A Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon / Ranma ½ crossover story
by Jeffrey Vasquez
Disclaimer: Based on the series Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon. All characters copyrighted by Naoko Takeuchi, Toei Animation, and Kodansha. The characters of Ranma ½ are the express property of the most benevolent queen of comedy, her Highness, the revered Rumiko Takahashi and Shogakukan. I am in no way claiming or even pretending to own these characters. The rest belong to me.
What has gone before: Makoto is reunited with a woman that she had wanted desperately to fill the void that her own mother's death had left. She also confronts Ranma about causing his mother so much pain, only to learn that the young man suffered worse than his Nodoka had. The Rhakshasa pick up the pieces after Saffron decimates Phoenix Mountain. Nabiki attempts to deal with all the changes in her life, and discovers that Kasumi is envious of her plight.
Ranma meets Ami and Usagi for the third time and weathers the beginning of Makoto's severe tongue lashing. During the conversation he injures himself, and Ami sets about tending the wound. As she tends to Ranma, an accident with a bowl of cold water reveals Ranma's curse — not only to Ami, but to her mother as well. To Ami's credit, she takes the whole incident in stride, and she and Ranma decide to be friends.
"I WILL NOT CALM DOWN! HOW CAN YOU EXPECT ME TO BE CALM AT A TIME LIKE THIS?!"
Ami winced at the hysteria in her mother's voice and did her level best to crawl under the proverbial rock. The older women had retired to Auntie Nodoka's room to discuss the events in the kitchen, but to Ami's shame, her mother wasn't doing much discussing. The young genius tried to smile apologetically across the table at her new friend, but Ranma seemed not to notice. He simply focused all of his attention on his meal, eating slowly and in silence.
Ami looked to Usagi and Makoto, hoping that they could help her ease the tension that hung in the air. Sadly, if not typically, Usagi's face was buried in her plate while Makoto sat stiff as a board and glared at Ranma. The fact that Ami had come into the room wearing Ranma's shirt didn't seem to earn him any points with the young brunette, either. Usagi had wiggled her eyebrows a great deal and hadn't stopped winking since Ami's return. She could honestly say that this was the most uncomfortable night she had ever experienced in her life. It even beat out that New Year's party her mother had taken her to.
"I THOUGHT YOU MEANT THAT HE WAS A CROSSDRESSER!"
Ami's face burned with shame as Ranma's body stiffened slightly. His chopsticks hovered before his mouth for an extremely tense moment, and then slowly descended to rest beside his bowl.
"YOU SAID 'HE CHANGES INTO A GIRL'! HOW ELSE SHOULD I HAVE TAKEN IT?"
Ranma's whole body seemed to twitch, and then was still. The young woman chanced a glance at her friends, and noted idly that Usagi had stopped shoveling food into her mouth and was staring at Ranma with wide eyes. A little soba noodle dangled precariously off the blonde's cheek in the sudden silence at the table. Makoto's steely gaze could have drawn blood.
Ami heard Nodoka placating her mother before Ranma cleared his throat and sighed loudly. His face bore an expression of weary acceptance, much like a man being sent to the executioner's block. She could tell just by the way that he shifted his body that he had experienced this same uncomfortable moment countless times in the past.
"Spill it Saotome, what's going on?" Ami winced at the acid in Makoto's voice. "Are you some kind of pervert?"
"MAKOTO!" Ami had to fight the urge to slap her friend.
"What?! It's a legitimate question!" the tall brunette countered.
"How can you say that?" Ami demanded. "And what gives you the right to question him like this in his own home?" She couldn't believe the anger that Makoto's attitude towards Ranma had generated.
"I've got every right! You didn't see Auntie weeping at the sight of a mother and her children every time that we went to the park!" Ranma visibly winced and bowed his head in shame but made no move to defend himself.
"Well, I think you're out of line!" Ami countered icily. "Ranma's personal life is none of our business."
Usagi winced as Makoto's voice took on an even more aggressive tone and volume.
"If he's going to hurt Auntie again, then I'm making it my business! She's suffered more than enough grief from this jerk, and I'll be damned if I let him hurt her any more!" Makoto's gaze slid back to Ranma, boring holes through him. "I can't believe that you're defending him!" Makoto's voice was filled with disbelief.
"Maybe because he's earned my trust!"
"Just because the guy pulls your fat out of the fire doesn't make him a saint, Ami! You don't know anything about this this perverted jackass!"
Something snapped in Ami, and before she knew what was happening her hand was streaking across the table. The logic centers of her mind coldly reported that this act was irredeemable, and that Makoto had been her friend a great deal longer than Ranma had. The more irrational parts of her brain cried out for blood.
Usagi bit her lip and watched in horror as Ami's intended slap rocketed towards Makoto's face. The shock and the sense of betrayal in the tall brunette's eyes left her no defense against the in coming blow. No one saw him move, but somehow Ranma caught Ami's wrist just before the blow landed. Usagi and Makoto simply stared at Ami as her wrist quivered weakly in Ranma's grasp with tears in her eyes. Usagi watched the tableau as it continued to unfold and couldn't help but feel shell-shocked. Makoto didn't seem any better off.
"You weren't there, Makoto! You don't know what they were going to do! To Usagi! You weren't there! They didn't touch you." Ami's voice trembled and her words died out in a whisper of shame. The fact that she was a Sailor Senshi made her feel even worse. She should have been able to protect Usagi better. Here she had all this power, and in a moment of truth, she had to be saved by someone else. She couldn't stop the tears, but felt comforted that Ranma had saved the day. Again.
Makoto had the grace to bow her head.
Ami started to say more but Ranma caught her gaze and quietly shook his head. His demeanor was so nonchalant, as if the war being fought over him was nothing new. He gently released Ami's hand and with a calm that Usagi envied, looked at each of them in turn. His steely blue gray eyes seemed to pass through each of them. Usagi felt like she was being weighed, and was more than happy when he moved on to Makoto.
Usagi bit her lip again as Ranma and Makoto stared each other down for a small eternity. Neither blinked nor moved, and Usagi found herself fidgeting anxiously. She stole a glance at Ami and found that her friend had bowed her head and refused to look up. It made for an extremely tense moment to say the least, and the instant that Usagi opened her mouth to break the silence she noticed Ranma smirk. It was a wry, haughty thing to behold, a look that she knew would push all the wrong buttons in Makoto. The girl hated to be challenged. Usagi was the first to admit that she wasn't the brightest of people, but the look Ranma leveled at Makoto clearly said that he had weighed her, measured her, and found her wanting. The line had been drawn in the sand, and Makoto looked more than ready to cross it. Usagi winced and started chewing on her napkin nervously.
Ranma's grin became maddeningly smug, setting Usagi's nerves further on edge.
She fully expected Makoto to reach across the table and deck him. What she hadn't expected was for Ranma to reach across the table and tweak the other girl's nose. Makoto squawked and tried batting his hand away, missing him entirely. Her follow through clipped a bowl of cold soup, sending it sprawling across the table towards Ranma.
"Ranma!" Ami launched herself at Ranma tackling him an instant too late. She collided with the young man, sending both of them to the floor in an untidy heap. The bowl bounced off the table, sending soup and vegetables food everywhere. Usagi and Makoto found themselves staring at Ami's rather damp back, and then at a shock of extremely red hair. Makoto's jaw dropped to the floor, and Usagi simply stared.
There was a moment of heavy silence as Usagi and Makoto took in the now female Ranma. His er her face was a cold mask of resignation, leaving Makoto gaping like a fish out of water. For Usagi, it had to be one of the coolest things she had ever seen.
The soup was cold and sticky, leaving Ami feeling greasy and very much in the need of a bath. She shifted, hoping beyond hope that she had succeeded — but knowing that she had failed miserably. The body beneath her felt both smaller and softer than Ranma's male guise. Ami was somewhat surprised at how vivid the memory of his body was — surprised and pleased at the same time. A deep sigh from beneath her caused Ami's face to blush red and forced her to awkwardly scramble off of Ranma-chan.
She looked to her friends and noted their blank and somewhat vacant looks. While not totally out of place on Usagi, it was a bit funny to see Makoto caught flat-footed like this.
