Featherbrite's Tale, the Bet. v 2.6
by Gregg Sharp based on Rumiko Takahashi's situations/char

CJ_Angel TM CJAngel (mentioned but does not appear) other char TM Jack Chalker, JRR Tolkein, Pioneer, and various other sources credited in the chapters they appear. Otherwise standard disclaimers, limitations, substitutions and refunds apply.

1: A Nervous Child (ANC)

"Adventure? No thank you. They make one late for supper." - B. Baggins

"I'm *not* stupid, I'm *not* expendable, I'm *not* going!" - F. Baggins


The yattai sat in the forest clearing, with two small tents nearby.

The woman who walked into that clearing was out of phase with that reality, invisible and unable to affect anything directly. Despite her invisibility, she was wearing a fine gown spun of moonbeams and starlight.

Her name was Titania, the Queen of Faerie of the Sidhe.

She'd won the Bet, and while many of those present had cried "cheat" (especially Loki, but he'd always been a poor sport), Titania was not one that even the Norse god of mischief wanted to cross without a much better payback.

Titania smiled and watched invisibly as five year old Ranma stirred,then got up to go relieve himself. The child was feeling particularly lonely and unhappy, having just left his best friend Ucchan behind.

Now other bets were being exchanged, after the passage of the Bet. Toltiir, an Elder god of mischief and chaos, had made the Bet at Mimir's Well. The smallest "pebble" creating the best "ripple" in the timestream. Favors had been called in, and Titania had won. Whether by cheat or popularity was another question altogether and depended on who you consulted.

Who would Ranma end up with? Nabiki? Ukyou? Akane? Kasumi? Shampoo? Oberon? Vladimir? Tatewaki? Kodachi? There were even a few bets being made on a Ryouga-Ranko match, which amused Titania no end. There were wagers placed on how many ripples, on how often things changed, and on the
"happiness index" of the whole group. One wagerer had even tried to place a bet on how many suitors Ranma ended up with. Only one person had bet that he ended up alone. Of course, you got excellent odds that way.

Titania watched Ranma move off, and felt it as a temporary timeline clicked into a permanent mode. Now it was time to sit back and watch to see what developed. The timeline still might go the way of many and merge back into a mainline or just merge with another similar line.

Only time would tell.


Ranma wandered from the camp. He wanted to go back and visit Ucchan. Why had the other boy been running after him? Pops said to forget about him, but he was Ucchan's buddy! It really hurt to leave another friend behind.

Too many. This wandering life, with no roots, had its benefits but also its heartaches. He would get to know someone only to say goodbye the next day. Only his father remained constant.

Still, for whatever reason, they had the okonomiyaki cart, so at least they were still eating well. Not for much longer though, the supplies were nearly gone.

The tinkling of bells caught Ranma's attention. A tiny pink glow, visible inside an enormous spider's web.

Ranma saw the huge and hideously black spider, and the scene seemed to split. One image was of a Ranma who ran back to his camp, to later awaken and think it was all a nightmare.

That Ranma faded.

The other Ranma solidified and threw rocks at the big hairy spider until it fell. A tree branch impacted the thing three times until it was reduced to splattered bug bits. Ranma had absolutely no idea what kind of spider it was, but anything bigger than his head was not something he wanted crawling around while he was asleep.

If he knew that this was actually a Bog Imp (Third Class), he would likely have been far more

"Thank you," came a voice like chiming bells. "Could you please free me, little boy?"

Ranma turned and stared at the butterfly caught there in the web. Carefully he freed it, using another tree branch push the sticky webs away from the creature. "What are you, anyway?" It kinda looked like that pixie on the "Aura Battler Dunbine" ads he'd seen.

"You call my kind yousei here, though my kind are called faerie elsewhere. Thank you, son of Adam, my name in your reckoning is Featherbrite." Bri'te Fau Tur curtseyed to the relatively huge human child and tried to recover from the weakening spell that the Bog Imp had used.

"My pop's Genma." Ranma wasn't too sure what he was looking at. Pink pastel wings that seemed a cross between a butterfly and a dragonfly, the figure looked mainly like a human woman, nude, with long tapered pointed ears. There were other differences, particularly with enormous (comparitively) long eyes.

"Well, then, son of Genma. You have freed me, so ask me a wish, and if it is within my power, I shall grant it." Featherbrite nodded. There were Rules about this sort of thing, and they had to be followed. Form was very important to her tribe.

"You must not be very strong if a spider was gonna eat you. What kinda wish?" Ranma sniffled. He still missed his buddy Ucchan.

"True. My personal power rating is not impressive in the manner of my kind." The six inch tall figure glided closer, examining the child. "Wow, you've been through some serious problems." There were aberrations in the child's aura she had trouble interpreting.

"Can you grant a wish that I'm back home with my mother?"

"If I knew where your mother was, I might be able to take you there." Featherbrite paused. "Uhm, why exactly are you here, and not with your mother?"

Ranma gave his muddled explanation of why they were travelling, that he was to learn and devote himself to the martial arts.

"Isn't that...kinda limiting?" Featherbrite had no idea about normal human childhoods, despite the number of centuries she had been alive. It all just didn't seem right. "If you focus only on martial arts, won't you be kind of stuck for the times you're not fighting?"

"Dunno." Ranma hadn't thought about it that much.

"Well, then, have you decided what you want to wish for?"

"How about I wish you could be my friend?" Ranma held his pinky up.

"You wish for me to be your friend?" The faerie blinked. Well, certainly the child seemed to need one. It was an unusual wish. Children were very important to the Sidhe, as were promises. Not that there weren't a few Sidhe who wouldn't steal children away to a Faerie Mound or seek to bend a promise into nearly unrecognizable interpretations. Seeing the child nod in response, Featherbrite smiled. "Deal."

"Umf," Ranma nodded once, solemnly, just like he'd seen his father do.


She'd tracked the cart's trail back, Ranma following. Genma would catch up eventually, but for now there had been something wrong about the deal that had Featherbrite seeking answers.

A bell-like voice said something very nasty when she had discovered it.

Having gotten to know Genma Saotome, taking the little girl along on the training journey would scar her for life. At the very least she'd be abandoned somewhere along the line. At worst? Some of Genma's training exercises were very effective if insane and/or life-threatening.

Still, sleepers can be fairly easy to manipulate via their dreams, and the damage wasn't too bad.

Though some faerie were better at glamour and illusion, deceit and falsehood, they tended to go with the Unsidhe. Featherbrite was of the Sidhe and determined to be a good role model for her new friend.

Ukyo relaxed some in her sleep, followed by her father. Ranma didn't know of the agreement. Ranma didn't *want* to leave his friend Ucchan behind. The image of Ranma weeping for yet another lost friend, of waving goodbye from the cart as he tried to be cheerful for his buddy, all images that Featherbrite had gotten from Ranma himself or observed at night on her own.

As their minds accepted the doubt that Ranma was guilty of the knowledge of the arrangement, Featherbrite relaxed slightly. Now they could heal, perhaps. It was better than allowing those feelings of betrayal to fester over the years.

"Ranchan no baka," mumbled Ukyo as the dream continued. Featherbrite left immediately though. Ranma would have to be told, eventually.

Behind her, a father and a daughter came independently to the same conclusion in their hearts.

Genma Saotome was a louse.


Ranma had just turned seven, and Featherbrite was miffed at Ranma's father. This was, however, something that occurred on a regular basis.

"I can't believe that man, honestly," she huffed, her little bell-like voice breaking off into the same monologue she usually had regarding the youth's father. As it was repeated almost daily, Ranma had learned to tune it out.

"Oh, come on, Brite. He just wants me to focus on the Art." Ranma looked a little sadly at his present, though. The wooden flute the diminuitive fairy had made for him was smashed beyond even Featherbrite's ability to put back together.

"Ranma, I want to start teaching you some things beyond the Art. Things that may not help you in a fight, but that will help your life outside the match." Featherbrite didn't add that this was also to take a large stick and forcibly insert it in Genma's eye. While most faerie couldn't even begin to understand typical standards of moral behavior, they tended to tone some of it down around human children.

With as few births as occurred among the faerie, children of any kind were seen as a blessing most wondrous.

While Genma Saotome may have had a lot in common with certain fey folk, his tendency to endanger his child was not.

Featherbrite had been able to observe a lot more human behavior back when Ranma had started attending school and thought she had the basics down. Leaving Ranma for brief periods to spend a lot of time in a human library had helped enormously, though using faerie magic to decipher the text had been a bit draining.

"Okay, I guess. Like a new game?"

"Yes," Featherbrite nodded happily. "A new game entirely. If you stand in the middle of this ring, I will take you to someplace new, where a second here is an hour there."


Genma stared at what was becoming a usual sight. After two years of this, he still had no rational explanation for some of the odd stuff that happened around Ranma.

In this case, food. Here they were in the mountains of Japan, near a monastery where the monks lived lives of aesthetic hardship.

