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Chapter Five

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            The Sailors gathered at Haruka and Michiru’s townhouse at midnight.  They had all the seen the news report from the other night.

 

            Makoto clinched her fists.  “That’s the second time they’ve done that to us!”

 

            “The sensible thing would be to divide our forces.”

 

            “But Mamo-Chan, it’s been taking all of us, Ranma, and Ranko to defeat them!” Usagi leaned over into Mamoru’s arms.

 

            Rei shook her head.  “It hasn’t been taking all of us.  We’ve just haven’t been able to figure out how to defeat them, and Ranko and Ranma have been using their special techniques to bail us out.”

 

            “We could still divide our forces into two teams.  We can call in the appropriate Senshi wherever needed, or we could try to bring the two youma together into one place.”  Ami suggested.  She had changed back into one of her usual dresses.

 

            “Surprised to see you still thinking about us, Ami.” Minako winked at the blue-haired senshi.

 

            Ami was getting used to blushing by now.  “I keep telling you, it is not like that!”

 

            “Girls! This is serious!” Luna jumped up into Usagi’s lap.  “We’ve lost too many people to this menace already.  We have to find the source of these attacks and stop them.  Right, Artemis?”

 

            Artemis, who had been curled up in Minako’s lap, raised his head.  “I agree.  Not just for the people out there, but for Setsuna as well.”

 

            The woman in questions was sitting in a rocking chair off to the side. She was wearing one of her long dresses, still looking every part the guardian of the Gates of Time, except now her long green hair was all gray and her skin was wrinkling. They had all related the past youma attacks to her, but she had no recollection of such youma before.  The Sailor Senshi really had no idea who they were up against.  “We need some more clues to what we’re up against.  I’m also concerned about where Ranma and Ranko fit into this.”

 

            “Could they be from the Moon Kingdom?” Rei asked.

 

            Setsuna shook her head.  “They’re not from the past, I can tell you that much.”

 

            “We still need more information.” Luna was taking control of the meeting once more.  “We’ve pooled all we know about Ranma and Ranko, and we still have a few questions.”

 

“Like, where was Ranko when their father visited my grandfather’s shrine?  Ranko said she was always with Ranma in their travels.”

 

“Yeah Rei, and also, why did none of the first stories he told us ever mention her?”

 

“Yes, Hotaru.  As well as, where do they get all this power to destroy youma?” Luna shook her head.  “There is something obviously amiss about those two.”

 

Usagi turned to Ami.  “Ami, you’re closest to Ranma.  Try to see if you can figure any of this out.”

 

The others tried to protest, but a look from Haruka stifled them.  Ami nodded her head.  “I’ll see what I can do, but I don’t know how forthcoming Ranma will be.”

 

Luna leapt into Ami’s lap.  “Do your best, Ami.”

 

“I will.”

 

 

 

The next morning Ranma and Ranko went into their morning routine.  They woke up early and went to the park to train.  Mamoru was there to meet them.  This morning he watched their movements closely, trying to see if any clue to the Senshi’s current problem would present itself.

 

They sparred faster and changed styles rapidly, but each matched the other with practiced ease.  Ranko seemed to be able to dodge much quicker than Ranma, like she knew where the blow was coming from in advance.  Other than those observations, Mamoru couldn’t get anything else out of the match because he was having trouble following them for most of the bout.

 

Ranma and Ranko finished up their morning session and told Mamoru they would see him and the girls after school.  The Saotomes went back to their apartment and finished their morning routine and left for school.  They didn’t bother to check on Hotaru this morning because they had a good feeling that she wouldn’t be having any problems.

 

The Senshi were on their way to school as well.  The girls spotted Ranma and Ranko running atop the fences.   Ami did a quick once over of her outfit and then turned to approach Ranma, but her trip was interrupted as a jet-black youma leapt from nowhere and stood before Ranma.  Ranma threw a punch at the youma, but his hand stuck inside the youma’s stomach.  Ranko fired a Shishi Hokoudan to the side of Ranma’s hand to try to free him.  The youma’s body created a hole for the Ki blast to pass through with no damage to itself.  Ranma blasted his own Shishi Hokoudan from his trapped hand.  The upper portion of the youma exploded outward.  The pieces flew out a little distance, stopped in midair, and then collapsed back into the youma shape.  The youma responded by thrusting forth one of its arms.  It extended out and grabbed Ranko before she could move.  The fist melted into a black glob, and the youma reeled Ranko into itself.  The youma grabbed Ranma in like manner in front of it with its other hand.  The globs manipulated Ranma and Ranko where their arms were crossed with their hands in the armpits to make sure they didn’t fire another blast to free themselves.  The youma then leapt away from the approaching Senshi’s eyes.  The whole confrontation had taken so little time that the senshi hadn’t even had the chance to transform.

 

Makoto balled up her fists.  “We have to go after them!”

 

The others nodded in agreement.  Usagi led the others to an alleyway where they could transform.  They became their Sailor-suited alter egos and chased after the youma.

 

The youma in question had stopped in an abandoned warehouse on the edge of the Juuban district.  It found a blank wall and fired his two fists holding the two captives against the wall.  The globs wrapped around the two stuck to the wall.  Their entire bodies except for their heads was covered in a tar-like substance that held them completely immobile.  The youma knelt down and a beam of light came out of his head.  The beam stopped a meter away from the youma and coalesced into a humanoid shape.  As the shape became more defined, Ranma instantly recognized it.  The body was all wrong, but the face was unmistakable.

 

“Akane?” Ranma blinked to make sure of what he was seeing.

 

The image walked over and placed a hand under Ranma’s chin. “So you survived my birth, Ranma.  I’m impressed.”

 

“Adamantia!” Ranko hissed between her teeth.

