B’WAHAHAHAHAHAHA! At last, my revenge is nigh!
Oh, excuse me. I am Jadeite, soon to be supreme commander of the Dark Kingdom Generals! But first, I will pay Ukyou back for TAKING MY ARM! First, I will slaughter all her friends before her eyes, then slowly torture her to death, while taking out all her delicious ‘chi’ energy to revive our Empress Metallia!
Oh, wait, those are the events of THIS chapter, not last chapter. Last chapter, that arrogant fool Ukyou dared to defy me, as she has been doing since Chapter 3. But now I am holding the sister of her friend Akane hostage, and thus she will come to me on MY terms!
Also, other people did things, though it hardly matters, since soon Metallia shall scour the earth CLEAN! I give a best estimate of “next Tuesday”, so thus the actions of that fool Chris, who talked with Cologne and then recruited Pink and Link to his cause, are MEANINGLESS!
No, Tethys, I have NOT had too many painkillers!
Bah! You all shall perish too, so I feel no need to narrate further! Also, that was pretty much all the events! Now, it is time for Ukyou to PAY!
C&A Productions Presents
A Work of Blatant Self-Insertion
Chapter 7: Carousel
“The sky over the Narita airport was clear that night. The stars shone down from the heavens – what few could be seen through the omnipresent glow of Tokyo’s nightlife, that is. The moon was but a slit, tainted a sickly yellow by the thick layer of smog that hung over the city. The waters of Tokyo Bay were calm tonight, almost glassy. Only the gentle sound of the tide relentlessly lapping on the shore gave lie to the seas’ seeming idleness. In the sky above, there was no whine of jet engines. All traffic into and out of the airport had been halted earlier that day, to deal with the ‘terrorist threat’ against the nexus of global traffic.
“The masses came in droves that night. Hundreds of officers from the Tokyo police were standing guard over the various entrances to the airport, their blue uniforms contrasted by the drab greys of the official security. Dozens of fit young men walked the perimeters of the fences surrounding the massive ocean-abutting runways with flashlights in hand, searching out any threat. And the last of them wore dark green, armed with weapons of war usually not seen in the placid Japanese isles. These few tens of members of the Japanese Self Defence Force were not on patrol or barricade duty, but were instead waiting next to their armoured personnel carrier to be rapidly deployed to any threat that might appear.”
Click. Click. Whirrr.
“And time ticked on.
“As the sun set, the forces of order had finished securing the battleground. Then it was just the long wait. There was nothing to break the seeming monotony except the occasional polite refusal of entry to the curious or the foolhardy. The image in the sky had been like the foot that overturns the anthill, and it seemed all the crazies had wandered out that night. The chief operations officer had been fielding calls all day from ‘demon hunters’ and ‘concerned citizens’ that wanted to assist in the ‘battle to come’. Always for a price. They were told politely – but firmly – that this was none of their business.
“The general consensus, after all, was that this was some large–scale hoax. Perhaps, at worst, a warning of a massive terrorist operation. But nobody really believed any of that. This was Japan. Things like that just didn’t happen here. Certainly nothing so ludicrous as a magical man challenging a brave young hero to a duel to the death over his lady love.”
Click. Click. Whirr.
“Hmm. Note to self: Use less flash bulbs. I think they saw me that time… oops, yeah, best move on!”
Ran Hibiki dashed from her hiding place, her mini-recorder bouncing against her vest as she sprinted across the tarmac. The police gave chase, but they were no match for her speed and youthful vitality, just like they hadn’t been a match the other ten times they had spotted her so far today. She didn’t really blame them: you didn’t grow up in the most violent school district of all Tokyo without getting in pretty good shape. You especially didn’t spend your time documenting the frequent and spectacular brawls of her neighbourhood (and running away from those who objected to that documentation) without learning to be quick on your feet.
Once she had safely left the well-meaning but misguided police behind, Ran slowed down and started looking for a better place to hide. There was no way she was going to miss the fireworks tonight. And she didn’t doubt there would be fireworks for one second. She smiled, remembering some of the spectacles that she had witnessed at her own Taiyo High School. When you saw people summon lightning from the ground, light each other on fire with their kicks, leap two stories into the air and other such things with casual ease… the idea of a man in the sky holding a pretty girl hostage to provoke a young hero into a final duel became a lot more plausible.
Ran leapt up onto a convenient outbuilding to get herself a better glimpse of the area. It was almost midnight, and she figured that was when the excitement was most likely to start. She reached down to the recorder strung around her neck and flipped it back on. Now, where had she been?
“The entire airport seemed to be holding its breath. An unnerving quiet had descended upon the place, settling over the plaza like a funeral shroud. The mist began to roll in from the…” Ran paused. She had never seen mist roll out of a building before. She took a few quick pictures, hoping the flash didn’t give her away. Still, something didn’t feel right. She reached up to the zoom and twisted it, bringing the distant figures of the SDF troops into sharper focus. “They’re… they’re falling asleep?”
Ran watched, unable to fathom what she was seeing, but that was definitely what was happening… and all the police seemed to be falling asleep as well. She panned her camera in a wide circle, and everywhere she watched the rent-a-cops and soldiers were toppling over on their feet. A few more pictures of that later, she began to wonder what could be causing it. Then she remembered the one constant companion of all the falling guards. The mist.
Unease suddenly clenching her stomach in a clammy hand, she peered over the edge of the outbuilding she was standing on. The mist, a viscous, almost black morass, had risen to the very edge of her perch. She eeped and backed away from the edge as the noxious miasma lapped at the corners of her station like a dark sea. She could feel something about that mist, something inherently wrong. In her job, she had developed almost by necessity a ‘sixth sense’ for danger, and it was screaming at her now, sending that muted electric tingle up and down her spine.
“I never…” Ran spoke aloud and then frowned at the quaver in her voice. She cleared her throat and when she next spoke it was in the firm tones of the Professional Reporter. “The evil mist seemed to come from nowhere. Crawling across the tarmac and along the edges of the airport like a thief in the night. Where it went, brave men and women fell silent, their bodies toppling over in the darkness and their weapons scattered uselessly about their unconscious forms. It appeared that, whatever force had chosen this day for this meeting, it was not going to let the good intentions and valiant heroics of mortal man prevent the confrontation that was happening this night.”
Ran spoke a bit more into her recorder. As always, the sound of her own narration calmed her. She was the Professional Reporter. She existed outside the conflicts, above them, beyond them. Hers was the voice and the eye of the everyman, and she would be there, no matter how dangerous the situation. She was in no danger here. She wasn’t even involved. She just observed.
After an interminable time spent crouching on the top of the little outbuilding, Ran watched as the mist began to recede. She followed its progress with her camera, and watched it retreat back into the hangar where she had seen it first emerge. Reflexively, she glanced at her watch. Five minutes to midnight.
Tethys would have grinned, had she still had a mouth. Her eyes did narrow in pleasure as she watched the mist slowly retreat into the huge blue orb hanging in the air before her. To her right, Jadeite watched the display without emotion. His good hand rubbed absently at the stump of his left arm. To her left was the human girl, hanging from the ceiling on a simple rope. The three youma assassins floated in the air behind her, affecting bored expressions. Tethys almost wished they could see her smile. It might have put them on edge.
With this, there was going to be no chance of failure. All the energy of every human in this pitiful ‘airport’ had been collected here, for their use. For his use. And Tethys had prepared another special surprise, one that even Jadeite didn’t know about, just in case.
“Is it ready?” Jadeite said once the mist had ceased its flow.
“Yes,” Tethys said with a nod.
“And our prey?”
Tethys waved her hands over the orb, causing it to resonate and pulse with eldritch energy. She flicked her fingers delicately and precisely, pulling on the subtle strings of magic that connected the orb to the space around it. In short order the centre of the orb became clear, and through it one could see the world outside the cavernous building that Jadeite had chosen as his sanctum.
Four figures were visible through the window in space. One was that damnable bastard Ukyou. He walked in a steady stride in front of the other three, his long black coat flapping behind him. One of the others Tethys recognised from that morning, except he had changed his clothes to something more fitting, and walked with a red bamboo umbrella propped on his right shoulder. Tethys chuckled a bit at that. As if an umbrella could save him from her power.
The other two, Tethys did not recognise. One was a girl, shorter than all the others, with long hair. She wore a yellow uniform of some sort. The final one was dressed in a red shirt and black drawstring pants. He was the tallest boy there, and strode near the front with Ukyou, talking to the lead boy animatedly. Tethys wished that her scrying extended to sound.
“Four of them,” Grape pointed out unnecessarily.
“I recognise three of them,” Jadeite hissed. “But not the girl.” He frowned and shook his head. “It is of no matter. They aren’t important. If they have any energy to them, we’ll turn them over to Queen Beryl. The truly dangerous one is the lead boy.” He tapped the image, causing ripples to spread across it as if he had touched a pond. Which, in a way, he had. “I’ve seen enough. How soon until they get here?”
Tethys glanced at the filaments of eldritch energy wrapped invisibly around her outstretched fingers, and did a few quick calculations. “A matter of minutes. It looks like they’ll be right on time.”
“Good,” Jadeite grinned ferally. He placed his right palm on Tethys’ sphere and began to concentrate. Tethys quickly released her connection to the node before he painfully ripped it from her. The image went dark, but the pulse of the orb did not quiet. Instead it began to grow louder. A circle of blue light emerged from it for a moment, then retreated. A moment later this repeated, but with a larger circle. Then the light in the room dimmed, and Jadeite screamed.
Tethys watched as the sparks of unholy light leapt from the node up along his arm. The stolen energy here was not being stored for transportation to the Dark Kingdom: it was being channelled, straight into Jadeite’s body. His back arched, twisting to the point where a human would break. His mouth opened, but instead of sound, an awful white light emerged. Sparks shot along the length of his body, and for a moment Tethys feared for his life. Then it ended, so suddenly she felt a moment of vertigo.
“Heh.” Jadeite grinned and reached up with his good hand, curling it into a fist. “This is perfect. Come along, it’s time to greet our guests.”
Akane nodded as Ukyou stood back up. The police officer at her feet looked almost peaceful where he had fallen. Ukyou looked through the chain–link fence at the others and nodded her head once. Ranma and Ryouga both looked at each other and leapt up with a deceptively simple push. They both easily vaulted the five–meter fence and the meter of barbed wire on top of that. Akane watched this and gulped. But she set her face and leapt herself. She only made it half as high, but her hands caught in the links of the fence easily enough. Navigating the barbed wire was a bit tricky, but when Ranma offered to help she nearly kicked him. So she made it over with only a small scratch (or ten).
“So what now?” Ranma asked as he walked towards the tarmac.
“Jadeite will play his hand soon,” Ukyou pointed out as she pulled her spatula from the harness on her back. “There isn’t much we can do except wait for him to do so. This is a big place, and we don’t know where he’s keeping Nabiki. Just remember the plan.”
Nabiki. Akane’s pulse quickened. She had never really gotten along with her sister, but she loved her nonetheless with the fierce loyalty only siblings had. She couldn’t help picturing Tofu lying unconscious and vulnerable in that hospital bed. The thought of Nabiki in that position, or worse… it ate at her inside. But she was determined not to let that show. Everyone else here was ready for battle, and she would be too.
“We have company!” Ranma shouted as he spun to face the end of the runway. Akane glanced in that direction sharply. At that end of the asphalt, the surface gave away suddenly to the choppy ocean. And out of that ocean crawled… THINGS. They couldn’t be called human, even if they did affect human form. They were nothing so much as human-shaped blobs of water. Ryouga growled beside her and she heard him unfurl his umbrella.
“They’re no threat to us,” Ukyou pointed out with a wave of her polearm.
“That’s easy for you to say,” Ryouga muttered, almost too low for Akane to hear. She dismissed the odd boy’s comment almost as soon as she heard it.
“Where are those girls, anyway?” Ukyou growled as she looked across the tarmac. “Well, we’ll see how they like this. Remember the plan, Ryouga.”
Ukyou stepped forward, reaching into her coat with one hand. The moaning horde of water-men slowly approached, but Ukyou didn’t look worried. Once they were within two meters her hand shot out, sending a spinning grey packet into the air above them. Almost simultaneously, Ryouga snapped his hand forward, launching a spinning projectile after the packet.
The buzzing shuriken-like weapon ripped the packet to ribbons. A cloud of grey smoke exploded out in all directions. It quickly fell among the shambling golems, obscuring them from Akane’s vision. As the dust settled the sound of shuffling slowed, then stopped altogether. When the last of the cloud dissipated, Akane stared out into a small army of perfectly still grey statues.
“Quick drying rubber cement,” Ukyou answered their unspoken question. She raised her hand and ran it through her bangs. “Just add water.”
Ukyou stared at the still figures for a moment, making sure that none of them started moving. Then she smirked and turned towards the airport. With a gesture for them to follow, she walked further out onto the tarmac.
“I hope that isn’t the best you can do, Jadeite!” Ukyou cried into the darkness.
The response was almost immediate. Akane felt it. It was like someone had run a livewire up her back and stabbed it into her neck. She spun in place, suddenly on edge. And she saw them coming.
