Author's Note: Part 2 is here. When I was originally coming up with the idea for this story, this was going to be part of Part 1 of 3, but it got to be rather long, and I figured that this was a good place to split it up. So this will officially close out what I'd invisioned as the first part of the story. Because of this, there's no 'cold opening', but there will be one in Part 3, if that matters any. There have been some revisions to it during the editing process (Ami originally said a bad word, but I deemed it probably too out of character, even given the circumstances, but it was fun while it lasted), and I've reworked many of the scenes and even cut a few, but ultimately, the final scene is pretty much how I'd envisioned it, for the most part.
I'm still working on Part 3 (as in writing, not editing), but it's being a real pain in my ass for various reason. Despite having a pretty clear idea of the whole story in my head, I've been working on a general events timeline, so I'm hoping it'll help me just push through the part that's giving me trouble and get to something that's a bit easier. So don't be surprised if it takes longer to get out, but I'm trying. Expect me to complain about how much it sucks next time.
A big thanks to all the people that have reviewed, favorited, and/or followed this little whim of mine. I didn't expect to see this sort of reaction when I set out. The advice I've received has been really helpful, and I truly appreciate it. I don't have a beta reader, so I don't have anyone backing me up to catch the errors I make. I noticed while rereading Part 1 maybe a day or so after I posted it that I'd completely forgotten one tiny, unimportant piece that I wanted to put in and forgot about. I still have the document sitting in the document manager, so it was easy enough to make the slight alteration and swap the old version out for the new one. It isn't important, and if you read it before I made the change, you may not even notice anything was changed, but I'm a tad, or possibly very, obsessive compulsive, and it would have annoyed me to leave it. Anyways, on with Part 2, or, since I typically use Roman Numerals for chapter numbering, Part II.
It had been three days since Ranma had become Sailor Moon, two since she'd met Naru. It had been a decent break since her first battle, but in that time, she'd dealt with trying to 'help' Makoto and got involved in another hair brained scheme Kuno had concocted to get back at him/win her heart. Akane'd given her hell for losing her the other day, but the yelling hadn't been so bad, considering she could have beaten her senseless. It had been life as usual for the young martial artist. But she'd known it wasn't going to stay that way for long.
She didn't bother to pace herself as she slammed her fist hard into the ghoul's face, sending the thing tumbling into a pair of its companions. Without wasting any time, she leapt over a swipe from another behind her and planted a foot into its skull, several times.
The things were surprisingly smart. After only a single time of her tricking one of the ghouls into attacking a friendly, they'd decided their heat wave attacks were best used when another ghoul wasn't in immediate danger of getting caught in the crossfire. Unfortunately, being a magic based attack, it still did crap for damage.
She kicked the creature one last time and flipped into the air, avoiding both the swipe of a ghoul's claws and a World Shaking from Uranus. It missed her, but it succeeded in removing the ghoul's head, taking it out of action and removing one more piece from the battlefield. She wasn't sure why, but she just knew the Senshi of the Sky had a grudge against her. It reminded her of the earlier days with Ryoga.
While in midair, she righted herself and cupped her hands together, filling them with both magic and ki. "Moko Takabisha Revision: Moonlight Fang!" The attack exploded as it struck a lone ghoul, leaving it dazed just long enough for Saturn to slice it open with her glaive. She nodded in appreciation to the youngest Senshi and dove back in.
Fire, Water, Ice, and Lightning raged around her. She could see Jupiter using the momentary stun as a hit and run tactic to get in close and deliver some punches before getting out and hitting them with magic again. Uranus was using a similar tactic with her own sword, while Venus was holding them off with her chain and occasionally tossing what looked like a compact at the enemies, cutting them open and dealing decent damage.
But they weren't working in sync. While the Senshi were working together fairly well, she was very much the odd one out. Dropping down, she performed a leg sweep, knocking another ghoul to the ground before she pulled a knife out from her weapons space and plunged it into its neck.
She barely avoided the Burning Mandala that slammed into a nearby ghoul. Another failure of coordination. She took advantage of it though, and unleashed an Amaguriken on the thing. On the final punch of the rapid sequence, she drove her knife between the thing's ribs and leapt away as it died. A quick scan of the battlefield showed that the others had taken out another pair. Four left.
She launched a few vacuum blades using one of Neptune's Deep Submerges as cover, giving a serious one two punch to one of the remaining ghouls. This had kind of interrupted Uranus's incoming strike, but Pluto picked up in the moment of hesitation and hit the thing with a Dead Scream. It was taken out soon after by Venus's crescent moon shaped compact boomerang.
The opposite happened soon after, when she attempted to rush one of them, only to be interrupted by a wave of energy leaves from Jupiter. This was getting frustrating. She'd had plenty of disharmony fighting alongside Ryoga in the past, but at least they kept a solid rhythm. Even the blind as a bat Mousse didn't interrupt her fighting pattern this much. Ironically, it proved not to matter as the ghoul was impaled on a belt.
She groaned long and hard as Ryoga rushed one of the last two and slammed a meaty fist into its chest and damn near collapsed its ribcage. In a way, it was good to have a friend she could harmonize with, to an extent, but it was so late in the battle that it was more of a pain than anything.
She sidled up next to him and punched the ghoul before speeding out of range. "Damn it Ryoga, get out of here before these things turn you into bacon bits!"
"Hey! Who are you calling bacon bits?!" the lost martial artist cried at the insult, rather than the swipe of the ghoul's claws that left a series of thin blood trails on his chest. "I'll have you know I can take these things no sweat! Just watch! Bakusai Tenketsu!" To prove his point, he shoved a single finger into the ground, causing it to explode into sharp shards that tore up the ghoul, but didn't finish it off.
She felt the competitive fires burn. "Oh yeah?" She grabbed the tiara from her head and channeled her magic into it before flinging it at the beat up ghoul. "Moon Tiara Action!"
Ryoga stood unimpressed as the golden disc cut through the fiendish creature and killed it. "Hmph, that only worked because I weakened it up."
The Senshi watched in awe as Moon and the decidedly suicidal human exchanged banter and set their sights on the final ghoul, only to watch as Saturn stabbed it with her glaive and unleashed her attack. "Silence Glaive Surprise!" The violent attack tore apart the ghoul from inside, leaving the two quarrelling outsiders to stare at her.
"Good job Saturn..." Moon finally managed to say. The purple suited Senshi of Death and Rebirth nodded her head in acknowledgement and moved to return to her allies.
Ryoga growled at the unfairness of it, and how he wanted to work out his frustration. He stared at Moon for a moment curiously. "You remind me of someone," he murmured, only to growl again. "And when I find him, I'm going to kick his ass for tricking me into getting lost again!" She suppressed the snicker she felt coming on at the reminder of their last encounter. It was his own fault really, she'd just given him a little... push. He adjusted his pack and took off in a random direction, letting his senses guide the way.
"Do you know that man?" Jupiter asked her curiously. "You called him Ryoga."
"Nah," she lied. "Just thought he looked familiar."
Pluto ignored the conversation and walked casually toward Moon. "Regardless, that isn't the issue. You took off so fast last time that we didn't have a chance to give you this." She held out what looked like a bracelet of some kind. More jewelry she'd never wear.
"It's a communicator. Always keep it on you so we'll be able to contact you in case we need you in battle."
She accepted the communicator and cocked her head to the side, observing it as she held it in her hand. "So you all got one a these things then?"
Each of them nodded. With a shrug, she slipped it into her weapons space, intent to check it out later to see how it worked. "I guess I should be goin'. See ya." She leapt away before finding a safe place to change back. Maybe Usagi could tell her a bit more about the communicator too. If they all had one, it stood reason to assume that she did too.
With Ryoga's involvement, she started to wonder if maybe she'd still be able to help after Usagi woke up. In that case, a communicator would come in handy. It was something she'd have to think long and hard about.
"Makoto called while you were off on your little adventure to Juuban. She wanted to know if we've made any progress." Nabiki didn't even bother to hide what Ranma was up to when he left the house every morning. It had become an open secret that his daily trips were to the Minato ward. She'd made a small fortune off that little nugget of information.
There were many people who naturally had a problem with this. "You will cease this senselessness right this moment!" Soun Tendo howled angrily through his manifested demon head technique. "At least take Akane with you! But if she gets hurt by any of those monsters I've heard about, I will hold you personally responsible!" Genma Saotome was nodding his head sternly in agreement while the panda cursed martial artist munched on a stalk of bamboo.
"I can take care of myself!" Akane growled, tired of her father's usual antics, especially when it came to her and Ranma. She also didn't seem happy to know Ranma had been spending his time at the stomping grounds of a group of magical girls, even if she did admire said magical girls.
Ranma walked past the Tendo patriarch, his jaw set tightly in a frown. "What'dja tell 'er?" he asked her carefully.
"Still looking, but I might have a few leads that might pan out." It was an obvious threat, but he wasn't sure whether it was all bluff or if she would actually sell him out. She took the work for free, knowing full well that Ranma was the suspect, and yet she'd done nothing about it. Whatever she had planned, it wasn't going to end well for him.
He nodded halfheartedly. "I'm sure ya do. Whaddya tryin' ta get out of her?"
"Maybe I'm doing it out of the goodness of my heart. Has that ever occurred to you?"
He snorted but wisely chose to keep his mouth shut for once. Pissing Nabiki off usually had terrible consequences. Consequences his wallet couldn't handle at the moment. He already had trouble footing the usual bill.
