A Ranma ½ / Sailor Moon crossover story
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, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon belongs to Naoko Takeuchi, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC.
C&C as always is wanted.
Chapter 2: Things That Find Their Own Level
"You have any idea what Mom's up to?" Ranma asked as she looked at her reflection once more.
"Nothing good, I'm sure," Wolf sighed as he lay on the floor at the foot of Ranma's bed.
"Likely," Ranma agreed before she picked up a hair brush. Her mother was right; it was nice to have hair this easy to take care of. Especially when it looked so good with just a little effort. She paused, wondering where exactly that thought came from.
"Look at what you're wearing," Wolf said. "Frankly, I'm amazed you put on the dress she gave you without any fuss."
"It's a good dress," Ranma said as she twirled in front of the wolf, causing the minimal petal-like skirting to flare up. "There's none of that formal, overly-girly, or puffy nonsense that Mom normally tries to get me to wear."
"Doesn't that worry you?" Wolf asked.
"I'm hoping she's showing some sense," Ranma said as she crossed her arms over her chest. This action provided more cover than the top of her partially-translucent strapless dress.
"Sense… do you see your mother having that?" Wolf asked.
"She's okay with me wearing stuff I like, now," Ranma pointed out.
"That's because you like things like what you wore at the Tendo's last week," Wolf reminded. He then muttered about his queen's spell-cluttered brain.
Wolf shook his head. Maybe it was better if his queen went this way. "Look, your mother, of all people, gave you a skimpy, even for you, deep green and silver dress. For what she said was a special night. Are you sure you have no idea what she's planning?"
Ranma paused in thought for a moment as she tilted her head. She then shrugged her shoulders and absently resumed brushing her hair.
Wolf continued. "She suggested you turn your makeup up a notch and spend extra time on your hair…."
Ranma paused once more in her brushing and looked at Wolf's reflection in the mirror.
"Mom's planning on taking me out to pick up guys? Ew, gross…." Despite the distaste on her face, Ranma resumed brushing.
Wolf gave her a sideways look. "Do you really think your mom's the type of person to take the queen to a bar to pick up a husband?"
"No… I'm sure she'd find someone she finds manly and set him up on a date with me," Ranma absently noted.
"And the lady wins! Let's tell her what her prize is!" Wolf laughed.
Ranma blinked and considered herself in the mirror. Staring at her reflection and how "prettied up" she was, the realization of what Wolf had hinted about hit her like a two-by-four to the head. "Oh no… She wouldn't!" Ranma stopped brushing and looked at Wolf. "Gah! What am I doing?"
"You just said she would," Wolf smirked.
"I did say that." Ranma blinked, and then cast a quick spell to apply her makeup. She gave herself one last check. "If Mom thinks she can make me date some guy, she's got another think coming," Ranma said as she stormed out of her room.
"But… you still… I mean, why get all prettied up?" Wolf asked in confusion as he followed his queen.
"Nothing wrong with looking good when I dump the guy," Ranma smirked as she fluffed her poofy hair.
"Uh… I guess that's…." Wolf shrugged. "No, it's still too girly," Wolf sighed. He wondered if it was the mind magic, the fairy body's hormonal urges, or Ranma's own ego and vanity.
"You're the one that wanted me to be a fairy queen," Ranma said to Wolf as she strutted proudly into the kitchen where Nodoka was washing some dishes.
"Oh hello, dear," Nodoka smiled as she looked up from a teacup on the drying rack.
"Mom, I'm not going on a date with some guy," Ranma said firmly while crossing her arms over her chest.
"But… you're date's here," Nodoka noted. "I was just about to call you down…."
Ranma paused in horror. "Ah! I'm not ready!" she cried putting her hands to her face dramatically. "I should never have used that cheap makeup spell!" she lamented as she ran back up to her room. Once there she would complain about how much she hated that "round off the edges" spell… while redoing her makeup
Wolf blinked. "Hey, you said…" He looked over to Nodoka with a raised eyebrow. "You did that on purpose."
"Whatever do you mean?" Nodoka innocently asked.
"Yeah… not like you made Ranma do that." Wolf shrugged.
"I do hope she likes him," Nodoka smiled. "He does seem to be my daughter's type."
"Yes, honorable, brash, direct, and a martial artist. Though I admit their first date was something less than impressive." Nodoka's voice quieted. "He tried to paint a good picture of their date, but it was clearly something that bored my daughter."
"This isn't her first date with a guy?" Wolf asked. He was now very curious about the type of guy Ranma would have dated before.
"This will be her first after destiny found her," Nodoka dabbed her eyes. She could guess why Ranma had broken it off with this nice young man, but now Ranma could be with him again.
"Maybe that's why she's like this," Wolf mumbled. He continued to wonder who Ranma had dated when still human. Ranma never told him that story.
Several minutes later, Ranma bounded back down the stairs. She looked the same to Wolf, but Nodoka gushed over how wonderful she looked.
"Good luck," Wolf said.
Ranma's smile died on her lips when her date entered the kitchen. It had taken remarkable self-control for him to stay quiet and wait… but the dam had burst. He was a handsome man, and was wearing a nice suit that was cut well. He did not look like a young executive or some kind of agent. Instead he projected a sense of wealth and nobility. This matched well with the… eccentric look to his eyes.
Nodoka smiled. He looked much better in the clothes she picked out for him than what he originally wanted to wear. "Surprise! Aren't you happy Ranma? You can have your boyfriend again."
The relatively vapid expression cleared and was replaced by total disgust. "But… No! I never dated him!" Ranma's eye twitched and her fists started to glow.
"Oh… I'm sorry. I must have misunderstood him during our conversation." Nodoka blushed in embarrassment.
"'Tis not true, my fairy goddess. We had a wondrous date where I gave you that curious weapon as a gift," Kuno beamed as he held a bouquet.
. "Oh yeah… the wishing sword." She turned to Nodoka. "It's not like that, Mom! It was one date! I was trying to get something that would cure me."
"Oh my… what a misunderstanding," Nodoka gasped. "But he seemed so like you." And manlier too, she thought.
"He's not!" Ranma grumbled. "Hey… how'd you know I was a fairy?"
"It is as obvious as your beauty. You are an unearthly goddess and I now see your glamours for what they are," Kuno stated.
"I don't have my glamour up, do I?" Ranma sighed. She hated it when she forgot to cast that spell.
"Indeed," Kuno said giving the illusion of participating in the conversation. "I am heartened by your changes. You have become beyond any doubt glorious. You truly could be queen of the fairies," Kuno bowed and presented the bouquet he held.
Despite herself, Ranma numbly grabbed the roses. "That's… that's… the most perceptive thing you've ever said to me."
"You actually are Titania!" Kuno exclaimed.
"How do you know about her?" Ranma asked incredulously.
"The Bard. He wrote 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.' I had always suspected that there was truth to his great works." Kuno smiled with the deranged certainty of a paranoid man who found out that the CIA really did put a chip in his brain.
"Oh yes… that play. About Titania and the other fairies," Nodoka noted. "Well, I'm sure you can start talking about that on your date. Unless you don't want to go with him."
"I am not dating him," Ranma stated, still holding the flowers.
"I understand," Nodoka nodded. "I'm sorry for the confusion. Of course, you don't have to go—"
"Oh, my love!" Kuno said suddenly hugging the petite fairy. "There is no need to be coy! You have accepted your destiny to be queen. Accept my destiny to be yours."
"No way!" Ranma shrieked as she shrunk down to fairy-size and escaped his grasp, the flowers dropping onto the floor. "I'm a guy, you moron!" the tiny fairy said despite all evidence to the contrary.
"Let's say we have a good time tonight — heck, maybe the evening even ends without me killin' you. What will you do next time I'm at school as a guy?" Ranma asked before returning to her human-size.
"I do not understand," Kuno stated with a slightly confused look.
"You know… my other body? Black hair, jumps high, punches you really hard, named Ranma."
"The Foul Sorcerer!"
"Sorcerer? Me?" Ranma laughed. "Please, I'm made from magic."
Kuno puzzled over the facts presented before him. "Clever, you used the guise of a man to test my love for you, knowing that if I persisted, our love was meant to be!"
Ranma stared at Kuno for a few heartbeats, watching as the certainty of his suggestion as it wrote itself in his eyes. She wasn't exactly sure where Kuno got the bizarre idea from, but as far as Kuno went, she was now sure of something else.
"You're stupider than I thought." Ranma shook her head. "It had nothing to do with you."
Kuno nodded and gave the impression that he was actually thinking. "I see! You used that form to help hide among the mortals." He bowed again. "Please forgive me for ever attacking you while you tried to remain hidden."
"No… That's not it either," Ranma sighed. "Never mind then. At least you finally figured out I'm Ranma Saotome."
"Can you change into your… other form or did the emergence of your true identity free you from it forever?"
"I was a guy," Ranma said crossly.
Kuno gave Ranma a measured look, as if he were sizing up an opponent. His brow furrowed, like waves on a beach, as he processed the newfound information. He gave a sharp nod of the head, as if he came to an absolute conclusion.
"The heavens have decreed you to be a queen. Truly a gift," Kuno said with a smile. Ranma stared back stupidly at the well-dressed man.
"Speaking of gifts, wait until you hear where he is taking you," Nodoka interjected.
"Mom, I'm not going on a date with Kuno. Not even for free food," Ranma shook her head in disgust. "Where did he think he was gonna take me, anyway?" She asked, purely out of idle curiosity, of course.
Nodoka gave a tiny smile. It was good that Kuno had picked this location. Of course she originally thought it was going to be a reunion between the two, but this could still work.
"We're going to Sushi-dokoro Mori," Kuno beamed. "When I told Mori-san about my date he was most pleased. I can assure you a most amazing experience. He truly is a master of his craft."
Ranma blinked. "You… know the chef at that ritzy sushi place?"
"Of course, even a noble such as myself has to eat," Kuno smiled. "As do queens I believe."
"Figures. How come our last date was so lame then?" Ranma asked critically.
"I thought something less formal would win you over more. I am sorry, my love. It is most fortunate that your mother ran into me and explained the error of my ways."
"I'm already dressed up, and I am hungry." Ranma paused in thought. "No… No way."
"I can assure you that Kuno's… exuberance will be perfectly contained. He'll be a perfect gentleman," Nodoka promised.
"Really," Ranma skeptically deadpanned. "You can promise he'll be good?"
"Perhaps the queen wants a chaperone," Wolf joked. He figured it was fine for him to talk, especially around this loon.
"Your familiar brings up a good point," Kuno agreed without missing a beat. "You are royalty, and despite my own considerable honor I would understand if you felt the need for escort during an outing."
"You… you're not surprised that the wolf suddenly talked?"
"Should I be?" Kuno asked.
"I can come with you if you insist," Nodoka offered.
"Yeah… that way it's not a date," Ranma muttered.
"Never mind that you're wearing a killer dress or that you spent over an hour getting ready," Wolf mumbled.
"You promise no funny business?" Ranma asked, ignoring the wolf.
"On my word as a samurai, my dear Ranma," Kuno said.
"Well…" Ranma summoned a glamour and made herself look human again. "Hey, you called me Ranma."
"That is your name, is it not? Or was that just a pseudonym for your time hiding among mortals?" Kuno asked.
"No, it's Ranma. You're right," the fairy queen waved her hands. "So, how good is this place?"
"Mori-san is without peer in his artistry," Kuno assured. He turned to Nodoka. "Will you be joining us? It would be a great honor to sit with the mother of my love."
"I will… that is, if my daughter is willing to take your offer," Nodoka said, relieved that she was wearing her good fairy kimono.
"I guess it can't hurt," Ranma said as she stepped forward. "And if it does, it'll be your pain," she warned in a cold tone. Ranma was relieved to see Nodoka pick up her sword.
"Of course," Kuno said as he took his date's hand.
Ranma's first instinct was to pull away but Kuno's grasp was surprisingly gentle. "Oh, okay then." She turned to… someone who was definitely not her date. "I didn't pretty up for you. I did it because… because… I wanted too. Yeah, that's it!"
"Absolutely. I would expect no less than for a queen to revel in her own beauty," Kuno agreed.
"Wonderful!" Nodoka exclaimed as she put Ranma's bouquet into a vase and refreshed her own glamour.
"Yeah, yeah," Ranma said as she was led to the door. She paused to put on her geta. A whining behind her got her attention. She smirked at Wolf. "I don't think they'll allow 'dogs'."
"Your familiar wants to come, my Ranma?" Kuno asked.
"Big oaf loves fish," Ranma commented.
"Shame we can't have him with us, though," Nodoka noted.
"Nonsense, I already reserved a more private section of the restaurant. Mori-san was most excited by my news. Doubtlessly, he will accommodate," Kuno assured.
Ranma weighed the options. She could punish Wolf, or add another person and make this less of a date. "That's great! I'm glad we can bring him."
"Anything you want, my dear," Kuno assured, as he put on his own shoes. "Oh the angels will write the glory of tonight, and our fates will be forever intertwined." He said as the group left the Saotome residence.
"Stop talking, Kuno. You're wrecking things," Ranma sweetly said as she dug her nails into his hand.
Nodoka smiled. She knew things would work out.
"You went on a date with Kuno?" Akane asked, incredulousness creeping into her voice.
Ranma blinked. "You already asked me that question. Six times."
"And I'll keep asking it until I get a sane answer," Akane glared. She heard the rumor that Ranma had gone on a date with Kuno, but dismissed it. Kuno was full of insane delusions. Akane thought she and her friend could have a good laugh about Kuno's insanity and then move onto some sparring.
"Oh… Well, about that…" The fairy queen nervously coughed. "It's not that simple."
"What, did that stupid box replace your brain with glitter?" Akane inquired.
"No," Ranma sighed and started to pace the dojo. "Look, it was my mom that set up the date."
"You have no idea."
"You must have been really mad at her," Akane noted.
"I can't be. That's the worst part, Akane. Mom didn't set me up on a blind date with Kuno… Well she did, but she thought she was setting me up on a surprise date with someone I liked but was too afraid to pursue. She was trying to help," Ranma sighed morosely.
"And that makes it hard to get mad at her. She was being all nice and everything. She wasn't setting me up with a guy against my wishes. She was surprising me," Ranma clarified.
"She set you up with Kuno, and you are not mad?" Akane asked in a careful and precise tone.
Ranma nervously fluffed her bangs. "I'm kinda, but… I can't… she's trying to be helpful… and it makes her so happy to think she's helpful. It's really hard to get mad. You know what I mean?" she absently babbled.
"But she made you date Kuno!" Akane knew Nodoka had to have forced Ranma to go on the date… somehow.
"Well… no…." Ranma blushed. "She apologized when she found out the truth, and offered to call off the date. Well, she was interrupted by Kuno, but she said enough."
"You still went?"
