Ranma 1/2 Fan Fiction / Sailor Moon Fan Fiction ❯ Permutation ❯ Chapter 4

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

A Ranma ½ / Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon crossover
© 2004–2009 by gsteemso

Chapter Four

Not my characters — Ranma ½ belongs to Takahashi Rumiko and Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon belongs to Takeuchi Naoko.

Seven o’clock went past in Minato’s warehouse district, in almost complete silence apart from the dull background roar of Tokyo’s teeming millions living their lives. At this hour, the rats and the crows had the place more or less to themselves, as afternoon shaded imperceptibly into evening. Behind a high fence on a vacant property, Tuxedo Mask and nine girls in Sailor Soldier uniforms suddenly appeared, standing in a circle with their hands linked.

“So why couldn’t Se— I mean, Sailor Pluto come with us?” asked Ranma, still disguised as Sailor Europa.

“She’s even more secret than the rest of us,” replied Sailor Moon. “She has to be.”

“Yeah, up until recently just knowing she existed was punishable by death,” agreed Mars. “I know that sounds a bit extreme, but just imagine what people like Pol Pot or Hitler or Stalin might have done with access to the Gates of Time! She can’t be too careful about staying out of sight.”

“Um, who are they?” asked Ranma, looking bewildered.

The others all stared at her, wondering what kind of a joke she thought that was.

When it became apparent that Ranma hadn’t been joking, Mercury sighed, and said, “They were ruthless, mass-murdering dictators at various times earlier in this century, Europa. I can see we’ll have to work on your education, too, when we get back.”

Ranma winced and hurriedly changed the subject. “So, how are we going to do this? We need to figure out a way for me to imitate having powers like yours…”

“Well, the first thing we need to do is show you some of our attacks and see if anything occurs to you,” began Neptune. “Let’s take it in planetary order… Mercury?”

“All right, sounds good to me, but we need a target first!” answered Mercury, looking around. The derelict property they were on consisted of a vast — by Tokyo standards — but empty expanse of asphalt, with a decaying but fairly intact warehouse complex in the middle. A second, much smaller expanse of asphalt ran about four metres below the level they were on, with a railway spur and loading dock running along it. A chain link fence, with vertical strips woven through it for screening, ran along the lip of the retaining wall that divided the two areas.

Obviously they couldn’t go demolishing someone’s building, even if it was currently unused, but there didn’t seem to be much else around. After some discussion, everyone fanned out to look for debris, meeting back by the fence ten minutes later with an assortment of head-sized rocks and short scraps of lumber, as well as a couple of old truck tires with gaping holes in them and a two-metre length of narrow but heavy-gauge steel piping. They arranged it all in a big heap with the boards and the pipe sticking up out of the top, and lined up by the fence to take turns throwing magic at it.

As suggested, they went in Solar system order, if only to save the trouble of deciding who would go first otherwise. Mercury debated which one of her four offensive attacks to use, then thought, Oh, why not? and got out the Mercury Aqua Harp. She played a few measures of “Scotland the Brave” on it, crying out “Mercury Aqua Rhapsody!” as she began. (Scottish bagpipe music was often used to play battle marches in times past, which Mercury thought was sort of appropriate for declaring war on a pile of rubble, but “Scotland the Brave” was the only one she could remember well enough to try playing. Bagpipe music was, after all, not a major feature of Japanese schoolgirl life, not even for a somewhat nerdy magical schoolgirl.) Jets of super-cold water shot out with each note, freezing the heap so quickly that it exploded, sending chunks of ice and rubble everywhere. The length of steel pipe acquired a big, off-centre V-bend and went scything away into the middle distance.

Just for an instant, Ranma was reminded of Herb, dragon-descended Prince — well, Princess, at the time — of the Musk, throwing chi-blasts around as though it took no effort at all to project huge amounts of her life force out of her body. Ranma shivered — that wasn’t a fun memory. She was almost glad she couldn’t remember any more of it.

“Oops. Sorry, I put a bit too much into that one,” said Mercury sheepishly. The others helped her rebuild the heap, and then it was Venus’ turn.

Venus stepped forward, shouted “Venus Love-Me Chain!” and snagged the protruding pipe with the magical chain of hearts that appeared. Once the chain had a grip on it, she flipped the pipe into the air and cried, “Crescent Beam!” A beam of light shot from her hand and cut off the last cubit of metal. The Love-Me Chain vanished as though it had never been, and the two chunks of pipe fell noisily back to Earth. Venus propped the longer piece back up on the heap, and withdrew to leave a clear field of fire for the next person.

Ranma had a momentary flash of someone using his own belt as a sword. Iron Cloth technique, she thought distractedly, and Why didn’t his pants fall down? That one didn’t seem to help much either.

After a short “No, really, after you!” session between himself and Sailor Moon, Tuxedo Mask stepped forward and called out, “Tuxedo La Smoking Bomber!” A sparkling pattern of energy bolts wreathed in smoke shot forward, shattering many of the boards and cracking some of the rocks in the heap.

