Ranma cursed the weather as she jumped down from the roof of the rail car she had taken from Nerima to Juuban. "It's always raining," she said. This time, though, the problem wasn't because the rain forced her to change from guy to girl if she was caught out in it. She needed to change anyway before she arrived at the Ainos. The problem was that the rain and clouds made it seem to get darker faster, and she was going to be late getting back.
She sighed as she cut through a park on her way to the Aino home. "So much for getting back before it gets dark. Mrs. Aino is going to be mad," she said to no one in particular.
"I'd say Mrs. Aino is the least of your problems right now," said a voice, and she saw movement out of the corner of her eye. She dodged to the side a fraction of a second before a blade intersected her previous position. "World Shaking!" the voice called out, and Ranma jumped high to avoid the near-point-blank attack.
The action was not missed by other pedestrians, and several of them screamed. "The senshi are attacking people now! Run for your lives! Call the police!" By the time Ranma landed from her high jump the civilians were scattering, and within moments she was alone with her attacker.
"Are you crazy?!" Ranma asked her attacker, Sailor Uranus. "You could have killed me!"
"That's the point now, isn't it?" said another voice from behind her. "Of course, if you give up your transformation item, we might go easy on you."
"You want the brooch? You two ARE crazy," Ranma tossed over her shoulder to Sailor Neptune. "You can't use it, and me not having it will make it a little hard to help you fight the Dark Kingdom."
Uranus's attack was quick and brutal, but missed Ranma by a wide margin. "Don't talk as if you're one of us, you imposter. Stop pretending you're Princess Serenity, and give up the transformation item!"
Ranma shook her head, dodged to the side from another attack from Uranus's sword and prepared to run, but motion out of the corner of her eye made her stop and she was cut off by a Deep Submerge attack from Neptune that would have hit her if she hadn't hesitated. Then Uranus was on her again, attacking her with a flurry of punches and kicks.
Ranma noticed that Neptune was constantly positioning herself to cut her off if she tried to run, while keeping just distant enough that she had time to prepare for an attack if she came at her instead. The only other way out was through Uranus. A grim, determined look settled onto Ranma's face as she decided on her course of action. "Okay then, you two. If it's a fight you want, it's a fight you're going to get, but you're not getting the brooch," she said, as distant sirens started to wail.
Mrs. Aino looked out the window, and sighed. Ranma was late. She thought she had made it clear to Ranma that she was to be back by dark. "Minako, dear, are you sure she was going to come back?" she asked her daughter.
"Don't worry, mom. She just has to pick up her things from Nerima, and she'll be back. She told me to let you know she might be a little late, and it's darker than it should be now because of the rain," Minako said.
"I suppose you're right," said Mrs. Aino. "Still, I worry..."
The sound of knocking interrupted the conversation, and Minako rushed to the door. "See? That's her! I told you she'd be back," she said.
When Minako opened the door, however, she wasn't greeted by the sight of Ranma, but rather by two men wearing the uniforms of the Juuban Police Department. "May we speak with the head of the house?" one of them asked.
"The head of the house?" Minako asked uncertainly, her mind racing to figure out why two police officers would be at her door. They couldn't possibly know about...
"Can we see your father?" the other one asked.
Mrs. Aino stepped up behind her daughter where the police officers could see her through the doorway. "My husband is out on business, is there something we can help you with?" she asked.
"A young lady was admitted to the Juuban Hospital's emergency ward in critical condition an hour ago. We were hoping you could help us locate her parents or guardians. She wasn't carrying any identification, but she had this on her," the lead officer said, and held out a piece of paper to Mrs. Aino.
Minako snatched it and looked at it. It was the paper she had written her address on and given to Ranma the evening before. Her trepidation over the officers possibly knowing her senshi identity quickly gave way to worry for her Flower-chan."I gave this to her! It's Ranma!" she said, and shared a troubled look with her mother.
"She's currently staying with us," said Mrs. Aino. "What happened to her?"
"We believe she was attacked by some of the Sailor Senshi. At least one of the senshi was using an edged weapon like a knife or sword, and she was admitted to emergency surgery to close multiple deep wounds from the weapon used. She was also diagnosed as having several cracked or broken ribs, and severe bruising covering multiple parts of her body."
