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Chapter Four

Less is Mors

 

            It was getting late as Ranma and Ranko were entering their apartment.  Ranko went straight to her room and slammed the door.  Ranma went to the door and knocked.  “Can I get shower before you go to sleep?”  The only bathroom in the apartment was adjoined to the bedroom.  Ranko opened the door, splashed him with water, and slammed it shut.  Ranma shook his head to clear the water off.  He checked the door, locked.  He started beating on the door.  “Hey!  What was that for?  What did I do?”

 

            “Just leave me alone.”

 

            “What’s the matter?  If I did something, tell me!  I’d apologize if you told me what I’ve done!”

 

            “Just go away, jerk!”

 

            “What!” Ranma bit back the insult that was on its way out.  He had learned with Akane that insults were not the best way to stop an argument.  “Let’s just talk about this!”

 

            “I said:  LEAVE ME ALONE!”

 

            Ranma shook his head.  What in the hell is she so mad about?  The girls said I didn’t do anything.  Was it because I jumped into Ami’s lap instead of hers?  Ami was probably closer.  It doesn’t matter anyways.  “Ranko!  Is this all because I jumped into Ami’s lap?  You know that doesn’t mean anything!”

 

            Ranko was sitting on Ranma’s bed with her face in her hands.  Ranma, you…you jerk!  You know damn well that it means something.  It means you love that person.  You loved that old lady like the mother that wasn’t there, and you loved Akane as your fiancé. 

 

Ranma continued yelling through the door, trying to get Ranko to respond.  Ranko looked up and around the room.

 

Ranma was starting to get furious.  Who does this girl think she is!  “Ranko!  Let me in!  This is my apartment, not yours!  If you don’t open this door right now and tell me what’s wrong, I’m going to knock it down!”

 

No answer.

 

Ranma clenched his hand into the chestnut fist.  He didn’t want to destroy the door, so he punched around the doorknob to let the door swing freely.  After he had cut out the knob, he swung open the door.  “Ranko!  Tell me what this is about!”  He looked around, and no one was there.  He glanced at the bathroom: the door was open and the light was out.  Where’d she go?  He looked around.  He saw that the window was open and the curtain was blowing in the wind.  Just then a bolt of lightening flashed outside with the thunder quickly following.  That wasn’t spooky or nothing. Ranma thought in a deadpan voice.

 

Outside, Ranko was running down the street.  It started to rain, and it only served to worsen her mood.  Ranma, you jerk!  Ranko closed her eyes as she was running.  I can’t cry, pop said…No!  Not my pop!  Ranma’s pop!  I’m a girl!  I can cry all I want to!  Ranko was having trouble keeping her and Ranma’s pasts separate.  What did I used to do when I was angry?  Not train, that’s Ranma.  I used to kill people!  Great!  Now I fell worse…

 

Ranko’s thoughts kept getting darker and she started to glow the sickly green once again.  She opened her eyes and found that she had stopped in front of the park where only a short couple of days ago she and Ranma were sparring.  Ranko’s tears started to mix with the rain on her face.  Ranma loves Ami, not me.  I’m just a heartless youma, a killer.  No, thanks to Ranma I have a heart, but he doesn’t see it that way.  Maybe I am better off being his sister.  But what happens when he finds out whom I used to work for.  He’s already involved.  I could tell the youma’s primary mission at the shrine was Ranma.  He’s going to find out eventually, but I can’t tell him.  It would kill him! 

 

Ranko sat down on one of the benches, leaned forward, put her face in her hands, and started crying hard.  I want Ranma to stay like he is!  I want him to be happy!  I know he hasn’t smiled since Akane died.  He hasn’t even had enough pride to summon a Moko Takabisha.  He was starting to recover, and he would have been all mine.  Why couldn’t you lay off, Adamantia?  Why couldn’t you let me be happy with him? 

 

Ranko straightened up and shook her head.  No.  If she had stayed put, I’d have remained a heartless killer and would never have had the capacity for love.  I would have been a slave like the others.  Ranma freed me, but…but…  Ranko put her face back in her hands.

 

Ranma had felt the buildup of sorrowful Ki.  It was growing by the second.  He used it to find Ranko.  He remembered how he used to always be able to tell when Ryoga was around the same way.  He shook his head free of the thoughts of the past.  He had to find Ranko and calm her down and figure out why she was so sad. 

 

He followed the Ki like a beacon and found himself walking through the park.  His clothes were starting to get soaked from all the rain.  He was still getting used to not having breasts while wet.  He also remembered that other things were still shrinking even though he wasn’t transforming.  Damn, it’s getting cold.

 

He walked around a path and saw Ranko bent over crying into her hands.  He was still astounded at that, a youma crying.  He shook his head.  Ex-youma.  She’s human now.  He walked up to the crying, soaked redhead.  He sat down next to her and put an arm around her shoulders.  “What’s the matter?  Please tell me what’s eating you?”

 

“…”

 

“Come on, Ranko.  It’s getting cold out here, and I want to get some sleep.  Just tell me what I did, so I can apologize, and we can go home.”

 

“Ranma…What do you think of me?”

 

I hate it when women ask questions like that.  It ranks up there with ‘Do you think I’m fat’ and ‘Are you happy’.  “I think you’re a pretty good fighter, but you do have my spare body.” Ranma chuckled a bit.

 

Ranko groaned.

 

Ranma realized that’s not what she meant.   Okay guess number two.  “You look real cute when you’re all dressed up.”

 

Ranko looked up at him.  Ranma froze for a second.  He looked into Ranko’s eyes and saw his eyes staring back at him.  Every human eye is different; usually it takes a computer or microscope to tell the difference.  Ranma could tell because he had seen
those eyes in the mirror all his life.  He had never looked Ranko in the eye before.  He also saw all the hurt that was building up there.  He recognized that as well.  It was what he saw in the mirror after Akane died.  “Ranko…I…I…What answers are you looking for?  I need a clue.”

