You can guess the crossover. Ranma won't wear a fuku, and also no tuxedo. He won't be some re-incarnation. He is just... Ranma. I want to avoid numerous stuff that became the norm in these crossovers but that actually is pretty stupid. I also will make it clear that while Ranma and the Senshi learn new techniques, I won't sink to the insane levels of the canon, where it became an absurd arms race in the later parts of both series. It's a common weakness in anime series that the power level increases to ridiculous levels. (In my opinion, DBZ is the worst offender in that regard in the anime world) I will try to stay on Earth and try to give everything a bit more realistic feeling (as much as it as it is possible) but don't worry... hilarity will still ensure!

Needless to say that I will slaughter the canon of both series, but I guess you expected this. Also I don't have any rights to both series, but I guess you know that, too.

This one went WAY longer than I intended. Even though it took only half as long to write as the previous one, it is even longer. That's mainly because of stuff from the previous chapter I put into this one.

I do have a page for the story at TV Tropes. Searching for the name of the story, you should find it fast.

As always, I try to answer all reviews.

Note that specific notes are at the end of the chapter, to avoid spoilers.


Chapter 20: All of the Rainbow

"Very good. You're learning the basics well enough," Khu-Lon commented, before easily shaking off the four girls she'd ordered to attack her at the same time. "Of course you are worlds away from sonny-boy or even the Tendo girl, but it's no longer the disaster it was at the start. Take some breaths, then you two spar against each other, while you two do weapons training."

There was no protest, the girls knew better by now than to question her.

I'm surprised they are coming along this well, she thought, while looking around. When I started, all but one of them were a disaster an had little in the way of self-defense. Well, they're still rookies, but at least they are making progress.

She put special attention to Ami. "You've always prided yourself with this brain of yours. Guess you now know better that it doesn't help if you stay as weak as a kitten."

"I learned this the hard way..." Ami said, while rubbing a bruise on her side. "It feels kind of good to be able to do more than just being the brains of the group."

"Oh, and birthday-girl..." Khu-Lon then said to Usagi, "don't think I'll go easy on you so that you can enjoy the celebration later. Turning 17 should only drive you to try harder."

Usagi felt a bit weird that apart from Mamoru, she actually was the oldest in the group; everyone else's birthday being set later in the year. Even Ranma's birthday was still almost two months away. Even more bizarre, Makoto was actually the youngest in the group, with her birthday being in December.

"Just don't make me lose my appetite," Usagi told her, before walking away.

Khu-Lon shook her head. One really has to wonder how she kept so slim when eating so much before she started training.

She then looked over the room. It was still early in the day and the restaurant wouldn't open until noon, thus giving them more than enough time for training. Due to time pressure and Mu-Tsu finally having gotten his head out of his ass, he was now helping along. Of course that had called for the girls wrapping a cloth around their chests to cover up, but they'd said it wasn't that different from a bikini and actually helped them concentrate. Mu-Tsu himself wasn't that bothered by their outfits - after all he'd seen warriors in such get-ups all the time.

Makoto and Xian-Pu were still busy with their mock-mace battle, the wooden training maces clashing. Judging by the number of bruises, Makoto was taking far more hits.

"And you are doing this since the age of six?" Makoto gasped, while feeling another bruise forming. "That's unfair..."

"Perhaps, but your enemies won't care about fair play. At least I can help you to learn really fast," Xian-Pu answered, then accidently knocked Makoto down with a lucky hit. "Ooops, sorry!"

"Urgh... let's take a break!" Makoto groaned, holding her belly. "Too much motion and I fear I could puke all over you."

Xian-Pu had no wish to get messed up like that. "Seriously, you are making progress and are the best of you girls, but you are looking to Mu-Tsu far too often today and your concentration suffers from it."

"Eh... sorry?" Makoto stammered, while blushing. The temptation to see Mu-Tsu in action was simply too great.

Xian-Pu shook her head. "I really have no idea what you two are doing. I know he is clueless when it comes to girls, but I didn't expect someone like you, who has the strength and courage of a warrior, to act like a shy pre-teen when it comes to him. Granted, you are getting along great now, but both of you are dancing around the issue of seeing if there's something deeper."

Makoto had to admit that she was a bit nervous about making the next step, which was very unlike her usual boldness. Of course, she'd been forced to find out about these things all by herself, since her mother had died early in her life and there hadn't been another older woman offering to give her advice. Of course she would be clumsy in this regard. Looking aside she saw that Rei had her shield out and defended herself against Mu-Tsu's relentless attacks.

"How much stuff are you keeping on your person?" Rei wondered while blocking as best as she could - since she had to wish to again get hit by a training potty - while attacking with a wooden spear.

"Oh, plenty. More than you would guess," he told he with a smile, clearly enjoying himself, before yanking away her shield with a chain. "You really should pay more attention. My art gives me a huge advantage"

Rei grumbled, while picking up her shield. "If it's so great why aren't you giving Ranma some hints so that he can finally carry around a sword? Keeping it from him will only hurt us in the end."

Mu-Tsu crossed his arms in defiance. "I really don't want to tell him my secrets just like that. I worked really hard..." He stopped when he saw Makoto approaching.

"So, Ranma is complaining all the time about this because you simply want to stay unique?" Makoto shook her head. "We're in a war, could you just put your pride aside and show him just what he needs to know. I doubt he could reach your level anytime soon... Oh, and my eyes are up here."

Mu-Tsu swallowed, having stared at her enormous rack without noticing he did so. "Maybe I can show him the basics... Perhaps I can show you some interesting tricks as well when you have the time?"

Makoto raised an eyebrow. "This comes a bit out of the blue."

"Cut me some slack..." Mu-Tsu whispered to her. "Back home we either had nice but useless girls, or bitchy warriors. You have the muscles and spirit of a warrior, yet are very nice and retained the curves and soft parts of a girl. I still need to get used to girls who are nice and a warrior."

Makoto blushed a little as this had been very flattering.

Khu-Lon shook her head when witnessing this exchange and turned her attention to other matters at hand. Soon enough Minako and Naru would again turn to weapons training, with Minako learning how to ensnare an enemy while Naru had to learn how to use her sickle better in melee.

Ranma had also made good progress. He'd gotten down the technique of the countless strikes by now, and was constantly busy with trying to get better at it. She wasn't surprised, his inability to cause real damage against the monsters was fueling his desire to get better. Sure, he'd need far more experience to be good at what she was teaching him, but she had confidence in him. Right now however, he was away on his sword training with his mother and the Chiba man. Soon however he'd learn the real prize.

Suddenly Usagi let out a short gasp, which caused everyone to put their attention towards her, then she pulled out the moon scepter.

The jewel on it was flashing in a certain sequence, instead of the rhythmic heartbeat Usagi had experienced until now, before going silent. Usagi remembered something Pluto had told her and groaned. "Oh, that's perfect..."

"What's wrong this time?" Naru wondered, knowing this look after years of experience. It meant Usagi was in a bad mood.

"Trouble." Usagi knew deep down that they couldn't always win, but it still stung. "They got to one first."

Everyone knew what that meant.

o

"You have done well, Zoisite," Beryl commended her, while looking at the violet Rainbow Crystal in her hand. "It looks like there were no problems at all."

"None, your majesty. Well, at first I thought the girl-brat was holding the crystal, but then it turned out that the crystal, and therefore our warrior Catian, were actually in the fat cat she was holding. I felt it better to do the extraction here, where no one can disturb us," Zoisite reported, before indicating at the huge, anthropomorphic cat with blue fur standing in the background. The Youma Catian stepped forward and then respectfully knelt before Beryl.

"I remember you lost the ability of speech when you accepted your new powers, but this is not of much concern as long as you serve faithfully," Beryl reminded him, before dismissing the animalistic Youma.

