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All Ranma characters are property of Rumiko Takahashi, first published by Shogakugan in Japan and brought over to North America by Viz Communications.
A Different Viewpoint: Curses and Demons:
Even as plans were made to thwart her, the demoness Mara teleported back into her lair, deep in the basement of an old video arcade. "Damn that panda...." She swore violently to herself, causing the pale, bookish young man in the next room to look up in concern at the tone in her voice. Mara had ported into her casting chamber, a rather bare room that she used to put up complex wards and spells. Right at that moment it had a portal gate scribed in blood on the floor, to make teleporting around town easier. The next room was almost homey in comparison, serving as a rather dark but roomy living room for the demoness and her "guests". A large couch faced a full fledged entertainment system, there were two large computers on opposite walls, and several hardwood bookcases filled with tomes of varying lore.
Gosenkugi debated hiding behind the state of the art computer he had been working at, or going to check on the demoness. It wasn't really that he was concerned about her welfare as much as concern that a demoness in a bad mood tended to be very hazardous to be anywhere near for any length of time. His internal debate, however, turned out to be meaningless, as Mara came over to his computer herself before he could make up his mind.
"Tell me you have something useful." The demoness demanded, sounding annoyed. "Then I might not take out my frustrations on your worthless hide."
Gosenkugi glanced at her fearfully, blinking at the large gash in her leather dress that apparently went all the way around her torso at just above waist level. "Er... what happened to you?"
Mara's scowl got even deeper, making the pale young man turn an even pastier shade of white. "A soon to be extinct species of panda decided it would be fun to cut me in half." She raised an eyebrow treateningly. "Would you like to know what that feels like?"
Gosenkugi's eyes went wide. "Cut you in.... How did you...?"
Mara sniffed, shrugging. "I'm not that easy to destroy. I was almost finished recovering when some idiotic samurai charged at me with a Hamaya* nocked in his great bow...." She frowned. "I should have realized they'd expect me, but I can't believe that those mortals have access to such powerful techniques!"
(Demon exorcising arrow.)
"D-do you think the goddesses are helping them?" Gosenkugi managed to stammer out.
"Of course the goddesses are helping them." Mara said dismissingly. "But not even Urd would give them access to techniques like that. No, this must have something to do with...." She turned away from Gosenkugi, her eyes narrowing. "HAPPOSAI!!! Get your lecherous ass out here!"
"What is it?" A disgruntled voice came from one of the bedrooms adjoining the living room. "I'm busy in here!"
Mara stalked into Happosai's room with a furious scowl. "What could possibly be more important than...." She stopped, raising an eyebrow. "Ah, cataloguing your underwear collection I see. I should have known. Where's your new toy?"
Happosai, currently in his youthful form, chuckled merrily. "Resting up. Poor little cat girl just doesn't have the endurance to keep up with me."
A faint look of disgust crossed the demoness's face for just a moment before vanishing. "Whatever. I want to know what you can tell me about your students.... That panda used some ridiculously dangerous moves just now. I couldn't sense him at all at first, and then he attacked me with some sort of vacuum blades...."
Happosai nodded slowly. "I've heard of the technique. Genma came up with it while I was imprisoned in that cave. He was always the best of my students... aside from Ranma, that is." He shrugged. "It's a pair of techniques actually, imitating how a thief steals from a house. One for the noisy thief, who breaks down the door and takes everything he wants, and one for the quiet thief, who steals everything you own and is gone before you even know he's there. I already developed my own invisibility technique, so I wasn't all that interested in finding out exactly how the second one works, and that first technique isn't all that superior to my Happo fire burst...." He peered at the gash through the front of Mara's dress. "Of course I could be wrong...." He fingered the gap probingly. "Hmm... cut you right in half, huh? Perhaps I should look into this "noisy thief" technique after all."
Mara's face started to go red in anger. "Old man... if you know what's good for you, you'll give me back my underwear right now."
Happosai blinked, pulling a black lace pair of panties and a matching bra out of his back pocket. "Hmm? Now how did these get in there?" He handed the underwear back to the demoness with noticeable reluctance. "Well then... before they drove you off, did you manage to accomplish anything?"
Mara growled low in her throat, then visibly calmed herself. "I took out one of them at least. The older woman had a sword that could have given me some problems... if she could still use it, that is. She won't be much of a threat now."
Happosai looked interested. "What did you do to her?"
Mara snickered. "Only granted her heart felt wish... something any woman her age would kill for."
Happosai raised an eyebrow, but didn't question her further. "I see. So... what's the plan now, Mara-chan?"
Mara's left eyebrow twitched dangerously. "We wait until the right moment, then we spring our trap. Are you ready?"
Happosai rubbed his hands together in anticipation. "Are you kidding? I was born ready for this. When should I make my wish?"
Mara smiled slowly. "Soon... soon. We want to time this just right, so those pesky Norns don't have time to notice what's happening before the wish goes into effect." She strode back into the living room, the youthened ancient pervert close on her heels and went over to Gosenkugi's side. "So, what's the status on my warning virus?"
