Attention! Final Warning! The End is upon you! (Better grab some snacks)

Oh, I see a man at the back as a matter of fact
His eyes are as red as the sun
And the girl in the corner let no one ignore her
Cause she thinks she's the passionate one

Oh yeah! It was like lightning
Everybody was fighting
And the music was soothing
And they all started grooving

Yeah, yeah, yeah-yeah-yeah

And the man in the back said everyone attack
And it turned into a ballroom blitz
And the girl in the corner said boy I want to warn you
It'll turn into a ballroom blitz
Ballroom blitz

Excerpt: The Sweet „Ballroom Blitz"

Soul Heir

A Ranma ½ Fanfiction brought to you by Ralf Martin.

Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and all the characters therein are the property of Rumiko Takahashi. If she hasn't pawned them off yet. Or lost them at Poker. It seems I'm also borrowing bits and pieces of Neil Gayman's and Terry Prattchet's works. Ah! Who am I kidding? Most probably everything here was at the very least inspired by someone else. Standing on the shoulders of giants and such...

Chapter 20 : ...this is NERIMA!


The city of Nerima, in turn a special ward of the Megapolis of Tokyo, is unique in many ways.

For one thing it claims to be the birthplace of Anime. Many an expert will argue with that but all in all those sticklers don't stray too far from the truth by awarding that title to themselves.

Many of the movies and series that made Japanese Animation a household name hail from studios around that area.

For the most part Nerima is a quiet residential area though. Actually, it is for all practical purposes the epitome of a typical Japanese suburbia.

There are exceptions though.

If you happen to visit Tomobiki-Cho your chances of encountering aliens or Oni are exceptionally high.

If you walk by Anteiku you should avoid all invitations for dinner. As long as you are human that is. Chances are they invite you 'as', and not 'to'…

And then there is that community called Furinkan.

Life in that place is not as deadly as around Anteiku and not as loudly chaotic as Tomobiki but still fraught with certain perils. Not only because a lot of the inhabitants are not exactly human either. Most of them try to live quiet and honest lives without bothering the neighbors. Not always easy if you're a four feet small Kappa or an eight feet tall Tengu. But they make do.

Still, the same strange attraction that made them settle down in this area also seems to pull in all kinds of weird people. Mostly weird characters of the martial-arts variant.

Maybe it is the vibrant energy that permeates every stone and tree in that area. It serves both types well.

Maybe it is the fact that the police or other authorities usually do not show up in this part of town as if warded off by an invisible barrier. That also serves both types pretty well.

As a matter of fact, the good people of Furinkan-Cho in general, human or not alike, prefer to settle their disagreements in a private way with no interference by outsiders. Then again, who doesn't?

And lastly it might be because of certain highly specialized facilities all over the place. Certain Dojo's and dueling grounds for the one kind, healthcare and dedicated restaurants for the other. Sometimes these things get mixed up. Occasions like that easily lead to turmoil or outright chaos. But for some reason, bloodshed stays the exception, not the rule. As it should be.

So if you happen to pass through Furinkan, stay on your best behavior and prepare for anything.

Do not comment on the pretty girl that just turned into a cat.

Ignore Rats Of Unusual Size along your way.

Let creative Anachronist throw his barrage of lightning undisturbed.

And, most importantly, do not feed the Panda!


You've been warned.


Shampoo had been pacing up and down the small living room of Mrs. Ichikagawa's house. Actually, she had started to leave an actual trail on the carpet.

"Calm down girl," the owner of the abused piece of floor ornament advised her jovially. "Not much to do at this point but wait."

"Wait be the problem," the girl in the Cheongsam grumbled, casting a troubled gaze toward the bathroom. There had been sounds coming from there. Disturbing sounds. If you happened to still harbor some lingering feelings for one of the people that were supposed to be in there.

"Ever heard of Schroedinger's cat?" the older woman asked her conversationally.

"Are you talking about Quantum Theory?" Mousse asked. He sat on the other side of the small table, sipping his tea.

"Yes, that's the one," Mrs. Ichikagawa agreed. Nodding sagely, she turned and smiled at the girl halfway to the bath. "You could go in there and check. But in looking you could mess up the whole experiment. So, is your curiosity worth taking that risk?"

Shampoo looked back at her over her shoulder, her expression a mixture of a frow and a pout.

"Xiam-pu promise help. Not here mess with Hus... Ranma and Akane."

"That's good to hear. And since you're so understandable, why don't you join us for tea. Your pacing is making me..."

Whatever Shampoo's effect on the old Nekkogami was never got fully explained as suddenly the house shook under a huge impact. It was if a truck had struck the outer wall. Then there were several loud voices coming from the bath, followed by one blood-curling scream.


Shampoo was through the door in the blink of an eye with Mousse hot on her heels.


As they burst into the bathroom, or into what was supposed to be one, the scene in front of them was one of chaos.

"Oh yeah, he's back," Shampoo heard Mousse comment as they looked through a gigantic hole in the wall at the scene of destruction outside. An inhuman beast was raging there. It was huge by human standards. But if you happened to be acquainted with a guy named Pantyhose and his cursed form, it looked only marginally bigger. It was easily as ugly though.

Where Tarou's cursed form was a mixture of many different forms, this creature seemed to be made out of a myriad of identical forms. Rats, to be exact. That thing was a living, breathing Lego model made out of rats.

That monstrosity was flailing its arms, trying to swat away a human figure in a bathrobe that attacked relentlessly. Those attacks left gashes in the creatures frame, throwing the bodies of rodents left and right. It was not too effective though against that thing as those very same critters just got up again and rejoined their brothers in the fight. Or their sisters, respectively.


There was a flash of light and the air filled with the smell of ozone as Tatewaki Kuno descended from the sky riding a lightning.

Or that was what it appeared like as he descended from the roof of a nearby building in a mighty leap, carrying the living fury of Zeus himself in his hands.

Across his shoulders he carried the motionless body of his sister as if she was a mere stole. Kneeling on impact he let that body slip to the ground before rising to his full height.

"At last the time has come,

that virtue take up arms.

To smite thy heinous form,

and free love from thy charms!"

he declared haughtily from behind the cover of his shield and helmet.

"Come again?" Ryouga asked from behind the bonfire, scratching his candle-crowned scalp. "I didn't quite catch that."

"If you might play, the fool and jest,

be wary of my laughter.

Tomfoolery will never last,

I'll laugh forever after!"

the Kendoist in the ancient Greek getup boomed.

Ryouga just shrugged, long used to the fact that some people actively tried to make no sense.

"Oh well, whatever," he said. "Guess you're not here just to talk anyway, right?"

"Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war!

That this foul deed shall smell above the earth!"

Tatewaki agreed and readied shield and sword to enter into battle.

"Ah come on," Ryouga complained as he dropped into a fighting stance himself. "That didn't even rhyme!"


"So far, so good," Ukyou commented from her hiding place in a bush nearby. "Both Kunos are here. So what's next?"

When no answer came from her companion she turned her head to look at him.

"Kinyou? Are you feeling well?" she inquired as she saw his serious if somewhat pale expression.

"Get Kodachi away from him," the boy told her in a cold but even voice, so unlike his usually happy babbling.

"And how am I supposed to do that?" she inquired in return. "I doubt Tatewaki will just let go there and pick her up."

"You asked me what you can do to repay me for my help?" Kinyou continued with his eyes on the unconscious girl in the distance slumped on the ground by the fire. "Then get Kodachi out of there."

"Fine, I'll think of something," Ukyou agreed grudgingly. She wasn't one to run from her debts. And leaving helpless people alone in the line of fire wasn't exactly her thing either.

"So what do you plan on doing while I risk my neck for your girlfriend?"

Under any other circumstances that implication alone would have turned Kinyou into a blushing, bubbling mess. The fact that it didn't happen this time only underlined the seriousness of the situation.

"Me?" he asked her as his frown got more pronounced. "I'll go online..."


"Is that... Akane" Mouse asked as he squinted his eye, referring to the girl fighting the monstrosity in the backyard. "She looks different somehow."

"How so?" Shampoo demanded to know. "Akane look angry. Is normal."

"I think he is referring to her ears and the tail," Mrs Ichikagawa helpfully provided from behind them. "It seems Ranma was not the only one affected by the water. How curious."

Whirling around, Shampoo looked at the old woman in surprise.

"No way!" she exclaimed. "Akane turn Nekko too? Not just Ranma?"

"Who knows," the woman replied with a shrug. "The whole procedure was a bit of an experiment anyway. I can tell you more once I've seen the boy. By the way, where is he?"

"Not know," Shampoo admitted unhappily. "Not see him. Only hear sister call his name real loud."

"About that," Mousse added his five cent. "She did sound rather alarmed. Shouldn't we go and help her?"

"That might be a good idea," Mrs. Ichikagawa agreed with him. "That thing out there is called a 'Rat-King'. When those rodents get out of hand they sometimes get the bright idea to form one and take over the turf. And guess who they always visit first?"

"Is that why you were so desperate for a successor?" Mousse asked. "It's not like you're getting any younger..."

The old woman chuckled at his remark.

"You might say that," she agreed and rewarded him with a wry smile. "In my younger days I would have taken that pest down in a matter of minutes. But these days? Who knows..."

Shampoo, not part of that conversation, looked out past the hole in the wall and scanned the wreckage for either cat or boy.

"Me no see Ranma anywhere," she proclaimed after a moment of doing that. "Where he go?"

"I'm here, I'm here," a well-known voice suddenly called from inside the house, making the trio turn towards the door. There he stood, Ranma Saotome. Hastily dressed in a pair of drawstring pants, slippers and a shirt that hadn't been buttoned up. In his hands he held a Chinese style dress, a pair of sneakers and some sort of biker shorts. With the emphasis on short.

"Hey, what are you doing with my clothes?!" both the Chinese shouted in unison before it even registered with them that they were basically shouting at a revenant.

"Don't worry, only borrowing 'em," the recently revived martial-artist called out as he snatched Akane's underwear from a low stool where she had placed them along with the rest of her clothes. "Can't have us run around naked, right?"

"Errr... right..." Shampoo agreed lamely. But she was still a bit flustered from what she saw past the open shirt. Damn it, Ranma always had a well-defined body. The Chinese girl knew it only too too well. But this looked like he was not only the new but also the improved version. Damn it, as if giving him up to Akane hadn't been hard enough already.


Another pass, another inconsequential hole in the monster's body.

Cursing the tears blurring her vision, Akane let out another frustrated scream as the touched down on the ground and instantly reversed her momentum.

Had she been at the leisure of analyzing her current performance she probably would have been surprised that her speed, dexterity and sense of balance seemed to have taken a turn for the better. But right now her mind was on other subjects. Like that creature that had attacked her and Ranma out of the blue when they had only just begun to make up for lost time.

Damn it! Why did there always have to be someone or something getting in their way?

Why did there always have to be some weirdo or fiancé or rival or otherworldly entity showing up?

Once, just once, couldn't there be a day just for the two of them?

And anyway, where had Ranma gone off to?

There had been no trace of him in the wreckage of the furo. So far that had been the only good news. But until she found him and ascertained that he was fine there would be no solace for her worries.

Plus this disgusting creature towering over her just rubbed her in an indescribably wrong way. It was an instinctive emotion on her part, hardly even bothering with notifying her conscious mind.

"You stupid ugly excuse for a hamster! Give me back my Ranma!" she screamed as her leg shot out from under her bathrobe kick the Rat-king squarely in the face.

"You called?" a voice from below her left side asked innocently. "Nice view by the way. I could see you underwear from here. If you happened to be wearing any, that is..."

Both woman and monster stared at the newcomer. The reactions his unexpected appearance provoked were marginally different though.

The creature tried to stomp on him, hissing in rage.

Akane screeched and covered her nether regions front and back with a hand.

"Ranma? Where have you been?" she shouted, blushing even though she realized that he hadn't seen anything she hadn't shown him willingly just a little while ago. Though remembering what they did at that time hardly helped with diminishing the blush adorning her face.

