Heir to the
Part 8, Final
Skill versus power.
Kasumi, Akane and a rather limp Nabiki were watching this age old question play out in front of them as four Amazon warriors tore into each other across their property, systematically reducing the grass they danced upon to tilled earth. The first pair was clad in form fitting black leather armor imbued with power that easily eclipsed the martial artists of Nermia, including that of patriarchs Soun Tendo and Genma Saotome.
Their timely intervention had resulted in two man-shaped craters imbedded deep into the earth.
The other pair of Amazons weren't quite as powerful, but the decades spent all alone in the night with nothing but the company of youma intent on consuming their immortal souls had honed their skill to a molecular edge. Potion had only endured forty years of that torturous existence, but that forty would have been more than enough to press Ranma Saotome to his limits, had he been there. Wax, on the other hand would have flattened him without so much as breaking a sweat. She had endured over four hundred years in the demonic void and would have easily been the Amazon's preeminent martial artist if not for the fact that their sisters were trying to kill her and Potion at that very moment.
A stilettoed roundhouse kick sliced in the air where the four hundred year old ex-Amazon's head resided less than a fraction of a second ago, neatly removed from the path of the strike by a quick back-step and slide right to avoid the follow up combination. The fists blurred in and Wax's hand snapped into the attack, immobilizing the dominatrix' offensive and pulling her through on its own momentum. Super power did not equal super balance and Wax brought a vicious elbow down into the Amazon's exposed back while blasting her spine with a spike of ki, sending her into the earth with a sickening crunch. Dust and debris obliterated any visibility within the strike zone as the leathered Amazon ate five three meters of dirt from within her own personal crater from which Wax walked out of the cloud at unhurried gait.
One brainwashed super powered leather clad Amazon down.
Now if only she would stay down.
The Tendo sisters broke from Wax to Potion, watching as theteal haired womanput the finishing touches on a particularly devastating aerial combination. It held no less than eight lethal maneuvers, any one of which were guaranteed to rip the life from the unfortunate victim they were inflicted upon. As it was her Amazon's neck whipped around with a meaty crack, sending the opponent to the ground in a lifeless heap. Potion gave the unnatural angle of the woman's neck the barest of glances as she rejoined her sister in arms. Both joined on another at the center of the Tendo court yard, giving one another the barest of smiles before turning back to the field of battle.
They both knew what was coming next.
The dust was barely settling, but both girls could sense the rising power levels from within like a flat line slowly creeping back up. Likewise, the inert Amazon to their left spasmed suddenly. Wax snarled, quite familiar with the dark magics that animated their bodies. They weren't just leather clad dominatrix Amazons anymore. They were undead leather clad dominatrix Amazons.
At least they were as long as they wore that damn fuku armor, she amended with silent venom. Potion's Amazon sat up suddenly as if she had just recovered from a mental reboot. The off angle of her neck would have almost made the sight comical if not for the fact that it was their third time through. Her hands floated up to the skewed cranium, taking a firm grasp of it and violently snapping it back to its proper orientation. With her head pointed back to its proper alignment, the Amazon brought herself back to her full height and stared back into the settling dust behind her. From it strode the other, apparently having dug herself out of her makeshift plot none the worse for the wear. Even her shiny leather was spotless, Wax noted with some dismay.
The four faced off once more and the Amazon Dominatrix tensed to reengage the mortal brethren. Potion mentally grimaced. Wax and herself were fast and skilled, but these women… That damn magical armor made them juggernauts! No matter how many times they were brought down, they kept getting back up and she knew it was only a matter of time before that unnatural endurance exceeded their--
All eyes swiveled over to the white haired Amazon elder standing on the Tendo property wall. "Balm, Gloss! Stop toying with them!" She then directed her attention back to the mortal Amazonian warriors. "Tell us the location of The Serenity now or you will suffer most grievously."
Wax affected a disinterested look. All in all, two super powered undead leather clad Amazon dominatrix were nothing more than par for the course after four hundred years of banishment. Even so, she knew she was only human. She could pound them into the ground another fifty times, but their ability to absorb damage seemed limitless. She'd eventually get tired and after that… Whatever, she thought as her grim mental smile made its way to the surface. Potion watched it form and adopted it as her own. If they were going down, they were going to make these bitches work for it.
"Suffer?" The black haired warrior scoffed in mandarin. "They don't have don't have what it takes to make us suffer."
The elder's wrinkled face took on a cold smile. "Perhaps not." She gestured to the empty wall to either side of her. "But something tells me they might." Shadows gathered along the ledge, flowing along it like ominous clouds that condensed into flowing humanoid figures. The figures solidified, revealing the forms of forty eight more leathered Amazonian warriors whose colorful hair clashed with the blackness that fit them like a second skin. The old woman looked entirely too satisfied with herself. "Tell us where she is and we'll make yours a quick death. Maybe."
Potion glanced at Wax and cracked her knuckles. "Less talk. More action."
The Elder Amazon snarled, but her rage quickly transformed to vengeful satisfaction. "So be it. Serenity will return to find her pets burnt to--"
"HOLD, FOWL SORCEROUS!"
The ancient woman's' head snapped around as the Tendo property gates swung open violently, allowing twenty odd figures clad in full samurai field armor to sweep into the yard, enveloping the pair of women she had been seconds away from obliterating in a professionally orchestrated multicolored ring of ceremonial armor. Two figures strode at an easier pace behind the troop of samurai, taking up station between their ranks.
The wall-borne elder who simply stared. She couldn't help it. The last time she'd seen honest to God samurai on the field of battle had to have been a couple hundred years ago, at least.
"Retreat from whence you came, malevolent witch, lest the most noble House of Kuno and the host of the Rising Sun banish you by force!" The elder's boggling eyes snapped from the platoon to the speaker, a teen who couldn't have been more than eighteen years old. Next to him was a girl, slightly younger but sharing many of the same sharp features as the young man. Obviously brother and sister, she noted silently. If the brother's impromptu speech had taken her back, his sister's garb was like a club of deja'vu. Unlike the tradition black silk hamak he wore, she was clad head to toe in black leather. Black boots, black gloves, black bustier… Even a black whip.
"Indeed, shriveled harlot." The sister continued with distain, causing the elder to imperceptibly twitch. "While your minion's choice in fashion is to be applauded, do not think that will stop us from forcibly removing your person from the premises."
Two hundred years of Amazonian discipline snapped back into place, and the elder Nair brushed past the incredulity of the moment. The sister- Kodachi, if she remembered the reports correctly –was insane, but of little threat. Her brother Kuno, however... Her eyes narrowed on the sheathed katana. It was an Artifact. A minor artifact to be sure, the Elder dissimilated, but an artifact of power nonetheless. In fact, they all had artifacts of power, she noted as she probed the ring of samurai. A sword here, a breastplate there. All things considered, a formidable strike force had been assembled to oppose the destruction of Serenity's puppets, and by a teenage boy, no less. Nair's wrinkled lips turned up into thin smile.
But not formidable enough.
"Few court death so wantonly, male." She hissed in perfect Japanese, conveying her lethal intentions clearly. "But if you and your sister choose this corrupt patch of real estate to die, then the Joketsuzoku Amazon shall oblige."
"I think not." Tatewaki Kuno snorted, dismissing the Elder's statement with all the grandeur that only the insane could produce when confronted by superior numbers and firepower. "The Blue Thunder of House Serenity will ensure no harm befalls thee servants of the silver-hued Goddess!"
Taking their cue, all twenty samurai under his command drew steel, presenting a bladed wall to their Amazon counterparts perched atop the high ground. A subtle ring vibrated through the afternoon air as the various katana settled into their defensive strike positions. The Elder now frowned, but not from lack of confidence. It was a lack of challenge prompting her disappointment now. For all their enchantments and potential skill, her sisters were now so far beyond them in terms of power that crushing them would be even less gratifying than that of the demon spawn they protected. In the end, she simply shook her head.
"Then your demon queen will find little more than cinders to mark your remains." She stated, nodding to her force of leather clad force along the wall.
The Tendos watched in horror as the Amazons raised their hands, pointing them into the circle as shadows gathered, coalescing along their arms and into their hands. The dark energies grew into an angry ball and only a fool could ignore the combined potential of fifty such held in restraint for just the right moment. Kuno cast a glance at his sister, who smiled insanely back, prompting him to draw his own blade for the first time. It glittered in the afternoon sun as Kodachi unfurled her whip. Likewise, whatever their internal thoughts, the line of samurai remained a disciplined wall of protection around the battered pair of Amazon refugees.
Akane could feel it. So could Nabiki. Even Kasumi. The destructive potential held in check had reached its peak, causing the very air to vibrate around them. They were all going to die. There was nobody there to save them. Not Ranma. Not Ryoga. Not—
"Wipe them out. All of them."
Fifty shadow bolts released simultaneously, streaking into the ring of samurai. It actually took less than a fraction of a second for the molten shadows to cover the point blank range they had been fire at, detonating spectacularly on target. Sunlight seemed to fade out, as if the daylight had suddenly been blotted out while the strike zone was engulfed by a sick pulsating shadowy blob that devoured all life around it. Akane's mouth hung open wide as the shadows continued to boil with crackling power, obscuring what little undoubtedly remained of Wax, Potion, Tatewaki, Kodachi and their troop of samurai. It took another thirty seconds for the angry reaction to finally admit sunlight, and what remained caused nearly everybody to fall over.
Kuno, his sister and the Samurai guard remained unflinching in their positions with Potion and Wax at their center. The Amazon Elder boggled again. Like the sisters across the yard, she knew there was no way they could have withstood the destructive force unleashed upon— Nair's thought process froze as the shadows cleared, fully revealing the group…
…And their new additions. Interspersed between the armor of the samurai were at least nine colorful fuku clad girls, two more males and finally the silver haired demon herself. One of the slighter girls with dark purple hair pulled an exotic polearm down from its overhead position and the remains of the shadow attack evaporated entirely.
Beside her, a woman with flowing teal hair and a dark green fuku turned to the armed girl with a disapproving look. "Now what have we told you about vocalizing your techniques, Hotaru-chan?"
The one labeled Hotaru blinked curiously before nodding. "Sorry, Michiru-mama. 'Silence Wall.'"
A similarly clad blonde with a short crop of hair smiled with approval. "Better."
"SERENITY!" The Amazon Elder spat, her brain finally piecing together what had just occurred. In reality this was exactly what she had been hoping to do—draw the demon out into the open… Just she hadn't expected an entourage to come riding in with her, let alone at the last minute to save her minions from their excruciating fates.
The silver haired Serenity in question stepped to the forefront of the samurai ranks and the Senshi followed her lead, arraying themselves around the samurai circle. Ranma favored the Kunos with a skeptical look, then glanced back to her Amazons at core of Tatewaki's ranks and finally the Amazon aggressors around her.
"Girl trouble again, Kuno?"
The Kuno smiled confidently from his deep bow. "Nay your highness. We were just about to eject these peasants from fiery Akane Tendo's property."
"You were inches from annihilation, male braggart!" Nair bristled from her wall top perch, clearly incensed by the claim that the young man even had a prayer of coming out of that attack alive without intervention. Tatewaki favored her with a bored look.
"And yet you fall into my snare." He returned arrogantly. "Wisdom truly does not follow age as it would appear."
"YOUR TRAP?!" She hopped off the wall in fury, waving her cane at him menacingly. "You willing stood in line to be slaughtered like sheep!"
Ranma looked from Elder to Kuno with mounting incredulity. Oh, there was no doubt it would have been a slaughter just like the elder said. She felt the power rebounding off Saturn's silence wall as they teleported in… But where in the hell had he gotten honest to God samurai from? From the party?! She had studied the armored platoon as she stepped through their lines. They weren't amateurs. Every single one of them knew how to hold a weapon and would stare down fire without so much as flinching. That still didn't change the fact that every single on of them- adopted amazons included –were a combat liability. Give em a few suits of plate like Ryoga and they could deal, but for now…
"Need a favor, Kuno. An important one."
The upperclassman turned royal master of arms, broke from his staring contest with the elder. "Indeed, what does my Queen require?"
"This is gonna get messy." Ranma made a vague gesture, indicating the opposition surrounding them. "Get 'Kane and the Tendos out of here. My parents and the girls back here too."
Tatewaki seem to ponder her words for a moment before assenting to her orders. "While it pains me to depart the field of battle, I shall hasten the evacuation of our less durable brethren. By your leave?"
Ranma nodded and Kuno stepped back to his Samurai, relaying their new orders. Even as the ranks shifted, the Martial Arts Queen turned her full attention back to the Elder before her and frowned mentally. Yay, another old mummy, she noted sarcastically to herself. This one was slightly taller than Cologne with peppered white on black hair. Just as dangerous too, no doubt. Instead of betraying that manifestation of doubt, the Saotome put on her annoying, overconfident smirk.
"Ya really can't expect me to marry all fifty of em, can ya?" The Elder blinked and Ranma's grin incessantly annoying grin grew. Wait for it… "Cuz you just know we're gonna kick every last one of your asses."
Another blink from the elder and her face contorted with anger as the insult was rammed home. "You and yours will die here and now! Blood will run in the streets and consecrate the very ground you stand upon!"
Pluto stepped up next to her best friend, the key balanced easily on her left shoulder. "Seriously, you people are oh for a thousand against the Queen here. What makes you think you'll do any better today?"
"Fifty of our best and the blessing of Beryl, cursed whore." Nair growled, bringing her own staff to an offensive ready position and sighting straight through Ranma's torso. The remaining fifty of her troupe subtly shifted stances, tensing for the first move even as Kuno finished rounding up the last of his charges to escort them from the field of battle. All that remained now were the Senshi, Tux, Ryoga and Ranma herself staring down four to one odds.
All in all, Ranma Saotome-Serenity almost considered it fair. While there was no doubt she and Setsuna could take out the bulk of their force, the girls would have a harder time without the clear memories of their former lives and the combat training that went with it. Combine that with the need to limit property damage and new armor the Amazons wore, they might actually get a workout.
The silver haired pig tailed martial artist shrugged as the thoughts flashed through her head and the strategy that came with it. Time to get this party—
"Dark Domination Bolt!"
Another fifty shadow bolts roared in, only to ablate off of another energy barrier, this one assembled by Pluto herself. Black power roiled across its surface until expending itself entirely on the Mistress of Time's impenetrable defense. She lowered the heart-tipped staff and the red jewel at its tip faded from bright crimson to dull red. "Don't learn too well, do they, Senny?"
"If the past three years have been any indication, nope." Ranma shook her head in mock disappointment before turning over her shoulder to the Senshi at her back. "Murcury, Venus, Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Tux will occupy the hicks on the wall. Pluto, Uranus, Neptune and Ryoga will take 'em down hard, Got it?"
"What about you, Mother?" Moon stepped to her side, concern playing across her face. A feral smile greeted her in return.
"Oh me?" She turned back toward the waiting elder, cracking her knuckles. "Let's dance, old mummy."
The Amazon Elder's staff twirled through the air in response to the challenge. "Indeed we shall. TAKE THEM!"
The waiting Amazon ring collapsed inward with the command while the Senshi exploded outward, meeting in the center to engage one another in a magical girl the magical apocalypse.
"Venus Love Me Chain!"
Two whips flared into existence as the first pair of combatants engaged, followed shortly thereafter by the remainder of the opposing female contingents. The blonde's line of golden hearts intercepted a tendril of shadowy death as the whips raked across one another, causing life and shadow energies to rebound off one another violently. Even as Minako considered pressing into an offense, two other Amazon's snaked around her flank, one drawing a dark rapier that seemed to waver in and out of existence while the other used the hooked dagger of her armor's summoning. The blonde whipped her golden lash around in desperate defense as a blue haired Amazon lunged in with its blade, only to meet dark blue fuku and her glowing short sword. Sparks cascaded off the deflection and Haruka pressed her attack, allowing Venus to concentrate on the neon green haired dominatrix with the whip.
The uneven odds weren't treating Moon, Mercury, Mars or Saturn much better, forcing the girls to improvise a tight defensive ring as their more experienced counterparts ducked through and around it, taking to evening the odds the best they could. Usagi was struggling with crystal staff in her hands, its weight simultaneously foreign in her hands but familiar to the murky depths of memory as she twirled it through the air. It was amazing enough she was keeping up with the two Amazons that pressed her guard at the moment. Barely. Another ethereal blade sliced in and she rolled away, prompting the Amazon's partner to follow up with her own lunge, only to have the strike intercepted by a bladed polearm. Only a hasty retreat saved this particular Amazon as Saturn's silence glaive seemed to carve through the Amazonian weapon, eating through its shadow and almost beheading her. That minor victory was short lived and the Senshi of Silence quickly found the tables turned as the disparity of numbers shifted onto her. A green blur swooped in on the Amazon's flank and two went down, flattened by precision strikes administered by a heart shaped staff. One of Setsuna's victims tried to regain her balance only to find a heeled boot imbedded in her abdomen a moment later, sending the leather clad warrior into a nearby wall.
Ranma Saotome broke from her staring match with the elder to find the Princess of Pluto flowing through another combination that helped relieve Mercury of her four to one odds. The green haired Senshi took two out near simultaneously, efficiently opening the guard of one and unleashing a brutal combination into her opponent's cranium before disengaging and using her next target's own attacking momentum against it. Even as the silver pigtailed girl blinked with slight surprise, her brain was already cataloging the moves and noting no less than six different martial arts styles employed in her offense.
The martial artist shook her head with no small measure of amazement, then frowned. "Set-chan's been holding out on me."
"Hmmf." The sound rapidly brought Ranma's attention back onto the Elder in front of her. "I can only hope you provide me with as much entertainment before your inevitable dismemberment."
A crooked smile seemed to flow across Ranma's face as the girl tapped into her vast ki reservoir. The old woman's eyes narrowed on her as she felt the spike rise. "I think I'll manage, old prune."
"You dance with your death, fool."
That was Ranma's last warning as the elder blurred in, instantly pressing the Anything Goes heir to the extreme edge of her abilities. There was no slow ramping up of speed or skill like other martial arts challenges. Nair's cane was almost insubstantial as it was thrust into Ranma, forcing the pigtailed girl into a complex aerial evasion. The elder followed her through the maneuver and it was everything Ranma could do to keep the point from impaling her outright until her feet touched the earth once more. Her thoughts of retaking the offensive were interrupted as another Amazon sought to take advance of her focus on the elder, and only a last minute dodge saved the martial artist from being screwed by a spear tip. Her partner in leather moved in with a dagger for a quick slice, only to be flattened by a bolt of super compressed hard water.
"You should be more careful, your highness." Neptune spared her queen a slight smile as she blurred by, laying into the remaining Amazon who was still staring at her soaked, unconscious sister. Ranma gave her a quick nod and turned her attention back on the advancing Amazon Elder just in time to see the next attack in progress.
Earth exploded beneath the point of her staff, which was quickly whipped into a spinning arc as masses of rock broke free of the earth. The old woman's ki quickly caught the flying stone and the focused earthen cyclone toward her opponent while charging the debris itself with unstable power. Ranma barely even had time to marvel at the new technique before improvising a hasty counter.
Pure confidence roared out to meet the incoming fragments, detonating charged rock as it was consumed by the Saotome's attack. Still, a few fragments made it past the last second defense. Ranma easily dodged three of the stone fragments but missed one, which promptly exploded less than half a meter from her head. The pigtailed girl was thrown to the ground like a sledgehammer and spent a precious few seconds shaking the impact off while ringing filled her ears. The battlefield came back into focus and she didn't like what she saw. The elder had declined to follow through on the attack, and was instead grinning insufferably. All in all, it was a disturbing sight for that reason alone.
The old woman simply shook her head, tsking Ranma like a small child. "My, I haven't had this much amusement in ages." The grin faded quickly, and her countenance grew darker. "It's really a shame that you won't last much longer."
"You old mummies really need to stop underestimating me." Ranma sniffed, only to find the Elder unmoved by the comment.
"Hardly." She shook her head with mock disappointment as the magical girl conflict raged around them. "You are admittedly a skilled demon, but if this is your best…"
"I am the best."
"In a very small pond." The elder sneered back, bringing her staff back to bear on the martial artist, who was tracked the rise in her ki easily. "Or do you think this quaint little city of yours is all there is to the world?"
The remark glanced off of Ranma's impenetrable wall of confidence with a smirk. "Saffron would say otherwise. Didn't see you or Cologne doing much about him."
"Ha!" The Saotome arched her eyebrow at the chortling Elder. "Is that truly how you measure your worth as a martial artist? Every elder on the council is no less than two hundred and fifty years old and masters of more disciplines than you can ever hope to dream of, whelp. It was unnecessary to deal with Saffron."
"Unnecessary?" The martial artists gave narrowed on the elder as the new information came to light. Of course, it would be unnecessary for them to save his friends, but all of Jusenkyo was threatened by the--
"What do you think would have happened?" The old woman returned testily. "I'll tell you: the demigod would have occupied the springs for a few days, transformed and returned to his damnable mountain." A wicked grin slowly spread across her face, sending a chill up Ranma's spine. For once, it wasn't because of the unsettling sight the image created before it disappeared into a blur of motion.
The pigtailed girl's eyes widened as a voice suddenly came behind, and she rolled out instinctively as air sliced through the space her head had just occupied. "Do you actually think you even touched what the former Elder Cologne was capable of, let alone myself?"
Another blur and Ranma found herself desperately evading the cane while her opponent faded in and out around her, attacking from nearly every vector. Her brain chewed on the fact that these weren't the ki illusions of the Splitting Cat Hairs technique. It was raw speed; speed she was barely keeping up with. The tip of her cane sliced in and Ranma was forced to deflect it this time.
"Ahhhhaaaghh!" She snatched her hand back from the block as it was seared with needling pain. The distraction almost got her impaled by the next strike, but two years of Nermian chaos served her well and she was in the air, twisting away from another lethal combination. Ranma Saotome landed in a defensive crouch, only to find the Elder waiting for her.
"We hold back to prolong our life spans, hell spawn." The old Amazon explained calmly, sighting the walking implement down Ranma's forehead. "Saffron alone was not a sufficient threat to display our fullest measure. The greatest enemy of the Amazons, however, is."
She took a step forward. Ranma Saotome-Serenity took an uncertain step back.
This was going to be a little harder than she first thought.
