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.
Temporary Backup Site.
Other website Temple of Ranma's Senshi Seifuku
C&C is appreciated.
Book 6: Bonding Allure
Chapter 3: Persuasive Outreach
It was not long after sleet began to pound the bus shelter's roof that Hikaru Gosunkugi's luck ran out. Shivering slightly, the pale, almost sickly-looking, young man looked out into the twilight gloom.
Wrist heating up, he pulled his puffy, threadbare coat in closer. Hooded eyes glanced down at the bulging backpack at his feet. Most of his tools were packed away, or were bulky and... suspicious enough to require shipping ahead of time.
He was alone; that gave him... some options. Though, by the time the bus arrived...
A grey, vaguely human shape resolved itself out of the gloom into a lean woman who strode ever closer. Sleet bounced off her short brown hair and long grey leather duster. She paid the winter cold no mind. A small part of him was relieved to see steam exiting her mouth when she exhaled.
The braided metal and silk around his wrist had started to become uncomfortably hot. The charm's reaction made it obvious what kind of magic the lean woman had. Fingers found a smooth hilt in his coat pocket.
The brunette's eyes were flat as she studied him. Traffic was light and she did not have to break stride as she crossed the street, her boots crunching on the salt and precipitation.
Unlike Hikaru, she was not wearing street-clothes under her coat. The dark grey and red bodysuit she wore might have passed as motorcycle armor or a fitted snowmobile suit, at least on casual glance.
Then again, on casual glance she would pass as human.
Gritting his teeth, Hikaru flipped up his hood and stepped out into the sleet.
Straight white teeth flashed in response as the brunette grinned.
"Do you really want to get into a duet of blades? With me?" she swept her coat a bit back revealing one of the swords belted at her hip.
Hikaru tilted his head. Not so much at the question, but at the way she asked it. Her Japanese was a bit stiff, but more than understandable; her accent was not even that thick.
Keeping his right hand on the athame, he sighed. "I just wanted to leave this damn city. Quietly, without fuss. Did Incognito sell me out? Or did Ferris have one final joke?"
The woman gave a cold, robotic smile. "Yes, it is unfortunate when a mission fails. When it gets... complicated."
The heat was causing a dull ache in his arm and down his fingers. At least this was giving time to put more energy into his blade, for what good that could do.
The patchwork woman stepped closer.
Hikaru exhaled, giving a billow of steam.
That cold smile defrosted a bit on the woman's face. "I am Arisha Dva."
"Of Doctor Scarlatti's New Soviet Man project," the young man blurted.
"Ah, so you are at least basically informed. That makes my... proposition more palatable," she said, with distaste.
Hikaru narrowed his eyes.
"Please little cultist. Our terms are quite generous, more than enough to match your avaricious desires."
"Some of us aren't motivated by money."
"Normally." Eyes flat, Arisha's lip quirked. "Normally, I would appreciate that sentiment. But we've already dealt with one of your kind who cares more for... ideology than money. We will not have a repeat of that."
"I just want to get out." Hikaru hissed his hand flexing on his blade's hilt.
"Do you?' Arisha glanced over his scrawny frame. "You wish to return to your fellows, empty-handed, in failure?"
"Better a living failure than the valiant dead." Hikaru spat.
"You don't believe that," Arisha's eyes flashed and genuine emotion formed on her face. "Otherwise you'd have dropped that knife and pulled off your warding bracelet." She took two steps closer. "You're still thinking of a final act of defiance."
"I'm not, not really." Chuckling, Hikaru's shoulders sagged. With a resigned sigh, he lifted his arms and showed his palms. "What do you want from me?"
Arisha's eyes went to his wrist; the curling smoke was starting to fade out into wisps. "We need someone with your expertise."
"After Ottawa? I'd guess so," Hikaru murmured.
The cyborg shot the young man a glare. "Yes, exactly," she spat. "You will be watched... closely, but if you do this job for us, we'll be more than forthcoming with payment."
Wincing a bit at the sleet hitting his fingers, Hikaru Gosunkugi lowered his hands. "I just wanted to get out before things got too crazy... it might only buy us... me some time, but, well... I'd rather not be at ground zero."
The Russian gave a genuine smile. "Then you'll be amply motivated to complete these tasks for us, and to do so without dawdling, unlike our last associate. Are you familiar with the Path of the Will?"
Hikaru's response was automatic. "Organization founded by university book restorer Carl Kronecker, who absconded with a good chunk of his employer's rare book collection. Apparently one of them gave him the mad-prophet bug and drove him and his followers up here." He eyed the woman. "Things did not go well for him."
"No, they did not. We have learned from such mistakes."
Looking around at the quiet street and up at the grey sky, the pale cultist nodded. "Right. Okay, what do you want me to do?"
"Assemble some jamming equipment. We have all the parts, including some upgrades." Arisha's grin became calculating and flat again. "Your predecessor ensured that much at least.
Serenity thrust her staff forward. The demon twisted away from the tip and put one hand on shaft and lunged closer.
Dropping her hips, Serenity stepped outside and flicked the staff end over end in an arc ripping it out of the demon's grip and bringing it down on the demon's left arm.
Favoring that bruised wrist, the demoness nimbly bounded back, but Serenity used her greater size and reach to her advantage.
Serenity gave an upward swing and the redhead's tail went up and tried to intercept. Gritting her teeth Serenity rolled her wrists, turned in and, with the demon still grappling with the staff, punched forward.
The redhead blocked the jab and wrenched Serenity's arm putting her into a lock. Gasping, Serenity launched herself forward and tried to sweep the redhead's legs.
She almost got the demoness on the ground, but the redhead pulled away. Then, gritting her teeth in frustration, Serenity pulled the staff still ensnared by the demons' tail and, tugging her hyper-extended elbow, let her knees bend.
The taller woman pitched forward and took the smaller demon with her as both fell onto the mat in a disorganized heap.
Purple eyes blinked in a bit of surprise as Serenity smirked and using her arm's newfound freedom of movement tried to pin the short succubus.
Gasping, the redhead blocked another strike with the staff. Serenity twisted and pressed it against the redhead's neck.
Putting a hand up to ease the pressure, the demon's tail wrapped around Serenity's leg and pulled her off her knees. Serenity fell even further, bringing her body against the redhead's. "Uh.... Ranma...."
The redhead smirked as her tail went up the leg of Serenity's silver leotard. "I haven't tapped out yet."
Serenity rolled her eyes and put two fingers to the redhead's forehead. Silver light sparked between them.
"You'd have better effect on the dorsal base below the bridge of my nose, less bone there, and a straight shot to the lower brain-meats," Ranma squirmed a bit so her body was even closer to Serenity's. "You're looking to kill your enemy, not remove their ability to appreciate poetry."
Sighing, Serenity, with her free hand, slammed her staff onto the redhead's neck "And the choking and teaseling?"
Wriggling, Ranma arched her back and coughed. She then tapped Serenity's shoulder twice. "Well... next time remember that the front of the neck cuts off breathing, where going to the sides cuts off blood flow. Now you might not always get a choice of targets but..." The succubus winked. "Pressing the sides ends the fun a lot quicker, unless you want to draw things out."
Serenity blinked. "Really?"
"Yes, that's biologically correct."
Idly brushing back a few strands of hair that had come loose of her braids, Serenity shook her head. "I mean the teasing."
"If I wanted to tease you I'd ask if Princess Serenity was going to punish the naughty demon she just defeated." The succubus purred.
Blushing, Serenity smiled.
