A Ranma Sailor Moon fic thingy.
By Josh "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.
Other website Temple of Ranma's Senshi Seifuku
C&C as always is wanted.
Chapter 4 Wakeups: With and Without Regrets.
As consciousness swam back to Ranma, she realized she was not alone in bed. Her companion was larger than her, and laying on her, with a bit of drool oozing out between his lips. "Get offa me!" Ranma grumped as she shoved Wolf onto the floor.
"Morning to you too." Wolf grinned.
"Man..." Ranma rubbed her face and her belly button. Other than the stud earrings she wore to bed there was nothing... extra. At first she thought last night might have been a dream, then she looked over on her vanity. There sat an opalescent-lipped, open-mouthed porcelain mask. Her shoulders sagged. "And I was hoping that was a dream."
"Not a nightmare?" Wolf teased.
Sitting up among a crimson field, Ranma glared. "I've had nightmares about Kuno before."
Wolf tilted his head.
"Just after we first met." She frowned, thinking of the old dream. Kuno chasing her, her falling into a pool, being surrounded by multiple Kunos. She shook her head.
The queen glared. "You were supposed to chaperone me. I guess this is what'll happen if I quit waiting and just go for the wedding."
"And I did.” Wolf rolled his eyes. "It's not like you were in that crazy getup the whole night, and you'll still be able to wear white at your wedding. Well... maybe not gloves." He did not mention the lipstick, but no bride wore white lipstick.
Looking at her manicured nails, Ranma frowned. "It's your fault for making me think of the damn gown."
Wolf blinked at her lack of commentary about... that. "Well... I told you not to dress that way. The Harvest Ball was bad enough, but then you went to full New Years. At least you didn't try the naiad mode."
"All those bells, ringing in the new year... are all fairy ceremonies that obvious?"
"There's also that the bindings symbolize the queen's duties to the kingdom and how she's dependent on her subjects. And don't get me started on the Voice of the Queen."
"Bells and chains, Wolf..." The fairy raised an eyebrow. "And why did Kuno lose his shirt and go around in nothing but a pair of tight little pants?"
"Because you wanted to cuddle with him bare-chested?"
The fairy sighed. "No symbolism there?" she asked, a hopeful edge to her voice. If there was a cultural reason for it –well- that made it a bit less bad.
Wolf shrugged. "Like the dress and bindings it shows that the queen's really kinky."
Ranma shook her head. Feeling the weight she looked down. What she had assumed to be her blanket was actually a gently curling mass of hair that spilled over the majority of the bed. "This is too much hair."
"At least it's down," Wolf shrugged. "I never liked those fancy styles."
Ranma got to her feet. "You suck. You know that."
Once again the redhead's glare was undercut by her glitter. She turned to her vanity. "I'm late," she gasped her attention split between the mask and its chains and the clock and its flashing light. She hardly noticed the green and blue wrapped package on the other side of the vanity.
"That's why I woke you up." Wolf grumbled. It would have been easier if the Queen was able to Bridge the territories of her Demesne, but for now they had to make do with merely walking... and flying... or calling a limo.
"Do I have time to shower?" Ranma frowned.
"Depends, do you want to meet Kuno before class?"
Ranma simply stared at the mirror.
Wolf rolled his eyes. "Fine. Just use the refresh spell. You know that."
Ranma nodded; she had used it yesterday.
"That'll do a better job of getting rid of the glitter anyway,” he reminded. What all that glitter was doing to the water system was not something he wanted to think about.
"Yeah, yeah," Ranma grumbled as she picked up fresh underwear. Holding up the translucent-petal skirted version of the Furinkan uniform, she snapped her long fingers. A torrent scrubbed over her body followed by a fluffing polish and her clothing snapping into place.
For once she had no complaints on the slight puff to her gauzy sleeves or how her underwear was visible beneath her clothes. Compared to what she had worn yesterday and the night before this was the picture of modesty.
She smiled at the light blush, just enough to contrast against her nutmeg skin, ruby lipstick, and fuchsia eyeshadow but she gushed at her shoes. "Yes! Mary Janes with a low heel!" she giggled
"Maybe the glitter really is eating your brain."
"Last night was like being subjected to a Shibari nut with a bell, chocolate, and fish fetish."
Wolf gave her a flat look. "You're the one that thought the Harvest Ball gown wasn't decadent enough." His tail swished. "It's like you were rushing things."
"Don't be silly; I'm the queen," Ranma flatly stated as she mussed with her hair. The length receded to just waist-length and was free of buns, braids, or other structures.
Save the series of curled bangs which she lovingly shaped. She paid special attention to the central pair, making sure the points of the opposing bangs came together to form an inverted heart. Smiling she snapped her fingers again, causing her hair to puff up and gain more body. The process added a couple inches to her height and plumped her bangs.
"It still looks like a crab's sitting on your head," Wolf groused.
"Since when did you complain about me having girly hair?" she asked going to her vanity. Reaching out for the wrapped box, the fairy noticed the glossy mask. Frowning she grabbed its slick, inlaid surface and heaved it into the closet.
"Since you started liking it."
Ranma sighed. "It's just... better than the other styles."
"Really? Even the braid?"
Picking up her schoolbag, which had turned to a shiny lavender leather, Ranma raised a seemingly sculpted eyebrow. "A giant spiraling braided bun topped with a thick rope of hair isn't better than this."
"Tachi seems to think differently," Wolf teased.
Walking down the hallway, Ranma turned away from the wolf. "Well..."
Wolf frowned and made a note. "Anyway, I was talking about the braid you wore... before. Or even the ponytail you wear with your combat clothes."
"You were easier to deal with when you were trying to make me more girly," Ranma huffed, descending the stairs.
Wolf bounded after her. "I did no such thing."
"There you are." Nodoka, in her own blue and green, mostly translucent kimono, intercepted her daughter.
"Did someone have a busy night?"
"Really... I er..."
Nodoka chuckled. "There's nothing wrong with enjoying your fiance, but... "
"Mother..." Ranma hissed through clenched teeth.
Nodoka seemed to ignore Ranma. "If you can't contain yourself, well, while the wedding can be moved up. I think you may be rushing things, even true-love can be spoiled."
"It's not true love! And we're not rushing things."
"Dear, I saw the mask."
This time, Ranma's blush managed to pink her cheeks.
"Calm down. I'm not judging you," Nodoka assured as she stepped up and adjusted some of Ranma's bangs and smoothed the lines of her daughter's uniform. "Wolf assures me you didn't do anything you would... regret."
"Mom.... Kuno and I-"
"Really, you need to understand men. They're frightfully easy to lead around." Nodoka paused. "But you already knew that, and you've only gotten better at it."
Nodoka eyed her daughter. "Was he improper? Did he take advantage?" Her hand went to her sheathed sword.
Ranma exhaled. She could... Kuno was being really grabby, and he was feeding her sweets. Would it really be a lie to blame him? It could solve her problems, and she had been more than willing to throw blame at him in the past. He had so often deserved it...
The redhead closed her eyes. She banished the thoughts. Both Wolf and Kuno had asked if she wanted to stop. But she... she had kept pushing.
"No, he was fine."
Nodoka looked over the young queen. "I know you're happy to celebrate your impending marriage but perhaps a bit less... haste would make your courtship more fulfilling."
"You... Mrs. 'Give me grandkids with your handsome husband' are now telling me to slow down." Ranma stared. More than the mask on her vanity this shocked her. "You think I'm going too fast with... Kuno."
"Wolf told me about the Harvest Gown, and the order you gave him."
Ranma winced "The gown right." She felt some relief, at least the fuzz-butt had kept the New Year's Gown to himself.
"My worry is less what you're doing and more how fast you're burning things through. Relationships have to be based on more than just the physical compatibility. Once the novelty, once the carnality passes there has to be something else. Otherwise the relationship is empty."
Looking sad, Nodoka continued. "Yes, he's attractive, and yes you're attracted to him."
Nodoka laughed. "Really, daughter?"
"But a relationship needs more than that. Now before you two were engaged you had a budding companionship, friendship, and mutual interests. I don't want you to forget that."
"We were practicing martial arts together... before the cafe," Ranma admitted.
Nodoka hugged the smaller fairy. "You've got him, daughter. Kuno isn't going away. He's not going to vanish under your nose."
Ranma frowned. For so long she had wanted exactly that. "That's not why I'm-" She gave a high-pitched eep and covered her mouth.
The queen mumbled something.
Cheek's flush, Ranma tried again, this time her voice was a nearly-inaudible squeak.
Wolf huffed. "Remember yesterday when she suggested 'Getting it over with' and having the wedding right away?"
"Oh." Nodoka hugged her tighter. "I'm sorry, Honey. I didn't mean to pressure you."
Ranma leaned on her mother. "I just kept going and it felt so good, you know?"
"Yes, I was a young lady too."
Ranma let that slide.
Nodoka released her. "Further and further. You really are growing up."
The redhead looked down; her stomach fluttered at the idea of what she was growing up into.
"There's also that she was meeting friends at the cafe," Wolf said.
"Oh? A Saotome and Kuno with an audience." Nodoka shook her head. "And correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn’t there another couple with you?"
Wolf nodded. "Usagi and Mamoru, they're engaged too"
Nodoka looked between the familiar and the fairy. "Ah, I see. And let me guess. This Usagi's the other queen?"
Ranma put her head in her hands and sighed. Her bangs fell over her graceful, thin fingers and glitter twinkled as it fell to the floor.
"Daughter, you've really got to reign in this competitive streak of yours. I suppose your choice of fiance doesn't help either."
"It's not like that!"
"You're too insecure dear."
Ranma looked up. "I'm a guy that turned into a fairy queen with a very rich, very handsome samurai for a fiance."
Wolf held his tongue on that.
"And you decided to show up this other magical queen?"
Nodoka smiled gently. "Maybe you really should read that copy of 'Titania's Guide to Raising Proper Ladies' I had wolf give you. It does give relationship advice. Your predecessor had a... hard time with relationships."
"It's all in fairy language." Ranma pouted.
"You are the queen," Nodoka remained. "Besides it's very easy to learn. I've almost got the hang of it."
"Yes, mother," the redhead sighed.
"It's not like I'm asking you to memorize an epic saga. Though there are some lovely ones towards the end of Titania's book."
"Yes, mother," the fairy repeated.
"I wouldn't blame the competition too much. Ranma was well on her way before Usagi arrived," Wolf added.
The redhead glared. "Look, things got out of hand last night. And I'm gonna make sure it doesn't go all crazy again."
Nodoka raised an eyebrow. "So, we're in agreement?"
Ranma gave a smile. "Mom, going fast was fun but I wouldn't mind slowing down for the rest of the way."
Nodoka smiled and patted Ranma on the head, her hand sinking into the springy, sparkling tresses. "That's wonderful to hear. Your love should bloom naturally, properly."
"I'm a magical glitter factory," Ranma muttered.
"Yes, proper by the standards of Titania's, of your, court," Nodoka amended.
"Standards? I've seen the getups that Titania wore."
"Well of course, you're the one who wore them," Wolf said.
Ranma's muttering was cut short by her mother's interruption. "Ranma, I know we've talked for a while, but we mustn't detain you further. School will be starting soon."
"Damn, not even time for breakfast?" Ranma hovered outside the kitchen. She could see the sparkling, spotless room. The smell of fresh food and honey wafted up. The whole house had gotten brighter, cleaner, and shinier since she had started living here. Ranma worried if her mother was pushing herself too hard, but the elder fairy seemed relaxed enough.
Nodoka smiled and handed her a shimmery periwinkle cloth bag embroidered with lavender butterfly wings. "I figured you'd be in a rush this morning."
Opening the bag, Ranma was assaulted by the scent of fresh and rich baked goods. "Thanks mom!" the redhead gushed as she pulled a pastry out of the bag and ran out of the front door. She quickly leapt over the blooming garden that fronted the house, skipped over the springy, glistening grass, and passed under the leafy emerald trees that bordered the front sidewalk.
"You do know she's meeting Kuno before school starts today right?" Wolf asked.
"Really? What a coincidence." Nodoka innocently said. "Do be a Dear and make sure she doesn't... get ahead of herself."
Wolf chuckled before loping after the queen.
"Did you enjoy your date?" Akane leveled scorn on the last word.
Shifting her shiny lavender school-bag Ranma raised an eyebrow. "Huh..." She looked and watched Wolf seemingly doze in the shade of a tree. Being engaged to the school principal's son did have its advantages. "Please tell me you're not jealous."
Akane twitched. "Jealous? Is there anything to be jealous of?"
Ranma shrugged. "Well, he's somewhat competent in the Art, rich, apparently very romantic, handsome, and from what I've been told, is quite the catch."
"He's also obsessive, insane, perverted, and two-timing." Akane blinked. "Wait... handsome?"
"Are you going to deny it?" Ranma teased. For a moment she was able to forget the New Year's mask she had tossed in the back of her closet. "And I thought I was running late today."
"Yeah... but you shouldn't be saying that."
"Why not? We are engaged." The fairy impatiently stamped a cobalt blue low-heeled shoe.
Gripping her schoolbag Akane's knuckles cracked. "Don't sound so coy! If I didn't know better I'd say you didn't want to practice after school today."
"Sounds like you might go off on another date with your fiance," Akane teased.
"Akane... I assure you, a date with Kuno will not get in the way of this afternoon. I figured we could practice in the dojo. I could work on this silly body." The fae gave the Tendo girl a meaningful look. "Maybe I could get that silk sash Nabiki... borrowed from me."
"She's still got it in her room." Akane exhaled.
Ranma brightened. "That's good! Though I'd worry about it getting glitter everywhere."
"Me too," Akane muttered.
"She could have just asked, even Tatewaki can ask."
Akane nodded. "Still... this is Kuno we're talking about!"
Sitting at a bench across from her friend, the fairy smiled. "That's what I like about you; you're the only one that doesn't think I should marry him. Well, I guess Ukyou wouldn't like it."
"Actually she's back."
"Seriously?" Ranma frowned; last she heard Ukyou was off on a trip to find a cure.
"Her shop's open," Akane shrugged.
"Huh." Ranma tapped her chin. If Ukyou had returned it was either empty-handed or... the redhead shrugged. If Ukyou had found something wouldn't she have rushed to contact her? "I guess I should see her."
"Really? Sure it won't antagonize her like Shampoo? She may be angry but she and the old ghoul is still going on about the... what was it?"
"Alfheimr Guard," Ranma grumbled.
At that, Wolf woke up and sauntered over.
Ranma idly scratched behind his ears. "Stupid Cologne and her ancient Amazon pacts. Least my other new friends aren't trying to worm their way into my Court. They've got their own magical queen."
Akane blinked. "What kind of friends are you making?" she asked, her voice somewhat distant.
"Oh you know magical girls, a bit airheaded but nice enough."
Wolf gave a canine grin and tilted his head.
"You wanna meet them? I'm sure we'll be going out with them soon enough."
"We?" Akane asked. "Wait... magical girls?"
"Fairy. Queen." Ranma leveled a glittery, manicured finger at herself. "And yes, Tachi and me. We'll be going with Usagi and her fiance and some of their friends." She then folded over the rest of her fingers and peered at her long nails, then at the other hand.
"Yeah... out with Kuno." Akane shivered.
Ranma chuckled. "Oh, he's not that bad." She then froze and stared down at her translucent blouse under a jumper with a petal-shaped pleated skirt. She winced and put a hand to her temple.
"Not that bad? Who are you? This is a guy that's hounded you ever since you came here and been after me for years. He's a total pervert and a jerk. He's got no sense of personal space and is so arrogant that he thinks he can spend his way out of any problem. How much of your brain is even left for you to think he's okay?" Akane's voice rose.
"You sound like a girl making excuses for her awful boyfriend. Or do you think Kuno's just misunderstood and that you can fix him! You're supposed to be a guy Ranma!" Akane blinked, at the empty spot before her, she turned to the left and saw the redhead warmly and enthusiastically kissing Kuno.
Tatewaki was dressed in a forest green suit which even Akane had to admit was complimentarily cut, especially given his new fae complexion and darker hairstyle. Though she did find the bright green tie, and red rose pinned to his lapel a bit much.
The redhead disengaged from the embrace and stood next to the tall male-fairy. "Oh sorry, Akane. You were saying?" Ranma asked, a ghost of a smirk adorning her glossy lips. Her lips tingled slightly, but she held back.
Dusting her uniform, Akane glared. "It's like when she makes out with him she releases more glitter."
"It's helpful for the queen." Wolf shrugged. "Did you expect any less?"
"And how are you this fine morning, Akane-chan?" Kuno idly wrapped his arm around Ranma's waist.
"This is insane." Akane blinked, she could have sworn Ranma's skirt was shorter, instead it came down to the redhead's knees
"Yeah, yeah it is." Ranma sighed. "Least you're not the one being made all fairy."
"I think she'd make a lovely fairy," Kuno nodded. He then held out his hand to help Ranma sit back down.
Watching the fairy queen blush and daintily move on a pair of trim high heels, the color drained from Akane's face.
"Well of course, she would, but Akane doesn't want it. The glitter is a pain."
Taking a seat next to his fiancee, Tatewaki nodded.
"It's her choice, I can't blame her." Ranma exhaled and remembered the mask. "Now, Tachi there's something we should talk about, mother had some suggestions for our next... date."
"Of course. There's not much glitter when I'm female, perhaps..." He put an arm around her waist again and squeezed.
"Speaking of that, next time things get... glittery. We should talk to Wolf. Make sure things are okay."
Recalling the ride in the limo from the cafe to the sushi bar, Kuno nodded.
Somehow, Akane's face paled even further. She looked over and shook her head.
The fairy queen sat with her legs crossed at the thigh. The pale teal tinted sections of her skirt now came to her ankles and there seemed to be an almost invisible rainbow shimmer that ran from her waist to mid-thigh.
Ranma chuckled. "Somehow I don't think further gender-bending is the answer here."
Akane blinked. The number of pleats on the fairy's skirt seems to have doubled. "Wait... if Kuno can shift female... and you're getting all kissy with him as a male... so you've picked..."
The queen's eyes narrowed. "Either form he's still a guy."
"I guess you'd know." Akane raised an eyebrow.
"Please don't be jealous of my virile masculinity," Kuno held a hand to his chest. "I know I have confessed that I was unable to choose one, but alas circumstances have made me a liar." He bowed his head. "From the bottom of my heart you have my sympathies."
Akane coughed. He did seem more... well more. "Err... um, thanks?"
"See, I told you he could be sweet," Ranma leaned in and, mindful of her mother's idea to slow things down, kissed Kuno on the cheek just in front of his ear.
With that last kiss, the electric tingle spread from her mouth and she forgot all about her mother's warnings. She then moved her lips a bit back and ran her tongue over the pointed tip of his ear.
Smiling, Kuno's eyes glazed and his expression melted.
Akane then watched in mute horror as the redhead seemed to take stock of Tatewaki's torso and thighs, nod to herself, and then scoot herself over so that she was sitting on his lap.
Idly kicking a pair of shiny-silver stilettos with cobalt inserts, the fairy queen rolled her shoulders and moved her butt to a more comfortable spot. Her tongue ran along her lower lip and she gave a wistful, if naughty, grin. The blouse under what had been her jumper had evaporated into bits of lace and gauzy edging that hinted at sleeves.
Conversely the teal dress she wore was almost opaque. The double layer of long skirt petal-pleats would have been loose, but they were held from her waist to her knees by a clear gossamer-like overskirt that shimmered in rainbow iridescence over its surface. It seemed to attract glitter even more than the rest of her clothes and was rapidly becoming a covered in layers of sparkles.
Wolf sat up and watched the three. His ears folded back.
"Ranma!" Akane cried.
"Yes?" the fairy asked kicking her leg again. She did not need a full gown to get her skin all tingly; it turned out a long enough dress with a tight enough slip could do the job. She patted the bag of sweets her mother had packed and...
Ranma blinked; her head cleared. Her mother had warned her.
"You're sitting on Kuno! And dressed up as a... I don't even know."
"It looks like a fancy version of my school uniform." The redhead looked down. "Huh... this keeps happening. Wolf?"
