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Sailor Ranko: Thrice In A Millennium: Chapter 14, The Return.
Rebecca Ann Heineman

Ranma 1/2 and the characters therein are the property of Rumiko Takahashi. Based on "Sailor Ranko" by Duncan Zillman and "Twice in a Millennium" by Kevin D. Hammel.

I don't own these characters. Please don't sue me, kill me or stick my face in a hot waffle iron.

Minako Aino was performing a great imitation of a woodchuck by chewing on her third pencil in the last ten minutes. Once the last of the wood had been reduced to sawdust, she reached into her school bag and found that she had run out of pencils. So, she reached around and pulled out a cheap plastic pen and began to gnaw on it.

She watched the clock tick by. Each moment was spent coming up with new excuses as to why the volleyball game had to be postponed, cancelled or forfeited. She nervously shot glances to the empty seats in class where Ranko and Akane sat, hoping that they would just teleport in and with their presence, restored the natural order of things.

The bell rang, signaling lunch break. She bolted out the door and into the main courtyard right next to the tree the Senshi would usually hang out under to eat their lunch. A small breeze kicked in, knocked a few leaves off the tree and onto the blond. She brushed away the flora from her hair and waited impatiently for Makoto or Ami to arrive. Pacing back and forth, wearing a small trench in the ground, the goddess of love held her hands behind her back so she wouldn't start chewing on her fingernails again. An idea formed and as she was about to put her plan into motion by biting off her own fingers, Ami arrived.

"Mina-chan, what's the matter?" Ami innocently asked.

"Give me your communicator! NOW!" She screamed making Ami's face become ashen white from being terrified at Minako's outburst.

"M-m-my cell phone, y-you mean?" Ami stuttered, hoping that no one nearby would catch Minako's flub. "I think I have it." She backed away to avoid Minako as the blond closed in for the kill.

In a voice filled with sweetness and doom for anyone who stood in her way, Minako came within centimeters of her Senshi teammate and spoke. "Whatever. I need to make a call."

As Ami pulled up the sleeve of her school uniform to expose her wristband communicator, she asked timidly. "Where's yours?"

Minako grabbed the rubber wristband and pulled it to loosen it. She removed the device and popped it open. "I tried to use it and the teacher confiscated it. It seems that students can't use cell phones during class."

Ami answered matter-of-factly. "That's always been school policy. You can't study if you're distracted."

Did everything involve studying with her? Fumbling around with the object that looked like a compact, she press the latch and flipped up the lid. "What was Akane's number? Oh, yeah." Minako dialed and when she was about to press the last button, a large male hand took the device away from her.

Mr. Yashida was not a happy teacher. "Miss Aino! What did I tell you?"

Minako's world ended. Kill me now, her mind silently screamed. She watched helplessly as the teacher snapped the communicator shut and stuff it into his jacket pocket.

The tall dark haired teacher crossed his arms and awaited an answer. "Well, Miss Aino? Has your memory already failed you?"

"No, teacher." She meekly replied. "I'm not supposed to make calls in class."

"And what did I tell you?"

"That I can't make calls until after school."

"Good. You can reclaim both of your cell phones after school. Come see me in the teachers room to pick them up."

Ami gasped. "Teacher, that's my phone. May I please have it back?"

"You don't need it until after class either and I don't want you lending it to her until she learns to follow school rules." With that, he turned on his heel and walked away.

Minako fell on her knees, made a sob, then tilted sideways onto the soft grass. "I'm ruined."

Ami sat down next to her weeping friend. "Why do you need to call Akane? Isn't she here?"

"She's supposed to be back by now. I need both of them to show up for practice or the coach is going to kill me. If they're not here, I'm bacon."

Ami giggled. "Is that all? You know that if they came in the middle of the school day, they'd get detention. They're probably waiting until school ends before they show up. I'd guess that they're somewhere far away training. Don't you remember that they liked to teleport all over the world to practice."

"Heh, heh." Minako laughed, not really sure to believe Ami's rose colored view of the world.

Makoto sat down and opened a big basket of food. "Look what I made in cooking class."

Ami peered into the basket and found some sandwiches. "Oh, how thoughtful of you, Mako-chan." She pulled out a ham sandwich and took a bite. "Delicious."

Makoto felt good at the compliment but became concerned at Minako's twitching on the ground. "Mina-chan, are you sick?"

