A.D.V. Curses and Demons Chapter 15

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

        A Different Viewpoint: Curses and Demons:
                Chapter 15

    Dr. Tofu Onu turned to Nabiki and shook his head regretfully.  "I'm afraid I can't recommend going on quite yet, Nabiki.  Sailor Moon has suffered a concussion, and..." he glanced at the girl Nabiki had called Atlanta, "and Atlanta is worse off than her.  Diana, Mars, Jupiter and I will be fine with a little rest, and Ryoga is his usual impervious self, but we can't expect to fight like this.  Happosai, Taro, Shampoo and  Kodachi are still out there, and from what you've told me, not seriously injured."

    Sailor Mars came up to them, a worried look on her face.  "What do you think, Doctor?  Will Sailor Moon be alright?"

    Dr. Tofu nodded.  "Normally a concussion is pretty serious, but from what I've seen, and what you've told me about your recuperative powers as Senshi, Sailor Moon should be feeling better in a day or so.  The only people who heal faster that I know of are extremely well trained martial artists like Happosai, or Ryoga, for example."  He shook his head.  "Atlanta, on the other hand, needs proper care and rest for several days.  I'd recommend she stay in bed for a week... but we don't have that option right now."

    Mars growled.  "They did this on purpose to slow us down!  I'm sure of it.  They still haven't finished whatever it is they have planned for Ranma and company... or Happosai would have gotten his strength back by now."

    Dr. Tofu nodded.  "I agree.  To be honest, I'd estimate that Ranma's group would be just as hard for Happosai, Taro and the others to deal with, perhaps more so.  With two Ranmas...."

    Sailor Mars frowned but nodded.  "You're right.  I've seen Ranma in action.  Two Ranmas would be almost unstoppable.  If we could only warn them, we could handle Happosai and company easily."

    Nabiki broke in.  "Which is why they attacked us, so that we couldn't reach Ranma... at least until they manage to get the Moxibotion point off of him or Ranko.  I'm just trying to figure out what their plan is.  How do they plan on getting to Ranma?  If they were going to attack him they'd have done it already, and Happosai would have had his strength back.  Are they waiting for something?"

    Dr. Tofu shook his head.  "I don't know.  Jusenkyo maybe?"

    Nabiki wrinkled her nose.  "Maybe... but I don't see why.  Perhaps they have been trying to get the Moxibotion point, and simply haven't managed it yet.  They could be just stalling for time until they get lucky."

    Sailor Mars shook her head.  "No, this has been too much like a plan for that.  Someone or something is orchestrating all this.  I can feel it.  There's a mastermind at work here.  The trick is finding out who or what it is, and stopping them."

    Nabiki raised an eyebrow dubiously.  "You can feel it, huh?"

    Mars glared at her.  "Hey, sensing supernatural evil is an acquired skill!  I don't hear anything constructive from you, Nabiki!"

    Dr. Tofu raised his hands placatingly.  "Calm down please.  We're all worried about our friends and loved ones.  There's no reason for us to fight amongst ourselves."

    Sailor Mars sighed.  "You're right, Doctor.  I'm sorry Nabiki, I'm just on edge with Sailor Moon hurt."

    Nabiki nodded.  "Apology accepted.  Now, what are we going to do? The way I see it, if we go after Ranma and company again, we'll just get attacked again.  We should wait until we're ready to fight.  If I'm right, Happosai simply hasn't been able to get the Moxibotion point off Ranma.  If so, we still have some time."

    Sailor Mars shook her head.  "I don't think so.  I think this has something to do with Jusenkyo, and we should warn Ranma and the others before they get there.  If we wait for Sailor Moon and the others to recover, we may be too late."

    Nabiki nodded.  "That's a possibility, but I doubt we'd make it through another ambush like that.  The Amazon village is only a day or so to the west.  We could head for there first and get some help, then go to Jusenkyo."

    Dr. Tofu frowned.  "That might work... but if the Ghost Cat thinks of it, he could have Shampoo warn the village that we're coming... maybe  even convince them to attack us."

    Nabiki rolled her eyes.  "Now you're getting paranoid.  We can't assume everything is going to go wrong!"

    Dr. Tofu shrugged.  "It may just keep us all alive.  In a day, Sailor Moon will be able to continue.  We can make a litter for Atlanta and carry her to Jusenkyo, where the Jusenkyo guide will certainly have some medical supplies.  I think that's the safest plan."

    Sailor Mars glanced back at her friend and leader.  "Alright... I don't want Sailor Moon to hurt herself any more.  We'll wait until she's up to continuing."

    Nabiki nodded.  "I'll go grab Ryoga and have him help set up camp."

    Mars sighed.  "Now all I have to do is convince Sailor Moon...."

