DISCLAIMER: Relatively standard stuff. Existing characters are properties of the people who made them up. Mitsuki, and several other characters are mine, and so's the story, hence ownership and copyright of them belongs to me. Contact me at domino@linksnet.nu if you want permission to use anything I've written for whatnot purposes.

 

 

TRUTH

by

Raymond Cooper

Chapter 16

** Hyperactive **

 

"I am Kerberos! The beast of the seal!" the tiny yellow teddy bear squeaked. "And in the name of Clow Reed, I will punish you!"

Usagi stared. Mercury couldn't hold it in any longer and started giggling. The other senshi followed suit.

******

"Really, Ryogi," Hiroshi complained. "Do you *have* to play as secret characters every game you play?"

Tomoyo blinked. "Hey, this is getting too coincidental."

"Eh, Sakura things are everywhere these days," her friend muttered. "Damn Clamp."

******

Kero-chan began to float in the air, waving his arms around like a Karate Kid reject. "You won't laugh at the power of Kerberos when I am through with you!" he squeaked some more.

Sailor Moon stepped forward. "I think I can take this stuffed animal." She posed herself. "I am Sailor Moon, guardian eternal of the Moon Kingdom and protector of the innocent and Crystal Tokyo! In the name of those you would harm, monster, I will punish you!" She pointed at Kerberos. Kerberos stared back.

Then he zipped towards her. "Kero rapid fire bounce attack!" He bounced off Sailor Moon's nose with the speed of a fast bird, rocketed into a wall, into the back of her head, then into another wall, cannoning back into Sailor Moon's legs, tripping her up. She fell down on him, trapping him under her chest.

******

Some of the boys in the crowd ooohed at that as the scene's camera zoomed in to the mighty Seal Beast, Kerberos, struggling valiently to remove himself from Sailor Moon's cleavage. Tomoyo zoomed her camera in. "Don't try too hard," she muttered to Ryogi, who gave her a weird look. She caught it, and glanced back. "What? Those are some very lovely interactions of polygons, don't you think? I'd love to see the routines the programmers used to deform their meshes like that in such small interactions."

Ryogi just stared, then went back to hammering buttons.

******

Keitaro sped towards the two senshi standing in the remains of the refectory with him, a power aura blasting out around his body. His face was twisted into a snarl, ready to attack anyone who dared confront him. Saturn flicked her eyes to Nemesis - he's mine! - and stepped out in front of him, waving her Silence Glaive before her. She smiled a challenge.

The monster rammed into her, and they smashed out through the wall behind them, and hit the ground. The wind was knocked out of Saturn, but she'd had worse knocks from Ranma in training. She gritted her teeth, and got to her feet, dragging her glaive up with her. Once upright, she twirled it around into a ready position. Keitaro took up a position half a dozen metres from her, and began circling. A big mistake.

One thing Ranma had taught her was not to remain predictable, not to play the game designated by the opponant. Which meant not circling. Keitaro frowned, but as soon as Saturn had the breath to, she launched herself at the monster with a foot outstretched in a kick, glaive held behind for balance. The monster was caught by surprise; the kick threw him back a couple of metres. But his feet dug into the ground, and halted him from going any further. He growled, just in time to have the glaive whip around and catch him across the chest, slicing his shirt wide open, and part of his skin. Beneath the flesh was a layer of blackness. Saturn gasped.

Keitaro snarled. "Bitch!" And threw three rapid punches. They all hit while Saturn was in shock, one on the cheek, another on a shoulder, the third in her ribs. She sagged at the knees, but determined to return as good as she got - her sensei - dammit, her sempai! - was watching! She would *not* fail him. She would not fail in *front* of him.

Reverse spinning side thrust combined with a snap-kick to the jaw, a sweep with the glaive, and half a dozen super-strength punches. All impacted with Keitaro's body, but Saturn was still weakened. Keitaro was injured as well... but stronger than her at the moment, in terms of physical attacks. Apart from that aura that seemed to be partially protecting his body, there wasn't a lot he seemed to be able to project in terms of energy attacks.

He stared at her while Saturn gathered herself for her next attack. "Don't you feel tired? Weakened? Like you can barely go on?"

She felt something in her head telling her, yes, too tired, too weak. She couldn't continue. But Saturn knew Ranma was watching. She had to give it her best. The voice in her head was very insistant - was this Keitaro's attack? It would make sense, perhaps, with what that woman had been doing when they'd arrived. Narusegawa? Yeah. But the voice was very insistant. She tried to punch, but found her moves slower than normal. Keitaro basically stepped to one side, and delivered a chopping blow to her neck. Saturn went down like a sack of bricks.

And stayed down.

The Keitaro monster smirked.

Then Nemesis stepped forward. "My turn."

******

Kero-chan worked his way free, and floated up high again. Sailor Moon stood up, rubbing the bite mark on her chest with one hand while frowning up at the stuffed animal.

