Continuing Tales

Destiny's Child

A Crossovers Story
by Fire

Part 17 of 26

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Destiny's Child

The hours turned into days, and the days began to tick by. It would have made an interesting game of cat and mouse, if only they could decide who was the cat, and who was the mouse. Completely unknown to each other, the Outer Senshi pursued Tomoe Hotaru; and Tendo Ranma pursued the two green haired witches and the Jusenkyo cursed boyfriend.

Given the fact that Ranma knew they were evil witches, he was surprised at just how easy it was to dig up information on them. Actually, he would guess that they had only come into their powers recently. If they had been as powerful as they are now, when they were young, surely some indication would have slipped and made it into the popular media or public records.

He had carefully studied the magical fields surrounding them from a distance and knew that they possessed some level of magic beyond the norm. In much the same way that he constantly subdued his aura and camouflaged his magical influence, he could see that they were doing the same. Only someone truly gifted - or with vast experience - could possibly have detected their deception. He was gifted, experienced and knew to look at them, but still the only reason he had spotted their magic was a small magical item each of them carried.

The item itself was a mystery, especially since it's main purpose seemed to be a disguise tool. Without a decent examination he could not be sure, but Ranma suspected that the devices they carried would account for the cloaking that he could see. If they turned them off, then their full powers would be revealed. All he needed to do was be there when they deactivated them.

Information about their powers had been hard to obtain, and the few details he had discovered was of little value. Since leaving the library and the city records over a week ago, he had concentrated on trailing them. All that he had discovered was the definite fact that they were hiding something, and hiding it well. The library and the publicly available records had been much more useful.

After spending almost four hundred years reading, researching and learning, Ranma had study down to a fine art. He did not enjoy study, actually, there were few things he detested more than reading a book that was not directly related to Martial Arts, but he was very good at processing large quantities of paper, and digging out facts.

Armed only with his skills, a pencil, and a writing pad, he had descended on the microfiche newspaper archives of the local library. He already had identified the owners of the house that he had seen the witch and her boyfriend enter: it belonged to the parents of a Miss Kaiou Michiru, a girl about the right age. Armed with this simple fact, he put two and two together to get a close approximation of four, which shortly revealed a 'Kaiou Michiru's Triumphant Concert' article.

What a lovely surprise he had when he saw the picture of his target! Imagine that, he now had a name, a face and an address. From there everything else fell into place just as easily. Reading a few articles in the newspaper finally revealed her boyfriend: Tenou Haruka. This young lad, obviously the sorcerer component of their little coven had apparently been a high profile racing driver for the last few years... until, only a few months ago, he had suddenly dropped out of the circuit and vanished from the public eye.

That made things more definite on the age of their powers. He could not find anything suspicious about Michiru lately, but a small lead was better than none. What was most interesting was the details he could dig up on Haruka and her early years. Yes, _her_ early years. It would seem that Haruka was not actually the boy that most people (including Ranma) had thought. She had a female birth certificate, and he had even tracked down a few photos of her in junior school. Then, suddenly, she seemed to change.

From what could be seen in the newspapers and school records, Haruka went through a lifestyle change just a few years ago. Short haircut, wore a boy's uniform, took up professional motor racing and other little things. Little things like having a girlfriend. Ranma had seen her in her cursed form, and he could attest the fact that she passed for a boy. There was only one conclusion that any person experience with Jusenkyo could reach:

Tenou Haruka had fallen into the Spring of the Drowned Man. Worse still, she was deliberately hiding the information from him.

Ranma wondered how poor Michiru would feel when she discovered that her boyfriend was really a girl. Not only that, but she actually thought she was a man now. Despite how much he needed to know about Jusenkyo, he rejected the idea of threatening to expose Haruka's secret to her friend. Ranma know what it was like to love someone and loose them. He would never cause that pain to someone knowingly. Ranma swore silently to himself that he would never be the one to reveal that Haruka was actually a girl.

After compiling all of this information - including general statistics like age, school and other facts - Ranma had hardly discovered anything on Meiou Setsuna. She seemed to be the enigma of the group. Her general history was as accessible as anybody's, but it was completely dull. Too dull. No one could possibly have an aura of power like she did without having something happening in her life. After much thought, Ranma concluded that she was the leader of the pack.

