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 2:  Betrayed Consequences

Chapter 1:  Sanguine Salutation

Formerly: Respect and Reliability(i)


             


             Willard International Consulting Cadet Kuno bit her lip as she read the briefing report again. The document fell to the tray in front of her seat after she finished. Sighing, she looked out the window of the Company 717 jet. She had read the document twice during the Northbound flight, and had been briefed in person by a blank-faced Colonel before leaving the 14th Training and Development Grounds.


             The young woman unconsciously shifted in her seat. After sixteen months of constant, daily use her sidearm had become an extension of her body. It was also far less bulky than her rifle. She flipped over to the second item in the briefing packet. Unlike the terse text of the WIC document, this was a personal letter. The handwriting was feminine and a bit sloppy, but it was familiar. The attached photographs were even more disheartening.


             After reading that letter again, she turned her attention to the others on the plane. It seemed a more solid activity than worrying about her... family. Normally, she spent her leave time on base training or studying, but this... this warranted returning home. She then got up and made her way to the bathroom.


             Unlike her experience at the 14th, no one had the brown trim of Recruitment and Training Section on their uniforms. In this plane the, black of Operations dominated, though she could make out a few agents wearing the green of Science and Technology Section. In the last couple rows were a couple agents with dark violet trim, marking them as Communications and Cryptography. Kodachi's eyes caught a lone officer with the orange trim of Historical Research at the last row near the cramped bathroom.


             He looked up with curiosity, which she fully understood. She was the only cadet on the plane, by far the most junior member here. The others on the plane had to wonder why someone like her was on this flight.


             She smirked at her reflection after she finished her business. She was certain that some of the Operations officers had to know why she was here. After all, they had to be briefed on the Pattern D... situation, too.


             


            ***************


             


             "What's wrong, honey?" Ranma asked as she sat down next to her youngest daughter. The brood mother saw the young demon fingering a set of keys and guessed what the problem was. Her first guess was bad dreams. She was having her own... odd dreams.


             "I've been trying; I really have," the powder-blue haired demon said.


             "You can tell me, Nabiki." Ranma assured. She automatically wrapped her arm around her daughter's waist.


             The young teen gave a fanged smile. "I am Nabiki." She looked down at her pink skirt and pink accented white-blouse. "Aren't I?"


             "You're who you want to be," Ranma said with a smile. It seemed too straightforward, but given her own changes Ranma was starting to see the wisdom in that stance.


             "I want to be..." Nabiki closed her blue eyes.


             "You can drive your car. Sure, you'll have to move the seat way up, but you can do it, and the Company can take care of the paperwork."


             "Put my age back to seventeen then. Yeah, I look that old," Nabiki laughed. "Will fit right in with me going back to school."


             Ranma raised an eyebrow.


             "I can't even reach the pedals! I had to move my seat to use my own car. As for school, I don't even look fifteen!"


             "We'll work around it. I don't look nineteen. but I go into bars," Ranma reminded.


             The sad succubus gave her mother a sardonic look. "Mom, when you wear your leathers you look like a twenty-something biker babe."


             "Maybe that's the solution to your problems. A nice motorcycle. That way you won't have to worry about pedals as much" Ranma joked.


             "Can I get it in pink?" Nabiki smirked back.


             "Err... talk to your father."


             "He did make plenty off of those land deals with the Drake." Nabiki nodded..


             "You're not serious are you?"


             "Whatever do you mean?" Nabiki innocently sais.


             Ranma sighed, her youngest was taking lessons from her oldest again. "You know what I mean, young lady. You're adorable, smart, and manipulative."


             "Of course I am. I’m a succubus!"


             "Feeling better?" Ranma asked with a little grin.


             "Hey..." Nabiki blinked. "I guess so. I'm still worried about school and stuff."


             "You have time. The others are still recovering," Ranma hugged.


             "Yeah, Aurora and Akane –well- they've got mates to help them."


             "I think you're being premature on Ucchan and Aurora," Ranma said, noting the jealousy in Nabiki's voice.


             "Just because they haven't had sex yet doesn't mean they're not going to. They're not the only couple being bashful." Nabiki dryly remarked.


             "Yeah," Ranma coughed. "Um, what about school?"


             Nabiki sighed. "If you don't want me to get a pink hog just tell me."


             Ranma narrowed her eyes. "Maybe later."


             "Fine," Nabiki then fidgeted with her hair bows. "I can't go back to school as Nabiki Tendo. I'm also a bit too young."


             "You don't want to go to high school?"


             Nabiki nervously fidgeted and leaned onto her mother.


             Ranma looked at her unsure daughter. Nabiki was getting better, but her confidence was still fragile.


             "I do... but junior high may be easier," Nabiki confessed.


             Ranma smiled thinly. "You're not one to take the easy way. If you were I'd be talking to Yuki."


             "I'm still sweet and cute," the young demon reminded.


             "Sweet? You're a manipulative, devious little demon who did what she had to do to survive and hold onto herself."


             Nabiki blinked. "You... sound... proud."


             "Well of course I do." Ranma gave a fanged grin to her daughter. "Your little scam put Alexia just where I wanted her."


             "All I did was make sure the best mother would win." Nabiki's smirk seemed too malevolent for her makeup and hairstyle. She was then hugged by her purring mother. "Mom, I wasn't trying to be cute!"


             "Oh, sorry." Ranma blushed. She then paused at the ringing sound coming out of her pants. She then pulled out a slim piece of metal and plastic. She scowled at the device.


             Nabiki was curious as to how her mother had managed to fit the cell-phone in there. The pockets in Ranma's leather pants were largely decorative.


             "Really? She's coming back on leave. Yes, I'm sure Nariko will be very happy," Ranma paused, talking into the phone. "Jacob... you did brief her right? No, I know you'd give her a bunch of files or something, but did you actually give her any pictures? Something to drive home that her big brother's now a succubus." Ranma then listened to Jacob's explanations. "I see."


             "Kodachi's coming back?" Nabiki asked with wide eyes.


             Still holding her company phone to her ear, Ranma turned to Nabiki. "Yes she is. Why? You know something about her?"


             "Spoiled, haughty brat. Unstable too," Nabiki stated.


             "The Company really knows how to pick 'em." Ranma muttered.


             "Well, I guess she's probably gotten better. WIC training did help Kasumi, after all."


             "I can see Kasumi scowling at that," Ranma remarked.


             "Kodachi never did blow up a science lab, though there were plenty of rumors about what she did to win that gymnastics tournament."


             "Oh dear," Ranma turned back to her phone. "Jacob, you sure Kodachi can handle this?"


            The redhead's purple eyes flicked as she listened to his response. "Right. I'll let her meet Nariko first then."


             "Mom, talk to Nariko first," Nabiki advised. "Tatewaki did not get along with his sister."


             "Good idea," Ranma said as she looked at her daughter's concerned face. "Jacob, I'm going to call back after I talk to Nariko. Okay, good." She then hung up the phone and slipped it back into her pants.


             Ranma then left out the back door of the house and, with Nabiki following her, walked to the dojo. Inside she found her other kids training in their normal Lycra unitards.


             "Hi Mom!" Nariko said while her sisters gave similar greetings. Ukyou and Aurora stopped their sparring and looked over at their mother.


             "Is something wrong?" Nariko's mate asked. She noticed the odd expression on her mother's face too.


             "Nariko... your sister is on leave, would you like to see her?"


             "My sister?" Nariko blinked. "Oh yes... her." She bit her lower lip. "I sent her a letter. That's why she's coming. I also put in some photos."


             "Nari-chan, you didn't put any... racy photo in it?" Ranma asked as delicately as she could.


             "I wanted to but Akane advised against it," Nariko blushed.


             "Really?" Ranma blinked and turned to Akane with a raised eyebrow.


             "I am trying to be nice," Akane said. "Is that so unbelievable?"


             "A little bit," Aurora noted, while Nabiki coughed.


             "No, it's great that you're being a good girl," Ranma reassured.  After Alexia had taken Akane and brainwashed her into being a demonic daughter, twice,  things had been a bit delicate.


             "This is Nariko's little human sister?" Ukyou asked.


             "Yes, she's a cadet with the Company," Ranma replied.


             "I wonder what the Company does to it's new recruits," Ukyo pondered.


             "Couldn't be worse than what we went though. We could have some fun," Aurora muttered with a sly gin.


             "Don't you even think about starting that again," Ukyou sighed.


             "Oh come on, it would be fun."


             "Fun? A demoness shouldn't call the hazing the Assembly of Man gives to its new acolytes fun."


             "No picking on my little sister," Nariko growled.


             "Yes Nariko," Aurora said with her head slightly bowed.


             "I guess you're ready. I mean you sent that letter, without telling me," Ranma said.


             "Sorry Mommy, I thought you wouldn't be interested. Like when I talk to my father," Nariko softly said.


             "So it's fine if she comes over today?" Ranma steeled herself. She knew her daughter was trying to be cute. Nariko only called her Mommy now when she wanted something.


             A smile that was quite out of place on Nariko's face momentarily appeared before being replaced by her normally sweet expression. "Yeah, it'll be fun."


             


            ***************


             


             A pale man morosely looked down the aisles as he made his way through the store. He felt honored that the Master had given him this task. The Path of the Will was depending on him to memorize the layout of the building.


