Continuing Tales

Destiny's Child

A Crossovers Story
by Fire

Part 21 of 26

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Destiny's Child

Having safely taken Makoto home, Ranma and Rei were working their way to Rei's house. Following the afternoon's Martial Arts class, Ranma had been delayed by a hour or two battling with Cologne. When you added into that the time it took for them to talk afterwards and then walk Makoto home, evening was beginning to make itself felt.

It was rather a nice night to be walking out romantically, perfect for lovers wearing jackets to hold hands, or for the bolder ones to share their body heat. The air was crisp and clean; the chill evening breeze had managed to clear out most of the pollution, leaving a golden sunset and an almost cloudless evening.

Needless to say, on such a perfect night for lovers' close comfort, Rei found herself walking a distance from Ranma, wondering how he could look so warm and comfortable in whether like this. Sighing to herself, she rubbed her hands up and down her biceps, trying to warm herself. 'Idiot, he didn't even look my way."

Rei sighed again (a little louder to see if that would work), and wished she was walking with Saturn Knight instead of Ranma. At least Saturn Knight was a gentleman. He also had a nice, big, warm cloak, just perfect for two.

"Are you cold, Ranma?"

"Nope. Try meditating naked on a mountain to in winter in Tibet... _That's_ cold."

Silence. Just the sound of some tacky TV program in the background as they passed someone's house. 'What's wrong with the idiot this time? He hasn't even looked at me or said a thing since we left Mako-chan's?'

A car passed them in the near darkness. Surely that chill breeze would be enough to awaken even Ranma's sense of gallantry.

Two minute's later, Rei looked over and made a pronouncement. All due credit must be given here to Ranma as both a human being and a male in the presence of a pretty girl. His oh-so-powerful talents of observation and sensitivity did not need anything more than 'Ranma, I've been freezing here for the last ten minutes! I don't suppose you have a spare jacket?' and he instantly responded. Does Ranma win the award for Sensitive-New-Age-Guy-Of-The-Year?

'Damn. Here I've been keeping myself warm with Ki, and poor little Rei- san's been shivering. There's got to be some way that I can get her to warm up, 'cause I think the pack's pretty empty.'

With a look of chagrin on his face, Ranma shrugged and held up a small bundle of clothes. "Sorry, Rei-san. All I have is these clothes for Hotaru. I don't think any of them would fit you... What with her petite and girlie figure, and you having thighs that are too thick, and strength of a gorilla. I mean, even the shirt would be too loose on a flat chested girl like you."

While he waited for her inevitable anger, Ranma counted his (few) blessings. At least he was walking on such a pretty night with Rei-san and not Sailor Mars. Poor Sailor Mars would have frozen ages ago in such a short skirt. There would have been him with a nice warm cloak around him, staring at a Sailor Mars Popsicle: he would have felt so dumb.

Her first impulse was to reel back and slap him across the face, then she remembered who she was being compared to. Hotaru-chan. Ranma's little sister. The little girl who - according to Chibi-Usa and Ukyo - had some sort of growth problem. Unless her treatment work, Hotaru may never fully bloom into the statuesque lady she no doubt wanted to be. Poor Ranma must be used to making comments like that to help bolster her ego.

Reining in her anger, Rei resolved not to hit him for that comment. Of course, there were other, much more fulfulling ways to get even without resorting to physical violence. Like asking about that Amazon 'wife' of his, for example.

After a moment of silence Ranma turned worriedly and looked at Rei. For a while there he was concerned that someone may have kidnapped Rei-san, Why wasn't she reacting to his insult the way she used to? Surely nothing could have kept her from retorting back for this long. However, she was still there. Good thing too, after all, who'd want to kidnap a tomboy like her?

The he noticed her smile and his blood ran cold. No-one should smile like that. Sharks smile like that. Vipers smile like that. Primary school teaches smile like that when they are about to give a failing report card to the rowdiest student in the class. Ranma shuddered. Rei- san should never smile like that.

"So, Ranma, tell me about this wife of yours."

Ranma's eyes unfocused and he moved forward on autopilot. In front of him was a vision of beauty. She had short hair and the biggest, deepest brown eyes you could ever see. A slightly dazed smile crossed his face as he lost himself in her image.

"Hmm, let me see. About your height and a great martial artist... Real tomboy type; you'd like her."


"I suppose you could say it was an arranged marriage. The parents wanted it, neither of us wanted it initially, but well. I guess she grew on me."

That surprised her. The way he treated Shampoo made Rei think he was more interested in getting out of the marriage than thinking about her as a real wife. "Actually, I mean as a person. It's not as though I got to know her, I've never really had a chance to talk to her."

Ranma shrugged. "Um... Let see... She's smart, really smart. Smarter than I'll ever be, we both studied together when we were young, and she was always better than me, not as good as her sister, but still smart.

"She's good looking too. Much nicer than you in fact. And a better dresser too. I suppose it didn't hurt that her family was rich."

By this stage, Rei was really fuming, and searching around for something nice and heavy to hit him over the head with. Something useful like a bokken or a large mallet.

Ranma stopped in his tracks and nervously scratched under his ponytail. "Oops. Sorry about that. Got confused there for a moment. That was how pop told me about him choosing my mum. Heh, heh. You know, I think he once told me that the girl he was with hit him over the head with a bokken for that."

Spinning on his toes Ranma looked closely at Rei. "You'd never do that sort of thing would you, Rei-san?"

"N-no. No, of course not!"

He turned away and started walking again. Somehow Rei thought he sounded disappointed, but that would have to be her imagination acting up. "No... I don't suppose you would."

"Actually, beautiful is hardly the right word for her. You just can't describe what she looked like. I thought she was a goddess really... How would I describe her? I'd have to say... perfect. She was simply perfect in every way."

Rei could feel her heart crumble into dust with every word. Chibi-Usa was right, Ranma did love someone else. Gods, he loved Shampoo so much, that even though they had been apart for only a couple of hours he was already speaking about her in the past tense.

"So, when is the wedding?"

"Huh? What wedding?"

"To Shampoo. You were just saying how perfect she was."

"What? What's Shampoo got to do with this? I was talking about my wife."

It amazing what a little hope can do. As soon as the word 'What?' came out of his mouth, Rei could tell he was sincerely confused. Shampoo obviously was definitely not the girl he was referring to. But as with all situations, the further you rise, the further you fall. Her broken heart had started to mend when she realised that he was not talking about Shampoo... then he flat out admitted that he did have a wife. He took the tiny shards of her shattered heart and ground them under his heel.

You cannot trust men.


Akane? Akane who? She'd never heard of anyone called Akane. Who was this Akane? Some bimbo he had picked up in his travels no doubt.

Slowly she forced out the words. It was like trying to recite bad poetry; you knew how much it would hurt to say it, but you needed to do it anyway.

"How... How long have you been married?"


