Hoping to discover the true identities of the Sailor Scouts and attack while they're helpless, Ranma and Lina assume alternate identities and enroll in local junior high schools.
Chapter 2: A New Class of Evil
Later that afternoon, five girls and two cats gathered in the living quarters of the Cherry Hill Shrine to discuss the events of the day. To the outside world, it was an ordinary study-group meeting, but it was actually a cover so that the Sailor Scouts could meet in secret. Normally, these meetings included a vain attempt to help Serena pass her classes, but none of the girls felt like studying after their tough battle, even the usually bookish Amy. Raye had brought in a tray of cookies, hoping to cheer everyone up, but only Mina had any high spirits left. Even the usually relatively cheerful Lita was down in the dumps. "I can't believe we had to run away," she moaned.
"What choice did we have?" asked Raye. "They were way too powerful for us!"
"I'm sorry I wasn't there to help," Artemis apologized. Mina stroked his back, but the white cat didn't purr. "This situation sounds very serious."
"The opponents we fought today were simply not the same type of monsters that we've been fighting all this time," explained Amy. "Our powers won't work against them the way they work against Negaverse-spawned monsters."
"Even Darien couldn't beat them," whined Serena. "I've never had to work so hard! I usually just throw my Moon Tiara or wave the Crescent Moon Wand and everything goes back to normal!"
"Working hard certainly isn't a skill you've had to practice," Luna agreed pointedly from Serena's lap. The black cat always carried a haughty air about her, but she, too, was worried about the new enemies.
"Hard work or not, there has to be a way to beat them," said Mina. "Everyone has a weakness."
"The problem is," put in Artemis, "that your powers, particularly Sailor Moon's, were designed for fighting the creatures of the Negaverse. If Amy's right about these new opponents not being from the Negaverse, you could very well be in over your heads with this fight!"
"But we have to try!" argued Serena. "They were attacking a little girl. More innocent people will suffer if we don't keep fighting!"
"If we do keep fighting, the people who suffer will be us," said Raye glumly. "We're going to need some kind of plan to defeat them." Six pairs of eyes turned to stare at Amy.
"What?" asked Amy, sweatdropping. "I haven't got a plan!"
"We're sunk, then," said Serena. "We might as well give up now. If even Amy can't think of a plan..."
"Now wait just a minute!" Amy interrupted her. "Who says I can't come up with a plan? I simply haven't had any time to think of one!"
Lita clenched her fists. "Well, if our powers are useless, we'll have to find some new powers! Something that will work against a new enemy."
"New powers?" asked Serena. "Where do we find those?"
"I think there's a way to rise to a higher level of Sailor Scout power," offered Luna, "but I can't seem to remember what it is."
"Neither can I," said Artemis. "I wish I could... I've forgotten far too much."
"Well, you're a lot of help," groaned Serena. "'Oh, there's a way you can beat them... but I don't remember what it is!' When are you going to remember?"
"Don't yell at them, Serena," warned Raye. "They're trying their hardest to help us. But it looks like we're on our own for now."
"And meanwhile, this homework isn't going to do itself," said Mina, staring at her workbook.
"Worry about homework later!" snapped Lita. "They could come back at any time!"
"I think Mina's right, Lita," said Amy. "We're probably better off doing something else to take our minds off our problems for a while. Maybe some of this homework will inspire us."
"You think so?" asked Serena, picking up her workbook. "I've never gotten any ideas from homework before... but I might as well give it a try!"
Lita tapped Serena on the shoulder. "You're holding the book upside down, doofus!"
"Really?" Serena sweatdropped and turned the book over. "Hey, you're right! It does make more sense this way around!" She put her hand behind her head and laughed out loud.
"Oh well," grumbled Raye. "Maybe one of the rest of us will come up with something."
Even though they'd seen it before, the Negaverse still amazed Lina, Ranma, and Ryoko after having spent time in the real world again. They marveled anew at the sights - such as they were - as they made their way to Beryl's throne. Or rather, Ranma and Lina marveled at the sights. Ryoko was still staring at Ranma from head to toe. "You're really a girl?"
"I'm really a GUY in a girl's body," replied Ranma. "There's a difference!"
"Doesn't feel any different," said Ryoko, prodding Ranma's chest.
