Yet Another Ranma / Sailor Moon fic thingy
by Josh Temple
Naturally, I own neither Sailor Moon nor Ranma. So here's the disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shugakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon belongs to Naoko Takeuchi, Kodansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC.
Chapter 2: Continuations and Changes
Loki looked at his watch and cursed a few times. In the guise of Eric Discorso, he wanted to give the impression that he was late.
A distance away, Sailor Phoenix was still thinking of the events of the last couple weeks and the garment she was in. "I'm going to get the people that did this to me," the magical girl swore as orange and red flames burst forth from her form.
Loki smiled when he saw the girl burning with hatred. Contrary to popular belief, he was not the Norse god of chaos. Disorder and mayhem were simply favorite hobbies of his. No, he was a god of fire. He waited for the inferno to die out before approaching her.
"Sorry that I'm late," Loki then said to the irate girl.
"You!" Phoenix declared. "You're the one who put me in this getup. And you're the one who asked me out on a date!"
"Hey, you were hitting on me," Loki pointed out. "You practically begged me to go on a date with you, and you seemed perfectly happy with that seifuku. Hell, you modified it. What happened to that girl I was with earlier today?"
"She's gone, and you're going to tell me everything you know." the redhead stated.
"Okay," Loki said cheerfully. "That is my job."
"Right, magical advisor. At least you're not a damn cat," she stated, saying the last word as if it were an expletive. "I'm going to get out of this damn thing, and you'd better not try anything. I can still kick your ass."
Sailor Phoenix swore to herself again. At least Ukyou or Akane were not around to see her in this getup. The redhead had no idea how she would live that one down.
Sailor Phoenix's form shifted and she turned back into a femininely dressed redhead. "I can't believe that this stuff keeps happening to me! That Kikuko lady is so dead!" the girl snarled as she made a fist with one of her manicured hands.
"The stylist did not work alone. She was used," Loki offered.
"Then I guess I'll just have to go and make her talk," Ranma stated as she turned to glare at the Norseman.
"She was manipulated as well," Loki pointed out.
"By whom?" Ranma asked after a slight pause. She felt strange. The sensation reminded her of that old American movie with the time traveling robots. She could almost feel the shattered pieces of her mind melt, move toward one another, and reform into a single mass.
"NO! Not again!" she shouted with realization. "But, I just got back!" she cried in a softer voice. She then blinked and looked at Eric. The redhead then laughed nervously. "I apologize for that outburst," she then said with slightly downcast eyes.
What the hell happened? Loki thought as he looked over the girl. "Ranko?" he asked experimentally
"Yes," the redhead responded. "I'm sorry. It's just that I remembered something unpleasant," Ranko stated. No wonder I had blocked out my past. I was once a boy, the redhead thought. The idea of being a male filled her with revulsion, and a bit of longing. That she had the latter thought made her feel quite uncomfortable.
Loki nodded in understanding. "I was hoping this might happen. Senshi often remember their past lives. Normally, it doesn't happen this quick." He had indeed hoped that Ranma would recover her memories but he had also hoped that she would not revert back to being Ranko. Well, half is better than nothing, Loki thought.
"Past lives?" Ranko asked. She liked the sound of that. Yes, she was Ranma, but that was a different life, a previous one. She was now Ranko.
"Do you feel any different?" Loki asked. There was still a chance that this was only a temporary thing, and that it would go away once she stopped using the shampoo. She had been using it for only a week and a half. The permanent effects to it should have been fairly minor.
Ranko pulled out her compact and looked at herself. Part of her wanted to wash off her makeup, pull out her earrings, let the piercings heal, change her hairstyle to something simpler, and use nail polish remover on her nails. For now, she resisted these tomboyish urges. She could feel other, more important, changes.
"My only goal isn't to be a wife and mother. It's still very important to me, but it's not everything, not anymore." Ranko observed while tugging on one of her earrings. "I'm a martial artist, a warrior" she then said with some disbelief in her voice. She disliked what that meant, but she could not deny it.
Loki nodded, and gave an inward sigh of relief. It was a start. Once the shampoo was purged from the girl's system Ranma should be back.
"But the most important thing beyond getting married, beyond the Art, is protecting the Princess." Ranko said as if she were remembering some very old, yet very important event.
Loki almost punched his fist into his forehead. Damn Murdock. It seemed that the Senshi design that the runic mage had helped him make was a little too detailed. Loki hoped that her loyally to the princess was out of respect and love and not compulsory.
"Women can be warriors. Ranma I— knew several, and that's what the Senshi are. We use our powers to fight for love and justice and we defend ourselves from those who wish to destroy those ideals," the redhead said in an almost amazed voice.
"So, who was behind my change?" Ranko asked in an interested voice. She then sat down on a nearby park bench. She motioned for Loki to sit down. Loki complied but sat as far away as he could from her. There was something in the girl's eyes that was different. They were not quite as clouded in a feminine haze as earlier today.
"The Princess is not alone. She has several Senshi, yourself included, that are charged with assisting and protecting her. One of them also maintains an artifact that allows for time travel. This time guardian has taken it upon herself to ensure that the future that was prophesized will happen.
"As a part of this mission she has gone after people she has deemed to be a risk. Most of them are not killed. Instead they are modified. The traits that would make them an obstacle to her ideal future are removed. That's why she arranged to have you changed from Ranma Saotome to Ranko Tendo."
"I see," Ranko said in an odd voice. Loki could not tell whether she wanted to hunt this woman down and torture her in the most creatively painful way, thank her for "freeing her mind" from being a boy, or do both at the same time.
"And which Senshi do I owe this favor to, so I can properly thank her?" Ranko asked, evilly.
"Sailor Pluto, also known as Meiou Setsuna," Loki said before describing the woman's physical attributes.
"How could I have been a problem for her timeline if I'm also a Senshi?"
"That's irrelevant. You would have been a Senshi regardless," Loki lied. "However, if you had remained Ranma, you would have done something that would have been unacceptable to Pluto."
Ranko shuddered at that. She did not want to consider doing something that only a guy could do. "I'm going to have to talk to the Princess about this."
"You've already met her, and she'd love to have you as a new teammate," Loki interjected.
"I thought there was something about that girl," the redhead smiled. "I guess I should talk to Mom too. That could be a problem," the girl remarked. She remembered the "man among men" agreement her father had made her sign, but she would have to tell her mother the truth eventually.
"What about your stylist and Sailor Pluto?" Loki asked.
"I'm not sure. I'll have to think about what to do with them," Ranko sighed.
"I hope I was of help to you," Loki offered.
"Of course you were, Eric," Ranko smiled. She then looked at her watch. Shortly after she had received it, Ranko had learned that the pink numbers on the watch face and the heart-tipped hands glowed in the dark. "I should get going. Care to walk me back?" she then asked offering her hand.
Loki blinked. He then shrugged and took the girl's hand. At least now the girl was not quite as much of a prattling ditz.
Ranko looked at the front door to the house she shared with her mother. Eric had separated from her just before they came in sight of the building. If Nodoka caught her trying to sneak back in, she did not want to try and explain why there was a boy with her.
As she walked the remaining distance, she listened to the clicking her heels made on the sidewalk. She sighed with relief when she unlocked the front door and found the house empty. Her mother was still asleep.
She closed the door and engaged the lock. Ranko silently made her way up the stairs and into her room. There she changed into a set of pajamas and crawled into bed. She quickly fell asleep and dreamed of making new friends
Ranko was sitting at one of the outside tables of a coffee shop when she recognized a particular boy walking down the sidewalk after he caught her eye. She left some money to pay her bill and got up to follow him.
As she shadowed the teen, she took an inventory of the items she had brought with her to her mother's house. She smiled when she realized what she could do. The redhead quickly closed in on her target. She would have preferred to take one look at her face to make sure her makeup was perfect, but she knew that this boy had a habit of getting away from you when you turned your back on him.