"It's a curse." Ranma's voice was resigned. The look that he leveled at Makoto was so detached; it was as if some vital part of her had died a long time ago. She casually poured hot tea in a cup and dumped it over her head. The change took hold and reverted her back to him in the blink of an eye. The cup was set aside and Ranma quietly stood. He cast his eyes down at Ami's ruined clothes and sighed tiredly. The shirt he didn't care so much about; he had more of those, but her skirt looked expensive.
"I'll fill the furo so you can get cleaned up. Mom might have something you can borrow; otherwise you'll have to borrow some more of mine." He gave her a tired smile and then disappeared into the back of the house.
Ami watched his back as he left the room and tried very hard not to think about wearing more of Ranma's clothing. It was hard enough to suppress the images of wearing his shirts to bed. Best to focus her attention elsewhere. Yes.
She turned her attention back to her hands as silence dropped over the room again. Usagi blinked once. She blinked twice. And she blinked three times. Makoto followed her lead. The quiet was unnerving to Ami, and yet she couldn't bring herself to break it. Things had happened so fast too fast. She needed time to catch up and to process all that she had seen today.
"That was too cool," Usagi cooed. Makoto and Ami shared an incredulous look with their princess. "What? He's just like Seiya and Yaten! Ohhh, Ami-chan! Your new boyfriend's soooo cool!"
"W-What are you talking about, Usagi?" the young genius stammered. Her face felt extremely hot and flushed. "He's not my boyfriend!"
"Suuure!" Usagi grinned slyly and winked at Makoto. The taller girl was staring at the spot that Ranma had been sitting, trying to replay the whole event. "Whatever you say, Ami-chan."
"It's true, Usagi! We're just friends." Ami wasn't sure how she felt about that either.
"Friends with benefits! He's already letting you wear his clothes! You're such a fast mover!" Usagi teased.
"USAGI!" Ami protested.
"It's always the quiet ones, eh?" Usagi nudged Makoto in the ribs and wiggled her eyebrows.
"Just think, Ami! He's probably the only guy on the planet that can truly understand what it means to be a woman!" Usagi giggled and hugged herself. "You guys can go shopping together and he wouldn't get bored!"
Ami rubbed her temples, trying massage away the headache that was building. She needed to calm down and get control back before she throttled someone. The dead look that she had seen in Ranma's eyes, combined with all of the stress that she had experienced in the last two days, was really starting to get to her. Makoto's attitude wasn't helping matters either.
"And whenever you wanted to have girl-talk," Usagi lifted her empty bowl over her head. "Viola! Instant girl!"
"Usagi, please stop." The blonde chatterbox ignored her friend's quiet protests and elbowed Makoto in the ribs again.
"Just think, she has someone to share those 'embarrassing' trips to the store with, too!" The pair shared a giggle that set Ami's nerves aflame. The temperature in the room dropped a good twenty degrees as Ami's fists came down on the table with a boom.
"Would you please just SHUT UP?" Ami couldn't believe that she was leaning over the table and shouting at her princess. Twice in one night she had set aside previous loyalties and defended a man she barely knew. She couldn't understand why she was doing it, only that it felt right. "I can't believe you would joke about another person's pain like that!"
Usagi was so shocked at the sudden backbone that Ami had grown that she just stared at the girl. Makoto was silent as well; intent on the fact that she could see everyone's breath in the suddenly frigid air.
"How would you feel if you lost your womanhood to a curse?" The look of shame that formed on Usagi's face caused Ami to switch targets. The blonde haired girl was a master of deflecting someone's anger with those puppy dog eyes of hers, and Ami still had a great deal of anger to vent. She rounded on Makoto, who had the nerve to try and look innocent! Grrrr! It made her so mad!
"And you! Insulting him in his mother's home!"
"He deserves it!" Makoto renewed her defense.
"Why?" The icy calm in Ami's voice seemed to drop the temperature even more.
" " Makoto's eyes darted back and forth, flustered at forgetting her reason for hating Ranma so readily. She wracked her brain looking for something, anything to counter Ami's accusations.
"Because he abandoned her!" Makoto felt proud that she had redeemed herself so quickly.
"We don't know that. Auntie always said that her husband took Ranma, not that Ranma left her," Ami countered. "Besides, he's back now. So what does it matter?"
"It matters to me!" Makoto's own fist slammed against the table, causing dishes to jump and clatter.
"So do something about it." Everyone froze at Ranma's voice. He casually leaned against the doorframe with his arms crossed. "Furo's ready for you whenever you want Ami-chan." The look that he leveled at Makoto wasn't friendly, nor was it hateful. It seemed more acquiescent than anything else. He paused only a moment before turning away again.
The gauntlet had been thrown at Makoto's feet, and she eagerly accepted. And it was all poor Ami could do to follow.
He had called her Ami-chan again! What did that mean?
Somewhere near Nanking,
They had traveled far and lost many, but a small group of refugees from the fallen Musk and Amazon kingdoms finally found rest in a small village two days north and east of one of China's largest cities.
Shampoo and Herb sat in a dark room, guarding one of the last Matriarchs of the Amazons, and in truth their only hope for survival. Herb sat in a chair that over looked the tiny cot that held the future of his once-mighty dynasty.
The small, weary body of Pepper slept soundly. He shook his head in wonder as he thought of the flight from Joketsuzoku. The boy had carried matriarch Cologne on his back for over twenty miles before finally passing out due to fatigue. Herb and his generals had lost many more of their straggling band before all was said and done, but midway through the night an eerie mist sprang up around the refugees.
Herb wasn't sure how long they had bumbled around, but as the first light of the sun touched the mists, the remnants of his army had found themselves on the outskirts of a small valley just north of the village they were in now.
How they had traveled so far in one night, Herb would never know. It was providence, to be sure, but he was grateful all the same. It had saved the fifteen hundred men and women of the remaining Musk from extinction, and an equal number of Amazons. He was pleased to note that the survivors helped support each nation's exhausted and wounded. Three hundred years of hatred had been buried out of necessity, and Herb prayed that it lasted.
He silently wondered how many of these people would be left to rebuild the kingdoms when the enemy was defeated. He chanced a glance in Cologne's bed and his hope fell.
If they could be defeated.
Shampoo caught his gaze in her own large and beautiful eyes, pinning the young king to his seat. She was so stunning, filled with the grace of a tiger and the undying fire of a phoenix. All that she had known had been destroyed, and yet she fought on. Either she was too stupid and stubborn to know when to quit, or her hope truly sprang eternal.
Since he knew her to be intelligent, it had to be the latter, or a combination of the two.
He envied her.
<You should get some sleep,> she said quietly. <We don't know how long we will be here.>
<I'll be fine,> he said nonchalantly, waving off her concern.
<Just like an idiot male!> Shampoo snorted in derision. <Full of piss and wind!> The Amazon maiden stood with her fists resting forcefully on her hips. <Take what you can when you can, Warrior! You'll never know when it's lost to you until long after it's gone!>
<And what of you, Sword Maiden?> he asked simply.
The ancient title was one of the Amazons highest honors, and to hear it spoken by someone that apparently knew what it would mean to her…. Xian Pu looked at the smile on his face and grimaced. Was he mocking her? No. If anything the look in his eye seemed almost caring.
She turned away in a huff. He was just a man, and the King of the Musk to boot. The combination, at least to the Amazon mindset, placed Herb somewhere just above Happosai in perversion.
Xian Pu wasn't a traditionalist by any means — at least not any more — and Herb had proven himself during the demon raid, which was why the man was still breathing.
<Someone must stand guard.> Xian Pu's voice was icy.
<Then let it be me.> Herb stood and scooped up his sword. <You need the rest more than I do.> Xian Pu whirled on the young king and threw a punch at his head, only to find her hand locked tight in his fist. Her violet eyes were aflame with indignation, and for a time the two simply stared at each other.
Herb's breathing became ragged as he stared down at the Amazon warrior. He could smell the sweat and soot; but underlying it, there was a sweeter smell. Lavender? No it was something more exotic. Jasmine perhaps. He could tell that she was cataloguing something about him as well, but from the fire in her eyes, he couldn't tell if it was a good something or not.
<Do not presume that you know what is best for me, Herb.> Her eyes narrowed to purple slits. <I am not one of your ready-made brides, waiting to be tamed. Nor am I one of your subjects to be ordered about according to your whims.>
Herb chuckled, causing Xian Pu's eyes to narrow even further. He slowly released her fist and held up his hands to ward off her anger.