She then took a look at the three crystals in the holding frame. "We now have three crystals, while two are in the hands of our enemies and two remain to be found. Zoisite, we can not allow these crystals to fall into the wrong hands. The current situation is already bad enough."

"I believe that she'll prove that she's more than capable of succeeding in this task."

Everyone looked to where Kunzite entered the throne room, looking quite confident. "She has worked hard to make up for her errors so she deserves renewed trust."

Zoisite gave him a smile. "Thank you, Kunzite! You are always there for me."

Kunzite gave her a rare smile, before turning his attention to Beryl. "Queen Beryl, while the DD Girls are still recovering from the injuries Bunbo caused them, allow me to accompany Zoisite on her quest for the final two Rainbow Crystals. This way I can be of more use than my current task."

Zoisite couldn't help but to like how sneaky he was. He'd healed her quickly, but these arrogant DD Girls were left to heal the slow way.

"So you were unable to locate the Moon Princess? A pity, but that can't be changed for now, as she's quite elusive." Beryl then gave both of them a hard look. "Very well, just do not disappoint me."

"We won't, I... my queen, the Black Crystal has just located the next crystal holder!" Zoisite threw the crystal into the air, and it projected a picture of a brown-haired, bespectacled woman who looked like a typical wallflower. "This unremarkable woman is the one holding Binah, one of our greatest minds."

Beryl took a closer look. "Interesting how someone so bland can hold a being of such beauty..."


...later that day, streets of Minato ward...

"I understand why my parents and friends made me leave the house while they prepare my birthday party and don't want the surprise to be spoiled. What I don't understand is, why you three decided to keep me company. Mamoru I can understand, since my father would probably go ballistic by just seeing you and jumping to conclusions, but Luna and Naru?" Usagi wondered, while walking though the streets of Minato with Naru, Mamoru and Luna.

"Oh no, I won't stay in a house where I have to pretend to be a normal house cat, thus can't help in the slightest and always have to fear being stepped upon in the general chaos. I'm very fine outside," Luna made her point clear.

That made Usagi wonder. "Then what about Artemis? He didn't leave."

"I know exactly what he's planning!" Luna hissed, obviously annoyed. "He's waiting until Makoto is done with the cake and then wants to lick the mixing bowl clean. For someone of his age, he can very immature at times."

"Clearly not immature enough that you can't enjoy each other," Usagi observed, only to hear another hiss from Luna.

"What Artemis and I do in our free time is none of you concern! Got it?" And as if to underline it she made a motion as if she was about to swipe her claws over Usagi's leg.

"OK, OK! Don't get you tail into a knot!" Usagi knew Luna could be really nice... unless you needle her about her sex life. "You haven't been much of an advisor recently."

"That's because you and the girls are doing fine enough right now. You don't really need much advice, which gives me time to concentrate on other matters," Luna explained patiently.

"Ah." Usagi knew, there was nothing to add to. Instead she looked to Naru. "I thought you would be all too eager to help them."

Naru gave Usagi a knowing smile. "After helping preparing your birthday parties for years, I felt I needed a break. After all the excitement of recent weeks, I really want to spend some time with you. The others are really nice and good friends, but it can't replace what we shared all these years. Sometimes I miss it a lot."

"I remember how I almost forgot about you... I still can't believe it happened just like that." Usagi still felt a bit guilty that it happened and if Naru hadn't acted on it, probably would have forgotten her. "It was as if Sailor Moon was pushing you aside."

"No, no sadness on your birthday!" Naru scolded her lightly. "Look, I'm no longer angry at you. You were all alone back then, but that's different now. We promised to each other all these years ago we would help out each other, and that's what counts."

"The two of you growing up as close friends must have been quite interesting. I wish I knew how that is, I only found friends starting with high school," Mamoru said, after having stayed silent the whole time.

"Well, it was not always great..." Usagi admitted.

"Sometimes we really annoyed each other. I remember one time where we didn't talk to each other for almost an entire month after something went really wrong. In the end both us us broke down and admitted that it had been awful to ignore each other and it really helped us to understand each other better," Naru remembered, feeling it had been the low point of their friendship.

"Hard to imagine. You two know each other so well and are really sticking together, regardless how bad things look." Mamoru then stopped when they walked by an art gallery. "Wait a moment... Look at this!"

Wondering what could cause Mamoru to react like this, they took a look at the print that was displayed and were surprised at what they were seeing. It looked like a dancing couple which clearly resembled Mamoru in his Endymion armor and Usagi is a silvery ballgown. They all looked at it in complete surprise, not having expected to see something like this out of the blue.

"Wow... Talk about a big clue." Naru then noticed something. "If this is a clue about the past, why is Sailor Moon dancing with Endymion?"

Oh, I better cover this up! Luna thought, then said "This picture clearly shows a ballroom scene. Changing dance partners is not uncommon." To her relief, they seemed to accept this without question.

Usagi rubbed her forehead, looking for a moment as if in pain. "That stirred something... I saw myself... dancing with Endymion, having a good time. That's actually the first real thing I can remember from my previous life."

Naru knew, remembering a past life's memories sometimes could be taxing. "We should check it out. Who created the picture?"

Mamoru read the sign below the picture. "There's written that it was created by a Yumemi Yumeno and that the gallery is showing her art."

Pulling our the scepter, Usagi watched it closely. The jewel was pulsing slowly - slow enough that the vibration alarm hadn't been set off - and it seemed that the source of the signal was within the art gallery. "If she's the one we're looking for, then she is in there. Naru, better call the others."

That however hit a small roadblock.

Calling Ami - as she surely would be able to find a quick excuse to talk over the communicator - had revealed a serious problem. All of their friends were still busy with party preparations under the watchful eyes of Usagi's parents. No chance for any kind of excuse until they were done and could claim to look for Usagi as a group, which probably would take too long. She talked about trying something, but every wasted minute where they had to improvise made them nervous after the recent close calls. The thought of just the three of them having to face something like the DD Girls again was frightening.

Entering the gallery, Usagi kept the scepter hidden, while following the pulses that would lead them to their target.

It proved to be like looking for the needle in the haystack.

The gallery was well visited, making it much more difficult to find the person holding the Rainbow Crystal, which most likely was Yumemi Yumeno. The exhibited drawings were disturbing them, as they stirred memories. The pictures were clearly showing glimpses of the Silver Millennium, making it even more likely that it was Yumeni who was holding the crystal. Even though it was difficult and they didn't know what she looked like, the scepter would surely find her.

In the end it did prove a little easier than anticipated. They did spot a woman not looking at the drawings but at the people. Only the artist herself would do so to gauge audience reactions and the scepter was clearly singling her out as the crystal holder. Usagi and Naru did look a little disappointed that she looked so ordinary. With her braided brown hair and glasses she could as well have been working in a flower shop. Perhaps that was why no one gave her any attention.

Mamoru waited until they were a little away from other people, before he approached her. "Yumemi Yumeno?"

"Eh, what?" Startled, she only then saw him. "Oh... you do know who I am?"

"It wasn't that difficult. You were the only one looking at the people instead of the art," Mamoru explained with a dose of amusement. "Only an artist wanting to see what people think of the end result would do so."

The woman sighed. "All right, it would be useless to deny it. I am her, but it's not what you think. I'm suffering from a severe case of artist's block and hoped to get some inspiration. Sadly it didn't work."

"How comes no one recognises you? You're famous," Usagi wondered.

"Take a look at this." Yumemi pointed to a portrait of a beautiful woman. "That's how people want to see me. The real me doesn't interest them, therefore they don't know what I look like. After all, who would be interested in someone as plain as me?"

Naru scratched her head. "I don't understand. You're not ugly or anything like that."