 

The hologram of Adamantia turned to look at the redhead.  “Now, who are you and how do you know my name?  No one from this time should be able to remember my name.”

 

“I’m Saotome Ranko of the Saotome School of Anything Goes Martial Arts.”

 

Adamantia laughed a deep and evil laugh.  “That’s a lie and you know it, little girl.  Ranko does not exist outside of Ranma.  You have just taken her face.  Now who are you, really?”

 

Ranma just hung there in thought while the image interrogated Ranko.  He heard the voice and knew that this ‘Adamantia’ was not his departed wife.  Ranma then realized what her ‘birth’ was.  There was only one event in his life that had threatened his life and was yet unexplained.  His aura shrank and became cooler as the pure hatred began to flow through him.

 

“I ask you again!  Who are you, you imposter?!” The image clenched its fist and the glob around Ranko began to shrink, crushing the redhead. 

 

“Never!  Arrgghh!”  She couldn’t get loose, and her ribs were only a few pounds of force away from cracking.  She’d have to transform to save herself, but she didn’t want Adamantia to know who she really was.

 

“I grow tired of this.  If you do not answer me, I will simply kill you.” 

 

The restriction became unbearable, and Ranko’s ribs cracked audibly.  She had no choice.  She began to transform.

 

Elsewhere the Senshi were tracking down the youma that had grabbed the Saotomes.  Sailor Mercury had dropped her visor to take readings of the surrounding area.  “I’m getting two youma readings now!  The new one is less than a meter away from the first.”

 

Sailor Venus turned to the blue-suited Senshi.  “That must be a portal!  We have to close it!”

 

Mercury shook her head.  “I’m not getting any dimensional disturbance readings.   The other youma just simply…appeared.”

 

“We still have to hurry up and save them.” Makoto clenched her fists and pushed herself faster.

 

Back inside the warehouse, Ranko had finished her transformation and had broken free of the blob.  The image of Adamantia just smirked.  “So that’s where you’ve been hiding, Nicol Bolas.  I sense you have a heart crystal now.  No matter.  You will die for betraying me.”  The image flickered out the blob formed youma attacked.  It shot out  blasts of goo that Nicol easily avoided.  Nicol returned fire with Ki blasts from her hands.  The other youma evaded easily, and the two went on like that in a stalemated battle.

 

Ranma closed his eyes.  The glob holding him began to solidify and have a more crystalline surface texture.  Finally, the glob iced over.  With a flex of his muscles, Ranma broke through the iced over goo.  The two youma turned and saw the pigtailed martial artist freed from his prison.  “All right goo-ugly, round two.  KIJIN RAISHUU DAN!”

 

A vacuum blade cut the black youma in half, but the halves immediately rejoined themselves.  It responded by launching another goo ball at Ranma.  He easily dodged it and began another assault.

 

Right at that moment the skylight exploded!  The sailor senshi were on the scene.  Sailor Moon stepped forward.  “People have the right to lead their lives without youma attacks!  In the name of the Moon Hruummpp!” The last of the Moon’s speech was interrupted by a blob of black goo hitting her in the mouth.

 

“Mercury!”  Ranma shouted.  “Freeze the black one!”

 

Mercury nodded her head and powered up her attack.  “Shabon Spray Freezing!”  The bolt of freezing magic struck the youma and froze it in place.  Ranma punched through the center, shattering it.  The pieces fell to the sides and turned to dust.  The goo around Moon’s mouth dissolved as well.

 

Senshi turned and squared off against the second youma. 

 

“One down, one to go.” Jupiter smiled.  “Supreme Thunder!”

 

“No wait!” Ranma was too late.  The blast hit Nicol, and she went down holding her side.  Ranma saw Moon reach for her scepter.  “Stop!”  He leapt between Nicol and the Senshi.  With a swipe of his hand he launched a vacuum blade at the ground in front of the Senshi.  The ground exploded, and the senshi covered their eyes to protect against the oncoming dust and debris.  Ranma used the distraction to grab the injured Nicol and leap out of one of the warehouse windows.  “Change back, Ranko.  Now!”

 

Mercury opened her eyes and saw Ranma and the youma were missing.  She dropped her visor and saw the second youma’s signature fade and then disappear.  “It’s gone!”

 

“What’s going on here?” Jupiter asked to no one in particular.  “Why was Ranma helping that youma?”

 

Venus shrugged.  “Ami said it was gone.  Maybe he wanted to finish it off himself.”

 

Mercury shook her head.  She had seen the look in Ranma’s eyes when he had shouted at them to stop.  “No, Jupiter is right.  Ranma was helping it.  I still didn’t sense a dimensional disturbance, so it’s still on our plane.  It has to be disguising itself somehow.”

 

Sailor Moon took a quick look around and asked a simple question that made the other Senshi stop in place.   “Where’s Ranko?”  Moon looked at the stunned expressions on the other’s faces.  “What?  What’s wrong with you guys?”

 

 

 

Back at Ranma’s apartment, Ranma had just finished wrapping Ranko’s ribs and getting her a fresh change of clothes.  Ranko looked at Ranma and saw the concern in his eyes as he dressed her wound.  “You saved me, Ranma!”  She hugged Ranma to her and kissed him with all the passion she could.

 

Ranma remembered all the times he and Akane had kissed since truly confessing their love for one another.  That thought reminded him of what had just occurred at the warehouse.  He grabbed her shoulders and pushed her away.

 

“What?” Ranko’s eyes began to tear.

 

“What was that at the warehouse?  Who is Adamantia?  Was she the one who killed Akane?!”

 

Ranko looked down and took a deep breath.  “Yes.  She’s the one that killed Akane.”

 

“When were you going to tell me?!” Ranma balled up his fists, and his aura began to grow and turn red.

