A Ranma ½ / Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon / Ah! My Goddess crossover story
by L. S. McGill
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ 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 (dow 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 Three: The Black Dragon
Chapter Three: Cat Fights
Shan Pu had a smug grin on her face as they all walked home following Ranma's fight with Mu Si. Ranma ignored it, walking slightly ahead of her two fiancées, her head lowered as she trudged along. Akane kept stealing looks at her, hoping that Ranma wasn't being jealous of Shan Pu's arm twined about hers, or the collar around the Chinese girl's neck claiming her as Akane's pet. Shan Pu herself had seemed to take inordinate pride in the token. She wished she knew what the redhead was thinking, following Shan Pu's offer to use the Nannichuan to become a cat-girl instead of just a cat in hopes it would help Ranma overcome his fear. Ranma had said she didn't mind the fact that Akane had finally accepted the Amazon as a fiancée, and had said she had too, but the redhead had been unreadable since the fight.
Still, as accepting of the fact that Shan Pu was her fiancée as she was, Akane wasn't sure she was remotely ready for the next steps If Ranma couldn't resolve her fear of cats, it would continue to make things awkward, and as much fun as she'd been having playing in bed with Ranma recently, she'd feel guilty playing with Shan Pu the same way so long as Ranma was having problems with the Amazon, regardless of how appealing the idea had become once she'd finally accepted the second engagement, or how much the Amazon indicated she desired it. Even if Ranma gave her permission, she wasn't sure it would be right to not include Ranma in the actual act.
She looked around the empty street, noting that they were at the same spot along the canal where she had stopped to talk to Ranma after the big fight with Ryouga, the same place she had come to realize maybe she really did care for Ranma after all. She looked over at the tree Zhu Shu had hidden in that time, and wished that Zhu Shu hadn't disappeared after the fight. She really needed to talk.
Ukyo unlocked the door to her shop and flipped on the lights. She tossed her bookbag into the back room as she ignited the grill, and then did a double-take at the silent figure of Zhu Shu standing on the other side of the bar.
"What do you want?"
Without a word, Zhu Shu held up the "help wanted" sign that had been in the window.
Ukyo looked at it a long time, seeming to be about to say something several times. Finally, she shrugged. "When can you start?" It sounded almost resigned.
"Have class train after school. For hour. Can work after."
"Ever work in a restaurant?"
"Grow up in aunt's inn."
Ukyo was quiet for another long pause as she oiled her grill. "Want an okonomiyaki?"
"Not know. Never have before."
There was a sizzle as batter was poured and one of Ukyo's spatulas came out. A few seconds later she tossed a plate at the still unmoving girl.
Zhu Shu caught it and sat down at the counter. Ukyo watched as she took a bite. The Chinese girl chewed thoughtfully, then nodded approvingly. "Is very good."
Ukyo smiled. "Okay. I suppose you can have the job then. I already know you'll be a draw for a lot of the schoolboys."
Zhu Shu smiled. "Zhu Shu cannot stop hentai boys from chase, no matter how often say no interested in boys."
Ukyo shuffled her feet uncomfortably. "Um yeah. Well, I suppose having a dragon-girl waitress is novelty enough."
Zhu Shu tilted her head at Ukyo as she finished the okonomiyaki. "Zhu Shu not mean make nervous."
Ukyo shook her head. "I just wish I knew what to make of you. No matter what I do, you won't get out of my mind."
"Ukyo not leave Zhu Shu mind either."
Ukyo sighed as she shook her head. "I'm not like you. I like boys. Gods, I can't even tell you how many girls have thrown themselves at me, and I've had to chase them off."
Zhu Shu nodded, looking down.
Ukyo sighed again. "Look for what it's worth, I'm sorry."
"Zhu Shu understand. She hope Ukyo still let work."
"Yeah, you've got the job. Wings and all." Ukyo idly polished her spotless grill, not looking at the dragon-girl.
"Zhu Shu can be normal, but may cause much water be spilled."
"Hell no. Stay a dragon-girl during your shift. The hentai will kill themselves trying to come here to eat."
Zhu Shu nodded. "Must go. Students expect Zhu Shu for class."
Ukyo nodded. "Be ready to work when you get back."
With a soft flutter of wings, Zhu Shu rose from the stool and bowed in midair before setting her feet on the floor as she turned to go. Her hair had been caught by her wings and swept aside, revealing the ornate tattoo.
Ukyo found her gaze caught by the tattoo's eyes — the same gold eyes she had stared at in Zhu Shu's face — and she swallowed. Her eyes traced down the spiraling dragon until it came to the swords, and her heart nearly stopped as she saw her spatula entangled within the ribbon's embrace.
Then, the door swung shut behind Zhu Shu, and the dragon-girl was gone.
A few minutes later, Zhu Shu fluttered down to meet Akane and Ranma at the dojo door just as they were about to start class. Akane raised an eyebrow at the contented smile on Zhu Shu's face.
"You look like a canary who's eaten a cat," she commented. "Looking forward to taking Rei off for another 'talk'?"
"Maybe. Zhu Shu also think of solution to other problem."
Akane blinked. "Oh um Ukyo?"
Zhu Shu nodded. "Took solution sister use for Ranma. Take job. Work for Ukyo after classes."
Akane blinked again, then comprehension dawned. "Oh, I get it. Repeat exposure."
Rei poked her head out the dojo door. "You're going to be working at Ucchan’s? Cool! Then you'll see her every day."
Zhu Shu nodded. "Is okay with Rei?"
Rei smiled. "Of course it is, Zhu-chan." She leaned forward and kissed the Chinese girl. "I told you I'll help you in any way I can. I'm happy to be with you till then, but you have a destiny, and I'm not going to stand in the way of it. I learned the hard way that you can't avoid destiny with Mamoru and Usagi. I'm not going to set myself up for another heartbreak like that. I'm just going to enjoy the time I do have with you," she ended firmly.
