Tenchi and Ranma, Together Forever!?
Chapter ten.
Hot springs and fire balls


A fan fiction based on the works of Rumiko Takahashi,
creator of Ranma 1/2, and, Masaki Kajishima, who I've been
told is the creator of Tenchi Muyo.
Hitoshi Okuda, is the artist and creator of the Tenchi Manga.

Garaga and Jiras are characters I lifted from 'Slayers Try'

I have no rights to these characters. Which should come as no
surprise to anyone.



What's going on?
This is an alternative universe story.
Ranma was trapped as a girl from her first dip in the
Nanniichuan.

Why? Read the earlier chapters of Tenchi and Ranma,
Together Forever!?. See below for some highlights.

Princess Ayeka has declared that Ranma is far too young to
marry Tenchi, and that any talk of a wedding will have to wait for at
least two years. Ranma, as you might expect, is just heartbroken
over this.^_^

Yea, right. Ranma is feeling a whole lot better. She is sure she
can regain her boy side within two years, and as everyone knows,
boys can't marry boys.

Big thanks to all the people who contributed C+C to this, their
help has been greatly appreciated. It is unlikely the story would be
anywhere near as good as it is without their efforts. How good it is
now I'll leave up to you.^_^


You can find all of TARTF at,
http://www.anime.usacomputers.net/~dragon/, or use
the direct link
http://www.anime.usacomputers.net/~dragon/fanfic.html
I'd use the first one myself if you are not already familiar with
Phoenix's work. He has some great stories at his site.

T.H. Tiger
schell@interlog.com

Three months ago:

The human brain is a wondrous thing, but, despite all it's
abilities, it has limitations. You only have to throw a ball to a young
child and watch it bounce off their chest before their arms move to
know this. The child may want to catch the pretty ball with all of
his, or her, might, but by the time the brain sees the ball, via the
ocular nerves, decides that it wants the ball, and sends instructions
to all the individual muscles needed to lift the arms and grasp the
ball with the hands, it is too late. The child has a sore chest, and
tears in his or her eyes.
This is because the enormous number of instructions necessary
to perform even the most mundane of tasks takes time. Time the
individual often does not have. This is why nature created sub-
brains in the form of neural clusters and muscular memory. Once
these 'idiot' systems have been programed, the brain only needs to
send the most minute of signals to the respective group and the
action is performed.
The epitome of this function can be seen in a superbly trained
martial artist, who will often parry a blow before she is consciously
aware of the threat.
The creators of AI systems, i.e., artificial intelligence, adapted
this system for their own use.
In order to shrink the operative intelligence into a small
enough package to make them practical, they made use of the
subsidiary systems often present in the object the A.I. would be
commanding, be it a farm tractor . . . or a Galaxy Police patrol ship.
Any repetitive function would be delegated to an idiot circuit.
The operative intelligence merely needs to send a simple signal to
initiate the action. These actions can vary from the incredibly
complex, such as computing a space jump, to the incredibly
mundane, such as making sure the seat is left down. Any action that
is done with frequency ends up being relegated to a sub unit.
The intelligence in charge of the Galaxy Police patrol ship,
Yukinojo, initiated such a program, and caused an action that was
very repetitive indeed:

"Mihoshi, I don't think this is a good idea."

Mihoshi and Yukinojo had spent the last six days chasing a
particulary elusive pirate. Or rather, Yukinojo had been chasing
him. Mihoshi had spent the six days holed up in her cabin watching
slides of her and Kiyone's last vacation.

The chase had led, as might have been expected in this district,
to Fractal, or as it was otherwise known, that, $#(#)&%, place.

With the singular exception of pirates, not too many entities
were fond of Fractal.

Fractal was a very young system as such things are measured.
It had been created when two close passing super-giants had drawn
a significant amount of mass from each other, indeed, both stars had
barely survived the encounter, and left a residue behind when they
escaped each other's gravitational fields. The matter left behind
had, over the course of time, cooled and congregated into a mass
sufficient to achieve ignition, and a new sun was formed. Smaller
pockets formed into planetoids and various other stellar debris.
Unlike most systems, Fractal was gifted with so much matter
that attempts to form larger masses, and eventually planets, for a
very long time came to naught. This was due to Fractal's most
unique feature. The matter that had formed Fractal had come from
two discreet sources, and they had been drawn together in counter-
rotating spirals. The result was that fifty-percent of Fractal's matter
rotated in one direction, fifty-percent in the other. Frequent high
speed collisions prevented any one object from attaining size and
stability. It was only in the last quarter billion years that Fractal had
stabilized to the point where it could begin the next step in it's
evolution as a solar system.
For now, however, Fractal had the distinction of being the
most cluttered solar system in the known galaxy. It was almost
impossible to navigate in, and any craft larger than a three-man ore
tug would find itself reduced to scrap within a very short time. Not
surprisingly, it had become a haven for the local pirates, whose
small ships could maneuver, if slowly, through the junk pile that
was Fractal. They were assisted by crude maps, which were not that
accurate or reliable, but good enough so that a small, slow, ship,
make its way with relative safety.

Around the outskirts of the system were numerous small
mining operations, many of them subsidiaries of larger
conglomerates. They did not conduct mining operations themselves,
but instead purchased scavenged material from the independent
prospectors who were the only true inhabitants of Fractal. The
trading posts were also the main source for navigational data, for
which they charged a fairly substantial sum.

But then the selling of treasure maps has always been a
profitable occupation.

There were enough valuable minerals in the asteroid cloud to
make it worthwhile for the small independents to sift through the
rubble. Their finds were eagerly purchased by the legitimate
businesses that acted as trading posts for the numerous beings who,
for one reason or another, had found it expeditious to relocate to
Fractal's rather less then law-abiding frontier.
And if the materials the prospectors sometimes brought in
were other then minerals, it was not that great a surprise. After all,
numerous ships had come to grief inside Fractal over the
generations. If a lone prospector was lucky enough to stumble
across a wreck containing high quality trade goods, well . . . who
were the trading posts' proprietors to question the gentle-being's
good luck.

As might be expected, Fractal's various neighbors were not so
sanguine about these 'lucky' finds, but as numerous attempted
reprisals had proven over the years, attempting to clean up Fractal
was more trouble than it was worth.
Most sensible police officers made the best effort they could to
catch fleeing felons before they reached Fractal, but if they lost the
race, they generally had enough sense to give up the chase and go
pursue prey in an area of space that was more likely to leave them
in one piece. Which they did, after adding a few more epithets to
Fractal's alternative name.

Mihoshi's evaluation sheets listed her as hyper-intuitive, gifted
with superb reflexes, honest, trustworthy, loyal, and of high ethical
character. Sensibility was conspicuous by it's absence.

Yukinojo repeated himself as Mihoshi eased the throttle
forward. "Mihoshi, I must reiterate. I do not think this a prudent
course of action. I'm too large to navigate inside Fractal's system."
Mihoshi frowned, and said, "But, Yukinojo, you said the
shuttle lacked the fire-power to apprehend the pirates. How can we
arrest them if we don't take the ship in?"
"Policy in these cases is that we break off the chase, and send
a description of the miscreant to Galaxy Police headquarters and the
local law enforcement agencies. They will list him as wanted, and if
he is spotted, he will be arrested."
"Break off the chase!?" Mihoshi exclaimed in shock. "You
mean let him go? We can't do that! Kiyone would never have let a
criminal escape her like that."
"Well, actually . . ." Yukinojo started to say, meaning to argue
that Kiyone would have done exactly that.

Yukinojo had approved very highly of Kiyone. She had felt
almost as strongly about scratches on his body as he did. He was
sure that in a case like this, she'd have been quite eager to follow
policy. Especially as the felon they were chasing had not actually
succeeded in robbing anyone. They had interrupted him in the
process, and he had fled without the loot.

Mihoshi gave him no time to say any of these things. She
stared into the view screen, taking in the cluttered space in front of
them, but not really seeing it, tears running down her cheeks.
"Kiyone would never have given up. In memory of Kiyone, we will
arrest this criminal." Mihoshi firmed her small chin, which was
quivering a little, and wiped the tears from her face with a forearm.
"For Kiyone," she whispered, and jammed the throttle full on.

Captain Garaga was feeling very pleased with himself. He'd
pushed his ship to the limit and had managed to escape from the
Galaxy Patrol police ship that had been pursuing him relentlessly
for the past several days. As the homey comfort of Fractal's asteroid
field surrounded him, he leaned his massive reptilian body back in
his command chair. His thick, scaly tail, which projected out
through a hole in the back of the chair, twitched in contentment.
He laughed, leaning his head back. His dark artificial eye
gleaming in the glow from the overhead lights, Garaga turned to his
weapons officer/co-pilot/kitchen help, and general all around jack-
of-all-trades, master-of-very-few, Jiras. "We showed them, eh,
Jiras? I bet that flat-bottom is cursing us to hell right about now."
The small, red-furred, fox-like humanoid alien sitting next to
Captain Garaga chuckled as well. "We sure did, boss." Jiras turned
his eyes toward the rear scanner's screen, intending to savor the
image of the frustrated patrol ship hovering just outside the asteroid
field. What he saw, caused his eyes to bulge. "What the hell?" he
cried out in shock, hands flying to the controls in front of him.
Garaga's relaxed pose disappeared at Jiras's action. He too
looked at the rearward scanner screen. Like Jiras, his one good eye
bulged as he witnessed the patrol vessel powering at what had to be
full throttle down their back trail.
"That's crazy!" Garaga exclaimed, his light-green hide turning
darker in shock. "They can't last a minute at that speed! What the
hell are they doing!?"
As if in answer, the main communication screen in front of
them came to life, showing a light-colored mammalian female,
complete with those unsightly lumps on her chest that distinguished
the females from the males of her species.
Jiras, being a member of a mammalian species himself, was
usually much more appreciative of those unsightly lumps. In this
case, however, the lumps were attached to a cop, which was about
as alien as you could get in Jiras's mind, so his attention did not
waver from his controls.
Well, maybe just a little. It had been a very long time between
ports.

