The Return

A Ranma Sailor Moon fic thingy.

By Sunshine Temple

 

Naturally, I own neither Sailor Moon nor Ranma. So here's the disclaimer

 

Ranma 1/2 and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon belongs to Naoko Takeuchi, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC.

 

Previous chapters and other works can be found at my fanfiction website.

http://jtemple.florestica.com/

 

Temporary Backup Site.

http://www.fukufics.com/fic/

 

 

Other website Temple of Ranma's Senshi Seifuku

http://fukufics.com

 

C&C is appreciated.

 

Book 6: Bonding Allure

Chapter 1: Invitations and Impositions

 

 


            Agents and officers in grey uniforms slowed to detour around a chuckling redhead in leather pants and matching jacket. Standing in the center of the junction of two hallways, a sheaf of un-folded papers were held in her hand. Much of the foot traffic for this level of the underground facility went through those two major corridors.


            The broken tiles had been replaced and most of the bullet holes in the walls had been repaired. A young teen with pastel blue hair helped direct traffic around the redheaded blockage with an apologetic smile. Rapt, her mother hardly noticed. Her shoulders began to quiver, and her wings fluttered a bit.


            "You don't have to read the whole thing right now," a third woman, just as unnaturally pale as the other two, but with loose lavender hair, dryly said.


            The redhead's daughter sighed and not so subtly tried to nudge the slightly taller woman down one of the hallways.


            "This is too rich Cecilia; some guy horned in on our sister's business when she was over here." The redhead laughed. It was a deep chuckling sound.


            "And she only found out after looking in the Yellow Pages under wizards, and she's complaining about how his advertisement is a full page ad. With color?"


            The lavender-haired woman shook her head. "BlackStone gets to the real problem with... 'Wizard' Samri Balducci later in the letter."


            "Oh?" Tail swishing, the redhead flipped to a new page while her youngest daughter shot a glare at Cecilia.


            "Ranma, you were headed to the commissary?" Cecilia ventured.


            "Yah, but it's not every day I hear from our baby sister. Ah, Doctor Butters' girlfriend helped her. Good, someone sensible enough-"


            Cecilia narrowed her eyes and plucked the letter out of the redhead's hand.


            The redhead glared; her purple eyes flickering for a second.


            "Come on." Cecilia had folded the pages once more and fanned them making a rustling noise.


            "Fine, I can finish it later." Pouting, Ranma snatched the letter. "Come along Nabiki."


            Nabiki glowered, the expression marring her youthfully adorable face. "I was the one trying to push you out of the way. Did you want to stand there until someone ran into you?"


            "Oh, it wouldn't have gone that way."


            "Your tail was out and wagging Mom." Nabiki adjusted her periwinkle and silver silk dress. "Did you expect someone to slap you on the butt to get you out of the way?"


            Eyeing the letter, Ranma murmured. "Um... I was going on my way to talk to Serenity."


            "Oh? Her and not our other guests?" Cecilia chuckled.


            "Well, she's fun and her girls are very cute," Ranma allowed as they neared the doors to the commissary.


            "Please, Scarlet's hair is a bit overdone for Misako and her dresses are too frilly and sparkly for my tastes. Though I do like their mother's taste in dresses; they are cute, if a bit plain," Nabiki said.


            "Firstly, that's not true, Misako loves that girl's hair, and you only object to Scarlet's clothes because you prefer her mate's," the redhead chided.


            Nabiki tilted her head causing her pastel powder blue tresses to swing about. "Yes, why would I prefer yukata with snowflake themes to acres of pink frills and black ribbons?"


            "You make it sound like you wouldn't happily wear the latter," Cecilia reminded. "There was that one time when... our previous mother..."


            Nabiki winced, her face clouded a bit, as did Cecilia's. Both their tails drooped in concert.


            Ranma put her arms around both of them and eased them into the commissary. "It's okay, Alexia was a monster but she's gone."


             Nabiki shook her head. "No... Cecilia... she's talking about a dress that Alexia-Mom got me... I think... I think she was trying to be nice. She didn't have Eclipse or Aurora force me into it or torment me at all."


            Their mom was a monster, but she was still.... Mother.


            "It's okay," Ranma assured, she gave Cecilia a look.


            The lavender haired woman nodded. "It came up during therapy with Lydia."


            "Doctor Du Maurier does help," Nabiki said. The physiologist was a Company agent so she could comprehend their problems; still there were things that were hard to talk to humans about.


            Ranma hugged them tighter and focused on giving them feelings of love. She knew she could have said something like: Just because she could be... kind doesn't mean she was not a monster. Or assure them that Alexia was dead.

 
            But the redhead knew they already knew. She did step to the side of the doorway to not block things.


            After a few moments, her daughter and sister recovered. Or at least enough that Nabiki was able to pull her mother towards the far end of the commissary where they got in line.


            Things were a bit subdued as the trio got their food. A banh mi pork sausage, pickled cucumber, carrots and daikon sandwich with pate and jalapeno mayonnaise for Nabiki, while Cecilia simply got a brownie, and Ranma filled a whole tray with a pair of banh mi, hot and sour seafood soup, rice, dessert, and other odds and ends.


            "Are you going to be okay?" Ranma asked Nabiki, while juggling her tray and the letter.


            Cecilia deftly took the letter back.


            Nabiki nodded. "Nariko and Grandma are waiting for me."


            "Ah, inspecting your blades?"


            She smiled. "Grandma wants to get some measurements on my knives and ScarletBane."


            Ranma smiled. "Right, it just happens that we have another Dantite weapon on base and she wants to compare the blades she and Master Nishina made with a certain demon spear."


            "Maybe." Nabiki gave a giggling smirk.