             He stopped his cart with a confused expression and wandered into the storage section. One of the workers politely ushered him back into the store proper. The teenage girl helpfully suggested that the disheveled man check out aisle five. That was where the store kept it's selection of board games.


             The pale man smiled at the young woman. He sincerely hoped that she was not working tomorrow, but that would be a Saturday. As he pretended to look through board games he replayed the prophecy in his head.


             Innocence would be their lure, and with it they would capture Her. Numbers were irrelevant. If they did nothing billions would die. Compared to that, the patrons of a single toy store were....


             He blinked and added a board game to his cart. They would not be insignificant. Their sacrifice would stop the greatest threat to humanity. A monster that wreathed herself in the form of an angel. She truly was a queen of lies. She was no savior.


             Once again, the pale man thanked the Master for providing him with the clarity to see the truth. He also thanked the book that had revealed the truth to them all. It was of no consequence what the world thought of them. Their mission was to save humanity, not be loved by it.


             


            ***************


             


             Kodachi controlled her breathing as she knocked on the door. Flanking her were two operations agents that kept giving each other knowing smiles. The cadet was getting worried. Her briefing said that the... brood her sister was in was friendly enough.


             However, Colonel Edwards, the Colonel Jacob "Executor" Edwards, himself had very sternly given a set of rules when dealing with these demons. Kodachi wondered what these demons had done to warrant such treatment. This was beyond what was normally done with Registered Non-Humans, even with those that worked as Company Freelancers.


             This brood, including her former brother, had to be very valuable to the Company. Kodachi knocked again and the door opened, revealing the red-eyed demon that multiple briefings asserted was her sibling. The cadet studied the Pattern-D. The pale skin, envious proportions, lack of human imperfections, and strange eyes hinted at the girl's true nature. Kodachi flinched when she noticed the expression change on the demon's face.


             "Sis!" Nariko happily cried as she jumped forward and embraced the startled agent.


             Kodachi's arms were pinned to her sides. As the unexpectedly warm and soft body constricted the cadet's body, her hand automatically tried to reach for her sidearm.


             "Now, now sis, play nice," Nariko mischievously whispered into her sister's ear before breaking the hug. She knew all about her sister's tricks.


             To the amusement of the pair of agents that escorted her, Kodachi shuddered at the contact. "You...  my... sister?" she blurted out, not regaining her composure.


             "Can you please come in before getting all snooty?" Nariko asked keeping her tone pleasant.


             "Father's not here? I'm not surprised. You don't even live with him anymore, not like he'd want to help." Kodachi said as she entered the Tendo house.  It was spacious, far more than the barracks she had been living in, but it was far smaller than the house she had grown up in.


             Nariko slowly turned to face her sister again. The serene innocence was gone from her face, and when she spoke it was flat and direct. "Insult Father again, and you will regret it."


             "What? Did he suddenly become father of the year?"


             "Yes," Nariko stated. "He saved me. When no one else would help me he was there." Her voice wavered at this last part.


             "How ironic." Kodachi sighed. "I screw up and get shipped off to military school, but his golden boy becomes a succubus, and suddenly father becomes perfect and supportive. Lovely. Does he still see harlots that resemble mother or does he simply bed your new mother?"


             Kodachi suddenly found her legs swept out from under her. Training kicked in; she tried to keep her balance.  She did get her hand on her sidearm. Her retention lessons kicked in and she kept pressure on her weapon, but her head slammed onto the floor jarring her vision for a second.

 

            Her gun was ripped out of her hands as she was knocked over. When it refocused, she found all of her limbs pinned and a spade-ended tail hovering over her torso.


             Pity marked Nariko's face as it loomed over her sister's. "You're still not ready to be an agent."


             "Whorish bitch!" Kodachi spat.


             "Wonder if Red's got any beer here," Gabriel said as he walked by the fighting sisters.


             "I'm not sure I want to look in that fridge," Sophie cautioned as she followed her partner to the kitchen. "Cleanup hasn't recovered many complete bodies these last few missions."


             "What's going on?" Kasumi asked stopping her troops before they could open the refrigerator.


             "Just some sibling rivalry, Ma'am," Gabriel replied.


             "I see." Kasumi then walked over to the foyer and told the two sisters to go outside if they were going to make a mess.


             Nariko nodded and then dragged her sister, who unsuccessfully tried to get her gun back, to the back yard.  It was hard because not only did the demon know the Company training on weapon retrievals, but she also had a far broader knowledge of various arm and wrist locks.  It was frustrating to be treated like an unruly student.


             Kodachi finally freed her wrist from Nariko's grip, and scowled at the redhead lounging on a loveseat on the back porch. "You're the brood mother."


             "At least you can figure out that much," Nariko sniffed.


             "Nari-chan, you said you wanted to meet your sister alone," Ranma said rising from her seat.


             "First impressions are very important," Nariko agreed.


             "I suppose so. When I first met Kasumi she was planning to kill me," Ranma said.


             "When is father coming?" Nariko asked.


             "He should be on his way," Ranma replied.


             Kodachi frowned at the lack of weight in her holster. She tried to keep her face neutral, but in addition to that failing her hand flexed.


             "I guess you've got a ways before graduation," Ranma noted.


             Kodachi's gaze hardened. It became even colder when the redhead started walking around her with a critical eye.


             "You lost your weapon. That's just shameful," Ranma said. "You're alert, that's good, but you're still too excitable."


            "Good eye, Red," Kasumi smirked as she held Kodachi's sidearm in her hands. "Our cadet here is still more in the academic part of her training. She needs more field experience."


             "She does have the cold and still body language down though," Ranma laughed.


             "Indeed." Kasumi then handed the gun back to Kodachi.


             "You're Lieutenant Tendo aren't you, Ma-am?" Kodachi asked after holstering her weapon.


             "Yes, and you should be grateful for this opportunity. Most cadet's don't get to have a nice chat with an NH. You might learn something."


             "Nice? With her?"

 

            Nariko smirked.


             Ranma should have expected this. She remembered another introverted succubus that got out of her shell... when around the right personalities.


             "Yes cadet, nice. As in all your limbs are still attached and they're not eating your liver," Kasumi explained.


             For a brief moment Kodachi wondered if this was all some twisted Company test. The older cadets had told her that the examinations got harder and more elaborate.


             "Maybe Sister can be introduced to the rest of the family?" Nariko asked with a smile.


             "I suppose so," Ranma allowed.


             "Finally!" a voice from above said. It was followed by a scrambling noise on the roof of the porch and a pair of succubae landing on the lawn just in front of the porch.


             "Yes, quite green," Aurora smiled.


             "All cadets really are the same," Ukyou remarked.


             "And what would you know of that?"  Kodachi asked, regaining some confidence. 


             "Former Assembly of Man Acolyte Hibiki, student of Father Oslo," Aurora smirked as she summoned her green aura.


             Ukyou rolled her eyes.


             "You've got quite the collection don't you?" Kodachi said to Ranma.


             "You haven't seen half of it." Ranma then shouted at the dojo.


             Kodachi blinked at the two figures that exited. She had a passing familiarity with the two youngest Tendos. "At least Akane finally came out of her prudish shell and admitted her deviancy," she said looking the toned and nearly naked succubus over.


            "Deviant? You do know the basics about succubae right?" Ukyou asked. Having been both a brunette and a blonde, she could say that hair color did not influence intelligence, and while it was nice to see dense people with dark hair she wished she knew more smart people with blonde hair.


             "You're still an arrogant little human, I see," Akane growled before hugging her mate.


             "Give her a chance, guys," Nabiki said. "She can redeem herself."


             "You're...." Kodachi fumbled unable to articulate her point.


             "Cute? Adorable? Petite?"


             "Nabiki," Kodachi corrected.


             "Yes that too."


            "Nabiki never wore pink."


             "She's also not under 5 feet tall, nor is she the younger sister. Of course she was also not a succubus either." Nabiki's amusement was betrayed by the twinkling in her sky blue eyes.


             "But you still have your quick wit," Kodachi remarked dryly.


             "There's the, 'thought she was above the rules', haughty priss I loathed," Nabiki smiled.


             "And are you the amoral grifter who would take the fillings from a dead man?" Kodachi asked with a similar expression.


             "I'm now a predator that can seduce, drain, eat, and loot said man's body."


             "Call me when she's proven herself useful," Aurora dismissed. "Come on Ucchan, you can show me some of those moves Nariko and Eclipse were teaching us."


             Ukyou laughed. "Good idea," she said as she followed Aurora to the dojo.


             "Remember to clean up when you're done," Ranma reminded.


             "And try not to scream that loudly," Akane grumbled. She gave a pleading look to her mate.


             Nariko moved her hand to her mate's waist and shook her head. "Sorry, you're still on no sex for two more days."


             "But I've been real good to my sisters." Akane whined.


             "You're withholding sex from Akane," Kodachi said.


             "She was mean to her little sisters," Nariko explained.


             "Akane wants to have sex with you, and you're saying no."


             "Yeah..."


             "The same Akane you lusted after... is the one who's begging you for sex."


             Nariko rolled her eyes.


             "Maybe you should tell her about your crush on Sunshine too?" Nabiki reminded.


             "I did fall in love with Mother when I first laid eyes on her," Nariko said.


             "Of course, she's a top notch seductress."


             "Hey!" Ranma said.


             "You did look very attractive in your Goth school girl uniform, mother," Nariko said.