"Attention, pirate vessel! This is Galaxy Police Detective
First-class, Mihoshi. Surrender now!"
"You're nuts!!!" Garaga screamed at the screen, as Jiras's
frantic piloting brought them within a lizard's scale of an asteroid
three times their own size. "You're going to get us all killed. Get
that whale the hell out of here before you cause a chain reaction."
On the screen Mihoshi scowled. "Never! In Kiyone's memory,
I will bring you to justice."
"Kiyone!? Who the hell is Kiyone!? Do you know a Kiyone,
Jiras?"
"No boss."
"Kiyone was the finest person who ever lived. She'd never let
criminals like you escape. In her memory I will punish you.
Surrender now, or. . . or . . ." Mihoshi turned to a small AI interface
that was hanging behind her, and asked. "Yukinojo? What will we
do if they won't stop?"
"Under normal circumstances, we'd use a tractor beam to hold
them, but --"
"Oh, yes, the tractor beam," Mihoshi said, cutting Yukinojo
off before he could finish his statement.
Mihoshi engaged the ship's main tractor beam, and locked the
sights on the fleeing ship in front of her. The automatic tracking
function took over from there.

"Mihoshi, I don't think this is a good idea."

Yukinojo's words were barely out before they proved
prophetic. An asteroid of moderate size moved into the space
between Yukinojo and the fleeing pirates. The tractor beam latched
on to its high metal count, and caused it to shift trajectory, right into
a small cluster of similar sized asteroids.
Like a cue ball in a game of pool, it caused them to scatter in
all directions. Each one, by the most extraordinary of coincidences,
heading toward a similar cluster.

On board the pirate ship, Garaga and Jiras swore as their
mapped-out route to base camp disappeared in a flurry of multi-ton
rocks.
While maps of Fractal's asteroid fields were, by their very
natures, temporary, they were accurate enough in the short term to
allow small ships to navigate with some margin of safety. Garaga's
ship had just lost that safety margin.
"She's nut's!" Jiras screamed. He frantically worked his
thrusters to avoid three different asteroids which were all heading
toward their ship. He dodged them, but the ship was still rattled by
the shrapnel when the three massive blocks of stone collided with
each other.

On board Yukinojo, Mihoshi was in much the same fix as the
pirates. She was better armed, however. Her fingers danced over
Yukinojo's fire control panel, seemingly in panic, but every blast
destroyed or deflected a threatening asteroid, and allowed them to
continue in their pursuit of the penny-ante criminals they had
chased so far.
On one of the small scanner screens in front of Mihoshi, a
small, white, triangular representation of Yukinojo moved through a
field of massive tumbling boulders, which shattered into smaller,
and smaller, chunks under Mihoshi's bombardment.

Jiras and Garaga were being tossed around their ship like
characters in a sci-fi tv show, the integrity of their hull steadily
diminishing. Already the sound that haunted ever spacers'
nightmares, the whistle of escaping air, was echoing through the
cabin.
"We got to get into our suits, boss!" Jiras cried out in panic,
pulling said garments from the locker where they were kept. He
pulled his suit on in frantic haste, only to find it fit like a tent. Next
to him, Garaga was trying to shove his leg into a pair of pants that
were about twenty sizes too small for him.
Recovering enough from his panic to notice the reason for his
difficulty, Garaga jerked the suit Jiras was wearing into the air, and
dumped the small red-fox out onto the cabin floor.
The two pirates managed to get their respective suits on just in
time. As Jiras closed the last seal on his suit, the integrity fields that
had been holding the hull together failed, and they found
themselves floating in space, surrounded by the remains of their
ship, and with several large asteroids bearing down on them. Jiras
was suddenly very sorry he'd skipped the sanitary hookups in his
hurry to get the suit on.

Yukinojo used his tractor beams to pull the pirates out of the
path of the asteroids that were threatening to turn them into pate.
His task was made easier due to the fact that they had apparently
fainted. He deposited the two comatose villains in the holding cells
and activated the stasis function. Confident that there was nothing
further to fear from them, he turned his attention back to the real
threat to his present and future well being.
The A.I.'s fabricated personality was not really capable of
pique. Despite that, something very similar to that emotion was
flowing through his circuits as he observed Mihoshi at the firing
controls. All mathematical solutions to their current situation
showed beyond a shadow of a doubt that their chances of survival in
this situation were . . . nil.
Mihoshi was not very good at math. She was very good at
shooting. Despite the frantic way she was handling the controls, and
the many shouts of, "Oh no, go away, don't come any closer," and
the always popular, "Waaaaaaaaaaa," every shot she took struck a
target.
And it wasn't just her accuracy that was keeping them in one
piece. It seemed every large rock she blasted shifted the orbit of at
least a dozen others when it fragmented. The result of all this was
that Yukinojo sailed through a bubble of mostly empty space, his
deflector screens more than able to handle the small fragments that
were left behind by Mihoshi's fire and the collisions between other
asteroids.
Leaving the panic stricken Mihoshi to her task Yukinojo
turned himself around, and headed for home. A phrase, spoken on
numerous occasions by Mihoshi's former partner, Kiyone, floated
through his circuits. "I don't believe it; we're still alive." That was
when the principal power bus to the main guns gave up the ghost
and vaporized under the sustained loads Mihoshi had been
subjecting it to.
As a dozen oversized boulders headed his way, Yukinojo
muttered, "Of course, I should have known," echoing another
frequent saying by his former commander.

Several days later, what was left of Yukinojo limped into
Galaxy Police headquarters and slipped into his usual repair bay.
While Yukinojo's communication systems had been one of the
first things to go during the battering he took, news of Mihoshi's
activity had still managed to arrive before her. Her superior officer
was waiting on deck, a very unhappy look on his face. Behind him,
protected from the vacuum of the repair bay by a sheet of protective
armor glass, stood a large group of beings. Despite their varied
appearances they all possessed that certain something that said,
'Mother for sale, cheap'. In short, they were lawyers.
These particular examples of the breed were the combined
representatives of all the various 'legitimate' companies that had
made their home in the Fractal system. Companies that were
looking at a major loss of assets due to Mihoshi's actions.

The chain reaction Mihoshi and Yukinojo had started would,
within three years, render the Fractal system non-navigational for
the foreseeable future, and had, according to some experts, set
Fractal back approximately a billion years in terms of geological
formation.

Fortunately for Mihoshi, another, smaller group of sentients
were also watching her arrival, and directing gleeful looks toward
their opposite numbers, one bay over.
These were the representatives from the systems surrounding
Fractal, whose various police forces had already picked up
numerous wanted felons fleeing the rock grinder that the former
pirate stronghold had become.

As it worked out, thanks to the intervention of some of
Fractal's neighbors, the Galaxy Police escaped liability for the
several trillion credits worth of lost revenue that the Fractal
representatives claimed, but not by much. Word came down from
on high that perhaps detective Mihoshi would prefer to patrol a less
breakable section of the universe.


The present:

In the deep night the Masaki household slept. All except for a
stealthy figure dressed in blotched black trousers and a dark green
top making it's way along the upper hallway. Despite its dark
clothing and the dim light, it was very obvious the figure was
female. It would take a lot more than what she was wearing to
conceal that figure. Like, for instance, several winter coats. Instead,
the only extra article she was wearing was a coil of rope tossed over
one shoulder.
As she moved, she kept up a quite monologue. "The brave
ninja stalks the dark halls of the deadly castle, intent on her mission.
No obstacle will keep her from punishing the evil doers. No foe, no
matter how deadly, will stand --"

"Meah!"
The dark-clad figure jumped straight up in shock.

The trembling ninja looked down from where she was clinging
to the ceiling with white-knuckled fingers at the small furry creature
below, who was currently sitting on its haunches looking up at her
with an inquisitive gleam in its large liquid eyes. "Geez, squirt," the
ninja said softly, as she dropped from the ceiling, landing without a
sound, "I told ya not to sneak up on me like that. Whacha doing out
of bed anyway? Little kids need their sleep. You go back to Sasami-
chan, ok?"
The little animal just sat there, looking at her.
"Not going, huh?" the dark ninja said with a sigh. The fuzzy
cabbit chirped an affirmative. "All right, but you can't go like that.
Just give me a second here." The Ninja unwound several feet of
cloth from the dark fabric she had used to cover her face. A flash of
red shone in the moonlight as she tore off a small section, and then
wrapped the remainder back around her face and hair. "There," she
said with satisfaction, "that aught to do the trick."
A minute later two stealthy figures made there way down the
hall. The original one, and a new addition. A brown furry one with a
dark cloth tied around it's head, two slits allowing large floppy ears
to hang free. The taller one in the lead again offered commentary as
they moved. "The two brave ninja steal silently toward the evil
demon's lair. Nothing will keep the vengeance of heaven from
striking her. No longer will the wicked creature prey on the brave,
but dumb prince."
She fell silent as they disappeared down the stairs. Several
minutes passed, and they returned, the coil of rope absent.