Zhu Shu smiled. "Zhu Shu happy Rei be so wise. Not sure Zhu Shu could do same."
Rei kissed her again. "I never said it was easy, Zhu-chan. The gods know I want to keep you all for myself. But I know it's for the best. I'm a priestess; the least I can do is not fight against what the gods have set in motion."
Ranma raised an eyebrow at that thought, then shrugged. "So, you two joining us for class today?"
Zhu Shu blushed as Rei gave the redhead a look. "Well "
Akane grabbed Ranma's braid and pulled the smaller girl against her. "She has no room to complain, Rei. She's been having way too much fun with me to begrudge you two some time alone, especially since Zhu-chan now has a job."
Rei smiled and took Zhu Shu's hand, dragging the still blushing girl off towards the house. She waved to Akane as they entered, smiling at the fact that Akane had Ranma bent over backwards as she was kissing her. Akane waved back as she supported the limp redhead, then pushed the shaky girl into the dojo.
Zhu Shu giggled. "Zhu Shu see Akane figure out how do deliberately."
Rei gave her a raised eyebrow. "What?"
Zhu Shu stopped Rei at the door to her room. "This."
As Zhu Shu's lips met Rei's a flash of fire burned through her as her entire body seemed to ignite. A surge of white fire burned along her skin as her clothes vanished, energy crackling around her as her henshin started. She finally drew back as her fuku formed, looking at Zhu Shu in wonder.
"Wow how the hell did you do that?"
Zhu Shu blinked. "Not know. Meant show chi kiss. Not sure why make change."
Rei's knees gave way as she collapsed in the doorway laughing. "Oh man, my legs won't hold me after that orgasm I don't know what you did, but wow did it feel good!"
Zhu Shu lost her worried look in a smile of relief. "Is what supposed to do. Chi kiss make feel very good. Is part of Zhu Shu training for courtesan."
Rei dragged herself back to her feet. "Cool. You're going to do that to me several more times right after I get on the bed! There's no way I can stand through another of those." She opened the door, already pulling her uniform top off. "And I think I'm going to stay transformed, or I might set the house on fire when I henshin again."
There was pain.
There wasn't supposed to be pain only oblivion.
But there was pain. And the faint taste of roses on her tongue.
The agony finally settled itself in her wings, and she faintly remembered the shards of glass that had impaled them ,yet had not had the mercy to pierce her heart.
She moaned softly, cursing the cruelness of having been denied release.
A soft touch and cool dampness caressed her forehead. She forced her eyes open to look in bleary amazement at the gentle hand that comforted her, unable to believe that after cruel love had treated her so unkindly that anyone could treat her with mercy. She was dead! A ghost! The only kindness she could expect was to be utterly unseen in her shame and misery!
She whimpered softly as the hand withdrew.
"Hush, my angel. You are safe."
The voice was soft… Feminine.
"Not an angel" she whispered softly. "I am… a ghost."
"Rest. I have bandaged your wounds. You will be fine."
"No," she whispered, even more softly. "I am dead."
Then blackness claimed her once more, and Mu Si gratefully fell into it.
Evening found Ranma walking aimlessly through Nerima's alleys, trying to come to terms with her situation. Shan Pu had officially moved in, per Akane's request to Soun, and she had spent the evening in Akane's lap as they watched TV. Ranma had tried very hard not to freak out, but she hadn't been able to stay in the room, and had finally given up on kata when she kept losing concentration.
What was she going to do? She had really started to enjoy sparring with Akane in the mornings, learning the various techniques his fiancée had gained from Zhu Shu without having to ask the Chinese girl to reveal her family's secret techniques directly, just as Zhu Shu had never asked to learn the secrets of Anything Goes, but with Shan Pu actually living with them, would Akane still want to spar with just her?
Not that there was anything wrong with sparring with Shan Pu. The Amazon had certainly proven more than sufficiently skilled to help her keep her edge, but the memory of her changing into a cat right on top of her just got in the way every time she looked at the purple-haired girl. And Ke Lun's decree that she was stuck as a girl until she had made a decision just made it harder. She wanted to find a way to overcome her fear but she didn't want to seem like she was bending to the bossy old woman's will like Shan Pu did.
"Hey Ran-chan! Watch where you're going!"
She looked up at the sound of Ukyo's voice, noting for the first time that her wanderings had brought her to the alleyway behind Ucchan’s.
"Sorry, Ucchan. Lost in thought."
Ukyo tilted her head at the smaller girl, then tossed the bag of trash in her hand into the dumpster. "Come on in. I'll make you an okonomiyaki and you can talk if you want."
Ranma shrugged, but wasn't about to pass up an offer for free food. She followed the chef in and perched on a stool as Ukyo served up two pizzas and some sodas.
"So, you still mulling over Shan Pu?"
Ranma nodded, taking a bite out of the okonomiyaki. "Yeah I mean, I am starting to like her and all at least I was, but I don't know what to do with her being a cat."
Ukyo nodded. "Well, if it's any consolation, I have my own problem I don't know how to deal with." She propped her elbows on the counter and sighed.
Ranma gave her a sidelong glance. "Yeah. So how was Zhu Shu's first night at work?"
"She's a perfect waitress, does a great job, earned every yen I paid her and all her tips, drew in a ton of customers and I still don't know why I hired her. She's incredibly distracting, and that damn half smile she always wears is driving me crazy!"
Ranma laughed. "That little smile that lets you know that you're doing exactly what she wants you to do? Yes, I know it quite well." She finished off the pizza and smiled at Ukyo. "In fact it's something I like to see. I'm glad to hear she has it because she's working here. It's far too rare a sight."