"That hurt! I'll get you for that!" She whipped out her crescent moon wand, and levelled it at Kerberos. "Cosmic moon power!" A bright blast of light shot at the yellow animal, and before it could even wipe the self-satisfied smirk from its face, it was thrown backwards into the cavern wall behind it, and fell to the ground.

******

"Damn," Ryogi muttered, watching his health meter drop. "Oh well. Time for phase two." He wiggled the joystick and pressed several buttons in order.

On the screen, the tiny yellow pixels of Kerberos, the beast of the seal, began to enlarge...

******

Kero-chan rose off the ground again, swelling outwards into a larger creature. His forepaws grew wicked claws, as did his hind paws, his wings enlarged, and his face distended downwards into a long crocodile-like snout by way of a wolf's. "Kerberos power up attack!" he announced in a loud, gravelly voice, before stomping towards Sailor Moon.

"Uh oh," Sailor Moon conceeded.

******

Nemesis whirled her pipe around her head like a staff, waiting. She watched Keitaro carefully, had been observing him like her father had taught her when she was young and in training. She'd identified nearly eight weaknesses and even more openings he had in physical combat - not that she'd expected Saturn to notice them all. She expected Ranma - that girl *had* to be Ranma - had spotted more.

More than that, she knew how Keitaro had defeated Saturn. And Nemesis knew she wasn't susceptible to other people's voices in her head.

She waited, standing in a loose ready stance, hands out slightly from her body now, pipe in her left hand, ready to be used. Legs slightly apart. Body straight, but not stiff. Just waiting. She knew the attack would come.

And Nemesis wasn't disappointed. Keitaro made the first move, taking a few steps forward, then powering towards her with a leg flying high in the air, ready to bring a kick down on the back of her head. She lifted her left hand, brought the pipe around to block the downward swing of the kick, then followed through with a kick of her own with her longer legs - right into Keitaro's crotch. His eyes blazed red behind his glasses at that, and he jumped back two steps, already growling and bringing his arms up for his next attack. He went down on his hands in a handstand, wrapped his legs around Nemesis' neck, and swung her up and over. But she twisted her own body, planted her legs on the ground and firmly attached herself there with her own personal high gravity field, before straightening her body and continuing through to bend over backwards, slamming Keitaro face-first into the ground. He sank in a small distance. Nemesis flipped over to stand upright on the other side of him, quickly turning to face him once again as he began to stand.

Keitaro growled again. He seemed to be losing the power of speech, it seemed. But Nemesis knew he was just getting very angry. And hurt. She could feel the subtle flow of energies that wrapped his body up, much as Ranma could, only not as well. It was something that her early martial arts training had taught her... an extension of the act of observing an opponant closely. By closing one's eyes, and using all one's combat senses, it was possible, once highly trained, to detect the combat ability, the very life force, of a person. It wasn't something that Nemesis was capable of doing well, but the recent training was reawakening that very ability. She could feel that Keitaro was weakening.

Behind her, she could also feel her sensei's measured gaze.

She would not let him down.

"Come on, little boy," she beckoned. "You want to play rough with a big woman?"

Keitaro snarled and leapt at her. She slammed a fist straight into his nose, and he staggered back a few steps, black ichor spurting from a nostril. "Bitch! You'll pay for this!"

"How ya gonna make me?" Nemesis grinned, and lowered herself down, ready for his next attack.

The monster's eyes narrowed, and he began growling under his breath.

At that moment, Nemesis heard a voice in her head. "My backside is too big... I'm too old to fight effectively. I can't keep this up... I'm getting tired. So tired... so big... so slow... so ugly..."

Nemesis stopped for a moment, a worried look on her face. She drew herself up out of her combat stance for a scant second, nervous, looking around, scared. Keitaro made his move then, snapping forward with a punch that carried most of his remaining power behind it. It sped for Nemesis' jaw... and was intercepted by her right forearm.

She turned to look down on the smaller teenager. "Please. Do you *really* think I don't know how to ignore the voices?" Then, while Keitaro gaped, she increased her gravity force in her fist, and slammed it into his face. She felt bone crack under her clenched fingers, the black ichor again splashing out and coating the ground. Keitaro staggered backwards, and fell over, fingers twitching.

Nemesis stood above him, breathing deeply, regaining her composure. She cocked her head to one side, then the other, eyes darting about. No. No, that's good. Then she stepped back, and slumped a little before moving to Saturn's side. "Saturn?" she asked, quietly. "Saturn? Wake up. You've got... you've got to help him."

Saturn stirred. "Sempai...?" Her eyes focussed, and she saw Nemesis gazing down on her, looking very nervous and worried behind her facade. She sat up. "What happened...?"

"I beat him, Saturn. But... I hurt him. A lot. You need to heal him."

The younger senshi looked over at the monster lying on the ground, face a crushed mess. Then she crawled over to his side, helped by Nemesis. She looked at him, ran her hands over his form, then shook her head. "Unless Sailor Moon or Mercury can do something quickly... to transform him back from being a monster... I can't help him. I'll just heal the monster him." She paused. "They'd better hurry. He's dying."

