You can guess the crossover. Ranma won't wear a fuku, and also no tuxedo. He won't be some re-incarnation. He is just... Ranma. I want to avoid numerous stuff that became the norm in these crossovers but that actually is pretty stupid. I also will make it clear that while Ranma and the Senshi learn new techniques, I won't sink to the insane levels of the canon, where it became an absurd arms race in the later parts of both series. It's a common weakness in anime series that the power level increases to ridiculous levels. (In my opinion, DBZ is the worst offender in that regard in the anime world) I will try to stay on Earth and try to give everything a bit more realistic feeling (as much as it as it is possible) but don't worry... hilarity will still ensure!
Needless to say that I will slaughter the canon of both series, but I guess you expected this. Also I don't have any rights to both series, but I guess you know that, too.
Now, this took longer than expected, because I had to deal with RL stuff that caused me to have a writer's block. Also, after originally finishing the chapter, I was displeased with it and did significant rewrites in order to have more character moments. This all delayed the chapter by a whole month.
I do have a page for the story at TV Tropes, the link is found in my bio. Please help to contribute to it if you feel like it.
As always, I try to answer all reviews and I'm always happy for reviews. Sorry I didn't reply in the previous chapter. See above for the reason.
Note that specific notes are at the end of the chapter, to avoid spoilers.
Chapter 35: Riddle of the Old Kingdom
"Hmngh... Damn, this is the worst one so far," Ranma groaned, feeling quite lousy.
"Here, let me help you..." Ami said, gently caressing Ranma's belly through her clothes, hoping it would help to ease the discomfort a bit.
"Ohhh, thanks! The first two times hadn't been as bad as this one," Ranma sighed, feeling the cramping recede a bit.
Ami held Ranma a bit closer, understanding fully well how she was feeling right now. "Well, from what I know, especially from personal experience, the first few times vary a lot. The body needs to find a new balance during that time, and that can take a few tries."
That was not what Ranma had wanted to hear. "Oh, lucky me..."
While it was true that Ranma as a girl had already experienced two periods, this one was especially bad. The cramps had caused Ranma's mood to deteriorate since they had started the previous day. The girls understood too well and gave her some breathing room. Ranma again was glad her mother wasn't making a drama out of it, though she had insisted on her wearing briefs with a pad under her boxers to prevent a mess. The damn pad still felt alien and intrusive to her.
Right at the moment they were sitting on a park bench, with Ami trying her best to lift Ranma's spirits. Ranma certainly didn't want to be home at the moment, since despite trying to avoid embarrassing her son, Nodoka still was liable to slip. Though she had apologized for being insensitive, Ranma didn't want to risk a repeat after what had happened last time. Her mother's pregnancy after all did cause some mood shifts at times, further complicating the matter.
Poor Ranma... Ami thought when again noticing the echo of Ranma's discomfort through their bond due to being right next to her. At least this feeling is not alien to me.
"At least you now know it's over faster if you don't change back," Ami reminded her.
"Yes, only that it forces me to deal with the mess," Ranma said, still feeling a bit squicked by it. "You know, I'm perhaps the only guy who'll never make any jokes about girls and that time of the month. To think you go through this every month..."
"Trust me, we do get used to it after the first few times and don't feel it much anymore." Ami then held Ranma closer. "However, you should try to see the positive side of your curse as well. You also are the only guy who really knows what a girl likes," she whispered into her ear, a tiny blush creeping up at the memories.
"You know what this looks like to an outside observer?" Ranma reminded Ami, worrying a bit for the girl's reputation.
"To be honest, I don't care anymore. What others think of me is their problem. Labeling me a lesbian just because I'm together with you when you are a girl won't change that I always like you. I'm no longer as concerned about being seen as proper as I used to be," Ami declared.
Well, that certainly is true... Ranma thought.
Ami certainly had relaxed a lot and was no longer trying to follow the rigid ideal of the 'good girl'. Some of the things they'd done she would have either frowned at back then or blushed up a storm. Of course there still were limits for both of them. Nodoka's birthday gift was still sitting beneath Ranma's bed, both of them still being too embarrassed to use it, though they both admitted that it was rather tempting.
At the start Ranma had been reluctant to even think about anything other than Ami's fingers or her tongue being put in there when she was a girl. However, even Ranma's reluctance was waning, not the least due to the fact that it would be Ami, a girl, who would put it in there. It was a frontier that no guy would ever pass, but she was starting to warm up to the idea of Ami using the ...ahem... toy.
"Somewhat funny to think I would've freaked some time ago at the idea of having a girl so close - especially when I'm a girl myself," Ranma thought aloud. In retrospect it was surprising how much things did change.
"Oh, not that I would have been much better." Ami did remember her past behavior. "I think I either would have been mortified and run away in terror or blushed myself to death. Well... not anymore."
"Eh, Ami...?" Ranma asked when seeing Ami's face homing in on hers. This was escalating a bit faster than she'd thought it would.
Seeing Ranma's surprise, Ami gave her a smile. "I said, I don't care. Perhaps this will make it a bit better for you?"
Seeing silent approval, her lips closed in on hers, then they gently touched. This made Ranma forget the sight they were presenting - after all, openly shown homosexuality wasn't exactly welcome in Japan. Ranma surrendered into it, the gentle lip-lock and Ami still caressing her belly successfully distracting her from the uncomfortable feeling in her lower regions.
"Well, now that's a sight to behold."
"Eeek!" "Eeek!" Ranma and Ami let go of each other and jumped to the opposite ends of the bench. True, they were not concerned about other people... except for Haruka and Michiru, since these two did a great job of embarrassing the hell out of them whenever they saw them together while Ranma was female.
"Oh, damn, it's already over," Haruka said in disappointment at what her first comment had caused.
"Haruka-dear, be nice. You are embarrassing them," Michiru tsked, although she clearly saw the humor in it. "Though it was a cute sight."
"Of course you two would say that..." Ranma grumbled, starting to feel annoyed, which was easy to accomplish at the moment.
"Oh, don't be a grouch. We were just on our way to the cinema, and what do we see? Out here on a little twosome time?" Michiru asked, eager to see if she could wiggle something out of them.
"No, we're out here because I'm having damn cramps and am not the most social person right now," Ranma spat, then looked apologetic. "Sorry, I just feel lousy."
These were enough clues for both women to realize what was going on. Having went through it as well, they bit back any kind of witty comments, knowing it would hurt Ranma's feelings. Normal girls already hated someone making fun of this biological fact and Ranma's reaction would undoubtedly be much worse. Silent communication between all parties made sure that the topic was dropped and wouldn't be mentioned anymore.
Ami knew a change of topic was needed. "Well, we don't see you as regularly as the others. How is life right now?"
"Oh, rather boring, if you ask me. The racing circuit is closed until spring, meaning there's little to do for me in that regard, while Michiru has no concerts in the near future. Honestly, it is really peaceful in our lives right now - well, if you don't include our other job," Haruka told them.
Ranma grunted in sarcasm. "Yeah, that one is far from peaceful right now."
"I don't complain. After what we went through recently, boring actually is good. Though I would't describe fighting Youma as boring, it thankfully isn't something we do every day - not even now. It does give me time to finally get some painting done," Michiru added.
"You paint?" Ami asked, not having known this was one of the woman's talents.
"You better believe she does and don't be fooled by her acting so modest about it. She paints well enough that it can be sold commercially," Haruka said, then noticed Michiru giving her a look. "You are sometimes a little too modest for your own good. I also remember you painting all the stuff from both our nightmares so you could finally let it out."
Michiru went a bit paler, still sensitive about what Nehellenia had done to them. All of them were still healing from it. "I've never before painted such disturbing things, though it did help to make me feel better."
"We've all suffered. What's important is that we don't let them win," Ranma said. Everyone knew he not only meant the nightmares, but also Ami's struggle with her evil self and her own horror with Neko. "If my old man did get one thing right, it's to never give up."
Man, I sound downright smart, Ranma thought.
She found the idea outright funny, since she would probably never become a top student in school. No, it would be just enough to go to college for a physical education degree. After all, unlike Ami her strengths were not in the intellectual, and her girlfriend had accepted that - though Ami still was a harsh taskmistress to help her get the best possible grades.
