FIST OF ORION part the first: Saint Ukyou?
trademarks owned by a whole lotta OTHER people.
http://metroanime.home.mindspring.com/
email: metroanime@mindspring.com

this is just an idea sketched out that (like way too many)
started taking off on its own. The idea was to come up with
a different approach to the "Saint Ranma" thing i'd done awhile
back as it had too many elements duplicated in other people's
works.

============================================

The Kami Plane, Mimir's Well__________

"The timelines are merging back to normal quite satisfactorily," Hephaestus looked up from his
inspection at the Fate and the Norn. "Some are lasting a BIT longer than we originally estimated."

"I see." Atropos looked from Hephaestus to her colleague from a different pantheon. "What of your entry? Surely you won't let it fade completely?"

Skuld shrugged. "It's terminated, or might as well be. After that one godling and that moderator guy threw up in it, then Shen Long took it over..."(1)

Atropos shrugged. "So some collapsed early, some collapsed late, and these temporary timelines are just mixing up. I mean, look at this one over here."

"Is that the one where Akane eats the Supersoba and Nabiki convinces her sister to keep the strength and go with electrolysis?"

"No, that's over there. Pity it also increases male tendencies towards aggression and sex drive. They call it 'Super Soba' but it works much like 'Super Steroids.' No, this one over here."

Skuld blinked. "Looks like they're all welded together, doesn't it?"

---------------------------------------------

Genma turned to his six year old son. "Okay, Ranma, you know the drill. Run in, grab some food, and keep that guy chasing you."

"Hmmmph." Ranma nodded his head, understanding this game that his father had taught him. It seemed to upset the people they played against a lot though. Maybe they could go back and visit Ucchan afterwards. He missed his buddy.

"Go," Genma commanded in the same whispered voice.

Ranma shot near the stranger, his arm reaching out in passing to snag one of the fish roasting on stakes above the fire.

Genma never even saw the stranger move, he was just suddenly fully extended, a finger stabbed out into the boy's back. Ranma stumbled and collapsed and was lying very very still.

Genma continued to watch as the man, now revealed as a massively muscled figure (at least in the arms) picked up the fish and reset the stake so that the fish continued to cook.

Using all the considerable sneakery he had, Genma circled the clearing to get a better look at where his son had collapsed. Ranma's eyes were open and unseeing, and it didn't look like the boy was breathing.

Genma thought back to the move he'd seen the stranger use, comparing it against various others he'd seen. The speed and accuracy of the pressure point move was similar to a variant of Chinese Medicine Martial Arts, but there was something he had heard about that near-teleport. Genma's eyes widened as something clicked - the dread Master had spoken in whispers of an Art that produced warriors one never crossed if one wanted to keep various bodily parts intact. Hokuto Shin Ken. The Art of killing with a single touch.

Leaving his dead son behind, Genma fled. Against a practitioner of Hokuto Shin Ken even the Yamasen and Umisen techniques would be assaulting a tank with a butterfly.

--------

Kenshiro looked up as the other intruder abandoned the child. As he had thought, gypsies. Someone took in a stray child, taught the stray that they were the child's parents, and then used the child to commit crimes. They were especially bad in places like Paris.

Ambling over, he hit two more pressure points on the child, taking him from a near-death state to mere sleep. A few more and he could blank the child's memories of the false father.

Then, well, ever since Bat and Rin had left, he'd missed having anyone around.

-------

"I made a deal with the boy's father," the okonomiyaki seller frowned, having recognized the child from across the park. It had only been six months after all.

"The father was a 'gypsy' I suspect," Kenshiro said quietly. "So you've engaged your daughter to this boy? Even though he has no house or last name to give her?"

"Yes..." Kuonji-san considered. The boy had finally managed to stop his daughter from trying to beat him into flat little pancakes. "Until this, they got along well and I doubt I'll be alive much longer..."

"Disease? Curse?" Kenshiro had run into both. Some things even the Hokuto techniques were insufficient to stop.

"Poison. Both my wife and myself were exposed to a nerve toxin during that Shadowlaw terrorist incident two years ago in Kyoto. My wife died last year, I'm not expected to last much longer. Ukyou wasn't exposed. That was one reason I was so anxious to make this arrangement."

Kenshiro nodded, thinking that this Genma had known of this, and still had abandoned the child? "Fine. She can come with us."

-----------

The raspy wizened voicee sounded amused. "Orphans, Kenshiro?"

Kenshiro nodded, with the two children on either side of him. "The boy was being raised by a thief impersonating his real father. The girl was engaged to Ranma as part of a deal where the thief made off with her father's foodcart."

"Ah, a gypsy then." Lochi nodded.

"Before I continued the boy as my heir, I thought..."

"Prudent." Lochi nodded. Helping Kenshiro to resolve some of his problems had proven to be a wise investment. Of course, that still left Jagi out there somewhere, and they'd never seen Raoh's body. Still, Kenshiro had averted a lot of potential tragedies with that battle atop the falls.

Kenshiro shrugged.

"They don't speak Chinese, do they?" Lochi glanced at the continued incomprehension on the part of the two children.

"They're Japanese." Kenshiro thought that explained it all, and perhaps it did.

"Hmmm. How long will you be gone?"

"I can always go visit Rei and Mamaya while you check them out. Maybe they've heard a clue as to where Yuria can be found."

"Good idea." Lochi grinned and floated up off the ground, drawing gasps from the two children. "In the meantime they can train with my ward Shiryu. If the girl doesn't want to train in the martial arts, I'm sure Shunrei could use a hand."

Ranma and Ukyou spoke in unison. "%Can _I_ learn to do that?!%"

Kenshiro smiled slightly at that. "They do that a lot, oh, and I hope you like a sort of Japanese pizza called an okonomiyaki."

--------

When Kenshiro returned to the encampment by the waterfalls, he knew the answer before speaking to Lochi.

Ranma, Ukyou, and Shiryu had obviously become fast friends, and had turned competitive.

Lochi confirmed this. "They're amazing, Kenshiro. The boy is like a sponge for the martial arts, absorbing almost any technique and if it will make him a better warrior, will take on any training. The girl's chi is extremely high, with training I can see her attaining Silver at least. With Shiryu, each challenges the other the outdo their latest best."

"Then none will make a suitable Heir for the Hokuto style." Kenshiro wasn't too unhappy about this, his own life being an excellent case in point for allowing the style to pass on.

"The boy has a lot of it already. If you don't find a suitable Heir..."

"There can only be one Heir to the Hokuto style," Kenshiro reminded the sensei of a dozen other styles, "if none of these have the killer instinct necessary for the True Heir, then let them remain happier without it."

-----------

Ukyou pivoted, sliding slightly in the gravel underfoot as she twisted to avoid the fist slamming down into the dirt near her.

"You can do it, Ucchan!"

Ukyou smiled slightly at the support from her Ranchan, but otherwise concentrated on the titan before her. Essex was a massive and powerful creature, a neandrathal standing well over fourteen feet in height.

"STONE FIST!" Essex slammed another punch into the space recently occupied by his opponent. As had been happening, gravel sprayed up as the hard ground beneath was shattered.

Ukyou ran up the extended arm, aiming a Lightning Kick into her opponent's Adam's apple, then a tumbling leap to send her past her opponent's quick grab.

The crowd roared, Ranma's voice being the only one raised in her support from the group.

Essex began to turn. Ukyou used the opportunity to gather her power as she'd been taught. "Psi, chi, my connection to the cosmos, through seven senses to step into the world beyond. Canis Major Special Attack!"

Essex' sensei, Cassiopeia Saint Hillari, called out a warning to her pupil. It was ignored as Essex was already almost fully into berserker mode.

"NOVA FLARE!" Ukyou turned her aura into a fierce white glow and shot forward to meet her opponent.

There was a moment of realization in Essex' eyes as the brightly shining warrior met him in a flying dragon kick.

The crowd went silent as Essex left the battle circle as if someone had parked a JATO (Jet Assisted TakeOff solid fuel rocket) on his chest. From the thick trail of smoke coming from
his leather cuirass, some present could easily imagine such a thing happening.

Ukyou was just catching her breath when she felt herself picked up and whirled around.

"You did it, Ucchan!" Ranma laughed aloud and seemed as happy as if he had been the one to win a Silver Cloth and the attendent status as Silver Saint Canis Major.

Ukyou looked at the trail of gravel that had been fused together by her passage and realized she was going to have to work on controlling and directing that heat aura before she went into battle with Ranma. "Yeah, Ranchan. But they've only got a Bronze Cloth left for you to win."

Ranma winked, confidently. "Hey, with you here to root me on to victory, that Lynx Cloth is mine!"

--------

Gemini held his hands up as the young warriors swarmed towards him. "ANOTHER DIMENSION!"

"Ranchan, LOOK OUT!"

Ranma stared as the hole in space/time rolled across his Ucchan and they both vanished.

"PEGASUS U-SEN KEN!" Seiya began his swarming meteor punch against Gold Saint Gemini.

Shiryu circled his arms, drawing his own power forth. "DRAGON SHOZEN HAU!"

Ranma looked down at the scrap of white ribbon on his arm. The bandage that Silver Saint Canis Major Ukyou(2) had tied around his arm when he'd gotten wounded during the fight with Gold Saint Taurus. The bandage made from the ribbon she usually tied her hair with.

"NEBULA CHAIN!" Andromeda Shun used the pointed chain while the round chain lengthened into a defensive ring. The chain stopped, like the other attacks, just before striking the Gold Saint.

Ranma looked up, aura flaring up around him. He didn't care if drawing this much power incinerated him at the moment. "DIE, YOU F*CKING B'STRD!"

------Mimir's Well------------

Skuld blinked. "That's an attack?"

Atropos let out a sigh. "That's NOT the name of the attack, Skuld-chan." Privately, she thought it SHOULD be.

-------------

Ranma was inside the reach of the larger figure, slamming punches and kicks into the figure without pause. His aura continued to build, burning whiter and hotter as he committed himself.

Shun waited until the Gold Saint was distracted, then fired his pointed chain through his enemy's face mask. He was a little surprised to see the length of chain vanishing within.

Ranma continued, finally causing the Lynx armor he was wearing to fly apart and reform as another armor entirely.

The others stared, recognizing the Cloth, even as they realized that Ranma was too far gone in anger and grief for the change to even register consciously.

"You are NOT getting away," Ranma growled, summoning his energies into a single attack that he directed along the path of the chain. "ORION STARCRUSH!"

All over Sanctuary, chi or cosmos sensitives blinked and looked toward the House Of Gemini even as a glowing pillar of silver fire formed and the walls of the building came apart.

Those who were sufficiently sensitive that they could see within the pocket dimension of Athena's Walk, could tell there had been a similar explosion at Athena's temple at the end of the Houses of the Gold Saints.

