Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 and it's characters are the product and property of Rumiko Takahashi and Viz video.

The Juuban Incident

Chapter Eleven

By Michael Fetter

After Ranma disappeared, everything went to hell.

Several days ago she had walked out of Cherry Hill shrine with the intent to think on her own. The others could understand this and let her go in peace. Usagi and her friends tried to consider ways of helping the girl, but with the magic of Jusenkyou tied to the pure heart crystal there wasn't really anything they could do.

Ryouga had disappeared not long after Ranma did, but that was normal for the strange boy. He sometimes got lost for weeks at a time before returning with gifts for Ranma. They wondered what he would do now after hearing what Ranma said about her true form.

That was strange. No one could picture Ranma as a boy. She acted like one until her breakdown in the park, but all anyone could ever see was a cute tomboy. Ranma was Akane's, Ukyou's, and Ami's friend and they were having the hardest time with this. Ukyou had been particularly trouble by the news especially knowing about Genma and his curse.

When Mamoru woke up the next day in his apartment he tried looking around for Ranma, but she had apparently not returned home yet. He knew she could take care of herself and didn't worry too much. Akane and Ukyou decided to stay with him for the weekend and to talk to Ranma whenever she got back.

After three days without a word, everyone was afraid something had happened. Powerful as Ranma was, she had been the focus of numerous daemon attacks. It wasn't likely they were just going to stop until they had her. So when Monday came, Akane and Ukyou skipped school to look for Ranma and fight the daemons they came across.

The daemons. That was a real problem. The day after Ranma's disappearance the number of attacks increased. Sometimes several daemons would attack simultaneously on different sides of the city. The Sailor Scouts were being spread thin in order to cover the attacks. With the help of the Amazons, Akane, and Ukyou a little of the pressure was relieved but not enough. Not when the Sailor Scouts were still the only ones capable of destroying the daemons.

Late afternoon on Monday, Akane and Ukyou returned from another fight with a vending machine daemon. As ridiculous as they looked, the daemons were tough and it showed in the bruises the girls sported afterwards.

Ukyou collapsed upon the couch and closed her eyes. A cut on her cheek had healed on the walk home, but her collar was stained red. She groaned in a little pain. "Good thing I got all of that training from Ranchan or I wouldn't be able to keep up with this war the Sailor Scouts are having."

Akane nodded silently and walked stiffly towards the kitchen for something to eat. Her strength was growing a little each day with the number of ki attacks she'd had to use. Akane had always wanted to get stronger, just like Ranma-san, but not like this.

She wished Ranma were here now. Things were never this tough with the redhead around. Akane was also very worried for her friend. What if the girl had been worse than they thought? Would Ranma . . .

Akane shook herself from thinking that way. Ranma-san was strong. The girl just needed a little time. "Where can she be? It's been three days and no sign."

"You heard her," Ukyou muttered with a forced smile. "Ranchan probably needs a little time to think things through. Considering what Ami told her and all."

"I know Ranma-san wouldn't run away. So where is she?" Akane pressed. She didn't expect any answers, but she couldn't help but voice her thoughts. No one had understood her like Ranma-san. The girl was so nice, bashed perverts, practiced the Art, and she was cute. Akane admitted to idolizing the redhead a little.

Ukyou sat up and put her arm around the shorter girl's shoulders when Akane sat down on the couch. "We'll keep looking, sugar. Ranchan will turn up somewhere."

Akane passed her friend a soda and the two drank them slowly while staring at the blank television. The phone broke the silence moments later and Mamoru slammed open the front door and dashed for it.

"Hello?" He listened quietly for a moment and his face fell. He looked haggard and worried. Ranma's absence had affected him quite deeply. "For you," he said, absently holding out the phone to Akane.

Ukyou shook her head as she watched the boy leave the room. She supposed she could sympathize having gone through something similar when she was six. "The guys going to have a nervous breakdown."

"Nabiki?" Akane became nervous as she listened to the person on the other end of the phone call. "Um, yeah, we're still here. School? Uh, I don't suppose you could- . . . Thanks Nabiki." Akane sighed. Her sister could probably get her excused for a little while. It was better than putting up with angry teachers. She grew tense again and glanced at Ukyou who watched her curiously. "Ranma? Oh, Ranma's fine. Can you talk to her? No, she's uh, in the bathroom?"

The toilet flushed and the girls saw Mamoru walk out of the bathroom a moment later.

Akane laughed nervously. "Yes, I heard it too." She quelled under a new onslaught of demands. If anyone knew what happened to Ranma then things were likely to get difficult, especially if they found out the Sailor Scouts were involved. Akane was grasping for straws; she wasn't as good at lying creatively as her sister. "No, you can't talk to her because she doesn't like you." Akane hung her head after the words left her mouth. Her sister decided to let her off easy though. "How many pictures? Okay. Bye, Nabiki."

Ukyou pat the girl's shoulder in sympathy. "That's rough."

Akane groaned.

~

"I can't believe her. I'm going to kill that bitch the next time I see her."

Minako looked up surprised as Rei began to make a familiar circuit around the shrine, stomping. No one had seen her do it in at least a few days though. "Ranma?"

Rei scowled. "No, the other one. Pluto." She made another circuit, trying her best to put her foot through the floorboards. "She could have gotten us killed! What the hell was she thinking?"

"She was manipulating us just like Mamoru was saying," Makoto answered. None of them like this. Things had really fallen apart in their group without them even realizing it. How many people suffered because they had been so focused on Ranma? Ami told them later about the other daemon attacks that were launched while the Sailor Scouts were 'occupied'. That wasn't the worst of it.

"This was a lot easier when Ranma was around," Usagi whined and nibbled on a cookie. Makoto's cooking wasn't that great today and it fit her mood perfectly.

They were all tired and a little beat from recent events.

Flicking a few more keys on her computer, Ami closed the top and set it away in subspace. "They must be ready to do whatever it is they're planning."

"How is that, Ami?" Minako asked.

"These daemon. There's no purpose to sending them out."

The room tensed at the implications. Rei slowed her rant and looked disturbed at Ami. "What are you saying?"

"They're doing this on purpose to exhaust us," she answered with worry lacing her words. "Mistress Nine doesn't want us getting in her way."

"That makes sense." Makoto rubbed at a sore shoulder and looked about the room. It seemed empty right now even with all of them there. "What about Chibi-Usa? I haven't seen her around lately."

Usagi's voice trembled when she spoke. "She disappeared before Ranma did. Maybe she went back to the future? She should have known when things would get too dangerous for her, right?"

