Lina reveals herself and tries to kill Sailor Venus, but is interrupted by the arrival of Mewtwo, a new entrant to the battle.
Chapter 9: L-I-N-A Spells Trouble For Mina
As she walked beside Amelia down the back streets of the Juuban district of Tokyo, Mina couldn't help but keep a close eye on her new friend. Amelia was hardly focused on their path. Instead, she kept turning to stare at every person they came across as if trying to will them away. Experimentally, Mina turned down the wrong street, just to see if Amelia would notice. Amelia followed Mina without saying a word, watching children play in a nearby park.
"Is everything all right?" Mina asked. Amelia stopped short, her eyes still fixed on the children. Mina waited, but Amelia said nothing. She simply stood there, staring into the park.
Mina cleared her throat. "Are you okay, Amelia? What's wrong?"
"Don't ask me that," Amelia said softly.
"Are you uncomfortable talking about it?" asked Mina.
"Why do you want to know about me anyway?" snapped Amelia.
Mina stepped back hurriedly. "Hey, don't get upset! I'm just worried about you."
Amelia's face screwed up in confusion. "YOU... worried about ME? Why?"
The question seemed to shock Mina. "Why? Because you're my friend, that's why!"
"That's not what I meant," said Amelia. "Why me, when you've got all those other friends?"
"Do you think that just because I only met you yesterday, it makes you any less of a friend?" asked Mina. "If anything, you probably need friendship now more than ever, because it's hard moving to a new school."
"I need friendship, all right," Amelia agreed grudgingly. "But you don't want to be friends with someone like me."
"Don't be so hard on yourself!" urged Mina. "You're a caring, wonderful person!"
"There's a lot you don't know about me," said Amelia darkly. "Stuff you wouldn't like."
"Well, we all have secrets," replied Mina. "But nobody will hold them against you."
"You have a pretty big secret yourself, don't you?" Amelia asked casually.
"What secret?" Mina asked defensively.
Amelia held up a finger and winked. "It wouldn't be a secret if I told you, would it?"
Mina groaned. "Well, I guess if you know about it, there's no sense hiding it. But tell me, how did you figure it out?"
Amelia shrugged. "It's not like you went to a lot of trouble to hide it."
"Really?" asked Mina, genuinely surprised. "I didn't think anyone would ever notice. I hid them all in my desk...."
"I thought it was obvious, but I guess most people wouldn't -" Amelia's eyes narrowed. "Hid WHAT in your desk?" she asked flatly.
Mina blushed. "All the love letters and drawings of Todd, of course! How else could you have found out about my secret crush?"
Amelia facefaulted. "Is THAT your big secret?"
Mina chuckled. "You sound disappointed. Why? What secret were you talking about?"
Amelia shook her head. "Oh, nothing. Don't worry about it." Inside, though, she began to wonder. Was she wrong? Was Mina actually just another innocent girl?
A relieved sigh from Mina drew Amelia's attention. Her eyes were drawn to the single bead of sweat running down Mina's forehead. As the salty water dripped across her skin, Amelia could barely make out a tiny heart-shaped outline in its path. "You didn't hit your head on something, did you?" she asked, touching the outline with a finger. Mina's forehead was completely smooth, if a bit wet. Yet there was definitely a mark there...
"No, not that I can remember," said Mina, grabbing Amelia's arm in both hands and pushing it gently away. "It doesn't hurt, anyway."
"Oh. I thought I saw a bruise there," said Amelia. She focused on it and felt a strong energy - not quite like the magic of her world, but similar. That mark was a symbol of power, all right. If Mina wasn't a Sailor Scout, she had another secret, much bigger than any crush. Amelia didn't remember any marks associated with the power of the Sailor Scouts, but they did all wear those tiaras right over the spot where the marks would be....
"What's on your mind?" Mina asked suddenly.
Amelia took a deep breath. There was just no getting around it. "Mina..." she began. "I'm not the kind of person you think I am."
"What could you possibly mean by that?" asked Mina. Then, she gasped. "Wait a minute... the reason you left your old school! Maybe it wasn't something that someone did to you, but something YOU did!"
