Disclaimer: Not mine!
Most people believe that Sailor Pluto is the only person who can manipulate time and space, but this is not actually true. Case in point the Mugen Gakuen where Kaolinite was helping Mistress 9 revive Master Pharaoh 90 and hoping to join him. She had manipulated time and space, she had defeated many of the sailors and now she was next to Mistress 9 that power was held in check, but still there waiting to assist the master. She could see it now the ultimate triumph over the Senshi and then she heard three simple words, "she is no longer needed."
A blast of electricity arced into her and her power went wild, to the world she had been in she may as well have been vaporized on the other hand the world she ended up might have wished that had been her ultimate fate.
The red haired woman shook her head and examined her location. It was certainly Earth of that she was sure, but it took much longer to discern where on Earth she was and what time frame she was in. Even so discovery of such facts was in her nature as much as designing Daimons and helping to bring forth her master Pharaoh 90.
Some years after being sent back in time Kaolinite was standing near her mistress Queen Beryl as the Queen sat by a multitude of pools each with a small pole and each with its own tragic story. Kaolinite had worked hard to be here; she had toadied, and skived, stolen, cheated, and maimed people to become this close to the Queen. The red haired woman looked at all of the cursed pools and wondered how she herself could have ended here. Kaolinite tried to keep her gorge from rising as the woman wailed and cried, then became docile once again. It was truly a silly affair all about a boy the young prince of earth Endymion and Beryl had truly loved him with all of her heart. It hadn't been enough, she was too rough, too much of a trained military girl and apparently not enough of the fragile flower for him. He was in love with Princess Serenity the daughter of the Queen of the Moon kingdom and so despite Beryl's own crown and despite her training with her battle sisters not far from this place she was going to lose the man she loved.
The entire thing sickened Kaolinite and so she approached her queen and with a soft voice spoke to her saying, "Why so sad my Queen?"
Beryl pulled her gun and then quickly placed it back in its holster with an apology, "I am sorry Kaolinite I must have been far gone into reminiscing if I did not hear you near."
The other red haired woman said, "No need to apologize my queen. We all know how much this hurts you, how much he meant to you. What will you do now?"
Beryl sighed and said, "You have been a good counsel to me ever since you came so many years ago Kaolinite, but I cannot follow through on my plan of revenge. I cannot in good conscience contact Metallia and use her powers to bring down the Moon Kingdom. Unleashing her could change me; possibly even cause great strife and war. No, it is best to allow my heart to bear this burden instead of the lives of my people."
Kaolinite stepped closer to Beryl and put a hand on her shoulder as if for comfort and then moments later her Red hair was choking the life out of the other woman. "Oh wrong answer my queen! Very wrong answer and now you must die."
The hair encompassed her totally and so it was not long until Queen Beryl was unconscious and then the hair moved and Beryl was thrown into one of the pools where she drown. Standing with her hair waving on its own Kaolinite frowned and then pulled out a Daimon egg carefully crafted just for this purpose, and then swallowed it. Soon after that a very different Queen Beryl was walking back to her palace where she would begin contacts with Metallia and the process that would inevitably destroy the ancient moon kingdom and hopefully bring her own master into the world as well.
Indeed, it was not long before "Queen Beryl" was launching a surprise attack on the moon kingdom. Not long before the glorious days of wonder, beauty, and happiness that had once betokened the near Utopia became horrific destruction and fighting. Youma and Daimons rushed about the Moon killing everything in their path. The Inner Senshi fell and the red haired woman calling herself Beryl presented the princes of the moon with the dying body of her former love, "Is he not everything you dreamed?"
It was then that she saw the Uranus, Neptune and Pluto converging on her spot, then that all she had worked for must assuredly come to pass. Right there she made her first betrayal of Metallia and so three blasts of power removed the three Senshi's heart crystals and she gathered them in her hands to begin forming the grail, but she hadn't counted on Sailor Venus showing up as well. She hadn't counted on the sword that took off her hand and scattered the crystals to the ground. She tried to strike back, but it was a weak strike and Venus parried the blast and sliced her weapon in half. Indeed, Venus was a mad woman pushing Beryl back and then back again until she met up directly with Queen Serenity who banished her into the dimension of Metallia. She had long eons in that great creature's presence plotting her vengeance, the return of Metallia and a union between that Spirit and her own beloved Master Pharaoh 90.
Ranma Saotome was female and she was very angry as she stared into her camp fire and cursed, "Stupid ol man!"
Mentally she cursed him again, for the training trip, for the lack of money that led to too few supplies in this deep jungle, and of course the current female form that she was wearing along with its own added 'voice' possibly even the voice of the woman who had originally drown in the pool. Ranma didn't want to hear her, didn't want anything to do with her or Genma Saotome and yet here she was in camp waiting to see if her father had found any food.
A Black and white bear form approached munching on a stalk of bamboo and then gesticulating wildly. Ranma nearly shouted as she said, "I can't eat bamboo old man."
The bear gesticulated again and began taking the camp apart; Ranma moaned and sighed as she realized he hadn't found anything more than a new place to camp. Soon enough they were ensconced in a new spot and Ranma was heating some water over a fire. Just as steam began to form above the water the Panda took the pot and upended it on itself. Ranma looked at him and said, "What was that for!"