The wolf loped over to her side. "Yes, my queen?"
"It's happening again."
Akane paled. "What's wrong with you?"
"I'm dressed like this and sitting on Kuno," The fairy flatly replied. "You don't mind Tachi?"
Kuno put his arms around her waist. "I'll gladly bear this burden."
"I can tell," Ranma grinned as she shifted her hips. "But we're at school. Let's not... get ahead of ourselves."
"And sully your reputation? Heaven forbid," Kuno declared.
Akane stared at the redhead's almost grateful smile. "How come I can see less of your body and you look more indecent?"
"Oh? You wanted to see more?" Ranma leaned forward. "You know, Akane, I'm sure Kuno wouldn't mind sharing. Not that we're in any rush."
Akane sputtered. She then realized that given where Ranma was sitting, she would rather not be able to see what cut the fairy's underwear was. "No, no not at all," Akane was especially glad that Tatewaki's pants were fully opaque.
Kicking her leg again, Ranma studied Akane's face and noted her slumped shoulders and lowered head. With a sad pout, she turned around and kissed Kuno. "Go in, we need some private time." Inhaling scent and that of the rose on his lapel, she then slid out of her seat, making sure to wriggle a bit as she went. She then scooted over to the opposite bench to sit next to Akane.
Kuno stood. "I understand, girl talk is important." He bowed his head and turned and left.
Watching go, Ranma glared. "Girl talk? What's that supposed to mean?"
"Oh now you protest? While you're all glammed up and staring at a man's butt?"
"So, now he's a man?" Ranma asked.
"You didn't deny it," Akane snorted, and immediately regretted it, having inhaled some glitter.
Ranma patted her on the back until the coughing fit passed. "Are you okay?"
The fairy looked at her tiny, delicate, immaculate hands. Even the curse, the first curse, could not take away their calluses, rough skin, and wiry strength. However, the second curse was able to wash away the accumulated results of years of training in one night.
"The worst part is that I'm in control."
"This is in control?" Akane scoffed.
"I'm talking with you instead of making out with him. You saw how I had to pull myself away."
"Yeah that looked real painful."
Ranma gave her a flat look. "I'm having concerns instead of having my honeymoon. We went on a date last night and..." She gave a triumphant smile.
"Oh no... what happened?"
"Other than some... dress up?" The fairy forced a giggle. A white lie couldn't hurt her friend. "Nothing."
Again Akane found herself blinking. "And that's good because... because it could have been worse?"
"I didn't lose control."
Akane looked down at the tiny young woman. "This is hard for you?"
Ranma leaned onto Akane's shoulder. "It's insidious. The magic is easy, unconscious. You saw me, Kuno came in and I started glamming up."
The redhead nodded, glad that she had managed to keep from adjusting Kuno's style too. Akane seemed able to accept "evil fairy magic turning Ranma more girly". But Ranma wondered if Akane could accept "Ranma's fairy magic turning Tatewaki more manly."
"The things I can do... the things I am. It's like I can be anything I want, as long as it's a fairy queen."
Smelling her friend's floral and honey perfume Akane thought on what she had said. She also thought on how much she hopped that what she was smelling actually was perfume. "So you can't do a gender thing like Kuno? Maybe being a guy fairy would... help."
Ranma licked her lips. "I'm working on it," she eventually said in a quiet almost illicit admission. "It's just... it's hard."
"It's a magic thing. Male fairies are physical fighters. Females are magical; they've got better channels for carrying the energies. That's what the glitter is, excess magic," Ranma explained.
Akane got the impression that she was simply reciting a half-understood lesson from Wolf.
"That's why Kuno turns female. Any male fairy does it if they channel too much magic. By exercising their abilities they can stave it off, and increase their overall strength. It can work in reverse, but with the same limitation, and since I'm the queen."
Akane nodded. "You've got too much magic."
"Far, far too much."
"Hah! That's why you shed glitter all the time!" Akane laughed triumphantly.
"I'm getting... closer," Ranma admitted with an embarrassed blush. "The hard part is learning how to suppress enough of my magic."
Wincing, Akane put an arm around Ranma's shoulder and hugged her. She would worry about the glitter later. "It's good to have a goal."
"Sure, I can be a tiny little guy with delicate cheekbones and the type of figure runway models would kill for. Not to mention the glitter."
"Kuno's not tiny, and he doesn't have glitter."
"No he's not." Ranma laughed, she leaned up and kissed Akane on the cheek. "Thanks."
Akane forced herself to smile. She could help her friend. A full "recovery" might not be possible, but there was still a lot she could do for Ranma. "It's nothing, now come on, we should get to class."
"Hey, Akane? You still up for hitting the dojo after school. I'd like to see how strong this body is. I mean it's more flexible but the lack of muscle is a real problem."
"You want my help? Akane smiled warmly.
"Well of course. I figure between your help and Kuno's we can figure out a way for me to get something like my old strength back."
"Oh," Akane's smile wilted. "Well... I'm busy this afternoon. "Maybe the day after tomorrow."
"Uh... okay," Ranma frowned.
The king awoke. Despite this, he kept his eyes closed. He concentrated and tried to draw his power. All he felt was the gnawing emptiness. He took a moment to curse Her name.
His eyes opened to a view of an intricate ceiling mosaic done in carved and polished stone. Bits of silver inlay twisted between the pieces adding another layer to the intricate rune work.
He lifted a hand. The wards did not respond.
Rising from the stiff bed with its piles of grey furs the man looked around the room. The retreat looked the same as it always did. Polished hard-wood paneling stood between fluted stone pillars. One set of heavy doors was closed while another was ajar.
Thought the open door he could see the dais with his suspension tube. He briefly wondered how long it had been. Even how long it had been since the last false alarm.
The king frowned. The room's wardrobe had been opened and clothes had been laid out. There was a low fire in the hearth across from the bed. Even the sideboard next to the heavy oaken table carved with gryphon legs was laden with food.
It was more than the normal offerings that served to break his fast. The king could smell sweat-meats, nectar, and freshly baked pastries.
It was only when he rubbed his hand over his jaw that the true differences between this awakening and the others hit home. His jet-black goatee had been trimmed and his cheeks had been shaved.
Nude, the king stood and walked over to his wardrobe. As he silently dressed, he stole glances at his servant. The other man was slight, almost gaunt. His skin was paler than the King's. And he often had wondered if his servant was ill in some way.
But never deficient, the king had to admit that of all his servants, this was the most faithful. Putting on his crimson-trimmed black leather cavalry coat, the king finished dressing.
Only then did he address his servant.
"Has she returned?" the king's voice was deep, amused. The little repast alone was worth waking up for, but the concept of repeating his vengeance... oh that was far more satiating.
The long and fair-haired servant idly adjusted his doublet and picked a wrapped bundle from the table. Wordlessly he handed it to the king with a bow.
Smirking at his servant's theatrics the king tore into the brown paper packaging. The paper fell from his hands as he caught a glimpse of polished porcelain and sparking gems.
A delicate mask sparkled. He ran a long finger over the emerald swirls that spilled from the corners of the mask's eyeholes. However, the gilt leaves edging the mask were slightly off. Their detailing was rough, more impressionistic than accurate.
It looked like someone had tried to recreate the patterns second hand, from someone else's description or from a long dimmed memory.
The row of tubular bells across the brow chimed pleasingly enough but there was no underlying melody; it was simply pretty noise. The flower shaped studs and delicate chains were correctly placed but they were just a bit too gaudy.
"No ancient relic is this," The king whispered. As impotent as She had rendered him, he could still feel the magic radiating off of the sparkling mask. He looked up at his servant. "How close are we to the New Year?"
The servant shook his head.
The king ran a finger over the swirls and encrusted jewels. "Nor a Lunarian reproduction either." He frowned and studied the mask. He had thought their kingdom had been extinct but the last awakening was his servant's announcement that some of their royalty had escaped to Earth. "This is… not genuine but it is royal. And new."
"Yes, my liege," his voice was utterly respectful, but there was a hint of a slight mocking smirk. "It would seem that She has an heir."
The king turned the mask back and forth. He watched the lamplight reflect of the glossy surface. "An heir?" he chuckled. "Your presumptions amuse me."
The servant bowed his head.
The king stared into the mask's eyeholes. "What would you believe? A hidden protege of the Queen? Grand armies were formed and ground to powder. The Catastrophe became a ravenous beast that gobbled everything into its maw... but somehow a... Princess escaped? The lack of princesses or heirs of any sort was more than a contributing factor," The king scoffed. "More of your presumption."
"Perhaps this heir was not around back then?" The servant gestured to the table and pulled out a seat.
The king sat down and placed the mask on a silver frame that had been thoughtfully placed beside the place-setting laid before him.
The frame propped the mask up so that it faced him. "Games. You are playing." He said as he filled his goblet from a carafe. He sipped the spiced mead. He could tell it was human-brewed; it was... acceptable.
However, he still stared wistfully. He thought of product that came from his private apiaries. The vast swarms fed by exquisitely maintained floral fields on the southern edge of his Autumn Estate. But it was gone. It had all been burned and ground to dust. A casualty of a war that grew until it became more cataclysm than force of arms.
"Are we reminiscing?" the servant asked with a light titter.
The king put the crystal goblet down and tapped the stem. "Time. In my slumber so much has crumbled. Even the Lunarians have been diminished to a handful. Perhaps no more than my own retainers."
Smiling, the servant nodded.
"And yet you awaken me to show me a mask crafted by a powerful, if clumsy, fae. One who can at least ape skills of the royal house... Her house." He flicked one of the mask's bells. "I see an eager youth who has come to power, perhaps desperate to prove her legitimacy. She has power, but she lacks experience... knowledge."
"You have both," the servant smoothly assured placing a slim purple leather-bound book on the table.
Turned to his servant, the king eyed the book. "As for playing games. You obviously know more. For one, I doubt this mask was given to you anonymously."
"What a wonderfully chilling message it would have been if it were," the servant sighed happily. "Consider it. Her mask appearing within your fastness? Can you imagine a better calling card foretelling Her wrath? Foretelling Her return?"
"I can imagine a few," Crossing his legs, the king shook his head. "But that proves you know where this came from. I doubt it was given to you, thus you took it. Thus someone caught your eye. Someone that started you thinking, planning," he added drumming his fingers on the book.
"As I said, knowledge and experience we have in abundance."
The king stroked his goatee. "Secondly, from your earlier reaction, I would be shocked if the Lunarians were not involved. Is that what happened? A final favor from the Lunar Court to the Queen? Did they secrete an heir?" He took another sip from the mead.
"A slumbering Princess has recently awoken."
Giving a predatory smirk, the king lowered his glass. He was familiar with his servant's tricks. "A Lunarian princess you mean?"
The servant grinned. "Perhaps you can acquire both?"
"More games," the king sighed and picked at the meal laid before him. "Both you say?"
The servant nodded and refilled the king's goblet. "Oh yes, the Queen's heir and the heir of Serenity were having a nice luncheon."
"I should have known She would have thrown in with Serenity." He sipped his mead to hide his distaste.
"Indeed, both Serenity and Titania were showing off their consorts."
The goblet nearly slipped as the king's hand shook. "Consort?"
"Oh yes, the Lunarian has a handsome Prince Consort."
"Not that one," the king growled.
"Really?" Mock surprise crossed the servant's face. "I heard the fellow's a royal in his own right. Regrettably, he's a Terran, and you know how the Lunarians and the Terrans get along. Though with the status of the Lunar Kingdom I suppose the little princess can't be picky."
"I care not for the primate that silver-haired pretender has chosen to sire more of her ill-bred brood. My concern lies with this new Titania."
"The Princess Serenity is blonde," the servant gently corrected.
The king scoffed, his scowl deepening.
"Don't fret, the new queen found a nice noble fairy."
"Tell me clever Puck, where did this new Titania find such an example of Seelie Gentry?" The king pressed his hand into the polished surface of the table, his nails digging into the wood. Puck had said that some of the other stasis artifacts had failed... maybe they had not failed... maybe his retainers had been...
"I can guarantee he's not of the UnSeelie Court."
The king laughed; it was bitter. "I am more than confident that you, I, and my last few retainers are all that remain of that August body." His face darkened. "And yet here we have a new queen and she's already found a consort. Where?"
Puck smirked. "Where else my Liege? She made him."
"I see." The king lifted his hands and stepped them before him. "It's starting all over again. Only now we have a Queen Titania making her court from scratch."
"It would seem that the Wolf has learned from the past Disaster."
Hands clenching, the king slowly exhaled. "Of course. He survived." He downed half of his goblet.
"Was there any doubt?" Puck leaned forward and refilled the glass. "Both yourself and the late queen knew the value of knowledge. Hence her bibliothecary, her Book. Who else would she entrust? Consider it. The Wolf has a fresh new Queen, and with her he can build a new kingdom. One without the... compromises that caused such discord."
"Such power." The king picked up the mask. Feeling the residual magic over the polished surface, he sighed. "I see the symmetry. Titania may have fallen by my hand, but my power withered at hers. And now..."
"You still have power my King," Puck slipped another book onto the table. This was a narrow-bound journal with silver Eelinu script snaking across the thick cobalt-blue cover. The servant flipped the book open revealing diagrams, schemata, and precise page-denting script that was intimately familiar to the king.
He chuckled. "Such audacity."
"Yes, the power has found a new heir," Puck offered. "A young thing. New and pure... well mostly. But not without weakness. The Wolf is learned, but you, my liege, are the wisest of all."
Smirking at the flattery, the king replaced the mask onto its stand. Tapping the purple book's cover, he contemplated the mask. He took several sips from his goblet. Eventually he cleared his throat. "You were right to wake me."
The servant beamed. "You're too kind."
Nodding the king began to eat his meal. He gestured to an empty chair with his dagger. "Come, don't play coy. Partaking in the very meal you made is the least of your rewards. Wake the others. We have much work to do. That Wolf has quite the head start on us."
"Can we talk?" Ranma quietly asked as she entered the Tendo kitchen. She was wearing a modest light blue dress. However, modest for her meant it looked like a bikini tied together by leaf-patterned lace under a gossamer slip with translucent skirting. She still had her "heart-crab" style bangs, but her ruby red hair cascaded down her back with a slight curl at the bottom.
"Of course," Kasumi said, putting down the paper towel she was cleaning with, and patted Wolf on the head. She glanced over. The redhead seemed shorter than Kasumi remembered, and it looked like she was still wearing her corset, given how... forward her chest looked.
The brown-haired woman gestured towards a bright green sparkled silk sash neatly folded on the counter, next to a travel magazine. "Oh, Nabiki returned your sash." Kasumi gave a wistful smile as she ran a hand over the shimmering silk. "Such wonderful material. It was also cleaned."
Ranma smiled, guessing that it was Kasumi who did the cleaning. She was also certain that Kasumi would appreciate her gift. Smiling, Ranma opened lacquered wood locket that hung around her neck. As the half-inch tip of her nail pushed around the bits of miniaturized clothes and magical items the fairy frowned. It was nearly full.
The redhead could just imagine Akane laughing at the "girlish" behavior, and Ami being amazed at how many cubic centimeters had been filled. Ranma put the locket down and shrank herself. She then grabbed the locket and enlarged both it and herself.
Propped on the counter she began to root through the locket. To make room, she put aside a long lacquered wooden case with a silver clasp, a clinking velvet bag, and a glossy makeup kit before slipping the folded sash inside.
The bag landed on the glossy magazine. The redhead peered at it. A soaring condor was on the cover's foreground, with a solitary mountain climber in the background. She spotted another on the opposite counter touting a pristine black-sanded beach.
"Er... are you free?" Ranma asked as she put the makeup case on top the sash. "I'd like to talk in a place a bit more private."
Kasumi nodded and neatened up her cleaning supplies. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong I just..." Holding the long case, she rooted around the locket-suitcase. The redhead gave a high pitched frustrated groan and tossed the case onto a pile of clothes. She had forgotten Kasumi's gift. In a fit of anger she slammed the locket's lid shut.
"Ranma?" Kasumi gently asked.
Her nutmeg cheeks became flush. "Uh... well."
"Did you forget something?" Kasumi asked.
"One second!" Ranma knelt down to whisper in Wolf's ear.
Kasumi watched the wolf walk down the hall towards one of the household's phones.
"He's just calling mother, no worries," Ranma waved her manicured hands, hoping to preserve the surprise.
Eyes twinkling, Kasumi nodded. She then noted the fairy's anxiety. "There's something else?"
"Well, can we talk in private?" Ranma asked again after going through the process of repacking her locket, shrinking it down, resizing herself back up, sans locket, and slipping it over her neck.
"I can take a break," Kasumi said as the two left the kitchen. Neither noticing the velvet bag that lay there forgotten.
As Ranma put on her shoes, she leaned out of the entryway. "Wolf! We're going to the cafe with those crunchy little honey squares you like!"
Kasumi had to suppress a giggle. The redhead's glitter did smell a bit like honey.
"Is anything wrong?" Kasumi asked once they were out of the house and walking down the sidewalk. "I'm sure you're busy running your new kingdom."
"Kingdom?" Ranma laughed. "Grand name for me, my mother, my fiance and fuzz-butt."
"Oh," Kasumi made a disappointed noise. "Would going for a flight help clear your mind?" she asked, a hopeful edge to her voice.
"You heard about the engagement, right?" Ranma asked holding up her hand. Glitter cascaded off and sparkled down to the sidewalk.
"Yes, it sounds wonderful! It was very brave what you did," Kasumi offered. Looking back she saw Wolf loping towards them. "I'd like to be that brave," she added under her breath.
Ranma blushed. "Thanks. I don't know if that's true, but things are... scary."
"Well... you did just hear my fight with your sister?"
Wolf raised an eyebrow but kept silent.
"A fight?" Kasumi hesitantly asked. "Well... Akane said you two almost got into a fight but..."
"We were supposed to practice in the dojo today but... Akane got busy, and so what if Kuno walked me over here. I... I don't mind that."
"But Akane does," Kasumi agreed as they entered a small cafe.
"Yes," Ranma said as she sat down at her normal table. The waiter had given her normal cocoa and wolf a bowl of water and took Kasumi's order.
"You did kiss him just before he left," Kasumi reminded.
"It was on the cheek," Ranma said defensively, and proudly.
"Speaking of cheeks, his hand was glued to your-" Wolf stopped when he saw his queen glare at him.
"Akane started in about how I am taking this engagement more seriously than the others," Ranma sighed. "I think she's got something. I've been engaged plenty of times. How come this time it's all dates and.... touchy... feely."
"Maybe it's because this is the first engagement you agreed to," Kasumi said as she sipped the tea that was put in front of her. "Or maybe it's because you love him."
Ranma shook her head.
Kasumi paused while the waiter returned with her tea. She took a sip. "Perhaps not. Do you deny a physical attraction?"
The fairy's nutmeg cheeks pinked slightly. "We're engaged. It's a promise I made."
Kasumi turned to Wolf. "Are there such thing as political marriages among the fae?"
"And is the queen exempt from them?"
"Oh no, Ranma's predecessor was intimately familiar with such... unions," Wolf's tone was melancholy.
"You can add that to the list of advantages the fairies have." Kasumi nodded thoughtfully, and sipped some more tea. "Then you are under no obligation to give your fiance physical intimacy?"
Thinking back to the end of her date last night, Ranma's hands trembled. Some hot chocolate spilled out of her cup. It was made worse by her mother's fears. Fears that their relationship could be too physical.
Her nerves went up a bit, but she was with Kasumi right now. There was nothing embarrassing for her mother to see here.
"Oh my." Kasumi reached out and helped Ranma put her mug down. She then patted the fairy's hand, feeling the transition from warm delicately thin and long fingers to cool, smooth nails. "What happened on your date?"
Ranma looked to her familiar. "Wolf made sure we didn't do anything too... stupid." She smiled in gratitude. "And we had a talk. If things are getting too glittery we'll ask Wolf and ease up."
"What happened?" Kasumi asked.
