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Chapter Two

Chromium Crash

 

            The Juuban mall was buzzing with all the people shopping for this and that.  Ranma and Ranko were in pursuit of clothes.  Ranko had already amassed a fair amount of boxes, which she made Ranma carry.  He could barely see around the huge pile that he was carrying.  Ranko was just looking around drinking in the scenery.  You never take a minute to look around at your surroundings when you are trying to destroy everything.

 

            “Tell me again, why am I carrying your clothes?” Ranma shifted the weight so he could carry it better.

 

            Ranko slowed down and walked beside Ranma, then she went into the puppy dog eyes routine.  “’Cause you’re the big strong man, and I’m just a little ole girl that needs the help of all those muscles.”  She traced a few lines on Ranma’s bicep.

 

            Ranma rolled his eyes.  “I’m dropping ‘em.”

 

            “Oh no you don’t! I still have to be able to see so I can get the clothes I want.” Ranko strode foreword again.  “It’ll only be a little bit longer.  There’s just one more store I need to go to.”

 

            God I hope it’s no another underwear store!  Ranma thought.  I about died of embarrassment at the last one, and the predatory looks that the other women in the store were giving me…  Ranma shuddered at the memory. 

 

At about that time, they were passing by the food court where Ranko caught the attention of a group of boys hanging out.  They got up and crowded around her.            

 

            “Hey baby.  What’s your sign?” A rather portly boy asked her.

 

“Weight limit 16 tons.” She didn’t even turn to look at them, continuing to walk and trying to ignore them.

 

            The other boys laughed at the first, then a second one tried his luck.  “Why don’t you and me go over to the ice cream stand?  I’m sure we can find some sweet stuff.  Not as sweet as your stuff though.”

 

            “Beat it creep.” Ranko’s expression never changed from the bored look she had adopted when the boys crowded around here.

 

            They continued on for a while until the boys managed to block her path.  Ranma sensed Ranko stop and he put down the boxes to see what the holdup was.  He saw all the boys trying to accost Ranko.  “Hey guys.  Leave her alone.”

 

            One of the larger boys walked up to him.  “Or you’ll do what?”

 

            Ranma gave him a smirk.  “Or I’ll have to have to hurt you.”

 

            “I think you’re all wet.” The boy splashed his drink on Ranma.

 

            Ranma’s reaction wasn’t exactly what the boy expected. Ranma just looked down at himself and saw that, yes, he was still a man.  His smirk became a full smile, granted an evil one.

 

            The whole confrontation took about ten seconds.  Fifteen seconds later, Ranma was again carrying the boxes as he and Ranko went on their way.

 

            “You didn’t have to hit all of them a hundred times, y’know.”  Ranko commented over her shoulder.  “They weren’t martial artists.  They could have been seriously hurt.”

 

            “Oh well.  They had it coming.” Ranma shrugged his shoulders slightly moving the boxes.

 

            The little scuffle did not go unnoticed by the other mall patrons.  Two women in particular:  Kaion Michiru and Tenoh Haruka.  Michiru was a very attractive green haired woman wearing a sundress while Haruka, in contrast, was a very masculine looking blonde in slacks and button up shirt.  They had seen the boys gather around the redhead and were about to do something to help her out when the other boy that was following her took them out.

 

            “Wow!  I couldn’t even see him move.” Michiru commented.

 

            Haruka shook her head.  “He’s definitely a martial artist.  Even I had trouble seeing most of his movements.  From what I can tell, he hit each one of those boys at least twenty times apiece.”

 

            “I couldn’t even tell that his hands were moving.  I just saw bodies flying.”

 

            “I wonder what school he trains with.  I wouldn’t mind learning to fight like that.”

 

            Michiru put an arm around Haruka.  “I think you fight just fine.”

 

            Haruka returned the sign of affection with her own arm.  “But I could be a lot better if that guy is any indication.  I think we need to talk to them.  At least so I can find out what school he is with.”

 

            “That’s fine with me.”

 

            The couple caught up with Ranma and Ranko as they were taking a break at a fountain in the middle of the mall.  Ranma was enjoying sitting so close to water with no fear whatsoever.  Ranko was still enjoying the scenery. Ranma and Ranko looked up when Haruka and Michiru approached them.

 

            Ranma eyed Haruka.  What does this guy want?

 

            Haruka spoke first.  “We saw your little demonstration back there.  I was wondering what school you were from.”

 

            “The School of Anything Goes Martial Arts.  Why?  Are you a martial artist?”

 

            Haruka smiled.  “I study a little.  I’m nowhere as good as you, that’s why I wanted to know where you studied.  I’ve been looking for a place to get better.”

 

            Ranma’s expression became downcast.  “I’m sorry, but the school doesn’t exist as such anymore.  I’m the last…”

 

            “Ahem!” Ranko coughed.

 

            “WE’RE the last practitioners of the school.”  He corrected himself.  “I’ll probably open the school after I graduate from college, but for right now there are no openings for new students.”

 

            “Why wouldn’t you teach before getting out of college?”

 

            “Mostly school stuff.  I need most of my spare time to get all my school stuff straight.  Also, I don’t have a dojo or a place to practice.”

 

            Haruka made a few quick plans in her head.  She was sure that Rei would go for it, but she’d have to convince Ami.  “I know of a place where you could teach.  It’s the Hikawa shrine across town, and I can probably find someone to help you with your school work.”

 

            Ranma shook his head.  “I don’t know…”

 

            “I can pay you as well.”

 

            Ranko put a hand over Ranma’s mouth.  “Sure! Sounds great!  When can you get the shrine and the tutor?”