Yumemi seemed to have expected this. "It's not that, but people expect of an artist to either being beautiful or to look like an unwashed recluse. As you can see, I fit into neither of these categories. Who would accept an average woman as an artist?"

"Well, I would," Usagi said, then noticed their looks. "What? If people can get over looks, then it's their problem. I think you are concerned over nothing."

"You really think so?" Yumami asked, surprised at this opinion.

Usagi was about to answer, when...

"FIRE!" "AAAHHHH!" "LET ME OUT OF HERE!"

All of a sudden the crowd panicked and ran to the exit. The reason for the panic was obvious right away when fire erupted on the walls, setting the drawings ablaze and quickly filling the room with smoke. Yumemi looked horrified for a moment that her work was burning away, but then survival instincts kicked in.

"Let's get out of here! Now!"

Outside at the same time, Zoisite and Kunzite were watching people running out of the burning building from a roof on the other side of the street. They'd been annoyed when finding out that their target was within a building full of people, so Kunzite had suggested a way to flush the people out and cause enough chaos that they could chase their target without problem. The destruction caused by it was a nice bonus.

"It's one of the reasons I love you, Kunzite. You really know how to combine duty with amusement," Zoisite said, while watching the spreading panic in satisfaction.

"Oh, it was no problem," he told her with a smile. "After all, I know what you like."

"Oh yes, you do." She then spotted someone down on the streets. "There she is. Let's go!"

In the chaos on the street, Yumemi was trying to find the people with whom she'd run outside, but didn't get the chance to do so, when another panic broke out at the sight of two people jumping off a building and landing in front of her without any injury or even a sign of it being a problem. Something in her stirred, causing her to feel mortal terror at the mere sight. Screaming, she ran away.

"Shit! Quick!" Mamoru called, before running up the fire stairs to the roof, transforming while running.

"Oh, that's great..." Ducking behind a big dumpster in a side alley, Usagi and Naru transformed and Moon then threw Luna onto her shoulder, before they quickly scaled up a ladder to the roof, where Moon would pull out the scepter to locate Yumemi.

Reaching the roof, they saw they were not alone.

"Just you two? I think we need firepower than that," Ceres complained, seeing Ranma and Akane of all people waiting for them. She didn't even want to know where they'd gotten the black pants and shirts they'd changed into, which were matching the black ninja masks they were holding in their hands.

"That's all we managed to get an excuse for. Mrs. Tsukino is still driving the others hard with the preparations," Akane explained, while Moon waved the scepter around, before finally getting a lock.

"Over there!" she called, pointing to a construction site.

Good thing that all of them were easily capable of jumping over the gaps created by the roads from one roof to the next, even Akane was capable of doing so, and they quickly arrived on the roof overlooking the construction site, only to see the construction workers fleeing in panic. It obviously was the right place.

"Just be careful!" Luna warned them, while hopping off Sailor Moon's shoulder. "We have no idea what could happen and you are four Senshi short. Whatever you do, don't risk your lives carelessly."

"Luna, you know us." That said, Moon and the others jumped off the side of the building (thankfully only two floors high).

Luna shook her head. "Exactly why I gave you this warning. Oh, I really hope they won't do anything stupid."

"No! Stop! STOP! -cough- -cough- -spit-"

"Damn it! We're too late!" Ceres cursed. Zoisite had already forced Yumemi to part with the crystal.

"Exactly!" Zoisite gloated, showing off the green Rainbow Crystal, before giving to to Kunzite for safekeeping, before the two of them tokk off and hovered tenn feet above the ground. "You're too late and can greet Binah, one of our keenest minds!"

"What...what? Nooooooo..." Yumemi screamed, when all of a sudden, everything felt so cold inside her.

They had to keep their distance when Yumemi fell to her knees, her clothes ripping apart like wet paper. Her hair turned as black as the darkest night while her skin first went as white as paper, before turning a light shade of green. A huge bulge appeared on her back, before exploding in a shower of blood and flesh, allowing two huge, white, angelic wings to unfurl. The white in her eyes gained a sickly green glow while a pink kimono appeared on her.

They were surprised, the Youma looked very human. However, when Binah picked up Yumemi's fallen glasses and crushed them in her hand, it was clear who was in charge. "Very good to again be in the service of the Dark Kingdom," Binah reported to Zoisite and Kunzite, then looked to her enemies. "Are these the annoyances you want me to take care of?"

"Yes. Please demonstrate to them why you are one of our seven great Youma, Binah," Kunzite told her. "Just don't make it too messy."

"With pleasure!" Her hads shot forward. "HA! HA!"

-CRASH- The group barely managed to jump aside, before a big safe crashed into where they'd been standing a second ago. There however was little time to catch a breath, as they then had to avoid a series of falling anvils. These items seemed to appear out of thin air, before try to fall onto them. It was a lot like Looney Tunes, just with a perverse and lethal twist.

"How the hell is she doing that?" Ranma wondered from where he and Akane watched hidden at a safe distance. They had felt it better to wait until they could do a surprise attack, but what the Youma was doing had caught them by surprise.

"Look!" Akane pointed to a pile of girders, one after the other vanishing. "She's not conjuring things out of thin air, she's transforming these into whatever she wants."

"One way or another, get ready..."

"Coward!" Moon wailed, while avoiding getting hit by a flying wrecking ball.

Binah stopped her attacks and laughed. "Oh, you're calling me a coward? Well, I could do this all day, but if you insist... do your best shot."

They did. A dozen exploding roses sailed her way, while a spinning tiara followed. That however did little, as the roses exploded against an invisible wall surrounding Binah, while the tiara simply bounced off, landing back at Sailor Moon's feet. Ceres' sickle just slid off the invisible barrier as well and both she and Moon pounded against it without any result.

"Nice try. Maybe I should tell you that I'm well-prepared for this? I may no be a great fighter, but I can block off all kind of weaker magical attacks. Even your weapons and physical attacks are charged with magic. Oh, sure, on full power you'll toast me, but then you'll kill her as well," Binah gloatingly told them.

"That was all very amusing, but now it's time to end fun and games..." Kunzite then announced, before he spotted two additional figures approaching. "Binah, while we take care of these three, there are two more who think they can play the hero."

Zoisite snorted when seeing them. "Recently, the amount of ninja in the area seems to have grown a lot."

"Hey bitch, are you done? Come if you dare!" one ninja, clearly a girl, shouted.

"Yeah!" the other ninja, a boy, agreed. "Or maybe you are a huge chicken who's too used to bully those who can't strike back? The feathers are already there after all."

"TAKE THAT BACK!"

"She's a little too hot-headed at times. Must be an artist-thing," Zoisite said in amusement when watching Binah taking off, chasing the two ninjas into the maze of girders. She then looked down to the the three remaining enemies. "Guess you want to have that crystal? Well, you won't get it!"

"If you're as great as you two act, why don't you come down here?" Ceres growled, giving them a nasty look.

"You must be really stupid if you want this. Since you insist, however," Kunzite said calmly, and then the two of them really came down.

It was then, when things got a little ugly.

Binah meanwhile was chasing the two ninja through the construction site, though she had no idea that was exactly what they wanted her to do. She soon spotted them waiting for her and landed. "So you've surrendered to the inevitable. Normal weaklings with not one ounce of magic. How do you suppose to hurt me?"

"So you really are only good against magic?" Ranma asked, knowing the answer already.

"Not that this matters. You can even try to hurt me, it won't help you," Binah told him arrogantly.

"If you insist..." Now let's see how useful this technique is. "HAAAA!"

Binah had expected an embarrassing attempt at hitting her. What she had not expected was the ninja suddenly jumping towards her with ridiculous speed and before she knew it, she was hit with what felt to be hundreds of strikes, each one hurting like there was no tomorrow, before the ninja kicked off her, his feet firmly planted in her face, slamming her to the ground.