More silence.

Silence broken only by the sound of their feet on the concrete.

"I think Akane died about three hundred and fifty years ago. I've suffered every day since."

She's dead? Akane's dead? Let's see...350 days, that's almost a year. "I'm sorry, Ranma. I didn't realise."

He gave a wry chuckle. "How could you? The only people who know are Cologne-chan and Shampoo. Oh, and you too."

Reaching slowly she placed a hand on his arm. "Did Hotaru know her?"

"She loved Akane every bit as much as I did. Akane loved Hotaru the same as she loved me, too. I... It's been hard since she died."

They walked in silence for a while. Each wrapped in their own thoughts. For Ranma, it was Akane. Oddly enough, it was the same for Rei.

'350 days? But that was more recently than he got engaged to Ukyo. So he did actually say years... Which means... Which means that he doesn't want to tell me when she died... Which means... What does that mean??'

Seeking a safer topic, Rei thought back to his battle with the desiccated old mummy. Not only had she never seen anyone fight as well as the two of them did, she could not believe the incredible speed that some of their attacks had used. Especially that time they started screaming about Roasted Chestnuts... that was simply amazing.

Rei did not know if she had the Martial Arts ability for the job, but she could not help thinking about how well Makoto could do if she learned it. The mighty Sailor Jupiter using the Chestnut Fist: the ultimate combination of magic and martial prowess. No threat to the Princess would ever get through!

"Hey Ranma... What were those strange attacks you were doing against the old ghoul? You were both punching so fast I couldn't even see your arms move."

"Ahhh... That was the dreaded 'Roasting Chestnuts Over An Open Fire'. It is a secret technique of the Joketsuzoku Amazons, passed down through 2700, no, 3000 years of their heritage. The legendary speed of this technique has held Chinese Emperors in awe since its creation!"

Ranma turned and gave her a cheeky smile. "See, I remembered the sales pitch on the technique just like Deodorant taught me!"

Rei had to laugh. Here was Ranma, the one person she knew who did not seem to be able to take anything seriously, and he was quoting word- for-word the standard brag line for a Martial Arts technique. "So, do you think you can teach Mako-chan and I how to do it?"

"Maybe... Then again, maybe not. Mako-chan might be able to learn it; she's pretty good. If she just showed a little more dedication to fighting, then she could have a lot of promise. You on the other hand... The Chestnut Fist is all about speed and a slow-poke tomboy like you just doesn't have the speed for it. Besides, you're a temple maiden Rei-san. What would you need to know a technique like that for?"

She was stunned. Once again he had managed to insult he in the same breath that he praised some other girl. The man must have a death wish. Not only that, but he thought Makoto was not dedicated to fighting? This girl was not only a Sailor Senshi (which he did not know, but that was beside the point), she also had been thrown out of almost every school she had been to for being too violent and fighting all of the time.

"So, you could teach Mako-chan?"


"But you said..."

"But I said she _might_ be able to learn it. I didn't say I could teach it. Let's face it Rei-san, you and Mako-chan aren't exactly the best friends of Shampoo and Cologne-chan. I once promised Deodorant - the woman who taught me. I promised her that I would never teach these attacks to people who might attack or hurt the Amazons."

The silence held for a while, each holding their own counsel. Ranma was thinking that if he could find the Pretty Soldier Sailor Mars, he could teach her the attack. She did not even know Shampoo, and she certainly had both the speed and the fighting spirit needed. On the other hand, Rei was wondering how she could 'accidentally' get Sailor Mars to bump into Ranma and learn the attack that way. Surely the Sailor Senshi were everybody's friends.

"You know, Ranma, I hate to be the one to point it out, but those Amazons have got really stupid names. What sort of person calls their kids Cologne, Deodorant, or Shampoo? It's just silly. Not only that, but the way you call the old ghoul 'Cologne-chan'... it makes me sick. Ewww, how can you flirt with someone as old and mean and ugly as that?"

Ranma smirked. "Hey, you try telling a village full of elite Amazon warriors that their names are silly and see how far you get. Besides, I think there's actually some sort of significance to them... um, somehow.

"As for Cologne-chan... you see a withered old woman. I look at her and see a beautiful young girl about your age. Someone bright, talented, caring and friendly."

"Blargh! You're making me sick. Why don't you just marry her?"

"Well, she did ask me when I was in their village last, but I was still grieving for Akane."

"Hmm, were all of those special attacks you mentioned from the Amazons?"

"Just about."

"Well, what about the 'Saotome Forbidden Techniques'? That doesn't sound like an Amazon name. Could you teach us them?"

"I could teach them if you were good enough - which you're not. Actually, I'd like to be able to teach them to you someday, but I can't now."

"Why not? Does someone else hold your oath on these too?"

"Yeah. My father actually. The mighty Saotome Genma. He invented a set of techniques so powerful and so deadly that he ordered them to be sealed away from the world, never to be used other than in my darkest hour."

Ranma remembered the day well. Genma panda was there, sitting in a small stream, holding a sign: 'Only teach these techniques to your wife boy. They are too dangerous for others to know.'

Ranma sighed. He had not though about his father in a long time. Stupid old man, always stealing my food.

"You father was a PANDA?!"

"Um... only half the time..."


"Do you believe in magic Rei-san? Well, when I was young, my father got cursed. It was this place in China called Jusenkyo. Up until the day he died he turned into a panda when he got doused with cold water."

"You're kidding... right?"

"No. Ask Cologne-chan about the Jusenkyo springs sometime. I... I don't like to talk about them. They caused Akane a lot of suffering until the day she died."

They were at the steps to enter the Hikawa Shrine when Ranma spoke again. "Her name was Tendo Akane, that's why I'm called Tendo Ranma, not Saotome Ranma. It was always hoped that the two of use would be able to take over the Tendo School Of Anything Goes Martial Arts. The Tendo Dojo was known throughout Japan at one time, but, now... no-one's even heard of Anything Goes."

"I remember... I remember once a delegate from the Shogun actually came to the dojo, officially asking that one Tendo Soun ensured that his daughter was properly married so that the School could continue."

Rei paused from taking off her shoes and looked up at him. Ranma had already kicked off the soft soled slippers that he favoured, and was looking wistfully into the distance. "Shogun? When did that happen?"

"Hmm, let's see. That would have been the late 1500's... Somewhere around there I think."

"Wow you really know your family history!"

"I know it so well, it feels like it actually happened to me personally."

"Pretty impressive, especially considering that it was your wife's family, not your own."

"Not really. You see, the Saotome School of Anything Goes Martial Arts has been in existence for centuries too. Seriously, both the Schools have been really close since they began. The first marriage happened around the middle of the 1500's. Pretty impressive, ne?"

"Ohhhh! So you're the product of 400 years of inbreeding!"

"Yep, that's me, 400 years of... Hey! Come back here!"

