Kasumi fretted over her appearance as she waited for Ranma to return from school. Her obi had been tied three times, her hair had been removed from her ponytail, brushed, and carefully put back two times. She was wearing one of her best kimonos, it was a dark blue with white snow falling over a small amount of yellow flowers. Reaching up to adjust her bow once again, a knock on her door made her accidentally pull it off.
Sighing and trying to calm her nerves, she rose from her bed to answer, and found Nodoka standing on the other side. The Saotome matriarch looked as regal as ever, long hair pulled up in a loose bun, wearing one of her usual burgundy kimonos, and family blade held in both arms.
"Am I interrupting?" Nodoka asked, noticing the yellow ribbon in her hand.
"No not at all." She hastily answered. Ranma had explained that Nodoka would be coming on this trip, something that Kasumi was having a hard time wrapping her mind around.
"Do you mind if I come in?"
"Of course not." She stepped to the side, allowing the older woman to enter her room before closing the door.
"I take it you haven't seen my son either?"
"No, he hasn't come back from school yet." She held the ribbon between both hands in front of her hips. "It's not that strange, he likes to stay out after school to watch for any monsters going after students."
"I didn't know that." Nodoka admitted, having only spent a small time around her son, and wouldn't have been able to notice the pattern. "But it's good that he takes his— duty seriously."
Falling into an uncomfortable silence, Kasumi really didn't know how to talk to Nodoka now. She had been expecting the woman to be screaming about manliness, waving her sword around, and trying to force Ranma and Genma to commit seppuku. "Are you excited to see the castle?" She finally asked, trying to gauge Nodoka's actual interest.
"I'm not sure what to expect." Nodoka admitted, taking a seat on Kasumi's bed, and laying her sword down. "But this all seems very important to my son so I'm trying to be patient."
"I don't know what to expect either. Ranma's told me a great deal but I've never seen anything for myself."
"This castle— does my son go there often as well?"
"Not often— but you would have to ask him." She didn't badger Ranma with questions of where he spent his time away from the Tendo property. "Maybe I should give his cell a call." She mused, quickly tying her ribbon back into a bow around the elastic holding her hair in place. "I think I will."
"He has a cell phone?" Nodoka asked in surprise, following her as she went to go use the phone downstairs. "There's so much I don't know." The woman admitted sadly with her eyes staring at the floor.
"I'll write the number down for you." She offered as they ran into Akane carrying her schoolbag. "Welcome home." She greeted her younger sister.
"Hi Kasumi, Hi Auntie." Akane returned her greeting cheerfully before noticing that they were both overdressed for the home. "Are you going somewhere?"
"Ranma was going to take us someplace— yes." She answered hesitantly, just as unused to talking to her sister about Senshi things as she was with Nodoka. It was strange that Ranma would invite both of them but leave her sister out of it. 'Even if Ranma did just take Akane to a fancy concert.' She added to herself jealously.
"Where?" Akane asked, not even trying to hide her suspicious tone.
"That's for Ranma to say." Kasumi smiled gently and went to the phone to call him. 'Oh dear, he didn't tell her.'
"I'm just getting done now, I'll meet you in my room." Ranma finished a brief conversation with Kasumi and put her cell phone away.
Earlier she had sensed monsters while patrolling around Furinkan after school. She had tracked the trio of demons to a less populated part of town mulling about an alley before making short work of them. Either she had caught them moving between populated areas or they had been luring her into some kind of trap.
'It's weird, usually they hang around places where there are people, not some deserted alley.' That wasn't as strange as the fourth that had been hidden somewhere watching her take out the three demons. It had already fled by the time she had finished. She would need to mention it at the next meeting to find out if anyone else had noticed being monitored.
Remaining in Senshi form, she leapt up to the rooftop and headed towards the nearest teleport network location. It had taken a significant amount of time and effort to create the network with Sailor Mercury. Initially it was only to create a link so Ranma could more easily visit the other Senshi. Once they had worked out all the kinks, they had slowly expanded the network to cover Juuban and Nerima in dozens of access points. There were even a couple at farther out places, like a small tropical island retreat Setsuna had purchased.
Activating the node, the world vanished from view before being quickly replaced by her room. "Ready to go?" She asked before noticing that Akane was also with Nodoka and Kasumi. "Oh." Ranma smiled sheepishly.
"You were going to invite me— weren't you?" Akane asked, her tone of voice betraying just how dangerously close to blowing her top.
"What? Of course I was." She answered quickly. "Why do you think I was trying to talk to you in school?" Ranma tried to deflect blame off herself. This trip was primarily for Kasumi and Nodoka's benefit, it's not like she could dedicate all her time to making Akane happy.
"Son." Nodoka's voice silenced any further questioning by Akane, the woman looking at Ranma's uniform, especially the skirt with clear disapproval. "If you were going to keep us waiting, you should have called."
"Sorry." She looked down and fiddled nervously with the bow on her chest. "I had to take care of a few monsters but I'm ready to get going."
"Did they give you any trouble?" Kasumi asked in concern.
"I'm fine, I didn't even break a sweat." She boasted.
"Why didn't you ask me to help?" Akane asked, staring intently at the bow on Ranma's chest that was held together with her half moon shaped transformation brooch.
"Akane, I told you before that those monsters are dangerous." Ranma straightened up and quit playing with her uniform to stand proudly. "Besides, it's my job as a soldier of love and justice to vanquish the forces of evil!" She announced grandly.
"Then who decided what your uniform would be?" Her mother asked, taking her prior comment of being a soldier seriously. "It's very effective at showing off attributes I never expected my son to possess."
"It's just part of the magic." Ranma answered, mostly ignoring Akane as she picked at her chest bow and collar in a mix of awe and curiosity. "Is something wrong with it?" She pulled at the bottom of her skirt nervously.
"Other than you're in it?" Akane scoffed. "Ranma— macho man amongst men, wearing something so girly and feminine?" The short haired girl asked incredulously, looking towards her older sister and Nodoka for confirmation on her statement. Nodoka nodded her head in hesitant agreement while Kasumi just continued to smile non-committally.
"Would you feel better if it was some clunky suit of armor?" Ranma shrugged and rolled her eyes, imagining Usagi stomping around in a full suit of samurai armor.
"Not specifically." Nodoka added.
"Maybe something more like a modern soldier?" Ranma asked trying not to sound overly defensive. "Pants and body armor?"
"Something more protective and with pants does seem like it would be more practical for fighting dangerous creatures, even for a— woman." Nodoka answered.
"Even if what you have now is really cute." Akane complimented her in a small voice.
Crossing her arms and putting all her weight on one hip, Ranma sniffed at the slight. "I get it, it's really girly. A year ago I would have had to be blackmailed into even considering spending any time wearing something like this."
"Like finding some guy you wanted to scam food out of?" Akane snickered before covering her mouth with both hands and looking at Nodoka in fear that she would freak out over her comment.
Nodoka gave the youngest Tendo girl a stern glare before addressing her again. "And what changed your mind, son?"
"Because this has been our uniform for thousands of years, serving as a symbol of hope for the entire galaxy." Relaxing her crossed arms to be more casual, Ranma took a small breath. "I'm a Sailor Senshi, I feel proud that I get to wear it— bows and all." Akane was looking a little star struck at Ranma's small speech while Nodoka neutrally raised an eyebrow, preparing to ask another question.
"I think—." Kasumi interrupted anyone from responding to Ranma's explanation. "I just think that what Ranma and the others wear doesn't change all the good they do. So what if it's so feminine? Is that really such a bad thing?"
"Thanks Kasumi." Ranma chirped. Happy that her reincarnated advisor still had her back. "Maybe it'd be easier to understand when we get there."
"Yea, where are we going?" Akane asked excitedly, helping draw the focus of the conversation back to why they were having this meeting in the first place.
"It'll be a good surprise." She quickly went around the three women and maneuvered them into a rough circle with Akane on the far side from herself. "Alright, now hold hands." Ranma instructed, holding out her own for Nodoka and Kasumi to take. "I've never tried to teleport this many people before so don't let go."
Seeing the suddenly dubious look Akane gave her she rolled her eyes and added. "Fine, be that way and don't hold hands, but don't blame me if you end up somewhere West of Jupiter." Closing her eyes, Ranma felt her hair and bows start to rise and flutter as she gathered the needed power. With a flash of rainbow colored light bright enough to see through her eyelids, she felt herself become weightless.
Pausing in the doorway to the room shared by all of the Saotomes, Nabiki pursed her lips as her eyes found that no one was inside. 'Weird— I know I heard my sisters and Ranma talking.' The two martial artists she was trying to install as her safety net were certainly making it difficult when they kept vanishing out from under her nose.
Shrugging, she decided to find something to snack on before dinner. 'I wonder if I should try to get some kind of listening devices installed so I can find out what's really going on.' Nabiki mused, pausing as she heard the faint sound of fabric ripping from inside the room. Looking back through the doorway, she confirmed that the room was still empty.
"Aww!" The muffled voice of a young girl proved Nabiki wrong. "How did I get in here?" The girl continued and there was some soft thumping from the drawers where the futons were kept during the day. "Can anyone help me?" She pleaded pitifully.
"If you're here to jump one of the Saotomes, fair warning, but we will collect payment for any and all damages you incur to the house." Nabiki explained tiredly as she made her way over to tap on the side of the drawers.
"Ah!" The girl inside the small compartment squeaked. "Please, could you let me out?"
"I suppose." She sighed and slid the drawer open. Nabiki had been expecting some small or young female martial artist, having crammed herself into the tiny space to lay in wait to ambush either Ranma or Genma. So she was a little shocked to see that it was a little grey adolescent cat that stared up at her with big red eyes, half buried beneath a futon.
"Thank you very much!" The kitten gushed struggling to free herself to rise up into a sitting position and bow her head. "I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't been here!" When the kitten lifted her head back up, Nabiki noticed a golden upward facing crescent moon on her forehead.
"Well— yea—." She raised an eyebrow before getting over the oddity. "Why are you here?" Nabiki asked, ruling out the cat being their new pink haired houseguest with the Jusenkyo curse of talking cat because Chibi-Usa only played at being refined and respectful. In this kind of situation, the pink haired girl would have been rude and demanding while the kitten was speaking far too formally and respectfully.
"Of course, my name is Diana— and I am trying to find Small Lady. Have you seen her?" Upon seeing that Nabiki was staring blankly without recognition, she continued. "Maybe you know her as Tsukino Usagi?"
"I know a Saotome Usagi." She answered, several red flags waving animatedly in her head. "Pink haired little brat, right? Usually in carrot shaped odangos?" She asked for clarification and received an emphatic nod at each description, an ornate gold key on the kittens red collar jingling against a tiny bell.
"That sounds exactly like her!" The kitten exclaimed.
"She's out somewhere training." Nabiki waved her hand dismissively, far more interested in this intelligent cat.
"Do you know when she'll be back? I absolutely must speak with her." The cat asked desperately, reaching a paw up in a very human motion to feel a key hanging around her neck.
"I'm sure she'll be around for dinner. But while we wait, how about you tell me just what is so important?" Nabiki's lips curled upwards into a smile.
Kasumi watched through an oscillating rainbow of colors as the room around her dropped downward. She felt lighter than air with her ponytail floating to the right side of her vision. They were flying upwards but there was no wind or feeling that they were moving. Akane nearly crushed her hand as her younger sister looked around in a panic. Nodoka wore a similar look of awe as herself, with the Earth already dozens than hundred of kilometers beneath them as their speed appeared to increase.
"I told you to hang on." Ranma remarked in amusement while looking straight up.
Flying over the Earth away from the Sun, she barely noticed a sudden burst in speed that sent them arcing up into space. Within moments they had already passed by the Moon, against the dark background of stars, she nearly missed the small blue light they were approaching until nearly on top of it. "It is a castle." Kasumi didn't know what she had been expecting but a literal straight from a storybook castle wasn't it.
Surrounded by a sphere of pale blue atmosphere sat the castle perched on an upside down pyramid twice as tall as it was wide. Tall structures made of white stone with red and gold accents were spread out in an irregular pattern across a forested landscape. Several impossibly thin towers rose upwards nearly as tall as the pyramid on the opposite side. The look was that of a European castle but many of the structures had a clearly Greek design.
