Ranma, Lina Inverse, Ryoko, and a fourth fighter venture into the world of the Sailor Scouts to fight them.
Chapter 1: More Power Than You Can Shake a Tiara At!
Ranma found himself staring at a large crystal, inside of which was Akane's motionless body, frozen in a position of complete tranquility. She looked as if she were sleeping, except that her chest didn't rise and fall with her breathing. She was, for all intents and purposes, in a state of living death.
"What have you done to her?" demanded Ranma.
"This crystal is all that is keeping her alive in this world," replied Queen Beryl. "I suggest you don't touch it. Chronite's crystals are fragile enough to shatter at the slightest touch, destroying whatever might lie within as well." Ranma froze in mid-motion, his fingers inches away from the crystal's smooth surface. "That's better. Come with me to meet your new companions."
Ranma followed Beryl through the dark world, passing the occasional ornate column that stretched infinitely up until the darkness swallowed its highest reaches, or tapestry that hung in midair - or at least, whatever substance filled the space of this dimension - until they reached what could only be defined as a room insofar as the enormous throne across the space from him suggested the phrase "throne room." A crystal globe formed a sort of ceiling to the space, although its curve was so expansive that it almost appeared to be a flat surface; even some of the lowest parts of the globe were invisible through the black haze all around. Seated on small boxes below the globe were three women whom Ranma had never seen before.
"So, you brought us a man this time," said the woman with long red hair and a black cape. The impressive - albeit small - array of jewels adorning her tunic and belt somehow spoke to Ranma of a power unlike any he had ever seen before. The word "sorceress" sprang to his mind to describe her.
"Not a bad looker, either," agreed the tall one with off-white hair in a spiky coiffure. Her black and red uniform hugged her flesh tightly across every square inch of its fabric, looking almost as if it were painted on. She also had power, although her only piece of jewelry was a single red gem on her left wrist. Something about her face reminded Ranma oddly of a cat, although not enough so to frighten him. What did set him a bit on edge was the long tail that protruded from the back of her waist, wagging slowly back and forth as she examined him. Still, he told himself, she wasn't a cat.
Ranma looked toward the third girl, whose body seemed a bit younger than the others', although her face was cloaked in shadow. He expected to hear her opinion of him next, but it was the sorceress who stood up and extended her hand. "The name's Lina Inverse. I'm a famous treasure hunter, not to mention a powerful sorceress."
"And a world-class braggart," added the catlike woman. She stood up and faded out, at the same time dissolving into focus a short distance away from Ranma. "I'm Ryoko, galaxy's most wanted space pirate." She smiled, baring her fangs, and blinked her vertically-pupiled eyes.
"Ranma Saotome, of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts," said Ranma. He looked once again toward the girl in the black clothes. "Who's she?"
"She didn't say," said Ryoko. "She was there when I got here, but hasn't said a word yet."
"I hope she's willing to pull her own weight," added Lina. "She gives me the creeps. I have this crazy feeling that she's not in this for the same reasons the rest of us are."
"Why ARE you two here, anyway?" asked Ranma.
"Well..." began Lina, with a slight blush.
"Why don't you tell us your story first, if you're so curious?" demanded Ryoko, crossing her arms. Lina nodded her agreement.
"It's..." Ranma paused. Could he tell these strange girls about his feelings for Akane? He wasn't even entirely sure about them himself! "It's not important," he finished.
"Exactly," said Ryoko. "Our reasons aren't important. All that matters is that we're here, and we've all got something important staked on this mission."
"That's quite true," replied Beryl's voice. Ranma looked up toward the throne to see their would-be benefactor sitting there, smiling her evil smile. "Only one of you has entered my service for selfish reasons." The three of them stared back and forth among themselves before their eyes lit on the girl in black. "However, know this: my last group of generals destroyed each other with their petty bickering. I will not tolerate that from you. If there is any fighting among you, I will destroy that which you so prize. Now, prepare yourselves for your mission!" The air opened in front of them, creating a hole to a world that looked far more normal than the Negaverse. "Through this portal lies the universe of the Sailor Scouts. I do not know their true identities, but if you can attract their attention, they will come to you. Threaten a few humans, and they will come to save them."
"Threaten humans?" asked Lina. "Lady, you're sounding less and less like the good guy!"
