AN: Well, back writing after hiatus. This is a much shorter version of this chapter than I anticipated, much of what I had written just didn't seem to fit as well as I would have liked and it had to be scrapped. Thank you very much once again for all of your reviews, I appriciate them greatly and they have conistantly helped me shape my stories better. Anyway, on with the story.
Chapter 6: Journeys
35 mi SE of Oita, Kyushu Is. Japan
Ranma sometimes wondered if the universe saved up all the awkward situations that it was supposed to allot to everyone and just decided to simplify the task by heaping them all on her. How else she mused could she end up in the situation she was in now. On her left Akane, to her right Ukyo, and in-between with scarcely two inches of clearance on either side. A magical girl sandwich with rival fiancé bread. The tent shuddered as another powerful gust of wind buffeted the outside. As the two girls snuggled closer to her in their sleep she was left wondering which she would be hit by come morning. Nabiki would have given him 3 to 1 on Akane.
Oh it all made sense, and that was the damnable misery of it. It made sense that they travel together, with three people together the chances of one of them dying by accident or exposure was much less than if any of them had attempted the trip themselves. This is of course baring the argument that neither of the two girls would be here if it wasn't for Ranma. It made sense that she mostly travel and sleep in her senshi form; when in her guise she wasn't affected by the cold and all of her senses were heightened. Thus if their camp were approached they would have that much more warning, though who besides them would be out in this forsaken weather she wouldn't hazard a guess. It made sense that they shared a tent, it decreased the weight they carried tremendously and the shared warmth of the three bodies in the tent would make it more comfortable to the girls.
'Everything makes sense, except that it's all so screwed up,' Ranma thought disconsolately. 'Why am I out here, who is this person that is pulling me to the north, and most of all why me?' As she shifted slightly and once again tried to get to sleep she wondered if she would once again dream of the pleasant blond woman and her soothing voice.
Ukyo silently sighed relief when she heard Ranma finally drift off to sleep. As they always did her doubts came to haunt her in the night. 'What am I doing out here? I spent the worst week of my life trying to reach the safty of the refuge camps and I'm Barely there a day before I charge of into the frozen countryside again. Was the Jackass worth risking everything for time and time again when the feelings never seemed to be returned, at least in the way she wanted them to be? And that was not even taking into account that this whole trip was completely insane from the get go. Ranma's being psychicly called somewhere from the north and the three of us just abandon what little haven is left in the world to follow a feeling. It was ridiculus. With my luck it's proabably another beautiful finance that I will have to compete with.' Ukyo audibly groaned at that thought. 'Why?'
A small voice answered back they way it always did. 'You love her.' As always those three little words stopped any mental debate she had with herself and with a mental sigh of resignation she scrunched deeper into her sleeping bag and tried to get some sleep.
'Wait a minute!... Love HER!'
As Ranma flew through the air a small smile tried to inch up her face. It seemed that even the end of the world couldn't change his tomboy. This thought was abrubtly cut off as her head impacted a snow bank. 'Oh well might as well follow tradition.'
"What'dya do that for!"
"Baka Ukyo's got breakfast ready and were not going to wait for it to freeze just so you can sleep the day away."
Ranma watched Ukyo scowl as Akane stomped back towards the fire and watched as that scowl instantly became a smile as she turned towards her excavating herself from the snowbank. There's something to be said about routine, there's comfort in it in stange times. Which is why Ranma hadn't said anything about her rude wakeup calls these past three days on the road. She had in fact been awake for twenty minutes, it being hard to stay asleep in a cramped tent with two people trying to get dressed and arguing with each other, she just couldn't bring herself to giveup the familiarity of her Akane wakeup call. As if disrupting the routine they had fallen into would somehow jinx the day.
