Big Human on Campus
After School Sessions
by Black Dragon
This was a plot concept posed to my by Daniel Gudman, who is my bestest friend in the whole wide world. Mostly because I have no friends offline. So alone...
BTW, more blasphemy incoming.
"I don't get why we have to do housecleaning for that old bastard," Ranma complained as he followed Tsukune down the neglected underpassages of Youkai Academy.
"The Headmaster said that the things we need to organize are too valuable and dangerous to leave to students on punishment detail or cleaning staff," Tsukune reasoned as he swept a flashlight from side to side ahead of them.
The corridors were largely unlit, what with most of lights having failed due the light bulb burning out or the wiring having corroded. Perhaps one in every five lights in the corridor was even remotely functional, and these usually flickered and sparked frequently, adding more to the horror-movie atmosphere than they took away.
Moka, Chopper, and Tobaki followed the pair of human boys, being the only members of the Committee who were either unwilling or unable to come up with a good excuse to avoid an afternoon of digging around in a magical closet.
"I don't know why Keito didn't want to join us. She might have family down here," Ranma said as his eyes followed the light. As it passed over the water-damaged walls and shattered flooring, the flashlight beam crossed no few number of giant spiders nesting in the perpetual darkness.
"Big sis has always been a tad lazy," Tobaki laughed, reaching out into the shadows to pet one of the tarantulas clinging to the walls.
"Anyway, I know this is a bother, but there's a reason the headmaster gave the job to us rather than his clone army, or whatever those guys dressed as priests are," Tsukune said, "so let's just get this over with so that we can get back to doing important things."
"I guess it just bugs me that we've become the Headmaster's errand boys," Ranma grumbled, stopping as he felt something poke at his ankle.
In the dim light of the hallway, Ranma could barely make out a creeping, eight legged shape jabbing at his leg.
"What, you wanna ride? Fine, crawl up here," Ranma said, standing still as the hand-sized spider leapt up onto his calf on command.
"I can't believe how many of those things you've trained," Moka mused, her own eyes having no difficulty seeing in the darkness, "where do you find the time?"
"Hm? I don't train most of them," Ranma said, completely ignoring the fanged monstrosity settling on his back, "I've never even seen this spider before."
"Huh? Then why does it listen to you?" Moka asked.
"Your guess is as good as mine," Ranma admitted with a shrug, "every spider on campus pretty much follows my commands now, even though I haven't even seen most of them before. It's really weird."
"All right, looks like this is it," Tsukune said as he pointed the flashlight at a half-broken wooden door. It had loose strips of caution tape hanging from it, and the hinges were little more than scraps of rust.
"So this where the Headmaster keeps his stash of incredibly powerful and dangerous magic items, eh?" Ranma asked, stepping up and knocking his knuckles against the door.
He managed that precisely once before the hinges crumbled and the door collapsed completely, very nearly disintegrating on the spot into a pile of rotting splinters.
"I really, really, REALLY hate that man," Ranma said under his breath as he entered ahead of the others, a small following of arachnids skittering after him.
Tsukune found a light switch next to the entrance, and taking a deep breath first, carefully switched it on.
Much to his surprise and satisfaction, some fairly strong ceiling lights blinked on with only a few bursts of sparks, and hardly any of those sparks bounced into the pile of leaking red barrels with "Warning Flammable!" signs plastered on them.
"He has a stash of explosive barrels," Ranma mumbled, scratching the back of his head.
"They go in the gratuitous explosives storage bank, which we passed on the way here," Tsukune said, jabbing a thumb behind him.
"Is that the one conspicuously situated beneath the student alchemical labs?" Tobaki asked as she put her glasses on in preparation to work.
Tsukune sighed a sigh of utter resignation. "Yes, that's the one."
As Tobaki picked up a barrel and started her task, Moka looked away from that corner and studied the rest of the room. The storage room was massive, with several adjoined storage vaults for safely storing magical items, although all of those vaults lay open. Piles of furniture, boxes, barrels, and chests littered the storage room, most of them covered with old sheets, dust, and cobwebs.
"All right, first things first," Tsukune said as he stretched his arms, "Ranma, can you get all the spiders in here out of the way? I'd rather not end up stepping on one or disturb a nest on accident."
"You heard the man! Let's go!" Ranma shouted firmly, clapping his hands, "get outta here! All of you!"
Tsukune honestly found it as mesmerizing as it was terrifying to see numerous - perhaps more than a hundred - spiders emerge from their hiding places simultaneously and scuttle onto the floor. One of the pieces of furniture in front of him, a dusty armoire, burst open and almost smacked him in the face as an arachnid larger than most dogs crept out and joined the fanged river converging toward the doorway. Most of the beasts were larger than his hand, which led Tsukune to wonder uncomfortably what it was they ate down here when they seemed to be the dominant species.
"Can I have one or two of 'em?" Chopper asked as he stared down at the orderly line of spider traffic, "I'm a little hungry."
"We'll eat lunch after this," Ranma said, shaking his head as he plucked a smaller spider right out of its web near the ceiling and tossed it into the tide of hairy legs, "the sooner we get started, the sooner we'll be done."
"All right. We have four categories other than explosives, so the rest of these things have to be sorted into the vaults here," Tsukune said, pointing to each of the vaults in turn, "magical weapons and clothes, magic mirrors, eggs and seeds, and plot McGuffins."
Ranma winced. "Magic mirrors, eh? Be careful to keep the sheets over those things. They are a PAIN if you look into them."
Tsukune nodded. "Good advice. Chopper, I want you to focus on the plot McGuffins. Since you're a minor character, there's a much smaller chance of you triggering an adventure."
"So, we DON'T want an adventure?" Ranma asked as he approached a barrel covered by a cloth.
"Not before lunch, we don't," Chopper said as he gathered up a trio of golden triangles.
Ranma peeked under the cloth over the barrel, seeing that it was being held up by several swords and spears that had been dropped into it in a cluster.
"Oh! Hey! Nice to meet you, buddy! I'm-"
Ranma quickly dropped the cloth and then moved to pick up the barrel. "Magic weapons."
"Yeah, I am! Listen, I've been stuck down here for quite a few years, and was wondering if you would like to-"
Ranma put the barrel down in the furthest corner of the vault and then turned around, completely ignoring the talking weapon.
"Smooth moves, Derflinger"
"Oh, shut up Longinus."
Moka frowned as she looked up at the numerous eggs that littered one corner of the storage room. Each of them were just bigger than a man's head and riven with veins, and they were a dull green color near the base that darkened to a black ebony near the top.
"Tsukune, some of these eggs look like they've hatched," Moka said nervously as she started picking up the intact ones to haul into the vault, "what if there are some kind of baby creatures in here?"
Tsukune stopped pushing a large dressing mirror into the appropriate storage vault, glancing at Moka. "Oh. I was wondering what all those spiders had to eat down here." He idly batted aside a dark, withered tail that hung from a cobweb's cocoon, and finished moving the mirror.
Chopper stared carefully at a thick golden ring he had found in an otherwise empty chest, then shrugged and flicked it into the McGuffins vault.
After that, the troll started rifling through the contents of a dusty old desk when he suddenly heard a petite voice speak to him.
"Hey, you! The big guy! Over here!"
Chopper turned his head, and the wrestler quirked an eyebrow when he saw that there was a hummingbird-sized fairy sitting atop a small disc covered by a cloth.
"Hi! I'm Lilith! The spirit of this mirror here!" the fairy said enthusiastically, pointing to the covered item.
Chopper rubbed his considerable chin, his eyes narrowing. 'So does it go in the McGuffin room, or the mirror one?'
"You must be my new master!" the fairy chirped, "I can grant you a wish!"
"I wish I had a snack," Chopper said immediately.
A sweatdrop almost as big as the fairy appeared behind her. "Uh, are you sure you want to wish for something as mundane as that?"
"That wasn't a wish, I was just thinking out loud," Chopper said as he reached out and took the fairy between two fingers.
"Oh, then what do yo-hey, WAIT! STO-"
Moka placed another batch of eggs down, and then returned to the area she was clearing, pulling apart a veritable curtain of cobwebs that were blocking her path.
She frowned as she saw a massive, spike-encrusted egg settled in the corner, its shell a bright purple color with dark spots.
"Uh, Tsukune, this one looks kind of dangerous..."
Tsukune finished taking the carefully wrapped hand mirror from Chopper, and then turned toward Moka.
"What, just because it's bigger?"
Moka shook her head slowly. "Not just that. I can feel... a deep, deep malevolence inside it. Like... a hunger that can never be satisfied."
Tsukune walked up to the vampiress as she shuddered. "Is it that bad?"
Moka nodded slowly. "It sounds like its trying to... escape. A force of destruction that cannot-"
"YOINK!" Richard said happily as he dashed past the teenagers and grabbed the side of the egg, pulling it toward him so that it started a slow, uneven roll.
Moka and Tsukune watched silently as the warlock quickly stepped behind the egg and then started pushing to pick up speed toward the exit.
"You were waiting for something like this, weren't you?" Tsukune asked blandly.
"Well, I would have taken the One Ring, but I still owe Sauron money," Richard admitted as he smashed the egg through the doorway, easily ripping through the walls surrounding the small passageway without any apparent damage to the egg, "toodles!"
Tsukune shook his head. "Let's just hurry up and get these things locked up before he tells the other teachers about this."
"Hey guys! Check this out! This star has a face!" Ranma said, laughing as he poked at a giant glittering star shape the size of a truck tire.
"Come on, no time to play!" Tsukune said, clapping his hands, "let's finish sorting this stuff before something dramatic happens!"
"Aw, you're no fun."
Nearly an hour of extremely uneventful work later, Tsukune wiped the sweat from his forehead as he finished hauling the last of the mirrors into magic mirror storage, the sheet still wrapped safely around its presumably reflective and probably dangerous surface.
"There! All done here! And not a single incident!" the imminently doomed human said happily right before the screeching began.
About one minute before that, Ranma frowned as he looked at some kind of high-tech cylinder that he had found in a chest full of power swords and a giant metal claw with a gun mounted over the wrist.
"It was put with a bunch of weapons, but is this a weapon too?" he asked aloud. "Looks like some kind of flashlight..."
Curious, he held the device out in front of him and started jiggling the switch on the side just as Chopper passed by in front of him.
About thirty seconds before that, Moka beckoned Chopper over to an object stuffed in a large crate. It was a large glass cylinder with metal devices on either end that flashed and beeped while displaying information on a small LED display, all of it meaningless to the two monsters. Inside the tube was a small, bizarre creature about the size of Moka's head. It kind of resembled a jellyfish, but had hooked teeth rather than tentacles, and inside its translucent head were a few big red nerve spheres.
"What should we do? It's kind of like an egg, I guess... but not really," Moka admitted.