"We do have some privacy in the dojo."
"Do you have to be so tempting?"
"Well, succubus," Ranma's eyes brightened. "And you find me tempting?" she purred.
Serenity shifted her staff so it was not quite as restricting. "You are a succubus."
"I thought you magical girls were immune?"
"Ha!" Serenity snorted. "I should tell you about Countess Rose and the ballroom dance classes she taught, and how hard her final exam was."
"She get turned into a Youma?"
"And you didn't pass that exam?"
Serenity clenched her fist. "Rei and Mina didn't either. Mako-chan and Ami did... and how Ami looked at the Countess..."
"Ahh...." Ranma winced. "We can do more training."
"I have you pinned."
The redhead's eyes smoldered. "And? We can do more ground-work. Fights often devolve to wraslin' in the mud. Or we can do more staff-work. I think bayonet drill really suits your style. Especially when you've got that scepter stuck in the end."
"That could be fun." Serenity lifted the staff and rolled over. "It was a help against that little mantis demon."
"Fallen," Ranma pedantically said as she ran a finger down Serenity's side.
Serenity pulled up the redhead so she sat next to her. Flashing a brief smile, she gave the demon a guarded look.
"Yes?" Ranma coyly asked.
"This is more low-key."
"The Tendo dojo can't exactly take us throwing fireballs and magical particle beams." Ranma idly twirled the staff. "Besides, this lets us focus on your close quarters stuff." She tossed the staff so it rolled to the far side of the dojo, just in front of the shrine. "Maybe we can switch to pure hand to hand."
"That could come up, I guess," Serenity frowned. Assuming she could count on her magic all the time would invite just the sort of enemy who could counter her magic. "But did I have to wear the lycra bodysuit?"
"What? It looks good on you. And they're proper training garments." Ranma arched her shoulders showing off her own purple getup.
"Only because you say so."
Ranma preened. "My School, my rules."
The redhead tilted her head. "It can be."
Serenity laughed. "You just want me as a student."
"You have great promise."
"You only said that after I fought one Fallen Angel."
"I didn't see you blow up that shoggoth." Ranma exhaled.
Serenity put her hand over Ranma's. "Something wrong?"
"You got time for a list?"
"Are we including the various cults and assassins that want me dead?"
"We've have to include the magical orders corrupting your friends and killing your fiances."
Serenity squeezed the demon's hand.
The redhead made an appreciative noise. "It's about my mom."
"Ah." Serenity put her hands in her lap. "She's, uh, going through with it?"
Ranma's tail flicked about. "We're still getting the contract setup. Then we'll decide."
"Contract?" Serenity rolled her shoulders. "Huh."
"What? Too stereotypical?"
"Well... more that it's very clinical. BlackSky is going to make Dr. Saotome her daughter," Serenity flexed her hands. "What would a contract even say?"
"Apparently Silvana is a surprisingly litigious society. Or at least that's Eve's evaluation."
Serenity smirked. "Demon lawyers? Now that's on the nose."
Ranma laughed. "As for the contract itself. It outlines what Grandma will do when she takes in Mom, and what kind of daughter, well, how old she'll be by the end and things like that."
"That's the real challenge. It's a daughter change you know. And we grow... kinda... slow" The redhead blushed.
"Ah," the Moon queen said, pondering. Ranma had been a demon mom less than a year. In that time, her daughters had grown, but Serenity figured they were too young to have daughters on their own. "You want her to be your mother, but that means..."
"Yeah, Grandma can do it. She can accelerate a baby succubus' development."
"But?" Serenity looked to Ranma's eyes. "Will it hurt her?"
"It won't," Ranma swore in a harsh tone. "I mean... Grandma can pull it off."
Recalling the dinner last week, Serenity shivered. "She has the power."
Ranma shook her head. "Skill. But yeah."
"The contract is to make sure she does it properly?"
The redhead looked out the dojo window. "Yeah."
"You trust her?"
"She's my grandmother."
"Who is a demonic empress and planetary invader."
The redhead gave Serenity a sharp look.
"Hey, when it comes to otherworldly invaders, me and my family are experts. On both sides," she quietly added.
Laughing, Ranma leaned on the taller woman.
"But how is this contract even enforced? Say BlackSky screws you over. What are you going to do? Sue her? Is there a judge, in the very empire named after her, that'll take a case against her?"
Ranma chuckled. "You're thinking like a human."
"Well, yeah." Serenity rolled her eyes. "What, is it some type of magic contract, bound by her own power or something?"
"Do you trust that? I mean if BlackSky were to breach the contract, which means she'll have betrayed you by damaging your own mother, then why wouldn't she betray you on the magical enforcement of the contract?" Serenity hesitantly put an arm around the demon. "Or will you get some third party to enforce, like House... RedStorm?"
"Close. But RedStorm is a daughter of BlackSky so same problem." Ranma pulled the arm closer around her. Her tone became flat. "No, the real enforcement is that if Grandma screws me in this, I'll go to all the Houses I can: ally, enemy, and neutral. From Elena to Andromache, Alecto to Luxon."
Serenity turned and hugged the smaller woman. "And you'd be doing that as DarkStar... BlackSky's favored granddaughter."
"Yes. She slew House Vephar to avenge me. If BlackSky would breach a contract; a contract to make a mother for her beloved granddaughter. Why should any other House be willing to trust her?"
"It would ruin her?"
"Diplomacy on the Homeplane is rather cutthroat." Ranma exhaled. "Ruin is strong. But DawnStrike's diplomatic skills would be sorely tested, and Grandmother's enemies would test her. And her friends would think twice about their relationship."
"And that's why she's consenting to the contract." Serenity shook her head. "She's giving you the paper trail as insurance. By showing she's willing to let you destroy her reputation, if she were to betray you, she's signaling that she doesn't intend to betray you."
Ranma let her tension ease. "Yeah, it's how high-society demons work. Apparently."
"Ick, court intrigue." Serenity watched Ranma's tail swish along the floor mats. "Glad I don't have to deal with that."
"Other than the wayward faction of Senshi led by Akumi, that the Outers are back in Japan doing who knows what with your daughter, and whatever Puu is up to. Oh and not to mention, your bodyguard and priestess." The redhead smirked.
Serenity gently caught the demon's swishing tail. "I thought you liked Mina, and are getting along with Rei."
"Oh I do! And we can't forget Makoto. Isn't it the quiet ones that you have to watch out for?"
"Mako-chan quiet?" Serenity laughed. "It's still different. With my Senshi, it's still a small enough group that I can knock some sense into them when they go all crazy."
Ranma made a curious sound as the Moon queen ran a finger over the fins to her tail.
"Well, that's what I did with Haruka and Michiru over that whole Holy Grail mess." Serenity unconsciously made a fist.
"That's why Akumi still hiding from you?"
Smiling, Serenity ran her hand down the succubus's tail. "Pummeling people corrupted into monsters until they collapse and blasting sense into them is kinda what I do."
Ranma tapped her foot against Serenity's leg. "Sometimes literally. And how are the Outers, and your daughter doing?"
Inspecting the redhead's tail fins, Serenity exhaled. "She's doing good."
The succubus blushed a bit.
Pretending to ignore the reaction, Serenity continued. "I might be paranoid. I mean Hotaru is her friend and both are lonely girls and it's good that Usa's no longer being a brat to my brother but..."
"How old is he now?"
Serenity tapped her fingers in recall. "He'll be fifteen in a bit over a month."
"You were his age when you started?" Ranma asked.
"When that damn cat gave me my first broach?" Serenity shook her head. "Yup."
