It had been two days, and Ukyo and Konatsu were visiting Juuban so that they could get their promised explanation from Ranma. They had not expected to meet the redhead in an ice cream parlor and watch as she horked down three sundaes before they got word one out of her.
"Come on Ran-chan," Ukyo finally growled, "Tell us what the hell is going on already. Why the hell do you know a Senshi? How did you do that tiger thing?"
Konatsu added excitedly, "Are you really dating a magical defender of love and justice?" At Ukyo's raised eyebrow the male kunoichi winced, "Just wanted to know, that's all."
Rolling her eyes the cook looked back at her oldest friend, "Well?"
Ranma grinned and started slowly, "It's not all my story to tell, and I need to check with a few people first to tell you everything, but I can tell you a little. First off, do you believe in magic?"
Again Ukyo roller her eyes, "Your tits are bigger then mine and you haven't had any plastic surgery done. What do you think?"
Konatsu covered his mouth to hide a giggle as Ranma winced.
"Right, ok then, dumb question. It all started a long time ago in…and Kami help me I can't believe I'm actually saying this…a magical kingdom on the Moon."
The story that followed was somewhat edited, to keep new identities safe, but that didn't matter. Ukyo and her faithful kunoichi retainer were riveted to the tale.
After the story was complete with its tragic ending of a kingdom falling and lovers killed it was the demure ninja that summed up the feelings of the two.
"Hot damn. You never do things by half, do you Lady Ranma?"
Note: Ranma and Sailor Moon are owned by their respective creators and distributors. I use them without permission or gain, but with respect to the work done before me.
Makoto sat with the other Inner Senshi under a tree as they watched Ranma begin his training with the tiny Master of his Art. Usagi and the others had been told what had transpired, and their respect for the young man grew. His fight to free himself from his past was inspiring, and its conclusion was in Minako's words, 'too romantic for words'.
Now they watched as Happosai began his instruction, while Makoto mumbled under her breath, "Come on Ranma, take your shirt off again."
Some of the other Senshi heard this and blushed lightly but focused back on the training duo.
"All right, my boy," Happosai began, "There are three Arts that form the core of my school. Evasion, distraction, and redirection. You're pretty good, I'll give you that, but with these final techniques you will be unstoppable. The first is redirection, and can work on any attack, even ki based ones. The O-Ryu Return. That fool that sired you came close with his Forbidden Arts, but this could even counter those skills."
This made Ranma's eyes twinkle at the thought of turning Ryoga's Shishi-Hokodan right back on its wielder.
"The second is distraction. The Passing Hand. I'm sad to say that this was not originally created by me, but by thieves and assassins hundreds of years before I was born. I only revised it for my Art. It allows you to pass any defense and take an item from a person without their knowledge."
Ranma growled, "So that's how you do it! You use some assassination technique to steal girl's underwear!"
The roar of the Senshi frightened even Ranma, but Happosai looked smug.
"Better then what it was originally used for. Besides, I bet your new girlfriend wouldn't mind you practicing on her."
Ranma and Makoto blushed furiously at this, and the young Martial Artist grumbled, "What's the third technique already?"
"The final skill is evasion. Ever wonder how I'm so good at it? How I can go from one place to another in the blink of an eye?"
"I always thought you were just stupidly fast. Are you saying there's more to it?"
"Ki folding can be used for more then the Hidden Weapons style my boy. Think what would happen if you could create a ki fold externally."
Ranma thought for a moment, blinked, and stared wide eyed and slack jawed at the diminutive master, "You mean you can just…what, teleport? That's nuts. But it would explain your stupid Bathhouse-Fu crap. And your ability to constantly be out of the way when someone is about to hit you with something big. If so then why don't you use it all the time then?"
"Because it's the strongest and hardest of the three skills," Happosai said, his milky eyes glinting. "One can not simply pop around like a deranged rabbit on methamphetamines all the time without a price. This technique takes massive amounts of energy and willpower. You must be able to focus on where you are, where you want to go, and what you are doing all at the same time. If you get distracted then you don't fold the ki right and nothing happens."