"My goals have changed," explained Beryl. "Originally, I sought to steal the energy from humans for my purposes. However, all that I require of you is that you kill the Sailor Scouts. You will not need to harm any other humans. Merely draw out the Sailor Scouts and exterminate them. Then your debts to me will be finished, and I will return what I have taken from you, and give you what I promised."
Ranma stepped through the portal, with Lina and Ryoko right behind. The portal closed behind them. "OUR debts to HER?" asked Ranma, once he was certain that Queen Beryl could no longer hear him. "She's the one who interfered in MY life!"
"She's not exactly the kind of person you can argue with," said Lina. "If she says we owe her, we're going to end up repaying her, whether we like it or not."
Ryoko looked up and down the street. Beryl had deposited them in a back street, far from the prying eyes of humans. "So, where's shadow-girl?" The form of the girl in black shimmered into view beside her. "So nice of you to join us," said Ryoko snidely. "Now, how do we find these Sailor Scouts?"
The girl in black turned her shadowed face to the sky, raised her arm to the heavens, and soared into the sky. "Think she wants us to follow her?" asked Lina.
"How?" asked Ranma. "Do I look like I've got wings?"
Lina sighed. "The only man she can find, and he doesn't even know how to fly? Zelgadis would have helped out once he found out that I got roped into this deal."
"Just carry him," said Ryoko. "We've got to get this over with!"
"Why do I have to carry him?" demanded Lina.
"Because I need to keep my hands free to blast those Sailor Scouts," replied Ryoko.
"I need my hands free to use my magic!" Lina shot back angrily.
Ryoko shrugged. "You want to fight? Remember what Queen Beryl said about fighting in the ranks." She wagged her finger and did her best impression of Beryl's voice. "'Now, kids, if you fight, mommy will take away your favorite things. One tap, and the crystals shatter!'"
Lina clenched her fists, then raised a hand threateningly at Ryoko, palm outwards. "One word, Ryoko! One word, and whatever's so precious to you won't matter anymore, because you'll be dead!"
Ryoko yawned. "I'm so scared. Miss Inverse is going to fry me with a little bitty fireball! Oh, boo hoo! Somebody save me..."
"Hey! Cut it out!" shouted Ranma. "We're supposed to be fighting the Sailor Scouts, not each other, or have you forgotten?"
"That's right!" said Ryoko. "I'll see the two of you when I catch up to the dark one." She teleported into the sky and took off after the girl in black.
"Hey!" shouted Lina. "Come back here!" She groaned. "All right. Looks like I have to carry you." She grabbed Ranma's shirt. "Better hang on tight, Ranma. RAY WING!"
"Better whAAAAAAAAH!" Lina flew up and started on Ryoko's trail, dragging Ranma along behind her. Ranma quickly grabbed her arm for support as the pair ascended higher and higher. "Hey! At least hold on to me if you're going to carry me!"
"You're worse than Gourry!" snapped Lina. For a few seconds, her flight wavered, but she quickly regained control. She continued in a cold tone. "Don't complain again, or I'll let go completely."
"Right," said Ranma, as he finally began to regain control of his breathing. "Who's Gourry?"
"I said I don't want to hear it!"
"You only said you didn't want to hear me complain," muttered Ranma under his breath.
Even with Ranma's dead weight slowing her down, Lina managed to catch up to Ryoko quickly. They flew side by side, glaring at each other from time to time but not saying a word until they reached the girl in black, who was hovering over a nearly empty playground. She pointed a thin finger at the young girl who was enjoying herself on the slide.
"Well?" demanded Lina. "So what? All I see is a little girl. No Sailor Scouts here!"
"She's no Sailor Scout," realized Ryoko. "She's an ordinary girl who made the mistake of being all alone. The perfect target to lure the Sailor Scouts out with."
"So we're supposed to attack a helpless girl?" asked Ranma. "I'm not doing it!"
"Fine by me," said Ryoko. "I can handle this myself." She dove downward and plunged into the earth without disturbing the level ground. With impeccable timing, she poked her head out of the ground in front of the base of the slide just as the girl began her descent. The girl screamed and grabbed the sides of the slide to stop herself.
"Oh, that's REAL cute," said Ranma. "I'm sure that scaring little girls into wetting their pants is just what will bring the Sailor Scouts out of the woodwork."
