Subject: [FFML] [fanfic][SM/YST]Ronin Summer Convergence 2!
From: "Morgan Hudson" <>
Date: 1/16/2006, 8:26 AM

And now, after my first new chapter, I proudly present... my SECOND new 
chapter! Ta-dah! ^_^

Seriously, the second chapter is way harder than the first. For one thing, 
you can take as much time as you want on the first chapter, but people kind 
of expect the second one in a timely manner. This was as timely as I could 
make it. Fell sick for a bit, so I am behind schedule as usual, but I am 
already under way on chapter 3, and I promise it will be done by the end of 

Well, those certainly don't sound like words I will live to regret... ^_^

You may notice the story looks a little different: I have started to put 
line breaks between each paragraph. I know some people don't like it, but 
somebody awesome told me that the indents I use in my word processor are not 
making it through everybody's system, so I put the line breaks in to make it 
easier for those of you who cannot see my pretty indentations. If it helps, 
send me a line letting me know. If it makes your eyes bleed, send me a line 
letting me know. I'll take anything, as long as it is C&C.

Have I mentioned that I thrive on C&C? I am like a tiny flower, parched for 
the smallest drop of attention from you, the kind and wonderful readers of 
the FFML. At least let me know you're reading it, if nothing else, okay? I 
like to hear from my readers, even if they are just saying "hi". Seriously, 
ask around: I will take whatever you guys are willing to give as far as C&C 
goes. I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank all of the people who 
took the time to write me back after my first chapter: you guys (and girl) 
all rock, and I am truly awed that some of you actually took the time to 
remember who I was and drop me a line after all these years.

Aw, shucks, I'm getting all misty-eyed over here. On with the fic, already!

-- Attached file included as plaintext by Ecartis --
-- File: Convergence2.txt

REVAMPED LEGAL DISCLAIMER: Whatever else may have changed in this story
of mine, trust me - the Sailor Senshi still belong to Kodansha and
Cloverway, and the Samurai Troopers are the legal property of Sunrise and
Bandai Entertainment. So are all of their related friends and associates.
I am only borrowing them for a few chapters, and I intend no harm. So
let's all remind ourselves that it's just a fanfiction and we really
should relax...

CONTINUITY NOTE: This chapter takes place roughly between the "SuperS"
and "Stars" seasons of Sailor Moon (after the Dead Moon Circus, but
before Sailor Galaxia). For the Troopers, this is between the "Gaiden"
and "Kikoutei Densetsu" OAVs (after their trip to New York, but before
their trip to Africa). The event at Nango Beach that the Senshi and
Troopers go to is known as the Day Break Festival, and it takes place on
the 20th of July. All of the temples in the area take their shrines and
holy artifacts down to the sea to be purified in the waters of the ocean.
Nango Beach is located in Chigasaki City, which is about 20 minutes south
of Yokohama by train. And yes, they do have a giant boulder that is shaped
like a hat. It is called the "Eboshi-Iwa", and it is about 2 km from the
shore of the beach. Shin's a very strong swimmer, which is why he was
able to get there with so little difficulty. ^_^

                      RONIN SUMMER: CONVERGENCE

  A Bishoujou Senshi Sailor Moon / Yoroiden Samurai Troopers cross-over

                          by Morgan Hudson

"Convergence (n) - the approach of an infinite series to a finite limit."

Chapter 2: The Devils And The Deep Blue Sea

	Few places on Earth are lonelier than a beach in the middle of
the night. The long stretches of sand sprawl empty and abandoned, the
water lapping gently against the shore with almost no sign that humanity
even existed at all, let alone visited this part of the world. No
buildings marred the horizon, no lights polluted the sky and blotted out
the cold gleam of the stars.

	The crimson-haired youth smiled to himself as he strolled easily
along the surface of the water, stepping from the crest of one wave to the
next. He was dressed in a pair of white khakis and dock shoes, with a
black dress shirt that was hanging open at the collar and his jacket
hanging over his shoulder by the crook of one finger. He appeared to be a
pleasant enough fellow, as long as anybody looking avoided staring into
his eyes. It was in the eyes that any similarity between Nise Suiko and a
member of the human race abruptly ended: they were swirling pools of venom
and malice, completely devoid of any warmth or decency. Nise Suiko had the
eyes of a stalking predator, a rabid dog barely clinging to its lucidity.
They were not, as some might have mistaken them, the eyes of a lunatic.
Nise Suiko was not insane; he was a monster. He wore the shape of humanity
the way that some spiders disguised themselves as flowers to fool their
prey into getting close enough to devour.

	His compatriot, visible only as a trail of bubbles that rose to
the surface occasionally and a ripple of motion around Nise Suiko's
ankles, was also a monster. He, however, was one that had a little more
trouble going down to the local mall without causing a scene. His name
was Vepres, and he was very busy getting ready for the festival tommorow.

	Nise Suiko's mouth twisted with distaste. Every year, these grimy
little humans had the nerve to perform a 'purification' ritual in this
water. As if they had the right to decide what was and wasn't dirty; as
if filth could be expected to judge filth. The sheer gall of it was enough
to get on his nerves when he was having a good day, and with his entire
body still aching from his battle with Sailor Mars and his pride wounded
after finding himself at the mercy of Shin Mouri (a name he hated above
every other human on the planet), he was far from having a good day.

	Fortunately, his masters had been pleased with him: Radanthus for
his game attempt at wiping out the Sailor Senshi, and Badamon for managing
to get the Samurai Troopers dragged into their affair. Exactly why the
ghastly old priest wanted to see two seperate teams of do-gooders bearing
down on their doorstep baffled Nise Suiko, but any reason to put a hurting
onto Shin Mouri was a good one in his book. Badamon had promised him that
before this whole thing was over, they were going to be clearing a couple
of entries out of the old vengeance log, and Nise Suiko was nearly
shivering with anticipation.

	Glancing down at the satin depths of the ocean below him, he
scowled slightly. Darkness and depth meant nothing to his sight: he could
track Vepres' progress from the surface without needing to get his socks
wet. A thick trail of glimmering specks were trailing off of the hulking
green figure trudging along the sea bottom like a thick plume of silt
being churned by his motion. As Nise Suiko watched, a small school of
fish darted past behind Vepres, flitting quickly through the shimmering
cloud of sparks.

	There was a blur of motion, and a sharp increase in the light from
below. The light faded, and the first of the fish bobbed up next to his
shoe, bone white and dead as a mackerel on a hook. After a few seconds,
the rest of the school floated to the top as well, staring lifelessly up
at him. Nise Suiko smiled and looked down at the vast trail of spores,
feeling the life grow and pulse within them. Just a handful of hours, and
those hypocritical humans would get to see what 'the purifying ocean' was
really like.

	The only thing left to do was be nice and obvious, just like
Badamon wanted. With a sneer of distaste, Nise Suiko thrust his arm
up into the sky. As he clenched his fist, red lightning crackled through
the sky and the water under his feet swirled and twisted around itself
until he was standing on a dry seabed with churning walls of ocean
spinning about him in a towering vortex. Crouched behind an exposed piece
of coral, Vepres looked at him in confusion.

	"Trust me," Nise Suiko said with a smirk. "Even if he were a
thousand miles away, there's no way Shin Mouri could sleep through this.
That little water lily will know something is wrong. He'll SENSE it." The
red-haired man's eyes narrowed dangerously.

	"That's right," he growled, almost to himself. "Feel it, Shin.
Feel it right to the core of your pathetic little bones. I want you to
feel what I'm doing to your precious ocean, and I want you to know that
I'm the one doing it. I want you to come, Suiko no Shin! I want you here,
and I want you to bring every friend you've got!"

	The sea surged, rising up higher and higher as it stretched into
the sky in a massive waterspout. Lightning split the sky and thunder
ripped through the abandoned beach as Nise Suiko threw his head back and
began to cackle. It was a crazed, warbling laugh, stretched on for much
longer than should have been possible without needing breath. Vepres
cowered behind his coral, his blank eyes expressing a vague concern for
his continued well-being.

	Nise Suiko's fingers twitched, and the entire waterspout flexed.
The seas calmed and slowly melted back into their proper place as though
nothing had ever happened. Shin Mouri would come, after that. The only
thing left to do now was wait for him.


	There was absoulutely nothing that Usagi Tsukino hated more than
a good mystery. To begin with, they were very complicated and she was
rarely able to understand them (lack of motivation helped with this). It
only made things worse that most of her friends positively thrived on
a good mystery, in the sense that if one reared its nasty little head
they were usually quite happy to put everything else on hold until they
had solved it. This almost always seemed to cut into Usagi's personal
time, which was something she had long ago begun feeling very offended
by. The final insult was that mysteries always seemed to lead to other
things that she hated, like studying, and being forced to do things.

	With a deep and hearfelt sigh, Usagi blinked wearily up at the
pages of her manga. It was the twelfth time she had read this particular
issue, and the pages were beginning to curl of their own volition. She
had thought that it might be a little more interesting if she read it
upside-down, which explained why she was lying on her back with her head
dangling over the edge of the bed while she held the comic at arm's
length and squinted at it. Occasionally, she would pull it in closer and
try to make out a particular word.

	Usagi did not have bad eyesight - the fact that she was able to
read at all in such poor light was testament to sharp eyes and a childhood
filled with carrot sticks. The room she was in was almost completely dark,
with only a small crack of sunlight creeping in between the drapes as
they stirred slightly in the breeze of the softly humming air conditioner.
Usagi looked over at the window and sighed again. She remembered the sun.
She had been hoping to get more than just a peek at it on her summer
vacation. She could lock herself in a bedroom and read manga just fine at
home without all the annoyance of only having a handful to choose from.