Minako's eyes widened as she heard the extent of the injuries, and she had to cover a gasp. Uranus wouldn't, would she? "Mom, we have to go see her! We have to go to the hospital, right now!"
"Of course we will, Dear. Get your coat," Mrs Aino said, and Minako rushed to her room.
'Oh, Flower-chan, please be okay,' she thought to herself. She never should have let Ranma go alone.
At the hospital, Minako was almost literally crawling up the walls while she waited. The nurse refused to let anyone in to see Ranma, and wouldn't explain why. When the door to Ranma's room finally opened two men exited, and one of them nodded to the nurse. Both of the men were foreigners, one of them a taller man with dark skin, and the other a shorter, younger man who looked to be american. The nurse smiled in response to the older man's nod, and left to make her rounds.
The two men turned their attention to Mrs. Aino, and the older dark skinned man spoke. "Mrs. Aino, I presume," he asked in an american accent, and she nodded. "I am Detective Murtaugh, and this is my partner, Detective Riggs. We're with L.A.P.D., homicide department, and we have some questions for you and your daughter."
Minako wrung her hands together, but couldn't contain herself anymore. "Is Ranma alright? Can I see her?" she asked.
The two men looked at each other, one shrugged, and the other sighed. "I can see you're very close to the victim," Murtaugh said. "Ranma has made a remarkable recovery for such a short period of rest, but she's still very hurt. The doctors have cleared her for visitors, as long as you don't do anything to aggravate her injuries. You can see her, but we do have some questions for you before you leave the hospital."
Minako rushed in to the room to see Ranma, and found her in her bed with the back inclined to support her in the sitting position. There was another nurse in the room going about checking the equipment Ranma was hooked to.
Minako fought to keep the tears from falling from her eyes. "Ranma!" she exclaimed, and rushed over to her, only to have the nurse interpose a hand between her and the girl on the bed.
The nurse shook her head. "You'll hurt her. No hugging, but there's nothing wrong with talking to her."
Ranma rolled her eyes from on the bed. "Come on, I told you. I've had worse than this in training, I'll be fine in a few days."
The nurse shook her head again. "No hugging, not with your ribs the way they are. I have other patients to check on, but when I get back you two had better not have done anything more energetic than a hand squeeze, or I'll send her out. Clear?"
Both girls nodded. "Clear," They said at the same time, neither of them wanting Minako to be sent from the room. The nurse nodded back, then left the room muttering something about 'overly energetic teenage girls' before the door closed.
The two girls looked at each other. Minako spoke first. "I'm so glad you're alright. When the police showed up and told us about your injuries..."
Ranma scoffed. "What, this? I'll be good as new in a week, tops," she said, scratching at the bandages around her torso.
"A week? But your injuries-" Minako started.
"Are nothing worse than anything I received on my training trip with pops," Ranma interrupted. "I heal fast, even something like a little cracked rib isn't going to keep me down for long."
"If you say so," said Minako dubiously. "I'm just glad you're okay. Did you get what you needed from Nerima?"
Ranma sighed. "No. Pops made off with my pack and disappeared. Uranus and Neptune ruined my clothes when they attacked me, I'm afraid this hospital gown is all I own now." She looked around for any recording devices, before continuing. "They took my transformation brooch," she said, her voice low.
Minako frowned. "They're not going to get away with this, that's for sure. How do they think we're going to help the youma's victims without your help? We've been waiting for something like that for a long time," she said, her voice equally low.
Ranma shrugged, and winced as the movement caused a twinge in her side. "She seems completely convinced I'm an imposter. Maybe she thinks that if I can use the brooch, anyone can."
Minako's jaw dropped open. "That's stupid, she should know better," she said.
"Yeah, well, I get the feeling that Uranus is just a little unhinged right now," Ranma replied. "I'll deal with her personally. Ranma Saotome doesn't lose," she said, then winced at her condition. "At least, not twice," she finished lamely.
Minako shook her head. "If you think I'm going to stand by and let you get your ass handed to you again, you're as crazy as Uranus. You're one of us, and the Senshi take care of their own," she said. She took in Ranma's condition again and grimaced. "Well, most of us do, anyway. Uranus will be taken care of."