Akane was watching their exchange intently. She was, by far, the most curious as to what he was up to, and she had a feeling Makoto's missing brooch was involved somehow. There was no way it was just coincidence. "I still can't believe I haven't gotten to meet the Senshi," she grumbled. "They finally had a battle, and I missed the chance to be there because I was taking care of my homework with Sayuri and Yuka."
"Speaking of school," Nabiki drawled out casually, "how do you plan to continue your excursions when school starts back up in a couple days? Nerima to Minato isn't a short trip. Might cramp your schedule."
"I'll think a somethin'."
"Whatever you're up to, it can't be that important," Akane scoffed. "If it's just training, you can do that anywhere."
His eyes set in a hard gaze. "It ain't just training. This is singlehandedly the most important thing I've done." With his piece said, he turned toward the stairs and walked off. That night, he decided to start running Usagi through some basic forms and exercises. Even if she lacked an actual presence, he figured the knowledge was as good a place to start as any.
There was an air of hesitation as Ami stood in front of the hospital bed belonging to one of her best friends. To anyone who saw her, they saw someone concerned with the state of a friend. While that was true, there was another emotion that she felt. Guilt. And with the way some strange girl had come in trying to replace Usagi, she felt anger. She could never be replaced. She wouldn't allow it.
"Why won't you wake up?" she whispered under her breath. "Everything is falling apart without you."
Her mother still hadn't found anything that could be called 'official'. The longer her coma lasted, the more the doctors questioned it. Test after test had been performed, and yet it all amounted to nothing. The others were becoming more and more convinced that the missing brooch was the cause of Usagi's condition, but Ami wasn't so sure anymore.
The blonde appeared to be sleeping peacefully. According to the Mercury Computer, she was getting better, slowly, but it was progress none the less. The fact that the redhead had stolen the brooch in this time appeared to be coincidental. Either way, they would find a way to get the brooch back from the slippery girl somehow.
"If you miss any school, I'll be sure to help you make it up. No matter what, I'll make sure you can pass with no trouble."
An awkward silence permeated the room. She really wanted to tell her about the imposter, and she wanted to talk about how they were learning to fight their enemies. But this wasn't the place for that discussion. Too many people around to overhear. The silence, and her hesitation, were both ended by a chirping noise. Her communicator.
She brought the bracelet up and clicked it on. "I'm here."
She could see Makoto had already transformed before contacting anyone. "We need everyone," she insisted. "And I mean everyone. It's hit the fan, hard."
"Even the fake?" Haruka asked her sourly.
An explosion sounded in the background while Makoto ducked out of sight for a brief moment. "Right now, we can't afford to leave her out. We need all available hands. We just have to trust she'll help us out like usual."
"I'll call her," Ami suggested. "You get back to the fight." Makoto nodded, and the screen blinked out. "I've got to go," she quickly told Usagi, even if she wasn't sure she could hear. "It's important."
If the weird throbbing sensation in his mind hadn't told him something was wrong, the chirping noise from his weapons space definitely told Ranma he was needed. Luckily, he'd been alone in the dojo at the time, so all it took was a splash from his water bottle before she answered.
Mercury was in the little window, and she looked concerned, and frankly, a little confused. "Moon?"
"Yeah. Who else'd I be?"
"Oh," she murmured. "I've never seen your civilian form, so I wasn't sure."
Crap! It was an amateur mistake, one she'd walked right into without thinking. Despite being a team, she wasn't sure if they knew who each other were. She still hadn't mentioned Usagi's name around them, just in case. She wasn't sure how she could downplay the colossal mistake. "Um, what's up? Somethin' happening?"
She nodded urgently. "There's a big fight, and we could use your help. Soon. It's urgent."
"Be there in a flash," she replied with a cocky smirk. "I'm pretty good at followin' explosions." She closed the connection and exchanged her communicator for the brooch. "Moon Cosmic Power, Make Up!" A bright light surrounded her, stripping her of her normal attire to be replaced by a white leotard, blue fuku collar, and a red bow. White gloves trimmed in red slid over her hands while a pair of red boots protected her feet. A blue skirt wrapped around her waist, and a big red bow appeared on her lower back. This was all topped off with a golden tiara that appeared on her forehead and a pair of white, wing-like hair clips on her bangs while a red choker formed around her throat to finish the transformation. All set, she dashed out of the dojo and sped off toward Juuban. Little did she realize, someone had seen the entire exchange, and she did not look happy.
With her enhanced speed, she was able to make the trip quickly, wasting very little time in arriving. It wasn't hard to find the battle. While collateral damage was inevitable when large scale magic battles, or high powered martial artists, were involved, this was already worse than what she'd come to know from her limited time as Senshi of the Moon.
There were enough ghouls to outnumber the eight Senshi currently in battle, hard enough as it was to fight ten ghouls, but the battle was being overseen by something she hadn't encountered before. The sinister woman hovered over the battlefield with wings of black. Clawed talon-like feet peeked out from beneath her blood red dress. Haunting yellow gold eyes surveyed her minions as they fought against the Senshi. Moon was going to do something about that.
"Moko Takabisha Revision: Moonlight Fang!" The woman didn't notice until it was too late that she was being attacked. As the attack exploded on her, Moon was already bringing her own brand of pain up close.
Despite being unable to fly, it wasn't hard for her to get the air needed to hit her. Her fist slammed into the woman's face right as the smoke cleared. She followed that up with a kick to the right wing, which she also used to keep herself up. That was followed up with a knee to the back of the head as she started to fall.
Sick of being used to keep the redheaded Senshi aloft, the woman smacked her away with her clawed hand. They were sharp, just as sharp as those belonging to the ghouls, but Moon ignored the pain that blossomed from the wounds and used her momentum from the fall to crack the neck of a ghoul cornering Mars. She glared at her, but Moon ignored it and turned her attention back to the woman who was nearing the ground. "What's the matter? Can't handle a little pain?"
The woman scoffed. "You have nothing on me, insolent fool. I, the great Nemain Catha! Hmph, such a worm could never hope to harm me."
"Oh, zat why yer hangin' out now, after we've been dismantlin' your ugly kids?"
Nemain growled under her breath, but she did not let her anger get the better of her. "I merely wish to witness the moment when my ghouls destroy you Senshi filth once and for all. I will succeed where my right hand minion did not."
Moon grinned and grabbed at her tiara, scanning the remaining nine ghouls for which one had taken the most damage. With a very slight nod, she tossed the tiara at the creature and caught it effortlessly as it returned to her after having cut the creature in half. "You were sayin'?"
"I see. You are an interesting one. Let's see how well you fare against this." Nemain clapped her hands together and summoned a black mist. Steadily, it grew larger and larger until it encompassed her entirely. "Common Strife..."
The orb of mist suddenly expanded, covering the entire battlefield. Moon had crossed her arms in front of her, but nothing seemed to happen. She relaxed, slowly, but her danger sense told her that something bad was happening. She turned around just in time to see Mars release a fiery arrow aimed right at her.
"Crap!" She dove to the side as the Mars Flame Sniper blazed through the spot she'd been standing in. She just managed to roll out of the way when a sword slashed at her wildly. Uranus's sword. "Whoa, what the hell! We're on the same team guys!" She barely had enough time to protect herself before being smashed by a Deep Submerge. Apparently, the three of them had decided to forget their ghouls altogether and focus on her. "Well if that's how ya wanna play it..."
She shot off like a bullet towards Uranus, the one she deemed the strongest, and thus the biggest threat. "Kachu Tenshin Amaguriken!" The series of rapid fire punches she occasionally called the chestnut fist struck her repeatedly and with great force, enhanced by the transformation. She finished it off by snapping out a kick to the head that sent Uranus tumbling into Neptune, knocking both off their feet.
"What the hell are you talking about chestnuts for?!" Mars growled, only to be caught off guard when a billiard ball smacked her in the head. Her feet were pulled out from under her when Ranma tripped her, leaving stars swimming in her vision.
"Jupiter Oak Evolution!" Leaves slammed into Ranma, throwing her away from the downed Mars. "Need a little help?" Jupiter asked snidely.
"Shut up! I was handling her just fine!"
Nemain laughed gleefully as the Senshi started to fight amongst themselves. Her ghouls had taken to avoiding the brewing fight in favor of other targets on her orders. It was so beautiful to watch allies destroy each other.
Mercury just barely managed to avoid the swipe from the ghoul she'd been fighting when things started falling apart. She thought they'd lost it when Mars, Uranus, and Neptune openly attacked Moon. She'd wondered if Moon had a death wish when she attacked back. But it was the bickering between Mars and Jupiter, and then them and the two Outers when they'd rejoined the assault on their shared target that sent chills down her spine. "This isn't good..."
"My thoughts exactly," Pluto said carefully. "We need to stop them from fighting each other and get them back on the real opponents."
"But... how? Any attempts to get involved will only make things worse."
"Follow my lead." The Senshi of Time raised her staff at Nemain and called out her attack. "Dead Scream!"
Mercury hastily followed her example. "Shine Aqua Illusion!"
While the two of them attacked the leader directly, Saturn and Venus were busy fighting the ghouls that had decided to swarm them. It was getting rough, and Saturn had to put up a Silence Wall while Venus readied her compact. "Why are they fighting each other?"
Saturn's eyes hardened as she caught Uranus lash out at Mars while the Senshi of Fire returned the favor with a Burning Mandala. "This mist is enhancing our discord." She leveled her glaive at a group of weakened ghouls. "Silence Glaive Surprise!"
