There were times when Ranma could really get annoyed with his life. After all, he had to work crazy hours battling monsters, deal with the regular craziness that came with being a Saotome, and still do his homework on time. However, this was not one of those times. Currently, Ranma and Kasumi were sitting in a corner booth at an Italian restaurant enjoying an evening out. The two of them were sharing a large calzone together causing a few ladies who could see the couple to let out romantic sighs.
"So Kasumi, how's Setsuna recovering from her migraine?" Even if no one could overhear them, Ranma wasn't about to mention anything magical in public. Besides, the last he had seen of Setsuna was yesterday when Kasumi went to help his fellow champion with that spell on her.
Kasumi took a sip of her soda and then smiled. "Setsuna's doing fine. Thanks to the meds that her doctor prescribed she'll be back to normal in no time. She promised to take it easy today, but she'll be back and ready to work tomorrow." The purification ritual had been simple to perform. It was just time consuming and Kasumi was sure that Setsuna was happy that they were alone when she did the ritual as part of it involved Setsuna being placed nude into a bed of pure water.
After taking a few more bites of dinner Kasumi asked, "How are things at home going for you Ranma?"
Ranma shrugged and then replied, "Same old same old. Pops is complaining about the construction job he has and that 'a martial artist shouldn't have to do such menial labor to live.' I've tried pointing out that if he wants a career as a martial artist he'll have to either become a teacher at your father's dojo or open his own. Since your father doesn't want to reopen the Tendo dojo and Pops won't get the certification to open a legal dojo he's out of luck. Mom seems determined that I should have a younger sibling; either thanks to her or because of Shampoo. As for Shampoo, she's doing fine and apparently she's asked her great-grandmother to come over because of all the craziness that's occurring in town. How are things going for you?"
An ever so faint blush tinted Kasumi's face. Her fiancée wasn't a smooth operator by any stretch of the imagination, but the kindness he gave without thinking perfectly complemented his roguish charm. "Things are going good. Akane's still a little shook up from the fiasco in the school auditorium. However, she seems to be doing all right and the knowledge that there are people out there far stronger then she is motivating her training. Nabiki's behavior is improving and she's stop her embarrassing schemes. I guess all she needed with the knowledge that hell exists to put her back on the right path."
The two then quietly returned to their meal. After a while the waitress came around and brought out desert. Ranma and Kasumi shared a slice of chocolate cake and when they were done Ranma paid the bill. They then left the restaurant and began walking towards the Tendo dojo. About half way to the dojo, the couple heard a loud crash. Both Ranma and Kasumi quickly rushed to the noise ready to transform if it was an unannounced attack. However, they paused when they got to scene and Ranma blurted out, "Ryoga?"
Standing in the middle of the street was Ranma's old classmate Ryoga Hibiki. Ranma, Kasumi, and the rest of the on lookers were staring at the boy while their jaws hung open. Not that anyone could blame them; even in Nerima it wasn't every day that you saw an 18 wheeler jackknifed into the air because it crashed into someone and the boy in question wasn't even fazed. Ryoga's head immediately turned when he heard his name called. His eyes widened when he saw his old classmate. "Ranma, what in Tatarus are you doing here in Samarqand?"
Ranma playfully shook his head and smiled. "Still got that slight problem with directions? This is Nerima in Japan Ryoga; Samarqand is in the middle of Asia several thousand miles away!" A sheepish look appeared on Ryoga's face which just made Ranma want to slap his own face. "Look Ryoga, why don't you come with me and Kasumi so we can sort out what's happening?"
Not seeing a better thing to do, Ryoga decided to join up with Ranma and Kasumi. Once the trio started walking Ryoga spoke up. "So Ranma, where have you been? The boys at school said that you had just disappeared."
Ranma shrugged his shoulders at Ryoga's question. "I got an offer for some serious training and a shot at a good job. Once I got the job I came here to Nerima and found out that my father had arranged for me to marry a daughter of an old friend of his. I and my fiancée Kasumi were just finishing up our date when we ran into you. So how have you been?"
