Disclaimer: I do not in any way own the rights to the works of Rumiko Takahashi, I am simply writing this for my sheer enjoyment.

A/N: Huh, I haven't updated in like, four months. Let's fix that.

Mount Phoenix, for the most part, was a quaint little place. Although it was, in every way and sense, a horribly intimidating battle fortress of death ruled by an army of militarized avian-monsters, its people, and the nearby village occupying the base, were an unpresumptuous and hard-working folk who just so happened to produce their own feathered pillows. Guided by their oh so benevolent king and protected under his banner for centuries, they survived the continuous march of civilization to form their own little niche in the world. But with their ruler's recent defeat, a rather raucous ruckus has started to stir in the heart of Phoenix's people; a ruckus that, for certain individuals, was starting to become harder to ignore.

Kiima sat, not at a grandiose throne, but in a small, stuffy, and frankly crowded away room hidden off to the side of the King's seat of power. In it stood piles of packed away paper; each document discussing matters more pointless than the last. Seated at the core of this mess though, was the bird matriarch herself; a consternated look on her face as she fondled what appeared to be a dark purple object in her hand. The Orb of Transmutation- a very important item that she had come into possession to much by happenstance, had, in recent days, grown to become a key tool to a rather amusing plan she had concocted up to ease her tribes' woes. But that was a matter for another time; she had slightly less interesting tasks to handle.

"Would I like to institute mandatory child labor for youths starting at the age of six?" she paused; staring across at the document with the utmost intensity. "No." Kiima slammed her vetoing stamp down. "Just who do these people think they are?" she said with a sigh, "Those fools! Six year olds? Wait until seven at least; they don't have the muscle mass yet, it'd be entirely counter-productive!" Rubbing her forehead, the bird mistress reshuffled her parchments and shook her head. "Honestly, my advisors are growing mildly more incompetent by the day! They're going to have to completely restructure this proposal, with proper stapling next time!"

"Lady Kiima, Lady Kiima!" her thoughts were momentarily interrupted though by a call from one of her messengers. "My *huff* Lady…" a young phoenix tribesman mumbled; having rushed into the room. "They're back Ma'am, you requested to be told when they'd returned, and your two Lieutenants have just flown in to the palace!"

The white-haired woman's eyes lit up upon hearing this. Finally those two dolts had made it. She'd swear it'd been months since she'd gotten any reports from them. "Quick, were they alone? Did they bring anyone with them?"

The courier stood at attention. "They came by themselves, Ma'am. Though they did say they had an important package that needed delivering, but they insisted they had to show it to you themselves."

Kiima nodded. "Good, good, that's expected. Send them in then, and afterward you're dismissed."

As the messenger saluted and went about, Kiima fell into deep thought. The circumstances getting to this point were bizarre at best. She ordered both Masara and Koruma to monitor and possibly retrieve the transmogrified Saotome, after she had to quickly take her leave due to some business back home involving a rather serious plumbing irregularity that had been growing over the past months; the look on that one soldier who got his face melted off practically haunted her for minutes. Regardless, the thousands of variable that could change and affect the current situation kept coming to the forefront of her mind; despite her mild endearment to the two, their competence was highly questionable. Sadly, or more accurately, frighteningly, they were the best she had.

Her thoughts were snapped away abruptly though at several sharp shouts that were elicited from beyond her doorway. "Hey, that's my tea!", "Ack!", "Where are his?...", and "I've got this, I've got this," were the bellows that filled the halls outside her chamber. Her left brow rising, Kiima slowly stood upward; prepping herself for whatever shenanigans she may have to deal with.

*Swoosh!* was the sound that could heard as a trio of boneheaded buffoons bumbled into her abode. Both her lieutenants appeared to be roughly in the same shape as she last saw them, but the newest addition, a rugged Hibiki-boy in his quickly cobbled on clothes, could be seen shambling towards her as well.

"Ahaha! Sorry about that Lady Kiima! Everything's fine out there, just a bit of a mix up!" Koruma dusted himself off as he looked over his shoulder incase of incoming issues. "Hehe, sorry we're sorta late, too! We've had a few mishaps along the way. The weather out there is just terrible!"

Masara just grumbled. "You could've waited an extra five seconds, you know. Once we were inside I'm sure it wouldn't have been that hard to ask for some hot water for your pig-toy-thing."

Ryoga, his mind still sabotaged from his prior hypnotic conditioning, simply slapped Masara on his back. "Haha! There's no need for semantics my bow-based brother! No harm no foul! You did that young girl a service by bedazzling her with my well-sculpted form!"

Kiima rolled her eyes. "Yes, well, I see the programming you nitwits set in is very much in effect, that's for certain."

"Oh yeah! Your two buddies did a real nice job screwin' with pig-breath's brain. Ya know, ya coulda just smashed a rock over his head till' he was stupid, that might a saved ya some effort there!" Held within the confines of a box Masara was currently manhandling, Ranma sat; away from any sort of prying eyes that might take interest in her gaping gob. "Ya know, I'd say it was nice ta see ya, Kiima, but someone forgot ta leave the flap open on this thing!"

A look of realization coming across Koruma's face, the black-winged boy quickly grabbed Ranma out from her container. "Now hold on! I told you! Behave yourself. Every time you act up, you go back in the box."

"Cram it chicken legs!"

"And once again I am greeted by the young person who so effortlessly defeated our emperor; in the form of a hammer, no less." Kiima slowly strutted over to the chúi; taking in the red weapon's appearance as much as she could. "My word, even I have to admit that this is completely silly."

"Yeah, that's me alright, Ranma Saotome, official ass-kicker of the king of turkey dinners, at ya service, lady."

"Yes, well…" Wasting no time with further pleasantries, the current sovereign of the Phoenix people bent down to near eye level with the hammer; taking as serious of a tone with her as possible. "As much as I'd like to have a little chit-chat, may I ask, do you even know why you're here, Saotome?" Her words dragged out as her completely serious interrogation of a talking tool began.

"Nope!" Ranma flippantly remarked. "But not without tryin' though! Your two bozos ain't got nothing goin' in their skulls up there or somethin', cause they ain't tellin' me squat!"

Kiima simply just glared slightly; mildly annoyed at the girl's "In-your-face" attitude at the moment. "Well that would make sense. Those two don't know the plan yet; though I do thank you for your random baseless insults of them, it frankly saves me time," as Ranma just sneered her, the de-facto empress simply turned away. "We'll get to all that in a moment though." She looked over to her henchmen. "So where's the other one?"

Koruma blinked. "Other one?"

Masara looked away and muttered several curses under his breath. "Well, it's a long story, kind of."

"The villainous artillery gun managed to momentarily escape from our ever vigilant eyes!" Ryoga, his speech getting more flowery by the syllable, stepped forward. "But fear not, the glory of good will prevail in the end!"

The bowman of the group simply scoffed, as he turned to his slightly simpler cohort. "Who talks like that?"

"Quiet." Kiima waved her hand off. "So, from what I understand, you don't have the other hammer; the male one?" Her tone grew more annoyed with each passing word.

"Ah, no." Koruma grimaced. "Is- is that gonna be an issue?"

The current Empress's brow just furrowed as she slowly clenched her fist. "Why I-" Before she could go off though, she paused; glancing down at the chúi. "Actually," with a nature of mild curiosity in her voice, she moved by over towards her desk. "I'm not quite sure." She picked up the orb from her table; it emitted a dark purple glow that, while not overpowering, provided a constant stream of dull light from its form.

Ranma's false digits brightened. "Hey wait a second, that's-"

"You have a gender curse, right?"

That instantly raised warning signs in the Saotome's head. "Who- who wants to know?"

"Yes, you do. And from what my assistants, and-" she looked towards Ryoga, "Our clever little mole has told us, both your forms were split once you were transmogrified." Kiima's lips twitched upward. "That's very interesting."

A chill ran down Ranma's hilt as she heard this. Something about this woman gave her the heebie jeebies. She did not like the way this conversation was going. "Can ya just up an' tell me what ya want from me already? Tip toein' around like this is startin' ta get real old."

