For this last chapter, I would like to thank Josh Temple and Ozzallos for looking over my early drafts.
As always, I'd like to give a big, special Texas-size thanks to Ghost in the Machine for pre-reading this and many of my other past chapters - this is on top of putting up with me this long. Ghost in the Machine's help has been invaluable and it cannot be understated. His trusty baseball bat and microscope have been a huge help.
Constructive criticism is always welcome.
I don't own any of these characters or situations. They belong to someone else. Also this is done purely for fun, not profit. Any resemblance to persons living, dead, yet to be born, or visiting from other dimensions is purely coincidental. I'm doing this for fun.
Boldly going where others had gone before and meekly going where few have been.
University Part 14 and Epilogue
"Would someone mind telling me what in the hell is going on?" Sailor Mars asked sharply.
Sailor Moon raised a hand, stalling anything more that Sailor Mars, or any of the other scouts, had to say. She turned her attention to the redheaded scientist that was studying some readouts. "You know us," Sailor Moon stated.
Washu nodded absently, making her spiky red hair wave. Behind Sailor Moon, Sailor Pluto also nodded.
Washu sighed. "I would love to explain the whole thing to you, but right now, we may be running out of time."
"What do you mean and what does this have to do with Ranma?" Tenchi asked after regaining his wits. "Why are there two of her?"
"FireWalker is the product of years of research and development into bio-weaponry," Tsunami answered. "Like the rest of the Senshi that were developed to protect the realm, she is able to use a celestial body to focus energy and channel it."
"Am I to understand that you made these people," Ayeka said as she motioned to the fukued girls "- to serve as some type of super weapon?"
"Yes," Washu answered, "but FireWalker is unique-"
"FireWalker?" Tenchi interrupted.
"Ranma," Washu said before continuing. "She was the last and most advanced Senshi created."
"FireWalker's capabilities have never been fully explored," Tsunami added. "Her power curve never reached a plateau."
"But why are there two of them?"
Washu sighed. "Pluto could explain it better, but with every timeline, there are different universes - dimensions - that exist. Apparently this other Sailor Sun is from another universe."
Admiral Karikachi studied the images that were coming from another universe. "So this other... person tried to start a war between us?"
"Apparently so," Sailor Mercury deadpanned, irked by the officer's grasp of the obvious.
"Now there are two Sailor Sun's..." Tenchi thought aloud before declaring, "We've got to help her!"
"We can't fight against that!" Washu said sharply while waving to the scene unfolding on the view screen. "Do you realize how powerful she is? If this other Sailor Sun is even half as powerful as ours, we can't fight her!"
"It doesn't matter. We can't aband-"
"I'm not going to argue," Washu said as sharply as before, cutting off any debate. "Our only hope is that FireWalker-"
"Her name is Ranma," Tenchi snapped back at Washu. "I don't care if she was some pet project of yours from the past. She is a person, not a thing."
Washu remained silent for a few heartbeats as emotions ran high. "I'm sorry," she offered evenly. "Our only hope is for - Ranma to pull it together, but even then we might be doomed."
"Why's that? What have you done to her?"
"We only did what we were asked," snapped Washu.
"What are you talking about?" Ryoko asked in irritation. "What in the hell is going on and who are these people?"
"I do think that a fuller explanation is in order," Azusa, the Jurai Emperor, said.
Washu and the ghostly Tsunami shared a look before gazing back at their audience.
"All right," Washu said wearily. "It all started over forty thousand years ago..."
Ranma studied her older self. Everything was identical except the her twin had the symbol of the Sun on her forehead with two 'solar flares' framing her face and stopping at her cheeks. The symbols glowed with power.
So much power that Ranma backed up involuntarily.
"What's the matter?" the Mistress asked. "Don't tell me that I frighten you."
Ranma who was at stage two, moved to stage three. Super Sailor Sun faced off the Mistress.
"I not afraid of anything!" Ranma declared as she flexed her newly formed wings of flame. "Especially you."
Sailor Sun laughed loudly. "Oh, how marvelously arrogant," she said with a chuckle. "You'll be so much fun to play with."
Ranma directed more power to her shielding. "Play with? What do you think this is? A game?" she asked.
"Why of course it is," Sun answered off-handedly. "It's game a I play all the time."
Ranma blinked at her fuku wearing double. Sailor Sun looked back with excess mirth.
"You don't understand now," Sailor Sun said re-assuredly. "But by the time I'm through with you, you will."
Ranma took a defensive stance as she felt Sailor Sun's energy spike. Ranma fed more energy to her shields and focused her scans on the woman before her. The flares of energy that surrounded Ranma increased in number as did their intensity. Her wings brightened and pulsed.
Sailor Sun looked at the display impassively. "So much work to do," she said with a sigh. "Evolving you will take some doing... but I think it will be worth it."
"What in the hell are you talking about?" Ranma spouted off.
Sailor Sun stood with her arms crossed and looked at Ranma as if she were a simpleton. "It would be easier," she held out a hand, "to show you," she closed her hand and her sword formed. Without a beat after forming her sword, Sailor Sun attacked wildly.
Dodging, Ranma lashed out and blocked the swing with her wings as she summoned her own sword. Ranma's wing flared at the contact and slowed the sword strike as it passed through it. "This is insane," Ranma thought as she brought up her sword to intercept a strike by Sailor Sun. "She's a Senshi - she shouldn't be like this."
"It has been fun," Sailor Sun said absently as she swung at Ranma again, "and slightly disappointing. But that just shows: no matter how much you plan, the unexpected always can happen."
"Why are you doing this?" Ranma implored as she blocked again and performed a spin kick in one motion. The kick connected solidly, but only managed to knock Sailor Sun back a few yards.
"I told you. I did it for you," Sailor Sun answered. "I did it all for you."
"I don't need anything from you, especially if it endangers everyone around me."
"Says the blind woman who needs to see," Sailor Sun quipped. "You are still very blind - I'm going to help you see."
"Can't you just tell me?" Ranma jibbed as she deflected a thrust. "It'd be a hell'va lot easier."
"Oh no, little one," Sailor Sun smirked. "Some things need to be experienced."
Ranma felt a spike of anger within her. "And endangering innocent lives - killing innocent people justifies it?"
"Of course," Sailor Sun snorted. "It's not like anything important was lost."
Ranma locked blades and pushed Sailor Sun back. "Not important! We're talking lives here!"
"So? What are you getting so upset about? I've killed more in my life than the petty few here and I expect to kill more in the future," Sailor Sun stated matter-of-factly. "So what of it? Trust me, it's not as important as you think."
"Not as important as -" Ranma voice trailed off as she stared at her other self before her. Ranma came to the realization: Sailor Sun was very dangerous and homicidal; not to mention probably insane. There was only one thing that Ranma could think of to deal with someone of Sailor Sun's power range.
"I'll have to kill her," Ranma concluded. "I'm going to have to strike hard and fast."
Focused now with grim determination, Ranma began cycling through the list of available attacks she had on hand, and was briefly surprised to find more listed than what was normally available. Evidently certain protocols were built in that allowed her certain attacks at the current power level. Being in her Super form - the high end of her Super form - afforded Ranma many options she hadn't explored yet. In the back of her mind, she quickly sorted through all the weapons at her disposal and a powerful one came to the fore - one that didn't need complex unlocking codes to use. She prepared, charged up, and readied her attack while laying a combo of kicks and back-handed hits onto Sailor Sun as a distraction. Ranma wanted to deliver it point-blank so there would be no mistake or miss.
Ranma did a spin kick that would have taken the head off a normal person. "Gee, you suck," Ranma taunted as Sailor Sun regained her feet. "A kid would have been able to dodge that."
Sailor Sun retaliated furiously, making Ranma block a swing of her enemy's sword. Using the block to step inside her guard, Ranma laid five to six hundred punches into Sailor Sun's mid-section. The insane Senshi let out several "oofs" as she doubled over slightly. Ranma smiled at knowing, as a martial artist, Sailor Sun sucked. Ranma could tell that her opponent had been trained, but had become too dependent on her powers. It was Sailor Sun's power that made her hard to fight. For Ranma, hitting her - even in super form - was like hitting the side of a battleship. Ranma's self repair made dealing with the damage she was doing to her hand easier to cope with, but it wasn't really doing any damage to Sailor Sun.
Sailor Sun dropped her sword and grappled with Ranma, succeeding in grabbing hold of Ranma's forearms as she attempted to... do what, Ranma wasn't sure of. Ranma smirked to herself as Sailor Sun performed such a clumsy attack, it put her into a position that Ranma could use one of her prepared attacks. While not as powerful as what had destroyed the Protectors' universe, it was powerful enough to never have been used during her life in the Silver Millennium. Forcing one hand high and the other low, Ranma had Sailor Sun between her outstretched hands.
Right where she wanted her.
"Super Nova," Ranma whispered.
From space, the dead Earth of Sailor Sun's universe hung peacefully with its dirty brown land masses and lifeless oceans. Clouds floated above the barren landscape, their shadows falling and dancing over mountains and seashores. On a large island that was adjacent to a much larger land mass, a tiny, bright light pierced the twilight of the dead world.
One instant the light was nothing more than a pinprick against the whole body of the planet, the next the light was swallowing not only the Earth, but the Moon as well. Traveling at the speed of light, the released energy from Ranma's attack radiated outward, destroying everything in its path.
A little over eight minutes later the expanding sphere of energy reached the center of the solar system and tore at the star. The outer layers of the star were immediately blown away by the shock wave and the sun took on the appearance of a gigantic comet with gases trailing away into space. The core of the sun held out against the onslaught for what seemed like minutes before succumbing and adding its mass to the expanding debris field. The halo of destruction rocketed outward, eliminating many of the outer planets before the energy was spread out enough to be considered spent.
The Solar System in this universe ceased to exist and was replaced with a halo of hot, glowing gasses and dust. The new nebula continued to spread outward.
Ranma hung in the vast emptiness of space that was eerily aglow with the aftermath of the attack. Around her there was nothing - the force of the energy she released having pretty much swept any debris away with it. She sighed.
"It's over. Nothing could have survived that," she thought wearily. She looked around at the glowing nothingness of space. "Nothing."
She then blinked as alarm bells rang loudly in her head and her senses screamed as she spun to face her double.
"Not bad, try one of mine," Sailor Sun said mockingly.
Ranma's world turned white with pain.
When the universe faded back into existence for Ranma, she found herself tumbling uncontrollably and in pain. Great pain. Pain filled much of what she sensed as spikes of power coursed through her body, doing what, she did not know or care. Feeling more than worse for wear, she tried to move her right arm in an attempt to feel how bad the damage was and found that it would not move.
Painfully cocking her head to one side, she managed to raise her arm and examined it. Everything below the elbow was gone.
"My arm!" she tried to screamed, but nothing came out but bubbles of blood. Waves of nausea hit her as what was left of her one lung contracted pitifully in painful spasms. Forcing herself to regain some semblance of thought, Ranma watched the blackened stump that was her right arm float before her as it leaked blood out into space. Once outside her personal energy field, the blood vaporized from the hot gases that lingered from the newly destroyed Solar System.
