A/N: Mwahahahahaha! ! ! ! Tremble for I have returned from the world that lies beyond the shadows of infinity!

Also, epic foreshadowing is epic.

We were wrong.

We, in our arrogance, thought
we were the Masters of this World.

But we had only forgotten the Truth...
Or did not want to see it.

They were here all along.

Fairy Tales. Nightmares.

They were all real.

We exist...For now,
but only until 'They' return.


Those who walked amongst us...

Ranma and Setsuna sat quietly on the rooftop, watching as the sun slowly sunk below the horizon. The two of them were both considering the events that had occured earlier in the afternoon, and what it meant for them. Setsuna was mentally berating herself for showing such an excessive display of emotion, something she had thought she had gained a handle on after several thousand years of being, for the most part, alone. Somehow she had a feeling that Serenity had something to do with it, but she for the moment she couldn't bring it in herself to go after her friend, at least not yet.

Ranma on the other hand was in a near blind panic, though outwardly his face betrayed none of his inner turmoil. he was trying his hardest to figure a way out of the trouble that was surely awaiting him once he returned to the Dojo. And he didn't even want to hazard a guess at what Shampoo and the rest of the Nerima gang would do once they found out about his new friend, especially considering she was good enough to lay out Akane, well with the amount of skill she displayed that is.

Setsuna broke the gentle silence first, the sudden noise causing Ranma to tense slightly before relaxing as he realized who made the noise, the action not going unnoticed by the physically young woman next to him. She frowned at the action, or more accurately, at the causes for such an ingrained reaction. "I, I'll need some time to prepare everything, before you can move to Minato with me, including getting your transfer set up for changing schools, though I have a sneaking suspicion, er, that's not important right now. Anyway, do you think you can survive a day or two here?"

Ranma thought about it. While he knew that the father's would be on his case the moment he got back, not to mention Akane, he could probably count on Kasui to help keep things under control, his mother too if she was there. Although, that brought its own set of problems to the table, but, nothing he couldn't deal. In fact his mother would probably be proud of him and start going off about how "Manly" he was. All things considered, he'd much rather deal with his mother over the rest of the circus.

"Yeah," He said finally."I think I can do that. We'll still be meetin at school though, right?" Setsuna nodded.

"Yes, at least until you can switch over schools and go to one near Juuban, I think it would be best if I stuck around to help out. From what I know of your life, what I did to Akane earlier certainly won't make things any easier for you." Both teens, teenagers solely in body, shared a dark chuckle, before Ranma sighed and leaned back to lie on the roof.

"Yeah, that would be great. Hey, you know what? I think I got a way to avoid dealing with the riot act the old men are gonna try to dump on me." Setsuna turned to Ranma and propped her chin up with her hand, her elbow resting on the tile roof.

"Oh, and what way is that?" Ranma smiled, though it was muted as his mind continued on its current train of thought.

"Well, I'm thinking that maybe it would be best if went to stay with mom for a bit, if she's around pops won't have the guts to pull anything, and that means old man Tendo won't try anything either. That still leaves the Amazons, but I think I can deal with them."

"If you don't mind, I would quite enjoy helping you deal with these Amazons. Considering their origins, its partially my responsibility as one of the Senshi." Ranma blinked and turned to look into Setsuna's eyes, a curious expression on his face.

"What do you mean, your responsibility?" Taking a page out of Ranma's book, Setsuna scratched the back of her head, embarrassed.

"The Amazons were a military company that served directly under one of the Senshi, the Senshi of Venus in particular. Unfortunately it seems they took her teachings much further than they were supposed to, though I suppose after several millennia things could get a little bit lost in translation." Setsuna winced at the reminder of her agelessness.

Ranma couldn't help but shake his head in amusement. "Let me guess, she was one of those kind of girls who treat men like a flavour of the day ice cream, right?"

"She wasn't quite that bad, it was more like flavour of the week." Both teenagers, though teenagers solely in body, shared a laugh. "But yes, she was a little bit like that, still is actually. Reincarnating did only a little to mute that aspect of personality."

"Well," Ranma gave Setsuna a wry smile, "So long as she doesn't try to marry me, I think we'll get along alright." His face suddenly went slack as a thought hit him. "She won't try to marry me, right?" His eye began to twitch as Setsuna bit her lip and turned away instead of answering. "Oh come on, not another one!" Quietly, he put his head in his hands and sighed, though he still noticed Setsuna turning back around, a playful smile on her face.

"I don't think I have anything at the Tendo's that I can't do without for a day or two, so I might as well head home. I'd ask if you needed a lift to your place," Ranma said as he stood up, Setsuna doing the same," but I'm pretty sure you don't need it with that teleporting trick you got. 'Sides, I don't even know where you live."

"Ah Senny went and rented a place out here for a while, but she only gave me the rough idea of where it is based on its surroundings. YOu wouldn't happen to know where there's a small two story, black-tiled and red painted house would you?" Ranma froze up where he stood, a strange look on his face.

