by Lerris Smith
Ranma's and Setsuna's relationship progressed after that point, with Setsuna making sure to give his male side equal or perhaps a bit more attention. Time passed, his eighteenth birthday came and surprise of all surprises, Ryoga somehow ran into them as they were heading out to a restaurant to eat.
"Ranma, how dare you leave Akane!"
Ranma dodged his attacks with careless ease, as he maneuvered him away from the others. He said, "Um, isn't that what you wanted?"
Setsuna said to Michuru and Haruka, "Take Hotaru and go ahead." The words, while seemingly ordinary, held a hint of command and they hurried along, making sure to avoid their fight.
After they were clear, Setsuna followed them for a bit and told Ranma to lead him to the warehouse they used for sparring. Ranma shrugged and did it. Ryoga was hard to put down at the best of times, and it would be better to do it someplace clear like that. Besides, he had attacked when their were innocents too close by.
Ryoga was in the middle of the warehouse when Setsuna removed her suit coat and said, "Ranma, I will handle this."
Ranma said dubiously while dodging, "Are you sure? I mean pig boy here is really stubborn and it takes a lot of hits to take him down."
"Running to hide behind a girl Ranma? I always knew you were a coward."
"Ranma just trust me," pleaded Setsuna.
Ranma hesitantly jumped and dodged around objects so he was on the other side of the room, which left Setsuna closer to Ryoga. Then, all of a sudden, Setsuna blurred. Punches and kicks seemed to toss Ryoga around like a ping pong ball before he fell down in agony, barely conscious.
She said coldly, "You never ever start a fight where there are children and others nearby. Do you understand?"
He nodded weakly before passing out. Setsuna then shouted, "Damn! What the hell is he made of? I think I fractured half the bones in my arms and legs."
She started to slump to the ground but Ranma caught her and said, "I shouldn't have let you fight. I'll get you to a hospital." Ranma could hardly believe that she had done what she had done. He had long ago figured out that she hid her true abilities. Their spars, while never taken seriously on her part, had revealed she was frighteningly fast when she wanted to be, but never anything on this scale.
She said, "Just carry me home. I'll heal by tomorrow."
As he lifted her gently into his arms, he said dubiously, "Are you sure?" He looked her over with his ki senses before saying, "I couldn't tell for a bit, but now I can see the damage. " He doubted that he himself could heal it that fast. Bone damage was difficult to heal, but ki reinforcement usually prevented that, at least when he fought.
Setsuna's cell phone rang, and at her request he set her down gently and got it. It was Haruka.
Haruka asked, "Is everything all right?" Ranma said out loud to Setsuna, "Haruka asks if everything is all right?"
Setsuna said, "Yes. I'll be fine."
"She says, she will be fine. You should have seen it. I didn't want to let her fight, but she insisted. She beat the crap out of him, but pig boy is harder than rock sometimes. She says she will be okay by tomorrow though. We are heading back home."
Ranma listened and said, "She says that she's glad you're alright and they would just get takeout and head back to the house."
"Give me the phone Ranma."
Ranma shrugged and gave her the phone. Setsuna winced slightly at the pain of moving her arm to position the phone. She said, "I'm fine. Stay out as long as you want." Ranma thought the last bit held an odd emphasis as Setsuna listened to whatever Haruka said, before hanging up the phone.
With great care, he carried her home and laid her on her bed. He then headed to the kitchen to warm up some leftovers. Ranma ended up helping to feed her, yet when offered she refused to take any Tylenol or anything.
Setsuna enjoyed her odd meal. She had managed to consume about half a glass of wine before she finished her food. Ranma started to leave, but she grabbed onto his hand and said, "Please stay."
Ranma gulped and nodded. It had been one of the few times they had been in the house by themselves. Setsuna smiled and said, "Kiss me."
"But you're hurt!"
"Well then, kiss me gently." She pulled on his hand a bit to encourage him, but he really needed little encouragement. He treated her like fragile china, yet at her gentle insistence they celebrated his eighteenth birthday.
Michuru and Haruka looked in on them early the next morning and then quietly left the room. As they walked to Hotaru's room to wake her for school, Haruka said, "It's about time," to which Michuru could only nod.
Michuru paused before Hotaru's door and asked, "Why were they glowing though?"
"I've no idea, but they looked fine to me, well other than I am a bit disappointed."
"Disappointed?" inquired Michuru.
