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Chapter 4, Life Without The Tomboy

Rei looked up at the sound of someone entering the shrine. All of the other Senshi, minus the four Inners from Juuban High, were there. The Juuban girls had all been kept back at school for falling asleep in class. Everyone looked around and saw Ranma push open the door to her house. Looking up from the desk where she was sitting she could see he was in terrible distress.

He looked at the girls gathered around Rei. "I don't know who they are, but I need to talk to you alone."

Rei set her face. He might be a good friend of Ranko's, but she would not tolerate anyone barging into her home and ordering her around. She could not even understand why he was here. He taught her Martial Arts, but that was all. He had never even visited her before. "My friends can hear anything you might have to say."

"Your call. I don't care who knows. I want the transformation stick."

Rei paled slightly. How much had Ranko told him? "I don't know what you're talking about."

Ranma snarled and advanced on her desk. He pointed to where it was sitting in her pen jar - so much for the purloined letter method of concealment. "Cut the garbage. I want it, I need it and I'm taking it."

Before he could reach for it, Rei grabbed it. Around her, the rest of the Sailors looked on with fear. There was no doubt that Ranma could wipe the floor with them unless they transformed, but if they did, he would know the Sailors' secret identities. "I don't know what you've been told, but you can't have this, Ranma. It belongs to one person, and that's not you."

Ranma reached out and grabbed the short end of the stick, which protruded from the bottom of Rei's clenched fist. "They've taken Akane. I will do anything to get her back, Rei. Anything. Even this. Now give me the transformation stick."

She tried to pull her hand away, but he was too strong. With the grip she had, she also knew there was no way he could take it from her. Since all the other Senshi in the room had their transformation pens out, she figured she was safe from any form of violence he might try. "I don't care who they have. You cannot have it. It's not mine to give, and it sure isn't a toy for some boy to play with."

Ranma's face hardened even further. "I didn't want to do this, but if that's the way it has to be, okay."


With an explosion of force, Rei was thrown back. All around, the Senshi covered their eyes as a bright light poured from Ranma. While he spun around in the air, Rei shook her hand, which felt like it had been sprained and burnt by the power unleashed by his cry.

Sailor Sun looked down at the fallen girl and then surveyed the others in the room. "Now you know. I'm going to get Akane. Don't try and stop me if you want to stay healthy."

With that, she ran from the room, trailing flames.

Hotaru looked about in concern. "Did I just see Ranma, a boy, transform into Sailor Sun?"

Sailor Sun stood on the parapet of an old church building and surveyed the city in the night. The wind blew and whipped her hair out behind her, occasionally causing her skirt to billow up. Covered in the depth of shadows, she was only visible as another shadow, silhouetted against the grey skyline of the city. Beneath her, the lights of traffic and the eerie glow of the neon signs broke the darkness of the city.

Hands on hips, Sailor Sun looked for the evil, which was entering her city. She had failed once. She had lost the one person that truly mattered. That would never happen again, and it would never happen to anyone else. Lifting her eyes to the overcast cloud, which covered the city, she saw a spotlight play in the darkness. She had the transformation stick, the power to transform into a Sailor Senshi, but she did not have the communicator. The only one way to find the evil was eternal vigilance. That was always the price of freedom.

A tear trickled down one cheek. Unnoticed by the girl, her emotions betrayed her. All around her, she spread her senses. As a Martial Artist she was sensitive to danger. As a Sailor Senshi she was sensitive to evil. They would come. She would find them. They would die.

Another tear flowed down her cheek, shining in the night. Then she felt it. A portal had opened and the demonic filth had come forth. Immediately bright flames sprang up all over her body, flaring in the darkness. The tears dried in the heat, and Sailor Sun leapt from her watching post.

Five stories she fell, a burning comet descending to earth. The shock of landing did not even slow her and she was sprinting past shocked pedestrians. There was not much time, there never was. It only took minutes for her to cross much of the inner city, and when she arrived she could see several of the minor demon servitors hauling people to the portal. With a scream of rage Sailor Sun raced through the assembly, knocking people flying. As soon as she arrived, the portal closed... too late again.

She would never cross that portal, she knew; but she would never stop trying.

Grabbing one of the minor demons by the throat, she held it off the ground and slowly squeezed until its head burst off. A second tried to hit her, but she simply placed a hand on its chest and engulfed it in flames. The screams of pain were music to her ears.

The youma were trying to scatter. They knew that such a small number had no hope of defeating her. They also knew that they would never return to their dimension unless they were far from the Senshi. So be it. Finishing her games with those nearby, Sailor Sun launched herself at a group of fleeing youma. With a series of magically powered kicks and punches she left a pile of smoking, burning and shattered corpses.

Reaching out with her senses again, she spotted the master of the raid, one of the full size, full strength youma. Sprinting ahead of it, she came to a skidding halt. When the youma rounded the corner and saw her standing there in burning fury, it braked in panic. The hesitation was enough, and a fireball struck the monster in the chest. Bits of basted demon flesh and burning embers went everywhere.

Satisfied that she had halted another attack, Sailor Sun retreated into the darkness again. Her cloak of flames gone once the call to battle had left her system.

It had only been three days since Akane vanished. Three days or eternity, Sailor Sun was not sure. Looking down on the city once more, she wondered at the idea of eating something. Tomorrow. Tomorrow she would eat. Tonight she would continue her vigil.

Ryoga walked up to the red haired girl in the short skirt. "Excuse me Miss, can you tell me where the Tanaka Dojo in Hokkaido is?"

The girl continued to stand there, just staring down at the city. He tried again, but she did not even respond to his question. People in... Well, people where ever he was certainly were rude. Ryoga turned and walked off. At least he seemed to be somewhere that they spoke Japanese.

Ami closed her eyes and tried to sleep on the textbook open in front of her. Ranko was Sailor Sun again, at least in some form. Rei had told everyone about what happened, and Ami had been the only one able to clear up the confusion. Ranma was Ranko's idol. It was a simple enough step to see that Ranko wanted to be like Ranma, and had started to dye her hair the same. It only just dawned on her that Ranko always wore the same clothes that Ranma wore each and every day. It was just another step in pretending to be a boy, a boy she wanted to be, a boy like Ranma. Obviously the surprise of hearing Ranma and Akane had been abducted had shaken Ranko so badly, she reclaimed her transformation pen. Boys could not be Sailor Senshi, so it was just a case of mistaken identity.

When the Senshi had visited the Miyagi dojo they had seen further proof of Ranko's distress. The place had been wrecked. Akane, Ranma and Mr. Miyagi were nowhere to be seen. Neither of them had been seen at school, and no one had been available either for tutoring or Martial Arts lessons for a week. All the Senshi knew that people were being hurt, or kidnapped, in the war with the Dark Kingdom. It was just that it hurt worse when it was someone that you knew.

A short cry from her mother brought Ami back to full consciousness. Something was wrong! Getting up from her desk, Ami raced to the front door where the sound originated. When she arrived she almost cried. Standing in her doorway was the mighty Sailor Sun, but now she was not so mighty. Actually, she looked mighty awful.

"My god! Ranko! Get in here. What's happened! We've been so worried!"

The girl in the Sailor suit turned and stared at her. Her cheeks were sunken and her face was pale. All of her skin looked grey and sickly. The eyes which once burned so brightly, so full of life and happiness were dull, flat and empty. Her hair looked like a family of squirrels had taken residence and were evicted for gross violations of sanitation laws. She was dirty and smelled like a dead youma. Even her suit looked the worse for wear. It was torn, burnt and damaged. Eyes that seemed devoid of life locked on Ami and stared at her. "I died when I lost Akane, there's only Sailor Sun now. She hasn't failed anyone yet. I need your help."

The Mizunos were shocked by her speech. The voice was as torn and lifeless as the rest of her. Ami knew that Ranko was shy; she knew that she deeply loved both Ranma and Akane, but to sacrifice everything like this was beyond human.

"Anything. Just come in her and let us help you. Please."

Sailor Sun stumbled through the doorway, and almost tripped until the other girl managed to catch her. Ami was shocked. Sun felt so light. With her arm around her waist, she could feel all her ribs. "Sit at the table. When was the last time you ate? You've almost faded to nothing."

"I ate on Thursday. I don't feel hungry anymore."

"Thursday! That was two days ago!"

"No... The previous one‚" I just... don't have time. I need to be out there. I can't let them take anyone else."

Ami watched as her friend dissolved into meaningless mumbling about tomboys, okonomiyaki, curses and how Chinese ducks might taste really good with soy sauce. Looking at her, it was easy to believe that she had been without food for a week. Not only that, she had been fighting off almost all of the youma incursions in the city alone. The Sailor Senshi had not been able to compete with her for speed. Or ferocity. Looking closely at the bags under her eyes, Ami began to realize how she could get to all of the night intercepts so quickly. It was probably days since she slept.

