Neo-Queen Serenity, Neo-King Endymion, and the Scouts were all sitting at a solid silver table in the main conference room of the palace. Ami looked around the table stopping her eyes on Serenity. After Serenity gave Ami a small nod, the genius of the group said, "Last night we received a message from Nemesis. The message is a peace treaty between Crystal Tokyo and Nemesis."
Rei immediately asked, "What are they giving up to us for peace?"
Ami shook her head and replied, "Nemesis doesn't offer any concessions in the treaty. However, part of the treaty involves a dynastic marriage to insure that Crystal Tokyo and Nemesis don't fight each other anytime soon."
Serenity quickly inquired, "Just what exactly do you mean by a dynastic marriage Ami?"
Everyone watched as Ami pulled out a copy of the treaty, put on her glasses, and began to read. "Article Three states: In order to avoid further hostilities between our two nations, I, Prince Ranma I of Nemesis, make the following condition. That this treaty be solidified by a royal marriage between me and Princess Serenity of Crystal Tokyo. I offer 30 million Solari as a bride price for her. This money is to be under her control to restore Crystal Tokyo's industry. For a dowry, I ask that three or four of the outer moons of Neptune be opened to industries from Nemesis."
Naturally, Endymion and Serenity didn't know what to make of that. Minako got a look in her eye that no one could read. Makoto was clenching her fists and trying to keep her temper in check. However, Rei started screeching as she seethed, "How dare that upstart boy demand the princess's hand in marriage! Who does he think he is? There's no way that any member of the noble house of Serenity would ever pollute themselves by joining with that clan!"
Setsuna saw her opening and said, "Why don't we ask the princess what she thinks of this treaty? After all, she is the one affected by Article Three. Now is not the time for saber rattling. Crystal Tokyo doesn't have the strength to fight Nemesis off again. Prince Ranma is offering us, if your majesty approves of it, a fair deal that will stop the hostilities between us and Nemesis."
Serenity looked between Rei and Setsuna and tried to make up her mind. Why couldn't Rei and Setsuna just agree with each other? These kinds of decisions always hurt Serenity since she never wanted to offend any of her friends. But after a few moments, Serenity realized that Rei and Setsuna weren't about to back down from their positions. Finally, Serenity wearily said, "Ask Usa to come here."
One of the members of the Crystal Guard was standing in the shadows nodded his head and silently left the room. This guard returned a few minutes latter with Usa and then returned to the shadows as Usa sat down at the table. Usa folded her hands together and politely asked, "Why did you call me here?"
Endymion quickly replied, "We've received a peace treaty offer from Nemesis dear. Part of the treaty involves you and we wanted to get your opinion on it."
Ami then passed the treaty over to Usa who pretended to read it. After a few minutes, Usa felt that she had spent enough time 'reading' the treaty and placed it down on the table. She then looked around the table and said, "I least I know that I'm not thought of as cheep." Seeing the looks everyone was giving her, Usa held up her hands and said, "Sorry, I was just trying to lighten up the mood." In a more serious tone she continued on, "It's not exactly how I'd want to get married, but I accept Prince Ranma's proposal."
Rei was about to blow her top at this when Makoto elbowed the fire scout. Makoto then looked at Usa and said, "Usa? Why are you willing to accept this proposal? There's dozens of young nobles in Crystal Tokyo that could be your husband. Surely we can convince this prince to remove this marriage demand from the treaty."
Usa looked at her aunt and said, "The people of Crystal Tokyo need healing after the damage from the war. The money that Prince Ranma is offering for me would help our industry rebuild. Also, a marriage between Prince Ranma and me would insure that we don't have to worry about Nemesis again."
The undercurrent of tension among the Scouts over Usa accepting the marriage proposal was so thick that only a complete moron would miss it. Naturally, Serenity didn't pick up on it at all. She was busy trying to figure out if she should do the grandma dance, complain about her being too young, or weep for joy over her little girl getting married. Finally, Serenity's eyes started to tear up and she exclaimed between whimpers, "Wha! My little girl's getting married!"
Hotaru opened her eyes and looked around the room. For a second, Hotaru was scared since this room wasn't her bedroom. Then she remembered Usa and Ranma taking her to a magical hospital where they discovered that a creature was living inside her. A chill ran down Hotaru's sides and she wrapped her arms protectively around herself. It had been terrifying for Hotaru to discover that her weak constitution was because of a creature feasting itself on her powers. Luckily, it was a relatively simple process to remove the creature without any harmful side effects for her. Personally, Hotaru hoped they destroyed the creature with extreme prejudice.