They were hesitant to answer that. Makoto answered since she had been the one to ask.

"Yeah. We'll probably be back to annoy us when this is all over with," she said as jokingly as possibly. Usagi returned it with a small smile that did nothing to make her look any happier.

Everyone was startled when Rei punched the wall. "We have to find the Outers. They must know something about this."

~

Michiru's foot tapped the kitchen floor in an off beat while she waited for the house to stop rattling. It didn't happen often, but the sound was putting her on edge. Trying not to think about it, Michiru scrubbed at the dishes in the sink a little harder. She jumped when someone suddenly spoke.

"What is that noise?"

Haruka dashed in from the living room to look over the green-haired woman. Michiru winced at the obvious loss of hair and the slow magical recovery of several burn marks. "Setsunna, are you okay?"

"You look like hell," Haruka added.

Setsunna snorted and grabbed some instant coffee from the cupboard with a swollen hand. "I'm fine, but what the hell is that noise."

The girls stopped as a low keening sound filled the house.

Michiru rung her hands and looked pleadingly at Setsunna. "It's her. The girl. We can't keep her quiet."

Haruka tried to calm her lover down, draping her hands around the woman's waist and whispering into her ear. Michiru didn't listen and jumped again when she was touched. "I don't think this was right. We shouldn't have done this. Are you sure we had to, Setsunna. I've got a bad feeling about this. We shouldn't have done this."

Setsunna dismissed the ranting with a wave of her hand and filled a cup with hot water. "Keep calm, Michiru. Everything is being taken care of. This will all be over soon and you will have saved millions of lives."

"What happens to her though!" Michiru cried. Setsunna could see the girl's eyes were red with worry and lack of sleep. Her hair was a mess of tangles and it looked like she had claw marks on her arms. "Are we going to kill her? She's just a kid."

"She's not a kid," Setsunna insisted while lazily rolling the coffee bag in her cup. "She's a casualty of war."

Haruka had other concerns and frowned at her comrade. "And the Inners? When they learn about this . . ."

"They are as involved in this as we are. The girl's sacrifice will mean as much to them as it does to us." Setsunna grumbled and looked at the two concerned women with distaste then tossed out the used coffee bag. The whine returned and Setsunna rubbed at her temple. "Damn it, stop that damn noise."

Haruka glared at the woman and growled. "How do we do that? She burns through the chains with that magic of hers if we don't watch her constantly."

Setsunna was already heading back to her room to rest and recuperate. Her battle with Dark Saturn had left her injured in the Time gates until she woke up earlier today. All she wanted was time to think and heal. "Then make her too weak to use her magic. Stop feeding her."

Haruka almost gagged at the callous way Setsunna had suggested it. The girl in her arms shook her head and sobbed hysterically into her chest. Haruka was starting to have doubts, but this was for the good of the future. "It's okay, Michiru. We're doing the right thing."

The trembling died off as Ranma must have run out of energy to use. The redhead was down there, in the basement, tied to a table with a standing IV hooked to her arm, keeping her drugged.

~

Late at night, during a blessed lull in the attacks, the Sailors took the time to try and get some sleep. Though they were warriors of love and justice, they were also teenage girls. Dealing with daemons would be easier if not for their normal lives and the need to keep their identities secret in case of direct attacks.

Ami was not the most active member in the group, but even she was beginning to get exhausted. She knew what the enemy was doing to them, but they didn't have the option of not responding to the attacks. When her computer beeped upon intercepting a familiar energy signature she barely had the strength to roll over.

"Hmm?" Ami watched the computer sleepily and waited for a second beep to prove she hadn't dreamed it. When nothing came she was satisfied and buried her head beneath the sheets.

Receiving no commands the data was erased as unimportant and continued its scans.

~

"Cross School Exchange?" Even with the past few days, Ukyou couldn't get over how quickly Nabiki had gotten Akane and her into Juuban High School. They were excused from the dress code as well. That meant Nabiki had to have 'friends' in administration, maybe higher. "Akane, your sister is scary."

Akane nodded in understanding. She looked about the school with fascination. The boys here didn't act at all like the ones at Furinkan. She hadn't had to beat on anyone! One guy had hit on her, but when she told him to leave he did something completely unexpected; he left! Her thoughts trailed back to Nabiki saying not all guys are perverts. Was it possible? "I know. At least this way we can keep looking for Ranma and helping the Sailor Scouts with the daemons."

Ukyou's smile was getting harder and harder to make as the week passed without word from their friend. She knew Ranma was used to living out in the woods, but wouldn't she have at least returned for her backpack by now? "She's fine, Akane. Nothing can keep Ranchan down."

The two left for class and tried not to think about what might be happening to their friend if their fears were ever confirmed. The daemons seemed to only want Ranma's heart crystal, but the Outers, especially Pluto, had wanted to make the redhead suffer.

Ami's computer beeped softly. She read the data and her face went grim. She glanced at the other Scouts in the room and then to the teacher.

"Now?" Makoto grimaced. Most of the attacks were happening in the evening and night. It had been easier to get away to fight, but in the middle of classes? This would be tough.

"What's going on?" Akane asked in a whisper. Her answer was a waving hand and she watched Usagi stand up.

The teacher caught the movement. "Something you want to share with us, Tsukino?"

"Uh, no?" Usagi answered with a weak smile. She looked desperate until Ami stood up as well and guided Usagi to the door.

"Sorry, Haruna-sensei, but we've got to go."

"Family emergency," Makoto supplied at the teacher's questioning look. Minako followed with a nervous grin.

Akane looked at Ukyou and nodded. Both stood up and followed the others out the door. The class began to whisper and discuss various rumors while Haruna-sensei started to look very mad.

"I don't see why you have to go then," he snapped at the other girls.

Akane balked. "Uh, emotional support?"

After they all left the building and started running for some place to change, Ukyou caught up to Ami. "What's going on, hon?"

"Mugen Gakuen is under attack," the younger girl answered.

"Now?" Minako cried. She had been missing a lot of beauty sleep and the bags under her eyes couldn't be easily hidden with make up.

Makoto stepped into an alleyway after Usagi and pulled out her henshin pen for a quick change. "They've never gone all out like this before. What the hell could they be doing?"

Ami finished her spin and analyzed more data in her Sailor Mercury form. "I don't know. Maybe they need more heart crystals. This would be a perfect way to get some. A big school with plenty of daemons."