 

            Ranma shot a look of disdain at the smaller redhead.

 

            “I just need to make a few calls.  If I can get your number, I could call you when I’ve made the arrangements.”  She took out a pen and a receipt from her pocket, and wrote out her name and number.  “My name is Tenoh Haruka, my girlfriend is Kaion Michiru.”

 

            Michiru gave a small bow.

 

            “Nice to meet you.  I’m Saotome Ranko, and this is my ‘brother’ Saotome Ranma.” She let go of Ranma’s mouth.

 

            Ranma just nodded and pulled out a receipt of his own and asked to borrow Haruka’s pen.  He scribbled out his name and number and handed the two items to her.

 

            “I look foreword to the training.”

 

            On Ranma’s face was a fake enthusiasm.  “Yeah sure.”

 

            “And could I ask one more thing?”

 

            This guy is really starting to get on my nerves.  “What?”

 

            “Would you consider more students?  They’d all be paying, of course.”

 

            “I don’t know…”

 

            Ranko elbowed him in the stomach.

 

            “What?”

 

            Ranko shook her head.  “We’ll consider it.  We’ll have to meet them first.”

 

            “Sounds fair.  I’ll call you later.”

 

            “Sounds great.” Ranko smiled and watched the couple go about their business.

 

            Ranma’s expression turned into one of great annoyance, directed mostly toward Ranko.  “What was that all about?  You should know I don’t want to teach any for a while.  At least until I get over what happened to everyone.”

 

            Ranko looked him in the eye.  “This may help.  Besides, you need to get out more, and you may find that you’ll enjoy teaching.”

 

            “And there was something about that guy that bugged me.”

 

            “That was girl, you dope.”

 

            “What?”

 

            “That was a girl dressed like a guy.”

 

            “But he called that other girl his girlfriend.”

 

            “Yeah, and?”

 

            “That would mean they’re…oh.”

 

            “Now the light comes on.” Ranko smiled at him.  “But still, she’s a martial artist who wants to get better.  I’ll help you out.  I know everything you do.”

 

            “I guess.”

 

            “And a tutor and extra money won’t be bad either…”

 

            “Sure.” Ranma suddenly wished something would happen.

 

            Ranma’s silent wish was granted as one of the shops exploded.  A large creature that looked vaguely like a beetle stormed out and started grabbing people.

 

            “A youma!  He’s after heart crystals!” Ranko shouted.

 

“Let’s get ‘em”

 

“Don’t get too close.  Or he’ll make a grab for your heart crystal.”

 

“Don’t forget to take your own advice.”

 

Ranko swallowed.  She hadn’t thought about her own heart crystal until Ranma mentioned it.  Having a heart crystal was still new to her after all.  “Let’s go for a ranged attack.”

 

“Check.”

 

Together, they brought to mind the trauma, hurt, and depression of the Neriman slaughter.  They both began to glow with the sickly green aura.  Ranma noticed instantly that he didn’t have the power he had before.  He couldn’t pull off a perfect shot, but maybe what he had was enough.  “SHISHI HOKOUDAN!” They shouted in unison and released their blasts at the youma.

 

Haruka and Michiru had turned around when they heard the youma come out.  They were about to go find a place where they could transform into their alter egos, Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune, but they stopped when they saw Ranma and Ranko glowing.  They were amazed when the duo released their blasts at the youma.  They decided to go find a place to change fast!

 

The two blasts reflected off the carapace of the youma and it turned to charge at Ranma and Ranko.  After seeing the ineffectiveness of their attack, they immediately went on the defensive trying to evade the demon’s strikes.  The youma was impossibly fast and it finally managed to get a claw on each of them.  They started to feel their heart crystals being torn from them when they heard another shout.

 

“World Shaking!”  A ball of energy impacted on the youma.  It didn’t penetrate its dermal armor, but it was enough to free Ranma and Ranko.  They turned to see two women dressed in very short sailor fukus.  Who the heck are they.  Ranma thought.  Ranko’s questions were a little different.  Uranus and Neptune?  What are they doing here?

 

Sailor Uranus stepped up.  “Shopping malls are a place for commerce and enjoyment, not a place for evil.  We, the pretty soldiers Neptune and Uranus, will punish you in the name of the moon!”

 

The monster roared and charged at the senshi.  They were caught off guard by the monster’s speed.  They tried to unleash their other attacks, but either the preparation took too long, or the energy just bounced off the youma.

 

“We need to help them!” Ranma was back on his feet.

 

“First thing we need to do is take off its arms so we can get close.”

 

Ranma nodded his head and stepped foreword.  He leapt up above the monster and released one of the Forbidden Saotome Attacks.  “KIJIN RAISHUU DAN!”  Twin blades of vacuum struck the vulnerable shoulder joints of the youma, cleanly severing its arms. 

 

The beast yelled in pain and turned toward the normal human attackers.  The Sailors took this as a chance to pull back and regroup.  They retreated a fair distance and considered their next move.          

 

In the meantime Ranma and Ranko had their own plan.  “Ready to crack a nut?” Ranma shouted to Ranko.

 

“Ready and waiting.”  Ranma interlaced his fingers making a step for Ranko.  She stepped on it and jumped up as Ranma hauled her toward the monster.  This move sent Ranko well over the youma’s head and she hit a pillar on the story above, springboarding back into the monster while at the same time Ranma charged from the front, effectively sandwiching the youma between them.

 

“KACHU TENSHIN AMAGURIKEN!” They shouted at the top of their lungs.  The two martial artists went into a flurry of chestnut fist strikes.  The dual attack kept the youma off balance, and eventually cracks began to appear in its shell.  Then the cracks spread throughout the beast’s armor.

