"So can we trust him?"

It was obviously the first thing that came to mind, the senshi had remained at Rei's temple while Ranma had left, and remained rather quiet since. Haruka had spoken the thing that was on most of their minds, in truth none truly knew whether or not they could trust this boy, the one who knew him best was Usagi, and even then she only really knew him from her past life.

"I don't think Ranma's the type to go out blabbing about our identities Haruka, he seemed genuine to me." Makoto said, to which several of the senshi agreed, mainly Usagi and Setsuna.

"I'm not so much worried about that as I am whether he turns on us, I mean, none of our attacks would work against him, and you saw what he can do in from that fight in the mall, do guys really think we could take him on?"

"You saw when he swore loyalty to Usagi! I mean, he got on his knees and everything!" Minako reminded them of the scene they had witnessed not hours earlier when Ranma had defeated the scorpion-like youma.

"Doesn't necessarily mean he won't turn on us…" Michiru interjected.

"My little brother is as likely to turn on us as I am" Usagi spoke up for the first time since Ranma had left. She seemed to be lost in her own thoughts and the scouts thought it best to leave their princess to ponder upon the things that had been going on recently.

"But-" Haruka tried to protest, but was promptly cut off by Rei.

"I don't think he's likely to turn on us Haruka, I mean, even Setsuna trusts him!"

"She is a bit biased." Haruka quickly responded.

Setsuna ignored the jibe at the moment and chose that moment to speak up. "While I cannot use the time gates to survey him due to his immunity to magic, Crystal Tokyo is still intact and all paths lead to its creation."

"You cannot even use the time gates to watch him?" Haruka nearly shouted, now even less sure of this new boy.

"That is enough Uranus!" Usagi commanded. The senshi quieted down in an instant, their princess rarely spoke so seriously, and knew to listen when she did. "My brother received enough prejudice in his last life, I will not tolerate any more in this one!" Haruka looked to protest but Usagi cut her off, not quite done. "As far as I am concerned this topic is now finished, my brother's loyalty is not to be questioned by anyone any further, do I make myself clear?"

Haruka reluctantly nodded, though she still didn't like the whole fiasco.

An uneasy silence settled into the room as the topic died, the scouts unsure of what to discuss next.

"Do you think that his mother will believe him? About him being a scout I mean." Ami asked, deciding to start the new topic.

Rei pondered that for a moment before shaking her head. "I don't know, I mean, everyone knows that we're supposed to be an all girl team, I'm not sure if his mother would or not."

Hotaru nodded. "Ranma-niichan seemed to be a pretty honest guy, I mean he did share his life story with us remember?" Most of the scouts nodded in agreement, the story was simply too detailed and crazy to simply have been made up. "But that doesn't mean people will believe him…"

The title –niichan wasn't lost on several of the scouts.

"Perhaps then we should pay a visit to her to let her know that this isn't some ruse and Ranma really is the reincarnation of a long dead prince?" Usagi asked. The scouts looked to each other and, one by one, slowly agreed to the idea, Michiru and Haruka the final ones to do so.

"Very well, let us…" Usagi began, but a sudden crack of thunder resounded outside and the scouts glanced to one another and rushed outside to see if that was what they thought it was. The once sunny weather had again changed, this time a dark, foreboding cloud cover blanketed them and looked most ominous indeed, as if some sort of dark omen that did not bode will for anyone.

"Do you think it's… him?" Makoto asked, the fear in her voice barely restrained.

"Who else do we know that could make a storm in clear weather?" Rei retorted. Despite the tough façade she put on however, it was easily noticed that her voice held a certain ounce of fear to it as well.

"What do you think made him like this…?" Makato asked again, this time worried more for what could have caused this.

"I don't know… but it does not bode well…" Usagi said, reverting to her princess state once more. The scouts noted that with Ranma's appearance it was happening more often, but filed it away to ask about later when they didn't have anything to worry about. "Come on, let's check it out." She commanded.

The scouts all nodded, and after they had all transformed to be safe, they sped off in the direction of the storm, being wary of the crackling electricity in the air.

-------------

The shades were, by all means, a genius creation.

Using technology that mankind couldn't help but dream of, these creatures were combination of organic and technological elements, literally a living machine designed for one purpose. Possession. They were originally designed to take control of high ranking officers or soldiers in the enemy's forces and then infiltrate the superiors headquarters before assassinating them quite efficiently. To be sure this was done; each shade was designed to use one combat style, which they mastered to a point of perfection. This combined with their hosts usually already impressive combat skills ended up with a killing machine few could compare with. As the shades themselves cared not for their captor's life, they often would fight without any sort of worry about self preservation or sense of fear. They were ruthless, and untiring.

The shades themselves were incorporeal, more like a wraith or ghost than an actual being. Little could harm them, their master made sure to bless them with varying invulnerabilities to most energy type attacks, which were usually the only things that could hurt them. Their lack of physical form only made it easier for the shades to possess their chosen target, no sort of wall being able to contain them.

But they also had conscious thought. They could think, feel and decide for themselves on the best course of action in situations. They were completely subservient of course, their creator made sure to put various programs of control in their system, it would not do to have a weapon rebel after all.

However, perhaps their most frightening ability was their intelligence. Their ability to adapt to any situation. They could assess the weaknesses or flaws of any opponent and turn it into a devastating advantage. They could quickly analyze how attacks worked and ensure the ability to protect from it the next time it was used. But most worrisome of all was that they were all connected to one another, they could literally live vicariously through one another, experiencing ones battles and memories as if it were it's own, and anything learned from one was passed on to the others instantly.

