A Different Viewpoint: Curses and Demons, Chapter 17

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

ADVCD Chapter 17

Sailor Pluto led the way through the mists of time confidently, hiding her nervousness with practiced ease. When Sailor Mercury came up to walk next to her she didn't show the tightness in her throat that she felt with the knowledge of what Mercury was about to ask and what she would have to answer.

"Pluto..." The short haired Senshi began cautiously. "When you said that there is a price for using the gates of time, what did you mean? We traveled through the gates before, to visit the future. What price did we pay then?"

Setsuna shook her head. "It's not a price exactly, more like a balance. When you last traveled the gates of time, it was to cancel out the actions of the Dark Moon family. They had created an imbalance by traveling though time. Your actions restored that balance."

Mercury hesitated before speaking again. "But now we're using the gate to change things by traveling to China in an instant...."

Setsuna nodded. "And that will be... must be... balanced by the gate."

Ami swallowed. "Oh." The Senshi of water was quiet for several minutes, obviously thinking. "Setsuna?" She finally spoke up softly. "Do you know what the price will be?"

Sailor Pluto sighed so softly that it was almost imperceptible. "Whether a change is made through time, or a change of place, it is a change to... well, you could call it a pattern. Whatever change you make, an equal change must occur to bring the pattern back into balance. What that change will be, I cannot say."

Ami sighed. "So, to save Sailor Moon we'll have to pay a price equal to saving her life?" Her face hardened. "If that's what it takes."

Pluto smiled faintly and nodded. "Whatever it takes, we will do." They shared a smile, then walked on in silence. Without warning, the Gates of time loomed before them.

As they came into view, Ami wondered suddenly how long they had been walking, and found she had no idea. All sense of time was gone, although up to that point she had not noticed the lack, other than a vague feeling of something strange happening. Now that she had identified the problem she stopped worrying about it. It made sense, after all, for the Gates of Time to have a strange effect on how time was perceived. After a moment's thought she decided not to mention it. There was no reason to worry the others over something so minor, especially with the odds of being misunderstood. Saying that time had stopped, but that it wasn't really a problem, PROBABLY would not go over well.

Standing firmly before the Gates of Time, holding her time key/staff was another Sailor Pluto. With both of them in their Senshi Garb it was impossible to tell the two of them apart, save that the Pluto at the time gate ws the only one of the two holding a staff.

The Pluto guarding the gate regarded her counterpart almost regretfully. "Are you certain of your course of action?"

The Pluto leading the other Senshi nodded. "I am."

Her counterpart shrugged. "I had to ask."

Pluto blinked. "Why?"

Pluto shrugged back. "Because that's how I remember it happening." Both Pluto's laughed. "I never get tired of that." The first said.

"Meeting yourself is entertaining, isn't it?" Pluto #2 replied.

"Although what comes next." The first began.

"Will not be nearly so pleasant." The second concluded.

Ami broke in suddenly, staring at the Pluto guarding the Gate. "So, you're a Pluto from the future?"

Pluto nodded. "We take turns watching the gate. Being here nonstop for several thousand years would start getting oppressive, otherwise."

Ami nodded. "That sounds like a good idea." She hesitated a moment before going on. "If you are from our future, can I ask...?" She shook her head after a moment. "No, I suppose I shouldn't."

Both Pluto's nodded in understanding. "It can be tempting, can't it? Knowledge of the future, however, also comes with it's own price."

Mercury sighed again. "I guess we'll find out what happens soon enough anyway."

The rest of the Senshi and Tuxedo Kamen came up behind her as a group. "Whatever it takes." Mamoru said quietly, laying a hand on Ami's shoulder. "We'll save them." The others murmured in agreement.