"Ya, I thought for sure we'd find a red head in there this morning," said Haruka.
"Maybe tomorrow," offered Michuru hopefully.
Six months later a youma crawled out of the woodwork. Usagi Tsukino had been walking home from the crown arcade when it attacked relentlessly, never giving her any opportunity to transform as it played with her now broken body like a cat with a ball. Ranma-chan had been lucky to sense the attack, as she was walking home on another street some distance away, yet she got there just as Usagi thudded into a concrete wall with a sickening thud.
For once in her life, Ranma-chan, lost control of her anger. To see a friend killed, for surely no one ordinary could have survived that, shattered some barrier in her. She seemed to disappear only to continuously reappear just as he landed crushing blow after crushing blow on the twisted parody of a woman's form that the youma wore.
It ended five minutes later when a man in a tuxedo threw a single rose that shot through the monster like an artillery shell before growing and consuming the monsters flesh in its rage. When it was done, a twenty foot tall rose bush stood in the middle of the sidewalk.
Sailor Pluto converged on the scene next to see Ranma-chan staring at her bloody hands and Tuxedo Kamen weeping over his love's mangled body. Pluto yelled, "Ranma. Give Usagi your energy fast or she will die. Your the only one with that level of control here."
Ranma-chan looked up and then bolted over. She had thought her friend was dead but wasted no time forcibly calming herself. With ki, the emotion that fueled it changed how much it hurt in combat. She considered confidence, but her confidence was shattered, so she turned to the only other strong positive emotion she had right now. She turned to her love for the woman behind her, who for some reason was in the odd clothing.
Somehow Tuxedo Kamen sensed what Ranma was doing, and pulled his panic back enough to do the same. He had only really ever been able to heal disorders of the spirit in the past, like when a heart crystal was stolen, yet now twin blooms of deep red bloomed from Ranma-chan and himself as Usagi was bathed in their love.
The energy resonated with the crystal in her broach and her body began to glow a soft golden color as the broach took the energy in and used it. First her bones shifted back into position, and then the flesh that was torn came back together. The back of her hair that had been ripped out in the fight regrew and finally the bruising began to fade.
Minutes passed as the miracle occurred, and the other Senshi soon gathered around them. Saturn moved to help, yet Pluto held her back saying, "It will be well."
A crowd began to gather, yet Uranus and Neptune held them back as the work proceeded. It was almost half an hour from when they began when Ranma-chan finally passed out, only to be caught by Tuxedo Kamen who was barely managing to stay awake himself. Just as Ranma-chan was falling, a tiny spark of golden light left Usagi and jumped to Ranma-chan's foot, but all save Pluto missed it.
Pluto opened a portal right in the middle of them, where there was space. Mars carried Usagi, while Uranus picked up Ranma-chan and Jupiter helped Tuxedo Kamen through. As Sailor Pluto walked over to the rose bush, a middle aged woman in the crowd asked, "What happened?"
Pluto bent down and carefully picked up a few of the rose petals that had been shaken off during the plant's rapid growth, before saying mysteriously, "A spark of hope was born." She then exited through the portal that closed behind her.
Usagi was almost recovered when they reappeared in the small wooded area behind the shrine. Pluto took Ranma's unconscious form from Uranus and walked over to Usagi who was still being held by Sailor Mars. She said, "I'm glad you are okay princess, but I need to talk to Ranma."
Usagi smiled at her and reached out to cup her left cheek with her right hand before saying, almost too softly to hear, "I'm glad for you."
Tears welled at the corner of Setsuna's eyes. One even touched Usagi's hand, before she turned and awkwardly summoned a portal while trying her best not to disturb Ranma-chan. Usagi could not help but to smile as the pair passed through.
Setsuna had never planned on telling him the truth, but she found herself doing exactly that, and not just the edited highlights. She waited for his inevitable condemnation, but saw nothing more than him thinking. Finally, a couple minutes later he said, "Feh. I should have known it was a setup, but none of the others were remotely that crafty."
"And?" inquired Setsuna.
"Well, that would explain how you beat Ryoga back then, and of course your costume just now and the portals. Heck you even knew about my curse!"
"And? Aren't you mad or something?"
"Nah, but I want to spar with you guys transformed sometimes. You never fight seriously, except for that one time, and the others aren't good enough yet to be enough of a challenge."
"Why you! How dare you!"
