DISCLAIMER: The only things I own are the inconsistencies.
Hell's Favorite Demon
Hotaru held tight to Ranma's waist and buried her face in his back the best she could while wearing a helmet. The scenery was passing them by at an obscene rate and Hotaru was having the time of her life. She wasn't allowed to ride with Haruka-poppa on her bike after the first time because apparently Haruka-poppa wasn't a safe driver, but Hotaru couldn't remember the last time she'd gone so fast, though if she really thought about it, Ranma was driving a lot faster than Haruka-poppa did. Was Michiru-momma gonna have a nervous breakdown?
Abruptly they slowed down and eventually stopped in front of an intersection. Ranma turned to her and she couldn't read his expression through the tinted visor.
"You want Chinese or Okonomiyaki?" He asked.
She thought about for a moment before answering. "Chinese, please."
He nodded and they started driving again, turning left on the intersection before the scenery passed in a blur again. The trip was significantly shorter this time though and Hotaru found herself pouting with disappointment.
"I've heard this place has the best Chinese food in Japan," Ranma commented as he led his motorcycle over to an alley and let it fall into the shadows.
"You sound skeptical."
"Well, I haven't tried all the Chinese places on the island, but it's hard to believe it would be called the best…"
"Obviously you've never been to Nerima."
When Hotaru and Ranma returned to the house, they found Setsuna, Michiru, and Haruka still huddled around the The Fourth Wall book he'd lent them for the evening, a slight flush on all three of their faces. Once they heard the door open however, Setsuna, who had been holding the book, slammed it shut, coincidentally catching one of Michiru's fingers in between the pages.
The aquamarine-haired woman yelped and pulled her finger away from the book, cradling it for a moment before Haruka took it in her hands and kissed the delicate digit tenderly. Setsuna spared Michiru an apologetic glance before turning her attention to the couple in the doorway.
"Have fun?" Setsuna asked.
"Lots!" Hotaru smiled widely as she removed her shoes and moved to join them at the table, asking for the book from Setsuna and then looking through it herself.
"Where'd you two go?" Michiru asked, pulling her finger from Haruka before she got too into it.
"I took her to Nerima to show her some sights," Ranma answered, coming over to the table after willing his shoes away in a puff of black smoke. He tossed a take out container onto the table, "We got you some."
"We went to the Cat Café!" Hotaru said with a smile. "It was really good, the best Chinese ever!"
Haruka nodded in recognition of the restaurant, "We've been there before, Michiru, you remember?"
"Do I remember you staring at the waitress' lack of bra?" Michiru raised an accusing eyebrow at her lover. "Why yes, yes I do. Thank you for reminding me." She abruptly stood and walked out the room. "Excuse me, I need to use the ladies' room."
Haruka stood to follow Michiru, but the glare she received at the move made her sit back down.
Ranma whistled. "Wow, you'd think your tact would've improved over the years."
Setsuna sipped at the tea she'd had in front of her. "You'd think so."
"So anyway, it's about that time again," he looked at Setsuna. "Will you be joining the fun this year?"
Setsuna raised an eyebrow. "Who will be there?"
"I don't know outside my own team, Mom's keeping the list of contestants to herself this time around. Supposedly to keep people from building teams around other preregistered teams. Did you get an invite? Or am I jumping the gun again?"
Setsuna nodded, "I received an invitation, all past contestants receive invitations, you know that."
"What are you talking about?" Hotaru asked, clearly confused.
Ranma smiled and explained, "Every other year, Niflehiem hosts a contest amongst immortals and mortals who are proven capable warriors. We send out invitations to anyone capable of putting on a good show in an arena. People show up, we run through the available contestants with a fine tooth comb, and decide how to pit them against each other and when to place them into the arena to spice things up." Ranma finished off his drink before continuing. "My Mom, Hild, has been doing this contest for centuries. She's got this down to an art," he grinned wider, his fangs showing. "For every year that I've gone to see it, down to the last three years I've participated, it has been the wildest ride I've ever had the pleasure of being a part of."
"I remember now, you and your mom took me out to go see it one year." Haruka said. "She was so happy to see me too."
"She thought I'd finally given up on Bell and chosen an actual girlfriend." Ranma pointed out. "It wasn't so much oh yay my son has friends as it was oh yay my son now has an outlet through which he can procreate excitement."
