Progeny
By Jeffrey Vasquez

Disclaimer:
Based on the series Sailor Moon. All characters copyrighted by Naoko
Takeuchi, Toei Animation, and Kodansha.

The characters of Ranma ½ are the express property of the most benevolent
queen of comedy, her Highness, the revered Rumiko Takahashi and
Shogokukan. I am in no way claiming, or even pretending to own these
characters.

The rest belong to me.

Author's note:

This is an Alternate time line for Ranma ½, wherein Soun Tendo and
Ukyou Kuonji accompanied the group to Jusendo. They all witness
Ranma's battle with Saffron, along with the events that followed.
The story has undergone quite a few changes since I first wrote it, so
be sure to read it from the beginning!
Enjoy!

********
The Moon Kingdom

Serenity sat on her throne, atop a raised dais, a swaddled babe clutched in her
arms. Deep in her noble heart, a war waged. Grief battled a cold righteous anger,
both seeking to overthrow the other.

She would not break here.

This was a trial, and she needed to be cold and impartial, despite the man that
now stood before her. She couldn't let her love for him taint justice.
Senshi Pluto stood to her monarch's right, her demeanor cold and subdued, at
least on the surface. The cold fire of hatred, that swelled in her stomach at the
sight of the man, made itself plain in her eyes. Ahbrim Ur nauseated her. His
smug defiance made her want to beat the man to a bloody pulp. Unfortunately,
Pluto knew that retribution wasn't hers to mete out. She looked down at her
Queen and the child that rested in her arms.

It was the beginning of the end.

Just as she had foreseen. It was times like these that made guarding the time gate
difficult. This one man had carelessly set in motion the destruction of all that she
held dear. And there wasn't a damn thing that she could do about it.

The bastard.

**I hate this job.** Pluto sighed tiredly. A whimper from the child brought her
attention back to Serenity. The Matriarch of the Moon Kingdom could have
been an ice sculpture for all the emotion that crossed her face.

**Gods, how does she remain so calm!**

Concern for her dear friend was written plainly on the face of the Senshi of
Time. It was more emotion than any within the Queen's court had ever witnessed
on the stoic woman's face.

"Well Serenity?" A collective gasp rippled through the throne room. Senshi
Uranus growled and began to step forward, only to have the younger and elder
Neptune restrain her.

"Hold your tongue Traitor!" Fury laced Uranus' voice. The elder and younger
Senshi of Neptune could barely restrain the enraged woman as she threw herself
at the man.

Ahbrim Ur smiled haughtily at the young woman.

"Or what Child?" He cooed mockingly. "Your predecessor couldn't best me. In
fact I clearly remember her squealing, like a stuck pig. I wonder what your last
moments will sound like." He tapped his finger thoughtfully against his lips.
Uranus broke free from the combined strength of her friends and launched herself
at the chained man before her. Her primal scream echoed throughout the court, as
did the harsh blows that she rained down upon Ur.

"She!" Her fist took the wind from his lungs.

"Was!" A kick shattered his nose, spraying her uniform with blood. The baby
woke and began crying.

"My!" An open hand strike flew across his jaw.

"MOTHER!"

Tears flowed from her eyes as she groined her tormentor. The man
doubled over with a grunt and fell to his knees, clutching himself. Somewhere in
the background Pluto could be heard shouting, along with others.
Hands roughly separated Uranus from her quarry. She thrashed against them
harshly using all of her strength. Couldn't they see that he had to pay! She
screamed at them, and almost broke free again; but new hands joined the
struggle and Uranus was lifted from the ground.

"Remove her from the court!" Pluto called out, gesturing emphatically. The two
Senshi of Neptune and the younger Senshi of Venus and Jupiter complied
quickly, carrying Uranus from the chamber hastily.

Silence descended slowly, as the enraged howls of Uranus echoed throughout
the halls of the Crystal Palace. Ahbrim Ur recovered slowly, raising to his feet
with little grace and a great deal of pain. No aid was offered to the man, not that
he cared. These people were all hypocrites any way.

"It seems that I have upset one of the watchdogs your highness." His scornful
tone mocked all present.

He sniffed in derision. The coppery taste of his own blood filled his mouth, but
he smiled none the less. He looked up into the eyes of his former Queen and
saw that Serenity's gaze had hardened. He shivered uncontrollably for an
instant before regaining his composure. She looked stunning like this. Her eyes
were cold and fierce, and her posture was strong and unrelenting.

Was it any wonder why he had fallen in love with her in the first place? She
was every bit the queen that she claimed to be, but that was no excuse for her
crimes. The self-righteous dominance that she hung over the people, and the
indifference to the lower classes were more than he could bear. She may have
been beautiful and he may have loved her more than life itself, but she was
blind and deaf to the true needs of her people.

He spat blood on the floor, wishing that it could be at her feet.
Maybe now her ears would hear and eyes see, what he had been telling her
all along. He chuckled to himself grimly. Silence languished throughout the hall
as Serenity's gaze fell upon Ur like Heaven's judgment.