"I think she's trying to be dramatic," said Lina. "I've seen enough bad guys to recognize their typical style."
"You think Ryoko's a bad guy in her world?" asked Ranma.
"There's definitely something about her I don't trust," Lina replied. "Then again, from what I understand, we're ALL bad guys in this world."
"Hey, we're just doing what we have to do," Ranma shot back.
"That's another thing most bad guys say," Lina informed him morosely.
Meanwhile, down below, the young girl had overcome her fear and now stared curiously at the catlike face of the space pirate. "Who are you?" she asked timidly.
"My name is Ryoko," replied the pirate. "What's yours?"
"Marisa." Marisa paused. "Why are you in the ground?"
"It's fun down here," said Ryoko. "But it's also lonely. Do you ever get lonely, playing in the park by yourself?"
Marisa nodded. "Do you want to play with me?"
"That might be fun," agreed Ryoko, "but I know what would be more fun."
"Killing you." Ryoko rose enough to expose her hands, in which a red ball of energy was forming. Marisa gasped and backed away, climbing up the slippery slide as Ryoko released the fireball into the space where Marisa had been seconds before. The metal disintegrated instantly beneath the girl, dumping her painfully onto the hard ground below.
"Hey! We're not supposed to k-" Lina's protest was cut short as the girl in black clamped her hand over the sorceress' mouth. She quickly slapped it away. "What's the big idea, bimbo?"
"She's not aiming for the girl," Ranma pointed out as Ryoko missed with another fireball. "She has to make it look convincing, or the Sailor Scouts will realize that it's a trap and won't come."
"Good thinking," admitted Lina, turning her attention back to the fight below. Ryoko had turned her ball of red energy into a short sword, and was backing the girl up against the jungle gym. Marisa tripped and barely managed to break her fall by grabbing the bars behind her, only to find the energy sword at her throat. "Somebody help me!" she shouted.
"I don't think anyone's coming to save you," said Ryoko, offering a perfect dramatic opportunity for someone to do just that.
"Hold it right there!" shouted a high-pitched voice from the far side of the playground. Ryoko turned to see five tall and slender female forms silhouetted for just a moment before their features became visible. All five wore sailor fuku, consisting of white leotards with colored ribbons at the chest and back of the waist, triangular collars and matching chokers, miniskirts that barely covered the bottoms of the leotards, and varying types of footwear. Each girl also sported a golden tiara with a jewel at the brow.
The girl in the center, obviously the leader, struck a pose. "I've never seen you here before, but I can see that you're up to no good! We are the Sailor Scouts!"
"What?!" shouted Ranma. "The Sailor Scouts are a bunch of GIRLS?"
"Something wrong with being a girl?" asked Lina.
"I don't fight girls," said Ranma flatly.
"I'm sure Queen Beryl will accept that as an excuse," said Lina sarcastically.
Meanwhile, the Sailor Scouts were making their introductions in turn. "I'm Sailor Jupiter!" began the one on the far left. Her skirt and collar were a deep green that contrasted with the pink bow at her chest, her light brown hair had been tied into a ponytail, and her boots were of the type that a cowboy might wear if he didn't object to the green color.
"I am Sailor Mercury!" continued the one on the far right. Her blue skirt and collar almost exactly matched the color of her short hair, leading Ranma to wonder whether superheroes were allowed to use hair dye. Her ribbons were sky blue, and what appeared to be a pair of goggles covered her eyes with a translucent screen, although Ranma's sharp eyes could pick out tiny pixels crossing the screen as if it were a computer readout. Her blue boots reached above her knees, but seemed to be flexible enough to allow movement.
"I'm Sailor Mars!" announced the third Sailor Scout, with waist-long black hair and a blood-red skirt that matched her high-heeled shoes. The ribbon on her chest was a dark navy blue, but the one on her back matched the rest of her uniform in color.
"I'm Sailor Venus!" added the fourth, whose delicate golden tresses nearly reached her knees, almost obscuring the similarly colored ribbon at her back. She also wore a red bow in her hair, but let it fall naturally rather than styling it as Jupiter had. Her skirt and collar were bright orange, while the ribbon on her chest was the same dark blue as Sailor Mars'. Venus also wore shoes that would have worked better for a ball than superhero work, but at least hers were flat-soled.
