Hoping to find a cure, Ranma is instead struck with a curse more horrible then before. As events around him spiral out of control, he is drawn into a war that has brewed for countless millennia... ...
(A/N: Y helo thar. This is yet another pet project I made up - an epic crossover between Ranma 1/2, Sailor Moon and Final Fantasy Tactics (!), with even a small bit of Chrono Trigger thrown in.
A massive amount of brainstorming went in this project, as I and another individual (Fatuous One from The FanFiction Forums) pulled an all-nighter, working over 14 hours to lay down the foundation of this story, so please don't dismiss it outright as the usual messy, disjointed crossover hastily patched together like a Frankenstein monster. Give it a fair chance, and if you still think it sucks afterwards, I will gladly accept your criticism, so long as it's something more constructive than 'D00D U SUX LOLOLOL KTHXBAI!111!1ONE'.
Hopefully, the amount of work we poured into it will prove to be enough to make for an interesting read. Only time, and you readers, will tell...
Now, on with the fic!)
Ranma 1/2 and all its characters are property of Takahashi Rumiko, and I don't claim ownership of them, though I sure as hell would LIKE to. Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy Tactics are copyright of SquareEnix ltd, all rights reserved. Sailor Moon and all its characters are property of Takeuchi Naoko, and again I claim no ownership of them. The concept of the Sacred Stones opposing the Zodiac Stones is my own creation. Any non-canon Zodiac Beasts are of my own making.
Many thanks to:
Fatuous One, from The FanFiction Forum, for large, large, large, LARGE amounts of help fine-tuning the background of the story. The fic wouldn't be there without you, man. I'm serious;
H-Man, from The FanFiction Forum, for hints and tips;
Everyone else from The FanFiction Forum, for general help and proofreading.
And thanks to you, dear reader!
("This" is speech. Italics are thought. 1234567890 indicates a scene/perspective change. Underlined locations in italics are a location/timeframe change. "#Dialogue like this#" is people speaking in Yvalice.)
Prologue: One's End, Another's Beginning
Murond, Death City: The end of the Lion War
Agrias Oaks quietly swore as the skeletal form of Ajora Glabados, the Lucavi known as Altima, the 'Bloody Angel', started glowing more and more brightly with each passing second. She was fairly sure the glow wasn't the prelude to an innocuous firework.
The tired swordswoman moved besides Worker 8, Ramza Beoulve and the yellow Chocobo called 'Boco', as they tended to a wounded Alma Beoulve. Ramza's concern for his sister's well-being clearly showed on his face as he carefully lifted the girl's prone form and walked away from the glowing Lucavi as fast as Alma's wounds would allow. Agrias felt a pang of jealousy. Why couldn't it be me? ...no, what am I thinking, she thought, shaking her head and breaking into a run alongside the Steel Giant and the Chocobo. No time to think about that. Must get to safety...!
Agrias's step faltered as she saw something glow a familiar dark red on the ground. A Zodiac Stone. Should I leave it here? No, it's too dangerous, she decided. Acting quickly, she bent down and wrapped the Stone in a piece of clothing from her tattered uniform, pocketing it and then resuming her run. She idly noticed the strange Byblos monster Ramza had picked up in the Deep Dungeon do the same with another Zodiac Stone - was it Serpentarius? No time to make sure, she decided. They had to--
Her thoughts were interrupted by a bright flash and a loud explosion. She turned her head in time to see a wall of pure magic rush towards her, its mystical power making the very air before it ripple. Boco 'wark'ed in alarm besides her, and Worker 8 started bleeping warnings.
Then the blast struck her. Whiteness engulfed the Holy Knight, and all she knew was pain.
The Solar System, 5,000 years before the Moon Kingdom
Serenity looked up at the night sky, sighing. The blond-haired girl often came out on the small hill near her modest home to watch the night sky and lose herself in her dreams and fantasies. It was her greatest wish to one day be the one to unite the divided Sol territory, bringing peace to her conflict-ridden land and to all others who were suffering as she did.
But, of course, it was just a fantasy. What could a little, powerless girl like her do?
Serenity smiled as she saw a shooting star fall from the sky. They said shooting stars granted wished. It was a silly superstition, but why not try?