"This house, it wouldn't happen be next to a blue-painted one, with a small dojo off to the side of it, would it? And a small convenience store across the street? " Setsuna gave a surprised blink.

"That's what she said, you know where it is then?" Ranma palmed his face, before letting out another sigh.

"Yeah, I do actually." He removed his hand and gave Setsuna a tired smile. "Looks like we'll be heading off together anyway, since my mom's place happens to be the house with the dojo." As Setsuna stood there stunned, and already contemplating ways to make a certain silver-haired woman pay, Ranma hopped off the roof, landing on a nearby wall that he used to soften his landing, before rolling off of the wall and dropping to his feet on the street.

Setsuna followed a moment later, though she took a less flashy, in a way, route down, simply teleporting to the ground next to Ranma. Wordlessly, they began making their way through the darkening streets. As they were passing an alleyway, its entrance enshrouded by darkness that the streetlights failed to penetrate, they both froze, their muscles tensing, as the sound of movement filled the air.

Emerging from the shadows, like spectral phantoms, came a group of men, men who had clearly fallen on hard times. Each of them was dressed in tattered and dirtied clothing, and from the way they moved, it was clear that they were more than a little inebriated. As they approached, they each pulled out various weapons, a busted pipe here, a small knife or length of chain there.

Both Setsuna and Ranma mentally groaned as the thug with the knife brought it to his lips and gave it a lick with his tongue. It was bad enough that they had deal with these guys, but they could at least have tried to be original, instead of walking stereotypes. One of the other thugs gave a deep rumbling laugh as he hefted the large broken bar of iron, from what most likely used to be part of a building, his eyes tracing the curves of Setsuna's body.

"Well well, yer a pretty lil' thingy,ain't ya? How's about you leave the stiff over there and come hang with some real men. Come on girley, we'll show a great time." Setsuna and Ranma shared a look, before turning back to the thugs. Smirking, Setsuna gave a wave of her hand towards them.

"They're all yours, after all you were the one they insulted, so its only fair." Ranma smirked as he cracked his knuckles, his body moving until he stood between the thugs and Setsuna.

"You know what, just for that, I'll show ya something special. Couldn't use it for the longest while, but after all the stuff I went through, it got real easy." Ranma gave a shrug, his attention firmly focused on his opponents. The lead thug gave another laugh, completely self-assured in his victory, after all, the guy in front of him was outnumbered, and they had weapons too.

The thug with the length of pipe moved first, charging forward with a wordless shout. Ranma met him halfway, sidestepping his swing and slamming a palm into the the small of the thug's back. The shout died off as the thug's eyes rolled back into his head and he collapsed, bonelessly, to the cold ground. Ranma paid his fallen foe no regard, already moving against the remaining opponents.

The next two attacked in concert, one moving in from Ranma's left and the other from his right. Against any normal teenager, this tactic would have worked, but they weren't up against a normal teenager, they had the ill-timing to have called out one of the world's greatest martial artists. Ducking under the sloppy punch from the thug on the left, Ranma quickly tapped a palm against his chest, before spinning around and slamming his heel into other thug's face, the blow sending him tumbling backwards into the alley, a loud crack sounding as his head impacted against the wall.

That left only two thugs, the one with the length of chain, and the leader who had drawn the knife. The thug with the chain gave a loud roar as he moved to engage Ranma, one arm shoving the other thug to the side as he went past him. Twirling the chain until it whistled through the air, the thug whipped it forwards, his jaw dropping in astonishment as Ranma caught it before it could touch him. Ranma gave the chain a quick tug, and as the thug stumbled forwards, he leaned over and tapped him on the back of the head with two of his fingers.

The last thug started shaking as Ranma began to slowly approach him, the thug with the chain remaining on the ground, unmoving. His eyes flicked between the two figures rapidly, before his fear got the better of him, his knife clattering to the ground forgotten as he turned and ran for all his worth. He didn't get more than a few feet before suddenly come to a stop as he ran into something, his breath knocked out of him as he fell backwards onto the ground. He gave his head a shake, and then froze as he looked up into Ranma's cold eyes.

The thug began to shake again as Ranma slowly stretched out a hand, one finger extended. The thug felt the finger touch his brow followed by a strange tugging sensation, and then all faded to black.

Setsuna watched quietly as Ranma slowly stepped back from the now unconscious thug, her brows raised in surprise. There was no surprise in the fact that he defeated the thugs, nor in how quickly and easily he did so, but the manner in which he defeated them was incredibly interesting. With nothing but time on her hands, she spent a large portion of it finding various masters in history, masters of blacksmithing, of painting, and of martial arts, and learning from them.

