Her healing is not quite keeping up with the level of damage the youma have caused her, and I'm still not certain of the psychological damage. We need more Senshi!"
Luna fell silent as the terminal processed again, but it was not good news that she heard when it replied. "The timetable for activating the other Senshi cannot be accelerated any further, and our other agents are working constantly to aid Sailor Moon. You must continue as you are."
Luna gritted her teeth at the reply, but she forced her tumultuous emotions down at the unhappy but not unexpected reply. "Very well," she said. "But please, hurry."
"We are moving at maximum pace," answered the maddeningly emotionless voice. "Central out."
With that, the screen went blank, and Luna hung her head. As she made her way back to Usagi's home, her mind strove to find a way to help her young charge, but nothing came to her.
Ranma relaxed as the hot water cascaded over his body, rinsing the soap away in preparation for the day. Considering how long he was in China without such modern conveniences, even as simple a pleasure as a hot shower was heaven for the young negawarrior. Standing under the warm spray a few minutes longer than actually necessary, he considered the previous day. 'That riot was a bit over the top,' he thought. 'Maybe I should get Nephrite to tell me a little more about what's going on.'
Shutting off the water, Ranma snagged a towel from the nearby rack and quickly dried himself, the sound of knocking from the front door of the apartment making his actions more urgent. As he stepped out of the bathroom, he called out, "Just a minute!" to the door and raced into his room. Quickly dressing in his usual Chinese clothing, the blue tang today, he ran to the door and opened it.
"Yes?" he asked the bored-looking delivery man beyond.
"I got your furniture," he said in a voice that made it clear he didn't particularly like his job. "Just mark your name here and tell me where you want it."
Ranma quickly scribed the kanji for his name on the proffered clip board and replied, "This is the livingroom, and the bedrooms are the two doors in the back."
The delivery man nodded to the pigtailed boy and walked back toward the stairs, but before he could leave, Ranma called out, "I have to get to school, so can you lock up after you finish?"
"Yeah, kid," the man replied, raising a hand. "No problem."
Nodding to his back, Ranma returned to his room long enough to snag his school bag and hide the book Nephrite lent him, and as he was leaving, he saw the delivery men returning with the first piece of furniture for the apartment. Shrugging, he made his way to the elevator and, ultimately, Juuban High.
Shoulders slumped and head down, Gurio Umino slowly made his way toward school, his actions of the previous day weighing heavily on his mind. The evidence of the riot he'd helped to cause was all around him, and the reminders were troubling to the young man's heart. How could he have caused so much damage, acted so callously?
As he made his way through the damaged commercial district, his mind wandered back to the fortune teller, her eyes blazing red in his mind. He still wasn't sure what she had done to him, but what ever it was, he had acted atrociously.
Worse yet, he remembered in vivid detail how he had stolen a kiss from Usagi, the hurt in her eyes still fresh in his mind. The information dealer stopped for a moment to gather his thoughts, still trying to wrap his mind around his own actions.
'Usagi,' he thought forlornly, 'I'm so sorry. I'll make it up to you somehow….'
Continuing on his way, he could see several other students from Juuban Junior High also making their way toward school, but none of them paid him any mind. For that he was glad; the last thing he wanted was attention regarding the previous day's activities.
Glancing briefly at his watch, he decided that he had time to stop by one of his information drops on the way to school, and he turned off the main road into a nearby alley, heading for the drop. Tendo Nabiki tended to keep her orders to the network fairly clandestine, and he was expected to check her drop at least once a day. Since that drop was the only one that he absolutely had to check, he decided that it would be the one. Besides, it was on the way.
Winding his way through the alleys behind the commercial district, he quickly found the drop, an innocuous-looking black mailbox on the back of one particular store. Obviously, the owner of the store must owe Tendo-sama if he had the box, or perhaps she paid him to maintain it. Either way, Umino had never had any trouble with this particular drop.
Opening the mailbox, he pulled three slips of paper from inside, and as he continued on his way, he thumbed his way through them.
'Gambling odds…' he thought as he looked at the first. 'Not really useful for a Junior High, but I might be able to collect a few bets on this one. Lemme see… Odds on Furinkan fights, speculation about changes in the school uniforms in Shinjuku, and something about the frequency of lightning strikes in Tomobiki… Not much to work with there, but I'll give it some thought….'
If nothing else, Umino was glad that thinking about "work" would distract him from his own worries, and he continued to pour over the dispatches with the second piece of paper. Of course, nothing ever did keep him distracted from his unhappiness for long.
'An information request for anything about the riot yesterday…' he thought glumly. 'And a cash bonus for anyone with anything good… I can't cash in on my actions, really, but maybe I can write a report like I saw it happening. I mean, I could really use the extra cash to buy something for Usagi.'
His thoughts traveling down a sadder path, he moved on to the third and final piece of paper, instantly noting that it was marked urgent and direct from Tendo-sama herself. Opening it quickly, his eyes widened at the words written there. 'This is big!' he thought excitedly. 'This could bring a lot of profit potential into Juuban, but I'll have to move quickly if I want a piece of it. Too bad it's happening at the high school….'
Sliding all three dispatches into his pocket, Umino returned to the main road and hurried toward school, his mind considering how he could turn this new information to his advantage and maybe gain Tendo-sama's attention.
Unazuki was just exiting the coffee shop across from Juuban High when she caught sight of a pigtailed form racing toward the school gate. Smiling, she called out, "Morning, Ranma!"
The pigtailed boy smiled as he replied in kind, slowing to fall into step beside the redhead. "How's it going?" he asked cheerfully.
"Not bad," she replied. "What about you? Did you hear about the riot last night? I can't believe something like that could happen in Juuban!"
"I'm fine," he answered, his voice turning a bit darker. "I'm just glad that it stayed away from my apartment building."
"Yeah," said Unazuki in a more reserved tone. "I'm glad it stayed clear of the Crown, too."
With that, they settled into a companionable silence, walking toward their class. 'He's so nice,' thought the ponytailed girl, smiling. 'And he looks good, too. Maybe I can go over to his place today….' With that thought, her cheeks turned a bit rosy.
As they settled into their seats about five minutes before class, Unazuki noticed an unfamiliar student in the room, but it was too close to the beginning of class to investigate further, she decided. A glance at Ranma, sitting to her right, showed that the pigtailed boy hadn't even noticed yet.
'Oh well,' she thought as Hinako-sensei entered the room in her child form. 'I'm sure Hinako-sensei will ask any new students to introduce themselves.'
Usagi sat in her seat, mulling over the events of the previous day. The riot alone had been over the top, but to have faced two youma as well…? She could still feel her injuries from fighting the fortuneteller youma, and she still had bruises from fighting the pet shop youma and the children it controlled. That fight particularly bothered her, especially since one of the children was her brother. In her reverie, she almost missed Haruna-sensei's exhausted entry, but when she heard the teacher speak, the blonde-haired girl put aside her own concerns.
"Free… study… today," the teacher mumbled, and before anyone could say another word, she lay her head down on the desk in front of her, immediately fast asleep.
The sometime superhero stared at her teacher, eyes wide with worry and concern. This was the third day in a row that Hinako had been increasingly tired at school, and this time she didn't even try to call for attendance… Whatever this was, it was bad, and Usagi resolved to follow her teacher after school was over.
Trying to clear her mind of worry, Usagi glanced about the classroom. Most of the students still didn't realize that something was really wrong with their teacher, just glad of their good fortune at three days in a row with no school work, but she caught a few worried looks in some of the other girls' faces. The pony tailed teenager glanced forlornly at the seat next to her, but she could draw no comfort from Naru's empty seat. The redhead was still in the hospital, and Usagi was terribly worried for friend's mother, as well.
Suddenly, a tap on her shoulder caused the blonde girl to jump in her seat, and when she turned, she saw Umino standing next to her desk. Her anger at the boy tried to flare up, but the remorseful, scared look in his eyes coupled with his slight gulp of nervousness quelled her anger to some degree. Trying to remember that he was under the influence of a youma the day before, she spoke to him in a voice slightly warmer than ice. "What do you want, Umino?"
It was obvious from the look in his eyes that her tone bothered the boy, and her heart almost went out to him, conflicting with her memories of the previous day.
"U-Usagi-san…" he began, his voice a hoarse, tiny whisper. "I-I'm so, so very… sorry for what I did yesterday. P-Please for-forgive me…."
Making certain to focus on the fact that he was being influenced rather than her memories of him stealing her first kiss, Usagi managed to curb her remaining anger at the nerdish information broker. "It's… it's all right, Umino-kun," she replied, her tone warming slightly at his definitely heartfelt apology. "You really weren't acting like yourself yesterday, so I forgive you."
Tears glistened in the boy's eyes, but surprisingly, they did not fall. "Th-thank you, Usagi-san," he continued, his tremulous voice somewhat stronger. "I know an apology doesn't make it right, but I'll find some way to make it up to you, I swear."
