A Ranma Sailor Moon fic thingy.
By Sunshine Temple
Naturally, I own neither Sailor Moon nor Ranma. So here's the disclaimer
Ranma 1/2 and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon belongs to Naoko Takeuchi, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC.
Previous chapters and other works can be found at my fanfiction website.
Temporary Backup Site.
Other website Temple of Ranma's Senshi Seifuku
C&C is appreciated.
Book 3: Raising Trouble
Chapter 5: Finding Leftovers
Formerly: Replacements and Remembrance Part 1ii
Galina winced at the garish assault. The broad-shouldered figure before her reinforced Arisha's constant complaints. The Capitalists were clueless and decadent, eternally chasing material wealth. Shiny shoes of ray-skin peeked out of flared plaid pants. Somehow, the ironed creases and spotless condition underscored the... wrongness of the pattern. Regrettably, his suit-coat matched. It continued the same grey, green, and yellow pattern. Wide lapels and shoulder pads complimented, or at least were congruent with, the pinstripe cream-colored shirt and fat spotted and diagonally striped tie.
Smoked aviator style glasses obscured his eyes, and the rest of his craggy face kept a neutral expression. Given the strength of his chin and nose, his middle parted, ear covering, oiled hair seemed too... soft and... wet.
Galina sighed as the man sat down next to her. "Do you really have to do this? You look like a historical relic."
The man put his briefcase and suit-bag down next to him. As he ordered a gin and tonic, Galina noted his pinky ring. The plain silver band contained a single spherical iridescent stone.
The man took a sip and looked around the darkened bar. "Do you really want to get into an argument over who's equipment is more... dated?"
"No. I want minimal fuss. If you insist on playing cute games you can go back to
After contemplating his drink, he drained his glass. "I came here didn't I?"
Galina stood up. "As long as you understand your place, Mal."
Placing a couple bills on the bar, Mal chuckled. "My place? Don't worry, I know my place."
The two exited the bar and crossed an alleyway. "Fine. We can go over protocols later, but I want to know-" Still speaking she flicked a pair of blades. As Galina drove her knives forward she saw that he had stepped back.
Instead of getting stabbed or clumsily attempting to block, he simply moved out of the blades' paths. She flipped one knife over and gave an upward thrust, and saw that he had already shifted his stance. Her other arm came in and in a feint stopped just in front of his neck. This time he held his ground. Her weapons still, she frowned slightly.
Mal simply put his sunglasses away and straightened his coat. "That was slower than I expected."
"You expected," Galina repeated, replaying the footage on her heads up display. His reaction... preceded her action. "Good. Nice to see you still have it de Veste." She slipped her knives out of sight.
Mal de Veste gave a slight bow. "As advertised."
"You understand why I had to be sure?" As they walked, Galina stressed the second word.
"Why? I can guess why you did it," de Veste shifted his suit-bag. "We've never... met and only have each other's reputations to go on."
"Same time, but different... 'clients'." Galina looked up at the sky. She was reluctant to hire him, but they needed something... more. Something to compliment the areas they were weak in.
de Veste nodded. "Lovely euphemism."
"I was surprised." Smirking at his apparent joke, de Veste turned to the cyborg. "This isn't your normal style. Your little ballet company should be in its next city."
Galina cocked an eyebrow. "That we are even talking shows the strangeness of the situation we've come to."
"It's bad," Mal stated as they waited for the crosswalk light to change.
"Is that your... professional evaluation?"
Mal tapped his foot. "You know the situation on the ground better than I do. You're the one that thought I'd be worth the expense. Rumor has it, I'm not the only one you're courting. Combine that with recent events, and what conclusion am I supposed to reach?"
"Then I guess I don't need to brief you."
"Compartmentalization level is your prerogative." The man shrugged. "However..."
Galina slipped an arm into her coat. "Yes?"
"Do you know why you were hired?"
"That's not a question we ask," Galina automatically replied.
"Bullshit. Everyone worth their salt digs around. Insurance is just good business sense. It's important. We're hired to perform a task, and sometimes we need more information on how to perform it."
"Compare the situation you're in, with the profile of your... benefactor."
The pair stopped in front of a hotel. "You don't need to worry about that," Galina crisply stated.
"Naturally. In this example, my benefactor is... you and my client..." Mal chuckled again. "The question becomes, how much of this is a problem for you? What are your terms?"
"Is this something you need to know?"
"Given events there seems to be some play in permitted... exuberance. I need to know how far I'm allowed to go."
Galina sighed and stepped into the building. "Fair point. A subcontractor's actions could reflect badly."
They crossed the lobby. "Then the latitude I'll be allowed?
"Do not concern yourself with... offending our benefactor." Galina cleared her throat as the two made it to the elevator bank. "That is not an issue. Completing your assigned tasks is far more important."
"I see." Mal blinked. "Well, that certainly makes things simpler." He watched the Russian girl summon the lift.
Stepping into the elevator, Galina gave a curt nod. "Just remember, while you don't have to answer to our benefactor, you do have to answer to me."
Following her, Mal gave an oily smile. "Not a problem."
"So... the big bow... it's really a jammer?" Sergeant Brummet asked.
Across the cramped transport, Agent Sophie nodded.
"You really think they'd wear something if it didn't have a purpose, Sarge?" Corporal Giddings asked.
"I'm not too fond of the ribbon and skirt combination myself," Sophie noted.
"Then you really wouldn't have liked our old uniforms," Misako noted, cradling the bulk of her grenade launcher. Her horns tingled with an odd sense of... apprehension that felt familiar.
Sophie shook her head.
"I think they were good looking," Misako haughtily sniffed.
"Bare midriffs, miniskirts, and high heels do not mix with combat," Sophie replied.
"And to think you were born female," Misako shook her head.
"Really?" Corporal Lily Green turned to Sophie.
"How so?" Brummet asked.
"Because there's two kinds of succubae. The normal ones and the 'I feel so pretty' ones."
Sophie chuckled. "Yes, it's like whenever a soldier trades in his penis he gets a makeup kit instead."
"It's not-" Brummet went between Misako's prim and Sophie's little smirk. "It is that bad?"
"Having second thoughts about getting to use one of these?" Sophie hefted her Pug.
Olsen stared at the thick bullpup rifle. "That does put a... damper on the appeal."
"Ma'am, anything else? Anything we should watch for?" Bishop asked from the back of the troop compartment.