Haruka waved it away. "Details."
"Can we be a part of the tournament?" Hotaru asked excitedly.
Ranma glanced at Setsuna before answering honestly. "Well, technically, as you are, your group would be crushed, mostly because you don't have very good group tactics and at the tournament you'd be even more hindered by your lack of teamwork." He explained himself before he could get in trouble. "What I mean is, at the tournament, you'll only be allowed to enter in teams of four. So even if the nine of you decided to enter, or eight rather, since I know Setsuna will be coming, you'll have to split into two teams." He shrugged, "You would all need some serious training in teamwork, your firepower is good, but it could be better. The time it takes for you to cast spells will be an incredible handicap, and actually still is out on the field. And I'd personally like to keep you all from being raped by demons or other immortals who think themselves high and mighty, so you'd definitely have to skip the 10 second transformation scene and shorten it into a 1-second thing, if not less."
"Basically what you're saying is that our tactics need a complete overhaul and that we seriously need training," Haruka chimed in.
Setsuna leaned back and watched Haruka's face closely, looking for anything that would suggest the old fire that would flare to life at even an implied insult.
"You're right, of course," Haruka admitted freely. "We do need a lot of work. But we live such separate lives, Michiru and I are older than the inners. We don't have the same interests or even a similar schedule. It's difficult sometimes to get together to even have meetings every week, I imagine it'd be even harder to get us together for any sort of training along with the meetings."
Setsuna simply gaped at Haruka's lack of anger in being criticized.
"What if you had the meetings while training?" Ranma asked, "You'd be simultaneously training yourselves and working with distractions."
Haruka shrugged and Setsuna cut in, "We could train all we like, but with Luna and Artemis as training advisers we'll never get anywhere. Luna and Artemis are political advisers sent forward to collect the senshi and train the princess in her duties, they know nothing about battle or military tactics."
"So what you're saying is that even if you could get everyone together to train, you don't have anyone to train them." Ranma paused a second. "And I'm assuming you wouldn't be able to train them, Setsuna, because you're mainly trained in solo battle, or so I've heard."
Setsuna nodded, "You're right. I've never been trained specifically in group battle, I can plan things out ahead with my power, but you can only plan so far ahead before you yourself stumble and fall. You can account for your own mistakes to a degree, but with every action that someone involved does, the possibilities continue to multiply until the possibilities are too much."
Ranma blinked. "Wait…you're admitting that I'm right?" He shared a look with Haruka before turning back to Setsuna, "Who are you and what've you done with the real Setsuna?"
She gave him the evil eye as she replied. "I may not like you, but I can admit when I'm wrong, thank you very much."
"Huh, who knew..." Ranma relented, leaning back a bit. "Well, why don't the two of you discuss who you might like to train the rest of the senshi? And just so you know, if you talk to the rest of your group and they decide they want to join the tournament I can't guarantee an invitation. Now, I have to excuse myself, where's your bathroom?"
"Upstairs, third door on your left," Haruka answered.
"Thank you." He stood and walked up the stairs, following the directions he'd been given. He opened the door, but instead of going into the bathroom he stepped a couple times in place before closing the bathroom door and quietly stepping back into the few shadows of the hallway.
A couple seconds later Michiru's head popped out of one of the bedrooms and she looked both ways before beginning to sneak back towards the stairs to eavesdrop on her lover and roommate.
"Are you still mad at Haruka or are you just really nosy?"
Michiru jumped and whirled around in a ready stance to see Ranma standing behind her. "I, but you-"
Ranma shrugged. "I'm a demon with mastery over shadows, would you really expect otherwise?" He assessed her stance before frowning, "Your left foot is back too far and your right hand is in front of your face. If I really wanted to, I could punch and break your nose with your own fist. You girls really need some serious work with this stuff…"
Michiru frowned at him. "Is there something I can help you with?"
"Are you still mad at Haruka?"
She relaxed and sighed, laying one arm across her stomach and rubbing the arm with her other hand, as though she were uncomfortable. "Not mad…just annoyed. You wouldn't believe how often she flirts with some girls or how often I catch her eye wandering to another woman…"
"She doesn't do it one purpose you realize."
