Author's Notes: I'm not going to say anything except I'm sorry. There are no excuses for why this took me so long.
I'd like to thank all of you for continuing to read my fic, though, even with my extremely slow updates. I know it's difficult to hold interest in a fic that rarely updates so it really means a lot to me for those who are still reading it after a year.
I do not own Ranma ½ or Sailor Moon and I cannot make any money off of them.
The Only Constant
Chapter 5: Boys Will Be. . . Girls?
". . .ko." What was that? A voice? "Ran. . . ake. . .p." There it was again, but what was it trying to say? "Ran. . . Ranko. Wake up Ranko."
As the voice finally registered in the back of her mind, Ranko's eyes shot open. Her vision was blurred, but she could make out that she was indoors somewhere. As she saw that she was surrounded by a group of fuzzy figures, it was probably safe to assume that there were more people accompanying the owner of the voice that had awoken her initially.
As the haze on her mind and sight began to clear, Ranko saw that she was lying on a sofa in a modest living room, encircled by the same group of girls in the same goofy outfits that she had rescued earlier. Wait a minute, rescued? That meant. . .
Sailor Mercury jumped away from her seat next to Ranko when the red-head suddenly shot up into an erect posture. Panic was in the girl's eyes as Ranko frantically patted down her own body. A second later, however, a calm seemed to come over her as she let out a sigh of relief, "Oh thank Kami-sama I'm not in that get-up. It must've been – gurgh!" Ranko's sentence was cut short as she gritted her teeth and clenched her side.
Sailor Mercury came back over after the outburst and gently pushed Ranko back down. "Now now Ranko-san, you're still injured. Don't overexert yourself, please just lie down and rest for now."
"Injured?" Ranko blinked once before actually looking at her chest and abdomen. Sure enough, she was in her regular Chinese shirt outfit, but underneath it she was wrapped all around by bandages. Judging by the fact that a near empty roll sat on the table next to her, they had either been used many times before, or hers had been changed multiple times since she was unconscious.
Laying her head back on the pillow, a shadow crept back onto Ranko's face. "So if I'm injured, that means I was in. . . that?" she finished unsurely as she pointed at Mercury's outfit. Everyone in the room nodded in unison as Ranko's hand fell limp against the side of the sofa. "I think I'm gonna be sick," she mumbled while pulling her blanket up over her eyes.
It wasn't long until the sheet was flung off her by the green haired, black skirted woman. "You can be sick later," she declared, "We have matters to discuss at the moment."
Reaching over, Sailor Moon grabbed the blanket from Pluto's hand. "Don't be so rough with her," she complained. Turning back to Ranko, Moon replaced the sheet on the wounded girl. "Don't worry, we just have a few things to discuss then we're done," she spoke in a soothing voice.
"Pff, I dunno even know why I havta be here. I don't even know who you guys are 'cept for Ami over there," Ranko replied in an annoyed tone while gesturing to Mercury. Said Senshi looked away and rotated her right foot around on its toes. She still wasn't used to being called her civilian name in Senshi form.
"Oh, so if you knew who we are you would cooperate with us?" Sailor Pluto inquired while moving around the couch to be directly in Ranko's line of sight.
Slightly miffed, Ranko replied, "Well, maybe I would. At least it'd make it less awkward."
Nodding, Pluto replied in an even tone, "Very well, have it your way." The Senshi in the room jumped back in shock when bright lights enveloped the Guardian of Time that signaled her de-transformation into civilian form. When it ended, one Setsuna Meioh stood before a very startled Ranko.
"Me-Meioh-san?" the red-head stuttered.
Addressing the equally startled Senshi in the room, Setsuna commanded, "Girls, revert back to your civilian forms."
"But-," Sailor Mars started.
"Just do it."
The Senshi hesitated for moment before looking at each other and nodding. Soon, the whole room was full of the same vibrant light shows that surrounded Pluto moments before. A few seconds later, five familiar girls and three unfamiliar ones stood in the room.
Her jaw hanging as if on broken hinges, Ranko brought her head off the pillow as she turned to each girl. "Rei? Minako? Makoto? USAGI?" the last name had extra astonishment in it.
"Hey! It's not that surprising is it?" the accused blonde pouted.
Ignoring the small outburst, Rei stepped forward with a sympathetic look on her face. Kneeling down in front of Ranko, she gazed directly into her startled eyes. "Look, even after all that's happened I know this must be quite a shock for you," she said gently.
"No, not really," she stated flatly, her expression changed to one of placidity in a fraction of a second.
Everyone in the room with the exception of, as usual, Setsuna felt the sudden increase in G-force to their cranial cavities.
Being the first to stagger back up, Rei shook her fist in front of Ranko's face as she shouted in a now irritated tone, "What do you mean, 'Not really'? You were so surprised a second ago that you could hardly even talk!"
Looking away from Rei's reddened face and up at the ceiling, Ranko stated plainly, "Like I said before, I've seen some pretty crazy stuff in my life and you girls being magical protectors of whatever it is you claim to protect doesn't even come CLOSE to topping them. I just thought it would be interesting to act surprised, and it was." Ranko looked around the room at each girl again before gazing back up at the ceiling. "What you guys do in your free-time is your business. It has nothing to do with me."
"Actually Saotome-san it has a great deal to do with you." Everyone turned back to Setsuna. "That is what we're all here to discuss. Now you said if we showed you who we were you would consider listening."
Ranko sighed and crossed her arms in front of her and closed her eyes while she turned away from Setsuna, "Fine just try to make it quick, k'?" she pouted. Then Ranko's eyes snapped open in realization, "Oh! But first, could I get some hot water?"
"But of course," Setsuna replied, "I even took the liberty of preparing it while you were unconscious." Turning on her heels, the green-haired woman disappeared through the doorway into the kitchen.
The remaining girls turned towards each other and shrugged in confusion. Why Ranko wanted hot water now of all times was beyond them. Perhaps if they had made the connection between the water tower incident and Ranko's transformation earlier that day, they could have put two-and-two together and come to the correct conclusion. Alas, this was not the case so when Setsuna returned with a warm kettle of water and Ranko poured it over her head, the typical reaction ensued.
"EEEEEEEEEEEK!" Usagi shouted while jumping back and pointing a shaking figure at a now steaming Ranma Saotome. "I-i-i-it's Ranma!" The other girls didn't have as severe a reaction as Usagi, but they all had similar expressions of disbelief on their faces.
Ranma rolled his eyes as he prepared his explanation, "Jeez, I thought that with the business you guys are involved in that this wouldn't be nothin' special. Guess I was wrong." Glancing around the room once more, the pig-tailed boy became slightly annoyed that the expressions on the girls' faces hadn't changed. He sighed once more, "Oh c'mon! You even saw me change into a girl in battle is it really that surprising to find that I can change back? It's a simple concept, cold water changes me to a girl and warm water changes me back to a guy, got it? Even Akane can follow that recipe!"
The girls' expressions slowly started to return to normal, and Ranma was about to speak again when he felt a cold liquid drizzle onto his head, and a familiar change come over his body. Ranko's eye twitched as she craned her neck backwards to gaze at Minako standing over her with a pitcher of ice water, an expression akin to a gleeful elementary school girl plastered to her face. "Whoa! It really does work!" the blonde exclaimed, a sense of amazement in her voice. Taking the kettle of warm water that Ranko had set down next to her, she poured the warm fluid onto the red-head, once again reverting her back to normal. Giggling to herself, Minako repeated the process again, and again, and again. "Heehee, this is fun!" The other girls simply sweat-dropped as they beheld the spectacle in front of them.
"This was exactly what U-chan did," Ranma mumbled under his breath.
*A Few Minutes Later*
Ranma, now in boy form, ground his teeth as he felt the last of the hot water drizzle onto his head. Upturning the now empty kettle completely, Minako frowned, "Aw, guess we're all out of hot water," she complained before snapping her fingers, "I'll go get some more."
