"Thank you," Rayden agreed, as she poured it. "And it's no problem. As long as it's an informal tournament."
"Completely," the goddess replied. "Cookie?"
"Don't mind if I do," Rayden answered, taking one of the biscuits. "Can I ask why you're so excited about this?"
Amaterasu shrugged. "I wish to see if my inhabitants could last against an invading Realm. My Soldiers are strong, I know; but..."
Rayden nodded. "I know the feeling. Even with Shao Khan out of the picture now--"
"Congratulations again on your victory," she interrupted, nibbing on one of the cookies. He waved it away.
"It had nothing to do with me," he said. "Everybody's acting as though I did it with one hand behind my back."
She shrugged again. "I didn't mean anything like that." She shook her head. "We're getting off topic again, Rayden- kun."
"That we are," he agreed. "You were saying about your Soldiers...?"
"Just that I hope they could withstand a Tournament," she said. "That's why I'd like to test them, see if they could handle it. I'll have to arrange a few things, first. And I have a favour to ask of your mortals..."
"Let me get this straight," Johnny Cage said, squinting. "You want us to fight in a Tournament, that's not for real, and we're not supposed to kill anybody but not just let the other side win, either?"
"I don't see what's so hard about this," Rayden replied, taking a sip of his coffee. They were sitting out in a patio cafe, along with Sonya Blade, who was sitting and looking sullen. "Liu's already agreed."
"Liu jumps through any hoops you hold up for him," Johnny said. "I've got a schedule to keep to."
"The same with me," Sonya said. "I'd help if it needed doing... but this? Just for fun?"
"Not just for fun," Rayden sighed. "It's more like... a training exercise. Just because Shao Khan's gone doesn't mean the threat of Mortal Kombat is gone. I mean, it is for us, 'cause no one would dare come near Earth any more; but for some of the weaker Realms..."
"Okay," Johnny interrupted, holding up his hands. "Could we manage to do all of this in, say, three days?"
"Why three days?"
"I've got a long weekend coming up." He looked to Sonya, who was sighing and rolling her eyes. "What?"
"You," she snorted. "What if I don't have a three day weekend?"
"Yes, but that's not the point."
"Guys!" Rayden exclaimed. "Look, it's not that important. Really. If you don't want to, I'll just get someone else to represent the heroes of Earth..."
"Whoa, back up a second," Johnny blurted. "What are you talking about?"
"Yeah, I want to hear this," Sonya added.
Rayden shrugged. "You two aren't the only people I've asked. Liu's coming. A couple of the other monks are coming too. I just thought, you know, that Am's people would be more impressed by the Heroes of Earth routine."
Sonya rolled her eyes again, clearly not impressed with the obvious attacks on their ego. Johnny, however...
He flipped open a day-book. "I suppose I could... well, maybe..."
"Great!" Rayden said brightly. "I'll tell Am that it's all set then."
"Hold it!" the movie star cried. "I haven't agreed to anything, yet!"
"You know you're going to," Sonya smirked. He glared at her. He started to say something, then stopped.
"Okay. Fine. I'm in," he sighed.
"Great." Rayden beamed at him. "Sonya?"
She sighed, heavily. "I suppose I could tear myself away from my paperwork. But it can't drag on for days. Jax and I have a raid next week."
"Couple of days, tops. I mean it," Rayden said firmly.
"You're not instilling me with confidence," Johnny muttered. He started to get up.
"Hey, where are you going?" the god exclaimed.
"Well... since you roped us into your little scheme, I figured the coffee break was over," Johnny said, sitting back down. "It's not, I take it?"
"Well, you know, I thought we could just all catch up," Rayden said, taking a sip of his coffee.
The two mortals both laughed. Johnny got to his feet again. "If that's the best you can do, count me out."
Rayden sighed. "Okay, fine. There's still a couple of details to go over."
"Like what?" Sonya inquired, settling in for a long haul. "We go in. We kick some ass. We leave."
"Well, there's that," Rayden admitted, "but there's also a little favour I said you'd do for Amaterasu..."
"You're insane," Johnny said, succinctly, when the god finished. "What happened to the whole "Heroes of Earth" routine?"
"Amaterasu hasn't told any one in her Realm of her presence, never mind that there are other Realms out there. The shock might be too great," Rayden answered.
"We managed to survive," Sonya pointed out.
"You two are far more enlightened," Rayden replied.
"Nice try. Real reason please?"
He sighed. "I take it back. You two are terrible. Okay: Amaterasu doesn't want her mortals knowing. They've already had problems with invaders, she doesn't want to complicate things further."
"But if they've had invaders, surely they've fought in a Tournament, already?" Johnny asked, frowning.
"Enlighten us," Sonya snapped.
Rayden looked hurt. "Okay, okay. No need to get huffy. Am did an experiment, trying to create two Realms out of one; it didn't really work, but there are two distinct halves, now, and the mortals can cross over. She just wants you to pretend you're from the other half, not from a separate Realm."
"But petty vandalism?" Johnny winced. "That's so not me."
"You'll get to use magic," Rayden said, with a raised eyebrow. "That's one of the points I won. Temporary magic powers."
Johnny and Sonya both looked intrigued.
"I have always wanted to use magic," Johnny admitted. Even Sonya looked curious. "Okay. I'll do it."