"Ryoga, right?" Ranko asked in her cutest voice.
The directionally challenged teen turned around. He saw a wavy-haired redhead who was dressed in a tight little floral print dress. "Yeah, that's me. Why?" he asked with a nervous tinge on his voice.
"A boy I know was talking about you. He described your bandana and stuff pretty well," Ranko smiled. Back when she was Ranma, she had fooled him into thinking she was his fiancée, his sister, and a maid for the Hibiki family. A forth time should be easy enough.
"Really," Ryoga observed with interest. "Was he about my height with a slighter build and black hair in a braided pigtail and acts like a total jerk? Goes by the name Ranma."
"Yeah, that's him," Ranko answered.
"Hah! I knew I'd run into him eventually," Ryoga declared. "Would it be a problem for you to please take me to him? I've got some business to settle with him."
"Oh, no trouble at all," Ranko said as she took his arm. She then led the nervous boy back to her house. Her mother was out visiting with her friends and they should have the house to themselves.
"So, where is Ranma?" Ryoga asked with a puzzled look on his face. They were in the girl's kitchen. He was sitting at the table and she was working at the stove.
"Oh, he'll be right here," Ranko said after tasting the soup she was preparing. It was perfect. "I was just making some lunch before he came by," the girl said as she ladled the meal into two bowls.
"I see," Ryoga said as he ate some of the candies that the redhead had offered him. At first they tasted a bit funny, but they were growing on him.
Ranko turned around. She then smiled when she caught the teen eyeing her body. Yes, this should be a lot of fun. "Your soup," the girl beamed.
"Thanks," Ryoga said, slurring the word slightly. He then began to spoon the soup into his mouth. It was not until he had had a few spoonfuls that he noticed that his hair was starting to grow.
"What's happening to you?" Ranko asked in a somewhat horrified voice. "Don't move! I'll get something to stop it," she said before darting out of the room. She opened a small packet and mixed it into water. Ranko then came back and dumped the bucket of water on the boy.
Ryoga's eyes bulged. He did not want to turn into a pig in front of this girl. The water drenched him, but he did not shrink nearly as much as expected. "Wait, I'm still human," Ryoga observed. The teen's eyes widened with another realization. "I'm a girl!" the newly female person cried.
"So you are," Ranko noted as she poured some shampoo into the neo-girl's lengthened hair.
"What's going on?" Ryoga asked in a very confused voice. "Oh, that feels nice," the girl then said enjoying the scalp massage.
Ranko smiled. She was in. The rest would be easy.
"Who's this?" Nodoka asked. When she got home she found Ranko and another girl chatting in the living room. Beautiful with a slightly smaller chest than Ranko's, the other girl had shoulder-length vibrant orange hair with white highlights. Her hair was in a feminine yet easy to manage style that hung straight down.
She was wearing a pair of pink sneakers, a black set of spandex pants under a short orange skirt, and an orange blouse under a stylish and functional black vest. Her fingernails extended a fifth of an inch and were painted orange. Silver stud earrings hung in her pierced lobes. Her makeup was a bit less than Ranko's, but still very girlish.
"I'm Yoiko Hibiki," the girl said as she got up and bowed to Nodoka.
"She's one of my friends," Ranko smiled. Well, she is one now, Ranko thought.
"Ah, it's always nice to meet friends of Ranko's," Nodoka said before going into the kitchen. Ranko then resumed her conversation with her new friend. The girl's personality was much more acceptable now.
Loki sighed as he observed the dreams of his Senshi. His attention kept darting back to the power emanating from the girl. This did not look good. He marked the location that it was headed to, and resolved to follow it once the girl was finished dreaming. Ranko's dream of changing one of her old friends had given him an idea.
Ranko woke up to the sound of her alarm. As she made her way to the shower she reflected on last night's dreams. Unlike the satisfyingly erotic dreams where she was married or the pleasant ones where she had children, these were strange and horrible.
As the redhead turned on the shower nozzle she reflected on why they were disturbing. All she had done was to give Ryoga a makeover just like the one that Kikuko had given her. Yoiko was a much better person than she had been before. She was now a happy, cheerful, and nice person.
The exact same thing had happened to Ranko, but she felt much better. Ranko loathed the concept of returning to her old life, attitude, and body. So why was it wrong to do the same to Ryoga?
Ranko then picked up the shampoo bottle that her stylist had given her. According to her dream, this was what had allowed her to break free of Ranma. As she smelled the lilac scent, justifications formed in her mind. She was like this because her mother was concerned about her happiness. Nodoka knew how much she had hated her body and had resolved to remedy that.
All my stylist had done was accelerate things, Ranko thought as she put some of her shampoo in her hair. As she massaged the suds onto her scalp she became more and more sure that even without the help of the shampoo she would have accepted the truth; that she really was a girl.
Again Ranko wondered if her thinking was correct. After all, Yoiko would not have wanted to go back to being Ryoga, but did that give her the right to replace someone's personality?
"It's a shame I'm going to have burn her shop down," Ranko sighed in contentment. "Well, maybe just beat her a bit," the redhead smiled as she rinsed out her hair. "After all, it was really Pluto's doing. Now, she'll have to be killed nice and slow. Maybe I can do something inventive with my Phoenix Firestorm," the redhead pondered while she washed her legs.
"I bet Eric knows where she lives. Oh! I can use asking him where Pluto lives as an excuse to talk to him. Hopefully he'll ask me on another date. Now, that'll be something. Another date and sweet, sweet revenge," the girl muttered, happily.
Ranko then finished showering and got dressed. She considered skipping her hair and makeup but decided that looking good was more important than having more time. Clothing was not an issue. She had to wear her uniform and that was it.
Once she finished up she looked at her heart-shaped watch. She decided that there was not nearly enough time to bake the item and go talk to her mother. Ranko resolved tell her mother after school.
"So you want to know where Pluto lives?" Loki asked. They were sitting under a tree outside of the school.
"Yes, I would like to discuss things with her," Ranko smiled darkly as she delicately ate her lunch.
"I see." Loki nodded with inward relief. The girl may still be acting like Ranko, but she certainly wanted to hurt Setsuna.
"Oh, yes. I think she needs the problems with her policies to be explained to her," the redhead uttered.
Loki laughed and gave the home address where the Time Guardian spent a surprising amount of her time. Loki could imagine Ranma being the one in control, but forced by the housewife shampoo to still act all feminine. Oh yes, that sort of hell would make Ranma most upset.
"You're so nice," the redheaded schoolgirl then said as she leaned her head on his shoulder.
"Yes thanks," Loki stated hesitantly. It was starting to look like Ranma might not be the one at the helm after all. The Norseman glanced at the beautiful girl who was snuggling up next to him. This was troubling. If he spurned the girl's advances then he would upset Ranko, but if he encouraged her and Ranma came back he would be attacked by a very irate martial artist.
"You're humble too," Ranko giggled as she looked at Eric. He was so cute when he got nervous. He was such a nice guy and not a jerk or a pervert.
"Err, so you hear about that new Cajun place that opened?" Loki asked, desperate for something to change the subject. His mind had blanked out, and it was either that or ask her if she'd ever ridden a giant crawfish.
"I've heard about the style. It's from the American South, right?" Ranko asked, her eyes glittering. He's going to do it, she thought happily.
"Yes, it's spicy, but really good. I think you'd like it." Loki said.
"Oh Eric, I'd love to go," Ranko said as she hugged the shocked teen. She had been planning on waiting a bit longer, but she could not contain herself.
"Okay then. So when do you want to go?" Loki asked. He decided that pissing off Ranko now would be a bad idea. He just hoped that his not taking advantage of her was enough to prevent Ranma from going after him.
"Usagi, wait," Ranko cried as she caught up to the blonde.
