[FFML] [fanfic][UY/Ranma/SisPri] "Lonely Souls" Part 4 C Side (final draft)
pyeknu at hotmail.com
Tue Jul 31 18:09:41 PDT 2007
And this is it for tonight.
**** **** ****
Fourteen years ago . . .
Over two billion kilometres from the Earth, a girl in a tiger-stripped
jumper crept through the control room of Triton's Central Warp Chamber.
Slowly, she shuffled along the edges of the walls, hoping her friend Oyuki
wouldn't find her. Just as she was about to leave, she saw a shadow along
the other side of the glass, where the workstations were located.
She needed a place to hide!
She dived under the nearest table just as the person came into the room.
* * *
Muttering, the junior technician reached over to his boss' terminal and
flipped off the power-switch. *Stupid senior technicians,* he grumbled to
himself as he left the room to get back to his lunch. *Can't be bothered to
double-check his terminal! Has to send someone ELSE to check it! Who cares
if a lowly junior tech has to miss **their** lunch?*
As he turned behind him for one last spot check, he noticed a single light
still blinking. As mounting embarrassment surged from deep inside his gut,
he confirmed it was coming from the relay transporter grid on HIS terminal.
Looking quickly around the room to see if anyone might have caught his
error, he flipped that switch off too. *Good thing I checked after all,* he
thought as he shut the door behind him. Who knows what could happen if
someone bumped the wrong button while the Chamber was on?
* * *
A few seconds later, Oyuki and her cousin Toji pounced on Lum from two
different directions, each shouting "IT!" gleefully.
None of the children ever noticed the co-ordinates inserted into the grid.
No one noticed the transport button being depressed.
Since the primary power feed had been shut down, the computer controlling
the Central Warp Chamber could do nothing.
All three children shortly after ran out of the room barking with laughter
just as the senior technician returned from his lunch. Looking inside, he
was quick to notice the mess. To his relief, the power had already been
Who knew what could have happened otherwise?
**** **** ****
By Fred Herriot
pyeknu at hotmail.com OR fherriot at yahoo.com
**** **** ****
The teaser was written by David Chamberlain.
**** **** ****
Based on "Urusei Yatsura" and "Ranma 1/2," created by Takahashi Rumiko; and
"Sister Princess," created by Tenhiro Naoto and Kimino Sakurako.
**** **** ****
NOTE: The writer's notes are in a separate text file.
**** **** ****
THE FOURTH PART, "C" SIDE - FREEDOM FROM DESTINY
The tunnel seemed to last forever.
Ranma grunted, adjusting the straps of her backpack as she followed Negako
toward the beacon of light that lay an eternity ahead of them. Glancing to
both sides, then up, then down, she noted the stars surrounding them. There
was no discernible pattern to them, at least not one Ranma could recognize.
She felt as though she was walking down some glass-lined corridor reaching
throughout the Universe. The air was breathable yet not stale, salty, misty
or any other condition she might recognize as "normal." Normal for Earth,
This was clearly NOT Earth.
Ranma stopped. Negako glanced at her. "I . . . " An automatic denial
surged up her throat, and then she fought it down with a sigh. Lies sang
out to the person before her. "Somewhat. I'm trying not to feel too
The grandmaster of Saikoo Jinseijitsu-ryuu nodded. "Understandable. Ataru
was the same when he first travelled to Sanctuary."
She waved Ranma with her. Ranma picked up her pace. "How long?"
"It depends," Negako replied. "Remember, there is a profound difference
between the temporal dynamics of Earth's dimension and the temporal dynamics
in Sanctuary itself. Sometimes, the journey is very short, a matter of
minutes. Sometimes, it can last for hours. Hungry?"
"I'm alright. Can we walk side-by-side?"
"If you wish."
Ranma moved to her right, automatically reaching for the grandmaster's
hand. The latter blinked, trying not to grin too much. The former was
quick to notice. "You know, you really are beautiful when you smile,
Negako." She winked at her companion. "Why are you so afraid of showing
emotion to other people? Ataru told me you do have them."
"True, I do," Negako admitted. "But in most situations, I simply see no
need to express emotion, especially to the extent 'normal' people take for
granted. Until I was freed of Ataru, I never . . . " She paused. "No, I
RARELY had chances to experience the 'good' side of humanity. Ironically,
they all happened when I was with Happy."
"Jijii?!" Ranma gaped at her. "So that's why you call him 'Happy' instead
of 'Happoosai,' eh? Did he try to free you before?"
"Three times. The third time, he paid dearly for his attempt at 'stealing'
me from the Moroboshi Clan." Negako sighed. "His addiction to absorbing
the ki from female undergarments was a result of that incident."
"Damn . . . " Ranma looked down as she considered that. "I mean, he
annoys the hell out of me at times, but I'd never really wish him dead or
anything like that. Just like all the others . . . "
"Though he may not say it in the open, he deeply cares for you, Ranma. You
have the potential to become the living expression of what he wanted to
create when he created Musabetsu Kakutou-ryuu. In you, he sees what he's
created preserved for future generations."
"But what if I don't want to run a doojou, Negako?"
"That is alright. One needs no physical structure to pass the Art to a
worthy student. Your training trip with Genma, for all his faults in
teaching you, did prove that." Negako looked on her, humming.
"What is it?"
"Have you ever contemplated becoming a doctor?"
Ranma's eyes widened. She stared thoughtfully at the light. "Not really.
You saying that should be something I should consider?"
"It is a possibility. Toofuu spoke of your potential when I invited him to
come to the Island to train with Chikage's grandfather Ryuuji and myself.
Even in the brief time he knew you, he lamented that your skill level was so
narrowly focused. He did not understand why until we discovered what Genma
did to you, though." A pause. "He sends his apologizes for not noticing
that before. He also apologizes for the one incident with Akane when he
made your legs lose their strength so she could carry you home."
Ranma took that in with a smile. "Thanks. And I'll thank him when we get
back to the Island." A pause. "Negako?"
"Where did I go wrong with Akane?"
"That, I suggest you discuss with Sakuya, Chikage or Karen. I am capable
of many things, but emotional psychoanalysis is not one of my stronger
suits." She then stopped. Ranma halted, she giving her companion a curious
look. Negako faced her new student. Then, to the other woman's surprise,
she leaned over to give her a tender kiss. "Thank you, Ranma."
Ranma blinked, and then she stuttered, "F-f-for wh-what . . . ?"
"For rating my smile as 'beautiful.' I know you rated Akane's smile the
same way when you feelings for her were the strongest."
"I . . . " Ranma stopped. "You're welcome . . .!" She then turned as the
light ahead of them suddenly seemed to grow. "Eh?!" She automatically
shifted herself before Negako. "What the hell's going on . . .?!" she
demanded, tensing as Negako squeezed her shoulder.
"It is alright," Negako reported. "Our trip will be short this time
around. Brace yourself to jump at my command."
Ranma nodded as the light seemed to encompass her whole field of vision.
On hearing Negako call out "NOW!", she sprang . . .
To land on a rock the size of the Tendou sitting room. Quickly rolling to
her feet, she stopped on seeing the rock's edge . . .
And a black void beyond.
Ranma backed away before feeling Negako's hands on her shoulders. At that
moment, her eyes picked up a faint aura of light lying above that darkness.
She turned to Negako. "Is there an end to that?" She pointed beyond the
Negako shook her head. "No. Not until the end of Time Itself."
Ranma took that in. Gulping, she turned back, this time looking up and
away from the darkness. And upon a floating, flat-topped asteroid about
five kilometres wide, it supporting a glittering city so futuristic in style
and design, Ranma doubted the creators of "Star Trek," "Star Wars" or
"Babylon 5" could equal it! "Whoa . . . " she gasped, and then her eyes
turned up to gaze into a -- well, "sky" seemed the most comfortable term for
the panorama of boiling platinum, silvery, golden, crimson and deep azure
energy that laid overhead. A sky that seemed to stretch forever and ever,
yet clearly melted into the pitch darkness lying beneath Ranma and Negako's
feet. "Oh, man . . .!"
"Welcome to Sanctuary, Ranma," Negako announced.
* * *
"Hmm . . .?" Ataru's eyes fluttered as he sat up, blinking on seeing Karen
peeking into his bedroom. "Oh, Karen-chan . . . " he called out before
glancing at the clock on the nightstand. "What's wrong? Can't you sleep?"
"Not really." Karen stepped into the room, walking over to sit on his bed.
"I was wondering if you were feeling sleepy or not."
"I . . . " He shuddered as a bout of dizziness overwhelmed him for a
moment. "Oh, man!" he gasped. "What the heck happened . . .?"
"Onii-chan, are you okay?!" Karen slid over to feel his head. Ataru
remained still for a moment, and then relaxed as she pulled her hand back.
"Well, you're not running a fever or anything. Was it something you ate?"
"Better make sure Shirayuki-chan doesn't hear that," he warned with a
chuckle before reaching over to draw her close to him.
"Onii-chan!" she squealed before sighing as he drew her into his embrace.
"Oh, Onii-chan! You miss Onee-chan already, don't you?"
He considered that for a moment before nodding. "Funny. I do miss her.
And it's worse knowing that when she and Onee-chan comes back, five weeks
would've passed for them. And for us, it'd be . . . " A pause. "Five
"I'd love to see Sanctuary," she admitted. "We all would love to see it,
even just once. Why won't you let us go there, Onii-chan?"
He playfully ruffled her hair. "Because it's not a safe place for nice
girls like you," he reminded her. "It's an asteroid floating in a null-time
tunnel reaching all the way to this moment from the end of Time. If you
fell off the asteroid, you'd fall and fall and fall until you'd vanish into
Eternity. And THAT, I'd never wish on ANYONE."
"Not even those jerks in Tomobiki?"
He lightly smiled. "No, not even them, Karen-chan."
"You hate them, don't you?"
Ataru leaned over to kiss her cheek. "Not really. I just don't have any
desire to be with them anymore, Karen-chan. And I'm worried about you guys.
You and the others are WAY more important to me, Karen-chan. You're my
family now. A family that cares for me a hell of a lot more than Muchi or
Kinshou ever did. What happens if people like Mendou find out that I've got
twelve sisters, all who love me very much? Would they accept it? Would
they decide that since, in their eyes, I never deserved anything good to
happen to me, they'd do everything in their power to break us apart? All so
they could enjoy seeing me suffer? I don't want that. Do you?"
"Of course not!" Karen reached up to hold the arm lying on her tummy close
to her. "We'll never leave you, Onii-chan! Never!"
Silence fell as they relaxed, and then the door opened. "Onii-chama?"
"Kaho-chan?!" both called out on seeing the young cheerleader peek in.
Kaho blinked on seeing Karen beside Ataru. "Ah, Karen-chan, gomen ne!"
She then yelped as a foot tripped over the doorstop. Both winced as Kaho
fell on her face. Karen leapt off the bed so she could help her sister back
to her feet. "Kaho-chan, are you okay?" Karen tried not to laugh; Kaho's
tripping over something often seemed a daily occurrence.
Kaho giggled in embarrassment as she walked over to sit on the bed. "Kaho
thought Onii-chama didn't want to be alone tonight with Onee-chama now in
Sanctuary, so Kaho came to be with Onii-chama." She slid in to embrace
"Kaho . . . " he whispered before kissing her forehead. "Thanks."
"Aaah!" she squealed. "Onii-chama's beard tickles!"
Laughter filled the room. Karen slipped back into bed. Seeing that things
were becoming crowded, Ataru sat up, reclining against the wall. Karen sat
between him and the nightstand while Kaho reclined on the other side,
draping herself on his lap. "Oh, Onii-chan, what's going to happen if the
others come in here to be with you?" Karen asked.
"It best not become a fight," Ataru warned.
"Hmm? What is it, Kaho-chan?"
"Why won't Onii-chama or Onee-chama let Kaho go to Sanctuary?"
"Why?" He sighed as he considered if there was a nice way of putting it.
Finding nothing, he began, "Well, when you go through the tunnel, you land
on a rock the size of this room. But beyond the rock is this big void of
NOTHING that extends all the way to the end of Time. If you fall of, you'll
fall and fall and just keep on falling . . .!"
Kaho quivered, and then she yelped, burying her face into Ataru's chest.
"Kaho doesn't want to fall!" she wailed.
He rubbed Kaho's forehead. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" he apologised as he
kissed her, allowing her to lay her head on his shoulder. "Anyhow . . . "
* * *
"Ranma, I DID warn you about taking a wrong step."
"I REALLY NEED TO BE REMINDED OF THAT RIGHT NOW, NEGAKO!"
Ranma grunted as she clawed her way back to the surface of one of the small
rocks leading in a chain of ten such boulders between what she saw as the
"beam in" point and Sanctuary. As soon as she was on flat ground, she took
a deep breath, and then she stood up. Her eyes fell on the next rock in the
chain. It was the size of a king-sized bed, presently hovering forty metres
away. "Damn, how could I've misjudged that . . .?"
Negako's eyebrow arched. "Ranma, if the dynamics of time are different
here, how different can the dynamics of space be?"
The younger woman paused, staring at the grandmaster before a nod bobbed
her head. "So I can't judge distances here, right?"
Negako nodded. "Exactly. When you are in Sanctuary itself, then you can
relax since an artificial environment is kept there for the benefit of those
who visit. The same is true for the asteroids that allow people to enter
Sanctuary. If they are capable, of course."
Ranma shuddered before calming herself. "So how can I . . .?"
She screamed as Negako grabbed her by the straps of her backpack. Her eyes
then widened to the size of saucers as she was pulled across that endless
chasm to the next asteroid. Negako, at least, allowed Ranma to land on her
feet. Gasping as she collapsed to her knees, the younger woman panted
before looking up as Negako took the measure of the next leap. "Damn it
all, Negako! WARN me about that, will ya?!" she spat out.
"Things happen here without warning, Ranma." Negako tried not to smirk at
her new student's protest. "Alright, three more jumps and we are . . . "
Ranma screamed again as Negako grabbed her by the backpack. In a single
leap, they were flying. As they turned to make a landing, the rock
shattered! "OH, SHIT!" Ranma yelped as they slipped towards the unending
A ki-chain with a hooked end leapt from Negako's palm, soaring past the
remaining rocks in the floating archipelago to dig into the hard rock of the
Sanctuary asteroid. Ranma cried out as she found herself yanked across the
chasm. She was then flipped up to land on the flat ground. A second later,
Negako flipped up to join her, and then she dispersed the Psychic
Kusarigama. She waved Ranma with her. "We are here."
Ranma panted. "Shit, Jusenkyou was NICE compared to this place!"
* * *
The city atop the Sanctuary asteroid was walled. Two gates provided
entrance to the city, one opening to the chain of rocks from the "beam in"
point, the other opening directly to the time-chasm itself. The city's
interior was built on a spoke-wheel format, eight streets leading from the
wall to intersect at the centre. A lighthouse-like tower surrounded by a
traffic circle marked the centre-point of the asteroid. As they walked from
the gate, Ranma noticed the buildings lining the streets were low
structures, none higher than five floors in human terms. Still, despite the
rural feel, the building designs were as futuristic as Ranma assumed when
she first gazed on this place. "Hey, Negako, who built this place anyway?"
"Their identities are unknown," Negako reported. "From what I have
ascertained in previous visits to this place, those who frequent Sanctuary
refer to its builders as the 'Questors.'"
"'Questors,' huh? What were they looking for?"
"That is unknown to everyone. However, what is known is that the Questors
hailed from the very end of Time Itself."
"They were reaching back in time?"
"Yes. They reached to a point about three billion years ago as we measure
time. Then, for reasons unknown, they committed mass suicide. Sanctuary
itself is all that remains of their culture. In this time period, of
Ranma whistled. "Weird."
They reached the traffic circle. Negako lead Ranma to the second street to
their left. Heading back toward the wall, Ranma noted that some of the lots
lining this street were undeveloped. Trees -- many so alien-looking to
Ranma, she couldn't HOPE to find words to describe them -- took up those
"None of these are dangerous, are they?" she asked, pointing at one.
"It depends on how you define 'danger,'" Negako reported. "The fruit they
produce is incompatible to our digestive systems, but Ataru reported that
when he sat on one of the limbs, it felt as if he was in bed. I advise you
to NOT try to injure them, though," she warned with a raised finger.
"Gotcha . . . hey! There's a doojou!"
Negako silently chuckled as Ranma ran past her to a cleared lot bearing a
simple wood and paper-walled doojou, like the Tendou's training hall in
general design. Stopping at the gate, she noted there was no sign to
indicate what Art was practised here. She opened the doors to head in.
Glancing around, she quickly saw that a classical rock garden had been raked
out around the doojou itself. "Nice place . . . " She whistled, and then
she saw a small residence located behind the doojou. "Hey, Negako, did you
build this place or did someone else from Earth come here?"
Negako stepped into the garden, waving Ranma with her to the residence.
"Someone else did come here. Around 1942 as we tell time."
"Who? Do you know her?"
"I know OF her," Negako said. "Deannette Antonia Raeburn."
"Major Raeburn . . .?" Ranma gasped as her mind conjured images of a
twenty-something, brown-haired, blue-eyed tomboy from British Columbia.
History books credited her with being the top "specialized warfare" -- that
was the Canadian euphemism for military operations by people possessing
metahuman or paranormal powers and abilities -- soldier operating during the
Second World War. Major Dean Raeburn, atop becoming the last heir of the
immortal Japanese ninjutsu grandmaster Hosan Hirosuke, had also won the
right to make use of an alien "power jewel" which granted her Captain
Marvel-like powers. She also gained the use of a deadly, chisel-pointed
sword called a "cat's claw" blade, said to be so tough, it could shatter the
hardest diamond in one stroke. With these weapons, Major Raeburn helped
establish the "War Hawks," a team of Canadian military metahumans who fought
Axis paranormals around the world. Major Raeburn and the War Hawks
disappeared shortly after VJ-Day, their final fate a total mystery to the
general public. In spite of Genma's assertions that women were weak when it
came to martial arts, one only had to look at Major Raeburn's example --
Ranma learned of the Canadian when she attended junior high -- to see how
wrong he was. "Oh, man!" Ranma breathed out.