Genma's stomach grumbled as he looked at the small mound of banana peels, apple cores, orange rinds, and other foods that somehow the boy had managed to forage during the night.

He puzzled over the foreign words on the bottle, wondering what the heck "Flintstones Chewables with Iron" was, and where the boy had gotten THAT.

He'd wanted the boy to eat ONLY rice. It would toughen his stomach and then Ranma would have a much more efficient digestive system.

Besides, if Ranma ate only rice then Genma himself could get the good stuff.

So, he had to find out how Ranma was getting this food, and stop it.

Or at least get to it before Ranma did.

That and figure out why he kept getting the feeling that someone was laughing at him.


Ranma blinked at the sight of the first faerie he'd seen other than Featherbrite.

The faerie in question blinked at the first human he'd *ever* seen. "Somehow I'd pictured them bigger, I did."

"He's just a child, Seymore," said Featherbrite.

Ranma stared. Big. Really Big. He'd come to think of his father as big and powerful looking. Comparitively, this guy was Size Category: Humongous. Twelve feet high and almost as wide, vaguely humanlike but with clumps of fur and a shaggy face that raised homely to an artform, all in shades of light tan. His voice seemed to have a Northern Japanese accent and the same consistency as a gravel crusher. "Neat!"

Seymore turned to the little pixie and spoke in his usual Cockney burr. "I like him. He's kinda cuddly or something loik that."

"Do ya wanna fight?" Ranma asked. He bet this guy was nearly as good a fighter as his dad.

"Well, that's not very noice," said Seymore, managing to look hurt. "Oim just a poor farm ogre, wot I do to you?"

"He means sparring, his father keeps on him that the only thing that matters is a style of fighting they call 'martial arts'." Featherbrite didn't think much of Genma, but tried not to say anything directly insulting in front of Ranma.

Seymore thought about this for a second. "Sounds like a right unpleasant fellow. Well, c'mon. Oi was about to take some pies outta me oven and the lad looks like he could use something stickin' to his ribs, he do."

Which turned out to be one of the fastest ways to Ranma Saotome's heart. Good food in copious amounts had that sort of effect on him.


Genma looked over at where a ten year old child named Ranma was reading some book and shook his head.

Ranma was a wimp. He, Genma Saotome, had failed. Failed miserably to steer his son on the True Path of Martial Righteousness.

The boy wouldn't steal. He wouldn't lie. He talked about a Code of Honor. Where he got such strange ideas, Genma had no idea. The Code Of Honor that Genma had taught him was what one would expect of Anything Goes martial artists. Anything Goes if it served Genma's cause.

Ranma kept showing up with books and magazines and ancient scrolls. Some dealt with martial arts, many didn't even meet that level of acceptability. Sun Tzu's "Art Of War" was one thing, but what use was his current reading material- "Lord Of The Rings" going to be? Gymnastics had its place, to be sure, but it was still wasteful to spend time *reading* when Ranma could be practicing the Art.

Then there was all the strange techniques Ranma kept coming up with that he claimed his imaginary friend was teaching him. Some might have originated in those books, but other skills had to have been taught. But from *where*?

Instead of stealing food, the boy would get out a hat, kneel down in the plaza or market, and begin playing tunes on that bamboo flute. People actually paid Ranma to keep playing. He would "find" things for people, and get more money that way. Then he'd BUY food.

This was as unlike the Master's training as it was possible to get.

The shame of it all weighed heavily on Genma. The Master's training had been painful and humiliating, but effective.

Why else would two lazy responsibility-dodging... ahem two potential martial artists petition a panty thief to become his disciples. Because they had seen the short little fellow run rings around policemen with martial arts training, and had used a number of devastating techniques to deal with outraged villagers. Such a powerful discipline might look strange, but clearly was extremely powerful.

They hadn't expected quite the level of suffering they had gone through, but as Soun had pointed out - it still beat a real job.

Genma had set out to put Ranma through the same thing. Oh, some of it he'd turn down a bit. Other parts he turned up accordingly. Had to achieve a balance somewhere. Clearly though, he had failed to be tough enough on his son.

Turning his gaze to the heavens, he implored them as to WHY he had such a worthless son! Where had he gone wrong?

What he said, however, was to the shopkeeper. "Two deluxe beef ramen." Ranma wouldn't begrudge his father the money.

This was another sign to Genma that he had failed.


Genma found himself puzzled. This was very familiar territory.

Genma found himself giving up in disgust. This was rapidly becoming familiar territory as well.

That he disliked these constant foiling of his plans was more than a little understated. He truly HATED this sort of thing but was learning that Fate (or something) had other plans.

The third attempt to get Ranma to learn the Catfist had ended about as well as the other two. Tie Ranma up in fish sausages, throw him into a pit of starving cats, instant unbeatable fighter. Genma turned his eyes heavenwards and wondered how something so simple could turn so wrong.

First time, in went Ranma. Genma had sat back, waiting to see his son ripped and clawed by the hungry cats. Except that *somehow* the fish sausages had ended up being thrown back up into his lap. Somehow (Genma didn't know how) his pockets and parts of his clothing had become stuffed with bits of fish. Genma had spent a moment being puzzled before cats had starting making impressive leaps and somehow cleared the walls of the pit. In very short order, Genma had found himself being attacked by dozens of insanely hungry felines. He'd escaped, after all, he was too old to learn such a technique.

The second time, Genma had been better prepared. He'd thrown Ranma in, closed the lid over the pit, then run behind a set of concrete pipes used in construction. After a few moments, his curiosity got the better of him and he snuck a peek. There had been Ranma, surrounded by cats.

Unfortunately Ranma had somehow divided the fish cakes up into roughly even portions and given all of the cats enough to eat.

The third time, Genma had taken no chances. One hundred starving cats, check. Ranma tied up so that he couldn't possibly get loose, check. Liberally smeared flesh and clothing using fish paste, fish oil, and with a light caviar garnish behind each ear, check. Lid in place, check. He'd spent days arranging things so that everything would be perfect.

When he'd come by the next morning, there had been a curious thing. The entire lot was surrounded by toadstools! How odd, but Genma knew enough about foraging not to eat these. In went Ranma. The caged cats were upended into the pit, and Genma had thrown the lid down immediately and stepped back.

Four hours later, Genma looked down into the empty pit and wondered how Ranma had managed to screw up his plans THIS time. Such a disobedient child. Genma had to admit, though, the boy was getting really good as an escape artist.

Just as Genma was prepared to say to heck with it, a breeze blew over one of the pages of the training manual. As he read the next page of the Catfist, he reluctantly admitted that maybe not being able to teach Ranma that particular technique wasn't so bad after all.

Sitting down and waiting for Ranma to show up, Genma looked again at the various precautions he'd taken, and had to admit that Ranma *was* rather good at vanishing. Maybe he'd learned a special technique after all...


Seymore groaned from his bed. Every other time they'd come, the farm ogre had had something wonderful baking and had loaded Ranma down with as much food as the boy could stand.

"Here now, lad, chin up, keep yur cool. Oi just reached the end of my span is all." Seymore said from his bed. "This sort of thing happens, eh?"


"Oi lad," said the ogre, laying a hand on the boy's head and tousling it. "Twas just some high ranker elf, saw me was an ogre and did mistake me for one of those less civilized fellows. Stiff upper lip now."

"But..." Ranma looked over the large cuts made on the ogre's body.

"Fare thee well, moi lad. As long as ye remember me, Oi'm not gone, eh?" The farm ogre leaned back into the bed, and relaxed - fading away as he did so into a sparkle of light.

"What?" Ranma blinked as he felt something pass through him, and smelled fresh baked apple pie and ground cinnamon.

"When faerie die, they fade," Featherbrite said. "He's left you some of his magic. Use it well in rememberence of him."


Ranma dodged the stream of poison from the Bog Imp, and since he knew better than to try hitting it with his hand (which would have led to him getting poisoned), the young boy used his dagger to pin the hateful thing to one of the braces of the bridge.

Not weakened by being in the Mortal Realm, nor from the effort of binding a pixie's magic, this one was proving considerably harder to flatten than the one who'd been trying to kill Featherbrite several years back.

"Mortal, I shall devour you - flesh and soul. You will know a century of pain for this indignity," promised the Bog Imp.

Ranma leapt away from a splash of yellow magic, and countered with a thrown rock. Pinned as it was, the Bog Imp couldn't dodge and went splat.

"Very good, Ranma, you handled that quite well," said Featherbrite.

"Yeah, well, if he's splatted he can't hurt me that much." Ranma shuddered. Hairy pumpkin-sized warty spiders didn't agree with him.

"He was a pretty big one," noted Featherbrite. "Now, let me show you how to clean your dagger so the bronze doesn't become contaminated by the venom."


"Ranma, for the insult of the bread, I challenge you!"