----------

"Puny ones, the power of a Bronze Saint is miniscule before the majesty of a Gold Saint. How are you, weary from your battles up to this point, going to handle a fight with a GOD?" Gemini Saga's aura flared, as Ares increased his hold over the twin who had become the head of Athena's Temple and therefore the person best placed to kill the infant goddess.

Athena Saori stepped forward, ready to face the monster herself.

Ranma slowly pulled himself up from where he'd literally been pounded into the pavement. "Not...so...fast...you... BASTARD!"

"Not quite yet," agreed Pegasus Seiya as he pulled himself up.

"For Ukyou, for Athena," agreed Dragon Shiryu, though he was still bleeding rather profusely. "We will not fall THAT easily."

"Stand aside," Saori commanded, rapping her staff against the ground. "Seiya, Shiryu, Hyouga, Shun, Ikki, Ranma. You have done well, but this whole thing started with Ares and myself. So shall it end. No further lives will be ended by this battle between Ares and me."

Gemini Saga smirked. "How noble and pretentious, as you are in ALL your incarnations. DIE, ATHENA!"

Ranma watched as Saga re-established control for a brief moment. As Athena focussed a blast capable of slaying even a Gold Saint through the other's opening. As the terrible battle at last ended.

He turned, not listening to the talk behind him turning to other things, to the accumulated revelations of the past year and of the reunification of Sanctuary under Athena's rule. Ranma knew now why Phoenix Ikki always stuck to the outrider position, never remaining with the group. It wasn't that Seiya was a cocky little jerk, Ranma knew he had a lot in common with the shorter boy. It wasn't that Cygnus Hyouga tended to get positively obsessive with the memories of his mother and weird everyone out with that stuff. It wasn't even the way that Andromeda Shun
tended to stare at you, particularly in the gym locker room...

No, you just couldn't get any serious brooding done until you could get away by yourself.

Stopping near the damaged House where Pisces Aphrodyte had been killed in a bishonen battle, Ranma looked to the stars and wept for the friend he had lost.

--------------

The big tournament was being held when the stranger wandered in. He stepped over to the first prize and seemed to be considering it when the current betting favorite in the 14-15 year old category saw him and took exception to his ignoring her.

Shampoo stopped in mid sentence when the boy turned towards her. He was her own age, and yet something in his eyes told her that he had just been through a terrible tragedy.

Shampoo heard whispering behind her, and felt a flush of anger. How dare they try to make it out as if she'd allow a well-built cute young male body to influence her decisions?! Snarling slightly, she pulled out her bonbori and prepared to make a few choice threats to this outsider male. She'd prove that she'd never be so weak as to allow defeat by a mere male.

She couldn't be Champion until next year, but she was fifteen and full of pride at the moment.

"Miss," the boy said in oddly accented Mandarin, "if you're about to threaten me, I would strongly suggest you reconsider. You are in WAY over your head."

Shampoo blinked and a new wave of whispering broke out from the crowd. Again all this talk about how Shampoo must really have taken a liking to this male. "Then I challenge you! I cannot accept this idea that ANY male is a better fighter than an Amazon woman."

"Amazon?" The boy blinked. "Never heard of Amazons in China. Master Lochi sure didn't mention them. Well, if you want a challenge..."

Cologne had been ignoring the whole thing until that name was dropped. Then she did something that caused consternation within the ranks of the Amazons.

Cologne fell, speechless, off her cane. Her eyes blinked and she tried to gauge the boy's chi level. She was stunned by what she saw there and the realization that her great granddaughter was about to formally challenge a Saint. Not just a Saint, but a Silver Saint at that.

Shampoo stepped forward, ready to formally strike this boy as means of issuing a challenge. She never made it.

The boy stepped forward in a blur of motion, his fist burying itself in Shampoo's stomach and doubling her over.

Shampoo flew across the assembly grounds as if shot from a cannon, past the challenge log, and impacted rather noisily into the second story window of the Community Bathing House.

Ranma shook his head, then looked around. "Look, people, err Amazons, however you're supposed to be addressed. I just really got a lot on my mind just now. I'm sorry for the interruption, and I'll leave now. Just... I'm sorry." Hanging his head, Ranma left.

Everyone's eyes tracked from the trudging warrior to the window of the Bathhouse, to where Cologne was staring at the boy, and back to the boy himself. There was a village-wide, synchronized, blink.(3)

Cologne hastily kept anyone else from attacking the boy. One was enough. For now, at least.

--------------------------------------------

next: can you go home again?

(1) "Bet: King Of Fighters"

(2) Why Canis Major? Dog totem stands for loyalty and fierceness,
qualities Ukyou has in great quantities, the opinions of the
True Knights excepting. There's another reason for the Orion (Ranma)
and Canis Major (Ukyou) referents, but that's way down the line.

(3) Sorry Jared, i wrote this scene and that line was too perfect not
to paraphrase. gomen ne.

SAINT SAEYA: This is a series i saw back in the Old Days before you could get subtitled/dubbed tapes at the videostore. It dealt with the reincarnation of the ancient Greek pantheon (Athena and Ares in the first plotline) and their champion warriors, the Saints.
Bronze Saints are the lowest level, having a power level roughly along the line of Ranma and Ryouga near the end of the Ranma 1/2 series. Wearing their special armor (Bronze Cloth) increases their chi/cosmos levels by roughly double. Silver Saints are (supposedly) ten times more powerful than a Bronze Saint. Gold Saints are one hundred times more powerful than a Silver Saint.
This completely diverges from the original plotline, more so after the first plotline (Athena Vs Ares).

HOKUTO NO KEN/FIST OF THE NORTHSTAR: A heavily angst filled journey dealing with Kenshiro, Heir to the Hokuto Shin Ken, an assassin's martial arts style that deals with pressure points. Kenshiro's most commonly used move causes bodies to explode from internal pressure/vibrations.

Kenshiro needed to "break the fists" of his brothers in order to fulfill the duties of the Heir. He failed to do so, and for the rest of the series is dealing with all the deaths, pain, suffering, and generally bad things that have come about mainly because of his youngest brother Jagi and his BIG brother Raoh (Ken-ou).

In this version, Kenshiro found help and has had a better time of it. Rei (Southern Cross Waterfowl Fist) has settled down in a village with his sister and a girl named Mamiya. There has been no nuclear or bacteriological war. Yet. Raoh was stopped by Libra Lochi, though no body was found. (Y'all know what THAT means.) Yuria is still missing, and Kenshiro is wandering the world looking for her.

Bat and Rin were the male and female kid sidekicks in Hokuto No Ken, and were adult freedom fighters in Hokuto No Ken 2. Here they're just two kids who are living out peaceful little lives in a small Chinese village.

FIST OF ORION part the second: Home again?

this is just an idea sketched out that (like way too many) started taking off on its own. The idea was to come up with a different approach to the "Saint Ranma" thing i'd done awhile back as it had too many elements duplicated in other people's works.

-----------

Nodoka Saotome opened the door to see a strongly built young man, tall and with a sense of raw power about him, standing there looking decidedly uncomfortable. She estimated his age at being sixteen.

"Uhm, excuse me," the boy mumbled. "Is there a Genma Saotome here?"

She smiled at the boy, thinking that he was here to study martial arts. "He's in back, practicing with his daughter. May I say who's here to see him?"

The boy obviously struggled with a decision. "Tell him that Ranma Saotome is here to see him."

Ranma didn't expect the woman to faint.

----------------------------------------------------

"How could you be Ranma?" The chubby looking man stared at the boy uncomfortably sitting at the table. "My son died in a ...training mishap."

"Two years ago, while learning to explore my inner reserves, I broke through some mental barriers that had been placed by a well meaning practictioner of Hokuto Shin Ken." Everyone present noted how pale Genma had suddenly turned.

"Do go on," urged Nodoka, sipping at her tea, proper decorum having again been achieved.

"He believed I was an orphan being used by a 'gypsy' or someone who steals children in order to have them commit crimes that the 'parent' can then profit off of. It is common in some parts of the world, and in truth, I WAS being used in such a manner."

Genma turned another shade paler and began to visibly sweat when Nodoka's eyes glittered in his
direction. "Gee...uh...I don't remember it like that."

"You don't remember having me swipe food for both of us as part of a game?"

"Papa! That sound like game you show me!" Little eight year old Ranko chirped.

"Errr...." Genma was now whiter than his gi.

"In any case, you don't have to worry about Ucchan, the child you abandoned on the road." Ranma
sighed and stared at the table.

"Ucchan? Dearest, why don't you explain about children you've left behind?" Nodoka was maintaining her usual aura of calm with an effort at this point.

"Uhm, err, I, that is," Genma tried to figure out how he could lie to his wife. It wasn't easy, she'd gotten to know his body language really well over the past few years.

"Ucchan was Ukyou Kuonji. A girl that I was engaged to when father stole her family's dowry."

"Dearest?" The aura of calm was beginning to crack.

"Errr."

"Oboy, Daddy, did you engage me to someone?"

"Ahem, I..."

As Genma had not immediately answered with a negative, the aura of calm around Nodoka was in serious danger. "Dearest? I think that the response to you taking my daughter on that training trip is going to have to be 'no.' I really must insist."

"Oh?" Ranma blinked at his sister. "So, Ranko, where were you going to go train?"

"China!" Ranko clapped her hands and smiled.

"Errr..."

"Dearest," there was no hint of warmth in Nodoka Saotome's voice, "did you not say that you
were just planning a little trip into the mountains?"

"Well, yes..." Genma nodded. He hadn't said WHICH mountains, after all. And it would have
been after Ranko had been trained in the legendary CatFist to make her an invincible warrior!

"So, Ranko, are you training in the Anything Goes style?" Ranma looked with a gentle smile at the sister he hadn't known he had.

"Yup!" Ranko's head bopped up and down and she made an enthusiastic noise.

"That's good." Ranma looked back to his parents, realizing he still didn't feel particularly
close to either of them. He did feel a bond of kinship with his sister, though.

"Excuse me, Ranma?" Nodoka broke into her son's musings. "Where is this 'Ucchan' anyway?"

"Oh, like I said, Father doesn't have to worry about her...she died a little over a year ago."

"Oh my. I'm so sorry," Nodoka couldn't miss the very real grief hanging over this stranger
who was apparently her son. She was still in a bit of shock about it all. "How did it happen?"

Ranma sighed. "Kenshiro took Ucchan in shortly after he 'rescued' me from Father. It turned out
that Ukyou's father was dying and he had no relatives for Ucchan to go live with. That's why he was so happy to engage his daughter off at that age. Her mom had died a while back, don't know the details.

"Anyway, Ken had gotten some help from this really old and powerful sensei in China when he
was kinda on his own, and so took me and Ucchan to this guy so Ken could continue to look for some girl named Yuria.

