[FFML] Quantum Destinies 22
qd.author at gmail.com
Sun Mar 18 09:36:25 PDT 2012
*** Heaven 0.000, 0.000
Skuld frowned as she sat at her usual terminal in Yggdrasil’s datacore,
waiting for the system to respond to her request for a status update. The
two small dolls that looked like super-deformed versions of her sisters
watched sightlessly as she tapped at the keyboard made of solid light in
front of her. She raised her hand and pulled aside a second processing
window from the main one, and the scrolling text within it faintly
reflected from her eyes. The display suddenly paused and briefly cleared
itself, before presenting several more lines of text.
* MIDGARD REALITY PARADIGM ADJUSTMENT: 42% COMPLETE.
* ERROR: ANOMALOUS DATA IN SYSTEM.
* ERROR: MISSING PARAMETERS IN EQUATION.
* SEARCHING FOR SOLUTION FOR MISSING PARAMETERS. PLEASE STAND BY.
It had been like that for weeks, and Skuld was growing concerned. As
Yggdrasil’s datacore hummed in the background, she could somehow detect a
faint difference in its tonal harmonics, as if the crystalline matrix was
developing some kind of strain, but there was nothing she could find wrong
when she called up various analysis algorithms. Everything was operating
right within its normal working parameters, if perhaps higher than she had
ever seen before.
The young goddess wished Belldandy was back, but her older sister was on an
extended mission to the Earth realm. There was Urd, of course, but Skuld
was not about to take her rather vague concerns to her oldest sister, since
the only way she could explain why she was bothered would be to admit she
had been poking around the datafile containing the list of Probability
Nodes for the system, not to mention messing around with the Destiny
Protocols, which was a definite no-no.
Something was missing that needed to be present, some element that was
being referenced from the supporting datafiles. But, what?
She called up the master index to take another look at the Class One
Probability Nodes, and she was startled to see that another person had been
recently upgraded from Class Three to Class Two and then to Class One
status in rapid succession. And this one was near the other two. To have
multiple spontaneous upgrades occur within close proximity to each other
was a rare event, to say the least, and usually preceded a major adjustment
to the reality matrix.
A few other people that were cross-indexed with the new Class One Node had
risen in status as well, to Class Two and Three, and all of the proper
authentications were present as with the first two, but there was still
something that felt a bit off about the whole thing. Skuld glanced over at
Yggdrasil’s datacore, puzzled. What was going on?
The young goddess nibbled her lower lip, worried about her dreams again.
Events were beginning to unfold in them that had their birth here in the
present, scary things. She could sense a sort of pressure looming in the
future, like something leaning against a screen door, trying to get inside.
Changes needed to be instituted soon into the system, or it might be too
late to affect whatever was coming, to try and stop that future from
A Ranma 1/2 Fanfic
By S. Thesken aka Jurai Knight (qd_author at hotmail.com)
Ranma 1/2 and its characters are owned by Rumiko Takahashi. This story is
inspired by her works and the stories from some of my fellow fanfic
authors. Among these are D.B. Sommer’s “Shampoo 1/2”, Jim Bader’s “A Very
Scary Thought -aka- Nabiki 1/2”, and John Biles’ Elseworlds series. All C&C
Other chapters of this story may be found at this website, or you can email
the author for them:
The list of worlds reoccurring in this chapter:
Earth 0.000, 0.000 - The world of Scholar Ranma (Baseline cluster)
Earth +0.001, +0.002 – The world of Scholar Ranko (Baseline cluster)
What has gone before in this story (or at least what will help you
understand what is going on):
On a parallel Earth that diverged from the standard Ranma timeline over
five hundred years ago, the Empire of Japan rules almost half the world and
has done so for almost a century. Theorizing that one could travel to
alternate timelines by possessing counterparts in them, a young scientist
named Ranma Saotome, through use of a device of his own invention,
accidentally obtained the skills and memories of a martial artist version
of himself. Mousse had finally made his way home after several years away
from the Joketsuzoku village when he ran into some difficulties. Meanwhile,
Shampoo did some thinking about her life, now that she had the new
perspective that memories of being Ensign Shan offered her. Nabiki and
Ranma made their way home after the fight with Kinnosuke and the three
catgirls, and the Kashuoh heir made new plans. Nodoka and Kenseiko had a
talk about the engagement between their children, and their plans for the
future. Ryoga and Ryoko arrived at the Imperial Academy, but Ryoga’s
revenge against Ukyo was left incomplete. Tsubasa Kurenai appeared, but a
far different one than the original. Finally, Touga Kiryuu began his first
moves for his seduction of Nabiki Tendo.
Chapter 22 - Yin And Yang, Part II
Yin - n. - The feminine passive principle in nature that in
Chinese cosmology is exhibited in darkness, cold, or wetness
and that combines with yang to produce all that comes to be.
Yang - n. - the masculine active principle in nature that in
Chinese cosmology is exhibited in light, heat, or dryness and
that combines with yin to produce all that comes to be.
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary
*** Earth 0.000, 0.000
Kasumi Ono was lying on her side in the bed she shared with her husband,
facing away from him, a part of her attention listening to his slow and
steady breathing as he slept. The house was otherwise very quiet and
peaceful around them, but she could not seem to fall asleep.
Where had it all gone wrong in her marriage to Tofu? Or had it ever been
right? Kasumi pondered those questions, nibbling lightly on her lower lip.
She had been so certain that she would come to love him, the handsome
doctor that the matchmaker had introduced to her. After all, her parents
had been an arranged marriage, and they had been happy together. So why
wasn’t she happy?
The marriage ceremony had been beautiful. Her father had been so stoic in
appearance, but she knew he was contented to see her married and to a
doctor with a fine career ahead of him. Her sisters had been envious of
her, especially Nabiki, but they were also openly pleased to see her
married. It had been a wonderful, magical day.
Their honeymoon in Kyoto had been quite romantic, and Tofu was gentle with
her that first night, treating her like the most precious thing in his
world. Still, while that night had been a pleasurable experience, something
had seemed to be missing, something intangible. But she had convinced
herself that she was just being a nervous new bride. After a few weeks, she
was certain she would settle down and then discover the contentment from
being a married woman.
However, several weeks passed and then a few months, but the vague feelings
of wrongness continued. The contentment her mother had once told her to
expect as a wife never appeared. She was married to a good man who provided
a nice home for her, but she wasn’t happy. What had gone wrong? She had
done everything that was expected of a young woman by getting married.
Perhaps a child would help, she finally decided, so she had her birth
control implant removed in a simple procedure.
The months continued to roll on, and pregnancy eluded her. Tofu began
drifting away from her, a little bit more with each failed attempt. He
never yelled at her or struck her, not like some of the other husbands in
their neighborhood would do with their wives, and he never cheated on her
that she could tell. Instead, he simply began to spend more and more time
away at work and the two of them settled into a sort of quiet desperation
as the initial passion between them gradually faded away to nothing, if it
had ever really existed at all.
Kasumi felt a few tears roll down her cheeks and stain her pillow. It
wasn’t fair. She had done everything properly, playing the role of the
dutiful daughter and then the honorable bride. She had turned in her
uniform to be a housewife instead, ending a promising career in the
Security Directorate. Even in the one thing she had always secretly taken
pride in, her skills as a martial artist, she had been recently surpassed
by Nabiki. When had her little sister grown so skilled and strong? To lose
to her had been humbling. This wasn’t how her story was supposed to end up,
not like this.
As she thought about her life, depression roiling within her, something
suddenly occurred to her. She rolled over a bit and glanced over her
shoulder at her sleeping husband for a moment before lying back down.
Actually, there was nothing stopping her from simply reactivating her
commission again, to take up the uniform of a Security Directorate agent
once more. Her husband was hardly ever home as it was, and it would give
her something useful to do with her time, other than cooking and cleaning
in a house where she was by herself most of the time.
A new excitement seemed to fill her, having made the decision. She felt she
had to tell somebody about it, and the first person she thought of was Lt.
Yusaku Godai, startling her a bit. She blushed.
Kasumi had never felt so attracted to someone else before, like she was to
Lt. Godai, and she would be lying to herself if she tried to deny it. She
smiled wistfully as she thought about the young soldier, only a few years
older than herself. She had met him by chance at her father’s house, and
the feelings he had awoken within her when she first laid eyes upon him
were as unexpected as they were pleasant.
She had been quite startled by those feelings at first, and she still felt
a bit guilty over having them, but she could no longer deny their
existence. Not that she intended to act upon them, since that would just
not be proper. No matter how she felt, she was a married woman after all.
However, if she had never met him, she might never have made her decision
to rejoin the Security Directorate. So she wanted to thank him for that,
and perhaps he would even be willing to have dinner with her sometime. As a
friend, of course, she hastily amended in her thoughts.
In the morning, she would go down to the Directorate and fill out the
necessary paperwork and request to be an active agent again. She made a
mental note to pull her uniform out of the back of her closet and check to
make sure it still fit her all right. It had been many months since she
last wore it, but she was looking forward to putting it on again. Perhaps
she would even visit her father while she was there, or see if any of her
old co-workers were still around.
As if a burden had been lifted from her, Kasumi finally drifted off into a
contented sleep, feeling that her future was now a much brighter place than
it once had been. And as her mind fell to slumber, images of herself and a
certain young soldier of the Empire floated across her thoughts, and a
number of her imaginings were quite scandalous.
The thrumming sounds of a military helicopter approaching disturbed the
stillness of the night air. Dawn was still a little ways off, but the
arrival was expected due to the recent misfortune that had befallen the
facility. Losing three prized subjects, the result of years of effort at
eugenics and genetic manipulation, had been enough to bring to this place
the man who pioneered both Project Phoenix as well as the Empire’s
decades-long study of the so-called Jusenkyo Effect. It was also one of the
few times he had ever left his private laboratory in almost a decade.
Two armed soldiers flanked the portly figure of the facility’s current
director, Doctor Taiko Gaido. He appeared Chinese, but he was actually a
third-generation Imperial Citizen, his grandfather having earned the honor
many years ago as a fighter in the Arena. He sweated nervously as he waited
near the helicopter pad, occasionally mopping his face with a white cotton
handkerchief. One of his hands was bandaged, from injuries he sustained
during the escape of the three young fugitives.
The helicopter settled down and came to a rest, and a soldier hopped out of
the front area, hurried to the side and rolled open the door of the vehicle
there. A dark shape loomed for a moment in the interior, lit by the
helicopter’s cabin lights, and then it emerged, a rotund figure dressed in
a trenchcoat, holding a hat down over its head and concealing its features.
Gaido stepped forward. “Moreau-sensei, Director Sagara informed me of your
arrival. While I am extremely distressed at the circumstances necessitating
your visit, let me start by saying what an honor it is-”
He abruptly stopped as the figure raised one gloved hand and waved it once
sharply, abruptly cutting off his welcoming speech. A female figure emerged
from the vehicle behind the trench-coated figure, coming into the
illumination provided by the spotlights pointed towards the tarmac. She was
an attractive Japanese woman with her hair worn long and pulled into a
single loose braid that fell to the middle of her shoulders, dressed in a
finely-tailored business suit with a modest skirt and carrying a thin,
metal briefcase. A professional look of disdain was seemingly permanently
etched upon her otherwise lovely features.
“Moreau-sensei has not come here to exchange pleasantries with you,
Gaido-san,” said the woman grimly. “He is here on business.”
“And you are?” Gaido turned to face the woman. He was not used to being
spoken to in such a way.
“I am Moreau-sensei’s attaché. You will call me Silk. Now, the doctor has
had a long journey, so I expect you have prepared a room for him to refresh
himself in before we conduct our investigation.” It was not phrased as a
question but a command.
Gaido glared at the woman briefly, but then he saw something quite
dangerous in the gaze she directed back at him and quickly backed down. He
bowed to them and gestured with his arm to one side. “Right this way,
Moreau-sensei, Silk-san.” He then led the way, Moreau stepping up next to
him and matching his pace with his own lumbering gate, still holding his
hat down over his face with a heavy, gloved hand.
As Gaido led them towards the main building, Silk fell into place a single
pace behind them, her eyes scanning their surroundings as she walked, alert
for any sort of threat. She moved gracefully but with an almost predatory
power in her step. The two guards fell in at the rear, their automatic
weapons held in a ready position.
“Have you made any progress in retrieving the subjects?” Silk inquired
after a few moments.
“I have my men out scouring the area,” Gaido assured them, his comments
more directed at Moreau. “They may have had a day’s lead, but it’s only a
matter of time before they’re found and brought back. They’ve never been
outside the walls of this facility, so they can’t possibly know the
“The doctor has invested a great deal of time and effort into those three.
They must be returned alive and in good condition. If they aren’t....” She
left the statement hanging, an unspoken threat.
Gaido sweated some more and suddenly swallowed. “I-I’m doing everything I
can. There was no reason for them to do this. They have always been
compliant to their captivity, especially Herb. But she fought with such
skill, such great ferocity, it was amazing. I don’t know how it was
possible. They have never received any such combat training.”
“The doctor is aware of their physical capabilities,” Silk commented
calmly. “But you are right on one thing. How could they know how to fight
without training? Someone must have taught them in secret, so I will be
reviewing the security recordings after we’ve settled in. It’s possible
that something could be discovered there.” She noted from a change in his
posture that Gaido suddenly seemed to be even more nervous, and her eyes
narrowed. “Is there a problem?”
“W-well,” he began, mopping his forehead with his handkerchief again,
glancing over at Moreau. “It’s just that the security recordings were
somehow erased during their escape. I’m not sure how it happened. It
appears that the trio somehow accessed the main computer, or perhaps
someone on the staff was coerced into helping them. Our chief of security
was one of those killed during their escape, his neck broken, but I have
his assistant working on the matter.”
Moreau growled, an animal sort of sound. Gaido cringed a bit at the
unexpected noise, and he was extremely grateful when they entered the main
building. The two guards made no appearance that they were even listening
to the conversation, but they kept a wary eye on everything.
After a brief walk and an elevator ride, Gaido led them into the staff
housing region of the building. He paused outside a door just down the hall
from his own quarters and slid a magnetic keycard into the lock. When the
lock’s light turned green, Silk calmly stepped up and took the card from
“Thank you for your welcome, Gaido-san,” she said smoothly, opening the
door and letting Moreau walk past her. “The doctor and I will let you know
what we’ll need. For now, continue your search, and also inform Director
Sagara of our safe arrival.”
She left a startled Gaido behind her as she shut the door. The look on his
face went from surprised to angry after several moments. Who did that woman
think she was, addressing him in such a fashion? With a grim look at the
two guards, who immediately snapped to attention, he stalked off down the
hallway, still mopping his sweating forehead.
Once inside, Moreau finally pulled off his hat, and the furred face of an
Asian gorilla was revealed, more commonly known as a yeti, a beast thought
to be extinct, and his legacy from his early work on Jusenkyo’s secrets. He
grumbled a bit as he clumsily pulled off his heavy gloves, revealing
powerful, fur-covered hands. With a deep sigh, he pulled off his long
trench-coat and sank down on the comfortable bed, dressed in a loose tunic
and pants. As he relaxed, Silk proceeded into the bathroom to investigate
the facilities. After several moments, the sound of running water was heard.