"I wish I had the power to make everyone happy and safe," she murmured, looking at the falling star. She waited for it to disappear, so that she could then go home.
Serenity's eyes widened as she saw the bright stream of light change direction. Was it pointing at her? She froze on the spot as the light became bigger and bigger... until a glowing ball of energy slammed to the ground only a few feet in front of her, spraying her with dirt and rocks.
"Ow!" she yelled as she fell down, feeling bits of rock dig into her flesh. Spitting out mouthfuls of dirt, she slowly got up, eyeing the crater the light had fallen into. It still glowed of a fierce, pure, silvery light.
Feeling uncontrollably drawn to it, she slowly inched closer to the crater, never taking her eyes off it for fear that some abject terror would jump out of it and devour her. As she came closer, she somehow felt herself relax. There was no hostility in the light - only inviting warmth.
Finally, she reached the border of the crater, and looked down to see the source of the light.
And she saw it.
It shone quietly, resting in the freshly moved earth, its beautiful surface not even scratched by the violent impact it was subjected to.
Slowly, hesitantly, Serenity extended a hand to touch it.
And upon laying her fingers on it, and feeling the warmth and power spread through her, she had only one thought.
Now my dream is a dream no more.
End of the Silver Millennium, circa 13,000 BC
"We are going to lose, aren't we, Your Highness?"
Setsuna Meiou, Princess of Pluto and Guardian of Time, surveyed the carnage before her eyes from the highest balcony of the great Lunar Palace on the Moon with a grim expression on her face. The battle had taken a very bad turn indeed: almost all of the Senshi had been killed, and what was left of the army and the Queen's own Omega Guard was struggling to keep the waves of enemies at bay.
Besides Setsuna, Queen Serenity nodded with a heavy heart, then lowered her gaze to the shining stone in her hand. The Ginzuishou, as she called the sacred jewel she found five millennia before, had gifted her with not only knowledge and power, but also a seemingly never-ending lifespan. She knew better, of course - she was still very much mortal. And it appeared that her time on this mortal coil had finally come to an end.
Turning to her friend and advisor, Serenity reached for a small round object wrapped in heavy clothing in her pocket and handed it over to Setsuna. The Princess of Pluto blinked, looking questioningly at the spherical bundle in her queen's hand. "What is this, Your Highness?"
"This is what is called a 'Zodiac Stone', Setsuna... an ancient artifact from a world and an age long lost. I want you to take it and hide it," she said grimly. "It must not fall in Beryl's hands, no matter what. And whatever you do, for the love of all that is holy, /do not attempt to use it/. It is every bit as powerful as the Ginzuishou, but it is also malevolent in nature, and cannot be controlled by mere mortals. If you try, you will probably lose your soul."
"W-what? But, why me?" Setsuna stammered, looking at the covered stone wide-eyed. She had heard stories of the Zodiac Stones and the 'Evil Lucavi' sealed inside them. They granted immense power to the holder, but the price to pay was often too great to be worth it.
"Because I trust you," Serenity replied, smiling gently, "and because you are the Mistress of Time. If anyone can keep the Zodiac Stone 'Leo' from falling in the wrong hands, it is you. And you are also the only one who can one day restore the Moon Kingdom to its former glory."
Setsuna hesitantly took the Zodiac Stone from Serenity's outstretched hand and carefully pocketed it, then returned her attention to her Queen. Serenity gave her an apologetic smile.
"If I had a spare Sacred Stone besides the Ginzuishou to give you, I would," she said regretfully. "They can counteract and annul the Zodiac Stone's power, and you would be that much safer with one in your possession. But alas, I could not find one. I am sorry.
"Now, listen carefully. I am going to use the very last of my powers along with the Ginzuishou's full potential to seal Metallia away and send the spirits of the fallen Senshi, as well as my daughter and Prince Endymion's, forward in the future so that they can be reborn in what will hopefully be a less troubled time period. When they are returned to the world of the living, I want you to find them, gather them again and then work hard to uphold the Moon Kingdom's ideals once more.
"I know it's a heavy burden that I am placing on you, but I am fully confident that you will succeed. You are my most trusted Senshi, and the Guardian of Time. If you cannot do it, I fail to think of anyone else who could..."