"H-how?" she stammered, while spitting blood.

"My secret." Ranma was a bit disappointed he'd made some errors, making the attack less powerful, showing him he had to improve. He then looked to Akane. "You want to show you're capable of more than just side work? She's all yours."

"Finally..." Akane cracked her knuckles, before storming towards Binah.

"Ouuugh!" Binah gasped when a fist embedded itself in her gut. Then the beating started and gave the over-specialised Youma a very valuable lesson why just being immune to weaker magic was not exactly enough to prevail against other foes which even with no magic could turn you into a walking bruise.

Each strike came much slower then the earlier surprise attack, but contained as much force as an exploding grenade. The female ninja was beating her green and blue with little effort on her side, one strike smashing in her nose, another almost breaking her left arm. Then, to her horror, the girl attacked her wings, ripping out the feathers. At was at this moment she knew that this could turn very ugly for her if she didn't retreat.

Back with the others, things had hit something of a stalemate.

Endymion had entered a sword-fight with Zoisite, who had summoned a crystal sword and attacked him after he again had made fun of the fact that she was flat-chested. To his great surprise,, she was quite a good sword fighter and he was hard pressed to keep up with her. Kunzite meanwhile was still trying to get the ringing out of his ears while hurling his dark magic towards the two Senshi. He had not exactly expected Sailor Moon having a sonic scream attack, but now he'd turn them into confetti, although he had to admit that they'd improved.

"I'm impressed. You've improved enough that you can evade my casual attacks," he honestly admitted. "However, that won't matter. Up to now this was just for warming up. I didn't take you serious. Now however..." He stopped when seeing Binah running to them, looking like she'd been mauled by something and had had lost almost all her feathers.

"Let's get out of here! NOW!"

"How disappointing, Binah." He then saw Sailor Moon pointing her scepter towards Binah. "Oh no, you won't."

Moon and Ceres suddenly felt as if the floor was pulled away from under their feet, catapulting them away. At the same time, Zoisite blasted Endymion with a petal storm, causing him to lose sight of her. When they had gathered their wits and looked around, their three enemies were already gone.

o

"Queen Beryl, we can report a success. The green Rainbow Crystal is ours and we have recovered the Youma Binah so that she once again can do your bidding," Kunzite reported, while Zoisite presented the green crystal to Beryl.

"Very good," she said, while inspecting the crystal before putting it to the others. "Although judging by the way Binah tries to look like a beaten up and plucked chicken, you did encounter some opposition."

Zoisite snorted, giving Binah a disappointed look. "It certainly wasn't the Senshi, we had a nice time keeping them busy. Binah got beaten up by two wannabe-heroes who have no access to magic. Call me unimpressed."

"HEY! I was perfectly fine against everything the Senshi brats could throw against me. I had no idea normals could even do this kind of damage! And I'm a strategist and an artist, not a frontline fighter!" Binah complained, her voice breaking every time she felt a feather in her wings re-growing.

"Binah, enough." Beryl's calm words made her shut up. "In light of your actual worth, I'll ignore this little incident. Report back as soon as you have fully recovered from your... humiliation."

Binah looked as if she'd swallowed a lemon, but bowed in submission and then left the throne room.

"What a great way to re-introduce myself into the Dark Kingdom," she grumbled while walking through the corridors and wiping the blood from her face. The bruises were already healing, but the feathers would take a bit longer. "I know what I need right now... I just need to find the right one. Many of them are not exactly pretty... Oof!"

That felt like she'd run into metal. Looking up she saw a well-known armored figure. "Devilbot."

"Woah!" Taking off his helmet, Devilbot looked to her in barely hidden lust. "Since when are you back? Any plans today?" If there was one open secret, it was that Binah, despite her angelic appearance, was a huge slut.

I think he'll do more than fine, Binah thought, then gave him the sluttiest smile possible, which was answer enough.

"Say, what happened to your wings?" Devilbot wondered.

She gave him a dark look. "Mention it again, and I change my mind." That made him shut up.

Meanwhile back in the throne room, Beryl was speaking to Zoisite and Kunzite.

"This leaves only one Youma to be found, namely the head of our department of research and equipment: Techniclone. Both of you will find her and especially the crystal, I hope?" She made no secret that failure would have interesting consequences.

"No worry, Queen Beryl. After this success, we are more motivated than ever to prove ourselves to you yet again," Kunzite promised. "It is now only a matter of short time, before the Black Crystal will locate the host."

o

"What a way to start my birthday party. No crystal and they got away with her as well," Usagi said subdued, unhappy with how things had turned out. "Am I selfish for wishing they'd waited one more day?"

"I know you're unhappy that they soured this day for you, even if they had no idea," Mamoru tried to console her, while they slowly walked back to the Tsukino house. "Bunny, maybe you should try to just not think about it?"

"It stings because she'd been nice, right? It's harder to swallow once you've spoken with them," Naru added, knowing why Usagi felt down.

Usagi knew it was that. "It's simply not fair..."

"I know, but the only thing we can do is to go on and wait until we can get everyone back they've altered," Mamoru said, then put his hand onto her shoulder. "Heads up. Don't let them get to you."

This made Usagi feel a bit better. "Thanks. You know, you are really nice and all this. Makes me wonder why I didn't like you at first. It's also unfair you can't stay for my birthday just because my parents would jump to conclusions." Usagi then looked around. "Where is Luna?" The mooncat was nowhere in sight.

"Oh, she actually ran ahead, wanted to give the others a heads up that we are coming. Personally, I think she also wants to see if Artemis actually did lick out the mixing bowl and punish him if he did," Naru guessed.

Meanwhile a few meters behind them, Ranma and Akane were talking as well.

"You really think so?" Akane asked again, hoping she'd heard right, since it would mean a lot hearing this from Ranma. She had accepted she'd probably never get close to his level - after all she wasn't insane.

"Yeah, you did really well. No one can claim you're useless. Compared to where you stood when we first met, this is simply a hell of a lot better," Ranma told her, truly impressed how the girl had managed to make up years of botched training in such a short time.

She was almost glowing at this, as for Ranma's standards, this was huge praise. "Thanks to you... and especially my sensei. They have managed to make me remember my lessons and always told me when I did something wrong."

"Well, they did well. Your school as all about ground combat, while mine is all about staying in motion. I'm doing attacks from all over the place, while you make every strike a bone-breaker. We're completely different and I doubt I even could have taught you much," Ranma then admitted, reciting what his father had told him him about the two schools of their style.

"You make it sound like I'm slow," Akane complained.

Ranma knew to not accidently agitate her. "Speed just isn't as important for your school, it's more about releasing brutal force. By the way, I'm still a bit freaked at how strong you are without looking like it."

"To be honest, some girls at school are disturbed as well and think with my strength I should look like a bodybuilder. I can hardly explain to them that I use stored life energy in my muscles and that I did so even before elementary school." She then remembered something. "Does that mean I'm no longer benched?"

"I wouldn't dare to send you against the stronger monsters. Maybe some sort of auxiliary support..."

Even that was more than she'd hoped for.

Shaking her head, Akane concentrated on the road ahead. She'd gotten a phone call from Kasumi yesterday, that she could expect an invitation extended to the Saotome family to spend the rest of the summer holidays in their house. Kasumi had said things had calmed down a lot, their father was making progress in his therapy, and she also sounded a lot more happy than.. well, as long as Akane could think. It would be really nice to see the family again, so much had happened ever since that day a school where she' lost her temper.

She wondered if Ami would come with Ranma, if her parents would allow her to go. She certainly envied them, but after her past, it was quite difficult to find the needed trust into the opposite gender. Well, maybe there was an exception.

