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.

Chapter 2



It was a place outside of normal space, a pocket universe in subspace. In an artificially created bubble that existed below normal space, it contained an area equal in volume to five planets. That bubble was home to a laboratory filled with instruments and equipment far in advance anything in use by scientists in any part of the galaxy. This laboratory was connected to the "real" world through the door to what had once been a utility closet under the stairs in the home of Masaki Tenchi and Noboyuki.

In one of the areas of the lab a figure that looked like a red haired young girl around the age of 12 sat down on a floating cushion. She wiggled a bit to settle herself comfortably, then put her hands out like a pianist ready to play. Under her hands a transparent keyboard formed. The device appeared to be made of light.

The comparison to a pianist was apt, for the fingers on the keyboard moved like those of a virtuoso musician as they tapped keys. A screen appeared floating in the air behind and above the keyboard. That screen also seemed to be composed of pure light and was partly transparent.

The girl seated at the keyboard was, by her own frequent assertion, the Greatest Scientific Genius in the entire universe. While that was a bold claim, there were few others clever enough to be able to compete for the title and even fewer who would dispute her claim.

This diminutive figure was Hakubi Washu. She was 20,000 years old and by some accounts a goddess who had given up her divinity to experience what she called the human condition. The story went that her sacrifice of her divine status was in an attempt to answer one of the great questions of existence, that question being: was it possible for Washu and her sisters, the goddesses Tsunami and Tokimi, to create a being greater than themselves.

The scientist had just completed work on a new invention. She had been thoroughly focused on this device for over a week now. Because of her intense focus, she had neglected much of her other regular work. Now that the invention was completed, it was time to get caught up on general work and check the logs of her sensors.

Washu logged her holo-terminal into the subspace lab's mainframe, and was greeted by a flashing display on her screen. She frowned upon reading the text that was attached. Shaking her head she complained, "Damn! I should have programmed an alarm to go off! Something worthy of my attention happened over a week ago and I missed it."

With a shrug she noted, "Oh well, no help for it. I'd better find out what it was." Suiting thought to action, she typed in a command that brought up the record that had triggered the flashing display.

Yes, the sensors had detected some high intensity energy sources in a remote area of China. The pattern and frequency of the energy as well as the level of intensity was consistent with a person of Jurai Royal descent using Wings of the Light Hawk.

She frowned as she considered the information. That shouldn't be possible. The only people she knew of on Earth who were capable of such a feat were in the house that her lab was anchored to. The sensors had not recorded the approach of any ships that might have brought other Jurian royals to the earth.

As she checked the time of the incident, Washu cursed her short sightedness. While she had been tinkering with a tricky but otherwise minor invention, someone with the power of Jurai had been involved in what appeared to have been a desperate fight to the death. The Jurian had been up against a foe of enormous power and had to use the light hawk wings. After the wings came into play, the Juraian's strength was boosted to a level equal to or slightly superior to that of their foe and the other energy signature had been nearly wiped out.

Reading further into the record of the event she exclaimed, "What the hell?" There was a third energy signature that had been recorded. It had started out low, weak. It was almost like her daughter Ryoko when she first got one of her gems. Then, mere seconds later, the power level jumped to a level equal to Ryoko's when she had all three of her gems.

Seeing the sensor recordings, Washu wondered. She had been so busy with her work that she didn't really know where Ryoko had been on the Friday before last. She felt in her mind for the mental link to her daughter. Without actually opening communications through the link she couldn't tell exactly what her daughter was doing, but some of the emotions leaking through made it clear she was amused. Since the mental trace seemed to be located in the living room of the house, Ryoko was probably watching a comedy on television.

So Ryoko was in the house outside the lab and not in China. And yet one week ago her instruments had monitored someone with an energy signature similar to that of the former space pirate in that location. This definitely merited further investigation.

The little redhead opened the link and sent, [Ryoko could you come see me in the lab?] When she felt the protest, Washu sent, [It's not urgent. Come when your show is finished.]

Somewhat mollified but not happy, Ryoko agreed. The TV schedule had said that a soap opera she liked to follow was supposed to be on after the comedy she was watching, but she supposed she could miss it this time. After all, Ayeka would be watching and could tell her anything she missed.

After the end of her program, the cyan haired girl disappeared from the living room to reappear floating in the air a few meters from Washu's floating cushion in the lab. "Yeah, what did you want, Washu."

"What did I tell you to call me?" the young-looking red haired girl admonished.