Closing her eyes, she forced her her left arm to move and used it to feel her torso. With sickening realization, she discovered more of herself was missing. Fearful at what she might find, she easily resisted the urge to try and look down.
Panic filled her along with the overwhelming urge to vomit. She literally didn't have the guts for the later, but her head spun on the former.Uncounted moments ticked by before a great tide of peacefulness swept over her.
"I'm going to die," Ranma concluded somewhat calmly.
Another spike of power surged through her, making her arch what was left of her back and her eyes open. She watched as lights danced before her eyes. No. The specks of light weren't the figment of a dying brain's imagination, they were real. The specks danced around the stump of her arm, making it glow before collecting into a larger mass of light that flowed out to where the rest of her arm should be. Ranma couldn't see it, but she felt the same thing happening to other parts of her body and watched in sick fascination as the bits of light danced, swarmed, and then solidified into her arm. She blinked.
Flexing her newly formed fingers, Ranma dared looked down on herself and found that she was completely intact, including her uniform. "What in the heck?" she thought in wonder. "I just put myself back together?"
"Good," an amused voice said, causing Ranma to whip her head around. She didn't even bother to wonder how she could 'hear' in a vacuum. "You can do that too. I afraid the fun was over before it began."
"Wha-" was as far as Ranma got before she was engulfed in more white pain.
It was later, how much later Ranma didn't know and as much pain as she was in, she didn't care. Once again and what seemed like the umpteenth time, the universe faded back into existence.
"Oh god, oh god, oh god," was all that was repeated in Ranma's mind as the Mistress - the Sailor Sun of this dead universe - played a perverse game of cat and mouse with her. Sailor Sun would hit Ranma with a very powerful attack, what, Ranma wasn't exactly sure of, blowing parts of Ranma's body off. Sailor Sun would allow Ranma to rebuild her body and just before Ranma could fully recover and muster any kind of defense, hit her again with another powerful attack. Sailor Sun repeated the process, upping the amount of pain that was being inflicted.
Ranma was a helpless as a rag doll in the jaws of a mongrel.
"I gotta think! Not thinking is what got me into this mess," Ranma thought as she tried to focus pass the pain. She was dismayed that she hadn't gotten over her cockiness like she thought. "I'm so stupid, I never think!" She tried to breathe, but discovered that there were no lungs. "She doesn't want me dead, or she would have done that already."
Ranma's thoughts were broken as searing pain coursed through her.
"Ahh... Ahhh... Ahhh..." escaped her lips as the pain waved through her. She was greeted by the sounds of playful laughter coming from her tormentor. "I gotta... suppress my powers," Ranma thought desperately. "If she thinks I'm close to dying, she might ease up and give me time to put together some type of counter... at least erect a more effective shield."
After the last attack, Ranma concentrated on that idea. Tumbling uncontrollably through space, Ranma allowed her body to repair the most critical damage and leaving the extremities unrepaired. As carefully as she could, she bottled and concealed her power, concentrating on using it for an effective defense. The problem was that there was only so much energy to go around.
"Awww, is my poor little Senshi getting tired already?" a mockingly-concerned voice asked.
"Control, control," Ranma mentally repeated. "Don't give nothing away yet."
Ranma felt something grab her and spin her around at nauseating speeds. "Round and round you go, where you stop, nobody knows," Sailor Sun sang merrily before giggling like a school girl.
Ranma used the break to focus even more on recovering.
Suddenly Ranma spinning was halted, with equally nauseating results. Ranma felt her shoulders grasped by two impossibly strong hands. Opening her eyes, she found herself face-to-face with her other self who smiled upon her like a long lost friend. Ranma resisted the urge to try and smash that face in.
"You know, all you have to do is be my friend and I can forgive you for your stupidity," she said like a mother talking to a child. "We can have so much fun together..."
"That's it. Keep talking," Ranma thought.
"Why I remember a few years ago when I tortured a Sailor Moon in some other universe for... anyway, I tortured her for a long time." She paused for another bout of girlish giggles. "By the time I turned her loose, she was insane and ended up killing Sailors Mercury and Mars outright, crippling Tuxedo Mask for life, and took out a good chunk of Tokyo before Uranus and Neptune put her down."
"Don't pay attention, keep focused," Ranma urged herself silently to pay no mind to what Sailor Sun was saying.
"Served the bitch right," Sailor Sun said with anger etched in her tone. "They all deserve it," she half-snarled.
Ranma remained silent as she tried to pool her resources.
"You know what's was really fun? One time, in another universe, I seduced the little princess' boy toy," Sailor Sun continued on as if discussing a happy occasion. "Then I made sure that we got caught by Her Highness - and that really upset the time bitch's plans."
"Keep working, a little longer," Ranma mentally chanted as she tried to ignore Sailor Sun.
"And when the time-bitch popped in to - deal - with me," Sailor Sun continued mirthfully. "I took that time staff from her hands and you know what I did with it?" Ranma remained silent as she schooled her powers within. Outwardly her eyes had a glazed over and she appeared to be in shock.
"I can see it in your eyes that you're dying of curiosity," Sailor Sun said as she grinned at Ranma's appearance. "I'll tell you," she continued with much affection in her voice. She leaned toward Ranma's ear. "I took it and shoved it..." the rest was whispered lowly.
Ranma's eyes bulged involuntarily and she almost lost control of the collected energy she had painstakingly gathered. Sailor Sun push away slightly with a satisfied smile on her face, still gripping Ranma by the shoulders. "Isn't that funny? Pluto on a stick!"
Ranma opened her month to say something, but was cut off as Sailor Sun continued. "Do you know, that even shoved up there, it took almost three hours for her to die," she stated in a most serious manner.
Ranma was speechless for a few heartbeats. "W-why?" she asked with the sudden overpowering need to know; it also bought time. "Why did you do that?"
"Why?" Ranma's double echoed. "Why? I'll tell you why. Because I can. That's why."
Ranma shook her head in incomprehension. "I-I don't understand."
Sailor Sun cocked her head to one side and smile a warm smile. "Because I'm god and I can do whatever I want."
"But... duty is to protect the weak," Ranma stammered out, trying to keep Sailor Sun occupied.
"Protect the weak!" Sailor Sun said in mock astonishment. "Protect the weak!" she said louder. "You are more of a fool than I thought," Sailor Sun said crossly. The grip on Ranma's shoulders increased to painful levels. "The strong are there to lord over the weak, the weak are there to serve the strong."
"N-no. That's not right."
Sailor Sun looked cocked her head, before shaking it sadly. "I'm so disappointed in you. They really have you believing that crap, don't they?" She paused to let out a sigh. "After all the trouble I went through to try and help you see the truth."
Ranma shook her head as much as she dared.
"You're such an idiot," Sailor Sun almost spat. "You let lesser creatures shackle and chain you so they can use you."
"They are not creatures," Ranma wheezed out. "They're my-"
"Friends? Hardly. They are your masters, that's what they really are," Sun said while increasing the grip on Ranma's shoulders. Ranma involuntarily cried out in pain and Sailor Sun eased up. "Once I saw how that bitch-queen Serenity enslaved me, I reestablished the natural order of things," Sailor Sun explained. "When the Senshi sided against me... well I had to teach them the folly of their ways."
"She did," Sailor Sun said coldly, shaking Ranma slightly. "She sanctioned my creation - had me taken from my family - against my will and the will of my parents - had me bowbeaten and trained until I was a good little slave. A good little slave to protect her petty little kingdom."
"No-" Ranma said lowly as she tried to shake her head, but the memories and the dreams of her past life assaulted her. An uncomfortable conflict grew inside her as she realized that there was more truth in what Sailor Sun was saying than she wanted to admit.
"I'm sure you have some memories of the same thing," Sailor Sun continued as if reading Ranma's mind. "Torn from your own family, made into a weapon - a thing." Sailor Sun paused a bit. "After taking what was mine, I decided to go to other universes and right the wrongs there," Sailor Sun said. "You'd be surprised at the variations that exist and how some are so much alike you can't tell the difference."
"I'm not a thing," Ranma defended as she fought to shake off her doubts and re-concentrated on repairing herself. "It doesn't matter what happened-"
"It does matter!" Sailor Sun snapped. "You were... and still are a slave," Sailor Sun said. Leaning closer to Ranma's face until they were almost nose-to-nose. "They have you so carefully chained that you don't even realize it."
Ranma just stared at Sailor Sun, her fear of the truth froze her mentally. She internally shook and re-concentrated on the task of building up power for a counter attack.
"I first started going to different universes after I was through with them here," Sailor Sun continued. "I did it because I realized that the Senshi are inherently evil. So I made it my mission to deliver righteous justice on them. Then I discovered just how much fun it was to play with them - so I decided to have fun with them along the way."
Ranma stared into Sailor Sun's eyes. It was as if there was an inescapable light of purpose burning in them.
"You know what they say about all work and no play," Sailor Sun said with a thin smile.
"You go around... killing Senshi... in other universes?" Ranma asked.
"Of course I kill them!" Sailor Sun answered loudly. "I killed them all! They're all nothing more than heartless bitches who thought of nothing more than themselves, their petty, little powers, and their damned future where they are the rulers because they let over ninety percent of the human race die. Well, I broke free from my shackles and showed them the true meaning of power."
"You're wrong..." Ranma whispered hollowly, "the Senshi in my worl-"
"They're all alike! No matter what, they're all alike!" Sailor Sun said in a near shriek, shaking Ranma like a doll. "They are! I bet they play nice to your face, make like they're your friends - treat you like family or something - all so you will do as you are told when they need something from you."
Ranma just stared. Sailor Sun's breathing was ragged from her emotional state. "So there I was," she said carefully in a calm, even voice, "having fun and handing out divine punishment at the same time and that's when it hit me."
"What? What hit you?" Ranma asked, hoping to drag things out a bit more. She was almost ready. She could feel the pool of enormous energy within, like a snake, ready to strike. In a very few seconds, Sailor Sun would get a nasty surprise.
"I'll tell you in a moment," Sailor Sun said seriously as her eyes narrowed. "But right now, I think you've got enough power built up. Here," she then thrust her hand into Ranma's chest, "let me help you do something with it."
Sailor Sun used her impaling hand and swiftly yanked downward, scooping Ranma's heart, lung, ribs and other internal organs out. She held the bloody mass of flesh up for Ranma to see before severing them and tossing them over her shoulder. All during this, Ranma screamed and writhed in the grasp of Sailor Sun's other hand. Ranma's arms flailed about, trying to escape her tormentor.
Sailor Sun must have been using something more than her hand because the pain was worse than anything that came before. The bad part was Ranma was almost ready and now energy that she had painstakingly gathered was being diverted to repair the critical damage that Sailor Sun had just inflicted. It was in the moment, almost drowned out by the pain, that Ranma realized that Sailor Sun was still toying with her.
"As I was about to say," Sailor Sun said as she used the less soiled parts of Ranma's fuku like a dish towel to wipe her bloody hand clean; all she ended up doing was smearing the blood around more. By then, Ranma's cries of pain by then subsided to a whimper and her flailing waned. Sailor Sun gripped Ranma by the shoulders again with both hands. "This is what hit me: I can do no wrong. When you're a god, whatever you decide is right. So if I decide to go back and say, heck, destroy a galaxy, why not? If I say it is right, it's right."