Warrant Officer Jeff Pyke gave a silent nod. Curiosity was good, whatever could ease his squad's nerves. Every battle was different, but it had been a long time since his men had faced anything this different.
"Tails are a major sign of mood." Sophie said.
"Yes, watch to see when they go straight and start to rise up," Brummet nodded. "What else?"
"Assume everyone is hostile. Just because they're human doesn't mean they can't attack you. Some demons have humans serving them enthralled , employed, or willingly." Sophie shifted her bow. "Light discipline. That's a major issue."
"Oh?" Green raised her eyebrows.
Sophie's eyes flared in a quick glow.
"Ah, you always do that?"
"It's when we get emotional. Training can control it, like the glow on our claws, but a lot of Pattern D's don't bother with it," Sophie said, rubbing her eyes. "The real advantage is eventually, you can use the eyeglow as a weapon."
"Don't forget the flaming auras we can generate."
"Right, those shields." Brummet frowned. "You get small arms protection, at the cost of being lit up like a Christmas tree."
"That's why we wear these bulky things." Sophie lifted up one of her skirt's armored pleats.
"And a burst of 7.62 will go through those flames, correct?" Green knew what they had been told in the lectures but she wanted to hear it again.
"For all but the most powerful Pattern D's. Otherwise concentrated fire will pierce it, and remember to keep an eye on those you shoot."
"Regeneration, right," Brummet noted.
"What about the cyborgs? What if this is one of their ploys?"
"The blonde they're targeting isn't here," Misako grunted.
"She may not be, but four members of the Fifth NH are," Corporal Green explained.
"Lil, wouldn't they use the split forces to attack where WIC's holding the target?" Brummet asked.
"They could; they could also try to thin out the enemy a bit," Lilly Green stated.
"That's why you were briefed," Sophie reminded. "They are extremely armored. Small arms can be used to keep them from getting too close, but that's about it. Rockets, heavy machine guns, grenades. It takes a few bursts from this – " Sophie hefted her 17mm Pug. "- to crack their armor."
"Well, shit." Brummet sighed.
"Fight them like an armored vehicle, not a soldier. Go for the eyes and the joints or at least go at the same spot. Standard NH rules apply. If they close-in, that's it," Sophie shrugged. "Worse they're quick. They will try to close in."
"Speaking of armored vehicles-" Bishop looked around the compartment. "They blew up some of yours." His question about vehicle survivability hung unasked.
"We had more armor than this Rheinmetal YAK." Sophie gave a resigned shrug. "Still, if the brass thought the cyborgs were a risk we'd be going in by helicopter too or at least using LAV 3's."
"Unless they thought that would be too provocative," Bishop sighed.
"They're real fast little buggers. Area weapons may be your best bet," Misako added.
"We were briefed on this." Giddings opened an eye. "Do we have to spend the trip worrying about all the ways we can get killed?"
"There could be some Assembly remnants. They take a dim view on those that collaborate with demons," Misako smirked.
"And a smattering of Pattern V. Plus whatever cultist groups managed to smuggle themselves into the area."
"You've got a real mess here don'cha?" Giddings sighed.
"Now, now trooper, it's your mess now," Sophie dryly said.
"Think the Pattern Ds have moved?" Bishop asked.
"Nope, they'd have radioed us if the situation had changed. After all, officers do not make mistakes." Warrant Officer Pyke sagely assured.
Brummet laughed. "Of course Warrant."
"The thing that worries me is that you demons can smell each other, at a pretty good range," Pyke drawled. "You can smell them, they can smell you? What's to keep them from getting tipped off early?"
Sophie looked towards the senior non-com. "Like our light discipline there's emission training and some scent suppressants."
"Ah, deodorant. Jolly good then." Pyke leaned back.
"They'll hear the helicopter and these giant trucks first." Misako rolled her eyes; she had tried to explain to mother the redundancy of scent reduction, but she would not be swayed.
Sophie sighed. It was not an antiperspirant; it was not an odor blocker; it simply helped dampen the pattern emissions. However, she knew it would be pointless to argue the point.
"And I'm sure the timing is going to work out just fine," Brummet dryly noted.
"I think the helicopter will wait for us," Pyke noted.
"Unless things really go to hell. Then Red-"
"Red? That's –uh- Ranma right? The redheaded demon?" Green asked.
Sophie nodded. "Yes. Red, Morrison, and Lieutenant Tendo will go in themselves." Sophie said with a careful lack of guile. "I'm sure First Squad will deploy right with them."
"It will save us some trouble then," Brummet noted.
"You could have had the sense to not volunteer," Giddings sardonically noted.
"Sense? To not volunteer? What unit do you think this is?"
"Clam up," Pyke stated after checking with the driver and his radio. "We're four minutes out."
Sophie gave an appreciable nod as the troopers shifted to a more attentive position. With the fluid yet thorough motions of a familiar routine, they rechecked their equipment. One of the corporals stood up and manned the machine-gun in the custom-installed roof turret.
The YAK stopped on a quiet forest road. With the roof turret tracking the woods to the side, the doors opened and a trio of soldiers rushed out. They immediately went prone and trained their weapons. The next group to egress went past the first, and established themselves at the tree-line.
Controlling his breathing, Brummet ran through the evergreen grove. Taking cover by a lone tree he looked forward. The greenish light of his goggles revealed a mundane-looking house just ahead. Looking through the windows he could make out several people.
He briefly switched to the Pattern scanner and his grip tightened. Freeing his left hand he held it back, palm forward, then extended all his fingers, save his middle, and finally pulled in his ring and pinky finger.
Green put up her left hand, made a circle with her thumb and pointer, and extended her other fingers. After signaling that she understood, she repeated Olsen's hand signals. "Stop. Eight, D."
Hearing only the soft steps of his comrades, Olsen waited. They were prone and camouflaged, but that did not help much, not if one of the Pattern D's bothered to look outside. The helicopters should be here. The other squads should be in place. Keeping his weapon ready, he studied the house. There was a back porch that had several steps leading up to it. From there the kitchen could be reached.
"Third Squad is in position." Master Corporal Pattison's voice hissed over the radio.
"First Squad is on final approach," Lieutenant Hill stated.
"Pattern D recognized." Misako paused and sniffed the air. "Alexia's brood!" She added, the low volume belied the urgency in her tone.