Chopper shook his head. "Looks like a plot device to me. I'll take it to my pile."
The troll picked up the containment unit, heedless as the Metroid larvae inside trembled and screeched within.
Then he hefted it onto his shoulder and walked toward the vault right as Ranma switched on a lightsaber.
FSHYEWWWW! "WHOAH!" Ranma shouted in surprise as a shaft of red light burst from the cylinder in his hand, stabbing into the side at an angle and carving out much of the device as Chopper shouted in surprise and tried to pull the containment unit away.
Within seconds, the screeching alien within the canister burst into the air, spilling stasis gel all over the dust-covered floor as it hovered shakily near the ceiling.
"Damn! It's free!" Chopper growled.
"SCREEEEEEE!" screeched the metroid, quivering in the air.
"We have a loose plot device!" Tobaki said, dropping an armful of fireworks as her hand seemed to liquefy into yellow sludge, "all main characters, get down!"
"Aw, hell," Ranma grumbled as he dove next to an armoire and covered his head with his hands.
Then he noticed Moka huddled under the desk next to him.
"Wait, why are YOU hiding?" the pigtailed boy asked, surprised.
'This isn't canon storyline, right? We can kill him here, right?' Evil Moka asked as a vein popped up on Moka's head.
"Gotcha!" Tobaki shouted as she lashed her arm out, her fingers forming a lance that speared toward the young alien.
The Metroid jerked to one side, avoiding the tendril, but in its rush to dodge it smacked into a ceiling light, prompting another burst of sparks on top of the needlessly bespectacled treasurer.
"That's right, RUN!" Tobaki taunted as her arm snapped back, and then she turned around as the metroid floated toward the vaults. "You won't get... What's that hissing noise?"
The yochlol looked down, her expression darkening as she saw the fuses on the scattered fireworks burning away toward their fiery and colorful conclusion.
She briefly adjusted her glasses. "How spontaneous and unexpected."
Boom! Pop! Spee-yoo!
"Guys? What's going on in here?" Tsukune demanded as he poked his head out of the storage vault.
He was only somewhat surprised to see a haphazard battery of roman candles spitting multicolored fire across the room, setting several large cobwebs aflame while Ranma, Moka, and Chopper all took cover. Tobaki was surrounded by spinning sparklers as she tried to stamp out the exploding fireworks, but he could see that the pyrotechnics were clearly spreading faster than she could stop them.
"What are they doing?" Tsukune mumbled, stepping out into the room in preparation to get the others to help out and put out the fires.
He halted as he heard some kind of high-pitched shriek from above him, and then he glanced up to see a floating alien menace swooping in his direction.
"Whoa! Hey!" Tsukune stumbled backward as the metroid stopped just a few feet away, quivering as it hovered at head level.
Then it suddenly tilted its hooked mandibles in his direction and burst forward, screeching all the while.
"Stop that! Go away!" Tsukune demanded, diving onto the floor to avoid the lunging alien.
The metroid missed him completely, snagging a sheet with its mandible and pulling it along.
Tsukune quickly moved into a crouch, and then looked up to check where the floating predator was setting up another lunge.
All he could see, however, was himself.
At least, it looked just like him, although the Tsukune in the mirror was wrapped in bandages and seemed to be mumbling to himself.
As it dawned on him that he was staring into one the previously covered magic mirrors, his eyes were drawn to a sheet of paper taped to the top with something written on it.
"Dimensional Prism," he read aloud as the polished glass surface started to glow, "Warning: may cause epileptic seizures in children and quantum seizures in adults. Do not use if you are pregnant or may become pregnant, because you might not be pregnant in the alternate universe you're about to be sucked into, and that would be SUPER awkward."
The surface of the mirror flared with light, and Tsukune flinched before he felt his surroundings fall away from him as his senses were overwhelmed. "Really, I should have expected this."
Ten seconds earlier, in canon...
Tsukune splashed cold water over his face as he leaned over the restroom sink, shivering slightly as the water ran down his neck and soaked the bandage wrappings underneath his shirt.
It really did figure. After so many struggles and so many surprising, unlikely victories, it turned out that the "gift" of vampire blood had a price after all. Just after he had gotten used to the idea of losing his humanity, after coming to terms with the reality that in order to survive, he would have to change, it turned out that the "change" in question would strip him of his sanity and turn him into a flesh-eating ghoul.
"And now Moka's run off, thinking it's her fault I'm like this," Tsukune mumbled to himself, inadvertently pinpointing where in the canon timeline he was, "first the monstrels attack us, and now this. I have to find her quickly, before something ELSE happens."
Then he looked up and saw the sink mirror glowing as his reflection adopted an annoyed expression that didn't match the one on his face.
"Oh. I guess I'm too late," he mumbled weakly, right before an arc of white lightning burst out of the mirror and blasted the young human.
After a brief flare of light, the wet, standing Tsukune was instantly replaced with a dry, crouching Tsukune.
Tsukune froze only for a moment, and then shot to his feet, immediately turning toward the nearest mirror and staring into it.
"... C'mon, c'mon," he grumbled, reaching out and tapping on the bathroom mirror with his knuckle. Not that he had any reason to expect this to matter in any way, but he had no better idea what to do when one had just been shunted out of a magic mirror.
When nothing happened, Tsukune growled and pounded a fist against the mirror surface.
Crack! The old, weathered screws keeping the mirror in place on the wall promptly buckled, and it fell down behind the sink, bouncing off the piping and smashing into pieces on the floor.
"... Huh. Well, it was a pretty hopeless attempt anyway," he admitted to himself before taking the Protection Committee armband off his arm, "I guess it's time to go exploring, then."
Meanwhile, in a much better storyline...
"Gugh!" Tsukune grunted as he appeared in the middle of the magic mirror storage area, almost falling from the shock of instantaneous transport.
"What? Where? How?" the hapless human looked around him in a panic, being extremely confused as he saw nothing but pieces of furniture covered in dirty sheets and a single full-size dress mirror.
He was about to read the note attached to the top of the mirror, when he heard a voice behind him, startling him.
"Yo, Tsukune, you all right?" Ranma asked, poking his head into the room. "I saw a flash of light in here." He dropped an empty fire extinguisher on the floor next to the entrance, wisps of white powder still leaking from its nozzle. By now he had taken to carrying them with him, on account of how often he was called upon to help put out fires.
Tsukune whirled around, seeing a boy he'd never met before with a pigtail. "Huh? Me? Yeah, I'm okay, I think."
Tsukune shook his head, wonder what had just happened. "Sorry, but where am I?"
"You're in the Headmaster's stupid storage room for all his magic crap," Ranma said, surprising Tsukune somewhat with his unusually rough and casual speech, "you didn't get zapped by any of it, did you?"
"I think I did, actually," Tsukune said uneasily, stepping out past the unfamiliar boy. Tsukune was a class representative and rather famous thanks to various rumors throughout the school, so it didn't bother him so much that this guy apparently knew him when they had never met. He did wish the fellow would recognize they at least weren't on a first-name basis, but unsurprisingly many monsters weren't as polite as Japanese humans.
"What? What happened?" Ranma asked, following Tsukune out, "does it have something to do with all the bandages?"
Tsukune shook his head. "Look, I don't have time. I have to find Moka."
"Oh, okay," Ranma said before waving his hand over his head. "Hey, Moka!"
To Tsukune's surprise, the vampiress was standing just on the other side of the room, talking with some other girl he didn't know and...
Tsukune did a double-take as he recognized the other figure, and his face paled. What on Earth was Chopper Rikishi doing talking to her?
Moka heard her name being called, and glanced behind her. "Just a minute!"
Then she planted her fists on her hips and stared up at Chopper, frowning. "I think you should go after it. What if it hurts someone?"
"That was clearly a ghost, not a space jellyfish," Tobaki said, adjusting her glasses, "I don't like fighting insubstantial creatures, so I'm not going after it."
Moka let out a tired sigh. "No, I think it was the creature with a sheet over it. If it wasn't, then where did it go?"
"MAYBE," Chopper said, crossing his arms over his chest, "the space jellyfish died, and that was its ghost that just left."
"Troll, either there's a draft in here, or you just BLEW MY MIND," Tobaki said, giving the larger monster a high-five.
"Moka?" Tsukune asked, walking up to the trio uncertainly.
"Yes? What is it?" Moka asked, blinking.
"I... uh..." Tsukune was acutely aware of everyone staring at him as he crossed the room, and he tried to avoid making eye contact with Chopper as he spoke to the vampiress, "listen, I need to talk to you."
Moka blinked. "All right, what is it?"
It perturbed Tsukune greatly that Moka made no move to leave the room, despite the fact that two strangers and a student who had once threatened to snap her head off were clearly listening in right next to them.
"Can I speak to you alone?" Tsukune said, urgently stressing the last word.
Ranma, Chopper, and Tobaki all quirked eyebrows.
"Well, since we're done, we should report to the Head Jackass before you two start making kissy faces at each other," Ranma said, causing Moka and Tsukune to blush badly and stammer uselessly in response. He then headed into the hallway leading out of the storage room, and to Tsukune's surprise Moka quickly followed after him, apparently trying to hide her expression.
Tobaki sighed as she stepped up next to the confused human. "I wonder if I'll ever have a sweet teenage romance like that?" the demon asked sadly, staring up at the ceiling.
"Probably not if you insist on using the tentacles every time you're with a guy," Chopper noted as he lumbered forward.
"Hey, don't knock 'til you try it!" Tobaki countered, following the troll, "there are a lot of unique positions you can use with that kind of suspension and reach! Some of them even make your partner feel good, too!"
Tsukune stood rooted to the spot in front of the shattered entryway, completely confused. Why was that psycho Chopper chatting people up like they were all buddies? Who were these other two weirdos, and why did they talk about his relationship with Moka so casually? And most importantly, WHY was Moka letting them lead her away like they were friends of hers? She had always been shy and rather awkward around people other than him, especially boys, and he was almost certain that she didn't have any friends he didn't know about, if only because they were almost always together during school hours. When had that changed?
"All right guys! All clear! You can go back in now," called Ranma, only confusing Tsukune further.
Things weren't helped one bit when a veritable river of spiders emerged from the gloom beyond the storage room, pouring toward the entrance like a flood of hairy legs and glittering black eyes.
Tsukune felt his heart stop as he froze in place, completely shocked by the horrifying sight. He was equally shocked, though also quite relieved, as the arachnid swarm inexplicably parted before him, the scuttling beasts quite obviously avoiding the young man as they crawled back to their homes.
It all happened so fast that Tsukune remained stunned for several more seconds, wondering what had just happened.
"Oi, what's the problem, man?" Ranma asked, walking back a ways to find out why Tsukune was lagging behind, "are you still dazed or something?"