The former space pirate let out a sigh. If all Washu did about not getting her way was to pout, then Ryoko might not bother to correct her speech. However, her mother could be rather petty about such things, and she had no desire to be changed into a kappa. She asked, "What did you want, mom?"

"That's better," Washu smiled.

The diminutive scientist directed, "Take a look at this." She tapped some keys and her screen enlarged, displaying a map of China with a light blinking.

She began to expound, "A week ago Friday there was a fight with some pretty powerful individuals in China. They were at the location that you see indicated by the flashing light. I was busy working on an invention, so I missed the actual fight but my instruments recorded the sensor readings. I'd like you to go there in Ryo Ohki and see what you can find out."

The cyan haired girl studied the map. Getting there would be no problem, but that left an important question. She asked, "Why would you care who gets in a fight in China?"

"Because, according to my sensors, one of the fighters was using light hawk wings or something very much like them," Washu answered.

The former space pirate's interest was now piqued. Not that many people were able to use the wings. But Washu had qualified her statement by adding, "Something like them." Ryoko asked, "Another Jurai royal?"

"Maybe, that's what I hope to find out," the scientist responded. "But there is more to it than that."

"Ok, what else?" Sometimes it was irritating how long it took the scientist to actually get to the point.

"Along with the energy signature of the person using the wings and the foe they fought against, there was someone else with a lot of power." The scientist paused and asked, "Tell me, where were you that day?"

"Huh?" The former space pirate looked confused. The Friday before last? She needed to think. The activities of the day had been totally unremarkable, so it was hard to separate it from the events of other days last week. Finally she reported, "That was a quiet day for me. I was pretty much just hanging out. I watched TV with Ayeka and Mihoshi and spent some time talking to Tenchi."

"The other energy signature looked like yours," Washu announced.

Ryoko frowned on hearing that. An energy signature enough like hers that Washu felt justified in verifying her daughter's whereabouts could mean something bad. "Could it be another android?"

The redhead shrugged. "Based on the energy readings, it could be. If I hadn't been doing something else at the time, I might have been able to do some additional scans to find out. As it is, the information recorded is not detailed enough to say for sure."

Feeling troubled, the former space pirate stated, "Alright, I go check it out." As she teleported back to the house to pick up her partner, she wondered, "If there's another member of the Jurai Royal family on Earth, maybe he'll get Ayeka interested in him. That would give me a clear field to get Tenchi for myself."

When she arrived in the kitchen, she found Sassami working on preparing a meal. The brown, furry creature that looked like a cross between a rabbit and a cat was sitting on top of Sassami's head, looking a little like a peculiar, fuzzy hat. The cyan haired girl said, "Come on Ryo Ohki, Washu has a job for us."

The cabbit hopped from her perch on top of the head of the blue haired girl and landed on Ryoko's shoulder.

"Take good care of her, Ryoko-neechan," Sassami begged, her pink eyes pleading.

Patting the little girl on top of the head, Ryoko told her, "That's a promise kid. No need to worry, I'm just going to check out some energy readings for Washu. We're not going to do anything dangerous." For Jurai royalty, Sassami was actually pretty nice.

Ryoko made her way through the house to exit through the sliding glass doors that opened out onto the deck that fronted on the lake. Once there, Ryoko threw Ryo Ohki up in the air so the cabbit could change into her ship form. From the highest point she reached in her flight, the little furry animal continued to float upward until she was as high as she needed.

Once she was high enough, she stopped and curled in on herself and suddenly crystal projections began to thrust outward from her tiny form. A crystal spire pointed downward and was topped by a dome. From the sides of the dome four crystal spikes projected outward and upward. This was Ryo-Ohki's ship form, many times larger than her small companion form. Ryoko teleported into the control room and projected a mental command to her partner. Multiple screens appeared and floated between her and the transparent inner surface of the dome. Using her mental link to the ship, Ryoko fed the coordinates to the creature and they started moving.

They first moved upward so the thinner air at high altitude wouldn't cause Ryo-Ohki's skin to heat as they moved at high speeds. When they were high enough the moved over the Earth until they arrived and hovered over the remains of the mountain that had been the home of the Phoenix people.

She pulled up some screens and did a few scans of the surface and of the people and structures that were there. When she examined the images, she had to pause and think. This might be more difficult than she had thought.

She could spot where the fight must have taken place. She could see the damage and torn up ground and the broken wall that led into a cave. Inside the cave there were what appeared to be some strange kind of sculptures that seemed to serve as some kind of water spigots. Why they were carved into such ornate shapes she couldn't guess, but they were huge.

