Quel Shock, I do not own Ranma 1/2 or High-school DxD.

Okay, so I am in holding pattern on a new job. I have submitted a proposal for a curriculum revamp that is well over due, but it only remains to be seen if they are willing to shelve out the cash to me to do the job. This and my muse refuses to let go of two of my newest story ideas, is why you see this new story and my other new one, Wild Wolf, before you rather than a Horse of the Dead update. Call this my pilot for a High-school DxD and Ranma 1/2 crossover. For more information, see the notes at the end of the chapter, so as to avoid spoilers.

Gods and Devils and Wild Horses, Oh My

Prologue: A Journey of a Thousand Steps and All That

Ranma trudged along, trying to manfully ignore the glare of suspicion and hatred that Akane was sending his way. Ever since she had learned that he had killed Saffron she had been glaring at him nonstop, and it was beginning to get to Ranma. "You'd think that she'd be more grateful," he muttered to himself, shaking his head and turning away. The fact that Ranma had killed to defend Akane didn't seem to matter, she looked at him like he was a stranger, and that hurt.

He wouldn't say that he was madly in love with Akane or anything like that, not like those characters in some of the graphic novels that he had borrowed a time or two from Nabiki (and Kasumi a few times), but he thought that maybe eventually they could come to care for one another. Akane's newfound suspicion and outright hatred in the look she gave him made Ranma think that was not possible.

It wasn't as if Saffron was permanently dead anyway, yet Akane didn't seem to understand that. Then when Ranma admitted that maybe a few of Saffron's guards might also be dead after he ran into them on his way up the mountain that seemed to add to her suspicion and hate and Akane hadn't talked to him since. It was getting a little depressing frankly, and Ranma was grateful when they finally arrived at the Amazon village, hoping that Akane would stop glaring at him, but it didn't help. If anything the number of congratulations Ranma got almost immediately walking into the village solidified Akane's views, and she kept her distance from him as much as possible.

Watching Akane walk away Ranma shook his head sadly. One of the middle-aged warriors, a woman named Tiger with bright red hair cut short and too long tiger claw tattoos on her face patted him on the shoulder. "You know worry," she said in that sort of pidgin Japanese that seemed to be the best she could do. Mind you Tiger hadn't lived in Japan like Shampoo, so in comparison it was pretty good. "Better know now then after marry yes?"

Ranma cocked his head quizzically and she shook her head smiling a little sadly yet there was something in her eyes. A sort of hardness there that he hadn't seen in Mousse or Shampoo. She switched to Putonghua, the main Chinese language, and asked "Do you understand me?"

When Ranma nodded (he had learned the language overtime both before and after his first Jusenkyou visit) she went on "I don't know enough of the words to explain myself in Japanese, but for warriors like us, killing is sometimes a necessity. It is something to be sad about, but we cannot shirk from it if it is necessary. And the worst thing you can do is marry someone who does not understand that, that does not understand you. That lack of understanding will between you like a wall, or like a wound perhaps, festering over time."

She smiled down at him, her eyes lighting up. "And you liked the challenge didn't you? You like pushing yourself to the limit, a life or death struggle, one where you knew your opponent wants to really kill you because only then are you pushed to your utmost!"

Ranma looked away, conflicted inside. He had enjoyed the fight against Saffron. It had been the most exhilarating, dangerous and above all intense and fun battle he had ever had matched only by his fight against Herb, dwarfing anything he had ever felt against his so-called rivals back in the arena. He snorted a little at the thought. Even Ryoga, who was easily the closest to his own skill level, wasn't really that close. Not since he had fought Herb, or Ryu Kumon or any of the other opponents that had shown up a time or two and then gone their own way. And then there was his final battle of Saffron, where he had to pull out all his stops, all his moves and tricks save for the two sealed techniques of his school and even then it was almost not enough.

A faint smile made its way across his face and Tiger grinned. "That is a natural born warrior," she said shaking him by the shoulder. "Embrace that sense of rightness. The life of a warrior is sometimes hard, but if you are born to it you will enjoy it nonetheless."

Ranma shrugged noncommittally at that, and continued on into the village.

The group stayed there for a few days, throughout which Akane kept her distance from Ranma and whenever they were in the same vicinity glared hatefully at him. To Akane, life was sacred and it was a martial artist's duty to protect life, not to take it no matter the circumstances. The fact that Ranma now admitted that maybe a few of saffron's guards had died permanently along with Saffron possibly made him a murderer in Akane's eyes. Kiima had told them that Saffron might not resurrect from the egg, that he should have already hatched within a few minutes but possibly the Gekkaja and it's cold aura had done something to his resurrection abilities. No matter the reason, no matter the circumstances the idea of taking someone's else's life was anathema to her, and whenever she saw Ranma that thought overrode everything else.

The others from Japan weren't any help, and Ranma finally decided he'd had enough. He went to Cologne one day during a meal and said simply "I'm leaving."

Around him the others from Nerima looked at him in surprise, after all they were going to stay here for a few days to see if there was any way that the Spring of Drowned Man had survived. They had to wait until the ground around Jusenkyou solidified enough for it to be safe to explore however. The waters had already receded, but the land was pockmarked with deep bogs and bottomless pools, and no one wanted to risk falling into the water that fed into the pools. It was a long shot of course, with all the pools having been flooded as they had, but it was better than nothing.

Cologne raised one wrinkled eyebrow. "If you're heading back to Japan Ranma, we'll accompany you."

The pigtailed martial artist shook his head, not noticing that Cologne had addressed him as Ranma rather than the ubiquitous son-in-law which she had always insisted on calling him before. "Not going back just yet. I'm not holding out much hope that we'll be able to find the Spring of Drowned Man, so I think I'm just going to go off and look for my own cure someplace else."

Akane muttered under her breath "Good riddance and don't come back. We don't want murderers in our home."

Neither Ranma nor Cologne made any sign they heard her, which was probably for the best, and the Amazon matriarch looked at Ranma steadily, then finally shrugged. "If you wish to go off by yourself" she said in a low voice, "to get your head together or whatever it is or even to truly search for a cure, we will allow it. I won't even have Mouse and Shampoo go with you. We'll see you back in Nerima, but I have to warn you there are things out there you haven't run into yet. There are dangers out there whose attention you might find you have just earned after your battle with Saffron." She chuckled a little. "I've actually surprised that they didn't notice you after your fight with Herb back in Japan, but this battle with Saffron will definitely have put you on everyone's radar."

It was Ranma's turn to raise an eyebrow, but she refused to speak further, simply hopping away on her walking stick.

Ranma stared after her for a few moments, wondering what that was about and what other threats were out there, but to his surprise felt his heart beat begin to pound, and a smile of excitement appeared on his face at the idea of facing stronger opponents. Still smiling he turned away stopping only to stare at Akane for a few moments before shaking his head and turning away. Within the hour he was gone, running with the ease of long practice over the hills and dales of the Amazon land down through the valleys towards the rest of China.

Cologne watched him go perched up in a watchtower with several of the elves other elders all around her. "I still say this is a mistake," one of them muttered but two of the others shook their heads and the third spoke up in defense of the move.

Loremaster Lotion very rarely agreed with Matriarch Cologne, which had something to do with an incident between them when they were maidens, and when she did agree with Cologne they generally swayed the rest of the council with ease. "The boy is too dangerous to try and tie down. The battle with Herb should've given us a clue, but this battle with Saffron was beyond anything even that could've predicted. And that doesn't even consider the two weapons he took from the Phoenix tribe."

A shudder ran through her and Cologne, the oldest there at the thought of what those weapons were and how powerful they were. The other elder however simply grew angrier. "We should've simply taken them off the boy, you can't imagine that he could stand up against all of us."

"I don't have so many counselors that I would prefer to bury the majority of you," Cologne said dryly. "Besides, I think the ship has sailed on making him a part of the tribe."

"It sailed long ago," said Lotion sharply, always eager to contradict Cologne any way she could. "Your great-granddaughter went about this hunt in a way that was certain to turn someone like the young Saotome against us. I'm only grateful that you didn't completely screw it up as well."

Cologne chuckled, shaking her head wryly. "I almost did. It was when he used the Fist against me that I realized what the boy had been through and the stupidity of trying to catch a wild animal with a stick rather than honey."

After that incident Cologne had simply backed away, occasionally joining in. She had trained Ryoga to be a better opponent for Ranma, but for the most part she simply watched events unfold. Ranma and his escapades were the most amusing things she had seen in decades possibly centuries. After that first attempt she had never tried to corral the wild horse, simply enjoying watching his escapades. And despite the fact that Shampoo and Mousse had a somewhat ambivalent relationship with Ranma, the training Cologne had given the boy had made certain that he looked upon her and through her the rest of the tribe as allies or at best acquaintances.

The other elder, whose name was Rinser and was more one of the more anti-male members of the council shook her head angrily. "I still don't like the idea of any male having that much power."

"And I reiterate, it would cost us too much to bring him to heel," Cologne said wearily rather tired of the other woman's bitching and moaning. "Besides, who says we're going to be letting him out and about without observation." She pointed down to the base of the tower where two hunters were preparing for a journey. Neither of them were has accomplished warriors as Tiger, who was not only in line to become a elder in the next decade or so but was also the head of the blooded warriors, the backbone of the tribe and the champion of the middle-aged class, but they were the best trackers and observers that the tribe posted.

"Those two will be able to follow him at a distance and observe, and if he needs help step in. And if he starts to return, or turns against us or allies with our enemies they will be able tell us."

Lotion cackled shaking her head at the thought of what other powers were out there. "I doubt that young man is going to run into anything he'll need our help with, but with his ability to attract trouble their reports should certainly make interesting reading."

Cologne joined her in laughter along with a few of the others though Rinser still was glaring around at them. After a while Cologne shook her head. "I'll take Mousse and Shampoo and head back to Japan. If there is one thing that is certain, it is that Ranma will return there if for no other reason than to talk to his mother."

All the elders nodded approvingly at that, both at the fact that Ranma held his mother in such regard and in acknowledgment of that fact. With that the group dispersed, leaving only Cologne to stare out at the lone traveler until he was out of sight. "I wonder what affect a human who has killed a powerful albeit rogue devil of the Phenex clan will have on the Great Conflict." She chuckled again shaking her head. "Should be amusing anyway."


For two weeks Ranma trekked through China, mostly taking his time, using his knowledge of the local language to get short part-time jobs to put a roof over his head a time or two, but mostly just enjoying being at out on his own and traveling again. Ranma always enjoyed traveling even with his old man, and not having Genma around was like having a ton of bricks removed from your back. Eventually he wound up at the port city of Xiamen.

As he was passing through the city's outskirts possibly to get on a boat or possibly to just to swim across to Japan he wasn't certain yet, he stopped when he heard a very odd conversation. He turned and retraced his steps, coming to what looks like a Christian missionary speaking to two others as they worked on renovating what looks like a broken down house. He wasn't certain why they were doing that, but decided to pitch in and help since that would allow him to listen to the conversation.

"I tell you the holy maiden has healing powers beyond anything I've ever seen! A man was brought in with a head wound that should've killed him in short order, but she healed him up in moments so that he walked out under his own power!"

"We live in a fascinating time when such miracles exist," said an older gentleman, who smiled approvingly at Ranma as he lifted up a bit of wooden frame, then went to work on putting the wall together with bricks and mortar. "Thank you, young man."

"No problem, it's a martial artist's duty to help other people after all," Ranma replied. It also helps that helps that I'm a master of martial arts construction, sort of a necessity given my fights with pig-boy. "But what are you guys talking about?"

"Are you of the Christian faith young man?" asked the young missionary.

Ranma paused for a moment then moved through even faster. The three men gaped as work which would've taken them several days, repairing a large hole in the wall and repainting the surface, was done in a matter of moments.

"I don't know what I believe," Ranma answered after thinking about it. "I'd like to think that there's some, you know nice, kind god up there, but I've seen too much in my own life to truly believe in something like that."

"Far too many people use that argument," said the missionary shaking his head. "They forget that God gave us free will, and it is from free will that both our greatness and our evil come. Only through following his teachings willingly can we achieve salvation."

Before the missionary could proselytize further the old man laid a hand on his younger fellow's shoulder shaking his head. This young man was helping them, and it would not be good to chase him off through too much preaching. "Well young man, you know that the head of the church is in Rome yes?"

Ranma nodded, and the old man went on. "Well there is a young woman there who has been raised by the church and who has a holy power. She can heal all injuries, new or old."

"It is a true gift of God, given to the faithful!" said the younger man his eyes shining with fervor.

Ranma and the old man exchanged a glance then looked away discreetly. The old man may be a priest, but he had been out and about in the world, and knew that not all good came from the church or its doctrine. That was especially true here in Asia, where the Buddhist and Confucian faiths were the dominant power.

"Interesting," Ranma scratched at his chin. "Maybe I'll look her up if I'm in the area," he said offhandedly, and the younger man sputtered indignantly at the very idea of just showing up and looking up the holy maiden like that.

The older man however simply chuckled and got on with his work. Not an hour later the house was repaired, ready to be turned into an orphanage. That would take much longer of course, but the house was sound enough now to pass initial inspection. The old man, whose name Ranma never did get, thanked him profusely, and then told him of a few ships he knew that were going to Italy carrying goods, having seen he truly was interested in meeting the holy girl.

Ranma thanked him, and set off quickly for the wharf. Within the hour he had hired on as a guard for the trip to Italy and twenty minutes later the ship was leaving port.

Behind him by a few hours the two trackers the Amazons had sent after him arrived at the wharf. They tried to find out where the ship he had gotten on was going, with little success save for 'somewhere in Europe'. After trying for over a day, even resorting to bribery at one point to figure out precisely where the cargo ship was going, they reluctantly had to conclude that the hunt was over, and returned to their tribe.


Except for one attack by pirates which Ranma dealt with easily, (guns were not exactly a useful weapon against a martial artist who could move faster than you could track, and felt that bullets were good hand eye coordination training) by dumping them all back into their boat after throwing their shattered guns off the other side, the trip was uneventful. It was long, three weeks in fact, but eventually they reached the port city of Genoa. From there Ranma made his way over the side of the cargo ship, not having any passport he couldn't go through customs of course, but that had never stopped him before.

Once he reached land he made his way across Italy towards Rome. He hooked up with a few gypsy bands along his way, having a good time with them despite their thieving ways which reminded him a little too much of Genma. Despite this however most of them were decent people and fun to be around, even if the girls were a little too touchy.

Soon however Ranma arrived in Rome and made his way through the city towards where he thought the Vatican was. He couldn't speak Italian, so he had been forced to revert to English to ask directions, and wasn't certain about his translation. He didn't speak English nearly as well as he spoke Putonghua or even Mandarin, and wasn't certain he had been understood.

It was late evening by the time he had reached the huge square in front of the Vatican, and when he did he was nearly bowled over by a small body racing through the scattered tourist and around the corner of the street slamming into his chest. "Owie!" said a female voice as the figure fell back, and Ranma rubbed his stomach a little amused.

He reached down with a friendly hand saying, in English, "sorry about that, didn't see you there."

The young woman, who looked to have blonde hair in the light of the street lamps and was wearing what looked like a nun's uniform, shook her head answering hesitantly in English "I sorry I not going look where?"

Ranma shook his head, looking at the tears in her eyes. They seemed a little more serious than any tears of pain she may have had from running into him like that. Her eyes were red rimmed with crying, and her clothing was a little disheveled. He picked her up easily, causing her to squeak rather cutely "EEP!" for a moment in surprise. He set her on her feet and began to wipe off her shoulders and dust her down. "I don't suppose you speak Japanese or Chinese?" Ranma asked, repeating himself in Japanese after Putonghua.

"Oh," said the girl clapping her hands briefly before raising one hand to wipe away the tears her of her eyes. "I speak Japanese, yes. I'm sorry I didn't, I mean I wasn't looking where I was going. I'm sorry."

"Don't worry 'bout it," said Ranma, letting his hand rest on her shoulder for a moment. "It looks like yer having some trouble anyway. Anything I can do to help? Anyone after you ya want me to beat up or something?"

The little girl goggled at the taller boy for a moment then giggled a little wetly. "No they're not," she frowned "they're not after me just, just angry with me. I suppose I have…" she shook her head. "I don't think you would understand."

"Try me."

The girl shook his head. "Really I shouldn't bother you with my troubles, after all you're probably here to pray aren't you?"

"Not exactly," said Rama shaking his head. "I was here to see this magic girl I heard about, though I never did get her name. Apparently there's a girl at the Vatican that can heal all wounds or something? You ever heard of her?"

The girl blushed a little and said shyly "Th-that's me. O-oh, I'm Asia Argento, pleased to make your acquaintance." She bowed formally.

"None of that," Ranma said waving his hands and smiling. "I ain't much for formalities. My name's Ranma, and if you are this holy maiden, then you're the reason I was here. I got a favor to ask."

Asia cocked her head quizzically, and Ranma motioned back the way he came. "Let's go find a place to eat, then I'll tell you why I was looking for you, and you can tell me why you look like you were crying." He looked down at her sternly. "It's a martial artist duty to help those in trouble," he said, smacking one fist against his chest and standing there like some kind of posing knight, channeling his inner Kuno in hopes of cheering the weepy girl up. "And if the young lady is in distress I will do all I can to help."

Asia giggled a little wetly again, but nodded and Ranma took her hand causing her to blush brightly. She followed meekly as Ranma led the way down the street towards a little café he had spotted on the way to the square.

As they walked Ranma took a moment to look Asia over again in more detail. She was dressed in a dark green and white classic nuns outfit, and a small white veil over her hair, with a small brown shoulder bag. She also wore a necklace with a cross around it, hanging loosely out of her habit. Asia's blonde hair cascaded down the back of her neck and shoulders almost reaching her read. She was also slightly older than he had first thought. There was a naiveté and innocence in her face that Ranma had thought denoted her age, to go along with a kindness that he could almost physically feel, almost as strong as Kasumi though not quite.

But judging by her body and the face, now much clearer in the light of the restaurants interior, she was only about four years or so younger than Ranma. Despite her blushing face Ranma could tell that she had still recently been crying, her light green eyes were puffy and red, and there was a resigned sort of air around her.

The two quickly sat down at the café, and when the waiter appeared with two menus Ranma looked at them irritated. He read English well enough, but this place didn't have its menu translated into English, and he looked over at Asia. "If you order I'll pay," he said it jokingly winking at her causing her to blush and stammer even more. "Calm down, I'm the one that invited you here, so I'm obviously going to pay but I don't know how to read Italian."

"O-oh, Um," she stammered looking down and reading the menu. "Um what kind of food do you like?"

"Something filling, I've tried spaghetti a time or two, and lasagna once." He smiled faintly remembering Kasumi and her enjoyment of making new meals. She only got away with it a few times, since her father, Akane and Genma were not exactly adventurous when it came to food (unless you counted Akane actually trying to make said, which could be called a sort of chemical warfare experiment). But after that French froggy, Picollete Chardin, had shown up she had been able to go a whole week of creating new and foreign meals before they started to complain.

"Oh that's easy then," said the younger girl nodding brightly and speaking rapidly to the waiter in Italian.

She looked wistfully at a few things on the menu and Ranma prompted "Get whatever you want, like I said the foods on me."

The girl nodded happily, and ordered something for herself. After the waiter left she looked across at Ranma shyly. "I, um what did you mean when you said you were looking for me? You look really healthy, unless you have some kind of long-term disease or something?" She blushed a little at how that first part could have sounded.

"Nah, nothing like that," Ranma said laughing a little, not understanding why she was blushing. "I don't think I've been sick a day in my life honestly, but I was hoping you could help me with something else. You see, I'm cursed."

The girl's eyes widened and she looked him over again but still couldn't see any physical sign of a curse. Just then a waiter walking behind Ranma lost his footing, and the glasses of water he had was taking to another table flew into the air. Ranma swiftly turned, grabbing the glasses out of the air but one of them had already upturned dumping the water all over Ranma's head.

The now female Ranma shook her head, clearing it of the water and wiped as much of the water off her chest as she could. With that Ranma turned back to Asia ignoring the gasps of alarm and shock from all around them, even the clicking of cameras as she smiled at the little girl. "See, curse. Born a guy, add cold water and presto, girl. Gotta admit that timing was better than most when it comes ta water findin' me, but meh."

Ranma grabbed another glass and heated up the water with a ki technique she had learned from Martial Arts Tea Ceremony then explained the curse and how he had gotten it. During this exclamation Asia kept on staring at him, then gasped again in surprise when the redhead dumped the now hot water over her head changing back into his male body. "So, you think you can help?"

Asia stammered for a few minutes then said "I, Um I-I don't know. I've never run into anyone that was cursed before, certainly not a full body magical change like that." Her eyes actually crossed at the amount of magical power that a similar spell would require, and made a mental note to never visit this Jusenkyou place.

At this point their food arrived, and Ranma shrugged. He dug into the spaghetti that the young girl had ordered for him, smiling at the taste. It was almost as good as Kasumi's, but not quite. His big sister was really quite good at cooking, as in five-star chef good.

Asia had ordered a simple hamburger of all things, but she seemed to be enjoying, it biting into it excitedly. She tried to speak, and it came out as a mumble "Iff crnnn stttrrlll trrnn…"

Ranma shook his head. "Chew then talk."

The young blonde blushed a little, poking two fingers together while she chewed for a few seconds. After she swallowed she said, "I can still try, but I don't know if it will succeed."

Ranma shrugged. "Honestly I've sorta gotten used to it, it's just everyone else's reactions ta it that piss me off, 'scuse my language. If you can help great if not that's fine too. Now, tell me what has you so weepy."

Asia frowned but at Ranma's firm look decided to explain. Since Ranma was already familiar with the supernatural maybe he really would understand. "I, I was kicked out of the church. Um, y-you see, my parents left me on the doorstep of a convent, and I've lived inside the church all my life. Since my powers were discovered, I've always been taught that my powers were a gift from God, and I firmly believe it. What I have, my power comes from something called a sacred gear. They are items of great power bestowed upon humanity by God. Mine is called Twilight Healing, and I can, well, use it to heal anything regardless of the severity of the wounds."

"The church would bring people to me to heal, and it was good, holy work. One day however as I was walking outside the church I came upon a man who was badly injured. I carried him to the church and healed him there, but I only realized after that he was, he was a, a devil."

