A Ranma ½ / Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon / Ah! My Goddess crossover story
by L. S. McGill
Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 characters property of Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. Sailor Moon characters property of Takeuchi Naoko, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC. Ah! My Goddess property of Fujishima Kosuke, Kodansha, TBS and KSS films; AnimEigo, Studio Proteus, and Dark Horse Comics. Other characters who may cameo are property of respective owners. All are used without permission. I did not write this for profit, but for practice. Will be removed at request of original creators or authorized rep.
Zhu Shu (who shoo), Tao-Ching, Xi'an Chi (zy-an chee), and Clans' Dragon and Skorpion are mine, and may be used so long as I am asked beforehand.
Book Two: The Dragon's Child
Chapter Two: Shadows of the Past
In the shrine on Cherry Blossom Hill, the Dragon mandala suddenly ignited into crimson as a portal opened in its center. Two figures emerged from the sun-bright hole in the air and resolved themselves into a pair of feminine forms. The taller of the two looked around and nodded. "Good we have arrived correctly. Now we must hurry! There is no more time!"
She raised the long golden key shaped staff in her hand and cried "Sailor Teleport!"
The two figures faded from view.
Akane's scream ripped through the evening and drew everyone running to jam in the door to her room. Akane was curled up on the bed crying piteously, projecting an aura of pure despair.
"Akane?" Ranma asked with more concern than anyone had ever heard in his voice. "What's wrong?"
She looked up, her face a mask of misery. "Zhu Shu… She was in a fight… Oh gods, Ranma …She's dead!"
Ranma hit his knees as a collective gasp arose. Shan Pu came stumbling out of Zhu Shu's room partially dressed and with a look of murder in her eyes. She pushed through the crowd to meet Akane's tearful gaze. "Shan Pu feel. Tell who did. Shan Pu kill!"
Akane nodded, her tears giving way to a look of pure rage. "I'm coming with you."
In a house by a shrine in Nekomi, a vase shattered as it fell from Belldandy's nerveless fingers and a rain began to fall on Tokyo.
Urd and Skuld rushed into the kitchen, concern an uncommon expression on Urd's face while Skuld was crying unabashedly as she ran to hug Belldandy tightly. Belldandy stroked her hair as she cried as well, listening to the sounds of a God mourning the loss of a mortal child…
In the heavens, Kami-Sama stepped down from his throne, a tear crawling down his face from his single blue eye at the sound that rang through the myriad of worlds in his care. He placed his hand on the arm of his throne and bowed his head.
"Soon, old friend. It is almost over. Soon you will need grieve for your children no more…"
In her lair, Mara had watched the battle in her scrying mirror. As Zhu Shu fell, she had laughed at the irony of it all… To have gone through so much trouble in China only to have this happen?!!!
Her laughter was cut short as her ears picked up a sound that cut through the black haze that had filled her mind of late and drained away the rage that had fed it.
The Dragon was mourning the loss of his child…
She slowly sank to her knees, her eyes locked on the still form in her mirror as the realization sank in and despair drove the madness from her mind.
"By Hild… what have I done?!"
In a pagoda in China, an old, old man knelt in front of an altar shaped in the form of an Imperial Dragon. Around him, the Dragon mandala slowly faded from crimson to blue. Tears ran from his eyes as he knelt. Even here, locked away in the shrine, he gave no other outward sign of his grief; anymore than he had the day his granddaughter had left his protection to seek her destiny, or the day he had found her body broken and cold at the base of a cliff. An ancient woman and a young girl had found him there, holding her silent form and they had given her back to him… along with a warning…
It had not made it hurt any less the second time…
Nabiki watched as her sister and her two fiancées disappeared into the rain. It was a truly mind numbing event to find she was so upset over what Akane had said had happened. Kasumi was in the kitchen making tea in a daze, her dad and Mr. Saotome were in the dining room getting drunk, and here she was staring off after the fighters and wishing, for the first time since she had convinced her dad to stop dragging her into the dojo and trying to teach her to fight, that she had continued the lessons…
And she had certainly never expected to feel like she had just lost a sister…
Zhu Shu opened her eyes to the soft fluttering of petals against her cheek. She was surprised to find herself in a grove of cherry trees. She remembered thinking that she was dying, but now the pain was gone, and she was here.
Wherever here was.
She stood and looked around. In every direction stood cherry trees, all in bloom. A soft breeze was stirring the branches and the fall of petals was as thick as snow. Overhead was only a soft pink sky, like the last moments of a setting sun…
She turned, her ears catching a sound other than the wind in the trees and found a faint path leading between the trees towards what looked to be a small clearing. Slowly she walked towards the brighter light. As she approached, the sounds resolved themselves into a cheerful humming of the song her father had once sung to her.
She stepped out into the clearing to find a large stone covered with the Dragon mandala. Beyond it an arch of stone stood. Setting in front of the arch, blocking it completely was a stone bench. Sitting on the bench was…
She looked up. "Nihao, my love. I'd say nice to see you again, but not here…" She looked around. "If I had my way, we'd never meet here again." She sighed.
"Where is this place?" Zhu Shu asked, puzzled.
Ying Ying grimaced. "Death's door."
Zhu Shu started. "I'm dead then…" Zhu Shu looked down at herself. "I feel fine."
Ying Ying smiled. "Of course you do, love. This place is a place of souls."
Zhu Shu turned wide eyes to her. "Have you come to meet me?"
Ying Ying laughed, her bright voice tinkling. "Oh, Beloved… It's really too bad I can't let you remember meeting me in this place anymore than last time. That's exactly the same thing you asked the last time you were here. My answer is still the same. This is where I have always been. This is where the Dragon has requested I remain. This is my destiny…"
"Yes, love. The destiny I chose so that I could always remain with you even though we could meet only in dreams. I am your Guardian. I bar the door."
"I don't understand." Zhu Shu said uncertainly.
"Yes, you do, beloved. You just don't want to. I could not bear a life apart from you; it was just too painful to feel both my own loss and your loneliness. I-I took my life to escape from that pain, yet as I left the mortal world behind, I faced the Dragon. He gave me a choice. I could go to the spirit realm, and you would join me there soon, or I could wait here, at the boundary of your life and death and bar your way." She smiled as she gestured around. "It was an easy choice to make. Here, I can be with you, watch as you live your life, watch as you find your loves, and as time passes and your grief fades, I can come to you in dreams. I am forever with you, my love."
Zhu Shu sat down on the bench beside her. "I wish you could be with me in life."
"But I am, love. I am always here; you just have not found the way to visit me yet, because you have not searched for me. Nor were you ready to. You have traveled far in your quest, both physically and spiritually. Soon, you will find the path to me… Then, you will know I am always here."
"You speak as if I am to leave."
"You soon shall. I told you. I bar the door. So long as I stand guard you cannot truly die. You still have a destiny to find in life, as I found mine in death. You are on the path towards what you must become; this is just a fork in the path, a place to rest. When last you were here, I comforted you for my loss, and even though you remember it not, when you were healed, your grief for me had begun to heal too. You will not remember this either, but this too is a time of healing. I started it early when I came to your dreams, but here, I can do much more." She patted her lap. Zhu Shu smiled as she turned and lay back to look up at Ying Ying's beautiful face. As Ying Ying stroked her hair, she closed her eyes.
"I love it when you stroke my hair."
"I know. I love stroking it. It's one of the things I miss most. I really wish I could let you keep more than just impressions of our meeting here, but I can at least comfort you with the fact that it will not always be so. When you can find your own way to me, there will no longer be any need."
"But why must it be so?"
"Because, Zhu Shu, you have a destiny that you must find on your own. I can guide you only so much. I don't know all of your future, Love, but I know too much. If I say too much, I may guide you towards that future, or I may destroy all possibility of you ever achieving it. The risk is too great at this point. As much as it saddens me, the only way to be sure you are the one who makes your own choices is to cloud your memories of these times."
"Is my destiny so important, then?"
Ying Ying smiled. "To the world? I cannot say. But to those whose lives you touch, and to me, yes. You affect the lives of everyone you meet Zhu Shu, and because of you, they grow, or they change, sometimes in small ways, sometimes in large. You are a catalyst, an agent of change, and your part in the lives of your friends is not yet over. But for everyone whose life you touch, they touch you as well. You learn from them and care for them, as the Dragon cares for you. You are the Dragon's Child."
Zhu Shu looked up at Ying Ying. "I don't understand."