“I thought a hot bath would be in order for you, sir,” said Silk as she
came back into the bedroom. “Moreau-sensei?”
Hearing a rumbling snore, she sighed. The man was one of the most brilliant
geneticists on the planet, second only to that megalomaniacal madman, Keel
Lorentz (now hopefully dead, although Silk had lost track of the number of
times the Security Directorate had declared him and his albino maidservant,
Rei Ayanami, so). While remaining in his cursed form extended his life, he
seemed to enjoy the lazy nature of a gorilla far too much.
Silk shivered a moment, recalling Keel and her fortunate escape from one of
his abandoned labs in Thailand over five years ago, her memory blank of so
many things. She was grateful to Moreau-sensei for liberating her from that
facility, for helping an amnesiac woman without an identity to find a place
for herself. She owed him so much.
She shook her head. No, that monster Keel had to be dead this time. There
was simply no way he could have survived the destruction of his base in
Antarctica six years ago. The maniac had vaporized it and whatever he had
been working on rather than being taken by Imperial Special Forces, and
over four hundred of the Empire’s best soldiers had lost their lives in an
It was for the best. Both he and the products of Germany’s own attempt at
eugenics, their Human Instrumentality Project, were better off dead and
buried. They just had to be, for the world should never have been subjected
to Keel’s ‘ubermenschen’ creations, powerful, intelligent, and physically
attractive boys and girls, born to rule over ordinary humans, but without a
single shred of morality in the lot. The future belonged to the results of
Moreau-sensei’s labors, the children of Project Phoenix, not to that madman
Keel’s twisted vision of what the ultimate human should be.
Wandering over to the window, Silk looked out at the fading night as Moreau
napped. She casually unbuttoned her jacket, revealing more of the plain
white silk blouse she wore underneath it and pulled out a silver cigarette
case and matching lighter from an inner pocket. She lit the thin cigarette
with a practiced move and held it to her lips, before setting the lighter
and case down on the sill. The tip’s golden glow reflected on the glass in
front of her, even as she gazed at her image dimly shown there, a pensive
look on her face, lost in thought.
Somewhere out there, wandering in that darkness were the prototypes for
Moreau’s greatest creation, the Mark-II Newtypes, the next stage in the
evolution of humanity. But where were they now? Why had they escaped? And
what were they doing?
Mint could not seem to remove his gaze from Herb’s chest as she slept there
in the moonlit darkness in front of him, her cloak having fallen open. Lime
stood guard a short distance away. He should have been asleep as well, but
he was unable to. Intellectually, one part of him knew that the two soft
mounds of flesh beneath her tunic were merely glands that women had for
feeding newborn young. But there was another part of him that yearned to
touch them, that felt oddly fascinated by the mere sight of them, concealed
from his view by thin cloth, and he could not deny that he felt very
attracted to Herb’s female body.
Swallowing once, Mint stared at those breasts. The way they rose and fell
slightly with Herb’s gentle breathing was mesmerizing in a way that he
could not explain. He could not seem to stop himself as his fingers moved
of their own accord, reaching out to touch them.
A hand seized his wrist, suddenly and painfully.
“<What do you think you’re doing, you idiot?>” came Herb’s voice, her eyes
now open and glaring at him.
Mint sat up quickly and then fell to his knees. “<A thousand pardons,
Milord Herb.>” He all but buried his face in the soft loam of the forest
floor. “<Forgive me.>”
“<If I didn’t need you for this mission, I would break your spine and leave
you for those soldiers to find.>” Herb increased the pressure of her grip
on Mint’s wrist, the bones grinding a bit beneath her fingers, feeling
unfamiliar emotions at his halted attempt to molest her. Other sensations
caused by his nearness did not bear even thinking about, and they only made
her angrier. “<Do not forget that I am Herb, your lord, not some pretty
plaything for you to amuse yourself with, no matter how I may appear. I
will never be any man’s woman. Now, I hope I don’t have to tell you this
She suddenly released her grip on his wrist and wrapped her cloak more
tightly around her, glaring at her companion for another moment before
closing her eyes again. “<Get some rest, idiot. We move again at first
Lime, his senses alert, kept watch on the forest around them for any
movement, but he spared a glance in Mint’s direction. He hoped the other
boy took Herb’s warning to heart. It would damage their chances of success
to indulge in such things.
His own gaze then drifted over to linger on Herb’s face, noting how
beautiful it was, but he quickly looked away, his face blushing. Such
feelings were counter-productive. Lord Herb was female in body only, and
that would be rectified when they reached Japan and found the tools they
needed to restore him to his proper form. Then they could begin their
search for this resonator source Lord Herb sought.
It was probably a fool’s errand, Lime mused, but he would not allow such
thoughts to take root. Lord Herb had commanded they would find the source
of that signal, so find it they would. He was a Musk, as were they all, so
failure was not an option.
That decided, Lime turned his gaze outwards again, his ears alert for any
signs of pursuit while the others rested.
“Director Kasuga? We’ve received the report from the post-cognitives that
you requested. I thought you should hear about it.”
“Come in then, and shut the door behind you.” The elderly man closed the
folder on his desk as his aide did as ordered, taking a seat in front of
him. He folded his hands and looked expectantly at the young man. “So, what
can you tell me?”
“Well, most of it you already know, sir. Several weeks ago someone managed
to penetrate our highest security database and downloaded numerous files
concerning a location in China known as Jusenkyo and the effects of the
waters from its many pools. While our standard tracing methods proved to be
less than adequate, the post-cognitives you requested did succeed.”
“Stop trying to build the suspense,” Director Kasuga said a bit tartly,
waving his hand slightly. “A name. Give me a name.”
His aide immediately replied, “It was Ranma Saotome, sir.”
“Now why would-” Director Kasuga started to ask, then he paused and
thought. What interest would the Saotome boy have in Jusenkyo? For that
matter, how did he even know about it? Ranma had spent most of his youth in
Europe and the American Prefectures, far from the pools of Jusenkyo. Why
would he want to know about them? Perhaps he should have the boy brought in
for questioning, or maybe even a telepathic inquiry.
Director Kasuga abruptly paused. Cherry had told him very specifically that
he was not to do anything to hinder the path that both Ranma and Nabiki
walked. Was this a part of it? Was this why he was warned? He could not
afford to take a chance, not with the dangers Cherry hinted at, so he chose
to trust the old monk and played a hunch instead.
He leaned forward. “There’s a storage depot the Institute maintains in
Nerima, isn’t there? What are its contents?”
His aide pulled out his datapad and performed a quick search. As he
scrolled through the inventory and saw what was listed there, he looked up,
startled. “Why, there are several vats of Jusenkyo water there, sir.
Multiple varieties, in fact. A few have been in storage there for years,
but a new shipment was just delivered there last week from the research
station near Jusenkyo. Shall I alert the guards to increase security?” He
started to stand up.
“No!” the older man said sharply, waving him to sit down. “No, don’t do
anything of the kind. In fact, I want you to remove the guards from the
premises until I say otherwise. All of them. And uncover every vat.”
“Sir?” His aide looked at him, startled.
“You heard me,” said Director Kasuga. “This is going to be designated a
Level Indigo situation, and no records will be made of this order. Do you
“Yes, sir.” The aide snapped to attention and saluted. Level Indigo was one
of the highest security ratings the Institute had. “But what do we do if
someone is affected by some of the Jusenkyo water? Do we take them into
“No,” Director Kasuga replied, casually leaning back in his chair and
thinking about the possible outcomes. “We do absolutely nothing. As far as
the Institute is concerned, we let whatever happens happen.”
“All right, sir. I’ll take care of getting the guards pulled from the
facility.” The man saluted again and then left.
Director Kasuga turned to face the window, watching the falling rain
outside. “Such an interesting day today has become,” he mused.
“Where is that idiot?” Ryoko grumbled to herself as she stood outside the
public bath in the rain, holding a dark blue umbrella over her head, angry
with herself for having let Ryoga out of her sight so she could clean up a
bit. After taking nearly a full day to find the Hibiki boy, using what
little money she had with her to sleep in a cheap hotel and eat fast food,
getting more and more irritated and frantic with each hour spent searching
for him, she had finally came across him camped out in a city park, calmly
boiling some water for soup. After a few minutes spent pummeling him to
ease her stress levels, she joined him at his camp.
She was currently wearing some of his spare clothing right now, since her
own were not fit for use right now after being worn for so long with her
sweating in them without a washing. She dearly wished she had thought to
bring a change of underwear with her though. The bath had helped her mood,
Ryoko glanced at her watch again as the rain poured down around her. It had
only been thirty minutes. How could a guy get lost from inside a public
bath in so short a time? He wasn’t illiterate, so was reading a sign too
much to ask for? She growled again.
At least sharing his sleeping bag in his tent last night had shown her one
thing. Ryoga Hibiki might be a total idiot, as well as inexplicably
dyslexic with directions, but he was a trustworthy guy. He didn’t try a
single thing with her all night, keeping his back to her the whole time and
going right to sleep.
Ryoko growled again and set off hunting for Ryoga, her free hand twitching
at her side. He was probably on his way to find that Ukyo guy again, she
quickly decided, so she headed off in the general direction of the Imperial
Academy. She was just as eager to return there herself anyway. After all
this time spent brooding about it, a habit she had picked up from spending
time with Ryoga on the way to Tokyo, she was yearning to pound some respect
into Nabiki Tendo for her remarks. Calling her ‘Goblin Girl’ had been,
well, just plain rude.
“Just you wait, Nabiki Tendo,” Ryoko murmured grimly, as she stomped down
the street. “Once I catch up to that idiot Ryoga and tie a bell around his
neck, you’re getting yours. Just you wait.”
Nodoka set down her teacup and began refilling it from the pot on the table
as she considered the somewhat startling offer she had just heard. As she
did so, Achika sipped at her tea, trying to hide her nervousness, feeling
worried that Nodoka might not grant her request. She was near to her wit’s
end. She had not heard from Ryoko for a couple of days after that brief
phone call, and all sorts of very worrisome thoughts had been filling her
mind during that time, wondering about her wayward daughter and what was
going on between her and that Hibiki boy. After all, he seemed to be a
healthy young man, and Ryoko was a healthy young woman. Both of them were
filled with the passions and hormones of youth. She glanced at Nodoka again.
“I know we never really discussed it much,” Achika began, setting down her
own teacup. “But now that Ranma is back and settled in at home, we should
talk about it. Having our children marry would please me very much,
Nodoka.” She bowed deeply. “Please consider it.”
Nodoka put her hand gently on Achika’s shoulder as her best friend looked
up from her bow, and she asked, “Why this sudden interest?”
“Oh, Nodoka, having a daughter is so troublesome sometimes,” Achika sighed.
“When Ryoko’s only contact with boys was beating them up, I never felt this
concerned, but now she’s brought a young man home with her from her last
training trip. His name is Ryoga Hibiki.” She picked up her teacup and
drank from it briefly. “You’re lucky you only have a son to raise. Boys are
much less worrisome, like my Tenchi is. He never gives me cause for
“Well, I might be having a daughter this time, so I will rely on your
advice in raising her,” she said with a smile. The thought that she might
have a little girl around the house pleased her as she briefly stroked her
belly. If she had one, she would teach her how to be a proper Japanese
woman, and that made her happy. And she would never quarrel with her
daughter, she was quite sure of that. Theirs would be a relationship of
mutual and sincere respect, Nodoka mused, unlike how she had gotten along
with her own mother. “When Ranma first came home, I did consider talking
with you about such a thing, but Ryoko seemed a bit much for my son to
handle.” She smiled as she thought about the girl, so active and filled
with life, so much like Achika was at that age. It was like looking back in
time, in a way.
Achika nodded. “Yes, Ryoko-chan can be a handful, which is why Ranma would
be good for her. He could be a stabilizing influence on her.” She paused a
moment, then asked a bit tentatively, “How is his martial arts training
“Oh, Ranma is becoming such a fine young warrior,” Nodoka said with a proud
smile. “He trains so hard now, and Genma and I are both deeply honored that
a living legend like Master Jun Fan Lee has taken him on as a student.
Ranma’s even been getting into fights lately, but I’m sure he’s winning
them. I was a little worried about how quiet he was when he first came
home, but he’s become so manly nowadays.” She took a sip of her tea.
“Yes, that’s why I feel more confident about approaching you like this now.
We’ve been best friends for so many years, Nodoka. I can’t think of another
woman I would want to have as an in-law instead of you. Tell me, of the
girls you were looking at to marry Ranma, have any of the agreements been
signed yet? Is there still a chance that Ryoko could become Ranma’s
“Well,” Nodoka said with a brief pause. “Unless Genma signed one of them
without consulting me, there aren’t any official agreements.” She chuckled
at that and then looked thoughtful. “However, there is now a tentative
verbal agreement between myself and Kenseiko Kuno, concerning her daughter,
Kodachi. That’s the only agreement that I’m aware of, but it’s nothing
“Kenseiko?” Achika exclaimed, surprised. “But you hate her. You two were
always the worst of enemies. Why would you agree to engage your own son to
a daughter of that psychotic bitch?”
Nodoka sipped her tea for a moment. “Oh, we had a talk the other day, and
while she’s still a little shaky mentally, she’s not quite as bad as she
used to be years ago. We cleared the air a bit between us, and I actually
had what turned out to be a most enjoyable visit. I suspect Kenseiko is
actually a bit lonely, so I was even thinking of inviting her to join our
workouts. After all, you’ll need a sparring partner for when I get too
heavy to move around well.”
“I’d love to,” Achika said with a wolfish smile, savoring the thought.
Kenseiko and Nodoka had mostly clashed with each other as enemies, but she
had been involved in her own share of run-ins with the crazy noblewoman.
Nodoka set down her tea. “I also secured her promise to hold off on
challenging me to duels until after my baby is born. However, if it’s a boy
and Ranma does marry Kodachi, he is to become a Kuno. If it’s a girl, then
Kodachi will become a Saotome. But nothing is definite or official yet.
Kenseiko and I both agreed to wait and see how Ranma and Kodachi’s
relationship develops. But it might become problematic for me if things
don’t work out between them.”
“Don’t worry,” Achika said, laying her hand on Nodoka’s. “If Kenseiko does
challenge you before you’re ready, I will stand in as your second. Nothing
would please me more than to have another chance to pound that annoying
woman into the dirt. Gods, how I hated her psychotic laugh.” She shuddered.
The two women held hands. “Thank you, Achika. When Ryoko returns home, we
will have an omiai and introduce our children to each other.” She smiled.
“And you’re right. It would be pleasing to wed our two children together,
to seal our friendship in such a way. I’ll talk it over with Genma. I’m
sure he won’t object.” Visions of grandchildren, little black-haired boys
and green-haired girls, danced in the back of her mind, and she wondered if
Achika would mind if Ranma showed Ryoko how manly he was, like he had done
with the Tenjou girl.
The heavy rain spilled down outside the walls of the Yu-chan, briefly
punctuated by occasional loud rumbles of thunder rolling across the skies.
It had been raining like this for several days.
