Subject: [FFML2] [Ranma/SM]A Different Viewpoint: Curses and Demons: Chapter 16
From: Christopher J Olsen
Date: 2/5/2001, 11:51 PM


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All Ranma characters are property of Rumiko Takahashi, first published
by Shogakugan in Japan and brought over to North America by Viz

        A Different Viewpoint: Curses and Demons:
                Chapter 16

    The three Senshi lead the way toward Jusenkyo, expecting an ambush
at any moment.  Dr. Tofu followed along with Luna, both of them helping
the still injured Artemis along.  Ryoga had offered to carry the girl,
but Artemis had refused, not wanting to be a burden.  Usagi had
suggested that she change back into a cat so they could carry him that
way, but Artemis had again insisted, saying that she couldn't help if
she was in her car form.

    "You can't help, even if you stay as a human."  Luna muttered under
her breath as they walked.

    "I heard that."  Artemis growled back, glaring over her shoulder at
where Luna was helping her along.

    "I meant for you too."  Luna answered angrily.  "Stupid, stubborn
idiot.  Do you think you are going to help us somehow by getting
yourself killed?"

    Artemis sniffed.  "It might make you feel better, at least."

    Luna's eyes went wide and she broke away from Artemis, almost
causing Dr. Tofu to drop her.  "What?!?  How could you possibly think
that?  You may be a lecherous, scheming, alley cat with the morals of a
trash yard dog... but I don't have any desire to see you dead."

    Artemis shook her head and looked at the ground.  "Better for you,
better for Minako... better for everyone.  I'm no use to you now... if I
ever was."

    Luna's angry frown softened.  "Artemis... it wouldn't be better...
not for anyone, not for Minako... not for the others... and not for me."

    Nabiki came up from the rear, pulling Ryoga along by one hand.
"What's the hold up?  We're nearly there."

    Luna sighed and went to help Dr. Tofu with Artemis again.  "Nothing
important, Nabiki-san.  We should get moving, right?"  Nabiki glanced at
Dr. Tofu curiously, but the doctor pretended not to notice and helped
the two cats turned girls down the trail again.

    As they moved away, Artemis glanced at the good doctor.  "Doc...  I
appreciate you not saying any thing back there."

    Dr. Tofu shook his head.  "I'm a doctor, I'm used to keeping
secrets."  He looked curious.  "So, your real name is Artemis?  You were
named after the Greek goddess of the hunt?  Fascinating.  Diana is the
Roman version of that name, you know."

    Artemis blinked.  "I hadn't realized.  How could anyone confuse me
for a goddess?  I mean, sure I had long hair, but...."

    Luna slapped her forehead with her free hand.  "Artemis, just be
quiet.  It's obvious your head injury is making you delirious."

    Artemis snickered.  "Hey Luna, did you know that you were naming
yourself after me?  Heh.  That's hilarious, you giving yourself a
version of my name."

    Luna frowned.  "Diana is a perfectly good girl's name... and
apparently so is Artemis."  She snickered to herself.  "Your name fits
you now.  Not a boy anymore, are you?"

    Artemis blinked.  "That's not fair, Luna, it is a boy's name!  At
least, it was when I got it."

    Luna rolled her eyes, glancing at Dr. Tofu and shaking her head.
"He's just delirious, doctor, trust me."

    Dr. Tofu raised an eyebrow.  "If you say so."  They walked along in
silence for several more yards when he spoke up again.  "Luna... that is
your name, right?  Why hasn't you or Artemis been controlled by the
ghost cat yet?"  He grimaced.  "That came out bluntly...  I don't mean
to offend you but...."

    Luna frowned but nodded.  "I understand, you don't know if you can
trust us....  I don't think Artemis or I are susceptible to his
control.  We're not normal cats, after all."

    Dr. Tofu frowned.  "You mean because of the Jusenkyo curses?  It
didn't protect Shampoo.  Why you?"

    Luna hesitated.  "No...  not because of the curses.  Something
else... we... we're not cats, not normal cats.  We never were."

