Pale moonlight cloaks the dark silhouette of the beautiful vigilante in the sailor fuku as she flies through the dark night. Her golden hair billows above her shoulders as she falls from the sky down to the street below. Her blue, strappy heels clack to the ground as she silently lands behind a tattooed man in an alley of a convenience store.
Falling into a crouch, the masked woman spares only half a second to get a better look at her prey. Four men have a teenaged couple trapped in an alley. The thug with the tattoos holds a crying, black-haired girl's arms behind her back, even as his three friends shove her young boyfriend from side to side.
Sweeping her long leg out wide, the vigilante kicks out the man's legs. He falls to the ground with a surprised yelp. Before he can alert his friends, she knocks him unconscious with a chop. The girl he had been holding stumbles back over her kidnapper, but the masked woman catches her, placing a white-gloved hand over the girl's mouth.
"Don't scream," the blond woman whispers into the girl's ears. As she releases the girl, the vigilante watches her spin around to look into the eyes of her savior. Surprise turns to recognition in the span of a second, and the girl puts her hands over her mouth, muting a cry of recognition.
"Behind me," she whispers, pushing the girl back behind a dumpster.
The vigilante takes a step into the light. Goosebumps rise on her skin as she poses.
"In the name of Love and Justice, I shall reunite this couple and take righteous revenge upon you if you do not unhand that boy!"
Now you see me, the vigilante thinks with a grin.
"What the heck?" the closest one says, stopping mid-shove from knocking about the teen boy in the middle of his group. The boy falls to the ground.
"Is that some Sailor V cosplayer?" another asks the first. "That speech was lame. Sailor V would totally come up with something better."
"Nice. Another girl for the party," the third says, but then stops and looks around. "Hey, where's Saito-kun?"
"Probably having fun with this one's girlfriend," says the second, kicking the boy in the leg. "You picked the wrong guys to talk back to, girly."
"Technically to 'talk back' we'd have to've talked previously," the vigilante says. "But you can consider this the talkback you were looking for as justification for hurting a stranger."
The three look at each other laughing as the teen boy crawls away. They grin as the masked woman stands in the lamplight.
"Think you're smart?" the first smugly asks.
"Think you're tough?" the masked woman replies.
Begin Part Two: Time
My Love's Flame
A Ranma 1/2 and Sailor Moon Crossover
by Ryan Erik
The dawn signaled the start of the morning as light broke through the shadowy, overcast sky. The cool morning air slowly warmed, burning through the light fog that had rolled across the city overnight. The heat of the summer sun had already begun to burn the outer layers of clouds that shaded a certain girl's room that Thursday morning.
The old, blue alarm clock in the girl's bedroom blinked the time, one minute until seven in the morning. The moment it advanced a minute, the alarm switched on, ringing through the room loudly.
"Mina-chan, turn it off," a small, white cat whined, rolling from his side to his back. After another few moments, he began to come to. "Minako? What's the deal?"
He rolled over the rest of the way, only to see an empty bed.
"Oh boy," he whispered to himself. A rush of adrenalin kicked in and he bounced to his paws. "Uhh, Mina-chan?"
Notice the facts, Artemis, he thought to himself. Her slippers are by her bed, which is empty, and the window is open. Oh...oh crap.
He recalled the conversation they'd had last night.
"Why can't I go beat up some criminals?" she had asked of her mentor. "I'm dying here. All I do is go to my tutor, who is totally not a hot guy like I was supposed to get."
I still can't believe she told her parents that she chose the first boy who walked through the door because he was hot, Artemis thought.
The girl continued her rant, "And I only have another week before I have to go back to practicing for the tour. And you waste it having me wander around looking for someone who you said might not even be born yet."
"I was wrong. Boss is looking for the princess now," Artemis had said confidently. He had received the first message from Boss at the Game Station Crown the day before. "You wouldn't have any powers now if the Silver Crystal wasn't here. And it's only here because she is."
"Blah, blah, blah," she had replied. "Silver Crystal this, princess that."
Artemis had ignored her protests. "We have to lay low for now. The Dark Kingdom has been quiet for too long, and we don't want too much attention until we can locate the princess or at least one of the other Senshi."
"And how does beating up some deserving ruffians in the dead of night mess anything up?"
Artemis had merely rolled his eyes and ordered her to go bed. I was so exhausted from running away from those stupid stray dogs that chased me halfway around the city while she was playing in the arcade.
"Where the heck is she?"
A knock on the door sent a chill up the little cat's spine as the hairs stood up on the back of his neck.
From outside, Artemis heard the girl's father. "Minako, honey? You set your alarm too early. Can you turn it off, please?"
