No Need for a Tomboy

A Ranma 1/2 - Tenchi Muyo crossover fan fiction

By Michael A. Ivins

Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 and all related characters are the property of the brilliant lady, Takahashi Rumiko along with her publishers, and anime producers. Likewise I don't own the characters of Tenchi. I am borrowing them for my own amusement and hope that my readers will be amused as well.

Timeline Notice: This story joins the action at the point of the final battle between Ranma and Saffron. At this point Akane has been dried up and is the size of a doll. To save her Ranma is trying to get some of the cold magic water of Jusendo while Saffron is trying to stop him. They have broken the wall of the cave and are fighting outside on the slopes of the mountain. For Tenchi I haven't really picked a specific series, it's more like I've picked bits in common. If you see any really jarring notes, please let me know and I'll try and correct them.

This story contains Panda bashing.

Chapter 1

Awakening

In the Bayankala Mountain Range of China's Quinghai province two figures battled near to the Phoenix Mountain and a cave known as Jusendo. One of the figures was like a man but with wings. His feet and hands had clawed digits. The other figure was a human boy by the name of Saotome Ranma. The human boy was held aloft by the winds generated by the technique called Hiryu Shoten Hah.

Saffron, the winged man, slashed at Ranma, the human, with the bladed ring of the staff called Kinjakan. The boy was able to move back out of the way enough to avoid the worst of the slash, but it did cut into his clothing. That opened up the top of the garment where Akane's doll-sized form had been tucked.

"AKANE!" he screamed as the tiny form fell away from him. No! It couldn't end this way. After all he had done, all he had suffered. How could the girl survive the fall? As that thought ran through his mind, he followed it by remembering what he had been told of Akane's condition.

His fiancée had gripped the ring of the Kinjakan in an effort to turn off the hot magical water that Saffron needed for his ascension. So much magical heat was being generated by the weapon/key that it had dried up all of the water in Akane's body. All that was left of her now was a dried up husk and the remnants of the brave girl's spirit.

Because of the dehydration, Akane's body had shrunk to the size of doll, barely the length of two hands. Her tiny form was very light, seeming almost weightless. Maybe there was still a chance. Maybe her in her doll-like form she could survive the fall. Even if that was true that didn't mean he could dawdle. The guide had said that when Akane the doll's eyes closed all the way, it would mean her spirit was gone from her dried up body and she would be dead. Her eyes were already more than half closed now.

What was Ranma going to do? Saffron was too strong. His powers too great. If Ranma tried to attack with the Gekkaja the freezing power was reflected back at him from the Kinjakan. His ki wasn't strong enough. Saffron could dodge his Moku Takabisha attacks. There had to be something else, some skill, some power he hadn't used yet.

Even while Ranma continued to fight, his mind sought within himself. There had to be something that he had missed before, something he had overlooked or hadn't tried yet!

Wait! He felt it. There was something there! A well of energy, a power that he had not been aware of. He desperately reached within himself and touched the hidden power.

How could something like this have been hiding inside him? The power exploded forth from his core and filled him to overflowing. It resembled his ki but felt different. Suddenly light flared around him as his aura seemed to ignite and to surround his body and the weapon in his hands. After a moment it felt as though the energy was flowing out of his body and into the weapon.

What was going on now? The next he knew the power surrounding his body lashed out on its own and struck at the weapon held by Saffron. Had his subconscious controlled it in response to the perceived threat? A moment later the power flowed back into Ranma's body.

How he knew he wasn't sure, but he was aware that something had changed. Through his newly awakened senses he could perceive no power in the weapon he held. He tried to evoke the freezing blast from Gekkaja but there was no response. All he had in his hands now was a piece of metal. It was still a decent weapon, but there was no power.

Saffron seemed to be having similar problems. The Kinjakan in his hand was producing no further fire, no heat. He shook the shaft in his hands like someone hoping to get a faltering machine to function. He even slapped the shaft with his hand. When he received no response, he cast the weapon aside and it fell to the ground below with a clang.

Even without the power of the Kinjakan, Saffron was still able to project flames but without the tool provided by the weapon it lacked focus. The winged mans flames now resembled a bonfire compared to a flamethrower. Flapping his wings furiously, he flew toward Ranma with his clawed hands extended.

The pigtailed boy shifted his weight to let the winds of his Hiryu Shoten Ha carry him out of harms way. It was time to stop reacting to his foe and do something useful with the power that now coursed through him.

With the new power there came new instincts that told him of ways to use it. Around his feet there was a circle of dancing motes of light. That ring of light moved up his body. In the wake of that movement, the Chinese silks he normally wore were replaced by some kind of armor of a style he couldn't identify. Triangular black marks that resembled tattoos or war paint appeared on his cheeks with the points of the triangles toward his nose and mouth.

Behind his back, projecting out straight over Ranma's head was a glowing bar of white light. It was not a simple straight rod but flared on the sides toward the tip. Two more such "wings" projected out to either side of him and angled downward. Even if the wings of light were behind him, he could sense their presence through his new power.

For the first time in this battle, Saffron felt the cold hand of fear clutch at his heart over the sight that met his horrified gaze. It had been thousands of years and many of his life cycles, but he knew what those bars of light represented. He had never seen them with his own eyes, but he had read about them and had seen pictures. Fear and astonishment in his voice, he proclaimed, "Wings of the light hawk? That's impossible! Only members of the Juraian Royal family should be able to create those!"