Since Setsuna was probably the most dangerous, and probably the most experienced, he decided to follow the other two. That was why he was now sitting in a cafe across the street from the two women. Or, woman and man as they seemed to believe. They seemed to love these long evenings of doing nothing, but it was driving Ranma nuts. Surveillance work sucked.

Across the street, in the cafe in question, the two girls sipped coffee and listened to the gentle music that played. In a completely unconscious gesture, their hands rested on each other. Michiru held her cup in her left hand and sipped, enjoying the warmth. Haruka always seemed to have such warm hands. She could just sit there all night and hold her hand, talking and listening, watching her friend, and watching the world pass them by. So they did sit all evening. Just holding hands and talking about life and love.

No matter how beautiful the evening, or how lovely the company, various pressing issues managed to raise their ugly head in the course of the evening. Not the least of these was the Talismen and the search for the Holy Grail. Their only clue remained the fact that it would be found in the pure heart crystal of someone.

A pure heart, but pure what? Their elusive enemy was still out there, and still searching for the right heart crystals in the same manner the Outer Senshi were. It was the highly scientific method of randomly selecting someone and ripping their heart crystal out for a look.

The best detail that their as-yet-undefined-adversary had let slip was their criteria for judging purity of heart. So far the Daimons and the witches had been going after the people that stood out as dedicated. It was the artists, the sportsmen, the kind and noble. These were the people that the witches had attacked.

Michiru smothered a small chuckle as she thought about just who some of the 'kind and talented' victims had actually been.

Haruka looked at her across the table, her own mouth curling into a slight smile as she appreciated the sound of Michiru's musical laughter. "Care to share it with someone, or are you going to sit there chuckling all night?"

"I was just thinking, the witches have so far managed to attack all of the Inner Senshi, and take their heart crystals. How do you think they'd feel if they knew?"

"Ha! They've had almost all of them at their mercy and they got away. If they knew who they were after, they could be even more of a threat than they already are!"

As soon as she said the words, they both realised just how true they were. Whenever the Inner Senshi had fought the Daimons or witches, it had been almost even. When the Outers had fought a Daimon or witch, they did not fare much better.

Their mirth died a bit then and they sat in silence once more. Eventually it was Haruka which spoke, voicing a concern they both felt. "Michiru, I'm worried about Chibi-Usa's little friend."

"Who, the Tomoe girl?"

A nod. "You've felt it too, haven't you. There is something wrong with her. I know we have not spent much time with her, but... I don't know, something just feels... wrong."

"Setsuna said the same thing yesterday. She's been doing a bit of checking too, you know. She came up with a few rather interesting facts."

Tomoe Souichi was the principle at their school. Actually, he was one of the reasons that they went to that school. Even before they had become Senshi, something drew them together, and drew them to Souichi. The man had a certain, intangible feeling to him. Something which had called to their nascent senses and said 'there is something wrong here!'

"Do you remember how Tomoe-sensei had a lab explosion at his house... several people killed, he and his daughter were injured... that sort of thing? Well, she did a bit of checking on Hotaru at the same time.

"It would seem that this little girl is just as interesting as her father. After the explosion, his injuries were listed as near fatal, but after just a short while in the hospital, he was well enough to get up and take himself and his daughter home."

Haruka was puzzled. "OK, so Tomoe-sensei is strange, but what does that have to do with Hotaru?"

"Well, her injuries were listed as 'fatal'. The doctors did not expect to be able to save her, and that, combined with the fact that he had a live in nurse for her, were the only reasons she was allowed to be released from the hospital.

"Three months after the lab explosion, little Hotaru is back up and about, back at school. No one had seen her for the last two months, but now she's perfectly well."

Things began to make a little more sense. "So if we add in the fact that she now seems to be able to heal people with a touch, and her father has a constant unreadable aura of some sort..."

Michiru smiled. It was not her normal smile, but a more predatory smile. "Exactly. What price would a father pay to save his daughter? And what price will she be paying?"

Shaking her head again, Haruka worried on that thought. "The only thing I can think of is that we need to keep watching them. And we warn Chibi-Usa and the Inners. They deserve to know this sort of thing. More importantly, if Hotaru has been... corrupted... we need to protect Chibi-Usa if we can."

They continued to discuss what they could do, and what they knew. In the whole time, they still just sat there, holding hands and sipping coffee. Occasionally, one or both of them would turn their head so that they could watch the people passing by, but they felt no desperate need to be anywhere yet. Michiru's danger sense would alert them to the impending activation of a Daimon in time for them to arrive.