"I didn't transfer here from another school," explained Amelia. "I came from a completely different world."
Fear crossed Mina's face, but she managed to hide it quickly. She feigned disbelief as best she could. "What are you talking about, Amelia?"
"My name isn't Amelia," replied Amelia. "That's just a name I used to get close enough to figure out who you really were. And now I know the truth. So I guess you should know the truth about me." She folded her arms over her chest, lining up her wrists right between the tiny mounds of her breasts. A vertical column of four faint red glowing discs appeared in front of her chest - one on the back of each wrist, one above, and one below.
"What are you doing?" asked Mina, backing away.
Amelia closed her eyes, ignoring Mina completely. "Powers that hide my true form from mortal eyes, reveal what is hidden!" The intangible glowing discs became jewels set into talismans on Amelia's wrists and shirt. A headband wrapped around her forehead, and earrings and rings appeared in the appropriate places. A black cape emerged from just above her shoulders and flowed smoothly down her back, almost to the ground, and a sword and scabbard attached themselves to her belt.
Mina lost her footing and fell onto her back with a scream. "L-Lina Inverse!"
Lina's eyes popped open. "So, you remember me. That's good. It means I don't have to introduce myself. And just to save you the trouble, I know exactly who you are as well... Sailor Venus."
Mina's chest heaved as her shock drove the air from her lungs. "H-how...?" The one word was all she could get out. The rest of her energy was taken up with staring at her enemy in horror.
"I've been watching you for days, Mina," said Lina. "It's what I came here to do. In case you hadn't already figured it out, Queen Beryl brought me to this dimension for only one purpose." A fireball appeared in her hand, casting an eerie glow over her face. "To hunt you down and kill you."
Raye gasped and sat up in her bed, coughing on a throatful of saliva. Lita clapped her on the back. "Raye, are you okay?"
"I had a vision!" Raye whispered loudly. "A heart disappearing into a sea of cold blood.... Sailor Venus is in trouble!"
"Is it our new enemies?" asked Lita.
"I think so," replied Raye. "But something feels strange about the vision. Almost as if... whoever is causing the trouble... doesn't really want to hurt anyone. But if we don't stop them, Sailor Venus will die."
"Then I have to go help her," said Lita. "Will you be okay here by yourself?"
"I have to come with you," Raye said weakly. "I can feel the presence of a new enemy, even more powerful than anything we have fought before. You'll need my help."
"I don't think so," said Lita, gently pushing Raye back onto the bed and pulling up the blanket. "You're in no condition to go anywhere."
"You're walking into a trap," Raye groaned. "I think whatever is attacking Sailor Venus is only a distraction. The real danger is...."
"That's enough!" snapped Lita. "Get some rest, Raye, or else you won't be ready to help us in the next battle either!"
Raye wasn't ready to give up yet. "Please, listen to me...."
"I'll be careful, I promise," said Lita. "I'm sure Sailor Moon and Sailor Mercury will be there, and we've got those new allies helping us too... the Sailor Scouts of the Outer Planets, or whoever they are. Not to mention Tuxedo Mask. We'll be fine."
Raye nodded. "All right. Go. Hurry up and save Sailor Venus."
Lita patted Raye on the shoulder. "Don't worry. I'll be back before you know it." She stood up and trotted out of the room, nearly bumping into Chad on her way out the door.
"Oops, sorry!" said Chad. "I was just going to check on Raye to see if she needed anything."
"I'm sure that's what you were doing," she replied, glowering slightly.
Chad held up his hands, misinterpreting the reason for her perturbation. "Not to say that I don't think you're doing a great job taking care of her, because you are! I just -"
"Tell you what," Lita interrupted. "I've got to go out for a bit, so could you watch Raye while I'm gone? Don't let her get out of bed!"
"Yes ma'am!" said Chad with a quick salute. He sighed as she headed for the front door. "Finally, my chance to take care of Raye! All that praying has finally paid off!" He clicked his heels together and pranced into the bedroom.
Raye was already sitting up and swinging her legs over the side of the bed. At the sight of Chad, she groaned and glared angrily at him. "What are YOU doing here?" she demanded.