**Probably not.**

"Well, Wife?" Ahbrim asked impatiently. "I await your Divine judgment."

"That title is no longer yours to speak Betrayer!" The Elder Senshi of Venus
made herself known from the left side of Serenity's throne. Her silky, golden,
hair glistened in the lamp light of the court. She had loved him once, well
before Serenity had caught his eye.

The Queen of the Moon Kingdom raised her hand to forestall any more
exhibitions of retribution. The child in her arms had quieted, and once again
fell into a troubled sleep. Ur yearned to know the child's sex. But it had
been a closely held secret. It was to be one of her final blows to him he
supposed, for abandoning them. He would never know if his child was
a son or daughter; she wouldn't give him the satisfaction of knowing his
progeny.

Serenity rose from her throne and gently handed the child off to her advisor
Luna; the Mercurian cat in human form. She descended halfway down the
dais, before she stopped and looked down at her former husband.

"Before I sentence you Ahbrim, I would ask you one question." His slight
nod was the only sign that he had heard her at all.

"Nine months ago you abandoned my bed, for that of our enemy. Our
child grew within my womb as you dallied with Onyx and her darkness.
You shamed us, you abandoned us," Her voice was measured and calm.

The Great Void was warmer than her tone.

"I would know why."

Ahbrim Ur laughed. It was a cynical laugh that resounded in the hearts of
those attending the trial. His rich baritone voice echoed hauntingly off the
walls, chilling Serenity. The man she had once dared to love was dead.

And in his place there stood a monster.

"Dearest Serenity! Your pride is boundless! You think that this was about
you? About our little family?" His laughter barked loudly, causing the baby
to wake again. Luna did her best to pacify the newborn's tears. She threw
a dark look at Ur and silently wished that she could rip out the traitor's
throat.

"If not that, then pray, tell me what. Enlighten us all," her arms swept wide
to encompass those gathered in the hall. "...as to your reasons for sleeping
with the Darkness, for killing a defender of the light, and destroying an
entire nation?" His gaze hardened as he met hers. They had entertained this
discussion before; many times in fact. She knew what he fought for.

"You know damn well why! The hypocrisy of the Moon Kingdom knows
no bounds! You," his gaze swept the gathered nobles and dignitaries
viciously, and he spat on the floor again. "...dance at your petty balls, and
lavish yourselves with finery to the point of excess! You gorge yourselves
while other nations starve!"

His tirade completed its circuit, coming to rest again on his ex-wife.

"The Moon Kingdom is a coterie, made up of spoiled children, playing at
a dream at the cost of others." His battered face was flushed and his eyes
were filled with contempt.

Queen Serenity bowed her head, not in shame, but in tired resignation.
She had heard his appeals on a number of occasions, and had honestly
tried to follow his council. But she knew that in his eyes she had never
tried hard enough.

He would never understand that she wasn't willing to force her
kingdom's aid on a nation or another kingdom, that flat out refused it in
the first place.

His heart had been closed to her since Atlantis sank beneath the waves.

He still placed the blame at her feet for his nation's demise. He couldn't
see that pride and politics had doomed her attempts to save Atlantis from
the beginning. Just as, even now, his pride had doomed her efforts to
save him.

She gazed down at him lovingly, one last time assuming the role of his wife.
The look that he returned was cold and emotionless. She offered him her
forgiveness, and he spurned her attempt. She could feel the mantle of her
office settle on her shoulders once more. The title of Monarch replaced
the title of Wife. When she spoke, her power and authority spoke with
her. Magic amplified her voice and sealed Ahbrim Ur's fate.

"Ahbrim Ur, Son of fair Atlantis. Your acts of treason against the throne of
this kingdom are presented before you. How will you plead?" Her voice
was measured and clear.

"Guilty and unrepentant!" Ur shouted, in a vain attempt to steal some of his
former Queen's majesty. He could do little else, cut off as he was from the
power of the earth, and from his magic.

"Then you leave us no choice, than to seal upon you your punishment. For
your crimes against the planet Uranus and its champion, and for the atrocities
that you have visited on the nations of bright Terra; we sentence you to exile.
We strike your name from all records, and strip you of all that you were.
We bind you, son of perdition, to the darkness that you serve. Think well
on your folly for the rest of eternity."

Silver flames licked the Queen's body as she presented the Ginzuishou
before her. Silver flames shot out from the crystal, engulfing Ahbrim in a
silvery white light.

"You have made me a martyr!" He cried out despite the pain that rent his soul.
"I will be avenged Serenity, and you will see our child suffer for your pride!"

Ahbrim Ur fought the changes that were overtaking his body. An empty
struggle, that in the end proved as empty as his threats. He could feel his
limbs harden and thicken painfully, as flesh and blood changed to a lustrous
silver. He felt the magic climbing up from his lower extremities, but refused
to show his fear. He spat once more at her feet, before the magic began to
drive the air from his lungs.