Looking onto her wristwatch, Haruka whistled."Look at the time. If we want to get to the cinema without being in a hurry, we need to go now. Well, was nice meeting you, but we don't want to get bad seats." Haruka then decided to lighten the mood a bit. "Oh, and don't hesitate to do things we would."
"How comes these two always manage to slip in something about sex?" Ranma wondered while watching them leave.
"I honestly don't want to know. Although they have become way better, they still are quite shameless about such things. -Sigh- At least they are now more considerate about the fact it does annoy us," Ami said, feeling they'd probably never get used to these two. "Feel any better?"
"You know, I'm suddenly in the mood for something with lots of sugar to improve my mood. I don't give a damn if some think it isn't manly." Ranma then paused when she got a thought. "Is that normal for girls during this time of the month as well?" she wondered.
That did it and Ami laughed. "No, that's universal to everyone, though something sweet can't hurt right now to lighten the mood."
She conveniently ignored that some time ago she would have protested vehemently because of how my sugar and fat was in these things. This showed again how different of a person she'd become. Two years ago she would have lectured Ranma how unhealthy the sugar would be. Though truth to be told, as physically active as she was now, she wouldn't have to worry about gaining weight.
Life never gets boring... Ami thought.
...Chinese School in Tokyo, next day...
#"You know, even after all this time I still wonder why she's insisting on that stupid hair color. Why isn't the administration doing something about it?"#
#"You missed it? Oh... yes, you were sick with the flu that week. They actually did look into it. Turns out this IS her natural hair color."#
#"Really? And I'd thought she'd dyed her pubes as well when seeing her naked in the locker room the first time. Gosh, what a freak. Makes me glad I'm not her."#
Xian-Pu tried to ignore the gossiping girls, looking absently out of the window over the densely built part of inner Tokyo. However, it was difficult not to blush when these girls got her intimate hair as their gossip topic.
#I can't help it. After all, I was born like this,# she groaned inwardly, feeling this would become a long day.
If someone in her home village could see her now, they would probably laugh their asses off. Here she was, village champion and strong warrior... wearing a conservative school uniform, enduring a humiliating reminder that skill did not equal education and being forced to run the gauntlet of being the target of the gossiping daughters of politicians and rich businessmen.
Like these two right now. They were totally off-limits thanks to their daddies. The first girl was the daughter of the Chinese ambassador to Japan and enjoyed special protection. The other girl got a father who was head of a multi-billion dollar corporation who probably lit his cigars with bank notes. No one dared to cross these two - a rule even she wouldn't dare to violate. No, she would keep her head down.
#"Heard the newest? There was another monster attack yesterday evening."# That was the son of an influential party member, who was sent to Japan to 'study the enemy'.
#"Makes you wonder why there isn't a full-blown panic by now. You have to give it to them, these people have nerves of steel,"# his buddy added, him being the son of - rare enough - a woman in a place of power.
#Please... Just let the teacher finally arrive...#
She didn't want to be reminded of the fact that the atmosphere in the city was tense. The constant battles were starting to add up and even in a city as huge as Tokyo, where over 99% of the people had not been even close to one of the battles, it made people start to fear it could happen near them next. Them being afraid was understandable, however.
If the situation would continue to deteriorate however, it could turn ugly. People after all could take only this much before feeling they were not protected well. The most recent battle had been quite nasty, her friends returning with shredded uniforms that barely held together to protect their modesty and being covered in ugly scratches requiring lots of healing.
As far as she had learned, they did land right between the Youma and Daimons, something Usagi had given Setsuna much grief for. Without her great-grandmother's strict training, they would have died for sure.
She took a look to the other members of class whose parents did not meet the criteria for rich or influential - those like her who had to attend the school because they had to. It was pretty obvious they were suffering from being at the bottom of the totem pole. Chinese society was strictly hierarchical and those at the top made sure everyone else understood that.
#What would great-grandmother call it? Oh yes, a 'lesson in humility'. Back at home I was a big shot, but here I'm a social nobody. Certainly helped my head to deflate back to normal,# she thought, finding it a bit ironic that she actually found it pleasant not to stick out... apart from school time.
Thankfully, her pain was finally over when the teacher arrived, causing everyone to scramble.
#"Everyone to their seats. Those I 'm about catch who thought they could skip on homework should better start praying,"# the man growled.
At least she had one consolation: this teacher clearly disliked all of them equally and played no favorites. It made her wonder what kind of strings he'd pulled to intimidate all of the teenagers with rich and influential parents into compliance, but she didn't complain.
There was more consolation, when a little later said daughter of the ambassador did get caught having just photocopied someone else's homework. Her sobs when the teacher told her that this meant calling her father was like music to Xian-Pu.
Exiting the subway station, Xian-Pu let out a sigh of relief that she'd be home soon, before starting to walk the final distance to the Neko-Hanten. School always was some sort of torture to her - not because of school work, but because of the other students - and she always felt better when returning to more comfortable grounds.
Today however she knew things would be quiet. Since it was not a training day, she instead would help out in the restaurant. Business would pick up soon enough once people were done with work for the day, masses of salarymen flooding out of the offices. After a hard day full with work they would be hungry, thus the early evening was when they actually did most of their business.
Other food vendors might get the lunch crowd, but the Neko-Hanten as a full-fledged restaurant did best business with the evening crowd. Mu-Tsu was capable of handling the slow business during the training hours on his own. Outside of these, it was Khu-Lon who was busy in the kitchen. The old woman had found a liking for cooking from her late husband and relished in doing something she actually enjoyed instead of having her time taken up by the other elders' scheming.
#I guess she won't even want to return once this mess is solved. Ever since leaving the village, she has become more lighthearted than I've seen her before in my entire life,# she realized. #That means I have the choice not to return as well... Should it worry me that I'm not even scared of the possibility?#
Reaching the Neko-Hanten, she opened the door and stopped when seeing Makoto already being present, chatting animatedly with Mu-Tsu. There were only a few patrons present otherwise, and they'd already been served.
"Somehow I should have expected you to be here," she commented, actually finding the whole thing really cute.
Makoto looked up. "Oh, hello. Hope you don't mind me taking up his time."
"I certainly don't mind. It's good to finally see him getting invested in a girl other than me." She knew this was good for everyone. "He certainly looks much happier..." Only then did she notice. "Oh, when...?"
"Well, I already convinced him shortly after the little ... dream-disaster ... to finally have his eyes checked and then get new glasses that are not only much thinner but also much more esthetically pleasing," Makoto said, looking very proud of herself.
"I received them this morning and really like them. The hard part was convincing me it isn't charity," Mu-Tsu admitted, leaving out he'd enjoyed his new looks in the mirror until Khu-Lun joking accused him of becoming a narcissist.
"It's not charity when I help out the man I like. I gladly paid for it," Makoto said with a smile. "I think we're both really glad that old thing is finally gone," she then added, enjoying the now unobstructed view at his handsome face.
"That's... good for you." Truth to be told, now seeing him like this made her regret a little she'd rejected him. Xian-Pu quickly stomped the feeling flat, not wanting to intrude into what was growing between these two.
"Better hurry, Xian-Pu!" Khu-Lon suddenly called from the kitchen. "I've got a call. There's a big delivery we're going to make; so get changed and then swing yourself onto your bicycle to get everything delivered on time!"
"Ah, yes, great-grandmother," Xian-Pu answered quickly.
That was part of the job; delivery when something was ordered by phone. She didn't mind at all and even enjoyed it, since riding a bicycle was good for her to keep in shape, after all. Well, enjoyed it apart from that one time a traffic cop had stopped her for her reckless cycling style. It had been humiliating being forced to be present while he told Khu-Lon of all the traffic violations she'd done in under a minute. Apart from having to pay the fine from her allowance, she'd been forced to take a remedial course in traffic rules together with ten-year old kids. Ever since then she made sure to not violate any traffic rules.
"Sorry, no more time to talk. After all, I don't want to get whacked by her stick,"Xian-Pu excused herself before she vanished upstairs, leaving Makoto and Mu-Tsu to their own devices.
"I wonder how many dismissed you just because of your bad eyesight," Makoto wondered.
"It's not only that. You see, in my village those in power try to hold onto the old ways despite where this got us. To them, I was born with the wrong gender and thus dismissed as unimportant right from day one. My bad eyesight only cemented their opinion. Citizen second class with another big minus," Mu-Tsu explained.