"She's trying to help me." Ranma stated, again. She hoped her… friend would understand. Right now, she needed Akane as a friend, not something… else. "What would you do if Kasumi set you up on a blind date with Kuno in the intention of helping you? What would you do?"
"I certainly wouldn't go on the date!"
"And hurt Kasumi's feelings in the process?" Ranma inquired, pointedly.
Akane paused. "But… with… Kuno…."
"See? It isn't so easy, is it?" Ranma gave a weak little smile.
"So you really went on a date? This would be real perverted, if it wasn't so awful." Akane shook her head.
"It wasn't really a date. Mom and Wolf were there."
Akane nodded in understanding. An outing as a group was not a date. That made more sense. "But… well… how was the date… er… outing?"
Ranma shrugged. "It was fine until mom started talking like Kuno."
"Fine? Talk like Kuno?" Akane asked, incredulousness back in her voice.
"The food was good. Really, really good," Ranma smiled remembering Mori-san's handiwork. He had been very proud to show off his craft and had made special seafood purchases for that meal. "It would have been better if something, anything, had gone wrong. But Mom was there keeping him 'honorable'. It was kinda creepy."
"A controlled Kuno?" Akane asked. Incredulousness had been replaced by frank disbelief.
"I guess something did go wrong," Ranma considered. "He and Mom got along."
"They have something in common?" Akane asked.
"I didn't know Mom knew about 'the Bart' or 'Babe' or 'Bard' or something like that… Eh, he was some playwriting guy. Mom spent a lot of time talking like Kuno does everyday."
"That's horrible," Akane gasped, a bit too theatrically.
"You know what's worse, Akane?" Ranma inquired with a sigh.
"When I asked what they were talking about, my mom said that we would have to work on my 'culture'."
"You poor dear," Akane said sarcastically. "But she does think you're a queen."
"Yes," Ranma nodded. "'Course, she thought Kuno was very cultured."
"You poor dear."
Ranma looked at her delicate little hands. "You have no idea."
"Is she trying to force you on another date?"
"Thankfully no." Ranma allowed herself a small smile. "But I bet she has a list of 'eligible bachelors of noble birth' lying around somewhere."
"She's making you go on dates with other guys?" Akane wondered how much guilt power Nodoka had over Ranma.
"She's preparing herself for when I'm ready," Ranma sighed again.
"How do you feel about it?"
"It would be easier if she were forcing me. Then I could just tell her no and put my foot down, but she's trying to be so darn helpful and understanding. She's waiting for me to 'come around'."
"So she just assumes you're going to go all-girl."
"'Least she's being supportive." Ranma shook her head again.
"So where did you go?" Akane asked. She wanted to know what was worth a "date" with Kuno.
"Sushi-dokoro Mori," Ranma coughed.
Akane blinked. "That ritzy little sushi place down by the park? That was where you went?"
"Yeah. Really, really good food."
There was a crash at the door to the dojo. Ranma walked over and slid the door open. "Hiya, Nabs! Wondered when you'd show up," Ranma laughed. Her antennae tipped her off on the spying, and she deduced the identity.
Nabiki quickly regained her footing. She looked the smaller girl-turned-fairy in the eyes, with an unsteady maniacal gaze. "You… went… where?"
"It's good then? Kuno goes there a lot?" Akane asked.
"Yah, Kuno's a regular. Kinda creepy. He's friends with Mori-san. Course, he spends enough to be real good friends."
"I should have known," Nabiki lamented.
"Guess we ate a fair bit. The old guy was practically crying by the end of the night," Ranma smiled.
"Kuno never took me there," Nabiki grumped.
"I'm not surprised," Ranma smirked. She turned to Akane. "There was another funny thing. All the other regulars were going on about how 'Kuno was right, and how he's not really crazy.'"
"I can't believe you got in. That place doesn't even have a sign. You have to know someone to get in," Nabiki shook her head.
Ranma raised an eyebrow. "I told you. I was taken by Kuno. Did you miss the part where I said Kuno was a regular? Kuno calls him Mori-san and Mori calls him Tatewaki-kun."
"I can't believe it. Not only do you go on a date with Kuno, but it's to that place," Nabiki sighed.
"Not my problem. I kinda expected him to blurt it to everyone he knew," Ranma sighed. "Least I had a good meal. Mom and Wolf had a good time too. That mutt sure does love fish."
"You took a dog into that place?" At least something that boneheaded was expected from Ranma.
"Mori-chan is a very smart man and knows a wolf when he sees one," Ranma corrected.
"Yes, he did seem very impressed with such a healthy young lady," Ranma smiled as she struck a pose.
"You really like using your body to get free stuff," Akane smirked. She stuck her tongue out. "Pervert."
"Oh, it wasn't free. Mori-chan was happy, but it was all on the tab," the fairy corrected as she stepped out into the back yard.
"I would have liked to see his face when he got handed the bill," Nabiki remark.
"Nabiki, Mori-chan's more discrete than that. You should know how finer eateries handle such things," Ranma smirked.
"Like you'd know anything." Nabiki bristled. "I bet you shoveled food down your gullet."
"With her mother right there? I doubt it," Akane said.
"Mori-san did his Art right in front of me." Ranma narrowed her eyes, and both the Tendo girls noticed the change in honorific and the implied capitalization. "I wouldn't insult him by just cramming myself. We had the whole evening for me to savor everything and get my fill, and he was real fun to talk to. Really liked showing off his work."
"Your mother must have been so proud," Nabiki remarked.
"Yes, I was," Nodoka sated as she stepped off of the Tendo house's back porch.
"That's good," Nabiki stated as she eyed the fairy-woman.
"Any luck with Pops?" Ranma asked.
"I'm afraid not." Nodoka sighed. "He's a very stubborn man."
"Just great," Ranma rubbed her temples. "What's the moronic plan him and Soun have cooked up? Akane becoming a guy? Or me marrying Soun?"
"Both, I'm afraid," Nodoka lamented.
"He's going to keep bugging me, isn't he?" Ranma asked.
"The only reason he's not out here now is because he's still strategizing with Soun," Nodoka reminded.
"Maybe Wolf's idea isn't so bad," Ranma proposed.
Wolf who had been napping in a spot near the koi pond, which was now missing a couple of fish, perked his ears and woke up. He trotted over to his mistress. "It was just a suggestion," he cautioned.
"Yeah, but who knows what moronic plan those two will come up with?" Ranma said.
"Desperation would make them… rash," Nodoka agreed.
"Maybe Ranma gets drugged, put in a wedding dress, chained in cold iron, and wakes up at the altar," Nabiki wondered aloud.
"Hey! Don't give them ideas!" Ranma shuddered.
"Where would they get enough cold iron? It was hard enough to find the impact craters back in the day," Wolf mumbled.
"Well… what could it hurt?" Ranma asked.
"What's this plan?" Akane asked.
Ranma smirked. "Pops and Mr. Tendo are full of weaknesses. Wolf and I came up with something that uses 'em to get them nice and outta the way."
"You could turn them into your fairy slaves and make them keep the house clean," Nabiki jokingly suggested.
"That can be arranged," Wolf said.
"Nah, no way I'm turning those two," Ranma shook her head.
"You can change others?" Nabiki asked.
"Of course she can," Akane said. "Look at Auntie Saotome. How do you think she became a fairy?"
"Oh yeah," Nabiki nodded as she chided herself for overlooking something so obvious.
"There you are… daughter," Genma sourly said as he and Soun walked out of the house. They had both been taking some "inspiration" to solidify their plans.
"What do yah want?" Ranma asked.
"You must marry a Tendo. However, your mother won't budge on this queen nonsense. So we have worked out a way for honor to be satisfied." Genma tried to inject some cheer into his voice.
"Lemme guess: marry Mr. Tendo or have Akane get cursed," Ranma sighed. She would not let Akane be cursed, and she'd sooner marry Kuno over Soun.
"Excellent my boy— er, girl! We'll let you pick which one," Genma said as he gave Soun a hearty slap on the back.
Soun, for his part, darted his eyes around nervously.
"Father, this is the stupidest plan you've even come up with," Akane angrily stated. "I'll have no part of this insanity."
"Husband, I hardly find these prospects proper for a queen," Nodoka stated.
"We've been over this. Family honor is at stake," Genma replied.
"Yes… and Ranma did not start out as a queen."
Wolf looked up at Ranma and gave a slight whine. Ranma nodded. She would try their plan. She inhaled. "Sorry Pops, it's not so simple. You can't just engage the queen of the fairies to just anyone. There's a… procedure."
"This is family honor," Genma reminded. "You can't dictate terms to me. I am your father and you will obey me." He was cut off by a tiny glowing blur hitting him in the face. The few-inch fairy of fury circled around her target. Genma had size and strength, but Ranma had speed, maneuverability and tiny glowing fists of doom. It only took a couple hits to bring him down.
"Are you going to listen to me?" Ranma asked as she flew above Genma's prone form. "I can keep this up, yah know."
"Procedure?" Genma asked, as he nursed his bruised jaw. "You're already set to be engaged to a Tendo… Would you agree to a wedding date?"
Ranma steeled herself. "Yes. Provided you succeed in your quest."
"Quest?" Genma asked. "Why do I have to go on a quest?"
"You and Mr. Tendo," Wolf clarified. "You and Mr. Tendo are the ones proposing a suitor. You have to prove yourselves."
"There is nothing to prove! It's an issue of family honor!" Genma cried.
As Ranma narrowed her eyes a blue glowing nimbus formed around her. The assembled humans were shocked at just how menacing a fairy could look.
"Human family honor does not apply to a fairy, and certainly not to their queen. You should feel privileged that she is humoring your request out the goodness of her heart," Wolf stated.
"So… what's this quest?" Soun asked disarmingly, hoping that his youngest would not pummel him.
"You must bring me the silver chalice of Avalon," Ranma said from memory. She had asked Wolf for the most obscure and difficult to find artifact.
"What does it look like?"
Wolf gave a magic incantation and a scrap of paper fell to the ground. Soun gingerly picked up a copy of the only remaining image of the chalice.
"Are those real gems on the sides?" Genma asked after taking the piece of paper from Soun.
"Of course," Wolf stated, vaguely insulted.
"Where is it?" Soun asked.
"If we knew it would hardly be a worthy quest to win a queen's hand," Wolf smirked.
"So all we have to do is find it and bring it back here?" Genma asked.
"Well… it's a rare item. Rumored to be full of restorative power. Wherever it is will be booby-trapped or protected by… something," Wolf finished with a fanged smile.
"Not afraid, are you, Pops?" Ranma taunted. "This should be a snap for you guys. You guys took magical stuff all the time back in the day. Maybe it'll even cure your baldness. Restorative powers and all that."
"You have a point," Genma nodded. "And we could… keep the item once we've gotten it?"
"Sure," Ranma said.
"Though once they get it, Ranma will be a blushing bride," Nabiki reminded.
"Of course," Ranma forced a smile. Wolf promised on his life that those two would never find it.
"Then it's done," Genma exclaimed as he grabbed Soun. "Come old friend, we must begin our quest at once."
"Yes, we must assure that the schools will be united," Soun agreed.
"You're falling for this?" Nabiki asked, only to get elbowed in the ribs by Akane. "What'd you do that for? If they get this thing, you'll have to become Ranma's husband."
Ranma landed on Akane's shoulder and whispered something into her ear. A satisfied smile grew on Akane's face and she nodded in agreement.
"Now, now Nabiki, a quest is perfectly proper," Nodoka said. "It will prove that Soun or someone of Soun's choosing is a worthy suitor for my daughter."
"Glad to hear we're finally in agreement," Genma said. He turned to Ranma. "And don't think I don't know what you're up to. You think we'll give up on this quest. Your arrogance will get you in a wedding dress."
"If you guys get the chalice, I'll marry whoever you choose," Ranma promised.
"I'll remember that," Genma noted. "We must be going, Soun. Hurry!"
"But what about supplies?" Soun asked as he was dragged through the house.
"We'll get them on the road, just like in the old days," Genma assured as he pocketed the image of the chalice, and led Soun out of the house.
"My goodness," Kasumi said as she entered the kitchen and put down the groceries. "Father and Mr. Saotome left in an awful hurry." She walked to the back porch to find the rest of the household. "Did I miss anything?"
"Ranma sending Father on a quest to win her hand in marriage," Nabiki deadpanned.
"Well, Miss Windgates would make a lovely mother," Kasumi smiled.
"Um… thanks, Kasumi. I'm flattered, but…" Ranma sighed, and returned to human height.
"You should be happy," Akane said as she patted her friend on the shoulder. "They'll be out of your hair."
"Aren't you worried about the possibility of having to get cursed and marrying Ranma?" Nabiki asked.
"I don't see that as a problem." Akane looked from Nabiki to Ranma and then chuckled.
Nabiki shook her head. There were several things that could mean. Especially given the rumors about her sister's… tastes and exactly how much of a tomboy she really was. "So, Ranma, does this chalice even exist?" Nabiki asked.
"Yes. I wanted them to go after something impossible like a phoenix tooth, but Wolf said that wasn't fair," Ranma shrugged.
"So how much of a chance do they have? Where is it?"
"I dunno. I've never seen this chalice and have no idea where it is," Ranma said telling the complete and utter truth.
"You're up to something," Nabiki said.
"Well, of course," Ranma rolled her eyes. "I just gave those two nimrods a way to get total power over who I marry."
"You're okay with this?" Nabiki asked Nodoka.
"Why not? A queen should have high standards, and be able to settle situations diplomatically. You did great, Ranma," Nodoka said, hugging her daughter.
"Thanks Mom," Ranma said as she returned the hug. "Maybe I can get the hang of this fairy stuff."
"I'll start lunch," Kasumi said.
"Mind if I help?" Nodoka asked. "I can explain what happened just now."
"That'd be delightful," Kasumi said as they went back into the house.
Nabiki wanted to say something like: I'll figure out what you're up to. However, Wolf's amused and predatory gaze dissuaded her. Nabiki honestly did not want her father and Genma to find that chalice. Neither Akane as a guy or Ranma as her mother appealed to her. She would keep an eye on things, but now was not the time to act. She excused herself and walked to her room.
It was now just Ranma, Akane and Wolf.
"That was a… risky thing you did," Akane stated.
"Not really. Wolf helped me come up with a fool-proof plan," Ranma said as she petted the wolf.
"With fools like those two, we needed one."
"I just can't believe we finally got them off of our backs," Akane said as she leaned on a porch column.
"Yeah, all it took was me becoming a fairy," Ranma grumbled.
"Maybe after lunch we can finally spar," Akane said. "I'd like to see more of that glowing fist thing. That was really cool."
"It's just something to cover for my weaker body," Ranma blushed.
"I'm serious, and you going all tiny. It makes you really hard to hit."
"Hmm… you may have something there." Ranma nodded. "I was just as strong in that tiny form as this human-size one."