As she turned to go to the kitchen, her wrist was grabbed by Rei, "That's. . . enough Mina-chan," the raven-haired girl muttered while pinching the bridge of her nose, "I think we've all seen enough."
"Aww, but it was so fun," the blonde pouted after setting down the kettle.
"Well, I'm glad you got that outta your system," Ranma said. Turning onto his side, he noticed the three girls in the room that he had never met before. One looked like a boy but Ranma had spent enough time around cross-dressers to know otherwise. "Oh yeah I completely forgot about you three," he rubbed the back of his head before continuing, "You probably already know this but I'm Ranma Saotome and you guys are?"
Slightly surprised from being addressed so suddenly, Haruka hesitated a second before replying, "I am Haruka Tenoh, and these are Michiru Kaioh and Hotaru Tomoe," she gestured to each girl respectively, "We all live in this house along with Setsuna. It's a pleasure to meet you Saotome-san." Once she finished, Haruka and Hotaru bowed while Michiru remained expressionless.
"So about that comment you made earlier," Michiru began, a hint of irritation in her voice, "care to explain yourself?" She crossed her arms in front of her while she glared at Ranma.
Ranma gazed back slightly puzzled, "Comment, comment," he mumbled while tapping his chin with his finger. Suddenly, he snapped his fingers in realization, "Oh you mean the seaweed head one?"
A vein pooped up on the side of Michiru's head, "That's the one," she gritted out.
"Oh don't worry 'bout it," Ranma replied casually, "I won't always call you that. In situations like that I just say the first thing that comes to mind, but I'll be sure to call you your name for now on."
"First thing that comes to mind, huh? So does that mean you really think my hair looks like seaweed?"
"Well, yeah, doesn't it?" Ranma stated obliviously, obviously unaware of the figurative mine field he was walking into. The temperature in the room noticeably dropped, and Haruka and Hotaru took one step away from their positions next to Michiru.
Coughing into her hand, Setsuna re-centered the room's attention onto her. "Well then, now that we have the formalities out of the way, what would you girls like to know first?"
"Why the heck Ranma is a Senshi but was born a boy would be a great place to start," Rei replied, "I mean, Tuxedo Kamen is one thing, but Ranma- er, Ranko or whoever was in a Senshi uniform-,"
"Don't remind me," Ranma mumbled.
"-that's completely different."
Setsuna nodded, "Very well, I think it's time I tell you girls the tale of the Solar Colony and its guardian, Sailor Sun." Any sound that had remained in the room immediately ceased, and everyone's attention was focused solely on Setsuna. "During the Silver Millennium, while the Moon Kingdom was still in power, there was a civilization that resided near the surface of the sun known as the Solar Colony."
"Question!" Everyone's heads whipped around to see Usagi with her hand straight up in the air. "How could there be a colony on the Sun? Isn't it, like, really hot there?"
Irritated from the interruption so early on, Setsuna took a deep breath before continuing, "Not even I don't know the answer to that question. The technology that shielded the colony and allowed for survival in the intense heat and radiation was already present on the surface. The Moon Kingdom simply found and occupied it. To the very day that the Moon Kingdom was destroyed, no one was able to discover how that technology worked or even who made it. Now, any more questions before I continue?" Everyone shook their heads. "Good, now as I said before, the colony depended on the leftover technology for survival. This would normally be too big of a risk in and of itself to send citizens of the Moon Kingdom to colonize it. However, the fact was that the sun's extreme conditions made for the ideal environment to carry out various experiments not possible anywhere else in the kingdom. This was just too great of an opportunity to pass up for the Moon Kingdom.
"Queen Serenity made the decision to send a research team to the colony via heavily heat shielded transport ships to determine if the area was hospitable. That same team returned with a report saying that the colony was 100% habitable and did not show any signs of deterioration or failure in the near future. Not very long after, the first group of colonists was sent to the colony and thus the Solar Colony was born.
"For many centuries, the Solar Colony thrived, spearheading the scientific progression of the Moon Kingdom. They faced no dilemmas and the technology protecting them was still running smoothly. Eventually, the Solar Colony proved to be so valuable, that Queen Serenity decided that it was a key strategic point in need of protection in case of attack.
"Serenity selected Talana Reva among a select group of girls, a girl gentle and pure of heart yet showed steely determination and fortitude in battle. She also exhibited remarkable combat prowess, being able to adapt and re-adapt to a given situation in order to devise the best method of victory. The ascension ceremony was carried out as if it was a normal planet, as Serenity found out that the process for creating a link between a human and a star was very similar. And thus Sailor Sun was born.
"For countless battles, Sun fought for the Moon Kingdom with relentless might. In addition to being proficient in hand-to-hand combat, she was also able to manipulate her magical energy the best out of all the Senshi, giving her access to a whole arsenal of magical attacks instead of being limited to maybe three or four.
"Indeed, combined with the weapon advancements the colony had made, the sun's inapproachable environment, and Sailor Sun, the Solar Colony seemed like an indomitable fortress. That is, until that day."
"When Beryl attacked," Usagi stated sadly, her eyes being drawn to the ground.
"Surprisingly no." Usagi's head snapped up and she stared at Setsuna, her expression of disbelief mirroring those of the girls around her. "In fact, this had nothing to do with the Negaverse, as far as we could tell," she added the last part quickly. "One seemingly normal day, well before the Negaverse attacked, everything just went wrong.
"First, communications with the Solar Colony were lost, well they were still intact but no one was responding. This worried the communicators but did not cause too much alarm. Then, after two hours of no contact, the Moon Kingdom received a distress signal from the Solar Colony. Once again this seemed strange because all the systems monitoring the colony read green. Even so, the Moon Kingdom wasted no time in dispatching a response team to the Solar Colony. En route to the colony however, the unthinkable happened." Everyone leaned in close to Setsuna, completely engrossed by her story. Even Ranma had re-positioned his body on the couch. Setsuna closed her eyes and took another deep breath before continuing. "The technology shielding the colony suddenly failed. The response team looked on in horror as they witnessed the Solar Colony vaporize in an instant. One moment there, and the next gone. All was lost in the blink of an eye and there were no survivors, including Talana. To this day, no one knows who or what caused the destruction of the Solar Colony."
Silence ensued the conclusion of the tale as all the girls in the room looked around at each other, not knowing what to make of what they just heard.
Finally, Rei spoke up, "Don't get me wrong, that is a tragic story but," she leveled an index finger at Ranma, "it still doesn't explain why he- she-," she shook her head, "-it-,"
Rei continued as if she was never interrupted, "-was born a boy but is a Sailor Senshi."
The atmosphere in the room lightened with the change of subject. "Ah yes, how could I have forgotten?" Setsuna said, "You see, Talana was a lesbian."
One could practically see the question marks appear over everyone's heads. "Aaand?" Makoto prompted while gesturing for Setsuna to continue, "That matters how? Haruka and Michiru are lovers but you don't see one of them as a guy, although Haruka dresses like one."
"Actually that is exactly the reason for this predicament," Setsuna sweat-dropped as she received more blank stares. "You see, Sailor Uranus and Neptune found love in their past lives meaning they passed away satisfied in a relative sense. Talana was not so lucky. She lived her life not knowing what it was like to love and be loved in return. She had confessed to many girls but none of them 'swung that way' and so turned her down. It is quite possible that eventually Talana wished that she was a boy in the back of her mind, and died with that mentality. When Queen Serenity's magic reincarnated the Senshi, it sensed this longing and reincarnated Talana in this time as a boy to fulfill her wish. Of course, Senshi laws still applied so Ranma had to fall in the Spring of Drowned Girl in order to ascend to his- er, her, Senshi-hood."