Memories tickled at Kasumi's mind as they quickly slowed and altered their position to descend down to a circular platform made from a dark gray and highly reflective stone. Gravity slowly reasserted its hold over her body as her feet made contact with a large circular decoration in the center of the platform made of a black stone with star-like flecks over its surface.
'This is where guests arrived.' She thought, ignoring her sister and Nodoka as they took in the grassy courtyard surrounding them before a giant hall. Finally getting her sister's death hold on her hand off, she shuffled over towards the great dark wood doors leading inside the hall. 'I don't stand there— I should stand over here.' She finally found a spot that felt right and turned to face the landing area. 'Maybe a little over this way.' She took a step to the side and was satisfied that she was able to match something up with a memory she could barely recall.
Kasumi found herself being stared at by Nodoka and Akane in concern. Uncomfortable with the attention she bowed her head and clasped her hands together. A small hand on her arm made her glance over to see that Ranma, still in her Senshi form, was standing next to her with a reassuring smile on her face.
"It's alright." Ranma let her hand fall from Kasumi's arm.
"It's embarrassing." She answered in a small voice. Here she was, at a magical castle out in space, and she was the center of attention.
"You're home, that's all that matters." The redhead sounded so reassuring and confident that Kasumi almost forgot that there were two others witnessing their brief conversation.
"What's going on?" Akane demanded in panic, having had no clue what was going to happen. "Where are we?" She looked around wildly at the courtyard.
"Welcome to Castle Neith." Ranma announced and swept her arm to the side and back, sounding overly excited to show off.
"A castle—." Akane gulped loudly before looking up at the bright star filled sky. "And we're in space." She noted in shock.
"Yup." Ranma smiled smugly. "We're in orbit around the Earth, just past the Moon." Before the redhead had finished her explanation of their location, tiny flecks of white light gathered to envelop everyone but Ranma's bodies below their necks.
"Ranma, what is this?" Kasumi asked, raising her hand to watch as the light danced above her skin while lightly tickling her.
"I don't think Lautia likes your clothes." Ranma answered with a tired sigh.
"It's just my school uniform." Akane grumbled, trying to brush away the light from her arms and body. "And it's expensive so this glitter stuff better not ruin it."
"Son, I think a better explanation is required." Nodoka added, trying not to sound concerned or overwhelmed by what was going on.
"Well Lautia?" Ranma asked, looking absently out into empty space.
"I'm sorry." A soft voice similar to Ranma's but higher in pitch answered. With a deceptively loud pop, a tiny version of the Senshi, complete with little sailor fuku, appeared floating chest high before her. "You were running so far behind schedule that I assumed your guests hadn't had time to change into appropriate clothing."
Kasumi thought about exclaiming how cute the little floating Ranma was but something told her that was not a wise thing to do.
"She's adorable!" Akane nearly squealed, rushing up to stand next to the small duplicate, leaving a trail of light particles that slowly caught up with her. Her momentary childish glee ended as she narrowed her eyes and added sarcastically. "Wait— of course only you would be so egotistical as to have a fairy mascot in your own image."
"Fairy mascot?" The small girl asked in shock and outrage. "Why you little ragamuffin." The girl fumed before Ranma pulled her duplicate away from Akane to stand between them. "You're lucky I don't vent you out into the vacuum!"
"She doesn't know— can you just finish up?" Ranma asked nervously, blocking the angry miniature Senshi from Akane with her body.
"Oh alright— I just thought your guests would enjoy a show." The duplicate nodded her head and all the light around them started to dissipate from the top down.
Kasumi felt the weight of her kimono vanish, to be replaced by a much lighter garment. Now she was wearing a sky blue, one shoulder evening gown, the back ended so that it would trail along behind her while the front only came down to her ankles. 'I guess I shouldn't have made a fuss over my kimono.' She twisted a bit to see that there was a large bow with tails as long as the dress positioned at her lower back.
She froze as the small copy of Ranma flew over to hover in front of her. "Um— hello." She greeted awkwardly.
"It's truly a pleasure to see you again Pyrrha-sama." The little girl returned the greeting with a small bow of her head. "I hope you don't mind that I took that dress from one of your closets."
"It's a pleasure to see you— again as well." She bowed her head, not remembering ever meeting the guardian or having this dress, but not wishing to be rude. "But my name is Kasumi not Pyrrha."
"Oh— of course!" The mini Senshi agreed and clapped her hands together. "I kept everything as you left it. As best I could of course, it has been quite some time, and some of your things were perishable unfortunately."
"Alright." She didn't know how to respond so she just smiled pleasantly and glanced over towards her sister.
Akane's dress was similar but with two shoulder straps, no back bow, and in a dark turquoise. The short haired girl's face was a mix of confusion and muted excitement. Nearby, Nodoka stood inspecting her own garnet dress also with dual shoulder straps. The Saotome woman had a long tailed back bow like Kasumi but with the bow loops forming small wing shapes.
"Son, where is my kimono?" Nodoka asked, fidgeting uncomfortably with a gold ring at the base of each shoulder strap. "I appreciate this gesture but I prefer my own clothes."
"Lautia, nice job, but you should have asked first." Ranma chastised the smaller version of herself, the guardian crossed her arms and spun away with a huff. "How about you give them back their clothes."
"This is no way to have guests in the castle." Lautia sniffed haughtily. "Presentation standards must be maintained."
"If I wear it do I get to keep it?" Akane asked hopefully.
"I'm sure you can." Kasumi answered without thinking. "But be sure to thank her for the gift."
Akane's eyes widened in shock before she bowed to Lautia. "Thank you very much for the gift."
"No thanks are needed." Lautia floated a bit higher with a proud little look on her face. "As an Earthling, you can't be expected to know all the mores of proper society."
"Lautia." Ranma warned.
"Apologies Ranma-dono." The little girl responded with clearly false cheer. In front of Akane a small plain brown box appeared and hovered at shoulder height. Nodoka's dress shimmered briefly before returning to her original kimono. "I have other duties to attend to." She added before vanishing with the same popping sound as her arrival.
"Sorry about that." Ranma apologized tiredly, mostly towards Nodoka. "She's been here all alone for a really long time and she's set in her ways."
"It's alright." Nodoka checked for some kind of flaw with how her kimono had been returned. "Everything seems to be in order. But what did she mean when she mentioned being behind schedule?"
"Honestly I don't know." Ranma answered with a shrug. "She's keeping it from me too."
'Definitely set in her ways.' Kasumi nodded to herself.
"And what is with the mini-you calling Kasumi, 'Pyrrha'?" Akane asked, having caught the little conversation between Kasumi and the guardian.
"That's because Kasumi is reincarnated like me." Ranma answered simply, gesturing towards the large doors, and leaving to walk down the short path without offering an explanation.
"Kasumi gets to be a Senshi too?" Akane eyes got very large and Kasumi could see that her younger sister had all the facial tics indicating that she was desperately trying not to declare this to be the most unfair thing ever.
"Oh no— I could never be a Senshi." Kasumi answered her sisters suggestion nervously. "I was Sailor Theia's advisor." She hastily added even though she didn't exactly remember her position yet.
"Ranma, why in the world won't you start warning us before you drop these things on us?" Akane demanded, storming up the path and into the hall. "I bet you didn't even— tell— oh."
Kasumi followed after her sister worriedly, partially agreeing that Ranma really hadn't made it that clear she was going to start receiving memories from another life. "Oh my." She gasped and slowed to a halt, distantly noticing that Nodoka had followed and was now at her side.
The building on the outside had been a four story high rectangle built with white stone, with a footprint the size of the Tendo property. Inside it was completely the opposite. The floor was made of black marble, polished to a mirror finish, and with a thin white marble band separating each of the two meter square slabs. There didn't seem to be any walls, just equally spaced large pillars running up one third of the distance to the roof before curving inwards to connect to its partner forming a half circle vaulted ceiling.
The walls that did exist were made of a dark gray stone that blended into the dark floor and only went to where the pillars started to curve inwards. As masterful as all the stonework was, the real eye catching feature were in the bays between the arches. Beautiful three dimensional projections of all the planets jutted slightly out into the room, spinning serenely with stars twinkling far behind them. Underneath each planetary display was a small empty display case on a meter high pillar of black marble.
At the far side of the room, taking up the entire wall was a larger projection showing the Sun, Earth, and Moon. There was even a little representation of the castle floating in it's position around the Earth. Underneath the projection was a platform raised up two steps with two ornate gold and red plush seats. The one to their right was larger with an upwards facing crescent formed into the taller back near the top. (1)
Ranma strode confidently towards the two thrones, heels making loud echoes against the hard stone. "Sorry this is so old fashioned." The redhead turned enough to address them, voice carrying like she was right next to them. "This was made to be grand and impressive." She gestured widely with her arms before stopping near the steps up to the thrones, giving a polite bow of her head towards the larger one, she spun around to face them. "Why are you standing at the door?"
Kasumi was the first to start forward, still in awe at the magical hall surrounding her. "You lived here?" She asked in a daze, voice also carrying clearly across the room.
"Of course I didn't live here." Ranma laughed lightly and realizing how rude she was being, came back towards the group. "This is all for show. But the first time I came back here I practically lived in this place, just watching the planets spin." The redhead slowed to a stop and gazed up at the bright blue image of Neptune.
"It is amazing but I think I may need to sit down for a while." Nodoka added, wavering on her feet.. "This bigger on the inside look is making me dizzy."
Ranma practically teleported to be next to Nodoka. "You alright? Not everyone can deal with the effect."
"I'm fine son." Nodoka smiled warmly at her childs concern. "I'm just not used to all of this."
"Right." The Senshi nodded rapidly. "Let's just keep going to my actual home." She gestured towards a doorway in the wall that was designed to be overlooked.
Kasumi agreed with moving on for now and letting the alien nature of the hall sink in before seeing it again. 'I do hope I paid the cleaners well.' She made the mistake of glancing down and realized another unnatural feature, the floor didn't reflect any of them, only the room with its planetary displays.
Stretched out across an ancient rug in front of a fireplace, Artemis kept one eye open as he enjoyed the pleasant fire crackling behind him. 'Being a cat has its advantages.' He chuckled, watching as his friend and partner Aino Minako busied herself setting up decorations.
Sitting nearby on a reclining chair was Mizuno Ami, the hyper intelligent girl having given up on being able to meet Minako's exacting vision of how things were supposed to be. So now she was rapidly typing on her miniature computer and ignoring the flurry of activity that was Minako.
And since he possessed the body of a normal sized, white house cat, Artemis was saved from assisting in Minako's madness. Leaving him free to enjoy the creature comforts of the castles entertainment room. It was two stories high with the entrance on the bottom floor. Everything was done in Earthy colors, wood, and soft fabrics creating a very rustic feel. The lower portion consisted of a sitting area in a half circle around a more modern entertainment stand built into the wall. Karaoke, movie players, and television had been combined with ancient Silver Millenium technology.
On both sides of the entertainment stand, steps led up to the second floor where the Outers had fully stocked a bar, having left some of the old crystal vials that had been left from before the fall but were now undrinkable. Several arcade games had been brought in, including an original Sailor V cabinet, that was signed by Minako of course. Next to the bar was a tall metal ice cream machine with four flavors that Usagi really wanted to have.
Artemis' favorite spot remained right next to the magically burning fireplace on the lower level, where he could stare out through a wall length window across the room that showed a view out into space.
"Watch out! Coming through!" Minako stepped around and over him as she leapt upwards to a ledge over top the fireplace in order to hang a banner saying 'Congratulations' across the room.
"Mina, what exactly are you congratulating?" He asked, rising up into a sitting position, unimpressed with her small display of acrobatics.
Minako paused as she stood perched high on the decorative frame around the fireplace, attempted to affix the banner to a higher portion. "It's the thought that counts." She finally responded and finished hanging the banner before dropping lightly to the floor with her knee length golden blonde hair trailing behind her.
