Magical Girl Pretty Ruri
Episode Five: Home is where you hang your head
By Tailkinker and Kitsy
*DISCLAIMER* Warning: Java compilation error. Insufficient coffee. Due to this, none of the characters, situations and sites belong to the authors of this story. They are currently just used to explore the effects of sleep deprivation. "Things here continue to get stranger as time goes by. Every day, I am late getting up. I don't think it's possible for me to get up on time. But that seems to be the least of my worries. Fighting hordes of golems, or being dragged off to sing at a karaoke club. Whatever happened to the peaceful time of the Jovian Wars?" Tail Kinker and Kitsy present Magical Girl Pretty Ruri Episode Five: Home is where you hang your head *BEEP* *BEEP* *BEEP* "Omoikane?" Ruri sat up and looked around. Plush toys. Pink wallpaper. Her bedroom, at "home." "Oh, yeah." She staggered over to the computer and silenced the beeping alarm. Blearily, she tried to focus on the clock. "Seven hundred. I mean, seven A.M. Amazing. The alarm clock worked." Omoikane yawned, stretched and stood up. He tilted his ears toward Ruri. "Something wrong?" "My alarm clock...it worked." "You're right. That's wrong. No school today. Go back to sleep." The cat yawned once and lay back down on the bean bag chair. "Baka." She dug through her dresser and selected a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. ~I'm not going to be able to go back to sleep...might as well get dressed.~ A few minutes later, she stepped out of her bedroom, wearing - for the first time this week - something that was *not* a school uniform or sailor fuku. Her shirt was a light gold polo shirt, and the shorts were a light brown. She had found a baseball cap stuck behind the desk, and now wore it backward on her head. On her feet were loose white ankle socks with a pink border and some stray threads where pom-poms once lived, and black slippers. Her hair was arranged in her traditional pigtails, but she had replaced the ribbons with small gold combs, and lay somewhat closer to her head than usual. Omoikane, yawning, trotted out beside her. "What...no ondangos?" "Shut up. Do you want my parents to hear you?" "Why, Ruri! Wherever did this cat come from?" ~Baka.~ "You never said anything to me about getting a cat." Usagi knelt down in front of Omoikane. "Hmmm...looks healthy, looks well fed...Do you want to keep him?" Ruri pondered this for a moment. "I guess...although he's caused me some trouble so far..." The cat glared at her. "Has he been fixed yet?" The glare turned to panic. "No...not yet." "We should look into that. Also, we'll need to get a cat box and cat food...good thing it's Sunday. We can go shopping right after we finish the chores." "Ah...chores?" "Of course, silly! The laundry, the furo, then you clean your room. Then the Sunday groceries. And then we'll take care of the cat. Do you have a name for him?" "Yes...he's called Omoikane." "Heavy Metal? I hope this cat doesn't cost us serious money." Ruri twitched. Usagi smiled. "Not to worry. The cat food and litter are coming out of your allowance...Go get your bedclothes, and we'll start the laundry." * * * * * The room was dark, the walls lined with shelves of books. Against one wall was a massive oaken desk with a single lantern casting feeble illumination. Sitting at the desk was Tsukumo. Tsukumo threw the book he had been perusing across the Library in disgust. "Twenty-four million books of arcane lore in this room, and not a single one mentions Pretty Ruri, Yurika or the Martian Successors. How the heck can I track her down if I have no information?" Akara's voice floated through the room, startling Tsukumo. "Perhaps the information you have is at fault." "And what, my Prince, do you suggest I search for?" "Ages ago, our bid for power was halted at Mars. We had conquered all of the outer planets, but at Mars we were stopped by four powerful Warriors. While we were defeated, we left Mars a barren, lifeless world." "And who were these warriors?" "Unfortunately, this is something we never learned. For that matter, I could not even tell you the genders of the warriors; in battle armour, everyone looks so dreadfully androgynous. But if these Warriors have come to Earth..." "I see. But then these Warriors would not be native to this planet..." "But in order to remain unnoticed by the planet, they would have to take on Earth names and forms." "Oh, don't tell me she'd be so stupid as to use her real name..." Tsukumo reached for the only non-arcane text in the whole room: the telephone directory... * * * * * Genichiro drew his sword - a razor-sharp crystal Dao, balanced perfectly - and saluted his opponent. His opponent was a massive humanoid golem, wielding an oversized katana - larger than a no-daichi, but wielded easily in one hand by this golem. Genichiro had chosen that weapon to face, as the mysterious Tuxedo Ken who had caused all of them so much grief seemed to favour that style of blade. Of course, a golem is a rather slow-thinking opponent. It was only moments before Genichiro had disarmed the golem. A second strike knocked the golem to its knees; a third strike knocked it face-down to the floor. Genichiro stepped back and sheathed the sword. Three slow, mocking claps could be heard from the dojo's entrance. Genichiro whirled, hand on the weapon's hilt, then relaxed and bowed. "Prince Akara." "Genichiro. I fear Tsukumo may be failing us. I cannot tolerate failure." "Your wish?" "For now, watch him. If he wavers, or goes against our needs, then deal with him." "I am ever faithful." "I have my doubts, Genichiro. Like him, you only joined my cause for money and power." Akara turned to leave. Over his shoulder, he said, "Like you, he may eventually want...more than that." * * * * * Ruri pulled her bedclothes, the downstairs curtains and her parents' bedclothes from the washer and transferred them to the dryer. She spun the dial and hit the start button. Usagi stuck her head in. "Only a half cycle. It's a warm day out." "Huh?" "And when you're done that, you can clean your room." "Uhhh...half cycle?" "Yes. We'll hang them out for the other half." "Out where?" "On the clothesline out back, silly! Where do you think we'd hang them?" Ruri had a flash of a clothesline hung between the engine nacelles of the Nadesico...she shook her head. ~I must still be tired.~ Usagi stepped back into the laundry room. "Ah, Ruri...about your room..." "Hai. I'll get right to it." "It's already done." "Um." Ruri was at a loss for words. "In fact, I don't think I've ever seen it so tidy. All the teddy bears that you normally have strewn around are put properly away..." ~Except for that Care Bear I burned.~ "...and all your manga are on the shelves where they belong." "Ano...I haven't read them in a week..." "Who are you and what have you done with my daughter?" "Nothing! I don't know where she is! I just..." Ruri broke off as she realized her mother was looking at her very oddly. "...never mind." "Baka." Her mother turned towards the stairs. "Best start on the furo, then." "H...hai." * * * * * The bathroom was a very traditional Japanese style. The door from the hall opened onto the washing area - an all- tile room with a drain on the floor, a wooden bucket, a stool and a set of taps. Towels hung on racks along the back wall. Hanging in one corner of the room was a small metal circle, with several clothespins attached to it, for drying small articles in the winter. A second door to the right led to the furo room. The furo was fairly small - at best, it could hold two people, provided they were a bit small. It was only drained once a day, so it had a really bad ring. Plus, no small amount of grunge had built up on the sides and bottom, even though it was used only after cleaning oneself. Ruri sighed; she could see this taking a while. She picked up the small bottle of cleaning compound and a sponge. She examined the sponge closely; it contained small amounts of the cleaning compound, so she guessed it was the sponge normally used for this job. Omoikane wandered in and hopped up on the rim of the furo. Ruri smiled slightly. "You might want to be careful." "Why?" "You're not the smallest cat in the world, and the edge of the furo can be slippery." "Is that a warning, or a threat?" "Take it as you like. I have to drain the furo." Ruri leaned over and reached for the plug. Omoikane jumped from the side of the tub to the back of Ruri's head, dunking her. "Ack!" Ruri sat up, shook her head and glared at the cat. The cat was sitting in the corner by the door, licking his front paw regally. His whiskers were twitching just ever so slightly. "You think you're funny, do you...?" Ruri grabbed the cat and tossed him in the furo. "MEOW!" The cat levitated out of the furo and jumped up to the shelf over the furo. He glared angrily down at Ruri. "What was that for?" Ruri smiled, just a bit...just a bit evilly. "It's cleaning day, isn't it?" "I can clean myself. Besides, cat hair isn't good for the furo." Ruri knelt again, and pulled the plug on the furo. She sat back and watched the furo drain. "Why a cat?" "Pardon?" "I was just wondering why you appear as a cat." "Well, because I'm your magical animal companion. All