All this and they were still only in an experimental stage, no doubt the final product would be much, much more powerful, and it was a truly frightening prospect.

The slightly pudgy man entered the lab, his eyes flicking quickly side to side and a light sheen of sweat on his forehead. His brown hair was combed do the side neatly, and he wore a pair of thick glasses on his rounded face. His eyes were nothing exceptional, a simple brown color he shared in common with the majority of the population of earth, though he had not been there himself. He wore a long white lab-coat, though knew little science himself. He simply wore it because it was worn by a majority of the "employees" of this complex, and he felt out of place if he himself did not wear one too.

The room was simply furnished, white marble floor and a somewhat tall ceiling with bright lights that shone with a pure quality. The bars of light that made the room visible floated some inches below the ceiling, which was one large mirror, reflecting everything in the room quite clearly. The most prominent feature of the room however were the four tubes lined up on the wall opposite the door. They were clearly nothing that any scientist on earth had built; the technology displayed being far beyond that of anything on earth, or most the universe for that matter. They hummed with an unnatural presence, a very alien and discomforting hum that got a hold of your gut and just wouldn't let go. The tubes themselves were filled with a green liquid, and though invisible to the eye, countless nano-machines that built the shades. They constructed these creatures molecule by molecule, ensuring its perfection beyond anything a clumsy organic being could produce.

The shades themselves floated in the tubes, the ultimate creation of the sciences that their master had at his command. Their bodies would be a pure midnight black if it wasn't for the fact that they were quite visibly transparent. You could quite easily see the green liquid through their bodies, and if you only glanced at them, it would seem that they weren't there at all. This too was another amazing feature of the shades, their near invisibility to any physical conception. Though it was easier due to the bright light they were being exposed to, in a shadow they would be unable to be seen at all. Their heads, if you could call them such were simply a ball, a featureless sphere that bore no markings, oddities or signs at all. They had arms that extended as far as a humans would, just below the waist of the thing. Below the waist of the creature however, no sort of legs were present. Their body ended in a ripped like tail that drifted effortlessly beneath them, only further confirming their inhumanity. They needed not legs for transport, they were fitted with tiny ant-gravity producing fields in each molecule of their being, allowing them to drift noiselessly around with the greatest of ease. It was expensive to have one of these chips in every molecule, as only a few were needed to really generate the field they needed, however they were provided with them so that in case they did lose some of their being, they would not be crippled to the point of being immobile. They weren't designed to cause fear, or to look impressive. Such things were pointless to their creator; they were merely tools to be used and nothing more.

The tubes each held one such being, several feet in front of them a simple console stood, naught a foot square. It was tilted towards the door so that the operator could see it clearly, and stood about four feet in height. On it, a bright screen detailed various facts about the beings before it, from their height, to purpose to percent of completion. They were all of course complete, however none were the final version of the product, so it could be considered that these were "beta" shades, though just fine for what they would be used for.

Gurney approached the console and pressed one of the few buttons on the side of the screen, and on the pillar that held the console up a seam opened up and a small tray evacuated, and it was easily recognizable as a disc tray, though one a fraction of the size of the ones used on earth. He reached into his coat pocket and retrieved a thin case, carefully popping it open and removing the tiny disc and placing it onto the tray, which seemed to realize it had the disc placed upon it and retracted once more, the tray itself melding back into the pillar and becoming invisible once more. The screen instantly flashed and information started whizzing past, nearly too fast to read. The mission parameters were being read from the disc and prepared to be ingrained in the shades memory, and one final confirmation was required. Gurney pressed a second button on the console and instantly the information was sent to the shades, the various requirements and objectives instantly imprinting itself in each of their minds. The nanobots quickly retracted from the shades, the final tweaking for each shade completed in scant seconds. They all raised their heads, if they could be called such at once. The console spoke then, an inhuman and altogether ethereal voice that unsettled Gurney to no end. "Parameters accepted, shade mission beginning."

The shades each phased easily through the tubes and took a moment to examine their surroundings before their mission came to mind once more, and immediately scattered, slipping through the walls in search of a proper target to possess to fulfill their masters wishes. Gurney sighed and shook his head, already he couldn't believe that such beings had been created. He dismissed the thought and exited the chamber to the hallway, quickly finding his way through the winding corridors, ignoring all around him as he thought back to the few pieces of the mission he had seen. Apparently his master had decided to play on the King of Storms weaknesses immediately. Not admirable by any means, but undoubtedly effective. He silently thanked his luck in not making an enemy of his master as he approached a pair of large doors. It took a moment as the computer contained within identified the person who approached, before drifting open completely silently, something that still irked him. He entered the room and approached the chair where his master sat, still gazing upon the footage he had seen earlier of the awakening of the King of Storms.

"The shades have been sent out my master." Gurney stated, his voice wavering slightly at the mere presence of this individual.

The person remained facing away from Gurney, watching the pupil-less eyes of Ranma as he launched the sphere of lightning at the youma, destroying it instantly. A grin erupted on his face suddenly, his canines gleaming ferociously in the dim light.

"Excellent…"

---------

The scouts leapt from rooftop to rooftop as quickly as they could, glancing upward at the rumbling clouds every so often to ensure that they were on the right path towards their only male member. A small funnel cloud had formed, looking to be the beginning of a tornado and the scouts knew that nothing good would come of this.