 

Tears started to flow from Ranko’s eyes.  “I didn’t want to tell you.  I wanted you to be happy.”

 

“What do you mean?!”

 

Ranko’s voice had dropped to a choked whisper.  “I saw you doing so much better with all the other girls around.  You were almost back to your old self.  Telling you would have turned you into a more vindictive person.  I wanted the old Ranma back, the Ranma I know in my heart.  The Ranma I love.”  The last sentence was barely a whisper.

 

Ranma was shaking with rage.  “What do you know about love?!  You’re just like them, A STINKING YOUMA!” Ranma grabbed her shoulder and pushed her back into the couch.  He bought his fist up to punch her when her head snapped back from the impact.  That’s when he saw the tears.  The tears that were falling from the her deep blue eyes.  Ranma saw the sincerity, love, and sadness they held.  He unclenched his fist and lowered his arm to his side, the anger draining from his body.  “I’m sorry, Ranko.  I…I’m just…upset that the truth was right here all the time.  I just wish you had told me sooner.”

 

“I’m sorry too, Ranma.  I’m so sorry.”

 

“Ranko?”

 

“Yes, Ranma?”

 

“Tell me the truth.  All of it.”

 

Ranko took a deep breath.  “I’ll start from the beginning.  A long time ago there was a kingdom called the Silver Millennium. This kingdom was ruled by Queen Serenity and was protected by the Sailor Senshi.  There was a dark presence that started to grow inside of kingdom.  That darkness would eventually grow to become Queen Beryl of the dark kingdom who eventually teamed up with another evil named Metallia and destroyed the kingdom.  But before the betrayal, Beryl had an illegitimate daughter.  No one knew who the father was.  She tried to claim that it was Endymion’s…”

 

“Who?”

 

“Tuxedo Kamen.”

 

“The guy that fights with the senshi in the stupid suit?”

 

“That’s him.  Anyway, she tried to claim it was his, but he denied it and Queen Serenity found Beryl to be lying.  Beryl was cowed and she slunk back to the periphery of the solar system.  The child grew into maturity quickly.  Within a few months the baby was a teenager.  She grew in her control of magic as well.  She surpassed her mother within weeks.  The breaking point was when she discovered the Gates of Time.  She saw the future and saw the events that would come to pass.  She wanted to be the one to destroy the Silver Millennium; she wanted to be queen of all.  She created her own lieutenants, including me, to defeat the Senshi and the Generals of the Earth.

 

“Then she made her assault.  It took the combined force of the senshi, generals, and Queen Beryl herself to bring the girl to her knees.  The Princess of Pluto was appointed the guardian of the Gates of Time. A Time Orb and Staff were fashioned for her and she became Sailor Pluto.  Adamantia was sealed under Phoenix Mountain where the eternal Saffron was appointed the Guardian of the seal.  Every time his light burnt out, his first duty was to refresh the magic of the seal.  If his cycle was ever thrown off, then the seal would be broken.”

 

Ranma’s eyes widened.  “I killed Saffron…”

 

“And broke the seal.”

 

“But she said the explosion was her birth!”

 

“The years and her rapid growth had destroyed her body, but her spirit lived on.  More years passed and the spirit began to weaken.  She needed energy to regenerate.  When you killed Saffron and restored Akane, her spirit went into Akane’s body and awakened her.  Adamantia then crept into Akane’s heart crystal, where she leeched off Akane’s energy until she had enough strength to regain her power and recreate a new body.  The explosion was her rebirth into the physical world.  She killed everyone to celebrate.  After she was reborn, she reincarnated her lieutenants.”

 

“What about my dreams?”

 

“What dreams?”

 

Ranma explained about the dream where Akane threw him across the dojo and exploded before the wedding started.  “The wedding happened and we exchanged the rings!” He held up his hand to emphasize the point.

 

Ranko shook her head.  “No.  I can see your memories without the clouds that you put there for yourself.  That’s really how it happened; you just blocked it out and made up a reality that was easier to take.”

 

“But what about the rings!” Ranma’s heart was beginning to crack.

 

“As you walked through the rubble you went into a state of shock.  You found the wedding rings and put them on yours and Akane’s hands.”

 

Ranma clenched his fists and put them in front of his face.  “No!  That’s not true!  We were married!”

 

Ranko sat up and hugged Ranma to her.  “I’m sorry Ranma.”  Ranko’s own tears began to flow once again.  “I’m so sorry, but that’s how it happened.  You just don’t want to remember.”

 

“No!  That’s impossible!” Ranma hugged her back and put his head on her shoulder and began to cry harder.

 

Ranko rocked him back and forth like a crying baby.  “I’m sorry, but that’s how it happened.  You have to know and accept the truth.”

 

Ranma closed his eyes and he drifted back to the wedding.  All his friends were there.  He stood at the front with Ryoga.  The two rings sat on the table in front of the priest.  Akane walked forward looking radiant as her beauty filled the dojo.  It went along the same lines of his dream at the hospital up until those fateful words again, ‘I’m sorry I can’t fight it any longer’.  Akane threw him though the dojo wall and he crashed through the main supports of the house around the dojo, bringing the entire dojo onto himself.  He dug himself as fast as he could.  He heard the girls’ screams.  He felt something he never realized until now.  All the other Kis but Akane’s disappeared.  They had all died first.  Then he heard her scream.  He unleashed the Moko Takabisha and punched through the rubble.  He saw the carnage.  He found Akane in the center of the blast, her body pristine and perfect, but with no life in her at all.  He realized that her scream he heard from under the rubble was when her Ki had disappeared like all the others.  He looked up and saw the rings had fallen next to Akane’s left hand.  Numbed with shock he reached out and put hers on her ring finger and put his on.  He looked at his hand and saw the ring and looked past it to see Akane’s.  There it was, picture that always waked him from his nightmares.