Ranma had met a few demons in his life, the little oni that possessed people came to mind quite clearly, since his inability to turn Kasumi into anything more than a minor irritant had amused him a lot of the time. That and the fact that it thought that possessing Genma would make him safe from me, ah, good times. "But you're not talking about that kind of demon are you," he said aloud, not elaborating on what kind of demon he knew about. "What are devils?"

Asia looked at him in surprise, then nodded and filled him in on what she knew about the great conflict and the current truce between the followers of god, the devils and those angels who had fallen into sin. "A, after it was discovered my powers could heal demons as well, the priests and everyone, th-they said my power couldn't come from God. If I could heal devils, those creatures that have turned against God, then obviously it wasn't holy. S-so they kicked me out."

"That's BS," said Ranma trying to stop himself from cursing and only partially succeeding. "Not only are they takin' one incident, when ya didn't know who ya were healin' and blowing it outta proportion, but if God exists I don't think he's so much of an a- I mean idiot as ta give ya a power that can only help a select group of people. Besides, just because someone's a devil might not mean they're evil. I know at least two oni that are pretty decent, if a little crazy about their profession. Its yer actions that define you, not what ya were born as or what ya tell people ya believe, but if ya can walk the walk too. I'd say that you walk the walk better than these priests of yours do if you're willing to help those who need your help regardless of rules."

Asia blushed again, poking her fingers together as she looked down. "You're very kind Ranma-san," she said.

"No –san at the end there. And kind doesn't have anything to do with it, it's just understanding the way the world works," said Ranma shaking his head. "If ya want my advice, I would say screw 'em if they can't follow the tenets of their own faith. Ain't it the Christian faith that tells ya ta help those in need? I don't think it ever said anything about checkin' ta make sure they were 'the right sort' first."

Asia giggled at his irreverent attitude then nodded. "I think the same thing, I think if we all just tried we could all get along." She sighed sadly.

"Well if more people were like you I think the world'd be a better place." He said reaching across and patting her on the head through the nun's wimple she wore. She blushed brightly under his hand but pushed back slightly closing her eyes a little at the contact as a smile but very happy smile appeared on her face. Ranma didn't notice though, and simply kept on patting her for a few minutes.

After they finished their meal and paid Ranma led the way to his hotel room, where Asia would try to heal him. Ranma had also offered to put her up for the night, saying "I'll sleep on the floor and you can take the bed." At his stubborn look Asia couldn't find it in herself to refuse the offer.

Neither of them knew that they had been watched from the get go, and several people were rather irritated that this random individual had walked in right at the moment when they were going to swoop in and pick up the discarded holy girl. All three of the men were wearing decent suits, the sort that almost looked like they could double as cassocks if they had a stiff collar added to them.

"What should we do?" said one to another, fingering a large bulge in one of his pocket. The second man, who was somewhat taller and wider across the shoulders, frowned faintly. "Go for the soft sell first, we don't want to attract the church's attention here in Rome. If that doesn't work of course we can switch to brute force, but we'll have to do it quietly."


Asia looked around at the small hotel room that Ranma had rented for the evening, and Ranma shrugged defensively. "Sorry, but it's all I could afford and still have money fer food."

The young girl smiled faintly shaking her head. "It is all you have, and you are sharing it with me Ranma-san, that makes it more than enough. Kindness is a gift beyond price."

Ranma flushed faintly, rubbing her head again. "You're a good girl, you know that." Then he shook his head and moved on. "Now, how are we going to do this?"

"Oh," Asia exclaimed clapping her hands together lightly. "It's not anything all that difficult, um, just sit down please."

The pigtailed martial artist did so, and noticed that when sitting down his head was level with Asia's as she was standing up. The blonde girl brought her hands forward, and two silver rings appeared on either hand, set with a green stone, which began to glow, covering both hands entirely. Asia started to murmur some kind of prayer under her breath as she laid her hands on his chest. Ranma's eyebrows had risen in surprise, but he had seen far stranger things and he simply sat there quietly letting Asia work, not even trying his ki sight to see if he could follow it lest he mess her up somehow.

After only a moment she pulled back, her face an amusing mix of consternation and embarrassment. "I, I don't think it worked Ranma. I, Um I didn't feel anything sort of give way, like I think a curse would. I could feel it, er at least I think I did, but I don't think I'm strong enough to get rid of it."

Ranma shrugged philosophically. "You tried at least, that was all I could ask Asia-chan."

The little girl poked her fingers together some more, and Ranma shook his head at how cute she looked doing that. "Um, th-there" she stammered even more, "there was some, some damage that I, I repaired. It, um it h-had to do w-with…" she blushed again and looked away.

"I'm not going to blame you or anything, trust me I know who to blame for most of the damage my body's taken over the years. What was it, brain damage, long-term effects of a concussion, spinal issues or somethin' like that?"

"N-No nothing like that," Asia squeaked pushing her fingers together even harder. "It had, um w-well you know about pressure points?"

Ranma nodded and she continued, still looking very embarrassed. "W-well a few of them were, um, hit, a-and they were all t-types that had to be countered. They w-were the, um the ones that have to d-deal with…" She couldn't go on, her face was bright red as a tomato and she refused to look at Ranma now, looking away and there was actual steam coming out from under her white cap.

Ranma closed his eyes, concentrating briefly as he felt the energy of his own body. He was nowhere near a master with ki, but he was well beyond the journeyman level, and knew the energy of his own body intimately. Right away he could tell that something was different. The flow was faster, more natural if that was the correct word, and a lot more of it was going down towards the area below his stomach.

He tried to remember what he knew about pressure points, which came mostly from talks with Dr. Tofu before the man had left Nerima for some reason. Hmm… that is a renewal point, causing the energy of the body to flow faster, renewing itself. Okay, but this other point, what… it was on that chart in the doc's office, think for a second… Got it, that point's supposed to deal with the hormones and stuff!

Before this moment, those words had simply been words, just like the words in that stupid sex ed class they had all been forced to take, simply words of an unimportant subject. They made him blush a little, but it really didn't matter in comparison to a martial arts technique or a good hard fight. Only now did he begin to understand that that was probably not normal, and he growled. "Damnit Pops what the hell did you do to me?!"

He raised a hand and patted Asia on the head, which did not actually make her blush go away or lessen in any fashion. "I get it, you don't have to try to explain. I'm not certain why it was done, but I can tell somethin' was, don't worry. This might actually help a lot."

Asia continued to look away what with a faint blush on her face but she smiled and nodded.

"Now, Ranma said briskly clapping his hands together, "it's a little late, so why don't you get in bed, I'll go inta the bathroom and let you get changed or whatever. Then tomorrow, we can talk about what you want to do."

Asia looked at him quizzically, having thought that once she was finished trying to heal him they would go their separate ways, but Ranma wasn't about to let a young girl go off on her own. If the church didn't want her he could think of several groups that could, especially the gypsies that he had been traveling with. The gypsies might not have the best relationship with the rest of Italy, but they were more at home with magic and stuff of the mystical nature and would probably welcome her easily. He might actually have been willing to take her with him, but didn't want to drag her into his life unless he had to.

Even as he turned to walk into the bathroom however a knock on the door interrupted Ranma's thoughts. He looked at Asia and motioned her away from the door when she turned to answer it. While some may think him paranoid, Ranma had long learned that shit just happened around him, and knocks on his door at night rarely meant good things. The question was would that be the case here or was that just a Nerima thing?

He opened the door looking out. In the hallway there were three men all dressed in suits with wide-brimmed hats. "Yeah can I help you?"

"Not exactly," said the man in front, smiling affably, though it did not reach his eyes, "we're here to talk to the holy maiden."

Ranma's eyes narrowed, but he moved back nonetheless. He used ki sight for just a second and could instantly tell that only two of the men were human. The other was putting out some kind of power that he had never felt before. It felt oddly dirty in some way, as if was somehow corrupted.

He stood loosely, his entire body screaming nonchalance yet underneath that he was poised for combat. "Asia-chan, do you know any of these three?"

Asia peered under his arm looking at the three and shook her head. "No, I don't believe I've seen them around. Do, do you have something to do with the church?"

"You could say that yes, we work with them, but they would prefer not to acknowledge that publicly."

"And why would that be?" said Ranma shaking his head. He gently put a hand on Asia's stomach pushing her back behind him. He did not like the look of these three, especially the two humans. Despite the fact the other one gave off this feeling of his ki being corrupted, it was the other men who gave him the willies. Both of them had a sort of barely hidden mad looks in their eyes, and Ranma remembered seeing that same look in a few of the pirates that he had beaten up and dumped over the side of the cargo ship. They were all killers, the kind to kill for pleasure.

"That doesn't really matter to you does it," said the man in the lead, the one who had that aura of corruption. "We're here to talk to Asia Argento not you, and we would prefer that you left please."

"Not going to happen," said Ranma cracking one hands knuckles. "You have something ta say to her, you say in front of me. I'm not about to let a young girl with three strange men alone."

The man with the corrupted aura, who was a fallen angel named Macadamius, was about to point out that it was probably better than being with one strange younger man alone, but before he could one of the men behind him took matters into his own hands. "So much for trying to do it the soft way." He reached inside his jacket and pulled out a gun quickly pointing it at Ranma or at least attempted to.

By the time his arm was rising into the air Ranma was already moving, and the last thing the man's saw was his own fist slamming into his own forehead still holding the gun. After Ranma turned away after whipping them man with his own pistol he kicked out hard, sending the other man flying into the wall with the crash even as he desperately tried to bring out a pair of trench knives.

However this allowed the other person to suddenly transform in some fashion, his human form fading away to reveal blackened wings like a crow coming out of his back, and his hands suddenly filled with spears made of light. "I wanted to take Argento with us willingly, but willingly or not you're coming with so holy girl. That sacred gear of yours is too valuable to let you just walk around free."

He made to stab Ranma, assuming that his greater speed and coordination would overcome Ranma despite his previous show against the two humans. Yet Macadamius was shocked when Ranma's hands briefly glowed blue and he smashed the two spears to the side. "You were saying?" he asked chuckling and before the Fallen Angel could retreat Ranma was on him.

The Angel tried to raise his hands in defense, tried to summon his spears of light again, but he had trained with the spears exclusively, not in hand-to-hand. Within seconds Ranma's fist impacted his head with a shout of "Katchu-Tenshin Amiguriken!" What would have been one punch was instead over 600 punches smashing into his face in a little over a second. This easily overcame his natural endurance and Macadamius slumped to the ground unconscious possibly with a concussion or cracked skull, Ranma didn't really care. He had no kindness to spare on someone who had admitted to wanting to use Asia for her sacred gear thing. "Is this one of those fallen Angels you mentioned Asia-chan?"

Asia nodded her eyes wide and her hands over her mouth in shock at seeing a mortal human take on and defeat one of the Fallen.

Ranma looked at his fists contemplatively. Those Spears of like things have been interesting, and if they were outside the mobility of a guy with wings would probably have been able to offset Ranma somewhat, though Ranma was very interested in how it would stand up against the Saotome Air branch of Anything Goes. He smiled faintly, this was the kind of fight he had been looking for.

Tiger was right when she said that I enjoy the challenge of a life or death fight he thought to himself, but I also wanted to find a cause worth fighting for, not just ta feed my desire to get stronger or prove I'm the best. And it looks like I did. He looked over at Asia with a smile. "Let's get out of here," he said lifting her into his arms easily and moving towards the single window. A single kick shattered the glass and he jumped out into the night.

"EEEEP!" Asia had squeaked when Ranma had picked her up, and she squeaked again even louder as Ranma jumped out of the window into the night but calmed down when they landed easily on the rooftop of the next building over. Ranma raced along, noticing even as he did so that several more of the strange men had just raced into the hotel. However in the distance he could also hear a siren approaching, meaning someone else had reported the noise.

"Um, Ranma." Asia looked up at him. "Are you… I thought you were, that is…"

Ranma looked down at her. "I wasn't going to leave you alone before I knew people were after you, why would knowin' people are after you make me think anythin' different?"

But they're Fallen Angels!" she exclaimed, "They're much more powerful than any human can be."

"Not with the what da ya call it, the evidence lying unconscious back there they ain't!" Ranma answered shaking his head and laughing even as he raced on. Besides, do you really want to go back to just walking around alone? I thought we were friends?"

"Friends," Asia muttered looking down and blushing again. "You know," she said looking up at him her eyes wide and with a smile on her face. "That was one of my greatest dreams, just to have friends, to go to school like a normal girl, hang out and have fun!"

"Well stick with me imouto," he said laughing as she blushed brightly at the new honorific. "And I'll make certain you have as much fun as you can handle. "He went on more seriously. "No one is going to just use and abuse you for your power anymore Asia, or try ta steal yer sacred gear or whatever. I promise."

Asia looked up at her him her heart and her eyes for a moment then she nodded quickly, wiping away a few tears of joy. "Thank you," she said in a low voice snuggling in against his chest, then going on in a far more hesitant voice. "Thank you very much, o, oni-chan."

Ranma chuckled, a little embarrassed at the show of emotion, but he kept moving through the night putting as much distance as he could between him and their pursuers. Later he had a bit of an issue with Asia being motion sick and had to slow down, but by that time they were out of Rome and heading down to the sea.

OOO Ten minutes Earlier OOO

Gabriel sighed sadly. While as one of the Seraph she wasn't supposed to have much to do with the running of the church, she did tend to watch individuals that interested her in it from time to time, mostly to stave off of boredom during the times when she wasn't on duty. After all, during this time of peace the Seraph didn't really have much to do save protect Michael. "That's God you twit," she muttered aloud, though in actuality she could never quite remember to call Michael that since her older brother had taken on the role of God in the Heavens System. It had let them propagate the illusion that God was still around, yet because most of his time was spent dealing with the prayers of the faithful she had lost one of the few people that she liked popping to. The other Seraphim were nice, but she wasn't really friends with them the way she was with her brother.

She shook her head at that thought, turning back to watch one of the few mortals she had any interest in run out of the Vatican crying. It was harsh, and she wished they didn't have to do it. Asia Argento, the current holder of the sacred gear Twilight Healing, didn't deserve to be thrown out in the cold like this just because she had accidentally healed a devil. If she had done it on purpose that would've been another thing entirely, but she hadn't even known the man was a devil, Asia had just been her kind, helpful self.

Sometimes the reactionary nature of the church hierarchy gets to me," she muttered sighing sadly again. From their perspective they were simply tossing out someone who had pretended to have a gift from God, after all if it had been a true gift from God they would never been able to heal a devil or even have attempted to do so. It was a sort of black and white ruling that didn't really take into account human nature, the fact that she didn't know he was a devil in the first place, or anything about the real world. Even she, up here in heaven, and Gabriel knew herself to not be very worldly, could see that that was a mistake.

Oh, as an angel she knew that she was ruled by the idea of there being a stern set of injunctions that ruled her life, and that falling from grace was all too easy. Yet that was for angels, who were of heaven, not humans, who were not nearly as strong morally or mentally. They could try to emulate angels, and in doing so come closer to God, but they shouldn't be held to the same high standards if they strayed, especially if they did so unwittingly.

What was worse however was that Michael agreed with it. She had asked him to intercede on Asia's behalf, but he had denied that request citing that the laws of the church and of their religion were absolute. That made Gabriel question herself for a moment, as well as the religion they had set up. In the end however she was loyal to Michael and to God, and she would watch sad at what had to be, but she would not interfere.

Gabriel continued to watch Asia as she ran across the square outside the Vatican, then blinked when the poor little girl slammed into someone else at full rush, only to bounce back as if she had read run into a wall.

Her viewing Crystal couldn't pick up sound, but Gabriel continued to watch as the two individuals went off to get something to eat together. When she saw the curse Gabriel actually giggled aloud for the first time in she knew not how long. A little while later Gabriel watched astonished (after fighting with herself to not teleport to the Vatican and charge in her holy sword blazing) as this random human that Asia had met wiped the floor with a few church trained ex-demon hunters, as well as one of the Fallen. After calming down Gabriel recognized him as one of the weaker of the bunch, but still it was very impressive for a human to overcome any of the Fallen one on one. "Interesting," she muttered, then watched as the two raced off before sighing and standing up to start her watch over the throne of God. "I'll have to look those two up again later, they could be interesting."


Ranma and Asia soon arrived at a nearby port called Civitavecchia, and were looking around for a ship to take him back to Japan. There were very few of those however, yet eventually they did find one ship that was heading that way. It was actually a cruise ship that had just finished its European run, and was going toward Asia to start its Asian tour.

Ranma hadn't actually thought they would be allowed on, and had been thinking of ways to sneak aboard and hide out somewhere. But the captain, who was outside shaking hands as the current crop of guests disembarked, had taken one look at Asia and exclaimed in Italian, "The holy maiden wants to travel on my ship, it's an honor!" He bowed formally to Asia, then looked over at Ranma. "And you are?"

For a moment Ranma couldn't believe their luck, but he answered quickly enough, in English, "Her bodyguard."

The Captain frowned a little at that, but understood the words and nodded, allowing them to board without even checking their papers.

The ship left port about half a day later, and Ranma had very carefully made certain that none of their pursuers had gotten aboard during that time. Despite the fact that Fallen Angels seemed to have an ability to hide themselves under disguises, they couldn't hide their aura of corruption from Ranma's ki sight. So he went around with it on at least once every two hours while they were docked.

Once they left port they were able to take it easy for the three week trip. Asia make herself useful by helping the nurse of the ship with the few aches and pains that cropped up a time or two. Ranma made himself useful by helping the crew out with anything that needed his strength, something that put to rest the captains concerns about a young man guarding the holy maiden alone. Asia also spent time with the children's director, who doubled as a teacher on long cruises if need be.

It was a happy time for both of them, and they got to know one another better during it, asking questions about their pasts and their likes and dislikes and what they wanted to do in the future.

"I think my mom will really like you," Ranma said looking at the younger girl during one such conversation, carried out on the lido deck. "Kasumi will too of course, she likes practically everyone, even me," he said smiling a little. "And with their help maybe we can plan ahead, figure out what to do. I'm fine with keeping you safe and all, but I don't think you'd like to have to be on the run. We have to figure out a way to get them off your trail or something, and you said you wanted ta go to school, so we need to figure out a way ta do that too."

Asia nodded glumly, looking away. "I'm sorry I'm so much trouble."

"You're not trouble," Ranma said firmly, leaning over the table to rub her head again. "Trust me, I know trouble and you're not it. Besides," he smiled a little grimly. "I've been looking for a challenge, and something to fight for. Defending you fits the bill."

She blushed faintly at that, looking away as her heart thumped a little at how much Ranma sounded like a knight errant vowing to defend his lady. She looked up at him with her heart in her eyes, but Ranma had already turned away standing up to get some more food for the two of them.


The cruise ship arrived a week later in Sasebo, a port on the southernmost island of Japan, and the two disembarked, waving goodbye to the crew. The captain had actually offered to put them up permanently, and the idea had sort of appealed to Ranma but he didn't want to bring any trouble down on their heads, and he knew eventually more Fallen Angels would show up searching for Asia. Neither of them had been able to think of any way to dissuade the Fallen Angels from coming after her other than Ranma simply beating them up as they appeared, so they were sort of stuck with it.

After checking their funds Ranma decided to find a job for a day or two to get enough money to pay for a few nights in hotels along the way towards Tokyo. He couldn't go as fast as he normally could move carrying Asia, not because she was heavy or anything, but because she got motion sickness really easily (she had nearly thrown up on him three times during the run from Rome to Civitavecchia), which forced him to simply jog along rather than sprint as he normally would. And he was in no way going to force Asia to camp out unless he had to.

He held his hand out to her and she smiled prettily and took it, and the two walked off hand-in-hand. The crew followed them with their eyes for a moment then went back to their own work, sad that the two were leaving.

Soon Ranma began to see signs for a martial arts tournament, and he smirked. "If they have a cash prize that'll do," he informed Asia nodding his head toward the poster.

Asia giggled a little, liking how confident Ranma was, and hoping that a bit of that self-confidence would rub off on her eventually.

The two made their way in a normal fashion walking down the streets until they arrived at where the signs said the martial arts competition was occurring. It was a huge building, a major conference center in the city and every portion of it had been devoted today to different martial arts competitions.

Once again Ranma took Asia's hand, leading the younger girl inside through the throng of people here to see the competitions. Once inside he found the registration desk and went up to it. "Are you still taking registrations, and is there some kind of prize, cash preferably?"

The blunt question caused the man to look up in surprise but he answered promptly. "Yes there is a 100,000 yen prize to the winners of two of the tournaments, and a 500,000 yen prize to the winner of the kendo tournament. Do you wish to enter?"

"Yep, put me down as Ranma Saotome for both of the unarmed martial arts competitions," he frowned momentarily thinking about putting his name down for the kendo competition as well, then shook his head. "Just those two I think, no need ta be greedy, and it might be temptin' fate ta have anything ta do with kendo."

The man's eyes had widened at the name Ranma Saotome, and he quickly scribbled it down before standing up and bowing. "It is an honor sir, we don't many Nerima martial artists around here, but your prowess is well known."

Ranma waved that off and led Asia inside, neither of them noticing the odd glances his holding hands with this young foreign girl earned them.

He took a pamphlet from another worker, and leafed through it for a moment. "It looks as if the competitions are split up. There're a lot of smaller competitions happening all the time, but the kendo, judo and karate competitions are the main draws. The first qualifying portion of the kendo competition is at 1030, we're just in time for that one then the judo competition is at 12 in another hall, that's one o' the two I just signed up for. The semifinals for the kendo tournament start at two. The karate competition is at 3 and then the finals of the kendo tournament start at 5.

He knelt down to bring his head level with Asia's and said seriously. "Now if you see a tall youngish man with dark hair wearing the under uniform fer kendo and speaking in a bizarre Japanese Shakespearean accent, run. Do you understand, don't say anything just run. He's a crazy man, and I don't want them to get fixated on you. I get enough of that on my own."

Asian nodded. "That would be this Kuno person you mentioned? He sounds rather… creepy. Though I'm sure he has some goodness deep down," she added hastily, not liking to speak ill of anyone.

Ranma chuckled, but didn't try to argue with the second half of her statement. "That's Kuno in a nutshell, just stay away from him if he's here. I hope he ain't, but with my luck?" he shrugged.