            After hugging her, Ranma watched her leave the commissary.


            "She'll be okay," Cecilia assured.


            Nodding, the redhead scanned the room. It was futile, if the person she was looking for was here, she would have felt her, but some human habits die hard.


            Finding a quiet spot in a corner, Ranma sat down at the table and unpacked her laden tray. Idly spooning some of the savory hot and sour soup she resumed reading the letter from her sister.


            Cecilia stood a bit behind her.


            "You’ve already read this?" Ranma asked, then chuckled. "A birthday party. She crashed some kid’s birthday party?"


            "Yes, and yes she did." Cecilia glanced at one of the exits to the commissary. Her tail twitched a bit on sensing her daughter Priscilla.


            "And Eve read it," the redhead stated.


            "Of course, Lady Pluto delivered it to her."


            Ranma snorted. "Eve’s the first to read anything regardless. Puu giving it straight to her just saved time all around."


            "Oh?" Cecilia frowned. "Does Eve intercept all your inter-dim communications?"


            "It’s not like I have that many people writing to me from other worlds." Ranma put a bit of chili paste into the seafood soup. "Our sister aside, it’s not like Grandma or Sun write all that often."


            "Sun? Wait…" Cecilia paced to Ranma’s other side. "You don’t mean Sailor Sun?"


            "Yes, that was before we found you." Ranma tapped the table with her spoon. "Hell, that was before Eve turned. Has it been that long?"


            Bending forward to put a hand on her sister’s shoulder, Cecilia smirked. "Please, we’re still babies by the standards or our extended family. Even our guest is very young and she’s been a demon for a few years."


            "And Yohko had experience before being turned," Ranma murmured.


            Cecilia studied her sister. "This Sun’s a version of you, but still human?"


            Ranma waggled her hand noncommittally. "She’s a Pattern Silver."


            "They’re close enough to human. Isn’t her husband an alien prince anyway?"


            "Yeah, that and going back to his family’s homeworld and raising their daughter Akiko is keeping her pretty busy."


            Cecilia turned and nodded to her waiting daughter. "You know…"


            "Yah, I know it’s not a coincidence that Yohko’s visiting. At least we had a couple months warning."


            "But between Battle of Ottawa and Tessa's summoning scheme we've been a bit busy," Cecilia looked about. The Fallen's incursion into the base did not reach the Commissary but there had been plenty of damage.


            "At least it accelerated us getting Site C setup."


            Cecilia nodded. "Priscilla has been trying to get my attention, and I really should get going."


             "I'm fine," the redhead waved off her sister.


            The lavender-haired succubus gave her a hug before meeting up with her daughter.


            Ranma resumed her lunch and eventually finished the letter. She laughed a few times and felt a tinge of concern. She conceded her baby sister had more experience with the supernatural.


            Yellow Pages issues aside, BlackStone had been a professional wizard for far longer than Ranma had been a demonic mercenary. Though if she were going by time in the field, she would have to admit that the Pattern Silvers had more experience.


            Please, let's not  kid ourselves, while I didn't see how they performed in Ottawa, Eve's girls did. Serenity took out a shoggoth herself. Where I got tackled and blew up my Jammers when I faced one and the Canadians had to use a tank,
Ranma thought to herself as she finished a sandwich.


            And then there was Serenity and her girls teleporting into Tessa's summoning.
The demon's tail curled as she remembered the battle. Specifically, Serenity using her scepter to spear giant nightmare monsters with beams of blinding light.


            Ranma smiled, Lady Mars' service also played a part. It was not every day one got to see Amaterasu's will in full display.


            "My, the food here must be good," a voice interrupted the redhead's daydream.


            Ranma cocked her head and looked over her… she was not sure how they were related. Given the visitor was of House RedStorm's royal line, and the founder of that polity was a daughter of BlackSky there was a blood link.


            "It is. One of the perks." Ranma nodded at the lithe brunette. Her hair was braided up in a pair of rings. She wore a flowing silk, black cheongsam with silver trim and little ruby lightning bolts at the collar. A long bundle of red silk over two meters long was carried on a sling over one shoulder.


            "Mind if I sit?" Teal eyes studied the redhead.


            "Sure, Yohko." She gestured to a chair. "Where are your girls?’


            "Sleeping in, they had a late night training."


            "More like an early morning." Ranma gave a vicious grin. "How’d they enjoy their first helicopter op?"


            Yohko snorted. "You don’t train by halves do you?"


            "Nah." Ranma paused to have some soup. "This was me taking things slow."


            Tilting her head, Yohko sat down.


            "I’m serious, ask around about the training my baby sister went through." The redhead gave a low laugh.


            "The arcanist?" Yohko asked.


            "Wizard."


            The brunette murmured. "Still, it was handy that you were able to whistle up air-assets for training."


            "You don't work that closely with the Company?"


            Yohko glanced about. "I'm not a full-time contractor."


            Ranma nodded. "Don't worry, it's not like you've got a bunch of agents babysitting you."


            Her teal eyes sparkled. "Please, we both know that all Company visitors, human or non-human, special contractor or no, get escorts. They spy on everything."


            The redhead finished her soup. "Certainly, but you don't have to worry about a bunch of agents babysitting you," she repeated, with emphasis.


            "Ah." Shaking her head, Yohko gave a sly smile. "Full time has its rewards?"


            "A few," the redhead shrugged. "But being independent gives a lot more flexibility."


            "Yes, I may settle down as my girls are getting older," Yohko paused. "Maybe go to Silvana or somewhere else in House BlackSky."


            "I'd like to visit, maybe when things calm down here."


            Yohko tapped the table. "Yeah, you've had a crazy year here." She gave the younger demon a contemplative look. The redhead had a veritable flock of daughters and a clowder of sisters.