Oh, don't start dreaming... she scolded herself.

Akane had helped Ryo Urawa to recover from the horrible experience of being turned into Bunbo. He was very different from the horrible crop of boys at her old school, which had soured her opinion on males. She actually liked him a lot, but she also knew that it would be futile, as he'd return home in a few days and she'd probably never see him again.

Life after all was unfair.


...two days later, August 1st...

My grandfather will never change... It was downright embarrassing how he watched after the girls at the shrine today, Rei thought, glad that she now was on lunch break - albeit a late lunch break.

With all the responsibilities she had at the shrine and her grandfather's already advanced age - not to speak of her 'other' duties - her day often was filled, leaving little time for other things. She was a bit envious when seeing how Ami and Ranma were together or how how Makoto and Mu-Tsu were ineptly trying to find out if they were compatible. Even Usagi hanging out with Mamoru was more than she had in that regard.

At least I'm not alone in this. Minako has it even worse - the Senshi of Love not managing to get a boyfriend. I wonder if she actually believes in this curse she said someone put onto her in London, she thought.

Walking down the street, she was on the outlook for a good place where she could get some late lunch, since she was not in any mood for cooking. She hadn't done so in a long time and aimlessly walking down the streets, she finally stumbled upon a place that looked interesting. 'Ucchan's Okonomiyaki' sounded exactly like the place she should go to for quick and filling lunch, although the name seemed somehow familiar.

Entering, she wasn't surprised to see it being currently empty, since after all regular lunch hours were already over, and she walked up to the counter. "Hello," she greeted the girl at the grill.

The girl looked up from what she was looking at and didn't blink an eye at seeing a miko in her shop. "Oh, hello. My name is Ukyo, and I do remember you as the miko of the local shrine. What can I get for you?"

Rei didn't show it, but that stirred her memory and she remembered the others talking about an Ukyo who is an okonomiyaki cook and was a childhood friend of Ranma's. She'd mostly forgotten the details, just that these two were no longer friends and that she'd somehow been targeted by the Dark Kingdom. She hadn't been there for it and only now remembered seeing her visit the shine irregularly... and having run into her on her first visit.

"This day's special. It sounds great," she quickly decided.

A short time later, Rei was busy with eating, but noticed Ukyo being busy with a big pot, carefully unsealing the top. The okonomiyaki chef did notice Rei's interest in whatever it was. "Oh, don't mind me. I was about to unseal this, taking advantage of the lack of customers after lunch hour, when you came along."

Rei took a look at the dusty pot. "Is the question allowed what this is?"

"It's a special sauce that I made when I was six years old and which needed ten years to ferment," Ukyo told her full of pride. "I still remember it clearly. The good old days... Ranma..." She fell silent after that, grimacing. It clearly hurt her to think of the past.

"Ranma Saotome?" Rei blabbed, before realising that it was tactless. Too late, as Ukyo gave her a look, so she quickly continued "Yes, I know him. We're friends. NO... not that kind of friends! Ami would rip me into pieces should I even try!"

Ukyo looked at her a little longer, before shaking her head. "It's not my business who he's friends with..." There was a hint of sadness when she said 'friends', as if she'd lost something precious. "Nevermind, right now I have more important things to do. Let's see how my special sauce has come along."

Finally having gotten the seal off, Ukyo used a spoon to take a taste. However, he delighted expression quickly changed into disgust and she ran into the back room to spit it out into the sink. Returning to the front, she looked disheartened. "It's a failure... What did I do wrong? I know I followed the instructions to the letter."

Forgetting her lunch, Rei nook a sniff at the open pot and recoiled in disgust. "It smells like it used the years to get worse instead of better. Are you really sure you followed the instructions?"

Ukyo hastily opened an old notebook. "Everything is correct. I clearly remember... Wait a moment, I tasted these spices in it but I never actually used them. I know for sure I never used them." Checking the removed seal, she looked livid. "That's not the seal I used, it's missing a marking I made on it. Someone tampered with the sauce."

Rei didn't need any of her miko powers to see an impending explosion; after all she'd witnessed the results of her own temper often enough to know the signs. Backing away slowly towards the open sliding doors, she hoped to be out of range when the girl went off and would possibly destroy the interior of her own restaurant in her rage. The way she was looking to the huge spatula leaning against the wall was already a big warning sign.

"There was only one other person with me and I left him alone with..." Ukyo stopped when she knew her answer.

It seemed that Ranma had pissed off the gods in some way, causing him to have bad luck right at this moment. There was little other explanation why Ranma and Ami were walking by the open sliding doors now of all times, causing Ukyo to see them very clearly. It seemed fate wanted to have a little fun with Ranma, or force him to face the consequences of his actions. One way or another, Ukyo finally exploded.

"RANMA SAOTOME! IN HERE! NOW!" she screamed, her face now red with anger.

Ranma, who'd enjoyed a peaceful walk with Ami, froze when hearing this angry voice. It took him a moment to realize whose voice it was, since he hadn't heard it in quite some time. After all, he and Ukyo were not exactly on speaking terms. Two instincts were fighting in him: bracing whatever was coming to him, or just running away. Ranma could face Youma without fear, but was unsettled by how angry Ukyo looked.

In the end, Ami made the decision. "Don't you run away. I won't solve anything..." she said, holding onto his arm while leading him inside, a little surprised to see Rei there.

Ukyo left little time for greetings, giving Ranma a look that could incinerate lesser people, then pointed at the pot. "Ten year sauce... ruined... You... explain... now!"

Ranma at first had no clue what she was talking about. After some moments going through his memories of Ukyo, he did remember and paled. Ukyo saw it. "So it was you!... Confess right now, before I get nasty!" she shouted, almost seeming to breathe fire. It was clear she was really angry over the whole thing.

Every thought of running was gone when Rei held him by his other arm, forcing him to come clear.

"I admit it... I became curious and wanted to check out what you made; accidently spilled it. I tried to re-create it to cover up. Are you really going to hold this against me? I was a kid back then," Ranma finally said.

Ukyo calmed down a little but still looked mad. "Kid or not. Instead of telling me, you tried to hide what you did and I wasted ten years on this, just because you were unable to admit your error! The sauce is ruined and I will punish you for it!"

"Please tell me you won't do anything drastic," Ami said while watching with growing unease Ukyo taking hold of her battle spatula.

Ukyo came closer. "I won't cause him serious harm, if it's that what you mean."

"Well, however, I..."

It seemed that was permission enough for Ukyo and she didn't even wait for Ami to finish. -slap!- -slap!- -SLAP!- -SLAP!- -WHAM!- Ranma could barely brace himself before she slapped him four times VERY hard left and right and Ukyo then finished by slamming the flat side of her giant spatula onto his head with as much force as she could muster. If he hadn't been held by Ami and Rei, he would have dropped like a stone.

It however was enough to make him black out.

When she was coming to again, she was in an unknown room on a futon, an icepack strapped to her head (which was leaking, thus explaining the gender change) and her two friends looking in concern at her, Ami correcting the icepack's location, while Ukyo was more in the background, looking unsettled with this turn of events. Sitting up, Ranma felt her head still spinning and her face felt very hot - curtesy of how hard Ukyo had slapped her.

"Ranma, how are you feeling? You got cleanly knocked out by that last hit," Rei asked in concern, still unsettled at what had happened. "I wouldn't have held you back had I known it would end in violence."

"No... it was my own fault. I deserved that..." Ranma held her head to get the spinning under control. "I just didn't expect for it to hurt this much." Finally able to look around, she wondered "Where are we?"

"My apartment above the restaurant," Ukyo finally said, breaking her silence. "I closed early after I felled you like that... What was I thinking? For a moment I thought I'd killed you just over some sauce!" Ukyo clearly seemed to be upset over what she'd done.

