Author's Note: Anyone ever have trouble remembering certain tiny, little insignificant things that few people would probably notice but still bug them as they're writing? Yeah, this chapter was full of that. Still much easier to get done than last chapter though, even with getting sick.
Thanks again to everyone who reviewed, and special thanks to stanley teriaca 7 and tuatara, who both provided some great discussion and helped me out with a few troubles I had with both this chapter and coming ones. Short note this time, but it's mostly to keep proper formatting, since I don't have much else to say.
Ryoga Hibiki was no stranger to unusual conditions when he slept. Considering he spent most of his nights in a tent, he'd learned to adapt to all manner of weather conditions when he was asleep. What he couldn't sleep through was an incessant beeping and a female Ranma's chattering voice. "Damn it Ranma, shut up! I'm trying to sleep!" he growled as he shifted around in his futon. She must have set an alarm clock just to keep him from sleeping.
"Ehehe," she laughed nervously, "I gotta go. See ya in a bit."
Ryoga's eyes narrowed into slits as he sat up and glared at his rival, thinking he was talking to him. "And where do you think you're going?"
Ranma pointed out the window where the snow was coming down hard. "Gonna go take care a that," she replied. "Go back ta sleep."
The constantly lost martial artist was on his feet in an instant, where his glare grew more heated. "You're going to go fight," he growled, his hands clenched tightly into fists. "Hmph, that's low Ranma, getting experience against tough opponents while I struggle! I won't allow it!"
Genma grunted in his sleep before returning to his noisy snoring. The pair watched him carefully until they were sure he was asleep. When they started talking again, it was at a much quieter level.
"It ain't like that Ryoga. You may be able ta fight 'em, but they're still dangerous."
"Right, and you get to play hero while everyone calls me a coward. This is just like you."
Ranma threw her hands up in exasperation and headed for her closet in defeat. "Fine, whatever, just keep out of the thick of it." She slid the closet door open and started to dig through it. "Where'd he put it...? I know Pop put it in here somewhere. Here!" She pulled out a wrinkled tuxedo and threw it to Ryoga. "Put that on, and make some sort of mask. Ain't no one gonna question someone in a tux hangin' around the fight. So long as ya don't call any a yer attacks by their names, nobody will find out it's you."
He really didn't want to put on the tuxedo, especially since it was Ranma's, but no matter how much he glared at the formal garment or Ranma, he still reluctantly climbed into it and formed several of his bandanas into a makeshift mask. The costume was a bit tight on him, but it would do. "I look like an idiot," he grumbled.
Ranma snickered and opened the window to let her and Ryoga leap out into the night. "It's perfect. Tuxedo Porkchop, fightin' evil in the name of bacon." Ryoga took a swing at her, but she dodged out of the way and dropped into an alleyway. "Let me know if you see anyone." She then pulled out a brooch and when the coast was clear, raised it to the sky. "Moon Cosmic Power, Make Up!" With a flash of light, Ranma was wearing the truly ridiculous costume that Ryoga had seen on the girls that called themselves Senshi.
He started to snicker. "Good, I'm not the only one looking like an idiot."
"Hey! I didn't choose this thing!" She leapt onto his head and springboarded up to a nearby roof. "We don't got time ta fight each other. Keep up Porkchop!"
He chased her across the roofs of Furinkan until they reached the high school where Ranma leapt down and greeted a group of girls in similar outfits of varying color.
"Alright, everyone's here. Let's head out," Sailor Moon announced upon taking a count of the collected team.
"Hang on a minute," Mars interjected, pointing an accusatory finger at Ryoga. "Who is that?"
"That's just Tuxedo-"
"A friend!" Ryoga interrupted hotly. "It doesn't matter what my name is! I'm a friend of Sailor Moon!"
Moon shrugged in response. "He decided to tag along. You can trust him." She turned to glare at him lightly. "Can't they Porkchop?"
He growled under his breath but nodded. "I can't ignore people in need." Under his breath, he hissed, "You owe me one Ranma," to the boy turned girl turned magical girl beside him.
The Senshi were quiet for a moment as they processed what they'd learned. It was Venus that broke the silence. "Oh, I get it! He's your boyfriend! I thought I heard a guy when we were talking earlier!"
"Oh hell no!" Moon barked defiantly.
Back in Azabu-Juuban, a woman stepped out of a portal with a calm, determined look on her face. At first glance, she looked perfectly normal, if a bit taller and more muscular than most. If one were to look closer though, they would be able to see her inhuman, slitted golden eyes and her long, claw-like fingernails. Her hair was cut short and looked slightly messy for the no nonsense look she had.
Another woman appeared after her. This one was shorter and leaner than her companion. Her long white hair had a slight glow to it and seemed to dance in a nonexistent wind. Unlike the combat outfit the taller woman wore, she wore a thin dress and lacked shoes. It looked like a light wind would blow her away. "Clever plan," she quipped, taking a quick look of her surroundings as the portal closed behind them. "Think we'll find it before they catch on?"
The taller woman frowned. "I'm unsure Anemoi. I don't even know why the mistress wants us to find it, but I'm not going to question her judgment." She cast a glance at her companion. "You made sure to leave your crystal behind, right?"
"I'm not stupid. That thing would be like a beacon to draw them right to us. At least we have Chione fighting them."
"If you're worried about her, you can leave this to me. They should be fighting soon."
Anemoi bit her lip and hissed through her teeth. "Of course I'm worried about her. We already lost Nemain. I don't want to lose her too."
The taller woman grunted and started to walk away. "We can't waste any more time. We have a mission to do. If you're going to baby her, go now. But if I didn't believe in her, I wouldn't have given her my crystal."
The source of the storm was centered on an area that was full of bad memories for a certain pair of the group that was heading into the heart of the blizzard that was steadily growing stronger. "Just great," Moon muttered under her breath as they reached the gate. "Ya sure ya wanna fight this one Charlotte?"
"Shut up!" Ryoga growled. "I'm not a coward like you are!"
Looming in the distance, harpies circled over the structure that housed Kolholtz High School's ice rink. Moon shrugged and headed for the building that felt like so long ago had held the site of her martial arts ice skating match. "Guess were gonna have ta tear this place down again. 'Least the Golden Pair ain't here this time."
Ryoga shuddered at the mention of the crazed duo. "Let's just get this done with."
The Senshi and Ryoga marched toward the ice rink ready to take on the bringer of the blizzard that covered the district. As they moved closer to the source, they began to make out a figure in the snow, standing atop the roof of the ice rink.
The figure leapt down and landed before them with a pleasant smile. Her pure white hair hung down in front of her eyes. Her skin was pale, and the light white dress she wore seemed ill fitting for the cold temperatures. "Greetings, girls. My name is Chione, right hand and sole remaining relative to the admirable Anemoi Venti, one of the Three Great Demon Lords serving our Mistress. Well, two now." She bowed her head to them in respect and rested her arms behind her back. "No hard feelings, but I need to kill you."
"I dunno, that sounds kinda personal to me," Moon quipped. "Then again, I'm used ta people tryin' ta kill me."
Chione continued to smile unfalteringly. "Maybe, but we still have to fight." She looked the redhead up and down for a moment and nodded. "I must say, I thought you would be taller."
Her brow twitched at the insult. Moon wasted no time in summoning the Moon Stick. "Hey Tux, focus on the birds." Her hands blurred into motion as she threw out several knives and rushed toward the abominable snow lady. Chione launched a series of what seemed to be ice and snowballs at her both to attack and intercept the knives, but Moon was able to dodge them before reaching her.
Their clash served as the opening fire for their allies to jump into action. The snow was providing an impressive cloak to obscure the harpies as they got into position to attack. Right off the bat, they were able to swoop in and attack, forcing the Senshi on the defensive. All except for Ryoga, who was seemingly oblivious to their attacks in the storm and started launching bandanas at any of the ugly bird people that came close.
"You intrigue me, Princess," Chione complimented Moon with her ever present smile. Despite holding tightly to Moon's left fist and right foot, she'd still managed to clock her with the Moon Stick. A nasty bruise was already forming on the snow woman's cheek. "If I didn't have to kill you, I would love to become one with you."
She shuddered at the thought of having a demon as her next suitor. "Sorry ta disappoint you, but I ain't a princess." With some clever contorting of her body, Moon managed to twist her body enough to plant her left foot on Chione's face and arched her body enough to make room for the Mars Flame Sniper that slammed into the snow woman. She broke free while Chione screamed in pain and turned back to see Mars nod her head before turning her attention back to the harpies. "Ya ain't gonna kill me either."
Chione didn't have any time to recover as she was soon buffeted from the sides by a combination of Sparkling Wide Pressure and World Shaking. "Yes," she murmured as she wiped the blood away with her sleeve, "this will be an interesting battle." Before she could be hit with another attack, the snow whipped around her at high speeds, obscuring the pale woman from sight.