"You. . .will. . .never. . .know. . .pea. . . ." The threat died as his lungs
solidified and the magic worked its justice.

Serenity, Queen of the fabled Moon Kingdom, fell gracelessly to the stairs.
Tears coursed down her cheeks as she looked down at what had once been
her one, true, love. Hundreds of beautiful memories flooded her
mind; times of hope and warmth, and times of passion and tenderness.

All lost because of pride.

In her anguish she rent her dress and keened to the Heavens. Her mourning
carried into the hearts of her subjects, and Senshi Pluto watched with a deep
sense of emptiness as the Moon Kingdom began its inevitable march toward
destruction.

********

Chapter One:

There are few people awake at three in the morning. It is considered a
magical time, when the mind and spirit drift in another world. This
is the Fourth World, separate and very real. It is the Ring of Eternity,
dancing in an endless waltz, renewing the lives of every living creature.
It is said that this is the afterlife of legends; the place where great beings
wait to be reborn. It is also said, that this is where men truly commune
with the Divine. Whether this is true or not, is not important. What is
important, is the nature of this hidden world.

The Fourth World, like all worlds, is a study in balances. It is an infinite
plane that stretches outward from a definite center, and divided into three
distinct kingdoms: Afardis, the Kingdom of Dawn. Wyiel, the Kingdom
of Twilight. And Ghol, the Kingdom of Night.

Afardis dances in eternal summer, while Ghol is forever blanketed in a
shroud of darkness. Wyiel lays sandwiched between the two, forever
acting as the buffer between light and dark. Pleasure and pain coexist
here, feeding off of the desires of man like parasites, while leaving thier
hosts empty...empty and addicted to their unique gifts. It is here inWyiel,
that most dreamers go to dream.

If they are lucky.

********
Nerima:
Six months after Jusendo.

Ranma clutched the doll that held Akane's soul to his chest with one
hand, while the other held the Gekkaja. The crescent bladed staff
cooled him against the fierce onslaught of Saffron's heat, as he fell
earthward.

<Not again. Please.>

**She'll never make it if I wait for us to land.** He thought direly.

**When she closes her eyes, it'll be too late!** All he needed was to
restore the moisture to her body, and the Dragon Tap was just beneath
him. The cold water would re-hydrate her and she'd be okay. He
gathered his strength and tossed the Gekkaja like a spear, with pinpoint
accuracy, into the head of the tap. It would cool the water as it flowed
from the mouth of the ornamental dragon.

Unfortunately, he wasn't falling fast enough to reach the water in time,
and he knew it.

<Please. No more.>

**The air's still filled with Saffron's heat. If I bring down my Cold Fist
here, I can call the water. . . .** He looked at the small doll in his hands
with concern. **Until then, don't die Akane!**

He focused his spirit and allowed himself to call forth the calm he needed
to perform the maneuver. His body temperature dropped considerably
cooling the humid air around him. His fist started glowing as the air
whipped his pigtail in a frenzy behind his head.

"HISSHOU NO ICHIGEKI!" (A Strike for Life!) He cried out defiantly to
the Fates, and his fist glowed brighter still.

<For whose life?>

He had one shot at this, he had to make it count. The punch flew from
him with all the strength that he could spare.

**Dragon Look to the Heavens!** His prayer was equal parts command
and plea as the energy that he had built shot forth from his arm, down
towards the Dragon Tap.

"HIRYU GYOTEN HAAAAAAA!" (Flying Dragon Staring up at Heaven
Strike)

The concentrated cyclone shot forth like the finger of God, down into the
Dragon Tap, tearing it apart as if it were made of paper. The whirlwind
collected the pieces, spinning them above the shattered neck of the tap.

**Please work! PLEASE!** his heart cried out urgently, as the miniature
tornado slammed the severed head of the giant faucet, down on top of the
broken neck. Water fountained upward, in an angry release, from the
mouth of the Dragon toward Ranma.

"DID IT!" He cried tiumphantly as cold water washed over him. He
could feel his mass shift slightly. His center of gravity changed and the
world seemed a little larger through his eyes.

<Arrogant bastard.>

**Akane, it's the water. Please come back to me, please!!** The magic
water from the tap drenched the tiny doll, which seemed to suck it up
thirstily and expand impossibly.

<She won't come back...never come back....>

"A. . .AKANE!"

Ranma held Akane's now normal, and very naked body; his concern for
modesty was thrown to the wind as he looked for any signs of life. His
heart plummeted as he found . . . nothing.

No pulse. No breath.

Nothing.

<Empty...like me.>

He landed on the ground lightly, cradling Akane's still form in his arms.
His heart still pounded like a jackhammer, trying to burst free from his
chest. But aside from that, the rest of his body was numb.

