Tanabata approaches as Ranma, Rei and Ukyo sleep soundly at the temple. As each of their decisions and actions causes ripples, another consequence of Ranma's arrival in Juuban will throw the delicate balance of the future into question.

My Love's Flame
A Ranma 1/2 and Sailor Moon Crossover
by Ryan Erik

Chapter Twelve

The Tanabata festival of the original star-crossed lovers, Orihime and Hikoboshi, would take place on Saturday on the seventh of July, and the few inhabitants of the Hikawa Shrine, both new and old, had already begun to set up the decorations for the festivities. In addition to the bamboo trees already filled with paper wishes, paper lanterns were half-strung throughout the temple, and the strenuous task of placing them was in progress. Ranma and Ukyo were the two carrying out the preparations on that Wednesday morning, the day after the two fought in the schoolyard.

Focusing all of his strength into the downward drive of his arms, the boy in the temple courtyard sent the eleven-foot pole piercing into the earth between the bamboo trees along the gravel pathway. He had already loosened the soil with a shovel, but driving a pole twice his height down a quarter of its length into even loose soil sorely tested his abilities. His arms had already begun to ache on the fifth one of these he had placed upright along the path. However, he had gone out of his way to do it this way rather than dig a hole normally, and then fill it in with dirt.

"Find training in everything you do," his father had told him before shoving off to parts unknown.

I wonder what the bald old man is up to now, Ranma thought as he wiped sweat from his brow. A slight ache in his chest threatened to trigger eye watering, but the boy sucked in air and put away the thoughts of his father. Without a home, Genma was the only constant in his life until now.

The temple felt more like a home than he had known in a while. Although he had lived in camping grounds and the occasional dojo, the Hikawa Shrine on the top of Cherry Hill felt more like home than anywhere he had stayed in his entire life. He wasn't entirely sure why he felt that way after only four days and five nights living there, but he strongly suspected it had to do with the people living there with him.

"Hey, Ranma," the miko called out to him to him, waving her hand. She approached from the garden to the north side of the shrine, dressed in her school clothes and with her black-winged pets perched on her shoulders. Their black feathers blending with the color of her hair, the two ravens remained on the girl's shoulders despite her quick pace across the temple grounds. After walking around to the front of the shrine where he had been working since dawn, she bee-lined directly towards him.

Ranma stood up straight and inhaled deeply before waving his hand to greet the one who had welcomed him the most, despite having every reason not to. She might have mistaken him for a burglar before, but the only thing he had stolen was probably her trust. Rei looked radiant with the sun reflecting off her shiny black hair, and warming her pale skin. Every detail in the way she presented herself was elegant, from the pristine white of her knee-high socks, up to her ironed black skirt and her gray blouse, including the perfectly even tie of her cherry red scarf.

"Hey," Ranma answered, facing her as she walked away from the shrine directly to him. The wind caught him in the chest as he did so, pushing open his jacket. The breeze felt amazing, as the sweat of exercise cooled against his skin. He sighed, exhaling a deep breath as he approached her.

"Whoa!" Rei cried out, looking away and covering her eyes with a hand. "What are you wearing?!" Her birds took that moment to depart, as if the sight of him had been enough for them, too.

Ranma looked down at his training pants and his school jacket. "Uh, jacket and pants?"

"Where the heck is your shirt?" Rei demanded, crossing her arms under her breasts.

"Over there," he replied, pointing to the bench nearby. He had taken off the shirt of his gi nearly thirty minutes ago after his combination of school jacket and training gi had left him sweating before he'd even begun working. "It got warm. Why?"

"Then why are you wearing a jacket instead? That doesn't make any sense!"

"You told me to wear a jacket before I went out," he said neutrally, going back to work. He lifted a pole with one hand and wandered over to the next spot.

"Don't try to reason with him," Ukyo told Rei as he strung electrical wire with paper lanterns over the tops of the poles that Ranma had planted on the other side of the path.

The enemy-turned-friend had stayed the night as Rei hadn't been able to fix his uniform until late into the night. He had called for permission from his father to stay over. Rei's grandfather had seemed pleased at having another guest, so after Ukyo's father accepted, he stayed in an empty room that Ranma had helped prepare for him.