******

The mighty Kerberos snarled at Sailor Moon in the cave, but Sailor Moon stood her ground. "I beat you once, you stuffed toy, I can beat you again." Under her breath, to Mercury, she added, "Right?"

Mercury nodded. "His health level has dropped dramatically. In this model, he has more powerful attacks, though. I wouldn't let him -"

Seeing Kerberos about to jump at her, with claws extended from his paws and teeth barred, Sailor Moon whipped up the crescent moon wand again. "Cosmic Moon power!"

Again, the searing beam of energy shot from the tip of the wand, enveloping the beast. It howled, once, before vanishing. Sailor Moon lowered the wand.

******

SAILOR MOON: Well, that was easy enough.

SAILOR MERCURY: The game seems to be finished. I assume we'll be let out of this pocket dimension now.

SAILOR MOON: You don't k-

On the screen, the five senshi vanished. The people surrounding the Cave Defenders! arcade machine stared as the screen showed the words, GAME OVER. There was a collective sigh. Ryogi was still poised over the joystick and buttons, as if waiting for his next attack. Tomoyo patted him on the sholder. "That's all right, Ryogi. Sakura... well, take care of him," she said to her friend, video taping Hiroshi now.

Tomoyo's friend glared at her, and led Ryogi away from the machine, unresisting. "Come on, Ryogi, wanna beat me in Tokyo Wars?"

******

The senshi appeared just behind Sailors Saturn and Nemesis, outside the main refectory building at Tokyo University. They blinked in the bright sunlight, then looked around, seeing Saturn on the ground next to a heavily facialy-mangled Keitaro, and Nemesis next to her, looking worried and concerned. Nemesis looked back. "Oh good, you're here. Sailor Moon," she waved at Keitaro. "Do your healing thingee."

Sailor Moon blinked, blankly.

"You know, moon healing magical twist of lemon powers unite, or something."

"Oh." Sailor Moon considered saying what Nemesis had suggested, as a poke, but realised the situation was a little more urgently than a joke was. She twirled the crescent wand around, then spun it in a circle. "Moon healing activation!" Warm, healing energies ran unfettered through Keitaro's body, repairing the damage done, and returning him to the form of a normal human male. He opened his eyes a moment later, slowly, and raised a hand to his head.

"I've got a headache," he announced to no one in particular.

The senshi turned to see Ranma, still in his female form, leaning on the refectory doorframe, waiting for Natsumi to make a move.

The other monster shrugged. "He was merely a test subject. We've got to tell our spawn to hide until they're stronger. That's for certain." She looked at Ranma. "I wouldn't think of trying to take me on, if I were you. You're not strong enough. You can't evade my attacks."

"We can survive them easily enough!" Sailor Moon interjected hotly.

Natsumi smirked. "Don't make that sound like so much of a challenge, weak one. I'll see you all again." She wandered off slowly.

Keitaro sat up, looking after the girl as she departed. "Natsumi?" The girl heard his voice, and turned back.

"Yes, Keitaro-kun?"

"What... what do I tell Mutsumi?"

Natsumi's face fell. "Tell my older sister... tell her she would have been proud." And she left Keitaro to ponder that one in confusion. Ranma and the senshi decided maybe then was a good time to make themselves scarce as well. Ami returned a few minutes later, concerned for her friend.

******

Ranma sat with Hotaru at a train station. "Are you sure you've got to go back to school for now? You took a couple of good hits, Hotaru-chan."

Hotaru smiled at Ranma, who was now back in his male body and clothes. "Yes, sempai. I've got some things to clear up this afternoon before I can come home for the night." Her train arrived, and Hotaru entered it, smiling back at Ranma. "I'll see you tonight, sempai." The doors shut, and she headed off, back to school. Ranma didn't think it weird at all that the train went to Nerima, and no where else, mostly because he didn't check to see where it went. He headed home, to get some repairs done in one of the rear rooms at the dorm.

******

Mitsuki stood in her room, staring down into one of her drawers. She stood there for a few minutes. But, upon hearing voices from outside, Mitsuki quickly bent down, uncapped a bottle and extracted a pill. She recapped the bottle, closed the drawer, and swallowed the pill. All would be good. Soon. Yeah. Soon.

******

At Furinken, Hotaru watched Nabiki talk quietly to a young man in traditional kendo garb. Hmm. He had a slightly crazed look in his eyes. Could this be that Kuno Ranma had talked about? When Nabiki stopped talking, the man threw his head back and laughed maniacally, shouted something about that sorceror Saotome and how he had enslaved more girlfriends of the Blue Thunder, and laughed some more. Nabiki scurried off. And Hotaru now saw this as her first chance for some games of her own.

She walked up to Kuno once Nabiki was out of sight.

 

 

SAILOR MOON SAYS:

A slightly short chapter this time, but I think it works well. Mostly :)

Next time: The conversation. The effect. And the first of the next generation Nerima crew turn up.

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