"The sensei's name is Lochi, and he knows dozens of martial arts styles himself. He taught me and Ucchan, plus his own ward Shiryu. Shiryu and Shunrei, me and Ucchan, we were like a little family of our own. Learned a lot from 'em.

"Anyway, there was this guy named Saga. Tough old guy who was out to assassinate some girl
named Saori. Since Shiryu and Lochi were pledged to assist this gal, me and Ucchan agreed to help." Ranma decided to keep the whole thing on a much simpler level than had occurred. Let them think it was just a bandit king and some martial arts stuff.

"Anyway," Ranma continued into the silence, "Saga had this special attack, sorta magic, where he caused the air to swallow up a victim. Ucchan...got caught. She..." Ranma's voice broke. They'd been friends for years, trained together, ate together, maybe he'd even come to love her, but now he'd never know.

Ranma was startled by the gentle touch on his shoulder and he looked into his sister's tearfilled eyes. "Don't cry, big brother," Ranko said in a sad voice, "we here now."

Ranma looked to his mother, to see sympathy there, and then at his father to see... relief? Whatever it was, it was gone again in a moment. Ranma took a deep breath to compose himself. "Well, anyway, Saga's dead. I've been wandering since then until I heard there was a family named Saotome here in Juuban practicing the Anything Goes style of martial arts."

"How nice, now, Genma. Why don't you tell me what else you might have failed to mention about these training trips?" Nodoka's voice had developed an odd sing-song tone to it.

"Son," Genma said, standing up. "You're sixteen now, so there's something we have to do NOW."

Ranma blinked. "What?"

"Go meet a friend of mine, this is VERY important." Genma also wanted to give Nodoka some
time to calm down. He knew her well enough to know that when her eyes glittered like that and she started to sing her sentences, that she was about ready to unwrap her katana. She'd never gotten to the point where she'd completely unwrapped the thing yet, and Genma wasn't anxious to see the blade in all its glory.

Genma decided to make a phone call, just to warn his old buddy that Ranma was coming. He
couldn't give a lot of details, though, as Nodoka was listening and this MIGHT just push her over the edge.

Edges and Nodoka just seemed to spell bad news to Genma's viewpoint.

---------------

"What is this, a dojo challenge?" Ranma blinked at the sign, then nodded. No doubt it was a
rival school, and he was here to challenge it. No problem.

"Uhm, not exactly," mumbled Genma.

"Oh, you must be...Ranma?" A short haired girl in a kimono looked down at little Ranko with an
expression of distaste. "Please tell me you aren't Ranma."

"Nopenopenope!" Ranko chirped happily.

"I'm Ranma," Ranma identified himself. The girl didn't move like a martial artist, so what was going on here?

Nabiki's gaze almost clicked audibly as it locked onto Ranma. "Well well well. My goodness. So YOU'RE Ranma?"

Ranma nodded and returned the girl's smile as best he could. Though hers looked rather predatory. "Yes, and you are?"

"Oooh, he IS cute," Nabiki called back into the house. Nabiki turned back to Ranma. "I'm Nabiki Tendo, your fiancee."

Several people in the courtyard stiffened at that remark. Genma was still wondering if maybe he should go on a training journey until things had calmed down.

"Saotome, I thought you said that your son was dead?" Soun looked over the four people standing in the yard. "Now, Nabiki, that hasn't been determined."

Nodoka glanced at her husband and motioned her daughter closer to her.

"Excuse me," Ranma was polite, calm, and wanted to stop this immediately. "Did you say 'fiancee' or did I hear wrong? How many fiancees did you arrange for me?"

This proved the signal for the situation to deteriorate

"Now, dearest!"

"SA-O-TO-ME!!"

"I HATE BOYS!"

"Oh dear, oh my."

"Papa look so funny!"

Nabiki looked the situation over, decided that this Ranma fellow was fairly cute, and began working out angles with her usual efficiency. Motioning him and the little girl inside, Nabiki smiled at the look of relief to pass over both faces.

"Everybody getting real loud," Ranko said.(1)

"Yeah, and it doesn't look like they're gonna reach any kind of decision soon." Ranma sighed.

Akane paused at the doorway, then followed the small group in. "Say, Ranma, you're the Heir of the Saotome School, right?"

"Uhm, actually, I think Ranko here is." Ranma indicated the eight-year-old. "I've trained fairly extensively in other martial arts for quite awhile."

"Oh, well," Akane mumbled. She really wanted to fight someone and determine her progress in the martial arts. The morning crowd at school, or even Kuno, were hardly a fitting benchmark. "Would you like to get in a quick bout out in the dojo while they're arguing?"

Ranma shook his head. "I don't think that'd be a good idea. The martial arts training I've gone through, especially after the past few years, have been against REALLY tough opponents."

The temperature dropped. Akane knew she was the best martial artist at her school. "Are you saying that I'm NOT? Don't underestimate me!"

"Oh, I'm sure that against your average fighter you're quite capable. You also have some good chi potential but you're not trained to use it properly."

"I'm not trained properly? Average fighter?" Akane began to twitch.

"Is she always this selective in her hearing?" Ranma asked the shorter haired girl, interrupting her continued study of his leanly muscular lines.

"No, she must like you." Nabiki raised an eyebrow. "Well, why don't you let her get it out of her system, then we can talk. If you make it quick we can get it done before the 'adults' have gotten their stories straight."

Kasumi had noted that two of their guests was with her two other sisters and went to the kitchen. She was a strong believer in proper decorum, and some hot tea might help everyone
calm down. Especially in drizzly March weather.

--------

Ranko sat next to Nabiki on the sidelines, trying to duplicate the older girl's posture exactly.

"Akane Tendo versus Ranma Saotome, round-o one, FIGHT-O!" Ranko had been playing Street Fighter II.

Akane leapt forward, ready to prove herself. She punched, she kicked, she threw a rapid series of strikes that would have cut a swath through the morning gantlet. Ranma didn't seem to be there for any of the blows.

"WHY WON'T YOU FIGHT ME?!" Akane began to work herself further into anger. Her opponent looked BORED! They were going to engage her to someone this insufferable?

"Because it isn't right to pick on the weak," Ranma answered, then realized that might not have been the right thing to say.

Akane's eyes widened and her right eyebrow began to twitch. "We-we-WEAK?!"

Ranma tried to be nice about it. "Uhm, if I actually hit you, you're a bit more frail than my usual targets... I might injure you!"

Akane's snarl doubled and she went immediately into Outraged Pride mode.

"Ah, Ranma, if you don't go full out against her, you'll never hear the end of this." Nabiki mentioned from her place. Ranko was merely staring at big brother.

As Akane was not currently attacking, (just standing there shaking) Ranma partially turned from the battle to address Nabiki. Holding up one hand towards his opponent, palm out to indicate a time out, Ranma momentarily wondered if he hadn't spilled something on his pants as the seventeen year old kept staring at them. "But that wouldn't be right, miss."

"It's Nabiki." Nabiki watched as Akane rushed forward to take advantage of the lapse. "Watch yourself."

*R-RIPPP!*

Akane danced back, a torn scrap of ribbon hanging in her hand. "Take me seriously yet?"

Nabiki paused. The look on Ranma's face was of someone who had just gone past shocked as he looked at where the ribbon had been tied to his sleeve. The eyes continued to get darker as his
gaze swept over to where Akane was holding the scrap up. A piece of the ribbon lazily drifted down to the dojo floor.

"C'mon. Oh, the big bad fighter lose his pretty ribbon?" Akane's voice was pitched as if addressing a child for maximum annoyance. "NOW will you fight me for real?"

"Uh oh!" Nabiki and Ranko managed simultaneously, noting the aura flickering into place around Ranma.

Akane paused and an old English phrase about sowing the wind came to mind. The battle aura pouring off of Ranma right now was stronger than she'd ever felt. No, it couldn't be THAT. Minor tricks like this weren't going to intimidate HER. Calling her weak and average, how DARE he! "C'mon, try me!"

"You...little..." Ranma's chi flared into an incandescent silver aura.

Akane braced herself against the sudden wind blowing from this boy across the dojo floor. A tiny little amount of doubt raised itself and was squashed. There was no way some BOY would beat her!

Genma, Soun, Nodoka, and Kasumi came running to the dojo doors in time to see the display. Little rocks began to float up into the air. The dojo walls were rattling.

"You have taken something precious from me," growled Ranma. "You wanted me to fight you for real, DID YOU?!"

"That was from his girlfriend who died," Ranko helpfully pointed out to Nabiki what was currently two scraps of cloth, one still being held by Akane.

This was sufficiently loud that everyone's eyes tracked to the two pieces of cloth, to the determined look on Akane's face, and back to the glowing martial artist.

"Oh my," Kasumi summed up.

Akane braced herself for an attack.

Ranko thought of something. "BREAK!"

The aura and wind snapped off. Ranma still looked like he could and would chew Akane up and spit her out. He was shaking but nobody there thought it was from fear. Except Akane.

Kasumi came in, gathered the scrap of cloth from the floor, tugged the other one out of Akane's hand, then sat on the sidelines and began sewing them back together.

Just as everyone began to relax, Ranko thought of something. "House rules. No chi attacks, no permanent injury, no destroying the dojo. ROUND-O TWO, FIGHT-O!"

Nabiki stared in alarm as Ranma shot across the dojo floor, almost seeming to disappear in a blur.

Akane raised her arms in an "X" shaped block.

Ranma legswept, drawing Akane out. Then struck.

*SLAP!*

Akane blinked, one of her cheeks burning and red from the casual slap. He STILL wasn't taking her seriously! Growling she threw a punch.

Ranma moved fluidly out of the way.

*SLAP!*

Ranma stepped back, utter contempt showing in his face. Akane moved in for a series of attacks that Ranma dodged without apparent effort. "You call yourself a martial artist? (SLAP!) You think you can take me on? (SLAP!) I've fought cannon fodder trainees (SLAP!) who moved faster! I've fought people (SLAP!) who had real power and who killed other people casually (SLAP!) for less insult (SLAP! SLAP!) than you have shown me! You want me (SLAP!) to fight you for real? (SLAP!) You are NOTHING! (SLAP!) You're slow! (SLAP!) You allow anger to rule you! (SLAP!) You have damn little discipline! (SLAP!) You're also an IDIOT (SLAP!) for still attacking me despite our difference in power levels! (SLAP!)"

Ranma stepped back, his opponent wavering on her feet. "Ucchan was cute AND a warrior. YOU are neither."

"Bastard! She couldn't have been that hot if she had a jerk for a boyfriend. Maybe she killed herself just to get away..." Akane exhaled then realized that had all been spoken aloud.

Ranma crossed, grabbed the front of Akane's gi, and slammed her face first into the floor. "Be glad I'm not Ikki-san or your father would be grieving the loss of his daughter right now. For THAT there can be no forgiveness."