Rock was torn asunder as Ryoga Hibiki's finger found a minor ley line within the Earth, flooding it with a spike of angry ki. The reaction cascaded into the ground and through other minor fractures, destroying their bonds with violent force and showering the hapless leather clad Amazonian dominatrix with stone fragments. Her own shadow whip couldn't defect even a fraction of them and she took several chunks of the earth at high speeds, stopping her attacking advance cold.
It didn't, however, stop the other two Amazons attacking his now exposed left flank.
The lost Boy ducked under the first shiny leather boot aimed at his head, but missed the follow up as her partner fell from on high, laying a powerful axe kick into his back. A normal Amazon- even ones as proficient as his current attackers -would have normally been swatted aside by one of the world's most powerful martial artist. This was, after all, one of the few people who could spar with the great Ranma Saotome on a more or less even footing. These Amazon's however, had magical armor. The kick cracked down with the full force or gravity and magically enhanced strength, sending Ryoga to his knees buckling. Her partner had recovered from the miss and laid another high heel in his chin, sending stars blasting across his vision even as it sent him rocketing across the dojo in an uncontrolled tumble.
Ryoga shook his head, coughing up blood and dust as he attempted to right himself. His blurring vision stabilized and quickly locked onto his two attackers, strolling towards him at an unhurried gait while the melee raged around them. Anger fueled his resolve, and he slid back into his attack stance. Goddamn Amazons, he fumed. They wanted his head and that of poor, sweet Akane's. There was only one person at fault for that.
"I'VE SEEN HELL BECAUSE OF YOU, RANM--OOooOF!"
Another cloud of dust barreled across the Tendo courtyard and into him at high speed, blowing him off balance and sending him back to the ground. The weight of the attack remained on his person even after the jarring motion stopped, and Ryoga was mildly surprised that the follow up didn't come in the form of a leather wrapped female after the dust cleared.
The silver haired girl blinked, clearly fighting through her own dazed state. Ryoga got back to his feet helping the girl shakily regain her balance as she wiped a trickle of blood from her mouth. It went well with the numerous bruises darkening across her face and arms. Ryoga considered the girl in ragged Chinese silks for a moment before smiling maliciously.
"You look like shit, Ranma."
"You ain't lookin' so hot yourself, Pork-butt." She retorted, then turned back downrange of her arrival and the Elder slowly gliding toward the duo. "'Cides, didn't I tell you to use the armor?"
"Hmmf." Ryoga snorted, turning back to his own opponents. "Make you a deal. I'll use your toys if you become a magical girl."
The pigtailed martial artist scowled, never turned back toward him. "Ain't gonna happen."
"Likewise." The boy returned, cracking his knuckles in preparation for another round of punishment. "Betcha you become a magical girl before I use your armor."
A smile cracked Ranma's battered face and she stepped back into her own loose stance. "You're on, P-chan."
The Hibiki gave the girl one last look over his shoulder. "And don't think I'm letting you off just because the Amazons are kicking your ass. I've still seen hell because of you!"
Ranma rolled her eyes as she felt Ryoga leave her back, whispering. "You and me both, bacon-brains." And now back to the main event, she thought sarcastically, turning her full attention back on the mummy before her. "Is that the best you got? Hell, I barely even felt that."
"Resilient and annoying." Nair frowned, twirling her staff lazily. "Two aspects I find particularly annoying in demons."
The silver haired martial artist struck an arrogant pose in spite of the throbbing pain pulsing across various bodily points. "Flattery will getcha nowhere, you old--"
Ranma blinked and the distraction almost cost her life once again as the elder took advantage of the lapse. A ki-bolt blazed out from the tip of her cane and the blast nearly took her head off at close range. Even as she backpedaled away from the encroaching elder, Ranma racked her brain trying to figure where that voice had just come from. It hadn't come from--
"My apologize for the interruption, you Highness."
Ranma lost focus again, nearly being cut in half by a crescent of cold ki, causing super cooled air swirled around her. This time Ranma got a distinct impression of exactly who was behind the summons.
"Yes, your Highness." The voice seemed to float through her consciousness. "Ordinarily, I would not disturb you during high level negotiations, but an item of interest has been brought to my attention."
"Pay attention, hell spawn!" The Elder's demand was accompanied by the thunder clap of air, impacting invisibly across Ranma's left cheek. The force snapped her head back violently, but the heir rolled with the strike, twisting into a ready, albeit painful crouch after skidding wildly back and out of range of Nair's follow on combination.
The Saotome wiped a trickle of blood from her nose and focused back on the presence echoing in her skull. "How in the heck are… nevermind." The last thing she needed at the moment was an in depth explanation on the how a super dreadnaught AI was broadcasting into her brain. "What's so damn important, anyway?"
"While my capacity to track deep space movement is limited at present, I was able to tie into Terra's own array, primitive as it may be." The AI explained as Ranma kept a sharp eye on the closing Elder. "By combining that detection with Sol's native radio frequency output, I was able to approximate a limited form of hyper wave--"
"The point, Agami."
She almost felt the Agamemnon's apology as it continued. "I have detected a massive EM shadow approaching Earth at approximately point four the speed of light." The elder jumped in and Ranma reengaged, attempting to fend off Nair's ki charged staff hand to hand with painful results. It was all she could do to track the internal dialogue within her head as she desperately fought to keep it on her own shoulders. "Initial data indicates that something very large is moving in-system under heavy cloak, possibly three times my original size as indicated by the shadow."
Ranma Saotome abandoned her melee with the elder, leaping well out of range to the walls in order to absorb this new information. She settled into a low crouch and waited for the elder to renew her attack.
"The size of the footprint indicates a high mass vessel." Agami continued her report. "While I do not have a proper Hyper Wave array at my disposal, I estimate it to be a dreadnaught class or better; a warship, undoubtedly."
Ranma Saotome dug her fingers into the stone wall she was perched atop, peeling away stone. She was not getting any breaks today. Hell, the last time she had received a break was… The martial arts queen shook her head. Best not to dwell on that particularly sore topic. "Okay, ta summarize something very big and very nasty is headin' towards us."
"Affirmative, your Highness."
"And when's it gonna get here?" She asked, almost knowing she wasn't going to like the answer.
"Thirty minutes, assuming constant vector and speed."
Ranma twitched, looking out over the Amazon-Magical Girl turf war still raging. Her girls had been witling down the Amazon's slowly, but they had been taking a beating in the process. Unless she missed her guess, the odds were down to almost two to one, all while managing to keep the conflict confined to the dojo property. Oh, sure, Nabiki was gonna hand her a fat bill for damages by the time they were done with this mess, but no other innocents had been involved… Yet. But was that good enough? Ranma scoffed mentally. NOOOooooOOO. Let's throw in a giant spaceship! Just to liven things up! The pigtailed girl ground her teeth together irritably.
As if sensing her master's mood, Agami continued, "I apologize for not detecting it sooner. The Moon's own arrays are currently inoperative and even with Terra's hardware, resolution outside Mars is spotty, at best."
"Ain't your fault." Ranma grumbled. No, that honor would go to whatever God was using her as its own personal chew toy. "Set-chan getting all this?"
"Affirmative, your highness." Setsuna's own voice cut through her consciousness. "Agami's copying me on the sideband."
Ranma glanced out across the field of melee and found the Princess of Pluto disengaged, eyes locked onto her own as she took a moment to comprehend the new development and a course of action. Both aspects of Saotome-Serenity came into quick agreement as they took in the conflict below and weighed it against the new threat looming on the horizon.
"We're out of time. Fast and hard, Set-chan."
A grim smile spread across Pluto's lips and she turned back to the embattled Senshi, opening up a channel to the others' imbedded communications arrays. "Change of plans. Screw the property damage and drop the hammer, girls."
"About time!" Jupiter grumbled as she extricated herself from a three pronged Amazonian attack, touching the glistening blue jewel mounted on her fuku's pink ribbon. It was an action mirror simultaneously by the other Senshi as they flared with golden power, forcing the Amazon raiders back.
"...Aurora Eternal, Makeup!"
When the Amazon Dominatrix were finally able to open their eyes beyond squinting, they found the impossible. Each and every bruise their opponents had taken was healed and their fukus… Instead of the short skirts that had incurred ragged battle damage over the last twenty minutes, flowing, knee length dresses sporting their planet's primary colors adorned the girls now. The short neck ties were all but gone now, in favor of long, elegant ribbons that wrapped around their hosts elegantly. Of course, the fierce glow light blue glow surrounding every one of them caused the Amazon's further pause.
"Wow, I like this much better!" Usagi beamed with wonder, pirouetting with the new look.
"I dunno…" Minako frowned lightly. "The originals had flash. Sex appeal."
"Just like you to show some leg to every perv in town." Rei griped, earning a shrug from the guardian of Venus.
"Hey, if you've got it, flaunt it." She retorted with a smile.
"AHEM." Both girls turned around to find all the Senshi and Pluto in particular staring at them. A glance over their shoulders revealed their opponents in a similarly confounded state. Setsuna arched an eyebrow. "While I personally agree with Minako, this isn't the time or place. We've got some ass to kick and little time to kick it in."
"About how much time?" Ami asked, ever the analytical sort.
"Oh well, that's more than enough." Setsuna turned to find The Senshi of Uranus grinning evilly. Cradled in her hands was a menacing weapon of smooth curves, metallic blue skin and a big hole at the end of the barrel. A very big hole. In fact, Haruka's smile was almost as wide as the bore itself.
"Uranus…" Pluto reverted to her formal title, shaking her head as if disappointed with a small child. "The Blaster Launcher. Where… did you get it?"
The short haired blonde rolled her eyes as if it were the answer was the most obvious thing in the world. "The Moon Armory, of course."
"The same armory I told you not to remove it from?" Sailor Uranus flipped a switch in response to the accusation, and the subtle whine of heavy weaponry warming up permeated the air. Setsuna rubbed her temples to preemptively ward off the impending migraine. "Neptune, maybe you can elaborate on why your spouse isn't allowed to play with guns?"
Haruka turned to her lover, only to find the wavy haired Senshi now several feet removed from her person with a worried, almost sickly look. "Michiru...?"
"I..." The Guardian of Neptune stuttered and Uranus moved toward her, unconsciously bringing the barrel of the monstrous device to bear on her mate. Michiru paled and took a nervous step back. "Maybe you should, um, put that away... I seem to remember you weren't... quite so proficient with guns... back then."
Uranus blinked at her, then back at Pluto who obliged with a translation. "You couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. In fact, you tended to torch everything around the barn, but the barn."
The Senshi blinked once more before simply shrugging. She then turned back to the waiting Amazon's with an evil smile. "Well it's just my luck then that there's a lot of stuff around the barn to burn."
"A mere weapon will not save you, demon spawn!" One of the braver Amazons, this one with light blue hair braided into a complex coil, stepped forward. Her confidence seemed to bolster the others, who growled their agreement.
"No?" Sailor Venus turned away from her staring match with Rei and pulled a glistening crystalline blade from subspace, light refracting spectacularly within its roman style edge. The weapon itself was somewhat at odds with the golden whip pulsating in the opposite hand. "How about this?"
The Amazon tried her best to look bored. "Try harder."
Minako took on a malicious smile and gave the sword a sharp jerk. The movement triggered a reaction and the crystal blade itself fell into a line of discreet segments; almost triangular razor blades that fell into coils on the ground around her. Both hands now held weapons of eerie similarity; one a magical whip of golden hearts, the other made of molecularly sharp crystalline razors. The grin widened.
"Let's do this."
That was all it took for the three Amazons to charge the blonde, who was instantly in motion herself, surrounded by arcs of gold and streaming light. Crystal screamed off across the shrouded blades of the leather clad dominatrix', who instantly found their numerically superior offence routed under Sailor Venus' lethal dance of magic and crystal.
Left at her back, Mercury pulled out her own weapon, what looked to be a gnarled four meter long wooden stave. Though shocked by her partner's sudden offensive, the Amazons were less than impressed by the blue haired girl's big stick. Two began to advance on Ami and she considered them for a moment before tapping the staff hard into the Earth.
"Mercury Glacial Scythe, set up!"
Air condensed rapidly around the top of the staff, swirling until it formed into a vaporous cloud. Her opponents stopped short with wide eyes as the cloud solidified into a wickedly curved blade of ice, two meters in length. The cold ice appeared to pulse, and a new voice was heard.
"Mercury Glacial Scythe, set up, stand-by."
Ami spun the scythe around, more to test its weight than to intimidate the women before her, even through it succeeded admirably at the latter. Truth be told, the Princess of Mercury had never wield such a weapon before, in combat or otherwise, but that didn't stop her from opening her fuku's uplink to the scythe's onboard AI to access the combat tutorial. With a mental nudge, she coaxed it into dumping the software package into her brain which in turn allowed her to pick up the niceties of magical scythe borne combat. The Senshi brought the weapon low and to the right, stepping into the first battle stance dictated by the tutorial. Unlike these arrogant women, she wasn't so prideful as to assume she knew all there was to know about a magical weapon simply by activating it. No, experience had taught her that even the fuku armor she wore now had taken her years to get used to. Regardless, she smiled mentally, the on board tutorial would be more than enough to deal with these magical girl amateurs.
The scythe rested into its lowered guard mere centimeters from the ground, allowing wisps of super cooled vapor to trail down the curved blade and chill the grass below.
The Scythe shuddered and a handle unfolded at an off angle from halfway up the weapons neck while a shorter, two pronged blade grew opposite of the main edge. Mercury took the newly formed handle and swung the glacial blade back slightly, waiting for her opponent's first move. She didn't have long to wait, if only because doing so made the Amazon in their fancy black latex power armor look like scared children. She wasn't an aggressive person by nature, and Ami's calm patience played well into her preferred style of combat-- Tactical. It was a game she played well and her opponents couldn't help but to step into it. Deep.
"Seal Mode, stand by."
The Princess of Mercury smiled as the weapon finished reconfiguring, and that was all it took to set the women before her off.
"Dark Domination bolt!"
Ami was around the black ball of energy even as it roared by, bringing the glistening scythe around in a low arc as she slid past it. She absently noticed her greatly enhanced speed and reaction times while she rolled through the maneuver, bringing the massive curved blade into its own ascension. The shadowy tendrils of the lash whipped by and she danced between its arcs, bringing the Mercury Glacial Scythe into full ascension over her first attacker. Already committed to her attack, the Amazon with pale green hair didn't stand a chance.
"Mercury Glacial Scythe, SEAL!"
The two meter blade of super dense ice pierced the woman's black armor and impaled her along its edge. The blade pulsed once and a layer of hard elemental frost snapped into place across the Amazon's skin, instantly freezing her into her attacking stance. The other Amazon's resolve faltered and Sailor Mercury took that split second to withdraw the scythe and spin around for the next strike. The Amazon's sister was only just beginning to form her second shadow bolt when the point of the blade punched through the blob of shadow and into her chest.
Another jacket of ice flashed across the second Amazon's skin, encasing her within the scythe's glacial prison. The Senshi withdrew the curved elemental talon once more and roman numerals faded into existence along both of her opponents foreheads.
"XI, sealed. XII, sealed." The Scythe intoned as it completed the operation.
"DIE HELL SPAWN!"
An extra dose of adrenaline blasted through Ami's body as she pivoted on a booted heal, narrowly avoiding a third attacker falling out of the sun. Too close! The tactical portion of her brain screamed, protesting the fact that it had neither the time or distance to formulate a defense against the women who was already recovering from her miss while throwing the hooked shadow blade through another combination. Another thrust forward and Ami knew the Amazon was going to draw--
Two solid beams of energy carved the earth at her feet apart and lanced into the Amazon, ablating off her armor but dumping a large chunk of kinetic energy into her mass, blowing her back and into the ground. Mercury turned around to capture Rei's split second smile before the Senshi of Mars turned on her next target. The two softball sized silver spheres with digital red eyes floating high above her dispensing crimsons beams of carnage didn't go unnoticed either. They seemed to dart in and out of the melee picking out targets according to Mars' own commands and hammering them with precise megawatt range fire while she dispensed fiery justice as accorded by her planetary bindings. Beside her were Sailor Moon and Jupiter fending off the hand to hand opponents. Ami rejoined the trio and couldn't help but to marvel at how well the usually clumsy Usagi Tsukino handled her new moon staff, its crystal line deflecting attack after attack while Jupiter unloaded her thunder dragon into the advancing Amazons. Another strike streaked in for Moon and Mercury's Scythe was up. There was no way Moon would intercept that one in--
Moon reversed the grip and twisted the staff at each end, causing the weapon to fall into three distinct segments. She swung the now mobile weapon around in one fluid motion, ensnaring the shadowy sword aimed for her back, disarming the Amazon behind it and slamming her own multi-pronged attack back into the woman. Ami almost stumbled at the skill her leader just displayed. Either she had her own combat tutorial running or… She didn't even want to think about the alternative.
For her part, Sailor Uranus was getting frustrated. There was a battle royal raging all around her and the environment was definitely target rich, but nobody seemed to want to tangle with her. She swung the big blue weapon on an Amazon who looked like she might have been ready to take her on, only to watch the Dominatrix' eyes widen as its huge bore swung onto her. The Amazon froze for a split second before regaining her senses, opting to leap back into the melee rather than face the weapon in Haruka's hands.
"Get back here, dammit!" The Princess of Uranus swore, and took off after her. What the hell good was a super weapon if you couldn't use it on anybody?!
Across the rapidly deteriorating Tendo property, Ranma turned from the Senshi battle below to the Elder in front of her, the old crone's cane snaking slowly through the air as it were the rattle on the snake.
"An impressive trick." The old one admitted with a frown. "At this rate your summoned demons might actually win."
"What can I say?" Ranma Saotome smirked in spite of her own disheveled appearance, flipping her silver pigtail back over her shoulder. "They learned from the best."
"It will take more than cheap power ups to win this day, demon child." The Elder snorted, retaking her own attack stance. "And I suggest you use your own if you are to entertain me further. I have merely to break you and the rest will fall of their own accord."
"Well shit!" Ranma cocked her silvered head as if suddenly realizing something. "If all you have to do is talk your way to Elder, I'm a shoo-in!"
Ranma Saotome instantly regretted the insult as the old woman was once again on her with overwhelming force. Even at Amiguriken speeds, the Elder's cane slipped through nearly imperceptible holes in her defense, searing her each time they made contact.
Crack! Dislocated shoulder.
Snap! Two ribs.
Hiss! Two lacerations, bleeding.
The next attack snapped in past her defenses and literally exploded as a small ball of condensed ki was channeled through it and to her torso.
In that moment, Ranma knew exactly three things: Pain, sky and ground; all in that order as she obtained fifty foot of altitude and took an uncontrolled plummet into the earth below. Her dazed stated didn't even last as long as it took to tumble, which she turned into a sliding defensive stance.
The Silver haired martial artist turned just in time to find three Amazons leaping for her with shadowy weapon and death in their eyes. Ignoring her new injuries, she spun around on target--
--Only to watch them explode out of the air as three bolts of plasma caught them at the apex of their attacks. Ranma turned down range to find the armored Tuxedo Kamen favoring his large broadsword gunblade with a smile as Ryoga held off the hand to hand attackers. Ranma gave him a thin smile back and turned back toward the elder, who hobbled toward her as if she had all the time in the world.
"Your minions are becoming rather bothersome." The Elder growled, retaking her attack stance. Ranma took the moment to pop her shoulder back into place, though there was nothing she could do about the ribs. Nair noticed the girl's painful grunt and the accompanying 'pop' with a smile. "It's time to end this."
"End?" A arrogant smile settled over the martial artists features. "We're just getting started."
"Please. You can't possibly--" The Elder's grin promptly failed as Ranma instantly wavered from existence. She reached out with ki enhanced senses and…
"YAMAKEN-SEN!" It was only three hundred years of practiced survival instinct that allowed the elder to roll out of the vacuum blade strike zone, narrowly missing being cleaved in two as they carved up the earth at her feet. "Or did you think Amazon-shu was the only game in town, old hag?"
Ranma landed and faded back out with those words. Said Old hag's head whipped around, wildly trying to ascertain the martial artists position when the lightest gust sent her guard spinning up. A lesser martial artist- that is to say one any less than a century old -wouldn't have intercepted the attack aimed at her back. The elder was, however, and rolled a save versus the quad damage 4d6 backstab known as the Venom White Snake Reliable Fist. Nair's cane came up and the pinpoint strikes rebounded across its length, giving her the split second need to evade the follow on combination. She sidestepped out and away as Ranma became visible once more. The Elder swiped the cane right, and readied her next attack when she noticed that annoying grin of hers sore to insufferable heights.
Ranma simply nodded at the cane in her hands which was still smoking from the friction. Even as the Elder turned to examine it, the gnarled piece of wood parted into six sections, falling to the ground. Nair blinked. That cane was over two hundred years old. Made from the hardest of woods. Fortified by ki and spell.
Now it was nothing more than fire kindling.
The Amazonian Elder bowed her head. "Impressive. But I think we have played this game long enough."
"Oh, come on." The pigtailed girl huffed indignantly, ignoring the warm- undoubtedly crimson -trickle down her leg. "You ain't gonna stop just cuz I broke your little stick, are ya?"
"No," Nair, shook her head, still staring at the remains of her cane. "The time to banish you has come."
Ranma's mouth opened for a witty reply but the Elder was already streaking forward, a crackling line of lethal blue ki forming in her hands. Ranma folded her own ki in upon itself and vanished from sight once more. The crackling blade of blue ki sliced into where she had been and Ranma stepped in, ready for her next strike.
"CRESTING BREAKING POINT!"
Dread swept through Ranma, who was only starting to pull her own fist back when the elder's finger plunged into the ground unexpectedly, forcing the blue ki along imperceptible fractures in the Earth. But not like Ryoga's, she knew instantly as focused shockwaves blasted away from the old woman in the pattern of an eight point star, annihilating the ground in violent lines of fury. Ranma instantly diverted her own ki from offense to defense as stone spires blasted upwards around her, debris rushing to meet her at high speeds. The martial artist rode the wave of stone and used the transfer of kinetic energy to ride the shock up and out of the blast area. She recovered midair, only to find a pair of cold, calculating eyes waiting for her at altitude.