"Huh? It sounds like you like being manipulated by her."
"Zhu Shu? Manipulative?" Ranma shook her head. "Yes and no Yes and no. Yes, she's manipulative, but you have no idea as to why. All Zhu Shu has ever wanted is for her friends to be happy, no matter how much it costs her."
"I don't get you," Ukyo said, giving him a raised eyebrow.
Ranma turned around on her stool to lean back against the counter and look directly at Ukyo. "Hmm Well, let me see if any of this helps. Zhu Shu is the last pure-blooded child of a very old Chinese clan, one that used to serve the emperors. She's been forced her whole life to learn to be the best servant she can possibly be for a court that will never exist again. So, she makes do by trying to help others. That little smile is her sign that she feels like she's actually helping."
Ukyo shook her head. "So meddling makes her happy."
Ranma gave her a hard look. "I didn't say that. Ukyo, there's a lot you don't know about Zhu Shu, and it ain't my place to tell you things I maybe shouldn't. But I'll tell you this I'd do just about anything to make Zhu Shu happy, because I'm not sure I'll ever be able to repay her for what she's done for me. As weird as my life has been since I met her, I think for the first time ever that I can recall, I'm pretty happy all in all. I have a fiancée that Zhu Shu had to beat me around the head a few times to make me realize I love, and another fiancée who all in all seems to love me just as much as the first, and the only problem is this idiotic phobia about cats."
Ukyo gave him a raised eyebrow. "Hmm vehement, aren't we?" She held up her hands. "Okay, I understand she's your friend, and I do think she's a nice person. I just wish she wasn't so fixated on me. I'm not interested in girls."
Ranma scratched his head. "Heh. Sorry for the outburst. My relationship with Zhu Shu is kinda weird, to say the least."
Ukyo laughed. "Do tell. Anyway, I just wish I knew what to do with her."
Ranma shrugged. "It'll work out eventually."
Ukyo rolled her eyes. "Yeah, right." She pushed her plate to the back of the counter. "Just tell me one thing. Why did she go and get my spatula tattooed on her back?"
Ranma doubled over. Ukyo gave the laughing girl a look, then hooked her foot under the stool and tilted Ranma to the floor. The redhead rolled and came back to her feet.
"Gods, Ukyo, you have no idea how funny that question is."
"Care to clue me in?"
"Zhu Shu's had that tattoo since she was thirteen. According to her, the Dragon put it there after she tried to commit suicide."
"Zhu Shu's family god. Apparently it's sort of a a prophecy." The redhead laughed again. "You should have seen the stunned look Zhu Shu gave you when you showed up for our fight with that big spatula of yours. It was like she'd been struck by lightning."
Ukyo stared at her. "You mean she's chasing me because that tattoo bears my spatula, and she didn't put it there?"
Ranma shrugged. "What can I say? I never believed in magic or gods before I went to Jusenkyo. But yes, the Dragon shows the loves of Zhu Shu's life. The cherry blossom for her first love, Ying-Ying, the unattainable tiger for Akane "
And a spatula for Ukyo. It wasn't said, but the words hung heavy in the air for a few moments before Ranma smiled. "Hey, Ucchan, thanks for the okonomiyaki, but it's late and we need to hit the sack if we ain't gonna sleep in homeroom tomorrow."
Ukyo unlocked the door for Ranma. "I don't believe in fate, Ranma, or prophecies."
Ranma shrugged. "I really ain't sure it matters if you believe it, Ucchan. Zhu Shu does." She stuck her hands in her pockets. "Anyway, thanks for listening, even if we couldn't think of solutions."
Ukyo smiled. "Hey, you spent more time listening to me. I have no idea what I'm going to do about being chased by a girl."
Ranma smiled. "I once had a very wise person tell me that the body really doesn't matter to the heart. And to be honest, it don't matter to me if Akane kisses me as a guy or a girl anymore. I'm me, either way."
Ucchan smiled. "Good night, Ranma, and good luck."
Ranma turned, whistling in the dark as Ukyo closed the door.
And for some reason, her last words kept playing over and over in her head.
The body doesn't really matter to the heart .
Next afternoon, Usagi stretched again as she walked up the path from the gate to her door. She did have to admit the continued exercise of Zhu Shu's lessons had stopped being quite so bad. She was nowhere near as sore as she had been the first few weeks. She yelled hi to her family as she ran up to her room, looking forward to taking a long soak before dinner and homework.
She stopped at the doorway in horror. Her precious room had been ransacked! Clothes were strewn about, and drawers pulled out and tossed on the floor! Everything was a mess!
Rational thought fled as one urge came to mind.
MUST KILL LITTLE BROTHER!
She ran down the stairs screaming Shingo's name and burst into the living room with mayhem on her mind, but stopped dead in her tracks, blinking in confusion.
Shingo was looking at her in utter confusion, a contrast to his typical smirk when he had caused misery in her life, and next to him
The pink-haired girl looked at Usagi calmly, before snorting and turning back to the TV.
"Hey!" Usagi yelled, "What are you doing in my house?!"
"What's a matter, Sis? You forget our cousin Usagi was visiting?"
"Wha-?!" Usagi managed, as her mom came out of the kitchen with a plate of cookies and glasses of milk.
"What's all the fuss, Usagi dear? Don't you remember your cousin from her last visit?"
"Last visit? What?" Usagi scratched her head in utter confusion. Why was her family acting so weird? "I don't have a cousin!"
"Don't be silly, Sis. Even you had fun last time she was here. Even got that stupid picture you took at the park."
Usagi's jaw opened and closed repeatedly, but nothing came out. As her mother picked up a photo album and opened it to show Usagi pictures from her "cousin's last visit", She just stared at the little girl.
The girl gave her a sidelong glance and a smirk of victory.