The Pluto guarding the Gate stepped to one side, letting the Gate open wide behind her. "Then step through, and save our friends." The Senshi stepped though the gates all at once, the Gate somehow accommodating them without seeming to grow larger, although it hadn't seemed large enough for them all to walk abreast at the same time when they had first arrived before it. They were through the Gate almost without warning and found themselves several meters above the surface of Jusenkyo, or rather above the springs themselves. There was a shared moment of combined astonishment, rage, fear and irony before gravity took over and they all fell toward the pools below.

Understanding their fate, Michiru turned to her love to grab hold, so at least they would meet their fate together, only to be rudely greeted by a hard kick to her stomach instead of her partner's embrace. She understood Haruka's choice a moment later as she hit the hardened ground between two springs rather than landing in the spring herself. Haruka's look of guilty relief was immediately followed by the short haired Senshi plunging into the spring she had deflected her lover away from. To their right, Saturn stopped inches above another spring, the water under her being pressed away by a shimmering force field that kept her suspended just over the water.

Tuxedo Kamen, being closest to Sailor Venus, grabbed her and threw the Senshi of Love clear just before they hit a spring together. Mercury fell into her own spring with a sigh, having already guessed her fate. Pluto, having known her fate all along, met it stoically, splashing into yet another spring with a resigned expression.

Cliopatra watched the spectacle with a certain degree of fear at first, but as the bedraggled remains of the Senshi struggled out of their respective pools she started to laugh harder and harder until her sides started to shake. "HA! The great and powerful Sailor Senshi beaten by their own stupidity! I can't believe I was actually worried about them!"

Mara's voice came to her then, like a memory. < When the Senshi appear at their weakest, that's when they're the most dangerous.>

Clio frowned slightly to herself. < I don't remember her saying that.>

Mara's voice spoke up again. < That's because I just did, you idiot! Now do something before it's too late and they come up with a plan or something!>

Clio blinked. < I didn't know you could talk in my head. Have you been reading my mind all this time?>

< No time for questions now!> Mara snarled. < Get them!>

Cliopatra blinked again, then glanced back toward the springs. < Oh yes, of course.> "Get them!" She repeated, pointing at the Senshi. "Don't let any of them get away!"

In the midst of the springs, the Senshi in question were trying to regroup. A tall bishoten blond had popped out of one spring gasping for breath, but unfortunately it was not Sailor Uranus. The tuxedo clad girl started climbing out of the pool, while Sailor Venus looked on in horror. Michiru looked on with equal dismay as a handsome, broad shouldered and sandy haired young man climbed out of the pool in front of her, wearing Uranus's sailor fuku. The young man glanced down at himself and carefully pulled the front of his fuku out to check.

"Damn." Haruka swore. "Isn't THAT ironic?" A large black panther climbed out of the pool Sailor Mercury had fallen into a few moments later, dragging a ripped sailor fuku behind it. Saturn slowly levitated over to solid ground and let her force field drop, then hurriedly ran over to the spring Sailor Pluto had fallen into.

"Pu? Pu?" Saturn peered into the spring worriedly, then knelt down by it's edge, careful not to touch the water. "Sailor Pluto?" Saturn gulped, then dipped her Silence Glaive into the spring, bringing up Pluto's sailor fuku on it, empty. The Senshi had no more time to adjust to their new curses, as they were attacked by Cliopatra's minions and allies. Pantyhose Taro rushed toward Neptune and Uranus, landing with a roar right between them, fists and tentacles flying. Shampoo charged Sailor Venus, swinging her bonbori in a rapid pattern that almost immediately had the blond tressed Senshi of Love fully on the defensive. Tuxedo Kamen jumped to her aid, bringing out her trademark cane to fence with the purple haired amazon, giving Venus the time to bring her Senshi attacks into play.

"Venus Love Chain Encircle!" Shampoo barely managed to dodge the first energy chain and soon found herself on the defensive. Sailor Saturn avoided being decapitated by a giant spatula almost by chance. The youngest and arguably most powerful Senshi in the group had been in such shock and dismay over Sailor Pluto's disappearance that she hadn't noticed Ukyo running toward her until the okinamiyaki chef was there and swinging. Pluto's fuku had slipped off the end of Saturn's weapon moments before Ukyo had arrived, and Saturn had stooped over automatically to grab it just as Ukyo had struck, combat spatula swinging just over the young Senshi's head.