They quickly made it to their destination, Ranma's mother's house only being some distance off from Rei's temple and each had their own reaction to the carnage that was going on. The house that they assumed to be Ranma's was in ruins, nothing more than a pile of rubble where a proud and noble house had once stood. They immediately recognized Ranma in the middle of the street carrying an older woman who had a formal kimono on, and her warm brown hair was done up in a bun on the top of her head. Blood was leaking from a large head wound she had received and it was then that the scouts truly realized how drastic the situation was. One of Ranma's arms was holding on tightly to his mother, cradling her to his chest, while the other was held as tightly as it could against her head, trying it's best to stop the torrent of blood that was leaking from the possibly fatal wound.

Before any could act however, Ranma's voice lashed out at four young women who stood before him, all with various looks of concern and horror on their face. His voice was anything but kind, dripping with something none of the scouts had heard before, and in fact none of the other women had either. Pure hatred. He honestly and whole heartedly spoke with such hate that it made them flinch as he shouted at them, his eyes slipping back into their natural pupil-less state and began to glow with an ethereal energy. Tendrils of pure energy expanded from his eyes and floated about, searching for some unkown object, reaching and grasping randomly. A corona of the same color energy exploded from his being, the concrete beneath his feet cracking sporadically in a spider-web like form, his place being the center of this web.

"The engagements…" He snarled, bearing his teeth at the girls. "ARE OFF!"

They all visibly flinched, and with good reason. Ranma's voice echoed quite clearly despite the urban setting, and for moments afterward, not a single sound could be heard. The normally noisy cicada's stayed silent for some time, as if respecting this time as Ranma's turn to speak. The various honks and squeals of cars paused, and it almost seemed as time itself came to a standstill.

"Ranchan…" Ukyo began, her voice clearly hurt. "You can't mean-"

"Shut the fuck up!" Ranma shouted, silencing her with a glare. "None of you have any right to even talk to me anymore. I'm not putting up with this shit anymore, all of you get the hell out of my sight before I make you!"

"Ranma…" Akane muttered, her eyes filled with fear, not for her fiancée, but of him.

"I told you to shut up! The engagements are off, all of them! And Shampoo so help me if you come near me one more time I'll destroy you're whole damn village, starting with you!" Ranma roared, tears welling in his eyes as he felt the warm liquid his hand was covered with, reminded again of his mother's condition. "I don't have time for this shit…" Ranma angrily growled, gritting his teeth before taking off, pulling his unconscious mother to his body and darting away in the direction of the closest hospital.

"R-ranchan…" Ukyo muttered, her own eyes welling with tears. "He-he couldn't mean what he said did he?"

"I would suggest you heed his words." A voice from a nearby rooftop gained their attention and the four women competing for the attentions of one pig-tailed martial artist gazed up and each gasped as they gazed upon the forms of the Sailor Senshi themselves, a rather disgusted look inhabiting their gaze. Each seemed to be furious about something, even the normally calm Ami had a scowl on her features. Ranma had told them of his fiancées, but most thought he was exaggerating, it was quite obvious that they were wrong.

"T-that's Sailor Moon… and the Senshi!" Akane gasped out, her eyes wide in awe. Was Ranma really speaking the truth…?

"Aiyah…" Shampoo squeaked out, even she had learned of the pretty suited sailors of love and justice, quite glad that there was a symbol (or symbols in this case) of feminine power, even in Japan.

"You all should be ashamed!" Sailor Moon spat out, absolutely furious with the four. "Being engaged is something to be held in highest respects! Not stepped on and abused! You have revoked every right you once had to court my brother!"

"B-brother?" Kodachi gasped out.

Sailor Moon nodded, the frown never leaving her lips. "My brother is now under the protection of the Senshi, if any of you try to come even close to you… we'll be there to make sure you learn to stay away from him!"

Haruka, though still wary of the boy couldn't help but nod. Though she hadn't really had good experiences with men, she knew that Ranma was not the aggressor here, and agreed whole heartedly with Usagi.

They watched for a moment longer to make sure that they had made their point clear before chasing after Ranma, leaping over the former fiancées of one Ranma Saotome and gave pursuit.

Akane slumped to her knees as tears welled in her eyes. In the past hour she had taken part of perhaps fatally wounding Ranma's mother, having Ranma break off the engagement, and even made an enemy of the Sailor Scouts. "W-what have I done…?"

"We done sugar…" Ukyo added, knowing that Akane was not the only one to blame here.

---------------------

"Setsuna… does that mean that your engagement is off too?" Hotaru asked as they dashed along, knowing that the nearest hospital was still a block or so away.

Setsuna suddenly paused as the scouts continued, her eyes widening and revealing their ruby red color in more clarity. His words shot through her mind like a bullet, the rage with which he had stated making her shiver. Surely he didn't mean theirs as well… did he? Setsuna thought back to the Silver Millennium, to how she had treated the boy and winced, knowing that she was most certainly in the wrong about him. She had to know. She needed to know.

"Pluto, are you alright?" Rei called from a rooftop across the street.

Setsuna shook the thoughts from here head and nodded, quickly rejoining her fellow senshi, her resolve only reinforced as they headed towards the hospital. Did Ranma really break their engagement off…?

----------------

Ranma burst into the hospital doors, uncaring of the eyes that were drawn to his person immediately after. "Someone please… help me!" He shouted, looking to and fro for any sign of a doctor. A passing nurse saw the boy and the condition of the woman he was carrying and immediately came up to him, asking various questions like what had happened and how long had she had the wound.