	Rei Hino sat cross-legged a few feet away, her hands clasped
firmly in front of her with the index fingers extended. Talking to her
was about as productive as trying to chat with a brick, as Usagi had
already learned. The raven-haired priestess was in complete meditation
mode, facing a metal trash can that the other girls had started a small
fire in for her. It wasn't exactly the sacred fire from the shrine back
home, but then again Rei wasn't exactly wearing her usual Shinto robes,
either. Usagi had wondered whether it was possible to properly meditate
in a t-shirt and a backwards ball cap, but apparently that was a new
question to add to her growing list of things it wasn't worth asking Rei
about. Getting attacked by monsters always made Rei into a grump.

	The door to their hotel room buzzed softly and clicked as the
lock slid back automatically. Holding her keycard in one hand, Ami Mizuno
stepped into the room and frowned. She had been out for nearly three
hours, and by the looks of things she had been having about as much luck
as Rei and Usagi at getting to the bottom of their little mystery.

	"Well," she said, tossing her purse onto one of the beds and
placing her key on the counter, "I spoke to Minako, and she says she'll
ask Luna about these Samurai Trooper people the first chance she gets.
Apparently Artemis is still sick, and Luna's been keeping him company.
Minako doesn't want him to know that we may up to something again, or you
know he'll want to get in on it. She said she can be here in an hour if
we think we need Sailor Venus - I told her the three of us could handle
things for now, but we'll need to keep in touch with her or she'll feel
left out."

	"Any luck with the rest of the gang?" Usagi asked curiously. As
big a pain as having yet another demon invasion (or whatever) interrupt
her vacation was, it was always hard not to get excited when they started
rallying the troops.

	"I was able to get in touch with Haruka," Ami admitted as she
sat next to Usagi on the bed and lay back with a groan. "She was on her
way out the door, and she told me to remind you that this sort of thing
isn't really her area of expertise, but she'll talk to Michiru and see if
there's some way they can track down Sailor Pluto for us. If the Samurai
Troopers are anything worth knowing about, Setsuna should be able to tell
us something about them." Ami closed her eyes and sighed happily as the
air conditioning washed over her. It had been almost thirty-four degrees
outside, and it was yet another humid, sticky day. Ami had taken almost
twenty minutes just to find a pay phone that she could use, and then
she had been stuck in the cramped little booth for nearly another hour
trying to reach everybody back in Juuban. Coming back to the hotel was a
welcome relief. "She also wanted you to know that if you're expecting any
trouble, she and Michiru can get to Yokohama in under twenty minutes."

	"With the way Haruka drives, I believe it." Usagi chuckled and
sat up. "No luck with Makoto?"

	Ami winced. This was the bad part of the report. "Not really.
She's not at home, and when I tried to reach her cell phone it just went
straight to her voicemail. As far as I can tell, she doesn't even have
her communicator on her - I tried using that, too, and didn't even get a
signal. Haruka said that she stopped by their place yesterday to talk to
Michiru for a while and borrow some stuff, but she didn't know what it
was about. Minako hasn't seen her since before we left."

	"Weird. Mako-chan's not usually this hard to get ahold of."

	Rei grimaced and pressed her hand to her head, swaying slightly
as the flames in the trash can roared suddenly to life, swirling upwards
in a pillar of fire that briefly licked the ceiling of the room. Yelping,
Usagi bounded off of the bed and grabbed her friend before Rei could
tumble forward into the blaze. Ami quickly snatched a tray off of the
counter and slapped it down neatly over the trash can, smothering the
fire before it could set off any alarms.

	Rei blinked and stared up at Usagi, her eyes unfocused. "The
ships," she muttered. "The ships are choking... all those people..."

	"Ships? What ships? What do ships have to do with anything?"

	"Sailor Moon!" Her eyes clearing, Rei gripped Usagi by the
shoulder with surprising strength. "It's the festival! We have to get to
Chigasaki for the festival, or they're all going to die!"


	Even at six in the morning, Nango Beach was crowded. Thousands of
people, locals and tourists alike, had congregated to this stretch of
sand near Chigasaki to take part in the Day Break Festival, and maybe
just enjoy a nice day at the beach while they were at it. Multi-coloured
balls bobbed and floated serenely through the air, deftly avoiding the
spinning Frisbees and volleyballs they shared their space with. Surfboards
dotted the sand like the neon teeth of a massive shark: with the coming
of the typhoon season, the local surfers were looking forward to the first
really good waves of the season. The sun had already made its presence
very well known, and swarms of younger children had taken to the water
to escape the baking heat. A number of priests waded in the shallows,
smiling and nodding amicably to the kids as they splashed about where the
large floating shrines filled with charms and talismans waited to be
purified in the seas for the year. Nearly sixty men dressed in black and
white ceremonial garb and wearing bright yellow headbands stood ready to
push the shrines out into the surf when the time came.

	Shin Mouri was among the surfers riding the waves that morning. He
had dodged icebergs in the waves off of Hokkaido and handled headers on
the Great Barrier Reef - the early swells of this particular sea were
little more than a pleasant distraction from his real mission. After his
screams last night had woken the entire house, he and Ryo and Shuu had
gotten together for an early morning strategy session. Based on the
general sensation that Shin had gotten from his armour, they had decided
that if Nise Suiko were still alive and around, this was the perfect
target for him. With so many people, and so many holy relics, he could
murder and desecrate at will without even needing to try. If there was
one thing that Shin's twisted doppelganger loved, it was desecrating the
seas and causing a scene.

	Hence, it had fallen to Shin to serve as a forward scout of sorts.
As the Yoroi Senshi of Suiko, his armour's magic gave him a supernatural
affinity for the water. If his evil twin wanted to try anything, then
Shin would be waiting nearby to counter it and show Nise Suiko exactly
who was the *real* master of the seas. Of course, as they had reasoned,
if they were lucky nothing would happen at all and they would have to
settle for a day of hanging out on the beach, playing in the water and
working on their tans. Considering they were officially supposed to be on
vacation anyway, it had seemed like a risk worth taking.

	A couple of kids splashed by, gripping their foam swim boards
tightly and kicking up more foam than a motorboat. Shin raised his arm
to shield his eyes from the spray and chuckled softly as they passed. No
matter how crazy things were getting, with evil clones coming back from
the dead and such, it was nice to know he could still stretch out on a
surfboard and relax in the sun for a bit.

	"Hey, Shin! How's tricks?" Safely ensconced in inflatable rubber,
Shuu Rei Fuan bobbed over to his friend with an enthusiastic grin. The
stocky Chinese boy was wearing banana yellow trunks and standard orange
water wings, with what appeared to be an inflatable dragon around his
waist. A snorkel and a pair of goggles rested on top of his shaggy head,
glinting slightly in the light.

	"Absolutely dandy, old man," Shin answered with a wink. "Enjoying
yourself out here?"

	"Hey, I may not exactly be in my element, but Ryo said I should
go check out that big rock to the south, and this was the fastest way!
Some of us need help staying buoyant, okay?"

	"Oh, I'd never dream of kidding you," Shin assured his friend.
Clearly, Shuu was a little self-conscious. "Heading over to that big
rock shaped like a hat? It's a bit of a way - we'd go faster if I gave
you a lift." Sitting up, Shin scooched forward and patted the board behind
him. "Hop on, mate!"

	"Really? Cool!" With a bit of effort and a lot of squeaking noises
from his accessories, Shuu struggled onto the board behind Shin. "Man,
this is so awesome! I've never been on a surfboard before!"

	"If you want, I can lend you one of my spares sometime," Shin
offered as he dipped his hands into the water and began pulling them
towards the large hat-shaped boulder in the distance with easy, powerful
strokes. "I'll even toss in some lessons, if you'd like."

	"Would I? Are you kidding?" Shuu laughed and splashed in the
water exuberantly as Shin paddled. "You and me, man: first chance we get!
Picture it: the beach... the surfboards... the ladies...."

	"You'll be knocking them dead, old man," Shin agreed with a slight
chuckle. "I shall try not to interfere with your romantic conquests."

	"Hey, I'll scare you up a date, too," Shuu said amicably. "Maybe
one of the babes I snag will have, like, a slightly less hot sister, or
something. But we'll have lots of time for girls later, man - we gotta
keep focused, here! If this evil you tries something, you look after the
civilians, okay? Just leave creaming the jerk to good old Kongo no Shuu!"

	"Fair enough," Shin said, halting his strokes and looking over
his shoulder at his friend as they glided further out to sea. "How's Ryo
taking crowd duty?"

	"Badly, as usual. Guy nearly threw a fit trying to convince me
to let him come out here and get part of the action. I told him he was
better off sticking to the beach - Ryo and water don't exactly mix."


	After the heat and mugginess of Yokohama, Ami had to admit that
Chigasaki was literally a breath of fresh air. It was still quite warm,
of course, but the calming touch of the sea breeze and the gentle cawing
of the gulls seemed to make it easier to ignore than when she had been
jammed in a sweaty phone booth scrambling for change. Besides which, she
had the advantage of being above the crowds, and one of the best perks of
being Sailor Mercury was that she could provide her own air conditioning.