Ranma gave a brief overview from the meeting at the café with her friends to the one-sided game of one-upmanship she and Tatewaki were having against Usagi and Mamoru to the dinner she and Kuno had shared.
"And that was when I summoned the Harvest Ball gown. And that was... fun."
"Fun? It sounds formal, ceremonial."
Ranma blushed. "Not exactly." She cast a spell and a small translucent image of Ranma in the Harvest Ball costume appeared.
Kasumi starred at the over-sculpted hair, the layers of gossamer and lace, the jewels and gems, and the mask. "Oh my." The little girl part of her that had been locked away since her mother's death perked up and simply smiled at the pretty fairy.
"Now show her the New Year's gown."
"No!" Ranma shrieked and the image vanished.
"Ranma?" Kasumi squeezed her hand. She ran a finger over the fairy's long nails. "What happened?"
"Well, Wolf promised to make sure nothing... crazy happened and... well he'd been talking about that New Year's gown."
Kasumi turned to the wolf. "Bad dog! Don't you know what happens if you tempt someone?"
Wolf flattened his ears and whined. "I'm sorry. I did not realize that fancy gowns had become tempting to my queen."
"Especially someone as vain as Ranma," Kasumi added.
Ranma sniffed. "Anyway... I was safe. Wolf was there... Kuno was there..."
Kasumi simply patted the redhead's hand at that. "You can tell me if you want..."
The queen hesitated.
"You don't have to talk about the dress though. Not if you don't want."
Licking her lips, Ranma nodded. "Well, we had been having dinner. I had gotten back from the restroom and wolf had promised to make sure nothing bad would happen and-"
Licking lacquered lips, Ranma savored the sight, the smell, the touch. There was... Kuno. She had rested her head on his chest. With some regret she got up from her "seat". She sauntered over to Wolf and scratched between his ears with her long nails.
"You're being a wonderful chaperone," she assured.
Wolf's tail straightened out. "What are you... oh. New Year's?" he asked catching a glimpse of her expanded corset. With some relief he noted it had simply spars and glossy accents and no scale armor had grown in.
"You made the gown sound so much fun!" Ranma winked and turned back to her fiance.
"You did have a lot of sugar earlier..."
The queen ignored her familiar. "Hey Kuno! Look at this!"
Her gown twinkled. The inner layers pulled tighter and tighter, aiding the corset cinching her torso and pressing under skirts to her hips and thighs. Silver threads extended causing her shoulder puffs and over skirting to become even more gauzy and wispy. Depending on the angle the light hit the inner layers the material shimmered between glossy black and twinkling white. Combined with the fluffy outerwear and the sparkling glitter the gown looked like a wintry sky shifting between night and day, overcast and clear.
Growing from little silver tendrils that came out of her corset golden bands extended around the queen's legs, forming a pair of thin spirals that wound around her shins and thighs. Jewels blossomed along the length of the spirals forming petal and leaf patterns in ruby and emerald. Thin golden chains formed and extended, linking opposite bands. Tiny encased golden bells blossomed along the length of the chains.
Through her mask, the queen gasped as a pair of tiny hoops formed on her chest and were followed by a matching one on her belly button. Snaking out from her layered gown came three chains to link up and form a belled-triangle between the three anchored hoops.
On the left side of her nose a flower shaped stud appeared. A chain grew from the jade ornament and connected to a matching flower attached just above her left eyebrow. On the right side another chain went from a silver ring on her lower lacquered lip to the bells clasping the tip of her ear. Chiming links then connected her ear bells to the ones on the tips of her antennae.
Silver wisps thickened her mask and it took on a porcelain sheen. More encased-bells bloomed, peeking out along the length of her twinned streams of hair. She felt her wings spiral and become heavier, as the embedded jewels grew in size and sparkle. Opening her eyes, the queen felt the extra weight of the new hardware and smiled. The wildflower honey smell of her glitter filled her nose.
Even changing the position of her mask caused a symphony of bells, which grew in volume as she confidently, but mincingly, strode forward.
Staring at the collection of curves, glitter, and soft sparkles, Kuno went to one knee and bowed his head. "My love..." he gasped, hardly believing his eyes. Tingling glitter landed on his clothes and he could feel her presence, her power, pressing against him.
Her mask showing a confident smirk, the queen bowed her head; her bells smugly chimed.
Kuno swallowed, magic pounded against him and he started to comprehend what his bride had become. "You are truly outdoing yourself," Kuno gasped.
Exhaling, the queen gave another nod as a setting of a new set of chimes. This time the fluted crystal bells grew outward from the base of her crown, brushing against her face they acted almost like a veil. Her choker fell away and vanished in a cloud of glitter.
Tatewaki stared, waiting for her orders. As that happened he watched her breath; her bosom heaving up and down, though more up than down. More silver tendrils grew from the queen's corset bracketing her chest like silver spars in a ring's setting. Expectantly, crystal bells began to form on the underside of the corset spars.
With her cleavage and puffed shoulders above the constricted corset she looked like some type of hedonistic bouquet.
Wolf had stood up and walked around the room. He found a spot off to the sided between the two fairies and with deliberate slowness, sat down and looked between the two. His eyes were alert; his ears perked.
Watching that, Queen Titania Windgates the Second giggled. She turned back to her consort and wiggled a finger before blowing him a kiss. "Waiting for me to finish the costume? Alright then."
Painted smirk expanding, the queen's shoulder puffs swelled again, this time into spherical near-translucent gauzy wisps a hair bigger than her head. The bottom hem of each shoulder's extruded décolletage dripped with lace and rows of chimes reaching down to where they nearly engulfed her elbows.
More piercings appeared on her face, mirroring those on her left nose and eyebrow and right lip. The golden caps on her ear tips spread, extending over her ears until they contacted the edges of her mask. The layers of clear petticoats that made up her gown multiplied, adding more and furthering the soft fluff ensconcing the diminutive girl.
The queen's belt had angled down and now followed the curve of her fluffed up hips and arced down to follow the curves on the middle of her backside. Large dome-shaped bells swelled chiming deeply when her hips swayed. The bells in her hair grew, nearly reaching the size of the ones that curled along her backside. Trembling Kuno watched all this. His antennae were out and quivered with the blasting magic of his queen.
"Please, stand," Ranma gestured to her side.
"So I put on the costume and..." Ranma paused to take a sip of her hot chocolate.
"And?" Kasumi asked. She was intrigued by the lack of detail in the redhead's story. Given the Harvest Gown she could only imagine what the New Year's gown looked like. She did use the opportunity to flag down a waitress and order a variety sampler of sweet buns.
"It was heavy," the queen idly brushed against the smooth side of her nose.
"It wasn't just the costume? Was there jewelry?"
The redhead blushed. "Well... Tate-kun had to be dressed up too," Ranma admitted in a small voice.
Kasumi paused. "You make it sound like he was an accessory to be ornamented as well."
The little fairy blushed.
Standing next to his love, Tatewaki was enveloped in her sweet, flowery scent. His coat and vest dissolved in a shower of sparkles and his shirt transformed into a leather harness with ruffled silk edges. Silver spirals grew around his upper arms. Sleek, oiled muscles strained against the glossy metal. Silver chains went from spiral to spiral, and draped across his chest were more... anchors pierced into place.
His pocket watch now hung from his belt. Its chain was bright and linked with the others and even connected to a leather choker that flashed around his neck. Bare-chested, he stood in tight gilt breeches and sheathed swords and dangling chains.
The queen hungrily eyed his sculpted muscles, broad shoulders, sleek hairless torso, and... fitted pants. Meanwhile, he gazed upon her.
Kuno reached out and wrapped his arm around her waist and let his palm fall into its customary, if expanded and ruffled spot. He was rewarded by a musical tittering that harmonized with her bells.
Her hands quested out and followed the paths the silver chains laid out. She went from neck, to chest, to arms, to waist and back.
"You like?" She purred planting a kiss on his cheek and then another on his lips. "Well of course, you do. You're mine."
She put her hands on his shoulders and pulled up.
Kuno obliged by cupping her backside and lifting her up.
Now level with his head, the fairy leaned in and on an impulse licked the point of his ear. Chains sprang from his silver ear-caps and connected those around his choker and arms. "There's one thing left to do," she whispered. "One more part of the costume."
Intently watching the pair, Wolf's ears pricked forward.
She shifted her waist, taking a moment to savor her position. "Put me back down," she said leaning on his shoulder.
Once on the ground, she shook her shoulders a bit and stretched her arms with a happy chime. She then clasped her hands in front of her as if about to bow and waited.
Soon her twin ponytails started to move. They twisted, formed braids and wrapped around her waist. Once around her front, the two braids spit, tied her wrists together, and flattened and fused.
Obscuring her hands and much of her forearms, the shining material wrapped around encircling her waist and in the back formed into a large crimson bow, supplementing her wings. Leaning into her fiance, she rested her head on his chest and looked up. Porcelain lips parted as her mouth opened. Licking her lips, they gained an opalescent shimmer.
Staring at the demure but demanding eyes, Tatewaki twitched. From the heart-shaped braid adorning her ziggurat-bun to her vertical heels, she was completely covered in glitter, ruffles, chains, and bells. Fluffy translucent lace fought with sapphire wraps and golden bands and chains over how to... present her form.
He hardly noticed how his own chains or that he was only "technically" dressed.
"Please sit," the queen beckoned.
Nodding, Tatewaki obeyed and helped her to a kneeling position. Primly, she waited until he had sat down, and then immediately slid into his lap. "Your queen demands service," Ranma cooed, after taking her position. She was right, without the clothes in the way his chest was more comfortable.
Blushing furiously, Tatewaki watched his fiancée close her eyes and open her mouth.
"And then?" Kasumi asked.
"Once we got dressed, I sat back down and he fed me again."
"More kissing, petting, cuddling, that stuff," Wolf coughed.
"It sounds like you didn't do anything more than you did in front of your friends in that café."
Looking down at her delicate little hands the fairy opened her mouth.
Wolf cut off his queen. "You are correct, Kasumi. Nothing they did would have shocked Ranma's friends. Well, maybe the costumes. And it was a private venue, not in the middle of a cafe."
Grateful for the white lie, Ranma continued to study her manicure. Her nails seemed longer than normal, but she did like the way their polish went from green to blue with arcing red tips. It was nice how they made her fingers seem even longer.
"Ah," Kasumi nodded. "The costumes that you refuse to describe. Yours and your fiance's."
"There's nothing wrong with... dress up. Many loving couples indulge in fantasy." Kasumi wistfully said.
"Well, I suppose," Ranma admitted at a loss. At least she could broach this topic with Kasumi. She could only imagine what Akane's reaction would be.
"But it seems so easy for you fairies. How lucky! Think of all you can do once you've got your kingdom built!" Once again Kasumi took Ranma's hands and held them. She rubbed her fingers over the slick nails and rings. The delicate jade pinky rings were adorable, and the twin-diamond engagement ring looked so natural on those soft fingers and perfect, if long, nails.
"Technically the only fantasy was the day itself. She is the queen, and he is her betrothed. She simply jumped ahead a few months to New Years."
"Why thank you for that insight." Kasumi politely said giving a sharp little smile. "Ranma... do you... lo-"
Ranma squeezed back.
Kasumi stopped "No, that's the wrong question. I won't force you, not today at least."
The fairy nodded.
"Ranma, will you marry Kuno?"
Swallowing, the fairy nodded.
"Ranma, are you physically attracted to Kuno?"
The fairy looked away from the table. She gave a tiny nod.
"And that's because you're both fairies?"
Ranma laughed. "Damn straight! If it weren't for the glitter and his.. um... Yeah. I mean he's the only male fairy I've met so..."
Kasumi nodded. "There you go. You found a physical compatibility with the man you agreed to marry. Is it that scary?"
Ranma's green eyes narrowed. "Yes, yes it is. I've got to have fuzz-butt over here play chaperone to keep me from going off the deep-end.
"And Mom's on my case because she's worried that I'm getting too focused on the physical part. And worst of all she's right!" She straightened her shoulders and shifted her hips. The chair was comfortable but it was not as-
No! I do not miss Kuno's lap. I'm not going to go into withdrawal over something like that. Ranma shook her head; and took comfort that she would not have to wait for long. She was going to see him tonight after all
"You're adapting. Kuno too." Kasumi sighed. "I think I know why my sister is so jealous."
Ranma frowned, she could hear the wistfulness in Kasumi's voice. "Jealous? She actually regrets turning Kuno down when she had the chance?"
Kasumi laughed. "Not exactly. She's jealous of Kuno. She does love you, Ranma."
The fairy queen swallowed.
"But now she feels you're so far away. How do you think she feels seeing you and Tatewaki? You're both fairies, you're both physically compatible."
"I didn't ask for this..."
Kasumi nodded. "Yes, she knows that too. And yet you excel. You're a reluctant queen who kissed a frog and got a prince. Akane may not like Tatewaki, but she had him first. She threw him away, and you fixed him."
The fairy blinked. "I didn't neuter him."
Wolf's ears flattened.
"Not what I meant," Kasumi gently said. "I mean she's jealous that you got Kuno, when she had him first."
"That's crazy," Ranma shook her head. Glitter flew in arcs. "And besides, she could still...."
Kasumi watched the fairy fidget. "Yes? Still what?"
Ranma deliberately took a slow sip of her hot chocolate.
Wolf looked at his queen going back to gingerly taking a honey square off the plate near the table-edge.
"Still have Tatewaki. Would you share your future husband? Or could Akane have you? Would Akane want to share you?"
"Share?" Ranma asked in a quiet whisper. "I've..."
"I believe you made a similar offer to Akane earlier today, it was in jest but..." Kasumi let the implication hang in the air.
"But that mean that I wouldn't..." the redhead was unable to continue.
"That you would not give up Tatewaki... not even for Akane." Kasumi took the fairy's tiny hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.
Her breathing ragged, Ranma shivered and her shoulders trembled.
"It's okay, your fiance faced the same dilemma," Kasumi slipped out of her seat and hugged the tiny girl.
"No! He wanted both of us; he couldn't choose, I...." Ranma leaned onto Kasumi.
"It's okay, it's okay," Kasumi assured while Wolf got up and rested his muzzle on Ranma's leg.
The redhead absently scratched behind Wolf's ears. "I bet the old Titania never fell apart like this."
Wolf's eyes narrowed in canine joy. He let his tongue loll out for a moment. Soon, he regained his composure. "She was more... distant. But she had her moments of vulnerability"
Ranma tilted her head and straightened her posture. "Really? In all her years of ruling? What would it take to get her queenly mask to slip?"
Kasumi stood up and discretely returned to her seat.
Wolf lifted his head. "Tragedy did strike her. There's a reason you're her heir and not any daughter or son."
"There's more to it than that?"
Wolf looked away.
Ranma crossed her legs, gently bumping Wolf off of her. Her shoulders squared as she clasped her hands in front of her. Her face shimmered as her makeup sparkled back into position and her hair smoothed out.
Perfectly poised the young fairy queen looked down at her familiar. "Windsong Sköllson from the Dark Mountains of the Land of Promise, Maugrim: Protector of the Chalice of Avalon, Asenaei: Life-Guard of House Windgates, Lunas: Bibliothecary of the Seelie Court, Aragh: familiar of the Queens Titania you will not lie to me."
Wolf stared. He was not used to being Named. Not given the bloated nature of his titles. Wolf's tail curled back. His eyes flipped downcast for a split second.
Titania the Second continued. "You're hiding something. Something about my predecessor. Is it relevant to my fiance?" She flashed a warm smile. "Don't take my crying nor my enjoyment of Tatewaki as complacency, my dear wolf."
Wolf looked up. "It has nothing to do with Kuno; I swear."
A brief expression of relief crossed Ranma's haughty face. "Good." Placing her hands on her knees she leaned forward. "Then what are you hiding?"
Wolf glanced back at Kasumi.
"Too sensitive for her to hear?" Ranma scoffed.
"He is talking about your predecessor. I'm sure a queen would be privy to all sorts of sensitive information," Kasumi reminded.
"Is that it? Is the old Titania's love-life some sort of state secret?" Ranma looked at her manicured, bejeweled, and lacquered finger-nails, and then cracked the knuckles on her left hand.
"Something like that," Wolf sat down he tilted his head and sighed. "Parts of it, at least. I've mentioned how fairies will sometimes marry for political reasons?"
"Yeah, you suggested something like that for Kuno. I'd only marry him officially, that way I'd keep my honor but I would not need to be romantic with him."
"I also suggested you'd simply dump him," Wolf muttered to himself.
Kasumi gave a vapid smile. "Good thing you don't need to pretend," she happily chirped, but her eyes sparkled with sarcastic glee.
Ranma frowned at Kasumi.
Wolf snickered. "Well Titania the First married for politics. To unite the Fae. Eventually... there were... problems."
"Is that why Titania never had an heir to carry on her rule?" Kasumi helpfully asked.
The wolf nodded. "Kasumi's guess is correct."
"Wait.... you're telling me I'm in a better relationship than the first Titania?" Ranma cradled her head in her hands.
"Congratulations!" Kasumi cried. "But doesn't this mean you two should get married? How do legitimacy laws for the fae work?"
Ranma did not lift her head from her hands. "What?"
"That's a fascinating question." Wolf nodded. "Now, technically, the question of royal inheritance is almost entirely academic. The crown has only transferred once from Titania I to Titania II. However, there are several examples of noble inheritance and while equal primogeniture is common some of the more magically adept families worked by pure matrilineal primogeniture."
"Female fairies are more powerful in magic?" Kasumi asked.
"Correct. On the other hand landholdings often passed separately from titles and that tended to follow male lineages... on the basis of them being protectors and stewards of lands... which caused several issues. But back to the question of legitimacy that would only count if the inheritance passed on the paternal side and only if the parents were not married before birth.
"Though such issues as well as having the inheritance skip the eldest daughter could be waived with the queen's permission. Basically it would declare the non-inheriting family member 'naturally dead' and thus skipped over for said purposes.
Ranma lifted her head. "What?"
"So, it doesn't matter that Ranma's not married to Tatewaki yet?"
"You're correct.... if she were pregnant..." Wolf amended.
"Seriously what-" Ranma's eyes widened. "No Kasumi it's not like that!"
Kasumi made a disappointed little noise.
"No, Wolf was there the whole time! He made sure...."
"Yes Ranma, I know," Kasumi sipped her tea and gave a tiny smirk. "You were just telling me all about it weren't you?"
"Not quite all of it," Ranma muttered. "Oh yes... Windsong Sköllson Maugrim Asenaei Lunas Aragh, you wouldn't be trying to distract me by going on about the details of fairy inheritance?"
"Details?" Wolf scoffed. "The fae have.... had a very definite mind about legal bonds and deals, especially inheritance."
"Fortunately, my love's inheritance and access to the Kuno Estate are being handled by mortal law and advocates," a strong masculine voice said.
The queen turned. Wearing a slate grey suit over a grey-green and silver black threaded waistcoat, Kuno strode up to the table. A large flat box in sparkly blue and green wrapping paper was under one long arm.
Kasumi watched as Ranma jumped to her feet and sashayed over to her fiance, the redhead's heels rapidly clicking on the pavement. The tiny fairy then stretched up on her tip-toes as the taller fae bent down. Just before their lips could meet Kuno's left arm went down and scooped the redhead up by cupping her backside.
In that moment before the kiss, the queen gave a surprised noise. She then wrapped one arm around his neck while the other snaked down the collar of his coat and began to scratch his back.
Kasumi watched with a bit of shock that turned into amusement and joy at the love the couple had for each other. It was a scandalously physical display of affection, but people passing by on the street hardly seemed to notice.
The elder Tendo frowned until she noticed a slight shimmer, like air over a hot stove that went from the couple to the intently staring canine familiar.
The pair continued the embrace until the redhead broke the kiss with a slight pout. Her arms slipped loose and Tatewaki gently lowered her back to the ground. However, when they walked to the table Ranma kept to Kuno's left side, and her fiance's left hand maintained its original position on her backside.
Kuno almost reluctantly pulled his hand away as he withdrew Ranma's chair. The redhead turned and crossed her arms.