        *********************

    Miles away, in a large open clearing; Happosai faced off with Pantyhose Taro, Kodachi, Shampoo, and Tatewaki Kuno, who were guarding a heavily cloaked figure.  "Lets talk, my fine furry friend!"  Happosai said quickly, holding Gosenkugi out in front of him.  "Unless you want me to hurt your pet here."

    The cloaked woman threw back her hood, revealing her feline appearance.  "Go ahead!  He's nearly as worthless to me as you are, old man!"  She narrowed her eyes at the pale youth.  "More so, in fact, if he can't remember the simple fact that you're as weak as a kitten."

    Gosenkugi blinked, then pulled free of Happosai's grasp.  "Oh yeah! I forgot!"

    Happosai snapped his fingers in disgust.  "Darn it.  I knew that would be a problem."  He stepped back quickly.  "Nevertheless, I am still faster than any of your little slaves here.  If I run, you'll never catch me... and I can simply warn your prey what you're up too."
 
    The half-cat woman's eyes narrowed.  "Oh?  And you think they will  cure your little problem in gratitude?"

    Happosai shrugged.  "It's worth a shot.  I'll do it, unless we can come to some sort of arrangement."

    The feliniod scratched her chin.  "I don't see why not.  If you help me, I'll make sure you get your strength back.  It's as simple as that."

    Happosai looked dubious.  "Why should I trust you?"

    The woman shrugged.  "Because I'm your best option.  Perhaps your students will agree to cure you... but once they find out what you did to little Nabiki Tendo, I doubt it.  Even if you do get your strength back, do you really want to face them all on you own?  Can even the great master of Anything Goes Martial Arts defeat two Ranma Saotomes?"

    Happosai wrinkled his nose.  "I trained that boy too well. Alright... saying we have a deal, what exactly is your plan?  Why do you want them to go to Jusenkyo?  If you want Kasumi, or any of the others to be cursed, why not just attack them and take them too the springs afterward?  Why the wait?"

    The woman's eyes narrowed, and an evil smile graced her lips, causing her teeth to glint.  "Because I want her to do it to herself.  I want her cursed, but I want it too be her own decision... her own decision to make her life a living hell... just like it was mine.  I don't want that perfect little housewife to be able to blame anyone but herself for this... so she can curse herself for the rest of her life... which I'll ensure will be a long one."

    Happosai blinked.  "I never would have believed anyone could hate little Kasumi-chan quite that much!  What in the world did she do to you?"

    "It's none of your concern!"  The feline woman hissed angrily. "Just do your part, and you'll get what I promised you."

    Happosai hesitated, then nodded.  "I agree.  It's too bad about Kasumi-chan.... But if it's her or me, I chose me."

    The woman smiled again.  "I know."

    Suddenly a large form materialized in the middle of the clearing, looking like a huge cat with a bell around its neck.  "Mistress! Mistress!  They'll be at Jusenkyo in less than an hour!"  The Ghost Cat looked over at Shampoo pleadingly.  "When can I be married to my Shampoo?  I've done all you asked."

    The half-cat woman gazed at the Ghost Cat knowingly.  "And you've done well... but there is just a little more too do before you're done."  She smiled again, causing Happosai to shiver.  "I think you'll like what I have in mind for you to do next... and with your increased powers, it should be well within your capabilities."

        *******************

    Ranma, leading their small group up the final leg of the trail to Jusenkyo was the first one to spot what he had been looking for.  "There it is!"  He yelled.  "It's the guide's hut!"  Ranma pointed helpfully, and everyone started for the small building.

    Akane came up beside her husband as they approached the front
entrance.  "Oh good.  I'm sure the Guild won't mind us borrowing some clothes.  I can't wait to put on something warm."

    Ranma glanced back at the others.  "I don't think anyone's going to disagree, Akane... although you have to admit this was good training."

    Akane looked incredulously at her husband.  "Good training?  You've got to be kidding me!"

    Ranma shrugged.  "Sure, the hiking toughed your feet up even more... and you've gotten better at maintaining your body temperature.  That's going to come in useful someday, just you wait!"

    Akane shook her head.  "Oh great.  Pretty soon you'll tell me that next time we should go for a nice hike up a glacier buck-naked.  Would  that be your idea of good training?"

    Ranma pretended to think about it.  "Hmm... now where's the nearest glacier...."

    Akane raised a fist warningly.  "Ranma...!"

    Ranma laughed, raising his hands in self-defense.  "I'm kidding, I'm kidding!"

    Ranko had run ahead and gone into the Guide's hut, but only a few seconds after she had gone inside, she ran back out.  "It's deserted!" She shouted angrily.  "There's nothing in there but the furniture!" Everyone came up to look, but after several minutes of searching, nothing of significance could be found.