"You will, in time, beloved. For now, it is time to sleep. When you awake, you will be with your friends once more… and in time, you will remember this. But for now… sleep…"
Zhu Shu's eyes drifted closed slowly as her breathing grew quiet. Ying Ying continued stroking her hair as she drifted deeper into sleep. Finally, she asked the air "I didn't tell her too much, did I?"
"No child. And as you said she will not remember this."
"This is the only part of my choice I regret. The need to make her forget. The loneliness she will continue to feel, not knowing I am here."
"Yet you know the necessity of it."
Ying Ying sighed. "Yes."
"We can at least do what we can to make her task easier. She has been burdened with emotions and learning not her own. I will remove that burden and make it so she will assimilate the knowledge in time."
Ying Ying nodded. "It would help. I know Belldandy and Urd meant well, but I fear they did not expect the exchange to be so hard for her. My Little Mouse feels far too much like a leaf in a whirlwind."
"Akane's mind is far more chaotic. She had less trauma from it, and has gained much of Zhu Shu's calm, where Zhu Shu has had her calm taken, and cannot regain it fully. If this continues, she will go mad as it has only been her innate nature that has contained the cancer of her soul. Already, I sense the darkness within her has grown. "
Ying Ying nodded. "I know, Legend. I wish I had been able to conquer my own demons and not take my life. I gave Chaos a path to her heart with my weakness."
"Had you not, you would not have been able to save her now. Destiny would have come by a different path, and found you unprepared."
"Is the future so certain then?"
"No future is certain child." another voice added. "Least of all hers."
Ying Ying looked up to see another kindly face, one belonging to a smiling man with an intense blue eye and a patch. He looked down at the sleeping girl in Ying Ying's lap.
Ying Ying bowed, careful not to disturb Zhu Shu. "I should not question, All-Father." she apologized.
Kami-Sama reached out to brush a stray hair from Ying Ying's face. "It is natural to question, child. Even more so when it is for the welfare of one you love."
Ying Ying assayed a small smile. "Yes, All-Father. I just wish I was not so powerless to help her."
"It will not always be so, Ying Ying." Legend's voice answered. "She will heal eventually, and with healing will come the understanding to find her way back to you."
"I wish I could tell her more."
"In time child." Kami-Sama said. "We have worked too long and too hard to thwart Chaos to risk exposing our hand to the enemy. What we have prepared for has been set in motion. The Norn of the Past's task has been given, The Dragon's Child brought out of hiding, the Shadow Lord made his presence known. The signs that must come to pass are happening. The scales will be balanced."
Ying Ying bowed in acknowledgement. "She misses me so much Lord. It has been so hard for her."
"This too shall be redressed" Legend responded. "If we remain strong, all will be well."
"It is time…" Kami-Sama said gently. "They have arrived."
Ying Ying nodded and traced the curve of Zhu Shu's face one final time as she faded from view.
"I just wish it wasn't so hard to wait…"
"Truly a tragic loss of one so brave." Tuxedo Kamen said quietly, allowing Sailor Moon to sob against his chest, her tears lost amid the falling rain.
Rei sat numbly staring, Zhu Shu's hand still clutched in hers while around her, the other Senshi huddled on their knees, crying.
Then a soft golden light surrounded them and a kindly voice spoke. "Your grief does you credit, Senshi, but you mourn too soon."
All eyes but Rei's turned to look at the figures outlined in the golden glow as they stepped out of the light.
An ancient woman with ankle length hair walked towards the still and bloody figure. Faint hints of green could still be seen in the sable mass, and her robe was trimmed in red and black. Her face was smooth, but her skin was as thin as parchment, and the hand that gripped her long golden staff was almost pure bone. Eons lived within her eyes.
Beside her walked a girl of about thirteen, dressed in a Sailor suit with spiky shoulders and a purple fuku. She carried a glaive with a double blade somewhat reminiscent of a can opener and the shadows of a thousand sorrows haunted her eyes.
They stopped by Zhu Shu's body, untouched by the rain, and the elder reached down to place a hand on Rei's shoulder. "Rise, Soul of Fire. Do not mourn for the Dragon."
Rei turned her tear-streaked face, her eyes a frozen wasteland, and stared without seeing the figure in front of her. "She is gone…" She whispered.
"No, child. The Dragon but sleeps." The old woman reached down and with surprising strength, drew Rei to her feet. "Watch, and grieve no more." She turned to the young girl. "Hotaru."
The girl nodded and raised her hands as energy coursed through her body and into the still form on the ground. Zhu Shu rose slowly into the air as her broken form began to knit itself back together.
The Senshi stared in shock as blood flowed back into the slowly spinning figure and a halo of energy grew brighter and brighter. Her body seemed to fade into transparency as her clothes burned away in the flow. Only the dragon tattoo on her back remained visible, seeming to acquire a strange three dimensionality as she spun.
Then streamers of energy spun around her transparent form and a vision of her reformed, and yet, it was not. A Tiara graced her forehead, carved into the silhouette of a dragon clutching the ruby at her brow. From her ears dangled paired yin yang symbols, while she was dressed in a variant of a Sailor suit that was distinctly Mandarin, her scarlet fuku trimmed in gold. In her hands, she held her swords, long scarlet streamers trailing from them, but the dragons burned with a white light on their blades. Her feet bore elegant scarlet slippers with small gold ribbons and she was surrounded by a corona of golden flame.
The vision hung there for seconds only as the Senshi gasped, then faded along with the energy pouring from the other girl. Zhu Shu hung in the air before them, sheathed in a plain red Mandarin dress. As her spin came to a halt, she suddenly took a deep shuddering breath and slowly descended to the ground. As her feet touched, her eyes opened and locked on to the face of the old woman supporting a near fainting Rei. "You???"
The old woman nodded. "Once more we meet outside of dreams, for the second time." She let Rei go as the other girl stepped beside her. She smiled as she looked at Zhu Shu. "Three times must we meet, while the Dragon sleeps. Three times I will call, in answer to your fall. The times must you face, the price of defying fate. Three times must I mourn, ere the Dragon stands reborn." She stepped back into the light. "Farewell, my Little Mouse with the eyes of a Dragon. We will meet again, for the last time and the first time. Until then…" In a fall of golden light, they were gone…
For a moment, all was silent, then like a meteor striking a planet, Rei crashed into Zhu Shu's embrace.
The other Senshi were still standing frozen, too stunned yet to move, when a sound like a bomb dropping came from overhead and an explosion sent Sailor Moon flying as the ground under her disintegrated. A battle cry of "Shan Pu kill!" echoed across the battlefield as the purple haired Amazon launched herself at another Senshi, her violet aura turning the falling rain into steam.
"Shan Pu! NO!"
The voice stopped the rampaging Amazon dead in her tracks, her bonbori a fraction of an inch from Sailor Mercury's face. Her eyes turned slowly to the direction the sound had come, her aura wavering, then flickering out. For a second she blinked, then there was a surprised meow as she vanished into the rubble, her bonbori clattering to the ruined roof.
The Senshi blinked, wondering what had just happened, then Akane dropped down to the battlefield as well.
"How could you let her get killed!” She yelled through her tears. "You were her…" her voice trailed off as she realized who was standing in Rei's embrace.
"Zhu Shu…" She whispered, not daring to believe her eyes, but the miracle didn't vanish… and with the vanishing of her rage, she could once again feel that the missing part of her mind had returned. She stood stunned for the space of too many heartbeats as Rei stepped out from in front of the blonde dragon girl, then with a flicker and a sonic boom, she was twirling Zhu Shu in an embrace.
"Yes. Zhu Shu alive! Careful! No want Akane to break!"
A muttering Shan Pu emerged from the rubble with an umbrella and landed next to them. She saw Akane hugging Zhu Shu and joined in the embrace and held them tightly, then one by one, the other Senshi joined in the group hug and happy noises arose.
Lost and forgotten, a pair of legs flailed wildly from the pile of rubble which concealed their owner as muffled cries for help could be heard. Tuxedo Kamen finally noticed them and the group broke up to go and help him dig Sailor Moon out…
Ranma dropped into the happy fray a few seconds later, overjoyed as well at finding Zhu Shu alive, but the wet redhead warned them that she had seen a few JSDF helicopters on the way. With a quick scurry, they all darted for cover.
Thoroughly wet from the rain, the group found cover in a nearby parking garage, most of the girls having to wring the water out of their hair. Ranma for once was self conscious enough to not pull her shirt off to wring it out, though he gave the only dry member of their group an evil eye and muttered about how unfair it was that some people had umbrellas. Akane finally released Zhu Shu long enough to ask "What happened?"