Ryoga scratched his head and began to tell his tale. Poor Ryoga had been in hell since shortly after Ranma left the school. Well, technically Ryoga had only been in the underworld except for a few times when he wandered into Tatarus. Apparently Ryoga had won a contest to visit Greece shortly after Ranma left town. He had managed to get to the airport and get to Greece without any trouble. However, Ryoga's poor sense of direction led him to fall down a cave and entered the underworld. The shades of some Greek heroes had spotted Ryoga wading through Styx and had taken him under their wing.
"So Ryoga," Ranma asked with his voice carrying genuine curiosity. "According to that literature class we took the river Styx was suppose to render anyone who bathed in it invulnerable. Is that true?"
"Yah, it's true. I didn't believe it at first but then that three headed dog tried to bite me and it broke its teeth on my arm. There wasn't a scratch at all on my arm, but I've got the tooth to prove it." Ryoga reached into his backpack and pulled out a tooth that would make a T. Rex's canines look like toothpicks. The eyes of some onlookers bulged out when they saw Cerberus's tooth, but Ranma and Kasumi took it in stride.
Ryoga then put the tooth away and continued to talk about his time in the underworld. "It turns out that the old Greek heroes were a bunch of super martial artists and that their strongest members were later believed to be semi-divine given their prowess. Hercules was a jerk, he's way more into himself than you ever were Ranma and that wasn't something I was expecting. Theseus is a bit shady and not really trustworthy. But, Perseus and Odysseus are great teachers."
Ranma nodded his head and then asked, "What did they teach you? I mean, I hope you didn't spend all summer in the land of the dead without learning anything. Pops isn't good for real spar anymore and I'd hate to lose my old sparing partner."
An eyebrow rose of Ryoga's forehead when he heard Ranma say that. In all honesty, Ryoga didn't have that high of an opinion of Ranma; that jerk who kept on stealing his bread. Odysseus had worked with Ryoga over the past couple of months at anger management and allowed him to see that things might not be as he thought they were. Still, it was surprising that Ranma thought they were sparing partners. After giving the thought some consideration, Ryoga decided that he could use a friendly rival.
Kasumi then joined the conversation. "Mr. Ryoga, it's getting rather late and I was wondering if you had a place to say?" After seeing the slightly embarrassed look on Ryoga's face, Kasumi smoothly decided to make an offer. "Why don't you follow Ranma and me to my house? My father owns a dojo and I'm pretty sure that he would be willing to let you stay the night in exchange for a spar in the morning."
The trio then walked the rest of the way to the Tendo dojo in silence. Soun was waiting at the door when the trio arrived. He immediately rushed out and gave Kasumi a bear hug. "Ah my sweet little angel, you're home at last. I was beginning to worry that something had happened to you."
A faint blush appeared on Kasumi's cheeks. "Oh father, I'm only three minutes later than I expected to be coming home at. At that was because traffic was a bit heavier than anticipated. Besides, it's not like anything would happen to me since I was with Ranma."
"Of course, how could you possibly be harmed with your fiancée around to protect you?" Soun then placed a hand firmly on Ranma's shoulder. "Thank you for looking out for my daughter tonight my boy." The Tendo patriarch then noticed Ryoga standing nearby and asked, "And just who is this young fellow?"
Kasumi quickly jumped in to answer her father's question. "This is Ryoga Hibiki father. He's an acquaintance of Ranma's and Ranma's old sparing partner who just came back from a long training trip. You know how Akane's been complaining about not having a good sparing partner father? Well, I was thinking we could ask Ryoga here to spar against Akane since he's a skilled fighter and unlike Ranma, he doesn't view her as a sister. To be fair, I thought we could offer to let him stay with us tonight in exchange for sparing with Akane."