Ranma chased Rei through the shrine for several minutes until Rei literally ran into her grandfather. The wizened old man's face broke into a smile as he took hold of his charge's shoulders. "It is a sight to gladden these old eyes to see you so happy with your fiancee, Rei- chan."

"WHAT?! Who could be happy with this insensitive idiot around?"

"WHAT?! Who could be happy with this macho tomboy around?"

"What did you call me?" Rei advanced a step in his direction.

"Ahh, so the tomboy rears her ugly head after all."

"Ohhh, you... _Boy_!"

Grabbing her broom, an irate Rei chased after Ranma. Around and around they ran, her constantly swiping at him, and him alternately taunting her or covering his head and shouting 'Ouch!'.

Of course, not everyone's relationship was that unsteady... or that violent. Mind you, they were not they only ones to be having a disagreement that evening. Of all the couples that were having arguments that evening, one stands above the rest. Their argument was not one of hatred or opposition. Instead, it was an argument that stemmed from the greatness of their love.

The couple - who shall remain nameless to preserve the dignity, and also to add a little suspense into this story - were sitting in a pile of cushions in the corner of a large room. Why cushions, you ask? The room itself was beautifully fitted out, certainly there was no shortage of comfortable chairs in the room, or even the house, so that obviously had no bearing on why they were sitting on a pile of cushions.

It could have had something to with the injuries both of them had suffered recently. Without doubt, one of them had been thoroughly knocked around with a large stone block. For most people that would be enough to hospitalise them. Perhaps that was why they were there... medicinal reasons, so to speak. However, a close examination would show that neither of these people was significantly injured. Certainly there were none of the broken ribs or other bones that could have been expected.

Equally, neither of them seemed to be suffering for the sucking chest wounds that may have been expected from someone that had either been struck multiple times by arrows, or shot in the chest by a large gun. In each of their cases, both had been struck by several arrows, but neither of them showed a single scar.

Ah, but as it turns out, it is this unique phenomena of love that is responsible for their position. How so? You ask. To explain that, I shall pick two names - completely at random - and assign them to the two people. Call the tall, handsome one Haruka. Call the shorter but strikingly beautiful one Michiru. Remember, these names are chosen completely at random, so there's no chance that they match their real names... right?

Haruka placed her hand on Michiru's shoulder and traced the line down, mentally connecting the places where arrows had struck her. Even though Michiru was wearing a blouse, she could feel the smoothness of her skin, feel it's gentle warmth. The skin under her hand was perfect, unmarred by any scarring. Eventually Haruka's hand drifted over her friend's heart and stayed there.

In the silence of the room, she could feel and hear Michiru's heart beat. Thump-thump. Thump-thump. Even and regular. A sound reassuring in it's monotony. A sound that said: 'I am Michiru's heart, and I shall beat like this forever.'

But it would not beat forever. Haruka knew that only too well. Looking into her blue eyes, Haruka savoured the reassuring movement under her fingers. Sensing her partner's quite distress, Michiru placed her own hands over Haruka's and held her palm to her chest.

"See, it's still there. Now that we have the Talismans, I will never let it stop. My heart shall keep beating here, next to you, as long as we shall live."

Haruka blinked her eyes, trying to hold back tears. She knew her reputation, she was supposed to be the tough one, the one that was always flirting with other girls. She was not supposed to be vulnerable like this. But she felt vulnerable... very vulnerable. She edged closer to Michiru and placed her other arm around her shoulders.

"I know you're here now, but I thought I had lost you. I watched you walking towards me, with all of those arrows in you, and I know you were going to die. I... It was the worst experience of my life. I don't want to think what it would be like if you had died and I had lived."

Michiru leaned forward and placed a small kiss on the other girl's forehead. "But I am here. And I'm going to stay here, by your side, for as long as you need me."

"I'll always need you."

Silence hung in the air for a moment. Michiru spoke again. "I remember lying there. Eudial had taken the Talisman from me, and all I could do was lie there, watching you. Watching your face as you realised what had happened. Then she told you that you had a Talisman too.

"Your face lit up, do you realise that? Even as you knew that it would kill you, I could tell you were happy. That hurt me more than the arrows or Witch Eudial's Heart Buster Gun. I knew that you were going to die too and there was nothing I could do to stop it. That hurt."

"Living without you would hardly be living at all. I never wanted to hurt you. I just wanted to be together. Afterwards. After we died... I didn't know what would happen, but I hoped that it would happen to us... together."

Michiru blushed slightly and looked at their intertwined hands for a few moments. Forcing some levity into her voice she asked: "So the magnificent Sailor Uranus is a romantic after all."

"Only for you."

"Oh, that poor little Usagi-chan that you keep flirting with, she'll be heartbroken."

"Poor little Usagi-chan can be whatever she likes. It's you that matters. Without you, there is no point in being Sailor Uranus. Why fight to protect something if everything that needs protecting is gone? The only thing that felt better than knowing I would join you when you died was when we were brought back. Then I could feel you beside me, and nothing feels better than that."

Big blue eyes locked with green. "And what of the Talisman? What about finding the Holy Grail? We were willing to sacrifice someone else's life, how can we be any different?"

Haruka thought back to all of the times that they had fought both Daimons, Witches and the Inner Senshi for the sake of a Heart Crystal. They could hardly say that their hands were clean. How could she justify taking someone else's life, when she felt this way about Michiru?

"We aren't different. We are just the same as all of the other people out there. I would risk my life any day to get the Talisman, or whatever else was needed. I would give my life and any other life that was needed to keep you alive. But I would never offer your life. Everything has a price, and that price is too high.

"Some things I cannot do."

She did not say anything, but a faint smile crossed Michiru's face as she moved closer to Haruka. Leaning against the taller girl, they both drew strength from each other.

Time, as it is wont to do, moved forward. After they had sat like that for a time, Haruka looked down at her friend and broached the subject that neither wanted to discuss. The future.

"Do you think we've stopped them now that we have the Grail?"

Michiru shook her head. With her leaning into the crook of Haruka's elbow, that felt quite nice. "No. We still don't even know what they were really after. There's no way that they will stop with one failure to get the Grail. Just look at how many times they tried and failed to get the Talismans."

"Do you think Usagi-chan is in danger?"

Granted, their enemies probably knew that Sailor Moon had the Grail. They might not know that Usagi was really Sailor Moon, but then again they may.


"We could protect her, couldn't we. We could stop them from ever getting to her."


"And if we did that, we would never know who was really behind their attacks. We would never see the person that was pulling the strings. We would never be able to go after our true enemy."

"Also true."

"They're stronger than the Inner Senshi. They way that they have been fighting, the Inners will be lucky if they can keep winning the battles without our help."

"Very true."

"I'd say it's pretty likely that the Witches 5 also know this. That means that Usagi-chan and her friends will be in danger."