A smile played across Tatewaki's lips. "If you insist." He put the package down on the table, took the seat, and then offered his hand.
Ranma took it and sat down. Gauzy blue dress pressed against slate-grey and forest green accented suit as she adjusted herself. Tatewaki put his hand on the table and Ranma placed hers over it entwining their fingers.
She gave a light giggle. With her inch-long nails her hand was actually a hair longer than her fiance's. She then wrapped Kuno's other arm around her waist and then fed him a sweet-bun. A little triumphant part of Ranma crowed about her addictions while another part screamed at the magical manipulation.
"You must be aware that you two make a very lovely couple," Kasumi after taking a deliberate sip of her tea..
Ranma actually gave a slight smile. "It has become rather obvious."
"I am heartened that my proclamations have been merely prophetic," Kuno declared.
The queen rubbed her nails against the arm wrapped around her waist. "Now Wolf, I thought I told you to call my mother?"
The wolf blinked and eyed Tatewaki. "I did."
"Your mother had a prior engagement, and she called upon me. Naturally, I was more than willing, nay eager, provide assistance to my lovely-bride to be and the elegant maiden Tendo."
"Yes, I can tell," Ranma said as she adjusted her legs to improve her seating.
Kasumi had to suppress an "Oh My."
"You still think fairies are neat, Kasumi?"
"Of course, you're all so amazing!" Kasumi gushed. She then put a hand over her mouth.
Ranma giggled. Keeping her left hand entwined with his, Ranma pulled her other hand away and began to tap her long nails against the box. "Still it is good for you to be here, Tachi," she twisted her torso and kissed Kuno on the cheek.
She then turned back and gave a contented sigh as her fiance ordered. A pang of disappointment hit her when she noticed her familiar did have to recast the glamour to keep the waitress from getting too distracted.
Watching the couple, Kasumi began to understand the redhead's concerns. There was doubtless a very large physical attraction which when combined with the obvious unrequited emotional attractions made for a young queen that seemed embarrassed and afraid of truly opening up and admitting who she was and who she loved.
Kasumi's smile broadened. It really was a lovely fairytale. And it was one she could almost be a part of. She the eyed the package. It was obviously what Ranma had forgotten, and it was more obvious what it was.
Ranma idly pushed one of her half-heart shaped bangs. "Kasumi... you've always been there for me. And you've never asked for anything. You've always accepted my changes and I realized I never thanked you for it."
The fairy queen bowed her head. "I, Queen Titania Windgates the Second, thank you for your aide and continued friendship. Please accept this small token of my appreciation. And accept it with no obligation or debt."
As she handed the present over to Kasumi, Kuno leaned down and whispered into Ranma's ear. "My love, as you doubtless know, my fidelity, my support has always been ever present."
"Hush," Ranma whispered back. "You've gotten plenty of presents," she said as she squeezed her fiance's hand and then dug one of her nails into the palm.
Ignoring the squirming couple, Kasumi tore the wrapping paper off and lifted the box's lift. Her eyes widened as she lifted the silk garment up. Shimmering, and smooth it was made out of multiple layers of translucent blue, and green silk.
Holding it up, the layers fell into place and a scene with a sunset on a rocky beach came into view. Gnarled trees framed the edges and a tiered little hut stood to one side.
As Kasumi shifted the garment the layers shifted and the waves moved on the pebbly beach. The trim and straps were done in rich red silk with golden embroidery, A line of little purple gems sparkled at the top hem, and there were straps to tie the garment around the waist. It was only after an awed minute that Kasumi realized what the garment was.
"This is..." Feeling the hum of magic, Kasumi swallowed and looked over at the glittery redhead. It was then that she realized that Ranma really was a fairy queen. It was at that moment that her fantasies crystalized.
"Oh, you don't need a new apron?" Ranma playfully asked.
"I know you like landscapes. You've got that book and that nice print over your bed."
Kasumi blushed while Tatewaki raised an eyebrow.
"No, it's lovely." Kasumi ran a finger over it. "I can't wait to put it on and fly... I mean cook."
"And it won't get stained! That's the first enchantment I got to work," the fairy proudly said.
"For me?" Kasumi whispered.
"Well, who else?"
Smiling, Kasumi pulled the apron to her. She wiped the corners of her eye. "I don't deserve this."
"Of course you do!" Ranma patted Kasumi's hand.
"But why me!"
"Because you're my friend." The redhead blinked with confusion.
"Maybe she's wondering why she's first," Kuno ventured.
"Ah," Ranma patted Kuno's arm. "Kasumi, if it makes you feel better I'm planning to give all my friends gifts. It's just that... well..."
"Yes?" Kasumi asked, her heart-rate picking up.
"You're not scared of me."
The brunette looked at the sparkly little green-eyed redhead. Physically she looked harmless, especially when sitting in her fiance's lap, perhaps even a comically effeminate. But that masked the magical, transformative power that radiated off of her. Kasumi nodded.
"Even Akane's standoffish. The last thing I should give her right now is something magical."
"Maybe you should make something she'll like? Something she wants," Kasumi offered.
"But... I shouldn't have this, I'm too greedy," Kasumi said, but still held the apron to her.
"Kasumi...." Ranma smiled. "You're not the one that's trying to take my hair pins, geta, or silk sashes."
Kasumi gave weak smile.
"Really, how are you being greedy?"
The eldest Tendo daughter exhaled. "I want to fly again."
The redhead grinned. "Well that's easy to do. I can give you some glitter and take your hand and-"
Kasumi shook her head. "It's not just that. Magic, adventure, pretty costumes." Her hand went to the apron. "You're like an oasis in the desert. A sparkling palace rising out of the sands. A tropical island in a crystal-blue sea. A fantasy kingdom; it's like a dream!"
"The idea of travel is a lovely one," Kuno nodded. "Perhaps something by yacht," he suggested.
"Hush you; we've had enough boating misadventure," Ranma said as she squeezed Kasumi's hand. "Are you saying what I think you are?" she asked the older girl.
"The Elegant Miss Tendo would make a lovely fairy," Kuno added.
"Blunt as always Tachi." Ranma shook her head. "Kasumi, you do know being a fairy's not all magic and parties, right?"
"No, but statistically..." Wolf muttered.
"I know, that's why I feel greedy. I worry about...." Kasumi gave a sigh.
Ranma forced a smile. She could see Kasumi's dilemma; Kasumi had always sacrificed for her sisters. "I really shouldn't be the one to tell you that you should become a fairy but-"
The queen kicked the wolf. "But I don't think you becoming a fairy would hurt things."
"You mean I wouldn't have to live at the Kuno Estate?"
The queen giggled. "I don't even live at the Kuno Estate!"
Kasumi gave a polite smile while Wolf lolled his tongue.
Ranma let go of Kasumi's hand and smiled. "Now, I want you to think about this. Unlike the last person I turned, I want you to be sure this is what you want."
Kasumi clapped her hands! "You'll do it!" She got up and hugged Ranma, and Kuno.
"If it's what you really want." Ranma hugged back. "This is serious stuff."
"Not counting the last person you turned," Wolf added.
Ranma blushed, and leaned back onto the chest of the last person she had turned.
Kasumi glanced at her watch. "Uh... can you do me a favor?"
"In addition to turning you into a fairy?" Ranma playfully asked.
Kasumi nodded. "You're right, I'm not sure. I could just say no, but if I don't want to go fairy-" Kasumi blushed. "Don't tell my sisters that I asked if you could turn me."
"I promise. But can you do me a favor in return?"
"Can you get me a spare gi or two of Akane's?" Ranma asked, a mischievous smile on her face.
"Oh my," Kasumi laughed. "Certainly! Thank you so much," she hugged Ranma again. "I'm sorry but I must be getting back." She folded the apron back into its box. She looked at her plate and cup with a frown.
"Don't worry we'll pay for it," Ranma said.
"Thank you! It shouldn't take long for me to make a decision," she assured Ranma.
"There's no rush. I mean, maybe I can just take you flying instead."
Her nervousness washing away, Kasumi smiled. "That hardly sounds like a good way to reduce my interest."
"Talk to you later! It was wonderful seeing you Wolf." She patted the canine on the head. "And you, keep your fiancee out of trouble, Tatewaki."
Kuno nodded. "I shall try, Kasumi-san."
Humming, Kasumi walked back home. Even if she said no the opportunity had still existed. She could have... escaped. She shook her head. That was wrong. Still she could ask again in a couple years, when both Nabiki and Akane were out of school.
Entering the house, she announced she was home. There was no response. She went straight to the kitchen.
Nabiki closing the refrigerator door. Her right arm was to the side, out of Kasumi's view.
Kasumi put the box down.
Nabiki turned and smiled. "Sorry sis! Didn't hear you come in. What've you got there?"
"A gift from a friend." Kasumi lifted out the apron and put it on. There was a tingle and she felt her mind clear.
Making a fist with her right hand, Nabiki stared. "Wow, the glitter-brain made that?"
The middle Tendo leaned in. "It's actually pretty."
"She is a fairy queen."
Nabiki rolled her eyes. "Sure of her mother, a dog, and a rich idiot. Though bagging Kuno was smart. I didn't think Ranma had it in 'er."
Despite herself, Kasumi smiled at Nabiki's covetous eyes.
Putting her hands in her pants pockets Nabiki shrugged. "So how come Miss Glitter-Brain gives you a nice gift?"
"Maybe next time you could ask Ranma for something," Kasumi innocently said as she went to the refrigerator.
Nabiki blinked. "Maybe I will!" she said, leaving the room.
Laughing, Kasumi started taking stock of what she had for dinner. She then noticed, a black velvet bag, next to one of her magazines. The panther on the cover was the same glossy ebony as the velvet pouch. She lifted the bag off the counter; there was a clink of something metallic inside the sable pouch.
"I'll have to call Ranma and tell her she left something," Kasumi noted as she tied off the loose drawstring and neatened up her magazines. Thoughts of, not so idle, fantasy floated through her mind as she went back to her preparations. She really wanted to see what these enchantments would do for her.
Ukyou glanced at Ranma and the girl next to her before turning back to her griddle. The redhead wore a glossy green dress with an airy skirt and puffy, ruffled poet-sleeves and a lacy-accented top. Ruby hair with a sapphire center streak swept back from half-heart-shaped bangs to a long sparkling fall. Large almond-shaped emerald eyes looked out of a pixyish face.
The chef worked her spatula. She had to admit it; the redhead was cute. Too cute, if she had to be honest. Ukyou smiled as she took a sauce bottle and put on the finishing touches. Ukyou took some comfort in that her cuteness was natural. The redhead's nutmeg-colored tan was uncanny enough. And that was not even considering the girl's overdone manicure. Or the voice, Ukyou winced at that.
Bearing three plates she turned back around and, habitually smiled at her customers. "Shrimp and squid for you," she said, putting one plate in front of Ranma's companion; she was at least reassuringly uncute. "And... Fatty Tuna and Mackerel for you," she said placing the heavy plate in front of the fairy. "And octopus and shallots." The third one was handed to Konatsu who placed it on the floor in floor. The beautifully dressed "waitress" smiled at the wolf.
Ukyou then watched as a large wolf got up and began eating off the plate. The chef shook her head.
The redhead bowed her head. "Thanks Ucchan. I'm uh... sorry your quest came up empty handed." She blinked at the image Ukyou had drawn on her meal.
"Well, I came back when I got Konatsu's message." Ukyou leaned forward and put her elbows on the table. "See, he'd been keeping track of all your magical fairy adventures, even found it a bit romantic. Can you believe it?"
Ukyou continued. "Turns out you've got a problem I can't solve."
"Being a fairy?" Ranma tilted her head.
"Nope," Ukyou smiled thinly.
The redhead frowned. She looked down. "There's a butterfly on my Okonomiyaki."
Forcing her best hostess smile, Ukyou nodded with relief. She had braced herself for a high pitched giggly squeal but... there had been none: small comfort.
Swallowing, Akane leaned over. "Really now?" she sarcastically asked.
The chef laughed.
"Then what is it?" Ranma asked before taking a bite from her meal.
Ukyou smiled sweetly. "Well Ranchan, the problem is... you're an idiot and all that glitter must be seeping into your brain because it ain't helping."
The redhead frowned.
For a moment Akane could imagine the fairy's her antennae drooping. She blinked, for a moment she could almost... Akane shook her head.
"How am I an idiot?" Ranma asked defensively, hands on her hips.
"Do you think turning into a fairy made you smarter?" Akane asked. "Is everyone around here crazy?"
Ukyou began to count off her fingers. "See, turning Kuno into a fairy? Dumb. Giving him an 'impossible' quest to get rid of him? Really dumb. But dating the goon in the first place? That's amazingly stupid."
The fair blushed. "It was just-"
"I don't want to hear your excuses. You'd just turned into a fairy; you admitted that you weren't in your right mind, and you thought you could play the dating game?" Ukyou leaned forward. "And with him?"
"Well I... I didn't think it could get out of hand." Sparkles rained down from Ranma.
"See? Idiot." Ukyou gently tapped the side of Ranma's engagement ring with the tip of a spatula. "Akane's right, all that glitter rotted your brain."
"I told you so," Akane smugly stated. At least not everyone was not crazy around here. Though if someone willing to abandon their gender and spend a decade on a revenge quest, only to abandon said quest at the slightest complement, was one of the sane people around Ranma...
Akane swept some of the sickly-sweet glitter off of her shoulder. "Though, I can't imagine how you deal with it. Just hanging out with you gives me enough fairy dust trouble."
"Believe me, it is so much worse on the inside. And there's little I can do about it." Ranma made a thoughtful noise. It was true she could do little for herself, but there might be a way she could help Akane.
Nodding to Konatsu, Ukyou sighed. The kunoichi started sweeping up the accumulated glitter. Konatsu wondered what he should do with it. It seemed a waste to throw it all away...
"If I'd have known all it would take to get you was some guy giving you a corset and a ring I'd have done that months ago," Ukyou admitted with a frown.
"That might have sped things up," Wolf rumbled.
Cheeks blushing, Ranma coughed.
"Not you too! Is everyone going nuts?" Akane wailed. "I thought you were sane!"
Ukyou rubbed her forehead.
"What's wrong Akane?" Ranma asked.
"It's just my sisters." Akane sighed. "Nabiki's been..." She paused. Nabiki had been spending more money. And it probably had to do with Ranma somehow, especially after the whole "scarf incident". At least the school hadn't been flooded with new pictures yet.
"Yes?" Ranma asked, her eyes twinkling.
"She's just been anxious, Kasumi too."
"Aww, I was hoping that new apron would help."
Akane snorted. "She loves that thing. Always wears it."
"Yay! I hope it's been helping her cooking." Part of Ranma also hoped it was helping Kasumi make her decision.
Akane gave the excitable fairy a long stare. "Right. At least you didn't give me an apron of 'better cooking'."
"Don't be jealous." Ranma wilted slightly. She wished her project had been completed, but she had so many others, between the rod and the throne... However, Ami was right. There needed to be more testing. The enchantments were more advanced than those on Kasumi's apron after-all.
"I'm not. I can't tell if you not showering me in fairy crap is being thoughtless or tactful." Akane sighed.
Ranma winced and now wondered if her gift for Akane really was a smart idea.
"Ranma turning into a fairy is a big deal, almost as big as her getting engaged to Kuno," Ukyou glared at the redhead.
"I thought I'd give him an impossible mission," Ranma grumbled. "Who'd have thought he'd succeed."
Ukyou rolled her hand and waved it at the fairy. "Again: idiot."
"You thought a complicated scheme would work?" Akane asked.
"It wasn't that complicated," Ranma muttered.
"Who else do we know that tried to solve his romantic problems with magical artifacts? And then failed miserably."
"When you put it that way, they seem made for each other," Akane sighed, thinking of Kuno's attempts with such magic items as the wishing sword and the phoenix egg.
"Turns out Ranchan's got expensive tastes too."
"She -er- he does?" Akane asked.
The chef eyed the fairy. "I don't keep much of the fancy fish in stock." Ukyou waved at Ranma's meal. "And that's only because you 'settled' for harakami tuna. First you demanded noten or hoho-niku."
"Mori-san has those cuts," Ranma shrugged.
"Not every place is like that," Wolf reminded.
"Ah, yes him." Ukyou forced a smile. The talking wolf was bad enough, but he had a point. Of course a ritzy place like Sushi-dokoro Mori would have the exotic cuts: top of head, cheek, and the best deep red akami.
The fairy pouted. "He's very good."
Still leaning forward on the bar, Ukyou reached out and flicked Ranma's center bangs; the pair that made an inverted heart shape. "My, you make such a good spoiled little trophy wife."
Ranma's blush grew.
"Know how Ranma would act all sickeningly cute to get treats?" Akane asked.
The chef nodded.
"Well imagine that but permanently and with Kuno." Akane looked a bit queasy before she resumed her meal.
"So, this is what it's like to no longer be the cutest." Ukyou went back to the griddle. "I can see why you're so frustrated Akane."
The door chimed open and a few seconds later Konatsu escorted a haughty-looking black haired girl to the bar. She took an open seat next to Ranma.
The redhead nodded. "Hey 'dachi."
Eyes somewhat cold, Kodachi smiled. "Dearest Sister," she smoothly stated. She placed a dark blue leather book with silver page edges on the counter. Her gaze hardened as she turned to Akane. "Servant."
"I'm no one's servant!" Akane cried.
Kodachi held her fingers to her cheek in mock worry. "Oh? And here I thought my loveful, if gaudy, sister had started to get some standards. Though I'll admit that you are only marginally better as a handmaiden than a friend."
"Handmaiden!" Akane bristled.
Kodachi gave a viscous smile. "Apologizes. That was presumptuous of me."
Akane blinked, wary.
"Yes, clearly my dear sister is planning on making a male servant out of you." Kodachi nodded. "Some brute muscle. If such a thing were possible with her kind."
Silently, Konatsu approached the Kuno girl and waited at her heel.
" 'dachi.... don't..." Ranma hissed.
Akane turned back to the redhead. "You wouldn't.... you couldn't! I mean... you'd just make fairies."
The queen sighed. "No I wouldn't."
The Tendo narrowed her eyes. "So, you could."
"Only if you wanted."
"Wait... but that means?" Akane asked.
The kunoichi's eyebrows went up. "Would you care for a beverage?" the elegantly dressed server then asked Kodachi.
"In a moment, thank you," the Kuno girl said, relishing watching the Tendo girl try to think.
"You can swap genders by turning people!"
"Is it that hard to imagine? Look at how much time Kuno spends as a girl."
"No, but I mean you can change people's genders."
"Only when they go from human to fae. And yes, I'm aware of the irony." Ranma gave a sad nod.
Blinking, Kodachi gave a tiny shake of the head. "Well that was edifying." She then turned to Ranma and placed the book she was carrying in front of the queen. "And don't you have a fairy kingdom to build, Dear Sister?"
"Sister?" Akane blinked, finally noticing the term the Kuno girl was using.
Kodachi sniffed. "Lady Titania is set to wed my idiot brother."
Running a finger over the book's embossed title, Ranma glared.
"It is a term of endearment for him. One that you use as well," Kodachi pointedly added.
"It's different when I call him that," the redhead huffed.
"Because you'd be sitting in his lap?' Wolf asked.
Kodachi halted. She turned and looked down at Wolf. She exhaled and turned back to the redhead. "I'm not sure wolves should talk..
"Yeah sometimes I wish he'd shut up too."
Kodachi smiled thinly. She turned to Ukyou. "Ah yes, I'll have what my sister is having. Minus the butterfly motif if you please. I'm not quite that committed to following her."
Nodding Ukyou went to work. Konatsu, for his part, set about making some tea.
"You think I want all this sparkly crap?"
"Well you do seem to revel, dare I say, luxuriate in it... Dear Sister," Kodachi smiled flashing her teeth.
Ranma pouted, while Konatsu finished with the tea
Kodachi accepted the cup with cold grace. She took a sip and placed it on the bar. "Now, Dear Sister," the gymnast said, seeming to relish the term. "My being here is more than a happy coincidence."