Minako sat up with an air of hope. "No, I'm fine." She thought about using a food poisoning defense, but that could backfire if she blamed it on Makoto's food. Akane wasn't around, so she couldn't use her cooking as an excuse either, or maybe she could. It didn't matter now since Makoto was here to save the day. "Mako-chan?"

"Yes?" Asked the Senshi of Jupiter.

"May I..." She looked up and saw her teacher standing by an open doorway, watching her. "Nevermind."

"You're welcome to anything in the basket. You'd better hurry before it's all gone."

Ami blinked and looked into the basket again. "There's more than enough food for all of us."

Usagi hopped by like a bunny on steroids. "Cool! Look at all the goodies!" With both hands, Usagi stuffed her face and ate like someone who had been on a deserted island for years and was given the chance to eat normal food again. "Mmm... Mmm..." She tried to say between mouthfuls of cookies and sandwiches.

Makoto turned to Ami with a smug look on her face. "You were saying?"

Watching her Princess gorge herself, Minako had only one thought. She'll claim she got food poisoning from Akane's cooking. It was the best idea yet and it didn't involve anything more drastic than a stomach pump.

The stewardess spoke over the plane's speaker system. "Please fasten your seatbelts, we'll be landing in Beijing shortly."

Ukyou and Akane collectively sighed in relief that their trip was almost over. Ukyou looked out the window and saw nothing but clouds below. "Looks like we'll be in China soon." She unfolded her map and studied it for a moment. "Once we land, we've got to hop a bus to a city called Yushu. I wonder how far is that?"

Akane returned the sigh. "Far enough. I'd say it's going to take about a half day for us to get there and then another half day to get to Shampoo's village. Beijing's only the halfway mark for our trip."

The taller girl raised an eyebrow. "How come you know that, Sugar?"

The girl who took the role of Sailor Io tapped her index fingers nervously. "I, uh... Well, before all that stuff about the wedding and you know... I wanted to, well... Uh..."

"What's with you?"

Started at Ukyou's directness, Akane blurted out what was on her mind. "I wanted to help Ranma find a cure for his curse. I studied the geography of the Bayankala mountain range and how to get there. I wanted to make sure that he found his way." Akane sniffed at the memories. "I know how to get to the mountain range, but not to the springs. It's not like there's a map to the place and Ranma's father lost that brochure that had the exact directions."

"There was a brochure? For Jusenkyo?"

"Yeah, and Mr. Saotome hasn't been able to find it for months. Shampoo and Cologne were no help either. They wanted to take Ranma personally to the springs, and you know they weren't going to let him come back home."

"That's for sure. I wonder where it went." The chef fingered her empty bandolier. She felt naked without her weapons. All of her spatulas were stuffed into her suitcase that was in the cargo hold since they wouldn't allow her to carry anything that remotely looked like a weapon as a carry-on.

Akane wiped her eye to remove a drop of wetness. "Not like it matters anymore anyways. Our parents sent us to Juuban so Ranma could learn to be a teacher and then that... Hmm... The stuff that happened there... And..." She never had expected that her father's plans would change her life the way it had. Then again, nothing in her life was even close to normal once the pig-tailed boy arrived on her doorstep. "Ranma doesn't need a cure anymore."

Ukyou whispered. "Sailor Sun."

"Sailor Sun." Akane turned up the edges of her mouth in a small smile.

Ukyou's heart sank at how she lost the war for Ranma's love. She quietly added. "And you're Sailor Io." Akane stiffened at those words. Ukyou turned to look at Akane, pleading with her eyes for an answer. "Please tell me, just what happened between you two? You were gone for weeks and nobody knew where you went. It's like you vanished into thin air."

Akane turned away, not wanting to say anything to upset Ukyou further. "Nothing, nothing at all."

"That's a whole lot of nothing." She leaned back in her seat and kept her tears at bay. "Before you left, you couldn't stand the sight of him. When you came back, you married him, willingly."

"I did." She looked at her left hand to admire her simple gold band on her ring finger. Her father didn't have much money and Ranma couldn't afford anything more extravagant than a thin piece of copper wire. So her ring didn't have a diamond or any other precious stone but it wasn't the point of the ring to her. It was the symbol that Ranma was hers and hers alone.

Ukyou stared at the ring and wished that it was on her own finger. "Where did you two go? You were gone for a while."

Akane's tone was as cold as ice. "Hell."

"Hell?" Ukyou didn't like the way Akane said that word.

