Love and Rage
Peaceful times are made to last
Friendships forged in time let pass
Memories bonding chains in fate
Fury's awakening testing strength
"Your failures are mounting higher, Voidling." The feminine voice held a metallic undertone that would have grated on normal ears, but seemed not to bother Voidling as she stood in the center of the darkened chamber. Walls shifted in the shadows, seeming somehow metallic and yet made of stone at the same time.
"And this is my fault alone? You created me, in case you forgot, Mistress." Voidling huffed, clearly just as aggravated and not wishing to be solely blamed.
"Yes, it seems I have my own faults. I will have to reconsider the issues."
"Why exactly are we using these Angel-Youma hybrids anyway? Wouldn't it have just been easier to use regular youmas?" The darkling paced back and forth in the shadowy room, just enough light seeming to float around her to keep her from being completely obscured.
"Because that man is easily able to dispatch normal youma. And because I don't want to destroy the world if I can avoid it. The angels have only that one purpose. It was tricky enough reworking them to target his DNA instead of their normal goal. And then reworking them to target hers as well."
"Right, so now we're hopping dimensions and trying to destroy anything that can stop us while we harvest the planet's magic energy. Right back to the same old shit." Voidling rolled her eyes as she continued to pace around in the dark confines of the lair.
"And it's not nearly as much fun as it once was, is it?" A tone of sadness permeated the voice.
"I beg to differ, I think it's far more fun when there's someone trying to stop us. I get bored if there's no challenge." Silence reigned in the small space for a time.
"Some days I wish I hadn't created minions."
"So, can I quit using the hybrids now? You know, start using our real minions instead of these mindless toys?"
"All of our minions are mindless."
"You know which ones I mean, Mistress! Come on, can I at least turn him loose? Pleeeeaaaase?" Voidling clasped her hands together, doing her very best to be pitiful.
"No, you may not, but, you may work on waking him up. However, leave her be for now. I have very specific plans for her. Also, give it some time. Perhaps they'll let their guard down after a while."
"Well, duh." Voidling flippantly remarked as she walked out the door of the room, waving a hand in parting.
"Note to self: Use a less-infuriating corpse to infuse a piece of my being into next time." A noisy sigh echoed out into the now empty chamber.
Makoto awoke the next morning, holding up a hand to ward off the ray of sunlight that came in the window. She groaned as she rolled over towards the edge of the bed, doing her best to ignore the pain from muscles still adjusting back to their normal sizes and positions in her midsection.
"Oh, I will be so glad once this is all healed."
"Take as long as you need. These two seem content to let you rest for the most part, as long as they can feed off of someone." Ranma chuckled from the nursery. Makoto blinked away the rest of her sleepiness as she grabbed a robe and wrapped herself up before moving into the nursery to find Ranma wearing just a pair of her old silk pants, feeding Kokoro. She was sitting in a rocking chair that had been surprisingly supplied by Genma the previous evening, with no prodding from either Nodoka or Kasumi. Ranma had even managed to bite his tongue to stop from asking where Genma stolen it from.
"I take it she hasn't been feeding long since Emiko's still asleep." Makoto guessed as she looked into the crib.
"Actually she's been awake for almost an hour or so. She woke up, and seemed hungry, so I started feeding her since you hadn't woke up yet. She stopped after a really short time it felt, but was acting hungry again like twenty minutes later. Did that a few times now. Fussy little girl. Emiko was awake for a little while earlier too, but was less random with wanting fed." Ranma's voice remained hushed, a content smile on her face. Makoto could only smile as she watched the scene.
"Guess someone is watching out for me. I'm getting all sorts of breaks most mothers don't get. Babysitters galore, and a second mom. Now let's just hope these two don't try to suck us both dry." Both girls chuckled lightly, not wanting to wake Emiko.
"It's so strange," Ranma commented as Kokoro stopped feeding, waiting a few moments before setting the baby up on her shoulder with a small towel. "If you'd have asked me if I'd be doing something like this even six months ago, I would have laughed at the idea. Let alone doing so willingly."
"Not thinking of switching sides on me, are you?" Makoto asked, bending down to look at Ranma face to face.
"Don't suppose it's okay to just keep hopping back and forth, ne?" Ranma replied sheepishly. Makoto gave another impish grin as she leaned forward and stole a quick kiss.
"I can live with that. I'd even go so far as to say I'd prefer that. It wouldn't be fair of me to push you into staying either way if you didn't want to."
"Thanks. It took a long while for Akane to reach that point, but I don't think she was ever completely comfortable with the idea." A light blush adorned Ranma's face as she averted her eyes.
"I think you told me before, she wasn't very physical." Mako responded as she walked over to check on Emiko in the crib. The sleeping child brought a smile of endearment to the face of the Senshi, infusing her being with another small touch of happiness.
"Akane? Oh, she was all sorts of physical. Just not in that fashion. Intimacy was something she was just verging on getting used to the idea of with my male form. We never actually did anything other than some kissing and cuddling. I didn't blame her for that, though over the last few years I've occasionally wondered if my reluctance to accept my girl form as anything more than just a curse was in part because of her lack of real acceptance for so many years." Ranma continued to smile gently as she talked, playfully wincing for a moment as Kokoro noisily burped in her ear.
"That was a bit deep." Makoto commented as she stood back up straight, looking thoughtfully at Ranma.
"I know. Should have seen the smoke when I was first working my way through it." The neo-girl grinned as she held Kokoro out in front of her. "Hopefully you two only get your fighting brains from me."
"I think they could do worse than to pull their entire intellect from you. You still sell yourself far too short." Ranma flushed slightly as Mako began to frown at her.