Ukyo reversed the blade and brought it back, lower this time, but Saturn was ready. Even off balance she was able to bring her glaive up to block, and Ukyo's spatula stopped dead upon hitting it, nearly jarring the weapon out of the chef's hands. Ukyo took a step back, then came in again, swinging at Saturn with deadly intent. Now fully prepared, Sailor Saturn parried each blow effortlessly, her face going taut with concentration.

Seconds earlier, Sailor Mercury had finished crawling out of what could only be the spring of drowned black panther, when Akane Saotome had rushed her. As always, Mercury's excellent tactical mind took full assessment of her situation in only moments, giving her the logical course of action to take. Ami fled at full speed, hoping her new form was fast enough to escape the short haired martial artist.

From the very first moment of Taro's attack, Sailor Neptune and Uranus had acted like the seasoned pros they were, leaping away in opposite directions, dodging giant fists and thrashing tentacles with practiced ease and returning fire with their signature attacks almost immediately. Taro was able to dodge the Senshi's first volley, but in moments it was he who was on the defensive instead of them.

Standing off by the guide's hut, Clio was aghast at how poorly her minions were doing. "This is ludicrous! How can they be winning? Ghost Cat!" She turned about, attempting ot locate her currently invisible ally. "Ghost Cat! Hurry up and get Ranko out there! If I lose this, you're next you know."

The Ghost Cat appeared next to her. "I notice you holding back half your forces as well." He gestured at Cliopatra's entourage. "Why don't you send them?"

Clio frowned. "I need at least some guards... and the Kasumi's are no fighters, so there's no purpose behind sending them." She gestured to Johnathon and Tatewaki Kuno. "These two are barely adequate as it is. Ranko is much more powerful."

"Which is why I don't want to send her." The Ghost Cat protested. "She has to protect me!"

Clio sighed. "You can turn invisible, you moron. You don't need protecting."

The ghost hesitated. "Oh.... I suppose I should help, after all." He faded from view and a moment later, Ranko looked up from where she had been taking a cat nap and stared in the direction of the fight. A fierce light lit up behind her eyes and she launched herself in that direction with a hiss.

Clio's face went blank as she received more advice from her demonic ally. "Revive Happosai? How? I'm surprised he's even still alive after that last blast." She blinked, then blinked again. "Really? That will work?" She shrugged. "Oh well, no harm in trying it I suppose... except perhaps to my stomach." She glanced back at her minions. "Kasumi and ... Misty, go... revive Happosai... er... cuddle him... or something." The two Kasumi's, one furry, one not, went to the youthened ancient pervert's side and knelt down next to him, picking him up and cuddling him to their chests motheringly. For several long moments nothing seemed to happen, and Clio glanced back at the battle with increasing concern. Even with the addition of Ranko, the battle was by no means certain, and Clio hated the thought of a fair fight.

Anxiously, she glanced back to Happosai. The youthful looking man in the purple Gi suddenly twitched, his hands clenching and unclenching, and suddenly Kasumi's improvised tube top vanished, allowing Happosai to rub his face energetically between her naked breasts. Aside from the wide eyed look on her face Kasumi gave off no sign of her dismay and continued to cuddle with him gently. Her furred twin suffered less from Happosai's affection, perhaps because she had no clothing for him to remove. Before long, however, a hand had found it's way over to her chest as well to give her cleavage some fondling of it's own.

Clio's frown deepened as Happosai continued to enjoy himself. "Ahem! Excuse me?" Not having gathered his attention she cleared her throat loudly and coughed.

Happosai glanced up at the half-cat woman beneficently. "Just a moment, my dear. I'll get to you when I've satisfied these two ladies."