Moon barely dodged the ice lance that lashed out at her from within the intense blizzard. She planted a hand on top of it and leapt away to get some room. Unfortunately, another appeared on her right, and then from behind. She moved quickly to avoid the attacks, trying to get a bead on where Chione was attacking from. One of the lances nicked her side, sending a freezing chill up her side. With a grunt of annoyance, she leapt toward the building and rebounded off the wall to get some height on her opponent and maybe take some time to think of a counter while thinning out the harpy swarm.
Jupiter batted one of the lances away and tried to find Chione while keeping an eye out for any more surprise attacks. "Mercury, can you see her anywhere?" In a move that would have made Moon proud if she was watching, she leapt onto one lance and pushed off of it to avoid another. She crossed her arms and sent the lightning at the second lance as she sailed away from it.
The team genius had already summoned her visor when Jupiter called out for her. She took in the battle with a frown. While it provided some help in seeing through the storm, it was almost like Chione had vanished. There were spikes of the snow woman's power ever so often when the lances were summoned, but other than that, she couldn't spot her. "It's like she's become one with the storm!" she called out.
Jupiter frowned as well. She hated enemies who hid in the shadows and launched attacks. She noticed Uranus was dealing with the lances like she was, but she had more important things to worry about. Like the lance that was heading straight for her. She prepared to leap away when a howling screech of pain ripped through the air and the lance vanished.
There was a self-satisfied smirk on Uranus's face as she pulled her Space Sword out from the lance she'd cut into. All of the lances disappeared, and she watched carefully as the snow swirled together and left Chione behind. The demon was gritting her teeth.
In her hands, Chione gripped a crystal tightly, drawing on its power. An aura of white and blue coalesced around her, sending a chill down the backs of the Senshi. Even Ryoga could feel the power behind it. "I think this is the part where the boss takes on another form."
Her already pale skin took on a tough, glassy appearance. She grew taller, with sharp looking fingers like icicles and large, beast-like feet. Her hair looked wild and untamed, revealing a pair of glowing golden eyes. The storm grew even more fierce. Despite her monstrous new look, she still continued to smile almost serenely. Even her voice was still the same soft, pleasant one she had before the change. "Alright Senshi, round two. I've played with you long enough."
An orb of green ki ripped through the snow and slammed into a circling harpy, throwing it for a loop. Ryoga grunted as he ripped up a nearby lamppost and swung it into the stunned creature. Despite lacking the magic that his current allies all had, his pure strength and endurance was helping to bridge that gap some. A harpy dove down to claw him, but he reached out and wrapped his fist around one of its legs and tugged, slamming his fist into it as hard as he could. It was nice to vent his frustrations.
As Ryoga fought on, Saturn was keeping an eye on him. As a normal human, albeit a strong one, he was still in danger, and if he got hurt, she wanted to be able to heal him right away. She wondered what Moon was thinking, bringing him along, but at least he seemed to be holding his own at the moment.
She stepped up beside him and swung her glaive, cleaving another harpy in two as it decided to retreat from its attack. Off to her right, she saw Venus doing much the same with her holy sword. The fight so far hadn't been so tough as it was annoying. And that worried her.
Another knife was buried into the skull of a harpy before Moon finally dropped back to the ground. While her fuku was protecting her from the cold and the elements, the wind was already a pain to deal with. With Chione's transformation, it only became worse. She would need to end this quick.
With Moon Stick in hand, she started to charge up her newest attack. It was slower than most anything else in her repertoire, but the power behind it made up for that drawback. The wide area it covered also helped in this situation. With a cocky grin, she aimed the stick up at the sky and let loose. "Moon Healing Escalation!" Several harpies bit the dust as the others scattered. "Piece a cake," she bragged just before one slammed into her back, sending her tumbling toward Chione.
"Frozen Tundra." The smiling snow monster aimed her hands, and a wave of coldness washed over Moon as she hopped back to her feet. "You're far too speedy Sailor Moon. Let's even things out."
Her movements felt sluggish. A thin layer of frost covered her suit, and her side burned where the lance had struck her earlier. Not taking any chances, Moon dismissed the Moon Stick and cupped her hands. "Moonlight Fang!" The explosive combination of magic and ki struck cleanly, but at best, it had only staggered Chione. She bit back a curse and started to run once more.
The frozen demon ignored Jupiter completely and focused on Moon while evading the attacks of Uranus. With the redheaded Senshi in her sights, she started building up her power into a pair of sharp, deadly lances. With Moon slowed tremendously, they wouldn't miss.
The fire proved effective in melting one of the lances while the user of the attack tackled Moon roughly to the ground. The other lance sailed harmlessly overhead until it punched a hole in the side of the school some distance away and came to a stop. Mars slapped a charm on Moon's back and helped her to her feet.
"What was that for?!" Moon barked indignantly despite the fact that she begrudgingly admitted to herself that it had been a close call.
"I just saved your butt!" Mars snapped back. "I don't think even you could survive being skewered by that!"
Moon grumbled under her breath, but it proved to be moot as Mars was already watching Chione carefully.
"I need to talk to Mercury quickly. Keep her busy."
She grinned. "I'll do more than keep her busy."
"Just don't blow yourself up again."
"Nah, she's too cool for that."
Mars shrugged her shoulders and quickly headed for where Mercury was fighting alongside Venus and Neptune. "Mercury, what do you have on this enemy?"
The genius Senshi let loose her Mercury Aqua Rhapsody and regarded her with a quick glance. "She's powerful. This new form seems to have incredibly high defense, and her power has risen exponentially. She's definitely drawing on the power of a crystal just like Nemain was."
"Is she actually made of ice?"
Her eyes scanned the data on her visor for a quick moment. "It's not quite the same, but it shares several key properties with ice. I had a thought that your fire might be a good counter. As it is, my own attacks would be useless on her."
"Got a plan?"
Mercury peered through the falling snow and watched Moon bounce around Chione while charging up the Moon Stick. "I think so."
A Space Sword Blaster ripped through the space below Moon as she seemed to hang in the air and leveled her stick. "Moon Healing Escalation!" The one two punch of the powerful attacks slammed into Chione hard, knocking her to a knee.
"Jupiter, I'm tagging in!" Venus called out as her holy sword bit into Chione's hastily raised arm. The demon let out a howl of pain and ripped her arm free.
The Senshi had her covered on three sides. The harpies were starting to thin out by now, thanks to the efforts of the others, and there seemed to be less snow falling now than even just moments ago. Even so, her smile remained. "This is a thrilling battle. I knew I would one day have to face you in battle, and it has surpassed my expectations. Bravo." Her body split apart, leaving a pair of lances in her place. Her voice echoed ominously across the battlefield. "But it's not over until one side falls."
"Bring it on ya freaky icicle!"
"So that's how it works," Uranus said as she dove to avoid a lance heading in her direction while Venus did the same opposite her. She glanced at Moon to see a third racing up behind her. "Moon! Look out!"
The redhead leapt straight up and over the lance and hit it with another Moonlight Fang on the descent. It misted away, only for two more to take its place heading for her. She faced them with determination and removed her tiara. At the last possible moment, she tossed the spinning disc and leapt again, anticipating the third that screamed in from behind. Placing a hand on top of the lance, she spun herself around and slammed her feet down on the front, forcing its momentum toward the ground where it struck. She slipped behind it just before the tiara sliced through the lance on its return arc. Uranus and Venus each cut their swords into their respective lances.
Moon looked back to see the pair of lances she'd avoided slam into Saturn's barrier and come to a complete halt. At the same time, Ryoga dropped down from above and stabbed a single finger into each of them, causing them to violently shatter.
A scream of intense pain filled the air, and the remaining lances dissolved before reforming into the icy monstrosity that was Chione. She was breathing heavily and holding her side. Time seemed to stand still for a moment as her aura flickered a few times before coming back with more intensity than before. Snow started to coalesce into a pair of lances that she was preparing to launch.
Above the battlefield, atop the ice rink, Mars rested on one knee and peered through the falling snow at her target while Mercury stood over her, her visor trained on the icy monstrosity that was Chione. She held the Mars Arrow in place as she poured as much as she could into her bow. Flames licked at the falling snow, writhing along the shape of the bow and string that was her attack. Her spiritual powers were telling her that she had to attack now. With a deep breath, she made one last adjustment to her aim at Mercury's guidance and released her attack. "Mars... Flame... Sniper!"
The mass of burning hot flames ripped effortlessly through the air, melting the snow and even evaporating the water that remained behind. It wasn't until the arrow ripped through her chest that Chione realized she'd been set up.
A darkened crystal fragment fell from her suddenly slack fingers, landing softly in the snow at her feet. Her aura died out immediately, winking out as her form shifted back to her pale skinned, human-like body. "Im-impressive," she coughed out. Her eyes were unfocused as she fell to her knees and then to a seated position. Already, the snow storm started to settle. She was still smiling, even laughing until she started to cough. "If I had to die, I'm glad it was by the hands of powerful warriors like you. It... hack, hack, it has validated my existence." She looked up to the sky, allowing the snow to caress her face. "Harpies, we're done here. Return to base at once." As she'd ordered, one by one, the remaining humanoid bird creatures flew off and vanished.