Soun nodded sagely and quickly made the offer to Ryoga. The fact that Kasumi had effectively played him like a fiddle never entered the elder Tendo's mind. Ranma chose this moment to leave for his home and he got a goodbye kiss from Kasumi.
Cologne hopped down the streets of Nerima on her staff homing in on her great-granddaughter's chi signal. It was trickier than back in the village given the number of people living in Nerima. However, Cologne had established a lock on Shampoo's signal and not even the great background noise of everyone else's chi could distract her. After a few minutes, the Amazonian elder came to a small townhouse and rang the doorbell.
Ranma opened the door and wasn't really surprised to see a shriveled midget standing on the front steps. In a completely nonchalant manner Ranma asked, "Are you here because of something my old man did, here because something with the Chinese Amazons, or simply here because it's Nerima and something extremely crazy hasn't happened in the past week?"
After a quick attitude readjustment with her staff, Cologne huffed and said, "You should speak more respectfully to your elders' boy. I'm Cologne of the Chinese Amazons and I'm here to see my great-granddaughter Shampoo and her new family. And just who might you be, sonny boy?"
While still rubbing his head Ranma replied, "I'm Ranma Saotome. Unfortunately, I'm the son of that bozo your great-granddaughter has married due to your tribal laws."
"I see you are not entirely happy with your father, great-great-grandson." Cologne's eyes narrowed as she started to read Ranma's chi signal. It was absolutely enormous! Why, it rivaled the power a master martial artist five times the boy's current age could expect to have. It was almost a pity that the boy was Shampoo's son and not her husband. Well, at least she could expect Shampoo to give birth to strong future children given the power of their half-brother and the boy was in the tribe so everything was good when looking at the big picture.
Ranma shrugged his shoulders and let Cologne into the house. "Pops is a good martial arts teacher and can be a decent guy when given proper motivation. However most of the time he is as useful as a tub of lard when left on his own."
To Ranma's surprise, Cologne started chuckling. "In other words, he's a typical male. Oh don't get me wrong great-great-grandson, you men are very useful and anyone who thinks less of you because of your gender is a fool. However, most of your fellow men would think nothing of just spending the night getting drunk a bar and complaining about things instead of doing something about your problems. After all, why do you think it's said that behind every strong man is a strong woman?"
At this point, Shampoo came running down the stairs and ran to grab Cologne in a hug. "Ayah! Great-grandmother, it's so good to see you! I thought you wouldn't be here for a few more weeks."
Cologne chuckled and replied, "Now, now Shampoo. I got your message about the demonic summoning a week ago. I'm not about to let my great-granddaughter or her family stay in a place where such things happen without insuring that you have the training to protect yourselves. It was a simple matter to call some old friends in the Party and get a chartered flight to Beijing. From there, I simply gave the annual report to the chairman and then flew over here to Tokyo international."
Ranma blinked his eyes and asked, "Party? What are you talking about?"
Cologne looked at Ranma and calmly said, "Why the Communist Party of course. All elders of the Amazon nation are high ranking members of the Party just like the other elders in the other kingdoms around Jusenkyo. Its part of a deal we struck with Mao back in the 40s; we keep the province peaceful and the rest of China pretends we don't exist."
Ranma shrugged his shoulders wondering why he was even surprised. After all, in his life, normal meant off the wall insane to everyone else. So, why should it be a shock that Chinese Amazons were in league with the People's Republic of China?
"Dead Scream!" Sailor Pluto sent out her signature attack to blast a youma that was approaching Lilith's back as the sorceress focused on sealing up the vortex to the negaverse. She then glanced off to her right where Senshi Eris used Chaos Slash Revised: Oceloti Claws to wipe out several dozen youmas that were trying to escape. The recently formed trio was once again on youma extermination. One question on each of their minds was: if Beryl had this many youma in reserve, how did the Sailor Senshi win?