"Oh, keep your shirt on, Ryouga. What about all the fruit I've shared with you? What about all those pastries? You wanna fight me, I ain't got no problem with that, but you want to do it over a few lousy sandwiches?" Ranma tossed the eternally lost boy an apple streudel, turning his eyes heavenward in unconscious imitation of his father's frequent pose.

"A FEW sandwiches?!" Ryouga caught the streudel, noting the light flaky crust, that it was so fresh that the icing was still moist and the apple filling was still hot as if it had just recently been pulled from the oven. Considering that the nearest bakery that produced these was over fifty miles away, Ryouga found himself wondering yet again just how Ranma did that.

Ryouga shook his head, more of this magic stuff no doubt, and Ranma REFUSED to share how he did it. "How dare you try to change the subject! I made you a man-to-man challenge! And don't you dare cheat by using your magic on me!"

"Yeah, right, Ryouga. Whatever." Ranma cracked his knuckles. "You wanna name the time and place?"

"The empty lot behind my house!" Ryouga knew he could find it, even without using the magic compass that Ranma had given him. Like he could trust anything Ranma did. He knew better! Nobody was kind without expecting something in return! "Tomorrow afternoon!"

"Yeah, okay. Ryouga." Ranma shook his head. "Hey, afterwards you wanna go by the mall? I'll bring my flute and your drums, we can practice that piece, maybe get enough money for a really decent meal?"

Ryouga smiled, remembering the last group of lessons in drum techniques. ESPECIALLY remembering the way some of the girls from that other High School had looked their way. Ranma had been right about that, at least, musicians got attention from the girls. Ryouga dreamed of the day he had his own groupies. He was *so* tired of living in Ranma's shadow. That wouldn't last long, though. "DEAL!"


Ukyo Kuonji dreamed.

She dreamed of dark skittering forms of Unsidhe as they went about their dark business. Of scaly slimy Thyngs which stayed just out of sight but were waiting, just waiting, for their chance to steal the light.

She dreamed of elven homes made of living trees. She dreamed of simple farm trolls baking pies. Of glittering golden dragons soaring amethyst skies. Of bright elven palaces so hauntingly beautiful that her heart skipped in its rhythm.

She dreamed of her Ranchan, grown tall and lithe and strong.

Ukyo Kuonji dreamed of reuniting with her Ranchan, of his apologizing for his ignorance and parting with her earlier. She dreamed of The Kiss between them, and then...

(Censored to keep this story from getting a Lemon label) and then after tying him to the bed and working off the edge to her appetite, she (censored some more) and used the whipped cream and chocolate syrup. Talking about a "Ranchan okonomiyaki", she then (censored this too) and then (censored) only stopping when (oh boy is this censored) before collapsing into a sweaty pile of limbs.

Ukyo Kuonji often had *very* naughty dreams regarding her Ranchan. It was the giggling pixie flitting in and out of them that concerned her.

-----Mar/10/1990------LIME WARNING(1)---

"Featherbrite, you've been naughty!" Ranma shook his head at the little pixie. They were in the Faerie Realm so he didn't have to pretend he was muttering to himself.

"Hey!" Featherbrite huffed and turned away for a moment before curiosity got her to consider her changeling. Exactly which instance was Ranma referring to? He didn't know about the dreams she'd been sending to his "childhood buddy" did he? "Define 'naughty' if you would!"

"It took me awhile to realize it, but you've been using enchantments on me, haven't you?"

"Hmmmph." Featherbrite floated in midair and turned her back on Ranma. "You got some objection to that? You can eat food of the Faerie Realm without fear now. You're taller and stronger than you would have been just eating rice gruel and what that damn father of yours would have gotten you. What makes you think I've done anything else?"

"From oyaji's reaction when we took the bath at that hot spring. His eyes bugged out and said something about how he HAD promised to make me a 'man among men' or some crap like that." Ranma paused. "I would'a thought it was just some kinda trick but the other people were staring too."

"Oh." Featherbrite did something that was very rare for a faerie. She blushed.

"What else have you done?"

"Oh, errr." Featherbrite started to fiddle with her fingers. "Just a few little things, an infusion of faerie magic here and there. Enhancing this or that. Just little things that I'd thought would be good."

"Promise me. No more enchantments on me unless you clear it with me ahead of time."

Featherbrite turned back to Ranma and held her hand up solemnly. "If you feel that strongly about it. Except for normal healing magic, I promise not to cast any additional enchantments on you without your prior consent."

"Good." Ranma knew that there were probably some loopholes there, but that this was as good as he could reasonably expect to get. "Now what exactly DID you do that got Oyaji so shocked?"

Featherbrite looked embarrassed. "Well... I've heard how human males have this thing about size and stamina. I've also heard human females complain about a lack of stamina, endurance, and THAT sort of thing. So...'cause I didn't want MY friend to grow up with any sort of deficiency or inadequacy... I kinda made a couple of... corrections."

"Why do I have a feeling I'm probably better off not knowing the details?"

--Apr/13/1990-------END LIME WARNING----

"So, you'll engage my Rink to your Ranma?"

The woman was impressed with the young man. Quite handsome, a good cook, a musician, and a capable martial artist from what she could see. Yes, a fine catch. Staking out this martial arts tournament had proven to have unexpected dividends.

"Well, I don't know. He's already..." Genma watched as the amazon put another nugget of gold on the table. "Sold."

Genma gleefully made off with the money. This was wonderful. The boy was such a disappointment in so many ways, but he had become marketable somehow. What these various parents saw in Ranma was unclear to Genma, but he'd already sold Ranma six times to parents who wanted a good mate for their daughters.

OK, he was tall and strong, considerate and honorable. Some women seemed to like those things. But he wasn't the dedicated martial artist Genma had wanted. Some women seemed to think he had sufficient potential to engage their daughters to his son and were willing to PAY for Genma's parental consent!

Not that he had any intention of keeping any of the promises.

Featherbrite was sure that Genma was doing this just to annoy her.


An impromptu jam session was underway in the Faerie Realm. It had been bound to happen sooner or later. Featherbrite was just as glad that it had been later.

A minor functionary of the Seelie Court, one of the Princesses was out surveying when she heard one of Ranma's music lessons.

(Faerie Princesses, contrary to what mortals might think, were actually fairly numerous. It was a constant problem as the number of Faerie Princes were relatively low. Ages ago Titania had decreed that Mortal Heroes were suitable lifemates for a Faerie Princess. Unfortunately Heroes of any stripe tended to be rather hard to find and justifiably paranoid when they were out doing heroic deeds.)

She and her little group had come to find out what a mortal musician was doing in the Realms.

So Featherbrite was hanging protectively near Ranma. Ranma was attempting to follow along on his flute a tune that was old when the world was young. Or, at least, a good deal younger.

A grinning satyr set the beat with his drums. A pair of twin sylphs sang a wordless melody that seemed to curl in and around the voice of Ranma's flute. The whole thing had an appropriately otherworldly quality to it that wouldn't have sold well in mortal pop culture, but did fairly well as an attempt to gauge the mortal's skill level.

"So... Bri'te," a hamadryad paused in her examination of the mortal. "Are all the tales about mortal lovers true? Are they a raging tempest to the cooler winds of faeriekind?"

"I don't know, and I'm NOT going to find out. Nor should you, Holly! By the standards of his culture, he is still a child." This was one of the things that Brite had been nervous about. That one of the faerie would get curious and decide to lure Ranma off. ESPECIALLY as Ranma could well qualify as a Hero-In-Training.

Tall (for his age), handsome, broad shouldered, a skilled fighter with magical talents, a bard with lore of the faerie. Featherbrite glanced nervously at the Princess. Ranma was WAY too suitably heroic for this to have gone unnoticed.

"Hmm. He's your changeling, then?" Holly knew there was an old custom of saving human children from abusive parents, stealing and adopting the child. It was rarely done, especially nowadays with all the problems of living in the mortal realm and its technologies.

"Yes," Featherbrite nodded, glad that Holly understood. "And a friend. He saved me from a bog imp when he was no bigger than a leprechaun. I would appreciate it if you didn't mess with him."

Holly laughed. "I'll tell the others he's under your wing, so to speak. He's got more than one of us curious, you know. I take it the resistance spells woven through him are yours? Nicely done. They'd stand up to that nasty witch and her mother unless they pooled resources."

"I've had years to build them up and refine them." Featherbrite nodded, proud of her handiwork. She had made those enchantments years ago, and they continued to strengthen on their own since her promise not to lay additional enchantments on Ranma.

That promise didn't keep her from refining the ones already in place.

Featherbrite looked nervously around. The Princess, the oriad, the naiad, and both sylphs were looking quite curiously at Ranma. Speculation and a certain degree of hunger were evident.

She was just glad they weren't closer to Makai. That could have been bad.


(1)- Featherbrite has never associated this closely with humans before, but has observed them off and on for over 9,500 years. Yes, she does have some truly odd concepts about humans. That's where some of the humor of this story will come from. She may be an ANC but she's definitely not an AKC (All Knowing Character).