While Saturn took out two of them, Venus added one to her count with the compact. "Okay... How come we're unaffected?"
The pint sized Senshi didn't say anything in reply as she lashed out with her glaive and cut into another one.
Nemain was shocked that someone had the gall to attack her, even with her mist still about. "I see, so not all of the pests were given the push they needed. Then I shall take you two out first! Ghouls! After them!"
The four remaining ghouls turned their attention from Venus and Saturn to Mercury and Pluto, leaving the pair free to attack Nemain. Pluto had a different idea though. "Saturn, keep Nemain busy! Venus, use your compact to heal the others!"
The blonde haired Senshi of Love turned to her in confusion. "Wait, you mean I can still do that? I haven't done that in forever!"
Startled into action, Venus opened her compact and held it high above her head. Light began to shine from the item. "Venus Power: Crescent Shower of Love! Pour down on us!" The glow intensified as a shower of sparkling light began to fall from the sky and wash away the dark mist that was covering the battlefield, halting the quarrelling Senshi in their tracks.
"Were we just fighting?" Neptune asked, unable to comprehend why they would drop their duties to pick a fight with the imposter, let alone why they would also take the fight to their fellow Senshi.
"The ghouls!" Jupiter exclaimed suddenly, turning around to rush the remaining enemies that were giving Mercury and Pluto a hard time.
Realizing her plan had fallen apart, Nemain raised her hand and gathered her energy, striking out wildly at her enemies. "Harbinger of Downfall!" The blood red attack went wide when her arm was struck by a pool cue, digging up a fresh trench where the blast of magic hit the ground.
Moon's eye twitched. "I hate being mind controlled... I really, really hate it..." She cracked her knuckles and worked the kinks out of her neck. "Hey, ya old hag! Yer gonna get it now!" She leapt into the air and smashed her fist into Nemain's face. A sickening, yet satisfying crunch filled the air as the winged woman's nose gave. She hauled back and cupped her hands, filling them with a radiant blue before releasing it point blank. "Moko Takabisha!"
While Nemain yelled in pain, Jupiter crushed a ghoul's windpipe and Uranus disemboweled another, releasing a Space Sword Blaster from inside. Pluto swung back and hit the third with her staff like it was a baseball bat while Venus cut it open with her compact. The last ghoul was taken down by a combination of attacks from Mercury, Neptune, and Mars before finally being cut apart by Saturn's glaive.
This was punctuated by a cry of "Kijin Raishuu Dan!" followed by a howl of pain as one of Nemain's pitch black wings fell to the ground, followed shortly thereafter by herself, with one of Moon's heeled boots settled into her midsection to help the process along.
The now one winged woman cried out once more when she hit the ground, clutching at the remains of her right wing as if it would have helped. "You bitch!" she shouted, climbing unsteadily to her feet. "You're going to pay! Your death will be slow and very painful! Just you wait Sailor Moon!"
"Ya ain't the first to want me dead, ya ain't gonna be the last." Moon shrugged absently, noting in the woman's anger that she had virtually zero ki in her aura, and that it seemed to be made of magic instead. "Ya can take a bit of punishment, but them wings are squishy. I kinda didn't expect the sealed arts to work so well against 'em. Might have ta go easy on Pop tonight when we spar." She reached up for her tiara to finish the job, but Nemain teleported away from the battle before she could fire off the spell. She stomped her foot in frustration, but she knew there was nothing she could do at the moment. She'd work it out in the dojo when she got back.
"So... uh, that kinda sucked," Moon stated awkwardly when she turned back to the others. "Sorry 'bout that." None of them really responded to that, and instead seemed to be milling about amongst each other. "Guess I should get back. Left kinda suddenly." She gave them a halfhearted wave and leapt off in the direction of Nerima, feeling a serious headache coming on.
Ranma was dripping wet when she entered the house. She'd just changed back, and apparently, the forces in her life had conspired to keep her a girl. At least she'd be able to get some hot water from Kasumi and change back, safe from the dangers of the wet world outside.
The house was surprisingly empty when she got back. Her father and Soun were both out. Akane had some meeting with the drama club about an upcoming play, and Kasumi was at the market picking up food for supper. The only other person in the house was sitting in front of the television, flipping through the channels blankly. "About time you got home," Nabiki drawled out, "Sailor Moon."
She laughed nervously at the accusation, well aware that her ability to lie was... situational. "I don't know what yer talkin' about..."
"A little tip," the middle Tendo sighed. "If you're going to transform, don't do it where anybody can see you. Especially someone who might use that information to make a quick buck or screw you over. Especially if they can accomplish both at the same time."
Eyes wide with panic, Ranma stood frozen as Nabiki rolled her eyes. "Relax, even I wouldn't go that far, not that it doesn't piss me off. Prime blackmail material, and I can't even use it." She patted her hand down on the table across from her. "So tell me. How long has my future brother in law been a magical girl of love and justice and all that crap?"
"A few days," she admitted weakly as she took a seat across from the money loving Tendo. "It ain't a full time gig, but... I kinda like helpin' 'em out. I feel like I'm doin' somethin' good with the art."
Nabiki nodded amicably, but she didn't seem very enthusiastic. "I figured as much. So the hospital was a decoy. I should have known."
"No. It ain't," she stated seriously. "I was visitin' Sailor Moon, the real Sailor Moon. She got hurt pretty bad in an attack an' asked me to fill in for her." With a sigh, she started to play with her braid. "I never expected the others ta be so... normal. They always seemed like such a solid group, but I feel like I'm fightin' alongside a group of Ryogas and Mousses. Like we were fightin' some crow lady today, and she used some attack, and suddenly, we were fightin' each other."
Nabiki snorted at the explanation and held out her hand expectantly. With a groan, Ranma fished out a few bills and set them in her hand. She counted the money with a nod and a pleased smile before giving her some 'advice'. "I doubt I'd trust someone suddenly showing up in my leader's uniform either. And your attitude can cause some friction. They've been working together for years. You're new, and an idiot. I'm not surprised."
"So I just gotta earn their trust. Can't be too hard."
"Ranma, how many people do you honestly know that can say they trust you. Or you trust them for that matter."
"Well, um, there's... No... Wait! No, can't go with Daisuke or Hiroshi either... Uh..." Her mouth flapped as she tried to come up with someone who trusted her unquestioningly, and who she trusted just as much. "Well there's Kasumi..."
"Kasumi doesn't count," she snickered. "She's an anomaly and you know it. And it's not like she hasn't screwed you over to get out of eating Akane's cooking just like the rest of us."
Ranma wracked her brain trying to think of someone else who fit the bill, but only one name came to mind, one she didn't think Nabiki would accept. "Sailor Moon," she muttered under her breath.
A devilish smirk appeared on Nabiki's face upon hearing the words. "Oh boy, someone you just met outranks my little sister on the trust scale. I'm sure you don't want her finding out." She held her hand out again, forcing Ranma to hand her more of her precious spending money. She'd have to find a part-time job soon.
"It ain't like that! She's been puttin' her own skin on the line to save the world, and when she got hurt, she came to me, askin' me to help her out, just this once, for her friends and the world! She don't even care about my curse!"
Nabiki sat silently for a moment following Ranma's explanation. At that moment, she seemed unusually serious. "Ranma, how many people do you know that would pass the buck to someone else just to save their own ass. What makes you think she's any different?" She stood up from her seat and turned away from her. "Two can play that game Ranma. And I've been playing it for a long time. Knowing what I do now, it's only a matter of time before I find out who she is. And when I do, I'll pay her a visit, personally." She shot her a cocky grin. "Thanks Ranma. This chat has been very informative."
"You ain't gonna get anything from her," she said defiantly.
"She's in a coma. Only person she can speak to is me. And I know she ain't lyin'."
There was a tense moment between the two as they stared each other down. "I hope you know what you're doing Ranma. Because if she sells you out, it's you the monsters will come after, not her. You, your mother and father, Akane, Ukyo, Shampoo, Kasumi and me, Daddy. Everyone you care about will be in danger."
"Ain't no different from the loons you bring in ta make my life hell."
"Thanks again for the manga Ranma. It's so boring when you're not around." Neither of them had expected having him stuff some reading material into his weapons space and handing it to her after falling asleep would actually work, and yet, somehow, it worked like a charm. One of those oddities, he supposed, like her being able to give him the brooch in the first place. He made sure to include a few scrolls on things like meditation and breathing exercises, even a few on accessing ki, even if it was currently useless to her. She'd groaned at it but accepted them anyway.
He grunted noncommittally and moved through a kata with practiced ease. Usagi watched him intently, intrigued by his careful, skillful movements. There was a level of grace to it like nothing she'd ever seen before, and he made it look so easy. Part of her wondered if she'd ever get half as good in the future. But still, it seemed almost like a cover for something else. "Is something wrong?"
He came to a stop, turning to her. She wore a worried expression on her face, one that he wasn't used to seeing directed at him. It reminded him that this wasn't just his problem. It involved her too. "Nabiki found out I've been covering as Sailor Moon," he finally told her.
"Oh..." Her face fell instantly. He'd told her some things Nabiki had done in the past. Not a whole lot of that was worth getting excited about. "You explained to her why it needs to be secret, right? She won't tell anyone, will she?"
"Nah, not about me. She's worried it'll come back on her and her family ...probably, an' I can't blame her for it. But it ain't me she's lookin' for. It's you, and if she finds out, I ain't too sure she'd be so willing to keep quiet."
