* * *

Somewhere, sometime, in L-Space . . .

* * *

Deep within the halls of the L-Space, a familiar
senshi walked slowly among the books, browsing the various realities
that existed. Her fingers brushed past thousands of volumes, many of
them thin, many of them thick, all humming with potential at her light

It was Setsuna's day off, and she was going to enjoy it immensely.

None of the other Sailor Senshi knew of the eldest guardian's second job
-- Librarian of L-Space. It was just as well. Having that sort of
knowledge bank at one's disposal tended to make one forget reality.
Were any of the other senshi, especially Usagi, to learn of her
moonlighting in such a place, she'd never be able to make them leave the

For in these books . . . in these universes, the Senshi lived an
infinite number of different lives.

Not finding anything interesting in her current section, the Librarian
wandered into another aisle, making a few right turns in reality and
ending up in another universe altogether. She passed an orangutang
along the way and waved at him, turning the corners of her mouth up in
the slightest hint of a smile for his benefit. The orangutang waved
back with a toothy grin and loped along down another row until he
disappeared among his own works of fiction. He too was an Librarian,
although his world was far, far away from Earth's solar system
and the library that Setsuna had entered.

All libraries in all universes are connected. Even universes where the
Librarians themselves are only a work of fiction. That is the secret of
L-Space . . . and the burden of the Librarians. With all the knowledge
of the Multiverse (or as Setsuna referred to it, the Whole Sort of
General Mish-Mash -- Douglas Adams had a special place in her memory for
coining the perfect phrase for the sprawling network of universes she
controlled) collected in one place, L-Space was a very dangerous,
dangerous place indeed.

That didn't mean that they couldn't *read* about the other universes, of
course. Setsuna had, on occasion, peered into some of the crazy worlds
where she was a fictional character, and had a good laugh. She had also
checked into some of the worlds were she was a real person, too, only
living an entirely different reality from her current one. Some of
those universes were frightening indeed.

Setsuna wasn't in the mood for a story about herself, though. She was
in the mood for something from one of the more chaotic universes where
she existed only as a fictional character. The green haired woman bit
her lip, closed her eyes, and ran her index finger across a row at
random -- and pulled out a slender volume, which looked quite new.

Smiling to herself genuinely this time, the Senshi found a comfortable
chair in short order and sat down for a nice quiet afternoon to herself
with a fresh Ranma 1/2 universe story. Crazy writers, always coming up
with more insanity . . .


The Spice of Life

An Herb/Kodachi fic
Commissioned by Prince Herb ^_^
Written by Cat Who
Beta read by Rezantis
with special thanks to the Ranma 1/2 fanfic forum


* * *

Musk Kingdom, China

* * *

"My lord," a wizened vizier pleaded as he followed a young man down the
palace's main corridor, "you cannot go in to see him. We know not by
what mechanism the illness is transmitted yet! Were you to come down
sick as well, there would be nothing that--"

"Silence!" the young man barked angrily, and turned to face the
assistant, whirling around so quickly his hide armor swirled away from
his body for a moment. "Do you think I don't know the risks? But I
can't leave him alone in there, maybe to die, without seeing him."

"Surely Lime would not want to endanger you, my lord," his vizier

The young man closed his eyes for a brief moment. To the average
observer, he looked exotic; his hair grew in distinct patches of pink,
white, and blue. His clear, light eyes twinkled dangerously within
otherwise normal Chinese features. His armor was attached to pure white
clothes, which highlighted his slightly tanned skin.

However, the royal appearance was completed by the look of power he
wore; in the bearing of his shoulders, the straight lift of his head,
and the grace of his movements even beneath heavy armor.

His eyes opened with a snap, the moment of indecision broken. "Whether
it puts me danger or not, I can't just leave him alone," Prince Herb
said quietly, and continued walking down the hallway to the area of the
palace that was currently being used as an infirmary. "Oh, and the
Amazon leader I contacted should be here shortly. Escort her to the
throne room when she arrives. I will not be long."

The sickness had spread like wildfire through the people of Musk in only
two days. It was like nothing documented in their extensive histories.
Even the young men, isolated from the main population as they had been,
were extremely susceptible due to their close quartered training. Half of
them had definitely contracted the mysterious illness, and the rest were
exhibiting symptoms already.

Lime had started coughing yesterday morning. By lunch, he could barely

Prince Herb held a cloth over his face to breath and picked his way
through the groaning men on the floor. The Musk peoples were already
few in number. While none of them had died yet, they had no idea
whether the disease was fatal or not.