"The same," Negako confirmed as they stepped into the residence. It
reminded Ranma of her family home. "Sanctuary is most frequently used by
the various Seeker Power Jewel Warriors as a relaxation zone to help them
recover from their various battles," she added.
Ranma blinked. The Seekers, according to an interview Major Raeburn
granted in 1944 to Allied war correspondents, were a race of immortals, far
above what Japanese might call "kami," who died out en masse long before the
first signs of life appeared on Earth. The Power Jewels were the only
physical legacy remaining of that race. "So how did you get the 'keys' to
"Someone gave the 'key' to me two years ago. I would rather not reveal
that person's identity at this time, though."
"Oh? Sounds fair enough. So where do I sleep?"
Negako indicated one room. "Right here."
Ranma looked inside, smirking on seeing a thick futon and other basic home
necessities awaiting her. "Nice place." She slipped off her pack, setting
it aside. "What about food?" she then asked. "Where can we get that?"
"There's a dry storage room in the basement here that has a fair selection.
If you wish to try it, there's also a replicator unit."
"Like from 'Star Trek?!'"
"The same. The unit is Zephyrite. Anything flagged in red indicates foods
you should avoid. Terran selections span Japanese, Korean, Mandarin,
Italian and American cuisines. There should be no problems in that regard."
"One other thing." Negako reached into her own small pack to draw out a
laptop computer. "Rinrin believed you might need this."
Ranma smiled, taking the machine from the grandmaster. "Thanks. I guess I
would need it. There're no power problems here?"
"No. I will leave you to make yourself at home. Get some sleep as soon as
you can. When you wake up, we will begin training."
"Right. Um, do we try to keep time in this place?"
"In a place where normal rules of time have little effect?" Negako's
eyebrow arched. "What do you suggest, Ranma?"
"Ah . . .!" the younger woman exclaimed. "R-right! I should've realized
that!" She shrugged embarrassedly. "So how do we do this?"
"Your body's internal timekeeping mechanisms will suffice for now. Do not
worry if you feel your internal 'clock' going out of sync. Ataru found it
to be of no real concern while he was staying here. Try to get some sleep."
Negako stepped out. Ranma sighed, moving to draw the shades over the
window. To her surprise, the shades blocked out all exterior light.
Overhead, a two-tube ceiling light provided what internal light there was,
though there was also a lamp on a nightstand by the futon. There was also a
worktable. Ranma set the laptop there, plugging it into a nearby outlet.
Flicking the machine on, she smiled as the programs clicked on. She dug out
her UHD diskette. Loading that, she drew up her personal journal files:
"Journal Entry, Day 0 of Sanctuary visit,
"I never thought I would wind up on another PLANET of all things, even
after meeting Moroboshi Ataru, Negako and their family. Yet now, I'm
writing this from a city in another DIMENSION, let alone another planet!
"Comparing this place to all the other places I've been to, Sanctuary is in
a class all by itself. There's no clear day or night here. All light comes
from a sky of burning energy above the rock where the city stands. Have to
ask Negako about that. How far up is that 'sky' anyway? It's hard to tell
distances in this place. And I HAVE to watch my step here. If what just
happened to Negako and me as we were making our way into this place is
normal, all it would take is one bad move and I'm a goner!
"Sanctuary floats over a tunnel that, according to Negako, extends to the
end of Time. How far ahead is that? Billions of years? Or is there no end
of Time? That's scary. It's no wonder Ataru doesn't want his sisters,
especially Kaho, to come here."
"Ataru . . .?" Ranma stopped, glancing at the futon. Taking a moment to
collect her thoughts, she turned back to the laptop.
"I feel weird. Tonight's the first night I'm gonna be sleeping alone since
Ataru dropped the story about the Niphentaxians on me. That was what?
Three, four days ago? And I . . . "
She paused before continuing:
" . . . I miss him already. Strange, isn't it? I just left him in the
House not an hour ago. And yeah, Negako's here, but she's not Ataru. What
does that mean to me? Does it mean that I really care for him? Do I . . .
" . . . I love him?
"I wish I could answer that.
"I know that I LIKE him! But is that enough for me now?
"Oh, well, I guess we'll have to wait and see."
Glancing over the words she just typed, Ranma sighed, and then saved the
journal entry before closing down her laptop.
* * *
Ataru, Karen and Kaho looked up to see Hinako peek into the room. "Hey,
what're you doing here?" he wondered. "Can't you sleep?"
Hinako shook her head. "Hina's worried about Onee-tama." She walked into
the room, rubbing her eyes, and then she crawled onto the bed. "And Hina
knows Onii-tama's also worried about Onee-tama. Hina just wishes . . . "
Ataru shifted Kaho away from him to draw his youngest sister onto his lap.
"You wanted to go to Sanctuary too, huh?"
Hinako giggled, leaning into his chest. "Onii-tama really, really, really
likes Onee-tama, doesn't he?" she said as she gazed knowingly into his eyes.
"Well, if Hinako-chan likes her, then I have to like her too, I guess," he
mused, rubbing his chin on her forehead.
Hinako squealed. Everyone then blinked as the door opened, revealing
Sakuya carrying a rolled-up futon under one arm and Hinako's favourite
stuffed teddy bear, a huge toy as big as Marie's dog, in the other hand. "I
guess I'm not the only one who thought of keeping Onii-sama company," the
eldest of the sisters declared as she spread the futon and Mister Bear on
"Waai! Sakuya-chan brought Kuma-san!" Hinako reached out for her prized
bedtime companion. "Hina wants Kuma-san! Kuma-san!"
"Ah! You have to choose, Hinako-chan!" Sakuya wagged her finger at the
youngest of the sisters. "What's it going to be?! Kuma-san or Onii-sama?!"
Giggling, Hinako leaned into Ataru. "Hina'll always choose Onii-tama!"
She rubbed her head in the crook of his neck. "Aaah! He's OUR brother,
too, Hinako-chan!" Kaho wailed.
Ataru rolled his eyes to the ceiling as the sisters started arguing.
*Maybe I SHOULD have gone to Sanctuary,* he ruefully mused.
* * *
"Wake up, Ranma!"
Ranma grunted, looking up to see Negako gazing down on her. "Oh, man . . .
" She yawned, sitting up. "How long was I asleep?"
"That is a hard question to answer," the grandmaster warned. "In one
respect, you got eight hours' rest. Come. Breakfast is waiting."
Ranma watched her go. Scrambling out of bed, she followed her host to the
small sitting room located between the sleeping quarters and the dojo. "'In
one respect?' What the heck does THAT mean, Negako?" she asked.
"Observe." Negako reached into her top to draw out a hand-held timepiece.
Ranma noted it was a gear-driven automatic device, no doubt made in Europe.
"Needs to be wound up." She took it from Negako, and then twisted the
knob to wind the spring. The clock began to tick, and then it fell silent.
"Huh?!" She then wound it up again. Again, only a few ticks echoed from it
before it fell silent. "What the hell . . .?!"
Negako took the timepiece back. "A null-time vacuum."
Ranma stared at her. "'Null-time vacuum?!'"
The grandmaster waved her into the sitting room. Once Ranma was seated,
she headed into the kitchen to bring out two bowls of soulloungt'ang.
"Exactly. Anything affected strongly by linear time is halted or slowed to
a snail's pace when it is brought into Sanctuary. Your aging process, for
example. As long as you remain here, you will not age. If you so desired,
you could be virtually immortal. But since Sanctuary has little 'creature
comforts' . . . "
"People'd go insane here," Ranma mused, sniffing the delicious aroma of the
soulloungt'ang as Negako retrieved kitchen utensils and a bottle of spring
water. "Then how can you cook food in this place?" she asked.
"Cooking food, healing from injuries and other matters are not totally
influenced by lineal time, Ranma." Negako set out the chopsticks, and then
she poured Ranma a glass of water. "Take boiling soulloungt'ang. The basic
broth takes from one to two days to prepare. But if you used a microwave
oven or 'hot' ki to aid in the actual cooking . . . "
"It goes faster," Ranma concluded.
Ranma shook her head. "It's hard to accept."
"Even for me," Negako mused. "Clearly, the Questors possessed -- or WILL
possess if you choose to view it in that manner -- such an advanced
understanding of temporal science, creating Sanctuary was child's play. I
believe I COULD come to understand it . . . "
"But you'd be probably driven out of your mind doing that, right?"
"Perhaps," Negako admitted.
Ranma laughed. "Guess what? You're human, Negako!"
Negako blinked. "Should I feel complimented or insulted?"
The younger woman's laughter picked up.
* * *
Breakfast was soon done. Negako directed Ranma into a furo. There, Ranma
received her healing shiatsu, something she received from Ataru before
breakfast when she was staying on Promised Island. As Negako worked on her,
Ranma asked if the process could be increased given the differences between
Sanctuary and Earth. "I will attempt to do that, but there is a danger,"
"What sort of danger?"
"Over-treatment." The ninjutsu grandmaster gently vibrated a finger over a
point on Ranma's scalp. "You know of overmedication, do you not?" Seeing
Ranma nod, she continued, "Well, there is also such a thing as receiving TOO
much shiatsu treatment. Your body needs all the opportunities it can
receive to adjust to any significant changes in your shiatsu or ki patterns,
Ranma, just as it must adjust to 'normal' matters like a change of diet or a
change in your exercise pattern. If that time is not allocated . . . "
"It'd be just as bad as not being treated at all."
"Gotcha." Ranma relaxed. "Hey, Negako, can I ask you something?"
"What is it?"
"Was Ataru ever bothered whenever you and he were here in Sanctuary?" A
slow flush crossed Ranma's cheeks. "You know, like in . . .?"
Ranma's cheeks instantly went cherry-red. "Um, y-y-yeah . . . "
"Sometimes." She pressed another point. "As Sakuya and Chikage attempted
to impress onto you when they spoke to you, there is no shame in feeling
that. In fact, I am aware of certain cultures that consider sexual
relations between siblings to be not only natural but *proper.*"
Ranma gaped at her. "Really?!"
Negako nodded. "Indeed. Sexual arousal is a function of human biology.
It is the obvious physical sign that you are ready to procreate. However,
the physical desire to procreate does not always match to a compatible
emotional need. So our society considers it 'proper' to control the
physical need, focus it only to those one emotionally considers to be
'safe.' You felt that way on occasion for Akane, did you not?"
"Um, y-yeah . . . I g-guess so," Ranma stuttered. "At least, I think I
d-d-did. I just didn't really u-u-understand it." She shrugged before
glancing quizzically on Negako. "Does that make me perverted, Negako?"
"No, not by the definition of the term I understand," Negako admitted.
"Why are you so curious about this, Ranma? You clearly do not wish to
pursue an intimate relationship with Akane at this time, if ever again."
"Yeah, I don't, but . . .!" Ranma stopped, and then she sighed. "I guess
I just want to try to understand where things went wrong between us, Negako.
I mean, you're right. I don't imagine marrying Akane anymore, not after
what's happened. But I still want to be her friend. And I don't want to
make the same mistakes Oyaji made with me when I finally have kids. IF I
have kids, of course!" She held up her finger before she spat out, "Damn!
Sakuya-chan was right. I AM too young to worry about this!"
"Well, it is good that you realize it now instead of when you are trapped
in a marriage with no emotional underpinnings." Negako then nodded.
"Alright, we are done for this session. Time for the doojou."
"Hai . . . "
* * *
"You can't access them at ALL?!"
Genma shook his head. Despite it being past midnight, the lights in the
sitting room shone. Kasumi and Nabiki were both in bed, though Souun could
sense Akane was awake. "I've tried everything, Tendou-kun! Much that I am
VERY wary to call upon the Sen-ken forms, the fact that the boy memorized
them, then passed them on to those infernal mirror-twins of his . . .!"
Souun sighed sympathetically. Yes, the Sen-ken techniques, especially the
Yamasen-ken forms, WERE dangerous. One need not look past the example of
Kumon Ryuu's father to see that. But Ranma was more responsible than THAT!
After all, had Ranma used those techniques for personal gain? Of course
not! Since Ranma DID know them, they would have been copied into the
mirror-clones . . .
A shudder shook the Tendou patriarch as he remembered Toshiko's words to
him about that incident. Why did Ranma disregard what Souun had decided
about those two, STEALING that compact from Nabiki to let them go free?
Why?! Did that mean . . .? That Ranma had long come to the point where he
no longer really cared about what Souun wanted? It was very clear that
Ranma had reached that point concerning Genma! Which meant . . .
The schools HAD to be united! No matter what happened, the schools HAD to
be united. If what was happening with Nodoka and her relatives bore fruit,
then everything his friend had done over the last decade and more will be
lost. And though Souun didn't appreciate the idiot stunts Genma pulled
concerning Ranma's training, he knew Genma had trained a very fine martial
artist. That outcome had to be protected and nourished under their
guidance. It could NOT be lost to a family of greedy bastards like the
Asagayas, much less a wandering family of cooks like the Kuonjis, a family
of deviants like the Kunous and ESPECIALLY a clan of female chauvinists like
those Chinese Amazons!
Both turned as Akane stepped in. A smile was on her face as she twirled,
modelling the now-restored Densetsu no Doogi. Souun's eyes widened before
he nodded. "I see you wish to continue to press your claim for Ranma-kun."
"I've no choice!" The smile faded from her face as she glared at him. "I
don't know what the hell you were thinking earlier by saying that fake was
going to marry Ranma! If she wants him, she has to come through me first,
The fathers gazed on her, and then exchanged a look before Genma slid his
glasses on his nose. "Perhaps we were too hasty about moving the engagement
away from you, Akane-chan." He waved the youngest Tendou sister to a floor
mat. "Please understand that this is something your father and I've dreamed
of for a very long time. To come so close to making it happen, then have it
snatched away . . . " He shuddered. "It galls me. I . . . " He stopped.
Then, to Souun and Akane's surprise, he prostrated himself before her.
"Tendou Akane, I only can but give you my sincerest apologies for the
trouble my mistakes in raising my son, your fiancé, have brought you.
Please, know I will be honoured to call you my daughter-in-law when we
finally make my son see some reason."
"I . . .!" Akane's cheeks reddened. "Uncle . . .!"
Souun's jaw dropped. "Genma . . . "
Silence fell as Akane considered the older man's words before she nodded.
"Thank you, Uncle. That really meant a lot to me."
"You deserve it." Genma sat up to hold up a finger. "Now, before we press
on, I must ask you this: Do you love my son?"
Akane nodded. "Yes!"
Hearing that, Souun moaned, "Oh, Akane . . .!"
"Very well." Genma squeezed his friend's shoulder. "Unfortunately, given
what happened to you on Tuesday, the boy seems to think he has no obligation
to you anymore. That HAS to be corrected. And it's best corrected by you,
He pointed to her. Akane sighed. "You mean I have to challenge him?"
"It may be the only thing we can do to make Ranma-kun come back,
Akane-chan." Souun nodded understandingly. "That he's gone out of his way
to pay back the debts he accumulated with the Kuonji girl and that China
girl is fine enough. That Kuonji's dowry has been returned to her is also a
good thing. As far as I'm now concerned -- and I hope, Saotome-kun, that I
speak for you as well . . . " He glanced at Genma, who nodded in return.
"We have no need to concern ourselves with their troubles anymore."
"They may disagree with that, Dad," Akane warned.
"Indeed, given their actions in the past, I suspect they will." Souun
indicated the Doogi. "Well, isn't it fortunate that you have this now?"
Akane nodded. "You have a point." She then gazed intently at her father.
"What about that double of mine?!" she demanded.
Souun sighed, bowing his head. "Akane-chan, I'm sorry that I said those
things after Kimiko-chan had her *fight* with Saotome-kun here." He
indicated Genma. "I admit that I've become desperate as of late to see this
whole agreement through to its rightful conclusion. That Nabiki-chan is
capable of pursuing the Art again fills me with joy. And your own desire to
progress in the Art has never abated. Please . . . " He bowed low. "Can
you forgive your foolish father for what he did to hurt you?"
Akane smiled at him. "It's okay, Dad." She reached over to rub his
shoulder. "We just wanted you to be yourself again!"
He straightened himself. "So," Genma spoke up. "The time has come for us
to plan on what we must do to bring the boy back."
"Negako-san said he'll be in Nerima by tomorrow," Akane reported.
"Good." Souun nodded before he gazed intently at her. "Do you intend to
press your challenge against Kimiko-chan, Akane?"
The youngest of the Tendous considered that for a moment before she sighed.
"I have to make sure of it, Dad," she admitted. "I don't want to deal
with another rival and I know Ranma doesn't want to deal with another
"Understandable, but remember . . . " Souun held up a finger to emphasize
his point. "Ranma-kun DID name Kimiko-chan after your mother. Certainly if
he did that, it means he does care for what happens with our family,
Akane sighed. "Yeah, that's true." She then nodded. "Alright, if you
want, I'll ask her if she has any feelings for Ranma. If she does, I have
to challenge her then, Dad! But if she doesn't, I'll leave her be."
Souun nodded. "Fair enough."
"Then you have to challenge the boy himself," Genma warned.
"Do you think I have to go THAT far with him, Uncle?" Akane asked.
Genma sagely nodded. "Yes, I do. Remember, Akane-chan, the boy is
extremely stubborn. That has its good and bad sides. The good side is that
he will never give up when faced with a challenge. Much that I would not
want to remind you of this, but how did he manage to save you from Saffron?"