<I meant no offense, Sword Maiden, nor do I seek to force my will upon you. I am simply concerned for your well-being.> He bowed and stepped back.
Xian Pu raised an eyebrow at the young king suspiciously. <My well-being is none of your concern.>
Herb shook his head in derision. <When you are guarding my back, and I yours, then I believe it is in our mutual interests to be concerned about each other.>
Xian Pu scowled and narrowed her eyes again, reading a multitude of double meanings in the young monarch's statement. How should she react? She was really too tired to give this the attention that it deserved.
<Fine. I will take first watch.> She turned her back and walked to the door of the small room. <I will come for you in two hours.> The door closed quietly but firmly behind her as she departed, leaving Herb to slump back into his chair.
He growled and covered his weary eyes with one hand. Never, even if he lived to be a thousand, would he understand women! Try to do a favor, or at the very least show them a simple courtesy, and your hide is stretched over the cookfires!
He wasn't entirely sure how long it took him to fall asleep, but it happened. Like so many times before, he drifted in and out of the dreams of those around him. His father had told him that it was a gift from his mother, the dragon Shi Meidan, and had promised him that it would serve him well in understanding his people. As he passed through the nightmares of both Pepper and Khu Lon, the gift seemed more of a curse.
He did not stay long in those dreams, quickly drifting through the illusory landscape of many other sleepers. Sadly, most of the visions that he encountered were echoes of those first two nightmares — dark shapes, coupled with fire and blood, loved ones lost, and a harrowing chase that left more than one sleeper waking abruptly.
More than once Herb drifted near a dream that would pop like a soap bubble before he could even experience it. He had gotten to the point where he no longer ran from the terrors; instead, he fought the demons — sometimes alongside his warriors, other times back to back with bloody Amazons, set to make a last futile stand.
Time held little meaning for him here, but he knew that his body was receiving no rest. The longer that he battled the nightmares, the worse off he would be. It was disheartening, but there was nothing for it. There was only so much that one man could do.
<Lift your spirits, Little Emperor. Your efforts will yet yield sweet fruit.>
Herb turned to the ancient voice and was surprised to see a man, not unlike himself, walking from the shadowy landscape. His robes were of an ancient cut that seemed to mimic the Musk style, yet seemed richer and more ornate.
<Who are you?> The newcomer smiled as he stepped up to the young king.
<Would you believe a distant relative?> Herb's eyes narrowed as he took in the man anew. With the slant of his eyes and the glimmering sheen of his skin, it wasn't hard to guess which side of the family Herb's companion hailed from.
<I did not believe that there were any of my mother's kind left.>
<We are a more formidable lot than that, young Herb.> The hope in Herb's eyes was dashed as the man shook his head. <We yet sleep, Little Emperor. Currently there is no way for us to touch the waking world.>
Herb slumped wearily to the immaterial ground and dumped his face into his hands. Fear and frustration built within him as he thought about his people and the countless others that were sure to fall to this threat. It didn't seem likely that the demons would be content with the Qinghai Province; their aggression and ferocity demonstrated the exact opposite. All of China was in danger of falling to these creatures; if the Rhakshasa didn't destroy his country, then the other world powers would just to halt the plague of demons.
There was no hope for reclaiming what was lost. He could feel the ethereal emptiness build in his soul when a pair of strong hands gripped his shoulders.
<Do not despair so, Little Emperor. All that sleeps must wake, is that not so?>
He scrambled to his feet and looked the man in the eyes; fervent anticipation danced in Herb's heart, but the young king's eyes were nothing more than angry coals.
<Do not mock me, Wyrm! My nation is broken while you dance in their dreams! Is this how my mother's people care for their own?> He couldn't hold back his anger, but the man before him made no response to his verbal assault. Herb turned away, disgusted. <Are you here to tempt me with veiled hope and riddles, or will you speak plainly?>
<Which would you prefer?>
Herb shot the man a heated glance that dared the man to press his joke any further. The man held up his hands, placating Herb's growing ire.
<So be it, Little Emperor.> He motioned with his right hand, and a set of chairs appeared with a small wooden table. He settled into one of the comfortable recliners and kicked his feet up dramatically.
<Are you going to make yourself comfortable?> the man asked smugly. Herb moved forward and sat heavily in the chair, changing it to resemble his throne in the process. The man made no notice of the display as he gestured to the white clouds above them.
<Behold our hope and future.> Herb's eyes nearly fell out of his head at the sight before him. The man he recognized readily enough. No greater or nobler opponent had he ever faced; Ranma Saotome was indeed a kindred soul that Herb could never forget. The woman on the other hand, was a different matter entirely.
<Who is she?>
The man smiled knowingly.
<Our wake-up call, Little Emperor.> He leaned over the arm of his recliner and grinned enthusiastically.
<Let me tell you a story about Shevat of the Nine Seas…>
The man spoke, and Herb listened. When Xian Pu woke him, the King of the Musk looked more haggard than when he lay down, but the smile on his face was full of fresh hope.
Somewhere in the Amazon Basin,
"WHERE IN THE HELL ARE WE NOW, RYOUGA?!"
Ryouga winced at the volume of Mousse's voice. Okay, so it had been a bad idea to take the left at Albuquerque. At least they weren't in the desert any more. That was a plus, right?
"STUPID PIG BOY!"
The Lost Boy made it a point not to turn around. The last time that he had, he'd gotten a nosebleed and a black eye from Phau Set. It wasn't his fault that she was sweating so much nor was it his fault that silk had a tendency to cling. Okay so maybe it was partially his fault, but she didn't have to get so grumpy.
She didn't pound on Mousse when he looked at her. Probably because she knew that the idiot couldn't see anything without his glasses anyways.
"I don't know, I think it's kind of pretty."
Ryouga chanced a glance at Xi Fu, and had to hurriedly avert his gaze. Phau Set's older sister didn't seem to mind the fact that she was wearing a second skin at all; she was too entranced by the flora and fauna.
Ryouga didn't notice that his face had started to flush, but Phau Set did, earning him a vicious kick to the back of his calf. He growled and pushed forward through the foliage again, only to have Xi Fu grab his arm and move in front of him.
"I'll take point." She untied the lifeline from around her waist and motioned for Ryouga to do the same. He was thankful that he had something to occupy his attention. He didn't think that anyone would appreciate him passing out again.
"What is taking you so long?" Xi Fu gruffly stepped into his line of vision causing him to feel lightheaded. Why couldn't she wear underwear like everyone else? He tried to look away but everywhere he turned, she was there, tugging and pulling at the rope around his waist.
Ryouga whimpered and gripped his nose, and then everything went black.
The dojo was cold. The night's chill had settled into the floorboards and made the whole building seem more like a tomb with the way that Ranma stood in the center of the room. His shoulders were slumped and his eyes downcast as Makoto stormed into the small training hall. Ami and Usagi did their best to keep up as their friend stormed into the room.
Makoto angrily stalked across the floor, intent on one thing and one thing only: beating the hell out the young man at the heart of the hall. She had made it halfway across the floor when Ranma held up his hand, forcing Makoto to pull up short.
"Do you want something meaningful out of this, or are you just gonna pound me into the floor boards?" His voice was low, nearly a whisper.
"What're you getting at, Saotome?" Makoto growled. Ranma shrugged and lifted his head to face his opponent.
"I just want to be clear on what you're hoping to get out of this."
"The satisfaction of pounding your face in for all of Auntie's sleepless nights," Makoto growled.
Ranma nodded. "I can get behind that. Is that all you want?"
"You offering more?" Makoto smirked, hiding her shock at his words.
"Why go for the rice bowl when you can have the whole pot?" Ranma's grin held no mirth to Makoto's eyes. If anything it seemed to only intensify the boy's aloofness. "Make this something worth fighting for."
"What did you have in mind?"
The pig-tailed boy shrugged. "No time limit. First to knockout wins."
"What are the stakes?" Makoto asked, intrigued.
"You win, I leave. Ranma Saotome dies in this dojo, never to return."
"That's insane!" Ami couldn't help herself. The thought of this whole confrontation was incredibly stupid. Usagi said nothing in light of chewing on her bottom lip and wringing her hands.