 

Ranma cried harder than he ever had before in his life.  He began to squeeze Ranko harder.  Ranko winced at the pain in her ribs, but took it for Ranma’s sake.

 

After another hour, Ranma came back to himself.  He was free.  He had faced the truth of what had happened and now he knew what he had to do.  He disengaged from Ranko and walked over to the only picture in his entire apartment, Akane’s face with her beautiful smile.  He pulled the wedding ring off of his finger and placed it in front of the frame.

 

Ranko stood up and absently rubbed her injured ribs.  “Ranma?”

 

“We have to get a hold of the Senshi.”

 

Ranko had a confused look on her face.  “What for?”

 

“We’ll need their help if we are going to kill Adamantia.  I can’t bring Akane or any of others that Adamantia has killed back to life, but I can do right by ending her threat to this universe. I’d be lying if I told you that this was not about vengeance, but I am also doing it for justice and for all the people that are still alive.”

 

Ranko put a hand on his shoulder.  “Are you okay?”

 

“Ranko, the first thing I learned from martial arts and what I lived by ever after was to protect those weaker.  We’re the strongest humans.  We have to protect humanity.  The senshi are the strongest superhumans.  We need their power combined with our art to put Adamantia’s reign of terror to an end, once and for all.  I will have my vengeance, but then justice will also be served.”   Ranma’s Ki began to rise.

 

Ranko felt his aura. It wasn’t the heavy depression that had ruled his life for almost the passed year, but the strong confidence that had until now been pushed away from the pigtailed martial artist.  He was free from his grief and he had a purpose.  Saotome Ranma had returned and he was stronger than he had ever been in his life.

 

Ranko turned him around and kissed him again.  Ranma kept it short and separated.  They both looked into each other’s eyes.  The abrupt end to the kiss hurt her.  “I love you, Ranma.”

 

“I love you too, Ranko; but not like that.  I won’t allow myself to love anyone else like that until Adamantia is gone and the world is safe.”

 

“I’m only your sister.”  She tried to cry, but she’d already cried all her tears.

 

Ranma hugged her close again.  “Ranko.  I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry.”

 

Ranko bathed in Ranma’s aura short time and lifted her head.  “I’m okay Ranma.  I’ll have to accept that like you had to accept the truth of the wedding.”  She rubbed her eyes.  “We need to wash our faces and get back to school.  If we hurry, we can get there at lunchtime.”

 

Ranma nodded and went to the kitchen while Ranko went to the bathroom.  They washed their faces and Ranko put on fresh makeup.  They changed into fresh clothes and left for school for the second time that day.

 

 

 

The Sailor Senshi had not seen the Saotomes since the battle that morning and they were worried that something had happened.  Some of them were having some suspicions about Ranko.  The morning passed with excruciating slowness.  At lunch they all sat at their table watching all directions, waiting for the mysterious pair to appear.  Finally they did.  They quickly noticed a changed in the pair.  It appeared as though they had switched strides.  Ranma was now the one walking with an air of confidence while Ranko had the strong but sad stride.  Ranko went toward the lunchroom while Ranma approached their table.  They could all feel the power that was being radiated by the pigtailed martial artist.

 

Ranma walked over behind Ami.  “Ami, can I talk to you?”

 

Ami turned to face him.  “Yes.”

 

“In private.” The other senshi looked between Ami and Ranma.

 

            “Su-Sure.” Ami didn’t know why, but a level of fear had crept into her.  She knew she had nothing to fear from Ranma, but the apprehension grew.

 

            Ranma led her over to his tree.  “Ami, you’re the smartest girl in school, right?”

 

            “I…I suppose.”

 

            “I need to get a hold of the Sailor Senshi.  I need their help.”

 

            “I don’t really know how…”

 

            Ranma put his hands on her shoulders.  “Ami, please.  Do your best.  If anyone can figure it out, you can.”

 

            “I’ll do it.”

 

            “Thank you.  See if you can get them to meet me at the park by my apartment building at midnight tonight.”

 

            “I’ll do my best.”

 

            “That’s all I expect, but I also know that will allow you to succeed.”

 

            Ami smiled at the pigtailed martial artist.  He would meet his senshi, but only one.  She walked over and rejoined the other senshi.

 

            Ranko showed up and gave Ranma his portion of his food.  They ate in silence while the senshi looked on.

 

            Usagi had a sly grin on her face. “So what did you two talk about? Hmmm?”

 

            “He wants to meet with me at midnight in the park.” Ami continued eating like nothing was said.

 

            “What!?!?!?!?” The rest of the senshi were all instantly standing around Ami.

 

            “Meet you!” Minako beamed.

 

            “At the park!” Makoto fumed.

 

            “At midnight.” Usagi had a confused look on her face.

 

            Ami just nodded and went back to eating.  They kept on demanding answers, but she just had a contented smile on her face.

 

            The afternoon school day passed much faster than the morning did for everyone.  They all met at the shrine for practice again.  Ranma turned Usagi’s training over to Ranko, and he took Ami into the main group and trained them all harder then they had ever had before.  The girls were glad to finally get to train with Ranma, but were really starting to get tired of all of it.  After rigorous technique training, he started them sparring again.  He sparred a while with each of them, starting with Mamoru and working his way down to Hotaru.  As he was sparring with Hotaru, he noticed that a lot of her moves would be very useful in using a pole-arm.  He took one of the brooms from the shrine and chopped off the straw, making a makeshift bo. 

 

            “Here you go Hotaru-Chan.  Try fighting me with this.”

 

            Hotaru looked at the makeshift bo.  He can’t know!  Can he?  “But you don’t have anything.”