    Johnathon hunched low to the ground near the entrance, sniffing around with his nose.  "Nothing."  He shook his head.  "This form's sense of smell is a lot better than mine, but mine was never all that great to begin with."  He glanced at his feline wife, who was standing next to Ukyo.  "Misty, can you find anything?"  Obediently, the black cat started to sniff the ground as well, but shook her head after several minutes.  "Johnathon sighed.  "Well, it looks like he's been gone for awhile... or else he took great pains to cover his trail when he left."

    Ranko frowned hard.  "Damn it!  How am I going to find the spring of drowned man now?"

    Johnathon shrugged.  "I was here less than a year ago.  I can point out that for you easily enough.  The spring of drowned girl too, if you don't remember."

    Ranko rolled her eyes.  "No... I remember that one all too well.  We shouldn't have any trouble."

    Johnathon looked down at the little black cat near his feet.  "Well, Misty?  Are you going to give it a try?"  The little black cat nodded firmly, and Johnathon smiled gently at her.  "I know how scary this must be, Misty, but no matter what happens, remember that I'll always be here for you.  Come on, I'll show you the spring."  The rest of the group started to follow them but Johnathon waved them back.  "Lets all stay  clear of the springs, alright?  No reason to take any more chances than we have too."

    Ranko walked forward.  "Let me take her.  If something happens, I've already been in the spring of drowned girl.  Mousse proved that you can't get cursed worse by the same spring water, right?"

    Johnathon nodded slowly.  "OK, but try not to fall in anyway.  We don't really know what the spring of drowned twins did to your curse. If it's really gone, then you may just be giving yourself a new one."

    Ranko shivered.  "Right, I'll be careful."  Slowly and with extreme care, testing every step, Ranko led Kasumi out to the spring of drowned girl that she had fallen into more than a year before.  "Here it is, Kasumi.  Go ahead and jump in.  Be prepared for the shock of transforming, and don't panic when you get out.  You don't want to fall into another spring by accident."  Misty nodded, took a deep breath, and jumped lightly into the spring.  There was a splash too big for her cat size, and a moment later a large black form came to the surface.  Ranko had stepped back to be out of range of splashes, and started to move forward to help Misty out of the spring.

    Misty waved him back awkwardly, nearly falling back in.  "Mroo!" She tried to speak, half growling and shaking her head.  "Mrreyy Nnack!"

    Ranko blinked.  "What was that?"

    Johnathon called out.  "I think she means for you to stay back, Ranko.  You don't want to get any of that water on you."  Misty, quite obviously a humanoid cat like her husband, nodded, pulling herself out of the pond with some effort.  She stayed on all fours, apparently not trusting her new legs quite yet.  Johnathon spoke up again.  "Misty! Are you alright?"  Misty looked up at her husband and nodded again, doing her best to give him a reassuring smile.  Johnathon smiled back. "Good.  Stay there for awhile, until you feel like you're ready to come back.  Don't try walking right away, it'll be tricky at first.  Wait until you dry off so you don't get anyone else wet."

    Misty nodded again, and tried to speak.  "NI Unnnderstannnnd."

    Johnathon smiled wider.  "You're doing great, Misty!  It took me days to be able to speak so people could understand me.  Don't let it worry you."  He nodded at her reassuringly.  "I love you, did you know  that?"  Misty nodded happily, not trying to speak and lay on her side, watching her husband.  Johnathon sat down to wait.  "I'll wait right here for you, OK?  I'm not going to move."

    Kasumi sat down next to him.  "I'll wait for you too, Sister."

    Ranko had been staring hard at Misty ever since she had gotten out of the pool.  "Now what?  Does this mean I can't turn back into a guy again?"

    Akane shook her head.  "No, Ranko, it doesn't look like it."  She looked at Johnathon.  "If Misty turned into a half-cat, then if Ranko jumped into the spring of drowned man, she'd be half man, half woman, right?"

    Johnathon nodded.  "I'm afraid that's what it looks like."

    Ranko shook her head.  "No."  She muttered quietly.  "No.  Isn't there any way?"  The red haired girl turned in a circle, gazing out at the pools of Jusenkyo.  "Isn't there any spring that will cure me?"  Ranko answered her own question bitterly.  "No.  No, of course there isn't.  It wouldn't be a proper curse otherwise, would it?"  She shook her head and started walking out of the springs.  Even in her depression, she was careful to skirt the pools carefully on the way out, and moments later she was clear.

    Ukyo rushed to her side.  "Ranchan... you know I still love you. This doesn't matter to me, OK?  Guy or girl, I'll always love you."

    Akane rushed up on the other side of the small girl, taking her by the shoulder.  "It doesn't matter to me either, Ranko.  I'll always love you.  I don't care if you're female."

    Ukyo shot Akane a annoyed glance, then shook it off, hugging Ranko from the side.  "This doesn't change anything, OK?  I still want to marry you."