"And I'm Sailor Moon," finished the leader, who sported a blue skirt that was only slightly darker than Mercury's, light red calf boots, and ribbons the same shade as Mars' skirt. The bow on her chest appeared to be secured by a large round brooch of some kind. However, it was her hair that made her stand out most from her comrades. It was a darker blonde than Venus', which had been tied into two round buns atop her head with red jewels set into them, then trailed into long ponytails that nearly touched the ground. "We fight for love and justice," she continued, striking another pose. "And in the name of the Moon, we shall punish you!" She passed through three more poses while saying her last line.
Ryoko scratched her head. "Is all that posing supposed to intimidate me or something?"
Sailor Moon bit her lip. Obviously, she hadn't expected such a reaction from Ryoko. "Attacking defenseless girls is just wrong! You should be ashamed of yourself!"
"You're right, I should," agreed Ryoko. "But guess what? I'm NOT!" She raised her hand and fired a bolt of energy at Sailor Moon, who screamed and barely dodged it.
"You weren't kidding, Mercury!" shouted Jupiter. "This one's definitely more powerful than the monsters we've been fighting!"
Mercury seemed to be paying more attention to the data flashing across her visor than she was to Jupiter. "Now I understand why I didn't recognize the signal at first," she said. "She's not an agent of the Negaverse!"
"What are you talking about?" asked Ryoko. "Of course I am!"
"You're not from the Negaverse!" insisted Mercury. "You're obviously an evil creature, but you're not one of Beryl's generals!"
Ryoko shrugged. "She hired me, all right. Can't see why, though. You girls don't look that tough to me."
"We'll see about that!" shouted Sailor Mars. "MARS FIRE IGNITE!" Mars clasped her hands together with the index fingers extended and pointed them at Ryoko. Fire flew from her fingertips at Ryoko, who simply smiled as the flames curved around her body without touching her.
"How did she do that?" asked Sailor Moon.
"She's a lot tougher than Beryl's usual crew," said Jupiter. "JUPITER THUNDER CRASH!" A short antenna rose from the front of her tiara as she crossed her arms in front of her body. The air around the antenna crackled with electricity, which leapt in a bolt straight at Ryoko. Once again, the blast turned aside to avoid her, following the curve of a large sphere that became visible for a split second as the electricity touched it. "My electricity's no good either!" cried Jupiter.
"Let me try," offered Venus. "VENUS CRESCENT BEAM SMASH!" She pointed a finger at Ryoko, sending a beam of light that bounced right off Ryoko's shield, narrowly missing Mars on the rebound. "That didn't work at all! How are we supposed to beat her?"
"She can't deflect a solid object," said Mercury, reading from her screen. "Her shield is some sort of energy barrier, but anything solid will pass right through."
"Sailor Moon, use your Moon Tiara Magic!" shouted a deep female voice from somewhere near Sailor Moon's feet. Ryoko looked for its source, but all she could see was a small black cat with a white patch on its forehead in the shape of a crescent moon.
"Right," said Sailor Moon with a nod, apparently trusting the talking cat for strategic advice. She removed her tiara and let it float above her hand. "MOON TIARA MAGIC!" The tiara became a glowing discus, which Sailor Moon hurled at Ryoko. Ryoko watched as the discus approached and passed right through her energy shield before reaching up and casually plucking it out of the air. The Sailor Scouts all gasped.
Ryoko raised the tiara to her eye level. "This thing's supposed to be dangerous?" She dropped it on the ground and stepped on it, smashing it to pieces. As she did so, a new tiara appeared on Sailor Moon's forehead, identical to the original one. "Well, at least you can save money on replacements."
"It didn't work!" moaned Sailor Moon. "What are we supposed to do now?"
"Combine our attacks!" suggested Mars. "She can't avoid them all!" The Sailor Scouts began to blast Ryoko with everything they had, but the space pirate easily weaved and dodged around every one. The few that managed to hit her either bounced off or curved right around her energy shield.
"They haven't got a chance," said Lina. "There's no point in the rest of us even being here."
"Pathetic," agreed a deep, echoing voice from beside her. Ranma and Lina stared in wonder at the girl in black.
"So, you DO talk," said Lina. The girl in black remained silent.
