Chapter Ten: The Best Laid Plans
By Qaddafi the Ripper
Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 belongs to the almighty Takehashi Rumiko, Tenchi Muyo! to Pioneer (?), Sailor Moon to Takeuchi Naoko, Aa! Megami-sama! to Fujishima Kosuke, and Fushigi Yuugi to Watase Yuu. Please don't sue this poor college student!
It was a place that didn't truly exist. It was there, floating somewhere in space, but it was not a place that could be reached by normal means. Sometimes, most of the time, it couldn't be reached at all, no matter how hard one tried. Very few people knew of its existence, or even a rumor of it, and fewer still knew how to reach it the rare times it could be reached.
This was one of those few times that the secret council chamber of the most powerful beings in the universe was open for access to those same beings who had created it and used it.
Another meeting had been held here about a year ago, but most of the occupants of the chamber had changed. The last meeting had been a private affair between old friends. This was a council of war, and all the allies available to call on were there.
Setsuna, currently Sailor Pluto, sat calmly on her chair, her outward composure belying the turmoil roiling inside her. Most of her companions from the previous meeting were there. Washu and Tsunami sat together, both looking grim. Belldandy was with her younger sister Skuld this time, and the four celestial gods -Suzaku, Seiryuu, Genbo, and Byakko- represented their world instead of world instead of Tai-itsukun. Pluto frowned in disapproval. She knew quite well Tai-itsukun's various reasons for being absent, and she disapproved all the more for the old woman's shallowness.
More importantly, four others were also here. Ukyo sat hunched over, radiating misery. Akari hovered over her like a mother hen, trying to cheer her old friend up, without much success. Ryoga sat next to Akari, scowling at everything and nothing. Finally, Ranma stood in the center of their little half-circle, waiting with head down as the last of them took their seats.
This must be so difficult for him, Pluto thought sadly. He fought so long and hard just so this would never happen again, and yet here we are, right back in as bad a situation as before.
Seeing that everyone was present, Ranma finally looked up. "Thank you all for coming so quickly. I know it was short notice, but there wasn't any other way."
"Is it true, Ryu-sama?" Seiryuu asked. "Has the Aku family truly returned?"
"Some of them, at least," Ranma replied. "We know for sure that Hakai and Shindeiru are back, and I strongly suspect that their elder brother is as well. The rest of the family is long dead, at least."
"But even just those three will cause no end of trouble," Washu noted. "How did they manage to escape in the first place, anyway? I thought your seal was impenetrable."
"There is one, and only one, who could have broken my seal," Ranma said, voice tight.
Ryoga started. "You defeated him!" he protested.
"Not completely," Ranma countered. "At the time, I had neither the power nor the knowledge to make a complete end to him."
"And now he's back for revenge," Genbu observed calmly.
"Just like everyone else in my life," Ranma muttered sourly under his breath.
"So this is going to be worse than when we just faced the Aku family, isn't it?" Belldandy asked tearfully.
"Much worse," Ranma agreed. "By themselves, the Aku family is dangerous enough, but their true power lies in deception and sowing distrust. The other... none of you were around yet when we fought him the first time," he indicated everyone save Ryoga, Akari, and Ukyo. "His power rivals even my own."
The assembled allies sat up in shock at that last confession. "Impossible!" Skuld exclaimed. "No one's more powerful than you, Ryu-sama!"
Ranma sighed. "The first time, I only barely defeated him. Now I know far more, but even still... I cannot guarantee victory."
"Then what shall we do about this?" Suzaku asked.
"We won't merely stand by and let them take advantage of us. I will infiltrate their lair and bring back Konatsu and Urd."
"If they're still alive," Pluto added darkly. Ukyo and the Norn sisters stiffened at her suggestion.
He gave her a sharp look. "Right now, they are still alive, and I intend to bring them back before anything else can happen."
"If the three Aku brothers have indeed teamed up with him," Akari began, sneering at the mention of their ancient foe, "then there's a good chance you won't be able to beat them all on your own, Ranma."
"I don't want anyone else to have to risk their lives," Ranma explained quietly.
"But you could die," Akari persisted.
"Everyone has to die sooner or later, Akari," he pointed out gently. "If it's my time to go, then so be it."
A long silence followed his last comment. Pluto gritted her teeth to keep herself from blurting out the secret she knew. Tsunami had said that it wasn't their place to tell him, but if knowing would give reason to fight for life a little while longer... Wouldn't that be worth it?
"Didn't you want to try to live a normal life for once?" Tsunami questioned sadly.
"I did," Ranma admitted, "but it seems this is normal for me. I will explain my past to those I'm currently living with me before I leave. They deserve an explanation." He nodded to the others, then vanished from the room soundlessly.
Immediately after his departure, the room erupted in chaos. "He can't really mean to face them on his own!" Seiryuu yelled angrily. "We can fight too!"
"He's going to commit suicide," Belldandy whispered, eyes filling with tears. "He has nothing left to live for."
"He does have something to live for!" Pluto countered in a voice as angry as it had even been. Her fellow Senshi would have been surprised to hear it, had they been present. "He just doesn't know it."
After a few more minutes of arguing, the group began to disperse. Tsunami left with Ryoga and Akari, obviously wanting to catch up, and Belldandy escorted the still miserable Ukyo, trying to offer what comfort she could while Skuld followed from a distance. Eventually, only Pluto and Washu were left.
"And how do you feel about all of this, Setsuna?" the self-proclaimed Universe's Greatest Scientific Genius inquired.
"I will do everything I can to help, of course," she announced, purposely missing the point.
"Kiseichu will be with his brothers, I'm sure of it," Washu said, refusing to let Pluto off.
"I am aware of that possibility, Washu," she retorted stiffly. "What of it?"