Usagi's eyes widened as panic swept over her, falling to her knees on the ballroom floor. Her breath, if she actually had any at the moment, was short, and her vision swam. "So... so soon? I'm not sure I'm ready to let people know yet... And the others. I can't let them be discovered too! I can't let my family be in danger like that either! What am I going to do Ranma?! I'm not strong enough to protect them all yet!"
Ranma flicked her forehead before she could fall into a full blown panic attack. Tears were already threatening to break free, and he didn't want to be stuck with a crying girl for the rest of his sleep. "Take it easy. I'll talk her out of it. It's money she's after, so I just gotta foot the bill. I just gotta prove you an' the others ain't a danger to her and the rest of her family."
She wiped at her tears, though it did little to put him at ease. "I can't let you do that. I asked you to help me, but I didn't ask you to put yourself in debt on my account." She thought furiously at a plan while she climbed to her feet. "She isn't the first person to learn of our secret identities. Maybe... if she waits until I wake up, I can talk to her personally. Then I can explain everything to her. And by then, you won't have the brooch, so you won't be involved and she won't have anything to worry about."
"I'll see what I can do," Ranma replied. "Might just have ta agree to a few photo shoots to keep her happy. And after you get the brooch back, I might be able ta help out anyway. Ryoga looked like he was able to hold his own, so I shouldn't have a problem against 'em either."
"We agreed Ranma," she pouted. "Once I wake up, you'd leave Senshi business to us. This is dangerous, and you're already risking your life enough as it is. You said it yourself, if it weren't for the magic, you might not be able to stand up to them."
His expression hardened with determination. "A martial artist's life is fraught with peril. Pop drilled that into my head since I was a kid. Besides, I ain't gonna stand by and do nothing if someone is in danger. I know what I said, but I never said I wouldn't continue to fight, and after seein' what I have, I ain't gonna leave it be. It's a martial artist's duty to protect those that can't protect themselves. This is one a them times."
"Ranma..." She wasn't sure what to say. At one time, she'd have been thrilled to have a new ally, but the magic he was using was hers. Sure, he was a good fighter, and resilient, but this wasn't a normal enemy he was fighting. This was someone trying to take over the world, or even destroy it. Without magic of his own, he was a liability. And yet, he was adamant about his continued role in the fight.
"Look, I know I ain't no Sailor Sun or Sailor Earth or nothin', but it ain't the first time I've fought impossible enemies and won. I don't lose." He had a smug grin on his face as he spoke, reflecting the hardships he'd been through in his short life. Hardships that, in a way, he had in common with Usagi. He fully recognized that they both had their share of tough enemies that they fought hard against to earn their victories. "Look, don't worry about it. I'm gonna keep training so I can fight them things without relyin' on your magic. I'll do somethin' about Nabiki too. I don't know what yet, but I'll figure it out before morning."
"I'm a little surprised," Ami laughed quietly as she took in her surroundings, "I've heard the rumors, but Nerima seems like a very peaceful place. The damage doesn't seem too bad. Nothing worse than Juuban sees anyway."
Makoto shrugged. "Yeah, I don't really get it either. Apparently, Ranma, the guy that's helping me find the brooch, hasn't had too much going on lately. From what I've heard, he seems to be involved in a lot of the bigger stuff that breaks out."
Ami looked over to her friend skeptically before looking down to the Mercury Computer's screen. "Are you sure you can trust this guy? I don't mean to be critical of him, but how can one average teen be of much help in finding the other Moon and getting the brooch from her?"
"Well the police seem to think he's reliable enough to slack off on their work, and if we get to her first, it's not like it'll change much. He's not charging anything to help." She peeked over Ami's shoulder at the screen. She wasn't much of an expert when it came to the Mercury Computer, but she'd seen Ami use it all the time. That said, she still had no idea what she was looking at. "Any signal yet?"
"No. Not really. There seems to be something interfering with the locator in the communicator. Either she's on to us, or she's very cautious." She bit her lip and chewed on it, a bad habit she'd picked up lately. She glanced over at the tall brunette that walked beside her, someone she'd worked with for years and trusted more than almost anyone else. At one time, they'd been strangers fighting alongside each other in a war they barely understood. She barely even liked her back then. Not until she'd actually gotten to know the caring young woman that was Makoto Kino and Sailor Jupiter. "Makoto, are you sure she's lying? What if she is intending to give the brooch back when Usagi wakes up? She did say she was just a temp."
Makoto stopped walking. Her gaze was centered squarely on her feet. The sidewalk was cracked and bowed a little, but unlike the recently paved road, this didn't seem bad enough to require immediate repair. "I don't," she whispered. "Maybe she is telling the truth. Maybe she is trying to help in some way. But I won't let her get away with stealing Usagi's brooch. She's my best friend Ami. She stood by me when nearly everyone else was treating me like some thug. I won't let this new girl treat Usagi like that. She can't just waltz in and pretend to be her."
That attack their enemy had used, Common Strife, really had her worried. If their enemy could make them fight over whatever petty grudges they may have held that meant nothing, what chance did they have if they could barely work alongside Moon's so-called replacement. "I get that, and I agree, it's just..." She trailed off, eyes widening slightly. "It's her," she murmured, pointing across the street to where a redhead girl was casually strolling down the sidewalk happily licking at an ice cream cone in her hand. Her hair was in a braid like the imposter Moon's, and she was wearing a red silk shirt with short sleeves and a pair of black pants that looked a bit large for her small form. It would look a little comical if it hadn't been obvious she wasn't wearing a bra. "She isn't wearing the brooch. Does she not have it on her?"
"That's her? She seems so... frail. I think she's shorter than you are. I never noticed that when she was transformed."
Ami rolled her eyes and raised the Mercury Computer up to capture her image. Instead of discreetly taking her picture though, it seemed to catch her attention, and the picture showed her posing cutely and winking at them. She looked up to see the girl crossing the street with a smirk on her face, waving at them as she approached.
The two visitors to Nerima exchanged a panicked glance as she reached them. "Do I know you?"
It was the readhead's turn to look caught off guard. She started to sweat and looked around for a moment before finally settling down, as if she remembered something. It looked a bit suspicious. "Nah, not really. I heard about ya though. I'm Nabiki's cousin Ranko."
"Ami Mizuno," the blue haired Senshi introduced herself. "I suppose you already know of my friend Makoto." Ranko nodded casually.
"Nabiki's cousin huh. Does that mean you've been helping her?" Makoto asked, not really buying the explanation for a second.
"Nah," Ranko replied before taking a lick at her ice cream. "Anything Nabiki's involved in usually means trouble for me. Honestly, if I were you, I wouldn't trust her as far as ya can throw her."
If it was supposed to clear anything up, it didn't. It only made them more confused as they tried to figure out what the readhead's goal was. "Why is that?" Ami asked hesitantly. "Isn't she helping Makoto find her stolen brooch?"
"Well yeah," she replied with a shrug, "but everyone 'round here knows that Nabiki don't do nothin' for free unless she's got somethin' bigger planned. You two are from Minato, right?" When both of them nodded, she continued. "She's probably lookin' to use that. I heard her mention somethin' about tryin' to learn Sailor Moon's secret identity."
Ranko stepped back from their surprised shout, wincing slightly as she did. "Hey, chill, I ain't sayin' that's it. Just keep an eye out if yer doin' business with her. At the very least, she'll probably find ya that brooch, even if it's only ta hook ya in for repeat business."
The way she was casually talking about something they knew she had was unnerving. Whether she had connected the dots and was messing with them or she was just coincidentally talking about something in her possession, Ami didn't know, but she didn't want to take the chance.
Makoto was frowning at what she'd heard. "What about Ranma? He's the one I originally asked. Is he any more trustworthy than Nabiki?"
Ranko shrugged, taking her time to lick her ice cream up before it melted further. When she'd cleaned it up enough, she cocked her head to the side and thought about it. It seemed a bit showy, but the girl gave off an air of confidence and over the top tomboyishness, so it was hard to tell if she was acting. "Dunno. I try not ta bother him. Uncle Tendo might decide to switch the engagement over to me if things don't work out between him and Akane."
Makoto's eyes glazed over at the news, and Ami decided she'd better take over before she said something stupid. "I see. That must be hard. Arranged marriages can be very tough on the people involved."
"Trust me," she snorted derisively, "they ain't half as tough as this one. Assumin' they actually like each other, they ain't gonna last with all the crap they got piled on 'em." It almost sounded like she was speaking from experience.
"Well we're going to meet with him right now to see if he's made any progress. Maybe I can offer some advice to them."
She looked like she was about to reply when she muttered a curse under her breath. "Yeah, whatever. I don't care. Sorry ta cut this short, but I got some things ta do. See ya!" She tossed the rest of the ice cream into her mouth and leapt effortlessly onto a nearby rooftop.
They watched in amazement as she leapt away. "If she can do that without transforming..." Ami gasped, unsure of how to best complete her thought.
"I... I refuse to look up to that girl... But damn was that awesome."
They continued to stare until a beeping from the Mercury Computer broke them out of their trance. Ami looked down at the notification with wide, nervous eyes. A ghoul had shown up in Nerima.
It's strange how someone can be having a perfectly pleasant day until something happens to turn it into a nightmare. For Akane, it was the unfortunate coincidence of being present for the arrival of a trio of demonic monsters. Not completely uncommon, except for the fact that these were more notable for their actions in Juuban. The monstrous, kill you indiscriminately kind, not the mostly harmless nuisance they usually got in the kooky ward she called home. They'd started to crowd around a frightened business man who'd been walking through the park, too scared out of his wits to run away, and if their sharp, drooling teeth were anything to go by, they didn't intend anything nice.