Ranma had a brief flash of leaping around on a giant cooking surface while someone hidden in the haze threw some sort of gunpowder-laced food flakes at him, which threatened to blow pieces off of him as they detonated on the hot griddle. Hmm, maybe that one… no, when am I going to be fighting on a giant griddle again? And it might go off while I’m holding it anyway. They’re basically home-made grenades… ”Not exactly a smart thing to carry around,” she muttered aloud. Tuxedo Mask gave her a faintly puzzled look as he stepped back.

Sailor Moon stepped up next, drawing Ranma’s attention back to current events. Reasoning that her higher-powered abilities were rather too immaterial to be of much help to a martial artist in need of techniques, Moon pulled off her tiara and fell back on the first magical attack she’d ever learned: “Moon Tiara Action!” The magical disc of light hurtled from her pitching hand and sliced a neat hole through the hitherto undamaged half of the topmost truck tire, before returning to her like a boomerang and turning back into a tiara.

Ranma boggled. Now THAT was a neat trick. It triggered yet another short memory, this one actually detailed enough to be useful…

He was nine years old. A master of the art of throwing sharp objects was demonstrating how to fry eggs from five metres away, using only what could be thrown through a 30-centimetre square aperture above a frying pan. He spilled no part of the food except for a neat pile of eggshells behind the pan, and there were no shell fragments in the cooking eggs.

“See that, boy? With enough training, you can get food out of any situation!” said his father, in what Genma imagined to be a suitable tone for imparting sage advice.

“Wow, I wish I was as smart as you, Pops!”

Ranma shook her head in disbelief. If only she’d known… She sighed, and turned to watch Sailor Mars throw fireballs.

Neptune and Uranus finished piling up the stricken remains of the heap and scuttled off to the side, out of harm’s way. Mars sighted along her arm and cried, “Snake Fire!” An impressively large gout of flame, in the shape of a living serpent, roared out from the air in front of her hand and impacted what was left of the heap. The flaming snake coiled hotly around everything flammable and incinerated it all, so quickly that there wasn’t even much of a stench from the burning rubber. Incidentally, it also scorched the left side of Ranma’s disguise to a nice crispy brown colour — she’d been standing a bit too close, in order to see better. The disguise pen quickly repaired the visible parts of the damage as soon as the flames subsided. “You silly person!” said Mars, distressed and angry. “I could have really hurt you!”

Ranma went pale and trembled a bit, saying, “I’m sorry!” in a subdued voice. She was having a sudden flashback to that moment, during the fight at Phœnix Mountain, where it hadn’t seemed possible to stop the homicidal Saffron from incinerating everyone. Naturally, the memory didn’t include anything useful like the techniques Ranma had subsequently cobbled together to pull off a last-minute save. With an effort, she forced the subject to the back of her mind, and instead tried desperately to think of any way she might imitate a magical attack like the ones she was being shown, her brow furrowing in concentration. She stood, thinking, for long enough that the others started to quietly talk amongst themselves in the background.

Finally, she burst out with, “Argh, this is so frustrating! I keep being almost reminded of things, ideas for how I might do stuff, but they won’t come out! I’ll be stuck all month trying to get this!” She was vigorously rubbing the sides of her head, as though trying to work the elusive memories out into the open using her fingers alone.

“Wait a minute, I just remembered something,” said Sailor Venus. “Back when I was fighting alone as Sailor V, I had a magical compact that not only worked just like the disguise pen, it could shoot a Venus Crescent Beam! If Ran— sorry, if Europa used that instead of the disguise pen, she’d have one of my attacks to use! With her martial arts and a genuine magical attack, she should be able to keep up with us even in a real fight!”

“Assuming she avoided injury,” pointed out Mercury dryly. “The disguise tools — and, for that matter, your various other gadgets — can’t give her magical resistance to spells and physical damage like our uniforms do.”

“Ergh, that’s a scary thought. What if there IS a fight and the enemy gets a shot in? She’d be street pizza!” Jupiter was very disturbed by the mental image of that scenario, and not only because of her normal concern for a fellow human being. Since Ranma was disguised as Sailor Europa, the imagined princess of one of her planet’s moons, she felt somewhat responsible for the hapless martial artist, at least while Ranma was wearing the disguise.

“Hey, no problem, I’m supposed to be a really good martial artist, right? All I have to do is dodge a lot!” Many of the flickers of memory had carried with them the flavour of Ranma’s old indefatigable self-confidence, in addition to brief, largely useless glimpses of the various high-level moves Ranma had known of before being healed of the Cat-Fist. Her frustrated comments notwithstanding, she was feeling pretty sure of herself by now — while she hadn’t figured out the magical attack thing yet, she just knew it was only a matter of time.

The others all gave Ranma a Look.

Sailor Uranus, who was standing only a couple of metres from “Sailor Europa,” smirked. “Oh really? Care to prove that?”