For poor old Ranma, all of this sitting and talking was getting very boring, very quickly. He had been watching these two for several days, and they seemed to do basically the same thing every time. The first night he had been here, he had worked on lip reading, but all they talked about was boring stuff like racing cars or music. Even though he watched them and made sure that they did not do anything without his knowledge, he had quickly stopped bothering to find out what they were saying.

It was a shame really. He had been trying to find out if these witches had any links to the recent crop of demons that he been plaguing the city. If only he had been reading their lips as they spoke tonight... if only he had learned where their true loyalties lay. Instead he had been sitting there, and slipping into a revive, reliving old memories of a witch (no, a sorceress) that he had learned to respect above all others.

It was a place called the Tewon Monastery. Hidden deep in Tibet, and built by magical means on top of a isolated mountain. When he had been only half his current age, he had gone there, seeking knowledge and wisdom. What he had found had changed his life forever.

In the monastery there were senior and junior Monks. The senior Monks were those that had achieved true enlightenment, and spent most of the day contemplating their navels. Ranma had actually reached this level after spending almost 150 years as a junior Monk.

Junior Monks were charged with the investigation of the universe; the senior Monks figured that once they finished that task, they could think up something else for them to investigate. Both through design and circumstances, this had lead to the development of a Monastery for the research of magic. Most people did not believe in magic these days, or were only familiar with the most limited and weakest varieties.

Back in the Amazon village, the practised what they considered 'high' magic. To the Tewon Monks, this was nothing more than beginners warm- ups. Amazon magic worked almost entirely _with_ nature, and was designed to do only the most limited of spells. Although some Amazons (like the occasional Matriarch) could do a decent healing spell, it was hardly above the level of parlour tricks.

The Monks took time to explain to Ranma about the cycles of the world. Currently, we had entered the Fourth World. A time known to the ancient Mayan (yes, the Monks ancestors had been in contact with people half a world away) as a low period in magic. While the magic was still in existence, people had moved away from it. Over time, the knowledge and ability to wield magic had faded from men's minds, reducing them to the mundane level they now had.

It was only through the greatest of natural talents, massive study or some form of magical trigger device that allowed people to access magic now. Most of the Monks at the Monastery had the ability to do a few spells, and most of them required spell books and mountains of ingredients. For a long time, Ranma had been the same.

Ranma did have one advantage though. Anyone else that spent fifty years studying reached the end of their life span. Just as they were beginning to make some real progress, they would roll over and die. Hardly the way to further the march of magical research.

When Ranma had been there for almost a century and knew the history of the Moon Kingdom - as passed through over a hundred generations of people - he was at a level that would have made a novice mage of the Kingdom proud. It was around this time that Ranma managed to - almost - correctly summon the demon Ryoga.

Not long after Ryoga had vanished and he had closed the summoning circle, Ranma spent a week casting a scrying spell. Scrying is art of true seeing, either penetrating illusions or detecting things or people on another continent. By any reasonable standards, the spell was weak and ineffectual, however, it did penetrate the first of the guards that protected the greatest resource of the Tewon Monastery. The Sorceress in the crystal.

Now that he knew that she existed, Ranma was able to discuss the old, frail looking woman with the senior Monks. According to legend, she had appeared on day during the founding of the Monastery. Cryptically, she had said that she needed a Champion. Someone who could carry on her work. She knew that magic was fading (or from her view point: had faded), but she encased herself in the crystal, and begged the Monks: "Try to free me, the first that can will be worthy to learn all that I can teach."

None of the Monks of that era (almost a thousand years prior) had been able to, nor had any since.

Never able to withstand a challenge, and with the prospect of learning magic from a great Sorceress, Ranma bent himself to the task. The woman - no-one knew her name - was protected from all mundane attacks, and his Ki blasts seemed to go straight through the crystal. It took him almost two decades to develop the magic that he needed. The spell alone took him almost a month to cast, but eventually he succeeded.

The crystal broke, and an old, frail woman fell to the floor, coughing and spluttering. While every nerve in his body called out for him to help her, Ranma was in an equally bad condition. Since he was unable to stay a man for extended periods, his casting had all been done as a small girl. With the inherent inexperience with magic, casting even a mid-level spell like that had left her hopelessly drained. So they lay there together, puffing panting, and sizing each other up, in the same way that a pair of quadriplegics would evaluate each other before a boxing match.