 

“On my signal we’ll both jump back!” Ranko shouted to Ranma.

 

“Why?”

 

“Just do it…Now!”

 

They both leapt a fair distance away. 

 

“Uranus!  Neptune!  Now!” Ranko shouted at the amazed senshi.

 

They quickly recovered from their astonishment and launched their attacks.

 

“SPACE SWORD BLASTER!”

 

“DEEP SUBMERGE!”

 

The two attacks collided with the youma and exploded!  The only thing left afterwards was a pile of dust.  The Sailor Senshi looked around trying to find the Saotomes, but they had disappeared along with their purchases.

 

Where could they have gone?  Uranus thought.

 

Ranma and Ranko had gathered their boxes and high-tailed it out of the mall. One reason was to avoid any curious questions from the authorities and other mall goers.  Another reason was to avoid the questions from the Senshi.  The final reason was for Ranko’s benefit.  She didn’t know if either of them had the ability to sense youma and didn’t care to find out.  The finally slowed down to a walking pace a few hundred meters from the mall.

 

“Let’s just get the groceries and head home.   I think we’ve had enough excitement for one day.” Ranma commented.

 

“That’s odd coming from the trouble magnet.” Ranko smiled.

 

“I like that title better than water magnet.  I’ve noticed that I don’t get splashed as often anymore.  By this time on any other given day I would have made four changes already.”

 

“That is a bright side to this.”

 

The trip home and to the market was uneventful and boring, much to Ranma’s relief.  They arrived home, put away the clothes and groceries, and Ranko prepared dinner.  Ranma decided to do some of the school reading.  A few hours after dinner the phone rang…

 

 

 

Haruka and Michiru arrived back at their townhouse to find Hotaru staring off into space like in a daydream.

 

“Hey, Hotaru-Chan.  What are you dazed about?” Haruka asked.

 

“Nothing, Haruka-papa.  I just met a boy today.”

 

“I’m so happy for you!” Michiru hugged her ‘daughter’.

 

“He’s so strong and handsome, Michiru-mama.  He saved me from the bullies to me.  He made the bullies so scared that they stopped other bullies from bothering me.”

 

“He did!  That’s great!  What does he look like?” Michiru was so happy the Hotaru was growing up.  She was about the right age to start thinking about relationships.  Michiru and Haruka were both very open minded ‘parents’.  They wouldn’t encourage, or discourage any sexual orientation for Hotaru.  They felt it was Hotaru’s choice, hers and hers alone.

 

“He’s tall and handsome.  He has black hair done up in the cutest pigtail.”

 

Michiru threw a quick glance to Haruka.  Haruka shook her head at the startling coincidence.  “Hotaru, was this boy wearing a red shirt and black pants?”

 

“How did you know that, Michiru-mama?  Did you use the Aqua mirror?”

 

“Nope.  I think we met your new friend at the mall today.  He said his name was Ranma.”

 

Hotaru smiled.  “That’s him!”

 

“Isn’t he a little old for you, Hotaru-Chan?” Haruka commented.

 

“That’s the same thing that Makoto said, but I think she just wanted him for herself.”

 

“Makoto was there as well?  Do the rest of the Inner Senshi know about him?” Haruka didn’t like all these sudden coincidences.

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“If Makoto does like him, I’m sure the rest of the inners knew about it within the hour.” Michiru commented with a smile.

 

“True.” Haruka returned the smile.  “But does this boy have something to do with the renewed youma attacks. I thought Galaxia was supposed to be the final threat to the Neo-Moon Kingdom.”

 

“Maybe we should ask Setsuna-mama.” Suggested Hotaru.

 

“Good idea.  Have you seen her around?”  Haruka asked.

 

“She’s been in her room all day.”

 

Michiru and Haruka swapped another look.  This time it was concern.  It wasn’t like Setsuna, a.k.a. Sailor Pluto, to lie around all day.  There must be something wrong.  “I think we need to talk to her.” Haruka said at last.

 

They climbed the stairs and knocked on Setsuna’s door.

 

“Yes.  Who is it?” A very weak reply came.

 

“It’s us, Setsuna.  Can we come in?”

 

“You may.”

 

They walked in and saw Setsuna lying in bed.  Her normally well-kept dark green hair was in a tangled mass around her head like she had been tossing and turning all night.  Most of the color had been drained from her skin.

 

Hotaru ran up to Setsuna’s bed in concern. “What’s wrong Setsuna-mama?  Do you have the flu or something?”

 

“No.  I’m feeling the effects of being separated from the Gates of Time.”

 

“You’re cut off from the Gates of Time?” Michiru was startled by the revelation.  “Who could do such a thing?”

 

“I…I…Don’t know.” Setsuna hung her head.

 

“Now I know we’re in trouble.” Haruka stated.  If Pluto didn’t know what was going on and admitted it, it must be bad.

 

“Setsuna.” Michiru continued.  “There have been more youma attacks.  I thought you said Galaxia was the last threat we’d have to face.”

 

Setsuna took a deep breath.  “There was a block of time that I could not view.  I presumed because we lived through it and I had no warning, it was not a threat.  It seems I presumed wrong.”

 

Haruka shook her head.  “Why are you separated from the Gates of Time now?”

 

“The time period I couldn’t view is at hand.  Whoever has blocked my sight of this stretch of time has also blocked my current access.  This is the beginning of the time I could not view.  At least now I know why I couldn’t see it.  Apparently if my link to the Gates of Time is blocked for any length of time, I can never view that time.”

