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Chapter One

The Beginning

 

A cloaked figure walked down an empty alley of the Juuban district.  He glanced upward at the overcast skies and pulled his hood even closer.  He continued his trek from the market to his apartment.  He just wanted Kami to leave him in peace to eat and wallow in his misery.  He did not need bad weather to worsen his mood.

 

As he turned the corner for the final stretch to his apartment, he heard screams off to his right.  For an instant he considered helping the poor people, but when looked over he saw that the Sailor Senshi had things well in hand.  The number of Youma attacks has increased in the past few weeks, he mused before continuing his walk to his apartment.

 

The battle still raged on.  From the steps of his apartment building, he saw that he had a good view of the action.  He realized that he wasn’t the only one to come to that conclusion.  A dark haired and fairly well proportioned woman stood before his apartment building and watched the battle with an almost sadistic grin on her face.  The man just shook his head and headed inside and put away his groceries.

 

After he put away the last of the food, the building was rocked by a shockwave from the power being thrown around outside.  He sighed, shook his head, and looked out his window.  The battle was still going and it seemed to him like the Senshi were actually losing.  The man decided that it was time for him to join the fray, no matter the inclement weather.  Opening the window to his third story apartment, he leapt out to the street below.  He landed right beside the woman he had noticed before, and for the first time she noticed him.

 

“So one human has come out of hiding.  I guess you will be the first to suffer!”

 

A startled “What?” was all he got out before he found himself dodging an attack from the woman.  Incredibly, her arm extended, stretching towards him as claws emerged and grew.  He evaded the blow with a backward flip and decided he’d have to deal with this one before he could lend a hand to the Sailor Senshi.

 

A forward charge was diverted at the last instant as the creature’s other arm swung at him in an arc.  The claws came within a hair’s breath of his skin as they ripped the cloak from the man’s body.  Landing in front of her, he twisted inside her guard and began raining punches into her midsection.

 

The woman got her first good look at her attacker.  Shock was clearly written on her face as she realized he was just a teenager!  How can an ordinary teenager have the power to do this to me?! She marveled.  He was dressed in a Chinese style red shirt and black pants.  He also, oddly enough, had his black hair done up in a pigtail.  She was forced to jump backwards to keep her midsection from collapsing from his unexpected blows.  “Now you’ve made me mad you puny human!”

 

“Yeah, Yeah…” The boy set himself into fighting stance.

 

In an instant the woman grew to twice her original size as her skin turned blood red and her eyes became white blanks.  She raised her right hand, the fingers extending and fusing as they grew longer and thinner.  A layer of skin shed away revealing what looked like an axe blade, which she swung at the opposing human.

 

He leapt over the blade, using the opening to land a powerful kick to the to the side of the youma’s head.  He heard an audible snap come from the creature’s neck and landed with a satisfied look on his face.

 

The youma glared at the impudent whelp standing before her, then straightened her neck with a sickening sound.  “Who are you to presume that a small blow like that would defeat me?!”

 

The man raised an eyebrow.  “I’m Saotome Ranma of the School of Anything Goes Martial Arts.”

 

“Nice honorific, but now you will die.” Her left hand shot straight at the pigtailed martial artist’s chest.

 

“Yeah, yeah, ‘Die, Saotome Ranma’. Heard it all before.” Ranma went to deflect the blow away, but his hand encountered nothing but thin air as it passed through hers.  His eyes widened in shock as her hand reached inside of his chest and latched onto something.  She hauled her hand back with a heart crystal clutched in it.

 

Ranma let out a tortured roar that was only a pale reflection of the inner pain that tore away at his insides.  It was the pain of feeling his soul being ripped out. Falling to his knees, he continued to scream before ultimately slumping over to his side, drained and less the person he was before.

 

The youma considered the crystal in her hand.  Its shape was like the many others she had stolen over the years, but it had a very peculiar glow to it.  It was as though it was over millennia old, but such a thing was impossible for a human.  She shook her head and decided it was time to finish off the Sailor Senshi. They were being beaten back by her lesser youma and she smirked as she turned to join the battle.

 

“Stop…Right…There!”

 

It couldn’t be!  She turned her head and saw the impossible.  The human was standing up!  “That’s impossible!  How can you be standing after I’ve taken your heart crystal!?”  She looked at the hand that held his crystal just to make sure that she did indeed still have it.

 

“Maybe I’ve already had my heart ripped out, and still live!”  His expression changed as he once again relived all the horrors that took place only a few months ago.  A sickly green aura formed around him.  The aura grew and became brighter as more memories came back.  The air crackled from the already existing static electricity and the power that was gathering around Ranma.

 

The power continued to grow to levels that gave the youma pause.  She started to step away from the power buildup.  How?  He’s just an ordinary human!  It can’t be!  He can’t have that kind of power!

 

The pigtailed martial artist extended his arms in front of him and cupped his hands, the enormous power converging to a point centered between them.  Then he looked up at the monster with eyes full of sorrow of a magnitude that no person should ever see or feel and at last he spoke.

 

“SHISHI HOKOUDAN PERFECT!”

 

All the gathered energy shot forth towards the demon.  She had just enough time to raise the hand with the heart crystal in front of her as the blast struck the crystal. The energy and the crystal struck the youma dead center and she was thrown back for several meters, hitting the street with a large explosion.

 

Ranma walked to the edge of the crater created by the fallen youma.  He looked down to see a sight that made him step back with surprise.  He hadn’t really expected to see anything at the bottom of the crater except maybe some youma bits and pieces. At worst, if he had underestimated her power, he’d see the youma itself.  What he saw was a young redheaded girl curled up in a ball.  She looks just like my girl half when I’m splashed with cold water!

 

Then Ranma received the second huge surprise in as many minutes as the sky opened up and the rain began to pour down on him.  Usually this would trigger his transformation immediately, but there he stood, drenched and still quite male. 