Zhu Shu gave her a sad smile. "Senshi need help. All attacks not hurt creature. Zhu Shu had use Final Attack to kill."
Ranma stared. "Zhu-chan, that was suicidal! Final Strikes are fatal to all but the strongest of martial artists!"
Zhu Shu nodded. "Could not let friends die."
Akane blinked. "Your accent's back!"
"She was dead, like really messed up and blood everywhere!" Sailor Moon said.
"She-she fell on some rubble… and— and she died holding my hand." Mars said quietly, still distressed over it all. "Then— then an old woman came with a girl dressed like us and healed her."
"Who kill? Shan Pu no see anyone else!" The Amazon asked.
"There was this big creature, like a demon, and it was controlling something else… a creature like living shadow." Mercury said. "She destroyed it. She destroyed them both, using her own energy and everything we could give her. She was absorbing everything, even what the creature was throwing at her. Then she threw it all back at it. She destroyed it utterly."
Ranma stared. "What kind of school is that? I've never studied anything like it. And I've never seen you use energy absorption before."
Zhu Shu shook her head. "Shiva's Dance dangerous. Dance of Veils is only part of Dance. Zhu Shu use Dance of Ashura. Zhu Shu only spar with Ranma, use Song School. Sword dance. Shiva's Dance use ribbon. Zhu Shu leave swords in Tendo's care. Only have ribbon. Saw Senshi's in danger. Have to help." The blonde dragon girl turned emerald green eyes to Akane. "Zhu Shu have to help." her voice pleaded for understanding.
Akane hugged her. "Yes. You did. I'm just glad that you're alive."
Shan Pu touched her shoulder. "Is warrior's duty risk all for village." she said, in a voice that showed she was proud of Zhu Shu. "Zhu Shu have heart of Warrior. No have other choice."
Akane gave the Amazon an appraising look and smiled. Shan Pu smiled softly back at her. "Still is glad sister alive." she added.
Mercury was looking over her computer. "As far as I can tell, Zhu-sensei is in perfect health, at least for this form."
Sailor Moon was looking over her shoulder. "Hey! What happen— Ulp!" She glared at Jupiter over the hand covering her mouth.
"Zhu Shu is fine. And we should thank this wonderful citizen for helping us like she did. Don't you agree Sailor Moon?"
"Yes, indeed. We should definitely thank her. That someone who doesn't know us would lend a hand like that is very noble." Venus said.
"Don't bother, Minako. I already know who you all are." Ranma said. "You think I could watch Zhu Shu train you five and not recognize the way you all move? Or Usagi's hair?"
"What's wrong with my hair!?!" Usagi shouted as she yanked Makoto's hand away.
"Nothing, if you want to look like a meatball head."
Usagi sniffed. "I'll have you know Mamoru adores them." She stuck out her tongue. "So There!"
Ranma stuck out her tongue back. "Odango Atama!"
Akane gave the two name callers a cool look. "And to think, Japan depends on her to save it from evil."
After they got everything sorted out, and explained to Shan Pu why she shouldn't tell anyone that Zhu Shu's students were the Senshi, Zhu Shu elected to go back to the shrine with Rei for the night, needing a quiet place to meditate and see what her near brush with death had done to her. Akane, Shan Pu and Ranma had all pouted, but acceded to her request. Zhu Shu noticed that Akane and Ranma were still giving Shan Pu a wide berth, but there was respect there as well. At least it hadn't gone all that badly, but she couldn't go back just yet, not until she had accustomed herself to the reversion she had undergone. It was very strange, like there were things she could almost remember… so much that seemed just out of reach in a golden fog.
At least she didn't feel like Akane's emotions were raging just under her consciousness, just barely contained. She felt like herself again, and while her chi was still intertwined, and she was still linked, she was _herself_ again… fully and only herself. After the last week, it was a definite relief… but it would take a few hours of peace for her to recover her equilibrium from her near brush with death, though despite the fact she had expended every last bit of her chi in the Final Attack, she felt almost overflowing with life energy. Every part of her body shivered with electric tingles.
And yet… despite how strange she felt… there was a feeling of peace in her… like… like… like the way she had always felt when Ying Ying had held her and stroked her hair after she had gotten into trouble with her aunt once again… or when Sung Li had tormented her…
Even walking through the rain with Rei in soaking wet dresses, the memory made Zhu Shu smile…
<<I am here. Always and forever, I am here.>>
"What do you mean the trace has changed?" Luna asked Ami. "Has it jumped again?"
Ami looked up from the computer and looked to where Luna was trying to stay dry while Usagi combed the water out of her tails. "It hasn't jumped, it's just weird. Her magic seems to have altered, and the Silver Millennium trace is now diffused into the rest. It's harder to filter out now, but it hasn't dropped in strength. If anything, her overall energy levels are higher now than when I scanned her earlier this evening."
"And you say she absorbed all of your attacks?" The black cat was wide eyed.
"And the monster's. I can't figure it out yet."
Luna looked to Artemis. "Is she a hidden scout?"
Artemis shook his head. "I don't know. I don't remember anyone like her."
Makoto and Minako looked at the cats. "So what do we do in the mean time?" Minako asked.
Artemis looked at Luna for a long moment. "For now, we do nothing. I need to research this." The white cat finally said. "At least, for now, we know she's safe, and on our side."
"What's going on with our sensei?" Makoto "Is she going to be okay?"
Artemis looked at her. "I don't know. I've never seen anything like this before."
"Well, she's certainly proven she's capable of being a Senshi. I think we can trust her, Artemis. Maybe we should tell her what's happening. She might know something about it."
The white disagreed. "No. It's too dangerous when we don't know what's going on."
"Yeah, but didn't you see that outfit she was wearing when she was being healed?" Usagi said as she fell to the bed. "She's, like, gotta be a Senshi!"
"I don't think she is Usagi. I need to see what I can find out before anyone says anything to her."
Usagi pouted. "Alright, but she'd be a great Senshi."
The other girls chimed in their agreement as the white cat buried his face in his paws.
Nabiki stared blearily at the morning paper and wondered if she should be shocked. She was barely awake enough to actually care, but still…
She had still been standing in front of the dojo when Akane, Ranma, and Shan Pu had come home. She had listened incredulously as they had told her the story of Zhu Shu's death and revival. She was glad Zhu Shu was alive, but it had just been too much to assimilate. And now…
The Headline read "A NEW SENSHI?" and had a brief description of the battle, but it was the picture that horrified her.
It had apparently been taken by a brave photographer during the battle. It was a telephoto of the so-called new Senshi, but despite the gold fuku and the halo of gold light, it was recognizably Zhu Shu in her cursed form.
She sighed heavily. For all her skill at manipulating information, this was way out of her league.
Too many people at Furinkan knew what Zhu Shu looked like in both forms, and they knew she lived at the Tendos. The last thing they needed was Senshi level threats showing up at their door. Shan Pu and Akane where destructive enough on their own.
She needed help on this one… it just required too much spin control.
She pulled out her new cell phone and hit the speed dial.
Kasumi was bleary eyed, but happy once more. The news Akane had delivered the night before had nearly destroyed her indestructible calm, and she had numbly cleaned a spotless kitchen for hours until Akane and Ranma had told her that Zhu Shu was alive again, then she had fainted. They had gotten her into a chair, and gotten some tea in her and she had finally realized how upset she had been, and how relieved she was at the news. It had been as devastating as the loss of her mother… or as it would be if she lost Akane or Nabiki.
But the news she was all right had restored her. The news she would be home in a day or so had cheered her up, and it had enabled her to revive enough of her usual self to notice that Ranma and Akane had been particularly wan and drawn. She had finally gotten them to drink the tea she had made 'to fight off the chill' and the herbs would keep them out for most of the day. Then she had crawled into bed herself. Only habit had woken her up this morning to make breakfast.
She took the first dishes out to the dining room, only to find a sleepy Nabiki already sitting there. She was just setting down a cell phone and looking worriedly at the paper.
"Good morning, Nabiki. Is something wrong?"
Nabiki nodded. "Yeah, when Akane came home and told me Zhu Shu had been in a fight with the Sailor Senshi, I figured I better check the paper this morning." She turned the paper and shoved it towards Kasumi.
"Oh, my! Doesn't she look just like a Sailor Senshi."
"That's the problem…" Nabiki said glumly. "This is going to be a bigger problem than when you frenched her on the subway."