Ranma tapped the book. On the cover were two titles. One was in Japanese, the other in the interlinked, looping two-tone script of Eelinu, the fae language. The redhead could make out enough of the latter to know it probably said the same thing as the former: "Cultivating the Flowers of Avlon's Folded Hills."
"That is a coincidence," Kodachi smirked. "I had just finished."
"You're giving her books?" Akane quietly asked.
"Well?" Ranma asked.
"An interesting read. The woodcuts were particularly beautiful. Perhaps the next book will be in just Japanese, I found the other tongue... distracting.
"Depends on what Wolf's got," Ranma shrugged.
Kodachi looked down at the large wolf lying at the redhead's feet. "Of course." She shook her head.
"Though I am entranced by the other book," she added eying the redhead's clothes. "I can see where your fashion... sensibilities come from."
"Other? Did you raid Wolf's bookshelf."
"It was a trifle I picked up," Kodachi dismissed.
"If you're not here to return a book... is it because you missed my company?" Ranma smirked.
"This isn't the sparring hall, or the garden," Kodachi's eyes became amused. "Though maybe later. Oh, those roses in the South greenhouse are absolutely fascinating."
"I was worried they'd be too sparkly." Ranma gave a chuckle which shifted midway through into a giggle.
"Yes, there's that... delightful laugh of yours," Kodachi said through clenched teeth.
The redhead shook her head. "Back atcha, Dearest Sister."
At a loss, Akane went to her meal. That at least made sense.
Kodachi nodded to Konatsu. "Lovely blend. My complements."
"You two are friends now?" Akane looked up. "Sure why not. Ranma already loves making out with one Kuno, why not be best buddies with the Black Rose."
Kodachi tapped her cup in irritation. "You see? If that peasant were your servant, you'd be able to correct such rudeness. Alas, we are bereft of any rational hiring process. Maybe you should outsource that. Or at least restrain my brother."
"Well... I do have someone who might want to become a fairy," Ranma admitted.
Kodachi gave an amused smile.
"What?" Akane felt a headache coming. "What next, Ranma? You going to discover the Principal's is not so bad?
"With hair like that? Please." Ukyou said from the griddle.
Ranma crossed her arms. "I can say with confidence, that all three of us are united in hating the loon."
"All three?" Akane's eye twitched.
"Dearest Sister is correct."
Akane rubbed her temple. "Ranma... what are you doing?"
"Again you besmirch the name of my beloved." Kodachi gave a gentle sigh. "Lady Titania, if you can't still her tongue using the bonds of mistress and servant then how about the bonds of friendship?"
Akane pointed right at the fairy in the shimmering corset and glittery clothes. "You do know this is your beloved Ranma right?"
Kodachi laughed. When she finished, she patted the fairy on the shoulder. "I apologize but her delusions are so very droll."
"You're the crazy one!" Akane's hands shook. "There's a reason everyone calls her Ranma! Even your brother figured it out."
"Really? You know the virile, manly Ranma as well as I do. You even laughably tried to claim a betrothal with him. Fortunately you seem to have given up that delusion." Kodachi's expression turned gentle, pitying. "Can you honestly see a man such as Ranma flouncing around my idiot brother like some overeager little bride?"
The redhead nervously laughed.
Tail low, Wolf licked his plate. It was some worry that this would push his queen too far.
"No offense Dear Sister; you two are made for each other," Kodachi assured with a wicked little smile.
Akane waved to Ukyou. "Why don't you ask her?"
Holding a plate with another tuna and mackerel Ukyou gave Akane a calculating expression. "I'm not going to get between 'em," she smoothly said putting a high priced special order in front of a frequent customer.
"Really?" Akane snorted. "What about Ranchan?"
"One of the more disturbing pet names my brother uses." Kodachi eyed the redhead. "Wouldn't you agree Dear Sister?"
"Eh." Ranma shrugged as she ate the last of her okonomiyaki. "Hey Ucchan can I have some sweet buns? I know you've got a platter hidden away somewhere."
Ukyou blinked. She did indeed have some made up, but they were in a warming tray under the counter, out of the customer's sight. "Can you hear sugar now?"
"Smell. I'll take a double order then."
Ukyou shook her head and got to work.
"But what does bring you here?" Ranma asked Kodachi once a heaping plate of glossy buns was plopped in front of her. She then pointed to the sugar box on a shelf near the grill.
With a sigh, Ukyou took out a sifter and poured brown sugar over the still-warm buns.
"My brother's latest wasteful boondoggles. As delightful as you've made interacting with him," Kodachi gave a little smirk. "I fear he'll beggar us all."
"You care about money?" Akane asked.
The Kuno girl sniffed and pretended to ignore her.
"What's he doing?" Ranma sighed.
"Several things, the least could you keep my brother from purchasing another yacht," Kodachi explained.
Akane and Ukyou blinked. "Another one?" Akane asked. "But the last time..."
Kodachi grit her teeth. "Yes after the Lady Binsense debacle I fear any new vessel would not be long for this world."
"Uh, sure," Ranma shrugged.
"I know he's been thinking of something special for your honeymoon, but maybe an island vacation would suffice. Something where my idiot brother would not, in a fit of chauvinistic ego, destroy hundreds of millions of yen."
"The Lady Binsense ran aground," Ranma weakly defended.
Kodachi brushed past her reply. "You seemed to enjoy the last island you were on with him. Not that I can speak from firsthand experience," she glared at Akane and gave Ukyou a milder rebuke. "For despite numerous... people being invited, I was not," she added with a petulant huff.
The chef cleaned her griddle. "That was a pretty nice island. Until Toma and his flunkies kidnapped us. Though his island was nice too, once we got that whole spring mess sorted out."
"Nice?" Akane arched an eyebrow. "It started with you and Shampoo setting up competing resturants, and then Toma's animal men started kidnaping everyone. That's hardly what I call nice... " The Tendo girl blinked. "Wait, honeymoon?"
Sighing, Ranma lifted up her hand showing the engagement ring.
Akane eyed the diamonds. "Seriously?"
"What did you think it was?" Ranma asked.
"You get new jewelry all the time!"
"Yes, but I'm engaged."
"You get engaged all the time too! And suddenly now you get a ring and act all..." Akane shook her head.
"At least it's not a nose ring."
Akane frowned. "What?"
"Well more of a stud than a ring, and it wasn't really a problem, no the chains were. Really pulled on my earrings," the redhead babbled.
The Tendo girl slowly exhaled and pointedly ignored the girl.
For her part, the Kuno girl made a thoughtful noise.
Ranma looked away then addressed Kodachi. "What else is he up to?"
"My brother also insists on hiring additional staff. Far more than we need."
"Tachi doing something dumb? Shocking." The redhead took a bite and chewed. Ranma blinked. She discretely scratched the side of her corset. "Don't tell me... He's hiring the Amazons?"
Kodachi laughed. "What gave you that idea?"
"Don't get me started." Ranma grumbled. She ate another bun and felt a bit better. "The old ghoul's been going on that she might be able to resurrect some ancient pacts. Have Shampoo and a troop of Amazon warriors do... I don't even know what."
"It wasn't like they made a deal with Titania herself," Wolf mentioned. "You don't have to accept a life-guard force."
Kodachi pointedly ignored the wolf. "Yes, troubling. They're skilled, but foreign and of dubious loyalty."
"That's what the Alfheimr Guard is?" Akane asked.
"Basically," Wolf allowed. There was more to the Alfheimr and, frankly, less. As the Catastrophe spiraled out of control just about every champion, levy, conscript, axillary, commissioned-mage, mercenary, and arms-man that could be ordered, bribed, geased, scrounged, impressed, or enchanted was thrown into taking out every palace, fortress, fastness, redoubt, bunker, and demesne of the enemy's. Of course the enemy used the same web of alliances and obligations and compulsions against the Queen's forces. The destruction was quite thorough; only a few old caches and alliances remained.
Akane frowned wondering what advantage the Amazons could get from helping Ranma like that. The things she could think of, magical power, enhancements, eldritch lore, were not exactly comforting.
"But, unlike my brother's antics. At least those foreign levies of yours would serve a tangible purpose."
"A purpose?" Akane asked.
"Well, yes. The Amazons are familiar with magic and are skilled martial artists. More importantly, they're used to working in small team units." Ranma stretched and rolled her shoulders. Her back felt a bit tingly. "However, it's been a while since I've been to the village let alone seen what teams they have to offer. So, I can't say how well they'd perform at garrison duty. Though, I suppose guarding their village is what most of them do anyway..."
Akane blinked. Ukyou made a thoughtful noise. Kodachi gave a forced smile. Wolf perked his head up and gave a canine grin.
"What? Knowing this stuff's a part of being a martial artist," Ranma shrugged.
"There's also the expense, and the garish nature of having a band of barbarians on our Estate," Kodachi sniffed.
Konatsu held his tongue, though he could relate to the idea of hired martial artists.
"Never mind them," Ranma rolled her eyes. "What do you want me to do about Tatewaki?"
"He hangs on your every word. While, I know restraint's not your style." Kodachi glanced at Ranma's hair. "I would consider it a personal favor if you were to help me on this."
"I guess, but it's not like it's my problem."
Kodachi blinked. "It certainly is. The Estate's your home too."
Akane's chopstick snapped. "What!"
"I don't live with Kuno!"
Kodachi's pitying smile returned. "Dear Sister, you are aware of the paperwork my brother had you sign?"
"I thought that was just bank accounts and stuff."
"You have access to the Kuno's bank accounts!" Akane cried.
"What did I say, Titania? Your problem is that you're an idiot" Ukyou said as she cleared the griddle.
Akane's eyes widened. "Now you're calling her Titania?"
Ukyou nodded to Konatsu who diffidently refilled Kodachi's cup. The kunoichi then stole a glance at the fairy queen.
"The shopkeep knows better than to displease a customer." The Kuno daughter smiled and sipped.
"I don't want to cause a fight today," Ukyou added.
"Because you're worried you'll lose?" Kodachi asked.
Ukyou pointed to Ranma. "Because I'm worried how much glitter that one will release if we get into a big fight."
Kodachi eyed the redhead. "Not an invalid concern."
"My glitter's not... that bad."
"It smells like a springtime meadow and fresh honey," Ukyou stated.
"What say you, Lady Titania? Will you help restrain your fiance?" Kodachi asked, smirking.
"You said there'd be a favor?
Kodachi's expression warmed. "Oh yes."
Taking a few more bites, Ranma pondered.
"Don't be too hasty," Wolf interjected.
"Maybe Tatewaki's hiring isn't excessive. The Kuno Estate gives you a lot of... options. And you could use a dedicated household staff."
Ranma sighed. "Really? Again with the queen stuff."
"You're being handed a mansion on its own wooded estate Ranchan.... err Titania-chan," Ukyou quickly corrected.
"I guess I can hear Kuno's side of the story."
Kodachi glared at the familiar. "Wolves shouldn't talk. They also shouldn't spoil negotiations."
Ranma smiled. "Did you really want to owe me a favor?"
"Being indebted to the fae rarely works out well," Wolf added.
"I think I can handle Lady Titania's whims," Kodachi haughtily said as she finished her meal.
The queen grinned. "Really now?"
Kodachi matched Ranma's expression. "Oh shopkeep, please put all our meals on my account if you will."
"Of course," Ukyou smoothly said though a forced smile.
"I don't know if I want the Kunos paying for my lunch," Akane groused.
"You were happy enough when I was paying?" Ranma reminded.
Akane frowned. "That's different."
Ranma shook her purse. "Where do you think I'm getting all this money?"
"Maybe you've been getting it from Na-" Akane stopped herself. "From the same place you got all that gaudy jewelry?"
"Nah, these just come with the magic." The redhead shook her jade bracelets. "Though that reminds me, I've still gotta visit Osa-P."
"That a jewelry store?"
"Yup, run by a the mother of a friend of a friend. I guess I could make some money by selling this stuff." Ranma said, picking at her necklace.
"Then... where's your money coming from? Your mom?" Akane hopefully asked.
Kodachi and Ranma shared a look.
Akane's heart sunk. "Really? You're spending Tatewaki's money?"
Ranma popped a sweet bun into her mouth and licked some sugar off her lips. "It's the least he can do."
"No wonder you're so eager to marry him," Akane grumbled.
"Who said I was eager!"
Kodachi stifled a laugh behind her hand.
"Please, you were just talking about your honeymoon."
"Only because 'dachi didn't want the big idiot to waste a bunch of money on a boat. Now if you'll excuse me I've got to freshen up," Ranma stood up.
"Why? Your makeup's not glittery enough? Maybe your hair needs more curl," Akane smirked.
"She was trying to be discrete and show some class instead of blurting out her desire to use the restroom you uncouth clod," Kodachi stated finishing her tea. As she placed the cup down, she frowned. The tall demure waitress was normally attentive enough to provide an automatic refill.
"I knew that! I was teasing her!" Akane replied.
Heading to the restroom Ranma smiled as the two continued to bicker. After using the facilities she washed her hands and studied her reflection. Ucchan's right; I am too cute, she thought with a prideful grin as she opened her purse.
She paused and looked from the contents to her reflection. "Akane's right too, not that I need this stuff."
The fairy idly adjusted her airy green dress and flipped some of her puffy curled bangs. "Shame no one came with me, talking with Ami would have been fun," she murmured as the restroom door slowly opened.
The fairy's eyes went up and saw Konatsu slip into the room.
Clasping his hands together over the Ucchan's kimono, the kunoichi bowed deeply. Long shiny hair fell over his delicate face. "I'm sorry for the forwardness and impropriety, but I beg you to answer a question," Konatsu said holding the bow.
"It's okay," the fairy assured then returned the gesture with a slight bend at the waist, which she had to restart to move her hands from her sides to her lap.
Konatsu gave another deep, but slightly shallower, bow and slightly lifted his gaze.
"There's no need for this," Ranma assured. "We're both-" she chewed her lip. "Huh."
"Yes? We're both what?" Konatsu asked, a hopeful tone to his soft voice.
The redhead looked down and saw that the kunoichi still kept his hands clasped before him. "You may ask your question."
"Can you really change someone's gender when you make them a fairy?"
The redhead exhaled. Things were starting to make sense. "It's possible. I mean I haven't had a chance to try it but... Wolf made it sound easy enough. And heck Kuno can turn into a girl as it is."
Elation colored with trepidation crossed the young kunoichi's beautiful face. "I see."
"Man, first Kasumi now you," Ranma shook her head.
"Kasumi-san? Oh my," Konatsu gasped.
"No, no. Not the gender part, the fairy part!
"Why yes. I would never have suspected her." Konatsu tilted his head.
"She's just... curious." The fairy rubbed her hands together. "Are you curious?"
"It's something I'd have to think about." Konatsu blushed. "It's a big decision."
Stepping forward, Ranma took the kunoichi's hand. "If you want this, really want this." She exhaled. "We can make it work."
Ears pinking, Konatsu blinked his eyes. "Oh thank you so much!"
"But you really need to think this over; I don't want you doing something you'd regret."
Konatsu nodded. "Oh yes, and on that subject... can I beg you a further favor?"
" Until I make my decision, can you keep this a secret? I'm worried Ukyou-san will find out and well..." Konatsu bit his lip.
Ranma nodded. "Ucchan can get funny ideas. But at least she doesn't seem too hostile to this fairy stuff."
"It's not just the fairy stuff I'm worried about," Konatsu quietly said.
"I promise to keep your secret." Giving a reassuring smile followed by a sparkling little hug, Ranma patted the kunoichi. "And I promise you this: no matter your decision if Ukyou does throw you out, you'll always have a place at the Estate. I won't have you living on the streets again."
"Oh thank you!" Konatsu demurely cheered and in an energetic moment returned the hug.
The fairy beamed. "It's the least I could do," she said moving past Konatsu towards the exit. "When you make your decision you can find me at the Estate or my mother's place."
"Thank you, it was wonderful serving you and your friends," Konatsu said as he slipped in and slid the door open.
The fairy nodded and the door closed behind her. "And it will be in the future," Konatsu quietly added.
Ranma's eyes fluttered open. Under a soft wool blanket and atop a thick cushion, she was curled up with her knees almost to her chin For a moment, she felt confused, but also warm, comforted, content.
She looked back over her shoulder, and under the arm draped over her. Looking at her slumbering fiance, the fairy found a smile flittering across the face. Pressing her knees together, she realized why she woke up.
She pushed the blanket off then realized there was a less disturbing way to get up.
In a puff of glitter, she shrank down to two inches high and flittered out from under the blanket. She flew over the table in front of the broadly cushioned leather couch. The remains of a chocolate cream pie with drizzled caramel and nougat flakes rested on the polished platter. A nearly empty fluted milkshake glass and tall metal mixing cup gave off a heavy malty smell.
Wolf looked up from the immense screen hung on the wall in front of the table. "You just woke up for the climax. Magobei is about to fight Rokugo," he nodded to the television. "Nice use of snow in this scene, but I guess you two have seen this movie a lot."
"Well, Goyokin is one of Kuno's favorite movies," Ranma absently said as she fluttered past Wolf. She blinked and started to fly back towards her familiar.
The wolf rolled his eyes. "No you don't need to worry. You two had far more... fun at the sushi bar."
The fairy blushed.
"Are you worried, about Kasumi?"
Ranma exhaled. "It's been nearly a week. I'm pretty sure I know her decision. She's just working up the courage to tell me."
"You're not worried she'll decline?"
"I... it'll be nice to have a fairy that's not my mother or my... fiance," Ranma eventually admitted. Pressing her legs together again, the reason why she woke up made itself quite clear. The queen rapidly flew out of the room.
Back to her full size, and no longer under... pressure, Ranma washed her hands. Looking at her manicured nails, she then smoothed her green leotard down. "And Tachi was worried they were too long to spar with," she sleepily giggled as she looked over her reflection. Glitter sparkled over her face and hair.
Walking back into the entertainment room, she stopped by the table. The blanket had been tossed off midway revealing Kuno's dark green and silver trimmed Hakama, below the waist at least.
Above the waist, the robe-like garment had loosened exposing his shoulders and some of the male fairy's smooth chest.
Though Ranma had to admit, the silky material did not conceal much in the way of the contours of Kuno's body. The fairy's little smile returned. Even the blanket did little to conceal the... shape of his body.
She gave a high little yawn and watched for a bit more time. Her hand went down to the metal cup and she even inhaled the deep chocolaty scent but held off. She knew more sugar would keep her up.
There was another burst of glitter as she returned to fairy size.
Wolf looked up from the movie. The sword fight was over and the characters were wrapping up.
"Not a word," Ranma said as she buzzed back to the couch. Pulling the blanket back up, she idly noticed the collection of sweet-smelling fairy dust before growing back to her full size.
Snuggling back into place, she drew her knees up and pulled her fiance's arm back around and held it close to her chest.
Sighing, she basked in the soft warmth. As her eyes began to grow heavy, her fiance shifted and his arm tightened, pressing her backside up against him.
A long gallery ran along the length of the upper floor to the Kuno Estate's grand shiro fortress. An airy trapezoidal room branched off the wood-paneled, tapestry-adorned corridor.
With a line of tall windows on the room's longest side, high ceilings, and exposed cross beams, the room had bright, open feel. The room gave an expansive view of the grounds of the Kuno Estate. The carefully tended twinkling verdant grass of the grounds contrasted with the almost wild riotous of growth in the gardens and wooded glens.
Ami could see heavy bushels of flowering plants, rich vines, brightly colored (and sable black) flower beds. Trees of all sizes, meandering paths, rushing streams, tranquil pools, little outbuildings spread out before her. The Estate grounds felt like their own little world, a bit sharper and brighter than the city beyond the walls. For Ami, that Ranma's fiance lived in a place like this was proof enough that the redhead really was a fairy queen.
A line of dark low-slung benches were in the middle of the room, with bookcases pushed up to the angled walls next to the windows. The bookcases were sparse containing only a few dozen heavy, leather books and, oddly, some folded bundles of cloth.
The bench tables were sparse but had a slow-growing clutter. One was bare while another had an open velvet-lined case containing several glossy purple stones and one sullen-looking ruby, a few green crystal-veined white stone cubes, a pair of open books, a rack of silver rasps, chisels and other tools on an oilskin sheet and a half carved ash wood rod under a cut-crystal enclosure.