 

            “Don’t worry about me.  Just attack and I’ll show you a few things.”

 

            Hotaru tried for an overhead swing.  Ranma easily dodged and grabbed the bo.  He tugged slightly and the girl fell over.  “Here’s the first lesson.  Move your feet so you always have balance.  Try to keep your feet at forty-five degree angles.  Also, try to keep your defense up while you strike.  Like this.” Ranma took the bo and showed her a few strikes and how they still had balance and defense.

 

            Hotaru took the staff back and repeated the examples that Ranma demstrated.  Ranma started the sparring match again.  Hotaru did much better this time and managed to stay up and defended.  After a while, training for the day was over.

 

            Ranma wiped the sweat off his brow.  “Good job guys!  We’ll get together again same time tomorrow!  Be ready to work even harder!”

 

            Everyone else, including Ranko, facefaulted.

 

            Ranma walked over and helped Ami up.  “You’d better get ready for tutoring.  You want to eat with me and Ranko again?”

 

            Ami smiled and nodded her head.  “Just let me shower and change before we leave.”  She turned and ran into the shrine.

 

            “I knew I should have been the one to tutor him.” Makoto said under her breath.

 

            Ranma just leaned against the freshly repaired wall and smiled.  I’ll have these girls whipped into shape in no time.

 

            “Hey fem-boy!”

 

            Ranma’s danger sense flared, he leapt straight up as a splash of water hit the ground under him.  “What the?” He turned and saw the last person he expected to see here in Juuban, Pantyhose Tarou standing on top of the wall.

 

            “Saotome Ranma.  Where have you been?  I go to Nerima looking for Happosai, and there’s no more Tendo dojo.  I find all trace of Happosai has been erased from the Earth.  The only person I can find is you, fem-boy.  And here you are, with a whole new set of women.”

 

            “Tarou, you idiot!”

 

            Tarou blinked at Ranma.  “What?  I just want to know where Happosai is.”

 

            “You idiot!  Happosai is dead!”

 

            Tarou straightened out stiff as a board.  “That’s a lie!”  Tarou grabbed another bucket of water and threw it at Ranma.  Ranma just let the water hit him.  Tarou froze up again.  “You’re still a man!”

 

            “That’s right, baka.  Now leave while I’m still in a generous mood.”

 

            “No…No way!”  There’s a cure?

 

            “He said, ‘beat it’!”  Ranko came flying out of nowhere and knocked Tarou off the wall.  “Get out of here Pantyhose before we get mad!”

 

            “Ranma!”  Tarou turned his head back to the male Ranma.  “And Ranma?!”  He did a few more quick takes between the two.  “What the hell?”

 

            “I saaaaiiiid…Get out of here!!!” Ranko gave Tarou an uppercut to the chin and sent him flying.

 

            “Ranko!  Wait a sec!”  Ranma shouted, but he was too late.  Tarou was already airborne.  “I guess I gotta find him.”  Ranma leapt to the wall and before he could go any further, Tarou attacked him.

 

            “I don’t know how you did that Ranma, but you going to pay unless you tell me the truth about Happosai!”

 

            “I already told you, you idiot!  He’s dead.”  Ranma took a swing at Tarou.  Tarou dodged and vaulted to the top of the wall where he started.  He picked up the last bucket of water he had put there. 

 

            “Time to die, Saotome!”  Tarou upended the bucket and transformed into the monstrous cursed form.  The body of a yeti, the head of a bull, a tail like an eel, wings of a crane, and tentacles of an octopus all made him look like a huge terrifying demon.

 

            Rei saw the beast and training took over.  She reached for one of the uncharged wards in her pocket and held it to her head.  “Rin, Pyou, Tou, Sha, Kai, Jin, Retsu, Sai, Zen. Akuryou Taisan!”  The ward stiffened and Rei threw it at Tarou.  The ward hit him in the head and fell to the ground.

 

            “He’s not a demon, Rei!” Ranma shouted.  “Just stay out of the way!  Me and Ranko will take care of him!  Just get some hot water!”

 

            “Hot water?” Rei was officially confused.

 

            Ranma and Ranko fought it out with Tarou.  An array of punches, kicks, parries, and dodges were thrown, received, and performed.  The Senshi just stood dumbstruck at the speed and grace that they fought.  Rei decided she better get that hot water.

 

            Ami had just finished dressing when she saw the main event start with youma outside.  This youma was definitely nothing like the ones she had seen before.  Everyone else is still out there.  She thought.  I’m the only one that can fight it this time.  With practiced ease she pulled out her henshin rod and transformed into Sailor Mercury.  She leapt out the side window and jumped to the roof.  “Shabon Spray Freezing!” She launched the attack and nailed the space where the fight was.  The three combatants had all simultaneously dodged when they heard the attack.  Mercury realized that this youma had skill that rivaled Ranma’s.  Her attacks too long to fire off, the youma had plenty of time to dodge.

 

            “Keep him busy, Ranko!” Ranma disengaged from the fight and jumped to the roof beside Mercury.  He felt something odd from the Senshi and looked at her a second.

 

            Mercury saw him look her up and down quizzically.  “Is there something wrong?”

 

            Ranma shook his head.  “Nothing.  Just get some hot water and this will all be over.”  Ranma jumped back into the battle and began raining punches on the monster again.

 

            Rei came running out with a kettle.  Ranko saw her and leapt over to her.  “I’ll take that!” Ranko swiped it from the raven-haired girl and ran back into the fight.  Ranko swung the kettle onto Tarou’s head like a hammer.  The kettle broke and the hot water flowed over Tarou changing him back into a human.  Ranma chopped him on the back of the neck and knocked him out. 

 

            Ranma turned and checked for Mercury.  Damn!  She’s gone already! 