Ranma started to protest that Uranus was her problem, but the look in Minako's eyes made her reconsider. She remembered that Princess Venus was the only one of the princesses in the Silver Millennium that could make her back down when she wanted to badly enough, and swallowed her protestation. "Alright, have it your way. But I'm not done with Uranus yet."
The door opening and another nurse coming in to check on Ranma interrupted that line of conversation. The nurse addressed Minako as she came in. "Visiting hours are almost over, we're going to have to ask you to wrap things up. You can come and see her again tomorrow," the nurse said.
Minako nodded and turned back to Ranma. "Are you going to be alright here?"
Ranma waved her off. "I'll be fine, I told you. Besides, the worst thing that can happen to me here in the hospital is I'll die of boredom," she said, before glancing at the nurse. "And I'm pretty sure they probably have some kind of prescription for that, too."
The nurse grinned before answering. "We have a few ways of dealing with that, yes. We have various flavors of 'sleeping pills,' such as any of the textbooks used by any of the local schools so you can keep up on your homework. Barring that, we have a small library of popular novels you can borrow as long as you're here."
Ranma grimaced in distaste at the mention of school textbooks, but turned her head to Minako. "See, they've got it figured out," she said, before taking in the mock-worried look on Minako's face. "Oh, get out of here, I'll be okay."
Minako's face broke into a grin. "Alright, you'd better be. You still owe me an explanation for last night, after all. Good night, Flower-chan," she said, and headed for the door.
"Good night... Heart-chan," Ranma said, and settled herself back onto her pillow as the nurse worked the controls to straighten out the bed.
The white, younger detective that had talked to her entered the room, and the nurse looked at him accusingly. "I just forgot my pen," he said, motioning to the nightstand next to Ranma's bed. The nurse picked up the pen, and handed it to him. He took it with a grateful smile. "I like this pen," he said, and left.
Ranma closed her eyes, and ran the fight with Uranus and Neptune back through her head. She decided that the fight hadn't been completely one-sided, but the Sailor Transformation had given Uranus tremendous strength and durability. She remembered landing numerous blows that Uranus had just shrugged off, while any hit Uranus landed made her feel like she had been hit by a truck. She was faster than Uranus, but only just. Add the fire support Neptune was providing and that she had to constantly watch her back to make sure Neptune didn't nail her with one of her attacks, and the fact she was more skilled than Uranus didn't matter as much. She knew that she wasn't going to be able to actually defeat either of the Senshi without her own transformation, but the two hadn't allowed her the time she needed to transform herself. On the other hand, one on one she was sure she could have found a way to lock Uranus in a submission hold, or pin her in a way she could use leverage to keep her from using her strength to break free.
As she let her mind drift off to sleep, Ranma decided that one day, sometime after she had healed, she and Uranus were going to have a rematch. Next time they fought, it was going to be on her terms.
Outside the door, Riggs and Murtaugh watched as Mrs. Aino and her daughter left. They had let the younger girl go without much questioning, stating that Mrs. Aino had answered most of their questions to their satisfaction. Riggs turned to his partner. "So, what do you think?"
"She covers it well, but the elder Aino definitely knows something is up with her daughter. I think she knows what it is, too, but won't admit to it. It's possible the girls could be with those... what were they called... youma, but have her under some kind of control," Murtaugh replied. "Since the Senshi seem to be bitter enemies with these youma creatures, that could be why they attacked the girl."
Riggs shook his head. "Nah. From what I heard, that's definitely not the case. The girls don't have any ties to the youma. Not unless the Senshi themselves do."
Murtaugh looked at him sharply. "And how do you know that?" he asked. Riggs took an earpiece out of his ear, and grinned. Murtaugh groaned. "You know we're going to get in enough trouble as it is without adding spying on foreign nationals and theft of department property to the list of charges."
Riggs shrugged. "That's if we get caught. No harm, no foul."
Murtaugh sighed and tried to remember why he was going along with his partner in this. They were supposed to be on vacation, not poking their noses in Japanese Police business.
Riggs and Murtaugh sat in a cross-legged position with their eyes closed in what their host had called a 'Zen Garden'. Nothing happened for long moments, until Riggs's eye twitched. And twitched. And twitched again. Finally he opened his eyes and turned to his partner. "I'm bored," he said.