Kasumi sniffed. "I didn't think that was a problem. She deserved a good kiss."
Nabiki gave her the eye. "It wasn't the kiss, Kasumi. It was the photos. Same here. It wouldn't matter that Zhu Shu helped out the Sailor Senshi if she hadn't been photographed doing it. I just got off the phone with Tao-Ching about spin doctors." A slightly dreamy look came to her eyes as she mentioned Ryouga's cousin.
Kasumi nodded. "I'm sure you'll work it out." She checked mentioning the morning paper to Nabiki off her mental to-do list. Nabiki had already prescribed her own therapy to deal with the residual emotional stresses with out Kasumi's prompting. Kasumi's smile grew a little wider as she went back into the kitchen to finish her father's cure to the aftereffects of his therapy. She hummed happily.
Her family had survived another storm intact… that was all that mattered…
Rei stood in the doorway, watching the soft rise and fall of Zhu Shu's chest as she slept. She had tried to sleep following the fight last night, but her dreams had been chaotic and emotionally draining. She had gotten up a dozen times in the night to reassure herself that Zhu Shu was really alive.
She sighed softly, her relief that Zhu Shu was really there easing the tangled whirl of doubts and fears her dreams had raised. She smiled at the sleeping girl and contemplated on how happiness felt.
It had been so wonderful last night. Zhu Shu had done so much to make her feel like a star, and she had been so beautiful once Zhu Shu had done her make up. She had felt the eyes of every male they had passed last night, and it had felt so wonderful, like she had imagined it would feel when she was a pop idol. Zhu Shu had made sure she was in the spotlight, she had made her feel special, like no boy she had dated had ever done. She'd admit to her share of raging hormones, and to masturbating furiously to thoughts of this or that handsome boy making love to her, but even the best of them could make her feel like a trophy, or a piece of meat.
Zhu Shu hadn't. She'd made her feel graceful, poised, confident, but still herself. She'd been a mighty warrior in her past life, a life she could only remember vague memories of, but in this life, she had felt like a pretender to a destiny that try as she might, she didn't always feel up to accomplishing. For all that had happened, she still felt like an imposter at times. A girl pretending to be Sailor Mars.
Then, when the creature had attacked, Zhu Shu's confidence in her had made her feel like she had in her memories, like a valiant warrior fighting evil to defend the Kingdom of the Moon. The kiss they had shared had made her feel that she could defeat anything.
Then, having Zhu Shu show up to aid her and the other Senshi, it had been what she sometimes was so jealous of Sailor Moon and Mamoru for, someone who had stood to give her aid when she needed it, someone who could watch her back. She had been proud when Zhu Shu had defeated the creature by combining all of their powers.
And then Zhu Shu had fallen. Watching her, Rei had felt all of time stop. She had tried to move, to run, to catch her, but her body just couldn't push its way through the concrete the air had become. Zhu Shu had been there to save her, but she couldn't save Zhu Shu.
She had failed at the one thing that had had any meaning at that moment.
In that one second, everything she was, everything she had felt, every emotion she had ever had concerning Zhu Shu had laid itself out with perfect clarity, and she had known, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that she had failed someone she cared very much for…
She liked boys, perhaps even a little too much. Last night had proven that quite well. She had loved having all of the male attention…
But Zhu Shu had a way that made her feel special… like she already was everything she aspired to be… when Zhu Shu had smiled at her, she had felt like a superstar, like she was the most important person in the world. No man she had eve met had done that, had made her feel… accepted… like Zhu Shu had.
She examined the sleeping girl’s body, admiring every curve. She had never felt like this about any girl she had ever known… Never fantasized about what it would be like to explore her body, feel her caresses returned.
Could it really be love?
Zhu Shu turned in her sleep, the gold and crimson Dragon on her back catching the dim light of the rising sun in a flash of dazzling light, and Rei suddenly found herself in a vision.
An image of the Dragon formed in her mind, riding on a huge banner above a throne towards which she was walking, an Emissary of the Moon Kingdom, Sailor Mars. Her head was lowered respectfully as she ascended the dais to meet the woman who sat upon the throne, and she heard a voice announce her.
"My I present to you the Emissary sent by our ally, Queen Serenity of the Moon Kingdom, My Empress. One of the Royal Guardians, Sailor Mars."
Rei raised her eyes to take her first look at the woman on the throne, one of Endymion's strongest allies next to his five Generals, and found herself lost within Zhu Shu's emerald green eyes…
Then, the vision was gone, and there was only a fall of golden dust in the sunlight highlighting Zhu Shu's tattoo. Rei stepped back from the door, her heart hammering.
Was it a real memory? Had Zhu Shu been part of the Silver Millennium?
Had Rei known her then, too?
She stood in the shadows for a long time… but no answers came out of the dark…
Rei finally fell asleep, and the day passed slowly. The other Senshi slept in, missing school for once for a reason other than battle. Ranma, Akane and Shan Pu continued sleeping, Kasumi finally took a nap, and Nabiki spent most of the day on the phone. Soun and Genma finally awoke and availed themselves of the ample supply of hangover remedy that Kasumi had left for them. Luna sat in the window sill while Usagi tossed and snored, waiting to see if Artemis would contact her to let her now what he found out. Finally, around mid afternoon, the cause of all the fuss awoke and quietly slipped out of the temple to the koi pond to meditate.
Zhu Shu had been unable to stay awake any longer than it took to crawl out of her wet dress and collapse on the futon, but she had slept the sleep of the exhausted, and could not remember any of her dreams beyond impressions of falling cherry blossoms, but she had awakened feeling vibrantly alive. She had felt better than she had in years, emotionally, and physically, she felt wonderful. Somehow, it felt like some enormous weight she had been carrying had been lifted. Even more so than following her dream of Ying Ying, she felt happy.
There were some disconcerting effects of having died. She had been gradually been growing accustomed to the raging emotions she had gotten from Akane, and the whirlwind it had made of her own calm, but now, they were gone. Only her own feelings remained.
Beyond that, she had noticed as she had cleared her chakras that her chi had somehow been changed as well. It was still a blend with Akane, as it would always be so long as they were linked, but it had been affected in other ways as well. The sheer amount of power she had drawn upon, both from the Senshi, and that she absorbed from the creature, and the overload of her Final Attack had scoured out her pathways, both widening and deepening them, and the chi that flowed through them had a feel she had never experienced before. Her chi had always flowed through her like a stream of warm water, but now, there was an electric feel to it, unlike anything she had ever felt before. When she had formed the chi talons of the Dragons Claw, the golden energy had borne an undertone of silver.
It was mystifying, but livable. In all other respects, her chi was behaving normally. As best as she could tell, it seemed she was once again who she had been before her and Akane's strange merger.
In a way, that was a disappointment. She could still recall some of the events of Akane's life, but no longer were they inseparable from her memories. It was more like they had grown up together. But along with that sense of separateness, she had lost some of the knowledge she had gained. She could recall memories of Akane's lessons with her father, but the actual skills of the Anything Goes School were just vague impressions. Along with those memories, she had also lost the command of Japanese Akane had had as a native speaker. It was frustrating, but again, livable.
But the bond that their merger had formed was still as strong as ever. She and Akane were still as linked as if they had shared the womb together. Her blood link to Shan Pu was still there as well, and…
She froze when she came across what seemed to be another link, one so faint that had she not been examining herself so closely, she never would have found it… Hesitantly, she reached out mentally to touch it.
She fought against the tears when she realized it was the remnants of her link to Ying Ying. She had believed it forever lost the day she had felt her die, but still, some small part remained, still faintly warm to her soul…
<<I am here…>> the faint memories of her dream echoed. <<I am always and forever…here…>>
And finally… her tears were gone… For the first time since she had lost Ying Ying, the grief was fading. She finally understood what her dreams had been telling her for so long. Even though Ying Ying was gone, that part of her that could stay had never left her. Her memories, her feelings, her love… they were still as much a part of her as they had been when Ying Ying had been alive…
And only her long walling away of her grief had hidden that…
She held onto the single small strand of the link in her mind as she whispered "I finally understand…"
<<I am here…>> Ying Ying's memories said once again. <<I am always and forever… here…>>
For a long timeless eternity, Zhu Shu held onto the link, feeling it's faint warmness, drawing strength from it, chasing the last of grief's chill from her soul.
And with the final release of that grief, Zhu Shu found herself finally at peace with her feelings for Akane. Yes, she loved her, but she had made the right choice. Akane had to learn to live with her new family, with Ranma and Shan Pu. She could help Akane with that, and her love for Akane would make her try all the harder to see her happy.