Hearing that, Ranma frowned in confusion, asking, "What the hell is a light hawk? Is that some kind of bird?" He had never heard of such a thing, but he glanced at the wings of light behind him, wondering what the bird-man was talking about. They seemed to be radiating from a point somewhere behind his back.

Saffron's greatest advantages in this fight had been the power of flight and the ability to regenerate. The flames could be dodged, but until now, Ranma's movements through the air had been clumsy because he had been dependent on moving his body in different ways to catch the currents of the wind from his tornado. As for the regeneration ability, even when Ranma had managed to injure one of the bird man's wings, the Phoenix had torn off the damaged wing and grown a new one. It was tough to fight someone like that.

Saffron had called the bars of light "wings of the light hawk." Wings? Wings! Maybe those wings of light would give him a chance to level the playing field? He didn't know what a light hawk was supposed to look like but he had seen lots of pictures of angels in manga and on movie posters. Could those wings of light become actual wings, like those of an angel?

At this thought two of the light hawk wings morphed. They moved up onto a point of attachment on his shoulder blades and sprouted feathers. In a matter of seconds, Ranma now stood in his Juraian armor bearing huge feathered wings on his back. Another thought sent him rocketing up into the air in complete control of his movements. Yes! This was more like it!

Saffron groaned inwardly. This didn't look good for him. The stupid landling had created wings for himself and now had the ability to fly. Because the wings were composed of energy, the boy didn't even need to flap his wings to maneuver in the air.

Ranma would have preferred to try out his wings and practice in their use. He didn't like the idea of going into a fight with a new and untested ability, but time was not on his side. If Akane wasn't dead from the fall earlier, she was probably near death now. A quick glance down at the ground let him see the tiny form laying there. She didn't appear damaged from the fall, but was too far away to tell how far her eyes were open. He had to resolve this fight and do it quickly if Akane was to have a chance at survival.

Moving into the air Ranma found that whatever power he was now channeling, it seemed to have enhanced his speed even more than his ki alone had. While the new power was different from his ki there were similarities. If he worked at it, he might be able to use the two forms of energy simultaneously. It might even be possible to merge them together into an even greater power. But the middle of a battle was not the time to think of such things.

From an outstretched hand fire blasted forth from Saffron. Instinctively, the young martial artist bent one of his wings to cover his body, deflecting the flames and causing no visible damage to the feathered appendage. When the flames stopped, he returned the wing to its position.

Now that he was able to better control his flight, Ranma tried to engage the birdman. While his wings allowed him to move through the air, he lacked experience in doing so. The Saotome school of Anything Goes may have been called an aerial school, but that involved leaping high and fighting while falling. It was almost certain that the Old Freak Happosai hadn't envisioned actual flight when he created the style.

The light hawk wings were helping to bridge the gap in strength between the fighters, but Saffron was a natural flyer and had the edge in power. That advantage was lessened because it had been centuries since the birdman had actually had to fight. Ranma's combat skills were greater and well practiced, thanks to constant fights against such opponents as Ryoga, Herb and others.

The regeneration was proving to be a far greater problem for Ranma than his foe's flight capability. The few times he had been able to close with his foe, the damage he had inflicted was healed quickly.

It was looking as if Ranma might have to try and tire out his opponent. Considering how little time Akane was likely to have left, that wasn't good. Now Ranma was sorry that he had thrown the Gekkaja aside when Saffron had discarded the Kinjakan. He needed an edge.

Then he remembered that he had three light hawk wings and was currently only using two of them to allow himself to fly. A moment's thought and the strange bar of light disappeared from his back and reappeared in his hand. That bar of light morphed into a European style broadsword with long straight blade, hilt large enough to grip with two hands and plain, straight guard.

Even if Genma had taught that weapons were a crutch for weak fighters, to hell with him! One of the panda man's main complaints was that a sword can be taken away, leaving the weapon user helpless. If Ranma was creating a weapon out of his own power, then there was no chance that it could be taken away or used against him. If it was knocked out of his hand, he could just disperse the first one and create a new one.

While Saffron had theoretical knowledge of what could be done with light hawk wings, to witness the actual formation of a solid weapon out of light was a shock. That moment of hesitation was the opening Ranma needed as he swung his new blade, striking the birdman's right arm just above the elbow, completely severing the limb.

The Phoenix quickly moved away from his attacker to gain a little time. Having the ability to regenerate a severed limb didn't make it hurt any less, though it did mean the pain was shorter in duration. Even after growing a replacement of the severed limb, the memory of pain persisted for a moment.

On the ground, doll-sized Akane lay on her on her side with a small rock propping her up a bit. Because of her desiccated body the girl was unable to move her limbs or even to redirect her gaze to look at the fight. She had heard what the guide had said about her dried up body and the weakening of her spirit. By now her eyes were almost completely closed and so she knew she was near death.

She hated feeling so helpless! Earlier in the fight when she was knocked from Ranma's grasp she had fallen into the path of one of the Phoenix lord's attacks, absorbing the heat into herself. Ranma had been trying to save her, but she had saved him instead. It seemed a fair trade for all of the times the pigtailed boy had rescued her. She just wished there were a way she could help now.