Seeing Akane tense before she relaxed with a nod, he added, "I'm sorry,
child. I didn't mean to hurt you. But the boy has to face his obligations.
And if he runs around willy-nilly thinking he can avoid it . . . " He
"Indeed, you have a point." Souun gazed on Akane. "Child, I know you
might want to hesitate before facing something like this, but you MUST
challenge Ranma-kun to force him into acknowledging the agreement. And you
must also focus the challenge to ensure he no longer defers to his other
would-be suitors . . . " A pause, and then he shook his head. "Not to
mention his mother."
"What if he refuses?" Akane asked. "His mother means a lot to him."
"He won't," Genma warned. "I won't allow it. If he does, I'll disown him
on the spot and declare that he can no longer practice Musabetsu
Kakutou-ryuu. He certainly doesn't wish to face THAT."
Souun nodded. "Indeed. And Ranma-kun's NEVER refused a challenge. You
must use that against him if you're to bring him back."
Akane sighed. "I don't like this." She squeezed her fingers into fists as
a determined nod twitched her head. "But he's my fiancé. I've no choice
now." She then nodded. "Alright, I'll do it. On one condition." She
pointed to Genma. "You vow right here and now that when I bring him home,
you'll NEVER do what you did to Ranma when he was a boy. I want him as my
fiancé, but I don't want to marry a scholastic roonin."
Genma tensed. "But . . .!"
"Please." She held up a hand. "I know you wanted to make sure he would
become a fine martial artist. Uncle, you succeeded beyond your wildest
dreams. But in other situations, he's hopeless. I don't want that anymore.
I'm sure he doesn't want it, either. If you try to put that on him again,
HE might be the one who makes himself roonin and walk away from ALL of us!
Do you want that?"
Genma shook his head. "No."
Akane nodded. "Alright. If Negako-san can fix up what you did, not to
mention rid him of his ailurophobia, let's let it happen."
Souun nodded. "Agreed." He then nodded upstairs. "You best get some
sleep, child. You'll have quite the busy day tomorrow."
"Hai! Good night, Dad, Uncle."
Akane headed upstairs. They watched her go. "We're close, Genma." Souun
chuckled, raising his teacup. "We're so close!"
"That, my old friend, we are!" Genma returned his toast.
* * *
Ranma sighed, sitting on the doojou roof as she gazed on the swirling
clouds of gas and fire overhead. It was the late "morning" of the sixth
full "day" she had stayed in Sanctuary. Not two hours before -- at least,
Ranma believed it to have been two hours -- Negako pronounced her healed
from the neural damage Genma's actions years ago provoked, not to mention
the recent damage taken on thanks to Akane and all the other people in
Nerima. Come "tomorrow," the healing from the damage the Neko-ken training
caused would start in earnest. The final step before she would learn if
Chikage and the Jusenkyou guide were right about how the Nyanniichuan curse
would ultimately affect her.
Now she had a decision to make.
Ranma gazed on Negako. Damn, even without using the Umisen-ken cloak, she
could sneak up on anyone! Taking a deep breath on sensing what the
grandmaster wanted to know, she sat up. "Before I say 'yes' or 'no,' can
you answer me something, Negako?" she then asked.
Negako's eyebrows arched. "Why Ataru?"
Ranma nodded. The grandmaster stared toward the tower in the heart of
Sanctuary. "You were four years old. Genma took you on a small training
trip to get you used to various changes in weather conditions while camping
on the road. That trip took you to Sendai. Ataru's uncle Komeru owns
property in the area. From what I have been able to deduce, Genma tried to
sneak onto the property to steal food. He left you alone in the camp you
made outside the property line. And you, being so young and alone . . . "
"I got scared?"
"Very," Negako replied. "Fortunately, you were found by Ataru, who was
then visiting his 'cousin,' Nokoko. You know the real story about her."
"Yeah! She's really his older sister, but Kinshou sent her up to be raised
by Komeru after Ataru's twin brother Kaeru died."
The grandmaster nodded. "Ataru and Nokoko found you, and then they invited
you to the house. By then, Genma had been spotted by security. He managed
to evade them, but when he got back to the camp, he found you gone. Tracing
down where you went, he found you playing with Ataru and Nokoko. Naturally,
that displeased him, so he tried to take you away."
"Nokoko and Ataru were both pleased to see you as a new friend, so it
naturally displeased them when Genma tried to take you away. They tried to
follow Genma through the snow to 'rescue' you. Nokoko fell behind, but
Ataru stayed on as best he could."
Ranma's eyes went wide. "Really?!"
"Yes. At that moment, things become unclear. Security later found you and
Ataru at the camp. Genma . . . " A smirk turned her lips before she
continued, "Was thoroughly beaten down. It looked as if both a person and
some wild animal had their way with him. As to who it was that dealt with
Genma, no one was able to properly ascertain."
"Do you have an idea?"
"I do. Clearly, whoever it was, he or she is not native to Earth. The
animal's footprints and the injury marks on Genma indicate a . . . " She
glanced at Ranma. "Type of animal you would not presently like to hear of."
Ranma gulped. Negako sighed. "There is something else. As of now, there
is a low-level psionic bond connecting you to Ataru. A bond that, I
believe, could only have been forged by a high-order telepath or broadcast
Ranma gaped. "What . . .?!"
"It is true. You cannot access it at this time due to the damage your mind
incurred from the Neko-ken training." Negako ignored Ranma's shiver. "And
because you are 'silent' in that regard, Ataru cannot consciously access it,
either. Even if both of you could access it, I do not believe it will allow
you to communicate 'in the clear' to each other. But it will allow you to
understand the other's feelings." A pause. "And before you ask, I do not
believe that bond can be severed. Not without killing you both."
The ninjutsu grandmaster fell silent as Ranma took that in. The younger
woman then stared toward the tower in the centre of Sanctuary. "Who would
do something like THAT to us? WHY would they do it? I don't get it!"
"I cannot answer that question. The only one who can . . . "
"Is whoever bonded us," Ranma finished. "Does Ataru know?"
"I have not told him that you are the one he is bonded to. Not yet. But
he does know he has a bond with someone. His 'Other' as he likes to refer
to you as. When the repairs on your mind are complete -- IF you want me to
complete them to that extent -- the truth can at last be revealed."
"Can't you try to dredge up my memories and put this puzzle together that
way?" Ranma stared curiously at her. Seeing Negako shake her head, the
younger woman sighed. "Damn. All because of the N-n-n-Neko-ken, r-right?"
Ranma took a deep breath. "Damned if I do, damned if I don't."
"You need not look at it that way, Ranma."
"What do you mean?"
"Would it not be better to learn the truth? Instead of always living in
fear and uncertainty? There are those in this existence who would take
gross advantage of that. Do you wish to leave yourself vulnerable to that,
Ranma shook her head. "No."
"Then you have only one choice before you."
They looked on each other before Ranma nodded. "Yeah."
* * *
"Journal Entry, Day 7 of Sanctuary visit (I think!),
"Well, it's started.
"This morning, Negako kept me in the furo for about an hour or so as she
did the first shiatsu treatment to help me be rid of my ailurophobia. Man,
it's easier to think of that Latin term instead of using the 'N' word. And
believe me, the idea of finally being rid of that fear and the madness that
comes with it when it gets triggered just fills me with joy. Still, the . .
Ranma paused. She then sighed as she continued to type:
" . . . the idea of facing what the Jusenkyou guide and Chikage told me
MIGHT happen when I'm mentally back 'in shape' sends chills down my back.
"Part of me, even with what I feel now for Ataru, still wants to BE a man
in my heart and soul. Would it really matter when this is all over? What
would happen to me if I came out of this and still felt I was a guy? What
would happen between Ataru and me? I mean, when we slept together, he
didn't do anything I'd consider perverted."
A giggle ran through her.
"Oh, jeez, if any of those morons from Tomobiki heard that Moroboshi Ataru
did NOT do something perverted in close company with a pretty girl like me,
they'd probably think the world was coming to an end.
"What a bunch of jerks!
"Just like Akane would think about me, I guess.
"Stupid, ignorant tomboy.
"Rinrin was right about that, I guess. Who the HELL gave Akane the right
to judge what I could feel? If I feel anything about that idiot now, it's a
desire to get back to Nerima, then use a soulsword and make that tomboy's
precious 'Dou-chan' go bye-bye. The look on her face when that happens . .
She stopped typing. Gazing at the screen for a moment, Ranma then took a
deep breath before putting fingers back to keys.
" . . . happens would be priceless!"
"That requires that I actually LEARN how to make a soulsword. I've seen
Ataru and Negako do it, but for some reason, I can't picture in my mind how
they can manipulate their own body's ki into doing THAT! Heh! Isn't that
something? Me, Saotome Ranma, who can pick up martial arts techniques on
the first try -- and I can't get the knack of THIS one!
"Maybe it's because the soulsword's a KILLING technique?
"I guess so.
"And I suppose I can see why learning the soulsword's the last major thing
one does in learning the basics in Saikoo Jinseijitsu-ryuu.
"Oh, well, I can wait. Lots of other things to do first."
Ranma stopped again to read through what she had written. A few spelling
corrections later, she moved to finish the entry:
"Thinking on Ataru and what's going on between us, I guess Chikage was
right about one thing, though. Love, in all its many ways of being
expressed, really doesn't recognize a person's gender. And I . . . "
" . . . I miss him.
"And I miss the sisters, too.
"I wish they were here.
"Hell, I wish I was back on Promised Island right now.
"I miss them all.
"What does that mean for me?
"I suppose I'll figure it out soon.
Reading that over, she nodded before saving the entry.
* * *
"No day OR night, Aniki?"
"And no way to keep track of time? Man, that's rough, Anii!"
Ataru shook his head. "No, it wasn't too rough." The futon Sakuya brought
into the room was laid out. Mamoru had brought a second futon -- "Just in
case!" the athlete explained -- while Rinrin brought her alarm clock -- a
miniature Mecha-Rinrin with a "02" on the chest; she called it the
"Prototype Robot Number Two" -- to set up on Ataru's nightstand. A CD
player nearby played nature music. Hinako, asleep, was on the futon, her
head resting in Mister Bear's lap. Kaho was asleep beside her. Sakuya was
with Karen on Ataru's bed. "You know, they say time flies when you're
having fun. I guess Onee-chan's gonna be keeping Ranma so busy, she won't
have *time* to notice the time."
Rinrin shook her head. "I just can't imagine what sort of temporal
dynamics must run that place, if at ALL!" she asserted.
Mamoru groaned. "Rinrin, ain't there ANYTHING you've never looked at?!"
She gazed in exasperation at the teen scientist. Rinrin shrugged. "I
haven't studied the Tarot," she quipped.
"Who said the magic word?"
Everyone gasped as Chikage stepped out of the shadows, she draped in the
long, black nun's habit she normally used as pyjamas. "Chikage, for the
love of Heaven, do you MIND?!" Rinrin snapped as the young sorceress sat
"Huh . . .? Is Onee-tama back . . .?"
People stared at Hinako. The youngest of the sisters was blearily looking
around the room. "Go back to sleep, Hinako-chan." Ataru waved her down as
he gave the sorceress a look. "Chikage just came to visit and Rinrin got
"Huh . . .?" Hinako tried to focus on Chikage. Moaning, she leaned once
more against Kuma-san. "Silly Chikage-chan. 'Night . . . "
The others giggled while Chikage tried not to look annoyed.
* * *
"So what do you think?"
It was the ninth "day" in Sanctuary. As part of her training, Negako
decided to teach Ranma how to express herself in a classic way: Ukiyo-e
painting. Making the woodblock carving for the prints was easy for someone
who required an exacting sense of distance to help in combat. Once a "test"
print was made to ensure her carving was the way she wanted it, Ranma
quickly produced her first coloured painting. Inspecting it, Negako quickly
noted Ranma was a reds and blacks lover. "A decent interpretation of the
energy matrices overhead," the grandmaster stated. "I would dare say that
with practice, you will equal if not surpass some of the classical masters
of this art."
Ranma chuckled. "I bet you met some of them."
"Personally, no. Several of my hosts did meet some of the known experts.
People like Hishikawa, Hiroshige, Utamaro and Hokusai." A hum escaped her.
"I do not remember if any of my hosts ever met Sharaku, though."
Ranma chuckled. "Anyhow, I'm going out to do some sketches of the city."
She picked up a sketchpad and pencils. "Be back later."
Negako nodded. "Take your time."
Stepping out, Ranma looked around, and then she headed up the street toward
the city wall. Arriving there, she hopped up to the flat surface, and then
she sat down to gaze on the city. The silence froze her for a moment.
Unlike other urban zones, Sanctuary was not haunted by "normal" city sounds
like cars, trains, birds or children. Shuddering, she laid the sketchbook
on her lap to do a detailed drawing of the city. Time became meaningless to
her as she glanced at a particular building, and then moved to capture it on
paper. Soon enough, the sketch was done. Taking a few minutes to inspect
her work, Ranma smiled with satisfaction. "Maybe I should follow
Hokusai-sensei's example and make thirty-six views of Sanctuary . . . eh?"
Her eyes widened on noticing an odd colour in a vacant lot nearby. "What
the . . .?"
Hopping off the wall to the roof of a nearby building, Ranma bounded over
to the next street before dropping to ground level. Walking toward the city
centre, she stopped before an empty lot on her left. Looking at it, she
noted the absence of plant life save a trimmed layer of blue grass. She
then stepped off the street. She only had to take a couple of steps before
realizing what was there. "Graves . . . " she gasped.
There were eleven mounds. Given the very nature of Sanctuary, Ranma could
readily assume that they had been here since the day this place was created
by the Questors billions of years ago in "real" time. However, the simple
wooden poles acting as markers had some of their bark taken away. The
underlying wood had been smoothed into a flat plate. Etched on there were
several lines in kana and kanji. Leaning up to one of those posts, Ranma
Here likes a soldier of the Union of Uru
Who died not knowing the truth of why she fought.
Though we were made enemies by Fate and Circumstance,
I, the unwilling vessel of her Judgement,
Do wish her peace and happiness
In the embrace of Eternity.
The two kanji at the end of that invocation sent chills down Ranma's back.
"'Moroboshi' . . .?" she whispered. "That means . . .!"
She straightened herself, turning around to leave. She halted on seeing
Negako standing on the roadway. Ranma blinked before walking onto the
street, and then she looked back on the graves. "They're the group that . .
"Some were," Negako confirmed.
"Ataru said there were twelve of them," Ranma said. "There're only eleven
graves here. What happened to the last one?"
Negako nodded toward the city wall and the timeless void beyond. "He
boasted too much about what he did. Foolish thing to do. After Ataru
ripped his horns off, then slit his throat, he pitched the fool over the
wall. In front of their very own eyes." She pointed to the graves.
"Whatever illusions those fools might have had towards Lum's 'Darling'
vanished in an instant."
Ranma paled. "Man, I can see why Ataru doesn't want to talk about things
like this to his sisters." She shook her head before turning toward the
"This could easily have been you, Ranma."
The martial artist stopped, gazing on Negako. "What do you mean?"
A knowing grin crossed Negako's face. "I will allow you to contemplate on
that. But know this. I told Lum's cousin Jariten this before he left
Earth: 'Wars do not make one great. Wars normally make one *dead.*'"
She leapt away for the doojou. Ranma watched her. She then looked nowhere
in particular as Negako's words echoed in her mind.
* * *
"Journal Entry, Day 10 of Sanctuary visit,
"'Wars do not make one great. Wars normally make one dead.'
"What did she mean?
"Ever since I could remember, I was always taught something by Oyaji that,
even now, I agree with: 'Martial artists live to protect those who can't
protect themselves.' That's something I've always strived to succeed in.
It's a good theory. It's decent. Hell, it's RIGHT!
"Or is it?"
Ranma shifted her hands from her keyboard. Taking several deep breaths to
calm herself as her mind roiled over what Negako said to her the previous
"day," she returned to typing. As a new string of characters appeared on
the screen, her eyes started to glisten with tears.
"No. I haven't succeeded in doing that at ALL! Yes, I've been there when
people needed help, but most other times, I've fought for the sheer joy of
fighting. And what has that ultimately done for me?
"All it's got me is more enemies and rivals than I want to deal with, a
pack of 'fiancées' who are just impossible to handle, no real respect from
those of my peers I don't fight on a day-in and day-out basis and . . . "
" . . . and no real friends."
"Yesterday, I saw the graves of eleven of twelve Oni warriors Ataru and
Negako killed here in Sanctuary. Some of them were involved with what
really happened to Ataru's grandmother. One of them, according to Negako,
boasted about what he did so much that Ataru lost it, then pitched him over
"Well, I suppose that bastard had it coming.
"But the rest got a beautiful farewell note from Ataru. Yes, he killed
them, but he showed them RESPECT for what they went through.
"Now, I understand another reason Ataru doesn't want anything to do with
Tomobiki. Those people see him in a certain way. But because Sanctuary let
Ataru do a heck of a lot more things in the six weeks he had been gone than
most others could suspect, he . . . "
" . . . he simply outgrew them.
"Fate and time forced him to grow up.
"And that's something people in Tomobiki probably just wouldn't know HOW to
deal with, I think. And with twelve sisters on Promised Island to worry
about, Ataru doesn't want to take the CHANCE of mending fences with people
like Miyake Shinobu and the rest of them. Can he trust those people after
what he's been through? Can he trust any of them with the knowledge that he
had sided AGAINST Lum and her people? Can he trust them to understand he
had all the right reasons in the world to stand against the Onis?
"For the sisters' sakes, he can't.
"And regardless of what he really feels for the people in Tomobiki -- and
what he really feels for Lum -- that decision hurts him.
Ranma stopped, staring at the words she had written. Wiping her eyes, she
made some spelling corrections before carrying on:
"Now I face the same decision.
"Which path do *I* choose now?