This was the seventh time since everyone learned each other's identities that the trio had to put down a youma attempt to enter Tokyo. Luckily, they had managed to develop a very good system. Lilith was in charge of sealing up the portal. Senshi Eris with his wide area and power attacks took out the main groups of the youmas. Finally, Sailor Pluto covered her partners' backs and took care of stragglers.
Eventually, Lilith was able to seal the breech and her allies took out the last youma. With the situation taken care of, the trio plopped down on the ground with their backs to each other. "This is ridiculous," Senshi Eris muttered loud enough for his companions to hear. Playing wack a youma was a poor decision when it looked like there were only a few of them left. But after almost five weeks their numbers haven't diminished."
In a friendly aggressive way Sailor Pluto shot back, "Your point hairball?" Even though Setsuna and Ranma were now friends, they continued to stick to name calling while in their champion forms.
"My point shortskirt, is that we've been letting the youma's dictate terms in all our battles. We're reacting and that's not a good thing. Think about it. We have to stop each and every incursion because otherwise civilians will get hurt. The youma only need to break out successfully once to win. If we keep fighting like this we're practically begging Murphy to screw us over."
Sailor Pluto nodded her head. "Okay, you've got a good point. However, what are you hoping to do about it? It's not like we can just enter the negaverse and take out a leader to end the threat. That's what got us into this jam in the first place." Admitting that was hard for Sailor Pluto since it was a silent acknowledgment that the princess hadn't done a very good job at thinking things through. Usagi was a very good girl and no one could claim otherwise, but the girl couldn't think tactically or look at the possible outcomes of her actions yet. No doubt she'd get those skills in time; it was just frustrating in the meantime.
"What about raiding the negaverse? You know pop in, wipe out several dozen youmas, and then come back here to repeat the process again at a later date? At least then the damage would be on their lands and they'd be reacting to us. We could also use the raid to figure out how many more youmas we're going to have to put down before we can relax from near constant alert."
Once again Sailor Pluto was nodding her head in agreement. Offense was the best defense after all, and it would be great to fight for once without the risk of ruining civilians lives. "That's a great idea Eris. However, there's one major problem. The negaverse is in an alternate reality that exists parallel to ours in the multiverse. It's not like we can just hop on a plane or take a cruise to get there. Unless you know of a way to jump dimensions, we're stuck playing wack a mole."
A cat got the canary grin formed on Lilith's face underneath her veil. "Getting to the negaverse might not be such a problem Pluto." Both of the planetary champions turned to look at their sorceress friend/fiancée. Lilith used the opportunity to lay her head on Senshi Eris's lap before she continued. "Generating portals isn't that hard for someone with a decent knowledge of arcane arts. The problems with portals between dimensions are energy and location. You need large amounts of power to open a portal out of our universe sense it isn't naturally 'porous' in terms of magical transportation. That's why so many summoning rituals tend to require a blood sacrifice; the life energy is enough to open the portal. The second problem is that you have to know where you're going to go because if you're not familiar with the destination you could end up anywhere."
"Luckily for us, I have that knowledge of the arcane arts and I am familiar with the negaverse after having to seal so many portals to it. If you two want, I can open a portal for us to attack the negaverse. All I'll need is a place to prepare a portal and a goat or sheep to provide the power."
Sailor Pluto and Senshi Eris looked down at Lilith, looked at each other, and then grinned. At the same time they said, "I think we can find a sheep somewhere."
Haruka and Michiru were sitting in their living room watching a romantic movie when Sailor Pluto suddenly transported into the room. They then watched as their friend and occasional ally shifted back into her civilian form. Haruka put the bowl of popcorn that was in her lap on the coffee table and looked Setsuna in the eye. "It's so nice of you to just drop in Setsuna, why didn't you at least give us a call?" The sarcasm was practically dripping from Haruka's mouth. It's not that Haruka hated Setsuna; she just tended to associate the other woman's visits with upcoming headaches.