Sailor Sun jerked back upright. A brief spark flared in her eyes. "Need your help, Ami. You're the only one smart enough. You know I always respected you, don't you? No one else realized. Even Rei looked surprised, so I know I can trust you. Just gotta keep going a little longer, then we'll go get Akane. I can trust you, can't I, Ami? You'll help, you're my friend..."

Sailor Sun stopped her babbling for a few moments to accept a cup of hot cocoa from Ami's mother. The doctor thought that cocoa was just what she ordered for this patient. Not only did it have some calories - which the girl seemed to be sadly lacking at the moment - the strong flavor would also cover the minor sedative, which she had put in the glass. People were incredible machines, and she knew from her daughter that the Senshi's magic made them even greater; but people were not supposed to work themselves the way that this girl was. Whatever crisis could wait for a few hours until she was rested and fed. A bath would not hurt either.

Sailor Sun eagerly slurped the cocoa down. Fairly sure of what her mother would have done, Ami spoke quietly to her friend until her eyes began to close. A moment later, Sailor Sun was asleep at their dinner table, snoring quietly.

Ranko looked up at the ceiling. Slowly it dawned on her. She was in a bed, a proper bed, not just a futon on the floor. For that matter, she did not recognize that ceiling. Looking around her, she did not recognize the room either. She groaned. Real. It had all been real, the Sailor Senshi, the youma. Akane.


Tears rolled silently down her cheeks and she tried to remember why she was here. Or where she was. She looked around. Not her room, someone else's. Time to get moving. Got to get up. Got to eat something. No telling how much time had been lost. Got to find that uncute tomboy.

With a great effort, Ranko hauled herself out of bed. She was so tired. She was so weak. What had happened to her? Standing up, she looked down and let out a small cry of 'eep!' She was wearing a nightie. Girl's clothes, Ranko was wearing a girl's nightdress. Quickly she took it off and threw it on the ground. She might be weak, she might have failed Akane, but she was still a guy, and there was no way she was going to wear girl's clothes.

Ami looked up when Ranko entered the room. She had a sheet wrapped around her - she really was a shy girl - but she was looking much better than yesterday. After they had left her fall asleep, Ami and her mother had given her a bath, then put her into Ami's bed for the night. They had remembered Akane's warning about Ranko's aversion to hot water, and gave her a fairly cool bath. Since then, Ranko had slept for almost eighteen hours.

"Hi, Ranko. Feeling better?"

"Yeah, much." Ranko was shocked at how her voice sounded. It was so dry and lifeless. She tried again. "Thanks for bringing me in, Ami. You're a real friend. I've had an idea, but I need your help. Do you think you could give me a hand?"

Ami smiled. It was the first time that Ranko had ever called any of the Senshi a friend. "Tell you what, Ranko. Join me for lunch and I'll do whatever I can, deal?"


While Ranko sat at the table, still only wearing the sheet, Ami started bringing out plates of food as she prepared them. True to her past form, Ranko had a massive appetite, made only greater by a week's denial. By the time Ami had brought out enough lunch for four people, Ranko was starting to slow down, actually chewing the food rather than inhaling it. Ami was about to sit down when Ranko asked for some hot water. Realizing that they did not have any tea yet, she brought out a tea set and a kettle of water.

While she served up her own plate, Ami watched as Ranko reached for the kettle. When she didn't pour the tea, but instead held it over her head, Ami's mouth opened. When she poured the water over her head and changed into Ranma, she fainted.

Ranma looked at Ami. It could be a bit of a surprise to see the first time, even if you were expecting it. Moving around the table, he propped her head up and patted her hand. Fluttering her eyes, Ami awoke and looked into Ranma's face. "Arg! It's a demon! What have you done to Ranko? Are you doing this just to taunt me! You won't win! The other Senshi are on their way over here!" She pulled out her communicator and pressed the all call button.

Ranma watched baffled as the terrified girl backed away. "What's the matter? You figured this out weeks ago. Besides, Rei must have told everyone what she saw. Why are you frightened?"

Ami calmed down. Maybe, somehow, it was Ranma, or Ranko, or whatever. "What do you mean figured it out? I thought you were a lesbian!"

"A what?"

"A lesbian."

"No, I'm a Saotome, you know that."

Ami relaxed at Ranma's attempt at a joke. At least she hoped it was a joke. "Silly, I mean that you like girls. Or that Ranko likes girls."

Ranma looked at her as though she had a few screws loose. "Of course I like girls. I'm a guy, can't you tell?"

"But, what about Ranko?"

"Hey, just cause I look like a girl sometimes, I'm still a guy. Of course I like girls. Why else would I like them if I wasn't a guy?"

"Um... Don't worry... So Rei was right. It was you that took the transformation stick. So who is Ranko?"

"I already explained this to you. When I was training with my father, he knocked me into the spring of drowned girl at Jusenkyo. Ever since then when I get hit by cold water, I turn into a girl. One hell of a curse, hey? I just use the name Ranko so I don't have to tell people about my curse. It's a pretty private sort of thing."

Looking down at his sheet, he asked sheepishly, "Could I have my clothes back?"

Ami blushed and pointed to a small laundry basket sitting on the floor behind him. Ranma took a moment to gather his things and change in the bathroom.

They kept the conversation pretty light for a while until the other Senshi arrived. When Ami explained about Ranma and Ranko, and told them she was now a fully committed member of the team, the disguises came down and full introductions were made except for the part when it was revealed that Usagi was Sailor Moon. It was Ranma's turn to faint. Finally, they all were seated and eating the remainder of the lunch.

When everyone had arrived and was ready, Ranma spoke. "I have a plan."

Shampoo and Ukyo were not happy girls, and since Shampoo was not happy, that meant that Mousse was not happy either. Oddly enough, the cause of their suffering was one that was highly familiar to them; it just came in a new variation. In many ways, it was fortunate that a Mr. Genma Saotome of the Saotome School of Anything Goes Martial Arts was off 'training' somewhere. There were at least three people who had a strong desire for a bit of Panda Stew.

Since Soun did not know the full details of Ranma and Akane's training, and Kasumi had not been told the exact details - she was considered too honest to know the truth - so Genma had confided in Nabiki. With the private agreement that fifty percent of the income generated would go to him, he had sat down with Nabiki and read his short prepared speech. While Nabiki knew that his statements were lies, she was quite willing to sell such tidbits as: "Mr. Saotome said that Ranma and Akane have gone off to the Tanaka Dojo in Hokkaido."

Everyone knew (from personal experience) just how reliable Genma and Nabiki were. Nabiki was scrupulously honest, honest to the point that she would guarantee the information she gave was accurate when it was gathered. However, Genma's complete lack of honesty was also well known. If Genma had said that they were in Hokkaido, there were good odds that they were elsewhere.

Nabiki knew perfectly well where Akane actually was, she spoke to her on the phone several times a week. However, Nabiki loved her sister, and if she could reap a healthy - and easy - profit without hurting her: wonderful. A few carefully chosen words, and she brought in several thousand yen, and mislead the various people looking for the lovebirds.

Shampoo finally ground to a halt and rested on her bonbori.

"Shampoo think visiting twenty-eight dojo be waste of time. Husband no here."

Ukyo looked at her with distaste at the word 'Husband'. She was also beginning to suspect that they had been completely led astray. For the last two months they had searched high and low in Hokkaido. The large island had been searched quite thoroughly, since Tanaka was such a common name. "You're right Shampoo, but what else have we got to go on? If he's not here, he could be anywhere, anywhere in the world really. We just have to keep going."

Shampoo snorted in disgust. "Perhaps lost boy have better luck finding them. He look everywhere but where he want to."

The trio laughed and resumed the march. Tanaka dojo number twenty-nine was only thirty kilometers away.

Ryoga looked around. It was his worst nightmare (well, other than the one where Ranma marries Akane... or where Akane finds out he's P- Chan... or the one where he wakes up in town without any clothes... or the one where...). It was one of his nightmares. Everyone was dressed just like Principal Kuno. They even spoke the same!

Ryoga looked around some more. There was a sign for an interstate highway. Ryoga scratched his head. He had only been here for a few days, but he knew he was definitely on an island... how do you have interstate highways on an island?

He decided to follow the highway. Setting off, he envisaged the look of appreciation on Akane's face when he arrived: 'Thank you, Ryoga. I just couldn't stand another minute with, Ranma.' After a while Ryoga sighed and took stock of his surroundings again.

When had it started snowing in the tropics? Am I lost again? Before the cold snow could trigger his curse, he shouted to the heavens. "Ranma, this is all your fault!"

"That's the most absurd plan I have ever heard!"

"I haven't heard you offer anything better!"