	It was as Sailor Mercury that Ami peered out over the mass of
people, standing in the shade of a large sign advertising the snack shop
below her. The smell of frying food wafted up through the ventilation
ducts, and Ami's stomach growled slightly. She hadn't had time to eat
anything before Rei had hauled them south to the beach because of her
visions. How any of this tied into those armoured warriors that Rei kept
babbling on about stymied Ami, but over the years she had learned that
when Rei said there was going to be trouble, there inevitably was.

	Taking another cursory glance at the crowd, Ami tensed her legs
and hopped daintily from one rooftop to another, the bows on her costume
flapping in the breeze as she sailed over several pedestrians and landed
safely on the other side of the alley. There was no sign of any trouble
yet, so Rei had asked her to do a quick tour of the area and check back
if anything came up. Usagi, meanwhile, had gone 'undercover' amongst the
crowd - even from here, Ami could see the gigantic parasol that concealed
their leader as she lay on the beach and 'blended in'.

	Ami hoped they would be able to handle things without needing to
call in Sailor Moon. Usagi was as reliable as any friend could be, but
the more she used her powers lately, the weaker she seemed to become. Ami
had been taking some surreptitious readings on her friend when Usagi
wasn't looking, and the responses that had been showing up recently were
not promising. If something didn't happen soon to boost Usagi's power back
up again, it would not be long before she would be unable to become Sailor
Moon at all.

	A soft chiming in her left ear shook Ami from her reverie, and her
translucent visor slid across her eyes of its own volition. Frowning, Ami
stared at a display screen filled with calculations and diagrams that
flickered and changed too rapidly for her to follow. The flashing red
light was always a bad sign, though, and the big arrow pointing left was
all she really needed to understand. Turning her head in the suggested
direction, Ami watched the calculations speed up and grow even more
complicated as if to celebrate her decision to listen to them. The
blue-haired girl sighed and shook her head as reams of text scrolled past
her eyes in an undecipherable scrawl. Her visor was astoundingly useful,
but sometimes it forgot that she wasn't as fluent in Lunarian as she had
been a few lifetimes ago.

	"...and some shaved ice, please," a boy's voice said, rising up
from one of the shops nearby. As he spoke, her visor flashed and blinked
in rhythm with his words. Apparently, it found him interesting enough
that the only words it could use to describe him were in a language that
had not been spoken in over six thousand years.

	Ami crouched down and poked her head over the edge of the store.
Standing below her was a perfectly normal looking boy with shoulder-length
black hair and a white shirt with a large stylised 'R' on the chest. He
had a few bags of rice crackers tucked under one arm, and was passing the
shopkeeper some money with his free hand. He looked up, and their gazes
met with an almost audible click.

	There was something in his eyes that made Ami suddenly feel the
need for a very long, very cold drink of water. It was almost as if his
stare was actually burning her: she could feel her temperature rising as
a blush began to form on her cheeks. He was hot. Ami had heard that word
used by some of the other girls lots of times to describe boys, but it was
the only one that came to mind when she looked at this one. He wore the
word 'hot' like it was a nametag. Somehow, he gave off the impression that
if he went into the ocean he would generate steam.

	Steam. Ami was willing to allow that steamy words were also well
applied under these circumstances. The way that he was looking at her
could most definitely be considered 'steamy'. So: steamy and hot. Those
were good words. She wondered how long it would take her to remember some
other ones. Maybe it would help if he blinked, or looked away, or
something. She was not good under these kinds of pressure: it was not fair
that Minako or Makoto or... well... anybody but her wasn't here to deal
with this instead. He looked like the type of person who might try to
whisk a girl off on some whirlwind romance that ended with passionate
kisses in front of a roaring fireplace, and Ami had no idea how to let
him know that she was very busy saving the world and had no time for that
at the moment. Also, that he would need to call her back after she was
done saving things and could clear her schedule.

	Wait. She didn't actually mean that, did she? It wasn't like she
was one of those silly Senshi who forgot about their mission as soon as an
unbelievably handsome face showed up, was she? Maybe if she ran away very
quickly and found a paper bag to breathe in it would all go away and she
would be back to normal. At the very least, she would need a convenient
rock to hide under. Maybe the rock would have some paper bags that she
could borrow. Just until the world stopped spinning. Sailor Mercury was
the responsible Senshi. She did not have these kinds of reactions to boys.
Ami Mizuno had practiced the art of being invisible to the opposite sex
specifically to avoid things like this. How could she possibly face the
other Sailor Senshi if she let herself get all flustered and tongue-tied
over some random guy? She was supposed to be saving the world!

	Why was he so hot? It just wasn't fair.

	"Hi," the boy said calmly, as he lifted a paper cup filled with
shaved ice. "My name's Ryo Sanada. Want some ice? You look a little hot."


	"All right, off you get," Shin said cheerfully, as Shuu clambered
off of the board and splashed his way over to the island with all of the
agility and grace of a wounded pelican. "If you ask me, you got the hard
duty on this one, mate: I'll bet Ryo's having the time of his life right

	"Probably eating all my snacks out of spite," Shuu grumbled,
shaking himself dry and sticking a finger in his ear to clear out some
water that had gotten trapped in there. "You swim back there and tell him
to leave my shaved ice alone, okay? If I gotta be miserable, he should
be too; it's his job as our leader not to be happier than we are."

	"I rather doubt he'd ever pull that off, Shuu old boy." Shin
chuckled softly, then frowned. His brow wrinkled, and he made a face that
Shuu recognised from school. It was the same one he had made last
semester, right after handing in a test, when he had suddenly realised
that all of his answers had been about Shakespeare and the class was in
Linear Algebra. That face was the closest Shin Mouri ever came to

	"Something up, buddy?"

	"I think it might be," Shin answered solemnly. "There's something
very off about the waters around here, Shuu. They don't feel right."

	Shuu nodded in understanding. If Shin Mouri said that the water
didn't feel right, then smart people knew it was time to get out of the
pool. Reaching for the small crystal hanging around his neck, Shuu grasped
it firmly and concentrated. The air shimmered softly as a suit of flexible
orange and white armour wavered into existence in place of his baggy swim
trunks. Opening his eyes, he saw that Shin had already switched into his
suit, too. They called it their 'undergear': not their full armour, but
enough to make a real difference if trouble popped up unexpectedly. Shuu
pounded his fist against the side of the boulder and nodded again as a
large piece of stone broke off and crumbled. Yeah, the undergear really
helped a guy feel ready for trouble.

	Shin slipped his legs out of the water and stood on his board,
scanning the horizon for any sign of activity. "Looks like the shrines
are getting ready for the purification ceremony," he said calmly, pointing
them out to Shuu.

	"Yeah," Shuu agreed, "and if anybody wanted to wipe 'em all out,
it would be the perfect time."

	"Keep an eye on things up here," Shin suggested, turning back to
his friend. "I'm going down for a look around."

	"You got it," Shuu assured him, and Shin leapt from the board in
a perfect swan dive, the water barely even rippling as he plunged beneath
the surface of the waves.


	Ryo Sanada had managed to get up onto the roof top far too easily
for Ami's liking. There had been no time to run away, or scream, or do any
of the other things that she had wanted to do. There hadn't even been time
to vomit in terror. Why was some random hunk suddenly showing any interest
in her? Had she left her 'nerd' sign at home, or something? Even when she
was in full superhero mode, she was usually able to stay safely in the
back while everybody else got all the attention.

	"So, want some?" Ryo asked, offering the small cup of shaved ice.
"I just figured it gets pretty hot up here with the sun out and no shade."
Getting no response, he tried another approach. "Crowd control sure sucks,
huh? I'll bet your team told you to stay out of trouble, too."

	"C-Crowd control?" Ami stammered, as she backed away slightly.

	"Yeah, you know: for when something inevitably goes wrong." Ryo
shrugged. "Usually we stick Shuu or Touma with this job, but Touma's not
here and Shuu pulled rank on me on account of we're staying at his house."
With a snort, the dark-haired teen rolled his eyes and took a seat on top
of a nearby air conditioning unit. "Man, I hate having to cool my heels
like this! The next time someone sticks me on crowd control, they are
getting punched. That's it: no arguments, no bargaining. Just punching."

	"I'm sorry," Ami managed to say, now that the boy seemed to be
focused on things other than her, "have we met, or something?"

	"Well, yeah," Ryo reasoned. "We're talking to each other, aren't
we? How could we do that if we hadn't met?" He pointed at the shaved
ice, with its delicious lime flavoured syrup. "Are you going to eat that,
or what? Not that I want to bug you, but it did cost me, like, three
hundred yen. I could have bought myself some more chips with that, if I'd
known you weren't going to be hungry."

	Ami looked down at the small cup. She supposed it would be rude of
her to refuse a gift, when the strange boy -Ryo- was trying so hard to be
polite. Plus, she was feeling a little bit dry in the back of her throat.
Maybe just a little scooop of shaved ice would help her focus again.
Tentatively, she reached out and picked the cup up from where Ryo had
left it sitting on the tarpaper roof. Sneaking a peek at the boy to make
sure it was all right, she dug the plastic spoon in and quickly brought
it to her lips.

	"See? It's pretty good, right?" Ryo grinned. "Me, I wouldn't touch
the stuff if you paid me, but I'm not really a frozen treats kind of guy.
I sensed you hanging around, and I thought to myself - Ryo, that feels
like one of the guys up there. And then I reminded myself: none of the
guys are anywhere near this place. That's gotta be someone else. And if
they're up on a rooftop in this weather, they're probably baking. Then I
figured: hey! I bet they would like some shaved ice, or something. And
here we are."