That wasn't to say she knew every style, some simply did not suit her style of combat, and while she had more time than most, time still passed and her eyes were not all-seeing. But even then she had heard of the style that Ranma had just displayed an incredibly intimate knowledge of, if only by rumour and hearsay. A style created in ages past, the originators of the art hidden in darkness, a style that enabled the user to not only strike the body of his opponent, but to also strike directly at his ki, rendering even a blocked blow potentially fatal.

Ranma smirked as he walked back to Setsuna, his head gesturing back towards the direction they had been originally been heading in, before their minor detour. As Setsuna fell in step with him, he caught sight of the expression on her face and gave her a bright smile. "Heh, when I watched you beat Akane earlier, you used some pretty rare moves, so I thought it would only be fair if I did the same."

Setsuna smiled, though internally she was surprised by the fact that he managed to recognize the style she had used, a style that she had learned from its original master more than eight centuries previous. "I will admit I was impressed, but I still wonder, how do you actually do that? Oh I know it has nothing to do with the physical aspect of things, even I could copy those moves you used, but how did you get your attacks to affect their ki like that?"

Ranma's eyes brightened at Setsuna's insightful comment. He was happy and excited, for the first time he actually had someone with whom he could discuss the more esoteric points of martial arts, and would actually be able to understand and give back intelligent responses, unlike most people he knew, not that they weren't smart enough, but they either lacked the necessary knowledge, or he wasn't willing to risk the problems they would cause him.

"Like I said, it took me a while, but after I learned how to do the Soul of Ice, and after I 'experienced'," Ranma spat the word with distate, "Happosai's drain techniques, both the one he uses, and the one Hinako-sensei uses, I figured out the trick to it. You see, when my pops first found the scroll, he tried it out, and of course he went nowhere fast. So I decided to take a crack at it, and for the longest time, I thought that somehow you had to be able to drain your opponents ki, which you can do, but it doesn't have the same affect. The trick of it is to combine the ability to affect another person's ki, thanks to Happosai, with the ability to create a ki void, thanks to the Amazons. And when you combine the two of them..." Ranma trailed off with a smile.

Setsuna's eyes widened as she followed the train of thought to its inevitable conclusion. "When you combine them, you can create ki voids inside your opponents ki flows. With the right placement you can disrupt the primary flows that control any part of another person's body. You can shut them down with a single touch."

Ranma shook his head. "Not quite, anyone with halfway decent ki control or reserves can just ignore the ki voids and either redirect their flows, consciously or unconsciously, or simply fill them with their own ki and keep on fighting. I'd have to stay in contact for more than a few seconds to make a ki void large enough, and even then it could potentially kill them if I misjudge it by even the littlest bit." Setsuna gave Ranma a surprised look.

From what Senny had shown her, and what she had seen while observing him on her own, when she was judging on whether or not he might be a potential enemy, she had never seen this kind of intelligence in Ranma. That's not to say it wasn't there, this conversation proving its existence beyond a shadow of a doubt, but it simply did not appear to have any outward effect in any portion of his life outside of martial arts. And even considering the fact that they were discussing martial arts techniques, the strength of mind necessary to calculate exactly how a large a ki void to create in mere seconds of contact, and against multiple opponents who each possessed varying amounts of ki, was absolutely staggering.

That knowledge alone made Setsuna glad that she had never made an enemy out of Ranma, either on purpose or by accident, as she had no doubt that he would be able to defeat all the Senshi in turn, even possibly herself. And that was a truly sobering thought, after so many centuries of being practically untouchable to any opponent, and then along comes a young man a bare fraction of her age, and he matches her skill without even meaning to, or even knowing the magnitude of the fact.

"Th-that's incredible." A mischievous twinkle came to Setsuna's eyes. "You wouldn't happen to be keeping any other secrets from me, would you? And here I thought we were friends." Setsuna gave a melodramatic sigh as she clasped her hands in front of her. Ranma continued walking, his eyes fixed dead straight ahead. Finally, he cursed himself as he gave in and turned to look at Setsuna, wincing at the look on her face, the pout with the wiggling lip that was the bane of many a man, and more then a few women too.

And of course, Ranma reacted with all his hard-earned eloquence. "Gah!" He recoiled in a mix of terror and something that felt strangely like guilt. Shuddering, he closed his eyes and swore that whenever he was in his cursed he would never use that expression, it was simply too cruel. "Hey, I'm not gonna tell you everything I know, no matter how good a friend you are. I mean, if I tell you everything, then I'll miss the looks on your face when I surprise you with them."

Setsuna let out a sigh at Ranma's somewhat faulty, yet in the end accurate enough, manner of thinking. "Fine, don't tell me then. But that means I don't have to tell you about what I know either." She chuckled quietly at the pout that stole its way onto Ranma's face.

"Fair enough, I guess. But only if you show some of Senshi party tricks of yours." Setsuna reared back in indignation. Ranma smirked as Setsuna began to practically froth at the mouth.

"T-tricks? You called some of the most powerful spells ever learned by the race of men, party tricks?" And then, in a blink, the anger was gone, replaced with a coolness that Ranma though only possible through the use of the Soul of Ice. The nasty smile that had grown on Setsuna's face did nothing to assuage his fears.