 

“Why are you sick now, Setsuna-mama?”

 

Setsuna managed a weak smile for her concerned ‘daughter’.  “I’m very old Hotaru-Chan. The Gates of Time are what sustains me.  If I’m cut off, I start to age.  The link needs to be restored as soon as possible, or I will die.”

 

“No, Setsuna-mama!” Hotaru was almost in tears.

 

Michiru put a hand on Hotaru’s shoulder.  “Don’t be scared Hotaru-chan.  We all come through this; she won’t die.  We just need to find the source of the block and destroy it quick.”

 

Haruka nodded.  “Agreed.  I needed to call the Inners about Ranma anyway.  They should know about Setsuna’s condition as well.”

 

 “We need to call a meeting right away.” Michiru agreed.  They left Setsuna to try to get some rest. They called Usagi and the others and told them to meet at their townhouse immediately.  The Inner Senshi all agreed and said they would arrive there within the hour.

 

 

 

Somewhere in the Negaverse, a woman shrouded in shadows sits upon an ancient throne.  In front of her are four youma all bowed in respect to their new queen.  Surrounding them in the periphery was numerous smaller youma.  All of them were watching the scene being played out in front of them.  “Arise my servants.” The queen spoke in a deep feminine voice that had an edge to it that invoked fear in even the youmas’ hearts.  “Report.”

 

One of the youma before her stepped forward.  It was another woman, like most of her kind.  She was completely composed of onyx, with eyes of quartz.  “Queen Adamantia, Nicol Bolas has not reported in several cycles, my queen.  Also, one of my collector youma has been destroyed on its scouting mission.”

 

“Nicol was supposed to destroy the senshi with her superior tactics.  It seems she fell to the arrogance that previous youma did.  We will assume she is no more.  The senshi do not take prisoners.  What of your youma?  How was it destroyed, Arcades Sabboth?”

           

“Two Sailors were aided by two humans.  The two humans were able to pierce the armor of my youma.”

 

“Impossible.  How could a mere human destroy your armor?”

 

“I don’t know my queen.  I will have to find out and equip more youma with stronger armor.  I will destroy those humans personally, but I will need time to prepare.”

 

“Very well.  I will give one of the others an opportunity while you prepare.”

 

“My queen.  I would like the next opportunity.”  Another of the four stepped forward.  This one’s body was composed of water and she wore armor that looked like it was made of mirrors.  “I will draw the senshi together with my youma and then turn them against one another with my power.”

 

“Very good, Chromium.  Destroy the senshi and Arcades will destroy the humans.  Make sure that you do not fail me, or death will be your only escape from my wrath.”

 

“Understood, my queen.” The lieutenant bowed and disappeared.

 

 

 

The senshi, the moon cats, and Mamoru Chiba were gathered at Michiru and Haruka’s townhouse.  Haruka told them about Setsuna’s condition and about the possible threat to all of them.  She also told them about Ranma and Ranko helping them out at the mall.  She didn’t mention anything about the teaching deal.

 

Minako got dreamy, faraway look in her eyes.  “Wow! He really is strong!”

 

“I call dibs!  I saw him first!” Makoto was not going to let this one go.

 

“I saw him before you!” Pouted Hotaru.

 

“What does Ranma look like?” Rei asked.

 

Makoto gave her short description.

 

“Then technically, I saw him first in the fire reading.  I get him!” Rei gave a raspberry to Makoto.

 

“What about Ami, you guys?” Usagi decided to join the argument on her friend’s behalf.  “She was the one that pointed him out the first time, and she’s already held hands with him!”

 

“SHE WHAT!” Minako, Makoto, and Hotaru all shouted at once.

 

Ami blushed a deep red.  “It wasn’t like that.  I was just trying to comfort him.”

 

“I’ll bet that’s what you were doing.” Minako gave her a sly smile.  “Ami-Chan, I didn’t know you had it in you!”

 

“Can we get back to the subject?” Luna was getting tired of this.

 

“Yes, we need to help Setsuna!” Michiru added.

 

Usagi’s expression changed from playful to serious as she took on the role of the Moon Princess and leader of the Sailor Senshi.  “Okay. Ami, you said that you thought that Ranma was the one that took out the youma we fought the other day.  What was that about?”

 

Ami took out her computer and turned it on.  Typing quickly, she brought up a picture of a map of the area where the senshi had been fighting.  “We were fighting the youma here.”  A yellow dot appeared in a vacant lot where they were fighting.  “The youma were being powered by a source of over here.”   A line stretched itself from the first dot and extended until is stopped and terminated at another dot beside an apartment building.  “Now I’ll overlay the Ki energy I discovered.”  A rather large green dot appeared right next to the second yellow dot.  “The source of Ki and source of power for the youma were only a short distance apart.  Then the distance between them was bridged by the Ki and the source of dark power vanished.”  The green dot elongated on the screen until it hit the source of dark power and the second dot and the line between it and the first yellow dot disappeared.  “Rei said that when she felt the Ki it was a very depressing aura.  She also said that when she saw Ranma in the fire reading, he was very sad.” 

 

She took a deep breath before continuing.  “When Ranma and I were talking today, he told me that he was a martial artist and, by what Haruka and Michiru related, he’s able to turn sorrow into a blast of pure Ki.”

 

“Wow.” Rei was astonished.  She had to practice for years just to be able to channel a little bit of Ki into the fire readings.  The amount of training and control required to be able to fire a blast of Ki was staggering.