"But, Your Highness... what about you?" Setsuna asked, though deep down she already knew the answer. Serenity gently smiled at her.
"Thanks to the Ginzuishou's blessing, I had five thousand years to see my dream come true, grow into everything I could hope for, and more. I was loved, and loved back. Now, I am called to perform my duty towards those who placed their trust in me. I have no regrets... I have lived, I have loved and I fulfilled my dreams. It is only fitting that I die to protect that which I gave birth to.
"The Moon Kingdom may physically end today, but as long as its spirit lives on, so shall I. And my hope is that one day my daughter will replace me as Neo Queen Serenity, guiding another Moon Kingdom to the same prosperity mine has enjoyed. And hopefully, you will be there to assist her as you have assisted me..."
Setsuna forced the tears back as Serenity embraced her for the last time. For what seemed an eternity, she returned the hug, knowing that, while Serenity may be reborn sometime in the distant future, they would most likely never again meet. Then she let go and slowly stepped away from the Queen. She began to advance towards the exit of the Lunar Palace's Great Hall, still casting hesitant glances to her still-smiling ruler and friend. Then, steeling herself, she turned away and transported herself to the Gates of Time... away from the bloody conflict.
As soon as she rematerialized inside what was to become her realm and, in a sense, her prison for the next several thousand years, she broke down and sank to the floor, crying. By the time she could bring herself to take a look at the battle at the Moon Palace, it had ended... and Queen Serenity was gone.
The era known as the Silver Millennium had come to an end. For the first, but not last, time in her life, Setsuna Meiou felt truly alone.
The Gates of Time, two thousand years later
Setsuna tiredly rubbed her eyes as she scanned the timestream for signs of the reincarnated Senshi. It had taken her a long time to accept Serenity's death and move on, and she had spent most of that time desperately trying to find some trace - any trace - of her queen and friend somewhere in the near-to-distant future.
She had given up after scanning over a period of 10,000 years, and had resigned herself to carrying out Serenity's dying wish. Following that, she had progressively scanned farther and farther away for signs of the Senshi's second coming, attempting to pinpoint the time period when they would emerge.
Her task was made somewhat easier by her knowledge of Artemis and Luna. The Moon Cats had been sent forward in time as well, to act as mentors for the Princess and the other Senshi in case Pluto could not immediately locate them. So far, however, she had no luck finding either the Moon Cats or the Senshi.
Deciding to go even further, she pushed forward to the far future, intending to see what was in store and work backwards from there. Setting the Time Gates on 2700 AD, she activated the scan. Seconds later, her eyes widened in a mix of horror and shock.
"What... is this?" Setsuna whispered, staring at the scene the Gates were showing her. Before her was a charred, desolate land covered in heavy snow, with no signs of life whatsoever. Craters dotted the surface where it could be seen through the snowy blanket covering the dead earth. Setsuna shuddered. Some sort of catastrophe must have occurred for this to happen. Shaken by the horrible sight, the Princess of Pluto began to frantically backtrack in the timeline, attempting to find out just when this apocalypse had taken place.
Several hours later, Pluto sat before the Gates, feeling utterly sick in the stomach at the thought of her discoveries, a heavy blanket of depression laying over her.
Finding traces of life had been easy enough. All she had to do was backtrack 100 years. What she got for her trouble was the dubious honor of watching what little was left of life on Earth slowly die of starvation and illnesses. By 2650, even cockroaches and bacteria were struggling to survive. It was as if something had sucked all the lifeforce out of the planet, leaving only a dried husk behind.
As she went farther back, she discovered that was exactly what happened. The revelation of what fate had befallen the Earth was found in 2300 AD.
The Day of Lavos.
Setsuna felt even more sickened as she replayed the scenes she had seen in her mind. A monstrous spiked creature emerging from the Earth's crust - the destroyer that would later on be called 'Lavos' by the few survivors of the catastrophe. Destruction raining down from the Heavens. Civilization, as the planet knew it, annihilated in a matter of minutes.
And worst of all, the Senshi... fighting the creature and being utterly crushed by it.