Ranma's mouth moved but nothing came out. Without functioning lungs yet, speaking was impossible. To took a few moments for one lung reformed enough to speak. "Y-you killed everything here," Ranma said weakly through a mouthful of blood. "You raped this universe of its life force."
"Well you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs," Sailor Sun said conversationally with a cock of her head. "I needed power to mete out divine justice, so I took it," she said oh-so-innocently. "Hell, it was mine to claim anyway, I just took what's mine. Everything in creation is mine - but I'm willing to share it with someone like you if you'll let me."
The two stared at one another for a few heartbeats as Ranma came to an inescapable and obvious conclusion. "You're nuts."
"Of course, I'd expect something like that from you," Sailor Sun said while pressing her face close to Ranma's. "Now, I'm going to a lot of trouble to try and get you to evolve, you had better appreciate this."
"Gotta keep her talking," Ranma thought as she desperately tried to pool her energy again, but it was too scattered in just keeping her alive to do any good offensively or otherwise. "What are you talking about?" Ranma asked as firmly as she could.
"Why, I set you up to face off a space fleet, of course," Sailor Sun said conversationally before rambling. "That's how I came to evolve. At first, I was just planning on having the Jurians invade Earth and kill the Senshi for me - it's always fun to watch ants fight you know - but anyway, once I found out about you, I put a lot of work in changing things a bit to help you evolve."
"Evolve?" Ranma echoed. Inside, she was scared. All her efforts to gather enough energy to strike were all for nothing. Her hopes began to fade as her energy just leveled off. "What-"
Sailor Sun interrupted with a shrugged her shoulders. "I evolved when I faced off the Dark Kingdom's space fleet. I had hoped it would work for you, but your lover boy screwed up my plans." She paused again and wore a thoughtful look on her face. "You know, I'm going to have to do something extra-special to him for the trouble he has caused."
"No," Ranma said more firmly than she imagined, given her state. Ranma's emotions were starting to get the better of her again and the thought of Tenchi in danger amplified those feelings. These feelings triggered something within her and she felt a spike of power course through her uncontrollably and build quickly. Where it came from, Ranma didn't know or particularly care. If Sailor Sun noticed, she didn't show it.
"Better yet," Sailor Sun smirked at the beaten redheaded Senshi. "After you evolve... or I break you," she merrily continued in a sing-song manner, "I'll have you do it for me."
"No," Ranma repeated with finality. "Never." In that one instant of clarity and out of nowhere, Ranma found the power she needed and unleashed an attack. Ranma turned the world around her white with power, instead of being on the receiving end this time, she was on the delivery.
Sailor Sun was blown away from Ranma by the sheer force of Ranma's attack. The energy swirled around and tore chunks of flesh from the insane redhead as she shrieked in pain. Sailor Sun stopped her motion through space and quickly charged the still recovering Ranma.
"You little bitch, I actually felt that!" Sailor Sun raged as both her arms and parts of her torso quickly reformed. She summoned her sword and started swinging away wildly at Ranma. "I'm trying to help you and this is the thanks I get!"
Ranma had just barely repaired the last of the damage that was inflicted on her and began dodging for her life. "She recovered too fast," Ranma thought as she blocked a sweep of a sword with her bracers. The blade dug into them and drew blood. "I gotta do something to take her out for good."
Ranma launched a few Solar Flares that would have vaporized several good-sized asteroids for cover and she summoned her own sword.
"If you're so damned determined to be a slave, then you can be mine," Sailor Sun howled as she spun her sword around, batting the Solar Flares away like flies. Sailor Sun then focused on slicing at Ranma.
Ranma easily avoid or blocked all of Sailor Suns clumsy attempts at striking her. "She's got the power, but not the skill," Ranma thought. "I have the skill, but need more power to end this."
The two blades clashed. Explosions of energy were released with every contact that lit up the two combatants in stark contrast. The energy released left halos of light in the wake of the clash. Ranma stared at the wild, wide eyes of Sailor Sun and saw nothing but madness and hate there.
When Sailor Sun's cupped hand thrust out slightly, Ranma was prepared for the coming attack and called upon her power, taking it nearly over the edge. The energy that Sailor Sun released hit Ranma's shielding and flowed around it, leaving Ranma unscathed. Both combatants broke apart. Ranma felt a wave of intense pleasure hit her.
"Good," a suddenly calm Sailor Sun smirked. "You're starting."
Ranma didn't ponder Sailor Sun's words as she decided to go on the offensive. She spun her sword around and reformed it into a staff. Spinning the staff, she disarmed Sailor Sun with two well executed hits in the forearm and as the staff angled for her head, Ranma changed the leading edge into a razor-sharp one.
Sailor Sun's body hung in space as her decapitated head went careening off into the void.
Ranma watched as Sailor Sun's headless body glowed, then rapidly faded into nothingness. She shifted her eyes around and pulled more power into her senses. She was not going to drop her guard until she was satisfied that Sailor Sun was truly dead. Looking into the hot, glowing gases that framed their arena, Ranma detected something - what, she wasn't sure of. She tapped and pulled more power into her shielding and again felt the unmistakable sensation of thrilling pleasure out of it.
She shook her head. This was no time to be enjoying herself. After a few heartbeats, Ranma continued to scan around her and pooled more energy together as a reserve.
Sailor Sun materialized in front of Ranma as she brought her staff up instinctively and blocked a sword sweep that would have taken her head off. She spun her staff around, feeding energy into it and batted Sailor Sun away. Sailor Sun halted after a few dozen yards and smirked at the younger redhead.
"You're getting better, stronger," she said. "You're almost there."
"What the hell are you talking about?" Ranma asked across the void. She was getting irritated at the others flippant attitude.
Sailor Sun ignored the question. "Here, let's play catch," she called out as she formed a blob of glowing energy in the cup made by her hands. Suddenly the glow collapsed on itself into a dark mass and the space around it seemed to warp.
"Crap," Ranma muttered as her senses told her just what kind of "ball" Sailor Sun was about to throw. Space and time warped around the two women, the gases of the destroyed Solar System were sucked in at incredible speeds making it impossible to see and confusing to the senses. Ranma was unaffected by the immense gravitation well that formed, as she instinctively shifted slightly out of phase with the space around her. Somewhere in all the warping of space and time, Sailor Sun launched her new toy at Ranma.
"A black hole," Ranma thought as she reinforced the shielding around her. That meant tapping into her reserves as well as new sources of energy. She ignored the pleasant sensations that kept revisiting her with each draw of power. "She just threw a freakin' black hole at me!"
Time stood still as the black hole touched the outer shell of Ranma's protective fields. In response, Ranma warped space around the already warping space that surrounding the black hole and used it to pick it apart, making matter fling away at incredible speeds and into the depths of space. This created an even larger plume of hot gas and dust that surrounded the battling pair like an arena. As Ranma drew more mass away from the dark star, it ceased being a black hole and Ranma found herself suddenly engulfed in a new, massive star.
"Gotta get outta here," Ranma thought as she shrugged her power like a muscle and the blew the mass of the new star away from her, creating an even bigger nebula than before. Ranma then poured resources into her scan. "Now where is that psycho-bitch?" she though.
Ranma 'heard' Sailor Sun's laughter as she materialized thirty feet off to her right. "Excellent!" she said happily as she clapped her hands like a pleased child. Ranma ignored her opponent's gleeful display and focused some of her energy between two of her fingers.
As she focused, several emotions came into play. Anger, not only toward Sailor Sun but herself for jumping into this situation without thought. In hindsight it was obvious that Sailor Sun led Ranma here to fight on her "home turf", but there was little she could do about it now. Doubt and uncertainty came into play as some of the suggestions about Ranma's past that Sailor Sun had made refused to leave the depths of her mind - and she feared how much could be true for her. Then there was fear. Fear, not for herself, but for Tenchi. She wouldn't, couldn't lose another person so close to her if she could help it. Also there was the fear of maybe this twisted parody of herself was not too far removed from what she was now.
The cocktail mixture of emotions made her reach deeper and deeper into herself to find just a bit more power of defeat Sailor Sun. Like everything else in her psyche, Ranma had erected mental walls to contain and hold herself back. Like any wall that is under constant attack from so many angles, cracks and fissures appeared before it completely crumbled and fell. Ranma felt the huge power boost and sensed that more was coming. The feeling was incredible.
"This should distract her for a moment," Ranma thought as she sent the tiny speck of energy Sailor Sun's way. The tiny, BB-sized speck collided and exploded against Sailor Sun with the force of a small nova, sending her cartwheeling across through the hot gasses of the new nebula that was created in the wake of their fight. Ranma used this time to call upon more power.
Then Ranma suddenly felt great. She felt on top of the world. Power flowed through her like warm water, making her feel detached from her surroundings. The sensation of being on a high took over and she smirked at the thought of bringing this Sailor Sun to heel. For some reason, she felt great attraction toward the thought of beating the guts out of her other self. It was like a idea that she couldn't turn loose... beating Sailor Sun wasn't good enough, Ranma wanted to torture her in kind for payback.
Ranma found that thought so appealing, that she stopped holding back and summoned up this wellspring of power and charged up her body with it. Ranma's wings glowed, throbbed and expanded with energy before shrinking and solidifying into a semitransparent state. Her bodied followed suit as her physical appearance changed to match the transparent state of her wings.
Sailor Sun recovered from Ranma's assault and smiled at the semi-transparent girl. "Good. Good!" she said as she to shifted into a form much like Ranma's. "You're almost there little one, keep it up."
Ranma ignored Sailor Sun's jibe and called forth all her power. She drew greedily from it and drank in her new-found power as in coursed hot through her being. The thought, the idea of beating Sailor Sun, filled her with a dark purpose as she charged her being further. Ranma couldn't ignore the thrilling pleasure that she was deriving from it, but kept focused on the task at hand.
Ranma suddenly extended her hands with her fingers spread. Between her fingers, power visibly coursed and arced. A huge rippling effect was witnessed as a tidal wave of ripped and torn space/time hurdled toward Sailor Sun, engulfing her within. Ranma closed her hands making the wave fold upon itself, trapping Sailor Sun, then with a waver, the rippling ball of space/time ceased to exist, taking Sailor Sun with it.
Keeping her guard up, Ranma scanned and rescanned for any hint of Sailor Sun. Minutes ticked by and she continued her vigil. "That has got to have gotten her," Ranma though with a smirk. "Nothing can exist without a place and time - and I took both of those away from her... but that doesn't mean much for someone like her."
Not wanting to make anymore mistakes, Ranma deepened her scan - and found something. It was small, but enough to alarm her. "Oh shit," she muttered before teleporting away.