 

The city was silent as Ranma cried his first tears of joy for a long, long time.  He looked up and praised whatever Kami would listen to him.  He just stood there at the top of the crater in quiet exhilaration.

 

In the midst of his happy thoughts he heard a sound.  Looking down he realized that the girl was still alive and getting soaked to the bone at the bottom of a rapidly filling hole. Despite the fact that she had just tried to kill him and the fact that she was a youma, the girl was still someone in need of help.  He jumped down and scooped the girl up in his arms before leaping out and carrying the naked figure back to his apartment.

 

 

 

At the battlefield, Sailor Mercury had just fired another Shabon Spray, covering the battlefield with a dense fog and granting the rest of the Sailor Senshi a much-deserved break from fighting to regroup and reassess their tactics.  Suddenly, the power seemed to drain away from the minor youma and they returned to dust.

 

The senshi just looked around in confusion.  They hadn’t done any special attack; they hadn’t even unleashed their super sailor forms. 

 

“What happened?” Sailor Moon asked no one in particular. 

 

Everyone turned to Sailor Mercury for an answer, but she just stared back at them.  “I don’t know!”

 

“That’s not something we hear from Mercury often.”  Sailor Jupiter commented with a grin on her face.

 

Sailor Mercury took out her computer and checked the readings.  No noticeable power sources at all, aside from the Senshi.  Looking at the log of the fight, she began her analysis.  She had started getting into the practice of leaving her computer on and recording power readings in a fight, mostly to assess the power level of the enemy they were fighting and to keep a log of the best tactics and powers worked on each.  The sound of approaching sirens cut the analysis short.

 

“All right, let’s regroup at the shrine to figure this out.” 

 

The Senshi heeded the command of their leader Sailor Moon and leapt away to change back into their mundane forms and meet at the Hikawa Shrine where Hino Rei, Sailor Mars, lived.

 

The Sailor Senshi, or more specifically the Inner Senshi, gathered at the Hikawa shrine.  They all sat around talking trying to pass the time while Mizuno Ami tried to figure out why their battle was mercifully cut short.

 

“Have you discovered anything?”

 

Ami glanced up at the black cat with a crescent moon on her forehead.    “Nothing yet, Luna.  I’ve found that the youma were being fed power from an outside source, unlike the self-sufficient youma that we’ve fought in the past.”

 

“So were they being powered by the Negaverse?”

 

A brief chill went down Ami’s spine as she remembered the battles the Senshi had fought in the past.  “No.  It was the Negaverse’s energy pattern, but it was being emitted locally. In fact it was only a short distance away from the battle.  I’m trying to triangulate the source of it right now.”

 

“Find the source and we’ll go check it out.”  Kino Makoto, Sailor Jupiter, was still spoiling for a fight.  She was unsatisfied with the results of their battle. She always liked to take down the monsters personally.

 

“So why did they stop all the sudden?”  Tsukino Usagi, Sailor Moon, asked.  She didn’t like a mystery where the Negaverse was involved.

 

“I haven’t figured that out yet.  I’ve completed the scan of the Negaverse energy and from what I can determine, the source of the power for the youma was cut off suddenly.  The remaining youma fell like marionettes with their strings cut.  I’m still trying to isolate the source and whatever energy destroyed it, if there was any.”  Ami continued to punch the keys on her computer.

 

“I thought I felt something before the youma fell.”

 

The group turned to Hino Rei, the temple maiden of this shrine.

 

“Well, don’t leave us hanging here!” Aino Minako, Sailor Venus, was getting impatient.

 

Rei took a breath and started slowly.  “I felt a large buildup of Ki away from the battle.”

 

“What’s Ki?” Usagi was curious.

 

“It’s life energy.  I use it when I do my fire readings, but what I felt out there was very different from what I do.  First, the sheer amount was mind-boggling.  Even my grandpa and I couldn’t generate that much.  It would take at least ten people very in touch with their inner power to create that amount.  Also, the power was very dark and depressing.  When I use my Ki, I feel almost happy, like I’m totally in touch with something spiritual.  But that Ki…” She shuddered as she drug up the memory of what she had felt.  “That Ki felt so cold, so hopeless…”

 

“Is it possible that it could have been another youma attacking the first?” Artemis, the white moon cat, asked.  “You know, one youma’s territory being threatened by another.”

 

Ami shook her head.  “I would have an energy reading on that one when I did my search through all the Negaverse energy bandwidths and I’ve never heard of a youma emitting life energy.”

 

“What if they had stolen energy from humans like they were doing when I first awoke Sailor Moon?”

 

“I don’t think so, Luna.  That energy was always sent directly to the Negaverse and none of those youma retained the energy.”

 

“What if it’s another threat?  Someone else may have decided that they want to take over the world and wanted the youma out of the picture.”

 

“Possibly, Makoto.”  Ami turned to Rei.  “Could I get a reading on this ‘Ki’?  A demonstration of some sort?”

 

Rei nodded and motioned for Ami to follow her.  The rest of the Inner Senshi and the moon cats followed them to the eternal flame of the shrine.  Rei sat down and began to do a fire reading.  They were just doing this so Ami could get a reading, but Rei was curious to see who or what was the source of the Ki.

 

“Show me the source of the dark Ki.” Rei commanded the flame.

 

The flame coalesced into an image of a boy close to her age.  The details began to become more defined and at last the image clearly showed the face of Saotome Ranma. 

 

A small smile crept across Rei’s face as she thought He’s kinda cute!  She began to study the image a little closer and was startled out of the reading.

 

Everyone noticed Rei almost jump back from the fire.

 

Luna rushed to her side.  “What’s wrong Rei?  Did you see the new enemy?”

 

“It was a guy our age.  I don’t think he is our enemy.  There was no anger or threat in his expression.  Just…Just…”

 

“What?” Luna was beginning to get concerned about Rei.

 

“Infinite sadness.  He…He looked normal, but his eyes were full of depression.  It…startled me when I looked into his eyes.”