The Faerie Princess glanced at her handmaidens as they left the clearing.

"Mistress?" The chief among them, a sylph, responded to the unspoken command.

"That boy is the pixie's changeling?"

"Yes, milady. Some nice protective spells too," the chief handmaiden noted. "Bri'te has indicated that he is a 'hero in training' or something."

"A hero? How very... interesting." The Faerie Princess considered for a moment. "When is a mortal considered to have reached adulthood?"

"By many standards, by their fourteenth mortal year. By others, not for at least two more such years. In some cases, it is not until their twenty first year. Pardon, my lady, but I'm not sure which is the case here. According to what Bri'te said, he will reach his sixteenth in another year."

"Well, in a mortal year, perhaps I should look up this Ranma again."


Ukyo meet Tsubasa Kurenai. Tsubasa meet Ukyo Kuonji.

"If you haven't seen him for years, he isn't much of a fiance," opined the boy dressed as a girl. That he was now trying to grab her hands was at least not as bad as when he'd rubbed his face against her skirt. If he'd kept *that* up, she'd have ka-powied him into next year.

"He's more of a man than you'll ever be," said Ukyo with confidence. She didn't know where her Ranchan was. Somewhere, probably dragged off to various exotic and dangerous locales by that idiot of a father he had. Still, being more of a man than this boy wearing a pink dress wasn't exactly saying a whole lot.

Tsubasa looked over the cute girl in her little sailor suit school uniform, then spotted a similarly attired group of girls off in the distance. "Oh, hey girls! Do you want to go out for some tea?"

Sighing in relief, Ukyo felt like spraying disinfectant on the body parts that pervert had rubbed against. Being captain of the Karate Club and heir of her family's school of Okonomiyaki based martial arts, she had to keep a certain reputation. Self-discipline. Honor. Enduring strength. Beating the royal crap out of some chikan (groper) might be satisfying but would reflect poorly on her status as one of the most popular girls in school.

First you had to warn them. THEN, as her friend and team-mate Sheila would say, it was time for a serious ka-powie.


The elf-witch cackled, assuming her real form - becoming a withered skeletal figure. "You shouldn't be in the Faerie Realms child. Even though you bear some protective magic, you'll soon enough give up your will and join the others."

"Others?" Ranma glared through the twisted black thorns that had risen up as a cage.

"Yes, Mortal. Mortals are such silly creatures, they need the guidance of the fae. That's all you humans are, after all, cattle." The elf-witch cackled. "I've taken many. Children whose parents didn't warn them enough. Adults who have caught my eye and thought themselves capable. All eventually surrender to the inevitable and I drink of their essence."

Ranma looked past her. "The dolls?"

"Yes. I prefer such things. Devoted little toys whose only joy is what pleases me. They used to be a lovely young girl, whom I captured and tortured and tricked. Then her fiance came looking for her. From devoted couple with their paltry dreams to toys for my enjoyment." The witch smiled a snaggle toothed smile at him. "As you will be soon enough."

Ranma seemed to consider this briefly, staring off into space. "So, you'd be what they call an UnSidhe?"

"By philosophy if not actual affiliation, yes. Where did you hear that term anyway?" The elf-witch asked, unconcerned.

Ranma reached out and grabbed the black briars with one hand. They crumpled. "From a few friends. Guys?"

The elf-witch shrieked as invisibility spells were dropped and a set of elves riding dragonback charged into her encampment.

"I never said I was alone," said Ranma, before grinning and moving to the attack himself.


Genma was impressed. How he'd taught Ranma manuevers like this, he had no idea, which meant he was an even better teacher than he'd thought.

Beast Talking. Ranma would whisper into the ears of a horse or dog or cat or bird, and the animal would respond as if it actually understood what he had said.

Hidden Dragon. Ranma could seemingly negate his own weight, walking across the thinnest rice paper without breaking it or up a cliff or wall as if he had spider-powers.

Ghost Movement. Like some legendary ninja, Ranma could seemingly step into the shadows and reappear elsewhere without a sound. At first Genma had thought that Ranma had somehow learned Umisenken techniques, but no - this was different.

Eyes Of The Cat. In twilight or near dark, Ranma seemed to find his way without error or bumping into objects.

Breath Of Life. A manner of chi flow that Genma had *almost* been able to see. Taking chi from his own body to strengthen another's chi flow.

Second Wind. Replenishing your own chi from the natural ki flows of the planet.

Iron Fist. Not the typical manuever of the same name. Genma had seen Ranma practice it and had been alarmed. Taking not only his own chi, but adding much of the surrounding ki, Ranma's fist gained the power of a wrecking ball. One punch that had left a concave dent 30 feet across in a cliff wall. Of course it had exhausted Ranma, but it was definitely a martial arts technique and a fairly powerful one.

Yes, Ranma was coming along fine. It was just about time to start heading back. There was just one more stop to make.

------March 1, 1992---

"Ranma, I don't like this place," said Featherbrite unhappily.

"It doesn't look that bad," said Ranma. "Just a balancing exercise, nothing more. Combat on top of bamboo poles. The only thing different is the pools of water." His eyes didn't look towards Featherbrite, he just seemed to talk out loud a lot.

"C'mon boy, follow me," Genma leapt for the top of one of the poles, balancing himself quite easily.

"Right behind you," Ranma also found balancing on the bamboo quite easy.

"Don't fall in the springs," Featherbrite floated above Ranma's head. "I see some things here that are bad. Very powerful raw faerie magic, beyond anything I can handle. Neither your glamourie or resistance to enchantment will help you."

Ranma leapt into battle with his father, ignoring his friend for the moment. Featherbrite watched as Genma fell into one of the pools and a panda emerged.

The Jusenkyo Guide was rattling off something about curses which finally got Ranma's attention. Unfortunately he should have been paying attention to the panda.

"Ranma!" Featherbrite extended as much of her magic as she could, trying to shield him from the effects of the curse.

She felt the more powerful magic of the spring warping her own magic, overwhelming the shield she'd hastily placed over Ranma. All the times that she'd brought Ranma over to the Faerie Realm had left some residual magic within him too. Not to mention the various infusions and weavings of faerie magic she'd done over the years.

Ranma looked down at herself and screamed. Featherbrite merely groaned and they both listened to the Guide going on about how a girl had drowned in the spring and now whoever had fallen in the spring took the body of a young girl. Though he'd never seen one with pointed ears or long eyes like that before.

Ranma's attention went from her breasts to her back, and if anything the shock level was increasing.

Featherbrite apologized and was explaining that her shield had been absorbed and twisted by the magic of the spring. That it looked like it wasn't permanent, but that there was probably a trigger that would allow a person in cursed form to return to normal.

Ranma removed the top of her gi as she stepped out of the pool, dimly hearing the Jusenkyo Guide stutter and stop. Ranma reached over her shoulder, feeling the thin surface behind her, then pulling it forward to where she could see.

Ranma glared, first at Featherbrite, then sought out the panda. Wings snapping wide and to the sides, Ranma got really angry and launched herself at the startled panda.

Featherbrite flew along as best she could, but she was tired from the attempted shield, and the other two had strong emotions driving them on. Rescuing the Hibiki boy from a fall took most of her remaining energy, and she floated back towards Ranma's backpack and some rest.


"Don't eat that, Ranma." Featherbrite had a feeling about this. She had a bad feeling about this. Faerie tended to listen to such feelings.

"Not a problem," Ranma replied, having ditched the old man long enough to conjure some elven waybread forth. Except he still hadn't gotten the hang of elven waybread and had gotten several roast beef sandwiches with a sort of ranch-horseradish sauce and cheese. Not that he was complaining. Or sharing with Oyaji, who would just ask a lot of questions and start yelling about the "true path of martial artists" and the like.

"Uh oh, Ranma," Featherbrite clung to the girl's shoulder. "Remember when I told you that only the 'pure of heart' could see me?"

"Yeah, go figure that oyaji can't see or hear you." Genma still thought that Ranma was talking to an imaginary friend.

"Well, there are others who can. A magic wielder, or a psychic, or someone with ties to the supernatural can see me. There's an old woman over there who's staring at me."

"You sure she's not looking at me? Are those damn wings showing again?"


Cologne couldn't help but staring. An Old One. She hadn't seen one of those in years. It was associating with that outsider woman. Now, did that mean the outsider was a mage, with the Old One a familiar? No, the relationship was clearly more friendly than a master-slave one.

Shampoo had defeated Dowel and was yelling at the girl about controlling her panda. Cologne settled back to watch the fight, as the little Old One pointed towards a nearby kettle. The girl splashed herself, straightening up as...

Cologne blinked. Shampoo had challenged a man? This could be interesting. A Jusenkyo-cursed man who associated with an Old One, no less. There was a danger for those who used chi to attentuate their lifespan, and that was ennui. This looked like it *just* could get interesting.