Suddenly something struck the ground next to where she was laying. It had landed barely a couple of centimeters away from her position on the ground. If Akane had been capable of doing so, she would have screamed in fright. The object that had landed on the ground so near to her was a severed arm! It was so gross!

It took Akane a moment to realize that the arm was one of Saffron's. Earlier in the battle, when her doll-like form had been tucked into Ranma's shirt, she had seen the birdman rip off a damaged wing and grow a new one. Likely the arm was already re-grown by now. It was still gross, but not so alarming now.

There was also something else strange. Her eyes were drawn to the bracelet that adorned the wrist of that arm. Affixed to that bracelet she could see three gems. The gems were not impressive to look at, just small spheres of dark red.

Even though she had never seen anything like those gems before, there was a feeling of familiarity. In looking at the bracelet, Akane was surprised to realize that her eyes, which had been nearly closed beyond her ability to open, were now open half way. She looked at the gems and saw them seem to ignite in a soft glow. Something in that rosy glow seemed to call to her. She had the undeniable feeling that these gems belonged to her and that she must reclaim them.

The dried up girl concentrated all of her attention on one of the gems. Since the gems were calling to her in some manner, she decided that she would try to call back. With her mind focused she brought her will to bear with the thought, "Come to me."

A connection was forged from her will and the little red sphere she was focused on responded to her call. A moment later it disappeared from the bracelet. It was amazing! She couldn't see the gem now, but she could feel it. It had somehow transferred itself from the bracelet to her neck at the base of her throat.

A sense of power exploded throughout her body. At one and the same time it was both the most painful thing she had ever experienced and the most ecstatically pleasant thing ever. It flooded into every part of her until she felt like she was close to bursting with energy. She now found that her eyes were wide open and she was staring at the bracelet.

Even with the sensation of power, she also felt a longing. She looked at the bracelet and tried to focus her mind onto the remaining two gems. She tried calling to them as she had with the first one. She was less surprised when those gems disappeared and relocated themselves to her wrists.

Power! The sheer magnitude of the power flowing through her felt amazing. Still acting more by instinct that planning, she turned her attention to the cave that was visible through the broken wall. Inside of that cave she knew lay the pipe that carried the magic water to the enchanted Phoenix and Dragon taps. She used her new powers to touch the pipe and teleport some of the cold magic water to herself.

The water soaked into her body, restoring the moisture the Kinjakan had driven from it before. She thought it should have taken several minutes for the water to work, but the restoration was almost instantaneous. She wasn't sure if that was because of the magic of the water or due to the power she was now wielding or some peculiar combination of both.

For a moment Akane simply reveled in feeling her limbs again and being able to move. It was when she noticed feeling small rocks under her back and buttocks that she realized she was lying nude on the ground. That was right, Ranma had used her clothes in a move to try and decoy the phoenix lord. While it had succeeded in distracting him and had allowed Ranma to gain a moment's advantage, it hadn't won the battle.

Akane pushed herself up to look around and could see the rest of the group had spotted her restored form. Ryoga, Genma and the Amazons were walking toward her.

No! That wouldn't do. Ranma was fighting not just for his own life, but hers and all of the others as well. She wouldn't just lie there or even let someone take her away. It wasn't just the idea that she was a martial artist too. No, she had power now. She was as strong as Ranma now, maybe more. She would join the fight.

How would she do that? Still operating more by instinct than intention, Akane summoned clothing. It was a skin tight black battle suit that showed every muscle and every curve. It was almost indecent how tight the thing fitted. She couldn't take the time to worry about that now. It covered her and that was all that counted for now.

It wasn't enough that she had power now, she must use it! She was furious with Saffron for what he had done and was still trying to do. In her right hand a ball of light appeared. It looked a little like one of Ranma's ki blasts, but she somehow knew was made of a different kind of energy.

Akane's fingers closed and the ball of light became oval in shape then elongated into a glowing blade. The black haired girl looked at the sword of light and suddenly grinned. She wasn't going to be the damsel in distress. She wasn't going to be the one needing rescue anymore. With that thought she leaped into the air and began to survey the fight to see how best she could help without getting in the way.

Ranma was still having an almost impossible time closing with his foe. And when he did get close he wasn't able to do the kind of damage that would be decisive. His anger was flaring into a rage and his face contorting into an expression of fury. This was taking too long! That was when he became aware that in his free hand a flame was bursting into being.

What the hell? That looked just like the fire that Saffron had evoked from the Kinjakan. With that comparison, he thought he understood. This must have been what had happened when his new power had first blossomed and burst forth. When that power had touched both of the weapons of elemental magic, it hadn't destroyed the weapons; it had absorbed their powers and drawn the magic into him.

But what good would this do him? Saffron would suffer no injury from the elemental fire in Ranma's left hand. Fire was the birdman's natural element.

But if he had absorbed the power of fire, then that must also mean... The enraged expression on his face transformed into a grin as a plan took form in his mind. By absorbing the elemental magic, his new powers had added two new weapons to his arsenal. When he opened his right hand, the sword there disappeared and the bar of light from the light hawk wing reappeared over his head. In the empty hand there appeared a blob of elemental ice that resembled a frozen blue flame.

Putting his plan into action, he extended his arms out to the side and began to spin his body, heat and cold moving out from his hands. The force of his will added an extra impetus to the elemental energies, causing them to form into a spiral.