"You want to see a neat trick?" Ranma swallowed at the measured levelness of Setsuna's voice." How about I make you disappear. Dead. Scream." Ranma barely had time to blink as his eyes suddenly were filled with a giant ball of fluctuating energy. All he had time for before it hit him was to increase his body's defenses with ki, and even then the blast from the ball as it came in contact with him caused him no small amount of pain. The fact that the explosion had send his body tumbling backwards into a nearby stone wall also may have had something to do with the pain he was feeling.

"Owie." He whimpered as he slowly peeled himself out of the person shaped indentation in the wall. His shook his head to clear away the spots in his vision, before looking around and finding Setsuna slowly making her way down the street. As he hustled to catch up with her, he made sure to remind himself to never get Setsuna angry, or to call her moves 'little tricks', because he sure as heck didn't want that to happen again.

When Akane stormed through the front door and straight into the dojo, all while she ignored the shouted questions from both of the fathers, Kasumi knew something had happened, again. And when Ranma failed to arrive after more than an hour, she started to become more than a little bit worried. Things weren't following their usual pattern, and to be quite frank, that frightened Kasumi.

While she failed to find the positive side of her dear sister's outright antagonism of Ranma, especially after all he had done for the family, and Akane in particular, she was worried that Akane had done something truly horrible for Ranma not to return. The more time passed, the more nervous Kasumi became. She had to leave the kitchen at one point because her hands were shaking too much for her to handle the knives.

She nearly collapsed with relief when she heard the sound of the door opening again, though she tensed up slightly when she saw that it was only Nabiki. She bit her lip in thought, before quickly grabbing her sister by the arm and dragging her into the kitchen as soon as she had removed her shoes. Nabiki stared at her sister in shock, as for the first time in her memory her sister seemed completely out of sorts.

Kasumi anxiously twisted her dress between her hands as her eyes eyes darted around nervously. "D-did something happen at school today?" Nabiki blinked at Kasumi's quiet question. She gave her a tentative nod.

"You could say that. Akane's class got a new transfer student today, and she was hanging out with Ranma at lunch." Kasumi sighed and stopped her fidgeting with a look of distaste.

"And I suppose Akane-chan didn't approve, did she?" Nabiki grimaced at Kasumi's understatement.

"No, she didn't at all. Didn't help that the new girl pulled some kind of move on our dear sweet sister after she challenged her to a duel. Whatever it was, it was pretty impressive, because Akane stopped cold, looking like she was about to faint. You know," Nabiki paused for a moment, a thoughtful look on her face. "I wonder if she;d be willing to share how she did that, I could probably even more out of Kuno if I used every once in a while."

Kasumi narrowed her eyes and gave her younger sister a disapproving look."Nabiki, how many times have I told you not to take advantage of that poor boy?"

Nabiki rolled her eyes. "More times than I can count, and besides, he's the one that comes to me. Anyway, Akane flipped out after whatever the new girl did and decided to do the smart thing and insulted the girl who just had her terrified." Nabiki sarcastically drawled, causing Kasumi to shake her head at her sister's foolishness.

"Is that all? While I can see how that might upset her, there doesn't seem to be a reason for her to be still so angry." Nabiki cocked her head to side as she gave Kasumi a curious look.

"I didn't know she was still upset, but it makes sense, I suppose. The new girl turned around and rechallenged Akane after she was insulted and Akane was stupid enough to wager both the Art and the Engagement on the outcome." Now it was Nabiki's turn to shake her head at her sister's stupidity. "Suffice to say, she lost, badly. And afterwards, Ranma took off with the new girl and nobody's seen either of them since and trust me," Nabiki gave a small huff of frustration, "I've tried everywhere."

Kasumi was quiet as she digested Nabiki's words. While she could see why Akane would be upset, it still gave her no right to what she did, and from the sounds of things, it seems that she received what was coming to her for her actions. On the other hand, she was more than a little worried about Ranma, after all, when things like this happened it was only a matter of time before some rival showed up gunning for him.

With a sigh, Kasumi turned and walked over to a cabinet, opening it and removing various boxes and containers before withdrawing a small glass bottle of sake. To her sister's disbelief, after quickly popping off the lid, Kasumi raised the bottle to her lips and took a large swig of the sake. Kasumi raised one hand to rub between her eyes, as she stared off into the the distance.

Though the rest of the family may have been unaware of the fact, Kasumi had known for a long time that things between Ranma and her sister were doomed to failure, she had seen that after the night they had arrived. She also knew that once Ranma left things would most likely begin to fall apart without his stabilizing presence, as if there was one thing that could be said about Ranma Saotome, it was that he dealt with things thoroughly and completely.