"Me too," the army lieutenant chimed, a moment later.
"Good," Rayden beamed. "That's final?" They nodded. "Excellent. The next round of coffees are on me."
"That's a great offer, coming from somebody with the ability to make money on command," Johnny snickered.
"It's the thought that counts."
"I'm sure it is."
"That's easy for you to say, you've got four legs!" Lita Kino panted. Serena Tsukino was lagging behind, but Amy Anderson was helping her keep up.
Mina Aino and Raye Hino were absent, approaching the crime scene from the opposite direction, as both girls had been out shopping when Artemis reported the outbreak of Negaverse activity.
The girls and the cat rounded the corner, Serena skidding, but managing to avoid wiping out.
Traffic was jammed, as one of the intersections had taken heavy damage; there were craters in the road and the lights were gone.
"Not good," Lita muttered. "Where's Mina? And Raye?"
"Mars! Flame Sniper!" came a scream, and then a fireball exploded, on the corner opposite the scouts.
"I think we found them," Serena muttered.
"We can transform over there, in that alley," Amy pointed. She started running, Serena and Lita fast on her heels. Luna stayed behind to watch, and take in as much as she could about the new warriors they faced.
Someone was running out the way of Mars' fire. It was a man, dressed in standard Negaverse uniform. He looked vaguely like one of Beryl's lieutenants...
"That can't be right!" Luna exclaimed. "We defeated them! Sailor Moon--are you ready?"
Super Sailor Moon jogged up. "Who are we fighting?" is all she needed to know.
"Just tell me where to aim!" Super Sailor Jupiter agreed.
"By that bookstore," Luna said, her fur bristling. "It looked a lot like Jedite."
"But we defeated Jedite," Super Sailor Mercury replied. She activated her VR visor. "There is someone hiding in that alleyway--Venus is heading straight for him."
"Then let's go!" Jupiter proclaimed, bounding forward. A car, its driver confused and frustrated, swerved, and nearly hit her, but she leapt right onto the hood and over, and kept on going.
"Uh... Luna?" Sailor Moon sniffled. "I don't have to do that, do I?"
Luna sighed. "Use the crosswalk, I don't care! Just get over there!"
Sailor Moon pouted, but Mercury pulled her by the arm and began to navigate her way through the stalled vehicles.
Super Sailor Venus was hot on his tracks. "Come out, come out where ever you are!" she sang. "I've got a love chain with your name on it..."
"Hey, when you put it that way," the Negaverse flunky said, stepping out from the shadows, "I'm all yours, sweetstuff."
Venus whirled. "Jedite?" she exclaimed. It was her first good look at him; and he did seem to resemble their old foe.
He looked confused. "No, I'm--crap, what was my name again? Oh yeah. I'm Graphite, of the Negaverse!"
"I'm Graphite," scowled a woman, appearing at the end of the alley. "You're Quartzite, idiot!"
He scowled. "Whatever."
Venus stopped, very confused. "Don't you even know who you are?"
"Of course we do," called another voice, from behind her. It was another of the lieutenants. "It's just that Quartzite has a bad problem remembering his lines."
"I heard that," snapped Quartzite. "At least my name isn't Magnesium!"
"It was the first one that came to mind!" the other yelled.
Venus shook her head. "You guys are weird. But you're still from the Negaverse, and in the name of Venus, I will punish you!"
Quartzite snickered, and Graphite crossed her arms over her chest. "You're supposed to be dealing with this one," she said. "And you're doing a terrible job of it."
"Okay, okay." Quartzite suddenly stood in a defensive position. "Come on, blondie, let's see what you've got."
Venus scowled. "Venus Love Me Chain!" A sparkling gold ribbon of energy lashed out from her fingertips.
Quartzite held out his hands. "Shield!" A glistening black force field formed in front of him, the beam striking it uselessly.
Venus gasped. "Uh oh."
"We'll take care of this!" a new voice suddenly yelled, as one of the girls, dressed in green, suddenly throw herself at Magnesium in a flying kick. He ducked it easily, and lashed out with a kick of his own as she landed. His kick connected and Jupiter collapsed. She was up in a moment, although groaning.
"Jupiter!" cried Venus, running to her aid, but her friend waved her off.
"I can take care of this!" she exclaimed. "Jupiter! Oak Evolution!"
A spray of green leaves appeared from thin air, and flew at Magnesium, crackling with energy. They caught him off guard and he yelled as they struck him, then he teleported away in a black mist.
Sailor Moon and Mercury bounded into the alleyway. "Okay, Negatrash, we're ready for you!"
"Nice entrance," Jupiter muttered. "Late, as usual!"
Sailor Moon ignored her, and instead addressed the two Negaverse flunkies. "I am the pretty sailor-suited soldier of love, Super Sailor Moon! In the name of the moon, I will triumph over evil, and that means you!"
Quartzite turned to Graphite. "That was the cue, wasn't it?"
She nodded. "Sailor Soldiers!" she yelled, dropping into a fighting stance. "We have been sent here by our...uh..."
"By our General," Quartzite whispered, loudly.
"By our General to inform you that we will be taking over your Universe. You have one chance to defeat us. You will know when and where. It is your only chance, don't lose it!"
She suddenly crossed her arms over her chest, and disappeared in a black fog.
