Hello all you folks out there! This is Meowziechan, writing for the second time. This fic is mostly some indulgence, and I haven't seen many fics dealing with what I'm planning to do here, so bear with me. This may bounce between tones for a bit, until I find one that's a nice happy medium.
And so it... begins.
"Professor, I don's see what you wanted me to come along on your trip to China for." Mamoru Chiba was, for once, tired of his studies. "I know it's good for a history major like I am to get a feel for different cultures, but, well, all we've done so far is hike mountains."
"Chiba-san, don't you know? There's a legend in China about these mountains. They say that there are Amazon warriors up here, and another group that worships the legendary Phoenix!" Professor Akiyama sighed, a dreamlike look on his face. "With your background in history, and mine in anthropology, think of what we could discover!"
Mamoru sighed dejectedly. After Usagi stopped Sailor Galaxia, the couple had thought that they'd be able to have some down time before The Cataclysm that the Senshi presumed would eventually lead to the Silver Millennium. No such luck, however, because once Mamoru returned from 'America', his anthropology professor whisked him off to China. After a week in the Byankala Mountains, Professor Akiyama's enthusiasm was still high. Mamoru's, on the other hand, was not.
"Here we are, Chiba-san! One of our first stops!" Mamoru's head snapped back to reality. He read the sign in front of him, which was, oddly enough, in Chinese, Japanese, and English.
"Welcome to the Cursed Training Ground, Jusenkyo. Enter at own risk."
Mamoru stared at the sign, turned to look at his professor, and then back at the sign. "Professor, what does it mean by cursed?"
"What are you doing here?" a young voice cried out. Mamoru and his wide-eyed teacher looked over towards the voice. A girl, who looked to be about the age Chibusa was when she first arrived in the current timeline, was running towards the two men. Behind her came a short, rather pudgy man, huffing and puffing as he tried to keep up.
The girl skidded to a halt in front of the two travelers, and began to recite a spiel she had clearly practiced many times before. "Welcome, honored guests, to the Cursed Training Ground of Jusenkyo, home to the Springs of Sorrow. While once a popular training ground for Martial Artists, it has since fallen out of favor. This is because, while it provides an excellent facility for balance training, the repercussions should one fall into the springs below are dire."
"Plum!" The man wheezed, having finally made it to the three. "What have I- (gasp)-told you about- (huff)-customer relations?"
"To make sure that they don't fall in…" the girl, who Mamoru identified as 'Plum' moaned. "But it would be so much easier if you'd just tell people right off what the problem was with these springs, Papa!"
"This is amazing!"
Mamoru, Plum, and her father turned their heads towards the aforementioned springs, where Professor Akiyama knelt at one of the pools. His eyes had misted over slightly, and he was studying a sample of water in a vial. It appeared that he had poured a small sample onto a water-purity-testing strip, and was astonished at the results. "It's absolutely perfect! No microbes to speak of, no… well, anything! Its pure, untouched water! Mamoru, do you know what this could MEAN?"
Mamoru sighed, replying, "No, and quite frankly, I don't see how you could know either. Its just water, and you're no biologist. Now, would you please get away from the pool before something bad happens?"
The decidedly plump man that had struggled to catch up to his daughter started shaking as he figured out which spring the Professor was near. "Please, Honored Guest, Sir, please get away from there! It will be very bad if you fall in! Very bad indeed!"
The good professor looked over his shoulder, calling to the others, "What could happen? There's absolutely no pollution here, and since this water is so clear, I'd be able to see if there were any animals in there!" Professor Akiyama stood up, an expression of glee on his face. "I saw a settlement a ways off, and even as far away as that was, it would normally have polluted a spring like this at least somewhat!" He was now positively exuberant. "Just think about it Mamoru, think! The harmony between man and nature that must exist here! A town untouched by the growth of technology! We could have made a great discovery here!" He was so overjoyed at the thought of possibly discovering a new culture that he didn't notice that the ground under his feet was beginning to give way.
The brown-clothed man was now sputtering what seemed to Mamoru to be incoherent Chinese. Mamoru did have a fair knowledge of the language, but the guide wasn't making much sense. It was… something about curses, women and the Amazon? Or was it the Amazons? Either way, Mamoru could see that neither of his new companions would be able to get to the Professor in time, so he took off at a sprint to catch his still oblivious teacher. Three (or was it four? Surely not five…) years of experience at saving Usagi when she was about to be defeated by the monster of the day kicked in, and though he couldn't transform in front of non-senshi, he was still fast on his feet when he needed to be.
Right now, he really needed to be.
As Professor Akiyama realized just what was going on underneath him, Mamoru leapt towards his teacher, caught him, and managed to throw the wayward teacher to stable ground. Of course, Mamoru's momentum kept him going, straight into the pond.
In the short amount of time this took to happen, Plum and her father, the Guide, watched the spectacle unfold. Living in Amazonian China, they recognized a feat of Martial Arts when they saw it, but the boy didn't carry himself like a martial artist. He certainly wasn't built like any they had seen, so they figured he couldn't be from Nerima, where Plum had found Ranma about a year ago. Plum vaguely remembered hearing about a large disturbance in Tokyo around the same time that the battle of Jusendo and Mt. Phoenix was occurring, but when Elder Cologne, the Elder's great grand daughter, and that strange boy with the glasses returned to Japan, they sent word back that they could not find anyone who could tell them what happened, save for the fact that something happened in the Juuban district involving a circus.