Suddenly the door chime went off and Hotaru heard through the interface, "Hi there Hotaru. It's me, Ranma. I was just going on break for a while and wanted to see how you're doing. Can I come in, or would you like me to come back later?"
A small smile crossed Hotaru's face and she said, "Sure you can Ranma. Door open." Instantly the door to Hotaru's quarters slide open, revealing Ranma sanding in the doorway. Ranma quickly walked in and sat down in one of the chairs near Hotaru's bed. While it wasn't Ranma's quarters or those of a diplomat, Hotaru's quarters were fairly large and well furnished. Hotaru looked Ranma in the eye and asked, "So what are we going to do today?"
Ranma smiled and replied, "Sadly most of my day is booked with governmental duties. Those movie writers who write a plot about taking over the world must be on something illegal; no one with half the intelligence needed to create a diabolical plot would be stupid enough to assume the job. Take it from someone who knows, there's just too much paperwork involved in ruling a planet."
Hotaru's smile dropped for a second and then picked back up again. With only slightly diminished enthusiasm, she asked, "Can I see Usa?"
Ranma shook his head and replied, "While I would like to see Usa as well Hotaru, there's a slight problem. You see, her kingdom and mind don't exactly get along. She took a big risk contacting me and then going to the twentieth century to help you. But, if all goes well you'll be able to see her by the end of the week. I've sent a treaty to Usa's parents asking for her hand in marriage and if they accept I'll insure that you get to see her. Your friendship means a lot to Usa.
Hotaru felt a flood of different emotions as she listened to Ranma. She was grateful that Ranma had taken time out of his obviously busy schedule to check up on her. Part of her was thrilled at the thought of her friend possibly getting married. Another part of Hotaru was feeling lonely and worried about what was going to happen to her. After a few minutes of sorting out her feelings, Hotaru asked, "What's going to happen to me Ranma?"
In a tender tone, almost like a worried big brother, Ranma answered Hotaru. "You're staying here in the palace Hotaru; at least, for the moment until the Sailor Scouts of the Twentieth Century have defeated the Death Busters. Your father is heavily involved with that group and it's just not safe to send you back. For the time being you'll be my guest here at the palace and granted full access to all of the non restricted sections of the palace. That means you can go to the gym, library, recreational rooms, and the gardens. I know that there's plenty to do for fun here; I just don't get a lot of time to do those things."
The fact that Ranma was looking out for her made Hotaru feel better. It provided her with a bit of stability after the turmoil of the past day. Suddenly a stray thought crossed Hotaru's mind and she blurted out, "Ranma! If we're in the future, then does that mean that I could look up what's going to happen in my life?"
Ranma thought about it for a second and then replied, "Sure Hotaru. The 20th century has branched off from this time in an alternate timeline, but a lot of the facts for now should be basically the same. Don't worry too much if you're confused about it; I am as well if I try to understand it too deeply. Usa mentioned that you have a great deal of power within you, so I would suggest that you look up your counterpart's accomplishments to try and pick up some training hints."
Hotaru nodded her head and then gave Ranma a hug. As she was hugging him, the brunette whispered, "Thank you brother." She then realized what she a said and started to get embarrassed. Ranma hugged Hotaru a little closer to show that he appreciated her calling him brother before her face could become red from embarrassment. For his part, Ranma enjoyed Hotaru calling him brother. While he didn't know a lot about Hotaru, he did know that she was a sweet girl who had been dealt a bad hand in life. It was a very comforting thought to know that Hotaru thought of him like a brother.
After a minute, Ranma broke up the hug and said, "It was great talking to you Hotaru. Wish I could spend more time chatting with you, but I need to head down and grab a quick snack before I head back to work. Around 8 o'clock I'll be in the second gym on the third wing. If you want, I can give you some beginner's tips for using magic. I not an expert on magic, but I have learn quite a lot about it over the past few months." With that, Ranma gave Hotaru one last hung and then he left her bedroom.
Usa was lying on her bed with a wedding dress catalog in front of her trying to find a dress that wasn't too expensive, but at the same time wasn't beneath her station. If it was up to Usa, Ranma and her would have just signed the marriage papers and moved on to consummating the marriage. Sadly, Neo-Queen Serenity had insisted that Usa have a full wedding ceremony. Now Usa could understand that her wedding could be used as a moral lifter, but her mother didn't seem to realize that they were currently under a tight budget. Wearing a silk dress interlaced with diamonds and threads of gold just wouldn't work.