The Italian girl giggled and nodded, having seen Ranma attract water like a lodestone at times, as well as several incidents with a few of the female crewman. None of them had been bothered by it, but he had been for very different reasons than normal.

In point of fact Ranma had made good his time on the boat by doing something that few of his acquaintances would ever have thought possible: putting his mind to work on something other than martial arts. He found a high school sex ed primer online and, most of the time blushing furiously, read his way through it, figuring out what all the words and terminology that he had ignored during those classes meant. He also learned how to control his physical reaction to seeing a pretty girl, as there were several among the crew and the other guests. Thankfully whatever Asia had done to heal him had taken away any aftereffects of having his libido artificially suppressed, so he was able to deal with it.

The two made their way over to watch the competition, after Ranma bought a tray of rice balls for Asia who munched on them happily. She loved trying out new foods, since the food at the convent was always the same day after day.

The two found a position to watch the competition, forging their way through the crowd as the first rounds of the kendo tournament began. Neither noticed that several people including two women, a mother and daughter pair, had seen the two of them and followed them into the conference center.

Ranma only had eyes for the competition, though normally he would have been rather dismissive of it. The reason for his concentration however was a single participant, a teenage woman, who moved like a tiger among sheep, kind of like the way he moved at times. He looked up at the electronic announcement board which showed the competitors names, and noted that her name was Busujima S. something, and his eyes narrowed as she glided into the ring. Every movement she made was utterly controlled and purposeful, and Ranma could already see that she was better than the vast majority of sword users he had met previously.

She was also drop dead gorgeous, more so than any of the girls aboard the cruise ship. She had purple hair, tied up now in a tight bun to fit under the kendo helmet, visible only as a thing line above her forehead. Her body, even hidden under the kendo armor was curvaceous and supple, and her face was angular and striking. Her eyes too were captivating, a lighter blue than his own, and he shook himself free of his daze with difficulty.

Despite having been on the ship for three weeks, Ranma had not truly dealt with the fact that he now had, well a libido frankly. There had been several girls among the crew, but not one of them had made him react so strongly as this one. Hell there were several pretty girls in the audience, but none of them had grabbed his attention like this one. It was the mix of strength and beauty, not just beauty that attracted him.

Ranma's assessment of the purple haired woman's skills was quickly proven, as she defeated her opponent with two simple moves, moving faster than he could react to.

However directly after that his other prediction came true, and he groaned, putting his head in his hands. "Why me, why does he always find me?"

Asia patted him consolably even as she blanched a little.

"Truly the gods have smiled upon the Blue Thunder of the house of Kuno, to let him see yet again this example of pure feminine beauty given form, your skills are superlative, your beauty unmatched, truly you are worthy to date me!"

Tatewaki Kuno strode across the kendo ring, his helmet under one arm as his other hand raised his bokken to the sky. He was precisely as Ranma had described him, though after a moment Ranma actually smirked a little into his hands. Kuno's normal spiel would be 'Blue Blunder of Furinkan High, guess he can't be that since he finally graduated after bein' held back a year. And I guess he ain't found a college mad enough, or stupid or greedy enough ta let him attend. And I gotta say, though I feel sorry fer that gal, this is actually pretty funny ta watch from the sidelines.

The woman tore off her helmet, letting her long dark purple hair spill haphazardly down her back and shoulder as she groaned aloud. "I have told you before pretender," she said coldly. "You are not worthy of my attention, not in skill nor looks nor attitude. And I will prove it again by beating you once more when we meet later."

"Alas fair maiden, thy attempts to dissuade me show only that you wish me to prove my powers before falling at my feet. Surely thou must love me, for the cowardly Saotome, that foul sorcerer is not here to steal away your soul from its rightful mate. Doubtless he cowers in some distant den, planning further villainy. Yet I digress, for our time is not yet come. Very well I will wait to prove myself to thee, for it has been prophesized in the stars that I shall be victorious this day, as the Blue Thunder always is."

Asia shook her head as the man walked off while the woman stood there grinding her teeth together before turning abruptly, bowing stiffly to the judge and making her way back across the training ground and out of the ring. "That was very strange."

"You have no idea," Ranma muttered then took Asia's hand, and forged their way through the crowd around the ring as the next match began. They wound up directly behind the woman with purple hair, and in Ranma's opinion it was magnificent hair coming down to the small of her back as she began to get it under control from her irritated divestment of her helmet moments ago. Ranma stiffened a little as the smell of her shampoo wafted to him, but shook it off quickly. "You have my condolences. I thought I was the only one that had to deal with that idiot."

The woman turned to him one eyebrow raised in surprise and Ranma smiled. "The foul sorcerer he spoke of, Saotome Ranma at your service," he said bowing and then holding out his hand.

The purple haired young woman bowed her head slightly and took his hand grasping it firmly. "So you're the one that he is always talking about having defeated? Has he ever actually done so?"

"Not a once," Ranma said cheerfully, ignoring the time Kuno had found that wishing sword and wished to defeat him, doing so when the sword transformed into a toy hammer, startling Ranma enough he didn't dodge the head strike. "I'm just glad he didn't notice I was here or he'd be after Asia and me as well. This is my sort of imouto Argento Asia." He pulled her forward and the younger girl blushed a little but bowed courteously.

The purple haired girl smiled faintly. "Busujima Saeko is my name. Do you know of any way to get that moron to leave me alone? Last time we met at a competition like this he tried to follow me home continually challenging me and saying that since I had beaten him he would allow me to date him." She rolled her eyes. "I'd rather not have to deal with that again and the only other way is to put him down more permanently."

Something in the way she said that caught Ranma's attention a bit and he smirked. "The thing with Kuno you have to understand is that I think he's a bit of a masochist."

The woman blanched then looked to the side to Asia who was simply looking on not knowing what that word meant. Ranma continued. "Every time you hit him, you're just feeding his fascination. Frankly I don't think he's the only one that has that fixation I've met in my life," and he shuddered a little at the abuse Mousse put up with from Shampoo. "So my suggestion would be to either walk away, or point him in another direction somehow."

"Are you volunteering?" she asked archly.

Ranma winced a little but nodded. "I'll make you a deal, if you come with me and guard Asia while I'm in my competition I'll keep Kuno off your back while you're in yours."

Asia blinked in surprise but shrugged. The woman seemed nice, and maybe this way should make another friend.

Saeko cocked her head looking down at the obviously European features of the younger girl, as well as the blond hair which stuck out like a sore thumb here. She wondered how these two had met and why Ranma was calling Asia his imouto but nodded. "Certainly, that sounds like a fair trade. So are you the Saotome Ranma, the one known as the source of all chaos in Nerima?" she asked standing up. She quickly divested herself of her armor, smiling faintly as Ranma looked away blushing.

"Yep, that's me, chaos magnet first class." Ranma groused, causing both Asia and Saeko to laugh.

As they walked through the crowd Saeko took a moment to examine the man in front of her. And she was not calling him a man just because he looked slightly older than her. No, there was something about his face and the eyes in particular, a look that spoke of experience that she saw in her father's face at times.

She raised one hand to her face as he pulled her and Asia into a story about the irritating young man with the sword fixation that had so often irritated her. It was nice to know that someone else had felt her pain, and she hoped that Ranma would be able to keep the kendo user out of the competition. Saeko had dealt with Kuno several times before this. Once she had run into Kuno during the semi-finals and he had simply appeared again after his defeat to interfere with the final match. If I lose another match due to outside interference ending the match as a draw, I will be most irritated.

They broke out of the crowded area around the kendo hall and Saeko found her eyes trailing Ranma as he moved through the now more dispersed crowd. There was a lightness and control to his movements that she had rarely seen in any martial artist. Even with Asia trailing him by one hand they didn't hit a single person as they traversed the crowd, showing a situational awareness and body control that was amazing.

"Can I ask," she asked as she moved beside him, keeping up with him relatively easily, "If there is a reason why you are here and why you need to win some money? If it's just money for a train ticket, I would be more than willing to pay for that if you can keep Kuno away from me the remainder of the day."

Ranma smiled. "Well if I had known that I probably wouldn't've entered, but since I already put my name in," he shrugged. "Besides," he said patting Asia on the head and causing her to flush a little, "I want to show my imouto here some more of Japan before we head back."

Saeko nodded, and then stood next to Asia as Ranma went to join the competitors. "So," she asked looking down at the younger girl. "How did you two meet?"

Asia flushed a bit, trying to think of a story that wouldn't have to do with being kicked out of the church or anything supernatural. She finally stuttered, "Um, we, um, we met in Italy and I had, um, run into some trouble with some… er some dangerous people there. Ranma saved me, and then, he, um, when he found out that I didn't have a home to go back to he decided to sort of adopt me as his imouto. And well, I didn't have any place to go so I agreed to come back to Japan with him."

Saeko nodded a little amused which showed on her face in a slight smirk at the amount of stops and pauses in that explanation. To say that was heavily edited for public consumption would be to put it very mildly indeed. I wonder what really happened. While there was some sort of affection between the two, it was obvious that Ranma at least didn't have romantic feelings towards the younger girl, though possibly the opposite was not as true. Saeko found herself more and more interested in these two that she had met by chance, and hoped that she would get the truth out of one or the other before the day ended.

A few rather boring matches went by, and Saeko and Asia chatted for a bit about books, then Ranma's name came up and they turned their attention to the matches. It came as no surprise to Saeko that Ranma easily dominated the competition. In point of fact several people bowed out the moment they heard his name, which was rather amusing to Saeko. She had heard of the Wild Stallion before as well, but the idea of bowing out of the tournament would never have occurred to her. If anything it would have made her excited in a way that she rarely became in these staid, oh-so controlled tournaments.

Swiftly Ranma overwhelmed the tournament, easily defeating all his opponents with the few bare basic moves and incredible speed. Saeko could barely follow it, and it became clear that none of his opponents could even do that much.

There was some muttering about it, and one man beside them shook his head angrily. "What's one of the Nerimans doing out here, as not fair, it's like watching a world champion fight children."

His companion shrugged. "He probably needs money or something. I think I remember Saotome from a few years ago, he was always with his old man who gave off this sort of slimy feel. The father never wore anything but a dirty exercise outfit, balding head covered by a bandanna like one of those old-style thieves from anime shows."

"Whatever," the man muttered angrily moving away and bumping into Asia roughly. He turned and was about to bark at her angrily, even more so when he saw she was a foreigner. But Saeko caught his eyes before he could and something in her own eyes caused him to flinch away.

Asia looked up at her quizzically and Saeko simply smiled down at her. "Let's go and congratulate Ranma shall we, and then I think we need to get back to my own competition."

The fifteen-year old blonde girl nodded agreeably and the two moved over to join Ranma where he stood fending off some well-wishers. "Hey you two," he said while collecting his winnings, "back to your competition I think Saeko-san?"

Saeko nodded, and led the way off, asking him what he felt about the local completion. The three were nearly back to where the kendo competition was taking place when a boy running past him with a bottle of water tripped, tossing the bottle of water high into the air behind them.

Both martial artists turned, one to reach down and help the boy up, and the other to try and grab the water bottle, but as so often happens with water and Ranma, luck did not go his way. Instead of grabbing the water bottle cleanly he tipped it over just enough for its contents to pour over him, despite the fact that he should've been able to catch it easily.

The now female Ranma shook her head angrily, sending water droplets everywhere. "Stupid, stupid, stupid water attracting curse!"

He looked over rather fearfully at Saeko, who was looking at him in shock. "If, if you don't want me around, I'll understand," he said a little disconsolately. "This seems to be sort of a deal-breaker when it comes to friends most of the time anyway. One way or another," he muttered the last bit under his breath. Being around Asia, who had taken his curse in stride and hadn't even thought of making fun of him about it, had opened his eyes to how badly Akane had reacted at first, and still reacted most of the time. None of the others were as bad, though the few guy acquaintances he had made were in their own way even worse.

"Why would I wish you to leave just for something like this?" asked Saeko quickly, reaching forward and grabbing his hand. "Though you will of course have to explain how that happened. I assume it's some kind of magic, I've heard about such in relation to what goes on in Nerima as well, though I had not thought it to be true."

Ranma relaxed a little and Asia to smiled and patted him on the shoulder. "You see Ranma," she said happily, "there are people who will accept the curse and you." The young girl had actually developed quite a bit of dislike for Akane after hearing Ranma's stories about his life. He didn't go out of his way to make her look bad or anything, but reading between the lines it was obvious that she was rather an abusive person. Maybe Akane didn't try to be, but that was how she came off as.

Ranma smiled down at her rubbing Asia's head again, and the three girls walked off, as Ranma filled Saeko in on how he had come to have his curse. Saeko immediately latched onto the fact that Ranma had some bad experiences in the past with people because of his curse, so she took it as calmly as she could not wanting to scare him off. This was more interesting than, well, anything she had ever run into, and it was utterly fascinating.

Then she thought of something, and she frowned. "You wouldn't happen to be Ranko-chan, the 'red-haired wild flower' that I have heard that blowhard Tatewaki mention sometimes would you?"

The redhead nodded glumly, "that's me. The idiot has had my curse rubbed in his face a few times, but whenever it comes down ta him actually seein' me change, he never seems ta see it. Which is why I'm taking a bit of a detour here." She pointed ahead of him where there were signs for bathrooms. "I'll join you two in a minute, but I really don't want to be in this form when…"

"Forsooth my day is complete for in front of me a sight not seen by these glorious eyes of the Blue Thunder has appeared! Not only the magnificent onna-bugeisha Saeko but also that glorious flower of feminine beauty and strength Ranko, both in one place. Truly my day is blessed."

Ranma groaned. "Frasa-racin, can't stand it, every single time," she muttered.

Through the crowd which parted ahead of him (since everyone in its could spot a psycho from a mile off, not because as Kuno thought of his own aura of command), strode Kuno, his arms wide as if expecting his ladies to leap into his arms. One hand held his bokken, and he had a wide and rather idiotic smile on his face.

Ranma looked around quickly, then swiftly moved through the crowd towards a window at as Kuno followed them, "wait oh magnificent queen of feminine beauty, I would date with thee!"

Behind Ranma, Saeko and Asia followed, and Ranma grinned back at the purple haired girl. For some reason the fact that she had purple hair didn't bother him at all despite the resemblance there Shampoo, since nothing else about her (well except for her beauty and her sizable chest) was at all similar to the Amazon. "You asked me how I get rid of Kuno, this is how."

Saeko moved back, smiling slightly as she realized a bit of Ranma's plan. Ranma quickly opened a window, and said flirtatiously "Alas Sempai, to date me you must first catch me."

Kuno laughed manically. "Ahh my feisty minx that must mean that you have finally broken the file sorcerer's spell, excellent, I will catch thee swiftly." He raced forward, not noticing that Ranma was standing in front of an open window.

The redhead waited until he was fully engaged in his lunge, then at the last second jumped backwards, off the edge. She grabbed the edge and as Kuno came through the window flipped himself up as hard as he could, kicking Kuno mule-kick style in the back. The impetus from this kick took Kuno who was already airborne rocketing him higher into the sky and away.

Ranma flipped herself back in, flicking her hair back over her shoulder nonchalantly. "And that," she said smacking her hands together as if dusting them off, "is how you deal with Kuno"

Saeko laughed while Asia looked a little worried for the admittedly odd young man. "Are you sure he's going to be on all right?"

"That won't bother him for more than a few hours," Ranma answered, shaking his head. "For some reason he's got the durability to take practically anything you throw at him and just come back a few days later as if nothing happened. Wish I knew how, then I could probably figure out a way around it."

"I have this urge to suddenly say that line from that stupid Pokémon show," Saeko laughed, "heheheh, What was it 'Team Rocket blasting off again'? And what happened to only encouraging Kuno when you hit him?"

"So I'm a slow learner sue me," the redhead said shrugging her shoulders which did rather interesting things to her chest since she was not wearing a bra.

Saeko noticed this, and also noticed how many men around them were looking at her. "In any event why don't you change back quickly, that fool can't be allowed to make us late."

Ranma nodded and quickly made her way to the bathroom, entering the men's side which caused some consternation by the few men in there. But she ignored their exclamations of shock dunking her head quickly in hot water changing back. He walked past the now stunned faces of several men ignoring them utterly.

He rejoined the two natural girls and they swiftly made their way over to the kendo competition, where Saeko quickly suited up and headed out for the semi finals. Thanks to Kuno and his interference they were indeed nearly late, but she arrived just in time.

Saeko's father had arrived during the time she was away, and he shook his head irritably. "What was that girl doing, she nearly missed her time."

"Our fault I'm afraid," said Ranma from behind him having taken up the position nearest where Saeko had stowed her gear. The old man turned to him and he went on. "We ran into Tatewaki Kuno if you know who he is."

The father groaned but nodded. "Yes I do know what who he is, the young buffoon has often plagued my daughter at other tournaments. We've tried to get him barred, but for some reason nothing comes of it. May I ask who you are?"

"Saotome Ranma at your service," the younger man bowed formally, and next to him Asia followed his lead, curtseying prettily.

Saeko's father, whose name was Tesoro, wondered why the young man's head was so wet, but decided not to ask that question, simply nodding. "I have heard of you, you come from Nerima yes? Why are you here at a regular martial arts tournament, wouldn't the competition be too low to interest such as you?"

"Needed the money," Ranma replied, shrugging and gently tugging Asia's hand. "My imouto Asia and I are traveling together at the moment, tryin' to get back to Nerima. But I want to show her some more of Japan before you do, and I'm not about to make her camp out with me, you know?"

Tesoro nodded approvingly. "And I take it you have befriended my daughter through shared misery shall we say?"

"Somethin' like that," Ranma nodded then they all turned to watch Saeko's match, which took a few minutes, mainly because her opponent tried to keep his distance. He also cheated a few times, using illegal moves, but Saeko was easily able to overpower him and win decisively, not ever having even been touched.

They all clapped and Tesoro nodded again. "Well done daughter," he said when Saeko came up to them.

Saeko shrugged. "Outside of cheating he had little skill tou-san," she frowned a little. "I don't think I will find much competition here in all honesty. Despite his attitude Kuno was easily the best of my competitors, and I've been able to beat on him for a while."

Ranma paused for a moment then changed what he was about to say. "From yer skills I could tell that yer good, though I'm not certain you could beat him if he went all out. He tends not to use his most dangerous techniques against girls, one of them is a mid-range attack that uses air pressure, and it nearly got me the first time he fought me. Has he ever used that against you?"

"Not in a competition," Saeko said promptly smiling at the way Ranma had brought up the topic. If he had simply said that Kuno was holding back against her she would probably have taken umbrage at it. "He did however ambush me one time last summer and he used that attack then. He damaged the building we were fighting in quite a bit with it, but I was still able to dodge it for the most part." She touched her side a little gingerly. "He caught me once, but I was already inside his range and my bokken to his neck knocked Kuno out."

She frowned a little at that. After all, that blow had been meant to completely incapacitate him rather than simply knock Kuno to the ground unconscious. She had intended to at least break a few bones with it, but Kuno was back the next day in the competition as if nothing was wrong, still trying to woo her.

Ranma grinned his eyes lighting up with eagerness. "Well in that case, would ya want a match against me after this competition is over?"

Saeko's eyes lit up as well, and she smiled. "I would be delighted."

The two of them looked at one another, a sort of tension crackling in the air between them until Tesoro coughed delicately. "That will be for later however, I don't believe though you will be able to use the grounds here after the competition. You would need to get permission, and I don't think they would allow it, unless you wish to try to see if you could convince the competition committee that it would be an exhibition match to end the tournament with."

The two younger martial artists shrugged, and then with Tesoro trailing them made their way over to the other competition Ranma had joined. This one was pure judo, and it took a little while longer for Ranma to dominate the competition, but soon enough it was done and Ranma walked away another thousand dollars richer.

"Impressive," said Tesoro as they once more made their way back through the crowds to the kendo tournament. "I see the rumors about how far above the norm Nerima martial artists are is correct."

Ranma shrugged. "Honestly, in terms of skill a few of the guys here could probably hang with at least the middle ranks back in Nerima, it's strength, endurance and speed where most people simply can't keep up. I mean I would call Akane, who is by far the weakest in the area, at best a green belt in karate. But she is so strong that if she connects with even one punch a normal person's going to be out of it, hopefully with just a few broken bones. Of course the high-level fighters, well there's normal and then there's us."

It wasn't said arrogantly, Ranma knew how good he was, and he knew what he had sacrificed to get that good. He wouldn't have it any other way of course, but that didn't blind him to the deficiencies in other aspects of his life.

Saeko nodded thoughtfully. "So where would you say I would rank?"

Ranma looked a little uncomfortable for a moment. "I…I don't know. In terms of skill I would say you're better than three of the four top female fighters, but… I have to say that only one of them ranks in the top five of our age group and I don't think yer at the same level as she is. I haven't seen everything you can do" he said hastily watching her eyes narrow dangerously, "But ya asked for my opinion."

She kept glaring at Ranma for a few minutes then nodded. "I suppose that's fair, but that most definitely means I need to spar with you later."

With that they reached the kendo tournament for the finals, where Saeko would face first one opponent then the winner of another match in the finals with only a five minute break.

Rather irritated with Ranma's comment Saeko's form was slightly sloppier than normal, but her speed and strength was nowhere near as controlled as she normally was. Saeko normally would keep her speed and strength down at tournaments like these so as to not humiliate her opponents since that would be bad form. Now however she didn't care for that, and walked out of the first match not one minute after entering having scored a full point via head shot. The same happened in the final match, causing the crowd to mutter a little irritably at the rather anticlimactic end to the tournament, but Saeko didn't particularly care.

She rejoined her father Ranma and Asia swiftly. Ranma asked brightly, "So, since this competition stuff is going to go on for a few more hours, how 'bout we go get something to eat now, and then we could come back to see if we can convince the competition committee ta let us use one o' their rings."

"That sounds like a lovely idea," Saeko said smiling a little coldly at him which caused him to flinch and move away. "I am looking forward most eagerly to test my skills against yours."

"You young ones go on," said Tesoro. "I ate before I arrived, and there are one or two people I wish to talk to here."

Saeko nodded, and moved off to change out of her training gear.