"Perhaps. I may have just needed to calm down a little. Life around here before was just sheer chaos. And in the end, it's always so hard to say for sure what changes in a person." Ranma watched as Kokoro seemed to smile for a moment before a yawn forced her tiny mouth open. Gracefully rising from the chair, Ranma slowly walked over and set the baby down in the crib as she fell asleep. "You three are perhaps the greatest thing that's happened to me. Save for perhaps becoming part of this household to begin with. I've felt more alive in the last couple months than I've felt in a long time." Ranma supressed an urge to yelp as she found herself squeezed in a tight embrace.
"I still find it wild that we were lucky enough that somehow you got used for them. I think that at least helps me make peace with what I dealt with." Mako's comment made Ranma's breath catch in her throat for a moment as a small surge of anger welled up in memory of the facility. She mentally kicked the emotion back into the corner it had risen from, refusing to allow it to ruin her good mood.
"And I still find it odd that you're willing to be all over me even when I'm in girl form." Ranma commented as they walked back into the bedroom.
"I love the person, not the body. Though you make a very enticing figure either way." Makoto frowned, wondering in her mind just how long this was going to be an issue.
"I think that's another backlash from Akane and the old me. For her, girl-form was a friend that just happened to turn into her fiancé."
"To be fair, from what you've told me, I don't think she had a very good basis to go off of. I mean, you've mentioned the hentai horde, and then the lack of cooperation between the two of you for years." Makoto's face clearly showed her dislike of both factors.
"Yeah. That's why I never blamed her for it. You don't seem to mind it."
"Like I said before, I run around with eight other girls, two of whom are definitely lesbians. Besides, what kind of Senshi would I be if I thought shutting out a piece of someone was okay?"
"Guess I can't argue with that. I know we talked a little bit about this stuff when ya first came here. Probably just old habits dying hard on my end."
"And that's understandable. Now come on, let's get dressed, grab the monitor so we can listen for them to wake back up again, and go get some breakfast. It smells like Kasumi outdid herself today." Mako started to get dressed, before getting an impish grin on her face. She waited for Ranma to lift her arms up, preparing to slide into an already buttoned Chinese shirt. As the smaller girl put both arms in the shirt, Mako quickly moved forward, catching the redhead completely off-guard and kissing her deeply. Ranma's initial surprise quickly moved to pleasure as she returned the gesture, losing track of her surroundings for a moment before being pushed backwards onto the bed by the taller brunette.
"Um, thought we were going out for breakfast?" Ranma asked quietly, her breathing heavy.
"We were, I changed my mind for a moment." Mako replied, trailing light kisses from Ranma's forehead down the side of her jaw and further down her neck. She stopped there, smiling an odd little smile that Ranma wasn't sure what to make of. The blush adorning Makoto's face brightened considerably as she laid down next to her partner, wrapping both arms around her and snuggling up for a moment.
"Not that I'm going to argue either way, but done already?" Ranma asked, not sure whether to feel relieved or disappointed. A stray thought reminded her that she was also currently stuck with her arms still in a shirt above her head.
"Sorry, I guess your girl form brings out a slightly more aggressive side of me. I keep doing things like this without even thinking of how odd it must feel for you." Quickly lowered eyes refused to meet Ranma's as Makoto quietly apologized.
"Quit apologizing to me for being yourself. Besides, I'd be stupid to deny myself this side of the curse. If nothing else, I'd regret never satisfying my curiosity in the end." Ranma smiled as Makoto looked back up at her. "Though, I think perhaps you should wait a little while till you're a bit better healed up, and we're not both getting used to the idea of being walking dairy cans." Makoto's laughter was bright as she stood up and helped Ranma to her feet as well.
"If nothing else, at least you're willing to say things I think all of us women think at one point or another but just won't say out loud."
Usagi winced as the wide world looked at her through her apartment window. A world that most definitely was now in the later parts of the morning.
"Ugh, who told the sun it was a good day to shine in my window?" Usagi grumbled to herself as she got out of bed and immediately tripped over the blanket still wrapped around her ankle. An undignified yelp was all she could muster as she spun and landed unceremoniously on her bare backside. Now fully awake as she rubbed at her offended tailbone, she whimpered in pain. "Okay, not how my day was supposed to start."
"And how did you expect it to start, Usako?" Mamoru spoke up from where he was sitting in a chair on the other side of the room. The gentle smile on his face only got wider as he watched her eyes light up, every bit of pain forgotten as she raced to throw herself in his arms. "There's my princess. Enjoy your vacation from me?"
Mamoru found himself surprised as his girlfriend suddenly became much more amorous than he was used to. "I'll take that as a no," he thought as Usagi made it very apparent that she intended to pay lots of attention to him in a very short amount of time.
"Hey, Rei. You got away from the shrine for a while?" Mako asked as Kasumi led the shrine-maiden in to the main room around mid-afternoon.
"Yeah, I told Grandpa I wanted to take a day and relax. He didn't like it very much, but I think the fact that he knows I'm Sailor Mars makes him back off a little." Rei took a seat at the table in the middle of the room, smiling and quickly thanking Kasumi as she brought in a plate of sandwiches and a drink.
"Wait, he knows?" Makoto nearly dropped her own sandwich as she snapped her head up to stare at Rei.
"Yeah, I don't know how, but he figured it out at some point it seems." Rei's irritation started to creep through as she reluctantly poked at her sandwiches.
"Wow...but he's always seemed so clueless."
"I KNOW!" Rei shouted out in frustration. She flopped backwards on the floor, sighing heavily. "Sorry, it just really irks me that somehow he found out, and worse, I have no clue when."
"Well it's not like you would have denied it if he'd just asked." Mako replied as she went back to eating her sandwich.