The Senshi watched her carefully for any signs of deception as she grasped at the crystal. Mars, having hopped down from the roof of the ice rink with Mercury, already had another arrow trained on her. Instead, she picked the crystal up and tossed it to Moon, who snatched it out of the air. "Yer just givin' this to us?" she asked suspiciously.
"I have no use for it anymore," Chione replied casually. "I don't have much time left, and continuing to fight would only shorten that. I want to spend my final moments watching the snow fall."
Moon handed the crystal fragment off to Mercury, who immediately started to scan it. "So yer givin' up?"
Chione started to laugh at the redhead's blunt question. "I knew going into this that I would not survive the night. You defeated Nemain after all. Maybe that was why Fafnir gave me her crystal. We both follow our mistress's orders, not even caring about the consequences we might face or how hopeless it might seem." She started to cough again. "Anemoi will not take my death lightly. She knew I only took up this cause for her. If you would have killed her first, I doubt we'd have faced each other in battle. But she's the only family I have left, so her cause is mine. I warn you Senshi, her retaliation will be swift, and it will be fierce."
Mercury stepped forward even as Chione's body started to break apart. "Why are you telling us this?" she asked.
"I have no animosity toward any of you. We're all... hack, wheeze, just doing our jobs. The cycle of life is complex, even for... for a demon like me. Yesterday's enemy may be tomorrow's ally. If we meet... meet again in the future, try not to judge me so harshly."
Nearby, hidden in the shadows of the night and the large building that housed the ice rink, obscured by the falling snow, a tall, fit woman flipped the lid of a strange device closed. Her long hair, pulled back into a neat ponytail, was covered in snow. "I'm sorry demon, but it isn't your time to die yet. You're only the first piece of the puzzle if I'm to take the Heavenly Throne."
Ranma had drifted off to sleep the moment her head hit the pillow after parting with the Senshi and dragging Ryoga back to the dojo. She'd promised to meet up with the Senshi after school to discuss what had happened and get some more training in, even if Ami had assured her that school would probably be cancelled for her due to the snow.
Usagi was both worried and relieved the moment she noticed her replacement had returned. Ranma could tell it killed her to have to sit on the sidelines while her friends did all the fighting. "Did you win? Is everyone okay?"
Ranma nodded numbly. Her past enemies as a Senshi had been pretty clear cut cases. They were either mindless monsters like the harpies and ghouls, or they were, well, Nemain, a being so wrapped up in her hatred of things she deemed beneath her that putting her out of her misery was really the only option. But Chione seemed different.
"You ever have ta fight an enemy that ain't all that evil?" she asked quietly, like she was admitting to some taboo weakness.
Usagi's nod was just barely perceptible. The atmosphere of the ballroom was solemn as the pair stood awkwardly.
"I'm gonna beat that master of hers inta the ground," Ranma suddenly growled with clenched fists. "She knew she was gettin' sent to her death, and she still went ahead with it. She didn't even wanna fight us." She looked straight at Usagi with fire in her eyes. "Even if you wake up before it's done, I'm gonna see this through. I swear on my honor as a martial artist, whoever's behind this is goin' down."
"I know how you feel," Usagi murmured, "but you shouldn't think about revenge."
While she had calmed down a little, her fists were still clenched tightly. "It ain't about revenge. I know what it's like ta be pushed inta doin' stuff ya don't feel comfortable doin'. It don't matter that she's a demon or whatever. She got pushed inta doin' somethin' that got her killed. I ain't gonna let that stand."
The air was still. She knew she was being kept out of the way, but there was little she could do about it. If her superiors thought it was best to have her on standby, she wasn't going to argue with them. At least it was better than being stuck working in the armory. But that didn't mean she agreed with them either. If the rumors of the engagement between the Moon's princess and their prince were true, all hands would be needed when it was formally announced.
She gripped her weapon tightly and swung. There was a loud crack as it came into contact the target, smashing it apart with ease. There wasn't much else to do when she had to remain reachable at all times. So she trained in the empty training ground.
Things hadn't been as glorious as she'd initially imagined they would be. She wanted to be a hero, maybe meet a nice guy and fight alongside him. Instead, she was nothing but a grunt. Cannon fodder. Fighting may not have been common, but Earth was hardly the most unified of lands, and military forces were maintained on the off chance conflict broke out. Sure, the King and Queen did well in making sure most were happy, but there were still some who disagreed. It was a problem many hoped would go away when Endymion took the throne. The Prince was considered to be far more rational and compassionate than either of his parents.
But there were still some who would rather that 'new age of enlightenment' not come as a result of 'submitting' to the Moon. Many of her companions still saw the people of the Moon as control freaks. Frankly, she didn't have a problem with the engagement, not that she would admit it to anyone. Peace was a noble goal, and if the Earth and Moon could find harmony, she wasn't going to condemn it.
She grunted again as she heaved her weapon and took aim at her next target. She almost wished she had the old soothsayer to talk to, she was that bored. Her warhammer had just smashed through the target when she heard the sound of someone approaching. Thinking it was one of her superiors, she spun the weapon around and strapped it to her back before turning to stand at attention, only to find herself standing before perhaps the last person she'd expected.
"You seem to be troubled," the woman stated calmly. Her black bangs almost succeeded in hiding a golden tiara, but her station was made clear by the white and red uniform she wore. She vaguely wondered what a Sailor Senshi was doing in a place she most certainly wasn't allowed, but she was not going to be the one to make a fuss. Especially over what the princess and guardian of the planet of war was up to. She hadn't realized that another meeting with the Senshi had been planned for that day.
"Sailor Mars," she greeted her respectfully. "Is there something you need from me?"
The woman observed her carefully. Mars was clearly wary of her, but there was more to it than that. She could tell. "The fires told me to come here, but I'm not sure why. Maybe talking with you might clear my vision some. Is there anything bothering you?"
She looked at Mars strangely for a moment before shrugging mentally to herself. It wouldn't be long before this woman was an ally, so she felt no harm in telling her. "I feel like I'm being held back," she admitted. "I wanted to do good, but I'm not going anywhere like this."
"Everyone has a part to play," the Senshi in red replied. She sounded almost sagely as she continued to observe her. "Even the smallest cogs serve a purpose. There is no shame in that." She narrowed her eyes and walked around her in a circle as she looked her over. "Hmm, this bears more looking into," she murmured under her breath, though she still managed to overhear the Senshi's words.
Something definitely felt off. Not in an alarming way, but it had been brewing inside her since Mars showed up. Whatever the Senshi was up to, it didn't seem bad, but something still bugged her. She just couldn't figure out what Mars was doing there in the first place. "That's true," she agreed. "But you're a Senshi. That's very different from guarding a soothsayer or working in the armory."
"We are called Guardian Senshi for a reason," Mars pointed out dryly. "Our job first and foremost is to protect Queen Serenity's children." She sighed and muttered something under her breath. This time, she could only overhear something about someone 'cooping herself up' and 'losing her temper more lately'. But before she had a chance to contemplate it, Mars was speaking once more. "It is a duty we were born for, and a duty we're happy to do. We are their guards, but we're also their friends." Mars started to smile, something she found strangely reassuring. "It's not all that different, technically speaking, from what you say you do."
It was rather enlightening. She'd always assumed the Sailor Senshi were the elite commanders of Queen Serenity's army not unlike Endymion's generals. Sure, the Prince was good friends with his generals, but they were soldiers first, and his guards second. Or maybe she was just as misguided on their roles as she was with the Senshi. "How did you become a Senshi?" she asked curiously. Now that the subject was broached with an actual Senshi, it was her chance to hopefully learn how they came to be.
Mars shrugged. "No one really knows. Some think the Queen chose us for this duty when we were born. Personally, I choose to believe Mars chose me to wield its power. I think all of us at some point have longed for an answer, but I feel it's one I may never know the answer to."
She nodded her head absently, chewing on what she'd learned. It hadn't been what she'd wanted to hear, but it helped. "Thank you," she said with a tired smile. "I think I feel a little better now."
"Think nothing of it," the Senshi replied. "Besides, you may find new resolve in the future." She wanted to ask her what she meant, but Mars was already bowing, an action she hastily copied. "I must go now, before the Princess gets into any trouble." She pressed her hand against her forehead and let out an exaggerated sigh. "Sometimes... dial it back... like her... sis..." Sailor Mars' words started to become fuzzy as the dream came to an end.
The news had dubbed it the 'Freak Blizzard of Nerima', and while it had surprised a great many of the residents of the ward, they just passed it off as a rapid change in weather patterns and did their best to clean up. Why it had been confined simply to a single ward within the city of Tokyo was anybody's guess. They just hoped it didn't happen again.
The students, on the other hand, didn't care where the fluffy white stuff had come from. They were just glad they got out of class. Even Miss Hinako was happy to have the day off so she could build a snowman.