"You were angry at me..." Ranma was unable to say more, getting interrupted by Ukyo.

"That's no excuse!" she snapped. "I could have asked for other things from you to compensate me, yet I got angry..." Pulling out a tissue, she blew her nose. "Where did we go wrong that we're now like this?"

Ami finally spoke. "Basically, it all comes to Genma making an impossible offer to your father and then stealing the cart. You are still angry over what it caused in your life. It's the one thing that still stops you from starting anew with Ranma, even if you think you are over it."

Ukyo shook her head in denial. "I don't think it's that easy..."

"Honestly, you have every right to just demand reparations from Ranma's father. Why are you not doing so and finally close the matter? It would be best for everyone, yourself included," Rei cut in, thinking of the whole thing as ridiculous.

"Because... because..." Ukyo took a look to Ranma, not bothered by her current form.

Even as thick as Ranma sometimes was, she knew what was holding Ukyo back. "Ukyo... I can't give this to you any longer. I'm already spoken for." To underline the point, she took hold of Ami's hand. "I barely know you after all these years... Perhaps you can be nice to have around, but just as a friend, starting fresh."

"Please listen to him," Ami added, trying to be the voice of reason. "It will only hurt you until you finally make a decision. Do you still want to hold this thing over Ranma's head and make it worse, or can you finally let go and see if you can regain what you have lost?"

Some months ago, she would have been too stubborn to listen, but now she finally admitted it, looking like she'd lost something precious. She then sighed and looked to Ranma. "Where can I find your father?"

Even though Ukyo was basically a stranger at the moment, Ranma couldn't help but to feel that she had gained something very important. That, or the relief that she was no longer walking on eggshells around Ukyo.


...the following day, Crown Arcade...

"You know, it's really nice just to sit here, enjoying a milkshake and basically doing nothing," Ranma told Ami, before sucking on his straw.

"Yes... it really does," Ami replied, before drinking a bit of her own shake.

It was really awkward. The two of them were sitting at the counter in the Crown Arcade, each of them looking obviously uncomfortable and just glad their friends had not commented on it. They had said nothing about Ami sporting a blush whenever she saw Ranma, nor Ranma looking utterly nervous when he saw Ami. Both were trying so hard to concentrate on drinking their milkshakes, that it looked almost comically. Most of their friends had already left, leaving only Minako and Makoto, who were busy with chatting up Mamoru's friend Motoki at the far end of the counter.

Finally, it was Ami who broke the awkward silence. "You know... it did come rather out of the blue."

Ranma knew, now was finally time to address the elephant in the room. "My great-grandfather did warn us it would happen, as did this freaky dragon. I just didn't expect it to happen so soon. Took both of us by surprise."

"I had no idea you have a dream about being a girl in the girl's shower room..." Ami said, although she should have expected a teenage boy to have dreams of that sort - only with Ranma's curse it could get a strange twist.

"Well, I have no idea how I conjured it up the first time, but ever since then, I re-visit on occassion. Don't ask me, how my mind got the idea." Ranma shook his head. "I also have no idea how you dreamed of walking through the school naked before entering the locker room and the showers."

Ami blushed a little stronger. "It started as a nightmare I've had after changing schools. I wanted to just blend into the background, but in my nightmare, I was naked and everyone stared at me, singling me out. It somehow... mutated into me no longer caring if people stare at me after you started school."

Ranma shook his head. "The moment we met, we were both well aware we are dreaming and had full control over our actions and the dream... Why did we do what we did?"

"I guess becoming aware we can fool around however we want without any consequences, we lost our inhibitions and our control," Ami quietly said, feeling somewhat guilty to have actually suggested there wouldn't be consequences in a dream last night.

Ranma rubbed his temples. "The whole bond-thing almost feels like someone is messing with us. What do you think we should do now?"

"Try to control ourselves should we meet in a dream again?" Ami suggested, wincing how lame it sounded.

Ranma snorted. "Oh, that worked wonderfully last time." He then sighed. "I guess when our inner selves want it, we can just hope tone it down until we figure out how to stay in control."

Both of them knew it wasn't exactly the answer they were looking for, but there was little they could do until either they'd figure out how to control it enough or until their bodies had vented enough hormones it would no longer happen. It was highly embarrassing for both of them - the joys of growing up into adults and all the changes that come with it. Only, unlike others, both of them had went through a crash-course instead of easing into it over the years. Considering that, they were holding up surprisingly well.

"You know... I wonder when do we know we're ready to do... that?" Ami finally asked, pushing away her now empty glass. "I know all the mechanics of it, but my mother never told me how I can be sure I'm ready to take that step."

"Same here... My Pop just said I'll know when I asked him. Good thing he didn't say how he and Mom knew they were ready for that." Ranma knew, there were some things that were meant to stay unsaid, while also having finished his shake. "All that other stuff, kissing, hugging and ogling, that's easy enough. So it still makes me wonder why we go chicken about the next step."

Ami knew he was right, she had no problem with these things, just what would come after that. "Maybe it's because we know there's no going back once we cross that line. Things were so much easier before love decided to spread its joy to us."

"Gowing up sometimes sucks. Double for me, since I have to deal with stuff a guy normally doesn't have to," Ranma finally brought it to the point.

Getting up and stretching their backs they saw that Minako and Makoto were still talking with Motoki and it would obviously be some time before they would leave as well. They decided to leave them alone and instead enjoy the sunny day, just lying in the grass, doing nothing but letting the sun shine onto them. If there was one thing Ami had learned from Ranma, it was that lazing around can be very relaxing.

Minako and Makoto didn't even notice them leaving.

Motoki was busy with telling them how it had been, spending his high school years with Mamoru. Since there was little other customers due to the good weather, he did have the time. The girls would often comment on his tales of their misadventures, finding it difficult to believe that the otherwise controlled Mamoru could have been so different in his teenage years.

"So he'd been angsting a lot when you met him at the start of high school? Hard to imagine. It's quite difficult nowadays to make him lose his cool," Minako commented, finding it fascinating how different Mamoru had been some years ago.

"To be honest, I can't blame him. He'd been growing up without parents and friendless. Once we spent more time together and he made some more friends, he quickly grew out of it," Motoki explained, while wiping the counter.

"I can imagine how he felt..." Makoto said. She'd never admit it, but she'd had her own angsting phase growing up, just that it lasted only a short time before she decided to get tougher instead.

"Once you get to know him, he's one of the most loyal friends you can imagine, although he openly admits he's one of the most boring people alive, with equally boring hobbies." -drrrrriiiiiing- Motoki stopped when he heard the telephone behind him. "Excuse me for a moment."

Both girls couldn't help but to listen in, other they could only hear Motoki's reactions.

"Crown Arcade, Motoki Furuhata speaking ... Oh, hello Reika! ... You have to talk to me in person as fast as possible? ... You mean you made your decision?" All of a sudden Motoki looked as if he'd been punched. "The bench by the lake in the park ... All right, I'm on my way."

When he turned back around, he looked like something a ruined his day. "Sorry, girls, but something came up and I need to go." Looking around, he spotted an employee. "Shigeru, take over! Something came up I can't put off!"

Watching Motoki take off his apron and then starting to leave, Minako and Makoto shared a look, before deciding that their curiosity had to be satisfied.

o

"Good thing he said where to meet. That way we can find the best place to listen in," Minako said, while they crept through the trees and bushes to be as close as possible to the bench where a woman - most likely Reika - was sitting.

"I'm starting to have some doubts about this. Sure, I'm curious, but maybe it's not that good of an idea to intrude in such a private moment," Makoto said, having started to doubt the wisdom of their actions while walking to the park.

"Now you want to bail out?" Minako gave her a disappointed look. "Well, I won't. The Senshi of Love simply can't stay away while a matter of love is being decided."