"Oh, hi Ranko" Usagi said happily. She could see that the wavy-haired girl was holding a small white box. She hoped that Ranko would offer her some. The redhead was such a good cook.
"I wanted to give you this," Ranko said, handing over the box.
Usagi's eyes brightened when she saw the miniature cake inside. The detail was amazing and she knew it would be delicious.
"Why?" Usagi asked as she looked at the hanging earrings that the redhead wore. They way they reflected the sunlight was amazing. It was almost as if they were on fire.
"I really like you. You're very sweet, and nice, and fun," the redhead said with a smile. If she had been into girls, Ranko might have tried to make a pass at her, but unfortunately she was not. Real shame, Ranko reflected as she looked at the blonde.
"Well, no— there's more," Ranko said, embarrassed. She could not lie to her Princess. "I'm thinking of hosting a slumber party this weekend and was wondering if you could come. You can bring a few friends if you want."
Usagi looked at the redhead. There was something familiar about her. It was almost as if she were but no, all the planets were accounted for. "Okay!" Usagi finally said. Undoubtedly Ranko would cook during the sleepover.
"Great!" Ranko smiled. "I asked Minako, Makoto, and Ami first and they said they would go if you did." The redhead added a checkmark to her mental "To-do" list. She had one last thing to do today. It was something she wanted to get out of the way. The girl did not want to continue living a lie.
"Auntie? I have something to tell you," Ranko said as she opened the front door. She really had several things to tell, but her mother's reaction to one of them would take precedence over the others.
"What is it, dear?" Nodoka asked.
"I think we should sit down first," Ranko stated.
Nodoka's face hardened. Her first thought was that Ranko had gotten herself pregnant! Grandkids! Nodoka happily thought before realizing that Ranko would have to marry that Discorso boy then. At least he seemed decent enough to do the right thing.
Ranko waited until they were both seated at the kitchen table before she spoke again. "I have a confession to make. Soun Tendo is not my uncle, and you are more than a nice woman that is taking care of me," she said clearly making direct eye contact to her mother.
Nodoka studied the girl across from her. This time she saw something that her mind had refused to accept. The redhead's new hairstyle made it even more obvious. Had they been the same age, the girl sitting across from her could have been her twin. Nodoka had no idea how it was true, but she knew who the girl across from her was.
"Ranma? No, it can't be. I mean, how?" the woman hesitantly asked to her daughter.
"Father has done many, many stupid things," Ranko said. She then listed a few of the events: the Nekoken, the engagement to Ukyou, being sold for food, money, and other things. Eventually she got to Jusenkyou.
"When we were in China father took us to a cursed training ground and I got turned into this," Ranko simply said. "I didn't tell you the truth because I wanted to meet you only after I had been cured. Only after I could prove to you that I was a 'man among men'. "Ranko chuckled at that. She could hardly imagine why she was so attached to that old male self image of hers.
"Dear god, that's insane," Nodoka said, clearly shocked.
"That's what happened," Ranko shrugged. "Father got turned into a panda."
"I see," Nodoka said. She knew that the person across from her was her child, but the cursed spring bit was unbelievable. Could her child have spent years on hormones and gotten implants and other surgery to look like a girl? She had not seen her child for over a decade so it was possible.
On the other hand, the bit about the panda was compelling. That creature's behavior had been strange. Aside from being an endangered animal that could not be used as a pet and was much too expensive for the Tendo's to afford, the animal had acted more like a man than a beast. She saw the panda's tricks in a new light. The signs, the games it played with Soun, the drinking and the constant skittishness around her now made some sense. Upon reflection of events in her own life Nodoka realized that transformative curses were not that much of a stretch.
"And that's why you hid from me," Nodoka noted. "My God! To have something so horrible befall you." She knew Genma had done bad things, but this was monstrous.
"At first I thought so," Ranko said squeezing her mother's hand. "But you showed me that being a girl wasn't so bad. You taught me to accept myself, and to appreciate who I really am."
"The makeover? But it happened so fast."
"Those emotions weren't real, but thanks to you, they became real."
Nodoka looked down to see a manicured hand holding her own. She understood now. Ranko, no Ranma, hated her body because it really was a curse. Ranma lied to her mother because she had been trying to find a cure. Nodoka also understood that she had turned her son into her daughter. The woman imagines that Ranma must have been battling the curse's affect on her mind until Nodoka tried to turn Ranko into a young lady. It was her fault her child was sitting in front of her in a seifuku instead of out somewhere trying to become a man again.
"Are you happy this way?" Nodoka asked.
"Oh yes, things are much better now. I know who I am, and what I want in life."
"I understand why you wanted to keep living with me now. So you're now a woman?"
"Yes, Ranma's body will never be seen again," Ranko promised. "I know what this might mean to you. I'm prepared to do whatever you say," the redhead then added.
Nodoka paused in thought. She could hardly hold her child up to the contract. It was her doing that had created Ranko. Genma, however, was an entirely different matter, especially given what else he had done. It was his fault that Ranma had gotten cursed in the first place. However, her child still had no intention of becoming a man or living like one. It was then that Nodoka realized her solution. "Ranko is your intent to live as a woman for the rest of your life?"
"Yes, it is," the girl replied.
"Do you agree that Ranma Saotome has failed in becoming a 'man among men'?"
The redhead blinked. For some reason this question was harder than the previous one. She did not want to admit failure, defeat. "Yes, he has," she finally choked out.
"Are you Ranma Saotome?" Nodoka asked as her final question.
"I was," the girl said.
Nodoka nodded. "Here are my terms: Ranma Saotome is dead. You are not to use that name. And you are forbidden from regaining a male body. If you agree to this, you will be released from the contract and you will be made my daughter. As my daughter I will expect you to carry yourself in a proper and feminine manner. Do you accept?"
"Of course I do!" Ranko cried as tears welled up in her eyes.
Nodoka then got up to hug the young woman. Ranko stood and accepted her mother's embrace. The two women then stood in the kitchen for a bit enjoying the moment. It felt as if all the secrets and lies were over. Somewhere, deep in the back of the girl's mind, this felt completely wrong.
"Looks like I'll have to redo my makeup," Ranko laughed when she caught her reflection in a mirror on the wall and saw what her tears had done. She had essentially gotten what she wanted. Her mother now knew the truth and accepted her daughter in spite of it. For some reason she felt uneasy about having to give up being Ranma ever again. She had no idea why she would need that horrible body, but was strangely reluctant about giving it up.
Nodoka smiled at the girl, this was clearly her daughter. Maybe she should give Ranko lessons in something other than feminine arts, maybe something more martial as opposed to marital. "So anything else happen at school today, or were you just stewing about this?" the woman asked, half-joking.
"Well There's a few things. I was wondering if I could have a slumber party here this weekend."
"Of course you can," Nodoka replied.
"Oh, there's one more thing. Eric asked me out on another date!"
Nodoka wondered at her daughter's enthusiasm at the prospect of dating a boy. There was no way Ranko could be a guy. "Well, he is a nice boy," Nodoka allowed. "My, you have been busy today," she observed.
"Well, it's been an exciting time," Ranko blushed. There were two things she left out, but Ranko knew she could not tell her mother about Sailor Phoenix and the shampoo was hardly relevant. It was just an accelerant.
Nodoka smiled at this and decided to ask her question. "Daughter, are you still into martial arts? I knew Ranma was and I haven't seen you practice."
"Oh yes," Ranko admitted. "I just did not do it around you because it's not ladylike."
"Well, I am the heir to my family's sword style. As my daughter I could teach it to you," Nodoka offered.
Ranko's eyes brightened. She knew her mother was an excellent teacher. The shampoo just made her want to be a woman; Nodoka was the one that taught her how to be one. "I'd love to," Ranko said, happy to have a mother again. Maybe she could get a sword for her Sailor Phoenix form.