Gosenkugi was staring at the computer screen intently. "The first level warning just came in. Someone is hacking into the zoo's computer right now.... someone good."
Mara nodded with a small smile. "Just like I planned. They're about to fall into my trap...." She turned to Happosai with a gracious smile, all traces of anger at him gone. "With your help, of course."
Happosai nodded with a small bow, smiling broadly. "My pleasure, Mara-chan. Believe me, this will be a true pleasure."
Mara's eyes twinkled slightly as she nodded back. "Oh, I'm sure it will be, Master Happosai. I'm sure it will be."
Back at the Tomoe residence, Belldandy and Skuld had both returned from their respective trips with new information.
Skuld held up a printout from her computer. "Mara tried to cover up where she had Ami-chan sent. She erased all the zoo's computer files on where they might of sent Ami, but she didn't go far enough. I checked all the Airports in the area for shipments going out from the Tokyo Zoo, and found only three matches in the last two days. There are shipments going out to zoos in Beijing, Copenhagen, and San Francisco."
Makoto spoke up. "But which shipment has Ami?"
Skuld shook her head. "The actual contents being shipped weren't listed for some reason, but it has to be one of those three."
Minako sighed in relief. "You did it, Skuld! All we have to do is teleport to those three zoos and find out which one has Ami. We can get Ami back before school tomorrow!"
Setsuna nodded. "I've been to all three cities in the last hundred years or so. I shouldn't have any trouble getting us there."
Belldandy looked worried. "I hope nothing else happens to poor Ami-chan before we reach her. Perhaps my sister Urd and I could come along as well?"
Setsuna smiled gratefully. "I would appreciate that, Belldandy. Thank you."
The goddess of the present blushed slightly in embarrassment. "It is our responsibility. It is we who should be thanking you." Belldandy turned to Hotaru. "May I use your phone to call my older sister?"
Hotaru looked astonished. "You can call her from here? Isn't it... um... long distance to call the heavens?"
Belldandy giggled. "Oh no, this will be a local call, don't worry."
Urd arrived through the huge television in the living room only minutes later, and Setsuna, Haruka, Michiru and Hotaru all took the time to transform into their senshi forms, then change back into their regular clothing in the privacy of their own rooms. The outer Senshi gathered in a circle, holding hands, and Belldandy and Urd joined hands with them, preparing to add their power to the teleport in order to save energy.
Setsuna looked over at the two inner Senshi present with a serious expression. "Protect the others while we're gone. The Tendo Dojo is likely to be attacked soon if I'm guessing right. Everyone should gather there until we get back."
Makoto looked worried. "What about Usagi and Rei? They're both all alone as well. Shouldn't we protect them?"
Setsuna shook her head. "They're safe enough for now. Not even a demon like Mara can see through our disguise fields, so our identities should be safe for at least a little while longer. Hopefully we'll find a way to track her down before she manages to do any more damage." She turned to Belldandy. "Are you ready to go, Belldandy-san?"
Belldandy nodded with a smile. "I'm familiar with your teleportation technique now. We should have no problems. Where shall we go first?"
Setsuna shrugged. "I was thinking Copenhagen. It's just a few minutes till noon there."
Belldandy smiled. "The weather there is very nice right about now as well. Alright, Denmark here we come!"
Urd grinned. "Hmm... The boys in Denmark are such nice fellows. Maybe I'll stay awhile after we rescue Mercury."
Belldandy sighed softly, and Setsuna pretended not to notice. "On three... one, two... SAILOR TELEPORT!!!" With a flash of multicolored light, the six women vanished.
Makoto sighed, then turned to Ranma. "I guess we should head over to your place, huh Sensei?"
Ranma hesitated, then nodded. "Yeah... I guess Pluto would know what she's talking about. I hope nothing's happened there while we've been gone."
Keichi knew something was wrong almost immediately as the cat on his lap sat up abruptly, eyes suddenly wide in shock. He felt her claws come out and froze. A moment later she retracted her claws, glancing up at him apologetically, then jumped off his lap, heading for the kitchen. Keichi followed close behind Bell-cat, and nearly walked into two other Belldandys as they came into the kitchen from other parts of the house.
The kitchen was packed near to bursting as six Belldandys, a fox, a hawk a cat and Keichi all tried to jam into it at once. It was eerily silent at first. All the Belldandys knew what the others had felt, and they simply shared a concerned glance until the Belldandy nearest Keichi turned to him to explain.
"Keichi-san…" She began hesitantly. "I'm afraid that we've lost contact with Bell-one. She was going to Copenhagen to help find Mercury-san, along with Urd, and several of the other Senshi… but when they teleported… we lost contact with her."
Keichi stiffened up with worry. "Lost contact? Couldn't she… just be out of range or something?"