Listening to the weighted silence, Brummet set his teeth. He knew the officers were deliberating; he had read the reports. Having turned at least a hundred people, Alexia felt that quantity had a quality all its own
"Second Squad. Plan Horse." Shifton's voice cut in.
Olsen turned just enough to see Lily and Cordell give affirmative responses to his latest hand signal. Looking further to the side he could tell the rest of the squad was ready. Heart steadily pounding, he burst from the tree-line. Pounding footsteps followed him.
He ran to the deck and vaulted over the low guardrail and fired a burst into the kitchen window. Catching a glimpse of a shocked woman with long, curly hair, Olsen rushed to the side, and out of a line of sight. He closed his eyes as Green threw a flash grenade. After the rumbling pop, he opened his eyes and went back to the window.
A split second judgment call was made. The woman was pale, but had no weapons drawn. "Down on the ground!" he shouted; gun sighted at her head.
Cord had breached the door and was followed into the room by Lilly. Their guns went up and the demon acquiesced, nearly tumbling to the floor. Shouts came from further in the house and the rest of Second Squad pushed though the kitchen. Olsen watched them assemble, then rush round a corner vanishing out of sight. There was more shouting followed by some bawling.
Making sure that Cord and Lilly had the first demon covered, Olsen entered the house. His weapon immediately trained on the weeping woman. Lifting up his goggles, he took quick stock of the room.
The kitchen was dominated by a worn, deeply scratched, but polished oak table. Several mismatched chairs encircled it. Broken glass from the blown window had covered the stovetop and collected on the stewpot's lid. The fridge displayed a vast spectrum of artistic quality. From fairly realistic landscape sketches to crude colorings.
"Kitchen secure. One Pattern D," Olsen radioed. "Cord, check the fridge and the stove." Somewhat distantly, Olsen heard the thumping of troopers upstairs, more glass breaking, and helicopters. The absence of gunfire loomed in his mind.
"Living room secure. Four Pattern D," Pyke radioed.
"Bedroom secure. Two Pattern D," Hill stated, breathing heavily. "Count match?"
"Confirmed, all patterns accounted for," Pyke replied his tone tight. "Commencing building search."
"Fridge looks clean," Giddings reported. "Looks like normal stuff from the supermarket." He then went over to the stove and shut off the burner. Using a gloved hand he swept the glass off the lid and carefully eased it up. "Not seeing anything here, but it's stew - could be anything."
"I think we got it," Olsen sighed in a measure of relief. "Cord get back here." Giddings resumed covering the demon and Olsen then made sure his attention was on the room's egress points and on their... prisoner.
The demon had long lavender hair with a slight curl. A plain white dress was rumpled by her prone position. Still crying, her body shivered slightly and her hands flexed occasionally.
"Don't." Lily coldly stated making sure that she was out of tail range.. "Extend your claws and we'll end you."
Keeping his C1A1 at the ready, Olsen sidestepped into the living room, and blinked. The room was crowded with a long sectional sofa, two loveseats, some beanbag chairs and a few thick blankets. Like in the kitchen, the furniture here was worn, especially the blocky pine coffee table, but well-cared for.
Olsen scanned the various end tables and nooks, looking for anything suspicious. House clearing was a nightmare. There were too many places a person could hide: in cabinets, under piles of laundry, behind appliances, in closets, under beds, in drop-ceilings. And smaller things could be stashed in even more places.
Still this was the job and he started to search. Instead of contraband he found a rather normal smattering of movies and games. Though they were more of the "little-princess" variety. Spilled on the table was a couple fashion magazines, some pornography and an open coloring book, with adjacent crayons.
Part of the room featured a sleek modernity that jarred with the rest. This wall was dominated by an immense TV which was hooked to a movie player and a couple videogame systems.
However, usurping all this was a curious tableau. The 'intimate' room was made even more cramped by the presence of over half a dozen armed, armored troopers, all of them cautiously covering four stunned girls, demons. The raw number of warm bodies was actually a major impediment to Olsen's search.
He noted that some of Third Squad had joined in the effort. Which fit the plan, their role was to support the assault by covering the front of the house and deploy inside, when needed.
The harsh scent of urine hung in the air and Olsen noted the telltale stain running from a loveseat to the floor where one of the demons, a petite delicate-looking thing with white hair curled into tight ringlets, lay. The shocked crying was much more intense than in the kitchen
"Any problems?" Olsen asked, feeling his blood pulsing through his face.
"So far so good," Pyke stated, a calculating expression forming. "Keep it up, men. The major's about here, then we'll get this all sorted out. Bonhomme, Tahnee, and Jones are checking out the basement."
Olsen held his tongue. Yes, they thought they had secured all the Pattern D's in the building, but even so sending three people to clear an entire floor, and a basement of all things seemed ill-advised.
One of the demons, a lanky girl with a pair of short black ponytails tried to slide to the little white-haired demon.
"Put your arm back. No touching." Pyke ordered as he shifted his gun to the offending target.
The tall demoness froze and then reluctantly withdrew her hand. Sensing the abandonment, the petite succubus renewed her sobbing.
"Yeah, the Major's gonna sort this all out," Pyke groused.
The demons' crying suddenly increased in volume and intensity. "He better get in here quick, or they'll make the decision for us." Olsen swore and returned to the kitchen.
"Please! Kill them now!" the demoness from the kitchen begged, her voice loud and panicked. "Don't let Her get them."
"What the hell's going on? She's freaking out." Lilly kept aim on the despondent demon.
"I don't know. LT, Major, yhe prisoners are getting mighty antsy," Olsen radioed.
"Yes, we have an idea why," Major Sifton replied as he stepped through the ajar front door. The demons immediately settled down, mute horror blanketing their emotions.
Feeling almost a cold... tightness, Olsen looked over and saw the redhead follow the officer into the room. Olsen did not need to look at his scanner. He could tell visually that the redhead was something else; she was far beyond the weeping examples they had captured. The room seemed to re-center, and focus on Her.
"Misako was right." She stepped into the living room, and gave a brisk nod to the JTF2 troopers. "Now, what are Alexia's spawn doing here?" She crouched down and studied the demons, who tried to slide away from the redhead.
"I was under the impression that they were all dead," Sifton noted.
"Credit your men's skill for the survival of this batch." Ranma returned to her full height. "Would have taken just one batch of nerves, one heavy trigger finger."
"So, we pass?"
Ranma chuckled. "On no, you still have the most difficult part. Figuring out what to do with them."