"I can't be what Oyaji tried to make of me. I DON'T want to be what Oyaji
tried to make of me. I can't be what Mom wants me to be. And I don't want
to be what Akane wants me to be. That doesn't mention what Ukyou, Shanpú or
Kodachi might want, too. It's MY life. And I want to live it.
"Should I do what Ataru did?
"Will I have a choice in that?"
"No. There is no choice now. It IS my life.
"And if they got a problem with that, that's just too bad.
"And if I hurt them?
"Then they get hurt."
She looked at the diary entry before saving it.
* * *
"The Sun? What does that mean for Anegimi-sama?"
"This is the card that marks enlightenment." Chikage held up the card for
Haruka's view. The sorceress and the martial artist had moved into the
dining room to enjoy some tea. The Rinrin Viewer was on, Rinrin verbally
directing the Viewer's Internet link to click on some favoured web pages.
Aria slept on the couch, leaning into Michael's side. She came down to be
with the others in Ataru's room, and then promptly fell asleep on the futon.
Haruka carried her into the dining room. "At this time, it appears that
Ane-kun has made some profound discoveries about either herself or someone
she cares for." A shrug then rolled Chikage's shoulder. "Ani-kun perhaps?"
Haruka sighed. "We may be pushing her too hard, Chikage-chan."
The sorceress shook her head. "Perhaps, if this was anyone but Saotome
Ranma. I believe the one thing all those who interact with Ane-kun agree on
is this: She lives to face challenge. No doubt, Negako-anekun is doing her
best to force Ane-kun into new types of challenge."
Haruka nodded. "I believe the one thing Anegimi-sama has to learn is to
separate the good challenges from the bad ones."
Chikage sipped her tea. "Experience has taught her that, not to mention
the many betrayals Ane-kun has faced in her lifetime."
She set the cup down on the table. The slight vibration was enough to let
the top card on the Tarot deck slip off. Chikage gazed on that before
flipping the card around. The Emperor, upside-down. Chikage's eyes
narrowed, a thoughtful hum escaping her. "Is there something wrong?" Haruka
wondered, and then she gazed on the card herself. "What does that mean?"
"It's hard to say," Chikage whispered.
* * *
"Journal Entry, Day 12 of Sanctuary visit,
"So far, I've completed ten ukiyo-e blocks of Sanctuary. When I told
Negako that I wanted to emulate Hokusai-sensei's thirty-six views of
Fuji-san with thirty-six views of Sanctuary, that got me a big smile.
"I guess she does have feelings after all.
"Training in Saikoo Jinseijitsu-ryuu is going ahead. I've got the main
'seishin' attacks -- the Psychic Laser Beam, the Psychic Shuriken Storm and
the Psychic Kusarigama -- down pat. All it takes to do them is to visualize
what you want in your mind, implant that desire onto your ki energy, and
then focus it on the target. I think learning how to do the Kusarigama is a
necessary precursor, if not THE necessary precursor, to learning the
soulsword, but I haven't asked Negako about that just yet.
"I think I got the basic philosophy of the Art down. It depends on using
your TOTAL willpower to make something happen. Now, in a fight, that's
often next to impossible, especially if you wind up facing multiple
opponents, which is normal for me. And thanks to Oyaji, I couldn't think
too much beyond the fight before me at the time.
"Well, now I can evolve from that.
"I'm going to spend the next while on some meditation, try to stretch my
ability to sense things beyond the obvious direct threat. Heh! If I can do
that, then I won't need Negako's shiatsu shield to avoid the tomboy's
tantrums. Won't she be surprised? Not that she doesn't deserve it, of
* * *
The "afternoon" of the thirteenth "day" found Ranma sitting on the apex of
the tower in the centre of town. She was in lotus position, her breathing
shallow and highly regulated as she focused her mind's eye on herself.
Every step of the way, she pulled her attention away from parts of the
outside world onto herself. Every step, parts of her she never really paid
attention to in the past came into focus. Her vital organs, muscles and
skeleton, physical senses, heartbeat, breathing, thinking, her very soul.
Her soul . . .
Wait a second.
Ranma clenched her fists, and then she relaxed herself as her battle aura
began to flare. At first a brilliant crimson shade, it then faded in
colour, morphing to pure gold, and then a brilliant white. Taking time to
regulate her breathing, Ranma shifted into a one-knee stance. She let her
arms reach out. Slowly, they came together as if she was grasping the
scabbard and handle of a sword. A sword . . . yes. Think of a sword . . .
a sword . . .
Her ki flared. On feeling something fill her hands, she screamed:
Her eyes snapped open as she mimed the unsheathing of a katana. Then they
focused on what was in her right hand. They widened in stunned shock on
seeing her chi form something that looked like a sword. Unfortunately, it
was leaking energy to the surrounding air like water flooding the "Titanic"
after she brushed past the iceberg! In several heartbeats, the
proto-soulsword faded into nothingness. Turning her hand to gaze on her
palm, Ranma sighed.
"I did SOMETHING wrong . . . "
She returned to a sitting position, and then she tensed on feeling someone
standing behind her. "That was a remarkable first attempt."
Ranma looked up to see Negako standing behind her, a bemused smile on the
grandmaster's face. "What did I do wrong?"
"You focused on only one thing, Ranma."
"Isn't that the way it's supposed to work?"
"No. Now try it again."
Ranma blinked, and then she closed her eyes as she assumed the unsheathing
position. Her battle aura flared, soon melting into pure white as she
focused on her hands. "Good. Excellent form." Negako nodded. "Now draw."
The soulsword blazed to life as Ranma got to her feet. Then it started to
flare as ki leaked from it. Negako shifted around to place herself beside
the blade. One hand reached for the tip. She pushed in. Ranma watched as
the soulsword MELTED as Negako's hand advanced. In two seconds, what little
was left vanished. Silence fell as Ranma stared at Negako. "Willpower
without context is pure, blinding ego, Ranma," the ninjutsu grandmaster
declared. "THAT can get you killed if you are not careful. You need not
have to see beyond Akane's example to understand that."
With that, she leapt off the tower. Making a perfect landing, Negako
turned to calmly walk back to the dojo. Ranma remained atop the tower, a
lost look on her face. "'Willpower without context' . . . "
"Why do you think it's called 'the Way of the Supreme LIFE?'"
Ranma spun around to see whom she at first thought was Negako. The martial
artist stopped herself as the newcomer's older looks and more plain clothes
came into focus. Her nose then picked up a salty tang in the air around the
newcomer. "Who are you?" she demanded.
"Nokoko, what are you doing here?" echoed from below.
Ranma looked down to see Negako standing by the base. She then looked back
at the newcomer. "Nokoko?" she whispered. "You're . . .!"
"Ataru-chan's older sister." Nokoko nodded approvingly, she giving Ranma a
very intense look. "My, I have to admit, Ataru-chan's taste in girls is
superb. Even if you were born a boy. Eh, Ranma-chan?" Her eyebrow cocked.
Silence fell over the tower.
* * *
"So you don't know who it was that bonded Ataru and I, right?"
Ranma, Negako and Nokoko sat in the living room by the dojo, teacups in
hand. "No. I fell behind Ataru-chan when he was chasing you and your fool
father back to your campsite outside Uncle's property. By the time I got
there, I had half of Uncle's security people protecting me. In the long
term, I know as much as anyone else." The eldest-born of Muchi's and
Kinshou's children sighed, she giving Ranma an apologetic shrug.
"So what happened to you after Oyaji took me home?" Ranma asked.
"I stayed with Uncle Komeru until I turned six. As a birthday 'present' to
me, he finally told me about my relationship with Ataru-chan and his
'parents.' Well . . . " She looked down. "I didn't like hearing that.
The next thing I knew, a voice echoed in my head, asking if I'd want to meet
some new friends and try to have a real family to call my own for a change.
So I left and wound up going to another dimension."
"Another dimension?! You mean here?"
"No. The dimension I'm talking about is a place most people in our galaxy
calls 'the Outland.'" Nokoko smirked. "It's a quantum hyper-warp pocket,
between normal warp space and transwarp space. Only access point in the
Milky Way galaxy is near planet Elle." Her smirk turned sarcastic as her
eyebrow arched. "Did Ataru-chan tell you about their queen?"
"The bitch with the hundred thousand guys in deep freeze?"
"That's her. I've stayed in the Outland ever since, save for the odd trip
to Elle or back to Earth. Brief visits, of course."
Ranma blinked. "Why?"
Nokoko sighed. "For Ataru-chan's sake and especially for our half-sisters'
sake, I can't come back home, Ranma-chan. Not for some years to come."
Sensing Ranma about to launch into a protest, Nokoko held up a hand.
"Please! There's a reason I made that choice, Ranma-chan. Will you hear me
Ranma relaxed herself. "Why?"
"You know how succession works in our family, don't you?"
"Then you know what might happen if I do suddenly appear alive?"
"You'd be the next Matriarch. Matter of fact, I'd say you're over twenty
now, so you'd be able to take over right away."
"What happens to Sakuya-chan and the others, then?"
"Well, they can still be cared for, can't they?" Ranma wondered. Seeing
Nokoko shake her head in response, she demanded, "Why not?!"
"All were born out of wedlock, remember? In fact, according to Negako,
those poor girls have been either abandoned or orphaned by their birth
mothers and stepfathers. Do you really think people who associate with our
family would choose a girl like Sakuya-chan over me, the *legitimate*
blood-descendant of Moroboshi Nagaiwakai?" Nokoko wondered, and then she
shook her head. "No, Ranma-chan. Even if my family has welcomed orphans
left, right and centre into the overall family, the CORE of the family has
to remain as 'pure' as possible."
"Even if our clan, not to mention the others forming the Tenchiaiki
Juukazoku, were founded to shield 'illegitimate' births from public outcry
in the first place." Negako lightly smiled before sipping her tea.
"What does that mean?" Ranma asked.
"Have you ever heard of the Empress Shootoku?"
Ranma shook her head. "I don't know the name."
"She was one of the last of the Nara monarchs," the grandmaster explained.
"In fact, Shootoku was one of the rare rulers of Japan who spent two
separate periods on the throne. The first time she ruled, she went by the
name 'Koken.' It was the second time that influenced the early history of
our clan, Ranma. Thanks very much to Shootoku's passionate interest in a
fellow named Dokyou."
Ranma held up a finger. "Oh, wait a sec'! He was a Buddhist priest who .
. . " A pause. "I remember now! Damn, I should've paid more attention in
history classes! Dokyou was the guy an empress -- Shootoku, right? -- fell
in love with. It came to the point where she wanted to make him the
emperor, but folks hated the idea, so they kicked her off the throne. Right
after that, they shifted the capital to Kyoto, right?"
"Exactly. But what has never been mentioned in a history book is that
prior to her reported death, Shootoku managed to . . . " She sipped her tea
before she gave Ranma a look. "Consummate her relationship with Dokyou."
"They had a baby?"
"Yes," Negako replied. "A girl they named Mihei. In fact, according to
the old tales that were preserved in the psychic database that eventually
evolved into me, Mihei was so beautiful, those who wanted to see her dead
because her existence threatened the Imperial succession vowed they'd rather
kill themselves than raise a knife against her."
"So what happened?"
"It was decided by Shootoku's successor, Koonin, that she, Dokyou and Mihei
would be banished from the court. To the public at large, Shootoku and
Dokyou would be dead. No mention would EVER be made of Mihei. But in
private, they would be allowed to live in peace as long as they never
revealed their affiliation to the Imperial throne to anyone else. To better
facilitate that, Shootoku and Dokyou were adopted into a low-rank noble
family, the distant ancestors to the modern-day Moroboshi Clan. And they
lived to the promise they made to Konin for the rest of their days."
"What happened to Mihei?"
"She married the young heir of the family and eventually bore him ten very
healthy children. For the time, it was seen as the greatest of miracles
that none of them succumbed to the many illnesses rampant then. That
brought Mihei to the attention of Master Hosan, who at that time served as
Emperor Kanmu's personal inspector for the noble houses."
Ranma blinked. Almost EVERYONE involved in the more esoteric of Oriental
martial arts these days knew the story of Master Hosan Hirosuke. Believed
to have been born five thousand years ago, Master Hosan gained his
immortality -- as to what sort of immortal he was, that remained a mystery
-- very young in life. Gaining an appreciation for the martial arts, Master
Hosan, over the centuries, came to develop his own personalized school of
ninjitsu, the Tensei-ryuu. A servant of the Japanese throne since the days
of Prince Shootoku in the seventh century, Master Hosan was the one man
EVERYONE trusted when it came to the paranormal. That is, until the rise of
the militarists in the early 1930s. Horrified that his homeland was being
forced towards an apocalyptic war with the Americans, Master Hosan
demonstrated his disapproval in a way that would deny the militarists the
chance of using Tensei-trained warriors against their foes: By allowing
himself to be killed and bestowing his millennia of martial arts knowledge
to his last student, Major Dean Raeburn of Canada.
"Did Kanmu know about Mihei being Shootoku's daughter?" Ranma asked.
"Master Hosan discovered that soon enough. He then persuaded Kanmu to
allow things to stand. In fact, Kanmu and Mihei came to maintain a lively
-- albeit top secret, of course -- correspondence for the remainder of their
lives. It was during that time that Mihei came up with an interesting idea.
Since many children were being born out of wedlock among the noble houses,
why could there not be a place where they ALL could go to live their lives
in peace? A place where they could also learn to be active and productive
assets for Japan as a whole? Kanmu was intrigued by the concept -- I
believe Master Hosan persuaded him -- so the agreement that created the
Tenchiaiki Juukazoku was made. All of Mihei's children, sons and daughters,
were the founders of the Ten Families."
"So that started the whole idea of your family adopting people who were
orphaned or abandoned because they weren't 'pure,' right?"
Negako nodded. "Exactly. Over the years, the Juukazoku have been forced
to conform to some set standards imposed on them by outside society. But
the primary mission remains. In fact, in this day and age, with there being
so much of a struggle between 'traditional' and 'modern' values, our clan's
primary mission becomes more paramount. How better to symbolize it than by
allowing those who were not of 'pure' birth to take control of the family's
future? If Nokoko returns . . . " She indicated her adopted sister.
"What happens to the sisters?" Nokoko finished.
Ranma considered that. "Don't you miss Ataru?"
Nokoko's eyes hardened. "Yes, I DO miss him! I miss him very much.
Before Negako got pulled out of his head, my fondest dream was to go back to
Tomobiki and pull Ataru-chan away from Muchi and Kinshou. I couldn't do it
at the time though; I was stuck in the Outland dealing with other matters.
By the time I DID get to Earth, what did I find? Ataru-chan brainwashed,
Kinshou just waiting for the chance to get her hands on the family fortune,
Muchi following along with whatever Kinshou decided, Uncle off
who-knew-where, and . . . " She shrugged. "There was Nagaiwakai on
Rishiri-tou, acting as if it was totally BELOW her station to go down and
straighten this whole mess out herself."
She sipped her tea. "Didn't you offer to handle this mess?" Ranma asked.
Nokoko stared at her. "And what would that have done?"
"But Ataru was . . .!"
"Suffering?" Nokoko's eyebrows arched, and then she shook her head. "Not
exactly. Yes, he was being lied to and manipulated to a certain extent, but
not suffering, not like you did under Genma. And Negako-chan was planning
to go back to him sooner or later, regardless of what she 'promised'
Kinshou. We wanted to wait or the right time to move in. Well . . . " She
shrugged before taking a deep breath. "Lum's arrival complicated matters."
"Not to mention Nagaiwakai's death," Negako added before sipping her tea.
"Plus the many questions hovering over the sisters."
Ranma sighed. "You guys wanted to do it in such a way that didn't wind up
hurting the ones you really wanted to help, right?"
Nokoko nodded. "Exactly. Ranma-chan, if I went back when she was still
alive, Nagaiwakai would've made me the Matriarch-in-Waiting, and then
abandoned Sakuya-chan and the others without a second's hesitation. Yeah,
she could've used the sisters to break up Muchi and Kinshou's marriage, but
what would that have done? It would've put those girls through an eternity
of pain and misery for no real benefit whatsoever. And you know how
Ataru-chan eventually came to think of what Muchi and Kinshou did."
"Nagaiwakai's death cleared matters since Nokoko never bothered to reveal
she was still alive to anyone, not even Komeru or any of Komeru's wards like
Yumoa Reigi," Negako added. "For the sisters' sakes -- and in some ways,
for Ataru's as well -- Nokoko must remain 'dead' until well after Sakuya
turns twenty and is made the new Matriarch. After that, it will be of no
Ranma considered that. "And because you've obviously got access to some
powerful stuff -- if you didn't, how the hell could you've come to a place
like Sanctuary, eh? -- you felt it was more proper to stay away even if Lum
was busy making hash out of Ataru's life, right?"
Nokoko nodded again. "Yes. I'm not fully human, Ranma. I was transformed
the instant I first entered the Outland. These days, in part, I'm of a race
who calls themselves 'the Great School of the Nendo-kata.' Socially, my
Great School is very advanced and we do our best to bring peace -- what we
call 'Unity' -- to other species without forcing any of our core beliefs on
them. We don't want to provoke something that would bring misery to others.
It's wrong. It flies against our core beliefs." She sipped her tea.
"Ranma-chan, if we tried to set matters aright concerning the Urusians and
their interest in Earth, what might've happened? I'm sure Ataru-chan's told
you about all the fun he had dealing with Uru's Imperial sects while he was
busy learning the Art. Do you really think they'd tolerate something like
"After they helped kill Ataru's grandmother?" Ranma grimaced. "No."
"It hurts me to do this, Ranma-chan." Nokoko then reached over to squeeze
Ranma's hand. "But for my brother's and sisters' sake, I have to do this.
It doesn't mean that I won't stay away forever. I will come back to be with
you guys. It just can't happen now."