Belldandy shook her head. "We would be able to sense her if she was anywhere on Earth, at least if her power was active. Wherever she is, she's either being shielded… or she's…."
Keichi shook his head. "She's fine. I’d know if… if something bad happened to her. I know I would."
Belldandy looked at him with a genuine smile. "You're right, Keichi. I'm sure she must simply be cut off somehow." She frowned. "I'm afraid Mara must have set a trap of some kind… and none of us has the power to investigate."
Keichi looked confused. "But… isn't there a whole lot of you right here? Couldn't you… combine your powers or something?"
Belldandy hesitated. "Normally, that would be true… but while Jusenkyo did give us multiple bodies, our spirit… our powers were not increased. When we were first split up our powers were evenly divided among us, but as Bell-one was going to help the Senshi rescue their friend, we gave her almost all of our power. The rest of us have only the same energies that any normal human has."
Keichi blinked. "You mean all of you are human right now?"
The Belldandys all glanced at each other, and the one closest to him turned back to him and nodded. "Essentially yes, Keichi. Before Jusenkyo, Yggdrasil maintained our physical structure, but the springs gave each of us, in essence, a life of our own, especially those of us doubly cursed. Actually we do have more energy now then we did before the springs, because the natural energy of all our new forms was added to the total, although it's not normally possible for us to access that energy in any large way…."
Keichi blinked, trying to take in the large explanation. "So… you all only have the energy that a normal human would have… or cat, or hawk, or whatever, right?"
"That's essentially correct." Belldandy answered with a small sigh. "Although we do have some small traces of our goddess power in each of us. Enough to maintain our link, but little more."
Keichi scratched his chin. "What about if I make you some more of those moon rock bracelets? Wouldn't that give you more power?"
Belldandy blinked. "It might… with Yggdrasil back up we haven't needed any additional power sources in awhile, but perhaps…." She shook her head. "It might not work. I'm not sure exactly how these bodies absorb energy. We're very much mortal in these forms."
Keichi looked determined. "All we can do is try."
Belldandy nodded in agreement. "We must try."
Less than a minute after the outer Senshi, Belldandy and Urd had teleported away, the phone rang at the Tomoe house. It rang several times as everyone looked around wondering if they should pick it up or not, as none of the residents were home. Finally Makoto went over and picked up the phone, frowning slightly.
"Hello, Tomoe residence." Makoto blinked at the sound of the voice on the other line. "Belldandy-san? Are you calling from Copenhagen?" Makoto blinked again at the answer. "You're not the same Belldandy? Oh! The Jusenkyo curse, that's right! How many are you, anyway?" There was a pause, then Makoto's eyes went wide. "What do you mean they didn't make it to Copenhagen? What happened?" She listened for several more seconds as everyone else in the room went completely silent. "I see... I see... So you can't sense the Belldandy that went with the outer Senshi anymore."
Minako got her communicator out immediately and opened it. "Pluto, Sailor Pluto, come in... this is Venus, Sailor Pluto, can you hear me? Neptune? Uranus? Saturn? Can any of you hear me?" Minako continued to try and contact any of the outer Senshi as everyone else exchanged worried looks.
Makoto sighed and spoke into the phone. "We can't get hold of the outer Senshi either. Do you have any idea what's happened?"
Skuld held out her hand insistently. "Let me talk to Belldandy."
Makoto gave up the phone to the worried looking young goddess, and Skuld immediately started questioning her older sister in great detail. Her questions rapidly became highly technical, and she quickly became frustrated at what she was hearing.
"I've got to come up there myself. There has to be some way we can find them through Yggdrasil." Skuld blinked. "OK." She turned to the others. "Makoto, Belldandy wants to speak to you again." She spoke into the phone once more. "I'm coming right up, Big sister."
Makoto took the phone from Skuld, who rushed off toward the bathroom. "Yes, Belldandy? What's that...?" She peered down the hall Skuld had raced down. "Skuld?" Makoto stepped down the hall, still cradling the phone. "Skuld! Belldandy says not to try teleporting!" There was a flash of light from down the hallway and Makoto sighed. "Darn, missed her." She spoke into the phone again. "I'm sorry, Belldandy, she's already gone." Makoto listened quietly for several moments. "I understand." She hesitated. "OK, let me write this down. 555-9876. Got it." Makoto blinked. "That's a local number, isn't it?" Makoto looked surprised at whatever Belldandy told her next. "Alright, if we find anything out we'll call you there. Yes, I understand. Do you have any way of contacting us? Oh, alright. Good luck."
Makoto hung up the phone and shook her head. "I can't believe I just wished a goddess good luck."
Johnathon stepped up to her, looking concerned. "What did she say? What's going on, exactly?"
Makoto hesitated. "Well, Belldandy... that is one of the other Belldandys from the Jusenkyo spring of drowned twins, says that she, or they, can't sense the Belldandy that went with Pluto and the others to look for Ami. She thinks that something is shielding them from her senses, and whatever it is must be keeping our communicators from working as well." There was a chorus of worried looks at this, the inner Senshi looking at each other in worry.