"And if you win?"
"Mako-chan!" Both Usagi and Ami couldn't believe their ears.
"I stay and you help me make Mom happy."
"That's it?" Makoto had expected something more.
Ranma shrugged, causing Makoto to grin.
"So what's it going to be? You gonna drive me out or what?"
"Ranma-kun! You don't have to…" Ami started to walk towards him, but Ranma held up his hand as he had with Makoto. Ami was more than a bit put off that he never took his eyes off of his opponent.
"Pack your bags, Saotome." The sometimes Senshi of Jupiter cracked her knuckles and popped her neck. The smell of ozone was thick in the heavy air.
Ranma tossed her a gi and pointed to the equipment closet.
"This is asinine!" Ami grumbled under her breath as she moved back beside Usagi. The princess of the Moon Kingdom nodded her head and settled herself on the floor. Ami stared at Usagi in disbelief. "How can you just sit there?"
Usagi just pointed over to Ranma, doing nothing to hide the silly grin plastered on her face. Ami followed her trembling finger and nearly swallowed her tongue as Ranma peeled his soup-stained shirt off of his back. The T-shirt followed quickly, causing both girls to slap their hands over their noses. Ami hardly recognized the fact that she was now sitting next to Usagi.
Ranma rolled his shoulders, causing both girls to whimper as his muscles rippled across his hard lined back. Ami tried to cover her eyes, but Usagi grabbed her hands and refused to let go.
It was a relief when Ranma slid into a gi top. It gave Ami a chance to get her hormones under control. She had almost succeeded in that monumental task when Ranma started stretching. Ami noticed Usagi pucker up to whistle and threw herself bodily into her future queen to forestall any further embarrassment.
"This is more than asinine!" Ami snarled. "This is insane!"
Usagi merely drooled and mumbled something about getting Mamoru to take up martial arts.
Somewhere in the Amazon,
Ryouga woke to the sound of Chinese — very angry and very colorful Chinese. His head hurt, and his body was strapped to something. He moved his head a little, which gave a whole new meaning to the word pain. Someone was fidgeting with the ropes binding him, and he could tell that Phau Set was rather upset with Mousse.
Okay, nothing new there.
Xi Fu was also mad, which in and of itself was nothing new either. But her reasons for being mad were.
<Will you two shut up! You're going to wake him!>
She sounded like she almost cared….
<So! It's because of that fool that we're lost!>
At least Phau Set was keeping to the status quo. Mousse, now that he was out of the direct line of fire, wisely decided to keep silent. Ryouga was glad that his blind friend had learned something from all the fighting in Nerima or perhaps he had learned it earlier on. He supposed living in a matriarchal village would do that for a guy.
<We're alive! Quit bellyaching and be grateful!>
<We are in the middle of a jungle!> Phau Set viciously slapped her arm, killing a mosquito the size of a dragonfly. <We have no food, no water, and no idea where in THE HELL WE ARE!> The young Amazon's black hair seemed to stand on end for a moment as she screamed in her sister's face. <WHY ON EARTH WOULD I BE GRATEFUL FOR THAT?>
Xi Fu calmly wiped the sweat and spittle from her face and, in an impressive display of speed, slapped her younger sister full across the face. Ryouga sat up immediately and reached for the sisters. He had no idea how to stop them, or if he even should bother to interfere. They had been wandering for three days, constantly looking over their shoulders for the expected attack that never came.
The sisters hadn't had proper time to mourn the loss of their village, nor had they had an easy time following Ryouga. It was one extreme after another with him — deserts in the morning and mountains in the afternoon. They all needed a rest. They all deserved a rest. The tearful, defiant looks on both of the Amazons faces broke his heart. The gulf between them continued to grow wider and wider by the moment.
<Please, don't fight.> Every eye turned to him, each displaying varying looks of unbelief. It took Phau Set a moment to shake herself out of her shock, but the disgusted mask that she had reserved especially for him was once again back in place.
<Since when do you speak our tongue, Lost Boy?> Phau Set demanded.
Ryouga could only shrug.
<Listen long enough and you tend to pick things up.> He began picking leaves from his hair as he stood. <I've always been good with languages.> He grinned, showing his rather large canines. <When you're on the road as much as I am, then you have to pick things up fast.>
Phau Set grumped and tossed her dark hair over her shoulder, causing one of her hair ornaments to fall out. As she bent to pick it up, a small, feathered dart lodged in the tree directly behind her. Xi Fu screamed and swept her sister's feet out from beneath her as more darts shot from every direction. A third volley shot forth, intent on taking the pair of women, but Mousse was there. Twin shields materialized from the depths of his robes to protect the women from the flight of darts. Mousse instantly knelt, covering them all in a giant metallic tortoise shell.
Only Ryouga was outside of the protective cover of Mousse's shields, but from what Xi Fu could see the Lost Boy didn't need the aid. The small darts either snagged in his clothing or simply bounced off his tough hide.
<How many do you count?> Mousse asked as more and more darts bounced off his shields. Xi Fu chanced a glance and narrowly evaded yet another retaliation from the undergrowth. She tapped his right leg four times and his left five. The area became suddenly very quiet, followed by a massive explosion.
The ground seemed to roll beneath them, tossing the Amazon trio into the air. Xi Fu and Phau Set suddenly found Mousse's shields pressed firmly into their hands and their weightlessness soon turned into a tight roll as gravity reasserted itself.
Phau Set was the first to land, shield poised to her right. Xi Fu landed at her back, guarding her left, and Mousse landed between the two, forming a three-pointed star. A tree groaned and then toppled, followed by another, and another, and another. Phau Set tracked Ryouga, finding him easily, poised in the center of a twenty-foot crater. She had seen the results of the Breaking Point training before, but the level to which the Lost Boy had perfected it was nothing short of amazing.
Silence fell over their little glade as the dust settled, leaving each of them charged for the next attack. The eerie quiet drew itself out. Phau Set twitched nervously, earning the young warrior a growl from her sister. Mousse hissed at both of them, and then exploded in a flurry of flying blades and rushing chains. The pattern seemed so random to Phau Set, but from the sudden cries of surprise, she knew that the weapons had found their marks.
Another volley of darts was directed towards the blind martial artist, only to be deflected by a giant metal war fan that he produced from thin air. A second flight came from directly above them, and then from ground level. It seemed as if it was suddenly raining tiny arrows.
The young Amazon knew that the deadly storm couldn't last forever at this rate of fire. Phau Set grimly set herself for the charge that she knew would soon follow, and chanced a glance over her shoulder at Mousse and her sister. Xi Fu was fingering a sword that Mousse was passing her. Her eyes danced from the canopy to the underbrush in an attempt to take everything in at once. She looked proud and deadly, just like their mother had the night of the demon raid.
Ryouga slowly backed himself next to Xi Fu, absently picking the darts from his heavy cotton shirt. His mouth formed a grim line that seemed cut from granite. His hands gripped his umbrella so tightly that Phau set could hear the tendons popping over his finger bones. The Lost Boy was a volcano waiting to erupt at a moment's notice.
Mousse was another story entirely. He was serene almost placid as he silently slid a wicked-looking scimitar from his sleeve. He seemed so focused, so stoic — just as he had right before he left on his quest for Shampoo's hand. Phau Set nearly spat at the thought of the brazen whore. She would have, had Mousse's hand not suddenly grasped hers. She was surprised to note how cool it felt against her flushed skin. Even more shocking was the weight of the scimitar that the blind boy wrapped her hand around.
The thing weighed next to nothing at all!
She scrambled to keep her grip on the hilt as it started to slide from her sweaty palm. It was all the opening that the enemy needed. The jungle soon exploded with bodies set on overwhelming the quartet.
Ryouga pounded another tan-skinned man into the ground, sending leaves and twigs everywhere. Twenty-five men, at last count, had set upon them. Fourteen had been put down so far, counting the gasping man at his feet. Ryouga lifted his head to take in the nine remaining men and growled. His arms tingled and his eyes saw nothing but red.
Xi Fu was at his back, her left arm hanging uselessly at her side. She had somehow tied herself to him during a rather heated part of the fight, and the rope at their waists was the only thing keeping him from rushing off to wipe the smug looks from the faces of their attackers.