 

Ranko sighed at the attempt at levity.  “Do you think I’m human or youma?”

 

“Well, you’re human of course!  Look at you.  You’re my girl half.  We should call you Ranma two, or Ranma ½!”

 

“So you think of me as human.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“But you think of me as you.”

 

“Yeah…sorta”

 

“’Sorta’ what?”

 

“But you’re a girl, and I’m a guy.  You’re me if I had been born a girl.  You really are like my sister.”

 

So that’s what you think of me.  “Ranma you do realize that I’m not.  I’m no blood of yours.  I not even sure I have blood.”

 

“What are you talking about?  You’re human!  I can see that as plain as day!”

 

“Ranma, there’s a few things I haven’t been telling you.”

 

Ranma scratched his head.  “Like what?”

 

Ranko looked around the park to make sure there was no one around.  Sure enough, the storm had discouraged any other park goers.  She stood up and began to grow.  She grew to her full youma height and her skin turned blood red and her hair turned a burnt orange.  She turned to Ranma and said in a deeper voice, “I’m still a youma.  My body is still a youma.  I just have your other heart crystal, so I have a conscience.  I may not even have a soul.”

 

Ranma was frozen in place.  This was the same way he had seen Ranko the first time.  She still has the ability to transform?  We could have used that earlier…  “Of course you have a soul.  Otherwise you wouldn’t be crying, right?”

 

“I guess so.”

 

“One thing though.”

 

“What?”

 

“Before we go any further, could you change back?  You’re kinda giving me the creeps.”

 

“Sorry.”  Ranko reverted back to the human body.  “Side effect of my powers and nature.  A youma makes anyone feel some degree of fear.”

 

“Hey!  I’m not afraid of nothin’!”

 

Ranko shook her head.  “Baka.  Only a fool fears nothing.”

 

“Hey!”

 

Ranko held up her hands in front of her.  “You’re taking this out of proportion.  I’m just saying your ‘creeps’ are a result of my powers.”

 

“What kind of powers?”

 

I was afraid he was going to ask that.  “I can read minds.   In my youma form, I can direct minds.  That’s how I directed my lesser youma.”

 

“Is that why you have my memories?”

 

“No, that was a side effect of whatever happened to meld your heart crystal with me.”

 

“So you know what I’m thinking right now?”

 

“It’s not like that.  I can only read dark thoughts.  If you were thinking about hurting me, then I’d know it.”

 

“A hyped-up danger sense.”

 

“Basically.”

 

“Okay, that’s all pretty…weird.  Now, why are you sad now?”

 

Ranko looked down.

 

Ranma jumped up and put his hands on her shoulders.  “Don’t start that again!  Just tell me what’s wrong with you.  Did I do something while I was in cat mode?”

 

“It’s what you didn’t do…” Ranko said almost under a whisper.

 

“What?”

 

“It’s what you didn’t do.  You didn’t come to me, you went to Ami!”

 

“Was she closer?”

 

“No she was three meters farther away.”

 

There goes that theory.  “You know that doesn’t mean anything.”

 

Ranko shook his hands loose and punched him in the stomach.  Ranma, unprepared for the strike, doubled over.

 

“What was that for?!”

 

“You know it means something!  It means she’s the one you love!”

 

“But I went to an old lady before!  I didn’t love her!”

 

“You loved her like a mother because your mother wasn’t there for you!  It’s really demeaning to lie to someone who knows all about you!”

 

“Ranko…Ami reminds me a lot of Akane.  I’m sorry.  I don’t love her.”

 

“Maybe not now, but you like her better than me.”

 

“Is that what this is all about?”  Ranma stood up hugged Ranko.  “Ranko, I like you a lot.  You’re the sister I never had.  You’re the only person who truly understands me.  I guess I still don’t want to believe that Akane is dead.  Ami just looks like her.  She’s a nice girl and all, but I don’t love her.”

 

Ranko listened his whole speech, but only heard to one part.  Sister.  That’s all I’ll ever be to him.  I guess I should be happy with that.  I should just forget all this nonsense and get back home.  It’s freezing out here.

 

Ranma pat her on the back.  “We should just forget all this nonsense and get back home.  It’s freezing out here.”

 

Ranko’s eyes flew open wide.  “Yeah…uh…let’s…”

 

“Here, I’ll give you a ride.”  Ranma scooped the smaller redhead up in his arms and jumped up and out of the park.  Ranko held on to his neck and enjoyed the flight.  Everything will work out.  It always does with you, Ranma.

 

 

 

In the Negaverse, Adamantia was once again on her throne, this time at the request of her subordinates.  They had asked for an audience, and, although she was loath to allow anyone to have any sort of power over her, she trusted her lieutenants and would hear them out.  “Why have you asked for this audience?”

 

Arcades stepped forward and bowed.  “My queen.  We have come up with a plan, but it will require your permission and more heart crystals. Then end result, however, will be youma capable of defeating the humans and the senshi.”

“So, what is it?” Adamantia was getting tired of the melodramatic suspense.

 

“Vaevictis and I will combine our efforts to create youma with superior offensive and defensive capabilities.  We shall take the energy of several heart crystals to power each.  I shall fashion their skin as hard as mine and Vaevictus will give them power blasts as strong as hers.”

 

“So how many crystals are we talking about?”

 

“More than we have in store, but we have a plan for that as well.”

 

“I’m listening.”

 

“Palladia will make an assault in the same area we harvested from last night.  The Senshi are sure to be watching it.  He will keep them busy while we assault the ‘shopping mall’.  Palladia should be able to keep them all busy long enough to harvest more than enough of what we need.”

 

“Excellent plan.  Without Nicol Bolas around, we’ve had a lack of those.  I would still like to know where my errant youma is.  I would have felt if she had died.”

 

Palladia stepped forward, a sinister smile crossing her face.  “Should I ask the Senshi as I choke the last breath from their lungs?”