After Setsuna finished, Ranma seemed to ponder something for a moment before his eyes widened, "So if I had never fallen into that spring, I could've avoided this whole mess?"
"Oh don't worry yourself with that thought," Setsuna replied dismissively, "you were falling into that spring. I made sure of it."
Everyone in the room shared a collective blink, "Wait, waddaya mean 'you made sure of it'? I fell in that spring 'cuz Pops caught me by surprise and knocked me into it. You had nothin' to do with it."
"Oh you'd be amazed at what a simple re-arrangement of those bamboo poles you used as foot-holds can result in," Setsuna replied in a wry tone.
"I think we're getting a little off topic here," Usagi stated, attempting to ignore the hostile glare Ranma was aiming at Setsuna. "The fact of the matter is that we have a new Senshi with us and we need to welcome, er him, to our group." Walking over to where Ranma laid on the couch, the blonde leader of the Senshi held her hand out. "So Ranma-kun, will you join the magical warriors of love and justice, and defend this city from the evils that threaten it?"
Ranma stared at the hand in front of his face for a moment, then held his own palm up. "I'll pass. If you think I'm ever getting in that outfit again in my LIFE, you got another thing comin'," he deadpanned.
Usagi paused for a second before retracting her hand to rub the back of her head, letting out a nervous chuckle. "Yeah, probably should've seen that one coming." The prospect of becoming a magical warrior of love and justice and protecting the city from evil may seem appealing to a teenage girl, but to any normal boy, especially Ranma, it would probably be approaching sheer torture. Except for that special group of people who'd she rather not think about.
"However," Usagi attention snapped back to the boy in question. "That's not to say that I won't help you guys. I don't need no frilly skirt to kick some demon ass. That was a one-time deal and it ain't gonna happen again, but I will still fight with you. Besides, it's not like I can ignore a rampaging monster tearing up the city. Even if I never actually join your group, we share the same goals, and that makes us allies in my book. And ya don't havta worry about me being recognized. If you really want me to, I can project my Ki around my body to make an illusion like your magic stuff to prevent anyone from recognizing me." Ranma had developed that technique from revising the Umi-sen ken. He knew it'd come in handy one day, although it'd be useless in front of people skilled in detecting Ki such as Cologne, but he shouldn't need to worry about that quite yet.
Usagi's face beamed and held out her hand once again. "Then Ranma Saotome, I look forward to working with you."
Ranma grinned before taking the hand with his own, "Pleasure working with ya."
Everyone in the room clapped, accompanied with "Welcome to the team". After straightening one of her pony tails, Usagi proclaimed, "Well everyone, that about wraps up this meeting. Haruka-san, why don't you give Ranma-kun and Mako-chan and ride home since he's still injured."
"Oh nah, it's ok, I'm good." After receiving a handful of skeptical stares, Ranma tried again. "No really, I'm fine now. I can get home by myself see?" After that, the pig-tailed boy leaped off the couch and landed straight on his feet, hands on his hips and chest puffed out. He didn't want to be a burden to these girls any more than he already has.
Ami was still doubtful and approached him. "Mm hm, really now? So it doesn't hurt one tiny bit when I do this?" Ami proceeded to firmly poke and bandaged area on Ranma's rib cage. The injured boy's body immediately stiffened as if pulled by the head and feet, and a visible tremble shivered throughout his body.
"Not, a, bit," he squeezed out through clenched teeth.
"Oh come now Ranma-san, do you even know how to get home from here?" Ami wagged a finger in front of the martial artist's face as if scolding a dog.
Ranma blinked at the question. Now that he thought about it, he doesn't even know what part of town he's in right now. "Uh, of course I do," he lied.
"No you don't," Ami fired back, "With those injuries, you need to rest for at least the rest of the night and I only say that because I can tell you have amazing healing capabilities from the amount you've recovered in this short time." Her voice was firm and demanding, very different from Ami's normal demeanor which surprised Ranma. "Now you're going to ride home with Haruka-san, and you're going to let Mako-chan take care of you for the rest of the night and tomorrow morning. Do I make myself clear!"
"Yes ma'am," Ranma managed to squeak out. The rest of the girls weren't as surprised by Ami's change in behavior, but observed silently nonetheless. They had known her for a long enough time to know that the cobalt-haired girl is stern on very few things, and wellbeing is one of them.
Ami turned her attention to Makoto, "And Mako-chan, don't let him come to school tomorrow unless he's fully recovered and active."
"Understood, ma'am!" she replied, saluting as if to a military official.
"Good, then that's it. Good night everyone, I'll hopefully see all of you tomorrow."
Ranma stared dreary eyed at the breakfast in front of him. Throughout the night, Makoto had awoken him numerous times to check up on him. Every time he would fall asleep he would awake to a "Ranma, are you doing alright?" After grumbling out a reply he would hear the door close and try to fall asleep once more only to be roused once again in what seemed like ten minutes later. Needless to say, he didn't get much sleep last night. So little, that he didn't even have the energy to get up early to do his morning workout, which says ALOT.
"Ranma-kun, would you like another pancake?" Of course, this story is completely undermined by the bubbly energetic voice that came from the kitchen of the room. Ranma turned his head to the voice and just stared for a moment at Makoto cooking up a storm. One would assume that the amount of times he was woken up would mean a slow morning for the temporary resident brunette as well. Apparently this was not the case.
Turning back to the un-touched pancake on his plate, Ranma continued his staring contest with his delicious opponent. It wasn't the fact that it was a pancake that scared him, after all he was known for being a living garbage disposal, but more the fact that it was shaped like a heart, accompanied by two sunny-side up eggs and a piece of bacon arranged in the iconic happy face.
Although he was getting some bad vibes from the breakfast, Ranma eventually shrugged and figured food was food, who cares what shape it's in. Never one to turn down extra sustenance, he also accepted Makoto's offer for another pancake.
Downing his glass of orange juice, Ranma turned and thanked the chef.
"Oh no biggie," she replied, "I had to make sure you got better, and that means making you a good breakfast."
"Yeah, that was some good grub," Ranma rubbed his belly well standing up. "Well, I'm gonna go get ready for school now. Maybe do some exercises real quick too."
As Ranma was about to leave the room, he felt himself yanked back by the collar of his shirt. "Just hold it right there mister. Ami told me to not let you go to school unless you're fully recovered. So I'm going to have to examine you first."
Facing Makoto again, Ranma rubbed the back of his head, "Well, ok I guess. Ami did say that. Well go ahead then and examine me."
"Good, then strip to your boxers," she said with a completely straight face.
Silence ensued for the moment. Eventually it was broken by the pig-tailed boy's, "Come again?"
"You heard me," Makoto insisted, reaching for Ranma's shirt as he pulled away, "I can't examine you properly with all those clothes on you. You want to go to school don't you?"
"Never mind. Don't answer that. Just hurry up and take off your clothes." Makoto lunged for Ranma who evaded to the side and raised his hands in front of him.
"I-I really don't think it's necessary for me to take off my clothes for you to make sure I'm alright." Ranma ducked underneath Makoto's arms again and quickly moved to the opposite side of the room.
His assailant faced him and crossed her arms in front of her chest with a dissatisfied look on her face. "Ok fine," she placed heavy emphasis on the second word, "I guess you can keep your pants, but your shirt's gotta come off. Have to make sure your wounds healed after all."
Ranma slumped his shoulders in defeat, "Alright, I guess that's ok." It wasn't even a second after Ranma took off his Chinese shirt when Makoto was right in front of him and moving her hands about his abdomen.
"Hmm, nice firm abs. Always a healthy sign." Finishing with his chest, the brunette proceeded to Ranma's arms. All the while, the pig-tailed martial artist was a stiff as a floorboard.
"Um, uh Mako-," Ranma tried to stutter but was cut off once again.