After studying the odd people for a while, the girl decided that she might need some advice on how to proceed. [Hey Washu,] she called through the link. When her call was answered by silence, the cyan haired woman grumbled, "I really don't want to play this game right now." She tried the link again, [Hey mom?]

[What is it, my little Ryoko-chan?] came the question over the link.

[I think I might have a problem here,] she answered, gritting her teeth over the too sweet pet name she had been given. Why a woman who was thousands of years should be called "little" escaped her.


[I was going to go down and try to talk to the people here, but I can't pass as one of them, they're birds,] Ryoko reported.


[Well, more like bird people,] Ryoko amended. [They have wings, along with claw-like hands and feet. Even though I can't understand the language I get the feeling they are not very accepting of outsiders. I doubt they'll want to talk to me.]

[Oh.] There was nothing on the link for a few moments while Washu considered. Finally she said, [The fight was only a week ago. I'm sure they're still talking about it. Why don't you send one of Ryo Ohki's remotes down in stealth mode and listen in on their conversations. Ryo Ohki can record all she hears.]

[That might work,] the golden-eyed girl conceded. She gave orders to the cabbit ship and a moment later one of the crystal devices disappeared from the control room. It appeared a short distance from the mountain and then became invisible as it cloaked its presence. Then the remote moved into the odd village being rebuilt on the top of the mountain and began to listen to the many conversations.

Ryoko tried to listen to the talk being monitored, but with the sensitivity of the remote set at its highest, there were too many simultaneous conversations coming in to be able to separate them in her mind and she couldn't understand the language anyway. To know what these people were talking about, she'd have to wait for Washu to use her computers to make sense of it.

Since Ryoko didn't know how long it would take, she decided that it would probably be best to stay until dark and record all of the conversations up until that time. After that she would head back to the house outside Okayama. Since it was boring to just sit and wait for all of the talk to be recorded, she had Ryo Ohki conjure a futon and lay down to take a nap.

That evening Ryoko went back to the Masaki house and let Ryo Ohki play back the conversations she had recorded. Sassami had been nice enough to save her some food. The former space pirate felt she had done her good deed for the week and deserved a nice meal.

Actually getting the recording transferred from Ryo Ohki hadn't taken long at all. The Cabbit was able to make an almost instantaneous data dump of the material that had taken several hours to record. The part that would take time was the analysis. The computer would have to separate out the various voices and transfer them to different recording tracks.

The following morning was Sunday. After she had finished eating, Ryoko headed into the lab. "Hey Washu... I mean Mom, what did you find out?"

The diminutive redhead looked grumpy at being interrupted this early. Still, she had been expecting it. "The computer translated everything and I have been listening. I could play it all back, but that would take too long. I'll summarize it for you."

She began to tell what she had found, "Through direct and indirect references I was able to piece together what I believe is a fairly complete story. As I guessed, there was a fight between the Lord of the Phoenix people and an Outsider, some kind of foreign warrior. The Outsider was a landling who had defied the one they think of as a god."

"What's a landling?" Ryoko wanted to know.

"As close as I can determine, that is what they call anyone who doesn't have wings," Washu answered. "They appear to be quite snobbish, thinking that anyone who cannot fly is inferior."

Washu shook her head and continued, "At any rate, the fight did not go as they expected. The Outsider manifested 'wings of light' and then turned two of them into real wings and used them to fight their king on even terms. The Outsider won and their god was slain, to be reborn in the form of an egg"

Washu appeared pensive. "I don't believe these bird people are native to earth. They look a lot like the Aviax of Drenthy IV. From translations of the conversations that Ryo Ohki recorded I have found that they call themselves the Phoenix people. "

"I looked up the folklore of the Aviax people. According to their legends, once every thousand years or so there is a mutant born with the power to create and control fire. They call this mutant a Phoenix and a god, or at least a king. In addition to the powers of fire, they are very hard to kill. If you kill a Phoenix, it will regenerate into an egg and later hatch out as a new incarnation but able to access the memories of the old one."

Ryoko nodded. "That would be an advantage."

The scientist shook her head. "It is foolish for a people to choose a ruler simply because it has power. The possessor of that power could be an idiot, a sadistic tyrant or worse."

Washu sighed and then went on, "According to the folklore, the only way to permanently kill one of these beings is to first kill the adult then destroy the egg after the regeneration. That's the only time it's completely vulnerable. Outside of such an occurrence, a Phoenix is effectively immortal."