Ranma smirked back. “Any time!” she boasted.

Without warning, Uranus hurled herself at Ranma, beginning a — to most people — lightning-fast array of punches and a leg sweep.

Ranma dodged all the punches, which didn’t seem especially speedy to her, and jumped over the leg sweep, but was aware of something being slightly out of kilter. She saw Uranus begin another set of punches while she was hopping over the Sailor’s leg, presumably hoping to catch her while she was in the air and thus less able to dodge. Ranma twitched her head to the left to avoid the first jab, but did it so quickly that Uranus had time to swerve her fist sideways and keep it on target. Ranma blinked and dodged back the other way again, but she’d run out of time — Uranus caught her a glancing blow on the left side of her face. Ranma went flying backward, leading with the back of her head as she impacted the chain-link fence atop the nearby retaining wall. The Sailors and Tuxedo Mask all looked shocked.

“Huh?” said Uranus in surprise. “I shouldn’t have been able to tag her that easily! What happened?”

Sailor Mercury had her visor out, checking Ranma for injuries. “How many fingers am I holding up?” she asked the annoyed redhead, who protested vigorously before sighing in exasperation and giving the correct answer. “Good, it’s as my visor says. You’ll be fine, no concussion or anything.”

“I could have told you that,” Ranma grumbled, heaving herself upright with one hand on the mark where Uranus’ fist had landed. “Ow. That’ll be a nice bruise for a few minutes. I can’t figure out what happened. Did anyone see?”

“You dodged so early that Uranus was able to change her aim and hit you anyway,” Mercury said as she watched a replay of the punch on her computer. “Did your sense of time passing feel strange at all?”

Ranma thought back. “…Yeah, it did. Do you know what’s up?” Ranma latched onto the first thing about the whole situation that made any sense to her.

“No, but a good working theory is that when your head was healed, it somehow messed up your reflexes —”

Suddenly, Sailor Mercury was interrupted by an anguished scream. It seemed to be coming from behind and below the retaining wall: “AAARGH! WHERE THE HELL AM I NOW?! BREAKING POINT!” There was an immediate plume of dust and fist-sized rocks as the centre of the retaining wall collapsed, taking a big bite of the wide paved expanse everyone was standing on with it. “Oh, that’s better,” said the voice, in more normal tones. “I’ll be able to see from up there…” Sounds of effort followed, and the top of a huge backpack hove into view from out of the dust cloud, followed by the head of a boy Ranma’s age, who was wearing it.

“It’s okay, everyone, he’s just one of the martial artists from those cheap magazines about Nerima,” Venus called out.

“Oh yeah, I recognize the bandanna,” answered Uranus. “Anyone remember his name?”

No one did, but by this time Ryoga — for it was indeed the Lost Boy — had struggled to the top of the slope, and stood staring in amazement at the Pretty Soldiers. He didn’t notice Tuxedo Mask off to one side, but let’s be fair, few seventeen-year-old boys unexpectedly confronted by nine beautiful girls in really short skirts are going to be in any condition to notice anything else — especially not one as repressed as Ryoga. “Um, I’m Hibiki Ryoga,” he introduced himself, lamely, while trying not to be obvious about pinching his nose shut to avert a nosebleed. “Who are all of you?”

The Sailors, except for Ranma, all looked surprised. “You don’t recognize us?” asked Sailor Moon, disappointed.

“Uhh… No? Er, sorry…” Ryoga looked flustered.

“Well, we are the beautiful sailor-suited defenders of love and justice, the Sailor Soldiers. Sailor Moon!” Sailor Moon struck a silly pose.

“Sailor Mercury!” So did she, but hers was more restrained.

“Sailor Venus!” So, in fact, did all of the others as they called out their names, proceeding through the Solar system until…

“Sailor Neptune!” Sailor Jupiter nudged Ranma hard in the ribs as the last of the genuine Sailors struck her silly pose.

“Uh—” she coughed nervously, “Sailor, uh…” Ranma paused, thinking, Oh help! What was it again? Her eyes darted from side to side as she frantically tried to remember her code name, her mind having gone blank from the surrealism of the situation.

Europa!” hissed Jupiter out of the side of her mouth, through clenched teeth.

“…Europa!” Ranma did the best she could on short notice, adopting a little-known martial arts stance that made her look something like a bowlegged chimpanzee in a skirt, only prettier.

“And that’s Tuxedo Mask,” finished Moon proudly, indicating Exhibit A with her left hand as he tried to look mysterious. It might have worked better if he weren’t standing in full late-afternoon sunlight.

“Uhhh… Okay?” Ryoga was nonplussed. Then he fully registered the sight of the Sailor who’d paused while saying her name. By all the gods! She’s BEAUTIFUL! he thought, stunned into silence as he stared, mouth still agape. He charitably overlooked her peculiar stance. Maybe she had sore feet or something.