"Ah, interviews." Sifton turned to Pyke. "Jeff, Any... contraband found?"
Warrant Officer Jeff Pyke shook his head. "I've had the men search the rooms, the basement, even poke through the attic. So far, it's clean. Sure, they could be hiding something but we'll need dogs and start taking apart the walls to really be sure."
"Any idea who's the leader? Broods have matriarchs, or at least elder members."
"I think we've got her, Sir" Olsen interjected.
Major Sifton turned to the kitchen. "Oh?"
Olsen looked down at the woman, despite being tightly closed, her eyes still leaked tears "She was begging us to kill them, before Ranma came in," he added.
"Misako, get in here," Ranma radioed as she stepped towards the kitchen. "Hmm... good guess. She's the oldest."
"This about the runts?" Using the abused back door, Misako stepped into the kitchen. She looked down and saw the prone demoness shiver.
"You know 'em?"
Misako frowned and tilted her head. "They're Mother-Alexia's for sure." The coiffed demon sighed. "Huh, guess she didn't get us all killed."
"Mistress Aurora.... please... convince your... Mother to make it quick." the prone demoness pleaded.
Careful to give the Canadians a clear line of fire, Ranma knelt down by the demoness. "I only killed your sisters because they attacked me and mine. If you're not a threat, I won't hurt you."
The crying demoness twisted her head up, a sliver of hope entered her terror-filled lavender eyes.
"But if you are a threat, I'll eat your heart."
"And my dau- my sisters?" She lowered her head. "They don't deserve this. They pleased Mother. They behave. They're good girls."
"Green, Giddings, let her take a seat," Sifton turned to Ranma. "If you think that's prudent."
"We don't need the thumbscrews." Ranma reached out and took the demoness' arm. She squirmed at the redhead's grip but then calmed under the more powerful being's influence. Ranma then guided her towards the kitchen table and into a seat that Olsen had pulled out.
The older of Alexia's remnants, sat at the head of the long table, while Major Sifton and Ranma sat at the other. Flanking them was Corporal Lily Green and Corporal Cordell Giddings, both of whom had their guns leveled at the demoness.
"What's your name?" Sifton gently asked, discreetly activating his recorder.
The demoness bit her lip. " Cecilia, now. I... I was... Casey Kirchhoff."
"Why didn't Alexia use you in battle?"
Cecilia leaned so she could look into the living room. "We weren't fighters. Mother had us for her pleasure. We helped with... recruiting."
Sympathy colored Major Sifton's face, but he still made sure his troops had their weapons on target.
Misako shook her head. "No... I'm pretty sure you guys died in that office battle."
"Many of us did. After that..." Cecilia shrugged. It was a resigned, empty little gesture. "Mother kept us away. Kept us safe. That's when she started splitting up her brood. So you..." She glanced at Ranma, and lowered her head. "So you wouldn't get us."
"We know Alexia split up her brood, but we thought she threw all her cells at us. We certainly didn't detect any of them," Ranma stated.
"Not until we started scanning further out," Major Sifton corrected. "Are there any groups left?"
"I don't think so." Cecilia frowned. "Mother didn't tell us much, but at the end..." She sighed. "There just wasn't much left. She had heirs, she had some warriors, and she had... us."
Sifton turned to Ranma.
"She's telling the truth." The redhead sniffed. "But as she said, Alexia wouldn't tell these girls her plans."
"Why not? Yuki was her brain-trust," Misako smirked.
Wondering why DarkStar let
"It's just you and your seven sisters?" Sifton asked.
"Yes my sisters." The terrified young woman seemed to pause at that. "Christine, Meredith, Priscilla, Isabel, Kirsten. Hazel, and Desiree."
"And I thought I had to take care of a lot of broodlings. Your hands must be very full." Ranma said with a touch of admiration.
Cecilia stared a shocked blush creeping up her cheeks. "Uh... thanks. I didn't... I'm sure my girls will be good servants and mates."
Wincing, Cecilia lowered her head. "Sorry, I didn't mean... I was just... hoping. If you're not going to kill my family, what are you going to do with them?" she asked, her eyes looking to the stew; it was sure to be cold by now. At least one of the soldiers had thought to turn off the stove.
The redhead leveled her gaze; dark purple eyes staring into light lavender. "Have you heard of the phrase 'No greater friend no worse enemy.' ?"
"You got that from Morrison," Misako drawled.
Ranma rubbed the bridge of her nose in frustration. "Still..." She turned back to Cecilia. "You have options. You can be our enemy, and be destroyed. Or you can be our ally and be protected."
"As cowboy as it sounds, it really is with us or against us," Sifton added. "If you've been killing people and treating them like cattle, we will learn of it."
Cecilia shook her head. "No, I never!"
"There are eight hungry mouths in this house. What do you do for food?" Sifton asked.
"There's a reason we have dinner so late," Cecilia chewed her lip. "I work... evenings."
"Ah." Ranma nodded.
"Is that how you get money too?" Sifton asked.
Cecilia nodded. "It's easy work. We don't need much money or energy, and it's low risk. Mother always created such a... mess. Without her, we couldn't risk the attention."
"How many work?" Ranma asked.
"Just me." Cecilia leaned back. "I thought it would be too much risk. The others are so... special. Meredith watches the house when I'm at work."
"Supporting a family of eight on your own?" Misako did some quick math in her head. "Your clients must love you."
"I am a succubus," Cecilia said, her pride hurt slightly.
"We do have a distinct advantage over our human competition," Ranma nodded. "You're independent right?"
Sifton turned slightly to Ranma. "How'd you make that guess?"
"WIC tries to watch all the organized prostitutes and brothels. It's a natural place for energy draining NH's to work." Ranma omitted that the Drake's... experience had helped fill out the Company dossiers on said organizations.
"I've got a few other girls I talk with, but my reputation..." Cecilia gave a little smirk. "I don't have a problem finding people willing to meet my rates. I suppose you'd want a client list."
"Yes, we'll need all your information. Everything." Sifton stated.
"Privacy is for humans," Ranma's sardonic tone had a sharp undercurrent.
Cecilia nodded her head. "I'll do whatever you say. But please, could you let my sisters have a bit more comfortable seating? And it smells like some of them got a bit... scared, can fresh clothes be arranged?"
"We can make those arrangements." Sifton noted Ranma's slight nod at his statement.
'Thank you," Cecilia bowed her head.