"And the 'Good Luck' one?" He looked up above the entertainment stand to see that draped from one side to the other.
"Why don't you go find a Hallmark card for remembering your past life, if you're so picky!" Minako crossed her arms and stuck out her tongue at him.
"You stole these from a dumpster didn't you?" He deadpanned.
"They were on sale!"
"Didn't they have a 'Welcome Back' one?" Ami asked calmly from behind the safety of her computer screen.
"I go through all this trouble! I slave away for hours making preparations! I try my very hardest to make this a personalized and important day! And this is the thanks I get?" Minako exclaimed dramatically, rocking her head back, and placing the back of her right hand to her forehead.
"It's almost like you put this mess together at the last minute and didn't think it through at all!" He exclaimed back with equal drama.
Minako reached down to grab him by the scruff of his neck and stomped towards the door. "And where was all this helpful advice when I was out gathering everything?" She asked in an overly happy tone.
"And when have you ever heeded my sagely advice?" He asked as she unceremoniously dropped him off with a pushing motion towards the door.
"Just go make yourself useful and warn me when they're coming down the hall." She instructed. "Ami, come help me with the confetti cannon." Minako instantly switched gears and grabbed the reluctant girl for her assistance.
Artemis sighed in defeat. "Stay out of the way, now you're in the way, go watch the door." Standing up on his hind legs he walked forward and waved his front paws. "I'm Minako, I'm the human so I am the boss, do what I say." He taunted in an exaggerated and pompous voice.
"And you're not allowed on my computer anymore. Being a cat doesn't make you funny." Minako responded without missing a beat, even if she did miss Ami snickering behind her back.
'Of course it does.' He rolled his eyes as he peeked out the doorway into the hall, and nearly ran into a pair of legs. Craning his head upwards he found a kimono clad woman who looked a lot like a mature Ranma gazing down at him. "Well hello there, pretty lady. What brings you to my neck of the woods?"
Akane lingered in the grand hall while her sister, Ranma, and Nodoka exited through a doorway cleverly recessed into the wall between the displays for Saturn and Jupiter. As much as she wanted to see more of this magical space castle, her attention was riveted on an item resting underneath the hologram of planet Saturn. Placing her packaged up school uniform on the podium underneath the display, she took a moment to admire the double bladed naginata from a distance first. (2)
It was taller than she was by a good fifteen centimeters with a flat black finish over the shaft. Two parallel engraved lines ran its length, meeting in the center where a small flower symbol was carved. The bottom flared outwards into a simple counterweight to the long curved blade that sat perched on a decorative polished silver base at the top.
'I wonder why it has that weird second blade on the back.' She mused, reaching out to pick up the weapon, intending to take full advantage of this opportunity to pretend she was a Senshi with one of their actual weapons. Her hands closed around the smooth metallic surface and she attempted to pull it from it's place resting lazily against the wall but it didn't budge in the slightest.
"What the?" She tugged on the weapon again and it stubbornly refused to move. "Is there a lock or something?" She knelt down to feel where the base met the floor to see if it was connected to the stone before standing back up and looking around the blade. "It's just sitting here!" She exclaimed in frustration and immediately gave up any pretense of reverence for the weapon. Gripping with both hands, she planted her feet up on the wall and strained with all her might to make it move.
Feeling it finally shift, she hastily put her feet back down just in time for the staff to jump into her chest with enough force to send her flying across the room. Grunting in pain, she landed against a soft body with two delicate arms extending around Akane to grip the naginata.
"Ranma I swear I'm going to—." Akane stopped talking as she noticed that the arms were too slim to be her fiance's and the colored border at the top of her white gloves was a dark lavender, not the gold and red of Ranma's fuku.
"I'm not Ranma." A soft, somewhat familiar female voice whispered in her ear, pulling the weapon closer so that Akane was pressed tightly against her form.
"Who—?" Akane's question hung in the air as she felt herself go weightless and a bright violet light envelope them. It was only for an instant but when it cleared she couldn't see anything and was released to fall forward onto a cold stone floor.
"Wait— did I just get kidnapped?" She asked incredulously into the darkness, watching as dark motes of purple light drifted by like fireflies. "Is this some kind of joke Ranma put you up to?" She asked while turning around to see a figure barely illuminated by a growing congregation of the magical insects.
"Worry more about yourself." The girl in a Senshi fuku warned, looming over Akane with her long naginata held in her right hand, the silver blade glinting dangerously in the dark. "Do you know who I am?"
Akane didn't immediately and had a difficult time even determining what colors the Senshi wore in the minimal light. The colored bits of her uniform seemed to be purple or black, the same color as her chin length bobbed hair. Standing with one leg in front of the other and her long bladed weapon in her right hand, she looked like an incarnation of the Grim Reaper.
"Um—." She hesitated, she knew of all the Senshi up to Jupiter but the other planetary Senshi were hardly if ever seen. "Sailor Pluto?"
"You wish that I was Pluto!" The Senshi brought her weapon down to strike the floor with a loud crack that echoed hollowly. "To know of me carried the penalty of death!" Around her the purple fireflies flew upward in a chaotic spiral and the blackness around them was banished by a bright light that made Akane shield her eyes. "I am the Senshi of Silence, the bringer of destruction and ruin!"
Squinting as her eyes adjusted, Akane found herself kneeling in a grand hall like castle Neith, this new Senshi posing dramatically next to a bronze throne with a tan ringed planet filling up the entire multi-story window. Hazarding a look to her left and right, she confirmed that she had been transported to a new grand hall that was far narrower and taller. There were no planets on display, only high vaulted ceilings formed by tall oval rings.
Delicate fingers barely touched the weapon that Akane had been unable to move, yet the Senshi raised it straight above her head before swinging it down to halt instantly with the blade pointed squarely at the tip of Akane's nose. It had been performed with such speed and finesse that she didn't even react, stunned completely into inaction so that all she could do was stare cross eyed at the exceedingly sharp point.
"I am Sailor Saturn— who are you to dare lay your hands upon the Silence Glaive?" She demanded, her commanding voice was loud but it failed to produce an echo in the vast hall.
"Uh—." Akane's eyes drifted up from the blade to and to the Senshi's face where two intense lavender eyes bore through her like she was an insect. Her gaze strayed from kidnappers face to where a finger was just about to tap Sailor Saturn on the shoulder.
"You dare to look away—?"
"Saturn." Ranma interrupted, her voice heard clearly in the echo-less room as she tapped the other Senshi on the shoulder. Sailor Saturn made a loud 'eep' and with a short hop, clutched the Silence Glaive to her chest, and faced Ranma. "Whatcha doin?" The redhead asked innocently.
"Heh heh— Nothing at all! What are you doing here?" Sailor Saturn asked nervously, her air of authority and power vanishing.
"Like I'm not supposed to notice you left the Silence Glaive oh so casually resting in my hall?" Theia asked with a roll of her eyes before planting her hands on her hips. Ranma's blue eyes shifted over to her kneeling on the stone. "Akane, why are you still on the floor?"
Akane sputtered in anger and rushed over to hit her female fiance over the head. "Why am I on the floor?!" She shouted at the redhead before pointing an accusing finger at the other Senshi. "Where am I? And why is she waving that thing at me?"
Ranma jerked a thumb behind her towards the planet though the tall window. "Well, that's Saturn out the window."
'The planet?' Akane's jaw dropped as she finally realized just how far from home she was.
"And Saturn, why did you kidnap Akane?" Ranma asked the other Senshi curiously.
"Yea! What is wrong with you?" Akane hid behind the perceived safety of Ranma, wondering what frightening level of strength this Sailor Saturn had in order to wield that impossibly heavy glaive with such ease.
"She touched my glaive." Sailor Saturn answered with an arrogant sniff and regained her confident posture.
"That you left out for someone to play with." Ranma pointed out. "Is this about that concert?" She asked suspiciously.
"What makes you think I care about going to see an orchestra?" The violet haired girl looked away haughtily.
"I'm sorry, alright?" Theia went up to the other Senshi who was the same height. "I didn't think you'd mind missing out and it was a great way to do your Moms' interview of Akane."
'They're testing me?' Akane narrowed her eyes suspiciously at the back of Ranma's head. 'Moms? Is Ranma talking about those two weirdos?'
"And how are you going to make it up to me?" Saturn asked tentatively.
"I have something in mind."
Akane felt her world lurch uncontrollably as she stared at her fiance in a mutual embrace with the Sailor Senshi who had been threatening her not three minutes before. "Ranma!" She exploded, grabbing Theia by her crimson collar to rip her off the other Senshi. "Why are you hugging her?!" She snarled loudly.
The Silence Glaive striking the floor again with a strange empty sounding echo made her anger fizzle out. Akane gulped as she found Sailor Saturn glaring at her. "Ranma is my friend and needs no other reason."
A shadow with a violet outline coalesced around the Senshi before bursting into hundreds of the black fireflies from earlier that then faded into nothingness. Akane's eyes widened slightly as she released Ranma's collar, recognizing the teen with healing powers, Hotaru.
"You didn't have to." Ranma said to the revealed Hotaru, who wore black jean shorts and a loose pastel purple blouse.
"I think I did." Hotaru eyed Akane with her strangely fierce lavender eyes. "Just so that my new friend knows who I am."
"Really? That's great!" Ranma exclaimed happily, pulling her into an uncomfortably close three person hug with Hotaru. "If I knew you were just going to ask her to be friends I wouldn't have interrupted."
"She wasn't trying to be friends, she was threatening me!" Akane broke free to move behind Ranma, hastily explaining the situation to her obviously deluded fiance.
"Akane, Hotaru wouldn't need to go through all the trouble of bringing you here for a magic show if she just wanted to threaten you." Ranma answered, not believing there had been any ill intent. "Did you want some more time to talk about things? I can head back if you want. I heard Artemis, so Venus is probably there too. Knowing her, she's probably plotting some crazy surprise."
"No!" Akane shouted and grabbed Ranma's arm. "No, no, no more time alone with her." She pleaded desperately, squeezing the redheads arm tightly, and begging her fiance not to leave her alone with Hotaru.
"Maybe later." Hotaru added pleasantly with a small smile that made Akane hide just a little more behind Ranma.
Nodoka normally didn't use furniture so she found sitting on the large sofa an unfamiliar but comfortable experience. Voicing her thanks as the energetic girl, Aino Minako as she had introduced herself, brought her a drink. WIth her long luscious golden blonde hair and obviously sunny disposition, Minako reminded her a little of her son's Amazon wife, Shampoo.
'It's certainly odd to be in a modernly furnished room within an ancient space castle.' She thought to herself as she looked out the window into space. Sipping on her beverage, she could almost miss the subtle hint of alcohol. After all the revelations of the past two days, she didn't feel the least bit guilty about indulging in an adult beverage. 'Served to me by a minor.' She noted and held back on asking where this had come from.
"We didn't want to overload either of you too quickly." Ami explained, sitting on a nearby reclining chair. "So it was just supposed to be the three of us."
"I'm sorry that we ruined your surprise." Kasumi told the two apologetically.
"No, no— it's okay." The blonde tried to wave off Kasumi's apology before giving the white cat with a gold crescent moon on his forehead a glare. "I blame someone else for that."
"Your poor planning, not mine." The talking cat said smugly from his place next to Nodoka. "I'm embarrassed for you. Intending to dump all that hideous confetti on these lovely ladies. How unimaginably rude!" He put a paw up to his chest dramatically.
"You're quite talkative all of a sudden." Minako grumbled and unceremoniously dropped down on the couch next to Artemis and pulled him into her lap to face her. "Why is that, hmmm?" She asked, tugging on one of his ears.
"Obviously, he's just being a very manly cat." Nodoka suggested, having been quite taken by the white feline's manners. 'It's sad that my Ranma doesn't have any manly role models to look up to.'
"I'm glad someone noticed." Artemis freed himself from Minako to scamper to her. "Ranma is so lucky to have such a perceptive mother like you."
"Thank you." She let herself smile at the praise even though this trip was highlighting how little she did know her only child. "I just wish he had such a manly influence as you in his life."