Nod. Haruka liked it when Michiru nodded. It sent shivers down her spine... and some other places.

"If we let them get attacked, they would probably get hurt, but eventually, it will lead us back to whoever is controlling them. As much as I hate to say something bad about Chibi-Usa's little friend, I would be willing to lay money that Hotaru is involved some how."

Another nod.

Haruka looked down at the smiling face of her friend. A friend that obviously knew the effect she was having on the woman holding her. Haruka placed a finger on the tip of Michiru's nose.

"You know, I really hate it how you're always disagreeing with me."

Michiru nodded several times.

Yesterday they had confronted Witch Eudial and had discovered that they were the holders of two of the Talismans. Yesterday they had given their lives for the Earth, died to do what needed doing.

Today, there was just the two of them. The world could save itself for one night.

* * *

In a dimly lit room of the Tomoe household, plans were being made. Plans that would inevitably draw the magnificent Sailor Uranus and the elegant Sailor Neptune back into the conflict.

A tall, elegant, and refined looking woman sat on a large square throne in the middle of the room. Like the rest of the room, she was cast in darkness, the shadows clinging to her like a second skin. Even though the edges of the room faded into darkness, there was still a feeling of closeness to the room. Possibly it was just the strength of her presence that filled the room, making her the centre of attention for everyone else.

The woman who sat on the throne was Mistress 9 and from the darkness, she looked down onto her servant, Tomoe Souichi. Despite the way the shadows covered her head and hid her features, you could see the occasional reflection of light from her eyes. Eyes that most people would prefer focused anywhere other than them.

Raising a hand, she patted a doll that she held in her lap. The floor was covered with them, stacked against the feet of the throne like supplicants begging for some mercy. Souichi could only watch in silence and feel glad that it was the doll that had her attention, and not him. After the debacle of loosing the Grail to those sailor suited brats, anything that incurred her attention was a bad thing.

Without preamble, the figure in the shadows spoke. Her voice was rich and not unpleasant. It was the voice of a refined lady. "So... Sailor Moon has the Holy Grail."

"Y...Yes, she does."

"Then all is not lost. When the time is right, we shall reclaim the Grail. Retrieving it from that good hearted bubble head should present no great difficulty."

"Yes Mistress 9. Until then..."

"Until then you shall continue to find me pure Heart Crystals. I have need of the energy that they represent to complete this transformation."

As the light in the room fades, the soft voice of Souichi can be heard in gathering darkness. "Yes, My Lady. Our minions have already selected the perfect candidate..."

Ranma awoke next morning completely unaware of her benefactor's conversation. Long ago she had learned not to tempt fate and to sleep as a girl. In consideration to her "father's" currently non-leaking roof, Ranma always ensured she went to bed as a girl. It was generally safer for everybody concerned.

It also saved a fortune in building maintenance.

As she ate the nice breakfast that was made by Kaori, she once again grumbled at the fact that the girl she was impersonating had always been a goody-two-shoes. Having to wear a school uniform was bad enough. Having to wear a girl's school uniform was just horrible. It grated on Ranma even more since she had a perfectly acceptable set of black pants and Chinese red shirts that fit her, but no, the old Hotaru had always dressed in black, grey and white.

Then again, she had been pretending to be Hotaru for several years now. Since she figured that Mistress 9 would want to establish her own fashion sense when she got control of Ranma's girl half, it seemed like a good time to start making a few fashion changes of her own. Hmm, she was meeting Chibi-Usa this afternoon for a drink, so it would be the perfect opportunity to try out the new clothes.

Setting out to school, Hotaru walked alone. A girl that was as much a social outcast as her got used to walking alone. 'Perhaps that the wrong way to describe it...' Hotaru thought to herself. 'You never get used to being alone, you just learn to live with it.'

Hotaru almost jumped out of her shoes when she heard the soft whispering in her mind from Mistress 9. "You shall have to get used to being alone soon, Ranma. I foretell that the last elements will be in place in only a few months. Then, then you shall truly be alone."

A silly grin split her face from ear to ear. Mistress 9 hardly ever spoke to her... it was quite easy to forget that she was always in there, working tirelessly to separate the curse so that they both could have a body that they desired. Lately, whenever she had spoken, it was good news. The countdown was getting shorter every day.

"Soon," she said. "Soon I shall have the last ingredient I need to be able to take that cursed body from you Ranma. I shall get what I have worked so hard for, and you shall get precisely what you deserve for helping me."

Hotaru chuckled depreciably, waving a hand. "Aww, I'm only doing what I can."

"Oh, believe me, my Master has special plans just for you. When he is here, he will make sure that you will never suffer again."

While Hotaru blushed and made sounds about how removing the curse would be enough reward, Mistress 9 chuckled silently to herself from within the confines of Hotaru's head. It was just like playing a game of chess. If you knew how to move the pieces, they would do your bidding, never realising the higher plan that they followed.

Normally someone in Ranma's position would be described as a pawn, someone to be used and discarded. But Ranma was both too powerful and too useful to be a mere pawn. He was a knight, someone strong, and able to be played to a telling effect just where he was needed.

But even knights can be sacrificed.

To the other students gathering at the entrance of the school, Hotaru's behaviour was not entirely unexpected. Anyone that can heal people and stayed by herself all the time obviously had something wrong with her. Now she was even talking to herself, or perhaps to an imaginary friend. The one thought seemed to go through the minds of every other young student that saw her. "Eww, she's strange. I'd better stay away from her, or everyone will think I'm strange too."

The school day ended none too soon and Hotaru awoke feeling bright and refreshed. Hundred years of meditation and study had enabled her to sleep while sitting, and with her eyes open. Consequently she seemed to be one of the most attentive students in the class. The teachers were inclined to think that she was a little shy since they usually had to ask her the question several times before she answered (or woke up). Now that she had slept through the same class three times - posing as different students at different schools - she had actually absorbed so much information that she could pass as an ordinarily bright student.

After going home and getting changed (just clothes, not gender), Hotaru waited for her friend to come over. Even as she began to settle down and do a few light kata in her room, she heard the front door open. As quickly as she could she sprinted down the hall, skidding to a halt just out of view of the front door. Even as she slowed to a stop, she could hear Kaori telling someone that 'Hotaru-chan was not home' and 'she probably would not want to see you when she arrives'.

Stepping around the tall woman, Hotaru was pleasantly surprised to see not only Chibi-Usa, but also Usagi and Ami. Standing on her toes, she looked around, but could not see Rei or any of the girl's other friends. 'Feh! Who'd want to see an uncute tomboy like that anyway?'

Giving her friends a wave and a quick smile, she turned back to Kaori and looked up at the woman. 'Damn, she was tall. I remember wishing I could get this body to grow up to be a woman like that for so long. But soon, I'm not going to be a girl any more!'

"I am home Kaori-san, and I do want to see my friends."