Saffron saw the movements and wondered what the hell his opponent was up to this time. By now he knew he was out gunned. Since the boy was using light hawk wings, he reasoned that it had to be the power of Jurai he was using now. He had resigned himself to the idea that he would loose, but he would make the fool pay dearly for whatever victory he might gain.

By using the hit and run tactics he had adopted, it was almost assured that the girl would be dead before the boy defeated him. It was petty, he knew, but he wasn't about to let the boy gain any satisfaction from his victory.

When the spiral of magical energies had grown sufficiently large, Ranma brought his hands together and then struck at the center with a blue glowing fist of frigid power. The tornado that was formed from this action was smaller, but tightly controlled. Unlike a natural wind vortex, this one was horizontal rather than vertical and clearly aimed at the birdman.

"Fool!" Saffron scoffed. Folding his wings, he ducked below the tornado. "I told you before I can avoid this kind of wind attack." His manner changed abruptly when he realized that his foe was no longer in front of him. Where had that accursed landling disappeared to!

"Wasn't trying to hit you," said a voice from behind him in a derisive tone. While Saffron had been avoiding the tornado, Ranma had used his flight and speed to get in close behind Saffron while cloaking his movements under the invisibility of the Umi Senken.

The phoenix lord felt a hand grip his shoulder and realized the tornado had been a diversion to allow the boy to get in close. Unfortunately, it had worked. How had the boy moved so fast? Saffron tried to struggle, but the grip was too strong and he could feel his body growing numb. It was like the cold produced by the Gekkaja. As the numbness spread from his shoulder and he could tell that his body was freezing. So that was why the boy had thrown aside the weapon. The powers of both fire and ice had been absorbed into his foe.

Before Ranma could make another move he was shocked to hear a familiar voice call out, "Ranma, get out of the way!" As he moved back he was relieved to see Akane alive and apparently well, though he would love to find out how she had managed to heal herself and return to normal size.

But the sight of her brought a multitude of questions to his mind. First of all when had she learned how to fly? She had never exhibited an ability like that before or she would have used it. Not only was she flying, she was doing it without wings. Saffron needed wings to fly as did Ranma himself. A stray thought caused him to wonder if she could teach him how to do that.

Another question was about her looks. She looked absolutely amazing in skintight black outfit that covered her from her feet to her neck. And was that a sword in her hand? Unlike his own sword that he had created by converting a light hawk wing into a solid weapon, hers appeared to be a glowing bar of energy like a light saber such as he had seen in videos of Star Wars he had watched with the Tendos but without a device to generate it. Did she possess some variation on the light hawk wings she could draw upon?

Wherever the outfit came from, it fit her like a second skin, outlining every curve and every muscle. It was almost indecent how tightly the black costume fit his fiancée. It looked incredibly good on her.

Whatever had happened to her, it appeared Miss "I'm a martial artist too," didn't want to be left out of the fight. The major difference now was that she had power to back up the attitude.

As he lost the ability to control his limbs, Saffron knew he was facing the end of his current life. There was nothing more he could do to save himself. He had looked at the girl now approaching with the sword of light and could see the blazing gems at her throat and wrists. He recognized those gems as the ones he had worn on his bracelet. With that recognition came the realization of who the flying girl must surely be.

It had become one of those "your life passes in front of your eyes" moments that are often spoken of when someone is on the brink of death. Because of the peculiar life cycle of a phoenix god, there was a lot to remember.

He seriously regretted this life cycle. Those who had raised him this time had not done a good job. They had deferred to him too much and treated him as if he were a god in truth and not just a god-like mortal with the power of re-birth. That upbringing had resulted in an arrogant attitude and it had been that which had led to his downfall this time.

With the stunning accuracy of hindsight, Saffron could see that it was his own fault that the land... No, if his foe could create wings for himself, it wouldn't do to call the boy a landling. Regardless, it was his own fault he was beaten.

If Saffron had just killed the boy when he had first perceived the threat he represented, then he wouldn't be contemplating his own death right now. In his arrogance and supreme overconfidence he had played with the boy. The boy's attitude was so confident and undeservedly arrogant that the phoenix king had felt the need to put him in his place. What better way to do that than to demonstrate his superiority by taunting his foe and trying to torture him with the imminent death of the girl?

It was obvious now that, in responding to the taunts and the threatened demise of the girl, the boy had dug down deep inside, looking for more power. And it was now plain that the boy had found the power he sought. Who would have expected such a child to have the power of light hawk wings? Saffron had come to this planet to get away from the Jurai.

If he had just killed the boy when he first perceived the threat he represented, then the girl would be dead and not about to strike him with an energy sword. Ah well, there was that hindsight again. It was said that no good deed goes unpunished. Who would have thought that a good deed performed thousands of years before would turn out this way. But the punishment for that good deed was about to smash the life out of him.

He had lived for thousands of years. While he had spent some time in travel, most of his years had been spent on that one same mountain. After all, he couldn't leave for very long because his people depended on him. Was he doomed to continually stay in the same remote corner of the world going through the same cycle with minor variations for thousands of years more?

In his musings, Saffron had not watched as the girl had moved closer. Now she was upon him. As the sword of light struck, shattering his icy form, one last thought came to the phoenix king. "Maybe this time I will really die. That would be different, at least."

Icy fragments showered down onto the ground. Then an odd thing happened. The fragments seemed to burst into flame and melt. Where the frozen bits had lain there was now an egg. Saffron was once again ready to be reborn.