"N-No, I..." Tsukune shook his head to clear it, recovering quickly from the scare; he was already used to facing down malevolent horrors, though never something quite like a living carpet of poisonous fangs and creeping legs. "Never mind. Like I said, I need to speak alone with Moka right away."
Ranma frowned, sensing a kind of desperation from his roommate that suggested he wasn't just making time to flirt with the vampiress. "All right, that's fine. Tobaki can report back to the Head Moron. We'll just head back to the office."
Tsukune nodded hesitantly. "Okay... Uh... What office, exactly?"
"Your office, of course," Ranma said, walking on ahead as Tsukune hesitantly followed after him, completely bewildered.
"I... have an office?"
"I have an office," Tsukune said in wonder and confusion as he stared at the immaculately furnished room that stretched out before him.
Bookshelves lined both walls and the center of the office was dominated by an enormous hardwood desk littered with papers and basic office supplies, as well as a state-of-the-art computer tower. Several leather lounge chairs faced the desk, and there were even antique Japanese armor sets decorating the rear of the room, right under a painting of a pigtailed silhouette launching an uppercut just below a tornado (titled "Peace Through Cyclones"). The only thing marring the pristine opulence of the room was a large web in one corner that supported a bright crimson, baseball-sized spider, although Tsukune had to admit that even the delicately patterned spider nest somehow seemed decadent as it hung over a gilded water cooler.
"Tsukune, Captain?" the baffled young man asked aloud as he stared at the name plate sitting at the edge of the desk, next to a stack of business cards.
Hesitantly picking one up, Tsukune saw that it was indeed his name at the top, once again bearing the curious rank of "Captain". The card, however, also made clear that he was the captain of the Youkai Academy Protection Committee, along with the statement "Harmony and order, for a better tomorrow" and a reminder for the recipient to friend the Committee on Facebook.
"I am SO confused right now," Tsukune grumbled, rubbing his head. He remembered vividly that something had happened to him as he was washing up, but after that, the next thing he knew he was underground along with people he didn't know and one person he wished he didn't know. Moka had seemed to have gotten over her distress at turning him into a ghoul (or at least she was hiding it now), Chopper wasn't trying to beat him up for kicks, and somehow he had even become head of the Enforcers.
'That guy with the pigtail asked if I had been hit by some kind of magic item,' Tsukune recalled, 'maybe I've gotten my memory altered?' The thought was disturbing, but hardly far-fetched in Youkai Academy. He had already suffered brainwashing once under the pretext of math tutoring, and it had scrubbed out several days' worth of events from his memory. Perhaps the same thing had happened again?
Tsukune heard the door behind him open, and he turned around as Moka entered, closing the door behind her.
"Sorry about that, I had to help Mizore with her work," Moka apologized, walking up to him, "what did you want to talk about that you didn't want the others to hear?"
Tsukune hesitated, wondering if he should go ahead and talk to Moka about the effects of her blood injections or reveal that he had no idea how or why he was the captain of the Enforcers.
"So... Moka. Do you remember when those monstrels surrounded us... uh... the other day?" he asked lamely, rubbing the back of his head.
"Monstrels?" Moka asked, blinking. "No, I don't. Have the monstrels been bothering you?"
"Sorry, I'm a little confused," Tsukune said, tugging on his bandage wrappings nervously, "something odd happened in that room down there."
Moka's looked worried. "Something happened? You didn't look in a magic mirror, did you? Ranma warned you that those were dangerous!"
"I... don't know, but it's possible," Tsukune admitted, "but I just wanted to make sure you're okay. I know you were upset after I went berserk that time-"
"Went berserk? You?" Moka asked, now just as confused as the young human. "When did that happen?"
Tsukune frowned. No matter how much time he might be missing, Moka should have remembered that. Heck, she almost certainly remembered it better than he did.
On the other hand, if she had forgotten, that neatly eliminated any need to cheer her up. It was slightly irksome that she wasn't at all worried about his turning into a flesh-eating psychotic, but it was certainly the lesser of two evils.
Moka saw that Tsukune had gone silent, and then coughed lightly to get his attention.
"This might not be the best time, but... I locked the door when I came in," the pink-haired teenager said with a coy smile as she clasped her hands behind her back, "if you don't mind, can we do 'that'?"
Tsukune didn't move an inch, still frowning as he scratched his chin.
In his head, however, all thoughts of monstrels and magic doodads and Protection Committees were instantly binned as he focused entirely upon Moka's rather surprising request.
Apparent Fact #1: he was now in a position of power and privilege, and even had his own awesome private office.
Hypothesis #1: he was missing memories from an unspecified period of time, in which he was presumably with Moka a lot and they had gotten closer.
Apparent Fact #2: Moka had just locked herself in his office, and wanted to do something with him that she was too shy to state openly.
Hypothesis #2: boom-chika bow-wow~!
"Well, the timing isn't perfect, you're right," Tsukune admitted, managing to keep a professionally nonchalant tone as he nodded at the vampiress, "but okay, yeah. Let's do 'that'."
Moka brightened, embracing Tsukune eagerly. "Yes! Thank you!"
Ranma and Yukari jolted as they heard a scream of pain and terror come from Tsukune's office, and the former shot to her feet.
"That was Tsukune, wasn't it? Is he under attack?" Yukari asked, reaching for her wand uncertainly.
"Well, given that Moka just went in, yeah, he probably is," Ranma said with a shrug, "it is lunch time."
"Oh," Yukari put her wand away, her concern vanishing, "he's much louder than usual."
"Yeah, she must have surprised him," Ranma said, once again returning his attention to the sheet-wrapped parcel on the table in front of him.
"Anyway, like I was saying, since old man Headmaster has so much magic crap he just has them shunted into an underground closet, I figured he wouldn't miss one or six. So I brought souvenirs for everyone."
Yukari gasped, slapping her hands to cheeks as Ranma unwrapped the small bundle. It was a curved short sword that had a simple design, but held a subtle malevolence that made the skin crawl just from looking at it.
"You got me the Anathame! Oh, Senpai, you're the best!" Yukari said cheerfully, picking up the terrible weapon and holding it up. There was a small label on one side of the handle, and she squinted slightly to read it. "And it was blessed by Nurg'leth, god of plagues! This is just what I needed to really give my curses that extra kick! Thank you!"
"No sweat. I figure it's probably safer in the hands of random teenagers than it is under the Headmaster's protection, anyway," Ranma said with a smirk.
"As evidenced by the fact that you yourself made off with it so easily?"
"Yeah, pretty much."
The door to Tsukune's office opened, and Ranma and Yukari fell silent as Moka exited, humming to herself pleasantly as she dabbed at her lips with a handkerchief.
"Well, it's nice to see that some things never change," Tsukune said meekly as he scratched at his wounded neck. It appeared that his relationship with Moka was the same as ever: that strange, awkward area above friends but below lovers where it was considered okay to feast on your partner's blood but kissing was still out-of-bounds.
Tsukune slumped into the chair behind his desk, frowning. He was glad to see that his relationship with Moka was at least stable, if not healthy, but the way she didn't seem to know anything about the monstrels or his dangerous transformation didn't mesh with his theory of spontaneous memory loss.
Glancing at his desk, he saw that there was a daily calendar partially hidden under a copy of the school newspaper.
Taking a deep breath, he picked up the paper and checked what day it was.
"What the heck! It's the same date that I remember it being!" Tsukune growled to himself.
Then he happened to take a look at the paper. It couldn't be helped, really, since for some reason it had a group photo of Youkai Academy's swimming club plastered on the front; it was bound to draw anyone's attention.
"Youkai Times: Swimsuit Issue?" the hapless human mumbled in confusion, "who would print something like this?"
Looking further down, he received his answer.
"By editor, publisher, chief reporter and head writer Gin Morioka. Photography by Nagare," Tsukune read aloud, letting the paper slip back onto his desk.
'All right, THINK, Tsukune!' The human boy leaned back in his desk, steepling his fingers. 'It's the same day. The same place. Moka is here. But everything else is different! I'm head of the Enforcers, not involved in the newspaper club, I haven't started turning into a ghoul, and I even have friends who aren't girls! Missing memories can't explain this; it's like I'm in... a similar, but different version of Youkai Academy!'
At that thought, things started to click into place. Moka had said he was in a room with magic mirrors. The last thing he remembered before ending up there was a bathroom mirror starting to glow, and a slightly different version of himself staring at him, rather than his reflection.
'Maybe it switched us? Yeah, that would make sense. I guess. It is magic. So there's some version of me that runs the Enforcers wandering around in my Youkai Academy?'
Tsukune found the thought fairly distressing. He hadn't left at the best of times, and his counterpart was probably just as confused as he was. With the monstrels out for blood, Tsukune could only hope that his analog would be able to grasp the situation and survive. He was also concerned that the Moka in his home academy was still rather distressed, but there was hardly much he could do about that. The monstrels were the big concern.
'Then again, this Tsukune was apparently strong enough to become head of the Protection Committee. He might even be stronger than me,' Tsukune mused, 'so I'm sure he'll be able to defend himself and Moka, if necessary.'
Meanwhile, in an arena made of crumbling masonry and forced drama...
"-so it's not like I don't appreciate what you're trying to do. If the monstrels are maligned as much as I've heard, then of COURSE you're going to band together to defend each other! It's a reasonable, even noble impulse! But the current state of affairs really isn't helping anything!"
Tsukune sucked in a breath, keeping his voice even as he stared up at a muscular young man with one arm swollen into a giant, twisted claw. Several other students surrounded him, all of them giving him doubtful looks as Moka laid behind them, tied up.
"Saizo wasn't beaten for being a monstrel, he was beaten for being a sleazy jerk. If you're going to kill literally every student that even defends himself from a monstrel acting out, you're not going to be respected, only feared."
The monstrel with the massive arm, Mido, quirked an eyebrow. "Fear sounds close enough to respect to me."
"Does it?" Tsukune asked sharply, leaning forward. "Fear, hate, disgust, they're all the same! Is that really what you want to achieve? To make sure that no one will even associate with the monstrels for fear of aggravating you? Is that really what you aspire to? You want people averting their eyes and whispering angrily behind your back wherever you go?" Mido frowned and pursed his lips, staring at the ceiling.
Some of the other monstrels looked as if they were about to speak, but Tsukune pressed on, stepping away from Mido and slowly circling as he addressed all the monstrels in the room. "Of course not! You want the other students to see you as equals, not rabid animals! You want to make friends with your peers who might not have been born as monstrels! And if you guys are even REMOTELY representative of the gender ratio among monstrels, then finding girlfriends is practically a doomed prospect as things stand now!"