He was so tired of being attacked. He was tired of wandering! He was tired of people getting hurt around him! He wanted it to stop! He wanted nothing more than to settle down and be at peace! To make his point, he kicked the tanned man at his feet back to his fellows and growled some more.
The guerrilla tactics of these silly little men were starting to wear thin on him. It reminded him too much of the way that Ranma fought. In and out, probing for weaknesses and then dancing away again just out of reach. It was so cowardly.
The men began to slowly encircle the warriors, raising their bows and spears, intent on finishing Ryouga and his friends off. The young martial artist felt trapped, like some boar at the end of a long chase.
The frustration at their plight frayed his nerves. He was lost, and these bastards had hurt Xi Fu. He was tired of feeling helpless! He couldn't do anything to save Akane, but damn it! He wasn't going to fail anyone again! He had no idea who these people were, or why they were attacking, but he was sure as hell going to make them regret it.
His forehead felt hot and began to itch. In fact, heat seemed to be rolling off of him in waves. His body felt like a furnace, and he needed to find release for all the pent up anger that was continuing to build in him.
Xi Fu adjusted her shield for the fifth time in what seemed forever. The heat of this accursed place was making it next to impossible to keep a good grip on the shield. She could feel Ryouga's muscles tense at her back again, and was glad that she had taken the time to tie herself to him. Like it or not, he was their best chance of returning to civilization. The last thing that she needed was for him to blindly dash into battle to get lost or killed.
She was surprised to feel a palpable heat begin to roll off of him. She was even more surprised at the ghostly red glow that seemed to drift around her. Vaporous flames danced at her feet, causing her to glance back at Ryouga. What she saw made her gape.
His entire body was wreathed in crimson fire. More startling still was the sigil etched in white fire on his forehead.
The heart shaped arrow seemed vaguely familiar to the Amazon, but she had little time to ponder its significance as something more amazing happened. Everywhere she looked, the men dropped their weapons and prostrated themselves.
Makoto exited the closet and saw Ranma stretching out and warming up. She quickly followed suit. When Ranma stood a few moments later, she rushed to stand with him.
"Don't rush it." His voice was terribly calm. So much so that it grated on Makoto's nerves. "No need to cramp up in the middle of something so important."
"Don't do me any favors." The smell of ozone increased, and the air in the dojo started to feel very heavy.
Ranma shrugged and positioned himself opposite Makoto with his eyes closed.
Makoto snorted and went back to her stretching. She was going to shove that superior attitude right up his What the ?
Ami caught Makoto's attention as she struggled to keep her hand over Usagi's mouth. Soon the pair began slapping each other's hands in a childish frenzy. She wanted nothing more than to yell at the pair, but something stopped her. She had never seen Ami this animated before, and the last thing that she wanted to do was clip the bud that was blooming. No. She would just have to focus on digging up weeds instead.
She turned her attention back to warming up. She found her anger and began focusing it; building a temple of rage and housing all of her disappointment within. It was a familiar routine that came with practiced ease. The injustice of her parents leaving her an orphan became the foundation. Losing Taro's friendship to Hikaru became the first column. People like Beryl constantly ruining any chance of a normal life for her became the second. The bastard Yoshihiro stealing her innocence became the third. And finally she set the last pillar. In many ways it was the one that hurt the most for the promise that it had held.
Damn you Ranma! she cursed him silently. Damn you for hurting her! And damn you for stealing her love away from me!
Makoto finally stood and settled into a solid ready stance. Her rage danced along her arms in the form of tiny blue arcs of lightning. She stared at her opponent and allowed ten years of unfocused hatred to fill her.
Ranma stood motionless, ignoring the electricity dancing along Makoto's arms. He had seen too much of the world to be impressed by a little light show. He casually tilted his head and beckoned his opponent forward. He wasn't surprised in the least that she eagerly accepted his invitation.
He had to force himself to remain still as Makoto's first strike, a powerful right cross, took him square in the jaw. He accepted the jolt that her punch sent through his system and set himself to receive the follow up left hook that was even now rocketing toward his face. There was little pain in the blow. Truth was, he barely felt it. If it hadn't been for the electricity, he would have started laughing, but that wasn't part of the plan.
He had hurt both his mother and this girl. It took little guesswork to realize that this young woman was the girl his mom had told him about. If it hadn't been for him, Makoto would have found a family and some measure of happiness. Instead, she had been set aside for the memory of a boy that had abandoned her. He would just take what ever she would dish out and let her find what measure of peace she could by using him as a punching bag.
All he had to do was remain conscious throughout the ordeal. Piece of cake. He grinned arrogantly at Makoto as she danced back out of reach.
"Is that the best you've got?" He rolled his eyes. "I thought you wanted ta win." He watched, grinning, as the lightning coursing over his opponent's body grew more pronounced and frequent.
Ryouga blinked and looked back at Xi Fu in bewilderment. His rage slowly gave way to confusion as the men refused to stand up and fight. She returned his questioning look with a tired shrug that caused her to wince.
<What did you do?> Mousse hissed from his left.
<How the hell should I know?!> Ryouga growled. <One minute they're out for blood, and the next everybody's praying!>
Xi Fu opened her mouth to question Ryouga about the symbol on his forehead when a slender Japanese boy stepped out from the shadows of a rather large tree. His hair was pulled back into a wild ponytail, and he had the largest nose that Xi Fu had ever seen. Strangely, it seemed more fitting than out of place on the teen.
"You're late, Hibiki." The four warriors settled immediately into loose stances, but the young man ignored them. "I'd almost given up on you. You should have been here two days ago."
"Who are you? How do you know my name?" Ryouga demanded. "What do you want with us?"
The boy just shook his head and turned away.
"No time for questions, Hibiki. We got to get moving."
"We're not going anywhere until we get some answers!" Ryouga growled and folded his arms over his blocky chest.
"Stubborn as ever, and twice as stupid."
Ryouga growled and clenched his fists, but the young man simply started to walk away.
"Fine. Hang out here if you want. I got a schedule to keep. You want answers, then talk and walk at the same time." The boy made it a point to look at the sky for a moment before starting to walk again. "We've got a long way to go, and no time to waste."
Ryouga felt something jab him in the ribs and looked down into Xi Fu's verdant green eyes. She nudged him again with her finger, and when he didn't take her hint, she flat out pushed him in the direction that the boy was walking.
One way or another, she wasn't about to let this opportunity pass them by. No matter how much it made her skin crawl.
Both Ami and Usagi were amazed, to say the least. They had never seen any of the Senshi manifest their powers while still in their "civvies". It was enough to give both of them goosebumps.
What concerned them more was the way that Ranma was just letting Makoto pummel him. He took hit after grueling hit, never lifting a finger to defend himself. He taunted Makoto, feeding into her angry frenzy, and she reciprocated by increasing the ferocity of her strikes.
A kick to the groin and a rabbit-punch to Ranma's kidneys caused Ami to nearly come unglued. Both combatants ignored her sudden outburst. Usagi grimaced but surprisingly held her peace. The young man didn't fall as expected, though. He merely shrugged off the blow and tossed Makoto another mocking reply that upped the ante. A brutal crescent kick drew first blood, and Ranma still refused to lift a hand to defend himself or retaliate. He opened himself to every blow, accepting Makoto's rage and embracing her hatred. This seemed to only infuriate Makoto all the more.
"Why is he just letting her beat him up, Ami-chan?" Both winced as Makoto loosed a staggering three-hit combo that Ranma refused to acknowledge. "Why doesn't he block or something?" Ami didn't know how to answer her friend, so she just remained silent. Whatever the reason, she was certain of one thing; the whole affair was ludicrous.
Strike after strike fell, and still Ranma stood. His bruises and cuts had started to stockpile, and he was starting to grunt more and more whenever Makoto hit a particularly tender spot. No one had kept track of the time, but to Ami it seemed forever. The longer that the conflict drew itself out, the more that she thought that she understood Ranma's motivation. Still, the fact that it had to be the most vulgar spectacle she had ever seen was really starting to wear on her.
"I'm stopping this," she hissed as another knee found its way to Ranma's groin. She started to stand, but Usagi's grip on her arm was like iron.
"Usagi, let go." Ami started to peel the other girl's fingers off of her, but Usagi refused to ease her grip. When Ami looked at Usagi's face, she saw helpless pain and fear etched into her friend's features. More shocking still was the blazing crescent on her forehead.