The Elder tucked herself into a ball and rolled through the air, her turquoise blue robes becoming a blur as she picked up speed. Ranma Saotome felt the elements snap into place as cold air cycled around the witch at high velocity from every vector. Time seemed to slow for the martial artist as she watched the new technique unfold before her very eyes. Icy vapor rushed around the turquoise blur and Ranma brought her hand up for a point blank Moko Takabisha, already knowing it was too late. Somewhere through the rush of wind, she heard the old crone call out her final attack.
"GREATER SERPENT'S DETONATION!"
The soul of ice the Amazon had been using clicked over to heated ki in an instant and the super cooled jet stream of ki laced air expanded outward at the speed of sound. The airflow had been shaped into nearly invisible coils of razor wire, exploding in every direction while catching the Martial Arts Queen like an eviscerating net. The angle at which the wall of air pressure hit her was the worst possible and she was caught on the underside, riding the coils into the ground at their fullest potential. The jagged grid cut into the ground furiously as the bulk of the attack impacted, forcing Ranma into the Earth with bone crushing force.
Rock settled around her and the martial artist's brain went through a rapid reboot, cycling from excruciating pain to unconsciousness to blurred vision that held a tint of red. Her consciousness fought to push the pain aside even as it began to catalog the myriad of likely injuries she had sustained. Still, she was still drawing breath- albeit painfully -which meant she could still fight. If she could fight, she could win. That is, if she could-- A high pitched crackling sound broke her thoughts, and Ranma pushed herself upright, only to find the Elder poised to strike with a lance of chi lightning sprouting from her hand a scant meter away.
"You will fall NOW!" The old crone lurched forward and the lightning came in at high speed along her hand. Ranma prepared for a last ditch evasion and--
The Amazon's well honed survival instincts saved her once again as a heart tipped staff cleaved the earth down her line of attack, shattering a small patch of ground as flowing green hair dropped down behind the strike and into a crouch, considering her with the devils own red eyes.
"This is my fight, demon! Be gone!" Nair hissed as the woman recovered from her crouch, tipping her staff back across her left shoulder.
"Let's wait for the Queen to catch her second wind, shall we?" The Princess of Pluto returned easily, interposing herself between her best friend and the assailant while Ranma regained her balance in a somewhat shaky manner. Pluto grimaced at her friend's condition, but kept her eyes on the smoldering elder.
Ranma Saotome shook off the remaining shock and steadied herself, only to find Setsuna standing guard while she recovered. Dammit… the pigtailed girl fumed. Ranma knew she was good. The best even… Just not this time. As much as she hated to admit it, the elder was right; Three hundred years was one bitch of a deficit to make up for and that truth was finally beat into her the hard way. Anything Goes was a powerful style, but she just didn't have access to all the techniques the old ghoul was pulling out of her ass. Combined with three hundred years of experience to back her up and she just didn't have what it took. It was a sobering and downright unpleasant realization.
Ranma's eyes narrowed on the Elder, who seemed annoyed at having been kept from her prize. Not that Ranma was worried about Setsuna. She could hold her own, probably. How long had she been alive? Hell, she could probably order Pluto to take the old woman out and stand better than average odds of doing so, but this… this was personal now. Ranma wiped the multiple lines of blood trickling down her forehead, directing the line from her swollen eye. No, she was going to do this herself. Martial arts was out, much as she hated to admit it. Time didn't permit the Anything Goes final technique to regroup and think. She had all but spend her ki getting her ass kicked in an epic fashion, so what was left?
Her thoughts trailed off as her Queen Serenity aspect seized the concept, bringing it to the forefront of her mind. Memories began to play across her mind's eye.
ranks of Siege Mecha.
Healing her own generals on the field of battle.Repairing the
Repairing the Ginzuishou, her ancient debt.
Securing her throne through the Dagger Years.
Sealing Beryl away forever.
Today, Ranma Saotome wasn't the best there was at martial arts. That honor went to the Old hag beyond Setsuna. But there was one thing she was the best at. One thing she had used to carve out and secure an empire spanning half the galaxy. One thing that her male mindset had been too arrogant to consider from the outset of the battle. All she had to do was figure out how to use it once more. For that, she had to let go. Who was dominant? Ranma Saotome or Queen Serenity? They were very nearly identical twins, separated by a vast gulf of experience. Serenity, a millennia old Queen, diplomat, mother and magic users. Founder of a vast empire. Ranma, genius heir to the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts, gender cursed teen and little in the way of social skills thanks to his upbringing.
There couldn't be any struggle for dominance if she was going to pull this off. She just was. Ranma closed her eyes and let the sounds of combat fade away. Setsuna would keep her safe. For now, she had to concentrate, because in a scant few minutes, the biggest warship the world had ever seen would be knocking on their very doors. Memories flashed and melted into others. The past and present collided. It still wasn't a seamless integration. There were still gaps, gaps that might stay there forever, but the gates were open. Who was dominate here? Ranma Saotome faded slightly as Serenity's memories came to the forefront. Neither was dominate, but there was focus. A shift. Had anybody asked her in that moment, she would have openly admitted fear. A couple thousand years worth of female persona began to dilute eighteen years of male identity, but not by force. Ranma would remain, but for now, she was needed.
Ranma Saotome-Serenity opened her eyes and held out her hand, which suddenly flared to life. The blazing light cleared and Nair's eyes widened. Pluto never took her eyes off her, already knowing what had just happened. The Ginzuishou. The last pure crystal of a long dead world had been summon from Ranma's very soul and now floated just above the palm of her right hand. The glowing light and wash of power effectively stopped the magical girl conflict as all eyes turned upon the radiant silver haired girl.
Ranma smiled to herself and whispered, "Looks like you win, Ryoga."
She may have not had all her memories, but the Ginzuishou made for an excellent crutch. It was practically made of magic and she could see the patterns of often used spells from a lifetime ago floating within its matrix; almost as if the artifact was an extension of her own consciousness; a familiar muscle waiting to be flexed.
Long dormant power flared to life as Ranma's tattered silks evaporated, allowing a magical weave to wind its way across her body. Energy crackled across her skin as the crystal forced her magical bindings to the forefront, breaking through the haze of memories. In the end, the white lace mid length fuku, petty coat and thigh-high white high heel boots that had weaved itself around her body was merely a side affect of the resurrection of that power from an age long gone. It recognized its keeper and welcomed her home eagerly.
The static of excess magic faded and Ranma looked down with only the slightest frown. Slight, only because she found herself approving. Elegant and pure. The fact that the outfit was ultra-feminine was but a minor detail, if only because she was in the right frame of mind at the moment. Or wrong one, depending on one's point of view. Besides, the look that was now plastered across the Elder's face was priceless.
She knew horror. The smile Nair now found on Ranma's face was far from the over-confident smirk of five minutes ago, and the pit in the elder's stomach began to deepen. NO! She screamed silently as she summoned all the ki at her disposal for a final assault. Not when I'm so close!
"Lunar Radiant Healing."
The light around Ranma Saotome pulsed as she triggered a familiar thread within the crystal, causing wounds to close as they were miraculously burnt away by white magic. The gash on her forehead smoldered and sealed, while the ribs floating free in her chest fused back into place. Princess Pluto turned and gave her sister a smile, which Ranma warmly returned. Nodding, she stepped out of the way to allow the dueling pair a direct line of sight with on another. The Queen's smile faded to serene neutrality.
"This is the last chance I will be giving you." She said with ethereal calm and the Amazon noted that even her speech patterns had changed. Could the boy have been harboring the demon unknowingly all along?! "The stakes are too high to let this continue any longer."
"Hydra's Snare!" The Elder screamed and launched a multi headed ki blast into Ranma, who simply stood waiting. The arcs of red ki took independent paths from the old woman's hands but were all targeted at the exact same point, traveling under the theory that the demon couldn't possibly intercept them all. The independent lines of energy converged suddenly, and--
The resultant fireball cooked everything for ten meters, turning the tortured ground to literal glass under the enormous expenditure of energy. Smoke billowed from the zone of impact and Nair smiled, panting. She had just expended twenty years of her life force in addition to her normal reserves in that attack, but it had been worth it to see Serenity fall in her lifetime. She turned back to her sisters in arms. "Finish the--"
"Not today." Nair's eyes widened as a shadowy figure cleared the smoke, her glowing crystal still floating in hand. "Not ever."
A couple of brave Amazons took the leap, hoping to attack the demoness while she was still recovering from the Elders last attack only to be midair by a bandanna martial artist. His fanged grin did little to reflect the amount of pain he was about to inflict upon them as he reached for the bracer left all but forgotten throughout the fight.
Ranma had become a magical girl first. It was only fair that he keep his end of the bargain.
His finger touched the gemstone at its core and a multi dimensional field flashed to life around him, unfolding matter around his body according to a predefined matrix. In this case that predefined matrix was the pinnacle of Silver Millennium Powered Field Plate armor and what had jumped into the air as a plain clothed martial artist now plowed into the latex clad dominatrix as twelve and a half tons of reactive plating. A black clad leg glanced off the breast plate of Ryoga's new angular silver armor and only the Amazonian own armor kept the appendage from shattering outright. Servos whined and the Lost Boy twisted in the air, grabbing another Amazon as gravity finally took hold of him.
Ryoga Hibiki stood up from his mechanized crouch, painfully aware that he had just created a substantial crater on impact. He glanced down at his victim, a comatose Amazon, and smiled. Stupid Amazons. The remaining combatant landed nearby and prepared to renew her assault, only to be stopped by a ravenous buzzing sound. Ryoga had retrieved the chain sword from its back slung holster and awoken it, causing its hungry Tetrium teeth to chew the air around it. The Amazon hesitated as the weapon vibrated eagerly in his hand, though the noise left him all but oblivious to the threat falling on to his back. A shadow dagger poised to cut the armor open with the force of altitude when--
A small projectile rocketed past the Hibiki, through the crowd of Senshi, made a steep ninety degree climb, reversed direction through another angular turn and intercepted the hapless Amazon at the apex of her attack. The resulting blast baked Ryoga in his armor and pressed him further into his own personal crater while the twenty meter ball of expanding plasma blotted out the sun. When it finally died, a lone Amazon tumbled out of the air, severely burned and her dominatrix outfit in tatters. She landed with a thud and everybody stared at her for a moment, then turned their eyes back in the direction from which the drunken missile came.
There, across the courtyard they found Sailor Uranus grinning ear to ear, holding up a peace sign.
Both Ranma and Nair stared a moment long and shared a mutual shiver before turning their attention back to one another. The Elder gathered her power for another attack.
"You will fall even if I have to fuel the attack with the remaining years of my life, Witch." The old woman hissed, and the new attack began to glow in her hand.
"And it is time to show you what you truly face." Ranma shook her head and the crystal's glow intensifiedThe Elder stumbled back, but held her hand up, sighting Ranma with the ball of energy formed there in. Eighty years of life. That should do it, leaving one left to tie up loose ends and--
"Moon Strike Nova."
Nair's eyes only had time to widen as the crystal in the silver haired teen's hand pulsed, subjecting her to a world of excruciating pain as she was suddenly bathed in a pillar of white-blue fire. Ten meters of tightly confined energy roared into the heavens around her, stripping her of every protective charm and spell on her. Pure magic battered the Elder and only the hastily assembled shield kept her the old woman from perishing outright as the ethereal fire expended it's fury, dying down seconds later. When Amazons and Senshi alike could finally see the elder again, they found a smoldering, singed elder left standing in a glowing orange ring of glass. Miraculously, she managed to take an obviously painful step forward and form her hands into a diamond shape.
"You will... Not..." A hacking cough interrupted her threat. "Won't...succeed. I'll seal... you... just as you did..."
Ranma shook her head, almost pitying the woman. Serenity wanted to execute her outright. Saotome wasn't exactly so eager to kill her, even if the necessity was obvious. Regardless, both portions of the melded psyche came to an agreement, even if the mechanics by which were hereto unknown to the Ranma Saotome-Serenity's amalgam. She was needed for the moment, if only to explain just where she had gotten all the cursed armor and where the Amazonian Youma were being stored. Regardless, the merged persona decided the old crone was ultimately expendable if push came to shove. The silver haired martial arts queen cocked her head, studying the Elder and her charging attack.
Speaking of pushes and shoves...
She reached into the crystal again, finding her way through its familiar paths until she came to another well used spell and smiled. This ought to keep the hag alive and out of my hair...
"Lunar Glaive Containment."
This time, Nair was more alert and knew the crystal pulse was more than likely the harbringer of her doom. Every muscle tensed to dodge then froze as four translucent walls closed around her, flaring briefly before evaporating from whence they came. Their effect, however, had not dissipated with them and she remained rooted to that spot, unable to move a muscle.
Ranma gave the immobile elder on last look and checked the magical bindings against her on reflex. Yep, she wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. A glance back to her own girls showed that they had stomped the last Amazon into the ground only moments ago, taking their shock at watching their leader completely and utterly neutralized to their advantage. Only a couple were actually standing now, and those had been sufficiently cowed by the Senshi's overwhelming firepower. A nasty look from Haruka and her Blaster Launcher helped too. Nice, but she had other things to worry about now.
"Agami." She stated to the air and the blue digital girl materialized next to her. The elder simply boggled, interpreting the effect as another summoned demon.
"The EM shadow is settling into parking orbit, estimate 300 kilometers above our position." The dreadnaught intelligence reported, anticipating her Queen's request. "I still have no way to penetrate-- One moment." The AI paused and cocked her head, as if listening to a high pitched tone, or some other barely audible event. "Separation. I am reading a distinct separation in the shadow's signature."
"Drop ship." Sailor Pluto stated as she stepped up to Ranma's side. "Details?"
"None I'm afraid, Princess Pluto." Agami shook her head. "While it is not running a full spectrum cloaking device like its parent vessel, I am reading wide spectrum ECM all across the board. Terra's local sensors won't even register its existence."
'Then we'll just have to--"
"I AM NOT DONE WITH YOU, HELL SPAWN!"
All of the Senshi's heads whipped around to find the elder struggling against the containment field she had erected, the faint glow of its walls fazing in and out as the old woman fought to lift a hand up... A hand contained one of the Amazon daggers! The Elder produced a cruel smile as the dagger's power fought against the barrier. It wasn't powerful enough to actually free her entirely, but that wasn't the point in the first place.
"Do not... take me... lightly... Demoness!" The effort she was throwing into countering the barrier was telling and they watched in amazement as the dagger cleared shoulder height and closed on her neck. "My... sacrifice to our Goddess... will seal... your fate!"
With one last push of supreme effort, the black blade found her throat and she tore it across its aged flesh, breaching the major arteries it housed and instantly evacuating the blood pumping in a fine mist. Still, the containment held the dying woman upright even as her very lifeblood drained out of her diminutive body. The glow of life faded from Nair's eyes and it was over in seconds.
She was dead.
At least until a pair of jagged, bladed black wings sprouted from her back, tearing through the husk of the woman as if she were the chaff of a seed. A pair of legs disemboweled her lifeless body from inside out, while another pair of overly large arms displaced what was left of the rapidly deteriorating elder. A dark crimson head with rows of jagged teeth erupted from the remains of her chest and continued to tear through wrinkled skin until two glowing red eyes sighted on Ranma.
"YOOOoooUUUU Wiiiillll DIIEEEE HeeeLLL SPAAWWNNN!!!"
The Senshi watched in horror as the beast grew, seemingly forcing the containment field back by its mere presence. The Amazons had been bad enough! Now a full blown demon had--
A searingly bright beam lanced across the monster, existing only long enough to bisect its torso before disappearing as if it never existed. The demon's shriek turned into a gurgle as it slid in half, reduced to ash and cinders on the way to the ground before their very eyes. All turned down the vector of the attack to find one silver hair pigtailed girl with an outstretched hand and expression of stone writ across her face for only a second before she turned back to the holographic depiction of Agami as if nothing had happened.
"Can we stop it?"
The dreadnaught considered the question as quickly as she dismissed the smoldering remains of the former Nair demon. "You should be able to, your Highness. Assuming your full potential, an energy bolt from yourself could easily destroy the incoming drop ship once it comes into visual range."
Setsuna frowned. "What about the dreadnaught?"
"We lack the necessary firepower on site to deal with it effectively at range." Agami reported, then paused. "I now control three quarters of the United States strategic nuclear arsenal and am acquiring those of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic and Peoples Republic of China as we speak. Subsurface maritime assets will be at my disposal in one minute, thirty seconds."
"Assuming they even get past the shields." Setsuna shook her head.
"Correct." The AI agreed. "While I must admit that the odds of an all out nuclear strike succeeding against a dreadnaught of the line is very remote, it is, unfortunately the best I can do in my current state."
"One thing at a time." Ranma stated as the Saotome aspect of her personality came more into focus. "Where's this dropship comin' in?"
If Agami noticed the change in vocal inflection, she evidentially chose not to care or betray surprise. "Descending through two hundred and fifty kay meters over the Pacific, bearing 105.31, six hundred kilometers downrange."
Ranma blinked. "Uh..."
Setsuna pointed off into the cloudless blue sky to the west. "That way."
"Target slowing to mach six." Agami reported calmly. "Visual range in forty-five seconds. I suggest a charge of three point eight terawatts for your initial attack, your Highness."
Ranma blinked and Setsuna supplied the translation. "Just charge it up as high as you can Senny, then blast the hell out of it."
Ranma smiled grimly. "Now that's something I think I can do."
Her hand once again anchored the Ginzuishou, which had been floating freely around her up until that moment while the other stretched out to the western sky. With their opponents safely neutralized, the Senshi gathered around behind her and watched as a shining globe of power began to collect in the hand. It appeared dull and insubstantial at first, slowly building to spotlight intensity.
"Range 300 kilometers and falling." Agami relayed. "Visual range in twenty seconds. 2,581 nuclear assets acquired, release on your mark, your Highness."
Ranma Saotome heir to the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts and Silver Millennium legacy gritted as she channeled power that was both beyond her reckoning and familiar all at once, her body now a conduit for otherworldly forces being shaped and molded by the crystal in her hand. From there, Ranma channeled it through very soul and forced into a singular foci of force that screamed for release. Beads of sweat began to form on her forehead as she continued to channel the massive ball of lethal potential in her hand, cramping muscles all up and down her arm.
"How… much longer... 'Gami…" She growled as the spell became increasingly unruly, the ball of power vibrating in her hand as if struggling to get free. Ranma cursed as she almost lost containment of the attack she was focusing into the westward sky. "This thing is getting to be…"
"Two point seven-five terawatts, Queen." Agami preempted, continuing her running dialogue. "Range to target: 150 kilometers, speed falling under mach one. Visual acquired."
With that proclamation, a holographic square popped into existence next to the dreadnaught AI displaying blue sky and what looked to be an axe head or something similar to the head of a hammer head shark but without the body. It was completely black, save a pinstripe of yellow gracing the winglets. The hammer's edges themselves had large pods trailing of their tips, their purpose unknown yet menacing simultaneously.
The Senshi of Neptune leaned forward, eyeing the depiction. "That looks very familiar somehow…"
"The craft is just under one kilometer long. ECM is still negating all attempts to ascertain threat potential."
"That almost looks like a RSN dropship." Setsuna frowned as the image drew closer and Ranma snarled.
"Somebody better tell me what that thing is cuz I can't hold this damn attack off any longer!" Blood trickled down her lip as she bit into it, desperately attempting to maintain the forces she had called into her hand. Her entire arm was on fire now and the attack itself was blazing with blinding light blue intensity.
"Reading your power at four point three terawatts your highness." Agami nodded. "Optimum release in five, four, thee, two…" Digital eyes blinked with surprise as she halted the countdown abruptly. "Receiving IFF from the target! Codes correspond with Queens Alpha, first brigade--"
"SENNY, NO!!" Pluto's eyes widened as the strain on her best friend finally took its toll, even as the martial artist attempted to recall the energies in her grip.
"AAAHHHHHAAAARRR!!!" There was no way she could pull that much power back into herself, and Ranma instinctively knew it. The best she could do was nudge the aim somewhere else, but the power itself was resisting--
"MOM!!!" Sailor Moon was there before the next breath could be taken, slamming into her mother's arm in a desperate bid to knock the spell from its target. Power blasted through the blonde's body, as she gripped Ranma's arms and pushed with everything she had…
The incandescent blue ball freed itself from Ranma's grip with violent force, its very launch potential blasting a trench across the Tendo yard, through a wall and out into the street beyond as blazed into the blue sky like a secondary sun. The point of magical annihilation passed through the encroaching ships altitude, fifteen kilometers to the right and disappeared into the endless blue seconds later. Ranma stared for a moment at the dot twinkling on the horizon, then collapsed to her knees before the glowing orange trench at her feet.
"What the HELL was that, Ranma!?" Ryoga lumbered over, dismissing his armor as he and the Senshi crowded around the panting, exhausted Queen while both daughter and best friend helped her back up to her still shaky feet.
"Five point nine terawatts, to be exact." Agami, replied to the misdirected question. "As I was saying, target is squawking IFF on all frequencies consistent with pre-fall codes of the Queen's Alpha, first brigade strike. The vessel is identifying itself as the Talis, a Dark Omen class drop ship." The AI paused and arched an eyebrow. "It is also flagging itself Royal Assault."
Setsuna's head turned sharply on the blue holographic girl. "Impossible."
Ranma shook her head as others filtered into back onto the Tendo property now with incredulous expressions. "God, I don't need no more surprises…"
Setsuna was blinking rapidly now at the unspoken implications, but turned back to the silver haired teen with the relevant information. "Royal Assault is exactly that… Any ship flagged Royal Assault is bringing down members of the Royal Family, in this case, you or Moon."
"It is a 'defend at all costs' asset." Agami submitted, earning Pluto's nod.
"Which is impossible because I was there for the damn fall." She continued, eyeing the spec that had grown into the size of a black pancake. "Both of you fell on the field. Hell, you're here so… Oh shit."
Haruka blinked, and Michiru cocked her head curiously. "What was that?"
"Please tell me I wouldn't do that to myself…" Setsuna paled noticeably, watching the sky-borne hammerhead draw closer. Its immense size was only now becoming apparent as it began to take up a large portion of the blue sky, still heading directly toward them.