When she came back Ranma stared for a moment before looking away with a blush. Saeko's body was fantastic, he had known that the moment he saw her, but in regular street clothing it was even more obvious. She wore a long skirt and blouse combination, which despite not being that form-fitting was very complementary. This was especially true in the chest area, where Ranma could now tell that Saeko actually had slightly larger breasts then Shampoo. At least they stuck out more, they didn't look as full as the Amazon's, but he actually had to stop himself from wondering what they would feel like, and he breathed deeply forcing a certain bodily reaction back down.

He shook his head, trying to get control of his recently found hormones, wondering how the hell he would react back in Nerima when Shampoo did that glomp attack of hers. Like it or not my old man might have actually done me favor when he killed my libido, since it kept me from reacting to any of my fiancées and encouraging them that way, or simply getting even more pummeled by Akane than I did. On the other hand, maybe if I had hormones and all that in Nerima, maybe I would have realized who I liked, if anyone, sooner and done somethin' about it.

Of course his look had been noticed by Saeko, and she flushed a little then smiled. She moved up towards him, taking one of his arms in her own and snuggling into it. "So where are we going? You're the one with the money after all." She purred this a few inches away from his ear and she could feel him shudder in reaction causing her to giggle.

Ranma had to fight his Tomboy Indoctrination™ for a moment, looking around wildly to spot the incoming mallet, and was almost surprised that Akane and the rest of the crazies didn't appear out of nowhere. He breathed in and out for a moment, calming himself, but did not move away, simply smiling at Saeko.

Asia pouted a little at this and looked down at her own chest then back up to where Saeko who had pressed Ranma's arm between her breasts. Asia sighed disconsolately then cheered up as Ranma took her hand with his free arm. Still blushing Ranma led the way out of the conference center.


Behind the trio four individuals came together before moving away from the crowd into an abandoned service hallway.

One of them, a short young looking girl with normal Japanese features black hair and a simple everyday dress immediately dropped her disguise shaking her head and groaning muttering angrily, yet her voice still sounded rather young and cutesy. "I hate that disguise! Why can't we come up with something different?" Under her disguise the girl was young blonde haired blue eyed European looking girl who wore an extremely frilly Gothic Lolita dress, though the most surprising feature had to be the two black wings looking like raven wings flapping behind her.

The woman who had been posing as her mother had also changed. Where before she looked rather frumpy and uninteresting, now she had a frankly dynamite body. She was tall, very curvy with long, navy blue hair that obscured her right eye and brown eyes. The clothing she wore was so obscene she would probably be arrested for public indecency if she wore it during the day, consisting of a violet, trench coat, a matching miniskirt, with the trench-coat open to show a lot of her chest. "You know why Mittelt," the older woman said smirking down her. "Not our fault your body never grew up."

"Shut it milkbags," the young seeming girl named Mittelt shot back angrily for a moment losing her cutesy sounding accent.

"Now now," said one of the men with them, a rather elderly looking gentleman with a finely groomed goatee and somewhat spiky gray hair. The only thing that changed about him when he dropped his disguise was that his wings appeared behind him, and his shoulders widened a bit. "Kalawarner, MIttelt, this isn't the time to argue among ourselves, not when chance has brought us such a prize. Who would've thought that on our way to join up with Raynare we would stumble on another sacred gear user?"

"I know," said of the fourth person excitedly. He was a middle aged man, with a sort of wild look to his eyes and his hands were clenching and unclenching. "And more than that, it's the Twilight Healing user, the one that our friends in Italy were supposed to nab after she got kicked out of the church. This will be a major feather in our caps."

Mittelt shook her head. She had her own concerns about their recent orders, they didn't seem the kind that the boss would give them, since he had always seemed concerned with keeping the peace between the three factions going. It wasn't as if she'd misunderstood that after all, the fallen angels were by far the smallest group, and though they were the most flexible and possibly individually powerful they couldn't renew their numbers as easily as the devils, and couldn't call on the number of humans the angels could. That was why Azazel-sama was so interested in the sacred gears after all, which gave their orders some credence. Or would, if not for the fact that the sacred gear user Raynare had found was in territory that was controlled by two noble devil clans.

Still she mused herself, taking out the twilight healing user at least isn't likely to upset the balance of power.

The old man, whose name was Grimaldi and who was their leader for now, nodded decisively. "Indeed Dohnaseek , we'll take them as they come back. Those two humans were talking about having a match together."

Dohnaseek had been the one to spot the sacred gear user and he grinned evilly. "I bet those two will try to fight us, and there was a report about Macadamius being beaten by a human. I think we need to show him why humans are at the bottom of this food chain."

The other three all nodded chuckling a little at the idea of a human being any danger to them. They all thought Macadamius had probably just been surprised in an enclosed space or something, unable to use his weapons because of the way he needed to keep a low profile while in Rome. Surely no human was a real match for a fallen angel?


Ranma and the two girls had found a nice little restaurant and had a very nice meal together getting to know one another even more. Ranma let Saeko and Asia dominate most of the conversation, though he contributed several times. When that conversation turned to his curse however both girls were very interested in what he had to say. So is it... well, you know, complete?" asked Saeko, speaking slowly in her attempt to say what she meant without giving offense.

"If by that you mean do I get periods, the answer is yes." Ranma said a little grimly. "The time sort of adds up only when I'm in my female body, so it's almost random. I can't keep track of it very well, but I've had it happen three times since this happened to me. While I've aged since I got my curse, I mean my female form's a little taller now than when I first got it, but the purely female stuff like that doesn't carry over."

Asia giggled and poked him in the side. "Yes but you wouldn't like chocolate as much as you do if you didn't have it. I had to drag you away from the chocolate cake that one time on the Princess Anne." The Princess Anne was the cruise ship the two had travelled on from Civitavecchia.

Saeko looked at him with one eyebrow raised and Ranma shrugged. "Chocolate just tastes different when I'm a girl. When I'm a guy I could take it or leave it, it ain't exactly my favorite thing, but when I'm a girl," Ranma actually shuddered a little. "It's out of this world."

Saeko's eyebrows rose in surprise, as she knew several boys at her school that enjoyed chocolate and sweet things almost as much as girls. "Interesting, now," she leaned forward, "tell me more about these rivals of yours. Besides Kuno are there any sword wielders among them?"

"Not exactly no," Ranma shrugged. "Most of 'em are trained in other ways. Shampoo, the one female fighter in the top five I told you about," Saeko nodded a little grimly and he went on hurriedly. "Shampoo sometimes uses a Chinese spear, twin swords or twin bonbori. The maces seem to be her favorite weapon, but she can use the others decently. The guy who's after her, Mousse, he can use practically any weapon though he isn't very proficient with them. It's just, you know how he can use all of them at once that makes him dangerous with 'em."

"All of them at once?" Saeko asked, one eyebrow rising again in query.

"Mousse is a hidden weapons user, and his most devastating attack is just lifting his long sleeves and throwing everything inside at his opponent. Trust me that wasn't fun the first time it happened. The kitchen sink was a surprise but easy ta dodge, the whole rack of used swords was a bit more of a challenge."

Saeko's eyes widened then she laughed. "Sounds rather fascinating and I am becoming even more eager to see where I would stack up."

A little after that they finished their meal and after paying the group walked back to the conference center.

Suddenly Ranma stopped, looking around and motioning Asia to get behind him. Saeko too looked around having noticed what Ranma had. Where before there had been the normal hustle and bustle of the city, now suddenly there were no people around, no cars moving down the road next to them. For a busy city street like this, that was beyond unusual.

Saeko dropped the bag she had been carrying pulling from it the kendo blade she had been using in the tournament. Ranma simply stood there, his entire body looking relaxed but Saeko could tell you that he was tensed and ready for action.

"Little sacred gear users shouldn't be out all alone," said a cackling voice, and suddenly four people stood around them. Two of them were flying in the air, their hands already full of spears made of light, their black wings flapping gently as they hovered there. "Or else they get their asses kicked."

One was a man, and Ranma stared up at him, his face telling Ranma all he need to know about his personality. Ranma was sort of a combat junkie, but he cared about causes too, using his skills for the good of others when he could. The male fallen angel hovering above them had the look of someone who fought just for the hell of it, and didn't care if his opponent died either. The other was a woman, a young looking blonde girl in a Gothic Lolita outfit.

There were two others standing behind them, one an elderly gentleman who stood there calmly without his wings extended next to a woman whose outfit caused Ranma to nearly blush but because he was in combat mode at the moment he merely looked away quickly.

It was the old man who spoke. "Enough Dohnaseek, remember we still wish to keep a low profile and any damage done to the environment will remain after our spell fades. Humans, we just want the sacred gear user. Let us have her and you'll both be allowed to walk free."

"And alive," said the guy whose name was apparently Dohnaseek.

"Not gonna happen," Ranma answered, cracking his neck and rolling his shoulders. He looked over at Saeko, not even questioning whether or not she wanted to get involved. Despite having known Saeko for only a few hours Ranma had a good enough handle on the purple-haired girl's personality to know she wouldn't run. Saeko was a fighter looking for a challenge, much like Ranma himself. He whispered, "Asia, when I start movin' go and hide behind one of those cars. Saeko, you think you can hold off the two on the ground for a bit?"

Saeko lazily moved her katana from one side to the other, smiling faintly. That smile however was belied by her eyes, which were crackling with sudden eagerness. "I believe I can manage, yes."

The Fallen Angels scoffed, but before they could even move Ranma was suddenly gone from where he had been standing, having leaped into the air his hand flashing out with Amiguriken speed to pommel Dohnaseek in the face. This sent him flying back through the air before Ranma, using the momentum of his strikes, flipped away his kick catching the Goth Loli girl in the shoulder sending her spiraling away for a moment.

Dohnaseek reacted quickly however recovering and moving in his spear thrusting toward Ranma. "Idiot!" He shouted, laughing "You're a sitting duck in the air!"

Ranma however shattered his spear with one hand, while using the other to grab one of Dohnaseek's outstretched arms, flipping himself higher into the air, kicking Dohnaseek in the head forcing him down towards the ground. Instead of flipping away Ranma grabbed the other mans shoulder, hammering his back with blow after blow.

A second later Ranma pushed off catching the blond girl who was recovering much slower than the man with a kick to the chest that sent her flying backwards to slam into the side of a building behind her. The younger girl gasped in agony, holding her chest.

As swiftly as Ranma had moved, Saeko had still been prepared and she moved as well. She was nowhere near as fast however, and she found her blade blocked by a red spear of light. The wood of her bokken began to sizzle where it met the spear shaft. She stared across at the other woman, who smirked at her. "So sorry, but while he may be more than he appears, you are just human. Which means around here you are very low on the potent totem pole indeed."

"Really," Saeko grunted a little straining against the other girl, "at least I don't have to dress like a slut to get attention."

The woman's eyes narrowed dangerously and she pushed harder, but that was what Saeko it wanted, and she suddenly pivoted unlocking their blades and slamming the girl in the chest with a blow from the bokken's pommel before she could recover from her push. Regardless of her lower speed than Ranma, Saeko was still quite strong, and in terms of physical strength fallen Angels were not actually that much stronger than humans. Not ones with only one wing who didn't specialize in combat like this woman.

She gasped in agony holding her chest where the blow landed and moving backwards, but Saeko was a blur of motion pushing her hard and landing two more strikes quickly, her eyes alight with delight, and her body beginning to respond as it always did when she pushed herself to the limit, when she knew that she was in a fight to the death and held that same power in her hands.

However Saeko was forced to break off abruptly ducking under and rolling to the side as the older man joined the fight slamming a much larger spear of light down to the ground. This one looked more like some kind of halberd rather than an actual spear, and from his back sprouted two wings.

He nodded amiably at the female human, "I admire your spunk child, but I believe that when one is outclassed one should realize it."

He attacked swiftly, and it was all Saeko could do to raise her blade in time to catch it. Despite this the blade proved no protection, and it snapped under the impetus of the blow throwing Saeko backwards, the spear of the halberd barely missing her chest.

Saeko grunted as her back slammed into the ground but got her hands underneath her pushing off and rolling swiftly to dodge another blow from the other woman who had swiftly gone on the attack again. Saeko grimaced, keeping her distance and moving away from Asia trying to keep their attention on her until Ranma could come to her aid.

This aid came swiftly in the form of a thrown sword embedding itself in the ground in front of her. "Use that," he shouted, then turned back to knocking out the young girl. It was the Gekkaja, a large two handed blade with a wide two handed hilt to it, and a very odd, large shaped blade where the pommel would be, presumably to help offset the weight of the rest of the blade.

The power it was giving off caused the woman to backpedal fearfully. "What!" she exclaimed "where the hell did you get something like that?!"

Saeko however didn't question things like that at the moment, nor did she complain that it wasn't her type of blade, it was a blade and that was enough. She simply lunged forward grabbing the hilt, hissing as the coldness of the thing hit her as she moved swiftly, closing with the woman before she could back away. The woman frantically filled her hands with two spears of light, crossing them to block the incoming blow.

Unlike her simple wooden bokken the Gekkaja not only met the woman's frantic defense with her spears of light but shattered them, slicing forward to cut into her chest opening her up from stomach to shoulder.

"AGGH!" The woman screamed, backing away on unsteady legs, her hands going to her massive wound trying in vain to somehow keep it closed. "Where," she gasped "That blade, so powerful, where…." she went to her knees still moaning, and Saeko swiftly drove her knee into the woman's face turning to block the now not at all amused halberd of light from the older man.

"It appears that that young man is more than we assumed," he said grimly. "Forgive me, but I must finish you off quickly and deal with him. That blade is one that you should not be wielding."

Saeko gasped, but she was able to barely keep the man's halberd point away from a killing or crippling blow. She was cut a little around the edges, her clothing becoming torn about her but she was still game, and her breath began to quicken, the enjoyment of the fight causing her to juices to flow.

The man was rather surprised that the young woman was holding up so well, but that was because unlike humans Fallen Angels had always relied only on their given abilities. They had never developed combat styles, though many of them of course had enough experience which offset that. Saeko however was a tremendously skilled swordswoman, and could read the little tells in his body despite how fast he was moving just enough to keep herself alive. Even with the blade Ranma had thrown her however Saeko knew that this fight was beyond her, and she grimly kept backing away.

Ranma turned from knocking out the younger girl, catching Dohnaseek's Spears of light in a blazing blue fist. "What the hell are you?!" Dohnaseek shouted, "No human should be able to do this! No human should have a demonic blade of that caliber!"

"You shoulda come ta Nerima pal," Ranma grunted as he kicked out catching the man in the chest and forcing him backwards. "You'd be rather surprised."

The man recovered swiftly, trying to bring his spear around shortening the haft to catch Ranma as he dove in, but Ranma clipped his arm throwing it up and opening Dohnaseek's body for another Amiguriken round of punches. This threw Dohnaseek backwards to join the younger girl against the far wall of the building.

However Dohnaseek was made of sterner stuff and he tried once more to get to his feet. He looked up at a muffled squeak from nearby, realizing that Ranma had accidentally kicked him near the holy maiden. He sprang forward, one blade going around Asia's throat and she squeaked in fear. "Normally I wouldn't do this," he gasped, blood running from his mouth. "But that blade you tossed that girl changes things. You just stay where the hell you are, or this girl dies right now. Grimaldi will finish your friend off soon, then we'll deal with you."

Ranma nodded backing away slightly. His eyes however were very hard indeed, and he stared back at the Fallen Angel. "You know I wasn't going to hurt any of you guys that badly, you just changed that."

"I think I did too!" said Dohnaseek laughing. "I OOWW!" He broke off yelling painfully as Asia bit him on the arm. It was all she could do, until he let go little then she was able to bring her elbow around in a move that Ranma had taught her while on the cruise ship, catching the older man in the testicles. She jumped away then blushing a little at where her elbow had just been but backing away quickly.

"Thatta Girl Asia-chan!" Before the man could recover from the Asia's elbow blow Ranma was in his face and there was a squishing sound. Dohnaseek looked down gasping as he saw that Ranma had just thrust his hand all the way through Dohnaseek's body. "I don't like people who take hostages," Ranma growled, "especially not bullies who have suddenly realize they aren't the biggest bullies on the block."

Ranma pulled his now bloody hand out from the gaping wound he just thrust through Dohnaseek, and a kick sent the dying fallen Angel skittering away around along the ground.

With that he swiftly turned, opening up his weapon space again to pull out the second of the two swords he had taken from Saffron. The one he had tossed to Saeko was the ice one, this one was the heat based staff that Saffron had used as his primary weapon. It was a short staff, with what was basically a chakram stuck on one end to serve as cutting edge, with the other edge being a small maul-like point. The thing also once had metal hand guard things sticking out form its side, but Ranma had been able to remove them.

Ranma dove down joining the fight against the fallen angel with two wings, wielding the strangely shaped staff with ease.

Grimaldi suddenly found himself backing away from both of them, barely keeping his halberd between his body and their questing blades. He couldn't even get into the air, where his natural abilities might have been able to offset their blades, because every time he tried Ranma leapt up with him and hammered him back down. Trying to fight someone who had trained in the Saotome School of Anything Goes in the air was a losing proposition anyway, and the one time he was able to get some distance between them and into the air, Ranma easily overpowered him forcing him back down into the range of Saeko's questing blade. He was tempted to try and retreat entirely but these two were probably not going to let him.

Eventually Grimaldi made one mistake, backing away until his left side hit a main post, and then gasped as that opened up his defense, letting that arm out there a moment too long. It was just enough for Saeko to glide in cutting his wrist from the wrist up to his elbow. His halberd disappeared for just a moment as he transferred it to his other hand, and that was enough for Ranma to land a blow to his chest with the chakram end of the staff, which sliced him open across the stomach.

"Why," he gasped as he fell to his knees, "why do you have those weapons, those things, I have seen them, some, somewhere before..." With that Grimaldi fell forward, the light leaving his eyes.

After Grimaldi fell to the ground dead the spell he had woven around the area to keep people away and to cover their activities faded slowly, while at the same time the bodies of the two fallen Angels began to swiftly turned to dust. The big breasted one, having fallen first was already a pile of ash.

"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust," Ranma said shaking his head. "They're a very clean sort of enemy aren't they?"

Saeko chuckled a little but now without her adrenaline pumping through her she began to feel exhaustion. Pushing her body that hard to keep up with her enemies had taken more out of her then a week's long tournament, and that didn't even consider the amount of wounds she had. None of them were serious alone, but the cumulative effect was very debilitating.

She sagged backwards, only to be caught and Ranma's arms which when around her waist holding her up easily. "Easy there Saeko-chan, I've got ya."

Perhaps it was the excitement she always felt after a good fight, perhaps it was her enjoyment of finally having fought to her utmost, along with the fact that this had been real, and pain inflicted on both sides, or maybe it was her attraction to the young man who had fought beside her. Whatever the case, something gave Saeko enough courage to turn in Ranma's arms to kiss him on the lips.

Ranma stood there stunned for a moment, then his newfound hormones grabbed his body's reins and he returned the kiss, not deepening it but keeping it the same. As he felt Saeko's firm womanly body against his own his own body began to react, his pants tightening noticeably, and his arms going around her.

A moment later her they broke off and Saeko moved back, shaking her head. "Sorry ," she panted, "Th-that was inappropriate at the moment." Around them the spell finally faded, and people and cars began to once more move along the street coming towards him from both sides.

Asia ran up from where she had been hiding, her hands already glowing with healing power as she ran up to Saeko. Are you all right? Don't worry, I'll heal you right away."

While the young girl got to work Ranma turned on his ki sight, trying to figure out the power beyond the young girls ability to heal. For a moment he thought he detected something, some kind of energy connection between the two, but the next moment it was gone. Hmmph, I'll figure it out eventually.

Saeko looked on in surprise as the young girl began to heal her wounds simply by laying her hands on Saeko's body. "Why do I get the impression that you left out quite a bit about how you two met?"

Ranma laughed. Possibly because you're smarter than the average Kuno." He gently reached out and took the large sword from Saeko, and it and its twin disappeared into his hidden weapons space.

"That is is a very interesting trick" Saeko said approvingly. "You think you could teach me how to do that? And did you notice that those two seemed to recognize something about those weapons? What is their story by the way, that one I wielded gave off this aura of intense cold, and it was all I could do to hold onto it."

"They're spoils of war, I'll tell ya about them some other time. But yeah I noticed that, I think I need to speak to an old ghoul about it. That means no sightseeing trip so, sorry Asia."

The younger blond girl smiled. "That's fine Ranma, as long as we're together I'm happy, having friends is the most important thing to me."

Saeko chuckled reaching for to rub the little girl's hand smiling a little wider as she pushed her head against the hand. "Well now you have two," Saeko said proudly bringing one hand up to thump against her chest causing her breasts to wobble in a way that grab Ranma's attention for a moment. She smirked at him, and but went on seriously. "Whatever those four wanted with you, it is a samurai's duty to protect the innocent from such."

"Does that mean you want to travel with us?" Ranma asked as the trio began to move along the street, not wanting to stay here lest someone noticed the damage to the buildings and the concrete of the road.

Saeko shrugged. "I have one more year left in high school, and I have to admit that I truly had not thought about what I wanted to do with my life other than continuing to learn the ways of the sword. Yet in today's day and age, there is very little room for swords women, even one such as myself. I thought of eventually joining the police or the Army I suppose, but this looks much more like a cause worthy of my blade." She smirked suddenly, nudging Ranma in the ribs. "Besides, this way I can get training as well."

He shrugged but nodded, pulling out a shirt from his hidden weapons space for Saeko to use to cover herself up. Her own shirt had taken quite a lot of damage, as had her skirt. She gratefully pulled it on, then thought to herself, And this is the most fun I've ever had. The feelings that it had evoked in her body, the adrenaline rush, the sheer glee she had gotten using her abilities to the utmost dwarfed anything she had felt before, even that one time when she had lured in a would be stalker and beaten him to within an inch of his life. At that point she had power of life and death over him, but that euphoria was nothing in comparison to pushing her body to the utmost against enemies who were out to kill her and had the strength to do so and then winning through.

To take her mind off that part of her personality that she had hidden for so long Saeko asked "What are you going to do with her?" Indicating the unconscious blonde Ranma had just picked up and was carrying over one shoulder. Asia too was looking worried. She didn't like the idea of killing, even someone who had tried to kidnap her for their own purposes.

Ranma smiled. "Don't worry, I'm not gonna do much ta her, not physically anyway. Her ego now, that's another story." In fact, if not for Dohnaseek trying to use Asia as a hostage, he wouldn't have killed him or Grimaldi, though he wasn't about to second guess Saeko about the other one.