He answered as best he could, his voice wavering as she led him through a pair of double doors. Behind him several murmurs went throughout the crowd, wondering about this new person and the weird garb he wore. Several of them had seen the broadcast that had aired just earlier and became giddy with excitement that the new senshi was here.

"We'll take it from here sir, if you'd please go back into the waiting room…" The nurse said once Ranma transferred the limp body of his mother to the bed that was present.

"I'm not leaving, this is my mother!" Ranma cried, tears now freely spilling from his pure blue eyes. Another nurse entered and grabbed his arm, pulling him out. "No, no, no!" Ranma shouted, watching as his mother grew more distant.

"Please sir, we'll be able to perform better if you aren't present." The nurse who was pulling him asked, knowing that if he so wished he wouldn't be moved by her or most any of the staff.

Ranma gave one last longing look to his mother, his heart pounding deep within his ribcage before turning slowly and exiting back through the double doors and into the lobby, into the awaiting forms of the Sailor Senshi.

"Ranma! Are you alright?" Minako asked concernedly, to which he nodded briefly.

"Yes, but my mom…" He let the sentence hang forebodingly.

"Oh god… Ranma, I'm so sorry…" Makoto said. She had lost her mother at a young age, and knew the pain it could cause to lose one's parents.

Ranma shook his head, the sadness leaving his face in exchange for a mask of rage. "If… If only I had told those goddamn bitches before it happened…" His fist shot to the side and impacted heavily into the wall, causing it to buckle and cave in itself, compressing into the form of a small crater. "Then maybe my mom would still be ok…"

Setsuna wanted to ask, but she knew that now was not the time, especially when Ranma was in this mindset. She opted instead to guide him over to one of the chairs in the waiting area, and the crowd dispersed to give them some room as Ranma took a seat, tears dribbling down his cheeks.

"I… I could have saved her… but instead I just sat there and watched… watched as that beam crushed her head… oh god what have I done…" Ranma wept openly for the first time in his life. The guilt bringing him down into a deep depression. The senshi did their best to comfort the distraught young man, but all was for not, his mood didn't change for the duration of their stay in the hospital.

The senshi had been pestered several times for autographs and such but it soon became apparent that they were in no mood to please fans. Some time later, after people had filtered in and out and the waiting room had begun to die down from the excitement, a nurse stepped out into the area, looking and quickly spotting the weeping Ranma. It was hard not to notice the guy wearing a full suit of armor, a long black cape and surrounded by the Sailor Senshi. "Excuse me, sir?" She interrupted, and Ranma's red eyes rose to look at the nurse, ever hopeful. She smiled weakly. "Sir, we have stabilized your mother's condition, she's no longer bleeding and we've managed to remove some of the bone fragments caught in her brain... We could find no trace of brain damage, something that we had been expecting, but we won't know the extent of the damage until she awakes."

Ranma let out a long sigh, a slow smile of gratitude filling his face. "When can I see her?" Ranma asked. The senshi around him too let out sighs of relief, giving Ranma quick hugs and pats on the back in encouragement.

The nurse shook her head. "I'm afraid there's more sir. Your mother has fallen into a coma, and as far as the doctors can see, we don't know if she'll ever wake up… I'm sorry. You can visit her now, but please be aware she is still recovering."

Any happiness or relief Ranma had been feeling was leeched away by her words. It felt to him as his very soul had been sapped from his body, stolen away by some undeserving phantom.

"No… no! You gotta be able to do something!" Ranma shouted, rising above the nurse and she watched fearfully as his eyes filled with anger again.

She was shaking visibly, but managed to shake her head in a negative. "I'm sorry sir… the doctors did all they could…"

"Then make them do more! Make them go back and-"Ranma was cut off by Usagi's hand resting on his shoulder, and when he turned to look at her she shook her head gently. He calmed visibly, his shoulder's slumping and his entire body seeming to sag with an unknown weight. "It's… It's not fair!"

"I know little brother…" Usagi spoke, her voice soft and comforting. She turned to the nurse. "Where is she?"

After being guided to the room by the shaken up nurse the senshi filtered into the room, looking at the woman lying on the bed. An IV was inserted into the back of her hand, and the steady dripping of the bag above her fed her body medicine to speed up the recovery process. A screen sat at the side of the bed, giving a weak beep when the bar rose and fell, showing the older woman's heartbeat. Her once beautiful auburn hair was gone, hidden beneath various bandages that were wrapped around her skull. Her kimono was gone, hung up in the closet, and instead she wore a typical hospital gown, looking overly clean and sanitized, and only making Ranma feel even sicker.

He grabbed one of the two chairs in the room and pulled them to the side of the bed, grabbing the hand that did not have the IV in it and held it to his face, giving it a gentle kiss before bringing it to his forehead as he lowered his gaze to the floor, tears once more filling his eyes up. "Is there anything you can do sister?" Ranma's voice barely escaped his lips, a tortured and broken sound. The once happy and carefree voice was replaced by a bastardized version of it, one that did not sound like his at all.

Usagi gazed at the woman on the bed and frowned, shaking her head despite the fact that he couldn't see her. "I'm not sure…"

He rose his head to look at her, two tear stained cheeks shining in the bright light above them and the eyes of his spoke of a deep sadness. "Please… you gotta try… I only just got to know her; I don't want to lose her again…" For the first time in his life, Ranma begged.