Somehow, he managed to find a kettle and heated it from a pool of
scalding water left over from the Phoenix Tap. The water washed over
him, allowing the world to return to its normal proportions.
He settled down near a pool of cool water and slipped his shirt around
Akane's shoulders to preserve what little dignity that he could on her
behalf.

<She deserved more...so much more.>

He had taken too long. Saffron had just been too tough. If only she had
stayed out of the fight! If she would have, just once, listened to him and
not interfered! If she hadn't interfered, he would have been dead. Ranma
raised his fist and hit himself, leaving a nasty bruise on his cheek.

"Sorry. . . , that's not what I meant to say . . . ." His voice was thick with
the pain of his broken heart. "I really wanted to say 'Thank you'...."

<Too late fool...forever too late.>

The only sound was the quiet splashing of the water near by. No one
intruded; no one dared.

"I'm sorry Akane. . . ." He faltered. His eyes became misty with tears. "It's
because. . . I'm awkward. . . ." His breath escaped his lungs in a ragged
sigh as he brushed the hair behind her ear with a soft slow motion.
"I could never tell you how I really felt, so I just kept making you mad at
me and hurting you...." A sudden sense of desperation entered his soul.
He needed her. She was the only one that he truly loved and he had never
had the courage to tell her.

"... wake up Akane...."

<She will never wake again! Never again!>

A cool breeze tousled his hair.

"There's something that I want to say...."

**... please.**

"Akane... Can't you hear me?" The tears began to fall. He couldn't hold
them back; if he tried he knew that he would break beneath the pressure.

<How could she? You never taught her to hear the words of your heart!>
The small wet diamonds fell on her beautifully pale face and slid down
the contours of her cheek.

"Please let me tell you that I love you, Akane!" His appeal was met by
silence and his anguished, helpless tears pooled around her eyes as he held
her close.

<Love too little, love too late! She's lost to you! Lost like you! Hahaha!>

"AKANE!" The torment of his loss shot to the Heavens, and the pooled
tears rolled down her cheeks; as if she too wept at the cruelty of life.
Their love, having never been acknowledged, would never find fruition.
The echoes of his grief bounced throughout the mountain vale, adding a
thousand voices to his one. A chorus of Ranmas mourned while he sat
immobile with his love clutched to his chest in a death grip. Shock
settled over him and after an unknown period of time, depression. All his
pain, all of his loss, spiraled into himself. He gathered it all to him like a
shepherd would his flock, and nurtured it.

<Heavenly fire. Cleanse the earth, burn the blackness, purify this empty soul.>

Nothing mattered anymore. She was gone and wasn't coming back. So
what was there left to live for? Nothing.

No more silent dreams. No more fun. No more secret smiles.

No more Akane.

<Nothing. Nothing. Nothing...let me die....>

This was a sacred place, a place of change; a place of Power. A power
that sung out to Ranma to be used. He could see the blood lines that made
up the Earth's Ki. They were great, spiritual veins that intersected at
various points all around him.

**Use us.** They seemed to whisper. **Use us.**

<Yes. Call the flame. Call the lightning. Command the Earth to swallow me whole!>

And so, Ranma did. He opened himself fully to them and absorbed their
might, making it his own. He was never sure of how he did what he did,
but he found himself drawing in the rivers of power until it hurt.

There was a flash of white and then pain.

All that Ranma could do was scream...scream with all the voices of the Earth.

********

"...ake up Ranma. Come on, it's only a dream." Nabiki's soft voice drug
Ranma from the depths of his pain; coercing him to rejoin the land of the
living.

"Shhh. It's okay now, just let it go." She clutched his shaking body close,
sharing her warmth with him and trying to make him feel safe again. She
smelled of strawberries and herbs, and her satiny hair tickled his neck.

"It's okay now. Just a dream. Let it go." She sounded exhausted, and her
body had obviously shifted into automatic. Just like it did every night that
he dreamed. She was hunched over him, pillowing his head in her lap
and against her breasts. Her silk pajamas were warm and smooth,
offering comfort amidst the ebbing pain.

"Let it go Ranma. It's just a dream...just a dreaaaam...." She yawned,
dragging out the word. He wished that it had been "just a dream";
dreams were pleasant...dreams didn't hurt.

He wasn't sure how long they remained like that; time had little meaning
after returning from that place. All that he did know, was that Nabiki had
stopped rocking him, and from the rhythmic rise and fall of her chest,
she had entered the world of dreams herself.

Ranma prayed that hers were at least pleasant.

He allowed her the moment, basking in her warmth for as long as
humanly possible. Six months ago, this show of weakness would
never have happened. But alot had changed since then...hadn't it?

The emptness that had entered him so quickly, lingered. Many
had tried to fill the void that Akane had left behind: Kodachi,
Shampoo, Ukyou. Each had done their best to make him forget
the great, gaping wound in his soul. But in the end, their greed
poisoned their love, and their attempts to fill the void that Akane
had left. Shampoo hadn't made it out of China, Ukyou lasted a
full three three months after they had returned, and Kodachi....
Ranma shivered.