As they met in the dojo dressing room before the next afternoon's lesson, the rest of the sailors looked at Usagi in disbelief.
Rei finally said it. "What do you mean she's your cousin?! You don't have a cousin!"
They all looked out of the dojo to the garden, and the pink-haired girl quietly playing with her cat-head ball. Usagi shrugged.
"I know that, but my mom and dad all say she's visited before. They even have pictures! And she ransacked my room! Even assaulted me in the bathtub looking for the Silver Crystal. And mom saddled me with her this afternoon."
Rei closed the dojo door again as Kasumi came out of the house with a tea tray and stopped to talk to the small girl. She turned back to Usagi.
"Why would she want the Crystal? How does she know about it?"
"How am I supposed to know?" Usagi whined.
Everybody stopped talking as Kasumi knocked, then brought in the tea tray. She smiled, and said, "Enjoy your tea," as she stepped back outside. They took cups as Ami poured the tea, Usagi not even paying attention to it as she devoured the cheese and crackers on the tray.
"So, who do you think she is?" Makoto asked, taking a sip of her tea.
"I don't know," Usagi said around a mouthful of crackers as she reached for her tea.
Makoto's cup shattered as it hit the dojo floor, followed by the others. Usagi froze, looking in horror at the suddenly unconscious girls.
There was a creak on the porch outside the dojo, and panicked, Usagi slumped, mimicking the others in hopes that whatever it was wouldn't kill a bunch of helpless girls.
The dojo door slid open to reveal the pink-haired girl and her cat ball. She nodded. "Good. Now, let's see if one of these others has the Crystal."
Usagi jumped up in anger and grabbed the girl by the wrist. "You did this? What did you do to my friends?!"
The smaller girl tried to free herself, to no avail. "It was just knockout drops! Give me the Crystal!"
"I'll give you something, all right!" Usagi yelled back. She sat down and pulled the girl over her lap as she began to spank her.
The pink-haired girl started to cry as Usagi paddled her, and a crescent mark on her forehead appeared, growing brighter with each smack. With the last smack, a flare of white light filled the dojo. Usagi jumped back as the small girl rolled off her and to her feet, crying as she fled the dojo.
What the hell had that been?
There was a cry of fear from the garden, and a sound of a body hitting the ground. Usagi jumped up, locket already in hand as she called out her henshin.
Kasumi had just opened her eyes and started to stand up as the pink-haired girl had run out of the dojo crying, running into her and knocking them both down again. She tried to quiet the struggling girl.
"Whatever is the matter, dear? It's okay. You're safe."
"Not even close," another voice broke in. "In fact, I'd say she's about as unsafe as can be."
Kasumi looked towards the voice, along with the pink-haired girl. A tall woman with long black hair pulled up into a pair of cat's ear-like odango stood on the dojo roof, dressed in a pink bodysuit and black skirt. An air of menace radiated from her.
"Hello, Rabbit. You've lead us on a merry chase, but it ends now. Are you going to come along peacefully, or do I get to kill your friend here?"
The pink-haired girl cowered in fright as Kasumi stepped in front of her. "I am Kasumi Tendo, of the Tendo school of Anything Goes Martial Arts. If you seek to harm this girl, you shall have to defeat me!"
"Brave words from a fool. Very well, then. Die!"
A wave of fire washed from the dark haired woman's hand, nearly striking Kasumi as she grabbed up the girl and dodged. She rolled to her feet just in time to see a spinning gold disc strike the woman's wrist and knock it aside.
"Hey, slimeball! Why don't you pick on someone who can fight back?"
Everyone's eyes went to the gaudy red, white, and blue uniformed figure of Sailor Moon. The black haired woman's eyes narrowed.
"And just who are you supposed to be?"
"I'm the Pretty Sailor-suited Soldier of Love and Justice, Sailor Moon! And for seeking to harm innocents, I shall punish you!"
The woman gave a depreciating laugh. "Do tell. So tell me. Are you fireproof?!"
Another wave of fire flew towards Usagi, and for a single horrified instant, she simply stood there as the fire streaked closer.
Then a reflex she didn't even know she had kicked in as she leaped above the swath of flame, performed a flip in mid-air, and landed behind the woman. A further reflex kicked in as she continued the motion of her landing into a roundhouse kick that connected with the woman's temple, tossing her off the dojo roof into the garden, where her head hit one of the rocks and she collapsed, unconscious. Usagi stared at her own foot in amazement for a second before she lost her balance and, waving her arms uselessly, she fell off the roof with a loud squawk, falling towards a rose bush.
She found herself caught by a pair of strong arms, and looked up to see Tuxedo Kamen. He smiled down at her. "I felt you in danger, and I came to help. Very impressive."
A round of applause came from across the garden and Usagi looked over to see Ranma, the Tendo sisters, Zhu Shu, and Shan Pu all clapping for her.
Zhu Shu smiled as she stepped forward. "Very glad see training not go waste. Perform move quite well. Almost perfect. Knew grace Usagi display when waste time posturing have to show up sometime!"
Tuxedo Kamen put her down, and Usagi blushed. "Um well It just kinda happened."
"Is why make train over and over. Body learn. When need, body do." She looked over the unconscious woman. "Still, lucky woman hit rock. Not hit hard enough to knock out."
Usagi pouted as Ranma moved to look over the unconscious woman. "Not your usual run of the mill youma. She looks human, except for this black moon crescent on her forehead."
"Let's get her into the dojo and tied up," Akane said. "We can at least maybe find out what's up."
The move took only a couple of moments, and by the time they had gotten her inside, the rest of the Senshi had woken up. Kasumi had also calmed down the pink-haired girl, and Usagi had finally introduced her to everyone as Chibi-Usa, her "cousin". They spent several minutes getting things arranged, Kasumi going back to the house to run interference.