 

“I’ve heard of someone in Nerima district that could fire Ki blasts.” Mamoru spoke up for the first time.  “I thought it was just a silly story.”

 

“Did you say Nerima?” Ami asked.

 

“Yes.  What about it?”

 

“Ranma’s from Nerima.  I also did some checking, and he lives in the apartment building where source of the Ki is.  He has to be the one.”

 

“Ranko was telling me about some of the stuff that happened to her and Ranma while they were there.” Makoto added.  “They had some wild and wacky things happen to them, and Ranma always got stronger and more skilled with each thing.”

 

“Apparently Ki blasts was one of his new skills.” Ami concluded.

 

Rei was in her own little world.  She was still mulling over the implications of what the others were discussing.  Ki blasts were just too unimaginable to her.  The others didn’t realize the staggering amount of training, control, and emotion to be able to defeat a youma.  Ranma would have to be very skilled and very, very depressed.

 

Artemis noticed Rei zoning out and walked over to her.  “What’s on your mind, Rei?”

 

She looked up and noticed the white moon cat.  “I was just thinking about what everyone is talking about.”  Everyone else stopped and looked at Rei. She related what she had been thinking about and what they needed to understand about a Ki blast of that magnitude.  “What could make a person that sad?” She concluded.

 

Ami was debating whether or not to disclose Ranma’s past.  He hadn’t told her not to tell anyone else, but she was training to be a doctor and there was the doctor-patient non-disclosure agreement.  But she wasn’t a doctor yet either…

 

“He lost his wife, friends, and family in an explosion.” She said it almost in a whisper.

 

“That’s terrible!” Usagi exclaimed.

 

Ami went on to relate the whole story as Ranma had told her.  The others were in shock that someone would have to experience all of that.  Usagi was on the verge of tears.

 

“He’s the source all right.” Haruka started to consider the deal she had made with him earlier.  “He’s also a very skilled martial artist.”

 

“We’ve already said that Haruka.” Makoto wondered why she was bringing up the blindingly obvious again.

 

“I think he needs our help and we need his.”

 

“What?” This night had been a huge load of confusion for almost anyone.

 

“I talked with him earlier today and made a deal with him to teach me his art.  He just needs a tutor for school and a place to teach.  He also agreed to teach the rest of us if he approved of us.”

 

“So why do we need each other?” Usagi asked for the group.

 

“Ranma needs help dealing with this tragedy and with his school work.  We need Ranma to teach us to be better fighters and possibly to fight along side us.  Ranko can help us as well.  From what I saw today at the mall, she is a very good tactician.”

 

“So who’s going to be the tutor?” Makoto asked hoping she could fill in this time.

 

“Ami of course.  She can also help him get over his grief.”  Ami blushed a little but agreed.  Haruka continued.  “Rei, we’ll need to use the Hikawa shrine as a training ground until we can find some place better. And one more thing…”

 

“Yes?” Usagi took the obvious bait.

 

“We’re going to have to pay for the lessons.  I’m sure that Michiru, Setsuna, and I could cover most of you, but it’d still help if you guys could help out with that.”

 

“What if we told him it was for a good cause?” Usagi asked.

 

“We’d have to tell him our secret identities.”

 

“Ami can say that her payment is the tutoring, I’m sure he’d go for that.” Minako suggested. 

 

“How much is it anyway?” Makoto was going over her finances in her mind.  Living alone in an apartment while still in high school didn’t leave a lot of dough to spare.

 

“We never agreed on a price.  We can talk about that when we meet him.”

 

“When do we go meet him?”

 

“I’ll have to call him once it’s all agreed.  I can set up the meeting for tomorrow after school.”

 

“That sounds great!” Rei was celebrating that she’d have the home court advantage.  She’d only seen him in the fire reading, but she knew she had to have him from the way the others were talking.

 

“I’ll go make the call then.  You guys sit tight.”  Haruka went to use the phone in another room for privacy’s sake.

 

Hotaru had been sitting in her chair in deep thought ever since Ami’s story of Ranma.  Michiru noticed that she was still quiet after Haruka left.  “What’s the matter Hotaru-Chan?”

 

“Ami said that Ranma lost all his family.  Where does Ranko come in?”

 

Now that Hotaru had mentioned it, Ami realized that Ranko had never came up when she was talking to Ranma.  He always said ‘all his family’ was dead.  And there was Ranko’s strange hair color.  Red was very rare hair color for Japan.  Also, how could she have red hair when her twin brother had black?  “That is odd.  I’ll have to ask him next time I talk to him.”

 

“When will that be and can I get all the juicy details?” Minako had a wide grin on her face.

 

Ami wasn’t used to blushing this much.  “I’ll talk to him at school, or when we meet at the shrine.  No, I think I’ll keep the details to myself.”

 

Minako’s grin grew at the last sentence.  “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

 

“I most certainly won’t do anything you would.” Ami was trying to salvage as much professionalism as she could.

 

While the rest of the senshi talked in the living room, Haruka had dialed the number Ranma had given her earlier that day.  “Yo.  This is Ranma.” Ranma picked up on the other end. “Ranma, this is Haruka.  I am calling about the martial arts training.”

 

“Yeah, okay.”

 

“We’d like to meet you at the Hikawa Shrine after school.  You can meet all the ones that want to learn and your tutor as well.  Is that okay with you?”

 

“Yeah, sure, whatever.”

 

Don’t sound so enthusiastic, Ranma. “Well, then.  We’ll meet you and Ranko there.”

 

“Okay, bye.” Ranma hung up the phone.

 

Haruka just stared at the phone a little before hanging it up.  Not much for small talk is he.