"I needed it more than you did boy. Take it like a Man, martial arts isn't for the weak"
His words continued and Ranma just tuned him out, tuned the man out and stared off into the jungle while her stomach gnawed at her with hunger. She needed food soon or she would begin to lose muscle tissue. That was not an option and so, she stood up and said, "I'm going to find myself some grub."
"Find something for me too boy!" The balding man said and she just ignored it like everything else he had been saying. She walked off barely listening to him and wondering just why she had ever done so in the first place. Scenes of her life came unbidden to her mind, training, torture, hunger and more. Few if any of the moments were warm or kind. None of it was easy and she could hear that voice again saying, "You poor child. You have never felt love or compassion at all have you? Your honor is worn to its very nubs and nothing at all is left."
Ranma stopped and looked around knowing she wouldn't see anything. She sighed softly and tried to ignore the voice, but it was hard to do on her own. Especially hard to do when the voice was repeating her own litany of annoyances from her father and then she heard it. It was definitely sounds of a battle being wages somewhere up the hillside. Ranma walked towards the sounds hesitantly and with care and then came upon a truly amazing sight. A banquet of food arrayed on a table and two women fighting on a log.
The temptation to walk over and take that food was greater than most any temptation she had and then a like a shot across the bow she heard the voice saying, "Like your father would do."
That single statement changed Ranma's course, instead of walking over and taking the food she slowly came into the village and announced her presence to some of the guards. The two women who should have been guarding the gate stared at her with annoyance and spoke in rapid Chinese. She didn't understand, but the gist seemed clear. Stay put, watch the fight and someone who could understand her might get around to talking to her later.
It was a very long wait and challengers came and went. Ranma's mind analyzed each fight quickly and aptly surmised the outcome of each fight correctly nearly ninety percent of the time. Her inner voice sounded impressed by his predictive skill and by the time the final match was happening Ranma was having an internal dialogue finding out many things about the woman who had drowned in the waters of Jusenkyou before him and wondering if perhaps she was somewhat insane. Even so the voice suggested a method by which she could gain entry to the village, a method by which she might honorably request food and so after the final fight was over and a very old lady was standing near her speaking in Japanese and asking her how she had come here Ranma, by now coached by her voice, said carefully, "Honorable elder, I am Ranma Saotome an outsider seeking refuge in your village and a chance to prove my worth to you."
The older woman who called herself Cologne said, "Very well young Saotome. If you prove yourself decent enough a fighter to hold out against young Shampoo for a minute we will accept this proposal."
A ring was formed and Ranma stood across from the Purple haired girl she had seen fight before. A minute would be relatively easy enough and indeed she was rather sure that she would win this confrontation. Shampoo rushed her with bonbori blazing and she sent a kick into the other girl that sent her flying across the makeshift ring. If they had been on that log the purple haired girl would be out and done with and even without it she was obviously dazed.
Ranma waited for the girl to recover and this time the purple haired girl was much more cautious. Probing Ranma's defenses and actually making the young redhead block some of the attacks. The frustrated girl shouted in Chinese and Ranma knew she wanted her to go on the offensive. It was a hard decision to make, but she knew the other girl's honor was on the line as well and if Ranma just played with her it would be an insult and so she whipped out some punches and finally another spectacular kick that sent the purple haired girl flying once again, this time out of the circular ring.
The purple haired girl's eyes bored into her own blue ones and Ranma walked over bowed to the purple haired girl and extended a hand to help her up. Shampoo looked at her at first with anger and then she took the hand and allowed herself to be helped to her feet. She said something in rapid Chinese that Ranma missed and then flung her to the ground with a grin.
Ranma saw the dagger approaching her throat, no way to escape and then it was gone and a hand was helping her up and the voice was saying in poor Japanese, "We even now."
Ranma nodded with sweat covering her face and then the elder came to them both and announced something loudly in Chinese and then translated, "You have proven great worth to us and will be given refuge, more to the point your skill is great enough that I believe you should be given a place in our village as Shampoo's shield sister."
Cheering went up around the village and then the feast came. Food, free food honorably gained crossed Ranma's lips and a feeling of camaraderie suffused the table. Strangely enough this was the happiest Ranma had been in a very, very long time.
Weeks passed and Ranma slowly learned Chinese through immersion and Amazon ways and customs as well. So much so that the young girl knew that she did not want to become male in front of the villagers now that she had been accepted. Such a curse would be a betrayal and yet she felt she should tell them. These were all slowly becoming her friends now and she was hiding something from them.
She took a long walk to gather supplies and was about to begin a longer talk with the voice who she had found was named Beryl. The two were just beginning to talk when Ranma ran right into a balding old martial artist. The yelling began immediately, where had she been, and what was she thinking was she a man or a woman!
Ranma took pains to calm her father down and explained about the village and potential martial arts techniques that she could learn and add to her style. The promise of more power for Ranma mollified her father down and the provisions she had brought along for the hike cemented it. "Now, tell him to go visit that town not far from here. The one you saw before going to the pools."
Ranma nodded to herself in agreement with the voice and suggested that her father would be more comfortable in a nearby village while she trained with the Amazons. The addition of what was left of her food and some miscellaneous treasures convinced the man to settle in town and live there for a time.
Back with Ranma, life in the Amazon village had a simple pecking order. The best fighters were at the top and the rest were not. Anyone could challenge you for your right to be where you were at any time and all insults to your honor or station were to be put down without mercy. Even so the best fighters were expected and even encouraged to help the younger girls learn form and technique while they themselves were taught by their respective village elder.