The doorbell rang just as Usa found a dress that she thought would meet her needs. After quickly earmarking the page, Usa called out, "Who is it?"
A quick reply came from the other side of the door. "Its housekeeping Princess Serenity, we need to start cleaning this wing. Also, Lady Setsuna told us to request your presence in her quarters."
Usa quickly placed the wedding catalog on her nightstand and called out to the maid. "Just give me a second and then you can clean my room. Thanks for passing along Auntie's message Kikyo; how's your sister doing at that pizza place?" Usa had always been friendly with the housing staff, and ever since her first trip to the twentieth century she had been trying to get to know the servants better. A major part of it was because Usa cared about the staff. However, she was also doing it to move the palace staff's loyalty away from her mother and focus it on her. Neo-Queen Serenity was always courteous to the servants, but she was also aloft and unreachable as far as the staff was concerned.
After getting Kikyo's reply, Usa left her room and headed to Setsuna's quarters. The door opened as soon as Usa arrived. Usa quickly entered Setsuna's quarters and immediately spotted Sora sitting next to Setsuna in Setsuna's little living room. She also noticed the empty seat in front of her and quickly sat down. Once the princess was comfortable, she turned to Setsuna and asked, "Okay, why did you call me here Setsuna?"
Sora quickly replied, "Setsuna called you here princess because there is some sensitive information that you need to be aware of. It's the kind of trouble that shows that even the walls have ears."
Usa's eyes narrowed and asked, "What exactly is this information Sora?" The captain of the Crystal Guard didn't speak. Instead, he pulled out a data crystal and placed it into a small projector that was sitting on a nearby table. The projector immediately came to life and showed a recording from a security camera. Usa knew that the video was from a security camera because of the time stamp and the sign of the guard displayed in the lower left hand corner.
As soon as Usa focused on the video, she felt a stabbing pain in her heart. Auntie Rei, Auntie Makoto, Auntie Ami, and Auntie Minako were all displayed. Steeling her heart, Usa silently signaled for Sora to play the video. Immediately Rei started speaking. "Something must be done to stop this atrocity! How dare that Nemesian trash think to mingle his line with the noble house of Serenity?"
Minako smirked at Rei and replied, "What's got your panties in a twist Rei? We already agreed that it would be a good idea to have the princess seduce Ranma. You can't do that without mingling fluids."
Makoto quickly retorted, "How you convinced us to go along with such a revolting plan I'll never know Minako. This wedding must not take place. The Nemesians are rebels who are occupying Crystal Tokyo's territory. They must be treated like the criminals that they are."
Ami decided that now would be a good time to add in her two cents. "Technically, the planet Nemesis was never incorporated into the Silver Millennium so they aren't exactly rebels occupying our territory. However, I have to admit that this marriage alliance is most unwise. The chaotic nature of the Nemesisans' magic is a serious danger to Crystal Tokyo; just look at what it did to the princess! It was one thing when the princess was just going to seduce the Prince, but this is unacceptable. We run the risk of a chaos magician ascending to the throne after the princess."
Minako ignored her fellow Scouts' complains and replied, "We should leave the marriage alone. Don't you three see? This is the chance we've been waiting for to finally restore the Crystal Throne to its destiny: complete control over the solar system. All we have to do is wait long enough for Prince Ranma to marry Usa and fill out the paperwork making her his heir if he dies. Then we assassinate him and Crystal Tokyo seizes control of Nemesis. If the Nemesisans try to cause any problems we can just petition some of the other nations like Jurai to support the princess's claim. They wouldn't be able to handle the interstellar fallout from failing to support us and send their armies to insure that Nemesis submits."
The video continued for a few more seconds as the other Scouts agreed to Minako's plan. As soon as the last one agreed, Sora killed the video and said, "This was taken at midnight yesterday. You and Lady Setsuna are the only ones outside the Guards who know about this plan princess. What do you want us to do about this plan?"
Usa closed her eyes and tried to think about what she should do. It just wasn't fair! Why did most of her aunties have to keep trying to cause problems for Crystal Tokyo? Couldn't they see that their policies just didn't work in the real world and back down? Usa had been desperately trying to find a way to insure that the citizens of Crystal Tokyo got the rule they needed and keep her family together. However, her aunties and finally forced her to choose between family and duty.