"Your friend Lita asked me to take care of you while she went out," explained Chad. "And it looks like she was right. You know you're not supposed to get out of bed. You need to rest!"
"Relax, I'll be fine," she assured him. "I just have -" She put her feet on the floor and pushed herself up. Immediately, she winced and clutched her stomach with the hand that wasn't holding the bed for support. "- chores to do," she finished, with far less confidence.
Chad was at her side in a second, easing her back into the bed. "You're too weak to go anywhere! I already did all of your chores for you, and I'm going to keep doing them until you're fully recovered, even if it takes a year!" He stood up and clenched a fist in a heroic pose. "There's no effort too great to make if it helps you, Raye! I would travel to the ends of the Earth and back if only it would help you get back on your feet even one second sooner! I would -" A firm pressure on his forehead stopped him short. His eyes crossed, and he fell on his face in a snoring pile on the floor.
"You would shut up, that's what you'd do," Raye whispered. She knelt beside Chad and turned him over so that the modified spirit ward on his forehead, marked with the kanji for "sleep," was visible. "I'm sorry, Chad, but I can't let you or anyone else stop me. The others need me." She stood up, ignoring the pain in her side and stomach. "I'll be able to handle the pain... once I'm Sailor Mars." Her fingers wrapped around the handle of her transformation wand. "MARS POWER!" she shouted, and the transformation began. Her clothes vanished, and she spun and danced in the usual fashion as her fuku formed around her, piece by piece.
After what seemed like hours, the glow faded, leaving Sailor Mars in her final pose. She collapsed to the floor and quickly curled into a fetal position, holding her abdomen with both arms, moaning softly and shivering. "I can't... I can't do this!" She stretched an arm up to grab her blanket. "I'm sorry, everyone. I can't help you. This pain... it's just too much!"
As she tried to pull herself back onto the bed, the room swirled before her eyes. Mars shook her head and blinked, but when the world stopped spinning, she was no longer in her bedroom. She was in an alley not far from the Crown Arcade. The soft pile that she was holding onto smelled strongly of rotting food and animal urine. She had to lift her head and turn her face away in order to breathe, and even then, the air tasted foul. But as her eyes focused on the figures entering the alley, her fear drove any objection to the stench from her mind.
There at the alley's mouth were the other Sailor Scouts, running into the alley in slow motion while turning their heads at every other step to look back at whatever horror was chasing them. Sailor Mars tried to call out to them, but the filthy air choked her, and she barely managed to prevent herself from throwing up. Her stomach heaved, making the wound in her side flare up in pain again. She cried out, at the same time a cry of pain and a cry of warning to her comrades, but no sound came from her throat. There was no sound at all, in fact. She could only see the screams on the lips of the Sailor Scouts as they fled into the alley to hide.
They never made it. As Sailor Venus limped into the alley at the rear of the procession, a shadow appeared above her, surrounded by a bright blue corona. Before Mars could make out its shape, the corona burst outward, enveloping the entire alley in its light. The vague forms of the Sailor Scouts within the light disintegrated as she watched, and now she could hear the screams as her friends were torn to atoms by the energy - screams that chilled her to the spine only slightly less than the moment when each voice fell silent, one by one, until the only voice still screaming was her own.
The light continued to expand as she watched, even after all of the other Sailor Scouts were dead, and Mars screwed her eyes shut to dispel the image, reminding herself that it was only a vision despite the vividness. A warm wind washed over her, and she nearly screamed again, but the light was upon her, tearing her throat apart before she could make another sound. Her entire body melted into the light, becoming no more than fragments in the air and then not even that. She was still conscious, still aware of everything around her, but could sense nothing except for endless pain - her own as well as that of the other Sailor Scouts, all reliving their dying moments over and over again for all eternity....
She was lying on the floor of her bedroom, panting heavily, her body covered in goosebumps and sweat. Her right hand held a deathgrip on her blanket. The pain was gone, except for the stab wound, but her body still tingled with the horrific memory of her ordeal. There was no way she could move after that... and yet, she knew that she would have to. A vision that clear could only mean that the future she had seen was certain. The Sailor Scouts would die, and would suffer eternal torture that she would never have been able to imagine had she not lived through it... unless she did something to stop it. If she could just get to that alley before they did....