The old woman only needed a short while to study Ranma before she realised that she had been freed by a quirk, a bump in the otherwise steady graph of history. The child before her should not have the power to free her. But she had, and for reasons of her own, Lina needed to keep her pledge.

When they both recovered, Lina and Ranma sat down and talked. Lina explained who she was, and why she was there. Ranma explained his curse, and how he was able to free her, when she was expecting to sleep from almost another ten thousand years.

Her name was Lina Inverse, and quite simply, she was there to help someone else save the world. Lina came from a time, long, long ago. By her rough estimate, it would have been tens - if not hundreds - of thousands of years ago that she was born. When she was young, she had been a wild and reckless Sorceress in a time when magic was easy, and people were in touch with it.

Ranma spent many nights listening to the ageing Lina describe the halcyon days of her youth, where she and her companions had battled bandits, mages, demons and worse. They were heady tales of glory and excitement, and Ranma felt drawn to that era of noble knights and powerful magicians. Lina would never have been described as noble - her interests leaned more towards stealing from bandits - but she was certainly powerful.

In her youth she had battled a fragment of a creature called Shabranigdo. Shabranigdo was a Mazoku. What was a Mazoku, he had asked. A Mazoku was, in essence, the distillation of evil. The Mazoku were the very definition of bad. They were the embodiment of every thing nasty. They... you get the idea.

Shabranigdo was the second most powerful of the Mazoku. He was the sort of guy that had simple goals like the destruction of the world, and the enslavement, torture or annihilation of humanity. Basically he was after the establishment of hell on earth, except just a little bit nastier for all involved.

When she was young, she and her friends had fought one of the shattered fragments of Shabranigdo that had been awoken. So powerful was he, that when he had been defeated (and this was by beings of light that could really be considered gods, and it was done in a time that even she considered a legend...) he could not even be killed. Instead he was shattered, and each of his fragments was hidden on the earth, to let him sleep away eternity.

Fine in theory, but it was a little weak in practice. Other, lesser, Mazoku were still out there, and they were quite capable of influencing the weak willed. Most of the Mazoku wanted to return to the power and glory, and sought to restore their superiors.

When Lina was mature, responsible and venerated (read, she had gotten too well known and it was more profitable to be a good guy than blasting bandits), there had been another uprising. This was led by the lower echelon Mazoku, but the goal was the same, and the results were worse. In a battle that lasted years and scarred continents, the greatest mages from across the world fought the Mazoku and their allies.

In the end, humanity had won out. With a final victory came the resolve to use the massive accumulation of magical talent for something useful. They would bind the Mazoku once again. Although their powers were small compared to the gods, this many high mages would be able to block an lesser group of mages. The strength of the spells they cast would last for over a hundred thousand years before they fully decayed.

They would decay eventually, for the Mazoku were their source of power for black magic. What? You don't know about sources of magic? In a nut shell, you have white magic: that's purely internal. There's elemental magic: magic in rocks and wind and stuff. Shamanistic magic: trees, plants, animals, all that growing type of stuff. Then there was black magic. Black magic sourced it's power directly from the Mazoku. The Mazoku had power to spare, and any black magician could use this power to drive their spells.

But back to the sealing spells that the council of mages cast. They should last for one or two hundred thousand years. Plenty of time, right? Wrong. Almost ten years after the Mazoku had been bound to their entrapments, a scholar had discovered the cycles of magic in the world. According to his calculations, the power of magic would be just starting on the rise from the lowest point it would ever reach.

In short, the first time that the Mazoku might start to break free, the world would be as weak as it could be. It would be defenceless in the face of magic of their calibre. Sure, demons, and all sorts of nasty creatures would retain their magic and would continue to harass humans, but the power of a strong demon would be about the same as that of the weakest Mazoku. Humanity needed a way to defend itself.

This is where Lina came in. The cycles of magic did not preclude humans from using it, it simply made it hard for people to see it. A mental block as it were. If you had the right sort of magical item, it would open your eyes to the power of magic, and you would be able to cast spells as you needed. The other way you could do things was to be trained by a master Sorcerer. Or a talented, beautiful, and not in the least flat chested Sorceress like Lina Inverse!

When she had volunteered (by the time all of her friends had died of old age and things were getting monumentally boring), a massive assembly of mages again arose. Together they had cast a time warp spell. The conclave had created the Gates Of Time. A place where people could move through time. A place where Lina could move forward to an era where she could lie in wait for someone to train.