"Ever since Ranma awakened, I've done my best to offer her my wisdom." The white cat boasted proudly, sitting up a little straighter. Nodoka didn't fail to notice the use of a female pronoun for her son.
"Is there a reason for someone to be awakened?" Kasumi asked worriedly, staring down at her own drink held between both hands.
Ami coughed lightly in her hand to draw attention. "For most of us, it happened when our lives were in danger; but that's not a sure thing. From talking with Sailor Pluto, who has been active the longest out of any of us, there appears to be an element of fate tied to it." The girl with short dark blue-green hair paused to compose her thoughts while daintily sipping some water.
"It's not just us either; our first enemy was also reincarnated from the Silver Millenium, along with four of her generals. So, we don't know if there are others out there who remember. There could be dozens— maybe hundreds, of civilians who have no way to contact us. We just don't know what stimulus actually causes a person to become aware of their past life. When Ranma first remembered you, Kasumi, she thought you would start to remember right away, but that clearly didn't happen. Obviously, further study will need to be done in order to ascertain this process better so we'll know whether or not to expect more in the near— Why are you all staring at me like that?" Ami finally trailed off, noticing that Minako appeared to be falling asleep and that both Kasumi and Nodoka were losing focus.
"I'm sorry, dear, but I'm feeling a bit lost." Nodoka admitted in embarrassment.
"So— I'm not another Senshi?" Kasumi hazarded a question, wary of beginning another lecture.
"What I was trying to say— is no, there is no specific reason why you awakened." Ami answered without a long explanation.
"And to answer your actual question." Artemis spoke up loudly to draw attention, one of his ears twitching. "You are not a Senshi— and someone is coming down the hall, Mina."
"Oh right!" Minako fumbled with her hands to grab something in her pocket before everyone was shook by a deafening explosion that shook everything in the room.
Nodoka recoiled instinctively away from the doorway and covered her ears. When no more bombs went off, she slowly let her hands drop and straightened back up to take stock of what had happened. A deceptively small tube filled with confetti over the entrance that Minako installed, had gone off like a large cannon, and even had small streamers of brightly colored paper still stuck to the barrel.
Hovering a meter above the stone floor was the miniature Senshi Lautia with her right hand raised above her head to where a wide circular distortion in the air was hanging. "Princess Venus could you not try to assassinate Princess Saturn while you're here?" The little guardian asked with a tiny hint of amusement in her voice before letting her hand drop and causing the distortion to vanish.
"Sure thing Lautia." Minako laughed nervously and looked away sheepishly.
"What about me!?" Ranma yelled at the guardian, both redheads still wearing matching sailor fuku.
"What about you?" Lautia turned to blink vapidly at the redhead who was standing between Akane and that nice Hotaru girl that Nodoka had met the other day. Both of them were staring up at the cannon with stunned looks.
"Oh! I see where your loyalties lie!" Ranma bemoaned dramatically.
Lautia responded to Ranma with a very quick and rude sounding remark in a foreign language. Nodoka was at a loss as to what was said but everyone save Akane suddenly looked scandalized and blushed to various degrees.
"Did that really happen?" Kasumi discreetly asked Ami, her face flushed from her own drink and what had been suggested by Lautia.
"Several times." Minako answered the question with a suggestive wink.
"Well maybe if you didn't act like this!" Ranma berated the little Senshi who crossed her arms and started to go into a lengthy tirade in that strange language. "That was the mirror clone!" The redhead screeched indignantly. "How was that my fault? Are you seriously going to do this now? We have guests and I'm not going to have this conversation with you in front of everyone." (3)
"So that's where she disappeared off to." Kasumi added when there was a gap between the two redheads arguing.
"It's always a pain to get Mamo-chan to visit when Ranma's around because of that." Minako grimaced before adding slyly. "Or was it the slumber party that did it?"
"I wonder if we could do that again sometime? It's been so hard with school to get everyone together." Ami mused while daintily holding a hand to her cheek.
"Fine!" Ranma agreed exasperatedly and the guardian nodded before vanishing in a small shower of sparkling light. "I'll be back in a bit." The girl rolled her eyes and stomped out of the doorway. "Try not to blow any holes in my castle till I get back, Mina."
Nodoka watched her child leave as soon as she had arrived and quickly decided to follow. "Excuse me— I'm just going to make sure everything is alright." She explained, bowing her head politely to Hotaru on the way out. "It's nice to see you again, dear."
"Thank you, it's nice to see you too, Saotome-san." Hotaru answered her brief greeting demurely.
Nodoka paused to give Akane a concerned look. "Akane, you look as though you've seen a ghost, are you alright?"
"Me? Fine, fine, just fine." The youngest Tendo answered quickly, eyes briefly darting over to Hotaru.
"If you say so, why don't you have a seat and meet some of Ranma's Senshi friends and their manly cat , Artemis." She suggested and left without waiting for a response.
"Isn't Artemis a girl's name?" Akane asked absently causing Minako to chortle. "And did you just say cat?!" (4)
Within her office, the police superintendent general, Sakurada Natsuna spun her chair back and forth while clumsily twirling a pen between her fingers. Tiredly glancing at her desk clock, she still had two and a half hours before she would leave for the night and it already felt like forever. It was nice not having to walk a beat but paperwork was such a drag. (5)
Running a hand through some of her long dark red hair, she slammed her forehead onto her desk unceremoniously. Pulling out a small framed picture of Sailor V, she gently ran her fingers over the glass. "It's so boring without Sailor V around." She groaned.
Hearing a light knock on her door before it began to swing open, she quickly straightened up and tried to look presentable. Her eyes widened at leaving the picture out and hastily put that back in her desk drawer. "Yes?" She asked sweetly as one of special officers, the blond Wakagi Toshio entered.
"I have the preliminary report on the Hanazono Apartment deaths." He placed a plain looking manilla folder in front of her. Natsuna just stared at him without comprehension on why he would give her that report. "You said you wanted to be kept up to date on any weird incidents."
"Oh! Right! Well on your way then." She waved a hand dismissively, eagerly taking the report from it's folder to read, unconcerned with any response by the special officer.
"No decomposition?" She spread out the report across her desk, several disturbing photos mixed in had extra notes. showing victims with signs of a struggle; blunt force trauma or asphyxiation. None of those were singled out as the cause of death. Instead every one of them had died from complete organ failure, as though their entire body had simply shut down. It was too early to make a definitive analysis but these results matched the deaths associated with the current crop of monsters terrorizing several special wards of Tokyo.
Natsuna had already been trying to keep Sailor Venus up to date on these incidents and would need to notified about this one. "This looks like a job for Sailor V." She brought up her laptop and started to send Minako an email notice. (6)
Ryoga's orange eyes glowed faintly as she inspected her latest outfit in the changing room mirror. After witnessing Sailor Theia destroy those demons earlier, she had decided to retire, and enjoy herself amongst the humans. There was no reason for her to throw her life away trying to attack such a frightfully powerful opponent when she had a choice to walk away.
"I guess you were right, this tan color does go with my hair." She spared only the briefest of glances to the corpse sitting on a chair in the changing room. Ryoga knew that a girls measurements were important when finding clothes so she had been sized up by an attendant. Once she had those the girl had lost her usefulness.
'Trying to coordinate with orange and purple is hard enough. But is this really something that fits me?' Here she was, trying to find the perfect look for her new life, and all she could think of were Ranma and the Tendo sisters. What did they wear and what did their various wardrobes say about them? How could she do this better than they did?
Deciding that the black stretch pants, simple black slippers, and tan halter top would fit her for the moment, she exited the fitting room, and passed by the now empty station where the attendant had been working. Loading up her arms as she passed various racks because she had no reason to not to take everything that caught her eye, she was stopped by a taller human male wearing the stores uniform.
"Did you need some help with those?" He asked helpfully.
"No." She simply walked past him towards the entrance.
"Checkouts are this way miss." He placed himself between her and the doors and held his arm towards the row of cashiers helping other customers.
"Does it look like I'm carrying any money?" She snorted contemptuously, the noise making his eyes widen in confusion at the inhuman sound. "Move." Casually shifting her burden to one arm, Ryoga grabbed him by the elbow, and easily threw him to crash through several of the checkout stands causing the humans to scream in alarm.
Unconcerned by the uproar, she strolled out of the building only to be confronted by yet another figure, this time another monster. Standing well over two meters in height, he loomed over her with his hulking muscular physique. For the most part, he appeared to be a dark skinned human, but his forward curving horns ending in sharp points and a bovine like cast to his mouth and nose immediately set him apart.
"The Master wants to know why you haven't returned." He asked in an excessively deep voice.
"I'm not his servant." She narrowed her eyes and glanced to the side, seeing that several humans were on their phones frantically calling or talking to someone in a panic. "How'd you get here anyway?" Ryoga would have expected a bit more of a panic like when Pantyhose Taro showed up in his cursed form.
"None of us are ever alone. It's time that we returned." He answered.
'Not bad.' She smirked and nodded, imagining that he had summoned himself to her position. Their teleportation was limited to where another demon currently was. Even she found it hard to pinpoint less than two others amongst their network. For this minotaur wannabe to come to her while she was alone was impressive.
Arriving back at the abandoned hospital, she was immediately set upon by Dr. Tofu. The glasses wearing man spilling her clothing to the floor as he impotently raged in the center of his operating room. "How dare you just leave!" He shouted in her face, spraying her with flecks of his saliva. "When I give you an order you better do it!"
Slowly looking away from the irate half man creature to where her new possessions lay strewn across the floor, Ryoga patiently wiped the wetness off her face. "I'm not your pet." She answered calmly even though her patience with the man had all but worn out.
"That's right! I wouldn't keep an insignificant pig like you as a pet." Dr. Tofu's eyes looked to the side for only an instant before Ryoga was struck in the side of her face by a large meaty fist.
Laying on the tiled floor in a daze, she altered her appraisal of the bull oni's abilities. She didn't bother looking towards the large man, focusing on the one pulling his strings. "I am not a pig." She growled.
"Oh please, I can see exactly what you are." Tofu tapped at his glasses. "And did you think I was ignorant of your Jusenkyo curse from before? All those hints Eury left anytime you came around? Might as well have put up a billboard."
"Eury? Who's Eury?" She snarled, resolving to kill anyone that Ranma had told exceptionally slowly.
"Sailor Theia, you thick headed piece of bacon." Tofu scoffed, taking a very deep calming breath before straightening his black doctors coat.
'One of the Senshi knew about my curse?' Ryoga allowed a look of confusion to pass over her face.
"Ugh, judging by that stupid face you're making, you haven't even realized that Sailor Theia is your most hated rival, Saotome Ranma." The doctor sneered as though he was revealing the most obvious truth in the universe, taking great joy in treating her like a moron.
Chuckling to herself, she finally rose back to her feet. "And you were expecting me to just walk up and kill Ranma?" Ryoga had been trying to do that for years when the gender swapping teen didn't have access to powerful magical attacks. "Oh but you did send me out with a few worthless minions who lasted all of two seconds. Great help they were."
"I would sacrifice every last one of you to protect my dear, sweet, innocent Kasumi from the perversions of that damn redhead!" Tofu's face developed an angry tic in his left cheek. "I've tried to discretely do it myself several times. Scaring her to death, ruining her joints, severing her spinal cord, breaking her neck, even pressing a pressure point that should have left every nerve ending in her body singing a symphony of agony at the lightest of breezes."
"So you're a failure." Ryoga smirked. "Is that why you ran away?"
Tofu's glasses mysteriously began to glow as though they had caught the light perfectly. "If killing Princess Euryphaessa was so easy, we wouldn't have had to use trickery the first time." He answered simply. "There's a very good reason why she was known as Serenity's Goddess of War."
"Well then If you expect me to do it, I'm going to need to know more." She was clearly ignorant on many very important matters and this could be one way for Tofu to make himself useful. "So why don't you explain why you're saying Ranma is some princess? And who this Serenity is?"
Ranma watched from the second story of her private quarters as her mother slowly made her way through the entrance on the bottom floor. Her quarters were made up of three progressively smaller circular floors and resided at top of the tallest tower. Leaning on the ancient wood railing surrounded the circular walkway around the middle floor, she traced over some of the intricate carved designs with one of her fingers.