Makoto glared at the boy. A boy! How on earth had a boy become a Senshi? Was there no justice in the universe? And he even looked a bit like her old boyfriend. Oh, please don't let my old boyfriend turn out to be a Sailor Senshi too. "Listen, we defeated Beryl before by staying here and defending. We can do it again!"

Ami coughed, "Remember D-Point?"

Makoto blinked. "Oh."

"Feh! You didn't defeat them! It's probably them right now. You can't win a fight by defending. We need information, and the only way to do it is to start to attack. I have to cross through that portal. When I'm on the other side, I'll finally be able to tell you who or what it is we're facing."

Rei joined in the argument. "I hate to admit it, Ranma, but she's right. It's also too dangerous. If what's beyond that portal is anything like D-Point, you'll never survive. We just got you back. We can't let you throw yourself away like this."

"OK, Rei, let me show you how important it is to be able to attack, and not just defend. See this line, that's your dimension. I can't cross it, and you stay on that side. I'll close my eyes. All you have to do is reach over and touch me. If you can touch me more often that I can grab your hand, you win."

Rei sighed and played his little game. It was obvious to Makoto that Ranma was holding back, she knew he could hear Rei's every move, but when she understood what he meant, she offered no criticism. Rei stood on her side and every now and again she would touch Ranma. If she was too slow, or touched the same spot several times, he would grab her hand. Otherwise, he ineffectively groped blindly. Eventually Rei really got into it, and started moving and poking him all over the body, arms, legs, chest, everywhere. Rei was starting to get excited at how easy it was to beat Ranma - her invincible Sensei - when the fact of the matter dawned on her.

As soon as she stopped, Ranma opened his eyes. "See what I mean? If we allow the Dark Kingdom to dictate the attacks, we can't win. Sooner or later, they will kill one of us. It may be tomorrow; it may be in a year. Then there's only going to be nine. Then eight. Then seven. After that, how long will we be able to hold them off? We only just won when they sent thirty. What happens if they send one hundred? Run away and let them have Tokyo, or curl up and die?"

Even Usagi snarled at this. "No way are they going to get Tokyo! I would die first!"

"You probably would. But what if we could hit them? What if every time they opened a portal, we went through and clobbered several of them. What if we went in rescued every person that they kidnapped. What if - in time - we could find and defeat their leader? What if we finally have a real opportunity to defeat these demons, once and for all?"

By now everyone was nodding their heads. Ami looked up from her computer and smiled. "OK, Ranma. I can force the portal to stay open, but only for a few minutes. You can make a quick trip in and out, look around and that's all. Next time we might be able to do better."

Ranma smiled and nodded. They were falling for it. "That's fine, in and out. No problem."

Haruka leaned on Ranma and wished he would change back to Ranko. Somehow he was so much nicer when he was a girl. There was also something quite disturbing about discussing the Senshi plans with a boy. Tuxedo Kamen did not really count, he was... different. "A bit of reconnaissance is fine, but you can bet that there is going to be a heap of youma on the other side of the portal. What makes you think that you can get back safely?"

Ranma smiled enigmatically. "Just bring Luna and Artemis. You'll see."

Mr. Miyagi watched as Daniel-san fought in the competition. Once he used to think that Daniel was quite a good student. Especially when he trained that other kid, and the American bimbo with no respect. Now he had seen Ranma fight, and honestly believed that Daniel would not last thirty seconds against Ranma, even if Ranma were holding back. As he expected, Daniel was whipped in the next round.

When Daniel came off the mat, Mr. Miyagi decided to try teaching him one of the special attacks, which Ranma had demonstrated, to him. He knew that he could not do the attack, but there was hope that Daniel-san was still young and strong enough to be able to focus his ki to be able to do the Kachuu Tenshin Amaguriken. The next bout that Daniel-san was scheduled to fight was not for another two days. Now if he could find a bag of Chestnuts, there would be no problem teaching him.

"Daniel-san. I have been studying with another Sensei in Japan recently. The young man is a true Martial Arts master and has demonstrated a technique that you would benefit from. I am not sure that you could master such a technique, but if you could: the fight would be yours."

Daniel smirked. "Give me a chance, Mr. Miyagi. I know I could master any technique you can teach me. Feh! When I'm finished here, I'll go back with you to Japan and show you what a real Martial Arts master is!"

Despite his decades of Martial Arts excellence, despite his years of inner calm and serenity, despite being a man who had found his center, and could maintain calm in any battle, Mr. Miyagi laughed so hard he fell over.

Sailor Sun stood with her back to the other Senshi and watched as three youma began a serious attack against a group of people indulging in a little late night shopping. Even when she could not see Luna or Artemis, just knowing that they were so close was sending a shiver up her spine. Forcing her voice to be steady, she gave them the final run down.

"It's pretty simple. When I get scared enough, my mind just snaps, and I access the Neko-ken. Basically, if Luna and Artemis cling to me for a little while, I'll start yowling, and screaming like a cat. When that happens, stand back, because I tend to be a bit unpredictable. I won't have much control over what I'm doing, so point me at the portal, and set me loose. Got it?"

Mars smacked her forehead. "That's the stupidest thing I have ever heard. Even meatball head could come up with something better!"

Sailor Moon began to sniffle. "Hey! My ideas are better than that... aren't they?"

Sailor Sun shook her head. "No, you don't understand. When I'm using the Neko-ken I'm much more powerful than normal. Even as Ranma I could probably defeat one of the Senshi if I'm using it. When I'm Sailor Sun... Now toss those cats on me, people are getting hurt."

The cats were about to launch themselves at the girl when Mercury spoke up. "Wait! Sure you'll be safe, but how do we cure you afterwards?"

"Akane's the only one who can calm me down enough when I've gone cat... so you'll just have to change me back to being a guy. Just toss hot water. Luna! Artemis! Quickly! Now!"

When the Senshi nodded, they leapt. Artemis secured a position on Sailor Sun's head, while Luna landed on her shoulder. Together they screeched and held on for dear life. In a shocking display of speed, Sailor Sun began charging back and forth in front of the Senshi screaming in primal fear, waving her arms around like she was swatting thousands of flies. She had just bowled over one of the youma that had started to come too close when she seemed to trip over and calm down.

The Senshi's shoulder slumped. So much for that idea: she must have worn herself out. Then Neko-Sun spoke. "Yeeeoowwww."

No human throat should have made a sound like that. When Sailor Sun turned around, still on all fours, her eyes were empty. Any semblance of the girl they knew was wiped away. She had just started to clean her hands... paws... when the youma reclaimed its feet and marched over to her. Neko-Sun ignored it, her back turned as it approached. The Senshi were getting ready to intervene when the youma sent a sticky tentacle at her.

Neko-Sun hardly seemed to move, but then she was a meter away and looked really pissed. With a casual swat of her hand, the youma flew across the street, black blood pouring from four long gashes on it's flank. Neko-Sun looked at the Senshi curiously then ran at the other youma and the portal. As she ran, a corona of flame rose around her, and the form of a giant cat could be seen, composed purely of flame. The giant cat mimicked her every move, and as she struck at a youma, so did the cat image, shredding and burning the victim.

Neko-Sun was just entering the portal when Sailor Mercury started to sprint towards her. As she ran she emptied her bag and shouted to the other Senshi who were trying to keep up. "She's gone to rescue Akane! When she's a cat she won't know to come back through the portal! She wants to throw her life away! Neptune, fill this with hot water! I've got to get her back!"

Sailor Mercury continued to sprint for the portal. Normally it would have closed by now, but she suspected that the sudden appearance of a Sailor Senshi using the power of the Neko-ken had caught the Dark Kingdom's demons by surprise. As she ran, Mercury could feel the stream of water that Neptune directed into her bag. She kept her computer in one hand, but all the other little things she usually kept were gone, tossed on the road to make space. I hope this will be enough water Ranko, or Ranma, or whoever you are. You never told us how much you need, or how hot. I just hope this will be good enough.

The portal was shutting down even as she threw herself into it. This could be bad, she thought. Then everything went white. Not the blackness of space, not the grey fog of unconsciousness, but white. Everything, everywhere was white, all she could hear was someone screaming, high pitched in agony. It was not until she gasped for breath that she realized it was herself that was doing the screaming. As the whiteness continued to pour through her, she felt screaming was her best option. If I entered this gate too late, will I be here forever?

Her question was answered when she fell to her knees. Gravity, touch, sound, and sight: things so taken for granted that you never notice until they are gone. Standing, she looked around, trying to take stock of the situation. She was on some sort of a raised dais on the middle of a plain. The dais, the road leading from it, and the city at the end of the road were all some form of white metal. Not silver or steel in color, they were similar but with their shine paled somewhat in whatever alloy this was made of. Sailor Mercury stood on her toes and looked for her friend. Around her there must have been more than a dozen youma in various stages of dismemberment and dissolving. A shattered cage, testament to the harvest of people, was also visible.