Motes of glitter wafted up from the half-finished runes on the rod and bounced off the surface of the crystal box. In front of that table were a couple stools and a half-completed chair. The back and arms were unupholstered and their carved wood surfaces were still freshly sanded and unpolished.
On the third table was a blue leather bound journal, a plate of cookies, a set of cups, a sheaf of note paper, a wooden rack containing tubes of crystals and powders, and a slim light-blue computer.
Sitting on a white stool with a glossy green cushion, the blue-haired girl ran one finger over her temple while another ran along a line of curly text displayed on her little computer. She wore a shimmering white dress with blue accents and a glossy dark blue double-breasted wool sweater jacket draped over her shoulders. Slim little blue leather boots adorned her feet.
Next to her sat a large wolf. The bench table was low enough for his head to look over the experimental apparatus.
"I'm sorry I don't have a Japanese translation of that tome," Wolf said pointing to the book Ami was reading. His nose shifted to the other book, the one lined with Japanese text. "Ranma's only been doing the beginner stuff."
Ami turned to the large canine. "Familiar Stones are... beginner stuff?"
"Relatively speaking... Okay, the real beginning is the furniture cubes," the wolf deferred nodding to the green-veined white stones. "But familiars were a common part of a fae noble's retinue. It was expected for a noblewoman to make her own familiars."
Taking a crystal-tipped steel rod in one hand, and holding her other hand behind her back, Ami carefully tapped the familiar stone that had been placed in front of her computer. She looked at the readings on her visor and frowned.
"We should probably wait for Ranma to come back."
Ami shrugged. "I'm still getting a baseline." Her eyes drifted between the book's complicated alchemical diagram with its squirming-seeming Eelinu notations and the flickering wire frame display on her computer screen. The fae script was nowhere near as easy to pick up as Wolf had made it sound. Though what she had read so far was fascinating, especially the extra exposition.
Ami chewed her lip.
Ami was torn. She wanted to help her friend, but the whole "let's build mind-enchanting magic rocks" was pretty creepy. Though that was why Ranma wanted to find a cure... The redhead's other experiments were less worrying but still awkward. "It's definitely compatible with Moon Kingdom magical theory."
"Serenity was Titania's protege."
Twirling a lock of glossy hair, the Senshi absently nodded. "Right. The good news is the magics are close enough that my tools can work through this."
"And the bad?" the familiar asked.
Ami hesitated. "Well... they're not active. And if Ranma wants to study untangling mind enchantments...."
Wolf's ears folded back and he lowered his muzzle until it rested on the table. "She's going to have to use one of these."
"They, uh, don't have to be used on humans, do they?"
"Miss Mizuno, I've always been a wolf." Wolf said, looking vaguely insulted.
"Good. That's... good," Ami admitted. She knew that the black moon clan was able to turn inanimate objects into monsters. However this was still better news than learning that the fairy queen was okay with human experimentation.
"Do you want to take some more readings?" Wolf bowed his head towards the girl.
"No, no, I'm good," Ami absently said as she spread her hand to look at her shiny sapphire nails.
The room's heavy wood door popped open and a tiny girl in a thin glittering orange dress flounced in. The petal-skirted translucent dress was worn over a golden slip, silvery sparkling corset, russet stockings, and glossy plum slippers. The sheer and clear layers interacted, simulating the sky of the setting sun.
Glitter showered off the buxom fairy's ruby red and sapphire blue hair. Her bangs were twin rows of glossy curls that met in the middle of her forehead in an inverted heart. The rest of her hair was pulled in a simple poofy round bun in back with a long fall that went down her back over her jeweled red and green spiraled wings.
Rapt, Ami smiled as a sweet smell filled the room. The fairy's true form was a delight. Long ears pointed back, and curled antennae bobbed in front. Her limbs seemed a bit more delicate and her bright almond-shaped emerald eyes seemed even larger and welcoming as they focused on her.
"You are so dedicated!" Ranma cheered as she flittered to Ami's stool. The fairy's arms darted out then froze. Nutmeg cheeks blushed as the fairy waited.
"Can't be too careful," Ami warned but with a smile. Blushing, she was glad the lesson had sunk in with her sparkly friend. The blue-haired girl then pulled her arms away from the workbench and stood up. She checked the equipment was safed, made sure her hands were empty, and only then nodded to the fairy.
The redhead flittered about the room and stopped by the table with the glass case, familiar stones, and the white cubes.
"Should we go back to the null-ruby? I was kind of hoping it could be a package gift."
Ami frowned. "Well... that is simpler. I mean we know that enchantment..."
"But?" Ranma gently asked.
"It's not ready yet. And -um- you wanted me to focus on this, " Ami's trepidation began to evaporate.
"Oh, right. I was thinking too much about my own problems." The fairy wilted.
"No! You're looking out for your friends, " Ami assured putting an arm around the fairy's shoulder.
The redhead cheered and hugged the taller girl. "I'm so glad you're taking this seriously."
Ami coughed as she inhaled part of the sickly-sweet glitter cloud. "Uh, what?" she asked, distracted by the silky smooth feel of the fairy's wings.
Ranma looked up from resting her head on Ami's chest. "Well, normally girls go to the restroom in groups, right?"
Ami blinked. "Not all girls." Her right hand lifted off the wing and found itself swamped by the fairy's glittering tresses. Her left hand managed to get out but was now tracing the spiral of Ranma's right antenna.
"We did, at the cafe" The fairy made a happy little noise and pressed closer to Ami.
Ami's neck and cheeks began to flush. "True and... Minako likes to. Rei doesn't but she's a stick in the mud, always staring into her fire and talking with crows. But on the other hand she's got great taste in shoes! And her hair is so shiny and long."
Ranma happily nodded as her friend continued to gush.
"Oh! Mako-chan goes with us to primp in the restroom too! She's got great hair as well, not as shiny but such body. Personally I think it's because they're scared to reveal how little they know about guys in front of Usagi."
The redhead nodded. "See! You could have gone out with me but you stayed here working. That's dedication!" She tightened the hug and let it linger for the moment.
Ami tilted her head. "I didn't think the castle had multi-toilet restrooms?"
Ranma pouted. "That makes a difference?"
The magical girl waved her hand. "Anyway, this is very fascinating," Ami said. Her hand had finished with the antenna and the very tip of Ranma's ear beckoned her.
"I won't forget this. I'll make sure-" Emerald eyes widened in surprise and plum lips curled into a satisfied smile.
"Sorry!" Ami said as she pulled her hand back from the fairy's ear.
"It's okay," Ranma dreamily said as she slipped out of the hug and flittered over to the stool next to Ami's. "It is nice that we've got so much space here; we'd never have this much room to work in at my mother's. Can you believe it was just Kuno, his sister and just a couple servants?"
Shaking her head, Ami looked at her sparkly hands and glitter polished nails. She exhaled and shook her head causing shining dark blue locks to flail about. She straightened the glossy deep blue sweater she wore over her shoulders like a shawl. Smoothing down the tight semi-sheer white dress with its sapphire blue sequins accenting her rounded chest, Ami sat back down.
She looked at the fairy neatly perched on the stool next to her.
"So, what have you learned?" Ranma asked as she peered at the computer.
"Arms back," Ami cautioned.
The fairy blushed and folded her hands in her lap. "I really appreciate all your help, even on my side projects."
Looking down at the queen's chest and lap to make sure she was complying, Ami held her gaze for a moment before looking up at the folded bundles on the bookshelf. Ami laughed as she setup her computer. "You know most girls would kill for the opportunity to test out fairy-enchanted clothes."
"When you wear the stuff every day it kind of loses the... magic." The redhead frowned and fidgeted. "Do you think she'll like it?"
"Yes, from what you've said, I'm sure she'll love the gift," Ami assured as she readied the crystal-tipped metal wand. "Now lean forward."
"Thanks I won't forget all your help!" Ranma cheered as she bent forward.
Looking down the front of the fairy's dress, Ami's wand shook. The magical girl shook her head and started taking measurements with the probe. The Mercury computer started logging data. "Huh...."
"What's wrong?" Ranma asked, sneaking her hand on and putting it on Ami's.
"Well, I've got some data on the spells you and Wolf are under. And I've got some readings on the Familiar Stones..." Ami chewed her lip.
"We're just starting," Ranma assured as traced her fingers over the back of Ami's hand.
Ami exhaled. "This going to be complicated, Ranma. Very complicated. I'm having a hard time tracking the effects an enchantment has on a Familiar's mind." She waved towards Wolf.
"It doesn't help that I'm no ordinary familiar," Wolf noted.
"Let alone decoding a spell made by Serenity's mentor!"
Careful to keep it off the workbench Ranma lifted Ami's hand. The white-tipped blue manicured digits were pressed against the sparkly autumn dress over the shimmering silver corset. "It's okay. I know it's hard." Ranma squeezed the hand and bit her lip. "I know. But I believe in you."
Ami smiled. Magical queens tended to believe in her; she had a knack. "Thanks. You know... it'd almost be better if you did turn someone. That way we could track the magical effect," she then gave nervous laugh.
Ranma joined in. "Do fairies count?"
Twirling one of her shiny blue tresses between thumb and forefinger, Ami frowned. "Not unless your new fairies are given a boatload of mental compulsions."
The redhead turned to wolf with a raised eyebrow.
"Nope. There's some acclimating spells, but that's it."
Ami frowned. "Well... there's ways around that," she murmured to herself.
"Acclimating?" The fairy eyed the wolf. "That sounds a bit like 'mental rounding' to me."
Wolf shook his head. "Instincts. It's why your mother and Kuno were able to fly right off the bat, and could figure out fairy clothing. Affinity with magic too. That's all the change does." He did not enjoy lying to his queen, even if by omission, but Titania the First had prepared... precautions for this new fae society.
Nodding, Ami cupped her hands and pushed back her sapphire locks causing them to tumble over her neck and brush against her shoulder blades. It was annoying when her fell past her ears, but she could manage. As she touched her little sapphire stud earrings she smiled slightly.
"Am I the only one worried about this?" Ranma asked.
"Would you rather your fairies not know how to fly?" Ami countered.
Wincing, Ranma shook her head.
"There are also the magical aspects. Fae are inherently magical beings." Wolf reminded. "Your own magical aptitude would be devastating if improperly used."
"Okay fine, I can see that being necessary, but I'm talking about the mind spell I'm under, not any sort of... magical limiting."
"I suppose we could use some sort of... enchantment to add mental spells to new fairies." Ami smiled brightly as she undid one of her earrings and fiddled with the backing. "That way we could track them! And then learn more about undoing your spell!"
"You're solving the wrong problem," Ranma sighed.
One hand holding her hair, Ami used the wand to study her earring. As she made a few notes, she imagined her hair up. After putting her earring back on, she giggled and placed the wand back on the bench. It was an improper use of lab materials. The magical girl picked up one of the test tubes. She uncorked it and gave the sparkling contents a sniff: honey with a hint of ozone.
"Okay, Ranma for this next test I'm going to need you to think about being with Kuno, back when you were human. It'd be real helpful if you didn't move much," Ami said as she took the wand back up with her other hand.
The redhead's smile quickly soured.
Giggling anew, Ami readied the test tube and dumped the mix of glitter and ground familiar stone on the fairy's head. Pulling back, the fairy gave a surprised eek. This caused the tail end of the glitter to dump onto and down the front of the redhead's dress. The surprised noise quickly turned into a giggle.
Which was promptly silenced by Ami placing her finger on the queen's lips. "Again for this test I'm going to need you to stay still. Can you do that?" she asked, her computer and lifted the wand with her other hand.
Giving a playful wink, Ranma parted her lips and gave Ami's finger a little lick.
Wolf stepped off the back porch of the Saotome residence. The compact area behind the house was given over to a tiny pond surrounded by garden that rolled back to a little grove of trees that butted against the wall surrounding the property. The grass under his paws was a bright shining green with just a hint of blue. He looked at the pool and sighed. While it had lovely water-lilies and a nice fountain there were no fish.
Flagstone paths cut between bright blooming flowers. One even meandered through a little copse of verdant trees. Wolf could just make out a stone bench butted against the wall in the far back. Glitter steadily rained down on the flowerbeds.
The wolf's attention went upward. He sat down and looked on as the two tiny fairies. The twin tanned redheads spun around each other. The sparkling comets trailing behind them weaving intricate patterns. Watching, Wolf was reminded of the paired whorls and curves that made up Eelinu. They were even different colors. The longer glitter-tail was blue-white and smelled of honey, while the shorter was pure-white and odorless.
He tried to translate, but it was, unsurprisingly, random gibberish. Though the characters that made up Mother, ruby, and hat did appear. His attention shifted and he took notice at what the pair were actually doing, skywriting aside.
Ranma's moves were breathtaking and precise. The little queen's wing control was phenomenal. Nodoka was a bit slower and took longer to change direction, but she was still a natural.
At first the pair mirrored moves and practiced throws and disarms, but the structure of teacher and student gave way to the queen simply buzzing about while her mother followed. Soon a choreography grew out with Nodoka following Ranma's lead. Mother's sword sheathed and the silvery flashes vanished.
Wolf's smile receded. He did not want to interrupt the dance, but letting his Mistress be late would be even worse. The wolf gave a light cough followed by a short bark.
The two little fairies stopped and, sparkles falling from their wings, flew towards Wolf. The queen wore a wispy deep red dress with blue lace edging. Her mother wore a deep blue kimono with red accents in a wave pattern.
Glancing at her mother, Ranma smiled. "Good job mom! You were really getting it at the end."
"What's going on, Wolf? It's not time is it?" Ranma asked, her attention back on her familiar.
"It's getting close," Wolf admitted.
Ranma nodded. She closed her eyes and in a burst of glitter returned to her full size. Another spell hid her spiraled wings and antennae. Nodoka also grew in size, but did not activate her glamour.
"Should we go?" Ranma clutched her pendant. She would have liked to have done more testing with Ami, but... she had delayed long enough and that was only part of the day's challenges.
Wolf bowed his head. "We've still got some time, my Queen," he replied, catching the double meaning.
Nodoka frowned. "If you want..."
Ranma shook her head. "You stay here." She smiled. "I can handle this myself."
Nodoka hugged her daughter.
The redhead leaned into the embrace, and gave a tiny pout when it was broken.
"Then, I've got to freshen up," Nodoka said, smoothing her translucent kimono. "See you later. And keep my daughter out of trouble," she added patting Wolf on the head.
"We don't have to rush right out?" Ranma said as she started to walk between the flower beds.
At her side, Wolf nodded. "It's why I interrupted when I did."
Absently nodding, the fairy ran her hands over the flower petals. Shimmering with glitter, the plants swayed and bent towards her. A strong, sweet floral scent bloomed up.
The redhead paused and smiled as trumpet-shaped neon blue flower bud opened at her touch, revealing periwinkle edges and bright orange stamen. "Ooh, pretty," the redhead smiled. She had seen something similar in one of the books Kodachi had borrowed.
"Avalon's Lament, bit early this time of year," Wolf said as they resumed walking down the stone path.
Taking them towards the grove, Ranma nodded. "I know it's her choice. I just... it feels different this time."
"It's also your choice," Wolf said as they fell under the shade of the trees.
Chewing on her lip, the redhead traced her hand along the creeping ivy that had wrapped around the trunks and branches. The two proceeded in silence for a few paces.
The queen sat down at the bench and looked down at the path. Specifically at her open-toe ruby stilettos with their sapphire accents. "You know, Wolf?"
Wolf looked up. He had been trying to look through the grove back at the house. The foliage was thicker from the inside. "Yes?"
"There was a time when I only wore heels as part of some scam. And never when going for a walk." She stood up and put some weight on her heel. Or tried to. It reminded her of stamping her foot underwater.
"I'm too light," Ranma complained she resumed walking. "Well other than these." She ran a hand across the blue lace framing the cleavage up-thrust by her corset.
Ears perking, Wolf tilted his head. "As multi-purpose and powerful as that battle-armor is, it's not exactly heavy. Though it certainly can, especially in Naiad mode. " He sniffed the air.
Ranma sighed. "I meant my chest."
"Could be worse! I could be engaged to some guy!" the fairy gave a bitter laugh as she ducked under an arc of crawling ivy that spanned trees on either side of the path.
"Uh... Ranma..." Wolf said as they kept walking.
"Just because I like him now doesn't mean that it wasn't a mistake to get into this mess." The redhead continued to reach out and run her long, manicured fingers over the leafy branches. She smiled; the grove was nice. The trees were broad and the scent of the garden nicely wafted towards them. Off the path thick vines glowed and bloomed in clusters of pale blue balloon-like flowers.
"As much as I'm gratified that you're admitting your 'clever scheme' to get rid of Kuno was nothing of the sort, we've got bigger problems."
"Like what?" Ranma said as the path took them out of the trees. Water burbled before them.
"Look around you?" Wolf asked as their path bent and a small set of stairs rose up before them.
"Huh?" The clipped noise Ranma's heels made on stone shifted to a hollow thunk. Blinking, her hand fell on a railing and she took a few more steps. The fairy shook her head. Behind her was a large grove of trees and below her... was a babbling stream.
She was on an arching wooden bridge. Before her was a bright blue pond trimmed in trimmed pines and maple trees with shimmering red leaves. On a sandy embankment on the water's edge a large crocodile was sunning itself.
Ranma looked past Mr. Turtle. The tiered bulk of the, all too familiar, shiro fortress loomed before her. Her attention went back down to the crocodile. She sighed.
"I tried to warn you," Wolf said.
"Wolf, why is my mother's house suddenly next door to the Estate?"
The familiar snorted. "Magic of course."
"What kind of magic?" Ranma asked banging a fist against the railing.
"That kind," Wolf said pointing at the fall of glitter with his snout.
"My glitter... teleports?"
"Well... Bridging in this case. And I didn't expect you to get full access to your Demesne quite this fast," Wolf eyed the fairy. "Hrm, your glitter is pretty potent," he added. "More so after the cafe," he mumbled to himself.
Wolf sat down. "You're the queen. Just because your demesne is not contiguous doesn't mean you don't have free reign over all its parts. Well technically any sub-enfeoffed lands would require permission from the bonded tenants. But that's not an issue here."
"Wait, what's a Demesne?"
"Demesne: lands held by the Crown."
"Hey! The Estate isn't mine!"
"The Kuno Estate," Wolf emphasized the family name, Ranma was omitting, "was signed over to give you full access. And we can hardly dispute your claimant to your mother's property. But that's beside the point."
"Right, it's not like you can instantly walk between any place just because you own it."
"Of course not," Ranma rolled her eyes.
Wolf smirked. "No, you have to claim it and pump a few tones of glitter around. Course this means if you ever want to take that sweet shop you and Kuno like..."
The fairy's fists flared and, heels digging into the bridge, she shoved the heavy canine and he fell with a splash. Pouting, she watched the wolf recover and start to swim.
Coughing, Wolf paddled to the bank and crawled up out of the stream. Much as he wanted to shake his coat, he cast a drying spell, and then returned to the bridge.
"Another side effect of my magic then?" Ranma sighed, leaning on the railing chin in hand.
"Fairy magic produces glitter. Your predecessor decided that glitter should serve a purpose."
"Other than getting everywhere?" Ranma sighed picking at her dress.
"That's what it does. It saturates the ground, the water. It helps fae plants grow. It makes a lot of spells easier to cast. It spreads your power."
"Great. If it wasn't bad enough to be a glitter factory, it turns out this stuff's manure."
Wolf laughed. "You have a lot of magic, thus you produce a lot of... byproduct."
"And this... bridging. That means my glitter..." Ranma's eyes widened. "I'm marking my territory?" she shrieked.
The wolf's laughter grew. "I couldn't have said it better myself."
"Stupid fleabag!" There was another burst of magic and Wolf hit the stream with another splash.
The familiar repeated his drying ritual and climbed back onto the bridge. This time nearly crawling low to the ground.