senshi groups have at least one." "But why a cat? Why not something like a dog?" "What, would you prefer some sort of cat/rabbit hybrid?" "Umm...no. Cat's fine." * * * * * Tsukumo tossed the telephone directory across the Library. "No help whatsoever." Genichiro faded into view, snickering. "A problem, my friend?" Tsukumo indicated the directory. "I've gone through that whole thing. There is not a single person in the Nerima Ward with the name Ruri." Genichiro cocked his head. "The directory is organized by family names, right? So perhaps it is her given name." "Perhaps..." "But there is an easier way to find her. She appears to be a school girl. What school would she likely attend?" "Well, she's a Magical Girl, carries around a plasma pistol, and is fairly good in hand-to-hand combat...gotta be Furinkan." "I don't think she's old enough to be a high school student." "Well, there's Yurinoki Middle School; my sister goes there." "An excellent notion." Genichiro handed him a file folder. "Here is a list of the students at that school." "How..." Tsukumo stared at the folder. "How did you get this? Even before I thought of it..." "Please. If I had to *wait* for you to have good ideas, I'd die of old age before we got anything done." Genichiro smiled evilly. "She seems very protective of other girls in her age group. Perhaps a kidnapping would shed some light on the subject." "Perhaps...But not my sister." "Concerned for the well-being of a mere human?" Tsukumo looked at him hard. "Not my sister." "Then at random..." Genichiro flipped the record open, and stabbed down with one finger at a randomly selected page. Tsukumo leaned closer to the record. "Rainerd Megumi..." * * * * * Ruri and her mother were in the back yard. Usagi was hanging up towels and sheets, humming to herself. Ruri was passing her the laundry, and occasionally a clothes peg. Ruri looked up at her mother. Though not a particularly tall woman, Usagi was still much taller than Ruri; even though Ruri knew she was supposed to be fourteen, she still felt like a little kid next to this woman. "What's that you're humming?" "You don't remember? It's the old lullaby I used to sing to you when you were in your crib, or whenever you were scared of the storms or loud noises." She smiled softly at Ruri. Ruri sat down on the concrete fence foundation. "Mom...I really don't remember." Usagi sighed and sat down beside her daughter. One hand reached out, almost unconsciously, and stroked Ruri's head. "The doctor said there might be some side effects..." "Side effects?" "Well, last week, you had a bad fever. You caught some sort of infection or flu, down at the beach. You had some pretty bad nightmares and delusions. It was very traumatic. The doctor said it might cause some minor memory problems. But they'd clear up. When you woke up all better, I thought nothing was wrong. I'm sorry, I should have kept a better eye on you." "It was all a dream...? But it couldn't be. I remember years of things..." "Delerium can include some time dilation. I see it fairly often." "But I learned so many things, things I still know. And I still have this." Ruri touched the computer implant on her hand. Only the right implant was visible normally; the left only appeared when in use. "You burned your hand when you were four, trying to pick up a heavy plate from the stove. It was too heavy for you, and your hand touched the burner. See the way the scar's distorted? That's from you growing up." "Mom..." "Don't worry. It'll all come back to you in time." "That's what worries me." "Come on. Let's go shopping." * * * * * "Tsukumo." "Yes, my Prince?" "Have you succeeded in locating this Senshi?" "No, my Prince, but I have determined that she is a student at Yurinoki Middle School. Genichiro came to me with a plan to capture her." "Put it aside. I have a more important task for you." "But lord--" "Do you question me?" Akara sounded very amused. "I have received new orders; apparently, our last harvests of ki were not as bountiful as the Master wished. He requires an immediate harvest." "Any specific area?" "You are to take a small force of golems to a food- distribution center. Harvest all ki you can there." "A food-distribution center...You mean a supermarket? The harvest from such an area will be small, my Prince." "It is Sunday. There may be as many as five hundred humans in that one building. Plus, you can even harvest from the food being distributed." Akara smirked. "Plus, do not discount the ki generated by five hundred people, all fighting over a limited quantity of discounted goods." * * * * * The pet store was some distance