Quartzite rolled his eyes. "I can see why she didn't make it into movies. They should have let me do the speech. Oh well." He teleported away as well, but not before blowing Venus a kiss.
The scouts stood looking at each other in confusion.
"That was... a little weird," Jupiter said, at last. She was about to say something else when she noticed something. "Mars!" she bounded over to help her friend, who was limping. Mercury supported her as well.
"Those guys can really fight," Mars groaned. "I know karate, but I was no match for them, even with my fire powers."
"This is not good," Sailor Moon said, a little unnecessarily. Just then, Artemis ran in, limping as well.
"Guys! Oh, hey."
"We beat them already, Artemis," Luna said, licking her front paw at him.
He bristled. "I got here as fast as I could!"
"I'm sure. Come on, girls, we should start planning immediately. I don't think these guys are connected with the other enemy--the ones raiding beautiful dreams." Luna paused. "This is going to be tricky--two enemies at once!"
Johnny teleported in suddenly.
Sonya scowled at him. "I can't believe you forgot who you were!"
"Graphite, Quartzite, they both end in ite," he said, with a shrug. "How's Liu? I mean, Magnesium?"
"I'm fine," Liu snapped, as Rayden finished up a healing spell. "Man, that stings."
"Poison ivy?" Johnny quipped. Sonya glared at him.
"Poison oak," she corrected.
Liu rolled his eyes. "Thanks for the back-up, Sonya."
She smiled, slightly. "It's your own fault, you could have just made a shield like the rest of us," she told him. "That Mars chick was tough, though, I have to admit."
"Yeah, I nearly got toasted," Johnny admitted. "How come we don't have cool powers like that?"
"You blew up the sidewalk!" Rayden exclaimed. "Isn't that enough mass destruction for you?"
He thought for a moment. "I guess so."
"Did you find Sailor Moon?" Liu asked. Sonya and Johnny both nodded.
"And Miss Blade delivered a fine performance," the movie star added. "I nearly believed her myself."
Sonya rolled her eyes again.
"Okay, then the next part is up to me," Rayden said. "Do you think two days will be enough warning?"
"Two days?" Johnny exclaimed. "This was supposed to be over in three, remember?"
"The tournament won't last long, I don't think," the god mused. "I do want them to have some warning, at least."
"A day," the mortal conceded. "That's enough time. They are professionals."
"Professional what?" Sonya blurted. "Did you see those skirts that they were wearing?"
Both Liu and Johnny managed a slightly-dopey grin. "Yeah."
"Oh god," she groaned. "They're fourteen."
"No they're not," Johnny protested.
"Jailbait, at any rate," Sonya agreed. "You two will have to keep your eyes in your heads."
"Has any one else noticed how odd they look?" The movie star adjusted the tracks of the train of conversation.
"Trick of perception. They aren't humans, Johnny; you have to adjust to that fact." Rayden stretched. "I think I'm going to go see if Amaterasu has got the tournament site prepared." He teleported out.
The three mortals looked at each other. "Now what?" Liu asked.
"I don't know about you, but I'm going for a night out on the town," Johnny said, taking off his uniform jacket to reveal one of his standard blue shirts underneath. "It's not every day that we get to fight in a Realm that has clubs." He paused. "The dancing kind," he clarified.
"Fine, but don't do anything stupid," Liu said. "I'm just going to stay and wait."
"Hey, it's me." Johnny feigned hurt pride.
"You're right. I'm sorry. Don't do anything too stupid," Liu corrected himself.
Raye sighed, and fidgeted. She wasn't normally this preoccupied when she did a fire reading. She could usually calm her mind down enough to meditate properly. But today...
A fit of giggling disrupted her even more. Serena was so annoying--gritting her teeth, she forced herself to calm down, to clear her mind.
"Great Fire," she whispered, "I need guidance. Show me the way, Great Fire..."
"And then Lita said--" burst out Mina, a little too loudly, giggling.
Raye twitched, but remained concentrating. "Great Fire, show me the way to our enemy..."
The fire blazed suddenly, and a sound like thunder echoed around the room. A place appeared, a park, downtown. A portal seemed to appear in the park. Two moons shone overhead. Then the fire burnt itself out, and died down.
Raye got to her feet, determined. She quickly made her way down the hall to where her friends were waiting. "Guys! I just saw a vision, in the fire. I know when the portal is going to open."
"That's great news, Raye," Amy said, looking up from her computer. "I've been doing some research with those readings I took. I don't think those warriors were from the Negaverse."
"Really?" Lita exclaimed. "Then where were they from?"
Amy shook her head. "That, I don't know."
"Keep at it, Amy, you'll figure it out," Luna said, helpfully. "Serena, have you seen Darien lately?"
She nodded. "I told him about the warriors."
"Reenie is away on a camping trip with her class right now," Mina interrupted. "That's one less soldier."
"If we need her, she'll come," Luna said confidently. "Now, girls, I want to step up training before--uh--when did you say it was, Raye?"
"I didn't," the priestess grouched. "You didn't give me any time. But I think it's in the next two days. It's at night, anyway."
"Hmmm." Lita looked to Raye. "Which park?"
"That one downtown by the fabric store," Raye replied. "Across from the ice-cream parlour."
"I don't live that far from there," Lita continued. "Neither does Mina. We could keep a look out, and call you on the communicators."