Akane stared out into the snow covered world beyond the window. The white stuff had stopped falling some time ago already, but unlike her classmates, she actually wished she could be in class.
"What's up?" Nabiki piped up from behind her, causing her to jump in surprise. She turned to see her sister come up beside her and join her in looking outside. "You usually pound Ranma good when he stuffs his foot in his mouth. Don't tell me you're actually thinking of marrying him."
"No way!" she objected instinctively. It was getting to be a seriously bad habit, and realizing she wasn't helping any, she took a deep breath and released it to calm herself. Acting rashly wasn't going to do her any good. Not when she was finally getting somewhere.
Nabiki must have misunderstood the action, as she shook her head and sighed. "Akane, you've got a lot to learn."
She cocked an eyebrow and turned to her inquisitively. "And what's that supposed to mean?"
Nabiki just smirked. "That, little sis, does not come free."
With a huff at her sister's general unhelpfulness, Akane turned away from her and headed for the front of the house. It was, as she'd come to learn a long time ago, Nabiki speak for 'you're gonna need to figure that out for yourself'. It was basically what Kasumi had told her the day before. She grabbed her winter coat that Kasumi had dug out thanks to the weather and threw it on. Nabiki followed her with a vaguely amused expression. "I'm going out."
"Oh?" she asked with a hint of boredom in her voice, schooling her expression into one that reflected it. "Where to?"
Akane slipped on her shoes and stood at the front door. "Juuban. I'm going to go talk to Usagi."
A single, barking laugh came from Nabiki as she leaned against the wall. "Somehow, I don't think Little Miss Magical Coma Patient is going to talk back. Gonna ask her to step back and leave your fiancé alone?"
Instead of answering, Akane pulled the front door open and headed out.
The Senshi were gathered together that afternoon, sitting in the living room of the Outer's home to discuss the latest incident. Everyone had arrived, all except for one. The replacement.
"What's taking her so long?"
"I don't know," Makoto replied. "She wasn't at the dojo when I went to speak with Nabiki either. I guess we'll have to start without her and fill her in later."
Ami set her book aside and took off her glasses, standing up to get her friends' attention. "Well first off, and perhaps most importantly, Usagi's condition seems to be getting much better. The latest scan I took this afternoon shows that her magic levels are rising significantly. Compared to the scans I took after the incident, she's not far from her regular levels."
"Could it have anything to do with that doctor friend of Ranko's?" Rei asked suddenly.
"Tofu Ono," the genius clarified. "I'm not sure, to be honest. I've done some studies on alternative healing methods, but I have no clue how it would work with magic. For all we know, it could just be the rest she's gotten."
"But she'll wake up soon, right?"
Ami hesitated. "I'm not sure on that either. The Mercury Computer gives me an edge, but there are more factors contributing to her condition than just magic levels."
"But the point is," Haruka interrupted, "she's getting better, right?"
"If you want a doctor's opinion, both my mom and Dr. Ono seem to think so."
The tension seemed to bleed out of the group as they released a sigh of relief seemingly as one. Ami took a moment to let them gather their thoughts before moving on. "As for the crystal fragment from Chione, its signature is identical to the one Nemain had. Whatever it is, they both came from the same source."
Any good mood they might have had from the news on their princess, it was gone with the news on the crystal. It was bad enough that the enemy had some sort of power boost. It was worse that they had multiples, and that they came from the same source, whatever that source was. With the crystals tainted, they decided it was a top priority to get Ranko to purify them the first chance she got. Unfortunately, it still didn't answer the important questions. Namely, what the crystal was, nor how many fragments the enemy had.
"The fire reading showed me a woman," Rei moved on, getting to her part in the matter. "She looked similar to Chione, but more ghostly. If I had to guess, it might be Anemoi that she mentioned. She did say she would attack, and soon."
"Any idea on when or where she'll attack?" Minako asked seriously. The blonde was all business as she listened in.
"None, but we should be prepared for anything." Silence came over the room. Fire reading was never a precise art. It was the most she'd received from the sacred fire lately, but they still didn't have much to go on, and they would need all the help they could get.
When Ranma finally returned to the dojo after dropping Ryoga off at Akari's farm, he arrived to see a fuming Nabiki sitting very still, her brow furrowed, and a stick of Pocky hanging from her lips as she munched on it. "You," she hissed upon him entering the living room. "What did you do?"
"Um... What'reya talkin' about?" he asked dumbly.
"Your friend Makoto stopped by," she pointed out with an irritated edge to her voice that had the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end. He was dangerously low on cash as it was and he wasn't sure he could afford the hit his wallet would take. "She told me you'd returned the brooch and that she didn't need me to look for it anymore. I was this close to closing the deal!" She held up a hand and left a very small fraction of space between her index finger and thumb to help illustrate her point. She let out a sigh and shook her head, appearing much less angry and more resigned. "I was going to give it to her when you decided you were done with it. These are possible future business connections you're ruining here Ranma. In the business world, connections are money, and if I'm going to be a successful business woman in the future, I need to make these connections early."
Ranma flinched, trying to think on his feet in the face of the upset middle Tendo. "It was a big misunderstanding!" he said quickly, not even really latching onto an excuse quite yet. "Happosai was doing his usual thing, and I came across him and ended up with it. Guess he didn't know he'd grabbed the brooch with her undies, and when she saw me with it, she just assumed I stole it. I wasn't able ta convince her I didn't actually take it from her 'til recently." It helped that, until recently, Happosai had been on vacation somewhere.
She did not look amused. "Happosai took it?" He wasn't sure if she believed it. She was well aware of his limited ability to lie, and she was usually pretty good at spotting them. On the other hand, Happosai's favorite past time was well known. "Fine, whatever. But don't think I'm forgetting this. You owe me one."
"I could put in a good word for ya," he suggested. Truthfully, he didn't believe she had bad intentions with Makoto, and he felt a little guilty that this entire situation had been spawned by one big misunderstanding. He didn't notice right away that his mother had poked her head into the room, watching them.
Nabiki thought it over a moment. "Fine. I guess that works. But you need to start taking things more seriously. While you run around playing Replacement Sailor Moon with the Senshi, some of us have real life to attend to, and you keep screwing that up for me lately."
A look of horror spread across Ranma's face as Nabiki spoke. It was only now that he noticed Nodoka Saotome watching them with curious interest from the entrance to the kitchen where she and Kasumi were cooking supper. Luckily, his father and Soun had been out, so they couldn't overhear, but he wasn't sure how much that helped the current situation any. His mother was the last person he wanted to find out about his recent extracurricular activities.
"Ranma is Sailor Moon?" she asked innocently, the Saotome Honor Blade resting ominously in her hands. He could only pray she had no idea what that meant. As was par for his life, that prayer did not go answered. "The Sailor Senshi wear such short skirts. That doesn't seem very manly." Nodoka started to frown.
"On the other hand," she countered herself before anyone could speak, "they do protect the innocent from bad people." She seemed to be conflicted. "And if my boy is around eight other girls..." She trailed off, a faraway look in her eyes. "Perhaps, in this case, it's manly for Ranma to be a girl." She nodded firmly as she came to a conclusion.
Kasumi joined her from the kitchen with her usual kind smile. "He's saved so many people already. But you have to promise to keep it a secret." Had Ranma been able to do anything more than gape like a fish at the moment, he might have thanked her for pointing it out. He didn't need his mother blabbing about how proud she was of her heroic son turned magical girl.
As it was, he barely noticed when Akane returned home, brushed past him, and looked on in confusion before shrugging it off and turning to him. "Ranma, don't forget I have that play tomorrow evening. You promised you'd be there."
"Yeah, sure," he replied dumbly, still unable to comprehend the idea that his mom not only found out about his secret identity but seemed to have no problem with how it affected his image. He needed to escape, even for just a moment. "I'm goin' out to the dojo."
Things had not gotten easier for the redheaded martial artist as she headed for the Hikawa Shrine the next day after school. Between her mother rambling about how proud of her son she was and Akane's tense quiet attitude, Ranma already feared for her future. It didn't get any better when she went to sleep and found a nervous, contemplative Usagi. The usually lazy one-time princess was throwing herself into their sparring match with unusual intensity, never complaining even once.
Rei was out front in her casual clothes, a bag thrown over her shoulder, apparently waiting for her. She waved and walked up to her in a calm strut. "My grandfather has important business, so we're meeting at Ami's today," she explained. "She tried to tell you, but you weren't picking up when we attempted to contact you."
Ranma laughed nervously. She'd spent most of the day yesterday as a male, unable to answer. "Sorry 'bout that. Pop wanted ta test me 'cause I slept in yesterday." It wasn't actually a lie. Genma had actually challenged his son for the perceived slacking off. And snow wasn't a common enough occurrence that he could pass up the chance to see how Ranma held up during a fight in the fluffy white stuff. Between that, taking Ryoga to Akari's, and the game of twenty questions she'd played with her mother, it had been a busy day.
