by Trisar Alvein
THIS STORY IS HEREBY DISCONTINUED
My fanfiction works are starting to attract attention that I never thought they'd get! A review from Innortal? I'd have never imagined that! And just the other day, one of my other fanfics got reviewed by Ozzallos! Receiving positive reviews from a pair of my favorite fanfic authors, veterans of their craft, is something I never quite imagined happening so relatively early in my 'career.'
The attentive reader will, of course, note that I've elevated some of these people onto platforms where they become untouchable, almost divine in nature. I'm not entirely sure if they'd appreciate that sort of thing, but much like everything else, I just don't give a damn. ONWARD!
Lina: About time...
Ranma's grin at finding the third of the Four Heavenly Kings faded as she began thinking of something. She definitely knew those bug youma from somewhere. She couldn't place where he knew them from, but somehow she did. Likely some enemy from that time when she was a general with the loyalty of a hundred thousand men.
Maybe it's that enemy who Kunzite, Jadeite, Zoicite and me all marched against when we were killed, she mused. But then, that didn't feel quite right. No, whoever they are, they're someone else... someone from before that. And Repiya seemed to recognize my name. There was also a strange sense of urgency in needing to find Zoicite and confer with whoever Prince Endymion was in this life.
But there's also something more immediate to handle, she thought, looking past Jadeite and Herb to stare directly at the dojo door. "Okay, Nabs. I know you've heard plenty, so get in here," she called. As her comrades blinked in surprise and turned to the door, it slid open to admit one Nabiki Tendo, who had a moneymaking look on her face. I hate when she's got that look, thought Ranma with a grimace. It was a look she could recall hating on the faces of politicians back in the Silver Millennium, especially one with fiery red hair who'd been...
Shaking her head to clear it of the woolgathering, Ranma quickly walked over to the dojo door, stepping past Nabiki to shut it behind her.
"Ranma-kun, what are you—" began Nabiki, but was cut off as Ranma spoke.
"What you're gonna hear in here does not leave this room, ever, under any circumstances," ordered the redhead coldly.
Frowning at the younger teen's audacity, Nabiki opened her mouth to speak, but was again interrupted, this time by Herb. "On pain of death, as it were, Tendo-san. This information's confidentiality is essential to our survival... and the world's," intoned the dragon princess.
"The world's?" asked Nabiki, glancing around suspiciously. "I doubt Ranma-kun would let Kasumi get involved in something that dangerous," she added with a smirk, before her eyes fixed onto Ranma's own. "Speaking of whom... Where is she, Saotome?"
Unfazed by the evil eye directed her way, Ranma simply glanced pointedly at Jadeite. Nabiki snorted as she saw the blonde. "You're not telling me that's Kasumi, are you Saotome?" she asked. "She's too tall, her hair's the wrong color and the wrong style, and while I doubt you of all people would notice, her bust is too big by a couple cups."
"Well, I'll admit that's not what I expected her to look like," said Herb, putting herself into the conversation.
"It's not what I expected either," admitted Jadeite, and Nabiki's eyes narrowed. Ranma knew why, too. Jadeite's voice was, appropriately for this form, noticeably deeper than Kasumi's—even if nowhere near masculine in nature—but the deeper voice did nothing to hide the mannerisms. "But then, I suppose this is what happens when you're reborn as a woman."
"No way... that really is you, Kasumi?" asked Nabiki, her eyes widening as pieces began fitting together. Furious, she whirled on Ranma. "What did you do to her?" she asked, her voice a chill wind blowing over ice.
"I helped her take the first step toward accomplishing a dream. I helped her remember. It's her choice whether she continues or not," replied the redhead, her own voice becoming ice cold as her Nephrite persona and the soul of ice intertwined.
"You'll get a full explanation, Nabiki," added Jadeite. "But only after we're assured you won't tell anyone anything."
Nabiki frowned. Deeply, in fact. Ranma could see that the woman knew she was sitting on a gold mine of information, even if she obviously didn't know the entire situation. Finally, Nabiki nodded in agreement. "Alright. I won't say a word to anyone."