Makoto of course knew his story, but this was the first time he went into more detail. "This was incredibly stupid of them. They ignored someone as talented as you, just because of their own prejudice. Seems they learned nothing from history."
Mu-Tsu gave off a short laugh. "Believe me, there are lots of people who think so as well. Just a week before Ranma turned up, my neighbors packed up and left, unable to any longer tolerate the atmosphere in the village. Others have become openly rebellious, like merchants who deny service to arrogant warriors. I think being dragged into the 20th century doomed our society; not that I'm sad about it."
It wasn't difficult to hear the bitterness in his voice. "I know your family life was horrible. Were they one of those who resented change?"
"You better believe it. My mother was very conservative even in face of what happened - she even witnessed it and learned nothing. My sisters treated me like an error that should have never happened. Not much of a family and certainly not something I want to go back to." There was little doubt Mu-Tsu had divorced himself from the village some time ago, only now he actually got away from it physically.
"This is messed up. I can't imagine it, because up to the day they were taken from me, my parents always heaped love and care onto me." Makoto knew, things she'd taken for granted, others would have killed for to get.
"Not everyone is so lucky. Xian-Pu's parents might have loved her dearly, but her mother died way too early in her life, and the way her father was bullied out of the village is nothing short of disgraceful." he shook his head. "Well, that's a bit too depressing."
Makoto took a deep breath. "Then I have a suggestion. How about I take you out on a date this weekend?" She knew, normally it was the man who would suggest it, but their circumstances were hardly normal.
This did improve his mood significantly. "Really? Well... I don't get out a lot, so I wouldn't have any idea where to take you for a date."
"Oh, let this be my problem..." Makoto told him with a smile.
While she did have a weakness for romantic stuff, she knew she didn't want to bore him, which already axed all of the romantic classics - though if she were honest, she didn't find them too exciting as well. She would follow Ami's advice that they should do something they both enjoy; may it be exciting, funny or simply relaxing. After all, a date was about enjoying yourselves, not keeping up what others think it should be.
Mu-Tsu couldn't help but to wonder wat that girl was planning now.
...Hikawa Shrine, two days later...
"Please tell me you did learn the spell thoroughly. After all, no need to court disaster," Ceres asked Moon while leaning against a tree.
They were waiting for some of the girls to finish a quick bathroom visit before they would finally be ready to do their strangest journey yet. Considering they were about to go to the Moon, a place not exactly suitable should one of them have a potty emergency, this actually was a sensitive precaution.
Sailor Moon sighed. "Yes; many times. Luna told me in my face it would be downright embarrassing if the world gets conquered just because I was feeling lazy. I even practiced it to make sure."
"It's nothing personal, I just know your attention curve when you dislike doing something. Remember that class project the previous year which we were supposed to build together?" Ceres reminded her.
Moon remembered it all too well. "Don't remind me. My mother gave me an earful when I got a clean zero on it. I still feel guilty for pulling you into that mess."
"It wasn't that bad; my mother only told me sternly to make sure you are more dedicated next time." She then saw the missing girls arrive. "Finally. You took your time."
Sailor Mars rolled her eyes at this. "Please no jokes about how much time we need to use the bathroom, OK?"
"Then here we go..." Moon said, pulling out the scepter with the Silver Crystal before following the instructions.
She hadn't really used the crystal for anything since the day she'd gotten it; having a healthy respect for the sheer power it was representing. She wouldn't admit that she also was a bit afraid of using it, even after Setsuna had promised her that using it at moderate power was totally safe. It still left her with a slightly uneasy feeling.
Everyone felt something did happen. "Well, let's hope it did work..." Uranus said with a shrug, knowing that if it didn't work, they would have no time to regret it.
This time when they created the teleport circle, they were pretty much under themselves, since this wasn't supposed to especially dangerous. Just teleport to the Moon, grab the Moonstone from Endymion's corpse and return. No more, no less and nothing their friends would worry about. This was, why there only were Phobos and Deimos watching them from a tree.
Of course, the fact they had to trust Usagi to command the Silver Crystal to protect them from the vacuum of space made this a tiny bit dangerous.
Some moments later, they vanished.
"What do you think they'll see up there?" Phobos wondered, looking up to the Moon.
Deimos sighed. "Can't you guess? I already feel sorry for them and know Rei will need some kind words once they are back."
Now Phobos finally got what his sister meant. He looked up to the Moon again. "No one their age should be forced to see that." The absence of any kind of humor showed disliked sending them there. "No... no one should be forced to see that."
On the Moon meanwhile...
"Woah..." Ranma gasped, not because of feeling sick - this time it already was much better - but because of their surroundings. "I really doubt anyone would ever believe us this one."
There was no doubt they were on the Moon when seeing the Earth in the pitch-black sky above them, looking about four times as big as the Moon in the Earth sky. As for their surroundings... It certainly looked like the pictures from the Moon landings they'd all seen, only that the gray and dusty landscape around them was filled with ruins.
"Kind of spooky... It looks as if the place got destroyed just a few days ago instead of thousands of years ago," Venus commented, feeling that they would stumble on many unpleasant things.
"More makes me wonder why no one discovered this yet. After all, it's kind of in the open," Endymion wondered, scratching his head. "Either this is a case of dumb luck or not seeing the obvious."
"Don't sell scientists short. Remember, the Moon is big, so it would have been a wonder had they landed near the ruins. Also, the regolith kind of blends with the ruins and thus even today's telescopes can't tell the difference from a field of rocks," Pluto explained, her heart hurting when seeing what was left of her home of old.
"Wow... Too bad we can't claim the title of first woman on the Moon..." Venus walked up a small elevation to take a closer look at the close-by palace ruins. "I bet we... AAAHHHHH!"
Hearing her scream, they ran to her to see if she needed help, only to stop when they saw what had scared her so much. There were bodies... dead bodies which looked quite fresh for the fact they'd been dead for 10.000 years. Following Venus' eyes, they then saw why exactly she'd been this shocked: the torn body of a woman wearing the uniform of Sailor Venus.
They quickly turned her away from this sight. "Venus..." Jupiter tried, but got no reaction. "Minako..." Using her real name, she finally got a reaction from the girl. "Please pull yourself together. We... we leave them in peace, OK?"
Venus gulped hard. "Sorry... it's just... I remembered how she died when a Youma ripped through her spine. Just let us go..."
"Strange that these are in this good condition after such a long time," Ranma wondered while they walked faster to spend as little time as possible in this place. "Any ideas, Ami?" Ranma didn't even bother and just used Mercury's real name.
"Outer space. The lack of air and the low temperatures have conserved the bodies. True, radiation will destroy them, but that is going to take a really long time." She then swallowed hard when catching a glimpse of a Senshi uniform with an ice-blue skirt. "This is a huge grave. We should leave as soon as we got what we want. Endymion, where to go?"
Endymion concentrated for a moment. "His memories tell me he got killed in the palace gardens, together with the others. This means we already are at the correct place. We just need to look around."
Not wanting to spend anymore time than necessary in this depressing place, they walked at a brisk pace while trying to find Endymion's corpse. The sight of all these dead bodies - many of them in horrible condition - was starting to make them sick. Sure, they'd seen a lot ever since becoming Senshi, but they still were teenagers and this was pushing their limits.
"At least I don't have to see her chopped-off head. She died somewhere else," Ceres said with a shudder, her stomach clenching together at the thought. She still got occasional nightmares from the memory.
"She died alone... like the Outers..." Pluto stopped. They had just found the dead Queen Serenity - who thankfully wasn't mangled - and Pluto looked sad at seeing her friend's dead body. "Can you please give me a moment...?" she asked, her voice threatening to break.
No one could fault her for needing some time to say goodbye to her friend and they continued to search. It wasn't easy and they had to fight not to get sick at the horrible sights; the battle really had been more of a slaughter. This wasn't helped by the fact all of it still looked so fresh, despite the moon dust that had started to settle on everything.
"Urgh..." Sailor Moon looked away as quick as possible when seeing the dead princess. The girl so much looked like herself that it scared her to no end.
However, she also couldn't help but to want and look again, regardless of the gore factor. She did feel the bile rising when seeing how Serenity had died; the gaping hole in her body was a clear sign. She had to fight down the urge to vomit while being strangely moved by the sight of the girl who had been her in a previous life. Of course she was not that girl; she was Usagi, not Serenity.