Before Usagi could reply, Umino turned away and rushed back to his seat, and the blonde couldn't help but look at his back for a moment. 'He really was being controlled,' she thought. 'I can forgive him much easier than I can forgive the youma that caused the whole thing.'
Ranma had been practicing shield constructs without powering them when Hinako-sensei's childish voice called out, "All right everyone, it's time for class."
Looking up and abandoning his latest bit of construct speed practice, Ranma noted that a new girl was standing at the front of the class. Assuming that this was the standard introduction ritual so common with a new student, the pigtailed negawarrior decided to go ahead and pay attention. Besides, the girl was kind of cute, her blue-black hair hanging to the small of her back.
"Class," Hinako continued. "We have a new student today. She transferred from Furinkan High over in Nerima, and I would appreciate everyone being nice to her." Turning to the new student, she asked, "Would you care to introduce yourself to the class."
The new girl smiled at everyone in general, her face practically outshining the fluorescent lights above. "Hello everyone," she said in a pleasant voice. "My name is Tendo Akane. I'm pleased to meet all of you."
Hearing her name, something pinged in the back of Ranma's mind, but he couldn't quite remember what was so important. 'I'm sure I've heard that name before,' he thought, wracking his brain for an answer. 'No, that's not quite right. Still, something is familiar about that name.'
"Thank you, Tendo-san," he heard Hinako say. He watched her briefly look at a seating chart on her desk before continuing, pointing a finger at the empty desk to the pigtailed boy's right. "You may take a seat there, next to Saotome-san. He's new to this school, as well."
Akane's face flashed in a brief frown of thought before she made her way to the indicated desk, and Ranma continued to try to figure out why her name seemed so familiar as Hinako-sensei began to take roll.
As lunch period rolled around, Tendo Akane walked back toward her classroom from the food counter bearing a purchased lunch. She thought briefly about her sister Kasumi's wonderful cooking, but the dark-haired girl didn't allow herself to dwell on things she wouldn't be enjoying for a while. All in all, it was a trade-off she could live with, since she wouldn't have to deal with the hentai horde and that moron here at Juuban High. Akane was definitely grateful to Nabiki for getting her out of that situation.
When she sat once more in her seat, she briefly spied the black-haired boy who sat next to her, and once again the Tendo daughter wracked her brain as to why his name was so familiar. 'I know I've heard his name before,' she thought vexedly, 'but I just can't remember where… I hate it when this happens to me!'
Her first reaction to the idea of sitting next to a boy at her new school was mentally violent, considering why she transferred. However, one of her sister Nabiki's conditions about getting her a place to stay in Juuban had been that she try to curb her temper regarding the opposite sex, and she now applied all her meager willpower to the task. Besides, the boy sitting next to her had not so much as thrown a perverted glace her way… yet.
Before her thoughts could continue down that annoying path, a cheery voice broke through her concentration. "Hi!" greeted the redhead she recognized as the girl assigned the desk on the other side of Ranma as she dropped into the empty seat in front of Akane. "My name is Furuhata Unazuki."
Akane, putting aside her mental delving for the moment, smiled at the other girl and reintroduced herself. "I'm Tendo Akane," she replied. "Pleased to meet you."
Almost belatedly, the boy still sitting next to her continued the introductions, looking almost like someone had kicked him to get his attention on the moment. "Oh, sorry," Ranma said, a somewhat embarrassed smile resting on his face. "I'm Saotome Ranma. Pleased ta meetcha."
With the introductions out of the way, the three highschoolers began to eat their lunches, and Akane blinked at the sheer speed at which Ranma devoured his food. "Whoa…" she muttered under her breath, then looking at Unazuki, she asked, "Does he always eat like that?"
With a wry grin and a shake of her head, the redhead replied, "Well, I've only known him for a couple of days, but yeah, I think so."
By then, Ranma had finished his lunch, and he defensively told the two girls, "Hey, a martial artist has to eat. Besides, it's pretty good speed training."
Akane brightened immediately at the mention of martial arts, though cringing a bit mentally, remembering the fights at her old school, and forgetting the amazing display of speed eating, she asked him, "So you practice martial arts? Maybe we can spar some time."
"Sounds like fun," Ranma answered, favoring her with a grin. To Akane's relief he didn't immediately challenge her to a duel to date her, and the dark-haired girl continued to remind herself that Kuno had never made that stupid speech to the boys at Juuban.
Before the conversation could progress into a more esoteric martial arts discussion, Unazuki broke in, changing the subject. "So Akane," she asked in a cheery, inquisitive tone. "Why did you transfer to Juuban? Nerima's only just across Tokyo, after all."
Akane considered not telling her new friends about what was happening at Furinkan, but she decided it would serve no purpose to hide her reasons. "Well," the dark-haired girl began. "I don't know if you'd believe me if I told you, to be honest."
At this point, Ranma spoke, his tone now curious. "Try us. Trust me, it can't be weirder than my life before coming here."
Akane gave the boy a quizzical look, but she let the comment drop, replying, "Okay, you asked for it. Every morning, somewhere between twenty and forty guys from the sports teams at Furinkan would challenge me, all at once. They thought if they could beat me that I'd go out with them."
The growing expressions of incredulity and confusion on her two listeners' faces told Akane that they didn't quite believe her story, but before she could try to convince them, Ranma asked, "What the heck gave them the idea that you'd go out with them if they beat you?!"
Very happy with the pigtailed boy's response, Akane continued her story. "Well, at the beginning of the school year, Furinkan had a speech contest. One of the contestants, a moronic sempai named Kuno Tatewaki, made a speech telling all the boys at Furinkan that he would 'not permit anyone to date with Tendo Akane unless they have defeated her in combat.'" In that last part, Akane tried to imitate Kuno's voice, resulting in amused chuckles from her new friends.
"This Kuno guy sounds like a real headcase," Ranma said as his laughter subsided. "Why the heck did anyone listen to him, anyway?"
Becoming a bit more serious, Akane answered, "Well, he comes from a really old samurai family with lots of money, so he gets to be 'eccentric' rather than insane. He just lives in his own world where he is the 'noble' samurai."
Shaking her head, Unazuki said, "Well, no one would take that seriously at this high school, so you won't have to worry about that here. Besides, Hinako-sensei would put a stop to something like that real quick. Let's talk about something else…."
Even though school was ending, Usagi didn't leave her desk. Though most of the other students had already left for their homes or after school activities, the sometime superhero watched her teacher intently, the brown-haired woman still sleeping at her desk with her head pillowed on her arms. Usagi couldn't help worrying more and more about Haruna-sensei as the teacher slept the afternoon away, and the blonde wondered what could possibly tire the teacher so much.
Suddenly, a beeping sound came from the sleeping woman, and Haruna stirred. Almost holding her breath, Usagi watched as the teacher stretched and ran her hands through her hair, straightening the rumpled brown locks. Standing quickly, Usagi approached the teacher's desk, but before she got there, Haruna spoke in a surprised and seemingly fairly refreshed voice. "Usagi? What on earth are you still doing here?"
"Um…" Usagi began, unsure of her words. "Haruna-sensei, you've given us free study and slept through school for three days straight now. That's not like you, and I'm really worried. Is something wrong?"
Smiling at the blonde student, Haruna replied, "Nothing's really wrong, Usagi-chan, but thank you for asking. I've been going to the gym at night lately, and it's really tiring me out. But maybe you're right; I need to get a hold of myself and stop this before I get fired for sleeping on the job."
Even though the teacher's words were reassuring, Usagi, for some reason, just didn't believe what the brown-haired woman was saying. Something in Haruna's tone told the blonde girl that her teacher actually couldn't help continuing to go to that gym, and Usagi resolved to follow the woman until she got to the bottom of the matter.
As Haruna gathered a few papers from the desk and inserted them into her bag, Usagi spoke with what she hoped sounded like relief and trust in her voice. "That's good, Haruna-sensei. I was just worried about you."
"Well," the brown-haired woman replied, smiling. "Don't worry. I'll be back to my normal self tomorrow, so don't be late, Usagi-chan."
Usagi nodded to her teacher and left the classroom, a quick "See you tomorrow, Haruna-sensei," cast over her shoulder as she walked away. The blonde teenager quickly made her way out of the school, and spying Luna waiting in the schoolyard, she motioned for the cat to follow her.
As she got into a position where she could see Haruna's car, Usagi slipped her hand into her pocket, grasping the disguise pen. Whispering "Disguise Power," the blonde girl's form shimmered and shifted, becoming the image of a young woman with short black hair, jeans, and a tee-shirt that Usagi concentrated on in her mind.
"Usagi," came Luna's whispered voice from behind her. "What are you doing?"
Without turning from her vigil on Haruna's car, the black-haired girl answered in a voice entirely unlike Usagi's usual soprano, an almost husky contra-alto purr. "Haruna-sensei has been acting weird for the past three days, and I think something's really wrong. Like Dark Kingdom wrong."