She slowly pushed herself up onto her elbow, taking care not to strain herself. Even so, her side ached, and she felt dizzy to the point of nausea. Deciding that getting to her feet was out of the question, Sailor Mars set off for the bedroom door on her hands and knees. "Don't worry, guys," she said under her breath as she pulled herself across the floor. "Even if I have to crawl the whole way, I'll save you. Just don't die before I can get there."
Amy and Serena made a rather interesting sight as they left the campus of Crossroads Junior High School. Amy had to lead Serena around people and objects in her path, as Serena's eyes were occupied with shedding enough water to irrigate a small desert country. "I can't believe we LOST!" she whined in that annoying voice that always made Amy wonder how she could stand the girl.
"Please, you're giving me a headache," Amy finally complained. "You're not even on the team. What do you have to be upset about?"
"What do you THINK I'm upset about? We LOST!"
"I know," said Amy, putting a hand to her forehead. "And you haven't stopped crying over it since. I think we should be focusing on more important matters."
Serena instantly stopped crying. "Oh, right! We need to get together and figure out what we're going to do about our new enemies."
Amy nodded. "I think Ranko may be one of them."
Serena's jaw dropped. "Ranko?! No way!"
"She seems very interested in us," Amy pointed out. "And she has the same red hair as Lina Inverse, the sorceress who attacked us. There aren't many people around here who have red hair. Plus, Ranko showed up at school the day after we were first attacked by our new enemies. And the evening she was with Lita was the evening that she was attacked."
"But she's so nice! How could she be working for the Negaverse?"
"Even Nephlite seemed nice when he was in his human disguise," Amy reminded her. "She's trying to catch us off guard so that she can destroy us. I'm sure of it!"
"Nephlite WAS nice," countered Serena. "He saved Molly's life, remember? He wanted to be on our side!"
"I admit that Ranko doesn't seem like the type of girl who would try to kill us, but we can't afford to let our guard down."
Serena fretted. "You're just being paranoid, Amy. You saw how upset she was that you couldn't study with her tonight. Could a Nega-monster fake something like that?"
"Our opponents are no Nega-monsters," Amy reminded her. "I'm sure they are capable of pretending to feel any emotion they need, just like an actor in a movie. I think Ranko's discouragement was merely an act to coax me into being alone with her so that she could attack me."
"That's silly, Amy! How could she know that you're Sailor Mercury?"
"The same way I recognized her," replied Amy. "There are even fewer people around with blue hair than with red."
Serena seemed doubtful. "Nobody's ever recognized you before, Amy. I've seen you transform a hundred times, and even I have trouble recognizing you!"
"Well, our transformation magic IS very powerful," Amy admitted.
Serena crossed her arms triumphantly. "In other words, Ranko's probably just an ordinary girl, and you blew her off because of a silly suspicion!"
"YOU blew her off to go on a date with Darien," Amy reminded her.
"I just did that to get out of studying!" corrected Serena. "I probably won't even be able to convince Darien to go out with me tonight."
"And how do you think that will make Ranko feel?" asked Amy.
"But STUDYING... Come on, Amy! Studying is so BORING!"
Amy sighed sadly. "I really hate to turn her down, but after our recent battles, we can't afford to take chances. Sailor Mars is out of commission, and Queen Beryl has a new warrior in addition to the four we fought before. Our enemies outnumber us now, and they're more powerful than we are."
"What are you guys talking about?" a voice asked casually from just behind them. Serena screamed and leapt into the air to land on her face, while Amy whirled to face the questioner, her hand covering her fluttering heart.
"Ranko, you startled us!" Amy admonished her.
"Sorry about that," said Ranko. "I missed you guys after the game."
"YOU ran out on US," Serena reminded her as she got to her feet. "Remember? 'I'll be back right after I throw my cup away.' And then you disappeared for the rest of the game!"
"It's all right," Amy said diplomatically. "I understand perfectly."
Ranko blinked. "You do?"
Amy nodded. "You seemed very upset when I said I couldn't study with you tonight. Could that possibly have been the reason you left us?"