"I can teach you more attack spells," Wolf offered.
"Sure, why not," Ranma agreed.
Ranma wandered down a street lost in her thoughts. The wolf walking next to her stopped trying to engage her in conversation. As they rounded a corner the fairy's introspection was abruptly shattered.
"My luminous queen, what ails you?" Kuno asked after studying the girl. He could sense that there was something amiss. His love was not her normal sparkling self.
"Oh… I just had a talk with Ucchan," Ranma sighed as she looked up at Kuno.
Wolf tilted his head, and wondered if anyone had ever called Ranma luminous before.
"The restaurateur friend of yours," Kuno nodded. "I hope the problem was not too grave."
"Well… that's the thing… I'm not sure. I think she's still my friend. Eh, like you care," Ranma dismissed.
"In spite of my obvious popularity, there are few that I can count on as close confidants," Kuno admitted.
"Uh…. right," Ranma hesitantly said. It was better when Kuno was completely deluded. This honesty stuff was starting to creep her out. "Well… I don't know. I told Ucchan what happened and she asked why I wasn't looking for a cure. Then it started to get…. to get…."
"Awkward?" Wolf offered. He remembered how the restaurant's temperature suddenly dropped and Ukyou's eyes hardened.
"Yeah, that's it," Ranma nodded. "Real awkward. I didn't even get lunch."
"Perhaps you should go back," Kuno suggested, helpfully. "Keep working at the problem."
"Maybe…" Ranma froze realizing what she was doing. "No! I won't. Thanks for the advice but…" She then smiled nervously.
"Would you care for some lunch then?" Kuno offered.
"What? Do you know another chef around here?" Ranma joked.
Kuno paused and started to think. "I do know of a cafe nearby. I must regret that they do not have lunch fare. However, their pastries are quite ingenious."
"Really?" Ranma's eyes widened in interest.
"What's with you two and food?" Wolf asked. He wondered exactly how sugary these pastries would be. Though Ranma seemed to be able to handle her sugar.
"It is a daily requirement, and it behooves people of our societal standing to be familiar with proper culinary creations," Kuno explained.
"Yeah… what he said," Ranma smiled as she cast a spell. It was a minor thing. Her makeup was refreshed, her hair was poofed a bit more, and her clothing became a tad more formal and revealing.
"You're going on another date with Kuno?" Wolf asked in shock.
"It's not a date. We're hungry."
"Indeed," Kuno nodded. "Fear not canine familiar, this is no true date, but simply a casual outing. Even so I would expect no less than your escort."
"Gonna pay off the owner?" Ranma asked as she followed Kuno to the cafe.
"Of course, my dear lady."
"This place better be good," Ranma cautioned.
"You will be the judge of that," Kuno said. They crossed the distance and arrived at the cafe shortly. Kuno talked the hostess and at Ranma's request got a table in front of the establishment under an eave.
"Oh…. hmm…." Ranma muttered as she looked over the menu. It was an appealing, yet bewildering selection.
"Would you like some help?" Kuno asked.
"Sure," Ranma said.
Kuno nodded and flagged down a waitress.
Wolf lifted his head up and watched the fairy queen chat with the server. Eventually, Ranma made up her mind, by ordering every item that she had any desire to taste.
"Your magical body is certainly… energetic," Kuno remarked as he sipped the tea he was just served. Still, his fairy queen had ordered less today than during their last date… so far.
Ranma blinked and then nervously giggled. "Yeah… that's it." The first part of the redhead's order arrived. She almost frowned at the care and skill that went into the pastries before her. She delicately picked up an éclair and gently consumed it. The downside to this fancy stuff was that she had to be careful when eating.
Kuno smiled at the giggle. Seeing his love become more at ease in his presence was heartening, as was her blooming femininity. "So your friend cannot see the truth of your new life?"
"I guess," Ranma sighed as she put down a pastry. "She can't believe that I'm not trying to get a cure. Heck, it took her a while to even believe I was Ranma. I thought Kuno was dense."
Ranma's companion raised an eyebrow. "I'm right here, Ranma," he said in an almost sane voice.
"Yeah… well you figured it out quick," Ranma blushed, wondering if free food was worth this. "'Course me being some fairy queen fits in with your nutty mind."
"You've always been a queen in my mind and heart," Kuno agreed.
"Figures," Ranma said before nibbling on something flakey and full of chocolate. "This must be some kinda dream for you ain't it?"
"Nay, I always strive to keep up with current events so I can aid the emperor whenever needed."
Ranma blinked. "What?"
"I do have a responsibility," Kuno stated.
"Right," Ranma deadpanned as she resumed eating.
"Thank you for the meal," Ranma said, energetically "It was really good!" she cheeringly babbled, in addition, as she was led to the door to her house.
"Truly, it was a treat to enjoy your company," Kuno agreed.
"Yeah…" Ranma smiled dreamily. She looked up at the taller teen.
Wolf shook his head. He forgotten just how much of an effect sugar had on fairies, especially the more magical ones. He remembered the one time Titania the First got so hopped up on sugar that she….
Wolf's and Kuno's eyes widened. However, unlike the canine, Kuno got over the surprise at what had started out as a simple dry kiss and joined in. Ranma broke the embrace with a giggle nearly skipped back a step.
Kuno froze. "Very enjoyable," he eventually stated after his brain reengaged. Like, like something out of my dreams. He thought before correcting himself. No. This was better than anything I could have imagined, and it was real. I did it! Kuno thought triumphantly.
"Glad you had fun! Bye Tachi-chan!" Ranma laughed as she opened the door and went inside.
"Least she didn't go as far as her predecessor," Wolf mumbled as he followed Ranma into the house.
Kuno absently nodded and wandered back home. A goofy and unstable grin adorned his face.
"Nice one," Wolf smirked.
"Huh?" Ranma asked as she removed her geta.
"What you did just now. I'm amazed you didn't glomp-tackle him or something," Wolf laughed. "Well… you did use tongue."
"I did?" Ranma asked horror creeping into her voice.
"Yes," Nodoka said, suddenly appearing, with a little smile. "It's okay dear, I understand." She was most pleased when she saw that kiss from the window.
"It's good to see you back with the man you chose for yourself. I'm sorry if I caused problems before," Nodoka bowed slightly.
"I didn't choose him!" Ranma cried.
"Are you saying you're going out with this man against your will?" Nodoka fingered her sword. "Will we have to deal with him?"
"No!" Ranma shouted. "Well… he did try to wish for that a few times, but… a foot to the face changed his mind real fast"
Nodoka's face lit up. "He wanted to use a wish for your happiness? My daughter's so lucky!" she cried.
"Mom… that wasn't," Ranma blinked. She felt drained all of a sudden. She then noticed the tears coming down her mother's face. The sugary elation quickly left Ranma and she felt drained and depressed. However, empathy bloomed within her, and the fairy queen sniffed. "Mom… mom don't cry!" Ranma then ran to her mother and hugged her.
"It's okay daughter, whatever you want." Nodoka reassured as she stroked her daughter's hair. "It's your choice."
"Thanks," Ranma absently smiled, feeling sluggish from the sugar crash.
"Did you have a good date?"
"Mom! It wasn't a date. We were just hanging out," Ranma pulled away from her mother. "I'm not that way with Kuno! I mean, this is Kuno!"
Nodoka's face turned serious. "Then it seems you need a lesson in how to act like a proper young lady. I will not have my daughter leading men on like some hussy! Not only a hussy but a woman with loose morals! You're a queen, Ranma and you have to have high standards and set a good example to your subjects!"
Wolf silently agreed. Though so far Nodoka was the queen's only subject.
Amazingly Ranma managed to pale. "What? What?"
"I watched your goodbye to that young man outside. I must say, daughter, for someone you don't care about, you almost mounted him on the lawn." Despite herself, Nodoka allowed a small, secretive, smile to form on her face.
"But… but… that…" Ranma blushed furiously, but she also knew somehow that if she had had just a bit more sugar that her mother's words might have become a reality.
"Sugar does make fairies more… excitable," Wolf interjected.
"Why the heck didn't you say so? What're you tryin' to do? Get me-"
"You've eaten some food with sugar before. I thought you weren't at risk," Wolf explained. "Turns out you just take a mess of sweets to get going."
"Even so…" Nodoka mussed. "I mean, I thought you did not want to be girly and feminine?" she asked her daughter.
Wolf snorted. "Yeah right. You should have seen her as soon as Kuno suggested they go out for lunch. Instant babe mode, including a makeup job and a new dress."
"Yes, I see that now," Nodoka nodded. "This isn't what you left home in, daughter. Why do you lie to me Ranma?" She then noticed her daughter fidgeting and panicked expression.
"I… well… I used to…" Ranma blushed. She did not know if she should tell her mother that she used to pretend to be a flirty girl just to get food. That might just make things worse.
Nodoka sighed and took her sword off her hip. "I'm sorry I ever said anything about being manly too you," She then reached out and hugged her daughter again. "I just want you to be happy."
"And grandchildren," Ranma giggled, before she could control herself.
"Yes and lots of grandchildren. Before you unlocked your fairy life I had come up with some plans," Nodoka confessed. "But now helping you with your new life is what's most important.
"Thanks Mom," Ranma smiled. "Just… don't force me okay. I really don't… I don't feel that way… we were just talking. That's all."
"I promise. I'll help you as best as I can," Nodoka agreed.
"Did you two have a good time?" Kasumi asked as she served her guests tea. Ranma got it in a small cup with no sugar. She was still remembering the pastry incident a few days ago. Amazingly, Kuno had yet to try to force sweets on her. Wolf got his in a bowl with a bit of cream.
"Oh yeah," Ranma grinned. The tiny fairy then returned to her larger form, and sipped her tea. Her little body was incredibly maneuverable and fast. It had lots of potential.
"Good," Kasumi nodded. "It looked very…. colorful."
"Yeah, who knew this tiny body had a magical kick to it," Ranma agreed.
"I tried to explain it to you," Wolf grumbled.
"I'm amazed you didn't damage the lawn," Kasumi noted as she sat down herself. Father and Mr. Saotome were still on their quest and her little sisters were at school.
"I… er did…" Ranma blushed.
"Repairing that crater and growing back the lawn was good practice," Wolf reminded.
"How handy," Kasumi happily noted. Her voice was vapid but her eyes were alert.
"Yeah… I can't wait to try these attacks at full power," Ranma nodded. "It's not martial arts… but there's still somethin' cool about blowing stuff up."
"How is your martial arts going?" Kasumi asked after taking a sip from her own tea cup.
"Akane's been trying to help me but…" Ranma sighed. "This body's just not built for strength. I've got the flexibility and speed, but…"
"You fight better when you're little?" Kasumi asked.
"Yeah," Ranma nodded. "That's when my small size is an asset, and my speed's even more handy, but I have to use magic to make my hits count for anything."
"Like that time you pounded your dad," Wolf laughed.
"It's a real shame I missed that," Kasumi lamented.
"I'm sure he'll be back soon enough, empty handed and full of excuses," Ranma remarked.
Kasumi nodded. She wondered something about Ranma, and with it just being the three of them she could get her answer. "Is that a new dress?"
"Yes, it is" Ranma beamed. She quickly got up, twirled, and then silently cursed the "rounding off" magic.
"It's a lovely color. The blue really goes with your hair accents," Kasumi nodded.
"Thanks," Ranma smiled. She then looked down at herself and blushed as she sat back down.
"Something the matter?" Kasumi innocently asked.
"I… I hate this stupid mind magic!" Ranma cried as she looked at her manicured hands.
"I thought it just 'rounded off the edges'. You made it sound like mere valium," Kasumi remarked.
"I feel out of control. I'm changing into… this," Ranma said as she flicked one of her antennae.
"Want me to try lifting the mind magic a bit?" Wolf offered. "It won't do anything about your biology. You'll still have to deal with that of course."
Ranma narrowed her green eyes on the canine. "I thought you said you couldn't do that. That Titania's spell was too strong."
"I did, and it is, but I've been working on a way to weaken it. The spell won't be gone and I have no idea how much, if at all, it would weaken it," Wolf cautioned.
The wolf tilted his head.
"You want me to be a queen, why are you offering to take part of the stuff that makes me a queen?" Ranma asked skeptically, with a hint of hope.
"Majesty, you are my queen. I swore an oath. I cannot lie to you. I will do anything to help and protect you," Wolf stated looking Ranma square in the eye.
"Yeah… you never did try to use me, and you're up front about your agenda," Ranma muttered. "Okay fine. Do it."
"Yes," Wolf said as he sat on his haunches. He then stared Ranma in the eyes again.
"What are you-" Ranma was cut off by a splitting sensation in her brain. It then faded into a dull headache. "Ow! That had better work."
"You tell me," Wolf stated.
Ranma got up and twirled once more. She scattered glitter everywhere but refrained from giggling. "I… feel better already."
"I'm glad, Ranma," Wolf nodded.
I think I'm in control now. I can make decisions!"
"I thought you could before," Kasumi reminded.
"What do you want to do, my queen?" Wolf asked with a big grin. He was pretty sure his spell had an effect, but he was doubtful it was statistically meaningful. He just hoped that Ranma did not ask any further.
"Get ice cream," Ranma laughed. She knew it was risky. Sweets did have those side effects.
"Excellent choice," Wolf agreed. He had developed a taste for Tuna ice cream, lobster was not bad either, and he was just waiting for the chance to try mackerel.
"Are you going to the one Kuno happens to stop by?" Kasumi asked.
Ranma blinked at the eldest Tendo daughter for a heartbeat. "How… did you?" Ranma's face paled.
"Your best friend is my little sister," Kasumi giggled.
"Oh yeah…" Ranma coughed.
"Akane also told you about all the rumors at school," Wolf reminded.
"The school's always full of rumors," Ranma sighed, dreading her eventual return. Before Ranma went back, her mother wanted to make sure Ranma was okay with her change, and could handle school again.
"But some of them are true," Kasumi reminded, without saying which ones.
"Yeah, but at least I'm more in control," Ranma said.
"So we won't have to deal with a moping Goth fairy?" Wolf asked.
"Yeah, like I'd wear black leather and white face makeup," Ranma laughed.
"You really going to be okay?" Kasumi asked, putting a hand on the fairy's shoulder.
"Yeah… I think I am," Ranma smiled. She idly considered offering fairyhood to Kasumi, but dismissed it. It was too soon; she would ask later.
"Something still wrong?" Kasumi asked.
"Well… it's weird. I have Mom, Akane and Wolf, but there's still things I can't talk about with them," Ranma coughed again.
"Well, Mom and Akane… they get a bit funny when I talk about certain… things. They both have… engagements on the mind."
"Agendas you mean?" Wolf clarified. He wondered if Ranma was talking about what he thought she was. It made sense. There was no way someone could be that clueless. Hanging out was not just hanging out when it was with a boy and a girl, alone.