"Warrant Young. Have your two prisoners pick out four sets of clothing. Then escort them down. Take some men from Second Squad to help," Sifton radioed.
"Change of clothes, Sir?" Warrant Officer Francis Young asked. He looked around the bedroom and made sure his men had kept trigger discipline and clear lines of fire.
"That's correct. We've been having a nice chat with the elder Pattern D, been real civilized here," Sifton dryly remarked.
"Yes, Sir." Young turned to his men. "Billy, you and Pete help these.... girls get some clothes."
"What's going on?" One of the succubae asked. Her hair was a light green and was pulled in a short ponytail just above her left ear. She was laying on one of several large mattresses that took up two-thirds of the bedroom. The thick blankets that covered them had been tossed to one side when the troops cleared the room. The other third of the room had a few wardrobes and dressers. All were worn, but well-cared for, and were filled with clothing and other baubles and "toys".
"Meredith, that was Cecilia the eldest. She wants you and Desiree to get some clothes for the rest of your sisters," Young explained.
The demon with the side-ponytail blinked. "Ma- Cecilia did that?"
"We're gonna be okay?" the other succubus, Desiree asked.
"Maybe," Sergeant Billy MacDowell allowed with a cough. He looked over to see Young ordering for some more troops to come upstairs. The sergeant then turned to the other squad members.
"Thank goodness," Meredith sighed, leaning up a bit on the mattress. The longer they stayed alive the more... confident she felt. She knew some of Cecelia's worries and being taken by another powerful group seemed the best they could hope for.
"Come on guys, let's get something organized." Still keeping an eye on the demons, Billy shifted over to the dressers and wardrobes.
"From the Dress-up Trunk?" Desiree asked.
"Nothing too flashy," Meredith cautioned.
Young nodded his head and motioned for the smaller demoness to cross the room. Two soldiers stood to one side and tracked her movements. Momentarily distracted from the night's trials, she hummed the theme-song to a cheery children's show.
"Open it slowly," MacDowell cautioned as he angled himself. They had checked out the trunk before, but there could be a hidden compartment.
Desiree opened the trunk and slowly, carefully removed a top lid. On one side were colorful costumes, on the other side were plain clothes. She went for the latter and started slipping out blouses and undergarments.
"Better get some washcloths too," Tahnee said after she and Bonhomme entered the room. "Make things a bit easier for the girls."
"Keep your hands where I can see them," MacDowell warned Desiree.
"We're ready?" Young asked.
Desiree and Meredith nodded.
"Second Squad, we're going downstairs with two Pattern D's," Young radioed.
"Understood." Pyke replied. "Bishop, Jones, mind the stairs."
Nostrils flaring, Misako shook her head. It was strange.... seeing them alive.
Ranma leaned over and watched the procession. The troops peeled back and let Desiree and Meredith join their sisters. She smirked a bit at how crowded the living room had become.
Watching the succubae reunite and help clean themselves, a relieved smile formed on Cecelia's face. "Thank you."
Ranma gave a curt nod. She then turned to her apprehensive daughter. "Go get Kasumi."
"Right." Misako stepped out of the kitchen and into the night air. Tracking the tree-line, she inhaled the night air. While she could still sense her... relatives, at least the scent was no longer as... pungent. Giving a slight apathetic shrug, she reshouldered Sasha and went around the building.
Creeping in an oblique route she made it to Third squadron and the Company troops. A small smirk formed when one of the Canadians challenged her as she approached. "Hey, LT" the demon said, after getting to the loose position. Overlooking a cul-de-sac, it covered the house's forward approach.
"Yes?" Kasumi asked.
"Mother wants you in the house; I think she wants help on processing the... demons."
Kasumi noted Misako's tone. "She could have radioed."
"I think she was being clever," Misako's eyes darted to the side.
Looking up, Sophie kept her Pug at the ready. Despite her strength, and her training the weapon's weight pulled at her arms.
"Sounds like we burst into a bunch of nice little girls," Warrant Officer John A. Macdonald noted, skepticism entering his voice.
"Things can still go bad," Kasumi noted, having a fair idea why her former fiancee sent her daughter outside. "Good idea Misa, you stay here with Morrison and Third Squad. I'll take Sophie with me."
Sophie got to her feet and followed her former commanding officer.
"Bad blood between Misako and the old family?" Sophie whispered.
"That and she is a blunt instrument. Not exactly what you want for a polite interview."
"Better to send a newborn demon?" Sophie asked.
"You do need the experience."
Covering the lieutenant, Sophie crossed the threshold. Entering the brood's lair, their scents magnified and their presence grew much stronger. Reflexively her elbows tightened to her body, stabilizing her weapon further.
"How old do you think they are?" Kasumi asked, glancing at her scanner display
"They're too young. They had to have been made well after Alexia died." Sophie noted the JTF2 troopers part and reposition their weapons to let them pass. They gave her even more room than they gave Lieutenant Tendo. However, Sophie's wings, even folded up, did give her a bigger silhouette.
"You're forgetting diet. Not everyone eats as well as your family," Kasumi noted as they stepped into the kitchen. "Also, Alexia is the kind of monster to stunt her daughter's development," the officer bitterly added.
"Yeah..." Sophie looked at the broodlings huddled around the kitchen table. They had more power than her. One with a ponytail on the side of her head and another with long curly lavender hair comforting the others, who were nervously, slowly eating.
"That's not very diplomatic," Ranma noted from the far side of the kitchen.
Cecilia looked up as Kasumi and Sophie entered. "You have a sister?" she asked Ranma after taking in the new demon's scent and categorizing it as a niece.
Pulling her right leg back and bending her knees slightly, Sophie shifted into a more natural stance. She tightened her wings and her tail hung loose and low. Her gun was pointed down but held at the ready. The demon before her was not as powerful as any of Red's spawn, but she was definitely brood mother material.
Cecilia looked up from the pot she was ladling out of. "Very confident for being so young. I can see why we lost."
Looking past the windowpane not covered with a piece of cardboard, Sophie noted more JTF2 soldiers. "It's a dangerous world," she reflexively said.
"You do this for all your brood?" Cecilia looked to Ranma.
"Yeah, only maternissima have minions instead of daughters."
If possible, Ceclia's face would have paled. "Mother called you that," she said handing the last bowl to a set of eager hands.