"Have a seat," invited Herb. As Nabiki sat down, she squinted her eyes against a sudden glare of light. In just a moment, she saw Kasumi kneeling down into the seiza seating position next to Herb, with Ranma plopping down on the dragon girl's other side. "The first thing you have to understand is that the story Ranma told at dinner is very true. Eight thousand years ago, under my direct command—and further, under the command of the Prince of Earth—Ranma, or General Nephrite, personally lead one hundred thousand trained men and women to defend the Prince from someone who sought to usurp the planetary throne for herself."
"Then I guess the necklaces are from back then, too?" asked Nabiki, earning a nod from the other three. "Right. And what was the name of this conquerer-woman?"
Kasumi, Ranma, and Herb all bowed their heads in contemplation at that. Ranma was mentally kicking himself for not remembering such an important fact when a very recent memory struck him.
"Any funny business and we'll blast you back to the Dark Kingdom so fast, Beryl will feel it!" exclaimed Sailor Mars before turning and leaping away.
The name Beryl stuck in her mind, and with it came more memories of what she was now starting to think of as "back then." A beautiful woman with fiery red hair who served in the King's court. Important files of information with her image and name that held no meaning except that she was from then. The same red-haired woman with a malicious grin curling her lips, a hand around his throat, choking...
"Beryl," Ranma said, snapping out of her reverie. "Queen of the Dark Kingdom." Recognition dawning on their faces, Kasumi and Herb nodded as well.
"Beryl?" asked Nabiki, obviously somehow recognizing the name. "I don't think you have to worry about her."
"Why not?" asked Kasumi.
"She ran very afoul of the Sailor Senshi, over in Minato. It was all over the news," replied Nabiki. "The Sailor Senshi fought these monster things that were minions of some person named 'Beryl,' then suddenly there wasn't any more of them. Best guess is they toasted her but good."
"The Sailor Senshi? They made it ahead?"
Blinking, Ranma turned to face Kasumi, who'd asked. The older woman's face was filled with hope, a hope that Ranma recognized was coming from the newly awakened Jadeite personality. "Yeah, they made it," she said, reaching over and patting Kasumi on the shoulder reassuringly. "And they almost tried to kill me. Again, in fact," she added wryly.
"Again? What, do they regularly try to kill you, Ranma-kun?" Nabiki smirked.
"Case of mistaken identity. Remember how I said us four got split between the light halves and the dark? We're the light... Apparently, when Beryl attacked again, she brought our dark halves with her." Ranma tapped her chin in contemplation. "The girls didn't know I wasn't the one they blasted already."
Nabiki stilled herself in thought, then spoke again. "So... what happens now? I mean, even I can tell this is a bit more important than a bit of money to stick in my pocket or buy a meal with, but what can I do to help?" At Ranma's disbelieving look, she smirked. "Give me some credit. I'm no hero and I really doubt I'm the last of your group, but like they say in the West, 'Evil triumphs when good men do nothing.' Besides, if these guys destroy the world, how are you ever going to pay back that debt you owe me, Ranma-kun?"
"Don't remind me," replied the redhead with a grimace. "Those bug things are attacking in Minato... Juuban, in fact... My sixth sense is good, but I can't sense them from that far away, and by the time a police report would come in, that's way too late to do anything about them."
"So you three, and whoever the fourth guy is, somehow need to move to Juuban. Is that what you're saying?" Nabiki pounced on the hanging thought, and Ranma shivered, glad that the girl was on their side. "That'll be tricky. Especially getting Kasumi over too, while keeping Daddy from trying to slip Akane along for the ride. With Ranma we could just say, 'There's monster attacks in Juuban and he wants to do his martial artist's duty to protect the people.' Given Herb's reason for being here in the first place, we hardly need an explanation for him. It's Kasumi that'll be tricky."
Ranma and Kasumi nodded in agreement while Herb simply looked contemplative. Kasumi then spoke up. "What if we convinced Father to change the engagement over to me? Then, as Ranma's fiancée, I would be expected to go along with him."
Nabiki snorted, shaking her head. "Fat chance. I don't know why, but those two are set on somehow getting Ranma to marry Akane."
"Yeah, well, like I said when I first got here, this—"
"—isn't the time for fiancées," interjected Nabiki and Kasumi in absolute stereo, the latter giggling. "We know, Ranma-kun," added Nabiki. "Believe me, I fully agree with you this time."