"He has a point," one of the taller boys said, looking away awkwardly, "I wasn't able to join any of the clubs I wanted to get into, just because the members saw me hanging out with you guys. I mean, maybe they'd keep me out anyway just for being a monstrel, but it's not like they're inviting me now, you know?"
"I'm sick of having to do group projects by myself! Even that time in chemistry class, when the teacher forced a group to accept me, they just told me to leave them alone and let them do the whole thing! I had ideas!" another boy grumbled, staring at the ground.
Another boy crossed his arms over his chest as he glared at the other monsters. "You know, I never mentioned this before now, but you guys are all pretty much jerks. I never asked to be part of your little terrorist gang, but what the hell else am I supposed to do as a monstrel? Everybody else just avoids me, and all of our stupid gang rules mean that I can get killed for acting independently! It sucks!"
"Just once I'd like to go on a date without packing rope and chloroform," moaned yet another monstrel.
"All right, quiet down, chumps," Mido snarled, causing the other students to flinch back. Then he turned a suspicious gaze on Tsukune. "Maybe you DO have a point, but things aren't so easy, you know? Do you think we're sticking together just because we want to? Things can be pretty dangerous around here if you don't have a buddy to watch your back."
"You were dealt a bad hand, so you stick together to defend yourselves from others," Tsukune said with a nod, "I get that. I'd even say I admire it. I don't want you to give that up."
Tsukune approached Mido and then clapped a hand on the monstrel's shoulder, surprising him. "People tell me all sorts of awful things about monstrels, you know? I see what you're up against. And there's a better way to fight it. Your unity, your tenacity... we can put it toward a better purpose, and really show those arrogant pure breeds who the better monsters are. And we'll do it TOGETHER."
Mido looked completely stunned, unable to respond immediately.
"I... I, uh..." the monstrel seemed to swallow uncomfortably, and then clasped his non-mutated arm over his eyes, turning away. "Yeah, just... gimme a minute to think it over, all right?"
One of the other boys stepped closer, trying to get a good look at his leader's face. "Dude, Mido, are you crying?"
"I'M NOT CRYING!" Mido roared, his eyes glowing an angry red as he rounded on the offending monstrel, "I'm just... you know... taking in the sentiment," he said uncertainly.
Off to the side, Moka watched helplessly as her captors started talking to each other, discussing their longstanding difficulties and future goals for the monstrel gangs with the occasional pair going for a tearful hug.
'Okay, what in the screaming Hell just happened?' Inner Moka demanded. 'I mean, I'm happy that we didn't have to go through that ghoul thing again, but I thought we had a good thing going where we smash the monstrels' faces in. I'm not sure I like this new direction.'
"Here, let me get you loose," said a rather portly boy as he undid the ropes behind Moka.
The vampiress was surprised, but remained silent as she was freed.
"Here you go. I'm really sorry about us jumping you like that and using you as bait to murder your boyfriend. It really was uncalled for," the boy apologized, bowing meekly.
"Y-Yeah, okay. Sure," Moka said nervously as she stood up and rapidly backed away toward Tsukune, "Tsukune, can we leave now? I-"
"You go ahead, Moka, we still have to work out a program of civic engagement," Tsukune said, waving to the terribly confused vampiress before turning back to Mido, "so I was thinking you could leverage the numbers of the monstrel gang to create your own club, with activities revolving around campus restoration and beautification. That way all your helpful activities are as visible as possible for your peers."
Mido nodded. "We could establish a codified club charter too. Maybe create a more transparent process for judging whether we really should kill someone who messes with us, as well."
"Now you're thinking!" Tsukune said happily, raising his fist and giving a knuckle-pound to Mido's massive, taloned fist, "next, let's discuss the concept of proportional retaliation..."
Meanwhile, back in Crossoverville...
Tsukune hesitantly approached the door to his office, working out a plan in his mind to deal with his new theory as to where he was.
'I should probably keep quiet for as long as I can,' Tsukune thought grimly, 'the Enforcers aren't reasonable people, and I have no idea how they might react if I tell them that I'm not the Tsukune they know. If I'm lucky, they'll capture and hold me until they know how to send me back. If I'm not, then they might try to use the confusion to get rid of me.'
He took a deep breath, tugging on the bandages around his neck. 'First, I need to get back to that place with the mirrors. Since I have the authority of the Protection Committee, it shouldn't be too hard, as long as I'm not put in a situation where I have to recognize someone I should know.'
Before he could reach for the knob, the door suddenly swung open, nearly smacking him in the face as someone burst into his office.
"Hey Tsukune!" said the arrival, an unfamiliar boy with hard-chiseled features and shoulder-length blue hair. "Guess who?"
Tsukune's expression darkened. "You're doing this on purpose, aren't you?"
Honestly, the boy did seem familiar somehow, but Tsukune was pretty sure he'd never seen the fellow before. He was tall, thin, covered with hard-slab, lithe muscles, and extraordinarily masculine features only slightly ruined by the coy smirk on his face.
"Ha! It's me, Kurumu!" he said with a deep chuckle, planting his fists on his hips.
'Kurumu's a boy in this universe? Weird, but I guess I can see the resemblance,' Tsukune admitted to himself. "Oh, right! Listen, I've got to-"
"You don't seem very surprised," Kurumu said, quirking an eyebrow as he unbuttoned his jacket and pulled up his uniform shirt. Underneath the shirt was a large, thick girdle with a metal plate on it boasting a strange rune that seemed to be the symbol for male and female combined.
"Look! Ranma gave me a Girdle of Femininity/Masculinity!" Kurumu said with a grin, pointing to the conspicuous item. "I also borrowed his uniform, since he never wears it. And check out these abs! You could grind meat on my stomach!"
Tsukune stared down at the belt, and then up at Kurumu. "Okay... so, you're a girl?"
"What? No, I'm a boy," Kurumu said, looking confused.
"A boy who turns into a girl?" Tsukune clarified, pointing to the girdle.
"Why would I need to turn into a girl?" Kurumu asked, letting his shirt fall back into place.
"Why would you need to turn into a boy?" Tsukune countered.
"I don't 'need' to! I can stop any time I want!" the succubus protested.
"And if you DID stop, would you be a boy or a girl?" Tsukune asked, looking frustrated.
"Er... Well, because it's a cursed item, I can't just take it off, actually," Kurumu said uncertainly, scratching his head, "you need a magic spell or something."
"So you're a boy who can't turn into a girl."
Kurumu fell silent, slumping against the door as he massaged his head. "I have no idea why this is so hard."
Tsukune sighed. "Look, can I get by? I need to get back to the storage room me and Moka were going through earlier."
"Captain!" Keito shouted suddenly, placing a hand on the boy's shoulder from behind.
"GYAAAA!" Tsukune jumped in surprise, nearly barreling over Kurumu as he spun around clumsily. "JESUS CHRIST!"
"Yes? What is it?" Jesus asked, pushing the door open and poking his head in.
"No, it's just an expression," Kurumu said, shaking his head, "you can go back."
"Where did you come from?" Tsukune demanded, staring angrily at Keito. He remembered the spider-woman quite well, though he tried to clamp down on his fear and anger at her; just because she was a heartless brute in his world didn't mean she was the same way in this one.
"Well, Miss Muscles here was blocking the doorway, so I used the back entrance," Keito explained, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Why didn't you just knock?" Tsukune asked, annoyed.
"It's more fun this way," the spider woman said shamelessly, letting a smirk slide across her features.
"All right, whatever. What do you want?" Tsukune asked impatiently.
"There is a matter which demands your attention, Captain Aono," Keito said, slipping back into her more serious tone, "the school is under direct threat."
Tsukune groaned, massaging his head. 'I really don't have time for this!' He was all for vanquishing brutal monsters and such, but this fight had nothing to do with him. The longer he had to spend pretending to be the captain of the Protection Committee, the more likely he was to be found out, and the more likely that some calamity would befall the other Youkai Academy without him there to counter it.
"What happened? Some sort of student riot?" Kurumu asked, grinding a fist into his palm.
"Worse. Professor Richard hatched some kind of beast in the basements underneath the school," Keito explained, sighing as she crossed her arms over her chest, "some of the staff that work down there were killed, while a few escaped to report it. It's probably a matter of time before it begins a full-scale rampage through the school, so I recommend we deal with it now, while we can corner it easily."
"All right, all right," Tsukune said, a weariness in his voice that surprised the two monsters with him, "where's Moka?"
"She's out in the lobby, where Ranma was handing out precious artifacts," Kurumu said, jabbing a thumb over his shoulder.
"All right, thanks," Tsukune murmured, stepping past the girl-turned-boy and into the hall.
After the door closed, Kurumu turned sharply toward Keito.
"Since when does Tsukune have a back entrance to his office?" the succubus demanded.
"Since the trapdoor spiders dug it in a week ago," Keito answered with a shrug, "I'm rather surprised he didn't say anything about it just now. I guess he knew it was there after all."
"Well, it's not right that there's a secret route into the captain's office that only you know about!" Kurumu said, his eyes narrowing as he crossed his arms over his iron-hard chest. "The security risk that this-"
"Yeah, yeah, fine. I'll show you where it is," Keito interrupted, rolling her eyes.
"-and for you, I found something in the weapon pile I think you'll really like," Ranma said, grinning as he held out a long item wrapped in sheets.
Kouma hesitantly took the gift, unsure of what to say. He was surprised, and certainly pleased, to see Ranma treat him as a friend in some way that didn't involve mocking or humiliating him, but he really wasn't sure how to act on the few occasions that his ever-present fog of furious resentment for the pigtailed boy lifted.
Deciding to just open the gift first, Kouma stripped the sheets from the object, finding it to be a long, curved, single-edged sword made of hard, pale chitin.
"What's this?" the hellhound asked, staring closely at what passed for the weapon's hilt. It looked like it had been attached to something at some point, and had bits of torn, dried flesh on that end.
"It's a bonesword! See the label on the side?" Ranma said, pointing to the strip of paper stuck on the alien blade.
"Oh, okay," Kouma said uncertainly, "not that I don't appreciate it, but I don't use swords, you know?"
"Yeah, I know," Ranma agreed, "but it's a BONEsword."
Kouma's eyes narrowed. "You suck."
Bop! Kouma pitched forward slightly as a red and white metal ball bounced off of his head.
He blinked as the sphere inexplicably froze in place mid-air, and then split open along the seam between the red and white portions.
"What the he-" Kouma was instantly zapped into the poke'ball, and the mysterious sphere snapped closed before it fell onto the floor.
Ranma rolled his eyes before turning around. "Mizore, don't use the slavery ball on Kouma! It's gotta be really cramped in there!"
The ball started wiggling back and forth on the floor as the snow woman walked up to it.
"I just wanted to see if it would work," Mizore said, kneeling down to stare at the struggling orb.