When they were finished, the mages concealed the Gates Of Time. They hid them from the world, fearing their power. Once again, with this much magic, none should ever find them, or if they did, the world could be in most serious trouble.

So Lina had arrived in this era, and she had encased herself in the crystal to suspend herself until she was freed. Anyone capable of freeing her would be capable of learning what she had to teach. That some was now a certain Tendo Ranma.

Why teach someone new? Why not just send a powerful mage through to battle the Mazoku as they awoke? First and foremost, no-one who would be capable of doing it, could be trusted to. The sort of power that someone like Lina could wield in this magically weak age was beyond comprehension. The only reason they sent Lina was the fact that she never really cared for power over others, and she was getting so old, she would hardly be able to appreciate any sort of empire she chose to create.

So it happened that Lina taught Ranma. Much to Ranma's dismay, Lina's speciality was black magic. Curing something as simple as his curse would have been easy for any talented white mage of her time... unfortunately, Lina only knew basic white magic, so all she could teach him were a few tricks, and some of the most devastating attack spells you could possibly imagine.

Over the course of a decade, Lina poured all her knowledge into her overburdened pupil. Given his inherent disability, there was no way he could quite have her familiarity, but the fact that he would be able to practice for as many life times as he needed should give Ranma all of the ease and speed that he would ever need. In the course of her teachings, Lina instructed him on everything from the humble flight spell Ray Wing up to but not including her most powerful attack.

Lina's most powerful spell was the almost completely unknown Giga Slave. Unknown because there were ever only one or two people that knew how to cast it, and since Lina refused to teach him, he doubted that anyone knew it. Besides, even if he knew, she doubted he would be able to survive the casting long enough to be able to use it. The Giga Slave channelled too much power, it would burn out almost any sorcerer. Even in her prime it was a grave challenge to her, and Lina had the advantage of having a 'special' relationship with the Lord Of Nightmares, the most powerful Mazoku, and the sole source of power for the Giga Slave.

There were lots of spells less powerful than the Giga Slave, and most of them were much more useful. The Giga Slave would be useless against the Lord Of Nightmares, and overkill against anything less than Shabranigdo. Since there was nothing between those two, it limited the selection of targets to one. Since there was also the minor problem that a miscast would pull the Lord Of Nightmares into this world, and guarantee the destruction of the world, Lina decided to take it's secrets to the grave.

Now, the Dragon Slave, on the other hand...

So, over time, Ranma had learned to become a Sorcerer. He doubted he would ever be a match for Lina, but since she had died over a decade before he left the Monastery, it was a moot point. Now he was possibly the most skilled magician alive. From what he had seen on the news, Sailor Moon would be able to outdo him in sheer power, and on average, the other girls could also. As far as skill was concerned, he was almost certain he bested them there. Their strength against his speed and skill, it would be an interesting battle. However, one on one, he figured he could give any of them a hiding... especially since magic was not the core of his abilities.

All this thinking had kept him occupied for hours. So engrossed in his memories, Ranma had almost failed to notice his subjects moving. Both Michiru and Haruka were out of the cafe and moving down the street before he fully woke up. Tossing a handful of coins to the waitress, Ranma left his own cafe and hit the street.

The street was quiet at this time of the evening. Most people had gone home, so it was easy to spot the two girls and they ran into an alley. Thankful of the fact that he was Ranma (almost unknown to them) and not Hotaru (who was possibly too well known) he ran down the street and stuck his head into the alley way. In those next ten seconds, all his work paid off.

As he watched, both girls pulled short, ornate sticks from their pockets and held them aloft, chanting something he was just too far away to understand. As he watched, their clothes vanished and the alley was bathed in a brilliant white light. Like a pair of exotic dancers, the two girls cavorted on the spot, summoning new clothes and engaging their glamour spell.

This time things were different. This time he had seen the glamour come up from start to finish. As the girls finished their transformation and again ran off, he marvelled at his luck and thanked his perseverance. Since he had witnessed the glamour being activated, he could penetrate it anytime. Now he not only knew that these two were definitely two witches he was interested in, he could also positively identify them any time he saw them.

As he ran off down the alley to follow them, he silently wished that he could watch the pretty soldier in the red skirt do her transformation. Not only would he get a great show but he would find out who the captivating vigilante really was. More importantly, it would make her as angry as Akane had ever gotten, and that would be something to really savour.