Akane had never seen a jumbo jet up close before. Oh sure, you saw them all the time on TV. But you never got an appreciation for how BIG they were until you saw one in person. And considering that one was rolling straight towards them, Akane felt a sudden satisfaction with having seen one quite close enough, and no desire at all to take a closer look.
“This old trick,” Ukyou grunted. “Ryouga, could you do the honours?”
“What?” Ryouga cried out in shock. “Are you nuts? I’m strong, but not that strong!” He pointed to the accelerating airliner. Akane had to agree. No human could be strong enough to stop one of those in its tracks.
“You don’t have to stop it,” Ranma piped up happily. He grinned and shook his head. “I get what Ukyou means. Ryouga, you just have to stop its WHEELS.” Ryouga blinked at this. Ranma sighed, then reached over and tapped the shorter boy’s umbrella with one finger. Suddenly Ryouga’s eyes widened, before his face settled into a feral grin.
“Heh. Of course, why didn’t I think of that!” Ryouga spun in place and drew back his umbrella with one hand. With a ferocious snap of his arm, he sent the ungainly weapon spinning forward like a top. Somehow the umbrella flew in a perfect graceful arc, its top spinning so fast it produced a loud hum like a buzzsaw. But it didn’t just sound like a saw. With deceptive ease, the edge of the umbrella sliced through the strut of the airliners front wheel. The weapon reversed course a fraction of a second later, but it was still almost crushed as the front of the airliner collapsed into the ground with a thunderous boom.
Ryouga reached out with one hand and caught his weapon, stopping its spin with uncanny ease. The airliner ground forward, a sea of sparks erupting from under its nose, for a few more seconds before friction overcame inertia.
“You’re more resourceful than you appear,” Jadeite’s voice boomed out from behind them. Everyone spun to face the waves of Tokyo Bay. Jadeite was floating a few meters above the darkened waters. His left sleeve was pinned to his side, but his right arm was gesturing grandly. Akane tore her eyes away from his empty sleeve with some effort. Beside him floated a woman only barely more human-looking than the water-men from before. Her night-black hair stood sharply against her pale blue skin. Her clinging outfit too was blue, leaving only a golden wire headdress and a small golden symbol under one eye contrasting her favoured colour. And those eyes… Akane shivered a bit. The woman had no mouth, no nose, no recognisable facial features whatsoever… except those glowing red eyes, staring at them with undisguised malevolence.
“And you’re too predictable for your own good,” Ukyou shouted back. “Where is Nabiki? What have you done with her!?“
“She’s alive,” Jadeite almost purred in an amused tone. “Perhaps not for long, but she is alive.” Akane felt her temper flare. A white–hot rush of emotion that blotted out all thought.
“You bastard!” Akane roared and charged forward. Ranma and Ukyou reached out and restrained her, or she would have leapt from the end of the airstrip to reach him. She struggled half-heartedly against their grips. “That’s my sister! If you harm a hair on her head, I’ll break you in two!”
“Are all humans like you so spirited?” Jadeite mused. He tossed his head. “It doesn’t matter. The girl lives only so long as I let her live.”
“Don’t think you can make us surrender by threatening her,” Ukyou pointed out in a calm voice. She gestured with the hand that wasn’t currently holding back Akane. “As Akane just pointed out, you hurt her and we hurt you right back.” Ukyou stepped away from Akane and left the task of holding her back solely up to Ranma. Akane was breathing deeply, forcing back her anger, so Ranma had no trouble preventing her from doing something stupid.
“I’m in control of this confrontation!” Jadeite roared suddenly, his eyes brightening with furious mania. “Don’t think you can talk me into surrendering my advantage! I’ll destroy you and all your little friends-“
“And your little dog, too,” Ukyou said with a loud yawn, cutting Jadeite off yet again. “I’ve heard it all before, from much more eloquent speakers than you.”
Jadeite growled and clenched his fist. A strange purple light flared between his fingers for a moment. Then he let out a long breath and smiled.
“You’re trying to anger me into making a mistake again,” Jadeite purred as he floated back in the air. “It won’t work this time.”
“It doesn’t have to,” Ukyou explained calmly, spotting something over her shoulder. “I was just stalling for time, you see.”
“Hold it right there!”
The new voice rang across the airport, sharp and clear. Akane turned and saw three figures standing in the nearby shadows. They were short, and had the silhouettes of young women. As the light from the moon overhead slowly drifted across the field, it illuminated them one by one. They were all girls, in color-coded short skirts and body-hugging white leotards. Each was standing in a slightly comical pose, arms and legs akimbo as they stared with fierce determination towards the nearby confrontation.
“Airports are places where people come to meet loved ones, not to fight for their lives! For spoiling this purpose I, Sailor Moon, will-“
“NOW!” Ukyou shouted.
Akane glanced over her shoulder only long enough to see Ukyou and Ryouga dashing forward, their arms blurring as they launched their buzzing projectiles towards the floating figures. Jadeite gasped and raised his hand, almost too late. A few of the weapons slashed through the fabric of his uniform and drew blossoms of red in their wake, but the remainder of the attacks bounced harmlessly off a hemisphere of yellow force. The youma woman next to him was not quite so lucky. She screamed as a half-dozen of Ukyou’s spatulas caught her in the chest and sent her spiralling into the harbour.
But Akane couldn’t afford to waste any more time watching the battle. She hated it, but she had another, more important job to attend to. Ranma was running beside her, keeping step easily as they approached the trio of startled young girls. Akane didn’t waste any time locating the one with the short blue hair.
“Sailor Mercury!” Akane called out quickly.
“Oh… yes…” the girl stammered, her eyes shifting from the battle behind Akane to the martial artist in front of her. A trinity of explosions erupted in the silence, but Akane refused to turn her attention away. “You seem to have me at a disadvantage…”
“No time for introductions,” Ranma pointed out, looking over his shoulder at the battle. “We’re all on the same side here, though.”
“Wait, I think I remember you…” the blonde-haired girl with the ridiculous dumpling-style ponytails gasped.
“Whatever,” Ranma dismissed her with a wave of his hand. “You and… uh,” he looked helplessly at the tall brunette.
“Sailor Mars,” Akane offered. “Sailor Moon and Sailor Mars are supposed to help Ukyou and Ryouga fight Jadeite.”
“Wait a minute,” Sailor Mars growled, stepping forward. “We don’t just take orders from anyone-“
“Please!” Akane stepped in front of her, throwing her arms to her side. Ukyou had warned her that Sailor Mars would be the most obstinate. “Those monsters kidnapped my sister! I need your help if I’m supposed to save her. You have to agree to help us, and we don’t have time to come up with a different plan!” Akane could feel wetness on her cheeks and inwardly cursed herself for crying. Yet she couldn’t stop herself. She had already lost… no, she wouldn’t lose any more of her family!
“I think we should listen to them,” Sailor Mercury said softly as she stepped up beside her partner.
“Yeah.” Sailor Moon walked over and patted Akane on the shoulder. “We’ll help you save your sister. Sailor Moon stands for love and justice! Saving families in need is what I do best.”
“Thank you,” Akane breathed.
“Besides, I want to introduce myself to that hunk in the trenchcoat,” Sailor Moon giggled. “We never really got to talk before…”
“Can’t you ever stop thinking about boys!?” Sailor Mars berated her.
Akane and Ranma shared a long glance.
“Uh huh,” Ranma coughed into his hand. “Yeah, you can do that later.” He paused and glanced at the short-haired girl. “We need your computer thingie. It can tell us where they’ve hidden Nabiki, can’t it?”
“Uh, yes…” Sailor Mercury nodded. “It should be able to locate her.” The other two Sailor Senshi nodded to each other and dashed from the small cluster to help Ukyou and Ryouga. Immediately, the number of explosions behind Akane increased. Sailor Mercury reached up and tapped her right earring. With a synthesized hum, a visor of some clear blue material materialised across her eyes. Akane blinked when she realised the girl was holding a small pocketbook-sized device. Where had she gotten that from?
“Let’s hurry,” Ranma grumbled. Akane looked over at him and saw his eyes continue to glance in the direction of the battle. The boy hadn’t liked being told to go with Akane. Ukyou had been insistent, however. And her argument about how he lacked a convenient projectile attack had finally won him over. But that didn’t mean he liked it. Akane was kind of resentful herself. She didn’t need a bodyguard.
“I think I’ve found her, over in that direction,” Mercury raised her hand and pointed. Akane was already sprinting before she finished. Ranma caught up with her a moment later. A few seconds later, they were joined by the blue-haired Senshi as well.
Rei raised her hands in front of her, concentrating the energy she felt burning inside her. The power sparked, then ignited at the tips of her fingers. With a mental push she launched the ball of flames across the air, only to watch it impact harmlessly on the force field that Jadeite had erected. The man kept his arm extended, and she saw him wince as the fire dissipated around the orb he had created.
“Keep it up!” the boy, Ukyou, shouted as he dashed to the side and launched a series of his shuriken-like weapons with one hand. Jadeite shifted his aim, deflecting the weapons with his shield once more. It hadn’t taken them long to figure out that their enemy couldn’t maintain the shield and launch his energy attacks at the same time.
Sailor Moon launched her own attack in the wake of Ukyou’s distraction. The glowing yellow frisbee streaked like a comet through the air. So far, it had been the only attack Jadeite seemed unwilling to meet head on, and this time proved no different. The man growled and seemed to flicker, then vanished into a haze. The discus passed harmlessly through the air before cycling back to Sailor Moon’s waiting hand.
“Watch it,” Ukyou shouted as she tackled the so-called leader of the Sailor Senshi from behind. Usagi screamed as she was thrown to the ground, and Rei saw a blast of pink lightning flash through the air above the duo. A few meters away the ground disintegrated in a hemisphere of light, the explosion loud enough that it drowned out Usagi’s panicked cries for a few moments.
“That was fast,” the other boy grunted as he leapt towards Jadeite’s new position. His hand snapped up to his forehead in a blur almost too fast for Rei to follow and came away with a dozen of those yellow bandanas he wore.
“He teleported,” Ukyou said as she got off the suddenly quiet Sailor Moon. Rei glanced down at the blonde and saw her giving the boy a dreamy stare from her position on the ground.
“I thought he couldn’t do that in the middle of a fight,” the boy growled as he spun the bandanas in his hands. They began to buzz, then hum as they became spinning disks in his hands. The Dark Kingdom general was just standing with his arm held loosely at his side, smirking down at them.
“I guess the boy doesn’t know everything about me,” Jadeite reported calmly.
“Let’s not get caught up in talk,” Ukyou warned the other boy in a voice that was both cold and hard. He pulled the starstruck Usagi to her feet and pointed at the bandana-wielding boy. “Remember the plan.”
“Plan?” Rei snapped.
“Just keep him occupied,” Ukyou stepped forward, his coat flapping in the breeze. Jadeite only smirked, then thrust his palm forward. Rei could feel the mystic energy gathering before the strike, but still could hardly move in time. Ukyou, however, moved in a flash. The lightning struck the ground and exploded under the leaping boy’s feet. Ukyou flipped, riding the shockwave with the skill of a dancer before landing gracefully a few meters away. Jadeite’s follow-up shot was aborted when several of the other boy’s spinning bandanas cut through the air, forcing him to pull his arm back. Rei shouted herself, summoning another blast of Martian fire from her fingers. Once more it was absorbed by his shield.
“We’ll never beat him like this!” Usagi cried, apparently having recovered herself. Jadeite teleported away from another swarm of Ukyou’s miniature spatulas as if to demonstrate her point. Rei closed her eyes and breathed out, focusing her energy inward. She could feel his magic permeating the air around them. Flowing like a river through the entire airport. She felt a sudden pulse in the flow of that river, like a stone hitting a pond.
“Over there!” Rei shouted as she spun to face the reappearing general. She was already charging her Fire Soul attack once more, but Jadeite was faster. His magical energy lashed out at her like a striking snake, and Rei cursed as she threw herself to the side. The heat of the explosion rolled up her legs, and the concrete rubbed harshly against the flesh of her arm as she landed hard enough to knock the wind out of her.
“Careful!” the other boy suddenly appeared over her. He was thrusting his umbrella with inhuman speed, so fast that all Rei saw was a red blur. Then she felt and heard a thunderous boom and the world around her shook. She screamed and clutched the boy’s legs, as they seemed to be the only stable things in the world. He only grunted, and slowly pulled back his umbrella. Rei stared up and saw that he had unfurled the bamboo and used it like a shield to absorb Jadeite’s follow-up. “This guy’s faster than he was this morning,” the boy warned his friend.
“Indeed.” Ukyou cocked her head to the side and stared up at him. “Well, we still have the advantage.”
“Not for long!”
Ukyou noticed the attack too late. Rei had once seen a firehose used to put out a fire, and had been impressed by the sheer force of the white water. But this stream of water was easily ten times as large as anything man had ever harnessed. It wasn’t a stream, it was a virtual river of destruction. Ukyou disappeared in the white foam, his cry cut off by the overpowering roar of the torrent.
“Ukyou!” Usagi cried in sudden despair.
Ryouga and Rei turned and saw that this was no longer four on one. The blue-skinned woman from earlier was floating above the ocean now, flanked on both sides by huge, spinning waterspouts. She gestured with one hand, and another torrent blasted out with pinpoint precision at them. Ryouga yelped in shock and dismay and leapt to the side, barely avoiding the pulse. Rei tried not to stare as the water tore a trench nearly a meter deep into the concrete runway.