"Hmm," replied the moon cat in a thoughtful tone. "That would be just about right for when the attacks began."
"Yep, and—" Usagi began, but the appearance of her target in a red women's business suit cut her off. "Shh, here she comes."
Usagi and Luna watched as Haruna got into her car, and they were hot on her trail as the teacher drove away.
Ranma, Unazuki, and Akane walked out of their classroom as school ended for the day, and as they approached the front doors, Akane said, "I have a few more things I need to do to finish my transfer, guys. Sorry, but I have to take care of this. See you tomorrow."
The blue-black-haired girl smiled and waved at her new friends before diverting her course toward the school office, and the remaining boy and girl replied in kind, waving to the new transfer student.
After the youngest Tendo daughter disappeared into the office, Unazuki turned to Ranma. "You hungry?" she asked, but before he could answer she smiled mischievously at him and continued. "Never mind. You're always hungry."
With a look that even the redhead could tell was mock-hurt, Ranma replied, "Hey! I'm not always hungry!" The hurt tone vanished as he mumbled the rest of his statement, drawing a laugh from his female companion. "Just most of the time…"
With a bright, cheery smile, Unazuki suggested, "Well, let's go over the Parlor for a snack. I don't have to work today, but free food is always good, right?"
Smiling back at her, the black-haired teen answered, "You got that right. Let's go!"
The two high school students made their way from Juuban High to the Crown Parlor in companionable silence, but as they came in sight of their destination, Unazuki asked, "Hey Ranma, where is your apartment, anyway?"
Absently, the pigtailed boy responded. "'Bout two blocks down and one block to the right of your restaurant. Why do ya wanna know?"
"Oh," she said innocently. "Just curious. What number?"
"Eleven-oh-five," Ranma said, again answering automatically, at least, until his brain caught up with his mouth. "Hang on a sec. Unazuki, you shouldn't just drop by; I haven't introduced you to my guardian yet."
A mischievous smile played over the redhead's lips as she maneuvered Ranma to a particular decision. "Well, then why don't we go to your place after we eat and you can introduce me?"
"Well, he isn't always there, ya know," Ranma tried to dodge, his nervous tone giving his evasion away. "We'd probably miss him, actually."
"Ah, checking won't hurt," Unazuki persisted, and a brief glance at Ranma's face told her that she'd prevailed. "Don't worry, Ranma. I'm told I'm very likable, don't you think?"
If bringing her home to his apartment had made Ranma nervous, this question seemed to terrify the pigtailed boy, and Unazuki decided to give her friend a break and relented after he stood there stuttering at her for a few seconds, his hand scratching behind his head in embarrassment. "Don't worry about it, Ranma," she soothed him, smiling to show that it was all right. "Besides, we're here."
Indeed, as she said, the two entered the Crown Game Center, but before they could make their way up to the Parlor, they were intercepted by Unazuki's older brother, Motoki. He was a college freshman with short blond hair and bishonen looks that drove most of Unazuki's friends wild, exasperating the redhaired girl no end.
"Hey, imouto-chan," greeted the elder boy, then he turned to his sister's escort. "And I think Unazuki introduced you as Ranma, right? How are you two doing today?"
"Well," the redhead answered before Ranma could open his mouth. She knew that Motoki wouldn't have stopped her if something wasn't up. "School's out and we were going to get a snack up in the Parlor."
At the blonde man's slight change in expression, Unazuki barely stopped herself from wincing. "Well, mom was looking for you," he said, his change in tone telling Unazuki exactly what she didn't want to hear, and his words confirmed his tone a moment later. "I think a couple of the servers called in sick today, so I bet mom will want you to work."
The impulse to grab Ranma's hand and bolt was strong, but Unazuki was a very responsible girl. Instead, she turned to Ranma and said, "Well, I guess we'll have to take a rain check on our plans for the afternoon, Ranma. Sorry."
The dark-haired teen smiled reassuringly to Unazuki, though the girl could also see some relief in his eyes at not having to take her home, and replied, "Don't worry about it. If you have to work, you have to work."
"Well," Unazuki said, hoping that Ranma couldn't see her disappointment. "I can still offer you that snack, anyway." With that, she usured Ranma up the stairs to the Parlor.
Crouched in an alley across the street from Haruna's apartment, a black-haired young woman conversed with a black cat as she watched for the teacher's departure. "Luna," she asked in a deep purring voice. "We've been so busy fighting since you gave me my brooch that I don't know anything about our enemy."
"I guess I should tell you what I know about them, Usagi," the cat replied, keeping her tone low but avoiding an actual whisper. "However, my memory is not very good after being in cryo-sleep for about twenty thousand years."
Usagi looked at her moon guardian in surprise, exclaiming, "Twenty thousand years?! This conflict is that old?!"
"Keep your voice down!" Luna replied in a growling hiss. "We don't want to attract attention!"
Nodding to her guardian, the black-haired girl continued in a low voice. "But still, I really need to know more about this."
Nodding, Luna spoke. "At that time, all of the planets in the solar system were inhabited, and all of them were ruled from Terra's moon by Queen Serenity. She was a kind and wise ruler, and all the people were happy under her watchful gaze. However, it seemed that a nation from another universe, a place filled with nothing but evil called the Negaverse, wanted to conquer the solar system and destroy the Silver Millennium. This Dark Kingdom attacked and destroyed everything in its path, and in the end, Queen Serenity had to use her power to seal the evil away in its own realm, giving her life in the process. She sent the souls of the most powerful warriors of her court, the Senshi, into the future so that they could be reborn to counter the threat of the Dark Kingdom when it finally broke the seal, and you are one of those warriors, reincarnated to fight the evil that has now broken free."
Luna paused at that point to assess the impact of her story on her young charge, but through the disguise field, the moon cat couldn't tell what Usagi was thinking. The moon cat knew that there was something important she was forgetting, something off about her story, but she just couldn't remember what that could be, though she wracked her brain for the answer.
"I see," Usagi said cautiously. "So the Dark Kingdom is trying to take over the solar system again, and I have to stop them. What about the other Senshi?"
"I asked Central about them," Luna replied, "and they are trying to reawaken them as quickly as possible. In the meantime, we have to do everything we can to stop the Dark Kingdom until the others arrive."
Nodding to Luna, the moon cat decided to let her charge think about the story in silence for a time, and she returned to her vigil over the teacher's home.
Happily full, Ranma bid Unazuki farewell and walked out of the Crown Center, headed for his apartment. With the light breeze coming in from over Tokyo Bay, the day was extremely pleasant, and the former martial artist couldn't think of a more enjoyable way to spend it than walking out in the sun and wind. 'Well,' he admitted in his mind. 'It would be more pleasant with company.'
While he was a bit confused about his feelings, he knew that he really liked spending time with Unazuki, and the pigtailed teenager was now very much regretting that she had to work. Shrugging the feeling away, he realized that he had already arrived at his building, and walking into the elevator, he resolved to open up the windows of his apartment and relax for a while, studying the book Nephrite had given him. However, his original plan vanished when he opened the door to his home. On the new black leather sofa sat Nephrite himself.
Taking in the living room's transformation briefly, Ranma greeted his teacher. 'Hey, Nephrite," he said, casually dropping his school bag next to the door. Once he slipped off his shoes and dropped into the matching, plush leather chair facing the dark general, he asked, "Take care of everything in the Dark Kingdom?"
Smiling at his student, Nephrite replied, "Not all of it, but I figured I'd check up on you. How are you doing with that book?"
"It's working all right," Ranma stated. "But just like when I was learning the Art from my pop, learning from a manual isn't as good as learning from a person. I skimmed through the shield construct section, and I've been practicing the speed-form techniques. That's about it."
Nephrite nodded, approval obvious on his face. "Unfortunately, I can't stay long," the dark-haired negawarrior said. "I still have a few more things to take care of in the Kingdom, but I should be able to get back to teaching you tomorrow."
Ranma cracked a smile at the thought of once again learning from the older negawarrior and replied, "That'll be great."
Shifting to a more comfortable sitting position on the couch, Nephrite spoke again. "Since it's pretty inevitable that you're going to see some battles, let me give you some background on who's fighting."
Ranma listened intently as Nephrite told him about youma, negawarriors, negalytes, and the Senshi who were their enemies. "Our soldiers, the youma, negalytes, and, of course, negawarriors, all use the annihilation power I've taught you to power constructs and fight. I know you've seen enough battles so far to see some youma, but there is no set form that a youma takes, unlike a human. To most people, a youma looks like some kind of daemon, but they are actually the native denizens of the Negaverse.
"Negalytes are actually a hybrid race created when either a youma and a human procreate or when a negawarrior begins to succumb to the effects of negaforce use. However, the negalyte race has been around longer than living memory, even in the Dark Kingdom. I'm going to assume you already know enough about negawarriors, considering you are one."