"Don't leave me, Ami-chan." She sounded so pitiful. "They're both hurting so much, and he's so empty." Usagi's eyes narrowed, sending tears cascading down her cheeks. "He's half-dead inside, Ami-chan; he doesn't care what happens to him. I'm afraid. What are we going to do?"
Ami looked back at the fight disgustedly.
"Go get my mother and Auntie. I'll see what I can do to stop this."
Makoto poured more power into each punch and kick she threw. The electricity had long since disappeared, but Ranma noted that she had simply channeled the energy into each move she sent at him. He felt his right eye finally swelling shut, and at some point he had bitten the inside of his lip. The blood filled his mouth with a coppery tang that made him want to spit.
He was impressed with the girl's stamina. With a little training, she might have been able to stand toe-to-toe with Shampoo. She had power, to boot; maybe not as much as Shampoo and Ryouga, but it was still respectable. The biggest drawback that she had was her anger. He didn't understand what it was with women and their violent anger.
"FALL, DAMN YOU!" Her voice was hoarse and her knuckles were bloody. She had cut them on her fifth strike to his hard head. Her foot smashed into his ribs for the twenty-fifth time, followed up by a snap kick to his gut that drove the air from Ranma's lungs. Ranma wobbled for a moment, but retained his feet.
Ranma grinned up at her and, with supreme effort, forced himself to wink at Makoto. Her already bloody fist smashed into his face again with a loud crack. Blood fountained from Ranma's broken nose, sending him staggering backwards. His eyes teared up involuntarily, and he scrambled to reset his wobbly legs for the followthrough that he could feel coming. Makoto didn't disappoint him. Her heel hit him right behind the ear with more power than she had shown throughout the entire fight, causing the room to tilt wickedly. Stars danced in his vision as he fought to remain upright.
Maybe he had been wrong about the power thing. That had felt like a Ryouga kick. No, it had more behind it than Ryouga had ever put in his kicks. It was closer to Taro or Herb.
Damn, but that had been a good kick! When was she going to get tired of this crap? He didn't want to have to move against her, but there was little doubt that he was running out of steam. A few more hits like that, and Ranma was going to be out like a light!
She was screaming at him again. Something about it not being fair. He couldn't tell for sure because his ears were ringing something wicked.
He looked at her and grinned again. The electricity was back now, with a vengeance. It was arcing off of her body dangerously in fat lazy tendrils, only to be pulled back before it could ground itself. Ranma also noted that her forehead was glowing with some weird symbol.
"WHY WON'T YOU FALL?" Electricity arced off of Makoto's body and lanced into Ranma's chest, blowing him back into the east wall. Thunder boomed throughout the dojo, rocking the building on its foundations.
Ami had absolutely no idea what to do. She had seen Makoto angry before, but this was the closest she had seen the girl come to completely losing it. The fact that she was openly manifesting her abilities was something of a concern. There was no way that Ami could get between the two — not without risking serious injury. She was starting to get desperate. What was taking Usagi so long?
"FALL, DAMN YOU!" Makoto's voice was hoarse and her knuckles were bruised and bloody. Ami watched another kick smash into her new friend's ribs for the twenty-fifth time, followed up by a snap kick to his gut that drove the air from Ranma's lungs. Ami's breath caught in her throat sympathetically. Ranma wobbled for a moment but retained his feet.
Good boy. Show her what you're made of! Ami silently cheered.
Ami smirked at Makoto's frustration. Served her right. When this was over she was going to give Makoto a piece of her mind! Ranma grinned up at his opponent and with a supreme effort, forced himself to wink at Makoto. Ami's heart leapt in her chest, knowing that Makoto wasn't going to take that well.
Makoto's bloody fist proved Ami right as it smashed into the young man's face with a loud crack. Blood fountained from Ranma's broken nose, sending him staggering backwards. Ami screamed foul, but again was ignored. He teetered precariously for a moment, and then scrambled to reset his wobbly legs for the follow through that Makoto was already committed to. Her heel hit him right behind the ear with more power than she had shown throughout the entire fight.
Ami screamed as Ranma absorbed the punishment.
"IT'S NOT FAIR!" Makoto screamed. "YOU ABANDONED HER, YOU STUPID PRIG! WHY SHOULD SHE LOVE YOU MORE THAN ME?" Ami's heart nearly broke at Mokoto's words as sudden realization hit home. Ami knew that Makoto had been in an orphanage, and she knew that Auntie had worked at an orphanage all the pieces fell into place then.
No wonder Makoto was so worked up. Years of loneliness and pent up rage were finally finding a voice. And poor, sweet, imbecilic Ranma was weathering the storm. Ami felt tears gathering in her eyes as the boy yet again found his feet. Ami had to stop this before Makoto did something she regretted. It was a wonder that Ranma could stand, considering the level of power that Makoto was displaying. She maneuvered herself behind Makoto, hoping to restrain her friend. She was only a few steps from the girl when she saw her mother and Auntie enter with Usagi close on their heels.
Ami started forward, but immediately stopped when Nodoka violently shook her head and motioned her to join them. Ami complied, but under extreme duress. Yuriko gave Ranma's mother a serious look and whispered something in Nodoka's ear. Auntie simply frowned and shook her head again, which made Ami's mom really pissed off. Ami had never been on the receiving end of the Look of Death, but she had seen it employed a number of times. Nodoka, her attention completely locked on the fight before her, seemed totally immune to the scathing look that Yuriko was giving her.
Ranma shuffled his feet, drawing Ami's eyes back to the fight. He looked at his opponent and grinned madly at Makoto again. There was something almost manic about the look — something careless and supremely confident. How he could muster the energy to continue to defy Makoto was a mystery to Ami. It literally sparked off Makoto's rage even further. Lightning was arcing off of her body dangerously, only to be pulled back before it could ground itself in the surrounding dojo. Yuriko's eyes nearly popped out of her skull right then and there. Ami had no idea how she was going to explain this away.
Luckily, Ami's mom couldn't see the sign of Jupiter that had suddenly blazed to life on the girl's forehead.
"WHY WON"T YOU FALL?" Electricity arced off of Makoto's body and lanced into Ranma's chest, blowing him back into the east wall. Thunder boomed throughout the dojo, rocking the building on its foundations. The stout wood cracked beneath the impact, but amazingly Ranma just bounced off the walls and landed on his feet in an unsteady ready stance.
Tears rolled down Makoto's cheeks as she watched him solidify his defense. She had thrown everything that she could think of at the boy, and even tossed some unexpected things his way. But he soaked up the damage like a sponge.
She was tired and her chest was heaving from her exertion. Her arms were on fire, and the way that the light was pulsing with her heartbeat, she knew that she needed a breather. Ranma stood three paces away from her, broken, bloody and waiting. She had expected him to give her that damn smirk of his, but instead he was smiling tenderly at her. She wasn't sure which pissed her off more, his sarcasm or his pity.
It wasn't fair. He was supposed to be unconscious by now. She was supposed to have won. But he wouldn't fall down.
Why wouldn't he fall down?
She closed her eyes for a moment to focus her thoughts. When she opened them, she let out a squawk at Ranma's bruised and grinning face was suddenly inches away from hers. She tried to backpedal, hoping to put some distance between them. Ranma simply stepped in time with her, grinning even more. He finally had her backed into a corner, with no place left to retreat, and his grin turned soft.
"Sorry 'bout this." The regret in his voice was confusing, to say the least. Her mind slowly tracked his finger as he raised it, then held it poised just in front of her eyes, and everything went black.
Ami was shocked as Ranma silently ended the battle. One moment he was being pummeled, the next he had gone on the offensive. And he hadn't even lifted a finger to do it. He backed Makoto into a corner, and the next thing that everyone knew Makoto simply sagged to the floor. Yuriko ran over and immediately checked Makoto up and down. There wasn't a mark on her!
"How?" Ami's mother wasn't surprised, just curious.
Ranma shrugged his shoulders. "Nerve strike at the base of the neck. Give 'er a few an' she'll be fine." Yuriko blinked and self-consciously rubbed the back of her neck. Ami and Usagi followed suit.