“I can take this one,” Rei shouted as she pulled her hands before her. She frowned as she reached for the energy that was within her. The fire within had dimmed considerably since the battle had started. It appeared that there was a limit to how much magic Sailor Mars could call upon in one battle. But it was still more than enough to see her through this.
Rei didn’t even see the attack coming. It blasted into her back with a force stronger than anything she had ever felt. For a moment, her world dissolved into a cloud of white-hot pain and echoing explosions. The real world returned slowly, and only with frightening effort. She was on her hands and knees, gasping for breath. She couldn’t feel the asphalt under her hands, or anything at all besides the burning agony on her back.
Her ears were filled with a high–pitched whine. She tried to stand, but her balance deserted her and she ended up sitting down hard. The world lost focus, everything doubling then trebling. Rei stuck out her tongue and bit down on it, hard. The sweet pain caused her vision to snap back into focus. A few seconds of concentration later and the whining in her ears dimmed until she could hear the echoing explosions once more.
Rei staggered into a half-crouch, glancing over her shoulder. It became clear that the only reason she hadn’t been finished off was because Ryouga and Usagi were drawing the attention of the enemy. The girl and boy weren’t able to do much but dodge frantically as Jadeite and his youma took potshots at them. Yet somehow they stayed one step ahead of the attacks, Ryouga moving with a grace and agility that seemed the total opposite of Usagi’s frantic and clumsy leaps and dives.
“Are you okay?” a voice whispered into her ear. She felt an arm wrap itself under her shoulder and pull her fully to her feet. Rei looked to the side, seeing Ukyou’s drenched face. The boy was wincing slightly, but seemed able to move.
“I think,” Rei frowned. She focused her attention inward. She could feel the burns on her back and knew they were bad. Some instinct told her that the wounds weren’t life-threatening, however, and that given time the magic of her costume should repair the damage. “I can still fight!” she hissed. That was true: Rei could still feel the magic of Mars burning in her soul.
“Good,” Ukyou grunted. “They must think they KO’d us with those hits, so they’re ignoring us. This is a perfect chance to end the battle quickly.” Ukyou stepped away from Rei, but remained close as the girl swayed on her feet for a moment. “Charge up one of those wards of yours,” Ukyou ordered briskly. “If we can get it on Jadeite, they should disrupt his control.”
Rei bristled at the commanding tone, but reached down and extracted one of her ofuda wards from her storage pocket. Ukyou had a point: this was a good chance to catch Jadeite unguarded. Working swiftly, Rei spun the ward in her hand, channelling her chi and the magic of her patron into it at the same time. She acted partly on pure instinct, and partly with the calm certainty that only came from years of dedicated training. One short chant later and the ward snapped in her hands, an aura of fire flickering briefly along its edge before it became as stiff as a sword.
“I can’t get up to him to use it…” Rei started and was cut off as her words suddenly became a small cry of panic. The ground had disappeared from under her feet and she felt a sudden rush of vertigo. Then she realised that the boy had grabbed her in both arms and then leaped. Rei pulled in her breath as they almost flew into the air. As a Sailor Senshi, she and the others could make impressive leaps, but this boy put them to shame.
“Stop daydreaming!” Ukyou hissed. Rei snapped her eyes forward and saw that they were approaching Jadeite with startling speed. The air around them screamed, but Jadeite couldn’t see them coming. Grinning fiercely, Rei pulled back her hand, channelling the last bit of mystic energy into the ward.
“Akuryu Taisen!” she cried as they passed within inches of the floating man. Rei’s hand darted out, neatly affixing the paper to the back of his jacket. As they descended, Rei flipped her head back, throwing her luxurious black hair out of her way as she looked back at the man. He screamed and plummeted towards the pavement. Jadeite shouted something in some strange dialect, and waved his arms, but his eyes widened when nothing happened. He landed badly, one of his legs turning at an unhealthy angle under him. His yell of pain was strangely satisfying.
Ranma wasn’t even breathing hard when the cavernous hangar came into view. Akane was still in the lead, but he could have easily outdistanced her. Behind him, the other girl in the embarrassingly short skirt followed.
“This is definitely the place,” Sailor Mercury called out. “She’s been affected by some sort of magical field, and is only a few meters from a massive energy source.”
“Good,” Akane shouted back over her shoulder. Her long hair flowed behind her as she ran full tilt towards the shadowy entrance. Ranma frowned as they approached. He could feel something; something dangerous, within that place. It was that same noxious feeling he had felt from back at the temple. On top of that, he could feel the familiar electric tingle on the back of his neck. Considering the battle was now hundreds of meters away, that shouldn’t have been the case. That was, unless…
“Akane, duck!” Ranma put on a burst of speed and slammed his palm into the small of Akane’s back even before he had finished yelling. He saw the shadows twitch and suddenly a long green tendril emerged from them, almost too fast for Ranma to follow. Almost. His head cocked back and the tendril passed harmlessly through the divot formed by the angle of his jaw and neck without touching him. Akane tumbled to the pavement in front of him, a shocked gasp escaping her lips. He could hear the girl behind him stagger to a clumsy stop. Ranma almost snorted. It was apparent this Sailor Mercury didn’t even have rudimentary martial arts training.
“Well, what do we have here?” an amused feminine voice emerged from the shadows. Ranma flipped backwards as the tendril beneath his chin jerked suddenly. He completed an elegant backflip, feeling the pressure of the air displaced by the sudden whipping of the bark-like weapon. When he regained his feet, it was just in time to see the tendril vanish back into the shadows.
“He’s fast,” a different voice pointed out.
“I’m the best.” Ranma grinned. He slid his legs apart, snapping his arms out in a complex pattern as he settled himself into a northern horse stance. Out of the shadows stepped three feminine figures. Each was clad in a variety of foresty colors, wearing skin–tight leotards with silly floral motifs. The lead one was the shortest, with straw–coloured hair and a purple leotard. Her left arm seemed to be made of intertwined branches that Ranma figured was the tendril he had seen earlier. To her right was a taller woman with long black hair and a green leotard. The other one came in on the leader’s left, with a single lock of red hair in an otherwise purple head and a light yellow outfit. “Normally I don’t like hitting girls,” Ranma pointed out with as much arrogance in his tone as he could summon, which was considerable. “But considering you gals ain’t even human, I’ll make an exception.”
His eyes and mind were already working, flickering over the new battlefield intensely. He memorised the angles and distances to the door, the walls, the nearby cart full of abandoned suitcases and everything else he could see with practiced ease.
“You three are between us and an innocent young woman!” Sailor Mercury shouted as she stepped up beside Ranma. “I won’t let you prevent us from saving her. I am Sailor Mercury, and in the name of the planet Mercury, I shall punish you!” The entire speech came complete with silly poses.
“Don’t sweat yourself with these three,” Ranma spoke softly. “You and Akane go in there and help Nabiki. I’ll handle them by myself.”
“Isn’t he confident?” the tallest of the youma women noted with a chuckle.
“We’re going to kill all three of you, boy,” Purple-suit said with a slash of her wooden arm. “We thought we were going to miss out on the excitement, but thankfully you walked right into our trap.”
“Ranma, I can help with this…” Akane began but trailed off when she saw Ranma’s expression.
“You go and save Nabiki,” Ranma said, his voice suddenly serious. “Once she’s safe, you can come back and help me.” He smirked, his voice taking on its usual taunting tones. “I even promise I’ll leave one of them conscious for you.”
Akane nodded and grabbed the short blue… bluette? Whatever. She ran with Sailor Mercury towards the hangar.
“Stop them!” the leader hissed. Yellow-suit leapt into the air, pulling back her hands and causing a number of small red objects to appear between her cupped palms. Ranma was already moving. Two long strides carried him over to the baggage cart. His leg lashed out, kicking one of the heavier–looking suitcases into the air. He flipped in its wake, his other leg coming up in an arc. He caught the bag in a perfect soccer kick and sent it spiralling into Yellow-suit. The youma cried out in pain as the alligator skin suitcase crashed into her cheek. The orbs in her hand fell down among her allies. With twin screams they leapt away as the orbs exploded in a series of staccato bangs. Ranma landed in a crouch and whistled when he saw the crater her aborted attack had caused.
“Now, ladies.” Ranma languidly flowed to his full height. “I thought we had a date.”
“Fine,” Purple-suit shouted. “Get him first!”
The three came at him with speed that would have been impressive to a normal person. But they faced Ranma Saotome. He faded to the left, avoiding the leader’s suddenly expanding arm as it punched a neat hole in the metal cart. A series of bomblets followed. Ranma was already in the air. The flames licked at his feet as he flipped gracefully.
His feet came down on top of the branches that made up the leader’s arm. She gasped and began to retract them. Ranma dashed forward, light-footing it along the length of her arm. He frowned as a wave of vertigo suddenly hit him. His foot almost slipped… but Pops had trained him to fight on a greased tightrope hanging over a canyon in the middle of a windstorm. He could now see Green-suit with her arms extended, projecting waves of disorienting energy outward. He snorted and continued running, barely missing a beat.
The end of the woman’s arm came up quickly and Ranma was ready. He backflipped, transferring all his momentum into a single perfect kick that caught her dead on the chin. He didn’t pause to see what happened to her. As soon as his foot hit the ground he was pushing himself toward Green-suit. Her eyes widened and she leapt backward, but too slowly. Ranma pushed free of the ground, soaring into her fist-first. Green-suit’s stomach gave and her entire body folded over his fist.
He landed, his hands curling into the fabric of her leotard. He spun around, dragging her with him. He could see Purple-suit pulling herself out of the dent in the metal wall Ranma had knocked her into. Beyond her, Yellow-suit was holding her hands down, building up a shot but obviously unwilling to strike while Ranma was so close to her friend. Ranma grinned.
“Catch!” he yelled and flung the youma at Yellow-suit. The woman cried in panic and dodged to the side, and Ranma was already sprinting to meet her. He had to shift his trajectory slightly as Purple-suit shot her thorn-arm at him again. But he ducked under the attack with barely a thought. Yellow-suit saw him coming. Using one hand, she launched a cloud of cherry bombs at him.
Ranma flipped forward. The blasts tore up the pavement. The hot wind brushed against his face and the acrid smoke tickled his nostrils. Then he was past it. His leg shot out, coming down in a vicious axe kick. The woman-thing gasped and tried to throw up her arms to protect herself. Ranma came down on her forearm with enough force to shatter stone. He heard a sharp crack, then pushed away from her. The smoke of her explosions hadn’t yet settled, and Ranma skipped back through it, disappearing from the vision of all three enemies for a precious fraction of a second.
When he emerged, he saw Green-suit slowly and shakily regaining her feet and Yellow-suit collapsed on the ground clutching her broken arm. Purple-suit was dashing towards him, pulling back her distorted arm of thorns for a punch. Ranma almost laughed and slowed down enough so she could catch him. Her attack came in fast, the air cracking in the wake of her strike. Ranma leaned to the side and it flashed past his cheek without touching him. His counter did not miss. She staggered back, the breath knocked out of her by his knee. He stepped forward, twisting his entire torso at the hips and caught her straight on the chin with the ball of his hand. This time when she hit the metal wall of the hangar, it buckled and gave. Razor sharp bits of debris were thrown out in a blossom of destruction as the youma punched a hole straight into the hangar.
Ranma turned, pirouetting on one toe, to face the other two. He assumed his northern horse stance again. The two youma backed away from him, their eyes wide and quivering in fear. He didn’t blame them. Man, he envied Ukyou if she got to do this kind of thing all the time. He stretched one hand forward and made the ancient ‘come on’ sign.
“Come on, don’t run away yet!”
Tethys focused her magic behind her, skimming across the water as fast as she could. Jadeite was trying to stand again, but his leg was turning under him badly. She could see the strange paper on his back fluttering and sparking as the Dark General tried to gather his energy. The edges of the paper were beginning to burn, and in time he might have overwhelmed the ward, but time was one thing he did not have.
Tethys gestured, drawing on the magical connection between her and the water and one of her waterspouts collapsed across the runway. It formed a makeshift barrier between Jadeite and the four humans, enough to prevent them from taking advantage of his weakened state.
“Master, are you well?” Tethys crooned as she landed beside him.
“Of course I’m not!” he roared back. “Get this thing off my back!”
She nodded, slipping around behind him. Her hands reached out and grasped the edges of the ward. Immediately she felt a terrible heat radiating out from it and hissed in pain. Her fingers wanted very badly to release it, but she refused to listen to her survival instinct. Instead she clenched tighter, focusing all her energy into her limbs. She could see the barrier she had erected slowly dissolving as she lost the strength to maintain it, but that was of no importance. Sparks began to leap from the ward, blasting up the length of her arms. She screamed then, as the pain grew, but refused to let go. She would not fail him!