The next morning Sasami stood beside the door to the dining
room, experience having taught her not to stand in front of it. She
held a large empty pot in one hand, a ladle in the other. She raised
the pan and banged on the bottom with the ladle while yelling,
"Breakfast is ready!" Two things happened almost simultaneously.
A green-black blur, trailing a long red braid behind it, dashed by
Sasami, causing her dress to blow in the slipstream. At the same
time a yell of panic came from the living room, causing the young
girl to start in surprise.
Rushing to the next room, Sasami was greeted by a surprising
sight. Ryouko, swinging wildly back and forth, her hair brushing the
floor, hanging from a rope that connected one ankle to the large
ceiling beam that was her habitual sleeping spot.
Ranma strolled up beside Sasami, a heaping bowl of rice in her
hand. She grinned mischievously as she took in the demon-girl's
situation. "Wow, Ryouko, sure is lucky you used a safety line. You
might have hurt yourself, falling off your beam like that. Course,
with all that cushioning on your bottom you'd have likely been
alright."
Ryouko's reply was, fortunately for Sasami's young ears,
inarticulate, but the gaze she turned on Ranma, and the glowing
energy sword that appeared in her hand, spoke volumes.
"Ryouko!" A voice rang out in shock, causing the former
space pirate to cringe as she looked up at the inverted form of
Tenchi, who was standing at the top of the stairs. Her energy sword
sputtered out, and her face assumed an expression reminiscent of a
whipped puppy.

In the last few days Ryouko had become rather gun-shy around
Tenchi. It often seemed that every little thing she did got him mad
at her. Her wild gyrations at the end of the rope caused her to turn
away from him, and she started to sputter out that she hadn't done
anything wrong. Before she could gain enough presence of mind to
speak clearly, or to free herself from her undignified position, a pair
of arms caught hold of her swinging body and gently lifted her into
a more or less upright position.
Ryouko found herself cradled very closely to Tenchi as he
worked to free her ankle from the rope that was still looped around
it. Having freed her leg, he gently set her down on the couch and
cradled her foot between his strong callused hands.
"Are you all right, Ryouko-san?" Tenchi asked, his voice filled
with concern. "Does this hurt?" he added, as he moved her foot
back and forth.
Ryouko blinked at him, her mind nearly shutting down from
the shock of the current situation. She'd dreamed of Tenchi
kneeling before her like this. Of course, it hadn't been her ankle
he'd been holding in those dreams, but still. . .
"Ryouko-san?" Tenchi repeated in a questioning tone. "Are
you all right?"
Ryouko blinked again, started to say she was fine, but then her
brain shifted gears, and she gave a little moan of pain. "Oh, Tenchi,
it hurts." Ryouko squeezed her eyes together as tightly as she could,
forcing a crocodile-tear to roll down her cheek.
Ranma's jaw hit the floor. She could only stare in surprise as
Tenchi tenderly manipulated Ryouko's foot, and then, taking a long
bandage Sasami supplied, wrapped the injured girl's ankle.
For some reason, the sight of Tenchi ministering so tenderly to
Ryouko was making Ranma angry, which made her confused,
which made her even angrier. Finally, unable to hold her feelings
in, she said in a loud voice, "Oh come on, Tenchi! You ain't falling
for this are you? She's faking!"
Tenchi looked toward Ranma, an expression of
disappointment in his eyes, and she suddenly found herself feeling
guilty, and as low as a snake's belly button, or her father's pockets.
(1) "Fine!" she said loudly. "Be a sucker. I'm going to go train."
With that she stormed out of the house.

(1) A frequent observation made by people who had gone
drinking with him, was that Genma had deep pockets, and very
short arms.

"Stupid Ryouko," Ranma snarled to herself, as she moved her
bokken through an intricate pattern, holding off an imaginary foe.
Her shadow opponent, who happened to be the self-same Ryouko,
wove around Ranma's weapon, moving her own gleaming weapon
in counterpoint to Ranma's. Ranma twisted and turned, never
letting the imaginary energy weapon come close to her.
Ranma had been going at it for over an hour, and her body was
covered in a heavy sheen of sweat. "Where the heck is Tenchi?" she
asked herself. "The stupid baka should have been up here long ago
for practice."
"Feeling lonely little girl," her imaginary opponent mocked
her. "Would you like to do some of this, and some of that with me
instead?" she teased.
"Yea, right, in your dreams, mummy," Ranma snarled,
ignoring the fact that the figure doing the talking existed only in her
own imagination, and what that might indicate about the cause of
her current anger.
Ranma slashed out at the taunting figure in front of her, using
a particularly nasty pattern she'd been working on for a little while.
Pushed onto the defensive, the imaginary Ryouko teleported behind
Ranma, her sword raised high for the killing blow. Only to be
smacked hard in the nose by the hilt of Ranma's bokken. Which the
redhead had slid back over her shoulder in a powerful thrust.