Johnathon frowned. "Mara?"
Makoto shook her head, frustrated. "Belldandy doesn't know. She say's she'll contact us if she finds anything out. She told me that she can simply call whatever phone we happen to be closest to at the time, and that she shouldn't have any trouble reaching us from where she is.... It kind of sounded like some sort of command post or something... there were lots of other voices in the background. I think she's in... heaven or something."
Johnathon smashed a fist into his palm. "Damn it. What are we supposed to do? We can't reach Copenhagen or any of those other places in time to be any help... not without teleporting...." He looked at Makoto questioningly.
Makoto shook her head. "We can't teleport any place we haven't been yet... and Belldandy seemed to think that teleporting might be dangerous anyway."
Johnathon nodded with a heavy sigh. "That's what I thought." He stared at the floor in thought. "Darn it... there has to be SOMETHING we can do."
Akane spoke up. "Well, we do know someone in China, don't we? And Michael-san lives near San Francisco. Couldn't we contact Cologne and Michael and have them check the zoos there?"
Johnathon looked at her with a frown. "I don't want Michael involved in this." He wrinkled his nose. "Besides, Mara probably has some sort of trap set up. Michael can't handle a demoness on his own."
Ranma spoke up. "But I bet the old ghoul can! She can bring a posse of Amazons if she needs any backup... and she knows about fighting demons."
Johnathon hesitated, then nodded. "We've got to get back to the Dojo soon, just in case Mara plans on trying something there... but contacting Cologne IS a good idea. While Michael wouldn't be able to handle a demon, I think I do know someone in San Francisco that might be able to help."
Less than a minute later, in a police station in San Francisco, the desk sergeant picked up the phone on the second ring. "101st precinct." He blinked several times. "Who? Mister, you do realize that it's two in the morning over here?"
Johnathon looked at his watch, then rolled his eyes in self disgust. "That's right... I'm sorry. I'm calling from Japan. I'll call back in the morning...."
The desk sergeant glanced back into the still lit central office of the precinct, then shrugged. "If you're calling all the way from Japan it must be important. He's at his desk. I'll patch you through."
Seconds later a tired police detective jerked out of the half doze he had fallen into while going slowly over a large book of mugshots. "Who in the world would be calling this late?" He muttered quietly to himself as he snagged the phone off the hook and put it to his ear. "Hello, this is Peter Caine... can I help you with something?"
Detective Peter Caine of the 101st precinct blinked in astonishment as he listened to the man on the other end of the line. "Johnathon Dwire? What in the world are you calling me about... and at two in the morning?"
Johnathon Dwire/Tendo hesitated before continuing his explanation. "Well, honestly, I need your help. There's a girl... a friend of mine, who's recently gotten a Jusenkyo curse. I need you to help her."
Peter raised an eyebrow at this, still cradling the phone between his shoulder and ear. "What can I do? Where is this friend of yours?"
"That's just it." Johnathon admitted. "We don't really know. It's possible that she's in San Francisco, though, which is why I called you."
The detective frowned. "It's possible? What do you mean?"
"It's a long story." Johnathon said slowly. "But I'll hit the important points. This friend of mine fell into the spring of drowned panther, and she got caught by the Tokyo Zoo during a rainstorm yesterday. We were about to go rescue her from the zoo, but she's already been transferred to another zoo."
"And you think she might have been transferred to the San Francisco Zoo?" Peter Caine whistled. "Hoo boy... this is going to be tricky."
Johnathon sighed. "It's worse than you think... you might find this difficult to believe, but... a powerful demoness is behind having the girl transferred out of the Tokyo Zoo. If you try and rescue her, this demoness might try and stop you."
Peter Caine blinked. "A demoness... sure." He sighed, shaking his head. "If this wasn't coming from a man who turns into a werecat I'd say you were crazy... and I still might."
"I wouldn't blame you. On top of all this, we're not actually sure which zoo she was sent to." Johnathon paused a moment before continuing. "San Francisco was only one out of three possibilities, so she might not even be there."
"So let me get this straight." Peter Caine began calmly. "You want me to break your friend out of the zoo... deal with a demon... and there's only a one in three chance that she's actually there?"
"Hmmph." Johnathon snorted. "That's about the size of it, yes."
Peter rolled his eyes. "I'll do what I can... but I'm getting the impression here that you called the wrong Caine."
Johnathon coughed. "Well... I don't actually have your father's number...."
Peter shook his head silently. "I'll get him myself. Is there anything else you need to tell me about this?"
Johnathon hesitated. "The Demoness is called Mara. She looks human enough, attractive, blond hair... has tattoos on her forehead, tends to wear black leather."
Peter laughed. "Sounds like some of my dates, go on."
"She's powerful." The English teacher warned. "She can fly, teleport, throw energy blasts... probably can cast any number of spells."