The martial artist smiled. He had arrived. Inside the store he stood before were the keys to his plan. After he rid himself of that horrible curse of a body of his, he would seek out Ranma.
The teen laughed again. Oh yes, that reunion should be most amusing. He snickered as he entered the strange curio shop. He would make his purchases, use them, and then find Ranma. The martial artist had been dreaming of that day, and so far the dreams of late had been most helpful.
Ranko looked at the clothes and accessories she had placed on her bed. Tonight was her first serious date, and she wanted it to be perfect. Earlier she had felt quite nervous and had wanted to call the whole thing off, but a nice shower tremendously eased her mood.
She put on a green lacy bra and a pair of green bikini-cut panties. The redhead then slipped on a pair of nearly translucent nylons. She then got into a dress that her mother had bought for her yesterday, just for this event.
It had a nee length skirt with a low neck and the dress was red under her bosom and around the back and green everywhere else. She then slipped on a pair of three-inch red heels. Ranko then sauntered to her makeup bench. She first shaped her nails. It did not take much time. Every day she worked on them to make sure they kept their symmetry, proper curve and their three-tenths of an inch overhang. She then painted her nails a sparkling green and then glossed them. The girl smiled at the glamorous look her hands now had. It was always worth the effort.
Ranko started on her hair. Its wavy curl was still set. The girl smiled as she picked up two hair combs. Curved and green, they had very fine teeth and each had two star rose quartz stones in them. She put the two combs on either side of the back of her head and used them to alter the flow of her mid-back-length cascade of hair.
The redhead then went to work on her face. Her cosmetics skills had progressed very nicely and she had found putting on makeup to be second nature now. Once she was done, she put on her jewelry and dabbed on some perfume.
Ranko then picked a slim, square-shaped red leather purse with a thin strap. The redhead then moved her personal effects and makeup into the purse. She put the purse on, got up, and walked over to her full-length mirror. Ranko studied her reflection while making a few poses.
"Perfect," Ranko said. She then looked at her watch. Eric should be here any minute now.
"So, I found a new recipe for pecan cookies," Ranko said to her date as she fingered the bouquet he had brought. The mix of roses and lilacs was a bit strange, but the redhead found the scent they created very intriguing
"Really? Those are my favorites," Loki stated, sounding interested. He hoped that enough of Ranma had recovered that this date would not be another four hours of listening to a girly ninny ramble on and on.
"I know," Ranko smiled as she put the flowers in a vase.
"Now, have a good time, you two," Nodoka said maintaining her self-control. She hated to admit it, but her son was gone. This happy redhead before her was her child. That son of hers was just a memory. Nodoka sighed as she watched the two teens walk out the door hand-in-hand. It was best just to think of Ranma as dead.
"Wait, before you go," the older woman said as she ran out of the room. She shortly returned with a camera. "Get closer," she said to the two teens who quickly complied. "It's a shame I forgot to do this with your first date."
"Oh, that's okay," Ranko said smiling for the picture. "This is our first serious date."
"Okay, now you two can go and have fun," Nodoka said after taking a few pictures of them. If she was going to have a daughter instead of a son, Nodoka wanted to do it right and document it.
"The problem with removing vast amounts of skin is the bleeding," Loki stated. This date was much more interesting than the previous one. Granted the topic of horrible torture methods was more morbid than the dialogue during their first date, but he would rather this than another lecture on hair and makeup.
"I guess I'd have to bandage her up," Ranko considered as she spooned some more gumbo. This Cajun stuff was very good.
"Why bother? It'd just complicate things. I'd go with something simple, like needles under her nails."
"And then I could heat them," Ranko declared, looking much too happy and girlish for the conversation. "Ooh, maybe I can get some venom and drip it into her eyes."
Loki shuddered at this. That was not a fun time in his life.
"Something wrong?" Ranko asked her date, with concern etched on her face. She then reached out and held his hand. "I'm sorry; I guess this is an inappropriate conversation."
"No, it's not that. Several years ago I got some poison in my eyes. Still have bad memories."
"Oh, I'm sorry," the redhead said squeezing his hand in sympathy.
"Don't worry about it."
Ranko nodded, "That's just for starters, afterwards I'll have to get the hot coals heated up for phase two."
Loki fingered his collar and made a mental note to make sure that he didn't piss off Ranma in this lifetime or the next one. "And what happens in phase two?"
With a gleam in her eye that could only be compared to the one seen on the face of a demon lord, she spoke in a carefully even voice. "Wouldn't you like to know."
"Say, didn't you say that Setsuna was afraid of cockroaches?" she inquired as she politely wiped her lips with a napkin in a ladylike fashion. "I wonder if she has a heart condition."
"I don't think so."
"Shame. But then, where can I get Madagascar spitting roaches at this hour?"
"Bob's Big House of Bugs," Loki replied automatically Loki made another mental note. Never EVER let this person talk to any of the creatures of hell.
"Really? How much for a hundred? Oh, and do they eat human flesh?" Ranko asked more coquettishly than should be possible given the topic.
"No, but the leeches would," Loki again said without thinking.
"Hmm Toss a box of roaches in, yet leave the bathroom door open for her to try to escape, then force her into a bathtub full of leeches. Playful, terrifying I like it," Ranko said smiling to herself.
"Say, Ranko, you're not really planning on doing all this to Setsuna, are you?" Loki asked.
"I'm not sure. Sometimes I really want to make her suffer. Other times I'm happy with just telling the Princess what she did and getting her powers revoked," Ranko sighed.
"You think she'd do that to Pluto?"
"Definitely," Ranko nodded. "Sure, what she did had a good effect. It accelerated my awareness of my true self, but what if I didn't like being a girl? What if I had gone back to being Ranma? Would she have killed me?"
Loki nodded and took a sip of water. Just great, despite remembering who she really was, the redhead still thought of herself as Ranko. At least she was plotting against Sailor Pluto. He also knew not to suggest that Ranko stop using the shampoo. He tried to do that on the way to the restaurant and she got most upset. Loki considered destroying her supply of the damn things, but he was fairly sure that Ranma would simply break free on his own given time.
Ranko continued. "If this woman's going around brainwashing people and maybe even killing them, then what makes her any better than our enemies?"
"You have a point," Loki admitted, and the two resumed their meal.
"I had a really good time," Ranko said smiling at her date. They were back at the place she shared with her mother.
"Me too," Loki replied, and this time it was mostly truthful. He then looked down to see that the girl in front of him had closed her eyes and was leaning forward. Loki shrugged and bent down. He kissed the girl on the lips.
Ranko took her arms from her sides and wrapped them around her date's back. He responded by doing the same. The girl was conflicted. One second she wanted to kill him for touching her like this the next she wanted to start fondling him and tear off his clothes. Her more even moods ranged from slapping him and storming inside to opening her mouth and making the kiss a bit more interesting.
Despite having just eaten, Ranko felt a distinct hunger. But Ranko knew that some things should not be rushed. So instead, she settled by pulling away while smiling at him. She then opened the front door and blew him a kiss as she crossed the threshold. Loki blinked and rubbed the lipstick off his face. He then wandered off, not completely displeased with the day's events
It was perfectly logical that he failed to notice the woman who had watched the entire exchange. She was one of the few people that were experienced in dealing with this particular Norse god.
Ranko enthusiastically opened the package. It had arrived while she was at school and was waiting for her on the kitchen table. According to the return address, Eric had sent her another gift. "Oh, wow," the redhead cooed when she got the gift out. It was a beautifully carved rosewood box that measured five inches tall, seven inches wide and ten inches long. It had gold hardware and engraved silver parts.
Covering it were engravings of fire and phoenixes and carvings of hearts and trees. Ranko smiled at the gift. There was also a short poem engraved on the top of the lid.