Kodachi, ever efficient and ignorantly bold, had crossed the
point of no return in that first weekend. One small comment
about Akane had unlocked Ranma's rage, and the ensuing
tempest had left half of Nerima in disrepair. Ranma, even in
his fury, could not bring himself to hurt the girl. In the end, he
didn't need to; the amount of property damage that he had
left in his wake spoke for him.

Ranma sighed and carefully slipped out of Nabiki's embrace.
With great care and sensitivity, he eased her down so that she
could be more comfortable. He slid out from underneath his
covers, and with a deft twist of his wrist, covered Nabiki. He
couldn't help but reflect as he looked down at her, she was the
source of so much mystery...and strength. Ranma had slammed
so many doors, and burned too many bridges since coming
back. No one at school bothered him anymore, with the
exception of Nabiki.

She had become his sole anchor with reality, and not just for
Ranma. She was carrying everyone, like Kasumi had after
their mother's death. It was strange, yet somehow fitting. Akane
was gone, Kasumi in her loss had found a life with Tofu that was
slowly maturing, and Soun was lost in his grief. Nabiki had
passionately taken upon herself the mantle of caregiver. And ran
the house with a militant flare, that let no one wallow in their pain
for very long.

Genma was actually working again, to Ranma's amazement, and
Soun had found a measure of peace in teaching again. That only
left Ranma unaccounted for, and Nabiki watched him like a
hawk. It was irritating, demeaning, awkward, and in moments
like these...truly comforting.

He sighed again, and moved over to the window. The darkness was
empty; just like his soul. He couldn't continue on like this; he couldn't
keep doing this to Nabiki. The way things were going now, he might
start feeling something for her...something that she felt already.
She deserved better.

They all did.

With great care, Ranma lifted Nabiki into his arms and returned her to
her room. Then set about packing his things. He had entered their lives
like a tsunami, he hoped to leave like a gentle breeze.

********
Banyankala Province, China
Sunday, 3:50 a.m.

A storm raged against the night. Midnight black clouds flew against the
ebony sky. Somewhere north by north west of the Musk Dynasty, an
ancient prison of sorts lay hidden from the prying eyes of the world.
Unlike most prisons this bastille had no walls, no chains, nor any of
the other accouterments that one would normally associate with
incarceration.

It resembled a fine pleasure garden filled with beautiful metal
sculptures that glistened beneath the rain and flashed in the
lightning. The motif was a blend of wild tranquility, as nature
sought to usurp the order that had been imposed on it. It might
have looked like a garden, but it has often been said that:
"Walls, do not a prison make."

Somewhere, deep within the open prison, a loud noise resounded above
the thunder in the area. The tortured screaming of metal being torn,
echoed into the night. The Heavens opened their vaults and threw down
torrential rains and flights of sky fire, raging against the evil that was
being unleashed upon the Earth once more.

********
Juuban
Shinto Shrine 4:52 p.m.

Rei Hino knelt before the Great Fire, searching her soul. The flames of
her heart danced in a myriad of colors, mesmerizing her. This was her
favorite part of the fire reading; a moment of peaceful beauty that only
she could experience. The flames waltzed sinuously throughout
her mind, liberating her spirit and cleansing her mind in preparation for
the vision that was to come.

The fire inside her began to take shape; the vision had begun.
At first it was a column that had vaguely human qualities. The traits
slowly coalesced into the form of a young man. White flames
danced around his head, mimicking a crown of some sort. His
body flowed beautifully through a kata that captivated Rei. His
movements were confident and strong. He stumbled and the flames
flared brightly.

Again the fire formed into the vague shape of a man, only this time much
larger than before. He wore no shirt, instead flames created what looked
like a series of tattoos that covered his body. His movements weren't as
graceful as his predecessor, instead, she found them to be violent and
vulgar. The flames slowly begin to change color, darkening from a deep
red to a pitch black.

The shrine maiden's fascination turned to horror as the man grabbed her
soul. His spiritual grip was painful, searing her soul. His voice, when he
spoke, was brutal and filled with hate.

"Tell her Mars. Tell Serenity that Ahbrim Ur has returned, and that he
is coming for her."

He squeezed her spirit again painfully, before letting go and
dissipating. The flames died out in her mind, leaving an exhausted
and very frightened Rei Hino laying before her Great Fire.

********
Nerima
Sunday 11:00a.m.

The moment that she woke this morning, she had known that something
was out of balance. The spirit of the house seemed to be scewed, or
somehow depleted; but Nabiki couldn't put a finger to the cause.

Combine this with the fact that Kasumi was visiting Tofu's family over
the weekend, and you had the recipe for a grumpy Sunday.
The idea that she would have to cook for everyone didn't make things
any better. She was a surprisingly good cook, as the family had
discovered soon after Kasumi's breakdown; she could cook, but that
didn't mean she enjoyed it. Not really...well maybe a little. She
entertained a little fantasy involving Ranma and breakfast in bed.

