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 2:  Family Visitation

Formerly: Respect and Reliability(ii)

 


             "Hard night, Sis? You look like something demons dragged in." Nabiki looked up from her breakfast. At least her big sister seemed to fare better than her father and Mr. Saotome, those two were still at the Drake's place dealing with their hangovers.


             "Meh... coffee," Kasumi mumbled after staggering into the room


             "I thought you agents are trained to last without sleep?" Misako asked half jokingly. The Assembly had plenty of rumors about the Company.


             "It wasn't a lack of sleep that did her in." Ukyou sipped her juice.


             "Got a pot of coffee made," Nabiki said as she poured some into Kasumi's black WIC mug.


             Ranma snickered at the fatigued agent.


             Kasumi sipped the beverage "Hmmm?"


             "Oh, nothing." Ranma smiled and crossed her legs.


             "I suppose I deserve what you did to me last night," Kasumi admitted. She sighed when the brood ceased eating and leaned forward with knowing smiles. "Oh knock it off. If I really had sex with your Mom, you girls would know it."


             "Someone's prideful of her sexual skills," Ranma said as she sipped out of her "World's Greatest Mother" mug. Ranma knew she had let some of her power slip. Her intention was not to seduce Kasumi, but unsettle her.


             "You have no room to talk, virgin," Kasumi said as she refilled her cup.


             "That's me. As pure as the freshly fallen snow." The redhead laughed.


             "Someone's grumpy," Nabiki remarked.


             "I came back from a midnight training mission to find a succubus trying to screw my brains out. Kept me up all night."


             "Now you know what it's like." Ranma gave a coy smile.


             "Did you get any further than you did with Setsuna?" Nariko asked after looking up from her breakfast.


             "I got far enough," Ranma said.


             Kasumi slowly refilled her mug again. "You'd have gotten further if you had given me a chance to breathe." Kasumi then left the room. She was starting to feel the beginnings of a good caffeine buzz.


             "She's bluffing," Ranma said once Kasumi was out of earshot, and had gotten into her car and driven back to base.


             "I'm sure she is, Mom," Nabiki remarked.


             "Yeah, yeah," Ranma tilted her head and looked out the window to the kitchen. "Huh... that's odd," she got up and with a better view tracked a darker shadow moving amongst the shadows of the forest bordering the back yard.


             "What's wrong, Mom?" Nabiki asked.


             "Someone's coming, familiar but... the scent doesn't scream demon." Ranma's senses were at a loss.


             "I'll call the perimeter agents," Ukyou said as she walked to the phone.


             Nodding, Ranma motioned for her girls to get into position. She slipped up to the door. The scent hit her before the figure completely emerged from the shadows. Her other senses could not detect any... power, but, now, the smell was familiar.


             "Just who the hell are you?" Ranma shouted to the shadowed figure. It was odd, as if the shadows of the forest had obediently followed the person out into the open.


             The shadows retreated from the figure's body, but not her hair or dress, where they seemed to quiver. "Funny words to give family, dear DarkStar," the woman laughed, her metallic blue eyes twinkling darker bits of sapphire.


             "Maybe I didn't make myself clear the first time." Ranma formed a fireball in her hand. "Who are you?"


             The woman strutted forward and took Ranma's hand, snuffing out the fire. "That's no way to talk to your grandma."


             "What?" Ranma pulled her hand free. "Now who are..." Ranma's voice drifted as memories started to assert themselves. She had already accessed them once, when comforting Usagi. "BlackSky?"  the redhead asked as memories and connections lit up in her mind.


             The woman smiled. "I see you're doing better this time around DarkStar."


             Ranma blinked. "You're from before." She noticed that the person had gotten closer.


             "We do live a long time, Dear," BlackSky reached out and ran her hand down Ranma's face. She frowned at the slight recoil in the young demon. "Lovely family," she said looking at the assembled broodlings.


             Ranma stepped back. She could see her... grandmother, but the feeling was distant. There was a familiar mundane scent, but no energy signature. It was a void, a disconcerting absence. She should be able to sense her grandmother, but there was nothing.


             BlackSky's eyes twinkled. "I suppose I'll need to jog your memory." Shadows grew from her inky ankle-length hair and snug black dress and danced across her form and a fraction of her power slipped loose.


             Ranma's senses where overwhelmed, the presence of BlackSky impacted her. She could feel the pressure and nearly tangible form of the elder succubus' power. The presence quickly retreated, dying down to a reasonable level. Instead of a void, Ranma sensed a succubus that was only a few times greater in power than her.


             "Grandma?" Ranma asked.


            The rest of the brood was similarly stunned. The sensations were overpowering. They knew mother and Alexia's power, but this was otherworldly. As a group they had moved further behind their mother.


             BlackSky nodded and found herself being embraced by the little redhead.


             "So... she's good family then?" Ukyou asked. She shrugged when instead of replying Ranma and BlackSky purred. She then pulled out her phone and alerted the perimeter agents.


             "These are your girls?" BlackSky asked after putting Ranma back down onto her feet.


             "Of course," Ranma said with pride as she lined up her daughters.


             "Alexia mentioned you," Misako said with awe.


             BlackSky nodded. "I had hoped that her exile would force her to mature. Instead..." She lowered her head.  "I'm sorry she came after you," she apologized to Ranma.


             "You know about that?" Ranma asked.


             "One of my daughters informed me about what happened. AshRain held out hope that you'd come back, but she is my youngest." BlackSky shook her head. "It's a shame. Alexia was always jealous of you... I guess finding you alive was too much for her... but she deserved her fate."


            Ranma's eyes flashed. "I converted or killed her spawn, ripped her apart, and ate her while she was still alive."


             "She deserved that. She was stupid, and used tactics... it was like she was from House Vephar," BlackSky spat. "Even Luxon and Elena have more subtlety than that."


             "Vephar?" Misako asked.


             "Back when I was in the Silver Millennium there were two invading demon armies. One was lead by grandma over there," Ranma gestured. "The other was led by Vephar. She had the larger army. Twenty-nine legions I think, but while Grandma didn't have the numbers, she had skill."


             "Yes, Vephar would have her family turn everyone they got, but you girls know how effective newborn succubae are in battle. Such a waste of our own kind," BlackSky let a bit of her posture slip showing an all-to-human weariness.


             "Didn't you raid earth's magical universities for new blood?" Ranma asked.


             "And their royal family," BlackSky smiled as she patted Ranma on the head.


             "Mom's royalty?" Misako asked.


             "Mommy was a princess in her past life?" Nariko asked.


             "Prince actually," BlackSky clarified.


             "Not surprised at that," Akane sighed.


             "Makes a strange sort of sense," Nabiki commented.


             "This is why I didn't want to tell you girls this," Ranma sighed as she massaged the bridge of her nose.


             "To be fair you did end up being queen of Earth, technically," BlackSky reminded.


             "Yeah, a demon ruling humanity in the middle of a demonic invasion." Ranma turned to her daughters. "This is what keeps me sane, as bad as this life gets... it can't come close to sucking nearly as bad as my last one."


             "Both times you started out as a guy and ended up as a succubus Sailor Senshi," Ukyou stated.


             "Yeah, but this time around I got to have kids."


             "Family makes a world of difference doesn't it?" Nodoka strode into her room, pocketing her phone. The lack of combat was a pleasant surprise, and she had updated headquarters as to events..


             "Ah, you're her human mother," BlackSky surmised. "Must have been shocking to find your son transformed into this."


             "Yes, quite shocking." Nodoka's face remained neutral. "It was more shocking to find that she was a negligent mother. I had to encourage her to take care of her young and be a good brood mother for them."


             "You helped your son become this?" BlackSky asked, pointing to the leather-clad redhead.


             "I was thinking about my granddaughter's health," Nodoka stated.


             "How reasoned," BlackSky remarked, approval on her face.


             "I am a doctorate holding scientist," Nodoka said.


             "Don't forget the Company commission," Nariko added.


             "Mom, you really should introduce grandma," Nabiki whispered to Ranma.


             Ranma blushed. "Yeah, grandma this is my mom, Doctor... and Major Nodoka Saotome."


             "Ahh the Company, so that's why you're so business-like," BlackSky smiled. "DarkStar, not only did you get involved with the Senshi again, but also with human hunters?"


             "Yeah, well it seems like I'm closer with the Company than with the Senshi. At least the agents get me." Ranma said.


             BlackSky noticed how the human woman had slid next to DarkStar and was holding the girl's hand. "Please, I'm just here to see how DarkStar's doing. I'm not here to take your little girl. I'm a mother too."