"Does he know you're still alive?"
"He knows," Negako replied. "And it hurts him. The sisters do not know,
though Chikage may come to suspect it sooner or later."
Ranma took a deep breath. "You don't want me to tell them anything at all,
right?" She stared concernedly at Nokoko.
Nokoko shook her head. "No, not now. Let them feel they're in control of
their lives, Ranma-chan. It's what they deserve." A snide smile then
crossed her face as she added, "And if they have that, then everything the
rest of those fools tried to force on them will be nothing but hot air.
After all, they say that living well IS the best revenge, ne?"
Ranma laughed. "True!"
* * *
"Journal Entry, Day 14 of Sanctuary visit,
"'Willpower without context is pure, blinding ego.'
"I think I understand that now.
"Telling me that, Negako hinted to me that to properly forge a real
soulsword, I have to tap into my willpower within 'context.'
"I didn't understand it at first, but Nokoko-oneechan's visit, the reasons
she gave me for staying away from Ataru and the sisters, pretending to be
'dead' to the rest of her family, woke me up to something I've never really
sat back and thought about. That I realize it *now,* after so much wasted
time digging myself into a pit I probably could never had got myself out of
hadn't the Moroboshis entered my life, hurts me worse.
"It's my ego.
"The same ego that prodded me on regardless of the crap that came down on
my head. The ego that made me always say, 'Saotome Ranma doesn't lose.'
The ego that made me learn some of the most ridiculous forms for some of the
most idiotic reasons conceivable.
"To think it took me THIS long to wake up to that."
Ranma sighed, wiping her eyes as she continued to type:
"I hate myself now. Rather, I hate what that ego of mine blinded me to.
I'm not the only one who has it. Everyone has ego; it's what drives people
to do what they feel is good for them. From ego comes confidence, the
belief that makes my Mooko Takabisha attack possible. But when one allows
one's ego to take control of his life, well . . . "
" . . . well, we get situations like Akane, who says that she's a martial
artist when she hasn't really put her heart into studying the Art.
"We get situations like the Nujiézú, who believe their way of life is
perfect and kill anyone who disagrees with them.
"We get situations like Kunou Tatewaki and Kunou Kodachi, who feel that
because they're noble-born, they're entitled to anything.
"We get people like Oyaji -- and Mom, too -- who say they're right when
it'd be clear to a blind man that they're wrong.
"And we . . . "
" . . . we get me.
"'Never Loses A Fight' Saotome Ranma.
"'Best Martial Artist in the World' Saotome Ranma.
"'Won't Refuse A Challenge' Saotome Ranma.
"Kami-sama, I hate myself!"
Fresh tears flowed down her cheeks as she finished the entry:
"I'm gonna stop now. I think I need to cry a bit."
She saved the entry.
* * *
Ranma stared nowhere in particular as Negako placed a bowl of
ttouk-manduguk before her, it now being the start of the next "day."
Picking up her chopsticks, Ranma fished out a couple of the flat rice cakes
to nibble on them. "Not really. Part of me wants to quit," she then
Negako gazed on her. "Then quit."
"Is everything so black-and-white to you?"
"No. Existence Itself is not black-and-white." Negako smiled. "If you
decide to 'quit,' you must realize that your decision will have a profound
effect on those who believe they have a place in your life. If you press on
the path you are on now, that decision will also have a profound effect on
those who believe they have a place in your life. The question you must ask
yourself at this time is this: Which path will produce the most positive
effect, to both yourself and those associated with you? And are you willing
to make the necessary sacrifices to your heart and soul to achieve that
goal? Or, if neither path can produce what you want . . .?"
"Find a third path."
"Shit!" Ranma shook her head, leaning on a palm as she looked nowhere in
particular as she considered that. "Well, for one thing, I know I can't
live in Nerima anymore. And I don't want certain people in my life from now
"The Kunous, Oyaji and his 'friend' are on the 'out' list. The Nujiézú and
Jijii aren't bad, now that I understand where they're coming from, but I
still want to keep them at a distance. I might be able to remain friends
with Ryouga. Ditto with Akane and Ukyou once we get this engagement
business out of the way. Kasumi, too. Maybe Nabiki, but that's a BIG
'maybe.' And I'll certainly count Doc Toofuu as a friend. And Mom . . . "
She took a breath. "Well, that all depends on her relatives, I guess. If
they're out to manipulate me into earning money just for them, screw 'em!
I'll walk out on Mom so fast, it'll make all their heads spin. Though I'll
hate it . . . "
"Do you wish to remain a martial artist?" Negako asked.
Ranma sat back, gazing at the ceiling as she contemplated that question.
Oh, Kami-sama, that WAS the question, wasn't it?
"I do . . . " she whispered, "But I don't want to be the type of martial
artist that Oyaji wanted to make of me. Fight everyone at the drop of a
hat, never turn back a challenge, never accept defeat . . . " Her voice
"Even I can be defeated, Ranma."
Ranma gazed in stunned surprise on her host. "You're not afraid to admit
that." She leaned on the table. "I could never admit it."
"You were not allowed to admit it." The ninjutsu grandmaster crossed her
hands under her chin. "And by not being allowed to admit it by those who
guided you down that path, you left yourself vulnerable to attacks that,
though not done within the bounds of martial arts, hurt you greatly." A
pause. "What did I tell you before you met Nokoko?"
"'Willpower without context is pure, blinding ego.'"
"What is the context then?"
Ranma looked down at her bowl of stew before she replied, "People."
"Not just people. Your environment as a WHOLE. People do not compose the
sum total of Existence. They are only a minute part. It is only human
arrogance that makes many presume that people are all that matter."
"Like bears and sharks and dogs."
Ranma started on hearing that dreaded word. She then blinked as that flash
of raw terror suddenly faded. Seeing her reaction, Negako smiled. The
younger woman stared at her. "I guess it's working," Ranma noted with a
chuckle, she gazing at her hands.
"Finish your breakfast, and then proceed to meditate," Negako ordered.
"Okay." Ranma picked up her chopsticks, grinning at her host. "Don't tell
Shirayuki-chan that I did this . . . "
She fired down the ttouk-manduguk with the same rigorous élan she always
demonstrated at the Tendous' dinner table. Negako shook her head as she
took the empty bowl back. As Ranma turned to leave, the ninjutsu
grandmaster called out, "One more thing, Ranma."
Ranma stared at her. "What?"
Negako held up a finger. "When you understand your environment as much as
you do yourself, THEN you can forge a proper soulsword."
The younger woman blinked before nodding.
* * *
The door to the kitchen opened. "Are you okay, Shirayuki-chan?" Karen
peeked in to see the chef hard at work baking muffins.
Shirayuki rubbed her nose. "Hime thinks someone's talking about Hime," she
said before looking into the oven. "Maybe it's Nee-sama."
"Probably," Karen mused as she headed back to Ataru's room.
* * *
The sixteenth "day" began with Ranma reclining on the doojou roof, she
gazing on the energy overhead. "'Willpower without context is pure,
blinding ego,'" Ranma muttered. "Find the context, Saotome. Find the
context . . . "
Her eyes narrowed as she used her ki-vision to pick out what was in the
space between Sanctuary and the "cap" over the time-chasm. *Thank the gods
Ataru showed me how to pick out -- what did he call it? The Te'a lines?*
She relaxed. Her eyes then widened as tiny, spider web-like lines of energy
appeared in her vision. "Alright . . . "
Shifting her hands up as if she was reaching out, Ranma infused her fingers
with ki. Instantly, new matrix lines formed from her fingertips to attempt
to mesh with the surrounding area. Ranma grunted on seeing patterns shatter
when they were touched by her own ki. "Whoops! That's not right!" she
muttered before something came to her. "The Umisen-ken, maybe . . .?"
Focusing her ki on herself, she moved to match her aura with the
surrounding air. To an onlooker, Ranma appeared to slowly fade from
physical view. This wasn't the Goshin Buufu, however. The Body Defence Air
Cloak was a total-energy chi-cloak, perfected in secret by Ranma, Toshiko
and Kumiko after the mirror-twins had been freed from the compact. No,
doing THAT would probably be as much a disruption to the surrounding
matrices as a straightforward attack.
Back to basics, then.
Just a simple Umisen-ken cloak . . .
Yes . . .
Ranma tried not to smile as the surrounding air's matrices began to mould
with her aura. Okay, first step. *Let's see if we can change it,* she
mused as she tenderly projected ki through her fingers into the atmosphere .
And then she sighed as the matrices around her arms shattered.
"Damn, too much force!"
She relaxed herself, preparing to try again.
Well, if at first, you don't succeed . . .
* * *
Negako looked up. The ninjutsu grandmaster stood in the kitchen. Nodding
approvingly, she turned back to preparing lunch.
* * *
"Journal Entry, Day 18 of Sanctuary visit,
"Damn, I haven't concentrated THIS much on perfecting a single martial arts
form since I learned the Hiryuu Shooten-ha!
"But I'm getting somewhere. Right now, I've evolved a variation of the
Goshin Buufu that would work perfectly in Sanctuary. I can't test it
somewhere else, not until I get home, but if it works on Earth, then I'll
give it the name 'Goshin Eifu.' I doubt I could perform anything like the
Goshin Kaze-fu here, though. I don't want to risk doing something like THAT
"Oh, that's right! I forgot to tell you that Kumiko and Toshiko have
started creating their own variation of the Sen-ken forms. They titled
their personal approach the 'Fuusen-ken.' I like the name since air can be
both passive and active. They wanted to take the best of both the
Yamasen-ken and the Umisen-ken, and then mix it all together to create
"From what I've been told by Negako when I discussed this with her last
night, they've already made progress, mixing the cloaking techniques of the
Umisen-ken with the more brutal attacks of the Yamasen-ken. Oyaji and
Akane's father got a taste of it before I came here to train with Negako.
"Too bad for them.
"While I have the twins' permission to use the Fuusen-ken forms, I want to
make something for me. The Goshin Eifu is just the first step. Right now,
I'm thinking of calling my forms 'Eisen-ken.'
"That could change. It depends on what happens next."
Ranma paused for a moment. Taking a deep breath to collect her thoughts,
she put her fingers back on the keyboard.
"What happens next?
"I've gone the equivalent of twenty-five days or so as a girl with no
change back to being a boy -- unless someone's gone and switched me back to
being a boy when I was asleep and I didn't know about it.
"Better ask Negako about that first.
"But if I haven't, that means in the next three days or so -- if my cycle's
like any other girl's -- I should be facing my first period.
"My first period.
"To believe that I have to face THIS of all things?
"Right now, I say this: If any girl can live through it, so can I. And if
I DO become a girl in spirit and elect to have my curse frozen in place,
I'll have no choice BUT to face it every month until I reach middle age."
"It's funny. I'm being pretty calm about this. What will happen to me
over the next while? How will it affect me?
"I wish I could predict it.
"Oh, well. Grin and bear it.
"Better talk to Negako, though."
* * *
"Your first period?"
Ranma nodded. "Yeah. I mean, the longest time I've ever been frozen as a
girl was twenty days. That's when Herb froze me with the Chiisui-ton. What
Elder Kelun did to me lasted nine days. So what can I expect?"
The ninjutsu grandmaster considered that. "I noticed you wisely packed
some tampons with you when you came here," she then noted.
"When I had to deal with Herb, Kasumi told me stuff. On average, you start
getting wet the tenth day after the cycle begins. That lasts eleven days.
The eighth day of that period's the real bad one. After that, you go dry
until you start to menstruate." A wry smile crossed her face. "I got wet
down there right when Kasumi predicted it'd happen. When I was stuck, I had
to hide tampons in my backpack and wear panties under my boxers to hold the
damned things in place. If Oyaji ever saw them . . . "
Negako shook her head. "Fool."
"How do you handle it, Negako?"
Silence followed as Negako considered what to say. "Experiencing
menstruation is a price I have to pay for having a woman's body, Ranma," she
replied with a shrug. "It is as much a function of human biology as sexual
arousal. When it comes, I deal with it. Like many women, I prefer tampons
when I confront both menstrual and cervical mucus discharge. Unlike most, I
use shiatsu in lieu of medication to deal with cramps and other side effects
of the process. I will teach that to you over the next few days."
"Have you ever thought of becoming a mother?"
"To bear a child?" Negako glanced at her before shaking her head. "No. I
still require time to fully comprehend the human condition before I could
consider bringing new life into this world. To bring life into this world
is a grave responsibility, Ranma. Who would I choose as my potential mate?
Would I be a good mother to my child? What would my feelings for my child
be? Would it be healthy for my child if I raised her?" A pause. "And,
being what I am, would bearing a child make me vulnerable?"
Ranma squeezed her host's shoulder. "Emotionally, you mean."
"Yes. Emotional attacks are just as vicious, if not more so, than mere
physical attacks. You know that as well as I, Ranma."
* * *
"Is there something wrong, Chikage-chan?"
"I recommend you prepare some red beans and rice for Ane-kun when she
returns from Sanctuary," the sorceress instructed.
The chef, standing beside the stove in the rotunda's kitchen, considered
Chikage's words before her eyes widened as it hit her. "Oh, Hime forgot
that Nee-sama'll be staying in Sanctuary for a month!" She nodded. "Hai,
Hime'll make some today! Um, Chikage-chan, do you think Negako-neesama'll
"Do YOU believe Ane-kun would do something like that?"
Shirayuki then sighed. "Hime doesn't think so."
* * *
"Journal Entry, Day 19 of Sanctuary visit,
"I started getting bad cramps after breakfast. Negako kept me in the furo
longer today, teaching me how to use shiatsu to moderate the symptoms. It
won't make it go away, but it will allow me to function with some normalcy.
It's not full-blown PMS -- that normally hits between five to eleven days
before menstruation starts -- but it's close.
"Felt something like a headache just before lunch. And when I changed my
clothes after a spell in the doojou, it felt as if someone stuck a handful
of knives into my breasts. More shiatsu in the furo to deal with that, then
I decided to go topless when I went out to do some sketches. Heck, no one's
here save us, so who the hell would notice?
"Negako tells me this is pretty much normal.
* * *
"Journal Entry, Day 20 of Sanctuary visit,
"Oh, man! This is so damned ANNOYING!
"Girls put up to this crap every MONTH?!
"Oyaji always said girls were weak!
"Oyaji no baka!
"What the hell does HE know?!"
* * *
"Journal Entry, Day 21 of Sanctuary visit,
"The blood. Oh, damn, the BLOOD!
"Kami-sama, why did you force girls THROUGH this shit?!"
* * *
"Journal Entry, Day 22 of Sanctuary visit,
"The blood's not so bad now, but gods, it's DISGUSTING!
"Anyone ever tells me that girls are weak, I'll strangle them.
"Heh! I'll bet Shan and Elder Kelun would love to see THAT!
* * *
"Journal Entry, Day 23 of Sanctuary visit,
"Only two more days of this garbage.
"And then I wait twenty-three more days for it to hit the NEXT time!
"And this'll last until my mid-FORTIES?!
"Kami-sama, I've decided.
"For forcing women throughout time to put up to this crap, not to mention
forcing ME through this crap, you're FIRED!
"I want a Megami-sama instead!
"At least She would understand this and DO something about it!
"I hate this."
* * *
"Journal Entry, Day 24 of Sanctuary visit,
"When she was doing shiatsu in the furo with me this morning, Negako told
me that I'm a very healthy girl. When I decide to have children of my own,
I wouldn't have many problems conceiving and bearing them.
"I almost wanted to hit her for that!
"One more day.
"One more day.
"One more day."
* * *
"Journal Entry, Day 25 of Sanctuary visit,
"Breakfast was red beans and rice.
"I actually cried.
"I never thought Negako had it in her.
"Even better, she prepared the dish Louisiana Cajun style, which she picked
up when she travelled to the States a year ago.
"Damn, it was GOOD! Spicy, but good!
"The blood wasn't that bad today. It's easier to concentrate now. Looks
like I'm one of the fifty-to-seventy percent of women who have to deal with
some sort of PMS, THEN deal with menstruation atop that.
"Negako assures me that, the next time this happens, it won't be so
distracting. I hope, I hope, I HOPE that she's right!"
* * *
"So why are we doing this again?"
The twenty-sixth "day" found Ranma and Negako in the living room, knitting
needles in hand as they created a pair of thick wool blankets. "Part of
your time with me will not be spent in Sanctuary," the grandmaster stated.
"I will take you to Noukiios and her older colony worlds so you may see for
yourself why Ataru ultimately decided to side with them against the
Urusians. We are preparing these blankets . . . " She waved to dozens of
blankets already done, they folded and sitting in one corner of the living
room. "As an offering to the homeless when we make our journey."
Ranma stopped. "How long are we going to be there?"
The younger woman's eyes widened. "Won't that affect our going back to
Earth? Or can we do some sort of time-travel from here?"
"Limited. At most, one could shift him or herself to a maximum of a week
either forward or backward in 'real' time as it is measured in our
dimension. That also depends on the exact conditions between there and
here," Negako reported. "And no, it will not affect our return to Earth.
Besides, there are some people I would like you to meet. You will
understand when we arrive."
Ranma nodded. "Oh, okay. How many of these do you want to make?"
"Two hundred full-sized ones for adults. Three hundred half-sized ones for
the children. We will depart when they are done."
"Don't rush this, right?"
* * *
Journal Entry, Day 27 of Sanctuary visit,
"I'm going to another planet.
"No, FOUR planets.
"The first world I'm going to is Noukiios, home to a culture approximately
five thousand years old. The culture itself is akin to a mix of Hindu India
with Three Kingdoms, Koryou and Chosoun Korea tossed in.
"The other planets -- Okusei, Tunchusei and Kurrusei -- are Noukiios'
oldest colonies. They got settled three hundred years ago by Noukiite
refugees not wanting anything to do with the Urusians occupying Noukiios.