"I guess it really shouldn't be that big a surprise. Grandpa did raise me after all, and he had to have some sort of brains to manage that. I guess I just always think of him as being useless with all the running around he does. He is finally starting to slow down a little. Still being far more friendly with all the girls than I care to see." Rei sighed again as she sat back up and picked up her sandwich.
"Speaking of girls, I'm surprised you're the only one I've seen so far honestly. I thought for sure that I'd end up seeing Usagi for at least a little bit before she went to work this evening." Rei looked up, seemingly almost in a panic.
"Oh, hehe, no, no. I don't think you'll be seeing much of her today." Rei's face began to turn pink.
"That doesn't sound promising." Makoto commented as she stared at Rei.
"It's a good thing. Well, as long as you're not Mamoru."
"Yeah, they finally arranged his flight back last night, so he waited for Usagi-chan to wake up. Apparently he hasn't been able to get away from her since." Makoto blinked for a moment, considered the ramifications of that. Rei started giggling as a full blush worked it's way onto the taller girl's face. "Yeah, the last text I got from him was a bit too much information, but was something along the lines of not even being allowed to put clothes back on." Makoto twitched for a moment before she began to giggle relentlessly.
"Usagi?! I never thought she'd have it in her!" Makoto finally stammered out.
"That's what I thought too! Apparently she did, several times already today from the sounds of it." Both girls burst into a fresh round of giggles, even Kasumi having to supress her own mirth in the kitchen.
"This shouldn't be making me laugh so hard. It hurts." Makoto ground out as she tried to stop herself, gasping for breath both from laughter and from pain.
"How're you feeling from that? I guess we all almost ignored you last night, between the babies and Ranma fighting that thing out back. You looked a little like you needed the lack of attention."
"Ugh, I was SO tired! Still am a bit, but way better than last night. I was just being stubborn. Ranma finally got me to go to bed around midnight after assuring me she'd stay up with the girls. It still took me a while to quit snapping back awake with every little noise. I had no idea this would be so stressful."
"Well, yeah, they're kids. And more so, they're your kids. What, did you think they would just pop out, grow up, and you'd never worry again?" Rei smirked, one eyebrow raised lightly.
"Well, no, that would be a little absurd. But I expected I'd be a bit more calm about it, considering who all I'm surrounded by."
"Can't fault you for that, I'd sleep like a log in this place. Especially if I had Ranma keeping me company." The fire senshi got a slightly spaced out look on her face for a moment.
"Reeeiiiiiiii," Mako growled out.
"I know, I know, don't worry. Like I'd wanna do something that stupid to one of my friends anyway. I won't deny he's easy on the eyes in his male form, though. And definitely in a different league as a girl too. Very unusual to see anything close to that hair color in Japan. Speaking of which, where is he?" Rei waved off her friends worries.
"He's getting cleaned up. Decided it was a good time since everyone in the house is fully awake to listen for the girls."
"He keeps track of this place better than most security systems. I don't get how he does it." The shrine maiden looked around the room as she ate, starting to notice little things that had changed. She could see Makoto's touch with the plants easily since the first time they had all visited.
"It's all the martial arts training. He does things with his ki alone that I don't even know if we can do with our magic. And it's weird listening to him and Tofu-san talk about anything to do with it. Tofu-san-"
"What did we tell you Mako?" Kasumi interrupted as she walked back into the living room with two more plates of sandwiches, setting one aside for Ranma before seating herself. "No need for titles with us."
"Sorry, Kasumi. Some habits are hard to break, I guess. But like I was saying, Tofu explains things in a very detailed way, where Ranma goes for as simple an explanation as possible." Mako responded abashedly.
"They're both very good at what they do. Cologne is even more amazing, but she also has three hundred years worth of experience to pull from." Kasumi replied between bites.
"Didn't you say something earlier about Ranma having a letter from her in yesterday's mail?" Mako asked after a few minutes of silence.
"Oh my, yes, let me find that for him. I had meant to tell him about it, but I had forgotten among all the excitement." Kasumi quickly stood and went down the hall to her room, returning mere moments later and setting a large envelope down on the table. "I'm glad you reminded me."
Conversation stopped for a moment as Ranma walked back into the living room, setting herself down next to Makoto, dressed in a green blouse and black skirt.
"Okay, that's twice now you've gone for the blouse and skirt. What's going on in your head now?" Makoto commented, looking over Ranma's ensemble and making the sometimes-girl suddenly self-conscious. Mako's eyes came to rest on Ranma's loosely tied together ponytail, her hand starting to twitch. Ranma smiled and closed her eyes, holding out a brush. Why Makoto seemed to enjoy brushing the mass of ruby colored hair, Ranma wasn't sure, but if it made her happy for even a moment it could be dealt with. And besides, at least in girl form, it actually felt relaxing.
"All my normal shirts are still too tight. Feels like someone's sticking my boobs in a vice. Might be that way for a while, according to Kasumi." The reply was accompanied by a very sour frown for just a moment before Makoto's brush took away that bit of tension as well. Rei blinked for a moment as she took in the conversation before deciding she'd figure it out later.
"They shouldn't be that bad, Ranma." Kasumi responded, frowning as well in confusion.
"They probably aren't actually that bad, they just feel like it. This body just isn't quite as immune to discomfort as my male form. I think it's a girl thing. And quite honestly I don't wanna be going around the rest of the day feeling like I need to adjust myself constantly." Ranma reached out and picked up the envelope, glancing over it for a moment before ripping it open and reading over the letter in her hands. "Well well, that's a surprise."
"What did Cologne write about?"
"Apparently just to check on me. What actually surprises me, is that she doesn't mention anything about Shampoo and Mousse having kids."
"It's a surprise that she didn't mention it?" Rei cocked her head to one side for a moment.