Sora and Setsuna silently watch Usa as the princess tried to make her decision. They both knew how much Usa had wanted the treaty to work and how hard this decision was. Finally, Usa opened her eyes and regretfully, but firmly said, "The die is cast. Sora, have your men kill the Inner Scouts once their all asleep. Make sure to cut off their heads and burn their bodies so that they can't be resurrected. While that's being taken care of, have other members of the guard initiate a complete black out of the palace and seal my parents in their bedroom. I'll steal the Ginzushou beforehand so that mother can't call upon its powers to use against us. Tonight Neo-Queen Serenity's reign ends and my reign begins."
Neo-Queen Serenity and Neo-King Endymion were peacefully resting in their extravagantly decorated quarters when the doors slid open and the guardsmen rushed into the room. The guardsmen were hoping that the duo would come quietly, but they were dressed for full combat if the couple didn't comply. Both the Neo-Queen and the Neo-King were woken up by the noise of the guardsmen rushing into their room. However, they were surrounded before they even knew what was going on. With his wife hiding in his arms, Neo-King Endymion nervously demanded, "What's going on?"
One of the nameless guards spoke up. "By order of Neo-Queen Serenity II, you two are to be taken to the throne room so that your fate may be decided." Naturally, Serenity and Endymion were shocked at what the guard said. But, the guards quickly grabbed them and practically dragged them out of their quarters. The royal couple led to the throne room where, to their utter shock and bewilderment, Usa was sitting on what had been Serenity's throne.
Serenity looked at her daughter in disbelief and muttered, "What's going on? This has to be a bad dream!"
Usa looked at her parents and said while hiding her feelings, "This is no dream mother. As of this moment, I am the Neo-Queen of Crystal Tokyo. I possess the Ginzushou, I have earned the loyalty of the Crystal Guard, and I don't have the weighty baggage of 1,000 years of poor rule."
Endymion felt a paternal rage well up within him and he roared out, "Small Lady! Just what do you think your doing?!" This unexpected burst only earned the well trained, house broken Neo-King a backhanded slap from one of the guards. That particular guard received several jealous glares from his comrades. All of the guards were displeased with Endymion, and they were glad that Usa was getting the new foreign model for her Neo-King.
Part of Usa wanted to cry out when she saw her father being hit. However, she knew that right now she needed to be strong and make her parents see that they were no longer calling the shots. In a firm tone that was stronger than she actually felt, Usa said, "Under your rule Crystal Tokyo has been suffering from one problem to another one. Neither of you have taken more than a token interest in the governing of Crystal Tokyo being content with playing magical couple in fantasy land. No more, as of this moment the people of Crystal Tokyo will get the governing that they need and not be left in neglect."
"I had hoped to avoid this course of events. With Ranma's help, I would have been able to negate most of your more idiotic policies. However, the Inners' plan to assassinate Ranma has forced me to seize power now in order to insure the Crystal Tokyo isn't ruined by your friends' pitiful attempts to play power behind the throne. The Goddess is currently showing those four why they shouldn't have overstepped their bounds."
Usa's parents felt their hearts freeze when they heard Usa say that. How could their loving daughter be so cold as to kill her aunts? Something inside of Serenity snapped and she screeched out, "You're not my daughter! Leave my daughter's body Death Phantom!" All of the guards were enraged that Serenity would insinuate that Usa was possessed. They had run several tests on the princess after the Wiseman War and had proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Usa's time under Wiseman's control had not affected her in any way, except for the growth spurt.
One of the guards was getting ready to slap Serenity when Usa signaled him to stop. She then calmly said, "It is obvious that the stress of ruling has finally caught up to Neo-Queen Serenity. As a wedding gift, she has abdicated the throne and retired to the McMurdo Monastery where she hopes the isolation will allow her to heal and rest. Naturally, her loving husband could not bear to be separated from her and has traveled to McMurdo Monastery to watch over her." The guards nodded their heads and immediately led the former Neo-King and Neo-Queen away.
As soon as her parents were carried away Usa broke down crying. Setsuna quickly appeared and wrapped her arms around the new Neo-Queen. In a soft voice, the emerald haired scout whispered, "It's over Usa. You did all that you could. Don't let what you did get to you too much."
However, these words didn't have the intended effect and Usa shook her head saying, "No Setsuna. It won't be alright. How can I be a just ruler if I gain the throne so dishonestly? How will Ranma ever trust me now?"
Setsuna knew that there was only one person who could get Usa out of her current depression. Silently slipping away from Usa, Setsuna walked over to Sora and said, "Watch over the Neo-Queen and let her come to grips with what has happened tonight. I'll go get someone who I know will be able to return Usa to her usual self."