"I heard that!" Luna said from the dojo's porch, lifting her head and looking through the door.
Ranma turned and glared at the feline.
"Yeah, we've been at this for a while."
"Four years?" Ranma asked.
"About," Serenity exhaled. "And as bad as this last year out here has been...."
"You've lost more than Mamoru in the past?"
Eyes hollow, the moon queen slowly nodded. "Antarctica was... bad."
"Do you really think Shingo will be dragged into this?"
"If it were just Chibi-Usa hanging out with him?" Serenity patted Ranma's tail. "But Hotaru's more sensible. I hope."
"You afraid he'll end up in a Tux?"
"Well, you took that slot, little-Miss-Sailor-Earth, but he is rather young..."
Ranma glanced to the doorway.
Serenity followed the redhead's gaze. They both watched the black cat for a moment. "Yeah, I don't want him... I mean."
The demon smiled. "I'm hardly the one to talk about keeping one's relatives out of 'The Life'."
Shaking her head, Serenity sighed. "Yeah, my own daughter's already following in my footsteps, and I haven't even had her yet."
"Having a kid without being pregnant does seem like a neat trick."
Patting Ranma's tail, the moon queen snorted. "We can't all do it the demon way."
The redhead tilted her head, but still wrapped her tail around Serenity's arm.
"Right, your mother and her..."
"I'm glad things aren't so... heavy with my mother."
"The one who's still alive. The first queen is..." Serenity shook her head. "There was a recording on the Moon, and there've been dreams and visions, but Serenity the First is gone."
Ranma leaned on the taller woman.
"No pithy comment about her past as a conqueror, ruthlessness in battle, or her cavorting with demons?"
"Given you've done the second two," Ranma purred.
Serenity squeezed her fingers and with her free hand traced the line of Ranma's chin. "Is this cavorting?"
"It could be. But if you really want to cavort..." Ranma let the question hang.
Serenity lifted her head. "This isn't you awkwardly fumbling at seduction, this is something else."
"I am not," Ranma pouted.
"Please, before that gangly sister of yours appeared, you were the most awkward succubus I knew." Serenity gave the redhead a pat. "Now, what are you suggesting?"
"We're going to visit my Grandmother, at the seat of her power. Learn more about, well, what would be done. Help decide if this is really what we all want."
"Oh." Serenity said after a moment. "You want me to come? To help you decide?"
"No," Ranma blinked. "I want you to come, but not to help decide. I mean you can if you want. I'm pretty sure a frikin' Moon Princess might be able to detect a sinister scheme at work."
"Provided it's not one of my own people," Serenity sourly said.
"But, the reason I'm inviting you is... because it can be a vacation."
"You want me to go to a succubus city where I don't know anyone and no one would... Huh." Serenity laughed. "But what if something happens here?"
"Oh, you'd bring Puu, and whoever else, that way you have a quick teleport back home."
"And so would you," Serenity noted.
Ranma smiled. "It may have crossed my mind."
Serenity pulled at one of her loose tresses. She inspected her silver hair. "It might be nice to go back, be Usagi again. Or anyone really, something other than silver."
"Especially if Minako is over here playing the Usagi role."
"Dangerous. Maybe we don't leave her alone to be bait," Serenity shook her head. "What is Silvana like?"
"You were at the dinner party, you heard as much as I did."
"Your aunts were trying to sell it like a normal place: museums, shops, houses, restaurants."
"What did you expect a succubus city to be like?"
Serenity shrugged. "The Dark Kingdom and Black Moon Clan's planet weren't the nicest of places."
"BlackSky's different she..." Ranma shook her head. "Right. I can see, demon inviting the magical girl princess to her demon empress' palace."
"Your grandmother did try to invade this world."
"As did your mother."
Serenity laughed. "What a mess. And I suppose I can't invite you up to the Moon Palace. Unless you want to see a lot of ruins and bunkers. Though the remains of the throne room are pretty, in a haunting way."
Straightening her shoulders and rolling up to her feet, Serenity gave the redhead a contemplative look. "That's another factor."
Ranma stretched out on the dojo's floor. "Oh?"
"Sure with Puu you'd have a speedy exit, but with me there..."
The demoness shrugged.
"You think I could fight her?"
Ranma stood and rolled her shoulders. "You tell me. How does she stack up against the horrors you've beaten?"
Serenity frowned. "I don't know. She hides a lot of her power and..." The moon queen looked out the window. "We're talking about your grandmother, someone you want to turn your mother into a demon."
The redhead slipped up next to her. "Not yet. I'd like her to be on the up and up. Well, as much as someone with her power can be."
"It's not just her," Serenity flexed her fingers. "She's got daughters. Who have daughters of their own. And then there's literal legions of succubae, and then combat mages and those flying battle suits."
"Don't forget the war zeppelins," Ranma lightly added circling around behind Serenity.
"And you're asking me if I can beat her?" the Moon queen asked looking over her shoulder.
"No, you asked me if I thought you could fight her." The redhead bounced on the heels of her feet. "And you certainly can."
"You thought I couldn't handle some Soviet cyborgs." Serenity harrumphed and lightly batted away the demon's tail. "And you think I could stand up to someone my mother cut a deal with instead of fighting?"
"Assassins do not play to your strengths," Ranma leaned on the taller woman. "Morgan has a better chance of killing you with her rifle than my baby sister does in a magic duel. Though she cheats. So...."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence," Serenity demurred.
Flicking her tail, Ranma squeezed her hand. "My point is you're the one with the magic rock powered by hope. You've blasted evil, invading monarchs before. And if it came down to brute magical force then you are our best asset in that regard."
Smiling, Serenity squeezed back. "True. But she knows that. And don't you think for a second that your cuddly grandmother who loves reading stories to all the good little broodlings doesn't have assassins of her own."
Ranma snorted. "Eve thinks she brought some with her to that dinner party."
"What her cook?" Serenity nodded. "Poisoning is a classic," she added, glad that Rei was not here to make sarcastic comments about her baking skills.
"It is," Ranma agreed, leaning on her.
"Do you really think it'd be dangerous?" Serenity's arm absently wound around the redhead's waist.
Ranma playfully poked Serenity's side. "If I thought it was a serious risk I wouldn't be inviting you to take this as a vacation, let alone considering letting BlackSky turn my mother."
"Ah, you're just being a paranoid little sneak." Serenity tightened her grip around Ranma
"Prepared," the demon corrected with a purr as her tail swished.
"Should I be flattered you're part of our preparations?" Serenity let her hand fall on the base of the demon's tail.
"Oh, you've always been a part," she assured, curling her tail around Serenity's waist.
"A useful part?"
The demoness looked up and fluttered her eyelashes.
"Oh no, you're too awkward at the seductive succubus bit to get me to let that slide."
Pouting, the redhead pressed closer. "Can I at least get you to consider the trip?"
Serenity pulled her in and ran her other hand down the demon's back. "I think we've gotten that far."
Wind kicked up the water as waves stared to roll in. Clouds parted and the shoreline was illuminated by the waxing moon as the sound of boots crunching on rounded pebbles grew.
The hem of Mistress Mercury's midnight blue ankle-length dress fluttered in the wind and rustled over the stony beach. Her bare neck was chilled by the night air and the icy spikes threaded through her updo tugged in the breeze.
Spotting the two approaching figures, her gloved hand clenched the stem to her wineglass. One wore the expected garish pink skirt with matching bows, and hair done up in twin ponytails with pointy odangos. A pair of red roses was nestled in front of the jeweled buns just above her ears. A cocky, smile was on her face as red eyes glinted in the night.