Clio hissed in anger. "Happosai! If you don't get up right now and help defeat the Senshi, you'll never satisfy another woman ever again, because you'll be dead!"

Happosai looked at Cliopatra reproachfully. "Don't exaggerate, dear. It's not as bad as all that, is it?" He shrugged. "Besides, I can escape any time I like."

Clio glanced back at the battle, winced, then turned angrily back to Happosai. "Kasumi and Misty, attack Happosai."

The two Kasumi's almost immediately started to bit and claw the pervert, and Happosai broke free of them with a yelp. "Hey! What's the big idea?"

Cliopatra stared directly into Happosai's eyes. "Nubile, young, willing women... for the rest of your life."

Happosai blinked. "Right... well in that case...." He rushed off toward the fight with a gleeful battle cry. "Happi is here!"

The Kasumi's had gotten to their feet and were chasing after him, but Clio held up a hand. "Stop, stay here and protect me." Obediently they halted and moved back to her side, keeping an eye out for anyone threatening their mistress.

Michael Dwire dropped back down behind the boulder he had been hiding behind as the feline version of Kasumi glanced in his direction. < Damn.> He swore mentally. < Just have to get a little bit closer!> He glanced over at the fight worriedly. Michael wasn't quite sure what was going on, but he was pretty sure that the girls in the short sailor fukus were the good guys... and it looked like they were losing. Only one thing was sure in his mind, < This is really weird! I recognize Ranma, Akane, Nabiki and Kasumi, but Ranma and Nabiki are unconscious and Akane and Kasumi are acting extremely strangely. There is the naked red head that's acting like some sort of giant cat, Akane is chasing a black panther around and around a bunch of springs, and Kasumi is acting like the personal slave of one of the really weird looking cat people.> Michael wondered. < What hold does she have on them? They are acting like total zombies.>

From what he had been able to determine, the black furred female wearing the cloak seemed to be in charge, which is why he had been trying to sneak up on her ever since he had arrived on the scene. Even as he watched, the tide of the battle started to turn against the Senshi. The huge minatour-like monster was missing half of one tentacle and was staggering around drunkenly, swinging at two of the Senshi with increasing sluggishness as it's injuries slowed it down. < The Senshi fighting the monster also look a bit battered... and one of them looks like a guy?... but they are obviously winning. Unfortunately it looks like the perverted martial artist in the purple Gi is about to join in on that fight.>

At the same time, the short, black haired Senshi with the glaive had knocked out the young woman with the giant spatula that had been attacking her, but was now defending frantically against the tiny naked red head, who was acting like a cat and swiping at her with imaginary claws. Only the "imaginary" claws were somehow striking the small girls glaive with great force, striking sparks along its handle as well as somehow managing to slip by to slice strips out of the girl's fuku. She was too busy defending herself to counter attack, and even that defense was not enough to keep her safe. Two other women, both blond, one in a fuku and the other in a tuxedo were still fighting with a purple haired girl in a short Chinese dress, driving her toward the pools bit by bit. They were too busy fighting to notice the small round firecracker roll up behind them. It exploded, sending all three of the girls into a spring.

Michael grimaced. < I can't wait. I've got to end this now!> Glancing toward the cloaked half-cat female again, he noted that for the moment no one was looking in his general direction. He slipped around the boulder and started moving silently in her direction.