    Dr. Tofu nodded.  "Things are starting to make more sense now.  You
seemed too intelligent, too knowledgeable for only being human a few
months.  The way you helped Ranma with his cat phobia... you were
working together with Johnathon on it.  I thought it was strange that
two normal cats could be so well trained."

    Luna sighed.  "Doctor, please keep our secret.  Ours secret and the
Senshis'.  They are our charge... although they are starting to grow
beyond the need for advisors."

    Dr. Tofu nodded.  "Of course I will.  Like I said, I'm used to
keeping secrets."  He glanced at Artemis, then back to Luna.  "How old
are you two, really?  Artemis may be suffering from her head wound, but
she was clear enough.  She said that Artemis was a boy's name when she
got it.  She also thought that the goddess Artemis was named after her,
and from your conversation, I assume Artemis is male in his normal

    Artemis grimaced.  "I'm right here you know.  I'm not that much out
of it... not yet.  Yes, I'm a guy.  A guy cat, but a guy."  She
frowned.  "For a second there I thought I remembered being a human male
too... but that couldn't be... could it?"  Artemis shook her head.  "I
think something is coming to me... from the past.  I'm not sure if it's
my imagination, or if I'm really remembering it...."

    Luna sighed.  "It's not your imagination, Artemis."

    Dr. Tofu nodded to himself.  "You two... you're much more than cats
with a Jusenkyo curse, aren't you.  You're much older than you
appear...  I could sense at least that much from your chi."

    Luna shook her head.  "I don't think this is the time to say any
more, Doctor, we're nearly there I think...  I can feel the magic level
rising ahead... and this isn't a subject to be talking about in enemy

    Dr. Tofu nodded.  "Of course.  A rain check on this discussion

    Luna nodded back.  "Agreed."

    From behind them, still leading Ryoga, Nabiki shook her head as the
conversation died, not having been quite able to pick up the majority of
what was said.  "Something is strange about those two.  Cats... talking
cats?  Who would have thought?"  She smirked to herself.  "Although with
everything else we've seen, I suppose it's not all that strange."
Nabiki glanced back at Ryoga.  "How much do you know about all this,
Ryoga?  Not much, I'd wager, but surely you suspected something.  I
mean, you were training them and everything...."  Nabiki trailed off,
her eyes going wide.

    Ryoga frowned, not noticing her pause.  "Rub it in, why don't you?
I know you might not think I'm the brightest guy around, but you didn't
notice anything either, did you?"

    Nabiki's eyes narrowed.  "I should have figured this out earlier.
Sailor Moon is Usagi.  She has to be.  Diana, or Luna, whoever, was
always with Usagi.  They were thick as thieves, those two, and Usagi has
the same hairstyle as Sailor Moon.  Why in the world couldn't I see it

    Ryoga blinked.  "Usagi?  No way.  Wait a second....  No way!  You're
right!  How could I have missed that?"

    Nabiki rolled her eyes.  <The same way you never noticed when Ranma
was pretending to be your sister, or your fiancee, idiot.>

    Ryoga answered his own question.  "Magic, it has to be magic, unless
she's a lot better at martial arts then she lets on."

    Nabiki blinked.  "You can hide who you are with martial arts?"

    "Well... probably.  Someone has probably figured out a way to do
it." Ryoga shrugged.  "The last time I saw a disguise that good it was
magic...  Copycat Ken's magic scarf.  This is different though."

    Nabiki shrugged.  "If you say so.  So, who do you think the others
are?  They're all girls from your class, that's for sure."

    Ryoga blinked.  "Oh yeah, that makes sense."

    Nabiki looked disgusted.  "Of course it makes sense.  They probably
decided to train with Ranma after you all helped them.  I thought that
some of those girls were awfully good for beginners... that Makoto is a
real brawler, and Setsuna, she's scary.  No match for you or Ranma, but
for someone who hasn't spent their whole life doing martial arts...."

    Ryoga blinked again.  "So you think Setsuna-san is one of the
Senshi?  Isn't she a little bit too old?"