Ranma slid away from under the monster's foot, rolled to avoid an enormous fist that pounded a massive hole into the ground and sprung forward, picking up Akane princess-style before jumping with her to a relatively safe distance away from the Rat-king. On touchdown he kissed her lightly on the lips, smiling lopsided in the most charming way.

"Thought you'd like a change of clothes," he told her as he put her down and handed over the textiles he had borrowed. "Can't have you give anyone a free show but me."

"Jerk" was Akane's only reply as she put on the offered panties first and the shorts second. But her smile belied the harsh word.

The monster in their back had no intention to let them continue their little exchange. It howled in rage and came at them with fury in what was supposed to be its eyes. Lunging forward his grotesque arms swept at the couple only to once again hit nothing but air.

"Seriously, that thing is annoying," Ranma quipped from where he stood a couple of feet away.

"Tell me about it," Akane agreed as she slipped into the shoes.

"Hey, what you say we ditch this place?" she heard her companion muse aloud. "I'm pretty sure the real action is over there."

Turning towards the source of the proposal Akane saw what he was hinting at. Dark clouds in the not so far distance, complete with peculiarly localized lightning.

"What about Mickey Mouse?" she asked as she took in that strange phenomenon.

"Either he's coming along or Shampoo and Mouse are gonna deal with him. Either way is gonna be fine," Ranma commented with a shrug before once more jumping to the side to avoid an attack.

Akane mulled for a moment over that idea. About as long as she needed to roll under another kick of the monster.

"Oh well, can't get worse than this mess I guess," she finally agreed. "By the way, think you could help with the bra?"

Judging by the grin appearing on Ranma's face, he might be.


"Are they... making out?" Mousse asked incredulous while desperately trying to make sense of what he saw beyond the thick wall of his glasses. "In the middle of a fight?"

"No see! No care!" Shampoo growled as she glared another hole through the ground at her feet. Her arms were crossed in front of her and her face told of the battle taking place in her heart. It had been all nice and good with Ranma dead. She herself had been free of her obligations for revenge or marriage. Akane had be in mourning. Treating her as a sister, promising help without too much worry that anything could really be done about it. It had all made sense and it had all been a good distraction from her own worries.

Even when Grandmother Cat had laid out her plans and Shampoo agreed to them the Amazon hadn't been too convinced that anything could be done about Ranma. And now this!

Jusendo had been a hint of just how strong the bond between the Wild Horse and the Gorilla Girl ran. But at least after that they had still not dared to show any of that affection in public. With public being defined as more than four eyes in a radius of half a mile. No matter how many walls shielded them from scrutiny.

Shampoo wasn't stupid.

She had known that it would come to something like this if Ranma really returned. In a living, breathing human body that is.

But knowing something is one thing.

Having to listen to it from outside a bathroom was something entirely else.

And having to watch them going all smoochy in full sync in the middle of a fight was a bit much even for the most determined of Amazons.

"Screw this! I go after!" she suddenly exclaimed as she jumped outside to run after the couple and the monster chasing them.

As she headed towards the nearby roofs and the lightnings beyond Mrs. Ichikagawa turned towards the remaining Amazon.

"Are you not going to follow her?" she simply asked and her even voice neither sounded curious nor commanding.

"No, not this time," Mousse replied just as plainly. "If I did it's probably going to turn into the same old mess as always. She's probably going to cling at Ranma. I'm going to snap. Fight breaks out. Although..." Mousse's voice revealed a bit of hope, as did his face. "Maybe today will be the day Xiam-Pu's eyes will finally be opened..."

"Say's the love-blind fool," the old woman by his side quipped.

Long used by abuse from elder females and actually a bit introspective about himself, the Amazon male didn't even get angry at that barb.

"Touché" he simply grunted in something like amusement.

It was probably a sign of growing up. To accept your own shortcomings. And to be able to see the joke in your own shortcomings.

Mrs. Ichikagawa seemed of that opinion at least as she looked up at him with something like new found respect reflected in her smile.

"Come on, go," she urged him softly. "They're your friends too, aren't they?"

Mousse seemed to mull over that idea for a moment as if trying to figure out if he liked the taste of that word on his tongue. Then an expression of determination settled on his features and he nodded.

"Guess you're right," he simply agreed. With a nod towards the destroyed wall he asked "Are you going to be alright her?"

"Don't worry, I'm gonna be fine," the old woman proclaimed with a dismissive wave of her hand. "My insurance company is used to trouble. I'll just gonna give them a call. Nothing you can do to help."

Mousse gave her a strange stare as if not being completely convinced by her explanation. But he nodded and with a last "Thanks" he set off towards where the main action was supposedly going to take place.

Mrs. Ichikagawa looked after his vanishing form for a moment before turning and heading inside.

Screw the insurance.

She had things to prepare.

Things to get in order.

And her time was running out.


The island Nation of Japan is unique in many ways.

For example, you will be hard pressed to find another country where shrines for an archaic religion stand back to back with skyscrapers, industrial complexes and other denizens of the modern age. Not as decoration or a reminder of days long gone but as an actual commodity for everyday use.

It's not unusual for the CEO of a Multi-Billion-Yen corporation to ask the Kami for their support before he sets out on a new business venture.

The Shinto believe is something that is deeply engrained in the Japanese culture and vice versa.

Basically it is a set of rituals and believes that vary from place to place, kept alive by word of mouth and acting them out.

There is no holy script.

There is no finite number of gods and spirits to pray too.

It's a "Choose your own Deity" kind of religion. You think your old fountain pen can improve your chances at pulling through those Exams? Go ahead, give it a name and pray. In Shinto that's proper religious practice.

Because Shinto focuses on the here and now. About dealing with supernatural entities in a hands-on manner. That's an unusual way of thinking from a western standpoint where in most people's experience religion happens in churches or other buildings of a sacral nature.

In Japan, where Kami are a dozen for a dime, you need shrines only if you need to focus onto one specific set of celestial ears.

Nothing is keeping you from voicing what you wish for anywhere else. Because someone is always listening in on your spiritual worship no matter where you are.

Or something.

Without the confines of a shrine you don't have a say in who's answering your call.

Beggars can't be choosers after all.


"Barrens Chat"

A name to strike fear in the hearts of the older ones.

A name that confuses those that never experienced it but asked the supposedly wise oracle of G00GLE.

Had mankind ever degenerated this much?

Were atrocities such as the "Barrens Chat" truly possible in these enlightened times?

The answer was simple.


They were.

Because there is a part of human nature that thrives while feeling unrestricted, anonymous and terminally bored.

It's a part as fundamental as it is nasty.

And like all parts of human nature there exists a counterpart in the spiritual realm.

And since it is a counterpart it is just as vicious.

Because the gods and spirits in there happen to be analogues of human nature themselves.

The infamous "Barrens Chat" was one of the worst examples of human communication.

The place Kinyou entered in his mind was no better.


"What's it doing now?" Ranma asked as he fastened the last clasp of his companion's dress mid-stride.

"It's hard to tell," Akane replied as she looked back over her shoulder at the sentient amalgam of rats. "Seems like it's... arguing? Wait! It stopped chasing us!"

"Makes you wonder," Ranma mused as he gave her a pat on the small of her back to signal that he was done. "Is that good news or is that bad news?"

Slowing his stride, he turned around and watched the strange creature claw at thin air as if it were in the midst of an argument.

Akane, having stopped at the same time as him came up from behind and put her arms around his hips and her chin on his shoulder.

"What are you wondering about?" she whispered into his ear.

"For the moment?" he replied with an amused pout playing on his lips. "I'm wondering when you grew big enough to do that..."

"Do what?" Akane asked slightly confused. It was then that she noticed that she had come eye to eye with Ranma. And he did seem to be his usual size for once.


Akane looked down at herself and all around. It was true that either she had increased in size or the world had shrunk a bit.

"I really grew!" she finally proclaimed. "How did that happen?"

"You mean after being changed to a cat, then back to a kid and then back to yourself you wonder about gaining a bit of height? Seriously?"

The expression on Ranma's face was more amused than outraged. Still Akane had the decency to look embarrassed.

"Besides," he continued jovially, "I bet that's just a side effect of this whole 'Sharing your Humanity' thing. You know, like we even out fifty-fifty?"

"So you think I didn't just gain some inches but you lost them?" Akane asked, wondering about the implications of his statement. "Doesn't that bother you?"

"Naaaaaaah!" Ranma replied, looking down at his body and then back at her with a devilish smile and a glint in his eyes.

"The really important inches are still all there."


"Coward! Are thou not ashamed?

To flee the skirmish thou ordained?"

Thus screamed the Iliad Reenactor formerly known as Tatewaki Kuno as he chased Ryouga around the bonfire, shooting lightning with great effect but little aim.

"Yeah sure, just let me get my copper rods first," Ryouga shouted over his shoulder while keeping his pace up. "Hey, what do you say? You lay down your gimmicks and I face you mano a mano?"

"Though pigs may curse the butcher's blade,

why would he sheath his tool?

Their purpose lies in nourishment,

in protein and joule!"

Suddenly Ryouga stopped. It was so unexpected that even Tatewaki ran straight into his back without a chance to strike him with his heavenly vengeance.

"Who," Ryouga growled as he turned slowly to face him, his face contorted in anger, "did you just call a pig?"

"Nani?" escaped Tatewaki as even the helmet of Athene could not inspire him with understanding concerning such a strong reaction.

He got his shield up just in time to shield him from something much easier to understand.


Ukyou cursed as she ran across the open lot that had turned into a battlefield.

She desperately tried to dodge the shrapnel of burning splinters and electrically charged rocks that rained down around her. It would have been a lot easier without the added weight of Kodachi on her back, this much was for certain.

With a grunt she slid down to the depression behind the bushes where she had left Kinyou.

"There! Happy?" she uttered as placed the other girl's body on the ground next to the boy. When she got no answer she waved a hand before his nose. No flinch, no blinking, no nothing.

"Great, just great," Ukyou grunted. "Now I can babysit two comatose idiots."

This was going to be a long day. She just knew it.


Kinyou's head ached as he desperately tried to sort out the myriad voices crashing against his mind like a Tsunami of insults, complaints and offers.

Such was the effect if you entered the open channel of the 'Publicly Available Interspiritual Network' in the 'Alliance (of) Sacral Services' without the filter provided by a dedicated shrine. There was a reason why that experience was usually described by the abbreviation of its corresponding parts.

Someone tried to sell gold and items in an ever repeating advertisement.

Another one tried the same thing with souls and followers.

Some complained about the people on their turf or the neighboring deities.

Their neighboring deities did exactly the same.

One or two voices asked for calm or tried to mediate between parties.

Those got mostly shut down or insulted by those they tried to mediate between.

Once in a while someone actually had a proposal for some sort of cooperation on one project or another. From taking over the world to forming an alliance against the other guy trying to form an alliance. But those also were either ignored or drowned in insults about their progenitor. A bit surprising since most entities taken part had simply popped into existence so they were no one's offspring at all.

And the most annoying thing was that 'Rat-King' fellow that drowned the channels with the din of a hundred voices arguing.

Kinyou had no time for this. Besides there was no way any same person could get anything done in this chaos. But he had known this before he entered this specific variant of hell and he had a plan.

And that 'Rat-King' was kind of a godsend for this.

"Moderator! I want to file a complaint about the entity labeled 'Rat-King'!"

"Please state the nature of your complaint," a sweet sounding female voice answered him, easily perceivable even through the noise of the ongoing conversations and arguments.

The din of the chat suddenly got a lot quieter as the attention of a multitude of entities suddenly was on Kinyou. Complaints were not uncommon around this place. Having a moderator actually answer them was.

"Shared use of a single account. 'Rat-King' violated the Terms of Use by being comprised of multiple entities."

"Oi!" Rat-King complained in what suddenly sounded like a single but seriously pissed voice.