The shrine maiden and Senshi of Mars seemed to accept the answer, and with a shrug, she led her down the steps and toward Ami's place. Along the way, she caught Ranma up with what they'd discussed at the meeting yesterday. It wasn't a whole lot that they didn't already know, but she nodded anyways. Usagi'd be happy to hear she was doing better at least.
"I'll try ta purify them crystals for ya, sure. Shame we can't use 'em ourselves though. Guess I'll have ta kick the training up a notch." She completely ignored Rei's sweat drop. "I could prob'ly ask Pop if he's got somethin' up his sleeve, or at least get him to formally teach me the Yamasenken. Could always go to Happosai or Cologne too, but I ain't sure I wanna pay what they'd ask, and I still ain't sure I wanna get involved with Cologne while I'm tagged in for Usagi..."
The rather one sided conversation on training tapered off as they reached Ami's building. It was the first time Ranma had ever been to the genius's home, and it was a surprise to learn that she lived in an expensive condominium.
She walked into the building with wide eyes. Her mouth hung open as she took in all the expensive items that filled the lobby alone. It seemed even classier than the Kuno place, and they were filthy rich. The inside of the Mizuno place only reinforced that sense of class.
They hadn't waited around long, but just before they were set to leave, Ami had asked to speak to her in private. The others just told them to catch up and left, leaving a confused Ranma alone with Ami.
"Ranko, what's your relationship to Ranma Saotome?"
She flinched, the accusation hitting far too close to home. A little belatedly, she realized her reaction did not help her cover any. "He's my cousin's fiancé," she lied. She tried to make it sound casual, but it came out more as a croak. "Why'dya ask?"
Ami sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. "I want you to know I'm not accusing you of anything, but I did see Ranma fight when those harpies were attacking Furinkan. He fights a lot like you do. And he had the same injury on his left arm, not to mention the same clothes. You can see how this would be suspicious."
"Uhh..." The clothes she could explain away. Similar taste. The injury, not so much. Before she could even try, Ami decided to continue.
"I understand why you felt the need to put on a ruse for Makoto. You didn't know you could trust her yet. And we didn't know we could trust you. It's very dedicated of you that you would continue to keep it up, but you could have told us Usagi gave you her disguise pen."
Ranma's mind went blank. She officially had no idea what Ami was talking about. At all. Slowly, she started going over what the blue haired genius had said. By all accounts, it had sounded like she'd figured it out. Except for one little piece that made everything confusing. "Disguise pen?"
Ami nodded. "When I first became a Senshi, Usagi was given a pen that allows her to take on a magical disguise. I'll admit, I didn't really understand until I remembered that Usagi has transformed into a boy before. Minako even has a story from back in her Sailor V days where she used her compact to become a boy to get a drop on the enemy."
Ranma blinked several times. She got the general idea of what Ami was saying, but she was having trouble imagining either of the blondes as guys. "So 'Sagi's got some magical disguise thingy?" Ami nodded skeptically. "Awe man, I coulda really used somethin' like that!"
Ami blinked in surprise. "But if she didn't give you the pen, how did you become a boy?"
She started to sweat under the intense gaze of the inquisitive genius as she realized she had blown a perfectly good excuse to explain her curse. She started to laugh nervously, not seeing any real way out of this. She thought about running, until she realized that she wasn't going to be able to avoid her for long, and it was better to get it over in private, rather than trying to deal with her in front of the others. "Promise not ta tell the others?"
"I promise. Whatever it is, you can trust me."
"Ya ever hear of Jusenkyo?" When Ami shook her head negative, she continued. "It's this place in China. My pop took me there before we came back to Japan. Thing is, the place is cursed."
Ami stared at him for a moment. She had experience with magic, but Ranma wasn't sure she'd believe her. "Cursed how?" she asked carefully.
"It's got all these springs," she explained. "Each one's cursed different. Ya fall into one, and ya turn into whatever drown there. Hot water turns ya back, but cold water'll turn ya right back inta yer cursed form. Pop fell inta the Cursed Spring of Drowned Panda." She scratched at the base of her pigtail nervously. It was the moment of truth. "I fell inta the Cursed Spring of Drowned Girl."
There was a moment of silence as Ami pondered what she'd heard. Ranma wasn't sure how she'd react, but so far, she didn't seem upset. Finally, she furrowed her brow. "You fell into the Cursed Spring of Drowned Girl?" she asked carefully. "But you are a girl."
Ranma nearly face faulted. "I'm a guy!"
"But you're a Senshi," the genius pointed out.
With a sigh, Ranma walked toward the kitchen and ran the sink until the water was steaming. Ami followed her closely, trying to figure out what she was up to. "Hot water." She cupped her hands under the faucet and splashed her face. The change was instantaneous.
Ami stared at the boy slack jawed for a moment before she composed herself. "So you're actually Ranma Saotome, not Ranko Tendo?" He nodded, turning the faucet back to cold to go back to being a girl. "I have so many questions."
The demon lord Anemoi watched with a grim smile as the puny humans went about their lives. It was almost pathetic how weak they were, and yet they had somehow managed to outsmart them in the past. But those with magical powers were a rarity now a days, and the biggest threats were only nine or ten strong.
Granted, she accepted that they were incredibly powerful, but she was prepared. After all, they were the 'good guys'. They worried too much about the innocent lives of bystanders. It was the key to her entire plan, and she had prepared an impressive number of harpies and ghouls to carry it out. It was bad enough that they had killed Nemain, a long time colleague and friend, someone who was like a sister to her. But with Chione's death, she would not stop until their blood painted the walls red.
Oh how she wanted to attack now, but it wasn't soon enough. She would bide her time, wait until they were in the thick of it. She almost wished she could attack while hiding herself with her mistress's powers, but that wasn't possible. Her mistress could only cloak her presence for a short period of time, but not while she was giving off a battle aura. Besides, she wanted those girls to know she was behind it.
Soon. Soon, she would be able to finish the Senshi off and usher in a new world. One where her mistress was back on top. Anemoi Venti, Demon Lord of Wind, would have it no other way.
Ranma watched the girls with a critical eye. After that awkward moment with Ami, she was happy to be able to focus on something she loved. Somehow, she'd managed to talk the girl out of running some scans and other tests on her for now, but she wasn't sure how long she'd be able to keep her off her back. She had a feeling it was going to be like when Ukyo found out all over again. Just with more computery stuff.
She'd paired them up to spar as best as she could with someone close in skill, but while at least it helped to pair the two sword wielding Senshi up, it skewed things. Ami and Hotaru both sat at the bottom, and they'd require the most hands on time, but the others were at least somewhat competent in some fashion. The problem was, the only person Makoto was close to in skill was Haruka, who was busy teaching Minako the finer points of using a blade. With Rei as the next closest in skill, even if much of that was from ki training, the two weren't a good match.
It reminded her a little of her matches with Akane.
Her mind ground to a halt as she suddenly remembered that Akane had a play, and that her fiancée had explicitly reminded her yesterday not to miss it. And now that she thought about it, it should just be starting... She was screwed.
"I just remembered I got somethin' to do, I gotta go!" The words spilled from her mouth rapidly, and she started departing from the park where they were practicing in. She just had to remember where the train station was in relation to the park.
"But we're still training," Haruka complained. Out of everyone, she took to the training the most. "What's so important that you have to leave us hanging? Especially with a big threat looming over us."
"If I don't go, 'Sagi's gonna have to find another replacement." She started to leave again when the sensation rumbled through her mind once more, stopping her suddenly. With it, a bad feeling crept up in the pit of her stomach. Something very bad was happening.
She turned to the others with a hard look of determination and pulled out the brooch, taking a quick look around the park for any witnesses before raising it to the sky. "Guess we all gotta go," she muttered under her breath. "Moon Cosmic Power, Make Up!"
Following her lead, and making sure the cost was clear, the others all transformed and formed the ring to teleport. "Where to?" Venus asked seriously, falling into her role as leader of the Guardian Senshi.
Moon's voice was hard, with a definite sense of urgency. "Furinkan High School."
Acting was one of Akane's big passions. It was an exhilarating rush to be on stage. What was more, she had been cast as the lead in the play, a princess with big ambitions held back by the pressures of her family, a role she could definitely relate to. As she waited back stage, already in costume, she hoped that this one would go better than Romeo and Juliet. That had been a disaster, even if, in hindsight, it was fun. But that was then. This was a new play, and a new chance to shine.
She found herself thinking about Ranma as she waited for the play to start, but she quickly pushed her thoughts aside for the here and now. She had to listen for her cue.
The play got off to a smooth start, with the actors all remembering their lines and delivering them with no problems. It was almost time for her to step on stage when she heard the screams from everyone present. That wasn't part of the play.
She kicked off her heels and burst onto the stage, hiking the skirt of her gown up as she ran, to find several ugly monsters terrorizing everyone and blocking the exits. She recognized them as the ghouls that Ranma and the Senshi fought. Above them, a light, willowy looking woman floated in the air with a sick, sinister smile.