    Nabiki hesitated.  "Well... she is around John-san's age... but if
they can disguise themselves I don't see why she couldn't be one of
them."  The mercenary Tendo looked thoughtful.  "Usagi was one of the
three girls that went missing during that cat attack.  Rei and Minako
were with her.  That means that those two could be Senshi as well."  She
frowned.  "Neither Jupiter of Mars has blond hair, so probably neither
one of them is Minako...."

    "Venus."  Ryoga broke in.  "Venus is the other blond... well the one
with long hair, anyway."

    Nabiki nodded, musing.  "So Minako is probably Sailor Venus...
unless they can change their hair...."  Nabiki trailed off as she
noticed Ryoga's eyes turn away from her and his whole body tense up in
preparation.  She turned to look for what could have put him so much on
guard, then blinked.  Ahead of them the Senshi had stopped, and further
down the trail two crouching forms waited for them on all fours.  Even
from as the rear of the group, Nabiki recognized them.  "Ranma... and
Ranko.  Uh oh.  This is not good."

    Sailor Moon started to step forward cautiously, pulling out her
scepter.  "Stay still, Ranma and Ranko, and I'll heal you."

    The two Ranma's started to hiss threateningly and Sailor Mars
grabbed Sailor Moon's arm to pull her back.  "I'm sensing an evil
presence here Sailor Moon, stay back."

    Sailor Moon waved an arm towards the two Neko-ken style martial
artists.  "But I can heal them!"  She glanced towards them and her eyes
widened.  Abruptly she shoved Sailor Mars hard, pushing them both to the
ground an instant before the two insane martial artists swiped claws
made of chi though the air where they had been standing.  Instincts born
of long practice and hundreds of battles kicked in and Sailor Mars and
Moon immediately rolled in opposite directions, barely avoiding a second
attack and a third, which tore up the ground behind them.

    Jupiter swore under her breath and charged up her quickest attack,
throwing a small ball of plasma underhanded without taking the time for
a command phrase.  The attack was small, but sufficient to distract
Ranko, who had been about to pounce on Sailor Moon.  A hail of bandannas
followed Jupiter's attack a moment later, causing Ranma to quit
attacking Mars long enough to swat them out of the air.

    Time seemed to slow down around her as Nabiki watched in horror as
the battle began.  Ryoga charged forward, leaping at Ranma with a
sidekick.  Ranma knocked Ryoga out of the air with another swipe, bits
of cloth and drops of blood flying, while Nabiki tried to force herself
to act.

    <Move!>  Something inside her yelled.  <What are you doing just
standing there girl?  MOVE!>  Nabiki witnessed Sailor Moon continuing to
dodge frantically while Jupiter continued to lob balls of electricity at
Ranko ineffectually.  The insane red head was somehow tearing each
energy sphere to shreds before it reached her.  Only small amounts of
electricity got through, just enough to make her hair stand on end.

    With the moment's respite given her by Ryoga, Mars had rolled to her
feet and was hurriedly charging a brace of wards.  "This is more than it
seems!"  She yelled.  "They're both possessed!"  Mars jumped, throwing a
dozen charged wards at Ranma, even as he turned back toward her.  Ranma
scattered the wards almost effortlessly, tearing most of them into
strips with swipes from his chi claws.

    Ryoga had bounced back from the hit he had taken almost immediately,
unfolding his umbrella and sending it spinning in Ranma's direction.  He
waited for Ranma to notice the umbrella then jumped, using it for a
moment's cover as Ranma tore it to pieces.  He focused his energy into a
ball in front of him, but not really having the time to bring his
depression to the fore, the resulting chi attack was weaker then he
liked.  Ryoga fired it off anyway, to capitalize on the distraction.
Ranma met the attack barely in time, shredding it just before it reached
him, the resulting explosion throwing him back.

    "Don't hold back!"  Ryoga shouted to the Senshi.  "Only your
strongest attacks can stop them!"

    On the sidelines, Nabiki still couldn't force herself to act.
Charging either Ranma seemed tantamount to suicide, and she was
beginning to wonder if she could even help.  It was more likely that she
would just get in the way, Nabiki rationalized.  She suddenly noticed
that Dr. Tofu and Diana were hanging back as well, still supporting
Atlanta between them, and felt a guilty surge of relief that she wasn't
the only one staying put.