Ranma noticed that the real Sailors had by now all dropped their odd poses, and straightened up again with a sigh of relief. Then she noticed Ryoga staring at her with his mouth open. She wasn’t sure why, but it made her very uncomfortable. “Um, are you okay?”

“Me? AHAHAHA! I’m fine! Never better! Aheh… how are you?” The glassy-eyed Ryoga was absently shredding the edge of his fighting umbrella in his fingers, out of sheer hormone-drenched embarrassment. Beneath him, his right big toe was excavating quite a large nervous divot from the asphalt as he stood with his weight on the other leg.

“Uhhh… right…” Ranma was getting seriously weirded out.

Fortunately for her, the real Sailors knew exactly what was wrong with Ryoga, though most of them weren’t sure whether they should be amused or revolted at the idea of him going gaga over his sometime rival. Finally, Sailor Mercury remembered something important about the Lost Boy from the Nerima Martial Arts Review, and whispered urgently into Sailor Venus’ ear.

“Hold it right there, Hibiki!” shouted Venus, in tones of righteous indignation. “You’re the one who beat that Unryū girl’s sumo pig! We read about it! Aren’t you, like, engaged to her now or something? As Sailor Venus, the Pretty Soldier of Love, I insist that you explain yourself!”

“Awk!” In Ryoga’s personal universe, the musicians and huge drifts of flowers were suddenly swept away, as by an icy gale. Who expects an angry confrontation when they’re in the throes of love at first sight?

Sailor Moon raised one eyebrow and glared with the other, à la Mr. Spock. “Well?” She was disinclined to view him charitably after this latest revelation. The same went for all of the others.

Ranma was puzzled. Why were the others suddenly treating this weirdo like he was cheating on his fiancée? He was only standing there looking stupid, not doing anything with a girl.

It should be noted that Ranma was, at the best of times, not often very adept at spotting subtleties in the interactions between boys and girls. Here and now, with her memory full of holes, the aquatranssexual was blissfully ignorant of most types of human mating behaviour, or for that matter human dating behaviour. (She did retain a vague notion that boys would happily buy her presents of food if she smiled at them and looked hungry, but she wasn’t sure why, exactly.) Fortunately, the Sailors and Tuxedo Mask — thanks to their uniforms, experts of long standing at keeping away from overeager admirers — were keeping an eye out on her behalf, so what she was forgetting was unlikely to hurt her.

Meanwhile, Ryoga’s brain was shorting out from trying to process conflicting data. He was staring at the most amazing girl in the Universe, except — and this made no sense — she wasn’t Unryū Akari who loved him in spite of his curse, and to make things even worse, lots of other pretty girls were glaring at him as though he were the most insensitive clod in the world. “Glerk…” he said, eloquently. “Uh… uh… uh…” There was a strong smell of scorched hair. “I must have them BOTH!” he cried finally, and then wondered why that sounded familiar.

Ranma twitched as an unidentified bad memory flickered in the back of her mind, then faded again. Why was she suddenly thinking of a wooden training sword, and the word “moron”? She screwed up her forehead and skeptically said, “Say what?”

“Urk…” Ryoga froze up again. He had a feeling that hadn’t been a well thought out remark on his part. Fortunately for him, the human brain will — in most cases — eventually reset itself after sufficient time being deadlocked, and this did in fact now take place. “DAMN YOU SAOTOME RANMA! THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!” he cried automatically, having found years ago that this explanation sufficed for almost any situation.

If looks could kill, he would not have survived making that statement; as he came further back to himself, he immediately realized he was at ground zero for a large number of beautiful but very angry female superhumans, and decided that discretion was the better part of valour. (Well, Tuxedo Mask was very angry too, but in spite of having been directly introduced to him by Sailor Moon, Ryoga still hadn’t really noticed him.) “Uh — Goodbye!” he blurted, spinning around as quickly as his enormous pack would allow, and sprinted for the distant street — well, he meant to, at least; naturally, he was running the wrong way. Equally naturally, he forgot about the stricken retaining wall, and with a humorous squawk, he disappeared over the shattered edge in a huge cloud of dust and rocks.

When the haze cleared away a few seconds later, he was nowhere to be seen. The Sailors, Ranma and Tuxedo Mask all looked at one another in bewilderment.

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On the other side of the ward, in a secret room under the Crown Amusement Centre, two beings who looked like domestic cats — apart from the golden crescent moon on each of their foreheads — were killing time while their young charges were enjoying themselves at the zoo. At least, that’s how it had started; neither had looked at what the girls were actually doing in several hours. The black-furred one, Luna, had unintentionally fallen asleep on the desk, while the white-furred one, Artemis, was trying “just one more time” to beat a modern-day computer game that had been proving surprisingly difficult to him.

Well, fairly modern. “Modern” is relative. The blocky green letters on the black screen in front of him read:


“Rats!” he cursed. “Not again! Gah!” He sighed, thinking, Oh well… at least it wasn’t a grue this time.