Ranma reminded herself that hitting Ryoko would not be conducive to Akane's safety. "Don't touch me there. The body is real, but I'm still a guy on the inside."
"So, do you sneak into girls' bathrooms a lot back home?" asked Lina. "I bet most guys would do just about anything for the ability to turn into a girl."
"It's not as much fun as you'd think," said Ranma. "I'd give anything to be rid of this curse."
"So, is that why you offered to help kill the Sailor Scouts?" asked Ryoko. "Beryl said that one of us was in it for herself."
"That's not the reason!" snapped Ranma.
"Tou-CHY!" said Lina. "But you really should leave him alone, Ryoko."
"I can't help it," replied Ryoko. "It's the way I am. I can't get my thrills by teasing Ayeka anymore, so I have to find another outlet for my extra energy."
"Save it for the Sailor Scouts," advised Lina. "Next time, we're going to have to finish them off for good."
"It might not be that easy," said Ryoko. "They're like cockroaches - annoying, ugly, and impossible to squash no matter how big a shoe you use."
"They're probably a lot weaker when they're not in uniform," said Ranma. "Remember how Beryl said that they have secret identities? If we could discover who the Sailor Scouts really are, we'd be able to catch them when they don't have their powers." She paused. "On second thought, maybe that's not such a hot idea. If I do have to fight girls, I definitely don't want to do it when they're totally helpless."
"Great," fumed Lina. "He's not only flightless, he's chivalrous as well."
"Well, if you don't want to fight them, then that's your business," said Ryoko. "More action for the rest of us."
"I'm afraid you won't be seeing any action for a while, Ryoko," said Queen Beryl's voice.
"What?" shouted Ryoko furiously. "Why not?"
Beryl appeared before them. "Because I've been listening in to your conversation, and your plan is sound. Your next mission will be reconnaissance. You will have to move around in human society and find the true identities of the Sailor Scouts."
"And how are we supposed to do that?" demanded Lina. "They already know who we are!"
"Just as they disguise themselves, so shall you." She pointed to Ranma. "They have not yet seen Ranma in this form. She will be registered as a transfer student at Crossroads Junior High School."
"Who's going to check out the other schools?" asked Lina.
"You will," replied Beryl. "A simple spell should be enough to obscure your bangles from mortal eyes and give you the appearance of a common schoolgirl at Grass Valley Junior High School. We are quite sure that most of the Sailor Scouts attend one of those two schools."
"Then what do I get to do?" asked Ryoko.
Beryl grinned benevolently. "Someone has to kill the Sailor Scouts once they've been found."
"All right!" cheered Ryoko, slamming her fist into her palm. "Now THAT sounds more like it!"
Beryl waved her arm, and a portal opened behind them. "Ranma, Lina, go. Keep your powers in check until you can discover a likely candidate. Once you think you have discovered a Sailor Scout, isolate her from the rest and confront her. Ryoko will assist you in forcing her to reveal her identity, and then you can destroy her."
"What happens if the girl we find isn't a Sailor Scout?" asked Ranma.
Beryl considered this. "Remove her from future consideration."
"What the heck's that supposed to mean?" asked Ranma.
"Isn't it obvious?" asked Lina. "Once she knows who you really are, we can't let her tell anyone else."
Ranma stiffened. "We're supposed to kill innocent girls? That wasn't part of the deal!"
"The deal is anything I choose to make it," said Beryl. "If you value what the crystal holds, you will do as I say!"
Ranma growled, but managed to keep her anger in check. She whirled and stormed into the portal, with Lina following close behind.
"Do you think those two can do the job?" asked Ryoko.
"If they can't, you'll do it," replied Beryl. "That's why I have four generals."
"What is the deal with that fourth girl?" asked Ryoko. "Who is she?"
"An element of chaos. If things start to go wrong for us, her power will turn the tide in our favor."
"Why don't you use her now?"
"I have my reasons. I suggest that you do not question them again." With that, Beryl turned and walked toward the throne room, leaving behind a confused and slightly irate Ryoko.
"Good morning, class," said Miss Haruna, waiting for the class to settle down before continuing. "We have a new student joining us today."
"Hi," said the red-haired girl, her pigtail pointing straight up as she bowed slightly. "My name is Ranko Tendo." She quickly stood up straight as she felt every pair of male eyes in the room staring intently at her, and she found herself checking her clothing to make sure she hadn't left anything unfastened.