Nabiki strode up to their group with a shark's grin, while the remaining Tendo sisters joined them, as well as Kuno, his Samurai, sister and the Ranma's Amazons. "Looks like you managed to nearly destroy the place this time, Saotome. That's going to be…" It was only then did she note that nobody was even paying attention. "Helloooo… Ranma???"
Ranma simply point skyward and Ranma followed the finger up and-- Nabiki's jaw nearly dropped upon seeing what was an honest to God space ship starting to rumble over head. The hammer head's shadow crawled over the dojo, blotting out the sun, and the only thing that kept Nabiki from panicking outright was the fact that it - while damn freaky - wasn't the first or last freaky object to have appeared over the Nermian skyline over the past year. After all, there had been giant phoenix', Lucky Gods airships, Ashuras… She shook her head out of her trance and looked over at her younger sister who was staring likewise.
"I'd hide if I were you Akane." The jerked the girl from her trance. "It's probably another kidnapping with your name on it."
Akane blinked then reddened. "I can take care of myself! I'm a martial artist too, you know!"
Setsuna simply arched an eyebrow, but opted to remain silent as the immense ship took up position over the Tendo household. Detail was immediately visible now as the eye was able to pick out the lines and armor plating that made up the formidable vessel. Various bulges and lance-like features marred the skin of the drop ship and Ranma's brain was automatically cataloging them as weapons of some sort. Lord knew that it probably had enough to raze half of Japan on its first pass.
"Uh, what do we do now, Setsy?" Ranma whispered, unable to tear her eyes way from the enormous ship. Setsuna in turn shrugged, similarly awed. She had forgotten how big those damn things were.
"And what trouble have you gotten us into now, son in-law?" Ranma turned to her left to find Cologne, Mousse and Shampoo staring upward. It was an action mirrored by anybody within a twenty kilometer radius of their position.
Ranma frowned, returning her attention to the giant hammer head. "Can't be any worse than your damn Amazon power play."
"Indeed." Cologne smiled thinly. So she had noticed after all. With her competition either dead or effectively neutralized, there was nothing to stop her from retaking power within the tribe, especially after such a spectacular failure. The Elder nodded. Indeed, she had wagered wisely, banking that Saotome would not only protect Shampoo and the newly resurrected Amazons, but defeat her competition as well. The fact that she didn't appear to be a demon after all was merely an added bonus. "But then, my schemes have never involved giant alien spacecraft."
"Point." Ranma shrugged, wishing the damn ship would up and do something. She was getting a crick in her neck just from--
Air vibrated around them and blurred phantoms were conjured into existence throughout the courtyard. They started out as ghosts, quickly solidifying into eight meter tall humanoids plated head to toe in slabs of heavy crimson armor and sporting long triple barreled weapons. Each was equipped with a holster mount housing a weapon that appearing quite similar to the Chain Sword Setsuna had issued Ryoga. The forms vibrated one last time and fazed fully into reality local, quickly taking advantage of their stunning entrance and moving into a loose defensive ringed around Ranma and the Senshi while three of the troopers lumbered over to Cologne, Shampoo and Mousse, sticking a total of nine barrels in their faces. The remainder of the shock troopers found the other Amazon aggressors and covered them similarly. Those that had regained consciousness, at least.
"Um, son in-law?"
Ranma looked around, thoroughly stunned. None of the suits had even turned a weapon on herself or the girls, but Cologne… "Don't look at me. Seems like they know yas from somewhere."
Hell, she couldn't even tell if they were human or not under all that armor, Ranma noted with some dismay. Would be nice to know if her visitors were three headed aliens or what not. Of course, these visitors only had a single- albeit completely armored -head more often than not painted with a skull overlay. All in all, they were quite intimidating. Ranma smiled thinly, looking across at the youngest Tendo who was pale with wide eyes. Good thing she's with us, she thought with an edge of sarcasm. She's a martial artist, after all.
Ranma blinked. Now where had that come from?
Any attention she was about to direct to her internal thought process was quickly diverted as the air began to buzz with life once more and formless wisps started to manifest closer to the center of the Tendo compound. These armored figures solidified just as quickly as the last, but were quickly distinguishable from the others by the red dragon coiling across the silver plates of their shoulders while the curves in their armor that easily identified them as female. Every single one of these troopers mounted Haruka's newest weapon of choice, the blaster launcher, while the dual edged crescent-ringed bladed staff from her memories were found to be slung across their backs. Ranma's mouth opened slightly as recognition came from the depths.
"They can't be…?"
Setsuna stepped in closer, nodding as the troops moved into new positions, a slightly wider ring than the one they first appeared from. "They sure look like it. But something tells me we're not going to like this surprise." Even as she said it, a new form shimmered into existence at the guards' center, this one several measures smaller and more human in appearance. Like the others, it took a moment for the figure to cross over into their dimensional plane, but when it did, Setsuna was left gaping. "Oh God… I should have known… How could I not have…?!"
Ranma and company simply stared as the figure reoriented herself, then stepped past the ring of guards. Power was rolling off the newcomer, and the martial artist mentally prepared to call up more of the potent yet wildly uncontrollable magic at her disposal. Two of the lumbering guards took up immediate positions behind her and followed while the rest moved on to secondary positions around the Senshi and Ranma by proxy. The new girl was female and teen by the looks of it, the Saotome surmised, just over her height and sporting a black cheongsam with thin pink dragons hugging her every curve. The teen's most notable feature was her pink hair, tied up in an odango with long streamers trailing behind her. She confidently walked up to the befuddled group, coming to Sailor Moon first.
The pair looked upon one another, sizing each other up. Usagi was on the edge of being terrified herself. The girl in front of her looked entirely too much like--
"Urk!" The blonde was immediately enveloped in a bear hug, stunning her completely. It was then she made the connection. With the embrace released, Moon stepped back, her brain whirling. No way could this be… NO WAY… She looks like Dark Lady!
"Um, Chibi Usa?"
A giant grin broke out across the teens face. "Don't know about the Chibi part, but of course it's me!" She rolled her pink eyes. "Your daughter, hellooooo?"
"But! But! But!" Usagi stammered, thoroughly blindsided. "You're supposed to be small! And… And! That's your evil body!"
Usa Moon blinked for a moment with confusion, then the smile returned. "Oooooh, I see." She waved the blithering Sailor Moon off. "Auntie Puu warned me something like this was bound to happen." The girl shrugged the revelation off and waved to the remaining Senshi as if she were on a first name basis with all of them
All eyes instantly swiveled on the green haired Senshi who was at that very moment beating her forehead with her own fist. "I can't believe I actually set myself up like this! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!"
"Uh, Setsy?" Ranma leaned over to the woman. "Wanna tell us what's going--"
Ranma's eyes widened as the new girl's eyes locked onto hers, the teens smile brightening to blinding levels. "Uh, did you say--OOF!"
Ranma Saotome was next in line for a crushing hug as the pink haired girl squealed in delight, jumping up and down. "Oooh! It's so good to see you Gramma!" The Martial Arts queen's brain rapidly seized even as the Usa pulled away, her eyes locking onto the eldest Tendo. "Say, when did Kas-chan dye her hair brown?"
"RANMA!? Who the hell is this!?" Akane Tendo began to glow visibly red as she trembled with jealousy, at least until the new girl's guard took notice and swung their weapons around, bringing them to bear on her. The battle aura quickly died as Akane noted the threat they represented. That didn't stop her from sending a leaded glare into Ranma, who was presently attempting to extricate herself from the girls grasp. "Why does every girl you meet have to glomp on you?!"
"How the hell should I know!" She stepped away from the girl, who frowned at the reception she received from her the person named grandmother. "Setsuna, what the hell is this?!"
Pluto simply shook her head and stepped up to the pink haired girl. "Usa Moon, right?" The pink haired girl nodded. "From the future?"
Usa favored Pluto with a bored look. "Duh?"
Setsuna let lose a labored sigh and rubbed her temples, then turned back to Ranma. "Didn't get to explain this part to you. Before we met you, Usagi's daughter was sent back from the future to protect her from some really nasty people. By the future me."
The pink haired teen furrowed her eyebrows. "No you didn't."
The Senshi ignored her. "Her name was Chibi Usa, and we recently sent her back to the future."
Ranma looked from her best friend to the teen and back. "Okay, so this is…?"
"No." Pluto cut her off. "This is not Chibi Usa. That Usa was pre-adolecent. This one is…"
"Like Dark Lady!" Minako supplied with a slight edge of panic in her voice. The others nodded with her. Even Usagi.
"Dark what?" The new girl blinked, evidentially clueless as to the contents of the accusation. "Only my enemies call me that."
"Then prove that you're not her!" Jupiter pointed a finger in accusation.
Usa put her hands on her hips, affecting put-out look. "And how am I supposed to do that, aunt Makoto?"
Mars stepped in where Jupiter stalled out. "That ship of yours in orbit. What color is it?"
Venus sent her an edgy look. "What kind of stupid question is--"
Ami shrugged. "Maybe she is Chibi--"
All of the Senshi stepped back with trepidation.
Moon, however, stood her ground. "Are you really…?"
"Of course. How do I prove it to you?" She asked innocently.
"I know." Ranma stepped up with a wicked grin. She was still getting used to the fact that she was the one time ruler of a galactic empire. And now a mother. And now a goddamn grandmother. And ancient Amazonian enemy. Steam was just dying to get worked off here. "No granddaughter of mine would be caught dead without knowin' the Art."
The smile was reciprocated by the pink haired girl, who turned her attention fully on the Saotome. "Is that a challenge?"
"Damn straight it is." Ranma nodded. Granddaughter or not, she was liking this girl's attitude.
Usa slipped into an attack stance easily, one Ranma readily recognized with surprise as an Anything Goes derivative. "You may have won last time, Grams, but don't think I'll take it easy on you just because we're in the past!"
Ranma's brain was only just catching up to the 'won last time' part when a roundhouse screamed in, signaling the beginning of the match.
The block came up and it was on.
Setsuna, Makoto, Ami, Minako, Haruka, Michiru, Rei, Usagi, Hotaru, Cologne, Shampoo, Mousse, Wax, Potion, Akane, Nabiki, Kasumi, Soun, Genma, Nodoka, Ryoga, Mamoru, Kodachi, Tatewaki, his samurai, the Alpha Guard and the defeated Amazons were treated to a martial arts epic as both figures blurred into one another, rolling one combo after another as each was blocked parried and renewed. The match gained altitude as both girls demonstrated their mastery of the aerial art they practiced while attempting to unleash as much punishment as possible on one another. Even Ryoga had to stare in awe, just not at Ranma's prowess. The girl definitely knew Ranma's style, and the last two years of sparring with his rival gave him the authority to make that call with certainty. He winced as Ranma took two hard blows that pounded her back to the earth, indenting the ground on impact but she otherwise remaining upright and turned around to face the renewed attack.
Both figures flashed across the courtyard and their audience quickly realized that the pink odangos were pushing their pigtailed counterpart back inch by inch. Ranma sidestepped the next combination and retook the offensive, taking her velocity to amiguriken levels. If Usa was surprised, it only lasted a moment as she responded in kind, and both artists attacks were now slapping their bystanders with light shockwaves of air pressure. Even Cologne knew this couldn't last forever. Ranma was keeping up, but just barely. Like Ryoga, she was cataloging the pink haired girl's arsenal and was noting distinct differences from Ranma's core art. The girl was flipping through styles like chained lightning unleashed and son in-law was getting pressed hard. There was even advanced Amazon fu in there if she wasn't mistaking. Another blurring attack came in and Ranma rolled out of it and opened the distance, panting. Usa skidded to a halt, also panting.
"You're mine, Gramma!" The girl smiled maliciously. "Can't wait to tell you how I beat your pants off you in the--" Usa's eyes widened and her legs turned to jello, depositing her to the grassy turf at her feet. "Wha? Hey. HEY! No fair!"
Ranma smiled, then slumped, completely exhausted herself. Luck. It had been complete and utter luck that she had been able to slip that pressure point in. Another five minutes and the girl would have been kicking her ass up and down the courtyard in front of everybody.
"Well…" Ranma huffed, still out of breath. "I'm convinced… Don't know how the hell… But I'm convinced…" She staggered over to the grumbling girl and knelt down, finding the left side of her hip. With a light press, she reversed the point and feeling began to flow back into Usa's legs.
"Not fair." Usa Moon grumped. "You're not supposed to be this good in the past."
"Yeah, well I'm the best. What can I say?" Ranma smiled and helped the girl up. "Do I even want to know what you're doing here?"
"Oh, that's easy." Usa shrugged, dusting her pink on black cheongsam off. "You and Auntie Setsuna sent me back to make sure everything went off without a hitch."
"A big mystery ship in orbit and accompanying dropship would certainly do that, I guess." Mercury commented skeptically.
"I wanted to bring a short battle group." The girl stressed with a somewhat disappointed air. "But you insisted the Brimful of Asha would be sufficient."
"The Brimful of what?" Makoto mimed without comprehension
"The pink and black dreadnaught in orbit above us." Usa pointed up, earning a round of dumb nods.
"God I have a sick, sick sense of humor." Setsuna just shook her head, sapped of enthusiasm.
Usagi's daughter stepped up next to Pluto and patted her shoulder with sympathy. "Don't feel too bad. It was Grandma's idea to have us arrive during your fight with the Amazons."
Ranma blinked. Evidentially she was going to become one twisted SOB in the future if that was her idea of a practical joke. "I'm starting to need some more of that firewine, Setsy."
"You and me both." Pluto agreed. "Something tells me the Crystal Tokyo timeline is screwed all to hell."
"You've been there already?" It was Usa Moon's turn to blink. "I didn't think that got built until 2054…"
"It… exists?" Setsuna breathed, shocked. "Wait… 2054?"
"Sure it does." Usa returned nonchalantly. "Mom used to take me there every Saturday."
"Take you?" Usagi mouthed, confusion plastered across her face. "I mean, huh?"
"They had the greatest rides." She smiled with fond reminiscence. "God a Monolith Burger sounds good right now!"
"An amusement park?" Nabiki hazarded to guess. Usa shot her a look that indicated that it should have been common knowledge.
"I so hate myself." Setsuna muttered.
Ranma simply shook her head and moved on to an easier topic. Right. "Okay, so what's up with the old ghoul over there?"
Ranma jabbed a thumb back at the trio of surrounded Amazons still at gunpoint and the pink girls bright expression darkened. "Oh, her." Cologne shivered at the spite the word 'her' was uttered. "She causes trouble in the future."
"Why ain't I surprised." Ranma frowned. "What'd she do?"
"Allied herself with the Jurian Empire. Sells them secrets and other less than wholesome activities." Usa folded her arms, scowling at the old woman.
Ranma considered the statement. "Well I don't know no Juries. They bad news?"
"Damn right!" The pink odango slapped a fist into her hand. "They came into power about three thousand years after the fall and have been steadily moving into our old territorial lines. Hell, half their technology was derived from picking the bones off our old empire."
"Really now." Pluto questioned. "Didn't see them in the Crystal Tokyo timeline."
Usa shot her a quizzled look. "Don't know why you keep going on about Crystal Tokyo, but they already have emissaries on Earth. I'd sac em' if I were you. Except Ryoko. She's all right, even if that damn prince of hers is a jerk."
"Prince?" Usagi perked up, glancing across to Kamen.
"Yeah, blood heir." Her daughter elaborated. "Cute, but a real asshole. Keeps stringing all these women along."
"Sounds like somebody I know." Ryoga grumbled, but Usa paid little attention.
"Anyway, we've been pushing 'em back across our pre-fall boarders, but they won't take no for an answer." She continued. "Can't count how many of their tree fleets I've turned to matchsticks." The girl then turned to mother and grandmother. "Even had the gall to annex Earth and strip mine Meridian. Grams didn't like that. It's why I wanted to bring back a battle group."
Ranma's expression hardened at the news as chains of Silver Millennium memories were sparked off. Those were two places that nobody got to screw with.
Usa then turned to the air. "Brim-kun, current location of the Jurian contingent in this timeframe."
A red holographic boy popped into existence across from her, sporting a short bowl cut, button down shirt and khakis made up of data streams. "100345.001 by 033000195.08, Tokyo, Princess." He reported in a child's voice, then noticed the Ranma, Usagi and the Senshi. "Oh, hello Your Highness. Princess. Guardians."
More dumb nods in return.
"Have fire control lock up their location." Usa stated with a feral grin. "And keep an eye out for Ryo-ohki."
"Order relayed." Brim reported. "Fire control replies mass drivers four through eight locked on target and standing by with 105mm non-fissionable ordinance, fighters standing by to intercept."
Nodding with satisfaction, Usa then turned to Usagi with pleading eyes. "Can I blow the snot out of them, Mom? Pleeeeaassee??" The Princess of the Moon took a step back upon noting the eager light shining in the girl's eyes. "Gramma said to ask you and if you said yes I could."
Usagi glanced over to Ranma. "Uh, Mom? Can she, um, blow up the Jurians?"
"Eh…" Ranma was caught flatfooted. What the hell did she tell the little spitfire? The girl was definitely a Saotome. "Um, not right now. Let's, eh, talk about the old bag first."
"Oh, fine." Usa huffed with a slight pout, then turned to Brim. "Tell fire control to standby, but atomize Ryo-ohki if she lifts."
In the time she was preoccupied with the AI, Ranma had walked over to Cologne, who was an unhealthy shade paler than usual. Of course, to know this one would have to have been in her presence on a regular basis to distinguish from her normally unpleasant visage. "Now why you causin' me trouble in the future, old ghoul?"
Colognes smile at the administered caning evaporated instantly as three green laser dots blinked to life, sighting on her forehead. Ranma rubbed her head as a fleshy knot grew through her silver crop. "Probably pissed at me not marrying Shampoo still."
"Since you aren't a demon, there's no reason you can't." Cologne said with easiness that belied the concern she had over the little green dots still tracking on her head.
"Is no should marry Ranma if queen?" Shampoo leaned in curiously and her great grandmother scowled. "Airen already bring back two sisters too. Is very, very powerful!"
"The will of the Joketsuzoku will not be stayed." She regarded the Saotome imperiously, all but ignoring her great grandchild's missives. While she was always one to encourage the child's forward thinking, it was rather annoying to have it interrupt--
"The time for these games are over, Elder." Cologne's words clicked inside Ranma's head and several logic gates fell into place, gates that brought the Serenity aspect into sharp focus. The old woman came to instant attention at not only the form of her address, but the Saotome's new pattern of speech. No contractions. No bastardized Japanese. "I have another lifetime of memories to show me the error of my ways, and I will not let threats to my family, friends or home go unanswered any longer."
Cologne's eyes narrowed at the new Saotome. "Meaning what, son in-law?"
Ranma's own eyes turned to crystal blue edges and Cologne found herself involuntarily sucking in a breath. Her power was rising exponentially! If she had dealt with Nair as easily… "Meaning that I will move proactively against anything I perceive as a threat. In the past, I waited for those threats to come to me. I lost an entire empire to that behavior. I grew soft. No longer."
The implication was obvious and the Elder's insides were churning. Whatever she was becoming, she was deadly serious, and Cologne knew she could no longer rely on the Martial Artist's prohibition against killing to keep her from her stated goals. Her eyes flicked over to Akane off to the side, watching the exchange. "And the other fiancées?"
Ranma smiled thinly and the edge in her eyes lost some of its seriousness. "I apparently have a daughter and granddaughter. Whattya think?"
Saotome again, Cologne noted as the personalities shifted. She wondered if Ranma even realized it. Still, the point was obvious enough. Ranma already had a daughter, who in turn had a child of her own in the future. The Amazons apparently didn't figure significantly in that future. Something was telling her that the rest of the Nermian regulars didn't figure in that future either, as the pink haired girl showed them little recognition. Nice to know I'll still be around though…
"Indeed." She admitted finally. "Apparently the future is, shall we say, malleable. Perhaps we can come to some mutually advantageous agreement before this unfortunate situation comes to pass."
The Serenity was back. Cologne took a breath as she prepared to step upon shaky ground, both with the girl in front of her and the remains of her tribe. "I ask for your royal favor upon the Amazons, our continued survival in place of marriage." Ranma nodded at her to continue. "If you are indeed as powerful as has been indicated-" One look up at the dropship floating above illustrated her point, "-Then you have the means to ensure the continued survival of the Amazon nation, the most pressing concern being our neighbors and the Communist. We are a powerful nation, but our way of life hangs by a thread of misdirection and subterfuge. In short, we are myth. Likewise the Musk and Phoenix. Should that myth become not so, we perish."
"And you ask for the protection of my throne." Ranma asked rhetorically and the elder nodded in the affirmative. Nabiki stepped to the martial artist's side with a slight smile.
"For fifty thousand yen, I can act as your advis---"
The silver haired teen held up a finger, indicating her silence was required before continuing with Cologne. "And exactly what is in it for me, Elder Cologne? I could, after all, indulge in my granddaughter's notion of diplomacy."
It took only a moment for her to catch her meaning, and when she did, Cologne paled once more as something along the lines of '105mm non-fissionable ordinance' came to mind. Oh, she doubted Ranma actually would, but the threat hung there and had been administered by her evil twin. Even Nabiki seemed slightly startled at the proclamation. "Your favor will be returned in its fullest measure. The loyalty of the Amazon nation is no small token, nor is the knowledge we bring to the table. Likewise your future ambitions."
Ranma arched an eyebrow. "And what do you know of those?"
"Your proactive approach will require a power base among the nations." Cologne elaborated, smiling now. "The Amazons, as such, already have a foothold in China. With the proper support, we could effectively infiltrate the Communist power structure and supplant it with our own, which would in turn be loyal to you."
Trust be told, Ranma hadn't thought about the stepping stones she would have to take from here to her granddaughter's future. World domination, as cliché as it did sound, was certainly one of them and her Serenity aspect knew it, even if she hadn't had time to think of it with the constant storm of chaos swirling around her these last few days.
Nabiki, on the other hand, simply boggled. This just wasn't chump change they were talking about. They were negotiating the goddamn take over of communist China! And then the world! Not that many people would shed a tear over China other countries would be far less motivated to simply turn over their power to a clueless martial artist. But then, this particular incarnation didn't appear all that clueless, and if she could get in on Ranma's good side… Oh, she didn't want world domination for herself, per se, but riding on the coat tails of somebody who did promised to be a very lucrative venture.
