Continuing Tales

Destiny's Child

A Crossovers Story
by Fire

Part 6 of 26

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Destiny's Child

Modern technology was a wonderful thing. It took less than a day for Ranma to make her way to the lands where she and Akane had once had their home and dojo. When she reached the hot springs, she was so angered by the public baths that had been erected there that she almost tore the place to the ground. How dare they? This place was a shrine to his wife! Every rock, every blade of grass, every spring was a record of their love, and these people had walked all over it!

Filled with anger, little Ranma stalked into the main reception of the hot springs resort. Looking around for the owner, she spread her senses, and searched. In moments, her anger left her: all around, all she could feel were people's happiness. Sounds drifted to her ears: children and adults laughing, happy couples in quiet conversation, lovers walking hand in hand.

Looking around, Ranma felt like crying. This was still a business, and it was there for profit; but the customers were there to be happy. When Ranma left his home centuries earlier, he had made a pyre of his home. The ashes of his wife were scattered over the springs which had brought her such joy in her lifetime. Now, everyday, people came from around the country to share that joy. Ranma could not think of a more beautiful tribute to his wife.

Even as a tear started to form in the corner of her eye, an attendant came up and smiled nicely. "Hello, little lady. Have you lost your parents?"

Ranma pulled herself together. Crying in a public place! Hardly fitting behaviour for a real man, an Amazon, a mystic, a Monk or a rebel. No, it was perfectly acceptable behaviour for him to cry at his wife's grave. "No, Just remembering. There is a particular pool I would like to hire. Who can I see to make a booking?"

The attendant smiled indulgently. Such a brave little girl. All alone in a big building, just her pack and caved staff. Even as she looked around, she could not see the girl's parents, but she knew they would be watching from the shadows. The little girl was probably trying to do her best to help mummy and daddy by doing the booking for them. At the reception desk she sat down and pulled out a guide to the springs that they had.

Her petite customer studied it for a while, and eventually pointed to a spring on the far side of the compound. "That one please. I want to book it for the whole night."

The attendant was rather surprised. Most of the public springs were around thirty to sixty degrees, that one managed to average at least seventy. "Are you sure that's the one your parents want? This one here has a similar name, and it's much nicer to soak in."

Ranma sighed. It could be bad in China, but here people treated you like a child, just because you looked like one. Hauling her pack onto her lap, she searched through it and brought out a handful of notes. The exchange rates had been a bit poor, but she had converted quite a large amount of Chinese and Polish funds. Dumping the pile of notes on the table, she covered them with a small hand.

"Listen, lady. I might look like a kid, but I'm not, OK? My 'mummy' and 'daddy' have been dead longer than you've been alive. I know how hot the spring is, and I want it for the whole night. Just me. No-one else. Screens up for privacy. Just little old me. Understand?"

The attendant clamed up at this. She might be only twenty, but she was quite a bit older then this girl. If she thought she could talk to her in that fashion! Standing up she walked around the desk and took the girl's arm. With a slight pull, she tried to lift the girl off her seat. "Enough of that language, young lady! Come on, we're going to find your parents right now!"

Needless to say, this was not the recommended way of securing the co- operation of a Joketsuzoku Amazon, who happened to be the living master of the School of Anything Goes Martial Arts. Focusing her Ki to anchor her position, she replied with a voice as cold as ice. "You will remove your hand now, or I will remove it from your arm."

The attendant was too preoccupied with trying to shift the incredibly heavy child to notice what she was saying, or even how she was saying it. She had reached the point where Ranma's temper was almost at an end, and she was visibly yanking and dragging on the girl when her manager arrived. Ranma instant fixed his gaze and let a small fraction of her battle aura appear in her eyes.

"I was trying to hire a spring for my personal use when this woman assaulted me. Unless you wish further consequences, I suggest you remove her instantly."

After that little display things went much more smoothly. The attendant was whisked off, and the quantities of money easily allowed her to hire the spring of her choice. As soon as she was at the spring, Ranma heated some water and changed to a man.

Stepping into the spring, Ranma moaned at the heat, and let the tears trickle down his face. This spring had always been Akane's favourite. While it was painfully hot, it was also warm enough not to trigger his curse. It was a place that they could spend their time together as man and woman, secure that even rain and snow would not interrupt. You couldn't spend too long in the spring before hyperthermia began to set in, but every minute was precious when the Kami conspired against you.

Ranma spent almost the whole night either soaking in the pool, or cooling off in the chilly air beside it. By the time the morning came around, he felt more at peace than he had at any time while he was studying relaxation as a Monk. Somehow, after spending this time with the ghosts of his past, he had come to accept them more. With the rising of the sun, Ranma took one last soak then climbed out. A splash of cold water later, and she was ready to take on the world.