"I've found him!" Uranus called.
They knew that this was the dead Endymion when seeing the armor of Earth nobility - the same one the present Endymion was wearing. Considering the way he got gutted, his death must have been horrible. The horrible sight finally was too much for Mercury after all the other horrors. Feeling her lunch move the wrong way, she staggered a few feet away before falling to her knees. A few tears escaped her as well while she vomited.
She felt her stomach hurting badly, protesting its violent evacuation, while trying to cough out the bitter-tasting remnants. Feeling a bit weak in her knees, she sighed when Ranma pulled her back onto her feet.
"I know this isn't a pretty sight and I don't blame you it got too much for you," Ranma told her while making sure to hold her steady. "Is the worst over?"
"My stomach is still cramping and my mouth tastes horrible. I've seen a lot, but there are some things you shouldn't get used to. This is one of them." She stopped a small glob of water floated in front of her.
"I think you have a use for this," Neptune told her gently.
"Oh, thank you..." Quickly snatching the water with her mouth she gargled it, before spitting it out. "Much better... I'm just glad you can conjure water... especially fresh water."
"I know, although it kind of goes against the theme of being the Senshi of the oceans," Neptune admitted, wondering about that herself.
"I hope we aren't making it a habit to barf so much..." Mercury sighed, then relaxed when Ranma's hand rubbed her belly, causing her stomach to settle. He certainly knew some things that were really helpful. "Can you hold me a bit closer?"
Ranma did as asked. "I can feel you are not well. Just try to hold on." Mercury had nothing against it. Him being protective of her did not mean that she was weak. No, it actually felt good that he cared so much.
Those girls without a boyfriend looked a little envious at how protective Ranma was of Mercury.
Meanwhile, Endymion searched his dead previous self. It was a thankless task, but he had to do it himself, even if only to reassure himself that he was not this dead man. Finally, he pulled out a stone disk that was a bit smaller than the Sunstone and would fit perfectly into the depression on top of it. Four different moon phases were engraved onto it.
"Got it; this must be the Moonstone! Now let's better leave..." He stopped when seeing Sailor Moon still looking at the body of Princess Serenity, crying while she did so. "Bunny, what's wrong?"
Moon gave him a sad look and he knew that the sight must have struck something deep within her. "No one could cry for her when it happened. She died alone. I can't help it... I feel like I owe it to her to give her some kind of send-off, regardless how small."
He had no idea what to say. Truth to be told, everyone on the Moon had died a thankless and lonely death. After all, there had been no one left to cry for them.
...later that day...
"Strange that I expected a visit to the Moon to be more exciting," Sailor Venus commented while jumping over the roofs to get back home. Looking at corpses didn't count as being exciting to her; only scary.
"Don't complain. After all, you did get your share of excitement today after you returned," Artemis reminded her from where he was holding onto her shoulder, his claws barely holding onto the enchanted material.
Artemis certainly didn't want a repeat of today. After visiting Luna, who didn't want to tag along with the girls, he had walked to the shrine on his own, in order to talk shop with Phobos and Deimos. Too bad that just after the girls had returned, something happened and Minako got the 'great' idea of dragging him along. He thanked all goodness he came out of that unharmed.
"I don't count having to fight some rabid Youma right after returning from the Moon as exciting. It's just plain annoying and they could have picked a more convenient time. Well, at least my parents won't be home until later, so there's no danger there."
Artemis knew there was something to that. "Well, as long as the job gets done..."
Venus used the time to let her thoughts wander, since by now traveling by rooftops had become second nature to her and she could do it on auto pilot. No, her thoughts actually turned to the recent changes in her life. Ever since the curse on her had been broken, there were interesting changes and developments, most of which would take time to get used to.
Boys suddenly again noticing she was an attractive girl was a huge change. Even as the Senshi of Love, suddenly again being desired would take time to get used to - it actually was kind of overwhelming. Up to now no less than three boys had tried to chat her up and she did notice others taking a good look at her females assets. She did feel a deep satisfaction that she again was the target of male interest.
Of course there were side-effects.
Two days after getting rid of the curse, she was still recovering when washing herself at the morning, and just the friction of the cloth over her more private places had caused her to suddenly keel over, moaning in something that wasn't pain. She'd been beet-red when calling Ami, forcing her friend to promise she would keep silent about this while she had scanned her to find out what was wrong.
As it turned out, the suddenly freed Love energies were a bit too much for her body to handle, so it had compensated by making her much more sensitive to sexual stimuli. Minako had felt like sinking into the ground, her only consolation being, that her recovery would also mean things getting back to normal, which they thankfully did. Venting by beating up that jerk Mint certainly did help, too.
The whole thing about Love is really serious, she noted when making the connection. So that is why it was so easy for me to blast a hole into that Youma. All that energy now wants to go somewhere.
She then spotted her house. "Hold on, Artemis!"
"Minako, wait! Not in your uniform!" Artemis warned, but it was too late.
Executing one last jump, she sailed right though the open window on the upper floor, coming to a halt inside her room. "See, no problem at all."
"I wish you would be more careful. Irresponsible of you to jump into your room like this while being transformed," Artemis scolded her while jumping off her shoulder.
"Oh, come on! It's already dark outside and my folks won't be home until later," she replied while turning off her transformation. "No need to worry then unnecessarily."
That stopped Minako cold. Slowly turning around, she was confronted with her parents standing in the door - the very same door which she had forgotten to close when she'd left in a hurry earlier to attend the meeting at the shrine. It seemed they had returned home earlier than anticipated. The looks her parents were giving her spoke of astonishment, fear and disappointment. To her, it was a nightmare coming true.
Her father found his voice first. "I can't believe it... How long have you been lying to us?"
"Daddy, I..." Minako tried.
"No, don't even try. We also saw your cat talk, so don't try to deny it. What were you thinking?!" It seemed Mr. Aino was getting more angry by the moment.
"Oh yes! You have lots of explaining to do, young lady!" Mrs. Aino added, making Minako wish her mother wouldn't have found her voice. "All these times you made lame excuses, the time I caught you limping, those friends you're hanging around with... Oh dear!" It seemed she made the connection.
Minako knew things were going south. "See..."
However, her mother wasn't done yet. "Did these friends of yours put you up to it? My own daughter... recklessly risking her life, jumping all over Tokyo dressed like a hooker..."
"It's not like that!" Minako defended herself, although it was true all of the girls felt their uniforms were too sexualized.
"Stop it! Don't you see you two are hurting her!?" Artemis hissed, seeing that Minako got more upset by the second.
This proved to be an error when Minako's father looked at him as if seeing something really horrifying. "You! All this started when you entered her life! You damn cat, I should have insisted to get rid of you!"
"Aaahh!" Artemis hissed, barely avoiding the kick the man sent his way. Seeing that staying would mean him getting hurt, Artemis jumped through the still open window and out of sight.
"Artemis!" Minako gasped, her fear making room for anger. "How could you!? He did nothing but help me; he's my friend!"
"No, we now know your so-called friends are nothing but poison! You won't ever see them again, believe it! And also forget ever wearing this disgraceful outfit again!" her mother told her under no terms.
Minako was having none of it. She had feared it would come to this; having to make a decision between saving the world and her family. However, her parents left her with little choice, as much as it hurt her. Right now both of them were so upset that they were no longer thinking straight, their fear simply too great.
She pulled her wand of of her subspace pocket, and... "VENUS POWER! MAKE UP!"
Bright light blinded the Ainos for a short moment, then they saw to their astonishment their naked daughter proudly holding the wand aloft and not being ashamed of her nudity. Bright lights danced over her skin, creating the uniform of Sailor Venus in a shower of sparks. This had all taken only mere few seconds, but it was shocking to them.
Venus gave her parents, who looked at her in frozen terror, a grim look. "I see, so you put your pride above me helping to save lives." She made no effort to hide she was crying, tears running down her face. "I really don't want to do this, but if I have to chose between saving the world and obeying you, I chose the world!"
That said, she jumped out of the window.
"Minako!" Artemis gasped when she grabbed him from the tree he had landed in, forgetting to use her Senshi name.