Looking around she finally spotted a small cloud as Neko-Sun ran across the plain, heading for some large rocks. Even at this distance, she could see the glow of her cat image. Mercury leapt off the dais and almost twisted her ankle. I've got no power! Nothing. She was still in her Sailor Suit, but her powers were gone. As she ran - puffing like a steam train - she thought on the problem. Eventually it dawned on her. When she went through the portal, she had separated herself from the life forces of the planet that she gained her power from. Which also explained why Sailor Sun was still fully charged. The sun was vastly larger that any of the planets in the solar system, but Sailor Sun was only marginally more powerful than any other Senshi. Sailor Sun did not use the life forces in her focus in the same way they did, she must be tapping other forms of magic energy, weak by comparison, but in such massive quantities...

Sailor Sun was going to be the only one capable of fighting the youma in this dimension, and she seemed to be sitting happily licking her wounds.

While being watched intently, Sailor Mercury advanced on her friend. The deadly, burning battle aura had faded away, and the all purpose cultural cat girl seemed calm enough. Whispering quietly, Sailor Mercury sat on the ground nearby and invited the cat over. Timidly, as though afraid of her every move, the cat girl advanced closer until she sat down next to her. When Sailor Mercury began scratching her shoulders under the long red hair, Neko-Sun jumped onto her legs.

Continuing the patting, Sailor Mercury pressed the jewel in Sun's bow in the proper way, which would allow Sailor Sun to change back to Ranko. She wasn't sure which was stronger: the Jusenkyo curse or the Sailor magic. Sailors must be girls, and hot water should make her a him. Best not to risk it. Ranko mewled plaintively when she felt her power vanish, weakening down to a mere mortal level. Looking around wide eyed, she failed to see Mercury hoist her bag full of water. Better hope this is hot enough, because there's no way I can heat it.

Ranma woke up and looked at Mercury. She held him and was quietly stroking his head. Panic filled him. If Akane saw this, she would hit the roof. Leaping off her, he immediately began to apologize. "It's not what it looks like! I didn't mean to Ami! Sorry! Sorry! Don't tell anyone! It's not my fault!"

Mercury smiled at his confusion. When he stopped apologizing for a moment, she let her smile slip into a frown. "You weren't planning on coming back, were you? You were just going come here and try and commit suicide. We're a team Ranko. We're here to help you."

Ranma looked sheepish for a while. "Sorry, Ami. It's just; I'd do anything for Akane. The only way I could think of to save her was the Neko-ken. People tell me that when I go cat, I tend to look for her. I figured the best chance I would have to find her and survive is to use the Neko-ken."

"You really love her, don't you?"

"What? That tomboy?!? Are you kidding me? I... I... Yes... Yes I do... I do love her and I never got a chance to tell her. Now she's gone."

Tears began to form in Ranma's eyes. "Ranko, we can find her, and we can get her out. Strength is one thing, brains is another. There's a reason that mankind is the ruler of our planet and not the saber-tooth tiger. Brains, Ranko, brains. With our brains, we'll find a way in, and we'll get them all out, not just Akane."

"It's Ranma, not Ranko, Ami, please. You could be right. A pair of Sailors, with your brains and my brawn, we can accomplish anything."

"Actually, Ranma, I can't access my Mercury power here. We're down to one Senshi at the moment, but I've had some ideas on that..."

Ranma raised his eyebrows in trepidation. He hoped this didn't involve him marrying someone.

Almost two days had passed since Ranma's disastrously stupid plan. Rei looked around at the aftermath of another battle and sighed. In the past people had been hurt or they had seen each other captured or hurt, but now two of their number had been killed. Everyone was sure they were dead; transported into a dimension of demons, how could they survive? When they ventured to D-Point, they had died. If it weren't for Sailor Moon's dying wish, they wouldn't be alive today.

They could almost understand why Ranma would do it. Almost. If it was just himself, which he had sacrificed, Tuxedo Kamen said he would be able to understand. It was when he involved Sailor Mercury and caused her to join him in death: that was the unforgivable part.

After Sailor Mercury threw herself into the closing portal, the other Senshi had come in and cleaned up the youma. When they thought about it, they had realized that Mercury had been right: Sailor Sun gone cat would never have known to return through the portal. Only Mercury had been quick enough to understand, and she had been too late to save either of them.

Down to eight, the Senshi fought the youma with all their ability, but with a growing feeling of dread. What Ranma had said about attack and defense still held true: if they did not attack, they would lose. When Sun and Mercury crossed over, the attack that they expected around midnight did not occur. The usual attack at two in the morning did. All that their sacrifice had bought was a reprieve of a few hours.

Rei looked around and saw Usagi sitting on the pavement. Dropping her disguise, Rei walked over and put her arm around her small friend. Normally she took great pleasure in teasing the dizzy blonde, but somehow she could not bring herself to do that now.

"I know why he did it, Rei. If Mamoru was taken from me, I don't know what I'd do. I hate him for going, and I hate him for taking Ami. But I understand."

"I know, Usagi, I know. Now we just have to try and stop the invasion as best we can. The bastards may have killed two of us, but we'll never give in."

"NO! They're not dead, Rei! I know it! They're not dead. We're going to be here for them. Every time a portal opens, we'll be here, and when they come through, we'll rescue them."

The blonde girl shook her head, tears flying from her eyes as she spoke. Rei could understand her pain. No matter what else, it was better that Usagi was ready to stand up and fight, rather than lay down and cry. Rei sincerely believed that their friends were dead, but if Usagi wanted to cling to the false hope of their survival, so be it. False hope was better than no hope.

"We'll be here, Ami."

Sailors Sun and Mercury looked over the edge of the low cliff and watched the demon city. For all the darkness and evil it embodied, it was surprisingly beautiful. Other smaller buildings surrounded the large, white, central tower. Each of the buildings was smooth and elegant, with gently sloping ramps connecting the various parts of the settlement. All around, they could see numerous youma moving to and fro, doing whatever it is that they do when they are not killing people and invading other dimensions.

Beneath the cliff was the one piece of green that could be seen as far as the eye could see. In the middle of the plain of brown and red rock was a small garden. The pair had sneaked in there last night, and had been amazed to find some form of fruit growing. Ami's computer had shown that it was not only non-poisonous; it was also an ideal form of food. It was rich in calories, had all the essential minerals and proteins, and would be capable of sustaining life indefinitely. It also tasted like something Akane would cook, namely cardboard.

Two events that day made the acres of mana melons' use obvious. The youma were busily harvesting and scraping out the food inside, putting it into large buckets, which they carried away. They also saw twenty people arriving down one of the roads leading to one of three portal daises. If Jadeite was using these people for life energy, he needed to keep them fed. If the youma could harvest food it was just part of the process of converting solar energy - which grew the plants - in to the life force which was harvested from the people who ate the plants.

Mercury's attempts to find Akane had provided them with more information. Working on the assumption that anyone as powerful as Akane would stand out, she used her computer to scan for strong sources of life energy. Two showed up, and when one was confirmed as the Senshi's old enemy Jadeite, they assumed the other was Akane.

Mercury sighed at the view. "This is nothing like D-Point."

"What in the world is D-Point?" Sun asked, perplexed.

The blue haired Senshi sagged her shoulders. "It's where the Dark Kingdom had their base before. We went there to defeat Queen Beryl and... We died."

Sun got worried. "Died?"

"Yes, Minako, Rei, Makoto and I were killed helping Sailor Moon reach Beryl's base. After Sailor Moon defeated Beryl, we came back to life. Had she lost..." Mercury's voice trailed off in hopelessness.

"Well, that ain't going to happen. I'm going to get Akane and kick, uh, what's his name's butt."

"Jadeite." She reminded her. She scanned an area below their vantage point again and frowned at the results.

They had been hoping to spend some more time observing before rescuing Akane and anyone else they could, but they saw something that changed their minds. The land outside the city was divided into thirds by the roads that lead to the portals. In one third were the mana melon gardens. In the second was some sort of factory, and in the third an army was forming. An army of youma, not the ones and twos they normally fought. Not the thirty, which had attacked and almost defeated the Senshi. This was hundreds of the monsters. They stood there formed up in ranks, forming a large square, twenty to a side.

It should be said that they almost formed a square. The last column needed another eight to complete it. That number dropped to seven as they watched another youma come out.

"Are you thinking what I am, Ami?"


"We have to warn the other Senshi about that army. If they all transport to Tokyo now, there would be no way to stop them. You have to get back to Sailor Moon. Tell her that we need to evacuate part of the city. The army needs to be informed. They might not be as much use as the Senshi, but in an open battle, they're better than nothing. Head to one of the daises, when it's due to open, I'll go get Akane. You go through and warn the others. I'll meet you back on Earth as soon as I can."