Ukyo continued, "I already brought it up that he could just wear the shirt, but he said it's fine this way."

"You'd think he'd learn a bit of common sense living on the road for so long," Rei complained behind his back.

"The school of hard knocks left that lesson out," Ukyo joked, just as Ranma got into position to plant the last pole he'd be putting in the ground this morning.

"It's just really distracting," Rei said quietly to Ukyo, but not low enough for Ranma to miss. "I'd never get anything done with his chest hanging out like that."

Ranma stopped and looked back at his two friends talking about him. "Too much for you?"

"You wish, baka," Rei said, sticking her tongue out at him. "I wasn't talking to you, either."

Shrugging in response, Ranma squared his stance and held the pole above the ground as high as he could reach.

"Rei-chan," Ranma heard Ukyo say while he drove the pole into the ground. "I just got used to it. People undressing in locker rooms, you know?"

"Only because you're a boy," Rei admitted. "I don't have a brother, and I didn't grow up with my father, so I didn't see anything until this one came crashing into my home."

Slipping out of jacket, Ranma turned back to face the two again. "I'm gonna rinse off before breakfast. That's why you came out here, right? Breakfast, I mean?"

Rei didn't respond, the look in her eyes priceless as he slung the navy blue coat over his right shoulder. Ukyo averted her gaze quicker than the black-haired girl, as if he was suddenly finding stringing paper lanterns very interesting. Rei for her part caught herself staring and turned around, red-faced.

"That's just an indecent thing to do in a temple," she bashfully told him.

Ranma laughed, finding their reactions far more humorous than he expected. He would have to remember it for the next time he needed to one-up Rei.

The rest of the morning was far less interesting. Ranma showered, dressed, and then joined the old priest, Rei and Ukyo for breakfast. There was far less talking than there had been at dinner. Boy was that interesting.

"Why don't you work part time here at the temple?" Rei's grandfather had asked Ukyo in between bites.

"I'm sorry, Hino-sempai," Ukyo had said with a bow of his head. "I already have a part time job at a restaurant."

"That's too bad!" he had replied after swallowing a big bite of rice. "You'd make a great miko."

Rei had face-palmed as Ukyo had stared at the old man slack-jawed. Ranma could only chuckle in response at the time, though the comment had been odd.

"But I'm a boy," Ukyo had protested.

"You're pretty enough to be a girl!" Apparently, gender didn't stop the old man from trying to fill his temple with able-bodied youngsters to do his bidding.

Finishing a bowl of miso soup, Ranma placed the bowl in front of him with a grin at the memory. He looked up at Rei, catching her staring again. She coughed, choking on her breakfast as she looked away.

"We should go now," Rei told them, apparently no longer interested in the rest of her food on the plate. She turned to Ukyo, who was sitting beside her. "I want to get there a bit early. You'll probably want to go apologize for ditching class after lunch."

With the speed of a martial artist trained from a young age to not waste food, Ranma captured the rest of Rei's food before she had even realized. He had it halfway finished by the time Rei and Ukyo turned to stare at him.

"What?" he asked with a mouth full of food. Neither answered, so he shrugged at them and finished the rest of it.

Ukyo and Rei chatted at the front door as they waited for Ranma to join them. He walked to the door and grabbed his jacket, which smelled clean despite him sweating in it this morning. He smiled as he slipped into it and walked up to his friends at the door.

The trio exited the dormitory and left the temple quickly after that. When they were a few blocks from the temple, Ukyo fell back to talk to Ranma, leaving Rei to lead the way. She smiled back at Ukyo, who nodded at her.

They're really tight, Ranma noticed for the first time, staring at the brown-haired boy. Rei had mentioned that they had been close long before Ranma arrived. "What's up, Ucchan?"

"Mind if we talk?" the boy asked him seriously, his eyes not looking away from Ranma's.

"Sure, buddy," he said, jumping down from the fence he'd been walking on.

"Thanks," he told Ranma, falling in beside him. "We haven't really gotten a chance to talk alone since... you know."