Next to her strode a slender figure with the long limbs of someone just going through a growth spurt. However, Mercury's eyes were more on the long-bladed glaive held in the dark purple seifuku clad young woman's hands.
"You said you'd come alone," Mercury stated when the pair stopped half a dozen paces in front of her.
"So, did you," Chibi Usa replied. She looked at the two figures standing statue-still behind Mercury. One was sapphire blue with hair done in a bright pixie cut while the other a light jade. Both were adorned with chokers bearing the Mercury mark and constellation patterns inset on their necks.
Delicately detailed seifuku were carved and molded out of each crystalline figure's body. Transmutation to other, and more translucent gems provided complimentary-colored accents for skirts, ribbons, bows, boots, and sailor collars.
"I did not bring my warrior, but you brought the Silence."
The dark-haired Senshi at Chibi Usa's side exhaled.
Red eyes flashed as she gave a thin smile. "Yes, the Amazon is not here. But you brought the catalyst of your own fall." She pointed to the jade-figure. "I knew Naru too."
Mercury sipped her wine. "Neither of us is innocent then?"
"I did not bring the other Outers."
"Haruka-Poppa and Michiru-Momma would not be happy with you," Hotaru smiled thinly before adding. "We can't all take care of your parents like you did."
Stepping closer Chibi Usa inspected the constellation adorning the neck of the sapphire pseudo-Senshi. "Libra? And I thought I had Mommy issues."
Mercury held out her glass and the blue crystalline woman refilled the glass with smoothly brisk motions. "This isn't about that."
"But it is." The pink Senshi's grin grew in a flash of teeth. "Your whole thing is to... help the line of Serenity, including upgrading the Queen's Senshi. You want to make us... better."
Lady Saturn smirked at that. "I believe she would get along very well with my Father."
Mistress Mercury exhaled. Professor Tomoe was a mad scientist. He had been enthralled by an otherworldly entity and was working with their minions to bring their dread overlord to earth, including experimenting on his daughter.
She took a sip of her wine. "You agreed to meet with me. And since the Outers have not sprung out attacking me, nor has your mother has charged in with her scepter."
"Yes, mother's scepter," Chibi Usa chuckled, angling her head so the roses caught in the moonlight.
"And neither the demons nor... is the green haired one here."
Hotaru rolled her eyes. "Setsuna-Momma won't just show up if you say her name."
"In fairness, she's not exactly in her Setsuna body at the moment," Chibi Usa added before turning to Mercury. "You are correct; it is just us. You don't have to worry about Senshi, or Mother and her demons popping in."
The dainty pink-haired woman strode around the crystalline Senshi tableaux. "Though I do hope you understand why I am concerned about your intentions. But I suppose even you know what happened to the last villain who tried abducting and 'improving' me."
"Would you believe if I said I didn't want to earn our queen's wrath?" Mercury asked.
Chibi Usa simply turned to the milky semi-transparent jade crystalline Senshi. Faceted gem-cut eyes in a darker emerald shade of jade stared out without blinking. "You've gone too far for that, Akumi. Right now you're in damage control."
Mercury laughed. "That's what we've all been doing. I've taken measures, so have you. We both know what's coming."
Lady Saturn shifted her glaive. Purple motes sparked on the length of the edge. "You've blocked the Sight of the Gates."
Chibi Usa shook her head. "No, Akumi. You suspect what is coming; you fear it."
Mercury's gloved hand twitched as she gripped it. "But I'm not wrong!"
Weariness crossed the pink-haired girl's face. For a moment her features looked far older, almost stark and washed out. The roses in her hair seemed to be almost a crown, and her odangos were taller and almost arched back. "No... you're not. The rot you fear is real, but you look in the wrong direction."
"Our Queen is in danger of corruption and worse," Mercury hissed with the glee of someone proven right.
"Blinded by pride and cleverness," Lady Saturn sighed.
Mercury emptied her glass. "Don't' take that tone with me, Silence. We both know your purpose, how Queen Serenity the First wielded you in battle. Am I that out of line for daring to take measures to ensure the Line of Serenity continues?"
"Usagi is not her mother," Chibi Usa said almost absently, looking through the cut-and-sculpted crystal transparency that was Libra.
"Which is why I'm talking to her daughter."
The Moon Princess gave a pitying smile. "But what is it that you want?" She held a hand. "No, what do you expect me to help you with?"
"Even Serenity saw the need of making... questionable allies."
Brushing a rose back into place, the pink magical girl tilted her head. "Are we talking about perky demons or a certain dark magical girl complete with cold evening wear, sinister jewelry and transformed minions?"
"There are threats inside and outside, sources of corruption." Frost started to form along Mercury's glass.
Lady Saturn exhaled in a little bit of impatience.
"Maybe it's best that the Silence came. As all three of us have something in common.
"Given Chibi Usa and myself were changed via brainwashing and outright possession by dark eldritch forces maybe that's not the best comparison." Saturn flashed a smile.
"Yes, isn't that what you fret about happening to your queen?
The coiffed blue-haired woman sighed. "I'm aware of how I look."
"Good! It would be very cruel of your thralls to dress you this way as some sort of prank." Chibi Usa bowed her head to the two crystalline Senshi. "But on the other hand, it does mean you intended to go with the sapphire and ice, leather queen look."
Mercury clenched then relaxed her jaw. "What I mean is, that of anyone, you two would be aware of what it is like to fall, and can see the signs on both the queen and her Senshi. You know how insidious and seductive it can be, and that threats can sneak up in a friendly guise."
"Present company excluded?" Saturn remarked.
Chibi Usa looked between the minion who had been Mercury's mother and the one that had been her own mother's best friend. "Sure," she said, utterly deadpan.
"Laugh, but you came here, without tattling to the other Outers. You know I'm not just some slinkily-dressed cackling villain."
"By the standards of Mother's previous villains?" Chibi Usa crossed her palms.
"You're looking for allies." Saturn shook her head.
"You know I'll do anything for our Queen. Anything." Mistress Mercury gestured.
Following the gloved fingers, Chibi Usa poked Orion's jade flesh. It was unyielding. The Senshi gave only the slightest tilt of her head in response. Then the pink-haired girl spun and jabbed her finger into Mercury's solar plexus and hooked a cobalt blue high heel.
As Mercury tumbled to the pebbly beach, the two crystal Senshi moved, only to find Saturn stepping between them and their Mistress, lowering her glaive.
Chibi Usa made a point of examining her fingers. "Still flesh." She then snatched up Mercury's discarded wineglass.
"Going to level the hypocrisy card on me?" Mercury pulled herself up to her knees. "I've changed too."
"No," the pink girl smirked. "I expected you to be cautious with your own body. And I have no doubt you'll do anything for your Queen." Red eyes twinkled as she leaned forward. "The question is if you'll make your sacrifice worth it."
Mercury's eyes hardened.
"You claim our Queen needs to be more like her Mother to survive what is coming. Fine. Just keep in mind what the old queen did. The sacrifices she made."
"I mentioned the alliances."
"Grandmother carved up a world with a demon empress. What could you offer the likes of BlackSky?"
"Do you have anything to entice other powers? To even entice us?" Hotaru asked.
Mercury gave a sly smile. "You want a bribe..."
"You have to give something to keep our interest, beyond your artistic prowess," Chibi Usa glanced at the crystalline Senshi.
"You would rather have your mother fall in with the succubae than with us?"