Finally there was a loud rip and Tethys staggered backward. The ward had come free in her hands, and it immediately vapourised in a flash of silver light. But Tethys collapsed to her knees. She was almost spent, and could even feel the edges of her being starting to unravel. She focused her mind, trying to hold onto the sense of herself. She was determined not to end up a pile of dust like so many of her sisters, but she felt so weak…
Jadeite didn’t even thank her as he floated to his feet. But she didn’t expect him to. That wouldn’t have been the Jadeite she had grown so… fond of. The four humans spread out, their faces mixes of anger and a bit of fear. All except one. The boy Ukyou was circling to Jadeite’s left, holding that bizarre polearm of his. His face was completely void of any kind of feeling, making it impossible to read. Tethys wished for a moment that she had put her whole strength behind her earlier attack. She had thought the strike she used would be enough to knock the boy out. And it would have, if Ukyou were a normal human.
Tethys watched as Jadeite fired a few more of his eldritch lightning blasts at them. Ukyou and the muscular boy were closing on him rapidly, both their weapons coming up for attacks. Sailor Mars was kneeling on the ground, but still building up for her Fire Soul attack. Even Sailor Moon was stepping forward with a frown on her face, her magic gathering for the deadly Moon Tiara attack.
Tethys had no choice. It was now or never. Even as she began to lose consciousness she reached out, her arms stretching forward and catching the metaphysical strands of energy she had laid in wait for this moment. She began to chuckle, then laugh at the irony. She could feel the aggressive energy flowing from all the humans in waves. Well, she had planned for that. With a harsh tug she pushed the last of her energy into her magical trap. She collapsed, her eyes closing slowly. She might die here, but these humans were finished.
Akane could hear Ranma fighting the youma-things outside, but forced herself not to pay too much attention. She had a much larger problem to deal with.
“How do we get her down?” Akane wondered aloud.
Nabiki was hanging from the ceiling. Akane thought her sister would have been mortified to realise that her skirt left nothing to the imagination from this angle, and suppressed a sudden surge of the giggles at the thought. She forced herself to focus. She could see the rope tying Nabiki to the rafters, but there was no obvious way to get up there to her. She wondered briefly how they had even gotten her up there in the first place. Then she remembered these maniacs could fly.
“I’m not sure,” Sailor Mercury said slowly. She was looking up at the sky through her transparent visor; odd figures seemed to keep appearing on the inside of it. Her fingers were moving quickly over the pad on her miniature computer. “But that orb next to her is very fascinating. It’s like a giant energy pump of some kind. I think it’s directing energy to someplace. If I can get a better reading, I can figure out exactly how it works and then…”
“That’s great,” Akane interrupted the rambling girl. “Can you leap high enough to get to Nabiki?”
“Hmm?” Sailor Mercury looked over at Akane as if just remembering she was there. “Oh, I’m sorry, no.” She gestured with her computer. “It’s a bit too high for me. Maybe there is a ladder or something else we can use to get up to the rafters?”
Akane nodded and began to look around. She kind of liked the blue-haired Senshi. She seemed practical and intelligent, qualities which Akane could admire. She walked away from her a little bit, peering into the shadows of the hangar in the hopes of seeing something that could help her reach her stranded sister.
Her search was interrupted by a loud crack from behind her. She spun and saw one of the youma women smash through the metal wall with enough force that it sent fragments spinning off in all directions. The disturbingly human figure collapsed on the ground in a heap. Well, she guessed Ranma was doing well. She was about to turn back to her search when she heard a sharp gasp from the Sailor Senshi.
“Oh no… this isn’t good!” the girl cried. Akane looked over to see her looking back up at that floating blue orb. Her mouth had fallen open, and she was staring at it in obvious shock.
“What’s going on?” Akane called over.
“This orb, it’s not an energy pump… it’s an energy trap!” Sailor Mercury cried back.
“Someone just accessed it remotely, triggering a hidden function…” Mercury began to rapidly tap at her computer. “It was dormant, but now it’s drawing in energy again!”
“Drawing in energy?” Akane frowned and walked towards her. “That doesn’t sound good.”
“It isn’t… the magic is limited to only one type of energy, but…” Sailor Mercury snapped her head to the side, looking out the hangar doors. “Oh dear, I think Ranma’s in trouble.”
“What?” Akane blinked. “But he was winning…”
“This device, it’s absorbing all the aggressive energy in the area, just like the kind Ranma was channeling! It’s… drawing away all his strength!” She turned her eyes back to Akane, and they were wide with fright. “Whatever you do, don’t get angry!”
“What are you talking about…”
Then she saw a figure fly through the hole in the wall again. But this time it wasn’t a youma. Ranma smashed into the floor like a sack of potatoes. He groaned and pushed himself up with both hands. But Akane could see the energy leaking from his body. It looked like a thick vapour, flowing from his entire form and up into the sky. She followed the path of the vapour and saw it vanish into the orb.
“Ranma! Don’t fight it!” Akane shouted.
“What?” Ranma looked up at her blearily. “Are you crazy? I’m not about to surrender!” he shouted, and Akane saw the vapour around him begin to flow faster as Ranma tried to fight the drain.
“Not so tough anymore, are you?” one of the youma women said as she stepped into the hangar through the open doors. Akane slid into her favoured kempo stance, trying to force her anger down. The woman was cradling one arm, and wore a yellow leotard with floral accessories. Behind her walked a taller woman with long black hair and a green outfit.
“Hey, Grape, are you okay?” the other called to the third woman, who was thankfully still lying on the floor. The youma didn’t rise or make any response.
“Guess not,” the yellow-suited one said with a shrug. “But that’s okay; she isn’t dead or she’d have dissolved already.”
“Yeah,” the other responded. “Hey look, he’s getting up again.”
“Heh.” Ranma smirked and stood shakily on his feet. His body swayed dangerously as he tried to raise his fists, but couldn’t seem to get them up past his waist. “You’re not taking me down so easily. I don’t know what you did, but it isn’t going to work on me a second time.”
“Oh shut up and die already!” the shorter youma roared and thrust out her good hand. Ranma stumbled back as a swarm of tiny red beads launched from her palm. But he wasn’t able to dodge.
Akane threw her arms in front of her eyes as the explosions rocked the hangar. The light turned the whole world red for a second, and she could hear the blasts echoing in her ears long after they stopped. Cautiously she lowered her arms. Ranma appeared to have leapt back at the last second, but he had still caught the brunt of the blast. His entire shirt was burned off, leaving a nasty looking red and black burn on his chest. His pants had escaped the brunt of the damage, but scorch marks swirled up his neck and onto his face. He was moaning, lying spread eagle on the concrete.
Akane wanted to run to him, but she remembered the monsters were still here. She turned her eyes back in their direction, just as the smoke from the attack was clearing to reveal them. She heard more than saw Sailor Mercury step up beside her. The petite girl seemed to bring an aura of calm with her presence, and Akane breathed a little bit easier.
“Just two more pests to go,” the tall youma informed her partner laconically.
“Let’s finish them quickly then,” the shorter one grinned visibly through the half-mask covering her face. Akane gasped as she thrust her palm at them and another cloud of cherry bombs flowed out. She backed up a step, knowing that there was no way she could leap away from the attack in time. Not to mention the fact that Sailor Mercury was slower than her. Gritting her teeth, Akane stepped forward, determined to absorb as much of the assault for the smaller girl as she could.
Akane felt a sudden cold rush and goosebumps leapt up along her arms. A sudden mist settled over the room, a fog so thick she couldn’t see more than a few meters in front of her. But she did see the small bombs spin harmlessly past her, a few even bouncing without effect off the front of her martial arts gi. Akane turned her head and saw the blue-haired Senshi slowly lowering her hands to her side. She smiled at Akane’s startled expression.
“I wasn’t sure that was going to work, either,” she explained with a shrug.
A string of mild curses drew Akane’s attention back to the problem at hand. She could see vague shadows walking through the fog towards them. She squinted, trying to make out what was happening, but no matter how she focused, the fog was impenetrable.
“They’re coming this way,” Sailor Mercury explained as she consulted her computer again. “We had better make a run for it.”
“No!” Akane shouted back, then winced as she felt her legs begin to buckle underneath her. She took a deep breath, forcing her flare of anger back. “I mean… we can’t abandon Nabiki or Ranma here. Those monsters will kill them.”
“You have a point,” Sailor Mercury sighed. “But I don’t have an attack powerful enough to hurt them. Maybe if Sailor Moon was here…” the girl trailed off.
“Well, she isn’t,” Akane pointed out pragmatically. She raised her fists in front of her in a boxer’s stance. “I can fight them.”
“But if you draw on your aggressive energy-“
“Then I’ll have to fight them without getting mad,” Akane pointed out. She could see the duo approaching now, their bodies fading eerily into view as they exited the thickness of the fog.
“There they are,” the short youma snapped.
“They didn’t even run,” said the tall one, sounding surprised.
“I’m not going to run from you,” Akane affirmed.
“You should have,” the tall one cried as she charged forward. Akane gasped as the distance between them vanished. She raised her arm, absorbing a punch with her forearm. Pain shot up the length of her limb and she could almost feel the bones vibrate in shock. She staggered back, her eyes fixing with the black eyes of her opponent. Akane saw only glee and malice in those eyes.
The creature smiled, the fabric of its mask twisting with the expression beneath. It drew back its arm slowly. It was mocking her. Akane breathed out, and punished it for its arrogance.
Her free hand came up and grabbed the thing just above the elbow. She stepped forward, twisting the youma’s arm, causing it to make a sharp squeal and forcing its entire body to spin away from her. Akane followed up quickly, lashing out with her leg and catching the thing in the back of its suddenly exposed knees. She released her grip on the monster as it flipped into the air and came crashing down on its back.
Some instinct warned her to back off, so Akane was already backpedalling when the other youma struck at her with a wild haymaker. The thing moved so fast! She saw the fog part in the wake of its punch. A bit of resentment at not being able to finish the first youma was strangled stillborn as Akane forced herself to remain calm.
The fallen youma floated to her feet and Akane backed up a few more steps. She could feel Sailor Mercury behind her now, but the girl seemed at a loss for what to do. The two woman-things split up, circling around them in different directions. Akane tried to shift to keep them both in view, but it became harder with each passing second.
“Little maggot,” the tall brunette hissed as she stretched her arms out to her sides. “We’ll teach you to challenge your betters.” Akane frowned slightly, but resisted the urge to retort. Then the first wave of vertigo hit her like a freight train. Akane reeled, her vision doubling for a moment. Before she could regain her footing, another wave of dizziness flowed over her. She gasped and staggered back, colliding with Sailor Mercury and sending the other girl sprawling.
Akane felt an intense flash of static from her danger sense, and spun her head. She saw a blurry form rushing towards her, and grunted. Another wave of vertigo slammed into Akane and she staggered, just in time for the youma’s fist to collide with her face. Her mouth opened but her voice refused the scream as pain blossomed across her cheek and temporarily blotted out all thought. She felt herself slam into something hard, but the pain and increasingly disorienting vertigo prevented her from identifying it.
“Akane! Are you alright?” Sailor Mercury said from somewhere nearby. Akane shook her head, trying to clear it and focus on the other girl’s voice. But it was impossible. Everything kept doubling or trebling, then snapping back into focus only to have changed its position radically in the meantime. Akane could even see the waves of energy that were doing this to her, but could do nothing to prevent it. Her stomach roiled as she forced herself back to her feet, standing in what she guessed was a half-crouch.
Akane threw herself backward, away from the voice. But the attack came from behind. She screamed as something rammed into her back hard enough to bend her backward. She felt her feet leave the floor, and for one terrifying instant floated in a world with no up or down, only slowly fading pain. Then she collided with the ground, skimming along it painfully. She squeezed her eyes shut, tears leaking unbidden from behind her lids. Frustration welled up within her, but she fought it back as best she could. She couldn’t get angry! Nabiki was depending on her! It didn’t help that both those monsters were laughing at her.
Akane pushed herself up on her arms, her eyes still squeezed tight. Thankfully, the nauseating disorientation seemed to have stopped. Akane felt hands settle on her shoulder, and almost lashed out, but she forced herself to remain calm.
“Akane? Please be okay…”
“Sailor Mercury…” Akane allowed herself to be helped to her feet. She opened her eyes to try and look at the girl, but immediately the vertigo returned. The blue-eyed girl’s face distorted and doubled in Akane’s eyes, and Akane could feel her legs betraying her again. “I can’t fight them…” Akane admitted ruefully.
“Of course you can’t,” the voice of the green-garbed youma rang out from somewhere nearby. “Surrender to the inevitable, and maybe we’ll make your death short and painless.”
“But I wouldn’t count on it,” the other added with a malicious chuckle.
“We have to get away from here,” Sailor Mercury was saying as she guided Akane with her arms. Akane closed her eyes shut in frustration, not caring that she could feel the strength seeping from her limbs as she began to let her anger surface. A sharp breath later, Akane was pushing her pain back again. She had just noticed… the vertigo had vanished again. She blinked her eyes open once more, confirming what she had guessed. The youma’s magic only affected you if you saw it!
“Sailor Mercury… can you see through this?”
“Can you see through it? You seem to be able to move around. Does your magic protect you?”
“My visor screens out the distortion waves the youma is producing, yes,” Sailor Mercury said. Akane nodded and suddenly pulled herself from the other girl’s grasp. She stepped forward, her eyes clenched shut, but her strides steady. “What are you doing?”
“You have to be my eyes,” Akane said as she slid into her most defensive kempo stance.