To all life there is death
To all death there is life
To all good there is evil
To all evil there is good
To all light there is darkness
To all darkness there is light
To chaos, lawful come
To lawful, chaos come
All mortals and immortals follow these;
But the Phoenix is above them all.
Ranko smiled at the sentiment and continued her inspection. She then noticed the heart-shaped clasp. Curious, she put her hand on it and the lid clicked open. Ranko was delighted to hear "Greensleeves" begin to play.
She looked inside to see a small music box player to the right side, and a collection of cleverly placed jewelry drawers to the left side. Ranko then noticed another inscription on the inside of the lid.
Don't worry if it looks too long; I'm deeper than I look.
To she who is my mistress, I give you five things.
First: As only you, or people you give permission, to may open me.
Second: I can also hold more than I appear to. As long as it can fit through
My opening, I can store it.
Third: Thrice a week, I can repair items placed within me.
Fourth: Twice a week, I can heal living things.
And Fifth: Once a month, I can enchant an item placed inside me
Overnight, based on the contents of a note placed with it.
The redhead marveled at this. Given that Eric had given her the transformation wand that allowed her to become Sailor Phoenix, she had no doubt that this device had such powers. The second part intrigued her. Using an umbrella the redhead was able to confirm the box's extra-dimensional nature. The girl smiled at this. The second power and the fifth could be most useful if used right.
The beautiful notes were still playing when she noticed a slip of paper folded into the box. She pulled it out and read it, her eyes growing wide. This changed everything.
Still holding the note, she sat down on her bed. Ranko then got up and closed the lid. She needed silence to think this through. It was amazing how much a few words could change things.
In his more adult guise, Loki returned to his apartment. The first thing he noticed was that the blender was running. Confused, he walked to the kitchen. There he saw a familiar face. "Hello Sigyn," the god said to his wife.
The woman stopped the blender. "Oh, hi honey, I was just making some milkshakes."
"Why are you here?" Loki asked.
"I wanted to know why you were spending so much time in Japan. I must say your tastes are improving. A Senshi instead of a giantess," the goddess said nonchalantly
"Oh, no," Loki said with dread.
"Now, now calm down. I stayed by your side after that thing with Angrboda, and at least this time your kids won't be monsters."
"Oh yeah, her. I'm relieved that you understand, but I must say it's not really romantic between me and Ranko," Loki explained.
"You don't need to rationalize with me. I rather like the girl and approve of your choice. I even got her a gift." Sigyn added innocently.
"Oh no," Loki said as he filled with dread.
"Don't worry," the god's wife chastised. "It's just a music box. Granted it has a few magical features, but they're good. I wouldn't trap it."
"Good," Loki said with relief. He then heard his phone ring. "Wait one second," he said as he went to answer it.
"Hello, this is Eric," Loki stated into the phone.
"Hi, Eric," Ranko's voice said on the other end. "I just got your gift and—" Ranko then paused for a bit.
"I'm sorry if it was inappropriate. I don't know what I was thinking," Loki stated.
"No it was beautiful. I'm just trying to get the nerve " Ranko paused again.
"Okay," Loki said rather confused. Was Ranma finally coming back?
"Yes!" Ranko then cried in an exuberant voice.
"Yes to what?" Loki asked.
"I'll be your girlfriend, silly," Ranko said. "I'm sorry I should have done this in person, but I knew that if I waited I'd lose my nerve."
"Oh, glad you accepted," Loki said, trying to figure out what just happened.
"Your poem was so beautiful," Ranko said. "Oh dang, sorry mother wants me to go shopping with her. I'll call you later," the girl then said before hanging up.
Loki then pulled the phone from his ear and stared at it. This was not good. "Sigyn," he stated without turning to her. "Why did you forge my handwriting to make a love note asking a girl to be your husband's girlfriend?"
Sigyn smiled. "Well husband, while I don't mind you having a mistress, I only want to share you with one girl. This will keep you digamous. Hmm, I wonder what she's like in bed."
"You know she's really a guy," Loki said sighing. It was always the women in his life that ruined things.
"I never knew you swung that way," the woman laughed. "But really, that should make things interesting, and you do love interesting."
Loki just sighed.
"So you have a boyfriend?" Nodoka asked her daughter, they were in a clothing store browsing for something special.
"Yes, Eric asked me in a very sweet way, and I do like him," Ranko explained. "It's not too soon is it? We have had only two dates." The girl then looked at a strapless and very lacy bra.
"No, it's not, just as long as things don't go too fast."
"Don't worry, Eric's real good about that," Ranko said with a blush. She liked how he let her set the pace for the physical stuff.
"I'm happy that you've found someone," Nodoka said with a smile. Reservations about Ranma aside, she truly was happy for her daughter. Nodoka remembered how boy-crazy her daughter was during that first week. She was pleased that when Ranko actually got a boy that she had mellowed out.
"So am I," Ranko smiled.
"You ready for your sleepover? I might not be there that night." Nodoka asked her daughter.
"Well, I have a few more things I need to get," Ranko admitted.
The next morning Loki waited by the front gates of the high school. His posture changed slightly when he spotted a certain girl approach. The redhead smiled when she noticed him. The girl closed the distance with a cute smile and a seductive gait.
"Hello Eric," the girl said before leaning up to give him a quick kiss on the lips.
"Hi, Ranko," Loki replied to the person who was brainwashed into thinking she was really a girl and tricked into thinking she was his girlfriend.
"It's a shame I'm having a sleepover tonight," Ranko said.
"We can't do anything to celebrate just yet. Well you could come, but you'd have to be a girl," the redhead laughed. Despite being straight, Ranko found some appeal in the idea of turning her boyfriend into a woman. She would have short, dark hair, be very muscular, not overly cute the redhead shook her head to clear out those strange thoughts. She then hugged him and kissed her boyfriend again.
A trio of girls waked down the street. They were all wearing backpacks and carrying sleeping bags. "You sure about this?" Minako asked the other blonde.
"Yes, I like Ranko. She's very sweet," Usagi replied.
"She does bake really well," Makoto noted with a bit of envy. The redhead was not only very ladylike and beautiful, but she was also very good at making desserts, candies, and other sweets.
"Think Ranko will mind that Ami couldn't come?" Usagi asked.
"Didn't you think it was odd that she only asked us to go to her sleepover. You know, the Senshi? It's a bit odd. Why didn't she ask any of her friends in the cooking or fashion clubs? It was just us."
"She didn't ask Rei!"
"That's because she doesn't go to our school," Makoto said with a sigh.
"Look, I don't think she's an enemy."
"No, she's too ditzy for that," Minako said with a smile. It was interesting to talk to a girl who was more boy-crazy than her and Makoto combined. Although that little pink book that she carried was a good idea. After seeing Ranko's, Minako got her own version. The blonde had a sneaking suspicion that Makoto now also had one.
"You know she has a boyfriend now," Usagi said, shifting the topic.
"Wow, I would have thought that she'd try to date all the boys first. Who'd she get?" Minako asked.
"Discorso," Usagi replied.
"Ah, the foreign kid. He is good looking."
"And funny. I wish I could have gotten to him first," Makoto interjected.
"Why? Does he look like your old boyfriend?" Minako asked, smirking.
"A little," the brunette admitted.
"Quiet, we're almost there," Usagi said as they turned onto the street that Ranko lived on.
Ranko smiled as she put another movie in the DVD player. So far the night had been a marathon of what Loki would call "insufferably sappy and saccharine Shoujo romances." For the redheaded host, things were going rather well. It had taken some snacks and a couple of movies to break the ice, but the now other girls were comfortable. Her mother was visiting some friends of her own and would be spending the night with them. Ranko loved it that her mother trusted her enough to leave her alone in the house.
The conversation had shifted to boys. Something that Ranko's interest had waned in a bit. She was in a relationship after all. This did not stop her and Usagi from giving advice to the two single girls in the room.