Pop! "RAAAAUGH!" The poke'ball burst open, and Kouma appeared in a flare of light, having apparently changed to his true hellhound form at some point.
As the devil dog shook himself in confusion and fury, Mizore frowned down at the two halves of her souvenir, which had apparently broken apart during Kouma's forced exit. "Aw, you broke it..."
"I should break YOU!" Kouma snarled, whirling around as sparks blasted from between his teeth.
"Oh, calm down, you're fine," Ranma said, picking up the hound's new weapon, "here, try chewing on your new bone. Sword."
"I hate you all," the canine grumbled as Kana stepped up behind him.
"I don't understand why all this sheet music is presented as a series of buttons," Kana mumbled, holding a green flute in one hand while she used her other to navigate the touch-screen of a cell phone, "or why it's only available on GameFAQs."
"I dunno either. Try not to experiment too much with that thing, though. If it can generate wind from nowhere, there's no telling what else it can do," Ranma warned.
"Yeah, and tornadoes are your schtick, right?" Kouma said around a mouthful of grinding chitin as he gnawed on the end of the sword.
The others didn't respond to the jibe, staring at Kouma as the hellhound laid on the floor with his new weapon and wagged his tail.
"What? Say something! I dare you!" Kouma growled before biting down hard on the bonesword, splintering it.
It was about at that time that Tsukune entered the lobby, and the displaced human scanned the interior of the room before he found Moka near the corner, talking to Jesus Christ.
"Ah, Moka, there you are!" Tsukune said, immediately centering everyone's attention on him, "listen! The school is under attack! We have to do something!"
"Eh? What's wrong?" Ranma asked as Mizore and Kana promptly put away their gifts and moved to stand next to him.
"Some kind of monster in the basement," Tsukune replied.
"Of course there are monsters in the basement," Kouma grumbled, briefly putting down his bonesword, "what else would be down there?"
Tsukune rolled his eyes. "No, not a student monster. A monster-monster."
"Like, a student-monster TURNED monster-monster?" Moka asked.
"No, I'm pretty sure it was just recently hatched, so I don't think it had the opportunity to enroll," Tsukune said blithely.
"Well, did anyone ask it if it wanted to?" Mizore asked.
Tsukune was silent for several seconds as he stared at his alternate-world subordinates.
"Okay, this is a complete and utter tangent, but I really don't think I can ignore it anymore," the human boy admitted, "why is Jesus Christ here? He's... He's not part of the Committee, is he?"
"I'm on business, actually," said the son of God, waving his hand dismissively, "you needn't worry yourself."
"He's searching for Satan's daughter," Kouma said as he went back to chewing, "he thought we might know where she was, since we pretty much set her loose up here."
Ranma tried hard not to make eye contact with anyone as Moka shuddered.
"It's terrifying to think of the kind of terrible things she could be up to after being released in the human world," the vampiress said nervously.
"I know, right? But he STILL insisted on taking me out to dinner. So I was like, 'why not? Free meal, and I still get laid.' He totally wasn't my type though."
Lucy chatted without pause on her iPhone as she laid face-down and naked on a table covered in soft blankets. She was in her human form, which disguised her bright red skin as a rich tan and hid away her horns and tail, but otherwise failed to alter the absurdly oversexed proportions of her body.
A rather muscular man in a tank top was leaning over her, slowly massaging her back with a clinical efficiency as she talked away.
"Well, of course I did! But I didn't give him my real number afterward," Lucy said with a giggle, kicking her feet lazily, "so did you manage to score a few dime bags, or did those DAPC pigs get on your case again?"
She was silent for a few seconds, and then frowned. "Hello? Can you hear me?"
Taking the phone away from her ear, she glanced at the darkened screen and grimaced.
"Damn it to home! Out of juice AGAIN? I swear, I've given handjobs that last longer than this thing's battery!"
Sighing, she put the phone down on the desk next to her head, and then flashed a lecherous smirk toward her masseuse. "So are you almost done with my back, hot stuff? Because I think it's about time you started rubbing down my front."
The man favored her with a strictly disinterested glance. "Not part of the package, Miss. Also, I'm gay."
Lucy quirked an eyebrow. "Tell me more."
"Well, my boyfriend actually has the appointment right after yours."
"Hawt. Can I watch?"
"Truly, this plague of corruption and darkness must be stopped," Jesus said grimly, his arms crossed over his chest, "but you have another task before you that requires your full attention, Aono Tsukune, if this institution is to be saved."
"Hey, we don't have time to be standing around!" Yukari shouted as she swept into the room, holding a crystal ball in her arms. "We've got an enemy on the loose!"
"What're we looking at?" Ranma demanded, stepping up as Yukari put down the orb on the coffee table that dominated the room.
"This," Yukari said, waving her hand slowly over the crystal ball, "a beast hatched from the egg that Professor Richard took."
As everyone stepped closer, the mists within the sphere parted, revealing a monstrous, bipedal beast twice as large as Chopper's troll form. It had a segmented, chitinous carapace that was bone white with purple armor plates along its back and in prominent places all over its body, a long, ax-tipped tail, and four arms, every one of them holding a gigantic saber that looked like an oversized version of the one Kouma was chewing on.
"What IS it?" Kurumu asked as he and Keito joined the others in the lobby studying the terrible monster.
"One of the Tyranid's deadliest bio weapons: the Swarmlord," growled an enormous man with white hair in a crew cut as he stood before Ms. Nekonome's usual monster encyclopedia chalkboard. He was wearing a suit of red futuristic plate mail with white shoulder pads and carried a two-handed hammer taller than most humans, which looked out of place enough even without considering he was playing the part of a glorified Wikipedia entry.
"Insidious and deadly, even among hive tyrants, an engine of martial devastation, psychic fury, and the deepest intellect..." rumbled the Space Marine, trailing off as he gripped his hammer tightly, "ill tidings for the academy, which hung ever more tenuously on the edge of oblivion."
After a few seconds of silence, Shizuka Nekonome poked her head into the room.
"Uh, Mister Angelos? Is that all you have to say about it?" she asked hesitantly.
In response, he suddenly hefted his hammer into the air, screaming a battle cry for no apparent reason. "RETRIBUTION!"
"All right then, what's the plan?" Ranma asked, turning toward Tsukune.
The younger human glanced around at the others uncertainly. "Uh... wait. I'm confused. Do we... act like we didn't just see that, or...?"
"Hasn't been covered. I wouldn't worry about it," Yukari muttered, shrugging, "seriously though, what are we doing?"
Tsukune took a deep breath, realizing that, as captain, it was up to him to take charge and eliminate this threat. "All right, I see what we have to do. Moka!"
The vampiress straightened, rather surprised that she would be the first one called on. "Yes?"
"Come with me. We'll take care of this," Tsukune said, smiling confidently at the vampiress.
There was a good four seconds of absolute silence before Ranma laughed.
"Ha! Oh, man! You actually had me going for a minute there!" the martial artist said, chuckling as he stepped up and slapped the younger human on the shoulder. "No, really, what's the plan?"
"That is the plan," Tsukune said, stepping away from the strange pigtailed boy uncomfortably, "come on, Moka."
Tsukune and a rather bewildered Moka started making their way toward the exit, the rest of the Protection Committee being too utterly flabbergasted to protest.
Yukari barely managed to recover her wits to speak up before they reached the door. "Wait, so... what are the rest of us doing, then?"
"Just wait here," Tsukune insisted, opening the door for Moka before following her out, "we'll be back soon."
Then the door closed, an another long silence descended upon the remaining Committee members.
Oddly enough, Kana was the first to speak, turning toward Ranma. "Well, let me be the first to congratulate you on your imminent promotion to captain of the Protection Committee."
Kurumu and Ranma both flinched, and the former started panicking.
"Wait! We can't just let him walk in there with Moka! He'll be torn apart!" she said fearfully.
"Worse, Moka will be killed too!" Yukari exclaimed in horror, "even Evil Moka is no match for that thing!"
"Whoa, guys, hold your demon steeds," Kouma said, standing up (though he was still in his hellhound form), "this is the captain we're talking about. Do you really think he'd just stroll right into the enemy lair with no backup without having a solid plan to take care of this?"
Ranma frowned. "What kind of a plan can he pull off with just Moka?"
"I don't know. But that's kind of the point," Kouma said, finally changing back to a human in a burst of fire, "Aono can come up with ideas that don't rely on shoving overwhelming force into the enemy's face until they fall down. He's come through for us before, and I'm sure he knows what he's doing. So I think he'd appreciate it more if you believed in him rather than rushing off to disobey orders."
Ranma pursed his lips, but eventually nodded as he accepted the hellhound's logic. "You're right. We could accidentally ruin everything if we go after him now."
"I kind of wish he had actually given us something to do though, rather than just 'wait here'," Yukari griped, "I mean, what, there's no need to do routine patrols or maybe set up a defensive perimeter while he's carrying out his brilliant strategy?"
"Nope, guess not," Mizore said with a shrug.
Yet another long silence filled the room.
"Well, who's up for playing an old, cryptic board game I found with the plot devices?" Ranma asked, picking up an old, weathered box with the word "Juumanji" on the top.
"Okay, yeah, might as well."
"Tsukune, are you sure about this?" Moka said nervously, following the human boy down a flight of creaking stairs into the shabby underbelly of the academy, "shouldn't we have brought the others along? I really feel like we should have brought the others along."
Tsukune shook his head as he pushed forward. "If this Swarmlord is as dangerous as the encyclo... uh... as dangerous as its reputation suggests, then the others could be killed in an instant. We have to take care of this ourselves."
"Okay..." Moka mumbled slowly, perplexed as to why Tsukune had written off Ranma as a casualty waiting to happen. She'd always thought that, if anything, Tsukune severely overestimated the martial artist, and assumed Ranma was invincible. "So what are we going to do, then?"
Tsukune halted as he stepped into the old hallway, glancing up at a dim, flickering light mounted on the ceiling. He actually hadn't thought of any plan beyond unleashing Inner Moka and charging the beast, and then moving on toward the storage vaults behind it, but maybe there was a better way.
"Didn't they say that Professor Richard hatched the Swarmlord?" Tsukune asked, trying and failing to recall any teacher by that name in his dimension. "Do you think he lost control of it?"
Moka blinked, not having thought of that. "I don't know," she admitted, "but why would that matter?"
"Well, do you think a teacher would let this creature go on a bloody rampage if he could prevent it?" Tsukune asked, quite reasonably feeling that no instructor could be so pointlessly destructive.
"Yes, absolutely," Moka said without hesitation, "though I admit that he'd be more likely to chain it up as a guard pet in some part of the academy that people frequently use, or put it in a pit under his classroom and drop students into it via a trap door."