With that he ducked into a alleyway, while the two girls looked on in bemusement. A moment later he came back and Asia, unable to control her curiosity looked into the alleyway, then began to giggle.

Saeko too moved forward, while Ranma simply stood there smirking. Her eyebrows rose in surprise and a chuckle escaped from behind the hand she had raised to cover her mouth.

Mittelt was now sitting propped up against the wall of the alleyway, but where before she had worn a gothic Lolita outfit all of black and white, now she was dressed in a frilly pink dress, with a little bonnet on top of her head. Her face too was painted entirely white, with two large red dots on her cheeks the kind to denote a blush. The entire effect was to make the fallen angel look like some kind of large doll such as a baby might carry.

"Where on earth did you get that dress?"

"From my hidden weapon's space," Ranma shrugged. "Can't remember if it was from one o' those times I had ta dress up as a girl fer some reason, or from this klepto-skater I had ta fight once." Ranma had actually been tempted to leave some kind of message with the girl, but decided this would be enough, and if not, maybe she would come after him again, he just hoped she trained before she did.

At this point the area was once more full of the normal traffic, some of which were looking around at the damage wondering what had happened. Thankfully no one seemed to put the trio of people standing by the alleyway and the damage together, but Asia frowned, looking at the odd glances Saeko was getting. "I'm sorry I couldn't do anything about your clothing, but I can only heal living things."

"That's fine Asia-chan," Saeko replied waving her hand. "Besides," she smirked a little again, looking over at Ranma. "Ranma's shirt is quite comfortable"

The way she said it seemed to imply more than just the words could account for. Ranma wasn't certain what she meant but he felt himself blushing again.

Asia pouted a little, unhappy that Ranma and Saeko were getting along like this. She knew it was just a crush, but couldn't she at least have her new big brother to herself for a few more weeks?

The trio discussed what to do (stay the night here or push on immediately) as they made their way towards the conference center, stopping only when they saw that Saeko's father was coming towards him. Tesoro's eyes widened slightly at the fact that his daughter was wearing the boy's shirt, then looked down at her dress which was very badly cut up in places. "Did something happen?"

"Tou-san," said Saeko formally, "I have finally found a cause worthy of my blade."

Her father studied her face for a moment, flicking his eyes over to Ranma who nodded grimly, and then to Asia who blushed then back again. "If you believe it, I will not gainsay you. I have not taught you the way of the sword and to be independent all your life to suddenly turn around now and take that independence away. I will withdraw you from your current high school if that is what you wish, though I will request that you take some time in the next few weeks to find another school you wish to transfer to."

Ranma nodded seriously. "Asia here is going to be starting school at some point as well and shall be taking placement tests over the next few weeks, there's no reason we can't kill two birds with one stone there."

Saeko nodded, after all that would allow her to protect Asia during school hours as well. "And yourself?"

"Graduated from a school that don't really mean much," Ranma shook his head. "Unless you're in the upper one percentile and even then not often, Furinkan high school isn't really seen as a real high-school by most colleges, I found that out when this summer started. There's no way I could get into college anyway, and I ain't willin' to go back to high school to get better grades someplace else. Even without the crazy teachers trying to suck out my ki, the principal with the Hawaiian fetish and explosive fruit or even the rivals coming after me at every moment, high school held no real interest fer me."

Saeko and her father blinked at the litany of dangers, and Saeko smirked again her lips curving into an amused yet somehow sensual smile that caused Ranma to flush, remembering the feel of her lips on his. "You truly have led an interesting life, where have you been all of mine?"

Ranma blushed even redder and Tesoro chuckled. It looks as if there is more going on here than just my daughter having found a cause that she could sink her teeth into. Still Ranma is a comely lad, strong and seems to possess a true samurai's ethos. She could do far worse. "Very well, you have my blessing, though I will request that you call or write to me at least once a month, and call me once you find out where you're going to be living. I'll send you your clothing and other things then."

Saeko hugged him fiercely, then turns to Ranma. "Shall we go?"

And so it was that the duo became a trio, and Ranma made a new friend, one who, maybe someday could possibly become more.

Chapter 1 you can never go home again… especially when someone's chasing you

Rather than heading straight to Nerima like Ranma personally wanted, the trio had decided to throw anyone following them off the trail by heading up past Tokyo to Hokkaido and staying there for two days. This allowed Ranma to walk Saeko through a few techniques he wanted the teach her. Saeko learned how to rooftop, though she was still rather clumsy about her landing and takeoff's, as well as several speed exercises that raised her overall speed noticeably. She wasn't going to be ready for anything like the Amiguriken technique for a while, but she had already learned and incorporated Kuno's signature air blades into her own repertoire.

During breaks from training, the two Japanese natives showed some of the sights in Hokkaido to Asia, who was fascinated by nearly everything she saw. They young girl's bright questioning personality drew the two martial artists away from their training easily, and they all had a surprising amount of fun playing tourist.

Unfortunately Ranma still had to head back to Nerima and two days was all the time he wanted to spend before heading back that way. He wanted to see his mom again, and maybe, just maybe solve the issues waiting him back there before moving on with his life. So after two days the group once more boarded one of Japan's excellent trains, heading back south to Tokyo, and from there to Nerima.

"Ya know, I still can't believe your old man let you come with us just like that," Ranma said as he sat down, waving Asia into the seat across from him.

She slid in, smiling down at the bright lunchbox full of the local specialty that he had bought her before getting on the train. Asia had yet to get over the variety of foods that she had never tried during her time at the convent and the church, though she had realized quite quickly that she didn't like sour things or spicy.

Saeko chuckled. "Tou-san has always preached independence, and the moment I told him that I had found a cause worthy of my skill, there was enough for him. It might have been different," she said smiling faintly, though this was more at a memory then about what they were talking about. "if my mother was still alive, tou-san would have at least had to check in with her on it, and I believe she had something called a 'veto power'. I can't quite remember, she passed away when I was only six after all."

She sat down next to Ranma, turning slightly so that she could lean on Ranma shoulder. This caused him to blush a little, but it wasn't the first time Saeko had initiated such soft contact, and he reciprocated slowly, the hand between them going to rest on her thigh and kneading it gently.

God, Ranma thought to himself, if any of the girls back in Nerima had acted like this I would've been lost from the get-go. Thanks to his old man turning off his libido somehow tat wasn't precisely true and Ranma knew it, yet there was a bit of truth there. All the girls in Nerima either came on strong, or assumed that he should be interested in them rather than the other way around and if Ranma wasn't punished him for it. And of course every time he looked at another girl he was punished. It was sort of a general rule or perhaps a natural law of the way the world worked in Nerima, and it still came as a shock to him even after two days that he wasn't already feeling the 'tender' touch of a mallet upside his head.

After that first kiss Saeko hadn't initiated any truly romantic contact, simply listening intently to his words practicing what he was teaching her and staying close like this. That was all there was to it really, moments like this, with them lightly touching was all that Saeko had done, and he found he enjoyed it greatly. How much that had to do with the fact that he liked her and how much had to do with the fact that he now had hormones and a sex drive he wasn't going to contemplate.

"Regardless I can't thank you enough for the training you've been giving me, I can already feel the difference and it's only been two days! I had reached the point where training by myself or even with the masters my father could introduce me to gave me little return, so knowing that there was is still more room for growth is just fantastic."

Ranma smiled. Right there was something about Saeko that he really liked. Too many people he knew had reached a point then simply decided that they were as strong as they could be and stopped training.

Akane was one, though frankly that was probably a good thing considering her lack of self-control. The same could be said for Kodachi, though in her case martial arts was just a side benefit from her gymnastics. Ranma also knew that Kodachi was a decent student at her high-school, which was a much more serious place than Furinkan.

Shampoo was another, not once since she had shown up in Nerima had she actually trained with Cologne, a sad state of affairs given the fact that Cologne was quite simply the greatest trainer he had ever met. Ukyo at least had an excuse. She was running her own business with only Kotatsu for aid and going to school while keeping a decent grade point average. That was pretty damn awesome for someone all of 17.

That was the girls of course, but most of the boys were even worse. Kuno hadn't gotten any better since Ranma first showed up, and never seemed to see understand he was utterly outmatched. Mousse seemed to have the same issue, and was a bit of a one trick wonder really. Ryoga was different, he always came up with new and interesting tricks, but that was all they were just tricks not real improvement on his basic skills, and the ones that did add to his basic skills he didn't understand or really think about. Ryoga didn't take the art seriously, it was all based on his rivalry with Ranma, not personal improvement.

He shook himself coming back to the here and now. "You don't have to thank me, it's been a pleasure really. I just wish I knew more sword techniques to give you."

"The hidden weapons technique and the general improvement in my speed endurance and strength is more than enough," she countered. "Trust me, when it comes to swordsmanship I can make my own techniques up as I go along."

"True that," Ranma laughed a little remembering his astonishment when she displayed the air slicing technique the day before and moving his arm from her thigh. Saeko sighed a little sadly at the lack of contact but then smiled as his arm slowly went around her shoulders. She had noticed that Ranma was very leery of starting any contact with her, and she had learned enough about his life in Nerima to have a good idea about why that was, but that didn't make her any happier about it. She wasn't madly in love with him or anything, they had after all only known each other for a few days but she was most certainly interested in him, and a girl likes to know that she's being appreciated.

A moment later they reached the first stop, one in the outskirts of Tokyo, and there was a sudden commotion outside in the station. A loud voice shouted "HOTCHA, so many beauties so little time!"

Ranma froze for a millisecond then grabbed Saeko, pushing her down into the area between their seats before grabbing Asia and pushing her down so she wasn't visible from the outside. "WH-oni-chan, what…"

"SHH," Ranma whispered, ducking down to join them. A moment later the sound of running feet went by, and the sound of the chase went away. Ranma sat up cautiously, looking out the window, but motioning the other two to stay put. After a moment the train started moving again, and he let himself relax.

"What was that about Ranma?" Saeko growled a little, not used to being manhandled like that, even by someone she was attracted to.

"That was an old perv by the name of Happosai, who is… well a little gnome with the power to take everything I throw at him and come back for more. I didn't want him to see you two, or he'd never leave us alone. He's got a thing for pretty girls. Well, pretty girls and their underwear."

Saeko blinked, then shook her head. "Thank you for the compliment and ugh." Asia too shuddered and the trip went on uneventfully. Luckily for Ranma, Happosai was heading up north the way they had just come from to see a girls volleyball tournament, and would be gone for weeks. He would show up eventually of course he was the original bad penny, but for now Ranma and the others wouldn't have to deal with him.

Soon they were boarding the train to Nerima, and almost immediately Saeko could tell there was a certain tension in the air. The locals around them looked very, very afraid for some reason. Despite the fact that the train was rather crowded people had actually moved away from them crowding around at the other end of the coach whispering to one another and flinching at every loud noise. "What exactly is this about?" she asked waving one hand at the crowd, who flinched at the motion.

Asia too was looking around oddly, wondering if it was something they had done.

Ranma put their fear to rest quickly however laughing a little. "Oh this is sort of a survival instinct I suppose you could say. I told you about my fiancée troubles right, well showing up with a new girl is sort of Defcon level 1 around here. Then we're, you know," he blushed looking down at their hands which were still joined a sight that had many of the people on the train ready to jump out of the windows. "That's like Defcon level 2." He laughed again. "I think someone actually wrote up a Nerima Survival Guide at one point that described the amount of distance ya had ta keep from me or the rest of the Wrecking Crew in any given situation. Made fer a funny read at least."

Ranma looked around him seriously. "Now remember if you hear a voice shouting my name, male or female don't matter,, a jingling of a bell, a duck's quack or any loud noises, run for the hills. This is for your own protection."

The rest of the people on the train chuckled nervously, not having needed to be told that by the center of all the chaos that happened in Nerima these days. Oh, there had been a lot of chaos before Ranma arrived, but with the amount he brought in with him the whole district was in the midst of a chaos Renaissance as it were.

"Come on." Ranma began pulling both girls along as the train came to a stop. "This is our stop, from here it's only about 40 minutes walk or 5 minutes roof hopping to the Tendo's."


Nodoka ran down the list she was holding with one finger, shaking her head as she looked over it at Kasumi, while out in the garden in the voice of Akane rang out shouting angrily as she destroyed even more bricks. "You know you should really try to make her pay for what she destroys don't you?"

The oldest Tendo daughter sighed. "That would mean she would have to get a job, and," she leaned in whispering "in all honesty I don't think she has the patience for that."

Ranma's mother nodded but then shook her head as she looked over where her so-called husband and his friend Soun were laid out, still hung over from a night out on the town despite it being three in the afternoon. "I don't have to pay for that," she said scornfully waving one hand, "I don't know how they do, nor do I particularly care so long as it doesn't come out of our the household expenses, or my personal accounts. But maybe if you start to force her to pay for her little destructive moments you could curb them that way."

Nabiki came in, chuckling a little as she sipped at an energy drink something she had become somewhat addicted to over the last year. Nabiki had graduated from high school last year, but it had taken her this long to get over the stigma of going to Furinkan High, and it was only now that she truly began college courses, over the summer nonetheless.

Looking down at her energy drink Nabiki cursed once again the fact that her high school diploma wasn't worth the paper it was printed on, despite the fact that she was in the high two percentile of her graduating class. Her history and science grades had pulled her total down, and that was enough to make every college she applied to reject her out of hand. Nabiki had to work the past year to get those grades up to an acceptable level, as well as adding several other skills to her resume such as bookkeeping (which she already could do but haven't actually taken a class for) and several mathematics courses. At last she had gotten a reply, and was now taking classes at a women's college just outside of Tokyo. Not the one she had hoped for, but it was a start.

"You can't honestly think that will teach Akane anything do you? I tried to do that months ago after all, and she hasn't changed her attitude a bit. She's just a privileged little princess," she said rather caustically then she would normally speak of her younger sister, yet the emotion was very heartfelt. She loved her family, but there was no denying the fact that it was a highly dysfunctional group of individuals.

Her father was a whiner and a wino almost always willing to follow Genma into any mad scheme that grew in his panda brain, though he had shown flashes recently of moving on from the crying at least. Akane was an angry, bitter young woman who didn't really have all that much to be bitter about, as well as being a privileged princess who wanted everything handed to her on a silver platter without really working for it. How else to describe her attitude to the art? Instead of asking for lessons from any of the other locals including her fiancé who is the best of them, she instead keeps doing the same brick destroying regimen and expects it to somehow make her better. Of course it hasn't so far, and when Akane inevitably losses she always accuses her opponent of cheating! Ugh, I'm not the most 'honorable' sort, but that's wrong even to me.

Kasumi was normal, if you could call a 21-year-old woman who was more of a mother than anything else to her two younger sisters normal. Nabiki often felt sad about that, and had hoped to eventually take some of the pressure off Kasumi so she could once more get out and live her own life. But with their father and Akane the way they were that didn't look to be happening anytime soon. Not unless she simply ran off, which, from her eyes these past few weeks, was looking a better and better option without Ranma around to help or simply liven up her day with his stories and adventures.

Nodoka shook her head. "That young woman should never have been taught any martial arts until she proved she could control herself." That wasn't all Nodoka had noticed though, and she shook her head again. "I think it is a very good thing that my son did not come back with you." She gestured over at the old men. "Those two would probably have tried to force your sister and my son together immediately given what Ranma had to do to defend her in China, and it would've been the most disastrous thing they could've done."

She looked at the two young girls earnestly. "Tell me dears, can you see Akane with my son in a romantic sense, let alone married? Because at this moment I do not see any love at all between them. Akane has not said a single kind word about him since she got back, and what she does say is derogatory and angry. There actually seems to be a bit of true disgust, possibly even hate there, and I can't understand it. But I refuse to let my son marry someone who thinks so little of him, who understands him so little, and is so angry all the time at things that have nothing to do with him."

The two sisters exchanged a glance and Kasumi sighed. "We did a grave disservice to Ranma when we pushed them together when he first arrived here. But at the time both of us were so, well, freaked out at his curse that it was a defense mechanism. And for a time it looked as if there was some affection, some chemistry there, yet you're right, whatever was there has faded, or disappeared entirely."

Nabiki shuddered a little. She hadn't really believed what they all said about what had happened in China. That blissful ignorance ended one night when she caught a report on the news of a mountain in China having suddenly exploded for no apparent reason. The Chinese government was calling it some kind of natural gas accident, but she knew better. The idea that Ranma, who she had taken advantage of and belittled and toyed with ever since he arrived, had that much power in him was sobering in the extreme. She knew she had been better over the past year and a half or so, but there still wasn't much friendship between them.

Yet that didn't really matter to the present discussion. Her sister's reaction to what happened there was way too strong, especially since Ranma had only killed to defend her. But that didn't seem to matter to Akane, and Nabiki shook her head, bluntly stating, "I think it would be disastrous. Regardless of her current irrational attitude to him, there is a certain level of maturity needed to make a permanent relationship work, and Akane doesn't have it. Hell, my little sister still doesn't like to think about the birds and the bees, and the first time her husband tried to touch her he'd probably wind up in the moon somewhere."

If Ranma didn't kill her for trying anyway, she thought, everyone has a breaking point, and if Ranma reaches his it won't be pretty for anyone.

Nodoka sighed. "That was what I thought. Still it isn't an insurmountable problem, even if neither of you are interested in him."

She smirked as they both blushed a little. They weren't interested in Ranma but they weren't blind either. Both of them new Ranma was an extremely attractive young man physically, though his personality wasn't one either would've been happy with. For Kasumi, she and Ranma had fallen into a brother and sister role rather quickly, and she wasn't about to break it. She liked having a little brother, and she liked Ranma in that role. Nabiki of course just didn't like his personality or his prospects for the future. She would rather be with someone who she had things in common with other than both of them liking various manga series.

"Well in any case, this is a discussion we will have to have at a later time, but there isn't any reason why the agreement between our families couldn't be moved to the next generation. And I believe that's everything," Nodoka said finishing the list. Kasumi looked over her shoulder and nodded. "In that case, I will be on my way, I will see the two of you in a few hours." With that Nodoka left the house, heading towards the market district.


Asia, Ranma and Saeko walked through the district, the two newcomers continually amused (bemused in Asia's case) at the fact that everyone they saw the immediately began to run away, and Saeko shook her head. "Is it really that bad to see you with a 'new girl'?"

Ranma groaned, his hearing was a little bit better than the other two, and he had just detected the sound of bells in the air. "You're about to find out," he said wearily then stopped where he was, preparing himself.

Suddenly from above them a loud voice shouted "Nihao Airen!" and a young woman on a bicycle tried to plant said bicycle into Ranma's back.

Ranma was ready for it however, and dodge to one side, causing the young girl to break the bike in shock and looked at him with her head cocked to one side.

Saeko looked the girl over rather amused. She was wearing a Chinese dress, and had rather large, full breasts and light purple hair done up in an odd style. She had this sort of wide naïve, expression on her face, the total effect giving her the air of a bubblehead. The bike looked like a normal delivery bike, though besides the box of takeout food (hopefully empty at this point), there was a duck sitting on the handlebars. "This must be Shampoo and Mousse, they are precisely as you described them Ranma."

Asia however was looking at the duck her eyes glittering cutely "So cute!" With a rush she was suddenly in front of the duck picking it up and rubbing her fingers through its feathers.

"QUACK!" The duck, truly Mousse in his cursed form, quacked and tried to flap away, but for some reason couldn't find the strength to do so.

Shampoo scowled at the two girls who were sending clipped so close to her husband. "Airen Who these womens? You know be two-timing yes? Amazons know how deal things like that."

"What Ranma does in his spare time is no consideration of yours," said Saeko shaking her head and putting an arm around Ranma's waist. "Just because your laws say you are married doesn't mean you truly are, after all why should a tiny, backwards tribe such as yours matter in the great scheme of things, especially to a nation which doesn't even share a border with you?"

Ranma chuckled a little, surprised that Saeko it stood up from so quickly, but also very happy that someone finally was. And of course the fact that I'm interested in her has nothing to do with that he thought to himself laughing internally. Still, that was something he had actually come to grips with the past few days; the fact that he was truly interested in Saeko rather than being forced to be with her or having some king of family agreement or law hanging over his head to enforce that. Now, looking at Shampoo, he didn't even feel a trace of attraction, whatever odd equation the human body used to decide whether it was attracted to someone had come up with zero here, and he idly wondered if the crap she had pulled offset her physical attractiveness, or if it was all her personality.

"Japan week girl no talk to Amazon warrior like that!" Shampoo growled dangerously pulling out her bonbori maces from her weapon space. "Shampoo teach you some manners yes?"

Ranma frowned and was about to interfere but a sharp look (and a pinch to his side) from Saeko made him back off. 'I'm a warrior Ranma, you don't have to fight my fight for me.' At least that's what that look said to Ranma. He sighed, held up his hands in a gesture of peace, moving out from around her arm.

However when the dock made to jump out of Asia's grip Ranma reached out quickly and grabbed him by the back of his head. "Let's just sit this one out okay?"

The duck quack angrily at him, and then trailed off into a more introspective "quack?"

"I don't know," Ranma replied shrugging, causing Asia's eyes to widen. "If it becomes too serious I'll step 'em, but Saeko can fight her own battles, she don't need me to do it for her."

"Quack," said the duck approvingly then, "Quack, quack, quack."

"I know, how weird is that?" said Ranma chuckling. "Wait, when did I learn how to speak duck anyway?"


"Ahh, that explains it."

Asia looked up at him in awe, then shook it off. "A-ano, aren't you going to try and stop them?"

Ranma shrugged. "If I did neither would than me fer it. And like I said, Saeko's a warrior, she wouldn't eb happy if I tried to protect her when she could do it herself." Asia pouted, not liking the idea of watching her friend fight, but knowing Ranma was right.

Shampoo charged forward immediately, swinging her maces around. Without her Airen stepping in she knew that this new purple haired girl was no match for her. She was an Amazon, no weak Japanese girl was going to come close to her level.

She was therefore surprised when Saeko met her charge with the steel bokken that Ranma had picked up for her in Hokkaido. It was metal, and rather heavier than the bokken or katana she was normally used to, yet not enough to actually bother her. Though of course it didn't have an edge like a true katana would. She swung around adroitly, blocking both of her opponent's weapons with ease. She countered by a swift kick to the thigh, which made Shampoo stumble back. "Is that all you have," she said her voice contemptuous. "So much for the vaunted Amazon skills, all I see in front of me is a dumb bimbo."