             "Yeah, maybe we can all wear that when we go back to school." Akane proposed. It was better than the normal uniform.


             "Maybe," Ranma sighed.


             Kodachi cocked her head. Interesting sounds were coming from the outbuilding that the blonde and orange haired demons had retreated to "Those two... girls. They're..."


             "Training?" Akane asked, her voice full of innuendo.


             "Ucchan is very attached to her partner," Ranma smiled.


             "Matches the documentation on succubae," Kodachi muttered.


             "Well of course it would," Nabiki remarked. "I'm surprised there isn't a boring presentation that deals with us."


             "There is. It was part of the briefing."


             "They show any of our fights?" Ranma asked.


             "There's not much video record of you in combat. There is plenty of the aftermath though," Kasumi explained.


             Kodachi looked around. The agents and demons were casual, and her sister seemed to be calming down "So... you and Akane are mates. How's that going?" she asked Nariko.


             "Really good, Nariko's sweet and lethal and damn sexy," Akane commented. "She saved me, twice. Didn't care about the odds." She leaned onto her mate again.


             "So you got what you wanted, eh, Tachi?" Kodachi asked. "You're even a real warrior."


             Nariko blushed.


             "And you're even acceptable at being a girl. I wouldn't use that shade of eye makeup, not with that complexion at least. Don't you want to draw attention away from those bright red eyes?"


             Nariko narrowed said eyes. "I would be more than willing to take cosmetics advice from you. Unlike fashion advice."


             "This is regulation!"


             "Maybe we should have let Aurora and Ucchan, haze her," Nabiki muttered.


             "Not now, Honey," Ranma hushed. There was progress. Slight progress, but at least they were not fighting... physically.


             


            ***************


             


             "News again?" Minako quirked an eyebrow.


             "I like being informed. We're here for a reason," Ami glared, only taking her eyes away from the television screen to glance at her computer.


             "I'm amazed she's not using some type of internet thing to get her news," Rei commented as she got some leftovers out of their apartment's fridge.


             "That would let me watch my show," Minako grumbled.


             "It's a rerun on syndication anyway," Ami pointed to the blonde. "And something's up...  I'm tracking the local scanners, blogs, and other sites. Everyone's being coy but..." she murmured tapping a few commands into the Mercury computer.


             "You can always go to Janet's and watch TV at her place," Minako offered.


             "Can't. Her mom is over."


             Rei coughed at that comment. Last night she told Usagi about the concerns she had with all the time Ami was spending with Janet. The princess had dismissed her claims, which had just made Rei more concerned.

 

            On the one hand, running into a new Senshi was suspicious, but on the other hand it had happened before.  Rei herself was once a "new Senshi". And they had run out of planets. Though Rei supposed there were still a few dwarf planets left.


             Ami blinked at the screen.  She knew something like this would happen. It was a matter of time. "Get Usagi in here," she said in horror after finding her voice.


             "What?" Minako asked.


             "Get the damn Princess in here, now!" Ami shouted, while pointing to the television.


             Rei looked at the television. On it was a jerky camera feed showing the outside of a large toy store. A newscaster was babbling something about a hostage situation. Her attention was to a large canvas that had been unfurled on the blacktop in front of the entrance. It was white with a simple golden symbol in the center. The camera angle was oblique to the carpet but it was still easy to make out.


             "What's going on?" Usagi asked as Minako pushed the moon princess from her bedroom into the living room. As Ami directed Usagi to the television, the phone started to ring.


             Rei picked it up before the second ring. "Yes Janet, we're watching the news too."


             "Good, Janet knows. Rei, tell her to hang-up and get up here now. Minako, wake up Makoto too," Ami ordered as she started checking the information that was coming in on her computer.


             "You can't give us orders." Rei started.


             "Do it," Usagi ordered as she stared at the large golden crescent moon on the television screen.


             The inane chatter from the newscaster increased dramatically, but no one in the room was listening. They were transfixed by the two people that suddenly burst out of the front of the store: a was a brown-haired woman with long hair and a sundress protectively carrying a little girl no older than ten, in a green jumper.


             The blue haired teen watched as the little girl and her presumed mother ran from the store and right to the white carpeting. "Oh God, that's too obvious," Ami uttered "We have to teleport, now!"


             There was no time. Whomever had taken over the toy store and used everyone inside as hostages were not skilled. Shooting the girl and her mother in the back proved challenging, for them. It was messy.


             Usagi trembled as tears welled in her eyes. She had seen death before. She had watched everyone in this room die, but they were... soldiers.

 

            This was something else. A righteous coldness passed over her. The babbling of the newscaster was ignored. The response of the police was ignored, not that she could see what they were doing. She was focused on the crescent moon, now splattered with blood and other organic bits.


             


            ***************




             "Sir, there's no response from the Silvers' apartment," agent Maya Iverson said while listening to the phone ring in her headset.


             Jacob nodded as he paced in the Command and Control facility. "At least we got the brood notified. When will they arrive?"


             "Seven minutes," another technician said as he consulted the display.


             "Sir! There was an inter-dim spike on the Silver apartment! Forward watch confirms a matching spike at the target building," Iverson shouted. She shifted her attention to the pair of agents that had first arrived on scene and were coordinating with local police.

 

            Initially, the situation seemed mundane, horrible but mundane. A group of armed men took a toy store hostage and immediately called a news station which just happened to be two blocks away. The police arrived after the news crew.  The Scanners did not detect anything preternatural,  but then the hostage takers unfurled that banner and everything changed.


             "Anything else showing up on the forward scanners?" Stillwater asked.


             "Just... six Pattern Silvers, Sir" Iverson said.


             


            ***************


             


             The pale man stumbled back in surprise. He and two others had been assigned to guard the loading docks and storage room. The gun nearly slipped out of his sweaty palms. The Master had said their actions would summon the Pale Queen.

 

            In his foolishness, the pale man had assumed the master was not being literal. "Master! She is here!" he shouted pointing to the group of girls that had appeared in a flash.


             Unsteadily he raised his weapon, and was pleased when brothers Peclet and Courant did the same. They had no illusions, but they might be able to slow them down, give the Master more time to prepare.


             "The Path of Will shall prevent your reign of ice," Peclet bellowed, his voice wavering.


             Sailor Moon stared down the trio of men holding guns.

 

            A slight smile crossed Peclet's face that grew when a scream of terror rang out from deeper within the store. It was very shrill and high. Fortunately it gently quieted down instead of abruptly cutting off.


             "We are more than willing to do what it takes to summon you," Courant stated.


             "No more," Sailor Moon promised as she stepped forward. Her voice became forceful and righteous. "Toy stores are for the amusement of children, not for... murdering innocents. In the name of the Moon you will be punished."


             After sentencing, she aimed her weapon. At this moment, the trio were targets, nothing more, nothing less.


             "Like you care, your ascension would have killed them anyway." Peclet aimed his weapon.  He hesitated his and shifted his aim as another blonde appeared.


             "They're just human!" Venus shouted at the same moment, but the thick beam had already erupted from Sailor Moon's kaleidoscope. 

 

            The three men screamed as their flesh broiled away into ash


             "They're monsters," Sailor Moon said as she stepped past the remains. She was about to speak again but the smell made her choke on some bile she coughed up.


             "They had weapons too." Orion tightened the grip on her bladed staff. She was still slightly disoriented from the teleport. Ami said that adding her was risky, but she wanted to help.


             "Princess, I'm only detecting humans and some minor magic," Mercury said as she checked the display on her visor. The comment about "reign of ice" was filed away for later. "Most of them are in the front of the store. I think those are the hostages."


             "What's the plan?" Mars asked as she looked at the bloodied remains.


             "They want me. I'll draw their attention while Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury rescue the hostages." She turned to the other blonde. "I'm counting on you for this, Mina."


             "I'll take Orion and Mars," Moon said with a little smile.


             Venus nodded. Taking Mercury made sense. She could fog up the whole area, and then they could... take out the bad guys and rescue the hostages.


             


            ***************


             


             Master Kronecker, founder and prophet to the Path of the Will smiled thinly as his men fell. He and his most devout members were in the tiny office that contained the few things that needed to be secured for this store. There was a safe undoubtedly full of currency, a few file cabinets, a couple desks for the laughable security guards.

           

            While being the first to be cleansed,  they were not deemed innocent enough to summon Her.  The room had a few televisions that displayed the closed circuit security camera feed.


             Unlike the false priests or those mercenaries his order focused on infiltration and research, thus their weapons training was secondary. It was regrettable, but his men knew no amount of training would stop Her. The Pale Queen could not be stopped by mere force of arms.


             He watched as the blonde fiend sheared down his men, her expression soulless and blank. To a being like her killing those men must be no more than crushing bugs. Kroneker reflected on this as he continued the incantation from the book before him.


             It was an old tome, one that had been rebound and expanded several times. Discovering the book had changed his life. As he learned of the contents he had gone from a meek linguist and bibliophile to something more.


             He frowned when She and her two servants made it to the second group of men. The angle was poor, but he was able to tell one of his men managed to fire first, before being cut apart by a bladed pole-arm. The other three men died screaming as they burst into flames.  The camera feed started to snow and static out; that was regrettable as well.


             Once again the queen stepped over bodies to get to her goal. The Master smiled as he gave another incantation. Her ego had been challenged, and now She would not think. She would not realize that she was being funneled right into a trap.