One hand still clutching the bottle, she walked past a gobsmacked Nabiki towards the door to the kitchen, before pausing at the edge and giving her sister a look over her shoulder. "Nabiki-chan, could you call for take-out. I'm not feeling up to cooking this evening, and I without Ranma here, I doubt any of you are up to stomaching Akane's cooking." Before Nabiki could gather herself for a rational response, Kasumi left the room and headed up the stairs towards her room.

She paused as she passed by Akane's door, giving it a considering look before continuing on. Without putting down the bottle she quietly entered her room and closed the door, setting the sake down for just as long as it took for her to change into her sleepwear. As she dropped tiredly into her bed, she raised the bottle to sky in a toast.

"To Ranma, may he finally find his own happiness." She smiled as she took another, smaller, swig of the sake. She did hope things worked out for the boy, sometimes he felt so much like that little brother she never had. And with the way things were most likely going to go now that he was gone, it might be a good time to take Saotome-san up on that offer she had made. She chuckled quietly to herself in the comforting darkness of her room, after all, wouldn't that be quite the surprise for Ranma.

She gave another chuckle that turned into a yawn, her eyes already beginning to drift closed as she turned over and clutched the sake bottle closer to herself. As she wormed herself deeper into the warmth of her bed, she couldn't help but think warmly of finally having a job working for someone who appreciated her. With a warm grin on her face, she finally drifted off into her dreams of a pleasant future.

"So this is my place, and I'm guessing that's yours over there?" Ranma stated more than asked as he pointed towards the two houses that stood next door to each other. Setsuna frowned before pulling out a small picture from one of her pockets. She gave a quick look before grimacing and placing it back in her pocket.

"Yes, and it seems Senny's sense of humour hasn't changed a bit after dying." Ranma raised a brow at her words, causing her to sigh and roll her eyes. "The picture was shot from exactly where we're standing, with the exact distance in the shot as we have with our own eyes." Ranma nodded in understanding before turning to look at the houses again.

"Well, it looks like no-ones home next door, so why don't you come in for a bit?" Now it was Setsuna's turn to raise a brow, though it was more in surprise than confusion over his words. She gave one last look at the house where she was to stay, before shrugging and heading towards Ranma's mother's house. As they walked up the steps and Ranma knocked on the door, Setsuna couldn't help but think she was forgetting something, something vaguely important.

When no-one came to the door, Ranma turned and gave Setsuna a shrug before opening it and stepping in. As Setsuna followed him in, he called out as he removed his shoes. "Hey mom! I'm home! You here?"

"I'm in the living room dear." Ranma blinked at his mother's response. As he headed over towards the living room door, Setsuna felt that nagging feeling intensify, yet she still couldn't put a finger on the why of it. As Ranma entered the room, followed closely behind by Setsuna, he was caught off guard as his mother grabbed him in a flying tackle.

"Waaah! My manly son! So manly!" Setsuna winced as she recalled why she had been feeling so uncomfortable. At the sound of quiet chuckling her eyes snapped up and scanned the room, before settling on the room's other occupant. Setsuna felt her jaw clench as Serenity gave her a smile and casual wave before turning to face Nodoka.

"Now Saotome-san, what did we just finish speaking about?" At Serenity's words Nodoka immediately let go of Ranma, while still staying close to him, and calmed down considerable. Ranma's jaw dropped as he stared between the two women in shock. Nodoka gave her son a reproving look before shaking her head in amusement.

"I remember Tsukinojoō-san, but it was still so much fun to work up my son like that." She gave her son a warm smile as she moved back to her seat across from Serenity, patting the one next to hers as she sat down. Still somewhat shaken, Ranma nevertheless followed his mother's unspoken request. Setsuna took the seat opposite him and adjacent to Serenity, who was given a particularly dark look.

Nodoka sat there for a moment before she realized that she had yet to introduce her son to her new neighbour. "Before it slips my mind again, Ranma I'd like you to meet Tsukinojoō-san, she just moved in next door. She's also spent the afternoon helping me realize just how wrong my views about things were." Her expression turned somber as she stared into her son's incredulous eyes. "I apologize for what I have put you through my son, I hope you can forgive me for my misguided actions."

Ranma stared at his mother for several seconds in utter and complete disbelief, hell even Setsuna was beyond surprised by the turn of events. Ranma twitched in his seat, before moving to engulf his mother in a not quite bone breaking embrace, as if he desired to, he could in fact do so. Serenity and Setsuna both looked on, one with an amused expression on her face, and the other with a decidedly less energetic look.

After a while, Ranma and his mother broke apart, though Ranma kept an arm around her shoulders. He chuckled sheepishly at the deadpan look he got from Setsuna, before turning back to his mother. "So, not that I'm complainin' or nothin', but what the heck happened? I mean, your like a completely different person then the last ime I saw you."