             "I know how succubus moms are," Nodoka's tone had thawed slightly, and she kept eye contact with the elder demon.


             "Damn Alexia," BlackSky swore, but she had to smile at the way Nodoka stared her down. Not many beings, demon or otherwise were able or willing to do that.


             "Would you like to come inside?" Nodoka asked.


             


            ***************


             


             "Here comes the granddame of the succubae." Jacob watched the feed. He stood with Stillwater on the upper level of the command and control room of the WIC base. The alarms had been switched off. They were only distracting. The revelation their sensors brought was enough to hold everyone's attention.


             "This surprise could have been worse," Stillwater remarked before confirming the targeting data for the HIMARS battery under his command. The new Pattern D seemed to be amiable, but the intensity of that spike quite thoroughly pegged the dials.


             "Content?" Jacob asked a communications tech.


             "Standard succubus banter sir," Maya Inversion replied as she put the microphone pickup on speaker.


             Jacob nodded and listened to the conversation for a bit. He then walked back to Stillwater. "It looks like a normal family visit."


             "With an entity that is off the charts. You remember the last time we faced a demon even remotely like this," Stillwater sighed. BlackSky's unveiling had burnt out a few of the more sensitive scanners, and their backups had to be activated. The officer suspected that that was not even her full potential. She had proven able to defeat their scanners and human observers.


             "This is Miss Saotome's grandmother; you know how old that would make her," Jacob replied. "Besides, we succeeded against that demon fifteen years ago."


             "She was drunk on power, and the Company was lucky. We can't afford to count on that this time," Stillwater said stiffly. They also owed their survival to the... innovative strategy of – then - Captain Anderson.


             "I'd be more concerned about the Heir to Serenity than this demon," Jacob reminded.  "We have some information as to what House BlackSky is like, as a polity they have rules."


             Stillwater nodded. They had troopers and artillery ready, but he had severe doubts. Knowing full well the slim odds, this was a scenario they had trained for. Serenity's heir on the other hand... The full potential of her power was what they were counting on. In the hands of an unstable person...


             "I think we can both guess at the true purpose of the attempt on Miss Tsukino's life," Jacob stated. Many knew, or suspected, the power of Miss Tsukino and sought to control or destroy her.


             "This is not the time to worry about her," Stillwater said.


             


            ***************


             


             "The Company is treating you well?" BlackSky asked as she sipped her chocolate. She had a fondness for the beverage that dated to when she first got some cocoa along with a few new granddaughters. She remembered the excursion vaguely, it involved going to a London Chocolate House followed by a pub and a few other locations. She knew that that the warmer parts of her territory had cacao cultivation for at least a few hundred years.  It was a common enough commodity traded in the spice bazaars of Silvana.

 

            "Lovely marshmallows, so very small," she commented.


             "They just come in the packet, grandma." Ranma remarked. "Uh yeah, they're not dumb. They'd rather have me as an ally than an enemy."


             BlackSky nodded approvingly. "And the Senshi?"


             "Not quite so wise."


             "But Mom has the hots for a couple of them." Nabiki smirked.


             "Nabiki!"


             BlackSky shook her head. "You're setting yourself up for heartbreak, Dear. Those girls have a troubled path to walk."


             "It's not like that! I was just teasing Pluto!" Ranma defended.


             "Pluto?" BlackSky smiled in recollection. "Yes, you did enjoy teasing the one from your day."


             "They're not all bad. You do owe Serenity for my return," Ranma reminded. "And Usagi's pretty nice."


             BlackSky grinned as she sipped her hot chocolate; she was still fascinated by the tiny, little marshmallows. It was sweeter than the drink was popularly served in her city, but the difference made it interesting.

 

            "Her mother did keep up her end of the deal," BlackSky said after licking her lips, revealing the expected, if dainty, fangs.


             "You let her take over earth, instead of you?" Ranma asked.


             "She promised me she'd bring you back. Took her long enough." BlackSky put down her cup. "The Heir Serenity bears a terrible burden.  And I don't just mean filling her mother's shoes, something Serenity the First did little to truly help her with," BlackSky noted sourly.


             "You have no idea."


             "Are you still trying to take over the world?" Nodoka asked.

 

            "Direct,"  BlackSky gave an approving nod and then sipped her warm drink.

 

            "May I have an answer?"


             "That is a job for the young and idealistic succubae," BlackSky smiled fondly at her granddaughter. "Though, I suppose this Usagi is may  try it too."


             "I don't wanna take over. Too much work." Ranma said.


             BlackSky smiled. "My thoughts exactly."


             "Yeah, but you control like a whole continent on the home plane," Misako said excitedly.


             "That's more than I remember," Ranma blinked. Her own memories of the home plane were very hazy. As DarkStar she had never been there, and only heard secondhand from BlackSky


             "Destroying House Vephar did add to my holdings greatly," BlackSky smiled. Conflicts with Luxon and the shaky detente with Elena allowed her influence over the minor Houses to grow.  Especially the small polities founded and run by her own daughters.


             "Home plane? The dimension native to demons?" Ukyou asked.


             "Succubae actually," BlackSky explained.


             "Legend says that the creator of our species, the first succubus, took the home plane and made it into a haven for our kind. A place where we could grow and not be enslaved by other demons. Then the home plane became full and some of us immigrated to a place with plenty of unclaimed hunting territory," Nabiki explained.


             "Or were banished," BlackSky added.


             "Who told you that?" Ranma asked Nabiki.


             "Not everything Alexia told me was bad fashion advice or her gloating."


             "That's why you tried to take Earth back then?" Nodoka stated.


             "I'm a demon," BlackSky shrugged. "Places, people, and resources are the main reasons for zero-conflicts, and at that time this planet had all three, ripe for the taking."


             "But you're not going to try to takeover now?" Misako asked, trying to sound disappointed.


             " 'Fraid not kiddo."


             "Something for the younger demons do to," Misako mulled over BlackSky's earlier words deep in thought.


             BlackSky nodded and turned to Nodoka. "Do you live with your daughter?"


             "Essentially, though I do often sleep in the lab," Nodoka said, noticing BlackSky's use of "your daughter" instead of "my granddaughter".


             "Attached to your work?"


             "Materials science, I make armor and weapons for the Company. Us humans have to use our wits and other tricks." Nodoka baited.


             "Have you ever made anything for your family? Or is it just business?"


             "They haven't asked yet." Nodoka frowned at her daughter and granddaughters. "Though some of them are thinking of joining."


             Ukyou coughed after Misako poked her in the ribs.


             "It's not that Mom," Ranma said. "It's just that normal weapons and armor aren't... not that what you make is normal... I mean it's saved..." The redhead continued to nervously babble.


             She was saved by BlackSky. "Materials science... you're good with metallurgy?" After receiving a nod, she marked off the first name on her mental list.


             Nodoka wondered what the demon across from her was thinking. BlackSky was... an example of what the succubus species was capable of, controlled power and refinement. Nodoka put her hand over her daughter's hand and wondered about Ranma's future.


             BlackSky smiled. The ability to read emotions came from reading body language and sensing pheromones and other cues. It was a necessary survival trait for a species that had to mimic humans enough to blend in, and one that increased with experience. It became more than that and was a key part of living inside a brood and navigating the larger succubus society.

 

            The interplay between this human and... her family was fascinating. "I've never seen such pure devotion. If I didn't know better..." BlackSky paused. "No, this is a case where species doesn't matter."


             Nodoka raised an eyebrow, and put her hands in front of her on the table. "Is this your roundabout way of complimenting me?"


             "You're unique." BlackSky reached out and touched Nodoka's hands with her own. "Despite your species, you're a part of DarkStar's, of Ranma's, brood. Her daughters look to you. Ranma looks to you. She sleeps in your lap doesn't she?"


             Nodoka pulled her hands back and hugged Ranma with one arm. "She's my daughter. I'll do whatever it takes."


             "By encouraging me to accept Nariko you did save me, and my girls." Ranma quietly said. She did not want to think what her life would be like without Nariko. Ranma still wondered what would have happened during the Alexia situation if she didn't have a family to draw strength and purpose from. She did not need to wonder what would have happened to Nariko, and with other daughter's it was more a question of death of body versus corruption of soul.


             "You are in good hands," BlackSky commented to Ranma. "What are these agents like? We know your mother here, but what about the others?"


             Ranma traced her hand over the lettering of her mug. There was a lot she could say. There were even more agents. "I guess there's one story that stands out, Aram Kowalski's. He wasn't an officer or anythin' like that. He was... my friend. At first he was just some anonymous guy in dark sunglasses. I then started talking to him, he was still just a guy."