Yumi sighed, eyeing her empty restaurant, the last of the lunch crowd
having already left for work or other business, leaving her alone again
amidst the solitude of her own thoughts. She bent her spine back a bit and
twisted her shoulders from left to right, hearing a few crackling pops from
her back as the bones realigned back into place, causing her to sigh with
She and Ukyo had enjoyed another strenuous workout on the roof just after
dawn, during a brief lull in the rain. It had become their habit to do so,
and those first few days had quickly shown Yumi that she had definitely
been letting herself slide over the past year of softer living, far too
much for her tastes. The rigorous training sessions with Ukyo were
gradually knocking the rust off her skills, bringing her back again to
being the powerful fighter she once was.
It seemed like just yesterday to Yumi that she was Ukyo’s age, a proud
young martial artist and ready to take on the world. Looking at her niece
now, filled with the passions and strength of youth, it was a reminder to
Yumi that she was getting older. The fiery-tempered girl she had once been
was now matured into an adult woman, still relatively young, but she was
most definitely not a teenager anymore. Where had all the time gone?
Ukyo had left for school in really good spirits again this morning. A
little bit of friendly persuasion (which included an admittedly rather
painful joint lock applied to the girl) had loosened Ukyo’s tongue as to
the cause, a second date with Ranma coming up. Yumi was pleased that things
were going so well for her niece, and that the business the Hibiki boy had
with Ukyo the other day must have concluded quietly, since the girl had not
talked about it.
Still, Ukyo’s eventful social life reminded Yumi of the doldrums her own
was in. She had been throwing hints of interest at the few men she had been
noticing eyeing her, like Kozo Fuyutsuki, the Dean of Ukyo’s new school,
but so far none of them had asked her out yet. She sighed a bit wistfully,
eyeing the rain coming down outside. She considered heading over to the
local Go salon and relaxing with a game or two before the lunch crowd was
due. At least she wouldn’t be alone, even though everyone there this time
of day was her senior by at least some twenty years.
A bolt of lightning cracked across the sky almost directly overhead,
lighting up the front of her restaurant. It illuminated a figure on the
other side of the front door, just before it was slid to one side. Yumi put
on her best professional smile, with just the proper twinkle in her eyes to
put a customer at ease. When she saw who it was, her eyebrow raised
slightly and her expression darkened a bit.
“Welcome to Yu-chan’s,” she said neutrally, gazing at the figure in her
doorway as he tipped his head back, eventually revealing a familiar face
under the broad-brimmed straw hat. The expression on Yumi’s face became
inscrutable and she said a bit grimly, “I was wondering if I’d ever see you
She paused for a moment and frowned deeply. “You’re late.”
“On the contrary,” Cherry replied a bit stiffly, as the elderly monk lifted
his hat from his head and casually tossed it up to land on the stand by the
door. “A true follower of the Buddha’s teachings is never late. Neither is
he ever early.” He removed his rain slicker, hung it up and then he rested
his seven-ring staff against the wall with a soft jingle and turned to face
Yumi. She could see a small, tightly-wrapped bundle in his hands. “He
always arrives anywhere precisely on time, for such is his fate.”
For a few moments, the two stared at each other. Then Yumi’s grim look
faded into a grin, one quickly matched by Cherry.
“It’s good to see you again, old friend,” said Yumi with a mirthful
chuckle. “So, where have you been hiding yourself these past few months?”
Cherry hopped up on one of the stools in front of the griddle. “Oh, here
and there. I try to keep my hand in things as I can.” He dropped the small
bundle on top of the counter and gave her a wry grin. “I don’t suppose you
might have anything vaguely edible in this place for a tired old man, cold
and wet from the rain?”
“I’ll see what I can do,” said Yumi with false solemnity, even as she was
already mixing together several items into the batter before skillfully
pouring it on to the griddle. She smiled at the blissful look that appeared
on Cherry’s face at the scent of fresh okonomiyaki cooking in front of him.
She briefly eyed the package he had brought with him.
Cherry seemed content to inhale the delicate odor as he felt his body warm
in the heated interior of the restaurant. After a while he said quietly,
“Three months goes by fast.”
“That it does,” agreed Yumi, flipping the okonomiyaki over, where it
sizzled slightly and steamed a bit as it cooked. She reached over and
picked up the bundle from where it sat, placing it behind the counter.
“Although things have been getting livelier around here lately.”
“Oh?” Cherry licked his lips briefly, the delicious smell of the food
enticing him. “Business picking up, or is it something else?” He glanced up
at Yumi’s face.
“My niece is staying with me,” Yumi replied, listening to the sizzling
sounds as a gauge to judge the optimal moment to serve it. Her left hand
snagged up a sauce dispenser, and she began writing wishes of good fortune
on the top of it in kanji in a loose-handed script. Ukyo had been delighted
at seeing her do such things for special customers, and she had begun
practicing writing Ranma’s name in sauce and drawing a heart around it. It
had been rather cute to watch.
Cherry licked his lips again. Eating good food was the one weakness he
allowed himself as a man, but it was a struggle sometimes to hold it in
moderation. The smell of Yumi’s cooking was distracting him quite a bit,
but he forced himself to look at her again. “Your niece?”
Yumi grunted once in affirmation. “Her name’s Ukyo.”
“That must make things more difficult for you.”
Yumi served the piping hot okonomiyaki to Cherry, putting it on a plate in
front of him. “Nothing I can’t handle. I’ve had a lot of practice in hiding
it over the years.” She wiped her hands on a towel and then poured him some
tea. “It’s not like the old days.”
“True,” Cherry acknowledged. “It’s not like the old days.” He raised his
cup of tea to her in salute. “Do you ever miss it?”
“You mean all the hairbreadth escapes and life and death fights?” Yumi
paused, shrugged, and then grinned conspiratorially. “Sometimes. But at
other times I’m glad I got out when I did. A person can only have so many
victories in life. Sooner or later, you push your luck too far and buy the
farm, or maybe just a piece of it. I saw it happening to too many of my
peers, but it wasn’t going to happen to me. Still, while doing my part for
king and country cost me my chance at marriage and a normal existence as a
woman, I don’t have many regrets about what I’ve done with my life.”
Cherry nodded. “You were the best agent I ever had, Kuonji-kun. I’m glad
things are going well for you.” Cherry began consuming the meal in front of
him, savoring it fully. “So, what brings your niece into town? Cooking
training? Combat training?”
Yumi grinned. “Nothing like that. She’s engaged to a local boy named Ranma
Saotome. She’s staying with me while they get to know each other a bit
His meal already half-eaten despite his best efforts at holding back,
Cherry suddenly paused and glanced at Yumi. “I see,” he said and then he
went back to eating, this time a bit more slowly.
“He’s a nice kid,” said Yumi with a smile, looking down at Cherry. “I like
him a lot. And I think he’ll make Ukyo a pretty good husband.”
She then thought back to the somewhat furtive conversation she had observed
yesterday between the two men in her restaurant, one of them a high-ranked
officer in the Security Directorate. It nagged at the back of her mind that
they might have been talking about Ranma marrying some girl other than
Ukyo, but Saotome was a fairly common last name in Tokyo. She was sure her
concerns over Ukyo’s future happiness would ease after meeting the boy’s
parents. The girl had practically been floating on air ever since her first
date with Ranma.
Cherry slowly finished his meal, looking thoughtful. Yumi could tell that
something was bothering him. She studied the elderly monk.
“What is it, Cherry?” She started cleaning the grill.
When he was done eating, the little monk hopped down off the stool and
headed for the door. But he turned to face her before opening the door.
“The past always seems to have a way of catching up to us whenever we least
expect it, Kuonji-kun. I suppose it’s fate.” He put on his rain slicker and
hat, before picking up his staff. Then he left without another word.
“Uh, yeah,” Yumi replied after several moments, mystified at Cherry’s
enigmatic words. Then she shrugged her shoulders. After he was gone, she
pulled down the banner outside and locked up. The weather was still
storming pretty heavily outside. Passing the counter, she picked up the
small bundle behind it and carried it upstairs, humming softly.
While casually leaning back in the comfortable chair in his office, Soun
stretched. He set down the newspaper he had been perusing, one he had
picked up during an early lunch he had taken when Kasumi had shown up at
his office unexpectedly. Seeing her dressed in the paramilitary uniform of
the Empire’s Security Directorate had awakened a feeling of intense pride
within him, and there was a part of him that was pleased to see her back in
uniform. She had saluted him with a professional smile and then they had
gone out and enjoyed a pleasant lunch together. He did not choose to
question her decision to return to active duty, since he knew Kasumi was
not one to do impulsive things, but he did wonder how her husband felt
about her decision.
He tamped out the cigarette he had been smoking. It was curious to read
about the events taking place in this world and find them both familiar and
strange at the same time. He pulled his feet off of the desk and rocked
forward, yawning a bit, part of him still unused to working an actual job.
Getting up before dawn each day had probably been the worst part of the
adjustment to his existence here, especially since his dreams were
troubling his sleep.
No, not dreams. They were more like nightmares, with voices accusing him of
being weak, a failure, voices that sounded like his own and those of his
To distract himself, he quickly pulled out another one of the files he had
been given to review, one marked ‘For Your Eyes Only.’ He flipped it open
and began to read. It turned out to be a rather dry affair, a detailed
report on business activities by the Sanzenin zaibatsu. The name was
familiar to him, reminding him of the skating competition Ranma had been in
a while ago. The Ranma of his original world, he amended in his thoughts
after a moment. But he quickly grew bored with reading the file, picked up
his signature stamp and inked it, and then he marked it as having been
reviewed. It joined several others on another stack on his desk.
This was not the exciting life of an intelligence agent that he would have
once imagined, spending his days shuffling paperwork from one pile on his
desk to another. This was bureaucratic drudgery, not adventure. Where were
the fast cars, the vodka martinis and the daring feats, like that English
fellow had in those movies he had seen a few of back home?
In his youth, his counterpart here had enjoyed such things while serving in
the field on His Imperial Majesty’s secret service, a solo operative
dealing with one seemingly impossible mission after another. But, shortly
after Akane was born, one operation in Budapest had gone very badly when he
had unexpectedly come up against a beautiful Italian woman known to the
Directorate only as the Contessa while investigating a Shadowlaw operation,
an encounter that this body still bore scars from. So, after a stay in the
hospital, his other self had taken a desk job and became a bureaucrat after
that, beginning a meteoric rise up through the ranks. There was even some
speculation that he was next in line to head up the entire Directorate now
that Director Sagara was retiring next month, but Soun didn’t put much
faith in such rumors.
Thinking about the past, his other self’s past, there were a few things he
had left unfinished out in the field, old scores to be settled (such as the
one with the Contessa) and other matters he meant to get back to someday
but never did. Soun mused about them even as he lit up another cigarette.
He snapped the lighter shut with a well-practiced move and set it down,
swiftly drawing his holstered service pistol fluidly a moment later, the
same one that had served his other self so well in the field years ago.
He sighted down the barrel at some of the pictures on the wall for several
moments before quickly re-holstering it. Right up until that final mission,
those had been good days, days of service to the Empire to be proud of. He
sighed rather wistfully, remembering past escapades and last-second
victories, but he shied away from any thoughts of the occasional beautiful
woman his counterpart had been involved with on missions, not wanting to
betray Kimiko’s memory.
Too late he realized his mistake. He quickly closed the file in front of
him and pinched the bridge of his nose, willing back the tears and sorrow
that suddenly welled up within him at the memory of his late wife. She had
been taken from him much later here than his own had been, but she was
still gone and the emotional pain was like an ache.
Not here. He couldn’t afford to cry here. He had to be strong like his
counterpart had been, holding back the pain of his emotions instead of
giving in to them, damping them out by sheer will, a discipline he himself
had never found the strength to master.
After a time, he managed to regain control of himself and returned to his
work, picking up another file. He could not afford to lose his discipline,
to let slip the mask and return to being the broken man he once was. No, he
had been given a new chance, and he would not fail in his duties as a
father and a man. Not again.
As he read through the report, the theme music for England’s most famous
secret agent played in the back of his mind.
Kodachi looked up from her lunch when Nanami Jinnai, one of the girls in
her class, slid into the desk next to her. The other girl seemed to be in
high spirits as she quickly pocketed a thick bundle of yen notes. They had
never spoken much to each other, just casual exchanges of greetings each
day, and Kodachi sensed that Nanami seemed to be avoiding speaking with her
for some reason. She quickly went back to enjoying her meal and trying not
to think about Ranma, still feeling a bit confused after their encounter on
her bedroom floor earlier in the week.
Her thoughts quickly defaulted to thinking about the other boy in her life:
Miki Kaoru. The dance at Ohtori was coming up quickly, and she knew
Kaoru-kun would be calling her tonight to finalize their plans. She was
looking forward to speaking with him again, remembering with fondness the
last few times they had been together. The friendship she had felt for him
as children was still strong, only now it was laced with something extra,
feelings of a much more adult kind of attraction to him.
Unbidden, images arose in her mind from the life of Sukeban-Kodachi, of her
relationship with that world’s Miki Kaoru. Memories of being with him came
over her, of kissing with him and of being intimate with him, sometimes
gently and sometimes much more passionately. A light blush appeared on her
cheeks at such thoughts, and she indulged in them a bit, fantasizing about
Kaoru-kun, wondering if he felt the same sort of interest in her.
She shook her head, dispelling her fantasies. She should be thinking about
Saotome-kun, since they were engaged, even if he did continue to spend time
with those other, far less worthy girls that sought his attention. Still,
they had almost kissed, if her brother had not interrupted, and that must
mean he felt something towards her. After all, Ranma was not at all like
her brother’s best friend, that vile and disgusting womanizer, Mikado
Sanzenin. Still, that other Kaoru-kun in Sukeban-Kodachi’s world was a
wonderful kisser, so gentle and yet so passionate, and she wondered what a
kiss from this world’s version of him would be like.
Another fantasy triggered off inside her, and she drifted away, a smile on
her face, the rest of her lunch sitting untouched.
Nanami glanced over at the wistfully sighing Kuno girl, and she shook her
head. The young noblewoman must have been thinking about Ranma again. What
was it about the guy that had so many girls so wild about him lately? She
glanced at her watch, wondering how things were going with the girls from
the fan club. Ranma had better not lose. That would be bad for her plans
concerning him. He was proving to be quite the moneymaker for her, so long
as he remained unbeaten by any of the girls, like their own local version
of that Chinese barbarian girl fighting in the Arena, the one she had heard
Akane Tendo talking about a few times.
The cafeteria areas at Whitehall and Blackhall were more like five-star
restaurants than the humble eateries most schools throughout the Empire
enjoyed, only Ohtori Academy boasting comparable fare. Small groups of
students sat in booths or at the various tables in Whitehall’s dining hall,
eating and chatting. In one booth, Tatewaki Kuno enjoyed a quiet lunch with
his friend, Mikado Sanzenin. Today was a selection of Chinese cuisine for
“So what’s been bothering you this week, Kuno-kun?” asked Mikado, as he set
down his soup spoon to sit back and wait for the serving staff to bring the
main course. All of the training he had been doing lately, as well as the
many intensely heated encounters he had been having with Asuka, the White
Lily, had raised his appetite quite a bit. “You’ve had a sour look on your
face for days now, and it’s hindering my enjoyment of this fine food. Are
you concerned about this omiai you have coming up?”
“Nay, that is not the cause of my disquiet,” Kuno replied. “While the
Arisugawa girl is no doubt politically-expedient as a choice, which would
suit the aims of my mother and likely further the interests of the House of
Kuno, I know little of her, or care to. My warrior heart hath already been
claimed, by the clever and skilled Nabiki Tendo and her stout-hearted and
strong young sister, Akane. Gods, what women they both are!” He clenched
his soup spoon in one hand, his eyes glazing over as he imagined them both.