The monster's power was unreal. Out of all the Senshi, only Sailor Saturn and Princess Serenity were able to do any notable damage to its massive form - and it had cost them their lives, as the enormous amount of power they had to conjure to destroy its hard shell was too much for their bodies to take. Unfortunately, it turned out that all they had destroyed was the outer layer - its inner core still had to be dealt with, and it proved to be too much for the tired, wounded Senshi without their leader and the Senshi of Silence.
After watching the crushing defeat the creature dealt the Senshi, Setsuna began to scan alternate realities, hoping to find at least one that would enable the Senshi to defeat the abomination. Panic quickly gave way to dark despair as one by one, the timelines she checked yielded the same result - defeat and death. In one particularly horrible timeline, the monster managed to engulf Princess Serenity, increasing its already phenomenal power a hundredfold. In that timeline, nothing had survived the Day of Lavos - not even viruses.
As she desperately tried to find some way, no matter how outlandish, to defeat the monstrosity, Setsuna had finally stumbled upon two timelines where the Senshi did manage, with much blood, tears and pain, to kill the rampaging creature. Unfortunately, they were unable to prevent it from wiping out the majority of civilization, and sustained heavy losses in the battle.
One such future, where the Princess had to sacrifice herself to destroy Lavos, ended much like all other, with a dead world covered by snow. The surviving Senshi had struggled until the very end to keep as many people alive as they could, but with Sailor Moon gone, eventually debilitation and death claimed every single one of them. In the end, the world was cold and silent - the Great Freeze, as Pluto had come to call this apocalyptic scenario.
The last timeline, however, gave her back something she thought she had utterly lost - hope. The Senshi had still lost many of their numbers to Lavos, but Princess Serenity and Setsuna herself had survived. In the following years of catastrophic changes of climate and poor crop harvests, the survivors of the Sailor Senshi had managed to build a small, prosperous utopia where a number of lucky selected humans could thrive. Upon this utopia of 'Crystal Tokyo', founded on the ruins of the old Tokyo destroyed by Lavos, a new Moon Kingdom was built, in hopes that one day the parched Earth could be brought back to its former splendor.
Still, it was a hollow victory. The large majority of the world had perished during the Day of Lavos and its aftermath, and those unlucky enough to not be chosen for Crystal Tokyo were also regretfully left to die.
Yes, life would be preserved... but the cost was too great. Pluto just knew that Queen Serenity would never have approved of such a solution. Rather than cut the losses and move on, her good friend would have fought until the bitter end to save everyone, no matter how hopeless a goal it was.
Yet, it appeared to be the only way for life to not be wiped off the face of the planet. The Senshi just lacked power. Had Serenity been there, or had there been more than one Ginzuishou...
As Pluto pondered what to do and steeled herself for the unpleasant actions she would probably have to perform to ensure that the vision she saw came true, her eyes fell on the one memento of Serenity she had - the Zodiac Stone, Leo.
For a few moments, she blinked at it, not really seeing it, until her eyes refocused and the memory of her last conversation with Serenity replayed in her mind.
(It is every bit as powerful as the Ginzuishou, but it is also malevolent in nature, and cannot be controlled by mere mortals. If you try, you will probably lose your soul.)
Setsuna repeated the words in her mind over and over, but one part stood out clearly to her.
(It is every bit as powerful as the Ginzuishou.)
Power. That was what enabled Lavos to inflict such grievous losses on the Senshi and cause such widespread death and destruction. That was what the Senshi lacked... what they needed in order to strike the creature down before the world was irrevocably changed.
Getting up from her seat, Pluto approached the glass case in which the Zodiac Stone was contained. Slowly, hesitantly, she removed the glass cover and set it aside. Then she stared at the golden-colored stone, trying to make a decision.
Her Highness told me to not use it under any circumstance/, she thought, /but not even she could have foreseen a catastrophic devastation of this magnitude. I do not want to disobey her order... but I have a mission myself - to make her last wish come true.
Setsuna carefully picked the stone up and peered in its depths, still torn between loyalty and duty. As she struggled with her internal conflict, the stone briefly shone, and a faint whistle from the Gates of Time caught her attention. With Leo still in hand, Setsuna moved back to her seat and immediately noticed that a new timeline had appeared. She blinked, looked at the stone and then back at the Time Gates in wonderment.