The pink-haired girl giggled. "You forget where I come from."
"I'm aware of the future you escaped. Was that where Prince Endymion lived? Do you remember your father? Or did your memories switch to the actual future, after Murdock killed Mamoru?"
Crimson eyes hard, flat, Chibi Usa shook her head and then removed the rose over her left ear. "Oh no, I remember my sire. I remember Mamoru Chibia quite well."
Staring at the girl, Mercury accepted the rose. Despite herself, her hand shook and a thorn bit through her glove; a drop of blood hit the beach.
"She can bleed," Hotaru noted.
Smiling, Chibi Usa inhaled. "She is still human."
Mercury set her jaw. "What about you two then?"
"We're both the product of reincarnation. She's one of the doomsday weapons our Queen built," Chibi Usa pointed to herself. "And I'm my father's daughter."
Staring at the rose, the dark Senshi exhaled.
"Oh, illumination!" Hotaru smirked.
"Serenity the Third did not come from the past. You never had a past life to reincarnate. Except..."
Chibi Usa made a "hurry along" gesture by rolling her fingers.
"Except your past is our present. But only two of us stayed dead. And unless you're Venus's cat..." Mercury swore.
Chibi Usa snatched the rose back and put it in her hair.
"Mother wanted Mamoru back. She wished so hard," the pink-haired girl exhaled. "She wished rashly."
Mercury flicked some blood off her fingers and held out her hand. Orion placed another wineglass and filled it. She downed the glass then stared out over the water. "That's why you were such a little brat to Mamoru and to Usagi. You weren't just some punk from the future..."
Chibi Usa smirked. "I was the reincarnation of our dysfunctional little royal family."
"You telling me this isn't without strings, what's the catch?" Mercury asked.
Chibi Usa's smile grew in a flash of white teeth. "What makes you say that?"
"I can tell Usagi."
The pink haired girl giggled. "She'll believe you? The traitor? And even if she did, what does that give you? I could play innocent. Maybe I say you tricked me, invited me to a dark beach and then used a memory ray on me to wake up some past memories."
"You don't have any."
Hotaru stepped up. "Ah, clearly you aimed the ray at me, and Chibi Usa dived in."
"Yes," the pink-haired girl purred. "You wanted to awaken the dark memories of the first Saturn, the weapon that Serenity I had commissioned. That would fit with your plan to make us better, no?"
"That's not a bad idea," Mercury admitted.
Hotaru rolled her eyes.
Pondering, Mercury held out her glass to have it refilled by one of her minions. "You couldn't come back. That is Mamoru. Your Mantle as the Senshi of Earth... DarkStar had already replaced you. Setsuna had ensured that. She was the one who setup the ritual to transfer that power to you."
Chibi Usa's smile turned predatory as she leaned forward. "Remember, Puu didn't want DarkStar. She wanted a male with that power, with my power," she hissed, red eyes reflecting the moonlight. "But Murdock changed that plan. Maybe he thought another guy running around in a tux throwing roses would be too obvious."
"He wanted a succubus on our Senshi team," Mercury murmured.
"Oh, well, that too," Smirking, Chibi Usa shrugged.
"You do want to make a deal." Mercury idly rolled her glass.
"We're still talking," Chibi Usa resumed inspecting the artificial Senshi. "You are right; Mother is facing dangers."
"Must you humor her?" Hotaru remarked bouncing her glaive off her shoulder.
Chibi Usa nodded and stepped back from the gem girls. "We can use her help, their help."
"We?" Hotaru archly asked.
"My family," Chibi Usa waved away before turning to Mercury. "Yes, Grandmother would like you."
"I do think that Serenity the First was a more... forceful leader."
Chibi Usa smiled. "Quite right."
"What do you propose?"
Smiling, Chibi Usa looked up at the sky. "We both want the same thing. We both care about Usagi, maybe not for the same reasons, maybe we don't love her the same way."
Mercury sipped her wine. If this reincarnation story was true then it was a major... complication.
"But we know the dangers Serenity the Second faces. You look to her past, I," Chibi Usa brushed one of her roses. "To her future. We must ensure that."
"You propose an alliance?"
Chibi Usa stepped up and snatched the wineglass. "I am the heir to the queen you claim to serve. You should be glad I'm not demanding all three of you kneel before me."
Hotaru slowly lifted the Silence glaive and rotated it until she held it horizontally in her right hand mid-shaft.
"You know I can't do that."
Sniffing the red wine, Chibi Usa gave a distant smile. "It's been a while since I've been able to drink this. Let alone at our Queen's table."
Chibi Usa poured it out onto the beach. "I won't make demands of you. If you insist on playing the part of the sinister dark magical girl, who am I to stop you?" she asked, giving a dimpled smile.
Hotaru gave the pink-haired princess a sidelong glance.
"Right," Chibi Usa returned the glass.
Mercury had to wave off Orion from refilling her glass.
"There may be certain problems that I will need your advice on, or problems that you, and your... people can solve."
Mercury gave a sly smile. "Problems you know about but would be awkward for the innocent pink princess to get her white gloves dirty on?"
Chibi Usa bowed her head.
"And in return?" Mercury motioned for her minions to finally refill her glass and then more glassware.
"Protection," Chibi Usa gave a smile. "You want to save our Queen. Or at least prevent her from falling. I, for obvious reasons, agree. And you cannot protect her, at your best, if you get captured, purified, defeated, or killed."
Mercury had Orion and Libra step forward, each holding a filled wineglass. The two gem girls gave a deep, one-handed, curtsy not spilling a drop. "I knew someone of the line Serenity would value me for what I can offer."
"Despite my Queen's views, yes you have much to offer my family." Chibi Usa clinked her glass to Mercury's, while Hotaru reluctantly joined in.
Silvana lay spread before the redheaded demon. She leaned on the railing of a carved stone balcony that jutted out halfway up the slope of the Palace's cyclopean mountain foundation.
A wide river meandered through a sharply inclined valley. Glass buildings, twisting roads, plazas, stone temples, tree-lined avenues, towers, arboreal fountains, and forested parks marched up either slope. Branching aqueducts, rail bridges, vehicle viaducts, and pedestrian ways, and road bridges, linked both sides of the city at various elevations.
Inclined funicular railways trundled up and down either side of the city, going from the river side up towards the tips of the mountains that cradled Silvana. Near the chain's summits loomed several large estates that ranged from brooding stone compounds with terse gardens to elegantly storybook castles with massive elaborately sculpted greenery.
They were the houses of BlackSky's daughters, but none compared to the massive weight of the Palace itself. What had started as a spur of the Romwell Alps to the sides of the Phlegethon river had been isolated when the switch-backing river eroded the spur, forming an oxbow island.
In the early part of her reign, BlackSky had settled the island as a hunting preserve and Silvana grew around it.
As the city grew, the island at the base of the spire was partially expanded to a few square kilometers by filling in the downstream side of the island and redirecting the river outward.
The cutoff finger of rock was carved and built higher. Two hundred stories tall, with barracks, shops, orchards, parade grounds, libraries, amphitheatres, receiving rooms, and kilometers of tunnels, it was a city within a city.
Downstream the mountains drifted apart and the land widened into a river delta that took in more dockyards, rail yards, stockyards and shipyards. It was also where several of the broad landing fields and titanic hangers were situated that took care of the giant zeppelins that hovered over the sky.
Holding a fluted glass, Cecilia stepped up and took in the view. "I can see why Alexia was upset at being exiled."