"Ssh," said Murtaugh, without turning, opening his eyes, or otherwise moving.
"Don't you 'Ssh' me. This is boring," persisted Riggs.
"This was your idea, so settle down and shut up," said Murtaugh. "Personally, I find it relaxing."
"That was before I knew I'd be spending the afternoon sitting doing nothing. Mister Miyagi is supposed to be this kickass martial artist, not some... some... sand gardener!"
"Wait, hold on," said Murtaugh, an expression of horror starting to creep across his face. "You mean to tell me you just came up to this random Japanese zen garden and asked the proprietor to teach you, because you've seen Karate Kid one too many times? I thought you knew this guy!"
"Well how was I supposed to know the Mister Miyagi in the phone book wasn't the one that could teach us some kickass moves? Come on, let's go find something else to do," Riggs said.
"Like what?" Asked Murtaugh.
Suddenly, the sound of distant explosions sounded through the area. A shadow flitted across the ground from something passing overhead, and looking up they saw the retreating back of a girl in orange and white, wearing a VERY short skirt, as she hopped from the roof of one house to the next heading in the direction of the sounds of the explosions.
After she passed, the two partners looked at each other. "Well, we could investigate what that was all about," said Riggs.
Murtaugh thought about that for a moment, before deciding 'What the hell?' "Sure, fine, I'm getting bored too," he admitted.
The two of them set out to find the source of the disturbances, and what they found there was a bizarre sight. Eight girls, each one dressed similar to the one that had flown overhead, were battling what looked like an oversized lizard, if lizards could stand on two legs. The girls were fighting using energy blasts, and the creature occasionally returned fire with a blast of its own. After a while, the shorter girl with the polearm released an attack that seemed to drown out all sound in the vicinity, yet was eerily quiet. The attack sliced the lizard creature clean in half, and each half disintegrated into dust, which further disintegrated into nothing. The girls then left, and minutes later the distant sounds of sirens approaching started up.
Riggs looked at Murtaugh, and Murtaugh didn't like the look he saw in his eyes. "No. No, we're not going to investigate that giant creature. We're on vacation, and out of our jurisdiction. We're not going to stick our noses in this. This is none of our business, you understand? None. Of. Our. Business," Murtaugh told Riggs.
His partner would not be dissuaded, and they had ended up discovering that the giant creatures, called youma, attacked frequently. The girls were a local band of what could only be termed as heroes, fighting the youma wherever they came. The youma did something to its victims that usually put them in a coma if they even survived, and the Senshi worked to keep casualties to a minimum.
With an effort, Murtaugh brought his mind back to the present. "So what did you find out then?" he asked.
"If the two girls aren't senshi themselves, they're at least very close to them," he said, then paused, reviewing something in his mind. "In fact, if the girls aren't themselves senshi, I'll be very surprised. The attack on the victim was because of some in-fighting among the senshi."
Murtaugh frowned. "Trouble in the ranks, huh. Well, if you're sure they're senshi and not with the youma, there's nothing more for us to learn here."
Riggs nodded. "Right. Let's get out of here before the hospital figures out we're not actually supposed to be here."
Michiru watched her lover with concern, as Haruka intently studied the transformation brooch they had taken from the imposter. The silence between them stretched on for a time, until Michiru couldn't stand it anymore and had to ask the question that had been on her mind since the two of them had confronted the Serenity imposter in the park. "Were you really going to kill her? I mean, just threatening her is one thing, but actually doing it..."
Haruka looked up from studying the brooch, and left it on the desk she was sitting at to give her lover a hug. "Of course not. If she had just given up the brooch without a fight, we wouldn't have even had to hurt her."
"But we hurt her so badly. And you were using the sword..." Michiru leaned into the hug, but held herself back somewhat.
Haruka gave her lover a squeeze before releasing the hug, holding her at arm's length and looking into her eyes. "If she's a dark kingdom plant, then death isn't good enough for her. If she's an innocent, then we're doing her a favor by releasing her from Pluto's grasp. Either way, her death isn't our fault."