             His eyes briefly flicked to where the hostages were being held. That screen was full off fog and the occasional flash. It was of no consequence. The master's only interest in the hostages was as tokens to summon Her. Now that She was here, they had no use, other than reducing the number of servants at Her side.


             


            ***************


             


             "You! You're in charge of all this!" Sailor Moon shouted.  The magical girl strode into the room,  light crackling off her form as her eyes narrowed.

 

            Orion and Mars were just behind her. The gangly man standing before her was the only one she'd seen not wearing street clothes or carrying a gun. Though he might have something hidden in those ridiculous black robes.


             "Of course I am," Master Kronecker said as he tapped a rune on the stone table just above the book. The eight corners of the room glowed and encased the room in 6 panels of golden light. He nodded to the two men at his sides. "And now we save the world from your evil. You will not enslave humanity!"


             "Enslave?" Sailor Moon's stomach clenched. That seemed rather like the Black Moon clan's demands. Worse, she had walked right into a trap.

 

            "You're wrong, Crystal Tokyo's-" the blonde closed her mouth when she saw the gleeful, perverse pride on the man's face at her mentioning that name.


             She stepped forward, and, for the first time in a year, wobbled when her heel did not land square. She briefly shook her head as a buzzing sound came and then vanished.


             "Kill her," Kronecker ordered the last remaining members of the Path of the Will. Both fired their shotguns. At this range even these men did not miss.


             Sailor Moon was pushed back to the doorway and hit the shimmering barrier, which neither Orion's blades nor Mars'  fire had penetrated. The buckshot had damaged her uniform, but it did not do much else.


             Master Kronecker frowned for a split second. It was too much to hope for Her to be weakened enough to be killed right off. His men shot again and again. The Pale Queen slumped down, but She raised her improbable weapon and fired, rather she tried...


             The kaleidoscope fizzled and fell out of the battered princess' hand.  Her uniform flickered and the chest bow at the bottom of her vision started to become gauzy and translucent.

 

            Her eyes hardened on these monsters. It was been a trap, from start to end. They used innocents as bait, knowing she would come to rescue them. The two minions stepped closer until they seemed loom over her. Moon put her hand to her forehead.


             "Moon Tiara Action!" she screamed as she flipped the golden object at the man to the left. The bladed prong hit him on an upward angle and destroyed much of his heart and neck. The head flew backwards but the body fell towards her. As blood from the decapitation rained down, she gave the other minion a Moon Kick that broke his leg. After he fell to the ground another kick hit the side of his head cracking his neck.


             Kronecker froze. The blood of Brother Schumann had soaked the blonde. "And the blood of the wicked shall be the bathwater for Her coronation," he quoted.


             Sailor Moon's eyes burned a righteous azure. Love and Justice were not mere words to her; she felt them. For all these years, it was what kept her fighting; it kept her leading friends into danger.


             "You're a disgrace," Moon coldly said as she stepped forward and grabbed the surprisingly light, thin man. A blade flipped out of his voluminous sleeve.


             The master chanted as he stabbed forward. Moon grunted as the buzzing filled her mind. She reacted and pushed the threat away. Kronecker hit the wall with a thud; he charged again.


             This time she put her palm to his nose and didn't stop pushing when his head cracked on the concrete of the wall. His skull cracked and Kronecker movements became spasmodic and disorganized.

 

 She paid that no mind and kept slamming the head into the wall. More bones crunched and blood splattered. She only stopped when someone squeezed her shoulder.


             "Stop it Usagi! It's over. It's over," Mars pleaded. As soon as the last guy was... dispatched the barrier dropped and she and Orion ran in. Mars stepped back when her princess turned to face her. Bits of hair and blood were on her white gloves, and the only clean parts of her face were the tracks her tears made.


             "I failed!" Moon cried balling her hands into fists. "The bastard... " Moon looked around the charnel house the room had become. "I did this.... I'm a...." she stumbled and unceremoniously vomited.


             


            ***************


             


             Ranma's eyes scanned the security room. The scent of fresh blood filled her nostrils. She smiled, watching her children pout as agents from Forensic Pathology section investigated the bodies on the floor.


             "We're too late and now we missed out on feeding," Aurora petulantly said.


             "This was the Senshi's fight." Ranma then walked past the bodies and into the toy store itself. Her eyes widened and she ran over to the dazed blonde.


             "Usagi, are you okay?" Ranma studied the blood-soaked magical girl. "Wait... that's not your blood is it."


             Sailor Moon stepped back from the sexy succubus. She wobbled and was caught by Orion, who was at her side supporting her. "Back! Monster!"


             "Eh?" Ranma blinked. She had not done anything even remotely monstrous today.


             "You heard the princess," Mars warned. Usagi had a bad enough day and did not need a demon rubbing her face in it.


             "No! I'm... I'm a monster!" Moon tried to fall to her knees but was held up by Orion.


             "You did what you had to," Mercury reassured. She held the master's book. This was not something she wanted the Company to get, and it could have some answers.   And they were desperately in need of those.


             "I..." Moon looked down and watched as a few drops of blood fall from her ponytails and onto the tile floor. She found her chin pulled up and her eyes drawn into a pair of violet ones.


             "You are not a monster. Monsters don't feel remorse for what they did," Ranma stated.


             "Like you're one to talk." Mars glared.


             "I think she's uniquely qualified to talk," Mercury remarked.


             "I'm supposed to be a good guy! Good guys don't kill people!" Moon sobbed.


             "You were pretty decisive in the office building," Ranma's voice was gentle.


             "That was different!" Usagi sniffed and tried to wipe her face. "Demons don't count."


             Nabiki, who had quietly followed, had a retort ready, but decided this was Mother's job.


             Ranma narrowed her eyes, but she exhaled. "It's not different.  But that's besides the point."  She lowered her voice. "You're a soldier.... hell you're an officer. Act like it. What about your troops? How do think they feel after what they did?  And now they're seeing you, their leader falling apart?"


             "Lay off! Do you even know what she did!" Venus said.


             "I do," Orion quietly said. "And she's sorta right."


            Usagi turned aside. "I'm not fit... I failed. They killed..."


            Ranma's face softened. "You got here as fast as you could. You stopped them, and your girls rescued everyone else.  You got here before us; you were the good guys."

 


            "I'm supposed to protect everyone! I couldn't even bring them back!" Usagi wanted to curl into a ball to escape. After the... fight, she had tried to heal the innocent victims, but there was no resurrection; they were gone.


             "You can't save the whole world," Ranma said.


             "I'm supposed to!" Sailor Moon sobbed. "Crystal Tokyo's supposed to..."

 

            Ranma tilted her head slightly.


             "Now isn't the time, princess." Mercury was wondering if Setsuna knew a psychiatrist. She guessed the Company had some, but they could not be trusted.


             "But that's what they were here to stop!"


             "It's not the first time someone tried to stop us from saving the world," Jupiter remarked.


             "They thought they were saving it! From me!"


             "So? These evil bastards are all kinds of crazy. Delusions of grandeur and the like." Ranma shrugged.


             "Terrorists have always been romantics and idealists." Nabiki remarked. "People that believe in a pure vision, some asinine utopia that they're willing to do anything to get, because in the end that's all that matters."


             Sailor Moon froze "That's me!" she said before collapsing into a sobbing heap.


             Ranma crouched down. "Did you ever kill an innocent to make this Crystal City just happen? You know, break a few eggs to make your omelet?"


             "No." Moon wiped her nose, now runny with both snot and blood. "I never," she said with more strength and indignation.


             "Then you're not like them. They would have rejoiced if the tables had turned. Hell, that's exactly what they did to try and stop you."


             "And you would have eaten them if it was up to you," Mars remarked. Images of the day's deaths appeared in her mind. "On second thought, that's actually pretty fitting. Maybe we should have saved one of them to give to you."


             "They still got justice from a mother," Ranma smirked.


             "I went too far." Moon stared off into the distance. "I know! I was influenced!"


             "I'm not detecting anything. The only magic here was from this thing," Mercury said as she hefted the book. It was useful being the main sensor of the Senshi, though Rei's visions could spot things her computer could not, which was important to note.


             "It was all me?" Moon sighed and again tired to curl into a ball, only to be pulled back up by Orion.


             "At least you guys are helping keep the authorities at bay." Mercury noted.  The mercenaries were efficient at keeping the police away from the scene.  That they had the ability to do so was worrying.


             "There's also all those bodies that they're not eating," Venus commented.


             "Nice one Mina," Mercury sighed.


             "Eh, they're your kills." Ranma wondered exactly what Usagi had done. There had to be more than merely blasting her enemies, something traumatized her, and covered her in blood, fragrant sensual blood. The redhead shook her head. Now was not the time to let her desires get the better of her.


             Ranma cleared her mind. "Look, Usagi. A hot shower will do wonders, and there's some nice agents that can drive you to where you can clean up." She looked at the other Senshi. "All of you."


             Mars looked down the aisle to see a pair of agents in battledress uniforms. If not for the succubus wearing a parody of a Sailor Senshi uniform their presence would be disquieting.


             "Come on, let's go." Ranma sighed, before gently tugging on Moon's hand. With Orion's help the two girls managed to pull the princess back to her feet.


             "When we go back to civilian mode we should get cleaned. Right?" Makoto asked.


             "Sure, but trust me, she'll want a real shower," Ranma said of Moon before handing her back to Orion.