"I know that…sometimes…" The senshi of Neptune looked towards the stairs before admitting something she'd never thought she'd say aloud. "Sometime I think she's only with me until she finds somebody better."
Ranma shook his head and looked at her seriously. "You're wrong, she loves you, I know she does. She's told me, we've mailed each other on and off over the years. You don't know how happy she was when you finally started going out with her, she was ecstatic, pure and simple. I'd never seen her happier." He sighed, "You have to understand something, I'm not the one who taught Haruka everything she knows, though I did have a large hand in things… You're not her first girlfriend, Michiru."
Michiru nodded. "I know that, she's had a couple girlfriends before me-"
"No, she's had one girlfriend before you."
"But, she had such a huge following back in high school, the top playboy, I had always assumed that it was because she'd gone out with several of them."
"Nope." Ranma explained. "Haruka posed as a boy in high school, only a very select few knew she was actually a girl. To have a one night stand or date a girl seriously would risk being exposed by a disgruntled ex-girlfriend." He leaned against the opposite wall from Michiru. "No, she didn't date in high school, too risky. She had a girlfriend in her freshman year, but her girlfriend wasn't in the school district."
"Who was she?"
"A friend of mine, Kiyone." He paused a moment. "Kiyone's also the reason Haruka has such a wandering eye…"
He had her full attention now. "What do you mean?"
"I can't really tell you much of what went on, but Kiyone is a succubus who deals exclusively with women. She and Haruka dated for a while, I'd say a good solid year, about two months after they met. Kiyone taught Haruka everything she knew and more and they were serious for a while. But by the time Haruka was finished with her freshman year and starting her sophomore year it was obvious that it wasn't going to work out." Ranma shrugged. "Kiyone really liked Haruka, but succubi can't feed off of the same person too often or they risk killing their partner, so if they date, they have to make allowances for feedings. Haruka could only take it for so long, you know how she is."
Michiru nodded, "She's possessive and jealous, but I find it endearing..."
"Kiyone thought the same thing, still does, but it wasn't going to work out. I'm not even sure how they lasted the full year or so…but they were happy while they lasted and they didn't end on bad terms."
"That doesn't explain why Haruka has a wandering eye and a flirtatious nature though."
"Well, that's relatively easy to explain." Ranma said. "Haruka learned what she knows from a succubus. Succubi and Incubus both feed off of lust and sex, so they have a natural talent for flirting. Kiyone used to tell me all the time that Haruka would have made an excellent succubus…but yeah. Haruka learned how to flirt and she does it unconsciously unless she's keeping a tight reign over herself. And the wandering eye, well, who doesn't let their eye wander every so often? Things just catch the eye you know."
Michiru nodded slowly, looking down at the floor by the stairs, "I guess that makes sense…"
Ranma walked up to her and laid a hand on her shoulder, making her look up into his eyes. She was surprised to find that he had the same playful spark in his eyes that Haruka did, even when she was being serious. "I'm not saying you shouldn't get angry at Haruka for some things, I'm just saying to cut her some slack. I know Haruka, better than she knows herself sometimes, she loves you, a lot. She would go to hell and back for you if you only said the word." He kept her eyes locked with his. "Love isn't something you take lightly, Michiru, I've had my heart broken before, it hurts like you wouldn't even begin to believe. I can tell you love Haruka too, just as much as she loves you, if not more. I don't want to see you and her go through what I have, it's not worth the pain if you both love each other and want to be together."
"Who was she?"
"She was a goddess who fell in love with a mortal."
"Don't be, I was a fool to think it'd ever work out between us." He smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes. "I just want to see you and Haruka have the happy ending I couldn't have."
Michiru nodded and gave Ranma a small smile. "I'll try not to be too jealous too often…it should be easier now that I know why." Inwardly Michiru sweatdropped and thought to herself, It'll be easier once my monthly friend goes away too...
"Good." Ranma nodded once. "I'm glad I could help, just don't tell Haruka I said anything, she hates it when I poke my nose into things."
"And you're so nosy too," she laughed and poked at him. Ranma returned the laugh and smiled, this time it reached his eyes. "Will you escort me downstairs, Ranma-san?"