 

“Sounds good.”  Adamantia matched the grin of her youma.  “Also find out who that redheaded one from the shrine was.  I am…curious.”

 

“Yes, my Queen.”

 

 

 

The next morning, Ranma and Ranko put on their training gis and headed to the park.  Ranma tried several times to talk to the redhead, but she just kept silent.  They arrived at the spot they used the other day, stretched, and squared off.  They began to fight at a slow pace, switching through various styles, stances, punches, and kicks.  Then they took the fight up a notch.  They started jumping to almost impossible heights and springboarding off trees at each other.  Mid-air combat was specialty of the Saotome School of Anything goes Martial Arts, after all.  They started to go a fast and furious pace that actually started to have Ranma breathing hard after only a few minutes.  Ranko’s face was stone determination.  She was going to beat Ranma, even if it killed her.

 

Mamoru Chiba rounded the corner on his morning jog.  He had started earlier this morning in hopes of seeing more of the Saotomes’ training.  He stood there dumbstruck at the speed and ferocity that the two siblings fought at.  If the girls and I could learn to fight like that in our normal forms, think how formidable we would be transformed!  These two are amazing.

 

The battle continued, the pace never slacking.  After Ranma took a couple blows to the head, he decided that it was time for the gloves to come off.  He started fighting all out, but not using any special techniques.  Ranko sensed the change and Ranma and redoubled her efforts.  Mamoru noticed the change as well.  He just stood agape as the two combatants seemed to be flying through the air, held aloft by punches and kicks alone.

 

After about half an hour, Ranko started to get careless.  Ranma took full advantage and hammered her in the stomach.  He knew the sensitive parts of a woman’s body and was missing them intentionally; after all it was once his body.  With an ‘oof’ and a few coughs, Ranko finally went down.  She landed on her feet and then doubled over to her hands and knees.  Sweat was rolling from her face and wetting the concrete. 

 

Mamoru ran to Ranko’s side as Ranma was just landing.  “Are you okay, Ranko?” Mamoru asked as he helped her up.

 

“Just peachy.  I’ve had worse.”  Or Ranma has, I should say.

 

“Sure.” Mamoru turned to Ranma who was stretching out a few tight muscles.  “That was amazing!  How long would it be before the girls and I would be able to fight like that.

 

Ranma paused and thought a second.  “About twelve years, three fiancés, and a crazy lost boy.”

 

Mamoru had the king of confused looks on his face.

 

Ranko pat the stunned Mamoru on the shoulder.  “That’s okay Mamoru.  Nobody that isn’t from Nerima could understand what the hell we’re talking about.”

 

Mamoru just shook his head.  “I take it you guys lived a very hectic life there.”

 

Ranma shook his head.  “The worse, but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.”

 

Mamoru smiled at the pigtailed martial artist.  “Well I don’t know about fiancées, but I do know a few of the girls have taken a liking to you.  I’m sure we can help you feel more at home here in Juuban.”

 

Ranma shook his head.   “The last thing I need is a girlfriend right now, much less girlfriends.”

 

Ranko heard the denial but noticed a familiar change in Ranma’s aura.  The slightly green aura started to turn blue.  Ranma’s getting his confidence back.  His pride will soon follow.  Who knew that his power came from having women chasing him?  Of course he is male.  She smiled at the last thought.

 

Ranma saw Ranko smiling.  “I see you’re feeling better after a good warm-up.”

 

“You know fighting always helped me.”

 

Ranma smiled.  She means that body.  “True, true.”

 

Mamoru shook his head.  “Warm-up?  You called that a warm-up?”

 

Ranma walked over and put his arm around Ranko’s shoulders.  “Yeah, you should see us when we fight.”

 

Mamoru’s jaw feel to the ground.  Ranma and Ranko just laughed.

 

“So why are you hanging out with all the girls?”  Ranko asked.  “You’re obviously much older than them.”

 

Mamoru blushed a bit.  “Well…It’s Usagi.  She’s my girlfriend.”

 

It was Ranma’s turn to be stunned. “How much older are you?”

 

Mamoru shook his head.  Not like he hasn’t had THIS conversation before.  “Five years.  Let’s just say, it’s destiny.”

 

Ranko rolled her eyes.  It’s usually the girls that say that.  It must really be love.  “Sure, whatever.  That just leaves one less girl to chase after Ranma.”

 

“Don’t forget Haruka and Michiru.”  Ranma added.

 

“Okay three less girls.  That still leaves Makoto, Minako, Rei, Hotaru, and Ami.”

 

Mamoru laughed.  “Ami isn’t likely to bother you too much.  She isn’t very expressive about her emotions.  Even though she is really smart, she probably wouldn’t know what to do if she were in love.”

 

Ranko shook her head.  Ranma just scratched his head.

 

After saying bye to Mamoru, the Saotomes made their way back to their apartment and prepared for school.  A short time later they were on their way.  They again swung by to check on Hotaru.  They found her, but no bullies.

 

“Nobody’s bothered me since you beat those guys up!”  Hotaru explained as she smiled at Ranma.  “In fact everyone has all been super nice to me!”

 

The threat of being launched into LEO has that effect on normal people.  Ranma thought.  “That’s good Hotaru, but I still expect you to train hard after schools just in case.”

 

“I will Ranma!” Her smile broadened.  “I will!”

 

Ranma returned the smile.  He couldn’t match Hotaru’s but he did the best he could.  “See ya later, Hotaru-Chan.”

 

“Bye Ranma!”  Hotaru waved and skipped off to school.

 

Ranko smiled.   “Ahhh.  Puppy love.  How cute.”

 

Ranma turned and regarded the redhead.  She was still dressed up nice.  “I feel sorry for the poor guy that gets the real thing from her.  He’ll probably be killed with cuteness.”

 

The two jumped to the fences and started running to school.  After a while, they came within sight of the other girls.  They were going to talk to them, but they had misjudged the time and had to bolt to class.