Ranma nodded, smiling at Ukyo. "Yeah, that was the best fight I've had in a while. You wanna talk tactics?"

Ukyo looked at him with wide eyes. "Uh, maybe later." He looked forward and started biting his nails.

"Alright, then, what's on your mind?" Ranma asked, noticing that Rei was giving them a good distance. Wait, is this where he tells me that they're dating? Oh man, that would suck.

"Ranma, thanks for not saying anything," Ukyo told him, his eyes grateful as he made eye contact. "I really like it at SAAS, and you could have gotten rid of me in seconds. But you didn't."

Ooookay, what the hell is he talking about now? Ranma thought, while he nodded. "Sure buddy, no problem. We're childhood friends. That was just heated reunion sparring, for all I'm concerned."

"Yeah, but you're the only one who knows my secret. I think half of me was just scared you'd recognize me, and then tell the principal." Ukyo's voice sounded so relieved that Ranma ignored the fact he had no clue what the boy was talking about.

"Alright, well, a secret between us is like buried pirate treasure without a map," he said, clapping Ukyo on the shoulder. "I don't even know what secret you're talking about anyway, so consider me silenced."

Ukyo gave him a side-hug in response. "Thanks, Ranchan! It's so nice to have someone on the inside, you know?"

"Sure," he responded, patting Ukyo on the back. "I'll defend your secrets with my life."

Ukyo seemed to almost skip as Rei slowed down to let them catch up.

"You boys have a nice chat?" she asked, a bit of concern on her face.

"Everything is good, Rei-chan!" Ukyo told her with an exuberance that Ranma hadn't witnessed from the boy before.

"We're all square here, Rei," Ranma said shortly after, smiling at her. For whatever reason, she averted her gaze the moment after their eyes met.

The rest of the trip to school was fairly boring as Rei and Ukyo chatted like schoolgirls, though only one actually held that title, despite her usual lack of stereotypical schoolgirl behavior. Ranma listened in one time to hear about their archery club, and who was dating whom, to know he didn't care to eavesdrop anymore.

They began to approach the elementary school, and Ranma gleefully leaped up to the top of the high wall. Some of the kids were down below, apparently waiting for him as they began to cheer at him. Ranma waved down at them and they cheered more.

He walked the length of it, looking down at the kids who were following below him.

"Hey, watch this!" he yelled down at them. He then vaulted and landed on his hands, continuing the same pace on his arms.

"Oh, what the heck, Ranma?" Rei swore up at him, thought her scowl looked pretty funny to him upside down.

"Just showing off for the kids," he told her, flipping back to his feet.

He jammed his hands into his pockets with a grin. By the time he reached the far end of the wall, the kids' enthusiasm had tapered off and most had walked back to the front of the school building. Ranma yawned as he looked down at the two teenagers who were trying their best to ignore him. Ranma took one more glance out to the school yard.

It was only then that he noticed one solitary girl still watching him. The black-haired girl sat still on a swing in the sandbox, her little red backpack still strapped to her back. The look in her eyes spoke volumes as to why she sat alone. Although she couldn't have been more than a second or third year elementary school student, she was wispy with thin arms and light skin, a shade from pale making her look even younger.

"Hi!" Ranma shouted down to her, waving. The girl's eyes widened as she ever-so-slightly waved back at him. "Fight-o!" He didn't catch her follow-up expression as he ran out of wall and jumped down to the sidewalk.

"You really are a freak," Rei said as she and Ukyo rejoined him.

"You do this every day?" Ukyo asked in wonder.

"Twice a day," Rei replied quickly.

"Balance training," Ranma replied, and then stuck his tongue out at Rei.

"If it's balancing your ego, you're failing," she cut back, returning fire, going one extra and pulling down her eyelid.

Ukyo barked out laughing, clutching at his stomach. "You guys are too much."

Ranma stayed on the sidewalk the rest of the walk to class, and he found the challenge not to jump up on everything harder than the actual balancing.

In no time, they reached the split where Rei left them to head to her school.

"Ranma, I have club practice after class. You can stick around, or go home on your own."

"You could always join us, too," Ukyo offered, as Rei departed across the street. "We could use someone as skilled as you."