"Oh, dear. I'll go get us some more soda," Ranko said after noticing the beverages had run out.
"She seems nice enough," Makoto noted once the redhead had left the room and gone down the stairs.
"Yeah, I like her," Minako said as she looked around Ranko's room. It was less girlish than she imagined it would be.
"I have the feeling that she's waiting for just the right time to tell us something," Usagi said.
"Maybe she saw us transform and knows who we are," Minako suggested. A shrill beeping then forced her to look down at her communicator. She noticed that Usagi and Makoto had done the same thing.
Rei's voice was then heard through the devices. "Something's attacking a couple of blocks south of the shrine. I haven't seen it yet, but it sounds like it smashed up a lot of cars." The shrine maiden then saw a motorcycle fly past her. "Looks like it's at the motorcycle shop."
"We're on the way," Usagi said as she stood up.
"What're we going to tell Ranko?" Makoto asked.
"One of our friends called us and is in trouble," Usagi replied as she made her way out of the room. The two other girls followed their leader out and down the stairs. There they saw Ranko waiting for them at the bottom of the stairs.
"You're going to fight some sort of monster?" the redhead asked.
"How did you know?" Usagi blinked.
Ranko sighed and summoned her transformation wand. She did not want to do this, it was more than fear of fighting a monster, there was something else, a fear of losing her sense of self.
The three girls did not have time to register much of a response before their host was consumed in flames as she shouted, "Phoenix Rebirth Power! Make UP!"
The flames then coalesced into clothing, makeup, jewelry, boots, and other items. The redhead was now dressed in a stylized seifuku with a white lacy bodysuit, a sparkling pleated miniskirt that was colored to resemble flames, orange and red glittery boots that had long green ribbons attached to their tops, elbow-length lacy white gloves with eight-inch green ribbons connected to their orange trim, and the expected pair of big green bows, with one over her chest and the other just above the back of her skirt.
Her hair was the same style except now it was highlighted in orange and yellow. A large heart-shaped fire opal ornament decorated the back of her mane. Four spiraled green ribbons fell from the hair ornament. Her makeup had changed to match her new color scheme. On her forehead was a golden tiara with a gem of fire opal in the center. Her hanging earrings were now heart-shaped, and around her neck was a narrow, white choker with her Phoenix pendant in the center.
"I am Sailor Phoenix, and I think I can help," the girl said as her transformation died down. The girl then made a cute pose.
"I knew she was a Senshi! I just knew it!" Usagi joyfully declared.
Minako raised her eyebrow and shook her head. "This is new." She observed.
Makoto was about to say something but was cut off by the sound of the newest Senshi giving an almost inhuman yelp.
"Gah! Not again!" the redheaded magical girl swore. "That's it! I'm staying in this thing until I find a way to get my mind back," she declared as she looked at the Senshi uniform she was in. "Maybe Eric knows how to stop me from losing my mind. He did give me this stupid thing and he is my—" Phoenix cut off herself off, her eyes widening in realization.
"Goddamn it! I can't believe it." the girl cried remembering the times with Eric. "Wait, she also told mom! And I agreed to do WHAT?" Ranko punched herself in the forehead. She squinted her eyes in the pain of ramming her tiara into her skull. "I just wish I could kill that damn life-ruining, chemically-induced, mind-controlling ditz," the irate magical girl promised as flames erupted around her body.
"Um, Ranko? What's wrong?" Usagi asked with definite concern.
"First off, that's not my name. Second we can talk after we kick the ass of that monster you're off to fight," Phoenix said as she tapped her foot impatiently. Some stupid creature would be perfect practice for her new powers. After that, she had a fair-sized list of people that would make excellent clay pigeons at a skeet range .
"O-o-oh-kay," Usagi said before transforming into Sailor Moon. Makoto and Minako shrugged and transformed. It made sense. They befriend the new girl, and she just happens to end up being a Senshi. At least it was better than her being a new enemy or some sort of magical spore from the future.
"Come on, let's go!" Phoenix said after the other girls finished transforming. She had the desperate need to kill something.
As Sailor Phoenix followed the other Senshi, her mind worked on the situation. This Pluto woman had brainwashed her, and now the only time when Ranko was not in control was when she's in Senshi form. Phoenix resolved to stop Ranko before she could cause anymore damage to her already mixed-up life.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the increasing sounds of destruction. The four magical girls had arrived to find a metal monstrosity lumbering around a motorcycle dealership.
Looking like it had been made by molding plates of metal into the shape of a twenty-foot tall man, the creature appeared to be smashing the show room. Phoenix saw another magical girl approach them. She was clearly a Sailor Senshi, but she did not match the description of Pluto that Eric had given her.
"Good, you're here. Be careful about this one. It's got good armor," Sailor Mars said with irritation. Her flame arrows could damage it but not too much. She then noticed the extra girl. "We've got a new Senshi?" she then asked, looking at the flame-haired teen.
"Yes, Sailor Phoenix," Moon stated as she looked over the monster.
"Nuts to this," Phoenix muttered. The redhead then positioned her hands, aimed at what looked to be the creature's head, and shouted "Phoenix Firestorm!"
Sailor Moon was about to give her speech when a stream of fireballs shot from Phoenix's hands and pummeled the monster's head. The bombardment had torn several small holes into the featureless visage of the golem.
The other fire-based Senshi shrugged and released a Mars Flame Sniper. The fire arrow arced into one of the holes and detonated inside the monster. The other Senshi followed suit and soon the giant metal man was being barraged by electrically charged leaves, blasts of white light, and deadly kisses.
Unlike the others, Phoenix did not stay in one spot and lob her attacks. She closed in on the charging monster and fired at it while dodging the surprisingly fast punches it was throwing. Distracting it, she allowed for the other Senshi to fire onto it without worry of counterattack.
The metal creature's armor was very strong. It lasted almost ninety seconds before succumbing to the onslaught. As the monster stumbled to the ground Sailor Phoenix released one last stream of flaming spheres into the smoking remains of its head. The golem shuddered for a second, then fell apart. The redhead smiled as she watched the pieces disintegrate into a grayish-black powder.
"Okay. Now I feel a bit better," Sailor Phoenix said as she clenched her lacy, ribbon enhanced gloves. "Thanks girls. I needed that."
"So, who are you?" Mars asked. She remembered that Usagi had made a new friend; who according to Makoto was a real airhead, worse than Usagi.
Phoenix sighed. "I guess I should tell you. You especially," she said looking at Sailor Moon. The princess should be very interested to hear what one of her Senshi had been doing. "Come on back to my place then."
"Pluto did what?" Usagi asked. They had just returned to Ranko's, yet their host had did not want to transform out of her Senshi form. It was just the two of them in the kitchen. The other girls were upstairs. Phoenix requested a private conversation.
"She brainwashed me into thinking I was some girly girl," Phoenix stated as she dumped the last of Ranko's mind-altering shampoo down the drain. That lilac scent sickened the redhead. "Now, the only way I can be in control is when I'm like this."
"I don't get it. Why would she brainwash you? You're a Senshi."
"Apparently, the bitch thought I was a threat to her glorious future. So she stole my mind and body," Phoenix ranted as she washed out the sink with hot water. Confident that she had eradicated the last traces of that cursed shampoo from her home, she wondered if Kikuko would help in getting rid of the offending liquid at her store through the use of a funnel shoved down her throat.
"My god," Usagi gasped. She knew Pluto was obsessive about Crystal Tokyo, but to do this. "Locking away your mind is unacceptable."
Sailor Phoenix gave a dark smile. "Oh, that's not the worst of it. You see my real name's Ranma Saotome. I'm really a guy. But that was a problem for little Miss Pluto. So she made me into a sickeningly feminine airhead. She even took away my martial arts! Ranko hates fighting; she'd much rather date boys!"