This stone is so powerful that merely picking it up can alter the timeline? She thought incredulously as she set the Time Gates to scan the new timeline in the far future - 2700 AD once again.
What she saw left her breathless.
Crystal Tokyo still stood, but now it was much larger, and appeared to flourish. The outside world was still a desolate waste, but she could see many more people walking the utopistic city's streets, and a quick scan confirmed that all of the Senshi, and even Prince Endymion, lived in this new timeline.
Setsuna looked in amazement at the image the Gates showed her, then back at the stone in her hand, which was now shining of a brilliant gold-reddish light. Returning her eyes one last time to the vision in the Gates, she made her decision.
I may lose my soul/, she thought as she concentrated and reached for the stone's essence, /but this is well worth it.
The stone shone more brightly, as if to agree with her.
And the Wheel of Fate, once again, turned.
Nerima, present day
"Are ya sure about this?"
Ranma Saotome stood inside a seedy shop, talking to its owner from over the counter. Before them lay a peculiar-looking gem about the size of a fist - golden-hued, yet not quite gold or amber. A strange symbol was etched on it. Ranma knew he had seen it somewhere before, but the exact memory escaped him at the moment.
"Absolutely, mein herr/," the shop owner, a suspicious-looking mustachioed blond foreigner, probably German by his accent, confirmed. "Zis is rare magical /stein that vas in family for many, many years. It vas handed dovn from vater to sohn ever since ancient Prussia times. It contain great pover for those villing to use it."
"Then why are ya sellin' it to me?" Ranma asked suspiciously. The merchant shrugged.
"Ze stein is very very poverful. Mere menschlich like me not able to control it. But you poverful martial artist, /ja/? You control, I get money, ve both happy. Good deal, /ja/?" the shopkeeper explained. Ranma glared at him. He could just barely afford to pay for this stone, but would be completely penniless for the rest of the month. Still, if the stone was as powerful as the man said...
"...and this can break curses?" he asked one more time for confirmation. The man nodded.
"Very poverful /stein/, said to be able to make a beggar into a /kaiser/. Very ancient, too - thousands of years old. Older than my family." the man looked at Ranma expectantly, rubbing his hands. "You buy, /ja/? I no have use for it, not able to control it. You need for curse, I need money to return to /Deutschland/. It very cheap, too. Vell?"
Ranma hesitated briefly, then took out his wallet and piled up all the money in it on the counter. The man's eyes lit up, and he grabbed the notes eagerly, counting the money with a satisfied smile.
As Ranma pocketed the golden stone and made to leave, the man called out to him. Taking an old-looking scroll from a rack behind him, he handed it over to the pigtailed boy.
"This scroll vas vith /stein /vhen it entrusted to family. It very old, over three thousand years," he explained. "It vritten in Chinese, explain about /stein/. You take, follov instructions, /ja/? Now go, I close shop. /Guten Tag/."
With those words, the merchant shoved him out of the shop, closed the door and affixed the 'Closed' sign to it. Ranma blinked slightly at being so rudely dismissed, then shrugged, pocketed the scroll as well and went on his way, heading home.
Inside the shop, the man watched him depart with a mixture of shame and relief on his face.
Ach/, I do not envy that lad. That accursed stein caused nothing but grief to my family. Still, better him than me,/ he thought. Looking around, he smiled. Now I can finally close this godforsaken /Geschaft /and return home to my dear Brigit. I only hope that /stein does not find its vay back to us.../
With that final consideration, the blonde man started making preparations to leave the country.
As Ranma left the shop, he was too absorbed in his thoughts to notice a strange phenomenon behind him. The air began to shimmer, distorting the appearance of objects until, suddenly, it 'blinked' and three figures materialized from nowhere, falling to the ground in a heap. Several clanging noises, mostly from the largest figure, punctuated their arrival.
The first to get up was the hulking metallic humanoid. It quickly assessed its surroundings, bleeping faintly as its red optical sensors attempted to find a familiar landmark - and failed.
The second to get up was the giant yellow birdlike being. It appeared dizzy and unsure as it 'wark'ed weakly and looked around itself in confusion.