 

 

 

“Who was that?” Ranko asked from the couch. 

 

“That was Haruka.  He…uh….She wanted to meet us at the Hikawa Shrine after school.”  Ranma noticed Ranko slightly flinch at the mention of the shrine.  “What’s wrong?”

 

“I…I can’t go.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“It’s a Shinto shrine.  They’re bound to have several wards and stuff against demons up.  I wouldn’t be able to go in without setting off alarms and stuff.”

 

“You could wait by the door or something.”

 

“And how will you explain it when I don’t come in the gate?”

 

“Umm…you’re allergic?”

 

“Ha, ha.” Ranko leaned back on the couch.  “You’re going to have to go alone.”

 

“What if we scout around tonight and see what wards are up.  We could damage the wards in the courtyard in front and you could go that far for training.  That should still leave wards on the shrine itself and the back.”

 

Ranko raised an eyebrow.  “Annnd, you have no problem with this plan?”

 

“Normally I would, but I’m facing the possibility of being outnumbered.  I can assume that there will be at least three girls there.  I’m already outnumbered.  I need someone to watch my back”

 

“You need someone to watch your mouth.” Ranko smiled at him.

 

“Hey!”

 

“We’ll go around midnight.”

 

“Okay.”

 

 

 

Midnight tolled on some unknown public clock.  Ranko and Ranma were standing atop one of the buildings in front of the Hikawa Shrine.  Both were watching intently, waiting for the residents to go to sleep.

 

“You know, I can just walk in and walk out without them noticing with the Uma-Sen-Ken.  We don’t have to wait until all the lights go out.” Ranma commented.

 

“Still, better safe then sorry.  By the looks of those wards I’d say these people know what they’re doing.  They can probably sense me if they’re awake.”

 

Ranma pointed to a long black haired girl that was running into the shrine.  “I wander what that girl is doing getting here this late.”

 

Ranko followed his finger and saw the girl running into the shrine at a frantic pace.  She swore under her breath.  “She’s probably a late patron.  That means we’ll have to wait some more!”

 

Ranma shook his head.  “No, I think she lives there.”

 

Ranko looked at him.  “What makes you say that?”

 

“Look how she’s dodging all the bells hanging from the wards.  She’s trying to get in without making a sound.  She’s probably a kid of someone there that’s been out late with her boyfriend.”

 

“You’re right!  I may be rubbing off on you yet.”

 

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ranma threw a questioning glance at Ranko.

 

Ranko put a finger to her lips.  “Shhhh!  Quiet while we wait.” Ranko turned back to watch the shrine with a grin on her face.

 

Ranma was muttering something about ‘stupid girl’ and ‘several meters off the ground’.

 

 

 

Down below Rei was just getting back from another youma battle.  The battle itself hadn’t been hard, but for some reason all the senshi were at each other’s throats.  Rei was still a little bugged about it.  Why was everyone so angry at each other?  It was like we were all out kill each other.  At least we managed to take care of the youma before it got serious.  I almost felt sorry for that one.  It took the brunt of eight females and one male’s anger.  I just need a bath to relax.  She crept quietly into the shrine.

 

She checked by her grandfather’s room and found that he wasn’t home.  All that sneaking around for nothing, and he left all the lights on!  He left a note telling her he went on a short pilgrimage to another temple.  Yeah right! He’s probably downing sake and talking with one of his old friends.  She turned out the lights and headed to the bathroom. 

 

The bathroom was at the back of the house and the curtain was drawn, making it look to the observers outside that all the lights were out.  Ranma saw this and decided it was time to make his move, seeming to vanish from sight as he used the Uma-Sen-Ken training.  Ranko only saw him because she knew what to look for as he made his way down to the base of the building and crossed over to the shrine.  He found the wards at the gates and put a minute hole in each, rendering them useless.  Creeping around the front yard, he did the same to the wards there.  He left the wards alone out to a two-meter radius around the shrine, thinking that would provide adequate protection for the occupants of the shrine while providing plenty of room in the front for him and Ranko to do their training.

 

Ranma’s actions did not go totally unnoticed.  Although no one could see Ranma working, the results could be felt by a demon that was watching the shrine.  From the shadows Chromium watched.  She had heard the stories of how Jadite had penetrated this shrine and it had attracted the attention of the sailor senshi, which was exactly what she wanted. She knew that the senshi would be angry and tired from the first youma that she had sent forth, and now she would attack again.  They would be even weaker and her spells would be more effective.

 

Ranma finished his work and returned to the rooftop where Ranko awaited him.  “Let’s get out of here.”

 

Ranko just stood there.

 

Ranma grabbed her shoulder and shook her gently.  “Hey.  You awake? We need to get out of here.”

 

“She’s here.  Somewhere.”

 

Ranma had a confused look on his face. “Who?”

 

“Chromium.  She’s out there.  We can’t leave.  We have to stop her.”

 

Ranma was getting really weirded out.  He couldn’t sense anything.  This has something to do with her youma side.  Gotta be.  “If you say so.”

 

Down below Chromium decided the time was right.  “Go my pets. The shrine courtyard is unprotected.”  Out of shadows around her several youma appeared and charged at the shrine.  They charged the gates, some going through the gate while others just rammed through the walls.  The started yelling and destroying everything they could reach, trying to make as much noise as they could to try to get the attention of the Sailor Senshi.

 

Up above, Ranma only had one word to say for himself, “Oops.”