"Funny, she's the one that made her spawn into cannon fodder." Ranma felt the wary apprehension form the quietly eating demons, they were looking to their.... big sister for assurances. "Ironic, the ones Alexia left out to die from exposure were the ones to live."
"Correct use of irony." Kasumi noted.
"Maternissima?" Major Sifton asked.
"Demonic swear word. Refers to a horrible succubus who would turn her spawn into toys, monsters, and tools, betraying the maternal nature of the entire species," Sophie explained.
"Isn't it enough that you killed her?" Cecilia asked.
Despite her pleasant little smile, Ranma's tail twitched slightly.
"She's gone. You made sure of that." Cecilia filled her glass with apple juice from the pitcher on the table. "What are you going to do with us?"
"We've got a delightful interview and processing procedure lined up," Sifton stated, almost wishing the night had hostiles instead. Though he would gladly exchange more paperwork for a mission where all of his men came back, not to mention the possibility of avoiding civilian, such as they were, casualties..
Cecilia briefly looked around her sisters. "I understand."
"We're not doing anything bad," Ranma reassured. "We're just going to check you out, and keep you someplace safe."
"You know that it's a dangerous world. Why else did you move your family out here?"
Cecilia nodded slowly, marveling at the spark of hope within her. "But why? Wouldn't it be easier to just kill us?"
"Easy's not the same as right," Sifton sighed slightly. "Do we have your cooperation?"
"Yes of course." Cecilia wondered if her family actually had a future.
Before Sam or Naoko could knock, the front door to the Tendo-Saotome residence opened. "Good to see you two," the platinum blonde succubus greeted as she let the two teenage humans in.
"You don't have to show off that you knew we were coming," Naoko muttered as she bent down to take off her shoes.
Ukyou chuckled. "Oh, don't do that. Mom's not home."
Sam frowned. They had called ahead, but it made sense Ranma was called on a mission, especially given recent events.
The demoness smiled "She's just at a neighbor's house. Helping with the move."
"Oh?" Naoko asked.
"Come on," Ukyou lead the pair through the house, then out the kitchen door. The three crossed the patio and then were about to round the dojo when they stopped.
Sam boggled at the diminutive old man. Lounging in a wooden lawn-chair, he wore a worn gi and was happily sipping from a sake tumbler. A long, sturdy pipe was resting on the table.
Naoko had a bit more experience and bowed at the old man. "Honored Elder."
The old man lowered his ceramic cup onto a small side table. "Human girls? Civilians too. Ukyou?"
The blonde raised an eyebrow. "They're Mom's friends, Sensei . From school."
"Bah, don't be so formal." He turned to Naoko. "Though I do like that they're polite." His apprising gaze turned more lecherous. "And I must say, Ranma's got such wonderful taste."
"I'm Takeuchi, Naoko; this is Carter, Samantha; and you are?"
"Happosai, Grand Master of Musabetsu Kakuto Ryu." The bald old man beamed
Samantha was reminded of habanero peppers. They might be tiny, wrinkly and funny looking but they were incredibly powerful. They also could be painfully irritating if not handled with the utmost care.
Naoko was more focused on what the man had said. "Indiscriminate Grappling? Some kind of mixed martial art?"
"Obviously, it's what Ranma and her kids do," Sam noted.
Happosai grinned at the blonde. "Right you are. My first two students were Genma and Soun. They wanted to join the houses; something that Ranma did beautifully."
Ukyou rolled her eyes at the pun. "Yes, well I'm taking them over to see Ranma at Eve's."
"Ah yes, now that's a woman." Happosai smiled and leaned back, eyes half closed in memory.
Ukyou shook her head. "Pervert."
"Said the sex demon. I seem to recall you and Misako getting so carried away that you broke a wall." Happosai's dreamy expression floated up as he refilled his tumbler.
"Exactly, sex demon." Ukyou crossed her arms over her chest. "I've got an excuse. What's yours?"
"Perverted old man that founded a martial arts school to help his hedonistic hunger."
"The more I learn about Red's family..." Sam trailed off.
"Yeah, between this and her Grandmother," Naoko shook her head.
"Don't forget Red's mother." Happosai shook his head. "Can't believe Genma let her get away."
"It's like she was born just to be a succubus." Sam said.
"Do we really have to go into genealogy?" Ukyou asked.
"I could give the girls a little demonstration." Happosai's lecherous grin shifted, focusing on the present, instead of fond memories of the recent past.
"Don't take their bras," Ukyou frowned then added. "Or grope them."
Tears welled in the old man's eyes. "I work so hard to train you girls, and this is the thanks I get? You won't allow an old man some simple pleasures? What next, will you take away my sake? My tobacco?"
Ukyou's eyes flared orange. "Don't ham it up old man."
"Awww, but you broodlings are so fun to tweak. Not like Red."
"You're just saying that because you've both got the same taste in lingerie."
Color drained from Sam's face.
"He doesn't wear it. He likes to look at women wearing it. He used to steal them too, but he stopped that."
"That's because you took the fun out of it," the old man pouted. "There's no thrill when there's no hunt, no chase."
"That hasn't stopped you from 'volunteering' to do our laundry."
Happosai chuckled. "I just want to pull my weight around the house. You girls are so busy, with all that physical activity. It's the least I can do."
"Uhg... this is like when my Uncle Jayne and Aunt Vera came over," Samantha shuddered.
"Strange family?" Ukyou raised an eyebrow.
Naoko coughed. "You have no idea."
The succubus looked between the two humans. "Yeah... let's go to Mom."
"Have fun." Happosai leaned back in his chair.
"Right..." Ukyou shrugged before they resumed crossing the yard.
As they entered a small path that ran through a small grove, Sam looked over her shoulder. "Nice guy."
"You never had a creepy grandpa." Naoko looked around. "So, where are we?"
"Auntie Eve's place, it's kitty-cornered from our house," Ukyou explained as they approached the back of a cedar-sided house.
"A house near yours just happened to go on the market?" Naoko flatly asked.
"You make it sound like the secret agent demons did something unethical, I'm sure they simply had Principal Drake lean dangle a carrot in front of a few mortgage holders," Sam stated.
"Such imagination," Ukyou snickered as she knocked on the back door.
The door opened, revealing another blonde demon. A starched white apron, tied in back with a big bow, covered a poured-on blue blouse with puffy shoulders and a skirt that flounced and bubbled over the blonde's generous hips before flaring in and stretching over her long legs. Shining white stockings peeked out of the shin-length hem and vanished into slim glossed cobalt pumps. "Oh, company," Eve smiled as she stepped back. "Please come in," she purred running a manicured hand through luxuriously long and teased tresses that had buoyant body rivaling the redhead's lofty locks.