She almost collapsed when she was struck with a headache. They'd been happening more and more frequently as of late. She thought she heard something that sounded almost like 'protect them' or maybe 'protect her'? She wasn't sure, but she shook the feelings aside and got into a stance. "Hey!" she shouted defiantly to get their attention. "Leave them alone! If you want to fight someone, fight me!"
The willowy, floaty woman acknowledged her with a feral grin. "Fine by me. You're all going to die anyway. If you're that eager, how can I say no?" Her aura exploded outward suddenly, and she launched forward to meet Akane head on.
The Senshi could hear the screams the moment they arrived on Furinkan's grounds. People were running frantically while harpies attacked them indiscriminately. Moon wasted no time in ending one that was chasing a few of her classmates with a single vacuum blade and ran straight for the gym. She kicked in the door, knocking it off its hinges and catching a ghoul off guard, slamming it hard into the wall as she rushed past. "Akane!"
The injured littered the ground. Some were still conscious, while others Moon feared might be dead. She grit her teeth, her anger already burning inside as she spotted the ringleader of the attack bearing down on a blue haired girl in a tuxedo. A domino mask covered the girl's face, hiding her identity, but she seemed familiar.
"You've gone too far!" Moon let out a snarl and cupped her hands together, feeding the magic and ki into the attack. "Moonlight Fang!" she called out as she let the bluish white orb fly. It slammed into the demonic woman and sent her tumbling away from the tuxedoed girl.
The woman chuckled darkly as she pulled herself up and started to float once more. "Ah, the main event has finally arrived. As fun as it's been to tango with this princess, I've been waiting for you Senshi to join the play. The name's Anemoi Venti. You killed my sister. Prepare to die."
A series of blades not unlike Moon's own vacuum blades flew at her, forcing her to dive to the side. She noted from the corner of her eye that Uranus, Mars, Mercury, and Venus had followed her into the gym.
"Good, you're here," the Tuxedo Mask apparent said to her. She batted away an approaching ghoul with her cane and leapt to get closer to the Senshi. "We need to protect these people but between me, my father, and yours, we were outnumbered. They've been helping people get to safety."
Something in her mind clicked as understanding what the girl was saying. "Akane?" The replacement Senshi kicked one ghoul into a pair of its companions while the girl in the tux punched another.
"Yeah, it's me." She looked back at the far corner of the room where most of the injured had huddled together. "Got anything that might help these people?"
A Mercury Aqua Rhapsody smashed into a ghoul, knocking it off its feet but leaving it relatively unharmed. "Some of these people appear to be severely injured," she pointed out. "I agree that it's not a good idea for them to be here, but moving them might aggravate their wounds." She looked conflicted, but she knew that these people were in danger as long as they were in the middle of a battle.
Venus held her holy sword tightly, fending off a pair of ghouls. "Uranus and I'll hold off the ghouls until the others outside clear the way. Saturn should be able to stabilize them enough to move them to safety. You just concentrate on protecting them." She nodded slightly to Mars and Moon. "That leaves the floaty one to you two. Be careful."
"What about me?" Akane argued as everyone started on their assigned duties. "I'm not leaving these people here. I can fight too."
Venus eyed her up for a moment before shrugging. "Tuxedo Mask usually watches out for Sailor Moon, but in this case, I'd say go help Mercury. We have to keep the innocents safe." Akane nodded her head firmly and headed over to help Mercury.
Anemoi grinned when the pair of Senshi approached her. "Ah, if it isn't Sailor Mars. How fun. As punishment for killing Chione, I've decided to make you suffer the most."
Moon scoffed at her logic and launched at her, slamming her fist into the white haired woman's stomach. "You're blamin' us? Yer the one that sent her to her death in the first place!" She punched her again and again, speeding up until her fists were a blur. "She didn't even wanna follow yer stupid plan!"
With a grunt, Anemoi's aura exploded outward, throwing Moon into a pile of chairs. "My sister was my life!" she spat venomously. "I would never send her to die! Her commitment to the cause might have been halfhearted, but her commitment in me was unfaltering! How dare you accuse me of such treachery?!" Her aura coiled around her arm, focusing in on a point at her palm. "Gale Force Expulsion!"
A blast of wind shot from her palm and slammed into Moon like a bomb. Mars tried to get Anemoi's attention with a Burning Mandala, but she was knocked off her feet with a similar blast.
The pair climbed to their feet and shook their heads to clear the fog. "This one's gonna be tough," Moon admitted before falling into a casual stance. A ghoul tried to jump her, but she pivoted smoothly on the balls of her feet and slammed the palm of her hand into its face, releasing a Moko Takabisha at point blank range.
A set of chains wrapped around the airborne ghoul and sent it slamming into a wall. A sword soon pinned it there. "This day just keeps getting worse," Mousse complained as he pulled the chains back into his weapons space.
Moon looked back at her rival and occasional ally briefly as he tangoed with a pair of ghouls that were trying to sneak up on Uranus's back before turning her attention back to Anemoi. Her brow was furrowed as she tried to find some sort of weak point to exploit. The demon was swimming with power, more than the others she'd faced, and despite the hits she'd gotten in, she looked no worse for the wear. She'd have to end this quickly. People were counting on her. These were her schoolmates and their families. People who shouldn't have been caught in the middle of this mess. The Moon Stick appeared in her tightly clenched hand with a flash of light. Fires burned in her eyes as she glared at the one responsible for this whole fiasco. "Hey you!" she shouted fiercely. "Stop right there!" The opening move of the Yamasenken went off as planned, giving her the opening she needed as Anemoi froze. She ran forward, charging up the Moon Stick as she prepared to give the demon hell.
Uranus had garnered a reputation as one of the more callous members of the team after dealing with the Death Busters and Pharaoh 90. And she would have been the first to admit in those days that it was true. Being an open lesbian, when she wasn't letting people assume she was a man, she'd had to deal with some problematic attitudes. That all changed when Baby Hotaru came into her life. But while it had softened her up, a small part of her still regarded the people outside of her close knit flock with indifference. That didn't mean she didn't care about the people caught in the middle though.
She sidestepped the clawed weapon on a chain the long haired Chinese boy had thrown and slashed at the distracted ghoul. The boy seemed to be holding his own, but she wasn't about to let him get hurt by involving himself in her battle. "Space Sword Blaster!" The chains that had wrapped around the ghoul went slack as the powerful attack finished the creature off.
"Tuxedo la Smoking Bomber!"
The name of the attack had caught her by surprise, and she whipped her head around to see Akane launch Tuxedo Mask's signature magic attack at a ghoul that came a little too close to the injured she and Mercury were guarding.
"How did you do that?!" a shocked Venus asked.
"I don't know!" Akane replied frantically as she swung her cane into another one. "I've just been able to do it! I'm not even sure how I ended up in this tuxedo! All I know is that it appeared on me when that ghost lady tried to attack me!"
A loud crash brought their attention away from Akane and to one of the side walls that had a new hole in it where Jupiter had crashed through. She rubbed her head and rolled to her feet while another ghoul hissed something unintelligible and barreled right through the opening. "There's too many of these things," she growled.
"Jupiter! We need Saturn to help these people!" Mercury called out to her, relieved that she could finally deliver the message.
The brunette Senshi only took a brief look at the injured before nodding and rushing toward the ghoul. "On it. Jupiter Oak Evolution!" Using her attack to stun the ghoul, she shoved it aside and headed back out through the hole in the wall.
It wasn't much better out there. The harpies were swarming in force, and the ghouls weren't making it any easier to guide the people outside to safety. Luckily, they at least had some help in holding them off in the forms of a familiar male kunoichi and what appeared to be a boy with an oversized spatula.
"Where the hell is Ranchan?" Ukyo growled. She swung her battle spatula with expert ease into a ghoul and threw a few of her spatulas at a harpy heading for Konatsu. "You jackasses better not have hurt him!"
"I'm sure he's fine Ukyo-sama. You know he can take care of himself." The genius kunoichi was keeping the enemies at bay with the bag of tricks he'd developed during the hard training of his youth. Several clones were using hit and run tactics on a ghoul, keeping it disoriented while the real Konatsu peppered it with throwing stars.
"Saturn! You're needed for healing duty inside!" Using some of her recent training, Jupiter leapt up and slammed her feet hard into the ghoul that the dark haired Senshi was fighting.
Saturn nodded and made a break for the entrance while Neptune and Pluto covered her. Once she was safely inside, they turned their attacks back to the multiple enemies that had engaged them. "How do you think they're holding up in there?" the blue suited Senshi of the Deep Seas asked.
"I don't know," Pluto replied before launching another Dead Scream. "But Saturn won't be much help in there when it comes to fighting."
A couple of batter bombs exploded on ghoul and harpy alike, immobilizing the enemy with the sticky substance. Ukyo was already pressing the advantage with a look of fierce determination. "Hey, you guys fight these things a lot, right?" she asked the Senshi. "What're they doin' here? This is the second time they've attacked the school, and now people are getting hurt. What's the big deal?"
Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto all exchanged a look. None of them were actually certain what their enemy was up to, but there were a few guesses they could make. Still, rather than spread false information, they decided to focus on the fight at hand, pushing the question aside with a 'not now'. They had enough on their plates as it was.
Mousse swung his sword down, digging it into the ghoul's arm as it tried to get past him and head for Mars. She hadn't been entirely happy to see him, but she hadn't said anything either. That was fine. He didn't need to get into another bickering match with her. The fight was hectic enough as it was. Nearby, a fierce Moon crushed another ghoul and turned toward Anemoi.
"Moon Healing Esc-" Moon's attack was cut off as a heat wave slammed into her side and knocked her to the floor. "Damn ghouls," she grumbled and quickly pulled herself up before anyone could take advantage of her downed state. It was a good thing Anemoi seemed sadistic enough to want to torture them first rather than go for the kill outright. Yeah, you're confident, she thought sarcastically. Well that makes two of us.
She slammed her fist into the ghoul, throwing it back to give her some space. "Yo, ugly witch. You messed with the wrong people." She pulled her aura in and cloaked herself in the Umisenken. If Anemoi wanted to play dirty, Moon would even the playing field.
"If you think this disappearing act will help you-" A Double Moko Takabisha slammed into her from her left, drawing a hiss of rage as she turned to see nothing. Another orb of ki hit her in the back. Then one came from above. "Enough!"
A powerful gust of wind blew out from Anemoi, forcing Moon out of the Umisenken. She landed cleanly on her feet, but the demon woman wasn't going to let her have any breaks. "Four Winds!"
A powerful column of writhing winds headed straight for the redhead Senshi, tearing up the ground and sending any debris in its path scattering about like dangerous missiles of shrapnel. Moon barely managed to leap out of the way before a second headed in her direction. A third was targeting Mars while the fourth headed for Mercury, Akane, and the injured. Unable to do anything, she could only warn the others and brace for impact.
Right before the attacks could hit, Mousse threw out one of his bombs, hitting an unsuspecting Anemoi with a powerful explosion that rocked the gymnasium. Thankfully, it held, but it certainly raised some concerns about the structural integrity of the building. Unfortunately, Anemoi also weathered the attack, looking only slightly scorched as a result. With a flick of her wrist, the offending boy was sent hurtling through the air and through a wall.
"Oh craa-uaaaaaack!" A mist of water sprayed from the newly created hole in the wall, conveniently through a water line.
Mercury looked over her shoulder as Saturn worked on healing as many people as she could. The poor girl was already looking worn out, and there were still so many people left to heal. "We need to start getting people out of here. I don't know how long this building will stay standing."
"I'll do it," Akane suggested. She blasted another ghoul and helped a couple of her classmates in better condition to their feet before heading toward the door. Just before she reached them, a pair of men burst through.
"They're everywhere Saotome!"
"Where is that useless boy when you need him?"
Akane nearly jumped in surprise at their timely arrival. "Dad! Mr. Saotome! We need to get people out of here! The building might come down any moment!"
The pair nodded and started grabbing more injured. Akane had just left, and both Genma and Soun were close to the entrance when Anemoi grunted. "Great idea," she said with a dangerous smirk. "Let's bring the house down." Her aura exploded outward, and she started building up for an attack as she floated to the center of the room. "Devouring Winds!"
"Run for it Tendo!"
The gymnasium started to rumble as the waves of destructive wind crashed about, knocking into the walls and anything else that got in its way. The Senshi were knocked off their feet. Mars was nearly blown out through one of the holes. Realizing she didn't have enough time or strength to heal everyone, Saturn forced herself to stand against the violent winds. "Silence Wall!"
Uranus barely managed to get under her adoptive daughter's protective dome with a couple of the injured while Mars and Venus made a break for the exit, grabbing the few remaining stray people that weren't under the dome and helping them to safety. Dust went everywhere as the intense rumbling grew before finally stopping after what felt like an eternity. The Silence Wall wavered briefly before failing entirely and Saturn collapsed, already spent from the work she'd had to do. Mercury set her down by the others. She was thankful the rubble had fallen to the sides of the dome, rather than on top of them.
"Ranma!" Akane shouted frantically, not finding Moon among those that had escaped the collapse.
An orb of wind rose up from the remains of the gymnasium, sheltered from the debris by the fiercely blowing protective barrier. It winked out, revealing an unharmed Anemoi. She looked around the battlefield with narrow eyes, unconcerned with the demise of the ghouls she'd just sacrificed in her gambit. "Damn. Only took out one of you pests. At least it was the Princess."
"Moon Healing Escalation!" The sudden attack caught Anemoi off guard, knocking her out of the air. A dirty figure rose from the rubble, radiating a blazing aura of red. Her fuku was torn to shreds and blood seeped from her many cuts and scrapes, but otherwise, she appeared to be okay. "Spoke too soon ya damn hag. Betcha didn't know about the space under the stage, didja?"
Anemoi had to die, and quickly. That much Sailor Moon was certain of. She wasn't really certain of that whole 'connect your hearts' thing that Usagi liked to preach, but she couldn't deny what she was feeling. She wasn't going to let this stand and the Senshi all felt the same way. A silver light began to form around the brooch. Around the battlefield, similar lights appeared on the chests of the other Senshi, finally ending with a golden one appearing on Akane's chest. Four words bubbled up from somewhere inside of her. Four very significant words.
"Moon Crisis... Make Up!"
Nabiki couldn't turn away from what she was seeing. All around her, people groaned in pain, clutching at wounds that would require serious medical attention if they were going to live. One of her closer friends that she'd known since before her mother died was unconscious and not looking too good. She'd ended up carrying her to the relative safety of the school's cafeteria in the madness.
Her father had led them there while Genma fought the creatures off. When he realized Akane wasn't with them, he rushed right back out, only for them to return with more injured. She wasn't at all surprised to learn her younger sister wasn't with him. Akane would fight tooth and nail to protect those people. As it was, she only felt shock at the horror of what was going on around her.
She wasn't sure how much time had passed since they'd holed up there, knees to her chest as she sat on the floor watching anyone with the slightest medical experience, Kasumi included, scurry about and try to keep the injured stable. What the hell have I been thinking? she mentally repeated again.
"Is everything alright Nabiki? Are you hurt anywhere?"
She flinched when a hand came to rest on her shoulder. Broken out of her trance, she turned to see a concerned Nodoka Saotome, a bandage around the older woman's arm from where she'd been luckily only nicked by a ghoul. She was trying to check her over discreetly, but Nabiki easily noticed. She took a moment to try and calm herself. "W-what did you say?" She internally winced at how shaky her voice must have sounded.
"I asked if you were feeling okay. It was a very close call. We were lucky to get out of there."
"I'm fine, but..." She looked over to the injured once more, feeling a chill run down her spine at how close it had come to that being her. Or Kasumi. Akane was unlikely to escape the fighting unscathed. If she gets hurt because of this mess Ranma is in, I'll... I'll... Her thoughts trailed off. It wasn't Ranma's fault these monsters attacked. "This is the sort of mess the Senshi fight all the time?" she asked quietly. "This is nothing like what usually happens around here. No one is supposed to get hurt."
"It's a bit shocking," Nodoka agreed. "I hope Ranma is okay."
She ignored the comment and continued to stare ahead. She had been blissfully ignorant to the true nature of the world at large. She'd always known bad things happened, some even hitting a little too close to home, but this was on another level completely. This had opened her eyes. The Senshi weren't innocent little girls prancing around in frilly costumes fighting the sorts of wacky creatures Ranma fought all the time like she'd first assumed. No, they were hardened warriors. Warriors who'd probably seen more than their share of death first hand. When she saw Usagi lying in her hospital bed, she'd assumed the girl just sucked at her job. Now, having seen first hand what their enemies were capable of, she thought the blonde was lucky to have made it out alive.
The ground started to rumble, forcing everyone to brace themselves until it stopped. Whatever was going on out there, it was big. Nodoka stood up and looked off in the direction of the fighting. "I'm worried about everyone. My husband and your father haven't come back yet."
A white light suddenly washed over the room. It almost felt like it wrapped around her, draining away her tension, leaving her feeling a strange sense of peacefulness. All around them, wounds healed and people started to sit up like nothing had happened. "This is your doing, isn't it Ranma?" she whispered under her breath.
The lights streaked out and met Moon as she started to float just above the ground. A bright flash blinded everyone present, but when it died down, the change to Sailor Moon was immediately noticeable.
Her collar was still a vibrant blue, but the bow on her chest had grown larger and turned bright pink. Likewise, the bow on her back also grew larger with two ribbons of the pale pink bow trailing behind her. A white bow had been tied into the base of her braid, looking almost like a pair of wings fluttering in the wind. Her shorter skirt was mostly white ending in gold and blue. A golden belt wrapped around her waist with a heart shaped clasp in front. Her choker, formerly red, was now gold with a pink heart replacing the crescent moon. Pink also replaced the red of her boots and gloves.