    Ranko sighed deeply, a shudder passing through her whole body. "It's over.  No more cure, I'm a girl for good."  She closed her eyes, raising her face up.  "I guess I'll just have to live with it."  Ranko took a deep breath and nodded, opening her eyes to look at Ukyo and Akane.  "I'm... I'm OK.  After all this time... I think I've gotten to the point where I can deal with this."  She nodded again.  "Sure.  I love you guys too, OK?  No more lying to myself about my curse, or about my feelings."  Ranko put an arm around both girls.  "Come on, lets go into the guide's place and see if we can get it ready for us to stay the  night."

    Akane looked at her worriedly.  < Ranko's putting a good face on it, but inside, she's devastated.  She's going to need all our help to get through this.>

    Akane and Ukyo shot each other a questioning glance, but neither of them seemed willing to release the pig tailed girl from their arms. Together, the three of them went inside the hut.

    Ranma watched them go, then went over to Johnathon and Kasumi and sat down.  "Hey, are you guys going to be alright?  You know...."  He gestured to Kasumi.  "You and Misty... sharing John-san?"

    Kasumi nodded, then looked out to Misty.  "We'll be just fine, Ranma-kun.  We've already discussed it at length."  She looked towards the guide's hut.  "What about you?  How are things with Akane?"

    Ranma looked thoughtful.  "Actually... not bad, not bad at all.  I thought things would be really awkward with Ranko and Ukyo and all... but I think we're starting to work things out."  He nodded to himself firmly.  "I'm going to do whatever it takes to make sure this does work out.  I want Akane and Ucchan to be happy, and I guess that means Ranko being happy too, so if that's what it takes, so be it."

    Johnathon raised an eyebrow.  "Oh?"

    Ranma glanced at him, then shrugged.  "Ranko... well, she's kinda like a sister, at least it feels that way to me.  I understand what she's going through, and I don't think anyone should go through that alone... not even an arrogant, irritating, stuck up idiot like... me." He grinned.  "I finally know what an moron I can be.  I can't understand why Akane puts up with me, but I'm not complaining.  Ranko... she's OK. She may be just as annoying as I am, but I owe her big time, you know?"

    Johnathon nodded.  "I believe I can understand... partially at least.  Being a twin myself, I know what having someone else out there that is almost exactly like you are.  Of course, my brother and I grew apart as we got older, became different people, but we still share more than most."  Johnathon looked seriously at the younger man.  "Don't let your feelings of obligation to Ranko overwhelm your better judgment.  A debt can start to rankle for both parties, if carried too far.  Ranko wouldn't want you too be obligated to her, and you know it.  There's plenty of reason for you to get along without that.  You're both likable people, and you have more in common than anyone else in the world, save Kasumi and Misty here."

    Ranma nodded slowly.  "I guess.  I'll give it my best shot, anyway. I do like her, to tell the truth.  I guess that means I like myself.  Is that weird?"

    Kasumi shook her head.  "I don't think so.  It's healthy to like ones self.  There is certainly nothing wrong with you liking your sister.  I love Misty, just as I love my younger sisters."

    Johnathon hugged her.  "What's not to love?  I'll have you know you Tendo girls are a very lovable bunch.  Especially you and Misty."

    Ranma quirked an eyebrow.  "Oh yeah?  Even Nabiki?"

    Johnathon nodded.  "Even Nabiki.  She cares about all of us a lot more than she tends to let on you know."

    Ranma nodded, shrugging.  "Yeah, I guess you're right."

    Kasumi poked her husband in the ribs lightly.  "So you love all four of us?  Nabiki and Akane too?  Don't tell me you wanted to marry them too?"

    Johnathon snickered then pretended to consider it.  "Oh of course! Me and my harem of Tendo women!  Who could resist such beauty!"  He nudged Ranma in the side.  "Hey, do you think I could buy Akane off you for a half a dozen camels and some rubies?"

    Ranma laughed and slapped Johnathon on the back.  "I couldn't take that much for her!  I wouldn't ask for more than four camels, and you should keep your rubies.  You'll need them if you want Nabiki too." Kasumi broke down in a fit of giggles, and tried vainly to stop for half a minute.

    When she finally quit laughing, she shook her finger at Ranma and Johnathon sternly.  "Now Ranma, that's not a very nice thing to say." She started to giggle again, and Ranma and Johnathon joined in, laughing until their sides started to hurt.

    Half an hour later the sun was nearing the middle of the sky and Misty crawled carefully clear of Jusenkyo.  Johnathon went to her side and gathered her up in a hug, followed closely by Kasumi.  Ranma went into the Guide's hut to give the three some privacy.

    Johnathon held Misty close and felt her hug him back.  "I'm so happy to be able hold you in my arms again, Misty."  He pushed her away slightly so he could look into her eyes.  "You know, we match now."  He glanced down at his own felinoid form.  "Its nice to have someone to share this with."  Misty nodded quietly, then tried to speak again. "Nis nood to ne nith you ntwo."