The third figure, an armor-clad blonde woman with a sword at her side and wearing a tattered blue uniform beneath the steel of her outfit, didn't get up, but rather raised her head weakly, blinking away the tears the hideous pain she experienced caused. Even through the aftereffects of the pain, she managed to make out a male figure walking away from her at an angle - with a very familiar-looking golden stone in his hand.
"#Lucavi... stone...#" she croaked weakly, struggling to stand up. "#Must... not... get... away... find...#"
The effort proved to be too much for the weakened girl. Her world started spinning, and she was swallowed by darkness.
"I'm home!" Ranma shouted as he entered the Tendo household. After waiting a few seconds for a reply, he remembered that everyone but Kasumi had left the house shortly before he went out - Akane had gone over to Yuka's house to meet with her and Sayuri before going to the movies, Soun and Genma had vanished shortly after lunch to 'discuss important matters' (most likely another plot to get him and Akane married, liberally sprinkled with large amounts of alcohol), and Nabiki was busy rounding up her informators and handling bets.
That still didn't explain why Kasumi was nowhere to be seen, until Ranma noticed a piece of paper on the table with something scribbled on it. Picking it up, he recognized Kasumi's handwriting. Apparently, she had been called by the bar the fathers had holed themselves up in to pick them up and pay their tab. Ranma groaned inwardly. Poor Kasumi...
Crumpling the piece of paper, he headed for the kitchen to grab a quick snack and something to drink, then he returned in the living room and sat down, attempting to decipher the scroll the shopkeeper had given him. Thankfully, he had picked up some skills in reading Chinese over the time he'd spent in China and around the Amazons in Nerima. However, he was unpleasantly surprised when he found out the scroll was written in a very archaic form of Mandarin Chinese, with lots of difficult words.
Sighing in frustration, he steeled himself and began to read the scroll. He had the distinct impression that by day's end he would have a massive headache.
Agrias woke up to the gentle rocking motion of Boco walking, as the Chocobo trudged across the unfamiliar streets of the alien city she had glimpsed just before fainting, carrying her on her back. To her right side, she could hear the metallic thumps of Worker 8's footsteps as the Steel Giant dutifully followed the girl and the bird. She idly noticed that passersby were giving them a wide berth, probably intimidated by the automaton's size, but were otherwise not particularly surprised by the peculiar sight before them. Her tired brain filed that information away for later use, and instead concentrated on more urgent business.
"#Boco... the Zodiac Stone. Find the boy who had it...#" she panted, still out of breath and feeling weak. "#We must not... let him use it. Find him... now!#"
The Chocobo 'wark'ed with a nod, then sped up. Taking a deep breath, Agrias closed her eyes and let her tired body rest against the large bird's neck.
She only hoped she wasn't too late.
After two solid hours of reading the scroll, he believed he had a good idea of how the stone was supposed to be used. There was also some hogwash about it being ill luck, but considering how Ranma's life had been so far, how much worse could it get?
Shrugging, the pigtailed martial artist took the stone in his left hand and stood up. He then began to concentrate, wishing for the stone to lend him its power. Almost immediately, it began to glow of an eerie reddish-golden light, and he felt a strange pressure in his mind.
(Doth thou desire me?), a warm, inviting voice suddenly rang in his mind.
Ranma blinked. He could have sworn he had heard a voice just now.
(Doth thou desire me?), the voice repeated.
"Huh?" he answered intelligently. "Who are ya? I just want the power to remove this curse..."
(Power, is that what thou need? Very well, then), the voice said, suddenly losing its warmth and growing more imposing. (I shalt give thee my power - and in return, thou shalt give me thyself. Let the Ancient Pact be upheld!)
Before Ranma could blink or ask what the voice meant by 'giving me thyself', he felt a tremendous pressure oppress him. Falling to his knees, he struggle to breathe as he felt an alien, malevolent power invade his body. A strangled scream left his lips as his chest started to burn painfully.
"#No! Let go of the stone!#"
Ranma blinked and looked outside the house, in the Tendo household yard. There stood a beautiful woman with blonde hair, clad in a ruined blue uniform and well-worn armor. A sword hung loosely from her side, and a look of utter horror was etched on her face. Behind her, a large yellow bird and a strange metallic humanoid looked on, the former with a worried expression, the second predictably unreadable due to the lack of an actual face. Ranma idly realized that while he could not understand what she had just said, her words - or what he assumed were words - felt oddly familiar.