	"Um, thank you," Ami said, making a face as she tried to follow
the boy's one-sided conversation. "What do you mean, you sensed me? Are
you psychic?" She had known a boy who was psychic. Maybe that was why she
had those weird feelings when she saw him.

	"Probably. I'm lots of stuff; I guess psychic could be in there
somewhere." Reaching behind him, Ryo pulled out a bag of rice crackers
that had been dyed various colours. "Right now, all I am is hungry. Based
on the suit, you're probably one of those Sailor Senshi that Shin was
talking about last night. Am I right?"

	"Yes," Ami admitted. "I'm Sailor Mercury." Please, she added
silently, just take your chips and go away now. You make me feel very
uncomfortable in a way I am worried I might start to enjoy if we don't
cut this short. It is nothing personal, I think you are very nice and
probably a Samurai Trooper, but those looks you keep giving me are making
my brain fizz and I need to sit down soon. Is that how you look at
everybody? How do you avoid getting slapped? Or married? Anybody with
eyes like that needed to be slapped or married on a regular basis before
they became a threat to all womankind. And enough with the sexy voice! A
girl could not be held responisble for what happened when she was being
forced to listen to a sexy voice like that!

	"I figured," Ryo said, completely ignorant of Ami's wild and
silent protests. "So if we're both stuck in the back row by ourselves, do
you want to keep an eye on things together? At least that way, we won't
have to be hot, sticky, bored AND lonely."

	No, Ami thought to herself. There is no way that I am going to
have anything to do with you, Ryo Sanada. You are Bad News. I am pretty
sure that when my mother warned me about boys, you were precisely the
person she was referring to. You may be used to all the girls just
fainting all over the place when you walk down the halls of whatever high
school you are probably the god of, but Sailor Mercury is not that easily
swayed! So you can just take your shaved ice and your perfect features
and your sexy voice, AND your stares that make people's knees all wobbly
and find your own damned rooftop! That's right, I said 'damned'! That's
how completely unaffected by you I am, Ryo Sanada!

	"Sure," she said, with a shrug. "That sounds... really neat."


	Shin always felt better underwater. He always seemed out of his
depth on land, largely because he was used to moving freely in all three
dimensions without having to care about gravity's opinion. Ever since he
had been a child, the sea had called to him. He was a certified SCUBA
instructor, an amateur champion on the surfing circuit, and whenever his
sister had trouble at her aquarium, he doubled as an underwater vet. The
water made sense to him in a way that people sometimes did not. Currents
didn't just switch their direction for no reason, and contrary to some
sailors' opinions, storms never just blew up out of nowhere. Water always
followed its rules, as long as you bothered to know what they were.

	A hammerhead shark swam past, giving him a curious look as it
glided off into the eternal blue of the ocean. One look had been enough
for it to tell that Shin Mouri was not food, and therefore of no interest
to it whatsoever. Shin rolled over and watched it go for a moment before
continuing his descent towards the ocean floor. There were thick shelves
of coral as far as the eye could see, forming miniature mountain ranges
and meandering valleys amongst the soft white sand. A school of fish
darted by in the distance, probably going on about their business now that
the shark was gone. It all seemed perfectly peaceful, except that it

	He couldn't tell exactly what was going on, but no matter how hard
he tried Shin could not shake the feeling that there something terribly
wrong down here. Kicking his feet slowly, he sank to the bottom and landed
with a small cloud of silt stirring around his ankles. Disturbed by the
shock, a stingray flapped free of the concealing sand and soared away
with the air of someone who had just been horribly inconvenienced for no
good reason.

	Shin looked around, taking in the terrain. There is something
here, he thought to himself, that does not belong. One of these things is
not like the others, as the old song used to go. There was coral, sand,
some shells, a few anemones, a moral eel poking its head for a look about,
and some thick rows of seaweed waving gently in the distance.

	"Hold on a tick," Shin muttered, a thin trail of bubbles rising
from his nose and mouth. Seaweed? Was it? He didn't recall seeing any
kind of seaweed like that before, and as both a marine expert and an
amateur cook, he had come across a lot of seaweed in his time. The plants
were thick and dark green, and waved slightly in the current. It all
looked innocent enough, but what kind of seaweed grew in a row like that?
He hadn't heard anything about any aquaculture in the region, but that
seaweed looked almost blatantly -he groaned as the pun came to mind-

	Launching himself off of the seabed, Shin crosssed the distance
with a single powerful kick of his armoured legs. He gently inverted
himself again and set down next to the strangely uniform plantlife. Up
close, it looked even more out of place: the thick, flat blades were
covered with what looked like tiny hairs on one side. As he ran his hand
near one, all of the hairs abruptly stood up and the weed seemed to twist
towards him. Shin pulled his hand back quickly and rubbed his eyes with
his fingertips. Was it just him, or was that stuff already bigger than it
had been when he came over? It was nearly as high as his knees, now, and
he could have sworn it only came up to his ankles before.

	"Well," he said primly, "it seems pretty bloody clear to me that
you little chaps are out of your element. Not sure it's quite proper, the
way you're all wriggling about like that: plantlife ought to know its

	"Ah, give them a chance," a sickeningly familiar voice said from
behind him. "You never know, they might grow on you."

	"Was that supposed to be funny, Nise Suiko?" Shin turned to see
his own face staring back at him from under a crown of crimson hair. In
contrast to Shin's own armour, Nise Suiko was clad in a form-fitting suit
of black and red. He was also wearing a grin that Shin would rather have
cut his own lips off than use in public.

	"Hello, Shin. I'm glad you got my message."

	"Rather hard to miss, wasn't it?" Shin scowled. "You still haven't
told me how you managed to come back from the dead, imposter. I know I
destroyed you; there was nothing left but ashes!"

	"Now, Shin, let's be fair: if I told you how I came back from the
dead, you might be tempted to do it yourself, and then what would the
point of me killing you be?" Nise Suiko chuckled nastily. "Isn't this the
point where you tell me that I won't get away with this and put on that
second-rate tin can you call a yoroi?"

	"I was rather thinking this was the point where I kick your skull
in and use your teeth as a decorative keychain," Shin replied, and leapt
forward. Nise Suiko staggered back a few steps as the blue-armoured teen
slammed into his stomach, knocking them both down in a cloud of swirling
dirt and streaming air bubbles. A metal-clad fist flashed out of the
silt, slamming into his face with enough force to make his ears ring.
Nise Suiko lashed out wildly, his swings hitting only empty water as
Shin's armoured leg darted out of the cloud and caught him in the side.
As he doubled over, another fist caught him in the face again and toppled
him over backwards.

	"I figure," Shin said, in a tone of icy calm, "if I just keep
beating on you enough, people won't be able to say we look alike any more.
Sound like a plan?"

	"Damn good one," Nise Suiko agreed, throwing his fist in the
direction of the voice and grinning with triumph as he felt something
give under the impact. Shin flew out of the cloud backwards, blood
spilling from his nose, and ricocheted off of a coral shelf.

	"What do you say, water lily?" Nise Suiko asked, wiping the
blood from his mouth and grinning crazily. "We ready to skip the
preliminaries and start some REAL scrappin'?"

	"Go stuff yourself," Shin spat back, and hurled himself back into
the fray. Plunging downwards at his prone double, Shin balled up his fist
and brought it down with all his strength just as Nise Suiko brought up
his knees and caught the other boy in the gut. Reeling back, the two
seperated again. Shin fumbled in the sand behind him, grabbing a large
stone and charging forward with his arm cocked back to swing.

	Nise Suiko turned right before the impact and threw a handful of
dirt into Shin's eyes. Blinded, Shin stumbled as his twin merely stepped
aside and kicked him in the small of the back. Never one to miss an
opportunity, Nise Suiko quickly grabbed Shin's hair and guided his head
into the side of a rock ledge. The ledge shuddered with the impact, and
an irate moray eel slithered out into the open water, snapping angrily
in the direction of the battling teens. Nise Suiko swatted at it angrily,
and Shin drove his elbow into the bridge of his opponent's nose.

	"Could you PLEASE lay off the face?" Nise Suiko groaned as he
reached up and gingerly tried to move his nose back into its proper
position. Shin responded by punching his double in the stomach and then
bringing both fists down on the base of Nise Suiko's skull. Collapsing to
the ground, Nise Suiko shook himself like a wet dog and tried to figure
out which of the six Shin Mouris he was looking at intended to hit him
again. Judging from their facial expressions, he was thinking it might
be all of them.

	"Damn it," he mumbled, "if you all don't stop rotating like that,
I am going to get pissed."

	Shin advanced, and the woozy Nise Suiko extended his hand, fingers
spread wide. The ocean warped, and Shin gasped as a vortex of water sprang
up around him. The small whirlpool swirled and tugged at him, pulling the
water away from him at its base and trying to jerk him upwards. Clenching
his teeth, Shin extended his own hands and concentrated. The sigil on his
forehead burned with an eldritch blue light that was reflected in his
eyes, and the currents slowly began to settle down. Nise abruptly clenched
his fist, his eyes burning crimson, and the vortex suddenly reversed its
spin. Shin, who had been using his power to reverse the direction of the
flow already, barely had time to look surprised before he was blasted
upwards like a shot from a cannon. Spinning like a top, the Samurai
Trooper saw the world as nothing more than a swirl of colour and motion
as he flew out of control.

	Tricky bastard, he thought, walked me right into that one. Two
Suiko armours pushing in the same direction could turn a simple little
whirlpool into a full-fledged maelstrom in no time. Lucky thing there
were no other bathers out this far from shore, or they would be getting a
nasty surprise at the moment. No worries, it would only take a moment to
clear his head and focus enough to stop the vortex...