Plum briefly wondered if there were also martial artists en masse in Juuban, but put it out of her head when their visitor surfaced. Plum had not yet memorized the exact curses that were on each spring like her father had, so she had to wait to see what happened to the latest victim of Jusenkyo.
The Guide was muttering something about how he hoped that THIS one, at least, would have the right mindset to adjust. The boy that came with his father, the one who now turned into a Panda, took over a year to adapt, and still had bad luck with the curse. Prince Herb had a similar build in both of his forms, but being a member of the Musk tribe and raised away from women, he had… difficulty adjusting to the change. More so than most, if his desperate quest for that kettle was any clue. And then there was Mousse, from the village, as well as that strange fanged boy with the bandanna who still showed up on occasion… usually under the impression that he was elsewhere.
As the newest member of the Cursed surfaced, the Guide wondered what this one would wind up looking like in his new form.
Professor Akiyama didn't think anything at all. He had been knocked out by the landing from when Mamoru threw him, and thus, did not have the faintest inkling of what was going on.
Of course, taking his earlier behavior into account, he probably wouldn't have realized anything was wrong at this point anyway.
Mamoru surfaced from the water, gasping for breath. He reached the edge of the pond, and clambered out. He realized that he felt… somewhat off balance. That should have been his first clue. Shaking the water out of his hair, he walked over to the trio that was standing nearby… well, the duo that was standing and his professor, who was regrettably still on the ground. He briefly wondered if he had done that, and then noticed the Chinese pair staring at him… from a slightly lower angle than before. This should have been his second clue. Finally, Mamoru broke the silence. "Is… something wrong?" Noticing that his voice was an octave higher than usual, Mamoru Chiba finally realized that something was very wrong.
Meanwhile, back in the Minato ward of Tokyo, Juuban, to be specific, a meeting of the Inner Sailor Senshi was about to take place at the Hikawa Shrine.
Rei Hino, occasionally known as Sailor Mars, had been having a strange feeling of foreboding for the past few days. If she were a normal shrine maiden, she wouldn't have paid much attention to this. Of course, given that the last few times she had felt this way, the Sailor Senshi had been forced into battle with foes such as the Black Moon and the Death Busters, the senshi of fire had learned to report these feelings to Ami at the very least, if not to the other members of her team. Makoto could be trusted to be serious when she needed to be, but Minako and Usagi… well, they were a bit ditzy.
At least Minako's got a game face in battle. Usagi's still so childlike, it's a wonder that she's still in one piece. Rei thought, as the four guardians waited for their Princess to arrive. No, that's not right, she thought, sighing a little. Ever since the battle with Galaxia, she's been more mature. Not that I can blame her for that, after she saw all of us…
"Rei-chan?" Rei's head snapped back to the present.
"Huh? What?" Looking up, she saw the object of her ponderings in front of her. "Gyah! Usagi, when did you get here?"
"A few minutes ago. You looked like you were upset about something." Usagi's eyes started to quiver. "You've not mad at me for being late again, are you?"
Rei giggled a little at this, replying "Nah, not this time, dumpling head."
Usagi was really glad that nobody was mad at her. After all that they'd been through, she didn't think she could stand it if she lost even one of her closest friends.
"Anyway, now that we're all here, I guess I should tell you why I wanted you to come. Rei started, a shadow coming over her eyes. "I've been having those feelings again, the ones I get when we're about to be pulled into something big."
Usagi gaped. "But… but Rei, I thought that we had taken care of everything after the last battle! There can't be anything worse than Chaos was, there can't be!" The pigtailed one started tearing up for real.
Minako scooted over to Usagi's side, looking over at Rei. "Are you sure about this?"
Ami looked concerned. "Rei, if we're going to face another battle, why didn't you call the other Senshi here?"
Rei looked both embarrassed and a little ticked off. "Well, I tried to, but… Haruka and Michiru didn't answer when I called their communicators OR their home, and you know how hard Setsuna is to get into contact with. I figured they were on a trip somewhere, so I decided to let it be."
Usagi, her eyes still watering somewhat, was only halfway listening to this discussion. I can't lose Mamoru again, I just can't. I won't let anything happen to him… not this time. "Everyone…" she said, pulling out from under Minako's arm, "we can handle this." A hard edge clipped her voice from its normally bubbly self. "I won't allow anything to hurt you, to any of—KYAA!" A feeling pulled at her heart, and as the others clambered to her side, she felt something calling to her, to the part of her that was born in the Silver Millenium. It wasn't quite a sense of loss, like all the times she had seen her friends die, nor was it a sense of gaining something, like when she had been witness to the awakening of her fellow Sailor Senshi. It was… somehow…
I know this is a bit short, but... I really hope that you enjoyed it. If you did, or even if you didn't, feel free to send me a critique!