Walking over to the fire she grabbed the small pot that had been set at the edge and after detransforming she gently poured just enough of the water over her head to change. This had also become routine, having found that he got more time as a male before the pains started coming after all night spent sleeping as a senshi. Sitting down on a small log they had rolled up next to the fire last night he happily started to scarf down his breakfast Okyami. It had been agreed before they left that Ukyo would be doing the majority of the cooking, Ranma would do the clean up, and Akane would stay the hell away from anything to do with the food. Ranma still bore some bruises from that discussion. After breakfast was finished and the camp broken down they sat back down and discussed what the plan for the day was.
Breakfast was eaten with an almost pleasant conversation/commiseration before camp was broke and they walked back out to the snow covered highway. Ranma wondered if they should continue to follow the road to the west and take the bridge to Honshu, a significant deviation from the steady NNE pull, or if they should try to find some sort of boat and risk the frigid waters. Sometime before the day ended they would have to decide. She desperately wanted to take the faster boat route if possible, but she also feared risking it with Akane and Ukyo. Deciding that they would at least go to the coast and see what kind of boats might be available, they set their course.
National Advanced Composites Laboratory, Former City of Tokyo
Sailor Moon looked up from where she was clearing snow from the third floor corridor.
"She's defiantly getting closer Pluto; I think she's bringing someone as well." Pluto turned her head from the sheet of plywood that she had just secured over a shattered window.
"That's good to hear. I was beginning to think we might need to go to her, and it is just as well that she is bringing someone. It will most likely make her more comfortable as well as having someone here to work for until she accepts becoming part of the team."
"Must you always be so calculating Pluto?" Pluto looked slightly chastised.
"I'm sorry princess, old habits."
Usagi smiled, that Setsuna had even apologized showed that she was beginning to warm up and be a real human being again. In Usagi's eyes Pluto needed to undergo a fundamental shift in thinking. Pluto had worked to make Crystal Tokyo happen because she thought of it as her duty and the Sailor's destiny. If there was one thing that Usagi had learned from Mamoru's death was that nothing was destined. They couldn't found Crystal Tokyo on assumptions as mistaken as that. All the scouts needed to realize that they were not creating Crystal Tokyo for any other reason than to service mankind, to bring light back into the world. She was determined to do as much as she could, but no more than the world wanted. Usagi was no stellar student of history, but it worried her how many evils had been created from the best of intentions. With intentions as ambitious as theirs if any of them stepped from the path the whole world would only suffer more.
Sailor Uranus, her face covered in grease, smiled grimly in the semi-darkness of the sub-
basement. The only illumination coming from portable fluorescent lanterns placed around the room. It had taken her three days, but she thought she finally had the beast whipped. The room was currently the only place besides the temple that the scouts had expended the time and energy to erect an environmental shield around. The simple reason being that the old diesel generator was not even going to think about starting until the room was brought back above freezing. Crossing her fingers she primed the fuel line and pushed the ignition. The engine coughed and turned over for a full thirty seconds before Hakura stopped to prime the fuel line again and adjust the air mixture. As it looked to stall out again she forgot crossing her fingers and gave a mighty kick to the thing. The engine caught and she smiled triumphantly as the overhead lights flicked for a moment before burning strong.
Sailor Mercury smiled as the lights came on in the materials lab. Much of the equipment had been ruined, and she expected to be scouring the building and the city for all of the things she would need. Those that she couldn't find she would have to fabricate herself, something she was hoping wouldn't be necessary. The lights felt like victory though, as if the electricity itself was a harbinger of hope. A symbol of what they hoped to return to the world. It would all begin here. She was a little bit nervous about the amount of responsibility that hung on her shoulders. If they were going to bring back the crystals that were the core of every silver millennium technology, it would be in this lab and it would be her to do it. Taking a big breath and slowly releasing it she sat down and got to work.