             The corners of the redhead's lips raised. "Things didn't really start to... change until the bank robbery." Ranma then explained how she, Aram, and Gabriel, another agent stopped the robbers. She reminisced happily on the bar scene that followed.


             Misako had lowered her head. She knew where this story was going, and her own part.


             Ranma's voice choked when she described the next event. A battle on a lonely stretch of road. "He did his job, probably killed more of Alexia's minions then I did. He went down fighting."


             "I'm sorry, Mother," Misako weakly said, her eyes still downcast.


             Ranma got up and walked across the living room and hugged her daughter. "I know you are."


             "How?" Misako whimpered as she tried to bury her head onto her mother's shoulder. "I liked serving Alexia. We all did."


             "She used you, made you into what she wanted. Ryoga was nothing like Aurora, and you're more than just Aurora now," Ranma reassured.


             "I'm more Aurora than Ryoga," Misako reminded. "And you wouldn't have thought twice about killing either."


             Ranma gently pushed Misako off of her and rotated the younger demon so they were eye to eye. "That's a lie. I had a weak and traumatized Aurora at my feet. Ucchan saved you."


             Misako leaned her head back onto the brood mother. "I still helped kill your friend."


             "You also helped abduct two of my daughters and aided in several plots to steal the rest." Ranma smirked. She motioned for Akane to slide down and sat down on the couch still holding Misako. "We were invited to the service. It was a good ceremony I suppose," Ranma softly said.


             BlackSky nodded and cataloged several things. Her daughter's unhesitating support to her children was one thing, but the approving posture of DarkStar's mother was another. Lastly came the observation that WIC seemed to understand the nature of succubae. Their species was not a uniform whole, but a collection of separate broods.


             "The real part was the wake. It's funny. The Senshi think of me as a demon, a fluke, Setsuna's mistake. Most of the people at school think I'm an uptight, cliquey slut. I do have a couple friends, but they don't know what I am. The agents however.... they've seen me fight and I'm still encouraged to drink with them, mourn with them. They're scary secret agents, and they do some... creepy stuff, maybe that's why they can get a demon not being all evil, or something. I'm rambling." Ranma apologized.


             Nodoka smiled. Her daughter could be deep, in her own inarticulate way.


             "No, it makes sense," BlackSky reassured. Things were already vastly different this time. Humanity actually seemed to be mounting a defense worthy of what they had.


             "What is your story?" Nabiki asked BlackSky. "You seem pretty up to date with humans. Have anymore insights onto what's happening? Or maybe the Senshi, you were in their past too?"


             "I was around well before the fall of the Serenity's Empire. The Senshi you know were born well after I left Earth."


             "I doubt you stayed entirely in the dark. I'm guessing Serenity helped destroy Vephar's legions. A person like that, I'd keep my eye on." Nabiki said.


             BlackSky sipped her cocoa and crossed off another name on her list. She liked the inquisitive spunk this one had. "I may have kept informed on a few things. We do have our ways of getting men, and women, to loosen their lips."


             "Obviously," Nabiki dryly remarked. "What do you really know about Serenity's kid?"


             "She seemed to take after her father," BlackSky said a she delicately put her cup down. "Her mother, Serenity, was capable and ruthless. I respected her, until I found out the caliber of mother she was. In he pervious life daughter was spoiled, and when things counted most... she took her own life."


             "Was it after Mamoru died the first time?" Ranma asked.


             "I'm assuming that is the same man as the Earth Prince Endymion," BlackSky sighed. "That new royal family really doesn't compare to the one you came from, DarkStar."


             "She's doing better now at least. This time she didn't kill herself after Mamoru died again."


             "Good. Tell me, can Lady Venus bring herself to use her sword now?"


             "I haven't seen her using a sword," Ukyou said.


             "Figures, if Serenity's daughter kept that up the other Senshi would run out of weapons." BlackSky turned to Nabiki "So Little One, do you have other questions?"


             "Not just now," Nabiki smirked.


             "I'd like to know how you get your hair like that," Misako asked.


             "Oh this?" BlackSky asked as she fingered a strand from the black tresses that pooled around her.


             "What about her makeup?" Ukyou teased.


             "It's like Mom's," Misako said. "She's already teaching me about that."


             "It still seems odd that you're teaching your daughters about makeup," Nodoka said.


             "Misa-chan was born a guy, and anything is better than what she wore back under Alexia," Ranma shrugged. "Well, maybe not what Akane was tricked into."


             Akane grumbled.


             "How do you get your hair to do that?" Misako asked again, eyes gleaming with interest.


             "You make it sound like there's more to it than just being long and flat black." BlackSky chuckled.


             "Mom can you give me a hand in the kitchen?" Ranma asked as she got up.


             "Sure Dear," Nodoka agreed as she followed her daughter.


             "I'll keep the kids entertained," BlackSky said from the living room


             "What is it?" Nodoka quietly asked in Japanese, as she helped Ranma brew more tea. Ranma could not be worried about BlackSky, not if she just left the demon alone with her children.


             "Are you okay, Mom?" Ranma asked in the same language and volume.


             "It is shocking. To see the rest of your... family."


             Ranma nodded as she fussed over a teapot. "I know my other life... but it still didn't feel quite real. It was so far in the past. I should have known she'd show up."


             "She was the only one to survive?" Nodoka asked. Ranma once told her the gist of her past life.


             "She had other daughters back then, but I don't know if any are still alive now. Maybe.  But  Grandma's a tough old-demon, and she does love her spawn. Family is everything to her. She can't hurt them." Ranma sighed. "That's why she let that tanned moron live."


             "Couldn't your grandmother have... reprogrammed her?"


             "She could have, but she banished her instead."


             "I see."


             "What else is wrong?" Ranma asked looking up at her mother.


             "Nothing." Nodoka's response was as sharp as the volume limitations could allow.


             Ranma smiled, slightly. Her mother could keep her cool in the face of a demon thousands of years old but not in front of her young demonic daughter. "I'm not going to leave you," Ranma whispered as she hugged her mother.


             Nodoka put her arms around the smaller woman and remained silent.


             "You know who helped me the most in my previous life? It wasn't my grandma. Sure she was a neat relative, but it was my mom that was there for me the most. More so than Serenity."


             "I know. It's just creepy what she thinks of me," Nodoka admitted before breaking the hug.


             "But she admires you," Ranma said quizzically. "She's pleased to see that you're capable of being like..."


             "Like a demon mother?" Nodoka asked with a contained smile.


             "I did learn from you," Ranma laughed. She then looked at the serving tray. "Is there more we should talk about?"


             "No, I think we're good," Nodoka said before the two women returned to the living room.

 

            The officer switched to English. "It is nice to have you over BlackSky. Given Ranma's cousin, I was getting worried about Ranma's ancestry."


             "Alexia was always a jealous girl and never did think things through," BlackSky said coldly.


             "I guess she took the wrong lesson from your stories of conquest and destruction," Misako said with a little frown.


             "See Misa-chan I told you reducing the amount of hairspray would clear your mind," Akane smirked.


             "At least I'm trying to be nicer," Misako sniffed.


             BlackSky smiled, they were lively broodlings, and she had marked off all the names from her list, save one. "You're being very quiet dear," she said to Nariko.


             Nariko looked to her mother then back to BlackSky. "Yes, I am," she said.


             "What's wrong, Honey?" Ranma asked moving closer to her eldest.


             "I don't want to be mean." Nariko blushed. Why did she have to be the one to see that something was wrong. She steeled herself. "It feels a bit odd that Great-grandma comes right after Alexia's gone. It's not that she let Alexia roam free. Alexia's sins are her own fault, but..." Nariko looked BlackSky over. "If you really were waiting for so long and dreamed of Mom's return, why did it take you so long to come?"


             BlackSky frowned. "I heard that the Senshi were back, but after a few years of them all being reincarnated and no signs of a redheaded demon among them... I'm sorry, I sort of gave up hope."  For a moment the sparkle went out of her eyes.


             "You thought Serenity had betrayed you?" Nabiki asked.


             "Given the problems with her daughter and what happened at the end of her empire, what reason did I have to trust her?"


             Nodoka nodded. BlackSky seemed to put a lot of weight in one's skill in raising children as a measure of character.  That and the ability to be a conquering monarch. Nodoka had noticed her daughter had taken, at least the former, to heart as well.


             "You gave up hope," Nariko stated.


             "It was several millennia of waiting, and I never did fully. Killing Alexia brought enough attention to you."


             "That loser?" Ranma asked.