"That sounds like a good plan," Artemis agreed. "You two can--"
"Hey, if I'm going, you are too," Mina was quick to add. He ruffled slightly, but didn't correct her. Diana popped up.
"Me too!" she insisted. "I'll come. I'll help."
"You're far too small, Diana," Artemis replied.
She grumbled. Mina scratched her behind the ears absent- mindedly.
Johnny strolled along the sidewalk, whistling nonchalantly, enjoying the night air. He was passing a park when he heard some rustling in the bushes beside him. He stopped, curious, and wary. Things had sprung out of bushes before.
He caught a glance of blonde hair. "Hello?" he called, hesitant. "Somebody there?"
The rustling abruptly ceased. Somebody was definitely crawling around in the shrubbery.
Johnny backed up a few feet. "This is getting too weird," he muttered, as he turned and started heading down the side-walk again. There was a sudden rustling again as the person backed out of the hedge.
"Stop right there!" a high-pitched female voice demanded. It was the brunette from the battle. The one that attacked Liu.
"Do I know you?" Johnny asked innocently.
The blonde finally emerged, dusting herself off. She stared at Johnny in surprise. "Okay, Lita, I believe you."
"I told you," Lita snapped. "Okay, Negatrash, tell us what you're doing here!"
"Enjoying a walk through the park," Johnny answered, taking a defensive stand. "You two want to do anything about it?" They stepped forward, into the light cast by the streetlights, and Johnny took a voluntary step backwards. Sonya was right-- these girls were sixteen, tops!
"You're just kids!" he exclaimed.
"Kids?" the blonde blurted.
"I'll show you who are kids!" Lita, the brunette, fumed. She ran forward, and tried to punch him. He blocked her fist in his hand. She was quick, and tough, but no match for him. She tried to pull away but he wouldn't let her; instead he twisted her arm around.
She screamed, and kicked him in the side of the chest. He gasped, startled, and dropped her fist. She backed up, flexing it.
"Mina, let's do this properly," she said. "Jupiter Crystal Power Make- Up!" She threw her hand into the air, and a bright green light seemed to envelope her.
Mina nodded. She also threw up her hand into the air, yelling: "Venus Crystal Power Make-Up!"
Johnny watched, impressed. "I gotta talk to Rayden about getting a costume change like that," he muttered. "Okay, what was it? Negaverse Change!" There was a flicker of light that started at his head and moved down, changing his clothes into the Negaverse uniform as the light moved down.
"Jupiter! Oak Evolution!" Jupiter cried, creating the spray of oak leaves that had caught Liu by surprise.
"Shield!" Johnny yelled, quickly, creating the black force field around him. The leaves crackled against its surface, but did no damage.
"Venus! Love and Beauty Shock!" Venus yelled, her beam crashing into the shield along side Jupiter's spray. "Dammit!"
Johnny was at a loss of what to do next. On the one hand, they weren't supposed to harm the Soldiers before the Tournament, but he had to defend himself, didn't he?
Acting fast, he threw out his hands. "Quartzite Explosion!" He targeted the sidewalk directly in the girls path; it blew, creating a blast of dust and dust, but didn't actually harm them.
Jupiter and Venus staggered backwards, coughing; as the debris cleared, they had a glimpse of Quartzite darting through the trees into the park.
"Artemis!" Venus yelled to the cat still waiting in the bushes. "Get help! We'll try to hold him off here!"
"Right!" Artemis bounded out and away, as fast as his furry legs would take him.
"Ready, Jupiter?" Venus asked.
"Ready. We can take him." The Soldier started off, hot on the Negaversal trail.
Johnny was nearly out of breath as he reached the portal point. He wasn't paying any attention, and he missed the drop to the valley; he yelled out, as he went sliding down the grassy embankment. He landed at the bottom to the accompaniment of hysterical laughter.
Rayden was in tears, and doubled over. "Graceful landing, but I think it's only an eight out of ten," he laughed.
"I'm glad I bring some amusement into your life," Johnny grumbled, dusting himself off. "There's two of them on my tail."
"I know," Rayden replied simply, wiping his eyes. He chuckled again and snapped his fingers; he changed into a uniform resembling Johnny's, only in white, outlined with black.
"Venus--there's another one here!" Jupiter cried, as she reached the top of the hill, looking down. She backed up and then threw herself off the embankment, landing neatly in a crouch.
"Now that was classy," Rayden remarked.
"Shut up," Johnny muttered.
"In the name of Venus and Jupiter, we are the sailor-suited- -" Venus began, but Rayden waved her silent.
"I know, I know." He smiled. "Show-time."
He snapped his fingers, and a portal burst into existence behind the two Negaverse pretenders. Johnny was impressed; instead of one of Rayden's normal subdued portals, this was at least a storey high, and crackled with energy--lightning leapt around it.
"Nice work," he admitted.
"Thanks. I try." Rayden raised his voice. "Well, Sailor Soldiers? Ready to take on the full power of the Negaverse?"
"You bet!" Jupiter growled, jumping into a fighting stance.
"Oh, I like her," the god said to Johnny, gesturing at her with his thumb. "Reminds me of Liu."
"Don't tell Liu that," Johnny laughed.
"Venus! Jupiter!" Super Sailor Moon and company arrived, the white cat leading them to the top of the hill.