"Yeah that," Ranma nodded. "And Wolf, I trust you yah big hair-pile, but you're a wolf. I can't talk to you about some things."
"I… see?" Kasumi asked.
"Can you keep a secret? Will you?" Ranma's eyes darted nervously.
"Of course," Kasumi agreed. All someone had to do was imply what was being told to her was in confidence and she'd keep the secret. It was not her fault that so many people just assumed she kept secrets for everyone.
"Normally… I don't care about leading on a guy. The free food's worth it, but I'm… worried." Ranma sighed. "I think… I'm pretty sure… aw heck, I've got no idea what's going on in that big idiot's brain."
"It's not very nice to mess with people's feelings, Ranma," Kasumi cautioned.
"I don't know if I am. We're just hanging out, and he seems happy. I'm happy, but… I dunno. I'm sure it's just the food he buys me," Ranma sighed.
Kasumi leaned forward and ran her hand through Ranma's thick hair. "It's okay. You're not being mean. You're a young… you're young and your heart is in the right place."
"Kasumi! I don't wanna hear that!"
"I'm sorry, but you seem to have the situation in hand. It's not like you've actually done anything to lead this… person on. You're just two young people hanging out. I am worried about one thing. What if one of you is taking things more seriously than the other?" Kasumi asked.
"Well…. we just hang out, besides Wolf's always there and Mom's often there," Ranma stated. "Good to know nothing's wrong, and Akane was worried about me." The redhead shook her head in amusement.
"Always glad to talk," Kasumi agreed. She sipped her tea and thought. "Ranma, I was wondering…. Will fairy dust and happy thoughts really let you fly?"
"Huh?" Ranma asked.
Wolf sighed. "Get drunk one night and let slip an old fairy secret and look what they do with it."
"So it'll really work?" Kasumi asked her eyes lighting up.
"Sure, the hardest part is getting enough fairy dust, but Ranma's solved that issue," Wolf said.
"Hey! Um… this won't cause any side effects will it?" Ranma asked.
"Aside from temporary weightlessness? Nope." Wolf assured.
"Flying is one of the best parts," Ranma agreed. "Okay Kas, we can go flying."
"Great," Kasumi said as she got up. She looked down at herself and blushed. "Um… Ranma is it okay if I wear a dress while flying? I'm not nearly as daring as you."
Ranma sighed. "Yeah… I think you'll be fine, but if you want you can wear one of my old silk shirts and pants."
"Is that who I think it is?" Nabiki asked as she looked out a classroom window.
"Wow, I guess those rumors about Ranma are true," a female classmate noted.
"Well, he's always been a bit of a fairy if you ask me," another female student laughed.
"Yeah, the fairy part I got, but what's with her looking like Nabiki's older sister?" a male classmate asked. The girl that landed looked like Kasumi, but was wearing Ranma's customary clothes.
Nabiki would have rolled her eyes, but she was busy watching her sister land in the school yard in a glittery cloud. "Why is Kasumi flying?" she asked to herself.
"The lady Tendo must have spent the day with Queen Ranma and learned of our growing relationship," Kuno beamed knowingly. "Doubtless she is here to learn my true feelings for her. Maybe even warn me about any untold action that would hurt her friend."
Nabiki sighed. "Not everything is about you and Ranma."
"Your elder sister was just glittering and flying," Kuno replied as he stood up.
"That doesn't mean…. yeah you're probably right," Nabiki put a hand to her temple. She was starting to understand Ranma's situation and it was giving her a headache.
"Indeed," Kuno said before politely informing the teacher that he had to excuse himself.
"Wow… Kuno was right?" another student asked. "Maybe he's right about… no that's too crazy."
Nabiki shook her head. Things kept getting stranger and stranger.
"Hello Kuno," Kasumi bowed slightly and dusted herself off.
"Greetings. May I call you Kasumi?" Kuno asked as he led the girl to a section of trees on campus that provided a bit more privacy
"Of course," she nodded. "I'm sorry if I interrupted your class work. I was planning to wait until lunch to contact you," Kasumi blushed.
"Nonsense, scholastic endeavors come second to helping a maiden. How can my greatness help your problem?" Kuno asked with all due seriousness.
"It's about Ranma," Kasumi stated.
"Nothing's wrong with her, is there?" Kuno asked, his face aghast.
"Well…" Kasumi paused trying to find the right words. "You tend to normally be exuberant, Kuno, and Ranma… she's… wary."
"Indeed. I came on too strong when she was hiding among mortals. I thought my manly prowess would be enough." Kuno attained a simulation of contemplation. "However, if I simply enjoy her company she is naturally drawn to me. It is most… reassuring," he finished with a little smile.
"It's good that your intentions are honorable," Kasumi noted.
"My dear Kasumi, my goddess has finally begun the long journey to reciprocating to me the love I have for her. I will not ruin her happiness. This I promise you," Kuno swore.
"I'm glad to hear that," Kasumi smiled approvingly. Ranma really was lucky. Kasumi just hoped that her friend would be able to realize this, and not do something… rash.
The two talked for a bit longer and Kasumi gave some advice, but she soon left. She did not want to make him unduly tardy. Unfortunately, Kasumi had spent long enough on the ground for the fairy dust to wear off and had to walk home, but she did it with a spring in her step.
Wolf padded alongside his mistress. She seemed happy; of course she always seemed happy during her late afternoon walks. He knew that idle banter would not be advised. Wolf carefully refrained from commenting on his charge's clothes or makeup. There was nothing special about today, it was just a walk, and it would likely end like most other walks with them going home.
The canine narrowed his eyes when he heard the almost expectant sigh. He looked around and was able to spot Ranma's… friend. Once again Wolf held his tongue. It was not his place. His mistress was happy and so far things seemed platonic enough. Either way it was a positive sign that Ranma was easing into her life and more importantly deciding things for herself.
Wolf did sigh when he saw Ranma unconsciously primp her hair. Turning someone who was vain as a guy into the queen of the fairies led to some interesting side effects.
"You're awfully quiet," Ranma noted, startling the wolf. "Something wrong?"
"Oh nothing. It is odd that we ran into Kuno, again." Wolf's statement slipped out before he could pull it back.
"Not at all," Ranma stiffly replied as she happily waved while walking over to Kuno. "He's decent company."
"Are they still following?" Genma asked as he ran up a forest path.
As Soun turned to look back he spotted a group of villagers down the path in pursuit. "Yes they are."
Genma nodded and resumed his running. "I don't get what their concern was."
"We were taking an ancient goblet from their shrine."
"I told the priest that it was to for family honor. I told him we'd bring it back…."
"After we got caught trying to take it," Soun sighed as he ran after his old friend.
"Oh well," Genma sighed before brightening. "That old thing didn't look like the drawing anyway. We would have had to steal some gems to glue on it anyway."
"Indeed," Soun said while he nearly tripped on an exposed root.
"At least we managed to get some food from them," Genma remarked as he leaped over a small mountain stream.
"Yes… that was what got the villager's attention," Soun dryly stated.
"Come on," Genma said. "We have to find that cup thing. Every day we're out here is another day Ranma's alone with my wife."
"Yes… that could be trouble," Soun agreed before turning to get one last look at the angry mob that they were slowly escaping.
"You look very lovely," Nodoka complimented her daughter as Ranma came downstairs. She started helping her mother set places around the table. Ranma had wanted to help cook, but her mother had been insistent.
"Thanks Mom," Ranma blushed. "But this is just a normal nice dress and stuff," she said being modest. The dress was a bit more formal than normal.
"I know," Nodoka said and gave a little laugh to herself. She was heartened when her daughter agreed to this date. She had noticed her daughter going out with that Kuno boy with steady regularity, over the past couple weeks. After that first lunch date, Nodoka had only seen them return home absently holding hands and her daughter give Kuno the occasional peck on the cheek.
Nodoka was worried, however. Her daughter was surprisingly fragile in certain areas, and Nodoka was deeply concerned about Ranma's happiness. There was also what Kasumi had told Nodoka a few days ago. "Daughter… Are you sure about this?" Nodoka started after they sat down.
Ranma gave her a measured look. She then looked at the table. "I… I guess," she stated evenly. She did not like hiding the truth from her mother, but she had a plan. Tonight would go the way she wanted it to.
"It's very brave of you to acknowledge your feelings," Nodoka smiled. "It should be a lovely date."
"It's not a date," Ranma grumbled. "You're still here."
"If you say so," Nodoka said careful to not let her concern creep into her voice. Her daughter's blind spot was worrying her. "You do remember what tonight's about right?"
"Yes Mom," Ranma sighed.
"Wonderful." Nodoka's concern abated. Maybe her idea for tonight was good. Her daughter did know full well what was going on, and had — after a bit of persuasion — agreed to it.
"Uh… okay. Oh, there's Kuno," Ranma smiled as she heard the knocking at the front door.
Nodoka sighed. After tonight, her daughter would be able to face her feelings, and then her relationship with her… boyfriend could move forward, without denials.
"It's wonderful to see you, my queen," Kuno said as he removed his shoes. He was in a suit similar to the one he wore on their first "date". Woodenly standing next to him was Kodachi. She was wearing a surprisingly tasteful black dress with rose accents. It was very form fitting but, unlike Ranma's dress, completely opaque
"That's a very lovely, dress," Ranma said trying to be civil. Given what she was planning for later tonight, she felt a bit guilty.
"Thank you, yours suits you as well," Kodachi said coolly.
"Um… thanks," Ranma paused. It was very odd to have Kodachi be civil, but if Kuno could be pleasant to be around… "Please come in."
"Your father could not make it?" Nodoka inquired.
"His business keeps him out of the city I'm afraid," Kuno stated with a small smile.
"Indeed. I called him and got everything straightened out, though," Nodoka noted.
"It may be for the best," Kuno agreed. "Is your husband still traveling as well?"
"Yes, my husband's still away on a trip too. I called the Tendo's to confirm."
"Things will be easier without him," Ranma stated.
"We should sit down and have some tea first," Nodoka advised as she ushered the guests to the table.
"So Kodachi, you agreed to come?" Ranma asked.
"I'm here as a witness, and I am pleased that you dropped your pursuit of Ranma," Kodachi said simply as she sipped the tea Nodoka served her. "My brother told me some fairy tale about you actually being Ranma and that his manliness was just some disguise," Kodachi sighed. "Really, the dark sorcery stuff was so much more believable."
"She hasn't studied any dark sorcery yet. That's next week," Wolf stated with an amused smile.
Kodachi turned and looked at the wolf, then at Nodoka's sword, and finally at the redheaded harlot's ears. "The dog did not talk," she said with total conviction.
"Oh-kay." Ranma blinked.
"I guess I should start then," Nodoka said clearing her throat. "I've arranged an Omiai between you and Tatewaki," Nodoka smiled.
Ranma froze. She knew this was coming. Her mother had told her about this idea, and, after coming up with her own plan, Ranma had even agreed to it.
Sitting next to her, Kuno tilted his head and smiled slightly.
"I'm engaged to Kuno," Ranma stated her tone somewhat despondent. She wanted to spring her plan right now and be done with this evening.
"We already talked about this daughter. Think of it as a pre-engagement. If you like him you two can go further. If not you can break it off, no harm done," Nodoka explained quickly, hoping to avert disaster. "I've been watching your budding relationship, and… though you needed some help. This way you know both our families approve."
Ranma paled at the implication of what "further" meant. "I'm sorry but there is no relationship," she said trying to be calm. She had aggraded to this; she had a plan.
"Ranma…. you've been dating Kuno for a couple weeks," Nodoka stated. "You consented to this Omiai!"
"I was not dating… I mean…" Ranma suddenly felt flushed.
"Were you just leading my brother on then? Typical." Kodachi snorted.
"I was not! I care…" Ranma shook her head, and tried to focus "I wasn't." She then felt herself being hugged by Kuno.
"We are already so close my love! Do not be afraid. With the blessings of our families we will move onward to marital bliss!" Kuno said in what he presumed was a soothing tone.
"No!" Ranma screamed. A blue nimbus surrounded her and she tossed Kuno across the room. Eyes widening she ran over to his crumpled form. "Oh my… Sorry Kuno, old reflexes still active." Ranma blushed. Dummy stick to the plan! She thought to herself.
"It's okay," Kuno coughed. "Your spirit is one of the reasons I love you."
Ranma inhaled. "Kuno…. I…. I don't feel that way."
"But we're engaged, my love! We're dating!" Kuno's eyes became panicked. The world was starting to make sense to him, and now it was threatening to become disjointed and confused.
"I'm sorry, Tachi." Ranma hung her head.
"Daughter, you seem to be forgetting the point of the arrangement. You're being set up with Kuno to see if there's potential for a relationship. Normally. The Omiai is set between two people who have never met before."
"Yes, I know." Ranma asked as she and Kuno returned to the table.
"You don't love Kuno, but people don't love each other at the start of an Omiai. The point is to see if love can bloom, in a controlled and safe environment."
"I don't like guys," Ranma stated. She looked over to Kuno's expression and frowned. She felt even more guilty for what she was about to spring on the big moron.
"Big words for a girl who has a boyfriend," Wolf smirked. Earlier, he asked Ranma why she did not just refuse the Omiai. That would have been much simpler than her plan. Ranma reasoning was that Kuno would think they were engaged even if she refused, and this would be a surefire way to get him out of her hair.
Wolf was suspicious, and thought that Ranma had other reasons. Ones she barely acknowledged herself.
"I don't have a boyfriend!" Ranma shouted. She then heard a knocking coming from the front door.
"I wonder who that is," Nodoka said as she stood up, walked over to the door and answered it.
Kodachi used this chance to examine the others in the room. Her brother was fawning over the harlot and her absurd costume. Kodachi then looked at the canine. She stood up and walked over to the animal.
"Yeah, what do you want?" Wolf asked.
"You don't talk. It's all a trick, and I'm onto you," Kodachi said glaring at what had to be a dog.
"Good for you." Wolf yawned before lying on his side. He lazily watched Kodachi return to her seat.
Ranma shook her head. Tatewaki really was the sane one of that family.
Nodoka then returned with the large, Hawaiian themed, form of Tatewaki's and Kodachi's father. "It looks like Kuno-san was able to make it," Nodoka said with a forced smile as she led him to an open place setting.
"So I'm hearin' your marryin' into the family?" the deranged educator drawled.
"I thought you were away on business," Kuno stated.
"I reconsidered. It's not often my only son is about to get married."
"We're not getting married," Ranma growled.
"And Ranma is my heir." Nodoka corrected. "But more importantly she's a queen."
Kodachi blinked, and wondered if her brother's delusions were contagious, but as long as this redheaded harridan was married to her halfwit brother and not her Ranma-sama then things were fine with her.
"'Long as my Tachi marries your daughter, I dun' care," Principal Kuno stated. "We can have the wedding in the school."