"Oh is that all?" Peter said acidly. "What the hell have you gotten yourself into, Dwire?"
"I usually go by Tendo now." Johnathon reminded him. "As for what I've gotten into... it's too much to go into right now, and time is critical. Can you help?"
Peter sighed. "Yeah, I'll get Dad and we'll go as soon as we can. How am I going to know which panther is your friend?"
Johnathon hesitated again. "Hold on a second." He put his hand over the receiver and turned to the others. "I'm not sure how much to tell him. He's going to want to know something, but I don't know if you girls want to spread your identities around any more than you already have."
Makoto sighed. "I'll take responsibility. Tell him whatever you think he needs to know to find Ami. Her secret isn't worth her life. Besides, he's kept your Jusenkyo curses secret, hasn't he?"
Johnathon nodded. "He has. I do trust him." He took his hand away from the receiver and lifted it to his mouth again. "Well you can just try calling her by name. She's called Ami. Just tell her that I sent you, and she'll know to trust you."
Detective Caine nodded. "I'll get her out for you... somehow... if she's there, anyway. How can I contact you?"
"I'll give you my number here. Call me if you run into any trouble you can't handle." Johnathon's voice grew more serious. "You do know enough not to tell anyone about this, right? If the wrong people learn about a girl that turns into a panther...."
"You can trust me." Peter assured him. "I won't let anyone hurt an innocent girl in my town. Not if I can help it."
Johnathon sighed. "Thanks, Peter. I really appreciate this. I've got to get going. We've got our own problems on this end to deal with, and every moment may count."
"I understand. Good luck." Peter heard Johnathon Dwire cut the connection and put down the phone himself. "Man... now if that wasn't the weirdest phone call I've ever gotten in my life...."
Johnathon Dwire turned to his friends and nodded. "Let's get going back to the Dojo. There's nothing more we can do for Ami right now."
Akane spoke up. "Let's stop by Dr. Tofu's clinic on the way home. I bet Shampoo can get a message to her Great Grandmother for us."
Johnathon nodded. "Good idea. Anyone else have a suggestion?"
Ranma frowned and slammed one fist into his palm. "Damn it! I hate not being able to do something!"
Ranko nodded in agreement, looking similarly frustrated. "Why can't that darn demoness just come out and fight, anyway? What the heck are we supposed to do?"
"There's nothing you can do, Ranma." Akane said quietly to both of them. "We just have to wait..." She winced, looking worried, and shook her head. "She's got to show herself eventually, right?" There was a general silence to that, no one really able to answer.
Makoto finally spoke up, changing the subject. "Why don't Minako and I go pick up Rei from the Shrine. We can join up with you guys at the Dojo. Usagi's still grounded, but we can use all the help we can get, right?"
Johnathon nodded. "Good plan. Anything else?" There was a concerted shaking of heads, and Johnathon nodded again. "OK then, let's move."
They broke into two groups, Ranma, Ranko, Akane, Ukyo, Johnathon and Kasumi all headed for Nermia, and Sailor Venus and Jupiter going towards Rei's shrine. As they got outside Makoto and Minako ran off at high speed, taking to the rooftops almost immediately. Sailor Venus wore her costume, while Jupiter was in her regular clothes, having changed earlier.
"I wonder what people will make of that." Akane said quietly. "Do you think anyone will be able to recognize Makoto now that she doesn't have her uniform?"
Johnathon shook his head. "Probably not, if her disguise field is still working. As long as they don't see her transform, or have a really good reason to suspect her, she should be alright. We've got our own worries."
Kasumi went to her husband's side. "You five should go on without me. I'll just hold you back. I can't keep up with you all if you're planning on running home."
Johnathon shook his head. "Out of the question. I'm not letting you out of my sight."
Ranma stepped forward. "Well... I could carry you, Kasumi...." He glanced at Johnathon. "If that's alright."
Johnathon nodded quickly. "Please. My ego won't be too badly bruised, and we do have to hurry."
Akane snorted. "He just wants an excuse to carry around a cute girl." She smacked Ranma lightly on the back of the head, pretending to be angry but really grateful for the distraction. "But I'll let it slide, this once."
Ranma scooped Kasumi up effortlessly, playing along. "You just want me to carry you around instead." He stuck out his tongue at his wife playfully. "What's the matter, Akane? Getting lazy?" Akane growled at him and Ranma took off for the rooftops with a powerful leap, laughing the whole way. Akane took off in pursuit, Ranko and Ukyo a second behind.
Johnathon sighed and pulled his canteen out of his backpack. "I wonder how many people have spotted me running around already. There's sure to be another rash of "cat demon" sightings after today." He glanced around carefully, then poured the remaining water in his canteen over his head. "I'd better get moving if I want to keep up." The half cat leapt to the nearest roof and raced after his friends.
Mara walked out of her casting chamber tiredly, several long minutes after Happosai had completed his wish. "There... that should hold them."