Nephrite paused, but Ranma gestured for him to continue, no questions presenting themselves to his mind. "Our major opponents on Terra are the Senshi," Nephrite continued. "The Senshi here today are the reincarnations of the strongest warriors from the Moon Kingdom, our ancient enemy. My understanding is limited, but as I learned about it, they use mana-based magic powered by a celestial body, usually a planet, through a mana bind. And don't ask me to explain that answer because I don't really understand it myself. I never had the interest or talent to use mana-based magic, and I don't really understand much beyond how to use constructs to counter it."
"So what you're saying," Ranma asked for clarification, "is that Sailor Moon uses power drawn from the moon?"
"In a nutshell," Nephrite answered. "In any case, you are definitely not skilled enough with negaforce to take on any Senshi yet, Ranma. You'll just get your ass handed to you, and I'd hate to see my best student die before his time."
"I know, I know," Ranma returned, somewhat exasperated by Nephrite's continuous warnings. Snapping his fingers as he suddenly remembered something, he said, "Oh yeah! I almost forgot; I need you to drop by my school pretty soon. They want to finalize my transfer with my guardian."
Nephrite nodded to the younger negawarrior, replying, "No problem. I'm going by the name Sanjouin Masato with normal people, by the way." His expression became a wry smirk as he continued with "Nephrite just doesn't seem like a common name."
"Works for me, Masato," Ranma replied, smirking back. "I just need you to stop by the school before the end of next week. They won't let me go any more if you don't."
Nephrite nodded, saying, "No problem; I'll do it tomorrow morning. If there isn't anything else, I need to get back to the Kingdom."
"Nope," Ranma shook his head. "I'll see ya later."
Nephrite nodded back and vanished in a flash of darkness, and Ranma stood from the exceedingly comfortable chair to retrieve the book. It was some interesting information to mull over, but that little bit of background Nephrite gave him actually meant very little to the pigtailed negawarrior. He was more of a hands-on kind of learner. After snagging the book from his room and admiring his new furniture, Ranma decided to return to his original plan for the afternoon, opening the windows to the apartment's living room and sitting down to study the construct manual.
As the afternoon wore on into evening, Usagi was beginning to think that Haruna actually wasn't going to leave her apartment. In four hours of watching, the teacher had yet to leave her home, and the sometime superhero was beginning to get hungry.
"Luna," she whispered to her guardian feline. "Is it possible that what ever the Dark Kingdom is doing to her is happening in there?"
The black advisor shook her head at the currently black-haired girl. "I've been using a spell to scan for dark energy, and there is no negaforce in use anywhere nearby."
Finally, just as Usagi was about to give up entirely and go home for dinner, Haruna's front door opened. Stepping outside with a dazed expression, the brown-haired woman walked to her car. To the black-haired woman, the teacher seemed to be moving as though in a dream, but regardless, Haruna started her car and drove slowly away. As quickly as possible, the cat and human followed the teacher, hoping to stop anything from harming her.
The clank of free weights and exercise machines filled the room, and a woman wearing a leotard and stop watch, obviously a staff trainer, looked on in delight. Her master's plan here was working perfectly, and she couldn't be more pleased. Suddenly, the feeling of negaforce came from the office, and the youma in human form hurried to see what was happening.
Arriving at the office, she was pleased to note the arrival of Master Jadeite, his uniform already shifting into a guise of sweats. With Jadeite, the youma recognized one of the dark general's senior staff youma, Akonei, and she quickly bowed to both of her superiors. "Master Jadeite, Colonel Akonei, I welcome you to my operational post," she greeted respectfully. "What can I do for you?"
"Thank you, Lieutenant," Jadeite replied to her greeting. "Due to some unexpected problems, we need to modify the plan for this post. Please report. How many subjects do you currently have, and how often do they come in?"
Walking over to her desk, the Lieutenant snagged a clipboard and flipped a few pages, answering, "We currently have about two hundred subjects, and they come in quite often. Some are so caught up in the plan that they come every day, but I have yet to see any subject wait more than two days before returning. The addictive nature of the treatment combined with the social pressures on these Terrans makes our harvesting method here quite compelling."
"All right," Jadeite nodded to her. "We are going to shut down this operation, and I want to take the subjects with us. I want you to begin transporting them to the periphery harvesting station over in Shinjuku tonight, and I expect all subjects there and this post closed down in no more than three days. Understood?"
Bowing again, confused but knowing better than to question a general, the youma replied, "Understood, Master Jadeite. I actually have thirty subjects in the harvesting chamber now, if you wish to oversee the first transport?"
The dark general nodded to his subordinate, and she led him and the colonel out of her office and down stairs to the 'special exercise' area.
Usagi finally caught up to Haruna as she was parallel parking her car outside what appeared to be a twenty-four hour gym, and as she watched, the usually blonde-haired girl remembered Umino telling her that the brown-haired teacher was working out. Waiting until the teacher went inside, Usagi began to casually walk up to the business.
"Luna," she said to her companion, quietly. "You wait out here while I check this place out."
"Be careful, Usagi," came the cat's equally quiet reply. "I can sense some negaforce being used inside."
Nodding once to the cat, Usagi made her way inside the gym.
Jadeite glanced around the harvesting chamber built into the basement of the gym, a satisfied look in his eyes. If it weren't for that damn moon bitch, all his operations would be running this smoothly, and there were few things more satisfying to the dark general than a smoothly performed plan. All around him, humans stood within circles of crystals, an illusion construct easily hiding the abnormal black harvesting crystals from their sight. Of course, a second construct increased the humans' metabolism, both making them slimmer, as promised, and increasing their lifeforce for his harvesting crystals. Jadeite never made promises he didn't keep, not even to his victims.
Even as he watched, two more humans, a woman with brown hair and a man with blond, entered the chamber, led by large bodybuilders in his youma's thrall. The lieutenant in charge of the operation walked up to the two subjects, dismissing the bodybuilders. "Hello, and welcome back," she greeted the humans warmly, gesturing for them to follow. "This is a very exciting time, and I want the two of you to be the first to experience our newest exercise machine! Doesn't that sound great?"
Even as he watched, the youma lieutenant wove a construct around the two tired-looking subjects, bringing them under her control. It was quite gratifying to watch the soldier work so smoothly, and Jadeite had a mind to give her a commendation once the operation was successfully completed.
Finally leading the two humans to the back of the room, the youma powered a teleport conduit construct, opening a black rift in the air. "Just go through here," the youma told the humans cheerfully, "and you'll get to try something very special!"
Jadeite almost shook his head as the man and woman stepped willingly through the dark portal, doubtlessly ending up at the Shinjuku harvesting station. Continuing to power the portal, the youma lieutenant began to round up the other humans in the harvesting chamber, ushering them to the rift. However, a shout from the top of the stairs startled him from his vigil.
"Stop right there!!" came the female yell. "How dare you corrupt a gym where people go to make their bodies healthier?! I am Sailor Moon, and I will punish you for kidnapping people, in the name of the Moon!"
As Usagi entered the gym, she caught the barest glimpse of long brown hair disappearing through a door in the back, and the sometime Senshi walked quickly to follow. The main floor of the building was filled with weight machines, racks filled with free weights, and various aerobic exercise machines like treadmills and stair-climbers, things associated with physical fitness. In addition, the exercise floor was quite crowded with people, and upbeat music blared from speakers mounted from the walls. All in all, it was a fairly normal gym for an urban area.
Reaching the door, Usagi saw that beyond was a stairway leading down into the building's basement, a dimly lit room containing a number of customers and three trainers. Even as she watched, one of the trainers led Haruna and a blonde-haired man toward the back of the room, and the currently black-haired girl gasped as a black rift opened and the two adults stepped through.
Usagi retreated from the back doorway in horror, her eyes wide. This was definitely a Dark Kingdom front, and she knew that Sailor Moon was needed. Glancing around, Usagi found the restrooms and dashed inside. Briefly confirming that no one else was inside, the rabbit girl dropped her disguise and snagged her brooch, calling out, "Moon Prism Power, Make Up!"
A flash of light later, Sailor Moon raced out of the bathroom and back to the stairs. As she reached the top, she saw, to her horror, that more people were walking through the black portal, and she yelled the first words that came to her mind.
"Stop right there!!" Moon cried, the three trainers turning to look at her. "How dare you corrupt a gym where people go to make their bodies healthier?! I am Sailor Moon, and I will punish you for kidnapping people, in the name of the Moon!"
Corny lines, as usual, but she didn't concern herself with her speech. Instead, the Senshi of the Moon raced down the stairs, wracking her brain for a way to close the rift and save as many people as she could. However, before she could reach the people, the woman in a leotard that had been ushering people through the rift intercepted her.
"I take it that you're the 'complication' that made us accelerate our plans," the woman sneered. "Well, you won't stop us here!"