As soon as the two were on the Challenge Log, Shampoo rushed forward - angered by this outsider not seeming to take her as a serious threat.

The fight was brief, and once again, Cologne was annoyed that Shampoo had never managed to learn subtlety nor patience.

"(Shampoo,)" Cologne hopped up to her favored Heir as she was picking herself off the ground.

"(What is it, Great-Grandmother?)"

"(Give this one the Kiss Of Marriage, then go with them, I will contact you shortly.)"

Puzzled, Shampoo complied. At least he was cute. And taller and stronger than Mousse. Though there was something really nerve-wracking about him. Shampoo leaned back from having kissed this stranger, noting he looked a little stunned.

The purple-haired Amazon licked her lips - this guy wasn't too bad. Maybe another kiss, just in case. Hmmm. Tasty! Hey, she could really get to like this. It wasn't like she had the opportunity to kiss anyone, Mousse would get really upset and start attacking anyone she tried to befriend. Though this outsider didn't seem to be doing anything yet. Maybe if she used her tongue like so.

Ranma fainted.


Waking from a slumber, Ukyo was *really* wondering about these weird dreams she sometimes got now. Though the panda skin rug in her dreams was a nice new addition.

Having another girl around? This was just getting too weird for a nice girl from Kansai. Maybe she'd been working too hard lately.


Genma waited until the amazon girl's back was turned, then struck as hard as he could manage, using one of her own bonbori.

Nothing would be allowed to interfere in the plan to unite the two schools of Anything Goes martial arts. Even a cute and friendly Amazon girl. ESPECIALLY a cute and friendly Amazon girl.

She hadn't explained that Amazon Law stuff to Ranma yet, as something had seemed to spook her about him. Genma knew that every so often Ranma would be talking to something that wasn't there. That sort of thing _would_ throw a few people off.

Since it had occurred after leaving Ukyou, Genma had realized what it was. Ranma had been so attached to his Ucchan that he had invented an imaginary friend to replace her. It was a good thing he'd seperated the two when he had!

Chains and locks fitted into place around the old steamer trunk. Then he nailed the lid shut. Finally he affixed a number of labels like "Biohazard" and "Do Not Open Until Christmas" on it. A quick use of some recently stolen funds, and the steamer trunk was shipped off to a brothel in Bangkok.

Genma produced a hanky to wave goodbye to this girl who'd tried to come between Ranma and his destiny of marrying one of the Tendo girls. Now that it was so close to Genma's comfortable retirement, he could not take *any* chances.

In a way it was too bad. Shampoo had proven herself to be a good cook. Ah well, any of Soun's daughters would be a wonderful cook as well.


Featherbrite didn't buy it for a moment. The way that girl had been looking at Ranma, there was no way she'd just been following them to make sure they left the Amazon lands. She wasn't entirely sure what, but that hadn't been the whole story.

No, the Amazon girl had been looking at Ranma *exactly* the way one of that Sultan's wives had looked at that ambassador. Hopefully this would turn out happier.

She knew Ranma agreed that this was suspicious. Probably that baka Genma had done something to drive her off. Just like him, the old panda! Every time Ranma was going to make a new friend, his father would go hauling him off on further training.

Featherbrite sighed and continued to search, knowing she'd be able to track Ranma by the bond they shared. This girl, though. Frankly, she'd been hoping that Ranma would get mated soon. Past time he had a mate, or two, or three. Why humans had to be so uptight about these things...

There were still questions Featherbrite had that needed answers, and she hoped that by observing Shampoo she could figure them out.

Except that the Amazon seemed to be able to sense her presence. Featherbrite had seen the Amazon get more and more nervous the longer she was around Featherbrite. Hmmm. Well, she'd see what she could do.


The panda had tried to drag the girl to the house, but she wasn't wanting anything to do with it. Specifically she was darting and looping in the air, trying to grab her backpack while staying out of the paws of that very panda.

Finally, Genma managed to splash the darting winged girl with hot water after the rains stopped.

After that, the panda was able to stun Ranma with a street sign and drag his unconscious body into the Tendo household.

A few threats to keep the crowd from intervening, and when that one police officer had tried to stop the "wild panda" from doing something untoward, well. It was a good thing he turned into a panda. If it got out that Genma Saotome had been the one to beat up a Japanese police officer and throw him into a drainage canal? No. Far better that it remained a panda escaped from some zoo.

Which led to said panda dragging his useless son to the Tendo place.


Ranma woke up slowly, finding himself surrounded by three girls and a man of about his father's age. Moaning at the pain at the back of his head, he took in the auras of those present in the manner that Featherbrite had taught him.

The man was a complicated blur, always shifting from one extreme to another. He had a bright glow that spoke of much experience, but the strength was "off" and Ranma didn't have enough experience to tell what was wrong with this picture. What the heck was purple and yellow supposed to signify?

The oldest looking one was radiating white, pale gold, and a weaving of dark blue. Basically a nice young girl, beneath that there was a great sadness, and personal self-sacrifice. Ranma decided to be this girl's friend, to try to break down the shell and see if she could be healed.

The other two also showed signs of that underlying sadness. The second one had just erected wall after wall around herself, while the younger fairly burned with a barely suppressed anger that was ready to be unleashed as soon as she could find something to focus it on. Underneath the walls or the anger there was someone nicer.

Everyone in this family, Ranma decided, really needed some help. They'd all faced tragedy of some sort, and none of them had coped that well with it. Well, he could go along with this engagement nonsense for now, and leave when it didn't work out.

"So this is Ranma?!" Nabiki licked her lips. Cute. There was a sense of something strange and exotic, something not quite right with him, but whatever it was seemed evasive. There was also a wild erotic sensual look that changed him from jock to a *very* interesting potential fiance.

Ranma winced again as his head began to throb. "I'm Ranma Saotome. Sorry to trouble you."

"No trouble!" Soun gestured. "My eldest daughter, Kasumi, she's 19. My second eldest daughter, Nabiki, she's 17. My youngest daughter, Akane, she's 16. Pick any one you want, she'll be your new bride."

"I told you, father, I HATE boys." Akane looked over the figure and decided that while he was cute, technically so was Kuno and look what a freak of nature HE was. Besides, there was something just *wrong* about the boy. Though she decided to be polite for now. After all, he wasn't ogling her like those idiots at school.

Nabiki speculated. The boy had a thoughtful look to him, and he was major cute. She had taken stock of his physical attributes and been quite impressed. Maybe...

Kasumi observed carefully. He didn't look THAT young. Something about the way his eyes looked at her sent an odd feeling along her spine. He was tall, broad, and had really nice muscle definition. He wouldn't have looked out of place on the cover of a romance novel. (Not that Kasumi would admit reading them. Oh heavens no. She had just seen them... somewhere.)

Ranma decided. The angry one didn't require additional pressure, the eldest needed a friend, and the middle one had a large loneliness in her aura. Until he could figure a way out of this mess, go with the least damage or the most good.

"Nabiki. No offense to you other two." Ranma smiled at both, noting the stunned expression on the youngest and the faint disappointment in the eldest. He'd have to try figuring that out later.

"Interesting. Why me?" Nabiki felt uncomfortable at the attention, though also getting a thrill that SHE (the one who would have to BUY a date at Furinkan) had been chosen over Akane (unwanted suitors up the yin-yang). The two sisters had had a rivalry going for almost a decade, with the occasional appearance of outright war. This had gotten more subtle since Akane had turned her attention towards the family school of martial arts and proven more naturally capable than Nabiki. Which had marked Nabiki dropping martial arts and turning towards more cerebral pursuits.

Kasumi frowned slightly. She knew she wasn't attractive, had a sex appeal of zip, but there had been a brief guilty hope that she would be chosen. Though he was younger, his voice was nice and he seemed polite. Two qualities she appreciated. Still he'd only been conscious for a few moments before being forced to choose a bride. No doubt Nabiki wearing a flattering kimono compared to Akane's sweaty yellow gi and her own housedress had clued Ranma in as far as who was the most interested in this engagement.

"Well, er, it's that kimono of yours." Ranma noted Kasumi nodding and wondered what that was about. "Er, combined with your hairstyle, it just tells me how complicated your personality really is." Saotome special technique: verbal dodge.

"Better you than me, sis," Akane snorted. She continued to stare at Ranma out of the corner of her eye, however. Much as she hated guys, she was used to being the center of their attention. Being casually but politely dismissed like that was annoying. Besides, he was acting atypical. He wasn't ogling or leering, he wasn't acting like a hormone-addled drooling idiot (most of the boys attending Furinkan) and he wasn't jumping at the chance to jump one of her sisters. So far, so good.

Ranma thought for a moment then sighed. They may throw everything out now, but they'd find out sooner or later. "You may not want this, though. When I was in China, something terrible happened."