“Oh look,” the green-clad woman’s voice rang out from in front of her. “The little warrior wants to continue fighting.”
“I guess I’ll just have to beat her to death then,” the other said from Akane’s right with a hint of amusement in her reply. Akane shifted herself to face to the right, and she heard the youma’s footsteps suddenly hesitate. Akane grinned, but forced herself to remain calm. She focused her thoughts inward, trying to forget the outside world. Her sister Kasumi had once told her how she got through most of her chores by just letting her body move, without really thinking about what she was doing. Akane tried to follow that advice now.
She heard the footsteps speed up again, becoming a steady beat. A run! Akane stepped back, raising her hands to her face. The blow sneaked in under her guard and caught her in the stomach. Air exploded from her mouth as her lungs emptied all at once. The soles of her feet slipped and skidded as the force of the blow knocked her back. She managed to retain her balance, however.
“Akane!” Sailor Mercury shouted.
“A little warning next time…” Akane hissed with a chuckle.
“I don’t know what to do.” Sailor Mercury sounded ashamed. “I don’t know the first thing about fighting.”
“Don’t let your confidence waver!” Akane shot back as gently as she could. “You know how to do this.” Akane raised her arms again. She could hear the youma circling to her left, and she did her best to follow it using just her ears. Thankfully the concrete here echoed nicely to the woman-thing’s footsteps, at least. “I believe in you. I trust you won’t let me down.” Akane breathed out, hoping that worked.
“I’ll… I’ll try…” the girl said as she stepped up behind Akane. Suddenly the youma’s footsteps changed beats, speeding up again. Akane forced herself to calm down. There was nothing she could do unless- “To your left!”
Akane waved her left arm in a wide circle. She felt something strong glance off her arm, then back away. Akane smiled.
“Now in front!”
Akane nodded and stepped back, feeling the air in front of her swish.
Akane hopped, and as she did so she snapped her foot forward. She was rewarded with a sharp crack and the feel of flesh striking her heel. A moment later there was a dull thud as the youma struck the floor. But that didn’t last long; Akane could already hear it clawing its way back to its feet.
“I can’t win at this rate…” Akane pointed out. She tried to remember more about the monster-woman. She had been cradling her left arm, and Akane hadn’t felt her attack with that arm either. Maybe Ranma had crippled it earlier? Akane hoped so…
“She’s coming back!”
Akane could hear that for herself, as the youma screamed loud enough to wake the dead as it charged. Akane gulped and shifted to her right. She had to take it down in one good shot. She would only have the one chance.
“To your left- No, straight above!”
Akane dove to the side and felt the thing pass through the air behind her. The ground cracked and Akane heard the Senshi scream. She dared not open her eyes to see what was happening, and almost cursed as her anger rolled up from her stomach again. Then Sailor Mercury was shouting that it was behind her. Akane caught herself as she landed and pushed herself forward, tumbling as best she could. She did it badly, and lost control of her spin half-way through. With a startled yelp she smashed into the metal wall and something sharp dug into her side.
Her frustration was getting harder to bottle up. It was building like a pressure cooker, threatening to explode. Akane couldn’t hold it back for long. But for now, she maintained control. She winced and reached down to her side. Something sharp and cold had torn a small gash in her side, and it was sticky with blood. Her fingers rolled along it… it was a strip of metal. A very sharp strip of metal. Akane frowned, and quietly palmed it as she raised herself to her feet again.
“You’re okay!” she heard Sailor Mercury sigh in relief.
“This one is pretty tough,” the short youma commented as Akane heard her closing in.
“Just finish her off quickly,” the taller one barked. “You’re embarrassing us.”
“I don’t see you helping much!”
“Shut up, I’m the only reason she hasn’t knocked you reeling yet.”
“Feh. I’ll show you. This human is no match for me!”
Akane heard the creature running towards her again, the footsteps echoing lightly in the giant hangar. Akane tensed and pushed her back to the wall. It gave her less room to manoeuvre, but also gave the creature less room to attack her.
“High right!” Akane blocked, deflecting a palm strike with her forearm.
“Low left!” Akane snapped up her knee, absorbing a kick with her shin. The force sent an exquisite spike of pain through her body, but she ignored it.
“Your head, in front!” Akane ducked and felt her hair snapping as the creature’s hand passed through it. But seconds later she heard the shriek of tearing metal, and smiled. There was a moment’s pause, and Akane could hear the metal twisting as the monster tried to pull her arm free from the wall.
“Now I have you!” Akane shouted and thrust forward with the palmed metal shard. For a moment, she felt resistance, then the creature’s skin gave as Akane’s weapon plowed through. A sickeningly warm wet fluid spurted over her hand. Flecks of the foul-smelling liquid struck Akane’s face. The creature gave a sharp gurgle of pain, but Akane refused to relent. Nabiki, Ranma… even Sailor Mercury’s life depended on this. She pushed her legs against the wall and thrust with all her might, bracing the metal fragment with both hands. She roared, letting her rage loose for a moment, focusing the power behind it into her strike.
The wall behind her tore apart as Akane flung the creature from her. She staggered forward, feeling a lot of her strength ebbing away. She bit back the rage, damming the flow. A moment later the creature hit the floor in front of her with a loud crash. Akane dropped, placing her hands on her knees and breathed deeply. The monster did not rise.
“I think your friend isn’t going to be able to help you, anymore…” Akane grinned. She opened her left eye a sliver, and saw the world had returned to normal. The last of the mist was drying up, and the youma had dropped her arms. Whatever she had been doing to produce those waves, she had stopped. She was backing away, casting glances between Akane and the rapidly approaching Sailor Mercury. “This isn’t possible! You’re just a human! You don’t have any magic in you at all!”
“I may be just a human,” Akane forced herself to stand up straight and curl her hands into fists. “But you seem to have underestimated humans!”
“No!” the monster roared and raised its arms. “I’ll tear you apart!”
“Try it,” Akane bluffed. She didn’t have anything left in her. She couldn’t have fought to save her life. But somehow, she felt exhilarated! The creature before her would likely beat her silly even without her magic vertigo, but Akane didn’t care. She laughed, and something in that laugh caused the youma to back up a step. “I’m not going to wait all day!”
The monster took one last look at her, turned, and fled. Akane breathed out, not sure how she felt about that. On the one hand, the thing was escaping…
Akane’s eyes snapped wide as a ball of purple light streaked out from the shadows and caught the fleeing youma in the side. The thing gave a horrified yell as the ball collided with its body. Akane stared, unable to believe it as the youma’s body seemed to… unravel as the ball advanced. An endless instant later the ball exploded outward, sending a ring of dust and wind that blew Akane’s long hair back and forced her to cover her eyes with her arm. When she dropped her arm, there was nothing in front of her but a scorched circle in the ground.
“Where… who…” Akane stammered.
“Over there!” Sailor Mercury pointed. Akane watched as a woman stepped out of the shadows. She was dressed much like the other Sailors, in a bizarre skin-tight fetish costume with an embarrassingly short skirt. But somehow she wore it with an unstated dignity and grace the other girls lacked. It didn’t hurt that this was obviously a full-grown woman, with agate eyes and perfectly coiffed green hair that tumbled to her waist.
“Who are you?” Akane asked softly. The woman didn’t respond. Instead she lifted one hand, levelling the strange key-shaped staff she carried. Akane tensed, but realised a moment later that the woman wasn’t pointing it at her.
“Dead Scream,” the woman whispered. Akane gasped. A ball of indigo light bulged from the tip of her staff, before blasting forward like a rocket. Akane tried to follow the attack with her eyes, but it moved faster than she could see. She turned her eyes only in time to see the explosion, and watch it clear to reveal a scorch mark in the floor. Akane took a moment to realize that mark had been where the wood-armed youma had fallen earlier.
Akane snapped her eyes to where she guessed her own opponent had fallen. She paled a little at the sight of the frighteningly human-looking youma lying on the ground. The strip of metal Akane had used was sticking grotesquely from its stomach, purple blood oozing up around it. Akane looked down, seeing her hands covered with the substance, and felt a wave of repulsion. She barely heard the third whispered attack, and only looked up when the explosion had ceased and left a mercifully sanitary ring of scorched concrete.
“Wait, who are you? Why are you helping us?” Sailor Mercury shouted. Akane saw the woman walking calmly from the hangar. She paused, staring back over her shoulder at the young Senshi.
“I’m not here to help you,” the woman replied in a level voice. “I’m here to clean up this mess.” And with that she walked out of the hangar. Sailor Mercury looked about to chase after her, but it was just then that Akane’s legs decided to give out. With a worried gasp, the blue-haired girl ran back in Akane’s direction.
Ukyou slipped backwards, her arms quivering as she tried to maintain her grip on her spatula. The creeping numbness was emptying her limbs of strength, a sensation which she was already familiar with. She refused to panic, even as the chi exited her body in a visible cloud of blue vapor. When Ryouga took two steps in front of her before going down like a pole-axed steer, she still didn’t panic. She snapped her weapon down, burying the edge into the concrete and leaning against it to keep herself upright.
When she saw Sailor Mars crumble to her right, the long hair of the fire Senshi pooling around her head, Ukyou began to worry a bit. Human beings were vulnerable to the energy draining traps of the Dark Kingdom, but didn’t she remember that the Sailor Senshi were immune? Ryouga was still struggling, clawing at the flattop, the cloud of vapor only growing as he growled and cursed. A few moments later, his struggles ceased.
“Sailor Moon, he’s using some sort of energy drain…” Ukyou called over her shoulder. Her eyes widened as she looked back and saw the girl swaying in place. Her skirt billowed around her legs as she staggered back a few steps. The magic frisbee slipped from her nerveless fingers, clattering to the ground as an unremarkable golden tiara. The girl’s other hand reached up and clutched at her temple as she squeezed shut her eyes. “Sailor Moon! Stay with me!”
“What… but I feel so sleepy…” the girl murmured groggily.
“Don’t give in! You’re stronger than their magic!”
“I…” Sailor Moon opened her eyes, steadying herself with a shake of her head that sent her long pig-tails whipping. “I think I can stay up…” the girl gasped. “What happened to the others?”
“They almost fell victim to his magic,” Ukyou pointed out, unable to keep the relief out of her voice.
“You mean the one which is making him glow like that?” the girl pointed out with a gulp. Ukyou spun her attention back to the floating Dark General, and felt the first real tremblings of fear since she had arrived. Everything had been going so well up until a few seconds ago…
Jadeite threw his head back, cackling insanely as the blue vapour of chi energy flowed into his body. A halo of purple light was flickering and pulsing around him, his limbs stretched out and his body shaking as if struck repeatedly. Ukyou shifted her grip on the spatula, pushing herself more upright. This was much too Second Stage Final Boss for her tastes. And Ukyou was still weak; not collapsing weak, but she could barely keep herself propped up. Most of her chi must have been gobbled up by the trap.
“This is magnificent!” Jadeite crowed as he bent forward. The flashes of energy around him ceased, but his hair and clothes rippled in an invisible breeze. “I never guessed there could be so much power in such small vessels.” He stretched his hand forth, arcs of white-hot lightning snapping between his fingers like an electric ladder. “It’s exhilarating… my body can hardly contain it!”
“Can you still fight?” Ukyou called back to Sailor Moon over her shoulder.
“Good,” Ukyou grunted. She stepped forward, pulling her spatula up in front of her. Her legs felt like rubber bands, her arms like lead weights, but she managed to pull together enough strength to stand upright and unshaking. Jadeite only grinned.
“I would have been so disappointed if the two of you had fallen with your friends,” Jadeite purred. “The two biggest thorns in my side. I would have hated to kill you both in your sleep.”
“I’ll hold him down,” Ukyou called back as she took a few steps forward. “You get that magic frisbee of yours ready-” Ukyou snapped her mouth closed as Jadeite vanished in a blur of energy. She felt a tingle from the back of her neck, and was just turning her head when Jadeite reappeared behind her. She watched, able to see his attack coming, but unable to move herself in time. The world felt like it was filled with molasses, and her leaden limbs pulled her sluggishly through it. His palm thrust right into her back, a ball of light floating at the ball of his thumb like a soap bubble. She didn’t even get a chance to scream before it exploded.
Her world was white and painful for a timeless instant. Then she felt her eyes open, and became aware of the strange vertigo of flying upside down. Ukyou groaned, her back aching fiercely as she tried to spin herself to correct her course. The sudden collision with the chainlink made her scream in pain. Her voice was mainly drowned out by the repeated pangs of metal wires snapping. Space spun about her and the ground rushed up to greet her, blasting the last of the air from her lungs.
Awareness beyond the pain returned reluctantly. Ukyou groaned while struggling to free herself from the blanket of metal her crash had wrapped her in. In the distance, she could hear the explosions of Jadeite and Sailor Moon fighting. A part of her wanted to just lay back and let the Senshi handle this. It was her battle. But that part of her was the part she had begun to associate with Aaron. And she wasn’t about to let his personality overwhelm her own. Gritting her teeth, she channelled her chi with as much focus as she could, ripping the metal segments from her. It didn’t matter how logical, or sensical or proper it was to let Sailor Moon fight the villain she was destined to defeat. She had sworn to not sit back and let the world pass her by like Aaron had been so content to do, and she meant to live up to that promise no matter how stupid it turned out to be.