She looked thoughtful. "I can't say for sure without getting one or more of those bird people to study and possibly interview, but I'm guessing that thousands of years ago, one of those Phoenix mutants brought a group of Aviax to earth and set up a colony."

Looking puzzled, the former space pirate asked, "Why do you say thousands of years ago?"

The scientist tapped keys on her holographic keyboard and took a moment to read something on the screen. She then pointed to a painting on the screen that depicted a bird wreathed in flames and said, "On the earth there is an old legend about a fabulous bird, called a phoenix, that will live a long life then die in fire, only to rise from the ashes of its former life as a new, young bird. Allowing for time and constant retelling of the story, doesn't that sound like a more poetic phrasing of the legend of the Phoenix of the Aviax?"

The cyan haired woman nodded. "Yeah, it does kind of sound like it. What else did you find out?"

Washu frowned. "There was a lot of stuff about a magic spring and magic water, but I'm afraid I lack the right cultural references to understand what they mean by that. What I do understand is the story of a 'landling' who defeated their god is spoken of as a boy. There is also something there about a girl who flew without wings and fought with a sword of light."

Ryoko's eyes went wide. That sounded like how those people would have described her if she had been the one fighting.

Seeing the reaction, Washu nodded. "Do you recall when I told you that you were my only child?"

The cyan haired girl nodded.

The little redhead got a sheepish expression. "I didn't lie to you, but I didn't tell the complete truth either. When I said that, I honestly believed that you were the only one of my children still alive."

The ex-space pirate took a moment to absorb that. "Are you saying there were others before me?"

Her expression grim, the diminutive scientist nodded. "About 19,000 years ago I was married and had a son. My husband got involved in the wrong kind of politics and was arrested. They took him and my son away, but kept me on because of the inventions they hoped to get out of me. I never saw either my husband or my son again."

Ryoko wasn't the most sensitive person, but even she could see the pain in her mother's eyes. While she would have liked to have learned more, she remained silent to allow Washu time to recover her composure.

The scientist said, "About 10,000 years ago I tried to create a daughter, using one of my own egg cells as I later did with you. I did all of the same things that I did to create you. I called her Ryomi. The government learned of my work and they took her away from me."

"I was never told what finally happened to Ryomi," Washu said, "I did some digging and turned up some information, but wasn't sure of how reliable it was. The story I found said that Ryomi was deemed too dangerous and was placed in time stasis and launched into space. I didn't believe that because it would have been so much simpler and cheaper to simply kill her. I never knew the real truth."

She shook her head and said, "You know the story about what happened to you."

Ryoko sighed. "Ok, I get it. You've had really bad luck with your kids. Why do you bring this up now?"

Washu frowned while thinking. Finally she said, "From the information you collected I wonder if the girl who fought alongside that boy with the Light Hawk Wings might be Ryomi."

"How is that possible?" Ryoko demanded. "You said she was dead."

The young looking girl said, "No, I said I thought she was. I didn't believe the government would actually spend the money, time and manpower to actually launch her into space in a stasis capsule. I'm starting to think I was wrong about that."

She contemplated that for a moment before continuing, "A stasis capsule could have drifted for thousands of years before landing or crashing on a planet. All that time wouldn't have mattered to Ryomi inside the stasis. She would have remained a baby and not aged at all. My guess is that the stasis broke when the capsule crashed and someone would have found and adopted the baby within. If she was raised as a human, it is possible that she only recently awakened to her powers."

"She wouldn't have had any of her powers growing up?" questioned Ryoko.

Washu shook her head. "She would have been very strong and tough but no flight, phasing, teleporting or the like. There must have been something major happen to her to awaken her powers. A battle against an immortal phoenix would probably have done it."

She paused and then continued, "I created gems for her like I did for you. Those were not as powerful as the ones I made for you. The readings recorded by my instruments suggest that she has all three of her gems now. I'd estimate that with all three gems she would be about 75 percent as strong as you with all of yours."

"So you're saying I have a sister?" Ryoko seemed to be weighing the concept in her mind.

Washu advised, "Don't get too excited by the idea. I think the girl with those energy readings might be Ryomi but I could be letting wishful thinking cloud my judgment. The energy signature looks right but I could be wrong on who it is. I'd have to meet her and do a detailed scan to be sure."

"How can we find out?" asked Ryoko.

Washu frowned. "The boy who used the light hawk wings was defending the girl at first but toward the end of the battle they fought side-by-side. That would have to have been after my instruments recorded her manifestation of power similar to your own. So far as I know, only members of the Jurai royal family can use Light Hawk Wings. It makes me wonder if Lord Yosho has any other male descendants besides Tenchi. I think we, or at least I, had better ask him. Give me some time to figure out how to approach him."