"Nothing, of course," Washu said mildly, then grinned evilly. "Except that I know you two have something of a history together."
"Whatever we might have had together ended when he chose to follow the same path as the rest of his family," Pluto murmured softly, caught in a whirlwind of memories...
... A much younger Pluto, walking down the corridors of the Moon Palace, only to run into a young man she'd never seen before, but who gave her a roguish, dashing smile as she passed by, bowing mockingly...
...Finally seeing him a second time, and scolding him for the lack of respect he'd shown her earlier. He'd merely given her that same grin as before. "Maybe all that deference is a bad thing, Sailor Pluto. If no one ever questions your actions, what will stop them from becoming corrupted?" She stands in shock at his accusation, so surprised, she never thinks to stop to kiss he plants on her check...
...Arguing with him in the library over ethics, the government, the distribution of power, temporal physics, anything that came to mind...
...Dancing together at one of the many balls held on the Moon. He leans close ans whispers her name in a strange tone before kissing her on the lips...
...Waking up held securely in his arms, that mischievous grin the first thing she sees...
...The day his family shows up, and he barely pays her any attention at all...
...That fateful day when the attacks finally began, when he swore to her she was worth far more to him than his family could ever be...
...His cruel, mocking laugher as she lay bleeding on the ground. "Did you really think I would chose you over them?" His words ring in her ears as the world around her finally fades out...
Pluto shook her head, banishing the memories to a little-visited corner of her mind. "There still might be a chance to win him back," Washu suggested gently.
"We will see," was all Pluto said in reply.
Tsunami placed her hand on Akari's arm. "How are you doing?" she asked.
Akari smiled sadly. "Well enough, I guess. It's not easy to lose someone we're close to, but Ucchan, Bell-chan, and Skuld-chan have it much worse than we do. And how are you, Nami-chan?"
The Jurian deity smiled and hugged the other. "I'm doing quite well, Okasan." She turned to Ryoga. "And how are you, Otousan?"
A rare smile crossed the dour boy's face. "Same as always, sweetheart. How are you enjoying your stay at Yosho's?"
"It's wonderful. There's never a quiet day there. I think it might be even worse than you two had when you were young."
"Bite your tongue," Ryoga admonished her. "We had just as much craziness as you have, just slightly different."
Tsunami laughed and threw her arms around Ryoga this time. "It's so nice to see you again. Don't disappear like that on me."
"We're sorry about that," Akari apologized, "but when Ranma disappeared all those years ago, someone had to take over things for him."
"I know," Tsunami assured her, "but please let it not happen again."
Ryoga gently pushed a loose strand of hair out of her face. "We won't. We promise."
The atmosphere in the Neko-haunten that night was tense, at best. Shampoo was clearly concerned and kept glancing at the door in concern. Mousse was calmer, but still very worried. Cologne looked as placid as ever, but if she'd been any younger or more impatient by nature, she'd be fidgeting as much as the children. The visitors were much worse. Tendo Soun was almost oblivious to everything over concern for his youngest daughter. As for said daughter, if looks could kill, someone would be dead by now. Nabiki was amused, and chatting calmly with Kodachi, who clearly didn't want to be there. Kuno was unaware of the tone in the air, as he was reciting lousy poetry to Akane (which, for the record, was not helping her mood).
"I can't believe it!" Akane finally yelled.
"Now Akane..." Soun began in a soothing voice, "he did call."
"He stood me up!" she fumed. "He went to all that trouble to set up a date with me, then cancels at the very last minute! He is so dead!"
"Ranma say something very important come up," Shampoo offered apologetically.
"It wasn't like he wanted to stand you up," Mousse added.
"He will die a very, very painful death," Akane grounded out between clenched teeth.
"But why would he want to talk with all of us?" Kodachi wondered. "Onii-sama and I barely know him."
Cologne shook her head. "He said it was important for all of you to be here, but not why."
Further discussion was cut off as Ranma himself finally entered the now closed restaurant. As everyone focused on him, he looked slightly chagrinned.
"You better have a good excuse for canceling our date!" Akane yelled before anyone else could speak.
"I'm really sorry about that," he replied, scratching the back of his neck. "An old friend of mine was in some pretty serious trouble."
"So what is it you wanted to talk to us about?" Nabiki asked.
Ranma checked the group over once more and asked, "Where's Kasumi-san? I was hoping the whole Tendo family would be here."
"She's out with Tofu-sensei. Is it a problem?" Nabiki inquired.
"Not really, I guess," Ranma sighed and took a seat. "I would like to discuss a very important and personal matter with all of you, but only on the grounds that this does not get out after tonight." He looked pointedly at Nabiki.
She considered his solemn expression, then nodded her head along with everyone else, though Kuno looked like he didn't really care one way or the other. Ranma leaned back, content with what agreement he had. "Very well. I'd like to tell you the story of my past."
End of Chapter Ten
Author's Notes: The idea of a Setsuna/Kiseichu romance started out as a joke I was playing around with, then I thought, "Hey, that might actually work!" So, now it is a fact. More details on their torrid love affair in future chapters (probably). And I haven't decided yet whether or not I should let Kiseichu be redeemed or just killed. Tell me what you think! Reader input might well cause me to change my mind!
Tsunami is Ryoga and Akari's daughter?! What was I thinking? (She looks nothing like either of them!) I'm not entirely sure what possesed me to do this, but I found it to be rather amusing (and not all anime characters who are supposed to be related look like each other anyway!). Thus, you've heard my pathetic rationale. Obviously, Ranma called off his date with Akane (cuz he was at the meeting), and she wasn't too happy about it.
Next chapter: Ranma finally begins to explain things! It sure took long enough!
-sama: more polite form of –san
-chan: affectionate term usually used among family
Onii-sama: older brother (very formal)
Onto Chapter Eleven
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