Ranma explained his curse, that he'd gotten mixed up in some magic during his training journey, and then that fateful plunge into Jusenkyo. He was prepared for the disbelieving looks despite the panda-turned-father gorging himself in the background. Then he splashed himself.

The sound of jaws dropping simultaneously around the room could be heard in what was otherwise near-total silence. Genma was the only one who didn't react (he'd just grabbed a supply of caramels and was dealing with toothlock).

"Wings?" Kasumi stared at the pastel wings that vaguely resembled those of a dragonfly.

"A girl?" Akane tried to figure out which emotion to go with out of the roil that had resulted from the day's revelations.

Nabiki blink-blinked. The slender elfin form was looking directly into her eyes with eyes that seemed to see right through her and managed to convey a sort of sad understanding. Large luminous violet eyes that seemed to draw her into their depths. There was also a faint smell of raspberry/citrus in the air. It was the conveyed mood from those extraordinary eyes, however, the expectation that Nabiki would be disgusted and horrified by this change that cut through all the reactions swirling through her. She shouldered those reactions to the side and forced a neutral/friendly expression into place.

"So," Nabiki finally managed, deciding to go with curiosity. She was Nabiki Tendo, she had a reputation to maintain, and she would not let these events phase her. "Are those wings functional?"

Ranma blinked. She could feel...sympathy? Not pity exactly, but the middle girl was sorting through her own feelings. Ranma began a slow smile. "Do you want to see?" Ranma stepped out into the backyard and held out her hands. Maybe this would work out, she hoped so, she could really use someone to talk to right now. Featherbrite just didn't understand the human experience too well, and his father wasn't the sort to inspire confidence.

Nabiki was quite hesitant, taking the sylph's hands out in the yard. She was rewarded with a bright smile from Ranma and an odd tingling sensation that seemed to pass from Ranma through her. Then she noticed that the sensation was almost of freefalling and the ground was no longer pressing against her feet.

Looking down, Nabiki saw that both of them were merely a couple of feet up.

"I noticed that if I'm carrying something, I can make it lighter and carry it, unless it's metal. I seem to have problems with anything metal." Ranma's voice was very calm and soothing, as if she half expected Nabiki to begin freaking out.

Nabiki found the loss of control unsettling, but the possibilities of this mode of transport were already beginning to register. An old line in a manga about the Faerie Folk being slain by the touch of cold iron came back to her, and she looked with concern at her transformed iinazuke.

"What are you doing with my sister!" Akane had been frozen with shock for a moment, then started stalking forward. In her vast years of experience, all boys were perverts, and the idea of becoming something like THAT was completely perverted. Nabiki didn't know how to fall, she could get easily injured from even a short drop. She was merely concerned for her sister, that was all.

Kasumi found herself feeling something else, something almost completely new to her. Watching the two lift off, their hair drifting up as if both were weightless, to stand there drifting in midair... Kasumi actually felt a brief stab of jealousy. To effortlessly fly, free and unfettered, to be able to watch the house and her responsibilities dwindle away... Kasumi sighed at the pleasant fantasy.

Ranma tightened her grip as Akane stalked forward, spreading her wings slightly. The two shot up into the air to almost rooftop height.

Nabiki wasn't idle, her mind continuing to catalog and analyze the experience. She hadn't felt any acceleration, as if inertia had been somehow suspended here. More ideas began to flick into place. How fast could she go? How high? How far out did this weightlessness go? How much mass could Ranma negate?

Nabiki glanced down as they drifted in place, then shut her eyes. Every instinct said that they were about to fall, that nothing was supporting them, that they'd get hurt when they hit.

Seeing Nabiki close her eyes and clench her jaw, Ranma slowly lowered the two down again. She watched carefully, seeing more with the violet eyes of her cursed form than merely reflected light. Nabiki flinched slightly as her feet touched the ground, then she started breathing again.

"Sorry, Nabiki, I guess you weren't ready for that..." Ranma was suddenly interrupted by having Akane standing a few feet away and venting.

"You'd best not hurt her, Saotome." Akane stopped growling as Nabiki placed her hand over Akane's mouth.

"Next time, Saotome, I want to be held a little bit closer and I am NOT looking down." Nabiki had thought of dozens of ways to make money on this sort of thing, and had surmised something that Ranma hadn't realized yet himself. This last was that the legends of Faerie generally represented them as being very open emotionally, if not quite human. Based on her limited exposure to both forms, she could see where the cursed form was much more expressive and open.

And what was with the girl's perfume anyway? There was a smell as of a recent rain in a pine forest, somehow evocative of spring. And were her eyes changing color? Was that due to viewing them at different angles of lighting or something else? So many questions. Nabiki's curiosity was engaged, and it was a powerful thing once aroused.

Being held at arm's length though, that had to go. She wanted a better safety margin. A glance over at her younger sister brought Nabiki a brief smile. A guy was paying attention to HER, not bowing and scraping to the little princess. She'd have to (subtly) rub Akane's face in it later, it was one of those things that Akane had always held over her... Akane the popular one, as opposed to Nabiki the feared one, or Kasumi the ignored one.

Kasumi looked down and realized she'd dropped a cup while watching the brief flight. "Oh my. That was one of the good cups too."

"Allow me," Ranma walked over, giving the still angry/concerned Akane a wide berth. Quite obviously she would have to be careful around the youngest. The youngest girl's aura was flashing through so many color cycles (though that light blue tinge of pride seemed to be the strongest) that Ranma wasn't sure at all of what the young lady was feeling. All the Tendos were flashing different emotions in quick succession, but it was especially noticeable in the father and youngest daughter. "I can fix this."

Kasumi looked at all the tiny pieces of the cup. "I'll just get a broom."

Ranma held her hands over the cup and began concentrating, finding the parts that were once together and convincing them to rejoin.

Kasumi took a step back, but smiled as the pieces of the cup moved together, fitting back into a whole. The cracks finally smoothing over as the pieces fused as if it had never broken.

Nabiki whistled. More money to be made, even better, now they didn't have to buy a new cup to replace the broken one. Even Akane blinked at this, the idea occurring to her that after she broke the bricks, Nabiki's fiancee could make them whole again. Never again having to buy new bricks could save that money for other uses.

"Ah, to have such talent in the Art, but to waste it on such trivial things, Tendo!" Genma made a pleading gesture to the heavens. "What did I do to deserve such an ungrateful child?"

Soun opened his mouth to reply then caught the looks Nabiki and Kasumi were giving Genma. Wisely, he shut his mouth. For some reason he could see the idea of adding panda steaks to the menu floating briefly on the air between his middle and eldest daughters. Surely that was just his imagination though.

Kasumi picked up the cup and turned it over in her hands. There was no sign it had ever been broken. How useful! Her eyes caught Ranma's as the sylph reached for the kettle. "Can you do this on other than cups? Any other substances?" Kasumi immediately started to think of other household uses for such a talent.

"Well, yeah, as long as it's a simple object and it isn't metal. I can't do metal too well for some reason." Ranma yanked at her ponytail in a nervous gesture, especially as Akane smirked. Ranma had a bad feeling about the look in her eyes.

Akane was merely smirking because she now had a tool. This Ranma was a boy, and boy = pervert. If he got out of hand, he had trouble with metal and this could be used to teach him his place.

Nabiki leaned against a wall and had an entirely different smirk. Simple objects, as long as they weren't made of metal? Seamless repair of breaks? Yen signs began to dance in her vision. Museums, archaeologists, wealthy people with expensive breakables. Just going down to a junkyard and finding broken things, then reselling the repaired versions could net her a fair amount of revenue.

Her gaze flicked back to Ranma as he restored his masculinity and his humanity with a splash of hot water. Her gaze swept up and down his frame in an appreciative survey. She had expected some dumb lout, that the best she could hope for was that he was cute. She began tallying up the pluses and minuses and found, overall that she could live with the inconvenience of the minuses and enjoy the pluses. Nabiki's grin increased slightly as her eyes went exploring. She could think of a few pluses for both forms. His name meant "Wild Stallion"? She'd have to "accidently" run in on him in the bathroom sometime and find out if the name was appropriate.

"So, Ranma," Nabiki still wasn't sure about this whole engagement thing, but a short term relationship didn't seem too unattractive, in fact it seemed downright lucrative. And not all the profit she was looking at was monetary in nature. "I've got some research to do, but don't forget you owe me a longer flight tomorrow."

Ranma nodded, a faint smile showing on his face. He couldn't read her emotions as easily as when in his faerie form, but Nabiki didn't look nearly as angry or unhappy as she had earlier.

Two others watched with very different feelings on the whole thing.


Featherbrite continued to watch the purple haired girl, who continued to peer into shadows as if she felt something was... off.

"(Ah, Shampoo, and you have brought the Old One.)"

Shampoo had been on edge for quite some time. She jumped into the air, trying to look in all directions at once. "(Where? What is it? I have felt like there was something there...)"

Cologne sighed. "(Child, relax. The Old Ones were often mischievous, sometimes malicious, though often alien. I'd judge that this one offered you no harm.)"