"I have an idea," said Herb, leaning forward. "Ranma and myself leave for Juuban on the pretense of helping the Sailor Senshi. Being men, we naturally have no idea how to care for a household and need Kasumi-san to help us with that. If they try to send Akane with us..."
Grinning, Ranma picked up on her companion's thought. "We tell 'em she has to stay here in case the monsters attack here!"
"And I suppose funding the lease of a small apartment is pocket change for you, Herb?" smirked Nabiki, leaning forward.
The dragon princess nodded. "I brought a small amount of the royal treasury with me and had most of it converted to a local currency and placed in a safe account. Not all of it, of course—real gold sometimes speaks more loudly than a note saying it's worth gold."
"Well, ladies—" began Nabiki, grinning as Ranma and Herb scowled at her, "—I believe we have our plan."
"Great to know," muttered Ranma. "So what are you going to charge us for your help in figuring out all the small details?"
The middle Tendo snorted slightly. "Did you see how much Herb gave me, Ranma? I don't need to check it at the bank. There was enough money there to keep the house afloat until you graduate. I can afford to be altruistic in the name of saving the world on one condition."
"I knew there was a catch."
Nabiki smirked at the pigtailed girl. "Information. Figure out who these bug things are and tell me. If I know them, and you, maybe I can help you beat them. Which means I also expect you guys to tell me your powers as they come up. Not right now, of course—too pressed for time. Tomorrow, after breakfast. For now, it's time for good little girls and boys to go to bed," she said, standing up and heading back to the house.
The three Heavenly Kings sat in silence for a moment. Finally, Kasumi spoke up. "Was La... La... what was that name..."
"Layla?" lilted Ranma, finding the name coming easily to her tongue for some reason.
"That's the one! Layla! Was she there?"
Ranma nodded. "She's a little different from how we might remember her. Has long hair now, and she's a lot more aggressive than she was back then. And I'm pretty sure Layla isn't her name anymore. You might want to get ahold of your memories, though. You're not Jadeite with no other name now."
Kasumi's eyes glazed slightly for a moment, then she shook her head quickly. She nodded to Ranma. "You're right... I'm Kasumi Tendo... The memories can be a little overpowering, even if there's not that many of them... How are you two doing so well with it?"
Herb merely grinned, while Ranma elaborated with a slight smirk. "It's our ki. All our training has given us a very strong sense of self. Since our memories of then are coming in trickles, same as yours, I guess we have a better time dealing with it because our strong ki reinforces our sense of self."
Kasumi stood up, quirking an eyebrow at the redhead. "And I suppose that's Nephrite talking?" she asked. Ranma merely waved her hand as she stood up herself, followed by Herb. "Well, until we find that apartment, Herb-san can stay in the guest room with you and Mister Saotome, Ranma-kun."
The two cursed fighters nodded, and as the trio filed back into the house, Ranma muttered something about needing to take a bath, when they were stopped at the door leading from the house to the walkway by both Soun and Genma—Genma still being in panda form for whatever reason. A sign was waved around far too quickly for anyone to be able to read it while Soun was wailing loudly about the schools never being joined.
Frustrated with her father's antics, Ranma lashed out and snatched the sign up, squinting at it. Unfortunately for all involved, Genma's penmanship was a match only for his son's in illegibility, made even worse when hastily scrawled and in such tiny form, and... "Dammit, Pops, couldn't ya have used block print?" growled the redhead as she kicked the panda in the face, squinting at the sign.
Kasumi and Herb also squinted at the sign. "Something about Nabiki?" mused Kasumi, barely making out the hiragana in question.
"I definitely see something along the lines of 'infidelity,'" added Herb.
"And I can make out 'ungrateful son,' too," growled Ranma, swinging the sign and catching the newly-recovered Genma right center in the forehead with it, splintering it and sending the panda to dreamland. "There's your 'ungrateful son' for ya, Pops!"
"Oh, my, Father, how could you think Ranma-kun was being unfaithful to Akane-chan with Nabiki?" asked Kasumi. Her expression was the very picture of vacancy as she spoke. "After all, it was Ranma-chan who was being unfaithful... and with me, not Nabiki. We, and Herb-kun as well, are going to be living together soon, just us. And we might even get a fourth person."