"You look like hell." Yuriko's voice was playful, but backed by disapproval. She turned her attention back to Nodoka who was tenderly brushing Makoto's sweaty bangs out of the girl's face. "Are all Saotome men this stupid?"
"MOTHER!" Ami felt scandalized.
Ranma chuckled and shook his head; an act that readily went down as something really stupid to do after repeated head injuries. He started to swoon, but Ami was there to support him. Yuriko immediately grabbed his other arm and led the boy to the wall.
"Yes ma'am." Ranma's smirk was as infectious as it was insufferable.
"Cute and stupid. Perfect combination in a man," Mizuno-sensei grumbled under her breath. She looked at Ranma and shook her head. "Okay, maybe not so cute anymore ." Ranma's grin became more irreverent as Yuriko waved a finger in front of his eyes. "Something funny you'd like to share, Mr. Saotome?"
"Bet you dinner at a restaurant of your choosing that I'm back to normal in three days."
"Why, Ranma! How forward of you!" Yuriko looked ponderously between Ami and Ranma, and then grinned at the resulting blush that erupted on their faces. It was hard to keep the giggles at bay. "I'm flattered."
Ranma started to splutter and wave his hands frantically in front of his face. Yuriko cast a sidelong glance at her daughter, and noted how rigid Ami had become. How best to play this out? She had seen more tonight than her rather modern mind could handle, and yet her beautiful if not bookish daughter was taking it in stride. This was definitely a positive thing, especially considering the conversation that Yuriko and Nodoka had been having previous to Usagi-chan interrupting.
There was no question in her mind that Ranma-kun could break through Ami's shell. He had been doing that long before Yuriko had even thought of interf er, getting involved. The question wasn't a matter of chemistry, but tolerance. From what No-chan had described, Ranma-kun was a trouble magnet with a capital "T". Did she want her daughter to become involved with such weirdness?
If it would get her out of the library on Sundays and help her spread her wings a bit it could be a good thing. Plus it would give Yuriko a chance to study Ranma's curse up close — and to toss in a little good-natured teasing while she was at it!
The boy needed to loosen up as much as her daughter did!
Ami was getting fairly concerned with the obsessive look that was growing on her mother's face. It seemed Ranma was as well, from the way that he had just shivered. Both teens jumped when Yuriko scooped up Ranma's hands and held them to her breasts, right over her heart.
Ranma's good eye widened in fear at where his hand had become trapped against Mizuno-sensei's impressive chest; he whimpered and struggled weakly to pull his hand away before someone hit him. It had always happened before. And the way that Ami had started glowing was a good indication that something terrible was about to happen. When the temperature in the dojo started to drop, Ranma increased his lame attempts.
"Ranma-kun!" Mizuno-sensei whispered seductively, "I tremble in anticipation." And she was trembling at least. Whether from the sudden drop in temperature, or *shudder* anticipation, Ranma didn't want to know.
All he wanted at that moment was to cry as his breath started coming out in little white puffs. The analytical part of his mind was impressed that Ami-chan had such an instinctive handle on the Soul of Ice technique. Survival instincts honed over years of being around volatile women were screaming for him to run and never look back.
" mother " Ami's voice came out in a low, growling whisper that made Ranma whimper even more. He wasn't sure that he could survive another beating on top of the one that Makoto had given him. Sure, he was the best, but even the best had their limits!
"Yes, Ami-chan?" Yuriko winked at Ranma and licked her lips. He had seen that look on more than one woman's face to know that he might as well just pass out now and hope for the best. So, in light of the situation, he did just that.
Ryouga and his companions followed the man through the steamy jungle underbrush with surprising little difficulty. The hot afternoon sun heated the rain forest to such extreme temperatures that when it rained neither Mousse nor Ryouga had to worry about changing. They had been walking for what seemed hours before the strange Japanese boy pulled up short and held his hand out for everyone to stop in front of a cliff overgrown with plants and ferns.
"Why we stop?" Phau Set demanded.
The boy in question ignored her as he began searching the cliff face. The young Amazon became extremely unhappy. Too many males in the outside world didn't know how to show proper respect to a woman, and it was really starting to piss her off.
Fine. If they wanted to play hardball, she would play hardball.
"Hey! Big Nose! Why we stop?" She tossed her hair and folded her arms beneath her breasts in an "I-really-mean-business" pose that had worked wonders on their father.
"Stow it, Phau Set." Xi Fu was tired and hungry, which was never a good combination for the elder sister. "Before you get us into trouble."
"ME! I no is stupid one! I no lead us into jungle!"
"No. You're the one that's been complaining every fifth step of this miserable journey." Mousse began rubbing his temples, only to be flattened by a large blunt stone to his head.
"Phau Set is too, too sorry she fell in love with stupid Mousse!" Everyone paused at her admission and stared at her. Everyone save Mousse, that was. The young man in question was little more than an unconscious rag doll at Phau Set's feet at the moment.
The young Amazon crossed her arms beneath her breasts again and stared challengingly at her companions.
The Japanese boy shook his head and turned back to the cliff wall, while Xi Fu and Ryouga tried to find something to distract themselves.
It took their guide ten minutes to finally discover what he had been looking for; or rather, finish whatever he had been doing at the wall. Xi Fu and Ryouga had both noticed that the boy had been moving things from one part of the wall to another the entire time. At one point, Xi Fu had caught a glimpse of the carved surface of the cliff, noting with some interest the many glyphs and sigils.
When the boy had completed his task, he stepped away from the cliff. There was a pregnant pause, and then the ground began to tremble. Ryouga was on his feet in an instant with Xi Fu swiftly joining him. Mousse was groggily roused from his Amazon-induced slumber and squinted at the parting wall. Phau Set had drawn the scimitar that Mousse had given her from her sash and held it ready.
Light poured out from behind the wall, blinding all save for the young Japanese boy. The smell of dust and moist earth filled their noses and caused each to fall into a fit of coughing.
Xi Fu drew her sword and tried to position herself so that her bad arm wasn't presented to whatever lay beyond the wall. She noted with some annoyance (and pleasure) that Ryouga immediately took a shielding position in front of her. What they saw beyond the wall gave each pause, and confused the hell out of them.
Men and women of all ages, dressed in exquisite costumes, stood before the quintet. There were no weapons among the group, save for a magnificent staff held in the gnarled hands of the oldest man that any of them had ever seen.
Phau Set maneuvered herself closer to her sister and cursed under her breath. <He's even older than Elder Khu Lon!> The comment earned her a wicked punch to the shoulder from her sister.
The old man in question smiled behind his white beard, causing his tan, wrinkled face to become a mass of folds and creases. He was bent over the staff, as if the weight of years was trying to pull him into the grave. He scanned the small group with his one good eye and chuckled.
<Do not punish your sister so harshly for speaking the truth, Xi Fu, Daughter of Joketsuzoku.> The band of warriors all stiffened at the man speaking the mother tongue of the Amazons. <Such plain truth is refreshing to hear in this day of platitudes.>
<We we mean no offense, honored Elder.> Xi Fu hastily bowed and stomped on her sister's foot when the other girl simply stood and gaped at the ancient man. Mousse grumbled in the background about violent women as he regained his feet.
<None is taken.> His toothless grin was warm, but very disturbing. Xi Fu was grateful when the man turned his one-eyed gaze on Ryouga and Mousse. The two men stood tall in the face of the Elder.
<Well, well, well.> The old man shuffled forward, using his carved staff to support his weight. Two children moved with him until the trio came to stand before the pair of young warriors. <Serenity, take me to my rest! Kawasemi! What bright souls you've brought to Aumemnon this day!> The old man cackled heartily and shook his head.
<I had never thought to see the day when Ozmandius Cain and Themus would grace my door again!> He slapped both young men on their arms and grinned his toothless grin. <The Nomad of Mars and Pluto's Seer! Who would have thought that she would send you forward? I thought that she hated you two!>
"The Veil is heavy over their eyes, Odan." Ryouga and Mousse looked at their young guide questioningly, wondering what was going on. The fact that he wasn't speaking Japanese any longer never entered their minds. "They are here to be awakened, and to return the Kinzuisho to its rightful bearer."
"So, Endymion has awakened?" The old man's demeanor changed immediately from joyful to serious.
Kawasemi nodded his head and folded his arms. "He has, as will another."