The reincarnated princess of the moon looked into those eyes, once so proud and strong, now broken and despairing. She nodded, still unsure of what the crystal might do but despite it, did as her brother asked.

"Moon healing escalation!" Sailor moon called, invoking the power of the crystal and casting the spell over the comatose woman. She shone brightly, nearly too bright to be looked at before the light faded, and no change in her condition was apparent.

"Again." Ranma stated. A fierce determination in his voice. "Do it again."

Sailor Moon looked to Ranma and nodded softly, letting her powers gather once more and sending the spell into his mother's body once more. The shine was the same, the same silvery like color that just seemed to be pure light, pure good, in it's most unadulterated form.

Again however, despite the power that Sailor Moon held, no change occurred.

"Again!" Ranma barked, his voice wavering.

"Ranma…" Setsuna approached him from behind and let a hand come to rest on his shoulder. "It's not working… there's nothing we can do."

Ranma slapped the hand away from his shoulder and shook his head. "I refuse to believe that! There's gotta be something we can do… something I can do…" He looked up to Usagi for support, but to his dismay she was looking away, a rather downcast look in her eyes. "B-but there must be…" Ranma stuttered out. "Saturn, use your healing powers!" Ranma commanded, but Hotaru shook her head.

"That should have healed her more than I could… I'm sorry Ranma…" She let out, genuinely feeling terrible that there was nothing that she could do.

Ranma turned back to his fallen mother and collapsed into tears once more, fearing for his mother's life. The many unshed tears of his life seemed to spill out at once, flowing from his eyes and down onto the sheets that covered his fallen matriarch. The senshi as one silently agreed that it be best to leave Ranma be and filtered out of the room, each saying their goodbyes to Ranma, though he didn't appear to notice. Usagi was the last to leave, giving her brother one last glance before shaking her head and exiting.

Once outside of the room the senshi remained rather solemn, each unsure of what to say. There was no disaster to take care of, and nothing they could do to further help their male comrade. They were, by all intents and purposes, unsure of what to do from this point.

"Perhaps we should just wait until tomorrow…" Rei began. "Let Ranma sort this out before we figure out what to do?" She glanced about and saw most of the senshi nodding in agreement.

"Let me go tell him then…" Setsuna said, reentering the room for a brief moment before coming back outside. "He said he'd stay here overnight to watch over her, just in case she would wake up…" Setsuna stated. Though it was unsaid, most senshi doubted if she would awake, if the silver imperium crystal couldn't awake her, it seemed rather hopeless indeed.

"Fine. We'll meet here tomorrow at noon to check on Ranma." Usagi said. The senshi all nodded in agreement and after taking one last glance at the door that held Ranma and his sleeping mother, they all left the building and headed towards their various homes, their hearts heavy with guilt and grief.

---------------------

"Ranma…?" The voice pierced through his head, waking him from his slumber. He could feel a rather crusty growth on both of his eyes and his cheeks were still slightly damp. "Ranma, come on get up."

He let his eyes slide open, and his pupils protested harshly to the bright light flooding his eyes. Beneath him he felt soft cloth, and his hand was holding of something smooth and soft. Flesh he realized. He couldn't see due to the harsh light, but he kept his eyes open, knowing that they would adjust faster if he did so.

"Come on sleepy, wake up." The gentle voice said, and he reveled in it's kindness for a moment before yesterday's events flooded through his mind. His eyes shot open from their previous droopy state, a smile immediately forming on his tear stained face as he turned to the bed.

"Mom?"

She lay there, still as a stone. Her eyes remained closed, and the machine next to her beeped periodically, indicating that her heart was indeed beating. The occasional drip of the IV as the liquid medicine was fed into her veins, giving her body the sustenance it so needed in the current state.

"I'm sorry Ranma… she's still out."

Ranma turned to the voice and saw Usagi in her civilian form looking down upon him, her eyes heavy with sadness. She too looked a little unkempt. Her eyes were slightly red, not to the extent Ranma's were, but noticeably so regardless. Ranma came to the conclusion that she must have wept some tears in sympathy the night before. He nodded slowly, still coming to terms with the situation. He knew sitting by her side and weeping would solve nothing, but in all honesty he had no other ideas on what to do. Sailor Moon couldn't heal her, and he had no means of doing so either, and it left him in a rather helpless situation. And he never enjoyed being in a helpless situation.

The pig-tailed youth sat up, wincing as his back exclaimed in protest, long since having grown used to the position. It wasn't a healthy position by any means, and he'd no doubt regret it later today, but for the current situation he deemed it worth it. He stretched his arms out around him and let out a groan in relief as several tight muscles loosened up slightly. Taking a sniff he coughed and frowned. He would need to take a shower to be sure.

Usagi giggled despite herself and held her hand out. "Come on, we're all going to Rei's to… talk about it."

Ranma didn't need a further explanation on what "it" was. He nodded and accepted his sister's hand. Though not related by blood, in their past life the princess had been the most accepting of him, giving him so much unconditional love and care that they soon grew to be like siblings. He was in a sense her half brother, the blood in his veins partially coming from her mother after all, but then he wasn't really born either. It all came down to how one defined a "brother." He didn't really need her hand to help him up but the gesture was more than enough to comfort Ranma. He had friends now, ones that genuinely felt for him and cared for him. After traveling on the road for so long, the reincarnated prince knew that he would not take them for granted or abuse their trust in him. His thoughts turned to his ex-fiancées and his façade soon turned sour. He would need to do something about them today, he was sure of that.