"Why don't you sit next to Serena?" suggested Miss Haruna, pointing to an empty desk next to a blonde girl whose hair was set into two long tails topped with what appeared to be yellow meatballs.
"Sure, sounds good to me," said Ranko. She stepped carefully past the teacher and made her way down the aisle to her desk.
"Hey, hot stuff," a young man whispered as she passed. "What are you doing today after school?" He jumped as the girl sitting behind him poked him hard with the sharp end of her pencil.
Stifling a satisfied chuckle, Ranko slid into her seat and turned to Serena. "That's quite an interesting hairstyle," she complimented the blonde.
"Thanks. It takes a lot of work to set it this way."
"If only you applied that much effort to your schoolwork, you wouldn't be failing," quipped the brunette behind Serena. Ranko stared intently at the girl's ponytail.
"That's not a very nice thing to say, Lita," returned Serena. The two girls fumed, but they both turned their attention to the front of the room, where the teacher was beginning the lesson.
Neither Ranko nor Serena seemed to be able to understand any of what the teacher was saying, and Lita didn't have much more luck. It was a girl with short blue hair at the front of the room who answered most of the questions. Ranko studied her hair even more earnestly than she had Lita's throughout the lesson. Unfortunately, this took even more of her attention away from the teacher.
When the bell rang, Ranko was certain that she knew less about fractions than she had at the start. What made this even more suspicious was that she was quite sure it had been a geography lesson. Ranko sighed. Having to kill innocent girls she could probably learn to deal with. Going to school was another thing altogether.
"Class, this is our new student," said the teacher, pausing. "What did you say your name was again?"
"Amelia Zelgadis," the new arrival said hastily. She'd forgotten to choose a new name before registering, and had had to write down the first thing that came to mind. Now she found herself regretting it, but it was too late to say that she'd changed her mind and her name was actually Martina Zangulus or some other combination of the names of those she had traveled with in the past.
"Well, Amelia," said the teacher helpfully, "you can sit in the back of the room. Try to keep up with the rest of the class."
"No problem," said Amelia, choosing an empty desk and sitting down. She began to study the girls in the class, seeking any sign that one or more of them might be Sailor Scouts in disguise.
"Hey, welcome to Grass Valley Junior High, Amelia!" whispered the girl in the next desk. "My name's Stephanie!"
Amelia examined Stephanie's cheerful smile and long dark hair. In the brief silence, her acute sense of hearing caught the conversation going on between the two boys in front of her.
"Hey!" whispered one. "What do you think of the new girl?"
"She'll probably be pretty cute in a few years," replied the one in front of Amelia, "once her chest develops a little more." Amelia poked him in the back with the sharp end of her pencil.
"Are those guys talking about you?" asked Stephanie. "I'll have a few words with them after class. They're always mean to new girls. But they're not bad guys, once you get to know them."
Amelia glared at the boy who hadn't received a warning poke until he turned his eyes back to the front of the room. "Don't get me wrong," she said to Stephanie. "I'm not a very friendly person."
"That's all right," whispered the blonde in front of Stephanie. "She's that friendly with everyone. Ignore her for a few days and she'll give up."
Stephanie smiled again and straightened up in her desk, her chest jiggling slightly as she did so. "People say that I have a fiery heart that simply burns with congeniality!"
Amelia scowled at the girl's uncanny resemblance to Naga, a chapter of her life best left forgotten, and carefully considered the metaphor. Was it a coincidence that the girl looked like Sailor Mars, minus the jewelry, and compared herself to Mars' element? This search could turn out to be easier than she'd thought.
Ranko didn't have much trouble finding her three suspects at lunch, since they all sat together. Ranko joined them, eager to learn whether these girls might in fact be the Sailor Scouts. Their closeness certainly suggested some association between them outside of school. "So, are you guys good friends?" she asked once the introductions had been made.
"We're study buddies," replied Amy, the blue-haired girl. "Neither Serena nor Lita is having much luck with classes, so we get together with a few other friends after school and do our homework together."
"You might consider a study group, Ranko," suggested Serena through a mouthful of food. "It looks like you could use some help."
"That was a very rude thing to say!" Amy admonished her. "And you shouldn't talk with your mouth full in any case."