"Exit, stage left," Rayden whispered to Johnny.
"The exit's behind us," he replied.
"You never get into the spirit of things, do you?" the god muttered, jumping backwards and through the portal.
Johnny rolled his eyes, blew a kiss to Venus--no harm in flirting, after all--and stepped through.
"After them!" Luna cried. "This might be our one chance to defeat the enemy!"
She darted down the hill, Jupiter and Venus hot on her paws. "Diana, you stay here," Artemis commanded, as he took off.
She grumbled. "How can I help Sir if I am here?" she asked no one in particular. She shook her fur and dashed after the Soldiers and Tuxedo Mask, making it through just as the portal closed behind her.
"Ah, the inhabitants of Chikyō," the woman said, appearing, illuminated, against the blackness of the space. "Here at last. I see. Well--"
"Where are we?" demanded Sailor Moon. "Who are you?"
The woman sniffed. "I am the referee, Mary--" She paused, and tilted her head to the side as if she was listening to something. Then she sighed, heavily, scowling. "As you wish, Lord Rayden."
She disappeared, the light she was under winking out.
"What is going on here?" Mars demanded.
Mercury tapped furiously on her computer. "This is nothing like we've ever seen before--the readings don't make any sense-- "
"Look!" Tuxedo Mask exclaimed.
The woman had reappeared, the light with her. Her mousey- brown hair had been replaced with glossy green tendrils, resembling a plant's, and her glasses were gone. Her skin was dark, browner, and she wore a Negaverse uniform. "The things I do in the name of work," she sighed, heavily, and produced a clipboard formed of black crystal. "I am Hisho, loyal servant of the Light General. You have been ordered to fight in a Tournament. If you refuse, your Universe will perish." The speech was delivered in a flat monotone, and at the end, she sighed heavily. Again. "Aino, Mina?"
"That's me!" Venus blurted, in shock.
"Please simply answer 'present'," Hisho/Mary asked, scowling. "Aino, Mina?"
The Soldiers looked at each other in shock and confusion.
"Best just to do it," Mercury said, finally. "If they know who we are already--"
"Then we've got nothing to lost by confirming it," Tuxedo Mask agreed.
"Present," Venus answered, after a moment. Hisho nodded, and checked off one of the names.
"Present," Mercury called.
"Present," Mars grumbled.
"Present!" Jupiter shouted.
Hisho sniffed. Her fingers went to the bridge of her nose, to push up her glasses; when she realised they were gone, she shook her head. "No need to be grouchy. I'm simply the help. No need to consult me, oh no, it's just--" Her head twitched to the side again and she sighed. "Shields, Darien?" she continued, in a monotone.
"Present," Tuxedo Mask replied solemnly.
"Tsukino, Reenie." There was silence, and Hisho looked up from her list. "Tsukino, Reenie? Last chance. Tsukino, Reenie."
"She's not here," Sailor Moon hollared.
Hisho gave her a withering glare. "Really. Couldn't tell. You must be... Tsukino, Serena?"
"That's Sailor Moon!" she cried.
"I'm sure it is." Hisho flipped over the page. "Okay. Artemis, Diana, Luna, you three are exempted from battling."
"How dare you--" Luna cried.
"We will fight!" Artemis agreed.
"No you won't. No cats." Hisho let the page drop. "Now, if you'll just follow me--"
"You should let us fight!" piped up a small voice, as Diana darted to the front. "To discriminate against cats or any one at all is wrong!"
"Diana!" Luna blurted. "What are you doing here?"
"Diana!" Artemis exclaimed, at the same time. "Where'd you learn to talk like that?"
"She sounds like Tuxedo Mask," Venus whispered, to Mars.
Tuxedo Mask overheard and sighed.
"Look, little kitty, I would like to let you fight, but you see, I can't," Hisho said, turning her checklist around. At the bottom was written, in big, black writing: NO CATS. It was underlined three times. It was also initialled; but the letters didn't mean anything to the Soldiers. "You would present one of our fighters with an insurmountable handicap."
They all grumbled, but to Hisho, the conversation was over. "This way, please."
"The first fight is between Graphite and Sailor Mars," Hisho/Mary announced, from the podium. Amaterasu and Rayden were sitting, quite comfortably, in a pavilion set up for them. The Negaverse fighters and the Sailor Soldiers were on opposite sides of the square area; they couldn't see each other for only the pavilion and the area were lit.
"Good luck, Sonya," Liu said, patting her back as she stepped up.
"Luck?" she scoffed. "I don't need luck to defeat a teenager."
"She's the one that uses fire, mind," Johnny warned, sounding stuffed-up.
"I know, but I've got a trick up my sleeve if it comes to that," Sonya said with a smile. She stepped out onto the arena, to face Mars.
"Tea?" Amaterasu offered, at the head of the arena.
"No thanks, I'm full," Rayden replied. "Let the match begin."
"Thanks for your full attention, oh Light General." Sonya rolled her eyes and faced off against Mars.
"Don't take that tone with me, Lieutenant," Rayden replied, with a slight smile.
Mars and Graphite circled each other, warily, trying to figure out an opening. Graphite kept her face expressionless, but Mars was growing more and more frustrated. Finally, she seemed to snap.