"How dare I what? Love you just as much now as an hour ago. Not care a wit how we met, even if it initially was some twisted scheme to make your roommates jealous. Be grateful every meal that I don't have to eat the tomboy's cooking."
With that, Setsuna showed just how fast she could be. She called on her Senshi speed, yet did not transform. Ranma was very ticklish, especially after a bit of water. She didn't even win the rematch.
One month later Akane stumbled upon Venus and Mars cornered by a monster. She bashed it in with a ki fueled mallet. It was enough to stun the monster, before it knocked her into a nearby building, breaking her legs, and giving her a concussion in the process. Her actions bought the pair the time they needed to counter attack and the monster was soon dead.
The next day Akane woke up in the hospital, and the doctor told her she would be in a wheel chair for several months, but would recover fully. Of course, the doctor had not seen her before Hotaru had laid hands on her.
"Momma! Momma! Lookie at the tv. Momma, I'm going to live in a castle like that when I grow up." The exuberant sandy haired boy jumped up and down on the carpet while waiting for his mother to come look.
His mother, a sandy haired, middle aged woman walked in from the kitchen. She wore a white blouse and gray slacks, with a silver belt. A simple silver necklace completed her outfit. All appeared to be spotless, yet the lady and her clothing had a rumpled look that somehow managed to convey a refreshing cheerfulness. She read the text on the screen where it showed a wedding rehearsal in Himeji castle. She asked, "What channel are you watching dear?"
"I dunno Momma. I just kept pressing the button."
The sandy haired woman sat down on the couch to watch and was soon joined by her young son.
On a street not far from the castle, Sailor Pluto walked away from where a fat balding man and another taller were now disappearing. As she walked around the corner, she let her transformation drop.
Ranma Saotome was sitting on the edge of a set of steps that led to the back of a building, while staring down at the concrete when Setsuna came around the corner. He wore his trademark clothing.
"Hey Ranma, we need to get going," said Setsuna.
"It's done then?"
"Yes. Don't worry it was just a minor temporal displacement. They will be back."
"Ya. I know. It's just that, for once, I was hoping..."
She pulled him to his feet and said, "I know, but you saw them in that bar plotting in the gates. It was the same bar they just came out of."
"Ya, my pop can be an idiot. Plotting to kidnap you, to force me to marry Akane, as if that would have worked." The last was said in a bitter sarcastic tone.
Setsuna pulled him to her and said, "I know you're scared. I know you spent years avoiding just this day." Ranma reached his own arms around her. Setsuna hesitated for a moment, and then with a touch of fear in her voice said, "If you want, we can call it off for now."
All of a sudden the hesitation seemed to slide off of Ranma. Setsuna knew it to partly be an act of will, but then she knew Ranma never let others see him in such a vulnerable state. He said, "Nah. I'm ready. Let's get to the castle."
With that Setsuna released him, opened a portal, and they stepped through. The castle was breathtaking, except Ranma noticed something odd. He said, "Hey, its night out. How can it be night out?"
Setsuna wore an amused smile when she said, "We are in castle Charon on Pluto."
"Huh? I don't get it. This place is great." He stared in amazement at the vast black marble floors and redstone columns that held up a crystalline ceiling that sparkled with starlight."
In an amused tone she said, "You're right the Senshi could have come here, but I have my reasons for choosing Himeji castle."
Ranma smiled. "You and your secrets, even from me, but then I like to be surprised occasionally, and you have a knack. So, what are we here for?"
"Your wedding clothes, but first I'll show you around."
After about an hour of walking, Ranma said, "Um, shouldn't we hurry? I didn't think we had that much time."
"We have as much time as we need. We will arrive on time."
Ranma looked into her eyes as comprehension dawned on him. He smiled and said, "Thanks."
As they finished their tour of Setsuna's castle, Ranma thought back on events of the past few days.
"You! What are you doing here?" yelled Ukyo as Ranma walked in her restaurant. Customers sensing impending violence placed money on the table, picked up their Okonomiyaki, and exited en masse.
"Hey Ucchan," said Ranma cautiously.
"What do you want? First you leave town with some new fiancée without even saying goodbye, and now you walk in eight months later and I hear you're getting married?" she practically yelled.
Ranma winced. How had she found out? Then again, she undoubtedly had got the info from Nabiki, and he didn't want to know how Nabiki got the information in the first place. He said, "Um, Sorry?"