Buying a map of Japan, Ranma settled in a cafe and looked over her options. She could go south-west, and try to track down where her family had ended up. The last she had heard about Kasumi and Nabiki, they had both moved to Kyushu. It was a big island, but she had plenty of time. Eventually she discarded that idea. No one would know her, and so many generations had passed she would hardly be related to whomever she found.

Patting her little bird-type pet, she leaned back and blew out a deep breath. If you cannot re-establish your roots, make new ones. Selecting the largest city on the map, she paid for her drink, put her pet Takuhi on her shoulder and went off to Tokyo.

In two weeks she started elementary school. In four weeks she was changing schools. She had been this age for so long she had forgotten what it was like for children. In two weeks she had discovered that her academic standing was far below par. Her general knowledge and specialised knowledge in other fields was tremendous, but her knowledge of recent history, or contemporary authors was terrible. Hardly surprising, she had left Japan long before what was considered either recent or modern history. As for current events...

Her other main problem was a little more physical. You average twelve year old is not inclined to jump into fourth story windows, or jog twenty kilometres before breakfast. For that matter, most of the girls in her class would not be able to beat the entire Martial Arts club (instructor included), or be able to do most of the swim training underwater, holding their breath. Most students also tended to have parents who had not been dead for four hundred plus years.

In short, two weeks of school made her a freak and an outcast. Backwards mentally, and overdeveloped physically, she was shunned. The Saturday of the second week, she left school and never returned. Selecting another school at random, she plotted her strategy.

Before she enrolled, Ranma got herself a foster family. They were a nice couple, and they were thrilled when social workers sent Ranma - or Tendo Ai as she told people. Officially she was now a girl, a surprisingly developed nine and a half, and ready to start school. She had studied some children in a park, and had a fair idea how they played, and what they were capable of physically.

School turned out to be a fun and exciting place. She was one the biggest kids in the class for the first year or two, then she was normal, and by the time she was in elementary school, people were talking to her 'parents' about vitamins and grow supplements, she was looking a little small for fourteen.

Ai's best friends were the daughter of a local Okonomiyaki chef, and another girl who mother was a sole parent, working in a pharmacy to support the girl. It had started out innocently enough, Ukyo (the budding chef) had invited Ai and Kikyo over for dinner. Kikyo could not make it that first night, so Ukyo had challenged Ai to a Martial Arts tournament to see who could get the first Okonomiyaki her father made.

Ukyo's father, a big bearded man, had watched in pride as his little daughter battled with the bigger girl. They were both ten, and enthusiastic fighters. His daughter had put on a good show, and had eventually lost to the other girls strength and development. He chuckled when he handed little Ai the food, and thought how things would change in years to come.

The next day Kikyo joined them for dinner, and while three sets of parents watched from near the yatai, the little kids fought with happy abandon. Covered in dust and grinning ear to ear, the three had proudly walked up to the yatai and demanded that he cook three at once: it was a draw.

The three were almost inseparable for the next few years. Kikyo lost interest in Martial Arts, and instead became an artist. Ucchan and Aichan continued to fight for their food every time they ate, either at Ukyo's or Ai's. When the girls were all thirteen, it was Kikyo who caught the first glimpse of Ranma's boy form. Over the last couple of years Ranma had noticed that the Kami did not seem to be paying him as much attention, he seemed to be able to spend much more time as a guy, maybe as much as five percent of a week.

In the weeks after being spotted, Ukyo and Kikyo took to waking up early and trying to watch the handsome man as he went for his morning walk and workout in the park. Ranma was in the middle of a Kata one morning when he called them from their hiding place and introduced himself. Giving them the name Tendo Ranma, the girls leapt to the conclusion that he was Ai's big brother. He did not try and disillusion them, preferring to have them as friends than scaring them away as some kind of perverted freak.

By the time the trio had reached fifteen and entered high school, Ai's age was beginning to show seriously, and Ranma was beginning to think it was time to move on. Ukyo was having other ideas. She had met the man of her dreams, and would soon be old enough to marry him. While Ranma looked a few years older, he was an ideal catch: cute, strong, and friendly. Either as a pair or a trio, the friends had gone out together many times, and Ukyo had decided that it was time she tried to take the next step in their relationship.

It was to be Ranma's last night with his foster family. They had been extremely kind to him and he needed to repay that kindness. A few months prior, he had managed to contact a company in Hong Kong. It was the evolution of the investors which had managed his business so long ago. After proving his credentials, he was stunned to discover the wealth which had accumulated over time. Smart management had made him rich, and he had not even tried.