Kitty litter! Artemis thought (well not really, but let's go with that), and then enacted a plan that he'd seen work in one of his student's movies.
The door opened and her father stepped in.
"Did you want to wake up now, honey?" he asked.
"Nuh-uh," Artemis said in his best Minako impression.
"Alright, but if you want, I'm making eggs on toast," he said as he walked up, turned off the alarm, and left, none the wiser.
The white cat sighed, exhausted from the sudden morning exertion of dragging her many pillows into a rough Mina-chan shape under the covers. Good thing I'm already on a bed. Then a second thought occurred to his tired kitty brain. Wait, where the heck is that girl?
Twenty minutes later, he felt a rush of air above him. He popped his eyes open and looked over at the girl who had vaulted in, still in her Sailor V uniform.
"Umm," Artemis said, unable to comprehend what he was seeing. "Apparently, someone doesn't know what I meant by keeping our heads down while we locate our allies."
Minako at least had the sense to look sheepish as she shimmered, transforming her clothes back to pajamas and bare feet. "I'm sorry, Arty, but I'm seriously going crazy here."
"I agree," Artemis told her, glaring with his best disappointed look. "Show me your compact."
"Huh?" her tone was defensive as she cradled the magical device in her hands. "No, you can't have it."
"I'm not going to take it," he replied. He walked to the edge of the bed and patted his paw down in a gesture for her to put it there.
"You never lie to me," she said cautiously, as she slowly placed it on the bed.
Artemis bit it. The girl snatched it off the bed, and held it protectively. "What the heck? Why'd you do that?"
"Now, you can't transform without my presence and permission," he informed her, turning his back to her as he walked to the window.
"What?!" she cried out, but then quickly quieted down, realizing she was creating a lot of noise. "What?" Her voice was lower the second time.
"You heard me," Artemis replied evenly, hating to scold her. It's for her own good, though.
"But what if there's danger, or there's a great photo op?" she asked, her eyes pleading.
He sighed. "I'll stick by you, and if anything happens, just transform as usual. As long as I think it's appropriate, it will work just fine, even if I'm bound and gagged. And if I'm hurt, you can use it to defend me or locate me."
Minako's head drooped as she cast her eyes downward. "But I saved this nice couple." Her voice sounded of defeat.
"I'm sure you did," he replied. "But now Sailor V might reappear in the news again, alerting our enemies of our presence. We have to be careful, Mina-chan."
"So I was supposed to just ignore them and let the bullies hurt them?" Minako put her hands on her hips in protest.
"That's not fair, Mina-chan," Artemis whispered. "You weren't supposed to go patrolling at all. Now that we know the Dark Kingdom is involved, we have to be careful. Danburite was just the first to appear, and he wasn't even strong in his time. If more of their agents come to Japan, there's no telling how long we'd last. Until we find the others, you're the only line of defense."
The sober look in Minako's eyes hurt the Mau, who did not like reprimanding his charge. He could hardly blame her for going stir-crazy. Being Sailor V was a large part of her life, but now the press had begun chasing her for the last six months as she toured with the other finalists of the music contest.
After the girl showered and changed, she reappeared in a cute outfit that would have placed her in an idol magazine. A designer from the record label had replaced her entire closet with such clothes.
"I'm so tired," she whispered as she lifted the cat up onto her shoulder. "I'm sorry, Artemis. I'll be more careful in the future."
Artemis nuzzled her neck in response as she carried him downstairs and into the kitchen.
"Why are you leaving so early, again?" Minako's father asked in between bites of egg on toast as she walked down the stairs. He sat at the kitchen table with his wife, looking up at her through his spectacles.
"To study longer, obviously," Minako's mother replied in her place. "She said that nice girl from the college offered to tutor her an additional hour in the morning because her classes were cancelled."
Minako nodded with a mouth full of toast, despite it being a total lie. Artemis sat in her lap and nibbled a bit of egg that she fed him.
"Good thinking," the woman continued, nodding her head three times in approval. "You can't rely on this idol thing to last forever. And with your grades, you don't want to be stuck with a dead end job like your father, when you could have been proactive about it." She paused for a moment. "As long as the tutoring doesn't cost extra that is."
Minako's father didn't even respond to the snide remark that his wife made, but Minako blanched. She finished her breakfast in record time afterward, barely remembering her book bag as she prepared to exit the house.
"I have some ideas on a way to search for the princess," Artemis whispered as the girl slipped into her shoes. "Chances are the princess is around your age, so we should start checking girls at all the local middle schools, and then slowly increase our coverage."
"Sounds fine," the girl replied mechanically as she opened the door and walked out, quietly shutting it behind her. They walked a few blocks, when Artemis started feeling something amiss. The girl looked out of it, barely paying attention to where she was walking as she walked along the sidewalk so early in the morning.