"Very effective," a wry voice from the side said. Pulling
Ranma out of her semi-trance.
"Huh?" she said intelligently. Looking around for the source
of the comment. "Oh, it's you," she said, when she spotted
Katsuhito. "How's it hanging, Gramps?"
'Whack'
"Ouch! What the heck was that for?" Ranma groused, rubbing
the top of her head where Katsuhito had just thumped her with his
bokken.
"You should speak with more care to your elders, girl,"
Katsuhito said, returning his bokken to its usual position, resting on
his shoulder. "That was quite an effective strike you made there, but
tell me. Was it really worth your fingers?"
"Huh?" Ranma said in puzzlement, and then looked down at
where her right hand was firmly grasped around the 'blade' of her
bokken. She blushed, and rubbed the back of her head. "Oops,
sorry, forgot."
Katsuhito sighed, and said, "It's not your fault. Your father
trained you too well in the anything-goes style. I feared that was the
case from the first, but I wanted to make sure."
Bristling at the implication that she was in someway lacking,
Ranma said, "What's that suppose to mean? How the heck can I be
trained 'too well'?"
Katsuhito paused for a moment, and then started walking
toward the temple, gesturing for Ranma to follow. As they walked,
he said, "The anything-goes style trains the student in making use of
anything that might come to hand to win a battle. It teaches you to
access the potential of those objects in an instant, and to use them in
the manner they are best suited for.
"There is nothing wrong with this in theory, but it causes
problems when you must use a substitute for a real weapon in
serious training, as with the bokken. No matter how hard you try,
deep down, your training forces you to view it as a shaped piece of
wood, and not as the razor sharp sword it is supposed to represent."
"So, why don't we just stop this play-acting, and use the real
thing."
"But that would be play-acting of a different nature. With the
bokken, you can strike blows that would kill or cripple if delivered
with a real sword. With a live blade, you would be forced to either
train in solitude, or to pull your blows. Both of these are contrary to
the way you have been trained, and at this point it would take far
too long to overcome your ingrained conditioning, if we even
could."
"Bull," Ranma said in a dismissive tone. "Ain't any martial art
I can't learn." Despite her words, Ranma was getting nervous.
Katsuhito had taken great pains to convince her that she would be
foolish to face the Musk without a weapon to magnify her talents
and to counter their superior numbers. Now she was afraid he was
about to tell her there was no way she could ever face them.
"Possible, possible, but I'm thinking there might be another
solution." By this time they had reached the porch that fronted the
temple, and Katsuhito picked up a long object wrapped in cloth that
was leaning against one of the porch supports. He handed it to
Ranma, who didn't hesitate to strip the wrappings from whatever it
was.
A second later she was holding a bo staff, about five feet in
length. Carved from a blond wood, it was very plain, lacking any
decorative touches. It was simply a smooth, straight length of wood.
Ranma spun it in her hands, and an eyebrow raised as she felt the
perfect balance of the staff. It could have been made specially for
her from the way it snugged perfectly into her hands. She spun it
around her body several times, and then planted the butt firmly into
the ground.
Looking up at Katsuhito, she said. "Nice, but it's just a chunk
of wood. What do I do when it breaks, and there isn't another one
just like it nearby?"
"It won't break," the old man said with assurance.
"Come off it, old man. Everything breaks. That's why it's not
a good idea to become dependent on a particular weapon."
"Look more closely."
Ranma sighed, but obeyed, humoring the old man. She
carefully examined the staff in her hands, but as before, there was
nothing particularly distinctive about it, other then it's color, most
bo staves being of a much darker hue, having been hardened by an
application of oil and laquer, and of course, lots, and lots of human
sweat. This one obviously had never been used, or else it shed dirt
really, really well. Something about that thought struck a chord,
and Ranma looked again, this time paying close attention to the
wood itself. She discovered a familiarity in the grain; she'd seen
this type of wood before. She looked up at her Sensei in surprise.
"It's made out of the same stuff as Tenchi's fancy sword."
Katsuhito beamed at her. "That's it. Legend has it that the
sacred tree shed two branches for an ancestor of mine, and he
carved one of them into that staff."
Ranma looked at the weapon in her hand with more respect.
"Can it make a blade like Tenchi's sword?" She swung it
experimentally, imagining it had a thin blade of energy at the one
end. It would not effect the balance, being made of light. In her
minds eye, she could easily imagine how effective such a weapon
would be. It would restore, and then some, the reach she had lost
when she'd been transformed. Then she frowned; unlike Tenchi's
sword, there was no particular orientation to the staff, no front or
back. Which way would the blade come out, or would it come out
from both ends? In her mind, Ranma devised a kata that would take
that into account. She was rather pleased with the result. This could
be very cool indeed.
"I don't know," Katsuhito said, breaking into Ranma's
concentration.
"You don't know?" Ranma said in surprise.
"It's never been used. The one it was created for never got to
use it. It's been in storage almost from the day it was created. It's a
virgin." The old man raised an eyebrow, and smirked at the little
redhead. "The two of you should get along fine together."
Ranma swung the staff at Katsuhito, who leaned back just far
enough for it to brush by his face, stirring his mustache slightly.
Ranma was not really trying, however. She was too busy thinking
on the possibilities of this new weapon. Something like this could
level the playing field between her and Ryouko. She'd be able to
keep the mummy away from Tenchi. Just to protect him, of course.
Tenchi was too dumb to realize what a pervert the girl was.
Ranma had given a lot of thought to how Tenchi's sword
worked. Even if she hadn't been fascinated by its nature she would
have done so out of ingrained habit. Genma had often shown her
strange and exotic weapons, given her a few minutes to study them,
and then attacked, expecting her to know how best to use it.
Mistakes were painful.
It was obvious that it had something to do with this power of
Jurai that the princess was always going on about. Ranma knew that
she should be able to make use of that power. Ayeka certainly spent
enough time telling Ranma how special it was that she had Jurai
blood. She had spent much time in private trying to call up the
power, but without much success. Maybe the staff would help her
focus better.
Infusing a weapon with ki was fairly simple; Ranma had first
managed it when she was seven. That would be a good place to
start. Ranma turned till she was facing the half dozen poles located
in one corner of the shrine. The top foot of each was wrapped in
heavy hemp rope, and they'd served as targets for her solo sparring,
both armed and unarmed.
Ranma focused on the weapon in her hands, feeling the warm
wood against her flesh, the slight weight pulling against her arm.
She sent her mind inward, imagining energy pulling in from all over
her body, and pooling in her belly. When the ball of chi force in her
stomach felt balanced, she pictured it flowing up her body and
down her arms into the weapon she held. Long practice let her
complete the exercise in less time then it took to tell it.
A soft glow started emanating from the wood of the bo-staff.
While she was elated by her success, Ranma kept her concentration.
The staff moved in her hands as she started a slow kata. As the
weapon flowed through the air, it trailed a faint afterimage. Ranma
started to spin the staff in front of her. Faster and faster she went till
a low thrum sounded. Replacing the straight stick she had held, a
glowing disk of energy stood in front of Ranma, centered on her
rapidly twisting hands.
Ranma took a step forward, and the disk in her hand suddenly
changed once more to a simple staff as she thrust it at one of the
practice posts. The point of the shaft struck with a solid thunk
against the hemp cords circling the post, and almost instantly there
was a sharp 'tak' sound as the other end flowed backward and into
the post behind Ranma.
Ranma became a blurred image as she moved among the
seasoned wood of the practice posts. Her staff was invisible except
for the glow it left behind as it moved through the air. The sound of
the staff striking wood and rope became a constant rattle, barely a
moment of time between each blow.
Katsuhito looked on in approval. Despite the speed that Ranma
was using, each blow was carefully controlled and lightly struck.
The bo was not a bludgeoning weapon, but one requiring finesse.
Pressure points and vulnerable areas were it's natural targets, and
they were usually small, and in most cases, did not need to be struck
with any great force to be effective.
Still, the weapon Ranma was currently wielding was not your
average bo-staff, and she needed to realize just what it could do.
"Oh dear," Katsuhito said in a loud, but bland voice, "I guess you're
too small and weak to really use that staff the way it can be. Maybe
I should wait till I can find a boy to give it to."
Ranma gave no sign that she'd heard Katsuhito, but inwardly,
she was seething. Weak was she? She was stronger then any stupid
boy. Despite that, she did not immediately strike out with full force.
The staff in her hand was the most perfect weapon she had ever
held, and she found herself loath to break it. As she realized this,
her expression firmed. This was why weapons were so bad. You got
attached to them. Better to end this now. Not without regret, Ranma
set out to break her new staff.
The steady tak, tak, tak of her blows stopped, and she stood in
the middle of the practice posts, the weapon spinning in a circle
above her. For a brief moment Ranma stood still, only the arms
stretched above her head moving. A look of intense concentration
was on her face, and her complexion was red with strain.
"Kiaaaaaaa," Ranma screamed as she brought the staff
swinging down and around in a complex figure that maximized her
leverage. With all the force she could muster, she slammed the staff
into the side of one of the practice poles.
The side of the six-inch thick oak pole opposite Ranma's blow
exploded in splinters, and the top slumped over. Ranma didn't see
this. Using the rebounding force from the staff to boost her next
swing, she swung it around and into the next nearest post, which
also shattered under the blow.
Five seconds after she shouted her battle cry, Ranma came to a
stop, the staff tucked under her left arm. Her left leg was bent
slightly forward, and her right leg and arm were extended in front of
her in a ready stance. She held the pose for a second, and then
became aware of the carnage around her. "No way," she said in an
amazed voice, starring at the shattered remains of the heavy practice
posts. Dropping out of her stance she brought the staff around and
examined in carefully. Not a single scratch marred it's surface.
Katsuhito smiled at Ranma's expression. Her expressive face
hid nothing of her inward feelings. Just so a child might look, who
has opened a Christmas present, and found the gift she'd been
wanting above all others. A frown suddenly appeared on Katsuhito
face as he noticed a small detail he had missed. "Ranma, your
nose," he said in a sharp voice.
"Huh?" Ranma said, looking over at him. She brought a hand
up and wiped it across her face. Looking down at the back of her
hand, she saw a smear of blood. She gave a snort, and sprayed a
small splatter of blood across the courtyard. "Guess I must have
caught a splinter," she said in a nonchalant tone, looking around at
the destroyed posts.
Suddenly she turned and focused on Katsuhito, a very feral
expression on her face. Spinning the staff in her hands gently, she
smiled nastily at him. "Feel like a little exercise, old man?"
"I thought you and the others were going to the hot springs to-
day," Katsuhito said in mock surprise. "Or have you decided to stay
and keep this old man company." He put his best leer on his face,
only to find it wasted as Ranma was already racing toward the
stairs. The expression on his face shifted to one of fondness as he
watched her go.
Ranma called back over her shoulder as she hit the edge of the
stairs. "Sorry. I forgot. Got to go! See you later. Thanks for the
staff."
Katsuhito smiled at the swirling dust devil that was all that
remained as evidence of Ranma's presence. But then a frown
appeared on his face. Despite her words he didn't think it had been
a splinter that had caused Ranma's nosebleed. Ranma was not an
easy bleeder, and it was unlikely the strain of her efforts could have
caused it either. So what had?
At the last there, he had felt a distinct flavor of the power of
Jurai. Could that be the cause? Ranma's ability to use the power
was the first instance Katsuhito had ever heard of someone being
granted the talent through artificial means.
He had assumed that the girl had acquired Xian Pu's body, and
ability, because of her distant relationship to him. But what if that
was not enough? What if Ranma had gained the talent, but not the
ability to channel it correctly. The strain on her body would be
enormous. Maybe more than it could handle.
Almost Katsuhito called Ranma back, meaning to caution her,
but then he decided against it. Ranma was going to the hot springs
with Tenchi and the girls. Even if she quarreled with Ryouko, it was
very unlikely she'd use more power then what she'd used here. He
would talk to her later
He shook off the brief feeling of dread that filled him, putting
it down to the worries of an old man who had lost too many loved
ones. It was good that Xian Pu's staff finally had a master. It was a
crime for such a fine weapon to gather dust. He turned and headed
into the temple, his mind centuries in the past.