 

This went along through the morning classes as usual.  Ranma kept trying to nod off and Ranko keep sending small projectiles at him to keep him awake.  Ranko, on the other hand, was getting more and more interested with all the knowledge.  She found history to be the most interesting.  She also noticed the lack of any mention of the Moon Kingdom or anything that actually happened millennia ago.  Of course, most humans had short memories…

 

At lunchtime everyone took their usual seats.  Ranma and Ranko under their tree and the senshi at their table. Makoto and Minako were going on about Ranma and how he looked when he was training them.  They were going a hundred words a minute, but eyeing one another to make sure the other made no moves toward him.  After yesterday’s trick, Makoto was not going to let Minako out of arms reach while Ranma was around. Ami was just eating quietly reading another book.  Usagi sat across from her staring between Ami and Ranma while she devoured her lunch.

 

“So, are you going to talk to him Ami?” Usagi asked.

 

Ami looked up from her book.  “About what?”

 

“I don’t know.  Tutoring…The cat thing…Love.” Usagi added a little wink on the last word.

 

Ami looked back to her book to hide the oncoming blush.  “I’ll talk to him about tutoring after he finishes eating.”

 

“Is that all Ami-Chan?  I know you want to talk about more.” Usagi got a devilish smirk on her face.

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.  I’m just going to tutor him.  It’s all business.  Tutoring for our training.”

 

“Sure.  If you say so, Ami-Chan.”  The smirk never left Usagi’s face. 

 

Ami saw the smirk still there and buried herself in her book, but she was finding it hard to read.

 

“One more thing, Ami-Chan.”

 

Ami was starting to realize why Rei found Usagi so irritating.  “Yes, Usagi-Chan”

 

“He’s done eating.”

 

Ami looked over saw that Ranma had indeed managed to consume his whole lunch at an unbelievable rate.  “Ahh, uh, okay.”  Ami stood up and straightened out her dress and started walking over to Ranma. 

 

Usagi saw the brushing motion and smiled.  Although fairly common with any other girl, it meant something was up with Ami.  She usually just let her dress fall as she stood.  You know you like him, Ami-Chan.  You just need a little push.

 

Ami walked past Minako and Makoto.  They noticed the direction she was going and silently agreed that there was no way Ami was going to get him.  They stood up, but were stopped from going any further by a restraining hand on each of their shoulders.  They both turned and saw Usagi behind them.  How in the heck did she get behind us so quick and not fall on her face?  They both thought simultaneously.

 

“Why don’t we have a nice chat right here, Mako-Chan, Mino-Chan?”

 

Both the girls sat down and started to grumble.

 

Ranko saw Ami approach and shook her head.  Might as well give them some time alone.  Maybe Ranma will decide he doesn’t want her.  Yeah right.  “Ranma, I’m going to get some bread, you want any?”

 

Ranma, who had been napping, opened his eyes.  “Yeah, sure.  Thanks.”

 

Ranko left just as Ami was walking up.  “Hello Ranma.  How are you doing today?”

 

“I’m doing all right.  How’re you feeling?”

 

“I’m a little sore from training yesterday, but otherwise okay.”

 

“That’s good.  So, how did you like it?”

 

“It was quite exhilarating.  I enjoyed it thoroughly.”

 

“Thanks. Are you ready to learn more today.”

 

“I am.” Ami smiled at Ranma and he returned it.  Ami slightly blushed.  “Uh, Ranma.  When do you want to start tutoring?  I understand you need some help with your school work.”

 

“How about after training?  Barring any more youma attacks, we should be done in a couple of hours and that will give us plenty of time to study afterwards.”

 

“That’s good, but I wanted to get something to eat after training.  How about we get together after dinner?”

 

“How about you come and eat with me and Ranko?  It’s not much, but then you don’t have to make any extra trips.”

 

Ami smiled again.  “That sounds sensible.  Um…uh, Ranma?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Could you tell me more about yourself?  I’d like to know how you can heal so fast and how you and Ranko can do the Ki blasts.”

 

“Sure.  Have a seat.” He pat the space next to him.  “I’ll tell you all about it.”

 

The other girls just sat there staring at the couple under the tree.  Minako and Makoto were getting furious.  Usagi just sat there with a dumb looking smile on her face.

 

“Don’t they make a lovely couple?” Usagi asked.

 

“I think I’d look better with him.” Minako commented.

 

“I think he’d look better with me!” Makoto was coming close to slugging both of her friends.

 

“Hey, you guys should be happy for Ami-Chan!” Usagi crossed arms.  “After all, you’ve already had a boyfriend Mako-Chan, and you go on dates all the time Mina-Chan.  Ami-Chan never gets any dates. All the boys usually run away when she shows how smart she is.”

 

The other two girls heard the truth in Usagi’s words, but didn’t want to accept it.

 

Ranko watched Ranma and Ami from a distance.  She sat there and chewing the bread she got for her and Ranma.  Look at them over there, all happy and stuff.  Who do they think they are?  Ranko shook her head.  I can’t let those thoughts get the better of me.  Ranma only thinks of me as a sister.  He would never love me like he did Akane.  Of course I don’t think he’s going to love anyone else like he did Akane.  But I have to admit: they do look cute together.  Wrong, but cute.

 

The bell rang signaling the end of lunch and the teenagers began filing into the building.  Ranma was a little disappointed.  He had only got as far as telling Ami about when Ukyou reentered his life when the bell interrupted him.

 

“We can finish the story after dinner.” Ami suggested as they walked inside.

 

“Okay.  See you in training, Ami-Chan.”

 

Ami blushed a bit at the familiar nickname.  “See you then, Ranma.”