"Mars Burning Mandala!" she yelled, rings of fire appearing around her. They shot out towards Graphite, who dived to avoid them.
"Graphite Waterfall!" she yelled, her hands extended. A sudden cascade appeared, washing out the rings and nearly drowning Mars at the same time.
While the Soldier got to her feet, spluttering, Graphite appeared from behind her. Mars had barely enough time to fully stand before the Negaverse lieutenant's fist flashed. Mars managed to block it, years of Karate training coming into play; but Graphite wasn't stopping with a single punch. She kept at it, throwing a few kicks into the melee to keep Mars on her toes.
"Mars!" Sailor Moon yelled, distraught, forcibly restrained from entering the arena by Tuxedo Mask and Sailor Mercury.
Mars was beginning to wear down. "I can't keep up!" she panted, as Graphite nearly boxed her ears. "Fire... soul!"
The explosion of flame caught Graphite unawares and she screamed, shielding her exposed face and neck with her arms. Her clothing could withstand the fierce heat.
Mars wasn't going to let her get the advantage again. "Mars! Flame Sniper!"
Graphite threw herself to the arena's floor, the plume sailing over her head. She could feel her hair crackling, singeing from the heat. "Graphite waterfall!"
Again the water appeared from nowhere, washing out the flame. She got to her feet, and again she and Mars faced off.
"They're too evenly matched," Liu remarked.
"I hope Sonya's got another trick up her sleeve," Johnny agreed.
Graphite and Mars stared at each other, each daring the other to go first.
Finally, the Negaverse lieutenant made the opening move. She raised her arms over her head and yelled: "Graphite Mist!" A thick heavy fog descended over the arena, blanketing the fighters, blocking the view.
"What?" Amaterasu jumped to her feet in dismay, but Rayden pulled her down. She looked at him in horror.
"Mars! Flame Sniper!" Mars yelled, trying to burn off the fog, but it was too thick; the flame fizzled. Suddenly she screamed.
"Mars!" Jupiter cried.
The fog vanished, fading away to reveal Graphite, with Mars face-down at her feet.
"The match goes to Graphite, of the Negaverse!" Hisho yelled, whacking a gong marked with a dragon symbol.
"Mars!" cried Sailor Moon.
"She is not harmed," Rayden, aka the Light General, announced. He snapped his fingers, and she disappeared. "She will be held until the match is over. Next fight--"
"Lord Rayden--I mean, Light General," Hisho blurted. "There is a scheduled recess."
"A recess?" he exclaimed. "We just got started."
"It's in the schedule," Hisho growled. He and Amaterasu exchanged glances, and he shrugged.
"Very well. A recess."
"Good job, Sonya!" Liu exclaimed.
"Yeah, I knew you had a secret, secret weapon," Johnny agreed, loudly blowing his nose.
She frowned at him. "What are you talking about? The fog was the only secret weapon I had."
"Well, I didn't know about the first one..." Johnny explained.
Rayden appeared in their waiting grounds. "Nice job, Sonya."
"Thanks," she replied. "Who's up next?"
"Umm..." Rayden paused, looking thoughtful. "I think it's Sailor Mercury, versus Lau Po."
Lau Po, one of the monks from the Temple of Light, stepped forward, bowing.
"This should be easy," Johnny remarked. "Mercury looks like a push-over."
"The match goes to Sailor Mercury, of the Universe!" Hisho sang out, quickly jotting down information for her reports.
"Yeah, real push-over," Liu grumbled.
"Well, she looks like one!" Johnny insisted, sneezing.
"I'm up next," Liu said, stretching. "My opponent is Sailor Jupiter."
"Uh oh--you want the hedge clippers for that one?" Johnny joked.
"Ha ha, very funny." Liu stepped out onto the arena. Jupiter was emerging from her side. The two faced off, as Mars and Sonya had done; but this time, Liu didn't let Jupiter get the upper hand with his powers. "Magnesium Fire!"
There was a blast of flame, and Jupiter screamed as it caught her on the side, even as she was leaping out of reach. She rolled, and got to her feet. "Sparkling Wide Pressure!"
Liu prepared himself for the slew of leaves, but what he received was a blast of electricity, that she threw in a ball. It connected and he collapsed, hissing in pain.
She allowed herself a smirk, and waited for him to get up, in a defensive position.
Liu got to his feet. Every nerve screamed at him. "Magnesium--" He paused, his head pounding.
Jupiter didn't wait any longer. "Supreme Thunder!" This time, a bolt of lightning appeared over her head, leaping towards the mortal.
Liu gasped, and yelled: "Magnesium Teleport!"
He disappeared, the electricity missing him by moments. As he reappeared, he seemed to be in better shape. He held his hand over the ground. "Magnesium Ice Blast!"
A ray of white light leapt from his palms, catching Jupiter. She screamed as it touched her, freezing her solid. She was frozen to the ground, unable to move. Liu started forward.
"Jupiter!" Tuxedo Mask yelled. "Don't--"
A small antenna was rising from her tiara as she struggled. "Supreme Thunder!" she screamed, in a desperate attempt to free herself. Again the lightning shot down from above, but this time it had no where to go; it shocked the Sailor where she stood.
"Match to Magnesium, of the Negaverse!" Hisho announced. The match was over. Jupiter disappeared.
"Jupiter," Sailor Moon wept.