This put Shampoo and Ranma at the very top of their age group and in charge of training a number of other girls as well as learning from Cologne each day. Numerous pressure points and other techniques were taught to the two. They were true friends and along with that friendship Ranma was slowly allowing herself to speak more with her inner voice. Doing this allowed her to find out more about the strange entity that had once been a Queen.
"Yes, I was a Queen on Earth mine was much smaller than the, at the time, well known Earth Kingdom. We called ourselves the Terra and I was Queen Beryl the first of that name."
Beryl proceeded to provide Ranma the history of the Moon Kingdom and her role as a small Queen outside of the Solar System spanning Moon Kingdom. She heard about great ships, magical powers, and more. It was a tale that inevitably ended with her heartbreak at losing out to Princess Serenity and then her betrayal by her once good friend Kaolinite for deciding not to get revenge simply for petty jealousy.
When the tale was over Ranma pondered it and then said, "What happened?"
Beryl thought about it and said, "I must assume that Kaolinite must have followed through on my plot for revenge. Somehow managing to destroy the Moon Kingdom and destroy whatever technology the Kingdoms of Earth and Terra had."
It was a harsh though for a beautiful day and Ranma set it aside for a time. Determined to follow her own quest to learn more techniques Ranma and Shampoo continued to train together and bond. It was not long before they were each taught the Amiguriken technique. The only issue between them was Ranma's continued refusal to bathe at the same time as her good friend.
Indeed, months went by with close quarters and many females around, but even so Ranma avoided taking baths or even seeing any of the other girls naked. The worst possible moment of her time was when elder Cologne had to give her a lesson about certain times of the month and feminine hygiene. By the time that lesson was over the savvy elder had figured it out of course, "You are not in your normal form are you Ranma?"
Ranma sadly shook her head and said, "No….Jusenkyou…." her face was red with shame and embarrassment as well. Cologne just touched her arm and said, "No matter you are Ranma Saotome in whatever form and I would be proud to call you my granddaughter or my grandson."
It was a moment of acceptance that Ranma had not had in so very long. A moment when she felt she truly had a family and someone who cared. She hugged her new grandmother and if she cried no one would have faulted her for it. As she walked off the older lady said, "You will tell my granddaughter soon."
Ranma nodded her acceptance and said, "After we learn the Hiryu Shouten Ha grandmother."
Cologne nodded as well and the conversation was done. Training proceeded apace while Ranma's visit to her father had been delayed by four weeks by then. Unfortunately on the day that Ranma and Shampoo would learn the technique there was an accident at the granary where Ranma had just begun training her group of young Amazons in some simpler techniques.
One of the younger girls had said simply, "We should see Karu-chan's litter while we are here."
The rest of the group agreed and asked their mentor if would be all right to just peek inside. Not realizing the danger Ranma had nodded her assent and let the children look inside the granary. Not long after that each one had a demon in their hands. A small furry demon unleashed from Hell itself and they were moving towards her with them. Ranma backed away in sheer terror, backed directly into the door to the granary and stepped on mother Karu-chan's tail. After that, for Ranma, everything went dark.
An unknown amount of time later Ranma's eyes opened and he lashed out sending his father flying into a metal wall with a loud clang. The battle began in true earnest from there as she realized she was on a ship. Genma was rather unprepared for this new level of skill that Ranma presented, but was in luck as it had not quite transferred completely over to Ranma's male form which the young boy had not worn for eight months now. Thus Genma was able to guard enough to speak, "Foolish boy we must be leaving now. It is a matter of honor!"
Ranma stood down and stared at Genma, despite being male he still heard Beryl's voice saying, "Be wary he is not to be trusted."
Ranma snorted relaying that Beryl had not told him something he didn't already know. "What sort of honor old man?"
"The Saotome family honor and you will find out once we arrive in Tokyo." Ranma narrowed his eyes at Genma, but relented as he did not wish to swim the Sea of China again and he could always find another boat back once they arrived in Tokyo.
Not long after that they were in Tokyo and it was raining. The combat between the two was nearly the same as it would be in any number of alternate universes. The young girl fought well and would have defeated her foe had said foe not pulled up a street sign and slammed it on her head when she foolishly turned her back.
Some short period of time later and yet another remarkable scene was played out in the Tendo training hall. A girl and her panda arrived and an old man named Soun Tendo cried tears of joy, then tears of sadness as it was revealed that Ranma seemed to be a girl. An offer of friendship later and Akane Tendo stood across the dojo from Ranma Saotome. A very different young woman from the one she might have met. A woman with no compunctions about putting uppity females in their place for daring to believe they were better than her. This was a young woman who had been living and breathing Amazon skills and societal norms for eight months. The battle was over in moments, Akane Tendo had barely seen the girl move and then suddenly her arm was being hyper extended behind her back and quite painfully at that. In calculating voice the Redhead behind her said simply, "Yield."
Akane yielded saying, "Wow, you're quite good. I'm glad you're not a boy I'd hate to be beaten by a boy."
Ranma looked at her once and said, "Too late for that." Then she walked out of the Dojo and was sent upstairs to take a bath. The inevitable comedy of errors occurred and soon enough Ranma and Genma were making a poor show of explaining their curses. Still it was not long before Soun Tendo intervened and placed the boy in front of his daughters and asked him to choose one.