 

The school day passed; slow for some, quickly for others.  The Senshi, Saotomes, and Mamoru gathered at the Hikawa shrine for their second round of training.  The groups were separated as before.  The Senshi grumbled like before, but listened to Ranko this time without a demonstration.  Ranma worked with Usagi more and even got her to being able to do a few punches and kicks.  He had Ami go through the katas that he showed her yesterday.  Ranma was amazed as she managed to go through them all with minimal coaching.  She had excellent retention.

 

Ranko had to break Makoto of a few bad habits, but had her on track a little later.  Rei and Hotaru were coming along nicely. She had them sparring to the side.  Next she had Minako and Michiru sparring.  She was amazed at the agility and dexterity that Minako showed.  She was a natural.  She might even have the potential to start learning Ki techniques…in a month or so.  Michiru was a little too timid for Ranko’s taste.  Ranko decided she would have to do something about that later. 

 

Finally she took a look at Haruka and Mamoru.  Both of them were still a little sore from yesterday, but they had managed to take their sparring up a notch.  They started doing a few jumps and taking each other on in mid-air.  Ranko smiled and walked over to them.  Since they both were already well on their way to learning Anything Goes, she showed them a few ways to shift their weight and use their opponents to increase their hang time.  They picked up fairly quickly and were going at it again.

 

Makoto was the only one, besides Ranma and his group, that wasn’t sparring anyone.  “So when do I get to spar someone?”  She realized her mistake one second after she had said something.  Two seconds later, she was on the ground.  Ranko had an evil grin on her face.  For some reason she enjoyed beating on some of these girls.  Makoto was one of them.  She helped Makoto up and showed her a few more things and then sparred Makoto on her level.  She still had to correct her on a few things, but she was doing better.

 

After a couple of hours, they called it quits.  Most of the Senshi were breathing hard and held various sore points on their bodies.  Ranma and Ranko did a few stretches with them to work out the soreness.  Just as they were fixing to break up, Rei’s grandfather came walking through the front gates.

 

He looked around and appraised the grounds.  “What happened here?  It looks like a battleground.”

 

Rei stepped forward.  “Two battles actually.  The shrine was attacked twice by youma while you were gone.”

 

“How did they get past the wards I put up?”

 

“I don’t know, grandfather.”

 

“Okay, then how were they stopped?”

 

“The senshi and these two helped.”  Rei swung her hand toward Ranma and Ranko.

 

“Are these new friends of yours?”

 

Ranko stepped forward and bowed.  “Saotome Ranko.”

 

Ranma did likewise.  “Saotome Ranma. We were here training these girls and Mamoru when the youma struck the second time.”

 

“How were you able to defeat them?  You seem pretty strong, but I don’t see how you could stop a demon.”

 

“Grandpa, they can both throw Ki blasts.” Rei volunteered.

 

Grandpa Hino froze in place, eyes opened wide.  “That’s impossible.”

 

Ranma extended his hand and shot a small blast into the ground at Grandpa Hino’s feet.  It was only a small blast, making a little hole, but it made his point.

 

The elder Hino was shocked once again.  “Amazing!  I could actually feel your Ki extending to the ground.  You truly are an amazing martial artist!  What was your name again?”

 

“Saotome Ranma.”

 

“That name sounds so familiar…” He pondered a bit.  “Who was your father?”

 

“Saotome Genma.”

 

“Genma, Genma, Genma,” Grandpa Hino pondered the name a bit trying to remember where he had heard that name before.  At last he snapped his fingers.  “Ah ha!  Now I remember!”

 

Everyone present was hanging on his every word.

 

“Genma came through here with an infant baby.  He was trying to learn demon-fighting techniques.”

 

“You sure he was here begging for food.” Ranma grumbled. 

 

“He wanted food as well, but that’s beside the point.  I told him that I couldn’t share those techniques with someone outside of the family.”

 

“And?” Ranko wished he would hurry up and get to the point.

 

“So he asked me if there was any infant girls in my family and I remembered that I had my granddaughter.  Her mother had died and her father didn’t want to take care of her and so I became her guardian.”

 

Ranma slapped his hand over his face.  “Oh no.  I know where this is going…”

 

“And so, he promised Ranma to marry Rei in exchange for the techniques.”

 

“SCORE!” Rei jumped into the air holding an arm straight up.

 

Ranma and Ranko passed out.

 

Grandpa Hino continued his story.  “But Genma left when he found out that our techniques involved writing wards.  Eh.  Ranma?”  He looked down and saw the Saotomes passed out on the ground.

 

Rei was ecstatic.  She was already mentally going over her shopping list for her wedding.  She then was deciding if she wanted to be a spring or summer bride.  Most the other senshi and Mamoru were dumbstruck.

 

Ranma finally came around.  “Can’t be.  Can’t be.”  Juuban was starting to feel a little too much like home.

 

Ranko had pretty much the same thoughts on her mind when she came around.

 

Grandpa Hino helped Ranma to his feet.  “But this girl is also a Saotome.  I assume by the ring that you wear that you are already married to her.”

 

Ranma shook his head. “No, Ranko’s my sister.  My wife…died along with my dad in an explosion.”

 

“I’m so sorry, son.  Is there anything I can do to help?”

 

“Don’t call me ‘son’.  There’s a start.  Listen I never learned any of your techniques, so can we call the wedding off.  I’m don’t need any more fiancées.  I lost two and my wife already.”

 

“You must have led an interesting life.”

 

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” Ranma deadpanned.

 

“But your father did give his word…”

 

Rei bounded up and hugged Ranma around the neck, much to the chagrin to several present.  “Come on Ranma.  It’ll be great.  We don’t have to do it immediately, we can wait until you’re ready.”

 

Ranma grabbed her wrists and pulled them away from his neck.  “I already have a wife.  I don’t need another.”

 

“Ranma, my boy.”  Grandpa Hino began.  “You can’t mourn forever.  You have to go on with your life.”

 

“I understand that, but the next time I want it on my terms and not anybody else’s.  And calling me ‘boy’ is worse than ‘son’.”