Mamoru surfaced from the pool in a panic, then realized with some relief that he was still a girl. < At least I'm still human.> Moments later someone else came up out of the pool, a white furred half-cat female in a Chinese dress took a swing at the transformed Tuxedo Kamen, who barely managed to parry the blow and was shoved back through the water to the opposite bank. < Shampoo's been turned into a half-cat like Johnathon? This is not good!> Tuxedo Kamen dived under another wickedly fast punch and swam toward the bottom of the spring. < What happened to Mina? Did Shampoo injure her?> Mamoru spotted a black haired girl in a sailor fuku that looked like Venus's thrashing about violently on the bottom, only succeeding in driving herself deeper in the the soft mud below her. < She must have hit her head.> Mamoru reasoned. < But why did her hair change color?>

The bishoten blond woman grabbed the struggling girl around the waist and pushed up for the surface. She managed to give herself enough of a push that the girl ended up halfway out of the pool, but she was forced to defend herself from Shampoo before she could get either of them fully onto the bank. Sailor Venus started to shakily pull herself out of the water, coughing and hacking while Tuxedo Kamen fought to keep Shampoo from ripping out her throat. There was no room for fancy maneuvers in the close quarters of the spring, and it was coming down to a simple contest of strength. Tuxedo Kamen had gotten a hold of Shampoo's wrists and was trying to keep the newly christened cat girl from reaching her throat with her brand new claws. Shampoo brought her claws closer inch by inch, using her superior strength to her advantage.

Tuxedo Kamen struggled valiantly for every inch, but there was nothing she could do. Shampoo had been stronger than her even before she had been transformed into a half-cat, Mamoru into a girl, and now, if Johnathon was correct, Shampoo should be twice as strong as she had been before. Mamoru was surprised that she had been able to resist for even an instant, unless Shampoo simply wasn't trying.... Suddenly a hundred pound boulder crashed into Shampoo's face, narrowly missing the top of Tuxedo Kamen's head. Shampoo went under the water, going limp, and Mamoru glanced back at his rescuer, blinking in disbelief as she got a good look at the girl's face.

Panting with the effort of having uprooted a sizable boulder and wearing Sailor Venus's fuku, the black haired girl was unmistakable. "Akane?!?" Tuxedo Mask gaped at her in astonishment.

Happosai glanced over at the fight going on between Shampoo and the two other girls he had knocked into the springs, while he leapt easily away from an attack by Sailor Neptune. He had manipulated Sailor Uranus and Pantyhose Taro into knocking each other out, and had been playing with Sailor Neptune for the last twenty seconds or so, as Cliopatra's other minions had seemed to be holding their own. Noticing with some alarm that Shampoo had gone under, he decided to take a more active hand himself. A Happo fire burst wouldn't be sufficient, he decided, he would have to take them on personally. Sailor Neptune, on the other hand.... Leaving the aqua haired Senshi half a dozen oversized firecrackers to play with he bounced over toward his new targets.

The dark haired girl in Venus's fuku blinked at Tuxedo Kamen. "Do I know you? I'm sorry, I really don't remember."

Tuxedo Kamen shook her head in confusion. "I don't understand. Are you really Akane? Akane Saotome?"

The girl's eyes went wide in outrage. "That's Akane TENDO!" She protested angrily. "I am not married to that... jerk...." Akane's eyes rolled up in her head and she collapsed bonelessly to the ground.

From just behind her the youthened Happosai nodded his head sympathetically. "Of course you're not, my dear. You're not really Akane after all." He glanced down at Tuxedo Kamen with a grin. "Aren't you a pretty thing. It's too bad that you won't be able to dodge very well, swimming in that spring." Happosai promptly produced several firecrackers and tossed them toward the tuxedo clad girl. The firecrackers exploded an instant before reaching the spring, blowing up halfway between Happosai and Tuxedo Kamen and throwing the youthened pervert back a few steps while at the same time obscuring his vision. "What the?"

When the smoke cleared after several seconds all he could see was the clear surface of the pond. Happosai stepped forward cautiously to take a closer look when suddenly Tuxedo Kamen exploded out of the pool, cradled a white furred cat girl in her arms protectively. Happosai dodged back from the water and glanced up to where Tuxedo Kamen was perched up above the spring, standing with one foot on top of her cane, which had magically extended far enough to get her well above the pool's surface. Tuxedo Kamen casually hopped over to the pole sticking out of the spring and retrieved her cane, which shrunk back to normal size, all the while holding Shampoo carefully, and making the whole thing look effortless.