That disturbed them and they jumped for the roofs followed a moment later by Akane and Ukyou. The two martial artists weren't as good as the Sailor Scouts or even the Amazons, but they were getting better. After the disappearance of Ranma, the Amazons had begun coming the city as well as they could, but came back with no leads. They had only been able to find where Ranma had disappeared, but not why.

Approaching the school in question, Minako noticed the first daemons circling the perimeter. Why weren't they inside? Daemons weren't usually so subtle.

"There!" Sailor Venus charged the first opponent and readied a magical attack on the way. She bounced off of nothing so suddenly it had startled the girls following her. Venus sat up and rubbed her nose and stared at the great wall of nothing in her way. "What the hell was that?!"

Sailor Mercury's visor was already picking up the energy signal surrounding the school. "It's some sort of magical shield." Her gloved fingers brushed over the smooth surface and felt for magical vibrations. There were none. The shield was stable and steel hard. "This would take an immense amount of power to maintain."

Usagi stared into the Mugen Gakuen school grounds. "Like a school filled with kids?"

"Oh shit," Akane whispered.

"You said it, sugar."

~

The winds outside began to pick up as night began to fall. Clouds overhead were hiding the moon and cutting out what little light there would be normally.

From her new position inside of the school, Mistress Nine watched the coming storm slowly develop into what should be a raging thunderstorm. The world was trembling just as her plans were coming to completion. Despite the efforts of the Sailor Scouts, Mistress Nine would see her master released.

Everyone was not of the same opinion, however. Dr. Tomoe had begun to resist his dark essence as time approached and they had still to garner even one of the pure heart crystals. Nothing else had the power to undo the seal holding Pharoah Ninety back.

Tomoe sniffed with disgust once again as he paced the area inside the school. The bodies of students had been dragged away to clear the site, but it seemed futile without the necessary tools for the ritual. "Time is up, Mistress Nine. So much for your plans. They have achieved nothing and the Sailor Scouts will find us eventually."

Mistress Nine glanced over her shoulder to the man walking back and forth in front of his unconscious daughter. She wondered if he was starting to realize what was happening or if there was some moral goodness in him left to care. The other girl sat on the floor with chains around her hands and leading to a wall. She had cried long enough that Mistress Nine had become irritated with her and almost decided to kill her sooner. The need for a live body to fool Sailor Moon was all that saved her. "I have thing in hand, doctor," she smirked to his annoyance.

Snorting with contempt, Tomoe nodded sarcastically. "Yes. And you were also supposed to get that girl too, weren't you? The scouts have all three pure heart crystals and we have none. How were you planning to free our master? Pray? We're on the wrong side of morality for that."

"Thank you, doctor. You have a charming wit." She turned back to the window to watch a bolt of lightning streak across the sky and light up the small battle occurring on the courtyard. The daemons were slowly, but surely, wearing down the Sailor Scouts. "No, this runt is more useful to us than I had thought. Sailor Moon will come and she will bring the Grail with her. And unless she wants this one to die, she will hand it over to me." She grinned nastily at the frightened Chibi-Usa and squeezed a slick mass now in her hands. "Of course, I'll be needing your heart crystal before that." The girl shuddered when Mistress Nine dragged a line of blood across her cheek. "Does that explain things, doctor?" Mistress Nine asked, tossing the heart she'd plucked from his chest over her shoulder. The man's response was to tip over and splat into the growing crimson pool at his feet. "Good."

~

From a rooftop across the street, the Outers were also watching the battle between the Sailor Scouts and the daemons. The martial artists fighting alongside of them were good for humans, but they couldn't compare in firepower with the Sailor Scouts. As it was they were slowly being pushed back. The horde of attacking daemons seemed endless, for every one killed another two would appear just outside of the magical shield.

Michiru winced as a pair of daemons broke through Jupiter's dwindling defenses and laid her out across the ground. Venus rushed in to help her comrade, but the damage had been done and Jupiter was limping about the battle throwing slower attacks.

The Amazons were quite a sight while fighting against the daemons. Their attacks were more coordinated and elegant than the Scouts' idea of bowl over the enemy with sheer force.

For a second time since the battle had started, a tornado pulled several daemons into the air and Mars thoughtfully added her own brand of magic to the mix. Crowds being held back several blocks away could see the spectacle. The Outers wondered if the old woman was some sort of magical girl as well. The thought was almost frightening.

The two girls who had claimed to receive training from Ranma were having the same trouble as the rest. It was obvious Akane was tiring from using her ki while covering Ukyou's back, and the chef had lost almost all of her throwing spatulas. The big combat spatula was severely dented after meeting a daemon composed of gumballs.

"They're never going to get past that shield," Neptune said, concerned. She and Uranus may not have gotten off on the right foot with the Inners, but she didn't want to see them killed. They were all Sailor Scouts and they should care for each other. She and Uranus just couldn't join them though. They had to get to the ritual and stop it from happening.

Uranus nodded after watching an Amazon slam both of her bonbori onto a daemon's head and crush it. "Those daemons are going to finish them if things don't change."

"What do we do?" Neptune asked anxiously.

Uranus tried to think while keeping an eye on the action. With the Inners fighting the daemons the front door wasn't accessible even if the shield were down. From what she could tell, the shield extended upwards, like a wall, too high to jump over from what Moon had discovered. She suddenly grinned and looked back to the barricade set up a few blocks back. "The army is helping close off the area, isn't it?"

Neptune nodded slowly. "Yeah. Why?"

She really didn't like the grin that crawled across her lover's face.

~

There was a musty-sweet smell in the air that made Setsunna's nose tingle as she descended into the basement of the Outer's home. She'd sent the others ahead to find a way into the school and disrupt the ceremony as back up in case Sailor Moon arrived too late. Sailor Pluto wasn't too worried though. The pure heart crystal would be in the right hands in a few more minutes.

When she opened the door she could see the bound redhead lying back on a table, straps leading from her hands and feet to the legs of the table. The IV stand stood to the right with the bag nearly empty of its contents. Having kept the girl there for a week, Haruka and Michiru had removed her clothes to make cleaning her easier. They'd discovered Ranma had a problem with muscle control while being pumped up with morphine and muscle relaxants.

The girl looked exhausted though she'd been lying there for a week. It was hard to sleep with her mind constantly jumbling facts and focusing on things that weren't there. Setsunna imagined that Ranma was truly scared for the second time in her life. Of course, nothing would compare to what her own father did to her.

Pulling a tray closer to the table and a stool set beside the redhead, Setsunna tapped her nose coyly and waited for Ranma's eyes to flutter open. She'd waited a half-hour for the girl's recuperative abilities purge enough of the drugs to see her clearly and understand what was about to happen.