             The agents parted and watched as the demons and magical girls went into waiting Company vehicles.


             


            ***************


             


             Inspector Richard Rebus leaned on a Toronto Police Service cruiser. He watched as a small group of commandos left the building and returned to their vehicles. He wondered what cover story the media would be told. They might be billed as Emergency Task Force, TPS's version of SWAT, or maybe the excuse would be that it was a federal issue. The Emergency Response Team of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police could just as easily get the credit.


             Rebus was privy to something closer to the truth. There was a "consulting firm" at work here. He did wonder how they had entered the building.


             "Sick isn't it, Inspector?" Rawlings, a junior member of homicide, asked.


             "There's been a rash of this sickness," Rebus muttered.


             "Yeah, there's enough terrorism for everyone." Rawlings left unsaid who everyone was. There was the conventional terrorism, the one that craved to be in the news. They struck visibly and were using fear to cow resistance. Transportation infrastructure was commonly exploited, and then there was the other type... One that, amazingly, was even more frightening and brutal.


             Rebus nodded. That was true, something made this special. This was more than the ETF raiding a cache of fertilizer or a holy building being used to store weapons or a ransom scam gone awry. "That crescent's at the center of it."


             "Cult nuts. And the first thing they did was get the media in," Rawlings snorted.


             "Terrorists do want attention, but... this seems wrong. It doesn't fit."


             "Like we're going to learn anything more about this."


             Rebus watched a group of young women get into a van at the loading dock. The angle was poor, and the contractor commandos had kept their distance.


             Noticing his superiors interests Rawlings spoke up. "More hostages I'd guess."


             "I see, and will their statements be as nonsensical as the other hostages?" Rebus asked. So far the hostages had come out in one group out the front door. Officers at the scene reported a lot of fog.


             "The media will love it."


             "More reports on vigilantes dressed as figure skaters? It's misdirection."


             "Of course it is, Sir."


             


            ***************


             


             "You're not going to see her naked," Rei stated as she bared the entrance to the Company locker room.


             "It's not like I'd see anything new," Ranma looked at Usagi slowly washing herself. "I won't even be nude." She shifted into a red bathing suit. "See? Nothing naughty."


             "Let her in," Usagi weakly said.


             "Feeling any better?" Ranma asked as she handed a wash towel to the blonde. She looked over the nude form, and filed the sight for later.


             "Yeah, nothing like a long shower after murder," Usagi sourly noted. "No funny business."


             "You did what you had to do," Ranma comforted.


             Usagi glared at the redhead. "That's no justification. I really am a monster. I'm going to destroy the world."


             Ranma chuckled.


             "What's so funny?"


             "You saying you’re a monster. You're a loving mother, a good friend and a good person." Ranma washed some of the blood out of Usagi's hair. "That's not much of a monster."


             "Maybe, I'm not a good person then," Usagi sighed.


             "That's not how its supposed to go." Ranma frowned.


             "What?"


             "That was something Kasumi told me after my first human kill. It helped."

             Usagi slowly washed her face before responding. "Something a mercenary used to cheer up a budding demon, you thought would work for me?"


             "Well, yeah."


             "You don't mind killing," Usagi said coolly. "I can't become like you."


             Ranma paused staring at the indignant princess.


             "I'm a good guy," Usagi said. "I was a good guy."


             "You still are," Ranma stated as if she were explaining something very simple as she resumed washing the blonde.


             Usagi tried to stare down the demon, but broke away. "Maybe I should go back home, I don't belong here," she whispered looking down at her feet.


             "Yeah, none of us do. But this is where the fight is." Ranma gave a thin smile. "You think you won't get problems in Japan? And what kind of hero runs away?"


             "I'm not running away! I'm going somewhere where I can think and then come back."


             Ranma found herself grinning at that.


             Usagi continued. "There's nothing wrong with going back to Japan to work this one out. Besides, I wanna see my family, and normal people for a while."


             "Quite the luxury you're demanding," Ranma noted.


             "It's not to much to ask for," Usagi's voice had gained an edge.


             "Not my decision. And honestly some R&R isn't too much to ask, but what if they attack again? What do you know about this group? Your family could make a nice target."


             "They...."


             "Why not? They killed a random woman and her child just to get to you."


           "What am I supposed to do then?" Usagi clenched her hand over the soap. "So, it's okay for me to kill humans now? I'm not like you... I don't want to think like that. I told you, I'm not like you."


             Usagi's head was pulled to the side  until she was eye to eye with the demon.


             "You know how many people those guys would have killed if you were in Japan? That was their goal right? Kill until you show up."


             Usagi nodded.  "We teleported in so..."


             Ranma exhaled. "True.  And it's not your fault that some sickos tried to get your attention."


             Usagi fell back against the wall. "I can't deal with this... I can't. Not right now." She rubbed her temples.


             Ranma adjusted the shower-head so water once again sprayed over the blonde's form. "It's okay. You are dealing with it."

 

            Usagi nodded.

 

            "Your reaction is normal.  You were forced to take a life. And you felt right that you stopped them, that you did the right thing.  And that makes you feel wrong, feel guilty."

 

           The blonde's lip quivered. "I wanted him dead.   I wanted to punish him for murdering people just to get my attention. But he was a human..."

 

             "Did you think all your enemies would be inhuman?"


             "Some were once human... long ago," Usagi confessed.


             "You've killed plenty of my kind,"  Ranma's voice was quiet, a bare whisper.


            "That was different... they were monsters out to kill innocent people... It's not like..." Usagi slid down the wall crying.


             "It's okay,  your mother had difficult choices too." Ranma crouching down to the blonde's level.


             "What do you know of her?"


             "Serenity took DarkStar under her wing long before you were born," Ranma explained. "It's... easier to remember now. "

 

            Usagi looked up and pushed her hair out of her eyes. "What was she like?"

 

            "She was a woman that could get things done. A real... professional. But... there was vulnerability behind it all."


             Usagi stared. The demon's wistful expression held so much sorrow. "You're DarkStar?"


             "Reincarnation," Ranma shrugged. "Serenity tried to help... bring me forward like the rest of you, but that just meant I was born male and human this time around too. I was always DarkStar; Setsuna just changed my body back."

 

            "She was something," Usagi said with a bit of a smile.

 

            Ranma chuckled. "She was, maybe you could ask Setsuna for some history books on her,  real history books. The Lunar ascension, the Unification wars, the deals she made with my grandmother."


             "Are you calling Queen Serenity-" Usagi was cut off.


             "A ruthless commander that killed without batting an eye?" Ranma gave a fanged grin. "Definitely. You know why you and Endymion was so scandalous? In my day Earth was the last independent planet in the system, and it was being invaded by demons."


             "Huh? And you're related to those invaders..."


             "Naturally, my grandmother BlackSky was in charge of one of the invading Demonic Houses.


             "But I was just trying to survive. Serenity –well- she had plans." Ranma let the statement hang and watched Usagi's reaction. After a few seconds of no reaction, Ranma continued.

 

            "The Terran nobles resented that they had to be saved by the Moon Kingdom. A place that used to be a colony of theirs, but one that had grown until it had become the greater power. 'Course I didn't care about the larger politics then and still don't care now."


             Usagi stared at Ranma. She did not even react to the spray of water on her nude form.  Part of her did not believe the redhead's claims to not care about politics. The demon did seem adept at maneuvering into a favorable position within the Company.


             "Your mother wasn't a monster either. How is killing the one kind of monster different from another?" Ranma gently asked.


             Usagi let the water fall on her. At least part of her was starting to feel clean. "I don't know. I don't know! I don't want to think about this... please..."


             Ranma nodded. "You can take some time.  Today was... bad, but you're going to have to face this."


             "How... how do you deal with this? How can anyone... deal with this?"


             Ranma sighed and slid next to Usagi and started washing her hair. "Now that's a loaded question."


             Usagi turned and looked pleadingly at Ranma. "Fighting... killing was bad before, but I always knew my enemies weren't human... or if they were I could purify them but... now you're saying... if humans can be monsters... and demons aren't all monsters... then was... how many have I murdered then?"


             "Did you ever fight anyone that wasn't doing evil stuff, hurting innocents that kind of stuff?"


             "Of course not but..." Usagi paused and pulled herself back up. Her hair fell behind her in a loose fall. " Are you like this with your kids? So pushy?"

 

            "I'm trying,  I'm really trying not to be." The redhead chuckled. "If I were trying to be pushy, I'd be a lot nastier, and that'd just be spiteful."

 

            Usagi laughed.

 

             "You need this, and your girls need this. How do you think they're handling it? Especially when their leader's so out of it she can't even bathe herself."


             "I can't just magically be okay with what I did," Usagi's hands spasmed as the memory slammed into her mind.


             "Not at all," Ranma said as she lathered Usagi's hair. "But you'll have to face what you did, and what it really means to be a Sailor Soldier."


             Usagi looked down again.


             "You have responsibilities," a bit of an edge slipped into Ranma's voice. "You can't just put them aside because of this. People need you."


             "You sound like you're taking this personally," Usagi noted.


             The heat went of our Ranma's expression. She lowered her head. "I don't want you to make the same mistakes I did," she admitted.

 

            "What?"           

 

             "Can you even comprehend what I had to give up?" the redhead's voice was quiet, shameful.


             Usagi turned to look at Ranma. "I'm a mother too."