 

“What did he look like?” Minako decided to join the conversation when the topic of boys came up.

 

“Why does it matter what he looked like?”

 

“So he was pretty cute, huh?  You want to keep him to yourself.”

 

“I…I never said that.”

 

“Maybe you think you can bring him out of his funk, but everyone knows I’m cutest Senshi.”

 

“Are not!” The rest of the Senshi (except for Ami) boomed in.  A large heated debate began as Ami and the moon cats sweatdropped. 

 

Ami decided to get back to the readings that she had just taken.  She searched the log of the fight for any readings of the same nature and found none.  Then she started looking for variants.   Bingo!  Rei was right, this is significantly greater than the amount of Ki she displayed here.  She brought her findings to the moon cats’ attention.

 

Luna nodded her head at the report.  “So this boy generated all that power.  Do you think he could be something other than human?”

 

“It’s possible, but it’s definitely not the Negaverse.  Maybe we should get a description from Rei.”  She looked up and saw that the debate had ballooned into a full-blown argument.  “Or maybe we should wait a while.”

 

“I think we’ve had enough excitement tonight.”  Luna walked over to the arguing teenagers.  “All right girls, break it up!  You all have school tomorrow!  We’ll try to figure these mysteries out later.”

 

            The girls’ argument ended abruptly as they turned to the moon cat.  They all hated the fact, but they did indeed start a new term tomorrow. 

 

 

 

The explosion rocked the building.  Ranma was thrown though several walls and buried in rubble.  He tried to dig himself out as fast as he could.  Then the screams began.  He distinctly heard Shampoo’s and Ukyou’s.  Then he heard Akane’s!  He dug himself out faster than he thought was possible, but there was literally tons of rubble and more being thrown onto him.

 

“MOKO TAKABISHA!” His Ki blast destroyed the remaining rubble, but he was too late.

 

The carnage before him made him wretch.  The piles of bodies and body parts sickened him to the point of wretching again and into dry heaves.  He looked around and saw Ukyou cut in half by her own spatula.  Shampoo’s skull was caved in.  Mousse lay next to her with his neck broken.  Cologne was pinned to one of the few remaining standing walls, her staff through her heart.  Happosai’s pieces were strewn everywhere.  Ranma only recognized it from the bloody pieces of brown gi some of the pieces were wrapped in.  It looked like the old pervert had been squished like a grape.  Soun and Genma looked like they had been gored by something.  Nodoka was crushed under a support beam, her back broken.  Shock started to set in as continued to look around.  Then panic instantly came to him as he frantically tried to find his bride.  He started throwing large pieces of wall about trying to find her.  He found Tatewaki impaled on his own bokken.  Kodachi, Nabiki, Kasumi, and other friends and enemies were found, or what was left of them.  He found Ryoga covering his girlfriend Akari, but there was a hole blasted through each of them. 

 

Ranma’s frantic search ended as he found Akane.  She was in one piece, but not moving.  He lifted her head searching for life.  Her light had been extinguished.  He looked at her left hand and then his own.  There were the rings they had exchanged not even an hour earlier.  He broke down.

 

“AKANE!”  His sorrowful cry pierced the air.  “AKANE!!!”

 

 

 

Ranma sat bolt upright in the chair he was sitting in.  The nightmares had not lessened since that fateful day.  The memories were still fresh on his mind even though almost a year had passed.  Looking around he found himself in his sparsely decorated apartment.  He knew the hurt would never go away.  He had loved Akane more than life itself.  He looked at his hand and saw the wedding band still there, then the tears once again started to creep into his eyes.

 

Ranma heard something off to his left.  Glancing over, he saw that the youma he had brought into his home.  She was wrapped in a blanket and laying on his couch.  He got up and walked over to check on her.  When he stepped closer, he saw that she was trembling.  He was going to retrieve another blanket when he realized what it was that he had heard earlier.  The youma was crying!

 

This day is just full of surprises! Ranma thought.  He shook her awake.  “Hey.  You okay?”

 

“I’m sorry…I’m sorry…” she muttered in her sleep as she continued to weep.

 

Ranma went ahead and got the second blanket and put it over the sleeping youma.  He shook her again to try to wake her.

 

She opened her eyes and saw Ranma.  “I’m sorry.”

 

“What are you sorry about?”

 

“For killing all those people by taking their crystals and…”

 

“And?”

 

“And for what happened to your family.”

 

Ranma began to get angry.  “Did you do that?”

 

“No.  I just experienced all of it.”

 

Ranma looked at her with a confused look on her face.  “Just experienced it?”

 

“I don’t know how.  I just have this flood of memories.  Your memories, Ranma.”

 

Anger flared into his eyes.  “How do you know my name and how did you get my memories?!”

 

The youma tried to shrink back into the couch, gathering the blankets tighter around herself.  “I don’t know!  Something happened in that blast!  All the sudden I have a conscience and your memories!”

 

Ranma calmed himself and went over to sit back down in his chair.  He put his fingers up to his head and massaged his temples trying to keep the impending headache at bay.  “Okay.  Let’s just start from the beginning.  You were standing in front of my apartment building watching the Sailor Senshi fight.”

 

“I was directing the fight.”

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“I was directing the fight.  Those were lesser youma the Senshi were fighting.  I was empowering them and directing them with my mind.  That’s how they were able to do so well against the obviously more powerful Sailor Senshi.”

 

“So you’re a general and a power plant?”

 

The youma eased herself into a sitting position, careful to keep herself covered.  “Something like that.  I’m actually a lieutenant.”

 

“So what’s your name?  I can’t just call you ‘youma’.”

 

“My old name was Nicol Bolas, but I can’t use that any longer.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“It’s a name given to one the lieutenant of Hela.  I no longer want to be associated with that.

 

Ranma looked confused. “Hela?”

 

“It’s the new kingdom of the Negaverse.”

 

Ranma looked even more confused. “Negaverse?”

