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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.

 

NOTE: The title for the last chapter was forgotten in the heat of the moment (and here I thought I was so cool for getting it out so quick;). The title for Chapter 7 is actually Dragon Slave.

TRUTH

by

Raymond Cooper

Chapter 8

** Dragon Slayer **

 

Sailor Nemesis stirred in the ruins of the wall she'd been flung into. This was getting to be habit, but hey, she was mostly unconscious at the time, and could only focus on that irony - possibly the strongest senshi, and the first out of nearly every fight she'd been involved in.

The dragon from the Dark Kingdom stepped towards her, slowly, deliberately. Waves of negative energy rolled off its back as the road cracked underneath its feet, rippling out and affecting onlookers - those who remained, anyway. After the massed car accidents, many were either dead, or dying, or had fled the scene. The power it was putting out sped outwards in a bubble, weakening as it went, but not enough.

******

The bubble passed through the Ai Sou, and as one, the senshi looked in the direction of the source. As one, they stopped their actions, and powered up into their senshi forms, springing from the doors of the dormitory, and leaping into town.

A scant moment later, Ranma himself felt the bubble pass by, further up the mountain from the dorm. He didn't notice the senshi leave - he was busy trying to work out how to hide his identity. Stepping into the front yard of the building, he stopped dead.

Sailor Saturn stood in the front doorway. She glared at Ranma, and didn't say a word. But she held up a jug of water from the refrigerator and one of her old school fukus. The implications were obvious.

******

Sailor Moon dropped into the scene, with Mercury, Venus, Mars, and then Jupiter hitting the street behind her. She pointed a finger at the dragon, its back to them, and glared. "Creature from the Negaverse!"

"Dark Kingdom, idiot," Jupiter growled under her breath. She wished Sailor Moon would stop making up names for the bad guys based on her half-listened explanations from Mercury as to their nature.

Sailor Moon continued, with a quick scowl in Jupiter's direction. "You have harmed your last innocent! And in the name of the Moon Kingdom from the Silver Millennium, we *will* punish you!"

Her voice faltered as she took in the carnage in the street. Distantly, she also noted the other senshi were staring. They hadn't seen devastation like this in a while... while the hospital, two weeks before, had been pretty bad, they hadn't seen anywhere near this many bodies. Sailor Moon took a step back, raising a hand up towards her mouth in horror. Her stomach churned as she spotted body after body... red, raw meat, twisted into shapes hard to recognise. A limp hand here, a sightless eye there.

Behind her, Mercury emptied her stomach on the bitumen surface.

Jupiter stepped forward to stand on one side of Sailor Moon. She raised a fist, agressively. "Dragon! We *will* take you down!"

Mars stepped up to the other side of Sailor Moon. "Count on it."

Both senshi raised their hands.

"Supreme thunder!"

"Fire soul!"

Bolts of electricity and balls of fire fling at the dragon's back. They impact, and the dragon stiffens, roaring in pain. He turns, faster than both senshi thought it could, and leap towards them. Jupiter readies for another attack, but Venus yells out from behind them in a covering manoeuvre. "Crescent beam!" Magical energy smashed into the dragon, cutting his flight short. He crashed into the ground just in front of Sailor Moon, snapping her out of her daze.

"Sailor Moon kick!" Sailor Moon launched herself into the air, spun around, and delivered a senshi-powered kick to the monster's head. Scales smashed, and green ichor splashed up on her boot. She dropped to her feet, and jumped back. "Yahoo! We're taking this one down quickly!"

The dragon smashed back to its feet. "It will take much more than that to defeat me now!" he roared, then rose onto his back feet. He raised his front legs into the air, and a black ball appeared between them. "Negative burst!" He dropped his hands, throwing the ball at the senshi. They sprang out of the way, but the road under the ball detonated and erupted into shards of flying rock and liquified tar, which pelted and coated the senshi.

Mercury fell heavily on one leg, her ankle twisting. She cried out, but stretches her hands in the direction of the enemy. "Shining aqua illusion!" Mist and bubbles gushed at the dragon, hitting it, freezing it.

For a moment, the senshi all breathed a sigh of relief.