Ranma decided to use this opportunity. She let her glamour drop and stood up. "I could almost stand an Omiai with Kuno, but you…. I don't even want to know why you want the wedding in the school! Or even why you want me to marry your son. I'll be no part of your sick plans!"
"You tell him, my glorious queen!" Kuno agreed.
"I'm sorry Kuno, I was planning for my announcement to be civil, but your father ruined that." She looked at the assembled people. It was time to unveil her plan. "I'm not going to be pushed around anymore," her voice was dangerously quiet.
"I'm sorry daughter," Nodoka stated. "I thought… I thought you liked him."
A brief smile flashed across Ranma's face. "I know, and we tried to work things out this way."
"And you're going to spend it in ludicrous costumes?" Kodachi asked.
"Like you're one to talk," Ranma replied.
"Ranma, what's wrong? You knew there was a chance of Kuno's father showing up. You still agreed to this" Nodoka wanted to make it clear to her daughter that she was not trying to control Ranma's life.
"It's okay, mom," Ranma smiled and then turned to Kuno. "Was it all an act? Were you just acting like a… human being in some new scam to get me in bed?"
Kuno blinked. He kept his head up but the hurt look returned. "No my queen. I would do nothing do endanger your love. I see now that you're delicate. More so than you realize."
Ranma smirked. "Prove it then."
"How would I do that?" Kuno asked.
Wolf perked his ears up. Ranma did agree to the Omiai but only after she and Wolf had come up with this plan.
"A quest," Ranma stated.
Instantly Kuno perked up. "Of course. A noble quest to win the hand of my beloved. If I succeed we are to be wed?"
"If you succeed?" Ranma smirked. "Yes. That sounds fair. Of course if you fail…"
"I will have proven myself unworthy," Kuno said. He then straightened up. "Do not worry Your Majesty, I will succeed."
"I suppose we could send him after the chalice," Wolf offered trying to sound like he had just thought of that.
"Nay!" Kuno shook his head. "It is already being perused by her father. I want to go after something of true use to my queen. Something she does not have and requires."
"How did you know about that?" Ranma asked.
"I purchased the information from Nabiki Tendo," Kuno suggested. "I inquired to her… services where your father and her father had gone off to."
Wolf blinked. He did not expect Kuno to be that on the ball.
"Okay… Wolf? What's the most obscure lost treasure?" Ranma asked. They had discussed many items for Kuno to go after.
Wolf thought for a moment. There was so much stuff. Artifacts had a way of getting lost over the numerous years of Titania's reign. He went over the list of artifacts that he and Ranma had agreed on and picked the most obscure.
"There is some fairy armor. The only records left of it are something about breathless power, silver coloration, and some of the patterns on it," Wolf offered.
"Perfect," Ranma nodded. There was no chance Kuno could get that stuff. "We'll give Kuno some of the patterns, and keep the rest to ourselves for verification," Ranma proposed.
"Excellent idea," Kuno agreed. "If I can do this service for you I will have proven my abilities to you."
"I still say a wedding right now would be better," the principal said through his irritating accent.
"You just want a luau," Kodachi sighed, before returning to the exchange. It was clear that the redheaded harlot had only been using Tatewaki. Her real target must still be Ranma-sama.
"Silence please. There is important quest to talk about," Kuno interjected.
"Mind you, legend says it's guarded by a powerful demon, and everyone who's gone questing for it has never returned," Wolf cautioned.
Ranma looked over to Kuno who had an eager purposeful look. "You're just making this quest better and better for him," she laughed.
"Are you sure that's wise?" Wolf asked.
"Excuse me for a moment," Ranma said before shrinking down and flying over to wolf who she led out of the room. "Can he really get this armor?" Ranma asked in a whisper, once they were in a private room.
"As I told you before, people much more skilled and powerful than him have died trying to take it, but can I guarantee that he won't somehow find it?" Wolf shook his head. "Sorry, Majesty, this won't be like the chalice. You knew the risks when you came up with this plan"
"So it's like a backwards lottery ticket," Ranma muttered.
"There's a very, very small chance I'll lose but a huge chance I'll be rid of this mess."
"Are you going to throw a quest at every person that tries to marry you?" Wolf asked.
"Why not? It worked fine on Pops and Mr. Tendo."
"You're the boss," Wolf sighed.
"Damn right," the fairy queen said before she flew back to tell a nobleman the quest he had to complete to win her hand.
"I hope this ends up better than what happened to the first Titania," Wolf muttered to himself.
"I'm proud of you," Nodoka whispered to her daughter when they were both in the kitchen. After Ranma's proclamation the meal had proceeded as smoothly as could be expected. Nodoka had to show her blade to keep Kodachi polite, and Ranma got to test some of her spells when the Kuno patriarch got a bit… rambunctious. Threatening that ludicrous palm tree was most effective. The two Saotome women were now clearing the meal's dishes.
"What?" Ranma asked as she put down a large bowl.
"You handled yourself very well. You really know how to pick your men. I mean if Kuno does this for you… you'll know he's the man for you. He'll be brave resourceful, and committed to you, all in a man you already know and get along with," Nodoka said.
"Yeah…. that was the reason." Ranma then laughed.
"I'm sorry, honey. I should have let you handle this. It's clear you were planning to spring this quest on Kuno yourself," Nodoka said as she hugged her daughter.
"Yeah, thanks, Mom," Ranma agreed as she hugged back. She did not have the heart to tell her mother the truth, and wondered if she could. Her mother already knew what was essentially the truth.
"I know you're worried, but if Kuno's really the one for you he'll succeed on this quest." Nodoka reassured.
"Yeah… that's true," Ranma said gaining some confidence. Of course Kuno would fail, it was an impossible quest.
"Come on," Nodoka said as she picked up a serving tray laden with after dinner tea and desserts. "You have one last meal with…" She paused. "I'm sure Kuno will start his quest as soon as he leaves.
"Yeah, I bet he will too," Ranma said. Some pity welled within her. After all, she was sending Kuno on a potentially dangerous wild goose chase, but he did want to go on this. It was his choice, and Ranma also considered asking Nabiki to film the good parts of his bumbling quest. It would be expensive, but it might be worth it.
"You can't even wear a normal uniform?" Akane asked as she looked her friend over.
"Sucks, doesn't it?" Ranma sighed as she fingered the translucent material that made up her dress.
"Did you at least try to wear a normal one?" Akane inquired sharply as she picked up her briefcase.
"Yeah, and it turned into this," Ranma stated as she pointed to her dress and blouse. It looked like a less opaque Furinkan girl's uniform, but the skirting was very different. True to Ranma's style it the jumper's skirt was sectioned into petals that started at her waist and ended below the knees.
"Oh dear…. going for a certain kind of impression on your first day back in school," Nabiki remarked after exiting the Tendo house and seeing Ranma and her "uniform" for the first time.
"What?" Ranma asked. "I've worn less."
"Around your Tachi-chan?" Nabiki teased. "Well… I can see your underwear through that thing. Wonder what a bunch of hormonal boys will see," Nabiki remarked as she left the two girls and went to school. There was serious potential in this. Though not as much as there could have been. Ranma had smartened up and finally managed to get rid of Kuno… after milking him dry for a couple weeks.
"My uniform's not that bad - is it?" Ranma asked. She wished her glamour would make her clothing less risqué. She asked Wolf about it, but could not get a serious answer. He kept saying nonsense about hormones or something.
Akane sighed at the innocence in her friend's voice. "You have worn worse… and you're kinda stuck this way."
"You're right!" Ranma smiled. "Come on… let's go," she said pulling Akane towards the school.
They soon approached the school. "Not again," Ranma muttered when she noticed the crowd of teenage boys cluttering the entrance to the school. Apprehension and a fluttery feeling filled Ranma as she stared down the assembled boys.
She strode forward and stared at the glazed and salivating mass. Ranma continued to stare the assemblage down, disgust forming within her. She resumed her forward progress and the throng blinked, shuffled, and parted to let her pass.
Ranma wiped her brow, the fluttery feeling in her stomach returned. She looked around the class. She never noticed how…. Ranma blinked, and tried to remember what she was thinking about.
"Miss Saotome, I know this is your first day back but please pay attention," the teacher cautioned.
"Sorry Sensei," Ranma blushed. The rest of the class was staring at her, and it felt… odd. Ranma liked getting attention but it somehow felt… personal.
"Now class, just because Miss Saotome's not paying attention doesn't give you the excuse to be distracted by her. You all can talk to her when class is over," the teacher said.
Ranma nodded and resumed her daydreaming. Oddly enough, it was about Daisuke. She was surprised how good his uniform looked on him. The redhead's eyes widened as her heart rate sped up, and the fluttery feeling cranked up until it shifted into a warmth that flushed through her body.
"Miss Saotome? Is something wrong?" the teacher asked; her irritation at the interruptions was mitigated by the embarrassed almost pained expression on the redhead's face.
"Yes!" Ranma cried. "I'm sorry, I've gotta go to the bathroom!" she said holding her briefcase protectively over her chest.
"Er… of course," the teacher allowed.
"Thank you," Ranma gasped as she ran out of the room, carefully avoiding looking at the male half of the class.
"Ranma, what's happening to you?" Akane wondered. She managed to stay in her seat for a full minute before getting up and looking for Ranma.
"I've just gotta calm down and clear my head," Ranma thought as she ran into the bathroom without looking at the door. Once inside her nose was assaulted. She was used to the smell of bathrooms… but… the smell of… manliness, the musk of hormonal teenage boys shot right into her brain.
Ranma shrieked and stared at the boy washing his hands. Before he could look up, Ranma had run back out of the room. "What's happening to me?" she gasped. "I thought the mind magic…. no… It's been me in control." She looked down at her uniform, her very interesting, translucent uniform. "Oh god… I knew… I knew they would look." Ranma cried as a new wave of warmth sprang up and flushed her body.
"It's a good thing Kuno can't see me like this. Don't wanna give him a show," Ranma's smirk was cut short when memories of their time hanging out flashed through her mind.
Ranma bit her lip… she felt the need for release. With butterflies in her stomach and a warm glow she ran into the girl's room. After selecting a stall, she gasped as her glamour dropped and she glowed blue. She cast a spell that primarily let off the buildup in magic. Her relief was short lived. Despite the fairy dust that surrounded her, there was another tension in her. Unfortunately, the situation was as clear as her uniform. Wolf had tried to warn her about the effects her hormones would have on her magic.
"No…. I don't feel that way! Not about…. I'm not supposed to…" Ranma sighed and cradled her head in her hands. Her hormones wanted her to mate, whether she wanted to or not.
"Ranma? Are you okay?" Akane coughed as she entered the bathroom. The presence of so much fairy dust was a bit unseemly. "You left the classroom looking pretty bad. What's wrong?"
At first there was silence in the room. "I'm a pervert," Ranma eventually said in a small voice.
"No you're not," Akane said, amazed that she could say those words.
"Yes I am! I… perverted things keep popping up in my mind," Ranma said within the stall.
"God… I was looking at the guys in class… and it felt… nice. I knew they were… Gah!" What's wrong with me?" Ranma's panicky tone continued.
Akane closed the bathroom door and made her way to Ranma's stall. "You're a female fairy. Fairies: nymphos with wings. What'd you expect?" Akane said standing in front of the glittery stall.
"I am a pervert then," Ranma whispered.
Akane sighed. She wanted to help, but she was not used to Ranma being all sensitive and emotional "Look Ranma… it's not… I mean sometimes girls get strange… daydreams. I know I do."
"You do?" Ranma asked. Akane's almost hopeful tone seemed odd, but it sounded sincere.
"Yeah," Akane admitted, quite glad that Ranma could not see her face right now. "Let's go to the nurse's office. You can calm down there."
"Guess I wasn't ready, and I thought Mom was full'a it when she suggested I wait until coming back to school." Ranma laughed. She then opened the stall and stepped out.
"Uh…. Ranma, you might wanna take care of that, people may notice," Akane said waving at the redhead's head.
"Thanks," Ranma said as she looked at her reflection and recast her makeup spell. "I… fairy dust… my eyes itched."
"I was talking about the wings and stuff," Akane dryly remarked.
"Oh…. oopsie." Ranma nervously giggled as she activated her glamour. "Thanks Akane," she said smiling at her friend. The warm, fluttery feeling was there, but Akane felt secure. The redhead was not fantasizing about her, and that was a relief.
Ranma and Akane made their way to the nurse's station. Ranma had gotten a better handle on herself, but her self control and training was waging war against her… body. The soul of ice was a powerful technique and helped things but…
It also made her antennae feel severely chilled, and cold antennae were very uncomfortable. However, she only cut back when she almost slipped on an errant patch of frost. The situation became especially difficult when the period ended. Fortunately, most of the students stayed in their rooms, but a few ventured into the hall.
Ranma nearly whimpered when an upperclassman brushed past her. It was not at anything that he had done, but in reaction to… feelings appearing within her. Soon enough they reached the nurse's room which was thankfully empty of patients.
"Hmm… that is an interesting situation," Keiko Yamaha, the school's nurse, said after Akane told her an edited version of Ranma's symptoms.
"Do you know what's happening to me?" Ranma asked.
Akane maintained her silence. She knew what it was; she had even told Ranma.
Keiko raised an eyebrow. It was amazing. How could such a "healthy" girl especially one that flaunted her body, be so clueless? She then smiled, remembering who this girl was. "You said you're now a girl full time?"
Ranma nodded slowly. She reached out and touched Akane's hand.
Keiko brightened. "Then, it's perfectly natural. You're discovering the opposite sex."
Ranma squeezed Akane's hand, and her face paled as much as it could. "What? That doesn't make any sense." At least the fluttering feeling was gone. It was replaced by a dreadful weight pressing on her.
"It's hormones, dear. You are in a female body." Keiko noticed the redhead's horror and kept talking "Of course, that doesn't mean you're guaranteed to end up some kind of happy housewife, but you shouldn't get shocked if you start… getting curious."
"No! I can't be," Ranma cried.
"Oh, come off it!" Akane sighed as she increased her grip on Ranma's hand. "You've been dating Kuno for the last couple weeks. We all tried to tell you what was happening, but you were too stubborn!" Her tone was harsh and slightly jealous.
"We're just hanging out!" Ranma defended, and she had not seen him in over a week, not since he went on that quest.
"That's what dates are!" Akane shook her hand loose. Even though Ranma's strength was not what it was, she still had grip.
"So what if they are. I still don't have feelings for the big oaf. Kuno's okay as a… friend," Ranma shrugged. She looked Akane in the eye. "Are you happy now? Kuno's my friend. I admit it, but he ain't my boyfriend. No feelings like that."
Akane looked at Ranma critically. "I believe you. Sorry for doubting you. You actually having feelings for Kuno… that's insane."