The Captain held her glare at Ranma for a moment longer, before letting out a sigh and crossing her arms. "Alright then. I suppose since you're going to have learn this eventually, now is as fine of a time as any to get this out of the way." She gestured for the lot of them to take a seat on several adjacent chairs, as she moved back behind her desk.

An eerie quiet permeated the air, as not a single person in the room spoke a word. Kiima simply just continued to look directly into the young Saotome's eyes, as if attempting to analyze her very being. "You've caused a lot of trouble, you know that?"

"Yeah, Akane never shuts up about how I keep on screwin' up." Ranma's eyes narrowed. "Ya know Akane, don'tcha? Ya sorta did this thing where ya turned into her for a while, if I'm remembering right."

"Yes, yes, that's quite correct. It is such a mild annoyance to shift completely into someone else when wet. But I suppose we were all really just caught up in the moment when that plan came forth." Kiima's feature's hardened though as her words finished. She wanted to get to business. "But enough of that, the real issue that we have here is the fact that you killed Lord Saffron."

Ryoga gasped! "Great Gatsby's ghost! You fiend!" Instantly his visage ignited into pure hate and fury! "I will not let this stand! Let me at the blasted thing!"

Before the partial-pig could leave the room in shambles, Masara rushed forward to restrain him. "Pipe down you mono-brain-celled idiot! He's not dead; he just got turned into a kid, or something!"

"Yeah, that's right!" Ranma interjected. "I beat the snot outta the punk, but he ended up okay! Besides, he deserved it fer messin' with us!"

Kiima stood unfazed by the antics. "Regardless of what your reasons may be, you created an issue here far larger reaching than you could have possibly imagined."

Ranma was starting to get even more annoyed than she was before. "Yeah? And just what would that be?"

A low growl began to emit from the older woman, before calming slightly. "*Ahem* "Every generation or so…"

"Oh geez no!" Koruma cringed slightly. "Do we have to? Everyone learns this when they're like, five!"

"Quiet!" Kiima hushed, "Our esteemed guest hasn't heard it before, so we'll all go over it." She once again leered her eyes downward to the Saotome-hammer. "Now, as I was saying, every generation or so, the Phoenix people go through a period of hardship; it is a decade long interval in which our High King, Lord Saffron, has to transition from his old form, to his new. He needs to grow for a time, before he can be properly aged and lead us once again."

The chúi's eyes narrowed a bit at this. "Okay, so big deal. That's what they have you for, ain't it? Are ya pissed that I made ya queen fer another long while or somethin'?"

Kiima sneered. "I will tell you that me ruling over our nation during this time isn't exactly peaches and roses. It's a head smashing migraine of bludgeoning proportions!" Her tone of voice lost a bit of its sinister edge as genuine distress filled the air. "But that's not the biggest issue. Lord Saffron, if you weren't aware, regulates the heat for the entirety of the tribe! With him around we have no need to fear for winter or blight! He keeps the weather temperate year round!" Taking in a deep breath, she continued. "Normally, we can deal with him not being here. It's somewhat vexing, but we stock up on supplies, make extra blankets, and just generally ride out the decade, if you will." The sovereign of the Phoenix tribe grew quiet, almost contemplative, for a moment. "But then you came into play, Ranma Saotome."

The red hammer was not liking where this was going. "Let me guess…"

The avian mistress slammed her hands down. "Because of you and your friends' careless rampant destruction and injury causing havoc, we now have to endure ten more years without our proper king! You completely turned our entire society into upheaval!" Her hands were bursting about in a wild manner, much in the same way as the porcine warrior was acting earlier. "We're completely on our own in this! We were expecting a total return to normalcy this year! But statistically now everything is off! People are without food, citizens are freezing themselves! It's a complete disaster that may threaten to disband the tribe!" Leaning over the table, she jutted her index finger straight into the face of the hammer. "And it's all, your, fault!"

Ranma was left a tiny bit disheveled. Who'd a thunk an unplanned forced removal of a monarch from his seat of power would actually have some form of dire repercussions, let alone have them come back to bite her in the end! "But wait a second!" Ranma's tone continued to remain as hard as ever. "You guys came after us; messed things up for everyone! Ya deserve what yer going through fer screwin' around!"

Kiima though shot the statement down with a hand-wave. "Whatever excuses or reasons for things happening at this point are negligible. My people, right now, are suffering. And you can be of some use to me."

The hammer's glare hardened as much as solid ki enhanced metal could. "So what's it gonna be? Ya wanna string me up? Get a crowd goin' and throw rocks at me till I'm kooky as Ryoga over there? Or maybe yer just gonna burn at the stake?"

"I'm for that one," Masara nonchalantly mumbled.

Ranma suddenly became as feral as a non-moving, un-domesticable inanimate object could! "Come on then, do your worst! I'm tellin' ya now though; I ain't goin' down that easy! I'll smack at least seven skulls before ya do me in! I promise!"

The bird mistress slowly and methodically leaned back in her chair. "Ranma Saotome, I would like to make you the incumbent king and ruler of the entirety of the Phoenix tribe."

A shocking silence filled the air. Not a word was uttered between the five occupants of the room. That was, until, Masara once again butted in. This time, not so nonchalantly.

"Oh now that's just bullcrap. Hey, if I beat up like, half of our standing army, could I at least get a corner office?"

At that, a bevy of ramblings could be heard around the room.

"My liege!" Ryoga yelled, as he honorably kneeled on one leg to show his willing service to his bludgeoning sire.

"Now just wait a second, how the heck does that make a lick of sense?" Koruma asked; scratching his head.

"Now just wait a second, how the heck does that make a lick of sense?" Ranma asked; an absurd amount of confusion and curiosity in her tone.

Kiima inwardly smiled as she watched the scene before her unfold. She'd been waiting to drop the ball on that one for quite a while. Oh how droll it was! Her class and wit in sense of timing and wording were simply unparalleled! Still, all good things must come to an end, even the highest of humorous situations! And with several loud coughs, she managed to settle the lot down so she could speak. "Quiet, quiet! Now I know that a few of you, "she turned towards her right-hand henchmen, "May find this confusing, but there's logic here, I can assure you." Looking once more to Ranma, she continued. "Saotome, your actions, despite their unsavory effects, were indeed a great show on strength and ability. You defeated our King while he was roughly at half strength! That is quite an accomplishment, and I'm sure the civilian population can respect that."

The red weapon grew slightly confused, especially at the way her last statement was worded. That sounded really condescending! "Just what the heck are ya aiming for? You're jumpin' all over the place!"

"Our people are angry, Ranma. They're angry that they don't have a ruler. They're angry that they aren't getting the comforts that have long since been promised to them, and they're angry that they can't seem to find something to pinpoint their anger on." Gesturing at Koruma to hand the chúi over, she took Ranma and held her up face high. "I could easily have their anger pointed at you, Ranma. But know this, I am not a savage. I will not have you torn limb from limb, your very essence rended from you, as the mobs drink in the smell of your corpse like a pack rabid beasts, just so my people can fulfill their need for unending bloodlust. Instead, I am suggesting a compromise. I'll only do the other one if you make me annoyed."

An unsure tone in her voice, Ranma inquired. "Well, wh- what sort of compromise?"

"We'll come up with a story; something agreeable. We'll say that every 10 millennia Lord Saffron comes under a terrible curse, or what have you. The logistics aren't important right now," another hand-wave to get her point across, "But what is, is the fact that we'll make a hero out of you, Ranma," she jutted her finger right near the hammer's face. "They'll talk about you, the valiant warrior who came to us in our time of need to vanquish the evil in our king, and allow him to be reborn anew, for the next cycle. And now, with your personal affairs firmly in order, you can help lead our people in their time of need until our glorious ruler rises again!"

"Now wait wait wait wait wait! This- this is just stupid!" Ranma was totally and utterly flabbergasted. "You- you really want me ta be your king? How would I- I don't- I DON'T EVEN KNOW HOW TO DO ANY A THAT JUNK!" Kiima moved the hammer a bit away from her as the thing's high pitched tinny voice squealed out its last remark. Even someone who, when in a totally professional atmosphere, was trained to keep her cool, found her resolve breaking a bit in annoyance. "And besides, I'm a friggin' hammer! Ya really want a hittin' stick like me ta 'lead your people'?"