The elder daughters stepped back and presented the youngest as the perfect candidate, but this Ranma looked at the girl and said, "No"
That single word it resounded through the house and left silence in its wake. Ranma spoke again carefully choosing his words with assistance from his inner voice. "If this is truly a matter of family honor, then we should not be so hasty. I will decide upon a girl to marry based not on a few minutes of interaction, but instead upon mutual compatibility."
The room stayed silent and at least one of the sisters re-evaluated their opinion of the martial artist boy standing before them. Ranma continued looking at Soun and his father and saying, "I do not like this and feel that I ought to return to my tribe sisters in China, but I will stay for a time and determine if one of your daughters will indeed be compatible with me."
Chaos reigned again as Genma yelled and Soun cried tears of enjoyment utterly ignoring any portion of Ranma's statement that suggested the boy might choose anything other than one of his daughters. Even so order was eventually restored to the house and in at least one universe a table was not slammed over Ranma's head at this meeting.
Morning came and the Tendo household found Ranma assisting Kasumi with the meal before he was suddenly extricated by his father and taken into the backyard to be berated for his "Un-manly" behavior. Not too long after that the younger boy decided he had enough and beating the stuffing out of his father in their backyard sending him flying into the pond with a splash and a growf of displeasure from the newly formed Panda. Once that was done Ranma wandered into the kitchen and began once again to assist Kasumi as best as he was able.
In this case of helping the best Ranma was really able to manage was setting out the dishes and previously some chipping and dicing. The stove in the Tendo household was a far cry from the small wood burning equipment Ranma had learned on in the Amazon village.
A panda wandered back into the Tendo home, took a hot bath, and came down as Genma Saotome in more than enough time to scarf a large amount of food and then declare that Ranma was going to school. Ranma ended up agreeing with the idea without too much of a fight due to the fact that in addition to learning martial skills the Amazons also had their own small school. So, not long after Ranma was walking along a fence as Akane went to the school. "We don't know each other!"
Ranma looked around and then realized she was speaking to him. The first thoughts to cross his mind were insults, but his inner voice helped him refrain. Besides, she had already proven herself in combat. This Akane was no threat to her…his…Ranma shuddered…station.
Akane was looking at him as if awaiting a response and so he said, "You are right we don't know each other." Then he allowed her to continue past him as he pondered exactly what had just happened. He jumped down to the sidewalk and considered if he was male. No need to check body parts his appearance was male, but he had thought of himself as female for a moment there despite his current body. Did that mean his father was right? Was he truly less of a man?
His voice cut in and said, "Ranma, you are you. Remember what grandmother Cologne said. Remember that it does not matter what your form is because you will always be Ranma Saotome."
The voice said, "Besides, it certainly wasn't me who was looking at Shampoo with my jaw dropped that day we saw her nude" That little reminder made him somewhat aroused and then sent him running towards the school trying to forget about this problem.
Ranma arrived at the school in time to see Akane punt some guy in a blue hakama into a wall and walk into school in an obviously foul mood. Ranma followed behind and saw the rest of the destruction in Akane's wake and wondered exactly what he had missed with all these boys laying about and that other boy being taken to the nurse's office by one Nabiki Tendo.
Ranma saw that and decided to assist picking up two other boys and following behind the other Tendo girl. While walking next to her he said, "So, what happened?"
Nabiki explained that it happened every morning because the boy with the blue hakama who he helped put into a bed had declared that no one could date Akane without defeating her in combat. While this made some strange sense to Ranma who noted the Amazon laws, it was still very odd because in such a melee there could be no clear winner and Akane could not marry them all.
Ranma shrugged and left Nabiki with the boy named Tatewaki Kuno who she apparently charged for his escort to the Nurse. The young martial artist then began to head out to assist anymore unconscious young men, but decided against it when he saw that it was raining. He had been willing to help the stupid males, but not if it meant triggering his curse in front of them.
Sometime later Ranma was in the hall due to his tardiness and back to contemplating his inner self and appropriate gender pronouns. She had been an Amazon for eight months only, while he had been a male martial artist for nearly sixteen years. Of course Beryl had apparently been a Queen for nearly twenty years and so the Amazon and female part felt just as appropriate as the Martial artist and male. It was a complex tangle of emotions, feelings, and wants. One that was not helped by an overbearing father who apparently despised any hint of what Genma termed "unmanly" behavior.
Ranma sighed and then suddenly dodged desperately out of the way as Kuno ran down the hall yelling about Ranma's engagement to Akane, then attacked with his wooden boken. To a Ranma with eight months of Amazon training the blow might as well have been delivered by post and so he avoided the blow easily and in return slipped directly behind the other boy and slammed a fist into the back of his head. The blow sent Kuno staggering, but amazingly to Ranma's eyes not into unconsciousness.
The boy with a boken staggered to his feet and swung again, so Ranma decided to take the fight outside so as to avoid destroying too much of the school's property. A dash, a quick turn and a jump out the window to a perfect landing outside is what he had planned on. The school pool being directly in their line of descent was not. A sploosh into the pool later and Ranma was desperately trying to swim off, but Kuno caught up to her and grabbed her breast.
In her righteous anger Ranma thought quickly and decided on the perfect course of action using the Technique taught to her by Cologne high in the snowy mountains she thought to herself, "Fist of the Ice Bear revised Shark Fist!"