He chuckled, "I'd love to, honestly, but I actually do have to use the bathroom." And he made his way to the bathroom, leaving Michiru to brave the stairs on her own.
When she arrived, Haruka offered an apologetic look that damn near made Michiru go "aw". She sat back down next to her girlfriend and placed a hand on the leg nearest her, giving it a gentle squeeze. She felt Haruka relax under her hand and knew all was well between them again.
"You missed an interesting conversation," Setsuna said as she sipped at her tea.
Michiru took Haruka's hand in hers and laced their fingers together, a peaceful smile blossoming on her face. "You'll have to fill me in."
When Ranma returned from the bathroom he was bombarded by the four outer senshi to train them, but he shot them down. "No way, I can't train anyone, especially the senshi. You guys are full of order magic while I'm full of chaos and a little bit of evil, I can't do anything for you guys," he paused, "But what I can do is leave you Amun, he can teach you how to fight."
Amun, who had been lounging around the living room looked up at them as his name was mentioned and they all stared at him. Ranma grinned and Amun groaned at what he was going to be forced into.
"Fine, but if those moon cats say anything to me, they're toast."
For three months the senshi trained as a whole under Amun and the daemon showed them what he could tactically to improve their teamwork. Magically, Amun was next to useless, but you don't live eons without learning a thing or two about war. Setsuna picked up on the magic training, teaching them what they could handle in order to increase their power and refine their techniques.
It was about a week after Amun began training them that Ranma showed up to pick up Hotaru. Chaos had called, he was ready to undo the magic that was restraining Hotaru from reaching any of her potential and keeping her unhealthy.
Ranma walked with Hotaru's hand in his, she was a little nervous to be meeting a full-fledged god after all. Behind them trailed Setsuna, Michiru, and Haruka, the only other people Chaos would allow to tag along with them.
Ranma smiled at them, "After all this is done I'll make something for dinner."
"Can we have Sukiyaki?" Haruka piped up, "You used to make it really good when we were living together."
He laughed and nodded, "Sure, I think I can do that, any other requests?"
"How about Katsudon Domburi?" Setsuna asked.
"A personal favorite," he replied with a smile, then he looked at Hotaru for her request.
"As you wish. Michiru, any requests from you?"
"I'll just pick a little from everybody else's dishes…" There was a small outburst of refusals as they approached the front gate to his home. "Okay, okay, well, how about…cheese fried dumplings with a duck sauce?"
Ranma blinked, a little surprised. "That's an American-Chinese dish."
"I had it when I vacationed in America with my parents and I loved it. It wouldn't be too much trouble right?"
"Uh, no, I don't think so…I'll need help though." He looked at them all as they stepped up to the door. "I'd ask you all to help, but Haruka isn't allowed near my kitchen since the last time I saw her try and cook. And you're all guests, so if Hotaru wants, she can help, but otherwise nobody else is allowed." Haruka objected to her inadvertent ban from his kitchen and he rebuked her, "You melted the pot, Haruka," she moved for another objection and was interrupted, "You were trying to boil water…and there wasn't anything in the pot yet. The burner wasn't even on."
Michiru, Setsuna, and Hotaru all looked at Haruka with disbelief on their faces, but Haruka's blushing and embarrassed visage was all the answer they needed to know that what they had heard was pure truth. Ranma simply walked over to the door and opened it, allowing them all entrance into the house.
"No wonder you refuse to do anything in the kitchen," Michiru said as she walked inside, Hotaru's hand grasped in hers as she followed.
"And here we just thought she was lazy." Setsuna remarked, entering the foyer that led into the living room.
Haruka pouted and glared at Ranma, "Thanks, now they know I'm inept instead of just lazy."
Ranma shrugged and shut the door behind Haruka, "Well, at least now you won't get in trouble for it anymore."
Once inside and wearing guest slippers, everyone took a moment to look around, Ranma moving around them to the kitchen to retrieve refreshments from the refrigerator. The living room had wood flooring and the couch was a dark blue color, the walls were an off-white and all of the wood was dark in color.
"Nice place…" Haruka said as she moved to the couch to sit.