Frowning in thought, the former space pirate wanted to know, "If she's your daughter like I am, wouldn't you have a mental link with her?"

Looking troubled, Washu replied, "I would think so. I've tried to contact her, but no luck. I was able to discover a sort of vague sense that Ryomi is alive, but nothing really beyond that. If she were in a time stasis that would have severed the link as effectively as if she had died. My theory is that for me to be able to re-establish the link, I would need to at least meet her face-to-face."

When the party including Ranma, Akane, Mousse, Shampoo, Genma and Ryoga had finished making their way on foot to the coast of China, they used the gold the Phoenix People had given them to book passage on a ship that was sailing for Japan. The bag had had contained enough gold that they could have purchased plane tickets. However, that would have required them to have converted the gold into Chinese currency and that probably would have taken more time than they wanted to and might have drawn official attention. The were able to find a ship captain who would accept the gold right from the bag as payment.

On the trip back from China Ranma and Akane had spent a lot of time just sitting quietly together, holding hands and speaking in low tones. The two had found out-of-the-way corners of the ship to hide where they wouldn't be bothered by the Amazons, Genma or Ryoga.

They arrived back in Tokyo on Wednesday in the late afternoon. The Amazons headed back to the Nekohanten to meet up with Cologne. Ryoga quickly got lost. Ranma, Akane and Genma made one stop to exchange the few gold coins they still had for currency. Then they took a train and then a bus to get back to Nerima and walked the remaining few blocks to the Tendo Dojo.

As soon as Saotome Genma returned to the dojo, he and Tendo Soun took themselves off to the training hall and spent a great deal of time talking. They closed and barred the door and spoke quietly so that none could hear them from outside the building. Mr. Tendo brought Genma up-to-date on the plans he had made after Akane had called from China.

To Kasumi and Nabiki it quickly became clear that there had been a change in the behavior of both Akane and Ranma. There were no insults being exchanged other than what had the sound of playful teasing. Ranma called Akane his cute or even beautiful tomboy and she called him "her baka." When she said it her tone was affectionate rather than angry.

On Thursday and Friday they both got up early. Instead of going out for a run, Akane trained with Ranma. They sparred and during this time, Ranma played the part of sensei almost perfectly. He would point out holes in her defense by lightly tagging her. The hits were enough to feel, but not enough to cause injury.

One of the things that Nabiki found the most surprising was not that the two were sparring seriously, but that Akane was keeping her temper. Seemingly she took the criticism in the spirit in which it was offered. She listened and she adapted to the suggestions and in so doing improved her martial arts.

The weapon known as Mallet-Sama was conspicuous by its absence. Akane had not drawn the mallet once nor had she shouted at Ranma in the time they had been back. To Kasumi, who had observed this behavior, it was a welcome change. Perhaps it meant that Ranma and her baby sister were finally moving ahead with their relationship.

Kasumi felt troubled, however. Normally when Ranma and Akane showed any signs of affection, the fathers would shout, "The schools will finally be joined," and "Call the priest.'" The fact that they had not done so was disturbing. Not only were they blatantly avoiding that behavior, they seemed to be avoiding any mention of the subject of marriage or the joining of the schools altogether. That was not like them.

That Thursday Nodoka had come over and she too had gone to the dojo to talk to Genma and Soun. Whatever they had discussed, it would seem that she had been persuaded to keep quiet about what the men were planning.

Today was the first Saturday since Ranma and Akane had returned from China, the same day when Washu had sent Ryoko to China to investigate odd energy readings. Both teens had the feeling that their parents were up to something, but neither could tell what. Further reinforcing that impression was what was happening in the dojo today.

It had started early in the day. People had been arriving in delivery vans and carrying in boxes and bundles. The delivery people were bringing folding chairs as well as table with folding legs.

The story they were told to explain all of this activity was that the dojo had been rented out for a wedding reception. This sort of thing had been done before, so in itself, it was not so terribly suspicious. Nabiki had decided that if they Soun wasn't going to teach classes, they would at least get some money out the dojo by renting it for parties and meetings.

Earlier that morning Nabiki had gone out. She had said she would be meeting with some people to discuss investment opportunities.

Kasumi was dusting in the dining room when the doorbell rang. She put down the feather duster and headed to the door to see who it was. Sometimes there were salesmen who come to the house on Saturdays.