"Match to Sailor Venus, of the Universe!" Hisho cried, as Lien disappeared, taken by Rayden's magic.
"Match to Weichang Lu of the Negaverse!" she sang out, as Sailor Mercury disappeared, unconscious.
"I have a very, very bad feeling about this," Artemis murmured, surrounded by Sailor Moon, Tuxedo Mask, Venus, Luna and Diana. "We only have two fighters left."
"What are you talking about?" Luna asked him.
"There's three," Venus agreed.
He shook his small, white furry head. "Two. Sailor Moon can't call for Pegasus while we're here. She needs Sailor Chibi Moon's Twinkle Yell--she can't use her attacks without it."
"I hadn't thought of that," Sailor Moon said, going white with fear. "Oh, Artemis, Luna, what are we going to do?"
"We'll think of something," Luna said, slowly. "We've got another recess. I hope that's enough time."
"I'm up," Tuxedo Mask said, solemnly. "Wish me luck, Sailor Moon."
"Oh, Tuxedo Mask," she wailed. "I hope this isn't the end of it all!" They hugged for a moment, and then drew away.
Suddenly he leaned down and kissed her. "Don't worry, Serena," he said, with a slight smile. "We've made it through worse than this."
"Match to Tuxedo Mask, of the Universe!" Hisho announced.
"Yeah, push-overs," Liu repeated.
Johnny grumbled. "Alright, you can drop that remark now." He blew his nose. "We're neck and neck, technically."
"There's no technical about it," Sonya observed. "It's three and three now--watch it!"
Johnny looked forlorn, as he sneezed again. "Sorry guys," he said, sniffling.
"It's all right, but what's the matter with you, anyway?" Sonya asked him.
"Huh? Oh--the sneezing? Allergies. It must be--" Johnny sneezed again. "Cats. I'm allergic to cats."
"There's three cats over on the other side," Liu informed him. "It's probably those."
"What?" Johnny exclaimed, loudly. He climbed out on to the arena. He was hoping he'd be able to see Mary from there; but he couldn't. "Mary? Dammit, Mary, I need to have a word with you!"
The Sailor Soldiers stared as one of the Lieutenants stepped onto the arena. "Mary!" he called. "Dammit, Mary, I need to have a word with you!"
"So talk," Hisho announced, the light over her head snapping on. Her arms were folded over her chest.
"I told you not to let the cats in!" he yelled, furious, before he sneezed again. "I can barely see straight!"
For once, Hisho's harsh expression softened. "Sorry, Quartzite," she said, really meaning it, "but there's nothing I can do. They're not fighting. I can't bar them from watching."
"Yes you can!" he retorted, furiously. Diana decided she'd had enough.
"Excuse me," she called, hopping out onto the arena. He jumped backwards as she approached. "Excuse me, but I don't think you're quite right in keeping us from defending our Universe. My mother and father are strong fighters, they deserve a chance to defend themselves."
"That's a good point," Amaterasu said, thoughtfully.
Johnny's eyes were watering, and his chest felt heavy. "Get away from me!" he yelled, sneezing again. "I can't--"
"Excuse me," Diana said again, just as politely, hopping forward, "but if you give us a chance, you'll see that--"
He could barely breathe, his throat was starting to close up. He was stumbling backwards.
"Rayden!" Liu called, leaping out onto the arena, "Something's wrong with Johnny--he might need a healing spell-- "
"What? How dare you, Amaterasu!" Rayden roared, leaping to his feet. He glared down at her, and she blinked in shock. "Your soldiers attacking my fighters--blinding them--"
"Rayden-kun!" she exclaimed. It was then that she saw her wink at him. "Uh... oh... well, you should never have barred my fighters from the Tournament in the first place!"
She snapped her fingers, and Johnny disappeared.
"You dare disobey the Rules, as set down by the Creator?" Rayden exclaimed, loudly and theatrically.
"I do!" she yelled. "Take your best shot!"
"Then I declare this next match to be final!" Rayden announced to all. "Magnesium versus Sailor Moon--to decide the fate of the Universe!"
Sailor Moon started to cry, and Venus and Tuxedo Mask had to push her onto the arena.
Liu bowed to her, formally, but she just started to wail louder. He leaned back up, confused. He didn't want to attack her if she wasn't going to fight back.
"Sailor Moon!" Luna yelled. "Do something!"
"I don't know what to do!" she wailed. "I don't know what to dooooooo...!"
"Oh, for the love of--try your tiara!" Luna instructed.
Sailor Moon sniffled. "Do you think--?"
"I have no idea! Just do something!" The cat was nearly at her wits end.
Sailor Moon stopped crying, and reached up for her tiara. "It's worth a shot!" she exclaimed. She whipped it off. "Moon Tiara Action!"
Liu tensed himself for the blast of energy--but nothing seemed to happen. She threw the tiara, and it sailed in a graceful arc before it came to rest by Liu's toe. He poked it, carefully, but as it did not explode, shoot out shrubbery, etc., he had to assume it wasn't going to do anything.
"Luna!" Sailor Moon shrieked, "It didn't work!"
"I can see that!" Luna snapped.
Tuxedo Mask tried to take the field, to help Sailor Moon, but a small tug on his cape held him back. "What--Diana?"
"Sir," she began, "don't go. They said that this match will decide the fate of the Tournament--they might throw it if you entered illegally."