            It was a bit intimidating to find such a young brood mother with such a large extended family. And one where there was no senior brood mother over the redhead and her sisters.


            No wonder DarkStar was Grandmother BlackSky's favorite.


            Eyes shifting, the redhead's tail flicked. "I didn't ask for this," she soothingly said.


            Yohko smiled. "No, but you did make the best of it," she purred. "You do know how sexy you are?"


            Ranma blinked and looked down. "Huh. Yeah, still a succubus."


            "Not that." The brunette snorted. "I mean the easy confidence and command, without coming off as some spoiled, prissy princess."


            The redhead coughed.


            Purring, Yohko's tail swished. "First time being hit on?"


            The redhead looked down and flushed. "Well... all the succubae I've ever met are either grandma, daughters, nieces, sisters or... food." She smiled, revealing her fangs.


            "Oh."


            "Come to think of it... Alexia was my cousin so all those poor minions I ate were first cousin once removed..." Ranma brightened. "Yup, that makes you the most distantly related succubus I've met!"


            Leaning forward, Yohko's smile widened. "We might have to do something about that."


            "Visiting home, er the Home Plane? That would be nice, but me and my girls will need some time off...." Ranma took a bite out of her second sandwich.


            Yohko looked coy. "There are other options."


            "Oh?" Ranma met her gaze then turned to the side. "Senny!" She waved.


            A tall, almost willowy, woman crossed the room. Her features were pale and statuesque, but not the unnatural succubus pallor, or sharp features of the redhead. Long silver-blonde hair was pulled up into two inter-braided buns on the back of her head before spilling down her shoulders in a pair of long tails.


            A silver jacket, just a tinge darker than her tresses, was open over a cream-colored blouse with heavy decolletage in front. A matching silver skirt managed to conceal more of the tops of her stockings than was given by first impression.


            She strode closer, white pumps clicking on silver-chased toes and metallic silver heel spikes.


            "You were looking for me?" she asked the redhead. Her smile beamed out, complimented by the relatively understated cosmetics that focused on drawing to her eyes and lips.


            "Senny?" Yohko asked.


            "Yes, that is a.... new one," Serenity's attention went between the two brood mothers. "Ah, your new friend, Ranma?"


            "This is Yohko of House RedStorm; she and her daughters are visiting," Ranma said as she motioned for Serenity to take the seat beside her at the table.


            Yohko's tail swished at that. "And you're the Lunarian Queen," she bowed her horns to Serenity.


            Taking the offered chair, Serenity gave a little sigh. "Am I that obvious?"


            "You might not have your calling card on your forehead," Ranma purred. "But you certainly taste that way."


            "You two are tasting me?"


            Yohko waved. "More like smelling, but saying your odor is recognizable is not exactly complimentary sounding is it?


            "It's not a bad smell, it's a very enticing one," Ranma turned so her knees were closer to Serenity's.


            The queen smiled and looked at the depleted tray. "And here you are after such a light meal."


            Yohko chuckled.


            "I do have some experience in managing hungry little demons." Serenity squared her shoulders and was just tall enough to loom over the short, but not petite, redhead.


            Ranma put on a faux pout as she snaked her tail over to Serenity.


            "You do," Ranma purred. "You all moved into the new place?"

            Serenity gave the teal-eyed demon a slight glance. "Yes, Meiou is still getting escape plans setup. I'd say she's paranoid but..."


            The redhead nodded. "You know, you could have moved onto my street."


            "And put all the Company's high value assets in one place?" The Moon Queen laughed. "Your sister would hit you for suggesting that."


            "Eve wouldn't... hit me," Ranma pouted.


            "Maybe not, but I know she finds Succubus Street risky enough."


            "Succubus Street?" Yohko asked.


            "Eve, Cecilia, and their girls live just down the road from where I live with my girls."


            The brunette demon nodded. "Right, centralization allows for more efficient defense and access control, but it makes a bigger target."


            Sighing a bit, Serenity eyed her. Age was hard to tell with succubae, but the Japanese woman had an air of more maturity and age than the redhead. "Is every succubus an expert in... tradecraft?"


            "I have been a contractor for a while, more independent than some, but similar job," Yohko shot Ranma a look. "Though I specialized in Pattern D's who didn't play nice."


            "And even those of us who aren't 'on the job' have to live among humans, which requires being able to hide our true nature."


            Serenity rolled her eyes. "Ranma, you do the bare minimum to not look blatantly demonic."


            "Still!"


            Before turning to Yohko, Serenity gave Ranma a smile. "How long have you been a well... demon hunter?"


            The brunette gave a fanged smile. "Since before I was turned."


            Serenity looked the brunette over. She was not sure on the etiquette here. Was asking how someone was turned a sensitive topic? It could be very traumatic, such as how Ranma, most of her daughters, and Cecilia and all of her daughters got turned.  For that matter, Eve's daughters were also turned during battle.


            "How'd you get turned?" the redhead blurted out.


            Yohko looked a bit embarrassed. "A dumb teenager got in over her head and tried to banish the wrong demoness. My grandmother, my human grandmother was... not happy."


            "You attacked a succubus and got turned?" Serenity frowned.


            "There was more to it than that. For one Mom's really powerful and... patient," Yohko blushed. "At least my dating life got better, which made both my new and old mother happy."


            "Yes, succubae seem to have little problem dating," Serenity glanced to Ranma. "Normal succubae," she teased.


            Ranma stuck out her tongue.


            "Both were happy?" she then asked Yohko.


            "My mother, my human mother, was always... sexual. She gave me a package of condoms when I was sixteen."


            Serenity coughed.