	A pair of crimson arms wrapped firmly around his chest and the
world stopped spinning with a lurch that nearly left Shin's stomach in
his boots. He would have thanked his rescuer, but the half nelson that he
was being placed in made him suspect that it had not been for his own

	"Wouldn't do to have you popping into the air like a cork, mate,"
Nise Suiko hissed into his ear from behind. "Might warn all your friends
that something was up. And I would so hate to deprive you of my full and
undivided attention."

	Shin's double almost gently angled them downwards, careful that
nothing broke the surface of the waves a few feet above their heads. Once
they were oriented properly, Nise Suiko kicked his feet and launched them
back towards the sea floor, head first. The water rushed past them as
Shin struggled to free himself from his twin's vice-like grip, but it was
like trying to break free from steel.

	They struck with enough force to shake the ocean floor, and the
waves above swelled higher and choppier for several minutes before
settling back down again. Shin feebly writhed free from Nise Suiko, who
let him go and crawled backward to brace himself against some convenient
rocks. Both warriors were panting for breath -an interesting thing to see
underwater- and shivering every few moments as the shock of the impact
worked its way through their systems.

	Shin wobbled to his feet and turned to face Nise Suiko. The
red-haired youma stared up at him with the dazed smile of a child who has
just discovered their first roller coaster and is trying to decide between
cheering with delight and vomiting on the nearest adult.

	"Enough," Shin wheezed. "I'm ending this." Raising his hand above
his head, the brown-haired teen closed his eyes and tried to focus on the
power within him. "BUSSO, SUIKO!"

	"Thanks," Nise Suiko said calmly. "I was thinking you'd never get
around to that."

	"Huh? What?" Shin's eyes snapped open as he suddenly felt a
hundred small vines hungrily lashing themselves around him, pinning his
limbs and crawling around his throat. The mystical aura of his yoroi
shimmered briefly around him, then faded as another swarm of the writhing
weeds stretched out at him and held him tight. His knees buckled, and he
fell to the ground as he strained against the strangely inexorable pull of
the seaweed he had noticed earlier. Those spines did not feel like hairs
any more: he could feel them rasping against his armour, piercing his
flesh and greedily sucking away at his soul. With a shudder, he was
dragged backwards into the thick mass of seaweed as even more strands grew
up around him and pulled him down.

	"They feed on life energy," Nise Suiko explained quietly. "The
more power they sense, the faster they gorge themselves. Little buggers
aren't too picky, of course: I suppose that they'll like all those
bystanders and holy relics just as much as they're enjoying you."

	Shin's mouth moved, but no sound escaped. His skin was already
looking very pale.

	"Yeah, you noticed how they get bigger, huh? I figure you ought
to be enough of a snack to really turn this into a party." Nise Suiko
grinned and stepped back as a few overly ambitious weeds began to wriggle
in his direction. "Woah! Feisty little guys. If you'll excuse me, water
lily, I need to be somewhere else for a while. Have fun! Play nice!"

	Somehow, Shin managed to extend a single arm in his double's
direction, his fingers twitching as he strained to reach Nise Suiko. The
weeds continued to slither over his form, slowly cocooning him in vines
until only that one twitching hand was left.

	After a few moments, it went limp.


	"Come on, man, you been down there way too long..."

	Shuu Rei Fuan paced the small island alone, tracing an endless
orbit around the giant hat-shaped boulder that took up most of the ground.
Every two steps, he would punch his right hand with his left, limbering
up his arms and shoulders for the fight he could practically smell coming.
The warrior of Kongo had never pretended that he was a complex man: he
liked his beer cold, his music loud, and his enemies pummelled severely
about the head and shoulders. All this boring waiting around for stuff to
happen and trying to figure out what people were up to crap was totally
Touma and Seiji's jobs. Kongo no Shuu was mostly there for the pummelling.

	Shin had gone down almost eight minutes ago. If it had been a
normal person, Shuu would have already jumped in to save them on the
grounds that they were probably drowning, but he knew that Shin could
breathe underwater. Still, eight minutes was a very long time in the
Samurai Troopers' world. The fate of the planet had been determined in
less than eight minutes, before. Shin had said he was going to take a look
around down there. How long did it take to have a look? Shuu guessed there
was a lot of stuff down there to check out: maybe he was just being antsy.

	Shuu tended to get a bit apprehensive any time his friends were
out of sight for more than a few minutes. Bad stuff had a real habit of
happening to them every time he turned his back. Of course, nasty stuff
had an equally bad habit of happening to him every time he was away from
his friends, too, but Shuu would not have been Shuu if he thought of it
like that. He knew he could take of himself, on account of how he was
a totally cool super badass. His friends, however, lacked the natural
advantage that being Shuu Rei Fuan lent him.

	Something in the water caught his attention. Shin? Scrambling over
the pebbly ground, Shuu landed on all fours and stared down into the
cerulean waters with fervent hope. There was definitely something moving
down there, but it didn't look much like Shin. If anything, it looked kind
of like a giant carpet of hair squirming its way towards the surface of
the water.

	"Weird," he muttered to himself. "Never knew the ocean needed a
shave, before. What the heck is all that junk? Sea lion beards, or

	"Those," a dry and rustling voice explained from above, "are my
precious little darlings. And soon they will be ready to grow, and change,
and end this infestation of Man. Daddy shall be so proud of his darlings
when that happens, oh yes..."

	Shuu groaned and turned around to look behind him. Sure enough,
perched on the exact top of the boulder he had been circling was a
creature that seemed to be made entirely out of plants. Thick vines tensed
and stretched like ropes of muscle beneath the large, waxy leaves that
covered his body like plates of armour. The semblance of a head was
formed by several different leaves in the shape of a Roman helmet, with
only tiny sparks of light amongst the shadows where a face should be.
Short, stubby thorns and long, needle-like spines bristled amongst the
'plates' of dark green plants, and parts of his body seemed to rustle and
move of their own accord even as he sat still.

	"Great," Shuu spat, "and me without my weed killer. I'm going to
just assume that you're working with that Nise Suiko jerk Shin told me
about and start pounding your butt into compost now to save time. Okay?"
With a grim smile, the stocky Chinese boy cracked his knuckes and popped
the vertebrae in his neck.

	"Foolish sack of meat! My name is Vepres, and I shall be-"

	"I said I was trying to save time, here!" Shuu bellowed, and
lunged at the youma with his fists clenched and ready. With a single
well-placed haymaker, he sent Vepres flying backwards off of the rock. It
was a punch that would have shattered cement, had it landed on something
that had any resistance. Vepres, unfortunately, had the resiliency of a
rubber ball - there were no bones to break, only flexible and spongy
plant matter. Somersaulting in mid-air, the youma thrust his arm in Shuu's
general direction and a pair of thorny vines launched out of his wrist
like a pair of striking cobras.

	Shuu leapt out of the way as the vines cracked and snapped
against the rock he had been standing on moments earlier. Landing nearby,
he whistled appreciatively as a large piece of the boulder broke free and
crumbled to dust from the force of the strike. Turning his attentions back
to Vepres, Shuu grinned widely. It was always nice to know what level a
guy was going to be playing at.

	"So, trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea, huh? Lucky
for me I'm a totally cool super badass." Fists swinging, Shuu leapt into
the fray once more with a warbling battle cry. Verpres weaved and dodged
the armoured boy's fists, as agile and slippery as a snake, and brought
his vine whips around to strike back. The thorn-studded lashes cracked
against Shuu's shoulders, causing chips of enamel to fly off of his
armour. Rolling with the blows, Shuu ducked and slid under his opponent's
guard. The uppercut began somewhere near his ankles and exploded on
contact with what passed for Vepres' chin. Green fluid spurted from
between the leaves of his face and the plant youma flew backward in a
graceless arc that left him sprawled on the gravelly beach.

	"Finished?" Shuu asked as he advanced on the creature, holding his
fist back for another hammer blow.

	"Not yet," Vepres spat, and hurled a handful of seeds at the
advancing youth. Partway there the pods burst open, a thick cloud of
searing dust filling the air and engulfing Shuu Rei Fuan's head. Choking
and gagging, the armoured boy stumbled back and fell, his legs tangled
by Vepres' prehensile vine whips. The back of his head met the side of
the boulder with a little more violence than even he could enjoy, and
Shuu Rei Fuan's world went suddenly dark.

	"Good work," Nise Suiko said appraisingly, as he walked out from
behind the giant outcropping and looked down at the unconscious form of
Shuu Rei Fuan. "Toss him in for plant food and let's get this party


	Ryo Sanada did not have a nose for trouble. He had an entire body
for it. One of the many perks to having virtue as his guiding principle
was that he had a direct connection to the purity and general goodness of
almost anybody or anything in his vicinity. That was how he had known that
Sailor Mercury was no threat to him: he could sense the good coming off of
her in waves. He had to admit, she was not quite resonating in exactly the
same way that most people did, but if she had harbored any kind of evil
or guile in her heart, his armour would have gone off like a fire alarm.
Dark energy and evil intentions were like signal flares for him, and he
was getting a very familiar tingle between his eyes that told him that
whatever they had been waiting for, it was about to happen.