"Bastard!" She unshouldered her mega spatula and proceeded to whack the crap out of the martial artist who just sat there, calmly reflecting on how lucky he was that between Akane and Ryoga he had pretty much gained the equivalent of the Bakusai Tenketsu training.
She gave up a few minutes later and said, "Dang you Ranma! Can't you at least pretend to be hurt?"
"Um, ouch," he hazarded.
Ukyo set her spatula against the wall and disappeared into the back room coming back with a tall bottle that she blew the dust off of. She then pulled two glass glasses out from under the counter and filled each with several inches of dark liquid.
"Um, Ukyo, I don't drink."
"Drink or leave."
Ranma hesitated before bringing the glass to his lips and attempting to smell it casually. It had a sweet smell.
Ukyo said tiredly, "No, its not magicked, poisoned, drugged, or anything like that." Not that she hadn't been tempted, but that kind of thing had nenver worked in the past.
Ranma winced slightly as he drank a big gulp of it before sitting it down. Whatever it was, it was certainly strong. Why was he here again? Oh ya. He fumbled in his pocket and pulled out an ornate envelope with Ukyo's name written with elegant and precise brush strokes.
He held it out to her, surprised to be just a little bit less steady that before. He didn't notice Ukyo absently refilling his glass before she reached over to take it.
Hours passed and thanks to the closed sign Ukyo set out they were left alone. Ranma managed to get completely drunk, and Ukyo was forced to sit through how much he loved life, Setsuna, her friends, little Hotaru, and how glad he didn't have to put up with the chaos of Nerima anymore.
In short, her plan to get him drunk and seduce him had failed utterly with the end result being him sleeping with his head hunched over the counter and her on her third refill as she read and reread the few words on the invitation.
Just when she thought she couldn't get more miserable, a gorgeous green haired red eyed woman came through the door that she just knew had to be her. The green haired woman said softly, "Hey, I can't blame a girl for trying."
Ukyo just looked up at her and said miserably, "I'll be there."
A small smile appeared on Setsuna's face that shifted into a mischievous grin. She said, "I'm sure he will appreciate it to have his best man there." With that she asked for a cup of water from Ukyo before spilling just enough on Ranma to change him to a her, but not enough to wake her up.
Setsuna then picked Ranma-chan up as Ukyo blearily held the door open for her. The last word Setsuna heard was Ukyo saying, "Bastard," but it had an almost a fond tone now.
Well, Ukyo thought, with the scholarship and her business she could live without him. She had before. Nothing had changed. It was not much of a comfort.
Setsuna opened a portal to carry Ranma-chan home. She supposed that she would have to deliver the invitations to the others hersef while Ranma slept it off. She was grateful that at least the Amazon's were no longer around.
Later that night Ranma woke, and Setsuna who had been right next to her woke with her.
Ranma-chan said, "Ah, crap. Um." He was sure he had forgotten something, but it was all hazy.
"Don't worry. Ukyo said she will come, and I took invitations to your mother, the Tendos, and Dr. Tofu."
"Ah." She registered her words, but coherent thought was still a bit distant.
"I'm not sure if Akane will be there, but the rest will be. I managed to stop by the Tendo's when your father and Mr. Tendo weren't around, so I can't be sure what they will do."
A part of him was glad that he had avoided having to give Akane that, but he still half hoped she would be there. He said, "They will try something."
"Don't worry, dealing with petty amateurs is easy."
"That's good." Reassured, Ranma fell back asleep and Setsuna smiled, before doing the same.
Back in the present time in Himeji castle, in one of the biggest rooms near the great hall, the Senshi sat around a large oval table and dug into a pizza.
Michuru said, "I thought I'd never see the day when the spider herself would marry."
Setsuna looked at her with a frosty glare. She hated that nickname and didn't want the inner's to pick it up.
Just as open war seemed about to be declared Usagi said, "First dibs on the ice cream!"
"Second!" yelled Hotaru.
Usagi reached the cooler the ice cream was in, only to see that not only was it already open, but that Artemis was eating out of the carton. "My ice cream!" wailed Usagi.
Luna pranced over and said, "Really, Artemis, acting like a common alley cat."
Artemis licked his lips and said, "Hey, it's butter pecan. I love this kind."