While much of the castle's stylings were somewhat generic due to being created at the beginning of the Silver Millenium, this room was styled after furniture and motifs exclusively from Euryphaessa's homeworld . Like the rest of the castle, the room was built with white stone polished to a mirror shine. The color scheme of everything else matched her uniform; the furniture being made from a deep reddish brown wood while the various decorations were primarily red, gold, and accented by silver.
Even though the entire room was always intended to be her private sanctuary, to be seen by only the most trusted of guests and servants. The style had been copied by many cultures on Earth that at this point only she would ever be capable of pointing out the differences.
"I guess you went with the subtle route to get her here." Ranma remarked to Lautia, the guardian hovering over the railing with the toes of her shoes lightly touching the banister.
"Of course." The little Senshi construct preened. "A locked door here, a light on there. It was all quite mundane and everything went according to plan."
"Just take the compliment." Ranma groaned before she hopped over the railing to drop the four meters to the ground floor. No longer in her Senshi form, she wore golden shorts down to her knees, and an opaque baggy silver tshirt with a wide oval neck. Nodoka noticed her but was still taking in the scope of the room with awe filled eyes. Ranma flicked some of her hair, still in the style worn by her Senshi form back over her shoulders. "Hey Mom. Did you have any problems finding the place?"
"Ranma, what is—." Nodoka paused to silently judging her child's outfit. "Just how big is this castle?" She asked, changing her train of thought.
Lautia appeared between them in a brief swirl of silver light and coughed into her hand. "Forgive me for speaking out of turn, but the entire complex is roughly ninety kilometers square. While the castle itself is approximately fourty kilometers square."
Ranma interrupted the castle's guardian before she began to describe the size of the various living quarters and kitchens. "It's big." She summarized bluntly, earning an angry pout from Lautia.
"You could have at least let me try to describe how the non-dimensional rooms affect the amount of usable space." The guardian crossed her arms and spun herself partially away from Ranma. (7)
"Non-dimensional?" Nodoka asked in confusion.
"They require a lot of explanation." Ranma nervously sweated, realizing the full extent needed to bring her family and friends up to speed. "I'll show you one later, but don't you like my private quarters?" She asked excitedly, rushing over to grab Nodoka by the hand and pull her over to the library section.
"I never get to show any of it off but this is my library." She stopped her mother in front of the wall covered from floor to ceiling with books, extending one third of the way around the room. Jutting out from the wall halfway to the center of the room were four more large bookcases that reached the ceiling. "Ami loves to come and borrow them." Ranma mentioned. Mercury's Mariner castle may have had a far more impressive library that covered every possible topic, but many of the ones here were unique in the galaxy, and for the eyes of a Senshi only.
She didn't let her mother browse for long, before she was pulling Nodoka towards a small office area covered in stacks of books and scrolls at the opposite side. "Sorry, it's a bit of a mess— never could keep things clean when I worked." She admitted in embarrassment, clasping her hands behind her back.
"But you haven't worked for eons." Lautia remarked while looking away innocently.
"I have a workshop for that." Ranma stuck out her tongue before continuing on the tour without waiting for a response from her mother, taking the stairs covered in red carpet with gold star designs and silver crescent moons to the second floor. "This is where the walk in closets are." Ranma pointed out as she started to make a circular path around the ring shaped level.
"Impressive." Nodoka remarked in shock, seeing the racks of clothing in all various shapes and colors crammed into the first closet of three. Each of them was the size of a room at the Tendo home and the clothes inside remained almost entirely unused because they were tailored for Euryphaessa's older form.
"Yea but me, Puu, and Mina are going to need to sort through it. I'm not going to be responsible for trying to revive old styles." She sighed and continued on to the bath area. "Here's the bath; it's kind of nice." Ranma shrugged, never really spending much time in that particular room even if it did have perfectly conditioned water to soak in.
"It's quite beautiful." Nodoka tried to offer resistance as Ranma pulled her along, trying to get a better view of the bathing area. It was covered in perfectly white tile with a thin red border around everything, intricate silver faucets, and a full wall dedicated to looking out into space. Three to four people could have fit within the tub itself but it had been exclusively reserved for Princess Euryphaessa.
"Lautia likes to keep this vanity here, even though I never use it." Ranma indicated a giant vanity with an extensive collection of untouched cosmetics, and several dozen large drawers underneath. A stool with a plush silver velvet cushion was pushed into a recess between the lower drawers.
"Except when you want to practice one of your 'look at me, I'm so cool' faces." Lautia said in a sing song voice while lightly skipping across the desk.
"Lautia, go make sure everyone is getting along." She ordered curtly.
"I already was, but I'll give it my undivided attention, Ranma-dono." The castle guardian bowed her head respectfully and vanished.
"That was rude." Nodoka commented disapprovingly. "You should be nicer to her."
"Mom! It's her job to do what I say." Ranma whined dramatically.
"That doesn't excuse you from good manners." The elder Saotome chastised. "I think you should apologize and be more appreciative of her in the future."
"Alright." Her shoulder slumped in defeat, not that she would really do it. All of the castle guardians had been designed and created to serve, but having thousands of years alone had made Lautia develop many odd attitudes from all the free time and choice she wasn't designed to have. Regaining her line of thought, she moved behind Nodoka and pushed her towards the steps to the top floor. "No sense trying to apologize now, she's got a lot of stuff to do."
"Son, you don't need to push me." Nodoka sternly told her child after Ranma had rapidly maneuvered her up more carpeted steps to the top floor.
"Sorry— but isn't this great?" Ranma distractedly apologized before gesturing to the exquisite room around them.
The floor was dominated by a large round bed with a thick wood frame. Printed on the thick red comforter was an embroidered symbol of Theia in silver with gold outlines; a crescent moon surrounding a smaller circle with a red circle cut out from it . Normally it was oriented with the crescent pointed to the right but on the blanket it had been rotated to run with the beds length.
The outside wall only reached up a half meter before changing into an open view out into space. Around the exterior of the room were several small chairs and tables with lamps, one of which was an out of place violet color. The domed ceiling was partially hidden by a mist of dark space hanging beneath it, several enlarged planets slowly passed overhead against a twinkling backdrop of stars.
"Yes, it's all very impressive." Nodoka admitted, her eyes falling on several framed photographs on a nearby table that she approached. Holding up one that showed all of them hanging out at Rei's shrine on a cold winter day in their street clothes. "Is this a picture of all the Senshi?"
'So glad I had Lautia hide all the embarrassing ones.' Ranma thought, as she smiled and nodded.
"And this one? Who is this woman? She looks very familiar." Nodoka moved onto one from the Silver Millenium.
"That's cause— she's Euryphaessa, who I was before." Her smile became slightly forced as she answered, still not fully connecting her memories with the woman who had lived here. In her past life, she had been taller, and the attributes that made her pretty girl now had developed her into a beautiful woman. Ranma didn't want to face the jealousy storm that would erupt if Akane found out that she had helped set a standard of beauty for the empire.
"That's from when I introduced Minako and Artemis." The picture showed an eight year old Minako in her sailor fuku looking away bashfully from a tiny white kitten who was mimicking her. Kneeling between them was Sailor Theia wearing a long deep red gown, having stopped aging around twenty two years old, giving the pair a reassuring smile.
"She was so beautiful." Nodoka's gushed.
"Thanks." Ranma preened for a moment at the compliment before adding shyly. "I think she looked a lot like you."
"Me? Well maybe a year or two ago— are you going to look like this again?" Nodoka's eyes twinkled with a strangely hopeful quality.
"Most likely." She shrugged, really wanting to be tall again more than how she had lived up to the description of a goddess.
"It's too bad that you must be manly." The Saotome matriarch had a slightly manic smile on her face as she placed the photo back down. "Did— Euryph—." Nodoka's face scrunched up in distaste at being unable to pronounce the name properly. "Euryphaessa, have any children?"
"Nah, I was too busy." Ranma answered sadly, very confused over the feelings that question inspired. She just hoped that Nodoka wouldn't dig into whether or not she had had any suitors, and especially not which gender. "Besides— even if I was highly sought after, there was just no way I could accept anyone who didn't meet my high standards." She added haughtily.
"It's too bad Genma doesn't share that view." Nodoka agreed while looking over several of the other photos that were mostly current shots of Ranma with other Senshi.
"Pop does have a lot of— really dumb ideas." Her mind slowly tried to figure out a way to work the conversation to where she wanted it to go.
"Son, while I would love to look at your photo albums, did you have something you wanted to ask me?" The elder Saotome asked in concern. "You went through a lot of trouble to get me here."
"Kind of—." She nervously looked up and away. "I can tell you're not really on board for me being a female warrior for love and justice."
"I am very skittish over it, yes." Nodoka nodded slowly.
"I just wanted to give you a heads up that after I go back downstairs, I am going to hang out with my friends. I'm just throwing this out there—." Taking a seat on her huge bed, Ranma looked down at her lap. "But please tell me now if you think you can't handle this and I'll take you home."
Her mother took a seat next to her. "I'm trying very hard not to be too judgemental. As the wife of a martial artist I have had to deal with my share of weird things. But, if I need to be patient then you should be patient with me as well."
"I will." Ranma felt like a great weight had been lifted from her mind. Reaching up, she pulled out her circular hair ornament to place in her mother's hands. "And I want you to have this."
"It's very pretty." Nodoka felt around the smooth exterior of the silver piece.
"The front is always changing." She explained, pointing to how it looked like the Sun was setting and the Moon was rising. "But you'll only really notice if you look away."
"Thank you, son." The elder Saotome hesitantly leaned in to hug her around the shoulders in gratitude. Ranma tensed at the contact before relaxing, allowing herself to forget her concerns over her mother's reaction for the moment.
"And if you ever want to visit, just open it up and press the crystal on the inside and it'll bring you right to the castle." Ranma added.
Her mother's grip tightened on the hair ornament between her hands and Ranma saw that she was starting to cry. "Mom, what's wrong?!" She asked in panic.
"Nothing's wrong dear." Nodoka closed her eyes and let the hair ornament fall to her lap so she could cover her mouth with her hands. "This is just the first thing you've ever given me. I feel like I've missed out on so much."
"It'll be alright." Ranma tried to sound reassuring as she nervously wrung her hands together, unsure of what was expected of her when her mother needed comforting. "We'll have plenty of time to make up for it."
Akane's eyes were wide and the corners of her mouth twisted upwards in a small smile as she knelt on the carpeted floor, her funny tasting space drink held between both hands. A low table had been summoned from thin air and placed in the center of the room so they could all be closer together. She was still getting over being kidnapped to Saturn, but even that couldn't stop her exuberance at being in the room with three Sailor Senshi at once.
Minako was so pretty with her golden hair, blue eyes, and bubbly personality. She was a perfect fit for Sailor Venus. Ami seemed so calm, gentle, and studious. 'And her hair is styled like mine! I look like Sailor Mercury!' She internally squealed in glee, fully prepared to run down to a store and pick up more Mercury specific merchandise.
Unfortunately Hotaru decided to ruin her moment of happiness from her place sitting to Akane's right. "Akane, are you alright? You're staring off into space." The girl with a Nabiki-like hair bob asked, sounding sincere enough, even though Akane knew it all had to be a trick.
"Just happy to be here." She answered with an overly exaggerated smile.
"What a relief. I'm glad you didn't take my little joke seriously."
"Did you get it on video?" Minako immediately asked with intense curiosity.
"I couldn't possibly show that to anyone!" Hotaru gasped in scandalized shock. "It was a private moment between me and my new friend."
"So you did!" The blonde's grin grew so big that her face must have hurt. "Quick, send it to my phone." Minako quickly pulled out a cell phone in gold with a familiar design and checked it in eager anticipation, even though Hotaru made no move to do as requested.
'Maybe I'm not such a huge Sailor Venus fan after all.' Akane grimaced at learning that Hotaru had been not only trying to scare her, but had recorded it. If only she could get her hands on it, then she would be able to show Ranma that Hotaru wasn't the friend she claimed to be!