"I can't tell whether your arms are healthy enough. I'll need you to flex them." Ranma did so. "Ah there we go. I can tell you're just fine. Now let's check that butt."
Even Cologne would have been impressed at the speed in which Ranma grabbed his shirt and fled to the other side of the room once again.
Makoto puffed out her cheeks and placed her fists on her hips. "Alright, I guess that's enough. You seem healthy enough to go to school. Hell, if I didn't know any better I'd say you never even got in a fight." She shrugged while Ranma nodded his head silently. "Well, you can go get ready now. I'll go wait for you outside." Ranma nodded again and Makoto exited the room.
"Let's throw a welcoming party!" All activity underneath the tree in the school ceased and all eyes focused on Usagi. The day's lunch was going relatively normally until that moment.
Ranma was the first to speak, "For what? Me?" he asked pointing to himself.
"Yes you," Usagi replied energetically, "Who else just arrived in Juuban and has ascended to a very special cause?"
"Well I haven't really done nothin' to deserve a welcome party."
"Yes you have. You've joined our team and cause and that's reason enough to throw a party. Right guys?" Usagi turned to the three other girls.
Minako nodded, "I agree. Ranma-kun still doesn't seem completely comfortable here so I think a party would be just the thing to help him loosen up a bit." As she finished, Minako slid over to Ranma and hugged his left arm.
Makoto was not about to let that slide, as she too quickly slid and snatched Ranma's right arm, "And I'll cook some food that's sure to make all of your worries just melt away."
"Um, uh," Ranma stumbled about searching for the right words.
Ami, meanwhile, sighed and shook her head. "Girls, don't you realize that you're both making him more nervous than relaxed?"
"It's not me, it's Mako-chan!" the blonde shouted accusingly, hugging Ranma's appendage even closer to her bosom.
"No way, that's all you Mina-chan!" the opposition yelled, pulling her arm closer as well.
"Alright, then let's ask Ranma-kun. Ranma-kun, is either of us making you tense? It's Mako-chan right?" Minako looked up at Ranma's face to see his head hung loosely on his shoulder, his eyes awhirl. Minako blinked, then glared at Makoto again. "See you broke him! It's all your fault this happened to him!"
"My fault? It was obviously you that did this to him!" the brunette fired back.
The verbal brawl continued, with the opposing factors face-to-face in front of Ranma's own.
Ami sighed again and turned to Usagi, "Do you think this will be a problem?"
"Of course not! I think it's good that they get along so well with Ranma-kun."
"I think you're missing the point," she turned back to the clash in front of her with bored eyes, which had now degenerated to the two girls yanking on Ranma's arms, resembling a scene from a tug-a-war competition. "So when are we going to have this welcoming party then?"
"Dunno, let's meet up with Rei after school and work it out."
"That's if Ranma is still sane enough to stick around until then," Ami muttered under her breath.
"Did you say something?"
After a thoughtful deliberation (Usagi insisting her idea endlessly for ten minutes) it was decided that the welcoming party would be held the next day after the half-day of school at Rei's shrine.
"I have to check with Grandpa to make sure, but I'm sure it won't be a problem," Rei said to the group.
"Really? Oh thank you so much Rei-chan!" Usagi exclaimed with stars in her eyes. She then proceeded to glomp the raven haired girl.
"Really, it's nothing," Rei replied as she tried to pry the blonde off of her, "I want to make Ranma-san feel welcome too," she then cast a glare at said martial artist, "Even if he has pissed me off in the past without him knowing it."
Ranma was already looking away and whistling to himself as if he heard nothing while the other girls around him giggled. Then his whistling stopped abruptly as he remembered something. "Hey, any of you got the time?"
"Yeah it's. . ." Minako glanced at the wrist watch she was wearing, "5:30. Why do you ask?"
"Ahh crap, I completely forgot about my job. Sorry guys but I gotta split here." Ranma turned and began to walk to the Crown Game Corner. . .
"Wait Ranma-kun, you have a job? I didn't know that. Where do you work?"
. . . was what he thought he'd do, but instead froze mid-stride at Makoto's question. Damn, I forgot that they don't know I work as a waitress. Even though they know about my curse, I still don't want them to find out.
"Um, Ranma-kun, you there? Earth to Ranma. I asked where you work." As Makoto started to reach out to shake Ranma out of whatever reverie he was in, the pig-tailed boy suddenly bolted forward, full-sprint, leaving a dust trail behind him.
Makoto stood dumbstruck, her hand still stretched out towards the rapidly disappearing dust cloud. "I. . . guess he really was in a big rush."
"I guess so," Usagi mumbled. "Well then, who wants ice cream?" Making a complete 180 in attitude, the girls looked and shrugged at each other.
"Might as well," Ami said, "we can discuss plans for the party while we're at it."
She should've known. She should've known this would happen if she ran away.
It was as if all time had stopped at the entrance to the Crown Game Corner. On one end, a pig-tailed, redheaded girl who stood frozen like a deer in the headlights. On the other, a group of five girls who were equally stunned into paralysis. The silence persisted as the two factions continued to stare at each other.
Finally, time was restored as Unazuki entered the scene, "Oh hey guys, nice to see you all," she called out to the group of girls, seemingly oblivious to the current situation. "I see you found Ranko-chan here. You should've seen her last time you all were here, she was so nervous haha." Unazuki started patting the still motionless Ranko on the back. "Well, why don't you take a short break Ranko to get everything sorted out? I can handle your area for a while." And with that, Unazuki trotted back into the dining area to take another customer's order.
Eventually, Ranko sighed and threw her arms up in defeat. "Y'know what, whatever. You already know about my curse and I knew this was going to happen eventually. Why don't we just go grab a table so we can talk."
This snapped the other girls out of their dazes as they nodded and proceeded to follow Ranko. As they took up a booth, with the girls somehow all squeezed into one side and Ranko on the other, Ranko immediately leaned over the table and launched into her explanation, "Ok so basically, I needed money, so I needed a job. This was the only one around that pays well, isn't far away, and has decent hours. And before you ask," she raised a finger to Usagi who was opening her mouth, "no Unazuki-chan does not know 'bout my curse so if you don't wanna make things more complicated don't say anything around her that could give her ideas." Ranko sat back in her seat and took a deep breath. "Ok, that's my story. Now what do you have to say?"
The girls were silent for a moment, then Makoto said, "Actually, now that we're over the initial shock, it's not that big a deal." Ranko blinked then turned to Ami who was starting to speak.
"Yes, even though we wouldn't expect you to take up this job, your reasoning for doing so is perfectly logical."
"Exactly," Minako joined in, "So don't worry about it. It's not like we'll think less of you for doing what needs to be done. So what if your job happens to require you to be in girl form?"
"Although I can't say we won't poke some fun at you every now and then," Rei snickered which resulted in dissatisfied look from Usagi. "Oh come on, with the stuff he's already pulled on us, he deserves to have his chain yanked every now and then."
Through experience, she knows that if the original crew of misfits in Nerima discovered her current occupation, a wide variety of VERY bad things could ensue. Even if she had already waitressed in the past, they were not once voluntary and normally had something to do with her training. This time was entirely her own volition and had absolutely no connection to her training whatsoever. In a nutshell, she would never hear the end of the insults to her manhood, as strange as that sounds in her current form.
"Ranko?" Ami's voice snapped her back to the plane of reality. "Are you ok? You looked like you were just staring into space there."
Ranko shook her head, "Yeah I'm fine, I was just thinking about how nice you girls are."
All the girls blinked. The statement wasn't particularly odd, but it wasn't normal either. "Well, thanks I guess. I'm glad you think that way of us Ranko-chan," Usagi said with a hint of puzzlement in her voice.
"No really!" Ranko exclaimed, mistaking the confusion for disbelief, "If anyone from where I used to live found out I work here, I'd never hear the end of it."