             "Indeed, so very selfish. Even other succubae from less reputable Houses were wary of her," BlackSky explained.


             "Would have fit right in House Vephar," Ranma grumbled, recalling Alexia's habit of using masses of young untrained succubae.

 

            "And Elena would be too paranoid to trust her. Still, given her descent, I'm quite glad you killed her in an appropriate way," BlackSky admitted.


             Misako sighed. As Aurora she thought that Ranma was the aberration. That succubae were supposed to be like Alexia, but BlackSky.... Misako could see which brood mother BlackSky was more like.


             "What do you like?" BlackSky gently asked Nariko.


             Nariko shrugged. "I like mother's singing." There was no harm in saying that much.


             BlackSky turned to Ranma and practically beamed. "You sing now?"


             "It just sorta happened," Ranma blushed. "My girls like it... and Mom got me a couple books."


             "Books are very handy." BlackSky nodded knowingly. "How is your singing voice?"


             "Mother's very good," Akane interjected.


             "Really? You're getting me interested," BlackSky teased.


             "Yeah, even Kasumi stops in to listen now and then," Nabiki said.


             "Your older and still human sister, the agent?" BlackSky asked.


             "That's her, but I don't think she'll ever go demon," Akane sighed.


             "Some people like staying human." BlackSky knew that any real relationship her granddaughter would require her partner to become demonic.


             "And some people don't get a choice," Misako muttered.


             "Would you rather go back to the way you were?" Ukyou asked her... partner.


             "No," Misako pouted.


             "Yeah, you're only now starting to get good enough to beat your archrival and mother," Nabiki teased.


             "Mother is good at that type of stuff," Misako admitted


             "The fighting style that you're teaching your spawn?" BlackSky asked. Her great-granddaughters had told her about that.


             "Yeah, it's my family style adapted to succubae." Ranma's tone revealed the pride she had in the concept.


             "Fascinating." BlackSky was intrigued by the stories the broodlings had told her when DarkStar and her mother were talking in the kitchen. "Our family is quite old; there might be some notes that could help you. Is there any aspect that is troubling you?"


             Ranma paused and wondered why BlackSky was offering books instead of personal lessons. It might be due to limited time on BlackSky's part. "Well there's what happens when you're close in with another succubus. I mean real close, rolling on the ground close. It seems to get down to just two demons trying to tear each other apart."


             As BlackSky listened, she sipped her cocoa – she was really enjoying the marshmallows; she knew that her gift idea would be on the right track. "That is a problem, but there are a few moves that can help."


             "Yeah?" Ranma asked. "There's also teleporting. It's a real pain when your enemies can run away whenever they want or when they pop up and surprise you."


             "It's a good thing you killed Alexia in the proper way then." BlackSky concentrated on the good that had come out of Alexia's rampage. It had expanded Ranma's brood, and given her an impressive maternal drive.


             "Oh," Ranma blinked. "I'm not going to start tanning my skin am I?"


             "Every morning we do check you for bad makeup and fashion sense," Nariko helpfully reminded.


             "Good," Ranma deadpanned.


             "You are what you eat, Mother," Misako said mischievously before licking one of her fangs


             "Thanks Misa-chan, thanks," Ranma sarcastically, sighed.


             "She has a point. You did do that evil laugh and shadow show thing after you ate Alexia," Ukyou said.


             Ranma coughed nervously as she worried if it was a hint of something darker.


             "That's perfectly normal for a young brood mother," BlackSky said.


             "You are a demon, Dear," Nodoka added in understanding.


             "Does that mean Mommy will have to practice her evil laugh now?" Nariko asked. "She didn't do to well last time."


             "I was missing a lung at the time," Ranma grumbled.


            "Excuses, excuses," quipped Misako.


            Ranma rolled her eyes.


             "Will you be staying for dinner?" Nodoka asked the houseguest.


             "I'll have to stop back home for a bit, but I should be back in a few hours," BlackSky offered.


             "Business?" Nodoka guessed.


             BlackSky nodded. "I do have a fair-sized family to look over."  News would travel fast; especially after she told her daughters.


             "Fair enough," Nodoka remarked. It was still mid-morning. There was plenty of time to prepare a proper early dinner.


             BlackSky stood and looked at a clock mounted on the living-room wall. "I'll be back at about four."


             "It'll be our pleasure," Nodoka's smile actually met her eyes.


             "Yeah, uh... see you then," Ranma added.


             BlackSky waved and stepped out of the room and made her way to the back porch. She then walked across the backyard and into the surrounding woods.


             Nodoka called headquarters and updated them on the situation. "Yes Sir, I think a dinner is perfectly proper, or should we not extend that courtesy to my daughter's relative?"


             At the other end of the line Stillwater paused. BlackSky was being civil, provoking her was foolish, and BlackSky's granddaughter was already integrated into their operations. "There is no reason to snub her. Approved." The conversation continued but that was the only real decision for the Commander, and even that was a perfunctory one at best.


             "We could use better relations with the more civilized broods," Jacob said after Stillwater closed the communication.


             "Oh? True, it could be beneficial to have relations with Pattern D's 'over there'," Stillwater allowed as he watched the tracking on BlackSky. The slight reading she gave off on the house was quickly snuffed out and she was only being tracked by conventional means.


             "That we can still see her means she doesn't care about us," Jacob remarked. "Though why would she? Her granddaughter's here and global domination's a game for the young."


             Stillwater nodded and leaned back on the wall at the far end of the command room. "Miss Tsukino is about that age too."


             "I had Historical Research to look into our copy of book that the Pattern Silvers retrieved from the Path of the Will incident, Sir." Jacob laughed lightly. "It was a good stroke to have Miss Saotome offer our facilities for their cleanup afterwards."


             "It should be a short search." Stillwater knew that the vast WIC archives had been combed for any information relating to the Pattern Silvers.


             "Yes, the report is on your desk. It looks like the copy the Silvers have is far more complete. Ours is just a collection of fragmentary prophecies and other nonsense."


             "While theirs allowed them to do something to Pattern Silver energy," Stillwater shook his head.


             "Sirs, BlackSky just vanished," Maya Iverson said.


             "Investigate her last position and keep the troops deployed," Stillwater ordered, he and Jacob then went to Stillwater's office.


             "This was an interesting development." Stillwater then poured two glasses of scotch.


             "Of course demons like this would be immune to our scanners. BlackSky's like a black hole," Jacob sipped his drink.


             Stillwater smiled slightly. "And how does one detect a black hole?"


             "From the way they affect the orbits of nearby stars? There's also the X-ray emissions  matter falling into them gives off." Jacob shrugged.


             "We talked about over reliance on our gadgetry," Stillwater leaned back in his chair. "She's not completely invisible. Though I'm sure she can get as close to that as she needs."


             "But as we said, BlackSky isn't the main issue."


             "Of course not. She doesn't need to fight us; we're already infiltrated by her spawn. Especially if we approve Ukyou Saotome's request. Even a formal contract with her and the rest of the brood will bring them in."


             "Furthering our alliance makes sense," Jacob shrugged.


             "I now see what 'too much success' means. We wanted Miss Saotome to trust us."


             "And now she's expecting us to trust her. We do constantly spy on her brood. Something she's most accepting of."


             "Unlike the other Pattern Silvers." Stillwater frowned and took a sip.


             " Miss Saotome may eventually prove to have ulterior machinations, but we know for a fact that Miss Meioh has several."


             "That's why the Path's attack was so traumatic to them," Stillwater added.


             "Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. They put doubt into Miss Tsukino's mind. She's no longer certain that she's the good guy."


             "It's a good thing we don't have to worry about that," Stillwater chuckled.


             


            ***************


             


             BlackSky walked down the wooded path. Carrying two large leather satchels, she hummed to herself. She hoped she was not too early. As she walked she could sense several humans around her. They were silent, camouflaged, and even had reduced their odor, but BlackSky could still sense them.


             She was not worried. Her granddaughter trusted these humans, and they seemed respectful enough. BlackSky observed the agents out of curiosity. Even when they moved it was concise and silent. She could see why DarkStar would respect them.


             The demon stopped and turned around to see an older human leaning on a tree on the same path. "I'm guessing you're one of the senior WIC officers," BlackSky said as she doubled back. "Hmm... too old for the Jarvis one and you don't look dour enough to be Stillwater. Jacob I presume?"


             "I see our reputations precede us," Jacob smiled. He wondered what Marvin would think of being called dour by an elder a few thousand years older than him. He then shrugged "But I must assure you that in-person Commander Stillwater is not dour. He's more of a saturnine."