Before Sailor Moon could do anything to the woman, her features changed. The trainer's eyes sank back into her skull leaving pools of darkness, and her skin turned pale as bone. Each of her limbs grew longer, gaining two additional joints, and her teeth elongated and sharpened into fangs. "You won't stop me from completing my mission!" the creature hissed at the Moon Senshi. "In fact, you won't interfere with us ever again! Come, slaves!"
Moon looked wide-eyed at the youma before her, almost missing what the creature said, but a masculine growl from behind the blonde superhero made her wonder. 'Slaves?'
Spinning around and moving to the side, Sailor Moon now saw the 'slaves', three very large men, charging her. With the bodybuilders bearing down on her, the Senshi hesitated, and in that moment, one of the muscled men grabbed her by the shoulder and spun, releasing her in a hard throw at a nearby wall.
Moon screamed as she flew through the air, and with a sickening crack, she slammed head first into the concrete, her Senshi magic the only thing stopping her from a fatal head injury. As it was, she was still stunned, her head aching from the impact. Fortunately for her, she could still see, and she barely rolled out of the way as another of the bodybuilders tried to slam his foot into the back of her neck.
Gritting her teeth against the pain in her head and neck, Sailor Moon crouched, slowly circling to keep all the enemies in front of her. Even as she focused on the battle, the Moon Senshi noticed the other female trainer moving more people through the dark rift, but needing to focus on fighting four opponents removed any chance that Moon had to stop them.
With her attention briefly divided, the blonde Senshi almost didn't see the renewed charge by two of the bodybuilders, one charging from each flank. Instinctively, Moon went on the offensive with the one coming from her right, in effect dodging the other. Blocking a hard left hook from her chosen opponent, the Senshi slammed a hard palm heel strike to the man's sternum, the sound of strained, creaking ribs reaching her ears from the blow. The bodybuilder flew back and slammed into the wall, a few spider web cracks forming at the point of impact.
Turning to face her other opponents, Sailor Moon again dropped into a combat crouch, intent on ending this quickly. However, the two remaining men were now taking her more seriously, moving in slowly and splitting apart to flank her yet again. Even as she prepared to fight, a memory from the previous night tickled her awareness, and a challenging smile blossomed on her face.
When the two bodybuilders were finally flanking the Senshi of the Moon, they charged; it seemed that the flank-and-charge tactic was the extent of their ability for strategic planning. Instead of facing a charge from both sides, Sailor Moon leapt forward, rolling on the ground and returning to her feet to face her opponents even as they just barely avoided a collision.
Before the two bodybuilders could renew their assault, Moon reached up and pulled off her tiara. With a shout of "Moon Tiara Stardust," the Senshi let the golden disk of light fly at the men, and as it had the previous night, the disk shattered in a cloud of golden motes, dropping the men to the floor, unconscious.
Even as her tiara reappeared on her forehead, Sailor Moon turned to face the angry, white youma, a challenging smirk on her face even as she dropped into a combat crouch.
Engrossed in the book, Ranma almost didn't notice the sudden increase in negaforce use, but when he did, the pigtailed negawarrior reacted instantly. Closing the training manual and using a sensory construct to find the source of the negative energy, Ranma rushed out of the apartment, barely remembering to put his shoes on.
As he raced down the stairs and out of his apartment building, the black-haired boy tried to figure out what the negaforce user was doing, but although some of the output felt familiar, there were definitely a couple of new constructs in the mix. Of course, the sprinklers outside his apartment building chose that moment to come on and drench the now female redhead, but the boy turned girl paid the change no mind. The excitement of learning something new drove Ranma to a new level of speed, and she arrived at the source of the disturbance, a small gym three blocks from her home, in only about five minutes.
Even as she entered the business, the loud sound of a body impacting with a wall reached her martial-trained ears, and she knew the action had to be in the basement. Completely ignoring the patrons of the establishment, Ranma made a quick survey of the ground floor, and she quickly found a door in the back leading to a stairway.
Sure enough, as she reached the top of the stairs, there was Sailor Moon, facing off against another negaforce-wielding creature, a youma Ranma supposed. Behind the Moon Senshi, three bodybuilders lay unconscious on the floor, one appearing moderately injured. A quick once-over with her trained eye told the former martial artist that the bodybuilder lying against the wall was knocked out in hand to hand fighting, and her respect for the blonde devil hunter rose another notch. She always respected those who could handle themselves physically as well as using whatever other powers they had.
A growling sound coming from the youma brought Ranma back to the coming fight, and the pigtailed negawarrior crouched quietly at the top of the stairs to watch the impending fight.
As Jadeite watched Sailor Moon fight the human thralls, he analyzed her fighting moves. 'She can improvise,' he thought with some grudging respect for his enemy, 'and her tactics are sound. She might just be formidable enough to challenge us.'
Even as he considered her abilities, Sailor Moon threw her tiara at the remaining two bodybuilders, and when the motes of light cleared, the two men were lying unconscious on the floor. Moon herself turned to face the youma lieutenant in a combat crouch, a challenging smirk on her face. The youma simply growled at her, materializing a long, wickedly curved, double-bladed pole arm in her long, flexible arms. Light glittered from the razor sharp blades as the youma gave a brief demonstration of her skill with the weapon, and when it stopped spinning, one blade pointed directly at the moon bitch's throat.
Blatantly ignoring the threat of the polearm, Sailor Moon charged the youma head on, but that idea was a mistake, as Jadeite well understood. A moment of frantic dodging from the once again rapidly spinning blade on the devil hunter's part, and she retreated once more from the swift blades of the youma's polearm, several minor cuts oozing blood on her arms. The smirk was gone from her face, but her eyes were hard, unyielding.
Glancing away from the fight, Jadeite saw that Akonei had nearly finished moving the humans through the rift, only three more remaining. The dark general gritted his teeth at his bad luck. 'How did Sailor Moon find this operation, anyway?' Jadeite asked himself. 'Now, I'll only get the thirty-some odd people who were already in the harvesting chamber rather than the full two hundred subjects!' And that fact angered him greatly.
Turning back to the battle, Jadeite watched as Sailor Moon once again attacked the youma, but this time her movements were swift and small, testing the lieutenant's defenses. Before Jadeite's eyes, the Senshi actually seemed to be learning the youma's fighting style, and after a moment more, Moon backed off once again, breathing heavily and sporting more lacerations. However, Jadeite could tell that she was planning something, and he didn't like it.
Suddenly, as Akonei closed the rift, the dark general sensed another negaforce user; one who'd been drowned out by the portal before. Using his sensory constructs to sharpen his sight, Jadeite saw a red-haired girl crouching quietly, almost invisible at the top of the stairs. 'Who is that?' he thought with some trepidation. 'Probably one of Zoisite's or Kunzite's possession youma… Well, no matter.'
Ranma grinned as she committed the entire materialization construct to memory, happy at her good fortune at seeing the full construct this time. Carefully, she watched as Sailor Moon charged the youma with predictable results, and a wiser devil hunter backed away a moment later. It was obvious to her martial-trained eyes that the youma was fighting defensively, and a quick glance behind her revealed why.
Further back in the room, another woman was ushering a group of people through a dark portal, and the pigtailed negawarrior decided that he must be seeing one of the Dark Kingdom's harvesting operations in action. While it rubbed him the wrong way to think about kidnapping people, he couldn't fault the logic of doing so. Why just drain peoples' ki and let them go when you could keep them as a renewable energy source? This was especially true when you need the energy to fight a war.
As Sailor Moon once again moved forward to fight the youma, Ranma focused on the battle. This time, the Moon Senshi was testing the youma's defenses, and the redhead couldn't help but approve of the action. For a little girl with corny lines, that devil hunter did know how to fight. She certainly wasn't even close to Ranma's level, but the red-haired girl could easily see the blonde having a dan or two in an unarmed style.
Again, Sailor Moon backed off, but this time Ranma could see something else in her stance, a plan of attack. Even as the last person disappeared through the portal and it closed, the Senshi of the Moon raced toward the youma with an angry yell.
Sailor Moon struggled to catch her breath after her second round with the lanky white creature, her skin burning from the cuts caused by her opponent's blades, especially the long slash that grazed her ribs on the left side. The blonde Senshi really didn't understand how she was able to fight like this, but it just seemed instinctive, as if her body was remembering how to defend itself. Letting the skills have free reign, she had twice attacked the youma. The first time it beat her back soundly, giving her a few cuts as a parting gift, but the second time she began to see a pattern in the youma's spinning polearm, a tremendously valuable fact regardless of the additional damage.
As she finally got her breathing under control, Moon risked a glance behind the youma and almost screamed. She was out of time, and as she watched in horror, the last person disappeared into the dark rift. Even as she felt despair welling up in her chest, the woman, probably another youma, waved a hand and closed the portal. The Moon Senshi felt a tear slowly track down her cheek for the people lost, and then she returned her attention to the youma before her, teeth clenched and staring balefully at the inhuman monster.