"I wish to have it on record that I would absolutely love that," Masara chimed in.

Ranma glared back at the snarky boy's attitude. "Whatever! This is dumb, dumb, dumb!"

Kiima though remained unfazed at the chúi's tirade. It was time she set things straight. "Now listen, and listen here Saotome, we're not going to parade you and your stickly form in royal vestments, no matter how much you obviously want it, and how amusing it would most certainly be. And even so, you won't truly be leading anything. You'll be a figure-head at best. You'll provide a strong, young face to the village, while I and several other key individuals provide the legislation and rhetoric for you to speak." A small, wry smile made its way on to the female bird warrior's beak. "Essentially, you'll still be a tool. Just, of a different kind."

"Geez, this must be the most pea-brained, half-thought out, dumb idea I've ever heard!" Ranma kept her gaze fixed on the woman before her. "Sides' I don't even want ta run your stupid tribe! I got better things ta do than play mother hen! This is a bad idea anyway; it'll probably end with everyone gettin' egg on their face!"

The bird-boss rolled her eyes at the yolks the bludgeoning beater was battering about. "Regardless, you act as if you have a choice in the matter. Let me go out and say it: You don't." The smug tone in the woman's voice made Ranma want to smack her teeth out. "I've had a few of our researchers take a look at the orb. We've come across some interesting revelations. We believe that we may be able to sort of perpetually target someone with the sphere. We could, in essence, make it so we could transmorphify you on a whim! Wouldn't that be interesting?" A rather disturbed amount of glee filled her tone. "You'd be walking down a hall, when all of a sudden, you're a hammer! Eating dinner with the wife? Hammer! Having a high powered interview with a CEO? Hammer! Performing a one night stand at a comedy club, while being witnessed by dozens, if not hundred of individuals? Hammer! Hammer! Hammer! You would be completely within our power!" A truly raucous laughter erupted from the coo-coo woman before Ranma! She was one egg short of the omelet! Her brains were scrambled! She had flown the coop!

The hammer jutted her eyes slightly downward. She was trying to come to terms with the fact that she was dealing with a completely and utterly insane woman, and that there was a good chance she was about to become a bunch of batty-birds high school science experiment. Still, as she stared down, she noticed the particularly red hue of her transmogrified form. "Yeah well, what the heck are ya supposed ta do about this? Ya can't reverse the spell, ya only got half a me here, ya bozo!"

Standing up, and patting herself down as best she could with a heavy hammer in her hand, Kiima traded off the chúi, this time with the bow wielder of the group. "Oh, can we not?" She asked; beginning to walk towards the exit door.

The rest of the party soon followed suit, with each of the rag-tag ruffians getting ready to move about once more. "This Orb of Transmutation item isn't exactly that complex. As soon as we're done here I'll have a few of my specialists see if can't work something out. I do find it quite interesting that your form right here seems to be entirely independent from your counterpart!"

Ranma instantly grew more panicked as she heard the woman before her eek out her last few words Being a hammer was one thing, but a girl? That's one step over the line. "W-w-w-wait a second! Just what the heck are ya getting' at?"

Another dark smirk made its way upon Kiima's lips. "Well, we'll have to see, but I don't think the tribe would be entirely against a queen ruling them, rather than a king. I'm sure we can fudge the story a bit more if we need to."

The pin dropped.

"NOW JUST WAIT A FINGER-LICKIN' SECOND YA CROOKED-BEAKED, EGG LAYIN', CHICKEN PLUCKIN', BIRD-BRAIN! YA HEAR ME NOW, I AIN'T GONNA BE SOME GIRLY QUEENY THINGY! I'M TELLIN' YA, I WILL NOT, NOT, NOT!" Ranma was absolutely infuriated! If not a might bit terrified. Ever since this latest stupid transformation, the idea that she might end up as a girl had loomed darkly in the back of her mind. Truth be told, at this point, the young Saotome heir was in no way repulsed by the curse, but to be utterly denied her true form both simultaneously made her blood boil and chill. With only utter determination in her heart, and little ability to do anything else, Ranma continued to rant; spewing whatever insult or vague angry thoughts she had out of her mind; just doing whatever she could to ensure that she wasn't going to allow something so completely stupid happen to her without a fight.

Kiima, all the while paid no heed to the tiny tool's declaration, and instead directly addressed her lieutenants. "Koruma, you've been away for a long while, and though I'm sure you'd like some rest, before any of that happens, I'm ordering you to go check in on the charge I appointed to you. The assistants could use a break."

"Aww, darn it!" Koruma let out a sigh and kicked up a bit of dirt beneath his feet in sunken sullenness. "Fine. Guess I was just gonna have to do it later, anyways."

Turning to the white winged boy, she went to spout off to him. "Masara, I want you to show our 'future incumbent ruler" the lay of the land for this place. I'm sure it's quite a lot different coming from someone who isn't battling off swaths of genetically enhanced warriors." 'Anything to get her annoying self away from me; even as a practically faceless tool I find just staring at her to make me mildly flummoxed!' "Just make sure to make her as comfortable as possible during this odd transition, and maybe try to change her mind a bit about what we're doing here."

Rolling his eyes, the bowman kept a firm grip on the hammer. "Yeah, yeah, gotta go play baby-sitter and hare Krishna to a dumb talking tool. Gotcha. I'll make sure to keep her as interested as possible."

"Good." Kiima nodded. "And finally, there's you, "she said; adjusting her glaze over to Ryoga. "I actually have some plans for you that I was thinking about. You could in all actuality end up becoming quite important for us. We'll see how things pan out until then. But for now, you stay here with me; I have a few matters to discuss."

Taking in a somewhat deep breath first, Kiima, opened her office door. "Now then, since all of that is completely and utterly settled and accounted for, would you each, kindly, please leave my office? I have much that needs to be done before we can make all this work! We have to pull a fast one on an entire kingdom!"


Silence filled the air as the trio blinked about, not a said for several seconds.

"Yeah well, that worked out a lot better than it usually does!" Koruma happily remarked, as the dust of the scene before them settled.

"That's because you kept your mouth shut for most of the time you were in there, you nitwit!" Masara's dour tone was practically a constant of the universe.

"Well it could have gone a lot worse!" Koruma said, crossing his arms. "I mean think about it! That little sidetrack we had between that pack of sentient wolves came right out of left field! It set us back like, two more days! I thought she'd have been steaming!"

"This ain't gonna happen! You guys are down right crazy! I'm not gonna allow any a this crap!" Ranma was practically foaming at the mouth at this point. She was angry, and she couldn't do anything about it!

"Oh geez, I'm going to have to put up with, with, this now for a while, aren't I?" The bowman's brow furrowed feverishly at the idea. "I hate my life. I just, I just hate my life, so, so very much. God damn it."

"Welp." Koruma said, clapping his hands together, "You two have fun now. I gotta go take care of things."

"Now just wait a second! Where the heck are you off to, bub?" Ranma was latching on to anything she could insult at this point.

"Ah geez, it's a looooong story! But basically, I take care of Lord Saffron now! Cool huh?" The swordsman's enthusiasm for everything was sickeningly sweet.

Something though, clicked right into Ranma's head. "What? Why the heck are ya doin' that? I thought it was Kiima's job? Is she too lazy to get off er' butt and look after the darn kid?"

Koruma blinked. "Yeah, basically," he said with a shrug. "She told me that she had 'far more important business to handle right now, and that she went down that damn road for like a decade, and she's not putting up with that crap again. Hell no. And by crap, I mean crap. That kid, that kid, that kid', so now I look after Baby-Saffron when I'm not away on missions! It's real neat, but kinda tiring!"

"You poor bastard, I pity you more than any other creature on this Earth," Masara was always the type to try and stay optimistic amongst his friends.

"Anyway, I'll be seeing you! Cool job on being the new ruler, Ms. Hammer-Pants!"

As the bright but dim boy hopped off away, a short silence held in the air, until Ranma barked in. "Well what now, bird-brain? Ya gonna go give me the grand tour a the place and try ta trick me inta thinking this isn't the stupidest plan to ever make its way straight outta stupidville?"