            "Hey, I was boy crazy back then," Yohko's cheeks tinged and she caught Ranma's eye. "Not... that I am 'boy' crazy now. Also... I obviously wasn't that boy crazy even as a human."


            "Obviously?"


            Yohko worked her jaw. "Oh. Um... well... how to put this..." Her eyes went to the silk bundle she'd propped up next to her.


            "What... did your magical powers only work if you were a virgin?" Serenity blinked at the teal-eyed demon's sheepish nod.


            "Oh... no wonder your human grandma was mad."


            "Granny Madoka was more than mad. I mean her own daughter, my mom, couldn't be a Devil Hunter because she was pregnant with me. The mantle had to go from my grandmother to me. And now I was a demon, and worse a sex demon? Who ever heard of a virgin succubus?"


            Serenity chuckled. "Yes, imagine such a thing."


            Ranma blushed.


            "So... how bad did it go with Granny Madoka."


            Yohko put her hands on the table palm down. "Adopting my friend Azusa helped. It was complicated but..." The demonic hunter bit her lip. "Azusa was training to be a devil hunter and had been... my sidekick. She's the 109th Devil Hunter now."


            "I'm sorry." Ranma put her hand on Yohko's.


            "Grany Madoka still talks to me. She... um, I'm not the one she blames." Yohko gripped the redhead's fingers. "Funny thing... I should have been, the 109th Devil Hunter."


            "But your mother..."


            "Yeah, she got pregnant with me too early. Though I don't think I was conceived her first time."


            "Oh." Serenity gave a sour expression. "She blames your mother for not being a virgin?"


            "She blames both my mothers!" Yohko looked to Ranma and gave a little smile.


            "If my human mother had taken up the mantle. And had fought she and grandma could have trained me. I would have been stronger, would have been wiser. And I wouldn't have fallen to some temptress."


            Serenity could just feel the wave of sympathy going from the redhead to the brunette.


            Yohko gave Ranma's hand a pat. "We can't all be the result of magical reincarnation."


            "It's overrated," Ranma and Serenity echoed.


            The brunette shook her head. "Magical girls."


            "Hey!" Ranma groused.


            "Its' not all bad. My human mother loves seeing my girls."


            "And given they're succubae, her sexual attitudes probably mean she's the fun grandma," Ranma offered.


            "Yes, but as much as my daughters love Granny Sanyoko, she's still only..." Catching Serenity's gaze, Yohko trailed off.


            "Human?" Serenity asked.


            "There is a gap between our kind and your kind," Yohko awkwardly looked to Ranma for help.


            The redhead frowned and finished her soup. "My last relationship was... challenging. That she was human wasn't the only problem, but it... contributed."


            Serenity put an arm around the sad succubus's shoulder. The shorter woman leaned on her.


            Yohko turned away. "Um, there was another reason why I wanted to talk."


            "You didn't just want to flirt?" A bit of a smile crossed Ranma's face


            "Well, we got to talking and..." Yohko pulled out a black gilt-edged envelope and placed it on the table.


            Recognizing the sigil embossed in wax on the black Ranma tilted her head. "Grandma?" she looked at the surprisingly slim envelope.


            "I can guess what it is," Yohko took out her own black envelope.


            The redhead was already slicing off the edge and pulling out a cream slip of paper filled with a very neat set of Hiragana characters.


            "BlackSky knows Japanese? And calligraphy?" Serenity asked after Ranma handed her the short message.


            Yohko gave the silver-haired woman a perplexed gaze. "Grandma BlackSky is the mother of RedStorm, the head of my House. She rules directly or indirectly the better part of a continent."


            "She invaded this world." Ranma reminded. "And used my death to destroy a rival and further her dealings with your Mother."


            Yohko nodded. "BlackSky is."


            Serenity picked at the letter. "And she's inviting herself over for dinner?"


            "Oh no, she's just expressing an interest in meeting both of us again, and invites us over to Silvana, but is more than understanding that our busy schedules would not allow us to attend."


            "And she just happens to imply that she would not be insulted if you made an offer that was more convenient to you." Serenity shook her head. "I'm Japanese too, we all know about politeness games and saving face."


            Ranma snickered.


            "Okay, maybe not all of us," Serenity added.


            "I can be plenty polite, diplomatic even," Ranma crossed her arms.


            Serenity nodded. "Sure."


            "I was diplomatic with that scary fae queen, even got a deal out of it."


            The moon queen's eyes met Ranma's purple ones and she gave a tiny inquisitive look. The redhead nodded ever so slightly


            "You mean when that queen's leg breaker tried to phone home for support and figure out why she-"


            "He," Ranma interrupted. "At the time," she added to Yohko.


            "Why he had been sent here, when it turned out that another fairy queen sent him over?"


            Yohko's hand played against the bundle of red silk she had leaned against the table. "Right, can you summarize what you're talking about?"


            "You how over a month ago there was a... gas explosion to the east of Toronto?" Ranma asked.


            "You mean when some terrorists angry at Canada's middle eastern meddling prematurely set off an improvised fuel air bomb they had made out of some tanker trucks they had staged near a hospital they had planned to destroy?" Yohko flatly recited


            "Hey, I don't write the cover stories. I mean the guys in Public Relations Section make sure to keep me well away from the media."


            "They really do," Serenity added. "It's a challenge given all that red hair."


            "Says the woman with all the blasts of brilliant glowing light."


            Yohko shook her head. "Right... some Pattern F bigwigs sent you an asset to help you kill whatever it was you two blew up in London, Ontario last month."


            "It was more than just us," Serenity assured.


            "And the asset was a powerful Prime, a full blown wizard."


            "And from the pronouns, and that I'm the first succubus you've met not of your brood, you turned him."


            Ranma gave a smug smile. "Sister."