Slightly glazed eyes stared at her after a moment and Setsunna smiled back. She flattened out her Sailor suit and sat down beside the table.

"Do you know what's going on out there?" Setsunna nodded towards the closed door. "Your friends, Mamoru, Akane, Ukyou, the Inners, and those damn Amazons, they are all fighting a losing battle. A battle they can not win because they are missing something. Some vital piece to the puzzle."

There was anger in the girl's eyes. Setsunna could admire her spirit if nothing else. The little bitch had caused enough trouble and she wouldn't dignify the little insect's life with any better. She ran a finger over her bare skin, drawing a white line up across one breast and over Ranma's neck. The redhead recoiled at the touch.

Reaching her cheek, Setsunna cupped the left half of Ranma's face and turned her to look Sailor Pluto in the eyes. "Look at you. You're so pale, Ranma. Have you been eating well?" She chuckled at the hate burning brighter in the girl's eyes. Setsunna could see the glaze retreating faster and faster.

Ranma tried to pull at her bonds, but her muscles still wouldn't cooperate and she settled for glaring at her tormentor.

Setsunna got a distant look as she sat beside the redhead. "It's been hard on us all, you know. Having you here. Unable to go a single day without hearing you whine. Michiru has been getting nightmares and it's setting Neptune and Uranus on edge." She could think of her own life beside the Time Gates, constantly wondering when things would change and she could return to the living world. All of those voices and lives passing before her eyes in the Time Stream and she was the only being unable to join in. She couldn't hold her love close when fears wormed their way into her heart.

There were times when she poked at the Time Stream and thought reviving the Moon Kingdom would be impossible. Setsunna had to shut those emotions away. Fear, loneliness, and despair, they got in the way of her goal. This noble future was something she had been working on for millennia and no little bit of emotion was going to get in the way. No bit of chaos would disrupt the future she had dictated in the Time Gates.

Certainly not this insignificant peasant. But she was also like Ranma. Setsunna knew the girl's life and how very similar it was to her own. To be taken from everything she held dear and forced to endure one hardship after another.

"It's time to end all that, Ranma," Setsunna cooed while picking up a gleaming instrument with delicate fingers. The steel reflected into Pluto's eyes even in the low light of the basement. "I hope you can understand why we had to do this in the next life."

Very deliberately, Setsunna placed the knife into Ranma's field of vision and then dipped it into her flesh just below the breastbone. Setsunna saw the girl's eyes go wide and her mouth trying to form a scream around her gag.

Placing her free hand on the girl's forehead, Pluto stroked the red hair gently. "I'm sorry. I don't have the power to remove the heart crystal less painfully. This will hurt. You can scream if you want. There's no one around to hear you."

She pushed in further and Ranma did scream. Her shriek pierced the room like a dying phoenix. Setsunna cut downwards to open a hole and then put the knife aside, dripping with blood. Her hand went into the wound and pushed through the slice in the girl's chest cavity with a satisfying squish.

More blood welled up from the cut and ran up to Setsunna's elbow. She smiled softly at the choking screams of the girl that had caused her so much grief. Only one should have her power and it was the queen.

"Shh. It's okay. Just let it out. Good girl. Good girl. This has been a hard life for you, Ranma. Ten years on the road with your father, missing your mother, no friends, no one who really loved you. All that is about to end. No more pain, Ranma. No more pain."

Ranma began to lose vision as darkness settled on the edges. The pain, which had been excruciating, was beginning to taper off as her body began to shut down. She could feel Setsunna probing at her heart and then holding it in her hand.

She didn't want to die. Ranma had been depressed with her life, had even lost hope with the way things were going. But she didn't want to die! She could still change things! She could still be the best martial ar . . tis . . t . . .

~

Not far, Ryouga wandered by with sad expression on his face. It had been a week since he'd last seen Ranma. What she had said . . . Could it have been true? He didn't want to believe it. She was his first crush. The first person to care about him in a long time.

A wanderer like the rest of his family, Ryouga didn't usually have people he could see on a regular basis, but that had been Ranma. Some link had been forged between them and he seemed to be drawn back to her each time he got lost. Maybe it was her smile. He remembered the first time he saw it and his heart fluttered.

The most precious image he had was the redhead wreathed in silver flames in the mall. Dressed in the provocative Chinese dress and determination burning in her eyes. It had been love at first sight. Stabbed straight through the eye and into his heart with a silver lance.

And now this.

"What do I do now?" Ryouga quelled at the thought of wandering aimlessly once again.

"What about Ranma?" Couldn't she have felt something for him? There was that time on the roof when she had cried in his arms and he had cared for her. Surely there was-

Ryouga slapped himself and made himself walk on. "Oh, forget Ranma. She's not a real girl." It didn't sit with him that easily though. Maybe she wasn't born a girl, but that's how he thought of her. There was, once upon a time, another person who Ryouga had obsessed about for different reasons, but Ranma had reached into his soul so much deeper. Could he really just forget about her?

Was it really over between them?

"It's like I can still hear her," Ryouga sighed as the wind cried around him.

Cried?

"Ranma?" Ryouga looked about the area for the origin of the sound. It was muffled, but it was definitely a woman in distress. It had to be her! She shared his pain of being separated and was calling him back! But where was her magnificent aura? Ryouga reached out and could find almost nothing. Was she hurt? "Ranma, hang on! I'm coming!"

~

"Ranma!"

Setsunna nearly dropped the crystal in her hands when the front door to her home was broken down. Still dressed in her Sailor suit she was confident she could take care of the strange boy. "Who are you?!"

Ryouga looked about frantically and then saw the green-haired woman in a Sailor suit. She looked just like the ones who had attacked Ranma. Then he saw the red liquid rolling down her arms. Ryouga's vision went red and he tossed his backpack at the woman. "DIE!"

Sailor Pluto jumped to the side and watched the heavy pack plow through the walls in her home and bust out into the backyard. She glared angrily at the boy and tried to work up an attack spell, but forgot she hadn't summoned her Time Staff yet.

"Moko Takabisha!" Ryouga called out, pushing his hands forward and smirking arrogantly after being splashed by a broken water pipe. He bounced on his feet and followed the woman out into the yard where she was struggling to get back up. "How do you like that?! Got it from Ranma!"

"Interesting," Sailor Pluto drawled. She checked on the pure heart crystal and then swung her Time Staff out of sub space. Deflecting a few thrown bandannas she pointed the tip at the fanged boy. "Dead Scream."