"You'd have to know Shampoo to understand. She's a lot like Usagi, except more martial arts oriented. But she's very excitable, especially when it comes to those she loves. Besides, it's been over three years since we saw them, I'd expected her to have popped out at least two."
"Wasn't she one of the ones you had chasing you before?" Mako responded after a moment. She smiled as she started separating Ranma's tail into three section to get ready to braid it.
"Yep. She's a good person really once you come down to it, she just works on a very strange set of rules. Not a surprise coming from their village where 'Obstacles is for killing' is a motto, but still." Ranma explained between sandwiches. "Seriously though, you'd understand easier if you met her. I can't explain people very well."
"She is a bit of an airhead at times. But she's kind, easy going, and very passionate. Her tribe just has what most would consider to be barbaric rules when it comes to offenses and outsiders. So they are prone to violent behavior a bit more than what we would consider normal." Kasumi supplied as she picked up the letter off of the table and looked it over.
"There ya go, close enough." Ranma muttered as she drifted for a moment in the calm left from Makoto's brushing. She jerked back to full wakefulness after realizing the brush was no longer making it's runs through her mane. "What were we talking about before?"
"Did you notice that the letter says Cologne will be coming to visit some time, Ranma?" Kasumi asked, handing the letter back to the redhead. Makoto finished tying off the end of the braided ponytail, flipping it forward over Ranma's shoulder.
"Well, yeah, but since she doesn't know when, I didn't figure it was all that important right now." Ranma smiled as she looked at the braid for a moment. "Better job than I ever did with it on my own, Mako-chan."
"You will probably know when she is in the area before any of the rest of us anyway. I'm still not sure how you can tell from so far away." Kasumi commented as she started stacking plates to take back to the kitchen.
"Probably just because of my habit to occasionally reach out and feel for other auras. Kinda like you do with the house, just on a larger scale. Plus I'm really familiar with her aura."
"That is true I suppose. After all, I'm not the one who is always getting challenges."
"We ever get someone showing up for a challenge to Martial Arts housecleaning I'm turning them right over to you."
"Now, Ranma, that wouldn't be fair."
"You're right, I'd have to do it so they'd stand a chance." Ranma burst out laughing, getting a giggle out of the other girls as Kasumi looked flustered for a moment before she got up and went to the kitchen. "Besides, I probably won't actually sense Cologne. She likes to hide her aura. Not that I blame her, she's nearly on par with me for pure ki levels, she's just gotten slowed down a little bit by age. But hey, you expect that when you're three hundred and some years old, I'd guess."
"Wait, you can hide an aura?" Rei asked, suddenly curious.
"Well, yeah, to an extent. And it's almost a necessity if you're strong enough. If you were to just let it ride loose all the time, you'd be constantly affecting everyone around you to at least some extent. It's part of why people like Herb, someone I fought years ago, are so dangerous. As little as they care for their surroundings, there's no way they'd be able to actually keep themselves contained." Ranma held out her hand, pulling together a small ball of glowing blue ki. "I know you've seen my ki in action before. And I know that you at least can feel it, Rei, when I'm not actively using it. The problem is without a specific direction, it's just energy. A compacted ball of it in this case, and with a very specific feel to it from each person, but still just energy."
"You're right, I can feel it. It's the same way with our magic in our Senshi forms. I can feel it in action around us. I know the other girls can too."
"Seems to be part of your whole magical girl package." Ranma smirked as she let the energy dissipate from her hand.
"That's true, and we can almost always feel each other's powers from a small distance." Rei absently nibbled on the back of a knuckle while she tried to think for a moment.
"Speaking of feeling things, anyone else picking up on what I'm feeling?" Ranma asked, glancing around for a moment. Rei closed her eyes, clasping her hands together for a moment as she settled into a meditative state.
"Malice, anger, jealousy, sadness. Something feels very betrayed." Rei spoke up first, a saddened look on her face as she opened her eyes.
"It feels familiar too, but I can't place it. No one I knew was ever that mad. Well, except for Herb. And I think he's just mad at everything. All at once." Ranma's expression darkened, then relaxed after a moment as the force seemed to vanish from her senses. "Well, whatever is going on, I can't do anything about it right now."
"What do you mean?" Mako asked, wrapping her arms around the smaller girl and pulling her back against her. Ranma yelped slightly at the sudden movement as she found herself deposited in Mako's lap.
"Sometimes I get the feeling you get a major kick out of me being smaller than you in girl form." Ranma gave Mako a mock glare, earning her a giggle and an even tighter hug.
"Sorry, feeling cuddly." Makoto explained, a blush lighting her cheeks though her hands made no move to loosen.
"See what I have to deal with, Rei?" Ranma asked, doing her best to look pitiful. Rei snickered.
"Yes, you're being so tortured." the priestess finally replied.
"But yeah, whatever that was, it was outside of town. And it's gone already too. Hopefully it's not coming back, either." Ranma replied, looking thoughtful for a moment before allowing herself to relax once again.
"You nearly let the cat out of the bag that time, Voidling."
"How the hell was I supposed to know your brainwashing was gonna leave him pissed off enough to rip through our barrier?" Voidling shouted back, just before a bolt of black lightning flew from the darkness in front of her to scorch a patch of ground at her feet.
"Did we forget our place again, dear?" the metallic voice reverberated in the cavernous room for a moment.
"You could have at least warned me." Voidling crossed her arms and huffed to herself, every bit of her body language screaming in a way she wanted to vocally, but knew better than to allow herself to. "Why do we have to always be in Japan to start with, anyway? This would be so much easier somewhere away from all the super-powered beings, you know."
"Because all of the magic lines in the planet intersect nearest to here, you know this already."
"So with all of that magic nearby, we still have to be so careful that one pissed off guy throwing a tantrum nearly blows our cover?"