    Kasumi translated helpfully.  "She says it's good to be with you too."  She smiled at her black furred sister.  "I'm happy for you two as well.  Very happy."  She looked seriously into Misty's eyes.  "I know things will be hard for you for awhile, but we're both here for you." Misty nodded in understanding, hugging both her twin and her husband a bit tighter.  After a minute, Kasumi released the hug, stepping back. "Now, lets get a good look at you, Misty."  Misty nodded and stepped slightly away from Johnathon, holding on to him with one arm for balance.  "You are quite attractive looking like that."  Kasumi announced after giving Misty a good look.  "Very nice."

    Johnathon nodded, his eyes twinkling.  "Nice is an understatement, Kasumi.  Misty looks beautiful."  He nuzzled at her neck.  "You're beautiful, like an ancient Egyptian Goddess.  Bast herself couldn't be more beautiful to me."

    Misty shook her head, looking down at her body dubiously.  "Nnot true."

    Johnathon's eyes widened.  "You're kidding!  Just wait till you see yourself in a mirror!  You're like a fantasy come to life!  You are as sexy as hell, and if you'd like I'd be more than happy to prove it too you!"  Kasumi blushed slightly, and if it weren't for her fur, Misty would have turned bright red.  Ducking her head she nuzzled her husband's neck as if she was still a cat.  He rubbed his head alongside hers and hugged her again.  "I mean it.  You're driving me crazy. You're so gorgeous I can hardly believe it."

    Kasumi stroked her sister's shoulder reassuringly.  "I'm quite sure he means it, Misty-chan.  You're half-cat form is every bit as sexy as Johnathon's is, trust me."

    Johnathon stepped back a step, giving Misty one final nuzzle.  "You know, it isn't the same kissing in this form... but I think that works pretty well, don't you?"  Misty nodded, smiling sincerely.  Johnathon gestured to the hut.  "Why don't we reintroduce you to everybody.  I'm sure they'll like your new form."

    Misty nodded, then looked down at herself gesturing with her free hand.  "Nm I Neicent?"

    Kasumi took a careful look as well.  "Are you decent?  Hmm... Yes, as much as any of us I think.  Your fur covers everything... almost like a bodysuit."  She nodded reassuringly.  "I think you'll be fine... although you will probably want to put something on for more polite company. "  Kasumi blushed slightly.  "Your... fur... between your legs is... ah... quite a bit thicker than a normal cat's would be... from  your human half I suspect."  She blushed brighter, and Misty looked embarrassed as well.  "I hope it isn't indelicate to say but... Johnathon's not quite as well concealed...."

    Johnathon coughed.  "Well... yes... that is sort of part of being male, I suppose."

    Kasumi smiled fondly at him.  "I wouldn't have it any other way, dear."  Misty's chest shook slightly and she made a rapid sniffing sound.

    Johnathon grinned.  "And that would be a giggle, if I'm not mistaken.  Sounds strange at first, doesn't it?"  He patted her shoulder.  "You'll get the hang of your new vocal cords in no time. Don't worry."

    Misty shook her head.  "NI'm not."  She pointed toward the hut. "Nnook."

    Kasumi glanced that way and nodded.  "Yes, it looks like they have a fire started.  Shall we go?"

    Johnathon nodded, but Misty shook her head.  "Nnot yet."  She coughed lightly and released her hold on Johnathon's arm.  "I nneed nto no first."

    Kasumi blinked.  "Oh.  Johnathon-san, please go ahead.  Misty needs to freshen up a bit first.  We'll come inside in just a bit."

    Johnathon nodded.  "Sure.  We'll be waiting for you."

    Several minutes later Kasumi walked in looking a bit glassy eyed, followed by Misty.

    Johnathon went up to Kasumi, in concern.  "Are you feeling allright?  Is there something the matter?"

    Kasumi went in and sat down by the fireplace.  "I do feel ill.  Do  you think something is wrong with me?"

    Everyone gathered around, looking concerned, and Misty made her way over to the fire and dropped a small bag into it in the commotion.  The bag started to burn, and quickly a yellowish smoke started to fill the room.

    Johnathon's eyes went wide as the scent of the smoke came to him. "Wait a second, I recognize that smell...."

    A vaguely familiar voice spoke up from the doorway.  "Very good, Johnathon, but a bit too late.  I'd like for you to all go to sleep now."

    Johnathon just managed to turn enough to see a second female half-cat, wearing a cloak, standing in the doorway and smiling cruelly at him, even as he lost consciousness.

        **********************

    "Wake up, my dear."  A feminine voice purred from somewhere close by.  "Wake up, its time for you and me to have our little chat."

    Misty shook her head and blinked herself awake.  "Mhat?  Mwhat?" She blinked at the sight of a black furred face less than a foot from her own and tried to concentrate on speaking clearly.  "What happennned?  Who are you?"