"I've had fun toying with you all," said Ryoko, "but it's time to collect my pay." She formed a sword of energy and flew straight at the Sailor Scouts, who scattered as she swung the sword left and right, narrowly missing them. "Is that the best you can do? You're not even fighting back anymore!"
"This is boring," said Lina. "Let's go down there and help." She floated down to the ground, landing between Ryoko and the main group of Sailor Scouts.
"Two more of them?" asked Mercury. Her eyes widened as she read from her display. "And these two are human!"
Ryoko smiled and turned towards Sailor Moon, who was now sitting on the ground, paralyzed with fear. "I think I'll kill you first," she said slowly advancing on the leader of the Sailor Scouts. As she drew close, however, a red blur passed in front of her, nearly taking her nose with it as it continued on to strike the ground. Ryoko looked down only long enough to see that it was a rose before turning her attention to where it had come from.
A tall, striking figure stood atop what was left of the ruined slide, the long, flowing cape of his black tuxedo waving in a nonexistent breeze to frame him. A white opera mask covered his face beneath the wide brim of his top hat. "Your game ends here, foolish creature!" he announced boldly.
"Tuxedo Mask!" cheered Sailor Moon.
"Are you one of them?" asked Ryoko. "It'd be a shame to have to kill you too. You're cute."
"Do not try to mock me, demon! I am Tuxedo Mask, future Prince of Earth and loyal friend of the Sailor Scouts." He leapt to the ground and stood in front of Sailor Moon, shielding her from Ryoko with his own body. "Any enemy of Sailor Moon is an enemy of mine."
"Tall talk, for a guy who can't even show his face." Ryoko swung her energy sword, leaving Tuxedo Mask barely enough time to block with his cane. "Not bad. Now we'll fight for real."
Ranma pushed Ryoko aside. "The guy in the mask is mine!" he declared. "You and Lina can deal with the girls."
Ryoko's anger was shadowed by the electrifying thought of getting to kill the whiny brats. "Don't worry, Ranma. I've got your back covered." She turned to join Lina in staring down the other four Scouts. "So, who dies first?"
Lina raised her hands as if she were holding a bow and arrow. A long, thin chunk of ice appeared where the arrow would be. "FREEZE ARROW!" she shouted, releasing the spell. The arrow slammed into Venus's chest, encasing her completely in a block of ice before she could react.
"Sailor Venus!" shouted the other Scouts.
"MARS FIRE IGNITE!" Sailor Mars used her fire to melt the ice from around Sailor Venus, who fell to her knees and wrapped her arms around herself, shivering from the cold. "Are you okay, Sailor Venus?"
"I'm fine," said Venus. "I'm just cold."
"Consider that your warm-up," said Lina, rolling up her short sleeves. "Now, get ready for the real action!" She and Ryoko raised their arms in tandem and formed balls of fire. "FIREBALL!"
Mercury jumped in front of the other Scouts. "MERCURY BUBBLES SPLASH!" A spray of bubbles flew from her hands, dissipating the fireballs on contact.
"Not bad," conceded Lina. "But try this on for size! FLARE ARROW!" She repeated the motion that had produced the Freeze Arrow, but the projectile that appeared this time was made of light. She launched it at the Sailor Scouts, who scrambled to dodge it. The explosion threw them in all directions across the playground, but they readily got to their feet and gathered themselves for another attack.
Meanwhile, Ranma was having no trouble dodging Tuxedo Mask's strikes. "After months of fighting Kuno, you're like a practice dummy!" he taunted. He planted a foot into Tuxedo Mask's stomach and watched with pleasure as the caped fighter fell. "I might as well not bother. You can't fight."
"Tuxedo Mask, no!" Sailor Moon crawled to the fallen warrior and threw her arms around his shoulders protectively. "Leave him alone, you bully!" she shouted at Ranma. "Why are you attacking us?"
Despite Ranma's resolve, his stomach lurched as he remembered why he was fighting in the first place. "I ain't got a choice," he said, clenching his fists. "I don't want to hurt anyone, but this is something I gotta do."
"What kind of monster can be an instrument of death while claiming innocence?" asked Tuxedo Mask.
"Shut up!" snapped Ranma. "You'd do the same thing, if you were in my position!"