	Unfolding his legs, the dark-haired youth rose to his feet and
walked over to where Sailor Mercury had been very stoically examining the
horizon for the past few minutes. He had no idea why, but for some reason
she had been refusing to even look at him since she had finished the snow
cone. He had caught her blushing a little, and wisely decided to stay out
of her way. In hindsight, he guessed he could have been more discreet in
getting in touch with her. Poor girl was obviously embarrassed that he had
caught her with her guard down, so now she was trying to be extra
diligent to make sure it wouldn't happen again. Damn! He had wanted to
make a good impression, too. He'd have to make a point to be extra
charming from now on, or she might decide he was some kind of jerk.

	"Sailor Mercury," he said quietly, to get her attention, "we're
going to need to move really fast, soon. You ready?"

	"Ryo," the blue-haired girl breathed as she turned and looked at
him. "Your forehead is glowing. There's this big red symbol..."

	"Yeah, it does that." Ryo moved past her and placed one foot on
the edge of the roof, looking out over the beach. "Something seriously
bad just went down out there, Mercury. And I think it's coming this way."

	"I thought we were the only ones who had those things," Mercury
muttered to herself and rubbed the turqouise in the center of her tiara
before looking back over to him and shaking her head slightly. "What?
You think it might be a youma?"

	"No," Ryo said in a strangled voice as he pointed out to sea,
"that is way more than just one youma."

	Rising above the waves was a thick carpet of slimy green
tentacles, writhing and weaving amongst each other like a moving carpet of
snakes as they surged inland. The remains of crumbled surfboards and
weakly flailing limbs stood mute testament to the people who had already
realised the danger to late. People were panicking, pushing each other
under and trampling over their fellow swimmers as they tried to get to
shore. Screams filled the air, and the roar of the surf was mingled with
a sickening series of squelches and groans as the snakelike weeds lashed
out to snare as many people as they could, dragging their victims back
towards the advancing vegetation.

	"It's feeding on those people," Sailor Mercury said, her mouth
hanging open as she stared through the rapidly flickering images in her
visor. "That stuff, it's sapping the life energy right out of them! Ryo,
we have to do something-"

	"On it," Ryo replied, and leapt off of the roof of the snack bar
without a moment's hesitation. He landed in a crouch on the beach, his
sneakers digging into the sand as he hurled himself forward against the
press of the advancing mob. Waving his arms, the youth wormed his way
through the crowd while trying to guide the people around him in the
right direction. It was like trying to crawl through molasses as he pushed
against the wall of terrified flesh going in the opposite direction. An
old man's camera caught him in the cheek, and a young lady's purse slammed
into his ribs as he squeezed past. At this rate, he was going to be beat
up before he even got to the fight! Ryo cursed under his breath and
planted his hands on the shoulders of the girl in front of him. As she
tried to push past, he vaulted himself into the air above the mob and
sailed over their heads towards the sea. Landing, he found himself in a
forest of trampling feet and swiftly moving legs and quickly leapt again.
Ryo perched atop an abandoned beach umbrella and fought for balance as it
swayed with the motion of the fleeing people.

	In the distance, he could see the writhing mass of greenery. As
he watched, several of the larger strands grew even thicker, gorged with
the energy of the people they had already managed to drain. A nimbus of
crackling energy formed around them as they began to shift and change.
Arms and legs grew out of the main vines, as bulbous growths began to
shape themselves into thorn-encrusted heads with mouths full of fangs.

	Ryo did a quick count of how much seaweed was advancing towards
him. If every one of those slimy, slippery things was going to turn into
a full-grown monster...

	"Man," he groaned, "we are in serious trouble."


	Usagi slowly inched her way along the wall, smiling nervously at
the five green slime creatures that were advancing on her in a very
unfriendly manner. It had taken years of experience in fleeing from angry
crowds to get her this far, and she had been doing fine until she had
seen a small child holding his knee and crying. Of course, being the
complete idiot that she was, she just HAD to go back and grab him, for
all the good it had done. Now they were both in trouble.

	"Ah, crap," she muttered, and glanced over at the boy as he
wrapped his tiny arms around her leg and buried his face in the back of
her knee. Maybe if she kicked really hard she could get him over that
wall before the monsters attacked? Sure, she thought to herself, and
maybe if I really try I'll be able to grow wings and fly away before they
get me, too. Like that would ever happen.

	"Look," she said, her voice wavering slightly. "I'm sure you nice
monsters can be reasonable, right? I mean, the least you could do is give
a girl a few seconds head start..." One of them hissed angrily, and Usagi
flinched away from its fang filled mouth, wincing as she raised one hand
to fend it off.

	"Okay," she continued, sliding another inch along the wall, "I can
see you're not really in the mood for talking. Maybe I should just go."
Quickly sweeping the child into her arms, Usagi dove between two of the
creatures and bolted down the street as fast as her coltish legs could
carry her. The child started wailing at the top and Usagi resisted the
urge to join him. After all, she was supposed to be a superhero, of sorts,
when she was able to do it, and if there was one thing that Sailor Moon
was known for, it was keeping a cool head in all situations.

	Well, okay, maybe that was not what she was BEST known for, but
Usagi had been working really hard on it lately. If Rei found out that she
had broken down and cried again, she was going to make Usagi put more
money in that stupid jar of hers. It was a real shame, too, because with
big slimy tentacles grabbing people and plant monsters bouncing around
like locusts it seemed like the perfect time for a good hysterical cry.

	Skidding around a corner, Usagi felt her sandal leave her foot as
the strap finally gave. Without even breaking stride, she kicked the other
sandal off and grabbed it in her free hand as she continued down the road
in her bare feet. Turning, she hurled the sandal over her shoulder and
clocked one of her pursuers right between the eyes. She had always had
good aim with shoes. An alley nearby beckoned, and she cut across the
street in order to dive into it. Maybe they would miss her in the shadows
and run right past her without noticing.

	With a menacing gurgle, one of the passing creatures turned and
looked down the alley at them. Usagi yelped and backpedalled as the youma
rustled its thorn-covered body and began to slink towards her. Seeming to
sense that it was on to something, two more of the monsters came creeping
in behind their comrade, and Usagi gulped.

	The advancing creature raised its clawed hands and hissed softly
as long, hair-like cilia wormed their way out from the damp green covering
of his palms and stretched towards Usagi. With a whimper, the girl pulled
her legs under her and shrank back against the wall as the monster drew
closer. A faint nimbus of light began to swirl around her body, trailing
off towards the writhing fibres that were slowly reaching towards her
face. Behind him, the creature's fellow youma were beginning to crawl
forward, their hands extruding similiar growths.

	A shadow blocked the sun and the lead youma fell back with a
screech, clutching at its face as it collided with the pair behind it. In
a swirling blur of motion, the other two found themselves being hurled
out of the alley, bouncing across the street and collapsing against the
legs of a wrought iron bench. Wailing, the youma shuddered and clawed at
the thin paper scrolls that appeared to be permanently attached to their

	"Rin, pyou, tou, sha, kai, jin, retsu, sai, zen," Rei Hino said
fiercely, as she ground down with her foot on the neck of the one youma
still in the alley with her and extended her hands in the general
direction of the other two. Her fingers formed various mystic sigils,
twisting and weaving into new forms with an ease found through years of
practice. "Akuryou taisan!"

	With a final horrified cry, the three youma disappeared in a blast
of foul, salty air and swirling clouds of spores. Rei sighed and gently
nudged her sunglasses onto her forehead as she looked over her shoulder
at where Usagi was still curled into a small ball and whimpering.

	"You can get up now, doofus. They're gone." The priestess was
dressed in a crimson one-piece swimsuit and an orange and yellow sarong
that made her almost glow in the shadows of the alley. Usagi quickly did
the first thing that came to mind and latched on to her friend's leg like
a drowning man.

	"Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! I was SO dead, if you
hadn't come along, Rei! You are my absolute best friend ever! As soon as
we get out of here I am going to buy you so much candy..."

	Rei sighed again, slightly deeper. It was very hard to maintain
a cool, collected image around Usagi. Reaching down, she gingerly patted
her friend on the head as the other girl somehow managed to tighten a grip
that had already been cutting off Rei's circulation in that leg.

	"Hey, it's okay," Rei said, hoping like hell that nobody she knew
happened to come by and see her like this. "Ami and I have things under
control here, okay? You just gotta get out of here while you can."

	"You mean, run away?" Usagi stopped and looked up at Rei, pleading
quietly with her eyes. "But I want to help you guys! Just give me a couple
of seconds, I'm SURE I'll be able to transform, and I can-"

	"Usagi, without reliable powers you're just going to get in the
way! If you want to help, then get somewhere safe and call Haruka. Tell
her we're going to need the Outer Senshi down here as fast as they can
come. These things are pretty easy to take down, but they're all over the
place and there's more coming every second." Rei reached down into her
sarong and withdrew her henshin wand. The symbol of Mars glinted softly
as she used it to point at her friend. "I'm not kidding, Usagi. You keep
running until you get out of town, got it? We don't want to lose you!"

	"But... I don't want to lose you, either," Usagi whispered as Rei
ran out of the alley and vanished around the corner in a swirl of raven
hair. Rising to her feet, the blonde girl bit her thumbnail and took one
step down the alley before pausing and taking another step in the opposite
direction. Rubbing her forehead, she closed her eyes and screwed her mouth
up into a moue of deep thought. Rei had told her to get out. Rei had said
that everything was under control, and she would just be in the way. But
if Rei had really had things under control, she wouldn't be asking for
Haruka's help, would she? Reaching her decision, Usagi walked over to
where the small boy sat on a dumpster, clutching his small pail and
shovel protectively and scowling at her with suspicion.