Setsuna wondered briefly what to do about Ranma's nekoken fear, but that was a problem for another day. Today was the day she was getting married. The thought still surprised her. Still, there was not much time left until the wedding practice was to begin. She hoped Usagi and the others were ready. It had taken a great deal of time and effort to prepare for today.
Ranma's party was preparing for the wedding in a room a couple doors down from where Setsuna and her friends were. His mother, Nabiki, Kasumi, Dr. Tofu, and Ukyo were there. Akane was there, but she had wanted to stay in the audience with her friends. Ranma couldn't blame her, and was a little surprised she had come at all. Shampoo was in Canada of all places taking classes and planning on going to college.
"I'm so proud of you son. I had high hopes with you and Akane, but you seem so much happier now than when you were at the Tendo's, and we owe Setsuna's family a great deal."
"I know mom, but I'm marrying her because I want to, not because pop welshed on a debt."
"I know. I know, but I'm just glad to see you happy, and once you're married you can give me lots and lots of grandbabies to spoil." Ukyo winced once at Nodoka's babble, but otherwise seemed to remain calm.
Ranma winced too. If only she knew. Well neither he nor Setsuna wanted children for some time, but rather than spoil his mother's mood he nodded in what he hoped was a noncommittal manner.
"Hey Saotome, where exactly did you get your clothing made? I've never seen anything like it," said Nabiki thinking this might be her understatement of the year. Ukyo perked up a bit as she also looked at the box of clothing that now lay open.
"I believe Suna-chan said it was one of the last things her mother made."
Ranma remembered how Setsuna had described the ensemble when she had given him the box.
"My mother liked to design clothing. This is one of the last pieces she made. She used to tease me that she was making it for my husband, although I think she was just having fun. I know the outfit is a little different, but I would really like you to wear it. There is enough magic on it that I think it will all fit."
Ranma looked down at the black ensemble complete with, belt, boots, a slightly curved sword and matching sheath. On a second look, the shirt and pants were actually such a dark violet as to appear black, rather than actual black. The shirt had twin stripes of blue so pale as to almost be white running up the outside of the sleeves. The boots, belt, bracers and sword appeared to be made of the same pale blue material."
He pulled the sword from its scabbard. The blade gleamed almost white as he drew it, yet the faint blue remained. He swung it experimentally a few times, noting how light and perfectly balanced it was, before sheathing it again.
Setsuna continued with, "The materials in the outfit are derived from a special type of wood from the Ceras trees that used to grow on Venus together with the leaves from the Tiana flower that grew on Mercury. Even with the environmental construct it was difficult to get flowers to grow on Mercury."
"The majority of the dark violet almost black material is derived from the Tiana flowers, while the light blue, almost white material is generally from the Ceras Trees. Both materials have the very rare property of retaining magic as well as being extremely resistant to damage. The clothes the senshi wear were originally partly based on the same materials, yet now are almost purely fabricated out of magic." Almost as an after thought she added, "The clothing wouldn't even be damaged by a bullet, but the impact would still be transfered to the person."
Ranma gave an absent nod as he pondered this silk like clothing. It wasn't in his favorite colors or anything, yet just to have something that wouldn't get torn up in his fights, but wait a second, this was for his wedding.
Setsuna, as if reading his thoughts, said, "You can wear this later too if you end up fighting alongside us. It should help protect you a little bit. The disguise pen I have can make it so you are not recognized, regardless of what you wear, and the magic in this will keep it, if not necessarily you, whole."
Ranma gave a half nod again. Simply put, it was a very light weight set of armor, except this would not restrict his movements in the slightest. He said softly, "I don't know what to say. Thanks." The thanks was said in a fond tone.'
Back in the present, Nabiki stared at the outfit as Ranma's mother said, "Well, don't just sit there, go and get changed. I have to see this on you."
Ranma returned a few minutes later. The clothing was the same as before. The sleeves only went about three quarters of the way down, leaving just enough space for the bracers.
His mother handed him the scabbard, which he quickly attached to the place on the belt where it seemed to go. When Ranma looked up she was staring at the elegant sword with what he now noticed was dark violet script down the side of the almost white blade. She swung it a few times with an elegance he had never before seen her use with a sword. She seemed puzzled before handing it out to him.
"It is a strange blade son. Incredibly light, yet it seems to sing through the air. Do you know what is written on it?"