“I know what you mean.” Mikado nodded at the thought of Nabiki Tendo. Akane
didn’t interest him that much, but Nabiki was a different matter. It was
rare for a girl to reject him as forcefully as she had, but that rejection
had only served to whet the intensity of his own interest in bedding the
middle Tendo daughter. There was just something innately attractive about
her that he yearned to experience, to feel her body against his as he took
pleasure from her. Once he was done with her, his friend Tatewaki could
have her for a concubine, but he wanted to experience her first.
In the next booth, Kinnosuke Kashuoh paused in what he was doing, his
hearing having picked up the conversation despite his being somewhat
distracted. Lynx and Panther both sat next to him, and the curtain was
drawn on their booth to allow the trio some privacy. Lynx was still eating
quietly, but he had already finished his own lunch. Panther had not
finished hers, but she was currently otherwise occupied. Several buttons on
her blouse were undone, and Kinnosuke’s hand had been gently kneading one
of her bared breasts while they shared an intimate kiss. But he broke off
the kiss to listen more closely to the conversation going on next to them,
even as Panther began nuzzling and kissing at his neck, her attention still
fully on him.
Lynx’s ears twitched as she heard Nabiki Tendo’s name mentioned nearby, but
she showed no other sign of interest and continued eating without pause.
Her muscle-bound (and muscle-headed) fellow lilith, Panther, had not
appeared to notice, she mused with no small amount of disdain, glancing at
the couple as Panther pawed at Kinnosuke-sama. Her ears perked up a little
bit as she listened to what was going on behind her in the next booth.
“I have dedicated myself to preparing myself these past days,” Kuno said in
fierce tones. “If Nabiki Tendo will only accept a conqueror to her arms,
then I shall conquer her. After all, am I not Tatewaki Kuno? Am I not the
rising star of the kendo world? My skill with a sword shall overcome her,
like a bolt arcing down from the very heavens themselves, for I am the
lightning and the thunder personified.”
The last word seemed to awaken a new thought within Kuno. “Yes, a thunder,
but thunder alone is not enough of a sobriquet for my most puissant skill
at arms.” He paused in thought, distracted for the moment from his true
“Perhaps a blue thunder?” Mikado asked jokingly, noting the color of the
clothing that Kuno usually affected when they were outside of class.
“Yes!” Kuno crowed. “Verily, thy words ring true with me. Let the word go
forth, my good friend. Tatewaki Kuno shall henceforth be known as the Blue
Thunder of Whitehall Academy.” He sat back, contemplating his new nom de
guerre and finding it worthy of himself. However, his good mood faded
quickly, being crowded out by his other concerns.
Noting the mood shift in his best friend, Mikado sighed. “Now what?”
“Ranma Saotome,” was all Kuno said in reply.
“Oh. Him.” Mikado’s pleasant mood vanished also. “What happened?”
“A scene too vile to endure.” Kuno closed his eyes, feeling his rage build
up within him, but he forced himself to remain calm. “I caught the knave
forcing himself upon Kodachi, right there on the floor of her own
Mikado blinked. “What? He did what?” He realized he was raising his voice,
noticing some of their peers looking their way, and he hastily calmed
himself and assumed a more casual appearance. Tatewaki did not mind causing
a stir with his antics, but appearance was everything to a Sanzenin, after
“I saw it with mine own eyes,” said Kuno darkly. “My innocent and virtuous
young sister was pinned down on the floor while that- that animal was about
to ravish her of her purity. Would that I could sear the memory of that
scene from my mind. I rushed to her aid, but that most wretched of
scoundrels used his foul sorceries upon me, and I somehow lost
consciousness. Then, later on, my poor, deluded sister even defended the
lout. Tis utter insanity the hold he doth have on her mind. To think that
my chaste young sister would have ought to do with that vile beast,
Saotome. It defies comprehension.”
Mikado’s gaze narrowed as he listened to Kuno continue to rant about Ranma
Saotome. A cold rage filled him. Something had to be done to the pigtailed
boy, to show him that the noblewomen of the Empire were not for the likes
of him, least of all Kodachi Kuno. It was like a clarion call to battle had
sounded, and he would answer it.
Ranma Saotome would pay for his crimes, for daring to sully the virtue of
that precious, innocent jewel of womanhood, Kodachi Kuno. Mikado’s hand
clenched into a fist, one he yearned to use to totally shatter every last
bone within Ranma’s body.
I shall defeat you, Ranma Saotome, Mikado mused darkly, even as Kuno
continued to vent his hatred for the pigtailed boy. I will prove that your
victory over me was merely bad luck on my part. Kodachi Kuno’s pure heart
shall never be yours, for I am Mikado Sanzenin, and you are mere trash, a
lowly peasant who dares to rise from the gutters and look his betters in
the face as an equal. But soon I shall be the one to send you back to where
you belong, ground beneath my feet. I swear it!
Kinnosuke went back to kissing with Panther as the conversation in the next
booth continued on, hearing her purr softly with pleasure into the kiss,
but his thoughts were more on what he had just heard. So Ranma had feelings
for the Kuno girl and had acted on them, he mused. That could be
potentially useful, and it seemed the two imbeciles in the next booth did
not care for what Ranma had done. Perhaps his search for allies to crush
the pigtailed boy would be much easier than he had imagined.
Feeling smug, he turned his full attentions back to Panther, his lips
pressed tightly against hers as their tongues dueled. His injuries no
longer pained him; his meal had been quite good, so now he was looking
forward to slaking his other hungers with Panther’s assistance. Doing such
things in a semi-public place like this only seemed to increase his ardor,
and he growled softly with pleasure as he felt Panther’s hand sliding up
his inner thigh caressingly.
Akane was quietly waiting for Sakura to join her for lunch, keeping herself
occupied by watching some members of the Combat Club battling in the rain
behind one of the main buildings, when she felt someone suddenly bump into
her from behind, almost knocking her down. Already feeling irritated at not
being able to join in on the fights yet, she whirled around to face her
“Watch where you’re going,” she growled out, one hand balling into a tight
fist and ready to pound whoever it was.
“Um, I’m sorry,” a chastened Ryoga replied, bowing as best he could and
still keep the rain off himself while backing up a step. Tokyo was a very
large and confusing place, and he was still angry at losing Ryoko at the
public bath that morning, which he promptly added to Ukyo’s tab. He had
been wandering for several hours now, but he had let himself become so
involved in his own grim musings that he had bumped into a girl, mortifying
him. He quickly bowed again. “I-it was an accident. I’m sorry. I guess I
wasn’t watching where I was going.”
“Well, be more careful next time,” Akane replied, her tone softening a bit
as she looked the stranger over. She felt a familiar, pleasant tingling
sensation running along her nerves, one she had only felt a handful of
times before, most notably with Ranma or that rich idiot, Kuno, and it was
equally powerful to the sensations the pigtailed boy awoke within her. She
studied Ryoga intently for a moment, seeing by his clothing that he
appeared to be some kind of wandering martial artist. She wondered if he
was a decent fighter, and a sincere hope that he was suddenly blossomed
within her. “You’re not a cadet here. Are you lost or something?”
“Uh, kinda.” Ryoga suddenly looked bashful. Even though she was still
frowning at him, he suddenly noticed that the girl in front of him was
really cute, and he was pleasantly astonished by the fact that he felt the
same sort of warm feelings inside himself that he had previously only felt
before around Ukyo. Desperate to think of something to keep the
conversation going with the girl, he wished he had some smooth line to use
on her, but all he could stammer out was, “I-I’m Ryoga Hibiki. Nice to meet
“I’m Akane Tendo,” she said simply in reply. She then went back to looking
him over, which only made Ryoga more nervous. “Do you study martial arts?”
“Yeah!” Ryoga said, brightening at the chance to keep talking with Akane.
“I’ve been in training all my life.”
Akane nodded, only showing a flicker of interest in her gaze. “Are you any
Ryoga felt a bit of irritation at the question. “Of course I am,” he
growled. He noted her posture taking on a more combative air to it. “But I
don’t fight girls,” he quickly added. Well, except for Ryoko, he amended in
his thoughts, but she was a special case, almost like she wasn’t really a
girl, since she acted so macho all the time.
“What?” Akane said, startled. Her gaze narrowed and a note of anger came
back into her voice. “Why not?”
“I-it’s just not right for a guy to fight a girl,” Ryoga explained,
stammering a bit, wondering what he had said wrong. He decided to try
again, deciding to define it how his grandfather had once explained it to
him. “It’s a man’s duty to protect women. So it’s wrong for a guy to fight
with a girl.”
Akane growled out, “Listen, you. Girls can fight just as well as boys can,
and I certainly don’t need any boy’s protection. Want me to prove it to
you?” Her eyes glinted more dangerously now, and she was getting really
excited at the prospect of an unknown new challenge. Her intensive training
sessions spent with Sakura had been building up her fighting abilities, and
she was eager to test them out on someone, to see if she was ready for
Nabiki yet. Her goal of joining the Combat Club still hovered out there,
but it had been temporarily pushed aside until she had dealt with the much
more immediate issue of her sister.
Ryoga backed away, waving his hand. “N-no, no, that’s okay. Um, I’m sorry
for bumping into you.” He quickly departed, heaviness in his heart. He
would probably never see that girl again. But that sadness quickly
transformed into more anger at Ukyo.
Akane watched Ryoga retreat and harrumphed disdainfully. The boy had been
handsome, but his moral code perplexed her. What was it about some boys
that they didn’t think girls could fight just as well as they could? She
felt disappointed at his running off so quickly like he had. It was a good
thing Ranma wasn’t like that. He was a real man, one willing to treat her
as an equal, like he had shown by fighting with her. She went back to
waiting for Sakura to arrive, watching with interest as one Combat Club
member put the other one down on the ground with a brutal axe kick, and
then stood over him victoriously.
She sighed wistfully. Fighting was so wonderful, even just to watch.
Shielded from the rain by his umbrella, Hikaru Gosunkugi gazed through the
chain-link fence surrounding it at Mobius Institute Storage Facility #13,
located several blocks from the Imperial Academy. After breakfast, he had
just been wandering around the area aimlessly and eventually found his way
here. Suddenly, everything came back into crystal clarity.
Words came unbidden to his mind, and he whispered them as he gestured at
the gate. The padlock melted, the chain sagging as the metal heated up,
quickly becoming a searing white mass that rain steamed off of as droplets
of metal fell to pool on the ground. Within seconds, it was over and the
metal pool on the ground congealed quickly.
Gosunkugi waited for the metal to cool before touching the gate, and he
pushed it open and shut it behind him. He whispered the words of a spell,
setting it in place here at the gate, a subtle glamour that would draw the
Saotome boy within. The storage facility was on the path that Ranma
normally traveled. Gosunkugi was so focused on his need for revenge against
the pigtailed boy that he did not think to question how he knew such magic,
drawing on it by instinct alone.
“Ranma Saotome,” he muttered. “The day of your doom is here.”
Ranma relaxed a little as the last girl stumbled back from his punch to her
solar plexus and collapsed. Today they had varied their routine, waiting
until lunchtime to attack him in the hallways as he made his way to the
cafeteria to buy some food, since Kodachi was still not speaking to him yet
and he didn’t feel right about having Ukyo feed him every day. The nubile
bodies of his attackers lay strewn about in numerous odd positions, but
none were seriously injured. Luckily, his injuries were healing well, so he
was far better able to deal with them than he had been the day after his
fight with Kinnosuke.
“You’re certainly popular with the girls, Saotome,” observed Kyosuke in a
conversational tone as he took a sip from his juice container. He carefully
stepped over one fallen girl in a blue uniform. “This is getting to be like
“Yeah, I’ll say,” Ukyo agreed with a grin, as she stood leaning against one
wall. She had been standing off to one side during Ranma’s battle today
with the female cadets, since he had explicitly told her to stay out of it
when it erupted. It was true he hadn’t needed her help, and she could
understand his pride as a martial artist in wanting to deal with it on his
own. It had actually been quite interesting to her to watch him fight,
maybe even a little arousing. She hastily distracted herself from that line
of thought by casually slamming her fist down on the head of one girl who
was already starting to wake up while Ranma’s back was to them, the cadet
quietly collapsing again.
“It’s annoying is what it is,” Ranma replied sourly, looking at each of
them in turn. He flipped a thin notebook towards Kyosuke, having brought it
with him from class just in case he ran into the older boy during lunch. “I
made some notes on those problems you were having troubles with. They
should help. You just gotta understand the steps you need to follow.”
Kyosuke caught it out of the air. “Thanks.” He began leafing through it,
nodding at what he saw there. After the events at Ohtori a while back, and
at Yohko’s more recent urging, he had been making an effort to become
friends with Ranma. And he was also getting to be good friends with Ukyo in
the process, since the other boy seemed to hang around Ranma quite a lot,
but that was okay. He rather liked Ukyo and was a little envious of the
other boy’s good looks. Even Yohko had once remarked on them, not that she
appeared to be interested in Ukyo.
Asking for help on his homework had seemed the easiest approach to talking
with Ranma, and he quickly flipped to the section that had been giving him
trouble. He suddenly brightened as he read the pigtailed boy’s scrawled
notes. “Oh, I see it now.”
Ukyo came over to them and stood next to Ranma. “Well, I’m glad that
someone understands the material. Ranchan, I could use some help with my
homework, too. Do you think we could go over it when you come by after
classes are done today?”
“Sure. Not a problem.”
“Great.” She grinned. “Maybe you can give me a ride on that new bike of
“You two guys doing something tonight?” Kyosuke asked, briefly looking up
from his reading. “Yohko’s dragging me to some new movie she wants to see.
It’s something romantic, I think. You know how girls are.” He shrugged.
“Heh, yeah,” Ranma replied casually, glancing briefly at Ukyo to see that
she was nodding in sympathetic understanding like any boy would have at the
comment. He grinned at the sight and turned his gaze back to Kyosuke.
“We’re just going to hang around together tonight. I’m going over to
Ucchan’s aunt’s place for some sparring, and then we’re going to grab some
dinner and maybe go skating.” Ukyo seemed to prefer her gender be thought
of as male around campus, so Ranma tried to avoid pronouns when speaking
While the three chatted, off to one side, Ami watched them through her
camera. She sighed very softly as she focused in on Ranma’s face, how
beautiful she found him to be, his appearance and athletic body nearly as
exciting to her as the brilliant mind he possessed. She jumped when a hand
suddenly came down on her shoulder. She looked back.
Yohko stood there, a serious look on her face. “Nabiki wants to talk to
you, Mizuno-san. Please, come with me.”
“Uh, yes,” Ami replied, feeling a little frightened. Some of the few cadets
who were within earshot gave her sympathetic looks. There had been some
kind of shakeup in Nabiki’s organization recently, and a rumor was floating
around that someone had tried to poach on the Tendo girl’s turf. There was
another rumor that it was a science cadet, and so there was an uneasy
tension now forming between the two groups of students.
Ranma noticed Yohko half-dragging Ami off, and he turned to Kyosuke and
pointed it out. “What’s up with that, I wonder?”