"And how was I to know, dear? I've been working on twisting his logic for years now without waking him up. Seeing the reaction is half the fun, after all."
"Fine then, but if he goes down when we do unleash him for real, I reserve the right to step in finally. Still irritated you won't let me actually go after them." The frown on Voidling's face possibly would have been adorable on a normal girl.
"It's never good to reveal all of one's cards immediately, Voidling. Patience."
"Speaking of cats, why aren't we using those? Isn't that one of his fears?"
"He's managed to defeat everything we've thrown at him so far. Do you really think putting him into an uncontrollable berserker state is a good idea?"
"It worked last time!"
"There was no one around to stop him before. This time he's never far enough away from his loved ones. And he's also befriended the Senshi. Even if they weren't enough to contain him, his loved ones would stop him."
"So we take them out?"
"He's never far enough away from them."
"We waited too long, Mistress. This dimension's timeline is too far ahead for us to do what we did before." Voidling sighed, her shoulders slumping as she uttered her conclusion.
"You may be right. We may have to just settle for killing all of them to get them out of the way. Or we could just destroy this one as well. There are other dimensions after all."
"Do we even have a way to change dimensions now? Pluto kinda took that piece we had left of her power back from us."
"I always have a way to do things, Voidling. Don't worry."
"And let me guess, you're going to insist that I hold off like you said?"
"What use is being in charge if you don't expect to be listened to?"
"How the hell would I know? I just open portals and turn shit loose!" Voidling threw her hands up in exasperation, before suddenly yelping as she dodged another lance of black lightning.
"What's wrong?" Makoto asked as Ranma suddenly stirred to life from where she'd fallen asleep in the larger girl's lap for a few minutes.
"Something wicked this way comes," Ranma replied cryptically, her eyes darting around the room. "Wait, nope, I was wrong, we're fine." A small meow from behind Makoto caused Ranma to instantly spring to the ceiling, clinging to it in a feat of martial arts mastery that caused Rei to boggle for a moment.
"Damnit, Luna, how many times do I have to ask you not to do that?!" Ranma asked in a near-panic as she looked down from her perch.
"I'm sorry, but I am a cat, and the opportunity for such mischief is hard to resist." Luna sat in place, smiling calmly.
"Fair enough, I suppose," Ranma replied as she dropped to the floor. "I guess I'd probably be the same way, if I were you."
"And forgive me for showing up without saying anything, but I just had to get away from Usagi's for the day."
"I hear she's been...energetic, since Mamoru showed back up." Makoto commented, as she stretched herself out before getting up from the floor.
"I think she's in heat." Luna said sourly, somehow managing to blush through her fur.
"Now, Luna, I'm sure she was just very happy to see Mamoru." Rei shook her finger as she spoke, freezing in place as Luna stared at her.
"They were working on round eight when I decided to vacate the apartment." Luna stated very seriously. Makoto whistled while Ranma began laughing.
"Well then, at least our Princess has stamina!" Ranma finally choked out.
"Wait a minute, I thought you were scared to death of cats, Ranma?" Makoto asked suddenly.
"Normally, I am. Luna and Artemis don't bother me, though. I think because they aren't real cats."
"I am so a real cat!" Luna argued, doing her feline best to scowl.
"Nope. Real cats scare me. You're a moon cat. You don't scare me." Ranma replied calmly. Luna waited a moment and meowed, smirking as Ranma tensed up instantly.
"Well, I'm a real enough cat to cause that in you." Ranma growled and then sighed.
"You know what I meant, furball. And before you say anything, you know I don't mean anything bad by that." Ranma held out her hand for a moment, smiling as Luna walked up to it and allowed herself to be petted.
"You know I don't just let everyone pet me, yes?" the black moon cat closed her eyes after a moment as Ranma's fingers found the spot she loved just behind her ears.
"Yeah, I know, now shush and let me actually enjoy myself a moment." Ranma replied as she reached out with both hands and started rubbing the full length of Luna's body. Kasumi smiled from the doorway to the kitchen.
"Interesting, a cat that Ranma can actually stand to be near." The eldest Tendo remarked to herself, remembering that Ranma had told her about the cats at one point, but having not seen it for herself. Makoto saw her in the doorway and quickly moved towards her.
"He wasn't kidding about the whole neko-ken thing before, right?" Makoto very quietly asked, earning her a very harsh shake of Kasumi's head, matched with an equally harsh frown. Makoto smiled wider. "I think this may be just the trick then to help fix that. The moon cats aren't quite normal, but they're still cats. They shouldn't mind. Or at least Luna won't. Artemis probably won't mind either. Or Luna will make him do it."
"Just be careful. That's one of the places where Ranma's training has made him very fragile. One misstep and it could turn dangerous."
"But look at him! You can see how much he wants to be able to be near them from that alone!"
"I agree. And I am not saying to not try to fix it. I'm just warning you to be extremely careful. It is a very fine line between Ranma merely being scared, and Ranma going into full neko-ken. Akane was able to bring him back out of the trance before, and I think it may work with you now too, but I can't be certain." The seriousness on Kasumi's face worried Makoto, and at the same time emboldened her.
"All the more reason to work on it, I think. Just slowly."
"How did you find my house anyway, Luna?" Ranma asked, her voice slightly strained as she fought the panic from listening to Luna purr.
"It's not hard to find this place. It does help that I tracked you home after a fight a few months ago though."
"Why'd you do that?"
"I'm afraid I'm not quite as trusting of people right away, like Usagi is."
"Well, that's understandable, I guess. I mean, you guys are kinda important, if what you've told me is true. Makes sense that at least one of you wouldn't trust everyone."
"Actually, Pluto is worse about that than I am. And she likes you. She can't figure out what to do with you, but she likes you. Ahhhhh, you always manage to find just the right spot to scratch." Luna's eyes were closed in a contented kitty look of pleasure as Ranma's fingers kept scratching at her.