             BlackSky laughed. "Yes, the stories my granddaughter told about you scaring those two young men were most amusing." BlackSky shifted her bags. "I must compliment you on the caliber of your officers. I did not expect someone in your organization to be so... enlightened about her daughter's situation."


             "Major Saotome is quite the woman," Jacob agreed, as he started walking next to BlackSky. "Would you like some help carrying those?"


             "Such a polite young man." BlackSky stopped walking and handed the longer of the leather bags over. "Now be careful, with this. The metal in there is a bit dangerous to humans. It's in another case but you can't be too cautious."


             "Oh?" Jacob asked as he held the bag from the strap.


             "DarkStar's mother seemed put out that her broodlings didn't request her services. Thus I brought her some new materials to work with." BlackSky had to go fairly deep in her palace-citadel to get to the correct vault to procure these shards. It would take a skilled hand to work the material, especially given the dangers, but it would be a good challenge for DarkStar's mother.


             "Demonic metal?" Jacob asked. "Are there actual dark powers, or does it merely facilitate normal demonic abilities?"


             "I'm certainly not going to give anything dangerous to my family," BlackSky assured.


             "Its effect on humans?"


             "Raw it can draw energy from just about anyone; in a finished form it will need a demon wielding it to actively drain.  However fine powders and slivers from working the material are the most dangerous, if they find a way inside a human body," BlackSky explained as they walked.


             "Requires bonding to a specific user during processing then?"


             BlackSky laughed. "Have experience with demonic weapons have you?"


             "Nothing as direct as what you're proposing," Jacob allowed.


             "Could you please keep it a secret? I want to surprise Ranma's mother," BlackSky said.


             Jacob nodded and made a note on the number of times BlackSky referred to Major Saotome as Miss Saotome's mother.


             "Will you be joining us for dinner?" BlackSky asked her dark blue eyes twinkling.


             "Oh, I couldn't impose," Jacob ignored the alternative interpretation of that question.


             "Now, now, I won't let you melt back into the shadows," the demoness said with a tiny grin. "I'm sure the doctor can add a place setting for her boss."


             "Likely," Jacob allowed.


             "You do want to do more than just talk to me for a couple minutes. I imagine you did some work to setup this meeting," BlackSky smiled. She could guess the real reason for the troopers watching them. They were not there to kill her. 

 

            No, their presence was to ensure that she could not get any information out of their officer.  Even at the cost of his life.  She could respect a leader willing to take such a risk, and having men willing to carry out such an order.


             


            ***************


             


             "She's back." Tail swishing, Nabiki looking out the back window.


             "Good, we had enough time," Nodoka said as she put down another covered serving tray.


             Misako looked up from her place setting and tried to lift the cover. She found her knuckles rapped by the side of a large knife.


             "I know you can smell what's in there," Nodoka said to the pouting demon, "But I would like a few surprises with this meal."


             "It's okay, Grandma; I had to hit her a few times myself." Ukyou meaningfully spun a spatula.


             "Well, we all know what you're making," Misako reminded. The setup of a large griddle over the range did narrow down what the blonde demon would be cooking.


            "Ucchan, Mom, you two should be amazed you kept it a secret this long. We're a hungry species," Ranma shrugged. She was also glad that the Drake was keeping an eye on her father and Soun. She did not want those two to stumble in on this.


             "Well, I sent you girls out to go shopping for the proper accessories and ingredients. That pretty much confirmed what I was planning," Nodoka admitted.


             "It was pretty funny when we cornered that fishmonger," Ranma said.


             "He nearly fainted," Misako smirked as she resumed setting up the table.


             "And he did faint when you started playing with your boobs," Nabiki reminded. She noticed that BlackSky was not arriving alone. "Hmm... set another place. It looks like Jacob's coming too."


             "I was just scratching an itch." Misako shouted as she went to the kitchen.


             "Well, this should be interesting," Ranma said as she opened the door to let in their guests.


             "Evening, Sir," Nodoka said, saluting.


             "At ease." Jacob returned the salute. "Do you mind if I stay for dinner? Your guest was quite insistent."


             "Of course, Sir," Nodoka smiled.


             "What's in the bags?" Ranma asked.


             "I'm glad you asked." Amusement practically wafted around BlackSky.


             "Presents?" Misako keenly asked.


             "Why yes," BlackSky remarked


             "How did you know?" Ranma asked.


             "Well... what else would she be bringing back with her?" Nabiki shrugged.


             "It could be dessert," Ukyou remarked.


             "But it's not; it's presents." Misako's eyes gleamed.


             Nariko shook her head. "You better give it to her. Before she explodes."


             Ranma watched BlackSky reach into the leather satchel she was carrying and wondered exactly what her grandmother was up to. The elder demon pulled out a small wooden box and handed it to Misako.


             Misako opened it and paused, before squealing in delight. "Oh, so pretty." She pulled out a pair of earrings.  The dark red stones that started to glow slightly when she slid them into her palm.


             "Some kind of demonic jewelry?" Ranma asked.


             "They're like yours," BlackSky explained.


             "Mine?" Ranma reached up to her ears and felt the obsidian stud earrings.


             Misako sighed. "Mom's like that. She hardly notices that she wears makeup all the time."


             "Only because you started begging me to teach you how to wear it properly." Ranma turned to BlackSky. "I'm wearing magical jewelry? Damn, I really am a magical girl."


             "You go around at night as Sailor DarkStar," Nabiki reminded.


             "She eats people, that makes up for it," Misako reminded as she put on her new earrings.


             "And her uniform's a lot cooler," Akane added.


             "So, what do these things do?" Ranma asked.


             "They help you store and hold power. You fill them when you  have an excess, like right now, then can tap into it in battle," BlackSky explained.


             "Misako got fashionable batteries?" Nabiki asked, her voice tinged with jealousy.


             "An experienced succubus can make her own, like your mother did," BlackSky said as she put her hand in the satchel to get Nabiki's gift.


             "I did that? I thought they... you know... just came with the transformation," Ranma said.


             BlackSky laughed and handed a thick leather-bound volume to Nabiki.  The cover had a crest embossed on the front:  black field with small silver four-pointed stars above grey lines radiating from the bottom center. "Here, for my great-granddaughter who was so full of questions."


             "Thanks," Nabiki then frowned at the writing on the cover. "What language is this?"


             "Looks like Latin," Nodoka remarked., The font was a bit different, but she could make out something close to:


             


            HISTORIA SVCCVBARVM


            VITA MEVM


            AterCaela


             


             "AlterCaela... that's close to BlackSky. Is this your diary?" Nodoka asked.


             "My life is tied to the history of our House." BlackSky smiled. This one had real promise.


             "Why do you write in Latin?" Nabiki asked as she opened the book and found more of the same language.


             "Our original language was pictographic and limited in its awkwardness. A few thousand years ago we battled this group of soldiers.  Their army stumbled onto us. Now, their writing system was quite handy.  A far more concise symbol set than say Lunarian," BlackSky explained. "Eventually, as they integrated and adapted into our civilization their language itself influenced us until it was fully absorbed."


             "So... you turned a Roman legion and took  Latin from them?" Nabiki asked with disbelief. She knew BlackSky was old... but this seemed ridiculous.  Then again, the Silver Millennium was... before Rome?  It had to be given the whole space travel and mass demonic invasions.


             "They were bright, disciplined, and had a good martial tradition. They had an architect with them too. She was a real help when rebuilding the lair and helping with our water supply," BlackSky said


             "I'm guessing your architect wasn't born a woman," Nabiki remarked.


             "Correct but she managed to work well with the architectural styles we had already absorbed. That's chapter eleven  in the book, I think," BlackSky said. 


             "How do I read this? Learn Latin?"


             "I don't think that's enough," Nodoka said as she tried to read some of the text in the open book. She had taken Latin in college and still retained ability with the language. "I'm amazed that it's still recognizably Latin, but the vocabulary and tense forms are different."


             "Having people still alive from that first group, and many more of the people they taught will reduce drift, but there's a lot of new words in there.  Silvan Latin is a blending of the preceding language it superceded.."


             "You gave me a book I couldn't read," Nabiki kept her tome respectful, but she was confused.


             "Of course not," BlackSky frowned. "I brought reading primers too." She then pulled out a couple, thinner books, and handed them to Nabiki.


             "Ahh... a dictionary?" Nabiki asked as she opened the first of the books.


             BlackSky nodded.


             Nabiki then opened the smallest book and blinked. She went though a couple pages to make sure. Each page had full illustrations, and varying amounts of color, red was predominant. They scenes were full of objects, animals, and succubae. Each item was labeled in the same demonic script. Each page seemed to have a specific theme, like clothing, plants, organs. At the bottom of the picture was a couple sentences, likely describing the scene.