    Dr. Tofu was scanning the area around them anxiously, as if looking
for something.  "We are too close to Jusenkyo for this to be a
coincidence...."  He handed Artemis off to Luna and grimaced.  "But I've
no choice.  I must stop Ranma and Ranko."  The doctor sprang away into
the wild melee, leaving Nabiki and the two transformed moon cats behind.

    Nabiki started scanning her surroundings as well, checking the
horizon for threats.  "He's right.  Taro, Happosai and the others, they
could attack at any...."  Nabiki paled as she noticed the rapidly
growing shadow that had replaced the one below Diana and Atlanta.  "Look

    Pantyhose Taro in his monster form swooped straight out of the sun,
backhanding both girls with one massive arm, sending the two cats turned
girls tumbling end over end to crash to earth two dozen yards away.
Even barely conscious, Luna somehow managed to tuck Artemis into her
body in an instinctive attempt to shield her from the landing, and even
managed to get her legs mostly underneath them before they hit.

    Nabiki blinked twice in astonishment.  < She really is a cat!>  The
two transformed girls lay in a heap, not moving, and Taro turned to face
Nabiki.  The mercenary Tendo's blood seemed to freeze solid.  < I'm
dead, I'm dead, I'm dead....>  Slowly, quaveringly, inch by inch, Nabiki
backed up to the cliff wall they had been walking alongside, as Taro
advanced contemptuously on her, obviously not seeing her as any sort of

    Nabiki couldn't seem to convince herself he was wrong.  < What can I
do against him?  He can beat Ranma on an average day; he slaps Ryoga
around like a tennis ball.  I can't possibly win.  I'm completely out of
my league here.>  Nabiki felt her back hit granite just as Taro got into
range of his massive fists.  As he swung,  Nabiki flinched instinctively
away.  < I'M DEAD!!!>

    There was a thunderous crash as Taro's fist smashed into the stone
just above her head, showing Nabiki with dust and small rocks.
Everything went from a moving in slow motion to nearly a complete stop
around her.  Nabiki saw the opening as clear as day and went for it with
adrenaline enhanced speed and strength, stepping inside his guard and
booting the giant right between the legs with every ounce of strength
she had.  As he started to fold up in pain, Nabiki looked up at his
head, at his cowlike eyes welling up in pain.  He was still wide open,
and she took advantage of that, clambering up the monster like he was a
staircase and grabbing on to his right ear with her left hand, Nabiki
wound up and punched him as hard as she could in his eye.

    Taro managed to shut the lid just before she hit, but the blow
caused him incredible pain nevertheless.  He reared back, his animal
instincts taking over momentarily as Nabiki held on grimly and somehow
managed to hit him in the face again and again each time he tried to
throw her off.  Acting more like her younger sister than Akane herself
could, Nabiki let a combination of beserker rage and her own
dispassionate intellect turn her into something momentarily inhuman, and

    But only for a moment.  Taro was more of a monster than Nabiki could
ever be, and he tore her away from his head with a pair of tentacles,
which slammed her into the broken cliff wall with all the force they
could muster.  Right eye swollen shut, nose bleeding, and temple
throbbing in pain, the monster looked down at the unconscious girl in
front of him with a mixture of fury and respect.  Those emotions warred
in him for only a moment before a third force took over.  Taro turned
toward the still ongoing battle, the power of the hypnosis incense
forcing him back into the fight, leaving the still Nabiki Tendo behind.

    Sailor Moon ran for her life.  Ranko pursed her like a cat playing
with its prey, and that was pretty much what she felt like.  No matter
how she ducked, dodged, or ran, Ranko kept up with ease, swiping at her
with her claws almost playfully.  For Usagi, however, the game was
anything but fun.  One of her favorite blouses was rapidly reaching the
rag stage, and her skin was covered with red marks from near misses and
a half dozen shallow cuts as well.

    Her skin was more resilient in her Senshi form, or she would have
been cut to ribbons already.  Usagi's regular clothes, however, had none
of the resiliency of her stolen costume.  Sailor Moon was grateful that
she had chosen to wear a blouse and a pair of shorts rather than her
summer dress, but only peripherally.  After all, she had more important
things to worry about then her modesty.