 

            Ami came out of the shrine, all dressed up and ready to go.  “Did I miss anything?”  The rest of the senshi facefaulted.  “What?”

 

            Mamoru walked up to Ranma.  “What is he, if he’s not a demon?  Why did he call you ‘fem-boy’ and Ranko ‘Ranma’?”

 

            “I’ll…uh…tell you later.  It’s a long story.  Right now I need to have a word with the bull boy.  Yo, Rei!  You have any rope around here?”

 

            Rei got back on her feet.  “Yeah…Sure.”  She ran inside and grabbed some rope and tossed it to Ranma.

 

            Ranma tied up the still out Tarou and turned to Ranko.  “You stay here.”  Ranko nodded and Ranma jumped over the wall.

 

            Ranma set Tarou and down and started slapping him.  “Yo, Tarou.  Wake up!”  No response, so he slapped him a few more times.  Still nothing.  “Hey, Pantyhose!”

 

            Tarou sat bolt upright.  “You little, impudent, genderbending…”

 

            “Not anymore.” Ranma interrupted him with a smirk.

 

            “What do you want?  I just want to know where Happosai is!”

 

            “Tarou, shut up and listen.”  Ranma related the now clear story of what happened to the Nerima crew.  “So Happosai is dead and gone!  You can’t get your name changed!  Just go by Tarou and ditch the stupid accessories!  Nobody will care!”

 

            Tarou shrank against the wall.  “All my life has been wasted…”

 

            “Not entirely.  I could still use you to help me kill Adamantia.”

 

            “No.”

 

            “What?  Why not?”

 

            “What do I care if you and some short skirted bimbos have to fight some witch from the past?  I need to go back to my tribe and re-evaluate my life.”

 

            “You can find it here!  There are several love-starved women around here.  You could take some of the heat off of me.”

 

            “I don’t need any of these weak women.  I’ll go back to the Musk and take a wife there.  I will take your advice and you’ll never see me again.”  Tarou flexed, strained, and the rope finally broke.  He then got up and began to walk away.

 

            “Tarou wait!  I need your help!”

 

            Tarou stopped and turned his head and looked at the pigtailed martial artist.  “You don’t need my help.  You’ve always come out on top in the past, and I don’t think that will change now.”  He turned back and continued walking.

 

            Ranma just stood there and shook his head.  “What do you know, there might actually be a soft spot on that boy after all.”

 

            “I knew we should have just taken him out from the start.”

 

            Ranma turned to see Ranko perched on the wall.  “I told you to stay put!”

 

            “I didn’t interfere.  That should make you happy enough.”

 

            “What is your problem?  He never did anything to you!”

 

            “He did to you!  You should have taken his worthless butt out long ago!”

 

            Ranma shook his head.  “He’s still a martial artist like us.”

 

            “But he doesn’t hold our ideals of protecting the innocents!  He’s a reckless maniac!”

 

            “Ranko…Ahh drop it!” Ranma shook his head and jumped back over the wall.

 

            Ami walked up to Ranma.  “So who was that?”

 

            “Pantyhose Tarou.  It’s a long story.”

 

            “Will you tell me later?”

 

            “Waaaay later.” Ranma scooped her up in his arms.  “Come on, Ranko!  Let’s get home!”

 

            “Yeah, Yeah.” Ranko leapt from the wall to the top of a light pole and then the roof of the building on the other side of the street.  Ranma followed with Ami in his arms.  The others just watched as they bounded across the rooftops.

 

            Mamoru turned to the others.  “How are we going to divide for patrols?”

 

            Haruka stepped forward.  “Michiru, Hotaru and I will take the area around the mall.  Ami should be able to monitor the area around Ranma’s apartment with her computer.”

 

            Usagi skipped over and latched herself onto Mamoru’s arm.  “Mamo-Chan and I will watch around the ice cream shop.  Right Mamo-Chan?”

 

            Mamoru shook his head.  This is going to cost me.  “I guess.  That does cover a decent area.  That leaves Minako, Makoto, and Rei.”

 

            “We’ll just hang around the shrine.”  Rei volunteered.  “They’ve already struck here twice.  We’ll just wait for them and watch the area around.”

 

            Minako strectched.  “Booooring.”

 

            “No matter.  It’s still gives us good coverage.” Haruka picked up her bag.  “Let’s get to it.  It’ll be dark soon.”  The others agreed and went to their designated patrolling area.

 

 

 

            The study session went much the same way as it did before at the Saotome apartment, except of course for the youma attack and nudity parts.  Ranko was still a little miffed at having Ami over, and Ranma still tried to steal food early.  Ami witnessed the Amaguriken match this time and couldn’t believe the speed that the two could move their hands.  She could have sworn she heard the sound barrier break at least four times.  They managed to save the food until it was all ready and they all dined together.  Ami and Ranma began their study session.  Ami was still having a hard time getting Ranma interested in geology.

 

            “And what’s this one?” Ami pointed to one of the pictures in the textbook.

 

            “It’s a rock.” Ranma leaned on one of his fists.

 

            “No, that is granite.” Ami pointed to another.  “Try this one.”

 

            “It’s rock.”  Ranma pointed to another picture.  “And that’s a rock.”  Point.  “And that’s a rock.”  Point.  “And you see that one right there?  That’s a rock too.  Can we move on to another subject?”

 

            Ami stood up and crossed her arms.  “Ranma, you have a test on this in two days.  You need to get these down.”

 

            Ranma remembered how many times Akane had stood like that.  Usually a mallet was approaching.  “Okay, Okay, but can we get of ID’ing rocks for a while?”

 

            “Very well.  We’ll move on to erosion….”