When the eldest Tendo daughter got to the door, she found three men there. One of them she recognized as Takasato-San, a priest who was also a friend of her father's. The moment she saw him, she knew something was up. Inwardly she groaned without letting her reaction show. It looked like her father and Uncle Saotome were at it again, trying to get Ranma and Akane married before they were ready. The priest was carrying a briefcase.

Takasato-san bowed to Kasumi and said, "Good morning Miss Tendo. Is your father home?"

She bowed in response and said, "Yes, Takasato-San, my father is in the living room, playing shogi with Uncle Saotome."

"Excellent, I need to see both of them," the priest said.

Normally Kasumi wouldn't pry, but now she felt she had to ask, "Would you also like to talk to Ranma and Akane."

The priest smiled and nodded. "Yes, that would be a good idea. I also have some papers for them to sign. It shouldn't take long. I do need to complete my business with Soun and Mr. Tendo first."

"I'll go get Ranma and my sister," promised Kasumi.

The eldest sister went to the back yard. There she found the young couple sparring. Their workout had to be relocated from the dojo because of the work setting up the party. In keeping with Ranma being more serious about Akane's training, Kasumi could see a small bruise on Akane's cheek.

The two teens seemed to be sparring only half heartedly. Part of their attention was devoted to watching what was going on in the dojo as well as they could.

The two young people had discussed this possibility on the trip back from China. They had agreed that if their fathers tried to get them married they would go through with it, but it would be a marriage on their own terms. Those terms they would reveal once the ceremony was completed.

The important difference between what the young people wanted and what the parents wanted was that they were not going to take over the dojo. Since the dojo had no students and hadn't in years, there didn't seem much point. In fact about the only income the dojo had produced in the last four years had come from renting it out for parties and things like that.

In addition to not wanting to take over the dojo yet, was the resolution agreed on by the two. If they did get married, they were going to wait to have children. They wanted to at least graduate from high school, and felt it would be even better if they waited until they had finished with college and had jobs. It would be unfair to any children they might have if Ranma and Akane were unable to support them. They didn't intend to tell anyone of this aspect of their plans until they had to.

In the living room, Takasato stepped up to the game table and cleared his throat. Soun looked up and was surprised to see who it was interrupting his game. "Takasato, old friend, I thought you weren't going to come over until tomorrow."

"I thought it would be a good idea to get some of the paperwork taken care of first," the priest said with a smile. He opened his briefcase and pulled out a form. When he handed it to the mustachioed martial artist, Soun took the paper and read the heading.

"Parental consent form?"

"Yes," answered the priest. "As you know, both Ranma and Akane are below the legal age. For the ceremony tomorrow to have proper legal force I have to have the signature of at least one parent for each of the young people. I'd also like to get Ranma-san's and Akane-san's signatures on the wedding certificate."

"The marriage certificate?" Soun was confused. "Shouldn't that wait until after the ceremony?"

"That would normally be the case, but considering what I have learned about your children, I think it would be prudent to take some precautions," Takasato explained. "There is no need for you to be concerned, quite the opposite in fact."

Takasato smoothly assured the two fathers, "The certificate won't be legally binding until it is registered with the city. Since this is Saturday, city offices are closed now. The reason I am taking care of this today is... well, I hope this won't offend you, my friend. Your home and those two children have a reputation for being trouble magnets. By getting everything signed and witnessed now it will insure that the marriage will be completed on Monday once the certificate is registered, even if something goes wrong with the actual ceremony."

Soun and Genma exchanged a look. The bald man in the bandana nodded and in a serious tone commented, "Your friend has a point, Tendo. Maybe it would be best to take care of this now and avoid possible problems later."

The Tendo patriarch recognized the wisdom of such an action and took the pen offered. After he signed the parental consent form, he handed both form and pen to Genma who signed in the space provided.

Just as Takasato slipped the signed and dated form back into his briefcase, Ranma and Akane stepped into the room. Ranma suspiciously eyed the strange men and announced, "Kasumi said you needed Akane and me for something."

Takasato nodded and said, "Yes, I have a form I need for you to sign. From what I've been told, your engagement and the arranged marriage has been nothing more than a verbal agreement up until now. Your parents felt that it would be a good idea for there to be a formal, written agreement so there can be no disputes later."

Ranma and Akane shared a look. Both felt suspicious. As far as both knew, the only formal contract for the engagement of Genma's child to Soun's was some notes scribbled onto a couple of cocktail napkins. Even then, they had never seen the napkins and had only Genma and Soun's word that such a written agreement actually existed.