"Shampoo is an innocent in all this, and I'll see that no harm comes to her." The masked girl declared angrily. "You, on the other hand, have chosen this path and for that...." Tuxedo Mask paused dramatically. "I WILL kick your ass."

Happosai clapped appreciatively. "Very nice my dear. Just to prove what a generous villain I am I'll let you set poor little Shampoo-chan down out of the way so we can fight a bit more fairly." Tuxedo Mask nodded and extended her cane out to the shore, then started descending, while Happosai grinned and prepared another brace of bombs. < Sucker.> Unfortunately for him, Happosai was forced to dodge as an energized sphere of water passed through the spot that he had been standing on in moment before.

"Don't forget me, you pervert!" Michiru prepared another attack and Happosai took a second to admire his handiwork. With a variation on a technique he had stolen from Genma years before, Happosai had managed to steal Sailor Neptune's white leotard while leaving the rest of her costume intact. This left the extremely embarrassed Senshi only her ribbon and very short skirt to preserve her modesty. With the distraction the perverted master almost forgot to throw his bombs and ended up throwing them an instant later than he had planned. Tuxedo Kamen had already landed by that time and saw the attack coming. As before, a rose intercepted each explosive well before they reached her, and the Chi fireworks exploded between her and Happosai harmlessly. Tuxedo Mask laid Shampoo down carefully while under the cover of the smoke, then leapt away to get her out of the line of fire.

Happosai squared off with the two girls confidently, vowing not to let anything else distract him till the fight was over, but before anyone else could attack, a loud voice rang out over the battlefield. "OK, everyone stop!" Glancing toward the sound of the voice, Happosai noticed that a familiar looking young man wearing a black mask had somehow managed to grab Cliopatra and had her pinned in a painful looking sleeper hold, one arm around her neck and a knee in her spine, leaving the young man a hand free to wave his rapier defensively before Cliopatra's bodyguards. "Everybody freeze." The man warned. "Or I'll do something rather rash."

Cliopatra waved a hand weakly. "Do... ach! Do as he says!" She managed to choke out with some difficulty. "Everyone stop!" The last word was a pained squeak, but it reached all of her conscious minions.

Battered, her fuku badly damaged, Sailor Saturn hid behind her Silence Wall, which was flickering as it lost strength from Ranko's constant attacks. "Stop Ranko too!" She cried as loud as she could.

Michael didn't really know who or what "Ranko" was, but he was aware of the red headed girl attacking the Senshi. "Call her off, Lady, quickly."

Clio gasped for air and waved her hands futilely. "I... cough... I can't" She gasped in pain again as Michael tightened his grasp, pushing his knee further into her spine. "You don't understand! AHH! No wait! I can't control her... ouch! Quit that!" She yelped in pain again and waved her hands in surrender. "OK, OK! Just let up! Ghost Cat! Call Ranko off! Call her off!" After several moments Ranko stopped attacking the now nearly powerless force field and sat back on her haunches. A large black panther started to approach from admist the spring, where she had been chased by Akane, who was, like the rest of Clio's minions, not moving, obeying her command to stop.

Michael noticed the panther and tightened his grip again. "Call the cat off too."

Clio weakly waved the panther off. "Stop... stop please." Surprisingly, at least to her, the panther obeyed, stopping where it was and waiting patiently. Michiru, Happosai and Tuxedo Kamen also waited to see how this played out before they continued their fight. Michael glanced around carefully for anything else moving, then nodded. "OK, you've got all these people hypnotized or something, right?" Cliopatra didn't answer, and Michael took her silence for an affirmative. "Right. Then tell me how you can break the hypnosis."

Clio struggled a bit then subsided with another gasp of pain. "Alright, alright, I'll talk... just... what guarantee do I have that you'll release me?"