Sailor Pluto didn't waste any more time after she saw the boy launched back into the house where part of it collapsed on top of him. He must have been dead.

When she stepped back out of the Time Stream she was on the edges of a large battle that the Sailor Scouts looked to be losing. Most of them were nearly tapped of energy and their helpers were on the ground behind them, knocked unconscious or suffering injuries.

"Mars, what are we going to do?!" Usagi called out desperately. Jupiter was still limping. Mercury had taken stunning blows to the head, and she was beginning to tire from launching so many attacks. Her soul was failing under the power she was forcing through it from the Silver Imperial Crystal.

Gritting her teeth, Sailor Mars pushed back a few daemons far enough to launch a Burning Mandala. Tuxedo Mask was with them now, but he was not equipped to deal with these things one on one. "We can't give up, Sailor Moon."

"Mamo-chan," Usagi cried after seeing the boy take a powerful uppercut and thrown into the school's wall. Sailor Moon turned to Ami. "Mercury, have you found anything?!"

"Not yet!" Mercury yelled back. She was getting frustrated with trying to work on the magical field and fight the battle. "The shield is too strong for us. We have to weaken it somehow."

"That's what we've been trying to do!" Sailor Venus cried out in similar frustration. Her Venus Love Me Chain had pinned three daemons together, but it wouldn't hold them for more than a few seconds.

Pluto stepped into the area and lobbed the crystal in her hands. "Sailor Moon, catch!"

Surprised, the girl turned around and snatched the multihued crystal from the air. With a bright flash the pure heart crystal transformed into a golden Grail.

A moment later Sailor Moon disappeared from the field.

"Sailor Moon!" Mars cried out in surprise. She wasn't the only one apparently as she turned against Sailor Pluto, forgetting the horde of daemons for a moment. "What have you done with her?!"

Another was more startled by what had been in Sailor Moon's hand. Akane's face had gone pale and she gaped at the spot Sailor Moon had been standing in. "That . . . That was-" Clutching her broken arm, Akane struggled to her feet with a look of pure murder on her face. Pouring ki into her functioning hand, she charged Sailor Pluto. "I'll kill you! You bitch! Furious Bullet!"

"Akane," Ukyou wept.

Sailor Pluto escaped just before the attack could make contact with her. Akane turned on the other enemies in her sight and roared in outrage. More ki burst from her body and she reentered the fight like a banshee of death. "You MONSTERS!"

Mamoru followed her in and plunged the tip of his cane into the next daemon available. "Ha!"

~

Sailor Moon resettled onto the ground after being transported off of the field and into the school. The change in scenery disoriented her momentarily, but she regained her senses and looked about her. "What? Where am I?"

"Hello, Sailor Moon. It's so nice to meet you," a young voice called out from down one of the halls.

Sailor Moon turned in the direction and went into a defensive stance. "Saturn!"

Moon saw the little girl and thought she was looking at the devil. Her eyes were hard and gleamed with malice like the wicked glaive towering over her. Inside the school Moon couldn't hear the battle, but knew every second wasted was one less to help her friends. She had to act now!

"I wouldn't if I were you," Dark Saturn chuckled and brought around the pink-haired girl and clutched her throat. This little girl's body was amazing. She couldn't wait to test out Saturn's full powers. She grinned at the response she got from Sailor Moon upon revealing the girl. "You care about these insignificant creatures, don't you? You take one more step and I will spill this one's blood."

Sailor Moon grit her teeth and tried to think of something she could do. But with Chibi-Usa as a hostage her choices were limited. "What do you want?"

"I want that Grail you're holding onto, of course." Saturn lifted the girl one handed. "Hand it over and I'll release the girl."

While Sailor Moon considered this a heavy thumping sound hit them from overhead. She glanced up to the ceiling windows and saw a helicopter hovering just above the school. To girls jumped out of the side and the chopper went crashing down to the ground in another direction.

"Ha!" Sailor Uranus screamed as she broke through the glass and landed on the floor. She turned on Dark Saturn quickly and dismissed the hostage. "World Shaking!"

Sailor Moon gasped and rushed forward to save her future daughter. Fortunately, Dark Saturn had been surprised and dropped the girl out of the way to erect a Silence Wall. Moon scooped the girl up and deposited her quickly out of the way. When she returned to the fight Sailor Saturn was holding Uranus and Neptune off easily with her Silence Glaive and cackling all the while.

Knocking Uranus' sword away, Dark Saturn let off a small blast of magic and sent the girl into crumbling into the wall. She turned her staff on Chibi-Usa and glared at Sailor Moon.

Pulling herself off of the ground, Neptune grimaced at the sight of the Grail. Uranus shook some plaster out of her hair and jumped to her feet. "Don't do it, Sailor Moon!"

"Leave her alone," Moon ordered as Dark Saturn took the Grail. Saturn pulled away her glaive and looked at the Grail with lust in her eyes.

Sneering at the girls around her, she laughed. Dark Saturn went to the magic circle and the power flooded its lines. A rip in the universe was torn open right at her feet. "Fool! When Pharoah Ninety is released he will kill you all!"

Uranus couldn't believe it. She had warned the ditz not to do it. She should have listened to her. Uranus grabbed her sword. "You idiot! World-"

"Xian Pu no think so!" Two heavy bonbori slammed down into Uranus' collarbone. Sailor Jupiter had launched her into the air after seeing the success of the Outers. Those Scouts were strong.

Sailor Moon smirked when she heard the Outers being knocked around by the Amazon and turned against Dark Saturn. The Grail held a great deal of power, but she didn't need to be in contact with it to use it. Moon grinned; she could be sneaky too. "Moon Healing Escalation!"

The world disappeared as the magic enveloped them. Sailor Moon found herself standing on a purple plain surrounded by dark clouds spouting brilliant red lightning. She kept up her Moon Wand and primed a spell to take out Dark Saturn with when she showed her face.

"What?! Hahahaha!" A familiar voice rumbled over the empty plain. "You think you can defeat me here? This my domain, Sailor Moon!"

Usagi's eyes went wide as she realized who this person was. If that were true . . .

Moon reached out with her senses and smiled at a new presence, devoid of the evil of Dark Saturn. "I'm not going to be the one to defeat you, Mistress Nine," Sailor Moon grinned and stepped aside as a young girl in a purple Sailor suit stepped up beside her. "She will."

Sailor Saturn gripped her staff tightly and looked straight at the cowering woman in the storm clouds. At Saturn's command they parted and Mistress Nine was seen in the bright blue sky. The little girl aimed her glaive at the redheaded evil woman. There were tears in Hotaru's eyes. "You hurt my friend. Silence Glaive Surprise!"