Though the expression never changed from one of concerned vacancy, Ranma and Herb would later both swear to having seen a mischievous glint in Kasumi's eyes.
"W-W-W-What?!" bellowed Soun, his crying gone and demon head in its place. "You dare defile my pure and innocent Kasumi, son?!"
Herb, unfazed by the aura projection, dispersed the demon head simply by throwing a blast of energy into it. "Run," she said, her hands glowing as if to fire another. Genma, now conscious again, needed no second warning, grabbing Soun and fleeing the dragon princess.
The instant they were out of earshot, Kasumi burst into helpless giggles. Ranma frowned in thought. "Oh, right. Jadeite was the prankster of the group. Did I ever get you back for that one you pulled about a year after we were made into the Shitennou?"
"What one?" Kasumi's innocent facade returned with a vengeance.
Ranma wasn't fooled. "You know what one. The itching powder in the underwear drawer."
"Oh, you must have gotten me back for it. You had quite a while to do it in, after all." This time, Herb and Ranma both gave Kasumi a flat stare. The affected look of vacancy never wavered. "Oh, my, since you're already in the midst of improper relations with me, shall we have a bath, then?"
"You know, I think I'll wait until morning," muttered Ranma, Herb grunting an agreement and beginning to follow the redhead toward the stairs. "Remember. You're Kasumi Tendo now, regardless of what you can do. Learn from the past, don't live in it."
"You know, you said that so many times back then," began Herb as the two fighters ascended the stairs. "I actually suggested to the King that we make it your epitaph."
"Pfft," snorted Ranma, saying nothing more on the subject.
That night, Ranma dreamed again.
Warm, dark, and wet... almost comforting... like the womb... except he could hear voices...
"His receptiveness to mana energy is extremely high, but he has almost no actual potential to speak of... It's almost as though he's a fuse for it."
"Well, our first attempt had an insane potential, but very little receptiveness. Maybe we'll get it right eventually."
"I hope so. Remember, the king must not know of this. He means well, and does what he can for the kingdom... but idealism only goes so far. Sometimes it must step aside for reality. And if he knew what we were doing down here..."
Then the blackness, the comforting darkness, was gone, replaced by light. The saber he held became a flurry of glinting steel, striking the blade of the tall, raven-haired man opposite him with almost lethal accuracy. Soon, the element of almost vanished, and the blade found its mark, slipping between a seemingly undetectable flaw in the man's armor and into the flesh beneath, blood pouring out to stain the sword, the ground, and his hands.
"For the glory of the Dark Kingdom," he intoned in a voice that both was and was not his own. "Die, Prince Endymion." All that's left... is the Queen Serenity. When she falls, Queen Beryl's plan will be complete...
The dark dream faded, and Ranma slipped into a more peaceful slumber.
Ranma was not the only one haunted by the ghosts of the past that night.
Mamoru Chiba lay, restless, in his apartment bed. In his dreams, he saw horrifying visages. First, insects on some gargantuan scale attacking a small village with few guards... then those same insects attacking a modern city, crushing or devouring anyone unfortunate enough to stand in their path... and in the end, leaving the planet a barren, desolate waste.
Then they left, going to find another world to consume. A familiar blue marble appeared, growing larger and larger until... home. Earth.
And then it began again...
My Prince. My King, intoned a voice. Mamoru turned, detached, as the colossal insects began devouring the cities he somehow knew from Earth's distant past. Before him stood the four Generals. My King, began Kunzite. The seals are broken. The Vohr'Soth have awakened once more.
My King, interjected Nephrite. We have awakened to serve you once more. We cannot seal them once again. They must be destroyed.
This time, Zoicite interjected. My King, this time we must seek Serenity's aid. She alone possesses the power to destroy these abominations.
My King. Jadeite this time, as he expected. Know that we are loyal to you and will remain so now on pain of death. But we are not whole, nor can we become so. Not yet.
The scenery shifted, the events unfolding around him. The Generals turned away from him, each suddenly holding a weapon, and he found himself holding his old sword. Strangely, he felt a sudden detachment, as if he were watching events unfold that he had no involvement in.
The creature was utterly massive. Endymion guessed it would have stood at least as tall as the defensive wall surrounding his castle. He hoped it was just adrenaline and the heat of the moment making him misjudge its size, but knew better.