"Thanks, Mom had the place furnished and prepared before I came out here." Ranma left the kitchen with a tray of drinks, idly straightening one of the frames on the TV. The one he adjusted was one of two, holding a picture of his sisters while the other was a very rare group picture of him standing with his whole family, Hild and Chaos on his left, his sisters on the right.
"Who's that?" Hotaru pointed to the figure that was coming down the stairs, coincidentally, the same figure that was in his family photo, the only other male aside from him.
"That's Chaos, my father." Ranma introduced. Chaos was wearing his signature cloak that covered his entire body and his hood pulled over his head to hide his face. One of his arms left the comfort of the cloak to wave to the group before it disappeared again and he went into the kitchen to rummage through the refrigerator. Chaos spoke in his chaotic language and Ranma conversed with him for a couple moments before he nodded and moved back towards the senshi, a tray of hot water, assorted teas, and a few soda cans.
He placed the tray on the coffee table and gestured the standing senshi to take a seat on the couch. Once seated he spoke, "Dad has asked that Hotaru step forward, we're going to move the coffee table aside to give us more room." He handed out drinks as they asked for them and then moved the coffee table against a wall next to the couch.
Chaos was standing to the side and chanting in a voice that was half-gravel and half-melodic while Ranma moved the coffee table. Hotaru was standing by Ranma and sidled behind him when a glowing circle with seeming random symbols and runes appeared on the carpet.
Ranma did his best to both comfort the senshi of Saturn and coax her into the circle. "Hotaru-chan, I can't go into the circle with you, I'll disrupt the spell. Look," he pointed to the symbol of Saturn transfixed over an image of her patron planet, "Your planet and senshi symbol appearing in the circle is proof that it's completely safe for you to go in it." Chaos stopped chanting and spoke to Ranma, who then translated for the black haired girl, "Father asked that you stand in the circle."
Hotaru nodded and looked to her adopted parents for support, all three of which gave her a series of thumb ups and smiles of reassurance. She stepped into the circle and became brighter as it synced itself to her aura and her power. Ranma stood opposite Chaos and then moved to sit with Haruka and the others as Chaos began his chanting.
Haruka leaned over to Ranma as he sat down between her and Setsuna, "She's going to be okay, right?"
"Father has never used this spell before, but he's a perfectionist with these sort of things. He would never even attempt it if he wasn't positive that it would go off without a problem." Was the answer she was provided with.
Setsuna huffed in frustration then sipped her tea, "I can't see whether this will work or not…damn you, Ranma."
"Sorry, it's nothing I can help. I thought you were used to this anyway?"
"I wanted to make sure this would be painless for her, you know how fragile she is…" Setsuna's eyes never met with Ranma's but he could hear the worry for her adopted daughter in her voice.
Ranma made a face and watched the look of concentration on Chaos' hidden face, only someone who embraced chaos like he did would ever be able to see more than eyes surrounded by shadow under Chaos' hood. He was one of the few who could see the youthful face of an American man in his mid-thirties with a blonde soul patch that was turning brown at the roots and a crease of concentration on brown eyebrows as the chant became more intense. Green eyes glowed with power and focused in on Hotaru the brighter that the circle got.
"I know you've never been fond of him, or me, but just trust him. He knows what he's doing." Setsuna met his eyes that time and she nodded, once, before turning back to her adopted daughter and watching the Chaos god work.
The symbols on the floor shone even brighter and Hotaru started floating above it. She was enveloped in a cocoon of purple light and black smoke started rising from the lines, burning itself into the floor, and out of the cocoon itself. Silver light began circling the cocoon and became so bright that it forced everyone watching to close their eyes, lest they burn their retinas.
Then, suddenly, everything was gone. The pentagram, the light, the smoke, the burn marks on the floor, all of it, just gone, like nothing had happened at all. The only proof that anything had occurred was Hotaru laying on the floor curled up as though sleeping.
The young girl's parents rushed over to her and Ranma got up to speak with his father. "Did it work?" His response was a sound that no human ear would ever be able to comprehend, "So it did?" A nod before Chaos went back to the kitchen to scrounge for food. "Hey, don't eat everything in there, I still have to cook for everyone!" Ranma berated his father who grumbled audibly and sat down on a stool in a corner like a child in time-out. The demon prince shook his head, "Centuries old and still acts like a child when denied food." Turning to the outer senshi in his living room, he inspected Hotaru's aura and smiled, "She's gonna be just fine."