Akane dredged up the memories from the dark pits of her mind, things that she both wanted to remember forever and forget completely. Jadeite's world was barren and devoid of life. Kilometers of rocks, wasteland and craggy mountains were Ranma and Akane's home for months. The short haired girl recalled her adventures with both terror and hope.

It was a time when each day was filled with joy and fright. Every hour of every day she had to be on alert for armies of youma coming to kill both of them. Sailor Sun had spent every waking moment to train her and she trained her hard. Akane touched her upper arm with her right hand where she had been smashed against a rock by a creature that looked like a spider with spindly legs. Just before the youma was going to impale her with one of its appendages, Sailor Sun blasted it and snatched her away to safety. The Senshi yelled at her for hours about dropping her guard and being too clumsy.

Despite being at each other's throats for most of the time they were there, they both came to the realization that they couldn't bear the thought of a life without the other. Akane rested her head back against her seat, thinking only of her husband. "It was heaven too."

Seeing the look on Akane's face made Ukyou stop her line of questioning. It was a look of someone deeply in love. A look that both grated on the chef and made her envious. A noise came from the wings as the flaps lowered.

The captain came on the public addeess system. "We're on final approach. Flight attendants, please take your seats."

The two girls sat quietly as the plane descended. One was in a wistful bliss while the other in a sea of envy and despair. The taller girl looked at her reflection in the window and saw a face that was not her own. He had long luxurious black hair with flowers adorning it. She thought quietly to the female looking face that only she could see. "Ko-chan... Why does my life suck?"

The sound of the landing gear being deployed filled the cabin. Akane shifted in her seat as her martial arts senses alerted her to something strange. "Did you hear that?"

Ukyou too thought she heard something. "Did someone just scream?"

They listened for a moment and then looked at each other and shrugged. "Nah."

It was cold. It was noisy. It was populated by a frosted petite girl, a chilled duck and a half-frozen piglet.

Ranko conserved her body heat as best she could, but even with her skills it was difficult from wanting to pass out from the lack of oxygen. Hours had passed while the red-head kept her vigil on the duck and pig hoping for an opening. Finally, after her long wait, the opportunity arrived.

She made a slight motion with her wrist and pulled from nowhere a small pen-like object. The shaft was made of brilliant gold and would appear to shimmer in flames if it was exposed to sunlight. It had a little red five pointed star at the tip with a symbol of a circle with a tiny dot in the center; a mark of the sun from ancient times. She tightly gripped her transformation pen and was about to utter 'Sun Star Power, Make Up!' when Mousse shifted and coughed.

Ranko gave a soft sigh as she willed her wand back into storage. Unless these two idiots were knocked utterly unconscious or conveniently out of sight, they would probably get a front row seat during her naked light show as she transformed into the Senshi of the Sun. Explaining the transformation, her uniform, or anything else Senshi related to her once enemies or best friends (depending on the time of day, phase of the moon or general mood of the people involved) was near the bottom of the list of things she wanted to do anytime in her life.

"Morning, Mousse," was all Ranko could say before another shiver overtook her body. She summoned her ki to build up some heat, but she was running out of energy from lack of a decent meal. It had been over eight hours since she had eaten breakfast with her mother back home. She regretted not taking some time to grab something to chow down on at the airport, but they were too busy sneaking around trying to avoid security so they could stow away on the aircraft they were uncomfortably riding in. It was bad enough hiding for two hours in a narrow drainage ditch along the runway, waiting for the plane to taxi by, but the mad dash had cost them dearly. Running after a jet going full throttle took all of her effort and she dropped Ryoga's backpack when she darted through the exhaust of one of the engines. At the time, this seemed to have been the best way to get to China that wasn't going to blow her cover. Now, she wished she had just stayed home and not gotten herself in this mess in the first place.

The duck nodded in reply to her morning greeting. He bit down on a metal protrusion for support and extended his wings to give them a test flap. His right wing had healed up after being smashed into the landing strut that he didn't see right in front of him. If his survival instinct hadn't kicked in and he didn't bite onto a loose wire, he would have been a duck pancake from falling onto the jet's tire. Mousse clung tightly to the wall and watched Ranko intently. Soon, very soon, he'll have her right where he wanted and Shampoo will finally be his. Ranko's, Ranma's, whatever's death would avenge Ryoga's lost backpack and honor, Ukyou would be partially repaid for her stolen okonomiyaki cart and Akane would be overjoyed to be rid of her pathetic husband. Yes, indeed, thought the duck, everyone would be much happier without Ranma around anymore.