Nemesis sat up, slowly, holding her head with one hand. She felt woozy. But where - ah, there it was. The dragon, frozen in place.

But even as she watched, standing groggily, the ice prison started to crack. Nemesis noticed the other senshi, who were starting to relax, and cluster around Mercury to help her, hadn't even noticed that the dragon wasn't stopped yet. Even as she glanced at the senshi, the ice cracked right up one leg. Muscle bulged, and the dragon strained free completely, his frozen prison exploding like shards of glass.

The ice crackled over the senshi's backs, and Mars was knocked over with the force of it, taking a particularly large piece on a shoulder. Nemesis struggled to her feet, as the dragon leaped towards the injured and surprised senshi. She slammed a fist down into the ground. "Richter wave!" The resultant earthquake ripped through the ground towards the dragon, hitting it as it touched ground a moment before its final jump that would have carried him to the fuku-clad teenagers. The dragon was smashed over onto one side, through a crashed and burning car, and into a wall.

He climbed back out, even as the injured senshi stood. Sailor Mars held a hand to her right shoulder, that arm hanging limply at her side. Mercury was leaned up against Venus. Jupiter stood beside Sailor Moon, both covering slightly cut arms. All showed some evidence of blood - either from gravel rash, or the flying ice storm. Nemesis stepped in to help cover Sailor Moon, but she, too, was injured - woozy, having trouble standing up straight.

The dragon stomped towards the senshi, and all braced themselves for another round of combat. Nemesis looked at Mars, and took up a combat stance from one of her learned katas. Mars gaped, momentarily surprised, then recovered, and took up a similar, tighter stance on the other side of the group. She gave Nemesis another troubled glance, then turned back to the dragon. It was a few steps closer now, and a little injured, but not seriously.

The senshi let rip with a number of energy attacks, from their places in the group. Nemesis and Mars covered the rest until they had finished.

"Venus love-me chain!"

"Shabon spray freezing!"

"Sparkling wide pressure!"

"Rainbow moon heart attack!"

"Burning mandala!"

"Rock tsunami!"

Bursts of energy and matter blasted and rolled at the dragon. They all hit, smashing the dragon back into the building behind again. It groaned, dangerously. , weakened right through half of its base supports. He smashed free again, and stepped from the hole in the side of the tower, glaring hate-filled at the senshi. His scaled skin was holed, burnt, chipped away by solids, and coated in ice. Small bolts of electricity jumped between the wing bones, and ate at the thinner fleshy material of the wing membranes. "For that, you will all die."

"I think he might be right," Mercury muttered from up against Venus, her visor down. "It's power level has dropped by half - but it's still stronger than we currently are. We've been weakened too much!"

Sailor Moon posed, legs apart, hands on her hips. "The Sailor Senshi will never give up! We -"

Nemesis gave her a dark look. "We'll kick your ass, monster."

The senshi gave her an odd look.

The dragon laughed, grating sounds of granite bouncing off the buildings around. In the distance, there were sirens, slowly approaching. "I am still stronger than you all, combined. You'd need a greater power than assembled here to defeat me!"

The problem was, the senshi were beginning to believe he was right. Nemesis snarled.

And the dragon looked at her, surprised, for a moment, before anger replaced that expression, and he jumped towards her, forelegs outstretched. Black energy crackled around his feet.

Then a familiar-looking staff smashed down through the creature's torso, slicing through soft tissue and burying its head into the ground. The dragon roared, and flapped what remained of his wings to get him airbourne, pulling his body off the glaive with a wet wucking sound, and then dropping to the ground, legs splayed to carry his weight off the injury a little better. He looked upwards -

"Katsu tenshin amaguriken!"

- and ki-charged fists repeatedly smashed into the dragon's head. Nemesis and Mars gasped - they'd seen the attack before. Ranma had come -

But that wasn't Ranma. It was that red-haired girl, in a school uniform fuku, dealing a savage attack to the dragon. She wrapped her legs around the creature's neck as she continued to pound away. Nemesis looked at the glaive in the road - that was Saturn's. Where was... oh, there she was. Saturn dropped lightly to the ground beside the senshi, and started healing them magically, fast as she could. Mercury first, so Venus wasn't hobbled by her. Then Mars, Sailor Moon, Jupiter, Venus and finally Nemesis.