Not far away, Mizuno Ami was leading a slightly bored Hino Rei through an exhibition of modern sculptures. Ami had won some free passes from one of the magazines that she subscribed to. Since she had the passes, and none of the other Senshi were particularly interested, she had dragooned Rei into going with her. Rei had been planning on spending an evening teaching and learning with Ranma, but he had cancelled all of their sessions for this week.

While the sculptor responsible for the exhibition talked to several guests, Ami was pointing out some of the interesting details in the sculpture. She had just finished describing the artistic significance of the use of marble as distinct from sandstone for this piece when she noticed Rei's eyes glazing over slightly.

Ami tried hard to feel upset at the other girl. She knew the other girl did not share her interest in art and science, but they had only been here for two and a half hours so far. There was so much more that she could learn!

Eventually Ami's frustration at Rei's inattention got the better of her and she pointed at a man sized sculpture. "Say, Rei, isn't that Ranma?"

Rei's head immediately whipped around to look for the boy, but there was no-one even remotely like him in the area. Most of the people she saw were much older and tended to be either grossly overweight or looked like they had not eaten in the last six months. Certainly none that looked like the handsome and fit Ranma.

Rei turned back to Ami and watched as the quite girl smothered a giggle behind her hand. "I'm sorry, Rei. It just looked like you were falling asleep so I thought that if I mentioned your boyfriend you might wake up."

"Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you _Ami-chan_, but I don't think that idiot thinks anything at all of his teacher _Rei-san_."

Rei's voice dripped with sarcasm, and Ami immediately realised her mistake. She had seen Ranma several times recently, as had all of the other Senshi. Each and every one of the girls he met he was nice and friendly to. He would laugh and joke with them, and it was always 'Ami- chan' or 'Usagi-chan'. The one person who wanted to have his interest (well, all of them wanted it, but not quite in the same way) he was always teasing and making fun of when the girls were around.

Rei had told them that when they were alone, Ranma would be nice to her... some of the time. Some of the time he would caring and nice, he was a patient teacher, and a great student. But he always called her 'Rei-san'. No matter what she tried, he held onto that level of formality between the two of them.

"I'm sorry, Rei. I shouldn't have said that. I... I was hoping to cheer you up, but it sort of back fired."

As her scowl eased, Rei opened her mouth to accept the apology when people started screaming. Both the girls looked to the disturbance and saw a woman in a revealing red midriff top and short black skirt holding a massive gun in one hand and holding a heart crystal triumphantly in the other. As she laughed, one of the statues was rapidly changing into a Daimon.

With a shared glance the girls turned on the heels and ran for a service corridor. The door leading to it was marked 'Employees Only', but they were sure that the curators of the art gallery would be willing to make an exception in the cast of Pretty Soldiers needing to save one of their talented artists.

Pulling out their henshin sticks, the girls held them aloft and called out their transformation phrase.

"Mars Star Power, Make Up!"

"Mercury Star Power, Make Up!"

The corridor was bathed in flashing lights and fortunately no-one was around to see the girls' clothes vanish as they gave a brief strip show, only to be clad in barely concealing skirts and tight body suits.

Bursting from the corridor, the two girls sprinted through the artwork and came to a skidding halt in front of the witch and her Daimon.

"Art is there for the edification and entertainment of all people. To attack and harm a great sculptor is an evil act. We are the beautiful sailor suited defenders of love and justice. In the name of the Moon, we shall punish you!"

Unknown to the key parties yet involved, there were three pairs of extra eyes watching as the excitement started. Firstly was the two Outer Senshi lurking in the shadows. The Witch was not in the right position for them to take the heart crystal off her without putting it at risk, so they were happy to wait.

The third set of eyes belonged to none other than Tendo Ranma, still in his male form and glad of it. He had followed the two witches here, and now he could watch what happened when their deception was faced with the real thing. Although details on the pretty magical girl vigilantes was fairly thin, it was quite definite on things like numbers and style of dress. In all of the news there had only been five and a half Sailors. The half being some pint sized trainee Sailor with pink hair.

As soon as he had seen the costumes his two witches had chosen he had known that they were up to no good. They might be able to convince the run of the mill people that they were some of the pretty Sailor girls, but there was no way they could convince him. Now that they were faced with the prospect of being in the same place at the same time, they were obviously cowering and hiding in fear.

Ranma was torn with indecision. Should he stay here, and watch the witches, or should he watch the beautiful, fiery sailor with the short red skirt?