A blast of high pressure water slammed into Kuno, blasted him across the pool and flung him out onto the ground. A red haired girl followed after it and slammed a foot into his head for good measure and then ran off.
Not long after that Ranma was back in classes and listening to his teacher while attempting to avoid the wild mass guessing and questioning that he was receiving from the other students. Thankfully the school day ended and he walked back to the Tendo domicile on his own.
Once he was at the Tendo home Ranma, prodded by Beryl, pulled out his books and began the pieces of homework that had been assigned. It did not take long and he finished as Nabiki came home. Nabiki looked at him putting his books away and said, "Homework Saotome, I wouldn't have guessed it about you."
Ranma pondered the statement and shrugged. She was probably right he wouldn't have done his homework before his trip into Jusenkyo and the Amazon village, but that had been a different time and place. He looked at her and just shrugged having no real response that he wanted to voice.
Nabiki was still standing there so he decided to take a gamble on a hunch and said, "So, how did Kuno get the idea that I was engaged to Akane?"
Nabiki looked back at him and said, "It's all around school ever since you said you were staying here at The Tendo house. I guess people just got the wrong idea."
Nabki's eyes were cool and she was giving off barely anything which might suggest she was being anything but honest. Truly Ranma wouldn't have thought she was lying, but his good friend and body companion said, "She is lying of course."
Ranma nodded to himself and said, "Oh, well I did try to correct the misapprehension a few times telling people that our fathers arranged myself and one of the Tendo daughters. In addition I told them that it was not a definite happening as I have not chosen one of you and may not do so."
Nabiki smiled a little secretive smile and said, "Well be careful of Kuno he hates to lose."
As Nabiki walked off Ranma just laughed. The young Kuno boy might as well have been a toddler for all that he could challenge Ranma's skills. Thousands of years of Chinese Amazon history would not fall to the likes of some mere Japanese male.
Ranma's thoughts were proven the very next day. Akane ran into the school fighting the horde of young men and Ranma stood back wondering if he should ask her if she wanted help and deciding against it. It was quite obvious that the girl did not like him and so he would be better served staying out of her way. Kuno on the other hand waited and allowed the girl to pass him by deciding to instead focus on Ranma. The battle was entirely one sided and young Kuno ended up unconscious again.
A pattern began to establish itself into Ranma's life for the next few weeks. Wake and help Kasumi with breakfast, spar with his father, go to school and fight Kuno at least once, avoid Akane, have some form of verbal spar with Nabiki, help with dinner, spar with his father again, and sleep.
There was not as joy and warmth in this new pattern in Ranma's life. Yes, the eldest Tendo was a nice person, yes sparring was indeed fun, but Ranma missed Shampoo and her tribe sisters. Ranma missed the challenges Grandmother Cologne would hand out. His father seemed to be slacking off as if training was less important now. All that seemed to matter to the elder Saotome was the engagement and it was causing an obvious divide because Ranma wouldn't commit to any of the sisters and was rather obviously avoiding at least one of them. This was especially the case after the last dinner fiasco.
Kasumi had been out with some of her friends and Ranma was about to begin cooking in her stead so the young boy walked into the kitchen only to find Akane already there. The other girl was rushing to and fro asking one item not to burn and slathering some unknown substance on some other item. Ranma couldn't think of a nice way to speak to the girl and seeing the damage she was causing didn't really feel like it. The red haired girl's voice rose in a stern tone as she said, "What are you doing?"
Akane turned and said, "What does it look like. I'm making dinner of course, not that you would know anything about it." The girl hmphed and continued her task as Ranma processed the statement.
Words utterly failed the red haired girl for a few moments until Beryl came to the fore and added her specific comments saying, "No, you are not making anything that might conceivably be called dinner. Indeed, my grandmother would take you out back and punish you for the utter horror that you are performing in this space. However, if you will merely step aside I can possibly salvage something here and begin making an actual dinner."
Akane turned beet red and threw a sauce pan directly at Ranma, but the red haired girl was already in motion. Moments later Akane was unconscious and set on a couch in the living room while Ranma cleaned up the mess and began again. By the time she was done and food was on the table the story had gotten to the two so called adults in the house who proceeded to berate Ranma for her actions. While a fuming Akane tossed in her own insults and looked on.
Having enough of that treatment Ranma left the room and went for a long walk. By the time he had come home the house was quiet and the young man slipped into bed unnoticed until the next morning whereupon he continued his daily activities unabated except for the simple smile and whispered "thank you" from Kasumi who he was helping with breakfast.
Soon after that Ranma's pattern was again broken when he approached school only to hear a new voice shout, "Ranma Saotome prepare to die!"
After the shout a young boy with black hair and fangs attacked him with a large umbrella. Ranma easily sidestepped the attack and sent his nemesis flying. The other boy was made of sterner stuff than Kuno though and came back with a vengeance. Ranma dodged the strikes and said, "Do I know you?"
That phrase just made the young man angrier as he shouted, "Curse you for forgetting me, Ryouga Hibiki. For that and for making my life hell you will die!"
More useless swipes of the large umbrella later and Ranma with Beryl's help had finally dug up the old memory, "Oh, you're that Ryouga, how've you been?" Ranma paused and then said, "Oh no, wait that's right your life is hell now because of me. I would have thought that some bread and you being late for our duel would ruin your life. I don't suppose you'd like to explain would ya?"