With a hate-filled shout, Sailor Moon charged her enemy for the third time, intent on its death. However, she had to abort her charge as the youma raised a hand and launched a black bolt of power at the blonde girl. Moon rolled to the side, but to avoid giving her opponent any more time than necessary, she sprang back to her feet and renewed her charge from the new angle, barely missing a beat.
As she came within range of the polearm, the youma once again began to spin the cruelly bladed weapon. Letting her body move on its own, Moon dodged most of the strikes, but she still gained a few more cuts. Heedless of the new damage, the Senshi focused on the movements of the polearm, waiting for the opportunity she saw in the pattern the last time.
Suddenly, there it was! A split second where the youma brought the polearm parallel with the ground, neither of the blades pointed at its enemy. In that split second, Moon struck the haft of the weapon with an open palm strike, driving the staff into the creature's face and stunning it. Immediately taking advantage of the suddenly immobile monster, the Senshi of the Moon began to rain kicks and punches on the youma's torso and legs, the tell-tale snapping of bone coming from one particularly vicious kick to a leg causing the creature to scream.
With a final, hard side-kick to the monster's abdomen, the youma flew away from the blonde Senshi, and even before the creature struck the wall, Moon was already beginning her final attack. With a cry of "Moon Tiara Action!" she let fly the glowing disk, and the youma disintegrated into a fine grey dust.
Jadeite was extremely surprised when the battle turned in favor of the blonde Senshi; a single strike in a split second of weakness was all it took for her to mercilessly beat the dark general's youma. Even more surprising to Jadeite was the brutality of her final attack and the seeming ease with which she performed it. 'Our enemy is utterly ruthless,' he thought, sickened as his youma lieutenant disintegrated under the onslaught of planetary lifeforce. 'We can give the Senshi no quarter.'
Suiting actions to thoughts, Jadeite raised a hand and fired off a simple negaforce bolt, barely contained within its construct shell. The Moon Senshi, barely having recovered from using her final attack, had no chance to dodge the attack, and the ball of negaforce hit hard, throwing her into the wall with the force of the explosion.
Not waiting for Sailor Moon to recover, Jadeite formed a powerful shield construct around himself and charged forward, his negawarrior senses telling him that Akonei was close behind, backing him up. Even as he entered the small dust cloud, a surprised yell from behind him made him turn, and the sight of Moon coming down on Akonei in a hard drop kick made him gape. He was certain that his attack would have stunned her, but there she was, attacking one of his senior staff youma mercilessly.
Akonei had no chance to really bring up a defense, and Sailor Moon was beating her badly. In an attempt to save the colonel, Jadeite formed another construct and threw a bolt of black lightning at the Moon bitch, hoping that it would at least distract her.
The lightning caught Sailor Moon in the back, and Jadeite smirked as the electricity played across the Senshi's body, doing much more than distracting her. The blonde girl shrieked and convulsed in pain, collapsing on the ground.
Rushing over to Akonei, the dark general gave the youma a quick once-over, and the prognosis was not good. The Dark Kingdom colonel was in bad shape with several broken places in her carapace and a great deal of lost ichor, but worse yet, her energy shield was dangerously low.
Even in the comparably hospitable environment of Tokyo, very few youma could survive without an energy shield. A youma's energy shield kept the ambient lifeforce of the universe at bay, stopping it from annihilating with the youma's own negaforce. Akonei's shield was damaged beyond it ability to completely protect the youma, and even now tiny amounts of ambient planetary lifeforce were trickling in, causing the youma damage equivocal to radiation poisoning.
Stepping away from his loyal colonel, Jadeite quickly began to form a portal construct to transport Akonei back to the Dark Kingdom. However, a sound, a shout, from behind him stopped his progress cold, and the dark general felt a frigid chill as he heard the voice of Sailor Moon.
"Moon Tiara Action!"
Ranma silently cheered as the remaining conscious man blasted Sailor Moon with a bolt of black lightning, causing the devil hunter to scream and convulse, falling to the floor. After seeing her annihilate yet another being, though perhaps not innocent, in such a painful way, seeing her get a little back was gratifying. Besides, she was a very cold and callous killer, even if the young negawarrior had respect for her skills.
Once the Senshi lay still, the man, probably a negawarrior, Ranma supposed since he hadn't transformed, rushed to the side of his badly beaten comrade, checking her wounds. However, this meant that he didn't see Sailor Moon once again rise from the floor. Even as Ranma watched, the Moon Senshi slowly pushed herself onto hands and knees, making no sound, and even as the pigtailed negawarrior grit her teeth against interfering, the blonde warrior pulled herself to her feet.
Finally, as Ranma watched her begin to raise her hand, obviously going for her tiara to finish off the injured youma, the red-haired girl could take no more. Forming the most powerful mana-shield construct she could in the limited amount of time available, she drew deeply from her mirror, infusing the construct with annihilation power.
"Moon Tiara Action!" Sailor Moon yelled as she released her tiara at the downed youma.
"NO!" came Ranma's answering cry, and she thrust her hand forward, interposing her shield construct between the tiara and the injured native of the Negaverse.
A blinding flash of light erupted from where the tiara struck Ranma's shield, and the pigtailed girl collapsed to her knees from the shockwave backlash of the moon weapon's impact. Shrieking, the tiara tore through the neophyte's barrier, and a sharp pain burst inside Ranma's head as her shield construct shredded apart.
Resisting the pain with all her might, no easy task, Ranma staggered off the landing of the stairs and out of the gym, making it only to an alleyway before collapsing into unconsciousness from the psychological stress and intense pain.
Even as her tiara left her hands, Sailor Moon heard the shout of "NO!" from behind her, and then something entirely different than ever before happened. In a brilliant flash of light, her tiara struck something between her and the youma, but after a moment of ear-splitting sound, the tiara tore free and shot at the youma once more. However, its trajectory was changed by what ever had impeded it, and it only hit the youma's left arm, severing it above the elbow.
Even as Moon reached up to retrieve her returning tiara, the man who was helping the two youma lifted the injured creature and jumped through a rapidly forming black rift, the portal closing almost instantly behind him.
Left alone in the basement of the gym, Moon almost succumbed to her injuries right there, the only thing keeping her conscious being that she was still in an enemy stronghold. Carefully holding the deep gash in the flesh over her ribs, the charred superhero began a slow limp up the stairs and out of the now empty gym. Even as she walked out onto a strangely deserted street, Luna rushed up to her, fear obvious in the lunar guardian's eyes.
"Sailor Moon!" the black cat cried out. "Are you all right? Everyone cleared out when they started hearing explosions, and the police are on their way! We have to get out of here!"
Nodding weakly to her guardian, the Senshi of the Moon limped after Luna, but she only made it as far as the nearest alley before falling to her knees. "Luna," she groaned out, wincing from her injuries now that the adrenaline had fully run out. "I have to rest… I can't go any further…"
With that, the superhero fell the rest of the way to the ground, blackness claiming her pained body and restless mind.
The first thing Ranma noticed as she blinked awake was the sharp ache in her head, right behind her eyes. Wincing from the pain, she groaned, slowly beginning to move. Before she could do more, something touched her lightly on the shoulder, and a voice spoke out of the blurry void of the world.
"Easy now," the voice said in a quiet tone, though to her throbbing head it sounded louder. She groaned again, and the voice continued, soothingly. "I remember the first time someone used force to shred one of my constructs, and I bet that really hurts. Trust me, it gets better with time."
Freezing for a moment at the word "constructs," Ranma concentrated on her ki for a moment, using it to dull the pain and clear her mind. After a full minute of concentration, the pigtailed negawarrior finally opened her eyes and slowly sat up. Though she was certain that she had passed out in an alley, the rooftop where she now lay was obviously that of a skyscraper, and sitting on a low air conditioning unit about five feet away was the blonde negawarrior she'd seen back at the gym.
"Well," he said in that same quiet voice, seemingly harsh from habitual use rather than intent. "I wanted to make sure I thanked you for saving Colonel Akonei."
Ranma nodded her acknowledgement to the other negawarrior, replying, "I just couldn't watch her kill anyone else with that attack… How can she be so cruel? That attack is entirely too painful…."
Looking up at her recent benefactor, the redhead asked, "By the way, who are you?"
Surprise registered on the blonde man's face, and he replied, "You helped even though you don't know who I am? Now, that's something else."
Pausing a moment in thought, the short-haired negawarrior finally answered her question. "My name is Jadeite, a general of the Dark Kingdom. I thought you were a human possessed by a youma, but now I know that's not the case. You aren't using any constructs to alter or hide your appearance, so that rules out a negalyte as well, and I know all the Kingdom's negawarriors. Who are you?"
Smiling as much as the dull pain in her head would allow, Ranma answered honestly. "The name's Saotome Ranma."