"Akane-san, it's nice that Hotaru-chan wants to be your friend. She's usually so reclusive." Ami congratulated her.
"Oh, I feel— honored." She didn't know how someone so gentle as Ami could be in cahoots with someone like Hotaru. Her mind wandered to a perfect world where it was the nice Ami who expressed a deep sincere desire to be friends.
'Akane-san let's be friends!' Sailor Mercury announced grandly.
'I would love to be friends with you!' Akane answered back.
'Can I call you Akane-chan?'
'Only if I can call you Ami-chan!'
'Let's be best friends forever!' They exclaimed together.
Akane looked away absently, too lost in her innocent and pure girlish daydream to respond to Kasumi wondering if she was alright. The only thing that was able to bring her back to the real world was the only male voice in the room.
"I think she's lost to us." Artemis noted in amusement.
"Huh?" She asked intelligently, looking down at the talking white cat who was sitting on the floor next to her.
"You were staring out into space." Kasumi explained softly, her face lightly flushed.
"I was just deep in thought." She crossed her arms irritably.
"I'll let you pet me if it'll make you feel better. " Artemis offered, rolling onto his side, and waving a paw beckoningly.
'Pervert cat.' Akane didn't know if it was appropriate to smash the feline yet. She should probably do something to get rid of him so that when Ranma returned with his mother he wouldn't start screaming his head off. It was simply amazing that Ranma and his Senshi friends would have overlooked bringing this talking cat here.
She only had a short time to try and figure out a way to politely ask the perverted cat to leave, when Ranma returned unceremoniously with Nodoka close at the younger redheads side. Her fiance was still in female form, wearing a feminine outfit that made her look exceedingly cute, and planted herself between Akane and Hotaru at the table in a cross legged position. Akane's mind nearly imploded when Ranma picked up and hugged the white cat to her chest. Her eyes bugging out of her skull at the impossible sight.
"I should visit more often." Artemis half purred.
"Is Mina not paying you enough attention?" Ranma asked in a cutesy voice, glancing over at the blonde who was making a big show of rolling her eyes while scrolling through something on her phone.
"He's spoiled rotten." Minako answered without looking away from the device.
"I believe it." Ranma laughed lightly to herself, still holding the happily purring white cat in her arms. "Hey tomboy, if you stare at me like that much longer your face will stay that way." Ranma remarked, having noticed Akane's stare.
"Ranma— you're holding a cat." She nervously pointed out, noting that Nodoka had taken a seat on the far side of Hotaru, and was now staring at her curiously.
"Artemis isn't a cat. He's a Mau." Ranma answered as though it had been obvious the whole time. She released the cat so that he could sit in the space between her legs, facing out towards the group. "Lautia, drinks please." The redhead spoke to no one and a glass appeared on the table in front of her and Nodoka.
"Oh— okay, that makes sense." Akane laughed to herself awkwardly as she noticed that she had become the center of attention. "Nevermind then."
"So, what's everyone been up to?" Ranma asked, dismissing Akane's concern over the feline, and taking a small sip of her beverage. "Mina, why are you smiling like that?"
"I was just wondering—." Minako clasped her cell phone in front of her chest while trying to look innocent. "Did you want to borrow Artemis for a few days?"
"What?" Artemis asked in confusion.
"I just wanted to give you some time away from my tyranny!" The blonde exclaimed dramatically.
"Maybe— Is it alright, Kasumi?" Ranma shrugged and asked the quiet home maker. "Can we save poor Artemis?" She added, bending down to hold her arms protectively around the confused white cat.
"I don't see why not." Kasumi answered after a long moment of her face scrunched up into thought.
"But Kasumi, Ranma can't just bring home strange animals." Akane protested, not wanting the perverted feline to be skulking around her home.
"Like your pet pig, P-chan?" Her eldest sister asked.
"That's different!" Akane protested loudly. "He's just a normal pig, no special anything, I thought you wanted to keep being a Senshi a secret? Isn't bringing a talking cat home putting it out there?" She asked, unable to find any fault with her unassailable reasoning.
"I think he would fit in just fine." Nodoka ignored all of Akane's well thought out arguments to say something completely insane.
"Artemis is careful to never reveal himself." Ami added.
"That we know of." Minako narrowed her eyes suspiciously at the white cat who glanced away nervously.
"Why does it bother you so much?" Hotaru asked with the same gentle tone of voice that Kasumi used.
"But what about Ranma and— cats." Akane froze up, realizing how dangerously close she was to having to bring up the neko-ken with Nodoka.
"What about my son and cats?" Nodoka asked sternly, not having missed the tone of Akane's remark.
"Nothing! Akane just doesn't want to admit that she was showing off my autograph to my new fanclub." Ranma hastily interjected.
"A fanclub!?" Minako halfway crawled over the table in excitement.
"Yup." Ranma nodded proudly.
"But you don't even merchandise! Which I offered to help you with by the way and that offer is still open."
"That's not really a requirement to have a fanclub." Ami pointed out helpfully.
"They want to thank me for getting rid of those monsters that attacked their party in the gym." The redhead went on to explain.
"How did you find out about it?" Akane asked, having had no clue that there was a Sailor Theia fanclub.
"Before school this morning." Ranma answered with a shrug. "Yuka and Sayuri asked me to give myself an invitation."
"That was nice of them." She absently chewed on her lower lip.
"Are they friends of yours?" Nodoka asked Ranma.
"No, they're friends of Akane."
Akane only nodded dimly, feeling disconnected from the outside world. 'Oh.' She winced when she remembered that she had mentioned that Ranma had gotten her Theia's autograph. 'Oh.' Akane realized that she had inadvertently directly associated her fiance with the Sailor Senshi. "And you're going?" She suddenly blurted out.
"Why not?" Ranma asked cluelessly.
"You should take Artemis." Minako suggested before Akane could explain why she thought it was a bad idea. "Can't be a magical girl without a talking animal companion." The blonde gave Ranma a big wink.
"You forgot that I'm cute!" Artemis added indignantly.
"I didn't forget."
"Maybe a dual appearance?" Hotaru suggested while ignoring Minako and Artemis as the two stuck out their tongues at each other.
Ranma's face lit up. "That'd be great! But it's right after school, are you able to get out of your club to come over to Furinkan?"
"Not a problem." Hotaru answered with a big, highly suspicious grin on her face. "And afterwards, Akane and I can go out and do something fun together." The dark violet haired girl added.
"Sorry, I already have plans." Akane quickly tried to shut down whatever scheme Hotaru was hatching.
"That's too bad. I was really hoping we could get to know each other." Hotaru actually sounded sad but Akane wasn't about to be fooled.
"In that case, would you like to come for dinner?" Nodoka asked the Senshi of Saturn.
"I'd love to." Hotaru answered gratefully.
"Um— what are we going to do about dinner tonight?" Kasumi asked worriedly.
"Lautia has been practicing something she saw on tv." Ranma lightly tapped the table with her hand and the small guardian arrived in a sparkly shower of light. "Ready?"
"Of course!" The miniature girl boasted and the table started to glow with flecks of light.
"It seems unnaturally still, as though he-who-must-not-be-named has returned." Genma solemnly remarked, stealthily following the hallway towards where a meal fit for an emperor should have been waiting. Even though he had been away from his wife for well over a decade, his nose could always identify her cooking. Feeling even more like something was amiss as he passed the kitchen, Genma stopped to peer inside and found no signs of food preparation.
Chibi-Usa ignored him, the pink haired child hurrying on her way to fill her empty stomach. "Food." The little girl groaned.
'I guess she did pretty good today, maybe I won't take all of her food as a reward.' Genma imagined himself to be such a magnanimous teacher even though he had always been bad at keeping promises.
'That's not my wife's cooking.' He frowned at what his senses relayed back to him and the fact that Nabiki had several take out boxes piled on the table while Soun was staring at a receipt with tears in his eyes.
"Food!" Chibi-Usa exclaimed in glee and found the energy to run up to drop down in front of the only other plate than the one Nabiki was eating out of.
'I guess I didn't work her hard enough.' Genma lamented how soft he had become that he hadn't been able to thoroughly beat his student into the ground.
"Nuh uh." Nabiki tutted, pulling the food away from Usa to place next to her on the floor. "Who said that was for you? Small Lady?"
"Who?" Chibi-Usa asked and laughed in an overly nervous and awkward way.
"You, Small Lady!" A high pitched and slightly shrill young girl's voice was heard before a gray cat jumped up standing on its hind legs and leaning onto the table. "Trying to steal my food isn't very proper!"
"Ah! A talking cat! I've never seen one of those before!" The young girl exclaimed in completely false surprise.
"So it'll come as a big surprise that she knows all about you." Nabiki smiled widely.
"Well I should get changed, so I'll just take this kitten with me and find out why she thinks she knows me! When she clearly doesn't!" Chibi-Usa quickly gathered up the cat in her arms and ran out of the room before anyone could stop her.
"Far too much energy. I'll have to train her much harder tomorrow. Isn't that right, Tendo?" He elbowed his old training partner in the ribs, having procured the extra plate of food for himself now that the talking cat was gone.
"Right— she should be so tired that she has to sleep under the stars." Soun answered absently before sniffling. "My money."
"Where is everyone?" Genma asked, ignoring the paltry monetary concern.
"They're all on a trip with Ranma." Nabiki answered while suspiciously looking out the door that Usagi had left through. "At least that's what the cat said."
'What's the boy up to? At least he's spending time with Akane. That's always good.' He mused while inhaling the overpriced food Nabiki had ordered. "That cat needs to go." Genma said between mouthfuls.
His mustache faced friend's eyes widened in alarm. "The neko-ken! What are we going to do, Saotome? If your wife sees Ranma go running away from a kitten screaming, she'll want him to commit seppuku!"
"Neither of you two are concerned about how Usa reacted to that cat?" Nabiki asked with one of her eyebrows raised.
"Should we be? What's important is that Ranma never sees that cat." Genma shrugged, totally unconcerned over a talking cat being familiar with his niece. It was only natural for a Saotome to come into contact with odd creatures.
Step after step, Kasumi climbed high up in the tower following the spiral stairs with Ranma at her side. Dinner had ended only a short time before and Ranma had wasted little time in using a small diversion to pull her out the door to head out into the castle. Pausing on one of the landings placed every one third the way around the exterior, she gazed out a two meter tall window that came to a point at the top out into space. The Earth and Moon looked so big and beautiful, like they were close enough to reach out and touch.
"Ranma, your castle is so pretty." She commented with a little giggle in her voice. Feeling warm all over and like her brain was kind of tingly. "It's like a fairy tale."
"Just don't expect to find your prince; Usagi has that market cornered." Ranma joked, the smaller girl squeezing in next to her to lean on the window sill to stare out into the stars.
"Is that supposed to be some kind of pick up line?" Kasumi asked suggestively, feeling much bolder than she normally did. She barely remembered the blonde Usagi from a brief meeting months ago. "Like Lautia mentioned?"
The redhead pouted cutely as she turned to face Kasumi and crossed her arms. "I did not spend my time luring girls from Earth to my bed chambers."
"I know— I think." She got the distinct feeling that Lautia had been being overly dramatic and putting on a show earlier. "And I can't imagine you being so forward as to secret me away to a private room with my violent maniac of a younger sister so close by." Kasumi turned with her hands clasped in front of her to look down the stairs.
"I wouldn't trust Mina not to bring her up to peek if I did."
"I'm sure your mother would be interested in your love life as well." She brought up her right hand to hide her smile.
"That'd be even worse." Ranma groaned and they fell into an awkward silence.
Kasumi fidgeted with her hands before finally being the one to speak first. "Where are you taking me?"
"We're almost there, come on." The redhead briefly jumped excitedly in place before rushing off up the steps at a pace Kasumi would never be able to keep.
Gathering up the front of her dress so it couldn't possibly get caught, she hurried after the Senshi. "Ranma, wait up!" She called out, not wanting to get lost in the large castle.
"It's right here." Ranma was waiting at the top of the next landing and clearly waiting impatiently for her.
"What is?" She asked, noticing the single doorway with a tall wooden doorway decorated by flame motifs as a border.