            "You made a fae queen's wizard asset..."


            "Her knight," the redhead corrected.


            "Her knight into your sister? And this queen didn't flay you?"


            "I'm pretty sure Mab's quite happy with the results."


            Serenity shook her head. "She gets insufferable like this."


            Yohko blinked. "Oh, her. You did that... to Mab. "


            "You've met?"


            "My mother told me about her, from her mother." Yohko exhaled. "Okay, that's pretty impressive."


            "Don't encourage her," Serenity mock sighed.


            "Hey, I was also diplomatic with you."


            "Are you talking about the deal to train me or the insurance deal."


            "I got better with those," Ranma's tone was sheepish. "But no, I'm talking about how I treated the Ami situation."


            Serenity quirked an eyebrow. "You mean how you haven't eaten my friend?"


            "Your friend who is playing evil Mistress and doing naughty things in Japan. I've been exceedingly polite with her."


            "Dare I ask?" Yohko asked.


            "My friend Ami was- is- "Serenity corrected herself with a snarl. "A magical girl. Six months ago, she got corrupted by the same bozo who got this one all demony." She waved to Ranma.


            "And she's running around being a dark magical girl?"


            "She thinks she's saving me from dark influence, and learning how to make us stronger, better able to fight what's coming." Serenity flexed her right hand and then clenched her fingers.


            "Oh... "


            The table grew silent for a bit.


            Yohko gave the redhead a wistful look then shrugged. "You know, when Grandma visits..."


            "You're assuming BlackSky will get her wish and they'll setup a dinner thing?" Serenity asked.


            Both demons chuckled. "The brass here want to keep her, and by extension her spawn happy," Yohko said.


            "Yeah, not to mention Jacob and Stillwater see this as a way to learn more about the succubus Homeplane," Ranma added.


            "I'd bet Eve already knows and is ironing out all the logistics and planning," Ranma chewed her lip. "Picking a location will depend on a lot of things, like how many will show up, and how private it'll have to be."


            "Not just that," Yohko gave the redhead a coy smile.


            "Oh?"


            "It might be best if you brought a date to this dinner; to keep Grandma from meddling." Yohko then pointedly turned to Serenity.


            The silver-haired Senshi coughed. "Um..."


            Ranma gave her a wry smile.

 

***************

.


            Shaking some snow off her coat, Ranma slipped into the booth in the back of the Red Turtle. She rolled her shoulders as a waiter put down a glass of water and a small glass of scotch. The redhead took a sip and sighed with relief.


            The two girls already in the booth exchanged a glance.


            "Long day?" the short-haired blonde asked.


            "I'm not late," Ranma assumed.


            "That's not what Sam meant," her pony-tailed brunette companion said in a sing-song.


            The pale redhead put down her glass.


            "You're still in work-mode," the brunette continued.


            Ranma looked down. "I was in training today. I'm wearing bustier and skirt today. It's been a long time since I wore leathers into combat."


            "It's not that," Sam teased. "It's your face."


            The demoness blinked.


            Sam sipped her hard cider. "You look all 'mom', like you're trying to pass as having teenage daughters."


            "Nah, she only looks like late twenties when she does that, she looks older now," Naoko shook her head and idly twirled the glass of mead.


           "Oh, that!" Purple eyes widened in realization. And she eased some of the slight wrinkles and age-lines from her face.


            The two looked expectant.


            "JTF2 had a visitor in this week to augment their Unarmed Combat Instruction. And Major Sifton invited me up to audit." Ranma gave a little smile.

            Naoko leaned forward. "Who was it?"

            Ranma looked eager. "Grand Master Chae Hung-Jun.  He's a primary student of Jun Mu Kwan founder of Lim Chae-Kwan."


            "Um?" Sam asked.


            Naoko paused then thought for a bit. "That's Hapkido right?"


            "Yes! And from a Master in offensive techniques for joint locks and throws. The guy really knows leverage," Ranma said eagerly.


            Sam nodded. "Okay, I can see why you'd love to study under someone like that, you are a giant martial arts geek."


            Ranma snorted and sipped her drink.


            "But that doesn't explain why you look like you're nearing forty," Naoko added.


            Sighing, the redhead slumped in her chair. "It's easier that way."


            "Easier?"


            "People my age don't normally have their own schools, let alone my skill in martial arts. Less questions if it looks like I've had a couple more decades of experience." She looked at her glass with a little frown.


            "You also had to hide that you were... you know," Sam gestured to where Ranma's wings would be.


            "I wonder if Master Chae knew you were holding back?" Naoko pondered.


            Ranma nodded. "A... young female instructor from a very -well- select Japanese school that vanished years ago, who just happens to also be training Canadian special forces? It didn't take much after warm-ups for him to know something was up."


            "Gee, it's like you were dealing with a grizzled old martial arts master," Naoko dryly said. "Did you at least pretend to be, not abnormal?"


            "I wasn't blatant," the redhead stated. "Sure, my joints are at the... upper limits of human norms, and most pain compliance techniques don't really work on me. Though he did find a nerve that does trigger a reaction. That alone was worth the visits."


            "That's good," Sam sipped from her bottle. "Did you bring any of your girls?"


            "Not... every day."


            "Having a gaggle of female students all with similar... builds would be suspicious?" Naoko asked.


            "They are related to her, and their builds aren't all the same. Nariko is willowy, Yuki, well Nabiki, is petite, Misako is more buxom, Akane is more athletic, and Ukyou is more... elegant."


            "There's nothing wrong with saying Ucchan's very pretty in a specific way," Ranma grinned.


            "Bifauxnen is the Japanese word for when a woman is pretty but in a more androgynous, well, masculine way," Naoko said.


            "Like how she wears suits in a more masculine cut?" Sam took another drink.