"Where does it say that?"

"Paragraph 4, Roman-1 "Accessing the Service" clearly states that any account can only be accessed by a single entity," the moderator's sweet voice explained.

"Soooo? It also states that the use of the account by your children is allowed as long as they are supervised by a parent, right? So there's no problem at all!"

The Rat-King sounded rather content with his quick thinking. Well, the single voice anyway.

There were other voices though.

"Oi! So you were the Loser mom talked about?"

"You're my father? Noooooo!"

"I'm you mother idiot, how's that even to work?"

"Honestly bro, this is sick..."

"Why did you leave us daddy! Whyyyyyyy...?!"

And so on.

Suddenly there was silence as the Rat-King's multiple voices dropped from the chat altogether.

"I hereby declare that the account labeled 'Rat-King' will be suspended until further investigations have taken place. This suspension will be in effect immediately. Have a nice day."

The silence did not hold for long as a lot of snickering and insulting filled the ether. Not uncommon after someone's so publicly displayed bad fortune.

Kinyou knew better than to try and draw attention for a second time. At least not until things had died down considerably. His patience got rewarded in exactly the way he had hoped for as he heard a voice whispering into his ear on a private channel.

"So, Juusan-kun. What brings a nice kid like you to tune in on this bunch of hopeless idiots?" he heard the moderator, for her part a goddess on screening duty for the public channels, inquire from him. And a voice he actually recognized.

"I could ask you the same thing, Peorth-Sama. But the small-talk gotta wait," he replied with an urgent undertone to his voice that made the goddess perk up. "Could you do me a favor and take a message...?"


"This looks stupid," Ranma remarked as he looked at the Rat-King just standing there in the middle of the street. He sat on the roof of a house adjacent to the empty lot where Ryouga and Tatewaki duked it out. From here he had a good view of the show while being able to keep an eye on his pursuer. Sitting comfortably between his legs, Akane turned her head to take a look at what he was talking about.

"What do you reckon," she asked her favorite cushion. "Is there an uprising going on in the kingdom of rodents?"

"Who cares?" Ranma replied and continued with his duties. Namely scratching behind her ears and being comfortable on a general basis. "It's probably back up and running soon one way or the other."

"Somehow it's strange," Akane purred under his gentle ministrations.

"What is? The rats?" Ranma asked a bit sidetracked by his chore.

"That too," she agreed, leaning her head to the side to allow him better access to a certain spot. "But you're acting just as strange. Usually you'd be the first into the fray."

Akane nodded slightly towards the fight going on in the empty lot.

"Ah! That!" Ranma remarked as he lowered his hands and slipped his arms around his mate. "I wouldn't want to be rude and ruin their fun. Besides, there's better things to do with my time."

"Is that so?" Akane asked with a certain hint of satisfaction in her voice. She had a pretty good idea what he was referring to. Or rather who.

"That's so," he confirmed as his hands sought out the tender flesh on his long-time fiancee's midriff. Suddenly the girl started to jerk and choke on laughter as Ranma began his tickle attack.

He'd have to pay for that stunt, he was certain of that.

But the inevitable payback might be fun too.


For once in her life Shampoo was at a loss of how to proceed. Usually her path was simple.

Define a target. Reach the target. Neutralize the target. Or drag it back to the tribe as a future husband in one very special case.

But right now target one and two had dropped from sight and target number three was... yuck!

Who in their right mind would want to even get near something icky like that? Her cursed form might be a cat but that didn't mean that she had in any way acquired a taste for rodent meat.

So she kept hiding in the shadows of a nearby house, watching the Rat-King impersonate a statue while pondering what to do next.

Well, Shampoo did. What went through the Rat-King's brains was anyone's guess.

Then Akanes laughter pearled from a nearby roof and as if that had been a signal all hell broke loose.


Ryouga was, without a doubt, one of the roughest, toughest guys around.

His fists hit like jackhammers.

His kicks impacted like wrecking balls.

And that's when he was NOT angry.

Right now he was quite a bit peeved, not to say he was frustrated.

He had no idea what that shield Kuno kept between them was made of but it not only stopped his attacks, it seemed to push them right back at him. The only bright side was that Ryouga was easily as tough as he was strong or he might have gotten hurt before he figured that out.

What really might hurt him though was that stupid twitchy lightning thingy that the former Wannabe Samurai and now acting Wannabe Spartan tried to hit him with. So far Ryouga had managed to avoid that weapon by moving counterclockwise around the guy.

It was a bit of a stalemate.

All that Tatewaki had to do for a perfect defense was to keep the shield up and between them. But with Ryouga's movement he was in no position to bring his weapon to bear. Under other circumstances he would have preferred to fight as he was used to, with both hands on the sword alone.

But the gods had selected him, the chosen one, the great Tatewaki Kuno, to bide their will. And they had deigned to bless him with three mighty items, the living blade, the aegis and the crown of wisdom to bring justice to this base and debauched world. So as a knight with his banners bravely unfurled he would throw down his gauntlet at all the heathens and wizards and servants of sin. But not these gifts. (*) No! Never these gifts!

Then he heard it.

That one sound more beautiful than any song or melody ever written.

The voice of his very own Goddess amplified in intensity by the all-hearing helmet he had donned.

His opponent all but forgotten Tatewaki's head whipped around to search for his one true love.

He saw her, magnified and brought to focus by his all-seeing helmet.

He also saw the foul creature that was digging his claws into her.

Tatewaki's rage knew no bounds.

(* Please do whistle 'Man of La Mancha' as you read this.)


The Rat-King was livid.

All of him was livid.

Take away the food, okay.

Keep it from sleep, okay.

But cut of the Interne... err... the 'P.A.I.N.' in the 'A.S.S.' and you're asking for all-out war. Because without it the only one's nerves you could get on were your own and it was driving the Rat-King crazy. Like stone cold crazy.

Who cared about those stupid kittens from before?

Who cared about the stupid Nekogami?

Whoever had caused this was bound to pay.

And the best place to start looking for a name seemed that huge pulsing uplink-signal straight ahead that basically screamed 'Divine Terminal'.

Maybe that was a moderator.

Maybe it was a power-user.

The Rat-King was about as choosy about his source of information as he cared about how the heck he knew about these things. If anything it was instinctual knowledge most likely.

The King screeched his anger to the skies, his challenge resounding from the nearby buildings. Then he stormed forward straight towards where the lightning danced in the sky.


Shampoo followed after the abomination, keeping to the shadows as she went. She was well aware that Mousse did the same a short distance behind her. It wasn't that he failed in silently shadowing her. It was just that she had gotten that good in keeping an eye out for him.

But she couldn't afford to be distracted by this. She had a monster to follow and a... Well... what exactly?

Officially she had no more ties to Ranma.

Officially he was dead after all.

So whatever the cats dragged back from the great beyond was no longer the man she had dibs on.


Inofficially though, her heart was in turmoil.

And that was not a good state to be in for the heart of an Amazon of her passionate nature.


Ukyou did not need the instincts of a wild beast.

She did not need a fancy magic helmet to improve her vision.

She knew who was sitting on that rooftop beyond the open lot.

Some images are just that deeply ingrained into the consciousness.

"Ranma!" she exclaimed to no one in particular. But that name did not go unheard.

"Ranma? Impossible!"

That voice belonged to Kodachi, for her part just recently awoken and still kind of confused as to her whereabouts.

Without thinking Ukyou pointed a finger towards the distant figure.

"Ranma-Sama!" Kodachi exclaimed as she rose to her feet. Her injured leg and the pain from whatever had forced her unconscious seemed forgotten. There was a joyous expression on her face, hopeful if maybe somewhat manic, as she stumbled forward on shaky legs in the indicated direction.

With a grunt and a curse Ukyou rose to go after her.


Kinyou watched the girls leave.

At first he had enough on his hands to deal with the repercussions of his little trip to the spiritual network.

Then he heard Kodachi's voice and his eyes focused just fast enough to witness the expression on her face.

It wasn't a good expression from his point of view. Even though he knew that he had no say in who or what should be allowed to light up her eyes like this. She was a big girl, no matter what her mother had claimed.

A part of him had actually been afraid to see Kodachi wander off to greener pastures. Oh well, afraid was probably the wrong word. It had been more of a nagging in the back of his mind that had urged him to quit while he was on top, take a bow and exit stage left while he could still could get some applause. The same nagging that so aggravatingly reminded him that if he just grabbed his things and went home, nobody would be the wiser.

Ukyou probably would notice sometime. If business allowed her some breathing room.

But Kodachi? Honestly, he wasn't sure she'd even remember his face in a week or two if things got back to what was considered normal around these parts.

Kinyou had been possessed by Ranma at one point and so he had a pretty good idea just how strong that guy's soul was. Honestly, it was around the lines of being ridiculous. And as these things are bound to happen, a soul like his drew in those around it, one way or another.

As friends or foes.

Lovers or haters.

Companions or opponents.

Indifference was not the usual reaction towards that kind of existence.

If Ranma had found a way back, and as a matter of fact Kinyou knew of stranger things, chances are that this natural phenomenon would be back in effect too. Maybe even stronger than before.

So Kodachi would be...



...somebody else's problem.

So Kinyou watched the girls leave. With a stony expression on his face.


If at this point someone was under the impression that most of the residents of the Furinkan area were connected to the supernatural in one way or another, that very impression would be understandable but also completely wrong.

Most of the residents were human by nature, and thus completely and utterly ignorant of what was really going on. Aside of a strange and localized lightning storm over an abandoned lot that was clearly visible even to an untrained eye.

The general populace consisted of the usual suspects. Business-men, Office Ladies, Public Servants and School-Kids, to name a few.

But more so than in other places around town there lived people in this place with a not so common heritage but a wish for the kind of life you just can't find beyond the veil.

The Yuki-Onna running the best Ice-cream parlor in town.

The Oni at the Hardware Depot that hardly ever needs to use a fork-lifter.

A Jorogumo working as a Custom Tailor.

And of course the ever popular Kitsune, though who dared to ask how that one made a living.

They raised their heads, each and every one of them focusing their attention towards the gathering storm. Something big was going down, they could feel it in their bones. Or their corresponding internal structures.

Powers of Legends had appeared in this place.

Gods had taken an interest.

What was more, the scent of chaos was drifting by on a wind of change.

But surprisingly enough, it was a warm wind. Almost pleasant.

Gods and Powers of Legend were bad news in general but for some reason the more mythically inclined inhabitants did not feel worried.

Word on the street had been that the old Nekkogami, who's been one of the major reasons for their peaceful existence, had found a worthy successor.

Someone they all had been only too aware of, even if they usually stayed out of his way as much as possible.

Someone that had transcended the world of the living in the old-fashioned way but found his way back in a novel one.

Someone that had very obviously not yielded to celestial temptations.

For love of this place.

For love of someone that loved this place.

And maybe just for the heck of it.

A worthy successor indeed.

By Nerima standards.


Mrs. Ichikagawa did not turn around to greet her visitor.

"Just a moment, I'm almost finished," she said as she carefully put ink to a small piece of cardboard.

"Don't hurry," the girl that had slipped into her room replied in good humor. "I happen to have all the time in the world."

"Yeah, I guess you do," the old woman chuckled as she raised the card to check what was written in the soft light of the window.

"What's that?" the girl behind her asked curiously as she peeked over the Elder's shoulder. Well, Elder in title only. "One last joke?"

This time the old woman shook her head.

"This," she said and lightly waved the cardboard, "is just a bit of continuity. Though I'm sure most people won't get it."

"Who care's if people get it? Knock yourself out. It's your funeral anyway," the girl urged her with the brightest of smiles.

Mrs. Ichikagawa looked at her crossly. Not because of the smile in particular, but more because it somehow clashed with the old woman's expectations.

"Do you think you could... change?" she asked the girl with the slightest hint of a frown. "I'm afraid that I'm a bit of a traditionalist in certain matters.