"Uh oh, they're awake," Makoto muttered from in the kitchen before moving to walk down the hall. A few seconds later the first few scuffling sounds of the girls waking up came through the monitor, causing Rei to stare at it.
"Okay, I know you can do that, Ranma, but how did Mako do it?"
"She's been here for almost two and a half months now. Any time she's been awake, she's been watching me and Kasumi do exactly what she just did, and been listening to me and Tofu talk about ki and control. I'm not surprised she did it, except I don't think she realized she did it. Besides, it's her daughters. Isn't that a mother thing typically anyway?" Ranma smiled as she talked, picking up Luna and setting the feline adviser in her lap.
"So this is just a natural occurrence to you, then?" Rei smiled herself, watching as Luna seemed to melt in Ranma's hands.
"Yeah, pretty much. And if she didn't figure it out by now, then she would have a month from now. Now getting her to use it conciously, and in a fight, that is going to be the tricky part." Ranma nearly laughed as she had somehow gotten Luna to the point of being completely asleep. "There, happy k-k-kitty."
"I wonder how you'd get along with her daughter." Rei pondered aloud.
"She has a kid?"
"Well, sort of. It's complicated. Let's just say that if our current enemies are from another point in time, it wouldn't be the first time we've dealt with something like that."
"Used to that, eh?" Ranma asked, sighing as Rei nodded. "I was really hoping that wasn't the case, but Pluto says she locked them to this time. I'm just hoping that turns out to work in our favor."
"How could that not?"
"Well, we still don't know where they are. We have no idea what they're after, other than me, apparently. And what I still don't know, is why they're after me."
"Well, you're definitely the most prominent source of life energy in the area, and also possibly the greatest threat to anything of an evil nature."
"Um...wouldn't that be you ladies?" Ranma raised an eyebrow in confusion, gently setting Luna down on a nearby cushion.
"Yes, and no. We're possibly more powerful than you in terms of raw strength and magic. Or we might have been. And I'm really not even sure about the strength part of that." Rei scratched at her hair for a moment, her face scrunched slightly in thought. "But, now that you've gained your knight form from your relationship with Mako-chan, I'm not even really certain about either aspect. Ami would be able to tell you better than me, at least once she whips out the Mercury Computer. I could be wrong, for all I know."
"Well, it doesn't really change anything, I suppose. They're after me, or that's how it seems. Nothing we can't handle." Ranma cocked her head to one side for a moment, smiling as she stood up. "Be right back, I think Mako has her hands full back there."
"Mistreeeeesss!" Voidling came running out of the side room in the darkened base, her face stricken in panic.
"What now, Voidling?"
"What exactly did you do to him? Because I'm actually fairly certain I can't control him. I had to put him back to sleep. He was nearly breaking your reinforced restraints." Voidling visibly trembled in place.
"Oh? Perhaps I misjudged his usefulness then. Still won't quite match her, but perhaps he can weaken our problem child for us."
"Do you think that'll work?" Voidling looked ready to jump out of her skin, constantly glancing back at the doorway she had just come from.
"We'll find out soon. Not today, much too soon, he'll still be expecting it. But soon enough."
"Having problems?" Ranma asked as she walked into the nursery, both babies crying and Makoto looking ready to join them.
"Yes, I am, Kokoro woke up and got cranky, and got her sister started. Here, take her for a moment while I see if I can get Emiko calmed back down."
"Better idea, less fuss. Let me get Emiko." Ranma reached down into the crib, gently picking up the darker haired child. As they both quickly worked on calming the two children down, Rei showed up in the doorway, smiling gently.
"Come back to watch the show?" Ranma quipped, smirking at the priestess.
"Not so much. I want children of my own some day, so I guess you could say I'm trying to look for pieces of how it will be. Besides, it's the children of one of my best friends. I like the idea of being able to help with the girls." Rei replied. Makoto caught a whiff of something in the air, crinkling her nose.
"Guess you can help with diaper time then, oh man." Makoto theatrically pinched her nose shut with one hand while headed for the changing table. Ranma just laughed as Rei began to re-think her idea.
"Seriously Ranma, it's been three weeks now since I had the girls. You can't treat me like I'll break forever." Makoto was getting visibly irritated with her boyfriend's reluctance to begin seriously training her as they stood out by the koi pond.
"You're sure you feel ready to start on this? Because once you start, I'm not gonna let you back out. You said we're equals, so I'll do my damnedest to pull you up to my level as fast as I can. I won't make the same mistake I made with Akane for so long." Ranma had both of his hands planted on his hips, one eyebrow arched in question.
"I'm not a china doll, Ranma. Yes, I'm probably still sore in a few places I won't realize till we're done, but I'm not going to stand back and be the protected little princess all the time. Or did you forget that I'm one of Princess Serenity's protectors myself?"
"No, I definitely didn't forget, I just...you know, I'm not sure I even have a real excuse other than my own protectiveness." Makoto smiled suddenly, stopping Ranma in his tracks.
"That's okay then. But seriously, train me. I want to get started on this. You want to help me get closer to your level, and that's exactly what I wanted to begin with. Besides, what better protection could you give me than making sure you don't have to protect me?"
"You know, I don't think I ever really thought about it that way." Ranma's face took on a slight smile that quickly worked it's way into a full grin the more he thought about it. "I definitely wish that had crossed my mind before. Damn, so much time wasted because I was looking at it all wrong. Cologne must have thought I was an idiot. Well, in that case get set, because first thing's first. We're gonna spar, I'm gonna find your problems, and you're gonna regret them." Ranma's grin went almost full feral, causing Makoto to swallow nervously as she started to wonder if maybe she had made a mistake.