"True," Featherbrite replied, noting again that this small and old-appearing figure was quite capable of seeing her. "I am called Featherbrite, a wind-faerie of the Cor Mai Tal tribe, honored one."

"(Honored one, eh?)" Cologne hopped over to where she could get a better look at the tiny figure. It was not often that she ran across one smaller and more ancient than herself. She rather enjoyed this. "(Translation effect, eh? That's handy. Mind telling me what's going on, little one?)"

"(Okay, Great Grandmama. It's...)" Shampoo's voice trailed off as Cologne shot her the dreaded Grandmother Look, a special attack known to freeze children in their place. It did so.

Featherbrite began to tell her tale, that of her friend Ranma returning to be told by his father that the Amazon had gone back to her village, but that both Ranma and Featherbrite had felt that the panda wasn't telling the whole story.

"(Shampoo, didn't you tell the boy why you had come after him?)" On seeing Shampoo shake her head, Cologne gave an exasperated growl. "(Well, why not? I can't believe you found the boy intimidating!)"

"(Great Grandmother, something did not feel right. It just...felt strange. Then the strangeness followed me!)"

"(Little one, can you show yourself to my Great Granddaughter?)"

"No, only some people can see me. Usually it is the pure of heart, or a child, or those who are mages." Featherbrite thought briefly. "It would be difficult to do this without either using a spell or an infusion of faerie magic. Possible, but it would require time and some work."

Cologne sighed and found a rock to sit on. "(Well, Featherbrite, you said? Let me tell you what is going on with that friend of yours and my Great-Granddaughter here.)"

Shampoo moved carefully, watching Cologne's eyes as she addressed... nothing. Shampoo continued to stare and noticed that there was a point about three feet in front of her Great-Grandmother where her own eyes refused to focus. There was a ripple in the air, almost a heat shimmer. Shampoo continued to stare, trying to make out this "Old One" through sheer will. Instead it just seemed to be giving her a headache.

"(So when Shampoo was defeated, she gave the boy the Kiss Of Marriage.)"

"Marriage?" Featherbrite thought about it. There were so MANY confusing human customs. She'd run into this before, though. There was that Sultan Whatshisname, and he'd had thirty wives. How many centuries ago had that been? But had that changed? Ukyo didn't appear to be that comfortable with the idea of marriage - every time she dreamed of it she immediately went to the mating section. "That means an arrangement between exclusive mates, doesn't it? I'm not sure I approve."

"(Don't tell me, you think he should wait till he's older?)" Cologne chuckled. It wasn't unheard of for a marriage to take place between fourteen year olds in non-industrial societies like the Joketsuzoku.

Featherbrite absently waved that point off. "Hmmm? No, no, he's an adolescent. Old enough. I just don't understand exclusive mates. Favored mate, THAT I could see."

"(First mate? Most favored mate?)" Cologne knew from the bits and pieces of stories that faerie viewed things much differently from humans. How could she explain marriage to someone who likely didn't even understand the human need for ceremony?

"DEAL!" Featherbrite exclaimed, bobbing in the air happily. She'd gotten a good deal for Ranma, and maybe this girl would help take away some of his father's influence!

Cologne's face went blank momentarily, then she groaned. Maybe the son-in-law would be able to explain this.


Akane had been waiting for the knock on her door. "Come in, Nabiki."

Nabiki closed the door behind her, pausing for a moment to regard her sister.

Akane answered the unasked question. "I don't trust him."

"Why not?" Nabiki leaned against the closed door and continued to study Akane.

"He's a boy. I know boys, look at how many of 'em I've got after me. They're all jerks and perverts." Akane made a dismissing gesture to indicate what she thought of the boys at school. There was also something else, something not quite right about him that her trained martial artist senses kept interpreting as danger. "Look at all the idiots that attack me every morning!"

"So. He's not from around here. Admittedly we've just met him, but he doesn't *seem* that bad."

"Which means he's hiding something." Akane nodded her head. "I'll tolerate him for your sake, sis. One wrong move though, and..."

Nabiki watched her sister and determined several things from years of associating with Akane. One of which cut back in her own plans to rub Akane's face in the fact that Nabiki had a fairly handsome guy. Akane was telling the truth in one respect: there was more to this Ranma than could be easily summed up in a single sentence. There was a vibrancy about the young man that the male population of Furinkan was missing. And that this guy had chosen Nabiki over Akane had rattled little sister's cage.

"Gee, Akane, I would've thought you'd be happy about your big sister getting a boyfriend." Nabiki shook her head and tried to look amused.

"I'm just hoping you don't get hurt, Nabiki. He's too good to be true in some ways, too weird to be acceptable in others. And this whole arranged marriage thing stinks!"

"Give him a chance, Akane. He isn't *that* bad." Nabiki wanted to convince herself as well. After all, the boy had chosen *her* instead of Akane. She wanted to believe that Ranma was more discerning than the average Furinkan youth, as opposed to there being something wrong with him.

Akane shook her own head. "It isn't like you to let yourself get pulled along by some 'pretty boy' even if he's got some skills. SOMEBODY has to be suspicious and use their heads here. What if I'm right? Can we take the chance? He admits to using magic in order to fix that cup, what if he's influencing your mind or something?"

Nabiki thought it likely that Akane had been watching too many horror flicks lately.


That's it for chapter one of the remake of "Featherbrite's Tale" - it's mainly the same up to a point, then it will get very different fairly quickly.


"Can't I get another try?"

"Like a makeup test?" One of the cloaked and masked beings nearby asked her.


"Very well," said the mysterious being. "Join the others."

"Others? This isn't going to involve turning into a blob of LCL, is it?"


Misato Katsuragi checked her PDA.

:Mission Briefing.
:Test For Rival Relief Office Placement.
:Better Father Than Genma Scenario.
:1) Rescue Ranma Saotome From Pit Of Cats.
:2) Raise Ranma To Be A Martial Artist As Best As Possible Using Cover Identity Provided.
:3) Get Him A Few Engagements/Rivals/Opponents Along The Way.
:4) Proceed To Nerima Japan - Tendo Dojo After 16th Birthday.
:5) Further Details To Follow.

Misato checked her folder. She was currently Captain Misato Katsuragi, JSSDF. Currently working with a bunch of deranged otaku over at Misawa AFB. Her eyes scanned the papers briefly, nodding at several points, and putting the appropriate cards into her purse to replace her NERV issued identification.

If she returned to her home timeline, she'd be dead within a tick of the clock. In which case her paperwork was not needed any more.

"Misato Katsuragi doesn't like to lose," she muttered into the cold misty morning air. "Now where do I find..."

"NOOOO! PAPA! I'll be good! Don't throw me in there again!"

Misato smiled lightly, checked her gun. "It's showtime, boys and girls!"


Misato smiled down at her adopted child. It had been a strange request, but then it had been a strange trial.

After getting the boy from his father and placing that father under citizen's arrest, a number of crimes had been found to press charges against Genma Saotome. Nothing really major except the assault charges against a police officer who had attempted to stop him and two other panty thieves a few years ago. Still, the jury had been readily convinced that even if Misato Katsuragi was a "boozing violent ne'er do well" - she had attained the rank of Captain in the JSSDF and had a fair list of accomplishments. She was also being considered for several positions within the Law Enforcement community for when she got out of the JSSDF. While her personal life was a shambles that the Saotome attorney took great pleasure in ripping apart, it had been *nothing* compared to what the prosecutors had found on Genma Saotome.

Little Ranma had gotten disillusioned with his father during the whole thing. Besides, those Marines over there were pretty darn good fighters and knew some new moves.

"There's good fighters there?" Six year old Ranma asked his new guardian.

"Germany has a long and involved martial history," agreed Misato. "I'll be training with some of their pilots while I'm there, but we'll see if I can get you in with the 'head dojo' at the base."

Ranma grinned. He knew his father had just sold him off again. No doubt his Pop would be sneaking him off any time now. In the meantime this Misato gal was kinda nice and the food was pretty darn good and he was learnin' all sorts a stuff! Though he was kind of put off by some of the things those men had been saying about his father. Stealing food and supplies, runnin' over people, making promises and then running out - these were bad things?! Ranma had pointed out to everyone in the courtroom that these couldn't be bad things, Papa did them all the time!

"Let's see," Misato said, reaching down and trying to pull out her PDA. Then checking her purse. Then checking her luggage. She was beginning to panic about the time she remembered just setting it down at the dock and...

At the bottom of Tokyo Bay, a PDA quietly shut itself down.


"How dare you ignore Asuka Langley Soryuu, the Red Rose of Götterdämmerung Grundschule (Goetterdaemmerung Elementary School)?!"

"Uhm, fairly easily," pointed out Ranma, then went back to ignoring the crazy chick. He had food to take care of, a much more important task.