Once they were sure the woman wasn't going to be going anywhere, Usagi pulled out her scepter and prepared as Zhu Shu waved smelling salts under the woman's nose. She coughed and jerked awake.
"So, you are a little more lucky than you give the appearance of," the woman told Usagi, her eyes boring into the blonde girl's. "And allies as well. They will not help you."
"Who are you?" Rei asked.
"I am Cooan, of the Four Sisters! You are fools to meddle in the affairs of the Black Moon! We will crush you!"
"Why do you want this girl?" Usagi asked. Chibi-Usa peeked around her legs.
"I have answered all the questions I care to, girl. When next me meet, I will not go so easy on you."
Ami started to cry a warning as the woman flared and vanished in a sparkle of light, Ranma's hand passing through her fading form with no resistance.
"Damn!" she said. "That was useless!"
Zhu Shu nodded. "Least know name."
"Cooan, and Black Moon," Makoto mused. "And four sisters. That's means there's at least four of them."
Usagi turned to Chibi-Usa. "And do you have anything to add?"
The pink-haired girl turned wide eyes on her, and shook her head. "All I know is they want to hurt me, and they hurt my mommy!" She started crying, and turned to run into the garden. Usagi started to run after her, but Zhu Shu's hand stopped her.
"She really not know, Usagi. Aura is fuzzy confused. She too young to understand what happen."
"So she doesn't know who they are?" Rei asked.
Zhu Shu shook her head. "Caught flashes. Tower of crystal, shadowy figures, fear."
"Sounds like shock," Ami said. "Poor kid. We know she's been here at least a week. Whatever happened must have been really bad."
"All I know is she wants the Crystal," Usagi said. "And she's somehow made my parents think she's my cousin."
Zhu Shu pointed to the door, and they turned just in time to see the cat ball duck to the side. "Think that have more do than girl. Like guardian. Machine. But have aura. Not sure what make of."
Ami pursed her lips thoughtfully. "A computer maybe? A.I.?"
Zhu Shu looked lost.
"Artificial Intelligence. A computer that thinks on its own."
Zhu Shu blinked. "No understand." She held up her hand when Ami started to explain. "Not important Zhu Shu understand. Machine with spirit."
Ami nodded. "Should we go after her?"
Akane shook her head. "I smell Kasumi's cookies. I have no doubt where she is."
Mina shrugged. "Well, I guess we just have to wait and see what happens next. So, we going to have class or what?"
Zhu Shu laughed. "Class. And today, even have Zhu Shu teach. Seem first exercises learned well. Show new set to practice."
The girls all groaned.
"So just who the hell are these new enemies?" Mara asked Urd as they read the report from Phoenixmoon.
"Like I'm supposed to know? I'm the goddess of the past, Mara. According to this, they're from the future, although I have no idea how they bypassed the gates."
"Black Moon bears the hallmarks of Chaos, Goddess Urd. No doubt Chaos provided the means of transport."
"So why are they after the girl?" Mara asked, flipping through the two pages that were all that Phoenixmoon had given them.
"That is uncertain. DNA suggests a more than 99.9999999999999999999 percent likelihood that the pink-haired girl is a descendant of Usagi and Mamoru. Highest probability is that she is Usagi's daughter. I am unable to scan her companion due to temporal interference, but believe the AI is programmed to be a guardian to the child."
Urd slumped on the keyboard, pulling her hair in frustration. "What is it with this assignment?! Every time I turn, it gets more complicated!"
Mara stepped over and began rubbing Urd's shoulders. "It's okay, hon. We just have to do the best we can."
Urd growled. "And what if the best we can isn't good enough?"
Mara shook her head. "It has to be, Urd. If we really are dealing with a Nexus, then all of reality is depending on us."
Urd glared at the screen. "I don't suppose you have anything you're hiding that you care to share?"
"Mu Si is awake again."
Urd sighed. "Great. How suicidal is he today?"
"Actually, he's much calmer."
Urd leaned back to enjoy the back rub as Phoenixmoon opened a hologlobe.
Mu Si was staring at the ceiling, wishing it didn't feel like she was healing quickly. Her wings no longer burned with pain, and the myriad of cuts the falling glass had made did little more than itch, due, no doubt, to the ministrations of her erstwhile savior.
"Ah, you're awake, my angel," came the voice of the girl who had saved her over her objections. Mu Si looked in her general direction, but without her glasses, she was only a blur.
"I should be dead. I want to be dead. Why did you save me?"
The blur set down something on what appeared to be a table. "I could not let such a beautiful angel perish in my garden."
"I am not an angel. I am a ghost to everyone who matters."
"You're certainly solid enough to me." The blur sat on the edge of the bed and long soft fingers ran down Mu Si's arm. "And so very lovely. I have sat and watched you in your sleep for hours."
Mu Si reflected on several hazy dreams and wondered if she had done more than simply watch, but she was past caring what the girl may have done with her body. "It matters not. My love has turned her back on me. I am dead. You have saved a worthless life, but as is your due, it is yours to do with as you wish." Summoning the strength to move, she forced herself to her feet, dropping the sheet to stand naked before the hazy figure of her savior. "Once I was Mu Si, of the Joketsuzoku, master of hidden weapons. Now I am dead. Name me as you will. For so long as you decide to force me to exist, I am yours."
"Mousse? That is a strange name. Why do you seek death so avidly, my angel? You are beautiful, and surely were a gift to me from my goddess to reward my love."
"The woman who was to be my wife has declared me dead, choosing instead to be with Akane Tendo and Ranma Saotome. I have no reason to live."
"Akane Tendo? My goddess? Surely you can not be speaking of that purple-haired harlot, Shampoo!"