"No wonder women always seem to be able to pound on you when you're groping them," Ranma smirked.
Rei growled, "He GROPES people!? What the hell kind of Martial Arts is this?"
Ranma retorted casually, "The kind that saved your butt against Famine. Sure, he's a letch and a perv, but he knows his stuff. So please let me get on with this already." Turning back to Happosai he continued, "Where do we start?"
"With the basics, my boy," the old master chuckled. "Redirection. The O-Ryu Return will need a level of ki control a step above what you can do so far. You must be able to let go of emotion in a fight and let your body flow along the ki pathways that can open up to you. This is not only about turning an opponent's power back on them, but their intent as well."
Michiru watched with the nervousness of a mother as Hotaru did something she had not done in a long time, exorcize. It went from fretting that the young girl was pushing too hard to nearly panicking when she took up a purloined broom handle and began trying to remember half dreamed kata for her glaive.
"Are you sure it's a good idea to let her do this?" she asked her lover quietly. They stood on the porch of their house, still under repair, as Hotaru began moving around the back yard. They had come to the home to let the youngest Senshi practice while the contractor was away for the weekend, and the aqua haired Senshi was regretting it as Hotaru worked out, a look of determination on her face.
Haruka sighed, "Polaris and I never really got along great back on the Moon, but I respected her. Ranma is just as overbearing and reckless, but I've seen what he had to go through with those…people. He has that respect as well. We may have made a mistake treating Hotaru like glass, and Ranma said as much. It may be time to let our little girl grow up a little."
Michiru blinked and looked up at the sandy blond, "When did you become so mature?"
"I had a good role mode," Haruka answered and wrapped her arm around her girlfriend. She added, waggling her eyebrows, "Besides I thought you liked it when I was mature."
The Senshi of Neptune gave her a wicked grin and suddenly pulled her inside.
Back in the yard Hotaru gave a sigh of exasperation, "They'll never grow up."
With that she resumed her training and tried very hard not to think about what her Mama and Papa were up to now.
It was a date, a real date.
Ranma was uncomfortable for many reasons, the first being that he was currently a she. Makoto had rifled through the female clothing she had brought on her exodus from Nerima and shook her head in disappointment.
"I know that look," Ranma had sighed, "I do not want to go shopping. I don't want a bunch of girly clothes."
Makoto smirked, "Do I look 'girly' at the moment to you?"
Ranma looked up and down Makoto and blushed. She wore blue jeans, which in the redhead's unvoiced opinion should be registered as a deadly weapon for making a butt look that good, and a t-shirt with failed to hide the brunette's bust.
"I refuse to answer on the grounds that I may be called a pervert and get punched in the face," Ranma deadpanned.
Makoto sighed, "Not all girls are like that…gorilla…you were stuck with. Most of us are a little perverted ourselves. And we don't mind being appreciated by people we're interested in. We just don't like being pawed at or drooled over like that little gnome you have for a master."
"Akane never saw the difference."
Makoto smiled and put a hand on her friend's shoulder, "Which is something we'll have to correct. But right now I need to ask you," and at this she pulled out Ranma's only plain white bra, "who fitted you for this?"
Ranma's face turned as red as her hair and she mumbled out, "Got it from a donation bin."
Makoto figured she was using up her allotment of sighs rather quickly.
Makoto then turned it around by promising to take the other girl out for lunch, and Ranma had reluctantly agreed. When Makoto had taken her hand on the walk downtown, Ranma was worried. He didn't want people to think she or Makoto were perverts. But the taller girl had laughed off Ranma's concern.
"People can think whatever the hell they want," Makoto said. "I'm with my friend, and that's all that matters to me."
Again Ranma was amazed at the difference between Makoto and her friends and the people in Nerima. She knew in her mind that the Moon Princess and her court were warm and accepting, but that was in her last life. Now she saw that Usagi and the others were just as welcoming.
On top of that the people here were less judgmental of what they saw. Maybe it was the more metropolitan nature of Juuban, or maybe Nerima held more conservative views. Ranma was not good at reading people outside of battle so it was hard for her to say.