Tenchi Masaki was no ladies man. Under most circumstances
he tended to freeze up when forced into conversation with the fairer
sex.
Up till now, he'd been doing fairly well with the girls who had
invaded his life, but that was mainly because they were all so
aggressive. He never had to initiate the conversation. Things had
changed. He needed to broach a subject with Ranma that the
redhead was likely very sensitive about at the moment. If he didn't
get his opening sentence just right, she was likely to walk away
before he could get his explanation out.
So as he walked up the stairs toward the shrine, he rehearsed
potential lines out loud.
"I'm sorry, Ranma."
"I'm really very sorry, Ranma."
"No, Ranma will think I'm a wimp if I say that."
"I was really wrong, Ranma."
"No, no! That's just as bad. Maybe if I just act casual.
"Hey, guess what, Ranma? You were right about Ryouko.
How about that?"
"Well, Geez. Big whooping surprise there."
"Arrgggg," Tenchi cried out, stumbling back down several
stairs. He looked up to see Ranma standing above him, a smirk on
her face, a wooden staff resting negligently on her shoulder.
"So, how'd you figure it out?" Ranma asked. Then she
smirked. "Or maybe I should say, how long before the mummy gave
herself away?" As she talked, she walked down the steps past
Tenchi, who hurriedly turned and fell into step beside her.
"Well, ha ha," Tenchi laughed embarrassedly, while rubbing
the back of his head with one hand.
"She got perverted, didn't she?"
"No, no, not at all, she just wanted to thank me for being so
kind, and the princess misunderstood."
"So the two of them started going at it, and the dumb mummy
forgot she was suppose to be hurt?"
"Well, something like that. Ranma, I'm sorry."
"You're a baka is what you are," Ranma said in a friendly, if
chiding, tone, taking some of the sting out of her words. "You really
got to stop letting people walk all over you, Tenchi. You don't see
me being such a chump."
Tenchi looked at Ranma with wide eyes, and said in a joyful
voice. "You mean you wanted to get engaged to me? Oh Ranma,
I'm so happy."
Ranma eeped, and barely escaped Tenchi's attempt to hug her.
She jumped down a dozen steps in one bound, and would have
continued her flight, if not for the sound of Tenchi's howls of
laughter.
The brown-haired boy was laying where his attempt to glomp
Ranma had landed him, laughing fit to burst. Still laughing, he
pointed a finger at Ranma, and choked out, "Who's the baka now?"
Ranma scowled at him. Then, drawing up her dignity, she
turned and marched down the stairs. Once her face turned away
from Tenchi, the scowl dropped from her face, and was replace by
an impish grin. "There may be hope for the baka yet," she
whispered to herself.
"Don't be mad, Ranma. I was only joking," Tenchi panted, as
he hurried down the stairs to walk beside Ranma.
But, I'm still the master, Ranma thought to herself, as they
walked down the stairs side by side.


***********************************

Sasami jumped from the Range Rover almost before it stopped
moving. "Ayeka, we're here!" she shouted out with glee, turning to
tug on her sisters sleeve in order to hurry the princess' slow exit
from the vehicle.
"Really, Sasami. You should be more lady-like," Ayeka
chided her sister, then sweated as Ranma bounced out of the sport-
utility vehicle with a loud cry of pleasure.
"All right, we're finally here. I think my ass has fallen asleep."
"Ranma-chan!" Ayeka chided fiercely. "Please behave with
more dignity while we are in public. You're setting a very bad
example for Sasami."
"Ahh, leave Red alone," Ryouko exclaimed, getting out of the
vehicle and stretching her arms high over her head, causing her
chest to strain against the thin fabric of her shirt. "You ought to
loosen up princess," She said, drawing out the word 'princess',
making it an insult. Tucking her hands behind her neck, Ryouko
continued to stretch out the kinks from the long trip. While doing
so, she watched Ranma out of the corner of her eyes, and smiled
nastily at the little redhead's attempts to not look at her. Taking
advantage of Ranma's visual avoidance, she quickly reached down
and patted the girl's bottom, eliciting a shocked yell from Ranma,
and a leap that put her a good fifteen feet away.
"What the heck are you trying to do, you pervert!?" Ranma
yelled, her face heavily flushed.
"Just waking up that sleepy ass of yours, Red," Ryouko leered
before fading from sight.
Ranma looked around frantically, wondering where the
demon-girl was going to appear, and gave a sigh of relief when she
saw Ryouko appear at the back of the truck where Tenchi was busy
unpacking the luggage. For once, she was content to leave the two
of them alone. Let Tenchi put up with the cyan-haired girl's teasing.
At least he was a boy.
"Ah, so you're little Tenchi's fiancee," a voice said behind
Ranma, and she turned to find herself eye-to-eye with an elderly
lady, who gave her an appraising look. "You're just a little bit of a
thing, but you've got good wide hips. You should give Tenchi-chan
lots of good healthy sons."
Ranma was past the point where she would automatically
object to such a comment, thanks in a large part to Ayeka's training,
but she was far from being comfortable with such a frank statement,
and as a result a strong blush covered her face.
"Hahahhahahah," the old woman chortled, with a hint of
approval behind the laughter "Shy, are you? Well don't worry.
You'll get over that soon enough. I'm sure Tenchi will see to that,"
she teased. "Just remember though, girl, this is a family place, so
don't you go letting Tenchi sneak into you bed while you're here.
I'll be keeping an eye on you two." The old lady cackled as she took
in not only Ranma's flush of outrage, but Tenchi's look of near
terminal embarrassment, her comments having been loud enough
for him to hear. Nobuyuki joined in her laughter at the expression
on his son's face.
His feelings were not improved by Ryouko whispering in his
ear. "Don't worry Tenchi. While the old bat is watching Red, I'll
sneak in and keep you warm."
Ranma fumed, and Tenchi blushed as they were surrounded by
ribald laughter.

******************************************

Tenchi gave a sigh of pleasure as he leaned back in the
steaming pool of hot water. His pleasure was short lived, however.
"Come on, Tenchi, you can't waste this opportunity. There are
pretty girls just over that wall, and it would be an insult to them not
to try and peek," his father admonished him.
Tenchi groaned as he took in the napkin his father had tied
over his head and under his nose in classic peeping-tom style.
Fortunately, his father did not waste time arguing with him, but
instead decided to teach by example, bad that is. As Tenchi watched
in disbelief, his father began to scale the twenty-foot wall that
separated the men's side from the women's
"What's your pop up to now?" a voice asked from behind him.
"Oh, hi, Ranma. The usual for him," Tenchi said, then froze in
shock. "Ranma?" he stuttered, turning to face the redheaded girl.
"Ack," he garbled, and hastily twisted his face away as he got an
eyeful of Ranma, sans clothes, standing in the thigh-high water.
"What the heck are you doing here?" Tenchi asked in shock,
pinching his nose in order to avoid embarrassing himself. "The
girl's side is over there."
"Well, duh," Ranma said sarcastically. "I'm a guy, remember?
I can't bath with girls."
Ranma was not being completely truthful. She'd bathed
dozens of times on the ladies' side of the public baths since her
change. But sharing a bath with strangers was a completely different
matter than sharing it with girls she knew, especially that un-cute
pervert Ryouko. Who knows what she'd try. Unbidden, an image of
Ryouko leaning over during their fight at the temple rose in her
mind, to be hastily dispelled. Girl's didn't think that way about
other girls, Ranma reminded herself, not for the first, or fifty-first,
time.
That train of thought, unfortunately for Ranma, led in an
unwelcome direction. If it was wrong for girls to think about girls
that way, it was right for them to think about boys that way. Taking
that to the next step, it was therefore right for boys to think about
girls like that. Ranma was suddenly very conscious of the fact that
she was currently wearing nothing, while Tenchi was garbed in a
towel. That towel was currently behaving in a most un-towel like
manner. As a former boy, Ranma was very aware of the motivating
force behind that motion, and thanks to Ayeka, curse her, she also
knew far more then she cared to about how that applied to her.
Ranma's face suddenly felt hotter than the water she was standing
in.
It was almost a relief when a long drawn out scream, followed
by a loud splash drew her attention back to Tenchi's father, who
was currently floating in the pool at the base of the dividing wall.
"Tenchi!" a voice called from above. Ranma jerked her eyes
up from the floating Nobuyuki to see Ryouko, who was resting her
arms on the wall, looking down at her and Tenchi. "There you are.
What are you doing over there? Come over here. It's much nicer."
To Ranma's disgust, Tenchi mumbled a rather pathetic excuse,
while actually looking like he might not mind the idea. She should
have known; the levitating towel was a dead give away, after all.
Boys were such perverts.
Ryouko did not give Tenchi a chance to decide one way or
another. She lightly leaped over the wall, and phased out of sight,
only to re-appear standing on a rock beside the pool, stark naked.
Tenchi eeped and hastily turned away, only to find himself
staring at an equally naked Ranma, who blushed and covered
herself with her hands. "Pervert!" she hissed at him.
Before he could apologize, or figure out why the usually
immodest Ranma wasn't, Tenchi found himself being hauled into
the air by Ryouko. Tenchi only briefly struggled, as he almost
immediately realized that any motion on his part brought him into
intimate contact with Ryouko's parts.
Ranma forgot her brief surge of feminine modesty, as she
watched Ryouko carry Tenchi over the wall that separated the
men's and ladies sides of the bath.
"Damn you, Ryouko, you let Tenchi go!" she shouted after the
departing pair. Ryouko, not surprisingly, paid her no mind
whatsoever. Ranma bounded across the pool in two jumps, the
second one off of the floating Nobuyuki's belly. Reaching the rock
ridge which supported the tall bamboo dividing wall, she tensed her
legs in preparation of jumping over it, and paused.
Beads of sweat formed on Ranma's head as she peered at the
top of the fence. Leaping over it would be no problem. The problem
would start on the other side. The side where Ryouko, and Tenchi,
waited.
Ranma dithered in indecision. The thought of leaving Tenchi
to Ryouko's non-existent mercy was unthinkable, but to go over
there herself, where they both could look at her that way . . . and
then there was that towel . . .
Maybe. . .maybe she should go get herself a towel first. Surely
Tenchi could defend his virtue for that long . . . couldn't he? Would
he?
Before Ranma could answer her own question, the matter was
taken out of her hands. Ryouko's head and upper torso phased
through the bamboo dividing wall. "What's keeping you, Red. The
fun's on this side of the fence."
"Fun, yeah, right. I've seen your idea of fun," Ranma retorted,
unconsciously covering her breasts with her arms, while trying not
to stare at Ryouko's own generous assets. Taking her eyes off the
demon-girl proved her undoing. Ryouko reached out and wrapped
her muscular arms around Ranma, and pulled her through the wall.
"Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh," Ranma screamed in a long, drawn out
wail as she was pulled through a solid wall. As soon as Ryouko
released her, she hastily patted herself down to make sure
everything was still there. Having assured herself that all her parts
were still, in fact, part of her, she turned an angry look in Ryouko's
direction. "What the hell are you doing?! What if you'd left some of
me behind, you baka?"
Ryouko laughed off this suggestion, but her laughter cut short
as numerous small log-shaped objects suddenly appeared in the air
around her. Long white tendrils spun out of them, reaching for her.
Ryouko hovered calmly in mid air until she was almost enveloped
in the white strands, and then with a blur of motion, she
disappeared. She re-appeared above Ayeka, the instigator of the
attack on her.
"Blow from above!" Ryouko cried out in triumph, too early as
it turned out. Her hard-driven fist smacked into Ranma's crossed
forearms. The little redhead had moved so fast, she might almost
have been using Ryouko's own phasing technique. Ranma twisted
to the side, letting Ryouko's blow slide down a forearm. Her hands
and arms wove around Ryouko's larger limbs, catching them just
so. With a heave of her upper body, Ranma twisted Ryouko around
in the air, and then slammed her face first into the pool.
"Hehehehehheheheheheeheh," Ayeka chortled in glee. "That
will teach you to not to molest your betters, you . . . ." Ayeka's
voice cut off as she suddenly noticed that the girls side of the bath
was no longer a segregated area. Tenchi waved weakly at her from
where he was standing beside Sasami, still clad only in a small
white towel, one hand, positioned in front of him, holding it in
place. "Tenchi-sama," Ayeka said in shock, her face turning red.
There was a small tug behind her, and Ayeka turned her head
around to see that Ryouko had recovered from Ranma's attack, and
was currently drying her long cyan-colored hair with a towel. A
sudden draft caused her to look down, and to realize where
Ryouko's towel had come from.