As Tsukune's mind boggled at the casual way in which Moka described the sanctioned massacre of Youkai Academy's students, another voice interrupted them.
"I actually hadn't thought of that last one. The trap doors would take some time to build, and I'd need to custom order a gold bikini for when I eventually take you captive, but it's still workable," Richard said thoughtfully, causing both of the teenagers to spin around to face him.
Or rather, spin around, and then look down onto the floor where Richard was lying on his belly, several slash marks cutting across his back. He was dragging himself along by his claw-tipped fingers, and had pulled himself up past a corner such that only his upper torso was visible to the pair.
"Professor Richard," Moka grumbled, "I don't suppose you have anything to say for yourself?"
"Yes, actually," Richard said seriously, propping up his chin on his elbows, "fatherhood is not as joyful and rewarding as I was led to believe."
Urrrraaaaaaaugh! A distant roar came from within the broken hallways, and the walls trembled as bits of dirt and clumps of mildew sprinkled down on them from the ceiling.
"They grow up so fast," Richard said with a melodramatic sigh, "before long he'll be off to space college, calling me to send him money while drunkenly humping half his hive fleet."
"Can we be serious about this for a minute?" Tsukune asked, finding this instructor incredibly annoying.
"All right, you have sixty seconds. Go!"
"First of all, why did you hatch that egg?" Moka asked, glaring at the warlock.
"It was either that or the world's largest omelet, and I didn't have any onions," Richard replied.
"You said you were going to be serious," Tsukune growled.
"I was," Richard said with a shrug, still lying at the teenagers' feet, "I lost the ability to tell between drama and comedy long ago, when I found out that lighting people on fire tends to generate both of them at once. It's confusing."
Tsukune meant to give Moka an incredulous look, but the vampiress was entirely focused on Richard, as if she wasn't fazed by his bizarre behavior.
"What will you do if it gets loose and starts attacking the students?" Moka demanded.
"Watch," Richard said without a trace of deceit, irony, or remorse, "still being serious."
"Can you still control the Swarmlord at all?" Tsukune asked, deciding to get to the heart of the matter.
In response, Richard clutched the floor and dragged himself forward on his belly, dragging the rest of his body into view. What little of it there was left, anyway. Richard had been torn apart at the waist, and the warlock's intestines trailed behind his torso on top of a trail of curiously luminescent green slime.
Tsukune promptly clamped his hands over his mouth, his bile rising at the horrific sight.
Moka, oddly enough, merely sighed, brushing off the disturbing image. "So it's already out of control, then?"
"He's just in his rebellious phase," Richard said defensively, "by the way, your sixty seconds are up."
"Did you at least manage to wound it?" Moka asked.
"Yes, but it didn't help," Richard grumbled, "I don't care what anyone says, a 3+ invulnerable save on a monstrous creature is ridiculous, even if it's only in close combat."
Neither Moka nor Tsukune had anything to say to that, until the latter finally asked, "Can we be serious for another minute?"
"No. This is all far too amusing," Richard insisted.
"You've had your legs ripped off, people have been killed, and an alien beast is threatening to demolish the school!" Tsukune snapped. "You think that's amusing?"
"Yes, tremendously," Richard answered simply, "do you have any other stupid questions I can answer?"
"No, I think we're done," Moka confessed half-heartedly as she stepped past the horribly maimed warlock.
Tsukune was much more hesitant about leaving the injured teacher there in the hall, but eventually relented and followed the pink-haired girl further into gloom.
"Okay, so what are we going to do, exactly?" Moka asked, glancing uncomfortably at a long, deep cut in the wall the ran at least four meters long. The halls, which had been in bad shape before, were now all but destroyed, with the floor a mess of splinters and the ceiling riddled with gouges and holes.
"We're going to find that Swarmlord, and then I'll unleash you inner self," Tsukune finally said after a moment's hesitation.
He had to admit that he had been unsure how to approach this matter, as he didn't know how the other Tsukune usually treated the matter of Moka's devastatingly powerful split personality, but ultimately decided that honesty was the best policy.
Moka, for her part, froze on the spot, completely stunned.
'Wait, seriously? He's letting me out? He's being serious right now? YES!' Evil Moka's voice was uncommonly giddy, like a girl who had just accepted her first invitation to a dance. Moka would have actually found the tone quite humorous but for one consideration.
"You... want ME to fight it? ALONE?" Moka asked, her face paling as her rosario trembled.
"No! You won't be alone! I'll be with you the whole time!" Tsukune said, giving her a confident, reassuring smile.
"... You want ME to fight it? ALONE?" Moka repeated incredulously.
'Hey, knock it off! Do NOT mess this up for me, Pinky!' Evil Moka growled as best she could over the telepathic link. 'You just go on and hand him the cross. I'll handle this "Swarmlord" chump and even Ranma will have to-'
Moka and Tsukune fell to their knees as a keening howl rolled through the halls underneath the academy, causing the walls to shake and the only nearby light bulb to burst like a soap bubble, plunging the area into darkness.
Moka clutched at her ears, feeling the scream of the alien beast rattle around in her head like a physical thing. Fear of a sort she had never known before invaded her thoughts, paralyzing her. It was an unfamiliar, almost chemical feeling, as if the suffocating terror were a drug seeping through her muscles and leaving them as rubber.
Tsukune was shaken just as badly, but the psionic screech had the dubious benefit of agitating his corrupted ghoul blood. He shuddered as a hot pulse ran through his body, but fought to suppress the boiling hunger responding to the cry of the Devourer. There was no way he wanted lose his grip on sanity now.
'Okay, fine, so we might be a LITTLE outgunned,' Evil Moka admitted, which was about as close as the vampiress got to desperate panic, 'there's no reason why we couldn't have just a few of the others to help us out, is there? As decoys, maybe?'
"Tsukune, th-this was not a good p-plan," Moka stuttered, standing up shakily as her knees quaked, "we have to get out of here!" The scream still rang in her head, despite the fact that the actual sonic echo had long faded.
"Wait, Moka," Tsukune said uncertainly, holding a hand over his thundering heart as he searched the darkness for the vampire girl. As close as he was to being a ghoul, his sense of vision was still perfectly mundane, and he could barely hear her over the psychic scream still rattling around in his skull. "Relax! We can do this! YOU can do this! You're the most powerful monster in the school! An unstoppable force of nature!"
"I... you really think so?" Moka asked, her face reddening somewhat. Tsukune had never displayed confidence in her combat skills before, instead seeing her as someone to be protected. Although her inner self frequently complained that she was treated as second best in the Protection Committee, honestly speaking she was usually ranked dead bottom; ordinarily Tsukune would rush into battle himself before he'd let Moka do any serious fighting.
Tsukune oriented on the voice, and focused on the two red, glowering slits hovering near the ceiling. "Yes, absolutely! I've seen you in action, and there's nothing you... you... you don't have eyes that big."
Moka blinked, not understanding what he meant. "My eyes? What do they have-"
Thwump! The flat of a massive bonesword smashed into the side of the vampiress, knocking her off her feet and sending her crashing through the adjacent wall.
Tsukune flinched back as the new hole in the wall flooded the hallway with light, fully illuminating their target.
He immediately appreciated how much less horrifying the creature was when projected into Yukari's crystal ball. Even hunched over, with its arms tucked in at awkward angles and the horns on its back digging furrows in the ceiling, the alien was a titan of iron-hard carapace and massive blades, all topped by an elongated head full of sword-like teeth. Around its skull floated a cloud of luminescent green, and just looking at the abomination's eyes caused a feeling of terror much deeper and more oppressive than any natural fear.
Still, the Swarmlord was staring at the hole in the wall at the moment, and Tsukune had long practice at shaking off overwhelming fear when nearby girls were in danger. He tore his gaze away from the alien and made a dash after Moka.
Thump! He jerked to a stop as a single bonesword chopped down in front of him, causing the ground to shake briefly and blocking his path up to his waist.
The Swarmlord did not even glance at the human as it shouldered its way through the hole in the wall, ripping through masonry, wood and piping as if it were a mere spider's web (or at least, a normal spider's web, given that some of the ones around campus were stronger than Kevlar). Metal plumbing, long corroded by years of neglect and poor monster workmanship, snapped apart at the Swarmlord's passing, spitting water into the air as the alien emerged on the other side of wall.
Tsukune paled as the sword in front of him was lifted from the floor and carried away by the alien monstrosity. "Moka! Look out! It's-"
Thwack! Tsukune was smacked aside by an almost casual swing of the Swarmlord's tail, smashing his ribcage in and sending him hurtling through the air.
"GYUGH!" He hit the wall opposite the severely damaged one, bouncing off and onto his face as bits of debris showered onto his back.
"Augh! Jesus!" Tsukune shouted, pushing himself up against the furious protests of his body. His breath was weakening even as his lungs demanded air, and his head spun from the impact mixing with the psychic poison of the alien horror.
"Moka! No!" His eyes managed to focus enough to see the illuminated hole in the wall... which wasn't so much a hole anymore, since it was more than five meters wide and seemed to have carved out the entire wall of the room on the other side. A huge, dark shape obscured much of the light coming from the room's overhead lights, casting a terrifying shadow that slowly advanced through the room, despite the fact that it now had enough space to move almost unimpeded.
Tsukune could feel it... Moka's vampiric blood, rushing to his head, raging in response to the desperate fear of the Tyranid's psychic aura. It demanded action, demanded blood, and as it beckoned to him, Tsukune embraced it, for in his desperation the power offered by insanity and ghoulhood would have to do.
'Even if she's not the Moka I know, even if I might die here as an insane monster, I can't just let her die! I WON'T!' he screamed in his head, feeling the rush of heat as darkness and hate overwhelmed him.
And then, suddenly, he felt a hand touch his shoulder, and the pain, the rage, and the howling bloodlust all instantly drained away.
Confused, frightened, and just a bit disappointed, Tsukune glanced backward to see what had happened, and who had intruded upon his desperate gambit.
The smiling, curly-bearded face of Jesus Christ stared down at him, smiling warmly. "You called?"
Moka coughed as she staggered to her feet, using a metal drum to support herself. Half her body was in severe pain from being plowed through a wall, while the other half felt numb from the psionic energy field that had smashed into her and brutally seared her nervous system.
"What... What WAS that?" Moka asked nobody, holding her head in her hands.
'Would you like to turn around and ask?' Evil Moka quipped. Heavy footfalls, punctuated by the sound of splintering wood, issued from behind them, and Moka's thoughts cleared as survival instinct began to take control of her mind.
Moka spun around drunkenly, her eyes widening as she saw the massive beast slowly advancing toward her.
The Swarmlord had is four arms spread, its swords forming an edged barrier that crossed the entire width of the room and scraped long gouges in the walls to either side of the beast. Its eyes regarded Moka with a hungry curiosity, as if fascinated, but it hardly gave any hope that this encounter might end in anything less than her brutal murder and consumption.