Ranma was in one of the palace gyms firing low level attack spells at random targets that were popping up. The spells were only a fraction of the power that his Black Prince armor allowed him to wield, but that was the point. As far as Ranma was concerned, his armor was a tool and a tool is only as good as the person who wields it. If he could learn to fully wield his magic, then he would be stronger. Given his late start learning magic and his massive reserves, Ranma figured it would take years to gain that kind of control. However, he wasn't too worried about that.
Suddenly, the gym's siren went off alerting Ranma that someone was coming into the gym. Ranma always found the siren to be annoying, but he could understand why it was in place. It would be the height of irresponsibility to not have some sort of warning system in a place where live spells were constantly being used. Ranma turned around to see who was coming in and saw Seto and Setsuna walk into the gym.
Seto gave Ranma a small nod and then curtly said, "Setsuna here has some urgent news in regards to some situation that has happened in Crystal Tokyo. However, she has refused to tell me what has happened until she tells you."
Ranma walked up to the duo and replied, "Thank you for informing me Seto. Lady Setsuna, would you please tell me why you are here?"
Setsuna glanced at Seto not sure if she should reveal what had happened to Seto as well. But in the end, she decided to go ahead and speak. "Earlier today, the Crystal Guard discovered a plot among several of other Scouts to have you assassinated. Under Usa's orders, the Guard disposed of those Scouts and deposed her parents. Usa became Neo-Queen Serenity II about an hour ago. However, these actions have caused her to become depressed and distressed over the possibility that it will alter your view of her. I came here hoping that you would be willing to go and return the Neo-Queen to her usual manner."
Without a second thought, Ranma turned to Seto and said, "Clear my schedule for the evening. Tell my cabinet and Hotaru what's going on and where I'll be. If anyone else asks, just tell them that I asked for some peace and quite to focus on what it means to be a good husband." He then turned to Setsuna and said, "Lead me to Usa."
Setsuna quickly led Ranma to one of the transportation areas in the palace and activated a small transport pendent she was wearing. The two of them were covered in the sphere of energy that Crystal Tokyo used for long distance teleportation, and in a few seconds they were in the crystal palace. Ranma was quickly guided through the long winding halls of the palace until he and Setsuna stopped in front of a door. Setsuna turned to Ranma and said, "These are Usa's quarters; she is inside."
Ranma noticed as Setsuna discreetly hit the unlock switch on the door and walked away. He then walked into Usa's room and was immediately confronted by the sounds of her crying sobs. When Ranma saw Usa his heart lurched. She was lying on her bed with her face in a pillow. Her entire body was shaking from her crying. Slowly Ranma approached Usa and gently wrapped his arms around her. He then whispered into her ear, "Don't cry Usa. I'm not ashamed of you."
This immediately caused Usa to whirl around and face Ranma. She then whispered, "How can you not be ashamed of me Ranma? I, I killed people who were practically family to me! I banished my parents to Antarctica! How are you able to trust me?"
Ranma wrapped his arms tighter around Usa and he said, "I always knew that this was a possibility Usa. However, I trust you because I know that you only did this because you wanted the best for your people. As rulers, you and I have to bear a heavy burden. We have to order some unwanted things from time to time in order to protect our people and we have to live with the consequences of those orders. Your tears show that you're a good woman who would never deliberately cause other people suffering if she could avoid it. That's why I'm proud that you will be my wife and queen."
Slowly Usa stopped crying as Ranma's words and presence comforted her. Usa took a deep breath so she could enjoy more of Ranma comforting scent. She then whispered into Ranma's ear, "Show me. Show me that I can be loved Ranma."
Naturally, Ranma became nervous when he caught on to what Usa was asking of him. He then tried to gain some wiggle room saying, "Are you sure Usa? You were crying just moments ago. Why don't we wait on that until the morning so that you don't regret it? I'll stay here holding you all night." Ranma wasn't too comfortable with the idea of bedding Usa right now. Given her mental state, doing so would be taking advantage of her.
Usa slowly nodded her head and said, "Stay with me tonight Ranma. But please, fulfill my request if I ask it again later."
Ranma kissed Usa on the lips and then whispered into her ear, "I promise my dear that I'll always fulfill any reasonable requests that you make, goodnight." With that, Ranma lay down next to Usa and the two slowly drifted into dreamland. Both of them were wondering what the morning would hold for them.