"Yeah, It's bad enough that I can stand hanging out with him," Ranma joked.
"Don't be so quick to dismiss him," Keiko advised. "A handsome and rich boy that you already like as a friend. What's wrong with going further?"
Ranma blinked at the matronly nurse. In the back of her mind, she idly wondered if there was some type of conspiracy going on among the older ladies to see her married. "You sound like my mother," Ranma sighed.
"It'll be okay," Akane reassured. She hoped her words sounded less hollow to Ranma than they did to herself.
"Yeah, sure," Ranma said carefully trying to block out all the other issues in her life. She would just keep trying to deal with them as they cropped up. It seemed to work so far, and it was far to late to try anything more.
"So… you seek a demon?" the priest asked his young visitor.
"Indeed. I am on a noble quest. Your help would be most appreciated," the young man said with a disturbed intensity. This would be the fifteenth shrine he had stopped at. He would not rest until he followed every lead, until he had acquired the armor needed to win his love's hand.
"To kill a demon?"
"No… I am to recover an item one is protecting, to win my love's hand," Kuno explained.
The priest instantly brightened. "Ah, a girl. Well why didn't you say so," the elderly priest said with a lecherous smile.
"Can you help then?"
"Well…" The priest got up and looked around the grounds of his shrine. "You see there's plenty of angry spirits and such around here, but you're looking for something specific."
"The demon I seek is very old. He guards some fairy armor," Kuno explained to the diminutive proprietor of the Hikawa Shrine.
"I see… Well there's one that I've seen that fits that bill. He hassled my granddaughter a while back, but I managed to banish him," the priest said proudly
"You are truly an honorable man," Kuno observed.
"Stop, you're flattering me. It was not easy. I only got rid of him at considerable personal cost, and he still lives," the priest sighed, he had to trade away some of his favorite pieces to earn his granddaughter's peace.
"Tell me… noble holy-man do you know where this demon lives?"
The elderly priest nodded. Of course he knew where the other old… admirer of female form was, he had to mail him the goods. If the priest was not bound by his duties he might have been friends with the "demon", but he cared for his granddaughter more.
He wondered how this young man would fare against this "demon", but it was for a girl, and what harm could come from telling him where the "demon" lived. The priest told his guest the address.
Kuno's eyes narrowed. "Are you certain that is where the demon resides?"
"Yes, what troubles you?" the priest asked.
"I know that location and… I think I know this demon," Kuno's head pounded. It was starting to make sense. His beloved had sent him on this specific quest, and he was beginning to figure out why. He stared at the priest. "This is of the greatest importance. You must tell me everything you remember about this demon."
"Did you feel that?" Ranma asked as she and Akane walked home from school. Wolf followed behind them. School bored him. He was not allowed in the classrooms, and there was no convenient koi pond to fish out of.
"Nope," Akane said. Her friend had gotten a bit better since yesterday, but there were still awkward moments.
"Odd… it was like a cold wind across my soul," the fairy explained.
"Maybe, it's because you're wearing next to nothing," Akane sighed.
"No…I felt it too," Wolf remarked. He sniffed the air. "It's something evil… and… dumb."
"So… what is it?" Akane asked.
"Low grade monsters," Wolf shrugged.
"Sounds like something I should take care of," Ranma said before shifting her clothes into her battle uniform. Despite having a shorter skirt than her school uniform, Ranma liked this seifuku a bit more. The uniform was more opaque, but the silly and lightly starched collar itched a bit and she didn't even want to think about the bows.
"You just want to blow something up," Wolf laughed.
"And protect innocent people," Ranma said as she shrunk down. A fairy a few inches tall following a wolf was less noticeable than a four foot, nine inch one. "Lead on Wolf!"
"What about me?" Akane demanded.
Ranma hovered in midair next to Wolf's head. "Sorry but… you're not a fairy. If you want I can turn you," the queen offered.
"Err… no thanks." Akane coughed. "Maybe… well… I'm not ready now."
"Suit yourself," Ranma said before flying off with Wolf keeping pace.
"Crazy fairy," Akane grumbled to herself as she stared after where Ranma had disappeared to before sighing and walking the rest of the way home. She did want to be there for her friend… but turning into a flightily glitter factory… that seemed like too much.
"What are these things?" Sailor Moon shouted after one of her attacks sliced through a… creature. The Senshi had found themselves in a park swarming with humanoid monsters. Naturally, they were female in form and absurdly dressed and shaped. Their clothing resembled clashing, overly filly bellhops.
"I don't know. There's no handy evil leader to explain everything." Mercury shouted as she checked her computer.
"That would help," Mars sarcastically replied as one of her attacks melted a pair that had gotten too close. "We always run into this kind of nonsense."
"What the…." Moon muttered when she saw a tiny sparkle streak across the sky above the park. A smaller sparkle separated from the streak and raced down to the ground, right into the middle of the swarm of vaguely insect-like monster-women.
Some rather critical parts of Mercury's visor turned red and flashed other warning signs. "Get down!"
"Huh?" Moon said before Mars pulled her to the grass as the small sparkle… detonated. An explosion of light and glittery sparkles consumed the group of monsters. The lightshow rapidly died down to reveal churned earth mixed with broken monsters. Many were crumbling into dust, but a handful were either far enough from the center or shielded by their comrades.
"What the hell was that?" Mars demanded as she blinked at the destruction. Her eyes still hurt from the sparkling blast.
"Some type of magic nuke?" Moon offered.
"Too weak for that," Mercury remarked. Her visor flashed red again. "Oh, no… Not again."
"The other girls are coming right?" Mars asked as the trio of Senshi watched the tiny sparkle swoop the scene again. This time it came in low and strafed the remaining monsters. The Senshi were now able to see a tiny humanoid figure, wreathed in sparkling light firing a series of nearly invisible blasts. The attacks were tiny but they somehow blew ragged chunks out of whatever they hit.
The more mobile of the monsters tried to mob the tiny girl, but it was like watching drunken bears trying to catch a hummingbird. Though humming birds can not knock out a bear with a single punch. In all fairness the little figure only knocked some of the attacking monsters, the rest were flipped and tossed aside.
"That's not possible…" Mars remarked.
"Actually, those kinds of moves use the attacker's power against itself. You just have to know the right way to deflect the momentum. Though I am surprised something that small has enough leverage," Mercury muttered.
"You've been talking to Mako-chan again, haven't you?" Mars noted.
"Hey! It's Minako and Makoto who are late!" Mercury defended.
"I think we should help her," Moon said walking forward.
"I don't think she needs our help…" Mars said. She then watched as a disturbingly large wolf ran past them and pounced on one of the creatures that the fairy had tossed. With a big doggy-grin the immense beast bounded from monster to monster finishing them off.
"You don't see that everyday," Mars blinked as she watched the giant wolf bite down on a monster that was trying to crawl away, snap its neck with an economical shake, and drop the crumbling body.
"Yeah…. I think… she's playing," Mercury said disbelievingly. She watched as the tiny figure flipped one of the last remaining monsters, which was then caught in mid-air by the huge wolf.
"I hope she's on our side," Mars said as they watched the duo finish off the remaining monsters. The tiny figure flew over to the canine and landed on his immense but correctly-proportioned head.
"Uh… hi," Moon said looking up to the Wolf and the…. "Oh my gosh! What a cute fairy! Oh you're just so adorable!"
"That adorable fairy just nuked a mass of…" Mars started before looking at the figure on the wolf's head. "Wow… she is a cute fairy."
"I'm not cute," Ranma pouted, after catching her breath. "I'm a knockout. So you girls must be the Sailor Senshi. Not bad for uniforms. Wolf made it sound like they were total copies." She shook her arms.
Wolf sighed. His queen started out well…. but then she opened her mouth.
"Okay, you're a knockout," Ami shrugged.
"Copies?" Mars blinked. "You're the one wearing a version of our uniform."
"So who are you?" Moon asked disarmingly.
Ranma paused. She could give her real name or use her fairy name as an "alias." She decided to go with what seemed less embarrassing. "Why, I'm Titania the Second, Queen of the Fairies," she said glaring at Mars.
"Fairies…. well that's no stranger than anything else," Mercury remarked.
"Another queen? Oh how cool! I'm Neo-Queen Serenity!" Moon gushed.
"That explains the hairstyle, no one else in their right mind would wear it like that," Wolf muttered.
"Wow! Is that your magical advisor? That's so cool! I just have a lousy little cat."
Ranma shivered slightly at the mention of cats
"Yeah, those Mau were not Serenity's brightest move," Wolf agreed.
"What do you mean by copies?" Mercury asked.
"Queen Serenity was Queen Titania the first's student," Wolf explained.
"Right… the leader of the Moon Kingdom was taught by some fairy," Mars commented.
"Everyone has to be taught by someone," Moon remarked.
"Exactly," Ranma smiled. "So you got roped into the queen dealie too? What's your story?"
"I rescued my advisor from some bullies and she gave me a magic broach. What about you?"
"Magical time capsule. Titania sealed away her powers, and I stumbled onto them," Ranma sighed as she reflexively put her hand through her hair.
"I never wanted to be a queen either," Moon remarked.
"You too?" Ranma laughed bitterly. "Should have expected that."
"Dealing with all this is a bit much. I just wanted to be a normal girl," Moon lamented.
"Uh… yeah… I know what you mean," Ranma sighed.
"You girls have fun chatting," Wolf said, earning a glare from his queen. "I'll check out these monsters," he said before shrinking to his normal size and examining the monster dust.
"He's just sniffing them," Mercury said.
Ranma raised an eyebrow. "He is a wolf," she said before growing to a human size. This earned a loud "eep" from Usagi who almost fell over in surprise.
"Does he have memory problems?" Moon asked after recovering from the shock of Ranma's rapid growth.
"Course not, what use would an advisor be if he couldn't remember stuff?" Ranma asked, then noticed the Senshi's reactions. "What? I say something wrong?"
"That's why you called our uniforms copies," Mercury said studying the fairy's uniform. She could see that their uniforms might be a derivative of the fairy's. The bow and ribbons on the back of the Senshi uniforms could be a substitute for fairy wings.
"Yeah… sorry about that," Ranma blushed. "It's just… I thought the Sailor Senshi were some silly urban legend."
"You're Queen of the Fairies," Mars stated pointedly.
"Only recently," Ranma grumbled.
"So that's why we never saw you before," Moon concluded. "Wow… so now there's two magical kingdoms. How cool! Where's the rest of your Senshi?"
"My Senshi?" Ranma asked as her tanned face tried to pale.
The Moon princess smiled knowingly at the fairy queen. "Don't worry you'll get them. You're lucky. I had to do this stuff alone. At first I didn't even realize I was the queen."
"Huh, but you had an advisor… and you're called Sailor Moon…."
"She wasn't joking when she said Luna, her advisor, was useless," Mars commented.
"Don't worry Titania! I'll help you figure out this queen stuff," Usagi promised posing heroically.
"Uh… okay," Ranma said, while her antennae twitched ominously. She turned to see Wolf walking back. "Wolf you figure anything out?"
"You call your advisor Wolf?" Moon asked.
"Sure, he doesn't like me using his real name. Says it's too embarrassing."
"And it's too long," Wolf grumbled as he sat down. "Anyway these monsters smell like your standard summoned golem. Most arch-mages with crafting skills could make these if they had the directions and enough life energy to imbibe in them."
"That's swell," Ranma sighed. "You know who made them and why?"
"Nope, but I could recognize their work if I smelled it again. As for why they did it…. it can't be a beachhead. There're no reinforcements. It might have been a simple raiding party though: port in, drain or abduct a mass of people and then port out. What were they doing when you girls found them?"
"We were just walking through the park, and saw a mess of insect woman in formation," Mercury explained.
Wolf paused in thought.
"Raiding makes sense," Mars nodded. "That's what most of the monsters we've fought are after."
"Yeah, it's usually some crystal or energy inside a person," Moon said.
"And just as a new enemy shows up we get a new ally," Mars deadpanned.
"Huh? I just came here to blow up some evil minions," Ranma defended.
"Wow… I really need to show you the ropes of being a magical girl." Moon put her hand on the redhead's shoulder.
"Hey! I'm not a…." the fairy queen blinked and looked down at her glittering uniform. "Yeah… I guess you have a point."
"Uh… you sure that's wise?" Wolf asked.
"Oh wow! What great hair!" another blonde Senshi said as she and a brunette ran onto the scene.
"What happened to the monsters?" Jupiter asked. She then turned to Venus. "Her hair? You see a girl with big butterfly wings and antennae and you comment on her hair?"
"Our new friend Titania and her wolf took care of them," Moon smiled.
Venus nodded and turned to Jupiter. "Have you seen her hair? It's amazing. How do you do it?" She asked Ranma. "It's so shimmering and full of body."
"Aw… it's just how it grows," Ranma blushed, looking even more adorable.
"If being a fairy gives you hair like that, sign me up," Venus joked.
Ranma nervously laughed.
"I think we should leave… maybe you girls should transform into something that stands out less," Wolf suggested.
"Good idea," Ranma said before shifting into one of her petal-skirted dresses and activating her glamour.
"You're just going to trust her?" Mars asked. She noticed that even in a human form the fairy was otherworldly and ethereal in her beauty.
"After that nonsense with the Outers… yeah sure, why not," Sailor Moon shrugged.
"She is a Senshi too… essentially," Mercury reminded.
"And someone with hair that good can't be evil," Venus agreed.
Ranma blinked. These girls had a very strange moral code.
"I think we can trust her," Sailor Moon said before de-transforming.
"Oh, your hair stays like that," Ranma noted.
"So does yours, that little heart your bangs make is so adorable," Usagi commented.
"Thanks!" Ranma's enthusiasm was cut short when she came to her senses. Much to Wolf's relief.
The other Senshi detransformed and after an abbreviated introduction followed Usagi and Ranma out of the park. "So how does the fairy fight?" Makoto quietly asked Ami.
"She can make huge glittery explosions," Ami replied.
"So you girls use the planet theme. Isn't there more?" Ranma asked.
"Yeah, but we don't call them every time," Minako said, still staring at the redhead's hair.
"So how often do you guys get monsters to whomp?" Ranma inquired.
"Every few months they start up, we get more and more," Ami explained.
"And it ends with some dramatic final battle," the fairy queen guessed. She grinned when she noticed where Usagi was leading them.
"Yeah, it's a real pain," Usagi turned to the redhead. "Do you mind if we go here… Ranma?" Using, the fairy's real name seemed a bit strange. The glittery, short girl was a natural Titania.
"Oh I don't think she'll mind," Wolf smiled.
"How come people aren't noticing you?" Rei asked the large wolf.
"Magic," Wolf shrugged as he followed his mistress inside.
Ami blinked when she saw the redhead and Usagi place their orders. They were almost synchronized in their overly cute ordering and gluttony… it was… eerie.