Back in her thoughtful pose, the queen rolled her eyes at the wolf before returning to the water. "I can just walk back to Mom's?"
"Two ways then. Huh? Can anyone use it?"
"Fae of your household or an escorted guest."
Tapping her chin, Ranma rolled her hips. Her dress flashed ruby her corset shimmered. "Range?"
"Your predecessor's Demesne crossed multiple realms."
Ranma smiled, the martial part of her couldn't help but think of the possibilities. "All I have to do is buy another place, say that office next to Mori's Sushi, and... what throw enough glitter around?"
"Functionally. You'll have to walk the path with the intention of traveling to make the bridge but yes."
Ranma nodded. "Handy." A finger went to her lip. "Do I have to buy? Or can I rent?"
Wolf shrugged. "It has to be a true claim to the land, I suppose a rental agreement could be written around that... maybe as a lease or loan of ownership.."
"I can claim by force?" A thoughtful smile crossed Ranma's face. "Yes, that sounds like Titania. Take some bit of land, let her power seep in, then open up a path back to her palace: instant reinforcements."
Wolf nodded at his queen's grin.
Ranma smoothed her dress over her corset and stepped off the bridge. "I suppose this glitter has some upside."
"Saves time. This cut our travel distance by two-thirds," Wolf said as they walked down another path. Broad and fitted with interlocked cobbles, this was flanked by more blue-green grass and twin beds of sable-black roses with crystal-blue tips.
"Handy," Ranma bent down and picked one of the roses. She was wakeful not to get caught on any of the blue thorns on the stem. Her lacquered nail ran over the crystalline barbs growing out of the top of each petal.
"Lovely. Dachi finally was able to grow these outside of the green house." The redhead's lips curled into a grin the more Kodachi used fae botanical knowledge, the more... tempted she would become.
"Your magic helps."
Looking down the fork in a path, Ranma absently nodded. One path led around a stand of oak trees and towards a side gate; the other to a group of poplar around a clearing with a gazebo and a graded training field.
Quickening her pace, Ranma skipped towards the training field.
Loping behind her, Wolf had to admit, being able to go that fast, with those shoes, on cobbles was something else.
In the center of the field was a male fairy. Dressed in a forest green hakamashita he practiced his sword forms. His eyes were full of focus and his long glossy hair fanned behind him in a loose ponytail. Ranma watched her fiance workout as she closed in. She had seen better, but he was improving. "You should give my mother lessons."
"My goddess!" Kuno cried, nearly dropping his sword. "Oh, it would be my pleasure my love! We had such a wonderful time talking about your predecessor's poetry when we last met, and Wolf has been supplying me with some excellent books on sword technique."
"Wonderful." The redhead laughed before holding her arms out, shoulder high. She cocked her hip, and arched her shoulders back.
Kuno obliged and slipped one hand under her arm and across her back while the other went low and cupped her bottom. He lifted; she kicked off. Her arms went around his shoulders and soon, they were shoulder to shoulder, chest to chest, and lip to lip.
Afterwards, Ranma licked her lip and then stole another, quicker kiss. Still being lifted to his height, the tiny redhead sighed. She twisted to one side and leaned on his shoulder while running a hand over the point of his ear.
Kuno smiled dreamily. "What brings you here? Did you not have an... appointment at the Tendo residence?" he asked, cradling his fiance.
"Oh, I found a shortcut," Ranma replied, her high voice sing-song.
Gently returning his fiancee back to the ground, Kuno frowned. "Would you enjoy my presence? For such an auspicious event, perhaps some support..."
Ranma smirked. "I'm fine." She brushed past him, bumping her chest against his arm. "Just wanted to say hi," she said, running a finger across his hip then down the side of his sword. "But I'm sure we could calibrate later," she promised with a flutter of the eye and a massage of the hand.
"Of course, perhaps we can discuss some... travel ideas." Kuno clenched his fist
"Honeymoon again?" the queen shook her head. "As long as it's not on some boat. Though water's not a bad idea... it'd keep the glitter washed off. I dunno, maybe some place warm, tropical."
"Your wish, my command." Kuno bowed his head.
Holding his tongue, Wolf was noted at how casually his Mistress had taken to the subject of her future marriage.
"What of Miss Mizuno? Would this not help her arcane studies?" Kuno asked.
Ranma shook her head. "Different magic."
"I see." Kuno nodded.
The redhead eyed Wolf. "Right? This won't mess with someone's head like a Familiar Stone, will it?"
"Totally different magic. Just look at your fiance over there," Wolf said.
"Fine." Ranma huffed. "Bye Tachi!" She waved before returning to the path and taking the other part of the fork to the gatehouse.
Crossing the threshold, she redoubled her glamour, shrank down, and took to the air. Wolf sighed and found himself chasing a glittering comet all the way to the Tendo residence.
Flying through the gates of the Tendo property, Ranma returned to full size and landed on the walkway. Tapping her foot, she eyed the front door. Wolf came up to her as she exhaled.
"I can do this," Ranma said, mostly to herself.
"Do you want to?" Wolf asked.
The fairy idly smoothed her dress down. "I wouldn't be here if I didn't. Heck, I wouldn't have given Kasumi the choice but now..."
"Now you're here?"
Nodding, the redhead strode forward. Her heels clicked against the walkway. A tiny manicured hand knocked on the door.
The door opened, and Ranma frowned.
Nabiki stood across the threshold. She eyed the fairy's translucent dress, jade bracelets, multiple rings, and sparkling necklaces. "Here to see Akane, Princess?" Nabiki teased.
"Queen," Ranma automatically corrected as she stepped into the entryway. "And not exactly. Is Kasumi in?" she asked slipping off her shoes.
"No jade geta?" Nabiki teased, kicking one of the fairy's open-toe ruby high heels.
Ranma blinked. "But they wouldn't go with this dress," she slowly explained.
Nabiki gave a bitter laugh. "Come on then," she said, leading Ranma and Wolf towards the kitchen. "I don't suppose you'll know when our idiot fathers will return."
"Last I heard they were looking for some chalice," Ranma glanced down at her familiar.
"Right." Nabiki set her lips. "And how is your new fiance? Is he fit for a queen?"
"Oh, Tachi's so dreamy!" Ranma gushed in her high-pitched voice. She shook her head, glitter flew. "So handsome, and so rich. How could you have ever let him slip from your fingers Nabi-chan!"
Nabiki coughed. "Kuno?"
"Sure he's thick, but that just makes him easier to please." Ranma smiled, and then fluttered her eyes, and wings. "Don't tell me you never flirted with him. I know the little scams you had to get close to him."
Nabiki stared. "You're joking."
The fairy laughed.
"Okay, the money would be nice, but at what cost?" Nabiki asked as they stepped into the kitchen. She glanced over at the fairy. "Look what it's cost you, Ranma-chan."
The redhead huffed and crossed her arms under her chest.
Nabiki frowned and idly pushed one of the magazines Kasumi left on the counter. "I thought they were in here."
"Kasumi is home right?"
"She wanted to talk with Akane," Nabiki muttered as she led them to the family room.
It too was empty. Ranma looked at a pile of travel magazines neatly stacked on an end table. The top had a panther on the cover.
"There you two are!" Nabiki cried as Kasumi and Akane entered the room. Looking vaguely strained, Akane eyed the fairy.
Meeting Ranma's eye, the elder Tendo girl grinned. "Ranma! Wonderful to see you, and you have Nabiki! That'll make this easier."
Kasumi inclined her head slightly at Nabiki. "Akane and I were having a chat upstairs, if I'd known Ranma was going to be early..." the brunette blushed.
"What's going on?" Nabiki demanded.
Akane's gaze lowered.
"Kasumi, your father's still... out. Are you sure about this?" Ranma asked.
"Father made his decision." Kasumi narrowed her eyes. "I'll make my own."
Nabiki exhaled sharply. "Oh." Her gaze went between her sisters: downcast and expectant. Her attention then fell on the vaguely embarrassed fairy. "Really sister?"
Kasumi stepped towards Ranma. She took the redhead's hand. "Nabiki... this is an opportunity for me."
Nabiki continued to watch Ranma. "So that's why you're here?" she shook her head. "Making fairies.... and Kasumi of all people?"
"Why not me?" Kasumi asked, her voice sharp. "Why can't I do it?"
"Well... that's not the only reason," Ranma blushed. "Uh... one sec." Removing her locket, she placed it on the table before shrinking down. Wings fluttering, she picked up the locket, and returned back to full size, locket held in her arms. Gobsmacked by the process, Akane stared at the enlarged locket Ranma carried like a lacquered box.
For her part, Nabiki simply watched with a thoughtful expression. Gently placing the locket on the table, Ranma popped open the lid. She withdrew a couple velvets bags, a thin polished wooden box with metal clasps, a couple books, and, finally, a long flat box wrapped in silvery paper. Nabiki eyed the velvet bags but her attention was drawn to the flat box with its silver clasp and spiraling silver inlay accents.
The fairy bowed and offered the box. "Akane... I know this isn't the best of times but, I hope you like this."
Akane took the box. Her fingers idly pulled the sides, tightening the wrapping paper. "Why?"
The fairy blushed. "You're my friend."
"And Kasumi?" Akane looked to her eldest sister, pain crossed her face.
"She's my friend too. It's... this is her choice."
Akane looked at the simmering box. Amazingly, there was only a bit of sparkle about it. She knew Ranma was not telling the whole truth. It was not entirely Kasumi's choice. Ranma could have said no. Ranma could have refused Kasumi outright.
The redhead's antennae drooped as she watched Akane crush the sides of the box.
"Just open the damn thing already!" Nabiki snorted.
"Fine!" Akane tore the paper off. Silver scraps fell to the floor revealing a glossy white thin-walled box. She lifted the cover off. The martial artist's eyes widened. Inside was some neatly folded light yellow shimmery fabric.
A shaking hand went into the box and felt the slick material. Finding a red belt the box slipped out of her other hand. Akane's eyes went from the garment to the glittery fairy.
"Ranma..." the young Tendo hissed. "This looks like a gi."
The coifed fairy nodded.
"Specifically, this looks like one of mine!"
"Yeah! I wanted to make sure it'd fit."
Akane's eye twitched.
"Kasumi helped get it for me!"
Twisting the gi around with both of her hands, Akane looked to Kasumi. The cloth felt slick and a bit... tingly. "Why?"
"Maybe you should ask Ranma what it does," Kasumi gently asked.
Akane eyed the garment. "It's not covered in glitter."
Ranma smiled. "I figured you wouldn't want sparkly clothes."
"You've got that much sense," Akane muttered.
Ranma crossed her arms. Sparkles sprinkled down. "I can sympathize with not wanting glitter," she said, wishing the rest of her gift had been ready.
Akane met the fairy's eye. She then shot Kasumi a meaningful glance.
Blushing Ranma looked away.
"What does it do?"
The redhead's mood brightened. "It's really cool! It's been enchanted. Not only is the fabric damage resistant but it'll boost your agility and enhance bruise reduction and the like."
"It's a magic gi."
"And without the side effects of the last one you had."
Akane lifted the gi up and looked thoughtfully at it.
"The hardest part was testing." Ranma happily continued. "If I wanted it to stay opaque, let alone keep it free of glitter, I couldn't put it on myself. I figured it being all shimmery was bad enough."
Akane was torn. Part of her wanted to drop the gi back in its box. Another part of her... "Could you give it a strength enhancement?"
Ranma nodded. "Sure, those are the basic enchantments. Now the more advanced clothing spells, like those the Sailor Senshi have, require a lot more."
Akane stared at the gi. "You mean... I could be a magical girl?"
"Well, I'd have to spend more time on the clothes. There's also linking you with a magical power source. And there's going with real magical armor."
"Mini skirts and corsets?" Nabiki smirked.
"They don't have to be that style," Ranma shrugged.
"Magical girls?" Akane looked at the sleeves. It would be easy to slip it on.
Ranma nodded. "Sure! You want to be one?"
The redhead gave a gentle smile. "Akane, I'm building familiar stones, I have a magic teleporting garden, and I can turn people into fairies."
"Don't remind me." Akane sadly put the gi down. "Look... I won't say I'm not tempted. Magical armor sounds really neat but... Well, let me see how this works out first." she said, picking up the box.
Thinking of her corset, Ranma nodded. "That's a wise move."
Nabiki slipped up next to the redhead. "You know, you'd make a killing selling enchanted clothes. Especially if you can do more than just combat upgrades. There's what you did for big sis' apron."
Kasumi put a finger to her lips and nodded.
Ranma shrugged. "I'm not sure I really need the money."
"There's more than money. If you provide enchanted items to the right people you can built a lot of goodwill towards this whole fairy kingdom project," Kasumi reminded.
Panting, Wolf grinned.
"What?" The fairy tilted her head. "Oh, that."
Akane rubbed her forehead and sighed.
"I guess it starts with you sis." Nabiki told Kasumi as she patted Akane on the shoulder.
Kasumi gave a little smile and took Ranma's hand.
"What? Kuno and Mom don't count?" the fairy asked.
"They're family," Kasumi smiled.
Akane winced at the thought of being related to Kuno. It was made worse by the memory of Ranma and Kuno making out before school. "Ewww."
"Right... family." Ranma's stomach fluttered a bit.
Kasumi squeezed the fairy's hand and gave a little tug.
"Uh, are you -um- ready?" Ranma asked.
The elder daughter exhaled. She set her jaw and nodded.
Akane clenched her fists. She knew what came next: the flash of magic, the burst of glitter. The last time she had seen a cocoon it had transformed Kuno. And now it was going to happen to her sister.
"Okay," Ranma stretched her arms and flexed her long fingers. She could feel the magic building within her. Her corset tingled. She shook slightly. It felt easier with Kuno, then it was just zap and done.
Gently coughing, Kasumi took Ranma's hand. "Maybe we should do this in my room."
"Not like that," Kasumi blushed. "But I will be in a cocoon for a while, yes?"
"Good point, I mean I just let Kuno drop to the floor." Ranma laughed. "But I can be more gentle with you."
"Fabulous!" Kasumi retook Ranma's hand and pulled the fairy out of the room with Wolf at her heel.
Akane and Nabiki silently watched them leave. The silence continued as they heard the trio ascend the stairs and tread down the hallway.
"Well, that's that," Nabiki stated. She eyed the lacquered case and magical bits that the redhead had left behind. She then met Akane's eyes and smiled.
Mute, Akane looked down and ran her fingers over her upgraded gi.
Sidling, to Akane's side, Nabiki sighed theatrically.
"What?" Akane demanded.
"Oh, it's a shame that I'll be the last of us,"
"What's that supposed to mean!"
Nabiki leaned in. "You're still fondling that magical robe of yours."
Akane shook; the gi fell out of her hands. "I haven't even put it on."
"But you're thinking it," Nabiki grinned. "Thinking about what else little Miss Sparkle-butt can do for you."
Akane wiped her lips. "She... he... Ranma said I could be a magical girl."
"Tempting isn't it?" Nabiki stepped back and swept her arms expansively over the sparkling artifacts and travel magazines strewn about the table.
"Ranma wouldn't do that," Akane crossed her arms.
"No? Then she's just being a good friend. Doing everything in her vast, sparkly power to help you." Nabiki paused and meaningfully looked up. Kasumi's room was right above them. "Think of what she can do for you; she just wants to help."
"And what about you?" Akane shot back. "You've been eyeing her too. You think she's another rich mark."
"Are you accusing me of hoping to make some money off a sparkly little socialite and her brain-addled boy-toy? Why I never!" Nabiki put her hand to her cheek in mock shock.
"It's not like that!"
Leering, Nabiki ran her hands over the lacquered box and Akane's new gi.
"That's mine!" Akane cried, grabbing the shimmering fabric. "She gave it to me!"
"Are you sure you're not possessive?" Nabiki leaned forward. "Tell me you're not contemplating what you could do with her power?" the middle Tendo purred.
"It's not like that!" Akane repeated her hand clenching over the smooth silk. "Ranma's not like that."
"Are we talking about a different glitter-bound girl who likes to wear translucent dresses and make out with Kuno Tatewaki while spending money like water in expensive restaurants?"
Akane gave an inarticulate little scream and stormed out of the room.
Nabiki straightened up. She tilted her head and listened. There was a creak as Akane rounded the kitchen. Then the sound of the side door opening and slamming shut. Nabiki smiled. She could imagine Akane going down the little covered path and entering the dojo.
Turning towards the table, Nabiki ran a hand over an arm. Eyeing the pretties, she circled. The velvet bags were tantalizing. She had good luck with those. The piles of sparkling silks and bangles were also enticing. The books were ignored. Untouchably valuable, their resale value was questionable. Worse their absence would be more noticeable.
Catching a black flat box with spiraling silver inlay, Nabiki stopped. A finger went across the lacquered, almost slick surface. Lifting the case off of the pile of magazines on the table caused the pile to totter then collapse with a few cascading on to the floor. The one with the panther cover landed on top.
Placing the box directly on the table she sighed. Nabiki picked the magazines back up. Smirking at the big cat on the top magazine, she flicked open the case's silver latch.
The case opened; violet light sparkled out. Nabiki's lips curled into a smile. Set in sable pouches were over a dozen shimmering purple stones. Her fingers hovered over the case. There was plenty; that air-headed fairy wouldn't miss one...
Giving the shimmering cocoon one last look, Akane slowly slid the door shut. Pulling her gi around her shoulders, she stepped back and looked around the hallway. Her eyes landed on the short, sparkly redhead already waiting in the hallway.
"She's okay." The green-eyed girl gave a weak smile. "Wolf's guess is that it'll take an hour. Right, fur ball?"
Akane exhaled. Part of her felt guilty at missing the cocooning. That she had run to the dojo and... she absently smiled running a hand over the smooth silk of her new gi. Even the brief time practicing had been amazing.
The large wolf raised lifted his muzzle off from the top of the stairs where he waited. "About. Why? You want a precise time?" he asked, his ears twitching.
Staring at the tiny girl in an ephemeral blue lace-edged crimson dress, Akane nodded absently. "Oneesan wanted this," she admitted after finding her voice.
Ranma nodded. "I'm a bit shocked myself."
Akane snorted. "Really?" she flicked one of the antennae that bobbled in front of the redhead's glittery bangs. "Adventure, excitement, glamour. You can give her all these things, can't you?"
Nutmeg cheeks colored and the fairy queen gave a little nod.
"And you wanted it too," Akane stated, her nose tingling with the fairy's sweet, floral scent.
The tiny fairy's head snapped back up. Her eyes narrowed. "I didn't want to find that stupid box of Titania's!"
"No, but you want to make more fairies," Akane said a bit hotly as she paced down the upstairs hallway. "And what about this?" she demanded pointing to the gi she wore.
"It's a gift." Ranma put on a happy face. "And how does it feel?"
"Wonderful!" Akane cried. "I don't get winded and it really does wick away the sweat."
The redhead smiled.
Seeing her friend's simple joy, Akane felt guilty, for a moment. "Is Kasumi right? Are you making a new kingdom?" the teen's eyes went to the stairs and the large wolf. "Is she?"
Sniffing the air, Wolf gave a little frown. "That is the entire purpose of Queen Titania's legacy. But I must add that Ranma has been very proper, very restrained. This is only her third time doing it. And she gave Kasumi every choice," Wolf said, omitting that Ranma had also offered a gender change... and that the eldest Tendo had to think the offer over for a second.
"You wanted my sister to be a fairy," Akane stated. She remembered the smile Kasumi gave as she dragged the queen out of the family room; she wanted it too.
Ranma deeply inhaled then gave a frustrated exhale, sending sheets of glitter spiraling off her torso. "Of course I did. She's the most stable and caring person who..."
Shoulders tensing, Akane glared.
"Who also wanted to become a fairy," the redhead stressed, restraining herself from stamping a foot in irritation. However, she could not keep the disappointed pout off her face.
The dark-haired marital artist relaxed. The buxom little fairy's big-eyed, lip quaking disappointment was too much, on many levels. Akane turned away. "You still... want me?"
Lightly stepping forward, the queen gave a glittering smile. "It would be fun. I can understand the reluctance though... I mean... I didn't want to become a fairy but... if things were reversed..."