    Ranko's chi claws were rather tame compared to some of the attacks
that had been thrown at her in the past... it was the small girl's sheer
speed which was the problem.  Sailor Moon knew she could heal her, bring
her back to herself, if she could just get away long enough to use her
healing power.  It was starting to look like she wasn't going to get
that chance.

    Jupiter growled and started charging up her most powerful attack.
"Jupiter..."  Her smaller attacks weren't working, barely slowing Ranko
down....  "Oak..." Makoto just hoped Sailor Moon would stay ahead of the
catlike red head for just a few seconds more.  "Evolution!!!"

    The hundreds of green bolts of energy got Ranko's attention, all
right, and more.  Suddenly the small girl went from predator to prey,
dodging some of them and scattering other's with her chi claws.  For
several seconds it was all she could do just to survive, and she was
sent tumbling as the final few bolts got through her guard.

    Sailor Moon had come to a stop when Ranko was driven away from her
by the attack, and quickly she brought out her scepter, getting ready to
act.  As Ranko went down under Jupiter's attack, however, she hesitated.

    "Oh no."  Sailor Moon looked shocked.  "She's not a Youma... is
she...?"  Ranko bounced back to her feet with a snarling answer to
Sailor Moon's question, and bounded toward Jupiter.  The Moon Senshi
gulped.  "Whoops!  Moon...."  The build up of energy caught Ranko's
attention and she glanced in Sailor Moon's direction, then started
racing toward her instead.  "Healing...."  Sailor Moon glowed with the
power, and knew she was going to make it.  Ranko couldn't reach her in
time, and the battle would be as good as won.  "Escal... yipes!!!"

    A pair of hands had slid inside her tattered shirt and was feeling
her up, causing Sailor Moon to lose her focus.  "Hotcha!"  A familiar
voice gleefully said in her ear.  "Young stuff, but not bad, not bad at
all!"  Sailor Moon turned inside Happosai's grasp and tried to break
loose, bringing her scepter down on the youthened pervert's head like a
club.  Happosai jumped away at the last second, waving a pink rag in one
hand.  "Yah yah, come and get me, girl!"

    Sailor Moon glanced down long enough to register the fact that yes,
Happosai had stolen what was left of her blouse, and no, she wasn't
wearing anything underneath it, when she was forced to run as Ranko came
after her again.

    Ryoga and Sailor Mars had been fighting Ranma for less than thirty
seconds, but it seemed like two or three lifetimes.  The insane cat
style fighter was fast enough to keep both of them too busy dodging to
think about trying to properly counter attack.  Even the addition of Dr.
Tofu to the mix hadn't helped, as he couldn't get close enough to the
cat fist fighter to use his pressure point techniques without Ranma
cutting him into strips.  Only ranged attacks were affective against
Ranma.  But so far Ryoga couldn't generate a big enough chi blast to
make a difference in this fight.

    Sailor Mars had gotten off several Fire Souls, but hadn't had the
time to generate anything more powerful.  It was obvious that her lesser
attacks weren't going to be enough, though.  They needed a plan to win,
and quickly, before one of them faltered or fell.  It was the doctor
that came up with it.

    "I'll distract him!"  Dr. Tofu yelled quickly.  "Then Mars next, and

    Ryoga nodded.  "I'll finish him off.  Right."

    Dr. Tofu threw a smoke bomb at Ranma and dived into the cloud,
trying to get past the cat-fist fighter's guard.  There was an angry
howl and the sound of chi claws cutting into the ground, and Mars
started powering up a more powerful attack.  "Burning..." Dr. Tofu came
flying out of the smoke cloud, looking badly clawed.  He landed limply
several yards away it, either unconscious or nearly so.  Mars didn't
hesitate, continuing her attack phrase.  "Mandala!" Ranma bounced out of
the smoke, noticed Mars' attack building, and headed for her with a
leap, just a second too late.

    Sailor Mars brought her hands closed, sending dozens of fire rings
winging in Ranma's direction.  The pig tailed Martial artist swiped at
the rings as they closed in, causing them to erupt in a fiery explosion
just feet short of impact.  Ranma was thrown back long enough for Mars
to begin a second attack.  "Mars..."