"Ranma's definitely a magical queen like Usagi," Rei said picking up on Ami's thoughts.
"Are you sure about this?" Wolf asked, as he stared at Ranma's sundae "There's a lot of sugar in that."
"Kuno's no where to be seen and I'm just around girls, besides I need the energy," Ranma said before spooning some strawberry ice-cream to Wolf, who had already eaten his order. "Besides I do need to recharge from all that magic I used up."
Usagi's ears perked up. "Who's Kuno?"
Ranma sighed and slapped her forehead with her hand.
"I'm guessing it's a boy," Minako said.
Makoto noticed Ranma blush at Minako's statement. "I think it's more than just a boy," she said gleefully.
"Boyfriend?" Ami asked. It figured a girl that looked like Ranma did had to have one.
"No! He's not my boyfriend!" Ranma shouted. She felt the fluttery feeling returning. "I only agreed to the Omiai because I had a plan…" Ranma froze when she realized what she blurted out.
"So that's why he's not your boyfriend," Makoto nodded knowingly. "Is he marriage worthy? Or are you going to dump him once you've gone on enough dates to satisfy your parents?"
"Yeah, is he handsome?" Minako asked.
"Uh…." Ranma absently rubbed her temple. "I don't…. I didn't want to marry him. He's a…. good… friend, but marriage…" Ranma emphatically shook her head.
"Don't knock it, friendships can bloom into deeper relationships," Minako said while Makoto nodded in agreement.
"Why do girls keep saying that?" Ranma sighed.
"Because, it's true," Rei offered.
"Yeah right. Next you'll be telling me having a guy read you poetry is actually good."
On Ranma's last statement, the girls around the table stopped eating and gave the redhead their undivided attention.
"He reads poetry to you?" Usagi asked, her eyes sparkling. "Oh… wow… I wish my Mamo-chan did that for me."
"What…. you mean girls like that stuff?" Ranma shook her head.
"Well… is he handsome?" Minako repeated.
"Err…. decent enough… I guess," Ranma mumbled nervously.
"Do you have a picture?" Minako asked.
"Nope, but I guess I could show you something close." Ranma concentrated and cast a spell. The collected Senshi were impressed by the small-translucent-image that was generated.
"Oh wow… very dashing," Makoto said. It was interesting to see a handsome boy who looked nothing like her old sempai.
"He's dreamy," Ami smiled.
"Nice hunk," Minako smiled. "All he needs is to be a samurai and rich and you're set."
Ranma blinked. More than one of the other girls caught Ranma's reaction.
"Oh my… he is! You marry him! You marry him right now!" Minako shouted.
"Gah! I never want to hear those words again!" Ranma cried.
"You must be under a lot of pressure," Ami jealously sympathized.
"You all act like he's perfect." Ranma's mouth opened in disbelief.
"He's your friend, a total hunk, reads poetry to you, and is loaded. Even your family approves. What's not to like?" Makoto surmised.
Ranma rubbed her temple again. She was starting to feel like the only sane person in an asylum. "Look! He's insane. He obsessed over me! He also tried to date my best friend."
"So… he's crazy because he obsessed over a beautiful girl that he eventually ended up dating?" Ami asked.
"Yeah, and my Mamo-chan actually dated Rei before me and him became an item," Usagi added.
"No… He tried to date me and Akane at the same time," Ranma explained.
"But is he doing that now that you're dating?" Minako asked. "Because, still chasing after other girls when you're dating is really sleazy."
"Actually…. he has left Akane alone…" Ranma blinked in horror. "But it doesn't matter," she added dismissively. "He's off on an impossible quest."
"Impossible?" Makoto raised an eyebrow.
"Oh wow… is he on a quest to win your hand in marriage?" Minako asked.
"How did you guess?" Ranma asked before muttering incoherently.
"It seems perfectly sensible for a fairy queen," Minako shrugged.
"So that's why you're nervous," Ami said after sipping her milkshake. "You wonder if he can complete this quest."
"Wow… that's the most romantic thing I've heard. It's impossible but if it's true love he'll find a way," Usagi swooned.
Ranma raised an eyebrow when she noticed that Usagi was not alone in her overreaction. "God, I hope not," Ranma grumbled.
"It's okay," Makoto said putting her arm around the seemingly shy and nervous redhead's shoulder. "It can be scary. Making a commitment so soon in your life."
"You're also probably worried that your guy might kill himself trying to complete the quest….poor Kuno-chan," Ami sighed.
"Gah! You girls are being way too weepy and romantic about this!" Rei shouted.
"Amen," Ranma agreed. "Can we please talk about something else?"
"Are you sure this is the place?" Kasumi asked her houseguest.
"Quite," Kuno said before sipping the tea his hostess served him.
"Why would Ranma send you here? I mean… for the quest."
"It fits Kasumi-san. My queen is known for giving riddles in her quests. Examine the quest she sent her and your father on," Kuno simply stated.
"They rushed to the ends of the earth… when in reality the chalice was really close to home." Kasumi allowed herself a naughty little giggle.
"Indeed." Kuno smirked.
"But why here?"
"He has been called a demon, and he does have a… horde… as distasteful as it is," Kuno said careful to use pronouns.
"Are you talking about the person I think you are?"
"Much like a demon it is ill-advised to use the name of the… person to whom I refer," Kuno explained.
"I see," Kasumi sipped from her cup. "Perhaps… that is the perfect place to hide some fairy armor. Ranma did say that the physical appearance of the armor is unknown, and grandfather has been out of town, only yesterday did he come back."
"Exactly! My beloved was most clever in this quest," Kuno beamed with pride. "However, I am confident that this is where the armor lies. I only have to explore the demon's lair to find it.
"Well… she had to be sure about you," Kasumi said, remembering how nervous Ranma was about all this, "but you've yet to defeat… him."
Kuno's expression became determined. "Yes… that is the next challenge." He then stood up. "Perhaps you should stand back, Kasumi-san. I would not wish for you to be defiled or contused in this confrontation."
Kasumi blinked and stepped back. Despite tightly clutching her cup, her eyes twinkled with amusement as her houseguest pulled up a small sack and undid the drawstring with distaste.
"Master Happosai, I request your presence," Kuno said in a clear voice, though he did stumble a bit at that first word. After getting no response he opened the laundry sack further. "I have procured the necessary items! Do not make me summon and bind you!"
The satchel was torn from Kuno's grip and a small man landed on the table. Like a passionate collector he started going through the silken contents. After some careful and tactile appraising he turned a critical eye to Kuno. "I sincerely hope this is not your collection."
"Yes, what are you doing with those?" Kasumi asked. "You're an engaged man."
"They are definitely not mine nor do I desire them," Kuno involuntarily shook with revulsion. It was a near thing that he had been able to procure those things in the first place.
"So you're just giving me some of your sister's darlings?" Happosai said as he fingered the black rose-patterned lace. "Engaged?" He asked suspiciously "To who?"
"I'm proposing a simple trade," Kuno said as he kept his hand at his side.
"This has to do with this girl you're engaged to? So which of my moronic students did you con to get the pigtailed girl or was it both of them? And where are they?"
"If you must ask, this whole arrangement was championed by my redheaded queen herself," Kuno stated as he maintained eye contact with the diminutive master. "As for your students. They are on their own quest."
Happosai sighed. At least this time he would be able to get something out of this boy's delusions.
"You haven't seen Ranma in a few weeks have you," Kasumi smiled.
"I spent the last week at that lingerie trade show down in Kobe," Happosai stated, as he held up a bra and evaluated it for size and quality,
"Yes, and before that it was in Osaka at that swimsuit contest," Kasumi then put down her cup and started counting off with her fingers, and started listing locations. "And before that I believe you were at that new hot springs retreat that had just opened. You just got back yesterday."
"He has not seen her has he?" Kuno asked raising an eyebrow.
"Not even her mother." Kasumi smiled slightly as she shook her head.
"What did I miss?" Happosai said, clutching onto Kodachi's delicates. "Was there some backlash against all that 'man among men' stuff?" he asked hopefully.
"Ranma became queen of the fairies," Kasumi plainly said.
Happosai blinked first at Kasumi, then at Kuno.
"She has? Wonderful," Happosai's mind drifted as he envisioned a fairy Ranma. "You mean a fairy right? With the wings and the translucent little dresses?"
"Indeed," Kuno said with a secret little smile.
Happosai sighed again. "What's going on here?"
"As I said, Ranma is now queen of the fairies. She then started dating Kuno, they hit it off and Mrs. Saotome and Principal Kuno made arrangements. However, Ranma then declared that Kuno would have to go on a quest to win her hand in marriage," Kasumi said conversationally.
Happosai paused disbelieving. Anything Kuno said could be dismissed out of hand, but Kasumi was a different story. "What's Ranma really up to then?"
"My queen has certainly sent me on a frightful trial," Kuno muttered as he pulled a photograph out of his wallet. On it was Ranma wearing her school uniform and contently brushing her poofy and styled hair. Kuno tossed the image to the martial arts master.
Happosai's grin as he handled the picture unsettled both Kuno and Kasumi. "Ranma's really gonna marry you? Wow…. Wonder if all the hairspray rotted his brain, maybe it's all the sun." He mumbled examining the picture. Something seemed off, that there was more to the redhead's image than he could see. "So what's Ranma sent you after?" he asked while pocketing the image. He had to see Ranma in person; a picture did not have the… tactile intimacy of personal contact.
"A piece of fairy armor. It is silvery and light. Delicate tracery adorns it and I'm told it leaves everyone breathless," Kuno stated.
"What makes you think I have it?" Happosai asked. Kuno's description seemed to resonate. He looked at the translucent petal-pleated dress that Ranma was wearing. The style was… familiar.
"You do have it!" Kuno cried triumphantly. "I knew that my love would send me on such a quest."
"Even if I had that corset why would I give it to you?"
"Corset?" Kuno blinked.
"I'm sure Ranma would look very fetching in a corset," Kasumi idly remarked.
"Breathless I dare say," Kuno smirked. His queen was so very clever. He steeled himself. He could ill-afford to allow the situation to go awry.
"So you want me to give you the corset just so you can marry Ranma? What do I get out of it?" the dwarfish man inquired.
"You have several options," Kuno stated.
"Yes… you've already stolen underwear from your sister. I suppose you'd just keep stubbornly coming after me, even if I kept beating you." Happosai mumbled as he took out his pipe and stared at it.
"I do believe Kuno kept pursuing Ranma, day after day after day. Even when she repeatedly beat him, and look what happened there," Kasumi remarked.
"I merely stood firm until the rest of the world changed to see the light as I do," Kuno shrugged.
Happosai paused and put his pipe away. Ranma was stubborn, that was the best part of playing with him… her. She always held her ground, but now… "I'm starting to see how you two would work as a couple."
"Yes, they're really very adorable together," Kasumi chirped.
"She'd actually marry you? You're really dating?"
Kuno laughed. "Her will is to strong. Can you see her bowing to someone else's will? Perhaps her sense of honor would cause her to find another way, but I assure you in this case honor and love do not conflict."
"I have watched them for a while grandfather. They really do make a nice pair now," Kasumi helpfully added. She knew Ranma was scared, and how hard it had to be for her. Once manhood was everything for Ranma, and to fall in love with Kuno of all people… Ranma must have concocted this whole quest as a means of protection. That way she could be with Kuno and blame it all on honor.
The question Kasumi wondered about was who Ranma put this production on for… everyone else, or herself?
"You're not itching for a fight?" Happosai asked noticing Kuno's purposeful placement of his hand away from his sword.
"Do not think that I have not prepared myself to vanquish you." Kuno's eyes narrowed. "During my quest, I have meditated on why my love has sent me on this course of action. I believe I have a handle on what I must do to win this fight. Firstly, do you have this armor, this corset and if so how will you be persuaded to part with it?"
Happosai nodded thoughtfully. "Maybe there is something to your idea of being more blind-stubborn than the rest of the world. Provided I can bring you what you need to get your little redhead, what would you give up? I'm sure you'd be willing to allow an old man a few innocent pleasures."
"You will not defile my queen," Kuno stated.
"Oh, is that a threat?"
"It's a promise," Kuno laughed. "You know how spirited she can be, and after her ascension she has only become more so."
"I see," Happosai then contemplatively packed up Kodachi's underwear. Somehow Ranma's fate had ended up entirely in his hands.
"You met the Sailor Senshi?" Akane asked as she sat across for Ranma in the kitchen.
"Yeah… nice girls - but they're kinda loopy," Ranma sighed.
"Really? How so?" Akane blinked as she ate a cookie.
"They all thought Kuno was just perfect for Ranma," Wolf smirked.
"I bet they thought that little quest was so romantic too," Akane teased.
Ranma nervously coughed.
"You can't just send every problem of yours out on a quest," Akane cautioned. "Are you going to send Ukyou on one?"
"I think she'd go on one herself." Ranma depressingly said. "She looked like she was packing for a trip. I think she's gonna try to find a cure for me."
"You don't want a cure?" Akane asked.
The silence fell between the two friends was neither comfortable nor awkward. Ranma looked at Akane as if she were discreetly sizing her up.
Ranma coughed and looked down. "It'd be nice but…"
"I could be out there desperately searching for a cure that doesn't exist, or I could be here trying to get a handle on what I've become," Ranma sighed.
"I have returned my queen," a male voice suddenly said full of triumph.
Dread welled within Ranma as she turned around to face Kuno, who was dressed in a suit and holding a black briefcase. Standing behind him was Nodoka with a prideful smile. Ranma's face paled completely when he opened the case revealing the silvery contents.
Eyes wide in disbelief Wolf walked over to Kuno and examined the silver garment. "It can't…. how did you get it?"
"That's not armor," Ranma said regaining some confidence. She held onto that fact with all her will.
"It's a corset," Akane stated as she watched events unfold.
"You can call fairy armor that," Wolf shrugged, as he examined it. "The design matches the armor we sent him to get."
Ranma shivered and looked up at her… Kuno. "Please tell me that's not it… that can't be the armor," she pleaded to anyone that could, or would, listen.
"I warned you," Wolf reminded her.
Kuno gingerly placed the corset on the table in front of Ranma. "I have done as you asked, my queen," he said as he dropped to one knee and kneeled before Ranma. He then took her limp hand in his.
Akane watched blankness cover Ranma's face as Kuno produced another container. This one a small velvet box. A mixture of empathy and jealousy formed within Akane as, Kuno opened it and presented the ring.
Ranma picked up the ring. It was a single band of platinum that kinked at the top where two flawless and understated diamonds were placed. "I did promise didn't I," she said softly as she studied the jewelry.
"You're not going to.. I mean…" Akane asked.
"Wolf, are you absolutely certain that this is what I asked him to bring me?" Ranma said as she held the corset in front of him.
"It looks right… but you'll have to try it on to be certain. It was designed to help a fairy's magic," Wolf offered.