Shampoo growled angrily at both of those insults, as well as the kick. It hadn't been strong, but it had been surprising and she came in again slightly more cautiously. Her maces moved swiftly, weaving an assault that put Saeko on the defensive, dodging what she could the blocking most which put more strain on her arms.

Eventually Shampoo forced the other girl back against the wall of a building on the other side of the street. "There no be need for two purple hair girls here." She said grimly bringing one mace down to smash Saeko's head where she was trapped against the wall, while her second speared straight at Saeko's chest.

Saeko blocked the second mace from its thrust at her chest ducking away from the overhead blow and swiftly twirling her bokken so she was holding it pointing backwards to slam the point back into the Amazon girl's back.

After that Saeko kept moving, rolling and then coming around to look at Shampoo who had quickly turned in an effort to hit her in turn with her maces. Yet both of them knew that if that had been a real blade she carried that blow might well have been the finisher. Saeko smirked as she straightened from her half crouch, bringing her blade up to the guard position. "Really, we're really going to talk about hair color? At least my hair color looks natural, understated. Your hair is gauche and looks more like something a clown would wear."

Shampoo snarled angrily and charged forward again. She came at her opponent with a speed and strength she hadn't heretofore used, pouring her all into this fight so she could humiliate her enemy. Saeko was barely able to keep up, but she did, blocking the blows that she could and dodging the others. Despite this however there was no doubt that Shampoo was now dominating the fight.

Suddenly Saeko changed tactics, rather than simply blocking or trying to go for a clean hit on the other girl's body she attacked the weapons, slamming back at them to push them out of position and aiming when she could at her opponent's wrists.

This bore fruit almost immediately, as Shampoo overextended slightly to correct from one blow to her mace.

This was enough for Saeko's blade to sneak in and slam with punishing force against the other girl's right wrist. The pain of it forced Shampoo to drop that weapon.

Saeko quickly stepped forward, kicking the bonbori away and keeping close enough to keep Shampoo from backing away or jumping for it. She twisted around one thrust that would have taken her in the chest, letting it graze her shoulder to lay the dull edge of her metal bokken against Shampoo's throat. "I, I believe," she said huffing slightly both from a mixture of arousal and exertion "That I win."

"KAAKAKKAKA!" A voice behind her cackled. "Well done girl, I hadn't thought there was any female in this nation that had that much fire in her."

The combatants turned to see Cologne had suddenly shown up, and was sitting on her stick next to Asia calmly munching a small bag of peanuts. "An amusing match, though if my great granddaughter had taken it as seriously as she should have, then I doubt you would have won." The old ghoul said looking at her great-granddaughter sharply.

"Perhaps," Saeko replied, bowing respectfully, "there's always room for improvement of course, especially in the realms of overconfidence."

Asia swiftly came forward, the rings of her sacred gear already appearing. She first touched Saeko, healing her like she had done after the battle against the Fallen Angels. She turned to Shampoo much more hesitantly, and the Amazon glared at her until Cologne waved one hand she subsided irritably. Asia immediately clasped her wrist, and after only a second the large bruise from Saeko's strike faded.

"KAKKAKA, a healer, most interesting company you keep Ranma," Cologne cackled then looked up at Ranma. "And that's a fine girl you brought back, though I have to wonder about the reason behind it? Could it be that he finally found your hormones?"

Ranma chuckled a little. "More like finally had them turned on again, my old man did something to me when I was younger I think, whatever it was it killed my um, my interest in that kind of stuff."

Cologne nearly fell off her stick at that while Shampoo blanched, wondering how such a thing was done, and what that meant for her. Her grandmother had told her not to pursue Ranma so strongly anymore, but perhaps...

"That would explain why you never react to make great-granddaughter's advances." Cologne mused, "I really do need to see about getting myself a panda-skin rug at some point."

"Yeah whatever," said Ranma looking at her seriously. "We need to talk old ghoul, about those weapons I took from Saffron, and other things."

Cologne looked at his serious expression and her own eyes flicked to Asia who had just moved to stand next to Ranma, picking up Mousse and running her fingers through his feather again and nodded. "I will come over this evening Ranma, if that is all right with you."

Ranma nodded and Cologne turned back to her great-granddaughter. "Come granddaughter, it's obvious we need to have a little talk about how to analyze your opponents, and the sometimes steep cost of overconfidence."

The younger Amazon pouted. "If I took her seriously from get go it be no contest."

"But you didn't," Cologne responded almost cheerfully "and that is what we were will be talking about. Besides she could have killed you twice in that match." She nodded at Saeko. "Well done my dear, if you stay around I'm certain you'll fit right in with this crazy group." She turned to Asia and bowed. "Welcome follower of the bible's God, I hope you enjoy your stay here." Asia flushed slightly then curtseyed back letting Mousse go at the same time as Cologne continued. "I do hope to see you around as well."

With a final wave from Mousse in his duck form the trio of Amazons left, leaving Ranma did shaking his head. "That was a little too easy, something's up with her."

"Possibly, or possibly she was embarrassed on her great-granddaughter's behalf." Saeko shook her head. "It's not as though she had anything to be embarrassed about. Shampoo's right; if she took me seriously from the get go she would have handled me easily. Her speed and strength were far beyond mine, it was only the fact that she isn't as skilled with her weapons as I am with mine that allowed me to stay in the fight. She had far too many tells, it's as if she had never run into someone who was skilled enough to see them."

Ranma shrugged. "Shampoo's the champion of her age group, but that doesn't really mean much in the great scheme of things, she's not a blooded warrior, and despite facing stronger opponents around here she hasn't improved all that much."

"A sad state of affairs indeed," said Saeko shaking your head. She laid one arm around Asia's shoulders. "Now I believe you were going to show us to this Tendo household? Do you think that they will mind putting the two of us up for now?"

"Don't now, if they don't though we have enough to buy a few nights in a hotel somewhere."

"I-I don't want to be a bother," said Asia, poking her fingers together.

"You're not," said both of the others and Ranma laughed a little, putting his arm around Asia's shoulders from the other side. "Trust me, meeting you was a blessing Asia-chan. I learned there's so much to this world that I didn't think of. And I gained a little sister" he said ruffling her hair which caused the girl to blush brightly. "And that's without going into what you healed," it was his turn to blush as he said that and he did so looking away slightly.

Saeko laughed, having put two and two together awhile back, and wondered if she should thank Asia as well. Flirting with Ranma would not be nearly so much fun if he didn't respond, both physically and emotionally. The physical thing she had Asia to thank for fixing, but the emotional aspect, and his automatic responses to being close to a woman, were still issues but Saeko was working on them.

The trio walked on, passing through the shopping district until Ranma paused having spotted something red down a side street then he grinned, racing forward. "Mom!"

Nodoka looked up from where she had been inspecting some fruit at a stall smiling in pleasure as she saw her son racing towards her. Before she could respond verbally however he had picked her up in his arms twirling her around. "Ranma!" she gasped, laughing. "It's good to see you my son, but please put me down. I'm not so young anymore that I enjoy being flung around like that in public." Ranma grinned unrepentantly as he set her down, hugging her fiercely again before moving back.

Ranma's relationship with his mother had started out very rocky for want of a better word. For one thing, his father had convinced him that she would have force him to commit seppuku if she found out about the curse, yet when Nodoka finally had after months of hiding it from her she hadn't. Nodoka had been angry that Ranma had hidden it from her, angry at the fact that he lied to her for so many months, and incredibly infuriated with Genma because he thought she would go through with that ridiculous of that Ranma had made when he was only two years old!

Despite that, Ranma had proven that he was an honorable man (even when he was a woman), though he did backslide occasionally thanks to his father's teaching. He was altogether a decent young man Nodoka was proud to know and call her son.

She looked over his shoulder at the two young girls who were walking down the street towards them, both of them smiling at the family reunion, though the younger one looked a little sad, while the older looked somewhat nostalgic. "Who are these two?"

A round of introductions followed, and Nodoka looked at Saeko with approval. It was obvious her son was attracted to her and vice versa, though just as obvious that they weren't deeply madly in love just yet She would have been a little disturbed if that was the case given the fact that they had only met a few days ago. True love took time to build after all. Interest however could happen immediately.

But she didn't just approve of Saeko because of that, but her general attitude and her very traditional way of talking as well as the fact that Nodoka recognized her last name. "Busujima," she said thoughtfully, "you wouldn't happen to be Tesoro Busujima's daughter would you? I have heard of a young kendo specialist sweeping the nations, breaking all my old records at that. Busujima is an old and respected samurai family."

Saeko nodded. "I have that honor, Saotome-sama."

"Enough with the –sama, none of my family is very big on such things, simply call me Auntie. Or possibly Haha-ue." Both older teens flushed at that and she laughed. "Just kidding my dears."

Asia however she simply pulled into a hug. "Lovely to meet you Asia-chan though I would like to hear the story about how you and my wayward son met. He isn't the type to go around randomly adopting little sisters, though I'm quite happy he did so. I've always wanted a little girl," she said smiling as the European girl flushed a little then almost teared up at the idea of having a real mother. Nodoka saw this and laid a gentle kiss on her brow, and did not relinquish her hug around the young girl as she looked up at her son smiling wickedly. "Besides which, this way someone gets to replace Ranko now that she is no longer with us."

Ranma laughed, and then said "Well I didn't find the cure you now," which was proven a moment later as a fish container next to him suddenly shattered, splashing water everywhere including on Ranma. "So it's not like I'm gone or anything!" she said angrily shaking your head. "Every frickin' time!"

Saeko and Asia laughed, while Nodoka, still with one arm around Asia glanced quickly at Saeko. There wasn't even a hint in her face of revulsion or disinterest or anything like that, and Nodoka put another check mark next to her name. With one arm still around Asia she turned and led the way towards the Tendo household. "Come, you simply must sit down and tell me how you three met in detail."

Kasumi greeted them cheerfully at the door, wrapping her arms around Ranma in a hug. "Good to have you back otouto," she muttered kissing him on the cheek.

Ranma nodded as well, hugging her back but refraining from kissing her. Akane took such things and other gestures of affection towards anyone else especially her sisters very poorly.

The group sat down, with Kasumi sitting down next to Asia who introduced herself and complemented Kasumi on her tea immediately. The two talked for a while, while Ranma filled Nodoka in on his journey up to the point where he met Asia.

From that point on Kasumi listens too, while Asia blushed in the background poking her fingers together at she remembered how Ranma had saved her. She would never have even known she was in danger without him there, never having learned not to take people at face value before. The idea of being used by ex-demon hunters and Fallen angels disturbed her and made her very thankful she had bumped into Ranma like she had.

During this recitation Akane came in and looked at Ranma angrily, sitting there with a new hussy next to them. This one looked as if she was one of Shampoo's relatives, which was in no way even worse. "Gaijin trash," she muttered.

She was however brought to task rather sharply by Kasumi. "Akane she exclaimed "apologize immediately. We do not talk like that in this household!"

After getting over her shock at her older sister raising her voice Akane's face turned red with anger. "Why the hell should I apologize to this hussy?! She's just another whore that this murderous pervert brought home!"

Ranma growled but before he could do anything Saeko spoke, slowly rising to her feet, her eyes glinting dangerously. "I am neither whore nor gaijin, I am Busujima Saeko, and were you any kind of martial artist I would take you strongly to task. As you are merely a child lashing out in anger and ignorance I will simply demand an apology."

Nodoka smiled approvingly at this, then stared hard at Akane. "I would apologize if I were you. Busujima-san is the daughter of a samurai family, and your insult was well beyond the pale."

Akane gaped at both of them, then snarled "Like hell I'll apologize! If you think you are all that, let's see how good you really are!"

"Oh, this won't end well," Ranma said, shaking his head.

"Ano, this is lovely tea Kasumi-san," said Asia sipping delicately trying to ignore the anger in the air and changing the subject.

"Why thank you Asia-chan," said Kasumi smiling prettily then she frowned over at her younger sister. "Akane, you are out of line. Please, if you don't want to apologize that's fine, but don't compound your bad manners, simply go to your room if you cannot control yourself."

Akane faltered at the note of censure in her sister's voice, but she was still raring for a fight, then suddenly looking at her sister most of her anger abruptly left her. She stared around at them all, including Ranma just sitting there doing nothing, then abruptly turned on her heel and went up the stairs.

"That girl," muttered Kasumi, "I don't know what's gotten into her. She used to be, well…"

"Ya said it when I first showed up Kasumi, she was a bit of a violent maniac. Now the 'bit' part in that sentence is gone. I don't know why but something about what happened in China this last adventure seems ta have changed her personality badly." Ranma replied. "It don't help matters that she's been using anger infused ki fer so long its takin' her over. I can see it, but I have no idea how ta convince her ta stop usin' it, and even if I did, she wouldn't listen to me."

Saeko nodded, Ranma had filled her in on the differences between pure ki and emotion-infused ki, and why emotion infused ki had so many drawbacks. She wasn't at the level where she could project her own energy that well, but she was close. "I can see that, yet even so, her lack of control is appalling. From what you told me she has a lot of physical strength yes? If so, she could seriously hurt someone."

"Try telling that to daddy sometime see how far it gets you. Dad won't hear a word against his precious princess." Nabiki, who had just come in from the living room to join the others sitting around the table, said. She sat down next to her sister on her other side from Asia, nodding quizzically at the younger girl. "Interesting friends you have here Saotome."

"Ya don't know the half of it Nabs."

"Don't call me Nabs," Nabiki replied almost absently, her mind still on the problem of her younger sister. "You put your finger on it though, I think something, maybe her near death experience, or finally seeing how big a gap there is between your skills, has knocked something loose in Akane's brain. She's lost what little self control she had, and is just lashing out."

"Ano, um, she, she could just be frightened." Asia said hesitantly, flushing a little as they all looked at her. She began to poke her fingers together in that nervous gesture Ranma had seen dozens of times since they first met, but continued gamely. "I, I think if she really has prided herself on her strength for so long, then seeing that, um that she wasn't very strong at all would make her frightened, and that would, would make her angry."

"Makes sense," Ranma mused, "But it still don't explain why Akane had such a big problem with me killing Saffron and a few of his people when I was tryin' to save her." He shook his head. "I mean its like she's really started to hate me now." That last was said with a bit of genuine sadness. While he had never really understood all this love and attraction junk before Asia cured him of what Genma had done to his libido, that didn't mean he hadn't cared for Akane. Where that care could have eventually taken them, without her issues or his own, he would never know now. Yet that didn't mean he didn't regret it.

"No, I think Asia-chan has put her finger right on it." Nodoka said thoughtfully. "The human mind is a very complex thing, and can often hide aspects of what a person is thinking even from that person's conscious understanding. Akane may be using the fact that you killed to justify her hatred of you my son, the fact that you broke what Akane sees, or what she professes to see at any rate, as the cardinal rule of a martial artist. Yet in reality Akane has come to hate you because she has finally realized emotionally and mentally what was obvious to everyone else all along: that you are simply in another league in terms of skill in an area she has used to define herself."

"Top it off with a lack of maturity and no real understanding of what you have had to give up to get that good, her general anger issues and continual use of anger-infused ki, and you get to the state she is in now." Nabiki shook her head. "I think she seriously needs to start seeing a psychologist. That, some meds maybe and well…" she looked at Ranma apologetically. "Not seeing you or any of your rivals and fiancés around. Maybe with all that, she can start to regain some control, maybe even grow up a little."

Ranma shrugged. "That's fine, me Asia-chan and Saeko won't be here for long. We've got a few things ta do here, I want ta talk ta Cologne, and Asia-chan needs to study up and take some placement tests for high school, then we'll just move to wherever she gets in." He smirked a little, knowing that after they stopped moving the Fallen Angels and other groups would start coming after them. He shared a glance with Saeko, who was also smirking (though on her it looked damn sexy), and knew that she too was looking forward to that.

Before the others could ask if the Ranma and the girls had any long term plans besides that, the next interruption arrived.

Ranma's father and the Tendo Soun came through the door, having just been out to the pub for a bit of the hair of the dog. The moment Genma saw Ranma he explained angrily "Ranma where the hell have you been! You should've come back here immediately and done your duty by marrying up Akane!"

Ranma glared at his father, both for that comment and knowing what the bastard had done to kill his libido when he was younger, but before he could say anything Nodoka said calmly, "Genma, you are being very rude to our guests. And the last time I checked, the agreement between our family and the Tendo family was merely that one of our descendents could marry the other. It never specified who."

That sobered the both of them up, and after a perfunctory nod at the two guests, including one very wary look at Saeko the two sat down and the Soun tried to talk Nodoka around. "But surely you must see that there is some affection between them, and they've been together since your son arrived, they're much closer than Ranma is to either of my other daughters."

"Father," Kasumi spoke up calmly from where she still sat next to Asia. "That might have been true a while ago, but at present Akane does not trust, like or even understand Ranma. The understanding portion is not new, she has never tried to understand him. But the distrust," she shook her head. "We were just discussing this, and whatever happened in China seems to have affected her badly."

"Oh I'm certain she'll get over it, if Ranma apologizes for whatever bothered hit her like you should," Soun began.

"No chance said Ranma bluntly, breaking off from glaring at his old man to stare at Soun. "I did what I had to protect her and the others, the issues she's got are all of her own damn making. She's got to stop usin' anger infused ki, she's gotta wise up to the world, and she needs ta build some control, or she's gonna be a danger to everyone around her. She's just usin' the fact I had to kill ta protect her ta hide from her own insecurities, and those insecurities are feulin' an already dangerous situation. What the hell do ya think'd happen to someone normal, like those pervs that used ta try and fight her ta date her at Furinkan if she hit them as hard as she does me? What'll happen if she goes off ta college or vocational school and someone gets fresh with her and she lashes out full power?"

This argument did little to dissuade Genma who simply railed that it was Ranma's fault and he needed to be the one to correct it. Soun joined in like clockwork, and Ranma growled finally losing his own temper. "And if the damn pact between our families mattered, ya wouldn't have done what ya did with the other agreements ya made or whatever it was ya did to my damn libido!"

He went on to angrily describe what Asia had healed in him, while the young girl blushed faintly at the memory. By the end of that all the Tendos and Nodoka were glaring at Genma who was looking a little sheepish. "You know, I completely forgot about that."

"You… Forgot…" Ranma growled. He was about to leap across the table to throttle his old man when abruptly, much like Akane moments ago, his anger lessened, and he scowled. "I'd kick yer butt fer that right now old man, but the Tendos don't deserve ta have their house smashed again."

"We too will be talking about this Genma," Said Nodoka warningly, and even Soun nodded agreement.

Genma suddenly dumped some cold tea over his head, then went into his 'I'm just a poor panda routine.'

Even Asia wasn't fooled, though she thought the panda was cute. The familiar act tore it for Ranma and he jumped across the table picking the rotund animal up and tossing him through the door Nabiki had swiftly opened. "Panda this you bastard!"

Ranma raced out after the flying panda, and proceeded to kick the crap out of his father in a way that surprised all the Nerimans. Normally when they sparred Genma was able to hold his own, but Ranma wasn't holding back anymore, and he proceeded to pummel Genma into a mass of bruises before tying him up with some rope and punting him into the distance.

He came in and sat down between his mom and Saeko again, sighing faintly, though he had a small smile on his face as he did. "Feel better my son?" Nodoka asked dryly.

"Oh kami you have no idea," Ranma sighed blissfully, "I've been wantin' ta do that ever since Asia-chan helped me." He turned and looked at the young girl, who was pouting a little. "Sorry about that Asia-chan, just remember he really isn't a panda, just a dirty semi-child abusin' waste of flesh."

Asia continued to pout. "But did you have to beat him up when he was in his panda form oni-chan?"

"I'll remember that fer the next time, promise." Ranma replied and Asia stopped pouting and nodded happily.

"I have a question about this agreement between your families," said Saeko sipping calmly her tea. The floor show had been amusing but it was time to get back to more serious matters. "I realize I am new here, and I do not particularly know Akane very well, but beyond my own impression of her my father has taught me quite a bit about being able to read an opponent's skill. I would say that Akane is, what, middling rank in karate? I certainly wouldn't say that she has any advanced moves or training."

Ranma shook his head. "Other then the ability to create a ki hammer, no Akane doesn't have any specialty training. And she can only do that when she's very angry."

Kasumi and Nabiki smiled. Both of them could do the same thing, though only the middle sister had made use of it in the past. Kasumi preferred to summon up a frying pan, but even that was something she had only done a time or two to battle her cursed enemy (cockroaches).

"If that is the case, then she is not the heir to the Tendo school is she? After all, if she was she would know some of its signature moves. In that case, the agreement would have to move onto the next generation when there is a true heir to merge the schools." Saeko said, looking between Nodoka, Ranma and Soun.

Soun blanched. "B-but we made the agreement between us to marry our children together!"

"No, Saeko-san is correct, the wording was merging the schools, not just the families, and no child was specified." Nodoka replied thoughtfully. "That is a valid point, and one I had forgotten. Indeed, in that case Soun, the onus is doubly on you for not having trained any of your daughters."

"Th-that's utter nonsense, Akane is my heir, and"

"An heir that does not know anything of your family's school or martial arts in general but the bare minimum," Nodoka's words cut like a scalpel through the man's words, and he flinched. He looked about to start bawling but a firm pinch from Nabiki broke him out of that. "If that is the extent of your school Soun, then there is no point to merging the families."

Kasumi and Nabiki again exchanged a glance and the older girl nodded. "That's true father, if you were serious about having an heir then you should have been training Akane from the get-go. I realize mother's passing affected you greatly," she said this delicately, though her listeners could easily tell that said passing had effected Kasumi and the others just as much. Indeed deep down Kasumi resented her father more than a little bit for the way he crumbled under his grief, letting it to Kasumi to deal with her sisters. "But if the school and this agreement means so much you should have been working toward it all along, not simply trying to push Ranma and Akane together the moment they got here."

Soun stiffened and was about to begin bawling about his daughters not loving him anymore but Nodoka stood up abruptly. "In light of that, as Saotome matriarch, I declare the agreement between the Saotome and Tendo houses in abeyance for now, due to extenuating circumstances on both sides. Moreover, given the way Genma has dragged our family's name in the mud with his multiple engagements, I feel it would harm the Tendo name to go through with it now, even if it was still valid."