Ranma snorted. Her crimson tresses were teased up, but with more body and shine than customary, and her makeup was darker, especially around her eyes and on her lips. However the real change was in her clothing. She wore a strapless, crimson gown with a tight cupping bodice, ruby lace side panels, and a black silk wrap over the flared ankle-length skirting.
A gauzy, almost translucent black floral patterned lace went from the top of the bodice to a thin black neckband and down her arms to terminate on a loop over each middle finger. Obsidian teardrop earrings complemented a small ebony tiara with jet insets was nestled just behind her horns.
"It's smaller than I expected." Cecilia took a sip of the clear liquor.
The redhead gave a sweeping gesture to the carved, terraced, cultivated, and sculpted slopes below them. Their balcony was on the upper third, well into the "Upper Palace" territory. Far at the bottom was a bustling little town that nearly encircled the spire in a crescent contained by a curtain wall that bounded the island.
The sky was almost as busy as the streets and rivers and canals. Everywhere was full of bustle and movement.
Cecilia smiled. "You do know most of this mountain is still solid rock, right? Hundreds of years and..."
"They've got plenty of room to grow?" Ranma asked, shifting a bit in her fairly heavy dress. She glanced over at her sister's more breezy and sleek dark purple gown with a bit of jealousy.
Cecilia shrugged. "There's, what, half a million people in this city? And it's one of the largest."
"I'm sure if Eve were here she'd have an explanation about the logistics of feeding that many hungry demons. That many mouths, that many lives," the redhead shook her head.
"You could ask that librarian." Cecilia offered. "Mira's very helpful."
"Mother's been picking her brain. Before we go down to check out schools." Ranma shook her head.
Cecilia smiled. "It shows Grandmother isn't taking this by halves."
The redhead nodded. "Still..."
She glanced over. "Where did you get that drink?"
"The maids." Cecilia looked back and waved to two young women standing just inside the polished wood-paneled sitting room the balcony connected too.
The two maids stepped out and bowed. Curled horns poked out of fine golden hair that cascaded down their backs. They had maroon eyes and a slight purple tinge to their skin. Lace and ruffles edged their red satin uniforms, while frilled aprons adorned their skirts that reached some distance down their stocking-clad thighs.
Their wings were folded against their shoulders and purple tails, adorned with little ruffles, swished with a lazy synchronicity. Their tails swished in synchronism and they bowed.
"DarkStar, Cecilia we are at your service," they said in nearly one voice.
Ranma nodded to them. "Now, now don't be too bowing and scraping."
"It is our job," Alia said in slightly accented English, while Ellia got a tray of snacks.
"Sure, but I think I'm going to get plenty of worship while I'm over here," Ranma sighed.
"Because of the DarkStar stuff?" Cecilia asked.
Ranma nodded. "I'm sure there's memorials in my honor."
"Shrines, actually," Ellia said as she offered some sliced liver braised in bacon.
"This is what I mean." The redhead frowned. "This visit isn't about me."
"Putting more pressure on my shoulders, Daughter" Nodoka lightly said as she stepped out onto the balcony. The light wind breezed over her dress company uniform.
Ranma winced. "Sorry, Mom."
Nodoka accepted an offered glass. "It's part of the deal. If I'm to be turned, by your grandmother then this is part of it." She swept her hands around them.
The redhead allowed a nod.
"You're looking fancy," she stated.
"You did get the calling card?" Nodoka asked.
Ranma looked confused.
"She was busy, in the other suite."
"Ah, with Miss Tsukino?" Nodoka chuckled.
"She is enjoying being able to put her hair down."
"Literally?" Cecilia asked.
"No, but what she did is a good look for her." Ranma said as she tilted her head. "Is that?"
Ellia and Alia exchanged a look. "Two Daughters are arriving."
Going back inside, Cecilia looked over the immaculate suite. Several of her daughters were lounging on a set of leather couches and had perked up, their tails swishing.
Hair still wet, and wearing shower robes, Nariko and Akane had exited their room. "Where's Nabiki?" Akane asked.
"With Desiree and Meredith," Cecilia said.
Akane nodded. "Should we get ready?" Akane asked.
"Is this like a formal event or..." Following her sister, Ranma shook her head. "No, if it were you two wouldn't be giving light refreshments?" she asked the twins.
Ellia and Alia bowed their heads. "Yes, Mistress. The Censor was quite clear."
Nodoka handed her redheaded daughter the calling card and told her granddaughters that, yes, they should be getting dressed.
Ranma eyed it. The thing was written in looping Silvan Latin. Just as she finished reading, the twins ran over to the suite's polished honey maple double doors and opened them.
The first demoness who entered was familiar to them, one of the two Daughters who had attended the "family dinner" back on earth. The older of the two.
She had teased, curled, gently shifting tresses in shades of reds, oranges, and yellows. A gleaming ruby gown showcased her voluptuous figure.
She had a strong chin-line and a sharp smile. Three pairs of gleaming silver horns cupped her wafting hair. Her eyes burned with orange fire like the doors to a furnace. The demoness strode into the suite on gleaming hooves and gave a confident wave with a hand adorned in silver talons.
She was CloudFire; a daughter of BlackSky and a senior member of the empire's administration. She had lands, retainers, personal troops and a powerbase of political, martial, magical, and demonic power. She wore that confident, savagely indulgent power, like a mantle over her shoulders.
She was also very much the little sister compared to the other daughter who had entered the suite.
That demoness was taller than her sister, but not excessively so. A hair more slender than CloudFire, the additional height gave her a bit of a more statuesque proportions. Red lips were curled into a smile that gave a glimpse of white, somewhat pointed teeth.
Glossy ebony hair tumbled down her shoulders and graced the top of her silver trimmed black gown adorned with carved golden accents and jewelry clasped over her wrists and neck. Golden hooves stepped out and her tail was black with similarly engraved gold fins.
Obsidian horns reflected the lights of the room and forest green eyes scanned everyone and the room seemed to freeze as if she was measuring all the succubae and the one human.
Unlike the sweltering shimmering presence CloudFire emanated, the taller woman simply was unyielding, implacable, obdurate power that felt as deeply rooted as the mountains around Silvana. There was not quite the effortless wielding of power that BlackSky simply exuded, though she had a casual confidence that made it clear she was her mother's daughter.
Ranma frowned at the familiar, more than the familial, feel that all of BlackSky's daughters seemed to have.
"A pleasure," she purred in a deep resonant voice, and then bowed her head.
Putting her glass down, Nodoka strode up to them and bowed her head. "Censor CloudFire, a pleasure to meet you again." She then met the older demon's green gaze before bowing, again succubus style: back slightly inclined, neck further inclined. "Praetor DawnStrike, this is a pleasant surprise."
DawnStrike nodded. "Bold, but polite."
"I told you," CloudFire smirked.
"If we are to share a mother, we should be somewhat conversant," Nodoka stated.
Tail flicking, DawnStrike circled the human woman. "We might become siblings, but we would not be peers."
"From what I have learned, as the eldest remaining Daughter, you have no peers, or more specifically, those with comparable power. Perhaps one of your siblings who has founded their own House, such as RedStorm would qualify, but even she is your younger."
DawnStrike tilted her head. "It has been a long time since Mother has taken a daughter."
Nodoka nodded. "I am aware of House Legate AshRain's age. I suppose it's fitting that the youngest commands several of the legions where the eldest is... Praetor is analogous to a Secretary, or Minister, of State. Diplomacy and foreign policy?"