Gosenkugi watched her come his way with trepidation. "Did it work? Did his wish work the way he wanted?"
Mara smiled. "It worked the way "I" wanted it to. He wanted his very own harem with all the "magical girls" in it. His wish alone isn't powerful enough to simply bring them all here, not with their power levels, but with the power of his wish I was able to set up a teleport trap for anyone who tried to leave Tokyo... I figured either the Senshi or some of the goddesses would try to teleport after their friend... but things worked out better then I imagined!" She wiped her brow tiredly. "It was almost too much for me, even with the power of Happosai's wish behind me. Two of the goddesses, and five of the Senshi all at once... they almost escaped the trap... but I designed it to use their own power against them. The energy they threw into the teleport was turned into the power that holds them now."
Gosenkugi looked impressed. "Then we win?"
Mara nodded. "Oh yes... we certainly will. I held the trap up for the last few minutes just in case someone would go to the rescue, and the last goddess got trapped as well. That just leaves half the Senshi and those pesky martial artists."
Gosenkugi hesitated. "So... are you going to attack them?"
Mara shook her head. "At least one of the Senshi remaining has the power to destroy me... and those martial artists are more dangerous than I would have dreamed. No... we wait. There will be other opportunities. I need to recover my strength, so we should go back to small annoyances. Keep them off balance for awhile. They're sure to be expecting something along the lines of a direct attack right now, so we keep it subtle till they let they're guard down again. Got it?"
Gosenkugi nodded quickly, eager to please. "Of course. That's a brilliant plan, Mistress. I have no doubt you'll defeat them all soon." He quirked his head. "What are we going to do to them first?"
Mara sighed and rolled her eyes. "I don't know yet. Do I have to think of everything?" A low moan came from one of the adjoining rooms and Mara frowned. "What's wrong with her?"
Gosenkugi looked nervous. "Er... she's been um... making noises and... er... calling for Happosai... ever since you two started his wish...." He blushed. "I think she... er... wants him to come back to the... bedroom."
Mara blinked. "You're kidding!" She headed for the bedroom curiously, Gosenkugi following several steps behind. Opening the door she raised an eyebrow at the naked half cat laying upon the bed within. Cliopatra was spread out like a perverts fantasy, at least if you liked girls with fur. Her legs were spread wide and her hands were busy doing some very private things to herself. The half cat woman barely noticed the two of them come into the room, and didn't stop what she was doing when she did notice, her eyes closing moments after she spotted them.
Gosenkugi forced himself to look away, blushing furiously. "What... what's she doing?"
Mara laughed out loud. "I should have guessed! That's why she was willing to let that little dwarf anywhere near her. She's in heat. She probably started it last night. She'd want a male... any male, and our lucky little ancient pervert got his chance." She shook her head. "Still, I'm impressed. I'm surprised that any one man could have satisfied her... of course, Happosai's art allows him to gain power when any other man would exhaust themselves."
Gosenkugi hesitated. "Er... she doesn't sound very... er... satisfied."
Mara shrugged. "This will last for at least another day. She'll go until she loses consciousness... again, I'd suspect." She glanced at the pale youth beside her. "Have at her if you like. This will probably be your only chance for awhile." She winked at him. "Don't let anyone say I don't give my servants the occasional perk."
Gosenkugi swallowed. "You mean... me... her...." He blushed bright red. "Right now?"
Mara rolled her eyes. "You humans and your hang-ups. Why not right now? Don't like an audience?" She glanced at him over her shoulder, flashing her eyelids coyly. "If you want me to join in...?"
Gosenkugi's eyes went wide. "NO! No... that's fine mistress... thank you...."
Mara snickered. "Fool, I should be insulted, if I had actually been serious." She turned and started walking out of the room, frowning slightly. "She's going to be annoying for hours unless SOMEBODY gives her what she wants. You're elected, unless you want me to have to listen to that while I'm trying to get some rest?"
Gosenkugi swallowed. "Well... I guess I could...."
Mara whirled on him. "Wait a minute. I just had a brainstorm. Our noisy little cat girl here shares a curse with several of those annoying humans, right?"
Gosenkugi nodded slowly. "Right...."
Mara punched him lightly in the forehead. "What is the first rule of magic, oh ye of little brain?"
Gosenkugi blinked. "Er... Oh! Like to like... if you want to change something you can use something just like it... right?"
Mara nodded slowly, as if it to a small child. "That's right. So if I want to mess with those annoying little humans, the easiest way is to link a spell using our horny little cat here."
Gosenkugi looked confused. "What spell?"
Mara shrugged. "We'll just link them to her. Their Jusenkyo curse will make a good transference point. They'll be to busy dealing with their cat problem to try and find us."
Gosenkugi nodded slowly. "I get it. I'll go get the supplies."
Mara grinned slightly to herself. "This should be good. Hell, after this, they might even thank me... before I kill them all, that is."
When they arrived in the woods behind Rei's shrine, Sailor Venus dropped her transformation, becoming Minako again. Sailor Jupiter on the other hand remained in her Senshi form.