There were some principles more important than logic.
“… believe in your own power, Sailor Moon, and you can defeat any enemy,” a new voice rang out across the tarmac as Ukyou stumbled forward. Ah, that would be Tuxedo Mask, or Kamen, or whatever he was called in this continuity. She scanned the air, easily spotting the flapping black cape of the tall man as he stood atop a convenient floodlight. Jadeite was saying something back now, but Ukyou was too far away to hear it. How far had that blast thrown her? An exploratory probe revealed that the explosion hadn’t burned through the back of her coat: it seemed the leather had saved her from more severe damage.
Ukyou’s attention snapped back to the outside world as a bellow of pain pealed across the airport. She was just in time to see the dark cape of Tuxedo Whoever falling to the ground. Floating next to the floodlights was a grinning Jadeite. Aaron couldn’t help but roll Ukyou’s eyes at this. At the very least, Jadeite had made the mistake of getting Sailor Moon mad at him by attacking her fantasy crush.
“You monster!” Sailor Moon screamed as she reached down to retrieve her tiara. “How can you do that to people?”
“With ease, apparently,” Jadeite laughed. Ukyou had stumbled close enough to be able to make out his words, even if he wasn’t shouting them.
“I won’t forgive you…” Sailor Moon shouted through a choked sob. “In the name of the moon, I shall punish you!” The moon senshi stepped forward, pulling her enchanted tiara to her side. Energy began to stream out of her body, a steady blue mist. That wasn’t right… “MOON TIARA…” Sailor Moon began her shout, but for some reason her tiara wasn’t transforming. Her words had also begun to take on a slurred sound. “…ACTION!” The girl flung her weapon forward, but it was nothing more than a spinning metal decoration. Jadeite slapped it from the sky with contemptuous ease.
“What’s the matter, feeling weak?” he laughed.
(She’s losing her energy… but why?)
Ukyou frowned at the unbidden thought from Aaron’s half of their psyche. She couldn’t doubt his conclusion, however. Sailor Moon had already fallen to her knees. Jadeite didn’t seem inclined to let the girl recover, either. He was already gathering a ball of energy in one hand. Ukyou cursed silently, forcing back an annoyed frown, and dashed forward with as much of her chi as she could muster. Jadeite laughed and launched the ball at the unmoving girl, shouting “Die!”
“Sailor Moon!” she cried. The girl looked back over her shoulder. Ukyou grabbed her as she sprinted past. A wave of heat rolled along the back of Ukyou’s jacket as the ball passed within centimeters of her. The explosion, when it struck the ground lifted both her and the blonde into the air. Ukyou was much better prepared this time. She rolled with the shockwave, letting it lift her. Somehow she came down on both feet. The tarmac skidded by underneath her as she tried to slow their momentum without jostling Sailor Moon right out of her arms.
“Are you okay?” Ukyou asked once they had stopped. She cast a nervous look over her shoulder, but Jadeite had vanished.
“Soo, sleeeppy…” the girl in her arms murmured. Ukyou frowned slightly, resisting the urge to shake the girl. “I can’t stay awake…” her voice trailed off as her eyes slid closed.
“Damn…” Ukyou cursed. There was no way she could carry the girl. She had lost far too much chi to keep herself mobile. There was always the possibility of tapping into Aaron’s chi… no. No. That was stupid. It would do more harm than good.
“Don’t you two make a cute couple?” a voice purred practically in Ukyou’s ear. She snapped her head back instantly. Her reward was a sharp crack and a muffled curse, followed seconds later by the sound of someone collapsing. A vicious grin bloomed briefly on her face, but she was already moving before she had a chance to enjoy the small victory. She hated to admit it, but her only hope was keeping Sailor Moon alive long enough for her to recover and finish off the Dark General.
Decision made, Ukyou stopped long enough to gently lay the girl on the ground, then stepped quickly away. Jadeite was rising to his feet, a scowl of annoyance on his face.
“You wanted this to be between you and me from the start,” Ukyou called out in her most mocking tone.
“Yes…” Jadeite hissed as he rubbed his nose. “Sailor Moon is a nuisance, but no real threat to me. You…” He reached over and touched his stump. “I have much more to pay you back for.”
“Good, then you have to catch me first!”
Before she had even finished the phrase, Ukyou had sprinted past him. The ground flashed by under her feet, the air buffeting her violently as she forced her way through it at speeds man was not meant to reach. There was an instant’s warning before Jadeite appeared in front of her. His hand snapped out in a backhand. She threw herself back, the palm of his hand flashing scant centimeters from the tip of her nose.
The next thing she knew, Ukyou was flying backwards. Her ears rang and her eyes refused to focus. What had happened? Then she recalled the spherical blast of energy that had erupted from Jadeite’s hand. Even as she recovered her senses, she cursed inwardly. It appeared that he had learned to compensate for her speed by attacking with blasts she simply could not dodge.
Somehow Ukyou got her feet under her again before she landed. The soles of her shoes hissed as they skidded across the tarmac. Reaching down, her fingers dug small trenches in the pavement as she slowed herself. She licked her lip, and tasted the sharp copper tang of blood. She wasn’t fast enough. She had lost too much chi. The lingering beat in the back of her mind beckoned her, but Ukyou frowned and rejected his help. She would live or die on her own.
A tinkle on her back later Ukyou was leaping skyward. The ground beneath her disintegrated in a massive ball of light. Rubble showered away from it, producing a sound like a downpour as small stones collided with the pavement. The smoke cleared, and Ukyou looked down to see Jadeite smirking up at her with his hand extended. She snatched her spatula from her back and flipped it in front of her, driving it down like a spear as she descended.
A blur of distorted light later and Jadeite was gone. The blade of her weapon dug into the crater. Ukyou grunted and landed a split-second later. The sky to her right blurred and a sound like air popping out of a corked bottle hit her ear. Her hand shifted on her spatula. A microsecond later she snapped it up, ripping loose a bit of concrete as she dragged the weapon in a tight spiral. Light flared around her, oven-hot air flashing past her cheeks. Her spatula shuddered and waved as it absorbed the brunt of the attack.
Even before the blinding flashes of the light blast’s aftershocks wore off, Ukyou was moving. A cry escaped her lips and she shoved herself forward. Jadeite’s confused face came into focus in front of her for a moment. Then she heard the air exit his lungs violently, followed a moment later by the satisfying quiver of her spatula that informed her she had hit home. She blinked the last of the afterglow from her eyes as Jadeite landed several meters away.
“You’ll pay for that…” the man hissed as he rose to one knee.
“Send me a bill,” Ukyou shot out. She winced. That hadn’t been very witty. Oh well, they couldn’t all be winners.
Jadeite roared and vanished. Ukyou sprang forward. Her hair whipped in front of her as she looked back over her shoulder. The Dark General materialised behind where she had been standing, cursed, and vanished almost as quickly. Ukyou snapped her feet forward, digging into the pavement. With all her might she flung herself sideways. Moments later, the air she had been about to enter filled with blistering heat and light. She pulled her spatula in front of her, deflecting the blinding light away.
The ground touched her feet again and Ukyou let her sneakers skid along the pavement for a precious second to reduce her momentum. Then she was leaping again, this time backward. Jadeite appeared in the air in front of her, roared something and thrust his palm at her. Pink lightning flashed from his palm. She had only moved her weapon halfway there when the blast ripped through the air in front of her and collided with her stomach. Pain dissolved the world into a white haze, and she heard someone screaming. Only when her back smashed into the tarmac did she realise it was herself.
She couldn’t wait to recover, and was already kicking herself to her feet. But the sound of Jadeite fading in to her right filled her ears. One arm raised desperately to block, and was rewarded with another blistering wave of heat. She forced down a squeal of pain as the shockwave sent her skidding across the runway. Her eye opened slowly and she hissed at the throbbing scorches that extended up her forearm. The fabric of her coat had been entirely burnt away.
Clenching her teeth, Ukyou ignored the pain and thrust her spatula down. It caught in the concrete. The metal shaft bent as Ukyou slid into it, then she kicked down, propelling herself up. The entire weapon became an improvised pole-vault, snapping from the earth as she soared into the air. The ground exploded under her again, and this time she could hear Jadeite’s curses over the sound of concrete vapourising.
Jadeite recovered quickly, his arm flashing through the air so fast it appeared as nothing more than a blur to her eyes. She pulled her spatula in front of her, and somehow deflected a blast of pink plasma. The blow sent her reeling, and her graceful landing turned into an undignified collapse on the hardtop. While she was waiting for the world to stop spinning, a jackboot rammed into her gut with enough force to drive all the air from her lungs. Her eyes snapped wide as she rocked forward, right into the increasingly bright glow of Jadeite’s hand.
Ukyou had thought she knew pain before, but this time the blast drove all thought, all sanity from her mind. For an agonising, endless moment there was nothing but the echoes of pain and the roar of the explosion. The only pain that had ever compared to this was the pain of Aaron’s fatal accident. And for a moment, she thought she WAS dying. Then the pain slowly released its clutches on her mind, and the world returned.
One hand stretched out and clawed at the blasted earth. Finding purchase, she levered herself into a sitting position. A moan escaped her lips. This was just great, she had just finished over a week in the clinic, and this guy was threatening to put her back in a coma. She opened her eyes, wondering why everything seemed to have a reddish tinge. Then she realised that was the blood seeping into her eye. With a sigh she rubbed the back of her good hand against it, clearing her vision.
Jadeite was floating a few meters away, his head thrown back and his entire body shaking as he laughed like a madman. A sharp, cold beat of anger welled up in Ukyou’s heart. She pushed herself to her knees. That bastard was laughing at her. He was enjoying her torment. She knew that he had been holding back, playing with her like a cat. She rose slowly to her feet. It was just like the other one. Just like Chris. Beating her without caring about her. She spat, a gob of blood striking the pavement.
She leaned down and picked her weapon off the ground. Who cared about morality? She was taking that fucker down! A silent plea later and Aaron’s previously marginalised presence returned with full force. With a roar, she dashed forward, dipping into the well that was Aaron’s chi. And for a moment, there was no pain, no crippling numbness that slowed her.
Her attack came in low and without warning. She drove her entire weight, and all the energy she could muster, into one spear with the blade of her spatula. Jadeite’s laugh cut off into a scream of pain as the long blade bit into his side. Blood sprayed out, some of it falling on Ukyou’s face. His floating saved him from a deeper wound as Ukyou’s attack sent him careening through the air. If he hadn’t, that attack would have sheared all the way into his spine.
Ukyou huffed, taking a few steps forward. Aaron focused his attention on Jadeite, who was growling and raising to his feet. They both felt refreshed and powerful. It was like fighting at full strength once more. Like all the damage and fatigue of the last half-hour of fighting had simply vanished. Even the world around her seemed clearer than it had before. Edges of people and objects seemed cleanly defined. She could see the energy around Jadeite as he gathered it, like lines of force pushing inward. But no matter how good it felt, Aaron knew they couldn’t afford to draw on this chi for too long. Already it must be burning up their body, and they had barely recovered the last time they had done this.
“You FOOL!” Jadeite snapped his head up, his eyes literally burning with energy. “You think you can defeat me?”
“Indeed,” Aaron breathed, then shot forward. Ukyou readied their spatula as the world flashed by. She could almost see the speedlines as the airstrip blurred past. Jadeite only laughed and vanished. Aaron could see the lingering afterimage of his body for a split-second.
They skidded to a stop, and Aaron threw them to the right. Somehow Jadeite had anticipated them. He appeared right in their path. Ukyou swung out with the spatula, but his hand blurred and a hemisphere of force blasted the attack away. A moment later she gasped as his hand shot out and clutched around her throat. When the hell had he gotten so fast?
“You should have stayed down,” Jadeite hissed as he pulled them closer. Ukyou tried to swing her weapon at him but he cast it a glare and lightning leapt from his pupils. Her hand spasmed as the blast struck her wrist and the weapon clattered to the hardtop. Aaron was already lashing out with their other hand, the burned one. It collided with Jadeite’s gut. “That hurt,” Jadeite informed them.
Aaron’s eyes widened for a split second. Pain exploded across his body as Jadeite roared and pushed a corona of lighting into them. He could see the lightning arcing through his body, leaping from limb to limb. White afterimages burned themselves onto their retinas and Ukyou forced their eyes closed, but even that didn’t keep the blinding arcs from flaring through her eyelids. Aaron became dimly aware of their feet rising off the ground. The pressure on his throat eased all at once and he gasped in air, only to have it pushed back out by his scream a second later.
Then the lightning faded, and they opened their eyes. Nearly twenty meters below them, the tarmac was a pockmarked ruin. Aaron brought their line of sight up, and saw Jadeite smirking while he hovered just out of arm’s reach. Ukyou hissed and struggled to swing at him, but invisible bands of force kept her in place.
“You know, I think it’s time I repaid you for this,” he smirked as he waved his stump at them. Ukyou gulped and felt her left arm jerk out to her side. Both her and Aaron struggled, pulling in the remainder of her strength and all of his, but it was no use. Whatever magic Jadeite was using, it was beyond their ability to counter. Jadeite stretched his hand out and gently, almost reverently, wrapped his fingers around their forearm. Light began to gather along the lines of his fingers. “This… is going to hurt a lot.”