Mu Si gritted her teeth, but sighed. She was dead. Shan Pu was beyond her. Her soul belonged now to this one. "Yes. Shan Pu was Champion of the Joketsuzoku. Since childhood I have sought her hand, striving to ever prove my worth to her. When she was cursed by the waters of Jusenkyo, I sought to find her a cure, and my present state is a result of that quest. I-I sought to restore to her the humanity she loses when touched by cold water, to save her from being turned into a cat, and for this, I was cast out." It hurt to speak of, yet she had no choice, as uncaring of its worth as she was, she stilled owed a life debt.
She could feel the other smile. "A cat, you say? When hit by cold water? How interesting."
Mu Si felt her soul chill ever so slightly, and in hopes of freezing it completely, continued
The hologlobe faded as Urd waved her hand. Mara gave her a raised eyebrow. "Are you sure this was a good idea?"
Urd bit her lip. "I think so. It's rather obvious he's extremely depressed, but if I read Yggy's profile correctly, once he faces the fact that he can't have Shan Pu, Kodachi's the best personality match. Give him a bit, and I think he'll stop being so so "
"In shock. Yeah, I guess." Mara stretched, the extremely low-cut bodice she had chosen barely managing to keep itself on, then flashed a smile at Urd. "So. I'm getting tired of this for right now, and you need a break. Wanna go drink sake and shoot pool?"
Urd looked up and blinked, really taking in Mara's outfit for the first time. It looked like the ex-demoness turned goddess had really gone out of her way to look good and had apparently ransacked Urd's closet to do it. "Um Mara isn't that my dress?"
Mara tuned to show off the extremely high cut leg. "Why, I do believe it is. Shall I take it off?" she asked teasingly.
Urd swallowed, visualizing Mara carrying out the threat only to have Peorth finally manage to override the privacy screen and
"No, no, no. Keep it on. It looks good on you. Let's go. I'll spot you a ball."
Mara laughed. "No, I'll spot you one. Since when have you ever beaten me in pool?"
Urd laughed and followed the other girl out of the Operations Center. They were most of the way back to the house when Urd realized she actually had meant the compliment.
There had been no sign of Cooan by the time school started the next day, so Luna had stayed to watch the girl and promised to call everyone if any problems occurred. Zhu Shu made sure she had her wand with her, but hoped nothing would happen. At least, not till after the rhythmic gymnastics tryouts.
Whether Shan Pu was worried or not, her previous experience had made her wary of the gymnast, and Kodachi's complete lack of attacks over the last week was unlike her. Zhu Shu was sure she had something planned. She had been far too secretive since her return from Hong Kong, and that worried her.
The fact that Kodachi had shown up in the company of Valmont and his cronies, technically working for Xi'an Chi, worried her too. She had seen no evidence that Kodachi had been tainted by the sorcerer since her aura was unchanged and without the swirl of blackness she had seen in Mint's, but her experience was so limited she didn't trust it entirely. She hoped that Kodachi really was still herself.
The day went by nervously for her, though not for anyone else, and finally last period arrived. At the final bell, she joined the throng of students heading to the gym for the tryout, and the fight between Shan Pu and Kodachi.
Shan Pu looked down at the leotard in disdain. "This not proper warrior garb. Too tight, too thin."
"It's a leotard, Shan-kitty. And I know it's thin, and very form-fitting," Akane said. "You look really good in it."
"It not protect anything!"
"It's not supposed to. But it's what gymnasts wear."
Zhu Shu poked her nose in the dressing room door, her emerald eyes shining. "Sister should not complain. Zhu Shu find outfit tempting. Hentai will drool to death."
Shan Pu rolled her eyes. "Hentai not touch, or hands will Shan Pu break."
Akane laughed. "Worry about Kodachi. I kinda humiliated her by stripping her naked and whipping her to an orgasm in front of the entire school. No doubt the Hentai Squad is hoping for something similar."
Shan Pu cracked her knuckles.
There was a knock on the door. Zhu Shu opened it again. She turned back a few seconds later with a box in her hands. "Student deliver. Say gift from supporter for Shan Pu. Say kick Kodachi butt."
Akane lifted her eyebrow. "A secret admirer? Or just someone who doesn't like Kodachi?" She walked over to Zhu Shu as she was opening the lid. "Or it could be a—"
A cloud of gas escaped as Akane said "—trap." It dissipated quickly, but both girls slumped to the floor as Shan Pu jumped towards them. It was already too late; they were both sound asleep, and no amount of shaking would wake them. She picked up the box and caught the small note that fluttered out, puzzling out the kanji for "Best Wishes. K."
She stood back up as a violet aura formed around her and she turned towards the gym. "SHAN PU KILL!!!!"
It had been a forgone conclusion, once Kodachi had announced her intention of trying out for the Rhythmic Gymnastics squad, that she'd be the only entrant. If it weren't for the challenge to Shan Pu, there wouldn't even have been a contest. As it was, Kodachi was pacing back and forth across the ring, waiting for Shan Pu.
The crowd had already settled, Ranma and Ukyo saving seats for Zhu Shu and Akane. The redhead was watching Kodachi and frowning. Something about the girl just wasn't right. Her hand kept going to a hexagram shaped pendant around her neck, and it seemed every time she touched it, she had to fight to keep from laughing.
Then the doors from the dressing room exploded outward with a roar, and a glowing Shan Pu stalked towards the ring. The umpire swallowed nervously as she stepped into the ring. Shan Pu leaped over the ropes, her eyes boring holes into the gymnast. The umpire stepped between them, looking like she was praying she wasn't committing suicide.
"Okay, the tryouts are beginning. In this corner, Kodachi Kuno! Former Champion of St. Hebereke!"
There was a scattering of applause, but most of it sounded forced. Ranma smirked at the implied unpopularity.