The girls just shrugged and suddenly the very shadows of the room seemed to be drawn towards her. They clashed against her legs like waves on a shore, rising up and up to form a cloak around her. Her already pale face lost all semblance of a living human being as the flesh melted into the bones of her skull. Only the light in her eyes remained, blue and otherworldly inside the empty sockets.


Mrs. Ichikagawa smiled brightly at the vision before her.

"Yes!" she said. "This is perfect."


Up on her place on the roof Akane was trying very hard to get her breath back.

Ranma's sneaky tickle-attack had left her winded and her sides hurting from the laughter. Oh yes, she'd make him pay for that. But it was still a wonderful feeling that he was here with her, doing stupid things like that.

That she could experience his touch like that.

That he could make her feel alive like that.

That she just had to reach out her hand and be able to touch him again.

It didn't take much more than that thought for her to raise her arms and pull down Ranma's head for a kiss. He didn't resist her and that too was something wonderful in her opinion.

But just as the kiss came close to turn into something deeper and heavier the klaxons in her head sounded an alarm and her instincts urged her to relocate in all haste.

As always, Ranma moved that split second faster than her.


Tatewaki Kuno was besides himself with rage.

That dastardly creature!

That abdominal hoodlum!

That insufferable insult to all what was good and pure in this world.

How dare he...?!






No sooner had they jumped away that a lightning struck the tiles where they had rested, turning them to cinders.

"Awww man, c'mon! Why do they always do that?" Ranma complained as he sat Akane down. "It's not like we were disturbing them or something."

"I don't really think that he needs a reason to attack YOU," Akane remarked, dusting off her newly acquired dress. "Though usually he's a little nicer towards ME though."

Another lightning struck the spot were they had just stood but they already had evacuated with a nicely synchronized back-flip.

"Well, either his Thunder-stick has a mean spread or the gloves are off with that guy," Ranma remarked with a nod towards Tatewaki's quickly approaching figure.

Akane looked at the attacker closing in. Dressed in his fancy outfit and spouting gibberish in the name of a love that had never encompassed herself as more than an totem for his twisted believes. Honestly, she had pretty much enough of his interference in her life.

"Off with the gloves is fine with me," she proclaimed with an air of finality.

And charged straight ahead.


Tatewaki stormed forward to vanquish the villainous, conniving and, to top it off, undead scourge of all that is righteous, namely one Ranma Saotome.

Valiantly he ran towards the building were the dastardly creature had made his, obviously last, stand, hiding behind his helpless hostage like the spineless coward that he was.

It had to be that this minion of the dark forces had been so scared by Tatewaki's overwhelming strikes that came with pinpoint precision. How else was it possible that the poor, abused Akane Tendo could break from the scoundrel's iron grip?

Oh, his poor, innocent Tigress!

How she must have suffered, how she must have ached for release from captivity.

But no longer! Nay!

As his destined bride flew straight towards his loving embrace, Tatewaki spread his arms to welcome her back to where she truly belonged.


Akane Tendo had pretty much enough of Tatewaki Kuno meddling with her life.

At first he had been nothing than a somewhat strange but slightly charming Upperclassman.

But when his advances were not met with the most obviously expected excitement on her part, the real trouble began.

He began hounding her every step, repeatedly ignoring her 'NO!', 'NEVER!' or 'IN YOU DREAMS, MORON!' for an answer to his invitations. Then he even got that glorious idea that led to what was later labeled as the 'Hentai-Horde'.

Maybe she could have forgiven and forgotten even that absurdity, given time. Somewhere in the far future. It was possible.

But darn it if that blockhead hadn't crashed her alone time with Ranma for the last time today!

It was time that Tatewaki Kuno finally got the idea about who had Akane Tendo's affections, and who hadn't, through his thick skull.

Even if she had to clear a path for that inspiration by using brute force and cracking it open first like coconut.

As Tatewaki Kuno rushed near to embrace her in a bear-hug, Akane's knee shot forward and up with deadly precision.


Another rooftop nearby, another interested observer.

This one was of the ancient variant, having watched the humans struggle with one another play out since they were civilized enough to call that by the name of War.

Because like any other thing humans spend a lot of thought and emotions on, five minutes passed and you had a new god, new rules and a couple of displays at every second crossing depicting interesting ways to dispose of nonbelievers.

Well, those were the early days, when people were actually doing those things in a personal and intimate manner. Not like nowadays when disbelievers were usually bombed in small numbers just to have believers blown up in large quantities. And in the end you could hardly tell which burned and mangled limb belonged to what category.

Well, for a God of War as Ares, one violent death was as good as another. From the standpoint of a businessman at least. Still, the connoisseur in him missed the times when people actually could look into the eyes of the people they were killing. It was just not the same level of rage and hatred without it.

That's why he loved these little escapades like this visit to the distant shores of Nippon. Truth be told, entering these islands held a bit of a risk. This was after all another God of War's turf. But come on, how much fun can eternity be without a little risk here and there, right?

Besides, the pure passion the little cast in this play displayed made up for the slightly frustrating lack in bloodshed. And if the players didn't want to up the ante by themselves, that too could be helped. With a wave of his hand and a snap of his fingers, Ares made things more interesting.

From his point of view.


Akane knew that something was wrong a mere moment before her kick connected.

Kuno's stance suddenly changed from rushing to his doom to charging the ramparts.

His shield came up not just for protection but also as a battering ram.

His sword/spear/lightning rod came up to strike, and strike to hurt.

And behind the slits in his helmet there seemed to be not eyes but two pinpoints of hellfire.

Akane almost shied back from him in sheer surprise, but neither her pride nor her training would let her abandon a favorable position. And the favorable position against an enemy that employed ranged attacks was usually staying as close as possible. The only problem with that was just this stupid big shield blocking her angle of attack. A few quick jabs and kicks made it obvious that this was not just a overdecorated piece of metal. This shield meant business.

And the main weapon was worse. Even just having it pass near her made the hair stand on end. Never even imagine having that thing hit you. That wouldn't simply end with a new set of curls. But that didn't mean that Akane had no way of getting around those problems.

Actually, thanks to recent development, Tatewaki Kuno had a hard time getting a hold of his adversary, as the girl showed a flexibility and a speed of reaction that was unlike anything she had displayed before.

It sure wasn't for lack of trying on his part though. Two things were pretty unusual about Tatewaki as he fought Akane. He obviously did his best to hit the supposed love of his life, with efficient and surprisingly brutal moves. And also he did not spout poetry. Other than an occasional grunt no sound escaped him. Something weird was going on with that guy. Weirder than usual.

And that said a lot.


Ranma was aware that he shouldn't intrude in Akane's fight.

She had told him so many times over and as long as it was not against a really strong opponent , he had to agree that she did know how to handle herself.

And yeah, so Kuno had got himself some shiny toys but come on, at the end of the day he was still good ol' Tate-Baka. Right?

Besides, that guy wouldn't really hurt Akane. Even with all the 'Indomitable Tigress' dribble, what that guy thought about girls wasn't too far from what Genma had taught his son. That old-fashioned 'Don't hit girls' had been a source for a lot of controversy between the two young heirs of the Musabetzu Kakutou Ryu, but it had kept Ranma from hurting Akane. If only in a physical way, as he had to admit. Still, Kuno always acted grand but he also habitually held back against his proclaimed Lover. Didn't he?

"Awwww, scrap that," Ranma grumbled as he sprang into action. Less thinking, more action. Later on Akane could get mad at him all she wanted. But letting her get electrocuted was not an option.


Sitting behind his bushes Kinyou watched as Kodachi ran towards the guy she had sword her love to. It was surprising for him how well she could suddenly move, considering her leg and all. But that was probably due to proper motivation, or so he mused.

He wasn't mad. Not at her. Not at Ranma. Not even at himself.

That last part even surprised him a little. Usually, when a girl he had a crush on proclaimed a target for her affections different from his own person, he was always a little mad at himself for choosing to fall for someone that clearly was not interested. He was very familiar with that mechanic because he was in the habit of crushing on girls that were prone to not be interested. It was a bit of a cheap way of avoiding the actual dating problematic. He was aware of that. If you always fall in love, or at least affection, with girls that did not consider you dating material, you had much more time and money to spend on your own needs. Like merchandise and stuff. But you still got a taste of the butterflies in your stomach.

Yes, it really was all a cheap way of getting by, and not just in the monetary department. Kinyou was all too aware of that, and that's why the only person he usually was contemptuous about after another such episode was the guy he kept seeing in the mirror.

So now someone might argue that him not getting mad was due to a lack of reflective surfaces, but that wasn't it. He wasn't mad at himself since for once he was honestly feeling miserable seeing a girl leaving him behind. And he was also feeling miserable because he knew that no matter how hard Kodachi tried, she had as much chances becoming Ranma's Lover as Kinyou had in becoming her's. It was the same thing with Ukyou. And this Ryouga guy too, only coming from the other way round so to say. This was all a shitty little roundabout that made Kinyou wonder how this strange collection of romantic rivals had been able to keep this going for so long.

At the same time Kinyou began to understand why Ranma had seen a need to cut through the axis of that darn ride. Even though it was a stupid move, it had been effective. As long as he stayed dead that is. Kinyou doubted though that Ranma had returned to the land of the living just on a whim. A feat like that took sacrifices, power and a lot of preparation. No way had Ranma achieved this all by himself. Things like this always came at a cost.

Then again, Kinyou had at one time a front-row seat to the love between Ranma Saotome and Akane Tendo during that little possession spell a few days back. One thing was for certain. Ranma wouldn't have hesitated to pay a hefty price to get back to that girl. The only questions was who's offer he had accepted and who he had aggravated by accepting it. There had been quite the assortment of potential soreheads on a celestial level on that stormy night at the dojo.

Well, Ares was a prime suspect for the role of adversary right now, that with how Kodachi's brother was dressed and all. If this was true then it was bad news. Because Ares wasn't the kind of god that simply sat around watching once he decided to make a move. Ares was the kind of god that kept stacking the odds any way he could. Well, he was a god of War. And War was nothing for the faint of heart.

Which was exactly the reason why Kinyou had pulled the stunt to contact the moderators of the local networks. Gods running rampant were no job for the living. No matter how powerful, skilled or well connected they were. Now he could only sit and wait that someone answered his request for help.

So Kinyou sat there, his mind going at a hundred miles an hour as it zig-zagged between mundane and celestial topics, when he noticed a subtle change in the air. A god's power usually does not carry a smell, but still it was the best way to describe the sensory perception Kinyou received. It was something light and hardly traceable, if you didn't happen to be a dog. But it was there.

Focusing his senses as best as he could, Kinyou noticed the auras around the Kuno siblings changing.

Ah! Crap! Why hadn't he seen that coming? Who was easier to possess than someone who was actually being bred for it?

Cursing that stupid house of Kuno and their stupid traditions and all that encompassed, Kinyou shouted out a warning at the top of his lungs.


While Kodachi ran towards the spot where they had seen Ranma with surprising fluidity considering the condition of her leg, Ukyou was still faster.

She overtook her rival midway and took the lead quite effortlessly. In no time at all she was so far away from Kinyou that she almost didn't hear his shouted warning. That is why she wasted a precious millisecond of reaction-time and thus she couldn't avoid the ribbon that snaked around her legs. She fell to the ground, tripped and bound as had been the purpose of the attack.

Not bothering with commenting her success, Kodachi simply leaped past her, her expression grim and her eyes ablaze in an unholy fire. Gone were any traces of fatigue or injury, at least judging by the way she moved. There was also not doubt about it that Ukyou was merely an obstacle in her way and not her perceived target.

Kodachi headed straight to her brothers side, her eyes set on the girl he was battling. Like him she did not warn when she struck with deadly acumen. And unlike their usual squabbling relationship, at once both of them set out to fight in tandem, like a well-coordinated team.

Both of them seemingly unconcerned with the damage they might inflict on the targets of their affection.