"Your room." The redhead answered with a large smile.
"I have a room here?" Kasumi realized how stupid of a question it was but she was still coming to grips with the idea of having a past life of her own.
"Of course, my room is at the top, so as my advisor you needed to be near me." Ranma explained and lightly pushed the door open.
'This was mine?' She wondered as she passed through the threshold with Ranma following a respectable distance behind her.
Shaped like a quarter of a circle, the curved wall was taken up by a window out into space covered by blue curtains that were opaque on the top half and sheer on the bottom. In the center of the wall was a long bed with covers depicting gently rolling waves pointing towards the doorway. To her right an area was blocked off with a shoulder height paper wall that allowed her to see light wooden closets lining the wall. Kasumi could even see that the kimono she had arrived in was hanging properly from a hanger off one of them.
A long desk ran along the left wall with a white cushioned stool slid underneath. Kasumi let her hand trail across it's smooth surface as she explored, wanting to see what the doorway on this wall led to. It opened into a white tile western bathroom that was much larger than the one at her home and included a vanity area next to the sink.
"Inspire any memories?" Ranma asked expectantly, interrupting Kasumi's inspection from her place sitting on the desk.
Slowly looking over the entirety of the room from her place at the entrance to the bath, she shook her head side to side. "No."
"Really?" The redhead asked worriedly. "Nothing at all?"
"It seems familiar." She felt at the material of the curtains, enjoying the cool smoothness of the sheer fabric before looking down at the wooden window sill that held some small trinkets she couldn't identify. "Like it's my room if I decorated differently." Holding up a small oddly shaped and reflective black stone, she moved it between her hands while marveling at it's weightlessness.
"That's a good way to look at it." Ranma suggested from right at Kasumi's side, having closed the distance while she had been distracted. "Anytime you want to come spend the night you're more than welcome to. This is all yours after all."
"It's a stranger's room." She concluded uncomfortably and placed the featherlight stone back down. Being in this place felt familiar but wrong. The room was spartan but held all the little touches of a woman who had filled it with things she cared about. A woman who had died a very long time ago. 'Almost like someone's tomb.' She thought sadly, backing away from the window so she couldn't disturb anything else.
"Kasumi? Are you alright?" Ranma stepped in front of her, concerned blue eyes questioning her.
"This is— it's beautiful and I'm honored that my past self got to live in a place like this." She closed her eyes so that she didn't have to look into Ranma's. "But, I'm not comfortable being here and I'd like to go."
"If you don't like the room, I'm sure Lautia would love to redecorate it for you. Anything you want. It'd be good to give her something to do." Ranma started to ramble on and picked at the bedding.
"Ranma!" She blurted out overly harshly, making the smaller girl jerk in shock. "Sorry, maybe if I remember more it won't feel so wrong— this is all just too much too soon."
"I'm sorry, I'm pressuring you to remember when I should know better." Ranma bowed her head.
"It's cause you miss her a lot, right?" Kasumi hesitantly patted the smaller girl on the shoulder to try and be reassuring.
"I miss all the friends I lost." The redhead laughed softly and sadly to herself. "So I'll do anything to hold onto the ones I still have."
"You didn't need to bring me to a fancy space castle to show that." She took one last quick look around the room that Ranma had simply given her. 'You're such a sweet overcompensating idiot.' Kasumi smiled fondly at the resolute faced Senshi.
"Maybe— doesn't hurt, right?" Ranma shrugged and deflated into herself.
"No, it doesn't." On a whim, she gave the vulnerable girl a brief hug. "And I'm happy that you finally don't have to keep everything a secret."
"My mom seems like she can handle it, if I give her space— not too sure about Akane. She's been— looking at me funny." Ranma sighed.
"If you do more nice things like this for her, I know she'll be fine." She answered reassuringly.
"Do you think I should try and do that right now?" Ranma's brief moment of weakness had passed and her entire demeanor shifted, as though she could go off and eagerly conquer any challenge.
"If I still hold the position, I would advise you to do that before she has too many of those special beverages."
Leaning against the doorway into the living room, Nabiki had her arms crossed and was idly tapping her fingers to some tune she heard earlier in the day. She was watching the two fathers debate how best to remove the cat from their home before Nodoka could see how Ranma reacted to felines. It surprised her that this scenario hadn't already occurred when the gender cursed teen was hiding as Ranko.
'Would have made for an interesting night.' She mused, imagining the chaos that would have erupted.
'Not as interesting as the secrets you have though.' Nabiki's eyes turned to the side to fall on Chibi-Usa who had returned from her talk with the kitten trailing at her feet. In her hands, the pink haired girl was carrying a comparatively large black ball with a cartoon cat face staring back up at her. At first Nabiki thought it was some toy until the big blue eyes shifted over to her.
"What an interesting crescent mark." Nabiki snatched the cat ball away from Chibi-Usa who hadn't seen her. "Any relation to your new friend? Hmm?"
"Ah! Give Luna P back!" Usa exclaimed, jumping up and down in a futile attempt to take the metal ball back.
"Yes, give back her majesty's device!" The kitten demanded angrily.
"Oooh, her majesty is it? Someone has quite the ego to teach a pet that." Nabiki smirked as she backed away from the pair to keep her prize.
"Daughter, don't be a nuisance and give the girl her toy back." Soun absently ordered her.
"I don't know, I'm kind of curious what this thing does." She tossed the ball with cat features back and forth between her hands as Usa chased her around the room. Apparently Genma's training was paying off as she was having a hard time keeping it away from the little girl. "Even if it looks like some ultra cheap Chinese knock off."
"It's not important." Genma reached out to steal her prize from out between her hands before she could react and gave it back to Chibi-Usa. "Cat, are you going to be staying long?" He asked the grey kitten.
"Oh dear, I had no idea my presence was a negative. Nabiki-san indicated that it would be alright for me to stay as long as I wished. Even though I just wanted to find out what Small Lady was doing." Diana answered with an apologetic bow of her head.
"Diana does have to get back home, but first; if you would just look at this." Chibi-Usa gestured towards the cat ball as she somehow bounced it's hard surface off the floor like a basketball.
A flash of bright white light from the direction of the koi pond along with a loud yelp by Akane that distracted Nabiki enough to look away from whatever Chibi-Usa was going to do. She did see Genma hastily grab Diana and shove her into his gi to hide. Through the open doors she saw that Kasumi, Nodoka, Akane, and Ranma were in a circle holding hands with Akane up to her knees in the koi pond. The four suddenly appearing wasn't that weird, that Kasumi and Akane were wearing fancy gowns did.
'Where did they get those?' She wondered, knowing for a fact that neither of her sisters possessed such clothing.
"Ranma! I'm all wet! This is all your fault!" Akane weakly slapped at the redheads shoulder as she pulled herself out of the koi pond.
"I told you I don't normally do this." The girl protested Akane's accusation.
"You did a good job, son." Nodoka straightened out her kimono before noticing that the quartet had an audience. "Oh Genma, I've been meaning to talk to you." She said sweetly as she strutted across the grass.
"Wha— what about?" Genma asked nervously, crossing his arms over his stomach to hide Diana squirming to get out.
"Oh nothing— just— things." The woman took a position next to her husband and pulled one of his hands out to hold. "I guess it can wait a little while though."
"Alright." He stuttered out before grimacing in pain.
"Welcome back, did you have a good time?" Soun asked calmly, having run out his emotions earlier.
"A wonderful time." Kasumi answered and Akane nodded in agreement.
Nabiki raised an eyebrow at the brief conversation and the way Nodoka was looking at Genma with lidded eyes. "What do you think that's about?" She asked as her sisters and Ranma finally entered the home, with Akane wringing out the bottom of her dress.
"I'm staying out of anything between them." Ranma answered.
'You're not as dumb as I thought, Saotome.' She looked again at the redhead and noticed that there was a white cat with blue eyes held in Ranma's arms. "Ranma, are you aware that you are holding a cat?" Nabiki asked very slowly and carefully.
"You're so observant, Nabiki." Ranma gushed sarcastically.
"That's Artemis. He'll be staying with us for a few days." Kasumi supplied helpfully, reaching out to scratch the feline behind the ear. From his spot at the table, Genma made a pained whimper. "I think you two will get along great."
"And you're okay with this, Saotome?" Nabiki continued questioning, struggling to get over this mental hurdle.
"It's cause he's a Mau not a cat— right?" Akane slurred slightly.
"Help!" Diana squeaked as she clawed her way up and out from the prison of Genma's gi.
"Let my daughter go right now!" The white cat demanded with a gruff male voice, immediately recognizing the distressed voice.
'Mau? And two of them?' Nabiki's jaw dropped just a little bit.
"Genma, what are you doing with that kitten?" Nodoka asked, squeezing her husband's hand so tight that several pops were heard.
The glasses wearing master martial artist winced while glancing swiftly between Nodoka, Ranma, and the glaring white cat in his son's arms. "Nothing! You know how cats are; always getting into weird places!" He laughed nervously and quickly put Diana down on the floor.
"Father, that is a lie!" The kitten rushed over to Ranma's feet. "And he smells of stolen food!"
"Justice will prevail and your lies will always come to light, Pops." Ranma groaned in annoyance before kneeling down to place the white cat on the floor. "I'm sure he was just being an idiot and didn't mean anything by it."
"Are you alright?" The white cat asked in concern, circling the other feline.
"Just a little traumatized, Father. And you're right Ranma-sama, I should never attribute to malice what stupidity explains." The grey kitten positively beamed at Ranma's attention.
"The cat has you pegged; eh, Saotome?" Soun slapped his friend on the back and laughed heartily. Genma moaned in pain and doubled over to clutch his stomach.
"And what's your name?" Akane asked while kneeling down as well, trying to get closer to the cat's height.
The grey kitten gave a polite bow of her head. "My name is Diana. It is a pleasure to meet you."
"If you know Ranma, do you know the others?" Artemis asked, hovering protectively between the grey cat and Genma.
"I do not." Diana answered.
"Well, I'm Akane and this is my older sister Kasumi. The nice lady crushing uncle Genma's hand is Ranma's mother, Nodoka." Akane introduced helpfully.
"The talking cats being interesting and all— but where were you?" Nabiki interrupted before her sister could go any further with her cute animal fascination. Though, at least this time it wasn't some endlessly squealing mindless piglet she was doting on.
"We were out having a very nice dinner with a few of Ranma's friends. I'm sorry I didn't mention it earlier. I hope you were able to get by without me." Kasumi answered her question helpfully.
"And where was that?" She continued.
"Just a little place I found a few months ago." Ranma volunteered before Kasumi could answer.
"Very strict dress code." Akane gestured down to the gown adorning her form.
Nabiki simply stared at her sister in disbelief before shifting her eyes over to Ranma who was wearing the same red silk shirt and black pants that the gender cursed teen prefered to wear. "Daddy, Akane is lying to me, make her stop." She whined in her best 'get Akane in trouble' voice. A tone she had honed from a lifetime of extorting her younger sister.
"Be nice to your sister." Soun absently parented, too engrossed in comforting Genma who was still slumped over in pain.
"I, too, doubt this dress code." Diana declared before suddenly twisting her head towards Artemis. "Is any of this true, father?"
Artemis looked away evasively. "Isn't it past your bedtime?"
Diana appeared to pale even through her grey fur. "But it's only nine thirty, at home I can stay up till ten! Or eleven if it's the weekend!" (8)
"It's been a long day, would you like to sleep in my room?" Kasumi asked the feline while hiding a yawn behind her hand.
The kitten rapidly looked between Artemis, Ranma, and Chibi-Usa before nodding her head and leaping up into Kasumi's waiting arms. "I would like that, Kasumi-san."
"Usa, Isn't it time for you to go to bed as well?" Nodoka asked the pink haired child.
Chibi-Usa's red eyes widened in surprise at becoming the center of attention. "Maybe."
"You'll need the sleep for tomorrow." Genma warned ominously with a groan.
"Fine." Usa pouted, kicking at imaginary dirt on the floor, and holding her cat shaped toy to her chest.
"Come on, you can help show our guest to his room." Ranma told Usa while picking up the white cat to leave with Kasumi.