Akane had once heard a saying that "A verbal agreement isn't worth the paper it was written on." She took that to mean worthless. The truth was that a verbal agreement was only as good as the amount of honor and honesty that was possessed by the people involved.

Takasato placed the certificate on the game table and held it with his hand as if holding it in place to prevent it from sliding on the polished surface. He took his pen and used it to indicate a line and said, "Ranma, you need to sign here."

The pigtailed boy was feeling uneasy. The man's hand was covering part of the text on the paper and he couldn't tell if it truly was what the priest had claimed it to be. He asked, "Shouldn't I read it before I sign?"

"Nonsense, Ranma," Soun spoke in a loud voice. "Takasato-san is a priest and an old friend of mine. I promise that you can trust him."

The two teenagers shared a look again. When Akane shrugged, Ranma sighed and took the pen. After he had signed, he handed the pen to his fiancée. She signed on the line that the priest pointed to.

Immediately after the two young people had signed, the two men who had accompanied Takasato signed also. One of the men produced a rubber stamp from his pocket and applied this to the form as well. At the inquisitive looks of the teenagers, the priest explained, "These men are witnesses."

At this Ranma frowned again. Why did an engagement agreement need witnesses?

When the priest picked up the paper and slid it into his briefcase, Ranma tried hard to see more of it, but failed. With the paper securely tucked away, the priest handed the case to one of his friends. He said, "Goro, would you and Shinji go wait in the car, please. I just want to talk to the couple for a few moments. I'll be along shortly."

As the two men left, Takasato put an arm around Ranma's shoulders and requested, "Let's talk." He led the boy out into the yard where he and Akane had been sparring before. Akane followed them out.

When they were out of earshot of the others, Takasato glanced back to confirm they were far enough away from the two men to avoid being overheard. "I came here because Soun asked me to. With all of the insanity in your lives, it seemed wise to make sure that precautions be taken and the proper forms filled out. I agreed to get the paperwork filled out and to get your signatures. However..." He paused.

Akane frowned and repeated, "However, what?"

"I wanted to find out how you kids feel about the engagement," replied the priest.

Not sure how to take that, Ranma wanted to know, "Wouldn't it have been better to ask that question before we signed that contract?" Although it actually felt nice that someone was really asking him how he felt.

"The contract isn't official until it is registered," the priest explained. "Until that happens it is nothing more than a piece of paper."

"Oh?" Ranma looked at the man more closely. He tried to read the man's ki, but it was very difficult. Even if he couldn't tell anything specific, he got the distinct impression that the priest had nothing but good intentions for himself and Akane. Something about his reading told him to trust the man.

Casting a glance toward the house, Ranma noticed the people who were trying very hard to look like they weren't watching the ones in the yard. Finally he said, "I guess Mr. Tendo has already told you that this was an arranged marriage, right?"

"Yes, he told me," the priest agreed. "Such things are not done much anymore in this day and age, but they do still happen. I won't lie to you. Some arranged marriages end badly because the spouses couldn't stand each other. I've also performed ceremonies for arranged marriages where the couples loved each other deeply before they were joined. I've even known some couples who were complete strangers at the beginning but grew to love each other after they were wed."

"Well, we were strangers when we first learned of the engagement," Ranma admitted. "Things haven't always gone well between us. I was raised on the road for ten years and had almost no social skills. I was rude, arrogant and boastful, a real jerk. I'm still working on fixing that."

Akane's eyes went wide on hearing that. She said, "Since we're being honest, I will admit that I had a terrible temper. We used to fight all the time. I'd insult him and he'd insult me. I can confess that I had a real anger management problem. I treated Ranma horribly. I even hit him and he was too honorable to hit me back."

As she contemplated the way she had treated her fiancé, a tear escaped her eye and rolled down her cheek. "When I think back on it, I can't understand why he didn't just tell me to go to hell and leave."

Ranma grabbed Akane's hand and held it in a firm grip, but addressed himself to the priest. "Just over a week ago we were both involved in a battle against a creature of terrible power. Akane nearly died in that fight and I realized then that even with all of the yelling, the insults and abuse, I still love her. I guess it's true when they say you don't really appreciate someone until you almost lose them."

Wiping away the tear with her free hand, Akane said, "I saw Ranma fight for me in a battle that looked hopeless. The creature he fought was so strong that it looked like Ranma would be killed. Where he found the strength to win, I don't know, but he found it. That was when I found my own strength and brought myself back from the brink of death. I joined the battle and together we beat that monster."