"And as preeminent Elder of the Amazon nation, you would, of course, be the ruler of this new China." Nabiki pointed out in a sufficiently doubtful tone, and Ranma cocked her head with the point. "What assurance do we have that you would continue to be cooperative after you assume control of one of the largest nations on Earth?"
"A marriage between her throne and the Joketsuzoku?" Ranma snorted at Cologne's obvious, yet hopeful joke, who in turn shrugged and continued. "I can only offer my word, which you know I have never broken, Saotome. Our prosperity is your prosperity."
"I'd still like that in writing, even if only as a formality." Nabiki stated to Ranma, playing the trusted advisor role to the hilt. "I can have a legal contract ready by morning tomorrow."
Ranma turned and stared at Nabiki with penetrating eyes, causing her to wince internally. Still, she did her best to keep it from showing on her person. Damn! Nabiki started. She knows I'm playing up to her. Even as she was sure Ranma would turn her offer down, she received a shrug instead. "Alright. The takeover of China won't hold up in court, but at least everybody will know what they're getting into, I guess." Both Cologne and Nabiki stared a moment, recognizing the fluid change in personality, then watched it as it shifted back just as quickly. "Make sure to leave room for additional signatures. I want everybody in your village on onboard. No last minute voices of reason. Get that and you will have the throne's complete backing."
"Give me time to help my sisters recover from Nair's corruptive influence and I will have them for you." Cologne nodded with a thin smile.
"Now if you'll excuse me, I have work to do." Nabiki stated, turning on a heel. "I'll have copies ready in Japanese, Cantonese and Mandarin ready by tomorrow."
"ARE YOU INSANE!?" Nabiki turned, right into a wild eyed Akane Tendo. "What the hell do you think you're doing?!"
"Taking over the world by the sound of it, Sis." Nabiki stated matter-of-factly, causing Akane to twitch.
"Dammit, Nabiki!" The sister fumed. "Whatever happened to getting Ranma back to normal?! Remember the rock? The one you were going to sell?!?"
Nabiki simply shook her head. "In case you haven't noticed, there is a giant spaceship floating above your head. There is also a pink haired girl in command of not only that spaceship but these huge walking tanks and a bigger ship in orbit while claiming Ranma is her grandmother." She paused, then added as and afterthought, "not grandfather. Besides, there's better money in taking over the world. That's a returning investment right there."
"Ranma can't take over the world!" Akane protested, attempting to gain some handle on the situation. "He's supposed to--!"
"I'm afraid I must agreeth with the illustrious Nabiki Tendo, my fiery Tigress." Kuno stepped to her side. "Mine noble Queen appears to already command the loyalties of the Sailor Senshi as well as a most formidable force." He gestured around to the various troops arrayed around them, as well as Usa's personal guard specifically. "Likewise, she hath the loyalty of Amazon nation and more importantly House Kuno at her unwavering disposal. If it is thy Queen's will to bring the world unto her fold, we shall endeavor to make it thus!"
Akane Tendo's jaw simply hung open.
Sailor Mercury coughed. "So we're going to take over the world now?" The cough turned into a chuckle. "Heh… Heheheh… MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!"
Minako, Maokoto and Rei eyed her warily, as that sort of laughter usually exhibited by dark generals and the like, not the kind you would use upon finding the punch line to a particularly funny joke.
"Um, is it okay for the pretty girls of Love and Justice to take over the world?" Usagi voiced the most obvious concern.
"Of course it is." Setsuna smoothed over, quite delighted with the turn of events. Sure, the Crystal Tokyo timeline may have been screwed all to hell, but at least she wasn't instigating the death of a few billion people in the process. That, and the fact that a new Usa Moon was here from the future indicated that not only was this improbable timeline possible, but it was nearly certain. "You were going to take it over anyway. Just think of it as moving the timetable up."
...A few centuries, give or take, she added silently to herself.
"Is too too good alliance." Shampoo beamed, taking up station next to Ranma. If Cologne didn't know any better, she'd almost swear that the girl had been struck by a slight case of hero worship. Mousse was positively glowing from the background at his good fortune "Shampoo and Ranma be blade sisters!"
Ranma simply looked at the girl. Sure it was better than death or marriage, but no less weird. And what the hell was a--
"I don't know what a blade sister is, but Ran-chan's mine, dammit!" Ukyo huffed. She'd be damned if she would let her claim on Ranma fall to the wayside.
"She's not a queen or your fiancée!" Akane bit back, still sizzling from her sister's betrayal and just how rapidly things were spiraling out of control.
"I got more important things to worry about!" Ranma yelled over the argument, silencing the fiancées. "Maybe the giant ship above us clued ya into that fact. Or a time traveling granddaughter? How about super powered evil Amazons?!"
The fiancées seemed to get a clue, but there was little else on the minds of her parents these days. Even if the world was about to end, she could count on exactly two things-- Fiancees and Parents.
"Boy..." Genma growled, pushing his way to the forefront of the crowed. "You got an obligation..."
"Indeed." Nodoka chimed in, following her husband. "A manly obligation."
"To my Akane!" Soun rounded out the argument with certainty in his voice.
"I seriously ain't got time this." Ranma stood fast and an aura of light seemed to collect around her. She stabbed a finger at her father. "You of all people don't got no right to be talking about obligations! The only one you ever fulfilled is the one to your stomach!"
"Ungrateful boy!" Genma made a lunge and Ranma sidestepped the attack in a blur and sent a magical energy bolt into his back as the patriarch passed, blowing him into the koi pond with a splash. She turned back to her mother and Soun.
"As I was saying."
"MY POOR AKANE!!" Demon-head Soun blew up and was just as quickly dispatched by a micro ki-burst, killing the manifestation with a head shot.
"As I was SAYING."
"While Usagi is a fine young girl, she is a poor substitute for a blood heir." Nodoka continued imperviously, caressing her katana from force of habit. "You will demonstrate your manliness by marrying a Tendo and taking these other fine women on as mistresses."
The pigtailed girl twitched, and something in her mother's tone resonated within the Serenity aspect of her psyche, allowing the focus in her brain to shift once more. "Do not force this issue, mother. Who I marry and when I marry will be a choice of my own choosing. I will not have either pressed upon me by those whose honor is highly selective," She glanced back at the wet panda. "Nor by those with moral backbone of a jellyfish." Another glare at Soun.
"Of course you have a choice." Her mother returned smoothly and with all the consideration in the world. Consideration dashed by her next words. "You can marry Akane, Nabiki or--"
"Genma stole my dowry!" Ukyo blew, totally forgetting just how treacherous the ground was that she was walking upon.
"You don't even have a legitimate claim anymore!" Akane returned fire, as her stress continued to mount. Yet there was more. On one hand, Ranma was an arrogant sex changing pervert. On the other, Ranma was her arrogant sex changing pervert. "Or are you forgetting who gambled their dowry away to--"
The scream instantly brought silence to the field of battle. The girl's were now eyes alight with power. She turned to Usa with a icy calm that belied her outburst only seconds earlier. "Usa-chan, have your guard remove the next person who speaks to this topic from the property... Including my mother if necessary." Usa grinned and nodded to her troops, who instantly brought their weapons to attention. The fiancées took a step back. Nodoka began to blink rapidly.
"I will say this one last time." Ranma Saotome-Serenity continued with a calm, but lethal air about her. "I am not a trophy. I am not a meal ticket. I am not a token to be bartered for marriage." Her eyes narrowed on all partied involved as Serenity came to bear. "My honor is my own and I shall not be forced into an arrangement because of somebody else's foolish mistakes," She paused, staring into the Panda, then turn to her mother. "Or others' unrealistic expectations."
"My expectations are not unrealistic." Nodoka stated, now caressing the pommel of her sword like a rattlesnake.
"Don't." Ranma stepped forward, matching her mother's mood in full. "Do not try to impose your fantasies of manliness on me. At one time it may have been possible... But now..."
Nodoka considered the girl in front of her that simultaneously represented her son and daughter while Setsuna wondered if Nodoka would take the message that Senny was giving. The line was there, and don't cross it. Nodoka continued to tick through her options. If even half of what she was saying was true, then there was a very real possibility that the engagement was no longer a viable option, especially if she was, in fact, heir to an empire. Perhaps a dojo- even as a martial arts heir -was too limited a destiny for her child.
"Perhaps." Nodoka amended thoughtfully. "Perhaps I have been a tad short sighted concerning your ultimate destiny."
Nodoka, turned back to Genma, who had evidentially found some hot water in the interim. "Hush husband. If our child is to be queen of an empire, we should show her our support."
"Saotome-kun!" Soun nearly choked at what was amounting to the dissolution of the pact before his very eyes. "What about the schools?! The heir?! OUR AGREEMENT!!"
Ranma turned a leaded stare onto the panicking father, but was preempted as Setsuna stepped in to take the brunt of what she knew would undoubtedly be a painful ordeal for the Queen.
"And what have you done to hold up your end of the bargain, Soun Tendo?" The green haired woman captured his attention in its entirety. "You don't practice. You haven't passed on your art. None of your daughters are proficient beyond Akane, whose own skill lacks anything to actually pass on--"
Setsuna ignored the youngest Tendo's outburst while Ranma watched her friend in awe, saying all the things that had been needed said for the longest time now. "In short, there is no joining of schools." She continued, pounding nails into the coffin of the Saotome-Tendo pact. "In fact, joining implies the merger of two or more parts, and I'm failing to see the part you contribute beyond offering your daughters as a bribe, Soun Tendo."
"But we…! I…!"
"And that doesn't even address the fact that Genma Saotome has abdicated the pact on numerous occasions." The mistress of time shrugged. "If there was a deal, it's quite clear that neither of you took it seriously."
Even Nabiki shook her head now. "She's right Daddy."
"Just whose side are you one, anyway?!" Akane blurted, earning a tisking from her sister.
"Just give it up already, Sis." The middle Tendo continued. "While I don't necessarily subscribe to a martial arts code of honor, I can tell you no court in Japan would hold the Saotomes to this pact, such as it is." She shrugged. "Besides, in case you all haven't noticed, I'd say the they already have an heir."
She motioned with her head to the pink haired girl standing off to the side with arms folded across her chest, watching the exchange with a bemused expression on her face.
"I can't believe you would sabotage your own sister like this, Nabiki!" Akane's expression darkened as her face crinkled with rage.
"Hardly." Nabiki snorted with little humor. "Like the Elder here, I'm ensuring our families continued prosperity since it would appear that I'm the only one with the ability or inclination to do so."
"By feeding into Ran-chan's dilutions of grandeur?" Ukyo inserted testily. While she was more than willing to stand back and watch the Tendo contingent self destruct, watching her fiancé's descend into madness wasn't tops on her list for honeymoon plans either.
Nabiki simply sighed. "Is it just me, or does everybody keep forgetting about the giant ship overhead?" She turned back to the magical girls behind her. "Who here thinks Ranma is the Queen of an empire? Show of hands… Now." All nine Senshi raised their hands, including Kamen, Usa, the Kunos and the his Samurai. Kasumi raising her hand behind her with a pleasant smile was simply icing on the cake. Ukyo blinked. Again. "And I'm willing to bet that the guards would too if they weren't so busy holding those futuristic weapons of theirs."
"Hellva delusion, hmm, Senny?" Setsuna nudged her silver haired friend who simply sighed.
"You got no idea."
Akane's rage was now a multi-headed beast, clearly infuriated at her sister, the Saotomes and the green haired woman, but totally unable to choose which target to take it out on. Lacking in a clear path in that regard, the Tendo fell back on habit, turning back to Ranma. "Are you saying you don't want to be with me?"
Ranma winced at the heavy dose venom, but struggled to answer with her newly learned art of diplomacy. "Look, it just ain't the right time. I'm full up on stressful crap at the moment." Serenity would not be fully denied, however. "And what about you? Do you want to be with me?"
All eyes turned on her and Serenity knew what the answer was going to be even before she asked the question. In a way, it hurt, but it ultimately made her road a slightly less rocky one to travel.
"I…uh… that is…"
Ranma nodded solemnly, letting the youngest Tendo off the hook by not forcing an answer. The lack of one had been damning enough without witnesses to call any pretense of a relationship into doubt, verbal pact or no. Akane was silent. Shampoo had all but removed herself from the chase. The only person left to talk to now was--
"That just leaves me." Ukyo huffed indignantly, seeing the writing on the wall. "Are you going to buy me off too? Let your honorless father work off the debt? How much is my childhood worth, Ran-chan?!"
It was probably the one thing that could cow Serenity's armor of diplomacy, causing Ranma Saotome to simply hang her head and sigh. "Dammit… I don't know Uc-chan… But marriage ain't the answer." She shook her head, stepping up to the Okanomiyaki master. "I don't know what is, frankly, but I can't marry somebody I think of as a sister. That and I got a bigger responsibility than sticking around to run a restaurant."
Usagi Tsukino sniffled at the touching scene, then glanced to her right to find her future daughter sitting on a nearby lantern, munching popcorn from a bowl. "God, being here in person is so much better than your bedtime stories!"
"Look," Ranma continued in a weary voice. "Not sure what I can do to make it up to you. I'm pretty sure I can repay the dowry." She cast a glance over to Setsuna, who confirmed the fact that they were solvent with a nod. "As Queen I can basically null and void the agreement, I think. No loss of honor to your family."
"The queen crap is starting to get on my nerves, Ran-chan. Especially that dress." Ukyo growled, then took on a marginally less antagonized expression. "I really hate you sometimes."
Ranma smiled slightly. "I really hate me sometimes too."
Ukyo sniffed with a contemptuous air and turned toward the gate. "I have a restaurant to run." She took a few steps, then looked back over her shoulder. "And don't think I've forgiven you or your family yet, Jackass."
Ranma couldn't help but to smile a bit wider now as the chef turned away, making her exit. The long, black haired girl stepped around one of the demolished gate hanging by one hinge and disappeared into the streets. With that, Ranma's fuku wavered out of existence to be replaced by fresh white Chinese silks, once more supplanting their red and black cousins. She stared at the gates just long enough for the next thought to enter her mind. "God, I'm exhausted."
The Senshi agreed and their own fukus unraveled, revealing their civilian attire. Setsuna stepped forward. "I think it's time to a call it a day."
Ranma shook her head. "Damn straight." Then stared at the Senshi, her daughter and granddaughter. "Mom's place this time. I don't think I could make it to Juuban tonight."
"We'd be happy…" Nodoka's elbow quickly found Genma's ribs, coaxing him to produce a forced smile. "…to have you and your friends over. And my grand daughter. And my great granddaughter!"
Usa moon blinked, then smiled as the Saotome Matriarch gushed. "Some things never change."
Ranma nodded, then stopped short, turning to Kasumi. "Eh, sorry we trashed yer place. Fix it later. Promise."
The eldest Tendo sister was about to say something, but Tatewaki was already at their side, speaking.
"Nonsense! The Queen's royal hands shalln't touch the implements of common labor." The would-be Samurai protested, then turned to Kasumi. "I shall have a construction crew over by dawns first light."
"Why thank you, Ranma. Tatewaki." Kasumi nodded graciously and watched as the boy not only called in the order, but summon two limos for Her Royal Majesty and friends.
The girls gathered, and Ami stopped, staring back up into the sky. "Um, what about that?
'That' was the kilometer long drop ship, which had been gathering crowds all across the city for the last half an hour. Even now, various helicopters and the occasional fighter aircraft buzzed it, attempting to ascertain its purpose.
"Eh, yeah." Ranma agreed and eyed her granddaughter. "Think you can take care of that, Usa-chan?"
"Oh yeah." The pink haired girl smiled agreeably and summoned the dreadnaught AI back into being. "Take her back up to the Asha." Then turned back over her shoulder, "I think I've got enough firepower surrounding us at the moment. Marines! Prepare to embark!"
The armored troopers snapped to attention and briskly marched into a predefined formation. The commanding Captain at its center, a silver armored trooper adorned with a coiled red dragon and pillbox of missiles on each shoulder silently admitted that she was right, at least on principle. Princess Usa was now surrounded by all the guardians, in the company of her mother and more importantly, her grandmother. Principle, of course, was worthless to him, considering that almost the entire royal family was assembled in one spot. He'd be damned if he let them trounce around the past uncovered.
The Captain smiled to himself beneath the armored skull plating that made up his helmet. He'd just have to be damn sneaky about it. "Aye Princess, ready to embark!"
Seconds later, their bodied began to distort and vanish into thin air, two at a time. It was only another minute before the armored platoon ceased to exist entirely and the giant ship began to ascend back into the heavens. Ranma didn't even watch it go. Setsuna instead voiced her thoughts exactly.
"God I hope those limos have a wet bar."
…First at five! A giant UFO was sighted hovering over Tokyo today…
into the skies above the Nerima ward. Sources say…
across the North American hemisphere were blacked out today by what
NASA calls a large scale EMP event…
Senshi were said to be involved, though it is unknown whether or not
they have negotiated a peace treaty with the aliens…
or not? This reported believes that perhaps it is all a hoax. It
wouldn't be the first…
…Seemed to ascend into the sky, outrunning the patrolling fighters…
Nabiki Tendo lounged back into the sofa with a rather amused expression plastered across her face as she continued to flip through the TV channels, scanning the day's biggest event, UFOs over Tokyo. Beside her, Kasumi watched with moderate interest, perking up on occasion anytime the Senshi were mentioned while their father and little sister sat staring. Whether or not information was actually being processed by the pair was questionable at the moment, as both seemed to be in a state of shock. The middle Tendo shrugged, sparing them a minimal amount of sympathy.
It was, after all, understandable. Ranma had effectively dissolved the arrangement between Saotomes and Tendos and in the process had their fathers competence dismantled piece by piece while Akane's own commitment to the relationship was called into doubt. Neither had acquitted themselves well in the face of such pointed questioning. Nabiki snorted mentally. But then, if one wanted to be honest, even she had to admit that their relationship had been on the rocks since it first began. It had its share of good, but not nearly enough to survive the scrutiny it was placed under tonight, let alone the changes everybody's favorite martial artist had undergone.
And so it fell to her once again to keep the family financially viable. In the end, it had been an easy decision. Granted, she would have never considered it if it had involved the Ranma of a month ago. But not only was this one sharper, but she had backing. First, there was the intelligent green haired woman, Saotome's self proclaimed best friend. Then there was the Senshi. Instant PR there, as well as muscle. The Elder was no small addition to their group of misfits either. The woman was devious, powerful and more importantly, could bring significant resources to the table. And the Kunos. Financial clout in spades, as well as a previously unknown influence among the Samurai families of Japan?
None of that was counting the pink haired girl and her spaceship, claiming to be Ranma's daughter.
Nabiki almost let a chuckle escape past her lips. That had been the coup de gras. She had always been one to play the odds, and if there was any confirmation that throwing in with the wayward martial artist was a sure bet, it was a goddamn spaceship from the future. Even better, Ranma seemed to be agreeable to such a partnership, much to her surprise. It had been the other Ranma looking at her in that moment, taking her measure. There was no doubt in Nabiki's mind that the decision to allow her in on the whole scheme was a calculated one, though the makeup of that equation was still a mystery.
She just recognizes talent when she sees it, Nabiki preened. Either way, it promised to be a lucrative venture, which in turn ensured that she could continue to extract revenue from the martial artist where her father and little sister had failed. How much did sitting on the board of directors' to world domination pay, anyway?
The TV continued to flash images of the hammerhead spacecraft, this particular clip playing out as it climbed upward and out of sight, showing the cameras nothing but the bright neon purple of its exhaust plume.
Then there were the reporters. She had handled them and their question as easily as any mark at school, first hinting at inside knowledge, then charging an absorbent amount and finally answering with a tidbit that seemed important but was ultimately useless in nature. After all, it wouldn't do to piss off her future employer, her daughters and magical girl body guards. Did she see the aliens? Maybe, but then, strange stuff happens around here all the time. Were the Senshi involved? Girls in fukus, right? How close was Earth being invaded? Not sure. Looked like they just stopped by for a friendly chat with the girls.
And on it went. Overall, she managed to paint the Senshi and their close encounter in a fairly decent light, that is to say one that didn't have people running for the hills in fear of the imminent alien apocalypse. After all, if they were friends of the Sailor Senshi, they couldn't be all that bad. Nabiki chuckled softy to herself.
All in all, this much more enjoyable than her business at Furinkan.
Ranma Saotome, heir to the Anything Goes Martial Arts and co-architect of the New Silver Millennium stepped over another rock outcropping as she, Setsuna, Usagi and Usa followed Cologne through the wilds of the Amazon rainforest. The Amazon Elder paused at the next rise, waiting for the trio of girls to catch up while easily balancing on her cane.
All things considered, they were light approximately seven magical girls, victims of attrition. No, they hadn't collapsed during the ten mile hike through the sweltering humidity of the Amazon rainforest. Rather the mighty Senshi were felled by last night's activities, which involved copious amounts of alcoholic beverages. In the end, Ranma had decided to spare the hung over girls in spite of her own pounding head, opting to take only those who could actually stand under their own power by noon. Ranma had only managed through superior biology, while it took staggering amounts of alcohol to actually knock her best friend down. Usa had managed surprisingly well herself while Usagi dodged the alcoholic activities in their entirety. Everybody else, including her boyfriend, were casualties of war. Most surprising however, was Ami, who was found to be a positive lush when properly motivated.
Ranma cleared another patch of greenery and stepped onto the same rise inhabited by the Elder at her side. She was joined seconds later by her unlikely child and grandchild, and the old woman pointed down into a clearing inhabited by several monolith stone spires arranged in a loose circle with another shorter one at its center.
"The Rite." Cologne stated with a frown. "Simultaneously the backbone of Amazonian culture and its very subversion."
Setsuna likewise frowned. "God only knows how many souls that thing is storing."
"It feels awful, Mom…" The pink haired odangos whispered to her blonde odangoed mother. "I mean, you told me about this, but…"
They were feelings Ranma could identify with. Malice radiated from the sacrificial grounds, and there was little doubt in her mind that the place was a manifestation of evil. Two Chinese women in combat silks, one with a scimitar and the other with a spear joined them from the green foliage that made up the bulk of the rainforest, bowing at Ranma's feet.
"The site is clear." Potion reported. "But…"
"But restless." Wax elaborated as Cologne translated. "We can feel the power fluctuating."