Hotaru never managed to decide exactly how Kaori felt about her. There was certainly a measure of respect, possibly even fear. A certain resentment because her 'father' paid more attention to her than Kaori. There was also an undefined attitude, something along the lines of: 'Don't go outside. Don't see anyone. Don't do anything until Tomoe- sensei finishes his work on you. Just stay here and be neither seen nor heard.'

Kaori seemed on the verge of saying something when a hand landed on her shoulder. Looking around, her stern visage melted, and she made way for Dr Tomoe. Kneeling down in front of the girl that had replaced his daughter, he looked her in the eyes. Actually, his one eye looked into her two, since he had a strange looking glass eye for one of them. But, hey, not everyone is perfect.

Placing a hand on each shoulder, he spoke solemnly. "I shall see you tonight. All shall be in readiness for the next stage."

Somehow, Ranma was pretty sure that she was not the one that he was talking to.

After that, the serious expression left his face, and he chased Hotaru out the door so that she could have fun with her friends. He sincerely believed that the girl he watched walk away was his own daughter. With all his heart, he believed that Mistress 9 had worked a miracle and restored his daughter to full health after the horrific blast in his laboratory.

How much of this belief was Mistress 9's mental manipulation, and how much was honest but misguided hope... no-one could guess. All that mattered was that he cared for her like his real daughter, because he thought she was his daughter. In all the ways that mattered normally for a family she was his daughter, this girl just happened to be someone more than just his daughter.

The fact that his real daughter had been replaced with a doppelganger - and that the grievously injured girl had been cast out by the Witches 5 in preparation of Mistress 9 'acquiring' Ranma's body - this sort of fact did not impact on his consciousness at all. Mistress 9 was also quite careful to ensure that nothing Ranma did in his presence was too likely to shake his faith. Fortunately Ranma had been pretending to be his daughter for so long now that any differences that were appearing could easily be attributed to the normal changes that children went through.

Mistress 9 was also careful to make sure that Ranma never spent too much time thinking about the girl that he had replaced, or the circumstances involved in the laboratory accident that almost killed her.

On the street, Chibi-Usa had just given her best friend in the whole wide world a small card. Opening up the card, Hotaru looked inside and saw a neatly hand written invitation to a party. Recognising her friend's writing, Hotaru was momentarily nonplussed to see that it was at Makoto's place. If Chibi-Usa was having a birthday or something, why not hold it at her place?

Usagi was the one that answered that question. "It's not actually just for Chibi-Usa, it a party because... because... umm..."

"Because things have been going very well at school recently." Ami supplied, briefly covering her mouth with her hand as she gave a small chuckle.

"Yeah, that's it! Some good things have happened recently, so we wanted to have a party."

Chibi-Usa looked at her friend, her big, emotional, red eyes imploring her. She knew that Hotaru was a quiet girl and she did not get out much but she was also one of Chibi-Usa's only real friends that was not one of the Sailor Senshi.

"Please say you'll go, Hotaru-chan. Please! It just won't be the same without you. Mako-chan will be doing the cooking, and everyone else will be helping to provide snacks and juice and things. It's even going to be fancy dress. Please say you'll go!"

Hotaru looked at the invitation again. Indeed it was fancy dress, and this Saturday night too. That did not leave much time to get a costume ready, but she already had a few ideas that were coming together. Hotaru turned to Chibi-Usa and gave an entirely sincere smile.

"I'd love to go."

Chibi-Usa gave her a quick hug, and immediately began to tell her about the costume that she had planned. Mrs Tsukino was already helping her make the costume, and it would be so beautiful, and... and...

Chibi-Usa began to run on and on about how beautiful her costume would be. After ten minutes of listening carefully to what she was saying, Hotaru realised that she now had almost no idea of where she was. Looking around, the streets were unfamiliar, and the houses bore no resemblance to the ones she knew in her area.

Giving a pull on the jacket of the taller girl, Hotaru looked up. "Ami- chan, where are we going?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, Hotaru-chan. I didn't realise that you had never visited Chibi-Usa or Usagi before. We're going to their place. Actually, we're almost there now. See, that building just down the street."

Leaving the bunny girls to talk to each other for a while, Hotaru latched onto Ami as a source of interesting conversation. Anyone that is carrying a book to read every time you see them must have something interesting to talk about.

"What book are you reading?" Probably one of those mushy romance novels all the girls in her class were starting to get into.

"It's an analysis of Hisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and its effect on quantum level computational gating arrays. It also deals with the macro level analysis of statistical massed electron decision logic versus individual energy level logic states. It's really interesting."

Ami recognised that blank look. She had seen it on the other girls too often.

"It compares VLSI technology with single atom logic..."

"It's about computers."

Ahh! The light shines at the end of the tunnel.

"Wow! Do you really understand it? I couldn't even understand what the topic was."

Making noises to the effect that it was something anyone could learn, Ami kicked off her shoes and added them to the pile at the entrance of the house. Hotaru also took off hers. She also left her staff at the door, she did not think that Usagi's mother would really appreciate having a spirit creature set loose in her house. Finally she took off her small backpack. It just contained a change of clothes for her male form: you could never be too careful.

Usagi dashed across the room heading for the kitchen, so Hotaru turned back to Ami. "Say, do you have any interest in medicine? I've always wanted to learn more about that."

400 years of searching for a cure had made Ranma aware that you take every chance you get when it comes to finding new sources of information.

"Actually, I want to be a doctor when I finish school. I'm just reading this for fun."

"Just for fun?! You must be so clever."

Then came a sound. A sound so horrifying, so terrifying that it should have sent shivers down her spine, and might - at any moment - send her running and screaming from the house.


Slowly, ever so slowly, Hotaru turned and faced the centre of the house. There, not ten feet away from her, was her most dreaded enemy. A creature so horrible and evil that the very presence should send her screaming from the room.

It was black, it had four legs, razor sharp claws, a mouth filled with needle sharp fangs all designed to rip you to bloody pieces. A creature conjured from the bowls of hell. Everything from it's terrifying ebony coat to it's soul searing battle cry should have sent Hotaru and every sane person running from the room in sheer, abject terror.

It spoke again: "Miyaaa."

This time it even tilted its head; all the better to size up it's prey and rip them into tasty morsels.

With a grip of steel, Hotaru latched onto Chibi-Usa's arm and pulled the girl in close. "Over there. Don't be obvious. What do you see?"

Chibi-Usa looked around. Everything seemed to be in place. She had not even seen Usagi come out of the kitchen stuffing her face yet, and Shingo was already in his room, doing whatever it is that boys do. "Umm, a cat?"

Aside from a brief tightening of her grip when Chibi-Usa said it, Hotaru hardly responded. Turning to her right, she looked up to see a concerned Ami staring at her. "Is that what you see too, Ami-chan?"