"Hey!" she screamed out, picking up a moderate sized rock and throwing it at the closest of the ghouls. "Why don't you pick on someone who can fight back?!" All three of them whipped around at the same time, allowing the man a quick moment to run off screaming. Good, she thought, evening her breathing and shifting into a stance. Now she could focus on the fight. She got ready to charge when a shout halted her.
"Run away you idiot! Don't fight 'em!" A blur landed in front of her, red pigtail settling against the new arrival's neck as she cracked her knuckles. For a moment, her mind connected the braid to Ranma, until she realized that the girl in front of her was wearing Sailor Moon's uniform. Odd, she thought Sailor Moon was blonde.
"S-Sailor Moon?" It took her a brief moment to get over her stupor and address her normally. "I'm glad you're here. Now we can take these monsters out no problem."
"Ain't no 'we' here. This is too much for you. Get out of here, an' make sure ta keep everyone away from the fight zone. Just leave this one to me."
If the pigtail hadn't already set the connection, her attitude certainly reminded her of Ranma. She'd never have guessed Sailor Moon could be so... so rude. "Now just a second! I can fight too! This isn't the first time I've fought a monster!"
By now, the ghouls had gotten a little too close for comfort and were setting up their formation to trap them. Moon leapt toward the nearest one and started to pummel it with her fists. "Damn it Akane, now ain't the time to be such a stubborn, thick headed tomboy!" She leapt off that one and started in on the second. "These things'll kill ya! Now get outta here and make sure no idiots wander in!" She kicked off the second one and landed hard on the third one, cupping her hands together to throw an attack at the first one, juggling them in an effort to buy a little time. "Now! Moko Takabisha Revision: Moonlight Fang!"
She nodded mechanically and took off as fast as she could for the edge of the park. There was no mistaking it. Only one person she knew could be so full of himself and call her a thickheaded tomboy in the same moment, not to mention the attack she'd used. Somehow, Ranma was Sailor Moon. Somehow, that made her feel a little safer.
Claws dug into her shoulder, sending her tumbling to the ground and drawing blood. She was back on her feet instantly, relieved to see Akane far away and out of the danger zone. Now she could really cut loose. She pulled out her knife from weapons space and danced between the three, landing numerous small cuts that did little damage individually, but really added up.
One started to back away from the group. She kept her eye on it, but it was getting harder to continue dodging the swipes from the other two. She pulled off her tiara and tossed it at the one that had separated from the pack, cutting a shallow path across its left arm before being knocked to the ground. She'd been hoping that would take it out, but apparently, it was stronger than she'd expected. The others always seemed easier than this. Maybe because she'd always shown up in the middle of a fight before, but she didn't have the time to think about it. She briefly contemplated calling the others, but they were probably too far away to help her out. And since there were only three of them, she knew she'd have them down before they could arrive. That, and she doubted they'd enjoy a call from her, especially if it ended up being a false alarm.
She leapt onto the head of the nearest one and pushed off toward the next closest, delivering a powerful kick to its midsection. She attempted to hammer another blow into it when a heat wave caught her off guard and sent her knife flying from her hand as she was sent to the ground. The remaining ghoul was already in position to stab its claws into her, making a series of growls that sounded like laughter.
"Shine Aqua Illusion!"
"Sparkling Wide Pressure!"
The attacks combined, creating a single, powerful one that slammed into the ghoul looming over Moon and knocking it away, giving her a chance to hop to her feet and nod her head in greeting. "Didn't expect ya to be in town," she joked. "For a second, I thought I was gonna have all the fun."
"We ran into a girl who said you were fighting in here," Mercury explained, sort of. "She seemed a little shaken up, but she promised to keep bystanders away from the fight."
"Good." She leapt over to where her knife had fallen and scooped it up to stash back in its space, then she quickly moved to her fallen tiara and placed it back on her forehead. "Kijin Raishuu Dan!" The vacuum blades nicked the ghoul. Apparently, she hadn't dished out enough punishment yet, nor were they frail enough to be outright destroyed. Disappointing, but she could work with it.
"This park is a peaceful place to get a relaxing taste of nature in the middle of town," Jupiter stated as she struck a pose. "To bring chaos to this place is a deplorable act that I cannot forgive! In the name of Jupiter, you will be punished!" She rushed up to the nearest ghoul and hit it with a solid combo. It wasn't quite on the level that Moon was showing off, but it got the job done. Her fists hit cleanly, and her kick sent the ghoul staggering back. She didn't give it a chance to recover and continued to apply the pressure.
"Ya know," Moon quipped dryly as she dodged a heat wave, "I always thought them lame speeches were useless." Both Jupiter and Mercury shot her a glare, but she ignored it in favor of a complex combo that drove the ghoul back. "'Sides, this is almost normal." They didn't seem to believe her, but they focused on their own fights anyway.
While Mercury wasn't a physical fighter like the other two, her own standout skills put her in a unique position to help her fellow Senshi. She crossed her arms in front of her, gathering her magic for her oldest attack. "Shabon Freeze Spray!" The area was filled with a mist, cutting off the visibility of the ghouls while allowing both Jupiter and Moon to keep up what they were doing. That didn't mean she rested at that though. Despite the ghouls' magical resistance, she shot off a Mercury Aqua Rhapsody to keep the disoriented trio on their toes.
Jupiter was the first to score a takedown. All the damage had been adding up, and even though the ghoul had managed to land a hit on her, she still kicked it hard in the chest, caving in its ribs and knocking it flat on its back. She quickly followed that up with a stomp to the face which ended the creature. "That's one!" she called out gleefully.
"Good job!" Mercury called back.
Moon scoffed at having lost taking the first one down, but she pushed herself harder, bouncing from one to another before grabbing ahold of it and tossing it back at the other. "Moon Tiara Action!" The golden disc cut through both of them, but where one died, the other stayed on its feet. "Oh what the hell!"
The mist started to fade away, and the ghoul looked pissed. Its eyes set on Moon, and then it charged. Being the faster of the two, she easily avoided it, but it was pressing her, keeping her on her feet and on the defensive, waiting for it to make a mistake she could exploit. She would redirect the attacks when she could, but it was attacking her furiously, growling and grunting with each swipe.
It wasn't until Jupiter kicked it that she was allowed to breathe easier. Mercury hit it with a Shine Aqua Illusion, knocking it to the ground and freezing it in place, and Jupiter raised her hands, hitting it with a Sparkling Wide Pressure where Moon's tiara had cut through it. Even that didn't take it out though. Growling in frustration, Moon grabbed her knife and drove it into the ghoul's neck as hard as she could, finally killing it.
"So, uh, welcome to Nerima."
"Why didn't you call us?" Mercury chided her. "We could have helped you from the beginning."
"I didn't know you were in the area. Besides, I coulda taken 'em. I didn't need you two buttin' in on my fight." In her defensiveness, she was starting to fall into her typical habits. She knew they fought as a team. She put aside her ego to fight alongside them. But she was having just the crappiest day in a while now. And it all started this morning when Nabiki blew her off to 'take care of business' outside of the house. Like she didn't know what that was supposed to mean... Things hadn't really been getting any better, as it included a fight with Mousse that was started over a complete misconception about her actions as of late, among other things.
"This isn't some martial arts bout!" Jupiter snapped. "We fight together. The real Moon would know that."
Moon sighed, letting out the tension in one breath. She wasn't representing herself right now, and that meant she had to leave a good impression on her allies. "Yeah, I know. Sorry 'bout that, I've just been havin' a bad day." She waved halfheartedly and started to walk away. "Thanks for the help."
Mercury and Jupiter exchanged a worried glance and headed off to take care of their own business.
When she'd been informed the fight was finished, Akane raced home, unsure of how to handle the new information she'd learned. She had to talk to someone, but she wasn't sure she could trust Nabiki with it, and she wasn't sure if Kasumi would be able to help. There was no way she could talk to Ranma himself. Chances are, they'd just end up fighting about it, and that was no good.
Nabiki was unfortunately the first person she ran into, and her observant nature insured that she was all too easy to read. "What's up sis? You look like you saw a ghost."
Maybe if I keep it vague... she conceded, unable to hold it in. She took a seat and picked up one of the chips her sister had been nibbling on. "Have you ever learned something huge about someone you know? A friend even? Something so big that you're not actually sure what to do about it, and you're afraid that it's going to cause problems with that person?"
Nabiki stared at her blankly, only moving to eat a chip before settling back into a blank expression. It was starting to frustrate Akane, who was waiting for something, anything from her. "Aren't you going to say anything?! I mean, I guess it's a stupid question given that you're... you, but come on! You could answer!"
"Is this about Ranma?" her older sister finally asked, grabbing the remote to change the channel. When Akane clammed up, it was all the answer she needed. "You found out he's filling in for Sailor Moon, didn't you." It wasn't a question. She didn't even seem surprised by it.
Her mouth fell open in shock. "How the heck did you know that?!"
"Saw the idiot transform. Don't tell me he's still doing it where anyone can see it."
"What, no!" she stammered, trying to find the words and resigning herself to the fact that Nabiki already knew something so big. "Only that jerk would call me an idiot tomboy and throw off a variation on the Moko Takabisha! How is it he of all people is Sailor Moon?"