             "This... this is a children's book," Nabiki remarked.


             "That little succubus in all the pictures looks cute," Nariko said.


             "Yes, she's Silva succubus. A little character to make reading fun," BlackSky said.


             "This is pretty... graphic," Nabiki said as she flipped to a pair of pages. The first was on hunting and the following seemed to be on dressing game.


             "It is for succubae," Ranma reminded.


             BlackSky nodded. "Languages are important."


             "Yeah, and now all the demonic I knew from back then is useless," Ranma's tone was mostly apathetic. It was hard to remember all the languages she knew as DarkStar anyway.


             "Yes, it's a pain keeping up with languages." BlackSky could sympathize. Every couple hundred years she had to brush up on her skills.


             "Now you required some thought to pick a gift for." BlackSky had turned to Nariko and was pulling out another item from her satchel. She handed out a wooden cube, the size of both of Nariko's palms.


             "Pretty," Nariko said as she felt the heft of the box. Five of the six sides had ivory panels that were scrimshawed. The colors used were black, blue, green, and of course red. The top was an intricate mesh of geometric and floral figures. The four carvings on the sides seemed to tell a story.


             Nariko guessed that the images were cyclic. One of the sides showed a homey room. The fine paint-filled-scratches showed a detailed lair with a larder, kitchen area, entranceway, and sleeping chamber filled with furs. Detailed in the image was a nursing brood mother watching the rest of her family feed.


             The next one was more graphic. It only had two succubae and they were caught in the middle of mating. Nariko blushed at the skill that had gone into rendering their forms and the thought that had gone into their positioning.


             After that was a rugged mountain meadow where the same brood mother was watching as her spawn played. The last image was on a similar field, and the positioning was nearly identical too. Only now the broodlings were a bit older and their "play" was much more serious.


             Red was also used more in this last image. It was present in all of them. Each individual strand of the brood mother's hair seemed to be carved and then filled with that color.


             Eyeing a seam that ran around the circumference of the box, Nariko opened the thick top and smiled slightly at the melancholy, but hopeful, music that emanated from it. The music player only took up a portion of the interior, the rest of it was lined with soft velvet. Nestled on the center was a little brass key.  The inside of the lid was carved with the four pointed purple star symbol of DarkStar.

 

            Closing the box, Nariko inspected the surface, until she found an area of the upper portion where a carved flower could be pushed down and slide aside to reveal a keyhole, to lock and unlock the box.


             Nariko smiled and put a finger over the familiar image on the lair side. "Is she?"


             BlackSky nodded. "I had it built a while back. I wanted a reminder of..." BlackSky paused. "Of what might have been. It gave me some hope, but I don't need it anymore."


             "You only envisioned me having three kids?" Ranma tried to ask in a joking tone. Her smile faltered as she looked over the box. Her eyes darted to BlackSky and tears formed. It had been ages, but she still cared. Ranma almost stumbled over to her grandmother and practically fell into her arms.


             "It's okay. It's okay," BlackSky said cradling the purring and crying woman. "You've got a family that truly loves you right here."


             Nodoka smiled thinly and moved to her daughter. BlackSky transferred the redhead over and the doctor continued comforting her.


             Ranma sniffled for a bit and then composed herself. "Thanks," she said, straightening her hair.


             "Why give me this?" Nariko asked, holding the box.


             "You're the eldest. You're what got Ranma to accept herself," BlackSky explained.


             "You picked well then," Nabiki smirked as she eyed the music box. She was a bit jealous. The books were more her style, and would be a treasure trove of information once she learned the language. On the other hand, the music box was pretty.


             "Now I remember you musing about our cooking style, and I felt this was perfect," BlackSky said as she handed another book to Ukyou.


             "It's a cookbook?" Ukyou asked as she flipped through the pages. The format certainly seemed to be ingredients, cooking directions, and serving information.


             "Mostly family recipes. You may have to substitute for some of the meats though," BlackSky apologized.


             "And I'll have to learn that crazy Latin too."


             "Silvan is an important thing to know. Yes, we do speak human languages when on Earth, but all our knowledge is kept in something more accessible to us."


             "At least you have a printing press," Nodoka remarked. It was clear that the books were not written by hand.


             "Movable type is an old invention," BlackSky shrugged.


             "So, what have I got?" Akane asked. She had patiently waited, but was still eager.


             "You were very excited when talking about the fire powers you've seen in battle so..." BlackSky handed yet another book over. "Pyromancy is the closest word in English."


             Akane grinned and opened the book. She grumbled quietly when struck by the same demonic text.


             "Way to trick my girls into learning how to read," Ranma laughed.


             "Oh it's not just them," BlackSky smiled as she gave the last item in her satchel to Ranma.


             Ranma opened the slim volume and flipped it. Most of the pages were full figures featuring two succubae grappling with each other. "This is either a guide to some... imaginative foreplay or instructions for close-quarter combat."


             BlackSky chuckled. "My, you are a bright one."


             "This is... useful," Ranma tilted the book sideways to get a better view, to try to determine the nature of the book, of course.


             "I do hope it helps you with your Art," BlackSky said, clarifying the book's contents. It was a fascinating idea, and could unlock a lot of potential. BlackSky knew that it was the application of force and not the magnitude that mattered. More power just meant more options.


             "What's in the other bag?" Misako asked, pointing to the leather case the Jacob had put down on an end table.


             "That's for your grandma," BlackSky said before opening the other satchel. Before she could finish lifting the long box out, Ranma has put herself between it and her mother.


             "What is that?" Ranma asked. The scent seemed worrisome.


             "It's something for her to work with." BlackSky calmly opened the large wooden case. Inside were the metal shards that seemed to be pieces of a broken sword


             "My, that is a lot. It must be at least half of the fragments," Jacob noted. The sheen on the metal was distinctive.


             "It can't be..." Nodoka leaned forward, making sure to keep her hands behind her back, and inspected the shards. "I'd have to run some tests." She looked to BlackSky. "Where did you get this? When?"


             "What is it?" Ranma asked. "Is it some kind of broken magical sword?"


             "Some kind," Nodoka remarked, noticing the soft pinkish shine the metal gave off. It was not radioactive but it was dangerous. Extended physical contact was very bad and inhalation of any fine particles was disastrous, but the other properties made up for the... risks.


             BlackSky put the box down. "You can guess how we got it. Some people think that a magical sword will make them invincible. The fool didn't even have a decent blade. It was a mash of this and some filler alloys."


             "Interesting," Nodoka said as she pulled out a folding knife and opened it's magnifying lens. The surface was streaked with tiny veins that gave an almost laminated appearance.  Nodoka knew the structure would be even more impressive under a microscope.


             BlackSky noted the care that the scientist used not to touch the pieces. "You've seen shards of this before?"


             "We have come across a few samples on various excavations, yes," Jacob allowed.


             "Good, then you'll know what precautions to take."


             "What is this stuff?" Akane asked.


             "It's pieces from a magic sword," Nabiki sighed. She never thought she would be saying that seriously, but then she also never thought she would end up liking pink, being cute and with Akane as the older sister.


             "What's so special about it?" Akane smirked.


             "The metal is... aligned for certain types of energy. Some mages use small pieces of it in their weapons. We're not sure, but we know it helps in some abilities, and it's not good for humans to use it." Nodoka explained.


             "What does it do to humans?" Misako asked.


             "Prolonged usage seems to give –well- madness, though the one cadaver we examined did have a... strange brain tumor." Nodoka frowned as she looked at the metal. "It's not radioactive, or give any emissions, unless you try to use it."


             "Your organization is well-informed," BlackSky nodded. "My family's had to deal with humans driven crazy by pieces of this thing and other Dantite alloys at least half a dozen times."


             "Most of the really good stuff does induce madness in humans," Jacob remarked.


             "And what does exposure do to succubae?" Nodoka asked. She remembered the mission report detailing a succubus that used a spear tipped with a sample of this metal. The accompanying interrogation report said she was quite sane.


             "The metal is infused with demonic energies. The demon queen that made it designed it for our kind to use and channel it," BlackSky explained.


             "Why don't you use it then?" Nodoka asked.


             The elder demoness shrugged. "Frankly, I don't need it. I was saving them to give to Family that could use it and to give to someone that could craft it into something worthy."


             "Makes sense," Nodoka allowed. As she closed the box, she glanced at Jacob. The both knew the regulations. There will be a full battery of tests. The demonic metal was the primary suspect, but everything else would be examined too. It was only prudent.