CloudFire laughed. "I would say both Dawn and Ash deal with foreign entanglements at Mother's pleasure." She gave the twins a smile as the two started handing out drinks and noshes.
She also took a moment to introduce herself again to Cecilia's daughters and compliment their hairstyles.
"But pardon my distraction," Nodoka again bowed her head, a bit shallower than before. "Allow me to introduce my daughters, DarkStar and Cecilia."
Ranma gave a salute with her glass and was then elbowed by her sister. The redhead sighed and then bowed her head and shoulders before dipping into a slight curtsy.
Cecilia's did much the same though smoother and with at bit more obeisance. Though the tighter nature of her gown made her curtsy more notional than an actual lifting of skirts.
CloudFire chuckled while DawnStrike gave a fond, but distant smile. Tail slowly swishing, she circled around Ranma. "DarkStar," the tall demoness went down to one knee.
"I wonder if she'll ask to borrow a sword," Cecilia whispered while Ranma shot her a glance.
DawnStrike uttered a single laugh before sobering. "Niece, it has been a long time."
Ranma blinked. "We've... met." The redhead put out a hand and helped DawnStrike rise.
"Yes, during the Invasion."
"Ah," Nodoka stated.
CloudFire sniggered as she helped herself to another glass from Alia. "Puts things into perspective, no? Become one of us and you will have... potential."
"She already does," DawnStrike said, an edge to her voice as she looked between Ranma and Nodoka. "You brought DarkStar back."
"It was another who turned her into a succubus and awakened her," Nodoka corrected.
DawnStrike's eyes flicked. "No, you brought her back," the elder demoness stated, emphasizing the last word.
Nodoka put an arm around Ranma and hugged her. "I merely did my best to help her accept her responsibilities and be happy."
"We owe her," DawnStrike turned to her sister.
CloudFire's blazing gaze swept over their guests. "Why do you think Mother wants her?"
"That is Mother's prerogative, and mother's debt." DawnStrike met her sister's eyes. "We still owe her."
"I'm sure AshRain, Felisia, WhiteSea, Aurelia and TwilightEmber can be called upon to help," CloudFire offered.
DawnStrike was contemplative. "Our baby sister's support is obvious, and Felisia is enough of a traditionalist to go on bent knee for Mother's favorite granddaughter."
"She's already organizing the grand festival," CloudFire smirked.
"For me?" Ranma sighed.
"Oh no, niece, about you," CloudFire purred.
"As for the others..." DawnStrike shrugged. "If you can get Twilight away from her plants perhaps she would come."
"I would find it more likely that EmeraldFog, Valecia, or MarrowPowder would return."
"Valecia does periodically check in from her exploration mission," DawnStrike stated.
"And Emerald is not fully retired, she is only a bit younger than you," AshRain added.
"That's a lot of daughters grandmother's had," Ranma noted.
CloudFire laughed. "Oh you are a treat. Given how long Mother's lived? That's not very many. Growing up as broodlings, none of us were surrounded by sisters even close to our age."
DawnStrike let the comment slide. "Mother had us with greater frequency when she was younger," she noted, finally accepting a drink from Ellia.
"And my sister only listed the peers of us who are still alive and not running their own Houses." DawnStrike downed the glass and gave a reserved look.
"Even adding our late or our independent sisters merely trebles the number of Daughters." CloudFire smiled, brightly and full of teeth. "Taking all that into account, Mother is due."
"And those of us that remain owe our new sister," DawnStrike declared. She paused then bowed her head to Nodoka. "Assuming you consent and accept."
"Oh, she will," CloudFire smirked.
"You seem optimistic Censor CloudFire," Nodoka stated, adding Cecilia to her hug.
"You are here," DawnStrike noted.
CloudFire gave her older sister another mild smirk. "Beyond that, it was her idea to ask Mother to become her daughter."
DawnStrike's brows rose. "My, how bold." She gave a salute with her new glass.
"I still need to know what I'm getting into," Nodoka said releasing the embrace. "What the change will mean."
"Firstly, Mother is doing it. You'll be subject to her skill and artistry," CloudFire looked between the Major and DarkStar and Cecilia. "And she has good materials to work with."
Nodoka took a long pull from her glass.
"But you're aware of that," DawnStrike studied the officer. "You're doing this to be DarkStar's mother."
"And my three other daughters."
DawnStrike's horns dipped slightly in a bow. "But you're doing this to be a brood mother, and not a broodling."
"I have spent time around newly turned daughter succubae, I'm confident in BlackSky's abilities to accelerate my maturity." Nodoka paused. "If I were to accept her."
"Not a bad assumption," DawnStrike sipped gingerly from the fluted glass.
"That may test even Mother's skills, rapid development without flaw," CloudFire paced about the room her hooves chiming.
"I would say the challenge was why grandmother became intrigued by the whole idea," Cecilia said.
"Mother does enjoy a challenge," DawnStrike looked out the doors onto the city below them. "And a new daughter to mother a very old granddaughter, there is symmetry there."
"I'm not that..." Ranma shook her head. "Reincarnation's confusing."
"I wouldn't know," DawnStrike said, a bit smugly.
"What was it like?" the redhead glanced down at her gown. "What was I like?"
"The Invasion?" DawnStrike swirled her glass. "Hubris. Our House was young, Mother was in ascent. She had..." the elder demoness brushed back a bit of her black hair. "She had settled... questions some of my sisters had argued, viciously argued, and we faced the world, worlds, unified once more."
"And you slunk along with Vephar and decided to take over Earth," a young voice said as the doors opened.
A young pre-teen girl with dusky skin, crimson eyes, and short, deep green hair swept into the room in a dark maroon gown with emerald edging. She carried a tall garnet-sphere topped silver staff and was in the van for a taller, older-looking woman in a far more elaborate gown.
Which was a floor length, bell-shaped cream skirt with red trim. It was puffed out with a layered red overskirt with gold accenting. Above that were blue ruffles that went to mid thigh, with a shorter red ruffle around her waist as outermost layer of skirting.
She wore cream-colored elbow length gloves that also matched the shade of sleek, poofy-shouldered top to the dress. Blue trim ruffled the inner edges the gown's shoulders and around the back of her neck, which was surrounded by a ruffled red choker bearing a golden crescent moon.
Matching moons hung from earrings, her golden tiara, and there was a rather elaborate one nestled in the front of the red bow adorning her chest. Her blonde hair was done up with braided odangos sweeping back to hold up a waft of golden hair above the nape of her neck.
CloudFire and DawnStrike bowed their horns. "Princess Serenity, Lady Pluto, a pleasure to meet you again," CloudFire stated. "This is my elder sister-"
"Oh, we've met," DawnStrike stated. She nodded to the diminutive Senshi. "You're looking well."
"And you're looking about the same," Pluto smiled.
"And you're looking more... Usagi." Ranma closed in on her.
The Moon Princess smiled. Her face looked younger, or at least less severe, and her tresses were more golden than the platinum silver she wore in her Serenity guise. "Well, you were right. Over here, I can let my hair down. Uh, metaphorically."
"The Lunarians did have style," DawnStrike noted, her forest green eyes pensive.
"Usagi, this is Praetor DawnStrike, one of my aunts. She knew me, well, back then."
Usagi returned DawnStrike's' bow. "I see. You were there when..."
"Vephar betrayed us, slew DarkStar, tried to take Earth for herself, and when my mother joined forces with yours to destroy Vephar and all her issue? Oh yes, I was there." DawnStrike's smile revealed her surprisingly dainty fangs.
"I was more curious what I was like back then," Ranma grumbled into her glass. "Not ancient history."