             "And I abandoned my gender and species for my daughters, and then it was almost too late," Ranma stated simply. "For a couple it may have been too late."

 

            "Oh,"  Usagi put her hand out and took Ranma's.   She noted that the demon's fingers weren't pruning, despite being soaked as long as she had been.

 

            "I was prideful, I ignored the warning signs, and others paid the price."


             "I'm not giving up. I just need... time. Please... I need more time."


             "That's not my decision," Ranma's tone softened. "And if you take too long... you will hurt people."


             "I never wanted this power, this responsibility." It was a statement of fact, not a whine.


             "Me neither." Ranma broke a slight smile.


             "You know... I don't even know their names, and I couldn't even save them...."


             "That's a start. I'm sure Setsuna or someone at WIC can find out for you." Ranma started to realize that waiting for Usagi to finish might have been better. The girl had far too much hair.


             Ranma ran her slender fingers through the blondes hair, feeling a trace of excitement as the silky threads flowed through her hands. Ranma could smell the minute traces of blood than lingered behind. Massaging the soap further into the leader of the Senshi's scalp, Ranma smelt more slight traces of blood. She had to pause to regain her emotional equilibrium; the combination of scents was very heady.


             


            ***************


             


             Father Oslo turned off the television with disgust. The media had somehow gotten the names of those behind that sloppy and laughable operation. It had to be the Path of the Will. What that group lacked in size and resources they made up for in secrecy.


             They were the one of the few groups that the Assembly of Man had not penetrated. They were the exact kind of selfless fanatics that worried Oslo. They would not appeal to reason or sense, but it looked like their dogma had finally eliminated them. If the news reports could be believed, a highly questionable proposition as those corporate mercenaries had their tentacles everywhere, the Path had lost most of its members and nearly all of it's leadership.


             The loss of their man inside the mercenary's Toronto operations was a difficulty. Such things were to be expected.  The Company was ruthless as they were pragmatic. That worried the priest. The Company had to feel that there was some... profit in cultivating a brood of demons.


             It did not make sense. Even ignoring the moral issues, demons were not reliable or controllable. They had to be planning something worth these immense risks. None of the possibilities, Oslo could think of were pleasant.


             He would have to call this in. Bishop Fortson needed to know. There was more here than just destroying a nest of demons that had corrupted two acolytes.


             


            ***************


             


             "What's the story on that book?" Minako asked. It was a couple days after the toy store and things seemed quiet... for now.


             Ami looked at the assembled Senshi. Her eyes briefly narrowed at Setsuna before turning to Usagi. "I think I figured out what the book is. You'll see that sections of it are written in many, many different languages." She flipped through sections of the large tome.


             Ami gently closed the book. "It's also been rebound a several times. It looks like this is a living text. One that is translated and retranslated as it's passed down. What's unique is that some passages are in their original text. My computer had some issues decoding the symbols, some of them were copied poorly, but the language clearly dates back to the Silver Millennium."


             "I thought nothing survived." Minako asked.


             "The Downfall and ensuing centuries destroyed almost all of the evidence, all but a few trinkets like this," Setsuna explained.


             "And the only reason this book is relevant is because enterprising scholars kept translating it throughout history. It's actually fascinating. The meaning has drifted with each century, but the whole thing acts as a Rosetta Stone." Ami sighed, once again only Janet and Setsuna got what she said. "This book allowed those creeps to read Silver Millennium era texts. Things like spells."


             "That's how he put up the barrier." Usagi nodded.


             "And muted your powers," Ami agreed. "That's probably why your healing spells didn't work. One of the sections, full of margin notes and with a few gaps has information about your crystal."


             "Spells to block purification?" Rei asked.


             "Essentially," Ami shrugged. She then sagged. "It's hard to tell. There's so much here one could go mad trying to decode it all. It's terribly disorganized."


             "Why bother with the translations then? You said there was original text." Setsuna wondered just how much sleep Ami was getting.


             "Because some of the original passages were lost. Others only have fragments of the original text. However, the most important thing is the new information. Some of the translators...." Ami rubbed her eyes.


             "Some of the translations had extra information," Janet interjected.


             "Like what?"


             "Crystal Tokyo, and passages about a reborn princess. 'And soon the queen shall return in a body of unnatural birth. Her will shall purify the wicked and innocent alike.' " Ami paused after the quotation.


             "How does an old book predict stuff about me now?" Usagi asked. If those... men had been using ancient writings as their guide... then they could have been wrong.


             "I have no idea. Setsuna, what do you know about the group?" Ami asked.


             "My research came up with only a bit. The Path of the Will is a small secretive cult. Their leader was Carl Kronecker. He had a middling career as a rare book historian and restorer at a major university. He disappeared one day, along with several books being cataloged."


             Setsuna snickered. "Clearly this book was among the items he stole. From there he sprouted up at the periphery of some cults, got a small following, and then vanished once more. He was afraid of being watched, especially by us."


             "We never heard of them," Usagi cried.


             "The book paints you as a wrathful goddess, the Pale Queen. He knew what your crystal could do, and was afraid to get your attention, until the time was right of course," Ami laughed bitterly.


             "Will there be any more of them?" Usagi asked. She would ask about Crystal Tokyo in private. There were new concerns about that place.


             "And why didn't you see this coming?" Minako looked at Setsuna.


             "I'm not omnipotent," Setsuna said tersely. Out of the action, and only doing information gathering she felt impotent and frustrated.


             "Will there be any more?" Usagi asked again. Meeting the Senshi's, her Senshi's, gaze.


             "They were a weak and small group, and you... eliminated almost all of them." Setsuna delicately stated. Her information was accurate on that count but...


             "Still, they were just a bunch of goobers. Really, how hard is it to take some hostages?" Makoto's question matched Setsuna's fears.


             "How many cults are there?" Rei asked. She was... hesitant. She was more stable than Usagi, but she needed her time alone. She did burn people to death after all. She glanced over at Janet, who seemed the most stable.


             "I don't want to do that again," Janet quietly said. Rei noticed that the newest Senshi got reassuring squeezes of the hand from Makoto and Ami. Makoto made sense, after a fashion. They were both orphans, and had some bonding at that. Ami, on the other hand, well Rei had always wondered about the blue-haired girl's luck with boys.


             "It's going to get worse." Ami cast a sideways glance at the book. She blinked and shook her head again.


             "Are there anymore of those things floating around?" Usagi asked, while reminding herself to talk to Ami. She seemed very stressed.


             "I... I don't know. It's a book. It could be copied. The book itself is mostly a copy itself so..." Ami's looked down with embarrassment.


             "It's okay Ami. You did great," Usagi reassured.


             "Thanks," Ami replied. She knew Usagi did not mean to sound as patronizing as she did.


             "Anybody have anything else to add?" Usagi asked the assembled Senshi.


             "What about the Outers?" Minako asked.


             "Nothing is happening on their end. Everything seems fine."


             "I talked to my daughter. She's doing okay." Usagi stated.


             Rei wondered who their princess was talking to, her senshi... or herself.


             "I guess this is why the demon's like this," Rei noted.


             "Her name's Ranma," Usagi said a bit sharply.


             "And why's she not here?" Makoto asked. "She is a Senshi, too. Right?"


             "She would be too distracting," Usagi smiled a bit at Setsuna's shock. "Besides, I already talked with her."


             "You know she'll just tell everything to those Company goons," Rei remarked.


             "Or maybe Puu tells her girlfriend everything," Minako teased.


             "That's enough. And don't be fooled into thinking she's their pet demon," Setsuna smirked. "Their relationship is more complex. There's also what WIC wants"


             "They're comrades," Ami stated. She knew that the Company could be watching them this very moment. Setsuna assured them that the magic she was using could beat any surveillance WIC tried... but Ami was starting to lose her faith in that kind of magic.


             "Ranma trusts the Company grunts," Janet added.


             "They have been working together," Usagi agreed.  "They also offered to help us," she said the last part giving Setsuna a sharp look.


             "What do they even want?" Rei asked. The girls turned to Setsuna who looked to their princess. The pregnant pause that followed lasted for a few moments.


             "We're in over our heads," Minako finally admitted. "This isn't like before."


             "There's too many sides, and we don't know who the real big enemy is," Makoto added.


             "Senshi aren't supposed to be spies." Makoto's comment drew a snicker from Setsuna.


             "What's so funny?" Usagi asked.


             "Back in the Silver Millennium espionage was a main part of the Senshi's work."


             "Flunkies for the queen," Ami dryly remarked.


             "That's about right," Setsuna sighed. She then silently slid a folder to Usagi.


             The blonde opened the folder and read a few lines before closing it. Ignoring the other's commentary she stared at the folder. It was not fair. "Thank you," she quietly said.


             Setsuna nodded. She did not like Usagi's request. Knowing more about the pair that died was counterproductive in her eyes, but it was an order from the princess.


             "I think that's it." Usagi stood and told Setsuna to follow her to her room.


             "Wonder what they're going to do in there?" Minako asked.


             "There are plenty of rumors about a certain Senshi being a lesbian," Rei remarked.


             "I'll put this thing back in storage." As Ami got up with the book she carefully avoided eye contact with Rei.


             "I'll help," Janet said as she followed Ami into the blue-haired girl's room.


             In Usagi's room, Setsuna stood and looked at her princess with increasing awkwardness. Usagi was sitting on her bed and slowly reading the file that Setsuna had prepared.