Mistress Nine tried to teleport, erect a shield, anything, but her will was not absolute here. This soul was not truly hers, corrupted as it was by the doctor's efforts. "AAAAAH!"

The purple plain dissolved back into the trashed school hall. Sailor Moon stood silently beside Sailor Saturn. The little girl's eyes went to her friend and new tears fell down her cheeks.

Moon wondered what was wrong and looked as well. Her girl, her future daughter, was not breathing. Her skin was pale and life was quickly fading from her body. Sailor Moon gasped. She should have realized Mistress Nine wouldn't just give her Chibi-Usa back without some trick.

Sensing the direction of Sailor Moon's thoughts, Saturn reached up to her own chest. She wouldn't have much time, but she was the Scout of Death. A crystal floated out of her chest and into her hands upon Saturn's command and she held it out for Moon. "Here, Sailor Moon, give it to Chibi-Usa."

Sailor Moon looked at the girl in shock and held the crystal carefully. "What are you going to do?"

Saturn grinned, her body beginning to weaken with only the magic to support her. "I will stop Mistress Nine's plans for what she did to my daddy." With that, Sailor Saturn pointed her staff into the rip. "Death Ribbon Revolution!"

A sphere of darkness spread through the other dimension. The light was sucked up from every direction and the school was plunged into the same darkness. Blackness.

There was silence.

Ears ringing, Sailor Moon uncurled from around Chibi-Usa and saw the girl breathing again. A distant wailing reached her ears, but she couldn't find it.

The Grail had fallen just beside her and Sailor Moon picked it up to examine it. She felt the bond with the redhead return to her again. Still holding Chibi-Usa, Moon looked around expectantly. A girl with impressive strength was approaching her.

"Ranma?"

Xian Pu kneeled down beside Moon and showed off a child resting in her arms. The Outers had disappeared, but an Amazon of the Juketsuzoku could track them down later. Xian Pu smiled compassionately at Sailor Moon. "Is okay now. Xian Pu help you."

Moon cried as she realized what the Grail really was. She felt filthy just holding it, but she couldn't let it go. After checking the young girl in her arms again, Moon looked at the Amazon and the infant in her arms. "Is this . . . Saturn?"

The symbol on the baby's forehead claimed it was. Without Mistress Nine the magical field had shattered and Moon could hear the other Scouts disposing of the last of the uncontrolled daemons. The darkness was fading and a new day was approaching Juuban.

The world was reborn out of the silence.

~

It took a while, but Mercury was able to discover where Sailor Pluto had first pulled the pure heart crystal from by following the residual energy signature. The group found Ryouga lying amongst a pile of debris that used to be a living room.

After that it wasn't hard to find the trail of blood leading to the basement.

"Jesus." The first in, Mamoru turned away from the table Ranma had been strapped onto.

Ranma's wrists and ankles were bleeding from the constant struggling of days she had gone missing. Without a heart crystal, her healthy, tanned body had become pale and withered. The cheeks and eyes had sunken so that she must have seemed dead even while alive. Vibrant red hair lay lifeless and dirty, limp upon her shoulders. Except a towel to cover her lower regions, Ranma lay nude, her chest uncovered to allow someone to cut into her body cavity. The surgery required to remove the heart crystal must have been terrible. A y-incision had been made just below the breastbone. Whoever had done it must have pressed their hand into her body cavity, through the diaphragm, causing pain Usagi could feel by looking at the terror in Ranma's open eyes.

Usagi stepped in next, falling back to Mamoru's side. "Oh god." She could see the area was covered with Ranma's blood, dripping across the bound girl's abdomen and across the table, pooling upon the floor. Footprints could be seen, tracking the blood across the floor and out the door.

"Ranma." Ukyou pushed her way forward, stopping cold upon the sight of her friend's lifeless body. Xian Pu stood beside her, face a mask of anger to the indignity of a great warrior.

Akane had followed closely behind Ukyou and Xian Pu, eager to see her friend after so long. It had been why she fought so hard. She could do no less for any of her friends. Missing the sight of blood, Akane stepped around Ukyou and right up to the bound redhead. Her excitement drained away as she was given an unobstructed view. Unable to comprehend what was happening, Akane stared at Ranma's mute face then the gaping hole in her chest.

Akane found the towel and pulled it up higher, covering the rest of Ranma's body. She stared again, the blood draining for Akane's face almost audible in the horrid silence. Blinking, breaking free the first of her tears, she sought out Usagi who had turned back to see Ranma's corpse. She wanted to know Ranma could be saved, but Usagi's face had hardened, eyes red and jaw clenched tightly. Akane understood well what that look meant. It had been the same look her sisters had taken when they knew nothing could be done to save their mother.

Akane swallowed hard, but she could not choke back the tears.

"Scouts. I want you to track down the Outers." Usagi commanded, the Sailor Scout fuku she wore suddenly shifting to a long white evening gown.

Jupiter put her hand on her princess's shoulder. "What are you going to do?"

Princess Serenity went through another transformation, a gaze so hard and full of emotion, a signal to her rising power. The dress shifted to shimmering satin, shortening a bit, blue and yellow coloring working over the frills. Wings that seemed like nothing more than bound snowflakes sprouted from her upper back, almost translucent they shined like the sun reflected off the sea. In her hand, a scepter formed, pointed to Ranma.

"Usagi?" Mamoru tried to get a hold of her, his Tuxedo Mask costume shifting to that of Prince Endymion.

"Princess Serenity?" Rei reached out timidly, overcome by the determination and strength in her friend's every movement.

From the back, Ami looked compassionately upon the lifeless redhead. "Usagi, Ranma is gone."

Princess Serenity heard none of it. Closing her eyes once, they opened again, a golden light burning within them. She began the fluid movements and released the soft white power that was hers to give. "Moon Healing Activation!"

It didn't stop. For seconds the power poured out of the blonde princess, intensifying as nothing changed. Mamoru came forward to put an end to it, but Usagi's body was steel and would not let up. "Stop it! There's nothing we can do for her!" He called out over the din of her magic.

"Moon Healing Activation!" Usagi screamed again, the power doubling upon itself, becoming harder to watch. It sparkled with surplus energy.

Trying again, Venus grabbed Usagi's other arm. "Princess! You'll hurt yourself if you keep this up!" She pleaded with the same results Mamoru had gotten.

"Moon Healing Activation!"

Upset and eyes red with tears, Akane screeched as she watched the drama. "Usagi stop it! She's dead. Ranma is dead!"