 

“Okay, Ranma.  I’ll break the engagement, but please at least consider Rei.

 

Rei disengaged from Ranma and got on her knees in front of her grandfather.  “Please don’t do that!  I want to marry him!”

 

Grandpa Hino shook his head.  “I’m sorry Rei, but Ranma is right.  He should be able to choose his own destiny.”

 

Rei was on the verge of tears.  So close.  Sooooo Close.

 

Ranma cocked a grin.  “Besides, I’m already having dinner with Ami tonight, so I’m already booked up.”

 

Every head present, except for Ranma, spun to Ami at breakneck speeds.  Ami’s jaw dropped.

 

“Ami-Chan, how could you!” Rei was not going to let this go.

 

“It…It’s…Not like that!” Ami stuttered.

 

Ranma slid up beside her and hooked an arm around hers.  “Sure it is.  Let’s go to dinner.”  He dropped to a whisper.  “Help me out here.  I don’t need another fiancée, and I’m sorry, but you’re a convenient out.  I need your help here.”

 

“Okay.”  She whispered back. 

 

Ranma smiled and half led, half dragged her out of the shrine.  “Come on Ranko!  We need to get dinner ready!”

 

Ranko just shook her head.  This sucks.

 

As the trio left the shrine, most of those gathered were still dumbstruck.  Ami…Their Ami…On a date…With Ranma.  Four of them followed that thought with.  It should have been me!

 

Grandpa Hino just stood there.  “Genma never mentioned having a daughter.  That would have made it a lot easier.  She could have stayed as a temple maiden instead.”

 

Rei looked at her grandpa and shook her head.  You’ll never change.

 

Outside of the shrine, Ranma turned to Ami.  “I’m sorry to use you like that Ami, but the fiancée thing really gets to me.”

 

“It’s all right, I understand.  After you told me what happened with your other fiancées, I’m surprised you didn’t scream and run out of the shrine.”  Ami turned to go to the bus stop to wait for a bus. 

 

Ranma raised an eyebrow.  “Where you going Ami?  Our place is this way.”

 

“We need to catch a bus if we want to get there before dark.”

 

“No we don’t.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“Watch.”  Ranma walked over and scooped her up into his arms.

 

“What?”

 

“Just hang on.”

 

“To WHAAAAAA!” Ami was airborne in Ranma’s arms. He jumped first to the fences, then to window ledges and finally to the rooftops.  Ranma leapt from rooftop to rooftop, Ami screaming the whole time.

 

“Chill out and enjoy it Ami!” Ami opened her eyes, looked up and saw the confident smile on Ranma’s face. 

 

“If you say so.”  Ami looked around and watched the city fly under them.  She saw all shops she and Usagi liked to go to.  She even saw her school fly by.  She suddenly saw the beauty of her city.  She also felt the exhilaration of flying across the rooftops.  She could almost believe she was a bird flying through the air.

 

All too soon the flight ended.  Ami almost lost her lunch on the trip down.  Ranma set her gently on the ground.  “So how was your first rooftop hop?”

 

It wasn’t the first time she had done that.  It was just the first time she had done it in human form.  It was also her first time to be carried.  “It was quite, stimulating.  I enjoyed it thoroughly.”

 

“That’s good.”

 

“Where’s Ranko?”

 

“She right behind us.”

 

Ami looked way they had come and saw Ranko descend at a breakneck speed, hit a windows sill, and perform a perfect triple summersault onto the concrete.  Ami clapped at the performance.

 

“Thank you.  Thank you.” Ranko bowed with a flourish.

 

“Let’s get some dinner going, then we’ll get to our studies.  How does that sound Ami?”

 

“Sounds great, but I really need to take a shower.  That’s why I really wanted to go to my house.”

 

“That’s okay.  You can take one here, and you can borrow some of Ranko’s clothes.  She bought enough.”

 

“Thanks for volunteering me, bro.”  Now I have to share my clothes with her!  Will this never end?

 

They went up to the apartment.  Ranma showed Ami where the bedroom was while Ranko started making dinner.  Ami noticed the door with the punched out doorknob.  “What happened here?”

 

“Termites.  Pesky little things.”

 

“Sure.”

 

Ranma led her to the back of the bedroom and showed her the bathroom.  “I’ll have Ranko lay out some clothes for you, okay?”

 

Ami nodded her head.  “Yes.  Thank you.”

 

Ami turned and went to bathroom and closed the door.  Ranma went out to check on Ranko.  She was just preparing some vegetables for stir-fry.  Ranma took over.  “Can you lay out something for Ami to wear.  She’ll bring them back, I’m sure.”

 

Ranko just turned up her nose.  “Hrumph.”

 

“What’s the matter now.”

 

“Oh nothing.  You just invited her over without asking me, and to dinner as well.  Then you want me to loan her some of my clothes!”

 

“Ranko.  This is my apartment!  For once, I’m not the one freeloading here!”

 

“Well, I’m sorry!  Why didn’t you say I was such a burden in the first place?!”

 

“Ranko, you idiot!  You stupid t…” Ranma put both his hands over his mouth.

 

Ranko closed the distance between them.  “Yes?”

 

Ranma deflated a little bit.  “I’m sorry.  I should have asked first.  I just didn’t want her to have to go out of her way.  She is helping me out with school.”

 

That wasn’t what Ranko was wanting, but it would have to do.  “I’m sorry I yelled at you.  You know you never apologized this much before.”

 

“I know.  Akane’s death has made me realize how pointless it is to let pride get in the way of being close to someone.”

 

“Like me.”

 

“Like family.”

 

Ranko went and set out some clothes for Ami and came back and helped Ranma fix dinner.  After a bit Ranma tried to sneak a quick bite for himself.  Ranko caught his hand.  Ranma tried with his other hand.  Ranko blocked with hers.  What ensued was Amaguriken match between Ranma trying to get a bite and Ranko blocking him. This went on until Ranko hooked a leg behind Ranma’s and sent him flying.