Both of them very obviously out for blood.


Ranma had joined the fight when Tatewakihad just managed to bash Akane with his shield, making her stumble to the ground. Before the weirdo could cash in on his advantage though, by bringing his weapon to bear, he once again was forced to defend himself from a furious onslaught. Where Akane had tried to avoid frontal attack and had aimed to get into his back, Ranma challanged his weapon directly. Whenever Tatewaki raised it from behind his shield Ranma would try to get a grip of his wrist or strike his lower arm. Clearly, he was aiming to disarm him.

In the meantime Akane had regained her footing and rejoined the fight, clearly aiming to get behind Tatewaki again. They might have made short work of him if it hadn't been for Kodachi's arrival. The fact that she was actually supporting her brother would have been enough to give anyone pause. Even without the club expertly aimed at Akane's head and only missing because of a hasty dodge.

Though Kodachi carried no magical artifact she posed a very real threat. As if Tatewaki was not bad enough.

"Can you deal with her?" Ranma asked as his low sweep forced Tatewaki to abandon an attack and jump a few steps back. Akane wasn't too keen on the prospect of abandoning him, but she knew that he was better equipped to deal with Tatewaki in this state, and not too likely to hit a girl. Even if that girl was a crazy gymnast.

"This won't take long," she simply answered as she dodged forward under another projectile to do as she had been asked to.

"Yeah, love you too!" she heard him call after her.

But she didn't see the grin spreading on Ranma's face as he faced of against Tatewaki solo.

And she didn't hear him challenge his opponent "Well then, ready for round two?"


Ryouga had run after Tatewaki as soon as the guy had disengaged from their fight.

But somewhere in Shinjuku he had lost track of the coward. So he was glad when he saw Mousse waiting by a corner somewhere in Akihabara. Maybe the guy had seen him.

"Hey Mousse?" he asked as he drew near him. "You wouldn't happen to have seen that Kuno guy somewhere around? He's gotta be around here somewhere. Got a big shield and a funny helmet on his head."

Mousse turned around, obviously surprised by the sudden appearance of his old acquaintance and occasional accomplice.

"Ryouga? But haven't you just been..." Mousse stuttered as his finger alternated between pointing at the newcomer and the empty lot.

"Haven't I just been... what?" Ryouga asked with a raised eyebrow. Mousse sure was easy to impress if a little chance encounter could throw him off balance.

"Ah, nevermind," Mousse finally decided and stepped forward to lead Ryouga around the corner with a firm grip on his shoulders.

"Just head past Xiam-Pu hiding in the shadows. Pass by the Rat-Monster climbing up that roof. He should be the one Ranma is fighting."

"Ah, okay," Ryouga commented as he checked out the landmarks he had been given. Then something that had been said caught his attention.

"What do you mean with 'Ranma is fighting'?"


It was so typical!

The Rat-King had finally managed to climb the building where the signal of the up-link seemed to emit from when he noticed that it was actually coming from the ground behind that building. And there were actually two signals and stronger than expected.

He should have known that this was probably not a good sign.

He should have known that something was off.

But he had been offline for more than 10 minutes!

Who cared about the small stuff?


Shampoo was livid.

Here was Ranma, battling against an opponent that held the favor and the gifts of a god.

There was Akane, the girl she had sworn sisterhood to, battling another opponent that had been blessed by the heavens.

And Shampoo stood in the middle, unsure how to proceed.

But in the end she had no choice but to follow the blood coursing through her veins.

In the end, she was an Amazon, through and through.

'Sister before Mister' or something like that.


There was a reason why Ranma was feeling cocky.

Besides his usual ego that is.

Because Ranma had a good eye on his surroundings and he had not forgotten about who was late for the party. So when he saw a huge shadow on the adjacent roof he saw a chance to kill at least one bird with a stone. Two if he got lucky.

So Ranma did what he did best. That being aggravatingly hard to hit. And hitting aggravatingly hard in return. Not that it helped much against that stupid shield but at least he managed to keep Tatewaki on his toes as he led him towards the house with the rodent problem. As they passed by the building the shadow above the roof moved just as Ranma had hoped.

With a mighty roar out of a thousand tiny throats the monstrosity dropped out of the sky. It came as a completely surprise to Tatewaki as he had been too focused on the enemy in front of him to keep an eye on other potential threats.

It was a picture straight out of a Legend!

One mighty warrior, his torso slightly turned and bracing himself in a broad stance.

His shield raised in a desperate attempt of defense as his arm struck high towards the sudden enemy.

Lightning shooting out of his weapon, bathing the scene in a stark black and white contrast.

It struck the creature hanging in the sky, covering it in a million hairlines of forking energy.

All of a sudden the air filled with the stench of burnt flesh and fur, as well as the whimpering of dying rodents.

Tatewaki kept his shield up to fend of the sudden rain of dead meat when he heard a 'Hey, there's something stuck on your crest' from behind his back.

As he hastily turned to once more face his original opponent, for some reason his vision turned black.

But this was not possible!

Nothing could shroud the vision of the wearer of Athene's very own helmet!

No darkness hinder it, no illusion fool it!

What had happened?

Tatewaki Kuno reached up to pull off the helmet that for some reason had suddenly obscured his vision instead of enhancing it from his head.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you," was the last thing that he heard before the electric energy from his weapon surged through the metal of his helmet and straight into his brain.

As he fell to the ground in a boneless heap Ranma stood above him, his head cocked to the side and his brows riding high over his wide eyes.

"Gee," the pig-tailed Martial-Artist remarked as his foot prodded the unconscious Kuno. "That was way too easy."

Then he reached down and removed the twisted helmet from Tatewaki's head. To check if the guy was still breathing and to make sure that he kept doing so. He almost choked with laughter as he removed the thing and exposed his opponents newly acquired curls.

"You know what?" he told the unconscious guy as his laughter died down. "I think this is actually a good look for you."

Then he began to gather the rest of the mythical equipment. He didn't know when Tatewaki would wake up but he was sure that this moron would be much easier to cope with if he had no access to advanced weaponry once he did.


Kodachi proved to be a more formidable opponent than Akane had expected. She was focused, well-armed and utterly ruthless in her attacks.

While Akane had the advantage in the strength department Kodachi was as agile as her and it seemed like she had no qualms maiming her adversary. Or do worse.

She used her spiked clubs to devastating effect and soon Akane's skin was covered in small and not so small cuts. Maybe the spiked clubs were, well, spiked too, because Akane started to feel a little lightheaded as the fighting went on. A part of her was wondering how Ranma was faring and if he would taunt her for taking so long. Especially after she had proclaimed that this wouldn't take long.


Now that was a thought that invigorated her tired bones.

HER Ranma.

That thought was even better.

Absentmindedly licking a scratch on her arm, Akane smirked at her opponent.

Oh yes, this fight was only ever getting started.


Ares wasn't exactly a happy god right now.

Then again, Ares had never been known for his cheery attitude.

He was, as a matter of fact, a little peeved that his dedicated champion had basically bested himself.

Now that had been a downer.

But his standby had proven to be adequate. Maybe he should have given those tools to her instead.

Then again, his experiences with Warrior-Princesses were only so-so. So better not tempt Fate. Or one of her cronies.

But granting her a little bit more power shouldn't be a problem. With a grim smile he reached out towards the scene ahead.


Kodachi screamed as the energy filled her. Those were the first sounds that had come out of her mouth in a while but they didn't sound any more comforting than her usual laughter.

Her body ached backwards as her hair streaked about her face like the snakes of Medusa.

Akane wasn't usually one to strike an opponent while he, or in this case she, was distracted. But it seemed opportune to end this fight as quickly as possible. Because whatever was happening to Kodachi was most likely bad news for everyone else involved.

She leaped forward with a kick to the head that would positively have knocked the girl out. If only it had connected. But with a hiss Kodachi simply swept it aside and countered with a kick of her own that hit Akane squarely in the stomach. As she got neatly folded in the middle from the ferocious attack the girl briefly wondered how Kodachi had gotten that strong that fast. But then she hit the ground, lacking breath and hurting all over and with an enemy coming at her for the kill.

And suddenly she had other things to worry about.


"R... Ranma?"

"Present!" the guy in question quipped as he turned around, his arms laden with ancient items of power.

"It's you! But... how?" Ryouga stammered, completely at a loss to make sense of what he was seeing. Ranma standing there alive and well was somehow a bit outside of his expectations.

"Ah, kinda hard to explain," Ranma started out as he walked right past him. "A bit of magic, a bit of a curse, lots of fine print and a shitload of favors owned. But basically it's 'cause I love Akane. So you can't have her. Not that I'm saying you ever had a chance in the first place."

"Wow!" Ryouga remarked flabbergasted, completely ignoring the jab. "You actually can say something like that out loud? Now I actually wonder what's the bigger miracle."

"The biggest miracle would be if you two stopped blabbing," Mousse remarked from behind the lost boy. "The fight's not over yet."

Ranma gave the Chinese guy a nod of acknowledgment before looking over to the indicating fight. Then, just shrugging his shoulders, he turned into another direction.

"You two go ahead and deal with that," Ranma called out as he walked on. "I've got a couple of things to return to their owner."

"What about Akane?" Ryouga called after his retreating figure.

Ranma stopped and looked back over his shoulder.

"She's gonna be fine." he assured them with a smirk prominent on his face. "She's a Martial-Artist too after all."


Ukyou cursed like a sailor as she disentangled her legs from Kodachi's ribbon.

Damn, when had she started to get dumb enough to turn her back to that nutcase? As if her brother wasn't bad enough already. Now she had two loonies to worry about.

As she worked on the tangle binding her legs she suddenly got help from a second set of hands.

"Here, let me help you with that," she heard Kinyou say as he appeared in her range of vision.

"Hey, you wouldn't happen to carry a knife?" Ukyou asked her friend in lieu of a greeting.

"Why, are you out of spatulas?" Kinyou bluntly replied.

Ukyou looked at him before facepalming herself.

"Aaaaargh! Why didn't I think of that?"

In a matter of seconds the ribbon was cut and the girl turned to resume her pursuit.

"Wait," Kinyou exclaimed before she could leave. "Take this with you."

The guy held out a small amulet on a strip of leather in the palm of his hand.

"What's that for?" Ukyou asked him, taking the item and setting out to put it around her neck. "Some kind of talisman?"

The girl knew that her friend may have no use in a fight but his charms and talismans had a pretty good reputation back then.

"It's not for you," Kinyou corrected her, grabbing her hand midway through fastening the strip of leather. "It's for Kodachi. Put that on her and you'll cut off whatever is possessing her."

Questioningly, Ukyou looked at the item, and then back to where Kodachi was doing her best to end the existence of her greatest competition for Ranma's affection.


Kinyou's voice ripped her right out of a slightly nasty train of thought.

"Get a grip girl," he continued as if aware of what she had thinking. "She really needs your help..."

Later on the young cook might wonder which of those two girls he had actually referred to. But for now he was correct for both of them.

"Yeah, yeah, no sweat," Ukyou replied as she put the talisman into one of her pockets. " It's not like I'm not in the service industry anyway."

Then she looked up at her friend, her expression a lot calmer and showing new purpose.

"You better get your sorry ass out of here though," she told him with a not towards the boundaries of the empty lot. "Being a non-combatant and all that."

"Yeah, already figured as much," Kinyou agreed a bit rueful. His gaze strayed towards Kodachi were it lingered for a moment. A moment that painted a frown on his face. But when he returned his eyes to Ukyou that expression vanished and he seemed a little more at peace.

"Okay, I'm off then," he told her and turned to leave.

"Hey Kinyou?"

"What's up?" the guy asked, halting his retreat to look back over his shoulder.

"See you later," she replied a little lamely. But she had no idea what else to say.

Still, Kinyou seemed to smile a little as he raised his hand to wave her goodbye.

"Yeah, later then," she heard him say as he marched off with his hands in his pockets.