    Ryoga had started focusing his Chi the second Ranma had gone after
Mars.  He knew that he needed the distraction in order to have the time
to build up a powerful enough attack to get through, but if he had
started any earlier, Ranma would have gone after him instead of Mars.
Ryoga pictured what would have happened if they had tried this the other
way, with one of Mar's "Flame Sniper" attacks burning a hole right
through Ranma.  Possessed or not, it wasn't the way he wanted his old
rival to go out, and the image was depressing enough to begin.

    "Perfect...."  Ranma reached Sailor Mars and knocked her spinning
just before she could finish a second attack.  Before he could finish
off the Senshi of fire, however, he noticed the build up of power from
Ryoga and turned to rush the lost boy.  "Shi..." As Ranma rushed him,
Ryoga bleakly realized what it meant if Ranma was attacking them.
<Akane must already be dead.>  "Hi..." Ranma was almost upon him but
Ryoga no longer cared.  <Kasumi, Ukyo, even Johnathon, they're all
gone... everyone is gone, and I could have prevented it.  It's all my
fault.> Ryoga shouted the final word as tears ran down his face.

    A huge green pillar of energy shot into the sky, even as Ranma
reached Ryoga and took the lost boy down with a lightning fast series of
claw swipes.  Ryoga fell soundlessly, filled with a terrible depression,
even as the energy he had released came back down.  Ranma looked up in
feline curiosity, then fear, and tried to run a moment too late.  The
released energy of Ryoga's Perfect Shi Hi Hokodan slammed down on him
like a freight train, creating a huge explosion and leaving a thirty
foot wide crater around Ryoga, who was the only thing inside the area
untouched by the attack.

    Pantyhose Taro stopped just outside of the crater, having realized
what Ryoga had been planning to do in time to avoid the attack.
Figuring Ryoga to be either dead or unconscious from his own attack he
was astonished to see the lost boy slowly getting to his feet, scratched
and bloody, and looking like he was on the edge of consciousness, but
still moving.  The monster growled to himself and dived at Ryoga before
he could have time to recover.

    Ryoga blinked at the sight of Ranma's unconscious form.  "I did
it."  He muttered in astonishment.  "I beat Ranma."  A huge fist slammed
into the back of his head, causing Ryoga to crash face first into the
hard baked ground in front of him.

    Pantyhose Taro hit him a couple more times to make sure, then
sniffed in disgust.  <Never thought that beating the cross-dresser was
all that special myself... but whatever makes you happy... loser.>  He
turned to face off with Sailor Mars, who was just starting to stagger
back to her feet.  He spotted Shampoo sneaking up behind her and decided
to keep Sailor Mars' attention by stalking menacingly toward her.

    Sailor Mars reacted predictably, powering up her strongest attack
with the time he was giving her.  "Mars...  Flame...  Snipe...."  The
Senshi of the red planet fell over limply, Shampoo standing behind her
with one of her trusty bonbori raised after giving Mars a good tap to
the back of her head.  Shampoo didn't pause to celebrate her victory,
but instead turned to go after new prey... specifically Sailor Jupiter.
She and Taro had been given specific instructions not to go near her
unless they saw an easy way to finish her without getting hit by one of
her attacks, and like it or not, they had no choice but to obey.

    Sailor Jupiter was so far beyond angry she couldn't think of a good
word to use for how she felt.  "Calm."  She whispered to herself
incredulously.  "I'm calm."  It was true, watching Sailor Moon be
attacked by Ranko and molested by Happosai for the last twenty seconds,
despite her best efforts and most powerful attacks, had taken Jupiter
past the highest point of rage, and left her strangely peaceful.  "Hey
Happosai."  Jupiter spoke just loud enough for the youthened pervert to
hear.  "Check these out, if you like Sailor Moon's so much."