Many of the settlers eventually became the Ip'ihu, an 'outcaste' society who
made life REALLY rough for the Urusians for a century.
"When the Onis got their asses booted off Noukiios, they demanded Okusei
and the other planets 'back,' ignoring the fact that no Urusian had ever
WENT to those planets in the damn first place! The Noukiites told them
where to stick it and the two peoples have been in a cold war state since.
"I can't imagine what it'll be like. To actually walk on another planet.
One with a different sun, different length of day -- it's a few hours longer
on Noukiios -- and people who, from how Negako described them, look like
fair-skinned Klingons from 'Star Trek - The Next Generation.'
"Damn, I'm excited!
"I'm going to places I could've never imagined going to not more than a
year ago! Damn good thing Negako's got a camera with her; when news of this
gets out, no one outside Ataru and his sisters will believe a damned word I
"Oh, well, it's their loss."
* * *
"So why do you want me to watch the ki patterns, Negako?" Ranma demanded.
"Aren't we supposed to be going to Noukiios?"
Negako quietly chuckled. "Patience, Ranma. There is method to my madness.
Tell me, in the meditations you have engaged in over the last 'week' to
create the Eisen-ken, have you noticed the many null-time bubbles?"
She pointed up. Ranma looked, her eyes narrowing. "Hey, yeah, I do see
them! The little white-ki air bubbles, you mean?"
"The same." Negako then stood up, she reaching behind her to draw out
Mister Bunny. "Now, observe."
She crouched to send the stuffed toy flying into the sky over Sanctuary.
Ranma panicked. "Hey, Negako, what the hell are you doing?! You toss and
lose him, Hinako-chan'll throw a fit for a month!"
Negako then sent Mister Bunny flying. The stuffed rabbit soared up to
about fifty metres. It then stopped. Ranma quickly noticed that Mister
Bunny was trapped in a null-time bubble. "Okay, it's trapped there! Now
A glowing chain-and-hook formed around Negako's arm, the hook itself in the
grandmaster's hand. Glancing up, she let the chain draw out and sent it
flying. Ranma blinked on seeing the hook snare another time bubble close to
the one holding Mister Bunny. "Watch me, and then do as I do, Ranma. And
do it GENTLY!" Negako said as she tugged the time bubble gently over to
touch the one holding Mister Bunny in place.
Ranma gaped as the two bubbles suddenly merged as one. "Oh, man!" she
breathed out in shocked disbelief. Then drawing out her own Psychic
Kusarigama, she got to work. "How many of them do you want to draw in,
"Why so many?!"
"You will see."
Within thirty minutes -- as Ranma perceived it -- the requisite number of
time bubbles had been made to merge with the one holding Mister Bunny. Once
that was done, Negako ordered Ranma to create a modified Psychic Kusarigama
Storm. "Now, observe. Then be ready to retrieve," the grandmaster said as
she held up a finger, aiming at the time bubble. "***SEISHIN HASAI
The Spirit-Breaker Fire-Light bolt sheared through the time bubble like a
laser through a hot-air balloon. Ranma blinked at the moment of impact.
She then gaped on seeing a SHOWER of Mister Bunnies descending toward
Sanctuary. "How the HELL . . .?!" she sputtered. Then, immediately
realizing why Negako told her to prepare multiple Psychic Kusarigamas, she
got to work. In less than a moment, all 501 Mister Bunnies were piled up on
the ground beside the doojou. Negako waved Ranma with her to ground level.
She then took one of the stuffed toys and transported it into the doojou.
"One for Hinako when we return to Promised Island," she announced on coming
out. "The remainder will come with us to Noukiios as gifts to some people
Ranma glanced skyward. "How . . .?"
Negako gently pushed her head so they could gaze into each other's eyes.
"Time, Ranma, is perception first and foremost."
The younger woman blinked as Negako moved to bundle all the stuffed toys in
the blankets they knitted. "Right."
* * *
"Hinako-chan, why are you awake?"
Hinako rubbed her eyes. "Hina just had a really, really, really strange
dream," she muttered as she sat at the dining room table.
"What sort of dream?" Rinrin asked.
"Hina dreamt that Onee-tama somehow helped Usagi-san have babies."
The others in the room considered that for a moment. Rinrin shook her
head. "You're right, Hinako-chan. That IS a strange dream!"
Everyone else nodded as Hinako rested her head on her arms.
* * *
"How does it smell?"
Ranma's nose crinkled before she glanced up. "Stale."
An orange-gold sun, about the same size as Sol, blazed overhead. The sky
itself was a brilliant pale blue, though there was a tinge of green in the
clouds to her right and behind her. The land itself was quite rugged,
somewhat like the mountains around Jusenkyou and the Nujiézú village. The
trees were similar in shape to what Ranma was used to hiking in the back
woods of China and Japan, but the leaf colours spanned the spectrum. There
were many bare spots in the surrounding landscape, revealing worn, arid
"What happened here, Negako?" she asked.
"Famine. It is not as acute here as it is on the colony worlds." Negako
waved Ranma down a trail toward a valley about a kilometre away. "And with
the new colonies the Noukiites are establishing far from any reach by
elements of the Urusian military or their colonial militia, the famine
should vanish within five years or so as more food-producing areas are put
"Don't the Onis know what they're doing to these people?!"
"No. The normal Urusian would be horrified on learning such information.
However, until this war started, the government did as much as it could to
censor such information in the Urusian press and public media. Do you have
your translator with you, Ranma?"
"Hai." Ranma tapped the pen-like device slung around her neck. She then
grunted on feeling the weight of the massive bundle currently perched on her
back. "By the way, how far before we get to where we're going?"
"Not too far," Negako assured her; she was carrying a similar bundle. "I
would not recommend running. The Lost Stars might interpret it as an
"Right . . .!" Ranma paused. "'Lost Stars?!'"
"Patience, Ranma. You will see."
"Hai . . . "
They proceeded into the valley. Ranma took the chance to gaze at the
scenery. Despite the strange colours and shapes, not to mention the
splotches of bare soil, this place could be mistaken for one of the rural
parts of Japan. Gravity seemed to match Earth's. The air was breathable
despite the lack of moisture. No doubt, they were some distance from any
large bodies of water. And the mountains would block the flow of air. No,
this part of Noukiios would match some places in North or South America,
Twenty minutes later, they stepped into a wide clearing. Set up there was
a small village, walled in like Sanctuary. The walls were wood, not
concrete. A heliport or something like it sat off to Ranma's right. The
trail she and Negako had used to get to this place lead right to the main
gate. Standing guard by the gate were two burly, bearded men in camouflage
fatigues, advanced-looking assault rifles in hand at port-arms. Both tensed
on seeing the newcomers. Then, on recognizing Negako, they lowered their
"Greetings," Negako hailed as they stopped before the gate, she lowering
her bundle to the ground. Ranma did the same. A quick glance toward the
centre of the walled village later, the ninjutsu grandmaster asked, "Are the
girls up to visitors today, Ch'ekaech?"
"They are, Most Venerable." The guard to Ranma's left nodded before gazing
quizzically on her. "And this is . . .?"
"Ataru's 'Other,' Saotome Ranma. A student of mine," Negako stated.
He smiled. "Heaven's blessings on you. Welcome to Noukiios, Venerable
Ranma. Please allow me . . . " Ch'ekaech nodded as he and his friend slung
their rifles before carrying the bundle off Ranma's back. "Where do you
wish this placed, Most Venerable?" he then asked Negako.
"The blankets are for whatever homeless group requires them. The stuffed
animals are for the girls themselves," Negako ordained.
The guards nodded. "We understand, Most Venerable."
Ranma stared at Negako. "'Most Venerable?'"
She rolled her eyes. "Try as I might, I cannot make any of them address me
as anything but with that particular title. Their society is, as I warned
you, more rigidly structured than India's. In their eyes, Ataru and I are
considered the equivalent of the Yekhu . . . "
Ranma nodded. "Their top caste."
"The same. 'Venerable' is their form of address to those Yekhu who do not
serve as anointed priests in their native religion."
Ranma tried not to grin. "And 'Most Venerable?'"
Before Negako could answer, voices squealed "Auntie Negako!" as two little
typhoons around Hinako's age slammed into her, they sending her to her
Ranma gaped on seeing Negako then rise, she holding twin girls, both
possessing electric blue hair and blue-green eyes, close to her. As
befitting those of Noukiios' highest caste, circular gold dots adorned their
cheeks. Their head-ridges were in a crow's feet pattern based above the
bridge of their noses. Both were now dressed in the same type of military
fatigues the guards from the main gate wore, though they did not have any
noticeable weapon on their person. One girl wore her hair loose to past her
shoulders while the other tied her hair in a shaggy ponytail to her waist.
"Hello, girls," Negako greeted, her voice softening considerably.
Interpreting the change of tone, Ranma smirked. Yeah, she could understand
why Negako was so hesitant on the idea of having her own children. "How are
you? At least you are eating well."
"How can we eat so well when so many are starving?" the girl sans ponytail
asked, her eyes falling on Ranma. "Auntie, who's this?"
"Ah." Negako lowered them to the ground. "She is the one your father has
been bonded to since he was a child, girls. Her name is Saotome Ranma.
'Ye-Neap'ye Yesu-P'ucht'u' in your format. Ranma . . . " She waved to the
twins. "May I present Ataru's adopted daughters, Moroboshi Reiko . . . "
She indicated the girl without the ponytail. "And Moroboshi Kaneko . . . "
She indicated the girl with the ponytail. "Two of the Lost Stars of
Ranma took that in, unsure of WHAT to say. Hearing who she was, Reiko and
Kaneko smiled. Finally, Ranma stared at Negako. "If they're his daughters,
what are they doing HERE, Negako?!" she demanded, pointing to the ground.
"Would you abandon your friends if they were fighting a war for their
race's survival and freedom, Venerable P'ucht'u?"
Ranma looked through the open gate, surprised to see a mass of girls
standing there gazing at her. Some were younger than Hinako by at least two
years. Not one Ranma could see appeared to be older than Shirayuki. The
one who just spoke to her was a silver-haired, golden-eyed girl about Aria's
age. She bore the silver dots of a K'et'hu -- the caste of wandering
missionaries, second only to the Yekhu in social standing on this world --
on her cheeks and a ray of five head ridges on her forehead. All of the
girls were dressed like Reiko and Kaneko, none bearing arms.
She gazed on Negako. "I'm not going to like hearing this, am I?"
Negako shook her head.
* * *
Within an hour, Ranma and Negako were secured in the guesthouse, a raised
structure located near the main gate. The blankets were quickly separated
from the Mister Bunny clones and prepared for transport. As soon as Negako
told the Lost Stars that the stuffed toys were theirs thanks to Hinako, a
mad frenzy of girls nearly saw the grandmaster and Ranma's work in Sanctuary
undone. Once all the toys were matched with a Lost Star, a plain yet
well-cooked lunch was prepared by a smiling platinum-haired girl Kaho's age
who reminded Ranma of Kasumi. "Chyek, did you remember to not serve foods
that are not compatible to Terrans?" Negako wondered as Ranma drew
"Yes, Most Venerable." Ei-T'e Yesu-Chyek then gazed apologetically at
Ranma. "There isn't much to spare for visitors, Venerable. I'm sorry."
"Oh, heck, please! Don't worry about it." Ranma smiled, drawing up a
strip of brownish-grey meat from the bowl to nibble on it. "Hmm. Odd
taste," she mused before taking down the rest. "What is this, anyway?"
"Nat'echinai stew," she explained.
Ranma heard "opossum" instead of the nicer-flowing Noukiite word thanks to
her language translator. "Opossum stew?! Well . . . " She brought up
another slice of meat to nibbles on it. "I've had a lot worse. It's good."
Chyek blushed before looking over as Reiko and Kaneko walked in, both
carrying Mister Bunny clones. "Mama, could you tell Auntie Hinako when you
get back to Earth that we really appreciate her presents!" Kaneko said.
A funnel of half-chewed stew burst from Ranma's mouth. "***WHAT DID YOU
JUST CALL ME?!***" Ranma shrilled, she making warding signs with her hands.
Their eyes instantly began to tear. "B-but you're b-bonded to Papa!"
Kaneko sniffled, she pointing to Negako. "Auntie Negako said you were
bonded to Papa! That means you and Papa are going to marry! Wh-why don't
you w-want us to call you 'Mama' . . .?!" She then started to cry. Reiko
Ranma's bluster instantly crashed. When it came to the waterworks, Reiko
and Kaneko were Aria times two, magnified to the hundredth degree. "Oh, man
. . .!" She deflated. Staring at the weeping Noukiite pre-teens, she
sighed, and then placed her plate down. "Oh, c'mere . . . " She reached
over, drawing them into her arms. Sensing her warm embrace, the twins
sniffled, and then they moved to cuddle, allowing their stuffed toys to fall
to the floor.
Chyek gazed quizzically at Negako. "Most Venerable, why is the Venerable
One so hesitant on the idea of marrying the Euk Hisehek and adopting P'yeknu
and At'nu as her daughters?" she asked.
Ranma blinked. The translator did not work on "Euk Hisehek" -- it allowed
its wearer to hear the Noukiite words -- though it did translate the
Noukiite names as "Reiko" and "Kaneko." "Ranma is unique as would-be
spouses come," Negako then replied. "Give her time."
Chyek sighed. "If you believe so."
* * *
"Anigimi-sama, are you alright?"
Ataru sat down at the dining room table. He seemed to be distant for a
moment, and then he flashed Haruka a reassuring smile. "I was just thinking
about something, Haruka-chan. It's alright," he assured her.
"Aniue-sama, would you want some tea?" Marie asked.
"Sure! Some of your cherry tea?"
Marie stepped out of the room to head into the kitchen. Ataru sighed,
sitting back in his chair. Looking over to where Hinako was sleeping on the
couch beside Aria, he took a deep breath. So beautiful.
So much like Reiko and Kaneko . . .
Damn it! How was he supposed to explain THEM?
"Oh, by the way, did you girls know you're AUNTS now because I adopted a
pair of Noukiite girls as my very own DAUGHTERS?"
After they got over the shock THAT would unleash, he would then have to
explain why their seven-year-old nieces were off fighting the war against
Uru. And that wasn't in a support role, but actually in the front line of
How . . .?
He looked up to see Chikage gazing at him. "What is it, Chikage-chan?"
Placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder, she leaned down to whisper, "I
would like to meet them sometime soon, Ani-kun. So would the others once
you tell them of our nieces. You have nothing to fear, Ani-kun."
She walked away. Ataru watched her before turning to look at his hands.
* * *
Ranma turned to see the silver-haired K'et'hu girl she had first seen when
the Lost Stars as a whole confronted her and Negako at the front gate
standing at the door. Shushing her, the former pointed to the sleeping
girls on a futon, both clutching their Mister Bunnies. The girl nodded,
waving Ranma to follow her. In a minute, they arrived at another hut, this
one looking more lived-in. "This is where you live, Sister?" she then
The girl stopped, her cheeks flaming. "V-v-venerable! You don't need to
address me as *that!* I haven't taken any vows!" she stammered.
Ranma laughed, sitting down beside one futon. The girl relaxed beside her.
"Sorry, but being called 'venerable' all the time'd drive me up the wall!"
She waved to herself. "I haven't done anything to earn that sort of
She considered that for a moment. "I'm sorry. But in my culture, respect
for those born of a higher element of the Ten Orders must be shown. Though
many of us do envy the social and cultural equality the Ip'ihu project, we
fear doing something which could threaten our advancement to the next life
when we face the Ch'uoeuk." Ranma knew "Ch'uoeuk" served as the posthumous
title of the founder of Noukiios' first worldwide dynasty, Muchach. A
thoughtful look then crossed the young girl's face as she offered her hand.
"Forgive me. My name is K'e-Nuk Yeho-Niap'yeng. It's an honour to meet
you, Ven- . . . " She stopped on seeing an annoyed look cross the older
woman's face, and then she smiled. "Ranma."
"Niap'yeng," Ranma repeated her given name, hoping she got the burst of air
on the "p" right, plus enunciating the "ng" as it might be said in Korean,
with a slight "g" sound. She grasped Niap'yeng's hand to draw it close,
which made Niap'yeng shift onto her lap. "It's a pleasure to meet you, too.
So how the heck does a cute girl like you wind up fighting for your
Niap'yeng stared at her before forlornly sighing. "How much has the Most
Venerable One told you of us, Ven- . . .? Er, Ranma?"
"Not much, but I can see through your auras that you've been through quite
a lot." Ranma cradled her as she gave Niap'yeng a knowing look. "And I can
tell you've all been to Sanctuary. Is that where you met Ataru and Negako?"
"Yes. We were the victims -- or if you wish, the *beneficiaries* -- of an
evil plot to create a group of metahuman-powered Naihu warriors to be
indentured across the Galactic Federation." Hearing that, Ranma nodded.
The Naihu were Noukiios' slave caste, though in pre-Occupation society, they
served along the lines of the English concept of "gentleman's gentleman" or
"lady's lady-in-waiting." "Most of the Lost Stars were abandoned at birth,
left to die because their families couldn't support them due to famine or
poverty. Some, such as I, were kidnapped from our families to fill the
quotas our 'dealers,' who styled themselves 'the Masters of Noukiios,'
needed to fill."
Ranma blanched. "What happened?"
"Well, when the war with the dog people . . . " -- Ranma knew that was a
common Noukiite way of addressing the Urusians -- " . . . started, the
government drafted us. The Masters tried to keep us under their control,
but they were put to death by the Inquisition, aided by the Most Venerable
One and your soul-mate." Niap'yeng ignored the blush crossing Ranma's face.
"When your soul-mate announced his intention to persecute the Imperials
responsible for his grandmother's death, the Dominion offered their
assistance. In repayment of that, the Most Venerable One offered to train
us in Sanctuary so we can help the Dominion's cause against the Urusians and
bring the war to an end."