"No mother," although he made a mental note to ask Setsuna sometime. Ukyo, Nabiki, Dr. Tofu and Kasumi just looked on, not truly surprised, for little to do with Ranma surprised them anymore, but curious nonetheless. He finished the outfit by closing the catch on the bracer on his left forearm.
This caused the entire outlet to glow softly for a brief moment, and then suddenly the stripes on the arms of the shirt were gone, replaced by some kind of runic symbols in the same pale blue, almost white color. They seemed to start with the pattern inlaid in the bracers and twisted around the sleeves until they crawled along the front of the shirt, almost like a necklace, and then rejoined the pattern on the other sleeve.
Nabiki said dryly but a touch shakily, "Gee Saotome, I thought my little sister was the one who liked such things," referring of course to the battle dogi Akane had acquired at one point.
Ranma said wryly, "It was a gift, and I always liked silk."
Nabiki felt the fabric in his sleeve before saying, "Silk you say. I don't think so. This is softer than silk somehow. Just what is it?"
Nodoka said, "It doesn't matter, except, I think that somehow that blade, maybe the whole outfit has a story every bit as honorable as the Saotome blade." Of course, she couldn't help but feel that the blade's history was deeper still, making the Saotome honor blade's, in comparison, more like that of a toy, but she would never say that out loud.
While Nabiki could not quite get the thoughts of how many ways she could make money from that outfit out of her head, the other Tendo sister present had caught herself staring from time to time, much to the slight annoyance of her date. She said absently, "It fits him well."
Ukyo perked up at those words. She had been trying to blend into the wall. She may have agreed to be here, but this was torture. Still, she looked up and her lips parted slightly. It was a rather odd scene, for with her breasts bound again, and in the formal tuxedo, she looked every inch the bishonen male as she said, "Ya, you look great Ranchan."
To herself she cursed the gods, Ranma, and everyone else she could think of that she was now dressed as the best man, rather than the bride. She mentally added a curse for Akane too, who had chickened out and stayed in the audience.
Nabiki, now that she allowed herself to see it, realized her sister was right. Such simple clothing would have made most men look average, but on Ranma's excellent physique they hid little. He truly did look like a knight in a story, well maybe more like a knight out of an anime.
The bells began to ring, and Ranma knew that it was time to take his position.
Expressions of suprise, jealously, and more than a little bit of awe were heard as the bride and the groom's groups came out. It was more so for the bride's, simply because of their number, yet the response to seeing the groom was not much less. One such blue black haired young woman in the audience gulped as she again wondered how it had all turned out like this.
Ranma's breath was taken away as he looked upon his bride to be, well his bride to be and all of her friends really, but Suna-chan first and foremost. Everyone but himself and their group thought this was the practice run for the wedding, and that it was merely a last minute thing, that Usagi Tsukino would fulfill the role of the priest in the run through.
Ranma didn't know of course that this was being broadcast live, on a fairly obscure channel in hi definition to the entire country of Japan, and of course the entire country of Japan didn't know that the bride's group was in fact the prince of Earth together with the princess of every planet in the solar system, including the moon. They each even wore their formal dresses, that, if you were a citizen of the lunar court a few thousand years ago, you would have recognized as a sign of their royal heritage.
Ranma still thought it a crazy idea, and he didn't know about the cameras, yet without their disguise fields making it impossible for the casual observer to remember exactly what they looked like, they were just ordinary appearing young women in elegant, if simple dresses. He was almost certain that this was a part of one of Setsuna's greater schemes, and that was alright with him, as it was also, well it was also where he admitted to the world that he had finally made his choice. All he had to do was survive today, both this 'practice' and the 'real' one a few hours later.
The others took their seats leaving only his mother and Ukyo behind him with Haruka and Michuru behind Setsuna while Usagi shown in her full princess regalia. Ann had just finished rushing back into the living room with the soda she grabbed as the television showed Usagi start to speak the all important lines.
"Do you, Ranma Saotome, Take Setsuna Meio of the house of Meio as your wife, to protect, to love, and to cherish her for as long as you both shall live?"
HIs voice was dry, yet it was also clear and carrying, right out to the little speaker on the television in Ann's home as he said, "I do."
"Do you, Setsuna Meio, take Ranma Saotome, heir of the Musabetsu Kakuto Ryu, to be your husband, to protect, to love, and to cherish him for as long as you both shall live?"