Sitting at the kitchen table, Ranma looked up and smiled. "Hi guys!"
"Hey Red!" Naoko looked around the sparse kitchen. "How's things going?"
Ranma frowned briefly. "Busy."
The tall demoness' lips formed a pout. "Yes, work's been keeping her very busy."
"Must be nice to unwind," Ukyou said with a knowing smile.
"Subtle," Sam deadpanned, closing the door behind her.
"They are succubae," Naoko reminded.
Sam looked around the bare kitchen. "You just moving in?"
"Moving in was easy," Eve noted, straightening a seat.
"Don't have much furniture then," Naoko stepped into an empty room. Freshly painted walls gleamed. Containing only a few heavy duty plastic crates, she presumed it was a dining room. She noted that the narrow window frames looked freshly done. Turning she saw another pale redhead enter from the opposite end of the room.
Her hair was cut in a short pageboy and she wore a grey Lycra sports bra, running shorts, and light boots. A gleaming handgun was secured in a form-fitting nylon holster. "Friends of Red," the demon stated as she discretely sniffed the air.
"How?" Naoko sighed. "Oh, you can smell her on us, can't you?"
"Yes," the redhead extended her arm. "Morgan."
"Naoko, and that's Sam in the kitchen," she said gesturing behind herself. "So... you're one of Eve's kids?"
Morgan smiled slightly.
"And what do you do?"
The redhead's grin broadened. "Just a sec," she said before running back to the living room.
"Now you've got her started," Eve smirked as she opened a mostly bare cupboard. "So, how do you girls take your coffee?"
"Sugar, no cream," Sam said.
"Black," Ukyou stated.
"I don't like coffee, sorry," Naoko said.
"That's okay, neither does Ranma. Would you like some juice?" Eve asked.
"Sure." Hearing Morgan return, Naoko turned around and... stared. "That's a... big gun."
"Isn't it?" Morgan gushed, while cuddling her rifle to her chest.
Naoko continued to stare. She knew the girls were strong, but the effortless ease with which she hefted it was ridiculous. "So... does it have a name?"
"Name?" Running a hand down the barrel, Morgan frowned.
"Isn't that what you girls do? I know Misako named hers. Even Nariko named her sword."
Stroking her gun, Morgan slowly nodded.
"Well.... something to think about," Naoko said as she backed into the kitchen.
Sam chuckled. "One of yours?" she asked Eve.
"Is it that obvious?" Eve asked as she pulled a pitcher out or the refrigerator.
"Would you move into a house if it was just you?" Sam asked.
"More-so, you're Red's sister. Of course you're going to get kids."
"Really?" Smirking, Eve leaned on the counter and tapped the pitcher. "Perhaps you would know. You did manage to stay friends with Ranma and stay human."
Ukyou chuckled as she fiddled with the coffeemaker. "Tease."
"Naturally," Eve purred, before gliding over and resetting the coffeemaker and straightening it so it was square with the wall and counter.
"So how are... things?" Sam asked.
Ranma's satisfied little smile evaporated. "Stupid bubble-headed princesses."
"Oh?" Sam frowned. "Well, can you talk about it?"
"Is Misa-chan causing problems?" Naoko asked. "Wait... you said bubblehead not bimbo."
"Defining a bubblehead as a liability in combat, are we?" Eve smirked as she poured out the coffee and mixed in sugar.
"Sure," Ranma shrugged, accepting a glass of grapefruit-juice. "I mean it's... it could be worse."
Naoko chewed her lip. She was all but certain that the recent "troubles" were related to her friend's stress, but... "So why can't you... deal with her?"
Eve's crimson lips curled into a broad grin. "I've asked her the same question, Dear."
Ranma took a sip. "It'd be a mess. Unpredictable."
"You're talking about this Moon royalty right?"
"Yeah, the other group of recent transfers that haven't been in class," Sam added.
"That's correct, a great threat managed to get Queen Serenity to come back," Eve said, locking her gaze with Ranma.
The redhead nodded; she was adverse to lying, but omission was an easier pill, and Need to Know could not be ignored.
Sam raised an eyebrow. "Really? So that imperial queen is back? What, did she have some sort of failsafe? If the others screw up enough she'll reincarnate too?"
Ranma smiled. "Something like that... just in case."
"Is the big old queen gonna try to take over the world again?" Naoko asked.
"That would certainly make matters simpler," Eve's voice was cold.
As the awkwardness of the following silence grew, Sam frowned into her coffee "So you've got Morgan... have any other daughters?"
Eve immediately smiled. "Yes two, Sophie and Morrison."
"Her first name's Richard," Morgan said in a sing-song voice.
"Ouch, she gonna pick a new name?" Naoko asked.
"She's still making up her mind," Eve said.
"Androgynous names are convenient for succubae," Ukyou stated.
"You would know," Morgan teased.
"I don't see what the problem is," the blonde human shrugged.
Naoko sipped her juice and turned to her friend "Of course you wouldn't, Samantha."
Ranma laughed. "It's okay, my name's fairly gender neutral."
"Sunshine?" Sam asked.
The redhead sighed. Her school alias of Sunshine Saotome was far more trouble than it was worth. "No... not that one.
"Don't go through all my names. You know what I'm talking about."
"But being obtuse is fun," Eve said as she adjusted her apron.
"Having work troubles?" Naoko asked.
"And you can't solve them the normal way?" Sam added.
Eve shook her head, and stepped over to Ranma. "I keep telling her there's a simple solution."
"Funny." Ranma crossed her arms. "It's a challenge but I think I'm getting through to them, to her."
Sam nodded in realization "You got roped into training this person didn't you?"
"That is the plan," Eve kneaded her sister's shoulders, generating a pouty purr. "We hope to take advantage of a little break."
Ranma arched her head back. "We're running against the clock here. There's gonna be another attack."
Eve let out a few crackling pops on the redhead's shoulder blades. "Yes, there's always another attack."
"And who knows, maybe your little Slavic friend will take up your offer." Eve pressed her thumbs to Ranma's neck. "I know you'd rather be playing with her than our little queen."
"You talking about Red finding a girlfriend?" Sam asked.