"Sorry," said Serena, swallowing her mouthful after the apology. Amy wiped the moist crumbs from her face, provoking a chuckle from Lita and Ranko.
"We'd invite you to join our group, but it's kind of private," said Lita.
"That's all right," said Ranko. They would be easier to observe if they weren't aware of her presence anyway. "This school's a lot easier than my last one."
"Really?" asked Serena. She cast a quick glance at Amy and swallowed the food in her mouth. "I can't imagine a school tougher than Crossroads."
"Oh, you'd better believe it!" said Ranko. "The Principal of Furinkan was a lunatic! He was always trying to cut everyone's hair and made every day a living hell! And then there were the classes on top of that, with teachers that he hired to drive everyone insane."
"How could you even learn anything in those conditions?" asked Lita.
"I couldn't, really," admitted Ranko. "But I did get plenty of practice in the martial arts."
"Really?" Lita leaned forward, suddenly much more interested in her new friend. "I study martial arts too! Maybe we could have a match sometime!"
"I don't fight girls," said Ranko without thinking.
"But you're a girl!" Serena pointed out.
"You don't find many female martial artists around here," added Lita. "I can never find an opponent to practice with outside of the Judo Club."
"Judo, eh? I study mostly kempo myself. It might be interesting to see how our styles interact." And to meet some of your other friends, she didn't add aloud.
"All right!" cheered Lita. "I'm considering that a promise!"
The bell rang. "Geez!" shouted Serena. "Lunchtime's over already?" She quickly crammed the rest of her lunch into her mouth at once and ran for the school building, knocking the others' lunchboxes to the ground.
"What a ditz," said Lita. "We've got plenty of time."
"And the worst part is," added Amy, "she'll be late no matter how fast she runs. Serena always is."
Ranko nodded thoughtfully as she packed up her belongings. Serena, despite her uncanny resemblance to Sailor Moon, was obviously far too clumsy to be a Sailor Scout. The other two, however, were very likely candidates. Lita's martial arts skill would definitely be an asset to the Sailor Scouts, and Amy's blue hair, which perfectly matched Sailor Mercury's, was probably not a common color in this dimension; although, having known a girl with purple hair, Ranko wasn't about to dismiss that possibility out of hand. However suspicious she might be, Ranko still had to be sure before she made her move. Beryl's words still hung over her head. A wrong guess would cost an innocent girl her life... and given the circumstances, that girl was quite likely to be Akane.
Stephanie looked up from her lunch to see the new girl approaching her. "Hey! If it isn't Amelia! What's up?"
"Oh, nothing," said Amelia casually as she sat next to Stephanie. "I was just thinking about what you said before first period. You know, 'fiery heart burning with friendliness' or whatever it was."
"Congeniality," replied Stephanie. "Close enough though. I just get such a kick out of making new friends! You never know what sorts of interesting things they'll have to talk about."
"Yeah, you never know," agreed Amelia. "It's always fun going to new places and meeting interesting people. I hear this town even has superheroes or something!"
"Superheroes? You must mean the Sailor Scouts! They're incredible!"
"You know anything about them?" asked Amelia hopefully. The best way to get information that someone is trying to hide, she knew from experience, is to ask for something related to it and wait for them to slip up and tell you what you want to know.
"Well, they're the most heroic girls I've ever met," said Stephanie with stars in her eyes. "They always fight the monsters that attack innocent people in the name of love and justice! Isn't that such a noble cause?"
"Sure," said Amelia, remembering the "truth and justice" motto of her psuedonymsake. "But who are they, really?"
"Their identities are secret," said Stephanie, making hush motions with her finger. "They probably don't want admirers showering them with gifts or anything hokey like that."
Amelia decided to overlook the similarity to Xellos and move in for the kill. "Or maybe they're worried about their enemies discovering their identities and striking when they're powerless."
Stephanie looked worried. "You think they'd actually try something like that? That would be horrible! I sure hope the Sailor Scouts are prepared for such a dirty scheme."
"Or that somebody thinks to tell them," put in Amelia.
Stephanie nodded, then glanced at her watch. "Oh my! I nearly forgot about band practice!" She leapt to her feet, favored Amelia with a quick bow almost as an afterthought, then ran toward the building as if her life - or someone else's - depended on her speed.
"Bingo," Amelia whispered to herself. "Sailor Mars, you're mine."