Akane swallowed as her imagination took off. If she had been the one who found the box... would Ranma become a fairy? Akane smirked. "Oh you'd probably get conned into thinking it would cure your curse and demand to be changed."
A long manicured nail tapped an elfin chin. "Well... technically. I mean Kuno's changes are a lot more controlled than mine ever were."
"And that's another thing," Akane snorted. "I'd never be stupid enough to get engaged to Kuno."
"I thought it would work."
"Ukyou's right: you are an idiot. And turning into a fairy didn't help."
"It's a good thing I've got a smart new friend!"
Akane simply raised an eyebrow.
"One of those magical girls. She's really nice and is their genius team member. She helped me make your gi. And she's untangling this magical mess I'm under!" Ranma cheered.
Blinking Akane nodded. "Well... that's actually a smart idea."
The fairy eagerly nodded.
"Provided it's not some trick."
"With the Silver Kingdom?" Wolf asked. "Doubtful. But always a risk.
The redhead gave an embarrassed smile. "Still, don't reject the idea. Even if you're not a fairy..." Wings fluttering, Ranma hesitated "You could still be happy with us."
"Us?" Akane stared.
The fairy blinked.
"You and Kuno?"
"Why who else were you thinking of?" Ranma innocently asked as she eagerly leaned a bit forward.
Nearly stumbling, Akane took a step backwards. Her head slowly rocked back and forth. The girl caught herself when she almost stepped into Wolf. The large familiar keeping her from tumbling down the stairs.
Crossing her arms over her chest Ranma huffed. "Oh come on. He's not that bad."
"Not that bad!" Akane shrieked.
"According to like half a dozen magical girls he's quite the catch."
Akane stared. "Magical girls aren't a good judge of character for guys! Their boyfriends are always getting abducted or secretly evil or turning into monsters!"
"Or they end up being a magical prince! Usagi's fiance's a pretty nice guy, handsome too."
"That glitter's rotted your brain!"
The redhead pouted and turned to the side in a huff. "I'm trying to be nice; I can share with you."
Still staring, Akane exhaled a couple times and waited for her heartbeat to calm. Then she slowly looked down at the wolf resting at the head of the stairs. "Is she even aware of what she's saying?"
"The queen of the Fairies is offering to make you her consort. This isn't something most humans would reject."
"Kuno's proof of that,"
"True, he's managed to be surprisingly perceptive." Wolf dryly replied.
"He's a deluded lunatic!" Akane stomped her foot. "He's only right by coincidence!"
"Tell me about it. Folks now think the big oaf's got things figured out. Even my mother... course she's got other ideas" Looking down and twisting her foot, Ranma sighed.
Akane shivered at the redhead's pet name for Kuno. Her eyebrow went up. "Wait... what did your mother say about him?"
"Oh uh... she thinks he's a perfect match for me." Crossing her arms in front of her again, Ranma huffed, causing a small drift of glitter to accumulate in the hallway.
Eyeing the sparkling motes, Akane simply gave the fairy a disgusted look.
Ranma blushed. "It's not like that."
"And clearly you're holding something back."
Eyes still looking at the ruffles on her dress, the fairy nervously fluffed her hair bun. "Well... she said I was going too..." Ranma trailed off in a quiet mumble.
"What?" Tilting her head, Akane strained to hear the high pitched fairy. "Wait." She held up a hand. "Do I really want to know?"
Glancing down the stairs, Wolf frowned. "No, not really," he said over his shoulder.
Akane set her jaw. Glancing to her left she saw the door to Ranma's old room. Pinching the bridge of her nose, she exhaled. "Okay tell me."
"Mom's worried I'm going too fast. Worried I'm being too... physical," the fairy admitted in a quiet little voice.
The martial artist stared. "Auntie Saotome... she..." Gobsmacked, Akane simply shook her head.
"I warned you," Wolf said as he stood up.
Akane rubbed her chin. "I mean I agree that little Miss Sparkle-butt is far too... physical with Kuno, but I'm worried that Auntie Saotome, of all people, agrees."
Ranma gave a nervous smile.
Akane's eye turned critical. "Ranma, is your mother more of a prude than I thought or, have you been more... intimate with-" The dark-haired girl's eyes widened. "No! Question withdrawn." She spun on her heel and made her way to the stairs.
"Good idea," Wolf agreed as he went down the first couple steps.
"It's not that bad!" Ranma whined, stomping a foot.
"I don't want to hear about it," Akane called as she descended behind Wolf. "Besides, we should see what Nabiki's up to."
Sniffing the air, Wolf nodded.
"I wonder how she'll take this whole fairy thing," Akane sighed as they descended the stairs.
"Hey! Don't ignore me!" Ranma cried from the head of the stairs; this time adding a stamp of her little foot. Watching their backs disappear around the bottom of the stairs and into the hallway, the queen pouted.
Her pointed ears pricking up, she heard a gasp and a canine growl. Bounding down three steps at a time she quickly skipped down the stairs. Hitting the bottom landing she pirouetted and bounded down the hallway. Glitter pulsed off of her in waves as she readied her Senshi transformation.
Her slippered feet skidded to a halt just outside the family room. Slid halfway open, Akane's hand was still on the door handle as she mutely stared into the room.
A low burbling growl came from Wolf's chest as he wrapped his body around Akane's legs keeping her from crossing the threshold. Shimmering purple light pulsed and oozed out of the living room.
Heart quickening, Ranma blinked at the display. It was a familiar color. "Wolf..."
"That's from a familiar stone isn't it?"
Not taking his eyes off the doorway Wolf nodded.
Swallowing, Ranma stepped closer to the door. Brushing up against the stunned Akane, the queen found the view blocked. Jeweled wings appeared and began to flutter. Floating up a bit she leaned in and gazed into the room.
With a little smirk, the queen noted that her friend ignored the warm, soft pressure on her shoulders. Leaning a bit more, the redhead looked past the taller girl's head and found her fears confirmed.
The pulsing light was coming from a large purple crystal throbbing on Nabiki's neck. On her knees, the brown haired girl had both her hands at her neck, her thumbs trying to dig under the faceted gem. Pulses of dark light had crept down her arms and they wavered and shifted.
Gasping, Nabiki's eyes were fixed on a pile of magazines that had tumbled before her.
"Nabiki!" Akane cried but found Wolf blocking her way.
"No, you really don't want to touch her, even with your gi's protection," Ranma whispered. She then looked to Wolf. "She stole a familiar stone? What's wrong with her!"
"Not the first time she took something shiny," Wolf muttered.
"Well stop it!" Both Ranma and Akane demanded.
"Um..." Wolf's ears lowered and he padded into the room. He stopped a couple feet from Nabiki and sniffed the air. His eyes glanced to the table where Ranma's case sat opened and half emptied.
"There anything I can do to help?" Ranma asked as she landed next to the wolf. Her eyes landed on her open case, the scattered bits of lingerie, the spilled velvet bags and the unclasped lacquered box. "That little thief!" she cried shaking a fist.
"How do you think she got the stone?" Wolf dryly asked.
"I told her to stop taking my stuff," Ranma sighed as she knelt down. Looking through the pulsing purple light she caught Nabiki's scared eyes.
"What are you doing with such dangerous stuff!" Akane cried as she gingerly stepped into the room.
"Trying to find a cure," Ranma muttered. "And it's not all dangerous. Some of this is to help you all. Besides I told her to stop doing this! Akane, you really should stand back," the fairy sadly added as she closed the silver inlaid case and worked the clasp.
"The light's getting thicker..." Akane took a half step back. "Can't you just rip it off?"
Ranma glanced at Wolf who gave a slight whine.
Before he could speak, Nabiki yowled and fell down to her hands and knees.
"Do something you magical morons!" Akane ran up but froze a few feet from Nabiki. The magical tingle on her gi increased and something told Akane that she did not want to press things. Corposant light poured off her sister. The two Tendos shared eye contact before the elder gave a tiny smirk and lowered her head returning her gaze to the floor.
Following Nabiki’s gaze, Akane saw the spilled pile of magazines, particularly the one with a panther on the cover.
The pulsing purple light intensified and started greedily sucking in Ranma's glitter. Wings fluttering, the queen turned to Wolf. "Should I leave or..." she made a grabbing motion with her hand.
"Best thing is to ride it out." Wolf shook his head. "It'd be like ripping Kasumi out of her cocoon."
"And I told Ami she didn't need to be here," Ranma murmured.
With growing horror Akane saw the redhead's face turn stern and give a little nod. Then the fairy crossed her wrists and flicked her fingers towards her sister and releasing a stream of glitter; the sweet smell of the sparkles filling the room. Akane took a step forward but once again found Wolf blocking her path
The purple light grew to cover Nabiki and started molding and sculpting her body. Beneath the light, arms and legs twisted and compacted becoming shorter, thinner, but more muscular.
Her torso narrowed and stretched out. Under a purple coating, her neck wrenched and her head rolled up as her jaw stretched out. As hands and feet pulled in, a long ropy length of purple light spooled out of her narrowed buttocks.
After only seconds the shimmering light began to fade, replaced by glossy fur sprouting all over a sleek, muscular body. The fine purple-black hairs extend from the tip of the long tail, down the four powerful legs to large paws with gleaming retractable claws, over a deep-cheated strong torso, and finally over a long muzzle with sharp teeth and to the tips of pointed ears.
Slitted amber eyes opened as whiskers grew out behind a big pink feline nose. Blinking, the giant cat licked her muzzle and was drawn to the sparkling queen. Gracefully prowling forward, the big cat rubbed against the redhead's leg.
The fairy's lips pulled back in a nervous smile as her wings quivered. "Oh.... uh.... Wolf?" she asked, her high-pitched voice becoming a shrill squeal. She could handle one cat... One on one and with a way out... and plenty of light. Though those were housecats. She was a lot bigger than those. Her imagination flared with a painful image of herself as a tiny fairy and a horde of…
The cat sat on her haunches. Her lips pulled back in a knowing smirk as she rubbed her head against the trembling fairy's hip.
Pushing aside the mental image, the queen's shaking hand went down and after a momentary fumble scratched behind the big cat's ears. She was better than this. Primal fear constantly burbled within her but before it could rise too far it was cocooned and crushed by a fact of shining gossamer: the creature at her feet was hers.
It took a couple seconds of blank staring for Akane to notice the silver-chased black leather collar set with a big purple gem that hung around the panther's neck. Blinking, she took a couple steps backwards, growing horror on her face.
Sniffing, Wolf stepped forward, circling around the big cat nuzzling up against his mistress.
Smirking, the panther opened her mouth. "Does my form not please you, my queen?" she asked, gazing up at the fairy.
The fairy's body trembled; a constant rain of glitter coming off her quaking form. She took deep regular breaths and felt the magic flow from her hands to the ca- to her familiar. Again, the distinction, the possession helped.
The voice was quite familiar to Akane. "I just knew you'd love it," the cat proudly announced with a large purr and another nuzzle.
Akane continued to step backwards until she bumped into something. This was something warm, soft, and trailing glitter. She turned and saw her eldest sister's gentle smile. Rich nutmeg colored skin aside, Kasumi's features were subtly... off. Her lips were a bit too wide from corner to corner, her eyes were a bit too big, her cheeks were a hair too lean, and that was discounting the long points to her ears, the curled antennae or the fluttering pink and red wings.
The dusty pink colored hair that tumbled down her back did not help, nor did the clear blue housedress she wore over a more delicate torso. Akane's heart lurched when she realized the most familiar thing about her sister's ensemble was the translucent blue and green silk apron that she wore.
Her brain locking up, her guts in turmoil, Akane brushed a few motes of fresh glitter off of her gi and took a step back away from her sister... both sisters. She took some comfort in that the fresh glitter was not quite as sweet and flowery as Ranma's. If anything it was more of a crisp, clean scent that reminded Akane vaguely of mint.
However, the sparkling motes looked so at home on her new gi. It was as if the shimmering silk had been waiting for just those accents.
The cold knot in her chest throbbed as she looked around the room and came to a stark realization; she was the only human left.
"Oh my," Kasumi's eyes went to the purring cat nuzzling the redhead. "Ranma-sama? What exactly happened?"
The queen gave a frayed laugh. As she awkwardly patted the cat between the ears. "Um... Nabiki stole a familiar stone and ended up turned into a..." she gave a queasy grin.
"You're the one who left it out! What were you thinking?" Akane demanded.
"I warned her not to take my stuff!" Ranma declared, power welling behind her high-pitched words.
"But she kept doing it. If I didn't know better I'd wonder if little Miss Sparkle-butt wanted a nice little kitty."
"Akane!" Kasumi and Nabiki sharply said.
The two older Tendo sisters then blinked at each other with the eldest deferring to the middle. "Akane..." The panther cleared her throat. "You can't blame her for this. I did it. I got... " The panther's ears folded back and she pressed against the queen. "I got greedy."
"Yes, you did," Ranma said, rubbing under the cat's chin.
The heat had started to fade from Akane's cheeks.
"So, how's being a fairy Kasumi?" Ranma happily asked, seeming to put aside the whole familiar thing.
"Very lovely, I hope we can go flying soon." Kasumi straightened her apron. "Now change Nabiki back, if it's no bother."
Still nuzzling, Nabiki nodded "That sounds lovely, my queen," she purred. "Having hands would be nice."
Wolf snorted. "Overrated, but if you insist... familiars do have humanoid forms."
Ranma blinks and stopped petting the kitty. "Does that mean..."
Wolf grumbles and lowered his ears. "Yes, yes." The large wolf exhaled, and went up onto his hind legs. His form blurred as light poured out and his fur seemed to... grow as the canine form stretched and pulled up.
Soon a giant, barrel-chested man in rough leather pants, and a grey and brown sleeveless tunic stood in the room. Well over two meters tall with a musky woodsy smell, he dominated the room and hand pointed ears, a strong jutting jaw full of gleaming teeth, a bristling grey beard, flared muttonchops, and flowing grey hair.
With a rumbling sigh the large man crossed his hairy arms and frowned.
Ranma cocked her head and eyed the large man. "Huh."
"Of course!" Akane gave a slightly unhinged laugh. "Don't tell me... you find him attractive too!" The youngest Tendo's laughter returned and a couple tears streamed down her cheeks.
The redhead snorted, though it came out more like a tittering giggle. "Please, he's way too rough and hairy." She returned to absently scratching Nabiki's ears. "I like pretty boys, thank you very much."
"Explains what you did to Kuno," Nabiki chuckled, her tail swishing.
Kasumi happily patted one wrist with her opposite hand. "My, my. Our Queen's kingdom is really starting to get off the ground."
Ranma raised an eyebrow.
"Two new additions in one day," Kasumi cheered as she happily gazed about the room.
"Who's next?" Kasumi asked.
Shrugging, the redhead recalled Konatsu's promise to keep things secret until he made a decision. "Maybe... Kodachi," the fairy admitted in a white lie. "She's really been enjoying learning about fae plants. She keeps muttering about the possibilities."
Akane promptly turned and hit her head against a wall.
Beckoning with his new hand, Wolf gestured to Nabiki. The feline padded forward and he took the cat's paw in his hand. He leaned in and whispered into the panther's ear.
"Now feel inside and keep the shape in mind," he ordered pulling her up to her hind legs.
There was a purple flash, and the light shifted into a humanoid shape. Nabiki blinked her amber slitted eyes and flexed her hands. Her hair was now a dark purple-black pageboy with a pair of dark pointed cat ears poking up.
The choker was still around her neck and a black fur-trimmed mini dress clung to her body. Still smiling at her hands, Nabiki continued to curl her fingers.
Wolf rolled his eyes at the display.
Exhaling, Akane looked around the room. The five of them all looked human, more or less. Again with Akane being the only "real" human. Her heart sank when she realized that all of them, herself included, were wearing enchanted fae clothing. Her thoughts were interrupted by another bust of light; the giant bearded man reverted back to a wolf and walked over to his queen.
Patting the wolf, Ranma nodded approvingly. "Good, far less... cat-like," she said eying her new familiar.
"Oh?" Nabiki gave a playful smile as she slinked around the room. She looked down and met Wolf's eye.
The canine rolled his eyes.
"Nabiki?" Ranma asked her pulse starting to rise in apprehension.
"Just testing something out, my queen," Nabiki replied in a sing-song voice as she touched her choker. Form shimmering, her dress vanished as dark fur sprung out over her body. A surprised purr escaped her lips as a little muzzle and whiskers grew out on her face complete with a little triangular pink nose.
Tail swishing, the nude cat-girl then slipped next to her queen and, opposite Wolf, went to her knees running a pawed hand over the fairy's waist.
Wings nervously fluttering, the fairy took a glassy expression and simply resumed patting both her familiars on the head.
"Nabiki!" Akane cried going bug-eyed. "What are you doing!"
Nabiki smirked. "Getting in at the ground floor," she purred.
"How lovely, two familiars. I'm sure they'll keep each other out of trouble." Kasumi said.
Akane swallowed; she could almost have detected sarcasm in her sister's voice.
The new fairy then clapped her hands causing a small burst of sparkles. "Now, it's been a very... shocking afternoon." She carefully said before brightening "How about some tea? I've got some fresh pastries and some very nice fish."
Noticing both Wolf's and Nabiki's ears perk up at that, Akane sighed. She then felt a tug and looked down to see a thin dainty nutmeg colored arm, with long delicate-looking fingers tugging at her hand.
Akane followed her sister out of the room and into the kitchen. A distant part of her wondered if the apron would make Kasumi's cooking even better now that she was a fairy.
"Don't blame her," Kasumi whispered, her antennae dropping.
Akane blinked. "What? Who?"
Kasumi gave a vaguely pitying look. "Little Miss Sparkle-butt."
"But she left those familiar stones out in the open. If anyone should know how dangerous fairy artifacts are it should be her!"
Kasumi winced at the raised voice, but she was fairly certain that Wolf had enhanced hearing, probably Nabiki too, she mentally added.
Akane glanced out of the kitchen trying to get a peek at the family room. "Especially since Nabiki was right there. She knew Nabiki was stealing stuff from her."
"It's not her fault," Kasumi repeated. She took Akane's hand and pulled her sister close. "Please, don't blame her."
A subtle crisp, just sweet odor tickled at Akane. Unlike the cloying, overpowering bludgeon of Ranma's emanations, this was a gentle clean scent. However, it was of the same kind. It reminded her of a gentle breeze over a herb garden on a warm autumn day.
Akane exhaled and looked over her sister. She was shorter and her frame and limbs were almost bird-like in their delicateness. Save for Kasumi's chest and hips, Akane noted with a pang of jealousy. Her sister still beat her on those. "I'm listening," she eventually said.
Kasumi looked down and splayed her hands out over her apron. "Do you remember why she left the stones? Why nothing was packed up? That whole case shrinks down into a locket does it not?"
"She left the room in a hurry; you practically dragged her upstairs," Akane answered. Seeing the fairy's guilty expression, the young Tendo winced.
"It's my fault," Kasumi said in a little voice. "I got greedy."
Akane held her tongue. The idea was crazy, but Kasumi had asked to be turned into a fairy. "What about father?"
"What about him?" Kasumi replied a harsh edge to her voice.
"He's going to come back eventually and he'll-"
"What?" the new fairy interrupted. "What could Father actually do? Kick me out? Kick out Nabiki? Would he disown us? Gee, where would we go?" She gave a little smile.
Pulling at her gi Akane inhaled. "And what about me?"
"You're a big girl, you've already got an offer to move in." Kasumi's expression softened, her wings fluttered slightly. "But I know you've got issues with the Estate."
"Well, it's not like father would have an issue with me."
"Or me, the poor man depends on me more than you or our sister now." Kasumi's smile sharpened and she gave a little laugh.
Heart pounding, Akane stepped back shocked at how wicked a fae could look. She watched as her sister made a happy noise and started to busy herself in the kitchen.
End Chapter 4
I'd like to thank the prereaders for their help in this project: Milanda Anza, Mahou Sensou, J St C Patrick, Crimson Vixen, DCG, Pale Wolf and Kevin Hammel.