Minako looked at her questioningly. "You're not going to change back?"
Jupiter frowned. "I'm getting tired of having to change clothes every time I transform. It should be OK if I stay like this, shouldn't it? Unless someone has gotten a good look at Sailor Jupiter, they won't realize it's me without my uniform on, will they?"
Minako hesitated. "Maybe... but if someone does recognize you... and sees me with you... wouldn't that kind of give away my identity?"
Jupiter sighed. "You're right. Hold on a second." She started to strip off her clothing as quickly as she could.
Minako held up a hand. "I'll go get Rei. Wait here, I'll be right back."
Jupiter staggered after her, pulling down her skirt while skipping forward. "Wait up... I need to use the Rei's phone anyway...."
Minako blinked, glancing back as her friend continued to rapidly strip. "Well... if you want me to wait, I'll wait."
Jupiter glared at the blond girl. "You're enjoying this, aren't you?"
Minako shrugged with a wry smile. "I can't help it if you keep on undressing in front of me... you're gorgeous you know." She looked sad. "You know, normally it'd be Haruka saying something like this... but it's true."
Jupiter blushed but finished undressing without answering her, transforming into Makoto the moment she was finished, then immediately starting to get dressed again.
Minako turned her back. "I'm sorry. I'm taking advantage and I shouldn't."
Makoto sighed. "I don't really mind. We're both girls... and best friends... and it shouldn't matter that you're a... that you're attracted to girls. I mean, Haruka and Michiru are..." She choked up slightly. "They're a wonderful couple... they've got to be alright, don't they?"
Minako nodded immediately. "They're tough... and the Goddesses are with them. They'll make it. I'm sure of it."
Makoto sighed and nodded. "I'm sure you're right." Makoto started dressing again quickly. After several long moments as she fumbled with her clothing she spoke up, changing the subject. "I'm gorgeous? Really?"
Minako turned around and gazed at the taller girl. "Oh yes. Absolutely. You're so beautiful that sometimes I get a little jealous. You're any guy's wet dream, trust me." She glanced at the ground, then away, whispering. "And some girl's...."
Makoto laughed, pulling her shirt over her head and stuffing her bra in her shorts left pocket. "Now I know you're just pulling my leg. Most guys think I'm too tall. I haven't been asked on a date in... well not since my old Sempai, really. Youma don't count."
Minako shrugged. "I think they're just scared. You're just... too good looking for your own good, I think. They're too intimidated to approach you."
Makoto sighed. "Or scared that I'll break them in half. I spent far to much time beating guys up before I came here." She finished slipping on her shoes, stuffing her socks in her shorts' right pocket. "I'm ready, let's hurry and get Rei."
Minako followed after her tall companion, watching the way she bounced appreciatively. "You know... it's just a little obvious that you're not wearing a bra...."
Makoto waved a hand dismissingly. "Later. We're going to be transforming to run to the dojo anyway. It's a waste of time."
Minako sighed. "I know. I'm just worried about the goddesses and the Outers. I thought I could distract myself, but...."
"If it cheered you up for only a moment, then leer away." Makoto told Minako with a slight grin. "There is too much hanging over us. Get what joy you can, when you can."
Minako nodded. "That's pretty good advice. Thanks, Makoto."
Rei was in her room when they got there, looking worried. "Something's wrong." She stood in the doorway, her face lined. "I felt something happen just a little while ago, something big."
Makoto nodded somberly. "Something happened to the Outers and the goddesses. They tried to teleport to Copenhagen to find Ami, but they never made it there. One of the Belldandys called... she thinks it was some sort of trap that caught them when they tried to teleport."
Rei looked horrified. "The Outers AND the Goddesses? All gone?" She blinked. "Wait, one of the Belldandys called? What in the...?"
Makoto did her best to explain. "Remember what happened at Jusenkyo? Belldandy got split into a whole lot of... Belldandys... that sounds SO weird. Anyway, she split herself up again and only one of her... selves... got caught in the trap. Unfortunately it was the version of her that had all of her powers, so she can't really help much. She's in heaven... I think... and somewhere in Tokyo at the same time. She's going to contact us if she learns anything more."
Rei took a deep breath, forcing herself to calm down. "OK... so what's the plan?"
Makoto shrugged helplessly. "We're all going to the Tendo dojo. We don't want to let Mara get any more of us, and they're all vulnerable. Mara and Happosai don't know who any of us are... but Ranma and the others...."
Rei frowned disapprovingly. "So we're going to go protect them... and just sit and wait for the demon to attack us again?"
Makoto sighed. "What else can we do? Ami was the one that used to come up with the plans... we need to regroup, keep her from picking off any more of us... and find a way to fight back." Her face hardened. "Speaking of fighting back... can I use your phone? I have to make a call." She shrugged apologetically. "It's long distance, I'm afraid."
Rei blinked. "Who are you going to call?"