             "We can't be corrupted by dark powers?" Ukyou suspiciously asked.


             "We're already demons, Ucchan." Misako said as she waved her spade-finned tail in front of her partner.


             Akane smirked. "The only way we could get more evil would be to start wearing pink."


             "Hey!" Nabiki exclaimed.


             "Just because we're demonic doesn't mean we have to be evil," Ranma explained.


             Nabiki blinked. "Technically..."


             "So? Your oldest sister is a scary secret agent. Your grandma's an officer too. You girls all know what my friend Jarvis does for a living, and then there's Colonel Spooky over there." Ranma said pointing to Jacob.


             "I'm hurt Miss Saotome." Jacob laughed. "I've been very friendly and completely honest with you."


             "And that isn't a spooky thing for someone with your job?"


             "That helps," Jacob nodded.


             "Sir, you're showing human emotions," Nodoka said.


             "Miss Saotome will have a good story the next time she goes drinking with the men then."


             "I guess." Somehow, Ranma forgot that Jacob had to know all about the stories that the agents told about him.


             "Daughter, I think it's time for our surprise," Nodoka reminded.


             "Are we going to finally eat?" Misako asked.


             "The other surprise," Nodoka said.


             "Ah, yeah. That surprise," Ranma walked into the kitchen and pulled something out of a cabinet. "We were planning to give this to you before you left, but since you just gave us presents," Ranma explained after she walked back. She then handed over a binder with a small paper bag on top


             "Hot chocolate, with little marshmallows!" BlackSky cried happily in a most girlish manner after looking in the paper bag. After putting the bag full of cocoa packets down, she inspected the binder. It was only an inch thick, but it was full of pictures slid into plastic inserts.


             "Yes, we're a Japanese family," Nabiki joked, as BlackSky looked through the photographs.


             "Pardon?" BlackSky asked, while looking at a grainy picture of Ranma in some Sailor Senshi's lap.


             Nabiki sighed. "Just a joke about a cultural thing. Japanese families take a lot of photographs."


             "This is Canada though." BlackSky turned the page and smiled at the photo of a sleepy brood. Next to that picture was one of Ranma curled up with her head on Nodoka's lap. The scientist was running her hand though her daughter's hair.


             "But we're ethnically Japanese," Nabiki said, blushing with embarrassment.


             "We're succubae, actually," Misako corrected.

 

            Nabiki rolled her eyes.


             "Your girls are very photogenic," BlackSky complimented.


             "I guess we can get to dinner then," Ranma shrugged. The officers and succubae went to the dining room. Instead of the head of the table, the redheaded brood mother sat at the middle of one of the long sides. Nodoka claimed the seat across from her and the broodlings took remaining spots as close to their mother. Jacob and BlackSky ended up on the far ends of the table.


             "I'll have to restart the griddle," Ukyou frowned as she got up. She sat back down when Nodoka entered the room with a large serving tray.


             BlackSky smiled, as she looked at the delicately sliced portions. The scent of the meat was subtle, yet intoxicating. "It's raw; minimal spicing too," BlackSky sounded quite impressed. "It's fish right?"


             "Yup, try some," Misako used her chopsticks to put a piece of Spanish mackerel sashimi on BlackSky's plate.


             BlackSky slipped the sliver of meat into her mouth and purred with delight. "Oh my... and it's just raw, isn't it? Nothing but flesh?"


             "It's surprising isn't it," Nodoka agreed. "But yes, it's only fish. It's very high grade and fresh fish that's precisely cut."


             "I see," BlackSky said as she served herself more fish. The others soon followed and started eating. All seemed quite pleased with the meal, but BlackSky seemed to be getting the most pleasure.


             "You don't have fish where you come from?" Ranma asked.


             "Oh yes, there  quite a lot of fishing in our rivers, oceans, and the great lake downstream of our city, but it's mostly smoked, salted or frozen," BlackSky explained after eating some pieces of sashimi. She had eased back and was letting Ranma's daughters have more.


             "That's ironic," Nabiki noted.


             BlackSky smiled. "We do prefer raw meat, but food does have to be preserved and our freight system isn't as fast as yours." She dipped some of her salmon and then ate the piece of meat and rice.


             "I must compliment you on encouraging me to come," Jacob said with a salute of his glass.


             "Not worried about the food?" Ranma asked.


             "It's fish."


             "I guess, I'll have to cook my course then," Ukyou had some more sushi before getting up and going to the kitchen.


             "Well, that sounds suspicious," Jacob said.


             "Are you a Senshi this time around, too?" BlackSky asked Ranma.


             "Yup, silly uniform and everything."


             "I think it's cool," Akane said as she mixed more wasabi into her sauce.


             "The midriff and leather is an improvement," Nabiki agreed.


             "I have been thinking about that stuff," Ranma said. "Serenity passed her powers to Usagi, and Usagi's kid is a Senshi too."


             "Serenity's daughter has a child?" BlackSky asked. "How good of a mother is she?"


             Ranma picked at her fish before replying. "Well... she's getting better."


             "Figures." BlackSky sighed. "What have you been thinking about?"


             "Well, if Usagi's kid can be a Senshi, why can't mine?"


             Jacob smiled faintly. Stillwater would certainly consider this another example of "too much success".


             "It's possible," BlackSky said.


             "Recent scans have detected slight Pattern anomalies in your kids," Nodoka reminded.


             Ranma nodded. "I was thinking of them nursing Pattern Silver energy from me."


             "Pattern Silver?" BlackSky asked then thought for a second. "Ahh I see, yes, that could work."


             "We'll beat those magical girls at their own game," Misako smiled.


             BlackSky smirked.


             "It's a shame, Kodachi didn't come." Nariko's voice sounded depressed, but she had an amused little smile too.


             "Honey, I make her nervous. Who knows what great-grandma would make her do," Ranma said.


             "Is that why Kasumi's not here?" Akane asked.


             "She's working," Nodoka explained.


             "I know, but she could have gotten off early." Ranma frowned at her plate.


             "Am I that intimidating?" BlackSky innocently asked. She sniffed the air; whatever her blonde great-granddaughter was cooking smelled intriguing.


             "Nah, I think it's because I tried to sleep with her last night," Ranma shrugged.


             "Oh? Thinking of a mate?"


             "Kasumi'd never go for that, but she teases me enough. So I thought... well..."


             "You'd tease her back?" Misako offered.


             "And that is why she's not here," BlackSky remarked.


             "I made sure to put a Polaroid of Mom in her negligee in the photo album we gave you," Nabiki helpfully reminded.


             Ranma blushed to nearly human levels of reddening. "How's it going, Ucchan?"


             "Almost done," Ukyou shouted as she worked on the griddle.


             "The meat she's using smells interesting," BlackSky said, conspiratorially.


             "I don't know what you're implying," Ranma was deadpan.


             "Me neither, frankly." Jacob raised an eyebrow. "You girls haven't had a mission in a while." He also knew that the rumors of the brood bringing home snacks were largely that- rumors. The officer did suspect that Ukyou's new book would increase such rumors.


             "It works out well; the family gets food and money for doing something we'd already do," Nabiki explained.


             "You're doing this while also being 'open and honest' and encouraging camaraderie between the demons and your own soldiers. It's nice to seem some intelligent demon hunters for once," BlackSky observed.


             "We're pragmatic," Jacob said simply.


             "Fitting euphemism," Ranma remarked. She then scowled when the others turned to her. "What, I can't use big words?"


             "How do you choose your inhuman allies?" BlackSky asked.


             "There are some we have to fight, some that simply want to coexist, and others that want to fight alongside us."


             "Some even drop in unannounced," Nabiki dryly remarked.


             Ranma coughed. She had said she was sorry on that first day she and her father moved in.


             "You're quite cynical for someone so young and cute," BlackSky told Nabiki.


             "All thanks to my second mother."


             "You were sarcastic and amoral before Alexia," Akane corrected.


             "And I was a revenge-obsessed fanatic." Misako's face darkened. "Who had horrible fashion sense and wasted all of his kills."


             "Okay, I'm done," Ukyou said as she entered the room. The first of the grilled batter and meat foods was put onto BlackSky's plate.


             "Since you were complimenting the fish I used some in this batch," Ukyou explained as she served the others.


             BlackSky nodded and began to happily eat.


             "I can't believe you kept up on this," Ranma remarked as she dug in.


             "Okonomiyaki was a big part of my life," Ukyou explained.


             "Until you went into the Assembly to get your revenge," Misako reminded.


             "I still cooked back then!"


             "I know. You even had some of your spatula-themed weapons blessed."