As soon as she had put some distance between herself and the house, she broke down crying on a rooftop. "How can they?! All the good things I did, and they can't accept me as who I am? This is unfair... All the other parents were OK with it; why not mine?!" she sobbed, deeply hurt by this rejection.
"Minako..." He knew he couldn't tell her everything would get better.
For now helping Minako to find shelter took priority. That, and informing her friends, and especially Setsuna, of this disaster.
After over half an hour with Minako not returning, the Ainos had moved to the kitchen table, upset and confused at this strange turn of events.
"Where have we went wrong with her? Prancing around in that... that hooker costume and constantly endangering herself," Mrs. Aino said, feeling like she didn't know her own daughter anymore. Minako's sudden exit had left them at a loss what to do.
"We'll fix this, Hitome, I promise. As soon as she comes back, I'll make sure she'll never do such foolishness again. She can't stay away forever, after all. Then this will stop and these reckless girls will get the punishment they deserve," her husband told her.
"No, you won't."
Jumping up, they spotted the intruder in their house standing in the kitchen door. Strangely enough, there hadn't been anyone a few moments ago. The Ainos however quickly recovered from their surprise when seeing that the woman was wearing the same shameless uniform that Minako did when fleeing the house. Their surprise turned into anger.
"YOU! It was you who pulled our daughter into this! Just wait..." Mrs. Aino exploded, but this explosion would be cut short.
"Silence!" It was short and not shouted, but the sheer anger and authority behind it made them go quiet. "Do the two of you have any idea what you have done with your uncaring words?!"
The woman's red eyes showed how much she was restraining her anger. "You think being a Senshi is some kind of stupid game; that we are reckless and prance around? Has it ever occurred to you that we are the final line of defense against dark powers? Or have you conveniently blanked out what's happening recently?"
She didn't get any reply. Not that she did expect any.
"Minako had such great hopes you would understand her great responsibility; why she was risking her life to help others and sacrifice so much of her time for the good cause. Instead you tried to forbid her do the right thing and turn her back on the legacy she has decided to continue."
"What gives you the right to use children?" Mrs. Aino finally got out.
"First off, no one uses anyone. They were born with these powers and all of them accepted them. Also, did it occur to you that Minako is just a little over year shy of becoming an adult woman? They are hardly children anymore."
They didn't want to admit they hadn't noticed, causing the woman to roll her eyes at how oblivious to some things they were. "You severely hurt Minako and she is now bunking with a friend for the time being until you get your priorities straight. Don't even think about interfering with her life until then."
"What's stopping us from simply telling the authorities who these girls of yours really are?" Mr. Aino said, hoping it could be used to pressure this woman.
"Really?! Just think about it. You spill the beans, then the ones behind the monster attacks learn of it. Anonymity is the one thing that ensues that your daughter and her friends still have a life to live. Take that away and they'll be in caskets in no time straight. You want to take that on you conscience?"
The Ainos paled, the message now having sunk in.
"We'll know when you finally understand what's truly important. Until then... Oh, and don't bother with Minako's things. It got taken care of while we were talking." That said, the woman faded away.
The Ainos were left behind, feeling worse than before.
At the gates, Pluto had to admit she'd held back her anger surprisingly well. After seeing the state Minako was in, she'd been ready to give them a real piece of her mind, before understanding that that wouldn't help Minako at all. Trying not to lose her temper in order to make clear to the Ainos how much they'd screwed up had achieved much more.
Truth to be told, she didn't know how Minako had told her parents in the original time line, if at all. It was much more likely they only learned of it when Minako, already being an adult, went public with it after their raise to power. Well, now it was too late and they needed to make the best of this bad situation.
This was one of the times she hated her job.
...the next day...
"You know, you really don't have to come along. All of us understand you have other problems right now," Rei told Minako while they were walking up the stairs to the shrine.
"I know and I'm really thankful you understand how lousy I do feel right now. I never imagined my parents completely losing it when they learn the truth. I'm just grateful you want to help me. It was really nice of Makoto to let me stay in her spare room and of Setsuna to get my stuff."
Truth to be told, Minako really didn't feel up to getting onto another adventure right now. Somehow Artemis had managed to call help after the shock over the situation had hit her, leaving her a sobbing mess on a roof top. That was the state in which Makoto had found her, arriving first at the scene. Minako felt no shame that she'd cried into Makoto's shoulder for minutes until there were no tears left.
After such a horrible day, no one would blame her if she didn't want to come along. Truth to be told, that was exactly what she would do. Just staying at the shrine and letting its peaceful atmosphere help her to calm her inner turmoil would be good for her. In her current condition she would be of no help to the others anyway.
"At least you know you are not well." Artemis knew that Minako tended to hide her pain behind a front at times. "That gives you time to let it sink in."
"You are a good friend, Artemis. I still feel bad how they treated you yesterday." Minako then sighed. "You know, this is not how I imagined I would spend my 17th birthday."
"Oh, yes..." Now Rei felt even worse for Minako. Of course the girl would turn 17 in about three weeks and she clearly hadn't imagined to experience it under such circumstances. "If it makes you feel better, we will all be there for you."
"You're such good friends..." Minako could feel the love of friendship burning in Rei and she knew how sincere the girl was about wanting to help her. "It's just... They are my parents. I expected them to be supportive of my choice, you know..."
Rei said nothing, as she couldn't know how that felt. Her grandfather had known fro the start, her mother was dead and she had disowned her father. It was next to impossible for her to really know such parental rejection felt.
"Oh, Minako..." Artemis felt it unfair that this girl, who drew her power from Love, seemed to have become fate's whipping-girl.
Entering the house - since Yuichirou was currently on duty, the shrine itself would not be advisable - they saw that everyone else was already gathered. Looking up from her computer, Ami gave Minako a concerned look.
"How... How are you feeling?" she asked Minako.
Minako sighed. "A little better than yesterday... Still, can we please not talk about it? I'm only here to listen, not to come along. It wouldn't be very smart in my current condition."
Seeing this was a forbidden topic for the moment, Ami addressed everyone. "Well, not that everyone is here, let's start. I did have the time to analyze the mural from the temple on the Azores. The left half is one third of the map to the entrance of Elysion. However, we need the complete map, otherwise we won't get anywhere."
Typing a command, she activated a holographic map. "The other map did show the location of the second temple. After translating the text below, I was able to pinpoint the entrance to a mountain in the Andes, South America."
Usagi did look decidedly uncomfortable when looking at the map. "Brrrr... Doesn't look very inviting."
"Well, it isn't," Naru added. "Remember, we learned about South America last year in geography. Not only will it be cold, but the height will reduce the amount of oxygen in the air, causing us to tire more quickly."
Ranma grimaced at that. He had trained in high altitude areas and knew it was nothing to be joked at. Even he disliked the idea of having to fight in such an environment, as even with all training in the world, you can't ignore your body's needs. Only idiots - his old man until he got better - would claim that ignoring your physical needs would be good training.
No chance I go there without something to keep me warm. Not after that disaster in the mountains some years ago! Pop can count himself lucky I didn't lose any toes because of the cold, Ranma thought, already thinking on where to get what he needed.
"I hope we won't freeze to death," Usagi gulped.
Luna could only sigh at this display. "Usagi, Senshi can stand the normal cold better. So stop whining, since you know you have to do it anyway."
"Easy for you to say, Luna. You're not coming along, after all," Usagi complained, finding Luna's talk cheap.
"Hey, pregnant mooncat here! I'm not fit for any kind of field work," Luna said quickly, causing Usagi to roll her eyes in annoyance.
"Well, now that this is all said, we already have what we need, so let's not waste any time," Makoto said and the others agreed.
They were about to get up, when the door slid open.
Ranma looked puzzled when seeing who it was. "Mom? Not that I mind seeing you, but is there a specific reason why you are here with Hotaru?"
"Oh, I'm only here to escort Hotaru. She has something very important to tell you and felt it unwise to travel such a long distance on her own." She then gently encouraged the girl to step forward. "Don't worry, they won't bite."
Hotaru looked a little shy, but then gathered her courage. "I can no longer stand aside. I want to help." She took a deep breath and in her mind called out to the Silence Glaive. Dutifully, it appeared in her hands. "I feel ready to accept the gift of Saturn."
"You know once you accepted it, there is no going back?" Setsuna asked her, wanting to make sure.
"I know... but I feel this is something I have to do. I have all this power, and just standing at the sidelines... I feel like a bad person that's I'm not helping you," Hotaru admitted.