Most noticeable though, was the large staff she held in her right hand. It was taller than she was and topped with a crescent moon and a pair of wings just below it. She gave the weapon an experimental spin, liking the feel of it in her hands. Her previously ruffled appearance was now pristine, and her eyes narrowed like a judge sentencing a criminal as she tapped the bottom of the staff against the ground. "Lunar Blossom Tranquility."
Anemoi flinched as a wave of white rolled out from Super Sailor Moon in all directions, washing over everyone with an aura of peace. Ghouls crumbled under the blast. Harpies fell from the sky. The wounds of the injured healed. Anemoi prepared for the attack, but the true effects were far worse than a direct attack. She shuddered as she suddenly felt the tainted power of the crystal leaving her. She was still powerful in her own right, but now she alone was facing off against nine very angry Senshi, the tuxedoed girl, and a handful of unusually strong humans. She eyed them warily. "I think it's time for a strategic retreat..."
Loud quacking filled the air, followed immediately after by a series of weapons that prevented her from running from the fight. Before she could blink, she was hit hard by a Tuxedo la Smoking Bomber, which was followed soon after by Moon suddenly appearing in front of her, expertly striking her repeatedly with the staff in her hands. Her body crashed into the rubble that used to be the gymnasium of Furinkan High School.
"You ain't goin' nowhere," Moon growled. "After everythin' you've done, you'll pay." Anemoi tried to get up, but Moon kicked her back down. That Lunar Blossom Tranquility had taken a lot out of her, but she didn't let it show as she pointed the staff at the demon once more, intent on ending the fight. Power charged up in the staff, causing it to shimmer with a faint white light. "This ends here. Moon Impact Crush!"
The collected magic lanced out, tearing through Anemoi like paper. She let out an agonizing scream, unable to withstand the attack. When it was over, all that remained was a sparkling piece of crystal. Moon bent down to pick it up when everything finally caught up to her, causing her to drop to her knees. With deep, heavy breaths, her super transformation cut out, returning her to her usual fuku.
She picked up the crystal and handed it to Mercury, who, along with the other Senshi and Akane, had come to her aid. Akane helped her to her feet and let the Senshi give Moon a hand before stepping away to join her father while Venus turned to address all present. "Thank goodness everyone is safe. Be careful everyone. While evil still lingers in this world, today is proof that everyone can play their part, no matter how small, in helping others to make the world just a little better." After delivering her heart felt speech, she laughed nervously and rubbed the back of her neck. "Sorry about your gym." Before anyone could say anything, she gathered together with the other Senshi and formed a circle, teleporting away.
It was late by the time the Tendo and Saotome families returned to the dojo. Soun had insisted on taking Akane to a doctor to make sure there were no lasting affects of wearing a magical tuxedo. The doctor had mostly humored the overprotective father and ran tests between the man chiding his daughter for being so reckless and crying in relief that she was safe. Nodoka had been disappointed she didn't get to see Sailor Moon in action, but after hearing about how she was responsible for saving everyone, she seemed rather satisfied with the young hero's good deeds.
They arrived to see Ranma sitting at the table, leaning back with an ice pack on his forehead. Genma was in his face instantly, grabbing him by the collar and hauling him roughly to his feet. "Where have you been boy?! Your fiancée had to fight all by herself because you ran off!"
"I can take care of myself!" said fiancée objected futilely.
With more effort than it should have taken, Ranma managed to throw his father out of the house and into the koi pond. "Buzz off Pop. You didn't get a building dropped on your head."
"Well," Kasumi interrupted, sounding tired but trying to remain chipper, "how about we order in tonight? It's been a long day."
"Here here," Nabiki agreed tiredly as she took a seat at the table.
Nodoka rushed over to her son and wrapped him up in a tight hug. "Oh my manly boy. I'm so proud of you!" Ranma squirmed a little from the surprise hug, but she didn't seem to notice.
After Nodoka finally let Ranma go, Akane finally joined her sister and Ranma and sat down. No one really seemed eager to talk about what had happened, but it wasn't something that could be held back forever. Nabiki was the first to, reluctantly, break the ice as she watched television. "I owe you an apology Ranma. You were right, the Senshi are good people. I'm sorry for doubting you." She turned to glare at him. "It should go without saying that we never had this conversation."
"Yeah, yeah, I know. I gotcha. Don't mention it," he replied casually. Admitting to being wrong was not something Nabiki was good at.
"I can't believe everyone saw me transform into some sort of copycat Tuxedo Mask," Akane muttered as she hung her head and let out a sigh. "I'll never hear the end of it."
"I doubt anyone will remember what happened in the confusion," Nabiki quipped. "Even if they do, we know enough people that can throw around ki attacks like nothing." Akane was frowning as she looked to her sister, but she couldn't really argue with what she was saying. "Besides, I can always spread a few rumors to turn the attention away from you if anyone gets a little too nosy."
Neither Ranma nor Akane were sure of how to take the money loving girl's helpful new take on the situation, but neither was very eager to push the subject. Discussion tapered off, and soon, the food had arrived. It was a quiet meal. Genma didn't try to swipe food from Ranma, though the teen still ate his meal with the usual gusto. Everyone had their own thoughts about the day.
"I have something to say," Akane spoke up after the meal had finished. She mustered up her courage and stood up, her eyes reflecting her determination. Once she had everyone's attention, she took a deep breath and continued. "I've been thinking a lot lately. Ranma and I fight constantly. I want to be friends with him, but between our fathers always pressuring us to get married and the other fiancées and rivals constantly causing problems, I haven't even had a chance to think until recently." She took another deep breath and firmed up her resolve, looking mostly toward her father and Genma as she got to her point. "I've decided to call off my engagement with Ranma."
The fathers were in an uproar, demanding that she fulfill her duty to their honor, but she stood firm. She glared at them fiercely, forcing them back with the promise of pain should they keep it up. It was Nodoka who spoke up next, addressing the youngest Tendo daughter calmly. She seemed a bit sad, but not emotional enough to act irrationally like her husband and his best friend. "Might I ask why you've decided not to marry my son?"
Her throat felt dry. She knew what she was about to say could get messy if certain people decided to listen to only select pieces. "I do love Ranma," she admitted softly. She watched the cursed boy from the corner of her eyes. He was squirming in his seat, avoiding looking at her. She was honestly surprised he hadn't had anything to say, but now was not a good time to let him. Before anyone could interrupt her, she continued. "But when I first met Ranma, he was a girl. He, or rather she at the time, was a bit annoying at times and brash, but we got along until the engagement got pushed onto us. That's when everything got hectic. We started fighting, and the pressure just built up to the point where sometimes I dreaded spending time with him and everything he said just pissed me off. Everyone had their expectations for us, but we couldn't just be us. Thinking back on that time, and everything that's followed, it's like Ranma is a brother to me. We bicker like siblings enough that I'm surprised I didn't see it sooner. I won't marry my brother."
The room quieted instantly. Soun and Genma glanced at each other. "It could still work," the portly man suggested hesitantly. Akane's glare silenced that protest though. With a grunt, Ranma stood up and headed outside. She watched him leave with a heavy heart.
"I guess that means the engagement moves to Nabiki," Soun said with finality. Genma nodded his head sagely. Nodoka turned to Nabiki expectantly to hear her answer.
"Whatever," she replied casually. "I don't plan on marrying him either way."
"But family honor!" Soun protested.
"Not my problem," Nabiki quipped. "If I ever get married, I'm taking my husband's name, and if Ranma has half a brain in his head, he'll do the same with whoever he marries." Nodoka looked scandalized at the idea of her son taking on his wife's name, but Nabiki ignored it.
Akane let out a sigh and decided to help Kasumi clean up. She just hoped Ranma wasn't too beat up over what she'd had to do for both of them.
The shadows almost seemed to crawl toward Fafnir as she entered the throne room to report to her mistress. "I've successfully retrieved it," she reported calmly. "I encountered resistance, but it was nothing to me."
Her mistress on the throne seemed to smile as she laid eyes on the important item she'd requested. Fafnir set it on the floor before her and stepped back. "Thank you Fafnir. Was it damaged?"
The shadows seemed to writhe in excitement. It almost looked like a tendril of immaterial darkness gently caressed it like a newborn baby. "It will take some time to fully incorporate itself into my being. You know what to do."
Fafnir nodded resolutely. "Yes Mistress. It shall be done. What of Anemoi?"
"She is dead."
The tall demonic woman lowered her head and had a moment of silence for her fallen comrade before returning her attention to her mistress. "Then the Senshi have all three pieces of the crystal."
The mistress in the shadows leered down at her minion. "Yes, but it will not help them any. The fourth piece has been lost to time. Not even I know where it hides. But even if they find it, we will soon have the Golden Crystal in our hands, and with this new toy, I will have even more power. Victory is within our grasp Fafnir. The reign of man shall soon come crashing down around them."
Fafnir bowed her head respectfully. "I understand. I will follow you to the very end."