“I’m not sure,” Kyosuke replied. “Yohko won’t talk to me about it, but it’s
probably got something to do with Nabiki, I guess.” He shrugged. Yohko had
been very tight-lipped on the matter, not that he had tried to press her
very hard on it. The matter with Madoka Ayukawa was still a sore spot
between them, even though it had been a few weeks since he had last seen
the biker girl, so he was trying to make as few waves as he possibly could
with Yohko. He was also still trying to figure out a way to broach the
subject of Azusa Kanzaki with the young Devil Hunter without looking guilty
of anything. The girl desperately wanted to be Yohko’s apprentice and had
begged Kyosuke’s analog for help during the brief time they were switched.
“Yeah. But why Ami Mizuno? She’s harmless.” Ranma considered the girl
briefly. He had seen Ami around sometime when his morning bouts with the
girls occurred, always with her little video camera. Even so, he found it
hard to believe that she might have been involved with that. No, that was
just paranoia speaking.
Ranma was far more concerned about Kinnosuke Kashuoh to worry over what was
going on with Ami. The next day after the fight with Kinnosuke and the
three catgirls occurred, the other boy had transferred from their school to
Whitehall, without any sort of explanation. The rumor mill had not yet
connected it with the shakeup now going on in Nabiki’s network, but it was
probably only a matter of time.
He wasn’t sure why, but he was convinced that it wasn’t quite over yet
between him and Kinnosuke. His experiences from his other selves gave him a
better insight on such matters than he would have had before. No, the
Kashuoh heir might have retreated for now, but he would be back someday,
likely an even more powerful a fighter than before. And Ranma planned to be
ready for him.
He turned to talk to Ukyo about it, and he was startled to see that the
ninja girl had vanished. He scratched his head. She was really good at her
stealth skills, much better than any of her counterparts in those other
worlds, and she seemed to enjoy startling him each morning by suddenly
appearing next to him while he left his house. He wondered where she had
gone off to.
Minami grumbled to herself as she sat down in a deserted hallway in one of
the sub-basements, enjoying a quiet lunch by herself. She ripped off the
cover to the boxed meal she had made for herself and began eating, spearing
chunks of fish and vegetables. She shoveled the food into her mouth, barely
even chewing it.
“Damn that Hikaru Gosunkugi,” she muttered darkly in between bites. Despite
numerous opportunities to ask her out for a date, he continued to be obtuse
about her interest in him. Did other girls have such problems with the boys
they liked? She took a swig from her juice box, sipping on the straw
The day could not get any worse now, as far as she was concerned.
*** Earth +6.199, +5.423
Ranko paused as she moved through the darkened hallways underneath Kolhotz
High School, currently lit only by emergency lighting, a pack strapped to
her back as she hurried along. She had been doing a bit of exploring,
trying to find someone to talk to, since the entire area of Nerima seemed
to be deserted. Ever since her arrival yesterday, she had yet to see any
human beings, only strange aircraft flying overhead, perhaps military of
some kind. She had chosen to hide from them.
Scorch marks were visible on walls and the pavement in places outside, and
there were burned out cars on the roads, the signs of some kind of battle
damage. She had also seen corpses in those vehicles, so she was no longer
looking in any of them. Whatever had happened here had apparently happened
days before her arrival on the scene, but she didn’t care. She just wanted
to get off this creepy world as soon as possible now.
She glanced at the timer on her device. There was less than a minute left
before the paratemporal flux aligned with another parallel Earth. She had
been so involved in her explorations that she had almost missed her window,
and she wanted out of here, unsure when the next one would be. She didn’t
know what might happen if she were to try opening a portal underground, so
she was heading for the stairs as quickly as she could.
It was at that moment that she came across a patrol that emerged from an
intersecting hallway, several figures in some sort of heavy body armor and
carrying guns of unfamiliar make. She reacted quickly and took off running,
cursing herself under her breath for not being more wary. She couldn’t
afford to get tied up in some kind of fight here, especially with armed
men. She didn’t recognize their insignia, but they all moved like trained
soldiers, their features only dimly visible behind semi-transparent
faceplates in the current lighting.
Bullets began whining and ricocheting past her down the hallway as she
ducked and weaved while running to make herself a harder target to hit. Who
were these guys? Was Japan fighting a war?
“<Now there’s a good-looking breeder female,>” commented Centurion Ranma
Saotome in the guttural language of the Musk Dynasty, chuckling as he
admired the shapely backside of the girl currently fleeing from them. He
drove a fist into one of the men nearest him who had been shooting to kill,
knocking the soldier down. “<Aim down for her legs, Tendo, you idiot! I
swear you’re as useless as a female! That goes for the rest of you! There’s
a thousand credit bonus to the man who brings her down alive for me without
any permanent damage. I want her for my family’s household.>”
The young centurion’s gaze was hungry as he studied the running girl in
front of him, even as the soldiers under his command hastened to obey. He
admired her pert derriere as she agilely evaded their fire. As he did so,
the soldier he had knocked down got back up, the face plate smeared with
some blood from his backhanded punch.
Kaneda Tendo regained his feet and directed a murderous glare at the other
boy. He briefly flipped up his faceplate a little and dabbed at the blood
dribbling from his nose, grimacing at the splotch of gore on the visor from
when it had been driven into his face. It would have been so easy to level
his weapon and empty the magazine into Ranma’s back, but that would not
have been satisfying. No, he yearned for the other boy to acknowledge him
as the superior fighter, to prove to him that he was the stronger one
between them, the true heir to Great Master Happosai’s teaching. It galled
him that the other boy, barely a year younger than he was, kept beating him
Noticing Kaneda’s look out of the corner of his gaze, Ranma realized he was
going to have to teach the other boy to respect his authority again when
they got back to the base camp. While it was close between them in their
relative skill, Kaneda Tendo was his inferior as a fighter, and it was time
to grind that fact into the older boy’s face yet again. At least it would
be a pretty decent match. Perhaps Kaneda had even learned something new
since their last duel.
Ranma grinned wolfishly as he and his men pursued the fleeing girl, certain
that his father would be pleased with him for acquiring the redhead for
their household. He couldn’t wait to bed her. It was the most pleasurable
benefit of being an officer in the Musk’s legions, to have his pick of any
booty found, such as the very attractive girl now before them, ripe for the
plucking. Years ago, his father had acquired his mother on a past campaign
the same way.
He himself had already obtained two playthings for his own amusement this
way, who waited for him back home to ease the tensions acquired on foreign
battlefields: Ukyo Kuonji, the pretty, young geisha he had picked up on his
second combat drop as a newly-commissioned officer and the athletic and
well-built Perfume. The pink-haired Chinese Amazon had been quite a fierce
hellcat when he first defeated and captured her on another Earth, amidst
the destruction of her home village going on around them.
He still relished the memory of that first battle with the girl. His rifle
had jammed after he had been forced to kill the lavender-haired Amazon he
would have preferred taking as a prize, and a savage struggle had erupted
between him and Perfume that could have gone either way. The strength and
spirit she had shown during their fight had captivated him. Even after her
defeat, after dragging her all the way back to his home timeline in chains,
it had still taken weeks for her to be broken in properly and brought to
know her place as a woman, but now she lived only to please him.
However, his pride and joy was Kasumi Tendo, Kaneda’s older sister by two
years, the one who kept his house in order and the other girls in line, and
who was such a wicked delight in bed with her fondness for leather and
bondage. There was definitely something to be said for more mature women,
and Kasumi was indeed a proper Musk woman through and through. His father’s
purchase of her from Legate Tendo to unite their two Houses had been a wise
investment, and he was looking forward to bringing this new girl to her as
a gift when he returned home, for proper training at Kasumi’s hands like
she had done with Perfume.
A lecherous grin crossed his face. After all, while not as fortunate as his
better-placed analogs were among other Musk-controlled worlds, he was the
undefeated heir to the Anything-Goes School of Martial Arts on his own, as
well as the strongest fighter among all his analogs he had met so far. It
thus fell to him as his masculine duty to father many strong male children
and pass along to them the teachings of Great Master Happosai. That
required a proper harem. But he was already beginning to grow a bit bored
with the girls he now had, even the sensuous Perfume.
There was something quite tantalizing about the girl in front of him. He
shrugged, shouldering his rifle and sighting in on her leg. Perhaps he had
seen an analog of her on another world somewhere.
It was a shame this Earth had offered the Musk such little challenge, since
that meant smaller bonuses for officers like himself. The people here had
been sheep, having enjoyed peace for centuries. They were unable to muster
any kind of armed defense when the Musk warships had arrived over their
heads, and legionnaires like him had attacked their cities. Their precious
art and literature did them no good when the wolves came. The Musk
Dynasty’s forces had ravaged this world from pole to pole within the span
of mere days, a quick but very dissatisfying victory.
Even his own counterpart here had been a mewling weakling, a musician, not
a true warrior like himself. Snapping his analog’s neck had been a mercy
killing, an honorable death, sparing the other boy the ignominy of spending
the rest of his days as some honorless, nameless slave on one of the
agricultural collectives or mining facilities that fed the Musk war
machine. It left him unsatisfied though, that so many of his analogs were
weaklings. Where was an analog who could challenge him?
It was the sixth such killing he had done, and it always gave him an
exquisite thrill to eradicate one of his own analogs, reaffirming his own
physical superiority. It fit the Musk’s guiding philosophy that the strong
took what they wanted from those weaker and the weak perished. Killing his
first analog had been an epiphany, how easy it was. He quickly came to
realize that all of his other selves were weak, nothing but pathetic
shadows of himself. Even those living on other Musk worlds were but pale
imitations, and he despised them all. He was the one, true Ranma Saotome,
the only one genuinely worthy of the name in the entire multiverse, and he
intended to keep killing his analogs until either one gave him a proper
challenge, or he was the only one left.
A short ways ahead of the pack of soldiers chasing her, Ranko glanced at
the timer as the firepower from behind her slackened for a few moments, and
the soldiers hustled to catch up to her and round the same corner she had.
When it reached zero, she activated it and pointed it in front of her,
still racing headlong away from the group of men. A portal immediately
yawned open in front of her, and she began sprinting even harder towards
it, pushing herself for all she was worth.
“<A quantum tunnel!>” yelped one of the men. “<Sir, she must be a
Matriarchy spy! She’s escaping!>”
“<No!>” Ranma shouted, taking aim at her legs. He pulled the trigger a bit
hastily in his eagerness to have the girl. “<She will be mine!>”
Ranko leaped headlong into the opening in the same moment that she heard
several bullets whine past her. She cursed loudly as the vortex of the
quantum tunnel sped her away to her next destination and then snapped shut
behind her seconds later, cutting off her stream of rather unladylike
Lowering his rifle, the young centurion had a wrathful look on his face.
How could he have missed? He immediately turned to the radio man. “<Report
in that we have encountered a possible Matriarchy spy and there might be
more. I will accept the blame for her escape and personally apologize to
Legate Ikari when we return to base.>” As the man hastened to do as he bid,
the young centurion raised a hand and made a gesture forward, and the squad
continued on with their patrol.
*** Earth 0.000, 0.000
Off balance from her diving entrance into the quantum tunnel on the other
end, Ranko went from being in a dimly lit corridor to a much brighter
chamber. Even as the portal immediately snapped shut behind her with a
brief flash of light and a fading distortion of the air, she slammed full
tilt into Minami, knocking the other girl to the ground and stunning her as
they fell down together.
“Ow!” Ranko grunted, feeling the bruises on her body from the impact as she
gingerly rolled off of the Ghost Sweeper trainee. She glanced at the device
still in her grip and nodded at the time remaining. She had a margin to
explore a bit. That last world had been too close. She swore again at
almost getting shot.
She glanced over at the other girl, currently lying with her limbs all
akimbo, and her eyes rolling back in her head. Ranko blinked when she
recognized the uniform, the gray cloth and black piping of a security
cadet. The signet ring on her finger was also noted, identifying the
redhead as a member of the Mobius Institute and a mage trainee of some kind.
“Could I finally be home?” Ranko wondered aloud. Hope blossomed within her,
since the few instances she had come across Kolhotz High School showed her
it occupied roughly the same physical location as the Imperial Academy.
However, she needed to make sure and that required a disguise, since she
couldn’t walk around campus out of uniform. She studied the unconscious
girl, noting that their frames were not too dissimilar in their
proportions, except that the other girl was a few centimeters taller. Ranko
was grateful that she wasn’t quite as small in stature as all of her
analogs seemed to be, so the other girl’s uniform would probably fit
Ranko knelt down next to Minami and began removing the Ghost Sweeper’s
clothing. When the girl started to stir, Ranko grimaced and slugged her
hard in the jaw, sending Minami back into unconsciousness.
“Sorry about that,” Ranko murmured, quickly continuing to strip the
insensate girl. When the Ghost Sweeper was finally unclothed, she speedily
began removing her own clothing and putting on Minami’s, trying hard to not
feel aroused by the sight of the other girl’s body, now clad only in bra
When she was finally dressed in Minami’s gray uniform, Ranko began putting
her old clothes on the other girl, dressing the Ghost Sweeper in the light
blue Chinese-style shirt and black gi pants she had been wearing on her
arrival. She was pleased to find that her initial assessment was right,
that they were about the same clothing size, except her own legs were a
little shorter than the other girl’s and her body more compactly muscular.
Just to be on the safe side, she gagged and tied up Minami before locking
the door to the room, leaving the other girl in what was hopefully a
relatively comfortable position. After hiding her pack and stuffing her
device into a pocket, she quietly headed off down the hallway. When she
suddenly heard voices, she hid in the shadows.
Ami and Yohko walked by, and Ranko wondered where the pair was going. Yohko
looked just as she remembered her and Ami had been a friend, a pretty good
one, actually. Curious, she stealthed after them.
Ukyo emerged from the shadows momentarily, curious who the girl in the gray
uniform was, and why she was following the same quarry she was. She flitted
silently from shadow to shadow, keeping the redhead and her original
targets in sight as best she could.
Unaware of being followed by anyone, Yohko halted and knocked on a door.
There was a pause for a few moments and then it opened up to reveal Yuka,
who nodded at her and quickly stepped aside. Hiroshi was currently kneeling
on the floor behind her, holding his stomach and gasping for breath. A thin
trickle of blood leaked from one side of his mouth, and a livid bruise was
on his cheek. Sayuri stood behind him, looking a bit grim.
Ranko leaped up into the ducting overhead, hiding herself there. She had
caught a glimpse of a girl who looked like Nabiki Tendo in the room. She
settled down to wait, one leg and arm looped around a pipe to hold herself
A little ways down the corridor, Ukyo also took to the ceiling area,
quietly moving closer. Whoever this other girl was, she moved very well,
almost like a ninja herself. Without a sound, she crept closer.
Nabiki was in the process of slipping her uniform jacket back on when Yohko
escorted Ami in. She turned to face them and then her gaze slipped briefly
over to Sayuri.
“I think we’re done with him,” she said calmly. “I’m sure I made my point
quite clear. Sayuri, please escort Hiroshi-kun here back to class, would
you? Make sure nothing happens to him along the way.”