Giving one last longing look at his mother he bent down and gave her a kiss on her forehead, savoring every moment his lips touched her skin. He had never done something like this before, and it was a truly gratifying experience, even if she couldn't return his affections. Turning back to Usagi, Ranma nodded and his unspoken command was understood. They exited the room and the hospital altogether, ignoring the various stares Ranma was receiving, who was still in his full battle uniform.

The white opalescent armor gleamed with rainbow quality sheen as the bright hospital lights saturated the ornate protection gear. The dragon that twisted up around his waist and up around his left shoulder was easily visible among the white armor surrounding it, glinting quite regally in the lights and making the figure all the more imposing. .A loose black sash hung around his waist, not really supporting any sort of clothing, but serving as an anchor to which he attached the holster for his flute, one of the few possessions he truly did covet. The bracers on his wrist stuck out as well, the armor was sleeveless, and so the only thing that drew ones eyes away from the muscles on his arms were the bracers. They were crafter beyond what most master smiths or jewel crafters could dream to achieve. The metals and stones that it comprised of flowing seamlessly into each other, despite their rather different traits. They were smooth, nearly flawlessly so, looking like a frictionless liquid around his wrists. One of the most imposing things of the figure altogether though was the cape that fluttered behind him. Although in tatters, the raven black cape was both long and royal in appearance. It too was smooth to the touch, seemed to be made of some sort of silk like material that couldn't be named. It fluttered freely behind him even if there was no breeze to make it do such, as if it had a will of it's own to reach out behind him and drift like water. The only thing that made it remain in place it seemed was where it was attached to his armor on the back of his neck.

Whispers surrounded them as they exited, wondering who this strange new boy was and why exactly he was escorting a schoolgirl around. Some felt jealousy rise up within, but most were merely curious, this new senshi that the news had been having a field day with was before them and in a hospital no less, and why did he remain in that form? His forehead was branded with the mark of the moon kingdom as well, something that easily made him recognizable by a majority of Juuban's populace and the neighboring districts, such as Nerima.

Once they had exited and were out of the scrutinizing looks of the people Ranma regained his bearings, marking his location and where the temple that the senshi met at was. He smirked as an idea came to him and approached Usagi from the rear before scooping her into his arms and darted up to the nearest rooftop, swiftly and expertly navigating the various rooftops of the district in the direction of the Hino temple.

Usagi let out a shrill shriek as she was suddenly weightless, lifted up and away at a high speed that she generally didn't experience unless she was in her senshi form. She relaxed, only slightly, when she felt her brother's arms hooked under her knees and supporting her back. She started screaming anew, but there was now laughter mixed in, like a little girl riding a roller coaster.

The laughter made the former prince smile. He knew that worrying about his mother wouldn't help anything at all, and in fact he was still rather depressed, but he still had family, even if they were from a past life, and so he decided that he shouldn't bring her down with him, or any of the senshi for that matter. The youth looked toward the girl in his arms with a warm smile as he remembered again that he would not be alone in this, all of the senshi, except perhaps Uranus and Neptune were now rather close to him. He still didn't know any of them too well, but as of late they had been more of a friend than Ranma had ever had in his time in Nerima. Heck, even if Uranus and Neptune were still a bit wary of him they had treated him better than most in Nerima. No, he knew that his friendship with the senshi was not to be taken lightly.

They arrived at the Hino shrine in record time, Ranma's experience with navigating from the roofs of buildings easily outmatching the senshi's own.

Usagi was let down lightly and playfully smacked Ranma's chest. "Tell me the next time you're going to do that!"

"Why would I do that?" Ranma asked, smiling mischievously.

Despite herself, Usagi couldn't help but smile as she tried to act angry, turning away and huffing. Ranma shook his head, a smile still present on his lips.

"What are you guys doin here? The meeting isn't for another half hour!" Rei's voice suddenly intruded in their little game, startling Usagi.

Ranma turned and shrugged. "Took us a bit quicker than expected to get here."

Usagi smacked the back of Ranma's head, which had no real affect, but appeared quite humorous regardless. "'Cause someone here had to take us all over Juuban's rooftops!"

A soft smile graced Rei's lips. She had felt really bad for Ranma, as had the rest of the senshi, and was expecting him to be rather morose for the meeting, if he showed up at all. A sudden stink filled her nostrils and she coughed and waved a hand in front of her nose. "Ugh! What is that smell?"

Ranma rubbed the back of his head sheepishly and smiled. "Uh, could I use your bathroom..? I stayed overnight at the hospital and didn't get a chance to bathe…"

The prophetic senshi looked at Ranma and her ire at the smell faded slightly, the situation easily justified. "Sure, let me take you up there."

As Ranma was led to the furo, the princess smiled mischievously and headed to Rei's room, quickly snagging a couple manga off the floor and sneaking them down the room where the meeting would commence.

Once alone in the restroom Ranma's smile melted away and he sighed. He was pleased that he could make Usagi happy to be certain, but no matter how happy he made her it couldn't stop the sting of knowing he may never talk to his mother again, or at least have her respond. He looked to the mirror and shook his head at the sight. His hair was compressed at an odd angle, matted on one side and all facing one way. His eyes were dreadfully red and covered with the crusty goop that had leaked when he had cried in the night. Two trails could be easily made out on his cheeks, where the tears washed away the dirt, leaving him appearing quite… well, quite ugly.