 

The youma smiled at him.  “You’ve got a lot to learn, don’cha.”

 

Ranma was shocked.  She sounded just like me!  “Well, how about Ranko?”

 

“Ranko?”

 

“Yeah, that’s the name I used whenever I was stuck in girl form.”

 

“I remember.  I think that would be appropriate.”

 

“Okay.  Now that that’s settled, let’s get back to figuring out why you’re wearing my girl form’s face and have my memories.”

 

“You’re not still curious why I knew you’re name?” She asked with another smile.

 

“I figured that one out.  You got my memories.  Why wouldn’t you know my name?  Let’s just get back to why you have that face.”  Ranma took a deep breath.  “You were directing the battle, when I jumped down and you attacked me.  You reached through me and pulled some rock out of me.”

 

“That’s a heart crystal, a physical representation of your soul.  I was gathering them.  The thing that is confusing me is why you were able to get back up after I pulled it out.”

 

“Maybe I don’t have one now and you got it.”

 

“I can still sense one within you.  Yours split somehow, or you had two; but how could that happen?”

 

“Two heart crystals.” Ranma leaned back and tried to think about it.

 

“A funny thing was that the crystal I pulled out of you appeared to be over a thousand years old.”

 

A light bulb flashed in Ranma’s mind.  “Fifteen hundred.”

 

“What?”

 

“‘Ah too bad.  You fall in Nyannichuan.  Vewy twagic stowy of girl who drown there fifteen hundred year ago.  Now whoever fall in spring, take body of young girl.’”

 

“Jusenkyo, of course!”

 

“Two bodies.”

 

“Two crystals!”

 

“Now.  Why do you have my cursed body and memories?”

 

“You hit me with your Ki blast.  I tried to block it with the crystal.  The blast must have somehow merged the crystal with me.”

 

“So you took my cursed form.”

 

“That explains that and why I have a conscience, now that I have a heart crystal.  But…”

 

“It doesn’t explain why you have my memories.  Why do you have mine and not the girl’s who drowned all those years ago?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

Ranma began to rub his temples again.  This is going to be the king of migraines.  He glanced to the clock on the wall and saw how late it was.  “It looks like the mystery is going to have to wait until tomorrow.  I start at my new school in the morning.”

 

“What am I supposed to do while you’re gone?”

 

“Why don’t you come with me?  I already have ID’s for ‘Saotome Ranko’ anyway.”

 

“Am I to be your wife?” Ranko asked as she glanced at the wedding band on Ranma’s finger.  The anger that welled up in Ranma’s eyes told here otherwise.

 

“You’ll be my sister!  I already have a wife!”

 

Ranko held her hands up in front of her.  “Okay! Okay!  I’m sorry!”

 

Ranma took another deep breath and calmed himself once more.  “You can wear some of my clothes until we can get you your own tomorrow.  We’ll go shopping after school.”

 

“Sounds good to me!”  The prospect of shopping unexpectedly excited her.

 

Ranma shook his head.  She’s definitely a girl.

 

“Now about sleeping arrangements…”

 

Ranma raised an eyebrow.  “You’ll sleep in my bed and I’ll sleep on the couch.  Period.”

 

“Understood.  Will you need these blankets?” She started to open the blankets covering her suggestively.

 

“No.  Now keep yourself covered and go to bed.  I’ll wake you up in time to get ready for school.”

 

“But there’s no alarm clock out here?  How will you know when to get up?”

 

“You know why.”

 

“Oh yeah.  Your dad, training in the early morning, I remember.”

 

“You may have my memories, but you definitely don’t think like me.”

 

“I’m half demon.  So sue me.”

 

“Good night, Ranko.”

 

“Good night, Ranma.”

 

 

 

The next morning Ranma woke up to find Ranko staring at him from the chair he had occupied last light.

 

He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes.  “What are you doing up so early?”

 

“Same time clock, remember.”

 

“Yeah.  Why didn’t you just go back to sleep? I told you I’d get you up in time to get ready for school.”

 

“But I wanted to practice with you.”

 

Ranma was completely awake now.  “What?”

 

“I may be half youma, but with your memories I’m also a martial artist.  I want to train with you.”

 

“Okay.  I guess so.”

 

“And don’t fight me like you fought Akane.”

 

“Excuse me.”

 

“Don’t just dodge.  Fight me like it’s life or death.  I want to see how good I am.  I should be just as good as you were in girl form.”

 

Ranma shook his head remembering all the times he had fought in girl form and remembered how formidable it really was.  “Okay.  I won’t go easy on you.  But…”

 

“You still have a hang-up about fighting girls.  Just think of me as a youma, that should make it easier.”

 

“Okay.  Let me put on my gi and we’ll warm-up and spar.”

 

Ranko, with a smile on her face, nodded in agreement.

 

After Ranma had put on his white gi and gave a spare to Ranko to wear, they went to the park a short distance from the apartment complex.  It was about five in the morning so there weren’t many other people in the park.  It was a tree-lined park that had little clearing in the center that Ranma thought was perfect for training.  He had been using it ever since he had moved to Juuban.

 

Ranma and Ranko went through a few stretches and warm-up katas.  They looked like mirror reflections of each other, always moving like they were in a synchronized training regimen.  Finally they finished and bowed to each other.

 

Ranma dropped into his stance.  “Now remember:  No special moves.  We don’t need any bystanders taking notice of us.”

 

Ranko dropped into the same stance.  “I know.  I don’t want to attract any attention either.”  Especially anyone with ‘Sailor’ in front of her name.

 

“Begin!” 

 

Ranko charged at Ranma, but he simply sidestepped it.  Ranko followed with a kick that hit his foreword foot, knocking him off balance.  He quickly brought himself back on top in time to block another punch from Ranko.  The match went on that same line for a while:  Two fighters, each one knowing what the other is going to do.  Ranma allowed himself to take some of the lighter blows to compensate for Ranko’s greater speed. 