“Yes, senpai,” Sayuri replied, before grabbing Hiroshi by the collar and
half-hauling, half-helping him to his feet. “Come on, Hiro-kun.” She helped
him to the door, beginning to berate him as they left. “How could you have
been so stupid, you dummy? You should’ve trusted that Nabiki-senpai would
take care of things. Now look at-” The closing door cut off the rest of her
“-should’ve trusted that Nabiki-senpai would take care of things,” Sayuri
berated Hiroshi as she passed underneath Ranko. “Now look at what’s
happened. You betrayed Nabiki-senpai. And for what? A single threat and you
fold like a house of cards? You’re totally pathetic.” The pair continued on
down the hall, Sayuri still chastising Hiroshi and occasionally slapping
the back of his head.
Ranko watched from overhead as they went out of sight. So far that she had
seen, everything was the same as how she remembered it.
A few feet back from Ranko, Ukyo silently waited and observed the new girl,
wondering what she was up to.
Ami swallowed nervously as Nabiki settled herself into a chair and leaned
forward, folding her hands together and resting her chin on the tips of her
fingers. There was a second chair in front of her that Yuka promptly
righted, and Yohko escorted Ami to sit in it. She felt even more nervous to
see the calm look on Nabiki’s face. After Ami sat, Yuka left the room to
stand watch in the hallway. It was quiet for about a minute.
“Mizuno-san,” Nabiki said calmly, breaking the silence. “I’d like you to
explain to me just what is going on with Ranma being attacked by all those
girls each morning.”
“Uh.” Ami blinked. “Why are you asking me?”
“Because I’ve been hearing some things about you and that Jinnai girl
somehow being behind this matter,” Nabiki replied. “Now, I thought I’d
start my questions with you before I dealt with her. So, what can you tell
me about it?” She smiled, but there was little pleasantness in it. “This
will go so much easier if you’re honest with me.”
Ami swallowed again and looked down. She was a bit startled when Nabiki
reached out and gently placed her fingers on her chin, lifting her face up
to look at her. Remembering the sight of the boy who had been on the floor
when she arrived, bleeding, she began trembling.
“I’m not angry, Mizuno-san,” Nabiki said, her tone a little more gentle
now. “I just want to know what’s going on with those girls and Ranma. I’m
concerned about him. You see, he’s very important to me, and I don’t allow
anything to happen to something I value. It’s not how I operate.”
Yohko nodded as Nabiki spoke. When the middle Tendo daughter had first
begun establishing her network towards the end of their first year at the
Academy, she had shown no hesitancy towards being harsh, even brutal at
times, in her methods when dealing with the politics and shifting alliances
here. Now even the upperclassmen respected Nabiki’s position in the
Academy’s hierarchy. But gaining that level of respect had meant a bit of
violence was sometimes necessary.
She and Nabiki had already become good friends by then, both of them on the
outskirts of the Academy’s social circles. Nabiki’s exclusion was due to
her father’s position in the Directorate, from a desire to avoid any hint
of trying to depend on his coattails, and Yohko’s was due to her status as
a Devil Hunter. It was perhaps inevitable that the two of them had drifted
together and became friends, and it was only natural for her to act as the
brawn to Nabiki’s brains, since Nabiki was much better than she was at
scheming. Together they were running a rapidly growing organization inside
of a month. Nabiki even began blackmailing some of the instructors into
looking the other way while they conducted their business, and that was not
an easy task here. But once her power base had been firmly established all
those months ago, everything proceeded pretty smoothly.
This matter with Kinnosuke Kashuoh had upset that calm, Yohko mused, and
Nabiki had been dealing with the aftermath. It was slow going at first, but
word was getting around that Nabiki Tendo, the Iron Bitch, was intent on
getting all of her affairs back to normal running mode. Making an example
of Hiroshi and a select few others for their acts of betrayal, while rather
distasteful to the young Devil Hunter, was simply part of re-establishing
Nabiki’s authority. But her friend was also now realizing she needed to be
on the lookout for some hotshot first-year cadet trying to do the same
thing to her that she had done to the upperclassmen. That Nabiki-wannabe,
Nanami Jinnai, was up to something, and Ami Mizuno seemed to be involved as
However, Nabiki was using gentler methods of interrogation to find out what
Ami knew, which Yohko was secretly grateful for. It was more of a ‘good
cop’ approach this time, a sign of how much Nabiki had mellowed over the
past several weeks, not that Yohko was complaining at all. If anything,
they were becoming even better friends now, since Nabiki had loosened up
quite a bit, at least in private with her.
“Mizuno-san,” Nabiki said calmly, disturbing Yohko from her musings. “Tell
me what is going on. It’s in your best interests. I’m sure that Jinnai girl
is just using you.” What went unspoken was, “It’s what I would do.”
“I-it’s nothing bad,” Ami stuttered. “J-just a fan club.”
Ranko felt she had waited long enough. Even if this wasn’t her world, she
didn’t feel right about leaving Ami alone in there with Nabiki and Yohko.
The girl had looked pretty scared, and someone had beaten up Hiroshi inside
that room. She eyed Yuka, standing off to one side of the door, and she
shifted her position, readying herself.
The Yuka she remembered was a middling fighter at best compared to her, but
there was no reason to take any risks. With a soft breath, she released her
hold on the pipe and dropped down next to the other girl, the rubber soles
of her borrowed shoes barely making a sound. Her arm quickly snaked around
Yuka’s neck, and she pressed down tightly on her carotid artery in a choke
hold, not wanting to make any noise out here.
Yuka struggled briefly, desperately throwing her weight back against Ranko
in an attempt to crush her assailant against the wall and loosen the iron
grip around her throat. Ranko grunted, but her hold remained firm. She
hoped nobody inside heard anything as the two struggled.
After several moments, Yuka’s eyes rolled back up into her head as she
passed out, her body’s weight slumping limply into Ranko’s arms. The
pigtailed girl laid her down gently and briefly checked her pulse, laying
two fingers against her neck. Yuka would have a headache when she woke up,
but nothing more serious.
Ukyo, still quietly observing, nodded at the strange girl’s technique. She
moved and fought well, Ukyo judged. It would be interesting to see how she
fared against a more challenging opponent.
Inside the room, Nabiki blinked at Ami’s words and was about to inquire
further when there was a faint sound from the hallway. She glanced up at
Yohko, who seemed aware of it as well. They exchanged looks and then the
Devil Hunter quietly walked over to stand beside the door.
Opening it revealed Yuka lying up against the wall, apparently asleep.
Yohko had only a moment to wonder what was going on before Ranko swung down
from where she was hiding among the ducts and pipes running along the
ceiling. Her hands firmly grasped the top of the doorframe, and she kicked
both her feet hard into Yohko’s midsection, knocking the other girl back a
few feet and to her knees.
Nabiki sprang up when Ranko finished her maneuver, coming into the room in
an acrobatic flip and landing with feet spread, her knees soaking up the
shock of landing. When Yohko came at the redhead in retaliation, Ranko
ducked under the other girl’s strike and threw an uppercut to Yohko’s jaw
in reply, knocking her to the ground again when the Devil Hunter’s knees
promptly buckled. A second hard punch across Yohko’s face knocked her
completely out. Ami just sat there, amazed at the sudden intrusion.
“Who the hell are you?” Nabiki demanded, surprised to see someone put the
Devil Hunter down so quickly. She would avenge her fallen friend, her gaze
narrowing wrathfully as the two girls eyed each other intently for several
moments. “You’re wearing an Academy uniform, but I don’t know you.” While
she didn’t recognize the pigtailed girl, she was obviously very
“I’m Ranko,” the redhead said simply, meeting the older girl’s look
levelly. She paused and thought a moment about what name she would give and
then decided to use one that Nabiki would probably never have heard of
before on this world, not wanting to get her own analog in trouble, if she
had one here. “I’m Ranko Kuonji. I’d suggest you don’t get in my way.
You’ll only end up like your friend here.”
Out in the hallway, Ukyo nearly lost her grip on the ducting she had been
clinging to. Did that girl just say she was a Kuonji? Ukyo’s mind whirled
for several moments and then the answer suddenly came to her.
Something had happened in the past with her Aunt Yumi, something that the
rest of the clan would not speak of. A child born out of wedlock made
sense, and the girl seemed to be the right age. That would mean that Ranko
was her cousin. That was great! She grinned. It would be fun to have
another girl around to talk with, and she was looking forward to seeing the
look on her aunt’s face when she told her that she’d figured out her secret.
She considered going in at that point, but decided to wait and see how
things played out. But she would be ready, if Ranko needed any help.
Nabiki raised an eyebrow at the name the girl gave her. “Let me get this
straight. _You_ are threatening me?” She assumed a casual pose, lowering
her arms to her sides, her gaze still locked with Ranko’s. “I don’t think
you realize just who you’re dealing with, shorty.”
“Come on, Mizuno-san,” said Ranko, finally breaking eye contact with Nabiki
as she ignored the insult. She went over to where Ami sat, looking stunned
and relieved that she was being rescued. The redhead put a hand down on her
shoulder. “I’m getting you out of here.”
“You’re not going anywhere yet, Kuonji-san,” Nabiki said coolly after a
moment. “You come in here uninvited and brutalize my closest associate.
That’s rather rude, you know.”
Ranko shrugged. “I’m just helping out someone in trouble is all.” She
helped Ami up and stood the girl behind her to protect her. “I’m not really
sure just what’s going on here, but I’m saying this interview is over.”
“You’re not being very respectful to an upperclassmen,” Nabiki said with a
cool look, her temper aroused by the other girl’s disrespectful attitude.
“Sorry about that, Tendo-senpai,” Ranko replied sarcastically. “I’ll try to
do better in the future.”
Nabiki moved to bar their way. “You’re not going anywhere until I get a few
answers out of you.”
“Wait here a moment, Mizuno-san,” Ranko said in an aside. She stepped over
closer to Nabiki. “Look, here’s how this is going to work. She and I are
going through that door, so I’d suggest you get out of my way, right now.”
Her hands dropped to her sides, partly closing into fists. There was
nothing she would like better right now than to knock the Tendo girl on her
rear, feeling more and more aggravated by the older girl as she drew nearer.
Irritated by the smaller girl and her disrespectful attitude on several
levels, Nabiki threw the first punch, one swiftly blocked by Ranko and then
the fight between the two began in earnest. Off to one side, Ami stood and
wondered who this Ranko Kuonji was, and why she was helping her.
Out in the hallway, Ukyo heard the sounds of a major fight breaking out in
the room, and she peeked down from the ceiling to peer inside. A fierce
battle raged between her supposed cousin and Nabiki, and both fighters were
looking pretty intent on putting the other one down as harshly as possible.
She saw Ami watching the whole thing, an almost rapturous look on the
girl’s face, her attention apparently focused on Ranko.
Nabiki reeled back as one of the shorter girl’s punches slipped past her
guard to drive into her face, releasing a brief spurt of blood from her
nose. But her own response was equally swift and powerful as she regained
her footing, a snap kick that caught Ranko in her ribs, just under one
breast. The two girls circled each other for a few moments, and then they
began trading blows again, very few actually connecting as they weaved and
danced around each other, taking each other’s measure as a fighter.
Ranko was startled that this Nabiki was so formidable a fighter, a rarity
amidst the few analogs she had seen of the older girl. Feeling a familiar
sensation now percolating in the cells of her hindbrain, aroused by the
passions of the fight, she boosted and felt her senses quickly expand as
her muscles swelled with new strength and power and her reflexes turned
lightning-fast. In front of her, Nabiki’s motions seemed to slow to a crawl
and Ranko grinned, setting up the Tendo girl to be finished off quickly.
She drove a few solid punches past the other girl’s now glacial defenses.
“Enough of this,” Nabiki growled, reeling back, irritated at Ranko’s sudden
burst of speed. She would show the redhead what speed really was! “KACHU
TENSHIN AMAGURIKEN!” She unleashed a furious storm of punches at the
smaller girl. This would finish her off, she thought with certainty.
To Ranko’s accelerated awareness, Nabiki’s fists suddenly seemed to blur in
at her, almost too fast to perceive each individual punch. She strained to
keep up with the sheer volume of strikes coming at her, recognizing the
technique even though she had not trained herself to use it. Ranko ducked
and wove her body among the blows, her hands deflecting still more, and she
just soaked up the damage caused by those that did hit her midsection and
face by virtue of the stew of endorphins, adrenaline, and other serums
surging within her. But the effort was taxing her more than she could have
ever imagined. Luckily, it was over quickly.
Nabiki was caught off-guard when Ranko seemed unaffected by her attack,
despite a couple of bruises now adorning the other girl’s face. Her body
sagged, still unused to such a staggering demand of energy made on her
muscles so quickly. She realized a bit too late that she had just
over-committed herself and tried to brace herself to absorb the smaller
Grinning mirthlessly, Ranko took advantage of Nabiki’s misjudgment, and she
laid into the middle Tendo daughter with heavy punches and kicks. Despite
the euphoria of the boost, she could sense she was reaching her limit soon,
dealing with Nabiki’s attack having drained her reserves much more quickly
than normal, so she needed to finish this fast. Her attacks ripped through
the other girl’s weakened defenses, shredding them away before her punches
and kicks began driving hard into Nabiki’s body and face.
Nabiki grunted in rapid succession from each blow as the smaller girl’s
fists and feet slammed into her again and again without letup. She tried to
rally, but it was too late. Her knees eventually buckled from the damage,
and Ranko quickly grabbed her shoulders and drove a savage knee strike up
into her belly, followed up quickly by a second one and then a third. Then
everything went black as the last thing she saw was the redhead’s knee
coming up at her face.
Ranko paused, feeling exhaustion roll over her as the boost abruptly
subsided within her, her subliminals shutting it down, grateful that the
battle had ended. In front of her, Nabiki’s eyes were rolling back in their
sockets, the pigtailed girl’s knee almost embedded in her face as they
stood in a brief tableau. Then Nabiki slumped unconscious at Ranko’s feet
even as the redhead fell to her knees, her stomach roiling within her and
growling with hunger as her muscles trembled throughout her whole body from
the sudden rush of fatigue poisons hitting her all at once. Her lungs
panted like a bellows.
She was startled when Ami put an arm around her and started to help her up,
but she was grateful for the assistance. She slowly stood, leaning heavily
“Th-thank you, Kuonji-san,” Ami said hesitantly.
“No problem.” Ranko grinned, flashing the other girl a victory sign and
acting macho, even as her legs trembled beneath her. “Glad I could help.”
“You were just amazing,” Ami gushed, helping the other girl move to the
door. “I’ve never seen anyone fight like you, other than Tendo-senpai and
Feeling her strength gradually returning with each moment as they headed
down the hallway, Ranko glanced at Ami. “Saotome-san? Ranma Saotome?”
“Y-you know him?” Ami asked with sudden hesitance, fearing that the redhead
was another girl romantically interested in Ranma.
Up above, Ukyo’s eyes narrowed as she listened in. Was this another rival
for Ranma? Her own cousin?
“I’m familiar with him.” Ranko noticed the odd look Ami was giving her.
“N-nothing,” said Ami, quickly looking away. Somewhat shyly, she asked,
“A-are you interested in Saotome-san?”
Ranko’s mind immediately summoned up images from the erotic dreams she kept
having about her male analog. She blushed and quickly stammered out
defensively, “O-of course not! I’m not interested in him at all like that!”
Above them, Ukyo relaxed, putting away the small throwing spatula she had
unconsciously drawn out.