"She's right," Artemis acknowledged. "Sailor Moon will have to do this one on her own."
Liu sighed. "Look--"
"Waaaaaahhhh!" Sailor Moon shrieked, pig-tails flying as she ran from one end of the arena to the other, trying to dodge Liu's--so far--non-existent blows.
He looked to the pavilion for help. What he found was Rayden nearly falling out of his chair laughing, while Amaterasu sighed, and looked glum. "This is absurd."
"Just finish her off, Li--Magnesium," Sonya called out. "I know you don't want to, but--?"
He sighed. "I'm sorry about this, I really am, but if you won't fight me--"
"You'll call it off?" Sailor Moon asked, hopefully.
He raised his hands. "Magnesium Ice Beam!" Again, the flash of white-blue energy leapt out. Sailor Moon, already hyper with anxiety, avoided it by a country mile. Liu scowled, and tried again: "Ice Beam!"
This one nearly caught her, but she rolled with it.
Rayden stopped laughing, his curiosity piqued.
Amaterasu picked up her attention. "Perhaps--" she said, hopefully. That hope was short lived. The third beam caught Sailor Moon full in the chest and she screamed, frozen, coated with ice.
The light around Hisho appeared. She bowed, and said: "The match goes to--"
"No!" The yell came from Sailor Moon, still struggling to free herself from within the ice.
"It's over," Liu replied.
"No! No, I refuse to lose!" she cried. "I will not let everyone down--not now!"
Sailor Moon saw the referee appear. Heard her announce the end of the match, and something inside the Soldier snapped. This was not an average battle. She did not have Tuxedo Mask or the other Soldiers to save her. This was the real deal. This was it.
"No!" she cried, stopping Hisho mid-stream.
"It's over," Magnesium said, simply.
"No!" She struggled within the ice. "No, I refuse to lose! I will not let everyone down, not now!"
"Sailor Moon!" Venus and Tuxedo Mask cried, cheering her on.
"The match is not... over!" Sailor Moon pushed as hard as she could, and the ice shattered outwards.
Liu had a smile on his lips, as he took a defensive position. "Let's finish it properly, then," he said.
"Sailor Moon!" Tuxedo Mask cried. "You may not have Chibi Moon or Pegasus to help you, but you can rely on yourself! Use the power that you hold within!"
Sailor Moon nodded, standing taller, serious, and with a quick, sudden motion she ripped her brooch right off her uniform, the ribbon shredding and scattering on the floor. She held the open brooch over her head, the silver crystal within twinkling, sparkling with an interior glow. "Cosmic... Moon... Power!"
"What--?" Amaterasu blurted, pleasently surprised; but her cry was drowned out by the sheer, raw energy that washed down over the arena.
Liu tried to shield himself as the wave of energy exploded outwards; he knew it would be a futile hope, the power was too strong--a shield appeared around him, crackling with lightning. Rayden. Rayden was protecting him from the massive explosion...
Hisho got to her feet, shakily. Even though Lord Rayden had been protecting her, she had been terrified. Now, as she stood and looked over the arena, she saw why.
It was in ruins. The pavilion was charred, as were the tents for either side. The mortals got to their feet, none the worse for wear thanks to their respective deities.
Liu was still on his feet, but as Rayden's shields withdrew, he toppled forward. He had been at ground zero; the god's shields could only save him from being vaporised.
Hisho found her voice, after the shock wore off slightly. "Match goes to... Sailor Moon, of the Realm of Chikyō."
"That's not quite what I meant," Tuxedo Mask admitted, supporting her, "but you did great, anyway." Mercury, Mars, Venus and Jupiter gathered around her, congratulating her.
"Thanks guys," she said, quietly, tired, but happy.
"Wow," Johnny exclaimed, breathing better thanks to a spell from Rayden. "That was some attack she used."
Amaterasu bowed to them. "Thank you very much, Fighters of Earth. I owe you so much; you have proven to me that my Soldiers are capable of defending their Realm."
"I think you just wanted to gloat," Rayden muttered, darkly, munching on a biscuit. "Why didn't you tell me they were capable of that?"
She shrugged. "Sailor Moon has not used that attack in a long time--I had forgotten about it."
"Nice excuse, very convenient."
She laughed, hiding her mouth with her hand. "Oh, Rayden- kun, you never change."
The mortals found themselves back on Earth, and Johnny sighed. "Well, there's three days I'll never get back," he yawned. Liu punched him in the shoulder. "What?"
"You. You're terrible."
"I wasn't the one who got my butt kicked by a teenage girl," Johnny remarked.
"I wasn't the one who got stopped by a kitten," Liu pointed out.
"That was different!" Johnny flew into a rage. "They weren't normal Earth cats! My allergies were about a million times worse!"
"That is true," Rayden acknowledged.
They ignored him.
"You know what your problem is, Cage, you're too--"
"Too what? What?"
Sonya sighed. "Let's just get going. I have a feeling this is going to go on for a while."
Rayden nodded. "You know, all of this fighting is making me hungry. How about we stop for supper before I send you all home?"
"Depends," she said, slyly. "Are you buying?"
"What do you mean by that, exactly?" Johnny cried.
"Just what it sounds like, you egotistical--" Liu began, while his colleagues started off without them.