Now he transferred a hefty sum to bank account in his foster parent's name, and wrote them a long letter of goodbye. He explained that Ai loved them dearly, but she had found her real family. The explanation in the letter was designed to discourage them, and the sum of money, apparently donated by Ai's parents, was designed to be some compensation. Leaving the letter and bank book in the kitchen after school, Ai took her pack, prized possessions, walking stick and left. She would miss her friends, but she would never forget them.

That evening Ukyo and her father arrived at Ai's foster parents. Since they caught the couple as they were arriving home, no-one knew of Ai or Ranma's departure. Ai's parents had met Ranma a number of times, but the explanation they had was the same as Ukyo: she was Ai's brother, and lived separately since he could not support his sister. When Ukyo told them of her long friendship with Ranma, they whole-heartedly gave their blessing for her to be his fiancée. After all, if they were Ai's 'parents' surely they were his too.

It was not a formal betrothal, but Ukyo was now officially Ranma's fiancée, at least until she was eighteen, and the decision could be reversed. Ranma seemed like an intelligent young man, so he would come to realise the value of parents helping their children organise their life like this.

Neither Ai nor Ranma came home that night. It was not until the next morning that they found Ai and Ranma's letter. Ukyo cried for days at the loss of her friend and fiancée, and vowed that she would find them some day.

As for Ranma, he was sitting in a train, idly watching Tokyo roll past. He had not liked leaving friends and family, but it was time to move. If he stayed too long, people would begin to form strong attachments like Brush or Cologne did. He did not want to hurt anyone like that again. Best to make them sad now, than distraught later.

Sitting in the train carriage, all alone bar her staff and pack, looking to all the world like a young girl out for a day trip with friends, Ai was surprised when he heard a woman's voice. She had not seen the woman enter the carriage, and she had not been here prior to the last stop. When a light flashed past the train, it shined straight through the woman: she was just a spirit.

"Tendo Ranma, I need your help, and I can offer my help to you."

Ranma was surprised. Not so much at the appearance of a spirit in a train carriage; she had seen spirits many times before, and even had one as a pet. What surprised her was the fact that the spirit knew her correct name. Most spirits were neither smart nor particularly well informed about happenings on the physical plane.

"Greetings, spirit. What is it that you wish?"

"Ranma, I have a great story of woe to tell. Will you listen to what I say?"

Ranma nodded. Just a glance and a careful probe with his Ki had told him what he expected. The tall, dark haired woman was purely a projection. All she could do was talk, and even speaking and being visible pushed the bounds of her spiritual presence. The only threat she posed was if she surprised him and went 'boo'.

"For many years I have worked for a wise and benevolent leader. He dedicated his life to spreading his peace and wisdom to all people that he could. Wherever he went, people obeyed his teachings and acknowledged his greatness. However, a great tragedy had befallen us."

The woman moved over and sat on the seat next to him. She gestured to herself and passed an arm through his chair. "As you can see, I have been reduced to this spiritual form. It is my duty to prepare for his arrival, and to help bring him here. Now, this is what I am reduced to."

Ranma nodded and mumbled his consolation. Spirits on the whole tended to complain a lot he found. It was usually better to let them get it out of their system, and they would go away of their own free will.

"Ranma, I know much about you, and I can see the power of the curse that holds you. Even though I am in this weakened form, my powers are great. To be able to bring my master here, I will need a physical body so that I might perform the tasks which are needed. I have come to you to offer an exchange.

"It is within my power to separate your cursed body from your own, and to take that body as mine. If you accept, I will join with you, and work from inside. Over time, I will be able to break the magic which holds these bodies together. You will be free of your curse, and I will be free of mine."

Ranma sat in shock. It had been his dream for so long now, and some spirit was actually offering it to him. Ranma leaned back in the chair and tried to evaluate her. It was a strange tableaux which held for several minutes. A mature, beautiful spirit sitting their calmly while a serious looking twelve year old reviewed her.

Eventually Ranma asked for more details and the spirit complied. Despite his hope (and fear) the process would not be a quick one, and would take several years to complete. Magic as powerful as this would not be easy, and could not be done alone. The spirit had another ally in Tokyo, and he would be her foster father while they both worked to free Ranma from his curse. At any time she desired, Ranma would be free to leave, and keep his curse forever is she desired.

The talked for quite a while till eventually Ranma accepted. Before the spirit joined him in his body, to begin weaving her subtle magic, he had one last question. What should he call her?

"My name is Mistress 9, and you shall be known as Tomoe Hotaru."

Destiny's Child

A Crossovers Story
by Fire

Part 6 of 26

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