The phoenix people looked on from a distance. It should have been impossible, but their lord, their king, their god had been defeated. Were those beings who had defeated their god truly landlings?

The boy had created wings for himself. The girl was flying without wings. How did such beings as that fit into their previously narrow view of the world? Before there had only been themselves and the landlings - pathetic creatures doomed to walk the earth because they lacked wings and could not fly. They would be talking about this for a long time to come.

In air above the battleground the victors in the conflict, two beings of immense power, hovered. While it was true that neither of them truly understood the power they possessed, they still had it. Together they had killed a being thought of as a god. Would anything ever be the same for them?

Ranma gazed on the form of Akane in her tight-fitting black suit. The girl in front of him was obviously a warrior. You could tell from the strong arms, powerful shoulders and abs. Her thighs were well muscled but he decided that "thick" was not a proper descriptive term. That body that was so well displayed by the black suit really was sexy.

He now recognized the enormity of his error when had insulted her by saying that Akane had no sex appeal. She was still a tomboy, but that was based on her attitude and not her looks. He wanted to touch her, embrace her, kiss her. He held off from acting on that desire for fear of how she might react to it.

The girl he had thought dying was alive. Not merely alive, but powerfully, energetically and vibrantly alive. He didn't know how this had come about, but it looked wonderful on her.

For Akane's part, she was looking back at Ranma. With the wings and the peculiar armor he looked like an avenging angel, lacking only a halo to complete the picture. How had he gained those things, where had they come from? Before she had not been able to perceive battle auras, but the ability seemed to come with her new powers. She could sense that Ranma now had power equal to her own.

She knew that she would have to acknowledge that there had been times in the past she had thought that his face was like that of an angel. It was especially on those occasions when he had come to her rescue at the risk of his own life and limb.

Why had she accused Ranma of being a pervert? On looking back over his behavior she could recognize that he was possibly one of the least perverted boys she had ever met. Indeed, it was also true that Ranma in girl form had been on the receiving end of the perverted attentions of boys, she had even seen it herself. If anything, Ranma had as much reason to hate perverts as Akane herself did or maybe even more.

Did Akane truly dislike Ranma's curse? When Akane had first met Ranma she had believed the sex changer to be a lonely, shy girl. It had seemed almost like a betrayal when that girl turned out to be a boy. Yet there had been times when she had seen gaps in the facade, the mask of the arrogant, dumb jock.

The thought came to her that maybe that lonely girl was still there inside Ranma. Was the boy really as desperate for a friend as the girl had seemed?

The power that had washed away her anger provided new clarity of thought. Akane had been angry at boys for the way they had treated her with the attacks of the Hentai Horde and Kuno. It had made her distrust all boys her age. Then Ranma had arrived and Akane had treated him terribly for the crime of being born male.

"Ranma?/Akane?" they said at the same time. "Are you alright?" both asked in unison, concern evident in their tone.

When Akane made a gesture to indicate he should speak first, Ranma began, "Akane, I thought you were dying. I was so afraid that I would lose you. And now you look... Amazing."

"And you look like an angel," she replied, her cheeks turning pink in embarrassment over the admission. "Literally," she continued with greater confidence. "In fact you look like an angel who can seriously kick butt." That last observation was spoken with a smirk.

He drew a deep breath and then slowly let it out, trying to think how best to describe what had happened. "It was all because of you. When Saffron bragged about how powerful he was and how I couldn't prevent your death, I looked deep inside myself. I was desperate; I had to find something, any a little bit of strength I hadn't used yet. I couldn't let you die before I could tell you..." His voice lost strength as he slowly trailed off.

"Tell me?" she asked quietly. Was he finally going to say it?

With renewed strength in his voice, he answered, "Yes, tell you how I feel. When I looked for that last little tiny bit of strength, I found something else. It was like a whole new power. It was like my ki but huge, bigger than my ki and separate from it. I tapped into it and you can see where it led." He gestured at the wings.

Not willing to let him evade the question of what he wanted to tell her, Akane pressed on, "About how you feel? You wanted to tell me something?"

His expression turned sad and his voice soft. "I know I don't have any right to feel like this. I'm freak and a sex-changing pervert who always makes you angry. If it offends you, I'm sorry, but I l- lo..." He stopped, unable to finish the sentence.

Quietly, barely above a whisper, she finished, "Love me?" Did she hear that right? He still had trouble expressing his emotions, but that seemed clear. He was trying to say "love" and not just "like."

He seemed to be struggling with himself. Ranma had trouble meeting her eyes. Finally he said with growing confidence, "Yes, I do. I l-love you... There I said it. I'm sorry, I can't help it."

The floating girl suddenly unclenched her hand and the energy sword vanished. She reached out and clasped Ranma's free hand. He was surprised at this action and he looked up and into her eyes, searching. In those eyes he did not see anger, rage or disgust. Dare he hope? Was that affection or even love he saw?

The girl in black looked close to tears. "I've treated you horribly. My temper has been out of control. When you cut off Saffron's arm, it fell near where I was and I got these from a bracelet he had been wearing." She held up her arms to show the gems glowing at her wrists.

"When that happened, it was like the anger just left me." No, that wasn't completely true. She thought a moment and then amended, "My anger at you left. It was replaced by anger at him." She pointed toward the egg that lay on the ground. "I didn't care what he had done to me. I was furious that he was trying to take you from me."