She looked Ranma in the eyes and said, "That was when I saw what my anger had been doing to me. I vowed to put that anger aside and tell Ranma I really love him. I've kept that vow. Since that day there have been no insults between us other than playful teasing."

"How do you feel about getting married to each other?" Asked the priest.

Glancing at Akane's face, Ranma smiled. "I want to get married to her. But I know that it would probably be best if we wait at least until we graduate from high school or even college. If for some reason we get married sooner we will at least wait to have children. It wouldn't be fair to any kids we might have if we weren't able to support them."

Akane directed a glare into the house toward the two men at the game table. She said, "I know daddy and Mr. Saotome want us to marry right away so they can give the dojo to us as a wedding gift. By doing it that way there wouldn't be any inheritance tax. But, since we're under age, we couldn't legally own it and our fathers would still be able to run it."

Ranma directed his own glare into the house. "There hasn't been a paying student in this dojo in years. The only money they've taken in with the training hall has been from renting it out for parties and such. I guess they thought that my reputation as a great martial artist would be enough to bring in students."

There was a grimace of disgust on his face. "If we are forced to get married right away, we will go along with it. But I'm not going to teach one single class until I have a degree in physical education and a certificate to teach. I also want to learn enough about business that I can manage the dojo's finances myself without running it into the ground. I don't think either of our fathers have enough business sense to handle it."

Akane snorted. "If my sister, Nabiki was to handle the business end of the dojo, it might have a chance to survive. Ranma is a great martial artist, but he has never taught a class. I used to think I was the best martial artist in Nerima, but I've learned that I have a lot to learn."

Ranma frowned and said, "Don't be so hard on yourself, 'Kane-Chan. Your worst problem with martial arts was your temper. Since we got back and started practicing seriously, I've seen a huge improvement. With your new strength you could beat Ukyo or Kodachi. You still need some training before you could take Shampoo down, but you'll get there."

"Really?" Akane was surprised by that assessment.

"Well, that's if you don't... you know." Ranma didn't want to publicly say anything about powers like flying and use of an energy sword.

Besides the simple fact of having such powers along with an even greater share of "brute strength," Akane still needed to learn how to effectively use those powers. If Akane got into a solo battle and tried to use her new powers she might seriously hurt or even kill her opponent without intending to.

The black haired girl smiled and said, "Thanks. That means a lot to me."

The priest was also smiling. It was a subtle smile but he was content. He said, "Thank you for talking to me. I think I have learned what I need. From what I have heard I have the feeling that the two of you truly belong together."

"Huh?" Ranma didn't think they had said all that much.

The priest grinned and said, "I base that judgment not only on the words you spoke but on the tone of voice you used and way you look at each other. I hope to be the one performing the ceremony when you do get married."

Takasato bowed to them and left to join his friends in the car.

As he got in the back seat, one man asked, "So, what's the verdict?"

"Shinji, my friend, if ever there were two kids that deserved to get married to each other, it's those two," Takasato said. "The things they said, the tone they spoke with, and the looks they gave each other... Ah! Young love."

"Are you sure of that?" asked Goro, the other man.

Takasato grinned hugely. "Trust me, my friends. I've been joining couples in the bonds of matrimony for a decade and a half. I've learned to recognize love when I see it, and they have it. From what they said and how they said it, I get the feeling they got off to a rocky start but they have recently had to endure an experience that has strengthened their bond like tempering the finest steel. As things stand now I don't think you could pry those two apart with a crowbar."

Goro shook his head. "Well, you're the expert. I'm not going to argue with you on this. What I'm questioning is that certificate."

Shinji started the car and pulled away from the curb. As they were driving through the streets, he said, "Yes, I'm confused by that as well."

"From what my friend in the police department told me, there are people who would try to stop the wedding," Takasato explained. "You might find it hard to believe of kids that young, but they have enemies, rivals and competing suitors. What I'm doing with the certificate is giving those kids a real chance. I just hope they will forgive me for deceiving them."

Author's Note: I'm sure I'm not the first person to suggest the dojo being rented out for parties. With Soun teaching no classes it seems an obvious way to get a little extra money. I doubt Nabiki would miss a chance like that. Soun would probably hate it, but even he can be convinced by a determined Nabiki.

It has been pointed out to me that the canon Ranma storyline gives an explanation for how the Phoenix people got their wings. It had to do with having their own spring on the mountain and lots of birds drowning there. This story is an AU and it didn't happen that way here. In this universe the Phoenix are aliens who came to Earth thousands of years ago. I have already written a side story that explains how Saffron came to have Akane's gems.