Sailor Mercury glared at her. "Sailor Sun, if you think I'm going to abandon you or Akane, you have another thing coming. I say we go ahead with our original plan. We go in, we rescue everyone, and we get out. If we take enough people, we can put an end to his army building days."

Sailor Sun considered it for a moment then nodded. They waited for a few more minutes until their path of descent was clear, then leapt down the cliff. Using the garden as cover, they ran to the city, using Sailor Mercury's computer as a map to Akane. The other captives should be nearby.

Entering the city was quite easy. There were no guards, just the occasional youma going about its business. Jadeite was still suffering from overconfidence: he must still be expecting that whoever had come through the portal had gone to ground. An army of four hundred would make the battle suicidal for anyone who attacked. Running through the maze of white corridors, they burst into a large room, only thirty meters from Akane's location.

The room was large, possibly even big enough to qualify as huge (which is larger than large, but smaller than massive). All down the length of the room, and stacked three times vertically were clear glass cylinders. In each of the cylinders was a naked body. Machinery fitted to the tops of the cylinders pulsed and glowed with energy as it was sucked from the bodies inside. They had found one of the harvesters.

Mercury stopped stunned. They knew that people had been being kidnapped for a while, but this was ridiculous. This room alone must have held over two hundred people. There was no way that they could rescue this many people without having to fight off an army of demons. Protecting that many weak, innocent people would be no easy task. That was assuming that the portal would oblige them by staying open long enough for two hundred weary travelers to pass through it.

Two hundred? Mercury smacked herself in the head. If raids had been as successful as they seemed recently, there were probably five hundred or a thousand people to rescue. She turned to Sailor Sun. "Forget them. We can't rescue everyone today. Let's get Akane, and remember not to use your magic. If you do, I'm down to looking pretty."

Sailor Mercury had designed a way that Sailor Sun could provide the power that she, or even several Senshi would need to be able to fight. By using the power of Sailor Sun's massive reserves of magical energy, Sailor Mercury would be able to fight at full strength. However, if Sailor Sun started using her magic attacks the drain would be too great, and Sailor Mercury would be reduced to mortal levels. This gave them a full strength Sailor Mercury, and Sailor Sun's deadly ki attacks. Recharged with her innate Senshi healing, Sailor Sun should be able to keep up the ki attacks for quite a while.

Sun grew impatient knowing that her fiancée was now within reach. She ran from cylinder to cylinder, and took an embarrassed peek at the nude contents within. "No, no, nope, no, nope..." Each and every cell had someone, but it wasn't Akane.

Mercury opened her computer and scanned the room. "She's in the next room, that way." She pointed to a large door.

The pair stopped at the door and Mercury gawked in amazement at the symbol on it. It was her symbol, the one of the planet Mercury. Below, there was a name written, Ami Mizuno. "That's my name. What's going on here?"

"This." Sailor Sun gave the door a good kick and stubbed her toe. "Ouch!"

Mercury rolled her eyes. She walked over to a small button in the wall next to the door and pressed the one marked 'Open'. The door quietly slid to the side. Silently, she ignored her friend who was still dancing on one boot and moaning in pain.

Inside the chamber, they found Akane sealed in a cylinder. She was all in a room of her own. Apparently, since she was so valuable - she generated more energy than an average family - she was powering something special. Sailor Sun hopped up to the cylinder then blushed and looked away. "Err... Sailor Mercury, swap places. I'll guard the corridor so you can get her out. She's... uh... completely naked."

Mercury sighed. Akane was Ranma's fiancée. If he couldn't see her naked, who could? Especially since he was saving her life. Walking up to the cylinder, she waved at Ranma, and then punched it hard with her fist. Rather than shattering, all that occurred was an alarm started to sound. With a frown, Mercury tried a kick. It should have been able to buckle a steel plate, but there was no effect.

Using her computer she scanned the clear cylinder. Stasis crystal. This stuff was almost unbreakable. The only the person who could open it safely was the person who cast the spell to seal it. Sure, it was possible to break, a nuke or similar should do it. The only problem was that whatever could break it would kill the occupant.

Mercury walked up behind Sun and placed a hand on her shoulder. "It's a stasis crystal, Sailor Sun. There's no way we can break it. Come on, we have to leave. If we get back here with all of the Senshi we may be able to spend the time to undo the spell. We have to move."

The girls walked slowly down the corridor, delayed by Sailor Sun's potent grief. "It can't be unbreakable. I have to rescue her. Everything can be broken. Every crystal can be chipped or shattered. All you need is the find the right... Breaking Point!"

Spinning, she raced back into the room and looked the crystal up and down. "Mercury, buy me some time. This might take me a while."

Puzzled, Mercury turned back to the corridor in time to see the first youma arrive. "SHABON SPRAY FREEZING!"

With the youma blinded in the freezing, painful fog, she began to attack. She did not know what Sailor Sun had planned, but she would try and buy her a couple of minutes. Inside the small room Sailor Sun sat and began to meditate. She had seen Ryoga use it so many times before; she must be able to learn it.

In her mind, she played back every fight she had with Ryoga since the old ghoul taught him the Breaking Point. She saw her counters. She saw its limitations. Sweat began to pour down her brow. Must remember. Must learn. Can't leave Akane. Nearby the sound of battle became a distant noise, fading from thought as she concentrated.

Two minutes passed. Three. After four and a half minutes Sailor Sun stood, poked her finger at the wall and yelled: "BAKUSAI TENKETSU!"

Pulling her finger from the wall, she sat down. Outside, Sailor Mercury was beginning to be forced back. A third youma had arrived. She had killed one, but fighting one to two was not an easy way to win. Another three minutes passed. When she struck the floor this time she felt something different. Close. Not quite, but close. Before closing her eyes, Sailor Sun checked on the status of her protector.

With Mercury in such trouble, Sailor Sun entered the fray. Between blasts of ki she encouraged the other girl. "Only a couple more minutes." She threw a careful blast at an arm, which was above Sailor Mercury when the thoughts formalized. Leaving her again with two opponents, Sailor Sun ran into Akane's room again.

This time she chose the wall near the stasis crystal. If her guess was right, a direct line here would be the fastest way out. A scream of 'Bakusai Tenketsu' and a firm touch later and there was a smoking hole in the metal wall. "Sailor Mercury! When I call 'now', grab Akane and take her out of the room. You won't have any magic since I'm going to Plasma Blast that corridor shut!"

Mercury risked a glance over her shoulder. Sure enough, there was a new hole in the wall. How Sailor Sun could do it without magic was a mystery. While she fended off the attack of a youma, she heard Sailor Sun scream again, then there was the sound of breaking glass. "Now!"

Without hesitation, Sailor Mercury leapt backwards. The youma had left itself open after its attack, but years of team fighting had taught her to trust her friends. Even if you did not know what they were doing, they could be counted on to do what they said. When she landed, she turned and saw an unconscious girl lying in a pile of crystal shards. Everything she knew screamed that this was impossible. Anything capable of breaking the stasis crystal should have leveled the whole building.

Ignoring the impossible, she grabbed the naked, sleeping girl and ran through the mysteriously created hole in the wall. As she ran she saw Sailor Sun preparing an oversized version of her normal attack. Throwing herself around the corner, she leaped onto Akane, shielding the girl with her body.


Looking back she saw a jet of fire race from the hole into the room. As the concussion faded and the building stopped shaking, she felt a powerful hand hold her by the collar and lift her to her feet. Before she could steady herself, Sailor Sun was there, holding Akane in her arms, kissing her firmly and sobbing with relief.

"Wow. I haven't seen a girl kiss like that since Michiru's slumber party. Don't panic, Sun. She's just sleeping. I think she's probably exhausted from having her energy drained for the last week. Let's go!"

Sun's plan of going through a solid wall seemed to have worked. They had a head start on the demons, and were doing well. Sailor Sun carried Akane and managed to stay with Mercury as she mapped their way through the complex. Finally they burst outside and could make the sprint for the portal.

Both Senshi headed off at full speed, but it soon became apparent that while carrying the sleeping form of Akane, Sailor Sun was slower. Mercury started to slow, but when Sun urged her on, she again sprinted at her best speed. "Get moving. We have to get that information to the Senshi. I'm right behind you."

By the time they were three quarters of the way there, the distance between the two Senshi had opened considerably. Puffing heavily, Sailor Sun called into her communicator. "Don't think I'm giving up, I'd do anything to get Akane to safety, you know that. But if they close the portal after you enter, remember three things. One: there's an army coming to invade. Two: we won't be able to follow you anytime soon, the army of youma will see to that. Three: we're going to need our own portal to be able to rescue those people. You can't stop running because they may close it before you arrive, and I'm beginning to think they'll be able to close it before I can get there. Get Moon to prepare a counter strike. If you can make a portal, we can ignore Tokyo for a few days and come here to defeat Jadeite. He's the master, without him, the youma are nothing."