"Way to think, Amy," Serena quietly congratulated her.
"It's okay," Ranko said benevolently. "If you have plans, you have plans."
Amy blushed guiltily. "I'm really sorry, Ranko."
"Don't mention it." Ranko snapped her fingers. "Say, are you doing anything right now? We could all head over to the arcade for some relaxation."
Serena's eyes sparkled. "The ARCADE? Why didn't you say so sooner? Of course we'll go to the arcade with you! Won't we, Amy?"
"But what about our meeting?" Amy protested.
Serena hovered over Amy's shoulder. "I feel a little guilt monster nagging you," she sang quietly. "If you feel bad about ditching Ranko, here's your chance to make it up!"
"But I really don't think it's safe," whispered Amy. "If she really is Lina Inverse..."
Ranko looked back and forth between the two, feigning confusion. "What's wrong? You guys aren't... trying to avoid me, are you?"
"Oh, no, nothing like that," Serena assured her. "Amy's just not in the mood for playing games. Or that's what SHE thinks...."
"We have a meeting to go to," Amy said firmly. "We don't have time for games."
"Oh," said Ranko, suddenly interested. "What kind of meeting?"
"It's a study group meeting!" Serena replied without thinking.
"Ooh! Can I come?" Ranko asked enthusiastically. Serena gasped and covered her mouth.
"I'm sorry," Amy said hastily, "but it's a private group. The other girls would object to having a new member."
"Oh." Ranko's head slumped. "Then I guess it's just me for the day, huh?"
Serena patted her on the shoulder. "Don't feel bad, Ranko! I'm sure you'll find something fun to do."
"Yeah, sure." Ranko sighed. "Have fun at your meeting, then." She waved over her shoulder as she turned and walked away.
"Serena, I feel so miserable," Amy said quietly. "How could I be so rude to her?"
"Amy, Serena, down here!" hissed Luna from near her feet. "We've got trouble! Sailor Venus is being attacked!"
"Oh no!" cried Serena. "We've got to go help her!"
"I just heard the news from Artemis," explained Luna. "That new friend of hers was Lina Inverse, the sorceress!"
"Lina Inverse?" asked Amy. "But I thought Ranko was -" She looked up the street, where Ranko was waiting at the corner, staring uneasily at the cat as she turned into the next street. "I don't understand!"
"What's wrong?" asked Luna.
"I was sure that Ranko was Lina Inverse," explained Amy. "But if Lina is attacking Sailor Venus right now, then Ranko can't possibly be her...."
"I told you so," said Serena. "She's not from the Negaverse."
"But I was so certain!" Amy repeated. "Why else would she have moved here, right when our enemies showed up?"
"Well, we thought the same of you, when you moved here," Luna reminded her. "And look at what happened. You turned out to be a Sailor Scout!"
""Do you think that's it?" asked Amy. "Could Ranko be a Sailor Scout?"
"We already know all of the Sailor Scouts that I would be able to recognize," said Luna. "But she might be one of the Sailor Scouts of the Outer Planets. Neither Artemis nor I knows who they really are."
"I bet that's it!" agreed Serena. "Ranko is a Sailor Scout from the Outer Planets!"
"Then she's not an enemy, but a friend!" Amy realized. "That's why she was with Lita when our enemies showed up. She was trying to protect Sailor Jupiter!"
"We can't jump to conclusions," warned Luna. "We don't know for certain what she is yet."
"Then we have to find out for sure," said Serena. "I'll use my disguise pen to -"
"We don't have time for that!" snapped Luna. "Now, hurry up and find a place to transform so we can help Sailor Venus! If Ranko is one of the Sailor Scouts of the Outer Planets, she'll catch up in her own time. If not, then we should just leave her be."
Amy stared longingly in the direction Ranko had gone. "I'll catch up to you. There's something I need to do first."
"More important than Mina's life?" asked Serena.
"No," Amy admitted. "But I've made a terrible mistake, and I simply won't be able to think straight until I've corrected it."
"Well, be quick about it," ordered Luna. "Meet us near the Crown Arcade."
"Right," said Amy with a nod, as Luna and Serena set off for a convenient alley.