"She will be have to be dealt with," Usagi sighed.
"Yes, she will. I guess we should go back upstairs and go to bed," Phoenix sighed.
"Are you going to sleep in that?" the blonde asked.
"I don't have any choice."
Nodoka arrived back into her house. She was relived to find her home was in perfect condition. The woman was happy that she could trust her daughter. She then heard someone coming down the stairs.
Walking into the foyer, the older woman saw a girl about Ranko's age, height and hairstyle descending the staircase. "Who are you?" she asked the girl who was wearing an overly embellished and glittery uniform of some kind.
"Ranma, your son," Phoenix responded. Her morning had been interesting. The uniform was not something designed for sleeping although once she got up it reverted to a pristine condition. She then had to get the other magical girls out of the house.
"I have no son," Nodoka stated as she studied the strange redhead. There was something amazingly familiar about the girls face.
"No, you have no daughter," the magical girl stated as she walked down the last few steps. "Ranko wasn't real. I was brainwashed into her."
Nodoka recalled the day of Ranko's makeover. The change was very drastic and sudden. Ranko's explanation of embracing who she really was did not seem to explain that. The older woman also knew that Kikuko was unusually eager about the prospect of doing Ranko's hair. Nodoka's eyes widened in realization.
Sailor Phoenix noticed this. "Good, we can talk in the kitchen," she said leading the older woman.
Nodoka sat down at the table, and looked at the girl. "So, who are you? Ranma? Ranko?" The older woman could see it clearly now. This girl was her child.
"Ranma," Phoenix said flatly. "Your oh so helpful hairstylist used some pressure points and mind-altering shampoo to turn me into Ranko."
"I'm sorry. I didn't know you were Ranma. All I saw was a girl who hated her body. "
"I hated this body because it was a curse," Phoenix interrupted.
"I didn't know Kikuko would brainwash you. I'm sorry for turning you into this. I'm sorry I didn't see anything wrong with you," Nodoka said sadly.
"Well, I was hiding from you out of fear of not being manly enough," the girl wearing glitter, lace, ribbons, bows, and a miniskirt stated. "But now, it really doesn't matter."
"Why are you dressed like this?"
"The shampoo has not worn off yet. If I detransform, she will take control again," Phoenix sighed.
"Detransform? Are you some kind of magical girl?" Nodoka asked only half joking. She was just starting to get used to the idea of her son becoming her daughter. Now she had to face the issue that her hairstylist had been the one to brainwash Ranma into Ranko.
"Yes. I'm Sailor Phoenix. Nearest I can tell, my Senshi magic protects me from the mind control."
"Oh," Nodoka said, rather shocked by the information. "Maybe you should go through this one more time?" the woman asked feeling a somewhat faint. The life changing revelations of the day before had now been ripped to shreds and were replaced by even more amazing and horrible disclosures.
Sailor Phoenix opened the door to Kikuko's Beauty Parlor. After getting things squared away with Mother, she knew where she had to go next. However, going outside in daylight would be a problem. Her mom had come up with a solution.
Nodoka found the necessary items in the back of her closet. Apparently, they belonged to Genma when they first got married. The redhead was wearing a long brown-hooded coat over her Senshi seifuku and hair and a pair of dark sunglasses.
The resulting image was a somewhat strange one. A girl with red boots and white gloves peeking out of her coat and a made-up face under a hood and behind glasses. Despite the oddity, it was nowhere near as notable as if she were not wearing the coat.
"Yes?" a stylist working reception asked the bundled girl. She assumed that the girl simply had a very bad hair day.
"Please tell Kikuko Ayanami, that one of her clients has a hair emergency," Phoenix stated
The receptionist nodded. "Please wait one minute," she said before getting up and walking to the back room. After a few seconds she called for the visitor to come in and meet with the stylist.
"Yes, what's the matter?" Kikuko asked as she turned from sorting the beauty supplies she kept stocked in her private styling room.
After she closed the door behind her, Phoenix paused. She had some bad memories of this room. Here was where her mind had been stolen from her. Her eye flared and a pair of flaming orbs formed in her hands. "I'm here to give you an ultimatum," she said her voice carefully even.
"What?" Kikuko asked, fear on her face. This strange woman was somehow generating fire from her hands.
"Stop brainwashing your clients or I will destroy you," Phoenix said as she lobbed one of her orbs at a stack of familiar bottles. The shampoo containers burst open and burned, filling the room with the charred scent of lilacs.
Kikuko shrieked. "I just use it to—" the woman tried to explain before being cut off by Phoenix.
"To brainwash girls you think aren't feminine enough," Phoenix completed. "What you do hurts people. It destroys their real personalities. I will not let you continue this!"
Kikuko whimpered at the glowering girl.
"Now show me where you keep the rest of that god-awful stuff," Phoenix ordered.
The stylist compiled. After showing the girl where she kept the shampoo, Kikuko was then forced to drain it all out into a sink. Phoenix wanted to make the stylist drink some of the stuff, but she did not want to hurt the woman this time. If she had to come back things would be different.
"Remember, if I hear that you're still brainwashing girls I will be back," the redhead stated.
"Who— who are you?"
"Phoenix," the magical girl said as she picked up one of the newly empty bottles of shampoo. "Now I want you to tell me everything you know about this stuff: how you got it, how it works, how permanent it is, and everything else."
"Hello," Loki said answering his phone.
"Hi Eric," a familiar voice said from the other end of the line.
"First off that's not my name. Second: we're through. Third: if you ever touch me again I will kill you," the female voice responded.
"Thank god you're back, Ranma," Loki sighed with relief.
"What?" Phoenix replied in a confused voice.
"I figured out why Ranko came back. Stay in your Phoenix form. Right now it's the only way you can keep your mind."
"I know that, Eric. I've already talked to Kikuko."
"So you know about the permanent effects?" Loki asked.
"Yes, I want to know what's the best way to find a cure. I'm thinking of just waiting for the effect to wear off."
"That might have complications. I can come over now."
"Fine," Phoenix said before hanging up the phone. She then turned to her mother. "Eric will be over shortly."
"And he can help you find a solution?" Nodoka asked.
"He was the one who gave me my powers. Though I don't really trust him that much. Eric has his own agenda."
"If he can help," Nodoka said. As much as she liked Ranko, the girl was not real; her son was.
"Ranma, sorry about the dating. I didn't want to get Ranko mad at me," Loki apologized to the magical girl. They were both in the living room of Nodoka's house.
"Then why did you give me that box and ask me that question?" Phoenix demanded.
"I didn't do that, a friend of mine did," Loki stated
"Eric, why would someone do that?"
"She wanted me to have a steady girlfriend," the Norse fire god sighed.
"She? Who was that? For that matter, who are you?" Phoenix asked.
"Fine. I'm really Loki. That woman was my wife, Sigyn."
"So you're the Dutch god of chaos?"
Loki laughed. "Close. I'm a Norse god of fire. Chaos and disorder are more of hobbies of mine."
"Oh," Phoenix said. She always knew the kami were out to get her. She decided to play along "And why is a god concerned about me?" Phoenix then looked down at her costume. A series of thoughts entered her mind: phoenix, fire god, chaos, magical assistant. "Good lord. I'm your Senshi."
"Bingo." Loki stated. Senshi was close enough to avatar to work.
"Wait, your wife wanted me to be your girlfriend? What's with that?"
"A long time ago I had a mistress. Even had some kids with her, miserable little monsters. Sigyn took it very well. She even stayed by my side through the whole Baldur incident. But ever since then she's insisted that I have only two women in my life: her and a single mistress. She thought you would make a good one."
"So, that was all her idea?"
"Yup, she forged my handwriting and put it in that box."
"Just to be perfectly straight. You did not want to be in a relationship with me."