The Tendo patriarch refused to back down however, and continued to try and change her decision, but Nodoka was adamant. The two houses had too much baggage to allow them to form a harmonious union at this time. At a wave of her hand the youngsters left her to it, breaking up to do their own thing for a time. Kasumi, with Asia following her, went into the kitchen to put away the food Nodoka brought back and start preparing dinner. Nabiki went upstairs to have some quiet time, and Saeko and Ranma, naturally, adjourned to the dojo, where they sparred for the rest of the evening until they had to clean up for dinner.

Dinner was a rather frigid affair, though Akane surprised her father by agreeing wholeheartedly with the idea of postponing the Tendo/Saotome agreement. She called Ranma a dishonorable, perverted murderous bastard, and refused to even sit at the same table. Again something happened to her to make her anger subside, but even then she simply grabbed her food and went upstairs to her room.

Seeing this Soun, who had been worn down by Nodoka's arguments without Genma (and a massive amount of alcohol) to help sustain him, sighed. The amount of bitter, vitriolic hatred in his youngest appalled him and he resolved to watch her more closely from now on. Regardless, he knew now that his dream of seeing the families united in this generation had crashed and burned.

When Genma returned, which would take several days, the wounds his son had given him slowing him down, Genma would be appalled that his old friend had caved like that, but even then the decision would stand.


That evening Ranma and Saeko found themselves up on the roof, staring up at the stars. They were waiting silently for Cologne, but neither felt the need to fill the companionable silence up with words, simply sitting there silently in the dark. Ranma was sitting up, while Saeko was using his lap as a pillow, a closeness that Ranma was still not used to, but had come to appreciate.

Ranma glanced up as he felt the old ghoul's presence landing beside him on the rooftop.

Saeko opened her eyes from where she had been laying down on the roof next to her, looking over at the older woman. She stood up, and bowed formally before sting down next to Ranma.

Cologne chuckled. "Manners child, are you going to try and teach this wayward rapscallion some of those?"

"I do not believe it is impossible, so long as you use the right incentives." Her hands snaked out slowly to rest upon Ranma thigh kneading the leg for a moment as Ranma's hand rested over her own.

Cologne chuckled, already seen that these two were very attracted to one another. She wouldn't say they were madly in love, but they were definitely more attracted to one another than Ranma had ever been to any of the girls around here. Again, how much of that was put down to the fact that he didn't have hormones at the time and did now she did not know, and once again resolve to make a panda skin rug for herself.

Of course she thought amusedly, remembering Shampoo's report of seeing a panda sized mass of bruises flying overhead during one of her deliveries. I would probably be helped in that endeavor by a vast majority of the individuals around here. It's a pity that there's no way Ranma and Shampoo will get together now, no matter how much she wishes for it. We can still stay close maybe, and possibly become allies but that is all. Fool girl, why the hell did she attack Busujima like that right away? Ugh, its like I'm speaking to a wall sometimes, I told her our laws no longer applied to Ranma but does she listen?

She shook those thoughts off for now, concentrating on the here and now. Shampoo was stuck back at the café for now, but it wouldn't do to let her there alone for too long. Controlling Shampoo alone was like herding cats, and that had nothing to do with her cursed form, and everything to do with her stubborn, obstinate nature. "I take it you was to talk to me," she said turning to the topic that had brought her here.

"Yeah, those weapons I took from Saffron, there's something weird about them. And I don't mean weird as in their powers or even how powerful they are, I could tell they were strong and had this weird aura around them even before I picked them up, but we ran into some trouble, and the people who did called them demonic weapons."

Ranma went on to describe how he had met Asia for the second time that evening, as well as the trouble they had run into after meeting Saeko, which he hadn't gone into with his mother or Kasumi. When he had pulled out the Gekkaja and tossed it to Saeko the reaction of the Fallen Angels had been very disturbing, and they kept on reacting in that same fashion. "So I got ask, what's up with that? You know anything about their history or anything?"

Cologne didn't reply for a moment, simply taking it in. Fallen Angels, Angels and Devils were not unknown to the Amazons. The three way war between them had been going on far longer than even they could trace their history, but it was a very rare warrior who got involved in that was one way or another. That Ranma seemed to be willingly doing so was… well pare for the course when it came to the Wild Horse. Boy couldn't walk away from trouble if it would save his life. "Well, I have to say that matches well with what we know about the Phoenix people. You see Ranma, you have now met groups from all three of the factions in a three way war."

"So Saffron is some kind of devil or something?" Ranma asked.

"Not just Saffron, the entire Phoenix tribe is more of a tremendously extended family, a family headed by Saffron, of the Phenex family of devils. From what we know they are a very important family in devil politics. We don't know why, but there was some sort of falling out about two thousand years ago, well before the majority of civilizations were around, but after my own people settled where they were. For whatever reason Saffron and what he called his peerage came to reside in the area, possibly because of Jusenkyou, that is what we think at any rate. At first our ancestors thought nothing of it, but eventually they started to raid us, always taking those young and good looking. We tried to drive them away, but Saffron's powers were such that he slaughtered those sent against him."

"Yet one survivor came back and told us what was going on. The devils were using our people as unwilling breeding stock to pull their own numbers up. And for some reason their children all had the same wings that most of Saffron's original peerage had. We think much of his peerage was composed of tengu devils, but we cannot be sure. They, unlike Saffron weren't immortal, and they are one of the few devils who have close to the same lifespan as normal humans."

"Wait, is this the same Saffron I fought?" Asked Ranma, looking skeptical. I know that having a lot of ki can extend your lifespan but not that much, no way!

"HHAHHAHAH," Cologne cackled. "Yes son-in-law it is. You see the Phenex clan or whatever devils call them has the ability to resurrect itself, completely. Any wound can be healed, though certain weapons, like the Gekkaja and the Kinjakan, can offset that. They are also naturally long lived. But they are susceptible to curses, not combat magic, but long term curses. One of my predecessors realized brute force wasn't working and cast a curse on Saffron, tying it into the ability that he was so proud of. Every time he was 'killed' he lost a bit of his memories, not a lot, but over time it accumulated, especially after the ancient Amazons joined together with the Musk to push his people back. Dragons and Phoenix folk never get along."

Ranma snorted at that, the idea of Herb and Saffron battling it out was interesting to say the least, and something he actually wouldn't mind seeing, from a safe distance of course. Like a hundred miles away or so.

Cologne went on. "Eventually Saffron realized what was going on, and came up with his odd egg-based style of regeneration to resurrect himself after taking life threatening damage. By then however it was too late, he had already lost much of his memoires as a devil, and a goodly portion of his power. Oh, his body still retained muscle memory, but he actually wasn't a hand to hand fighter originally, at least according to the tribe's historical texts. With his memory he lost the ability to call upon the magic that made up the majority of his offensive powers."

Ranma nodded thoughtfully. "So his weapons really do have demonic origins?"

"Oh yes, he used them extensively against my ancestors. Without them, even when he resurrects again he will be severely weakened. You did a fantastic thing for the entire Jusenkyou region by taking the Gekkaja and the Kinjakan from him. And if it gets out that you hold weapons of such power, it will garner interest from all three of the factions of the supernatural war."

"Hmm, they're nice and all but I'll only use 'em as a last resort anyway. I'm not much of a weapon user really, trained too long without 'em, it's like fighting my instincts every time I try ta use a weapon."

Saeko frowned faintly. "While I of course have no qualms about using weapons, I must confess that neither of those weapons appeals to me. Moreover, I would prefer not to rely on my weapon's power instead of my own."

Ranma nodded approvingly down at her and Cologne chuckled. "Then I suggest you look around for a magically imbued blade. I can give you some names if you wish, though here," she pulled out her weapons space a straight Chinese sword and handed it over. "You can use that for now, it's not exactly a powerful blade or anything, it is one of Mousse's leftovers, but it has an edge at least. Just in case something comes up, because trust me, around here that is almost a certainty."

The pigtailed martial artist's eyes narrowed. "Why the hell are you bein' so helpful old ghoul? You've never been the type to share information for nothing."

The Amazon matriarch laughed quietly. "True, but circumstances have changed. Your fight and defeat of Saffron caused a reaction much closer to home than those who might have heard about it among the three factions. The council of elders has decided that you are too dangerous to keep trying to chase, and we will back off. All laws pertaining to the kiss of marriage or death are annulled for you and any with you. We would prefer to be allied with you, but neutrality is acceptable to us as well, so long as you do not teach any of our high level techniques to anyone else."

She coughed delicately. "I am not so certain however that Shampoo will stop chasing you. Ever since your rather blunt statement this afternoon, she has become convinced that her failure to capture your interest can be put down to your father's interference, and she will undoubtedly be after you again soon. I have forbidden her to do so until she gets up to what I term an acceptable skill level, but I doubt that will dissuade her for more than a week, perhaps two if I keep her busy enough."

"Just as long as she don't have you helping her or tries ta hold yer laws over my head, I can handle it." Saeko squeezed his thigh just enough to let him feel her nails and he quickly corrected himself. "Er, I mean we can handle it. Just make certain she don't get her hands on any magic and we're good."

Cologne chuckled again, hopping back onto the top of her walking stick. "I'll try, that is all I can promise. That girl is far too stubborn for her own good. Still, I look forward to see how you face the challenges ahead of you with great interest my boy."

With that she bowed slightly then hopped away. The two younger martial artists sat there quietly for a few minutes then Saeko smiled. "Then there was one."

"Heh, yep. After all this time I never thought any of them would be willing to let me go. Beatin' Saffron was the best thing I've ever done." Saeko chuckled and the two of them fell silent once again, simply sitting there in the dark watching the stars.


The next day Ranma came in from having slept out in the dojo, smiling as he saw his mother and Kasumi starting on breakfast. "Hey you two, need any help?"

Nodoka smiled in return. "Certainly, Kasumi why don't you go have a bath, take it easy this morning. My son and I can handle the cooking and this will give me a chance to talk to him." Despite her having accepted the curse and getting to know Ranma a little, they hadn't had time to actually talk just the two of them all that often, mostly thanks to Genma's interference.

Kasumi nodded politely, and left the two of them to it. A few minutes passed in companionable silence eventually broken when Nodoka asked "So what are your plans going forward?"

It was a fair question. "Well like I said yesterday, Asia wants ta go to school, but the schools around here…" Ranma shook his head and Nodoka nodded agreement. "She's thinking of going to an all girl's school, so she'll be studying up for that and taking the test sometime in the next week or so. The summer's almost over, so she'll have ta rush a bit. Once she gets in someplace we'll probably move to that area, but we haven't figured out a way to keep the fallen angels from coming after her. I don't know if there is one honestly, but maybe if we beat up enough of them they'll get the message."

He smirked a little, remembering how he had left that little goth loli girl, plus what had happened to her three fellows. "If they come after us again, they know what ta expect. And the same goes fer devils or angels. I ain't exactly happy Asia-chan was kicked out of the church fer somethin' so stupid, and if devils are all like Saffron… I'll give 'em the benefit of the doubt if they don't attack us, but if they do, well they'll have made their bed ya know?"

Nodoka nodded, though in truth she was having a little trouble believing that angels and devils actually existed. She was all right with h demons and magic, but the idea that, at least according to what Asia believed, that the biblical God existed, was a bit hard to swallow. "That sounds sensible enough, given what you know of them, though I would urge you to search for some way to make them back off permanently."

"And Saeko-san?" she asked, looking at him from out of the corner of her eye and smiling. "Where does she fit into your plans?"

Ranma didn't catch her look, and simply replied honestly. "She's coming with us, she's sorta like, me," he said a little hesitantly. "We don't, we don't really fit in polite society, though she comes closer to it than I do I think. Like me, Saeko has been sort of looking for a cause that that was worthy of her skill and protecting Asia fits the bill for now. Neither of us are really interested in settlin' down, teaching other people and becoming dojo masters or somethin' like that. This, protectin' Asia, getting' involved in takin' out these guys who look down and prey upon humanity, that fits our personalities better than anything I've seen."

Nodoka nodded and then asked "And what are your feelings toward Saeko?"

Her son blushed a little. "I, um, well that is…"

Nodoka laughed, shaking her head. "Never mind, I can guess. I have to say though that I approve her, her family is very respected in certain circles, and I think I might have even met her father once at some kendo tournament or other when I was younger. The fact that she has broken all of my old records as national women's kendo champion, and crossed the barrier to men's kendo in a way that I was never able to makes me respect her even more."

"Yep she's great," said Ranma smiling happily.

His mother smiled, knowing that whatever else, her son was very interested indeed in Saeko. Grandbabies! "I will help Asia with her studies, and I'm certain I can ask Kasumi to do the same. Probably not Nabiki however, I believe she's leaving early late this morning to head back to school. Her workload is practically crushing her."

Ranma nodded, "that'd be great. I wouldn't be much help after all. I ain't saying I'm dumb or anything, but book learning has never been my strong suit."

"And what will you do when Asia is at school? Saeko after all will be able to defend her during that time, and I doubt theses Fallen Angels will make much trouble in such crowded places as that. But you have already graduated high school and as you say your grades were not the best. You don't want to go back do you?"

"Not a bit of it," Ranma replied quickly, shaking his head and holding up his hands to form an X. "Sorry mom, but I don't think I'm cut out for regular schooling. I might agree to take some classes outside, but other than that I was thinking of getting a job. I bet I could get a job with the police or something, apparently I have a bit of a reputation in martial arts circles and my skills'd be put ta good use that way even when there ain't supernatural critters around ta pummel, but we'll see."

His mother nodded and the discussion continued, turning to more about Ranma and his journey with his father, including some stories that Genma would probably not be happy his son had shared, including the worst of the trials Genma had put his son through, the neko-ken. While many of these stories made Nodoka incandescent with fury, they didn't actually change her opinion of her 'husband' merely adding impetus to her plans in that regard.

Soon however they heard the sounds of people waking up above them including the two newcomers who came down together. As they finished making breakfast Nodoka said, "And if you think you are going off alone leaving me behind again you have another think coming my son. I didn't just get you back after 15+ years to let you go off by yourself so quickly. Besides," she finished, smiling a little as she saw Asia walked down the stairs clad in a long white (and rather old fashioned, in Nodoka's opinion) night gown, rubbing her eyes clear with the back of both hands, "That young one needs a mother still."

Ranma smiled happily, pulling her into a one armed hug then began to set the breakfast out on the table.


Later that day Nabiki, Kasumi and Asia walked to the train station with Saeko. Saeko was interested in getting to know Nabiki, whose intelligence was easy to see. She was also interested in her because Nabiki wanted to enter the business world, which was almost totally male dominated in Japan, something that Saeko respected.

Saeko idly wondered what would have happened if Ranma had been engaged to one of the other Tendo daughters. Nabiki was physically attractive and emotionally mature, as well as extremely intelligent and driven. Despite their different interests, backgrounds and goals the two might have gotten along, though it was rather a far fetched idea at this point.

Kasumi on the other hand would have been a far better match for Ranma, and Saeko was actually grateful that the two of them had fallen into a brother and sister roles so easily. Kasumi was kind, gentle, and giving and on the surface the perfect housewife. If Ranma were the kind to settle down and run a dojo Saeko had no doubt that Kasumi would have been the perfect wife for him. Yet beyond that she was a trapped bird in a cage, longing to get out but unable to escape. Even after only a few hours in her company Saeko could tell she was yearning for a bit of adventure, the chance to personally grow beyond the mold she had been forced to wear for so long. Being with Ranma might have made her stay at home, but he wasn't the type to force her to simply be a housewife all the time, he would have allowed her to live her own life if she wished.

Saeko glanced out of the corner of her eye at where Kasumi and Asia were walking along. Kasumi had taken Asia to heart easily, the two being very similar in temperament, yet there seemed a bit of wariness to her when it came to Saeko herself. It was as if she could see a bit of Saeko's darker side. It shouldn't surprise me if that was the case, Ranma saw it as well after all. Though Ranma also admitted to having his own dark side, to like the feeling of being on the edge and fighting to my utmost. Still, I hope that she and I can become friends despite my own issues. That had been an interesting conversation which occurred after the boarded the train up to Hokkaido, and had told her a lot about the boy that had opened her eyes to the challenges that were still out there.

Soon they were at the train station and after a few minutes spent saying goodbye to Nabiki, Kasumi turned and the remaining trio made their way back to the Tendo house. They were but about halfway home when Saeko suddenly stopped looking around, whipping out the blade Cologne had given her the night before from her gym bag (she couldn't quite get her weapons space small enough to fit inside her pockets just yet) and throwing the bag to one side, looking around warily.

Asia looked around to gasping. "A-again, re-really?" She asked a little tremulously. After all, Ranma wasn't here to help them, and Asia knew for all that she was very game Saeko wasn't up to his level.

Kasumi stared at the two younger girls in confusion, then looked around. "Where did all the people go?"

"Forgive us," said a voice, and they turned swiftly to see a young man wearing old fashioned clothing, looking like one of those old vampires from the movies with curly green locks and dark brown eyes. He bowed to them one hand over his chest while the other trailed along the ground in a courtly manner the straightened up and spoke again. "But the chance at not just one but two sacred year users doesn't come along every day. My name is Arconig Etevas, and I don't suppose I could ask you to surrender?"

"Two?" said Asia looking confused, and staring between Kasumi and Saeko..

"Oh," Arconig waved one hand airily, "The woman next to you hasn't fully awakened hers yet, but I can feel the affect even now. I wouldn't normally even be talking to you, you're only humans after all, you don't really matter." He said it matter-of-factly, as if he was simply stating a fact that everyone knew, that humans were truly nothing important. "But here I am talking to you rather than attacking immediately, a truly bizarre yet oddly powerful sacred gear, though I wonder what the specifics of its power is. I say again surrender and I'll let the other human live. You two of course will be coming with me. You'll make my peerage much far more powerful." He looked at Asia in particular, licking his lip, and Asia shivered, moving back against Kasumi.

Kasumi frowned wondering what he was talking about, but Saeko swiftly moved forwards, her smile turning a little feral, a glint of eagerness appearing in her eyes. "I believe the phrase is 'if you want them, you'll have to get through me first'."

"That can be arranged," Arconig said grandly, snapping his fingers, and around him four others appeared, three men and one woman. "Three pawns and a Bishop should be more than enough for you."

"And if she is not alone?" said another unknown voice.

Suddenly someone jumped down from the nearby roof to land next to Saeko, and behind her Saeko could hear Kasumi gasp "Kodachi-san?"

Saeko glanced at the newcomer out of or the corner of one eye, keeping the other on their opponents. The woman was slightly younger than her, though not by much she would judge, built along slimmer and more flexible lines, which obviously matched the fact that she was wearing a black gymnasts leotard that left little to the imagination.

She was twirling a long ribbon around purposefully, and Saeko wondered how good she was for a moment, before matching the description Ranma had given her of one of his earlier adventures in Nerima. "Kodachi Kuno I presume? I have heard much of your admittedly odd skill set. I am Saeko Busujima."

Kodachi bowed her head slightly, noticing the other woman's formal manner and regal bearing. "Charmed I'm sure, I might have heard about you a time or two from my brother."

As the two young women were introducing themselves the young pureblood devil Arconig turned to the woman beside him, hissing angrily "how did she get through the barrier?"

"I, I don't know," said the woman stammering a little. "It, um it should've kept out everyone, made them avoid this area on a subconscious level. Unless she has some kind of mental defense or something, or possibly already knows about the supernatural?"

"HOHOHOHOHOHO!" Kodachi laughed her mad laugh, and everyone there shuddered a little. "I would go with the second one myself, but then again I'm not alone in knowing about the supernatural around here. What manner of devil you are matters not, you just threatened Kasumi! No one, not even my idiotic brother or those gaijin fools that show up occasionally are so stupid as to threaten the angel of Nerima. You would turn the entire district against you in very short order."

The devil looked a little concerned, as did his peerage for a moment, but he shrugged it off. "Take them," he ordered. "They're only humans after all, what can they do?"

The Pawns and the Bishop paused, for some reason not wanting to fight despite their Kings orders and knowing what would happen to them. The feeling made it almost impossible for a moment for them to move forward, but another barked command of "Go!" got them moving again.

Strangely enough Kodachi and Saeko had the same feeling of not wanting to fight, but forced their way through it when they saw their enemies moving forward.

Kodachi responded by jumping forward with another "HOHOHOHO!" Her ribbon suddenly a whip that lashed out catching one of the pawns in the face. The man gasped in agony as the ribbon wrapped around his head with all the force of a whip. Then the others all looked on in shock as this human lifted one of their members off the ground with the flimsy looking ribbon, flinging him aside and slamming him into another pawn.

The other man fell just as swiftly to a single strike from Saeko's blade, cutting him from thigh to shoulder before he even realized she had moved. The Rook seeing this backed away slightly, looking over her shoulder at her King fearfully.

Arconig sighed angrily, and waved his hand. A magic circle appeared next to him, and out of it appeared three more men and another woman. "I see you were able to deal with pawns easily enough, let's see how you deal with two Rooks, another Bishop and my Queen added in." The two pawns too got to their feet rather unsteadily, ready to join in.

The two martial artists didn't reply, baking up and keeping their eyes on all the newcomers. The new group of enemies also suddenly felt the urge to not fight, but their king's eyes on their back got them moving forward.

The Bishops and the Queen began to ready their magic, causing Kodachi and Saeko to blanch a little but neither even thought of retreating.

Before the two sides could join however the equation changed again.


Ranma had not gone with the girls to the train station because he wanted to stop by and talk to Ukyo as soon as he could. He hoped that the two of them would remain friends, but he was going to hash this out today, not wanting to let the momentum he had gained from having the other two 'real' fiancé issues dealt with.

Of the three so-called fiancés Ukyo was the only one that he felt he might genuinely be attracted to. They had been friends when they were younger, and they had some things in common plus she was good looking. While Shampoo was physically attractive, her personality didn't appeal to Ranma, nor did her assertion that the Amazon way of life was better than all others. Ukyo on the other hand, well she had a dream for the future but he knew he didn't share. So it was time to see where they really stood, and he hoped it wouldn't involve tears. Ranma well knew that he had a double helping of the normal male weakness to women's tears.