This caused a murmur to ripple through the crowd behind the old man. He looked at Kawasemi for a very long time, and seeing to the heart of the Japanese boy's words, he began to weep. "Hope has returned to the world at last!"
Ami and her mother walked home in frigid silence, something completely foreign to Yuriko. Since being abandoned by the man in their lives, the Mizuno girls had been the team supreme. But tonight, Yuriko knew that she had gone a little too far. It had only taken her twenty-seven blocks to realize her mistake, but given the rather peculiar night that she had experienced, she felt justified in being off her game.
"I goofed, didn't I?" It was a humble admission, one that brought Ami up short.
Yuriko, in all her time living with her daughter, had never seen Ami angry. A little miffed, mildly put off, remotely peeved — sure. But well and truly pissed off had never happened before. Neither had the doctor ever been on the receiving end of "The Look of Death." She noted that it was really scary; really, really scary.
"How could you, Mother?" Ami's voice was covered in ice. "You were practically throwing yourself at him!"
Yuriko tried to shrug off her daughter's glacial anger by laughing. It didn't work as well as she had hoped, but at the very least she felt a little better. "Let me get this straight. You're mad at me for flirting with your knight in shining armor?"
Ami huffed and started stomping down the street again.
"I'm right!" Yuriko crowed triumphantly as she hurried to catch up with her daughter. "You're jealous cause Mommy was making moves on your man!"
Ami rounded on her mother furiously. "H He He's not my man!"
"No?" Ami's mother raised an eyebrow at the girl's flustered denial. Even to the young girl's ears the protest sounded lame, but she wasn't about to let her mother off the hook.
"No," she said flatly. "He's his own man."
"Then why are you so mad?"
"Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to have your mother practically sitting in a boy's lap, a boy that's your own age, no less? I can handle you being cooler than me, I can understand your fashion sense, I can even get behind the idea of you dating a younger man." Ami leveled a finger at her mother pointedly. "A man, Mother, not a boy!"
She spun on her heel and stalked off towards home again. Yuriko caught up to her and kept pace, allowing the silence to linger.
"He was brutalized and obviously in a lot of pain," Ami accused.
"Something that I helped him forget for a time," Yuriko countered.
"You scared him to death!"
"Last I checked he was still breathing fine, dear."
"That's not the point!"
"So what is the point, Ami-chan?"
"You need to be more responsible! You're a doctor, for crying out loud!" Ami savagely kicked a loose rock, sending it careening down the sidewalk.
"So what? I know a lot of doctors that make me look like a saint."
"I bet that they don't go around trying to seduce minors," Ami said bitterly.
Yuriko turned her head towards the street. "You'd be surprised, Ami-chan. You'd be surprised." Ami's head slowly turned to regard her mother. "You ever wondered why there are certain doctors at the hospital that I don't let you visit by yourself? Well, now you know."
Ami was shocked by the revelation. Doctors were supposed to be the safest people in the world. They helped people. She was too shell-shocked by her mother's admission to continue her jabs.
"I know when and when not to play, Ami-chan. Ranma-kun's a good kid with a mountain of problems. I can't believe the kid hasn't cracked beneath the strain yet." Yuriko shrugged her shoulders. "He needs to lighten up before the pressure becomes too much for him to bear." She smirked and nudged Ami with her body. "Sounds like someone else I know."
"I have lots of fun!" Ami objected. Yuriko rolled her eyes. "I do!"
"You don't know what fun is." Yuriko fished around in her purse for a piece of wrapped candy and popped it into her mouth.
"I do too!" Ami was annoyed. "I'll have you know that I have fun all the time."
"Well ." She had seen her mother laying the trap easily enough, but Ami had still walked headlong into it. She should have known better.
"Usagi and I went to the arcade just the other day!" Lame! Ami's inner child gave her the Red-Eye and shook her head.
"Ooooh! The arcade!" Yuriko rolled her eyes and shook her head. She parried her daughter's weak defense and started maneuvering her toward the telling blow. "How old are you again?"
Ami gave her mother a flat look that said in no uncertain terms what she thought her mother could do with her sarcasm. Yuriko blithely moved in for the kill.
"So what games did you play?" Ami blanched and began to fidget nervously. It was a bad habit that she had fallen into as a child. As a result, Yuriko knew when Ami was telling the truth and lying.
"Lots." Oooh, she was wringing her hands now! Yuriko snorted, drawing Ami's attention away from her shoes. There was no denying the truth in the face of her mother's smug grin. "Okay! Okay. So, I watched Usagi-chan and Minako-chan playing. I still had fun."
"You don't know what fun is."
That grin was so infuriating! "And I suppose you have lots of suggestions?" Ami knew that this was a can of worms that she shouldn't be opening. Her mother proved her correct.
Yuriko gave her a look that had "Duh!" written all over it. "Of course I do! I am your mother, after all! Now then, first . Never mind, you're too prudish to even entertain the idea."
"Well, then there's but wait, I'm too prudish to entertain the idea of you doing that."
"Of course you could always well, no. I don't think you swing that way." Yuriko paused thoughtfully.
"What?" Yuriko's eyes lazily turned to regard her daughter.
"Must everything be sexual with you?"
Yuriko shrugged. "No. I suppose not. But it is fun." Dr. Mizuno chuckled at her daughter's blush.
"I'll take your word on it for now."
Yuriko draped her arm around her daughter's shoulders and grinned. "You're right not to push it, darling, regardless of what I say. Still, I do say that you need a kissing buddy."
Ami nudged her mother playfully with her hip.
"Stop while you're ahead, Mother."
"Must you call me 'Mother'?" Yuriko whined. "You make me feel so old!"
Ami giggled and rolled her eyes, mimicking her mother perfectly. "Heaven forbid that I remind you of your age, Mother."
Yuriko poked her daughter in a particularly ticklish spot. "Tread carefully, daughter mine, lest you rouse my infernal wrath."
Ami batted her mother's hand away and the weekly Mizuno tickle war began in earnest. The battles lasted well into the night, until both had finally returned home exhausted and breathless. Yuriko fell on the couch, dragging her nearly-grown-up baby girl with her. They lay for sometime staring at the ceiling, trying to catch their breath.
"Forgive me?" Yuriko asked quietly as she stroked Ami's hair.
"Of course," Ami said drowsily. "Just try not to paw at the next cute boy we meet."
"Cute? I would say that Ranma was more of a 'ruggedly handsome paragon of masculine sexuality' myself."
"But he turns into a girl," Ami pointed out with a yawn. "He can't be a paragon of masculinity if he turns into a girl, can he?"
"Good point," Yuriko said ponderously. "How about we just say he's sexy, then?"
"That works." Ami yawned again and giggled.
"I'm glad you feel that way," Yuriko admitted, "because you're going to be my proxy whether I win or lose this bet with Ranma-kun."
Ami sat straight up and stared at her mother in shock.
"What? You thought that I'd actually go out on a date with such an admittedly cute young man? Ami-chan, I'm shocked! What would people say?"
Ami simply sat on the couch and worked her mouth like some drowning fish. Her mother kissed her forehead, and then lifted herself off the couch.
"Sleep well, Muffin."
Ami hadn't moved from her spot on the couch when her mother finally turned the lights out an hour later.
The room was dark and silent save for the deep, even breaths that whispered off to her right. Nodoka took great care in crossing the floor, and even more settling herself at the foot of the bed. For all the years that had passed, Nodoka had to admit that Makoto had grown into a beautiful young woman.
It was all that she could hope for and more.
More than once she had to remind herself that this wasn't a dream. By some heavenly providence, her ancestors had taken pity on her. It was the only explanation that she could come up with for being reunited with both Ranma and her little Ayame-chan.
Her house was full again — but more importantly, so was her heart. Nodoka stood and prepared to leave, chancing one last look back at the daughter she had given up for the sake of her son. She was surprised to see Makoto wide-awake and staring at her. Tears sparkled in the low light as they streamed down the young woman's cheeks.
"Are you all right, Ayame-chan?" Makoto nodded, trying unsuccessfully to control her quivering lower lip. Nodoka floated back to the bed and settled herself next to Makoto. She was immediately enveloped in a fierce hug, one that she returned with vigor.
A pang of guilt stabbed her heart as Makoto's hoarse whisper drifted to her ears.
" not a dream not a dream not a dream "
To be continued.
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