"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!."

All around the shrine, for a distance of several miles, birds
took flight as the horrified scream shook leaves from the trees.

The waters of the hot pool washed back and forth violently in
the wake of Ayeka's departure for the changing room. Slowly, first
one, and then more heads poked above the surface of the water,
hands held protectively over ears.
"Princess?" Tenchi said in concern, and started to wade after
the departed Ayeka.
"I wouldn't," Ranma said, laying a restraining hand on
Tenchi's arm. She had acquired Ayeka's former towel, and was
wearing it around her body. "Girls get weird when they get
surprised like that. Better let someone go who she won't clobber.
Sasami?" While Ranma didn't speak from personal experience, she
had listened in to enough bathing room conversations to know that
much at least.
Sasami started, and looked over at Ranma. Catching the red-
head's meaning, she nodded in agreement, and started toward the
changing room. Before she got far, however, Ayeka appeared in the
doorway, clad in a white towel, and with a furious expression on her
face.
"Demon, for humiliating a princess of Jurai, you will pay!"
Ryouko yawned, then scratched under an arm, while saying in
a monotone, "How scary, I'm so frightened." She flashed a toothy
smile at Ayeka.
Ayeka didn't bother to reply. She conjured up a flotilla of her
personal defenders, and sent them out to encircle Ryouko. Lightning
flashed between them, but Ryouko was not there when it struck.
"You really should learn some new tricks, Princess," Ryouko
taunted from her position on top of a large boulder. "Here, let me
show you what I mean." Ryouko concentrated, and numerous misty
streaks of spiritual energy began to flow out of the surrounding
rocks and water. "They call me Ryouko because I can call up spirits
from anything."
At Ryouko's instructions, the wisps of energy began to swirl
around Ayeka, who mimicked Ryouko's bored stance of a few
minutes earlier. The small balls of spirit energy glanced off her
personal defensive shields, doing her no harm at all. Ayeka stifled a
mock yawn with one hand while saying, "You call this pathetic
side show an attack? I've seem more formidable kittens."
Ryouko again bared her teeth at Ayeka in a very unfriendly
smile. "I'm so sorry to bore you. Maybe you'll find this of more
interest."
Ranma's eyes widened in shock at the creature Ryouko
proceeded to conjure up. A was a good twelve feet in height, with a
large barrel chest and arms like a gorilla. If it hadn't been made out
of spiritual energy it would likely have weighed in at over a ton.
Ranma's eyes got even wider when the creature took a swing
at its creator, taking out a good section of fence after Ryouko
dodged out of the way. Despite it's misty appearance, it was
obviously very solid in some ways. "Oh boy, I've got a very bad
feeling about this," Ranma said to herself. Leaning forward, she
scooped Sasami up, and plopped her back down behind a large
boulder, then thrust Ryo-oh-ki into her hands. "You two stay here. I
think the mummy's taken after my Pop, and got herself in deep sh .
. .," Ranma paused, and then continued, ". . . stuff. Are you
nuts!!!?"
The last interjection was directed at Tenchi, who was in the
process of moving after Ryouko, Ayeka, and the, whatever the hell
it was, who had by now disappeared into the main building of the
resort."
"I have to help them," Tenchi said.
"You have to get your ass kicked, you mean. What the fu, . . ."
Ranma again caught herself, casting a glance back over her
shoulders at her underage listeners. "What the heck to you think you
can do? Snap it with your towel? We need weapons. Where did you
leave your sword?"
Tenchi's face lit up at Ranma's words. "It's in my room."
Tench started to head toward an exit, but then paused, and looked
back at Ranma. "Will you be alright?" he asked.
"Don't be stupid. Worry about your own butt. Meet me back
here, and then we'll show fang-girl how you're suppose to fight
monsters." With that, Ranma jumped lightly over the dividing wall
between the men and ladies side. There was a cry of surprise from
Nobuyuki, cut short with a splash.
Tenchi hesitated, looking over at Sasami and Ryo-oh-ki who
were waiting where Ranma had put them. "Don't worry, Tenchi-
neechan, Ryo-oh-ki and I'll be alright. Go get your sword and
protect Oneechan and Ryouko-neechan." the little girl said. Tenchi
gave Sasami a nod and a smile of encouragement, then rushed off
after his weapon. Left behind in the pool, Sasami crouched down
behind the boulder and hugged Ryo-oh-ki tightly. "Hurry back,
Oniichan," she said, in a voice that was no where near as brave as
the one she had just used to send Tenchi off.

As Ranma raced toward the parking lot, her father's voice
echoed in her head.
"Weapons are for those too weak, or too lazy to learn true
martial arts. If you are dependent on a weapon, then if you lose it, or
have it taken away, you are helpless. You, yourself, are the ultimate
weapon. Nothing, and no one, can take that away from you."
"Yea right, Pop," Ranma said to the voice in her head, "but
what do you do when your facing something like that thing? Even
Ryouko and Ayeka couldn't stop it. You never mentioned things
like that when you lectured me on why I'd never need to depend on
a weapon. I just hope to hell that staff Grandpop gave me can even
the odds.
Ranma reached the parking lot, and the Masaki's rented SUV.
Leaping to the top of the vehicle, she found the staff Katsuhito had
given her, and freed if from the hasty ties she's used when she'd
stuck it up there before the trip.
As Ranma pulled the staff free, explosions ripped through the
resorts covered walkway. For a second Ranma contemplated
charging in the direction of the explosions, but decided against it.
The explosions only marked where the creature had been, not where
it necessarily was. Ayeka and Ryouko could take care of themselves
as well as Ranma could. It was the kids, Sasami, and Ryo-oh-ki, that
needed her protection. Turning her back on more explosions,
Ranma raced back to where she'd left the younger members of their
party.
How well she had chosen was proven when she arrived at the
pool just in time to see the creature Ryouko had summoned bat
Tenchi aside with a casual blow of it's hand.
The battle computer that Genma's training had created inside
Ranma's mind kicked in, and time seemed to slow. Tenchi's fate
was beyond her. She couldn't get to him in time. The only thing she
could do for him was to make sure the misty-monster did not try to
finish the job.
A sideways glance with her eyes showed Ryo-oh-ki and
Sasami still hiding behind the rock where she left them. Sasami had
a hand held to her mouth in shock, and her eyes were following
Tenchi's flight through the air. A tensing of certain muscles groups
informed Ranma that Sasami was about to rush to Tenchi's side.
Again there was nothing that Ranma could do to prevent this.
Moving to stop the young girl would merely draw attention to her
and the small furry creature in her arms. Somehow Ranma didn't
think the creature in front of her was about to be affected by a
couple of pairs of kawaii eyes.
The best bet was to use Tenchi's idea. Distract the monster,
keep its focus away from the non-combatants.
Tenchi was still in the air when Ranma gave a battle scream,
and rushed toward the foggy-bodied creature, drawing its attention
fully on to herself.
As Ranma moved toward the creature, she started to spin the
staff in her hands, moving it faster and faster till, like at the shrine,
it was a disk shaped blur between her and the creature. Sending a
prayer up to whatever Kami might be listening, she started focusing
more and more energy into the staff in her hands.
A feeling of satisfaction filled Ranma as her actions were met
with success, and the blurred disk in front of her began to glow with
a light much brighter then that which it had manifested before. It
was nowhere near as brilliant as that emitted by the blade of
Tenchi's sword, but it was all she had.
"Eat this, foggy!" Ranma cried, leaping toward the monster,
the staff swinging in a powerful arc toward the creatures head.
Behind her, Tenchi crashed against the fence and slid to the ground.
A second later, Ranma too smashed into a fence, shattering it, then
sliding down into the water. Ranma sat dazed while a flock of
miniature winged pandas circled her head holding signs that said, *I
told you so.* Her staff splashed down into the men's pool well
below her present level.
Her attack had caused a small disruption in the creatures misty
body, just enough to cause it pain, and to make it lash out at the
source of that discomfort. Now it took steps to make sure this
particular gnat would never cause it pain again.