Ryouga did not seem inclined to explain instead opting for more attacks with his umbrella which Ranma easily avoided. "Maybe a hint Ryouga?" Ranma said as he dodged another blow in their running battle. Sadly an answer would not be forthcoming as young Ryouga had taken a left when Ranma had taken a right and now the yellow bandana clad boy was nowhere to be seen.
Ranma sighed and walked back to school as Beryl spoke saying, "Well that was certainly odd. From your memories I would expect hostility, but not nearly at that level. Is it possible he's been possessed by a youma?"
Ranma shrugged having heard about these youma and their effects from Beryl and her time in the ancient Terran Kingdom, but never actually having seen one he couldn't be sure. It was a bothering idea and so he headed home to begin working with Beryl on ways in which he might remove the youma without killing Ryouga.
The first attempts in his male body failed to produce anything more than ruined items and so Ranma switched to her female form. This change gave her better feeling for the instructions Beryl was giving and allowed her to work small magics as well. Many days later Ranma was now in her female body, in tune with the magics as Beryl instructed and able to work with as many components as she could scrounge up and this had allowed her to make a crude youma detector. Ranma sighed as she finished the work and thought, "Of course after using this if Ryouga actually turns out to be possessed we'll still have to figure out how to get that thing out of him without killing him"
Beryl sighed internally as well and said, "We would need access to much higher priced equipment for that purpose. If it is the case that young Ryouga is possessed we may need to speak with Nabiki again about posing for pictures."
Ranma gritted her teeth, "For Kuno to letch on me some more. That's a pretty high price to pay Beryl. I know you really liked that prince Endymion and he was a poet too, but I'm sorry I don't see anything to appreciate in that or in Kuno."
Beryl found herself agreeing with Ranma and realizing that Endymion had been something of a dreamer and a romantic. He had been good to look at, but perhaps not as useful material for marriage as she had thought, now that Shampoo she had a lovely body and lustrous hair and young Kasumi was pleasant and warm and very good looking. Beryl stopped her thought process wondering where that had come from she wasn't attracted to women….was she?
While Beryl had been thinking to herself in Ranma's mindscape she found herself once again close to the dark box. It was solid black metal fitted with dark chains and it scared her greatly. She stepped slowly away knowing that this was a bad place to be a source for nightmares with biting claws and fangs. She quickly moved away from the area and back towards Ranma's conscious mind where she said, "I agree Ranma young Kuno has little to appreciate and perhaps Endymion was not right for me after all. Even so we will need money if we wish to purchase items to make what we need"
Ranma shook her head and sighed knowing that Beryl was probably right as getting a job, attending school; practicing, and helping around the house would not all be possible. Little did she realize that events would make doing all those items at the same time seem simplistic indeed.
Nabiki, of course, had been watching the young Saotome boy and then girl work on her project and began to see him as a definite treasure. Whatever he was doing was obviously very technological and as far as history suggested he had been living in the wilderness most of his life. This wasn't just any martial arts jock he was a puzzle to be solved. So, with that in mind young Nabiki approached Ranma as he finished with his device and said, "So, what is it Saotome?"
Ranma pointed the crude looking device's sensor at Nabiki and took a reading. "Hmm, well it seems to be working and I don't think it's none a your business Nabiki."
Nabiki smirked and said, "Au contraire Ranma when my fiancé is out here doing who knows what I should take an interest right? After all maybe it's something I might be interested in and thus make us finally understand each other and fall in love."
Ranma snorted at that and Nabiki added, "Also, I could tell your father you are done and you've actually made something and mister 'That's unmanly' would be out here breaking it into tiny pieces."
Ranma knew Nabiki was right, after all as a boy he had had to fight her father on numerous occasions just to be out here and then finally when he was a girl she had just taken to calling it practice and sneaking the components in for after she was done with the practice. With a sigh Ranma said, "It's a youma detector."
Nabiki blinked twice and then looked at Ranma closely. The boy certainly believed what he was saying, but the very idea seemed preposterous. Then again so did a boy who turned into a girl with a splash of cold water. With that in mind Nabiki said, "Can you demonstrate?"
"I already did, it says you're human." Ranma replied.
Nabiki recalled that he had pointed it at her earlier or at least the dish part at her. "Okay, so what do you plan to do with it?"
"I'm going to use it on Ryouga when he shows up; I think he was way too angry to be a regular human."
Nabiki chuckled and said, "Did you ever consider that he was just insane?"
Ranma shrugged and said, "Well better safe than sorry right?"
The two parted ways after a few more comments, but the young Saotome had become newly valuable in Nabki's eyes.
Later that night Ryouga found the Tendo Dojo and attacked Ranma in bed. The young Saotome smashed him through a window and outside into the rain. Ranma then rushed out transforming in mid leap and shouting, "I have had just about enough of you!"
Ryouga barely avoided the kick and said, "You know nothing of my pain Ranma I followed you after you failed to show up! I followed you all the way to China!"
Ranma dodged kicks and punches after that revelation suddenly realizing exactly what had happened. Beryl too remembered and said, "He is the boy accidentally you knocked into the spring when we were chasing Genma."
Above the sound of rain Ranma said, "Ah man, I'm really sorry Ryouga, I didn't mean to knock you into a spring."