Michael shrugged. "You have none. I'm not going to release you. However, if you cooperate I won't hurt, maim, or kill you."

Cliopatra shivered, then her eyes narrowed. "Kasumi, Misty, if he harms me in any way, ach! Go... jump... in... a... spring...." Her voice trailed off as Michael choked her out. Michael grit his teeth with the effort but Cliopatra finally slumped unconscious under his sleeper hold.

Michael shook his head in disbelief. "Stubborn. All that effort just to tell Kasumi to go soak herself?" He glanced over to where Kasumi and another cat girl were hurrying toward the springs. "I'd better go make sure that they don't drown." He started running after Kasumi (the one he recognized, anyway.) and at the same time the black panther leapt up and raced to intercept Kasumi's feline half. Happosai, giving up on a lost cause, threw a batch of his trademarked explosives at both Sailor Neptune and Tuxedo Kamen, then fled at high speed under the cover of the explosions. Ami managed to pounce on Misty before she reached the springs, but being behind her quite a ways when he started, Michael wasn't quite able to reach Kasumi before she plunged into the springs herself.

Michael stopped near the edge, and Mamoru ran up behind him an instant later, slightly blackened, her face aghast. "No.... Damn it, not another curse!"

Michael blinked, glancing back at the masked girl in confusion. "Curse? What are you talking about? Don't worry, I'll get her out. She's not going to drown on me." The tall masked man turned back to the spring and leaned over to reach into the water, but the masked girl behind him grabbed him from behind and pulled him back.

"Careful!" She warned. "Do you want to curse yourself too?"

Michael pulled free with a twist and glared at the tuxedo clad girl. "What ARE you talking about? We've got to get Kasumi out before she swallows the whole spring. Why are you trying to stop me?"

Tuxedo Kamen shook her head in exasperation. "Are you blind? Didn't you see what happens whenever someone falls in one of those springs?"

Michael blinked. "Um... no, actually. What happens?"

Mamoru looked at the man in black incredulously. "You didn't notice?"

Michael shrugged his shoulders helplessly. "Notice what? I was hiding out most of the time everyone was fighting, then I grabbed that... whatever she was...." He trailed off. "Listen, we don't have time for this, we've got to get to Kasumi."

Mamoru frowned. "You're right, but we can't touch the water."

Sailor Saturn hobbled up, using her glaive as a crutch. "Hold on to me." She suggested. "I'll fish Kasumi out of the water." Mamoru nodded and quickly put her hands around Hotaru's waist, bracing herself to hold them both steady. Hotaru reached into the spring with her glaive and started to carefully lift.

From behind them, Michiru cried out from where she and a panther were trying to restrain the half cat girl, that was still trying to claw her way to the nearest spring. "Hurry up and help us! I can't get any traction on this ground, and this is the strongest housewife I've ever tried to hold!" Hotaru had gotten Kasumi to the bank, and she and Mamoru pulled her clear before rushing over to help their friends with the cat girl, while Michael bent down to check on Kasumi.

"I don't understand what you were talking about. A curse? Kasumi looks... fine?" Michael frowned to himself. "Wait a sec, Kasumi wasn't wearing a cloak before... or much of anything for that matter." He reached down. "It's made of feathers, looks pretty expensive." He paused. "Strange, it's like it's attached to her. Hey, wait a second... this isn't a cloak, these are wings!" He swallowed nervously. "Her hands, are clawed... and her feet, like talons?" He looked up in shock. "What in the hell is going on here?" Michael blinked as he spotted a blond haired girl in tight black leather and a cape. "And where did you come from?"

The demoness Mara shrugged. "I'd tell you, but I'm afraid that you're not going to live long enough to care." She launched a bolt of black energy at him, too fast to dodge, and the man in black flew backwards, unconsious, landing just before the pools. Mara powered up another, stronger attack and looked over at the Senshi. "And I bet you all thought you had won, didn't you?" She released the blast and everything went black.

End of Chapter 17

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