The outburst awoke his companion. “Eh? Oh, I fell asleep. What are you watching there?” she asked, peering curiously at his screen. “Hah! That again? It’s been years, Artemis. When are you going to admit that you can’t beat that game?”

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Meanwhile, Ranma’s fiancées and their assorted hangers-on were heading for the Minato Zoo, the better to seek out Ranma’s trail. The Tendos and Saotome Nodoka were taking public transit, and everyone else was heading straight there along the rooftops, just as Ranma had a few hours before. Genma had wanted to take the bus too, but his wife had indicated that being outdone in running across town by a shrivelled old woman like Cologne would be rather underwhelming in the manliness department, and shifted her grip on her sword in an entirely unconscious but very meaningful way. He had immediately decided to go with the roof-jumpers, supposedly in order to see first hand what happened to his “worthless son.”

Soun had shifted uncomfortably, knowing that he was so far out of training he wouldn’t be able to keep up while running that far, and — worse — knowing that everyone else thought this to be so obvious, they didn’t even suggest that he take the direct route.

It looked like the roof-hopping group would arrive significantly ahead of the bus riders, as their pace was set by Shampoo and Ukyo trying to keep out of reach of Happosai, with Mousse, Cologne and Konatsu angrily giving chase and Genma bringing up the rear.

Back on the bus, Akane was complaining bitterly about being the only martial artist in Nerima who was forbidden to run the roofs. However, her remonstrations fell on deaf ears — her father wasn’t about to let “his baby girl” do anything so dangerous, and that was the end of it. She fumed and glared out the window, making nearby pedestrians unaccountably nervous, the whole way back to the zoo.

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Back in Nerima, the Kuno siblings skidded to a halt in front of the Tendo Dojo, which was plainly unoccupied.

“Blast!” raved Tatewaki. “We are too late!”

“Never fear, my idiot brother, we need only consult my hired detective to find out where they went,” soothed Kodachi. She stuck two fingers in her mouth and whistled loudly.

“Yes, milady?” asked the private investigator obsequiously, from behind them.

“The people who were here in your earlier report, where did they go?” asked Kodachi bluntly. “And I have warned you before about that ridiculous habit of turning up behind me whenever I summon you. Continue to do so and it will go hard with you.”

“Err… yes, milady. The people split into two groups. One group jumped away over the rooftops, the other walked a few blocks and boarded the first bus for Minato. I understood both groups to be headed for that big zoo over there. Apparently that’s where the missing persons were last seen.”

“You have done well, man, thank you,” said Tatewaki magnanimously. “Come, sister, let us away to the family limousine.”

“Agreed. As for you,” Kodachi fixed the P.I. with a glare, “I shall expect a full report before I release any funds to your office.”

The P.I. gave a sickly grin and bowed politely. “Yes, milady.” He slumped in relief as the flakiest parts of the local upper crust hurried away down the street, Kodachi giving her trademark hair-raising laugh as she went. This job had gotten a lot easier since Nabiki had discovered him lurking in the shrubbery and set up a regular information drop in exchange for a cut of his fees, but he figured it would take a lot more than that to make up for having to deal with Kuno Kodachi on a regular basis.

Now maybe he could go have a drink to steady his nerves. He couldn’t have really seen a man turn into a panda bear and continue talking, via signs of course, as though nothing had happened… could he?

Nah. Must have been working too hard lately. Plus, of course, that creepy laugh of the Kuno girl’s would drive anyone a short way around the bend. Alcohol, my old friend, here I come! he thought with determination.

It all seemed particularly unfair when you considered how sure he’d been, up until the incident with the panda-man, that he’d avoided all of the little psycho’s drug-laced snacks, too…

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Dusk was drawing in over the Minato industrial area, long fingers of shadow creeping across the asphalt, as Sailor Mercury found a way to restore some of Ranma’s martial arts rhythm. “It’s a long way from a cure,” she was saying to the others, “but it still should help quite a bit.”

“How messed up will I still be after the fix?” asked Ranma apprehensively.

“You should be able to beat someone at Jupiter’s level without much trouble, but if that Hibiki jerk attacks you before you get your timing readjusted on your own, he’s likely to kill you by accident before he realizes anything’s wrong.”

“Oh, that Ryoga guy can’t be that bad, even if he does stand around looking stupid a lot. Sets— I mean, Sailor Pluto did say he’s helped me out of a few tight spots. He probably wouldn’t really KILL me, very much.” Ranma realized she was getting sidetracked, and wrenched her thoughts back onto the problem with her reflexes. “Anyway, it sounds like I need whatever help I can get, so how do I get fixed this time?”

“We need Prince Endymion and Princess Serenity to focus the Golden and Silver Crystals on you, and concentrate on you and the magical patterns I’m setting the Mercury Computer up to show them. While they’re doing that, you’ll be running through a few basic fighting exercises with Sailors Jupiter and Uranus.” Mercury somehow managed to give this rather long explanation as an absent-minded aside, while she expertly used the Mercury Computer to calculate the optimum magical pattern to recalibrate Ranma’s perfectly healthy but dangerously uncoördinated reflexes.