Shampoo joined the fight just in time to block the club coming down towards Akane's head with her own Chuí.

That earned her the attention of Kodachi. The Gymnast obviously rated her as the bigger threat and started laying into her with barely a break in her form.

Now Shampoo had been in skirmishes with the Kuno girl many times and she had a good grip on what that eccentric gymnast could and couldn't do. The level of power the girl displayed right now was way past anything that should have been possible. Time to bring out the big guns.

With a battle-cry on her lips the young Amazon gathered her Chi, a visible aura appearing around her body as she did so. She traded blow after blow with Kodachi but no matter what she did, her opponent didn't even flinch. If anything, the fire in the weird girl's eyes seemed to become brighter and her grin showed more teeth.

But then Akane was back up on her feet, snarling like a wild animal and… wait, where those cat ears? All of a sudden Kodachi was on the receiving end of two sets different assaults, and it showed. Her own attacks became less and less because she had to spend more time on defending herself on two fronts.

Just when it seemed that she was going to become overwhelmed, a shout of "Xiam-Pu my love! I've come to save you!" shot out across the battlefield, along with a couple of chains with grappling-hooks attached. All things considered, Mousse's aim was great. Only seven of the ten chains wound themselves around his declared target of affection. One of them even found the right target.

As Shampoo screamed in outrage and found many a colorful description for her fellow Amazon, Akane found a use for the one projectile that hit the mark. Yanking the chain just as Kodachi was about to take advantage of Shampoo's predicament, she pulled her off her feet and, in an impressive feat of strength, started whirling her above her had as if this was a Hammer Throwing competition.

When she finally let go, due to calculation or sheer chance, the girl on the receiving end got slammed right into the approaching Ryouga.

Now Ryouga Hibiki was a lot of things, a Ladies man he was not. His arms went around the girl out of instinct, and when Akane called for him to subdue her, he pinned her arms to her side out of reflex. After all, Akane would never ask anything bad of him, would she? But that was as far as his reasoning got before shortening out as the blood left his brain to accumulate in his face. Well, mostly his face.

He was holding a girl!

G.. g.. girl...

Hi, hi, hi…

He stood like a statue of his own, a strange grin on his scarlet face and his eyes rolling back in his head. But his grip didn't falter in the least, no matter how Kodachi struggled. There's something to be said about being stupidly strong.

Akane didn't care in the least if Ryouga was getting excited by Kodachi's struggle or if he was simply frozen in shock. All she knew was Kodachi was still up and running and she had to change that if she wanted to return to Ranma's side. So Akane sprang forwards, fist drawn back and faintly glowing, to knock the daylight out of her opponent. Her fist shot out, straight on target. But it never connected as an over sized spatula appeared right in front of her intended point of impact.

One crash later and that spatula was a piece of scrap metal, bent and with a very large indenture in the form of a fist.

"For fucks sake, Akane!" Ukyou Kuonji yelled in outrage, "are you planning to kill her?"

The accused girl had the decency to look confused at her part-time rival, part-time friend. Then her eyes fell on the damage caused to the now unusable weapon and she blanched.

No one had to tell Akane that she sometimes went a little too far in applying physical force. But it never had crossed her mind that she could accidentally end a life just because of loosing her temper. Still, if that strike had impacted with Kodachi's face… This wouldn't have been fixable with a bit of plastic surgery.

"No! Of course not!" Akane exclaimed as she got a grip on herself. "I just wanted to… knock her out?" The last part didn't come out too convincing and she knew it.

"U-huh..." was all Ukyou commented before she turned towards Ryouga's captive. Kodachi was still struggling and the fire in her eyes burned brighter than ever. She hissed and snarled as she tried to free herself with kicks and headbutts. Against Ryouga in his dazed state, these struggles were useless though. But he might hurt a little once he regained his senses, that much was for certain.

"Geez, I don't believe that I'm doing this without slapping you around first," Ukyou grumbled as she shook her head at the furious Gymnast.

Then she reached for the talisman Kinyou had handed to her and pulled it out of her pocket. Carefully she pulled the two ends of the leather-strip apart, holding one in each hand to fix it around Kodachi's neck.

"Just hold still for a moment," she said. "This won't take a moment,"

Kodachi was of course not inclined to let anybody do anything to her without resistance. She actually bit Ukyou in the arm and it took all of that girl's willpower to not drop the necklace right there.

Then the actual talisman touched the skin on Kodachi's neck. It was as if someone had flipped the switch on her. The burning light faded from her eyes and her struggling stopped instantly. Then an expression of utter confusion appeared on her features and she seemed to look at Ukyou for an explanation about how she got into this situation. But that was only for a split second. Then Kodachi slumped forward as if someone had cut the strings of a puppet and she lost consciousness.

"Okay, now that that's taken care off" Ukyou proclaimed as she turned back around, "would anybody please explain to me what the hell is going on her?"

Her question was mainly targeted at Akane, but that girl was already halfway across the lot, chasing after Ranma.


"Wh...what happened?"


"What does that mean...dead?"


"But I don't feel… oh!"

The Speaker looked down at his translucent paw, and then across the surrounding scene of rodent carnage.

"Did they all die?" he finally asked the hooded figure by his side.


"Oh… I see. Well, good riddance I guess."

The Speaker scratched his non-existing chin, looking a little lost.

"So what happens now?" he asked once more. "Where's the exit? Or will someone come and pick me up?"

"SQUEAK," the skeletal rat in the hood told him as it pointed to a hole in a nearby wall.

The Speaker looked in the indicated direction and almost choked when he saw the long line of ghostly rodents standing in line there.

"You gotta be kidding me!" he complained sourly. "Isn't there something like a VIP entrance?"


The Speaker deflated as he received that answer, his shoulders sagging and his head hanging low.

"Yeah… right… Why would there be one..." he whimpered as he took his first step towards the other side.


Ares was a little peeved.


This whole fight had been over all too soon. And to make matters worse, nobody died either. If you discounted a couple of rats that kicked the bucket along the way. And rodents were not exactly part of his dominion.

Oh well, he had to admit that it was not all bad. These kids had potential. He'd just have to think of a new plan. Maybe he could use that Hibiki guy? That one seemed sturdy enough and easily fooled. Or maybe he could set the cat lovers to go for each others throat? Wouldn't that be a fight worthy of entertaining a god?

But first to get the three treasures back.

Ares was just about to get up and do just that when Ranma walked up to him with a certain shield held out with both hands and the Helmet of Athene and the Lightning of Zeus resting inside.

"You wouldn't happen to have dropped those?" the guy asked with an innocent smile as if he just offered someone a wayward handkerchief.

Ares stared at him, his expression one of disbelieve.

"How did you find me?" he asked in honest confusion. "No mere mortal should be able to sense my presence."

"Ah, you know. I don't really think I count towards that category anymore," Ranma explained with a shrug. "Besides, the cats can see you just fine."

"Is that so?" Ares inquired, slightly amused by this guy's grit despite himself. "Well, I guess I might as well take these of your hands then. After you went to all that trouble of bringing them over."

He reached out and received the shield and what was inside. Looking over the items in his hands he chuckled.

"Are you not scared that I will simply use them against you once again? Because if you were going to trade them for a cease-fire you should have demanded something before handing them over."

"Naaaaa… It's okay," Ranma exclaimed while waving a hand in a gesture of appeasement. "I just don't want that kind of stuff lying around in my turf. You know, kids might play with it."

Now Ares was openly laughing, almost to the point of tears.

"Truly, you are a man after my heart. But..." he lowered his gaze at Ranma, all dark and shining like a pool filled with of stars, "...that obviously means that this will hardly be our last encounter. You amuse me. So I WILL be back."

"Take your time," Ranma replied unimpressed even under the power of an ancient god's attention. Maybe that was the cat in him. They always had little respect for authority.

"Besides, shouldn't you rather worry about those guys?"

As Ranma indicated some place behind him with a nod, Ares slowly turned to feast his eyes on a rare display.

There stood a sheepish looking angel, waving at him with a goofy grin. Next to him stood a She-Devil sporting an amused smirk. They were accompanied by several Olympian gods that were busily arguing over a tray of snacks. The main attraction though was Susanno-no-Mikoto, in all his glory and surrounded by two or three regiments of lesser war-gods.

That guy didn't look amused at all.

"Well then, see you around," Ares heard the young Nekogami call out happily while he jumped from the roof. "Provided you make it out in one piece."


As Akane came running across the lot, Ranma was already on his way back. He was walking leisurely, with his hands in his pockets and a broad grin on his face.

When Akane reached him she was torn between hugging him to death and slapping him silly for his happy-go-lucky attitude.

"Where's Tatewaki?" she asked him while trying hard to calm her raging heart.

"Knocked out. Over there," Ranma simply replied with a nod in the proper direction.

"And those magic weapons?" Akane continued her inquiry.

"Properly disposed of," Ranma quipped while his grin got even broader.

"So… it's finally over? We're done?" Akane demanded with a hopeful expression.

Ranma couldn't help it. She was just too cute. Especially with her ears out.

"Yeah, we're done for now." he proclaimed and reached up to scratch her head.

Akane more than appreciated the gesture, stepping closer and basically rubbing herself against him. Ranma in turn more than appreciated that gesture too. Before things could go further than a passionate kiss the rest of the Nerima Wrecking Crew showed up. Some of them more conscious than others. They came to a halt a few feet from the couple, those able of thought unwilling to intrude into their personal space.

"Ranma?" Ukyou finally asked when she could hold it in no longer.

"Uhuh?" the male half of the pair replied unintelligibly as he reluctantly broke away from the kiss.

"So it's true. You're back for good?" the girl continued in wonderment. With her eyes wide and her face a little pale she reached out a trembling hand to touch him.

"Yeah, I'm really real U-chan," he affirmed her as he absentmindedly began to scratch Akane's head again. The girl in his arms laid her head on his shoulders, her half-lidded eyes guardedly watching her former rival.

"That… that's great..." Ukyou exclaimed as sobs began to shake her body.

Ranma looked at Akane with a questioning expression and Akane looked right back with the slightest of emphatic smiles. Without a further word they both reached out with an arm and drew their crying friend inside their embrace.

The others kept standing where they happened to be.

There wasn't much to add anyway.


The group didn't return to the Tendo residence at once.

Ranma had insisted that they went to Mrs. Ichkagawa's house first. Not just to grab Akane's remaining stuff. It seemed that he had a pretty good idea what they would find there.

When they entered the house, nothing hinted at the fact that something was out of order. Except that no one answered their calls. But then Shampoo lead them upstairs to the master bedroom and there they found the old woman.

She was lying on her bed, still wearing the same dress as earlier. One might think that she was simply sleeping, that with the relaxed expression on her face. It was rather improbable though that sleeping was what she did. That with her chest not rising and falling and the cardboard in her hands sporting a simple message painted in big and bold strokes of ink.

'Yes! I am dead!'

In front of the bed a shaggy looking cat was listlessly pawing at an envelope that had obviously fallen to the ground. In simple but clean writing someone had written 'For Ranma' on it.

Inside was a letter and two lists with names and addresses.

The letter read:

Dear Ranma,

I'm sure that you already noticed the change, but as of now you are officially the new Nekogami in town. Don't worry. I'm sure you'll enjoy your new calling. To help you get started I wrote down two lists of people.

On number one are a couple of people that can help you get settled in the job and keep you updated on what is going on.

On number two are the people you might want to keep an eye on. Well, people in the broader sense. But be nice to them as long as they behave. I'm confident that you know what to do if they don't.

The house is yours by the way. You will find a lot of useful stuff in here. But read the instructions carefully if any come attached.

And mind the shed in the backyard. There's a hellhole in there. It's not a big one and I usually only use it for garbage disposal. But you never know with these things.

If you are not already tired of the ramblings of an old woman, here's one last tip I have for you. Make sure you keep Akane around. You won't last long without someone around to scratch the parts you can't get to. Not in this kind of work. Believe me, I tried. But the last couple of years simply haven't been the same.