"I've never done Kyudo," Ranma told the boy.

"Like you never used spatula shuriken, or wielded my battle spatula." Ukyo poked his shoulder.

"Well, I just applied other stuff to it," he said with a shrug. "Kyudo is serious. Don't get me wrong, I could learn it, but pops would be upset if I told him. He doesn't think it's worthwhile unless I'm practicing dodging arrows, or something."

"That's crazy," Ukyo whispered as they neared the gate to their school.

The sight of the sign for the school gave Ranma a chill. If today is half as good as yesterday, Ranma thought with a smirk on his face. He stopped, tapping Ukyo's shoulder. "Hey, Ucchan."

The boy who had walked a step ahead of Ranma turned to face him. "What's up?" The boy's hair fell into his blue eyes as he turned.

"I know it's kind of a sticky subject," he began, placing a hand on his shoulder. "But if you ever need to talk to a brother-in-arms about whatever, you can talk to me, you know?"

The change in Ukyo's expression was slight, but noticeable as the ocean blue hue of his eyes was swallowed by his dilating pupils, and his lips cracked open. He brushed the hair out of his eyes and turned, but nodded subtly in response.

"Cool," Ranma said, patting his shoulder. "Childhood friends gotta stick together. I know you can kick anyone at this school's ass, but if anyone gives you trouble, they're messing with me, too."

With his face still turned, Ukyo nodded again. "Thanks, Ranchan. Same goes to you." His voice was a bit choked in his reply.

Ranma walked forward, his arm around Ukyo's shoulder as they crossed through the gate into Saint Agnes of Assisi's School for Boys. Ranma's mood slipped towards caution as they walked into a crowd. At least three dozen students filled the courtyard in front of the school, all of them in sports gear, jerseys or otherwise armed with bats, balls, lacrosse sticks, Kendo shinai, and other various athletic gear.

Is this some kind of outdoor assembly of sports teams? Ranma thought as he slowed up. He turned to Ukyo, who seemed to be just as stumped by the unexpected crowd.

"Are they recruiting?" Ranma asked his friend, who only shrugged in response. "This school is pretty weird, even for some of the wacky places I've been."

"I've never seen anything like this," Ukyo said as they took a few more steps into the courtyard. "Recruiting season is over by, like, four months."

When they walked closer, the crowd seemed to get rowdier, their voices raising and some of them pointed at Ranma and Ukyo.

"You sure?" Ranma said. "Seems like they're about to come ask me to join their club. This happened last year, but not this extreme. I'm pretty good at any sport I play."

"They're coming this way," Ukyo said as they stopped at the halfway point between the gate and the entrance to the school.

In the front of the pack was a large kid, at least a year or two older than Ranma. He wore baggy black pants and was shirtless. The size of the boy was rather intimidating, even to Ranma who could probably beat him several times over, before the kid even got a single hit on him.

"Saotome Ranma!" the boy yelled, approaching him with the sort of battle aura Ranma only saw when people tried to beat him silly. "For crimes against this school, including beating our savior and idol, Kuonji Ukyo-sama, and for stealing away the goddess Hino-sama, we condemn you to death!"

Ranma blinked as the boy finished his speech. He looked about the yard, where some thirty sports club kids, ranging from twelve to fifteen years old, moved to surround him. Passively watching them, Ranma stuck his hands in his coat pockets.

"Wait, guys!" Ukyo called out to them. "It's a misunderstanding!"

Ranma took his left hand out of his pocket and put it on Ukyo's shoulder. When the boy turned to him, Ranma shook his head.

"What?" he asked, his eyes wide.

"This is the best thing that's ever happened to me," Ranma told the boy as he slipped out of his jacket. He handed it to Ukyo, who took it with a mystified expression on his face. "Seriously, I love this school."

"But..." Ukyo looked down at Ranma's jacket in his hands. "They'll kill you."

Ranma shook his head. "They're going to try."

"Those are some big words for a seventh grader!" the ringleader yelled, causing half the kids to laugh. "I'm a senior, two years your sempai. Leave this school forever, or we will beat you until even the altruistic Hino-sama finds you too hideous to look at."