Usagi took a golden chalice from a little alcove that Setsuna had not noticed before. Her eyes almost gave her surprise away when she she saw it. She hadn't expected Usagi to summon the actual grail for this. Usagi said, "Then by the sharing of drink, may your two lives become as one."
She held the grail out to Ranma who took the cup and tilted it gently so that Setsuna could drink. She then took the offered cup from from him and allowed him to drink from her hand. After Ranma drank they seemed to glow for a brief moment, but most took it as the sun playing tricks through the high windows.
Usagi smiled at the pair and said, "I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss-"
Her words trailed off as Setsuna and Ranma did just that. Usagi just smiled, and for a brief moment all in the room smiled, as did Ann and her little son as they watched on television.
It was odd for a wedding to be held in HImeji castle, let alone be broadcast on television, yet she was glad she saw it. The announcer said that the normal wedding would be in an hour when the priest arrived, but that due to the time they would be switching over to news now. It was all very strange, yet the dishes would not do themselves, so after giving her child a brief hug she got back up to go in the kitchen, wishing that just once her husband could look so gallant.
The morning after the wedding, Michiru peeked in the door to Setsuna's room and was surprised to find it occupied, by rather rumpled red and green hair no less. The door opened up a little more as Haruka peeked with her. They both had matching grin's on their faces as they closed the door gently.
As they walked back to the kitchen, Michuru said, "It looks's like you got your wish."
"Of course," grinned Haruka, "Now, why don't we make something with a lot of carbohydrates. I don't believe either of us has to be anywhere for awhile, after all."
Michiru gave her a mischevious smile as she started to get ingredients out.
Ranma said softly yet with sarcasm, "They are gone you know."
Setsuna grinned at her lover and said coyly, "Well, we are here."
Ranma-chan face took on a silly grin as Setsuna bent down for a kiss. Maybe Setsuna was a little petty, and maybe they did just travel back across the solar system just to be in this place, at this time, when those two opened the door, but, well, right now all was right in the world.
A few days after the wedding, Ranma, the Tendo sisters, and Ukyo all spent their first days in college, although Ranma was enrolled in a different college than the others. At Setsuna's insistance Ranma had ended up enrolled in the same college as Haruka, Michuru, and Ami. Ranma thought that it was mostly so that they could protect each other. Setsuna even enrolled in some of the classes Ranma was in.
The other inner Senshi save Hotaru would follow in a year after they graduated high school. Shampoo would be in a Canadian high school for the next several years catching up, before she too went to college. She could not go home, having failed to marry Ranma, and it was still an honor to be one of the few from her village that got a college education, or so her great grandmother had said.
Cologne had forced Mousse to return home to the village with her, whereupon she had retired from leading the council to makeup for her failure with Ranma. Happosai, well no one knew where he was. Genma, found himself able to move once more from where he had been frozen before the wedding, but for some reason almost two months had passed and the wedding was long over. He finally gave up and moved back in with Soun. They even taught one class a week now.
Kasumi's relationship with Dr. Tofu fell apart a few months after Ranma left, yet after some work on their part they got back together several months later and were now happily married.
Nabiki received two offers to join the Yakuza. She pondered each for a week, yet in the end politely refused both. Later, she ended up working as a lawyer and even ended up defending the one person who had approached her before, who was now accused of money laundering.
He had thanked her when he was acquitted and had asked if there was anything that she might need in the future to which she responded, "I did my job to the best of my ability. My secretary has a log of the hours I worked." He nodded and left after paying his bill. Three months later, shortly after she flipped through some of Ranma's wedding photos, she donated an amount about ten percent higher than what she had received on that case to a charity that helped disadvantaged youths stay off the street.
Two years later Setsuna and Ranma were having a picnic with the other Senshi, including Mamoru who had finally become Usagi's husband when Ami said casually, "Ranma looks almost exactly the same today as when we met him."
"So do we," chirped Minako.
"That's just it. We are supposed to age slowly and finally stop aging at about the same age Setsuna has, but Ranma has nothing to do with the moon kingdom."
Setsuna grinned and Ranma caught it. He said playfully, "Out with it, Suna-chan. What are you hiding?"
"Oh, nothing much," said Setsuna casually.
"Just tell us," said Rei.
"Okay, if you insist. You see Ranma has excellent mastery of his own body's energy. I've never heard anyone obtain that level of mastery before they are sixty, and those are very rare." Of course, Ryoga had been close, but his mastery was twisted, and the other Senshi deserved better than him anyway, at least in her opinion.