Amy quickly set off on Ranko's trail. It didn't take long for her to catch up, as the redhead was making slow progress, shuffling her feet on the sidewalk. "Ranko, wait!" Amy called as she approached.
Ranko turned her head, giving Amy a full view of the saddest face she had ever seen. "Hey, Amy," said Ranko, keeping as much emotion as she could out of her voice.
Amy stopped right in front of Ranko and bowed her head. "Ranko... I want to apologize to you."
"You already did," Ranko reminded her. "Plenty of times."
"I know, but...." Amy looked up into Ranko's eyes. "I know how difficult things are for you right now. The new challenges you're facing must make life seem like a constant battle."
"It always has seemed that way," replied Ranko.
"I feel guilty for not helping you," said Amy. "As a friend, it's my duty to do whatever I can to help you."
"No, if you have plans, -"
"I can do my research another time!" Amy interrupted, more forcefully than she intended. Ranko's eyes flew open in surprise. "I mean... I'd like to help you study tonight, if it's okay."
Ranko swallowed. "Um, sure. Sounds great," she said uncertainly.
"Wonderful! Let's meet at the school library at seven o'clock."
"Will it be open?" asked Ranko.
"I have a pass," replied Amy. "Honor students are allowed to use the library until ten on weeknights."
"O-okay," stammered Ranko, still dazed. "I'll be there...."
"Great!" Amy bowed again. "I'll see you at seven!" She turned and ran away, pausing for a hasty "Goodbye!" as she rounded the corner.
Ranko stared wide-eyed after her, blinking at irregular intervals. "Ooooo-kay. That was weird."
Ryoko swooped down from the sky to land next to Ranko. "Come on, Ranma. It's time to go." She poured a thermos of hot water over Ranko's head. "Your girlfriend screwed up, big time."
Ranma grabbed Ryoko by the shoulders. "Akane? What happened to her?"
"You moron!" shouted Ryoko, slapping his hands away. "I'm talking about Lina!"
"Oh," said Ranma, much relieved. "What did she do?"
"She blew her cover, that's what she did," said Ryoko. "Now the Sailor Scouts know exactly who she is. Which means we'd better not let them get away this time, or we might not get another chance."
"So what are we waiting for?" asked Ranma, clenching his fists in anticipation. "Let's get this fight over with and save Akane."
Ryoko nodded emphatically. "Yeah. Let's go."
Mina Aino's mind raced as she crab-crawled away from Lina Inverse, staring at the fireball in her hand. Everything had happened so quickly that she hardly knew what was what anymore. Her former friend was really a deadly enemy; that much she knew, although she still couldn't believe that it could be true. Yet the evidence was right there, illuminating her face with its flickering light. Somewhere in the back of her head, a tiny voice shouted at her to transform and face the danger. But the rest of her consciousness held her back. She wasn't fighting an enemy - she was facing a friend.
Mina forced her panic under control, slowing her fevered breathing to its normal rate. She couldn't possibly fight the powerful sorceress alone, but who knew how long it would take for help to arrive? By that time, she might be nothing more than a pile of ash. Lina could unleash her deadly attack at any time... so why hadn't she? She'd had plenty of time, but seemed to be holding back, for some reason. Mina could sense a strange emotion in Lina, a deep regret that didn't make any sense. Yet perhaps it signaled a faint hope for Mina... if only she could bring herself to understand what was going on!
"Amelia?" began Mina, not realizing how afraid she was until she heard it in her own voice. "Why are you doing this?"
"I told you, my name's not Amelia," Lina corrected her.
"Maybe your name's not Amelia," said Mina, "but you have all the compassion and kindness that made Amelia who she was. Someone like that would never hurt anyone, I know it!"
"You don't know anything about me," countered Lina. "Don't try to talk your way out of this."
"Maybe you don't know it yourself," Mina continued, "but I can feel the emotions in your heart. You don't want to kill me, do you?"
"What I want doesn't matter," said Lina. "If I don't kill you... then Gourry will...."
The fireball flickered in Lina's hand, and Mina saw her opportunity. She quickly pressed forward. "Who's Gourry?" she asked sympathetically.