That made Makoto realize something, "Speaking of which," she began, "What was your life like before you came to Juuban Ranko? I don't think you've told us anything about it other than you practiced martial arts and went to Furinkan High." The other girls nodded, equally curious as to what the enigmatic little red-head's life was like before entering a, as far as they know, extremely strange lifestyle. Although Ranko had mentioned a few things about his old school, they were so vague and strange that they didn't really understand.
Ranko cupped her chin with her hand and gestured to the other girls. "Give me a moment. I needa think of a good way of putting it." The girls looked at each other while Ranko thought, their curiosity raised ever higher. Finally Ranko snapped her fingers, "I got it! Ok imagine you're in hell. Now imagine that you're deathly afraid of fire, and that gives you a pretty good idea of what my life was like." No response came from the girls, as they weren't quite sure how to interpret the analogy. "That's what I probably would've said if you asked me that question during my first year of living in Nerima, but now I'm kinda used to it."
That got the girls' attention. "Nerima? The Nerima?" Rei said in disbelief. Ranko nodded. "As in the Nerima that has an annual abnormal event count that rivals that of even Juuban? That Nerima?"
Ranko nodded again, "I don't know 'bout any other Nerima. Hmm, abnormal events huh? That's a new one, they're not abnormal, they're just martial artists fighting more likely than not. In fact, I think every "abnormal event" is related to martial arts in some way. Besides, I already told you I went to Fuurinkan High, I thought you could tell from that?"
Rei's jaw hung open, and the other girls shared her surprise as well. Although astonishing, this does help explain Ranko's stoic behavior towards that happenings of Juuban. Almost anyone would be hard to surprise after living in the battleground know as Nerima for a year or more. Heck, even a month could be potentially life scarring.
Just as they were about to question further, however, Unazuki came over. "Sorry girls, I've got to steal Ranko-chan back," she said. After clapping her hands together and giving a short bow, Unazuki turned to Ranko, "C'mon Ranko-chan, time to get back to work."
"Yeah no problem," as Ranko stood up from the booth, she turned back to the five girls crammed into one seat, "Well, I'm glad that turned out well. I'll talk to you guys later 'k?" Receiving a nod from all five heads, Ranko returned to her waitress job.
As the girls continued to stare as Ranko left, Usagi asked, "Think we'll ever fully understand Ranko-chan?"
"We'd have to first fully understand you Usagi," Rei deadpanned, the other girls nodded in unison.
"Wah, that's not nice! I think Ranko-chan meant everyone was nice except Rei."
A vein pooped up on the side of said raven haired girl, "What was that meatball head?" and promptly began digging her knuckle into Usagi's skull.
The other girls just stared, then had their attention re-directed to Ranko, who had returned to the table. "I almost forgot, I still need to take your orders," she said cheerfully, before noticing the brawl between Usagi and Rei. "What could've happened in the few seconds I was gone?" she asked while raising an eyebrow to the fighting girls.
Saturday morning came and went uneventfully. With a mere half day of school, Ranma and the girls drifted through the morning with differing emotions.
Ranma, although curious as to what the girls are going to do for him, was calm and not much different than usual. In other words, he was sleeping through class again.
Usagi, on the other hand, could rarely be seen more spirited in class than she was that morning. The entirety of her classes were spent by passing notes between herself, Makoto, and Minako. Each note received elicited either a giggle and a nod of the head, or a frown and a shake, both of which were followed by furious scribbling of a response. Whether the teacher really did not see the girls passing notes across the classroom in all sorts of manners (Ranma could've sworn he saw a paper shuriken fly by his desk in a short window that he was awake) or if she just didn't care enough to try and stop them was up for debate.
As for Ami, she was writing a different kind of notes. That was, actual notes taken in a notebook to record the information learned in class. Needless to say, it would take nothing less than a hurricane to keep that girl from satiating her craving for knowledge.
As soon as the bell rang to announce the end of the school day, Ranma was forcibly removed from his seat and vacated from the school premise by the excited group of girls followed by the ever tranquil Ami.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa! Don't we havta go meet Rei-chan?" Ranma cried out as he was pulled by Usagi and pushed from behind by Makoto and Minako.
"No need. Since the party is at her temple, Rei-chan will just meet us there," Usagi replied enegetically.
"Ok, I guess that makes sense but don't you need to get everything set up before I come over?"
"Nope, everything's taken care of," Makoto responded this time, "We went over last night and arranged everything already."
With that, Ranma hung his head in defeat, "Alright, lead the way leader."
"Yay, we're going to have so much fun!"
A few minutes later, and the group was approaching the entrance to Rei's shrine. Standing out front was Rei in her normal clothes and a short stubby old man in a traditional Shinto priest outfit. Ranma felt a chill go up his spine as the elderly man resembled a certain shriveled lecher back home, but he quickly calmed down in realization that the man in front of him was much too tall . . . even if he was still very short.
The old man opened his arms out to Ranma and spoke in a raspy voice, "Ah Saotome-san, it's nice to finally meet you. I've heard so much about you from Rei-chan here," he patted Rei on the back, a little lower than Rei was comfortable with but whether that was on purpose or just due to the man's stature was unknown.
"Grandpa!" Rei shouted.
"Oh come on, don't be so embarrassed. I was just joking around," the man let loose a hardy chuckle before turning back to Ranma. "Anyways, where are my manners? I'm Rei's grandpa and also the priest of this shrine."
Ranma stepped forward and gave a courteous bow, "It's nice to meet you Hino-san."
Rei's grandpa laughed again, "Oh don't worry about being formal with me. Just call me Grandpa and I'll call you Ranma-kun alright?"
"Yeah, sure thing Gramps," Ranma said while straightening his back.
Grandpa blinked, an action somehow made possible with his perpetually closed eyes, "Hm, I guess Gramps works too." He coughed into his fist to regain composure, "Now why don't you youngsters head inside and have fun? I'll be attending to the temple visitors so just shout if you need anything."
As the group approached the entrance to the living area of the shrine, Ranma was stopped in front of the door by the girls.
"Now just wait here for a sec Ranma-kun," Usagi said, her expression screaming excitement, "We're just going to run in really quick to get some things prepared. We'll call you when we're ready." With that, the girls quickly slid behind the door and Rei's grandpa went off to tend to the shrine, leaving Ranma to wonder what was in store for him on the other side of the door.
A few minutes later, and Ranma heard Usagi's voice call that he could come in. Ranma entered the room and…
… was met with a flurry of confetti ejected from multiple party poppers followed by a chorus of, "Welcome to Juuban Ranma-kun!" The first thing Ranma noticed in the room was the large banner hanging over head that read the same thing as the girls just said. The pig-tailed boy smiled as he saw the grinning faces of Usagi, Makoto, Rei, and Ami and- wait a minute. Where's—
"And welcome to Juuban Ranko-chan!" The girls broke down into hysterical laughter, including Minako who was standing behind the sour looking Ranko.
"Aw, don't give us that look," Rei chided, still shaking off the last remnants of her laughter, "You know we had to do it and look!" she reached and grabbed a cup of steaming water, "We have some hot water ready for you already so loosen up and let's have some fun!"
Ranko quickly took the cup and upturned it over her head. As if nothing had happened, the now male Ranma looked at the table in the center of the room. Spread on top of it was a wide assortment of sweet goodies and other foods such as taiyaki and potato chips, topped off by a small chocolate cake in the center of it all. After grabbing a pork bun from a tray, Ranma said, "Yeah, I guess I can forgive you since you got so much great food ready." After Ranma took a bite from the bun, the girls giggled and promptly scurried to their seats to begin the party.