Just then, something inside him swelled, pushing back against the alien power. The pressure he felt lessened and he drew in a long breath, blinking in surprise. In his head, he heard a startled, outraged cry.
(What is this treachery? Thou art rejecting me! This cannot be... my magic... it is being taken away from me!) A desperate cry of anger mixed with pain followed. (I... I am being torn apart! Accursed mortal... what hast thou done to me?! Curses upon thee until thy death, and beyond! The other Lucavi shall... not let this... go unpunished-----! /Aaaahhhhh!/)
Ranma fell to the floor and clutched his head, his body wracked by spasms as the two savage energies clashed within it for dominance. His body felt hotter and hotter by the minute, and he idly noticed he had shifted to his female form sometime in the process. Inarticulate screams of rage and pain lanced through his mind, causing his head to hurt terribly.
Then a sharp pain and a tearing sound came from his back, ankles and head, and he heard the unknown swordswoman draw her breath in sharply. Too blinded by agony to pay attention to the woman, he screamed as he reached for the source of pain on his head - and met feathers. One last, terrifying scream rang through his mind, laced with an amount of hatred and malice he had never met before, then the voice vanished, and the burning in his body subsided.
After several seconds of catching his breath, Ranma slowly got up, wincing with pain as his aching muscles protested. After shaking his head to clear his thoughts, he looked down at himself... and blinked.
His, or rather her, clothes had disappeared sometime during the ordeal, and had been replaced by a very tight-fitting red leotard that hugged her still very female form. A pair of red matching boots covered her feet and lower legs, and a pair of white gloves her hands. Her hair was still red, but now it flowed freely down her back, instead of being tied in a ponytail. She idly noticed that her bust was slightly smaller now, though still bigger than that of a certain kawaiikune tomboy which shall remain nameless.
Ranma also noticed that a pair of twin short swords, more like large knives really, were strapped to her legs, right above the wings on her ankles. Also...
Wait. Wings? Ranma blinked and looked again, and sure enough, a pair of small pearl-white wings were protruding from her ankles. A quick check revealed she had matching wings popping out of her temples and a larger pair sprouting from her back. Explains the pain I felt/, he thought. Musta been when those suckers popped out/.
Ranma's thoughts and self-examinations were interrupted by her danger sense flaring just as the sound of a sword being drawn reached her ears. Turning around, she saw the blonde girl who had shouted at him earlier charge at her, sword raised in a striking stance.
"#Demon! How did you survive the battle at Murond? No matter! Though alone, I will stop you even if it kills me! Die now!#"
Ranma swore as he narrowly dodged a swing. So much for his life not getting any worse.
Agrias stood still as a statue as her worst nightmare took form before her. Not only had she failed to stop the boy from using the Zodiac Stone, but he had found the worst of them all - Virgo.
She had no illusions about her chances in a one-on-one with the monster known as the 'Bloody Angel', Altima. It had taken the combined efforts of Ramza's entire group to bring the creature down the first time. And now, here she was, with only a Chocobo and a Steel Giant as backup, again confronting it.
As the winged Lucavi slowly got up and began to inspect herself, Agrias was held still by a mix of stark terror and confusion. Why wasn't it attacking her? The creature may have known that she was no match for it, but still, she WAS one of those who, mere hours ago, had succeeded in resealing it by destroying its mortal shell. At least, it should have displayed some anger.
As the creature continued inspecting its body with an expression of total confusion on its face, Agrias's panic lessened enough for her soldier instincts to take over. There was an enemy before her and, though she may perish, it was her duty to fight to the end to ensure that Justice prevailed. Drawing her sword, she let out a cry and charged at the Lucavi.
"#Demon! How did you survive the battle at Murond? No matter! Though alone, I will stop you even if it kills me! Die now!#"
And once again, Agrias Oaks threw herself in the heat of battle.
As Kasumi struggled to drag the fathers' unconscious forms inside the dojo after having paid the taxi for the ride, she heard a commotion from inside. Blinking, she set Soun and Genma against the wall and then approached the Tendo home's entrance, peering inside.