"And in this corner, fiancée to our very own Akane Tendo . SHAN PU!"
There was far more applause this time. Shan Pu didn't seem to notice, but Ranma looked around, surprised. More than just the Hentai squad was clapping. Many of the girls on the gymnastics team seemed to be rooting for the Amazon to beat the tar out of Kuno's sister.
In the ring, the Umpire continued. "Now the rules are simple. No bare-handed blows! You must defeat your opponent using the weapons of martial gymnastics!"
Kodachi laughed. "So did you enjoy my little present?" she asked. Ranma's eyes widened, remembering Kodachi's last fight, and what she'd done to Akane. She nudged Ukyo.
"Sister and Airen sleep," Shan Pu growled, relieving Ranma a little. "Miss Shan Pu. SHAN PU KILL!!!"
"YOU LET MY GODDESS GET CAUGHT?! YOU BITCH!" Kodachi shivered in outrage.
The umpire dived out of the way as the bell rang and both contestants did flips away from each other. Shan Pu grabbed a pair of clubs as Kodachi landed in her corner, laughing as she pulled out her ribbon. As she struck a pose on the corner post, Ranma asked Ukyo to go and make sure the girls were okay.
"For allowing my Goddess to come to harm, I shall slay you!" Kodachi yelled as her ribbon danced. She leaped up for an attack as Shan Pu braced.
Then Kodachi blurred into invisibility as Shan Pu reeled. Kodachi reappeared behind her, laughing. Shan Pu slowly reached up to touch a slash in her leotard, the purple fabric turning black with blood. Ranma stood, almost jumping into the ring, but stopped, remembering her promise to Zhu Shu to respect the Amazon warrior's right to fight for herself.
Shan Pu growled as she turned and blurred into motion, her chi glow fading slightly as she pushed it into speed.
But Kodachi faded again right as Shan Pu's club would have crushed her skull. Shan Pu was tossed across the ring into the ropes, and Kodachi reappeared. She laughed as she pulled the ribbon between her fingers, blood dripping from the cloth. Shan Pu stood, another cut across her abdomen dripping. Kodachi smiled grimly as Ranma's teeth gritted.
"You cannot fight what moves too fast for you to see. So long as I possess the Rabbit Talisman, you stand no chance!"
Ranma's eyes were drawn to the hexagonal medallion that Kodachi had been fondling, noting the faint glow, her eyes narrowing. Kodachi had somehow acquired a magical item, and however much Ranma viewed it as cheating, it wasn't against the rules in this match. Her hands clenched in frustration.
Shan Pu just nodded as her chi aura brightened. "Then Shan Pu must move faster."
Ranma shifted her focus as Shan Pu blurred once again, the world slowing around her as Shan Pu attacked. The Amazon's clubs once more dove towards Kodachi, Shan Pu choosing a two prong attack to come at the gymnast from both sides.
Then Ranma blinked as the medallion glowed and Kodachi vanished again. Even with her shifted time perceptions, Kodachi was moving too fast to see.
Shan Pu just barely managed to grab the rope to keep from flying out of the ring as she was once more impacted in the chest by a massive force. Ranma watched as she forced herself to ignore the pain and used the rope to bounce back in Kodachi's direction, catching the laughing girl in the small of the back as she was just starting to turn. The gymnast flew across the ring to impact face first with the turnbuckle.
"YES!" Ranma cheered.
Kodachi shakily got to her feet and wiped the blood from her mouth. "You will pay for that, demon! You and that other Chinese girl! You have tried to take my goddess away! Make her love you instead of me, her devoted slave!"
"Akane is Shan Pu Airen. Is warrior. Crazy gymnast girl have cheat to stand against Shan Pu! Akane conquer like true Amazon! Shan Pu not waste spit on crazy girl!"
She blurred again, this time into the air. Kodachi tracked her, and as Shan Pu descended, she vanished again. Shan Pu wrenched violently in midair, blood spraying from a cut in her arm as a razor hoop sliced into the ceiling. She landed and rolled launching a kick into nothingness.
Kodachi faded into visibility as she flew into the ropes and was dumped to the mat. She rolled barely in time to avoid the hammer blow of Shan Pu's club as it slashed down and through the canvas. She came up in the center of the mat, but slipped, catching herself as her foot slid in a puddle of water.
Ranma's eyes instinctively went up, to where the hoop had buried itself in the ceiling. Water dribbled down the hoop, and dripped to the floor. Even as she watched, she could tell it was increasing. She watched in growing horror, knowing there was only one way this could end. She stared at the falling drops, the sounds of cats howling starting in the back of her brain
She wrenched her eyes back down as Shan Pu managed to catch Kodachi in mid-disappearance again, her foot darting out as she fell to the mat. Kodachi reappeared in midair, managing to backflip and land on the post instead of crashing into it again.
"You are lucky, wench, I'll give you that. But my angel has revealed your weakness!"
Kodachi's ribbon lashed out to wrap around the hoop in the ceiling, and with a wrench, she pulled it free. The entire auditorium watched as the ceiling groaned, then with shudder, a stream of water began to pour down. Shan Pu jumped back, doing a flip to land on one of the ropes. Kodachi laughed.
"Here's your dilemma, bitch. Do you stay dry, and let me beat you to death slowly, or do we end it quickly?"
Shan Pu wiped a small trickle of blood from her mouth, and smiled. "Shan Pu not know how give up, pervert girl. She do know how to kill."
There was a blur of violet as Shan Pu pulled her own vanishing act. Kodachi staggered as her leotard shredded, blood flying as slash marks appeared. Shan Pu reappeared on the pole behind her, her ribbon dripping its own blood now as she gasped for breath. Ranma let out a breath in relief that she had escaped the water..