“Both of us?” Tuxedo Mask asked, astonished. “Why does it need such a huge amount of power? That’d be enough to bring the Moon back to life! If we set up a lot of other stuff first, of course.”

“Not power. Control,” answered Mercury. “Having both of you focus the patterns at once, in sync with each other, geometrically increases the level of detail that can be achieved. Among other things, that means we can at least try to restore Europa’s memory while we’re at it.” She looked at the collection of sombre faces that were listening to her, and thoughtfully added, “Of course, the Crystals are also, as you point out, very powerful — so if you mess up, she is likely to be vaporized by the conflicting feedback.”

“Hey?!” This brought Ranma’s attention sharply back to the conversation. She hadn’t understood much of what was going on — for example, who were this Prince and Princess that Mercury had mentioned? — and her mind had been wandering.

“What are the chances of that happening?!” asked Jupiter, shocked and alarmed. Behind her, Sailor Moon was giving the brooch where she kept the Silver Crystal the kind of look one might give a favoured housecat, on being informed that it had savaged and eaten its previous owner.

“Oh, with the rest of us here to stop any interruptions, there’s only a small chance of anything going wrong,” assured Mercury cheerfully. “The second cure should carry through with as much as a 62% chance of complete success —”

“As much as?” said Ranma dangerously, her right eye twitching. For the first time, she wondered if these people were really as competent as she’d thought. Around her, the others were all beginning to look concerned.

“— give or take twenty percent. Hardly anything to worry about,” continued Mercury happily.

“Give or take?” Ranma was getting noticeably red in the face. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea…

Everyone else was frozen in horrified disbelief.

“And there’s only about one chance in eight of an intermediate result like your innards being microwaved to cannibal perfection, too. So you see, it’s perfectly safe!” Mercury finished triumphantly. “Why, I bet you wouldn’t even explode!”

Ranma was by this point reduced to incoherent spluttering, and she was now certain that this was turning into an absolute monster of a bad idea. Meanwhile, several of the horror-struck Pretty Soldiers were turning unhealthy shades of green. Sailor Moon was trying to get the brooch off of herself, but she was trembling so hard from feeling ill that she couldn’t seem to get her fingers to close on it.

Mercury managed to hold a reasonably straight face for a few seconds, then dissolved into a helpless fit of giggles.

Sailor Venus caught on first. “HEY!”

Mercury came clean. “Yeah, I was joking. Fooled you!” she giggled. Everyone else looked at her like she’d grown a second head. “Oh, don’t be like that! You were all getting WAY too serious there. Vaporized by the Crystals, as if!” She kept on giggling for a few seconds and then stood with a quiet smile, waiting for the others to recover their composure. Tell ME I need a better sense of humour, will they! she recalled, chortling evilly to herself.

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Back at the Crown, the two Moon Cats looked at each other in bewilderment. They seemed to have picked a rather confusing moment to look in on the Sailors. “Did that make any sense to you?” Luna asked Artemis, one ear flattened sideways in baffled annoyance with herself.

“Mercury being playful? Not likely!” he returned. “And where did this Sailor Europa come from? I don’t remember her from the Silver Millennium, do you?”

“No, I don’t, but you know how badly our memories held up to suspended animation. Hang on and I’ll check with the palace computer on the Moon.”

Artemis nodded, and watched as Luna quickly entered a long chain of commands.

“That’s odd,” she said after a few minutes. “It just says ‘Please ask again in two days.’ ”

Artemis looked surprised. “The Queen’s doing?” he suggested after some thought, referring to the simulation of Queen Serenity that was watching over the Sailors from the backup computer under the Moon Palace.

“Looks that way,” agreed Luna. “Guess we’ll have to do it the embarrassing way and ask someone.” The end of her tail twitched irritably.

Artemis flattened his ears and made a face. “Rats.”

* ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ * ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ *

Some time and another impressive display of powerful sparkly lights later, the Sailors, neo-Serenity and Endymion gathered around “Sailor Europa” to make sure she was all right. “Wooo…” said Ranma dizzily, “That was… um…” She looked down at herself, as though only just realizing what her disguise looked like, and looked horrified. “What am I WEARING?!”

Everyone else looked taken aback. “You’re disguised as Sailor Europa. Don’t you remember?” asked Venus, concerned. The same thought was uppermost in everyone’s mind — had Ranma’s memory somehow gotten worse, instead of better?

This concern was quickly dispelled, however. “Yeah, but I didn’t remember how girly this cheerleader suit is! You know I’ve lived my whole life as a guy, why didn’t anybody warn me I was gonna look silly?” Ranma looked like she wished the ground would swallow her up in her embarrassment, as she tried in vain to tug her skirt down to cover more of her legs. She had worn even scantier outfits in the past, it was true, but only when trying to win a challenge.