"Well, Kiima did say I have to give you a look around the place…" Masara placed his hand on his chin, and rubbed slightly. "But damn it, I hate that woman, so no." With a snap of his hand, he started trotting down the halls. "Instead, I think I'm gonna give you a first-class look-see of my living quarters, where you'll be able to meet such high class individuals as my pet hamster, Mr. Puff-Puff, and my rather large umbrella collection that I've manage to amass due to this dumb curse. All the while, I'll be making myself a sandwich."

As the white-winged boy's pessimism filled the air, Ranma could only bark out insults and steam in her head at the helplessness that wrought throughout her. But one thing was very clearly certain for her. She was not going to put allow this to happen! Whether it'd be hell or high water, she was not going to be manipulated into becoming these losers' puppet. She'd gone through all her life never having a choice in her actions, whether it'd be in what her father thought was best for her, or idiotic engagements. And it was high time she started making her own decisions! She just needed to come up with a plan, or maybe get a little help from her friends.

Several days had passed since Shampoo and her lot had made for their mad rush toward Mount Phoenix. It turned out that two professionally trained martial artists outrunning a set of civilian villagers was not in any way a difficult task, having lost sight of them a mere 20 or so minutes after their ransacking of the town. Despite that small worry though being mostly lifted off their shoulders, the tension between the teenagers could be cut with a knife, and tempers were quite certainly elevated. Toppled on all this, a thick fog of gloomy weather had wormed its way over the region, leaving the lot of them all quite angered, with the bleak surroundings not helping. And as the mountainous peaks of the Quinghai region grew to enclose their every side, the decision of what they should do about their situation became more and more heated.

"I'm telling you two idiots right here! We need to go to your village Shampoo! We're no match for all those people! We're simply outnumbered!"

Akane had become increasingly more vexed at the stubbornness of her purple haired "companion" in the past few days. If the constant ribbings about her robbing that store weren't enough, her complete and utter inability to consider trying to get backup was driving the youngest Tendo to drink! Or at least burst out a few "Ogre's Roaring Rage" attacks. Oh yeah, she may complain now, but who was the one that was able to nab her an extra chúi? The Amazon owed her big time in Akane's book.

"Shampoo already tell yous! It make everything way too worse! Little orb could start big war! We been over this too too many times! We no can take risk!"

Shampoo was at the end of her wits. The kitchen destroyer had become ever the more irritable since their snafu between Koruma and Masara. Still, she couldn't really blame her. She herself was quite a bit on edge. Frankly some of the plans Ranma had brought up to handle things were just plain silly! How would "Goin' in, chúis a blazin'" even work? He said it was good enough for that "Ram-bow" guy, but she didn't even know who he was! Nevertheless, she simply knew that she couldn't go to the village for help. If that meant improvising a little, then so be it!

"Hey, do you know what else a pretty big risk is? Going in there and getting ourselves killed! Honestly!" Akane threw her hands up in pure exasperation at this. "We've been ranting on about this for hours! I don't even know where we are right now. Can we at least stop for a second to get all our bearings straightened out?"

"Hey, fellas, hold up for a second, I think I see somethin'!"

Situated firmly in Shampoo's hand, Ranma stayed ever vigilant of the area surrounding him, which was hard, since he really couldn't see much at all right now! Plus, he'd been feeling real tired lately, but no matter what he did, he just couldn't fall asleep! It was extremely annoying, especially when the only thing he could spend his nights reading was the packaging on the various chips and knickknacks Akane had managed to plunder. He figured though that worry of what they were about to face was the thing that was just killing him. Still, it was kind of exciting! As they drew closer to their target, the prospect of returning to normal again left the young Saotome grinning from ear to ear. That would be if he had ears. Or a mouth to grin with.

The point was he was happy.

But as they drew closer to their target, a new sight came approaching in Ranma's false visage. "Hey, wait, is that a village?"

"Hmm, yeah, I think so." Akane said; noticing the rather indigenous looking area right ahead of them. "But hold on a moment, there shouldn't be… le- let me check the map here."

"Uhh, wait a second…"

"Are we?..."

"Shampoo think…"

The trio of them looked upward, and then downward. Then they looked upward, and then downward, and upward, and downward, and so forth until their collective minds reached one solid conclusion: Standing before them were the high peak one Mount Phoenix, shining in all its glory down upon the civilian populated village at its base.

"HOW THE HELL DID WE GET HERE SO FAST?" one particularly vexed Saotome remarked.

"Bu-bu but!" Twisting her fingers about as she crumpled the navigation tool before her, Akane stood simply flabbergasted. "How?..."

"Shampoo did think we was getting closer." she winced as the words came out of her mouth. The other two had a bit of an excuse. It wasn't like they exactly knew the lay of the land around them well. She on the other hand probably would have been ridiculed by the village trackers had they seen this display. Bad weather was no excuse. "I's guess we just got distracted? Fog make things too too unclear! It sneak up on us!" a small smile formed on her face as she lifted her arms to shrug.

"Ranma you idiot!" Akane belted; her old favorite insult rearing its head again. "I thought you said you were keeping watch?"

"I- I was! I think I was just tired or somethin'…" The hammer's optics grew slightly dimmer as these words left his mouth.

Akane's hand slammed directly in her face as the situation before her started to come together. "There's no way we're prepared for this." her form started twitching in a Molotov cocktail of anger, surprise, fear, and pure stupidity. It was mostly the last one, really.

"But hey! Ya know what? How's this a bad thing? We're finally here guys! Ain't that great Shamps? I can finally get back ta bein' me again!"

An elated grin filled the purple haired girl's face, and the feelings of mild embarrassment ceased as she heard these words. "Is true! We almost there Ranmas! Soon you be all human again!"

"That's just great guys, and I'm sorry to kill the mood and all, but it's sort of crunch time now!" Akane took a step forward as her hands gesticulated about. "What are we supposed to do? What's our plan here? Knock on their door and ask for our stuff back? Or should we maybe get backup?"

"Well…" Ranma mused, "Since we're already here, guess going to talk to the Amazons is out a the equation! We're just gonna have ta wing it and see where it gets us!"

A red hot fury filled Akane's face. "Ranma, are you crazy? Do you want us all to get killed?"

The purple haired girl's brow furrowed a bit. "Umm, Ranmas, Shampoo actually going to have to agree with Akane, at least a little. We need think of something first!"

"Well, I guess…" The excitement of wanting to return back to some semblance of normality was clouding Ranma's judgment a bit here. Still, with a few moments of "Hmming" and "Hawing", as well as a sage-like nod, he jutted his eyes towards his holder. "Hey Shamps, quick question here, do ya know anythin' about these bird-brain's sense a fashion?"

"Just what are you getting at?" Akane didn't like the looks of this.

"I think I got us a plan, guys."

Masara's "apartment" was a rather odd sight to behold. In it was a mixture of subtle Phoenix styled architecture, which in and of itself was merely a rather bird-centric variation on classical Chinese styling, and a mixture of off put normality. With the way it was modeled it could look like it came out of any 20 something's small dwelling. As the female Ranma-hammer was vicariously hefted about though, she managed to obtain a decent overview of the place. Besides a standard array of a bed, several chairs, and desks, the one thing that piqued the red chúi's curiosity were the books. Dozens and dozens of books lined the shelves of the area. 'Who'd a thought this bird-brain was that big of an egg head?'

"Welp, have a seat." Masara stated, as he tossed the chúi down on the couch. "Now don't go anywhere, okay?"

"Wasn't plannin' ta." Ranma mumbled through gritted teeth, as she landed face first into the bow wielder's worn out sofa. "Ya sure know how to treat your new Emperor right, that's fer sure. Remind me ta give you the old tar and featherin' if I somehow actually get roped into this crap."

"Sure thing lady, top of my priorities, right now."

"You've got some nerve, ya know! I kicked the stuffing out outta your king like, less than a year ago! I deserve better respect than that!"

Masara rolled his eyes for what must have been the half dozenth time that day. "Yeah, I know, you won't shut up about it," he passive-aggressively mumbled, as he went to the kitchen. An egg salad sandwich sounded nice right about now.