Michiru gave the preteen girl a concerned look. "Look, I know this is very noble and you have recovered quite a bit from your ordeal, but..." She looked Hotaru up and down.
Hotaru knew what Michiru was talking about. "I know I'm really young and compared to you girls, I'm still really frail. I never learned how to fight, either. I'm young, but not stupid. I know I won't be at the front lines, but even just giving you support would really mean a lot to me."
Ranma gave Hotaru an interested look; the girl certainly did have the right motivation. "Looks like you thought a lot about this." He looked to his mother. "Mom, you're OK with this?"
"I have to admit I'm a bit uneasy with the idea of someone this young accompanying you on your adventures." She then sighed. "However, I can hardly forbid her from doing so and she is wise enough to realize she can't do the same things all of you can do."
Hotaru looked around, praying that they would say yes. They didn't say anything, but the smiles they gave her were answer enough. "Oh, thank you!" She raised the Silence Glaive, then hesitated and blushed a little. "Uh, eh..."
Everyone knew what the matter was and Nodoka addressed the three males in the room. "Gentlemen, would you please look the other way? There are some privacy issues."
Ranma, Mamoru and Artemis knew that Hotaru held no desire to have them see her naked during her transformation, and neither did they. After all, Hotaru was a 12-year old preteen girl. Watching her getting stripped naked by the magic would be wrong on multiple levels. They were not like these perverts who were into lolicon - something Ranma and Mamoru had, to their horror, seen some fellow students read.
Seeing both men look away, Hotaru knew now would be the moment of truth. She took a deep breath and held the Silence Glaive aloft with both hands."Saturn Power, make up!"
In an instant she felt like a huge shock went through her system - a very positive one however. It felt like massive amounts of power were pumped into her body; as if the magic could feel that she was not at her best and wanted to give her, its rightful mistress, a little help on the way. She felt really, really good, like having a dozen booster shots at once.
The magic, like with all Senshi, had stripped her naked in order for her to wear her uniform. Dark energy flowed down from the glaive, caressing her bare body as if meeting an old friend. Then the energy hugged her closely and formed the uniform of Sailor Saturn. As soon as it was over, she had too lean onto the glaive, panting.
"Hotaru?" Nodoka asked, looking to her in concern.
"No... There's nothing wrong." She was still breathing a little hard. "I actually feel really good, as if my magic did help me to recover a bit."
Stepping forward, Ami scanned Saturn. "No wonder. Whatever your Senshi magic did, it helped your recovery along by several weeks. You only feel out of breath because your body isn't yet used to feeling so good all of a sudden."
Saturn honestly didn't care about the 'how', only that she now felt a lot better.
Nodoka looked the newly awakened Saturn up and down, frowning a little. "These uniforms are certainly not meant for a preteen girl. It looks wrong on someone that young to wear something this provocative. Honestly, what were they thinking?"
Setsuna sighed. "It wasn't originally meant for someone her age. Back in the Silver Milennium, the minimum age was 16, not only for ethical reasons but also because of the problem you have described." She then saw Saturn blush when looking at herself in a mirror. "You know, you have worn it before."
"Yes, but that was in a dream. This is real now..." She gulped. "I kind of feel a bit exposed."
Every female present again cursed the woman who thought she could immortalize her perverted ideas this way.
Night had already settled over the Andes, cloaking the massive mountain range in darkness. The area was devoid of human presence - well, apart from the small group that was making their way through this desolate place.
"Really nice place..." Sailor Moon groaned while trying not to stop, fearing that otherwise the freezing temperatures would result in her not being able to go on again.
"You're not the only one suffering, so just bite your teeth together," Uranus told her, then gave Pluto an annoyed look. "Why aren't you cold?"
"Who says I'm not cold? That's just training; I do feel as miserable as everyone else. Once we are home, I'm going to need a warm bed and some hot coffee," Pluto told her.
"Strange how my first enemy a Saturn is being cold," Saturn groaned, feeling miserable. "I wish this uniform would have come with warm leggings, that would have made it more bearable."
Truth to be told, all of them were cold, with three exceptions. Mars of course was not cold, as her connection to fire was keeping her warm. Ranma did have the forethought to ask Rei's grandfather if he could loan him some warm clothes and was appropriately dressed for a hike in the mountains. At first it was puzzling why Mercury was not feeling cold, but then considering than her magical nature was ice, it stood to reason that she simply couldn't get cold while transformed.
Everyone else was less fortunate. Senshi uniforms were poor at keeping you warm and had lots of exposed skin. Endymion didn't fare much better, since metal and coldness were good for unpleasantness. Mars was even holding a flame in her hands and keeping it close to Saturn so that the young girl would not get too cold. After all, she was especially vulnerable.
"Don't worry, I'm sure the inside of the temple is heated. After all, I doubt anyone could have gotten anything done otherwise," Endymion said hopefully.
"Try to keep moving, according to my scans, the entrance should be nearby," Mercury called, feeling a bit guilty that her friends were suffering from the cold.
Everyone hoped that to be true.
Some minutes later they did arrive at a blank rock wall that was slightly cracked. Mercury scanned it, then closed her computer and turned off her visor. "The entrance is behind this wall. Blasting it with magic could damage what's behind." She looked to Ranma. "Would you do the honors?"
"No problem, stand back a bit," Ranma told her. While the breaking point was worthless in battle, it did have quite a number of practical applications, one being that it was a great demolition tool.
Taking a closer look, Ranma searched for the best spot. Getting a feel for it, he found the weak point and drew back his hand. "Ha!" Hitting the wall at the right spot, it exploded into gravel, causing a big dust cloud that revealed a massive stone door once it had settled.
"Even with all the magic we have, this still is a bit insane. Too bad we can't learn it, regardless how useful it is," Ceres said, seeing the irony in a Senshi saying this.
"Oh, you could learn it, if you like being pelted with boulders and suffering multiple broken bones." Seeing the girls gulp hard, Ranma knew he'd gotten his point across. "Well, seeing this, I think you are the only one who actually could learn it," he added when looking to Pluto.
"Maybe, but I don't fancy being used as a human target." Pluto suddenly stopped, then scanned the mountains instead of looking to the door. "I don't like this. Last time, our enemy somehow deduced where we are heading and I'm sure they can do so again. They are probably somewhere nearby, watching us."
"Well, good luck to them," Jupiter said, her grip on her mace tightening. "We're not going into this blindly this time."
Mercury meanwhile had found a pedestal in front of the door, reading the important passage from the book. "Here: '...with the noon sun riding above the waning moon'. Well, that is surprisingly easy. Just align the noon sun with the crescent waning moon, and that should do it."
The door did open up after they'd pushed the axis.
However, Pluto was correct in that they were again being watched, though to their favor, their enemies this time took pains to stay hidden. Having hidden under the most powerful cloaking spell they could have done, Jadeite and Tethys had watched everything. Good thing for them that they knew magic to keep them from freezing.
"Regardless who this kid is, he's more dangerous than he appears at first. Blowing up that wall by just touching it..." Tethys whistled with respect.
"Yes... Maybe we have been a little too hasty in dismissing our non-magical enemies. Once this is done, we need to investigate more thoroughly." Though he would never admit it, Jadeite was impressed. "What concerns me more is the presence of her."
Tethys knew Jadeite meant the Senshi of Saturn with it. "This came out of nowhere and we do have to report this to the queen. I only wonder what they are playing at; Saturn a little kid?"
"Don't let this deceive you, since this little girl holds the power to blow up the entire planet. That makes her highly dangerous." Jadeite would not make the error to underestimate them again. "Once the time comes, she needs to be taken out first."
"Too bad we can't be more active. Thanks to that little bitch, they have become quite careful and are now constantly scanning their surroundings. They aren't as stupid as we thought them to be," Tethys remarked.
Jadeite had to admit there was something to that. "Perhaps. They clearly are no longer the whiny, snot-nosed girls they were when I first saw them. Well, no time to lose. The plan still stands that we have to make sure they solve the problem for us."
Tethys looked around the desolate landscape, seeing no way someone could hide from them. "Master Jadeite, you mean we again have to expect interference?"
"Expect?" Jadeite's eyes narrowed. "No, I know it."