 

Rei heard the commotion and was startled back to earth.  Between the battle and the stress of the fight afterward, she had almost fallen asleep in the bath.  She leapt out, grabbing a towel and running to the front of the house. She looked out and saw the youma tearing up her front lawn.  Reaching for her communicator by instinct, she called the rest of the Inner Senshi. They would be there as soon as they could. That may be too late, she thought, I’ve got to do something now!  She retrieved her henshin rod and cried out, “Mars Power, Make Up!” In a flash of light, Hino Rei became Beautiful Soldier Sailor Mars! She went out the back door and leapt to the roof of the shrine, thanks to the strength granted to her by the transformation. 

 

Deciding that speeches would just be wasted on these youma, she went straight to the attack!  “FIRE SOUL!”  Fire leapt from her fingers and struck the closest youma, sending it back a few steps.  It returned fire with a gusher of superheated water.  Rei leapt aside and started unleashing more attacks at the youma.

 

Chromium watched Sailor Mars from the shadows.  “Here’s the first victim.  I’ll make her lose control, and then my youma will be able to defeat her.  CHISHIO IN'YOKU!”

 

A ripple filtered through the air and struck Sailor Mars and she fell over as if physically struck.  She slowly rose and there seemed to be a fire in her eyes greater than the one she had before.  She began assaulting the youma at random, but as soon as she attacked one, two more would blind-side her.  She started to slow down quickly.

 

Ranma noticed the turn in the battle. He also saw that she was greatly outnumbered.  “I’ve got to go help her!”  He had felt guilty enough about taking out the wards, but now someone was getting hurt over it.

 

Ranko put a hand on his shoulder.  “How are you going to explain what you were doing here?”

 

“Umm…” He thought for a sec and took off his shirt.  He had his usual tank top undershirt on.  “I’ll just say I was jogging and heard the commotion.”

 

Before Ranko could talk any more sense into him he jumped down and joined the battle. Ranma hit the ground running.  He started punching and kicking his way through the youma to get to Sailor Mars. Scooping her up, he jumped to the safety of the shrine roof.  The wards that Ranma had left intact stopped the demons. He turned the groggy senshi over so she could lie on her back as she quickly came to. Her eyes opened and she saw Ranma. 

 

“DIE!” Sailor Mars grabbed Ranma around the neck with one hand and punched him in the face. Ranma caught the second punch and used his other arm to get Mars’ hand off his throat.  He pinned her to the roof with his legs and pushed her arms back over her head.  It was taking all the strength he had to keep her down.  “What’s your problem?!  I’m here to help you!”

 

“Let her go!”

 

That’s not Ranko’s voice.  Then it could only be…  Ranma swallowed hard.  He turned his head and saw probably the worst thing imaginable considering the position he was in:  Four angry super-powered women.  “It’s not what it looks like!  She’s gone nuts!”

 

Sailor Mercury couldn’t believe what she was seeing.  How could Ranma be forcing himself on Mars?  And what was all the youma doing on the lawn?  Was Ranma a part of the new Negaverse plot after all?  Sailor Moon and Sailor Venus were just plain stunned.  Sailor Jupiter decided that it was what it looked like.  “SUPREME THUNDER!”

 

Ranma jumped off of Mars in time to miss the main blast, but was hit in the side by an arc from the lightning blast.  The main strike hit the roof, sending Ranma flying into the youma.  He turned his fall into a diving roll and found himself surrounded by monsters that immediately swarmed him.

 

“Serves him right.” Jupiter spit out.  And to think I liked that guy!  He probably wanted to molest Hotaru!  “I say we let the Youma finish him, and then get them.”

 

Mercury was still confused.  This can’t be the same Ranma that I talked to today.  He wouldn’t do anything like that, would he?  Was he just playing us for fools?

 

Moon went over to check on Mars.  “Are you okay, Mars?”

 

“DIE!” Obviously Mars’ vocabulary was limited at this time.  She threw a punch at Moon, but Tuxedo Kamen blocked the punch with his cane. 

 

“What’s wrong with you, Mars!  Snap out if it!”  The Senshi of Fire started to attack Tuxedo and the rest of the senshi were thoroughly confused.

 

Mercury dropped her visor and saw a cloud of red over Mars’ head.  “She’s under an enchantment!”

 

Sailor Moon looked more confused.  “How can she be enchanted?  We’re supposed to be immune!”

 

“Not immune, resistant.  We’re also stronger when we’re together.  She must have been weakened by the battle earlier today and this fight gave the youma a chance to enchant her.”

 

“Well, there is something I can do for that.”  Sailor Moon pulled out her scepter and shouted.  “MOON HEALING ESCALATION!”  The light from the beam hit Kamen and Mars.  Kamen was unaffected, but Mars stopped and blinked as if coming out of a daze.

 

“Where am I?  What happened?” Mars looked around and found herself back on the shrine roof.  “I was down there fighting the youma and now I’m up here.”

 

“The youma!  Ranma!” Jupiter suddenly remembered the man she had just condemned to death.

 

The senshi turned around to see a swarm of youma in the middle of the courtyard and no sign of Ranma.

 

“We’ve got to help him!” Venus was getting ready to unleash her attack, but before the Sailor Senshi could do anything else, they heard a shout from the pile of youma. 

 

“HIRYU SHOTEN HA!”  In the middle of the swarm of monsters, a large twister formed.  The youma were lifted into the air and smashed into each other.  The Sailor Senshi put their arms in front of their faces to shield themselves from the debris being thrown around.

 

            The twister died as quickly as it came leaving youma lying everywhere.  Most of them were hurt, but appeared able to continue the battle.  The senshi jumped into action.

 

            “FIRE SOUL!” Mars unleashed her primary attack once more, looking for some payback.  The fire went through and vaporized a few of the youma.