Ignoring the sarcasm, Setsuna gave a friendly reply. "It would have been nice to call you both ahead of time. However, I've got to leave in a few minutes to pick up a few rams at a market in Oman and I wanted to reach you two before I left." The owlish looks on the younger champions' faces made Setsuna grin. Throwing the duo for a loop now and again was a good thing; it helped to keep them on their toes and to not get overconfident.
Michiru took a small spoon and elegantly started to stir the tea pot that was on the coffee table. Without disrupting the rhythm of the stirring she began to speak. "When we last talked you mentioned that you were looking for a possible new sailor senshi. Have you been successful in your search?"
To Haruka's surprise, Setsuna nodded her head. "As a matter of fact, I did find the new senshi. I will admit that it was rather tricky for me to track this one down; the newest senshi's mainly battling a foe that we can't detect due to our connection to the princess. The fact that this senshi is independent of the princess means that masking of this opponent isn't working."
"Is she cute?" Haruka's big mouth quickly earned the champion of Uranus a gentle elbow in the gut courtesy of Michiru.
For a second, Setsuna seriously considered revealing that the new champion was a guy. However, she decided that Haruka needed to learn a hands' on lesson about what happens when you assume. "Oh the new senshi has stolen quite a few hearts among the more hormonal members of society." It was plain to see from the glazed look in Haruka's eyes and the frustration in Michiru's that they thought 'Sailor Eris' was a bombshell in a miniskirt. Won't they be surprised?
Trying to change the topic, Michiru politely asked, "What are we to do about the new senshi Setsuna?" In absence of the princess, Setsuna was the de facto leader of the Outer Senshi even though she mostly let the other Outers operate on their own.
"We'll leave the other senshi alone for now. Our basic goals are the same, even if the newest senshi couldn't care less about the princess. Why don't you two just stay here and keep on top of things while I work to insure that we don't accidentally start a war between senshi okay?"
Even as Michiru and Haruka agreed to the idea, Setsuna found herself wondering why she had made the suggestion in the first place. For a second she thought it was because of the spell that the princess had accidentally cast on them. However, that really didn't hold much weight since Kasumi could remove the spell with a purification ritual. Why did she want to keep Senshi Eris and Lilith to herself?
Ranma vaguely heard a soft voice calling to him as he slowly woke up. The young champion groggily opened his eyes wondering what could be getting him up. He had just gone to bed damn it! That wasn't an easy thing to do in the Saotome house when his mother insisted that his father prove how 'manly' he was. However, Ranma's brain quickly woke up when he saw the face looking over him. "Kasumi, why are you here?"
To Ranma's shock and amazement, his fiancée was standing next to his bed wearing a breathtaking red and yellow kimono. Kasumi gave Ranma an enchanting smile and asked, "Did you not want me to be here?"
Still confused, the young man blurted out, "Yes, No, I don't know." Ranma then glanced at the clock and shook his head, "Kasumi, it's 11:30 at night and we're supposed to open that portal tomorrow morning to go to the negaverse. No offense, but shouldn't you be in your bed resting up for the ritual?"
Kasumi gave Ranma a look that for some bizarre reason, made him feel like he was being hunted. She then sat down on Ranma's bed and gave a sigh. "The ritual isn't a big issue Ranma. I could probably do it without shifting into Lilith. It's just that something's bugging me."
Ranma propped himself up so that he was only half lying on his bed. He then gently touched Kasumi's cheek trying to reassure her while he was still feeling some nervousness out the act of touching her so intimately. "Is it about our assault plan? If it is, I'm sure that Setsuna won't mind too much about canceling the plan if you're uncomfortable about this."
"That's not the issue for me Ranma. What's been bugging me isn't connected to our mission; but I will admit that the fighting in general is aggravating the issue for me. My problem has to do with my past lives and the memories I have of them."