 

Ami was feeling refreshed from her shower.  She saw the outfit that Ranko had left out for her, a dark green shirt and black shorts.  That would do until she could get home.  Ami undid her towel to start changing.  Just as the towel hit the floor, the door slammed open and Ranma flew into the room.  He got up and shouted through the open door, “What’d you do that for?”  He looked around and saw Ami.  Ami quickly made a grab for the towel.  “Uh…Oh…. It’s not what it looks like!  Uh…I’ll get out of here.”  Ranma left the room quickly and pulled the door closed.

 

Ranko saw a very red Ranma come out of the room.  “Ami wasn’t dressed, was she?”

 

“Nope.”

 

Ranko finished up dinner while Ranma pulled himself together.  Ami finally came out of the bedroom.

 

“Ami, I didn’t mean to burst in like that.”

 

“Don’t worry about it Ranma.  I could tell you weren’t under your own power.”

 

Ranma smiled and Ami returned it.

 

They ate dinner together and started going into the schoolwork.  Ranko sat and read her book while Ami helped Ranma get through his homework.  She helped him sort out some of the harder math problems and whiz through the science.

 

After a couple of hours, they heard a commotion outside.  They rushed to the window to see what was going on down below.  They saw a woman walking down the street motioning toward the people running away from her.  They were lifted up and their crystals were being pulled from them.

 

Ranma opened the window.  “We’ve got to get down there!”

 

Palladia-Mors.  I always hated that blowhard.  “You got it!”

 

            “Ami stay here!”  With that, Ranma jumped out of the window with Ranko close behind.

 

            Ami reached for her communicator.  “Usagi!  Everyone!  You need to get over to Ranma’s apartment, now!  It’s a youma attack!”

 

            “We’ll be right there!”

 

            Next Ami reached for her Henshin Rod.  “Mercury Power, Make Up!”  With a flash of light, Sailor Mercury was ready for battle.  She lowered her visor and looked at the youma.  She saw the tendrils of magic extending from it, manipulating the wind itself.

 

            She searched around for Ranma and Ranko.  They were jumping around trying to avoid the invisible attacks. Ranma was getting hit now and then, but Ranko wasn’t getting touched.  Ranko made several attempts to attack the youma, but there was a shield of hard air protecting it.  Ami jumped out the window and leapt from windowsill to windowsill, until she hit the ground. She couldn’t stand by and let Ranma fight alone.  “Shabon Spray Freezing!”

 

            The bolt of freezing magic hit the barrier of hard air.  It did little more than bring the youma’s attention to the latest arrival to the battle.  “Ahh.  Now where are you friends little girl?  Did they leave you here all alone?”  The youma teased.

 

            Where are the other senshi?  Ranko thought.  Moon was all by herself the other night as well.  We’ve got to do something.

 

            “Ranko!” Ranma stirred her from her thoughts.  “How can you dodge all of these things?”

 

            Ranko made her way closer to Ranma.  “I can sense it thanks to my nature.”

 

            “I need some way to see her attacks!”

 

            Ranko thought a second.  “Got it!”  Ranko jumped to a place in front of the youma.  “Bakusai Tenketsu!”  Ranko jabbed a finger into the ground.  The pavement exploded and debris began to be picked up by the winds.  After a bit Ranma could clearly see where the wind tendrils were.

 

            Mercury could see them as well and was amazed by the technique.  She’s brilliant!  Mercury let loose some more Shabon Spray Freezings to try to penetrate the shield around the youma.  None of it seemed to have an effect.

 

            Ranma and Ranko started raining their own Ki blasts at the youma.  Shishi Hkoudans flew repeatedly from their hands but could not penetrate.

 

            Palladia was quickly growing tired of these annoying little bugs.  She had bigger fish to fry, but only the weakest one had shown up thus far.  “Time to end this.”  With blinding speed, three wind tendrils flew out from the youma and captured each of her attackers.  She reeled each of them to her.  She regarded each of them in turn as they struggled to free themselves from her grip.  Sailor Mercury the weakest Senshi, her heart crystal would supply an especially sweet energy to the dark youma.  The pigtailed boy, apparently Queen Adamantia knew him, but she had made no orders to want to save this one.  His crystal would join the other humans.  Finally, the red-haired one, Adamantia was curious of her origin, but some mysteries would have to stay buried.  She was too dangerous to leave roaming around.  Palladia reached out for Ranko’s heart crystal.

            On the rooftop above the other Senshi had arrived.  Sailor Moon stepped up and prepared to give her opening speech.  Mars put in arm in front of her.  “Stow the speech, we need in the fight now.  Fire Soul!”  An arc of fire shot from the senshi of fire and struck the shield of the youma.

 

            Palladia looked up from her victims to see that the bigger fish had indeed arrived.  “Now you will all die together.”

 

            “We need to save them!” Usagi cried.  “Everyone attack!  Moon Healing Escalation!”

 

            “Fire soul!”

 

            “Supreme Thunder!”

 

            “Crescent Beam!”

 

            “World Shaking!”

 

            “Deep Submerge!”

 

            Tuxedo Kamen and Sailor Saturn held back as the five attacks struck the youma.  It was still not enough to penetrate the force field, but it was enough to free Ranma and the others.  The senshi on the rooftops jumped to the ground and Mercury and the Saotomes joined them.

 

            “Press the attack!” Moon ordered and the Senshi fell in line and launched another wave of attacks at the youma.  Ranma and Ranko added more Ki blasts of their own.

 

            Palladia was just laughing at them.  “Senshi of fire, water, and earth, but there is no senshi of wind!  You cannot hope to stop me!”

 

            “Hey!” Ranma shouted from his spot in the line.  “Keep that thing busy for a while.  I’ve got an idea!”

 

            That’s supposed to be my line!  Ranko thought.  Maybe I’m starting to rub off on him.