             Blinking away a couple tears, Usagi closed the folder and looked up at Setsuna. "They said I was going to destroy humanity. Is that true? How much does Crystal Tokyo cost?"


             Setsuna closed her eyes. "That's... well it depends."


             "You're evading."


             "It's the future." Setsuna frowned. "There are many ways to Crystal Tokyo, because... well... there are many possible futures."


             "The Great Freeze?"


             "You did not cause that." Setsuna promised. "That was a disaster, one that we may yet prevent."


             "But they said...."


             "Their book is wrong. Ami said as much. Mistranslations and deluded prophecy," Setsuna assured as she walked over to the bed.


             "You better be right. Crystal Tokyo won't be founded on a lie."


             Setsuna smiled. Usagi sounded like a leader now. The Senshi of Pluto refrained from reminding Usagi about the Nemesis debacle though. "Is there anything else?"


             Usagi thought for a few seconds. "There is something you should know about Ranma."


             "What?"


             For the first time in several days Usagi truly smiled. "You were tricked when you gave Ranma those powers, but not by who you think."


             "Pardon?"

            "Ranma always was DarkStar. Well... DarkStar reincarnated as Ranma. There was no possession."


             "That means that..." Setsuna stopped in shock. "Serenity was always very fond of her," she finally admitted. Usagi was right, she (and Murdock) had been played, after a fashion, by the Queen.   She shivered,  even after millennia and from the other side of the grave,  Queen Serenity was still pulling Setsuna's strings.


             "Yup, really should have looked deeper into Ranma."


             "I see why Ranma made such a good replacement for...." Setsuna coughed nervously.


             "It's okay, I know he's dead," Usagi said harshly.


             


            ***************


             


             "What's wrong?" Nariko asked her little sister.


             Aurora closed the front door. "Well, it's complicated." She looked at the other succubus. "Actually this might be right up your alley."


             "Okay. Is this about school?" Nariko wondered what could make Aurora so nervous.


             "Not really." Aurora smirked, but her face became more neutral. School was not something she cared for. Neither the Assembly or Alexia made her go, but her new mother...


             "What then?"


             Aurora shrugged and explained the situation and the solution she had come up with.


             Nariko nodded, seeing why Aurora thought that this would be up her alley. "I think you should go talk to Mom. She should be out back training with Nabiki."


             "Good idea," Aurora smiled. She might be able to get some training of her own put in.


             Aurora made her way to the dojo. She briefly studied her mother. Part of her wanted to utter a battle cry and dive in, but she decided on something a bit more subtle.


             Ranma smirked at the arrival of her daughter. The stalk Aurora did was very nice, quiet but quick. She even approached from downwind. However, demons had other senses, and Aurora had not masked her presence fully.


             The brood mother appreciated Aurora's mode of attack. A fireball would be a more logical opening, but it would be very damaging, and might put Nabiki at risk. Ranma slid down and spun to intercept the attack. She grabbed her daughter's outstretched arm, and careful to avoid claws that were not extended, and deflected.


             Aurora rolled back and countered with her tail to her mother's legs. When Ranma stepped back, Aurora pressed forward. She sidestepped when Ranma lunged at her, but it was a feint.


             The redhead extended one of her wings and using a limb that was strong enough to lift her body off the ground to hit Aurora. She fell to the ground and made a grab for her mother's leg. Ranma tapped the outstretched arm with her tail.


             Aurora briefly frowned, for the rest of this match she would not be able to use that arm. She rolled up and extending her other hand managed to draw a finger across her mother's thigh.


             Ranma immediately slid her knee out from under her and fell onto her daughter. Aurora caught her with her tail and remaining arm. Ranma had responded in kind.


             "Good match," Ranma laughed as she untangled herself. She then helped Aurora to her feet. "Going for a softer attack?"


             "You soak up bruises, and any broken bones will just heal. Cutting you apart seemed like the best way to defeat you in close quarters," Aurora said after catching her breath.


             "But you ended up just as damaged," Nabiki reminded.


             "You could probably mix in some of your heavier moves too. A solid hit can give some distance. Also when you stalk... remember that your prey may have sensed you and is preparing a counter," Ranma advised. She then smiled with pride. "You did do good today."


             Aurora nodded. She always knew she had the ability, and was gratified to have a teacher that could actually help hone her skills...


             "What's up?" Ranma asked as she adjusted her unitard. "Or did you just want to spar?"


             "I was thinking about my name. I want -" Aurora closed her eyes. It felt like betraying Alexia, but Alexia did not give her a choice... neither did the Assembly. It was time to see what this mother would do. "I want to change it."


             "Okay. We can call the Company and have them make new paperwork."


             "That's it? Don't you even want to approve what I picked?"


             "Approve? Not really, but I am curious." Ranma was pretty sure that she would not go back to Ryoga.


             "Misako."


             "I suppose you are a saved child," Nabiki said.


             "It is a lovely name," Ranma agreed.


             "That's it?" Misako blinked feeling... something shift.  Mother approved of her name.


             "What? Did you expect my eyes to glow and do some kind of ritual?" Ranma asked.


             "Uh.... nope." Misako coughed.

 

            "Heck, there's probably some kami we can invoke to change your name. If not I could make something up," Ranma offered with a fanged smile.

 

            "I think you did," Misako murmured.


             "What are you using for a last name?" Nabiki asked, with a tiny smirk


             "I guess Saotome's good enough." Misako shrugged.


             "Anyway... why the name change?" Ranma asked.


             Misako looked down. "It's just that Yuki and Eclipse...."


             "You don't want to be left behind?" Ranma's question was followed by her putting an arm around Misako. For the first time the green-eyed girl did not resist the gesture.


             "I still... Alexia was my mother. I still love her." Misako leaned onto her new mother.


             Nabiki swallowed. She could relate. Alexia was a selfish monster, but... she was still their Mother. Having Ranma as their mother now helped things, but the feelings were still there. Of her three mothers, Alexia was the low point. Her birth mother had the most memories but they were distant, but there were similarities between her and Ranma. Both had the seemly unlimited well of affection for their children.


             "She wasn't a good succubus," Misako grumbled. "If she had any smarts she would have won. She deserved her fate." She closed her eyes in shame.


             "Yes, she did," Ranma simply held her daughter.


             "What are your plans?" Misako asked.


             Ranma blinked. "Plans? For what?"


             "The future," Misako's voice dripped with incredulity.


             Nabiki paused wondering why Aurora, no Misako, of all people would ask about that.


             "I haven't really thought about it. Why?" Ranma asked.


             "Oh, come on. Even Alexia had a plan." Misako shook her head.


             "Killing Mom isn't exactly a plan," Nabiki dryly stated.


             "You should know, little sis. Helping her plan was your job." Misako smirked and turned back to Mother. "Well? What are your plans?"
 Ranma ran a hand through her hair. "Well... uh... there's helping you girls."


             "That's it? Nothing for when you get older?"


             Ranma hugged Misako. "I never thought much about the future. Not back when I was human, and now... I'm a mother now."


             "Just because you're a mom doesn't mean, you have to abandon your dreams," Nabiki said.


             "Yeah, look at all the training you're doing. A whole new set of moves," Misako said.


             Ranma shrugged. Her life was a mix of training, mothering, and combat. Though at the heart of it all three were ultimately the same.


             "You never were one for long term planning," Nabiki said snidely.


             "What about your singing Mom? That's a good hobby," Misako offered.


             "Yeah, but... I like my life." Ranma wondered when she started liking this life. It was hard for her to think of life without her family, her daughters. "Well, what about you girls? What are your plans?"


             "You got me, Mom," Nabiki sighed as she snuck her way under her mother's free arm.


             Ranma hugged both girls. "It's school right?"


             Nabiki nodded. "I'm not even sure if I should go back to High School. I am about thirteen-fourteen now. Maybe..."


             "It's okay," Ranma reassured. "What about you Misa-chan?"


             Misako coughed. "I've always been Ucchan's partner." She leaned forward to see if Nabiki was snickering. "She never gave up hope in... saving me. I'll follow her."


             "She serious about joining them?" Ranma asked.


             Misako shrugged. "That or as formal contractors."


             "Succubus agents? Weird." Nabiki knew that the brood was close to the agents, but there was always a bit of a line between the Company and the WIC. Though it was thinner than the line between the brood and the Sailor Senshi. Nabiki blinked. "But Mom's a Senshi too isn't she?"


             "Uh... yeah, I am. Why?" Ranma wondered what brought this up.


             "Oh it's nothing... yet," Nabiki got an evil little smile. Mother was proof that it was possible and the leader of the Senshi had shown the level of communicability.


             "Nabiki..." Ranma started.


             After Nabiki explained her idea Misako and Ranma blinked. Her daughters smelled normal, but she was their mother. "I am nursing you girls, maybe that energy could be transferred"


             "Wait? You want us to become more like them?" Misako asked.


             "You were just talking about joining the Company. Besides, we might as well beat the Senshi at their own game."


             Misako smirked. "You have a point there Sis. Mom's shown that a demon can be a better leader. If we could be a better team..."


             "And be better magical-girls than them," Nabiki laughed.


             "Usagi's not that bad... she's just..." Ranma stopped and tried to articulate her point.


             "I have no idea how someone with as much experience fighting as her could be so naïve," Misako said.


             "She's getting better," Ranma stated.