Ahead of her, she could see Mercury hitting the steps of the dais. Off to the side there was a youma screaming into a communicator. Giving it everything she had, she tried to reach the portal. She watched Mercury hesitate, and knew the portal was closing. "Get in there NOW! Send red flares through when you're ready. Give me two days to signal, when I do, home on me..."

Still fifty meters ahead of her, Mercury moved through the portal, just as it sealed shut. On the platform, three youma moved to attack her. She knew she could defeat three youma. It would hurt, no doubt, but she could do it. The only problem was Akane. She would die if she carried her into battle. Glancing behind, Sailor Sun saw the youma running to catch her. Turing ninety degrees, Sun sprinted into the sunset, fleeing Jadeite's city of evil.

Once she reached the broken rocks and hills ahead, the youma would never find her. Sailor Sun looked down at the precious bundle cradled in her arms. They were just two people, alone on a hostile planet filled with demons. Opposing them was an army of demons protecting and using the only passages to their home world. Isolated from all their friends. No matter how bad the situation, Ranma knew that somehow she still held in her arms everything that mattered to her in the universe. Either universe.


It was dark when Sailor Mercury exited the portal. Once again there had been the tearing pain and the intense whiteness. One moment she had been there absorbed in the agony, next she was running face first into the back of a youma. Her momentum was enough to knock them both over. In many ways it was fortunate, because moments later Sailor Moon's deadly blast cleaved the air where her head would have been.

As soon as she regained her feet, Mercury vaulted over the youma. Again luck was on her side, since a powerful bolt of Sailor Jupiter's Sparkling Wide Pressure hit the creature. Turning in the air she rotated and took in the battle lines: good guys there, bad guys here. Sailor Mercury landed at a run and immediately charged towards the startled forms of Sailors Moon and Jupiter.

Stepping forward, Sailor Moon let Jupiter grab the exhausted girl. Holding off the youma so Ranma could rescue Akane then sprinting several kilometers to the portal made her collapse as soon as she felt her friend's arms around her. Raising her staff, Sailor Moon snarled then yelled at the youma. "You dare to hurt one of the beautiful sailor suited defenders of love and justice? In Sailor Mercury's name I going to pound you into pulp!"

With one blast, she took out a youma and knocked it to the ground with a smoking hole in its chest, she then closed in on the other two. Even Sailor Mars could only watch in awe as her angered friend showed why she was the feared Moon Princess. By herself, Moon beat a demon into the ground, smashing it again and again, yelling in fury the whole time. By the time she had vented her anger, the other Senshi had easily defeated the remaining demon.

Resting in Sailor Jupiter's arms, Mercury looked at her surprised friends. "Oh, boy. We've got a lot of work to do."

Hidden in the rough, hilly area, Sailor Sun placed her fiancée on the ground and looked at her face. She was still unconscious, but she seemed to be regaining color. She brushed the hair out of Akane's face and took a look to see if she was injured elsewhere. What she saw immediately made her blush. Akane was naked. Not only that, but she had been carrying the naked Akane for several kilometers, holding her very tightly.

This could prove to be a problem.

Sitting down to think, Sailor Sun deactivated her magic and tried to come up with a brilliant idea. She had no idea how long they would be there, but it was a fair bet that the Senshi would not be able to rescue them too soon. That meant that Akane needed clothes, and as far as she knew, the only clothes on the planet were currently on her back.

That was it! Ranma immediately began to remove her clothes. When she only had her boxers on, she again summoned her Senshi powers. After a few seconds of transformation, she was again clothed in her short skirt and tight white top. Sailor Sun shuddered at the thought of needing to spend weeks dressed this way, but she could do it for Akane.

As quickly as possibly, she dressed Akane and checked her pulse again. She seemed to be sleeping. With her own back against a rock, Sailor Sun rested Akane's head on her legs, then held her hand. They stayed like that for several hours; the only movement was when Sun caressed Akane's face.

Akane woke with a start and looked around. Confusion was paramount. The last thing she could remember was fighting demons at Mr. Miyagi's place. She knew she had been hit, but then everything went black. Now she seemed to be in some sort of lifeless, rocky canyon. A voice penetrated her senses. Spinning around she saw a strange girl, a strange girl who seemed to have been holding her quite closely a few moments ago.

"Who are you? Where am I? What did you do to me? ACK! Why am I wearing Ranma's clothes?"

"Calm down, Akane. Calm down. It's okay, you're safe now." Said the strange red haired girl with eyes filled with worry and... love?

Jumping to her feet, she grabbed a mallet and glared at the girl. "I don't feel safe, so you've got thirty seconds to explain."

"It's me, Ranma! Don't you remember being captured by the youma? We rescued you."

"Bull! I know what Ranma looks like, and you're not him! Or her! Twenty."

The disguise field! "Damn! Sorry, forgot about that. I'm Sailor Sun. Sailor Mercury and I rescued you. The bad news is that you and I are still in the demon's dimension. Don't worry; we should be safe here for a while. When things calm down a bit in a while, we can try and steal some food."

Akane sighed and seemed to accept it. She recalled something about a Sailor Sun on the TV news. "Hmm, you do look like her, I guess. And you dress right. But where's Ranma, and you still haven't told me why am I wearing his clothes?"

Sailor Sun stood up and slowly moved behind a boulder. "Akane, you're just going to have to trust me for a moment, and believe me that none of this was my fault."

With that, she concentrated and dropped her Sailor powers. Akane stared as a mostly naked Ranko was revealed. Suddenly she was very glad that she had not followed the girl around the rock. That could have led to a very embarrassing situation. "Ra... Ranma. You... You became a Senshi? You... rescued me?"

Ranko blushed and waved a hand dismissively. "Well, they sort of conscripted me, something about destinies and birthrights and stuff. And well, you know me: demonic armies and dimensional barriers could never stop me from rescuing you."

Before she knew it, Akane was in her arms, head on her shoulder, tears wetting her shoulder as she sobbed. "Oh, Ranma. I was so worried about you. When they attacked, I just knew that you would try and save me. I didn't know what would have happened if they got you."

"Feh! I just would have put them in a world of hurt until I got you back."

After a while she calmed down and stepped back. "Ranma, there's just one thing. Why am I wearing your clothes? And uh... Why are you in your underwear?"

Ranko backed away, suddenly feeling a bit nervous. "Er, I figured, you know, since I could call up the little Sailor Suit, you needed 'em more than me. So.. yeah. Well, you're safe now. Heh, Heh"

Akane narrowed her eyes, a faint tick appearing under the left hand eye. Just then, she spied a city in the distance and she drew up a dangerous conclusion. "Are you trying to tell me that you carried me all this way, NAKED?!"

I'm in trouble now. "Umm."

In rage, she screamed and raised her mallet. "You pervert. I hope you like what you saw!"

While she wound up for a big swing, Ranko hung her head and mumbled something.

"WHAT did you say?"

Ranko replied in a very small voice. If there had been any noise other than the breeze in the canyon, it would not have carried to Akane's ears. "Yes."

The massive mallet fell from her lifeless fingers. "Yes? You... you said yes?"

Ranko somehow managed to hang her head even further. Turning away from Akane she began to walk away. Ranko knew what was coming now. She'd try and say something nice and Akane would knock her into the next week. Ranko was beginning to understand the pain of unreturned love that Ukyo must feel. "Yes... You're... You're very beautiful. Especially when you're asleep. You look so peaceful and happy."

Akane watched her fiancée move away from her. She could see it in her face and in the way she moved. It was fear, a fear of her reaction, and a fear of her rejection. Reaching out, she placed her fingers on the girl's arm. "Ranma. Thank you. It... It means a lot to me."

Ranko turned around, surprise written large all over her expressive face. "Do you really mean it?"

"Oh, yes, Ranma, I do. I mean it as much as what you said in the letter to me." She took Ranko in her arms, holding the smaller girl tightly.

"Thank you for coming and rescuing me. I... I really think I do love you too."

Ranko's heart surged. She did care. Maybe not the way he did. She still hit him all the time, and she still yelled at him, but she cared. And that was enough. Placing her head on Akane's shoulder, Ranko whispered to her. "Thank you, Akane. I love you. I always have. Ever since you first wanted to be friends when we first met, I've loved you. I... I just haven't been able to say it. You never know what you've got 'til you lose it."

She had been working on the dojo's accounts when the phone rang. The repair bills have dwindled to almost nothing since Ranma and Akane went to Juuban, which eased the burden on the finances considerably. The middle Tendo sister answered the phone hoping it was another city council wanting to hire her father or Mr. Saotome for demon removal services. It was their only real source of income. "Hello, this is Nabiki Tendo. Can I help you?"