Two hours into the party, and the table was devoid of all food and everyone was having a blast. The girls had all given Ranma a gift and while he wasn't sure if he would actually use them, he appreciated the thought. For example, a new graphing calculator from Ami ("You are going to need it for your next tutor session," she said) and an elephant stuffed animal from Usagi ("Isn't it the cutest?).
Eventually Usagi sighed and pouted that it was a shame Luna and Artemis couldn't come, which of course elicited a visible reaction from Ranma. After the inevitable question of why he was so deathly afraid of cats was thrown, Ranma decided that is was ok to explain to the girls the Neko-ken training he underwent.
"That's horrible!" Ami exclaimed, sharing the same horrified expression as the other girls.
"Yeah, that's what people normally say," Ranma said nonchalantly with a wave of his hand and closed his eyes as he continued. "Although I think the time that he sold me for a fish and two pickles rivals even that. And there's that thing where he'd throw me off a building while I sleeping to teach me how to land and take damage, or tie a weight onto me and toss me into a lake and have me struggle to get out." Ranma paused and opened an eye to glance around the room, which was surprisingly quiet. "Wow normally someone would say—"
"I'M GONNA KILL THAT SONUVA BITCH!" Rei roared vehemently, slamming her fist on the table.
"Yeah, somethin' like that at this part. I've also heard, 'That bastard is a dead man when I meet him,' and, 'Better start shopping for a good coffin Ranma,' before, but that's generally the usual response.
Rei stood dumbfounded, "I don't get it, how are you so calm about all of this? You never once thought while you were with him that things weren't right?"
"She has a very valid point Ranma-kun," Ami interjected, "If this man truly committed such treacherous acts, he could be sent to jail for life for child abuse or maybe attempted murder." Just as Ami was going to continue, she paused as she watched Ranma, seemingly deep in thought, mumble to himself and what seemed like counting on his fingers.
"Standard response number one or standard response munber four, hmm. Ah, let's go with one." Ranma looked back at the speechless group. "Well, Pops never actually killed me so in a sense, he was very good to pushing me to my absolute limit without going over. That, and the fact that ever since I can remember, Pops had told me that I should dedicate my life to the arts and that if I wasn't prepared to give up my life for them then my life would be meaningless and I could never be a true man. That's not to say that I'm not pissed off at him to this day for some other stupid crap he pulled over on me, but that's a story for another time."
The girls continued to stare at Ranma with slacked jaws. Rei and Ami appeared to want to resume their earlier arguments, but instead gave up and sat back down. Ranma was glad that they didn't prod any further. While he was comfortable disclosing that much information, he really didn't feel like explaining the fiancée situation. He knows it's inevitable that they will find out if they keep hanging around him, but he'll cross that bridge when it comes.
The awkwardness in the room was broken as the sharp beeping noise rang throughout the room. The girls knew what came next, and Ranma had a good idea, as Ami stood up to retrieve her computer from her bag. Opening up her blue Mercury computer, Ami sighed and spoke in a dejected tone, "It's a youma attack, in the park area again."
"Aw man. How come the bad guys always have to interrupt us when we're having fun?" Usagi complained while puffing out her cheeks.
"I can't answer that question for you but we have to go now before any serious damage is done," Ami replied, still typing away to zero in on the coordinates of the youma.
"Alright, I could use a good fight," Ranma said as he stood up and rolled he shoulders. As he headed for the door, he was yanked back by the collar.
"Uh uh uh. Aren't you forgetting something," Rei chided while waving a small cup of water in Ranma's face. Ranma stared at the cup blankly then up at Rei's face.
"But I'm not thirsty," Ranma replied honestly, not understanding the obvious implications.
"It's not to drink it's to pour on you!" After witnessing Ranma's expected powerful refusal, Rei sighed then turned to Ami, "Ami-chan care to explain? I doubt I'd be able to get him to understand like you can."
Ami nodded, "You see Ranma, the Sailor Senshi is a group of girls with one exception correct?"
"Except that exception isn't here because he's studying abroad in America," Usagi pouted.
Ami shook her head then repeated her question, "A group of girls right Ranma-kun?" The boy nodded meekly. "Therefore, any new group members would be expected by the public to be girls right?" Another nod. "Then you understand that a boy fighting with the Senshi would attract more unwanted attention than we need right?" No nod this time. "Ok look Ranma, basically we need you to be a girl while fighting with us so that none of the sick perverts out there get any perverse ideas alright. We'll still call you Sun so no one recognizes you." Seeing as there was still no response from the pig-tailed boy, Ami turned and nodded to Rei who promptly splashed the cup of water in Ranma's face before he could react.
That snapped the now female Ranko out of Ami's quasi-hypnotism. "Hey! I never actually agreed!"
"There's no time to argue," Rei snapped back, "The longer we wait the more likely that an innocent bystander is hurt."
Ranko pouted, her face still red with the remnants of her anger, "Oookaaay, I'll go along with it for now but don't expect me to let this go."
"Good, then let's go girls," Usagi proclaimed.
As the Senshi plus Ranko approached the area of the youma attack, they already saw smoke billowing in the distance of the park. Picking up their pace, they arrived where the smoke was coming from and saw the same lizard-like youma that Ranma had supposedly single-handedly defeated while the other girls were off transforming.
"Hey, what's the deal?" Sailor Jupitor questioned, "If it's the same youma as last time then Sun can wipe the floor with it and we can be home before dinner."
"Man and I was hoping for a challenge," Ranko said while she cracked her knuckles and took a step forward. As soon as her foot landed, however, she froze in her tracks as her battle senses were assailed by an intense intent to kill. Ranko narrowed her eyes as she located the source of the aura which wasn't difficult since it was overflowing from the branches of a nearby tree. "Moko Takabisha," she said in a calm voice as she launched a mini-sized ball of Ki at the branches.
The Senshi stared blankly at Ranko. "Uh, Sun, the youma is over there," Moon said puzzlingly as she pointed at the mini-Godzilla, "Not up there."
Ranko completely ignored her, "Mind introducin' yourself," she spoke to the branches.
For a moment only silence followed until a soft chuckle emitted from the trees. "Ha ha ha, I'd expect nothing less from the one I've heard so much about." The Senshi's attention snapped to the tree branches. A second later, a hooded figure swung from one of the branches with its legs and flipped in the air before landing soundly on the ground. "You had me worried. For a second there I thought you'd fall for the same trick Lyna used," the figure mocked. It was easy to tell that the cool voice belonged to that of a male. The figure snapped its fingers and the supposed youma quickly flickered out of existence.
"Another hologram," Venus spoke incredulously, "Why can't you guys just fight like all the other bad guys before?"
"Maybe because I don't need a youma for this kind of mission," the figure replied from behind its hood as if answering a small child's stupid question.
The cloaked man began to raise his hands and the Senshi quickly got into fighting stances. The figure froze when it saw their actions. "Aw, c'mon don't be so jumpy." The figure continued to move its hands to its hood and promptly pulled it back.
The face that was revealed was that of a man who appeared maybe to be in his twenties. His dark blue hair drooped in front of his hazel brown eyes and he wore a grin that gave an impression that this man hadn't a care in the world.
"How's it goin' Sailor Senshi? The name's Rind and I'll be your entertainer today." Rind swung his arm in front of him and gave an exaggerated bow; his grin did not waver a bit.
Sailor Moon stepped forward and demanded, "Very well Rind, why are you here and what do you want?"
"Jeez you really are stupid if you expect me to answer such ridiculous questions, dork," he replied in the same condescending tone as earlier while placing his hands behind his head. This made Moon turn a slight shade of red with irritation. "Do you really expect an enemy to reveal his intentions so easily for no visible gain?" For a split second Rind narrowed his eyes at the girls which caused the Senshi, except Ranko, to flinch back in surprise. However, it was only for a split second as soon Rind's demeanor returned to his usual laid-back attitude.
"Buuut, I can tell you that I needa fight but first. . ." Rind leveled a finger at Ranko, ". . . I need you, Talana, to transform."