This brings me to my last request.

Don't wait until the last second to find a replacement. The stress almost killed me. That was a joke by the way.

I would have died one of these days anyway. So what I invested in you only used up the last few crumbs. I'd like to believe that my little gamble payed off big though. Not bad for a last ditch attempt.

You better not prove me wrong though or I will come back and kick your lousy ass. Both of your lousy asses actually.

Make me proud , both of you,

Gytha Ichikagawa

As Ranma finished the letter he handed it to Akane without a word. Then he stepped towards the bed, carefully avoiding to accidentally kick Pépé on the ground. He sat down on the edge of the mattress, putting a hand on Mrs. Ichikagawa's cold fingers. Gazing at her peaceful expression he couldn't help but smile.

Having come back from the dead himself he couldn't completely ignore the possibility that she might really just get back up and whacked him if he messed up. But it would be terribly rude of him to force her into doing so. Especially when she looked so happy.

"Hey Akane? Wanna get married?" Ranma heard himself ask out loud.

Akane looked up from her lecture in surprise, as wide-eyed as the rest of the crew. That one had completely come out of the blue.

"Didn't you say we were already beyond that?" she asked him in a voice that sounded a fair bit more shakily than she would have preferred.

"Yeah, guess I did," he admitted with a shrug. "But you see, I just inherited this house and something like a title too. Seems like I gotta get settled here for good. So why not go the full nine yards?"

"You... want to" Akane clarified as if unsure if she had got the implication right. "And you ask me on the Ladle-Lady's deathbed?"

"Sound's kinda creepy when you put it like that. But basically... yeah, I do," Ranma consented with a nod. "Besides, I'm pretty sure the old Lady here will sleep a lot better if she knows that things are taken care of. So, how is it? Yes or no?"

Akane glared at him. Or at least that was what she tried to do. Her expression was stuck halfway between a frown and a scrunched mouth with a hint of moisture in her eyes. Taking a step forward she towered over him with her fists balled and her shoulders shaking.

"Of course it's a YES, baka!" she chided him in a passionate voice. "How could it be anything else?"

Ranma's reaction was to pat Mrs. Ichikagawa's hand one last time before he stood up. As he came eye to eye with Akane he turned his gaze towards his friend still lingering by the door.

"Has anyone still got a problem with this or are we good?" he asked them, part as a challenge and part in hopes that no one would be stupid enough to start that old spiel again. His attention was mostly on Shampoo and Ukyou, and both girls were more than aware of this.

"Xiam-Pu no have problem," the Chinese girl declared with a resolve that sounded a bit forced.

"It's fine by me Ran-Chan," Ukyou added, looking and sounding surprisingly relaxed. "It's not like I didn't see this coming from a mile away anyway."

Lastly Ranma's gaze fell on Ryouga and the lost boy blushed a bit and looked away. Mumbling something along the lines of 'as long as she's happy' as he did so.

For his part Mousse just stood there with a broad grin and two thumbs up.

No one asked the Kunos on their opinion on this matter. And that wasn't just because they were still unconscious.

With a smile but no further ceremony Ranma put his arms around Akane's waist.

"Guess this is where we ki..." he began as he leaned forward. The girl in his embrace interrupted his musing by beating him to the punch.

Not that shet hit him or anything like that.

Then again, the technique she did employ sure had knockout-qualities.


It was about an hour later that Ranma and Akane found themselves on their way back towards the Tendo residence.

Ryouga had accompanied them while the rest of the crew had other plans.

The two Amazons decided to stay behind, preferring to remain in Mrs. Ichikagawa's place for the time being. Besides, someone had to look after the cats.

Ukyou had opted to take the Kunos home once they woke up. She claimed that she had something to talk about with Kodachi anyway.

So that only left the lost boy to be herded to the place where his backpack waited.

The three of them didn't talk all that much. Just a little small-talk here and there. Ryouga actually seemed uncharacteristically nervous around Ranma, much to Akane's surprise.

If Ranma noticed this, he didn't tease his friend and rival about it. That surprised Akane even more.

She didn't complain about it though. Having those two around without the usual drama was a good omen in her opinion. Walking arm in arm with Ranma, and with Ryouga walking next to her on the other side, Akane turned into the street where her home was located.

That was when she noticed the slight change in Ranma. His bearing became tense and his steps hesitating. Akane got the impression that without her arm dragging him forward, he would have stopped altogether. She didn't want to force him to go somewhere he didn't want to go to. Not with a damn good reason anyway. So Akane slowed down herself, stopping him in his tracks.

"Nervous?" she simply asked him as he looked at her with mild surprise.

"Nervous? Me? Ha, ha," Ranma abated in the most unbelievable fashion. That with the slight sheen of sweat on his forehead and his eyes twitching. Actually his ears were twitching too. Which was pretty hard to miss with them being nice, big cat-ears.

It didn't take long for Ranma to cave in under Akane's amused stare. His shoulders sagged and his face lost any trace of bluster.

"Yeah... a little..." he admitted at last. His voice was almost timid and Akane's heart went out to him.

"Hey, it's going to be okay," she told him as she reached up with her free hand and gently stroked his cheek. "Kasumi will probably just go 'Oh my! Welcome back!' and start cooking somethingnice for you. I wouldn't be surprised if Nabiki already found out about all what happened while we were still in that tub..." Now that memory brought a smile back to Ranma's face. "And our fathers? I guess once they hear the good news they'll get so drunk that they forget to wonder how it comes that you're back at all. So no sweat, okay?"

Maybe it was because of her kind words or maybe it was because of her affectionate smile, but Ranma could feel his nervousness evaporate like dew in the sun.

Resting his head against hers he took a couple of deep breaths. When he raised it again he looked a lot more like his usual self.

"You're probably right," he declared with a lopsided grin. "Business as usual in Nerima, huh?"

"My sentiment exactly," Akane agreed, mirroring his expression.

And wasn't that the truth?

Where else in the world could an ex-ailurophobic, ex-cursed revenant Nekogami and a his slightly temperamental, semi Nekogami mate hope to just blend in with the crowd and experience some semblance of a normal life?

True, the Castro district in San Francisco comes to mind, as well as some of the more Bohemian parts of a couple of major cities. Atlantis too, come to think of it. Though acquiring citizenship down there is a bit of a bummer. Isolationists, the whole bunch.

So yes, maybe there were a couple of alternatives. But none of them could offer this unusual couple the same comforts that this special ward could.

Because this was home.

This was friends.

This was family.

This was...



Author's notes:

Wow! I can hardly believe it! But I'm done with this story after all these years.

Come on, did anyone actually expect me to finish this after all this time?

I know that I didn't.

Still, muchas gracias to all the kind people reading and/or reviewing this story. Every once in a while another mail from FF-Net made sure I was duly reminded of my duties.

And the lack in fulfilling those. (Cough)

And most importantly the fact that FanFiction in general hasn't gone extinct.


Hold that thought...


Ranma wasn't sure what woke him.

But when he turned his head to look at the girl draped over him, Ranma saw that Akane's eyes were still open. And looking at his face.

"Hey," he greeted her quietly. "Can't sleep?"

"Something like that," she replied, lowering her head and resting it midway between his cheek and his shoulder. One of her hands began to idly draw circles on his chest.

"There's something that's bugging me. And I feel like I can't sleep until I figured it out."

"Wanna talk about it?" Ranma supplied helpfully. "Because I bet that I can't sleep either until you got that off your chest."

He could feel Akane grumble a minor insult in his direction more than he could hear it. Warm breath on his skin and a rumbling vibration where she pressed against him. He didn't exactly feel aggravated from that.

"It's about P-Chan," she finally gave in with a sigh.

"What about him?" Ranma inquired, no longer all that annoyed from hearing that pig's name.

P-Chan was not exactly his favorite topic but he knew that Ryouga's alter ego meant a lot to Akane. And since Akane meant a lot to Ranma, the least he could do was to share in her worries. Even if it was just about that little bugger.

Using her hand on his chest to push herself up, Akane looked down at him with a frown. Or that's what it looked like in the darkness of the room.

"Have you ever noticed?" she asked him in a voice that grew bolder as she carried on. "Ryouga and P-Chan... their smell! And their Aura! It is almost the same! And Ryouga's bandana and P-Chan's neckpiece! They look so much alike! And then there's the way both of them always seem to show up at the same place... Do you think it's possible that...?"

For a moment Ranma thought his heart might stop.

Was it possible?

Had she really figured it out after all that time?

"P-Chan is actually... Ryouga..."

Hot damn!

She really had!

"...'s pet?"

Silence fell over the room again as Akane looked at Ranma expectantly.

And Ranma, for his part, tried to stomach the scope of her epiphany.

Then he laughed, starting with a low rumble from deep down that did funny things to Akane's tummy until it pearled from his mouth. One part was relieve and one part was pure, unadulterated amusement.

"I'm afraid I can't answer that," he replied truthfully and pulled her back to her original position. "Why don't you just ask him in the morning?"

Akane didn't resist him. And when he started to gently stroke the back of her neck she began to purr quite happily.

"Besides," Ranma whispered close to her ear after a while, sporting a toothy grin that he knew she couldn't see, "I've never seen them in one place together. So I don't think that's the case. Gotta be something else with those two."

But it was pointless trying to tip Akane off in the right direction.

Because she was already fast asleep.

'Oh well, another time,' was what Ranma thought. Then he nuzzled his face in her hair and quickly chased after her into dreamland.


THE end

Author's notes (continuation):

So where was I...?

Ah yes, FanFiction. Still alive and kicking. New stuff coming in. Old stuff still available for perusing.

Even in this age of video clips, binging and emoji-overload there's still enough people who draw joy from this wild assortment of rampaging imaginations pinned unto paper.

(This is a metaphor by the way. Please keep that marker away from the screen.)

The range in terms of literate quality goes from 'Gnaaaah! Use that damn Correction Tool! And a brain!' to 'Hey, change the names and you could sell that! For real!'.

I'm just glad that I was able to add my own five cents to this colorful mix. It made me realize that writing is a lot of fun. If only I happened to be able to type faster. There's so many stories still locked up in that sleep deprived brain of mine.

By the way, this is not a threat.

Oh, and one more thing.

(You go the time, don't you?)


Kinyou made his way through the train towards his allocated seat.

Checking the numbers just to be sure, he noted that his was a window seat.

Well, wasn't he the lucky one for once?

He stashed his backpack in the overhead compartment and then made his way past a fellow passengers that was already seated. It was an awkward affair, his moves more stumbling than anything else. But it got him where he needed to be. And where he needed to be was on his ass in his seat on a train heading towards home.

Kinyou sighed quietly. His breath leaving a whitish film on the sheet of glass in front of his nose.

Yesterday Ukyou had almost looked surprised when he still had been at her place when she came home. Like he would just have run away without properly saying goodbye.

Truth be told, he had thought of that. But that would have meant to take the last train home, with no reservation but instead a ton of commuters on board. Thanks but no thanks.

Therefore his last night in Nerima had been a quiet evening at U-Chan's. Ukyou had not been in the mood to open her shop. Instead she brought him up to date with the newest development concerning the weird menagerie she called her friends.

So Ranma was the new protector of that weird place? It made sense in a roundabout way. Whoever wanted to stir up trouble there would have probably ran across him sooner or later anyway. That guy gave 'standing out' a whole new meaning.

What surprised Kinyou way more was the fact that Ukyou seemed to genuinely cope with the development in the romantic department. That was something he wouldn't have anticipated, judging by how stubborn that girl could be.

It was kind of a relief though. Kinyou genuinely liked Ukyou, no matter how much or little he was attracted to her as a woman. And hey, she was a damn fine woman if she set her mind to it. But had she insisted on going against the relationship of Ranma and Akane, heartbreak would probably have been the least of her problems.


Such a stupid word.