Ranma pushed Ukyo back a few feet and put his hands in his pockets. "Are you willing to bet on it?"

This caused a stir among the assembled crowd. Some of them stared slack-jawed at his utter cockiness. The rest laughed, pointing at him as if he were a buffoon. Ranma merely smiled at him.

"Are you serious?" their leader shouted. "We outnumber you thirty to one."

"So, I would make those just about even odds," Ranma shouted back. "Let's make this interesting. For everyone who participates, every loser pays the winner five hundred yen. If I lose, I'll pay every last one of you five hundred yen. If I win, all of you owe me five hundred yen each."

"Ranma," Ukyo said with warning tones, but he waved the boy off.

"Don't worry, Ucchan," he said, grinning. "There isn't a single threat among them."

The crowd didn't deliberate much as they all saw yen in front of their eyes, payment for beating someone they all hated equally.

"You can't back out of that, freshman," their ringleader told him. "Or you're worse than dead."

"I never back out of man's agreement," Ranma responded, equally serious. "Ukyo, you stand back and don't get involved, even if they win."

"But, Ranchan," the boy said, his voice torn.

"No, I don't want you hurt," he said with his smile. "This is the best training I could possibly get without my pops here to train me."

He took one last scan of the crowd, assembling a threat list in his mind. Start with the Kendo club. Hit the leader a few times, but don't go too hard. Save him for last, so the crowd doesn't disperse. Focus on disarming as many of the baseball club as possible, and then start work on the rest.

"Get him!" The command echoed through the yard, as a handful of the bravest moved down at Ranma, charging him with their weapons and fists raised. Ranma identified half the Kendo club, two baseball club members, and the ringleader and someone dressed like him. Sumo club, he thought, almost laughing at him.

The first attack turned out to be a fastball pitched by the baseball club's pitcher, which Ranma easily sidestepped with a minimal slide. The ball crashed into the perimeter wall, before falling to a stop. Two more came flying at him, but with half the velocity. He caught one and the other went wide.

The three members of the kendo club in full gear came at him next, three of them with their shinai raised. Ranma threw the baseball at the center one, causing him to stumble as the ball slammed into his chest, his body armor absorbing some of the attack, but not enough to prevent him attacking. The other two were distracted as he followed up the throw by jump-attacking the one on his right. Ranma's foot smashed into the tallest one's chest, sending him tumbling back. The third attacked with his shinai, but Ranma moved in too close at that point, grabbing him by the hands, and sending the butt of his weapon directly into the boy's stomach.

The one in the middle started to recover, but Ranma took the disarmed shinai from the last one he'd attacked and used it to attack him. The middle Kendo practitioner tried to block the attack, but his shinai shattered from the force of Ranma's swing, causing both weapons to splinter. Ranma tossed it at the sumo club members who were moving in to attack him, bouncing it off the ringleader's head. Disarmed, the final Kendo club member retreated.

Flanked by two baseball players on either side of him, and with a sumo wrestler in front of him, Ranma drew them in closer.

"Hey guys," he said loudly. "Think you'll fare any better than those three?"

In response, the two baseball players ran into attack, one with a homerun swing and the other attacking overhead like the Kendo players. Ranma ran forward at the sumo wrestler, leaped over the boy's outstretched arms and landed directly on his head. The other two boys swung their weapons, missing him as they ran into each other. Knocking the sumo wrestler backwards, Ranma flipped backwards with his rebounding momentum and kicked the one who had attacked him from the right with a homerun swing.

His feet connected with the boy's arms, causing him to drop his bat. The other one tried to swing at him during this, but Ranma recovered just in time. He pushed the boy's friend into the swing of the bat. Luckily for that player, his helmet absorbed a good amount of the swing, but not enough to prevent him from going down.

Picking up the bat, he nearly laughed at the expression of the player who had knocked down his friend, but he didn't have the time as he turned quickly. He took a step to the side and swung his bat, connecting with a fastball. The ball stung slightly as he hit it directly back at the pitcher, who dived out of the way to avoid the line drive. Pulling back away from the baseball player, he blocked the boy's third swing, and then kicked him in the chest, sending him flying into the perimeter wall.