Instantly finding herself five hundred and sixty Astronomical Units from where the Solar System used to be, Ranma felt a great unleashing of raw energy exploded from where she had been. The titanic burst was so compressed at its point of origin that it traveled faster than the speed of light before slowing. Ranma rode out the ocean of released energy like a surfer on a wave, all the while scanning for her opponent that she knew had somehow survived. The powerful shockwave would continue on for another ten light years, devouring and pulling apart anything in its path, from small rocks to entire star systems.
It would take time, but the galaxy would eventually recover from the new hole that was made in one of its spiral arms.
"Crap, crap, crap, crap," Ranma chanted while she searched out her foe. "What in the hell does it take to kill her?" She then consciously suppressed her presence, hoping to catch Sailor Sun unawares. Ranma also shifted her scans to a passive mode, eliminating any hints of her whereabouts that a more active one would have done.
Minutes ticked by as Ranma flew through the vast nothingness that the released energy left in its wake. The fabric of space was a jumbled, patch-quilt mess after the last salvo of the fight and was as disorienting as being in a house of mirrors, but Ranma allowed her higher processing powers to sift through it for her. "There," she thought. "She's over there. Probably looking for me."
Smiling internally and with great maliciousness at catching Sailor Sun unawares, Ranma suppressed herself even more as she moved closer for the kill. It was thrilling and exciting to be stalking someone who stalked her. She felt energy and raw power soaking her very being, but she managed to keep it all inside. "Mustn't tip my hand," she thought with grim determination as she maneuvered behind Sailor Sun.
Summoning her sword, Ranma raised it high before pointing it at Sailor Sun's back. Ranma's barely contained energy was just bubbling, longing to escape the confines of her body. With a smirk, Ranma focused on the pointed tip of her sword and aimed it like a gun at the unsuspecting back of Sailor Sun. With her eyes just glowing with power and a smile of grim pleasure on her face, Ranma unleashed her attack.
That's when things went to hell.
Before the concentrated energy could even make its way down the body of her sword, it struck out at its wielder with a mind of its own. The energy that Ranma had planned on releasing against Sailor Sun entangled around her like the coils of a snake. With the loss of surprise, panicked gripped her as she desperately tried to get whatever had happened under control, but it was to no avail as she was clueless as to why her own power had betrayed her. The tactical part of her brain that had always been a constant companion to her in fights, fell silent in a mind-numbing way. Ranma screamed as the thick ropes of energy encased and squeezed her from all sides.
The more power she drew, the tighter the coils got.
The ghostly tiara on her forehead glowed brighter, the gold bands that held it in place retracted inward toward the gem. Once all the way in, the gem glowed even brighter - changing into and melting into the Sun symbol that seemed etched into her forehead. Ranma frowned as she felt the changes and decided to stop drawing on the power she had tapped into. It didn't stop and as another wave of it hit her, her back involuntarily arched and the symbol on her forehead flared once, twice then unleashed a brilliant beam of light that shot out into the depths of space.
All this happened far too quickly to measure with the exception of the pleasure. Ranma screamed as pleasure taken to the point of pain and beyond.
"No! Stop!" she screamed.
Eyes firmly closed, Ranma wrestled the overpowering euphoric feelings that threatened to overwhelm and crush her very self. Focusing on what was going on inside her in her effort to regain control, Ranma let her body do what it wanted to. Floating free, her body convulsed and jerked, surrounded and being circled by bands of energy. The new symbol on her forehead glowed even brighter. The pain/pleasure increased. She screamed louder.
Sailor Sun watched all of this with bright, hopeful eyes.
Ranma fought for control of herself as the unrelenting power that coursed through her threatened to upset her mental balance. With her eyes firmly shut, she managed to cradle her head with her hands and bend into a fetal position while she struggled to overcome the insanely intoxicating feeling that was flooding her.
"No, no," Ranma repeated aloud as she willed her senses and power to dull and not overwhelm her. Ranma's sheer willpower made the energy that coursed through her ebb somewhat and the glowing that surrounded her forehead subsided slightly. The power, however, was still there and growing. And growing. And growing. It was a titanic battle that Ranma was losing and her forehead flared brighter than before.
"I can't... hold it," Ranma thought as she struggled. "I can't!"
Unseen by Ranma, bands of energy that surrounded her, collected about her once again. As she tied into more and more universes, it felt like switches being tripped, bring more and more power to her. Ranma felt all of creation swirl about and through her, building and coalescing until it reached a point that Ranma felt she couldn't take anymore.
Sailor Sun wasn't too alarmed, but she was concerned as she watched the struggling redhead. "Don't fight it," she called to Ranma. "Let it happen."
"No," Ranma thought as she fought the madness. "No. I won't give up. I am Ranma Yonai and I never give up!"
Ranma's body flared again, brighter than before. Her back arched painfully backward before relaxing.
"I will not surrender," Ranma chanted in her mind. "I will be in control."
Ranma's brightly glowing body tumbled past Sailor Sun, heading deeper into the void. On Ranma's forehead, the circular symbol of the Sun twisted into the symbol of infinity as the two "flares" shot out and ended just under each of her eyes, leaving behind two symbols in a divine language high on each cheek. Another line of raw energy exploded from the symbol her forehead and disappeared into the void.
Sailor Sun looked upon the writhing, struggling girl and smiled. "Perfect." she thought as she studied the changing redhead. "Her symbol is different - and it wasn't quite like that for me... I wonder why... no matter."
Watching the birth of a goddess was impressive.
"Focus. Focus," Ranma chanted mentally and thanked god for the teachings of Happosai and swore that she would be a better student in the future. "If I can focus on the problem and forget everything else, I'll be fine."
The glowing symbol on her forehead subsided as Ranma managed to get control of herself somewhat. Her eyes were tightly shut and she felt the sensations pass and subside. She used that moment to mentally catch her breath.
"What... what," she panted out. "What did you do to me?"
Sailor Sun placed a surprisingly comforting hand on Ranma's shoulder.
"I set you free," Sailor Sun said softly. "You are truly free."
Ranma opened her eyes for the first time since her ordeal began. Sailor Sun withdrew her hand from Ranma in surprise. This was not what she was expecting. The changes in the girl-turned-goddess were alarming because this was definitely not exactly how it happened to her all those centuries ago. Those eyes! There were no irises and everything else was a black as the depths of space.
For Ranma things were different. She saw everything.
Every atom, every galaxy, every universe.
She just didn't see it. She saw the web of power flowing to her from every universe. This made her more than just part of it, but she was all of it. She saw all of creation.
She was all of creation.
Creation is big. Huge. Incomprehensible for any who are prepared to face it. For those who are caught unprepared, it can be unhinging. Ranma screamed again as all of creation threatened to drag her into an abyss of madness.
She saw things that no one should see. Could see. She saw all the universes with all the infinite possibilities . She saw many worlds where she didn't exist in any form, others where there she was a prince, a princess, a sex slave, an average housewife, a salary man, a sex-demon mommy, the first Asian-American President of the United States...
Some worlds she saw Serenity reborn... as Kasumi, Nodoka, Akiko and in a few worlds Ranma saw herself as Serenity. All the endless possibilities crashed into her very soul as she felt a part of each before everything was lost in the information overload.
Worst of all was as she stared into the heart of creation, it stared back at her, piercing her soul and making it want to wither and die. Ranma desperately grappled for an anchor, something to hold on to - something to keep her from succumbing to the sheer insanity of it all. Closing her eyes, she cut herself off from everything and focused on her center. She couldn't muster a focal point and her mind drifted in a storm of overwhelming information.
She felt herself slipping away... losing what little mental and emotional handholds she had.
Ranma mentally grabbed onto that...
She had to win the fight
... and she never loses - almost never...
... the fight was something to focus on, to hold on to.
Ranma's breathing steadied as the inner turmoil slackened and calmed. The fight was all she was living for and she swore to herself she would win...
... nothing else mattered.
By focusing on the fight, Ranma was able to use that as a barrier to keep herself emotionally stable. Letting out a final sigh, she opened the dark pits that had once been her eyes and turned them toward her nemesis. She looked at Sailor Sun, who was waiting nearby, and scanned, filtered, and analyzed the results. Taking a deep breath, she continued her examination.
She studied the power within Sailor Sun and saw how all the life force in this universe was residing inside her. Ranma also studied the lines of energy that stretched from Sailor Sun, linking to... everything.
"No wonder she is so powerful," Ranma realized. She then turned her attention to herself and felt the countless lines of power that flowed to all of creation and into herself. Looking back at Sailor Sun, Ranma saw that Sailor Sun was pulling power the same way as she was. The lines of power ran parallel to each other and drew from the life-force of everything. Literally.
"The more I draw, the more life-force everything loses," Ranma realized to herself, much to her dismay. "It's the same with her..."
"Do you see now?" Sailor Sun asked. "Do you finally see?"
Ranma straightened and looked at her other self.
"Yes," Ranma answered. "I do."
Sailor Sun smiled widely.
"I see that you are one sick bitch that ripped the life-force from this universe so you could play god," Ranma said cooly.
Sailor Sun's smile changed to a deep frown.
Ranma remained silent as she circled Sailor Sun. Hanging in the void of space, each was sizing the other up. Both had their wings extended and seemed to be using them to draw power from. Sailor Sun gazed at Ranma with her hard, glowing eyes as Ranma stared back with her dark, empty pits that were her eyes.
"You dare!" Sailor Sun roared. "Without me, you'd be nothing."
Ranma shook her head in response.
"I made you into a god and this is the thanks I get," Sailor Sun said angrily. "You still-blind fool, I made you, I can break you too."
Ranma stopped her orbit of Sailor Sun and smirked. Falling into a ready stance, modified on the fly for weightlessness, Ranma motioned with a hand.
"Bring it on."
And she did. Sailor Sun shot toward the other redhead with such speed that it was as instantaneous as teleporting. Ranma's shielding easily managed the barrage that Sailor Sun was unleashing. Unfortunately, any attacks that Ranma performed also failed against her opponent's shields. After a brief, but extremely violent exchange, the two broke apart.
Studying her opponent, Ranma sifted through several options that presented themselves and picked one. Bringing her hands up, her fingers quickly moved in an intricate pattern, as if she were making some incantation with them. The motions with her fingers - either out of necessity or habit - were in fact unlocking a higher end attack. Finishing with her hands steepled before her head, she pressed the middle and indexed fingers together and pointed them at Sailor Sun.
A thin, bright line of energy streaked toward Sailor Sun. The point of contact between Sailor Sun's shields and Ranma's attack flared blindingly bright as the beam of energy wormed its way through the Sailor Sun's defenses to strike her in the chest, just right of center. Her whole body glowed before bursting and vaporizing into a halo of gaseous energy.
"That ought to hold her for a few moments," Ranma thought. "But I need something to put her down permanently."
Ranma rescanned the area, knowing that Sailor Sun would make another appearance. "The problem is that we can counter every attack we have," Ranma paused to check the lines of energy that she was drawing from. "Not to mention that she keeps regenerating from nothing. I'm sucking the life force from all of creation just fighting her - and she's doing the same. That means this fight can last forever - and we'll end up draining the life-force from everything in creation."
Ranma looked around the dead universe she found herself in. "That would mean every universe would end up as dead as this one."