The fiery hammer simply snorted. "Yeah well I ain't got much else ta blabber on about. Shootin' the breeze with you wing-nuts don't seem right."

"Hey- hey, I'm a real nice guy when I want to be. Problem is? I usually don't wanna be."

It was Ranma's time to roll her eyes. "Yeah, yeah, I get it. Yer a snarky charmer type a guy who thinks he's real funny, but ya ain't. I got you all figured out."

As the chúi' said this, the bow wielding warrior marched on over; completed sandwich in hand, as he took a seat across from the girl. "And you're talking transsexual hammer who's kind of an ass. Frankly? I don't got a single thing about you figured out."

"Yeah, guess I am a sorta complex fella. And that's right it's fella, I ain't no stinkin' girl. I'm a guy damn it!"

"You're more of a thing, honestly," Masara muttered, as he chowed down on his lunch.

"He- hey! Screw you!" Ranma whined; all the while darting her eyes around, trying to pinpoint a good comeback. In a moment's notice, she suddenly came up with one. "Yeah, well, I may be a thing, but at least I'm not a nerd! What's with all the books, nerdo? You studying up for your nerd exam? Maybe you're trying to brush up on things so you can impress your buddies at the nerd convention! Nerd."

An indignant look found its way across Masara's visage, as he almost choked on his eggwich. Did the yolk somehow finally come to be on him? "Hey! You shut up about that! They're none of your business!"

A smarmy smile wanted to form itself on Ranma's face. "Ooooh, did I strike a chord? Nerd, nerd, nerd, nerd, nerd! God! You're Nerdy McNerdburg, king of the nerd books!" This was good fun. It certainly made her feel a bit better about her situation. Having to become queen to a whole lotta bug-eyed, bird-brained bunch a bozos? Plans for her upcoming suicide could wait for a while. "Man, what is even in those books? Besides nerd stuff, probably."

Masara kept up his rather vexed tone, as he stood up; staring quite annoyed at the girl. "I already told you, it's none of your business. So keep your yapper shut or I'm putting you in a box!"

"Oh like I haven't spent the last two days in a box! Trust me; they're actually really nice places! You don't know what you're missin'!"

"That's it. Box. Now." The white-winged boy was done playing games. This sentient talking hammer had crossed the line! He was downright mildly bemused! And on that note, he hefted her handy form by the handle, and started searching around his building. "Now where the hell do I keep those things? I know I have few empty ones lying around…"

But as Ranma was tossed and flung in random directions as Masara searched for the hammer's new cardboard cabin, the intrepid tool started to survey things around her a bit more intimately; particularly the various literary works. "Wait a second, what's with these book titles you got here? 'The Phoenix and the Amazon: A Cultural Sensitivity Guide'? 'Phoenix Politics, the ins and outs?' 'Rise From the Ashes: The Birth and Future of the Phoenix people'? Man, what the heck are ya interested in this junk for, anyway? I thought ya kept on blabberin' about how ya hate politics?"

A guttural grow began to form in the place in front of the boy's beaked biters. "Oh would you just shut it? Or at least keep your voice down? I really don't want people to hear you yammering about this. You could completely ruin my street cred."

"You've got street cred?..." Ranma quickly shook that thought. "No wait hold on, so you are actually inta stuff like this and junk? Like politics?" The red hammer held a rather confused tone in her voice. "Well what the heck, man? Why are ya trying ta hide it and stuff? I mean, seems like it'd be somethin' ta brag about, more than anythin'; even if it is kinda nerdy." Ranma inquired, non-existent tongue firmly stuffed in her cheek.

Masara just let out a few grumbles as he stuffed his things back away and began to move far from where Ranma could stare at the items of his more personal interest. "It doesn't work like that, okay? I'm not interested interested with this stuff, I just know my way around things. I'm the right hand man to the current Empress, I damn well should!" He merely huffed as he finished his statement, "I just make it seem like I don't so I don't get a lot of people all up and trying to bribe me for favors and stuff. It'd be annoying." He once more looked down at the weapon he was holding. "Also, it is kinda nerdy, isn't it?"

A bright idea started to make its way into Ranma's noodle-hole. "Hey, if you're so smart with all this stuff, then you got ta know that this whole plan is a real load! I mean, can ya really see me in charge an' junk? Even if I'm just a bobble-head or whatever to you people, you just know I'd screw up! I'm the type that can't be trusted! Trust me!" If she could appeal to this guy's reasoning, she may just yet have an ally she could work around with.

Masara stared down at the chúi for a moment, before responding. " Ehh, yeah well, I could pretty much guarantee that you would probably completely dismantle our civilization if you were given one damn iota of power, but that's the thing, isn't it? You're just there to look pretty while the rest of the people handle things," a matter-of-fact tone began to form in the boy's voice. "And let me tell you, most of the people around here are really stupid. And strong. With numbers at least. They'd respect someone who they knew could whoop people's asses, even if the politics are still just the same."

"But come on! What's ta stop me from just blabbin' on to everyone that the whole thing was just some stupid jig? There are too many holes!" An oddly innocent tone worked its way into the hammer's voice. "And let me tell you! I'd try and screw things up as much as I could! I'd get rid a papers, forget my speeches, make myself look really incompetent, and I'd even eat all the food! Ya seriously don't want me!"

The white winged boy started to scratch the back of his head, as his eyes narrowed a bit. "Well, I guess that's what the restraints the Captain was talking about would be for. You start screwing around; you end up back as a hammer and forced to sit around in a bin somewhere. Seems like a good enough reason to keep your yap shut." Masara though, continued to stare down at the weapon, with a low hum drone out from the depths of his vocal chords. "Though, why do I get the feeling that you aren't the type to take punishment like that well? You'd probably still do whatever the hell you wanted anyway."

Ranma's eyes nodded vehemently at this. "Mmm-hmm! Yeah! I'd just be a real friggin' monster to you people! I would run this empire inta the ground! Seriously, give me like, five years, and everyone'll probably be dead! I could totally do that! It'd be a promise!"

Masara was a bit confused at this point. He had questions about the whole idea from the start. Or, at least when he heard the whole plan, which was all of an hour ago. The entire thing seemed rushed, cobbled together, and illogical. And was it just him, or did Kiima seem a tad more schizophrenic than usual? Regardless, he wasn't entirely 100% sure of this plan. It needed… buffering. "So what exactly are you saying you want me to do? Waltz up to Kiima, tell her her plan is a load of bird poo, and say she should just give it up?"

"No!" Ranma shouted, "Well, yeah, maybe? Err, you could talk some sense into her! Tell her that she needs to think this whole thing through again, cause two and turkey don't add up to make four! I mean I'm just not kingly material!"

"Talking sense doesn't get any results when our people are on the verge of rioting. And besides, you did kinda screw things over for us. Having you get off scot-free ain't exactly likely. I tell her to quit it, her next idea'll be to tie you up, and have guys start throwing rocks at you. How many people's heads did you say you'd bash before they'd do you in?"

"Seven." Ranma was starting to become a tad bit frustrated. She was losing ground here! "Listen, we can work somethin' out here, I just know it! But makin' me your slave-king thing ain't gonna cut the mustard! If you could just get me to the damn orb I-"

"Now hold on one friggin' second. I ain't your friend here right now, got it? I am kind of pissed at you for screwing things up so badly for us in the first place as well. You're not just going to convince me right off the bat like that. I've got enough brains in my head to not out and out betray my people, at least." Masara slowly marched on over, back to his couch. "Nah, I think I'll play the field a little on this one. What's it even matter if I wait a few hours, or days, or months or whatever? Why not see how this whole thing goes? What does anyone but you have to lose in all this?"

"You guys! You guys could lose a whole lot! Believe me, I'll try!"

"We'll see. I'm not going to rush in there right now and tell everyone to stop the presses; that's liable to get me in some serious bird doo doo. Until then I think the smart thing to do is to just wait it out. They'll probably want to see you in a while, anyway."

Ranma did her best to sneer at him. That definitely could have gone a bit better. Though, considering the rough patches her and these bird-dorks have gone through, she wasn't entirely willing to give up on things just yet. Maybe if she could coax him some more… "So what exactly does waitin' it out, mean? We just gonna sit on our thumbs here, or what?"