past the supermarket, and since Ruri's father had the car, it made more sense to go there first. "That way, we won't have to lug the groceries all over town. It's not very good for perishables." The pet store was quite well stocked. Besides pet food, pet supplies and books on pet care...it also carried pets. The noise and smell assaulted them as they walked in the front door. Usagi's nose wrinkled. "I certainly hope your cat doesn't get this smelly." "He won't." Ruri smiled slightly. "I gave him a bath this morning." "I thought cats didn't like water." "They don't." "Welcome!" The store owner rushed up to the two. "How can I help you?" Ruri twitched; the store owner was a dead ringer for Goto Holy, the massive Nergal representative. In his arms was a tortoiseshell cat, light golden, orange and brown, with white patches behind the ears and a gold bell around its neck. Usagi looked up - waaaaay up - at the man. "Yes, we're looking for supplies for a cat." "A kitten, or an older cat?" "Ummm...older...We need a cat box, litter, food, a collar..." "Has it had its shots?" "No." "Been fixed?" "No, again." The man passed her a pamphlet. "I recommend this veterinarian clinic...It's not the best in Nerima, but the doctors there are competent, and their rates are low." "I see." The cat blinked slowly, eyeing Ruri. Ruri shivered; the cat's golden eyes gave her the creeps. "Our cat is much larger than that one, mister..." "Goto Holy." He bowed. "This one is small for her breed, and a small breed to begin with." He smiled. "Now, as to the things you need..." Five minutes later, Ruri and Usagi left, bearing two large bags of goods. Usagi was looking at the reciept and wincing. "Your allowance will not be too impressive this week, Ruri-chan." "Ano...how much is it going to cost me?" "About 4500 yen." "Ite." Ruri winced. She had started this week with 5000 yen in her pocket; if it was typical of her allowance... "So no manga this week." "Hai, Mom." * * * * * Tsukuma faded into existence, and looked around. All about were boxes of food, cleaning supplies, light bulbs, candy, shampoo, cologne and mousse. He nodded once to himself. "Yes, this will do." "Excuse me, sir. Customers are not..." Tsukumo turned and raised a hand. The employee was frozen in his tracks. Tsukumo raised his other hand, and summoned a golem. "Drain him." The golem was small, no more than a foot across, and appeared to be a very delicate fly. It flitted over to the employee and clamped onto his chest. The blue tendrils of ki slowly flowed from the man to the insect. It detached, and Tsukumo allowed the man to collapse. Tsukumo smiled. "This will be simple. And to allow Pretty Ruri no time to interfere..." He willed the remainder of his attack force into existence - almost a hundred of the small fairy-like golems, and one much larger, standing eight feet tall, though looking just as delicate. Its appearance was almost feminine. "The Master seeks ki. Send your children out slowly, to different parts of the store. They will masquerade as simple advertisement props." * * * * * "These carrots look really good, Mom. "No thank you, Ruri...You know I hate carrots." Usagi shuddered slightly. "But grab some of those greens. They'll go well with the beef." Ruri reached over and picked up the bok choy. To her surprise, the greens fell apart as she touched them. "That's weird..." "What?" Ruri pointed at some of the bok choy. "You see that?" "Yes, it looks great. Put it in the cart." Ruri nudged the bok choy, and again, it disintegrated. "Or not." Usagi shuddered. "Perhaps we should go to a different store." "Um...yeah." "This one used to have such high quality." Ruri bit her lip. ~There's something very familiar going on here...~ She looked up, and noticed one of the really hideous display props the store was using. ~What are they advertising? Raid?~ To her shock, the bug's wing moved slightly, spreading out and retracting. There was no breeze. ~That's gotta be a golem.