When he arrived at Uchan's he found that it was closed, which was surprising for a Sunday afternoon. Still that had never bothered Ranma before, and he quickly opened the door, easily bypassing the lock. Seeing no one in the kitchen or in the dining area, he made his way upstairs. Ukyo kept a small apartment right above her shop, and he had been in there a few times before. He knocked on the door loudly. "Ukyo, you in there? I'd like ta talk to ya if that's alright?"

Despite not being in the damned neko-ken Ranma's hearing was more than capable of discerning not one person but two moving around inside and a whispered scramble of clothing, interrupted by one person, a female voice asking another "is that my bra or yours?"

"I think it's mine, yes see it still has a pad on the inside. Are those my panties?"

"Sugar, we've been over this, I hate the frilly things, how you can…"

This was more than enough to cause Ranma to chuckle a little, seeing that this was going to be much easier than he had dared hope. Oh and it gave him such fantastic blackmail material too!

The door opened a crack, letting Ukyo look out, her hair look a little bedraggled, and she was blushing slightly. "Hey Ranma! Er, w-welcome back! Why don't you go downstairs and wait we'll be, I mean I'll be, down in a minute."

"Oh I can't wait for this one," Ranma said grinning at her, which seemed to allay some of her fears. "I'll make you two some breakfast, after all," his smirk widened noticeably. "It looks as if you and Kotatsu need to keep your strength up."

Ukyo was now blushing so much it looked as if she was about to pass out, but Ranma simply chuckled and turned away going back downstairs.

It took the two of them about 10 minutes to dress, by which time Ranma had made a few rice balls, as well as some okonomiaki breakfast style. "Lots of meat and protein to keep your strength up," he said chuckling a little as they'd blushed again. "Oh and some water ta give ya back some fluids. I gotta say though, I thought this woulda happened a while ago, but I'm glad it finally did. Are you two happy?"

The two cross-dressers (though they had fallen into the habit for vastly different reasons) looked at one another then nodded. "Yes we are. I mean, you were gone so long, and then there were a few problems here with my business, and Kotatsu was always here helping however he could, and it just, you know, happened. This, this doesn't bother you though I mean we were engaged after all?" Ukyo asked.

"Ukyo," Ranma replied, shaking his head sadly, "you know my old man. You know how dishonorable a bastard he really is, would you even be willing to marry into a family with him in it?"

That made Ukyo pause. "I never thought of it that way actually."

"Lucky you," said Rama chuckling a little dryly. "I've had to live with him. Besides, why should your father making this agreement matter to ya, after all he wanted to hand you off to a practical stranger rather than raise ya."

Ukyo shrugged uncomfortably at the thought, not liking to think badly of her father, but unable to deny it either. She realized something had changed in her childhood friend though. The last time they had talked, he believed in family honor, yet now he seemed to have moved beyond it, and she for one was happy to see it. Ukyo had been doing a lot of soul searching since she and Kotatsu had gotten together, and she had realized that while she liked Ranma, and could possibly have learned to love him, she was after him for all the wrong reasons.

She didn't need to keep chasing Ranma to confirm her felinity, Kotatsu did that very well. She didn't need to protect him from Akane or that Chinese hussy, he could defend himself well enough. And, as Ranma had just said, the verbal agreement between their fathers was more along the lines of a drunken vow than a true honor pact, and should never have been taken seriously in the first place.

Ranma went on, smirking evilly. "So, who actually wears the pants in this relationship? Have you gotten inta any arguments about whose makeup is whose yet? When you have the wedding which of you is going to wear the dress?"

Both of them blushed and stammered for a moment but Ukyo was able to recover quickly enough laughing a little. "You have anymore? Get 'em out of the way now sugar, after this I'll start firing back." She was grateful that Rama was so accepting of this, she had thought he would be but hadn't been certain, and she could've done without the jokes.

"Oh come on," her childhood friend replied, laughing. "I get to hear comments like those all the time thanks to my curse, you can put up with it for a few minutes. Besides which," he went on sobering a little, "I ain't questioning the fact that you're good together, or your sexuality or anything like that. We're friends right, and friends can make fun of one another right?"

Ukyo nodded smiling a little. "I think we make much better friends than fiancés sugar," she said holding her hand out. Ranma shook it with an answering smile and a nod of agreement.

He was still a little irritated inside that this hadn't happened earlier, it would have made his life a lot easier, but still better late than never.

Ranma spent about 15 more minutes talking to the two, then left and almost immediately after leaving the restaurant he felt something in the distance. A massive wave of very finely distributed power, it wasn't very powerful but it seemed to envelop an area of the district. It sort of felt like what he had sensed briefly before fighting the four Fallen Angels after meeting Saeko, and he groaned. "I didn't think they'd be stupid enough ta come after us again here!"

He arrived on the scene quickly, and moved straight through the aura that was trying to keep him and everyone else out. In the distance several others were also racing toward the odd magical aura.


The devil gaped as yet another person appeared, moving through the barrier that he had set up to keep bystanders away like it wasn't even there. "What the hell is with the people around here?!"

Ranma scoffed, cracking his knuckles, eyes lighting up. "If you have to ask you'll never understand. I'm not going to say this more than once. Back off, or I'm going to put you 10 feet under."

Arrogant little shit of a human" said Arconig finally losing his temper despite the fact he could still feel the older woman's sacred gear still trying to work on him despite not being fully activated yet. "Get them, all of them," he ordered. His peerage hesitated a little, feeling much the same effect from the younger woman, but they too overcame it quickly moving forward.

Kodachi, Saeko and Ranma raced to meet them. Ranma briefly used his ki sight, picking out the strongest among the group and slamming into her as he could with a flying kick.

The Queen was more durable and stronger and more magically powerful than any of the other pieces in a devil's peerage, but beyond a power-up that came with being a Queen they had to train to get any stronger than they already were. Arconig and his peerage didn't believe in getting stronger through honest training, they were more hyenas then lions, skulking around the edges, hiding from those stronger or even close to their own level. Arconig was constantly on the lookout for interesting and powerful people before anyone else found them, adding them to his own peerage.

His Queen was a human woman who he had found had a very odd amount of magical potential, luring her away from her then husband, seducing her and then corrupting her utterly. Yet while it had been several years since she had joined his peerage and she was very skilled in magic, she wasn't as good at actual combat in comparison to what a queen normally would be. The kick had caught her completely unawares, sending her flying backwards.

A nearby Rook, a large heavily muscled man tried to pin Ranma in place while the queen got to her feet and sent out a silvery stream of magical power at Ranma. For all her fury however she couldn't tag Ranma. Ranma was far faster than even the Knight class, and the Anything Goes School of martial arts emphasized mobility.

He kept bouncing around, grinning wildly, trying to tire the queen out or turn her attention in a certain direction, letting the queen think he was being herded. Once he had he suddenly changed direction, ducking under one blast then getting too close to the Rook for the Queen to hit him without hitting her ally. Ranma ducked underneath the large man's legs and before jumping up slamming several hard blows at Amiguriken speed into his back and then to the back of his knees.

The durability given to all Rooks was able to shrug off the blow almost like Ryoga would, but the blows to his knees collapse to his knees. This was enough for Ranma to jump away, using his back as a springboard towards the Queen without him interfering.

The Queen yelped, realizing that she had remained too close to the Rook, and suddenly Ranma was on her. The buxom woman had been a devil for several years now but she hadn't really ever trained or fought in hand-to-hand combat before. This was immediately apparent when Ranma was able to close, and she merely flailed out at him with magic sparking off her hands, but unable to hit him.

In response Ranma pressed both his hands against her stomach shouting "Moko Takabashi!" At point blank range his ki attack was able to overcome her Queen given durability, and she rocketed backwards slamming into the building on the far side, her chest and stomach now a mass of blisters and burn marks.

While this was going on Kodachi had charged forward only to be met by two of the Knights. This class was much faster and much more experienced then a pawn was. They still weren't up to her skill, but in pure speed the two men, twins with dark brown hair wielding finger claws, had her beat.

She realized this when one of them was able to attack her almost immediately, ripping open her leotard and slicing into the skin of one of her shoulders.

She leapt backwards, whipping out another weapon with her free hand from her small hidden weapons space trying to hit him with a spiked club, but the man moved too fast for her to hit.

The other Knight got behind her trying to slash her back open. Kodachi jumped upwards, whirling her ribbon around to envelop his outstretched arm pulling him into his fellow. Kodachi fell down towards them, kicking out hard, but they dodged again rolling one way and the other coming at her again and this time before she could leap away in turn Kodachi's leg was slashed brutally, and she fell to the ground hissing in agony.

One of them closed quickly in an effort to finish her off, but Kodachi still had some tricks up her nonexistent sleeves. Between one flick and another her ribbon suddenly became a steel rod and Kodachi, her eyes desperate, jabbed it forward at point blank range, catching the Knight before he could dodge. The ribbon pierced him entirely through the stomach, and he fell, blood pouring from his wound.

She turned trying desperately to bring her small club up to block the other man's blow, but she was too slow and his claw ripped into her side. Kodachi screamed, falling backward, still alive, but barely.

Saeko had quickly finished off the two Pawns that had shown up, but had then run into the Rook and the two Bishops. The two Bishops, one old fat man and another, far younger almost effeminate boy were basically magical artillery, slamming out attack after attack much like the Queen, damaging the road and the surrounding houses but unable to tag Saeko who was too fast and too skilled, able to read where their attacks were going to land before they fired.

The Rook was a bit more of a bother, having a bit of rudimentary skill with the broadsword that was his chosen weapon he kept pressing her hard.

She noticed Kodachi going down, and let herself be pushed back to a wall. All three of her attackers smiled evilly, and made to finish her off with a combined attack, the Rook's blade slicing forward at the same time the two bishops launched two more magical attacks.

Saeko leapt backwards, her feet against the wall behind her pushing up and into the air so that she leapt above the incoming magical attacks. She landed right next to the two bishops facing toward the Knight that was standing over Kodachi. Before he could notice he was in danger her blade flashed out sending a cutting blast of air pressure at him and the Knight fell headless to the ground.

She turned swiftly, closing the distance with the two Bishops slicing one's hand off as she turned to bring her magical powers to bear. The other man, an elderly fat gentleman who had the look of a librarian around him except for his sneering mouth turned and hammered a spell into Saeko's mid-drift, but not before Saeko turned her blade around, burying it in his chest. She screamed as the attacking hit, throwing her backwards unable to retain her grip on her blade, but the man fell to the ground dead.

Saeko, shuddered, her body spasming from the lightning strike. She tried desperately to get to her feet, but the remaining Rook was standing over her his blade raised.

Before he could bring his blade down however Asia was there pushing him aside. She wasn't very strong, but the surprise of the push was enough for her the Rook to miss with his stroke, and swiftly Asia went to her knees slowly healing Saeko.

Before the Rook could do anything he felt a force landed to the side of her head, throwing him back to join the injured Bishop who was cradling her missing arm. He glared angrily at Kasumi who stood there calmly wielding a huge frying in one hand. She wasn't strong enough to really get through the Rook's natural durability even with a ki made weapon, but she would at least be able to fend him off while Asia healed Saeko.

Ranma's feet impacted the ground for just a second before he pushed off flipping himself in midair as he dodged a punch by the heavily muscled Rook. Ranma landed on his back, both hands already glowing blue again with ki as he slammed them into the back of the man's head. "Moko Takabashi!"

Like with the Queen, a point blank shot of ki was enough to put down for the count, and Ranma turned jumping off the man as he collapsed moving toward Arconig. The pureblood devil backed away, appalled at the utter destruction of his peerage by these weakling humans. Yet even through his sudden fear he was still thinking, readying a single magical blast. His family had never been very powerful, so they had specialized in piercing attacks. Even there they would never work on someone like a devil, Angel or Fallen, all of whom had natural magical resistances. Against a human though Arconig hoped it would work better. The spell was called the 'dark ray', not exactly an imaginative name, but at least it was descriptive.

The moment Ranma was within arm's reach he unleashed the spell. "Dark Ray!" he shouted his finger pointing towards Ranma.

Ranma however simply dodged the attack like it was nothing, his hand flashing out crush the man's nose and throwing him backwards. Devils and demons and angels were more durable than normal humans, but that just meant that they were par for the course in terms of martial artists. There was a reason that none of any of those groups had ever come to Nerima after all, sort of an unwritten law that Arconig would've paid hint to if he had had half a brain and not been blinded by the idea of gaining two sacred gear users after having spotted them at the train station.

The man tried again gasping in pain from that hit. Both of his fingers moved forward, but Rama slapped his hands to either, side his own fingers moving swiftly, slamming into the man's neck with all the force of a jackhammer behind them.

Arconig fell to his knees gasping in agony his hands going up to his throat which had just been crushed, but Ranma was pitiless. He had seen out of the corner of his eye Kodachi go down, and knew that these people played for keeps. If they wanted to play that way however, he was willing to oblige them. He reached forward grasping Arconig's head in both of his and then with one violent twist broke his neck.

The two survivors of the attack felt their King die, and looked at one another. They were about to run away when Cologne and Mousse arrived on the scene.

Cologne struck without any pity or warning, killing both with single blows from her walking stick to the backs of their heads before they even knew she was there. She landed lightly, on her staff, while next to her Mousse blanched at the ruthlessness the elder had just shown. "I must say Ranma, you do seem to attract trouble."

Asia was near tears as she ran from Saeko, having healed her enough so that the swordswoman could get to her feet before running over to Kodachi. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," she whimpered, her hands glowing with her power as she tried to save Kodachi's life. "If I wasn't here this would never have happened!"

She felt rather than saw movement next to her and a second later Kasumi's arms went around her shoulders. "Yes it would have, remember what that unpleasant man said? He was here for two sacred gear users, and he pointed at me. Don't blame yourself for this Asia-chan, it isn't your fault people come after you like this, it's theirs!"

Ranma knelt down too, adding what little ki healing he knew to Asia's efforts. "Kasumi's right Asia-chan, don't blame yerself for this. Kodachi was tryin' to protect you two, her wounds ain't your fault but the bastards who attacked you all."

Asia nodded, but still felt guilt within her until she saw her healing power begin to work, stitching Kodachi back together.

Mousse, Saeko and Cologne watched on with varied expressions as the miracle of the Twilight Healing sacred gear did its work.

Eventually Asia sighed, sitting back. "Done. She's as good as new now, I even healed a few old wounds for her, but she'll be out of it for several days, healing that much takes even more out of the person being healed than it does me."

"I can see why the church called you the holy maiden," Ranma chuckled, pulling her to her feet and looking over at the two Amazons. "Can I ask one of ya ta drop Kodachi off at home? Maybe she'll think all of this was a dream or something."

Cologne chuckled and waved at Mousse who scowled but knelt down, blushing faintly at the way Kodachi's leotard had been badly ripped, exposing even more of her flesh. While he only had feelings for Shampoo, he was a man damnit! "Mousse will take care of that, while I start preparing the damage here. I think you four should head home, your swordswoman looks like she's one her last legs, and Asia-san looks like she's about to have a nervous breakdown."

The other three all looked back at Asia, who was indeed crying softly. Asia was a gentle soul, and the idea of people dying, even people like these devils of the Fallen Angels from before, bothered her a lot. This was made worse by the fact that Kodachi nearly died trying to protect her from them. She hadn't even known the woman, but Kodachi had still tried her best to defend Asia and Kasumi.

Ranma lifted her into his arms gently, hugging the gentle girl to him and the group made their way slowly back to the Tendo house with Saeko leaning on Kasumi. They all worked together, trying to get Asia to see that nothing that had happened was her fault eventually convincing her by the time they arrived home.


Over the next few days many things changed in the Tendo house. For one thing, without the marriage pact hanging over her head, Akane was perfectly willing to leave Ranma alone so long as they didn't spend much time around one another. She still verbally abused him a time or two, but it never got to the level of actual violence. Akane knew Ranma was leaving soon, and that seemed to be enough for her. What did bother her however was that Kasumi was leaving with him.

"They were after me too Akane," Kasumi had said the evening after the attack. "I need to find out what they meant about me having some kind of power inside me, and, much as I don't like it, I need to be around someone who can protect me. Without grandfather here, who should I turn to for that protection? The Amazons can't be around that often, and father and Genma aren't strong enough, much as they might not want to admit it."

"B-but then Ranma and the bi-I mean Busujima should just stay here then!" Akane said, much as it pained her to say that. She wanted Ranma out of her life, every time she saw him she remembered that feeling of helplessness, of coming face to face with a real threat to her life, and failing to protect herself. She didn't know why that was why she was angry, but it was. Akane had never liked to have her own failings pointed out to her, and she refused to see the fact she wasn't as good a fighter as she thought she was.

Kasumi had glared at her making her feel like a little girl again but replied evenly. "Asia-chan wants to go to school, and Saeko-san wishes to finish up high school, so they will both be applying to schools elsewhere. You know that a Furinkan high school diploma isn't worth the paper it's printed on." That hadn't always been the case, in Kasumi's time there it had been a relatively normal school, but it went downhill quickly after she graduated. At this point however it was an ongoing joke to the rest of Japan's educational institutions. "I have no wish to force them to change their plans for me. Besides, this might be just the impetus I need to get out of the house and live my own life again. I've taken care of you, Nabiki and father for so long, put my own life own hold for so long, its high time I start living for myself."

That last bit was taken almost verbatim from a rather forceful pep she had shared earlier that evening with Nodoka. "They'll never learn to be independent if you're here taking care of them for the rest of their lives!" Was another thing that Nodoka had said, and Kasumi had finally realized that unless she began to move now, she never would.

Akane lost that argument, but cheered up a little when she learned that Nodoka had decided to pay for a maid service to come over, who would also be taking on the task (which Ranma claimed was a lost cause) of teaching Akane to cook after she and the others left. Neither Soun, Akane or Genma when he returned wondered why Nodoka did that rather than simply plan to take over the chores herself.

Genma had finally returned a few days later, and very conspicuously stayed away from his son, who glared at him whenever they were in the same room. He was also appalled by the fact that his friend had agreed to put off the marriage agreement to the next generation, and buttonholed Soun as soon as he could. "Tendo what are you thinking of? It's obvious Akane and Ranma are merely in denial, look at the chemistry between them!"

"Saying two people have chemistry can just be a fancy way of saying that things explode when they get together," Soun said dryly, rather proud of that little joke. It went right over his friends head however and he sighed. "Saotome, I've decided that whatever feelings they had is dead now. Akane, much as I hate to admit it, is not ready to be in a relationship, and she isn't a true heir to the Tendo School. She has none of the skills or techniques required to truly be the heir, something I must correct, though I hope to put it off until she has learned to control her temper."

Soun's eyes were forcibly opened to the dangers of emotion-infused ki in the past few days, and it appalled him that he didn't see the sings before. He was already putting together several training and meditation exercises that he was going to force Akane to use, though he was putting it off for now until Ranma and the others left. He hoped that without Ranma around, and without the contract hovering over her, she would become more amenable to instruction.

"Besides," Soun whispered conspiratorially, "with Kasumi going with them, it's not like there's no hope the agreement will be solidified this generation." And if they have a child I can train him or her instead of Akane, Soun thought. He was not looking forward to training his daughter again.

Genma blinked, then smiled. "Well why didn't you say so Tendo? And of course, we can stop in every few weeks, just to make certain they're okay of course."

"Exactly," Soun laughed, "And if things aren't moving as fast as we could like, we can give it a bit of a push then."

So for a time at least Kasumi had her family's blessing to leave with Ranma, Saeko and Asia. And surprisingly the general madness of the region seemed to die down. Happosai still hadn't shown up either. Ranma wasn't certain why that was, but wasn't about to look that particular gift horse in the mouth. The amazons stayed away, and even Kodachi didn't make a reappearance, still unconscious because of the after effect of her healing.

With Kasumi and Nodoka's help Asia was able to study up for the national placement exams in enough time to finish them before summer break ended. Once she received her grades (which were very good across the board except in history) Asia decided to find an all-girls school to go to. The look in Arconig's eyes as he looked at her still gave her the willies sometimes, and she wasn't ready to be around boys just yet.

Saeko (who spent almost all her time training with Ranma) of course applied to the same schools, and the two of them talked their choices over together. After a while, they secretly (none of them wanted Genma or anyone else to follow them) decided on Kuoh Academy, because it had a very good reputation, a truly magnificent campus and their kendo team was one Saeko remembered was a good one. Not in her league, but the majority were better than the girls on her school's team.

So, about three weeks after arriving in Nerima, Saeko and Asia left it, with Ranma, Kasumi and Nodoka accompanying them with a minimal of fuss. The fuss would begin in a few days, when Nodoka had a little package delivered to her now-ex-husband. But by then the five of them would be away, ready to start their lives elsewhere. Little did they realize this move would be one akin to the one made from the frying pan into the fire…

End chapter

Okay, I officially hate writing Kuno. It is just god awful. I couldn't remember if Ranma was still in school during the whole Saffron episode, but I have always thought all his adventures were spread out through two years, maybe more, so I had him graduate with Akane, and Kuno who was held back a year. Nabiki graduated on time but…

Anyway there you have my pilot attempt at this cross. The pairing is what it says on the tin, so no, Kasumi will not be added to the pairing. I have plans for her, but you'll have ta wait and see what they are. The group will arrive just a few days before the start of canon, and the story will continue from there. Romance will move slowly for a time, but when Ranma actually gets with the girls, expect them to act like normal horny teens for a time.

If anyone is worried about Ranma being overpowered, don't worry. In terms of the whole wing = power thing that angels and Fallen do, Ranma is a five at the moment. With the sealed techniques or the weapons he stole from Saffron that rockets up to 7. That isn't to say he couldn't win against stronger opponents or lose against weaker, this is merely a guideline. Saeko is barely a 1.5, though she will be a solid 2 by the time she starts school. And she will be getting stronger and find a blade worthy of her later.

This is one of two stories I have posted today, the other being Wild Wolf, a Ranma/ A Song of Ice and Fire crossover, though I also posted it under Game of Thrones crossover, since they are generally the same. Whichever section gets more views will be the one to stay up. The two stories are up in my poll to see which Ranma story everyone wants me to concentrate on after Horse of the Dead is done. The poll is like all my others, vote = one point for your choice, a PM that tries to convince me that this story or that one is the best one to go with other for reasons like 'I think this is good, write it' will get that story five points. Because of AstralJean and others this story already has 40 points.

As always, read and review