    The woman stepped back, an evil smile making her canines glint menacingly.  "Of course you wouldn't recognize me, Kasumi Tendo... or should I call you Misty now?  I suppose I looked slightly different the last time that you and I met."

    Misty blinked again, looking around the small hut she found herself in.  "What's going on?  Why don't I remember...."  Misty felt the fur on the back of her neck rise as she saw her family and friends laying around the room, unconscious, while two other people that she did recognize stood over them.  Happosai, in his youthened state, and Pantyhose Taro, were inexplicably standing together.  Taro was glaring at the ancient master, but for some reason was making no move to attack.

    "What happenned to everyone?"  Misty asked in concern.  "Arre they hurt?  What's going onn?"

    The mysterious half-cat woman shook her head.  "Your family isn't hurt... yet, although that will most likely change in the near future." She laughed to herself.  "And just think, it'll be your fault."

    Misty's eyes grew wide.  "My fault?  Why?"

    The cloaked half-cat stared at her coldly.  "Should I tell you? Yes, that's why I woke you after all... so you will know exactly what you've done to yourself, and you'll know who to blame for the misery you'll be in for the rest of your life."

    Happosai coughed, pointedly eyeing Ranma and Ranko hungrily. "Ahem.  Can't this wait?  All I have to do is take a look, and I can cure myself.  Why should I have to wait?"

    The woman glanced angrily back at him.  "You'll wait, old man.  I've had this coming for a long time.  You'll get your strength back.  That I can guarantee.  After all, you'll need your strength soon enough, won't you?"  Happosai frowned, then decided not to make an issue of it and remained silent.  She turned back to Misty.  "As for what happened to all of your friends, why you betrayed them, my dear.  Don't you remember?"

    Misty shook her head immediately.  "No.  No!  I wouldn't!  I don't remember doing anything like that.  Why would I?"

    The woman laughed.  "Because I wanted it, that's why.  I've been using you for weeks now, without your knowledge.  One of my allies has the ability to control cats of all kinds... especially once I arraigned for it to have access to more power.  There are quite a few people with grudges against your little family... does that come as a surprise?"

    Misty swallowed nervously.  "What... what do you inntend to do with us?"

    The woman shook her finger at Misty.  "No no no....  We'll get to that part soon enough.  No, what I want to tell you about is how you betrayed your family, and doomed yourself.  As I was saying, one of my  allies can control cats.  He can look through their eyes, and make them do whatever he wishes.  At least he can now.  He's been looking through your eyes for weeks now, spying on you and your family for me.  He even possessed you from time to time, having you spy on other people whenever I needed him to."

    Misty blinked.  "Nnno... I don't... I don't rememberr this...."

    The woman shrugged.  "Of course not.  If you did, you'd have told your precious husband and he and his friends would have figured out a way to stop me.  No, you were unaware of your role, all the way up till the end.  My ally was riding along inside you when you took your little dip into Jusenkyo... just as I had planned you too.  I knew you would do it, and you did.  You've cursed yourself worse than your husband or Ranma ever did.  You're stuck as a monster for the rest of your life... and you did it too yourself."

    Misty shook her head.  "Nnno.  I am not a monnster.  Johnathon doesn't care what I look like... he told me he loves me."

    The woman laughed.  "Lusts after you, perhaps.  Many men would find you desirable.  Trust me, I know.  What they see you as, however, has nothing to do with love.  You're a sex object now, an animal with a mostly human shape.  You have no rights, no claim to humanity.  You're a thing now, to be used, and nothing more."

    Misty shook her head again.  "Nnno.  No, Johnathon isn't like that."

    The woman shrugged.  "You may believe that now, but it doesn't matter.  I'll be selling you to the highest bidder soon enough, and you'll see what you're really worth."  She smiled cruelly.  "But we're getting sidetracked, aren't we?  You were in full possession of your faculties when you decided to further curse yourself, so you know whom you can blame for that, but the Ghost Cat was inside you already.  As a human, even a partial human, he can't possess you without you being able to fight him for control, a fight that your husband or your friends would certainly have noticed, but as it was, he was already there. After you had your little heart to heart, he took over, and brought you and your twin to me."

    Misty shook her head.  "No...."

    The woman nodded.  "Oh yes.  It was all so simple after that.  Poor Kasumi, of course, was no match for Taro here, and I used hypnosis incense to put her under my control.  Then, you and her came into this hut with all your friends, and while she created a diversion, you dropped a large dose of that same incense in the fire.  Everyone was affected, and I simply ordered them all to sleep...."