All this time, the fuku-clad girl pummeled the dragon into submission. Eye ridges smashed open under the force of repeated blows, and the dragon's arms weren't placed in a good enough position to scratch the girl off. About the time the senshi were all healed, he flipped onto his back and smashed his neck back at the road. The girl leapt free, firing a ki-blast into the creature's stomach.

"NOW!" she shouted as she jumped.

The senshi snapped around as one, in a line, and raised hands and weapons. All glared at the dragon. Sailor Moon pointed. "We warned you, monster, that we would punish you for this." Then she, too, snapped into her ready pose.

"Shabon spray freezing!"

"Venus love-me chain!"

"Rainbow moon heart attack!"

"Burning mandala!"

"Sparkling wide pressure!"

"Silence Glaive Surprise!"

"Rock tsunami!"

The combined blasts devastated the dragon, tearing it apart right down to an atomic level. The released energy exploded outwards a scant second later... pushing the globular blast from Saturn's attack upwards where it quickly dissipated, also giving the fuku-clad red head time to get behind the senshi, and Saturn enough time to whirl her glaive again. "Silence wall!"

The shockwave washed over the barrier, but didn't penetrate, and held firm. Once it passed, the senshi almost as one, collapsed. All had expended a lot of energy, and would need time to rest, recover. The red head watched, carefully.

Then, she said, "Is there somewhere I can help you all to?" She looked at Sailor Mars, and her mouth dropped open. "Rei?" she asked, before she could close her mouth. Mars snapped her head up fast, doing her best to keep herself under control even though she was completely drained.

"How do you... mean, Rei?" Her eyes narrowed. "There's no Rei here."

Oh damn. Ranma cursed his luck. Had to utter it out loud. But the shock of seeing Rei Hino in one of these sailor fukus... well... kinda caught him by surprise. So that was three he knew of now. Who were the other four? His mind refused to make the logical connection. But he had to make an effort to reply to Mars. "I... my name's Ranko. We went to school together, remember? Years ago?"

Mars looked at the other senshi. Nemesis shrugged. "Don't look at me. You've all obviously got the experience with the secret identity schizz. I don't need one."

Sailor Moon glanced at Nemesis, then Ranko. "Well. I want to say thank you for giving us time to recover, Ranko. That was good work. You're a fan?"

"Huh?"

Sailor Moon indicated the school fuku Ranma wore.

Mercury whispered to Venus, "That almost looks like our old school -" She cut herself off. Venus nodded in reply.

"Oh, this, er, just something I picked out of the closet," Ranma hedged. "Dunno where it came from."

Sailor Moon nodded briefly, but happily. "Well, thanks for the offer, but we really can't take you up on it. We've got secret identities to protect and" WHACK "OW, Jupiter! Why'd you do that for?"

"Ixnay on the ecretsey dentitiesey!"

"Oh, yeah. Um. We've got to go back to our secret hideout and relax."

"Oh. Well -" Ranma broke off as Saturn stepped up to him.

She looked into his eyes, not smiling. "Thank you for your assistance. We will call on it again."

"We don't know how to contact -" Mercury started, but Saturn stopped her with a glance.

"I do."

That said, Saturn turned, and started to walk away. Ranma started to reach out for her shoulder, but paused, remembering his earlier words. "Don't rely on others," he said, quietly. Saturn heard, and sitffened, then her head dropped a little, and she continued to walk off. The other senshi collapsed around her in a line, heading off down an alleyway. Mars lingered to glance back with a confused expression on her face, but followed quickly.

Ranma looked up at the building the dragon had been knocked into repeatedly, and shuddered. No doubt it would be demolished first thing in the morning - perhaps even later today. The street was shattered, ruined, and bodies lay scattered about like rag dolls. And the sirens were closer now. He leapt up onto a roof, and started back to the Ai Sou faster than the senshi were making it.