"Like hell I will," Ranko retorted with no sign of compromise in her voice, "I can kick your ass myself without any frilly magic powers."
Rind sighed and placed two fingers on his forehead as if thinking about something, "I thought you'd say that."
For a few seconds, nothing happened, the two factions just continued to stare at each other. Then Ranko's eyes widened as she saw the fingers on Rind's free hand twitch suddenly.
"GET DOWN!" she yelled.
But it was too late. The earth around the girls was torn asunder by some invisible force as Ranko shielded her face with her arms from the flying bits of rock. It lasted only for a moment and when Ranko uncovered her face, she found all the Senshi suspended in mid-air with their arms and legs spread out. It looked as if were just floating there- no, that's not right. As Ranko looked closer she saw that the girls were being bound by extremely thin strings that were anchored to the branches of the trees nearby. They must have been bounded very tightly, as the girls were gritting their teeth in an attempt to bare the pain.
Ranko turned back to Rind with a fire in her eyes. "Let, them, down," she demanded in a steely voice.
"Gladly. After I'm done with my work here," Rind mocked cockily. "You see Talana, my mission is actually to fight you in your Senshi form, and we can't be havin' any interruptions now can we? So hurry up and get dressed so we can get this over with."
"You can go rot in hell. I already said that I'm not getting in that-,"
Ranko halted her rebuttal suddenly and turned around to see the girls screaming out in agony, their faces even more contorted than before as they desperately tried to bare the searing pains etched into their bodies.
"Uh, uh, uh," Rind chided while waving his finger in front of him. "You better do what I say if you don't want to see these girls to get bloody." To emphasize his point, Rind raised his right hand that had some sort of circular device on the back that seemed to be the origin of the strings.
The red-haired girl scowled and raised her fist in front of her face. It was easy to tell that those strings wouldn't be cut by an easy method. "You bastard, fine then! You're gonna regret pissin' me off bub." With that, Ranko swung her arm down to her side and. . . did nothing. Another second passed before, "Um, how do I get in that thing?"
The tension in the air instantly evaporated. Rind seemed equally surprised as the girls. He let just enough slack in his strings so the bound girls could talk.
"But you've already transformed once before, shouldn't you already know how?" Moon asked incredulously.
"Yeah, well that was done kinda unconsciously," Ranko replied while rubbing the back of her head, "I don't actually remember how I did it." The girl laughed nervously while the Senshi sweat-dropped.
"Let's hurry this up people. I don't have all day," Rind said impatiently while gesturing with his hand.
After glaring at the blue haired man, Mars said, "You should be able to transform if you say 'Sun Star Power Make-Up' but wait a sec. Do you even have a Hensh-."
"Alright got it," Ranko cut Mars off before she finished her question. Turning back to her opponent, Ranko repeated the same motion of swinging her arm to her side and. . .
"SUN STAR POWER MAKE-UP!"
. . . yelled those words. Immediately, a crest flashed across the back of Ranko's outstretched hand and emitted a glow that quickly enveloped the red-head. As the transformation carried out, she felt her usual Chinese clothes seemingly melt off her body and be replaced with new garments. She couldn't say that the warm, gentle light didn't feel comforting when she felt as if floating in space. Soon, the light disappeared, and in its place stood Sailor Sun already in a battle stance.
"Alright finally. Now let's get this show on the road!" Rind shouted and threw off his black cloak revealing a red sleeveless top, its fiery color slashed by a black X and black cargo shorts.
"No need to keep those boring duds on," Rind commented while his original black cloak vanished in his hand, "I'm no intelligence gatherer like Lyna was, I'm a bona-fide soldier so don't expect me to be as easy as she was."
The bounded Senshi were taken aback. If that women earlier was just an intelligence gatherer and was able to defeat all of them so easily, then what are the capabilities of an official fighter?
"I don't care if you're a soldier or a clean-up boy, you're getting' an ass whoopin' for holding these girls hostage," Sailor Sun remarked, then quickly rushed at Rind at a blinding speed.
Sun opened up with high kick aimed for Rind's head, but he bent backwards and Sun watched as her kick soared above his face. Using the momentum of the kick, Sun spun around and continued with a low kick meant to sweep the blue haired man off his feet. However, with his back still bent, Rind performed a backwards somersault to avoid the attack.
Rind ended up a few meters from Sun. "Phew nice attack. Caught me a little off-guard there," he said, although it didn't sound like he was put off at all. Lunging forward, Rind covered the distance between him and Sun in the blink of an eye.
Sun wasn't surprised at all, however, and was easily able evade Rind's opening punch to her stomach. Rind didn't let up though, as he continued his carefully timed and aimed punches, kicks, and thrusts without showing any sign of an opening. Sun was impressed, this man's attacks weren't just a flurry of attacks like Lyna's before, but were carefully strung together where each movement smoothly flowed to the next. Sun imagined that it may have looked like a choreographed dance to an outsider.
Sun wasn't having particular trouble avoiding damage from such a combination, however, she'll never win if she can't find an opening and go on the offensive. Finally, Rind threw a punch that was ripe for a throw, and Sun took advantage of it. Taking hold of the outstretched arm, Sun flung Rind over her shoulder.
Rind was able to twist in the air and land flat on his feet, however, but it gave Sun the chance she needed for her attack. As soon as Rind landed, Sun was in front of him, letting loose her own furious combination. Rind had a surprising amount of openings, but more surprising was the fact that he managed to block or evade each time Sun attacked those opening. It didn't take long for Sun to realize that the blue-haired man was purposefully leaving those weak points to control where she attacked and, therefore, predict her movements. This kind of tactic was obviously extremely risky and began to irritate Sun because it told her that this man was either confident enough in his own abilities to pull off such a stunt, or believed that her own skills were not enough to take advantage of such opportunities. She was more concerned with the latter.
Fine then, if that's how you're gonna play. . . Sun thought to herself. Seeing another opening in Rind's defense, she began a chop to his side. Nevertheless, this was just a feint, and Rind fell for it. As Rind moved to block the blow, Sun's other fist was already on a flight path to his face. However, this blow was blocked as well by a hand that moved in front of Rind's face at the last moment. This left Sun in an unfavorable position as both of her hands were grasped by Rind.
Sun's opponent gave his annoying smirk again, "Excellent! Just what I'd expect from Talana. Ever the sharp one in combat."
Sun scowled and sent a round house kick aimed at Rind's head once again, but he casually released Sun's hands and leaped back to the same distance they started at. "Why don't you stop acting like you know me? I've never met you and it's startin' to piss me off." Even though she was informed of the whole Talana deal, it still irked Sun that this man acted like he's known her all her life.
"True. I haven't actually met you before, but, I have heard a lot about you." Before Sun could question him on what he meant, Rind waved his hand. "But that's getting' off topic. Back to the fight now." Rind threw his arms across each other in front of him, sending a storm of the near invisible threads screaming towards Sun. As the strings tore up the ground again, Sun attempted to dodge to her side but was unable to escape without sustaining a few cuts on her arms and legs.
Scowling at her injuries, Sun turned back to her opponent who was casually twirling the strings around his body. "It's not difficult to see the advantages of a practically invisible weapon is it?" Rind asked in a cocky tone as a tree branch fell beside him, no doubt from being cut by one of the deadly filaments.
"I don't care about your stupid puppet tricks, you can't possibly keep the girls tied up, attack, and defend yourself with only two hands!" Sun shouted just as Rind began his attack again. The red-haired Senshi quickly reacted to the invisible threat by launching what was intended to be a Moko Takabisha but turned out to be a flaming fireball. The fireball fulfilled its purpose just as well, however, as the resulting explosion from the two attacks colliding created just the distraction that Sun needed.