Immediately Ranma straitened up. "What is the problem Kasumi? If there's anything I can do, anything at all, I promise that I'll do it. You have my word as your fiancé and as a martial artist that I'll do all I can to help you." All of Ranma's instincts immediately started trying to tell his brain that he had just made a major mistake.
Kasumi smiled at her fiancée and gave him a peck on the cheek. After a second, Kasumi pulled back an inch and whispered into Ranma's ear. "Thank-you Ranma, that means so much to me. She then leaned in again and kissed him on the lips. Seconds later, Ranma found himself French kissing Kasumi and his mind started to shut down from the feelings of Kasumi's tongue on his.
However, Ranma's mind quickly snapped back into focus when he saw Kasumi reach behind her back and undo the tie of her kimono. Ranma quickly broke the kiss and firmly pushed Kasumi back a few inches. "What? Wait a moment. Kasumi, what is going on?"
Tears started to water in Kasumi's eyes and she looked like she had been punched in the gut. She then started to sob "Am I that terrible?"
Ranma looked like a dear caught in the head lights of a car. "Kasumi, what's wrong?" He then reached forward to touch Kasumi's cheek.
The young man's hand never reached his fiancée's cheek. Kasumi batted Ranma's hand away and promptly got off the bed. "Leave me alone! I'm sorry I came over!"
This entire situation wasn't making any sense to Ranma. However, he knew that it was only going to get worse the longer he let it exist. Ranma thus leaped from his bed and pinned Kasumi on the floor. "I'm sorry for doing this to you Kasumi, but I need answers. What have I done? Please, I can't correct this without knowing what's going on."
Kasumi could barely believe the situation she was in. Here she was, in her fiancée's bedroom pinned to the floor with her fiancée pinning her wanting to know what was going on. The sheer bizarreness of the situation caused her to start laughing and cry at the same time. "I wanted to make love to you!"
"Wha?" Ranma couldn't believe what he had just heard. He was so shocked at Kasumi's proclamation that he let go of her and fell off to the side.
Kasumi used Ranma's shock to roll onto her back and sit up. The motion caused her Kimono to loosen and while still covering everything, created a much more alluring and sensual sight. Kasumi lowered her gaze to the floor creating an aura of humbleness and modesty that others would have thought impossible for the situation. "Ranma, how many battles have we been in?"
The question came completely out of left field for Ranma. However, he eagerly answered it hoping to make things less awkward. "We've been in at least two dozen that I can think of off the top of my head."
"It's been over thirty battles that I can recall Ranma. That's 30 times either one of us could have died from an unlucky attack. It hasn't bothered me too much since we were defending people and fighting in places we knew. But now, we're planning on going into hostile territory. The chance that something could go wrong and we won't be able to retreat to safety has gone up enormously."
"I wanted tonight to be something special between the two of us. I wanted it to be a chance for us to forget about what's happening tomorrow and just be two people in love. My memories are very clear that it is a way to relax before going off to a fight. In previous lives I often would do this to make sure that my beloved lord was ready for battle. It was my hope that I could show you what I feel for you, help you enjoy this time before our battle, and give myself some peace from all of the memories."
Ranma felt like a complete jerk. Why did he halve to over react to Kasumi's advances? It wasn't that he was a hound dog ready to jump in the sack so to speak; He just didn't want to make this whole situation uncomfortable for Kasumi. It was quite obvious from the look on her face that she was still going well outside her normal comfort zone even with her 107 other lifetimes. He bowed his head in shame and almost mournfully said, "I'm so sorry for doing this to you Kasumi. I just didn't know what to think. How can I make things up to you?"
An uncomfortable silence reigned for a few minutes as the two teens tried to figure out what to do. Finally, Kasumi sighed and made up her mind. She gracefully stood up while letting her kimono fall to the floor and then walked over to Ranma. "I came here to be with you Ranma and I'm not leaving until I have what I want." Kasumi then led Ranma back to his bed where she proceeded to show him a portion of what she had learned over her many lifetimes.