The words did not help matters as Ryouga shouted, "You! You were the one! Die Ranma; die for making my life hell!"
The blows were easy to avoid and so Ranma did, maneuvering herself to where she had stashed the youma detector and pointing it at Ryouga. The reading was negative and so the young Saotome ended the fight with a few well placed punches. Once Ryouga fell unconscious into a mud puddle a small black pig took his place and at that point the detector made a strange sound.
Ranma pulled the device out and pointed it at the small pig. The screen simply said, "Cursed Human". Ranma looked at it again and then pointed it at herself the screen read, "Class M Human"
By now she was wondering if she had constructed it correctly when Beryl said, "The device is not working as well as I had hoped. Young Ryouga should have shown up as cursed before now, but it did not trigger until the transformation. Then again Jusenkyou's magic may be more difficult to detect when in ones natural state than I had previously thought."
"Okay, but what about me?" Ranma queried his live in spirit and mentor.
"Apparently it does not show Jusenkyo as a curse on you and is instead classifying you as a Class M Human. This would normally be reserved for someone who had magical powers like myself, Queen Serenity, an earth guardian, or one of the guardians of the Moon Kingdom."
Ranma took the unconscious pig into the house along with his few belongings and clothes questioning Beryl as she walked, "So I'm magically enhanced, but not cursed?"
Beryl pondered the question and said, "I believe that is an accurate statement. It is possible that the work we have done with magic has changed your body so that this form is also your natural state. Instead of a curse you are magically enhanced with the ability to become a girl and a magic user"
Ranma looked sad a moment and then turned it aside. So she was stuck now or she supposed that it was more accurate to say, "Blessed with suck" She would handle it and return to the village as soon as she could honorably say she had given the Tendo girls a chance.
By now Ranma was inside the house, transformed into a boy, and drying off. He looked to the little piglet and said, "So what am I going to do with you?"
The piglet roused itself and rushed to the attack. A spwak of Ranma's hand later and the creature was unconscious again. Ranma sighed and looked about the house for a small cage. Not finding one he decided to go with the hamper, upended it and put it on the pig with a note to Kasumi saying that Ranma would clean up the mess in the morning.
By the time Ranma woke up to clean the mess in the morning Ryouga and all of his things were gone. Somehow the boy had woken up, pushed the hamper off himself, washed up and then gotten lost on his way to kill his foe. It would be pathetically hilarious. . . Ranma laughed and realized that it was hilarious in a way. Wiping the tears of laughter off his face the young Saotome went down to help Kasumi with breakfast.
After school that day Ranma was being berated by his father in the living room while Nabiki watched the news. "Ranma you aren't even trying!"
Ranma looked at him and said, "That ain't true it's just that we have so little in common."
"Boy! You spend quite a bit of time with Kasumi in the kitchen she would be a perfect match for you!" Genma yelled.
Ranma shrugged and it might be true, she was rather beautiful, but the problem there was the age difference. He was relatively sure that Kasumi saw him more like a younger brother than a potential mate and taking her out of the running meant he wasn't interested in the other two girls. With these thoughts in his head Ranma missed quite a bit more of Genma's rant and then as usual it proceeded towards violence. While the bout was longer than usual Ranma was able to use his hard won knowledge from the Amazons and took Genma down using a variation of the splitting cat hairs technique.
Walking back inside Ranma glimpsed the TV screen and then did a double take as Beryl shouted, "It's her!"
Looking at the "her" in this case Ranma saw a blonde haired girl wearing a distressingly short skirt and apparently outfitted something like a female sailor might look. Beryl identified her as Princess Serenity as Ranma watched her trip and fall to the ground, somehow avoiding by sheer luck a swipe from what was obviously a youma. A black haired girl outfitted in a similar outfit as the blonde, but with red trim shouted, "Lookout meatball head!" and proceeded to toss a pile of flames into the youma's mouth. The burning monster screamed for a moment and then was hit by another attack from outside of the Camera's view.
As the scene faded away the reporter was saying, "That was the scene in Juuban today where the group calling themselves the Sailor Senshi fought yet another of these strange creatures and defeated it. So far police have no leads on the creatures or the Sailor girls."
Beryl identified the other girls they had seen as the Senshi of Mars and Venus respectively while the news continued onto other stories and Ranma sat in a couch wondering how girls from Beryl's ancient past could possibly still be alive. Ranma was not alone in his wondering, because Beryl was as well. She was desperate to know what happened after she had died and to be honest so was Ranma. The only problem was that now there were actually youma running about and attacking people. "I can handle them Beryl really I can." Ranma thought to his inner visitor.
Beryl said, carefully, "Ranma, remember what I said. They eat life energy. Touching them at all with your hands will sap your strength just as assuredly as if they hit you and they can drain energy from afar. We need magical protection before you even think of trying to go find the Princess and her allies."
Ranma didn't' like that idea at all he was one of the best Martial Artists around and these were just some demon things. Beryl cut him off saying, "Please Ranma, if you won't think about making protection at least take a weapon."
Nabiki, who had also been watching the news, was now looking at Ranma. She smiled and said, "So Ranma why were you so interested in that pretty girl? Not planning on cheating on your marriage arrangements are you?"
She had obviously chosen the moment perfectly because Kasumi and Akane had both been walking into the room at that moment. Akane just frowned and said, "He was just looking at her skirt that pervert!"