Fifteen minutes passed by in a hurry as Makoto found herself pressed to the very edge of her abilities. As Ranma landed from a particularly acrobatic set of kicks, she stumbled backwards, her exhaustion settling in at last.
"Damn you...so fast," Mako gasped out between breaths as she gulped in more air trying to re-energize her battered limbs.
"Do me a favor," Ranma stated, earning him a questioning glance from his currently seated girlfriend. "Change." Makoto's look quickly turned to a scowl.
"I'm...not sure I can yet." Ranma quirked an eyebrow at her once more.
"Shouldn't you be able to tell?"
"Well, yes, I think, but I don't know. I mean, this isn't exactly a situation any of us have been through except for apparently Setsuna, and she wasn't exactly in the right frame of mind to pay attention to small details like feeling a difference in her powers being latent or active."
"True. So give it a shot?" Ranma pressed as he crossed his arms.
"Sure, why not?" Makoto replied as she stood back up with only a little shakiness left in her legs. She quickly called forth her Crystal Change Rod. "Jupiter Crystal Power, MAKE UP!"
Ranma smirked as the power levels around him changed. He was sure he'd felt a change in her strength midway through the fight, and had gambled that her powers were making a comeback. As the light faded he watched critically as Sailor Jupiter finished her transformation with a small flourish.
"We're gonna have to find a way to get you changed a little faster. Won't always have time to pose." He smiled playfully as his girlfriend gave him a rude gesture.
"Sorry, it's kinda built-in to the suit, so to speak. We don't do that because we're all show-offs. I do feel a lot better in Senshi form now, though. I'd forgotten just how much of a refresher this was." Ranma smiled and triggered his own transformation, cocking his head to one side lazily as the near-instantaneous flash left him changed.
"Well, either my form is more business than yours is, or we just need to figure out how to shut off the fancy mode. Maybe we can talk to Setsuna about it some time. Now, ready for round two?" Ranma asked as he dropped into a stance, unlike what he had done before where he'd allowed himself to just stand there until Makoto had moved, unconsciously mirroring his first spar with Akane.
"That's fine by me," Jupiter cracked her knuckles, feeling far more confident now with her Senshi powers quickly building back up. Lightning crackled over her body for a moment before she dropped into her own stance.
"Karate, right? I didn't mention it before. Didn't wanna sidetrack you." Ranma asked quickly as he studied her form.
"Good basis to work from. Should be able to ease you into the rest of Anything Goes from there. Now...begin." Ranma blurred forward, leaving Makoto barely enough time to get her arm up to block the roundhouse kick. She stepped forward into his stance, bringing her other fist in close to his face. Her dismay at seeing him bend back out of the strike was quickly replaced as her senses kicked in, determination setting in as she took a kick to her side below her ribs. She grunted with the impact and brought her arm down, locking Ranma's leg and moving to slam the rest of him into the ground. Again she was foiled as Ranma quickly twisted and brought the other leg up attempting to kick her in the side of the head. She blocked the kick without releasing her hold, keeping her grip even as a second and third kick rocked her arm. Ranma smirked from where he was, proud to see her determined not to give up her seeming advantage. "You've had my leg long enough."
Makoto barely processed the comment before Ranma suddenly spun the other direction, his free leg whipping down and under her legs, knocking her to the ground. The loss of air in her lungs as she impacted was audible and Ranma quickly stopped where he was. "You alright?"
"I...ow," was all Makoto could get out as she laid there for a moment. Ranma held out a hand and pulled her to her feet.
"Sorry, don't think I pulled that quite as much as I thought I did. Still not completely used to the boost in power this form gives me." Ranma rubbed at the back of his head in embarassment for a moment.
"Well, it's certainly not helping that I'm a bit out of shape myself after my enforced vacation. So, what say we give it another shot after I get my breath back?" Ranma nodded and stepped back, waiting as a smile lit his face. This was going to be glorious. Nowhere near full power even without his transformation, but this showed promise.
"Cavorting with magical girls now, are we, child?" Ranma's smile grew even wider as Cologne's voice rang out from the porch behind him. He turned to greet her, tilting his head to the side even as her staff impaled the space his face had just been occupying. "Oh, you've gotten even faster than before."
"Hey, Old Ghoul. You're still not looking any younger." Ranma quipped as the two started to exchange blows furiously, causing Makoto to stare in wonder as she tried to follow their attacks and failed to keep up. After a few minutes the two broke and dropped back, bowing deeply to each other. "I swear you change styles every time I think I've finally got you pinned down, Cologne."
"I have no choice with you, child. If I stay with one style too long you'll figure out how to counter it and then I'll have to try even harder to keep up." Cologne cackled as she pulled out her pipe. "So, what trouble have you been causing in Japan since I went back to the village?"
"You mean other than helping out magical girls for the past year or so? Nothing much, actually. The government finally stepped in and started helping people out shortly after you left, so I've been mostly left alone." Ranma answered, setting himself down on the porch next to Cologne. Makoto walked over and sat down on his other side, wrapping herself around his arm.
"How have the others been?" Cologne asked as she lazily blew out a small cloud of smoke.
"Well, the Kunos are both in an asylum, finally. Ryoga actually disappeared shortly after Second Impact-" Ranma started to explain, stopping suddenly as Cologne turned her head sharply.
"Yeah, that's what they started calling that meteor that hit down in the South Pole." Ranma replied, shrugging lightly. "Something to do with the dinosaurs dieing off being the first one or something. I didn't really pay much attention."
"Such strange people in these days. And what of Happosai?" Cologne indulged her curiosity as she returned to her contemplation of the sky and her pipe.