"Right. Uh, get up. Both yas." Ranma nodded, still not entirely comfortable with such displays of unrelenting loyalty. "Best we deal with it now, I guess."
Cologne nodded, and the group began the hike down into the Valley of the Rite. Fifteen minutes later, one Elder three magical girls, one martial artist queen and her two Amazon bodyguards came face to face with the imposing stones that made up the outer ring of the grounds. All looked to one another and advanced past them as if by mutual decision. The act triggered power and magic coursed through the air invisibly around them. All seven women primed their magic and ki on reflex, recognizing the dark energies organizing around them. Ranma scanned the area searching for the summoned demons that were sure to come. Instead, they focused in a different manner entirely.
"So, the self righteous Queen has returned."
Ranma spun around to find a ghost standing atop the central alter. She was female, obviously, clad in a flowing purple robe whose folds did little to hide her ample cleavage. Red eyes framed by nearly ground length red hair stared back at her with considerable malice, the evil intent therein obvious to anybody looking upon them. The martial artist boggled in disbelief as the image triggered a cascading rush of memories. She had debated at length with this woman. Had lunches with her. Attend balls. And… fought her. She was… Ranma's voice suddenly turned hoarse.
"Surprised?" the voice grated in return. "Surprised that I escaped your sealing? Surprised that I still exist despite your best efforts to stay my purpose?"
Ranma simply couldn't tear her eyes away as the memories continued to resonate within her. Friend. Political opponent. Enemy. Demon possessed sorceress.
"She's supposed to be dead!" Moon squealed, instantly processing the transformation to her Sailor moon aspect. The moon stave flashed into existence into her hands, pointing downrange into the smiling phantom. Ranma was too stunned to even do that, while Setsuna looked on skeptically and Usa curiously so. Another figure wavered into existence beside her.
"If I may," The red digital child known as the Brimful of Asha inserted, studying the ghost itself. "The central alter is a complex data core capable of harnessing magical as well as data constructs." The body cocked his head with a slight smile. "This is an AI like myself."
The Ghost Beryl stared down at the boy was a snarl, then returned her gaze back to the women as if to ignore him entirely. "Your pet is correct, though the knowledge will do you little good. As I have already mentioned, my purpose will not be stayed."
The Mistress of Time fielded the obvious question. "And that purpose is?"
"Your complete and utter destruction, of course!" She hissed, eyes glowing brightly. Ranma managed to free herself from memory lock and scrutinized the hologram that wore the guise of her greatest enemy. The fact that was merely a representation did wonders for her self confidence.
"And how are ya gonna do that from the dead?" Ranma smiled grimly, folding her arms with satisfaction. "Ain't as if we'll let you steal any more souls either."
"Arrogance was always your downfall, Serenity Moon." The AI tisked with an arrogance all its own. "I could summon youma to deal with you, but to what end? Even I realize that such an effort would simply be a waste of power, especially when I can put that power to a much more creative use."
"And what would that be, great liar?" Cologne questioned, finally working up the nerves to confront the being that had been considered their goddess for millennia.
"Ah, an Amazon Elder." The ghost chuckled. "How quaint. Your tribe has been horribly useful these last few centuries. Sadly you won't be reclaiming any of your sisters."
"We already got two back." Ranma returned, motioning to her guardians. "Think we'll manage without your help."
"Possibly." The AI admitted, clearly amused. "Given time. Time you no longer have."
With those words, the boy AI stiffened, an alarmed expression overcoming his features. "I'm detecting power buildup along a magical feedback loop, release capacity twelve kilotons and rising, Princesses, Your Highness."
"What!?" Usagi yelped, only to be answered by the gloating hologram.
"My purpose is complete, fools!" the unBeryl crowed. "My master has passed from this realm and I have been compromised. What's an AI to do?"
"Self destruct." Setsuna surmised grimly, earning a wide grin from the phantom.
"But that would be too mundane, wouldn't you agree?" She continued, entirely too eager for her own good, let alone the women surround her. "I had something much more… grandiose in mind."
"Magical buildup has obtained a release potential of fifty kilotons. Rising exponentially now." Brim reported.
Ranma gritted her teeth, addressing the hologram. "Such as…?"
"Why settle for merely you, Queen Serenity?" The AI asked rhetorically. "When I can crack the entire world in half!"
"Twenty four megatons." Brim continued. "I'm detecting no fall off in her power curve."
"That's right!" The ghost Beryl cackled insanely. "The instructions my master left were very specific: No survivors!"
"Now I can see why you and grandmother never talked about this woman." Usa Moon growled, appalled by the wantonly destructive nature of the construct before her. "Brim, hack the bitch."
"In progress." The boy nodded. "External data link established. Offensive protocols down and running." The little red AI paused. "Target is heavily fire walled and responding with EECM. Mapping numerous defensive software layers." Brim looked up with a frown. "This will take more time than we likely have, Princess. Feedback loop reading 512 megatons of potential and rising."
"Did you honestly think it would be so easy?" the hologram sneered. "I was designed for just this contingency."
"Where the hell is she getting all this power?!" Usagi protested. "Can't we just destroy the alter?!"
"HA!" The phantom Beryl snorted. "You're welcome to try!"
"Negative." Brim replied, supplementing his counterparts answer. "She is operating across a distributed network. It is doubtful we would locate every node in time, let alone isolate her to just one. I have mapped 312 thus far and there, though none of them contribute significantly to the buildup I am monitoring. 16.3 gigatons and climbing."
"Then she's feeding off an external source." Setsuna surmised. "Last I checked, China wasn't exactly building any pure heart crystal reactors. She may be tied into a major lei line. It would certainly make her threat a viable one."
Moon shook her head, blonde odangos flowing with the motion. "And exactly where are we going to find one of those?"
Ranma blinked and turned to Cologne, who returned the look of enlightenment. Ranma cursed. "It would have to be that, wouldn't it?"
The Elder nodded gravely. "It is the only significant concentration of magic in the area."
"Damn." Ranma ground her teeth together in frustration, turning to their AI. "If we eliminate the power source...?"
"The feedback loop will unravel." The red data boy stated definitively. "Her data network would more than likely crash as well."
"Spare yourself the trouble." The unBeryl shook her head, mocking the women before her. "In thirty seconds, the loop will collapse in upon itself and dump a 524 gigaton blast straight into Earth's core. Your time would be better spent praying to whatever pathetic God you hold dear."
Ranma shot Cologne one last look, receiving a confirming nod in return. "Goddamn cures were overrated anyway." She mumbled, then addressed Usa's AI. "Brim, target Jusenkyo."
The reaction was instantaneous and the phantom howled in rage. "NOOO! I will not be denied!"
Brim simply arched an eyebrow, but relayed the order. Past or not, the girl before him was the Queen of practically all known space according to his protocols. "Fire control reports mass driver number one standing by with 50mm non-fissionable ordinance. The area of effect fallout should be minimal."
"Can you evaluate everybody from the area?" She asked, painfully aware of the clock ticking down. The faces of the Guide and his daughter wouldn't stop her from dropping the anvil, but--
"Four non-combatants already D-shifted to minimum safe range." The boy reported, his youthful voice at total odds with the dire situation at hand. "Ten seconds until loop detonation. Nine. Eight..."
Virtually no time passed from her words to the event as seven women watched a knife thin line of light slice through the sky and down into the hills beyond, shattering the horizon in a kaleidoscope of blue and white. For a moment there was no sound, just the lightshow produced by the near light speed impact of an unguided 50mm slug, searing the sky with hard gamma release as it was converted into pure energy. The round's atomization instantly took five square kilometers of Chinese real estate with it, along with nearly one hundred cursed springs, each with their own very, very tragic story.
Then came the sound.
By the time the tempest of raging destruction cleared the valley beyond, its strength had been sapped by the surrounding hills and foliage. What hit Ranma and company was a mere fraction of the fury unleashed upon Jusenkyo, yet still retained near typhoon strength as it swept across their position in a massive wave of over pressure. Trees and Earth were uproot around them as Thor's hammer expended itself on the surrounding landscape, forcing the girls to power up simply to maintain their position, let alone survive the nearly two hundred kilometer per hour debris falling on to them. The roaring freight train lasted another minute before dying down to a low rumbled, finally giving Ranma, Usagi, Usa, Cologne, Potion and Wax the opportunity to rise from their defensive crouches.
The silver haired pigtail girl let out a low whistle as she survey the destruction. Most to the stone ring they had been standing in was either upturned or trashed, while the surrounding rainforest had been thoroughly demolished as well, as if by a giant weed eater.
She turned with the single word, finding Usagi staring off into the eastern sky. Beyond the hills, an angry reddish cloud drifted skyward, slowly evolving into a grey mushroom as it gained altitude. Cologne simply gaped as a four thousand year old monument of Chinese Amazon history was distributed evenly across the Qinghai providence, a chilling reminder of the power her former son in-law could bring to bear against her adversaries. Setsuna stared for a moment, then turned back to the now lifeless alter. Brim noted the questioning look and supplied the relevant information.
"Our disruption of the lei line caused the power she was maintaining to feed back across her network." The boy explained, slowly calling the rest of the girl's attention away from the expanding mushroom cloud. "The residual power from its de-resolution was more than enough to fry all 467 nodes of her data core."
"Just desserts." Usa hrumped, tossing a pink odango streamer back over her shoulder.
Cologne still had a concerned air about her. "The Souls. What of our sisters?"
Ranma Saotome closed her eyes and concentrated. After a moment, they popped open and she shrugged. "Still floatin' around near as I can tell."
"While the altar's digital matrix does appear overloaded, spiritual containment is intact, shielded." The boy noted, walking around the centerpiece of the Amazon grounds. "It also helps that it was buried sixteen dimensions deep to allow easier access to the demon realms."
"Then retrieval is possible." Setsuna stated with a thin smile, to which the boy nodded back.
"At least in theory." He folded his arms. "With no AI to monitor the dimensional pocket or controlling matrix to govern it, they should be effectively in a holding pattern."
Setsuna nodded, finding the hypothesis acceptable. "Still, we should get Rei in here just to make sure that spiritual containment is kosher before trying to manifest your Amazons back into the physical plain."
Cologne agreed. "A wise precaution." Potion rattled some Chinese off and Cologne nodded at her concerned expression, turning to Ranma.. "Your shield-maiden is correct, son in-law. There is no telling how many of our sisters this pit of despair has swallowed. Best we relieve their suffering as soon as possible."
Ranma Saotome Serenity jerked her gaze away from the smoldering horizon beyond with a serious look. "Trust me. It's on my to-do list."
"We'll port Hotaru in tomorrow." Setsuna stated, staring at the non-functional alter. "We should be able to pull a good number of them out on the first go between--"
"Wait a minute." All the women turned to face the pink haired teen, who was still focused on the billowing gray and orange cloud beyond. "Did we just nuke Jusenkyo?"
"Uhhh…" Ranma blinked. The smoldering remains being spread across the landscape were pretty hard to miss.
"As in the Great Lake of Jusenkyo?" Clueless stares coated her person as Usa Moon's face slowly melted into a mixture of shock and surprise. Suddenly, that same expression focused on Usagi. "Why didn't you tell me Grandma was the one that made one of the world's twelve wonders!?!"
"Now wait a minute!" Ranma bristled at the girl. "It wasn't my damn gun!"
The indignant girl now focused on her grandmother. "Oh, and I'll bet you were holding out on me just to see the expression on my face, huh?!"
The redhead's brain quickly sidestepped the paradox of tenses and heedlessly returned fire. "Well if I'd a known you were gonna act like this, I probably would have!"
"You did know I was going to act like this, Grams!"
"Oh, woe be me for siring such disrespectful offspring!"
The Guardian of Time's eyes flick back and forth between the trio as their banter escalated, rubbing her temples in order to preempt the migraine that was sure to be arriving any minute now. Setsuna Meiou sighed, turning back up the hill from whence they came.
She was getting too old for this shit.
All things considered, it had been a very productive week for Ranma Saotome-Serenity, martial artist extraordinaire and one time galactic ruler. It had also been a tiring one. Between retrieving the fallen Amazons from their spiritual prison to hammering out the details of world conquest, she thoroughly drained. Sure, pulling Amazons back from the dead was tiring, but how was she supposed to know how much detail went into planning world domination?
Then again, it was all coming back to her, albeit slowly and in fragments that left her wondering how the hell she'd pulled it off with a galaxy, let alone planet Earth. Maybe it was like riding a bike, she remembered musing sarcastically a few days back. Once you fell off and all that.
The contract Nabiki had written up was surprisingly detailed. It seemed the girl had a positive knack for the finer details of world domination, and it showed in the contractual prose. Not that they could ever take any disputes to a court of law, Ranma smiled as she watched the sister and Inners pump her Granddaughter for information on the future just outside the Tendo household. Of course, those sorts of disputes wouldn't be settled in a court of law anyway, and if all went well, she would be the court of law when it was all said and done.
Par for the course, Ranma decided and ended up putting her name on the dotted line two days ago along with Cologne and every single member of the Amazon tribe. The resurrection of their sisters and testimony in her favor swayed the hosts' opinion toward the allegiance decisively, and it she couldn't help but to note the irony in that she now had nearly three hundred and fifty bodyguards, swearing their direct allegiance to her personally after being fished out of the void.
Thankfully, she was able to leave most of them at home, though no less than twenty five of them insisted on returning with her and were stationed in and around the dojo at this very moment, either silently standing just off to the side or concealed out of sight. Shampoo was her liaison to the group. All were extremely lethal, not to mention fanatic in the protection of their new Queen as they had all spent no less two hundred and fifty years in the late Beryl's demonic holding tank. Needless to say, their skills and survival instincts were honed to a molecular edge, which brought up another point in turn. Most of them were actually better than Ranma herself, which was more than a slight blow to the best martial artist in Japan. Her only consolation to that was the fact that her innate magical abilities were returning as well, meaning that she now had two formidable arts to bring to bear on any violent outbreaks, not just one.
And what to do about Nabiki? In the end, that had been one of her easier decisions made during her initial negotiations with Cologne. It was also a decision largely made through the life and times of Serenity Moon.
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
Not that Nabiki Tendo was an enemy per se, but it was far better that the sister was on her leash than somebody else's, though it was unlikely the girl knew just what lengths the redhead would go to insure her new empire come to fruition. Agami had already come up with some interesting suggestions concerning the Tendo, such as hacking her bank accounts and slashing her credit scores if it ever came down to it. The AI could effectively render her persons non grata in seconds. Scary. That aside, she knew from experience that Nabiki was just plain good at what she did. Not just good, but liked it; always the hallmark of a good subordinate.
A dull roar broke here thoughts and Ranma looked up to find a large hammerhead axe-head of a spacecraft descending out of the clouds. The silver haired pigtailed girl's eye twitched as the enormous craft shredded the overcast blanket of clouds pervading the afternoon day and slowly closed on their position… After taking the scenic route over downtown Tokyo. She wasn't sure what the going salary was on her budding Monarchy's public relations officer, but she instinctively knew Nabiki would be working her ass off for it.
And probably deserved every penny, if her performance last Friday had been any indication.
The cold shadow crept over the dojo like a storm front, blotting out the sun as it had originally when Usa first arrived. With it brought silence as the Senshi abandoned their conversations in sheer awe. On one hand, ships such as the one above flickered on the edge of all of their perforated pre-incarnation memories. On the other, the thing was simple enormous. If even a fraction of what her granddaughter had explained was accurate, the Dark Omen class drop ship sliding above them now was the latest in a line of combat landing craft designed to penetrate high threat surface environments; literally a flying fortress.
In other words, the fighters scrambled from Atsugi air force base now streaking across its starboard posed no threat to it whatsoever.
"Oops!" Usa noted the that all conversation had stopped and glanced at the giant ship as if its arrival were an everyday occurrence. "Ride's here!"
"So it's back to the future, is it?" Setsuna queried with a slight smile as she walked up beside Ranma. "Are you going to be alright? We've already changed your past a bit."
"No problem." Usa shrugged. "You managed to iron out temporal mnemonics a couple of centuries ago, so I'll be just fine."
The Princess of Time opened her mouth, though words failed to come out. Ranma simply stared at the girl for a bit as she had become accustom to for the past week, still unsure of what the future held for them both. She was a wonderful girl. And her granddaughter. That in itself was still a mind bender. It was tough not to return the familiarity Usa was showering them with, as if she had known them all for a very long time.
Usa Moon paused beside Ranma and Usagi with a smile. "I had the Brimful of Asha drop a couple of defense platforms in high orbit around Earth and a few to cover the moon. Those should tide Agami-chan over until she can get to the supply drops we left in the Sea of Tranquility." She took a step, then paused with a thoughtful expression on her face. "Say do you want us to take care of that asteroid or are you going to do it yourselves?"
Ranma and Usagi looked at one another simultaneously, then over to Setsuna, who in turn looked at them, each with an uncertain expression flickering across their features. It vanished as all three came to the same mutual decision.
"Okay!" Usa beamed. "Best I be departing before Kuno-sempai arrives!" Without a second glance, she brought her wrist bracer up. "We're leaving!"
"Aye, Princess." A disembodied female voice replied, and Usa's figure began to waver, as if folding across itself.
"Oh," the pink odangoed girl piped even as her voice began to resonate through the dimensional shifting. "Don't forget to nuke the Jurians! And Auntie Unagi says, "Hi Sis, Momma!"
With those last words and an accompanying wave, the girl faded from their sight entirely and the gigantic monolith above their heads began to creep away, slowly gaining altitude as it did so. Terrestrial fighters and choppers began peeling off as it crawled through the layer of overcast, then suddenly ignited with rays of purple fire, accelerating skyward at high speed.
The Senshi and Saotomes watched as the hammer head quickly reduced itself to a dot and disappeared into the only patch of blue sky on an otherwise gray dominated horizon. The silence lasted all of a moment before Setsuna blinked, a curious expression flowing over her features. "Wait… Auntie?"
Ami did some quick genealogy calculations. "If Usa has an Auntie, that means Usagi has…"
"A sister!?" Minako stared incredulously at her blonde counterpart while trying to imagine what the mystery sister would look like, then took on a wondering expression. "Usagi and Unagi… Who the hell names their kid 'eel'?"
Ranma simply snorted, gloating over the girl's shocked expression. "Bout time some of this chaos fell in somebody else's lap."
."Considering that would make you her mother…" Setsuna simply arched an eyebrow, waiting for her best friend to make the connection.
The Saotome's smile evaporated like a snowflake exposed to armpits of hell. "Oh no."
The silver haired girl's cheek took on a slight tick as her face slowly transformed into one of incredulity and horror. Haruka couldn't help but to chime in at the obvious implication. "So who's the lucky girl, your Highness?"
The twitching gained intensity as the Senshi launched into a full round of gossip and speculation.
what she looks like?"
"When will she be born?"
"What color will her hair be?"
"Blonde? Red? Pink?"
"I have a brother and a sister now?!"
"Will the Queen or her consort bear the child?"
Conversation screeched to a halt as all eyes locked on to Michiru, who simply stared back impassively. "What?"
Ranma ground her teeth down and cast a baleful glare at her champions. "I hate you all."
It also set Ranma's mind into an entirely new and not so welcome direction. Most of her time in this lifetime had been spent as a guy, with her curse only being two years old. It wasn't exactly a horrific existence, just inconvenient. That, and it never felt like the body belonged to her. Until the Ginzuishou and later, the memories to go with it. Now she had nearly two thousand years of experience and all of it favored a female persona. Much as she would have liked to cast it aside, it was like having to cut off an arm or leg; that is to say, impossible. So what did the future hold for her? She could dump the crystal and revert back to her male self. Not as if she didn't have enough time to decide for herself, though it was an omen of portent that the girl from the future had not once referred to her as grandfather or even male. Maybe--
Ranma Saotome's thoughts were rudely interrupted by the sound of rubber being brought to a high speed stop on the street outside the tendo property, quickly followed by several more of the sounds. Everybody in the courtyard turned to the gate and watched as it slammed open admitting numerous men in black suits and ties carrying long automatic weapons who flowed around the yard and the girls, taking up positions around them. A few of the more industrious men scaled the rooftop where Ranma had spent many a nights herself and began to unpack and assemble more weapons. The Tendo family bolted stared with in astonishment as their premises were secured, and even Nabiki seemed to have a slightly panicked look on her face. She edged up to the martial artist and whispered out the side of her mouth.
"If this has anything to do with our plans, I don't know you."
Ranma barely registered the disavowing of knowledge and hissed back, "Who the hell are these people?!"
Nabiki nodded to one of the closer agents with a smile, who in turn began to talk into his ear piece set. The Tendo tried to look as nonchalant as possible. "Government, unless I missed my guess."
"Then what's with the seven samurai?" Minako asked, motioning to the gate where Tatewaki, his sister and their Samurai body guards were entering through. The upperclassman strode confidentially up to the waiting girls and Ranma in particular as the ring of warriors once again established themselves around her person.
"My apologize for the delay, your Highness!" Tatewaki Kuno bowed with a slight smile, his sheathed family katana balanced lightly over his shoulder. Kodachi likewise smiled pleasantly, bowing as well. "Our audience consumed more time than was previously anticipated."
Ranma almost came through unfazed. Almost. "Uh, not a problem, Kuno."
Nabiki, however, pounced on the unasked question that her new employer either forgot or neglected to address. "So are these your guys, Kuno-baby?"
"Ha!" Kuno rolled with a hearty laugh. "The noble samurai around us suffice for the queen's guard. Nay, the great house of Kuno has no need for further men at arms."
The middle Tendo's eyes flicked to a nearby suit, then another. "So if they're not yours…"
Like so many others over the past few days, Setsuna Meiou felt her gut sink once more and couldn't resist asking the more important question. "Tatewaki Kuno, who was your audience with?"
"The Emperor and Empress of our mighty nation, of course!"
As if taking Tatewaki's cue, another platoon of armed suits walked through the gate at a measured pace, followed by what looked to be a handful of well dressed salary men and… Soun Tendo choked.
"And Empress!" Usagi squeaked, eyes buldging. "Oh my God! They're coming this way! How's my hair!?"