Ranma declined to defend himself from the statement and so Akane humphed and said, "Well stay away from my sisters you pervert!"
Again Ranma declined to comment and so the youngest Tendo sat there fuming while her older sister looked on with a curious expression saying, "I don't know. Why don't you tell us more Ranma?"
Possession by an ancient Queen and a story of a Moon Kingdom were preposterous by nearly any standards and so Ranma said, "Well I learned about youma some time ago and I thought Ryouga had been one ya know. Then I took time ta build a detector like my uh . . . mentor had instructed."
He was scrambling to find words now and finished quickly by saying, "He wasn't a youma though, but seein one made fer real me want ta watch what was happening on TV."
Beryl shuddered as in the face of three women and a huge bout of nerves the boy totally lost every bit of poise and dictation that she had been trying to instill for months now. Even so it seemed that they might be buying the story which was true to a certain degree. Beryl corrected her assessment Kasumi was buying the story, while Akane obviously thought it was some front for perversion and Nabiki was probably digesting it to determine how much he was lying by omission.
Even so none of the girls was asking for more clarification and so Ranma was able to excuse himself and walk back out to the Dojo where he examined a number of the weapons. Once done, selecting a simple staff, he went back inside and began helping Kasumi with the evening meal. Working with the older woman Ranma realized that while they often exchanged pleasantries and had been working together for nearly a month now he didn't know much about her at all other than the fact that she was pretty, very nice, and went out with her friends on Wednesdays.
Still it wasn't much less than he knew quite about the other two girls. Nabiki was a pretty girl, cunning, and obviously out for herself and probably a name in the world. She was the consummate capitalist with a small, possibly minute, space in her heart for her family above anyone else. Akane was also a pretty girl when she wasn't angry, she was impatient, rather selfish, and obviously spoiled.
Even so Ranma found himself wondering what Kasumi wanted out of life, where she was going with her life and if he wanted to be a part of that. His heart thumped in his chest at that idea Kasumi was so different from Shampoo. Shampoo had been her shield sister, her best friend for eight months, and a source for some terribly erotic dreams. Kasumi was gentle and kind, a lovely young lady who would make anyone a perfect wife. Yeah there was that Doctor Tofu guy he had met briefly, but that seemed as one way as her relationship with Ranma.
Ranma sighed as he realized one again that any feeling he might have for Kasumi must assuredly be one way and that Shampoo was a vast distance away and he had never gotten the chance to tell her about the curse.
By the time dinner was served that night Ranma was in a full on depression. He was silent and just going through the motions. By the time he was in bed Ranma couldn't sleep. So, to take his mind off his current depressive thoughts the young man grabbed his makeshift youma detector, his staff, and went to the train station.
Once in the Juuban area Ranma pulled out his detector and realized that it wasn't functioning at all. He tapped it a few times and nothing. He frowned slightly and then Beryl suggested a transformation via cold water. One transformation later and bingo the detector was working fine in her hands although it was only detecting humans at that moment.
Ranma grumbled slightly as she walked around and Beryl explained that the detector was meant to work with people who could use magic and as with the construction process when he couldn't do any magic in his male form it was now very clear that only the female form had any magical ability. It wasn't exactly a new concept for Ranma, who had been getting more used to his gender switching and the possibility that it might be permanent, but it was still annoying. The red haired girl grumbled some more for good measure and continued her walking about with the detector knowing that it was a long shot, but certainly better than being depressed and staring at the ceiling at the Tendo place.
Despite the odds Ranma's detector pinged and gave a warning. Standing in rags and holding out a cup was an elderly gentleman begging for yen. Ranma walked closer and realized that this was not a human at all, it was a monster under its coat and hat and it was just barely wearing a wrinkled human face. As Ranma approached she could feel the drain on her chi, she tried to rein it in, but the trickle continued. To make matters worse the creature had seen her and was moving closer speaking in a dark voice it said, "Oh delicious, come closer little one. You will feed me and give me great honor when I return to Queen Beryl."
Ranma suddenly had a thousand questions, but they were all put aside as she had to dodge the creature's sudden attack. A giant black claw struck out and she barely dodged to the side, even worse the drain on her chi was increasing. Dodging another attack she panted with near exhaustion and quickly ran towards the creature with staff in hand slamming it across the street and into a wall.
The creature got up a mangled and broken head on its body began to slowly re-knit itself and the drain continued. She had a minute at most and then she would be done. But, she was an Amazon trained by the best and she would not be defeated by an energy sucking leech. Barely dodging another claw she thrust her staff into the creature's front hundreds of times a second using the Amaguriken technique. The creature was blasted into another wall, but Ranma continued with it thrusting and thrusting at high speeds with an Amazon battle cry until she was literally covered with the creature's blood and gore and then it turned to dust.
Ranma fell to her knees in pure exhaustion the price of this battle had been nearly all of her reserves. She was working on spit and sheer determination by the end, but she had won. Slowly she stood up and using the staff to help support herself she slowly walked back to the train station. By the time she got back to the Tendo house and collapsed into her bed all thoughts about her previous depression were entirely gone.
Author's Notes: Don't know if I'll get back to Baba Yaga, but this idea has been demanding I write it for some time. The words flew onto the page and I feel like I can take this out for some real action. Special thanks to Ozzallos and "Bits of China" without which this story wouldn't exist.