             Misako managed to give her shrug a sarcastic cant.


             "Careful there, you and Ukyou might be the first succubus agent Senshi," Nabiki smirked.


             "If 'mother's milk' works," Misako leaned onto Ranma. "At least we'll be the first agent succubae."


             "Not if one of our agent friends goes first," Nabiki said.


             "Nah, they've all turned Mom down," Misako replied.


             "We haven't seen anyone wounded enough... eventually someone will want it."


             "They are warriors," Misako muttered.


             Ranma blinked and patted her girls on the head. "That would make the family bigger."


             "So?" Misako and Nabiki asked.


             


            ***************


             


             "Are you okay, honey?" Haruka asked her daughter.


             Hotaru looked up from her work and beamed happily. "Yup!" she said before going back to her work.


             "Is there going to be a fight?" Michiru questioned.


             "Nope!" Hotaru said as she carefully moved the leather strap.


             The two elder lesbian Senshi looked at each other before looking back at their daughter. "So why are you doing this?"


             Hotaru looked at her guardians as if they were slow. "You have to maintain the edge." She then returned to listening to the sound leather made against metal.


             Chibi-Usa tried to keep from snickering.


             "And that's why you're sharpening your glaive?" Michiru asked.


             The disappointed expression returned in the Hotaru's face. "I finished sharpening half an hour ago," she carefully explained pointing to three stones. "Traditional waterstones, are softer than Western oilstones, but they don't glaze or get loaded. Though it was a pain finding a good store that had them.


             "I didn't like the ara-to they had, but that was just the rough stone. Their naka-to was okay, but their shiage-to was divine," Hotaru continued as she held up the white finishing stone.


             "But you're using a piece of leather." Michiru said.


             Hotaru sighed. "Of course, I told you I'm not sharpening. I finished that. I'm honing, now."


             "What?" Haruka asked.


             Chibi-Usa put her head in her hands and started shaking. It was getting hard to contain herself.


             "You ever watch a Western movie? Know whenever they showed a barbershop the barber would slide his straight razors against a leather strap?" Hotaru's tone had become that of a teacher lecturing slow students.


             "Uh... yes?" Michiru asked.


             "They weren't doing that because it was cool," Hotaru paused. "Well they were, those were just movies, but this is how you get a razor-edge."


             "So, you are sharpening then?"


             "Yes, Momma I am." Hotaru sighed in defeat. "Papa do you want me to put a good edge on your sword?"


             "It’s a magic sword. I thought it didn't need to be sharpened," Haruka said.


             Hotaru shook her head and went back to work. She started humming a little tune.


             It was too much for Usa, who started laughing.


             "So where did you learn to sharpen and um... hone blades?" Michiru asked.


             Hotaru paused in her humming. "We're Senshi, maintaining our equipment is part of our training," she said without looking up.


             "Uh... well have a good time," Michiru said.


             "Yes, don't cut yourself," Haruka added. The two older girls left the room.


             "You know they're talking about you?" Chibi-Usa quietly asked.


             "Better they be worried about me than you." Hotaru said. She could hear her parents quietly arguing in the kitchen.


             "Don't be so hard on them. They're stressed out. They find out they're being spied on and then they hear what's happening with the Inners," Usa sighed.


             "I'm sorry that had to happen to your mother. First she loses... Mamoru and then she sees that," Hotaru said taking a break from her honing.


             "Family tradition, the future's..." Usa raised her hand in a disheartened gesture.


             "Yeah, it'll get worse."


             "That's why Mom ordered us to stay in Japan. We'll be needed here," Usa flipped one of her ponytails.


             Hotaru nodded. "Least your mom ordered Momma and Papa to leave those agents alone."


             "We need all the allies we can get." Usa shrugged.


             


            ***************


             


             "You must be happy to have your daughter back," Soun then flagged the waitress and ordered another drink.


             "I suppose." Principal Kuno sighed. "She's jealous though. I should have known she'd be jealous of Nariko."


             Genma scowled. He wanted to make a comment, that eager halfwit was why his son... He downed the remainder of his sake. He had learned not to insult Drake's child. It was clear that both his friends had become soft, obviously because of their daughters.


             "I guess I should have been more sensitive to Kodachi... but she seemed to be going down a dark path, and the Company worked so well for Kasumi." And her issues, the Drake did not say aloud. "She even wanted to go, I was proud of it."


             "Yes, it worked perfectly," Soun grumbled. "That smarmy man with his suit. He conned me out of my daughter and returned someone else."


             "It's no wonder you feel so distant to your other daughters then," Drake observed as he sipped his drink.


             Soun looked down. He only spoke after a fresh drink was put down in front of him. "I'm glad they're... back, but they're not the same are they?"


             "At least yours are still the same gender" Drake glanced at Genma to see his reaction.


             "I don't understand the... boy." Genma said before ordering another drink


             "At least Kasumi and Ranma seem to be getting closer, that's good," Drake offered.


             "That's not joining the houses." Genma's tone was stiff.


             "I am fairly certain Kasumi would never give up her humanity." Soun wondered how it could have come to this. His family had been changed before his eyes, and he could do nothing. His daughters looked to others and went out and did Lord knows what.


             "At least you have that much. I swear, it's like my son's mind was rotted by his... affliction, and his mother's not helping in the least," Genma said.


             "That affliction saved the lives and souls of one of my daughters and two of Soun's, not to mention all the others she has saved. Ranma is using your school as the base for her new style. Shouldn't that make you happy?" Drake asked.


             "Ranma should be a man."


            "We don't always get what we want. It's part of growing up. We have to deal with things as they are." Drake sighed. It was sad that he had to be the voice of reason.


             "You are right. We cannot pine over things and how we wish them to be," Soun nodded.


             "We have been idle for too long," Genma agreed.


             "Yeah, you can't just sit back and hope things magically turn around. Your kids looked to you for help... and you failed them." Drake did not want to be this frank, but there was no way to sugarcoat it. "That's why they all turned to maternal figures."


             "So Soun's why my son's a sappy mother?" Genma asked, the last word spat out.


             "Uh... not exactly. It's more complicated than that." Drake sipped his drink and feared that it would be a long night.


             


            ***************


             


             "I wonder what moronic plan our dads are hatching," Ranma asked Kasumi. The pair were sitting on the back porch of the Tendo house.


             "We could tap into the audio of the surveillance team," Kasumi offered.


             "Eh, not unless they're doing something really stupid –well- dangerous," Ranma corrected herself. She had gotten used to and understood the need for this level of surveillance, but she did not like it.


             "Yes, we'll do that." Kasumi looked unto the darkened forest.


             "Did you have a good time with Akane and Nabiki today?"


             "Nabiki's worried about school," Kasumi noted.


             "At least you know that yourself now," Ranma grumbled.


             "I am spending time with them, I'm not like my father."


             "Good, they need human contact. Especially after what Alexia did."


             Kasumi nodded. She had initiated contact before, the second time should be easier. She turned to Ranma and smiled.


             The redhead tilted her head. She hardly had time to catch the change in the human's scent before Kasumi was onto her. The contact was gentle, more of a caress, but abruptly ended when the officer retreated her hand.


             Wordlessly, Kasumi stood and walked away.


             Eyes-wide and cheeks flushed, Ranma put her hand to her breast. Despite the surprise, the corners of her lips turned upward. Her mind flashed with the image of a nude Kasumi drenched in blood. The agent's face was neutral but her eyes were...


             "You two can come out now," Ranma said to the two kids she could sense.


             "You should have felt her back. Kasumi was grabbing your goods," Nariko's mate suggested.


             "It was a test, Akane," Nariko said. "To see if Mom could control herself or fall into mindless lust."


             "You're going by Akane now?" Ranma asked, her daughter's lack of reaction at that name, piercing her euphoric haze.


             Akane shrugged. Her name did not seem that important. She had been a succubus as both Akane and Eclipse.


             "What are you going to do about Kasumi?" Nariko asked.


             "You should test her back," Akane offered.


             "Oooh! Use your violet negligee," Nariko suggested.


             "Yes, the one that Misako gave you!" Akane supposed that Misako was a good name. It was better than Aurora at least.


             "Yes, I think that's a good idea," Ranma said as she stood up.


             "No Mom, you should wait." Akane said. "Big Sis is expecting you now."


             "Yeah, wait until after tonight's training mission." Nariko smiled evilly. "Then let her have it."


             


            ***************


             


             A woman strolled down a forest path, humming a little song as she made her way. The shadows from the trees played across her form until they reached her hair where they seemed to merge with the black tresses.


             Silver-blue eyes sparkled with deep almost indigo flecks in the gloom. It had taken time for word to travel. Her Family was connected, but the distances were astronomical. It was a shame, a tragedy that had happened. Death and betrayal, but the woman was prepared to make things better.


             Her shoulders slumped. She promised herself to not screw up again. She had been too kind with wayward family, and it had almost cost her dearly.

 

            But she had a chance to make amends. The woman had lived long enough to know that history repeating itself was simply another chance to get things right.


             A thin smile appeared on her face. Patience was virtue that came with age, but even she found herself eager for what was about to happen. She maintained her steady pace; relatively speaking, a few more minutes was nothing. A rumbling purr grew in her chest with anticipation.

 

End Chapter 1

 

Revision notes:  And here we go with Book 2.  Things are building up as more of the plots start to come to a head and the characters learn more of the world they've found themselves in.