Masara cracked his knuckles as she said this. "Well, I gotta say, you're not that half bad of a listener, honestly. It sure as hell beats talking to myself. And it's half as creepy. So instead of throwing you in a box, I think I'll have some fun. If you're going to actually end up running this place, even as a figurehead, you're gonna have to learn at least a bit of how our politics work. It only makes sense. So, for the next few hours, I think I'll serenade you with some basics of how our government here runs."

"Oh joy," Ranma murmured 'Welp, what's the kingly way ta kill myself? Off with my head? Poison myself? I'll have ta think a something.'

"Okay, let's start with the stuff I'm sure you're dying to know." Masara paused. "Do we, or do we not lay eggs?" He looked down at her as if he was a teacher asking a student a question. "Well now frankly that's a complicated question, and will probably take roughly 2/3's of the time we'll be discussing things," there was a pause. "Let's get to it, shall we?"

'And quick. Damn it guys, are ya even out there? I dunno how much a this I can take!"

"Okay, so you got the papier-mâché wings ready yet?" Ranma asked; his immobile form lying down on top of a rock.

"Ye- yes, I've got them, but they're going to look completely ridiculous! Only idiots will buy into this!" Akane was just aghast at the products she held before her. Glue, paper, some thrown on feathers, formed together to create the cobbled monstrosity that were her rushed attempt to create a facsimile to the wings of the Phoenix tribes' air-mobile warriors.

"Ah they look great! Couldn't tell em' apart from the real deal myself!"

"Like I said, only idiots," Akane replied, through gritted teeth.

Before Ranma could rebuke, the young purple haired Amazon merrily skipped into their makeshift semi-camp-like area, and dropped the parcels nearby her other human companion. "Shampoo back people! I brought clothes!"

"So- so did you strip them all completely?" Akane asked, as a faint blush forming on her features. She had to opt out and walk away from the scene; it was too embarrassing. "You better not have done anything perverted!"

"Shampoo leave their under-thingies, Akane too too much of a prude. Besides, we do this for plan."

"That's if we're evening going to need to go through with it. Did you get any information out of any of them?" Akane was completely questioning in how this whole idea was gonna come into action.

"Mmm, yes. Shampoo ask them, real hard, and they say service entrance is all closed up. Shampoo think so before, but there no way we's can sneak in through back way now!" The young Amazon merely turned her head towards the Saotome-hammer. "That's why you think up plan, Ranmas!"

"That's right Shamps! This is gonna work great! We'll sneak in there all stealth-like, an' grab the other me and orb right from under their stinkin' noses!" Ranma was so proud of himself. He was just so damn smart! It was an absolute known fact that he worked best on his feet. Well, metaphorically that is. He didn't really have feet at the moment. Point being, that Ranma was the king of winging it. Right now, Shampoo and Akane had just apprehended, and conked out two patrolling female guards, and had absconded with their clothing. The thick fog surrounding the lightly forested area around them made doing the task a breeze.

"I still think this plan is stupid!" Akane stated, her voice hushed, but with an edge to it. "If we get caught it'll all be over!" Regardless though, she began to don the armor. The pieces themselves were rather lavish looking, but flowed easily over her current attire without intruding too much of her movement. The wings though, were a completely other issues. By the end, she felt like she was dressing up as some stupid Halloween fairy.

"This ain't no time for thinkin' "Kane! I mean, just think of all the crazy things they might be doin' to the other me over there? Hell, what're they doin' with Ryoga?"

"Ye-yeah…" The youngest Tendo began to rub the back of her neck a bit as she heard these words. That last encounter she had with him had left her a tad bit… flustered. To say the least. She didn't know why, or for what reason, but the way he acted just so, forceful around her, left her completely exhilarated. She tried to shake the thought. "Fine then. We'll go and get ourselves killed, because you all seem to think that it's such a great idea."

"That's' the spirit!" Ranma remarked, his tone full of high energy. "Now remember, let Shamps here do the talkin', okay? I mean, yer gonna have ta. You don't know Chinese!"

Akane sneered at him venomously, but let it slide. What he was saying was technically true. Starting to yap about things in Japanese would be a surefire way to get them caught. "Fine, yeah, I know the drill."

As the group settled things, they maneuvered themselves a bit closer to their target. The main gate guarding the entrance to the village was appropriately fortified, though not entirely too lavish or ornamented. With a good chunk of the tribe's population innately able to fly in directly, hopping over such a sight was a common occurrence. Still, a particular set of watchtowers kept ever vigilant for any sort of oncoming assaults that may be amassing at the tribe's doorsteps.

This was not a luxury afforded to either Shampoo or Akane.

Attired in her Phoenix clothing and with her Airen and extra hammer sheathed at her side, Shampoo boldly marched forth; ready to fool her way to victory! There was no way this could go wrong at all!

At all.

""Halt! Who goes there?"" was the call of a guardsman, perched high on his not-so ivory tower.

""Umm, we do! Hi there! We're the latest patrol that just got back. There's nothing to really report, just the usual sights and stuff."" Shampoo was excited! She could finally put the skills of her native tongue to good use! No longer would she be viewed as idiotic, or a bimbo! She had power now! She had control! Those who had mocked her will rue the day they across her! She was! She was!

She was probably gonna make a few jokes maybe.

""Yeah, uh huh, I don't remember seeing you guy's faces around here all that much. You two new recruits or something? I mean, you are a little young."

""Ah, yes! Yes we are, haha!"" Shampoo gave the watcher an award winning cutesy smile. She could bluff her way through this. Totally. ""We're just starting out right now, but we're very strong. I'm sure you'll hear about us real soon!""

The guard merely shrugged. He was bored out of his beak watching these people fly in and out. It was nice that these two girls decided to stop on by and enter the old fashion way. ""Ha, yeah, I'm sure. It's good to see kids like you so eager."" he smiled, and in turn turned his peepers towards Akane. ""So who's your friend? She seems a little quiet.""

Akane slightly sucked in her breath, but was quickly covered by the Chinese warrior. ""Oh, don't worry her! It's nothing! She's just ah, she's just a little special. See, her mother dropped her on her head when she was just a baby, and hasn't really been able to talk too good since!""

A light snort could be heard from where her weapon was holstered.

""Mmm, Humpty Dumpty syndrome; shame, my brother has that. He can bash in skulls as good as the next guy, but he's a few eggs short a basket, if you catch my drift. My condolences."" The guard though clapped his hands together and sighed. ""Ah well, the two of you want in, don't ya? The so-called 'fancy' way,"" with that, he pulled a nearby lever, causing some rudimentary gears to start shifting around, in the end making the gate before them slowly start to rise. ""Go on in you two,"" he said with a hand-wave.

As the door fully opened, all eyes were seemingly on them, as the various civilians on the other side who were mulling about opted to look at the rather peculiar sight before them. Suddenly, Akane felt the half a dozen or so reasons why they should definitely, totally, not be there right now, were about to come to a head.

"Ah, Shampoo, they keep staring at us," Akane mumbled, her voice hushed as she leaned in to whisper to the other girl. Beads of sweat were already starting to pour off of her, as a bit of a paranoid glint began to form in her eye.

"Keep quiet!" the purple haired girl abrasively responded; an angry whisper filling her voice. "We just need to act natural," she paused. "And no speak Japanese," on that note, and with her previous thought in mind, the head-strong Amazon stepped forward. ""Ah, hello various people and citizens, there's no need to be alarmed; we're just passing guards going about our business! We're here to protect you, and make you feel safe, and not harm you in any way at all whatsoever!""

A silence permeated the air for the moment, as the stares continued on. It wasn't until a somewhat older woman, looking to be roughly in her 50's, butted in. ""Oh yeah, you make us feel real safe, that's for sure! What do you know? You people just fly around all day doing nothing. While us hard working folk down here are trying to harvest food, and keep people warm, and full, and not dying of hypothermia! I don't see any of you lot helping!""

""Yeah!"" was the response from another middle-aged civilian. ""I swear, most of you people waste more of your time hopping around like a bunch of idiots, rather than actually making things better for us! I remember back when Lord Saffron was in power! The hopping around was minimal, and the help was adequate to satisfactory!""