Ranko watched her brother thrust his finger forward three times in a rapid move that was merely a blur to everyone present who was watching. Kasumi and Nabiki couldn't make the move out at all.

"Don't ever do that again," Ranma warned Akane, then turned to Kasumi to see if she could do anything with the keepsake ribbon.

Akane groaned on the floor, twitching and making odd noises in the back of her throat.

"What did you do to her?" Nabiki scrambled across the floor to where her sister was lying in an untidy pile.

"I hit a few pressure points. She'll be OK." Ranma paused. "You REALLY wouldn't want to see what I could do to her if I went flat out."

Akane attempted to explain that she was still fighting. "Urk!"

"What kind of pressure points?" Kasumi looked up from her sewing.

"Well, you're the one I owe a favor to, since you're doing that. So, anything you want her to do around the house?"

Kasumi paused. "Well, if she could help clean once in awhile, that would be nice."

Ranma winked. "Gotcha." He walked back to the twitching Akane, tapped a series of points so quickly that Nabiki couldn't see them, then whispered in the girl's ear.

"Zombie pressure point?" Kasumi asked brightly.

"That's really not a good name for it," Ranma sighed. "It's sort of a posthypnotic kinda thing."

Akane got up as best she could, her cheeks almost glowing, and glared at the boy. "Whatever you did didn't work, you..."

"Tendo-san," Ranma said tiredly, "I COULD have hit a pressure point combination that would've caused your muscles to rip free of the supporting tendons in both legs. I COULD have hit your Mute Button. I could have hit your 'pleasure points' and left you writhing in ecstasy on the floor of the dojo. I know just enough Hokuto Shin Ken to be dangerous. That's why I usually use the style Lochi taught me, but that uses chi."

Akane started forward, only to notice how badly the dojo needed sweeping.

Ranko hmphed as she nodded happily.

"So, Ranko, how did you know the House Rules, anyway?" Ranma looked over at his precocious little sister.

"Didn't!" Ranko grinned. "Made it up. You plenty PO'ed brother!"

"Ranko, such language!" Nodoka chided her daughter, though she was pleased that her daughter was fairly quick on her mental feet.

"Daddy taught me." Ranko nodded again. "He also teach me censored and very censored and oh
boy is this censored. He also said you wouldn't believe how censored once when he was trying to teach me to drink."

Everyone (except for Akane) immediately tabled considerations about any lapses of control on the part of Ranma as their gazes audibly clicked on the portly man in the glasses.

"Uhm, well, I, errr..." Genma loosened the neck of his gi.

Kasumi stood up, handed the ribbon back to Ranma, and smiled sweetly. She turned, and with the grace of a ballerina crossed to directly in front of Genma Saotome.

Some were reminded of a ballerina. Ranma, Genma, and Ranko were all reminded of large feline
predators.

With suprising speed for a non-martial artist, Kasumi grabbed the older man's gi and pulled him to where she could look directly into his eyes. "Mister Saotome, do you really think this is appropriate material to teach a young lady?"

"Erk..."

"Kasumi, isn't it?" Nodoka asked sweetly. "If I may? He's my husband, so it is my responsibility to correct his behavior..."

"Oh, of course, Mrs Saotome." Kasumi stepped back, polite as ever. "Be my guest."

"Thank you," Nodoka Saotome inclined her head. "You are most gracious."

Genma started to move when his wife's hand grabbed the neck of his gi and pulled him into the exact same position he had been in a moment ago.

"Dearest? Do you really think this is appropriate material to teach your young daughter?"

"Erk!" Genma repeated.

============

(1)- Before i get a lot of e-mail correcting Ranko's speech patterns, THIS Ranko is a little girl. Little girls, unless they're trying really hard or named Ami Mizuno, aren't that proficient with language. She's eight and has spent most of her life training in the martial arts.

She starts getting better at Japanese in the next month/chapter.


FIST OF ORION part the third: Trial & Error?
trademarks owned by a whole lotta OTHER people.
http://metroanime.home.mindspring.com/
email: metroanime@mindspring.com

this is just an idea sketched out that (like way too many) started taking off on its own. The idea was to come up with a different approach to the "Saint Ranma" thing i'd done awhile back as it had too many elements duplicated in other people's works.

----------------

Everyone noticed Akane's sudden compulsion to clean the dojo and start scrubbing the foyer. Nabiki was thinking of ways to put this to use. Kasumi was thinking of the extra time she might have in her day.

Genma was scared.

"Son," Nodoka said, her eyes tracking the girl who was angrily muttering as she tried to get that stubborn stain out of the wood. "Don't you think that's a bit much?"

"Nah. It'll wear off."

"What're you talking about?" Akane sounded puzzled. Why were people staring at her? What was wrong with everyone? How could she most efficiently clean out the tracks to the sliding door?

Soun and Genma shuddered. What a terrifying technique.

"Sis, did you realize that you're polishing the phone?"

"Yeah, so?" Akane paused. "You suppose the dojo floor needs varnishing?"

"Oh my," Kasumi added, but with a faint smile. Akane was doing a good job, too. A brief, guilty, and immediately discarded thought came to her about getting Ranma to do this to Nabiki and her father so they cleaned up after themselves.

"So, Ranma, which of my daughters will you marry?"

"Is 'None Of The Above' a valid choice?" Ranma grumbled. "I just met them, for crying out loud."

"Ahhh, my son has no honor!" Genma wailed.

"Rrrrraaaannnmmmaaaa!" A demonic head formed as Soun went into Demon-Head mode.

*BLAM!* "Ooops. He startled me."

"Well," said Nabiki drily as she looked at where her father had been shot out the door and was lying in the yard, "I can see why Ranko-chan suggested no chi attacks."

Ranko hmmmphed. She could tell somehow that her big brother had a lot of chi.

"How dare you! Attacking my father like that!" Akane grumbled and stalked out into the yard.

"He attacked me!" Ranma glared at the "bane of his existence."

Soun recovered immediately and sat up. "With sparks like that, I choose Akane to marry Ranma!"

"WHAT?!" Ranma and Akane managed to say the same thing simultaneously.

"Indeed, an ideal match," agreed Genma, nodding his head and trying to look solemn.

Ranma grabbed his father with one hand, hauling him up, and began focussing energies into the upraised fist of the other hand. "How long do you suppose I'll be willing to put up with this?"

"Oh? Are you suggesting there's something wrong with my little girl?" Soun began to go into outrage again, having convinced himself that the last time was a fluke.

"I said I will never forgive her, and my word is good. I swear to you now, on all I hold dear," Ranma hauled his father up with that one hand and shook him as he spoke, "I will never marry that girl. She's about as far from an ideal match as you can get."

"It must be love," said Soun, only to have a divot of ground suddenly explode in front of him.

"She's not attractive, has no figure to speak of, her talents seem to be restricted to being angry and abusive. I will have no part of that." Ranma released his father.

"And YOU are an insensitive jerk and insane!"

Ranma glanced at the angry girl. "Your point being, Tendo?"

"Akane's a very nice girl, she's just a violent maniac," supplied Kasumi.

"Sister, that didn't help," groaned Nabiki.

"Uhm, I gotta suggestion," suggested Ranko.

------------

"Well, THAT went well," Ranma grumbled. He had not enjoyed this and was debating whether having finally found his family was really worth all this hassle.

"Son," Nodoka started then paused. "I still have some trouble with the idea of my son returned from the grave."

"Didn't die." Ranma said. "Came close a few times but didn't get there."

"Nopenopenope," said Ranko, riding on her big brother's shoulders. Big brother was quite obviously healthy.

Genma grumbled a bit.

"Now, dearest, the Saotome and Tendo lines can still be joined. I must say, though, that you and Soun choosing Akane initially was ill-conceived." Nodoka quietly considered her son. As limited as her own skills in that area were, even SHE had felt the raw power radiating from Ranma at a couple of points.

"I find myself rather in doubt about being able to maintain even a neutral conversation with that *girl.* As a fiancee?" Ranma glared at his father. "Sometimes I have doubts about our relationship myself, and I REMEMBER being sent out to steal food for you during that training trip."

"Remember!" Ranko nodded. "Papa-san say is good training! Just like panty raids with HIS old Sensei!"

"Errrr," Genma sweatdropped, hanging his head a little bit. Silently praying to all-merciful Buddha that his wife HADN'T heard that.

Nodoka had some strange ideas about what constituted manly behavior, though raising a daughter
had tempered those views somewhat. She didn't say a word, however, merely adding an item to the list of things she planned on discussing with Genma later.

Ranko grinned down at her big brother from her position on his shoulder, the eight year old noting that Ranma seemed to barely notice the weight. After careful consideration, and noting the way the eldest two Tendo girls had been inspecting her newly found brother...

She'd have to do something so big brother didn't go escaping. "So you going to school with 'Biki?"

Ranma sighed. "That was part of the deal. You should know, YOU suggested it. I don't have to marry one immediately, but I have to get to know Nabiki and Kasumi. Meanwhile they want me to train Akane, but I don't see it as likely. Either of her sisters would be a better choice."

Genma grumbled some more, phrases about how "honor demanded the lines be joined" and "the
boy doesn't know what's best for him" carrying quite clearly to the group.

"Father, you were correct once. Ucchan," Ranma hesitated at the feelings that her name still
brought up within him, "Ucchan was also one of your arrangements. In that case you had chosen well. It is still too soon after her death for me to even consider some backup arrangement you may have made."

--------------------------------------

Kuno glared at the young man arguing with Akane, drawing his bokken he addressed this infidel! "Hold there, who are you to talk in such a familiar way to Akane Tendo?!"

"Her sensei, the poor fool saddled with the task of turning this violent, argumentitive, undisciplined, tomboy into a credible excuse for a martial artist." The boy looked disgusted. "Frankly, I'm not into miracles, but it was the best compromise I could come up with."

"This is MY fight," complained Akane under her breath.

"But wait, is it not proper to introduce oneself first?" Kuno raised his bokken over his head
in proper melodramatic fashion. "I am Tatewaki Kuno, rising star of the kendo world, my peers call me the Blue Thunder Of Furinkan High!"

Lightning pealed. The strange boy snickered.

"I ain't got time for this," Ranma said, pointing his palm at the kendoist. "I'm Ranma Saotome, and you ain't worth the effort. My student's gonna be busy later, so dating you is out of the question unless you're gonna spend the entire time working on her defense!"

"Insolent whelp!" Kuno started forward, bokken raised to smite the impertinent youth into the next world.

Ranma had studied a bit of Hokuto Shin Ken, when he could. Among any other martial arts styles he could. He couldn't explode heads, but that didn't keep him from getting some other techniques down.

"Ah ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta WAH TAH!" Ranma's fists stopped blurring and he chambered again. "Hokuto One Hundred Fist!"

Kuno hit the school wall and slowly slid to the ground.

"What did you do?!" Akane was a bit concerned. Kuno had shades of black and blue and yellow that looked distinctly unhealthy.