Minako looked suspicious. "Yeah, who ARE you going to call?" She blinked. "Don't tell me you're going to call Michael-san?"
Makoto nodded firmly. "He should be told. He might be able to help Ami...."
Minako shook her head. "No. Johnathon doesn't want his brother to get involved, remember? It's not like he has any special powers...."
Makoto frowned. "I bet that detective that Johnathon called in America doesn't have any special powers either. Michael helped us before. He's smart, and knows how to stay out of trouble." She shrugged. "Besides, Mara is bound to go after him sooner or later anyway, whether he helps us or not."
Minako sighed. "I guess you're right."
"I'll let you use my phone." Rei gestured to the stand next to her bed. "But keep it short. I really can't afford a long international call."
Michael started awake when the phone rang and lay there for several moments getting his bearings. The phone rang several more times as he blinked blearily, peering owlishly at the clock.
"What time...?" He got out of bed slowly, grumbling to himself . "It's nearly three in the morning! Who in the world would be calling at this hour?" Michael almost decided to let it go, but finally picked it up on the ninth ring, speaking into the receiver angrily. "What is it?" Rapid fire Japanese followed his question and he blinked several times as he tried to translate. "Wait... wait, slow down...." Shaking his head in an attempt to clear it he made his request again, this time in Japanese. "Slow down, you're speaking too fast. Who is this?"
Makoto hesitated only a moment before answering. "It's Sailor Jupiter, Michael. Remember me?"
Michael blinked, not sure he had heard that right. "Sailor... Jupiter?"
Makoto sighed. "Yes, it's me."
Michael tried to rearrange his thoughts. "What... no, why are you calling me? Has something happened to John?"
"No, John-san is fine, Michael, but we need your help." She went on to explain the situation.
A few minutes later Michael was shaking his head. "I know that zoo fairly well... The big cat area's right in the middle of the park, and it's one of the most popular buildings. I'll have to get there early in the morning to see... if she's there, I can try to see her alone." He frowned in frustration. "You said John called a detective in San Francisco? Well, if I see him, I'll hook up with him. I doubt he'll be able to pull strings to get her out... we'll have to break in at night."
Makoto sounded worried. "Are you sure? You could get into a lot of trouble, Michael-san."
Michael shrugged, then realized she couldn't see the gesture. "Um, yes. I'm sure. It's not like we have to steal a real panther... your friend will cooperate with us. The worst that might happen is we'd be fined for trespassing." (Maybe breaking and entering, but I'll have to talk with this detective about that.)
Makoto sighed. "I almost wish I didn't call you, Michael. Remember, Mara may be watching Mercury... and there may be a trap."
Michael shrugged. "I don't have a Jusenkyo curse, Makoto, so she can't get me that way. Remember, this is America... a demon starts flying or throwing energy blasts here, she'd probably get shot." He looked at his watch. "I have time to get a few things ready here, but I'm going to have to hurry if I want to be at the zoo at opening time."
Makoto glanced at Rei, who was looking increasingly impatient. "Right, I should get off the line before I help the phone company pay for a new car. Thank you Michael."
Michael grinned to himself. "You're welcome." He hung up. < Makoto.> He thought to himself. < I never forget a voice. And Mercury is... hmm. I wonder if any of the other students at the dojo were Sailor Senshi? He stood up and walked over to his closet. "Now, what to wear for a zoo break in?"
Even as Michael was hanging up the phone, Makoto's eyes went so wide that Rei started to get concerned. "What...?" She stammered into the phone. "What did you call me?" Makoto swallowed as she heard the unmistakable dial tone. "Oh no."
Rei looked worried. "What? What did he say?"
Makoto swallowed. "Before he hung up... he called me Makoto."
Rei's eyes went as wide as her friend. "He must have recognized your voice!"
Makoto shook her head in denial. "But... how? My...." She suddenly froze, whispering to herself. "Oh no... I forgot to transform before calling!"
Rei, overhearing, slapped her own forehead. "How could you forget something like that? Your disguise field doesn't work if you aren't transformed!"
Makoto shook her head wildly. "I don't know! I've just been transforming so often today... without my uniform I've had to change clothes so many times I got confused.... I don't know what happened."
Minako shrugged. "Oh well, no point dying over split milkshakes."
There was an awkward silence before Rei spoke up. "That's crying over spilt milk, Minako."
The blond Senshi shrugged. "Whatever. We can trust Michael, can't we?"
Rei sighed. "Sure we can... but this is getting ridiculous! How many people know about our curses already? And how many more are we going to tell?" She shook her head. "If too many people know a secret, it isn't a secret anymore... or at least it doesn't remain one."
Minako shook her head. "No... I don't think that's true. Everyone we've told our secret, or who has figured it out has been someone we can trust. This isn't a secret... it's more like a conspiracy."
Makoto rolled her eyes. "Oh yes. That makes me feel a whole lot better!"
End Chapter 30
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