 

            “SUPREME THUNDER!” Jupiter sent a ball of lightening at a trio of youma, frying them instantly.

 

            “CRESCENT BEAM!” Venus let loose her crescent moon shaped blasts that cut through a few more youma.

 

            “MOON HEALING ESCALATION!” Once again Sailor Moon used her scepter, this time to destroy instead of to heal.  Her blast wiped out the remaining youma.

 

            From off in the shadows Chromium was furious.  They had destroyed all her youma!  She would get her vengeance.  “Let’s see them fight the boy!”  She put here arms out in front of her to ready another spell.

 

            “Let’s not.” A deep voice came from her right.  She turned to see a blood red youma standing right next to her, one hand transformed into an axe.

 

            “Nicol!  What are you doing here?”

 

            “This!” Nicol swung her axe-hand and severed the other youma’s head.  A brief power spike went through the remaining torso and it turned into dust along with the severed head.

 

            Nicol started to get smaller and her axe morphed back into a hand.  She continued to shrink and change color until she became recognizable as Ranko Saotome.  “That’s enough of you for tonight.” Ranko’s voice was back to the higher pitched voice.  Now I need to find Ranma.

 

            The smoke slowly cleared on the battlefield.  The senshi looked around at all the waste, but saw no sign of Ranma anywhere.  They also noticed that all the anger that they had felt in the battle earlier today was gone as well.

 

            Venus checked the ground and found a shredded tank top.  “Here’s his shirt, but where’s Ranma?”

 

            Mercury looked around and found something that worried her.  “There’s a trail of blood over here!  We have to find him quickly before he bleeds to death!”  The trail led out of the shrine and down the street.

 

            “You guys get out of here.  I’ll transform back and go find him.”

 

            “No way, Mars!” If anyone is going to find him, it’s going to me! Thought Jupiter.

 

            “I’m the only one that has an excuse to be here.  The rest of you should be across down.  Just let me handle it.”

 

            “Just get him to the hospital quick.” Mercury didn’t want to see him die.

 

            “I will, don’t worry.  Just get out of here.”

 

            The others took off while Mars reverted to her normal form, and quickly realized that she needed to put some clothes on before she was going to be able to do anything.

 

           

 

Ranma slumped down against a dingy wall in an alleyway a few blocks away from the shrine.  He had put a tourniquet on the serious wound on his arm with pieces from his now discarded shirt, but he was still bleeding in some places.  His strength had left him and the darkness was beginning to settle in.

 

            After all those battles in Nerima against all those wackos trying to kill ME, I get done in by a bunch of monsters that didn’t care who they killed.  Akane!  I’m coming.  Please don’t be mad because I waited so long.

 

            Ranma passed out from the blood loss.

 

 

 

            Ranma awoke in a fuzzy spinning room.  He saw a black blob to his left and a red blob to his right.  He was a little confused on his current state of being, dead or alive.  He rolled his head and the black blob started to take on a familiar shape.

 

            “A…Akane?” He mumbled.  I’m finally dead.  We’re together forever.

 

            Then sound started to filter in.  He realized that the red blob was shouting at him.  He turned to her to try to listen.

 

            “Ranma!  Wake up!  You’ve had worse fights with Ryoga!”

 

            Ranma blinked and the room cleared up and he was staring at Ranko.  “Ranko?  But you’re not dead.”

 

            “No kidding.  What made you think I was dead?”

 

            “I saw…” He turned back to where Akane had been and saw a totally different woman.  The only similarity she had with Akane was black hair.  “Who’re you?”

 

            The new girl smiled at him.  “I’m Hino Rei.  You and the Sailor Senshi were fighting at my shrine.  I found you in an alleyway a couple of blocks.  This other girl was trying to pick you up.   We both brought you to the hospital.  What were you doing at the shrine anyways?”

 

            “Out jogging and heard the battle.”

 

            On the other side of town from your apartment? Likely story.  Rei thought.  But I can’t tell him I know him and where he lives.  “What’s your name anyway?”

 

            “Saotome Ranma and this is my sister, Ranko.”

 

            Ranko gave a slight bow to Rei.

 

            “Are you going to be okay?  I can stay if you’d like.” Rei was hoping he’d ask her to.

 

            “No.  You can go back and get some sleep. I’ll be up and out of here in no time.”

 

            “How can you say that?  I found you beaten and bleeding to death.”

 

            “I heal quickly.”  He demonstrated by sitting up in the bed.  “Hey, are you friends with Tenou Haruka?”

 

            “Yes, why do you ask?”

 

            “I’m supposed to be back at the shrine tomorrow train her and her friends.  I guess you’ll be there.”

 

            “Oh!  You’re THAT Ranma.” Rei feigned surprise.  “Then I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”

 

            “I’ll be there.  Now go get some rest.  Tomorrow will be a hard day for you.”

 

            “Thanks! I can’t wait!” With that, Rei bowed and left the room.  There’s no way he’s going to be there.  He was on death’s door for Kami’s sake.

 

            Ranko crossed her arms.   “What was that all about?”

 

            “We’re going to be training her tomorrow, might as well be nice now.”

 

            “All of a sudden you’re excited about training?”

 

            “And guilty about letting that attack happen.”

 

            Ranko started walking toward the door.  “Get some rest.  I’ll drop by before school to bring you a change of clothes.   You should be healed up enough to leave by then.”

 

            “Okay, see you tomorrow.”

 

            “Bye.”  Just take care of yourself Ranma-Chan Ranko thought silently as she closed the door behind her.