"When you tell me that my training methods are ridiculous, or that something is impossible, remember this. I just struck your boyfriend one hundred times, and did it in a way that he won't be permanently injured."

Akane watched Ranma go into the school, then reluctantly dragged Kuno off to the school nurse.

Tatewaki Kuno, of course, interpreted this into something rather more than it was. For once, he wasn't alone.

-------------------------------------

The teacher looked up. "We have a new student today, Ranma Saotome, who has recently come from an extended trip in China."

Taller and broader than the gym teacher, with shoulders wide enough that an eight year old girl
could comfortable ride on one for nearly an hour, and a lean but quite obviously muscular form,
Ranma was being eyed by a number of the girls in the class in an entirely predatory manner.

Ranma bowed slightly towards the class, not entirely sure how he was supposed to act in such an unfamiliar setting.

"You can take a seat over by Mister Fujihara near the window."

Again there was rampant whispering from a number of the girls present. In this case it was HOW he was moving that served to impress.

"Mister Saotome, this is an English class, so I'd like to gauge your ability before we get into today's lesson. Why don't you tell us a little about yourself in English?"

Ranma could feel the scrutiny from all around him and particularly from Akane. "#Uhm. Okay. I'm better at Chinese (well at least Mandarin) than English. One of my...associates back in China was American, and another from England was.#"

"Not bad, Saotome, not bad. Well, everyone turn to your primers, the sample conversations on page 39."

---------------

Ranma sighed and followed Nabiki into the house. It had been a long day and it was far from over.

"So, Ranma, how was your day?"

"Fine, Kasumi." Ranma bowed slightly to his other fiancee. "I'm fine. How are you doing?"

Kasumi blinked. Someone actually was concerned about her and inquiring as to how SHE was doing? How unexpected! "F-Fine."

Akane stepped out of her room, having changed to her yellow gi from her school uniform. "Let's get this over with. It's not like I really have to learn any of this stuff anyway."

Ranma shrugged, he'd said he wouldn't forgive Akane, and so far that had been an easy promise to keep. He'd rather train rattlesnakes. "Giving up? Good. Frankly, I think your sisters have much more potential!"

Nabiki nearly dropped from where she was listening. Kasumi blinked. Had she missed something?

"You idiot! Neither Kasumi nor Nabiki have practiced the Arts since I was little."

"Make you a bet," Ranma said with the beginnings of a smile. If he had to turn this girl into a REAL martial artist, drastic steps would be needed. "If either of your sisters cooperates with me, I can get them to where they can take on and beat that guy who was at the front of the school in one month."

"Dream on." Akane smirked. "You haven't got ANYTHING I want that bad."

Nabiki's eyes widened as she recognized that a trap had been laid and her youngest sister was heading straight for it. Ranma was using a carrot approach, when Akane was expecting a stick.

"Hmmm. How about," Ranma appeared to be thinking about this, "if I win, then you have to learn flower arranging. If YOU win, then I talk to our folks and try to get this whole training thing
dumped."

Akane scowled, it was not like she wanted to spend one more moment around this arrogant boy than she needed to. "FLOWER ARRANGING? Why that?"

"It's quiet."

Ranma stepped away from Akane and walked into the kitchen. After a moment, Kasumi followed.

Akane blinked. "I think I've just been insulted." She sounded uncertain.

Nabiki smirked from her eavesdropping position. Well, Akane DID get loud on occasion. Nabiki continued to smirk as she backed away from the wall, setting her water glass on the desk.

She turned and came to a complete stop as something was blocking her vision. Looking at the broad muscular chest of someone who had somehow managed to sneak into her room without her knowledge.

"Well, Nabiki? Wanna train?" Ranma smiled down at her.

\---------------------\

"Well, this wasn't QUITE how I had planned to do this," Ranma confessed. "Still, it's do-able, I think."

"Ah, but, Ranma-kun..."

"Don't worry, Kasumi. We're not working on that sort of thing." Ranma shrugged. "I know you're not inclined to be violent."

"I'm sorry, Ranma-kun, even Nabiki is betting against you." Kasumi looked down. "I'm afraid I just am not much of a fighter."

"Nonsense, Kasumi." Ranma put his hand beneath her chin to nudge her head up. Looking into her eyes, he smiled in what he hoped was a reassuring manner. "You have the heart of a samurai, it's just you have trouble with the idea of hurting someone, right? Trust me, that is NOT such a bad thing."

Doki, doki! Kasumi felt her heart beat strongly, looking into the boy's eyes. She swayed a little closer.

Ranma didn't notice. "However, I'm not so proud that I don't know when I could use some help. So, I took the liberty of asking someone to help in this little endeavor."

"Help?" Kasumi blinked, as far as she could tell they were alone.

"Master Lochi, I think aikido or hwarang do. What do you think?"

The air shimmered and a squat purple figure smiled up at Kasumi.

As Kasumi got her heartrate back under control, she realized that she'd just leapt up into Ranma's arms. She decided that it was improper to stay there much longer. Of course, her knees felt a little weak right now and falling down would be rather undignified. Better to tolerate this for the moment.

Kasumi, having found a reason not to move for the moment, turned her attention back to the odd monk.

"I think," Lochi said after a moment, "Ranma, that you're rather more like Saeya than either of you will admit. Your mouth moves much faster than even your fists. Still, she DOES have some promise, doesn't she?"

-----------------

A month passed with the Tendo home growing increasingly out of order with no Kasumi to do the household chores. Which meant that most of them didn't get done.

After Akane's attempts at cooking had produced a stew that gave the Tendo family cause for reaching for Pepto Bismol, and her attempt at washing clothes had reduced three of Nabiki's favorite shirts to toddler size (with her favorite "two hearts" sweater now a pure white and with one sleeve stretched out to scarf length), Nabiki had found herself reluctantly shouldering more and more of the burden.

Kuno gestured with his bokken at the girl wearing normal houseclothes, including the frilly apron, and carrying (of all things) a simple broomstick. "Surely you jest. I am to fight... "

Ranma smiled and noted the young physician staring at Kasumi. Particularly the WAY the man with the glasses was staring at Kasumi. "If you win, I relinquish all claim to Akane Tendo."

That Ranma HAD no claim other than as a trainer was completely lost on the kendoist.

"Very well then! I accept!" The Blue Thunder drew his bokken back into a ready stance.

"Of course if you lose, however unthinkable that might be, then you also call off the morning attacks on Akane. Agreed?"

"I fail to see the problem." Kuno read the nervous stance of the girl standing there and calculated how much force it would take to make her surrender. Surely not much.

"The problem is that the fighter's aren't giving her enough challenge. All she's learning is how to fight disorganized mobs. She needs bigger, tougher, more organized opponents!"

Akane glared at Ranma, how dare he involve Kasumi in this? She couldn't fight, and how much could she have learned in one month anyway?

Nabiki took bets, thinking along the same lines. A short old man she'd never seen before was putting down heavy money on her sister. Nabiki smirked and recorded the bet, grateful to be able to get THIS sort of money in an afternoon's work.

Nabiki smiled a bit more as she saw her sister standing there looking very self-conscious. Kasumi would come back to the house from this one-month stay over at the Saotome's house and all would be well in the household again. She could give up laundry duty!

Nabiki's smile faltered a little bit as little Ranko solemnly held a cute black piggy bank up in her hands and placed "all this on Kasumi-chan!"

Akane decided she had had enough, as she noticed Ranma going over to talk to Doctor Tofu. Akane stalked over to her sister.

"Oh, Akane! It's good to see you again!"

"Kasumi, you don't have to go through with this nonsense! When the match begins, forfeit."

"Oh my, Akane, I couldn't do that. I would be showing disrespect to my sensei." Kasumi smiled
at her sister. "This might be fun."

"Fun? Kasumi, this is Kuno. He won't hesitate to strike you."

"Akane, promise me you won't try to interfere, will you?"

Akane frowned and turned away from Kasumi. She'd have to take this up with Ranma. Her eyes passed over the crowd and stopped. Who were these extra people anyway? A lean bishonen type leaning against a tree. A Chinese boy with long hair. More weirdos.

"After all, my new friends are here to see my first challenge fight. I can't let them down."
Kasumi continued to smile. Why, she hadn't realized that there were so many ways to end a fight without actually hurting your opponent.

Ranma stepped away from Doctor Tofu to raise his hands over his head and call for silence.
"This is a match to decide several issues here. In this corner, the Blue Thunder of Furinkan High, the kendo champion 2nd dan, Tatewaki Kuno."

Kuno blinked as he heard various boos and hisses coming from a number of the spectators. His eyes picked them out of the crowd and he frowned as he realized he didn't recognize any of them. Well, they would watch and learn.

"In this corner," Ranma said after a brief pause, "Kasumi Tendo. Centauri Alpha Bronze Saint
Candidate."

The crowd went from "mainly silent" to "you could hear people breathing" for a few heartbeats.

"No way," said Nabiki, breaking the silence. A cold hand of dread had just found her heart. "In one month?"

Kasumi looked down, blushing. After all, she was just a trainee and would never go on to become
one of the elite warriors. It just wasn't her nature.

"BEGIN!" Ranma swept both hands down.

Kuno sneered at the concept that someone was better than him, (obviously myths spread by fools and infidels) and bounded across the cleared area to sweep out with a casual strike.

Kasumi seemed to blur slightly and was now standing a few feet away, hands clasped behind
her back and blinking at the kendoist.

Kuno frowned. Perhaps this would not be quite as simple as he had thought. "Strike- strike-strike- strike- strike- strike- strike!"

Dodge, weave, leap, each move seeming both lazy and casual. Her only use of the broomstick
seemed to be as just something to occupy her hands.

Kuno was rapidly losing his temper. Kasumi was looking only mildly winded. More amused than
anything else.

Akane dropped the call for Kasumi to forfeit as something penetrated. Her sister was reading Kuno's motions and was responding before the kendoist had truly begun an attack. Kasumi HAD developed some skill. Not that she could have caught up to HER level, of course.

Kasumi floated above a vicious slash, and even the most combat-inept of the observers
was taken by the way she seemed to hang weightless briefly.

"Pardon me." Kasumi's broomstick tapped out lightly against a spot near the lower back of the
Blue Thunder. "I'm really sorry about this."

"Kasumi, that wasn't his sleep spot." Ranma called out from the sidelines, moved by a mischievous impulse. "That was his shiatsu explosive castration point."

The vast majority of males in the audience winced and brought their legs together, just imagining the awful possibility that this wasn't a joke.

"Oh my."

Kuno's reply was a whimper.

Akane tried to memorize the move.

Kuno tried to turn and face the girl now behind him but his legs were not cooperating.

"Uh oh." Nabiki began sneaking off.

Kasumi, apologizing profusely, hit the proper areas and sent the Blue Thunder into a deep
dream where Akane Tendo ministered to his wounds.