A small grin split her face as she set to work.

It was time that he stopped brooding, and if she played her cards just
right, things just might start looking up for everyone. Time seemed to fly
as Nabiki performed her magic. Kasumi was right; no matter how
corny it sounded, love did make all the difference in the world. She
climbed the stairs to Ranma's room and slowly opened the door.
The tray slipped from her fingertips and clattered to the floor, quite
forgotten. She had discovered the source of the imbalance within the
house....

Ranma and all of his meager belongings were gone.

He had cleaned the room to a pristine polish, and in the middle of the
floor lay a note. Nabiki slowly entered, crossing the threshold tenuously.
There was no reason for her heart to be lodged in her throt like this.
It was just a note right? Nothing to be concerned about...really. He
hadn't tried anything stupid for three whole months...surely he hadn't
regressed.

Her trembling fingers reached out and picked up the white envelope,
and with careful precision, opened the letter. She had to read the note
three times in order to decipher Ranma's handwriting, but by the end
she could feel her heart run cold.

"DADDY!"

********

The train pulled away from Nerima's station with a jolt, and a sense
of finality that almost hurt. He tried to convince himself that it didn't
matter. He'd been uprooted so many times in the past, that leaving like
this should have been pretty straightforward; pack the bags, bury the
pain of leaving, move on. He had lost too much for this to be an easy
separation, and like so many times before he had left a part of himself
behind. Unfortunately, he knew that once gone, there was no way that
he would ever reclaim what he had lost.

The Tendos had become an integral piece of his foundation, a corner
stone if you will, and no matter how hard he tried lying to himself, he
couldn't help but mourn for them. He could not escape his failure;
the home had become a constant reminder of Akane. A bit of new
paint or a large section of patchwork would dredge up a hundred
different stories, and every time he passed her room his heart would
burn with expectation.

He couldn't do it anymore. He was fighting an opponent that had no
form or weaknesses, and Ranma knew that there was no way to
defeat such an enemy.

The young martial artist lifted his head to look around the cabin, noting
how empty he felt despite the large crowd. Men and women were
packed around him, pressing against every part of him…yet, they weren't
touching him at all.

He noted their faces; each carefully guarded and impassive. One
Salaryman was pressed intimately against a young housewife, but they
seemed to ignore each other. An elderly woman was forced to stare at
an obese man's behind, and for all intents and purposes she could have
been reading a newspaper. There was this amazing sense of detachment
that each person had, despite the inconveniences they were experiencing.
Ranma wished with all of his heart that he could somehow detach himself
from the pain.

His gaze scanned the rest of the crowd, trying to capture their dullness,
when a distressed face jumped out at him. The young girl had to have been
all of thirteen, and her dark shoulder length hair seemed to glow in the
fluorescent lights. The thing that struck him about her was the way that her
face was flushed, and how her violet eyes darted from one person to the
next. Her embarrassment and shame made it quite clear that someone was
taking advantage of the confined space. He search quickly, taking note of the
most likely targets; two men and a young man.

A familiar rage welled in Ranma's heart, reminding him that he had not lost
everything. He still had the Art, and the responsibility to protect. He may
have failed Akane, but he refused to fail anyone else. He watched the trio,
until the businessman's body language gave him away: a tightening of the neck
muscles that coincided with a groping hand.

With uncanny precision he popped one of the wooden pegs from his shirt and
transferred it to the opposing hand. He took careful aim, waiting until the train
swayed slightly before launching the missile. He smiled grimly as the projectile
connected, violently connected with the back of the pervert's head with a meaty
crack. Ranma's smile widened as the man's body seemed to wilt into
unconsciousness.

Several people grumbled as the man leaned into them, causing the martial artist
to chuckle. The girl caught the sound and looked in Ranma's direction; the relief
and gratitude in her eyes stirred something in his heart. Ranma nodded to her and
then closed his eyes.

Akane would have been proud.

********

Hotaru wasn't sure how the handsome young man had done it, but the pervert was
out cold. By the time the train reached the Juuban terminal, someone had mercifully
called the paramedics who were on hand to greet the train. Hotaru grimaced as the
man was pushed against her, and made it a point to kick the pervert's shins as hard
as she could before they carried him off the train.

Jerk.

********
Juuban terminal
5:00 p.m.

Mamoru Chiba was a many of many talents: intelligent, patient, filled with
long-suffering, and on his best days he had the ability to inspire hope in
others. Unfortunately today was not one of his best days.

" Usako, please. Can we celebrate my return tomorrow?"

Sixteen hours on a plane, followed by another hour standing in lines at the
airport, coupled with forty five grueling minutes of late trains, rush hour
crowds on said trains...it was enough to wear anyone thin.

"I'm tired and I want to go home, take a nice long shower, and then go to bed."
The young, blonde haired girl stood before him, unmasked disappointment in
her eyes.

"If that's what you want Mamo-chan."