Nabiki snorted, but before she could say anything, Ranma called out her return and soon entered the living room. "Akane knows you're Sailor Moon," she quipped ever so casually the moment she saw her.
"Damn it Nabiki! Why'dja tell her?!"
"Oh my," Kasumi said from the doorway to the kitchen, "Ranma is Sailor Moon? Is this true Ranma?"
The cursed martial artist fell to her hands and knees, realizing that all three Tendo girls were now in on her secret. Kasumi walked over to her and gently patted her on the back. "There there Ranma. I think it's great that you're a magical girl. Someone always finds out their secret identity sooner or later. Be glad that it's just us, and not your father. Or your mother. I don't think she'd find those outfits too manly." It did not put her at ease. In fact, it only made her feel worse, especially after finding out how Akane had learned of it.
"It's cool that I got to meet Mercury and Jupiter though. They seem nice. I'm a little jealous you get to fight alongside them."
Ranma was momentarily dumbfounded by her comment. Usually, jealousy meant pain. Lots of it. "Huh? Yeah, I guess. I mean, I ain't really gotten a chance to talk to any of 'em."
With a smirk, Nabiki rested her elbows on the table and leaned forward, lacing her fingers together for extra effect. "Well I got to talk to someone very interesting today. I'm sure you know her Ranma. Does the name Usagi Tsukino ring a bell?"
"How the hell do you know that name?!" Ranma growled, feeling herself suddenly put at a horrible disadvantage.
She shook her head pitifully and let out an exaggerated sigh. "You practically gave it to me. How many newly admitted female teenage coma patients do you think were admitted to the hospital recently."
Ranma grit her teeth. She had no ammunition to fight back. 'Doing the right thing' wasn't something Nabiki understood, but it was the only thing she had. "So what do ya plan to do? You just gonna sell her out for your big score?"
"There are plenty of people that would pay a fortune for information on any of the Senshi, Moon especially. The money I would make would leave me set for life." She sat there with a smug smile, torturing her with her words, making her squirm before she continued. "But no. I've decided there's a better way I can spin this. Not nearly as profitable but far more fun, and it still leaves other avenues open for later. She's your newest fiancée."
"What?!" Akane shouted in outrage. She was having trouble following their conversation, but all she really needed to hear was fiancée to find something she could understand. "Ranma, you pervert!"
Sometimes, Nabiki loved the work she did. Watching the way Ranma floundered when he tried to explain himself, she decided that now was one of those times.
The day started with a relatively peaceful calm. The last day of Golden Week before school was set to start. With all the crap he'd been through, Ranma figured he deserved a day of peace before returning to Kuno Hell. He was already running through plans to put a stop to whatever crazy scheme Principal Kuno would inevitably cook up.
He strolled downstairs with a rather upbeat attitude. Sure, Akane still hadn't apologized for yesterday after hearing Nabiki's lie, but he was so used to it, he almost didn't care. It did eventually come out that Usagi was Ranma's mystery Senshi benefactor, after Nabiki dragged some cash out of Akane, but by then, the damage was done.
After a quick spar with his father, he sat down for breakfast and enjoyed Kasumi's perfect cooking. He won the morning food combat ritual and ended up with more food than Genma by the end of the meal. Combined with Nabiki having promised to keep her trap shut about what she knew, not that he expected much from it, and a similar promise from Akane and Kasumi, all he really had to worry about was the usual ruckus in his life and those two girls that were looking for the brooch, but he wouldn't be around to deal with it. He was going to visit Usagi to check on her condition.
"Come on Ranma, I want to visit her too!" Akane begged. "I haven't gotten to meet her yet."
"You do know she's in a coma, right?"
"So? You said she can still hear, so I can still encourage her to get better soon. I fear what'll happen to the others with you in charge. And I don't trust you for a second to be alone with her."
He shot her a glare but let out a sigh and ran a hand through his bangs. She really wasn't going to let that whole 'she's your fiancée' thing go. "Fine, whatever. Geez, not even a week on the job and I already got three people figurin' out who she is..."
"Well to be fair, you didn't keep your curse secret for very long either. But don't worry about it. I won't tell anyone. I doubt even Sayuri and Yuka would believe it anyway."
Ranma grumbled under his breath and left the house, stuffing his hands in his pockets. "Hurry up, we still need ta buy some lunches ta eat later, unless you wanna eat hospital food."
Akane hurried after him, closing the door behind her and leaving through the gate, rather than over the wall like her fiancé. "You should have told me! I could have made something for you to eat."
The blood drained from his face as he thought of the horror she could have inflicted on him. "No thanks... I'd rather not be laid up in the next room gettin' my stomach pumped. An' if an enemy decides to attack, I sure as hell ain't gonna be much use if I'm pukin' up yer horrible cooking."
He was flat on his face the moment the words tumbled out of his mouth, her foot pressed right on his back in a hard stomp. "You jerk!" she angrily shouted. "You don't have to exaggerate that much! I've been getting better!" He crawled out of the Ranma shaped crater and continued to stroll down the street.
When they reached the station, they bought two tickets taking them to Juuban and a set of boxed lunches to eat later on. The trip was relatively quiet. Mostly chit chat, but nothing about Sailor Moon, either the original or the temp. There were far too many people around for them to get into that subject. Even so, they didn't fight too much. They bickered occasionally, but it was nothing more than their usual bickering, and nobody even paid the couple any attention.
When the train arrived, the pair walked around Juuban for a while, taking in the sights. Akane was hesitant as she walked beside him, getting her bearings in the unfamiliar city. Finally she spoke.
"So I've been wondering... That brooch of Makoto's, did you really steal it from her?"
He snorted in amusement and reached into his weapons space for the transformation brooch. "You mean this one?" he asked her sarcastically, ignoring her look of surprise. "It ain't hers, and I ain't gonna let her get her hands on it."
She attempted to grab it from him, but he easily sidestepped her and slipped it back into the safety of his weapons space. "Ranma! You can't just claim it's yours for whatever reason! You have to give it back to her!"
"It ain't mine either," he replied bluntly. "I promised to take care of it. I ain't goin' back on that promise." A couple walked past them hand in hand. He watched them for a moment, a well-dressed blond man and his elegant aqua haired lady friend, feeling a strange familiarity from them, before continuing. "Come on. We still got some time before visiting hours start."
After looking around the town some more and eating an early lunch, they finally arrived at the hospital. Ranma had transformed into a girl by this point, as she usually did when she visited. Signing in quickly, Ranma led Akane to Usagi's room.
Of course the blonde was still asleep, however she was surprised to see a visitor sitting in the chair, talking with her animatedly. Naru looked up at the sound of the door and grinned. "Hey Ranko, good to see ya! Who's your friend?"
Akane was glaring at Ranma with a look that clearly said 'more girls?!' and 'what, another fiancée?' She hadn't been entirely happy to know she was palling around with the rest of the Senshi, let alone Sailor Moon, even if the leader of the team was in a coma at the moment. Ranma ignored the look and turned to the auburn haired girl with a pained smile. "Yeah, hey Naru. This is Akane Tendo, my cousin. Akane, this is Naru Osaka. She's a friend of Usagi."
The accidental stressing of friend and Usagi in an effort to get her fiancée to tone down her anger may have had an unintentional effect on her, as she dropped the attitude immediately, instead choosing to wear a wide eyed, awe struck expression. "It's nice to meet you Naru. I'm Akane."
She chuckled lightly, shooting Ranma a curious smile quickly, no doubt at the dark blue haired girl's strange turn around, before addressing Akane. "Nice ta meet you too. Guess this means our ice cream trip just got bigger."
Naru explained the plan they'd arranged to take Usagi out for some ice cream when she woke up and invited her, as Ranko's cousin and a new friend, to join them. She was obviously conflicted between hanging out with someone she was engaged to and knew was a Senshi and someone she thought was one, and pounding Ranma's head in for making plans with another girl, but Naru appeared to take that as a confliction over whether to join or not.
"So how's she doin'?" Ranma asked, interrupting the moment to get to why she was really here.
"Pretty obvious, I guess." She nodded her head in Usagi's direction, her previous upbeat attitude gone with the change in topic. "No change, far as I know. Doctors aren't sure when she's gonna wake up."
The three of them observed the sleeping girl. None of them had a clue of how to help her, and Akane barely knew what was going on, possibly Naru too. Ranma still suspected she was one of the Senshi, despite not having any proof, but she couldn't place her to one of the others either. None of them were doctors. She'd look perfectly healthy if it weren't for the fact that she was in a hospital bed.
Naru shivered and looked away. "It sucks seein' her like this. I wish she'd just wake up already." She started to pace around the room slowly, venting her frustrations at the current situation forced on her best friend. She looked at Ranma a few times, but she never said anything. Finally, she took a deep breath and stopped. "I guess I should be goin' in case any of her other friends show up. I know a few of them were saying they probably would."
"Yeah," Akane sighed, "I'm sure she's got a lot of friends who want to see her." She bowed in respect for the blonde haired Senshi of the Moon. "Get better soon Usagi. Your friends are waiting for you."
Ranma smirked in her usual cocky manner. "Don't worry. I got this."
"So she finally got out of that phase of her life," Naru explained with a sigh. "I swear, if I heard her talk about how she was gonna date old guys for money once she got into high school one more time, I was gonna smack her."
"Sounds like your sister can be a hassle," Akane giggled. "I only have to worry about Nabiki selling pictures of me working out." Her expression fell suddenly as she thought about it more. "Though she does encourage Kuno..."