I better get to the bottom of this, Artemis thought right before he jumped down from her shoulder and stopped in front of her. She looked surprised as she cut her footstep short and nearly stumbled.
"What's wrong?" She looked around her. "We're in public."
"Are you okay? You've been a space case since breakfast."
"I just thought everything would go back to normal after I got back. I couldn't wait to get back into my old school, and see my old friends." She walked around him. "But things didn't. They just got worse. Without having to sing every day, it's like I just realized how much being an idol sucks."
Artemis rolled his eyes as he followed behind her. Be careful what you wish for.
They walked together in silence for a while, as Artemis gathered his thoughts. He knew Minako was still adjusting to her new surroundings, but he wasn't entirely sure if she would pull out of her funk so easily. She looked so deep in thought, he left her be.
It wasn't until a few blocks after they'd missed their turn, that he realized they were completely off track.
"Hey, Mina-chan!" he yelled up at her when he found they were alone enough to avoid alerting anyone of a talking cat.
"Hmm?" she whispered back, not even slowing a step.
"Where are we going? You missed the turn a while back." He dashed to keep up with her quickened pace. "What's going on, Mina-chan?"
"I cancelled tutoring for today," she told him matter-of-factly. "I have something important to do."
Artemis blinked. What the—? He followed after her, realizing the voice was the one she reserved for Sailor V business. I have to just trust her this time. Though, why didn't she tell me beforehand?
When they arrived at the steps at the bottom of the ascent to the Hikawa Shrine on Cherry Hill, he knew why she had held her tongue. The girl took the stairs two at a time, despite barely being tall enough to clear them. Artemis ran along the edge of the stairs to keep up. She stopped on the top step, and then began to dig around in her purse.
"Wait, aren't we supposed to come here after the miko gets out of class, not before she even leaves?" Artemis asked, a bit winded. She's really in good shape to do that so quickly.
"I'm going to follow them to their school," she told him with a wink.
What's gotten into her? Artemis thought as he watched her pull out her disguise pen. "But you said there wasn't anything to this place on Wednesday. You even took Thursday off to play around. What changed?"
Minako held up the wand and said, "Unassuming Thomas Aquinas School for Girls student."
The girl blurred as the magics in the pen shifted her cute idol outfit into that of the TA School uniform. Her face continued to blur until she it set on an image. To Artemis, she looked the same, but to anyone else she would look like someone completely different.
"How do I look?" she asked and twirled.
"Like you have some questions to answer," Artemis nagged.
"Alright, but let's go hide," she told him as she picked up her book bag and her purse. "I'll explain everything on the way."
She's getting more and more impossible after all of this idol business, he reflected. Artemis didn't know whether to bite her or indulge her. He gritted his teeth as he followed her around the wall around the temple.
Setting her bags down again, she positioned herself at the edge so that she was out of view from anyone leaving the temple, but could still see them from around the corner.
"I'm sorry, Arty, but I didn't tell you what happened yesterday,"
Artemis thought about the day before. She had gone to the tutor, and then they had met much later at the arcade. She had been playing for a few hours when he'd arrived. "When you went to the arcade ahead of me to play?"
"Yeah," she whispered, focusing on him for the moment. "I followed that boy from the shrine there."
Blinking in confusion, Artemis considered this new information. She did tell me afterward to meet her there. "Okay, so you followed him. Did you find anything out?"
"I left out something from the day before, too," the girl told him, her eyes looking at him in apology.
Artemis sighed. "Just tell me everything."
"Promise you won't be mad?" she asked, peeking around the corner at the path out of the shrine.
"No, but I'll wait until you finish telling me before I say anything," Artemis said cautiously.
"Alright," Minako said. "Well, you know how I said the fortune teller told me stuff that was totally right on?" Artemis nodded, and she continued, "I left out the part where I saw the past."
His jaw couldn't have fallen open any further. "You had a second vision? Why didn't you tell me?"
"You said you'd let me finish," she whined, taking a moment to look around the corner.
"Sorry, go ahead," he conceded, though he couldn't believe what he was hearing. He couldn't help but wonder about her decision to not tell him the instant they had regrouped after their shrine visit. The vision of the Senshi after she defeated Danburite is the only reason we're here. Why hide it, Minako?
"I had to make sure there was something to it before I told you," the girl told him. She looked visibly nervous. "It was too real. I wasn't sure if it was just a daydream after being near the fire too long. The flames were really intense."
She cleared her throat and peeked around the corner again. "I wonder what time they actually leave for school." The girl then turned to face him again. "So I followed Saotome-san, the boy that you chased around the shrine. I had to know if it was real."