    Happosai couldn't help but look and was spellbound as Jupiter calmly
pulled her tee shirt over her head and let it drop, leaving a pair of
gorgeous breasts defenseless for him to admire.  He knew it was a trap
from the moment he leapt at her, but he didn't care.  Arms open, mouth
drooling, the conscious part of his brain noticed the acrid smell of
ozone as he closed with Sailor Jupiter with open arms, ready to glomp.
His higher functions warned him of the telltale sparks that were
starting to fly from the Senshi of electricity's eyes as he reached
her.  When she hugged him to her naked breasts with every bit as much
energy as he grabbed on to her, warning bells rang in his ears that
would waken Godzilla from it's watery grave every bit as well as nuclear
testing.  None of it mattered a bit.

    When the mother of all lightning bolts shot out of a clear sky to
engulf both Sailor Jupiter and Happosai, he didn't move.  "It was worth
it...."  He whispered faintly as he slipped into unconsciousness, smoke
whisking up from his charred form as Jupiter dropped him to the
blackened ground.

    "I should hope so."  Jupiter spat out with one final look at him to
make sure he was really out.  "Because you'll never get another
chance."  She staggered with weakness as she took a step away from him,
turning to try and locate Ranko and Sailor Moon.  The feedback from
electrocuting Happosai had nearly finished her, but there was no way
that she was ready to go down with Sailor Moon still in trouble.

    Sailor Moon was somehow still on her feet, frantically dodging
Ranko's attacks, but before Jupiter could go to her rescue once more,
Shampoo and Pantyhose Taro got in the way, obviously blocking her from
helping her leader.  Jupiter started to charge another attack, trying to
ignore the fatigue, even as the monster and the Amazon closed in.

    Sailor Moon couldn't really say what it was that kept her on her
feet.  She had seen her friends go down one by one.  She was covered in
welts and shallow cuts from Ranko's relentless attack, and she couldn't
stop long enough to strike back.  She had been in bad situations before,
but she couldn't recall one quite as horrifying as this... or at least
she didn't really want to.  Usagi found herself wishing that Tuxedo mask
would sweep down and rescue her like he used to, although being in
China, she didn't think it was very likely.  Given her state of dress,
or rather the lack of it, having her boyfriend suddenly appear would
possibly be one of the most embarrassing things that could happen to
her, but Usagi would put up with far worse at that point for a rescue of
any sort.

    Sailor Moon continued to dodge most of Ranko's swipes, and parry
others with her Moon Scepter, but it wasn't enough, she couldn't
counterattack.  Any physical attack she could try would just get her
even worse injured, and her energy attacks took more time than she could
spare.  If it weren't for the very real threat of getting cut into small
chunks by Ranko's chi claws, she would have dropped from exhaustion and
pain already.

    As Sailor Moon saw a slightly charbroiled Pantyhose Taro coming
toward her with an angry look in his remaining good eye, she sighed.
<I'm sorry, Mamo-chan...  it doesn't look like I will be coming back
this time.>

    As the sounds of battle finally died down, Cliopatra came out from
her hiding place near Jusenkyo, followed by her new retinue.  The half
cat Johnathon was just behind her and to the left, as suited her
consort.  Akane, Ukyo, and the Kuno siblings fanned out around them like
the loyal guards they now were.  Kasumi and Misty followed several paces
back, eyes down like proper servants.  As she reached the scene of the
fight she blinked in amazement.  Only Pantyhose Taro and Ranko were
still moving out of the group she had sent to attack the Senshi, and
both of them looked like they had been through a war.

    Clio sighed in mild relief to see that Taro was carrying a blond
girl with long ponytails over to her.  "So this must be Sailor Moon."
She shook her head in disgust as the monster stopped in front of her
with his prize.  "Couldn't the five of you handle a few girls?  What
happened here?"  She looked around, spotting the fallen bodies of the
others.  "Never mind."  She shook her head, then pointed out at the
battlefield.  "Collect our prisoners and bring them to the springs.  We
can decide what we'll do with them there."  Akane, Ukyo, Kasumi, Misty,
and the Kunos hurried to obey, as did the half cat by her side.

    "Not you."  Clio said to Johnathon, holding him back.  "Stay by my
side and protect me."  She looked up at Taro.  "And you, come with me as
well, and bring little Miss Moon with you."  Taro nodded, and Cliopatra
glanced over at Ranko dubiously.  "Now what should I do with you...."