Ami looked. The only thing that really was interesting on that side of the room was Luna. She was sitting on the top of the couch doing her best imitation of a normal cat. Fundamentally, it meant that she was not speaking out loud, since that was the only way people could tell her from a normal cat.

In a voice almost a whisper, Hotaru leaned over and spoke to Ami. "Just a c-c-c--. Just an ordinary, everyday, perfectly normal c-c-c-. A normal housec-c-c-"

Ami smiled. Hotaru looked so funny stumbling over the word cat. I can't tell her that Luna is one of the Queen's advisors and a talking cat kept in stasis for the millennium since the Moon Kingdom fell. That would be letting the cat out of the bag, to use a really bad metaphor. "Sure. That's Luna. She's Usagi's pet cat. Perfectly normal cat."

Hotaru shuddered. She did not know if it was someone using the 'C' word so often in one breath that did it, or what she was seeing in front of her. Here was a perfectly normal family: Mum and Dad and three kids. They take an animal in from the kindness of their hearts, and this is what happens.

There were monsters all over Tokyo these days, but Hotaru had not expected to find one living so close to her friends. She did not know exactly what magic it was using, or what subliminal signals it was missing, but that thing in front of her was no 'C' thing. If it was, she would have been out that door and screaming before she even turned around and looked at it.

Yet here she was. Not ten feet away from the most fearsome creature on man's earth... or an almost perfect replica of one. It had already uttered its war cry not just once, but twice, and Hotaru was still here. Obviously this was no real 'C' thing, and that only left one option: some sort of monster or demon had wormed it's way into the home of one of her dear friends. No doubt the vile fiend would consume them in their sleep, or destroy their souls one by one.

Hotaru shuddered. It was a fate worse than even a c-c-c--- a 'C' thing lover deserved. Hotaru would be damned before she would let that happen to a kid as nice as Chibi-Usa. Even Usagi was too nice to let that happen to. Sighing, Hotaru hoped that revealing some of her strengths would not disrupt Mistress 9's plans too much, but there was no option.

Keeping a hold on Chibi-Usa and Ami, they waited only a few moments until Usagi came out to investigate the sudden silence.

As Usagi exited the kitchen, Hotaru reached into her pocket and pulled out one of her demon wards (Remember kids, be prepared. You never know when a demon is likely to attack you.)

"Usagi-chan. Could you come here please. Quietly, please. Yes that's it. No, no please, don't pat Luna. That's it. OK, now when I distract it with a ward, everyone run out of the house."

In her concerned and stressed state, Hotaru failed to notice just how confused everyone else was. Hotaru had been acting perfectly normal until she came into the house and saw Luna. Now she seemed to have gone nuts.

Faster than any of them could react, Hotaru pulled out a demon ward, holding it between her first and second fingers. As the strip fluttered slightly, she called out charging words of power and sent the strip flying towards the unsuspecting Luna.

"Rin, pyou, tou, sha, kai, jin, retsu, sai, zen. Akuryou taisan!"

The glowing ward streaked out and caught Luna above the eyes, sticking directly over the crescent moon symbol on her forehead. Even as the ward was in the air, Hotaru was bring her hands together in front of her, preparing a Moko Takabisha that would destroy this demon for the rest of all time. Never again would it pass itself off as someone's pet. No matter how horrid a creature it chose to impersonate.

The Ki sphere was half formed between her palms when the ward struck, and the effect was instantaneous. The very moment that the glowing ward struck and obscured the crescent moon symbol, Hotaru's eyes widened to the size of dinner plates and her blood ran cold.

Before she could focus the Ki and attack, she lost control. Ki freed itself from confinement in a bright blue flash that pushed them all back slightly. Before the girls had even finished staggering, Hotaru was screaming. Turning on her heel and running like an Olympic sprinter, she literally ran through the closed door and out onto the street.


Her voice abruptly cut off. Less that four seconds after pulling out the ward, the three Senshi turned to each other and tried to understand what had happened. Turning to look out of the shattered remains of the door, Ami saw the crumpled form of Hotaru lying at the base of a knocked over telegraph pole. The only possible explanation was that Hotaru had tripped over the fallen pole and knocked herself out. Ami refused to even _think_ about any other possible answer. Even if she did think that pole had been standing earlier... 'No! I refuse to even consider that possibility!'

Chibi-Usa ran for her friend who was lying on the ground, closely followed by Ami. Ami knew that she was needed there because she was probably the only person in the area that had even the slightest medical knowledge. Usagi ran to look after Luna.

Reaching the confused kitty, she noticed that Luna seemed completely unharmed, with the obvious exception that it was acting like a normal cat. Reaching down, Usagi pulled off the ward and revealed the crescent moon marking. Instantly Luna's faculties were restored to her and she was quizzing Usagi on what had happened. Unfortunately Usagi was as much at a loss as anyone else. The only person who stood a chance of being able to answer their questions was currently being tended for concussion.

Hearing footsteps approaching the front door, Usagi grabbed Luna around the waist and threw her out of the room. Bounce, bounce, skid. "Hide in there for a minute, Luna-chan. Listen in and we might be able to find out what happened."

Ami and Chibi-Usa were escorting a shaken looking and rather nervous Hotaru back into the room. "See, Hotaru-chan. There's nothing to be afraid of here."

"No, no you don't understand. It's not just the c-c-c--- Luna. Actually, it is Luna. She's not really what you think. She's some sort of demon, just pretending to be your pet!"

Ami sat down and lifted Hotaru onto her lap. Placing her arms around the still shaking girl she tried to comfort her by talking through her fears.

"But why do you think that Luna's a demon?"

"Because I'm afraid of c-c-c--- You know, them."

"If the way you ran through the front door is any indication, that has to be the strongest fear I have ever heard of. But why do you think Luna is a demon?"

"Because I wasn't afraid of her."

Ami went 'Ahh!' and smiled in understanding. The other two girls just looked blank. Ami took up the explanation, she might be able to clear things up for the girls since she understood both sides of the story.

"What I think Hotaru-chan means is that she has a really serious case of ailurophobia---"

"Hey! How can you say that? I've never even met an ailuro, so how can I be afraid of one?"

"Ailurophobia is the fear of cats, Hotaru-chan."


"So when you saw..."

"Why don't they call it nekophobia then?"

"Because 'neko' is Japanese for cat, and 'ailuro' is Greek."

"The Greek were afraid of cats?"

"No, no, no. Greek is a language, not a just people. Lots of words are in Greek, especially medial ones. For the moment, will you just accept that's the word? It will make things much easier to sort out."

Hotaru nodded. Craning her neck, she then looked over Ami's shoulder to see if the monster had come back. It had certainly seemed like a real... 'C' thing just a little while ago. Four hundred years of having the Neko-ken had given her a supernatural appreciation for the presence of cats. She rarely slipped into her 'Cat Mode' these days because she would run in fear so soon at the slightest presence of a cat. Not only that, but there were very few obstacles that could force her to stay close to a cat long enough to be affected.