Ukyou screamed as his fingers clamped into a fist, with her arm still held between them. Her fingers twitched once, twice, then fell limp. He released her… and the arm fell numbly to her side. For a moment she wondered why it didn’t hurt more. Then she dreamily realised she must be in shock.
Her eyes focused on the laughing Jadeite. He thinks he’s won, the part of her that was Aaron pointed out. This was the part of the story where the hero made the ultimate comeback. Where he found the last reserves of strength and guts, and drew on powers he didn’t even know he had. This was the part of the story where the hero called upon the secret trick his sensei had taught him, or the clever tactic he’d come up with at just this last second. This was the part of the story where despite all the odds against him, the hero managed to perform a miracle.
Ukyou was beginning to realise… she was no hero.
Pluto leaned down, her fingers deftly locating the pulse of her Princess. The girl was drained of energy and had fallen asleep, but would be fine. So far she had confirmed that all the Sailor Senshi and their unexpected human allies were all right. That ended her first priority. She looked across the airstrip towards her second priority.
Ukyou was being slowly but surely overwhelmed by the power of the Dark General. Sailor Pluto gripped her staff tightly as she watched the man hit her with another of his spherical explosions, sending her skidding across the runway. Instinctively she raised the business end of her staff and sighted where Ukyou should land. It would be so simple to catch the young woman off-guard. One ‘Dead Scream’ should be all that was required to finish her off.
Yet, again Pluto hesitated. The girl was fighting valiantly, drawing the man away from Sailor Moon. It was obvious she was fighting the good fight, just trying to save her friend. She wasn’t even emitting any of that frightening energy that Pluto remembered like nothing else.
As the two continued to battle, Pluto let her mind drift. She had to remember why she was here. Her job was to safeguard time itself, and this Ukyou Kuonji was the greatest threat it had ever faced!
Those few who knew about the Gates of Time and Sailor Pluto’s special connection to them tended to think that Sailor Pluto could foresee the future. In truth, she was no more precognisant than anyone else. In fact, she was specifically forbidden from looking forward in time by a promise she had made to a woman who had once meant more to her than life itself. If she could have looked forward in time, she could have foreseen the tragic end that would befall that woman and her glorious silver kingdom. It was a testament to her respect for her Queen that Sailor Pluto had never broken that vow in the millennia since her death. Never except once.
She recalled the first night she had woken up screaming in her bed. Oh, she spent a good deal of time in the Gates of Time. In fact, a part of her was always there, in that elusive neverwhen. But she also had a home, a career, a life outside of her stewardship. That, too, had been part of her promise to the Queen. “What use is a Guardian of Time, who forgets the very thing she is guarding time for?” the Queen had once said to her. And she had been right. Being grounded in the real world, enjoying its simple pleasures, acting like any other mortal… it all kept her mission tolerable. Without it, she guessed she might have gone insane. She might have become the kind of being she was sworn to oppose.
But she was digressing. She watched as Jadeite planted his foot in Ukyou’s stomach and unleash a blast point blank into her face. Sailor Pluto winced. She really wished no ill will to the girl. It was obvious she did not know what she was destined to become, not yet.
That brought back the dream full force. Pluto shivered and clutched her arms around her breasts as the horrific images played themselves back in her mind. The images were vivid and indelible, which stood to reason: Sailor Pluto had woken up with them screaming from her lips every morning for the past three months.
“…I send you these images as a warning!” she could hear the temporally distorted voice which was still unmistakably her own. “You must not allow the events you see before you to come to pass!” In her mind’s eye she was a young woman standing beneath a bank of clouds, three circles of light rotated around her body, the symbols that marked them rendered illegible by the speed of the rotation. “This is the final moment of our universe! And of hundreds of others besides!” The woman was clad in skin-tight black pants wrapped about the ankles with cords, her torso was covered in a turtle-necked skin-tight white shirt and over that she wore a long black trench-coat which was blown back and flared in an unseen wind. Her sleeves were rolled up and both arms were reaching out towards the heavens. On her left arm, five parallel scars glowed with eldritch light, on her right arm a tattoo of some kind snaked up to disappear under her sleeve. A power radiated from her, a power that Sailor Pluto could neither place nor understand. “The woman before you is Ukyou Kuonji. She has given herself to the darkness inside her! She prepares to battle a force of evil like none you have ever seen, a force without a face or a name! Their battle will tear our world apart!” Now Sailor Pluto saw the woman’s face, and it was undeniably Ukyou’s face, though a bright light flared from her forehead, and there was something terribly wrong with her eyes. “I know this because I have already seen it! I am the last survivor, and soon my small bubble of reality will fade away and my very being will be torn to shreds. You must stop this battle from happening. Do whatever is necessary! Damn the Queen’s laws! Damn your own morality! Prevent this, or it all means nothing!”
And from the clouds descended another human figure, but this one Sailor Pluto could see no details of. All she could feel was a terrible, mind-numbing WRONGNESS radiating from it. Ukyou looked up at this horror made flesh, and smiled. And as Ukyou smiled, her hands reached up and clutched a dreadfully familiar weapon that had not been there before, and Pluto felt her intention to strike… Then the dream was ripped from her, becoming nothing but a flare of static and pain as her future self was torn apart. Sailor Pluto only felt a distant echo back through the streams of time of what happened to her counterpart, but what she felt made her blood run cold. For her other self was not killed, or destroyed. She simply ceased to be. Her, and everything else. For a horrifying instant she knew what it was to feel absolutely nothing. Then she always woke up screaming.
Sweat was forming on Sailor Pluto’s brow as she forced the sensation away. But something had snapped her out of her reverie. She could feel it. The strange energy, that unplaceable power. Ukyou was attacking Jadeite again, and it appeared she was tapping that ‘darkness within’ the future Sailor Pluto had warned her about. Instantly the Time Key snapped up in her hand, and she was about to unleash her magic when Jadeite easily knocked aside Ukyou’s attacks and grabbed her about the throat. Sailor Pluto sighed in relief.
It appeared Jadeite was going to finish off the girl for her. That was good. It was small comfort to know that she would not have to step in and deliver the killing blow herself. Technically Ukyou was still an innocent, and imposing such a harsh sentence for uncommitted wrongs went against everything the Sailor Senshi stood for. Maybe she was fooling herself by thinking that sitting back and doing nothing was any better than actively helping Jadeite do the deed, but it was the kind of self-deception she could live with.
Besides, it wasn’t as if she couldn’t finish Jadeite off the moment he finished with her. And if somehow Ukyou did survive, then she would be weak and in no condition to fight the Senshi of Time. Sailor Pluto smiled. This looked like a perfect win/win situation.
Akane dropped the tarp over Ranma’s unconscious body before turning back to the Sailor Senshi. An unexpected side effect of her fog attack had triggered Ranma’s curse, and now Ranma was not only covered in light burns from the waist up, she was also not decent. Sailor Mercury had been a bit nonplussed seeing Ranma’s cursed form. Akane had tried to explain it away, but the blue-haired girl was still giving the unconscious former boy a lot of weird looks when she thought Akane wasn’t looking.
“Did you find a ladder?”
Sailor Mercury returned her attention to Akane with a blush. Akane rolled her eyes. For someone who was supposed to be the reincarnated princess of a magic kingdom, the girl had a hard time accepting the supernatural.
“No, I’m sorry, I don’t think there is a way up to the rafters,” Mercury explained with a contrite grimace. Akane sighed and walked over to pat her on the shoulder. It was hard to remain mad at the girl; she seemed to obviously mean well. An explosion rang outside and Akane took a quick peek out the door. It was impossible to tell what was happening at the battle proper from this distance.
“Don’t worry about it,” Akane sighed and sat down slowly. Her legs still felt like someone had filled them with rubber bands. Most of her chi had already been drained away by the orb floating up next to her sister. She shaded her eyes with one hand and looked at Nabiki hanging up there. Her eyes were open, but the girl was staring sightlessly across the hangar. The thought of Nabiki being awake enough to see what was going on gave Akane goosebumps. For some reason, she didn’t want her sister to have seen her fight earlier. Akane had already used Mercury’s powers to help clean the blood off her hand, but she still felt soiled. “We’ll figure out some way of getting her down.”
“Hey, is there anyone in here?”
Akane thrust herself to her feet and almost immediately regretted it. The world swayed as a dizzy spell threatened to send her toppling back to the floor. She clutched the wound in her side, the sharp pain bringing back focus in an instant. Sailor Mercury had stepped protectively in front of her. The gesture both annoyed and relieved her. She may not be in much shape to defend herself, but she still had her pride.
“Whoa! I come in peace!”
The girl in the door was short, maybe about as tall as Sailor Mercury. She had black hair cut short in front, but had a large bouncy ponytail. She was wearing what looked like a blue and white school uniform, covered by some kind of blue… vest? It looked almost like a lifejacket. In her right hand, she carried a very large and expensive-looking camera.
“Who are you?” Sailor Mercury called out cautiously. She had relaxed, but not completely. Akane dared not allow herself to relax. From the feel of her chi, the tension was the only thing keeping her standing.
“Uh, my name’s Ran Hibiki…” the girl gulped. “But that isn’t important!” She stepped forward, pointing frantically over her shoulder. “I know you two are the friends of that guy in the trenchcoat. You better get out there and help him, he’s in a lot of trouble!”
“What… Ukyou?” Akane stepped around the Senshi, her voice trembling. “What do you mean, in trouble?”
“The blonde in the black suit is torturing him to death!” she cried. “Normally I just try to stay impartial… but… this isn’t a very good end to the story? You know?”
“You’re a reporter?” Sailor Mercury said with a slightly disapproving tone from behind Akane.
“Of course!” she smirked and sucked in her gut, thrusting out her chest. “Well…” she deflated. “Not really. I’m just a reporter for the school newspaper at Taiyo High…”
“Never mind that!” Akane barked. The others stared at her for a moment and she forced herself to calm down. She could see the wisps of chi leaving her hands from her brief temper flare. “What do you mean torturing he… him to death!” Akane frowned, she had almost let Ukyou’s secret slip in her haste.
“Well, it looked like your friends were winning but then they all sort of collapsed. The only ones left standing were this Ukyou guy and the chick with the blue mini-skirt. But her and the guy in the tuxedo who showed up both went down and then it was just Ukyou versus the evil floating head demon guy!” Ran burned through the words almost faster than her mouth could keep up. She waved her camera around as she narrated, forcing Akane to duck back to avoid being struck. “I got some really great shots. But I thought this Ukyou guy was going to make a comeback, you know? But he didn’t, and the blonde just kept blasting him around. Now he’s hanging him up in the air and shocking him and… and…”
“It’s okay,” Sailor Mercury said soothingly. “You did the right thing and came to us for help.”
“But how are we supposed to do that?” Akane cried, tears of frustration leaking from her eyes. “I can barely stand, and you said yourself you don’t have any offensive techniques.”
“I know…” Sailor Mercury tapped her earring, summoning her visor again.
“Wow! Could you do that again? I’d love to get a picture!”
“Uh… no time now…” Sailor Mercury blushed and stammered. “I have to see something.” She pulled out her mini-computer and tapped on it. “It’s just like I thought. The orb up there is feeding its power directly to Jadeite, even as it drains power from everyone else. If we could destroy the orb, Jadeite would lose all his extra power, and everyone else would probably get theirs back.”
“How do we destroy it?” Akane sighed.
“I don’t know…”
“Destroy what?” Ran piped up.
“That orb up there,” Akane gestured.
“Oh, that thing…” Ran stepped past the two of them. “Hmm. Pretty high up, but I think I can hit it.”
“What?” Akane blinked. But Ran wasn’t listening to her. The girl had reached into the lining of her blue vest and pulled out several pages of newsprint. She smirked and snapped her wrist, the floppy pages flickering rigid between her fingers.
“I call this my Extra Edition!” Ran cried as she wound up and spun, the pages flashing from her finger tips and buzzing like shuriken. Akane stared as the papers spun through the air, passing neatly through the orb and disappearing into the shadows of the rafters. Several metallic clangs informed her they had hit the ceiling. For a moment, the orb hung in the air unaffected. Then a trio of perfectly parallel lines appeared along its flawless surface. Slowly the sections of the sphere began to drift apart. “Piece of cake!” Ran cried excitedly. Her camera flashed as she took a few pictures… and then the orb exploded.
“Nabiki!” Akane cried. She watched as a humanoid figure flew across the hangar in the wake of the explosion. She dashed after it, knowing she was too weak to catch it. But she was proven wrong. Even as she sprinted she could feel her strength returning. A gleeful grin spread across her features and she poured all her chi into her legs, focusing her energy on her speed. She arrived underneath her sister in plenty of time to catch her oddly limp form.
“I’m sorry!” Akane could hear Ran calling. “Nobody told me it would explode!” Akane shook her head, not really caring about that at the moment. She laid Nabiki gently on the floor and stood back up.
“Come on,” she called out. “We have to go help Ukyou!”
Ukyou barely realised she was falling until she heard Jadeite’s yelp of surprise. Everything seemed to have taken on dream-like qualities, and she couldn’t even feel the vertigo as the scarred battlefield rushed up to embrace her. Aaron felt the same dizzy shock, but refused to embrace death so easily. He had died once already, thank you very much. With a burst of renewed strength, he snapped their good arm down and used it to absorb the force of the landing. It still sent a painful vibration through their body, but nothing more.