She sighed heavily while deepening her scans. "No," she thought with a shake of her head. "There's gotta be some attack, some technique that I can use. Gah, it's like fighting a mountain, no matter what I do..."
Ranma's mind seized on that thought. I was something... something that Happosai had taught her... when? It seemed like a life-time ago. She seized upon that memory and followed it. Then a smiled crossed her lips. She had a plan.
As soon as Ranma formulated her plan, Sailor Sun popped in and returned the favor of Ranma's attack. Ranma felt her body being atomized, but was unconcerned - she knew she would be back, and this time with a plan. She didn't even ponder how she could continue to think when she was, for all intents and purposes, nonexistent. Once her body reformed itself, she closed in on her other self, and instead of using her ranged attacks, she summoned her sword and engaged Sailor Sun up close and personal.
The two traded blows as Ranma ignored the rantings of her opponent on how ungrateful she was and how stupid she was being - she was starting to sound like a broken record anyway - and studied her with new eyes. Ranma followed the lines that connected Sailor Sun to the rest of everything and started to actually "feel" them as well. Absently blocking the few blows that Sailor Sun threw at her, Ranma sorted through the knots that the lines of power formed as they converged. There within the heart of this, Ranma found what she was seeking.
She had found the pebble.
"Found it!" she exclaimed to herself, "but how do I get it? It keeps changing phase."
Her eyes narrowed as she concentrated. The two swords clashed. Focusing, she willed her very being to match the pulsing of her target. It followed a predictable pattern, like a heartbeat. Ranma realized that was a much like a heartbeat, a heartbeat that the life-force of creation flowed through Sailor Sun.
Ranma parried and made a swipe for it - and missed.
Sailor Sun reacted by severing Ranma's outstretched hand. Ranma pulled back what was left of her arm as it quickly reformed. "Dammit," Ranma thought. "I can't get close enough to take it."
Another volley of swords, slashes, and blocks followed.
"I gotta think," Ranma fanatically thought. "What we're doing is a standoff. No one is going to win this at this rate."
Ranma sped through different tactics in her head and decided to lose.
The flat of Ranma's sword pushed aside the sword of her older self, but not far enough to deflect it entirely. Ranma gave out a howl of pain as the tip of Sailor Sun's sword penetrated her armor layer and dug in and impaled itself into Ranma's chest. The blade passed through a lung before stopping.
"Ha!" Ranma's redheaded foe said with an evil smile on her face. "Pathetic. I thought you would last longer that that."
Ranma's own sword dissolved as she dropped it, her hands flailed about before grasping at Sailor Sun's hands as they gripped onto her hilt of her sword. Thinking that Ranma was attempting to pry the sword from her grasp, Sailor Sun forced the sword in deeper causing Ranma cry out in pain as she actually felt the point on the sword dig into her shoulder blade from the inside. The force of the thrust also pushed them through space, propelling them into a hot gas cloud.
"I could've made you a goddess. Instead you chose to forsake me," at this point, Sailor Sun pressed harder against her sword, causing Ranma to cry out louder, "and my kind offer and side with those mortals."
Ranma replied with a almost animal-like snarl.
"Well, at least I'll get a pet out of this," Sailor Sun mused. "You'll make a fine one, once I house-break you."
Ranma gripped harder at the hands that held the sword that impaled her. Sailor Sun answered by thrusting hard, penetrating through the shoulder blade and bringing the sword's guard into contact with Ranma's chest.
"You're such an idiot," Sailor Sun said with disgust dripping from every word.
"You're wrong," Ranma said defiantly, spiting blood that burnt to ashes in the hot gas cloud.
"I'm wrong? I'm Wrong!" the Sailor Sun raged, punctuating every word with a twist of her sword. Ranma cried out with every twist. "Who has who here?"
While Ranma's screams of agony were keeping Sailor Sun amused, Ranma was able to focus and channeled her ki through their joined hands. Since their aura's were identical, she hoped that her intrusion would go undetected long enough for her to take the pebble. Slowly Ranma's ki moved through the very slowly of her opponent ki, touching the very dark and twisted soul of Sailor Sun.
"I can't take it - not like this," Ranma thought in a panic. "It's too rooted into her soul."
A wave of intense pain invaded her detach part of consciousness. "I don't think I can take much more," Ranma desperately though as she narrowed her eyes, locking it onto her target. "I'll just have to make a grab for it..."
Sailor Sun seemed to sense at the last moment that Ranma was doing something and tried to pull away. Ranma had a death grip on the hands of Sailor Sun and refused to release it. That moment, all was lost to Sailor Sun as Ranma took the pebble.
Ranma's ghostly hand entered Sailor Sun's chest, between her breasts, and disappeared. Sailor Sun looked down in surprise that she didn't feel anything, except for a slight pulling sensation. She then looked up into the smirking face of Ranma.
"Got you," Ranma said flatly.
Yanking her fist back, Ranma pulled a crystal out of the body of Sailor Sun. Ranma literally ripped the brightly glowing crystal from the body of Sailor Sun, who convulsed once before stilling. Ranma thought the surprised look on Sailor Sun face was priceless, before the blank stare of death looked back at her. The sword that impaled Ranma dissolved into nothingness as the lifeless body of Sailor Sun floated before her. Ranma studied the body and the crystal on her hand. She discovered the line of power between it and the soul that had fled its shell. She knew the moment she let go of the crystal, Sailor Sun would resurrect herself. Ranma knew what she had to do.
She closed her fist further and the crystal resisted for a moment before succumbing. A bright flash of a silent explosion ripped outward, incinerating the physical remains of Sailor Sun - who was now destined to never to be reborn with any powers that she was granted in this life.
She could feel the life-force of this universe flow back in great waves that raced invisibly outward. It would take millions, maybe billions, of years for life to evolve all over again, but it would happen. Ranma sighed in relief as the rush of the fight left her body. Now that the fight had passed there was nothing really to focus on.
Ranma floated in space, relaxing and calming herself. Then the creeping sensation of everything made itself know, like an itch you couldn't scratch. "Better transform out of this form," Ranma thought. "It's too creepy feeling all of creation flowing around you."
She concentrated briefly. And nothing happened.
Blinking, she closed her eyes and focused on putting away her power and staging down. Again, nothing happened.
Panic grip her for a moment. "I'm not trying hard enough," she chided herself. "I need to relax through it."
Closing her eyes and entering an almost mediative state, she became more alarmed. "I-I can't," she thought a loud with building panic. "I'm stuck! What the hell is going on!"
Ranma's breathing grew ragged as she tried to detransform. "It's not working. It's not working," she said as she corralled her panic, not letting it rule her. "I gotta think... on... what's going on."
Bringing herself back under control, or at least some semblance...
"Okay - one step at a time," she continued. "All I need to do..." her voice trailed off as she became aware of another presence. It didn't seem to be malevolent, but it was overpowering. Ranma took a deep, hesitant breath and felt everything else seemed to breathe with her. She tensed up from the sensation and once again, felt creation as it tensed with her.
Schooling her courage, Ranma shuddered - feeling the reaction mirrored in the surrounding universe - and beyond. Opening her eyes, she saw everything again - and this time it was staring right back at her. It was like a living thing and it was staring right through her, judging her, and mocking her very existence. Ranma quickly closed her eyes to deprive herself the horror of the whole of creation staring back at her.
With her eyes closed, she felt creation stir as if it was aware of her attempts to shut it out. Like a wild, man eating animal of some sort, creation stalked her - probed her - as if looking for a weak spot in her psyche in which to strike. Ranma felt a spike of panic surge through her and felt the ripple in space/time caused by her emotions.
"I have to stay in control," Ranma thought as she struggled to find some sort of center. "If I lose it, bad things could happen."
As earlier when she was fighting, Ranma looked for something to hang on to. Anything to anchor herself and her emotions. Without the distraction of the fight, Ranma found very little to immediately latch onto.
With the dangerous and overpowering sensations creeping up on her from all sides of her, Ranma retreated into herself as all of creation leapt upon her like a pouncing tiger, intent on crushing her soul. Ranma did the only thing she could think of...
... she ran.
"She can't detransform," Sailor Moon announced.
"How do you know that?" Tenchi asked.
Sailor Moon held a hand up to her chest. "I can feel it."
"We're in a lot of trouble," the ghostly Tsunami announced in a controlled voice. "Washu, look at this." A holographic screen popped up showing what looked like a zillion lines all converging in the middle, forming a ball-like chart. Underneath was a graph with a line that went straight up.
Washu's brow furrowed just before her eyes widened. "Oh lord."
"What? What?" an impatient chant came from Sailor Mars and Ryoko. The two stopped and looked at one another before returning their attention to the two Techo-mages.
"Is something wrong with Ranma?" Tenchi worriedly interjected.
"Yes," Tsunami replied. "She has heavily exceeded her design specifications and is now in an unknown, untheorized stage of her power curve."
The people in the room blink-blinked and stared back at the holographic image that was being projected by the small, floating device.
"What does that mean?" Tenchi asked, trying to remain patient.
"This represents Ranma's power curve," Washu explained, pointing to the lower chart. "This," pointing to the top one, "is where the power is derived from."
"That's all very nice," Sailor Mercury said, "but what, exactly does this all mean?"
"It means that Ranma has tapped into the very heart of creation. She may be now merging with it, if she's not already part of it."
"What!" bellowed someone.
"She wasn't intended to tap that far, she was only supposed to use the center of the galaxy as the focal point for her powers," Tsunami quickly explained. "What is happening here is an accident."
Everyone stared at the ghostly image of the Techo-mage.
"Well it's one hell of an accident," Sailor Mars said smartly, interrupting the silence. "What do you do for an encore?"
Tsunami gave Sailor Mars a very annoyed look which Sailor Mars returned.
"Who was the Moon Kingdom at war with at the time to justify such a... development," Sailor Uranus asked.
"No one," Tsunami admitted flatly. "Fire-Walker was the ultimate deterrent."
"Her name is Ranma," Sailor Moon reminded.
"Some deterrent," Mars snorted. "The Moon Kingdom still fell."
"Yes," Tsunami agreed, but annoyed at Sailor Mars' attitude. "We didn't expect the attack to come from within."
"Is that why you didn't use her?" asked Sailor Moon.
Tsunami sighed heavily. "The decision not to use Sailor Sun was - a political one," she said with a glare. "If they would have used Sailor Sun back then-"
"We'd have two insane Sailor Sun's running around instead of one," Sailor Mars interjected. On that note the room fell silent.
"I don't believe you guys," Sailor Moon said loudly. "You create problems that come back and bite us in the ass, and then you try to excuse yourself because it was your job?"
"And how is that any different than what you were doing," Washu shot back. "All of you were the product of several projects."
"And the most successful of all the subjects," Tsunami said. "The binding with your life-force was complete."
"You're proud of this?" Sailor Mars asked. "You're talking to us like we were nothing but things here."
"I am proud of what we accomplished," Tsunami answered irritably. "All of you were our greatest achievements."
"Achievements? Projects? Subjects?" Sailor Moon echoed. "We are human beings, not something for you to tinker together from scratch."
There was an uncomfortable lull that lasted a few heartbeats.