With a quick mental command his armor and cape began to glow, slowly at first but quickly gathering light. Small coronas of electricity started running across his body, leaping from point to point at random intervals before the whole suit seemed to lose consistency, the matter turning into energy and sliding along his body like liquid and down his arms. The energy like substance traced his muscles and made him appear even more defined, before it seeped into the bracers on his arms, disappearing from sight altogether.

He smiled in spite of himself. "Always thought that was a neat trick." He muttered, remembering when he had crafter it in the past. He had help creating the armor and bracers, his immunity to magic ended up being more of a hindrance than a boon at this point, but luckily his "father," the scientist who had lead the project in creating him, had helped him craft the armor and bracers using the finest technology on the Moon, some of which even the queen herself had not seen.

He quickly stripped from his black Chinese clothes, tossing them aside in the corner of the dressing room before sliding the door open and beginning to fill the furo.

The King of Storms washed himself quickly, still reveling in the fact that he could wash in cold water rather easily, not needing to fear the curse any longer. After a quick, but much needed lather he turned off the water and prepared to take a little dip into the furo to help calm him.

Several voices echoed from some distance off however, and he couldn't help but break out into a smile and laugh.

"Damnit Usagi give me my manga back!"

"B-but Rei! I don't have this issue yet!"

"Then go out and buy it!"

"W-why are you so mean to me!" What followed was the sounds of sobbing and a rather loud set of whining about mean girls.

Ranma let himself sink into the furo's rather hot waters, reveling in the feelings as all of his muscles seemed to just melt into putty upon contact, giving him some much needed relaxation.

When he heard the others start to arrive he drained the furo and exited, redressing into the black clothing he had before, pausing to sniff them and deciding they would do, but he should likely change tomorrow. He decided against summoning his armor, it would be pointless for what was coming ahead.

Using a towel to dry his still untied hair, Ranma entered the room where a majority of the inners had gathered, and the outers still had yet to arrive.

"Ranma!" Makoto shouted as she saw him, rising to her feet.

Ranma gave her and Ami a weak smile, noting that Minako was still missing. "Heya Makoto."

"Are you alright? I thought for sure you'd be with your mom…" She said, looking rather worried.

He gave her a nod. "I spent the night there and Usagi got me this morning… I couldn't just sit around there; it'd only make it worse."

"We are really sorry about your mom, Ranma…" Ami started, but Ranma cut her off.

"Don't worry about it."

"But if we had been there then we could have-"

Ranma shook his head. "No, this was my fault… I don't worry about it okay?" Ami nodded, still skeptical but deciding to let the subject drop. "Anyway… where are Minako and the others?"

Rei shrugged. "They should be here soon and- Usagi! Give me that!"

Usagi clutched the little book to her chest and shook her head. "Nuh uh! I'm right at the good part Rei!"

"I haven't even read that one yet!"

"Well I'm at the part where the guy-"

"DON'T GIVE IT AWAY!" Rei shouted, putting her hands over her ears.

"Did I miss something or- Ranma!" A new voice stated, and it was revealed to be Minako as she entered the room. "Are you okay?"

Ranma gave her a smile and a nod, still struggling to get all the water out of his hair, 'The only trouble with long hair…' Ranma groused in his mind as he combated with the watery menace that had soaked into his hair.

The outers soon followed Minako, arriving as a group. They too fussed over Ranma and asked if he was alright and how his mother was doing, which was truly begin to irritate him. He answered curtly as he had before several times already before fumbling around with his hair in an attempt to get it into his signature pig-tail.

"Here Ranma, I'll help!" Hotaru cheerfully supplied, taking a seat behind Ranma and beginning to braid his hair.

The male senshi sputtered as she began to do so, thinking back to the dream he had had in school that day, of the ball in the palace all those years ago. The Saturn from back then was older and more mature looking than this one, though Ranma didn't complain. He admitted that she was rather lovely, in both her past life and her current one, but knew that it wouldn't do anything good at this point.

Hotaru hummed happily, heat pooling in her cheeks as she caressed and stroked Ranma's hair. She marveled at it's softness as she braided it into the familiar pig-tail she had seen him wear whenever he was around.

More than one of girls present were not pleased, eyeing Hotaru rather angrily.

Setsuna especially seemed to be rather upset at this, and rightfully so. It was her fiancée that this girl was taking care of. Her thoughts froze however when she remembered his words from yesterday filtered through her mind. 'He said that the engagements were off… but, could that mean..?'

"Ranma?" Setsuna finally managed to get out, drawing his attention. "About yesterday…"

"I told you already it ain't your fault." Ranma tersely answered, rather sick of this line of questioning.

"No not that… it's about what you said, the engagements being off?"

Ranma gazed at her for a few moments before looking away, his face devoid of any emotion. "Yeah, what about it?"

"Did… did you really mean that?"

Ranma pursed his lips for a second. The eyes of most of the senshi were on him now, the question Setsuna had asked being on their minds as well. It could after all make the whole situation wide open as "Ranma season" would officially be in session.

"Setsuna… in my past life you hated me. You called me a freak and an abomination… you belittled me and claimed that I was nothing more than a weapon to be used, not a real person..." His eyes turned up to her own, sapphires meeting rubies. "And now you're acting the complete opposite… fawning over me and stuff… it doesn't make sense…"

"I had time to think about Ranma, I realized I was wrong, I realiz-"

Ranma shook his head and she silenced. "Setsuna… I just don't see how that could be, I…" He looked for the words, though the senshi of Pluto had a feeling that she knew what was coming. "I don't want to be engaged. I want to choose who I want to marry out of love, not out of an agreement. My mother made the engagement for publicity, to try and make the population more welcoming for me, and you just turned it around and shoved it in my face."