            Ranma smiled. "It's not just bringing in a mess of people. The class wasn't for me, I was a guest. Really, I brought my girls so they could learn a bit... and as demonstration partners," the redhead gave an evil little smirk. "How have things been with you girls?"


            "Not that different from the last time we met," Sam said.


            "Yeah, not much changed in two weeks. School, hanging out at the weekend, homework." Naoko gave Ranma a contemplative look.


            "Dropping out of school didn't make things easier for me. Not like Eve lets us slack off," she murmured.


            "Is it dropping out if you're doing it for military stuff?"


            "And didn't your sister make you get your GED?" Sam smirked.


            "Yeah! Technically that makes you more educated than us."


            "Really?" the redhead scoffed. "I attended Furinkan High for, like, half a year. And that was the longest I'd ever been at a single school. Damn Pops." She frowned a bit and sighed. "And sure I was able to cram my way into a passing 783."


            "Out of?"


            "Eight hundred, but it's not like the test is hard, just long. And that's a better score than my little sister got when she took it."


            "This the new one, with the blue hair?" Naoko asked, then narrowed her eyes slightly. "That we never got to meet?"


            "Those were a couple of crazy weeks. I mean between Lomar and London -"


            Sam patted her friend's hand. "It's okay. But you do know what's a really good score right?"


            "It's a GED. You girls are going to get real diplomas and then go onto college."


            Naoko rubbed her forehead. "Yeah, but at that level you could apply to have those as college credit."


            Ranma gave a little smile. "Yes, Eve told me about the GED College Ready program. And Nariko has shown some interest in it, Nabiki too but..." the demon shook her head. "Heck, you girls could test out, too; get an early jump at university. Sure, Kuno doesn't run a bad school, but the place is weird, and you could get an early start."


            "Honestly? After you and Tendos, your other girls, and Tsukino and her friends left the place calmed down a lot."


            The redhead played with her drink. "Sure..."


            "We don't just mean the big stuff like monster and terrorist attacks," Sam sighed.


            "Heck, even that smarmy creep Rod Ferris and that pasty spooky guy.... what was his name?" Sam asked.


            "Hikaru Gosunkugi," Naoko supplied.


            "The waxy guy with the circles under his eyes? Looks like he never got enough sleep?"


            "That's the one, just up and transferred out one day. Maybe he was some type of zombie," Sam offered.


            "If he's the guy I'm remembering, he smelled human," Ranma said.


            "Doesn't mean he wasn't trouble," Sam said.


            "I dunno, maybe he was just some normal awkward geek?" Naoko asked.


            Sam scoffed. "Right, he hung out with Rod, and that smarmy guy just rubbed me the wrong way." The blonde looked to the redhead, expectantly.


            "What? You expect me to know if my former classmates are secret double agents?" Ranma gave a forced laugh. Janet had been an infiltrator; she had really been Usagi's friend Naru and had been sent, with her similarly altered mother, to try and capture the Moon Princess.


            She had ensnared Mercury instead.


            "Eve would know," Naoko pointed out.


            "But would she tell us?" Sam inquired.


            "Other than being quieter how has school been? Maybe you got some new people transferring in?"


            Naoko laughed. "From what we heard you're the one with the interesting visitors."


            Ranma frowned. "Misako told you?"


            "Maybe."


            Leaning forward, Sam propped her head up with her elbows. "Tell us about this new succubus in your life."


            "Eve's not going to be happy with this."


            "If she complains after reviewing tonight's footage she knows where we live," Naoko assured.


            Chuckling, Ranma took another sip. "Yohko's nice, has two kids, her girls are very cute, though Ukyou does get twitchy around them. Similar job as me. Past.... not quite as complicated as mine. And it's neat to talk to someone... who is... you know, and isn't closely related to me."


            "But?" Sam asked.


            "Well, Usagi likes her too."


            "Ooooh!" the two girls said simultaneously. "Do you have a little love triangle?" Sam asked.


            "Though I suppose it doesn't need to be unrequited, given things," Naoko added.


            Ranma gave a long blink. She chewed her lip thoughtfully. "I'm not sure Yohko would go for that... or Usagi for that matter."


            The demon's two friends smirked. "So, you two?"


            "Nothing, big," Ranma waved. "She's just accompanying me to a family dinner."


            "As a date?" Sam asked.


            "Which side of your family?" Naoko's question was more pointed.


            "Um, the out of town one. The way out of town one."


            "Really?"


            Ranma nodded. "Eve's spinning a bunch of plates getting things ready. Apparently, one of Grandma's cooks, a Gloria SpringLeaf, and another aide will be coming in a few days to help with the preparations."


            "That sounds like more than 'nothing big'," Sam noted.


            The redhead shook her head. "No no, this is merely a family dinner with my grandmother, a couple aunts, my family and some guests."


            Sam tilted her head. "I'm missing something."


            "My grandmother kind of has her own... empire, and hosting an official state visit is a bit beyond the Company's contract with the Canadian government," Ranma quietly admitted.


            "Ah... but just a family dinner with your grandmother is fine?" Naoko asked.


            "Wait... if your grandmother is an empress, does that make you some kind of princess?" Sam asked.


            "Yeah, isn't that two for you?" Naoko nodded.


            Ranma downed the last of her drink.

 

***************

 


            Sergeant Jared Dirac completed his checks, secured the jamming equipment, saluted, and left the office.


            Shortly after the lanky agent's exit, Colonel Jacob Edwards leaned forward, undid the clasps of his briefcase and started taking out tools.


            At his desk, Commander Stillwater watched with some amusement in his pale blue eyes. "Don't trust the young man?"