"Nah, she's a good kid. She just gets the weirdest ideas in her head. She's trying to be a magical girl now, but I don't think she realizes people don't just get magic and become Senshi. Maybe she should hang around you guys. She might see that being a martial artist is more obtainable."
Ranma swallowed a scoop of ice cream with a shrug. "Yeah, sure, whatever. I've been told I'm good with kids."
After they left the hospital, Naru had suggested that she show them around Juuban. Since they didn't really have a reason to turn her down, the two of them followed her and learned all about the town, including where she and Usagi went to school. This tour ended with the three of them at the Crown, where they played some arcade games before settling in to eat some ice cream. Naru learned firsthand just how powerful an opponent Ranma Saotome, or rather Ranko Tendo, could be when she wanted ice cream. Akane just called her shameless.
It had been surprising for them to learn just how long they'd been out. It was starting to get late, and the Nerima pair needed to be getting on the train soon. "I had fun today. We should really hang out again sometime soon."
A dull throb forced its way into Ranma's head. She nodded mechanically and stood up suddenly. "Yeah. That's a great idea. We gotta go Akane." She looked at her pointedly.
Akane's eyes widened, but she was quick on the uptake, nodding urgently. "Oh, yeah. You still have homework, don't you? I had a lot of fun too. See ya Naru!" Once they were out of the combined arcade and ice cream parlor, she pulled Ranma aside. "Now?" she hissed.
"Just get on the train and head home without me. I'll catch up."
"I'm not letting you fight alone!"
Feeling frustration at her defiance, Ranma shot her the most heated glare she could. "This one's big 'Kane. It's that crow chick again. I can feel it. I ain't lettin' her get away again, and you can't be there. She got me an' the others fightin' each other just with an attack. She'd take you down in a second."
She growled under her breath, but her face eventually twisted into a look of resigned disappointment mixed with anger. "Fine! But I'm not going to wait up!" She stormed off towards the train station right as the communicator started to beep.
After making sure no one was watching, she leapt up to a nearby roof and transformed. "I'm comin'." Without waiting for a response or even looking to see who'd contacted her, she closed the connection and hid the communicator away.
Hopping across the rooftops, she found the other Senshi already in battle against a group of ghouls and something else. They were very bird-like, more so than even Nemain Catha herself. Despite their human-like faces, their bodies were only vaguely humanoid. Feathers covered their bodies and their legs were short and clawed, like the powerful talons of a bird of prey. Instead of arms, they had wings. And they were spitting wind attacks at the Senshi and using their aerial advantage to avoid any serious retaliation. She couldn't even begin to count how many of them there were.
And riding on the back of one of these bird creatures was Nemain, grinning like her usual self despite the missing wing. She hadn't involved herself, yet. Thankfully. But she really needed to learn not to gloat before the party really got started.
She gathered a few of her knives and threw them in rapid succession at the birds. They didn't appear to be as durable as their ghoulish cousins, since a single knife traveling at high speeds to the head was enough to end one before they realized what was going on. Three fell like this. Three in a sky full of them. "Hey ya old hag!" she shouted out, standing proudly atop a nearby building with a wide grin. "Miss me?"
She leapt up and out, kicking off the birds until she was right on top of Nemain. "Sailor Moon!" the bird woman hissed, leaping from her perch onto another one nearby just as Moon crushed its head. "You and your Senshi may have bested me last time, but I've come prepared this time. These harpies I've borrowed will be more than enough for you!"
The blasts of wind came in from several directions from the many harpies surrounding her in the air. Rather than leap up, she decided to let gravity take her and dropped to the ground where the Senshi were busy fighting with several ghouls that littered the street. With gritted teeth, she leapt toward the nearest one and started to pummel it.
Mars was having a hard time dodging, as was Mercury, but they did their best to avoid being surrounded. "Behind you!" Moon shouted, slamming into the nearest advancing ghoul to buy them some room.
She quickly turned around to see one preparing to launch a heat wave, but she was quicker on the draw, hitting it with a Burning Mandala and backing away. "Thanks." It was reluctant, but she had to admit it helped her out.
"Aim for the harpies!" Mercury suggested. "Moon, can you handle the ghouls?"
"Pfft, you don't know who yer talkin' to, do ya." She leapt on top of one and pulled out a katana. "Fat, slow, and ugly," she taunted, kicking another in the face and slashing at it with the katana. "Not a whole lot goin' for ya."
Most of the pack of ghouls took the bait, leaving Mars and Mercury mostly free to snipe at the harpies from the ground. Moon bounced along the battlefield, snapping off light attacks at any enemy she passed, before coming up to Venus, the next Senshi she spotted. "Hey Venus, got a little present for ya!" She tossed the katana into the air and immediately reversed course to bring the fight back to the ghouls.
She caught it instinctively and sized it up. Nice balance, not too heavy, looked sharp. She grinned and swung it at the nearest ghoul. "Yeah, I can use this. Thanks!" She ducked under its claws and struck again.
With the sword in one hand, she would counter with her chain for an effective one two punch. While she wasn't as fast as Moon, she was able to hold off the two ghouls that were her opponents.
Jupiter had found that her lightning worked great on the harpies. The problem was, there were so many of them that it seemed like every one she took down, two retaliated with gusts of wind that forced her on the run. It was getting harder for her to attack with the way the wind was raining down on her. More than a few times, she'd been caught by the edge of one of these attacks and stumbled before regaining her ground. It was getting frustrating.
"Deep Submerge!" The pressurized blast of water whizzed past her, slamming into one of the harpies attacking her and sending it to the ground where it died. She nodded her head gratefully to Neptune for the help and called on her lightning once more.
"Sparkling Wide Pressure!"
Uranus and Saturn fought side by side, fighting off three more ghouls. Between the Space Sword and the Silence Glaive, they were scoring plenty of hits, but the monsters just wouldn't go down. Unfortunately, they were too tightly packed into the street with their allies too spread out on all parts of the battlefield for either of them to really let loose. Still, they were faring better than others.
That left Pluto, who was doing her best to help out where needed. She was handling a little bit of everything, from attacking the harpies to helping hold off the ghoul that was still pestering Mars and Mercury, even taking pot shots at Nemain when she could. But she could see that it was only a matter of time before they were worn down if they kept at this pace. The harpies were doing a good job of covering the backs of the ghouls, and there were so many of them.
With a heavy slash of the glaive, Saturn finally tore down one of the ghouls. Unfortunately, she couldn't take a moment to catch her breath and was forced to leap forward to keep from getting hit by one that had slipped around behind her.
Seeing Uranus take a big hit, she jumped in front of the blonde and summoned her Silence Wall to protect them both from the pair of heat waves. This left her back open to a grinning Nemain.
The one winged crow woman raised her hand as it filled with a blood red orb of energy. It pulsed and grew, gaining more power until she was satisfied with it. "Harbinger of Downfall!" she called, sending the large orb of magic streaking down to hit the unprotected Saturn's back when the wall fell and send the youngest Senshi tumbling toward the ghouls.
"Saturn!" Uranus screamed, a rage building in her that she really wanted to take out on the one that had attacked her adopted daughter, but she forced herself to focus first on the ghouls that were preparing to pounce. "World Shaking!"
The attack knocked both of them off guard, and she wasted no time in cutting both of them down, using her anger to drive her. She knelt beside her immediately and checked her over. She was still alive, thankfully, and barely conscious, but she wouldn't be helping out in this battle anymore. "Neptune!" Her lover was beside her in an instant, watching her back while shie lifted the young girl up. "Get her someplace safe." She pressed the delirious young girl into the aqua haired Senshi's arms, then handed her the Silence Glaive, and turned her attention to the battle.
The two had a very good understanding of each other, and Neptune knew she couldn't talk her out of what she was going to do. All she could do was offer her words of encouragement. "Be careful."
Uranus smiled grimly. "I'm not going to stop until I pay her back for that. Leave this to me." And then she was off, looking for the best way to get her hands around Nemain's throat.
Moon bounced between the three ghouls she was fighting like a pinball that just wouldn't drop. Not once did she touch the ground, nor did she take a hit, surprisingly. "Hey ya old hag!" she called out to Nemain, well aware of what she'd done to Saturn. "Betcher pissed about what I did to yer wing!"
Nemain let out a primal growl and focused her attention on the redheaded replacement Senshi of the Moon. "I'm far stronger than I was last time Sailor Moon! The crystal of power I was given has granted me immense strength! I will see you dead! Death Curse!" She drew a mass of magic in and launched it at Moon's back as she jumped from one ghoul's head to another. Rather than hit her target though, the slippery redhead leapt away from them and rolled to a stop.
"Ooh, that's gotta suck," she chirped, watching as Nemain's attack obliterated all three of her own ghouls. Idly, she decided that if it could do that to the ghouls, she didn't want to get hit by it before cupping her hands together. "Moonlight Fang!"
The unexpected blue and white orb slammed into the harpy holding Nemain aloft, exploding on impact and sending the one winged crow woman to the ground. She dug her claws into the pavement and pulled herself up. "Mooooooon! I will tear you to piecessssss!"
She's bleedin' magic from how pissed she is, Moon observed. If I can keep her off balance, I might be able to get a good hit in and take her down before this drags on. "Gotta catch me first!" She pulled down an eyelid and stuck out her tongue childishly. "Blaaaaaah!"