"Do you do room service too?" Artemis asked Chibi-Usa as they left. "I would simply adore some tuna before I turn in." The male cat added in a teasing tone.
"I think I see why Ranma likes him." Akane rolled her eyes as Usa trailed after the two. "Oh no! I forgot to do my homework— and I left my school uniform!"
"Hey, I want a snack too!" The little girl demanded, tugging repeatedly on Ranma's shirt.
Nabiki watched as her sisters, Ranma, and a pair of cats left the room. She already suspected that something strange was going on and now she had further proof that she was way out of the loop. Normally she didn't care too much, preferring to be on the sidelines manipulating or just enjoying the show. But since being attacked by those monsters, she got the impression that being a passive bystander wasn't the best course to follow.
'I'll start trying to dig info from that kitten, she seems more gullible than the one Ranma is being clingy with.'
The next morning
Walking to school with her sister Nabiki and Ranma, Akane paused to look down and keep stock of where the two cats were walking along next to her fiance. The grey kitten, Diana, was eagerly looking at everything with interest but was refraining from leaving her father's side. She didn't know how to react to the cute image of the two felines but it seemed rude to treat them like normal cats.
Since she really didn't know how to treat cats like people, Akane focused on the fact that her sister was still keeping her new morning routine. She really did enjoy that her sister appeared to want to spend more time with her. But, on this day, it would have been nice for Nabiki to have left earlier so she could speak freely with Ranma.
It had been difficult for her fall asleep last night because she had been so excited by the trip to Sailor Theia's castle. 'Going into space, visiting a magical space castle, and meeting more Senshi— what a night!' She giddily glanced in Ranma's direction, the black haired boy walking next to her.
'And since I still have to get back my other uniform, I can make him take me again!' Akane almost demanded that they take the day off so she could explore more but was able to control herself. 'Maybe I can finally convince Ranma to tell me more about her life as Sailor Theia.'
The high pitched voice of Diana interrupted Akane staring at her oblivious fiance. "Akane-san, isn't it impolite to stare at Ranma-sama so intently?"
Instantly, Akane looked away as Ranma was alerted to her gaze. "I wasn't staring!" She protested loudly, too embarrassed to point out that Diana shouldn't really be talking while out on the street, even if no one was really around to overhear.
"Oh? Was Akane making come hither glances at Ranma?" Nabiki asked teasingly, causing her sister to blush, and sputter out denials.
"No, more like how you were; as though you were a gull eagerly waiting for some food to drop." Diana explained in complete seriousness. Akane's jaw dropped, along with her sisters, at being described in that way.
"That's normal for Nabiki." Ranma shrugged, unconcerned by the kitten's remark.
"Diana, it's impolite to call your hosts 'gulls'." Artemis gently chastised his daughter. The kitten immediately looked like she had just been chewed out for hours.
Stopping suddenly, Diana prostrated herself before Akane and Nabiki. "I apologize for my rude remark. Please, forgive me."
"Aw! You're so adorable!" Akane couldn't contain herself anymore and gathered up the furry ball of cute to hold to her chest. "Of course you're forgiven."
"Yay!" Diana squeaked and nuzzled her cheek.
"Your kid's a pretty good manipulator." Nabiki told Artemis, sounding impressed.
"She makes friends so easily." Artemis raised a paw to wipe away an imaginary tear.
Akane gave her sister a dark look. "Not everyone has an ulterior motive."
"I'm pretty sure she has some motive." Ranma crossed his arms. "Cuddles being one of them."
"A dastardly plot that only a cat would perpetrate." Nabiki joined in on the Senshi's little joke about Diana having secret motives. "Most impressive."
"Don't you have school to get to?" Diana asked with a small purr to her voice. "It's important to be on time."
Akane nodded emphatically and put a little spring in her step to continue down the street. Her enthusiasm to get to school lasted only until she saw that a large moving truck was parked next to Doctor Tofu's old clinic. "I didn't know anyone was moving in." She remarked, watching as a couple men were pulling a heavy oven out of the truck onto the attached liftgate.
"Obol Cafe?" She asked, reading the english name printed on a decorative sign installed above the door. "What's Obol mean?" She turned towards the rest of the group for an answer.
Ranma shrugged his shoulders. "Who knows? But all those places have weird names."
"I wonder where Doctor Tofu went to, he left so suddenly." She squeezed Diana a little tighter. "Didn't even tell anyone."
"Yea, that was weird but it's nice not getting maimed every time I walk by." Ranma shivered at the memory of one such instance, where Tofu's obsession with Kasumi had resulted in severe bodily harm .
"No wonder you two are always late. You'll stop and have conversations for anything you see." Nabiki shook her head, ignoring the work being done.
'I guess we do get distracted a lot.' Akane admitted to herself, resuming her walk to school. Noticing the slight weight of Diana in her arms, she was reminded of her pet pig. "Ranma, when P-chan gets back you better not pick on him again." She told her fiance suddenly.
"Huh? Where did that come from?" He asked in confusion.
"I'm just giving you fair warning that I don't want to see you being mean to him." She sniffed and turned up her nose. "I thought you were better than that. Imagine being so petty as to pick on a little pig."
"Alright, alright." Ranma put his hands up in defeat before freezing in his tracks.
"Ranma, what are you doing?" She asked, noticing that the Senshi wasn't moving.
"What's Hotaru doing here?" Artemis asked, making Akane also freeze up. Slowly turning back towards the school gates, her eyes confirmed that the dark violet haired girl who had threatened her last night was approaching them.
"Good morning." Hotaru greeted cheerfully, wearing a Furinkan school uniform.
"Good morning, Hotaru-sama." Diana happily leapt from Akane's arms to pad over to stand near Hotaru.
"Good morning." Ranma suddenly broke out of his shock to return the girl's greeting with equal cheer. "What's with the uniform?"
"Is that the one I left last night?" Akane asked accusingly while hiding behind Ranma for protection.
"Of course not, silly." The dark violet haired girl giggled to herself. "I picked this up before the party last night, so I'd be ready for class in the morning." Hotaru grabbed the sides of her skirt and did a little curtsy. "Much more flattering colors than my first school's uniform."
"You transferred in?" Ranma asked with barely restrained glee.
"Uh huh! And Setsuna-mama even managed to find a nice house near yours so I don't have to commute so far." Hotaru added.
"What?!" Akane exclaimed in shock.
"Well, isn't this interesting?" Nabiki's voice purred in absolute delight.
1 - That is Queen Serenity's seat so she's always there to watch over the proceedings
2 - Soun and Akane occasionally pull out old Japanese armor and weapons. She is shown to have a naginata which is effectively a staff with a long curved blade on the end. Look it up you have the internet.
3 - Mirror Clone arc went a little different, that is all
4 - Sailor V manga reference, basically how Minako responded upon meeting Artemis for the first time.
5 - Hey look, more Sailor V stuff! In this case the huge closet Sailor V fan superintendent and one of her special officers, Wakagi Toshio. Who wasn't much of a fan of Minako.
6 - A Superman and Gargoyles joke all in one. Which reminds me I need to work on Between Day and Night.
7 - Those are the little universes mentioned in the side story by Frice.
8 - Cats are liars, I bet she stays up playing with toys and making a nuisance of herself, completely ruining poor Chibi-Usa's sleep.
Prereader list, in no particular order: Frice, Konsaki, J. Patrick, WG Writer
Honorable mentions: Dumbledork, Cheb, Wharpt, gsteemso
Genma sighed. He glanced at his date book a moment ago, and sure enough it was that day. Every first Monday on every third month She would appear. Granted all the reasons were sound and innocent, and it was true that 'she' would make Ranma train that much harder. Still the continuous encounters made him nervous. He was just glad that he never made a pledge to this family. He always easily lost the others, and he was afraid of what would have happened with this one.
"Don't worry my Princess! I'll protect you!"
"And I'll protect everybody!"
As he heard the children wander into the clearing he saw both eight year-olds being lead by the girl's parents.
He reached into his pack and handed over a sake bottle which the girl's father nodded his thanks and took it before taking a swig. As the children ran off in the park before them playing.
Genma sighed, "How does this keep happening?"
Kenji shook his head, "I have no idea. Maybe we should try making plans to avoid this? She has a big enough ego at times like this and sulks and reverts to bad habits when we separate."
Usagi's mother shook her head as the children played, "we tried that twice so far. Last time we got stuck together for a week snowed in at an airport."
Genma grunted, that was the southern most airport in Japan. It got cold there in the winter like most of Japan, but not that cold to keep an airport buried in enough snow and ice to trap people for a week, and it was summer time too.
It was Kenji's turn to sigh, "Your son seems nice enough, but I'm not sure how much we should encourage them," he gestured towards the two children. "We literally cannot separate them these days without dealing with those glares." All three shuddered.
"Don't remind me. The boy learned to do that when Usagi isn't around. At least it isn't in stereo when that happens."
Ikuko shook her head, "I even asked her if she wanted to marry Ranma one day and she seemed insulted and seemed to be pining for 'her Prince.' "
Genma had to ask with a smirk, "Think they know something we don't?"
After a pause of silence marred only by the playing of children the three laughed. Ikuko shook her head as she was glad her son was left with his pink haired aunt. Dealing with the three would have been too much. Which reminded her, she needed to learn where Shinji learned to start calling his sister 'Baka-Usagi.'
As the other's passed through the portal, obscured by flanking displays of Saturn and Jupiter, Akane lingered behind. Interested as she was with the undeniable temptation of traipsing through a real live Senshi's domain, she found her gaze riveted by a beckoning entity erected upon a small dais before the ringed holographic planet.
She stood there motionless, silent at the space displayed around her, marveling at the majestic and enticing weapon before her. From the flared counterweight base all the way to the ornately sculpted twin forked blade, the entirety of the entity screamed 'Power'. Of the two meters of black shaft, every millimeter had felt the grace of an artisan's touch, detailed and elaborate engravings ran from butt to tip. Carefully and hesitantly extending out her free hand, Akane reached out and reverently ghosted her fingertips down the shaft, feeling every bump, ridge and valley as they passed.
'I have to feel this...' she decided with a distracted nod, feeling the need to experience handling the pole first hand. Wrapping her extended fingers around the shaft, she gently attempted to lift the pole-arm off the display, but was surprised when her hand only slipped upward; the rod staying firmly in place.
Scrunching her brow, Akane muttered, "Bigger than I thought..." Sliding her hand back down the haft to a more comfortable spot, she firmed her grip and attempted to lift the weapon once more. As it failed to budge, she applied more and more force until her skin slipped against the ribbed and textured shaft once more. 'It's not rising.' Akane thought incredulously, blinking in mild shock as she looked over the glaive once more.
Thinking there might be something locking it down, Akane bent over to bring her face closer to the dark weapon. As she leant over, she went up and down the shaft before settling around the base, reaching out to finger where the butt meet the marbled dais. What she found, or more importantly didn't find, seemed to frustrate her, as she let out a small humming growl on her way back up.
Dropping her packaged uniform to the polished stone below, Akane reached out with both hands to firmly wrap her fingers once more around the dark shaft. Giving a few quick jerks, Akane found no give; the weapon still stood firm and erect on the podium. "Come on! Give it to me, already!" She growled out in frustration, readying herself for the final go against the shadowy pole. Bracing herself, she threw herself into it with full force, grunting and groaning with the strain and stress; her face flushing and a slight sheen of sweat appearing with the effort.
A full minute of effort and Akane had nothing to show for it but impotent frustration and exhaustion. Leaning against the still rigid pole, she panted lightly as her body told of her muscles soreness and deep aches. All in all, the experience had left her disappointed and wanting, as well as saddened by the anticlimactic showing.
Leaning there, trying to recover herself, Akane startled when a pair of slim, white gloved arms eased around her to settle atop her own over the shaft. The woman's hands gently shifted Akane's grip on the pole and with the grace of a veteran, lifted the ornate weapon as if it held all the weight of a feather. As Akane stood there in shock that the weapon had risen so easily after all her effort, a soft and sultry voice whispered entered her ear, "You need a magic touch to get it up..."