If Ranma had looked any less distressed at her situation, the Sailors would have gotten rather offended at this double-barrelled negative assessment of their uniforms; as it was, they knew Ranma needed some serious morale boosting with respect to her self-image when female. Neo-Serenity, having observed that Ranma wasn’t much on subtlety, opted for the direct approach. “You don’t look silly. You’re beautiful!” She looked around meaningfully at the other girls.


“I wish my hair looked as good with my uniform!”

“How could anyone as beautiful as you not know it?”

Ranma’s reaction would have astounded anyone who knew her before her double cure, but she was a lot more comfortable with spending part of her life female, now. She simply looked stunned at the praise, and asked, “You, you really mean it?” She still looked ill at ease, though, and her next words showed why. “How — but how can I be beautiful when I turn into a, a boy? When I’m a guy, how can anyone be attracted to someone who’s another girl the next minute?” She looked like she wanted to cry. “I… I’m sorry, I didn’t know this was bugging me so much…”

Everyone else’s expression had softened in sympathy and understanding. Sailor Neptune spoke up. “You are beautiful. You stay beautiful when you’re a him, too, you know. And do you know why?”

Ranma slowly shook her head. “No…” she said faintly. “Why?”

“It’s because you, the person inside, doesn’t change,” said Venus.

“Yes,” said neo-Serenity. “You’re a good person. It shows through.”

Ranma looked unconvinced. “Well, I guess that all makes sense, but it still doesn’t help me not look silly. If anything, it probably makes it worse.”

Endymion looked puzzled. “What do you mean?”

Mercury looked exasperated with herself, and smacked herself in the forehead. “D’oh! It’s so obvious! If she’s dressed as a beautiful girl and runs into some hot water, suddenly he’s a makeup-wearing transvestite in clothes that don’t fit!”

Everyone looked disturbed at this image. The logical next step occurred to several of them at the same time. “Oh, no,” said Saturn. “What will happen if she gets splashed with hot water while she’s Sailor Europa?”

“We’d better find out now, while it doesn’t matter,” said Neptune. “Mars?”

“Huh? Oh! Okay, on three. One, two, THREE!”

“Deep Submerge!”

“Flame Sniper!”

“Oof!” said Ranma succinctly, as she was abruptly flattened by the big ball of hot water they had conjured above her head. It quickly splashed to the ground and poured away through the gap in the ruined retaining wall, taking Ranma’s breath away as it went.

“Well. That was different,” said Jupiter, staring at Ranma’s new look.

“I’m not sure what I was expecting, but that wasn’t it,” agreed Endymion. As an afterthought, he shifted back to being just plain Tuxedo Mask.

Ranma sat up, arms spread backwards for support, and looked with growing alarm at the nine astonished faces staring back. “Uh… What did it do to me?” One hand flew throatwards in horror. “Waaaugh! My voice!” It had gone from a soprano to an androgynous contralto.

Sailor Saturn peered at Ranma’s hair in puzzlement. “Uhh… Europa, are you a him or a her right now?”

Ranma gave her a panicky look, then sat up straighter and frantically rummaged around under the still-too-short skirt. A shame that part hadn’t changed…

“I’m a guy!” he said triumphantly, once he was absolutely sure. It took him a minute, because what his hand felt on the outside didn’t agree with what the rest of him felt from the inside.

Everyone else gasped. “Oh, no!” said Mars. “This is horrible!”

“Yeah,” said Uranus, “because you still look and sound like a girl. Well, you look like one, anyway, I’m not sure what you sound like,” she finished undiplomatically.

“Relax, everyone, I think it’s just the disguise pen at work,” Mercury said unsteadily, trying not to look as worried as she felt.

“Oh, that makes sense!” said Ranma, relief coming off him like steam. “I’m still disguised as Sailor Europa, which means I look and feel like a girl, even though I’m really a guy inside the magic disguise.”

Unnoticed in the background, Uranus gave him an odd look. “He feels like a girl? To the touch?” she thought to herself. Her mind immediately went to several places that would have had Ranma speechless and red as a tomato for hours, had he been along for the ride.

“Oh, that’s okay then. This is so cool! You’re as tall as your boy side and you have black hair, but you’re still a Pretty Soldier like us!” Neo-Serenity clapped her hands in enthusiasm, and reverted to being just plain Sailor Moon, the better to bounce in excitement.

Now that he’d had a moment to collect his thoughts, Ranma was fairly sure he liked wearing a really short skirt even less as a guy than he did as a girl, but he didn’t have the heart to say so when Sailor Moon was so happy about it. He decided to change the subject, and said, “Weren’t we supposed to be testing my reflexes and stuff?”

“Oh yeah. And it’s still my turn!” Jupiter called out cheerfully, launching a renewed martial-arts attack on “Europa.”