	"Hey, kid," she asked, with an impish grin, "you can keep a
secret, right?"


	Things were not quite going according to plan. Ryo had assumed
that if Shin's clone was going to try something, it would be more focused
than this. The whole thing was way too sloppy for the Dynasty, which was
what bothered him. Usually, if they were going to use numbers like this,
they would have sent their armoured youja to attack. Whatever these plant
people were, they were falling apart faster than wet tissue paper. He
hadn't even needed to transform yet, and he was wiping them out without
even breaking a sweat. The only strength they seemed to have was their
numbers: for every one he kicked or punched into oblivion, it seemed like
twelve more were coming out of the water to replace them.

	What was the point? Sure, it was keeping him pretty busy, but why
waste time attacking the people? All they were doing was spreading fear
and panic. The Dynasty were conquerors, not terrorists - they only
attacked when they intended to destroy something or take over a new piece
of territory. What was being destroyed here? What could they possibly
want to take?

	Ryo's eyes widened. The shrines! Some of those charms and sacred
objects were thousands of years old, and they had all kinds of power in
them. Maybe Nise Suiko was after something in one of the shrines, some
kind of ancient artifact or something that he needed for his plan. It
might explain why he was using these things instead of youja: he needed
the sheer numbers to keep everybody too confused and busy to see what he
was up to.

	There was no time to get in touch with Shuu or Shin, wherever they
were. He'd have to stop Nise Suiko by himself.

	Ducking under one of the creatures' outstretched claws, Ryo
chopped his hand into its side and leapt clear as it exploded in a cloud
of spores. Moving quickly, he planted his foot in the face of the next
monster to charge at him and leapt towards the open sea. Out of the corner
of his eye, he could see a thick cloud of fog spreading through the
churning masses of plant creatures as they tried to push forward on the
left. A flash of blue caught his eye, and he smiled to himself. Looked
like Sailor Mercury was holding the line over there, then.

	Gripping his shirt, Ryo tore it open. The rest of his clothes
shredded of their own volition, revealing a close-fitting suit of red
and white undergear armour. Holding his arms out to either side the
dark-haired boy somersaulted through the air, somehow managing to hurtle
even further towards his goal well after gravity should have intervened.
The water was flashing by under his feet now, and the vast field of
squirming weeds brushed against his heels as they grabbed at him in
passing. Ryo pivoted and kicked at one of the thicker ones as it shot
out of the mass at him, running along the side of the giant vine as it
whipped backwards in an attempt to coil itself around his body. Hurling
himself to safety at the last moment, he grabbed another of the flailing
plants and swung off of it like a trapeze. Back in the air again, Ryo had
time to take a shaky breath and look back at the field of vines as they
writhed angrily in his direction. That had been a lot closer than he had
expected it to be.

	The second time he touched down on a broken piece of surfboard
that was jutting from the mass, leaping off again as it bucked and shot
upwards in a rush of grasping vines. Whoever had been making these things
so aggressive, Ryo decided he needed to have a nice long talk with them.
And he was going to use all of his sharp, pointy words.

	Halfway to his goal, Ryo felt something slither around his ankle
and roughly yank him in the opposite direction. Glancing down as he swung
back in a parabolic arc, he saw that one of the plant creatures hiding in
the field of seaweed had decided to get frisky. A pair of thorn-covered
vines stretched from his foot to its wrist, and its eyes glowed with

	"You may be nimble, samurai," Vepres gloated, "but can you swim?"

	Ryo hit the water with in a wave of slimy algae, water and plants
scattering as he landed on his side. Before he had even begun to sit up,
a vast nest of flailing weeds lashed themselves around him, tugging back
at his limbs and sliding tight around his throat. Punching and kicking,
the armoured teen broke free of them and struggled back up, only to find
his assailants throwing themselves at him with renewed vigour. The strands
of slippery green seaweed came thicker, and stonger, and hurled him back
into their treacherous embrace with even more force than Vepres had. The
water churned as he strained against the supernatural strength of the
vines that held helm.

	"Your power shall serve us far better than it ever did you, Rekka
no Ryo," Vepres said, his voice taunting. "With your energy added to the
spirits of your little friends, my children should reach full maturity in
no time at all!"

	"No," Ryo groaned, clutching at the tendrils tightening around his
neck, "not... going down... like this. Can't...."

	"Can and will, samurai!" Vepres spat, gesturing with his hand and
sprouting another pair of thorn-encrusted vines. Drawing his arm back, the
youma snapped his twin whips against Ryo's exposed side as his growing
spores continued their inexorable pull downward. The dark-haired youth
cried out, his back arching as Vepres struck again, the sound of his
whips on Ryo's armour clanging like a gong at the hands of a frenzied

	"What is the matter, Ryo Sanada? Surely this is no challenge to a
mighty warrior such as yourself! Where is that legendary armour of yours
that I have come so far to see? Show me your white armour, Ryo! My young
could use such strength as that, to help us build a new army: one free of
allegiance to Arago or Beryl. With power such as yours flowing through
their veins, my children will become the mightiest force in all our lands,
scourging even those thrice-cursed Masho away in a tide of green fury..."

	"You have serious reality issues," a female voice interrupted,
and Vepres turned to glance over his shoulder at the speaker. There,
draped elegantly across the top of the massive boulder nearby, lay a
blonde girl in a white leotard with a small red bow on her chest. Her
twin pigtails were topped by a pair of large garnets that gleamed in the
light, and she winked at the youma before wiggling her fingers at him in
an exaggerated wave.

	"Hi!" the girl chirped. "I'm Sailor Moon. Warrior of justice and
defender of the Earth - not to mention love, purity, and all things just
plain awesome. Ring a bell?"

	"Sailor... Moon, you said?" The youma slowly turned a slightly
paler shade of green. Sailor Moon simply grinned and nodded slowly in
response to his question. Yes, she told him with her eyes, THAT Sailor
Moon. The one you are thinking of right this second. You know the one.

	Hopping gingerly off of the rock, Sailor Moon landed on one toe
atop the writhing bed of weeds and took a few steps forward. Meeting
gazes with the youma, she placed her hands on her hips and smiled
confidentally. Rule number two of being a Senshi was that any time there
was something this big going on, there was always one guy behind it. Dust
the main bad guy, and all the little ones would go away. It worked every
time, except for the occasions when it did not. Sometimes people forgot
that Usagi was the oldest and most experienced of the Senshi (except for
Minako, who didn't count because Usagi said so). Even if her powers were
a little... lacking... lately, she still had a lot of knowledge trapped
in that pretty little head of hers. Sure, most of it had needed to fight
like crazy to get in there, but that was besides the point.

	"So," she said, tilting her head to one side, "you were saying
something about stealing people's energy to make an army? I gotta give
you credit: that's pretty old-school villany." A vine began to twine
around her leg, so Sailor Moon kicked it off and kept walking. Just her
luck, she figured - she was so weak the things barely even recognised
her as edible. No wonder it had been so easy to get out here and track
the head youma down. "Are you sure you aren't looking for some kind of
powerful mystic artifact, or something? That's really more the rage with
villains these days. Heck, those shrines just HAVE to have something in
them worth stealing!"

	"Yeah," Ryo croaked, "I kinda figured that, too..."

	"See? Even he agrees with me," Sailor Moon concluded. "I mean,
I can understand it if you're evil, but this is just plain sloppy. And in
the name of the Moon, to say nothing of all the villains who take pride
in their schemes, I will punish you!"

	"What?" Vepres flinched back as Sailor Moon pointed at him
dramatically. "Wait a minute, what are you up to? What are you going to

	"Uh..." Sailor Moon stopped and scratched her head, then snapped
her fingers and smiled gleefully. "I'm going to unleash a dreadful
attack! The worst I have ever subjected any monster to in the history of
my entire career: the Moon Secret Co-ordination!"

	"You're bluffing," Vepres said, staring flatly at the girl.

	"Oh, yeah?" Usagi asked, her eyes twinkling as she pointed at him
once again. "Well, you asked for it... GET HIM, GIRLS!"

	The field of weeds behind Vepres tore asunder in a gout of flame
as Sailor Mars lunged forward, fire trailing from her fingers like
twisting ribbons of plasma. To his left there was an explosion of
frost-tippped seaweed, and Sailor Mercury shot out of a thick fogbank with
a determined look on her face. The youma turned back just in time to see
Sailor Moon rocketing through the air towards him, boot first.

	"SAILOR MOON KICK!" Usagi yelled, and swung her foot right into
Vepres' leaf-sheathed face. Reeling back, the youma struggled to bring
his whips around and strike back at the girl before she could land.

	"SHINE AQUA ILLUSION!" Mercury cried, and a wave of freezing
water engulfed his entire arm. The massive rush of water seemed to
crackle and freeze instantly on contact, and Vepres found his entire
limb encased in ice. Straining, he pulled his arm free with a horrifying
shattering sound, and stared down in surprise at the icy shards that
were all the remained of his thorn whips.


	Vepres shrieked and dove out of the way as a series of fireballs
tore through the air over his head and blasted into the thick weeds.
Somehow, despite the ocean water that covered them, the plants began to
smolder. The smoke spiralled higher, and then plunged down suddenly
into the heart of the embers to cause a sudden blaze of expanding flame.
Vepres looked at the growing fire and felt his heart sink. He had a nasty
feeling he knew what Sailor Mars had been aiming at with those fireballs.