“I’m glad,” Ami sighed with relief. “Saotome-san is already being chased by
a fair number of girls.”
“Oh? Like who?” A brief feeling of jealousy arose in Ranko and she hastily
beat it back down, blushing some more. Feeling her strength returning to
her limbs, Ranko ceased leaning on Ami and stood on her own. Her stomach
growled a bit loudly, and she put one hand behind her head and grinned
slightly with embarrassment. “Sorry. I guess I’m a little hungry.”
“Oh, let me buy you some lunch!” Ami replied quickly. “It’s the least I can
do for you helping me out like that.” She took Ranko by the hand and
started leading her down the hall, smiling at the redhead. “You were very
brave to stand up to Tendo-senpai like that. Are you a new transfer
“Something like that.” Ranko smiled nervously, unsure what to do. She let
Ami lead her down the hallway.
Once they were around the corner, Ukyo dropped down quietly and quickly
followed after them, listening to the two girls chatting.
Kodachi eyed the pigtailed girl that Ami had brought back to their class,
her arms laden with food. The redhead had given her a startled look when
she first came into the room, as if recognizing her. Kodachi was sure she
had seen the other girl before, somewhere, perhaps on another timeline
visited by that part of her that she referred to as Scholar-Kodachi. The
pigtailed girl kept a wary eye in her direction even as she consumed food
with a barbaric gusto, showing little in the way of proper feminine
decorum. As she did so, several of Ami’s friends gathered around them to
find out who the girl was. Even Nanami got up from her desk and went over
to chat, welcoming the new girl.
Feeling a bit jealous of how easily the pigtailed hoyden was making friends
with the other girls in class, Kodachi sullenly ate the rest of her lunch
and listened to the bits of conversation she could hear. She was especially
interested as Ami described in detail how Ranko had rescued her from a
meeting with Nabiki, even taking down the Tendo girl in single combat. That
earned a few oohs and ahh’s of respect from the gathered girls, and Nanami
seemed even more interested in the pigtailed girl, a gleam appearing in her
eye. Seeing all the respect Ranko was getting, Kodachi felt even more
“So, Kuonji-san,” Nanami said, leaning over the girl’s shoulder. “That’s
impressive that you beat Tendo-senpai. Aren’t you worried about her wanting
to get back at you?”
Ranko grinned, enjoying the food more than the attention, feeling it quiet
the hungry beast that had been raging in her belly. “Nah, she wasn’t so
tough. I’m sure I could take her again if I had to.”
Nanami smiled, a scheme already forming in the back of her mind. “I’m sure
you could,” she said with a nod, eyeing the redhead and smiling. “I think
we’re going to be good friends.” Several other girls nodded with her.
Ami was pleased that her newfound friend was being welcomed so easily by
the other girls in class.
The sun was lowering in the cloud-filled sky as Ryoga paused next to a wall
and leaned against it with one hand. He had been walking all day, feeling
cold and wet from the rain, trying desperately to find either Ukyo or Ryoko
without having any luck. He shut his eyes, tears of rage threatening to
burst forth. It just wasn’t fair! He had no idea where he was. Ukyo could
be anywhere in this city.
“Man, today has been one bad day,” Hiroshi grumbled to himself as he
started to walk past Ryoga, who had his hand resting on a brass plaque that
proclaimed ‘Tokyo Imperial Academy - Founded 1845’ in kanji. “I can’t wait
to get home and forget about this day.”
That uniform, Ryoga realized, his eyes locking on to Hiroshi. His hand
swiftly lashed out and grabbed the boy by the collar. “You! Where is the
Hiroshi blinked. “Wha-?”
“I recognize that uniform you’re wearing!” Ryoga shouted into Hiroshi’s
face as he hauled him close. “You go to the Imperial Academy! Where is it?”
Hiroshi fearfully pointed over Ryoga’s shoulder, and the Lost Boy turned
and read the words on the plaque slowly, with disbelief. His morale soared
as he realized he was close to his goal, and he turned back to the two
cadets and shouted, “Where is Ukyo Kuonji!”
“I-I don’t know,” Hiroshi whimpered, afraid he was going to get beaten up
for a second time in one day. “I don’t know where he is! I swear!”
Just at that moment, Ranma came out the gate, heading to the parking area
for his bike. He stopped, dead in his tracks at the sight of Ryoga. Both
boys locked gazes for a moment in a brief tableau.
“You!” Ryoga snarled, recognizing the pigtailed boy as a friend of Ukyo’s
here. “Tell me where Ukyo is!” He let Hiroshi go as an afterthought and
stalked towards Ranma, dramatically cracking his knuckles to throw a scare
into the other boy. “You’d better tell me where Ukyo is, and you’d better
tell me right now,” he growled.
Above the two boys, Ranko was kneeling on the top of the wall, partly
hidden amidst several tree branches hanging over it while she observed the
scene with interest. After eating a huge lunch with Ami and being fawned
over a bit by the girls in Ami’s class, she had spent some time scouting
around the campus. Everything looked just like she remembered it from her
own world, but that familiarity only made her homesickness that much more
Learning more about Ranma during that time, and some secret project he had
been working on since his arrival on campus, she thought he might be able
to help her. She had been biding her time for the remainder of the
afternoon, waiting for a chance to talk to Ranma in private after he was
done with classes. He was the only one who could possibly help her, even
though she also suspected that he was the one who had messed with her brain.
Spotting his pigtailed nemesis leaving the grounds of the Imperial Academy,
Mikado emerged from the limousine he had been waiting in. With a grim look
on his face, determined to make Ranma pay for his assault on Kodachi, he
headed over to where his target was apparently being confronted by another
boy. Not that it mattered to Mikado. If the boy wearing the bandanna had a
grudge against Saotome, he’d have to wait in line.
Ranma considered his options quickly. Now that he was almost fully healed
up, he felt confident about dealing with Ryoga. None of his other analogs
ever had any real troubles with the Hibiki boy, so what had happened on
their previous encounter must have been a fluke. Ukyo was getting her
spatula from her locker, and he was supposed to meet her in a few minutes.
He gave Ryoga a grin. This shouldn’t take very long.
“I don’t think so, Lost Boy,” said Ranma in his most insulting tones. “Man,
are you really so stupid that you think I’d just tell a moron like you
where Ucchan was?”
Ryoga stopped dead in his tracks, not expecting that response. “What did
you just say?”
“You heard me,” Ranma replied. “Leave Ucchan alone. Say, where’ve you been
for the past few days anyway? Get lost crossing a street?”
Ryoga growled, his eyebrow twitching as he quickly grew more furious. “Oh,
you’re going to get it for that.” Ukyo could wait a little while, after he
pounded this pigtailed jerk into the ground first. He grimly advanced
“Catch me if you can, Lost Boy!” Ranma turned around and headed off at a
run, hoping to lure Ryoga away from Ukyo and then deal with him on his own
someplace more private.
“Damn you!” Ryoga roared, sprinting after Ranma, angry beyond reason now.
First he was going to pound on this guy a bit and then he would beat Ukyo’s
location out of him, assuming the other boy’s jaw wasn’t broken first.
What the heck? Ranko saw the pair suddenly take off at a run. She dropped
down from the wall, just in time to be run into by Mikado, who had started
sprinting when Ranma suddenly took off running. Both of them fell to the
Mikado grimaced as he sat up and then he saw the girl who he had run into.
He immediately went over to help her up, his nemesis forgotten for the
moment. Feeling a pleasant tingling as he took her hand, he studied her for
a moment, noting the delightful expanse of her bust and her very pleasingly
“Are you all right, Miss?” he asked, smiling.
“Wha-?” Ranko was still a little stunned from the impact. Ranma was getting
away, and she had to start after him.
“Ah, but let me introduce myself properly. I am Mikado Sanzenin.” And with
that, he pulled Ranko into an embrace and was about to kiss her.
Ranko’s eyes went wide as his lips approached hers, a storm of emotions
erupting inside her. Part of her was intrigued at what was happening. Her
first kiss, she absently mused. Then another part came roaring up out of
the back of her mind, as if triggered by the embrace.
Wait a minute! She knew him! Memories of a skating match came over her and
a powerful sense of déjà vu mixed with revulsion. With a surge of rage,
Ranko drove her knee up into Mikado’s groin and swiftly shoved him away.
She ran off after Ranma.
Mikado came near to throwing up and tears of pain leaked from his eyes as
he collapsed to the ground, clutching himself in agony. He rolled to one
side and watched the pigtailed girl running away from him and a fierce rage
came over him. How dare that little commoner wench do such a thing to him!
Somehow managing to get to his feet, he began staggering after Ranko,
determined to make her pay for what she had just done. Whichever one he
caught up to first, Ranma or the pigtailed girl, would feel his wrath.
Ryoko had finally made her way back to familiar territory, grateful for the
easing of the rain. She was looking forward to her revenge upon Nabiki,
savoring it a bit in her mind as she walked along. It was going to feel so
good to pulverize the other girl for daring to insult her like that.
Ranma went charging past her, followed up quickly by Ryoga.
“Just wait until I get my hands on you, Saotome!” roared Ryoga.
Ranma glanced back, and he stuck his tongue out as he peeled down one
eyelid with a finger. “Gotta catch me first, you slowpoke!”
Startled, Ryoko turned around to watch them for a moment, wondering why
Ryoga was picking on poor Ranma like that. She was promptly knocked down as
Ranko came around the corner and sprinted right over her, using her as a
launching platform for a quick leap as she struggled to catch up to the two
testosterone-filled morons. Ryoko slammed face down into the pavement.
“Sorry about that!” Ranko called back, still running hard after the two
As she was getting to her feet, Mikado ran over her next, slamming her face
back into the concrete. He never even paused.
Ryoko growled as she got back to her feet, deciding that pummeling Nabiki
Tendo could wait. First she was going to pound that redhead into mulch, not
to mention the guy chasing her. And then she was going to find out why
Ryoga was picking on Ranma. She took off at a run after the group.
Up on the rooftop of the Institute’s storage facility, Gosunkugi watched a
small parade of people that were apparently chasing after Saotome, two boys
and two girls. He had been laying subtle spells of illusion all over the
building all afternoon, being very careful to avoid the vats of Jusenkyo
water, and he was feeling a bit tired by his efforts. He strolled over to
peer through a skylight into the dim interior, hoping to see Ranma’s
downfall with his own eyes.
The air in the rafters shimmered, and a familiar figure dressed in a blue
kimono shimmered into view. It was almost time for the critical event, and
she wanted a front row seat to watch. All her efforts were about to pay off.
There, that place would be perfect, Ranma thought. He burst through the
unlocked gates to an abandoned warehouse a few blocks from the Academy. He
could fight here with Ryoga without doing any property damage to anything
valuable, like his other selves always seemed to be doing.
Once inside, he leaped up the stairs, cataloging his surroundings as he
headed up towards the catwalk overhead. The building was pretty open and
spacious inside, offering him plenty of room to maneuver, and it seemed
like it hadn’t been used for a long time, judging by all the cobwebs and
dust on everything. He had just reached the catwalk’s level when Ryoga came
charging in, practically ripping the metal door off its hinges in his
eagerness to get him.
“SAOTOME! WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?!”
“Up here, stupid!” Ranma waved jauntily down at Ryoga. He grinned as he
took a moment to loosen up for the fight while the Hibiki boy came
barreling up the stairs. The short run had gotten his heart rate up a
little, and he felt ready for anything.
The figure watched in puzzlement at the sight below. This was wrong. Where
was Ukyo? Where was the Tendo girl? They were the ones expected for this
scenario. She turned to eye the vat of Nannichuan (Spring of Drowned Man)
water under one of the catwalks.
She shimmered a moment, vanishing for a split-second, her face holding a
wrathful look when she re-appeared. Nabiki was unconscious and Ukyo was
still at the Academy. This wasn’t the scenario! The pigtailed boy wasn’t
supposed to be here!
A moment later, Ranko came running in through the doors. She paused,
looking around, and then she heard a loud commotion up overhead.
“Now I’ve got you!” Mikado cried out as he came running into the warehouse
next. Ranko had just barely turned around, and Mikado managed to get in the
first blow, a punch that rocked the pigtailed girl back on her feet. She
leaped aside as Mikado tried to follow up with a side kick that just barely
“I don’t got time for this!” Ranko bounced off a nearby wall and came
surging back towards Mikado, knocking him back into a pile of crates,
stunning him. Her path took her to another set of stairs.
The kimono-clad figure narrowed her gaze at the pigtailed girl. The
scenario was spoiled somehow by her. This version of Ranma was only meant
to attract the cross-dressing ninja girl to Tokyo as well as provide the
means for copying the skills of that other Tendo girl into this world’s
version. Both girls were almost equally powerful at this point, more
capable than this boy, and either of them would be perfect for her needs.
The Saotome boy wasn’t supposed to be here! It should have been Ryoko
fighting with the Tendo girl or Ryoga fighting Ukyo at this point!
Meanwhile, Ranma and Ryoga stood and faced each other on one catwalk above.
Ranma grinned, which infuriated Ryoga. With a growl, Ryoga swiftly charged
across to where Ranma stood near the middle of the catwalk. He lashed out
with a hard punch at the last moment, and Ranma hopped up to perch on his
arm for a moment before he bounced up to land easily on one rail.
“You’re gonna have to do better than that,” Ranma teased, dodging the
punches with difficulty that Ryoga threw as he danced back along the
railing. Another Ranma’s words emerged from his lips. “I could keep this
sort of thing up all day, Lost Boy.”
Below, Ryoko came charging in. Spotting the redheaded girl up above, she
pursued, sparing a glance at the fight now going on between Ranma and
Ryoga. First, the redhead, she decided. She bounced off crates as she
bounded up to the catwalk.
“Stop running away!” Ryoko roared, finally managing to catch up to Ranko.
“Stand and fight!” She lashed out with a flying kick that managed to hit
Ranko in the shoulder, spinning her around.
Ranko growled. “That hurt, ya know.” She began trading blows with the
angry, green-haired girl. “What’s your problem?”
“Stand still a moment, and it won’t be a problem anymore.” Ryoko aimed a
roundhouse kick at Ranko’s midsection, but it missed, shearing clean
through one of the support posts holding up the catwalk. It lurched to one
side as the post gave way, and both girls quickly hopped up on the
remaining rail and continued their duel without a single moment’s pause.
A recovered Mikado had just started out across the catwalk when it suddenly
pitched violently to one side, propelling him off it. “Wha- Ahhh!” He
tumbled headlong into one of the vats of water below and vanished with a
Across the warehouse, on the next catwalk, Ranma still danced around his
foe, but after his initial bravado he was finding it to be far more
difficult than he remembered it as being from his analog’s memories. He
quickly snap kicked Ryoga, catching the other boy in the chest but barely
knocking him back against the railing.
Ryoga rapidly regained his footing and glared at Ranma. “That was nothing!
You hit like a girl!”
“What the hell did you say?” Ranma snarled. “Take that back, Hibiki! You
take that back!” He launched into a furious attack, a flurry of punches and
kicks into Ryoga.
Meanwhile, Ranko and Ryoko were engaged in a dazzling display of their
fighting skills as they dueled fiercely with each other. Ryoko’s fists and
feet missed Ranko by mere centimeters, but Ranko was discovering that her
own blows were not wearing down the other girl as quickly as they had with
Nabiki. She redoubled her efforts, throwing more of her strength into her
Below them, the water in one vat stirred as first a stream of bubbles and
then a small black piglet suddenly broke the surface. It gasped for breath
as it struggled to stay afloat.