At this time, several lacrosse players had decided it was time for their turn with the ringleader of the group charging down at him. He ran at them just as fast, redirecting his movement at the last second, causing the ringleader to fall directly past him, and the lacrosse players to smack the sumo wrestler with their sticks. Ranma tossed the bat at one of them, and then drilled the second with his fists. A third baseball came his way, but Ranma used the lacrosse player as a shield.

A half-dozen football players ran at him, one with his team's black and white ball in his hands, which caused Ranma to chuckle as he caught the last lacrosse player's stick and tugged it away. He snapped it over his knee, causing him to break ranks and flee. Both the sumo wrestler ringleader and his friend had recovered by this point, and attacked Ranma from behind as the soccer players leveled their deadly cleats at him.

Ranma tumbled out of the way at the last second, causing the confused lot to all run into each. The soccer players fared particularly poorly as their perfectly timed kicks all caused them to crash into a pile as the sumo wrestlers' leader and his buddy ran them over. By this time, Ranma had to dodge a fifth fast ball, which came about a millimeter from beaning him.

One of the Kendo club members, a baseball player with bat, and three from what Ranma could only guess was the track and field club, moved in to attack him next, but Ranma evaded them and bee-lined straight for the star pitcher.

Don't hit his arms, Ranma thought as he moved in toward the scared pitcher. Two baseballs came his way, which Ranma straight up deflected with his arms. The two players who had thrown the balls, likely the rest of the pitching rotation, backed up as he ran at them, smacking both of their faces into each other. The star pitcher ran as Ranma grabbed the whole bucket of baseballs that they had been using.

"How about this fastball?!" he yelled at the boy as he tossed the entire bucket at the kid. While the bucket didn't drill him with the force of a fastball, it did land on the boy's head, causing him to suddenly trip and hit the ground. "You're out!"

"No, you're out!" the ringleader yelled running into him from behind.

Ranma felt all two hundred pounds of the kid slam into him, causing both of them to go flying. Ranma grabbed the sumo wrestler by his shoulders, and slammed his foot into the ground before they landed, causing him to twist around to the top. He pushed off his sempai as he performed a backflip and landed on his feet. The sumo wrestler left a dirt trail in the grass as he skidded to a halt.

Ranma turned to the remaining attackers, most of whom had never even started fighting, but none of them seemed willing to step forward.

"I'll give you guys ten seconds to attack me before I call it a win for me," he called out. However, he received no more challenges.

Inhaling deeply, Ranma walked towards where Ukyo was holding his coat. The boy's mouth was agape with shock, his eyes wide.

"See? All good. And now I'm rich, too," he told Ukyo nonchalantly as he calmly took his jacket out of the boy's hands.

Why did I ever doubt the awesomeness of school? Ranma thought about it for the rest of the day.

Notes: This chapter was written in two sittings. One for the first two pages, and the remaining 7 were written Sunday night. If you can't tell, I had a lot of fun with Ranma this chapter. So did he. Let me know what you think of him in this chapter. He's really confident, and he demolishes folks. The fact that Ukyo gave him trouble really speaks for how good Ukyo really is. Ranma has always been a bit OP, and I think that's what works about him. When he finally encounters things or people he can't beat, it's really shocking, but you can't know how good he is until he takes out some good old fashion athletic club members in the school yard.

In terms of where the plot is going, that's still up in the air. I know the general goals, but I'm working on where I go from here. I'm planning some really good Ranma/Minako, Ranma/Rei and Ranma/? time in the future. I'm working on balancing the primary romance/friendship with that of adding to the character list, and keeping everyone in there and relevant.

What's in next chapter? You'll find I actually wrote about 9 or 10 pages of Ranma story on Sunday, and split off three pages for the next chapter. I'm probably going to switch to Rei/Ukyo for the next chapter, and then go back to Ranma's day to himself. If I get a whole bunch of reviews and PMs telling me to keep going with Ranma, I can do that, first. I just think it's more interesting if I switch POVs each chapter, but I don't have to.

See you next chapter! If you're ever curious about what I'm writing or where I'm currently at, just look at my profile. I try to update it every time I make progress with a story. Until next time!