"No way in hell. You're really a guy, and Ranko is way too feminine and creepy," Loki explained.
"Good," Phoenix said. She had no love for Ranko either. "Okay, back to the problem. Ranko wants to destroy me and take over permanently. I have to get her out of my head."
"Yes, she thinks she's the real you and that Ranma is just a past life."
"That's insane. I'm the real one. She's just a drug-induced thing."
Loki nodded. "Your two extreme options are this. One, Ranko uses the shampoo for the full two months, giving her permanent control. You'll only be around when you're like this."
Phoenix bristled. "That's what I have right now. She won't take over again."
"The other one is to destroy Ranko. You stop using the shampoo, and when her control fades out, you rush forward and take control. This would eradicate her."
"What about side effects?" the magical girl asked. This might be the best solution to her problems, but something seemed wrong about eliminating Ranko, despite her just being a parasitic personality.
"Since Ranko had been using the shampoo for two weeks. There will be some fraction of her personality around."
"So I'll never be rid of her?" Phoenix sighed.
"Unless you spend the rest of your life like this."
"You said you're a god, can't you use your powers to solve this?" Phoenix asked.
"If I had my full powers, sure, but I'm on probation. I'm vastly reduced in power. Whatever help I can give I will."
Phoenix studied the trickster's face. She could not tell if he was lying or not. "Are there any other options?"
"Sure. You could have a timeshare. Each of you could switch between having control. Though that would have problems."
"Neither of us would want just half of a life. Eventually one of us would try to lock the curse or cure it and take over," Phoenix surmised.
"Maybe," Loki shrugged. "Maybe not. There is one other option. Merging."
"Absolutely not. If I do that, I become her. I'll lose all of my mind."
"Well, those are your options."
"That's just great."
For the second night Ranma fell asleep as Sailor Phoenix. The first time her sleep had been uninterrupted by dreams. However, things were now different. Phoenix found herself standing in a small wooded glen across from another girl. She had the same hairstyle as Phoenix, except her hair was not highlighted with oranges and yellows. She was also wearing a frilly green dress instead of a Sailor Senshi Seifuku. Phoenix also noticed that in the middle of the clearing was a large flat-topped stone.
Phoenix and Ranko stared at each other for a second. Before they could talk, a familiar person appeared on top of the stone. It was Loki in his Eric Discorso form. "Great, it worked," he said after looking at the two redheads.
"What's going on Eric? How can he still be alive?" Ranko asked pointing to Sailor Phoenix.
"His name's Loki," the magical girl replied.
"I altered your dreams so you two could talk, and maybe figure out a solution to this thing.
"This is pointless, why should I talk to that mind-stealing thing?" both girls demanded nearly simultaneously.
Loki looked at the two and shuddered. "This is kinda creepy. I'm leaving. Talk to you later," the Norse god said before vanishing. He then reappeared. "Oh Ranma, here you can detransform safely. Just think about being male," Loki added before vanishing again.
Phoenix closed her eyes. Her form shimmered and shifted. "Yes! I'm back," Ranma Saotome cried triumphantly. He was in his preferred body and clothing.
Ranko blinked. Her past life was still there. "You broke up with my boyfriend!" she then accused.
"He was never your boyfriend and you know it!"
"Yes he was," Ranko insisted.
"Don't kid yourself. You know that it was his wife who sent that box.
Your relationship with him was a charade, just like everything else about
your life," Ranma explained as he walked a few paces closer to the girl.
"Like you're going to get control ever again," Ranma laughed.
"I'll get back, and I will have a boyfriend," Ranko swore, emphasizing boy. "Damn, you and your liking of girls."
"What? What does that have to do with anything?" Ranma asked. There was something strange about what the redheaded airhead had said. Recalling Ranko's memories he smiled. "Oh that's rich. Little miss perfect has had feelings for girls," Ranma laughed.
"I like boys," Ranko glared.
"What about Usagi?"
"Shut up," the redhead defended.
"What about when you fantasized about turning Loki into a girl?" Ranma asked, smirking.
"Shut up!" Ranko then repeated, her eyes wide and angry.
"Don't forget dreaming about truing Ryoga into—"
"I said SHUT UP!" the redhead screamed, interrupting Ranma. "It's all your fault; your influence made me a deviant. I didn't like girls or martial arts before you came back! But now I'm a Sailor Senshi and have all these perverse urges."
"Aw, is the poor body-stealing thing unhappy that she likes girls too?" Ranma taunted.
"Fine. Ruin my life. Though it was nice to get some spine," Ranko added.
"Wait you're not really mad about these changes, are you?" Ranma asked, laughing. "You're happy that you're now more assertive, independent, and such, and despite your bitching, you like that you're attracted to girls."
"You're lying!" Ranko cried.
"No. We share the same memories. You can't hide anything from me," Ranma observed.
Ranko sighed and changed the subject. "You've already destroyed all the shampoo. What are you going to do, now that you're in control?"
"The shampoo will wear off, and you'll be nothing more than a bad memory,"
"You're going to kill me!" Ranko demanded, fear on her face.
"You heard Loki, there's not much I can do."
"Yeah, you're not happy with just being Phoenix," Ranko glared.
"Would you be? You were going to keep me locked away forever. Why shouldn't I do that to you?" Ranma asked.
"I didn't know that you were still alive. I thought you were me. I thought the makeover had made you into me."
"You originally thought you were Ranko and that Ranma was a separate person," Ranma deadpanned.
"Okay, fine, after that I realized that had Ranma's body I thought I was Ranma, or at least Ranma's replacement."
"I was still around. You just denied it."
"You've been around for sixteen years. It's my time," the redhead claimed, after she pulled herself onto the stone and sat on the edge.
"No, because I've been around for sixteen years, I'm the real one," Ranma rebutted.
"But I don't want to die," Ranko admitted, her voice losing its defiance. "I'm afraid," the girl then said, almost crying.
"Damn it!" Ranma swore. "Why'd you have to act human!"
"What?" the redhead asked.
Ranma sighed and looked the girl in the eye. "I had just gotten used to the idea of getting rid of you. Nothing more than removing a parasite."
"That's horrible!" Ranko exclaimed. She knew that that's what Ranma really thought of her. Unfortunately, the evidence seemed to show that this was the truth.
"You thought I was dead. That you had already killed me," Ranma replied.
"Well, yeah. How was I to know? I had only lost control as Phoenix once."
"Now I can't destroy you. It'd be like me killing a girl. This is all your fault. Because of you, my life is hell!" Ranma exclaimed as he paced around the glen.
"Stealing lines from Ryoga. Nice," the redhead smirked despite herself. "I'm sorry you don't have the stomach to kill an innocent."
"You're hardly innocent. You were planning on keeping my body."
"You were planning on killing me," Ranko stated.
"Fine. We were both planning on bumping the other off."
"So now what? You can't kill me, and I can't pretend you're dead," Ranko frowned.
"You know our options," Ranma stated. He had now stopped pacing and was looking at Ranko. Her body was just like his cursed form, but so different too.
"I take over; you kill me; we share our body; or we merge. In any of the cases you'd get Phoenix. I'm guessing the first two are out," Ranko listed.
"Yeah," Ranma sighed while shaking his head.
"And the last two are pretty much the same," Ranko said in the same tone and body language as Ranma's.
"The you that came back after Phoenix was different from the one that Kikuko made," Ranma observed.
"Yes, eventually we'll become the same personality," the redhead added.
"No," Ranma insisted. He then looked at his hands. He had to do something.
"I know what you're thinking, and I agree."
The martial artist looked up. "Okay then," the words had a vile taste in his mouth, but there was no choice.
"Yes. I dislike it as much as you do, but we don't have a choice."
To be continued.
Thanks to my prereaders: Kevin D Hammel, Bill Heineman, KM, Wray Loflin, Mike Koos, and Jerry Starfire.
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