“Bwee!” the piglet called out fearfully, paddling as best it could with
little cloven hooves. “BWEE!”
Ranma glanced back, startled to hear the sounds of a pig crying out.
“I have you now,” growled Ryoga, slamming a kick into the pigtailed boy
with all of his strength, propelling Ranma out into open space.
Ranko glanced down, startled to hear the sounds of a pig crying out. She
was caught unprepared as Ryoko swung around on the remaining support pole
and drove both her feet into her chest, launching her across the warehouse.
Ranko twisted her body around, catching sight of a fire sprinkler pipe
behind her that she could land on. Ryoko was in for a surprise as soon as
she touched down.
Ranma caught a brief glimpse of a pipe behind him that he could use to land
on, and he twisted his body around to spring off it. Ryoga was about to get
Ranko and Ranma slammed into each other full force, their foreheads
colliding and knocking Ranko away to one side to crash down loudly into a
pile of empty crates even as he plummeted into the vat of water below him.
Half-conscious from the impact, they gazed at each other in stunned
confusion. Ranma vanished beneath the surface with a large splash.
Hidden amidst the rafters, the woman dressed in a blue kimono gazed down at
the vat, unconsciously holding her breath. This was the most critical
moment in her plan, but because of unexpected interference by Ranko, Nabiki
wasn’t here. Neither was Ukyo. The dice had presented a completely
different number than the one she had planned for. Either the Tendo or
Kuonji girl would have been perfect for what was to come.
It was unfortunate, she decided. The only way left to her to prevent the
Shogun from achieving his apotheosis was to initiate nuclear conflict once
again. After all of her careful preparations, this was now looking like a
dead-end world. The boy would never become powerful enough in time to be a
Ranma felt the breath forced from his lungs when his body hit the water,
bubbles of air trailing up after his descent, the shimmering surface moving
further and further away. Sparkles of orange light immediately began
appearing at the edges of his awareness, and his vision quickly faded. He
reflexively clawed one hand upward after the receding bubbles, but then a
sudden, paralyzing shock of some kind seemed to spark throughout his entire
being. His body jerked once, more precious air escaping from his lungs.
He could see nothing but orange light around him. Random memories began
appearing in his awareness as he felt his consciousness fading away,
guttering out like a dying candle flame.
...the feeling of success at his first use of the resonator.
...discovering his ability to fight using the downloaded skills of his
...the file on Project Phoenix and what had been done to him.
...his savage battle with Kinnosuke and being beaten by the other boy so
...Nabiki unleashing the Amaguriken into him, easily beating him in a duel
...his recent scuffle with Ryoga, a far tougher fight than his memories
said it should be.
...that world where Shampoo was cursed to turn male and was a strong
...Shampoo was the only girl missing from his present life.
...in his current state, he could never defeat someone like Shampoo.
...if only he was stronger, like his analogs.
He wasn’t really strong, he realized in those last few moments. His nervous
system had ten years of martial arts training imprinted on them, but his
body just didn’t have enough conditioning for what he kept facing. He was
only going to keep muddling along at this rate, his ego writing checks his
body couldn’t cash until he was finally crippled or killed.
He wished his father had trained him harder physically all those years.
He wished he was more like his analogs, each of them the top fighter among
He could no longer even see or feel his body now, just the ever-present
orange glow all around him.
Some of Master Lee’s words came to him. “I can make you a great fighter,
Ranma, if that is all you wish to be. However, I believe you can be more,
to someday truly master the martial arts, and I can help you. But only you
can make that choice. Only you can walk that path. No one else can do it
for you. And that path will not be easy.”
He was dying, feeling the last of his air bubbling up away from him.
His inner resolve suddenly hardened in those last few moments.
He would not give up. Master Lee believed in him, believed he could become
even greater than Nabiki, that he could become a true master of the martial
He was not a failure, not merely a copy of someone else.
No matter what it took, he would grow stronger and master himself, not
merely accumulate techniques.
He would pay any price asked and bear any burden given him.
This was not his end.
He was Ranma Saotome, and he would not fail.
The pigtailed boy began struggling against his paralysis, as the orange
glow surrounded him like amber, as his consciousness wavered at the very
brink of oblivion.
Looking down from above, deep beneath the surface of the water a dying
orange glow seemed to suddenly glimmer a little brighter.
The woman in the kimono looked surprised.
Perhaps there was still a chance to succeed. After all, it was not the
first time that she had seen someone overcome fate itself.
*** Heaven 0.000, 0.000
A screen to one side of Skuld’s workstation abruptly cleared.
* CORRECTIONS FOUND FOR MISSING PARAMETERS.
The screen abruptly cleared again. Several moments passed.
* MIDGARD REALITY PARADIGM ADJUSTMENT: 100% COMPLETE.
*** Earth 0.000, 0.000
Ranko tried to catch her breath, recovering from the stunning impact of her
fall. She coughed at the dust filling the air like a vast cloud of smoke.
As she staggered to her feet, her head still aching fiercely from the
mid-air collision and her thoughts deeply confused, a beeping sounded from
her pocket. Pulling out her device, she saw the timer was in the process of
recalculating for the next window. Had that ever happened before?
Scrambling from the wreckage, her thoughts still confused but knowing this
was somehow important, she swiftly ran from the warehouse to find a clear
enough area to activate it. When the timer abruptly cleared, it now showed
only seconds remaining. She vaguely recalled that meant she was supposed to
get ready to hit the button. The last seconds ticked down. When they
reached zero, she triggered the device. The portal yawned open, and she
leaped into it.
Back in the warehouse, the water in the vat was still settling when a hand
suddenly broke the surface. A figure surged up from its depths with a loud
gasp and swiftly grabbed hold of one of the sides, dressed in Chinese-style
shirt and black gi pants.
When he saw the redhead come up and look to be all right, Ryoga let out an
unconscious sigh of relief and searched for Ranma with his gaze. Had his
nemesis managed a cowardly escape in the dust and confusion?
Coughing up a small quantity of water while treading water, the girl’s mind
whirled as she took stock of her condition. What had happened? It was a
All the lingering pains from her recent battles were gone as if they had
never happened, and she actually felt better than ever before. But
something also felt very wrong in an oddly familiar sort of way. A sudden
sense of horror seized her and she swiftly ripped open her top, staring
down in shock at a surprisingly well-endowed chest for a teenaged girl.
Startled by the scream, Ryoga looked down again at the vat, noticed the
girl’s open top exposing her female assets and felt a little faint, not
quite understanding how she had changed clothes so quickly under the water.
He was surprised again when she glared back at him, and the sheer, raw fury
that was in her gaze briefly froze him in place by its intensity.
“RRRYYYOOOGGGAAA!” she raged, leaping at him in a high-bounding surge from
the water to bounce off some cabling and land on the railing in front of
him. She opened her blouse to him. “You jerk! Look at me! Look what you did
“I-I’m sorry for getting you wet, Miss,” he said, feeling his nose starting
to stream blood, unsure what to say. He was still stammering out an apology
and trying not to stare at her bared breasts when she suddenly launched
herself at him and spun around in midair to land a powerful roundhouse kick
into his chest. Caught off-guard, he flew from the catwalk and vanished off
into the dimness. There was the sound of a distant splash.
Ryoko, seeing that the redheaded bimbo had just flashed her chest at poor
Ryoga and then attacked him while the idiot was off-guard, started to leap
from the catwalk she was on when the remaining support chose that moment to
suddenly give way. The entire catwalk began plummeting to the floor of the
warehouse. Desperately trying to leap clear, Ryoko pushed off the already
descending railing. She reached out but just missed the handhold she had
been aiming for by millimeters. She fell to land in another vat.
Gazing down through the skylight, Gosunkugi made a ‘Tch’ sound and felt
disappointed at not being able to see the results of his revenge with all
the dust in the air. Had Ranma Saotome survived? He sighed softly in
frustration. Walking to the edge of the roof, he muttered a spell and
floated down to the ground. He shoved his hands into his pockets and walked
away, grumbling to himself.
Back within the warehouse on the remaining catwalk, the boy turned girl
began shaking her head in denial. She clutched at her skull for several
moments as she sank to her knees and then leaned forward, her eyes widened
“I-I’m female,” the girl said in a stunned mutter, staring down in
disbelief at her new form, her thoughts whirling.
With a roar of rage, tears of raw fury streaming from her eyes as she
lifted her gaze from her transformed body, Ranma-chan leaped down from the
catwalk and ran from the warehouse, out into the rain beginning to fall
heavily from the skies.
A few moments later, in the tank where Ryoko fell, the surface of the water
began bubbling, and then a small cat with greenish fur suddenly broke the
surface, looking panicked.
“Meow! MEOW!” the cat cried out, struggling to stay afloat.
“BWEE! BWEE!” added the piglet from the vat where Mikado fell, still trying
to keep his head above the surface.
At that moment, Cherry entered the warehouse. Hearing the cries of fear
from the animals, he made his way carefully to the tanks of water and
fished them out before either could drown. They both collapsed, utterly
exhausted from their efforts. He tapped a spot on each of their bodies, and
they fell unconscious.
“Rest now, little ones,” he said, his bald head gleaming slightly in the
dim light. “Fate has apparently chosen you.”
Cherry eyed the tank he had seen Ranma fall into, and a girl wearing the
same clothing had emerged. A plaque on one side read, ‘Jusendo Water’ and
gave a warehouse reference number. The old monk bowed his head solemnly and
prayed for a moment. In his thoughts, he was intrigued.
“It is Fate,” he intoned ominously.
In the back of the warehouse, Ryoga pulled himself free from the vat of
water he had fallen into and collapsed on the pavement, breathing heavily.
He coughed up a quantity of fluid. His lungs panted like a bellows. He’d
Then he got a good look at himself, at what he had become, seeing his
reflection in the glass of a nearby window. He shook his head slowly,
horror dawning. This had to be a nightmare. Or he had died after all, and
he was now in hell.
“Growf?” murmured the large panda, quickly running paws over his face and
body, his ever-present bandana tight on his skull. Closing both paws into
fists, Ryoga bellowed his rage to the sky. His rage at Ukyo was forgotten
for the moment. It was the girl. That girl would pay for doing this to him,
whoever she was!
Up in the rafters, the kimono-clad woman looked thoughtful. She would let
this unexpected scenario play out for a while.
She shimmered and vanished.
Earth +0.001, +0.002
Stumbling free of the portal that swiftly collapsed behind her, Ranko
rested for a moment in the alleyway she found herself in before getting up
and dusting herself off. Her device automatically began calculating the
remaining time to the next window as she stood there. Her head felt like
mush, and she was having trouble thinking. She felt woozy.
“R-Ranko... chan?” suddenly asked a voice behind her hesitantly.
Standing in the street outside the alleyway was a worn-looking Nodoka, a
pair of grocery bags falling from her hands to rest at her feet. She gazed
in amazement at the girl standing in front of her, wondering if she’d
finally lost her mind in her prolonged grief.
Ranko turned around slowly, recognizing the voice, and her gaze went past a
flyer stuck to the wall, a tattered missing persons notice with her picture
on it in her Academy uniform, and the last seen date the day she had first
activated her device, weeks ago.
“M-mom?” she said, finding tears unexpectedly filling her gaze. She wasn’t
sure why, but she felt like she had just returned from a very long journey.
Somehow, against impossible odds, she had finally found her way back home.
But where had she been?
“Ranko!” Nodoka cried happily, rushing to her long-lost daughter and
pulling her into a hug. “Where have you been?! We’ve all been so worried
about you! That Kaneda boy has been putting up fliers for weeks, helping
your father and me!” She started to cry openly.
“I-I’m home.” Ranko hugged her mother back, the smell of her so warm and
familiar. She started to cry as well
Behind the pair, the shadows shifted, and a willowy figure in a kimono
appeared, a hint of a smile seen on her face. The figure gestured towards
them. Filaments of invisible power drifted to the back of Ranko’s head and
then the tips swiftly dove into her.
“Rest now, child,” whispered the figure. “Your part in this passion play is
done, and the next act is about to begin. I can’t have you interfering
Ranko’s body jerked when the filaments withdrew suddenly from her skull and
then she passed out. The quantum tuneller dropped unnoticed from her hand.
It then crumbled into powder at another gesture from the figure’s hand.
*** Earth 0.000, 0.000
Sometime later, soaked to the skin by the icy rain, Ranma-chan sat all
alone, huddled against one wall of an alleyway, sniffling, pondering what
had happened, in a state of shock.
As she sat there, a figure came into the alley, shielded from the rain by
an umbrella, drawn by the sounds of human misery emerging from the alley.
After a moment, the pigtailed girl looked up, rain running through her hair
and down her face and neck in cold streams. The lights of the street shone
brightly behind the sudden apparition, and Ranma-chan tried to make out who
it was. Her eyes widened in recognition, and she started to run away, not
wanting anyone she knew to see her like this.
Barely going a step, the shock and stresses of the day’s events finally
seemed to catch up with her, and she passed out.
Minami groaned as the security guard shined a light into her face, her jaw
feeling like it was swollen to twice its normal size. Where was she? The
back of her head ached where she must have struck it upon something. Her
memories felt fuzzy.
“Are you all right, Miss?” asked the guard, beginning to untie her.
“Fine,” Minami muttered. “I’m fine.” Her vision swam, belying her statement.
“Well, I’m going to have to report this,” he said with a frown. He patted
her down for several moments, quickly finding her ID card. She was too
woozy to protest. He punched her ID number into his handheld computer. She
passed out again while he was still dialing the phone.
Nabiki raised a single finger to her lips as she and Yohko watched the
security guard helping a redhead dressed in clothes that looked similar to
Ranma’s garb of late. Her eyes narrowed. It wasn’t the one who had
assaulted her, just that weird girl from the Institute. This fan club thing
was getting out of hand. Girls were even dressing like him now.
When the guard and his captive were gone, she and Yohko supported each
other as they made their way upstairs. With every step, her simmering anger
grew at the girl who had beaten her.
“Ranko Kuonji,” she growled. “You picked a fight with the wrong girl. I
won’t forget this. The next time I see you, you’re going down and you’re
going down hard.”
A little while after that, Nabiki sat on a bed in the nurse’s office to
recover a little before heading home, an icebag pressed against her injured
face. Her stomach and ribs ached fiercely, feeling like they had been
tenderized with a sledgehammer. She seethed inside from her beating.
Who was that Ranko Kuonji bitch? How was she so good a fighter? Even more
importantly, how did she know the Anything-Goes style?
She dialed a number on her phone, listening as it rang a few times before
being picked up.
“It’s me,” said Nabiki. There was a grunt of acknowledgement on the other
end. “I’m cashing in a couple of the markers you owe me. I want a complete
dossier on a Ranko Kuonji delivered to me. Start by checking the family
registries here in Nerima. Get it to me as soon as you can.”
She hung up the phone and lay back on the bed, frowning.
My heartfelt thanks goes out to all of my usual pre-readers for all of
their comments and suggestions. A special thanks goes out to DB Sommer and
Michael Allen for their most detailed help with grammar and plotting.
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