"Sounds more like a euphemism for battle," Naoko refilled her mug.
"Like there's that much of a difference," Sam scoffed.
Naoko pondered as she added sugar. "Depends. One sounds angrier than the other, though it sounds like this training's even more stressful."
"Some people are too stubborn to die," Morgan idly noted as she inspected the dials on her scope. "Whether that's a good or a bad thing depends on where you stand."
Continuing her thinking, Naoko stirred her drink. "Now... if this problem of yours gets really.... bad, what then?"
Ranma raised an eyebrow.
Eve chuckled. "The simple solution."
"I see." Naoko tapped her chin. "And the status quo? In the long term I mean?"
Sam chuckled. "So that's a no."
"Then why worry." Naoko chuckled. "Either things will get better or... you have that solution."
Ranma looked up. "That's... true."
"So don't get that wound up. It'll just drive you crazy, and it's not like you don't have a solution." Naoko suggested.
"It's not that simple."
Naoko smirked. "Sure, it is."
"It's only simple because we're not telling you everything," Ukyou insisted.
"Details, details. This is Red we're talking about." Naoko took a sip. "Good coffee.
"Thank you." Eve gave a slight blush. "And you're correct. Ranma is very direct."
"Yeah, you don't do complex, Red. If there's a problem you take care of it." Sam gave a thumbs up.
Ranma leaned back. "So, I should just ignore all the political intrigue, alliances, and strategic preparations, and instead just... barrel through."
"Direct action is your strength, Mom."
"Even at meetings you're blunt and straightforward." Eve looked the two humans over with a small smile. "I think they've got the right idea."
Ranma ran a hand through her hair. "Yeah... It's not really up to me, is it? If our little Princess doesn't want to grow up, well that'll just be the way it is."
"Don't worry the small stuff.
"This isn't really small," Ukyou dryly noted.
"Really? Has Red ever gone up against a real problem other than directly? She isn't exactly shy about these things," Sam reminded.
"Exactly, I mean you're a demon, Red. Slaughtering those that displease you is part of the deal," Naoko said.
"Yeah! Be whimsically homicidal." Sam added.
"Do you know what makes you weak?" Mistress Mercury strode over to the kneeling purple-haired woman.
Sailor Virgo flexed her fingers and gauged the distance between herself and the evening-dress wearing dominatrix. "No."
"Not going to venture a guess?" Mercury chuckled and looked up at Sailor Orion. "How much time?"
Orion looked up from the series of runes she had been etching onto a silver block. Several glowing crystals were put into recessed slots around the circumference, while a thin silver crown sat in the middle of the circle. "I think we're almost ready," Orion ventured before consulting a nearby table containing a thick bound book and a thin computer screen.
"Excellent," Mercury purred before turning back to the former-Amazon. 'I believe we were discussing your weakness?"
"Yes," Virgo spat.
"I had been trying, trying to make us better. The Queen, you, myself, Orion, everyone." Mercury walked over to a little silver-inlaid ebony bookshelf that had been heavily bolted to an oak table. "At first I thought we all had different problems. Different things that made us all weak. A lack of experience, a lack of skills, a lack of power."
Mercury looked out the window and at the city sprawling before her. "But that's not really it. We all have the same weakness."
Virgo kept herself from sighing.
"Do you care to guess what it is? Either of you." Mercury's eyes flashed between the two Senshi.
"We're human?" Orion dryly asked, returning to her engraving.
"Oh, very good!" Mercury laughed. "That was what eluded me! It was such a simple thing. I had the answer in my hands; Venus showed me, showed us, the way."
Virgo frowned. "What of the Senshi, what of Queen Serenity?"
Flipping out her tessen, Mercury raked the edge of her ice-fan across Virgo's face.
With a heavy thud the purple-haired teen hit the floor. Bleeding lightly, she leapt to her feet and drew her swords.
"That blow would have snapped a human's neck, and here you are ready for more." Mercury chuckled. "It's time we stopped pretending. It's time our Queen stopped pretending."
Lowering her blades slightly, Virgo hesitated.
"Delusions of humanity will only hurt us. Our enemies, our allies," Mercury smirked. "do not suffer the same illusions. Why should we?"
"What of Setsuna?" Orion asked.
"She is our primary threat. She has used an external threat to justify... changing our Queen. Forcing her to her twisted will."
"And worse, she stole plans from you," Orion noted.
"Yes," Mercury frowned for a second. "Setsuna.... Setsuna has shown me the problems of being so limited, of thinking so small. Can you comprehend how long she's waited? The kind of patience it has taken for her to ensure that the proper opportunities will arise." Mercury stepped over to her chair and picked up a wineglass.
She studied the cut-crystal structure. "She has the Key. She is the Gate. Against a threat like that, anything...." Mercury opened a bottle. "For the briefest moment I had hoped... hoped that the Russians had killed her, and fate, sensing my desire, granted my wish.
"And in giving my wish, confirmed my deepest fears. We've seen that Setsuna lives, but in another body." Mercury steadied her hand as she filled her glass. "Do you realize what that means?" she turned, nearly spilling her glass.
Mercury sighed at the blank faces. "To her... bodies are nothing more than... this," she raised her glass. "They're something convenient she can pour herself into. Do I need to explain what that means? For her? For us? For the Queen?"
"And Usagi has no idea."
Mercury scowled. "Yes, Puu could tell the Queen exactly what she is, and poor, trusting Usagi would simply smile. The Queen can't live with such delusions; we can't live with such delusions. Action must be taken, we must realize what we are. All of us."
"That's why you changed Minako?" Orion asked.
Virgo sighed and sheathed her swords. Her Mistress tended towards these asides, though they normally would wrap up after about this much time.
"Venus was a prototype. Things have become more... refined."
"What's the next step, then?" Virgo asked.
Mercury sipped. "Oh, you'll see. Don't worry, we'll have our Queen back."
Also Ranma's scene where she tempts Arisha has
a sequence familiar to any
I'd like to thank my pre-readers. They read through my most egregious mistakes so you don't have to. DGC, J St C Patrick, Pale Wolf, Wray, Kevin Hammel, Ikarus, Jerry Starfire, and Nadrek..
Revision notes: And that's a... full chapter. Both Mal de Veste and Cecilia and her girls get introduced. And Eve gets her new house and Mistress Mercury is being creepy? The crazy part is that this is the chapter /after/ it was split in half. And yes, I take full blame for the chapter title.