	"SAILOR BODY ATTACK!" Sailor Moon hurtled through the air once
more, slamming her shoulder into his abdomen while he was off balance and
sending him flying into the gentle embrace of his pupating children.
Vepres woozily fell back against the writhing weeds and allowed them to
support his weight as he clutched his head and groaned. He was surrounded
by thousands upon thousands of his children: why were none of them helping
him fight these women? It was as though they were suddenly too afraid to
do any-

	Oh, dear. Vepres looked back at where the Burning Mandala had
struck, and saw a humanoid form emerging from the billowing clouds of
embers. The boy was clad from head to toe in sleek crimson armour, and
the blades on his helmet glowed with the heat of the fire he had absorbed.
There was an aura of sizzling heat emanating from his body so strong that
Vepres could feel himself drying out even from several feet away. The
paired katana in the armoured warrior's hands were alight with a wavering
flame that reflected off every deadly curve of his yoroi.

	Rekka no Ryo, the warrior of fire, was in his full armour at last.
With practised ease, the samurai twisted his swords together and joined
them at the pommel to form a long spear of burning steel. The sparks of
Sailor Mars' attack still flickered in his eyes, forming the names of
the gods she had embued them with. The Rekka Ken spun like a propeller,
locking into place under his right arm as he extended his left hand
towards the youma and squinted slightly. Gauging the distance, Vepres

	"This doesn't mean anything, you know," Vepres said shakily,
looking over at the three Sailor Senshi. "Our master will still reign
supreme over all the dark realms, now that you have removed his only
opposition. My destruction shall be but a short delay in his glorious
and inevitable rise!"

	"I'm very sorry," Mercury said apologetically, "but I don't think
he believes you."

	Ryo soared into the air trailing streamers of flame. At the apex
of his leap, the flaming Rekka Ken spun above his head, crackling with
energy as he hung above Vepres like the hammer of judgement waiting to

	"With the voice of a dozen spirits, my flame reaches out for
vengeance!" Ryo cried, his voice echoing like the cry of the phoenix. "Be
enveloped in the purifying fires and burn like the dross! FLARE UP, NOW!"
There was a sudden roar as he plunged towards Vepres in a halo of fire.

	The greatest surprise for the Senshi was that nothing seemed to
happen when he struck. The tip of the blade pierced an inch into the
youma's chest, and Ryo hung in the air like a puppet on invisible strings.
There was an almost oppressive silence, as if everything in the universe
had chosen that exact moment to hold its breath and flinch away in
expectation. Vepres stared up at Ryo, who smiled and gently twisted the
blade to the right.

	"Guys," Sailor Mars said warningly, "I think we should be a lot
further away from this..."

	That, as far as any of them would be able to recall afterwards,
had been when the world ended. First there had been the bang, a bang so
all-consuming that it felt as if it might have been the biggest bang since
the first one. Screaming, the three Senshi were plucked from their places
and sent flying away in a swirling cloud of debris. There was a vague
impression of heat, more heat than even Sailor Mars had ever felt before,
and an expanding cloud of raging flame that didn't so much burn the weeds
as vaporise them on contact. Sublimation, Ami would try to explain later.
That was what it was called when something got so hot it turned from a
solid straight into a gas without even stopping at liquid first. The
plants and the youma had all been sublimated. The ocean below them boiled
and bubbled angrily as the flames chased their heels all the way back to
the beach.

	Rei, being the best of the three in situations like this, had time
to yelp and throw her arms in front of her face before she hit the sand
like a guided missile. Usagi, being the worst of the three in situations
like this, had her eyes shut the whole time and was still wailing when she
hit. Ami tried to roll with the impact and wound up skidding halfway up
the beach before she came to a stop against an abandoned parasol.

	Rei slowly pulled herself out of the small trench she had dug on
impact and threw her hair back over her shoulder with a flick of her
wrist. She had felt better, but at least she was still alive. She had
never guessed that that boy's attack would be so powerful! It was like he
had magnified all of the power she had hit him with and then turned it
loose in a single strike. One thing was for sure: the Samurai Troopers
definitely had power to spare.

	"I think I ate somebody's flip-flop," Usagi moaned, placing her
hand on her stomach and coughing out a mouthful of sand. "Rei, are we
	"No, Usagi."

	"Oh." Sailor Moon looked relieved for a moment, then slowly
changed her look to one of concern. "Rei?"

	"Yes, Usagi?"

	"Why are we not dead?"

	"Ryo must have hurled us clear right before the attack went off,"
Ami suggested with a wince as she rubbed her back and hobbled back down
the beach to join her friends. "It's an amazing use of thermodynamics,
actually... does anybody have any Aspirin? I think I shall need a very
large amount of Aspirin."

	Rei looked back the way that they had come, and blinked in
astonishment. The ocean had parted, literally split right down the middle
all the way from the shore to the island and its strangely shaped boulder.
Ryo was slowly limping along a perfectly dry section of seabed, steam
pouring off of his armour and two entire halves of the ocean calmly
waiting on either side for him to pass. Walking behind him were two other
boys, clad in orange and blue armour, respectively. The one in blue bent
over quickly and picked up a fish that was flopping on the ground, tossing
it back into the water on his left, where it promptly swam away. Shin,
she remembered, the one in blue was named Shin.

	Shin waved one arm behind him as they walked, and the seas slowly
began to flow into each other again as the boys passed. By the time they
reached the shore, the water had returned to its usual sparkling blue
self and was swirling energetically around their greaves. Rei got to her
feet and tucked a lock of hair behind one ear, placing her other hand on
her hip and trying her hardest not to look impressed.

	"Uh, hey," Ryo said, chuckling nervously. "Are you girls okay? I
mean, I didn't mean to... shove... you like that. It's just kind of hard
to control myself when I'm really worked up about things." He winced and
quickly glanced at each of the three Senshi. "You're not mad or anything,

	"Leave it to Ryo to save us and get us in trouble at the same
time," Shin muttered to the third boy.

	"Aw, man, and they're kind of cute, too!" the boy in orange
whispered back. "Now they'll never want to talk to us again, just because
our fearless leader is a total dork!" With a heartfelt sigh, the stocky
lad shook his head sadly. "I keep telling that guy he needs to leave the
ladies to suave and sophisticated guys like me. Does he listen?"

	"Well, in his defence, it's not like any of ever do."

	"Hello!" Sailor Moon said cheerfully, extending her fingers in a
'V' shape and beaming widely. "I'm Sailor Moon, and this is Sailor Mars,
and Sailor Mercury is over there in the back. We're the Sailor Senshi!
Or at least, we're all the ones who are here. There's more of us, just
not around right now. Did that make sense? I don't do this very often,
so I'm not really sure how it goes. What happens next?"

	"Beats me," Ryo admitted with a confused glance back at Shin and
Shuu. "We've never really run into anybody else like us before."

	"Except the Masho," Shin reminded him.

	"The Masho don't count," Shuu argued. "We discussed it, and
everybody agreed that the Masho would never count. Not for this, not for
anything. It was official! We used a voting box, man! Is nothing sacred?"

	"Who are the Masho?" Rei asked curiously.

	"We don't like to talk about them," Ryo answered, brushing her
question aside with a wave of his hand. "My question is, what the heck
is going on, here? We've run into a lot of nutballs in the past, but that
guy was on a totally different playbook from anything I'd ever seen

	"Attacking large groups of people," Ami mused, "and stealing their
energy at random. I think we may have seen this tactic once or twice
before. Since we destroyed the weeds, the people who were attacked should
get their energy back in a few days or so. My question is what a youma
from the Dark Kingdom would be doing gathering energy and troops. It's
not like Queen Beryl is around to command them anymore..."

	"And why is Nise Suiko working for them?" Shin asked, scowling
furiously. "How many times is he going to rise from the dead and try
to come after me?"

	"From what he said to me," Ryo interjected, "that thing was trying
to raise his own army to take over the Dynasty. And he didn't make it
sound like he working alone."

	"He said something like that to us, right before you destroyed
him," Ami agreed. "How did it go?"

	"He said 'Our master will still reign supreme over all the dark
realms, now that you have removed his only opposition'." Rei said grimly
as she knelt and drew a ward in the sand with her finger. "Whoever this
guy is, he must have been someone we missed the last time. Someone who
was just waiting for Beryl to be out of the way so he could take over,
himself. And we paved the way for him."

	"Then we'll just have to stop him," Usagi said, nodding firmly
and crossing her arms across her chest. "No way does someone get to take
advantage of us saving the world to put it back in danger again!"

	"If Nise Suiko is involved, then you can count us in, too," Shin
said, stepping forward and putting his hands on his hips. "I'll be blowed
if I let that blackguard run around spoiling MY good name."

	"I just hope that wherever the rest of the guys are, they're
keeping out of trouble," Ryo muttered, looking out to sea. That monster
had not just been talking about whatever it was that had the Senshi so
worked up. He had specifically mentioned Ryo's white armour, the armour
of Kikoutei. Who knew about that? Who could have told that creature so
much about the Troopers? Not Nise Suiko: he had never met Ryo, and he had
no idea about the Kikoutei. There had to be someone else, someone who
knew the Troopers a lot better than Ryo wanted them to.

	If Nise Suiko had come back from the dead, who had he brought with
him? How much did they know about the white armour? Did they know that it
needed all five Yoroi Senshi to form? And if so, what else might they
try to keep him from being able to form it?

	Touma, Seiji, Ryo thought to himself as he watched the sun setting
over the rippling sea, wherever you guys are, be careful. I have a bad
feeling that you're in a lot more trouble than any of us realise.


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