Lip quivering, Usagi could not stop her own tears that rolled down her cheeks. A final time she screamed, "MOON HEALING ACTIVATION!!!" The room was blanketed in white energy so heavy it sparked with life on everyone's skin. Every direction was light, a strange sense of vertigo and ease finally settled upon them. The energy faded, as did Usagi's flowing gown and great wingspan. She fell to her knees exhausted.

Gingerly, Mamoru crouched at Usagi's side and let her cry upon his chest.

"What?" Akane looked up when she felt a warm glow from the table. "What's happening?" she took a step closer.

Usagi looked up but remained silent. Mamoru stared in wonder, hope filling him since he first stepped into the room. "She's glowing. Could she be . . . ?"

"She's changing." Venus said with some awe.

"It must be her true form. Usagi's power must have forced the curse to reverse itself." Ami watched, the data recorded on her hand computer.

The glow was softer than Usagi's power and lasted only a few short moments. In the end, a boy with black hair done up in the same pigtail, strong and handsome, rested upon the table, his features relaxed, almost into a smile, the eyes closed in appreciation seemingly.

"So she really was a boy." Despite the pain of her friend's death, Akane smiled at Ranma's only wish finally granted.

"I had to see it to believe it." Ukyou whispered.

Usagi tried to stand and get a better look. "Did . . Did it . . ?"

Mamoru shook his head, resting a hand on Usagi's waist. "No. Without a heart crystal . . Ranma is gone."

Another few moments were passed in communal silence. Usagi finally broke free of Mamoru's grip and turned for the door from which they had come, her hands clenched into tight fists that the knuckles turned white.

"Usagi? Where are you going?" Mars asked, following quickly.

Usagi's voice was tight, but held conviction. "To find the Outers."

The rest followed quickly, leaving Akane, Ukyou, Xian Pu, and Mamoru in the room to tend to their friend.

It wasn't a long search with Mercury's help. The Outers allowed themselves to be found in a motel room outside of Tokyo perhaps out of pride to not run from what they had done. Pluto was still missing, but Sailor Moon knew she could not hide forever, not even in her precious Time Gates.

Uranus stood with her head held high while Uranus stared sadly at the floor. "Princess? What will you do with us?"

Sailor Moon stared hard at the two Scouts standing before her. In the days following Ranma's discovery the police were notified and the police had placed the occupants of the house as their only suspects. "What can I do, Neptune? Should I tie you down to a table for days? Starve you to be certain you couldn't fight your bonds? Rip your heart out when I'm tired of hearing your screams? That is what you did to Ranma."

Uranus' countenance turned fierce as she glared at Sailor Moon. "But we had to. You would've lost if we didn't get that pure heart crystal."

There was silence in the room as many of the Inners clenched their jaws. They had thought the same thing during the battle, but they had never been prepared to murder anyone to defeat Pharoah Ninety. Sailor Moon least of all.

"If and how we die is not as important as how we lived. You Outers will stop at nothing to bring the Moon Kingdom back to its former glory. What you don't understand is that the Moon Kingdom is not just some mystical palace for kings and queens. It is something inside of us, something that helps us live right, knowing the difference between right and wrong. You want the Moon Kingdom? You'll never find it. It lives in the hearts and souls of all the good and decent people." Stepping closer to the trapped Scouts, Sailor Moon lifted her scepter over their heads, fire in her eyes.

"Wait! You can't kill us!" Haruka's eyes went wide and she stepped in front of her lover protectively. The Inners could see she was ready to attack if necessary, but they already had their own attack spells prepared. There would be no chance for either Outer to move.

Repulsed by the ideas the Outer had about the Sailor Scouts, Sailor Moon gave a disgusted snort. "I'm not going to kill you Uranus. I am not a murderer." She turned to look at the three martial artist who had fought alongside the Sailor Scouts still holding the scepter high, these girls knew the way Usagi's heart worked and did not fear her.

Speaking seriously, Sailor Moon began, "Akane. Ukyou. Xian Pu. Please step forward."

They did so silently, fierce gazes set on the Outers.

"I would like to pass on to you three the position of Sailor Scouts, to defend what is right and just, to be a symbol of hope and love for humanity. Will you accept, knowing the hardship and responsibility that comes with such a position?"

Ukyou and Akane nodded once and Xian Pu bowed deeply. "It would be an honor, your Majesty."

Smiling, Sailor Moon began to glow with a silver aura. "Then I so empower you, Ukyou, Sailor Uranus, Akane, Sailor Neptune, and Xian Pu, Sailor Pluto. May your hearts always shine with the purity of your good will and grow stronger with the love you share with the world you seek to protect."

The Outers were shocked that such a thing could happen to them. Never did they consider that Sailor Moon would have the power to strip them of theirs. The Sailor Scout uniforms faded from their bodies and reappeared on the three martial artists. When it was done Sailor Moon returned to glaring at the ex-Outers.

"As for you," Sailor Moon's lip curled with disgust while the two women huddled against the wall like frightened animals. Outside, a loud siren could be heard approaching the hotel. "If I never see you again it will be too soon."

A few days later Xian Pu returned from the Time Gates with a hysterical Setsunna Meiou in her arms. Ordinary humans could not withstand the flow of the Time Stream for more than an hour. Xian Pu claimed she needed the few days to figure out how to enter the Time Gates. Sailor Moon only nodded, forcing herself to look neutral about it.

~

Months later, Akane and Ukyou found themselves permanently moved to Juuban to stay beside the other Scouts. Cologne and Ukyou had combined their talents into expanding the menu of their new restaurant. Business went well with the high school crowds and expenses were cut down since their home was set above the restaurant.

Except for the odd Hidden Weapons master that showed up looking for Xian Pu, life was once again peaceful in Juuban ward of Tokyo.

Mamoru, who felt responsible, delivered news of Ranma's death. It came the same day Nabiki had finally gotten a hold of the birth certificate and was ready to reveal what she had learned. Genma had taken the news with a curt nod and disappeared into the world the next morning. Akane thought she understood. Months later Mamoru still broken up inside about what had happened. Usagi would show up every now and then and try to cheer him up and Akane could see it was slowly working on him. She wasn't sure whether to be happy or angry for that.

Speaking of lost, Ryouga wandered into the restaurant from time to time. He said something about a girl on a pig farm once, but there was still that soulful look in his eyes any time Ranma's name was mentioned.

Akane supposed it was good for people to move on after such tragedy. It didn't honor the deceased to let your life fall apart when they had been trying to make it better.