 

            The study session went on like that until Ami announced that she had to go home.  There was still four hours before midnight tonight, and Ami promised that she would get that senshi for Ranma.  She’d work on it as soon as she got home.  She left the apartment and walked around the corner.  Haruka contacted her and told her about everyone’s assigned patrolling areas.  Ami nodded her head and walked around the area around Ranma’s apartment, keeping a wide a berth as possible as she counted the minutes until midnight.

 

            Midnight finally came.  Ami transformed a ways off from the park and walked into the park.  She found Ranma sitting in the lotus position in a clearing.  The air around him seemed to be electrified.  Ranma looked up at her when she approached.  He stood up and bowed.  “My name is Saotome Ranma of the School of Anything Goes Martial Arts.”  He straightened back up.  “I’ve asked you to come here to ask for your help.”

 

            Mercury returned the bow.  “What would you like our help with?”

 

            “I need your help stopping these recent youma attacks.”

 

            “We’ve already been doing that together.  What is different now?”

 

            “I know the source of the youma and I need the Sailor Senshi’s help to find and destroy it.”

 

            “What is the source?”

 

            “Adamantia, the daughter of Beryl.  She and her lieutenants have been the ones sending the youma.  She is also the one that killed my fiancée, my friends, and my family.”

 

            “The daughter of Beryl?  How is that possible and no one know of her?”

 

            Ranma gave her the story that Ranko had related earlier.  “So now all that is left is two lieutenants and Adamantia herself.  It took all of the Senshi plus Beryl to defeat her before, and we need each other to defeat her now.”

 

            “So that’s who we’re up against.  We will have to make another assault on the Negaverse.” A slight shudder went through Mercury’s frame.

 

            “What’s wrong?”

 

            “The last time we went there, we all died.  Sailor Moon brought us all back to life, but it’s still not a pleasant memory.”

 

            A thought crossed Ranma’s mind.  “Can Moon bring anyone back to life?”

 

            “No, just the Senshi.  We have a special bond.”

 

            Ranma shook his head.  “Anyway, will you help me?”

 

            Mercury stood arms akimbo and tried to put on her sternest expression.  “One on condition.  You have to be totally honest with us.”

 

            “About what?”

 

            “Ranko is a youma, isn’t she?  She was the one you saved at the warehouse earlier.”

 

            “Well, if I have to come clean, then you do as well.”

 

            “What are you talking about?”

 

            “About who you are, Ami.”

 

            Mercury’s eyes went wide, and she took a step backwards.  One of her hands went over her mouth.  “I…I don’t know any ‘Ami’.”

 

            “You’re a terrible liar Ami.  You can change clothes and disguise your appearance with magic, but you can’t hide your Ki.  I wasn’t able to feel it before because of my grief, but now that I’m at full power I can sense Ami’s Ki underneath that veil of magic.”

 

            “…”

 

            Ranma took a step towards her.  “There was also all of the other coincidences.  I fought with nine people the other night.  I train nine people at the shrine.  It would be a coincidence if it wasn’t exactly eight women and one man in both cases.  It also explains why Moon appeared while Usagi was using the restroom and Mercury appeared while Ami was in the house.”

 

            Ami was frozen in one place.  All their secrets were out, and Ranma really didn’t need his power to figure it out.  They had all been too careless.

 

            Ranma walked over and put a reassuring hand on Mercury’s shoulder.  “Don’t worry.  I won’t tell anyone.  I just need you and the other Senshi at my side when I face Adamantia.”

 

            Mercury finally recovered.  “What about Ranko?”

 

            “You’re right.  Ranko is a youma, but she has a heart crystal.”

 

            “How? Whose?”

 

            “Mine.”

 

            “How are you still standing?”

 

            “Josenkyo.”

 

            “Gesuntite.”

 

            “No, it’s a place in China, the cursed springs Josenkyo.  There over a hundred pools there and something drowned in each one.  My pop and I went there.  I fell into the spring of drowned girl, and ever since then I would change into girl every time I was splashed with cold water.”

 

            “Is that why Tarou tried to splash water on you?”

 

            “Right.  Tarou is a Josenkyo cursed at well.”

 

            “What drowned in that pool?  I didn’t recognize that animal.”

 

            “He fell into Niuhoomanmaoren- niichuan, the pool of drowned yeti riding a bull while carrying a crane and a eel.  And later he went for a swim in the pool of drowned octopus.”

 

            The blue-haired senshi looked like she about to bust a gut..  “Yeti riding a what?  How can you say all that without laughing?”

 

            “I’ve had to fight him too many times.  His power is no laughing matter.”

 

            “What does this have to do with Ranko getting your crystal?”

 

            “Apparently, when you get the second body, you get a second crystal.  The youma pulled my second crystal out, and I blasted the crystal into it.  The crystal merged with the youma and Ranko was born.”

 

            “How can she do all of your moves?”

 

            “When she absorbed the crystal, she got my memories.  What I can’t figure out is why she got my memories and not the girl who drowned in the pool.”

 

            Mercury thought for a little bit.  “Well, the girl died.  Her soul had already passed on.  You could have just received a blank heart crystal.  Your soul could have imprinted itself on the other one, creating an exact copy.”

 

            Ranma thought about it a second.  “That would make sense.  I didn’t have any better theories, I guess I’ll go with that one.”

 

            “Right.  I don’t think we’ll have any problem getting the others to help.  Adamantia is an enemy of the moon kingdom. We’ll help you destroy her.  After all, we are the pretty soldiers of love and justice.”

 

            “Well at least you got the pretty part right.”

 

            Ami blushed a little bit and realized the full scope of the statement.  “You don’t think we’re soldiers?”

 

            “Well, poorly trained ones at best.  You all would be a lot more powerful with a little coordination and training.  Learn how to combine your powers like we did against that wind youma.”

 

            “All that would be Moon’s fault, she’s our leader.  Although she is our princess, her leadership abilities still leave something to be desired.”