'All right, let's see about breaking the seal on our own, yeah? I think this is a good time to see if that can happen!'
Moka whirled around, checking to see if there was another exit. It was at this point that she finally got a good look at the other half of the room, and saw just what had been collected in this area.
Red barrels, marked fuel drums, bundles of TNT, crates of ammunition, fireworks, and even the occasional bowling-ball style cartoon bomb had been piled into a massive wall that stretched from floor to ceiling, and seemed to only take up a small portion of the otherwise cavernous room.
"Wait, where are we?" Moka asked in a panic, not seeing an exit.
'This looks like the explosives storage area,' Evil Moka said.
"Where's the door? There was no door on the wall that the Swarmlord knocked us through!" Moka insisted desperately.
'It looks like Tobaki stacked all the explosives as close as possible to the entrance, making the best use of vertical space so that she could complete the job as quickly as possible,' Evil Moka noted wryly, 'how efficient of her.'
"We're cut off from the exit by a wall made of BOMBS?" Moka cried.
'Yes. Any progress on that seal-breaking thing? Because I think I can just about smell the alien's breath by now.'
Moka whirled back around, her heart thundering in her chest as the Swarmlord loomed over her. Caustic saliva drooled from between its knife-like teeth, and it slowly pulled its boneswords inward to surround the vampiress with blades.
Another telepathic voice roared in Moka's head, and to her shock and terror, it wasn't her darker counterpart's.
'You... Ancient power... Threat... Consume... Absorb... Evolve...' Moka could feel its ravenous hunger as the Swarmlord's mind invaded hers, and the teenage vampire slumped to her knees as the alien crossed its swords to scissor her in two.
It hesitated. The Swarmlord slowly turned its head around as it felt something nearby agitating its psionic senses, its swords pulling back toward its body in alarm and a curious sense of dread.
"The xeno comes not but to steal, and to kill and to destroy," came a voice from beyond the massive tear in the wall as the Swarmlord turned completely around, "I am come so that their victims might have life, and that they might have it for much longer."
Jesus approached through the gaping hole in the wall, walking past the broken piping without regard for the arc of rushing water blasting from the twisted steel. The rushing fountain bent impossibly around him, the water refusing to land upon the messiah's skin as the Israelite passed into the room proper.
The Swarmlord's feet shifted, the psychic glow that danced around its horned skull flaring in intensity. Moka was forgotten completely as the alien faced this new threat, sensing an unprecedented level of danger.
"Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone," Jesus said solemnly, his pity-filled gaze locked on the luminescent eyes of the monstrous alien.
CRACK! Jesus' hand suddenly grabbed onto the concrete foundation of the wall, his fingers sinking into the stone as if it were mere communion crackers.
"That means I go first," the son of God said, lifting the mass of concrete overhead as bits of rebar twisted and snapped off from its foundation.
The Swarmlord roared angrily as Jesus hurled the hunk of debris at him, and the alien's blades rose and fell as one, carving the projectile apart and smash it to the ground.
Jesus broke into a run, his sandals striking the floor with a distinctly unintimidating Clop! Clop! Clop! as he ran.
The Swarmlord pivoted on one leg, sending one blade down on the Messiah as the other three moved to guard its massive torso.
Jesus clapped his hands onto the sides of the bonesword as it descended, stopping it dead even as the floor instantly buckled beneath his feet, throwing dust and shattered wood into the air.
'See? You didn't listen to me and here we are again, watching helplessly as some puny human takes care of business,' Evil Moka complained.
'That's the son of God,' Moka noted in her head, watching as Jesus kicked away a defending bonesword and then backflipped away as two more came at him from either side.
'My point is that we could be fighting aliens and saving the day and being awesome RIGHT NOW, but instead we're having our shapely butt saved again. Don't you think we should start being a little more active in our survival?'
'I think we should start going to mass on Sundays,' Moka thought back, her eyes locked on the titanic battle that was unfolding before her.
"HYAH!" Jesus once again clapped his hands down on a bonesword that had been stabbed at him, his sandals dragging across the floor as he was pushed back by the might of the alien monstrosity.
"Love your enemies!" the Messiah shouted, "bless them that curse you! Do good to them that hate you! Pray for them that use you!"
Jesus jumped up, landing on the back of the bonesword before dashing straight toward the snarling alien.
"LOVE KNUCKLE!" He shouted, slamming a fist into the Swarmlord's head that sent the alien reeling.
"BLESSINGS OF PAIN!" Jesus started raining blows on the monstrosity, which was too close to use its massive swords to any useful effect. The Messiah's fists were like thunderbolts upon the Tyranid's armor, and where His fists struck chitin and bones alike split apart.
"ROUNDHOUSE OF GOOD!" His sandal smashed into the alien's chest carapace with a sharp crack, like a hammer splitting ceramic, and the son of God backflipped into the air as his enemy staggered painfully.
"PRAYER BEAM ALPHA!" He shouted, holding his forearms in the shape of a cross as holy light swallowed the Israelite and infused him with righteous power.
A lance of white light blasted into the Swarmlord, knocking it back into the wall of explosives as Moka yelped and scurried away.
Miraculously, nothing detonated as the Swarmlord crashed into the massive pile of bombs, missiles and fuel, and red drums and numerous grenades rained on the Tyranid's head in a dangerously volatile avalanche as it hissed in pain.
"Moka! Are you all right?" Tsukune asked, stepping into the room through the massive tear in the wall.
Moka brightened instantly, having feared that the Swarmlord had killed him as soon as she was out of the way. "Yes! I'm fine! I knew you had a real plan to fight the Swarmlord!" she crowed, rushing forward and grabbing onto the human boy's arms.
"Uh... No, not really," Tsukune admitted somewhat bitterly, "this was never part of my plan. Being saved by Jesus-"
"Again," the Israelite interjected swiftly, otherwise looking like he had no interest in the conversation.
"... Being saved again wasn't part of any plan. Mister Christ just did that on his own."
"I am the good shepherd," Jesus said, his head bowed, "the good shepherd gives his life for his sheep. Even the useless, blood-sucking ones." He raised his head slightly to stare at Moka, whose expression darkened appropriately.
"Hrrrraaugh..." A rumbling growl once again brought everyone's attention to the alien monster at the end of the room, and Moka and Tsukune stepped back fearfully as the Swarmlord pushed itself up. Fuel ran from its armored carapace in tiny streams, draining through natural valleys and crevices and seeping into deep cracks that struggled to seal themselves before running into a growing puddle of potential devastation that mixed freely with alien ichor at the Swarmlord's feet.
"That thing's still not dead?" Tsukune asked fearfully, backing away as Moka clung pleasantly to his arm.
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," Jesus intoned, taking one step forward and then gesturing to the Swarmlord, "come, xeno. Recover your wits. I would have you attack me again."
"SSSSHRREEEEEEEAUGH!" The Swarmlord's roar shook the floors and walls of the room, and Moka and Tsukune clung to each other to remain standing as once again a wave of pure psionic terror slammed into them.
Jesus stood fast in the path of the psychic assault, a golden aura shimmering around him as the waves of malevolent Warp energy broke against his spirit like water.
The Swarmlord charged, its steps unsteady as the four massive blades swung back, ready to descend on the Israelite in a cascade of crushing chops.
Whap! Jesus struck the flat of the first bonesword as it fell, knocking it off path to carve uselessly into the floor with a heavy THUD!
Whap! Whap! Whap! With eerie calm and divine precision, the Messiah deflected each one of the other swords before he took a heavy step forward and smashed both palms into the Swarmlord's abdomen.
BWOOM! The back of the alien broke apart, spewing chunks of thick purple carapace and luminescent ichor on the nearby wall as the alien screamed in pain and fury.
"He is the Lord, and I am his shepherd!" Jesus yelled, his eyes glowing with holy righteousness as his aura burned hotter around him, threatening to ignite the fuel soaking the alien's exoskeleton, "get your wretched claws away from my sheep, alien filth!"
Tsukune gulped as his - and everyone else's - savior started to float in front of the dazed alien, His aura glowing brighter and hotter.
"I think we should get out of here!" he shouted, gripping Moka's arm tightly as he fled for the hallways. The vampiress made no argument, likewise worried about the presence of fire (holy or not) so close to so many munitions.
"Let your light so shine before men, that they might see your good works, and banish the xenos filth to its rightful tomb in the abyss of the Empyrean!" Jesus shouted, holding his arms back behind him as a sphere of hovering flame coalesced between them.
The Swarmlord's red, soulless gaze dimmed as full awareness of its defeat settled upon it. It felt no hate or fear as its body ignited from the mounting heat, only a final, exhausting catharsis as its all-consuming hunger finally fell from its consciousness.
"Let the full glory of the Almighty Lord consume you, alien!" Jesus cried, holding the swelling sphere of power above his head before shoving it forward. "PRAYER BEAM OMEGAAAAAAA!"
"You... You w-won't... get away with this," sputtered one of the Headmaster's bodyguards, blood drooling from the corner of his mouth.
He was currently pinned to the wall of a rather poorly-maintained hallway, courtesy of a Mido's massive talons. The monstrel himself had his other hand in his pocket, looking rather bored by the unsatisfying violence. The guard's short sword lay at his feet, twisted about like an abused paperclip.
All throughout the hall, the monstrels cornered and pounced on the Headmaster's guardians as the youkai hybrids swiftly eliminated all resistance in the area. Some were simply mobbed and disarmed, their attackers not even bothering to shift from their human forms as they beat and kicked the poorly-armed grunts, while others were dispatched quickly by those monstrels with useful abilities.
Either way, the guard of a mere eight men were neutralized within minutes, its unconscious members being dumped into a pile as Mido slowly crushed his target against the wall.
"The Headmaster... will..."
"He'll what?" Mido demanded, moving his face closer to the struggling mook, "what's the Headmaster going to do? He didn't do anything when me and my kind were being picked out and jumped after classes. He didn't do anything when we banded together and started systematically killing other students in revenge. He didn't even do anything when the Enforcers got off our case out of fear of being killed wholesale."
A smirk crossed his scarred face. "And you think he's going to lift a finger to punish us for beating you goons? I'd like to see him show up and try, the lazy prick."
With a snort of contempt, Mido pulled the guard away from the wall and tossed him into the pile of unconscious and badly wounded grunts behind him.
Crack! Mido stepped on the damaged sword that lay in front of him, snapping the weapon in half.
"He couldn't even afford REAL weapons for his guards. No wonder things get so bad around here," Tsukune said sadly, shaking his head as he stepped into the hallway after making sure the coast was clear, "if the Headmaster can't exert any influence, then what's the point of having one?"