Refuge Camp A26
The shadowy figure walked through the moon lit field; suddenly it turned and knelt down beside a patch of grass that looked as though it had been exposed to some sort of defoliant. The figure ran a ghostly hand over the dead blades and then brought it up and smelt the palm. It nodded to itself; this is where the one known as Happosai had been severed. Looking at the area closely it spotted something lying in the grass nearby. As the figure picked up the rose it could still feel the magical essence about it, slowly being leached out by the surrounding atmosphere. A rose, what would he have been doing here alone, and so far from his princess. It didn't make sense. Tomorrow it would assume a human shape and discreetly ask around, this riddle needed to be solved and quickly.
Kyushu Coastline 20 mi SE of Oita
Ukyo looked over the small marina and tried to see if there were any boats she would feel safe on in the Philippine Sea. Having trained by the sea for years, she had picked up a surprising amount from the people she sold Okynami to. Automatically she eliminated any of the motor yachts. She didn't have any mechanical experience and she doubted if either Ranma or Akane did either. No way was she was going to trust an engine when anything resembling a coast guard was a thing of the past. If they went out they would be on their own out there, and she didn't want something that could break down or run out of gas. That left the sailing yachts. After eliminating anything under thirty feet as two small they were left with two choices. The first was a modern fiberglass catamaran that looked as if it had a large cabin and a shallow keel, perfect for costal cruising with the family, but not the type of boat to truly trust in the open water. The other looked as if it had been made at the turn of the century. Ukyo could tell even from here that the hull was wooden, the design more round and blocky than boats made in the past few decades, it still looked as if it was in passable condition.
"Let's go check out that one," Ukyo said pointing to the old yacht.
"Why the old one Ucchan?"
"It's either that one or," She pointed to the catamaran, "that one, and the cat doesn't look like it was really made for rough water. I hope we don't run into any, but I would rather be in something that was built for it just in case."
Ranma nodded his head, having decided to spend as much time male before being surrounded by nothing but cold water for days. "Sounds good to me Ucchan."
Akane simply frowned, just once she wanted to be the person Ranma turned to for advice. 'Why it that everyone interested in Ranma was better than her in everything?' She wondered, 'and why does it matter to me so much?'
An American flag, flapped fitfully in the cold wind as they came aboard the Elizabeth. The boat sparkled in the early morning as the light hit the ice covered railings. Their feet made small crunching noises as they stepped on deck, the sea spray gradually building up a layer of ice on every exposed surface. Ukyo knelt down on the deck and looked at the wood, brushing her hand across it.
"Teak, this boat would cost a fortune to construct today. But it also is a good sign; teak is very durable and weather resistant. Not very surprising, as old as the boat looks I don't think many other types of wood could have survived. We're going to have to scrape off all this ice though, and its going to be a full time job keeping it off as cold as it is."
The cabin of the boat was in disarray. Apparently the owners had left in a hurry. The small table was overturned and cabinets and drawers were all left open their various contents strewn about the room. A plate full of spaghetti sat frozen solid in the sink while another was frozen to the floor. Ukyo came back up from a hatch in the floor.
"Everything looks okay down here Ranma; If the sails are ok I don't think your going to get much better. You sure you want to do this?"
Ranma hesitated for a moment before answering. "Yeah, I mean we'll be traveling for weeks on the road, but if we follow the coast we can make it in a few days by boat. Something keeps telling me the sooner we make it to where we're going the better."
"Ok sugar, why don't the three of us go topside to check the sails and then if there okay we'll spend the day cleaning up the inside and seeing if any of the other boats in the marina have anything that might come in handy."
Ranma's ego was telling him that this was his trip and he should be making the decisions like that, but Ranma was enough of a survivalist to know when to defer to someone with more experience. Ukyo clearly knew her way around the ocean; a mischievous smile inched up his face before he came to attention and saluted, "Aye, Aye Captain!" This caused Ukyo to laugh and Akane to smile for a moment before frowning slightly. 'Ranma would never have deferred to me like that, oh Ranma what is it about me that makes you treat me like you do?' Akane thought as she followed Ukyo and Ranma back above deck.