           "I would hardly have recommended his promotion otherwise," Jacob readied some slightly more... arcane equipment.


            "One could point out that people with skill-sets such as those young Mr. Dirac has should be given some extra consideration." Tapping a short memo, Stillwater gave a cool ghost of a smile.


            "Provided our counter-intelligence section gives the clear?" Jacob asked as another slight hum began to fill the room. This one prickled against the more regular rhythm of the equipment Dirac had set up.


            "And if the head of counter-intelligence is also someone with a 'special' skill-set?"


            Closing the briefcase, Jacob eyed his superior's neat desk. "You worry Captain Jarvis' opinion would be biased in this regard?"


            "I do not doubt her loyalty to this organization."


            "Her," Jacob repeated, idly scratching the scar on the back of his palm.


            "Indeed, we crossed that Rubicon half a year ago when we approved the Capitan's change."


            "The benefits of giving Miss Saotome a sibling have been quite solid." Jacob stood and went to a side table in his boss' office and filled three glasses with amber liquid. "Imagine the consequences for us if Miss Saotome did not have one of ours as her first sister. The temptation to seek out BlackSky, to seek out family, would be much stronger. It would be done before Miss Saotome had defined herself."


            Stillwater accepted a glass. "Does this count as too much success?"


            "The family dinner or Major Saotome’s proposal?”


            The commander took a drink. "Both have their risks. And the former alone is a considerable logistics effort."


            Jacob sat back down. "We need allies to survive what is coming." He turned his glass, his expression sober.


            "Like the Winter Queen?"


            "If I had to choose, I think Pattern Ds are preferable to Pattern F. But we shall see."


            "What of Pattern Silvers?"


            Jacob sipped. "After Ottawa and London, I am less concerned about Miss Tsukino and her team. However, Miss Mizuno and hers are more of a concern."


            "The reports from Tokyo are worrisome." Stillwater put his glass down next to the memo and frowned. "Perhaps we-"


            There was a knock on the office's solid door.


            Stillwater checked the security feed and nodded to Jacob.


            Picking up a slim device, the tall, spare man stood and unlocked the door.


            An auburn haired woman in a grey WIC uniform with a white lab coat stepped into the office.


            After closing the door, Jacob wanded the humming device over the officer.


            Her lips quirked after the inspection finished and she stepped up to the desk and saluted.


            "Please, take a seat, Major Saotome," Jacob said after returning the salute.


            Nodoka took a chair before the desk.


            Jacob handed her the third glass.


            She sniffed and gave a quizzical look. Her memo, her request was the only paper on the commander's desk.


            "You joined our organization for one reason," Jacob said without preamble.


            "To find my child."


            "To find your son," Stillwater corrected.


            "Technically, the Company did find your ex-husband and your daughter. But a reasonable person could be justified in taking issue with the time it took and the results."


            Nodoka took a sip. "On balance, I find reuniting with my daughter more than acceptable."


            "And it's not just her," Stillwater said.


            "Miss Dresden is alone. Well not alone, but without support who understands her condition."


            Nodoka frowned. "Her half-brother is the closest to understanding; they have similar urges."


            "Your daughter, your eldest daughter is planning to visit her."


            "Yes, Sir." Major Saotome nodded.


            Silence entered the room as the three mercenary officers thought. There was the clink of glasses being put down.


            "Your proposal is not without risk," Stillwater eventually said.


            "I am willing to submit to Dr. Du Maurier for examination," Major Saotome said.


            "That is good to know, if not strictly necessary." Jacob allowed. "Captain Lydia Du Maurier's expertise is not... fully applicable here."


            "A counter argument could be made, Sir," Nodoka said. "While her research is in NH psychology, Dr. Du Maurier has spent more time helping humans with post battle trauma. Not to mention her direct experience with my family."


            "And since she is already read-in she is less of marginal increase in security risk," Stillwater stated.


            Nodoka nodded at the commander's subtext. "Like how Captain Jarvis could be brought in?"


            The two senior officers exchanged a look. Faded green eyes met pale blue. "Not exactly," Jacob said.


            "With the Captain, we could make that decision with our own authority, our inability to do that with your proposal is, for several reasons the main point of contention."


            Nodoka finished her glass. "Yes sir, I am well aware that I will have to petition a higher authority to get my request."

 

***************

 


            Snow beat against the tall windows of the lodge. The long building stood on side of a hill giving a view of a meandering river valley. The interior was rustic, but with polished wooden floors and walls complete with open rafters, a full kitchen, and an adjacent grilling and other outdoor cooking under extended eaves and wind shields.


            Wood smoke and the scent of cooking meat wafted into the hall rising and falling with the wind. Nearly a dozen banners periodically rustled whenever someone went in or out the doors.


            A redhead in a slit calf-length purple dress stood before the windows, watching snow cover the trees in a fresh layer of fluffy whiteness. Her hair was teased and curled to a customary wild mane, and accented with obsidian earrings in silver settings and matching necklaces.


            A statuesque woman with long, tightly plaited, silver hair glided next to her in a tight white gown. "Are you nervous?"


            The redhead turned and flashed a cocky grin. "Why would I be?"


            "Because you're meeting your grandmother," Serenity's eyes went to one of the dangling banners that had a black field with half a dozen silver four-pointed stars arcing across on the upper half and thin grey lines radiating out from the bottom edge.


            "I've already met her."


            "And two of her daughters." Serenity turned to a pair of rippling banners. One with burning golden clouds that made burning rivers on black cliffs with silver thread emphasizing the shadows. The other had descending arcs of grey motes falling onto on turbulent ocean. Both banners bore gold trim.


            The redhead shrugged. "CloudFire and AshRain sound nice enough."


            "Demon names." The silver-haired woman shook her head.