Nabiki almost made it to the gate before people realized that SHE owed THEM money.

------------

"Actually, Doctor Tofu was the BACKUP plan. You didn't know he was a practitioner of an old
branch of Hokuto Shin Ken did you?"

Nabiki stared at nothing in particular. "I'm going to have to declare bankruptcy before I graduate high school..."

"No worry, I loan you money, you just sign here on voucher," Ranko passed the pen and paper to the stunned Nabiki.

Nabiki absently signed it, still lost in the financial ruin she had found.

"Ranko! You've picked up some bad habits from your father." Kasumi scolded the little girl then read the document. "Oh my!"

Nabiki could have sworn that she couldn't feel any more low. She had the sensation of being on a freefalling elevator suddenly. "What?!" (1)

"Ranko has agreed to pay off your debts," Kasumi said with a worried tone. "There's just some conditions listed here..."

"Yupyupyup," chirped Ranko, taking the contract back. "Now big brother has a reason to stick around!"

"Oh my," said Kasumi and Nabiki simultaneously.

-------------

(1) Yes, i know Ranko's contract for Nabiki wouldn't stand in a legal court. No hanko, and a
legal document handwritten by an eight year old girl isn't likely to be taken seriously by anyone in the real world.

This is a Ranma fic, however...

FIST OF ORION (wordsketch)
part 4/5: Return of the Warrior
trademarks owned by a whole lotta OTHER people.
http://metroanime.home.mindspring.com/
email: metroanime@mindspring.com
this is just an idea sketched out that (like way too many) started taking off on its own. The idea was to come up with a different approach to the "Saint Ranma" thing i'd done awhile
back as it had too many elements duplicated in other people's works.

---------

Journal of Nabiki Tendo: April 16, 1992

As this computer is a new little thing that Ranko insisted I start working with, I'm just commiting electrons to magnetic surface while I try to organize my thoughts on the whole thing.

I find myself in serious need of organization at present.

It has been one month and three days since I opened the door to our home and met two people who
seem as different as night and day, but are brother and sister that were raised separately.

Ranko is an eight year old girl who is alternately an angel, an Amazon, and the sort of
businesswoman one can really admire. Being chewed out by an eight year old for wasting one's talents with "penny-ante stuff" was an interesting experience but one I'd rather not re-experience.

Ranma isn't an angel by a long shot and doesn't seem to think much about money at all. He's roughed it most of his life and is into a Zen sort of minimalist existence. He is, on the other hand, a Saint.

Now THAT was a revelation. Not a saint such as the Catholics speak of, a paragon of virtue who
dies in service to their church. Ranma is a Saint, Silver Saint Orion to be exact. He started out as Bronze Saint Lynx but "graduated" when his previous girlfriend was eradicated from existence and he tapped into his full potential.

The Bronze Saints, as I understand it, are one step above even the best of common warriors. They typically do official functions and duties and get sent on minor missions and routinely do things considered superhuman. The important stuff gets the Silver Saints, the next level up in the hierarchy. The Gold Saints guard the mortal incarnation of Athena- a girl named Saori. Mind you, *most* of this stuff isn't info available to the general public and I'm only finding out details after meeting Ranma.

It was interesting to see Akane as she started yelling at Ranma for bringing by a "friend" without warning only to realize that this newcomer was someone visiting Kasumi. Athena reincarnated and apparently quite a bit more mature than in a previous life. After this had been explained to her, and that Ranma wasn't "two-timing" me and bringing a new girlfriend by, she almost swallowed her tongue.

We're all a bit grateful that this isn't the mythic Athena who would turn a seamstress into a spider in a moment of pique. Ranko had amused herself by reading some of those old stories to Akane after the visit.

Oh, that's right. Kasumi was trained for a month in aikido and pressure points. She's really really good. There was some fallout from that little event too.

Ranma had listened to Kasumi worrying about how her family was doing, and how a certain chiropractor was getting by. He asked Ranko to investigate, and the child seized the moment.

The results of which have been many and varied. Ranma had taken the time to have a long talk
with a Doctor Tofu Ono, regarding the frailty of life and the consequences of waiting entirely too long to speak of love. Kasumi is frequently out of the house now, having heard of poor Doctor Tofu's sudden inability to cook for himself from Ranko.

Akane had been confident of Kasumi refusing to go along with that training nonsense, and then coming home when Kasumi realized how impossible this all was, and then because she was Kasumi she would of course refuse to fight, and then she'd just do a token effort so that she wouldn't
dishonor her family or new sensei. She'd been so confident that Akane had made a few other bets at each stage of this. Now she's stuck learning flower arranging, tea ceremony, meditation techniques, and... Zen aestheticism and philosophies. She's taking to each of them like a fish to... mountain living I suppose. Unenthusiastically, not terribly well, with a lot of floundering involved.

There's also the Contract that I signed while I was still in shock about losing so much money on the Kasumi-Kuno fight. Ranko has apparently learned how to be sneaky and tricky from her father and easily surpasses him in the art of Anything Goes finance.

There's this honor agreement to link the two families. Ranma is supposed to marry one of the Tendo daughters (and some others, but that's for a later entry.) As mentioned earlier, Kasumi already has someone else.

Akane had hit it off rather badly with Ranma to begin with. Even though Ranko pointed out that Ranma was keeping his word to train little sister and increase her martial arts skills. (Choosing tutors for her in subjects that involve patience, control, and awareness of one's environment.) Akane, on the other hand, spends a lot of time railing against the unfairness of it all and muttering darksome oaths of what she will do to Ranma when she gets done with these "useless" studies.

Anyway, back to the honor agreement. Kasumi has her doctor, who still has the occasional bout of silliness but as she spends time with him this gradually decreases. Akane is jealous of Ranma's
skill level, raw power, that he is STILL mooning over his deceased first love, and that she feels that she was humiliated in their first fight.

So Ranko shows initiative and had made up the Contract which I so foolishly signed. She got
me out of debt, and basically picked me up as an acquisition. All of which I protest quite vocally and point out has NO legal authority.

So she suggests I wear certain things and serve tea or something. I think she's just into
playing dressup, and she DID come to my rescue when my finances had gone so far into the red that bankruptcy looked imminent. I wear skimpy clothing anyway and I'll admit Ranma is a major hunk and spending time with the barbarian isn't bad. He's a barbarian but a nice barbarian, I guess.

Then there's this OTHER fiancee that showed up. Her name is Shampoo. Don't laugh, she's not that funny. When she first showed up two weeks ago, I expected to be kicked to the curb. After all, she's a cuddly and affectionate thing and a tribal champion. Everything I'm not.

Ranko took the book of Amazon Law that explained that Ranma had become her husband by defeating her in combat, and had a friend read the thing. In an obscure dialect of Chinese, front to back.
Apparently she's an information broker. If she doesn't know how to do something, then she knows someone who will. Then she went to the Library, scanned the Internet, and came back with four options that didn't involve the termination of previous fiancees.

I'm grateful, but sometimes the chirpy little redhead scares me. "Anything Goes School of Information Gathering" indeed.

So I've got a new sister, having shared blood and salt with Shampoo. Shampoo had to be shown the requisite passages and walked through the thing, as she's "a warrior not a lawyer" and has never gotten into the fine details herself.

Which is one reason that I'm here in my room, typing away at a keyboard. I'm too sore to stand with Shampoo's attitude of "no sister of mine is going to be less than a major force of martial arts nature." I can't walk at present, the muscles in my legs having gone to the apparent
consistency of limp spaghetti. Kasumi's massage has given me some strength back, but the legs
took the brunt of the workout and have shut down.

Ranko, another little force of nature, has quite a day planned for us tomorrow. She's taking me and Shampoo shopping. New clothes, makeup, a few other stops.

I think Ranko scares Shampoo a little too.

--close file--

Ranko knew martial arts, she knew how to bake cookies, she also knew who to ask for info on just about anything else.

Such as the location of a little out of the way shop, set into the back alley of a strip mall. It was a shop that bought and sold good quality used clothing run by a little Chinese woman who was more than delighted to have an Amazon shopping there.

Nabiki sat back in one of the chairs near the dressing rooms and tried to catch her breath. Had she ever had that much energy when she was Ranko's age?

"Remind me of Great Grandmama. Once she get going, she like flood- very hard to stand against." Shampoo slumped against her own chair, absolutely SURE that she'd never been that active when she had been a young girl.

"I'm not sure that I was ever that young."

The two glanced at each other, identical smiles appearing.

"Well, then. What ARE we going to do, Shampoo?"

"About Ranma? Not sure. You now sister to Shampoo. Shampoo not know about 'loopholes' but suppose if is Law then is Law. Shampoo no can kill obstacle." She didn't seem too disappointed in that.

"Want to just marry him and go back to your village, eh?"

"No." Shampoo noted Nabiki's expression and elaborated. "Ranma is special warrior, trained by Lochi to step beyond chi and tap into greater power. Ranma serve Athena, who has aided Amazons many year ago. Shampoo also never have sister before. Think this bear investigating too."

"Well, I'm glad you don't have to kill me as some obstacle then. We'll see who wins, though."

"Is good to have challenge. Is good not to have to kill this challenge."

"Have you killed before, then?"

"Can keep secret? Shampoo kill. Shampoo kill rabbits, Shampoo kill pigs, Shampoo kill when on hunt. Shampoo never kill peoples. Want to kill stupid Mousse many many time but no do that. Shampoo is not blooded warrior." Shampoo noted the fashion magazine lying on another chair and began thumbing through it, glad to find a change of subject from her own shortcomings. "Womans of Japan actually wear this stuff? Low armor value. Some very restrictive of movement. You would freeze in Bayankala range you wear this there..."

Nabiki felt some amusement as she watched the Amazon flipping through the magazine. Makeup wasn't unknown to the girl, but she'd never seen the range of shades and had much instruction in their application.

"Shampoo never see value of high heels. Oh, Nabiki, what this?"

Nabiki wearily cracked an eye back open to regard the page that Shampoo was holding out. "Beyond our price range."

"Shampoo serious. Not see value of clothing. Text is unfamiliar."

"It says it is a 'champagne teddy' and it's lingerie. Something that you wear to bed."

Shampoo blinked. "That would be very very cold on some nights."

"If you or I wore that in front of Ranma, I would think he would get rather warm."

Shampoo blinked and considered this. "Think warm bath more stimulating."

A few yards away, Ranko pretended to look through another rack of clothing as the two began discussing relative values of some means of seduction, especially as regarded her big brother.

She'd get him to stick around, even with the father and mother they shared. Or better yet, take his little sister along if he DID leave.

She wasn't sure about this 'Catfist' thing her father wanted to teach her. Now if big brother would just show up "accidently" as she'd arranged...

Ranma entered the shop, wondering why Ranko had wanted to meet him here.