Kinyou figured that for a heart to actually break, you'd probably had to deep-freeze it beforehand. After all, how was it supposed to shatter otherwise? A heart is a pretty squishy thing all in all.

But if you put it through the whole cryogenic process needed, would it still be able to hurt in the first place? Because, how long would it be able to survive with that state?

Naaah... Heartbreak was stupid.

Maybe a little melancholy.

At most.

That was more up Kinyou's alley.

As he sat there, musing and waiting for the train to depart, the last passenger for that row showed up and elegantly placed himself in the middle seat. It was a young guy, probably around Kinyou's age from what he saw out of the corner of his eye. Though why he'd wear a school uniform on a long-distance train ride was anybody's guess. Maybe it was fashionable. That was one topic Kinyou definitely had no interest in.

And that haircut. Short in the neck but with a shock of full, almost curly hair in the front. Like straight out of the eighties. Add to that what looked like the prototype of all Bishonen faces.


That guy gave off the impression of a minor celebrity. Like a member of a Boy band or some such.

Prime hate material for the many that had not been blessed with such marvelous genes. As in most of the world's male population.

It was a good thing that Kinyou was not the envious type. Because otherwise his day would have taken a turn for the worse just by sitting next to someone like that. Then again, what could be done about beaus like that aside from pointedly ignoring them? Sue them for looking too damn good? Not bloody likely.

Sighing again, Kinyou renewed the airy screen on the window. It was not without intention that he did this. Train stations, like hospitals, had their fair share of the recently deceased. Their shadowy figures usually kept to the same tracks where they had taken the midnight express to the great beyond. Or at least their body had.

Their souls tended to be strangely attached to the place of their demise. For people that took the quick way out this was kind of inconsequential. But Kinyou mused that most likely they still waited for someone to show up and lament their death. Suiciders were nothing if not melodramatic in his opinion.

So Kinyou kept breathing on the glass, keeping that little trace of respiration between them and him. If he couldn't see them, they wouldn't notice that he could see them. And therefor they wouldn't try to make him call their next of kin to make sure that THEY knew that this had all been THEIR fault. Bla bla bla...

Kinyou knew of cause that not all people driven into taking their own life acted like that. That some of them actually had a really tragic story that lead to their volatile departure.

But when you had heard a thousand of these stories even before entering middle school, chances are that a bit of emotional blunting would occur. Call it a survival trait.

Suddenly a jolt went through the car and the train finally started to leave the station. As the ride north finally began, Kinyou reclined in his seat.

Visiting Nerima sure had been an interesting experience. But there was also something to be said for returning home. There was a lot to tell his few close friends.

Some of them were even human by the way.

Kinyou was still wondering whether he should tell them about Kodachi though. The teasing that was bound to follow surely would be intolerable. And if teasing ended up the only thing they did to him then he would have gotten off lightly. Was it really worth the trouble..?

"Why did you stop?"

The question caught Kinyou completely off guard.

"What?" he asked. Not his most quick-witted response as of yet.

The guy on the middle seat pointed a slender hand at the window.

"You puffed at that glass for several minutes. I thought it might me some kind of ritual or something like that."

Taxi drivers, hairdressers and other people with a professional capacity for chit-chat were not necessarily among Kinyou's favorite crowd. He could well do without one of those sitting next to him on a long ride like this.

"I was simply passing the time," he replied noncommittally, hoping to not even slightly appear interested in any form of discussion.

"Is that so?" his neighbor remarked. But the guy let the topic rest and Kinyou relaxed again after a moment of silence.

"So what's Sendai like this time of year?" the guy suddenly started again. "I have never been that far north before."

"Nice enough, I guess," Kinyou replied curtly as he kept looking out of the window. Did that guy need it written out or would he get the hint and shut up?

"Are there really that many cat's in Miyagi?"

Okay, so he actually needed it written out.

"No! That's Tashirojima! And no, I'm not..." Kinyou turned away from the window as his speech got a little heated and he glared at that obnoxious guy to his right.

For a quarter of a millisecond.

Then his anger deflated and his eyes went wide.


The no longer so obnoxious definitely not-guy gave him a lopsided smile.

"Took you long enough to notice," she told him with a wink.

"But..." Kinyou began stammering, not sure where to start with his questions. "What are you doing here?"

"Isn't it obvious?" Kodachi replied bluntly. "I'm taking the train to Sendai. I was told that a change of surroundings might do me some good. And I happen to agree."

Kinyou shook his head in confusion. He understood the words but he didn't get their meaning.

"Yeah, but... why go there?" he ventured again. "There's gotta be a thousand better places to go to instead of... that place."

It wasn't that Kinyou had no regard for his hometown. But it wasn't exactly the shimmering center of the planet. A girl of Kodachi's means could choose any destination. Hong Kong, Paris, New York. You name it. Who in their right mind would choose Sendai instead ?

"Does it sound that strange to you?" Kodachi inquired as if reading his thoughts. "A friend told me of a good school there. I plan to go there for the last year left until graduation."

Kinyou frowned at her, but not in irritation. He simply was thinking that hard.

"That's the uniform of my school," he stated with a nod towards the crest on her jacket.

"So I've been told," Kodachi remarked, smiling at his attention to her clothes as if he had just complimented her dress. "Isn't it astounding what you can acquire on short notice if you only offer enough money?"

"It's an all-boys school." Kinyou clarified to make sure that she got the whole picture.

Kodachi nodded in consent.

"I am well aware of that. But try to consider who made that proposal."

And then Kinyou remembered.

Ukyou, fifteen years old.

Trimming and binding her blooming womanhood like a mad bonsai cultivator. Wearing that same uniform and the mask of boyhood day in, day out. All because one guy wronged her and she never got over him.

Kinyou wasn't sure if he liked the idea of Kodachi taking inspiration from that.

"You're not gonna try to imitate Ukyou, are you?" he hazarded guardedly. "It a BOYS school! There's always a lot of dirty jokes. And they're all horny as hell… I mean, if you even think about PE alone…"

His hands were clenching into fists and his face grew pale as visions of all that could go wrong with that scenario flooded his mind.

"I… I just think that's a stupid idea," Kinyou finished lamely as he turned towards the window again to hide his blushing face.

There was no way he could look at her right now. There was no way he could let her look at him while he was feeling this... this...


Kinyou's head snapped back so fast that you could hear the snapping sound of his vertebrae. His face was still red as a tomato but it quickly drained of color as his widening eyes erased the frown.

His mouth opened and closed but no sound came out.

It was true, wasn't it?

He was feeling jealous.

The thought of those guys feasting their eyes on Kodachi, getting indecent ideas about her and indulging their rotten fantasies...

And that was without them finding out that she was actually a girl!

If that ever happened then what that Tendo girl had allegedly experienced every morning at school would look like a walk in the park in comparison.

Lost for words Kinyou could only nod. So he did, curt but unmistakable.

For some odd reason that simple confession brought a contented smile to Kodachi's face.

"Good," she basically purred and reclined in her seat. "Serves you right for just leaving me without a word."

Kinyou couldn't help bowing his head in shame. She was correct of course. He could have called. Or even gone over to her place. The train hadn't parted that early after all.

"Sorry," he mumbled dejectedly.

"What was that?" Kodachi inquired with a certain sense of superiority. "I'm afraid that I couldn't hear it."

"I said that I was sorry," Kinyou repeated a little more sharply, turning his bowed head towards her without raising it. "I just thought it wouldn't matter."

"Well, that only shows how little you know," Kodachi told him with certainty. "Because it does matter. At least to me it does."

The last part came out a lot softer than the ones before.

Kinyou remained in the position he was in, but his face was no longer flushed nor pale. There was a serious expression to be found there instead. And maybe a trace of hope.

"So you're no longer going after Ranma?" he asked in a curious voice.

"Bravo genius," she replied in smooth sarcasm. "Instead of chasing someone that has already been caught and branded I prefer to move to Sendai. Make of that what you will..."

It may have been a trick of the light, but suddenly there seemed to be a dangerous glint in Kinyou's eyes. It sure gave Kodachi goosebumps seeing this.

"Whatever I will...?" he asked as he slowly returned to a upright position. "What if I have no intention to end up as the rebound-guy?"

"That... It didn't mean it like… that is... I wasn't..." Now it was Kodachi's turn to grow a little paler and lose her capacity for coherent speech.

But before she could complete that sentence in any meaningful way, Kinyou started to grin.

"Just messing with you," he told her in a more lively voice. "I mean, come on. A guy like me landing a girl like you? I'd be happy to be that surrogate, even if it's just for five minutes. Can't guarantee it wouldn't make me doubt your taste in men though..."

Kodachi glared at him weakly, unsure whether to hit him or to do something fundamentally different.

"Idiot," she grumbled. And at the same moment her left hand slid over his right arm, and then on towards his hand. Kinyou wasn't sure where his guts suddenly came from, but he turned that hand and spread it wide. Kodachi took him up on the silent offer and intermingled her fingers with his.

It felt pretty nice.

And warm.

For a while they continued the ride in silence, shoulder to shoulder and hand in hand. But there was one thing that still bugged Kinyou. So he just had to ask.

"Where are you going to stay? There's no dorms at that school, you know?"

"Oh, that's already taken care of," Kodachi assured him with an impish smile. "I already rented an apartment in Sanjomachi. It even comes with a cook and laundry service."

"Honestly?" Kinyou was actually feeling a little envious at hearing of such luxury. "Back home Uncle Toei always dumps those chores on me. Maybe I should move in with you."

"That's funny," Kodachi remarked, even more amused all of a sudden. "The landlord said the same thing."

"What?" Kinyou asked slightly alarmed. "Did that guy hit on you?"

Kodachi laughed at his bristling reaction and the way his hand clenched into hers involuntarily. If Kinyou had known her for longer he might have been surprised by how normal that laugh sounded.

"Not really," she informed him when her mirth abated. "But he did tell me that he'd just dump those chores on you."

It took a moment for Kinyou to get that little bit of information processed properly.

"Uncle Toei?" He asked flabbergasted. "Uncle Toei is your landlord?"

Then something else, and way more important, strong-armed its way towards his attention.

"So that means that you're going to move in with…us?!"

Kodachi's smile grew a little broader as she nodded as an answer. Then she leaned over and whispered something into his ear that made them grow a nice fiery red again. Some hint about what kind of laundry to expect. And who might still be wearing it.

"Really?" Kinyou asked her in breathy, almost reverent voice. Just like a little kid that found out that this year Santa might actually really deliver that special toy.

"Obviously it all depends on the level of service I'll encounter at our destination," Kodachi educated him haughtily. Her grin messed up the performance though.

Kinyou wouldn't have fallen for it anyway. Because he was only half listening. His mind was still stuck on that image her whisper had invoked.

"Kinyou?" Kodachi asked, leaning a little closer. "Don't forget to breathe."


Oh yeah, there was that.


Good idea.

Healthy idea.

Forcing his lungs back into working order, Kinyou turned towards the side only to find Kodachi's face right in front of him.

They both regained a nice crimson shade, a real nasty habit once you caught it. But it was understandable with the sudden proximity and everything. Still none of them moved back again.

Kinyou was the first to speak, and honestly, he had no idea what made him say the thing he did.

"How about an advance?"

Kodachi leaned her head to the side, looking a little surprised at his brazenness. But then her smile returned and she gave him a small taste of what might be gained. If Kinyou put his back into it.

And it was sweet and passionate and a little bit crazy.

Like chocolate-cherries with a wasabi filling.

Maybe Kinyou had just found his new favorite taste.

And best of all, no one kicked him in the tummy.

Besides a couple of overly excited butterflies maybe.



(For realz!)

Author's notes (Final):

I bow my head and bend my knee,

to you, the honored reader.

The fact you toiled to read this far

a highlight in my vita.

Attention is the currency

for that all authors strife.

Yet now it's late

and I must warn!

Do not tempt fate,

it's almost dawn!

You wasted too much time on this!

Get out and get a life!


Godspeed and until next time,

R. Martin