Ranma blinked as his mother gave him a sheepish smile while scratching the back of her neck. He had always wondered where he had gotten that from. Nodoka's eyes slid over towards Serenity. "Well, I have my new neighbor to thank for that. After she moved in, I thought it would be a good idea to introduce myself. We got to talking and eventually I mentioned you, which lead to, well let's just say more than a few corrections about how I saw things. I'm glad she moved in when she did, if she hadn't," the smile on her face turned sad and bitter.

"If she hadn't I'm sure that I, as well as all of your father's additional engagements, which I will deal with at a later time, would have put so much pressure on you that you would have broken. I can never thank Tsukinojoō-san enough for opening my eyes before that possibility could come to pass." Her smile turned warm as she wrapped an arm of her own around Ranma. "Besides, I'm much more likely to get grandbabies this way!"

Ranma shook his head in false anguish as Nodoka and the others in the room began to laugh. When they had calmed down a bit, Ranma turned towards Serenity with a serious look on his face, a knowing smile of her own on her face as she met his gaze. They stayed that way for a moment, exchanging the silent words of an unheard conversation, before Ranma gave a subtle incline of his head, to which Serenity's smile widened.

The serious expression still in place, Ranma looked towards his mother, the expression melting into a warm smile. "So, umm, about why I'm here." Nodoka blinked as it finally occurred to her that Ranma's presence was in fact quite out of the ordinary, though she could be forgiven as her mind was still a whirl with enlightenment.

"That's right, why are you here dear? Though I have no problem with it, I am still wondering why you are here instead of the Tendo's." Before today, Nodoka would have most likely missed the quick flicker of anger and frustration that stole across her son's face for less than a moment, but not after having her eyes opened to the world around her. "Dear, did something occur with one of the Tendos?"

Ranma winced at his mother's tone. "You could say that. Akane may have done something royally stupid, although," Ranma paused as a thoughtful expression came over his face, "now that I think about it, it was just Akane being Akane again."

Nodoka raised an eyebrow." Oh, and just what do you mean by that?"

Ranma gave her an exaggerated roll of his eyes, unaware of the way his mother leaned closer, or the way Serenity's eyes turned cold at the mention of Akane's name. "Well, it was just like every other day, I'm out eatin' lunch when Setsuna comes over and sits down next to me, an' usually its either Ucch-Ukyo, " The eyes of the women in the room narrowed at Ranma's hasty self-correction of his usual manner of address concerning Ukyo. Ranma quickly pushed on before any of them could call him on it though.

"Either her or Shampoo givin' me food or somethin', but over comes Akane, an' she's all furious cus I ran into Setsuna before and acted like I actually knew a girl other than Akane or her sisters. So she comes over all pissed at me for actually payin someone attention, an when Setsy," his attention focused on his mother as it was, Ranma failed to notice the start both Serenity and Setsuna gave at the all too familiar nickname. " She offered a match with Akane, an' then she gave Akane a bit of a scare when she was bein' an ass about the terms an everything, then Akane went an' insulted her, an' real low blow too."

Nodoka looked over to Setsuna, who responded with a grim nod of confirmation. She frowned as her son continued with the story, as the more she heard about the youngest Tendo, the more angry she got, not only with Akane and her husband for forcing the girl onto her son, but at herself for doing much the same, and for the worst reasons.

"Like I was sayin', Akane goes for a cheap shot, an' she's lucky she didn't say somethin' like that to me, or I woulda done a lot worse then just knocked her out. I mean, look at what happened last time Taro showed up. What Akane said was even worse." Nodoka shuddered. She had in fact seen that battle, and its outcome, and after her son had told her what the other boy had said she could understand why he did what he had. And if what Akane had said was worse, then could certainly see someone getting more than a little furious over it.

"An' that kinda brings me ta the whole point. Before Akane, er, shot herself in the foot, she put down her terms, so Setsuna turned around and offered her terms after she was insulted. So, Setsy won, which kinda means, well, Akanecantpracticemartialarts anymoreandshesnolongermyfian ce. " The women in the room blinked as they tried to decipher Ranma's rushed words, though the task was easier for Setsuna, as she had to deal with someone who spoke like that on quite the regular basis, though with at least a little spacing between the words.

Nodoka gave a weak chuckle. "I can see how things might be tough then. Especially once Soun and your father hear about it." She and Ranma shared a wince. "I'll be sure to deal with him later. It seems he neglected to mention some things about your training trip as well the fact that he made certain, additional engagements on my behalf."

Ranma cocked his head to the side in confusion. "On your behalf?"

"Yes, it seems that my dear husband made more than a few contracts while you two were traveling under the authority as the head of the clan." Ranma gave his mother a surprised look.

"Wait a sec, you mean he isn't?" Ranma blurted out incredulously. Nodoka gave him another shake of her head.

"No, he married into the family, and since my father, your grandfather, had no other children, I inherited the position when he passed away. Of course that didn't seem to stop him, and that is something I'll be sure to address next time I see him." Ranma opened his mouth at the way his mother looked pointedly towards the Saotome family sword, resting on a stand beneath a wrapped scroll on a small shelf.