"What does that mean?" asked Ami.
"Well, his natural ki mastery, along with some bleed-over of my own energy as a Senshi, and two other things, has apparently stopped, or nearly stopped his aging process." Michuru blushed as she figured out exactly when that spill-over tended to occur.
Ami said in a clinical, yet thoughtful tone, "Interesting. You mentioned a couple other things."
"Well, those are of course Usagi's fault."
"My fault?" asked the blond who was sitting inside her husband's arms.
"Yep, your fault. Somehow, unconsciously you reached out to thank Ranma when he and Mamoru supplied all that energy the crystal used to heal you back then. When you did, the crystal interpreted your request and bequeathed him with a touch of your own power."
"I remember that. It was such a warm feeling, and oh. Does that mean Ranma's a Senshi? What about the other?" She had a feeling she knew, at least about the second.
"No more than Mamoru is and as to the second, you had us drink from the grail itself during our wedding. Of course that is going to do something," she said with wryly.
"You did what? I don't remember seeing that." said Rei.
Haruka grined a mischievous grin as she said, "Ya, I could hardly believe it and I was standing behind them as they knelt and drank from the grail itself. I'm surprised no one noticed that after Usagi took it back from them it disappeared, but then I guess with them kneeling and turned away from the audience you couldn't get a clear look."
"I thought it looked familiar," said Ami faintly, as she pieced the puzzle together. She then said, "What does this mean for Ranma then?"
"He probably won't ever be able to use that touch of power for anything useful, but then he never needed more power. He does, however, have a link to us now that is deeper than any I could have ever given him."
"That was convenient," added Rei with a touch of sarcasm.
Minako added dryly, "It does seem to be, particularly how she found him in the first place."
Oh yes, Setsuna thought, they were still a bit jealous. She had meant to make Haruka and Michuru jealous in the beginning or to at least wipe that arrogant smirk off their faces, and she had to admit she had done the later, but she hadn't really thought about how the other Senshi would react. Of course, the bigger question was whether she had gotten her revenge for all the noise that pair had made in the past, and thinking back over the last couple of years she had to admit that she had.
Finally, after a few more moments, Setsuna leaned back into Ranma's embrace and clasped his hands in hers before saying in a fond yet cryptic tone, "It was destiny."
Neither Setsuna nor Ranma would say more on the subject, much to the annoyance of the unattached Senshi present.
On a sidewalk less than a mile away, a rosebush continued to grow and bloom. After hearing the story from the civilians present, the local government had elected to build a granite block structure surrounding it. It had even bloomed through the subsequent winters, just as it had that day years ago.
Bonsai trees were placed around the bush to give it a measure of protection from being disturbed. There was even a set of panels that could be put in place to protect it from the worst weather, and unlike so many city projects they had been put up religiously anytime the need arose.
The businesses nearby had seen a great increase in business since then, for the place had become a local legend. Some even came to believe that the roses' fragrance healed the body, yet most just felt the need to come, to run their hands over the carved lettering on the side that said, "Hope," and then go on their way.
Author's Notes: This story is finished, or at least that is the plan. I might someday write more on this, but for now it is done.
In the preliminary response to this on Fukufics, the largest complaint seemed to be wanting things to be covered in more detail, and that is consistent with a few reviews as well. When asked which part they wished expanded most, the wedding scene was the most popular choice, and hence why it is somewhat longer than the paragraph that originally mentioned it. All in all, I added around five thousand words in a night or so, when I went back and expanded on that. Of course, not all of it directly related to the wedding.
Simply put, I had intended this to take only a finite span of time, and then I would get back to other stories. In the end I probably spent about twice as much time as I had intended to on this. This could certainly be expanded into a full length novel later, but it is questionable if I will ever get to it.
I will be working on the next chapter of Minako's Story next and then back to Ice Squared as time permits. Ice Squared will likely next see a book two start that begins with a summary of all that has gone before. The start of a new book does not mean that the first book saw a definitive ending, but it is more a sign that by restarting with a summary I can remind everyone, including myself of all that has gone before.
All in all, I actually do like short simple stories sometimes. I just have a tendency to setup plots that usually are difficult to do in a short and simple manner. Still, I had fun writing it, and that was most of the point.
Don't forget to click on the review button and let me know what you think.