“Hah! Bring it on!” cried Ranma joyfully, leaping to meet her in the air. After a flurry of movements that went by too quickly for anyone but Mercury’s visor to keep track of, he successfully redirected the Soldier of Jupiter towards the ground, keeping himself aloft a few seconds longer — and incidentally changing course to dive out of the sky at Sailor Venus, who whooped and somersaulted backwards out of the way, forcing Mars to dodge her. Within minutes, everyone except Mercury — who had to stand clear and scan Ranma, darn the luck anyway — was engaged in a huge free-for-all game of Martial Arts Tag with three people being “it” at once, laughter ringing loudly against the distant buildings.

* ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ * ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ *

The two Moon Cats stared at the monitors in fascination. The game of Martial Arts Tag had gone on for over fifteen minutes already, with none of the participants showing signs of slowing down. Even Mercury had put away her visor and stuck her computer back in its hyperspace pocket, and was laughingly trying to tag Neptune. “Amazing,” said Luna.

“Yes. Did you notice how this Europa’s skills seem to be inspiring the others to try and keep up?” Artemis was mentally cheering on his Sailor Venus, as well as indiscriminately congratulating the others whenever they did something particularly deft. His tail swished leisurely back and forth behind him, its tempo depending on how the game was going. “Ha! Nice one, Mercury!” It wasn’t like they could hear him, but a little enthusiasm never hurt anyone.

“Yes, I’ve been watching Europa — ooh, watch out, Sailor Moon! — and she seems incredibly skilled. Even Uranus can’t lay a finger on her.”

“She’s definitely unusual, all right. Let’s see, so far we know she undergoes a bizarre transformation in hot water, and she is using the disguise pen in some way, and she’s an expert martial artist,” Artemis listed off, thumping his tail on the desk with each point. “Anything else?” he finished.

“She claimed to be male inside the disguise field, but everyone — including her! — acted like that was a big surprise! How could she not know her own gender?”

“I’m not sure I want to know the answer to that… hey, what’s up with her now? With him, I mean. I guess if he’s really male we should use the right words.”

“Eh?” Luna looked back at the video feed in front of her, not seeing anything amiss.

“Look at the readings of him the Mercury Computer is taking! He seems to be entering some kind of trance state, while still playing the game!”

“Hasn’t slowed him down any,” observed Luna, glancing over the numbers and then turning back to the video feed.

“There’s something about these readings of his magical field, though… Hmmm.” Artemis looked thoughtful, and entered a query into the computers.

“Yes, on the face of things it doesn’t look that much like the other Sailors’, but somehow it looks familiar all the same, doesn’t it?” said Luna distractedly, staring at the data monitor again. “It’s not just the disguise field, either. I wonder…”

* ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ * ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ *

Although the deepening shadows and loss of colour vision brought on by the accelerating dusk were beginning to make everyone’s footing treacherous, Ranma was exhilarated from the game of tag — which was quite possibly the first time he’d gotten to just play with anyone since he was six, and fighting his buddy Ucchan for okonomiyaki every day. Every opportunity he’d had since then, most of which had occurred in gym class, had been to some degree ruined by his obsessive need to win, no matter what. (Actually, the six-year-old Ukyo probably would have thought those matches were to some degree ruined by his obsessive need to win, too.) Considerations of simply having fun had been driven out of him by his training regimen — under Genma’s tutelage, the only sorts of things he was allowed to have fun with were along the lines of successfully learning a new technique, or winning a match.

At the same time, though, something seemed to be hovering at the back of his memory, just barely out of reach. His eyes began to glaze over as he focused most of his thoughts on trying to recover the elusive memory, barely paying enough attention to the game to stay out of reach of Tuxedo Mask and Sailors Mars and Saturn, who were currently “it.” It didn’t seem to be a memory of something he’d forgotten about, or a memory of some stretch of time he’d lived through. It was more like… His brow furrowed. He was on the edge of something. It was more like… a memory of how to move… a muscle memory? Suddenly, it all came into focus. Ah, and there was even a target in the air before him…

“Hey?” said Sailor Jupiter as she descended from a leap across the yard, noticing “Europa” looking at her with a strangely calculating expression.

“Europa Hydrothermal Ascension!” he cried, pushing forward, out and up with both hands, palms out — that was how the memory went, wasn’t it? — as though shoving something at Jupiter’s descending position in the air. A faint greenish-orange light did flicker briefly around his chest, arms and hands, but something wasn’t right… not right at all…


“Europa?&rdqu o;

“What was that about?”

“What’s going on?”

The voices all seemed so far away…

Sailor Saturn, who had been coming up behind Ranma to try and tag him and was therefore closest, could see — despite the rapidly deepening shadows — that something wasn’t right with the martial artist. The martial artist who —


— was face down on the asphalt —

“Oh, no!” She ran faster.

— and wasn’t moving at all —

“Ranma?” She tried to find a pulse.

— as true night fell at last, with the finality of a guillotine.



Latest revision as of Weds. 2008/04/09