However, what came out of his mouth was not the call for clemency he had initially been planning on saying. "Eh, it'll serve the old man right. 'Bout time he got what was comin' to him. So you don't mind if I stay here for a bit, right?"

Nodoka gave her son another smile. "Not at all, I would be sorely remiss to pass up an opportunity to get to know my son better. Oh, and Tsukinojoō-san told me you were planning to change schools? After what you told me you had to deal with, I can understand why, though it is still quite surprising."

Ranma gave the silver haired woman a look of surprise, and no small amount of suspicion. He had only decided to change schools after spending a bit of time with Setsuna, and neither of them had spoken to her, or at least he hadn't. Shaking it off, and making a mental note to check with Setsuna about it later, he returned his attention to his mother.

"Yeah, I've been thinkin' for a while now, but, I'm gonna need to get a job at some point, cus it doesn't look like the dojo is goin' to work out, heck I figured that ages ago. So I'm gonna need to get a job, and to do that I need to make sure that I have a good edu- oh what's the word I'm lookin' for?"

"Education dear. And I can see that it would do you some good to improve your mind as well as your body. And you can't get that from your current school?" Ranma gave his mom a shake of his head.

"If I was sure I could go more than half a day without some thug or wannabe coming out of the woodwork, then I'd stay. But I haven't had more than a single week's worth of interruption free school since I've been here. Honestly, its gotten real old, and I really don't want to keep having to save Akane from whoever decides to kidnap her." Ranma muttered the last part with an unsurprising bitterness.

Nodoka nodded sagely. "Very well, and though I hate to return to my former manner, I would consider it very 'manly' of you to complete a proper education. Do you have another school in mind?"

Ranma gave Setsuna a sidelong glance. "Yeah, actually. I was kinda planning to go to the high school over in Juuban." Nodoka gave her son a surprised look.

"Juuban, why there? And where will you stay?" Ranma licked his lips, thankful for the fact that his mother would, now, take this a little bit better than she would have before hand.

"Uh, Setsuna offered me a room at her place." Nodoka blinked, the corner's of her mouth twitching, as were her hands. She opened her mouth only to close it a moment later.

"T-that's very nice of her dear. But is it really alright to be staying with a young lady for such a long period of time?" Though her words contained a more than fair share of maternal worry and pride, there was still an undertone of eagerness to them.

"Huh, sure. Sides, its not like we'll be the only ones there, Setsuna said she shares the place with some of her friends." Nodoka deflated a bit but gave her son a warm smile.

"Alright then. But make sure you come and visit me sometimes, I've only just found you and it wouldn't do have you leave for another ten years, now would it? It would be such a shame to declare you unmanly for ignoring his mother." Ranma choked on his spit, before noticing the teasing smile on his mother's face.

Ranma gave his mother a flat look. "Yeah," he deadpanned " that would be a real shame. I don't think I could survive the afterlife knowing I had caused my beloved mother such torment." He held the look for several seconds, the entire room silent save for the sound of breathing. Ranma's mouth began to twitch as first Serenity, and then Setsuna began to quietly snicker, before bursting into outright laughter.

Ranma tried in vain to hold onto his self-control, but when his mother joined the laughing pair, he couldn't last much longer and soon followed suit. Eventually, the excitement wound down and Ranma found himself fighting and, for once in his packed full of battle life, failing to hold back a yawn. His mother, as well as the other two women, noticed and smiled.

"Ranma, why don't you retire for the evening. I'm sure you could use the rest before school tomorrow, and I doubt there are any other pressing matters that require your presence." Nodoka blinked and put a finger to her lip as she considered her son. "There aren't any other matters, are there?"

Ranma shook his head as he let out another tired yawn. Rising from his seat, he gave Setsuna and Serenity a quick bow, before heading towards the stairs. With a sigh, Setsuna pushed herself up from her seat. " I should go and sleep too. Unlike some people," She stared pointedly at Serenity," I need my rest or I can't function properly the next day. Thank you for the tea Saotome-san. " Giving Nodoka a bow of her own, she quietly headed out of the house, both Nodoka and Serenity staying silent until they heard the door close.

Once Nodoka was reasonably sure that Setsuna had left, she carefully set down her cup of tea before staring at the woman across from her, a serious expression on her face. "Now then, why don't you tell me what it is you wanted me to know, and why it had to wait until after my son arrived?"

Serenity inhaled deeply as she thought of the best way to explain. "You see, many years ago, while I was taking a break in a small bar outside of Chiba, I came across a young man who seemed down on his luck, if the bar tab he had run up was of any measure. I approached him, curious as to what might be ailing him so. He told me that he while he had recently gotten married, his old martial arts master had decided to take him on a training journey, and he was simply drinking away in the hopes of making the separation from his wife a bit more bearable. "

Nodoka narrowed her eyes as Serenity continued on. " Unfortunately for him, by the time the bar was closing he had rung up a tab far in excess of what he could afford. Having heard his story, I offered to cover what he couldn't. He was so thankful that, having earlier mentioned that I had a young girl that I was the guardian of, after her family had died, he offered his first born child's hand in marriage." Nodoka's breath hissed through her teeth. Nodding sympathetically, Serenity grimly pulled out a small, folded piece of paper from out of a pocket and slid it across to Nodoka.