A few days ago he realised that he could magically summon the same sort of disguise that he had used that first time he had watched the Sailors in action. It went against his grain to hide behind a mask, but considering the risk he would be taking, he did not think it would be a good idea to rush into these things. Either the Sailor girls or their enemies might take a dislike to someone who consistently watched their activities. While Ranma had no fears for himself, he was spending a large amount of time at Rei-San's place. If she got hurt...

Wielding his magic, Ranma cloaked himself in a close approximation of formal attire. His suit was not quite right, and the mask (Just like the Dread Pirate Robert in 'The Princess Bride'!) was definitely off, but he was beginning to feel that it had the necessary panache and style for hanging around with good looking girls.

This time as his suit magically appeared, he noticed something different. His ever present staff changed. Rather than the spirit staff that housed Takuhi, he was holding some long, ridiculous weapon. He almost considered throwing it away; but he liked it. It almost felt like it was made for him.

Looking around he noticed that if he stood on one of the balconies, he could watch both the witches and the fight. Perfect.

As Ranma jumped up to the next level of the art gallery, the Senshi's reinforcements were starting to arrive. While Sailors Mercury and Mars were keeping the bad guys at bay, all of the other girls (and their assorted associates) were slowly arriving. First to arrive was the Pretty Soldier, Sailor Venus and her cat Artemis.

Artemis was fundamentally useless in battle, but he was an excellent observer. Even as his charge waded into the fight, he noticed Tuxedo Kamen arrive and lurk in the upper stories of the gallery. Tuxedo Kamen was not normally a front line fighter like the girls. He relied more on surprise, skill and bolstering the flagging courage of their leader.

As with most battles, Tuxedo Kamen was waiting, preparing a rose for the arrival of his love, Sailor Moon. When - not if - Sailor Moon got into trouble, he would be there to save the day, placing his accurate strike where it would do the most good.

Artemis was quite stunned when a second dark shape stepped out of the darkness and stood by Tuxedo Kamen.

Ranma glanced at the man beside him. "Nice outfit. I guess it must be the fashion for groupies, ne?"

Tuxedo Kamen jumped a foot into the air. How had he managed to appear next to him, completely unannounced? Who was he? What did he want? What the hell was that monstrous weapon he was carrying? It must have been over seven foot long!

While he was feeling startled, the stranger reached out with his free hand and took the rose from between Tuxedo Kamen's unprotesting fingers. "Do you mind if I borrow this? I know just the person who needs it."

With nary a word and just a touch to the forehead in salute, Ranma flipped over the balcony railing and landed not two feet from the startled Outer Senshi in their hiding place. Flashing them a smile, he walked out into the battlefield.

All around him, the Senshi were in full swing, even the Outers decided it was time to join the fun. As he walked across a floor covered in broken sculptures, he deftly avoided Daimon attacks and Senshi attacks with complete aplomb and apparent unconcern.

Since their leader had not arrived yet, the girls seemed to be too weak to defeat the witch and her Daimon. That did not stop them from trying, and the good guys seemed to have inadvertently given the new witches the opening they needed. Screwing up his courage, Ranma clenched the rose in one hand tried to draw a reassuring strength from the weapon he carried.

As lightning flashed around him, Venus Crescent Beams smashed things, Mars Fire ignited them, and they were blasted by the Mercury Bubbles. Finally he reached his target and stood beside the pretty sailor in the red skirt.

Sailor Mars was stunned to say the least. In the middle if a battle, this lunatic had walked straight into the path of the fire. What was even more amazing was fact he was never hit, despite the fact that neither side gave an inch in their attacks. All too soon he was next to her. Next to her and offering her a rose by all appearances.

Taking her eyes off the Daimon for a few precious moments, Sailor Mars looked up into the deep blue eyes of the man in the mask. With a trebling hand, she took the rose, it's fresh green stem and bright red petals in stark relief against the perfect whiteness of her glove. Her heart beat faster and her stomach fluttered. It was the first time anyone had given her a rose, and the man was so... imposing and mysterious in that suit and mask.

The tall, dark, handsome stranger took a step forward, holding her gloved hand gently in his, and planed a kiss upon her knuckle. A massive Daimon tentacle whizzed by his head, only missing him by centimetres, but he paid it no mind. Even as he released her unresisting hand and stepped beside her, another strike missed him. No one could be missed that often or that closely by accident, but how could anyone make it look so easy?