Which left her with the question of Rei.
Rei Hino had been her first friend among the Sailor Senshi, trying hard to make up for having attacked her, and Zhu Shu did like her, but she was several years younger, and very confused about her feelings. Akane had had traits that had made Zhu Shu suspect she wouldn't be adverse to the marriage to Shan Pu if she could be made to examine herself, but Rei was as boy crazy as they came… All the Senshi were. Why was Rei fascinated with her? She couldn't deny she found the girl incredibly attractive, and was more than willing to allow Rei to date her, and find out for herself how far she went in her attraction to Zhu Shu, but she still worried that she was leading the girl on somehow.
She sighed, still touching the link to Ying Ying. Suddenly the answer came to her. It might be because she was young, and Zhu Shu expressed a side of sexuality that she may have had little contact with before. With Rei being a priestess, she had a personality that had to explore further, to find the limits of her own feelings. So it was really more of a question of how far Rei truly wanted to explore.
And for that, only time would tell. If that was what she desired, Zhu Shu would happily teach her all she knew.
Reassured, Zhu Shu reluctantly let go of the link as she slowly allowed herself to refocus on the outside world. She blinked in the afternoon sun and smiled as she watched cherry blossoms from the trees crowning the hill float by.
It was funny really. She felt better about everything than she had in years. Even her hopeless, doomed quest didn't seem as dark as it had… She had her dream of Ying Ying's promise it would not end as badly as she feared… That there was a male out there who she could actually love and desire…
Death had been wonderfully therapeutic.
In her room, Rei opened sleepy eyes to a sound she had never heard before. Zhu Shu had chuckled, even giggled, but Rei had never heard her laugh…
As sleep claimed her once more, she smiled. It had been good to hear…
Tokyo Evening News late breaking story: Revealed to the world today were Hibiki Studio's plans for a new Sailor V movie involving the Sailor Senshi. This press release followed an unscheduled publicity stunt in the Juuban Ginza last night which reporters mistook for a real battle involving the Senshi. Studio officials blame a misfiled memo for the failure of the Studio to properly notify city officials of the multi million yen stunt which showcased a prototype of a new costume for Sailor V. The Studio has issued formal apologies and is paying for the repairs to the damaged buildings. The Marketing Department officer responsible for misfiling the report has been disciplined. Following these commercials, we'll bring you exclusive photos of the monster, and later, our exclusive interview with Minako Aino, Sailor V!…
Nabiki put down the cell phone and breathed a sigh of relief. Tao-Ching had told her it seemed the whole idea of making it seem like a publicity stunt was working. The phones to the studio and the web site had been hammered since the press release and no one seemed to be taking it as anything else. She was glad Kasumi had had all of Zhu Shu's student's numbers. It had been a flash of brilliance to talk Minako into covering for her sensei like that, and it seemed the girl had a bad case of Senshi worship. She'd been overjoyed at the whole thing and Tao-Ching had decided that actually going ahead and making the movie would be a worthwhile investment. He was even seriously considering auditioning Minako's friends to play the parts of the Senshi, and having Zhu Shu play Sailor Venus… And Nabiki had to agree they certainly looked…
She looked out the open wall over the garden at the ruins of the dojo, where the voodoo priest was slowly clearing away the debris in preparation of rebuilding it, per his agreement with Nabiki for room and board, and contemplated the unfinished thought.
How had Zhu Shu been in the area to help the Senshi? Why had she risked so much to help complete strangers?
Or were they?
She tabled the question while Kasumi brought out breakfast and Ranma dragged herself out of the koi pond, where she had ended up after the early morning sparring match with Genma. Akane sauntered down the steps and gave the redhead a sidelong look that Nabiki would have said was admiring if she hadn't immediately bopped Ranma in the back of the head and told her to put her shirt back on. Shan Pu came down the steps a few seconds later, yawning and stretching like a cat woken from a nap. She gave both her fiancées a lingering look and settled down between them at the table, frowning at both of them when they edged further apart.
Nabiki watched them out of the corner of her eye as she told Kasumi how her and Tao-Ching's efforts had worked out. She noticed both Akane and Ranma start at the mention of the Juuban girls playing the part of the Senshi. Oh, yes… there was definitely something there.
She jotted down a few notes to remind her of avenues of investigation as she finished getting ready for school, hearing Kasumi greet Ke Lun as Shan Pu's grandmother came to pick up the Amazon to return to the village for preparations, then wandered downstairs to find Zhu Shu waiting for her.
"Oh, hello Zhu Shu. I-I wasn't expecting to see you."
"Zhu Shu know. Zhu Shu feel much better. Decide go school."
"Ah… I see. Well… I'm glad to see you up and around. I… um… kinda thought you might be out of it for a few days because of… well…um…"
"No. Zhu Shu all ok. Not even remember dying."
Nabiki blinked twice. Then even her ice princess facade broke. "Oh, god's Zhu Shu, We'd thought we'd lost you." She cried as she flung her arms around the Chinese girl.
Zhu Shu patted her head. "Is okay. Zhu Shu is okay now. Zhu Shu miss family. Miss Nabiki and Kasumi and Akane and Ranma and fathers. Zhu Shu come home.
Once more in control after the brief display of affection, Nabiki self-consciously straightened her skirt. "We missed you too." Then she did a double take. "Hey, your accent's back."
Zhu Shu rolled her eyes. "Yes, yes. Accent back. No, Zhu Shu not know why."
Nabiki laughed. "I take it you've gotten that a lot."
Zhu Shu nodded. "Rei and Usagi and Minako and Ami and Makoto all feel need to point out what Zhu Shu already know."
Nabiki raised an eyebrow, but decided now wasn't the time to pry. She hooked her arm through Zhu Shu's. "Well, we better get going or there will be a mob scene when the family finds out you're here. I'd just as soon deal with that after school."
Zhu Shu laughed. "Yes, yes. Or will be late."
They walked towards the school, Nabiki studying Zhu Shu sidelong, watching as she looked around and dodged the old lady throwing out water on the sidewalk. There was something different about the Chinese girl… Something faint beyond the glow of contentment she was exuding. It took her most of the walk to school to pin it down, because it wasn't something that had been added, it was the loss of something so faint and so much a part of what Zhu Shu had been that only it's absence made it noticeable.
The faint bittersweet tint of melancholy was gone, and with it had gone a tenseness that had never been noticeable. For the first time since Nabiki had known her, Zhu Shu felt like a seventeen year old girl, instead of ageless…
And she was definitely more at peace with herself about something. Her eyes would every now and then lose focus and she would assume an expression that Nabiki could only interpret as fond happiness… An expression she had learned quite well recently from seeing it in the mirror so often when she thought of Tao-Ching…
Had Zhu Shu found a new lover?
Yet something else to investigate. Nabiki could barely wait to get to school to start her minions digging…
Akane breathed a sigh of relief. At last she could relax. Ke Lun and Shan Pu had left for China and she didn't have to deal with the Amazon until the weekend. She'd already had to go out and smash more of the destroyed dojo into kindling about thirty or so times, reminding herself over and over that Shan Pu was supposed to flirt with Ranma.
It was proving incredibly difficult.
To Ranma's credit, though, at least from Akane's viewpoint, was the fact that he seemed to have the same problem with Shan Pu flirting with her.
At least she wouldn't keep waking up to find a nude Shan Pu curled up in bed with her tonight, and she wouldn't have to apologize to Ranma again for knocking him through the floor like she had last night when she had found Shan Pu curled up with him.
Well… if it hadn't been for the fact that his hand had been cupping her breast, Akane might not have been as mad…
She sighed again. The Amazon made Zhu Shu easy to understand by comparison. She could be a vicious opponent to anyone who crossed her, but once she had decided to give her heart to someone, it seemed she became an incredibly affectionate person. There were times Akane could almost swear she was purring at the least show of physical affection. She was like a damn cat!
Not that she'd ever understood cats any better, either.
She was trying, she really was, for Zhu Shu's sake, to get along with Shan Pu, even to try and accept her advances, but they had so little in common, and the sheer intensity of Shan Pu's emotions was a little unnerving. Zhu Shu had always been calm and reserved. Even her mischievous moods had been subtle, but nothing about the Amazon could be called subtle by any definition of the word. She was an inferno when angry, an iceberg when offended, a warm fire when pleased. She let you know what she felt about everything, especially her desires.
Akane sighed again.