Indeed, some distance away Mimette was watching the entrance as well, currently unaware of the competition being nearby as well.
Thank all goodness for the Professor's genius. With this cloaking field, I can act without them noticing. Too bad it also means I can't do more than just move around... slowly. And thank goodness I knew what to expect this time!
She might not feel any compassion with the Senshi, but seeing them freeze their asses off just made her glad she did take the time to put on the insulation suit. It might look a bit like a diving suit, was terribly tight and was a horrible fashion statement, but it did keep her very warm.
Having learned from last time, she waited until she saw a very faint shadow make its way to the entrance. I knew it. Well, not this time...
After the failure last time, the other three witches had mocked her constantly, insulating that she wasn't much better than Eudial, who had foolishly died in a car accident while doing her job. For Mimette, to be compared to Eudial was a horrible insult. She had to do something now, or she would fall out of favor with the Professor and become laughing stock.
Out of habit she adjusted her glasses while chuckling a little. "Oh no... This time I'll get whatever they are searching for." She then silently followed the shadow.
Inside the temple meanwhile, the group was warming up.
"Thank all goodness they installed heating in here. There's some mercy in the world," Moon sighed while feeling the coldness leaving her limbs.
"Not only you!" Saturn said while holding her hands over something that seemed to be a radiator to get feeling back into her fingers. "That was very unpleasant. I hope we don't have to go out there again."
"No, I don't think so." Mercury said while she studied some inscriptions together with Endymion. "According to this, the tests and final judgment all will take place in the temple."
"'Final judgment'? Doesn't sound very promising," Ranma remarked while removing his scarf so he wouldn't overheat. "Does it say what exactly that is?"
"Well, according to this, there is supposed to be someone who will do so. It's all rather vague and I wonder what it could mean, after all, I doubt anyone could be alive after such a long time." Endymion then noticed Pluto giving him a look. "Present company excluded of course."
Finally having warmed up enough, they walked deeper into the temple. The decor reminded them a lot of the previous temple, only this time the corridor had small niches at the sides, holding life-sized male and female warrior statues. After last time they knew this was part of the security system. Finally, they reached a room which was dominated by three overlapping circles engraved on the floor plates, one blue, one yellow and one red.
"Looks like it's going to be the same as last time. Some sort of test,"Mercury observed. "Would you do the honors?"
"Let's do this..." Entering the point where the three circles overlapped, Endymion waited. He didn't have to wait for long when the lights dimmed, apart from the light cone he was standing in.
"Welcome, seeker. We know, who you are and we know what you seek. However, before you are granted final entrance, Prince, you will be tested by the choice of your companions. Those to tested are is to step in your place. The answer will then reveal itself."
"I called it..." Ranma remarked, having expected this to be another test of that sort.
Endymion stepped out of the light. "Then let's not lose any time."
"Good. The first is to be tested in the principle of Truth. You may confer with each other to make your selection"
"Crap, a test about the principles?" Ceres paled a bit when seeing the implications. "What if it asks about Love? We would be in trouble, since Minako is back home."
"Maybe we can wing it," Mars hoped, though she felt that the chances were not great.
"Truth is not the same as Honesty, right?" Jupiter asked when they put their heads together to ponder who should go.
"No. While Honesty comes from Truth, Truth itself actually is something different and more universal," Mercury explained. She knew she would have fit with Honesty, considering her scientific mind was always searching for answers and she was a sticker for rules, but pure Truth was too much for her tastes.
Neptune pulled out her mirror and looked into it. Her reflection looked different, like an open book. "You know, I just got a revelation."
"Really? Which one?" Mars asked.
"I remembered I never made a secret of what I am after I found out. I was never shy about my orientation. Also, with my precognitive powers and a mirror that helps to reveal how things really are, I think I fit the description really good." She then gave Mars a look. "No offense, but from what I've seen of you, you don't strike me as the type, despite your own precognitive powers."
Mars sighed. "I guess you got me there... At times I'm a little too fond of emergency lies."
Neptune walked into the light. "Test me. I'm ready for it."
"That remains to be seen." The light brightened for a moment. "Very impressive. You represent something that is frowned upon by many others, yet you stand to the truth of what you are. You seek to uncover the truth behind the lies. You have passed the test."
Upon Neptune leaving the light, the voice spoke again. "Next comes the principle of Courage. Please make your selection."
"OK, that's much more complicated. I mean, many of us show courage, otherwise we wouldn't be able to face many of the things we are fighting against. There must be more to it," Ranma said, thinking about it.
"Yeah, it wouldn't ask that question without something in mind. It must know what we are doing and wants to see if there is a deeper meaning," Endymion added.
"I think you see it too complicated," Uranus said, giving her girlfriend a look. "I had some really nasty crap thrown at me in life. Things like 'look, there is the gaijin-bastard' thanks to my hair, being called a failed man, getting disowned by my parents when they learned I'm gay... But I didn't let this get me down. I always faced these things head-on and would stand firm." She then gave Ranma a look. "Not to cheapen what you suffered under..."
"Nah... I didn't know any better for a long time, since the only one explaining stuff had been Pop. It was only towards the end that I wised up, got the courage to no longer stand for it and push back. You however never let them push you around," Ranma told Uranus.
Encouraged, Uranus stepped into the circle. "I'll do it."
"Very well... Ah, the counterpart to the one representing Truth. You are really headstrong and want to take things at the horns. You are not shy about standing your ground, even if it hurts. You have indeed passed the test."
That left one remaining principle, and it was the one they were dreading for the very simple reason that the person representing it best was not present. However, there was no going around the problem. "Finally, the principle of Love. Only one truly representing it may come forward."
"Oh-uh, we are in trouble!" Moon gasped when hearing this. "Guys, what do we do? Minako is back at home and I sincerely doubt we are allowed a break so we could pick her up."
"I honestly don't know what to do. I know, we all care, but it's her who is really representing it," Pluto admitted, feeling they were about to hit a wall.
"Well, I call bullshit." Ranma suddenly said and turned to face the light cone. "Hey, you! You hear me?! I'm calling you out on your crap!"
"Please do not disturb the test..." the voice started, but got cut off.
"Oh no! You know exactly that she can't be here after looking into their heads. You know why she is staying home and yet you pull this off. I won't stand for this!" Ranma crossed his arms, giving the light a challenging look.
"And what do your companions think?"
At first, no one said anything. Then, surprisingly, Saturn stepped forward. "Our friend is a really nice girl. She is trying so hard and yet she got very hurt when her own parents rejected her. We... we all love her and want her to get better. We didn't want to cause her even more stress... please understand why she can't be here."
There was silence for a few moments. "We... are very surprised and didn't expect this answer. You... you have indeed chosen your companions well, Prince. Their sheer concern for their friend is reflecting on the love of friendship between them. There is nothing more I can do but to grant access."
The lights returned to normal and a floor plate slid open, the pedestal for the stone disks rising up.
"All right, let's do this: 'Final entrance was granted, with the sun dying as a new moon is born'," Mercury read. "Strange, you would think that these combinations would be more difficult. I have the feeling what follows will be quite different. There must be some kind of twist..."
Combination used, the wall before them slid aside, revealing a chamber. Taking the disks off the axis didn't cause the wall to close again. The chamber was bare, the only thing in it being a stone sarcophagus with writing on the lid.
Endymion took a closer look. "I can actually read this. It says that this ... is where Asmosyus lies. His crime ... was great. The magics decided ... he should protect the treasure until being released ... from his duty. I guess the Worldstone is in there."
"We have to open a grave?" Sailor Moon gasped, turning pale. She was not alone, as Saturn looked ready to faint and Ceres looked green at the idea.
"I know it's not an appetizing thought, but we have little choice. Oh, and Ranma, don't even think about blowing up the lid. We need what's inside undamaged," Pluto said, then gave Uranus, Jupiter and Ranma a sign, that as the strongest people present, the four of them should together push the lid off.
The lid proved to be quite heavy, but they managed to get it off, the heavy stone crashing to the floor.
"Urgh... that guy doesn't exactly look like he's been dead for well over 10.000 years," Jupiter gulped when she saw the body in the sarcophagus. Apart from how deathly pale he was, the old man wearing priest robes looked as if he could wake up at any moment.
On his chest laid what they were looking for; the Worldstone. However, just when they were about to touch it...