Surprise registered on Jadeite's face at her name, and he replied quizzically, "Nephrite kept referring to you as a 'he'."
Almost laughing, Ranma answered the obvious question. "I am a 'he'. I'm under a curse that changes my gender with hot and cold water. Hot and I'm a boy, cold and I'm a girl. Nephrite said it was divine magic, or something."
Jadeite leaned closer to the red-haired negawarrior, and Ranma saw him form a strange, convoluted construct that she'd never seen before. Storing the pattern away for future use, the pigtailed girl stared guilelessly into the dark general's blue eyes. A moment later, Jadeite stepped back, chuckling to himself.
"What do you know," he mumbled, and then speaking in a louder voice, he continued. "Well, once again, I thank you for saving Akonei, but I know that Nephrite told you not to interfere in battles involving negaforce and mana. Sailor Moon could have killed you."
Putting a cocky grin on her face, even if she wasn't entirely confident in her skills, Ranma replied, "I can handle myself with my other skills; I'm a great unarmed fighter. Besides, like I said, I just couldn't stand to see her kill anyone else with that attack."
Jadeite nodded to the younger negawarrior, saying, "I can understand your feelings, but you should still heed Nephrite's orders. Sailor Moon has mana-based magic on her side, and that is just as potent as our constructs. I'm sure Nephrite demonstrated the power of our constructs to you during your training."
Reluctantly, Ranma acceded. "All right, I'll try not to interfere again. But if she keeps using that attack and I'm in a position to stop her, I have to do something. My honor won't allow any other answer."
Studying her face for a moment, the blonde dark general sighed. "Well, I guess that's the best I'm going to get out of you, but you should ask your mentor for advice on the subject. At the very least, he can help you to learn how to minimize the pain from a destroyed construct."
"How is… what did you say her name was? Akinoe?" Ranma asked as the dark general turned to leave.
Glancing back at his fellow negawarrior, Jadeite answered, "Akonei. Colonel Akonei. She was in intensive healing therapy when I left her at the medical center, but since I was able to get her there quickly, she is expected to live. There are some questions about her arm regeneration, but she will be all right, thanks to your action."
The pigtailed redhead just smiled, and after a moment more, Jadeite turned again and vanished in a flash of darkness.
Sailor Moon slowly returned to consciousness, still in the alley where she'd passed out. Due to the Senshi's regenerative magic, her wounds were already mostly closed, and it seemed that the blonde's concussion was gone. Lying close by, Luna slept, her features seemingly worried even as she rested.
Sitting up, Moon winced at her sore muscles and stiff joints; that lightning attack had taken more out of her than she'd realized back during the fight. Her small groan of pain woke her black guardian, and the cat jumped into the Moon Senshi's lap, anxiety etched in her features.
"How are you feeling, Sailor Moon?" Luna asked in a concerned tone. "You looked awful when you came out of there."
Taking a moment to collect her thoughts and concentrate on further dulling her aching body, the superhero asked in reply, "How long was I out?"
Seeming to consider some hidden source of temporal knowledge, Luna answered, "About an hour. You needed it, too; your Senshi magic can heal your body quite a bit faster while you sleep."
Slowly, painfully, Moon used the building next to her to drag herself to her feet. "Come on, Luna," the Senshi said to the cat. "Let's go home."
Sailor Moon kept to the back alleys as she made her way home, worried that her body would just fall apart without the magic coursing through it. As she staggered toward home and bed, Luna spoke to her.
"What happened in there?" asked the lunar guardian. "You didn't look this bad even after yesterday's battle."
"There were three of them in there, Luna," Moon answered, her voice suffused with depression. "Is this how it's going to be? I couldn't save anyone, and even though I killed one of the youma, the other two got away. The battles just keep getting worse, and I can't do anything to help at all…." The girl's voice cracked at that last, tears leaking from her eyes.
"I don't really know what to tell you, Sailor Moon," Luna replied in a soothing tone. "The Dark Kingdom is attacking far more fiercely than we thought possible. We just have to hold out until Central can awaken more Senshi."
With a dejected sigh, Moon decided not to answer. Overall, her body was tired and aching, her mind was hurt and exhausted, and all she really wanted was to get home and slip into a healing sleep. Even as she continued the torturously slow walk home, Moon prayed to the kami that everything would seem better after a little more rest.
In a flash of dark power that rolled off his form like a black mist, Jadeite appeared at his periphery harvesting station in Shinjuku, a place that rather than draining and releasing people like the gym operation, the youma here outfitted humans for long-term trickle drain. By using constructs to keep the humans in an illusory fantasy world, similar to dreaming, they could continuously drain the subjects without killing them, a renewable resource to power the Dark Kingdom's war machine. Even as he arrived, the last five subjects transported here were assisted by youma into their new homes, the crystal harvesting cylinders.
Still, if Sailor Moon hadn't interfered, there would be many more. The pet shop operation was to gather two-hundred-fifty to three hundred subjects before shutting down, and the original termination of the gym operation was to net another three hundred. Instead, between the pet shop debacle and the premature shutdown of the gym, a bare eighty-two subjects were ensconced in harvesting cylinders, a paltry number compared to the expected figures.
Jadeite grimaced as he considered Queen Beryl's probable reaction to these perceived failures, and he knew that when he confronted his queen, he needed to already have a new plan with some impressive potential. However, before he could really consider his options, a swirl of illusory cherry blossoms distracted him, causing the dark general to grimace once again. A visit from Zoisite would do that to any decent person.
Even as he appeared, the very bishonen negawarrior laughed in a maniacal, girlish manner, but Jadeite waited patiently for his fellow general to come to the point. "Hello, Jadeite," Zoisite greeted in a mocking tone. "I see you've been having some trouble. In fact, this isn't even a fifth of the subjects your entry report speculated. Something wrong?"
"Oh, there's nothing wrong, Zoisite," Jadeite gritted to the annoying man. "Just a couple of minor setbacks. And how is your mission to find the ginzuishou going?"
Smirking sardonically, Jadeite reminded Zoisite of his own mission, and he was gratified to see the other dark general deflate a bit. "My mission is going fine, Jadeite," Zoisite replied icily. "I have several leads on that damn moon crystal, and—"
"None of them have panned out," Jadeite cut him off, his tone patronizing. "Perhaps you should go back and cry to Kunzite. I'm sure he doesn't like his boy-toy to be away for long."
Zoisite actually growled at that last statement, vanishing without another word, and Jadeite chuckled. It was entirely too easy to get under the extremely bishonen negawarrior's skin, but even so meager an accomplishment was satisfying if it got the annoying man to leave him alone.
Pushing his amusement and Zoisite out of his mind, Jadeite returned to his original train of thought. 'Perhaps it's time for me to drop by research and development again,' he thought. 'They usually have something interesting….'
Ranma, once again male, stepped out of the small kissaten near his apartment building where he'd gotten some hot water. In the twilight of dusk, the city had just begun to light up, and the pigtailed boy found it quite enjoyable to walk in the cool evening air. He decided to wander a bit, considering what happened earlier in the day. Aside from learning a few more construct patterns, Ranma had gained some valuable experience regarding fighting a magical opponent, and meeting Jadeite was another unexpected but welcome experience.
As he wandered into the alleys that snaked between buildings, Ranma decided to try out a couple of his new constructs, and holding his hand out palm up, he formed his own slight modification on that youma's materialization construct, powering it with annihilation energy. It took a great deal more effort than the black-haired negawarrior had expected, but after about three full minutes of concentration and minor alterations to the construct, he finally materialized a small, smooth black stone in his hand. The ebony rock glittered in the lights coming from the end of the alley, and Ranma smirked, pleased with himself. Unfortunately, his concentration faltered with his self congratulation, and the stone vanished.
Somewhat puzzled, Ranma tried again, and once more, the stone would only retain its existence while he concentrated on the construct's form and power. Finally letting the stone vanish for the final time, the neophyte negawarrior snapped his fingers; it obviously wasn't a permanent creation construct. That or he didn't know how to make the object permanent yet. He decided to ask Nephrite about it the next time he saw the elder negawarrior.
Turning toward home, Ranma quickly made his way back to the apartment building, and to his surprise, he noticed a familiar face also arriving at the building. "Hey!" he called out, waving to the person. "How's it going, Akane!"
The blue-black-haired girl turned as he called her name, and a beautiful smile graced her lips as she replied, "I'm all right, Ranma. How are you?"
"Doin' fine," he answered, smiling back. "What brings you here?"
Akane looked at him funny, saying, "I live here."
"Really?" Ranma asked, somewhat surprised by the coincidence. "Me too."
Akane laughed lightly, answering, "That's some coincidence. I'm on the twelfth floor, east side of the building. You?"
"Eleventh, west side."
Akane's face scrunched up in puzzlement for a moment, but the look faded into one of long-needed recognition. She snapped her fingers, exclaiming, "I knew there was something familiar about your name!"