Were the collective cries of various rowdy and annoyed civilians; all of them growing slightly more antagonistic with each passing word.

""I heard they don't even care about the fact that the crops aren't coming in! They're too busy having their own stock of supplies!""

""My children have been afflicted with that awful new version of influenza, and yet the medical practitioners can do nothing because they're out of materials!""

""The swine flu has been affecting us all, really.""

But before things could possibly get out of hand, a small squadron of various Phoenix goons came by to put an end to things. Armed with various beatin' sticks, foam-tipped maces, and absurdly tiny nets, the group of soldiers started "pacifying" the lot.

All in all this meant uncomfortably drubbing them until they stopped talking; it was exceedingly unpleasant and lead to various bruises amongst the lot.

It was at that point, that both Akane and Shampoo took the opportunity to abscond out of there, and into the more general crowd of the area. Regardless, or possibly because of, the fact that they witnessed a beating of roughly totalitarian levels on a crowd of innocent civvies, they didn't want to stand out all that much. And as they marched off, over into the more populated market area of the town, they were greeted with various bustling sights and sounds. People were all around them, haggling for that last crop of corn, arguing over the price of recently crafted clothing, and disputing if whether or not a frying pan could double as an effective hammer, in light of their ever dwindling supply of useable tools.

"Geez, these people are a mess. What the heck kinda bozo could a run em' into the ground like this?" Ranma asked, his eyes peering out from Shampoo's side. "I thought ya told me these guys were real tough, Shamps? Add this on top a how we blew through em' last time we were around here, and these fellas are comin' off as a bunch a wimps."

The purple haired warrior was somewhat perplexed herself. "They usually is, Airen. At least, Shampoo was told they were. I no expect them to act all like this though," she responded with her voice continually at a hush. Something was seriously off here, and it was leaving her highly unsettled. The various workers, farmers, and non-military personnel all looked skinny and sickly, and there was a general sense of fear and dismay in the air all around them. Plus, she just watched all those people get randomly beaten a few seconds ago. That just seemed odd.

"Whatever, can we just sneak in already?" Akane was getting extremely terse, and the feeling of isolation brought on by the language barrier before them was starting to set in. She swore, if anyone tried to talk to her she

""Hello there dearie, you seem rather well off and fashionable, could I possibly interest you in some of my fine jewelry? They're 100% cubic zirconium!"" came the call of an elderly woman who was directing her wares towards a certain blue haired young girl.

Akane leapt back in shock as she heard the other woman start speaking to her in what would be, to her ears, gibberish. "Ah, uh, uh…"

The saleswoman was in luck, two wealthy looking girls passing just by her stall? Finally she had a chance to unload some of her cheap junk! ""Oh don't be shy! They'll look great on you! Are your ears pierced? Oh no matter, it'll only hurt for a moment!"" The woman simply leaned forward as Akane attempted to inch herself away.

As the young Tendo was about to start sweating bullets, Shampoo once more tried to jump in and deal out some damage control. And taking into consideration the approach these Phoenix soldiers had to dealing with the village's inhabitants, she, intuitively, shifted her persona just a tad. ""Ah! Do not worry about her Ma'am! Haha! She is in actuality completely and utterly destitute, much like the rest of you terrible cretins! Haha!"" The Amazon's attempts at portraying a guard though mixed rather lukewarmly with her stiff acting skills. Ranma, even in his current state, could probably perform more realistically.

A slight grimace found its way unto the face of the tiny shop owner. ""Mmm, is that so? Well she certainly looks pretty ritzy," she replied; crossing her arms and looking over the girl's clothing.

""Haha! Yes! I dressed her up that way as a joke! She's horribly, horribly poor and will literally do anything for a few Yuan! It's quite amusing! Yes!""

Ranma, though only having a little knowledge of Chinese, internally cringed at the goings on right now.

Akane herself, on the other hand, had absolutely no knowledge of Chinese, and yet, distinctly tucked away in the back of her mind that she should beat Shampoo to a pulp once this was all over.

The shop owner simply rolled her eyes. Damn those aristocrats and their sadomasochism. ""Well then that must mean you're well off then, right? Are you going to buy anything? Your wings are looking a little droopy. I think I have a cream for that.""

"Ah, uh, uh…" Shampoo mumbled, before, in another pinpointed strike of wit, she jutted her finger out in a random direction. ""Look over there!""

""What? What's that you're-""

And at that point, the young hammer wielder promptly ushered her other walking companion away.

"Shampoo, we're cutting it close here!" Akane snappily muttered.

"Yeah Shamps, this ain't workin' out. We gotta sneak in through here, and fast. Getting' caught ain't on the top list a my priorities."

The purple haired Amazon cringed as each of them spoke aloud in Japanese. Nevertheless, she tried to appease. "Shampoo trying, peoples! This too too dangerous place. It hard to think on spot!"

Akane though was still mildly annoyed. And afraid. It was mostly the latter. "Yeah, well, can we just get a move on already? Where are we heading first?"

Her question was answered for her though, as the duo's feet led them to a rather large sight. Beyond the dotting of stalls and shops stood a tall and strong structure of a gate; secondary to the main one at the village entrance; this one leading directly into Mount Phoenix proper. Thick with iron, metal spikes, and guard towers, the entire fortification laid forebodingly against the quaint village before it. Lining the area itself was a various array of guards handling cargo. With the added unrest in the village, the gate was built as a means to segregate the lower classes from the higher ranks' domain. Plus it added a snazzy contrast to the mountain's natural coloring that just made the whole place look fabulous. As such, the warriors surrounding the place were armed practically to the teeth, with a squadron of at least two dozen individuals manning the frontal doorway constantly, with plenty others waiting in the wing and faffing about.

Akane didn't even have to say anything. She didn't even have to think. She just felt the harsh sinking in the pit of her gut. "Tell me again, why are we not using one of the other back entrances? You know, like the one you told me you used last time?" She tried to keep a consistent tone, but the sharp edges of distraught in her kept peeping out.

"Mmm, Shamps already talked to those two guards, 'member? They closed that thing up. Heck, I would too after the stuff we pulled."

Once again the blue haired Tendo attempted to keep calm. She couldn't get mad or be afraid, or even really speak too loudly; for worry of risking drawing attention, as just several dozen yards away was their most probable destination and/or doom. Instead, she merely spoke the following soft, yet disgruntled words; "Did you- did you think that they could, possibly, at all, be, lying?"

Ranma blinked, "Huh, nope!" but he shrugged it off. "Eh, my plan's better anyway. They'd be expectin' us ta go through the back way. It's our M.O.; we're all used to pounding around and beating stuff. But actually trying to go in the front? They'll never see it!"

Melt him, Akane thought. She should just toss him in a big pile of lava or something and melt him. Yes. This was her perfectly logical solution to how she would murder Ranma for what had to be the stupidest situation he had ever gotten her into. She couldn't hit him or anything, so that's a moot point, but just destroying him in general would frankly be a rather soothing action that would certainly fix her mood. She could rest easy knowing that there was one less complete and utter moron in the world. "So we're going to just waltz up there, and hope for the best?" Maybe there was a part of this mountain that was like that one mountain from that one book about that one ring. Burning him in that would certainly save her some time.

Shampoo of course though was quick to correct the Tendo girl. "Oh, no no! We's got special I.D.'s!" With that, she rummaged around one of the various pockets that her armor provided. "See, look!" in her hands she held in her hands she held up two clip-on badges, with the names "Xiang", and "Huang" plastered on them. They appeared to be passes that allowed one to enter the Mountain. "With these, we get in there, save other Ranmas, and turn everything back to normal!" Her tone was so excited that she nearly blew their cover by talking too loudly.

Well, Akane figured that, at some point, she'd likely die anyway, so why not just get it over with now? With her head hung majestically low, she simply nodded. "Fine, fine." She swore, if she got out of this, she would wring Ranma and Shampoo's necks so badly that it wouldn't matter if one of them was a hammer, she'd suffocate him anyway!