What she saw made her blink. A large yellow bird and a robot were apparently observing a battle going on in their garden, between a blonde swordswoman with a ruined armor and a sharp-looking longsword and... an angel in a red leotard?
Kasumi blinked. This was certainly unexpected. She briefly wondered if anyone else was in the home. Perhaps she could ask Ranma's help in stopping the two combatants before they caused irreparable damage to the house.
As she began circling the battle scene, she noticed that the angel made no attempt to strike back, instead dodging and twisting out of the way of the swordswoman's attacks. Something about the way she moved felt very familiar to Kasumi. Then she saw the angel's face and something clicked in her mind.
"Oh my... Ranma-kun?"
Ranma briefly froze in mid-motion upon hearing Kasumi's voice, and narrowly avoided being disemboweled by a vicious thrust. Frantically, she realized that this crazy sword girl meant business, and Kasumi might well be caught in the crossfire and be hurt. That thought spurred her in action, and she addressed the woman in an attempt to calm her down.
"#Ho...hold! Stop! There is an innocent bystander here!#" she shouted, not realizing she hadn't spoken in Japanese. The woman snorted.
"#Quiet, demon! I know your kind! As if an Evil Lucavi would care about an innocent! You will not sway me!#"
"#What in Hades is a Lucavi?#" Ranma protested, even as a nagging voice in the back of her mind claimed that she knew already. "#Kasumi is a very important person to me, I do not want to see her get hurt! Do not make me do something I will regret!#"
At those words, the woman's offense wavered. "#Important to you? Why would a Lucavi hold a human in such high regard? You are trying to trick me...#"
"#No, I swear it!#" Ranma denied vehemently, seeing an opening to end the fight without violence. "#I do not know what has come over you, calling me evil out of the blue, but I swear I am not trying to harm anyone! I am a martial artist - we defend the weak, not kill them!#"
That was enough to outright stop the swordswoman, though she still didn't let her guard down. "#A Lucavi who protects humans? Sounds outlandish... but then again, I do not detect deception in your words. Very well, I will still my sword... for now. But I am keeping my eye on you!#"
"#Yes, yes. Just as long as no one gets caught in the middle and hurt - or worse. That said... I am Ranma Saotome, and my friend over there is Kasumi Tendou. What is your name?#" Ranma said with relief, extending her hand towards the blonde fighter. She eyed the outstretched hand with evident distrust, but after a few moments of hesitation shook it halfheartedly.
"#I am Agrias Oaks, Holy Knight of the Murond Glabados Church... or at least I used to be. These,#" she motioned to her companions, who had followed the whole exchange, not sure of what to do, "#are my traveling companions, Boco the Chocobo and Worker 8. I... suppose at this point I should say 'a pleasure to meet you', but forgive me if I am not in the mood for lying...#"
Ranma sighed. She could tell that the woman, for some reason, had a great amount of distrust in her, but for the time being she appeared to be willing to not kill her on sight. Hopefully, this state of affairs would last throughout the night. She had no desire to wake up with a sword sticking out of her skull, or similarly lethal places. Turning around, she cast an apologetic look at Kasumi.
"#Uh, sorry about that, Kasumi,#" she said, rubbing her head in embarrassment. Kasumi eyed her curiously, noticing the changes in her female form's appearance, then shook her head.
"I know you're trying to tell me something, Ranma-kun," she said with a faint smile, "but could you please speak Japanese? I am afraid I can't understand a word of what you said in the last few minutes."
Ranma blinked. Oh yes, his life had definitely gotten worse.
(A/N: Done! That was long...
I had this crazy idea after pulling an all-nighter playing FFT. Over time, I grew more and more enamored with the idea, and eventually I and my friend Fatuous One got together and, in a massive 14-hours brainstorm session, pulled the whole plot together. We were surprised to see how well it meshed together, and how easy it was to introduce plot twists.
Hopefully, you enjoyed reading this as much as we enjoyed creating it. I look forward to hearing your opinions!
For next chapter, look forward to the Sailor Senshi's debut, as more plot is revealed and the Nerima Wrecking Crew adjusts to the presence of the all-powerful Altima in their numbers!
As always, R&R. Flames will be stored for cold Winter nights. Constructive criticism is however welcome. GH out!)