Usagi's hair was largely ignored by the gathering of Saotomes, Tendos and Senshi as the daper seventy year old and his slightly older kimono clad wife drew closer, eyes studying there group intently before focusing on Ranma herself. Nabiki was thinking about putting some distance between herself and the martial artist before the man's face broke into a smile, one mirrored gently by his wife. Nabiki nudged her redheaded companion ever so slightly.
"Make this good, Saotome." She hissed, barely audible to Ranma's ears. "If you get stuck, I'll take cut in and--"
Any coaching she had in mind was immediately derailed as the Japan's first couple stopped and dipped into a low bow before the martial artist, as did the surrounding suits and body guards. The martial artist's eyes widened to five hundred yen pieces and her head whipped around to pry an explanation out of the Kuno's only to find them in the same subservient bow. Even more shocking were the Emperor's next words as he and his wife recovered to their original height.
"The House of the Sun is honored to be in the presence of the House of the Moon once again, your Highness."
Ranma's cheek twitched as the Empress took her hands gently with that same warm smile. "We hope that history proves us to have been worthy stewards over that which you have tasked us through the long night, Serenity Moon sama."
The silver haired girl's wide eyes looked from Emperor to Empress, rapidly coming to the realization that she didn't know to say, and found Nabiki with a desperate look. The middle Tendo simply shook her head with wide eyes that mirrored her own. Beats the hell out of me, she emoted silently and Ranma turned back to the waiting royalty. Panic took a slight hold on Ranma and she found herself slipping further into her Serenity aspect for moral support as she waded though yet another decidedly odd political crisis. After all, never in her wildest dreams would she have thought the Emperor and Empress would be bowing to her.
And neither did the rest of her acquaintances, by the looks on their faces.
About the only that didn't have the same look of shock on their faces was her best friend and the Kunos. To the former, her royal status was a given even if she was flying blindly into the future at the moment. To the latter… Well, best not go there. How that pair even knew the Emperor, let alone well enough to obtain an audience with him was a question better left to scholars and sages.
"Um, the pleasure is all mine, your Majesty" She inclined her head with a grace she didn't feel, hoping that what she was drawing from her other half was sufficient for the moment. She motioned to the wide eyed blond next to her. "My daughter, Usagi Tsukino."
See? Even said it without wincing this time, Ranma crowed mentally as attention was successfully diverted from her and onto the reincarnation of her daughter.
"Please," the Emperor nodded, "Call me Akihito. My wife Kojun." The girl began fidgeting as the royal couple bowed with an equal amount of reverence for the Silver Millennium's heir apparent.
Attention turned back to Ranma and she felt the burning need to deflect it once again. "My parents, Nodoka and Genma Saotome."
"A pleasure." The Empress nodded, only bowing slightly this time, enough to display respect befitting the parents of a galactic ruler while Nodoka beamed proudly. Yes, if a tradeoff between the pact of being man amongst men and destiny was to be made, this particular outcome was becoming more than satisfactory with each passing moment! Queen of an empire, grandchildren, great grandchildren, the respect of the Emperor and Empress… Yes, Nodoka thought to herself, woman amongst women was looking rather attractive at the moment and she had so wanted a daughter when little Ranma was first born… Genma on the other hand squirmed like a bug caught in the spotlight, hoping to God that they hadn't been reading up on his criminal record.
"May we inquire if there will be anymore… visitations, your Highness?" The Emperor inquired with a slight smile, motioning vaguely to the sky above.
Ranma mentally frowned as attention returned to her person, but bore it with determination. "Eh, No. I think Usa has gone home. Probably." Ranma's unsteady gaze flicked over to the pleasantly smiling Kunos. "They didn't cause you too much trouble, did they?"
"Tachi-kun? Goodness no." Kojun smiled warmly. "Though I must admit, we both found it hard to believe when he informed us that you had returned to us after all this time. After all, all of our attention had been focused on your daughter up until now."
"Tachi-kun?" Nabiki stared at the kendoist with an eyebrow raised in disbelief while Usagi choked on the first ladies words.
Setsuna merely smiled, as if the statement were a given. "You've known all along."
Akihito returned her smile. "It is rather hard to ignore the activities of a certain group of magical girls defending the populace from extra-demonic activities." He turned back to Ranma. "It doesn't help that your daughter is, shall we say, rather obvious in her efforts."
"Yeah, been trying to break her of that." The martial artist nodded ruefully as Usagi turned bright red in embarrassment.
"Indeed." The man concluded. "From there, it was simple putting two and two together, especially given our families mutual history. It has been a chore to keep their real identities a secret, admittedly."
Ami's own eyes widened now with the new information. "Just how much do you know?"
The Empress grinned impishly. "Everything, my dear. Suffice to say we put the countries' tax revenues to good use."
"Evidentially." Ami nodded dumbly.
Both husband and wife took amusement at the shocked expressions on the magical girl's faces before the Emperor's dropped in favor of a more serious tone. "I must ask, do you plan on rebuilding the great empire?"
Ranma considered the question and the ramifications as only Serenity could. Answering yes would potentially step on the toes of not only an ancient family linage, but one of the cornerstones of Japanese culture. The last thing she wanted to do was alienate potential allies, but if she was going to protect all of humanity, it was a necessary step. That, and she was apparently well received to at least some degree. She weighed a few more options before going with the tool that had served her best over the years-- the truth.
"Yeah, I was planning on it." Ranma admitted. "There's a lot goin' on out there and it's my duty to protect everybody from it. Hope it doesn't screw up any plan you both had."
"Not at all!" The Emperor smiled. "In fact, we would be honored to help the House of the Moon ascend to its former glory. Our families have always shared close relations, after all."
"Of course, it wouldn't be prudent to do anything too drastic at the moment." The Empress cautioned with a conspiratorial smile. "And I suspect the parliament will have a fit once they realize just how little power they actually have."
"Perhaps now would be a good time to mention the assets we have in place in China." Nabiki stepped forward, having regained her mental equilibrium now that she was back on the familiar ground, that being Ranma's chief advisor to world domination.
"Oh, this should be most exciting," the Empress gushed.
"Perhaps over tea?" Kasumi stepped forward without missing a beat, leading the royal couple toward the house as the ever polite hostess.
"Certainly." The Emperor smiled, then turned back to Ranma. "You will, of course, be joining us?"
"Eh, tea. Yeah. Of course." Ranma returned, numbed once again as events began to spiral beyond her reckoning. At least she wasn't alone, she noted, as nearly all of the Senshi, her daughter, parents, Soun and Akane stood in a similar state of awe. Only Setsuna remained with her wits about her and a smile plastered across her face. Ranma gave her a testy look.
"You're enjoying this too damn much, Setsy."
"Almost as much as your baby shower." The Mistress of Time remarked as she passed her best friend on the way to the house for some tea and crumpets with the Emperor and Empress of Japan.
Ranma Saotome, heir to the Anything Goes School of Martial arts and ruler of the former Silver Millennium stared silently at the stars as she laid back on the rooftop of the Tendo dojo, enjoying the peace and quiet it provided. It also gave her the opportunity for memories and lifetimes to reconcile themselves with one another in peace, instead of the pressure cooker of experience she had endured over the last three weeks.
And to think those were actually simpler times.
They had seemed like insurmountable problems before. After all, who else had to deal with four women claiming her as their fiancé, super powered villains and the inevitable monthly kidnapping of one Akane Tendo? Now, they were actually the least of the problems vying for her attention. Now she was training magical girls, plotting the takeover of China, resurrecting a Moon fortress with technology thousands of years in advance of that presently available, getting to know her reincarnated daughter all over again--
Speaking of which. The top of a ladder found the edge of the roof and the light click of steps echoed in the night as its wielder ascended to the top, blonde odangos and blue eyes clearing the ledge and finding her with a light smile.
The smile widened and the girl known as Sailor Moon cleared the top of the ladder and swung herself onto the wooden shingles next to Ranma. The movement forced the girl to smooth the long skirt back to a modest length as she settled down beside her first mother.
"Kasumi told me you might be up here." Ranma nodded with her own smile. As foreign as the concept was, having the girl around- her daughter -filled no small part of her soul with warmth. "She said it was where you came to think."
"Yeah, been doin' lots of that lately." The silver haired girl admitted and returned her gaze to the evening stars.
"It was the same with me." Usagi admitted, lying back onto the roof in much the same position as her reincarnated mother. "I wasn't sure I could handle being a magical girl, let alone the reincarnated princess of an ancient, magical empire."
"Heh." Ranma chuckled, her head rolling back to bear on her daughter's face. "Sounds pretty familiar. I'm getting' the hang of it… Slowly. Growin' up a guy ain't helpin' much though."
"And the memories." Usagi nodded with sigh. "Sometimes I wish I had them all. It would make things a lot easier. Probably would ace all my tests at school…"
"I hear a 'but' in there." Ranma noted, earning a nod from her daughter.
"But then I worry about what happens to 'me'." She frowned upon voicing the concern aloud. It wasn't something she had shared even with her protectors, the champions of a realm long forgotten. "What happens to me, the normal, everyday school girl?"
"Or the boy trained as a martial artist since he could walk."
"Exactly." Usagi agreed. "I can deal with a trickle of memories, but sometimes…"
"It overwhelms ya. Yeah, been there, done that." Ranma propped herself up and the new position caught her silver hair at just the right angle, causing it to very nearly glow of its own accord. She shook her head and tapped a single finger to her temple. "There's just enough up her to keep me guessin'. Say the wrong thing or see somethin' familiar and we start to sound like her again. Or me. Or somethin'."
Usagi contented herself with silent agreement, staring at the silver hue that now surrounded the girl's head. That by itself was triggering all sorts of vague associations of her long dead mother, kept only in check by the fact that Ranma's hairstyle remained in a short pigtail, not the long silver streamers of memory.
"I wonder if they'll all come back at all."
"Beats the hell out of me," Ranma snorted with dry amusement. "Though God knows my plate is mighty full at the moment."
Usagi joined her mothers sitting position with a smile now. "Who would have thought, a coronation ceremony hosted by the Emperor and Empress!"
"Yeah, tell me about it." Ranma shook her head in equal parts irritation and awe. "Nabiki says I'll be the defacto ruler of Japan when it's all said and done."
"I still can't believe it." Usagi giggled, and Ranma threw an annoyed, but amused look her way.
"Laugh it up, Sa-chan." She snorted. "Cuz you can be damn sure my heir is gonna be suffering there right beside me."
"What?!" The blonde's eyes widened suddenly as all traces of humor were wiped clean from her face. "Nobody else will even know about it for years! It's a gesture of good will! Why do I need to be there!?"
Ranma Saotome savored the girl's agony for another few moments before her face dropped into a neutral expression. "I have been thinking about a few things, Sa-chan." The girl blinked, immediately noticing the displacement of the girl's rough speech in favor of a more refined tone. That really is Mom in there! She realized, and the thought sobered her faster than any threat a secret state sponsored coronation could ever hope to produce. "First, you have my full blessing concerning Endymion and yourself. Bring him to the dinner to formalize your union."
Ranma-Serenity Moon noticed the jaw drop and smiled gently. "I do not remember everything, but I remember glimpses of The Fall. He acquitted himself honorably then and he upheld that tradition in the here and now." She nodded to herself, seemingly satisfied with her own conclusion before moving on to the next topic on her mind. She held out a hand and the Ginzuishou flashed into silent existence, floating. "This I remember clearly." Usagi now stared at the multifaceted gem whose own innate glow was now augmented by the moonlight, much as Ranma's silver hair did. "This was my project for many centuries; repairing this fractured remnant of a dead world.
The silver haired martial arts queen took Usagi's hand with her free one and the crystal settled gently into the palm responsible for it. Ranma curled her fingers around the shining relic and pressed it into her daughter's hand, pushing the girl's state of disbelief to epic levels. "As I recall, I left it as your inheritance. It is only right that I should return it to you."
"But! But! You can't! I--"
Ranma curled Usagi's fingers around the crystal and removed her own hand. Even as she withdrew it, the magic of Jusenkyo reasserted itself and the Saotome's body shifted back to its natural form, causing the daughter to gasp as the curse produced a 5'8" black haired boy before her very eyes. Sure, she had seen it once already, but that didn't lessen the shock one iota. Even Ranma seemed slightly stunned as he blinked the affects away.
"That was… different." He admitted, staring at his now larger male hand though his pattern of speech remain consistent with the woman Usagi identified as her mother. "This is going to take some getting use to… Not like I don't have a few years to figure it out I guess." The blonde simply continued to stare as Ranma reached into subspace and pulled out a thermos of cold water, splashing herself back into the silver haired girl before addressing her daughter's curious gaze. "That will make this easier. Too much female for that body at the moment." Usagi simply nodded dumbly. "As I was saying… The stone was simultaneously my guilt and redemption, and now I have a new one to focus on."
"A new… Ginzuishou?"
Ranma Saotome nodded. "The Silver Millennium. It is dead, shattered under my rule much like Meridian. I will not have you inherit my ashes, daughter." Usagi Tsukino was speechless. There it was. The rebirth of the Silver Millennium right before her very eyes. "Learn the lessons of that in your very hands and you will make a fine heir when the time comes."
Usagi stared at the warm smile Ranma offered her, then down at the crystal glowing warmly in her palms. In that moment, a decision was made, memories or no. "I… I will… Mom."
Ranma nodded and the warm smile faded into a roguish grin. The Queen's hand began to glow and a slight wisp of steam escaped the open thermos top. Warmed sufficiently through ki, Ranma upturned the remains of the water onto her head and shifted back to his male aspect.
"Wierd." He admitted, then chuckling at the wide eyes that now considered him once more. "C'mon, Sa-chan. Lets go down stairs and give everybody a surprise they won't forget."
And that is the end of today's lesson. First, sorry about the delay, as my ISP crapped out. I orginally had this slated for new years release. Hope you all enjoyed the ride as much as I did, and shame on anybody who didn't think I was going to complete this fic… or my other ones, for that matter :P Inspiration was borrowed from a number of sources, as you may have noted; Among them, XCom, Warhammer 40k, a splash of Honor Harrington, Lyrical magical girl and a recycled theme from one of my DOA fics (see below). Overall, I'm quite pleased with this fic from my own POV, more so than Best of Times. Part of the reason for that is my expanded knowledge of the SM universe, which helps plot coherency a great deal. I'm sure it's not perfect, but nothing is, so I'll take what I can get. Of course, any lovin' is good lovin—
Er, nevermind that.
In the end, I'll be honest and admit that the premise of this fic isn't all that original, and it came down to a simple question when the idea first came to mind—What Senshi hasn't Ranma been reincarnated as? Thus, I aimed for the lowest common denominator: Queen Serenity. The idea was born as an offshoot of tBoT, then merged with the original HttE. After that, it was pretty easy to avoid the 'NotARanma' fic stereotype, since I decided early on that their personalities would parallel one another, a feat made even easier since I was type-casting Serenity as a more militaristic ruler, only mellowing after her first child. Like Ranma, she had a well honed sense of honor, was the best at what she did and was able to make the hard decisions, damn the consequences. The only thing separating the two is experience.
It ends! Some of you might find it odd that I let Ranma get the crap beat out of her in the final battle, but look at it this way-- Sure Ranma is a prodigy, but she's only 17. How much martial arts could she possibly have on a 200+ year old Amazonian Elder? He knows exactly, what, two techniques from their school? Plus these are elders. It isn't a stretch to assume they're the best of the best, potential prodigies in their own rite.
Temporal mnemonics: Changing the past creates numerous problems for those in the future, especially for those from the future participating in the past; The classic 'son from the future killing his father before being born' paradox is the most extreme example of this. Assuming the events are minor enough, the traveler might still exist, but find their memories altered with no conscious realization of the actual event once they return to their native timeframe. To counter this, the Setsuna Meiou of Usa Moon's time has developed protocols to counteract the effects of temporal mnemonics that would otherwise leave the person unaware that changes even took place. Theoretically, these protocols would only encompass slight changes to the timeline, not the massive timeline reformatting that Crystal Tokyo, Chiba Usa and her future Setsuna Meiou were subsequently destroyed by.
Matchups; As you can see, none. I actually feel the story is better for it, revolving mostly around Ranma's evolution and her friendship with Setsuna. Obviously the future holds something in store for Ranma, but like the cast, it will remain a teasing unknown to you. On that note, I was considering scripting Ranma's second child as a pink haired boy from another popular anime, who carried a sword with him everywhere. Assuming you could figure out who that was, Ranma's gender and the husband would have been painfully apparent. In the end, I decided crossing over another series in such a vague manner so late in the game would detract from the fic. That, and the hints I provided my proof readers seemed to fall on deaf ears. If they fail you as well, re-read this paragraph carefully and know true horror.
Joining the Schools; Here I have Setsuna thoroughly dismantle the Tendo-Saotome agreement. The original agreement can, of course, be interpreted many ways and I take one of the harsher available. The reason I sell the Tendos so short here is because of Akane's skill level compared to nearly every main character in the series and Soun's demonstrated level of activity in the same arena. That's next to nothing, btw. Akane is good, but she has no special techniques that seem to be the hallmark of other complex school styles. In the end, she practices by herself and her father is never once shown to have coached the girl either in flashback or present day. Considering that Genma, also a student of Happosai, has numerous special techniques and continuously trains his son, I find the Tendo end of the bargain disturbingly lacking.
Again, it's easy to be generous here as well-- The Anything Goes Indiscriminant Grappling could be very well demonstrated as Akane's brawls with the Furinkan militia; that being an expert against multiple opponents. As Trimatter has pointed out to me, the bargain is easily fulfilled if that is the case. Unfortunately, it doesn't address the other concerns-- Compared to the other martial artists, she is lacking. Likewise, her father doesn't appear to have taught her any of advanced techniques that Genma has obviously benefited from under Happosai. As every female character in anime wields a mallet o' chi, I can hardly count that. Demon head Soun might work… If Akane ever displayed its usage herself. In the end, I look upon the Tendo end of the School poorly, having produced an heir of some repute, but nothing in the way of higher martial arts skills. Of course, my supposition hinges on the fact that Soun Tendo actually was of a skill level above his daughter and had his own techniques to teach.
Finale; For your reading pleasure, I'm including the original incarnation of Heir to the Empire. I posted a link to it in an earlier chapter, but that link is dead now and half you don't check the ANs anyway, so here it is. Don't ask for more because its effectively dead :p Minimal editing comes with the territory, so read at your own risk.
Heir to the Empire (alpha)
The Elder Matriarch of the Joketsuzoku Amazons watched from the nearby rooftop as another of her great granddaughter's plans descended into maddening chaos. Cologne sighed. She had warned her against the use of the Passion dust on son in-law, but Shampoo would not listen. To her, it was the perfect plan. All she had to do was sprinkle the dust on her victim and he would fall in love (and lust) with the next person he saw for the next five hours. More than enough time for a date and passionate trice, the purple haired Amazon figured. Once duly bedded, her Airen would be honor bound to recognize her as the sole legitimate fiancée and the circle would be complete. Sure, he might not love her immediately after the fact, but he would undoubtedly in time.
Would have, if the younger Amazon had actually hit her intended target. Instead, one of her deliveries went awry and into a group of high school girls walking home with all too predictable results. The first male they saw was Ranma and they swarmed over him like locus over a field of crops. The favored fiancée, Akane Tendo was obviously incensed while Shampoo desperately tried pulling one girl after another off of her beloved. The tussle had attracted the stick boy, who promised to smite the evil sorcerer Saotome for enslaving yet another harem of women while Mousse had somehow picked the lock on his cage to assist Kuno in his efforts. The insane girl showed up next, determined to beat the lust crazed school girls to their man and the Spatula girl violently intervened on his behalf.
All in all, Cologne couldn't help but to be amused, especially when son in-law managed to extract himself from the riot unnoticed, fleeing at high speed. She gave the melee one last look. It'll probably be another ten minutes before they realize he was gone, and while she would have liked to stay for the rest, Cologne had business to take care of… Son in-law business.
Ranma felt her presence a fraction of a second before she landed on the Tendo roof with the light tap of her cane and smiled mentally. Of course, a fraction would see most people dead against the person at his back, but it was a far cry better than what he'd been able to detect six months ago, which was absolutely nothing.
"Whaddya want, Old Ghoul?"
"OW!" Ranma turned around fully to face his newest source of irritation, as if the four fiancées, three rivals and so many love stricken school girls weren't enough. "Ya know, I came up here to get away from that!"
The Elder chuckled softly. "My, what a ruckus you cause son in-law. Most men would sell their soul for the number of women that pursue you." Her grin widened. "Why if I were two hundred years younger…"
Ranma paled at the thought, eliciting another chuckle. "Hmmf. If they can take being poisoned, stabbed and beaten every other day, they're more than welcome."
Cologne watched the boy as he gave her a final glare and relaxed, laying back onto the roof to watch the clouds above. Yes, I can see where he comes from, she thought as she studied the martial artist. Maybe in another time and place, Shampoo could have won his heart. Maybe if she hadn't had to kill him first. Maybe if there were no other fiancées to interfere. Maybe if somebody of character raised him. But then, maybe not. There was always destiny to consider. She was secretly pleased at the moment, however. While the tension remained, there was apparently enough mutual respect between the two for him to leave himself open as he did now to watch the clouds. For all of his faults, it was one of his more redeeming qualities. The boy rarely held a grudge. Oh, he wouldn't forget a trespass, but he wouldn't become a slave to vengeance either. Only once had she seen the Saotome take a step in that direction and she shivered to think how far he would have taken his vengeance if the Tendo girl had actually died. Saffron was God. A minor one to be sure, but God nonetheless. In short, he was the best martial artist of his generation, period, which brought her to the boy laying at her feet. Or cane as it were.
"What are your plans, son in-law?"
A single eye opened up, considering the elder balanced above him carefully. "Not to be your son in-law?"
Cologne let a small smile escape her mask. "Yes, I think it is time to move beyond such petty scheming." Now the other eye popped open, her unusual words gaining his attention. "It has become obvious that such dealing have only hindered our plans, so a new path must be taken."
Ranma sat up, now thoroughly intrigued. "I won't be marryin' Shampoo."
The Elder nodded. "As of this moment, any pursuit she chooses of you is a purely personal matter…" She paused for a moment with trepidation. It was the trump card she had relied on for so long and was now about to throw away. It was hard. "This is no longer a tribal matter."
She now had Ranma's complete and undivided attention and his stare burned into her. "That would mean…"
"The kiss protocols are at this moment null and void."