A moment later he heard a thud, and looked up. Jadeite had landed only a few meters away, and was lying prostrate, with half his body in a small crater. Aaron frowned as he stood up. He could feel strength returning to them: in fact, he could see it. A blue mist rippling into their body, filling their limbs with vitality again. It took a few seconds for his pain-fogged brain to realise that someone had reversed the flow of Jadeite’s trap. All the energy he had stolen was being returned.
Ukyou smiled, and if she could have seen her own smile, she might have hesitated then. With a mental shrug she released her tap on Aaron’s chi… and almost immediately collapsed screaming to her knees. Aaron gave a mental start and then tapped into that dangerous power again, and once again their senses filled with that wonderful clarity. The pain seemed distant and unimportant now. They could acknowledge it, but they could move despite it. Ukyou cast a quick glance at the wreck which was her left arm and winced. No wonder she was in so much pain. She didn’t even know if that would ever heal properly.
But more important things were happening. Jadeite was getting back to his feet. Ukyou and Aaron turned their attention back to him.
“My power…” Jadeite gasped as he stood up shakily. “All that wonderful power…”
“Heh.” Ukyou stepped forward, flexing her good hand and grinning again. Jadeite looked up at her and his face paled at what he saw. Good. Let him be afraid. “You made a classic villain mistake, Jadeite.”
Ukyou dashed forward, and the world literally flowed around her. She didn’t need to even think, her feet blasted across the ground at speeds even she hadn’t thought possible. Jadeite was five meters away one instant, and the next she was sailing past him. Aaron had lashed out, burying their fist in his gut. The man screamed, carried on the momentum of their blow for a fraction of a second. Then Ukyou stopped. There was no screech of dust, she simply stopped moving with the same ease that she would cease a leisurely walk. Jadeite did not stop, he flew fast and far, tracing a lazy parabola into the hard pavement.
“You should never swallow an energy field larger than your head.”
Ukyou laughed as she ran forward again. Jadeite hadn’t even climbed to his knees before she reached him. Her kick struck him in the jaw and sent him flying straight into the air. Aaron curled their hand into a fist, watching with fascination as Jadeite flowed into the sky. He seemed to be moving in slow motion. But he only watched for a second. His fist drove punishingly into the man’s sternum, right where the ribcage connected. There was a loud crack. Jadeite tried to scream, but couldn’t.
He was driven back through the air by Aaron’s punch, and Ukyou took off after him. To her surprise she flitted past him as he floated sluggishly through the sky. She smiled, then turned and spun their leg up into the small of his back as the man passed. His body folded backwards, and she saw blood fleck from his mouth. Then Aaron laughed and drove their fist in a tight arc, catching Jadeite on the back of the neck with both knuckles extended. There was a snapping sound and Jadeite’s head flopped forward like a ragdoll. That last shot should have paralysed him from the neck down for at least a while.
The momentum caught up with the body as Jadeite flopped to the ground again. Ukyou took a long deep breath, feeling better than she had since this whole fight began. The monster shaped like a man lay face-first in the shattered concrete. Time seemed to have returned to normal as well. She ran her good hand through her bangs, the joy of beating him filling her like a pure light. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted her spatula. An impossibly quick duet of leaps later she was standing back over him with the weapon in her good hand.
“Are you still awake, Jadeite?” she purred down at him. Aaron probed out with one foot, nudging him over onto his back. His eyes were wide and staring, flickering back and forth between her and the rest of the world. His mouth opened and closed. “Good. I wouldn’t want you to miss the coup de grace.” She snapped the edge of the spatula along the ground, drawing a series of sparks.
“No… please…” Jadeite whimpered.
Ukyou smiled down at him and raised the spatula over her head. One perfect slice later and this bastard would be dead. It would be so easy. And it would feel so good to finally finish something. To win!
“Please, have mercy…”
“You, who are without mercy, now plead for it?” Aaron laughed as he quoted. “I thought you were made of sterner stuff!” Yes, it would feel so good to kill Jadeite… so…
“No…” Ukyou allowed the weapon to fall to her side. “I can’t… I can’t kill you…” For a moment Jadeite’s eyes filled with relief.
“But I can,” a new voice caught Ukyou’s attention. She leapt back as a ball of purple magic flashed in from the near distance and caught Jadeite full in the chest. The man let out a silent howl as the ball seemed to… unravel him. Ukyou could see, with her enhanced senses, the very fabric of his being dissolving at the touch of the time-based attack. Then there was a burst of violet light. When the afterimages faded from her eyes, all that was left of Jadeite was a scorched circle in the shattered airstrip.
“Sailor Pluto,” Ukyou said without looking. She looked up in time to see the woman raise her staff to face them. Aaron tensed their legs.
“Don’t think you can escape me this time,” Sailor Pluto said in a disturbingly conciliatory voice. “I have to end this here, you see. It is the only way.”
“You won’t even explain why?”
“You know why,” Sailor Pluto replied sadly. Her red eyes locked with Ukyou’s for a moment. “You just resisted it yourself. Your power… it can not be allowed to be fully unleashed.”
“My power…” Aaron frowned.
“I’m sorry!” Sailor Pluto cried, tears literally streaming from her eyes. “Dead Scream,” she whispered the attack. Ukyou pushed backward, wishing for that mysterious speed from before. Maybe it came, or maybe it didn’t. But the sphere of deadly magic closed with her so fast she could only begin to move. It only barely registered that she would never dodge it in time. Then Aaron hurled her battle spatula forward, launching it like a trident. He watched, fascinated, as the weapon began to unravel… then exploded in a flash of light. Ukyou landed a meter away, breathing heavily.
“You only delay the inevitable,” Sailor Pluto pointed out. Ukyou reached up with her good hand and rubbed at her lip. It came away slick with blood, blood she could feel pouring from her nose as well, and god knew where else. She didn’t have any time left. There was no escaping this. She almost laughed at the injustice of it all.
Pluto didn’t know what hit her. Then again, Ukyou wasn’t sure either. It looked like a giant plunger with little muscular legs and a giant toothy maw. The Senshi of Time shrieked as it collided with her with enough momentum to send her and it tumbling to the ground. Ukyou blinked as the Senshi began to wrestle with the two pairs of dainty arms that had extended from the thing’s body.
“Oh, right…” Ukyou sighed and slapped her forehead. “I should have known he would show up.”
“Get off me!” Sailor Pluto cried as she kicked up, driving Tsubasa off her. The cross-dresser smashed into the ground, his costume breaking apart with the force of the impact. There was a few muttered, and unladylike, curses as Tsubasa freed himself from the damaged bodysuit. He was wearing a frilly pink dress with taffeta trims and had large ridiculous bows tied into his well- groomed hair. He also looked mad enough to spit a devil.
“You lay off my darling Ukyou!” Tsubasa warned in a feminine shriek.
“Who said I was yours?” Ukyou grumbled and tried to cross her arms. Pain flared up her left side, reminded her that she was critically injured.
“You can’t stop me,” Sailor Pluto said as she flowed gracefully to her feet.
“No,” a voice interrupted the Senshi as a hand clasped onto her shoulder. Pluto turned to see a very steamed-looking Akane with her other hand cocked back. “But I can!”
Ukyou almost cheered at the ridiculous look on Pluto’s face just before the punch hit home. The force behind it sent her flying nearly five feet. Sailor Mercury was walking up behind her, her expression much more fretting. Another girl, one who looked vaguely familiar but who Aaron couldn’t immediately place, was following her. She raised a camera to her face and took a few snapshots. Then it clicked in Aaron’s mind. Even as Pluto was climbing to her feet again, Ukyou could see the others approaching. Sailor Moon led them, with Mars and Ryouga following. In the back she could see the tall figure of Tux-boy.
“Sailor Pluto?” Sailor Moon asked. Her voice contained no malice, only gentle curiosity. “Why are you attacking my friend?”
“No… I never wanted it to be like this…” Pluto hissed as she stepped back. She was virtually surrounded on all sides by Ukyou’s allies. Once again Ukyou repressed the urge to laugh in relief.
“You wear the same costume as us, and you said you were our ally.” Sailor Moon said gently. “If so, you don’t have to fight this boy, he’s our friend and…”
“Ukyou is not your friend!” Pluto snapped out. “He will be the death of you all!”
“Damn it, Pluto!” Aaron snarled. “Stop being so goddamn cryptic and just tell me what’s going on!”
“I see now…” Pluto sighed and stepped back. “It can’t be helped. You are too well-protected for our duel to continue.” Pluto waved her staff in a short, but intricate pattern. Aaron watched as she vanished, seemingly to… fold sideways into space. It was fascinating.
“My god, Ukyou, your arm!” That was Akane. Ukyou nodded and looked down at the bloody mess of her arm. She certainly hoped it looked worse than it was. But she was safe now. So thinking, she released her tap into Aaron’s ‘chi’, and let the pain and darkness claim her.
The air was crisp, the wind off the waters of Tokyo Bay making him shrug a little deeper into his coat. He sighed and pulled the binoculars away from his eyes, rubbing the fatigue from his face with the back of his other hand. He really hated stakeouts. Especially ones taking place so close to… well, he didn’t know how to describe it. He pulled the binoculars back to his eyes and watched some more.
Things seemed to be winding down. They were carrying the boy in the trenchcoat off the field now, obviously all preparing to disperse in different directions. The one in the tuxedo had already vanished; to where, he wasn’t sure. He grunted and spat into the grass next to him. He wasn’t prepared to deal with this kind of thing. But, he had made a promise to an old friend, and that promise he was keeping. Even if this was going to be the last favor he ever did the man. There came a point in your maturity where the prospect of getting involved with people who could casually blast holes the size of Minis in concrete was no longer exciting.
So thinking, he reached into his pocket and flipped out his cell phone. A single button press later and he held it up to his ear. The other end didn’t even ring, there was just a click as it was automatically picked up.
“You were right.”
“It’s over now.”
“How did it go?”
“I think the good guys won.”
“That’s a relief.”
“Its not going to be cheap to clean up the place, however.”
“I see… I guess I’ll have to deal with that.”
“Glad I don’t have your job.”
“Did you get it all?”
He looked to the side at the camera mounted on a tripod. The red light that indicated it was recording was still humming strong. Just like the other three cameras nearby.
“Good. I’ll pick it up first thing in the morning.”
“I’ll meet you at the diner. You owe me a breakfast special for this.”
The man on the other end laughed.
“I do, I do. Thank you…”
“Don’t mention it. Just don’t ask me to sit out in the cold again for you, okay?”
“I won’t. You’re… a good friend.”
“Yeah. Well, I think you’re going to need good friends.”
He hung up the phone, watched a star fall in the southern sky, and said a silent prayer that this wasn’t, as he expected it would be, just the tip of the iceberg.
To Be Continued…
Blade: Well, once again we’re updating with less than half an hour to go before we’re late, so these will be short.
Epsilon: Not that there’s much to say.
Blade: Hey, did anybody else notice this entire chapter, except for the last bit, was one giant fight scene?
Epsilon: That’s because this chapter and Chapter 6 used to be one chapter, until we realised it made Chapter 6 ‘OMGWTF!!!?!’ huge.
Blade: Anyway, that’ll be the only time THAT happens for, like, awhile. At least not for five more chapters.
Epsilon: Yeah, all future chapters will contain at least TWO fight scenes!
Blade: Rejoice! Also, for those concerned by the disturbing lack of me in this chapter, worry not, I’m just in transit. Also, I wasn’t in the fight scene.
Epsilon: Maybe all the EXP Ukyou earned here will give her a level up so she’ll beat you next time. After all, she has the double EXP advantage!
Blade: Bah. Akane, Ran and Ami did all the real work.
Epsilon: But Ukyou was still conscious! She gets experience just for that!
Blade: Also big gougy scars on her arm.
Epsilon: It’s a character flaw! She bought it for more EXP!
Blade: Okay, that’s enough roleplaying geekery for now. So, anyway, see you next time! And, on that note, it’s time for our next chapter preview!
Epsilon: YAAAAAAAY! (run around flailing arms like Kermit the Frog)
Blade: You know, every time I watch the Daily Show, I want to see Jon Stewart do that. “It’s the Daily Show, with our very special guest, John McCain! YYAAAAAAAAAYYYYY!”
Epsilon: …right. Next chapter, then, will not have Daily Show jokes. But it WILL have this!
The figure above her was mainly hidden in the shadows, but was still clear to an alert viewer. She was spread-eagled. bracing her limbs against the beams in Akane’s ceiling. Her long ponytail dipped down over her shoulder and she was wearing a loose white t-shirt and tight blue jeans. Her skin appeared remarkably pale, but that might have been the light. Chris. He… she… it was back. Akane opened her mouth to scream for help… then snapped it closed.
Maybe it was the weariness, or the sincerity of the note, or Akane’s own recent thoughts about building bridges with her sister… but Akane remained quiet.
“Hi,” the dead woman above her whispered in Kodachi’s voice. “Mind if I come down?”
Hybrid Theory Chapter 8: Pushing Me Away