Nodoka shook her head in dissapointment as she picked up the paper and read it, grimacing as she noticed some of the details that she was sure her wayward husband had missed. "That is the contract, written and signed by one Genma Saotome. And unlike the other contracts, all of which this one precedes, this is signed as a father for his son, not as clan head. But," Serenity reached across the table and plucked the paper from Nodoka's hands before sliding it back into her pocket and continuing, "it is not quite that bad. Both Setsuna and your son are currently unaware of this contract, and I would like to see how things are between them, and let them decide."

Nodoka frowned in though for a moment, before a sly smile stole across her face. "And if they do decide they like each other, you can use the contract to break the other engagements." Serenity nodded appreciatively, pleasantly surprised by the intuitive leap of knowledge from Nodoka. "Quite a plan of yours, and its one I feel has a good deal of merit to it. Just be careful that it doesn't backfire on you, but can you imagine what the grandchildren would look like?"

Serenity smiled as she pulled out a small binder from somewhere on her person, though considering she was still wearing the same plain blouse and slacks that she had on earlier, the source of it being something that struck Nodoka as odd. She shrugged it off as something to ask about later as Serenity leaned forwards and put the binder on table, opening it and quickly leafing through the pages until she found the one she was looking for. Smiling, she slid it over to Nodoka it took a brief glance at the images on the page before clapping a hand over her mouth.

Serenity approved of the reaction, as she had responded much the same way when she had first seen the picture. "Impressive isn't it? Setsuna's mother is the one on the left there, the one with the green hair. Within her family, the colour of the hair usually transfers from the male to the female and vice-versa. So its a pretty safe bet that any granddaughters of yours will have the most interesting contrast between their red hair and their eyes, which I have no sure idea on the colour of."

Nodoka had briefly looked up at Serenity as she gave some background to the photo. Her first thought, upon seeing the myriad different hair colours, from violet, to sea-blue, to the emerald green of Setsuna, was of how much time it must of taken to gather all those young woman together for the photo. But then she had looked closer and noticed the fact that they all shared some common features, from the dusky skin tone, to their general height and builds. And as Serenity finished speaking, Nodoka lost herself in dreams of possible grandchildren.

She snapped back to reality in a flash and put a hand on Serenity's shoulder, an expression on her face so serious it was almost amusing. "Serenity-san, my dearest friend, we must do everything in our power to get these two together. Everything." And as the two smiled and plotted the night away, Ranma twisted and turned in his bed, his dreams turning cold and chilling as he shivered in his sleep.

Okay, so some of you might be wondering why I gave Serenity a different last name when, in the last chapter when I introduced Setsuna, I put her as down as Setsuna's 'mother'. One, I never explicitly stated the fact that they shared names. Two, it is possible that Serenity could have, oh I don't know, lied. And three, Tsukinojoō roughly translates, according to google, as Queen of the Moon. Heh. (Edit, just realized the closeness between it and Usagi's last name. Doh.)

I was bored and spending time on animefreak looking for something interesting between updates on a couple of my series, and found a neat little anime by the name of Oda Nobuna no Yabou. The premise is that a highschool student somehow travels back in time and ends up in the middle of a battle. And one side just so happens to be the Oda army. The poor guy is about to be killed when the guy who would eventually, in actual history, go on to become Hideyoshi Toyotomi saves his life. Unfortunately, he dies. But now comes the fun part, because all the major lords, Imagawa, Oda, Akechi, Date, they are all female. Let that sit in your mind for a moment. EVERY MAJOR PLAYER IN THE SENGOKU ERA IS A HOT WOMAN. THE VERSION OF ODA NOBUNAGA IS A TSUNDERE BADASS. THERE ARE NO WORDS TO DESCRIBE JUST HOW AWESOME THAT IS, EXCEPT IN CAPS.

*cough* Anyways, suffice to say, it caught my eye. And it, plus my unhealthy interest in Japanese history due to video games, anime, and manga, now has my mind working overtime on a crossover fanfiction between it and Ranma. And yes, I do believe that could be bad, but hey, I can just imagine him coming back from the past (after spending a long while there) to have his mom pull out the ol' family tree, and low and behold, there he is with one of the anime's characters. Heh, hehehehehehehehehehehehehehe , heh.

Oh, and sorry it took so long, but like I said before, I'm in my last year of high school, and I'm working on both a short story for a contest, and a full length novel, so my time for writing fanfiction is relatively limited, though I'm still finding time to end up writing two new stories in addition to the two other updates I've been working on.

Eh, that's life. See ya later.