Wait, the boy? Artemis thought in exasperation, trying not to roll his eyes. This better not just be another crush. "Know what was real? What did you see?"
Minako took a deep breath. Her hands were shaking as she delivered the words, "I knew him."
"You met him before?" Artemis asked, confused by her statement.
"No, I just met him the day before yesterday," she said. "But I knew him when I was Princess Venus." She paused, allowing that to sink in as he stared at her disbelieving. "I know, right? I had that same thought. It had to be coincidence, because he showed up right after I saw it. But I couldn't get it out of my head. I saw us together on the overlook on Magellan Castle."
"Whoa," Artemis exclaimed, his mind suddenly blank. "Just, whoa."
"Yeah," she whispered back. "It threw me for a loop, too."
"You're sure it was him?"
"Yeah, I know it." The girl could not have been more resolute. "There are things you just know. And I know that I knew him. I can feel it inside. It's like the feeling I got when I saw the vision of all of the galactic princesses."
"So he was a Venusian soldier, like Danburite?" Artemis asked, his voice a bit low.
The former princess of Venus shook her head, her pretty blue eyes moist. "No, I'm pretty sure he was more than just a soldier. I don't know what he was to me, but it was something big.
"He might be a Dark Kingdom agent like Ace was," the Mau told her, looking up at her with big eyes. "But he could also just be a normal kid. We'll have to be careful around him until we're sure."
"He'd never hurt me," the girl said as she peeked around the corner again. "Oh, they're leaving."
"How do you know that he'd never hurt you?" He saw the look on her face when she turned. "Let me guess, you just know?" He stared at his charge as she shrugged in response.
She began to follow the boy in question and the miko as they walked hand-in-hand.
"Oh, sweet Queen Serenity," Artemis whispered in prayer. "Please let this be a real lead, and not just another boy crazy, hormonal teenager crush thing."
The cat shook his head before following the girl in disguise as she stalked her prey.
Author's Note: Hi all, thanks for continuing to read. The delay in this chapter is mostly due to the enormous amount of writing I had to do to put out the last piece of Misery Loves Company pt3. It was 90% original writing, instead of rewrites of the old text. That story is kind of a time sink now, so I'm going to slow down on releasing it a bit to re-shift focus back to this project.
So, let's get on with the notes about this chapter. This is sort of a reintroduction chapter. Minako is going to be playing a much larger role in this part of the story. While she had little to do with the natural, daily lives of our heroes, she has a much bigger part to play in the overall love story. So expect more Minako, if not necessarily that much from Sailor V.
The new intro was something of an experiment. It remains in the present tense, as my other intros are written, but it's more of a quick scene. I think I'm just doing that for the introduction to Part 2, but I may change my mind. Let me know if you thought it was cool, stupid, interesting, or whatever.
Artemis gets his first point of view chapter as well. I started writing this from Minako's point of view, but it worked out so much better when you don't know what's going on in her head. Being the first Senshi awakened has a lot of ramifications. She's already a seasoned fighter. Artemis is her safety net, her guardian, and her leash. She's having a hard time after Ace's death, and she can't tell anyone except him about her problems. While it's good that she has him, he's also struggling as he can only do so much as a small cat. It allows him to move around unrestricted, but it also prevents him from truly comforting her, or even preventing her from leaving or doing things her way if she decides to ignore his voice of reason.
And she is a thirteen-year-old girl who is pretty out of her league when it comes to big decisions. She just wants to be normal, yet also be a pop star, and be a vigilante, without any of the fallout from all of those, but right now, all she has is the fallout—no privacy as Minako, can't run around as Sailor V, and has no friends or school to burn her time.
So when I rewrote the chapter in his point of view, we get a sense of his struggle to help her, rather than just kind of an emo-teen's inner, confused thoughts. I don't know how many more Artemis chapters there will be, but I think it's a nice change of pace.
As always, your input is critical. Reviews help me continue writing. I read them all, even if I don't respond to them. Many a chapter has been revised or future plot lines derived from feedback on my stories. The reason I post these things up here in the first place is for feedback. It's like the guide, telling me what works and what doesn't.
When you're this close to a piece of writing, you don't see the cracks and flaws. I have a vision of what it looks like in my head, and I try to translate that into words. When you read it, you translate the words into a vision. I like to get those two as close as possible, but a lot of times the language doesn't allow for it. That's where feedback comes in. The more the better, but any is better than none.
Thanks all! I'm going to try to get back to a once-a-week schedule. I always update my author profile with my current status (what I'm writing, how much I've written, what I plan to write next). So check it out if you ever are wondering about what I'm doing or if I'm still alive. It's dated, so you can see when I last updated it.