******

He did indeed make it back first. And he stored the fuku in his room, hesitantly, as Hotaru had told him. He didn't want to, but she had given him this stare, as if he owed her something. And while he didn't, he hadn't been able to tell her no. He had needed to get out there and fight, too - he felt the same urge she had. She had explained that being a fangirl involved in the fighting would be a lot less to explain than Ranma himself. They had seen him fight Dark Kingdom creatures as a girl, not as himself. So he would continue in that fashion. He decided he'd hit the springs to change back to his male form.

He placed the fuku in his closet, where he had some other women's clothing he had picked up while living at the Tendo's. Then he grabbed a clean towel, something clean to wear afterwards, and walked naked through the dorm, knowing the others weren't back yet. He walked past the female springs, where he eyed the broken door, then quickly repaired it with a few rapid ki-punches to the doorframe to create small holes he could jam the hinges into, allowing it still to swing and cover the doorway until he had time to replace the door and frame completely. And then he continued into the men's springs area, a much smaller pool than next door's female spring, but big enough for just Ranma. He stepped into the water, and felt his body alter to its natural state, and relaxed.

Outside, he heard the girls come home, quietly, limping and in a little pain still.

******

Hotaru's healing had done wonders, but as she'd had to spread herself around, hadn't healed everything. She was quiet on the walk back, as were the other senshi, and Nemesis had finally revealed her identity to the others. Two of the inner senshi hadn't been surprised. Hotaru had shrugged and said she knew. Mitsuki had been surprised by that herself, but not particularly so.

"I guess you realised while on our date."

Hotaru had just nodded, and continued walking in silence. She looked upset a little. But why? the senshi thought. Things seemed to be strained between her, Ranma and Rei at the moment, but hey, by now they'd all heard what happened, and all thought it was nothing much to get worked up about. Minako knew how Hotaru felt, though, hurt, betrayed, although she also knew Hotaru was telling herself nothing had happened.

It would still take time to get over the hurt.

They climbed the steps slowly, Hotaru refusing help from all, and forcing herself up them by herself. When queried, she shrugged. "I can't rely on others all my life," she replied, before going back to trying to climb them all.

Once at the top, Hotaru dragged herself inside with the others, and grabbed towels and clothing and headed for the hot spring out the back. They heard lazy splashing from the other side of the wall that segregated the two springs.

Rei looked at the wall, lowered her head and blushed. Hotaru didn't react. Even Usagi noted both's reactions, and realised someone needed to break the ice. And as team leader, that responsibility fell to her. "So. Who's happy Mamo-chan is coming over really soon?"

******

The senshi were arrayed over the entire area of the front lounge and were watching television. Ranma was in the kitchen, preparing himself a four-course snack.

There was a knock at the front door. None of the senshi moved to get it, and Ranma so Ranma abandoned his food, and stepped over Minako (who didn't pass on the opportunity and nearly made him trip up) before opening the door.

"Yes?"

Outside was Soun Tendo, looking tall, proud and dignified. "Son. I am going overseas for a training trip with your father. We will be gone for an undeterminate amount of time. And I can't leave her with Nabiki and Kasumi, because... well, they shouldn't have to look after her. Here she is. Good luck, son." With that rapidfire delivery done, Soun whipped a surprised-looking Akane out from behind him, with a bag slung over her shoulder, and he took off across the front yerd and down the stairs towards the road below.

Akane stared. "Hello, Ranma."

"A-a-akane!" Ranma stuttered. The girls in the lounge looked over, all bar Mitsuki, who continued watching middle-aged Japanese men get humiliated in the game show on television. He stepped out of the way, and Akane entered the dorm, looking at the girls.

"I see you're as big a pervert as ever, Ranma, living with seven women."

"No! It's not like -" He gave up, remembering how previous conversations had gone. He took a deep breath, and walked back into the kitchen to complete making his snack.

"Who are you?" Hotaru asked.

"I'm Akane Tendo." Akane paused, expecting a response. None came. "Didn't that idiot tell you? I'm his fiance."

 

SAILOR MOON SAYS:

In the next semi-exciting part: The cats *finally* arrive. The Nekoken explained for the senshi. Akane gives Ranma some much-needed basis for multiple assault and battery charges. See you then!