 

            “You let that uncoordinated goofball lead you?”

 

            Mercury hit him in the shoulder.  Ranma actually felt it.  “She’s our princess.  She is the princess of the Silver Millennium and she will be the Queen of the Neo Moon Kingdom.  We would all give our lives for her!”

 

            Ranma rubbed his shoulder.  That hurt!  “Sorry.  Didn’t know it was such a sore spot.”

 

            Mercury sighed.  “I guess you’ll want to hear the whole story.”

 

            “Sure, but one thing…”

 

            “What?”

 

            “Can you change back into Ami?  You attract a lot of attention dressed like that.”  And your punches actually hurt!

 

            “Sure.”  With a small flash, Mizuno Ami stood where Mercury once was.  “That better?”

 

            Ranma smiled.  “Much.”

 

            They went and sat on a park bench, and Ami told Ranma the whole story about how the Moon Kingdom had been destroyed by Metallia and Queen Serenity had sent her daughter’s and the Senshis’ souls into the future.  She also told him about all of their battles and what they had all gone through to come to this moment. 

 

Ranma in turn told her all about him, the unabridged version.  He started off with the training trip to Josenkyo in detail and worked his way up until he came to Juuban.  Ami was astonished at all that he had seen and done, and he had done it without any magical transformations!

 

They then went on to talk about this and that, likes and dislikes, etc.  Anyone passing by at that point would have just thought that the cute couple was just on a date in the park.

 

Unknown to either of the two, Ranko was watching from the bushes.  She had seen and heard the whole thing.  Ranma had told her to stay at the apartment, but he should have known better.  Ranko had managed to elude Ranma’s detection so far, and so far she hadn’t seen any reason for her to stay at home.  She was just a little miffed now that they were getting all cutesy together.

 

Ranko snuck around behind the couple using the Uma-Ken-Sen technique.  She got right behind one of Ranma’s ears.  “So this is why I had to stay at home!  So you could have a date with Ami!” She hissed into his ear.

 

Ranma jumped a good twelve meters into the air.  Ranko came out of hiding and was standing behind the park bench.  Ami turned and saw the redhead.   “Ranko!  What a surprise!”

 

Thud!  Ranma got up and brushed himself off.  “Yeah, nice to see ya, Ranko.”

 

“You just wanted to be alone with Ami!  That was the whole reason you wanted me to stay back!  You don’t love me because you think I’m your sister!  You don’t love me because you’re in love with Ami!”

 

“Ranko that’s not why for either of those things and you know it!”

 

“Yeah, right!”  Ranko suddenly wished she had a mallet.

 

“I came out here to meet the senshi.  I didn’t want them to attack you!  Ami already figured out what you were, probably so has the rest of the senshi.  I would need to explain to them first before bringing you here.  Otherwise, they’d kill you!”

 

Ranko stifled the line of insults she was fixing to throw out and shrunk back.  “Oh.”

 

“And I do only think of you as a sister and I already told you that I wouldn’t love ANYBODY like I loved Akane until Adamantia was dead.”

 

Ranko looked between Ranma and Ami.  Ami was just keeping silent, not knowing what to say.  When Ranko’s gaze fell on her she quickly glanced at Ranma. Ranko looked between them and felt that there was an attraction between them.  Ami was already instinctively looking to Ranma for support.  Ranko shook her head and gave up.  She realized once and for all that Ranma wouldn’t love her the way she wanted.  She pat Ami on the shoulder.  “Take care of him.”  That’s all she said before she walked out of the park and back to the apartment.

 

Ami turned to Ranma.  “Is she going to be alright?”

 

Ranma eyes softened.  “I hope so.  We need to call the other senshi together and get all this together.”

 

Ami looked at her watch and realized how long they had been talking.  It was already three-in-the-morning!  “How about we all talk at the shrine?  We’ll all be there anyway.”

 

“Ranko can’t go in.  The wards.”

 

“Then how about Haruka and Michiru’s townhouse after training?  Then we can talk to Pluto as well.”

 

Ranma nodded.  “That will work.”

 

Ami smiled.  “I need to get some sleep.  I have a feeling that tomorrow is going to be a long day.”

 

“Yup.  Do you want a ride home?”

 

“I’d like that.”

 

Ranma scooped the smaller girl up into his arms and she put hers around his neck.  She was really enjoying these trips now.  She knew that Ranma wouldn’t let anything happen to her, and she swore that she would always protect him the best she could.

 

 

 

In the Hela Castle, Adamantia smiled at her two lieutenants bowed before her.  “Are the preparations complete?”

 

Vaevictis stood up.  “Yes, my Queen.  The super youma are complete.  We’ve made five of them.  That should be enough to destroy the Sailor Senshi.”

 

Arcades stood as well.  “I am eager to destroy them, when do we strike?”

 

Adamantia pondered a moment.  “Do we have sufficient power to invade Earth with my entire army?”

 

“The energy is being pulled from the heart crystals as we speak.  Most of the heart crystals have already been drained of their power, but the remaining ones should give us enough energy to launch our invasion.”

 

Adamantia looked outward from her subordinates.  “The moon will be full in three days; we shall strike then.  In open defiance of the old kingdom, we shall crush all the dreams of the new!”

 

All youma present cheered at the plan.  They were all her children and they were going to make her proud.  They would destroy the Senshi who had imprisoned their mother so long ago.

 

Adamantia leaned back on her throne with a contented smile on her face.  She reached for the bauble around her neck and played with it absently.  If you were to look closer, you would realize that it was a heart crystal.  If you were able to sense Ki, you would know that is was the crystal of Tendo Akane.  If the crystal could speak, it would shout in at the top of her lungs, “Ranma will stop you!”