"Yeah, well maybe this will send a message for the loser to shape up," Mido snarled, letting his arm wither and shrink back to its disguised human proportions, "but probably not. You all clear, Aono? Still don't know why you wanted to get into this place, but it's all yours now."
"Call me Tsukune," Tsukune said with a smile, fearlessly approaching the sneering brawler, "and I just want to say that I am really, really proud of you guys. Today I've seen what you monstrels are really made of, and I know that you - ALL of you - have a better future ahead of you."
The many lesser monstrels started making embarrassed chuckles and giving each other high fives, and Mido hesitated as Tsukune extended a hand to shake.
"No matter what some jaded, stuck-up pure breed says about you, I'm really glad you guys have my back. I'd take you over them any day."
Mido finally stepped forward, but to Tsukune's surprise the monstrel leader ignored his hand and enveloped him in a tight hug. The human boy flinched at first from the strength of the embrace, but endured it for several seconds before Mido released him and stepped back again, his face obviously straining to suppress his emotions.
"No homo," Mido said gruffly as he turned around, walking toward the others, "good luck with whatever you need to do here. See you later... Tsukune."
Tsukune, for his part, offered a brief wave in the monstrels' direction before taking off into the stairs leading to the underhalls.
'I really hope the other Tsukune is keeping things under wraps in my universe,' the Captain of the Protection Committee thought as he dashed through the darkened tunnels, well aware that the giant spiders hiding in the corners were likely to be less friendly than the ones back at home and taking care to avoid any obtrusive webs, 'frankly, his academy is a mess. What has he been doing all this time?'
Shaking his head as he reached the storage room, Tsukune was gratified to find that it was full of dusty, sheet-covered artifacts, exactly as before he and his subordinates had cleaned it. Some things really didn't change.
He took a note out of his pocket, unfolded it and then left it in the middle of the dust-covered doorway, where it would be almost impossible to miss.
"Dear Tsukune," it began, "assuming everything goes as planned, this note should reach you after I successfully swap places with you again and return to my original timeline. Just so you know, I rescued Moka from the monstrels, since I couldn't find Ranma Saotome to help me out this time. Does he even go to school here in this timeline? I really have no idea how you've survived without him around, but I don't envy you one bit if you have. Anyway, Moka is fine, but it seemed like she wanted to talk to you about something. I had more important things to do at the time, so just a heads up. Also, I think I saw Mizore following me a while back. Is she stalking you? Seriously? If so, you really need to find Ranma. Good luck and best wishes, Tsukune."
"P.S. I talked to the monstrels that kidnapped Moka and convinced them to turn their energies to community service and social justice rather than petty revenge killings. So, in case you were wondering, that's why they're planting flower gardens rather than trying to murder you and everyone you love. You're welcome."
"Do you... Do you think he's gone?" Moka asked.
Tsukune turned his head to regard the vampiress, his shirt torn and his bandage wrappings newly bloodied. The both of them were covered with dirt and bits of debris, having barely escaped the explosion as it caved in most of the tunnels and, incidentally, buried the vaults in which lay Tsukune's best hope of returning to his universe.
"Moka, I'm sure Mister Christ is just fine. Or, you know, if he's not, I'm pretty sure it will be okay anyway. He does have that whole resurrection thing going on, as I understand it," he mumbled, sighing as he saw that Moka seemed genuinely worried for the fate of their Savior.
Moka accepted the answer, but then frowned at Tsukune, noticing that the young human looked depressed, for some reason. "Is something wrong? You don't seem happy about beating the Swarmlord."
"Yeah, sorry. I just hoped we wouldn't have to bury the basements to do it."
Glancing at his filthy arms as he and Moka exited the stairwell, Tsukune immediately turned toward the nearest restroom. "I gotta go wash up. See you later," he said listlessly.
Once in the bathroom, Tsukune headed straight for the sink and started washing his arms, staring glumly into the mirror.
Putting aside that his "plan" to defeat the alien had been an utter failure and nearly gotten Moka killed and him turned into a ghoul, and also putting aside that he'd had to be bailed out by the human race's ultimate Deus Ex Machina while watching uselessly from the sidelines, since the underhalls collapsed from the explosion he was effectively cut off from the magic mirror that was supposed to spirit him home.
Meaning that he was now stuck in this world until the vaults were excavated, if they ever would be. Heck, even then he might not be able to go home.
Tsukune splashed water on his face, and then watched as the muddy droplets ran down his face and dripped into the sink.
"Damn it! I didn't ask for this!" he snapped, grabbing the sink mirror and glaring at it as if this were the fault of all reflective surfaces in general. "I don't want the responsibility of running the Enforcers and dealing with huge aliens and hanging out with bloodthirsty trolls! Let me go back to my own world, you stupid mirror!"
The mirror started to glow.
"Oh. Uh..." Tsukune's fury deflated as the mirror's glow faded enough to reveal another Tsukune, noticeably cleaner as he was busy attaching a red armband to his sleeve. "Sorry, I didn't know I just had to ask," he mumbled in embarrassment, "thank you?"
Lightning flashed from the mirror surface, and in a split second Tsukune was instantly replaced with Tsukune.
"Well, that was way easier than I thought," Tsukune said as he dusted off his pants and tugged on his armband, "I hope I landed in the right universe and I'm not stuck in some kind of Sliders plot. I never watched past the fourth episode of that show."
Stepping out of the bathroom, he entered the hall just as Moka was emerging from the women's restroom nearby.
"Hey Moka," Tsukune said immediately, "quick question: I'm captain of the Protection Committee, right?"
Moka blinked, rather surprised to hear such a strange question. Then again, Tsukune had been acting somewhat odd today.
"Yes, you are," she said slowly.
"Awesome. Did anything important or unusual happen recently that I should really know about but I'm asking you about it anyway?"
"Uh... Well, a huge alien appeared in the underhalls of the academy, you and I went on a suicide mission to destroy it, and Jesus Christ came and rescued us, blowing up the explosives storage room in the process and probably causing lots of damage to the school building," she explained awkwardly, pointing to wall and the numerous hairline cracks that covered it.
"Ah, okay. Thanks," Tsukune said cheerfully, heading toward the stairs toward the Committee offices. 'Better than I'd hoped. That other Tsukune sure likes to do things the hard way.'
"Are you all right? What happened to all those bandages?" Moka asked. It was also weird how Tsukune looked completely unscathed now; not only was he completely dry, despite having just washed up, but his uniform had evidently mended itself and he found time to comb the dust and drywall bits out of his hair despite them still covering Moka's.
Tsukune thought about his answer for a moment. "Magic shenanigans."
"Oh, okay," Moka said with a relieved smile, glad that it wasn't anything unusual or serious.
As they started walking back up to the offices, Moka giggled. "So I guess we owe Mister Christ twice now, don't we?"
"Well, I do," Tsukune said, glancing back at the vampiress, "you only owe him once."
"What?" Moka's smile vanished.
"He didn't save the vampires, remember? At least, that's what Kouma implied when we visited Hell. Kind of sad, I guess, but we can't expect Jesus to die for EVERYONE," Tsukune explained.
"... No, actually. I didn't remember that until just now," Moka mumbled sadly.
"Well, don't take it personally. Maybe we can put in a personal request if we meet him again," Tsukune suggested as they reached the top of the stairs and the front door of the offices, "anyway, let's see what the others have been up to while we were busy almost dying due to my incompetence."
He opened the door.
An animal scream greeted the pair, nearly blowing their hair back with its intensity.
"Ha! Got it!" Chopper said cheerily, his arms wrapped around the neck of a silverback mountain gorilla from behind as the beast bellowed and slammed the ground helplessly with its hand, pinned beneath the mighty wrestler. "And in human form, too! Squeal, you tree-hugging pansy!"
Kouma, who had adopted hellhound form but was at least refraining from using fire, bit savagely into the throat of a male lion that was almost as big as he was as he wrestled with it, washing his face in the animal's blood.
Behind him, Kurumu laughed as he fought off the lion's pride, his hands having shifted into sets of armored talons rather than the fragile-looking extended nails that he was used to. "Come on, what are you afraid of?" he taunted, slashing his claws in front of him as the vicious felines backed away fearfully. Many of them already sported deep wounds, and one lioness that had actually managed to bite Kurumu had been sliced completely in half for her trouble.
Kouma spit out the meat from his kill, blood sizzling as it dripped from his jaws. "Why are you still a guy?"
"It's a cursed item, all right? I can't just take it off whenever I want!" Kurumu snapped before leaping forward onto a terrified lioness.
"I offered to take it off before we even started playing," Yukari noted dryly. She was holding a fishing pole up in the air with a magical bug zapper hanging from the line, watching as mosquitoes and flies the size of baseballs ran into it and got blasted by vicious tendrils of lightning.
"Look, I told you, give me a full day, all right?" Kurumu shouted as he and the lion clawed at each other, with the incubus holding a clear advantage in damage and leverage.
Kouma gave him a sidelong glance as the hellhound walked over to Chopper, who had started slamming the gorilla's head into the ground repeatedly.
"I think she just wants some time alone to try out the equipment," Kouma murmured, trying to keep his voice low enough so that Kurumu couldn't overhear.
CRUNCH! Chopper smiled and wiped the sweat off his brow as the gorilla's struggles finally ceased. "Well, it IS pretty neat." Then the wrestler turned around. "Hey, Vice-Boss! Whose turn is it?"
"Huh? Oh, it's Keito's turn," Ranma mumbled, crouching over the Juumanji game board among a veritable sea of giant spiders.
"In a minute!" Keito said, wrapping up a massive web cocoon that looked an awful lot like a rhinoceros.
"Take your time," Ranma mumbled, looking bored as he watched his domesticated spiders scuttle among the swarm of identical jungle spiders that had been summoned on his turn. When the two groups had met Ranma thought he was going to see an awesome spider war, but instead his arachnids had just started mingling with the summoned ones, halting their creeping advance. Cammy in particular had been very energetic, scrambling around and over the visitors while waving her legs everywhere. Now he didn't know what was going on, except that everyone else was getting to fight apex predators except him.
Well, him and Kana. She had several birds perched on her arms and shoulders and had been whistling to them constantly as they chirped and hooted back, but at least she was having fun.
"Uhm... Tsukune?" Moka asked, not having moved from the entrance as they stared at the havoc in the lobby.
"Yeah?" he asked, still staring forward.
"Aren't all those animals they're killing endangered?" Moka asked awkwardly.
"It's nice that that's the first thought you have when you walk in on something like this," Tsukune said, smiling as he took Moka's hand and walked into the lobby, "it's good to be home."
Shamelessly showing off how much cooler my characters are than in canon: session complete
Completely forgot about that space jellyfish thing. I hope that turned out okay. - Moka