    "She's mine now."  A voice purred from out of the empty air behind
her.  "As is Ranma, and Shampoo.  I control them, not you."  The Ghost
Cat appeared next to Cliopatra, smiling.  "And now that I've fulfilled
my end of the bargain, I'll take my new bride and go... along with my
new bodyguards."  The Ghost Cat started to groom its whiskers calmly.
"That's what we agreed, correct?"

    Cliopatra frowned.  <Both Ranmas and Shampoo?  I think not, fool.>
"Of course, of course."  She assured him with a feline smile.  "As we
agreed.  But wouldn't you prefer to remain with me a bit longer?  The
rest of the Sailor Senshi might be coming at any time...."

    The Ghost Cat shivered in sudden fear.  "On second thought, I might
stick around for a while."

    Clio nodded gracefully.  "I thought you might."  <Yes, just give me
a bit more time, and I'll find a way to bind you to me as well.>  Clio
turned to walk back to Jusenkyo.  "Now if Gosenkugi has just finished
translating that map to the springs... we can finish what we started."


    Mamoru Chiba crashed through the front door to Tomoe Souichi's house
at a run.  "She's in trouble!"  He shouted to the small group of girls
gathered there.  "We've got to help her!"  He blinked at seeing Ami and
Minako in the room with Setsuna, Haruka, Michiru, and Hotaru.  "How did

    Setsuna sighed.  "I called them.  I'm afraid Sailor Moon is in great
danger... as your arrival proves."

    Haruka spoke up.  "So we go rescue her, right?  What are we just
sitting around here for?"

    Setsuna shook her head.  "It's not that simple, Haruka.  While we
can guess where Usagi and the others are right now, that doesn't mean we
can reach them."

    Ami spoke up.  "We can't teleport somewhere without knowing where it
is first... and Usagi's in China right now."

    Minako looked confused.  "Wait... we teleported to the moon before,
right?  Right to where the palace used to be.  We didn't know where that
was either."

    Setsuna shook her head.  "Your past lives remembered.  You may not
recall much of the past, but enough for that.  You can go to the moon,
or to a point you can see with a Sailor Teleport... or anywhere you can
remember being... but none of you have been to China."

    Hotaru spoke up.  "Have you ever been to China, Setsuna-momma?  I
remember that old woman...  Cologne, saying she knew you... did you meet
her in China?"

    Setsuna flinched.  <Trust Hotaru to remember that much.>  "I have...
but never closer than a day's journey to Jusenkyo.  I avoided the place
for obvious reasons.  Trying to teleport there would not be advisable...
although it is one option."

    Mamoru Chiba jumped on the hint.  "So there is more than one
option?  We may not have days to get there.  Is there any way to get
there faster?"

    Setsuna sighed.  "One... the gates of time.  I do not advise this
lightly, as the gates should not be used except in the most dire
emergencies... and never to travel in time unless there is a threat to
the timestream... which this is not."

    Ami spoke up.  "Can we use the gates to travel in space as well?"

    Setsuna nodded.  "It is possible... time and space are one, to the
gates... but the price is almost always high to use the gates.  I cannot
say what the price may be...  I cannot even ask any of you to come...."
The tumult in response to that nearly deafened her.  "I suspected you'd
all feel that way... and Mamoru-san is correct.  We do not have any more
time to waste."  Setsuna stood up from the couch and brought up her
transformation pen.  "So let's waste no more time.  Pluto planet
power... make up!"  The other Senshi all started to transform as well,
and when the lights stopped flashing, Tuxedo Mask had joined them.

    Pluto swung her staff and stamped one end to the floor, and the
gates of time appeared behind her.  "Follow me, everyone."  She strode
to the gates and they opened before her.  "Steel yourselves, and
concentrate on staying together.  You do not want to become separated
while we travel, but if you do, focus your thoughts on reaching Sailor
Moon.  Now follow me... and hurry!"  Sailor Pluto slipped quickly
through the gates, followed by the rest of the Senshi and Tuxedo Mask.

            End Chapter 16

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