"I'm really not sure. He was actually helping out as much as I was for a while, but then he just disappeared. I haven't felt his aura at all since then." Ranma responded, realizing suddenly that Mako was happily wrapped around his arm, and that he had never even noticed it. He filed away the thought for later.
"Very strange. Not so much that Happi would help people, but that he would just up and disappear." Cologne admitted as she tapped the ashes from her pipe, giving it a quick spin to cool it off before returning it to her robes.
"Yeah, I gotta admit I don't like the idea of not trying to figure out what happened to him, but I'd have no idea where or how to even start looking. He's always just came and gone as he pleased." Ranma returned, shrugging once more. The frown on his face told more than his posture did.
"True, true. That is, after all, the way Happi prefers to be." Cologne nodded sagely, as if discussing the weather. For all the good it would do, they may as well have done so.
"I didn't expect to see you for a few more weeks at least." Ranma said after a few minutes of calmly watching the sky.
"I honestly wasn't meaning to be here so soon, but Shampoo simply wouldn't wait it seems." Cologne sighed noisily, seemingly exasperated.
"Shampoo's with you?" Ranma asked, already trying to head off imagined cries of 'You, I kill!' when she saw Makoto.
"Yes, she should be here shortly. Her and Mousse stayed behind at the train to take care of the luggage and bid me arrive here ahead of them. I do hope we won't be imposing." Cologne nodded her head slowly, bowing lightly with the unasked request for hospitality.
"Nah, it shouldn't be a big deal. We've got a good bit more room now since we remodeled the house." Ranma waved off the idea, already ignoring any additional fuss it would cause. He'd just have to help Kasumi out some more.
Sudden crying from inside the house cause Cologne's eyes to widen.
"My, my, now what ELSE have you been up to, child?" Cologne turned from her spot on the porch to peer into the family room, a warm smile widening her face. "It seems your definition of 'nothing much' and my own differ a slight bit."
"Yeah, well, what can I say? My life's been a bit of a bumpy ride from one big thing to the next. I guess I'm just too used to it. Come inside and meet our children." Ranma waved Cologne in as he walked in to see Kasumi had already calmed down Kokoro. Emiko stared up at them from her spot on the floor. Cologne peered down at her, causing a wide grin to appear on the baby's face, earning a laugh from Ranma. "Huh, and here I figured your face would just scare them like it does me."
"Respect your elders, boy." Cologne replied habitually as she rolled her eyes.
"Yeah, right. The day I start doing that you won't believe it's me." Ranma's cheeky grin never left his face, while Makoto's own warm smile wasn't lost on Cologne.
"You said 'our children', so I assume that your magical girl companion here is the mother?" Cologne asked after a moment as Emiko started to giggle and coo, her hands grasping at the air as babies are often enthused with doing.
"Yeah, she is. Sorry I didn't introduce you before. This is Kino Makoto."
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Cologne-san. Ranma's told me quite a few stories involving you." Mako bowed deeply as she looked over the ancient woman before her.
"And you're still talking to me?" Cologne cackled for a moment, her merriment causing Emiko to burble with laughter as well. "I'm surprised, I was quite the thorn in his side for some time."
"What you taught me outweighed what pain you caused me," Ranma said easily, a wide smile on his face. "Besides, I think we're all on much better terms now."
"True enough, child. Where are your parents, by the way? I thought for sure they'd have been here."
"They've actually been spending a lot of time out looking for a new place to live. Their old home didn't hold up well through the flooding and tremors. Mom isn't liking the new apartment buildings that have gone up though, so I think they're trying to find one of the old homes." Ranma talked as he picked up Emiko, the child cooing in happiness. "Actually, since you're here Cologne, would you mind helping me out with training Makoto for a bit? It would be better to have someone more experienced than myself to help get her caught up in a hurry."
"You sound as if you expect trouble, Ranma," Cologne replied, sipping at the cup of tea that Makoto had disappeared to retrieve.
"I am. Let's just say that things have been more than a bit exciting around here the last year or so." A knock at the door interrupted Ranma, making him cock his head in curiosity. He probed out with his senses as Kasumi carefully handed Kokoro over to Makoto. "Well, there's Shampoo and Mousse, so I can wait till they get in here to tell you about what all's going on."
"I'm surprised they got here so quickly. I fully expected them to take another twenty minutes at least as slowly as Shampoo's been moving lately. Well, that and some sightseeing, of course." Cologne merely sipped at her tea, leaving Ranma in minor confusion.
"Slow? Shampoo? Did she get injured back over in China or something?" Ranma asked, reeling back as Cologne cackled once more.
"Oh, no, nothing of the sort, just...well, you'll see in a moment."
Ranma decided to play along with Cologne's game as he waited for Kasumi to come back down the hall. Something in the auras was bothering him though, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it. As Ranma watched Shampoo and Mousse follow Kasumi around the corner of the hall, he started laughing as Makoto's eyes widened.
"Well damn, and I thought I got big," Makoto said after a moment.
"Called it, I freaking called it!" Ranma's laughter was boisterous, setting off Emiko in another round of giggles. "What did I say?"
"Nihao, Ranma," Shampoo said as she slowly continued to walk into the room, her progress impeded by her very, very pregnant stomach. Ranma smiled as he stood up and walked over, quickly wrapping his one free arm around her in a friendly hug. He turned and shook Mousse's hand after, before waving them into the room.
"Nihao, Shampoo, Mousse. So, have a seat, looks like we've all got some stories to tell." Cologne merely cackled again from her position at the table.
"Quite right, child. Quite right, indeed."
My most sincere apologies readers. This chapter just refused and refused to write for some reason for the longest time. My only excuse is that I refused to settle with it until I felt it was of appropriate length to match with the rest of my chapters. Here's to hoping you all enjoy this installment. I shall do my best to make sure that the next one isn't nearly so long a wait.