"Without my anger blinding me, I realized that I love you too," Akane declared, still sounding unsure of herself, but gaining in confidence. "When I saw the man I love fighting for me, I couldn't just sit and watch. The gems gave me the power to bring myself back from the brink of death. I was able to draw water to restore my body back to its normal size. I don't know how I did it, but I summoned the suit and the sword and I flew to help you."

She shook her head, anguish in her expression and tears dripping down her face. "I don't know how you could still love me after all the times I hit you, insulted you and said I couldn't trust you. I don't deserve to be loved by you."

Akane was silenced by a finger on her lips. Ranma had just the barest hint of his normal smirk as he said, "Alright, let's stop this 'I'm not worthy of you' stuff. We can both agree that we made mistakes in the past and we both acted badly. I think we should get back down on the ground. The others are going to start wondering what we're doing up here."

Akane looked down to see Ryoga, Mousse, Shampoo and Genma looking up at them. She nodded and said, "You're right. We should get back on the ground. We will need to talk more about this when we have some privacy."

They lowered themselves to the ground. As their feet touched down, the others gathered around them. The pigtailed boy instinctively dismissed the wings and the armor. Ranma quickly stripped off his silk shirt and handed it to Akane. The black haired girl looked confused for a moment.

Leaning close to her ear, Ranma advised in a whisper, "Put it on. That suit is so tight it shows pretty much everything you've got. Besides that, if it goes away like my armor just did, you'll be left naked."

The girl hastily put on the shirt. The tail on the shirt was long enough to protect her modesty but just barely.

Captain Kiima came forward and stood looking at the egg. She shook her head, her attitude eloquent of weariness. "Now we have to raise him again." Her tone indicated resignation.

She was startled when Ranma walked up behind her and said, "This time, try and do a better job of raising him. People say I'm a jerk, but compared to him I'm the poster boy for etiquette, tact and sensitivity." His tone took on a hint of steel, "You can bet that I'll be back to check up on him in a couple of years."

While the phoenix guard captain felt her anger rise at his words, she controlled herself with an effort. She decided that it would be unwise to argue with the man who had just defeated the god of the phoenix people. True, he hadn't struck the final blow, but he had done most of the work.

She sighed deeply. The young warrior had a point. Saffron had been a brat in his most recent cycle. She decided that it would be best to be gracious in defeat. This Saotome Ranma was going to allow Saffron to be reborn and to be trained again after all.

Kiima looked around and noticed that some of the phoenix people who had been watching had come down from their vantage points on the mountain. Some of them would be needed to carry the egg to where it would be kept while they waited for it to hatch again. The guard captain shouted, "Bring clothing for Miss Tendo."

Before long, pants were brought down and Akane put them on. Another Chinese style shirt was also produced for Ranma. This one was blue instead of Ranma's customary red, but at least it fit. Kiima also produced a small purse of gold coins and handed it to pigtailed warrior. Feeling the weight of it on his palm, Ranma asked curiously, "What's this for?"

"We are not paying you a reward for defeating our lord, if that is what you were thinking," Kiima said with a scowl. "When you get to a city on the coast, that gold will pay for your passage back to Japan on a boat or a plane. It seems the easiest, fastest way to get you far away from here."

"Why are you being even this courteous to us?" Akane demanded.

Kiima looked over at Saffron's egg. When she turned her eyes back to Akane she replied, "You could have destroyed the egg, thus permanently ending our lord's rebirth cycle. You did not and for that act of mercy, we owe you. "

The phoenix guard captain sighed. She wanted to get this whole affair ended and begin planning how to raise their king this time.

She did think to add, "Besides that, we did kidnap you, Miss Tendo. I suspect that if he were not fighting to protect you, Mr. Saotome would not have fought with nearly the ferocity and tenacity that he showed. Even if we were partly in the wrong, your staying here will remind us of what happened. It would be better for all of us if you left, and quickly."

There was some justice in what Kiima said. Akane nodded. "Alright, we'll go."

The guard captain was relieved by the young warrior's words. "We will provide you with food for your trip and camping gear so you won't need to stop along the way."

Ranma nodded. "You hear that, Shampoo? No side trips to the Joketsuzoku village."

The purple haired girl pouted a little bit, but kept silent. After all there were still issues that needed to be settled before she could return to the village.

During the time they traveled though China, neither Akane nor Ranma strayed very far from each other. Shampoo tried to get between them, but they seemed to be doing all they could to ignore her. They made good time getting back to civilization and to a port where they could book passage on a ship. They would also be able to place a call to Nerima to let people know how they had fared.

At the Tendo dojo Kasumi hung up the phone after taking a collect call from Akane. While her sister had been brief, the tale she had told hinted at a harrowing adventure. She took a moment to compose herself before going into the living room.

Displaying her normal serene countenance, the eldest Tendo daughter announced, "Father, that was Akane. She called to say they are on the way back. They will coming by boat, and estimate that it will be a few days before they can get here."

"My little girl is alright?" he asked apprehensively.

"Yes, father, but she told me that it was a near thing," Kasumi replied, maintaining her calm demeanor with difficulty. "Ranma freed her from her kidnappers, but at great risk. They could have died if not for Ranma's efforts."