"Good evening Tendo-san. This is Ami Mizuno, Ranma's tutor. I was wondering if I could speak to your or Ranma's father?"

Nabiki looked over at the two men playing shogi. Nah, if something has happened to little sister, I want to be the first to know. Besides, if she wants more money for trying to tutor that idiot Ranma, I'm the one she has to deal with anyway. "I'm sorry, Mizuno-san, they're both busy at the moment. Perhaps I can help you."

Ami pondered for a moment. It really would be best to tell the parents, but she supposed that the sister would relay any messages. "Please call me Ami. I'm a good friend of theirs. I should have called you a few days ago, but I was unavoidably detained. As you've probably heard, Tokyo has once again been attacked by demons. After Ranma got hurt fighting one of them, the two of them headed out of the city for a while. A sort of training trip really."

That was a surprise. Nabiki spoke with an air of disbelief. "Ranma actually took Akane somewhere? Voluntarily?"

"Why, yes. I mean, they're fiancées, so they do things together, don't they?"

Nabiki giggled; maybe those two would do something together under the influence of magic jewels, ancient curses or extortion. It really was good that she had answered the phone. If their parents had, the wedding would be waiting in the dojo as soon as Ranma and Akane returned. "I suppose so. Did they say where they were going?"

"Not exactly. I know that they're expecting to do a lot of fighting, but I'm not sure where they are, exactly... "

"How's my little sister, Ami? Is Ranma taking care of her?"

"Actually, you'd be surprised just how well he's taking care of her. Last I saw, she was sound asleep, and two were just about to set off for... well... other parts I suppose you could say."

They talked for several minutes more, until Nabiki had enough information. She knew that Ami was not telling her everything, but she could tell that the girl was not lying to her. If she was not lying, then Ranma and Akane must still be all right, and they were actually off together. Better make sure that she gave their parents the abbreviated version. It would not do if they thought Ranma and Akane were getting too close. It never lasted anyway.

Ami sighed when she hung up the phone. She was really glad she did not have to lie to the Tendo girl. It was bad enough that her friends were trapped on another world filled with demons. Knowing Sailor Sun was there to take care of her, Ami was quite sure that Akane would be safe enough for a short while, and that should be all the Senshi needed before they could rescue them. Ranma would surely die before he let harm come to Akane, and in that case Akane would be sure to follow soon after. Ranma was proud, but Ami knew he would sacrifice his pride before he sacrificed himself or Akane.

Lifting her head from the public phone, she looked over at where the other Senshi were getting ready to eat dinner. After the battle, they had reverted to normal clothes, and then stopped at a cafe for dinner. Ami had much to tell them and a lot to discuss. Just after they had ordered, she realized she needed to contact her friends' family. Some reassurance should hold them until the couple was safe. When she turned to leave the phone booth, she felt a touch on her arm.

Looking up into the eyes of a large well-built boy, she smiled and said hello. Replying in kind, he flashed a magnificent pair of fangs - oh, dear, could he be a vampire? "Hello, I'm Ryoga Hibiki. I heard you mentioning Ranma and Akane. I'm a friend of Akane's, and I've been trying to find her for the last couple of months. Do you know where she is?"

"I'm sorry, Ryoga. They went off on a training trip a couple of days ago..."

She was going to say more, but Ryoga screamed in anger and punched his fist into the concrete wall of the building they were next to. To Ami's surprise, the concrete gave way quite easily to his fist in a pattern that matched how Sailor Sun smashed a wall. "Damn you, Ranma Saotome! You've made my life a living hell! PREPARE TO DIE RANMA!"

Before she could finish her conversation, or even try and redirect the boy, he charged off, waving his furled umbrella as he ran.

Ami stood there for a moment, blinking her eyes as she processed just what happened. She shrugged. "What strange friends they have."

It was a slight disruption to his plans, but certainly one, which would be easily enough coped with. Jadeite looked at his battle plans and tried to determine what effect Sailor Sun and that other Senshi could have from where they were. After several hours of planning and simulations, his eventual evaluation was that the pair posed little threat to the operation, providing he detailed some youma to the defense of his base.

He had never seriously expected the Senshi to ever travel to this dimension, and it seemed that he had underestimated their tenacity and stupidity. Now they were weakened and on the defensive, and if the Senshi here decided to attack, then they would surely die. While the two Senshi could cause enormous damage, there was no real risk of them surviving if they stayed around.

The only attack, which Sailor Sun had, that could come close to defeating his army of youma rendered her vulnerable afterwards. If she wanted to come here and cast it, she was welcome to try. Just in case, he ordered his youma to stand in wide, loose formations. Now that better defenses were in place, he would know when she arrived. Perhaps if he sent a few regular patrols out, it would keep her busy. Not enough for the losses to worry him, but if she felt she were contributing, she would spend less time planning how to be effective.

Jadeite checked the countdown. His main strike force would finish being assembled in one day. Another day for the units to be positioned at the portals, and then it would be time to strike. Soon he would have an unbeatable army in Tokyo. Not even the Sailor Senshi at their full might, would be able to stop him. The only thing that could would be if the various governments decided to fire a nuclear weapon.

The magic required to withstand a nuclear strike was more than he had available. After he harvested a few thousand of the residents of Tokyo, and brought them here... that was another matter. When, and if the humans muster the resolve to vaporize Tokyo, it would be too late for them. After that... Well, Jadeite was perfectly happy with a slow victory. If each city he could save a few percent of the people before the humans vaporized everything, he would win eventually. Of course, there was nothing wrong with a devastating victory where the Sailor Senshi were crushed, and he was able to magically fortify the entire city before the civilians reacted.

The Senshi were arrayed in all their glory in the Governor's office. They had been up all night working on the information, which Sailor Mercury had risked her life to bring. Despite the fact that they were the city's most effective defenders, and although they had been the only thing which stood between this world and conquest by Queen Beryl, The Black Moon Clan and Pharaoh 90, most people still looked at them and saw young girls.

During the night, they had assembled a number of visual aids, something that they could use to convince the government to evacuate the city. Evacuation of a major city was an almost impossible task. The Senshi realized this, it was just that the alternative was too horrible to consider. If they could clear the civilians from the center of the city and put the army there, then it might be possible to halt the demonic advance.

Most of the pictures they were showing the Governor were from Ami's computer, but they had been blown up, and printed out. Gaining an audience with the Governor was easy; eight Senshi had walked up to his office and told his secretary that unless they were admitted and given several hours of time, the Governor would be responsible for the death of thousands of people. Now they were here, and Moon, Mercury and Mars were presenting information on the youma, which were attacking.

"In short, when doing a reconnaissance of the enemy base, we established that he had assembled an army in excess of four hundred of these youma. Given the known strength of the youma, we do not expect any non-military force to be able kill any of them. Also, it has been determined that their obvious objective is the capture and enslavement of as many people as possible to use them as a power source. Every person that Jadeite captures makes him harder to defeat.

"The Senshi will be doing everything that we can, but we're only human. Without assistance, we expect Tokyo to fall within two weeks of being attacked, if not sooner."

Everyone in the room looked at the last poster. On the left, a man-sized youma was pulling a struggling young woman into the portal. On the right, a massive multi-tentacled horror was preparing to throw a car. In the background, a sheet of flame covered the side of a building where a gas main had burst during the fight.

Silence reigned for several minutes. In one corner of the room, a clock ticked away the seconds.

After an eternity of waiting, the Governor looked at his aide and gave the smallest of nods. The aide immediately turned off the video camera that had been monitoring the meeting. Taking the tape, he headed outside. "Thank you for what you have told us today. This information may well be able to save many lives. Unfortunately, I do not have the power to authorize the sort of action that you desire. My aide is making a copy of the tape even as we speak. As soon as he is done, I will present the information to the Diet. Only with their approval will we be able to get the military support that we need."

"Given your proven track record, I see no reason to expect that full cooperation will not be attained. However, it will take time. Unless there is some way I can contact you, I suggest that you contact my secretary. I will leave any messages with her, but I would not expect any sort of response until after four o'clock this afternoon."

"Finally, if you could try to be available to assist tonight, we will record a number of public announcements. I think your presence will help to calm and motivate people."

"All right, Akane, I think we have three priorities. First: we have to stay alive, nothing is as important as that."

Akane nodded her head. They were on top of the cliff Sailors Mercury and Sun had used initially. Looking at the patch of Mana Melons, her stomach rumbled, and she realized how hungry she was.

"Second: I need to keep training you, and third, we need to figure out how to help the Senshi when they return."

"Hang on, Ranma. Shouldn't those to be the other way around?"