"Would I?" asked Tuxedo Mask, slowly regaining his feet. "You're obviously more powerful than I am. Don't you know that with that much power comes the responsibility to use it for good?"
"Someone a lot more powerful than me doesn't see it that way..." grumbled Ranma.
"My spells aren't getting us anywhere," said Lina as Sailor Jupiter did her best to keep Ryoko at bay in hand-to-hand combat. The other Sailor Scouts were watching Lina, preparing to attack if they saw an opening but afraid to take initiative and risk exposing themselves. "It's time for something a little more... powerful." She closed her eyes, and as the girls watched, Lina appeared to be standing atop a tall mountain. "Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows..." she chanted. "Buried in the stream of time is where your power grows..."
"This isn't good!" shouted Mercury. "She's building up a great deal of power!"
"I pledge myself to conquer all the foes who stand..." The shape of a dragon appeared behind Lina as she continued to chant.
The cat leapt onto the fence nearby. "Girls, we have to retreat! We can't win this battle!"
"... against the power you bestow in my unworthy hand..." A huge ball of fire began to form in Lina's hands, and grew as she chanted on.
"Sailor Mercury, quickly!" shouted Tuxedo Mask as he parried a blow from Ranma. "Cover our escape!"
Lina's eyes opened, and the dragon turned to stare directly at the Sailor Scouts. "Let the fools who stand before me be destroyed by the power you and I possess!"
"MERCURY BUBBLES SPLASH!" Sailor Mercury filled the sky with bubbles, which burst instantly, obscuring the entire area under a thick fog. Lina's spell fizzled, uncast.
"What the heck's going on?" shouted Ranma.
Lina growled and raised her arms. "DIEM WING!" A powerful wind blew the fog away, revealing the playground to be completely empty except for herself, Ryoko, Marisa, and a short redheaded girl with a pigtail and the same clothes that Ranma had been wearing. "Damn! They got away!" She shouted.
"So did Ranma, apparently," said Ryoko, staring at the pigtailed girl. "Who are you?"
"I'm Ranma Saotome," replied the girl. "It's a curse. Apparently, that cold fog was enough to trigger my Jusenkyo curse. I can change back into my male form with hot water."
"I don't know where you'd find any," Lina said apologetically. "Zel could probably help you, but I can't think of a hot water spell off the top of my head."
Ranma shrugged. "No big deal. I'm pretty used to my female form by now. I spend enough time in it in my own world... like cold water is attracted to me or something."
Ryoko turned to the cowering Marisa, who had been hiding under the jungle gym since the start of the fight. She fixed the tiny girl with a cold stare. "Get lost, kid." Marisa needed no further encouragement to run for her life. "So, those were the Sailor Scouts... they were lucky this time. Next time we see them, they won't survive."
"If they stop to fight us at all," said Lina. "They'll probably have figured out by our next encounter that they don't have nearly enough power to beat us."
"And what were you doing this whole time?" Ryoko shouted skyward, to the girl in black. She responded by floating down to join the rest of the group. "Why did Beryl even want you, anyway?" The girl stared up into the sky, and what little was visible of her features darkened. "Hey! Answer me!"
"Pluto," said the girl in black. Her eyes glowed, and she vanished.
Sailor Pluto quickly returned her consciousness to her own body, waking in a cold sweat. That girl had recognized her! It was no surprise - after all, Sailor Pluto was the guardian of time in many dimensions, including the ones that the other three had come from - but she shouldn't have even been detectable while using her power to watch over the Sailor Scouts from a distance.
Pluto shakily got to her feet and gripped her scepter in both hands. She had a difficult decision to make. Beryl had obviously found a way to circumvent Pluto's influence and manipulate the timeline. However, if Pluto further disrupted the flow of established time by calling for help, the chances of creating a paradox would multiply a thousandfold or more! But the Sailor Scouts had no way of beating these new foes on their own... The eyes reappeared in Pluto's memory, turning her skin clammy once more. That was a foe who should not have appeared, not in this world....
That decided it. Beryl had definitely gone too far. And if her hunch was right, and HE was somehow involved in this... she had no choice but to take the calculated risk. Her resolve set, Pluto closed her eyes and faded into time. Hopefully, everything would go according to plan... or else there would no longer be an "everything" to suffer for it.