Tucked in a far corner, segregated from the main group, lay the young
men who were still in training. Following tradition, a curtain had been
placed around them, so that they could not see the few females in the
hall who were sick. Had they been well, no doubt they'd be straining to
catch an illegal glimpse of a woman.

"Lime," Prince Herb whispered when he saw his servent, hating the way
his voice cracked. Mint was already there, crying openly. Lime,
normally as strong as a tiger, lay prone and weak, his face pale and
sweaty as his body battled the mysterious illness.

"Herb-sama is here," Mint whispered to Lime, who opened his eyes a crack
in acknowledgement and tried to sit up.

"Don't strain yourself," Herb scolded, and knelt down beside the fallen

"I'm sorry, Herb-sama," Lime whispered. "Just . . . so tired."

"No need to apologize." Herb was trying to keep his own pain out of his
voice. Lime was more than a servent. He and Mint were Herb's best
friends in the world, too. Seeing him like this was hurting Herb in
ways he'd never known it was possible to hurt.

"Herb-sama is going to find a cure, aren't you Herb-sama?" Mint queried,
searching the prince's face for confirmation.

"Of course. No matter what it takes. If I have to travel to the ends
of the earth." Herb meant it, too. He had a duty to his people to keep
them safe and well.

"I'm glad," Lime whispered, and shifted uncomfortably on his pallet.
The thin blanket covering him slid halfway off with the movement, and
Mint quickly readjusted it. "I'm . . . I'm not ready to die, Herb-sama.
I still . . . have things I want to do." He was having trouble getting
the words out, as his breathing was growing more difficult by the

"You're not going to die," Herb said sharply.

"I never got to kiss a woman," Lime finished, and closed his eyes again,
his head lolling to the side. Mint touched his neck with a finger.

"Unconscious again." Mint looked down at the fallen comrade, his large
eyes appearing even more enormous with stress. He had stayed up all
night with Lime.

Herb dashed away a single tear and cursed himself for being weak. Now
was not the time for sobbing like a woman. Hundreds of men lay dying
around him, and it was up to him to help them in any way he could.

"Stay with him," Herb said, and touched Mint's shoulder. The wolf boy
nodded in acknowledgement and settled down, his chin on his knees,
willing his friend to survive.

Herb left the sick room, his heart burning with anger at the invisible
battle the Musk were being forced to fight. It was unfair. There was
nothing that he, the Prince of the Musk, could do to help them.

At least his father was off traipsing around China, and so he was safe.
If the king was to contract the sickness, that would leave Herb duty
bound to remain in the kingdom in case he died. As it was, however, he
was free to leave if required.

The throne room was nearly empty, which suited Herb just fine. He
entered quickly from the side, and, foregoing the throne, stood in front
of the dais. The Amazon medicine woman had arrived.

"Calling for help from us is completely out of character for the Musk,"
the ancient woman said, ignoring all pretense of formality as Herb had.
"That's why I had a feeling this was serious. Now that I'm here, I'm
sure it is."

Herb glared at the wizened crone. "Tell me what you know, woman. How
can I cure this illness?"

"If I told you all I know, it'd take decades. You're a hundred years
too early for my kind of knowledge."

Herb continued to glare angrily at the female, who cackled and leaned forward on her

"I will tell you the nature of the illness, though. Your people have
caught the Demon Air sickness."

"The what?"

"Don't interrupt me . . . your Highness." The old Amazon leader knew she
was on equal footing with the Musk prince, and so could get away with
far more than anyone else would dare. "The Demon Air is a disease that
strikes every five or six centuries, passing through and bringing low
entire villages. No one knows why some catch it and others do not." She
paused, and shifted her weight. Like most Chinese Amazon clan leaders,
she had shrunk with age until she barely topped four feet.

"Is it fatal?" Herb asked urgently.

"Yes. When left untreated, the sickness continues to weaken the body.
The victims feel little pain, but eventually grow so tired that they
cannot wake up. They eventually fall asleep forever, and die of

After that statement, the chamber filled with silence. Herb's heart
felt as though it weighed more than the rest of him, as if it were being
pulled to the floor. No, not Lime, his mind kept chanting. Lime can't
die. He hasn't kissed a woman yet.

Neither have you, a little voice popped out of nowhere, and Herb hated
himself for it.

"Is there a cure?" he asked finally, almost dreading the answer.

The Amazon woman eyed him appraisingly. "There is," she began, "but it's
a difficult potion to make. Are you prepared to journey to another

Herb nodded firmly.