She did know that, as a male and a female, she was starting to feel comfortable with Makoto. Far more comfortable then she had ever felt with Akane. The redhead didn't know if it was love, but she wasn't going to run away from it.
That thought held up until they arrived at a woman's undergarment store and the redhead had a momentary panic attack.
"Yeah, yeah, you were right. Stop rubbing it in," Ranma grumbled over her hamburger as Makoto chuckled into her soda.
The redhead admitted, even if it was in her own head, that the new underwear made a difference. Her back, which had always hurt a little in her girl form, was now pain free. And loathe as she was to even consider it, it was due to the properly adjusted bra she now wore. The panties were snug, not tight, and didn't chafe like her boxers sometimes did.
It actually felt good to be a girl at the moment.
Distracting herself from this Ranma asked, "So what do you do for fun around here. Besides forcing me into new and exciting lingerie?"
Makoto laughed, and Ranma liked the sound.
"It depends, really. I like walking in the municipal gardens, or going dancing, or hanging out with the other girls. I go boy watching with Minako sometimes, although I do less of that now." She gave a wink at Ranma, but the redhead missed its meaning. "In the winter I like ice skating. I thought about taking up roller skating, but I'm told it's a little different. How about you?"
"I've had…experience with ice skating, and plants don't seem to like me much. They're always trying to eat me or something. I've never really been able to sit still for long enough to pick up any hobbies. All I seem to know is the Art."
Makoto looked over at her sullen friend and made a decision. Taking the redhead's hand she leaned forward over the small table they shared and kissed her lightly on the forehead.
Leaning back she held on to Ranma's hand and looked into her wide eyes, "You know who you are, you're learning who you were. There is no reason you can't take a little time to figure out who you'd like to be in the future. And I'll be there to help. We're partners after all."
"And partners watch out for each other," Ranma said with a small smile.
The moment was broken when Makoto's watch started beeping.
The brunette growled, "Always when I'm right in the middle of something." She tapped the side of the watch, flipping it open to show a small screen and whispered in, "Yeah, what is it?"
Sailor Mars appeared on the tiny screen and answered quickly, "Famine is back. Usagi and Minako are holding her off. Ami and I are on the way. Any idea where Ranma is?"
"Some," Makoto said simply as she felt Ranma's hand squeeze her own lightly. "We're on our way."
Sailor Venus hauled back on her chain of energy links that held one of Famine's minions captive as Sailor Moon brained the creature repeatedly with her magical artifact, using it more as a cudgel then a focus. Once more the creatures were resistant to magic so the duo had taken to beating the tar out of one at a time the old fashioned way.
It was taking to long though, and chaos grew around them as the fight wore on.
The arrival of Mercury and Mars helped, and the four of them were able to get the remaining civilians out of harms way. Now it was a fight of attrition, and they were on the losing side.
"Jupiter Crystal Power…MAKE UP!"
"Polaris Star Power…MAKE UP!"
Sailor Moon grumbled, "About time they showed up."
The powerhouse of the Inner Senshi and her long lost partner barreled into the fight. Lightning crackled around Sailor Jupiter as she physically threw herself into a group of enemy minions, punching and kicking as hard as she could. Sailor Polaris shot past her, her metallic armor shining on her white bodysuit as she spun in mid air, delivering a powerful roundhouse kick that instantly put one of the creatures out of the fight.
Polaris was still learning about her new powers, and even if the instinct was there thanks to the transformation she still had taken some time to talk to the other Senshi, to see if they remembered how she fought in the past. The strength, speed and endurance boost that came with the armor was one thing, but her powers were supposed to be gravity based, and not available on command like the other Senshi's spells and attacks.
Grabbing one of the imps, Polaris paused her mad dance of destruction and let the energy that had multiplied with her transformation flow. She could feel its weight, and more. She could almost feel how hard the ground wanted to keep hold of the struggling creature.
She convinced the ground to let go.
With a heave she chucked the imp skyward and to her amazement, and the amazement of the other Senshi and attacking imps the monster kept going…and going…and going.
Then it came down.