P-chan twitched a bit and dreamed of being chased by rabid dogs. It was a happier dream than he usually had. Typically, his dream was for him to be tossed into a giant wok with a hungry panda and a fat Jusenkyo guard holding knifes, forks, chopsticks, meat cleavers and assorted sauces waiting patiently for dinner to be served. Sometimes he dreamed of other scenarios, but they all involved his slow painful flaming death at the hands of a chef preparing a meal that involved pork as the main ingredient. Instead, in this dreamscape, he was on top of a tree, taunting the hungry dogs who couldn't climb up and get him. He happily stuck his tongue out at the imaginary pack to further infuriate them.

"Hmm," Ranko stretched and relaxed her tense muscles from her cramped position. She took care not to fall from her place onto the retracted tire below her. Setting off some sort of alarm to alert the pilots that something was amiss was also not on her to-do list.

The little pig happily squeaked and squirmed in Ranko's hand, attracting the attention of the red-head. The pig stuck its tongue out and made a noise that almost sounded like a laugh. "So, P-chan, havin' a dream about sleepin' with Akane again?" For an instant, Ranko wanted to throw the pig to see how many times he would bounce around the room before he woke up. Wisely, she set aside the idea for now.

Mousse flapped his wings and made a soft quack.

"Looks like you're fine now." Ranko nodded. "Take my advice. Get better glasses..." Ranko went still as she noticed something; a change of the pitch in engine noise perhaps? "I think we're landing."

Several noises came from all over the aircraft as motors engaged to prepare the plane for landing. The door below opened with a loud whirring sound and a rush of cold air filled the tiny chamber. A cityscape whizzed by below at over two hundred kilometers per hour. Once the doors fully opened, the landing gear folded down and locked into landing position.

"Ride's over pals. Here's where we get off." Ranko held P-chan under her right arm and Mousse sat on her left shoulder. She straddled her feet on two aluminum bars and gripped an overhanging hydraulic cable with her free hand. She tensed up to lock herself in position so the raging torrent of air wouldn't suck her out before she was ready to disembark. She grimaced as her skirt flew all around. Thankfully, no one was in a position to enjoy the free show. "Ready, guys?"

The duck quacked again in a tone that meant he was ready, or at least as ready as he'll ever be. He contemplated with glee that if Ranko fell to her doom, he could just fly away with a clear conscience if he snatched P-Chan to safety before the girl went splat. He made an evil smile and hoped for the worst.

Ranko stared at the ground, carefully looking for landing spots and didn't pay attention to the pig's struggles. P-chan, in his dream, was now being chased by a rabid dog that had Akane's face and she had found out about his little secret and wanted to dine on ham. He squealed in fright and scratched Ranko's arm. In surprise, the girl let go of the cable and swatted the pig in return. "Hey, you little..." She wobbled a bit as she fought to keep balance in the high velocity wind.

P-chan, half-asleep, half-awake and all terrified, woke abruptly and saw that Ranko was holding him. In a reflexive action, he chomped down hard on Ranko's arm, trying to escape from her clutches.

Ranko shouted at the pig attached to her forearm. "Geez, what's with you?" She smashed the pig against the metal wall trying to stun him to keep him from digging his teeth deeper into her flesh. He let go and crawled over her shoulder and dug his hooves into her back causing her to slip some more. As she danced the pig induced Macarena, she twisted, turned, bowed and slipped off her perch. "Uhh... AAAAAHHH!" Ranko grabbed at anything she could to keep from falling, but managed to get a good grip on a very surprised duck. She fell face first out of the safety of the wheel well and into hurricane force rush of wind. She waved her arms for an instant, trying to fly and shook Mousse like a someone who was getting a spray can ready for use. The dizzy duck flapped furiously but wasn't strong enough to carry forty five kilos of girl and five kilos of pig aloft so they all plummeted straight down to Earth.

"AAAAHHHH", "Bwee", and "Quack", screamed the trio and they tumbled end over end. Too busy biting, pecking and strangling each other to attempt to control their descent. They luckily found something to break their fall. The cloth awning was the first thing that blocked their direct path to the pavement and they left a duck, girl and pig shaped hole in the canvas. They repeated the action of leaving their silhouettes in five other awnings until they left three neat impressions in a table at a fruit sellers storefront.