"Maybe the Senshi of Love should listen to reason!"

Looking down, Minako spotted someone she'd not expected. "Atremis? How did you get here?"

"Oh, I was looking for you, there are not that many blondes in Tokyo, so it was easy to find you. And what do I see, you plan to spy on someone and you've even dragged Makoto into it. Sometimes I really wonder if my lessons were all futile," Artemis lectured her.

"But Artemis..." Minako tried to explain herself.

"Oh no! If you think I'll allow you to spy on people to satisfy your occasional obsession with romance, you are wrong," Artemis shot her down.

"I knew this was a bad idea..." Makoto tried to make excuses for her own role in this.

Minako gave her a look of betrayal, before she saw Motoki walking to Reika and they started talking. "Quiet, both of you! How would it look like if they would now notice us?"

"Oh, no... I'm through with this. It was a bad idea I agreed to this," Makoto decided, trying to pull Minako away.

"Hey! Just when it gets really interesting!" Resisting, she listened in to more. "Aw, look, they seem to have made up."

"That's enough..." Artemis finally decided and Makoto agreed, starting to pull Minako away when Motoki and Reika started kissing.

"Well, if this is not a romantic scene."

"Oh shi..." Makoto cursed when seeing that Zoisite and Kunzite had appeared. They knew this could mean only one thing: since the scepter had never reacted to Motoki, that Reika was the last crystal holder. And here they were - without any kind of reinforcements close by. They could only call for help and hope to hold them off long enough.

For Motoki and Reika meanwhile, things were going downhill fast.

Their meeting had been emotional. Reika had admitted that she would accept an offer to join a big dig in Africa, which would not only be the final piece in her studies but also allow her to secure a very good job once back in Japan. Motoki had already expected this to happen and openly told her that he'd wait for her return. That in return had surprised Reika, who had expected him to break things off, with her leaving for two years. Moved by Motoki's acceptance and his offer to give her every support needed, she'd sealed the deal with a kiss.

Of course, it was then when these two strangers had appeared. That they were hovering ten feet above the ground had caused Motoki and Reika to turn and try to run away. After the recent events in the city, two hovering people could only be bad news.

It was all futile, however. Reika felt like something hit her from behind and she fell hard to the ground, while Motoki was hit by something which felt like rope, which tied him to a tree, forcing him to watch helplessly what would happen next.

"Reika, run!" Motoki shouted, while futilely trying to get free.

Despite trying however, it was as if she was glued to the ground. "I can't!"

"You don't really think we leave something to chance?" Kunzite then looked up. "Looks like we got company."

Jupiter and Venus were approaching fast, weapons drawn. They had little illusion that they could actually win against two generals, but just gaining some time until the others could arrive would already be enough. That plan however got derailed however, when dark energy ripped out of the ground, surrounding them in a dome.

"Not perfect, but it will be enough to delay you." Kunzite watched them starting to back the barrier with their weapons and knew, they'd need too long to shatter it. "Zoisite, do the honors."

"Gladly... ZOI!"

The beam frem the Black Crystal hit Reika and she screamed in pain, before choking. Accompanied by lot of vomit, she then violently threw up the blue Rainbow Crystal. Zoisite at once pulled the crystal to herself, but then looked in disgust at the soiled crystal and first used a spell to remove the vomit covering it.

"That's the first time someone actually threw up. No matter, Techniclone will now take over."

Barely getting up to her knees, Reika wrapped her arms around herself and screamed in pain, her clothes seeming to age centuries in a span of seconds and turning to dust. She was deathly pale and "Arh... Arh! ARRRRGHHH!" All of a sudden a black, oily liquid erupted like a geyser from between her legs, creeping up her body.

"REIKA! NO!" Motoki could only watch in horror how the black was covering more and more of her.

Despite her pain, she managed to look to him. "Motoki..." She shed a single tear, before the liquid reached her face and forced her mouth open. "Arghbbbll-l-l-" It slammed mercilessly into her mouth and down her throat, before she got completely covered.

When the black liquid finally evaporated, it was no longer Reika who stood there.

While the Youma certainly still had the form of a human woman, her skin was poison-green and sported numerous warts. Her ears were pointed and she only had yellow-red hair on the right side of her head, while the left side was completely bald. She was wearing red, knee-high boots and a black leotard. On her right eye she was wearing a futuristic monocle.

"Reika..." Motoki whispered, shell-shocked over what had happened.

Techniclone gave Zoisite and Kunzite a smirk. "Ah, very nice to return to service." -Skrasscchhh- Right then the dome finally shattered. Weapons drawn, Jupiter and Venus advanced upon Techniclone. "You want me to take care of this?" she asked the two generals.

"No. Where two are, there will soon be more. We have what we wanted and better things to do than a pointless battle," Kunzite decided, not wanting a repeat of the previous incident, which had been a waste of time. "Let's go!"

Techniclone nodded. "As you wish."

The three of them simply vanished and Motoki, freed from his bindings, collapsed, looking as if a world had collapsed onto him. Jupiter and Venus looked surprised for a second, before putting away their weapons and running to him.

"Damn it, he's gone into shock. We need to get him an ambulance!" Jupiter cursed.

Venus was still surprised at this turn of events. "Did they just leave like that?"

Only then did the others arrive, just to see Jupiter and Venus trying to move a non-responsive Motoki. No words were needed to tell that they'd been too late and explanations would follow later, since the more pressing issue had to be addressed first.


...at the same time near the Saotome House...

Nodoka Saotome had no eye for the beautiful late afternoon while walking towards her house. Right now the house felt a little empty. Ranma had left a message that he was out with his friends and it could be late until he would be back. Genma was still busy working overtime in order to get the compensation for the Kuonji girl together, although from what she knew, he was already close to it and would soon be done.

The Urawa boy had recovered enough yesterday to return to the room he'd rented before he would return home, and this also meant Akane was no longer in the house as well. It had been very interesting to see that she'd been quite invested in helping him during his recovery. Although the girl had said nothing, Nodoka could feel Akane was sad that Ryo was returning home. It seemed that he was that type of boy that didn't go on her nerves. Too bad for Akane that he'd probably never return.

Thinking about someone leaving brought up bad memories of the empty house she'd lived in for ten years.

Of course she knew it was irrational. Genma would return from work in due time and Ranma was there to stay the long term. Her son had found friends and would stay at home for the coming years while attending high school and then college in order to get a degree in physical education for his dream to become a sensei in the martial arts. Ranma was clearly starting to truly think of the house as 'home', as he'd started to decorate his room to his own tastes. It was a bit stereotypical for him to be a fan of Bruce Lee, but her son insisted that the man had been awesome.

He wouldn't go anywhere, but after ten lonely years, she sometimes was a little paranoid, fearing it could all have been just a dream.

Walking around a corner, she almost ran into a girl who was leaning against the wall, breathing heavily.

"Oh, excuse me, I..." she stopped when the girl looked up to her.

The girl could be no older than twelve, and her black hair was contrasted by the most strikingly violet eyes she'd ever seen. However, the girl also didn't look healthy, as her skin was rather pale and she was skinny enough that it made Nodoka worry. The girl also seemed to be exhausted, looking as if she could collapse at any moment.

Which was what she then did.

"Oh dear!" Catching the girl, Nodoka wondered why someone this sick would be even outside. Seeing her house just down the road, she quickly made her decision.

Racing to her house with the girl in her arms - she was light enough that it added concern - she quickly laid her down on a soft mat in the family room (after complaining about about knee pains to Saeko, she'd been told to buy this mat and put it where she'd sit kneeling at the low table). "Don't worry... I'll call the hospital right away!"

She'd almost managed to reach the phone, when... "No, no hospital..."