"What's up Akane?" Ranma asked from where he was walking along a fence top. "You're starting to sound like an old steam train."
She glared at him, then decided he hadn't meant it as an insult, so she shrugged. "Shan Pu."
"Oh…" He looked off across the canal.
"Ranma? How do you feel about her?" Akane asked seriously.
Ranma shrugged. "I dunno really. She still makes me jump ever time I turn around and see her. I mean, I thought she was trying to kill me, and now? I mean, I want to make her happy for Zhu Shu and Mom's sake, but I just don't know how." He looked down at his feet. "She seems to be a really sweet girl when she isn't trying to kill you, but I still barely know her."
"You barely knew me until Zhu Shu came along and helped us."
Ranma sighed. "Yeah."
He nodded. "Yeah. I mean, I know she needed some time to think and all, but it's been miserable without her." He shook his head. "And I hope she comes home soon."
Ranma hopped down from the fence and walked the last fifty feet to the school yard, where Kuno was waiting, bokken in hand.
"Ranma Saotome! Vile Sorcerer! Undo the enchantment you have laid upon my sister!"
"Huh?" asked a genuinely confused Ranma.
"Release her from thine foul enchantment or face the wrath of Blue Thunder!"
"What are you talking about Kuno?"
"You're getting tiresome, brother dear." Kodachi's voice said behind Ranma, and he and Akane whirled to see her dressed in a Furinkan high uniform. "And on my first day too."
Ranma and Akane's jaws dropped as she stepped forward and knelt in front of Akane. "Shall I get rid of him, mistress? It would not do for you to waste time on such foolishness." The eyes she turned to Akane were so full of adoration that Akane backed up a step.
"Wretch! Villain! Release her from this curse! Release her, I command you!" He swung his bokken at Ranma, who dodged as the blow shattered the wall behind him.
Akane flinched as shrapnel pelted her, one shard cutting her cheek slightly.
"Mistress!" Kodachi's cry was anguished, then she turned towards Kuno in a rage. "Demon! You have wounded my beloved goddess! Feel the wrath of the Black Rose!"
Kuno, still vainly trying to hit Ranma was caught from behind by Kodachi's ribbons and flung head first into a tree, then when he bounced, was hurled into another. "Thrice cursed brother! How dare you injure my Mistress!"
Ranma stared from his perch on the gate. Even he'd never trashed Kuno this bad.
"Whoa, ‘Dachi! You're gonna kill him!"
"He deserves death! He has wounded my beloved goddess!" She slammed her unconscious brother into the wall.
"Kodachi! Please stop!" Akane cried, horrified.
Kuno's battered form crashed to the ground as Kodachi bowed in front of Akane again. "Yes, my divine Mistress."
Akane took a step back, then another, then turned and ran into the school, followed by a bouncing Kodachi crying "Mistress!!!"
Ranma looked around at the smashed trees and wall, then down to the unconscious Kuno and shook his head. "Great, as if we didn't have enough problems already…"
Artemis looked out the window of Minako's room and sighed. "Anything at all that you can tell me will help Setsuna. I certainly don't seem to recall anyone like her in the Moon Kingdom." He told the tall green haired girl sitting on the bed.
"I wish I could, Artemis. But her stream is in flux. Someone or something is preventing me from actually analyzing either her future or her past. It's like I'm trying to read my own stream. All I can say is yes, she is a Reincarnate, but I couldn't tell you who."
The white cat scratched at his ear. "Best guess?"
The green hair girl shrugged. "Only person she resembles is a young version of Song Lin Tzu, the Empress of China. She was one of the few on Earth who remained allied to Serenity when Beryl convinced Endymion's father to destroy the Moon Kingdom. She was lost in the fighting during the fall."
"Empress Song?" Artemis blinked. "I had forgotten about her."
The green haired girl smiled. "Getting senile?"
Artemis turned and looked at her. "Are you aware of the girl's full name?"
"Zhu Shu? Yes. Means 'Little Mouse' in Mandarin."
"No. I mean her full name. It's Song Zhu Shu…"
"How very interesting… The Empress wasn't one of Earth's most powerful rulers, but she had the distinction of being the only other female besides Beryl. And she stayed loyal to Serenity. Of course that might have been because she had no attraction to Endymion… She shared Neptune and Uranus's tastes. It was a small scandal actually. Empress Song had over a dozen wives, which was no big deal for an Emperor, but was unheard of for an Empress, and when she and several of her wives came up pregnant… well… All she would say was that the Dragon, her house's guardian spirit, had come to her… Like I said, she disappeared during the fall… so no one really knows what happened to her. Her brother was one of Beryl's advisors, but he disappeared too."
The white cat looked thoughtful. "Hmm… well I guess I can't ask for more than that. I'd probably better let you get back before your present self feels your presence."
Setsuna, Sailor Pluto, stood and nodded. "Well, you know how to call me if you really need me." She turned and raised her staff.
"Wait! One last thing." A small halo of the old woman appeared. "Do you know who this is?"
Pluto looked at the holo and grew pale. She looked from the sliver staff in her hand to it's golden twin in the old woman's hand. "Oh my…"
"Any ideas why you, or at least a very old you, brought Sailor Saturn to heal Zhu Shu? Somehow, I have this feeling that the answer to that could be very important…"
Urd was in a blue funk. She was setting on the steps to the shrine across from the house, her hands propping up her head. Keichii saw her as he pulled up from college and thought seriously about ignoring her, but in the end, his kind nature won out over his good sense. He wandered over and sat down next to her.
“Hi Urd. What’s up? Sake hangover again?”
Urd was so depressed she didn't even blink. "I'm a failure. I'm doomed to end up a demoness." she moped.
"You've already been a demoness Urd." Keichii shuddered as he remembered the mechanical monstrosity Urd had tried to flatten the house with. "I'd rather not have that happen again. What's got you so depressed?"
"What else? This wish I've been assigned to. I thought once I got Shan Pu together with Akane and Ranma it would be smooth sailing, but the whole mess just keeps getting more tangled. Shan Pu loves them both without question, but they both keep pushing her away and moping over Zhu Shu, who I thought would be my biggest help, but now she's become a stumbling block because while all three of them would be willing to marry her, she won't marry them, and to top it off, she's the Dragon's mortal child, so I can't just love potion her into it because the Ultimate Force has some destiny in mind for her that I have to try and accommodate in Shan Pu's wish that every one involved is eventually happy, but I don't know what it is, and apparently I don't want me to know what it is because I locked myself out of my own files on her and I've apparently been meddling in the past, but I don't know how because I haven't seen fit to tell me, so I can't make sense of any of this mess and I'm going to fail and end up as a demoness because I can't help one lousy mortal to achieve her wish!!!"
Keichii tried to puzzle out what Urd had said, having caught only half of the rapid outpouring, but gave up and offered her a clichéd response. "I'm sure you'll figure it out."
Keichii frowned. He hated seeing anyone be down, even Urd. He thought for a long moment before he had a bright idea. "Hey, just figure out what the key problem is and maybe, if you solve that, the rest will be easier."
Urd snorted. "That's easy! Me locking myself out of Yggdrasil's data base. Almost everything I've tried looking up to help me is encrypted on my authority and I don't know what password I used! None of my regular ones work! Almost everything about the past beyond about 400 years ago is encrypted, everything on Zhu Shu's past is encrypted! Hell, I only found out she was Legend's Child when she was killed! How can I pass my assignment when the information I need is locked up!
"I thought Shan Pu was your assignment. Why so much interest in Zhu Shu?"
"Because she's the—" Urd broke off suddenly, her eyes widening at a sudden thought. "Because she's the key?" she asked wonderingly.
It couldn't be that obvious could it?
She left Keichii staring after her as she sprinted for the TV.
In Heaven, she threw herself into the seat in front of Yggdrasil's sysop station and typed one her previously refused requests.
//PASSWORD?// Yggdrasil prompted.
"Z.H.U.S.H.U." she hit the key as she held her breath.
//INVALID PASSWORD// the screen blinked at her before the query returned.
Urd sighed. She had been so sure… She stared at the screen morosely, the query blinking brightly. Then she thought of something.
"S.O.N.G.Z.H.U.S.H.U." She hit the enter key without much hope…
The massive computer hesitated for a few seconds, a pause Urd hadn't seen it do before. She started to set up in her chair…
//PASSWORD ACCEPTED. Greetings Goddess Urd. I am Project Phoenix Moon. I have been waiting for you.//
Much later, a very subdued, even slightly pale Urd entered the kitchen of the Morisato house.