Watermelons went flying in every direction as the table shattered from the impact. Numerous pedestrians jumped for cover as a fruit flavored rain showered over everything, covering the street with a gooey mess. A few moments later, after the storm of sweetness had subsided, a red-haired girl popped up out of the wreckage wearing half a watermelon for a hat and looking very annoyed. The owner of the shop came out wearing a perplexed look on his face and angry that his precious fruit had been ruined again. He held his hands to his face and shrieked. "Why won't those airplanes stop dropping parts on my store!!! This is the second time this month!" He ran back into the shop, mumbling about putting the airport police on speed dial.

Ranko removed her wet sticky hat and blinked at the angry man as he ranted about something. She could make out a word or two, but not his entire tirade since he was rapidly shouting words in Chinese; a language she still didn't fully understand. Taking a moment to view her surroundings, she decided it was best to make herself and her companions scarce. She collected her woozy 'pets' and staggered out into the narrow street.

Beijing was a crowded city on par with the hustle and bustle of Tokyo on a busy day. People all over the city were on bicycles, micro taxis, rickshaws and motorcycles going in every direction. It only took a few moments for Ranko to put some distance between herself and the angry shopkeeper and get completely lost in the crowd. It reminded her of her travels with her father during those ten long years.

It didn't take much longer for the girl to see that people were staring at her as she walked past them. She paused and looked down at her clothes to see why. Her Juuban High School uniform was practically ruined and she had watermelon juice covering her from head to toe. Her skirt was torn up and a slit was made on the left side from the hem all the way up to her panties. Damn, why did I let mom talk me into wearing girl's underwear? Ranko thought. She held the duck up to eye level, ever so slightly tightening her grip on his long thin neck. "Well, Mousse, I think we need some clothes." She paused for a moment as her aroma assaulted her sense of smell. "And a nice hot bath for all of us, got any ideas?"

The myopic duck nodded in agreement and gestured for Ranko to let him go. "Quack! Quack!"

"Fine. But don't you get lost like Porky here." She held P-chan at the same level with her other hand, careful to hold him only by the bandanna around his neck. The pig growled in reply.

Mousse extended his wings. Ranko loosened her hand and he slipped free and flew off, soaring above the crowd and out of sight. Her sight followed him as he soared higher and into a cloud of steam coming from a twisted pipe and he disappeared.

Ranko sighed and looked at the angry pig. "I guess we're stuck here until he gets back." She glared at a man who had stopped to gawk at Ranko's odd attire. Snarling at the stranger with fire in her words she yelled. "Wadda you want?" Her ferocity did what her jumbled Japanese words couldn't do. The man ran off in terror down the street.

She looked around for a place to sit and found none. Not wanting to be idle she tried to read the dozens of signs that were adorning the shops that lined the crowded street. Symbols both familiar and foreign to her overwhelmed her senses. She could make out some words since the Kanji symbols shared the same meaning in Japanese as in Chinese but the usage and grammar eluded her. In frustration, she turned to P-Chan. "I don't suppose you can read Chinese, can you?" The pig shrugged, so she continued. "Didn't think so. We gotta find some hot water and quick."

P-Chan nodded in agreement. Then the thought of the problem of lack of clothing came to mind and the pig then shook his head in disagreement. He stared at a nearby sign and looked at a specific Chinese character written on it, trying to figure out just why it looked familiar to him. A wave of understanding washed over the porcine creature and he squealed with all his might and quivered.

Taking the signal, Ranko cradled the bug eyed pig in her arm and asked excitedly without waiting for an answer. "Does this place have hot water? I see this symbol and it means bath doesn't it?" P-Chan shook his head to say no, but Ranko wasn't looking. "'Bout time something good happened this trip." With that, a Chinese shirt fell from the sky and onto Ranko's head. "What the..."

She pulled the fabric off of her face only to see Mousse fly off. She looked at the shirt suspiciously. It was a simple pea green Mao style Chinese shirt that she wore from time to time back in Japan. "At least he knows what I like. Some pants, shoes and..." She glanced down to her skirt. "Underwear, and I'm all set."

"Bwee..." Said P-chan as he struggled to break free of Ranko's grasp with just a hint of terror.

"Calm down you idiot. Wanna attract attention to us?" She scolded Ryoga while pointing a finger at him. "Until we change back and get this stuff off of us, the cops will be able to find us and I'm not paying for food that I can't eat. Not like I've got any money anyhow." The pig swung forward and tried to snap at Ranko's finger. "Knock it off, will you?"