The Tendo patriarch was torn. On the one hand he was terrified at the thought that he had nearly lost his baby girl. Ranma was her fiancé; he was supposed to protect her. How dare he let her get into danger sufficiently great she was almost killed!

Yet in the end, he had performed his duty and saved Akane. Surely this was proof that Ranma loved Akane. If that was true then the time had come for the boy to do his duty and unite the schools by marrying Akane. Yes, at long last!

It was with some effort that he resisted the urge to stand up and shout in joy. He quickly sobered. In the past the children had resisted all the efforts of both Genma and himself to get them married. This would require careful thought and planning to pull off.

Having reached his decision he stood up and went to the phone. He knew the just the priest to perform the ceremony, his old friend Takasato Yashuhiro. He picked up the address book that sat on the shelf below the telephone and looked up the number.

Takasato was not one of the priests that he and Saotome had called before. Those had been spur of the moment things and they had wanted someone who would be available on a moment's notice. Takasato was a busy man and it was more difficult to get him to officiate at a wedding on such short notice. Since Soun had more time to work with, this was perfect.

After talking to some others, the phone was picked up by the man he wanted to speak to. "Takasato-San, it's Tendo Soun. It's good to hear your voice."

"Tendo?" the Priest responded. "It has been a while. To what do I owe the pleasure of this call?"

Barely able to contain his excitement, Soun explained, "My youngest daughter is engaged to be married to a fine young man by the name of Saotome Ranma. He's the son of Saotome Genma, my old training partner and dear friend. I was hoping you would be available to perform a Western-style ceremony here at my dojo on Sunday of next week."

There was silence for a moment as Takasato considered the request. Finally he replied, "One week is rather short notice. Did you wish this wedding to take place in the morning or afternoon?"

Soun was pretty sure morning would be best. It wouldn't do to give the boy too much time to think about it and come up with objections like he usually did. "I was hoping for morning."

"That's good," replied the priest. "I have things I need to do in the afternoon, so that will work out well. Um, tell me, is this the Saotome Ranma I've heard about? I mean the one who has fought against the panty thief and that winged minotaur monster?"

Mr. Tendo was never happy when the subject of the Master was brought up. On the other hand the question wasn't about him directly, only if Ranma was the one who had fought him. It should be safe enough to answer honestly. "Yes, this is the same Ranma."

At his end of the telephone conversation the priest felt the temptation to refuse the request. The young man had a reputation for being a trouble magnet. Any wedding of Saotome Ranma to anyone was likely to be... exciting.

And knowing how emotional Soun got, there were likely other issues involved as well. In a serious tone, Takasato asked, "How do these young people feel about each other? Is this a marriage for love or an arranged match?"

"It started out as an arranged marriage," confessed Soun. "But they have had more than a year to get to know each other. I just heard that Ranma rescued Akane from a near death danger. He must be in love with her."

Hmmm. "Even heroes sometimes rescue people simply because it is the right thing to do. It doesn't necessarily require a romantic involvement with the damsel in distress," the priest thought. Still, it was a bit more promising than just trying to wed two young people in an arranged marriage. So often those didn't turn out well in the long run.

"Very well, I'll mark it on my calendar," Promised the priest. "Will you need me to come over for rehearsals?"

Rehearsals? Shaking his head, Soun thought that would be a good idea only if Ranma wasn't participating. A rehearsal was more likely scare the boy off. "No, that shouldn't be necessary," Soun answered quickly.

"As you wish," Takasato sounded unconcerned. "You will have some preparations to make, invitations to mail out, decorations to put up and that sort of thing. If there are any problems that come up that make it necessary to cancel or postpone the ceremony, let me know so I can change my schedule."

"I promise," Soun said, happy to have secured the services of the priest to perform the ceremony. Now he had to turn his attention to those preparations that Takasato spoke of.

After he had hung up the phone, the priest sat and stared at the device for a time. Something in the previous conversation was giving him a bad feeling. Why was his old friend sounding so nervous? Soun's response to the question about rehearsals was raising red flags in the priest's mind. Surely the marriage of one of his three daughters was an occasion to Soun should be happy about. There was more to this than Soun was saying.

And then there was the groom and his reputation. After noting the wedding in his appointment calendar, Takasato reached for his personal address book. He needed more information.

After looking up the number, he picked up the telephone handset and dialed. When the phone rang it was picked up immediately and a male voice announced, "Tokyo police department, Nerima district branch. This is Sgt. Yamanochi, how may I help you?"

"May I speak to Captain Aramaki if he is available? Tell him it is Takasato Yashuhiro." the priest requested.

"One moment please," the voice replied. Soft music came on the line for a moment before a gruff sounding voice came on, "Takasato-San, to what to I owe this call?"

"Hello to you too, Captain," the priest responded in wry tones before coming straight to the point. "What can you tell me about Saotome Ranma?"

"Saotome?" There was a pause. "He's one of the best martial artists his age in Nerima, if not the very best. Before I say more I would have to ask why a priest of my acquaintance is calling me to ask questions as if he were a detective. What is your interest in the kid?"

"I have been asked to perform a marriage ceremony for him and one of the daughters of Tendo Soun," reported the priest. "While I don't know a great deal of detail, I have heard rumors and stories that sound almost too fantastic to be true. What I have heard suggests to me that there might be problems at the wedding. Possibly problems greater than people getting drunk and rowdy."