Out of nowhere, a woman became visible, grabbing the Worldstone and then trying to made a run for it. However, the doorway out of the chamber was suddenly blocked by Jadeite and Tethys stepping into it, both of them giving the intruder a hard look.
"I don't know how you slipped by us, but this is the end of the line," the female Youma growled, extending her claws to show she meant business.
"Argh, Jadeite!" Ceres gasped, seeing someone she didn't want to see.
"Damn it, the Death Busters got the disk!" Uranus growled, drawing her sword to try and get the stone back.
"That stone rightfully belongs to the Dark Kingdom. Release it!" Jadeite barked, hoping everyone would believe the act.
Mimette had to admit, that hadn't been her smartest move, but she could have made a run for it, if not for the fact that the doorway was blocked. Cornered with no way out, she took the only chance she got and held her weapon against the disk. "Stay away, or I'll destroy the stone!"
He enemies didn't advance further. "Ha, you won't get this one. I have no idea what it does, but without it all of you fail. That's what I do know. Get out of the door!"
Damn it! If she destroys it, we can forget getting the crystal! Jadeite cursed silently.
"Move! My patience is not endless," Mimette threatened, powering up her weapon.
"You disgusting creature!"
Everyone froze when the seemingly dead Asmosyus rose from his sarcophagus, giving Mimette a harsh look. It was something right out of a horror movie; the dead rising from their graves, only that he looked remarkably alive. His eyes were fixed on Mimette, looking at her with utter contempt.
"What the...?!" Mimette gasped, sudden fear paralyzing her.
"I put final judgment on you. The blood of the innocents is on your hands. I can see through you, you have caused much suffering and don't show any bit of remorse for your deeds. You have chosen your own doom! The light will find you and then that light will turn into fire to give you your just reward!"
"Aaaaarrrghh!" Mimette screamed when the stone disk in her hand suddenly started to heat up. She wanted to throw it away, but it was stuck to her hands. "What is this? What is this?!"
From nowhere, a bolt of fury struck her like lightning. Mimette continued to scream while she was set on fire and her flesh was being melted from her bones. She screamed and screamed until there no longer was anything she could scream with and she collapsed into a pile one bones and ashes, its skeletal hands still holding onto the disk.
The sight had been so horrible, even Jadeite was shocked, while the Senshi had shielded Saturn from the sheer horror, not wanting the girl to suffer nightmares. Asmosyus then turned his attention to Jadeite and Tethys. Both of them were paralyzed, feeling as if these eyes were looking at their innermost secrets - secrets even they themselves were not aware of.
"Ah yes... I have seen into both of you. Black are your deeds, indeed. However, both of you still have the hope of redemption, since the choice was not yours. Leave, now!"
Panicked, Jadeite and Tethys did exactly that, fleeing the temple as fast as they could.
With the foes gone, Asmosyus turned his attention to Endymion. "My liege. Finally you have come..." He then took a look at his companions. "...and in such interesting company."
"You... you have been in there for all this time? Buried alive?" Endymion couldn't believe there could be such a cruel punishment.
"Not exactly alive... My crime was horrible, indeed, and thus I was cursed to be the disk's guardian until the day I would be released from my duty," Asmosyus said, looking very tired.
"This is so wrong..." Sailor Moon looked very sad. "Regardless what you did, no one deserves such a long punishment."
"I understand why you feel this way, my lady. However, it is my fate and there is nothing I can do about it."
"Not if I can help it." Endymion walked closer to Asmosyus. "I can't accept this. You have paid long enough for whatever you have done. I release you from your duty and wish you good luck for whatever fate has in store for you."
"You... you really release me? Oh, thank you, my liege! Oh, I already feel the years catching up with me. Finally... Oh thank you, thank you, thank you..." Asmosyus disintegrated into dust, which then was swept away by a sudden breeze, leaving behind no evidence of his existence.
"I hope he can now find peace," Moon said, face lowered to show respect for the great suffering the man had went through.
Looking into now empty sarcophagus, Sailor Mercury's eyes widened. "There it is; the second map!" she gasped, whipping out her computer. "I'll record it so we can take a better look at it at a later date."
Endymion meanwhile approached what was left of Mimette. Carefully touching the remains with the tip of his shoe, he made sure this hadn't been a dream. "I have no idea what this was and maybe we don't even want to know..." he wondered while carefully removing the unblemished Worldstone from the skeletal hands.
"This is starting to be really weird..."
...at the same time...
"Well, how did it go, Jadeite?" Queen Beryl asked as soon as Jadeite and Tethys had reappeared.
"I went better than anticipated. They are gathering all the means needed to reach Elysion. Once they have entered, we know where to find it and can strike while the entrance is open. There only was a small problem, but there now is one less follower of the Pharaoh," Jadeite reported.
"Good, one nuisance less. You can leave," she then dismissed them, turning her attention to other matters.
Leaving the throne room and walking through the corridors, they finally dropped the mask. The whole thing had shaken them badly. That whole confrontation with someone who should have been dead for over 10.000 years had taken its toll on them. His eyes had looked deep into them and all their secrets had been laid bare to him; even the ones they were not aware of.
Tethys felt like something fundamental about her very nature, something she had no idea what it could be, had been revealed. She felt strange, like something was bothering her. It felt like she had become uncomfortable in her own skin, though changing to human form did help somewhat. It was a very alien feeling and it bothered her to no end.
Jadeite for his part felt unwell. The old man's eyes had unsettled him, as their piercing look had shaken something loose - a nagging insecurity that something was wrong. Something was not like it should have been. He couldn't pinpoint what exactly it was, and that only made it even more unsettling.
"Master Jadeite?" Tethys now sounded quite insecure. "This... I..." She couldn't find words.
"I know, I could barely keep my composure in front of the queen." He might be a General of the Dark Kingdom, but he also had feelings, and right now he felt quite shaky. "Nothing can make me go back there."
Shivering, Tethys leaned against Jadeite, the close contact helping her to calm down. She found that quite strange. It stirred something in her that should be impossible for Youma to feel. After all, they would become devoid of positive emotions like love and caring. This puzzled her to no end.
Jadeite wondered about himself. Normally, he would have never allowed this to happen. However, he simply couldn't bring himself to stop her. To his surprise he realized he was actually enjoying her being this close to him.
What is going on? he wondered.
"Hm..." The Professor scratched his chin. "Well, that was predictable."
"Has something happened, Professor?" Kaolinite asked while checking the heart crystals they had harvested. They certainly were making progress on gathering everything needed for many more servants.
"Oh, nothing of real importance; only that Mimette found a rather nasty end," the Professor said, then returned to mixing chemicals for the next wave of Daimons.
If anything, Kaolinite was delighted by the demise of another of the Witches 5. "How stupid of her. Professor, should we even put anymore energy into that effort?"
"Hm, no. Our priorities right now are to harvest enough resources, hold our enemies at bay and finally gain the grail to open the way for our Pharaoh to arrive well ahead of time. Our little lackeys are starting to lose their worth to us," he said, uncaring that he was giving out a death sentence.
That only made Kaolinite more happy. "These stupid little bitches... Professor, if I may ask, how are we supposed to gain the grail when these Senshi are hiding it?"
The Professor smiled sinisterly while his glasses reflected the light. "Oh, patience, Kaolinite. I don't want to spoil the surprise. Needless to say it will result in a surprise for them, and a gift for us. Hahahahahahaha!"
to be continued...
"The Golden Crystal"
Here the notes.
As said, the chapter originally had way less character interaction and I was displeased with it. My focus on that made the chapter a bit bigger than intended, but I don't think that's a bad thing. Thankfully, this chapter does have WAY less exposition, now that everything is set up, and thus it's also less stiff in its structure.
Also sorry for not replying to reviews, but my note at the beginning should show, why I didn't.
Now, you might say the Senshi aren't really doing that much, but thing is, doing something not always means fighting. Also, the next chapter will make up for that. Also not much Ranma, but that's due to the arc itself. Chapter 37 will be quite different.
I also used this chapter to show the aspects that the series always glossed over. Of course the ruins on the Moon would not be clean of dead bodies - in the contrary, it would be really messy. Also, Minako's experience should drive home, that not everyone is understanding about a teenage girl doing heroics.
As of this chapter, the story is officially 75% complete. (including the Prologue, the story will be 48 chapters long)