"The Kingdom needed weapons," Tsunami explained defensively. "What were we supposed to do? The possibility of invasion from outside the Solar System was a very real concern at the time. Were we suppose to ignore it, and maybe regret it? Or should we prepare for the worst?"
"As far as preparing for the worst, it looks like you still screwed up," Sailor Mercury shot out. "When the invasion came, the weapon was too powerful to use. A weapon that like that is a useless one."
The other Senshi nodded in agreement while Tenchi remained silent, but seemed to be at a slow boil.
"You should not have played god," Sailor Moon said flatly. "Saying the means justify the ends is wrong - especially if the moral cost is too high." Sailor Moon looked at Tsunami straight in the eye. "Has it ever occurred to you two," Sailor Moon continued with irritation leaking into her voice, "that just because something can be done, doesn't mean that it should be done?"
Silence revisited the room.
"We were only doing what we thought was best at the time," Tsunami repeated in an even way, "and at the time, it was for the best."
Sailor Moon shook her head. "Like the Protectors were?"
"That was... an oversight in programing," Tsunami said evenly. "The Techo-mage in charge of that project failed to build in safeguards."
"You seem to have a lot of problems with safeguards," Sailor Mercury chimed in. "You either have too many or none at all."
Tsunami was clearly running out of patience, but Tenchi interrupted.
"Right now I really don't care who or what is at fault or to blame. I don't what to hear anymore finger-pointing," he said in a loud, clear voice that oozed with controlled frustration. "All I care about is what can we do to help Ranma."
The fight had held her together until it ended, after that, there was nothing to focus on. All her mediation techniques that she knew were useless in the face of literally everything. One thing was clear: Ranma was in a losing fight with herself and running until she thought of something was all she could think of.
The problem was that the deeper Ranma ran into herself, the more of creation chased her. During this metaphoric chase, creation was picking apart Ranma soul, like ants tearing apart a larger animal and carrying her off to someplace unknown. Those little ants were whole universes, so small and unimportant as individuals, that Ranma resisted the urge to swat them off of her. Losing a few to gain some relief would not be that big of a deal...
... not that big of a deal? "These are whole freaking universes," Ranma reminded herself. "I can't be thinking that way!"
Willing or not, and she was still connected to the bits of herself that were gone and it was driving her insane. It was complicated by the overpowering feeling of detachment accompanied by the feeling of intoxicating warmth. However this was a small comfort that was overshadowed by the feeling of her soul being scrutinized by what, she did not know. It left her feeling vulnerable and petty.
It was like she was turning into something inhuman.
Her soul stripped of the excess baggage that defined who she was, Ranma found herself in a morass of an identity crisis. Being part of, no - being creation, Ranma felt everything in it moving to her pulse. Worse, she felt that whatever was looking at and through her soul was weighing her, judging her.
This was what divinity was like?
Being a goddess wasn't what it was cracked up to be and Ranma knew she couldn't hack it. Moving deeper within herself, with the entire mass of creation still nipping at her heels, Ranma withdrew further into herself, hoping for a respite. So deep, that for the moment, she was alone with her thoughts. Even there, the feelings of everything still surrounded her like wild animals in the night, held at bay by the light of a campfire.
In the shadows of what followed her, Ranma sensed the righteousness of individual beings and the injustices that were heaped upon others. The weak? Duty was to protect the weak... but at what price? Should she step into those shadows and mete out divine justice on their behalf?
Divine? Where did that come from?
"I can't fix everything," Ranma thought. "There's too much to set right... how can I?"
Ranma's mind reeled. "NO! I mustn't. Sailor Sun was self righteousness and it was the reason for her justifying what she did. I won't go that way." Ranma mentally sighed. "But I can't NOT do anything, if there is something wrong happening... but... who am I to say..."
It was a confusing and seductive thing. To move against those that would oppress others... "But I would become the oppressor," she concluded. Pulling herself away from the encroaching shadows, Ranma reinforced her will, making the even the darkest parts withdrawal.
"I can't... I shouldn't. I won't be like her."
Her other self...
... The mistress...
... Sailor Sun...
... a monster.
"How long will it take for me to become like her?" Ranma thought as she floated along in fetal position. "How long can I hold out?" she pondered that for a short moment. "I better figure out a way out, just in case I can't."
Now with a purpose, the shadows of creation further receded as Ranma went to the deepest part of her being. The heart of herself.
Her astral projection beheld the the crystal that was grafted and fused within her soul. She studied the power flowing through it, the many facets, and the wide range of colors that danced around as well as inside of it. It pulsed like a heartbeat, the shifting colors reflecting the pulse - all in synch with the heart of creation itself...
... or all of creation was in synch with her. Not that it mattered which was which.
She reached out metaphorically and felt the warm smoothness of the glass-like structure. The imagined ridges of her fingertips found no purchase in the hard, smooth surface. Using something equivalent to her sight, Ranma began to study the many cuts and sides of the crystal that was welded to her soul for defects.
She hoped to find a flaw in the crystalize structure, something to use a force of will against. Something to end the chance of her turning into what she feared, once and for all. Using her will, she began to probe.
Perhaps she could end any threat once and for all.
"What is that?" Mercury asked as she pointed to a waver in the massive, confusing, wave-form that represented Ranma's power signature. What Mercury had spotted was a slight deviation in one of the thicker lines that suddenly contracted sharply.
Washu furrowed her brow and studied the indicated line. "I'm not sure."
Tsunami looked over Washu's shoulder and equally frowned. "What is she up to?"
Washu cocked her head, making her long, spiky hair pass through the image of Tsunami as she did so. "It's like... she's contracted... her life-force around the graft."
"Why would she do that?" Tsunami asked. "It doesn't make sense."
"The graft?" Sailor Mercury inquired.
"It's in reference to the infusion point," Washu explained. "It's the exact spot where the spatial harmonics crystal was grafted into her life-force."
Mercury nodded before asking, "And Ranma has contracted the rest of her life-force around this?"
Ranma was growing frustrated. The more she looked, the less she found. Unlike the flawed crystal that inhabited the heart of Sailor Sun, Ranma couldn't find any obvious flaws within herself.
"Maybe I can create some," she thought. Ranma began contracting and squeezing the crystal, hoping to reveal any hidden flaws, something that she could use to pry herself into, something she could use to rip it apart.
"Everything has a limit."
The redheaded Senshi floated in the view-screen, surrounded by the void of an alien universe.
"Can we travel there?" Sailor Mars asked to nobody.
"Pluto probably can," Sailor Mercury responded absently while looking up something in her computer.
"Let's go," Tenchi announced.
"I would advise against that," Tsunami said calmly. "It is possible that Ranma is insane. It is best to leave her where she is at."
"I'm not going to abandon her to die," Tenchi snapped at the Tech-mage. "I'm not going to abandon her, period."
"I will not assist you," Tsunami said flatly.
Sailor Moon and Tenchi opened their mouths to object, but were cut off by Tsunami continuing, "I know it is difficult for you to understand, but it is better that it ends this way."
Tenchi looked at Tsunami and then to Washu, who seemed uncertain. "Can you take me to her?"
Washu bit her lip before shaking her head. "Yes - but I don't have the right equipment running right now and it would take time to set it up." She looked on Tenchi. "I'll come with you," Washu offered, "but I need time."
Tenchi's frustration was boiling over. He was about to say something disparaging to Washu when a hand landed on his shoulder. He turned and was face to face with one of the Senshi.
It was Sailor Pluto.
"C'mon," she said. "Let's go get her."
Closing herself off to the universe around her, Ranma focused internally as she probed and prodded, looking for any weakness. Much to her dismay, her probing yielded few results. But what she did discovered had given her some hope. Between one of the many facets of the crystal, Ranma felt that she could force a break by concentrating and applying force to the natural crystalline structure. She contracted her lifeforce, backed and focused by the very crystal she hoped to destroy, and watched as the gem 'flexed'.
She smiled grimly to herself. She could force the crystal apart.
"With more force, I can split it here and shatter it," she thought. Second thoughts haunted her from the recesses of her mind. She just as quickly banished them as she felt that the threat was too great. She sighed sadly. "It probably be for the best."
Gathering energy, she prepared a one, final assault of herself. And then...
... Something touched her.
But that was not possible...
... even with the life force returned to the universe, life had yet to return.
At first Ranma ignored the sensation, wanting to get lost within herself. She was sure that it was creation wanting to torment her some more before she... killed herself. In response, Ranma redoubled her efforts at gathering the energy needed, when she felt herself being held - physically held by someone or something.
The sensation of being held drew her away from her task and she dared to open her eyes.
"I don't what him to see me like this!" her mind howled. "Not like like this!"
Tenchi, protected from space and the high radiation that surrounded him by his Juraian powers, cradled Ranma in his arms. At first he was alarmed by the non-responsiveness of the redhead. Eventually Ranma seemed to come out of whatever trance she had put herself into and looked into Tenchi's blue eyes with the dark pits that used to be her eyes. He seemed to cringe at what she saw.
"No..." Ranma whispered, "please... not like this..."
"Shhh," Tenchi said, reaching out to the girl, "it's all right. I'm here."
"Here?" Ranma thought as if disbelieving. "Tenchi here," she repeated as it sunk it that Tenchi was indeed with her.
Ranma mentally grabbed onto that...
... someone who cared...
... someone she cared for...
... someone to hold on to.
Ranma's breathing steadied as the inner turmoil slackened and calmed. It didn't matter what had happened to her forty thousand years ago or more, it didn't matter that Serenity - her Serenity - used her at first, regretted it, and passed on. It didn't matter that Pluto destroyed all that she was to bring her back to what was needed...
... Ranma had forgiven and moved on. It didn't matter anymore. What mattered was what she had now. Friends, family, loved ones... nothing else mattered.
"Tenchi," Ranma whimpered as Tenchi tried to console the girl.
"Shhhh," he said. "Don't try to talk."
"I don't want this. I can't take this anymore," Ranma cried into Tenchi's chest before she began to babble. "I can feel the universes. I feel them all. I don't want to be like... I don't want this, please make it go away, I don't want to be like her, please make it stop..."
Tenchi desperately looked up from the women he loved to the two other people that accompanied him to this dead universe. Sailor Pluto looked lost as what to do as Washu studied a small hand held device before looking up.
"Can you get us to my lab?"
Tenchi cradled Ranma in his arms, holding her close to him. She clutched at him with the desperation of a drowning man to a life preserver in the middle of an ocean. Her fingers grabbed at the fabric of his shirt, bunching it up between her fingers. Desperate to lose herself in his presence, she somehow managed to succeed to a degree.
So focused on Tenchi, she didn't even notice when they traveled back to their home universe.
The air wavered as the four people appeared in Washu's lab. Sailor Pluto stowed her staff as she stepped further into the room, not sparing a glance around. Tsunami's image wavered into existence by different means and looked worriedly at the girl that Tenchi was carrying.
"Put her over there," Washu ordered as she moved among her equipment. "I'll get the limiters."
Tenchi moved over to a low bench indicated and gingerly began to place Ranma on it when she grabbed at Tenchi's shirt.