"But Lady DarkStar, that is ancient history," Pluto gave a saccharine grin. "One that's been dramatized, isn't that right Censor?"
CloudFire frowned at the ostensible human. "There have been quite a few operas and plays about the tragedy of DarkStar and Mother's retribution. Not to mention the novels, historicals, pulps, and chapbooks. A century or so back two broadsheets actually had competing dailies of your adventures in the mystical lands of Invasion-era Earth."
Ranma shook her head and turned to DawnStrike. "And how accurate were they?"
The green-eyed demoness gave a little smile. "What do you think?"
"Was she prancing about as a pretty magical princess?" Usagi brightly asked.
"Oh, very much." CloudFire laughed.
"Now, I know how Minako felt." Ranma grumbled.
"I dunno, Codename Sailor V was a fun game." The blonde gave a mischievous grin and swished her skirts closer to CloudFire. "Were there any games made about DarkStar? Or would that be too morbid to have a game out of a tragedy?"
Ranma gave a pleading look to her eldest Aunt.
CloudFire looked thoughtful. "Well... there was a murder mystery game that was popular oh... millennia ago. You'd arrange it at a party and had to find out which of the guests was really the sinister assassin who had killed DarkStar. Didn't you used to host those games, Dawn? I do so remember being invited when I was a little girl."
DawnStrike gave a slight nod. Then a deeper nod of apology to Ranma. "I did miss you, I shared a fraction of Mother's sorrow, and it came out in strange ways over the years."
"Was I really that special?" Ranma's tail curled around her skirting.
"You still are," Nodoka and Usagi echoed as they both moved in to hug the redhead, and their arms nearly got tangled as they embraced her.
CloudFire and Cecilia laughed as the trio sorted out a bit into a group hug that caused the two princesses wide dresses to press and temporarily deform a bit. Ranma's tail swished about.
DawnStrike smiled. "You were not with us long, but you made an impression, so did your mother-" she nodded to Nodoka. "your first mother, Lilith."
As the hug broke apart, Ranma looked to Pluto. "It wasn't just Serenity who was fond of me?"
The green-haired girl smirked. "Yes, in either incarnation you attract both demons and Lunar royalty."
"Puu!" Usagi chided.
"This was before your time," Pluto assured. "You were born about five hundred years after the Invasion."
"Yeah, yeah, my mother, well my queen Mother settled down after the Unification wars." Usagi did wonder exactly who Queen Serenity the First settled down with as it was not like there was mention of Serenity having a king consort.
"Maybe we should get something to eat?" CloudFire asked.
The twin maids perked up. "There's much on offer that can be delivered to your suite," Ellia offered.
"Or we can arrange for a private table in one of the Palace's restaurants or dining room on one of the higher levels," Alia completed.
"Will Mother be attending?" DawnStrike asked.
The twins looked to each other, their tails curling. "We do not believe she will be returning to the Palace before morning, Mistress."
"You don't know mother's schedule?" CloudFire asked, a ghost of a tease in her voice.
"I'm not tied to her apron strings. I do not know all of her comings and goings."
"She wears an apron?" Ranma blurted, then managed to somehow pale
"She does bake, on occasion," DawnStrike smiled
"We have a tour of some... well... schools tomorrow. Academies and the like," Nodoka looked almost confused. "I understand the mechanics of the change but..."
"You would be young, for a time," CloudFire rubbed her hands. "As we said a challenge, but an opportunity too."
"And going over the Contract," Ranma glanced to Usagi.
Usagi gave her hand a reassuring squeeze.
"Prudent, if paranoid," CloudFire allowed.
"Censor, we are guests of a demonic empire... that invaded our homeworld," Usagi said with a perky smile.
"Yes, I suppose magical girls do take that seriously." CloudFire's burning eyes went to Ranma. "And you are one of them as much as you are one of us."
"It's more concern for my mother," Ranma admitted.
Nodoka slipped up behind the redhead. "I mean no disrespect Censor, Praetor, but I do find my daughter's concerns heartwarming."
DawnStrike waved her hand. "No, we understand. Consenting to an agreement, that one understands, is a key value to our society."
"We are quite civilized," CloudFire gave a bright, sharp smile.
"I would agree with that," Pluto nodded. "Far more civilized than the other invading entities my queen, both queens, faced."
"Coming from you, I'll take pride in that," DawnStrike said, diplomatically with a little salute of her glass.
Pluto gave a smug little expression.
"With Mother being indisposed, we can decide on dinner. I do know little restaurant just upslope of the War College."
DawnStrike smirked. "Yes, you know every place. You and Felisia."
CloudFire ignored her sister. "They serve steppe style grilled meats where the wait staff go from table to table with the flesh still speared on the spits and slice on demand."
"They have an adequate wine cellar," DawnStrike agreed. "And my sister understates the service. They have at least a dozen different cuts of various species. Nothing sapient," she added.
Usagi smiled at Ranma's interested, and hungry reaction to the sheer number of meats. The redhead might be in a fancy gown, but she was still a young demoness.
"Shall we invite your daughters?" CloudFire looked to Cecilia and Ranma. "I am certain we can get a large enough table for everyone."
"They still need to get dressed, at least two of my girls," Ranma said.
Cecilia waved a hand. "Oh we can get gowns for them." She smiled to the twins. "Alia, Ellia do you think you can help?"
Both brightened. "Of course mistress!"
"And not just DarkStar's daughters. Cecilia's would need some too."
Cecilia smiled. "We'd also love to meet your mate Liviana again, and possibly your mistress Drusa, or any of your daughters." She bowed her head to DawnStrike. "And forgive my ignorance, but any of your family would be wonderful to meet as well."
"So polite," CloudFire smiled.
"She is, hard to believe she came from that side of the Family," DawnStrike nodded. "Alas it will be just the two of us tonight."
"It can still be a good time," Usagi brightly said.
"My, you are eager," CloudFire nodded.
"If it helps draw Ranma out of her shell." The blonde leaned forward. "She is very self conscious of the whole DarkStar notoriety."
"A private room at the restaurant might help," CloudFire said.
"But you should face that popularity sometime," DawnStrike told Ranma.
The redhead sighed. "I suppose, if I'm to keep visiting here."
Nodoka cleared her throat. "If I am to be changed. By your grandmother. Made like her other daughters. Then I will be close to my big... sisters. And this place will be my home too."
Ranma nodded and squared her shoulders. "I suppose I'll have to steel myself and submit to delicious meat."
Usagi slipped up next to the succubus, her gown pressing against Ranma's. "And afterwards we can all play some games."
DawnStrike tilted her head slightly.
"Fun games, not tragic ones like the Preator's old ones."
The suite was silent for a moment.
Usagi's face reddened. "No, not that type of fun."
"Not yet at least?" Pluto murmured.
End Chapter 3
And a few more characters show up and get... job offers. Congrats to those who guessed the real reason Mamoru was not reincarnated (namely that he was reincarnated, just not in the same body).
Thanks to DCG, Ellf, Kevin D Hammel, Henry Stickman, and Toxinvictoria for their help with the corrections. And special thanks to J.St.C.Patrick for giving this an especially detailed check.
Also, my DeviantArt page has some especially cool art of
Ranma and Usagi being presented to BlackSky,
and some other art for other projects.
And speaking of other projects. Invisible Hand is written (all 4 chapters) and is being proofread.
And the drafts of the two chapters of "Secret Flowers, Sheltered Willows" (aka that Geisha Ranma story) are also nearly done.