    Misty's eyes narrowed for half a second, then she quickly started shouting.  "Everyonne wake up!  Quickly!  Grab the personn in the cloak and keep her from speaking!"  She lunged at the woman herself, trying to cover her mouth while she continued to shout.  "Help me!  Wake up everyone!"  Before she could say any more, Pantyhose Taro had reached her, pulling her roughly away and shoving her into the floor with stunning force.  Misty's head swam and she shook it, trying to stay conscious.

    The cloaked half-cat woman started to laugh, then pointedly looked around at the still sleeping people around them.  "It won't work, Misty.  I ordered them almost immediately to listen only to my orders. From now on they will only do as I say.  I told them to sleep, and only I can wake them, so even if you did manage to do something to me, it would only mean your family and friends would never wake up again. They'd die eventually, and it would be your fault."  She waved at Taro. "Let her go.  She can't do anything."

    Taro released her and Misty sat up slowly.  "Why?  How can you be so cruel?"

    The woman laughed again.  "Cruel?  You haven't even begun to see what cruelty means.  Don't worry, my dear, you will.  You want to know why I've done this?  I'll tell you."  She pointed at herself.  "Because you did this to me!  I'm stuck with this form forever.... Cursed to be amonster for the rest of my life, and it's all your fault.  You, Kasumi  Tendo.... both of you.  I couldn't curse both of you, but having half of you cursed forever will have to be enough.  I wanted you to know what I went through because of you."

    Misty shook her head in disbelief.  "I did this?  How?  I don't even know who you are.  Please... what did I do to you?"

    The woman snarled at her in anger.  "You think you're so innocent, don't you.  You humiliated me in front of my men.  I lost their respect.  My army started to fall apart even before we were defeated because of you.  Oh yes, it was you that did it.  I lost everything that day.  You could have escaped any time, but you waited.  You took your time, and waited until I was within reach of godhood, and you snatched it from my fingers.  My people believed!  They believed in me, they thought I could call upon the powers of the ancient ones... until you escaped.  You suddenly vanished from your prison cell, escaped through a maze of traps no human could have survived... without a trace.  It was a sign, they thought.  My power was false, some said.  I could have fielded twice the army your friends defeated if it hadn't been for you."

    Misty's eyes went wide.  "It... is it really....?  Are you... Cliopatra?"

    Cliopatra nodded, looking superior.  "Finally figured it out, have you?  It took me long enough to do so.  Thanks to you I was forced to work as a slave in my own temple.  I must have washed half of the old catacombs, when I finally figured it out.  I washed your cell you see. I was through.  No one had been down there since you escaped, but I knew that I would be punished severely if I left your cell with even a spot... and I cleaned... and found your clothing stuffed under your bed."

    Misty blinked.  "Oh my."

    Cliopatra sniffed.  "Oh my indeed.  It didn't take me long to piece it together.  Your miserable husband told me about the cursed springs in detail, hoping I could help him.  It didn't take me long to realize that you must have been cursed as well.  That's how you escaped.  Oh, you could have gone any time, but you did so at the worst possible moment. You destroyed me!"

    Misty shook her head.  "No....  It wasn't like that.  I couldn't leave before that.  I was cursed in order to escape.  Don't you understand?  Johnathon brought the water from Jusenkyo with him.  I turned myself into a cat in order to escape.  I cursed myself to save myself.  I didn't do it to hurt you.  I just wanted to save myself and my friends."

    Cliopatra's eyebrow rose.  "Oh?  It's possible, I suppose, that things happened as you say... but why should I care?  You still escaped, and in doing so set up my downfall.  I was a slave, thanks to you and your friends, and I hated you for it."  She smiled, and a shiver went down Misty's spine.  "That hate was a pale shadow of what I feel for you now, however.  That day, when I discovered the truth about how you had escaped, I determined to escape myself.  I seduced one of my guards... then killed him when his guard was down and took his clothing.  I walked out of the temple, and never returned."

    Cliopatra stared into Misty's eyes with menace.  "I decided that I must go to Jusenkyo.  Johnathon Dwire would have been a god if he had only accepted his role at my side... but there was no reason I couldn't become a god myself.  I went to Jusenkyo to follow in his footsteps, to become a half-woman, half-cat.  I'd go back to my people, and tell them I was Bast herself returned.  It would have worked, but things did not go as I foresaw."

    The cloaked half-cat started to pace.  "I managed to find Jusenkyo without too much difficulty.  I even got the guide to show me where the spring of drowned cat and the spring of drowned girl was.  I didn't want anyone to know about my new form, so I left, and came back a few days later, when the guide said he would be going for supplies.  I went to the spring of drowned cat first, and jumped in.  When I emerged, I was disoriented, and due to my size, I couldn't recognize anything.  I made my way out of the springs and looked for the guide's hut, so I could get some hot water, but I went the wrong way.  Before I managed to work my way around the springs, a large man wearing tiger skins came along.  He tried to grab me, so I ran, but he was too fast."