Michiru looked away. Haruka's rationalization made sense, but she still didn't think it felt right to hurt the poor girl so much. "The ends justify the means, right? But what are we fighting for anymore? The Moon Princess is gone, she never reincarnated. The Dark Kingdom is winning. You have to know that as well as I do. We won't be able to continue to fight them, at this rate. What are we trying to do anymore?"
Haruka returned to the brooch she had left on the desk and picked it up. "That's what this is for. If nothing else, we can't let the Dark Kingdom win. We just need to figure whether this came from the Dark Kingdom, or from Pluto. If it came from the Dark Kingdom we need to destroy it. If it came from Pluto we can use it."
"Pluto isn't going to be happy about this..." started Michiru.
Haruka scowled. "I really don't care if Pluto's happy. I'm not going to be led by an imposter princess planted by that meddling time bitch. I'd rather die than let Pluto have her way on this, and I'd rather see Saturn end everything than let the Dark Kingdom win!" She punctuated her last point rather sharply, bringing the brooch that she'd been holding in her hand down on the table with a bang. Startled, Michiru only watched as Haruka got up, stalked past her and grabbed a set of keys off of a hook next to the front door as she left the house.
Michiru could only look on, troubled, as a high performance sports car drove off. She wasn't worried about Haruka getting into a wreck; she knew from long experience that her lover was a master behind the wheel, and chances of an accident were low. On the other hand, Haruka was going out for her drives more and more often. Haruka was falling apart, and Michiru knew it. She only wished she knew of something more she could do to help her love. For now, all she could do was care for Hotaru, and be there to support Haruka. With that in mind, she went to check in on Hotaru.
Endymion stood in the rain at a busy intersection, trying to follow a memory of a sensation. Shortly after leaving the portal from the Dark Kingdom, he had caught a sense of danger, that the princess was in trouble. Before he could follow that sense to its source, though, it had cut off, leaving him trying to follow the fleeting sensation before it passed completely.
His mind raced over all the possibilities of how Princess Serenity had been reincarnated in this time. He had made sure that she would live, back in the silver millennium. How had he failed? Had a youma somehow escaped his senses? What could have gone wrong?
Did it really matter how Princess Serenity was killed? What mattered is that she was, then she was reincarnated, and now that she was here she could-
Endymion cut that traitorous line of thought off before it could trigger the corruption once again. He knew that even thinking something like that would cause another episode, and that was the last thing he needed right now. Everything could be worked out when he found her.
The trail had gone cold, however, and so he found some shelter from the rain in an empty house that looked like it had seen better days, and settled in to wait.
Jadeite stood before his mirror, and a grin almost formed on his face. Almost. The image the mirror showed was not that of his own reflection, but an image of Prince Endymion. That fool was playing right into his hands. Soon, he would locate the Princess or her imposter, and then Jadeite could not only bring her before Queen Beryl, but also reveal Endymion for the traitorous dog he was. It was almost enough to assuage his pride after his recent failures.
However, it still troubled him that he couldn't figure out whether this Sailor Moon was an imposter or not. According to Endymion, the Princess could not have been reincarnated in this time, but here was a girl that seemed to wield the full measure of the powers of a senshi, and was linked to the Moon. The only ones that could wield that power were the Moon Queen and her Princess. Perhaps the Silver Crystal could bestow that kind of power, but the only ones that had access to it...
"Oh, I see you've already replaced that mirror. With another one? Don't you know how to scry with anything else?"
Jadeite frowned as his thought process was interrupted. "Nephrite," he nearly snarled as he turned toward his rival. "What are you doing in my chambers?"
"Such a cold welcome, Jadeite. Do we not have an agreement?" Nephrite smirked.
"I don't remember our 'agreement' allowing you free access to my private chambers. I will ask you again, what are you doing here?" Jadeite asked, carefully keeping his anger out of his tone.
"Such a short temper as always, Jadeite," Nephrite responded. "I was mostly looking for amusement, and thought you might be so kind as to provide another show like earlier. I was especially amused when your last mirror exploded, and was hoping you would do an encore."
Jadeite clenched his fist to keep himself from forming an energy ball to fire at his rival. That insufferable smirk was still on Nephrite's face. "If you have nothing of importance to do in here, then I suggest you leave. Now."