"Try to conserve your energy!" yelled Kunzite's authoritative voice. "When we're done here, we still need enough strength to seal these bastards in!"
"Says the guy with the nigh-unlimited reserves!" quipped Jadeite in response. Around him, several green crescents flew in lethal arcs, slicing several of the smaller insectoids to ribbons, though the blades seemed to barely scratch the larger ones that were stomping through the ruined city. "I could use some help here!"
"Busy!" yelled Endymion, dashing forward. He sprang, leaping skillfully over a swiping claw. His sword flashed as he swung, cleaving through the massive insect's arm like butter. The blade-like claw crashed to the ground as Endymion landed on its shoulder, swinging his sword again. This time, the creature's carapace held and prevented it from being decapitated.
"You'll pay for that," growled the creature.
"Not likely!" yelled Nephrite, running up the creature's good arm and springing over its head, one arm reaching out, pointer finger extended.
Endymion reached up himself, brushing his finger against Nephrite's as his sword pointed into the insect's neck. "Two Who Are One!" yelled Nephrite.
"Great Cleave!" finished Endymion, his sword flashing gold as contact was broken, both between himself and Nephrite and his foe's head and thorax.
Both prince and general leapt away from the dying bug, running over to Jadeite, who was now barely holding up a barrier against his opponent's attacks. Touching the blond on the shoulder, Endymion began, "Three Who Are One!"
Nephrite added, "Silver Crescent!"
Clapping his hands together, Jadeite yelled out the finish, "Five-Split!" A flash of light flared from the trio as another crescent sprang into existence, flying through the massive creature several times, splitting it into far more than five pieces.
"They're routing! Let's go!" yelled Kunzite, firing a massive white beam of energy through several smaller Vohr'Soth, clearing a path. The others needed no urging, following.
Again, time sped up. This time, Mamoru didn't see the whole of the battle that followed, but knew it was fierce, driving the massive insectoid creatures back into a meteor far larger than any he'd ever heard of. Then he and his generals were standing in a star formation around the meteor. A Vohr'Soth, this one so massive Mamoru thought it could have swallowed a car with little difficulty, reached a massive, bladed arm out of the meteor... then halted. He and his generals had stopped, standing relaxedly.
Then it happened.
Ice spread from beneath Endymion's feet, rushing to the meteor. It spread from Kunzite, Jadeite, Zoicite, and Nephrite as well. With a screech, the "Templar" Vohr'Soth—as declared by the few who spat his name as their last words—retreated. But it couldn't escape. The ice encased the meteor, flooding into it, freezing it completely solid. And then it began to sink. The ice faded from view as the massive chunk of rock slowly sank into the ground, but no Vohr'Soth tried to escape.
"Five-Point seal," muttered Endymion. "Complete."
A flash of light from outside the star set the five on edge, and they whirled toward it, swords out.
They then sheepishly put them away as they found themselves staring at Queen Serenity.
Serenity, herself, quietly glanced at the four generals, then at the prince, then at the meteor as it sank beneath the surface, leaving no sign of ever having been there. Finally, she said only one thing.
"Damn. You beat me to it."
Then blackness swept over the scene, leaving Mamoru with the Four Heavenly Kings once more.
It was the Vohr'Soth who ravaged Earth... It was they who laid the groundwork, unknowing, for Metaria's control of the hapless Beryl. And it was the devastation they wreaked that made it so easy for Beryl to usurp control of Earth, spoke the solemn voice of Kunzite.
But far worse, began Zoicite, was that their ravaging of the planet destroyed much knowledge. When the youma swept over Earth in Beryl's wake, humanity had little to fight them with. Queen Serenity's intervention narrowly prevented humanity's total destruction... but the damage was done.
Humanity was driven into a dark age. All record of the Silver Millennium was destroyed. All record of the Moon Kingdom vanished beneath their hunger and mindless conquest. Nephrite's eyes brimmed with unshed tears. We were forgotten by all save Pluto until the memories of the Sailor Senshi and you began to awaken, my King. And it was the Vohr'Soth who are responsible.
They must be destroyed! rang Jadeite's voice. They cannot be sealed again and risk another escape! If they are not destroyed, it will happen again! This age of humanity will be forever lost, and humanity may not recover this time!