"There is a spice-moss that grows on one mountain alone. When brewed at
midnight on a full moon by a virgin witch, the spice gains magical
properties and can cure any illness."

Herb was leaning forward on the throne, gripping the armrests. His eyes
were narrowed. "A panacea? You've got to be kidding me."

"I said it was difficult." She narrowed her own eyes right back at him.
"But you may have what it takes to retrieve the spice."

"Where is the mountain?"

"It's Mt. Hebereke, on Hokkaido, the northernmost island in Japan."


Herb hated Japan. He had nothing but unpleasant memories of the place.
And while his own people were struggling to preserve their true and real
history, Japan had prostituted herself to the twentieth century. It was
only due to his natural knack for languages that he'd even bothered to
learn their tongue.

"The journey will be the easy part, though. You've also got to find a
female virgin witch." The Amazon cackled softly again. "There are none
in all the tribes of the Amazons anymore, and I really doubt you've got
any among your people. I don't sense any power among them."

Despite the fact that he was bristling with anger, Herb had to agree.
Thousands of years of selective breeding had produced a line,
traditionally, with powerful males and weaker females. Most of the
women came from outside, too; ones who had been cast aside by their
clans and allowed to marry outside of them because they didn't have the
features that clan was breeding for. While marrying into the Musk was
an honor, for some women, they really didn't have a whole lot of choice.

"So I need to go to Japan and find a witch."

"A virgin witch. It won't work if she's spoiled."

"Anything else ridiculous that I need to do? Carve bamboo while dancing
naked in the street while the female witch is brewing the potion?"

"You could do that if you like," the old Amazon said with a leer.
"Invite me if you decide to."

Disgusted, Herb chose not to respond to that. "How long do I have?"

"Two weeks at most. The full moon is then, as well. Make sure that when
the patients are conscious, they eat and drink as much as possible.
They die not from the illness itself, but from dehydration and

Two weeks . . . was not a long time.

"You can stay with my cousin Kho Lon at the Cat Cafe in Tokyo like you
did last time. She'll be able to point out the best way for you to get
to Hokkaido from there."

Herb nodded. To the few servents who were not ill, he said, "Prepare my
ship. I'll be leaving within the hour." They scrambled to do his
bidding. "Also, tell Mint that he is to stay here with Lime. I'll be
going alone." He turned back to the Amazon. "Thank you," he said curtly.

"Have fun in Japan!" she cackled, and started to leave. But then she
paused. "Oh, and Kho Lon may also be able to help you find a witch. She
had mentioned once that there was one running around Nerima."

A witch. A female witch. And a spice that could cure all illnesses. Herb
steeled himself. If he could find those things in Japan, he could
survive going there again, no matter how miserable his last trip had

* * *

Several days later, Nerima Prefecture, Tokyo

* * *

It was a quiet, peaceful day in Nerima, for once. The skies were
overcast, promising rain, but the wind was still. With the natural chaos
that permeated the area, a truly peaceful day was extremely rare. Most
of the citizens took it all in stride; after all, it meant that there
was also never truly a *boring* day in Nerima, either. However, for the
actual instigators of all the entertainment, a peaceful day was like a
blank canvas, ready to be painted in shades of excitement and insanity.

The painter of the day was Kodachi Kuno, age sixteen. She was perched
high in a tree in the middle of the park, wearing her favorite
gymnastic's leotard and clutching her infamous ribbon. Kodachi was
poised, ready to strike, the ribbon gathered in her hands, wrapped
around the wand. Few people had ever realized that it was the wand
itself and not the ribbon that needed to be feared.

"Soon," she whispered to herself, "soon, my darling Ranma, you'll be
mine and mine alone."

The plan was simple, really. She had left a note in Ranma's shoe locker
that she had something he'd want very much in the park (in reality, that
something was she herself) and that in order to retrieve it he would
have to be in the park at precisely five PM. She would ambush him, of
course, and she'd invited Gosunkugi to film the entire thing on
videotape. More importantly, she'd force Ranma to drink the love potion
she'd spent the last few weeks brewing. Potions had always been her
specialty; sleeping draughts, paralysis poisons, and mind enchantment
tonics were as easy for her to make as French cuisine.

The love potion was safely stored in a flask, and it could be opened in
a moment's notice. Technically, it was illegal for student witches to
brew such a potion, but with the levels of magic that flew around Nerima
on a daily basis no one ever noticed how often Kodachi broke the rules.

No one had ever even noticed that St Hebereke's Girl's School was not,
in fact, a Catholic school as it appeared on the surface.