The eyes! Oh! The eyes!

He had to give her credit, she knew all the right buttons to push. He set his bag
down and took her hand in his. "I'll tell you what, why don't we stop and get some
ice cream on the way home, would that be alright?" She squealed happily, reaching
a note that set every nerve on edge, and buried him in a hug that made everything
perfect. He had to smile. There was nothing else to do; he couldn't move, breath,
or see…so he smiled. When she released him, and he didn't immediately start to move
right away, Usagi began tugging on him to hurry.

Mamoru groaned and allowed himself to be pulled along, forgetting that he had put
his bag down behind Usagi.

The results were predictable.

********

Ranma disembarked the train and glared at the pervert that had just come to on the
paramedics' gurney. The man moaned, and rubbed his head. Ranma snorted silently,
and moved on.

He took three steps before a young woman with blonde hair fell into him. He stumbled
backwards as she flailed, trying to arrest their staggering motion. He felt his back hit
something solid and mobile, before he finally coming to rest on his rump. The young
woman looked up at him and grinned.

"Are you okay?" They asked at the same time.

There was a moment of extreme déjà vu for the pair. They heard a person squeal,
several colorful words were yelled, followed by a crash. A female voice screamed
somewhere behind Ranma and to the right, calling for someone to "look out". The
martial artist cursed and stood, smoothly lifting Usagi up and setting her on her feet
in one quick motion.

Usagi and Mamoru watched in awe as the young man seemed to blur, racing against
the clock. The gurney, which had held the unfortunate pervert from the train, had
rocketed toward a part of the platform that was under construction. Several minor
disasters fell into place like dominoes, causing the gathered crowd to gap in wonder
as The gurney hit a set of scaffolding, which tumbled into a light post, which hit an
unstable pillar that buckled with the blow, in turn causing the wooden supports to give
way. Had that been the end of it, the young woman with short black hair needn't have
worried.

Unfortunately, the supports hit another set of scaffolding, which in turn dislodged another
set of supports that hit (with uncanny precision) the last steel pillar. Normally, such things
are quite sturdy, but as any practitioner of the Art can tell you (or any physicists worth their
salt for that matter), everything has its breaking point.

The poor steel pillar never had a chance, as several hundred pounds of metal and wood
fell upon it. To those watching, the young woman was certain to be buried by the wave
of debris. Then again, none of the crowd knew Ranma Saotome.

********

Ami Mizuno read as she waited patiently for her mother to disembark from the train. She
felt it to fortuitous that Mamoru had been arriving on the same flight from Italy; it made it
easier to keep Usagi out of trouble, and gave her a traveling companion. All in all, a
perfect situation…she liked it when things fit together nicely.

Ami smiled thoughtfully as she turned the page; she hadn't realized how captivating
Descartes would be. His thoughts and base in Modernity were intriguing, but there
was something essential that she felt that he lacked. The man ultimately fought for the
Utopian ideal, but she couldn't quite see the fault in his philosophy. Then again, half the
fun was trying to find the answer to the problem.

It would come to her eventually.

It always did.

Small, warm, breezes rustled her school dress and lightly tossed her hair around in her
face. She absently pulled the offending lock back over her ear. Ami was so caught up
in her reading, that she didn't hear the commotion, or see the red blur until it was too late.

Something hit her roughly, taking her feet out from underneath her. There was an eerie
sense of weightlessness, and she felt her body moving sideways. A loud shriek of
tortured metal buckling beneath a great weight echoed in her ears, followed closely by a
tremendous crash and a cloud of dust that would have had her coughing, had she been
able to breath properly.

Instinct over took her, and Ami clutched the first thing that she found. It felt smooth, like
silk, but rock hard underneath. She tried to open her eyes but felt something pinning her
head down. The air was driven from her lungs as she impacted something several times.

It too was soft, yet solid…not to mention warm.

A moment of panic washed over her, and then everything stopped. The sounds of
breaking things faded, and the dust cloud settled. Ami turned her head slowly, to take
stock of her situation. The first thing she noticed was that her body was laid out
horizontally, but she wasn't on the ground. Her mind quickly calculated the distance
between terra firma and her suspended body, and came back with approximately twelve
to fifteen inches. She wasn't terribly sure, due to the rhythmic rise and fall of whatever she
was laying on.

Curious.

The rhythmic beating of her heart skipped when she noted that a second heart beat seemed
to have suddenly joined hers. That's when she realized that there was an arm supporting
her back, with a hand firmly clutching her left shoulder. The pressure on her head
was…someone's…hand?

She lifted her head slowly and found herself swallowed by the most beautiful and haunting,
steel gray eyes that she had ever seen. They reminded her of storm clouds just before it
rained.

*******

Ranma breathed a sigh of relief. It wouldn't have been an issue to pull the girl out from under
the falling lamppost, but when the stupid pillar started to crash into the scaffolding around the
overhang; things definitely got tricky. Well, she was safe now, and the only casualty was his
favorite shirt. The back had to have been completely shredded from the feel of it.