"In the name of my martial arts," Asuka said as she leapt to the top of the cafeteria table, "such impudence cannot be forgiven!"

Ranma finished scarfing the "mystery meat loaf" and deliberately spat a pimento out at the redhead. It bounced off her forehead.

"You... you... Arschloch!" Asuka was not amused. "Soryuu School Of Martial Arts Special Attack! Lunch Tray Slam!"

Ranma flicked some jello out, then moved aside when Asuka slid off the table and planted her face on the bench. Sighing deeply, he took the unconscious girl to the nurse. "Third time this week. You'd think she'd learn."

Asuka mumbled something indistinct. If Ranma had heard that the only way to keep his attention had been to fight him, he would have been appropriately worried.


Misato hadn't been *too* surprised to find Asuka here, she'd known that Asuka hadn't wanted to return to their original timeline either.

Arranging an engagement between Asuka and Ranma had been fairly easy. Especially considering who Asuka's guardian was. Though the thought of Ryoji Kaji as a grizzled middle-aged Interpol detective was certainly quite... Actually it did kind of fit, didn't it?

A few years at various military bases, taking Ranma along while doing some odd jobs. She was a security expert and tightening up security at some installations was just entirely too natural. Ranma got some training, sometimes from the local sensei like that Dhalsim guy in India, sometimes a local brawler like Colonel Guile (who Misato could admit had some smooth moves - not entirely confined to during a fight), and sometimes the underground fight scene like with that Blanca fellow. Oh and then there had been Chun Li. Couldn't hold her beer but someone Misato could respect despite the silly hairstyle. Who had dropped hints about two Chinese locations not on the map.

The visit to Jusenkyo had not gone nearly so well. Who knows what would have happened if they had actually made use of that training ground!

The letters back and forth to the other location of which Chun Li had hinted and which a call to a few contacts had nailed down - at least looked promising so far.

"Hello, are you Cologne?" Misato bowed. "I'm Major Katsuragi. Can we get out of this sun before we talk? It's been a long trip."

The old woman nodded. "So glad you were able to make it dearie. So this is the young man you're trying to get additional training for?"

"Yup. Ranma Katsuragi. He's spent years studying martial arts under some of the best military instructors in the world," Misato said proudly. "He can take apart a machine gun and put it back together blindfolded, pilot almost any military vehicle (he specializes in mid-air combat), and has studied under some pretty impressive martial arts sensei."

"So you heard about us and wanted to see what we can teach him, in return for which you will get us that equipment you mentioned in your letter." Cologne nodded. The Nichieju were self-sufficient. That didn't mean they didn't *want* some modern equipment and supplies.

"Already arranged," assured Misato. "One of the things you do over the years in my line of work is make some contacts. As long as its basic stuff like food, medicine, farming equipment, and the like - none of my contacts has any problem smuggling stuff into Chinese airspace."

"Oh dear," said Cologne. "He just defeated Vanilla. She just gave him the Kiss Of Marriage."

"The what?" Misato turned around. "REI?!"

"Hmmm, that's the most emotional response I've seen out of her. Interesting," said Cologne.


A portly middle-aged man yanked another arrow out of his butt. Even he could admit this wasn't working. Try to enter one of those military bases and you had all sorts of people after you. Which wouldn't be too unusual except that these particular groups had all sorts of firearms and IR scopes and other unfair measures.

Try to enter that one village and some guy apparently made of rubber would start breathing fire on him.

Try to enter this village and there were a lot of women who apparently not only had some martial arts training, but regarded him as an intruder.

Sooner or later, though, the betrayer and the thief would be defenseless and he could strike!


Some of this was beginning to amuse Misato. So far she was the only one who apparently remembered *anything* of the Eva units or NERV or any of that. Except a shadow had briefly passed over Asuka's face when she'd mentioned taking Ranma back to Tokyo, and that she had some piloting to do.

Still, she'd ended up getting out of the military and would be going into policework soon. The teaching gig was just temporary.

Getting a teaching degree had been fairly simple, the paperwork had been in place for quite awhile and she'd had to brush up on a lot of this to tutor Ranma anyway.

That wasn't the amusing thing though.

Asuka as a German prima donna kempo champ? Ok.

Rei Ayanami as Vanilla - a Chinese Amazon? Strange.

Maya Ibuki, a young teacher at Furinkan Senior High School? Really odd.

Ritsuko Akagi, the slightly sadistic school nurse? Odd, but somehow appropriate.

Kouzou Fuyutsuki, acting vice principal? Ok, she supposed. As long as Gendo didn't show up.

Slightly more amusing was that Maya's boyfriend and fellow teacher was Makoto Hyuuga. Looked like he reciprocated those feelings. Misato actually felt pretty good about that, feeling Makoto deserved better than to get hung up on her again when she didn't return those feelings herself.

Kensuke Aida, military otaku and sophomore? Fit pretty darn well actually.

Touji Suzuhara, tough guy who practically melted into sentimental slag around his girlfriend - Hikari - who perhaps fortunately went to some school for girls and not this one.

Shigeru Aoba was a music teacher, and looked a damn sight happier than he had been as Comm Officer at NERV.

Then there was the local weirdoes. If they'd been in her previous world, Misato didn't recognize them.

"Fair educator, I wouldst date with thee!"


"Stop hittin' on my Mom, you jerk!"

Misato was pretty sure kendo-boy there must be related to Kaji.

Why was that one girl so angry that Ranma had stopped those morning fights? It was only their second day here and already Ranma seemed to have picked up as many rivals/enemies as he had in two years in Germany or that year he'd spent in the Amazon village.

Misato made her way to the principal's office and then to her classroom. Perhaps it was a bit odd that her "son" was one of her students, but this whole school took odd to an artform.

She checked her notes and froze. No way. Well, on second thought, maybe she should have expected this. "We have two new students. Both transfers. Heh heh." Misato sent a glance towards Ranma's desk.

Ranma swallowed and made a couple of battlespeak hand gestures. A handy thing practiced by Black Beret Special Forces.

Misato replied back in the same mode. No, he was not getting out of this that easy. Just try to keep the property damage and disruption to the classroom minimal.

Not for the first time, Misato wondered what it would have been like if she could have substituted Shinji with Ranma. Other than when the chips were down and people's lives were on the line, Ranma wouldn't have folded like that.

A rap on the door. "Come in." Misato nodded. "Introduce yourselves."

"I'm Asuka Langley Soryuu, charmed I'm sure!" The redhead winked at the class.

"Vanilla," said the albino. "Though Katsuragi-san has given me the name Rei Ayanami on several occasions."

"Not on purpose," mumbled Misato.

Asuka sauntered over to Ranma's desk. "Well, liebchen? Nothing to say to your fiancee?"

"F-f-f-fiancee?!" Ranma was a little surprised.

"His is my airen," said Rei cooly, her look suggesting she was measuring Asuka for a coffin.

"NO! Ranma must marry a Tendo!" The door exploded as an overweight martial artist burst through it.

"WHAT?!" The violent girl in a seat near Ranma exclaimed. "Where did that come from?!"

"It's quite correct," said a middle-aged man with a moustache and long hair. "Ranma Saotome *must* marry a Tendo."

"But my name is now legally Ranma Katsuragi," pointed out Ranma.

"Don't bother us with the facts," exclaimed Genma and Soun together.

"Excuse me," said Asuka.

"Excuse please," said Rei.

*WHAM!* *WHAM!* Rei and Asuka nodded after knocking the two out the door.

"HEY! You can't hit my father like that!" Akane got up, protesting.


Ranma took a deep breath. He'd barely gotten the window open in time before the two had knocked that violent tomboy out it. That could've been messy.

"Now," began Asuka, turning towards the paler girl.


"Now you're both going to sit down, shut up, and I'm going to start class, right?"

"Nice gun," commented Asuka from her new chair, which that one girl had obligingly given up to her.

"Very pretty is," said Rei in an attempt to be polite.

"Most ominous," said Mio, regretting her Tarot card forecast to stay home today had been ignored.

"I'm so glad you're all reasonable," said Misato.


"Chinese Vulcan-wannabe," griped Asuka a month later as she left school.

Rei merely raised an eyebrow. Then idly kicked Hikaru Gosunkugi in the head before he could try pounding a stake into her heart.

Ranma sighed. Why was his life so complicated?

Tatewaki Kuno stared from nearby. The redheaded valkyrie, so passionate and fiery! The pale and ghostly girl, so vulnerable and yet so strong. Akane Tendo, so pure and tidy. The beauteous educator, so earthy and alluring. Gotta catch 'em all!

Hikaru Gosunkugi, convinced that girl was a vampire, wondered why the garlic and crosses weren't working.

Akane stalked forward. How dare those two keep beating her into the ground!

"Most ominous," repeated Mio, ducking as Akane flew past her head.

"Honey, you ain't seen ominous," Misato declared, "I've seen ominous. This is just amusing."


Thanks to Helmut Steeg for correcting my German! ^_^