As Rind shielded his eyes from the bright light and heat assailing his body, Sun jumped through the flare and positioned herself above Rind's head. "Defend this you puppet freak!" Sun began to plummet downwards at a ferocious speed. A second before impact, she did a mid-air front flip while extending her leg to deliver a vicious axe kick aimed at Rind's cranium. At the last possible moment though, Rind shifted to the side, taking the blow to his right shoulder instead. As Rind gritted in pain, he flung his left arm around to bring his threads screaming towards Sun, forcing her to abandon a follow-up and retreat instead.
Rind smirked at Sun as she landed and popped his dislocated shoulder back into its socket. "I see, your control of magical energy is top-notch as well. Just to be expected of you." The blue-haired man held out his upturned palm and flexed his fingers. "I'm gonna need you to bring out your weapon now though. So come on, let's go."
Sun scowled at the Rind's attitude despite taking her blow. "First of all, I don't use weapons. That other time that thing just happened to poof into my hands and I was too caught up in the action to care. Second of all, why should I be taking orders from you of all people?"
Rind put a hand to his forehead and sighed. "Fine, I guess we don't need the weapon data for now. I'm sure Lord Zan will be satisfied with-,"
Rind was sharply cut off by the fact that a slender cylindrical object was suddenly swung horizontally at him and was forced to back away. When he regained his footing, he looked to see the Senshi of the Sun wielding the handle of her weapon, but it lacked the blade.
"Jeez you're pretty naïve if you think you can take me on with only a pole," Rind retorted sarcastically shaking his head.
Sun simply stood still for a moment, her head hanging down just enough to cover her face in a shadow. "Oh don't get me wrong," she said in an icy voice, while readying her pole as if it was a spear. She crouched low to the ground, ready to lunge forward at any moment. "The only reason you're still alive after you mentioned that name," she snapped her head up, her right eye burning with the same fiery orange hue as with her fight with Zan, "is because you can't tell me where that bastard Zan is if your head isn't still attached to your neck." There it was again. That inexplicable rage deep within her soul that resounded inside her heart. Just the very mention of that man's name caused this reaction. Why? Why does she hate that man so much?
Sun's internal conflict was interrupted as something flew past her face, barely grazing her cheek which began to bleed. Rind retracted the strings he just shot out. "Hey now, you can't be spacing out after giving a threat like that."
Stunned for only a moment, sun shook her head to re-center her focus on the opponent in front of her. "Just shut up and fight. When I'm done with you, you're gonna tell me exactly where Zan is."
A few seconds passed where the combatants merely stared at each other. Finally, Rind placed his hands behind his head and turned slightly away from Sun. "On second thought, let's end the fighting here today shall we?" he said as if he was changing his mind about going out to lunch.
"My ass we're done!" Sun spat, "You started this fight so you're gonna see it to the end." Sun lunged forward and sprinted the small distance between her and Rind.
The opposing man simply clucked his tongue and shook his head, "There's no helping it I guess."
Sun halted her charge when the air suddenly filled with pained screams. It didn't even take her a second to realize who the owners of them were. Sun whipped hew head behind her and saw the girls squirming and contorting their bodies in pain that was obviously far greater than any they experienced since being captured. More than their clothes were torn, as their skin began to rend as well and the amount of blood pouring down their bodies made it impossible to identify the injuries themselves.
"You forget who is in control here." Sun tore her face away from the miserable sight and turned towards Rind again, who was now directly in front of her as a result of her charge. "You see, you never had a chance of victory to begin with." Rind's expression hardened into one that showed he was entirely serious. "Now kneel," he commanded in a way that left no compromise.
Sun's eyes narrowed into a deadly glare. "Bite me," she snarled. The red-haired Senshi flinched as the screams behind her suddenly intensified, what seemed like an impossible feat.
"I said kneel," Rind repeated.
This time, Sun clenched her eyes shut and bit her bottom lip so hard it began to bleed. As if her joints were rusted hinges, Sun reluctantly dropped down on her right knee and hung her head. The humiliation and dishonor she felt greatly eclipsed any worry she had for what would become of her. Her head was raised by a finger that pushed on her forehead, and she cracked open her eyes to gaze into Rind's once more.
"This will only last for a moment," Rind spoke in his still emotionless tone, "but for you it may seem like an eternity." At that moment, Rind's finger emitted a soft glow, and Sun's consciousness went blank.
Suddenly, Sun arched her back and stared wide-eyed at the sky as her mind was assailed with a multitude of images, each one flashing only for an instant before being replaced by the next. Yet somehow it all registered in Sun's mind.
A woman without an arm lying in a pool of blood.
A man strangling another, only to be shot in the head from behind.
A severed head rolling across a red street.
A little girl giggling hysterically as she continuously stabbed at a motionless corpse.
A boy with madness in his eyes lights himself on fire.
A baby crying as it is engulfed in flames.
"MAKE IT STOOOOOOOOOOOP!"
The Senshi were no longer being tortured by the strings that bound them, but instead were being tortured mentally as they watched helplessly at Sun's plight. Her back was still arched, and her entire body was trembling uncontrollably as if she had been in sub-zero temperatures this whole time. Tears were streaming down her face with no sign of ending. The source of those tears was the most miserable part of all. Her eyes. In her eyes was the primal instinct of fear. The greatest fear one could imagine, the kind that renders the body and mind completely paralyzed. And Sun has been in this state for over ten minutes now.
Finally, her trembling stopped and just as quickly she collapsed on her side. The Senshi's restraints were suddenly released, and they wasted no time rushing over to their fallen comrade. Moon was the first to reach her, and scooped Sun's head into her hand and rested her body on her legs. Sun was taking short, irregular breaths, and one could see her heart beating through her clothing. She had also broken into a sweat, but being able to distinguish between sweat and tears was no easy task.
As Moon began to cry herself, she turned to Rind, "What did you do to her?" her voice cracked from crying.
Rind turned around. "All I did was wake her up from the blissful dream she was having," he replied in a non-caring voice. He raised his hand above his head, "The rest you can find out yourself." Rind snapped his fingers and his figure faded away into thin air.
The Senshi stared at the space Rind occupied only a moment longer before turning back to Sun. "Sun, wake up! C'mon hang in there! Wake up! Sun!" Moon gently shook the body in her hands, but there was no response. What's more, Sun's previous erratic breathing was becoming fainter and fainter by the second.
End Chapter 5
Author's Notes: Well after more than a year of waiting, there's your chapter 5. Probably wasn't worth the wait but I had to get it out eventually. Lots of stereotypical, fuku-fic plot holes in this chapter, but I tried to make them as original as possible to entertain you. Now before I leave you all, I have a few things to say.
The Ending: No, I don't plan on ending every chapter like this nor did I intentionally end in a cliff-hanger. I end my chapters where the story seems to come to a natural stopping point; I don't actually plan where to end my chapters before-hand.
I'd just like to leave some tips for getting me to write faster in the future. They are very simple things that people, nonetheless, seem to forget sometimes:
1. Review, review, review. Most important of them all. It's very difficult for me to know how you like my story if you don't tell me. Even if I haven't updated it in months and it seems like the fic is dead still please review because I am still writing, as evidenced by this chapter. However, please refrain from mono-syllabic/single-worded reviews as they really do not tell me much.
2. PM me. I'm not some almighty person who won't respond to any lowly person. I'm a normal guy who likes to talk to people so if you have a question, comment, concern, etc. that you would like to hear from me on, then go ahead and fire-off a PM. I'll reply to it to the best of my ability.
3. Take part in my polls on my profile. The questions I ask on them help me shape my story so check in every now and then to see if I have a new one up. That'd be appreciated.
OK, that's all I have to say. If you've read this far, I appreciate it. Thank you to all my readers once again for sticking with me. Please wait patiently for the next chapter. In the mean time, let the raging over the ending begin!