"Are you sure?" Haruka had worry written all over her face since Hotaru had barely stirred since the spell had ended. Michiru held Hotaru's head in her lap and Setsuna hovered over them in her own form of worrying.
"Her aura is completely uninhibited. It's being kept small right now by a spell my dad cast so she can adjust to the new flow of energy without overwhelming her body. She's gonna go through a rapid physical change over the next couple weeks, her body is going to change so it matches her actual age."
"We've dealt with that before," Michiru mumbled, "When she was first adopted, it only took a couple months for her to grow from a baby to a child..."
"This will be a smoother transition for her, chances are you'll barely notice the changes until they're finished." Ranma lifted Hotaru from the floor and carried her over to the couch to lay her down. "She'll be more comfortable here, and so will all of you," he helped move Hotaru so Michiru could hold her again, "I'm gonna go cook, you guys relax."
A knock on the door sounded and Haruka answered it for Ranma, he being a little busy cooking and making sure nothing burned. Haruka was engulfed in a hug by Urd as she walked in the door and Haruka laughed, hugging an old friend. Michiru was jealous up until Haruka introduced them, she was ready to close the door when a shout sounded. Skuld pushed through the door, shouting about stupid older sisters and then changing her tune at the smell of food and sound of sizzling. She ran over to Ranma and hugged him as he cooked, he attempted not to spill anything as he laughed and hugged her back.
Belldandy tentatively stepped through the door and smiled shyly as Ranma spotted her. He paused his cooking and stared dumbfounded before he sighed. He grabbed Skuld's hands and placed them on the pan, instructing her how to keep the food from burning. He grabbed his father's hood and dragged him over to help Skuld keep an eye on things.
Walking over, he stopped in front of his eldest half-sister and looked her in the eyes. Without meaning to, he glanced at Setsuna for a very brief moment, so brief he barely knew he did it. Looking back at Belldandy, who had seen the glance, he sighed again and smiled apologetically. She hugged him tight and he hugged her back, just as tight, sighing as he laid his head on her shoulder for a moment.
"I love you," he mumbled, almost too quiet to hear. But the goddess of the future heard, she always did.
"Thank you," she whispered.
They parted and he dragged her into the kitchen to help him, pulling Chaos away from the stove just before he could raise the temperature. Exclaiming that he was hungry and the food should cook faster, resulting in a shouting match between the two. Setsuna was alarmed but Haruka laughing at their antics calmed her down. When their antics died down, it only got louder as Hotaru woke up, smiling and feeling energetic, and Mara came walking down the stairs, woken by the commotion.
Ranma couldn't help but laugh, happy to have the company. He felt like he was a part of a family, not that he never felt that way, but somehow, having everyone in his house like this made it feel like his family was happier, like this was actually his home. The only thing missing was-
"Having a party without me, dear?"
"Mother!" Ranma smiled wide, "I was just thinking about you."
"Dear, you should always be thinking about me, I'm just that wonderful."
More laughter sounded and Hild entered the house, hugging Haruka tight in her arms and waving her arm about as she spoke kindly to the girl. She hugged Michiru and Hotaru as well, loving that Haruka had a family and then turning to scold her son for not having a family first. Neither son nor adopted daughter were indignant about the comment, but simply laughed it away. Urd was enjoying herself so much that she even ignored her usual animosity towards her wayward mother in order to not ruin the mood of what was originally a dinner and turned into a full-blown party.
"Food's done!" Ranma shouted. Everyone gathered around a dinner table that had magically appeared in place of the coffee table and began eating with gusto.
Yes, today was definitely a good day. The next several months would be full of intense training as the tournament drew near, but for tonight, they would dine and enjoy each others company.
To Be Continued...
Okay, I know it's been a crazy long time since I've updated this... BUT, at least I got around to posting a new chapter right? I'm trying really hard to get back into the writing scene, so I'm really hoping that I'll manage to get more posted in the next couple months. Barring any complications involving real life, of course.
Anyway, please, enjoy this update and let me know what you think. I love hearing feedback, even if it's to point out run on sentences or grammatical errors.
It's you readers that make this worth while, so let me know you're out there, okay?