Tears pooled in Setsuna's eyes, and the scouts could only watch stunned as she turned and ran out of the room with tears trailing down her cheeks.

Mixed feelings filled the room. Minako, Makoto and Hotaru were all relieved that Ranma was now open game, but they couldn't help but feel for Setsuna as well. She had made it clear the extent of her feelings for the young man, and he had just rejected her.

Ranma cursed himself rather loudly, making Ami blush as he rushed after her, startling Hotaru who had been sitting behind him.

"Harsh." Haruka stated, to which Neptune smacked her arm and frowned at her.

--------------------

She had collapsed in the yard outside the temple, on her knees and sobbing. She had changed Damnit! She had! Why couldn't Ranma see that? She loved him; she loved him so very much. The senshi frowned as his words came back to her. What he had said was true though. When the engagement was announced, she had been outraged, cursing and belittling the boy, constantly pointing out his heritage.

'Damnit Setsuna… you fool…' She thought.

"Se-chan…"

Ranma's pet name for her and his soft voice pierced through her self loathing and she stiffened up as his footsteps grew closer.

"Se-chan, hear me out-"

"No! Ranma… you're right. I mistreated you horribly, and I'm so sorry… but I've been thinking about it ever since the Silver Millennium, I've had so much time to realize my mistakes, can't you see that I really do love you?"

She was silenced when one of his fingers was placed on her lips. He looked at her with sad eyes and shook his head.

"That may be Setsuna, but I have other reasons for breaking off the engagement."

She looked at him, confused as to his reasons.

"All my life, this life at least, I've had obligations thrust upon me by my mother and father… Setsuna, for once I'd just like to choose for myself, let my heart guide me instead of some agreement." Hope sparkled in her eyes as Ranma smiled. "I'm not saying that I'm not going to marry you, or that I don't have feelings for you… I just want to marry because I actually feel for the woman, not because I have some promise to keep… okay?"

Setsuna nodded, her lips still held shut by his finger.

"I haven't forgotten about the things you said and did in the past, but that doesn't mean I'm not willing to start over…" He shifted the finger off of her lips to wipe the tears from her eyes, smiling at her beauty. "Would you like to start over Setsuna?"

Setsuna nodded and smiled. "I think I'd like that."

Ranma returned her smile and spoke. "Good. Come on, the rest of the scouts are probably wondering what's going on. Setsuna followed closely behind Ranma, eager to start her relationship anew with Ranma. She had messed up in the past, but she would be damned if she lost him again.

They reentered the room, and the senshi seemed surprised that Setsuna had a smile on her face and the tears were gone. Her eyes were red, indicating that she had cried, but apparently they had remedied their predicament.

"You guys get engaged again?" Michiru asked, wondering why Setsuna was smiling.

Ranma shook his head in the negative. "No, but I told her that just because it's off doesn't mean we can't get married. I just told her that I want to marry out of love, not for some promise that was made.

A collective love struck sigh was let off and Ranma himself sighed, though his was in exasperation.

"So, what now?" Haruka asked. "I mean, your moms in the hospital so what're we going to do?"

"I'm going to do." Ranma corrected. He raised his hand at several of the senshi's protest. "Let me finish. My ex-fiancées are my responsibility; I need to show them that I won't put up with this shit anymore. They hurt my mom, maybe permanently, and I need them to realize that that just doesn't sit will with me. I know you girls want to help, but I need to do this alone, to get some closure on my old life."

"So… what?"

"Tomorrow I'm going to Nerima to settle this once and for all." Ranma stated, his eyes glowing slightly as his anger rose in a thought of his old fiancées.

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Chapter 10, complete and ready.

Not really a cliffhanger hear (GASP) I know I know, I felt like giving you guys a break for once Once. This chapter is where the real dark stuff started, though next chapter it'll become really apparent. I had planned on this being longer, but I figured that I'd dedicate this chapter to Ranma dealing with his mom's coma and working with his own feelings on that. It may seem OOC to some of you for Ranma to break down like that, but I think that with the memories of his past life combined with the fact of watching his MOTHER of all people get knocked out like that would be easily justifiable. Next chapter will introduce the first one possessed by the shades and the resulting fight, and most likely the conclusion. This is more of a subdued chapter, to compensate for the fact that the next few will be mostly fighting as the story starts to wrap up. The story has maybe 5 chapters left in it, give or take.

I also need to get some info, I received a beautiful piece of fanart some time ago (okay, a long time) and I forgot to save the e-mail with it! I saved the picture, and love the style and way it's been done, however I did not record the artists name. (D'oh!) I want to post it on my fanficchallenge site, but I refuse to post it without giving credit where it's due, gimme an e-mail and I'll post it up with the artist's name.

As always, I can be reached from one of my three e-mails SyrhkN(at)gmail(dot)com gundraw(at)msn(dot)com or sirhcsirron(at)hotmail(dot)com My g-mail and msn e-mails are the most commonly checked, so if you want a response try there first. Thanks for supporting me despite the long overdue update for the story, but I'm still going strong.

And for those who read the last C&C chapter, sorry about the lack of breaks in between scenes, I put some in but the formatting gets all screwy when you upload it to the site, a real pain to be sure. To see the original work how it's supposed to be viewed, go to my website.

Till next time

Chris "Gundraw" Norris