"So it still could be a fake?" Ranma carefully asked.
"If you put it on and it's legit. It'll react to your body. Being made for fairy magic and all," Wolf suggested.
"I'll try it on right now!" Ranma said as she ran out of the room.
"I'll help tie her in," Nodoka cheerfully said as she went to her daughter's room. She found Ranma fumbling with the garment. Nodoka gave a little smile and helped her daughter get it on straight.
"I must say…. this fits you very well," Nodoka complimented as she started tightening the corset.
"It still hurts," Ranma gasped.
"You'll get used to it," Nodoka laughed.
"Yeah, least it hurts less than that other corset I had to wear. That one was metal. This was some kind of fairy cloth." Ranma said.
Nodoka raised an eyebrow. "Oh? So you have worn these before? Then you know, they're only for special occasions," she said after noticing the horror on Ranma's face.
"Like my wedding," Ranma sighed.
"When you and your fiancé are ready, yes," Nodoka said as she made the final tugs. "There! What do you think?" she asked after sliding her daughter in front the mirror.
"Oh wow," Ranma quietly said as she ran her hands over her curves. It was amazing the effect tightening and shaping had on her already exemplary body. For a moment she forgot what the corset represented and was lost in a narcissistic haze.
"It's a good thing your dresses are magic," Nodoka said as she looked at the change in breast size and waist on her daughter. While the effects seemed normal for a corset, her daughter was already very slight and well-endowed. "You know it's almost like it's made for you."
"That's because it is," Ranma said dejectedly. She could sense the magical amplification the corset gave her, and there was the bit of a glow it started giving off once her mother laced her in it.
"I'm so happy for you!" Nodoka gushed as she hugged the bride-to-be.
"I know Mom," Ranma sighed. "You're right about one thing. This getup doesn't feel too bad, it almost feels okay," she said returning the hug.
Nodoka broke the hug. "I know you're scared, but you're only engaged to be married now. You can choose when to have your wedding. I promise."
"Gee… thanks Mom," Ranma said, being both sincere and sarcastic. She summoned a dress to go over her corset and was not surprised at all when it came out with silver accents. She swallowed nervously and left her room.
Ignoring the fluttery feeling that had formed in her stomach she marched into the kitchen and silently slipped off her silver and jade rings and put on the… her engagement ring.
She examined her left hand. The ring looked perfectly at home on the delicate, smooth, and manicured extremity. She then uttered a small spell to resize the silver and jade rings and slid them over each pinky. "There, are you happy now?" she flatly asked her fiancé as she held out her left hand.
"More so than you can imagine my love!" Kuno said as he swept Ranma off her feet and into his arms.
Ranma whimpered at the extensive contact. Since her "awakening" at school she had managed to keep herself in check, but this was too much. The fluttering in her stomach spread into a soothing warmth. For a few seconds she forgot herself and experienced being held by someone that cared for her, albeit fanatically and strangely.
"Fight it Ranma!" Akane shouted, sickened by the tableau.
Embarrassed, the redhead slid out of the hug. "I'm sorry," Ranma coughed.
"You should be."
"Uh… why?" Wolf asked.
"Because it's Kuno!" Akane cried.
"Ranma did agree to the Omiai and set terms to marry him," Wolf shrugged.
"He tricked her!"
"Actually Akane, it was my fiancée that tricked me," Kuno smiled as he put his arm around Ranma's currently waspish waist.
"I did?" Ranma asked, pretending not to notice Kuno's hand.
"You sent me on a quest uniquely designed to test my mettle. Very well done," Kuno complimented as he moved his hand.
"Uh… thanks?" Ranma's eyes widened when she felt where Kuno's hand was going. "Hey! Get your hand offa my butt!"
"Now, now. You two are going to be married. You should expect your future husband to act that way. After all, you picked a very manly man," Nodoka said as she dabbed at the corners of her eyes. "Though in front of guests may not be appropriate."
"Ranma! You can't go through with this!" Akane cried. "This is insane."
Ranma nodded and took Kuno's hand off her butt and placed it back onto her hip. "It is, but I gave my word," the redhead swallowed. "I promised to marry Kuno if he succeeded in his quest, and I will keep my promise."
"Does something ail you, my fiery queen?" Kuno asked as he drew the unresisting redhead closer too him. "Your spirit seems extinguished."
Ranma looked up at him. "I'm in shock, this can't be real. It has to be a dream."
"I shall prove to you it is not a dream," Kuno assured.
Ranma expected a pinch to her bottom or maybe breast, but not the initially chaste kiss that came. The fluttery feeling in her stomach and now bosom spiked but she managed to keep the kiss innocent.
"Stop it!" Akane screamed. "Someone stop this!"
"Why? They're engaged. It's perfectly proper," Nodoka said, wondering who Akane was jealous of. Now that her daughter was fixed up, maybe Akane could use some help. Nodoka mentally reviewed her list of eligible bachelors and came up with a few candidates for Akane.
"I'm sorry Akane, but I'm stuck with him," Ranma sighed as she looked at Kuno. Just because they were married did not mean they had to be intimate. Wolf had explained royal marriages were more political than romantic.
Akane's eyes lit up. "But he can't really marry you, can he? He's just a human!"
"I am fully prepared to do whatever you require," Kuno promised his queen.
"You'd be a fairy," Ranma cautioned.
"Mythology has masculine fairies. I had expected that," Kuno explained.
"Well if you feel me up again, I may just zap you," Ranma warned.
Kuno paused in thought. "An acceptable proposition!"
"Gah! Pervert!" Ranma yelled and zapped Kuno with a burst of power.
Akane's eyes widened at the large cocoon that formed in the middle of the kitchen. "You did not just do that."
"Oops, I didn't mean to do that… really…" Ranma blushed while absently rubbing the butt cheek that Kuno had just groped.
"Oh joy, now I get to deal with male fairies again," Wolf sighed.
"Watch it fleabag. I'm still thinking of how to punish you for this mess," Ranma said, icily.
"But it was your idea!"
Ranma and Akane tried to resume their conversation on the porch, but the ring on Ranma's finger and the cocoon in the house were too distracting. Ranma did use the time to get out of her corset.
After close to two hours, the cocoon started to break open. Akane, Ranma, and Wolf watched in horror and dread as the new figure emerged. Nodoka was hoping that the fairy version of her future son-in-law was as manly as his human version.
Wolf noted that this transformation had taken much less time than Nodoka's. That was expected. The queen was growing in power and experience.
Kuno stood and dusted some bits of silken fibers off of his suit. The suit had changed slightly. It's coloration was now a deep green. The gold buttons now had Titania's royal seal, crown over butterfly, engraved on them. A red rose was in the buttonhole to his lapel, and the cut of the suit was more reminiscent of a British lord than a business man. The scabbard at his hip was now ebony with silver inlay patterned in vines and leaves.
Naturally his skin was tanned and his ears were pointed. A pair of black antennae came out of his hair, which was the same length and color. Much like Ranma's blue highlights and center stripe, Kuno had red. His hair was also in a more carefully styled cut. His wings were forest green and tan and unlike the swirls on Ranma and Nodoka were linear and simple. The pattern was almost moth-like, and had a masculine cast.
Both Ranma and Nodoka gasped at the new fairy and dropped their glamours.
Once again Kuno knelt before Ranma and bowed. He unsheathed his sword, revealing a silver blade that seemed almost fluid in it's flawlessness, and presented it to her.
"Uh… what do I do?" Ranma asked.
"If you want a knight you can take his sword and put it over his head. From one side to the other," Wolf said.
"That doesn't sound very formal," Nodoka stated.
"Ranma's the queen. She can do what she wants," Wolf shrugged.
"So I could cut off Kuno's head? Or call off the whole engagement?" Ranma asked, hefting the sword.
"Monarch's have that power, but you wouldn't do that," Wolf smirked. "You keep your promises."
"Yeah… sucks to be me," Ranma sighed and turned to Kuno. "I guess you're one of my fairies now. Don't screw it up; you'll make me look bad." She then rotated the sword and handed it back to Kuno.
"I swear by my love for you," Kuno said his voice trembling. He then rose and bowed again.
Ranma massaged her temple. "You don't have to act that way around me. I'm still Ranma, yah know."
"Of course my queen," Kuno said as he sheathed his sword.
"You know what'll cheer you up," Wolf told Ranma.
"What?" Ranma sighed.
"Remember that magical problem male fairies have?"
"You mentioned something… about limits of power."
"Female fairies are better at magic, while male fairies are physically stronger," Wolf explained. "It's actually pretty unfair to the males, but that's how it goes."
"Why?" Akane asked, curious for anything to take her mind off of the fairy Kuno.
"Fairies use nature magic. That's better suited to females," Wolf said.
"Are you sure this will cheer me up?" Ranma asked.
"Pretty sure," Wolf smiled.
"Okay, then do it."
"To lift your spirits I will do anything," Kuno stated.
"Good," Wolf said. "It's also good that you're a new fairy. This means your limit will be nice and low. Now pull out your sword and hold it in front of you."
"Great… now just visualize your energy going into the sword. Try to make it glow."
The male fairy concentrated and his silver blade began to shimmer with an inner light. It became greater and greater until there was a fizzling noise followed by the smell of ozone. The sword glowed much brighter but quickly dimmed as Kuno lost concentration.
"Hah! Oh that's great Wolf!" Ranma laughed.
"How did that happen?" Akane asked blinking at the sight before her
"My queen?" Kuno asked in a high pitched voice. Ranma's betrothed was now distinctly female. Her suit was slightly retailored to better fit her female frame, but she still looked forceful.
"Male fairies are limited in how much magic they can access. This limit is raised through practice but it's always there. Since fairies are very magical… males have a unique way of going beyond their limits," Wolf snickered.
"My, she is a looker," Ranma noted as she looked up at Kuno.
"Kuno's a female fairy now?" Akane asked.
"Not really. See her wings are still the same pattern. That's how you tell what sex a fairy really is," Wolf pointed out.
"So I'm not really a girl?" Kuno said as she felt her chest.
Ranma rubbed her temple. "How does Kuno turn back?"
"Oh that'll happen once enough magical energy bleeds out of Kuno's system for a male body to be stable." Wolf noticed Ranma's blank look. "A few minutes."
"So… Kuno's an even bigger pervert now?" Akane asked.
"I think it's fitting," Ranma smiled evilly. "Kuno-chan's now gotta deal with turning into a girl."
"Kuno still looks manly," Nodoka said.
"No, mom, Kuno makes a total babe," Ranma laughed.
"You are certain I will return to my proper form?" Kuno asked after she stopped feeling her assets.
"Yeah, yeah," Wolf reassured.
"You're taking this well, Tachi," Ranma blinked.
Kuno paused. "I knew that such transformations were possible, you are a prime example of this."
"Yeah… I am," Ranma said with a slight smile. The fluttery feeling in her stomach was gone. It was like this Kuno was like Akane, safe. "This actually might help things," she said stepping closer.
"If it helps me understand then I shall do it!" Kuno promised.
"Do what?" Akane asked, disgust marring her face.
"I have an idea," Ranma said as she stepped closer to Kuno. She put a hand up and pulled the taller girl's face closer to hers. The kiss was awkward and dry, but then Kuno's form glowed slightly and shifted.
Now in a more familiar body, Kuno's kissing became less awkward. Ranma suddenly was assaulted with the scent and feel of a male fairy, her male fairy. The fluttering redoubled and she went with the feelings.
"Oh God…. get a room you two!" Akane yelled.
"Perhaps that's not too bad of an idea," Nodoka said as she watched the amorous display.
"Snap out of it Ranma! You're making out with Kuno!" Akane shouted as she tugged on the redhead's hair.
That got the fairy queen's attention "Hey don't mess with the…" she blinked and then felt her lips. "Oh no! I kissed him and it felt…" she trailed off as she turned to look at the male fairy that excited her body in ways she told herself she did not understand.
"That's okay, Ranma," Nodoka assured as she stepped over to her daughter. "He's your future husband."
"No! Er.. I mean I'm not ready!"
"You were the one that gave him a challenge. The omiai would have eased you two into a deeper relationship."
"I can still choose when we get married," Ranma pouted as she pulled out a brush and fixed her hair.
"Mrs. Saotome, I believe we should ease up on Ranma. While she is spirited there is no need to unduly stress her. We will get married, but when the time is right." He turned to Ranma. "Don't you agree my love?"
"Yeah. Thanks, Tachi," Ranma said.
"What gives Kuno? I mean, you're standing up for Ranma and not chasing after me! I thought you wanted us both?" Akane questioned.
Kuno raised an eyebrow. "It is true that I was unable to choose one of you, but dating and then being betrothed to Ranma did make it quite easy."
"If you're jealous Akane, I'm sure we can arrange something. Wolf, can fairies have mistresses?" Nodoka asked as a seemingly bright idea came to her.
"Of course," Wolf said. "It was common enough in Titania the first's kingdom, and it makes sense for population growth."
"No! I don't wanna marry Kuno! I hate him."
Ranma rolled her eyes, and then smirked.. "Pops and Soun would want the houses joined… somehow."
"No… No way in hell." Akane stepped back in horror.
"And you ask how I was able to finally choose one of you," Kuno laughed.
"Careful there Kuno, you're sounding a bit sane," Ranma cautioned.
"I suppose that was a mite lucid," Kuno smirked.
Akane groaned and rubbed her temple.
"Try doing it with less force," Ranma advised.
"This is a nightmare," Akane sighed.
"Uh… I'm the one that got forced to marry Kuno," Ranma said.
"Yeah, don't steal the queen's thunder," Wolf commented.
Ranma nodded and looked at Kuno. Soon enough her mind started to… drift. She then shook her head. "Yeah Akane, I'm in more trouble than you can possibly imagine."
A hooded figure wiped some dust off of a clear tube resting on a dais. He cleaned this and the other chambers every time the sensors woke him from his own suspension, but that was after he dealt with the false alarm that had woken him.
The gaunt figure smiled as he ran a hand over the tube and looked at the man inside. "It was real this time, Master. I sent the probes out and before they could leave the staging area…. they were intercepted. Most of them were humans, magically empowered yes, but human, save one…"
A smile formed on his face. "Do you want to know who it was?" he asked, despite the fact that his master was quite unable to hear him.
"She's back," the attending man tittered. "The probes only recorded one fairy, but she was there. The magic matches." His voice lowered conspiratorially. "And she had a wolf with her."
"I'm sure there are others. Those glittering insipid fairies are back," he said as he slid a crystal into a slot at the top of the chamber, above his master's head. "You can finish the job, make her pay, and kill the rest of them."
To be continued.
Special Thanks to my prereaders for helping with this chapter.
Ozzalos, Pale Wolf, Trimatter, Jerry Starfire, PyroRaven, Truk, J St C Patrick, Acey
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