Awe-struck, Sailor Mars swam in his deep eyes, and dimly heard him speaking to her. Concentrating on the words, she finally managed to make them out the haze of her bedazzlement. "My beautiful lady, may I have the honour of knowing your name?"

Forcing life back into her body, Sailor Mars reclaimed her hand and tried to bring a semblance of order into her thoughts. She might have succeeded if not for another tentacle that come to attack the couple standing there. Since they were no longer moving and dodging like all of the other Senshi, the Daimon saw them as easy marks. It realised differently when the massive pole arm descended with a blue glowing blade. Effortlessly it sliced through the tentacle before it could reach her, and the severed limb fell to the ground, returning to the sandstone sculpture it had once been.

That attack brought Sailor Mars back to herself. It might not have hit her, but it made her realise that she was abandoning her friends to do all of the fighting. Striking a pose, she announced to the stranger: "I am the pretty soldier, Sailor Mars. I am one of the sailor suited defenders of love and justice, now I must go and punish this creature in the name of the Moon."

However reluctant she was to leave, Sailor Mars had her duty. Clenching the rose in her teeth, she brought her hands together and called forth the Mars Fire Soul. As the flames once again engulfed the Daimon, she took stock of the situation. The sculptor was slowly recovering, his crystal apparently returned to him. Witch Eudial had escaped again, and Sailor Moon was only now arriving on the scene.

The full strength of the Inner Senshi managed to put an end to the Daimon in a short time. As she helped finish the monster, Rei had looked around for the Outer Senshi and the mysterious stranger. Both were missing, and she fervently hoped that he was not one of them... something about him just seemed to reach out and grab hold of her heart. For her there really could be only one thing said at a time like this: "Who was that masked man?"

As soon as Sailor Mars - he knew her name now - finished speaking to him, Ranma had jumped for the balcony and an exit. A pretty soldier indeed! Dispelling his weapon and clothes, Ranma left the building and walked home.

He had lost track of the all the witches as they made good on their assorted escapes, but he knew everything he needed to. Despite the battle, he had managed to hear most of what the two he had followed were discussing.

He now knew that there were three factions: the Sailor Girls, the Witch with the Daimon, and the impostor witches that were pretending to be Sailors. The Sailors were definitely the good guys. He refused to believe that the lovely Sailor Mars could possibly be on the wrong side. Not only that, but they had a history of fighting for love and justice, and blah, blah, blah...

The Witch was equally obvious. She was the one who had stolen the heart crystal (a definite no-no), she had created a Daimon (a bit of a no-no) and she had attacked Sailor Mars and her friends (big time no-no).

The fakes were a slightly different matter. They were not quite as bad as the Witch, but they were close. They were definitely opposed to the Sailors, and from the snippets of conversation he had heard, they were just as happy to take the poor man's heart crystal. Their words showed them to be cruel and callous. They were unfeeling, and evil, soulless drones in search of some elusive item contained in pure heart crystals.

As far as Ranma was concerned, these sort of people were exactly the opposite of those that he liked to associate with. He knew he was a killer. He had killed before, and could kill again if he needed to defend those he loved. But their callous disregard for human life had turned his stomach. A man would die without his heart crystal, and those two had stood there, measuring his up like a car at auction. Only when he failed to meet their elusive standards did they even consider sparing his life.

Killing in self defence is one thing. Premeditated murder is another.

He did not care if the blonde boy had a Jusenkyo curse now. Ranma had survived this long without their help, he could happily wait longer if it meant that he did not need to meet that couple again.

Cheering himself up, he thought of the other great success of the night. He had found out who the perfect girl was in the short red skirt. She was the pretty soldier Sailor Mars. Pretty was hardly the word he would choose - it was far to mild - but he could applaud her modesty. It would hardly do to announce herself as the stunningly attractive and unbelievably sexy Sailor Mars.

As he worked his way home, Ranma chided himself for his weakness. Now that he was getting closer to breaking his Jusenkyo curse, his loyalty and dedication to Akane seemed to be weakening. First he spends almost every spare minute with Rei-san, now he's out checking out the sailor suited defenders of love and justice.

Ranma went home and took a long, cold bath. It helped to relax him immensely. Twelve year old girls were not drenched in the same massive doses of hormones that twenty year old guys received.

Destiny's Child

A Crossovers Story
by Fire

Part 17 of 26

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