Ranma gaped, as if not believing his own ears, but quickly came to his senses. "And Shampoo?"
Definitely a man of honor, Cologne approved. Even with freedom in his grasp he still thinks of others first. "Absolved of any honor debt to the tribe on my authority."
Ranma blinked. It was all so… Unbelievable. It wouldn't get rid of Shampoo outright, but it wasn't an insignificant offering either.
She considered the boy, deciding it wasn't quite time to lay all the cards on the table yet. "Other considerations have come into play son in-law. Until I can confirm the final sign, that is the most I can offer you at the moment."
"Sign?" The martial artist's curiosity was piqued now.
Cologne nodded once more but declined to answer the question. "Good day, son in-law" With that, she was gone, roof hopping along the horizon.
Akane was… Ruffled. The two sisters and the respective household fathers watched the youngest daughter with morbid fascination as she stalked her prey, one Ranma Saotome, heir to the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts.
"And exactly where did you run off too?" Deadly venom dripped from her voice and her fiancé took an involuntary step back.
"Listen Akane, it's not…" her eyes narrowed, cutting off his explanation decisively.
"LOOK AT ME!" Akane's furnace of anger soared out of control. Ranma looked at her clothes and the state of dishevel the were in. "I had to fight off seven school girls and three of your fiancées while YOU RAN OFF!"
Ranma's timidness evaporated instantly with the words. "You were trying to mallet me too! While I was being mugged by school girls! And fiancées! And my rivals!"
Akane's battle aura flared to life and a mallet appeared in her hand. "No excuses!" Ranma considered dodging, but the hammer had a +2 to strike versus pigtailed fiancés. He never stood a chance. The impact didn't hurt. His transition through the house wall only stung. The rock he skipped off of outside, however was a different story. The impact bounced him like a pop-fly ball, sending him into a high arc that could only land in one place.
Ranma's hands dug into grassy earth. She blinked. Grassy earth? That should be a wet koi pond, right? She ran her hands across the uneven carpet of grass and took mental stock of the situation. Letsee… Akane. Mallet. Wall. Rock. Pond. Grass was nowhere to be found in that abbreviated series of events. She pushed off the ground and looked into a distinctly unfamiliar sky, framed by a jagged mountain range. Impossible. She knew these mountains. They were…
Her head whipped around, instantly identifying the sound of metal biting into metal. Swords. Battle. Ranma ran across the clearing and stumbled up a hill, the sounds of armed combat intensifying as she asended. The pigtailed girl cleared the crest of the hill and was greeted by a sight that should have only been seen in movies. It was a massive battle comprised of a large group of predominantly male combatants surrounding a smaller group of females. Amazons, Ranma mentally tagged and watched as they attempted a breakout. The agony of metal cried out once more as the Amazon's re-engaged, cutting down their attackers in like wild animals lusting for blood. No, Ranma decided as he watched the carnage below. Not animals. They were a tightly organized unit that slew their captors with deliberate precision.
But they were going to lose.
Despite there skill, the numbers were against them and they were being slowly whittled away by the encircling attackers. At the center of the Amazon's formation stood a tall Chinese women, her raven black hair streaming down. She issued battle commands to her warriors and led the effort to inflict the highest number of casualties on their enemy before they too fell. A command was yelled from the back of the enemy lines and the horde of armor clad troops pressed forward. The Amazon defense crumbled under the weight of the assault until all but the most skilled of warriors held the line, their lesser fallen in battle. They numbered ten against the world. Finally the raven-haired woman stopped issuing commands and unsheathed the strait edge of her jian. She turned her head and Ranma now found himself in direct eye contact with the woman and something passed between the two. Familiarity. The martial artist gasped and the circle of combat closed. Eight warriors. Five. The leader's shield maiden finally fell and the warrior was by herself, blade flashing to fight an impossible battle. She held for another ten minutes before a blade arced in and impaled her shoulder.
"AAHHHHaaaaRRR!" The cry was simultaneous and Ranma clutched her own shoulder to guard the invisible wound. Her sword dropped and both women fell to the earth, bitter blackness claiming them.
The martial artist's eyes snapped open to find three women hovering over him—Mother, Akane and Kasumi. The first thing she did was feel her left shoulder, only slightly relieved that there was no wound to be found.
"Are you alright, Son?" Nadoka asked along side Kasumi. Akane hung back in guild, though her eyes were still saturated with concern.
"Tieu Shu." Ranma whispered and the women looked at her intently. A look of annoyance crossed Akane's face. The redhead rubbed her head, her cranium pounding with pain.
"Ranma, you're not…Um, Ranma-chan again are you?" Kasumi asked tentatively, remembering the last time he had received a similar knock on the head.
She shook her head, but frowned. "Nope, just me. But…"
"But what…?" It was Akane this time.
Ranma opened her mouth, then closed it with realization. "That wasn't a dream." The women looked at the girl as fear began to cloud her eyes.
"I've got to go." The martial artist stated suddenly, standing up from her futon. Akane took offense at the sudden proclamation.
"To see Tieu Shu?" Akane fumed. She knew the name of a fiancée when she heard it.
"Close, Akane. Very close." Ranma was gone through the open window, leaving the stunned women in his wake.
"Airen!" Ranma sighed as he stepped into the Cat Café whose staff was recovering from the recent dinner rush. Shampoo bounced over and glomped onto an arm, totally oblivious to the fact that she was still wearing her girl-type. "Ranma go on date with Shampoo?"
"Uh…" Ranma stammered, cheeks turning pink. "I actually need to see your grandmother."
Shampoo nodded sharply and began to drag him around the numerous tables to the back counter, never releasing the vice-like glomp. "Great Grandmother, Airen to see you!"
The elder pogo'd over on her staff from the cash register, noting the look in her eyes. This should be interesting, she thought. "So, son in-law, that's a nasty lump on your head. Which fiancée gave it to you this time?" She chuckled at her own humor and even Shampoo couldn't help but to giggle.
The humor died away instantly and Ranma knew she had scored a hit. What was hit she had no idea, but the old bag knew something. Even Shampoo uncoiled from Ranma now, staring at her curiously.
Shampoo was about to say something when her great grandmother held up a silent finger to silence her. She studied Ranma very carefully now. "Tell us about Tieu Shu, son in-law."
Ranma shrugged, but her expression was tightly controlled. "It was a fierce battle of about thirty Amazon warriors in full battle dress surrounded by a force of nearly seventy wearing armor."
"Airen study Amazon history now?" Shampoo asked curiously and Cologne motioned the redhead to continue.
"It was also a losing battle even though the women fought bravely. Their numbers where thinned until only she remained. She held out for nearly ten minutes against the remainder of the force." Ranma recounted the vision as a feeling of dread flowed though her body. It wasn't the vision that caused the dread but the intensity of the elder's attention to her tale. This couldn't be good.
"Describe her." It wasn't a request.
"About six foot, long black hair. She wielded an jian in combat." Ranma noticed the impassive Cologne stare and Ranma was determined to break it. She wanted answers. "Her shield maiden was closer to my height, had blue hair in a short crop. Her weapon was a polearm and she was the last to fall before Tieu Shu."
Ranma got her wish. The matriarch's mask faltered and her next words came out as a whisper. "Where was she stricken?" Ranma didn't say a word, instead opting to touch her left shoulder, drawing it down diagonal to indicate the exact declination of the strike. She had felt it herself.
"Hiyaaa…" Shampoo gasped and Cologne shook her head. It wasn't often that Ranma could find a dumbfound look on the elder's face. Somehow she couldn't bring herself to gloat over the fact at the moment.
Ranma came to the easiest conclusion given their reaction. "It wasn't a dream, was it?"
Cologne shook her head. "No. Great grand daughter, a short history lesson please."
The young Amazon nodded, purple locks swaying with the action. "Tieu Shu leader of last great Amazon dynasty one thousand five hundred year ago." The time frame focused Ranma's attention immediately. "Was betrayed by Musk and led into trap, surrounded and taken captive." Shampoo sneered at the act. "Shattered Amazon power to present day."
"She didn't die at the battle?" Ranma asked, unconsciously touching her shoulder as she did.
"No." Shampoo confirmed. "Execute later."
Ranma gasped and Cologne studied her reactions. "Do you know how she was executed, Son in-law?"
The feeling of dread crept back in. "One-thousand five hundred years ago…" The date resonated through her entire being.
Cologne saw by the look on her face that Ranma fully comprehended where she was taking the story. "Indeed, son in-law. She was the first."
Silence pervaded the trio until Ranma finally found the words to express the pressure building inside. "Well why in the hell is she haunting me?!"
"Tieu Shu haunt Ranma?!" Shampoo leaned forward in disbelief. "Airen do something too-too good or too-too bad, wonder which?"
"I may know," Cologne began, considering the martial artist in a new light. "But I will have to wait for the signs to manifest themselves fully."
This was all just GREAT, Ranma thought as yet more chaos descended down upon her life like the karmatic sledgehammer of God. Ok, bring taken away from his best childhood friend, wrapped in fish sausage, tossed into a pit of starving cats, starved in China, cursed twice in China, stalked by Amazon assassins, engaged to three fiancées, and having a nonstop parade of rivals in her life apparently just wasn't enough. NNOOOooOOO! I have to get my sorry butt haunted by the millennia old ghost of the cursed spring I fell into!
"And what's this about 'signs' anyway?" Ranma asked testily, realizing another turd was about to fall into the crapper.
Cologne produced a dead smile. "Let's just say that Tieu Shu might be paying you another visit."
A fist clipped Ranma's rib as he attempted to break contact, failing to execute the move quite fast enough. He rolled out across the ground and recovered into defensive stance, painfully aware of the throbe in his side. I maybe able to take him eight out of ten times, Ranma thought, but he can still throw a punch. Not that he'd ever admit that aloud, he amended.
"What's wrong with you, Boy?!" Genma landed from his midair strike, ready to renew his offensive. "Getting a little slow, aren't you? I know girls that are faster than you!" Ranma's face contorted into a mask of anger and Genma Saotome knew he had struck a nerve. In a way, it was rather surprising since he hadn't been able to use the girl insult with much effect for a while now.
Ranma's temperature rose rapidly. "Who the hell you calling a girl!?!?" He blurred forward and cut through his father's guard like a buzz saw. "I ain't no girl!" Genma's counter attack was deflected wide his sin's fist quickly found the father's ribcage and chest. A round house kick later to the chest and Genma dropped into the koi pond with a geyser of water …promptly soaking one pigtailed martial artist.
Water dripped off the now female Ranma and she glared at her father that was now a panda. "Si pook gaai."1
Nabiki looked at Ranma curiously as she sat down for breakfast. "Um, what did you call him again?"
Ranma snorted with contempt. "A loser, of course." That's when he noticed that all three sisters and his mother staring at her intently. "What?"
"Right. In Chinese?" Nabiki pointed out.
Ranma simply blinked without a clue. "Whaddya mean?"
Nabiki leaned forward with interest. "You called him an loser in Chinese."
A scowl crossed Akane's face as she remembered last night's trespass. "Been taking lessons from the Amazon hussy???"
Ranma scooted back from the table under the scrutiny of both sisters. "Hey! I don't know no Chinese!"
"Yes, Son," Her mother chimed in. "It's not manly to insult people in languages they can't understand."
A paniced look crossed Ranma's face and her features drained of color. "It ain't my fault!"
Akane's anger was temporarily abated as curiosity got the better of her. Her fiance's reactions were a little… Off. "Then whose fault is it?" Ranma sat in frozen silence.
"Maybe that lump is still affecting her…" Kasumi volunteered. "Ranma, how do you… Feel?" Ranma's eyes were blank. The lights were on, but nobody was home. "Ranma?"Chapter Two
Ranma was somewhere else. A huge room to be exact, lit by the glow of torchlight. Shadows flicked as the flames danced, reflecting off the various ordainments and weapons hanging from the great chamber's walls. The hall was filled with armed guards and their entire focus was on the magnificent throne near the back wall. Ranma stepped of the cobbled stone floor and onto a plush red carpet that led strait to the throne. The seat was inhabited by a man scaled in heavy armor with traditional Chinese silk beneath. Herb, Ranma hissed, but realized this was not the defeated nemesis he defeated long ago. The garb was quite similar though the features were not. This one had a crop of dark blue hair with bright pink highlights that draped low across his shoulders. At his feet was the raven haired Amazon flanked by two heavily armored guards.
She closed the distance with a trepid walk and the details began to filter in. It was the woman from the battle at the prince's feet and she was a mess. Tortured, Ranma realized with disgust. The man leaned into Tieu Shu and sneered.
"Will you talk now? This will be the last time I offer you a quick death." The prince whispered, menace carrying through with it. "All I require is the location of the…"
Tieu Shu spat in his face and saliva and blood dripped the Prince's features.
"…Seal." He finished and a servant rushed to his aid, proffering a small hand towl. He cleared his face of the offence and whipped his hand around to backhand her, an armored forearm cracking brutally into her face. The raven haired warrior slammed to the carpeted floor. He looked mildly annoyed.
Ranma had no great love for the Amazons. They had tried to murder her, manipulate her and wed her. But should would not abide by torture against the helpless. She had already seen the woman in action and knew she was a formidable warrior but now she was helpless and in the hands of a people she knew for a fact were monsters. Those facts locked into place and Ranma Saotome's first duty as a martial artist kicked in. With the element of surprise on her surprise she launched into the air, twisted around and snapped a brutal kicking into the young prince's skull… Her foot promptly phasing strait through it. The follow through carried Ranma strait through his torso and she landed on lightly behind. Shock only registered briefly as the man kicked the Amazon with a hard leather boot to the stomach. Ranma was furious.
"Kachu Tenshin Amaguriken!"
Her fists blasted into the prince's and through his back. The total lack of resistance caused Ranma to stumble forward, back though the Musk Prince and down the shallow steps that led to the throne. She spun around, looking at her surroundings wildly. No reactions. The guards that now surrounded her paid the attack no mind, still focused on the beating that continued at the feet of the Prince.
"The Seal, Amazon bitch! NOW!" The prince gripped her by the hair and pulled her up off the ground with to meet his eyes and the slits that inhabited their red pupils. God only knew what infusion of Jyusenkyou curses coursed through his blood.
"NO!" Ranma yelled and began to feed power into the ball of ki forming in her hand. Another fist slammed into her stomach and this time, Ranma felt it too. The world blurred.
"RANMA!" Some part of her identified the voice. Her father… "Snap out of it, Boy!" She blinked and the world came back into focus. No throne room. No guards. Just the Tendo living room with a bunch of worried faces.
"Power down, boy…" It was probably the most concerned request she had ever heard her father make and it was only then Ranma realized she was glowing with ki energy. I was powering up for a Moko Takabisha in the house! She let the power levels drop off and her body absorbed the excess chi.
"Wan jun !" 2 Ranma fumed, realizing just how much damage her daydream Moko Takabisha would have caused. The family blinked at her again, their worry fading into curiosity.
"Are you sure you haven't been taking Chinese lessons from Shampoo…?" Nabiki asked
Ranma's head dropped in defeat. "I did it again?"
The entire family simply nodded. "Maybe you should see Dr. Tofu…" Akane volunteered.
The redhead shook her head. "It's not a physical thing. It's the curse."
"Yeah, it's actin' up on me." Ranma replied. "Cologne thinks I'm remembering the first victim of the spring."
"The person you mentioned last night?" Nadoka made the connection from last night's incident. Ranma nodded.
"'Cept all I'm remembering is the bad stuff." Ranma sighed as the pain of memory returned. "She didn't die pretty either… Dammit it's too early to start a day like this…"
Now that a real mystery had presented itself, Nabiki put on her game face. "So why you?"
"Yeah," She pressed. "You can't have been the first to fall in that spring, so why you? Or does everybody get complimentary lessons in Chinese?"
Ranma looked at his father. "Think the guide woulda told us…?"
Genma shrugged. "I'm not exactly being haunted by a Panda on my end. "
"Tofu." Akane stated in no uncertain terms and Ranma resigned himself to his fate.
"Alright already, we go see Tofu."
In any other region of the world, that sound would have been harmless. A delivery being made, perhapse? Or maybe the request for service at the front desk. Somebody might have even won the jackpot. In Nermia and for Ranma Saotome in particular, that sound had an entirely different connotation. The dual pulse of a small bell ringing always meant one thing—The application of a bicycle tire being applied to the side of his face. Painfully.
Ranma peeled himself off the pavement as Shampoo gracefully dismounted her bicycle, ignoring Akane completely and bending down to Ranma. "Ranma tired on ground? Shampoo make better!"
"What!?" Akane screeched as Shampoo dragged Ranma up into a glomp. At that very moment, the Amazon's ever-present, yet always unwelcome companion made his guest appearance.
"How DARE you molest my Shampoo!" Mousse raged as he sprang from the trees. "Prepare to die, Saotome!"
Ranma stepped sideways to avoid the fist wave of shirukens that erupted from Moouse's white sleeves and a festive colored bonbori intercepted the second. "Mousse stop bother Shampoo and Airen!"
"How can you just let that Chinese hussy hang all over you!" Akane's anger began to spiral out of control like a nuclear reactor in meltdown.
"Kitchen destroyer no talk Shampoo that way!"
"Face me, Ranma!"
"Ni men dou bi zui !!" 3 Ranma raged and all movement stopped instantly. Even Mousse's next attack was stayed in deference to sheer surprise.
The pigtailed girl turned a withering gaze on the female Amazon first. "If you're an Amazon, act like one!" Shampoo winced. "Pursue Ranma if you must, but you will do so in a manner worthy of your station, do you understand us!?" The wide-eyed Shampoo took a step back and produced a crisp nod. Mousse drew a breath in protest, but it died instantly under Ranma's icy glare. "Are you above the law to disobey an Amazon female now?" The raven-haired boy shrank back. "Remember the consequences of defying your betters, duck-boy." She allowed her cold eyes burn into the shivering boy a moment longer before turning on Akane. "And you! We are not happy with you at the moment." Akane took the same reflexive step back that Shampoo took, fear creeping into her psyche for the first time since she had known Ranma.
She swept her baleful glare across the trio before leaping up onto a nearby rooftop, disappearing from sight. The three looked from the rooftop to one another in a rare moment of shared incredulity.
Ranma skipped a stone into the water from the grassy embankment she now sat on. It was her hiding spot under the bridge, a place where she could go when there was just too much to deal with in the shambling chaos called her life. Three skips later and the stone sank beneath the river's murky surface with a ripple.
"Sei chun curse…"4 The redhead grumbled and picked up another rock. This just wasn't working out. After all she'd been through, it just wasn't fair. She could take a curse, even a gender changing one. It was annoying, but once the proper precautions were taken, it was manageable. But now… It just wasn't enough to change into a girl. Now she was getting her ass haunted by the original girl, the one that drowned to curse the stupid puddle in the first place! Dammit!
"You cuss well in Chinese, son in-law." Ranma whipped around to find the old ghoul behind her, slightly further up the incline she sat on.
"Shampoo… Actually, we were worried." Cologne admitted, causing Ranma to arch an eyebrow. "Grand daughter has informed me that your condition is becoming… obvious."
Ranma hunched a bit. "You could say that. Spoutin' Chinese all over the place. Another dream. It's gettin' outta hand."
"They tortured her." Ranma told her in a quiet voice. "Wanted something called the Seal. Messed her up bad." After five minutes of total silence, Ranma looked back to the elder and found her nearly white as a ghost. "What?"
"Son in-law, do you know where the Seal is?" Cologne asked very carefully and it was obvious to Ranma how much weight the question held. Why, she had no idea however.
"No." Ranma answered. "The most that Musk bastard got out of her was spit in the face."
Ranma favored the Amazon with searching gaze. The dream prince wanted the Seal. Cologne wanted the seal. Ranma finally realized something that would have made Nabiki proud—She had bargaining leverage. "How about you tell me what's going on now?"
"Not until all the signs—"
"The damn signs say you're not going to get a lick outta me if you don't stop yankin' my chain." Ranma cut her off testily. "I got this Tieu Shu chick runnin' around in my head and if you can't help me then you don't get the play by play, dong ma?" 5
Colgne sighed, realizing that for once the young redhead held all the cards. Unlike her, Ranma would find out everything eventually and the Amazons would be in a precarious position if she didn't function as her guide. It was a role Cologne was dangerously close to forfeiting and it was time to put the cards on the table. "I understand, son in-law. What would you have of me?"
Ranma paused for a moment, taken back by the Elder's willingness to cooperate. Must be some trump card, she thought. "Ok, um… Let's start with the obvious. Why me? This crap can't be happenin' to everybody who falls in that puddle."
"No." it was a simple response, but one drove right to the crux of his problem. "If that were the nature of the curse, then those with animal forms would find themselves subject to the drive of the creatures that drowned. Even with forms such as the one you have been cursed with, that is all it is—A curse of body, not being." She paused for a moment to make sure all of the information was sinking in. "Remain in one form long enough and biology will begin to take over, but rarily does anything of the original sacrifice remain beyond the body."
"Ok, next question…"
"Why you?" Cologne preempted Ranma easily and he simple stared at her expectantly. "That I'm not so sure of. As I said, Jyusenkyou is not a soul trap. Death magic saturates the site like few others, but that is not the nature of your curse.
Tieu Shu; Come on, do I need to spell it out? Tieu… Shu…. Waaaiiit for it… Tissue? Gotta keep in theme with Amazon beauty and toiletries, right?
Firefly-Serenity Chinese Pinyinary – A huge help with some of the more complex strings of Chinese dialogue that Ranma spouts at random. Also a nice resource for any Firefly fans (such as myself) who want to know just what the cast is saying.
Swearsaurus – Another great resource for Chinese cursing, though you might notice I've limited Ranma to the more (ahem) tame insults. The online English to Chinese translators just weren't up to the task.
3.Everybody shut the hell up
Thanks again for all of your support, and I hope I can continue to live up to your expectations. If it isn't already obvious, too many people to count have contributed to making this a better fic, most of them residing on fukufics IRC. These people deserve both of our thanks for making this a work superior through their suggestions, comments, snide remarks and subtle innuendos. Special Thanks to final proof readers Tri MageOhki and DCG. I did the editing myself this time, so Lord knows I screwed it up somewhere ;)