            "Really, we're going there, Serenity?"


            "Why not? Apparently I warrant a fancy flag."


            Ranma turned to study the silver-chased golden crescent moon on a shimmering white background. "It does look nice. Very simple."


            Serenity chuckled. "I don't know if Puu pushed for it or if your sister thought it was proper."


            "She made sure the Canadian coat of arms was up."


            Serenity turned and looked at the banner in the far corner by the entrance. "It's rather... busy." With the lions, unicorns, crowns, flags, maple leaves and spears, the Canadian heraldry was far more complicated than the other banners combined.


            The only one that came close was the Company's logo, that was across the hall from the Canadian banner, with its grey globe surrounded by three symbols of warding alternating with the letters W, I, and C on a black background.


            Ranma followed her date's gaze. "It's kind of ironic, Grandma and her people speak Latin, well a Latin, but it's the Canadian's that actually has Latin on it. 'A Mari usque ad Mare'."


            "Meaning?" Serenity asked watching a group of agents and other... guards organizing tables and setting places.


            "From sea to sea."


            "Huh, rather manifest destiny of them," Serenity absently said as she studied the two remaining banners. One bore a familiar four pointed purple star outlined in Silver on a field of dark grey


            The last bore sleeting red lightning bolts over a grey mountain.


            "Where is Yohko?" Serenity asked.


            "Helping her girls get dressed," Ranma said, looking towards the kitchen as her tail swished about.


            "And your girls?" Serenity asked.


            "Ukyou's helping Mother and Gloria SpringLeaf with the cooking. And Gloria's being very patient in letting her practice her Silvan Latin," Ranma added with a smile


            "And the others?" Serenity noticed that the redhead was leading her towards the kitchen.


            "Nabiki and Nariko are with the librarian who came with Gloria, or maybe SharpSleet."


            Serenity raised an eyebrow.


            "She's an officer... or maybe a non-com in their military. She's in charge of some of the guards that came over." Ranma gestured towards a group of succubae who were helping organize things.


            They wore polished armor of a glossy almost ceramic looking material fashioned in interlocking plates that looked a bit like lorica segmenta. With some extra embellishments and skirting that Serenity found a bit uncomfortably similar to her own Senshi's battle uniforms.


            Wings and tails poked out from slits in the back of the armor. And little jeweled pins were set in their hair and earrings dangled in what had to be some sort of display of rank or merit.
            Some had slung rifles with long shining wood stocks while others had glaives with oddly gleaming blades.


            "They're getting along with your mercenaries?" Serenity asked.


            Ranma chuckled. "Seems like it. Though I'll admit the whole idea of the House Guard is a bit weird. I mean it's not like BlackSky needs a bodyguard, even a whole legion."


            "I have the Guardian Senshi," Serenity countered.


            "Yeah... but they're not just your bodyguards." Ranma took her arm. "And they were very helpful in the beginning."


            "Not just then," Serenity admitted.


            "And where is Mina?" Ranma asked looking around the room, hand held to her brow.


            Serenity shook her head. She knew the redhead could smell if Minako were here or not. "With Puu, watching the arrival site."


            Ranma looked up at the banners. "Is that the first impression we want to make?"


            "You think your grandmother would be offended by Sailor Pluto lurking about as she teleports in?"


            The redhead simply gave the moon queen a look.


            "Wait, we?"


            Smiling slightly, the redhead tilted her head, angling her horns. It was not quite a bow. "I suppose that's why Puu brought Minako and they'll stand back, more to make sure nothing... breaks when Grandmother and her daughters arrive."


            "And why is Eve there?" Serenity did a similar obvious look around the room and pointed out Cecilia with her daughters split between helping the troops set things up and going over to Misako to get their hair and makeup and accessories put in order.


            Ranma's cheeks colored a bit. "Protocol."


            "Really? And I thought she was there as some sort of trip-wire in case this was a trap and thus some of you could escape or have a counter-attack."


            The redhead chuckled. "If BlackSky wanted us gone..."


            "Please, you and your mercs have plots to get rid of everyone. You took out a millennia old literal Fallen Angel last month."


            "Technically, that was the Fallen's host. And you were a critical part of that plan."


            Serenity grinned with a flash of teeth.


            "Besides, if things went... wrong. Say it wasn't really grandmother that came, worst case.." The redhead exhaled. "Worse case still wouldn't result in my whole family being wiped out."


            "BlackStone?" Serenity asked.


            "It's hard having family far away," Ranma's tail curled. "I shouldn't have said things about you leaving your daughter in Japan."


            "Well... I have been talking to her more."


            The redhead nodded. "You head-butting Lartessa was something else." She then resumed taking her towards the kitchen.


            Serenity saw Doctor Saotome, apron over her formal black and grey WIC uniform, step into the kitchen from outside in a flurry of snowflakes. The older woman gave a restrained smile at the two.


            '"Flatterer," Serenity told the redhead.

 

End Chapter 1

 

And here we go, the first new Return stuff after Blood Debts. And it's now all inline with the "revision standard".

 

There's also work on some BlackStone one shots that document her life and trials.
I'm currently working on:  "Invisible Hand", "Our Sister, the Idiot" and "Family Business".

 

There's also been a mess of new art for this story (and other art that's not for this story) on my Deviant Art account.

 

I'd like to thank. DCG,  Ellf,  Kevin D Hammel,  J.St.C.Patrick, Henry Stickman, and Toxinvictoria.  They were very helpful from the spelling and grammar, to World Building, to Continuity, to Characterization.  They've been helping me with this project for a long time.  Some of them since the very beginning.

 

I'd also like to thank all the other prereaders I've had in the past for their contributions, and everyone who has commented and enjoyed my stories.

 

Thanks all.