The door chimed and a young girl rushed into the restaurant where Akane and Ukyou were cleaning the tables after the lunch crowd.

Hotaru ran up to the two girls and waved a picture in their faces. She had been an infant only a few weeks ago when some magic had altered her body into that of a six-year-old. Ami guessed it would happen again in the next month and restore Hotaru to her original age. From what Chibi-Usa told them, Hotaru was more athletic and happy than she had ever been before. "Akane-mama, Ukyou-papa! Look what I made!"

Ukyou, still dressing as a man, examined the picture of a happy family beside a bright sun and teased the little girl's hair. "It's great sugar. How was school?"

Hotaru liked her adoptive parents and her great grand mother who helped smooth the way for the papers. She wanted to be a great martial artist like Akane when she grew up and good cook like Ukyou. "Okay. Some of the kids pick on me though."

Nodded grimly, Ukyou crossed her arms and looked down on Hotaru. "What did you do?"

Balling up her fists like Akane-mama, she announced, "I told them they should stop or my Ukyou-papa would turn them into okonomiyaki!"

Ukyou grinned, showing teeth and shooed the girl to the kitchen. "Good girl. Why don't you go bother your great grandmother? She'll probably have some snacks for you."

"Indeed," said Cologne as she pogo into the room. She had recovered from most of her wounds in the battle with the daemons and had instantly returned to working in the kitchen. She claimed it was Amazon strength or some nonsense like that. "I left something on the counter for you, Hotaru." She smiled at the girl who gave her a hug and then turned on Ukyou and Akane, whom she decided were now Amazons. "You two should be in training."

Ukyou sighed and followed the old woman to the back lot. Between shifts they were being trained in Chinese Amazon techniques to make them better warriors. Ukyou saw improvement in her hand-to-hand abilities and couldn't dispute the need when they might be fighting demons again sometime.

Back in the restaurant, Akane had paused by the window when she caught a flash of red hair. Her thoughts had drifted to Ranma and she wondered if her friend was proud of her. It seemed silly, but Akane still wanted the redhead's approval and felt helping the Sailor Scouts was probably the best way to earn it.

Ranma had taught her what it was to be a martial artist when no one else would try. Akane's rages had tapered off as she learned with the redhead. A boy trapped in a girl's body. A girl who acted like a boy. Beyond the gender and the surface image, Akane had fallen in love with Ranma-san. She had touched many of them and would not be forgotten.

"Akane-honey?" Ukyou called from the doorway.

Akane smiled and pulled off her apron. "Coming."

End Chapter Eleven

* * *

Epilogue

Japan, 2130 BCE

Decades later than the original Pluto had planned, Crystal Tokyo finally came about by a unanimous vote of the people of Earth. Deceit and blood did not gain it, but by the love and caring the Sailor Scouts showed to all. It was not to say there weren't problems on the way, but the Scouts prevailed in protecting the planet from deadly enemies, especially the laws that may have led to the creation of the Dark Moon family.

With the palace finally constructed, an obelisk was planted in the courtyard that reached over five feet tall and made of a pale blue crystal and gold for the names carved into its surface. People arrived at the dedication ceremony by the thousands. Standing before the obelisk were the King and Queen flanked by most of their Sailor Scouts.

Akane kept her eyes on the crowd, but she couldn't help but smile when a familiar presence appeared beside her. "You're late, Pluto."

Everyone was dressed in their Super forms for the occasion. The Outers stood to the Queen's right while the Inners stood on the left. Everyone was there, from the original Inners to the matured Sailor Saturn, and her adoptive parents, the new Outer Scouts. Ukyou occasionally gave Akane a glance that made the girl blush.

Xian Pu's cheeks heated up, but she smiled and shrugged her shoulders. "Sorry. I'm still getting used to this."

It was funny. No one really understood why Chibi-Usa called Sailor Pluto 'Pu' before, but she had actually been giving a major hint to how things would change. When they figured it out no one missed an opportunity to tease the Amazon. She took it easily. It never bothered Xian Pu that anyone knew how much she cared for the Queen's daughter.

Ukyou nodded, her ponytail bobbing at her back, "I know what you mean. Come on. The queen is about to start."

The area fell silent as Queen Serenity and King Endymion approached the dais to stand before the crowd. The young, klutzy girl had eventually earned her grace and charm and stood regally before them now. "Thank you all for joining us today. We are here to dedicate this monument to the poor souls who lost their lives in the effort to return the Moon Kingdom to its former glory. May I present," a white silk sheet fell swiftly from the obelisk for the people to see, "the Hero's Monument." With a smile she read the main inscription. "By caring for each other do we learn to live."

The rest of the speech was a recount of some of the major periods in the rebirth of the Moon Kingdom. Though the palace was on the Earth, plans for recolonizing the solar system were under way.

Eventually the crowds began to disperse. Some approached the monument to search for the names of family members or leave tokens at its foot.

"Look. It's King Endymion," said Ukyou, nodding to the man as he pressed his fingers against his lips and then to a name on the monument.

Though they had lost many friends and allies, the Outers did wonder whom their king had singled out. Saturn especially, "What's he looking at?"

The Outers approached after Endymion had left and stared at the wall. Xian Pu spotted the name first and pointed it out to the rest. "I'd almost forgotten."

Tears came to Ukyou's eyes as she stared at the name. "Do you think she . . he found the peace he was looking for?"

Akane broke the silence, "I hope so."

Ranma Saotome

1982 - 1999

~

China, Jusenkyou valley . . .

A new tradition began in Jusenkyou valley after the Artifact's sacrifice. Amazons at the age of sixteen would bathe themselves in one of the springs so that they may garner the extra skills of the Artifact and to understand the honor and courage she had learned.

"Mother?" a young girl with red hair glanced at the spring then to the woman who had accompanied her.

The woman smirked at her daughter and nodded.

Taking a deep breath, the young girl cupped some of the spring and splashed her face. There were no physical changes, but a certain cocky smirk became popular amongst the warriors. The girl stood and bowed once to the fallen warrior whose spirit laid within the spring and stepped back.

"You'll make a fine honor guard to the Queen some day, Ranko." The woman stroked the young redhead's hair gently and guided her away from Jusenkyou, the Springs of Sorrow, and the pool called 'Spring of Drowned Honored Amazon'.

The End

* * *

There you have it. Thank you to all my loyal readers who put up with my lax posting ability. Also, thanks to everyone who emailed me with support and suggestions for this story.

Send C&C to jehtek@hotmail.com

Or visit my website at www.geocities.com/jehtek

Ja ne.