"Belldandy… I think I need your help. I-I think I'm in way over my head…"
Belldandy turned, her eyes wide. Urd, humbly asking for help? She nodded and lead Urd to the table to discuss it, surprised, but pleased at the same time. Maybe Urd was finally maturing?
On his throne in the Heavens, Kami-Sama nodded approvingly. Urd was doing better… but her time wasn't unlimited… Would she succeed in time?
He prayed she would… so much hinged on it…
Zhu Shu stopped in surprise as she found her way blocked by a tall blonde figure. She had been heading outside for lunch and hadn't been expecting any trouble, but one look at Ai put her on guard.
"You and me need to talk, China."
"What hentai girl want? Zhu Shu hungry."
Ai gave her a leer. "Me too. That isn't what we need to talk about."
"Zhu Shu have date. No need hentai girl."
"Okay, look, I'll stop calling you China if you stop with the hentai girl, okay? This is serious."
Zhu Shu motioned to the door. "Zhu Shu hungry. Need talk, come eat with."
Ai shrugged, the motion doing interesting things to her anatomy. She followed Zhu Shu out to her favorite tree and raised an eyebrow when Zhu Shu pulled out her grill. "You don't bring a lunch?"
"Kasumi usually make. Zhu Shu not home this morning."
"Kasumi? That the name of your girlfriend?"
Zhu Shu gave her the eye. "What Ai want?"
Ai looked around and finally sat down when she could see that no one was near enough to overhear her. "Well… actually… this is kind of embarrassing."
Ai pulled out a big picture of Sailor Venus. "Well, since you know the Sailor Senshi, could you get Venus to give me an autograph? I'm, like, totally in love with her!"
Zhu Shu blinked… then blinked again. Finally Ai snapped her fingers in front of her face and she started.
"Hey, she's hot, okay? I'd love to get her autograph, and whatever the news says, I know that was you with them the other night." Ai said defensively.
Zhu Shu giggled. "Is just last thing Zhu Shu expect.
"Well, you don't have to laugh about it." Ai growled.
"Zhu Shu not laugh at Ai. She relived Ai not want fight. Zhu Shu much prefer Mars anyway. Very cute."
"Not half as cute as Venus!"
"Yes, yes. Have beautiful eyes."
"Yeah, but Venus has such a hot body!"
As Zhu Shu finished cooking and she and Ai kept comparing their favorite Senshi, the rest of the school looked on in surprise at the two rivals having found at least one thing in common…
Akane had been overjoyed that Zhu Shu had come to school and even having to dodge Kodachi all day hadn't ruined that. She had eagerly agreed when Zhu Shu had told her the Senshi were training at Rei's until the dojo was fixed, and invited her to come help still. It had been a wonderful feeling having Zhu Shu trust her as an equal while teaching the Juuban girls, though Usagi was jealous Akane had learned all of Zhu Shu's skills during their accidental chi merger. Both Zhu Shu and Akane warned her that she did not want to deal with the side effects that had caused.
After practice, Artemis and Luna called the Senshi to a meeting, and for a wonder, asked Zhu Shu and Akane to stay. Akane raised an eyebrow at being included, but was honored at the request.
After the girls checked to make sure Rei's grandfather was napping soundly and that Yuichirou was out on errands, they assembled in Rei's room, moving the massive manga collection around to get enough room for Zhu Shu and Akane to set on the bed. Artemis and Luna sat down in the middle of the table and looked at each other as the girls waited, looking like they were nerving themselves up to speak. Finally Luna took a deep breath.
"I know this is unusual, but as this concerns Zhu Shu and Akane as well, we figured they should be here too." She looked at Artemis, who nodded. "W-we have finally possibly found out some information on the puzzle so recently dropped into our lap by Mercury."
Zhu Shu raised an eyebrow. It wasn't like Luna to talk around a subject like that.
Luna raised her eyes to Zhu Shu. "I'm afraid Zhu-chan, that we've been studying you. I do apologize, but there were several anomalies about you that even now, we're not completely sure of. Mercury, would you be so kind as to show Zhu Shu what you showed us the other night?"
Mercury nodded and pulled out her minicomputer. She tilted the small screen towards the two girls on the bed and pulled up her readout. "When we first meet Zhu-chan, I took some readings of you that were very puzzling." She pointed out the relevant readings as she continued. "We were tracking some magical spikes, well, we didn't know they were magic at the time, but we figured that out later, and we found you on top of this shrine. My first readings showed you to be a normal human, but several strange things were puzzling. Since then we figured out that they were your curse and your chi, but you also possessed a trace of Silver Millennium energy too. When you woke up the next day, I took another scan, but didn't review it for a while, and when I did, it became apparent something strange had happened. Your Millennium trace had grown much stronger. The odd thing was that Rei's magic trace had grown too."
Rei did a double blink. "It did? Why didn't you tell me?"
Ami blushed. "Um… I wasn't sure if my readings were right at first, then we had that whole fight, and today's the first day I've seen you. I talked to Makoto and Usagi, but you go to TA Academy."
"Anyway, I wasn't sure of my readings at first but I showed them to everyone when you and Zhu Shu went to the movie. Artemis asked me to check your current readings then, so I called up the one that my computer made before you went out." She called that one up. "This is the one that made us kind of worried."
Zhu Shu tilted her head. "Worried? For Zhu Shu?"
Ami nodded, along with Makoto, Minako, and Usagi. "If you look here, you can see that somehow, your trace of Silver Millennium energy has gone off the scale. You radiate more energy then Usagi does. We were worried you might be a beacon to any thing that doesn’t like the Senshi , and almost as soon as we found out, a massive magical spike started near where you and Rei were eating. We got there as fast as we could and… She looked away, struggling to control her voice. "Anyway, after it was all over, I took one last reading. You still have as much power as you did before the fight, but somehow, it's diffused throughout your chi and the magic of your curse. You aren't a beacon anymore, but beyond that, I really don't know." She turned to Luna.
"Is that what this is about? Did you find out something?"
Luna gave Artemis a look. "We think so. It's really hard to figure out why this has occurred, but as best as we can figure, Zhu Shu is a reincarnated warrior of the Earth Kingdom, as you are warriors of the Moon Kingdom. She resembles, and from what we have been able to find out, her abilities match those of one of the few generals of the Earth who sided with the Moon during the fall." She walked to the edge of the table and bowed before continuing. "We believe you are the reincarnation of Song Lin Tzu, Daughter of the Dragon, and Empress of China during the Silver Millennium."
There were gasps of surprise around the table and a protest from Zhu Shu.
"Zhu Shu not Empress. Zhu Shu is servant of Empress! Zhu Shu is only servant!"
Luna nodded. "Whatever your bloodline, you must be the heir of Song Lin Tzu's powers. You are still young, but already you possess much of her strength and abilities."
"The Dragon…" Rei murmured, then looked up at Zhu Shu. "She called you The Dragon."
"Who?" Zhu Shu asked.
"The old woman, the one who brought the girl who healed you. She called you the Dragon. And I had a vision of you, but you were older, sitting on a throne under a Dragon banner. You were wearing a gold crown and had long golden fingernails, and I heard a voice announcing me to… to the Empress."
Zhu Shu stared wide eyed until Akane laid her hand on her shoulder. "Isn't it wonderful Zhu Shu? You have royal ancestors!"
Zhu Shu shook her head. "Zhu Shu not know… Zhu Shu is servant."
Artemis stepped up. "There is more." He turned to Mercury. "Would you show us Akane's scan?"
Mercury nodded. A quick tap of her fingers on the key board showed Akane's scan. For a long moment no one spoke as the readouts on the screen registered, then Akane looked to Artemis.
"Why do I have the strange feeling that it isn't normal for someone to have that high a level of Silver Millennium energy?"
Artemis looked her in the eye. "Because it isn't. You are weaker than any of the Senshi, but far stronger than a typical girl. At best as we can figure, it's another side effect of your little accident." He sighed. "As it is, we can't just let you walk around completely unprotected." He walked over to a small bag and nosed out two items. The smaller one was a slim wand topped by a heart, which he nosed over towards Akane. "This is a communication pen. It's capable of reaching any of the Senshi and calling them for aid if you are every in danger."
Akane took the pen and looked at it with a raised eyebrow. "Great… on top of every thing else, now I have to worry about weird creatures?" She shook her head. "Well at least you aren't asking me to become a Senshi. I have enough headaches already."