Standing up, Sailor Sun led her fiancée away for the demonic base. "Not really, Akane. You see. There are lots of people trapped in there, just like you were. Sailor Mercury told me that the stuff you were trapped in is called a Stasis Crystal. She thought that it was almost unbreakable. Unless we had a week to try and break the spell, we would kill you getting you out."

Walking beside the red head, Akane cocked her head to one side. "So how did you get me out?"

Sailor Sun smiled a wicked grin. "I figured out the Breaking Point technique that Ryoga uses. You know, if Cologne didn't teach him, and if he didn't use it so often trying to kill me: you'd still be a prisoner. I bet Cologne will spit blood when we tell her that one. It would have been a fool proof plan to trap you, but she had already provided the key."

"So, does that mean you're going to teach me the Breaking Point?"

"You betcha! Not only that, but I'm going to teach you everything else I can. This place is dangerous. You thought holding a Christmas party in Nerima was dangerous? These things won't be hurt by normal attacks, and they really want to kill you."

Very soberly Akane nodded. Even just surviving here until they were rescued would be their own little slice of hell. She was not sure if Sun realized this yet, but when that army headed for Tokyo, the Senshi would not be able to do much to help them. Sun looked across and saw the concerned look on her fiancée's face.

Sailor Sun placed one hand around Akane's shoulders. "Don't worry too much, Akane. None of those demons are going to get through me. And that means we can train you until you're ready. When you're ready... Then... Then it's pay back time."

Akane smiled. Not her cute little smile. It was more an evil grin borrowed from Kodachi. "With interest, Ranma. With interest."

That night all of the Senshi other than Sailor Mercury headed for the film studios. The evacuation was being planned, and the army was being mobilized. The main desire was for it to be orderly. If people panicked, then they would get killed in the evacuation. So the Senshi were making commercials to convince people of the best ways to leave. Credibility was the name of the game, and it was something they possessed in spades.

Mercury was out for two reasons. Firstly she was a total wreck from her last few days of activity. Secondly, she was now formally excused from all of the Senshi duties unless there was emergency. One of their team was still pinned down by Jadeite, needing to be rescued and the enemy was sitting happily and safely out of reach. Both of those things spelt the need for their own portal. Mercury was the only person they knew who would be capable of making one.

In the morning, she would start work with the cats. Although they did not have Mercury's intelligence, both Luna and Artemis possessed great knowledge and experience. If the three of them could not match the science of Jadeite, they might as well give in now.

The Senshi had no intention of giving in.

Halfway through one of the commercials they were filming, the alarm went off. A youma was entering, and the Senshi left the studio in a flash. Film crew scrambled to follow them, but by the time they arrived, there was little left but smoking remains. Taking the opportunity, Sailor Moon made an impassioned speech. These were the scouts for a demonic invasion; if you wished to live, leave the city.

The first troops were beginning to arrive in the city proper when all hell broke loose.

Private Kanada Moriyama looked around the temporary barracks. It was once a school, but it had been commandeered for the duration of the emergency. A group of recent arrivals were packing away their equipment over on one side, and the remnants of his platoon were getting some well-earned rest. Propping himself on a chair in the middle of the room, Kanada looked over the arrivals.

"Corporal, I really wouldn't bother packing so much ammo for your M16."

The Corporal in question turned and looked at the private. He was just about to put the man back in his place when he noticed the number of other men, which had his unit insignia. Twelve. A platoon should have at least thirty. Considering the fact that all of them seemed exhausted, including one walking wounded, he guessed that they might have seen action already. "Care to elaborate on that, Private?"

"Since it will help keep you guys alive longer, it would be a pleasure. Gather 'round everybody."

When the movement stopped and he had a sufficient audience, Kanada lit a cigarette and waited for quiet. "I don't know what kind of briefing they're giving now, but I suspect that it's probably the same garbage they fed us. Whatever you do, don't believe it: it's almost completely wrong."

Grabbing an M16 from one of the soldiers, he waved it at them. "This thing is good for only one thing: shooting looters. You'll find a few of them, but you really should never need to take more than one magazine of ammo. If you try shooting this at a youma..."

Kanada shuddered and remembered what had happened to his platoon. "If you're lucky, it won't even notice. If you're unlucky, you'll be fighting one of the thin-skinned types, and you'll make it mad. Listen to this right now, there's no way you can kill one of them things with these guns. So don't even try. Now your M60 gunner, he's another matter. Any youma will notice what he's firing. Which means that you're M60 gunner is probably gunna be the first one to die. Gunner, you and your Gunner's Mate are best off being somewhere well back, and make sure you have an easy exit. You can always drop your gun and get a new one."

"Yeah, I know what you're thinking: he's just trying to put the fear into us. But I'm not, and it's the dying truth. See, we were there when they first started to appear. We were walking along, moving to one of the prepared positions, suddenly one of the civvies starts thrashing and falls over. Before we know what's happening, there's this great huge monster there, screaming and yelling and beating the daylights out of everyone around. We found out later that youma can infiltrate and possess humans. Given time, a person can be possessed and appear perfectly normal, until the youma takes control."

"Anyway, the civvies clear out of there right smart. So there's thirty-four of us, all banging away with our guns. The youma's just taking it all, doesn't even notice. Then the '60 kicks in, and it actually upsets the bastard. It was like a goddamn express train on legs. Faster than you could move, it was over and it ripped Hiyashi to shreds. There are bits of him everywhere. It took out the Lieutenant at the same time, too."

Waving his arms to illustrate, he showed how the three squads tried to break off. They found grenades would work. They would often knock it over for a moment, and occasionally, they would even hurt it. The main problem was hurting it quickly enough, and often enough.

"The big problem with these bastards is that they heal. They'll heal all right by themselves, but if they can get a hold of someone, they'll suck the life right out of them. Sergeant Otaga went that way. It just lifts him off the ground, then slurp you can just see him getting thinner and lighter. Suddenly, all it's wounds are healed, and the Sergeant is dead on the ground."

At that time, they got the idea of using their anti-tank rockets. Since there had been no expectation of encountering tanks, they only had three. Shooting a youma is a lot harder than shooting a tank. A youma is much smaller, and also a lot faster. It can dodge, and it would not sit still for a second. Two of the three missiles had struck. They managed to blow off one tentacle and put a big hole in its stomach, but they could not stop it.

"The damn thing is like fighting an ant. Unless you kill it, it won't lie down and die. It ripped into second squad that way too. After it drained two more men, the hole was all fixed, and it's tentacle was almost back. Half of us were getting ready to withdraw. By this time, most of us had fired almost every round we carried, and none of them did any good. I don't think anyone had any grenades, and I know all the AT rockets were used up. We were goners."

Everyone was hanging on his words now. Even half his own platoon - what was left - was gathered around. They supplied hints and side comments. Most of them were even saying that things were worse than he described.

"I know we would have had it then, but one of them Sailor girls turns up. It was the cute little blonde one... yeah, Sailor Venus. It was the strangest sight you ever did see. Here was us, thirty big men, trying to kill this thing with everything we had, and it didn't care. But this girl jumps off a building and it just stops. So she says 'Soldiers are there for the protection of society. To attack them is evil, so in the name of the Moon, I shall punish you.' Sounds silly, I know, but I really don't mind anymore. They can say what they like."

After she challenged the youma, Venus had leapt into the air. Avoiding the flailing tentacles, she fired off her Venus Love-Me Chain. With most of its limbs locked up, the youma could not attack any of the soldiers. Still trying to strike out at her, Venus was kept on the run. Occasionally she was able to move in and punch the beast, knocking holes in its armor.

When the demon was almost free of her chain, she backed up and attacked again. "CRESCENT BEAM SHOWER!" Unleashing her magical strike, the youma was knocked back half a block, smoke rising from its torso. Even as it was standing, Sailor Venus charged in, blonde hair going everywhere. Keeping the fight up close and personal, she pummeled the weakened youma. All her damage did was keep it in a weakened condition. It was not until Sailor Uranus turned up that they were able to get the better of it.

"It was impressive to watch. Out of nowhere this second girl, this one in a short navy skirt, came charging up. Both of them run away from the beast at exactly the same time. It was almost like watching a ballet. With a bit of a distance between them, the girls start doing their little pirouette, and they sing out some words. Next thing you know, it's like the Emperor's birthday, fireworks everywhere. Both of their attacks hit perfectly, even though the monster was charging them.

"That knocked it down, but it took them another shot before they could kill it."

The Senshi had stayed around only long enough to confirm that it was dead. Then the pair had sprinted off to the next battle, leaving the soldiers to gather themselves.

"I checked up on it later with some of the other people stationed there. Sota from D Company said that basically the same thing happened to his people. Now his watch might have been a bit out, but he swears within a minute of leaving us, that pair of young girls had run a dozen city blocks and were saving his platoon."

Pressed for more information, Private Moriyama and his friends tried to glean whatever details they could.

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