"Huh?" the pigtailed boy replied intelligently.
"About two weeks ago, a woman showed up at our house looking for her husband and son," the long-haired girl replied brightly. "She said her name was Saotome Nodoka. Is she related to you?"
Ranma wrinkled his brow in deep though, wracking his brain to remember anyone named Nodoka that he might be related to. His initial search came up with a blank, but instead, he suddenly realized what was so familiar about her name. "Hey," he said. "I just realized what sounded so familiar about your name, too. I found a postcard in my Oyaji's things addressed to a Tendo. Let's go up to my place and take a look at it."
"Um, okay," came Akane's seemingly reluctant reply, but Ranma didn't notice. That postcard was related to the other letter he'd found, the one asking his mother to come to the Tendo dojo to meet them. A glimmer of possibility that this Saotome Nodoka was his mother was easily enough to get the pigtailed boy to investigate.
Leading the girl up to his apartment on the eleventh floor, Ranma gestured for her to take a seat on the couch while he ran back to his room, snagging his backpack and rummaging through it for the postcard and letter. A moment later, he returned to the living room and sat down next to Akane, his excitement overriding his close proximity to the girl.
"Here it is," he said to her, handing her the postcard and wondering why she was blushing. That was when he noticed that they were sitting so close together, and he embarrassedly jumped away, a blush now resting on his own features. "W-Well, what do you think?"
Akane looked at the postcard, turning it over once or twice to study the whole thing. "This looks awfully familiar," she said at last. "My father received a postcard just like this one, and he told my sisters and me that we were going to have guests, my father's best friend and his son. He was really upset when they didn't arrive."
Holding up the letter so that Akane could see it, Ranma replied, "There's more. This is a letter my dad never sent, addressed to my mom. In it, he asks her to meet us at the Tendo dojo."
Akane was silent for a moment for a moment before whispering, "That's our house, all right. But my dad went off with that woman to help her search. Before I moved here, he called telling us that they were going to search in China. That was where Saotome-obasan's husband last sent her a letter."
Finally, everything clicked in Ranma's mind, and he said, "They won't find anything there… Pops and I… we were attacked by this tribe of women… They… they killed him."
Akane's eyes went wide at the statement, and a few tears glistened, unshed in her brown orbs. "That's terrible, Ranma," she told him with real sympathy. "What all happened?"
Ranma started telling his story, though he left out some of the worse events, like the Nekoken, the Jusenkyo curse, and his training as a negawarrior. It really felt good to tell someone about his life, and he sensed he could trust Akane, that she wouldn't betray him. By the time he was finished, it was late in the night and Akane was crying silently. Even Ranma had to admit, when it was told all at once, his life was pretty sad. Always training, never having any friends, never stopping for long enough to have a permanent home… never knowing his own mother. The training trip that had started when he was six and had ended with his father's death had been a hard way to grow up, and even with the glimmers of light that he'd told Akane about, his friends Ucchan and Ryoga, it was a long and lonely existence.
Sighing, Ranma looked at the clock, and the shock of the time stupefied him for a moment. "Um, Akane?" he asked hesitantly.
"Yes, Ranma?" she answered in a quiet, sad tone.
"Did you know that it's almost two in the morning?"
Akane jumped and almost screamed at the time. "Well, there goes a good night's sleep… Oh well, I think hearing your story was worth it, Ranma," she said warmly. "Still, we both need to get to sleep. It's going to be a long day at school tomorrow."
Ranma nodded in reply as he saw her to the door, saying, "I'll see you tomorrow, Akane."
"Good night, Ranma," said the Tendo daughter.
A smile once more on his face, Jadeite teleported away from his research and development section headquarters. Their latest innovation made him want to chuckle, and already, he was forming a plan that would use the new weapon along with trapping and killing that dangerous Senshi.
Appearing in the antechamber to the throne room, the dark general approached the youma guards, but just as he was about to request an audience with the queen, one of the guards preempted him.
"You presence is requested and commanded by her majesty, General Jadeite" grated the yellow-furred skeleton.
Barely missing a beat, the blond negawarrior nodded to the guard, replying, "Then I shall present myself before my queen."
Standing straighter as the huge, black crystal doors of the throne room swung ponderously open, Jadeite marched forward through the throngs of sycophants and courtiers, much the same thing in Jadeite's opinion. As he reached the throne, the dark general saluted Queen Beryl with fist over heart and dropped to one knee. "You commanded my presence, my queen?" he asked respectfully.
Raising an eyebrow, Beryl replied, "I have received some disturbing reports that you are failing in your mission, Jadeite. Report your status."
The command and disappointment in the queen's voice was obvious to Jadeite, and he was compelled by the former and wince from the latter before making his report. "I have not failed, my queen, though there have been some setbacks. A Senshi has appeared in Tokyo, and she is causing a great deal of disruption to my plans."
"It is not like you to make excuses, Jadeite," said Beryl, harsh and unyielding.
"I make no excuses, Queen Beryl," the dark general said quickly. "I am simply supplying the reason for the delay in my plans. In fact, I have just arrived from my research and development section, and they have provided me with a new weapon with which I can succeed beyond my mission requirements."
"Really?" asked the queen, skepticism dripping from her tone. "I would be most interested in such a weapon."
Smiling slightly, Jadeite confidently replied, "My researchers have discovered a way to imbed a construct into sound waves. Using this, we can affect anyone listening to the music with whatever construct we wish." He knew that he was leaving out the fact that it was exponentially more difficult to imbed constructs as they became more complex, but he knew that Queen Beryl was more interested in results than technicalities.
"Interesting," Queen Beryl said, finally sounding intrigued. "Very well then, you may proceed at your discretion. However, I tire of the amount of resources and lifeforce you are using in your plans, and I expect impressive results when next you report."
Recognizing a dismissal when he heard one, Jadeite bowed his head to his queen, replying, "Yes, Queen Beryl."
With a negligent flick of her wrist, Beryl allowed Jadeite to leave, and the gears in the dark general's mind were whirling rapidly as his new plan formed even as he walked out of the throne room.
To be continued.
Author's notes: Now to take care of the possible notes of contention. I've made Usagi a pretty good hand-to-hand fighter, but don't forget that she's just letting her body do the work. Between her reincarnated soul and the Senshi magic, I figured that would make her pretty good. Ranma's assessment is right on the money.
Also, I'm sure that someone will have a problem with Ranma's shield shattering when hit by Usagi's tiara. Ranma had been learning shield constructs for two days at that point, but Usagi's tiara uses a set of pre-programmed spells to do its dirty work, so it has more to do with Usagi's mana-bind than any actual magical talent the girl possesses. If you think a negawarrior with two days of experience in that type of construct can face the power of a planetary mana-bind, you need to consider the analogy of a person who's been weight lifting for two days trying to bench press his own body weight. Some day he might be able to do it, but not with that little practice.
Now for all the people who feel betrayed by Akane's introduction. Don't fly off the handle; I'm not an Akane fanatic one way or the other. As I've mentioned to my some of my pre-readers and in a few private review replies, I don't intend for Ranma to have any serious relationships right now. If it weren't for the engagements, Ranma wouldn't have had any relationships in canon, and now Genma isn't around to back up any of the engagements. I am, however, a firm believer that 99.9% of the problems between Akane and Ranma stem from the engagement and the sense of betrayal they both felt after the first episode/story in canon, so they will most likely get along pretty well without the pressure. Hiryo, you don't have to remove this one from your group; Akane isn't getting together with Ranma, at least, not in my plan. Sometimes I write the story, and sometimes the story writes itself.
One more quick thing: I've gotten a couple of reviews asking me why there are so many parts from the SM point of view if this is a Ranma fic, and I can answer that here. This fic is classified as a Ranma fic only because there is no specific Ranma/Sailor Moon crossover category on fanfiction.net (that I've seen), and I didn't want to list this as an 'Anime Crossover' because I'm only crossing Ranma and Sailor Moon (with maybe a cameo or two, but nothing important to the story). This fic is just as much about the Sailor Moon side as it is about the Ranma side, and I'm sorry if I gave anyone an impression otherwise.
Well, that seems to be about it. Thanks for reading, everyone. Later.
Kissaten: The older type of Japanese coffee shop, dating back to World War II. Kissaten are family-run businesses, not a part of coffee chains like Starbucks. They tend to be dimly-lit, with dark, heavy wood furniture, and are decorated with whatever suits the "master's" tastes. Coffee is expensive in a kissaten, but part of the price is the right to stay for however long you like even if you only order one cup of coffee. Kissaten are quiet and soothing places to be, and are often used for breaks or business meetings. They also tend to have long-term regular customers. The giggling schoolgirls and yuppies looking for a quick caffeine fix tend to go to the big coffee chain franchises, leaving kissaten to people who value them as a refuge from the hectic pace of city life.
|Layout, design, & site revisions © 2005||
Webmaster: Larry F