A pair of matching pants fell from the heavens along with a set of white boxers. She snatched up the clothes with glee. "Great! Now I can change back and not worry about it." Ryoga squealed again and increased his efforts to squirm away. She raised an eyebrow in surprise at Ryoga's impatience. "Don't worry, we'll get you some clothes too." She found a plastic grocery bag crumpled up on the sidewalk and gently placed her borrowed clothes within it. A few minutes go by and her bag grew pleasantly full.

Mousse landed on Ranko's shoulder and quacked that his job was done. She spun the bag to seal the top and agreed with her friend's assessment. "Okay, it looks like we've got enough for all of us." Clutching it as if holding the bag of clothes was just a bag of laundry, she proudly exclaimed. "I'm ready to change back to normal. Let's go in and get cleaned up. Mousse, you fly around back. I'll open a window and let you in."

The duck quacked in anger and hopped up and down.

"Look, I can say that bacon breath here is my pet pig. Akane got away with that excuse for years. But you're a bit harder to explain. Besides, you can fly and I can trust you to find your way around back." Ryoga snapped at Ranko at her remark. "It's true, pork butt." Ryoga turned away and made no further sound.

Mousse adjusted his glasses with his wings and sat silently as Ranko walked inside. She took a few steps into the establishment and immediately wanted to drool. It was a Chinese BBQ restaurant with giant slabs of meat roasting over a rotisserie behind a glass partition for all the guests to gaze upon in awe. She glanced around, looking for anyone who even remotely appeared to be able to speak Japanese as a back up plan in case the language barrier was too great. She went to the order counter and put on her cute girl act complete with doe eyes and an innocent looking face despite being covered with bits of apple and watermelon. "Sir?" She asked in a cute girlish voice. "Do you have a men's room?"

"What did she say?" Asked the short Chinese cashier behind the counter.

The busboy stopped and scratched his head, trying to parse out her words. "I think she said something about wanting to go to a room of men?"

"Isn't the brothel down the block?" Answered the chef as he slammed down his meat cleaver and lopped off the head of a small pig, much to Ryoga's horror.

"She can come to my room anytime." Leered the manager as he crept up to the counter and spied the fruit salad that adorned her hair. "She looks good enough to eat." He spotted the tiny black morsel wearing a yellow bandanna she held in her hand. "Do you want us to cook that for you? It'll be on the house."

Ranko listened carefully to the man's words. He said words that she recognized like "cook" and "on the house" since Shampoo said that a lot. What do you know? It's dinnertime! She batted her eyes in a cute girly way. "Gee, Mister, I could sure use a good meal and a hot bath right now." She smiled thinking she had it made. Free food, hot water and she's out of here.

The manager couldn't believe his good luck. The girl said that she wanted to take a bath or something to that effect. It didn't matter. She was a hot babe and after some good old fashioned Chinese hospitality, she'd be eating out of his hands. He grinned a lecherous smile and pointed to the back of the establishment. "My apartment is upstairs, in the back."

Ranko batted her eyes as utter non-comprehension took root. The manager pointed beyond the rows of tables and chairs to a narrow hallway that receded into darkness. "Hmm," she thought, "I guess that's where the men's room is. Sounds about right, they're always in the back." She smiled back at the man and made a small bow. "Thank you, sir."

The cashier couldn't believe what he just saw. "Man, is she for real? She's thanking him?"

The manager clasped his hands and expanded his grin in a way that would have made Happosai proud. "I can't believe my luck." He wandered off in search of some breath mints.

"You sure that's what she wants?" Asked the chef. "This sounds way too good to be true."

No sooner was the manager out of earshot, the clerk stated with the conviction of a man who knew something that everyone else didn't. "20 Yuan says she punches him in the head. Any takers?"

"I'll put 20 down that she runs screaming." Answered the chef.

The bus boy called out. "20 says that she kicks him between the legs."

The cashier wrote down the bets. "Anyone wanna wager that he gets lucky?"

The room went silent.

"Didn't think so." The cashier happily took more bets and amassed a large wagering pool. Someone other than the manager was going to get lucky.

He quivered in anticipation as he held the candle in his left hand and a lit match in the right. Slowly, he edged the match closer but like all the others, his own shaking hand extinguished the flame. He dropped the used match onto the pile of other used matches and sighed.