As the creature moved toward the felled redhead, a swirling
spot of energy appeared high in the sky above the combatants.

Ranma, vision blurred from the force of the blow, looked up at
the approaching monster, trying to get back her focus. As she
struggled, the monster suddenly paused, and swatted at Ryouko,
who buzzed around it's head, distracting it from Ranma.
Gritting her teeth, and ignoring the ache in her chest, Ranma
pressed back against the bamboo wall behind her, and forced herself
upright. A wave of dizziness swept through her, and her vision
blurred. For just a second Ranma was not seeing Ryouko battling
the mist-monster she had conjured up, but another scene, a scene a
lifetime ago. A pink haired man leered down at Ranma, while
beside him a guardian log, who was not Kamidake or Asaka
hovered. The vision lasted only a second, and then vanished, but it
was enough. Ranma remembered! She remembered the last
moments of the girl whose body she now wore. Dreams of which
she'd had while recovering from the neko-ken. Somehow the
similarities between her current situation, and those long ago events
had made a connection. The ache in her chest, the water around her
legs, the bamboo against her back. It all reinforced the
remembrance of that long ago battle. The disorientation that filled
Ranma's mind vanished, replaced by a grim determination. This
monster was going down!
Ranma reached deep into herself, remembering the sensations
that had filled her borrowed body all those years ago. Energy
seemed to flow into her body from everywhere. More energy then
she could ever remember summoning in her life.
As the energy built, fire raced through her veins. Sweat beaded
on her forehead, and fell into the water that flowed around her
thighs. Water began to steam where it made contact with her skin.
Little bubbles formed, and broke free to float to the surface of the
pool. Ranma ignored it all; her whole being was focused on the
power growing between her hands. I can do this! Ranma thought to
herself. Just me, no weapons.
At last, through some manner unknown to herself, Ranma
realized she had gathered what she needed, and it was time to use it.
Weaving her hands, she traced outlines in the air, outlines that
glowed with energy, and three ragged-edged triangles of light
appeared between her and the mist-monster. Sweat ran off Ranma's
body in streams, and thin trickles of blood flowed from her nose
and ears.
Ranma, ignoring the outward signs of suffering and straining
with all her might, brought her weaving hands inward, and the three
wings of energy in front of her furled around each other to form a
fat, roughly cigar-shaped, tube.
There was no need for Ranma to force power down and
through that construct; for the last several moments it had taken all
her will to hold the energy she had collected in check. All she had to
do was release the tethers her mind had forged.

She did it.

With a scream of shattering air, power flowed out of Ranma,
and through the focus point she had constructed, and as it did,
Ranma cried out with her last ounce of energy. "RYUU SATSU
HA!!!!!" Completely drained, she then fell face forward into the hot
spring. Ranma did not get to see the result of her efforts, but others
certainly did.

Ryouko had been fully focused on distracting the mist-monster
from the others when the fine hairs on her arms began to shift while
the skin they were attached to tingled. Long experience told her that
a very large energy source was powering up nearby. She flew up
above the creature she was battling, just out of it's reach, and
looked around. What she saw was Ranma. The red-headed girl was
leaning against the remains of one of the walls that surrounded the
pool. Her arms and hands stretched out toward the creature that
even now was trying to bat Ryouko out of the air. Between Ranma's
outstretched hands, and the monster, was a narrow ovoid-shaped
cylinder. The object glowed with a milky translucence, while a
corona of writhing tendrils of energy flowed and shifted around it.
Ryouko was not given long to stare at the object. As she
watched, a brilliant glow appeared in the hollow end of the tube that
was pointed in her direction. Instinct caused her to throw a
protective arm up, shielding her eyes from what she knew in her
bones was coming.
The air shrieked as it was literally torn apart by the force of the
bolt of energy that surged out of the object Ranma had constructed.
Flashing at the speed of light, the stream of energy hit the creature.
Fully two-thirds of it's mass simply disappeared. It was not
shredded or dissipated, it simply ceased to exist, as did the wall
behind the monster, and a half mile away, the top of a rocky hill.
Fortunately, the upward trajectory of Ranma's energy meant
that from that point on, there was nothing in front of that beam of
devastation but empty space. At least Ryouko hoped it was empty.

Several dozen miles away, Katsuhito Masaki looked at the
blinding beam of light that pierced the heavens, and his heart turned
over in his chest. Once before he had sensed such an attack, and it
had been the swan song of his daughter. Filled with dread, he
remembered his earlier worries about Ranma. He hurried down the
stairs to his son-in-law's house. If something had happened to
Ranma, that was the place to wait for news.

Yukinojo shuddered as his already strained force shields took a
glancing blow from some sort of energy attack coming from the
surface of the planet. The shields, already taxed by their precipitous
decent into Earth's atmosphere started to fail. Yukinojo transferred
all available energy into the shields, and preceded to calculate PI,
which was the AI version of prayer.

Yukinojo had the distinction of calculating PI to more places
then any other AI in the Galaxy Police fleet.

"Mihoshi," he reported. "Someone is shooting at us." He
paused, waiting for her response. None came.
The blond police officer was staring raptly at the view screen.
On it the stark blue of water offered an attractive contrast to a large
island chain which they were heading directly toward. At high
velocity. "Whaaa, how pretty,' She murmured.
"Mihoshi? MIHOSHI?"
"Hum?" Mihoshi said in a distracted tone of voice, her eyes
still on the lovely island."
"We're under attack."
"Oh, well, I guess we should take evasive action, that's right
isn't it?" Without waiting for a response, Mihoshi reached for the
emergency short-jump button.

Designed for use in the most extreme emergency, the short-
jump button generated an un-calculated hyper-spatial leap of less
then one light-second, the absolute minimum possible. It was to be
used in only the most dire of circumstances.

Mihoshi had once used it to leave a docking bay.

It was never to be used under any circumstances in a planetary
gravity well.

"MIHOSHI, I DON'T THINK THAT'S A GOOD IDEA!!!"

Far off in space, someone else sensed the energy flare Ranma
had fired with a feeling of pleasure rather then dread. "Is this the
true power of Jurai?" he murmured to himself, as the sensors
onboard the Soja relayed the information they gathered directly to
his mind. "It is weak, but it has that flavor," he concluded once all
the readings were in.
He lifted his eyes to the bright blue sphere that floated in the
Soja's main viewing screen. "Who would have thought that my
search might end on such an insignificant speck. I have found you,
Yosho, and your blood. Soon they, and it, will tell me what I wish to
know."