The impact shook the street, and as the dust cleared they saw the creature was buried with only its feet sticking up into the air, twitching occasionally.
Sailor Venus asked quietly, "Did Polly just launch that thing into orbit?"
Mercury shook her head, "Seven hundred and fifty two meters, actually. I guess she's trying to get a handle on her mass powers again."
Polaris was looking down at her hands, feeling the ki and strange magic dance within them. She tilted her head back and let out a long, evil sounding laugh that would have made Kodachi jealous if she was within earshot and then shouted out.
"OH YEAH BABY! SAILOR POLARIS IS BACK IN BUSNESS!"
She stopped laughing, and looked back down at the other imps, her confident smirk back in place as she appraised the nearest one.
She took a step forward and calmly said, "Boo."
The creature screamed and darted away. Its cohorts were slightly more stalwart and stood their ground, but were now wary of this fighter's seemingly incredible strength.
The albino haired Senshi glanced over her shoulder at her team and smiled, "What do you say, Boss? Rumble on the little buggers?"
Sailor Moon, unused to being on this side of a rout, took a moment to collect herself as the other Senshi also regrouped. Confidence was high, and so was the morale of her team. It was a nice change from the desperate battles of the past.
She said simply, "Let's finish them quick. It would be nice to keep the property damage to a minimum for a change."
"I don't think you'll have it that easy," said a voice from above. Famine descended into view, in her gauntleted hand the imp that had run away was struggling against the iron grip of the sorceress. Suddenly it screamed and began shaking as wisps of energy passed from it into the golden hand of the hooded magic user. With one final weak cry the creature stopped struggling and seemed to shrink inwards.
Famine dropped the finally creature, now nothing more then a dry husk, and it turned to dust even before it hit the ground.
"Such is the price of failure and cowardice. Soon you too shall sate my hunger."
Polaris frowned and locked eyes with her floating foe, "Why, Ghost? Why all this destruction? You were a guardian of our home, a champion of justice. You followed a code just like I did. How could you turn against all we stood for?"
Famine laughed, "Ghost died, you fool. And when I awoke I realized that all we had done was slow the inevitable. But my Master showed me a new path. He gave me my hunger." Famine, voice lowered and she crossed her arms, almost caressing her body. "This hunger that fills me, that consumes me. For every time I feed the hunger grows, and I feel greater pleasure each time. When I finally feed on you it will be euphoria beyond any I've felt before. When I extinguish your flame I will finally know the joy of genocide!"
The Senshi all looked a little green at Famine's declaration, but Polaris felt rage. Her aura was visible as ki gathered around her. The white haired warrior jumped into the air, charging her magic into a massive blow. But Famine drew War's massive sword and blocked the attack. At the impact a shockwave blasted out, and that signaled the combatants below to restart their fight.
The five Senshi moved as a team, Sailor Moon dodging frantically and luring creatures in, Sailor Mercury and Venus containing them with chains and ice and Sailor Mars stunning them with her mystic abilities for Sailor Jupiter to finish off with fists and feet.
They had never planned a battle, never talked about tactics, in truth they did not even know they were doing it. But by experience alone the Senshi had become very good at their jobs.
Above them Polaris had been in mid air for over a minute now, learning the grove of her abilities on the fly. Instant adaptation had always been her strong suit, and now she used it well as she rained blow after blow on Famine. But the sorceress was not off guard this time, and deflected the attacks with blade or magical barrier.
The armored Senshi was relentless however. Even in the stalemate in the sky the tactical computer that was her mind was already working on a new plan. She would see this perversion of an old friend and comrade fall.
"Who did this to you?" she growled. "Who turned you into this monster?"
Famine laughed as she lashed out with a bolt of energy that Polaris dodged out of the way of with a nimble spin that brought a kick around to be blocked by a golden gauntlet.
"You are the monster, Sailor Polaris. You are a god amongst mortals and you use your power to slow the inevitable crawl into destruction. You are nothing more then a hindrance to the true destiny of all life!"
Polaris' eyes narrowed as she ducked under her foe, getting a new angle of attack and only barely dodged another energy bolt. She stayed in constant motion beneath her foe, her flying becoming more stable as the battle raged.