Ami waited patiently for Hotaru to stop squirming on her lap. She hated to tell little lies like this, but for the safety of everyone concerned, she knew that she would have to. Besides, if Hotaru could get used to Luna, she might be able to break down her fear of cats. When she finally had Hotaru's attention again, Ami brushed a couple of hairs back from the girl's pretty face and tried to make contact with the nervously shifting eyes.

"I can understand that you're afraid of cats, but Luna is a very special cat. Next time you see her, look at her head. There's this little crescent moon marking there. That means she's very special. Luna has been specially blessed so that she won't make people afraid. Everyone likes her, there's nothing to worry about.

"Just think of Luna as a perfectly normal cat that you don't need to be afraid of."

Watching the way that suggestion made Hotaru go grey and shudder, Ami tried again.

"All right, try thinking of Luna as a person, or a dog or some other pet, that just happens to look like a cat. How's that?"

"I don't know if I can... but I'll try."

Chibi-Usa nudged her friend. "Mina-chan has a pet too. He's called Artemis. Artemis is such a lazy kitty that he makes Mina-chan do all the work for him. Even though he and Luna argue all the time, he's special too. Maybe you should meet him?"

Hotaru shuddered. Two of them. They were everywhere. Hotaru latched onto Ami and shook as her fear held her. Even just thinking about them too much was bad. Not bad enough to send her into the Neko-ken, but bad enough to be thoroughly unpleasant. After a while, Hotaru released the bigger girl and gave a wan smile to Chibi-Usa. "Maybe... some other day.. perhaps."

For her part, Usagi was struck dumb (a rare event to be treasured). As soon as Ami had begun her explanation, she had a sudden flashback. She was sitting on the floor of the royal hall, playing with the sandals of Sailor Venus. If she was lucky, she Venus would be distracted by the spectacle long enough for the Princess to tie her feet together.

Today's spectacle was Sailor Saturn making one of her rare appearances at the palace. Her husband had come of course, and that was where the trouble started. The instant he had seen the Queen's advisor, he had gone berserk and tried to kill her. Currently Sailors Mars and Jupiter were holding him back, and Sailor Mercury was trying to calm down the two other Outer Senshi that also happened to be there.

When Luna was safely hidden out of the room, Saturn Knight finally calmed down and explanations were given. For some reason (Moon was too busy to pay attention to this bit) the poor man went psychotic every time he saw a cute, furry animal (which could lead to real problems if ever he met a grizzly bear). Normally he would just kill the animal and feel better, but that could have serious repercussions if he happened to get one of the Queen's advisor's alone for a while.

Fortunately, Serenity had found this part of his psyche when she had cast her Healing. At the time she found she could not do anything about it because it was so deeply ingrained. She had also forgotten Luna and Artemis, since she never expected Saturn Knight to encounter any small animals. Now that she knew there really was a problem, there was only one solution.

After finding the cats, Queen Serenity had cast a powerful spell on them. From now on, no-one would see them as threatening unless directly provoked. To anyone that saw them, they would be innocuous, and completely innocent. Later that day they tested the spell and it worked. Saturn Knight was perfectly capable of being in the room with them, and never having any problems.

Usagi was stunned by the sudden revelation. Ami was completely right in what she said, she just did not know it. Usagi sighed. She was so lucky to have a cat like Luna. Even girls like Hotaru who were afraid of cats could be friends with her.

They spent the rest of the evening at Usagi's place, playing games, reading manga and having fun. Luna was generally careful to stay away from the group. Even if she did not scare Hotaru, there was no need to push her luck.

Despite the precautions that Luna took, Hotaru managed to find her in the corridor as Hotaru was walking to the bathroom. With a quick look around for witnesses, Hotaru got down on her hands and knees and brought her face close to the cat.

"I... I can't believe I'm this close to you, and I'm not freaking out. This is scary just by itself."

Luna curled up on the floor and tried to make herself as small and as innocent as possible. Who could resist the charm of her big eyes?

"Luna, I know you're just a cat, and you can't understand me, so this promise is more to me than to you. If you ever try and claw my eyes out... If you ever try and eat me alive... If you ever scream into my ears as you rip them to shreds... If you ever sit on my back, slowly raking the skin from my body... I'll kill you. I don't know how. I don't even know how I'll be able to get close enough to hurt you, but I will.

"Please be good, Luna. I don't want to hurt Usagi-chan and Chibi-Usa, 'cause they really like you. I don't want to have to run away from you every time I see you. So please... be nice."

Luna was stunned. What in the name of the Moon had happened to this girl? Judging by the sorry and sad tone that she was using, and the way that the tears fell down her face, Luna knew she was trying to bolster her own confidence, not threaten her. What had happened to the girl that could cause this sort of reaction? Who could make cats do that sort of thing?

Luna sat there deep in thought and completely missed the fact that Hotaru had gotten up and returned to Usagi's bedroom with the other girls. It was only when she heard Hotaru's voice did she realise that the girl was not longer crouched in front of her.

"By the way, Ranma has neko-phobia too."

Ami: "That's ailurophobia."





"Neko-neko-neko-neko.... Blargh! I said it! Ahh!"


"Ailurophobia work for me too: I'm not afraid of ailuro's, so it's easy to say."

* * *

Hotaru was not the only one to receive an invitation to the party. In an attempt to stay in contact with some of their non-Senshi friends, the girls were inviting other people that they knew. People from school, some friends from the arcade, that sort of thing. Since Usagi was organising the invitations, she even asked the Outer Senshi.

In a rare moment of friendship between the Inners and the Outers, Michiru and Haruka agreed to come; the even offered to invite all of their friends. So Michiru invited Haruka, and Haruka invited Michiru. The other motivating advantage was the opportunity to study that strange Tomoe girl again. No-one specifically invited Setsuna: she would come if she wanted to whether she was invited or not, and Usagi was not really sure how to get in contact with her anyway. Since she assumed that the Guardian Of Time was probably watching over her most of the time, Usagi spent two days with an open invitation to Setsuna sitting on her desk... who knows, it might work.

Finally, Rei was given the task of inviting Ukyo and Ranma, since she had the easiest contact with them. Ukyo was all alone in Tokyo, she was Hotaru's only friend aside from Chibi-Usa, and she was also Ranma's best friend. Since Ranma and Hotaru were being invited, Usagi's generous heart had demanded that Ukyo be invited also.

Holding the invitation in her hand, Rei advanced on the Okonomiyaki shop. She was not thrilled in the least about inviting Ukyo. Sure, they got on OK, but that was about all. Since the first time Ranma had come here with her, the pair had visited for dinner or a snack a few times since. While Ukyo's welcome was entirely correct, there was less of the warmth that she would usually give the other customers.