Ranma considered that. "Yeah, I can see that. What about Reiko-chan and
Kaneko-chan? How'd Ataru end up adopting them?"
Niap'yeng sighed, she gazing at her hands. "P'yeknu and At'nu are very
unique. They're both bioroids, Ranma. Purpose-built from the DNA of some
of Noukiios' greatest heroes, emperors and philosophers, all mixed
"'Bioroids?!' Like Negako?"
"Yes. Their creators wanted to give Noukiios living symbols of what makes
us who we are, symbols that could help us finally overcome the pain and
misery the Urusians left behind. They simply tricked the Masters into
paying for P'yeknu's and At'nu's creation. It . . . " Niap'yeng stopped to
take a deep breath. "It's been hard for them, though. The DNA that went
into P'yeknu and At'nu had to be taken from the graves of their 'parents,'
but grave robbing of any sort is a capital crime on Noukiios. So . . . "
"So they needed to be adopted by someone who wouldn't look down on them
because of how they came into this world, right?"
Ranma sighed. "So when did it happen?"
"After your soul-mate had his encounter with those dungheap-dog
Niphentaxians." Niap'yeng made a face. "When he returned to Sanctuary, he
was on the brink of a total nervous breakdown. We . . . " She closed her
eyes as echoes of pained screams reverberated through her mind. "We helped
as best as we could. P'ye and At'nu most of all. Eventually, he came out
of it. And as he did, he started to call P'ye and At'nu 'musume-chan.'
When the Most Venerable One told them what that term meant, P'ye and At'nu
knew they had found someone who could adopt them as his children. When our
training with the Most Venerable One was complete, her brother formally
"But they had to come back here to help end this war, right?"
"Yes. Your soul-mate didn't want them to come back here, but to return
with him to Earth to be with him and his sisters. Many of us felt it
wouldn't be right, either, especially now that P'ye and At'nu now had a
family to call their own. But . . . " Niap'yeng shrugged. "They just
couldn't envision leaving Noukiios once and for all while we were still
fighting the Urusians. So they came back with us to help us finish the
"They WILL go back to Ataru, won't they?"
"When it's all over, yes."
Ranma breathed out. "That's good. I mean, they're both sweet girls and
all. I . . . " She paused. "Ataru never told me about them."
Niap'yeng sighed. "I would not blame him for that."
Both perked on hearing someone, turning to look as a crimson-haired girl
Niap'yeng's age walked up. "Nia, we've got a problem."
"What is it, Han?" Niap'yeng asked.
"Our friends on Okusei received a message from across the line," Han -- her
full name was Eyu-Teo Yeho-Hanak'at' -- reported, eyes sparkling with
excitement. "Seq Yethis is still alive! As are his sister and his niece.
They fled to Machibusu after Onishuto was destroyed. A group's preparing to
try to get them. They want us to help out."
Niap'yeng's eyes widened. "Still alive?! I thought all the major leaders
of the Imperial Round were accounted for by P'ye's father!"
Hanak'at' shrugged. "Who could identify bodies after Onishuto was
atomized, Nia? The sighting's been confirmed."
Niap'yeng considered that. Ranma stared at her, and then at Hanak'at'.
"Did he have a hand in what happened to Ataru's grandma?"
Hanak'at' gazed at her. "He had a hand in a LOT of things concerning your
kind, Venerable. He was the one who slipped in a clause in the First Tag
Race agreement that would've forced another tag race onto the people of
Earth if P'ye's father was killed or permanently crippled, even AFTER the
original race was done. He and his kind have dreamt of conquering your
planet, just like they dreamt of re-conquering us! In his eyes, Venerable,
your people are the 'uo-t'ich.' And before this war started, he was the
chief-of-staff to the Urusian President himself! What do you think we
"Han's right, Ranma." Niap'yeng sighed. "If Yethis is allowed to live,
then he could reconstitute a government that would present a threat to your
people and mine. He has to be eliminated. Quickly."
Ranma considered that before a sigh escaped her.
* * *
Night came. Ranma relaxed on the roof of the guest hut inside the village,
gazing on the stars. The star pattern was different from what she was used
to on Earth, but some of the constellations were recognizable. Another big
difference between this world and Earth was the absence of a moon, though
there were a pair of -- she assumed this -- large planets visible in the sky
off to her left. Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she shuddered as her
conversation with Niap'yeng's and Hanak'at' replayed in her mind.
Damn, was THIS ugly or WHAT?!
Young children -- both of who should be with their families, playing with
each other and their friends -- forced to fight a war. And there they were,
calmly discussing ways of KILLING somebody with the same tone of voice
others would use to discuss going to a movie or buying some cosmetics at the
local beauty salon. Yeah, this Seq Yethis sounded like someone who clearly
had no sense of honour. And he clearly was someone who was not just a
threat to Niap'yeng's people but to Ranma's. But still . . .!
She looked left to see Niap'yeng standing beside her. "I needed some time
to think to myself, Nia-chan," she whispered.
She blushed on hearing Ranma give her the "-chan" appellation with her
"pet" name. She then sat beside her. "It has to be done, Ranma." She
stared at the stars. "For the sake of millions -- on my planet, on yours --
and yes, on Uru, too -- he has to die."
"Why can't you just capture him and put him on trial? Make him admit what
he did wrong in a court? That could hurt."
Niap'yeng shook her head. "If we did that, Ranma, he could do all sorts of
things that would hurt us both in the short and long term. He's THAT
committed. He's THAT convinced he's right. No attempt at persuasion will
help, not now." She took a breath. "If we make him disappear, make his
final fate a mystery, the Imperial cause will be dealt a crippling blow.
That is what we want, Ranma. We don't want to kill every Urusian alive. To
do THAT is a hideous crime before the Ch'uoeuk and we would be damned to the
lowest level of the Ten Orders for it. Just like the fellow who took that
annihilation bomb into Onishuto. P'ye's father told you about that, didn't
he?" Seeing Ranma nod, she continued, "Yes, he was able to destroy the
whole Urusian government machinery, but millions of innocent people died,
too. That he did that . . . " She shuddered. "That he would do that would
make me pray for the salvation of his soul and the souls of those who helped
him, for the Ch'uoeuk will not show him any mercy when he faces judgement at
the Pool of Reincarnation."
Ranma nodded. "Is Negako going with you guys?"
"Yes, she is. Do you want to come?"
"I guess I should. And for that . . . " She sat up. "I best get in some
practice before going to bed tonight, Nia-chan."
"Practice in what . . .?"
Her eyes widened in shock as Ranma vanished before her.
* * *
Ranma smiled as she felt her body slip into the embrace of the Goshin Eifu.
She then stopped on seeing Niap'yeng frozen in place, her eyes wide as her
jaw seemed to drop toward the roof. "What the . . .?" she blurted out
before taking a detailed look around.
What the . . .?
Holy . . .!
Oh, gods, this was JUST not POSSIBLE!
EVERYTHING . . .?!
"Now do you understand, Ranma?"
Ranma gasped, spinning around to see Negako sitting on the roof nearby, a
bemused smile on her face. "NEGAKO?! Jeez, you're just as . . .!" She
stopped to look at her hand. "Negako, what did I just do?!" she then
An eyebrow arched. "Remember what I told you in Sanctuary, Ranma?"
Ranma considered that before a surprised grin crossed her face. "'Time is
perception first and foremost.' Then that means . . . "
"By mixing your ki with the energy of Sanctuary, you've given yourself the
ability to, for brief periods, step completely outside of linear time,"
Negako explained. "And I emphasize BRIEF periods. If you do this TOO often
. . . "
She held up a warning finger. "I could be stuck here forever, right?"
"Ranma, why did you do that?!"
Ranma screamed, spinning around to see a mildly annoyed Niap'yeng glaring
at her. "What the HELL?!" She nearly backed into Negako before turning to
face the ninjutsu grandmaster. "H-how the heck . . .?!" she sputtered.
Negako wryly chuckled. "Niap'yeng has the ability to temporarily shift
herself out of linear time herself. She has the added advantage of being
able to shift herself forwards and backwards through time."
Ranma blinked, blinked again, and then she sighed. "Oh!"
* * *
The next morning saw a group of Lost Stars, including Reiko, Kaneko,
Niap'yeng, Hanak'at' and Chyek, plus Ranma and Negako, board a
clunky-looking starship for Okusei. The ship blasted off from the village,
soaring into orbit without any noticeable side effects on her passengers.
Glancing out a view port in one of the ship's recreation lounges, Ranma
sighed as Noukiios, a water-bound planet with two Asia-sized continents,
they shaped somewhat like the two Koreas as if they were separated by a
narrow sea where the DMZ would be, plus many island archipelagos, receded
from view. As soon as the ship entered warp, she relaxed. "Man, I'll be
glad when this is over with . . . "
She perked, turning to see Reiko and Kaneko standing there. "What is it,
girls?" she asked, beckoning the twins to approach her.
Both sat down to either side of her. "Mama, we made these for Papa's
sisters." Reiko held up a computer chip.
"It's a replicator code-chip," Kaneko explained. "Auntie Negako can help
you work it when you get back to Sanctuary. It'll create sets of formal
noukik'eng for our other aunts. We . . . " She looked down. "We can guess
that Papa hasn't told his sisters about us. But no matter what, we want to
care for them as much as Papa cares for them."
Ranma considered that. She then smiled, slipping the chip into her jersey
pocket. "Don't worry." She reached over to draw the twins into her
embrace. "I'll make sure they get it. When this is all over . . . "
"We'll be together as one family," Reiko finished.
Silence fell as Ranma reflected on what Reiko said. She then nodded,
leaning down to kiss their foreheads. "Yeah. One family."
* * *
Within two hours, the ship arrived in orbit over Okusei. Staring at the
planet, Venus' size, Ranma was stunned to see the visual differences between
here and Noukiios. Most of Okusei's landmass, broken up into a dozen
Greenland-sized continents in a planet-wide ocean, was a brownish-grey, not
the lush green of Noukiios. If that was the consistency of the planet's
surface . . .!
Negako stepped up behind her. "Terrible, is it not?"
Ranma breathed out. "Bad?"
"Very. Look." Negako pointed to their right.
Ranma watched as the ship drifted alongside what appeared to be an orbital
docking station, like the one from the first "Star Trek" movie near the dock
where the "Enterprise" had been refitted before her encounter with V'ger. A
glass-lined lounge was located beside the docking collar. Staring into it,
Ranma blanched on seeing a sea of living skeletons in bare rags. Men and
women of all ages, children . . .! Oh, gods, the CHILDREN . . .?!
The martial artist spun around and raced to the nearest washroom, a hand
covering her mouth as nausea overwhelmed her. Negako watched her, and then
she sighed, staring at the station. "Not as pretty as you would think, eh,
* * *
The ship took on a battalion's worth of Ip'ihu irregulars and two companies
of Dominion Marines, the Noukiites' elite shock troopers below the Lost
Stars. Once aboard, the leader of the strike force, a wizened brigade
commander Genma's age, called everyone together for a meeting in the ship's
largest lounge. Ranma and Negako were invited along, the grandmaster doing
the introductions. On hearing Ranma's "relationship" to Ataru, Eyu-Uch
Chuho-Nakseuch grins. "So you are the one the Euk Hisehek bonded with?" He
gave Ranma a firm squeeze of the hand. "We've heard of his so-called
'girl-hunts' even on Noukiios. It's nice to see that his taste in ladies is
Ranma flustered, embarrassed that she was seen as THAT in the soldier's
eyes, yet she felt . . .! Complimented? "Um, y-yeah!"
"Oh, it's quite alright, child." Nakseuch chuckled before staring
concernedly at Negako. "Most Venerable, did young Niap'yeng speak the truth
to me earlier on about the Venerable One's ability to step clear of linear
Negako nodded. "Yes, she does speak the truth. Unlike Niap'yeng's power,
however, Ranma's is not based on alterations of her DNA, but her ability to
manipulate her very own life-force to do what she desires."
"Indeed?" Nakseuch grimaced. "Good. We've heard reports that some
scientists from the Urusian Defence Chronology Institute -- those who
survived the Euk Hisehek's attack some weeks ago, I should add -- might be
trying to develop defences against our manipulating time to our benefit.
They're unsubstantiated, but one can't run the risk."
Ranma perked up on hearing that establishment's name. "You mean the stupid
jerks that helped Pochik Ando kill Ataru's grandmother?"
The Noukiite nodded. "The same. One of the goals of our current conflict
with the dog people is to see to it that all commercial use of time-travel
devices -- 'spacializers' as they call them -- is put to a stop. What
happened to the Most Venerable Lady Nagaiwakai is just an example of what
their kind could do to every race in the galaxy and beyond if they're not
Ranma shuddered as Nakseuch's words sank in. "Damn!" She crossed her
arms. "If they succeeded in screwing around with history . . . "
"Many would be affected across a dozen worlds," Negako finished.
"So how can I help if these guys did what the general just said?" Ranma
demanded. "I can't slip from one time-frame to another like Nia-chan. I
CAN step out of linear time, but everything around me freezes . . . " Her
voice trailed as her eyes widened. "Oh."
Nakseuch grinned. "Exactly."
* * *
Another two-hour trip finally brought the ship to Machibusu. Gazing on the
planet, Ranma whistled. "Man, THAT'S different."
"Indeed it is." Niap'yeng walked up beside her as they stared on the
pink-orange hued world. Electric blue seas, some as big as the
Mediterranean, dotted Machibusu's surface, but there were no oceans like the
ones found on Earth, Noukiios or Okusei. Taking a closer look, Ranma
quickly picked out the fair-sized cities hugging the shores of those seas.
"This is one of their larger food-producing worlds, Ranma. With what is
made here, the Urusians have more than enough to sustain their people, plus
export the surplus elsewhere," the young Noukiite explained before she gazed
on the martial artist. "Why then do they seek to deprive us of the ability
to sustain our own people?"
Ranma shuddered as she tried to consider how to answer. The arrival of
Nakseuch and Negako cut that short. "The intelligence forces here have
located Yethis and his relatives," the grandmaster reported. "They have
hidden themselves in a farming village near the planetary capital."
Ranma stared at her. "That was pretty quick!"
"Clearly, someone in the general's party is sympathetic to our cause."
Nakseuch chuckled. "Not all Urusians are 'dog people' as we term them,
Venerable. Many of them are descent of commoner families who were made to
resettle on our planet during the Occupation. We have always treated them
with the respect they deserve even if their own government at times views
them as traitors to the Urusian 'cause.'"
Ranma considered that before nodding. "So what do we do?"
* * *
Twenty minutes later -- after Ranma's first ride via matter-quantum
transporter; it made her feel like someone had infused her body with a sea
of ants for about five seconds -- found her and Negako, both presently
masked by the Goshin Buufu, sneaking into a village about the same size as
the Lost Stars' home base. The differences between Niap'yeng's current home
and the village here were stark. Everything appeared to be pre-fabricated,
either reinforced plastic or some form of stainless steel. All the houses
sat on stilts, the main floors ten metres or so off the ground. That made
sense. Most Oni-Urusians could fly and those who couldn't could be given
anti-gravity belts with thruster jets to compensate. "Where're the folks
who live here?" she asked Negako as they placed themselves under the
overhang of a family home.
"In the capital city being processed by the occupation forces," Negako
reported. "Another goal the Noukiites seek in this war is the destruction
of the colonial militia forces who've raided Okusei, Tunchusei and Kurrusei
since the Union Revolution two centuries ago. It has resulted in the
near-extermination of whole towns on this world."
Ranma paled. "But . . .!"
"Ranma, remember what I told you about wars?"
Silence fell as she considered that. "Right . . . " she drawled. "Wait!"
Her eyes focuses on a building, built of the same design as the village's
other structures, located near a line of pink-leaved trees. "Someone's
Negako looked. "Good. Shall we pay them a visit?"
The two slipped into the open, casually making their way to the hut. Given
their presently being hidden under a total-ki shield, there was no fear of
anyone spotting them. Even better, the grass was cut low, thus no tall
stalks could get in their way or rustle when they walked amongst them.
"Negako, this is too easy," Ranma warned as they came within ten metres of
"Perhaps. Then again, the Onis are too addicted to technology to worry
about this," Negako said with a smirk before her eyes widened.
The ninjutsu grandmaster stopped, her eyes narrowing as she focused her
senses on the hut. "Interesting . . . " she mused.
"What?" Ranma prodded.
"Ranma, do you remember what Yedris and Sugoi look like?"
"Um, yeah! What about them?!"
"Use the Goshin Eifu to get in there, and then carry them out. When you do
get to them, strike them here . . . " Negako pointed to an area on the back
of her head, an inch above where the skull joined the spine. "Before
handling their bodies. I will explain why later. Go now!" she ordered.
Ranma nodded, concentrating as she shifted from the Body Defence Air Cloth
to the Body Defence Cloth of Eternity. Everything around her froze in place
as she raced to the hut. Getting there, she noticed an open hatchway
leading into the lowermost floor. Leaping inside was child's play. Once
there, she looked around before relaxing as she switched to the Goshin
Buufu. With that, she perked on hearing voices. Finding stairs, she headed
to the upper floor.
" . . . very unsafe for you and your family here, General."
The speaker was a burly Oni soldier, he presently standing by a window.
There were a half-dozen others like him in the room, along with three other
people. Seq Yethis reminded Ranma of a green-haired Oni version of Abraham
Lincoln, though he also wore glasses. Seq Yedris was Nodoka's age and every
bit as beautiful, though she wore her hair loose to her waist. Seq Sugoi, a
girl Rinrin's age, was a slender teen about to blossom into womanhood.
Unlike her mother and uncle, Sugoi had one horn on her head, just above the
point where Ranma had to strike her . . .