Nodoka saw that the girl had woken and was now struggling to get up. "Child, you are seriously ill!"

"No... not ill... just frail... and everyone already knows." Finally getting up, she looked pleadingly to Nodoka. "Please, I was told repeatedly that it's simply what my constitution is. No hospital could help... I was just exhausted."

Nodoka still looked tempted to call the hospital anyway.

The girl sighed. "As soon as you mention the name Hotaru Tomoe, they will tell you if you don't believe me." She then added much more quietly "After all they were called often enough by other people..."

How often has this happened that the hospital knows her name so well? Nodoka wondered, not really wanting to know the answer. "You still look in no condition to go home. What were you doing that you fainted from exhaustion?"

Hotaru seemed surprised at the continued interest in her well-being. "Most people would have just sent me on my way..." Seeing that an answer was expected, she sighed again. "I needed to get out of the house. I was out longer than I thought, until I was ready to keel over."

Nodoka could only shake her head. "Irresponsible..."

Hotaru seemed to take this as her cue to leave. "I'm... I'm sorry I gave you this much trouble. I'm on my way..."

"Oh, no." Nodoka told her in a scolding voice that sounded it was reserved for little children. "You won't leave like this."

"Huh?" Hotaru wondered.

A little later, Hotaru understood. She had not even noticed how hungry she'd gotten and she already felt a lot better now that she was regaining her strength. Even more strange for her was, how fast she had come to trust this woman - Nodoka Saotome was her name. Perhaps because she was starved for attention? Maybe the fact she she told much about herself as well? Regardless why, Hotaru right now felt full and now held a half-empty glass of milk in her hands.

"... I wish I were as strong as your son. I also wish I would have such an understanding parent as you are..." Hotaru quietly commented, feeling a little envious of the woman's son.

"Your parents are neglecting you?" Nodoka wondered, trying to not be too curious.

Hotaru shook her head. "My mother died when I was little, I barely remember her. My father is running a really big school and is always busy. The only one I have regular contact with is the housekeeper, Ms. Kaolinite, and she hates me. That was why I wanted to get out of the house and she won't even miss me for several more hours."

"No friends?" Nodoka wondered, although she could already guess the answer.

"In school, I'm the freak. No one likes me, some even claim that I'm dangerous. They don't understand me." Hotaru didn't dare to tell her another reason why everyone kept away from her. The woman wouldn't believe her anyway.

Part of Nodoka wondered why she was showing this uch concern for this girl, who had no association with the family, but she quickly ignored the question. The caring part of her had grown very concerned with the girl. Being so frail in body and then growing up in such a disinterested and even hostile environment had clearly not been good for Hotaru.

"I'm home!"

Ranma's voice pulled both of them out of their thoughts and seconds later he walked into the kitchen. He stopped when seeing the girl, was about to apologize when he saw Hotaru's violet eyes, causing him to recognise her from the small incident he'd almost completely forgotten by now.

"Strange how these things happen..." Seeing that his mother expected an explanation, Ranma added "I literally ran into her some time ago, stopped her from taking a nasty fall."

"Son, this is Hotaru. Hotaru, this is Ranma, my son," Nodoka introduced them to each other.

"Hi, what gives us the honor that you visit our house?" Ranma asked, remembering the manners his mother had drilled into him.

Hotaru blushed a little. "I fainted into her arms."

"Ah." Ranma had no idea what he should say to this.

Nodoka sensed the need to provide a distraction to remove the awkwardness. "Hotaru, would you like to watch my son showing you some great martial arts moves?"

All of a sudden, Hotaru brightened up considerably, running to Ranma and looking up to him with big eyes. "Oh pleasepleaseplease! I'm a huge fan of Jackie Chan and always wanted to see what a real martial artist can do! Oh please!"

Ranma obviously felt flattered that an excited twelve-year old girl asked him to show off. "Don't worry! I'll show you some martial arts moves you'll never forget!"

Nodoka smiled while she watched Ranma leading the excited girl outside. By now she knew how to stoke her son's ego. She'd also already come to a decision regarding the girl. She would extend the offer that Hotaru could visit whenever she wanted. Nodoka couldn't help but to feel sorry for her and it seemed so right to fill her days with more than just her sitting in her room, possibly avoiding the housekeeper who disliked her.

A small selfish part of her also couldn't help but to see the opportunity to have a girl whom she could teach the finer points of being a lady.


...meanwhile...

"I'm really impressed how easy it is to collect so much energy with so little trouble," Tethys told Jadeite in awe, while he was busy with storing the latest batch for delivery to the energy stores. "At first I had some doubts, but you make it look so easy."

Jadeite was visibly enjoying her praises. At first he'd been mistrustful why Beryl would give him one of her personal servants to help in the task of refreshing the energy stores, which had been seriously depleted after the awakening of Master Metallia. However, Tethys had sworn that she had no orders to spy on him and instead had to be as helpful as possible. That had turned out to be true and she not only was very willing to listen but also lacked the attitude that made it a pain to work with numerous Youma.

Truth to be told, he even liked working together with her.

"Oh, it actually is quite easy. Moscow is full of homeless people after their economy crashed. Nobody cares at all if hundreds of them vanish, only to turn up as dead bodies in the woods. I learned my lesson to pick targets where either no one notices or no one cares," Jadeite explained to her.

"Most impressive..." said said in awe.

Something else that stood out was, that she was almost always walking around in human form. It, as strange as it sounded, made it easier to relate to her. "Maybe I can ask the queen if you can work with me on a permanent basis."

"You would really do that? I would feel so honored." It was clear Tethys felt more than just that.

The moment got interrupted when a Youma arrived. "Message from Queen Beryl. General Jadeite is to report to the throne room immediately."

"Work always calls... Continue here while I'm gone."

Teleporting to the throne room, he saw that it had to be big, as Zoisite and Kunzite were also there. Walking up to beside them, he waited for Beryl to speak.

She didn't waste much time. "Good, now that you are all here... We have captured five of the seven Rainbow Crystals. However, to reconstruct the Silver Crystal, we need all seven of them. I have called you to hear if you have any ideas how to get the remaining two from our enemies."

No one said anything, until Jadeite stepped forward. "My queen, I do have an idea."

"Already? What do you have in mind, Jadeite?" Beryl questioned him.

"Using the same tactic I used last time to draw them out... Only this time we should do something that will directly put a lever on their desire to rescue everybody and would tarnish their reputation should they stay away..."

to be continued...

Next Episode:

"The Silver Crystal, Part I - Crossroads of Fate"


Notes:

Now, considering how long this chapter is, here some notes.

It was a huge pain to write this chapter, as I had to wrap up the Rainbow Crystal Arc and finally start the reveal of the Silver Crystal. This however did give me a chance to completely subvert the usual formula used for these fights in canon. Having the bad guys get a Rainbow Crystal without interference and them simply leaving without a fight were born of not wanting to bloat this part even further, but went well with my deconstruction theme.

Again, Ranma and Ami don't have many scenes. Thankfully, once the Silver Crystal is recovered, they can fianlly again get more screen-time.

I've decided to not show any explicit content, which in my opinion is actual sex or something close to it. When I started the story I'd planned to actually write the dream that Ami and Ranma share, but decided against it. Perhaps I'll write at for adultfanfiction, like other adult parts I have in mind. Note that nudity, kissing and some fondling won't fall under this, as well as more non-detailled descriptions of masturbation.

I also did get complaints that Ranma and Ami were advancing too fast. Therefore I here made them, after the previous chapter aleady started it, aware how overwhelming this can be for a teenager. I promise, they won't actually do stuff like that until they are ready (which is still some time away).

Also from now on, training scenes will be kept at a minimum if possible (this chapter actually was most character interaction in that scene).