"I'd say there is a really good chance of that," conceded Aramaki with a hint of humor in his voice. "Very likely many of the 'fantastic stories' you've heard are true."

The policeman continued in a more serious tone, "The Saotome boy is one of those people who is so strong that the news media call him a 'super powered' martial artist. I've met him a few times and even had some conversations with him. He's brash and has a big ego but, he is basically a good kid. While participating in fights that have caused significant property damage, later investigation showed that he was always the party who was attacked and always tried to keep the damage to a minimum."

"He has also personally captured fifteen muggers, stopped one armed robbery, interrupted ten drug deals and has broken up five gang fights. And those are just the ones that we know of."

The policeman paused. When he resumed there was a tone that sounded like wonder in his voice. "Once, when I tried to commend him for capturing one of those muggers that I mentioned, he told me, 'It is the duty of a martial artist to protect those who cannot protect themselves'. I've heard others say that before, but they were always half joking or tongue in cheek when they said it. I think young Saotome is the only person his age I've met who could say that and mean it completely seriously. There was something in his voice, a manner that convinced me that he doesn't just say it, he lives it. He passed off the performance of heroic acts like he was just doing his job."

"That's quite a testimonial," Takasato said, feeling somewhat skeptical on hearing such fulsome praise.

The police captain continued, "I tried to talk him into joining the force, or at least enrolling in the Academy. He was flattered but seemed determined that he was going to become a sensei and teach in a dojo. He did say he'd keep the idea of joining the police as a backup plan, though I got the impression he was just being polite when he said it."

The policeman paused to think for a moment then asked, "When is this wedding scheduled?"

"Tendo Soun is planning to hold the ceremony at his dojo a week from Sunday," the priest reported. "This is to join his daughter Tendo Akane to the Saotome boy."

"I see." The police captain was silent for a time. Finally he said, "Young Saotome and I spent some time talking after that one mugger I mentioned. He told me a little of his life. That boy has more problems than should be legal, including three fiancées. The engagements to the current fiancées and others came about when his bastard of a father sold him off for as little as a meal. I would be very happy hauling Saotome Genma in for theft, child abuse and other charges, but the boy wouldn't hear of it."

The tone of reminiscence changed to a firm one. "Any kind of wedding ceremony that involves young Saotome stands a good chance of being disrupted. The other fiancées won't want to see Ranma married to Miss Tendo and will likely take steps to try and prevent it. A marriage between him and any of those girls would stand a better chance if they eloped."

Takasato asked, "When you were talking to him, did Saotome-san give any indication as to which of the fiancées he had the strongest feelings for?"

"Yeah, he did," the policeman affirmed. "It was sort of subtle, but it was there. The Chinese girl is a nuisance he'd like to see go back to China and the Okonomiyaki chef is a friend, nothing more. With Miss Tendo they have problems, but he seemed to think they can overcome those problems. He also has been harassed by the Kuno family, but that's not an 'official' engagement."

"Considering what you have told me, it might be a good idea if you have a SWAT team or others standing by on the date of the wedding," suggested the priest.

Captain Aramaki replied, his tone one of confidence, "In Nerima ward we have a special Martial Arts Squad as a backup to the SWAT team. If Saotome joined the force, that's the team he would likely be assigned to. I can have the team ready to roll on a moment's notice. On that Sunday if one of the neighbors so much as calls to complain that the music at the reception is too loud, the MAS will be at the dojo as quickly as possible."

"Thank you captain," Takasato said appreciatively. "That helps ease my mind considerably. But what were you saying about those girls who are fighting over him?"

In a sad tone, the policeman said, "The way Saotome told it, the girls treat him as if he were the trophy at a martial arts tournament and not a person. They seem more fixated on the idea of beating the others than on what he might want or who he might wish to be with."

"I see," the priest said thoughtfully. "Maybe I can take steps to prevent or at least minimize the interference of these other girls. Of course I'll want to talk to the young couple to try and get an idea of their true feelings for each other. I think I may have to call in some favors I'm owed."

"Thanks for calling, Hopefully with this advance warning, we'll be able to keep injuries and damages to a minimum. I'd like to hope we're worrying over nothing, but I believe in better safe than sorry. Goodbye," Lt. Aramaki said as he hung up.

The priest once again looked thoughtfully at the phone on his desk. After a moment he nodded and started flipping pages in his address book. He had some people to talk to if he was going to salvage something out of the potential disaster that Tendo Soun was trying to set up.

Author's Note: This story was inspired by a summary of another story. I actually don't recall if I even read the story itself but the summary posed the question, "Why is Akane so strong?" I immediately came up with two answers. One of those is being written as "Ranma and Akane - A Saiyan Story," where Ranma and Akane are both Saiyans who came to earth as babies.

I know it is a fanon cliché to have Ranma be Masaki Tenchi's cousin. I'm hoping it is less of one for Akane to be a second daughter of Washu and Ryoko's sister. That was my second answer for why Akane is so strong. Both require that Akane be adopted. Please review and let me know how you like the idea.

My thanks to darkbane848 for beta reading this chapter. It will be a while before the next chapter of this story can be posted. Darkbane848 has limited time to devote to this project and is going into a great deal of detail in his comments. Normally I would say that fight scenes are not my strong suit, but I'm pleased with how the battle turned out in this chapter.