*Well, I'll be damned! They're just like Kimiko-chan!* she mused before
turning back to the conversation as Yethis moved to reply.
"There's no need to concern yourself, Captain." He smiled, turning to look
out the window. "The Noukiites have been VERY lucky of late, but they're
not the warriors they like to think they are. One strong strike against
them would send them reeling back past *our* colonies, then we'll show them
who are the REAL warriors in this galaxy."
Ranma scowled. *Jeez, this asshole's like Kunou!* she snorted before her
eyes widened as an idea popped into her head. With that, she allowed the
Goshin Buufu to shift back to the normal Umisen-ken cloak. "Let's test that
theory of yours, General!" she then called out.
Everyone screamed out on hearing that alien voice as Ranma shifted into the
Goshin Eifu. The screams faded into total silence as she yanked the weapons
out of the troopers' hands to shatter them. They wound up in a pile on the
floor. Over to Yedris and Sugoi. Shiatsu strikes to the backs of their
heads, and then Ranma called out, "Negako!"
"Bring them downstairs!" Negako ordered from the lower floor.
Ranma grunted as she carried Yedris to the stairwell. "Sorry about that,
ma'am!" she apologized as her hands brushed past the older woman's bust.
Once Negako had her, she went back to Sugoi. Once she was passed down,
Ranma shifted to the Air Cloth. Everything went back to normal.
"Hey!" the captain screamed out, finding himself without a rifle, and then
he looked around in desperation. "What the hell . . .?!"
"Who was that?!" Yethis demanded before he noticed two people missing from
the room. "Yedris?! Sugoi?! What the . . .?!"
"That was me!"
Ranma dropped the Goshin Buufu. The Onis spun on her, stunned to see a
TERRAN here. "Who are you?!" Yethis demanded.
"Name's Saotome Ranma, Yethis." She smirked, her battle aura flaring.
"Just in case you were wondering about your other Imperial pals in Onishuto
and elsewhere, I got a news flash." She tensed. "Moroboshi Ataru killed
Yethis' eyes went wide. "Moroboshi . . .?!"
"Yeah!" Ranma nodded as ki coalesced in her hands. "***KACHUU TENSHIN
AMAGURIKEN KITEI! SEISHIN SHURIKEN TAIFUN!***"
A storm of ki bolts slammed into the troopers protecting Yethis, sending
them flying through the window to crash-land on the ground beyond. Suddenly
finding himself alone, the general moved to flee. A Psychic Kusarigama
snared his legs to yank him back to make him kiss Ranma's fist. He dropped
to the floor, blood showering from a broken nose and shattered teeth.
Ranma's foot then slammed into the back of his head to keep him down. She
then allowed ki to flow into her hands. "Jeez, Yethis! Did you REALLY
think Ataru was gonna let you get away with murdering his grandmother?!"
She leaned down to contemptuously flick the horns from his head. "I don't
Yethis shuddered as he sensed Ranma fade from view. He then screamed out
as a storm of fists smashed into his body from all over.
* * *
"Impressive," Negako mused, sensing what Ranma was doing from nearby the
hut. Around the grandmaster, the troopers Ranma dealt with were tied up,
stripped of their horns and made to sleep thanks to some deft shiatsu
strikes. Yedris and Sugoi were asleep nearby, they having been given their
own shiatsu treatment to allow them to better function among other people
without their un-moulded Avalonian powers overcoming them.
A second later, a broken body sailed out one of the shattered windows to
smash into the ground some distance away from Negako. She gazed at Yethis'
battered face before turning back as Ranma leapt down to join her.
"I trust your first test of the Eien Mooko Taifun-ke went well?"
Ranma sighed. "Needs some work."
"Fair enough." Negako then drew out a communicator.
* * *
"She sold her own brother out?!"
Nakseuch nodded. "Yes!" The general was meeting with Ranma in one of the
Noukiite ship's lounges, the ship still in orbit over Machibusu. It was an
hour after the raid on Yethis' hideout. "Lady Yedris is the leader of the
Urusian Democratic Alliance. We want them to survive this war so they can
lead their people to a better future. They will need strong leadership,
especially after what happened some weeks ago."
Ranma took that in before sighing. "That's a brave lady. I take it
Sugoi-chan backs her mom up all the way."
Both turned as Sugoi stepped into the room, followed by Yedris and Negako.
Seeing the two Onis in plain noukik'eng in lieu of the tiger-striped
cheongsam-like dresses Ranma first saw them in on the planet below, the
martial artist grinned as she accepted the Seqs' embrace. "So you are the
one who was truly meant for Lum-chan's Darling." Yedris gave the Terran a
careful look-over, nodding approvingly. "Well, at least, if what Negako
told us is true, he'll have someone who truly understands him."
Ranma nodded. "I do. So what's going to happen to you two?"
"We'll stay with the Lost Stars," Yedris explained. "They're interrogating
my brother as we speak. He supposedly has knowledge of a Noukiite
missionary colony that was established on Uru over a thousand years ago,
before the Seifukusu conquered us. If the remains of that colony are found,
everything the Imperial Round has espoused concerning our relations with the
Noukiites will be made hollow. And, if the good general here . . . " She
gazed on Nakseuch, who bowed in return. "Speaks the truth about his
people's war aims, once Heaven's Gate Bridge -- that's the colony's name --
is found, the Dominion will then move to bring hostilities to an end."
Nakseuch smiled. "That is something we all want, Lady."
Ranma smirked, popping her knuckles to emphasize her point. "Hey, if you
need help with that creep, let me have some time with him."
Yedris chuckled. "It's alright. The Lost Stars have many strong telepaths
among them. You won't be needed."
"And if Uncle proves stubborn about it, that's just too bad," Sugoi added.
"Don't they say on your planet, 'You reap what you sow?'"
Ranma chuckled. "Yeah, that's true. Um, General, if you don't mind, I'd
like to talk to Yedris and Sugoi-chan here alone . . . "
"Of course." Nakseuch nodded before heading off.
Once she sensed that they were alone, Ranma turned to Yedris. "Um, if you
were wondering about Lum and Ran, ma'am, I can tell you . . . "
"It's alright." Yedris squeezed Ranma's hand. "Negako told us about them.
It's good that they're safe on Earth. Even if Lum-chan wouldn't EVER
think of doing what my brother and his friends might have wanted, there are
many on Noukiios who wouldn't hesitate in 'finishing the job' as your
people'd say. I just hope the chance will come that Lum-chan and your
fiancé will reconcile."
Ranma nearly gagged on her bile, and then she sputtered, "Hey, wait a sec'
. . .!" She backed away from Yedris only to feel Negako's hand on her
shoulder, the ninjitsu grandmaster moving to guide her out of the lounge.
"Come, Ranma. It is time to return to Sanctuary," Negako ordained.
"Um, y-y-yeah, r-right!" Ranma nodded, waving. "'Bye!"
Ranma stopped as Reiko and Kaneko ran in. The twins carried long, narrow
cases, cases that could only contain swords. Stopping before their father's
friend, they held out the cases. "Here you go, Mama!" they chimed in sync.
"What're these?" Ranma wondered.
"Seucheuchet'," Reiko explained, that being interpreted as "eunuch's sword"
thanks to Ranma's language translator. "It's okay! Papa has two of his
own; he found them when he helped the Inquisition deal with Yethis'
"It's only right that you have a pair of your own," Kaneko added. "These
were ones welded by our . . . " She paused before shrugging. "Well, two of
the people -- the two women of the group -- whose DNA went into us."
Ranma considered that before she sighed, shaking her head. "They should go
back to the graves where they were found, Kaneko-chan . . . "
"It's alright." Reiko shook her head. "One of them -- this is her blade .
. . " She patted her case. "Was the T'yekhek Empress. She was murdered by
Urusian agents before the Occupation began. Her grave was destroyed mid-way
through the Occupation. She . . . " She looked at the case. "Wound up
with Auntie Yedris' family on Uru after the Liberation."
Ranma gazed on Yedris. Seeing the older woman nod, the martial artist then
turned on Kaneko. "What about that one?"
"This was a posthumous present for the Most Venerable Ye-Hit'
Yeho-Huit'ch'uk, the mother of one of our planet's greatest philosophers,"
Kaneko explained. "It was never buried with her, but it was kept by her
family until some Urusian stole it during the Occupation." She glanced at
Yedris and Sugoi. "It wound up with the Seqs, too," she added.
"And there's no one left of the Most Venerable's family, Mama," Reiko
added, holding up the case to Ranma. "Please?"
Kaneko echoed her sister's actions. Seeing the pleading looks in their
eyes, Ranma nodded. "Alright, then. I vow on my honour as a student of
Saikoo Jinseijitsu Ninjitsu-ryuu, home Art of your adopted family, that I
will keep these blades in my company until such time as the government of
the Dominion of Noukiios requests their return. OR until such time that you
two are old enough to weld them yourselves," she then declared.
Hearing that, the twins beamed.
* * *
"Journal Entry, Day 30 of Sanctuary visit (counting time elsewhere),
"They called me 'Mother.'
"That scared me, but at the same time, it warmed my heart.
"Once we returned to Sanctuary, Negako explained to me that if it wasn't
for Reiko-chan and Kaneko-chan, Ataru's recovery from what happened in
Lumukyou might not have happened. It's no wonder he was willing to adopt
them once he learned of the problems they faced being what they are. If
that had been me, I would've done the same thing.
"The blades they gave me, according to Negako, have nice names to them.
According to the traditions concerning this particular make of sword, they
have to be given 'soft' names to offset their very dark purpose.
Huit'ch'uk's blade is Et'a Yekaechsuch-at', 'Mother's Eternal Dream.'
T'yekhek's blade is Aeyek-hup'uk, 'Righteous Love.' Oh, man, some of these
syllables are tongue-twisters, but I won't give them Japanese names. After
hearing what happened to Reiko-chan's and Kaneko-chan's people, it doesn't
seem right. Reminds me too much of what Japan once did to Korea."
Ranma paused to collect her thoughts before she carried on:
"It's nice to be back in Sanctuary, even if I can't work on the new form I
used against Yethis. When I get back to Earth, I'll have to practice it
quick. There's no telling what might happen when I go to Nerima and have to
worry about the tomboy or the lunkheads, especially with what Negako has in
"Oh, I forgot to tell you that. Negako's come up with an idea about my
breaking away forever from the panda. What I'd have to do is apply to the
Family Registrar to start up an independent branch of the Saotome family
based on Promised Island. Along the way, I have to talk to the Court of
Special Appeals to ensure Oyaji couldn't dodge around that and make me
roonin before I could finally stick it to him. Even if he HAS dragged our
family honour through the dirt, I'm not taking another name.
"To do THAT would give the bastard some satisfaction in the end.
"He gets NONE because of me.
"To do that, though, I'd have to turn over all the information Tampopo-chan
helped collect on the bastard when I was off modelling to the Court of
Special Appeals. I doubt that showing some of that, including information
on the five OTHER fiancées Oyaji got me engaged to -- Honestly! What the
hell was I supposed to do with TRIPLETS as my fiancées?! -- to Akane's dad
won't make him turn away from his so-called 'dream' of uniting the schools.
That also means I have to attack him where it'll hurt the most: Going after
his doojou sign. I've got a couple ideas about that, but I'll bounce it off
Negako first before making any firm plans. And no, it won't involve a
"Whoo, won't HE be in for a surprise!"
Ranma stopped, and then she saved the entry.
* * *
Six "days" later, Negako silently stepped into Ranma's room to crouch
beside the sleeping girl. Fortunately, Ranma was reclining on her side.
Reaching over, the ninjutsu grandmaster tapped several points on the younger
woman's head and back. With that, she rose, moving to the door.
"Time to wake up, Ranma. Go have a bath first."
A moan escaped Ranma, and then she rolled onto her back. "Right . . . "
Negako headed into the kitchen as Ranma gathered her toiletries before she
jogged into the bathroom. Turning back to her cooking, the grandmaster
relaxed as she extended her ki-senses to keep an "eye" on her student.
Any moment now . . .
That was a BOY'S yell, by the way.
Negako walked to the bathroom door to peek in. Kneeling beside the furo
was a MALE Ranma, staring down at himself with a mixture of stunned shock
and horror. *Perhaps the same expression he showed when he was initially
immersed in the Nyanniichuan?* she wondered to herself as she crossed her
"Are you alright, Ranma?" she calmly asked.
He shuddered as he gazed at her, and then he sputtered, "W-why . . .?"
"You had to feel it for yourself," Negako reported. "Change back, and then
meet me in the doojou. It is time for your final lesson here."
She headed out.
* * *
Minutes later, a female Ranma stepped into the doojou. Negako knelt by the
head, where the kamidana would be located. Ranma placed herself before her,
and then she bowed. Negako nodded. Straightening herself, Ranma sniffed
before wiping her eyes. Silence then fell as she collected herself. She
then stared at her host. "Could you please lock me up as a girl again,
"Are you a man or a woman?" Negako asked in return.
Still more silence.
Then . . .
"I'm a woman. Chikage and the Jusenkyou guide were right."
Negako beckoned Ranma with a hand. Ranma shifted over, and then she
remained still as the grandmaster fused new ki into her. Once that was done
and the Chiisui-ton lock was again in place, Ranma shifted back to where she
first sat. "How did you feel when you changed?" Negako asked.
"Ugly!" Ranma immediately responded. "I went over a month without a
change. My sense of balance was totally out of whack. And I . . . " She
quaked. "I saw myself in the mirror there, as a guy. And it just HIT me,
Negako! That just wasn't ME! It wasn't ME anymore, Negako!" Taking
another deep breath, she pointed to herself. "THIS is me, Negako! A woman
who wants nothing to do with that . . . that . . . " She sputtered. "That
macho, sexist FREAK Oyaji wanted to create to please Mom! Oh, gods . . .!"
She covered her face with her hands, wiping away the tears. "Now that you
have allowed that to escape you, it is time," Negako said.
She reached behind her to draw a box. Laying that before Ranma, she opened
it. Ranma looked in. A black belt with a kanji symbol.
Ranma stared at Negako. "Happy, Kelun and I made an agreement before you
and I came here," the grandmaster explained. "If you show to me that you
have proven the right to have this, Happy will release you as a student of
Musabetsu Kakutou-ryuu and acknowledge you as a student of Saikoo
Jinseijitsu-ryuu under my tutelage. Furthermore, he will strip Souun and
Genma of their teaching licenses. The Tendou-ryuu and the Saotome-ryuu will
cease to be. Happy will then take Nabiki and Akane under his direct
tutelage." A pause. "Furthermore, if you earn this, Kelun will send a
message to her sister councillors about your emotional change of gender,
then have you adopted into the Nujiézú as a warrior of full standing. You
and Shanpú will become blood-sisters under their Blood Sibling Law. Chikage
explained to you about that after you first came to Promised Island. Once
that is done, if you desire, you will be free to pursue your own future. It
will NOT force you into a marriage with Ataru, though."
"And if I desire to marry Ataru?"
"Do you desire that now?"
"I . . . " Ranma stopped before sighing. "I don't know."
"Then you have to find out."
"I guess I do." Ranma looked down. "Negako, I haven't learned all the
forms yet. I don't even deserve a plain black belt . . . "
Negako held up her hand to silence her student's protest. "Ranma, your
time here wasn't meant to be spent learning ALL the basic forms. Some of
them, including the Earth-Heart Fire Geyser and the Paranormal-Power Inverse
Fire Bomb, require special training. And you might not be compatible to
learning those forms since, even with your curse locked in place, your
natural affinity is water." She pointed to her own belt with the "chi"
kanji. "What you had to prove, to yourself most of all . . . " She pointed
to Ranma. "Was the fact that before a teacher can truly teach others . . .
"I have to learn how to teach myself."
"And to fully THINK for yourself. To take what you hear from others, make
your own theory, and then proceed to prove it and use it to your benefit.
You did it when you created the Mooko Takabisha. You did it when you
modified the Hiryuu Shooten-ha to suit your style of combat. You did it
when you created the Goshin Buufu, then later the Goshin Eifu and the Eien
Mooko Taifun-ke. You CAN do it, both within martial arts and beyond, that
you see and do for yourself. What you will learn over time is how to
differentiate between the good forms and the bad forms. That comes with
Silence falls as Ranma considered that before she sighed. "What now?"
"Part of the trial will be done here. The rest comes in Nerima when you
deal with your would-be suitors and the other hangers-on."
Ranma's eyebrow arched. "So this includes the thing with the Court of
Special Appeals and the Family Registrar, right?!"
"Exactly. Not everything in life is battle, Ranma."
Ranma grinned. Life. "I can see that. Nokoko-oneechan was right."
"She was. Up!"
Both rose, and then properly greeted each other; practitioners in Saikoo
Jinseijitsu used the left fist-in-right palm salute employed by certain kung
fu and t'ai chi schools. Ranma stepped back to give Negako space, and then
she assumed a standing sword-draw stance. Negako nodded, concentrating her
ki into her hand. Seeing that, Ranma nodded, relaxing herself.
"Better," Negako said. "Now, draw."
* * *
"Ranma . . .?!"
Everyone in the dining room perked on hearing Ataru. They then turned to
gaze on him. "Onii-chan, are you alright?!" Karen asked.
A lost look was on his face as he rose, heading out. "Anigimi-sama, what's
wrong?!" Haruka demanded as the sisters crowded the door.
"Leave him be."
"Chikage!" Karen snapped. She then fell silent as everyone watched Ataru
place himself before the doors leading out of the rotunda. He lowered
himself into seiza, and then he relaxed, his eyes fixed on the doorknobs.
"What's wrong with Onii-tama?" Hinako wondered.
"What we have wished for has taken the largest step toward coming true,
Hinako," Chikage replied. "Now, we wait."
The others nodded.
* * *
To be continued . . .
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