 

The sparring match went on for a while until, at last, Ranma landed a solid punch into Ranko’s stomach.  Ranko retaliated with a shot to his.

 

“OOF!”  Both of them exclaimed.  They both doubled over from the blow.

 

“You know.  That was a lot stronger than what I could usually do when I was in girl form.” Ranma said between breaths.

 

“Chalk it up to me being half youma.”  Ranko was in the same condition.  She knew that Ranma was still holding back on her, but she didn’t mind as she felt the pain in her gut.  This whole pain sensation was something new to her, and frankly she didn’t like it.

 

“Ready to go some more?” Ranma stood back up straight.

 

Ranko looked at him with the big soulful puppy dog eyes.  “You wouldn’t want to hit little ol’ me would’ja?”

 

Ranma kicked her legs out from under her, landing her unceremoniously on her rear end.  “Don’t try the puppy dogs eyes on me.  I invented that, remember?”

 

Ranko began to laugh and found it a sensation she could enjoy.  It helped to keep the sorrow that threatened to consume her at bay.

 

Ranma just smiled.  Before meeting Ranko, he hadn’t smiled since Akane’s death.  “Why don’t we call it a day?  The usual morning joggers will be coming in pretty soon.”

 

Ranko got up rubbing her derriere.  “You talked me into it.”

 

 

 

Mamoru Chiba was one of those early morning people that Ranma was talking about.  He had jogged by about a half an hour earlier and saw them sparring, but thought nothing of it.  When he had returned and they were still fighting, he was amazed.  By the intensity that they were sparring the first time he thought that they were wrapping up, but they had still gone for another half an hour after. 

 

Mamoru was able to catch the tail end of their battle.  He was amazed at the intensity and speed at which the two fought.  At times he wasn’t even able to see them move.  Another thing that struck him as odd was the fact that they seemed to move in unison.  He didn’t really suspect anything evil, but the whole scene made him curious.

 

Shaking his head, he decided it wasn’t his business.  There were, no doubt, great martial artists in this world and these were obviously two of them.  He had even heard about a boy in the Nerima district that could fire blasts from his hands.  Of course that was impossible.

 

Mamoru continued his morning jog.  Maybe they could teach me, or even the Senshi, some martial arts.

 

 

 

Ranko and Ranma arrived back at their apartment.  Ranma let Ranko get the shower first while he laid out some clothes for her.  He picked out some black pants (which he had a large amount of) and one his other favorite shirts, the yellow one with the red tie on it.  The last thing we need it to look like Twinkies the first day at a new school.

 

Ranko finished up in the shower and came out. As Ranma took his turn, Ranko saw the clothes and got dressed.  Even though she herself had never been there, she still missed the bath at the Tendo dojo.

 

After getting dressed she decided to do something for her ‘brother’.

 

Ranma got out of the shower and dressed in his usual red shirt and black pants, then sniffed that air, smelling something good. He walked around to the kitchen area and found Ranko cooking breakfast.

 

“What brought this on?”

 

“I just thought you’d enjoy something for breakfast besides a nutrient bar and water.  We’ve got plenty of time.”  Ranko absently flipped her ponytail back over her shoulder.

 

Ranma noticed her choice in hairstyle.  “So why a ponytail?  Why not a pigtail?”

 

“I actually just want to wear my hair down, but I don’t have the right hair care products or hair dryer to do that.  And besides:  I’m only half you, not all you.”

 

“We’ll get you some stuff when we get you some clothes.”

 

“Okay.  I also made us some lunches.  We’ll need to go grocery shopping for some serious food, if I’m going to be doing more cooking.  I used up most the regular stuff making breakfast and lunches.  The only thing that you bought in abundance yesterday was nutrient bars.  Man cannot live on grain and water alone.”

 

Ranma shook his head thinking of all the yen he’d have to part with today.  He wasn’t really hurting for it.  One of Nabiki’s last legacies was the life insurance policies that she had taken out on everyone in the Tendo household.  That and her savings accounts had all named Ranma as the beneficiary.  She wasn’t such a cold person after all.  She had worked it out in such a way that the money would go to someone in her family, or extended family, in the event of her, or their, death.  He had to give her credit; she did a good job.  Ranma had also sold the property of the Tendo dojo and his parents’ house.   He never intended to return to Nerima.  Not only were the memories unbearable, but also there were some parties that would like to see the pigtailed martial artist dead mostly it was the ones that weren’t invited to the wedding.

 

            Ranma and Ranko finished breakfast and headed off to school.  Ranma was the only one carrying a book bag, which was another thing he’d have to pick up for Ranko.  He hoped that she was keeping a list of everything.

 

 

 

            Usagi, Ami, Minako, and Makoto were all heading to school like they’ve done for most of the past three years since meeting each other.  Usagi was winded, as usual, from running and catching up with the others.  The whole group was excited about starting their sophomore year of high school.  They were all talking about the new opportunities they’d have.  Makoto and Minako were talking about the boys, while Usagi just gloated about having Mamoru.  Ami talked about how much more she would get to learn this term.

 

            Ami noticed something very odd out of the corner of her eye and turned to see what it was:  A black haired pigtailed boy being closely followed, and apparently taunted, by a red haired pony tailed girl.  The odd thing about it was that they were running across the tops of fences and walls.  That was quite a feat of balance and she was duly impressed.  She brought this to the attention of the other Senshi, but of course the feat of balance was lost on them.

 

            “He’s cute!” chimed Usagi and Minako.  Minako quickly chided Usagi for cheating on Mamoru.

 

            “That looks like my old boyfriend!”  Makoto exclaimed.  The other three girls just groaned.

 

            Minako shook her head. “Every remotely good looking guy looks like your old boyfriend, Mako-Chan.”

 

            “Well, he was very handsome and courageous…”

 

            “Not as handsome and courageous as my Mamo-Chan!” pouted Usagi.