"Have it your way, Jadeite," Nephrite said with an exaggerated sigh. "I just thought you might like to know that our Queen has grown impatient with your bungling, and has allowed me the opportunity to deal with the Senshi. Some certain intelligence you discovered will be of great help in that. I'm sure I can put it to better use than you have."
Jadeite fumed. "You dare-"
Nephrite cut him off. "Yes, 'I dare'. I know, and I'm sure you do as well, that the Queen does not abide failure, and you've seen more than your fair share of failures recently. We are all expendable. Your failures just make you more so."
Jadeite gritted his teeth. "I had plans for that 'intelligence' you speak of, and I'm certain I did not give specifics to the queen."
"Oh, you had plans for it? Perhaps you should have kept them to yourself. The humans have developed this cute little adage, I believe it went something like 'the walls have ears'..." Nephrite laughed. "You really should kick that habit of talking to yourself in an empty room. It's so cliché, it's funny."
Jadeite scowled at Nephrite's form as it faded away, leaving a fading echo of Nephrite's laughter. With his mood thoroughly soured and nothing better to do at the moment, he turned back to the mirror which still showed an image of Endymion taking refuge in an abandoned house. He would bring the silver crystal before the Queen, and this success would wipe away his failures. Nephrite could play his little gambit, but Jadeite would win the prize. It was only a matter of time.
Yes, I realize I'm almost half a month late. Better late than never, right? My beta readers disappeared on me for a while, and I'm still struggling to keep connected with them.
A thank you goes out to uragaaru, weebee, Aikoyu Saotome, and the readers at fukufics for beta reading. You guys are all awesome.
Obligatory word count report: At this point, I've talked about the word count at the end of enough chapters, I've decided I'm just going to do so at the end of every chapter from here in. This chapter came in at 4750 words. A little shorter than the usual, but my chapters have been running a little long for a few chapters. It evens out.
End of the second day, and it feels like the calm before the storm. At least it does for me, since I know what's coming. I don't know if I've really conveyed that sense here well, but if I have, great. If not... well, take it from me. This is the calm before the storm. That said, I've really failed as a writer if I have to explain something here in an author's note, rather than telling it in the story.
~Tuatara: This isn't the Nabiki you're used to. At the beginning of the series, both in the anime and in the manga, Nabiki was interested, even excited, about the prospect of meeting Ranma... right up until she found out about the curse. By the time she had had time to have any second thoughts about not taking the engagement just over the curse, Ranma was engaged to Akane and the whole point was moot. This Nabiki has had plenty of time to have second, third, and fourth thoughts about the engagement, and has decided she wants to try anyway. I may have had to fabricate some backstory here, but from what we all know of Nabiki, what I've come up with is not outside of possibility. If you just think it's too out of character for her to bare her soul so much in front of Ranma... well, tough. This Nabiki has decided she's going to be honest and forthright with her possible fiance. Mostly because underhandedness and deceit are what killed any prospects she might have had at school, and she knows it.
The butterfly effect is going at full strength in my story. Small changes to earlier events can cause massive changes to later events. A Ranma arriving male to the Tendos and not having the chance to initially bond with Akane before the question of the engagement comes up opens the door to the possibility of an interested Nabiki taking it up.
~Compucles: Akane may have been taught the basics of Anything Goes at one point, but I think at this point she's gone so far without any instruction that whatever style she's using can rightfully be called her own. She would probably need a lot of retraining for her style to shift into something that could be considered part of Anything Goes.
To the multiple people that say Akane is being too cold: I have to admit I didn't think that one out too thoroughly. But hear me out here. Here's this guy she doesn't know from Jack. He shows up at her house one day, and she finds out that she or one of her sisters is supposed to be engaged to him. Then she later finds out about the curse. Akane logic dictates that a guy who does anything to a girl is a pervert, and this guy can turn into a girl and do whatever he wants to her body. So at this point, Akane is going to be at least on guard, and possibly protective of her sisters. Then she sees Nabiki and this guy kissing. I think this would be enough to put Akane on full alert against this pervert that's trying to make moves on one of her sisters... She might even be thinking that he used the engagement to coerce Nabiki into kissing him.