 

            Ranma continued.  “Firegirl!  Icegirl!  Come over here, I’ll need your help!  You too Ranko!”

 

            Ranko, Mercury, and Mars leapt over to his position.  Mars got there first.  “For your information, I’m Sailor Mars and that is Sailor Mercury!”  Mercury and Ranko arrived.

 

            “Yeah, whatever.  We’ll do introductions later.  How much control do you have over your powers?”

 

            “What kind of question is that?  I have perfect control of my powers!”  Mars was starting to get offended.  She may have tried to marry this guy, but right now he wasn’t scoring any points.

 

            “Can you create two spirals of flame around two straight beams?”

 

            Mars’ jaw dropped.  “Uhh…I never tried.” She finished weakly.

 

            Ranko realized what Ranma wanted to do.  “We’ll have to try it anyway.  Mercury?”

 

            “Yes.” The blue suited senshi stepped forward.

 

            “We’re going to need you to fire and hold two ice beams to either side of the youma, not at him.  Mars is going to stand in front of you and try to spiral her flames outward from the center.” Ranko inclined her head at the two Senshi.  “You think you two can handle that?”

 

            Mercury nodded her head.  “I can do it.”

 

            Mars shrugged her shoulders.  “I’ll give it my best shot.”

 

            The two senshi took their positions, Mars standing directly in front of Mercury.  Mercury had to peek around the taller girl to see the target.  Mercury started off first.  “Double Shabon Spray Freezing!”  She launched her attack to the left and right of the youma.  She was straining to maintain the blasts on a steady stream, but was managing.

 

            Next Mars took her turn.  “Double Fire Soul!”  She had to do a lot more concentration then Mercury to pull off her part, but she managed to spiral her flame attack around Mercury’s ice attack.

 

            Ranma nodded to Ranko.  Ranko stepped up to Mercury’s left, while Ranma went to the right, and then they both shouted at the top of their lungs, “Hiryu Shoten Ha!”  They both extended their right hands forward and pushed their Ki into the vortexes created by the senshi.  The flame vortexes became dual tornadoes that opposed each other.  They created a vacuum between each other that pulled the air away from the youma.  The youma was defenseless!

 

            “Now Sailor Moon!” Ranma shouted.

 

            Sailor Moon drew her wand once more.  “Moon Healing Escalation!”  The powerful blast went through the vacuum and struck the youma dead center.  The youma mouthed a scream, but was not heard because of the absence of air.  In a flash of light, the youma was no more!

 

            Ranma and Ranko gave a confident smile as the youma disintegrated.  When Mercury and Mars saw it, they dropped their attacks and nearly passed out from the strain of maintaining the attacks.  Ranma helped them both up in turn.  “You two did great!”

 

            “Thanks to your plan.” Mars commented.

 

            “It was nothin’.” Ranma had that cocky smirk back on his face.  Ranko saw it and gave the same smirk herself.  They had won this day, and Ranma was winning against his sorrow.  It was time to call it a day.  “We need to get back and check on Ami.  We’ll see you Senshi around.” Sailor Mercury flinched momentarily, unnoticed by anyone.  Ranma and Ranko jumped up to their third story apartment window.

 

            Mercury quickly jumped her way to the roof.  The other senshi followed close behind.  Once they were there Mercury changed back into Mizuno Ami.  Everyone saw what she was wearing, small shorts that didn’t leave much to the imagination and a shirt that was oversized for her small frame.  Most of the senshi thought the outfit was suggestive; Mamoru thought it was downright sexy!

 

            Moon narrowed her eyes.  “You’ve been studying in that outfit?  You sure Ranma was getting anything done?”

 

            Ami blushed a deep red.  “These are Ranko’s, I’m just borrowing them because I left my change of clothes at the shrine.”

 

            “I suppose you took a shower as well?” Minako asked.

 

            Ami blushed a bit as she remembered what happened after the shower.

 

            “You took a shower with him!” Rei couldn’t believe it!  Her Ami!  She didn’t think Ami had it in her!

 

            “It wasn’t like that!” If it was possible, Ami got redder.  “I really need to get back!” She quickly turned on her heels and rushed for the roof access stairwell.

 

            “Go Ami!  Woohoo!” Moon cheered after her.  Most of the other senshi glared at their princess.  “What?”

 

            Down in the apartment, Ranma was searching frantically for Ami.  He went through all the rooms and the bathroom three times.

 

            “She’s not here Ranma!  She probably went home if she was smart.” Ranko called out from the couch.

 

            “What if she got caught by that monster?!”

 

            “Ranma, you’re borderlining hysteria!  Sit down and calm down!”

 

            Just then there was a knock at the door.  Ranma rushed over and flung the door open to reveal Ami standing there.  “Ami!  You’re all right!” Ranma scooped her up in a massive bear hug.

 

            “*cough* You can let *cough* me go, Ranma.” Ranma set her down.  “I just went to interior of the building where it would be safer if the battle got out of control.”

 

            “Great!  I knew you’d be all right!” Ranma was ecstatic.

 

            Ranko rolled her eyes.  And you said you only liked her.  She turned on the TV to take her mind of the developing relationship.  What she saw made her freeze in terror.

 

            Ranma noticed Ranko’s stare.  “What’s up?”  Then he heard what was being reported and he and Ami froze.

 

 

 

            In the negaverse, Adamantia was furious at the loss of another one of her lieutenants, but at the same time she was almost happy about the success of her other operatives.  Knelt before her were her two remaining lieutenants, and piled behind them were the massive amounts of heart crystals they had stolen from the ‘shopping mall’.  So many humans gathered in one spot and no senshi in sight, at least Palladia-Mors had not died in vain.   “When will the super youma be complete?”

 

            “Soon my queen.”  Arcades smiled from her spot.  “And soon after we will have the power to send all of your forces to earth!”

 

            “Excellent!” Adamantia broke into an evil laugh that made every lesser youma tremble in terror.