 

            Ami just listened to the others bicker with half-hearted interest.  She wasn’t really interested in boys and relationships.  She was interested in the acquiring and application of knowledge.  Most of all she wanted to be a doctor like her mother.  Being stuck in a relationship would just detract from that goal, but still there was something about that boy they saw earlier that gave her pause.  If I see him I’ll have to ask him how he does that so easily.

 

            Makoto looked at her watch.  Should be about time.  “I’ll see you guys at school, I’m going to go take care of the usual bullies.”

 

            Usagi just nodded her head.  All the Sailor Senshi looked out for their own, but they were particularly protective of their youngest member (excluding Chibi Usa, who was back in the future now).  Tomoe Hotaru, a.k.a. Sailor Saturn, was thirteen now, but the bullies at school still gave her problems.  Makoto, a.k.a. Sailor Jupiter, had taken it upon herself to rid Hotaru of the daily problem.

 

            Makoto waved to the others and took off into the alleyway that intersected Hotaru’s way to school.  The path was coincidentally in the same direction of where Ranma and Ranko were walking to school.

 

 

 

            Ranma and Ranko were running along the tops of the fences when they heard threatening voices to their right.  They both stopped and leapt over to the source.

 

            They saw two very large boys picking on a black haired little girl.

 

            Ranma’s protective instincts kicked into high gear.  “Hey!  Don’t you know you’re not supposed to pick on people smaller than you?  Especially girls!”

 

            “You want to take them or you want to let me have some fun?” Ranko whispered to him.

 

            “I’ll handle this one.”  He said aside.

 

            “She’s a freak!  She’s not human!”  One of the bullies chimed.

 

            “That’s no reason to pick on her.  She’s just as human as you are.  How would you like it if I picked on you everyday because you were ugly.”

 

            Ranko noticed something out of the corner of her eye and snuck away.

 

            “How about we teach you a lesson in manners?”  The other bully spoke up.

 

            Both of them started approaching Ranma cracking their knuckles and flexing their muscles.  Despite being younger than Ranma, they were still larger.

 

            Ranma just stood there with his hands in his pocket waiting for them to get closer.

 

            From the bushes to the side, Makoto was watching the whole scene.  She saw the two boys approaching the new guy that Ami had pointed out this morning.  I’ve got to help.  She was fixing to get up to get her licks in when she suddenly couldn’t move her shoulder.  She turned and saw a redhead holding her there.  How did she do that?  Why didn’t I hear her?

 

            Before Makoto could say something the redhead put a finger to her lips and whispered, “Just sit and enjoy the show.”

 

            Makoto turned her head back to the fight.  The two bullies charged Ranma.  He just lifted one foot at the first bully, set it down and then lifted his foot at the second.  All the sudden both bullies went flying in opposite directions slamming into trees with a cracking sound.  Ranma walked over to the bully on his right and threw him against the tree of the other one.  Makoto got a good look at both the boys at that point.  They both had several foot impressions running all along their bodies.  She couldn’t believe it!

 

            Ranma grabbed each of the boys by the fronts of their shirts and lifted them up.  “Now you listen to me.  If I hear of you, or anybody else picking on that little girl again, I will personally deal out more punishment on YOU than this little trifle.  You will wish that you had never lived with the amount of pain I will inflict.  Do you understand me?”

 

            “Y-Yes.” The first stuttered out.

 

            “Y-Yes Sir!” The second one spit out with a little more respect and fear in his voice.

 

            “Now get out of here and leave her alone!” Ranma dropped them both.  They started crawling, trying to get away.  Ranma suddenly felt nostalgic and kicked them both into low earth orbit.  As he watched them fly away, he thought, Maybe that was a little too much.  Naaahh.

 

            Ranma knelt down and helped the little black-haired girl to her feet.  “Are you okay?”

 

            “I’m fine.  Thank you.  My name’s Tomoe Hotaru.”

 

            “Saotome Ranma.  Happy to meet you.”  Ranma smiled and shook her hand.

 

            Hotaru smiled and giggled.

 

            She’ll be a heartbreaker when she grows up, Ranma thought.  And that hairdo kinda makes her look like a little Akane.  Ranma heard some clapping from behind him.  He turned to see Ranko clapping away standing next to a very shy brunette in a ponytail like Ranko’s.  Ranma just bowed.  “Thank You.  Next show is in thirty minutes and I’ll be here all week.”

 

            Hotaru continued to smile and laughed at Ranma.

 

            Ranko pointed to the suddenly shy brunette.  “This girl was going to help you out, but I told her that you had things well in hand.”

 

            “Not exactly.” Makoto said under her breath.

 

            “Mako-Chan!  You came to help me too?” Hotaru ran over to give her friend a hug.

 

            “That’s right Hotaru-Chan, but it looks like someone beat me to it.  Who’s you’re new friend?”

 

            “My name’s Saotome Ranma.  Pleased to meet you.” Ranma did a slight bow to Makoto.

 

            Makoto blushed a little bit.  “Kino Makoto.  Pleased to meet you as well.”

 

            “Ahem!” Ranko coughed.

 

            Ranma raised an eyebrow at the youma.  “And this is Saotome Ranko.”

 

            Makoto held her hand out to the new girl.  “You’re his…sister?” She asked hopefully.

 

            Ranko shook Makoto’s hand.  “Yeah.” Whatever.

 

            The school bells started to ring.  Ranma picked up his book bag from the bushes.  “We’d better get going or we’ll be late!  Goodbye Hotaru-Chan!  Bye Makoto.”

 

            The two other girls just waved as Ranma and Ranko leapt away.

 

            “He’s pretty handsome, isn’t he?” Hotaru commented to Makoto.

 

            “He’s too old for you squirt.”  Makoto promptly replied.

 

            “Do I detect a note of jealousy?”

 

            “Shut up or you’ll be late for school.”

 

 

 

            Ranma and Ranko made it to campus.  They walked through the gates and quickly checked to their left and right.