---------

Ranma stopped in mid stride and began looking around. Shampoo looked a bit puzzled at first, then her own expression turned to one of intense concentration.

Nabiki looked at the various people around her, noted that Ranko was in the process of flipping up into the branches of a tree. "Uhm, guys, what's going on?"

"An aura. It feels familiar somehow."

"Is very powerful." Shampoo said after a few moments. "Someone flared their chi. Is sort of a challenge. Shampoo see some Elders do like this."

Nabiki noted that Shampoo was nervous. "I take it that I should be worried."

"Shampoo is worried. Very very good fighter to do this."

"You're not scared, though."

"Fear keep you alive, Nabiki." Shampoo was obviously quoting some old Amazon wisdom. "To be ruled by fear is coward's way. To not feel fear mean you not understand. Warrior knows fear
there for reason and know when to listen."

A figure stepped out into the intersection ahead, a woman wearing the heavily stylized armor of
a Saint and some sort of facemask.

"U-Ucchan?"

Nabiki and Shampoo noticed how pale Ranma had turned and how he had started trembling. They turned back towards the girl standing a dozen yards ahead of them, who was standing in a pose that screamed "threat."

So did the reddish aura crackling around her.

"Ranma," said the woman's voice. "At last I can tell you of my feelings. DIE! NOVA FLARE!"

---------------------

FIST OF ORION

part 5/5: Ribbon for her hair

trademarks owned by a whole lotta OTHER people.
http://metroanime.home.mindspring.com/
email: metroanime@mindspring.com
this is just an idea sketched out that (like way too many) started taking off on its own. The idea was to come up with a different approach to the "Saint Ranma" thing i'd done awhile back as it had too many elements duplicated in other people's works.

---------

Journal of Nabiki Tendo: June 24, 1992

Well, it's been a little over a month since my last entry. It's been...interesting. That's a polite way of putting it.

Let's see, I met my iinazuke for the first time two months twelve days ago. In that time I've
seen warriors who can severely bend what we normally consider immutable laws of physics. I've
been kissed on the cheek in greeting by a reborn goddess here to visit my older sister. I was made the "blood-sister" of an Amazon tribal champion. I was suckered by an eight year old con artist who wants to see big brother get married, preferably to more than one wife. I know it's illegal, tell her!

I've met a 3000 year old purplish gnome kind of creature who sicced a new trainer on me AND my Amazon blood-sister. I had thought Shampoo was tough, but Ophinicus Shaina is about my own age and tougher than a half dozen Marines. Shaina is also a Silver Saint. Like Ranma. Like Ukyou.

Oh yeah, Ranma's dead girlfriend isn't. There's some serious problems though.

Turns out that for some time, Phoenix Ikki was one of the bad guys. He was mind controlled by a guy named Ares. Yes, THAT Ares. Ranma had gotten involved in a War Of The Gods between Ares and Athena. Ranma's side, Athena, won. Ukyou turned up a little over a month ago, mind controlled
just as Phoenix had been.

Problem: Phoenix never broke the mind control on his own. He died and resurrected himself, one of the benefits of being Silver Saint Phoenix. Ukyou is Silver Saint Canis Major. The Big Dog.
She can do psychometry, tracking by psychic trace. Not self-resurrection. So the way that Phoenix Ikki broke the mindlock is not an option for Ranma's Ukyou.

It happened right after my last diary entry. The training and the flow of events kept me
from returning home and putting an entry in. I had to wait till my computer could be sent here. But I digress.

So, out of nowhere, Ranma's old girlfriend shows up and attacks him with a "die Ranma."
Doesn't even really seem to register us, which ticks Shampoo off to some extent.

Quite a picture, Ranko has ducked for cover and gotten out of sight. Shampoo is looking
as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Ranma is staring at our attacker like he's going to fall completely apart.

I briefly wondered if I were the only one concerned about how his "Ucchan" was glowing red and had just unleashed her "Nova Flare" attack in Ranma's direction.

That was pretty nifty, by the way. Glowing red aura with almost a cometary tail as she shoots
towards her target. The street melting and igniting from the heat directly under her. Odd pieces of paper and trash spontaneously combusting as she passes.

I didn't fully appreciate it as I was rather busy trying to find cover at the time. I knew I couldn't possibly drag either of my companions out of harms way in time. Some little voice in my head was repeating Shampoo's line about the difference between being brave and being unwise.

I had partially turned away when the rocketing Ukyou connected with Ranma and sent his smoking figure through one of the local walls. I could feel the wash of heat and the shockwave and picked myself up to see a thoroughly one-sided battle commence.

Shampoo saw me and gave me a "Bie Lao" before starting in on trying to beat a Silver Saint with traditional martial arts. She was expecting to die, but would give her "sister" a chance to escape.

It wasn't even a close battle, Shampoo got a decent kick in, then Ukyou turned all her attention to the Amazon.

Shampoo's strength and endurance are incredible, the product of generations of breeding for such traits within her tribe. Ukyou might as well as have been fighting a baby, they were that mismatched.

Ukyou was concentrating so much on turning Shampoo into part of the pavement that she almost didn't notice me picking up an old cement block from the wall Ranma had trashed and introducing it to the back of her head. Almost.

At that point I realized what I had just done and that the two best fighters I knew had just been beaten by this girl. I see Ukyou straighten and I'm trying to figure out an angle. Some way to either get away or deflect this girl's wrath.

What I get was as unexpected as it was welcome.

Kasumi, the trainee who (of course) would NEVER go for bonding with a totem star or constellation, and absolutely NEVER be one of these elite warriors...

Is suddenly standing between me and Ukyou's "Nova Flare" attack. Wearing what appears to be a gymnast's costume with bits of armor. And a tiara with an oomphing big green gemstone set in it.

So Kasumi was whirling this staff made of some greenish-blue metal in front of her and whispered something like "Centauri Starshield."

I made a note at that time that I had to get me one of those, y'know. Looked damn handy.

The "Nova Flare" gets turned aside as it hits this sparkly dome that Kasumi was somehow generating. Ukyou turned to give it another try when the calvary arrived.

People I hadn't met yet, but had heard about from Ranma's talks with me about how he got involved in a War of The Gods.

Bronze Saint Pegasus Saeya, who was eventually expected to become Gold Saint Sagittarius. Bronze Dragon Saint Shiryu, primary student of the Gold Saint Libra Lochi. The bishonen Bronze Saint Andromeda Shun with his chain weapons.

I'd met Eagle Saint Marin, who turned out to be that woman who had shown up to be Akane's tutor in those meditation techniques and the carpentry. Don't tell me this was a coincidence.

Ukyou left at high speed, dodging Shun's "Nebula Chain" attack as she did.

So father was left basically alone with Tofu-sensei and the older Saotomes while the rest of us head to some place in Greece known as Sanctuary. Ranko was quite enthusiastic about the chance to learn this esoteric and mystical martial art.

Both me and Shampoo would later confess that we were hoping to see the bouncy bubbly child find out boot camp wasn't fun and go home to safety. We should've known better. We'd later find that she took to it like a duck to water.

So everyone starts talking about Ukyou as the mere mortals and the Bronzes take plane rides. Ranma can teleport, the schmuck. Though as he WAS the target, I can see why he wouldn't want to be on the same aircraft as the various trainees.

Pegasus Seiya relates how a "Dark Pegasus" was beating the crap out of him when Ukyou switched targets with him. One full power "Nova Flare" and the false Pegasus went down. The Devildog
Saint weathered a "Pegasus Meteor Punch" but was then hit by both Ukyou AND Seiya.

Dragon Shiryu relates how he lost his sight fighting some Medusa Saint named Perseus. It was Ukyou, arriving late, who provided enough distraction that Shiryu could use the time and figure out how to beat Medusa. He regained his sight later, mainly thanks to Pegasus Seiya.

Cygnus Hyouga goes into this story about how Ukyou had posed as Saori briefly, as they were about the same size and had similar auras. It was close enough to fool some assassin who'd come to kill Saori before the Athena part of her could be Awakened.

Even the solemn, almost angst-driven Phoenix Ikki had some tender moment he'd experienced with
Ucchan. Then HE teleported so he could go off and brood or something.

EVERYONE mentioned all the times the two sweethearts would lean together at a campsite or just be holding hands or something. I think they were trying to tell us something.

Akane expressed disbelief that someone like that could love a jerk like Ranma. Shampoo corrected her, and proceeded to explain the secret nature of her training. No doubt this diminished its effectiveness, hey, I've seen those martial arts movies too!

Shun pointed out that Akane quite possibly reminded Ranma of Ucchan and he was even ruder to her as a way of keeping some distance between the two.

Shampoo disagreed, saying that Akane was the type who did better when she was angry and focussing on a specific goal, like getting even with Ranma. She said it was an old Amazon training technique that the US Marine Corps had copied from them.

That got the argument going between respective types of training, of the value of philosophy as a component of warfare, and of our chances with Silver Saint Orion.

That was a LOOOONNNGG plane ride.

So then the training. Akane was gushing enthusiastically about all the new techniques and special attacks she'd be learning. Only to find out that her trainer was, again, Eagle Saint Marin.

I don't think I've seen Akane cry like that before.

Lucky me, I get physical training and a "fast track." So does Shampoo. One of those Gold Saints, Aries I think, thought that we ought to be "awakened" to full potential as soon as possible because we were Ranma's fiancees and therefore primary targets.

So, a month and change later, and I'm still one of Athena's handmaidens except my days are spent in just incredible physical training.

At least I've got my computer now.

----------------------------------

Nabiki looked up, noticing that Kasumi had shown up with Athena. Nabiki grimaced as being soaked with sweat and looking a complete mess was not how she preferred to be when greeting royalty, deities, or other important people.

Kasumi was wearing her mother's cross again, and Nabiki had to suppress a few questions to Athena Saori again about the afterlife and this whole good/evil thing. She probably wasn't here to talk shop with a low level trainee.

Nabiki's eyes were drawn to the heavy box that Kasumi had carried in.

"Continue," Saori said when Shaina paused and looked up at the two.

"Okay, Tendo-san, you've been slacking long enough."

Nabiki winced but knew better than to talk back. Boot camp. To be treated like a boot. She'd been carrying thirty five pound weights strapped to her forearms and lower legs since 6am. Then she'd been led through a workout that would have killed her a month ago. And Shaina still expressed the belief that Nabiki was a lazy useless recruit who was wasting her time and should have been sent to kitchen detail long ago.

Shampoo got similar treatment but was carrying much greater amounts of weight. She also didn't get threatened with duties in the kitchen area as she'd expressed quite a bit of enthusiasm for the prospect of "preparing her airen too too delicious meal."

Later, Nabiki knew, she'd go off to be trained in other techniques that Shampoo wasn't being trained in. Things like an esoteric form of ninjitsu. Advanced sneakery 201, as Nabiki privately referred to it. Walking across rice paper without leaving a foot print. Finding ways to hide in plain sight.