"No! Please!" Ranma begged. "Please don't leave me."
Tenchi wavered only for a micro-second before enfolding Ranma into his arms again. Ranma calmed and snuggled closer. Tenchi turned and sat on the bench, holding Ranma.
"You stay with her," Sailor Pluto ordered. "We know where to look, it shouldn't take long."
On that, Sailor Pluto followed Washu across the vast expanse of the lab, leaving behind them a whimpering, shell shocked and dangerously powerful girl who was clinging to Tenchi as if her life depended on it.
"Will what you have help her?" Sailor Pluto asked as she caught up to Washu.
"I really don't know," Washu admitted. "I haven't enough time to really study them, I'll have to take T'Pau's description of them on face value."
Sailor Pluto gave a snort for a response as Washu removed the two earring-like devices from where she was examining them earlier. She held them up for Pluto to see.
Sailor Pluto blinked. "You gotta be kidding me."
Washu shook her head in response.
Pluto sighed and both headed back to where they had left Tenchi and Ranma. When they returned, they found the couple exactly as they left them: Tenchi on the bench, Ranma on Tenchi.
"Here," Washu said as she offered the earrings, "give these to her."
Tenchi managed to get Ranma's attention and held up the small object for her to see. Ranma stared at them with her black eyes, uncomprehending.
"How do you use them?" Tenchi asked Washu.
"According to the instructions, you attach them to the lobe of each ear."
Tenchi blinked. "Earrings?"
"No, but that's how they're used," Washu clarified.
Tenchi examined one of the devices, looking at how they would be worn. The main ring was seamless and smooth with no clip or post to use as a point of attachment. He looked between the rings, Ranma, and at last to Washu with a questioning look.
"I haven't time for a thorough examination," Washu explained, "but the rings appear to synch with whomever holds them. She'll have to put them on herself."
Tenchi shifted Ranma in his arms enough so that he can look at her in the face. She had her eyes closed and seemed reluctant to be moved about and groaned slightly in protest. "Ranma," he called softly to her. "Take these - they are suppose to help."
Ranma opened her eyes. Tenchi controlled the natural reaction of being repelled by the two dark pits that were her eyes. Ranma seemed to study the offered jewelry-like devices and cocked her head. Slowly she reached out for them.
Taking the rings into her hand, everyone felt a definite shift in the atmosphere of the room, as if some unknown energy was flowing through it. Ranma cocked her head again one way and then the other as she seemed to contemplate something. No one said anything, the silence and stillness of the room went unnoticed as the quiet drama played out. It was as if the whole universe was holding its breath, waiting for Ranma to come to a decision. Ranma studied the innocent looking devices for a few heartbeats before shifting them around in her hands so that one was held between her thumb and forefinger.
She raised her hand and turned her head to face Tenchi. The ring neared her ears and when it was close enough seemed to "suck" itself onto her lobe. Ranma blinked. Something happened, but she was not sure as to what it was. She gave her new bit of jewelry an experimental tug and discovered that it would not budge. Her eyes seemed to be less dark than they were.
Ranma looked at Tenchi in the eyes and blinked again.
"Are you alright?" he asked.
"I'm not sure," Ranma replied in a voice that reverberated. "Something happened, but I'm not sure what."
"Try the other one," Tenchi urged.
Ranma repeated the process with the other ear and the effects were much more dramatic. Ranma's body convulsed and immediately became more solid looking. Tenchi clung to her as she convulsed, keeping her from falling out of his lap. A long, loud sigh of relief escaped her lips as she detransformed quickly, passing through various stages until she was back in her civilian clothes.
The plane where gods resided.
A place of existence that was apart, yet a part of everything, there was a room. The room was high and vast - so large that one got the feeling that they were outdoors than actually inside a building - much less a room. There was a circular pattern in the way the room was arranged, in the center was a opening that permitted a great column of translucent light to pass through. The column of light extended high above and far below until either end was lost to sight.
The column was translucent and streaming over its surface were thousands of symbols in a divine language. Surrounding the central column, beings of great power monitored the drama as it unfolded and resolved itself. At its conclusion, several divine beings sighed in relief.
"She has stabilized," one of the goddesses monitoring a control panel made of light announced. "The limiters are functioning and the degradation of them is set."
"It's over... for now," Peorth announced. "The seed that we planted today will be ready to bear fruit by the end of... everything."
Belldandy nodded. "Ranma will grow accustomed to her powers over her many incarnations and be truly ready for her ascension by the time this universe comes to an end."
"I wonder if it was like this before?" Skuld mused aloud.
"Circle of life," Peorth answered softly. "Everything has a beginning and end, we have just assured that there will be another round of creation."
The other goddesses in the vast, dream-like room nodded.
Ranma blinked a few times groggily, her head flopping about as she hadn't the strength to hold it upright. She quickly gave up on the effort and rested her head against Tenchi's chest, Tenchi reflexively drew her closer.
"R-Ranma?" Tenchi asked worriedly. "Are you alright?"
"T-tired," was the weak response as she leaned more into Tenchi.
"Shhh... sleepy," came a mumble as she used his chest as a pillow.
Tenchi looked down at the now lightly snoring girl and blinked. Studying her, he broke into a wide smile. He knew, somehow, that she was going to be all right.
During Ranma's detransformation, Washu took readings and measurements of what was happening. She hadn't the time to really to figure out how the limiters worked, but she couldn't deny the fact that they did work. Ranma had achieved the impossible for her: She had reached a zero state.
"That is not possible," Tsunami said simply as she looked over Washu's shoulder and at the readouts. "She was never intended to have a zero state."
"Well she does now," Washu's said smartly. "And if I'm right, her entire staging has been bumped around."
"What does that mean?" Sailor Pluto asked.
"It means that... while she is still incredibly powerful, it will take more effort for her to reach different stages," Washu tired to explain. "A lot more effort. It's all very complicated, but it is safe to say we're out of danger."
Relaxing, Ranma let another soft sigh escape her lips as she sagged more against Tenchi's chest. Her fingers uncurled, releasing Tenchi's shirt, before sliding down in total relaxation.
Realizing that the way he was seated was not the most comfortable position to be in, Tenchi shifted slightly, allowing blood to circulate into his legs. He was very careful not of jostle the sleeping redhead that he cradled in his arms and if anything, drew her closer. Settling into a more comfortable seat, Tenchi held Ranma close and watched over her as she slept.
The others in the room watched the scene briefly before retreating.
"So - now what?" Sailor Pluto asked plainly to the other two.
Washu thought a moment. She gave a measured look at the ghostly image of Tsunami beside her and then back at Sailor Pluto before answering. "I think... I think it would be best that we let the future take care of itself from now on."
Summer had come.
After a short stay of a few weeks at home, where Ranma hung out with her sister, she decided to take Tenchi up on his offer of visiting him for awhile. Of course Happosai had insisted on coming along to look after his heir and to correct some of the "lack of judgment" that Ranma had exhibited. Which usually meant training.
It was the end of a long and grueling day of training. Ranma had barely managed to shed her tattered gi and clean herself off and make her way to the bath for a good, long soak. Her bath-mates were cool toward her when she was first invited to stay the summer, but as the weeks progressed they eventually warmed to her.
Ranma also found herself warming up to the girls as well, especially Ryoko.
As much as the other love interests in Tenchi's life resented it, it was obvious to all that Tenchi had made a choice. Along with his choice was that the fact he swore never to have anything to do with anyone if they tried to get between Ranma and himself. This had a definite effect on the his other two primary suitors. They both realized that the battle to be first in his heart was lost, now they vied for second. This meant that they were very well behaved around Ranma.
It also helped that Tenchi reminded them that Ranma was still extremely powerful. Not that Ranma would use her powers like that, but what they didn't know won't hurt anybody.
Ranma groaned loudly as she eased herself into the hot waters of the bath.
"Rough day?" Ryoko asked as she stretched in the bath, drink in hand.
Ranma nodded slowly as she settled in. "Yeah, Master Happosai was really rough today."
"I noticed," Ryoko said, "maybe you should just stick with sparring with me."
Ranma shook her head. "Nope. I wanna get this right."
Ryoko smirked at Ranma's stubbornness.
"What happened?" Ayeka asked, noticing the bruises on Ranma's arms and legs.
"Well... I told him what happened a few months ago... you know... the truth," Ranma explained hesitantly, "and he was slightly -er, irate with me."
"Oh?" Ryoko prompted while handing Ranma a small bottle of sake.
"Yeah," Ranma continued mournfully before realizing what was handed to her and shrugged her shoulders. "He said I was a disgrace because I didn't think before acting."
"That's harsh," Ryoko said while shifting in her spot.
"Harsh, but true," Ranma said. She paused to take a small sip of sake before continuing. "So every time he thinks I'm not putting enough thought into my actions during our lessons, I go for a swim."
Ranma nodded and winced at the soreness that hadn't completely left her body. Who knew hitting water at that angle could hurt so damn much. "He uses that pipe of his and I find myself sailing into the middle of the lake... I must have gone for a swim eight or nine times today."
Ayeka giggled at Ranma's discomfort and quickly waved her hand as to mean she meant no offense. "Sorry," she offered, "but I have a hard time picturing that little old man being able to do that."
Ranma wilted further into the water as her aches eased some more. Ryoko on one side and Ayeka on the other. Her aches and pains began to wane. "I wouldn't mind it so much, but I swear that he tries to see how many times he can skip me across the water," Ranma mumbled.
"So where is Happosai now?" Ayeka asked.
"Last I saw, him and Tenchi's grandfather were sparring," Ranma answered. She then looked at Ayeka in the eye. "I think those two get along too well. Happosai is giving Tenchi's grandfather pointers in sword use and promised to help 'whip Tenchi into shape' while he was here."
"Ow," Ryoko remarked and fought the urge to go save Tenchi.
End of Summer.
Surrounded by all sides by mountains that isolated it from the rest of the world, the valley began its early decent into night as the waning sun lowered in the sky. A fairly stiff breeze worked its way through the narrow valley opening, creating the wind-born waves that lapped at the lake shoreline. Overhead the clouds streamed by, carried away to parts unknown by the winds. The birds in the trees chirped and squawked occasionally as they returned to their nests in preparation for the coming night.
The waning sun was barely peeking out from one of the surrounding mountains as a couple walked hand-in-hand, barefoot in the surf, and kicking up the waters as it covered their feet. Hair still wet from her recent swim, Ranma stopped to stare off into the darkening forest. The pigtailed boy by her side studied the contemplative look on the redhead for a moment.
"Are you all right?" he asked.
Ranma looked at Tenchi with affection clearly in her eyes. Seeing that affection mirrored in his made the moment all that more special.
"Yes," she answered. "Everything is prefect."
Seasons change, time moved on...
The very early morning light streamed through the window, illuminating the main room of the studio apartment. Ranma dragged herself out from the futon that she shared with Tenchi and made it to the bathroom where she dry-heaved for a while before managing to make it into the main room. Once there, she piled up some pillows and gingerly sat upon them and groaned.