Luna spoke up. "We wouldn't ask that of you Akane. We simply wish to try and keep you safe. You know too much about us, and even though you are weaker than any of the Senshi, the power you possess could be dangerous if you fell into the wrong hands."
"Why Zhu Shu pen different?" Zhu Shu asked looking at the larger wand. It was gold and the heart-shaped end bore a small Dragon Mandala.
Luna looked at Artemis, who turned with a huff. The black cat frowned, then pushed the wand to Zhu Shu. "Artemis disagrees with me on this, but this is a transformation pen. It has all of the powers of one of the Senshi pens. We are not asking you to be a Senshi, and we don't know what this will do if you ever have to use it. It is being given to you solely because you have so much Silver Millennium energy. Like Akane's, if you find yourself in danger, please use it to call the Senshi. Only in direst need should you use it's other functions. You were a warrior of the Earth Kingdom, not the Moon, and we cannot predict exactly what effect a transformation may have."
"What about that vision we— Owwww…" Usagi rubbed her side where Minako's elbow had collided with her ribs sharply.
Zhu Shu raised an eyebrow. Vision? Obviously from the glares Usagi was getting from the other Senshi, it was something they didn't want to talk about. But now wasn't the time. She turned back to Luna.
"As I was saying," the cat continued "We are giving you this only for a dire emergency."
"What say to activate?"
Artemis and Luna looked at each other. Luna blushed. "Um… actually… it's Dragon Crystal Power, Makeup."
"Dragon." Zhu Shu said pointedly. "Zhu Shu see. Well, Zhu Shu keep, but likely not need. Senshi depend on pen too much."
"Most likely. The Sailor Senshi were born to fight evil, but you are not a scout. Were the risk of leaving you defenseless not so great, we would never have considered this."
"Zhu Shu not defenseless. But understand. Will keep pen for emergency."
Luna breathed a sigh of relief. "Well, that's pretty much what we wanted to meet about. Did you have anything you wanted to discuss about practice today?"
Zhu Shu nodded and gave out her end of class pointers. Following that, the group broke up, leaving Akane, Rei, and Zhu Shu alone at the Shrine. Before Akane could head out, Rei stopped her. "Could you help me and Zhu Shu pack her things?"
"Huh?" Akane was taken by surprise. "Where's she going?"
"Back home to your place, where else?" Rei said with a smile.
"B-but I thought…"
"Zhu Shu had enough time. Miss new family too much. Feel much better. Besides, Akane and Ranma need Zhu Shu."
Rei smiled. "And I can vouch for how much she misses you."
Akane smiled shyly. "Well, I'm glad you’re coming home."
They crossed the hall to the room Zhu Shu was staying in and as Rei and Akane started carefully folding the few dresses Zhu Shu had brought, Zhu Shu excused herself to go and get snacks. She gave both Rei and Akane kisses on the cheek before she left…
Rei looked after her and as the door slid closed and the faint sound of Zhu Shu's footsteps faded. "She always does that."
"Read people's minds. Somehow she knew I wanted to talk to you alone."
Akane raised an eyebrow. "About what?"
Rei sat down in a chair by the futon. "Do you have any idea how jealous of you I am?"
Akane raised an eyebrow. "I? Make you jealous?"
Rei twisted a strand of her hair. "Yeah. I mean, you know you love Ranma, and you know you love her… I wish I knew for certain how I feel…"
Akane controlled the overwhelming stab of jealousy. "About Zhu Shu?"
Akane sat down on the futon. "Why?"
"I-I…" Rei blushed furiously. "I know that you love her, and I know that you're getting betrothed to Shan Pu in a few days, and well…" She couldn't meet Akane's eyes. "I-I just don't know if what I feel means I'm in love with Zhu Shu too…"
Almost, her gut reaction kicked in. Her first impulse was to hammer Rei into the ground, but the side of her that considered the younger girl a best friend made her stop and think for just a millisecond, and that was all it took for the part she had gained from Zhu Shu to assert itself. Rei was her friend, and as much as she loved Zhu Shu, she was engaged to Ranma, and about to be engaged to Shan Pu, her love for Zhu Shu would never be consummated, and she wished Zhu Shu happiness. If Rei could give her that happiness, well… wasn't that what she wanted anyway?
Ah… but those instincts were so hard to fight.
She put the giant red hammer back behind her back and gave Rei a rueful grin. "I'm sorry Rei. My jealous streak was showing."
Rei blinked twice at her, too shocked at narrowly being missed by the huge weapon. "Um… "
Akane held out her hand. "I am sorry Rei. I do want Zhu Shu to be happy, and we can never be more than sisters. I-I think it would be wonderful if you could make her happy… just… unexpected."
Rei nodded. "Um… well… I just don't know though. I mean, she's so… so…"
"Zhu Shu." Akane finished. "I know. Believe me, Rei. When Zhu Shu and I first met, I was totally shocked to find out she liked girls. I had never even contemplated a relationship with a girl, if anything, I thought that even thinking about something like that was perverted, then I found myself in a relationship with Ranma, and he spends half his time as a girl. It really freaked me out at first, but Zhu Shu showed me how ridiculous I was about it. She just seems to exude this aura of desirability because of what she's been trained to do, but she never consciously uses it. I mean, her aunt made her learn everything there was to know about pleasing a man on the off chance that an Emperor would desire her as a concubine, and I have all the memories of that training in my head. I studiously try to avoid thinking about it, because otherwise I'd die of blushing. But because of it, because it was drummed into her just as hard as her martial arts, she can't help but be sexy."
Rei nodded. "I know. I caught her practicing one morning and I just couldn't get her beautiful body out of my head." She curled up on herself. "Does that mean I'm really gay?"
Akane shook her head. "No. I've seen the way you look at Yuichirou when he's not looking, and I've listened to too many of you girl’s conversation on boyfriends. At most, it means you're like me. I finally realized I like girls as much as guys, but I don't think you're anywhere near as Bi as I am. You like boys too much."
"But I care so much about Zhu Shu…"
"That's perfectly natural, Rei. She's one of your best friends. The only difference is that you know she likes girls instead of guys." Akane sat back. "Listen to me. I even sound like her now." Akane laughed. "Rei, you know what you need? You need to talk to my sister Kasumi. She's the absolute best big sister in the world and I'm sure she'll help you figure out how you feel."
"You don't think she'd laugh at me?"
"No… I know she won't laugh at you." Akane smiled. "And, if she helps you decide you do love Zhu Shu, and want to make her happy, then I'll do everything I can to help you too…"
Rei met her smile and for just one second, Akane saw her as Zhu Shu did, the glorious angel of fire, and Akane knew that as far as Zhu Shu was concerned, she'd never be jealous of anyone who loved her ever again…
Outside the door, quite as her namesake, Zhu Shu smiled before going to get the promised snacks…
Rei joined Akane and Zhu Shu on the subway ride to Nerima, Akane having invited her to dinner, and they chatted about school and the other Senshi and boy troubles, and the ride passed quickly. They arrived just as Kasumi was setting out dinner, and somehow, with the unerring sense of hers, Kasumi had made more than enough for the two extra unexpected mouths. Everyone was overjoyed that Zhu Shu was back, especially in perfect health. Nabiki even spent a part of the evening asking Rei if she thought it would be fun to play Mars in the movie Tao-Ching had set up to cover up the fight. Rei managed not to reveal that she really was Sailor Mars and did a decent job of playing starry eyed girl who made good.
After the delicious meal, Rei and Akane followed Zhu Shu to the family shrine, where Zhu Shu's swords still sat in their place of honor. Zhu Shu had the pair sit beside her as she knelt and prepared herself to re-link with the ancient blades. Akane watched closely, rehearsing in her mind the exercises Zhu Shu was doing to clear her chakras and channel her chi, before she reached out for the smooth wooden pommels.
A spark jumped from her hands to the hafts of the blades as a sudden surge of energy flowed through Zhu Shu. Cascades of energy flowed down the blade, delineating them in golden light. As her palms clenched around the hilts, the faint dragons carved on their blades flared into a light as bright as the sun while through all of their minds came a roar of exultation. The dragons seemed to rise above the blades and merged to form a burning yin yang symbol before exploding into an arrow of power that arced into Zhu Shu's breast. She twirled the twin blades in a fiery arc before holding them straight out at her sides, as the energy streaming around them flared one last time and flowed back into her.
Zhu Shu fell to her knees. She turned a weak grin at the two girls. "I think they're happy to see me…"
To be continued.
|Book 2, Chapter 3|
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