The question seemed to enrage Lina. "I don't need your sympathy!" she shouted. She took aim at Mina's head and tensed her arm as if to fire immediately.
"If I'm going to die, I want to know why!" Mina said firmly. She stood up, amazed at her own bravery. "What's going to happen if you don't kill me?"
Lina's arm followed Mina's movement, but she didn't release the fireball. "You really want to know?" she asked, as surprised by Mina's action as Mina herself was. "All right. Gourry was sort of my partner, back in my own world. I guess I got used to having him around, and he sometimes managed to make himself useful. Then I made a big mistake, and Gourry was the one who ended up suffering for it."
"That's so horrible!" Mina said with genuine concern. "What happened?"
"It doesn't matter," replied Lina. "The short version is, Gourry got trapped in a crystal, and Queen Beryl's going to smash it if I don't kill the Sailor Scouts. And since you happen to be one of them...."
"You have to kill me, even though you really don't want to," Mina finished for her.
"That's about the size of it," affirmed Lina. "Sorry I have to do this. I was just getting to like you."
Mina steeled her nerves once again. "Let us help you."
The fireball vanished. "What did you say?"
"Queen Beryl is the enemy of the Sailor Scouts," explained Mina. "If she's holding your partner hostage, then she's your enemy as well. Instead of fighting, we should be joining forces to rescue your friend and defeat Beryl!"
Lina shook her head. "It won't work. They're watching us. The second we start plotting against them, they'll shatter the crystals." She concentrated on her hand, and the fireball blazed back to life. "No, the only way to save Gourry is to stop wasting time and kill you now!"
"Queen Beryl isn't going to let Gourry go, even if you kill me," said Mina.
"She's the one with Gourry's life in her hands," said Lina. "What can I do but follow her orders?"
"Just let me confer with the other Scouts," urged Mina. "Sailor Mercury will be able to come up with a plan, I just know it! We'll save Gourry and whoever else Beryl has kidnapped, I promise!"
"I don't know..." Lina said uncertainly. "What happens if -"
"Look out!" shouted Mina, a second too late. A ball of water engulfed Lina, extinguishing her fireball instantly. "Oh no! Lina!" Mina turned to the direction the water had come from and found herself facing a two-story building across the street from the park. "Please, don't attack her!" she shouted. "She isn't our real enemy!"
Within the ball of water, Lina drew her sword from its scabbard and slashed at the bubble. As the point broke the surface tension of the water, it splashed formlessly to the ground. Lina coughed and glared accusingly at Mina, brushing the wet hair from her forehead. "Is that the way justice fighters operate in your world? Offer false hopes and keep them talking so your partners can attack from behind?"
"I don't even know who they are!" Mina protested.
"A likely story," retorted Lina. "To think I almost trusted you." She held an invisible bow in her arms and prepared a Flare Arrow. "Killing you just got a lot easier."
"Please, I want to help you!" begged Mina.
"Then die," said Lina, with no trace of emotion.
As Lina began to release the Flare Arrow, she sensed a huge rock approaching and quickly raised her arm and snapped her fingers, shouting "DUG BREAK!" The rock shattered in midair while the Flare Arrow flew wild, scorching the upper branches of an isolated tree. "Dammit! Why can't they just come out and fight face to face?" She glanced up toward the rooftop where the shots were coming from, then back at Mina again. "I can't leave her alone to go fight them, but I can't concentrate enough to kill her while those three are shooting at me!"
Lina's thoughts were interrupted by a pair of screams from the rooftop, which were abruptly cut short seconds after they began. She and Mina both turned to look at the same time. A bright gleam from the rooftop blinded them at first, but as the figure floated down to the ground, the reflecting sunlight faded enough to allow them to see the creature. It was difficult to distinguish any features, since most of its body was covered with armor-like machinery - large boots, gloves, chest plate, and a helmet with an opaque visor, all connected by thick wires. It appeared to be slightly taller than any human, but its body was squat, with short kneeless legs and long arms compared to the rest of its body. The few portions of skin that were visible, including a long tail, were covered in dark lavender fur that almost imperceptibly glowed.