Shampoo, on the other hand, was learning how to block and avoid blows since she was mainly into attacks.

"Tendo-san!" Shaina's face loomed up in front of Nabiki's causing the student to flinch. "Pay attention!"

"H-hai, sensei."

Seeing her pupil was now paying attention to her, Shaina pulled a needle pointed spear out of the weapons rack. "The point of the exercise, O unworthy pupil, is to avoid being struck. Begin!"

Nabiki yeeped and moved out of the way as the spear jabbed through the space her abdomen had been a moment ago. The spear was then thrust at arm, leg, and face. Each jab was accompanied by a snarl and a comment from Shaina about moving faster, to pick the foot UP instead of sliding it, to stop watching the spear's tip as that was the last thing to move.

A thwack on her bottom was the punctuation for a comment about her getting her butt in gear.

The humiliation of this in front of Kasumi, Kasumi of all people, was getting to Nabiki. She'd get even with this, if she were a Saint she'd reach into her cosmos, begin drawing power and...

Nabiki blinked as she realized the spear wasn't coming anywhere near her and she WAS drawing on something.

"Interesting," came Kasumi's voice from near the doorway. "Is that an invisibility technique that Nabiki-chan's
learned?"

Nabiki looked around, still holding the feeling of drawing power around her. Shaina had grounded the spear, removed her facemask, and had a thoroughly satisfied expression on her
face.

Kasumi was looking around the room with an expression that mixed pride and curiosity.

Athena was regarding Shaina with a faint smile herself.

Nabiki considered sneaking up on Shaina and indulging in a little payback when the satisfied expression on her sensei's face dropped to a scowl.

"TENDO-SAN!" Shaina started rubbing her forehead as if she had a headache. "Remember the lessons on the rice paper!"

Nabiki blinked, looked down, and saw where her feet were indenting the mat. She moved away more carefully, not leaving footprints this time.

"Interesting," Kasumi commented.

"Each of the three Alpha Centauri Saints embodies a basic principle of combat," explained Shaina. "Starshield- Defense, Starfighter- Offense, Starshadow-Avoidance. Each corresponds
to one of the stars in the Alpha Centauri system. As my pupil here was most obviously suited for
Starshadow, I went easy on her."

Nabiki found that she dropped the cloaking effect during the facefault.

----------------

Nabiki carried the box, marvelling at how light it seemed to be. Her own Cloth. The Starshadow Cloth. Black armor to fit over a black bodysuit.

She'd taken one look in the mirror at the black snugly fitting suit, the pieces of gold-trimmed black armor strategically placed at forearms, shoulders, lower legs, the upper chestplate with its large pearlescent black opal, and had decided that she needed a trenchcoat or something if she went out in public like that.

Otherwise the lawsuits from all the men hemorraghing to death around her would be really annoying. All the workouts had given her a tight and lithe physique that she rather thought was nearly worth all that she'd gone through in the past month.

Almost.

---------

Akane hid, waiting, masking her chi as best she could.

"Marin, how's it going?"

"Ranma. Well, I suppose. I've seen you checking up on your fiancees."

"Yeah, well, I AM kinda responsible for them. They seem to be doing pretty well. Everyone thinks Nabiki's going to make her breakthrough today."

"That'll be two of them active Bronze Saints, even though Shaina won't be satisfied with Nabiki's fighting skills for awhile. She insists Kasumi could use more intensive training too."

"I don't think so. Kasumi's just not aggressive enough to ever reach Master level. So what about Akane?"

"I'm quite reluctant to proceed any further until she has more control. The Starfighter has a devastating attack, one that she could easily kill herself using if she fails to control herself."

"Yeah. I take it that carpentry ain't working out too well."

"Well, she's doing better than with the original program of flower arranging and tea ceremony..."

"She's that bad?"

Marin sighed "Yeah."

"Brickmasonry?"

"You know that building that collapsed?"

"Cooking?"

"You know that rash of food poisoning?"

Ranma stopped, stumped. "Well, she needs to learn control, discipline, and how to calm herself. How to do that?"

Akane strained to hear as the two walked away from her position. She had control and she had
discipline. It wasn't fair that Kasumi, who'd always been better at that traditional stuff, was now a better martial artist and had made Saint.

She heard a faint scuffing and noticed another woman standing in front of her. "Little one,
I've heard that they are keeping you behind in your training. Join me, and we will overcome your limits and allow you to take your rightful place as the defender of your family."

Akane blinked. "Yeah right. You think I'm an idiot?"

"Excuse me?"

"You're Canis Major Ukyou. You attacked my sister, you bitch!"

The woman's expression turned cold. "So you know me. The offer stands though. Join our service and gain the training and power you so richly deserve."

"And have to fight my sisters?" Akane openly scoffed. "Hey, even that jerkoff Ranma never indicated he thought I was stupid!"

"Well," Ukyou smiled and raised a hand. "If you won't join us, I'll have to just say goodbye. RENDING FANG!"

Akane, not an idiot, dodged. She was peripherally aware of the blast going through the wall nearby rather easily. And it was one of her better walls too.

"RENDING FANG!"

Akane's thoughts cast back to Kasumi telling them how it felt to draw power through one's cosmos. She reached for it, knowing that breakthroughs often came in life-or-death struggles just like this.

"RENDING FANG!"

It wasn't coming. No matter how angry she made herself, it wasn't coming.

A realization DID reach Akane, however. She was still alive. Her dodging skills hadn't grown that much over the past month, had they?

"NOVA FLARE!"

Akane hit the dirt, then gasped as the heat and shockwave struck from the close passage. She rolled, putting the fires in clothing and hair out.

That had really hurt though.

"Ukyou, leave Akane alone. You're here to face me." Ranma stood there, seemingly from nowhere. "Akane, get to safety. Besides, you need to be calm to access the Starfighter attack."

Akane's eyes narrowed as she considered being ordered from the field of battle. On the other hand, it felt like she had second degree burns over most of her back and legs. Likewise, the smell of burnt hair was threatening to make her gag.

Burnt hair?

"Damn him, he's not fighting back."

Nabiki's voice snapped Akane's attention away from hair to focus on her sister. She noticed Kasumi next to Nabiki. Marin and Shaina and that Hyouga guy...

They were watching for something...

"Guys, shouldn't you be guarding Athena?" Akane noticed that Athena wasn't anywhere around.

"Actually, WE don't serve Athena," Nabiki said with a smirk. "I should have figured THAT one out long ago."

"We don't?" Akane glanced back to the battle, which still involved Ukyou launching attack after attack on Ranma who blocked or avoided them.

"Ah, Nabiki. The one we are to serve and guard hasn't Awakened yet. Do you want to tell Akane before she knows herself?"

"Huh?"

"Think about it, Akane. Reincarnation. The Cycle Of The Heavens. Greek myths reborn. You've met Athena. Ares has possessed Ukyou. All the clues have been in place for months. Who knows who else is out there." Kasumi nodded, gathering power.

"Well, I know where Artemis and Tyche are..." Nabiki paused. "Kasumi..."

"STARSHIELD!" A series of "Rending Fangs" impacted the shield.

"Thanks, Kasumi."

"What are you two talking about?" Akane winced as a particularly nasty attack bounced off Kasumi's shield.

"Ukyou was probably having some problems with sensory deprivation when Ares fled Saga," Nabiki explained, most of her attention remaining on the fight. "So Ares fled Saga and possessed Ukyou who was still trapped in that pocket dimension by the Gemini attack.

"He hasn't been trying to get Ukyou to attack Ranma, though. Someone else entirely. A reborn goddess who hasn't awakened. Tyche, the one that WE are supposed to serve."

"Tyche? You know where she is?" Akane blinked. She had known that they weren't among Athena's Saints, technically Orion wasn't one of those either though he fought alongside them enough.

"Look to your left," Kasumi suggested, straining a little as she extended her Starshield.

Akane looked. Marin, the Eagle Saint, was over there. So was one of the big Titan children,
and a few minor warriors in the dark iron armor. She clucked a little, noticing that someone had let Ranko out onto the field of battle. "Where? I don't see her."

Kasumi huffed a little as a Nova Flare impacted directly on her shield.

Akane turned her attention back to the one-sided fight. She was in time to see Ranma block, spin, and hold something up in front of the possessed Ukyou.

"You see this, Ukyou? Do you remember? When we faced Taurus Aldebaren and his attack sliced open my arm? How you tied the bandage into place with your ribbon?" Ranma's voice was pleading.
"Do you remember, Ucchan?"

"No, I, that, don't." Ukyou faltered, quite clearly taken off guard by this sudden change of
battle. "I, You, No."

Kasumi edged closer to a precocious eight year old. "I'm sorry, but I'm afraid you really
need to awaken now."

Tyche looked up with eyes far older than a mere eight years, and solemnly nodded. As it was within her province, victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat.

"R-R-Ranchan?" Ukyou's voice was tremulous. She found herself swept into a tight hug.

"Ucchan. Fight it. Please...remember."

------ --

addendum:
Nabiki leaned back against her chair and contemplated the revelry in the courtyard below. Sighing, she logged her computer on and began typing.

"Journal of Nabiki Tendo. July 15, 1992.

"An eventful day. My goodness, I must be catching Kasumi's gift for understatement.

"Tyche has Awakened but there is still quite a lot of the rough-and-tumble Ranko Saotome
still shining through.

"Tyche, the winged goddess of luck and victory. I wonder if I can convince Ranko to go
on a quick vacation with me. I hear Las Vegas can be fun.

"I have become the Starshadow Saint, though Shaina tells me I've still got a LONG ways to go
before I'm ready to hold my own as even a Bronze Saint, much less one of the three major agents of the goddess of luck.

"Akane is still learning. When she becomes the Starfighter Saint, the three daughters Tendo will
be united again. There's no doubt in anyone's mind that she'll make it, and Tyche's Saint Of Offense apparently has an attack which can shatter mountains. That's one reason it is so hard for Akane to learn it, sort of a survival instinct cuts in. Until she can let go of all extraneous thoughts, all feelings, attain a soul of ice, she won't be able to access the 'Starfighter Heaven's Fury Attack' aka the 'Big Bang'.

"Everyone thinks that True Love allowed Ranma to reach Ukyou, and Ukyou throw off Ares' possession. Well, almost everyone. And to some extent that WAS what happened. Ranma's love for Ukyou, Ukyou's love for Ranma, a very powerful force that all of us there could feel, beating against the iron will of Ares.

"All Tyche did was shift the odds.

"And isn't love itself something incredibly against the odds to begin with?"

------close file------------

oh, cue picture of Ranma and Ukyou kissing in front of a cheering crowd. Ranma in a tux. Ukyo in a white gown.

roll credits.

fade picture.

end...