 

            Ranko shook her head.  “You still think Kuno or somebody else is waiting to mug you?”

 

            “I know better.  It’s not that I miss it or nothing.  It’s just that old habits are hard to break.”

 

            “Ahh.  I understand.”

 

            “Of course you’re half me.”

 

            “The better half…”

 

            “I wouldn’t go that far.  You’re also half demon.  That makes me the better half.”

 

            “In your dreams ego boy!” Ranko was obviously teasing her ‘brother’.

 

            This fact wasn’t lost on Ranma.  It served to remind him of happier times and of what might have been if he had had a sister.  “Tomboy.”

 

            “Only because I’m wearing your clothes.  When I get some decent clothes you’ll see what a real woman looks like.”  Ranko winked at him.

 

            “Yeah, sure, whatever.” Ranma looked up and stopped in his tracks.  “Akane?”

 

            Ranko noticed Ranma freezing up and looked across the quad.  There was a girl that did indeed bear a striking resemblance to Tendo Akane, with one small exception…

 

            Ranko elbowed Ranma back into reality.  “She’s got blue hair, moron.”

 

            Ranma blinked.  “Yeah, you’re right.  I just…”

 

            “Want to believe she’s not gone?  Me too, thanks to your memories, but I’m sorry she’s gone.”

 

            Ranma looked down.  “I know.”

 

            Ranko pat Ranma on the back.  “Come on.  You can’t go to your first day at a new school with a frown.”

 

            “Yeah, okay.  You need to go get enrolled by the way.  You should remember what to do.”

 

            “Yeah, I’ll make sure to get in the same classes.  Save me a seat.”

 

            “Sure.  See you in a bit.”

 

            Ranko took off across the school courtyard to go enroll herself.

 

            Across the way Makoto was just rejoining the other Senshi before going to class.

 

            “There you are!” Usagi smiled.  “We thought you were never going to make it.  Did the bullies really get that much stronger over summer break?”

 

            Makoto was slightly out of breath, not necessarily from the run.  “Didn’t get a chance to fight them.  Hotaru has a new champion.”

 

            “You don’t say.” Minako chimed in gaining interest in the story.

 

            “It’s that new guy that Ami pointed out this morning.  His name is Saotome Ranma.  He’s an awesome fighter and a LOT better looking up close.”

 

            Minako turned around to the brunette.  “Did you get his number?  Where he lives?  Anything?”

 

            Makoto just stopped.  “I…I forgot.”

 

            “You forgot!  A new boy in school and ‘you forgot’!”

 

            Ami sighed.  We’ll never get to class at this rate.  “Come on girls.  We’ll continue this at lunch or we’ll be late.”

 

            The other girls agreed and they all went to their new class.

 

 

 

             At lunchtime Ranma and Ranko found a tree in the courtyard to eat their lunches.  The Sailor Senshi sat at a table where they could watch the pair.  Minako and Makoto had a hard time keeping their eyes off of him, Usagi was babbling on about nothing as usual, and Ami was just reading a book. 

 

            “And did you see him when he fell asleep, I thought I would die!  He was sooo cute!” Minako stole another glance at Ranma.

 

            Makoto put on a ‘holier-than-thou’ expression.  “Well, I saw him fight.  I even talked to him.  He is very strong and courageous.”

 

            “Did you notice that Ranko fell asleep at the same time?” Ami asked.

 

            “Well, she’s his sister.  They’re probably twins.  Twins act alike, right?” Makoto answered.

 

            Ami shook her head.  “Identical twins do.  Fraternal twins don’t.  They’d have to be the same sex and look alike to be identical.  They are different sexes.  Another thing that’s bothering me is:  How does she have red hair?”

 

            “How do you have blue hair?” Minako smiled at Ami.

 

            “That’s just a trick of the light and the shampoo I use.”

 

            “Maybe she dyes.” Usagi had decided to join the conversation.

 

            “That’s a possibility.”

 

            “Why don’t we go ask them?  I’d also like to learn more about Ranma!” Minako’s hormones were going full blast.

 

            “Yeah!” Makoto agreed. 

 

            Makoto, Minako, and Usagi went over to talk to Ranma and Ranko, but Ranma wasn’t there!

 

            Ranko looked up at the three girls.  “Uh, Can I help you?”

 

            The girls were suddenly nervous.  Makoto spoke up.  “Hi.  Uh…we met this morning.  I noticed you were new here and I thought you’d like to meet a few of my friends.  We all want to learn more about you and your brother.”

 

            Ranko raised an eyebrow.  “Oh, really.”

 

            “This is Minako and Usagi.” Makoto pointed to each in turn.  “We were just wondering….Uh.”

 

With Ranma suddenly vanished, most of their topics of conversation disappeared as well. Usagi came to the rescue... sort of. "Is that your real hair?" she blurted out with all the tact of a rampaging rhino.

 

The other girls stared at her and Usagi blinked back at them. "What? Oh, what I meant to ask was 'Is your red hair natural?'"

 

            Ranko paused for a moment. Technically no, she thought to herself. Nothing about me is natural... but no need to tell them that.  “Yes it is.  Pretty neat, don’t ya think.  Are you two natural blondes?” A little sarcasm made its way into the last question.

 

            “I am.  I don’t know about Minako.”

 

            “What do you mean by that dumpling head!”  The fight was on!

 

            While the two blondes bickered, Makoto decided to continue the dialog with Ranko.  “We’ve been going to Juuban for a while, where did you go to school before?”

 

            “I was going to Furinkan, over in the Nerima district.”

 

            “I heard there was some weird stuff going on over there.” Makoto scratched her head trying to remember what she had heard.

 

            “Well, I heard there was some weird stuff going on here.”

 

            “Like what?”

 

            “Monsters running around fighting girls in short skirts.”

 

            Makoto laughed nervously.  “That does happen from time to time.  It’s been quiet around here for a while though.”

           

            “Something happened last night, right by me and my brother’s apartment.”