~ "Um...Mom? We should go. Now." Usagi nodded, and started heading for the exit. Ruri followed her, but kept an eye on the store. She noticed that many people, especially near the checkouts, were already unconscious. Usagi grabbed Ruri's hand and started running for the door. She came to a sudden halt as Tsukumo faded into view in front of her. "Do not leave. You are needed." Usagi pushed Ruri behind her, keeping herself between Ruri and Tsukumo. "Run, Ruri." "Mom?" Tsukumo gave an almost careless flick of the wrist, and Usagi was knocked flying. She yelled out, "Ruri! Run!" Ruri dashed past Tsukumo, outside to the parking lot. She stopped and turned to face the store, panting. She groped through her purse, and finally found the Kasei no Henshin. "Mars Guardian, Make-UP!" The light seared her eyes, all blue and gold. The air around her rippled, and she felt waves of incredible heat pounding her. Her clothes shredded and re-formed into the blue skirt, tight-fitting golden bodysuit and long blue boots and gloves. The tiara formed on her brow, and the Henshin lengthened to quarterstaff proportions. Her face was set in a mask of rage. She ran back towards the store. * * * * * Tsukumo laughed. The energy harvests were continuing at a very good rate. How foolish he had been to doubt Akara! Soon, the OverGolem's ki capacity would be filled, and they could leave... The supermarket door was blown inward, glass fragments showering over the store. Magical Girl Pretty Ruri stalked in, plasma pistol in hand. Tsukumo groaned. "Not you, again." Ruri raised the pistol and squeezed off a burst of fire. Tsukumo vanished from the path of fire, and reappeared off to one side. "Golems: Attack!" Distortion Field!" Ruri spun the staff in front of her. A glowing blue cloud formed all around her, then stabilized into a light blue sphere. The golems attacked her in a swarm, but rebounded off the field, unable to penetrate it. She loosed shot after shot, but the tiny golems were far too fast and maneuverable for her to hit them. "Face it, Pretty Ruri. Eventually, they will wear down your own ki reserves. After that...you will fall like the rest of the meager humans here." Ruri blinked, and saw her mother's body, lying motionless near the checkout. She holstered the plasma pistol and raised her quarterstaff. She held the quarterstaff in front of her, eyes closed. A wind began to swirl around her, and her hair fluttered, drawn out to its full length. She opened her eyes, swept the staff around her and brought it to rest, pointing directly at him. "Gravity Blast!" A black field of energy formed around the tip of the staff, then flowed down to encompass Ruri completely. It swelled outward, and exploded into a cone of black energy. The blast caught almost all the small golems, dissolving them instantaneously. The larger OverGolem was speared through, and survived for almost a second before collapsing inward. The stolen ki washed outward, seeking the low points, reviving the customers. Most of them began to stir and moan. Tsukumo scowled. "My own Distortion Field can absorb that." Ruri drew the plasma pistol. "Perhaps I should be going..." He winked out. Ruri gasped, and dropped to one knee. She mopped her brow. "That blast took a lot out of me." A few seconds later, she felt recovered enough to move. She stood and walked over to her mother. Usagi had just managed to sit up. "What on earth..." She blinked up at Ruri. "Is Ruri okay?" Ruri blinked. ~Why doesn't Mom recognize me?~ "She's...fine. She's out in the parking lot. I'll go send her in." * * * * * "Tadaima!" Usagi set the groceries down on the stairs and changed her shoes. Ruri kicked her shoes off and hauled the catbox and litter into the small room between the toilet room and the laundry room. She also plugged in the small electric air freshener her mother had bought. She came back out, grabbed the cat food, cat dish and collar, and ran upstairs. "Omoikane! I got you some stuff." Omoikane ran over. "What? What did you get me?" Ruri set down the cat food. Omoikane sniffed. "I'd rather have steak." "Tough." She put the collar on him. "By the way...we were attacked by golems." "What are you, a trouble magnet?" "You should know." "Maybe it's just the district..." "Oh, and when I was...transformed...Mom didn't recognize me. I mean, I'm pretty sure ondangos and a tiara aren't an effective disguise..." "It's a distortion effect. It keeps anyone from recognizing you. Most effective in keeping your identity secret." "Right. As if Yurika hasn't already blown that." "Don't worry. No-one is going to connect Magical Girl Pretty Ruri with a flat-chested, love-struck, clumsy, ditz like you." "Hmmm...Mom wants me to make sure you don't end up smelling up the house...bath time!" "ACK!" * * * * * Author's Notes: Well, this one's a little longer than the others. It's also a little more serious than some of the others, but we had to have *some* character development in there. Comments and Criticism can be sent to (Hey, Kitsy: Jankenpow for who gets top billing this Episode?) firstname.lastname@example.org or to email@example.com. Most of the 'fic can be found at www.geocities.com/groves_ca (tailkinker's home page) or at http://members.home.net/kitsy/ (guess who FINALLY got a page up).