             "Yeah." Ukyou turned to BlackSky. "Well, what do you think?"


             "Very complicated flavor," BlackSky said between bites. "It's kinda like something we do. Though only the batter is cooked and is used to wrap the meat and vegetables."


             "That sounds more like a pita or a burrito," Ukyou said.


             "Close, that book I gave you has the recipe for making them."


             "Great," Ukyou said after sitting down and eating her own okonomiyaki.


             "How is yours, Sir?" Nodoka asked.


             "Good," Jacob said. He preferred the sushi more, but he had learned the value of diplomacy.


             "What are you doing?" Ukyou asked Misako.


             "Adding more fish to mine," Misako explained as she put more sashimi slices on her okonomiyaki.


             Ukyou glared at her partner then went back to the others. "So what do the rest of you guys want on your next one?" After the blonde took the orders she went back into the kitchen. She was followed by Nodoka who quickly returned with more raw fish.


             "I'm glad you stopped by," Ranma told her grandmother.


             "I had to. I just wished I stopped by earlier," BlackSky's voice had filled with regret.


             "Don't worry. It's not like Alexia would have told you until after she killed me," Ranma reassured.


             BlackSky frowned before eating some salmon. "I'm sure she would have waited until she could present your body to me, and the corrupted forms of your spawn." She sighed. She had underestimated Alexia's problems; the woman had deranged. BlackSky won't make the same mistake twice;  banishment , especially for Family, could be too lenient.  And she had other tools.


             "Yeah, probably," Ranma said.


             "I'm quite happy to find you in good hands." BlackSky looked at Nodoka. "You're much happier in this life than your last one."


             "I know," Ranma smiled. "There were some rough parts and some hard choices, but we made it."


             "Do you think Serenity's daughter is ready for what's coming?" BlackSky asked.


            "I honestly don't know. Sometimes they seem on the ball... but other times... it's like they're just normal girls." Ranma looked down. "You know about this doom and gloom crap too?" Ranma asked.


             "Something's certainly brewing around here" BlackSky smiled encouragingly. "I know you girls can handle it."


             "We'd better;  just in case the Senshi can't," Ranma sighed and slid back so Ukyou could serve her. "So... what is brewing?"


            Jacob wondered what BlackSky's answer would be. He knew why Miss Saotome never stormed into his office and demanded the whole story. She simply did not care.  She was concerned with the welfare of her family, not the machinations of mages and magical girls.


            "Clearly Serenity's daughter is the key. She's probably what's attracting these groups; I'd would wager that they want her," BlackSky ventured.


            "That cult was trying to kill her to prevent her from taking over the world." Ranma shook her head.


             "They've made a lot of enemies, Ranma. Granted, few remained after challenging them," Nodoka reminded. She turned to Ukyou, who had finished serving the okonomiyaki "Thank you, Dear."


             BlackSky waited for the others to eat for a bit longer before going with her next question. "You mentioned this Kasumi woman. You said she wasn't willing to become your mate?"


             Ranma swallowed. "Well... I haven't even done anything with her. It's too early to even date..."


             "You didn't answer my question," BlackSky delicately said. "That's okay. Being turned is a big decision. Especially if you actually have a real choice and not just between demonhood and death."


             "Well, it's too early. Right now we're just friends," Ranma repeated.


             "Friends that tease each other," Nabiki happily added.


             "Oh, a human sexually tempting a succubus? How unique." BlackSky laughed.


             Ranma grumbled and returned to her food.


             "I'm sorry. It's just so odd. Don't worry; I know you'll find someone," BlackSky assured.


             "Uh, okay," Ranma was apprehensive at the smile her grandmother sported.


             The conversation lulled as the last bits of food were consumed. The pace had slowed down and most of the food was being eaten for its novelty and flavor.


             Jacob got up and went to the kitchen. He busied himself with the coffee maker and put a teapot on the stove for cocoa and tea. He briefly wondered what Stillwater would be thinking of this. WIC had some experience with NH diplomacy, but rarely this informally.


             "I do regret that the dessert isn't going to be as good as the main course," Nodoka said. Ukyou, Misako, and Nariko then took that queue to start clearing off the table and resetting the places.


             "It seemed that you liked chocolate," Nodoka said returning form the kitchen. "I'm sorry to say that the cake was bought at a bakery."


             After getting after-dinner beverages in order, Jacob had returned to his seat. He smirked at the pure pleasure the ancient demon queen had at something as simple as a triple-chocolate cake.


             "Do not trouble yourselves. I did just drop in." BlackSky eyed the slice in front of her but waited for the others to be served.  "I get enough bowing and scraping back home.:


             "How often are you going to come over?" Ranma asked, in-between bites.


             BlackSky put another piece of the moist cake in her mouth as she considered her reply. "Not too often I'm afraid."


             "Makes sense, you do have that whole empire of yours to run."


             BlackSky nodded. "The cake is very good," she reassured Nodoka.


             Jacob nodded in agreement. He then sipped his coffee. It was remarkable the kind of calm that could happen under a literal sword of Damocles. He knew BlackSky was bright. She had to know what would happen if she misbehaved. She would most likely survive the initial onslaught, and perhaps all subsequent ones, but her beloved granddaughter would not.


             Jacob guessed it was moot anyway. BlackSky would stand aside. It seemed, she would let her clever granddaughter helm things, this time. Jacob knew his policy of getting Miss Saotome's trust would have side effects. Trust was a two way street, but he was a Company officer, paranoia came with the job.

 

            Miss Meiou was rightly suspect of the Company's intentions towards the Pattern Silvers. Thus his organization had focused on building support with the  Pattern Silver most estranged from Miss Meiou.   And if that required making literal deals with demons...


             "It really has been wonderful." BlackSky put her fork down onto her plate.


             "It's time for you to leave? Already? But you haven't even told us any stories," Misako whined.


             "Oh, there's plenty of those in the book I gave your little sister."


             "Maybe Mom can read us some of them," Nabiki suggested.


             "Great, another language to learn," Ranma sighed.


             "It's part of our heritage," Akane said after she finished her cake.


             Ranma shrugged. That language came after DarkStar's time, but all the books her family had been given were written in that demonic Latin. She then got up to follow BlackSky out to the back porch.


            Nodoka and Jacob held back and allowed for the succubae to hug. BlackSky hugged her great-granddaughters first. She then embraced Ranma.  The redhead found her purr complimented by a deep almost seismic rumble as she luxuriated in BlackSky's presence.

 

"I was always proud of you, DarkStar. You always get into such.... complicated situations," the demoness hugged Ranma tighter as tears dribbled down her cheeks. "I'm so happy to see that this time you've gotten a better life."


             Ranma simply nodded and held onto her grandmother.


             After the hug, BlackSky leveled her gaze at Nodoka. "I spent this whole time thinking of advice to give you. All I could come up with was encouraging you to stay the course. You're exactly the mother that DarkStar needs.."


             "She's my child," Nodoka said simply.


             BlackSky smiled, and picked up her photo album and instant cocoa. With a final wave back to her family she walked out the front door and into the forest.


             Jacob was already talking into his cell phone. He wanted to make sure as much of her departure was recorded as possible. All information on her was valuable, especially any that might lead to predicting her arrival.


             "Well, now what?" Akane asked.


             "There's a mess of dishes that need washing," Ranma said as she corralled her daughters to the kitchen. "Come on, with six of us, we'll get this place cleaned in no time."
 Jacob finished giving his orders. He and Nodoka were now alone on the back porch. "Yes Major?" he asked cordially.


             "It's just amazing how normal of a family they can be, Sir." Nodoka adjusted her lab coat. "Though I suppose people like us aren't too good of a gauge of normality."


             "You did a good job with Miss Saotome."


             "Thank you, Sir. I know BlackSky encouraged you to come but it was good having you here tonight."


             "This job isn't without its perks," Jacob smirked.

 

 

            End Chapter 2


            Revision Notes:   Ahh,  BlackSky.   She's a fun character and one that I'd like to think hasn't suffered from overexposure.  Given her position she does play a key roll.  Not just herself but also her domains.  That said, BlackSky, and her other daughters,  will have a larger roll in the stories that will come after Blood Debts.            

 

            And Girl Talk was planned to come after this chapter originally, but as you will see that slipped a bit.

 

 

            Author's Notes:  First chapter of the Third Arc of The Return.  Interlude Two will follow this chapter. I'd like to thank my prereaders for helping me: Trimatter, PyroRaven, Questara, Kevin Hammel, J St C Patrick, Wray, Mondu Quiambao, and Jerry Starfire.