As she stepped across the threshold, Rei also remembered why she did not like Ukyo. It was the way that Ranma went out of his way to be nice to her. Noting was too hard to do for his Ucchan, his 'cute fiancee'. Ohhh, how that gritted on her nerves, even though she did not care what he did.

Seeing her customer, Ukyo's face broke into a smile. "Hiya Rei-chan. Is Ranchan with you?"

"Sorry, Ukyo-san, not today."

Watching the way the chef's face fell, Rei felt a pang of understanding. Ranma was the whole reason for the shop. If he was not coming here, then the rest of the evening would just be marking time for Ukyo. From their previous talks, Rei knew that Ranma's habit of being impossible to find was something that had lasted his whole life. No-one knew where he lived, and if he was not around, it seemed impossible to find him.

No matter how Ukyo strove to gain Ranma's attention, Rei could not hold a grudge against the girl, she was just too nice. (Besides, it is notoriously difficult to be angry and hold a straight face when your enemy is all smiles and wearing a massive spatula tied to her back. But then, Rei had never witnessed the devastating power of the Kuonji family style of Okonomiyaki Martial Arts.)

Taking Rei's order, she waved the Priestess to a seat at the counter and set about making one of her super tasty works of art. Rei gave a smile and waved an envelope in front of her. When Ukyo finished the food, she swapped it for the invitation and had a read.

"So Ranchan will be going to this too?"

"I seeing him tonight for training, so I'm pretty sure that he will be. Hotaru will be there too... Come on, it'll be good for you to get out once in a while."

Ukyo grimaced as she thought about the amount of time that she was spending taking care of her restaurant. Time that would be much better spent with her fiancee, taking long, romantic walks through the neon lit streets of the evening city. Or time spent cuddled up to him in some cosy corner at a party somewhere.

"Suuuure. I think a party would be great. Hmm. Fancy dress too. I'm going to have to think about that one."

"Great, I'll see you then."

Rei waved and walked out of the shop, having given Ukyo the money for the food. As Ukyo watched the figure retreat out the door, she smiled and whispered into the muffed sounds of the other customers.

"Oh, I think you see me sooner Rei-chan. Since I know where Ranma is tonight, I think it is the perfect chance to give him a little home delivered Okonomiyaki. Just to remind him what he is missing out on."

Back in Rei's room at the shrine, a small black pig was wandering around. It had taken him almost an hour to get out of her closet, but since then he had found his way to the sacred fire's room three times, and still had not found the bathroom so that he could change back.

As he leapt onto her desk, Ryoga thought about how nice the little temple girl was that lived here. She was so sweet and innocent. When she had picked him up her hands were warm and soft. Even just going through her cupboard had been nice; it reminded him of how she smelled.

Walking over Rei's homework, Ryoga fantasised about how he could torture Ranma. Someday, somehow he would make Ranma's girl fall in love with him, and together they would go off, leaving Ranma heart-broken and crying.

It is remarkably difficult for a foot long black piglet to master the art of the sinister belly laugh, but Ryoga tried. Rather than the awe inspiring "BWAH HA HA HA!" that shook the whole room, be got the almost-as-good "Bweee Bwe Bwe Bwe!" Ryoga broke off suddenly and looked down. Who was he kidding. A mighty raging boar could do an intimidating laugh. A cute piggy could not.

With his head drooping, he happened to read the characters under his snout: "Ra. N. Ma... Ranma?!?"

A quick peruse showed the truth. It was an invitation to a party. A party this Saturday. A party he could find Ranma at and kill him once and for all.

After memorising the address, Ryoga jumped to the floor and ran looking for the hot water so he could prepare to terminate Ranma's miserable excuse for a life. As he chanted his favourite war cry, he bumped into a hard metal wall. Looking around, he noticed the fantastic view he could get once he moved past the metal beam.

Since when was Rei's shrine at the top of Tokyo Tower?


Shampoo held her hand's in front of her and worked up the courage to do the unthinkable and question her Great-Grandmother. Finally, she built up the courage and looked across at the old woman who was putting the finishing touches on the counter she was standing behind. "Great- Grandmother..."

Cologne's large eyes twinkled and she hopped to the one of the tables in the restaurant. "Come sit child. I shall be very happy to answer your questions about Ranma."

Startled by the fact that her thinking was that obviously transparent, Shampoo took a seat and collected her scattered thoughts. Finally the big one came out. The one that frightened her more than anything else.

"Great-Grandmother, did Husband beat you in fight?" It was almost unthinkable. The Matriarch of the Amazons, beaten by a mere man that was only around her age.

"No. He may have, but we did not fight to the end. We fought until he proved that he really was an Amazon."

"How Husband do that?"

Cologne gave a happy and nostalgic smile. Fortunately there were no customers around yet: it might have scared them away. "He reminded me of something that only he could have known about. Ranma _is_ an honorary Amazon. Exactly how and why... that is something that you will have to get from him. His name in the village is Soap, it was given to him because... Ah, well, I can't give away all of the surprises."

A small frown crossed her brow. "If Ranma Amazon, why you want Shampoo marry him so much."

"Oh, my dear, dear child. There are more reasons for that than you could possibly imagine. First, and foremost, I love Ranma as much as I love you. I can honestly say that I cannot think of a single woman in the entire world that would make a better wife for Ranma than you would. Can you imagine my joy if two people I loved so much were to be married?

"Also, Ranma used to be married to a girl called Akane. I don't know what she was like, he hardly ever spoke of her, but even when I knew him, he was still pining away for the girl. Surely someone like you could bring happiness back to him, and revitalise his spirit."

Cologne reached across the table and took Shampoo's hands. "You also must understand what a good husband he would be for you. If he can carry his love for Akane so long, imagine how strong his love for you will be. He is smart, talented beyond compare, and the strongest male the tribe is likely to ever see.

"You could do much worse for yourself than Tendo Ranma."

"Aiyaa... Shampoo no realise you know Husband so well."

"Hmm, well it was a while ago."

"But... Husband Shampoo's age. How you know him but I no know?"

"That is another story you must get from your husband yourself. All I can say is that he is actually a little older than you - he hides his age even better than I do! Also, there is a minor magical complication, but he has assured me that it is shortly to be of no concern."

"Ohhh, Great Grandmother so smart. She also know where Shampoo find Husband so he can take Shampoo on date?"

Cologne flourished a piece of paper from within her sleeve. "It just so happens that I copied down this address for a party he should be attending this Saturday. Most people would find that a perfect opportunity..."

She was talking to an empty seat. Shampoo had taken the piece of paper and was hugging it to her breast and dancing around the room as though it was actually Ranma she was holding.

Cologne smiled. It felt so good to see Soap again after all this time. Not only that, but she would soon be marrying her two favourite people in the world. Could things get much better?

Destiny's Child

A Crossovers Story
by Fire

Part 21 of 26

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