Below them the other Senshi fought against the horde of creatures. They were slowly winning, and the tide turned more in their favor when Famine began raining down blasts in her attempt to kill Polaris high in the sky.
Sailor Mercury was the first to realize, "She's tricking Famine into picking off her own troops. The imps don't seem to be immune to whatever magic she uses and she's so focused on killing Sailor Polaris she doesn't even know she's giving us cover fire."
From beside her Venus added, "This is the chance we need, let's finish them off quick and help Polly."
With that the Senshi renewed their attack. The last of the imps was kicked hard by Sailor Jupiter and sent headlong into charged spirit wards from Mars. They were ganged up on and dispatched easily and the group once more turned their attention skyward.
"If Sailor Polaris can give us an opening we can hit that witch with a combined assault," Mars said carefully as they gathered under the melee.
Mercury nodded, "The trouble is letting her know."
Sailor Moon ran forward a few paces and began jumping up and down, waving her arms wildly. Once she had gotten Polaris' attention she pantomimed an explosion and running around in circles.
The other Senshi watched with a bit of embarrassment as their leader carried on, but it was Sailor Jupiter who pointed out, "Trust Moon to do the easiest thing possible that we all overlook. Simple and to the point."
Mars cracked, "I'm surprised she didn't just yell our plan up to Polaris."
Venus chuckled, "Whatever works, works. Looks like Polly is up to something. We should get set up so we're ready."
Above, Polaris had seen Moon gesticulating and figured that the Senshi were setting up to bring out some kind of big spell. The trick would be keeping Famine too occupied to dodge it. Polaris knew from experience that the bigger an attack was the easier it was to dodge.
Time to do two things she could do well. Experiment, and taunt mercilessly.
"It must be a pain to know that you're getting you ass kicked, again. At least I could count on Ghost to put up a good fight, even in training. You really aren't Ghost after all; you can't keep up with me at all."
A bolt of eldritch power shot past Polaris' head and she knew that she was being effective. Quickly she increased her speed, changing her personal gravity on the whims of the wind and falling in random directions, even up. She stopped attacking all together to dart around Famine like a mad fly and continued to throw barbs at the hooded sorceress.
"What is it with evildoers and stupid amounts of lightning anyway? I mean, sure it's really pretty and all that, but you haven't hit me yet. You have a Star Wars thing or something? Out here to get your Sith on?" The warrior girl flipped in mid air, dropping sideways to avoid another close call.
She continued, "I can keep this up all day." Glancing down she added, "But your time is up now. Bye-bye."
"SAILOR PLANET ATTACK!"
The prismatic sphere of raw energy blasted skyward, intercepting Famine as she saw that she had been stalled. She managed to get her gilded arm up and release a bolt of her own power, but it only disrupted a tiny portion of the combined attack of the Inner Senshi.
Polaris flipped away and landed behind the gathered Senshi. She looked up, her white pony tail blowing in the wind caused by the explosion of energy.
"I WILL NOT YIELD!"
Famine raged against the magic, pouring more dark energy in. The reaction of positive and negative energy escalated until no more could be contained and the powers erupted in a massive explosion.
The Senshi breathed a sigh of relief as the clang of a falling sword echoed along the empty street. Famine lay smoldering on the ground and the young warriors rushed over. Polaris was wary after the last attempt on her life, but she saw that Famines gauntlet had fallen away as well.
Cautious, she kneeled and asked quietly, "Why did it come to this, Ghost?"
"His arrogance," whispered the dying sorceress. "When we fell, he revived us. He knew what was happening. He started it all…the death of Polaris…"
Famine closed her eyes for the last time.
Sailor Polaris faded away, white filling in red as her armor was replaced by Chinese silk. Ranma looked up at the other Senshi and asked quietly, "What is going on?"
To be continued…
Endnote: Next time we delve into the mystery of these attackers as the Senshi put together pieces of their, and Polaris' past. Until then…Goodbye Captain Phil, clear skies and calm waters. We'll miss you.