 

            “Really?”

 

            “Yeah.  The senshi were fighting a bunch of youma right out front of my building.  My brother was about to go help, but I stopped him.  I thought the Senshi had it under control.”

 

            “They probably did.  They’ve been at it about three years now.”

 

            “Really.” Ranko had been out of the game for a while, but she would have sworn that Queen Beryl would have been at it longer than that.  “Tell me all about it.”

 

            “Only if you tell me some of the stuff that happened in Nerima.”

 

            “Sure.” Abbreviated of course.

 

 

 

            While the two girls were talking, Ranma approached Ami.  He knew he’d just be inviting more misery into his life, but she looked so much like Akane, he had to talk to her.

 

            “Uh, hi.  My name’s Saotome Ranma.” Ranma held out his hand.

 

            “Hi.” Ami shook his hand.  “Mizuno Ami.  Pleased to meet you.”

 

            Her voice was surprisingly soft and sweet.  Ranma was reminded of Kasumi.  The thought brought him down a little bit.  “I…uh…”

 

            Ami noticed him struggling for something to say.  “I noticed you walking on top of the fences coming to school this morning.  How do you do that?”

 

            “That’s just part of my martial arts.  I do it to practice my balance.”

 

            “I see.  What style do you use?”

 

            “My own family’s style:  ‘Anything Goes School of Martial Arts’.”  Ranma took a seat in front of her.

 

            “I’ve never heard of that one.  What is it like?”

 

            “It’s a lot like it sounds, a little bit of everything.  Kempo, Judo, Karate:  You name it; it’s probably in there.  I also add a little to it every time I learn something new.”

 

            “So it’s an art that grows by learning?  Sounds like an interesting style.”

 

            “Yeah, I guess you could look at it that way.  That’s what I like to do.  What do you do for fun?”

 

            “I like to read and study.  I’m kind of like you, I always try to improve myself by learning more.”

 

            “As long as you enjoy it.  I never really got into studying.”

 

            “I could tell by the way you fell asleep in class.  You missed a pretty interesting lesson.”

 

            “All he was talking about was rocks, not too interesting to me.”

 

            “It was geology.  Rock formation and types of rocks can be interesting.  How some rocks are made with time, while others are created by fire; it’s all very interesting.”

 

            “If you say so.  I could never get into anything that wasn’t martial arts.”

 

            “Maybe you should broaden your horizons.  There is a world out there besides fighting.  Personally, I’d like to see a world without fighting.”  Like the Neo Moon Kindom.

 

            “I guess that would be okay.  Nobody trying to kill you every time you turn around.”

 

            “Does that happen to you often?”

 

            Ranma’s expression darkened.  “It used to until…” He started to absently twist the ring on his finger.

 

            Ami noticed the gold band for the first time.  “Are you married?”

 

            Ranma felt himself slipping into the depression again.  “I was, but my wife was killed.”

 

            “That’s awful.  I’m so sorry.  How did it happen?”

 

            Ranma slumped in his seat and began to tell the story about his wedding and about the deaths of his family and friends.  He hadn’t told anyone else but the police about what had happened.  There was no one with a sympathetic ear left in Nerima, so he hadn’t related the story again.  The only other person that knew all the details was Ranko, and that’s only because she had his memories.  He had never actually told the story to someone who was really listening.  Ranma was on the verge of tears when he was done.

 

            Halfway through the story, Ami had put a hand on one of Ranma’s.  She was genuinely concerned for him.  No one should have to go through pain like that.  How would I feel if Usagi and the others were killed or if my family was killed?  Makoto could relate since she has lost her parents.  This is just terrible.  “Did you ever figure out what happened?”

 

            Ranma shook his head.  “No.  I checked around, but never found out.”

 

            “Did the police or fire department find anything?”

 

            “They tried to blame it on some sort of freak gas line explosion, but that’s a bunch of crap.  They were murdered!”

 

            Ami squeezed his hand.  “It’s all right.  You’ll find out who did it.  I’ll help you if you want, but for the time being talking about it helps.”

 

            Ranma looked at her and saw the genuine emotion in her eyes.  “Thanks.  I may take you up on that.  You seem pretty smart.”

 

            Ami decided to take it as a compliment.  “I want to be a doctor eventually.  I like to help people.”

 

            “You’ll be very good at it, I can tell.  Thanks for listening.”

 

            “You’re welcome.  I just wish I could do more to help you, but grief is something that only goes away with time.  I’ve got some things to do before class starts.  Are you going to be all right?”

 

            “I think I’m getting better, but don’t let me get in the way of your being a doctor.”

 

            Ami smiled and got up.  Ranko and the other girls were coming to the table.  Usagi had noticed Ranma and Ami’s contact.  She got a mischievous smile on her face. 

 

Minako and Usagi introduced themselves to Ranma while Makoto just said hi.  Then they all followed Ami into the building.

 

            Ranko watched the Senshi file into the building.  “Well that was nice.” She commented in a dead-pan tone.

 

            WHAM!  WHAM!  WHAM!

 

            “What the?” She turned around to see Ranma hitting his head on the table.

 

            “Baka!” WHAM!  “Baka!” WHAM!  “Baka!” WHAM!

 

            Ranko grabbed him by the pigtail to keep him from hitting his head again.  “What’s bothering you?”

 

            “Oh nothing.  I just poured my heart out to a total stranger just because she looked like Akane and sounded like Kasumi.”

 

            Ranko let go of his pigtail.

 

            “Baka!” WHAM!  “Baka!” WHAM!  “Baka!” WHAM!

 

           

 

            The Sailor Senshi quickly caught up with Ami.

 

            Usagi gave her a little elbow in the ribs.  “So what were you two talking about?”

 

            “I’ll tell you later.  I want to check out a few things first.”

 

            “Like what?”

 

            “Rei said the guy she saw was sad.  I think Ranma is the one that stopped the youma.”

 

            “What?”  All the others asked at once.