Even though it had done so after her own attack, Ryouko was
shocked, and not a bit annoyed, to see the remains of the mist-
monster flowing back together. The look on her face quickly turned
to laughter, however, as she took in the one-foot tall monster, which
was busy trying not to drown in the foot-and-a-half of water it was
in.
Ryouko floated down and pushed the little creature under the
water. It thrashed back to the surface and howled it's anger at her,
she just pushed it back down again. "Not so tough now are you
misty?" she said in a cruel tone.
Ryouko was not a good winner.
Screams of panic distracted the former space pirate from her
amusement. She looked up to discover that the landscape had,
seemingly, taken up levitation. Everything surrounding her, that
was not fastened down, was floating up into the sky. Her own innate
ability to ignore gravity had left her immune to the phenomenon,
but others were not so lucky. Tenchi and Ranma were both being
lifted into the sky, along with everything else. A quick look showed
Ryouko that Sasami and Ryo-oh-ki were holding tight to a large
rock, and were safe for the moment. Ayeka stood in the doorway to
the resort, her hands braced on the frame. Satisfied that the rest of
their party was secure, she took off into the sky after Tenchi and
Ranma.
She reached Ranma first, and simply holding out an arm,
hooked it around Ranma's waist as she flew on in pursuit of Tenchi.
When she reached Tenchi he hardly noticed her grabbing hold. His
attention was focused completely on the sky above them. Following
his gaze, Ryouko was impressed despite herself. It wasn't often you
saw a warp singularity inside a planetary atmosphere. Mostly
because no one was stupid, or suicidal, enough to generate same.
The nose, of what Ryouko recognized as a Galaxy Police
shuttle, projected out of the swirling vortex. The craft was being
drawn backwards, or rather, was being pushed by the air rushing by
it. Even as Ryouko watched, it disappeared from sight.
A loud, and no doubt vulgar, high-pitched jabbering
announced the presence of the now diminished mist-monster as it
went zipping by them. It too disappeared into the vortex.
Tenchi suddenly started struggling in Ryouko's arms. Startled
by his actions, she loosened her grip on him, and he pushed himself
away from her. Following his trajectory, she saw the limp figure of
a busty-blond. Tenchi reached her, and took her in his arms.
Ryouko saw red. The nerve of him. Running after some other girl
when he had her.
At that moment, the force which had been holding them, and
half the countryside, in the air, disappeared. Tenchi flailed madly as
he, and the blond in his arms, began to fall. Ryouko, after making
sure Tenchi was heading toward a reasonable deep pool of water,
sniffed, and turned her back on him. "Come on, Red, let's go see if
soaking his head made any improvement in Tenchi's manners,"
Ryouko said.
Receiving no response from the girl in her arms, Ryouko
suddenly realized that Ranma had been unusually quiet through this
whole thing. She looked down at the small red-haired girl hanging
over her arm. The limp way Ranma was hanging sent a sudden
shock of worry through her stomach. Flipping the girl over, she
gasped at what she saw.
Ranma's face and torso were blotched with large livid bruises,
which covered a large proportion of her body. Her eyes were shut,
but thin trickles of blood flowed out from under them and down her
cheeks. This was not the only bleeding. Blood also flowed from her
nose and ears. Worst of all, small red bubbles formed on her lips as
she exhaled, indicating something was seriously wrong with her
lungs.
Ryouko's emotions peaked at total panic, and froze. Ryouko
had been a warrior for five thousand years, only seven hundred of
them spent sleeping. That left a very long lifetime of experience in
witnessing serious physical trauma. She was a very different person
now then she had been back then, but just now she needed the cold-
hearted bitch she'd been in those long ago times.
Ryouko examined Ranma's condition, reached a conclusion as
to her survivability.

None.

Dismissed that conclusion as unacceptable, and looked for
options.

One chance existed. Time was of the essence if it had any
chance at all of helping. Without hesitation, Ryouko dove, heading
straight for the rocky ground that surrounded the hot spring. She hit,
and phased herself and Ranma through the rock. Ryouko 'felt' for
where she needed to be, and a second later flew out of a rock
outcropping many miles away from the hot springs.

***************************************

Katsuhito was not shocked, or frightened, when Ryouko
emerged from the rock outcropping high up on the side of the
valley. Nor did the limp form she carried in her arms fill him with
dread. He was past all that. For the last ten minutes he had known
that something was very wrong.
That did not mean he felt nothing as he watched Ryouko speed
across the valley toward him. His soul was like ice as he prepared
to once again cope with the pain of losing someone dear to him.
Ryouko reached him and thrust her burden into his arms.
Without a word she flashed back into the air and flew toward the
lake. She didn't bother with phasing. Water exploded into the air as
she dove at full speed into the quiet depths.
Katsuhito saw none of this. His attention was fixed fully on the
small girl cradled in his arms. A brief feeling of joy filled him,
quickly quashed, as he saw she was still breathing. Her appearance
left him with little hope that she'd survive for more then a few
minutes.
Like Ryouko, Katsuhito had seen war and battle, and was
under no delusions as to what happened to people who got caught
up in them. Ranma looked like she'd seen war. Her nude body was
one massive bruise, her skin almost uniformly black. Blood ran
from her nose, eyes, and ears.
An explosion of water out in the lake wrenched his gaze away
from Ranma. When he saw the article Ryouko was carrying he let
hope warm his heart for the first time since he had seen that flare of
energy in the distance. Ryouko flew straight toward the pair on the
ground, the emergency medical pod she'd just recovered carried
above her head.

Designed for use in the event of catastrophic damage to the
ship, they were constructed to survive anything that might leave
survivors onboard the ship. Because they might end up floating in
space for months, they possessed very advanced temporal stasis
fields, with several added features. Because this particular pod was
on a ship belonging to the first princess of Jurai, it was of the latest
design. It was capable of stabilizing and treating very serious
injuries, even those as serious as Ranma seemed to be suffering.
There was no need for words. Katsuhito was already in motion
before Ryouko landed. Cradling Ranma's limp body in one arm, he
used the other to hit the hatch release on the pod. As Ryouko
finished setting it on the ground, he lifted Ranma inside, and
slammed the door shut.
The process was automatic from that point on. A faint glow
sprang up as the pod activated its stasis units, and for the person
inside, time stopped.
"Is she going to be alright," Ryouko asked anxiously.
Katsuhito had crouched down on one knee to look at the main
readout of the module. Something in Ryouko's voice made him
look over at her. She was pale with strain. Katsuhito had no idea
what had happened at the hot springs, but whatever it was,
combined with her flight back to the valley with Ranma, had
drained her. He also had a hunch there was more than that at work
here.

Katsuhito was quite aware of Ryouko's feelings toward
Tenchi. He had also been an amused observer of the comedy of
errors that had put Ryouko in Tenchi's bad books. Now was not a
time for humor. The girl needed, and deserved, reassuring.

He smiled gently at Ryouko, and said. "Tenchi will be very
proud of you, Ryouko-san. You acted quickly and intelligently. If
Ranma survives it will be due to your action. I will be sure to let
Tenchi, and the others, know this.
Some of the strain vanished from Ryouko's face, but not all.
The glance she directed at the pod was still worried. "Is Red going
to be ok?" she asked.
Katsuhito beamed at her, and then turned back to the screen.
"Well let us see, shall we?" he asked.
Despite his light tone, Katsuhito was pretty sure what he was
going to discover, and he was not at all happy about it. It was clear
to him that Ranma had been responsible for the flair of energy he
had witnessed. He was dreadfully afraid that Ranma had burned
herself out. What he expected to see on screen would only confirm
that.

In the split-second between the time the lid of the pod had
been closed, and the stasis field was activated, powerful sensors had
scanned Ranma down to the molecular level. For the last two
minutes the computer on board the medical pod had been
deciphering that information. Now it displayed what it had
discovered on the screen.

For a minute Katsuhito couldn't understand what he was
seeing. It made no sense at all. If Ranma had burned herself out,
there should have been severe degradation of those sections of her
brain and nervous system that channeled the power-of-Jurai. There
was none of that. Indeed, the scans showed that Ranma's internal
readings were completely normal with the exception of some
damage to her lungs. Except for that, there was no evidence of any
damage at all below the main dermal levels of her skin. It made no
sense at all.
Ignoring Ryouko's urgent inquires as to how Ranma was, he
called up a more detailed analyze, forgetting that a simple Shinto
priest shouldn't be able to manipulate alien technology several
thousand years in advance of anything on earth. Fortunately Ryouko
was too worried, or just didn't care, to take note of this fact.
Katsuhito frowned as labored to make head or tails of the
information presented to him. He was by no means a medical
specialist, and the data he was perusing was complicated in the
extreme. As near as he could make out, instead of burning out
Ranma's ability to use it, the power she had called up had flushed
some sort of foreign matter out of her system. It was the ejection of
this material through the surface of her body that had caused the
massive hematoma to Ranma's skin. But why would Ranma have
had so much foreign matter in her cellular structure? Where had it
come from?
Katsuhito's eyes suddenly went wide with understanding.
Ranma was not going to like this at all, he thought to himself. His
fingers started flying over the keyboard, deleting certain
information from the data base. No one else must find this out. Just
as he was finishing, he was pulled away from the pod, and whirled
around to face an angry Ryouko.
Ryouko gave him a shake, and yelled in his face, "For the last
time, old man. What's wrong with Ranma?"
"Bad sunburn," Katsuhito said in a bland voice. He shifted his
shoulders slightly, and moved a foot. Ryouko suddenly found her
grip on the old man broken and her balance destroyed. She fell
forward, only to be stopped when Katsuhito wrapped his arms
around her. His hands found a pair of convenient handles, and
pulled her back to her feet.
Ryouko flushed as Katsuhito's hands flexed, and she pulled
herself free of his grasp. She started to take a swing at him, and then
suddenly stopped. "She's going to be alright," she asked in an
incredulous tone.
"I don't see why not."
For a second a look of profound relief spread over Ryouko's
face, but then an expression of anticipation replaced it. Ryouko
reached over and thumped on the top of the medical pod. "You in
there, Red?" she shouted. "Get well soon, cause you, me, and a rope
have an appointment with the tallest tree in the valley.

To be continued in chapter 11.
I'm a girl for real!?