Rather than head for her directly, she decided not to stick around and took off toward Mars and Mercury, who were busy fending off their ghoul. "Comin' through!" she called out, slamming into it and sending both of them to the ground. She was quicker to her feet, and she used that to drive her knife into the ghoul. Her allies had already backed away, and Mars was back to hunting harpies.
"Moon, look out!" Before she could realize what had happened, Mercury shoved her out of the way, taking the hit that Nemain had thrown recklessly in an attempt to hit Moon.
"Damn it! You okay Mercury?" The blue haired Senshi of Mercury coughed but didn't seem to be able to climb to her feet at the moment. "That's it..." she murmured, climbing to her feet and cracking her knuckles. "That's how you want it? That's how you'll get it."
She took off suddenly, using the extra momentum to slam her fist into Nemain's gut and cut off the attack she was preparing. The crow woman's eyes remained wide in surprise and pain from the attack she barely saw coming. Another hit pummeled her. And then another. A fist solidly caught her chin, and then a foot slammed into her shoulder. She barely managed to signal the harpies to help her.
The wind attacks forced Moon to give her some distance, and she decided she really needed to take out some more of those damn bird things. "Thought I got enough bird people with the Phoenix tribe... Moon Tiara Action!" She whipped the tiara off in one direction and hopped into the air, using whatever foothold she could to bring the fight to the harpies. None of them had expected the move, and the tiara took out two of them, while Moon herself started to pound on them in midair.
Nemain had seen just what the Senshi were capable of for herself in their last fight. Three more of them aside from Moon could effectively take down the remaining two ghouls. She had nothing to smile about as she waved her hands in the air intricately, calling on the magic for her next spell. "Nightmare Waltz!"
Jupiter fell to the ground when the attack hit, clutching her head in pain. Visions only she could see tormented her. Visions of her mother and father, forced to relive their deaths several times over, worse and worse every time. Her friends left her, or worse, died right in front of her. Her greatest fears played out before her, and there was nothing she could do to stop it.
Pluto pulled her aside, setting her near Mercury to give the pair a chance to rest up, and maybe give Jupiter a moment to settle down from the visions the attack had inflicted on her. She took stock of the battlefield. Neptune still hadn't returned, and she wished she'd return soon, not that she expected the Outer Senshi to make much of a difference. Uranus and Mars were striking at the harpies that Moon was graciously keeping still while the pigtailed girl used them as stepping stones, and Venus...
Venus wasn't going to take it sitting down. Breaking away from the ghouls, she ran straight for Nemain, hoping to keep her busy before she could strike at another of them the same way she had been doing. She lashed out with her chain, hoping to hold her down while she struck with the sword Moon had given her.
It looked like Nemain was the type to falter under direct pressure, as Moon had established earlier, but after a few good hits, she countered Venus's strike and released an attack at point blank range. "Harbinger of Downfall!" While it lacked the strength that the one that had knocked Saturn out had, it was powerful enough to send her to the ground, gasping for breath and fighting to stand.
Moon grit her teeth as she saw Venus go down. They were dropping like flies. Letting loose several vacuum blades using the Kijin-Gun Dai Ranbu, she dive bombed Nemain as she advanced on the fallen Venus. "Not on my watch ya won't!" Her feet slammed into the back of Nemain's head and rolled forward, using her momentum to scoop up Venus and sprint to where Mercury and Jupiter were out of the way and resting.
If Nemain was angry before, constantly seeing Moon ruin her plans had her seeing red. She raised her hands, gathering energy in them while everyone was busy. Yes, she would end them all, especially Moon. She would crush her skull under her talons. But she aimed her next attack at Mars. First, she would demoralize her, make her beg for death as her friends died around her. "Death Curse!"
Moon's eyes widened as she heard the words. Dropping Venus unceremoniously on the ground, she put everything she had into beating out the attack. She'd promised Usagi she'd protect them, and so far, she felt like she was doing a pretty piss poor job at it. One foot in front of the other, magic and ki both powering her movements, she just barely beat out the attack just as Mars realized what was happening. With all her might, she shoved the Senshi in red out of the way, taking the full force of the attack herself.
She hit the ground hard, rolling down the broken street before finally coming to a stop by running into the back of a destroyed car. It took several seconds for the ringing in her ears to stop. When it did, she heard the surprised gasps of the Senshi and the mad cackling of Nemain.
Mars was beside her the moment she regained footing, surprised that Moon had gone out of the way for her, even taking a very powerful attack to save her. "Why did you do that?!" She couldn't comprehend it. Moon had no reason to sacrifice herself for any of them, especially after Mercury had done the same thing for her.
Moon coughed, feeling short of breath and full of pain, but nothing she hadn't dealt with before. She climbed slowly to her feet with the assistance of Mars. She hadn't quite heard her question, instead taking a moment to grin at the shocked anger that Nemain radiated. Uranus was keeping her busy at the moment, but she would have to work fast.
Her left arm hung limply at her side, broken from taking the brunt of the attack, possibly dislocated too. With a bit of effort, she tore off the ribbon on her back and unraveled it. "What are you doing?" Mars asked her as if she were insane.
"I got an idea," she coughed, working hard to regain her breath, "an' I only need one arm to do it. Thing is, I need to do it alone. The rest of you guys need to pull back."
Mars' face contorted in anger. "Like hell!" she growled. "You'll get killed if you go in there, especially alone."
There was a chill in the air as Moon worked to tie the ribbon into a makeshift sling. She seemed almost emotionless when she finally tied it off. "It's my strongest attack, and it's the sort a thing that don't discriminate between friend an' foe. Especially if they're spittin' out heat like you an' Uranus are. I can do this, but I gotta do this alone. No buts." She rearranged the ribbon so that it was a bit more comfortable and closed her eyes, feeling the power inside her as she took a deep breath. "Yo ugly! Was that supposed ta hurt?" Like a rocket, she was off.
She wasn't sure if she was making the right choice, but Mars swallowed the lump in her throat. Moon had taken that hit for her. If she was so adamant about doing this herself, she would give her the chance. "Uranus, Pluto! Fall back! Moon is going in alone!"
Pluto complied instantly, backing away from the battle and taking shots at the remaining harpies. Uranus wasn't very happy about that, especially when the bandaged up Moon started dancing around her and Nemain, throwing out insults like it was going out of style. "Why the hell should I?! This is as much my fight as it is hers!"
Attacks of all sorts raged around her, but none hit their mark. "Too slow! Man, I think a snail could dodge that!"
"She's planning some sort of attack! I have no idea what it is, but she says it's dangerous! Now get out of there Uranus!"
With a snort, Uranus swung her sword at Nemain, ignoring Mars completely. "Uranus, you'll withdraw at once," Pluto ordered. She looked back in shock, but she complied with her fellow Outer Senshi, leaping away and letting Moon handle it, however it was she planned to handle it by dodging in circles.
Moon let out a breath she didn't know she'd been holding when she saw Uranus join the others. She'd only have one shot at this, and she had to make it count. She had two ghouls and the remaining harpies that she'd need to take with Nemain. She allowed herself to fall deeper into the Soul of Ice. Cool, calm, collected. She'd gotten good at throwing around insults without allowing any emotion to taint her aura.
"Stand still you little worm!" Nemain was spewing out heat like a volcano. Every attack she launched missed, be it by a little or a lot. She was having trouble keeping up, and every time, Moon had some snappy comeback.
"Missed me, missed me, nyaaaaa!"
"Oh, I think I felt a breeze."
"Harpies! Ghouls! Attack her!"
"Yawn. This is gettin' boring. Can I change the channel?"
The Senshi weren't sure what she was hoping to accomplish by dodging, but she was cutting her circle tighter and tighter, like a spiral. Neither were they sure what she hoped to accomplish by pissing Nemain off so much that she was literally shaking with fury.
"Remember when ya said a worm like me couldn't hurt ya? Your missing wing begs ta differ." That comment outdid all of them, causing her anger to flow off her in waves, visible to the naked, untrained eye.
Moon came to a stop with her back to the Senshi, standing right in front of Nemain while the crow woman tried to slice her to ribbons with her claws. She crouched down, curling her hand into a tight fist and then pouncing. "Hiryu Shoten Ha!" With a small twist of the wrist, the uppercut connected. For a second, nothing happened, leaving the Senshi wondering if she'd been bluffing. And then, all hell broke loose.
The vortex came first, pulling Nemain and the ghouls into the air and dragging the harpies into the maelstrom of winds. Almost instantly after that, the entire thing exploded. The concussive force was enough to blow out every window on the block.
Moon was violently thrown back by the unexpected reaction, her uniform tattered and her skirt nearly gone from the explosion. A single thud followed that sometime later when the vortex finally went out as Nemain hit the ground hard, unable to get back up. Moon remained face down on the smashed concrete for a moment before slowly pulling herself up onto a single hand and her knees. Her vision swam, darkening at the edges as she coughed out a laugh. The skies were clear of harpies and the remaining ghouls had been dusted. "Forgot magic and ki blew up when mixed," she coughed out jokingly.
She watched as Uranus approached Nemain confidently. Mars was asking her just what the hell she'd done, but she was too preoccupied to answer. She hurt all over, and she was surprised she hadn't shattered her arm completely from the aftermath. Her vision got darker until all she could see was Uranus pointing her sword at Nemain's throat. She was saying something, but she couldn't quite make it out. When Uranus unleashed an attack point blank, she knew it was over.
"If ya don't mind," she coughed, "I think I'm gonna pass out now." And then she pitched forward, her vision going black.