    Cliopatra turned to Misty with a glare.  "He had a strange looking ladle with him, and he took it, and me to the spring of drowned girl, ladled out some water, and poured it on me.  I transformed into what I am now.  He was very surprised and confused by what had happened. Apparently he thought I was just some stray cat, not a Jusenkyo cursed one.  He, I found out that his name was Lime, had intended to turn me into a human to make me his wife....  A dumb animal, I suppose, would have suited him perfectly.  The brute was too stupid to understand what had happened, and I was having too much difficulty speaking to explain for quite some time.  I wasn't going to be some idiot's wife, just because he poured some water on my head, but he was too strong and fast for me to escape."

    Cliopatra shook her head.  "I made the error of trying to reason with him, but all I managed to convince him of was that he didn't want me.  He may have been slow, but he knew enough to know where he could make up for his time.  He sold me to a mercenary, a pirate and slaver, who dabbled in exotic merchandise.  I was treated well enough there, but before long I was sold to a rich Chinese man who had a taste for... the unusual.  He was a horrible master....  I won't go into all the things I had to go through because of him, but in any case you'll get to experience all of it for yourself, soon enough."

    Misty looked horrified.  "Oh dear... I'm so sorry that you had to go through that.  It must have been horrible."

    Cliopatra frowned down at her angrily.  "Spare me your sympathy. It's your suffering I want.  My 'owner' suffered more than enough before he died.  After I killed him, I managed to steal most of his assets.  I decided to go back to the temple and finally finish my plan... but there you thwarted me again, Kasumi."  She laughed.  "Oh yes, I keep forgetting, it's Misty, now isn't it.  How does it feel to have your identity stolen from you?  To have your face, your body, your husband, your very life, belong to another?"

    Misty was quiet for several long seconds.  "I hate it."  She finally admitted.  "But it's not Kasumi's fault.  I should know, I was her, not long ago.  She... we... would never have done this on purpose.  Kasumi is doing everything she can to make me welcome, as is Johnathon."

    Cliopatra waved a hand in dismissal.  "But you're still the outsider, just a magically created nuisance that they'd be glad not to have to deal with.  Just like I was....."

    Misty looked at Cliopatra with concern.  "Why?  What happened when you got back home?"

    Cliopatra snarled as she approached Misty again.  "You happened, you interfering witch!  I got back to the valley, only to find everything had changed!  They no longer believed in the old gods... they knew about Jusenkyo, and were not awed by my new form.  They laughed at me!  Why? Why?  I found out that you had been sending them messages, writing them letters!  You told them about the world outside... and enabled them to see it for themselves!"  She grit her teeth together in anger.  "They even had a satellite dish... with HBO!!!"

    Cliopatra grabbed Misty by the throat and started lifting her off the floor.  "Because of you, my plans were ruined.  Because of you, everything I had gone through, the terrible price I paid for power... was all for nothing!  I swore I'd see you pay, and I will.  You'll undergo every humiliation I endured and more, you'll suffer for the rest of your life, and you'll have no one to blame but yourself... you'll....."

    A puff of smoke appeared on Cliopatra's shoulder, forming into a six inch tall woman with shoulder length blond hair, wearing a black leather outfit and a cape.  "Clio... Clio, if you don't stop strangling your prisoner, you'll never complete your wish, now will you?"

    Cliopatra blinked and dropped Misty, who sprawled to the floor gasping for breath.  "Ah... Marller.  Checking up on me?"

    "Satisfaction guaranteed, or your money... or whatever, back."  The tiny woman replied jauntily.  Now then, everything going alright?"

    Cliopatra smiled evilly.  "Just like you said it would.  I've followed your instructions to the letter, and everything fell into place."

    Marller shook her head.  "Not quite.  Where was it that I told you to go and explain all your plans to your prisoners?  It might be therapeutic, but they only do that in the movies, you know?  In real life it's better just to go and get it over with.  I'd hurry, if I were you.  You're due for some uninvited guests, any time now.  I'd finish your business quickly and get ready for them if I were you."

    Cliopatra's eyes widened.  "The Senshi?  They're here?"

    Marller shrugged.  "Not quite yet, but it won't be long now.  Deal with them, and our deal is complete.  Agreed?"

    Cliopatra nodded quickly.  "Of course.  They've been a problem from the start, just as you warned me.  I'll take care of them with my new slaves."

    Marller nodded.  "Just be sure and deal with Sailor Moon first.  She can free all of your slaves from hypnosis if you give her half a chance... so don't give her one."

    Cliopatra frowned.  "I won't.  I'll send Ranma and Ranko to kill her.  If everything works like you say, she won't be able to stop them in time to save her life."

    Marller gave the half-cat woman a thumbs up.  "Gook luck!"  She vanished in another puff of smoke, her voice fading a second later. "You'll need it!"

        End Chapter 15
 
 



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