He approached. She tensed, ready to spring at a moment's notice.
However, there was an unforeseen hitch in the plan; the boorish Tendou
girl was with him. Kodachi frowned, calculating how best to dispatch of
the unwanted competition. A good stun charm, perhaps? No, that would
likely also distract Ranma . . .

She needn't have worried. They were arguing, as usual, and she leaned
down in order to catch their snippets of conversation.

"I told you, I don't know nothin'. I have no idea who left me that
note," Ranma complained. Akane stomped behind him.

"Come on, Ranma. Something of yours has to be missing. Did Nabiki
sneak another round of photographs for sale and then lost them?"

"No! Come on, you know as well as I do that Nabiki'd never do something
dumb like lose potential profit."

Akane stopped just below Kodachi's tree, her hands on her hips.

"Then what? Ranma, if you didn't lose anything here, then you shouldn't
be here." Akane's face suddenly grew serious, and she looked around
wildly. "It's probably a trap."

Kodachi sank deeper into the shadows of the tree. The uncivilized and
unworthy one was sometimes smarter than she appeared.

"Look! I --," Ranma started, and ran his hand through his hair in
agitation, turning around to face Akane. "It probably is a trap. But I
had to come. You know that."

Akane sighed and then did something that Kodachi never expected. She
hugged Ranma.

Through eyes red with anger Kodachi saw that he was hugging her back.

"Baka," Akane murmured.

"Uncute," he answered.

Kodachi covered her eyes in horror. This was not working out the way
she'd intended.

"Pervert," Akane whispered, and leaned up to Ranma for a kiss.

"Macho jock . . ." Ranma began, and then gave up as his lips met

Kodachi was stunned. Her Ranma was kissing the Tendou girl! It was
impossible for her to comprehend. Why would he go for that fat,
sexless, ugly girl when there was a rose like herself ripe for the
plucking? Was it possible that Akane, too, was a -- no, she sensed no
magic from the other girl.

The love potion was clutched in her hand, forgotten.

To top it all off, at that moment, the heavens opened up and it began to

Kodachi might have been able to dismiss everything she'd seen up until
that point as a trick, but as the rain began to fall heavily, she *saw*
Ranma . . . transform. With her own eyes. She saw the flash of light
that came with transfiguration magic, and where Akane had been kissing a
boy a head taller than her, she was now kissing a redheaded girl a few
inches shorter. The two broke apart, and looked up at the sky, where
the rain poured forth upon their heads, streaking their hair and running
in rivulets down their necks. The rain began to drip on Kodachi as well
in her sheltering tree.

"It's a bit after five," Akane said, glancing at her watch. "Your
missing thing isn't here."

"Heh, it was probably a hoax," the little redhead said, and grabbed
Akane's hand. "C'mon, let's go find some hot water and pick up where we
left off."

The two ran -- no, almost skipped -- out of the park.

Once they were out of sight, Kodachi dropped out of the tree, unable to
believe what she'd just seen. Yet she knew it to be true. All those
little clues . . . that first match where the redhead had given her name
as Ranma, that time her brother had hugged the redhead and then found
himself hugging Ranma . . . it all made sense now.

"Gosunkugi?" Kodachi called, and the sycophant appeared, shaking,
holding the camera under his arm to keep it from getting wet.

"Akane Tendou is a lesbian," he said, horrified. A trickle of blood ran
from his nose.

"Nonsense. My darling Ranma has only been placed under a curse. That
Tendou girl hasn't got any magic in her like us, though . . ."

"But she's nice, and pretty, and kind, and --"

"And she has enchanted Ranma Saotome." Kodachi's face set, and she put
her hands on her hips. "Well, no matter. I shall free my precious
Ranma from her snare, and find a counter-curse to fix him in his proper
form. Hand me that tape."

Gosunkugi did so, and Kodachi whisked it along with the flask of love
potion into her schoolbag to keep it from getting wet. She'd need to
research transfiguration curses; unlike Potions and Charms, she'd always
been horrid at Transfiguration. Then she took out her wand, and let the
ribbon unfurl.

"Black Rose Petal Storm!" she yelled, and a swirl of petals suddenly
enveloped her. In a matter of moments she was clad in the school
uniform of St. Hebereke's Girl's School, a black jumper over a white

"Thank you for your help, Gosunkugi," she said, and leapt away, towards
the school. She would spend as long as necessary finding a cure for her
Ranma's affliction.

But first, she needed to grab a bite to eat. She decided to stop at
that charming Chinese cafe. They always made decent food, and its
owner, Cologne, was the only person who knew that Kodachi was a witch in


End Chapter One