"At least I didn't wake Tenchi this time," she thought. Considering how Ranma had been the last few mornings, she considered that a major accomplishment in itself. Between Tenchi's late nights finishing up school and Ranma getting him up early in the morning, he was a bit on the exhausted side.
Not that Ranma was feeling any better than he was.
Ranma leaned over and rested against another, larger, pillow and swallowed hard as if trying to force something down that wasn't even there to come up. Letting out a combination of a sigh and groan, she hugged the pillow underneath her before attempting to relax. Another wave of illness invaded her body and Ranma sighed and tried to relax through it.
Here she was: She had fought hordes of bio-weapons and a twisted version of herself and what was laying her out? Her stomach telling her that being pregnant isn't all that it's cracked up to be.
Ranma's musings on her condition was interrupted by the soft rattling of her front door. She smiled. You can set your watch to it. Since being reunited with her mother, Nodoka had been coming over in the morning and helping out. At first Ranma insisted that she was fine and was able to handle everything fine without any help...
... but that was before morning sickness reared its ugly head. Now Ranma had grown to appreciate having her mother around. Nodoka was making a habit of arriving early, helping clean up a bit, getting breakfast going, and doting over her daughter. At first Ranma didn't know what to make of her mother's behavior, but after a few days, Ranma realized that Nodoka was trying to make up for lost time.
Being apart from your child for seventeen-eighteen years will do that.
"Hey mom," Ranma said quietly from her place on the floor.
"Hello dear," Nodoka replied with concern. "How are you feeling?"
Ranma answered with a low groan.
Nodoka shook her head as she checked Ranma out. "Have you tried the crackers again?"
Ranma nodded. "Makes me feel worse."
"Well you stay put, I'll put some tea on. That always seems to help settle your stomach."
Ranma attempted to lug herself out of the low seat to join her mother in the small kitchen area, that was actually part of the same, large room and failed. Laid low by a sudden wave of nausea, Ranma found herself plopped down in the seat that she had just tried to rise from.
"Uhhhh..." Ranma groaned as she forced the room to stop tilting in odd angles.
Nodoka laid a hand on Ranma's shoulder. "I said, you stay put," she said in a motherly tone. "The tea will be ready in a few moments."
Ranma relaxed back into her pile of pillows and smiled. It was nice having her mother back in her life. Her friend from... somewhere else was right, getting her mother back was worth the risk of rejection. Her smile faded somewhat when she thought of her father. She sighed out in incomprehension of the man.
"He already tried to rearrange some engagement between my unborn child and one of Kasumi's," Ranma thought with a certain amount of tiredness. "Luckily mom put an end to that idea before Kasumi caught wind of it..."
She never could figure out how someone as good at martial arts as Genma is, could screw up in most everything outside of that field. "I guess it's the price you pay for not expanding your horizons," she concluded.
Brought out of her thoughts by Nodoka setting a cup of tea beside the pillows she was on, Ranma looked at her mother in thought. At first she wasn't sure, now she was. Now if her mother would agree...
Nodoka seemed to pick up Ranma's mood and gave her a quizzical look, but remained silent.
"Mom? I've been thinking," Ranma ventured.
"You know I'm going to be leaving soon," Ranma notice the crestfallen look on Nodoka's face, "and I want to ask you... would you, er... come with me?"
Nodoka blinked at her child and then blinked again.
"You want me to come with you?" Nodoka asked in a guardedly hopeful way.
"Well... yes," Ranma said. "It's been nice having you around... helping me out..." Ranma paused to look at her mother in the eye and to give her a smile. "It would be a shame if you missed the birth of your first grandkid."
Ranma was embraced by Nodoka so quicky that she wasn't sure how her mother moved so fast. Mindful of the growing life that Ranma was carrying, Nodoka confined the hugging of her daughter to well above the belly. Ranma still let out a painful squeak as her over-sensitive breasts were squished by Nodoka's embrace.
"Sorry dear," Nodoka said as tears escaped the corners of her eyes. "It's just that..."
"It's okay mom," Ranma said as she reclaimed her seat and took another sip of tea. The tea was helping. She noticed an odd look on her mother's face. "What's wrong?"
"It's more than I deserve," Nodoka worked out between sniffles. "I mean, after I let that man take you and that stupid pledge and-"
"It's all right."
Ranma suffered through another slightly painful hug from her mother.
The First Empress of Jurai strode through the hall of the palace with her three year old on her hip. Though there were nannies and other such things that were easily available for someone in her position, Ranma refused to surrender any of the 'motherly' responsibilities onto anyone else. The three year old was at a stage that was both irritating and precious.
"Why?" the small girl asked for the umpteenth time.
"Because your grandmother is getting married today," the redhead answered.
"Because she loves Katsuhito," Ranma replied.
Ranma sighed. "Just wait until you're older."
To distract her daughter from anymore questions, Ranma goosed her eliciting a loud belly laugh from the child. Ranma smiled at this. After the giggle fit was over with, Ranma rubbed her slightly sore wrists.
"Mom!" came a call from behind. Ranma turned to face her eldest.
"I'm glad to see that you are ready, Akiko," Ranma said with a hint of relief. She had feared that her teenage-looking daughter had went back to sleep - again.
"Was there any doubt?" the crimsoned haired youth asked smartly, with a trace of cockiness.
Ranma gave her daughter a measured look. "Where are your brothers?" she asked while looking over Akiko's shoulder.
"They went on ahead," Akiko replied as she fell in step beside her mother. "Where's Mother Ryoko?"
"Right here," the answer popped into existence beside the young woman, causing her to like out a very girly 'eep'.
Ranma laughed out loud as her oldest daughter pouted at her and the new arrival. "Mother Ryoko," Akiko said in indignation. "Don't do that!"
Ryoko, Second Empress of Jurai, giggled at Akiko's exasperation. Ryoko opened her mouth to say something more when she was bulldozed from behind by an over enthusiastic ten year old.
"Mommy!" the little powerhouse of a boy gushed as he clung to his cyan-haired mother.
Ryoko quickly compensated for the extra weight that had grabbed her around the waist without staggering - she instead floated. "Ryu, what have I told you about surprising me like that?"
Akiko smirked at Ryoko's reaction at being surprised as the pigtailed little boy with dark blue hair giggled mischievously. Ryoko rolled her eyes in response. "Kids."
Ranma smiled in answer to Ryoko's comment.
"Hello dears," Nodoka greeted as she approached the group of Masaki women.
"Hey mom," Ranma replied while absently rubbing her wrist again, "ready for the big day?"
Ranma's mother not only was still alive due to the advanced medical and environmental conditions on Jurai, but was preparing to remarry. After Genma passed away - never seeing the dream of the schools joining - Nodoka mourned for what she thought was a proper amount of time - about eight years - before her new husband literally swept her off her feet.
"Is something wrong with your hands, dear?" Nodoka asked with a knowing look. "You been rubbing them."
"Ah... hee, hee," Ranma said with a small blush. Being mindful of young ears, Ranma gathered her wits. "Nothing mom, just getting tired of toting Michiko here around."
"Why?" the small girl asked.
Ranma sighed as Nodoka giggled at Ranma's obvious discomfort. The ropes had left marks that faded overnight and the phantom sensations of their passing in their wake causing Ranma to rub her wrists. Nodoka had long learned about her daughters bedroom antics from Ranma herself - getting tipsy during a state visit wasn't very smart - and just shook her head.
"Whatever makes you happy dear," Nodoka said while smiling at the still blushing Ranma.
The second wife of Tenchi, Ryoko, found it almost comical that the most powerful being ever created would be such a submissive in the sack. Ranma liked it that way, for her it was nice to be not in control in a safe way - with people you trusted. For Ranma, her submissive role was like finding a balance in her life and she was happy with it.
And none of Ranma's other bedmates complained either.
"Ladies," a distinguished voice said from further up the hallway, drawing attention away from the current topic. Ranma's smile broadened as did Ryoko's.
"Tenchi," the two chanted as one, each moved up to him and took their traditional spots beside their husband.
Time moved on...
She was old. Old as she was ever going to get in this life.
Not that she minded.
Between modern medicine and her natural Senshi abilities, Ranma had managed to live nearly one hundred and fifty thousand years. Her outward appearance hadn't changed much, but inwardly. She smiled to herself as she sensed the presence of her children and grandchildren and great great-many-times over grandchildren near by. She breathed a ragged breath, hoping to see Tenchi and Ryoko on the other side. She drew another breath, one that didn't really make it to her lungs. She then saw a light in her minds eye...
... she knew it was time to go.
Billions of years, millions of lifetimes lived...
Ranma was alone. Had been alone for... how long? Ranma didn't know, when there was no such thing as time anymore, what did it matter?
Yet Ranma wasn't really alone. Ranma had sensed the other for a long time now. Always out of sight, but ever present, Ranma pondered what this other could be. After a while, Ranma didn't even think about it anymore, it just became something in the background. Something to ignore.
She - or was it he? - that didn't matter anymore either - the thing that was once Ranma so many eons ago floated and watched - sensed as the last universe in creation collapsed upon itself. All of the seemingly countless universes were condensed into, what seemed to Ranma, pin-pricks that hung around Ranma like particles floating free in an invisible ocean. Each universe waited patiently for Ranma.
Ranma studied every one of them. It didn't take long, for each was now a part of her. She was able to feel the seeming anticipation that all of creation had. On instinct, she knew what to do. One by one and in groups, Ranma began the task of gathering the small dots of universes, bringing them together.
How long did it take? When time is meaningless, what does it matter? In an instant that lasted forever, Ranma gathered the last of the universes together in herself/himself(?) and prepared. In a womb of Ranma's own making, she/he brought everything together as darkness closed over Ranma, and in one brief moment there was truly a nothingness like none had ever seen. If Ranma still had a breath to hold, Ranma would have done that.
Then something touched Ranma, that something that was ever present, but not seeable. It touched Ranma and the seed of tomorrows fluctuated. Reaching out, Ranma joined with this other, lonely soul and became one with it for one brief instant. Ranma held on to everything that once was and concentrated.
In an instantaneous flash of light, space/time unfolded itself. Warping and shattering into an infinite number of realities. In Ranma's eye, it appeared as if fireworks were going off, each burst being a universe being made. For Ranma, it was like the end of a long, cold night as she/he basked in the warmth of creation reborn.
The other separated from Ranma and smiled.
Ranma wasn't alone anymore.
- End -
Well, as they say "stick a fork in it, it's done".
So it went out with a bang... even if it was a 'big bang'.
After almost two years, this "one shot" (ha-ha) is finally completed. I have had a few people write to me and ask if they could continue this, I rather they not. I do have several back stories in the works and I would like to keep my options open at this point.
Right now, I would like to thank those of you that suffered through this to the end, those who bothered to take the time to leave a review, and especially those that left helpful ones. Believe me, I needed all the help I could get my hands on.
I still intend on going back and cleaning up my earlier chapters, but that will be a "back burner" project and I will probably post the corrections all at once instead of individually. I think my misspellings and misuse of some words in those earlier chapters are now legendary.
I hoped everyone found this at least a "good yarn" and enjoyed reading it.
For now, I'm going to focus on other projects.
Thanks for reading.