Now all he had to do was get her to get off of him without giving her the wrong idea; or
touching anything that he shouldn't. From the way that her heart was beating, he was sure that
she was in shock; hopefully that would make things easier. All he had to do was take it slow,
and if he was lucky she wouldn't even know what happened. Of course, Ranma should have
known better.

His luck had never been that good.

He opened his eyes slowly, and simply stared all the color draining from his face.

********

Ami watched her rescuer's face drain of color. She watched as various emotions played out
on his face: shock, disbelief, denial, pain…. She could feel the depth of his ache as it registered
in those striking eyes of his. Buried beneath the pain was such an intense sentiment, a love so
profound that Ami felt herself undeniably being consumed.

She couldn't escape the ardent passion, and something inside her admitted that she didn't really
want to. All thoughts of exams and studying went flying right out the window as she met those
wonderfully blue eyes. Well, not really, but they sure didn't seem as important as they had a
few moments ago….

Ami had read about the "Eternal Moment", but had never really understood the concept...until
now. Time seemed to stop, and the world fell away. No sound entered her ears except for his
breathing and her own pounding heart beat. She couldn't register any smells, save for the
bittersweet scent of his sweat mixed with a fabric softener. All that she could feel was the
effortless strength with which he cradled her, and the gentle hands that had protected her from
the harsh bite of the pavement.

Her hands absently played with the delicate silk of his shirt, and she felt his corded muscles
shift slightly. A lump formed in her throat, impeding any rational requests to be moved. Not
that she was currently coherent enough to make such an entreaty; and even if she had been
lucid, who in their right mind would be stupid enough to ruin such a wonderful moment?

A smile, tentative and hopeful, brightened his face like the dawn after a long and dreadful
nightmare. Relief flooded his eyes, and his perfect lips opened to speak. It took him two or
three attempts before an intelligible sound could be formed.

"A...Aka...Akane?"

Hope beyond hope filled his voice. Ami blushed as the whispered words touched her.
She shook her head slightly, biting her lip. She answered breathlessly the best she could,
moving some annoying hair out of her eyes.

"A...Ami." The logic centers of her brain began pummeling the libido in the hopes of rescuing
the situation. She was losing control, but at that moment she could have cared less. She'd never
felt this way before, not even with Ryo.

Her answer shattered the magic.

The young man's hope splintered and his beautiful smile vanished, slowly wiped away as if it had
never been. His beautiful eyes clouded over, taking on an emptiness that tore at Ami's heart. There
was a palpable sense of loss as the world came to life around them. Much to Ami's regret, the young
man slowly disengaged himself for her, carefully helping Ami to her feet.

He knelt before her and began picking up her scattered belongings.

"Sorry about that." His cold, distant, voice broke through her daze, and she bent down to help him.

"No harm done." She said quietly with a more than a little disappointment. Her heart continued to
pound in her chest, and she felt oddly lightheaded; most likely from being tackled she told herself.
She shook her head and took stock of the pile of scrap that now occupied the area in which she had
stood. Her eyes bulged at the twisted aluminum and steel. "I should be the one thanking you."

Out of the corner of her eye she noticed his smile come back for an instant, only to be beaten down
again by an overwhelming sadness. She winced internally as she collected her book. That had
sounded so…forward. She hoped he wouldn't get any ideas…well, maybe not too many.

They stood in perfect unison, and stared at each other for a moment longer before
the boy handed her things over. She collected them and bowed to him shyly.

"Thank you."

"You're welcome." He bowed politely, which Ami returned. A false cheerfulness entered his eyes
and voice, all for her sake she knew. "Uh. Um. Look you ain't hurt or nothin' are you?" His rough
speech was endearing, and the way his hand scratched the back of his head made him look even
cuter.

"No. I'm fine. Thank you." She bowed again to Ranma. He smiled and sighed.

"That's good ta know." He began scanning the crowd. "Are you meeting someone?" he asked,
moving into safer waters.

Ami nodded and straightened her skirt. "My mother."

Ranma nodded and continued to scan the crowd, when Ami noticed the state of his shirt and
back. "Oh my!" She quickly noted that he had a rather large bruise and a large section of skin
that had been chewed raw by the pavement. The blood was minimal, but she was sure that it hurt.
The boy made no show of it though. "You're hurt!"

He shrugged and looked at her disarmingly, like a rouge from one of Minako's pirate movies. His
rakish smirk set off a war within her. Her libido began to debate furiously with the stuffy, sticks in
the mud, saying that it was okay. The Logic centers countered with accusations of perversion, saying
that the whole situation was highly improper. The Libido made to offer a rebuttal. Both conversations
were stymied by the sound of a group of familiar voices moving towards her.

She smiled tiredly at the faces of Usagi, Mamoru, her mother and…Hotaru? She turned to thank
the young man again, but he was gone….

********
End: Part One

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