"I understand," replied Mamoru. "The Vohr'Soth will be destroyed. I swear this to you. The Sailor Senshi and the Four Heavenly Kings will emerge victorious. Humanity will not be lost."
Thank you, my King, spoke Kunzite, greatly relieved. Our other halves exist in the world of the living once more. They will guide you and be guided by you now. When the time comes to make us whole, we shall meet again. Until then... we will rest.
"Wait!" called Mamoru. "There's still—"
Goodbye, my King, intoned the four, vanishing suddenly.
And Mamoru's dream ended, returning him to peaceful sleep.
Kasumi's eyes snapped open. She struggled against her body, frozen in the paralysis of sleep, then shot upright like a cannon, grasping and reaching fiercely. "My sword—! Where—?!" she gasped, then stopped. Her hand slowly moved to her breast, where she could feel her heart pounding. Her heart. My heart... In a flash, the dream returned to her.
Zoicite's and Jadeite's swords flashed, desperately trying to stay a step ahead of the brown-haired man fighting them. Parry here, guard, thrust at an opening—
Pain exploded up Jadeite's arm as the corrupted Nephrite carved into it, slamming the trap on his feint shut on him. Nephrite then turned and easily disarmed Zoicite, bringing his arm back for the finishing blow.
"Why are you doing this?" exclaimed Zoicite, finding himself literally against a wall with nowhere to go.
"For Beryl. For Metaria. For the Dark Kingdom. To restore the glory lost to the Vohr'Soth," intoned Nephrite. Zoicite opened his mouth to speak, but cut himself off in a strangled cough as Nephrite drove his sword through the fair-haired man.
Jadeite turned to run, realizing. I have to get this information to the King! Senator Beryl is the traitor! he thought, taking two steps before a cold, numbing sensation began spreading from his chest. He glanced down, seeing the blood-slicked steel protruding from his chest. Nephrite didn't withdraw his sword then—he turned and carved through Jadeite's chest until his blade sliced out through the armpit.
"Don't worry, Jadeite. You'll see. Under Queen Beryl's rule, Earth will flourish again, and threats like the Vohr'Soth will never become a worry."
Kasumi clutched at her chest at the memory of a sword penetrating it. No, not my chest, Jadeite's... I'm alive now... that was... then. She repeated it in her head, like a mantra. Then. That was then. That was then. Not now. Not... now. She took a breath, steadying herself. Slowly, the images, the memories, faded away. She let out the breath in an explosive sigh, shuddering as she became just Kasumi again. The clock next to her bed read 2:21. Too early to wake up... Back to sleep, Kasumi. You've a long day ahead of you.
She rolled over... and began to dream again.
Layla grinned cockily at him, and he grinned back. "Are you sure you want to do this? The great general, all high and mighty with his sword, actually taking up a bow?" she taunted him.
"Kunzite might be better at it than me, but I like to think I'm a fair hand at archery," Jadeite returned. "Unless, of course, you're not confident you can match me?"
"Ha! Just watch!" Without another word, the raven-haired girl walked over to her positioning marker, raising her bow and drawing back the arrow. Aiming at the target that was a good two hundred meters away, she steadied her arm and released. With a whistle of air, the arrow buried itself directly into the painted target, dead center. "Top that!" she crowed.
"Top, impossible. Match, however..." Trailing off, he assumed his own position, raising his bow and drawing back the arrow. Concentrating, he let the arrow fly. While it didn't split the other arrow down the middle as the popular talk went, the arrowhead did carve a significant gouge into its predecessor before striking the target. "You see?"
"Lucky shot." The mystically-empowered princess of Mars bowed her head in deep thought. "Chess! I'll bet you're not as good as me at chess!"
"We'll see. I've been practicing with Princess Mercury lately..."
Kasumi stirred, drifting into deeper slumber, smiling at the thought of beating her friend and rival at something else.
Post-Chapter Rant Thingy
Nearly as long as the previous chapter. I'm not sure what the response will be to this one, but...
On the topic of flashbacking, I've decided for Big Changes to have flashbacks be presented in italic fonts. Thoughts during flashbacks will be unitalicized, thoughts outside will remain italicized.
I don't really have anything else left to say on this, as much as I want to.
See you next mission.