The creature landed in the middle of the street, forcing the few passing cars to screech to a halt. One car wasn't fast enough, and crumpled like paper against an invisible curved shield more than a foot from the creature's body. The driver and passengers threw open what remained of their doors and fled, joining the occupants of the other cars as well as anyone who had still remained in the park after observing Lina's light show.
Two eye-shaped blue lights appeared in the helmet's visor, scanning the two girls. "Are you Sailor Scouts?" asked a deadpan voice that didn't seem to come from the creature itself. Before either one of them could respond, the blue lights focused on Mina, and one of the thin arms rose to point at her. "You are," said the creature. It raised its arm, and Mina floated up into the air.
"Hey, put me down!" Mina screamed in terror.
The creature swung its arm to the side, sending Mina flying in that direction until she slammed into a brick wall fifty yards away. "My mission is to kill you," said the creature. "I believe that your opinion on the matter is of no consequence."
Lina stared uneasily at the creature. "Who the heck are you?" she asked.
The helmet turned to face Lina. "I am known as Mew Two," it replied, "but make no mistake. I am superior to the original Mew in every way."
"Mewtwo? That's your name?"
"That is correct, Lina Inverse," replied Mewtwo.
Lina gaped. "How did you know MY name?"
"We have no time to talk," said Mewtwo. "Our mission is to kill the Sailor Scouts."
"Well, it's obvious you're serious about fighting," remarked Lina.
"Once I kill the Sailor Scouts, I will be free," Mewtwo told her. "I must not fail."
"Free?" asked Lina. "Free of what?"
Mewtwo ignored the question and raised its right arm, lifting Mina off the ground once again. Before it could smash her into another wall, a rose smacked stem-first into Mewtwo's invisible shield, harmlessly bouncing off. Mewtwo turned its head to look first at the rose, then at Tuxedo Mask, who stood a short distance down the street.
"Put her down immediately, evildoer!" shouted Tuxedo Mask, brandishing his cane.
Mewtwo casually pointed its left arm at Tuxedo Mask, who reeled as if he'd been struck in the stomach. "Do not interfere, human," it commanded.
Lina looked up at Mewtwo, impressed. "Wow, you can really handle them!"
"I thought humans would be more difficult to fight than PokÃ©mon," said Mewtwo. "I find them unfortunately disappointing. I had hoped for so much more than this."
"Sailor Venus isn't fighting back yet," Lina informed Mewtwo. "And Tuxedo Mask has never been particularly tough."
"I see," said Mewtwo. "Then these two are not worthy opponents." It let its hand fall to its side, dropping Mina to the ground. "In that case, I will wait for the opponents who will fight me."
"I don't think that's a good idea," said Lina. "The Sailor Scouts are a lot tougher than they look."
"The thought of a difficult battle excites me," replied Mewtwo. "I have never looked forward to anything ever since I was created. Now, finally, I will meet an opponent who can challenge me. I will finally be able to prove that I am superior. But destroying helpless victims will prove nothing. There is no point in killing those who will not fight back."
"I thought you were fighting for your freedom," Lina pointed out.
"I will be free once the Sailor Scouts are dead," confirmed Mewtwo.
"Well, how do you expect to kill them if they refuse to fight?" asked Lina.
Mewtwo turned its stare back to Lina. "You may kill them, if you wish. As you said, they are helpless to resist. And if they do attempt to stop you, I will be able to fight them."
Lina watched Mina try unsuccessfully to get to her feet. "I'm not in the mood for killing helpless people either."
Mewtwo nodded. "Then we wait. Soon, we will be able to fight."
"How do you know?" asked Lina.
Before Mewtwo could answer, Sailor Moon ran into view from the direction of the arcade, with Sailors Mercury and Jupiter close behind. "Hold it right there, Nega-dweebs!" shouted Sailor Moon. "We're not going to let you hurt our friend any more!" She pointed a finger at Mewtwo and Lina. "You'd better leave Mina alone, or I'll punish you in the name of the Moon!"
"Are they fighters?" asked Mewtwo.
"They're suited up for battle," confirmed Lina.
"Good." Mewtwo pressed the fingers of its gloves together in anticipation. "Then it is time for us to fight."