With that whole matter settled and completely done with, the two warriors marched on over towards the blackened gate of pain and spikes, like any sensible individuals would.

Feng the Guard was a pretty decent fellow, or at least he liked to think so. He supported his family, paid the bills, watched over the village, and was just really an upstanding guy trying to get by in the world. It was just right now though, when he was watching over the primary entrance to the mountain proper, that he witnessed two young women dressed in Phoenix armored bouncing up towards him and his fellow watchmen.

""Whoa ho! Hey there girls, what's the rush?"" he asked, hopping down from his tower to greet the two, who certainly had legitimate reasons to be there, and would in no way leave him the scorn of his coworkers and superiors due to him allowing a bunch of kids to breach the heightened and highly competent security network of the Phoenix tribe. No, this would all go down smoothly.

Joining him for the verification was his friend Ping, but he wasn't important enough to get exposition.

""Hello Mr. Guard-person, we're here on real big important business! We just need to get on through!"" Her bubbly tone sugarcoated in an extra layer of sweetness, Shampoo and Akane quickly flashed their badges before him.

Eyeing the cards, Feng simply nodded. ""Oh yes, there's been a slew of people running about and dropping things off. Lady Kiima's been having a field day with all her new incoming supplies.""

At that point, "Ping" popped in. ""Yeah, I still don't understand what she needed all those eggbeaters for. I mean you can only horribly brutalize children for so long until it becomes slightly boring.""

""Well we have this very important message that we got to give to Lady Kiima, and quick! If we don't hurry, she'll get really really mad!""

Feng shrugged a bit and smiled at her. ""Well sure, alright girls, you two seem pretty on the level. I don't see why we can't-"

""Hey, wait, hold on a second."" Ping decided at that time to take a closer look at Shampoo's card. ""Huang? Heh, funny, that's the name of this one guard-lady that that I dated a while back."" his face scrunched up a bit, but his tone remained nonchalant. ""Kind of a weird coincidence right there. Hell, even your armor kinda looks like the set she had.""

""Umm, but isn't the armor here standardized? They all mostly look the same,"" Shampoo interjected. She was starting to get a little nervous here, and the fact that Ranma was extremely quietly whispering some not very helpful advice into her ear really wasn't helping.

Feng let out a laugh. ""Haha, yes, but you crazy kids these days; always going off and 'modifying' them, and adding special little touches and such."" Feng blinked. ""You're hip young things, I'm sort of surprised you're not all on top of that," he then turned to his partner. ""Actually Ping; is this the same lady you're talking about?""

Ping rubbed his chin, ""No, no, this definitely isn't her. Huang had mauve hair; this lady's clearly got purple. You'd have to be blind not to notice the difference,"" he looked directly over toward Shampoo. "Listen, are you sure that's your armor? It's practically an exact match to her's."

""Yes, of course!"" the young Amazon shouted. ""Hold on, why does this even matter? We're on a real big important mission here! We need to get going!"" Shampoo was starting to sweat. She didn't like this; she didn't like this at all.

""What exactly do you need to tell lady Kiima?"" Ping wasn't buying this. These two were acting extremely suspicious. The quiet one over there kept on fidgeting and squirming, like she was afraid. They were up to something, and the last thing he needed was a couple of punk pranksters running around in the mountain making mischief. ""Why don't we sit down for a minute and have a little chat?""

Feng "hmm'ed" a bit for a moment as he heard this. ""Well, standard procedure does dictate in this form, that should any suspicious activity be witnessed, even if it's something like a set of misplaced armor, that the potential offenders should be given a bit of secondary questioning before being allowed to enter the facility."" Feng, not being too dimwitted, let out a hearty chuckle when he saw the two girl's collective faces drain of color. ""Oh don't worry, this is all run of the mill, most everyone goes through it if even there's the tiniest of problems. It'll only take a moment of your time, and then you'll be on your way. Now if you can follow me we can-""

"Oh screw it, plan B." Ranma yelped, as Shampoo drew her hammer from her waist, and hurriedly smashed it against Feng's medulla oblongata; causing a rather nasty smack to be heard across the area as his body fell to the ground; a bad bruise forming on his head. It was all terribly gruesome, and violent. He practically had cartoon birds tweeting around him. Simply dreadful.

Akane, when she saw Shampoo openly attack the man before her, practically did a double-take. Their cover had been completely shattered! Before she could think much more on the matter though, another occurrence preoccupied her attention. The other person the guard was making a break for it! Naturally, she did the responsible thing by grabbing him, lifting him up in the air, and slamming his face back down into the pavement; shattering his teeth, and likely leaving him tens of thousands of dollars in dental repair bills Ouchies.

It was at that point, upon seeing the antics, the dozen or so warriors and fighters in the surrounding area jumped into the fray, after seeing two of their comrades get awfully hurt and damaged. What animals they were! It would likely take hours to get them back on their feet.

"Ranma, you idiot! Idiot! Idiot! You blew it! Our chances of sneaking in now are probably totally shot!" replied Akane, as she tenderized the stomach section of some mook who had gotten her way.

"Oh come on Kane', we woulda been found out later anyway, that always happens! Do you really think we coulda pulled anythin' like this off? At least now we can just blow through stuff without thinking too subtle and ninja-like. We can finally get to the good part!"

"Is true, real plan was to get as far as we could before we all started beating people," Shampoo responded, as she busted the lip of some faceless guardsman who was particularly annoying her. "Now we all fight our way in and out, until we find other Ranmas and fix things! It all simple."

"How many plans have you two gone over behind my back?" the blue haired battler barked, as she bashed and battered a not so benign beaked brawler. "You know, I think you're just making this entire thing up as you go! You're just calling it a plan to make yourself seem smart!"

At that time, the sound of an alarm bell began to blare boisterously before the two battling Betties.

Amidst the chaos and unconscious fellows, both Shampoo and Akane took this as a cue to get their butts moving and haul on past the entrance. "We talk about this all laters! We no have time for silly silly arguments!"

"Now listen here you can't just-"

Before Akane could wag her finger any more harshly at the girl before her, another array of weapon wielding warriors unleashed themselves before the lot could burst through their mighty defenses. "See? This no time for chitty chat!"

Now, in response to these dozen or so individuals who had plastered themselves in the way of movement, Shampoo did the only reasonable thing possible, and promptly shot through their mighty defenses. Literally. Not wasting any time on silly games, she rammedherself right through, creating an Amazon sized hole in the wall before her.

"We's in, Ranmas!" Shampoo exclaimed, as she smiled down at the man-hammer-thing in her hand.

"We sure are Shamps! This was the best idea ever! All my other ones always seem ta fall apart at some point, so why not cut the fat? Who cares about plannin', and strategizin', when you can just beat people up and win anyway?"

"I think there are probably at least half a dozen things wrong with what you just said, Ranma, but I'm too tired to list them all." Akane responded, as she crawled through the hole, but not before stomping one unusually twitchy guard-turned-bowling-pin prior to making her entrance. "So what are we doing now? This room looks deserted, but they'll have people swarming this place in no time."

The area before them looked particularly ritzy, like a Chinese-styled receptionist room that led to different paths throughout the hallowed halls of the mostly hollowed Mount Phoenix.

"Well, we needs to find other Ranmas, get orb, changes you back, and get outta here! It that simple."

"And get Ryoga." Akane interjected.

"Yeah, we'll nab pig-breath too if we have time," Ranma remarked.

"This big place though, we no even know where to start looking! We no even have map!" Shampoo responded.

"I just asked a second ago, and since you two seem to be in cahoots with each other on talking about plans, let me ask: What. Do. We. Do?" Akane's annoyance was palpable as she crossed her arms and stared down at the two.

Ranma though, was no slouch. "Heh, ain't it obvious?" he questioned. " We're gonna run around here like chickens with our heads cut off, searching rooms, fightin' bad guys, breakin' doors, breakin' walls, breakin' people, until we find what we're damn lookin' for! Cause let me tell ya! I ain't, lyin' down on this one! I ain't getting' stuck like this! We're gonna win, even if we have to blow up this whole friggin' mountain!"

Akane blinked.

"So, par for the course?"

7/24/11: Personally edited and cleaned up some things.