Kodachi looked down at her shredded leotard in contempt. "Do you think destroying my clothes means anything to me anymore?" She laughed as she pulled the torn cloth free and tossed it to the crowd. "My goddess displayed me to the world as she claimed me! Let the world gaze and despair!"
Shan Pu glared at the naked girl. "Akane display Shan Pu too, and she give Shan Pu collar! Akane belong Shan Pu!"
Kodachi fixed her with a glare, her eyes locking on the collar. Sheer raw fury burned behind her eyes. "You lie! My goddess would never choose you over me!"
Shan Pu smirked. "It say Shan Kitty. Property of Akane Tendo."
Kodachi shook in fury. "Then I shall kill you, and my goddess will know who truly loves her!" She stepped down on the soaked floor of the ring and into the falling stream, eliciting murmurs of approval from the hentai as the water ran down her naked body. "Feel the fury of my Rain Dance!"
Kodachi blurred again as the falling water shattered into a spray expanding in all directions. Shan Pu started to dodge, but all around the ring, the fire sprinklers exploded as Kodachi's ribbon sliced through them, and even as she sought to hide behind one of the columns, water began raining down from above.
Ranma tried to move towards the stage, tried to shield Shan Pu to keep her dry, but the memory of Shan Pu sitting on her, the sounds of her meowing, the sounds of hissing claws sharp teeth gnawing, glowing eyes in the dark as the demons descended and screaming screaming in the dark as she was ripped at
Overwhelmed by the memories and the fear, Ranma stared as Shan Pu melted down into the pink and purple kitten, panic chittering in her brain as her instinct to protect the helpless and her fear of cats warred within her mind.
Kodachi stopped spinning to the sound of an enraged yowl from Shan Pu as she clawed her way to the top of the post, soaking wet and annoyed at the falling water. Kodachi laughed again. "And so you are revealed as the beast you are! Cower before me, and I shall spare your life!"
Shan Pu hissed in rage as she launched herself claws first at Kodachi, landing on the laughing girls face and clawing . Kodachi howled as she ripped Shan Pu free, blood pouring from scratches on both cheeks. With her hands around the struggling cat's neck, she started to slam the cat towards the mat, intent on shattering her spine. Time seemed to slow as every eye watched Kodachi raise the helpless kitten, intending to bring her down with bone-shattering force.
Time slowed to molasses to jelly to ice. Ranma's eyes locked on the struggling form in Kodachi's hands. The cats howled in frenzy, threatening to strip her humanity away once more, to rip and claw and tear away the mask to reveal her own inner demon, the demon that laughed in glee at the impending death of the cat
But over the roar of the cats, there was a single quiet sound
The sound of a rabbit dying as a black-clad warrior broke her back.
As Shan Pu rose, the sound of the rabbit grew louder. The cat's roared in renewed frenzy, but no matter how loud they screamed, the noise of the rabbit echoed and re-echoed gaining strength and drowning out the roar, forcing Ranma to remember.
Twelve warriors Twelve warriors that had died as rabbits twelve women who had been slain because they were helpless. And the one woman who he had been too slow to save
Too slow to save .
The rabbit's scream shook her soul as Shan Pu started to descend
And she remembered her silent vow as she had stood by the dais, watching as the Amazon she had failed to save had been laid with full honor next to her sisters.
A simple vow
And as time resumed it inexorable flow, at last, the cats were silent.
Kodachi found her hands gripped by iron as she was held immobile. Her eyes rose to meet Ranma's cold stare.
Shan Pu's eyes were fixed on Ranma as well, but the redhead showed absolutely no signs of panic, just controlled fury.
"Enough, Kodachi. It was bad enough when you chased after me, and bad enough when you chased after Akane, but now you've crossed the line. Let her go."
Kodachi struggled to free herself. "Stay out of this! I will not allow this tramp to sully my goddess!"
"That's not for you to decide, Kodachi. Akane doesn't love you. She does love Shan Pu, and she loves me! I'm tired of both you and Kuno trying to force yourselves on us! I am sick and tired of you chasing Akane! And I sure as hell am fed up with you trying to hurt Shan Pu! NOW LET HER GO!"
Kodachi let out a howl of pain as Ranma's hands tightened. Her hands convulsed, releasing Shan Pu. She staggered back as Ranma' grip let go, and rubbed her wrists.
"HOW DARE YOU! I will not allow this transgression to go unpunished! Feel the Fury of the Black Rose!"
Kodachi blurred, and everyone held their breath as they expected Ranma to stagger from the girl's attack, but instead, Kodachi let out a yelp as she reappeared in midair, outside the ring and flailing wildly as she spun out of control into the crowd, crashing amid a group of hentai who let out a cheer as they descended.
Ranma, still standing in the ring, apparently not having moved, lifted her hand and opened it to look at the hexagonal medallion, the chain that had held it around Kodachi's neck dangling broken, then closed her fist again as she shoved it into her pocket. She turned to look at Shan Pu, who was setting on her haunches and staring up at her in wonder.
"I'm sorry I'm an idiot, Shan Pu."
Shan Pu let out a tentative meow, half afraid Ranma would bolt again and leave her alone in the falling water, but the redhead just gave her a half smile.
And leaned down to pick her up.
Shan Pu found herself being held gently in Ranma's arms as her Airen carried her out of the ring and away from the chaotic noise of the crowd as Kodachi fought herself free of the hentai. She scarcely dared to even breathe as she was carried back to the dressing room, to find Ukyo and Zhu Shu helping Akane to sit up. The three girls looked up as Ranma entered, and stared, their jaws dropping simultaneously.
Ranma raised an eyebrow at them as her free hand began scratching Shan Pu's ears, hitting the itch that had developed under the wet fur.
As Shan Pu started purring in ecstasy, Akane and Zhu Shu passed out again.
To be continued.
|Book 3, Chapter 4|
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