Hikaru Gosenkugi wanted to curl up and die. But he couldn't. Not until he fulfilled his destiny and become the greatest sorcerer in the world. He fell to his knees in despair in the center of the clearing among the pine trees.

"Crud." He moaned as he saw that his knees disturbed the circle that he had drawn in the soft dirt. He put the candle down and opened the Demonomicon to the proper page. He studied the drawing of the circle of summoning and with his finger in the soil, made the correction to fix the arcane symbol on the ground. He checked again to make sure he didn't make any errors in the glyphs and he was satisfied that everything was in order.

He re-read the passage on the creature he was going to bring into this world. The demon would do his bidding as long as his glyphs were in place and once the task was complete, the creature would go back to hell. Hikaru made an evil laugh. That bully Saotome was going to finally pay for humiliating him for not allowing him to beat him up with his 'One Punch' battle armor and making Akane only want to date him tomorrow thanks to some magical paper dolls.

Sadly, even the paper doll spell had broken. Only a week before Ranma and Akane transferred to Juuban, Akane questioned why Hikaru would want to date her. The sorcerer wanna-be was convinced that Akane now hated him thanks to the breaking of the paper doll spell.

There were more ways to woo Akane to his side, thought the teenager. He was going to get rid of Saotome and she'll see how cool he was when she saw that he was in control of dark magics.

Was everything ready? Full moon? Check. Glyphs properly drawn? Check. Sacrifice ready? He opened a small picnic cooler and found the thawed whole chicken he had purchased at the grocery store. Check. Incantations memorized. "Klatuu, Barada, Nikto!" Check. Stuff he stole from mom. Check. Candles on his head? Drat.

He gently placed the book down on the ground and tried again to light his candle. He struck the match and held his breath, edging the flame closer to the wick. Just as the match was dying out, an ember glowed on the fiber and a tiny flame appeared. Hikaru closed his eyes in anticipation, hoping that the flame would take hold. He counted to three and jumped in glee at seeing that the candle had indeed taken the fire and burned brightly. "Yippee!!" He screamed and waved his arms in triumph. "Finally I can perform the spell."

His joy was instantly quelled when he saw that the candle had gone out from all his hand waving. He sank down in defeat. He opened the book of matches and found it empty. Sigh. Nothing ever went right.

"Men's room, men's room." Ranko muttered as she walked down a dark corridor. "You'd think there would be a light switch around here." She stopped at a door with a symbol of a human wearing a skirt. "Hmm... I guess this is the lady's room, so the men's room can't be far."

She was about to backtrack when the manager appeared from nowhere. He pointed to a stairwell at the end of the corridor and said, "You can freshen up over there."

Ranko barely understood what he said, but she got the gist of it. She nodded and walked upstairs and into another narrow hallway. On both sides were doors to several apartments. The medium height and built Chinese man led the way until he reached a door with the number two hundred five. He unlocked the door and swung it open and gestured for Ranko to enter.

The place was well kept for a bachelor pad. The main room, while cramped, was clear of debris and only the kitchen looked like it needed a woman's touch. Not this woman, thought Ranko. Her host pointed the way to a small bathroom which the girl saw and sped up her walk to enter.

Ranko stopped at the doorway and made a girlish smile. "I've got to change into something more natural for me. See you soon." She batted her eyes and slammed the door.

Mr. Ching was on cloud nine. He had a beautiful red-head in his apartment and she was taking a shower in his bathroom. He ran to the kitchen to find his supply of breath mints.

Inside the bathroom, Ranko surveyed the chamber. She slid aside the curtain and turned on the water. It came out cold, but that was to be expected until the tiny water heater mounted on the wall could kick in. She found a small window above the shower and she slid it open. "Mousse! Mousse! Come here!" She looked down at her little pig. "Hey, Porky! I need you to call duck boy over here."

Ryoga squealed impatiently. Hot water was coming and he didn't want to miss out on his turn.

"You just need hot water. I need a bath. Phew!" She placed the pig by the open window and stepped back to remove her filthy clothes. Momentarily, she was in the shower, rinsing off the grime from her body. Slowly, steam filled the room and Ranma grew to his natural height. P-chan excitedly jumped down from his perch and into the stream of hot water, instantly restoring him to normal.

Sadly, two full grown men in a tiny shower stall wasn't a good idea as they soon found out. "Hey! Watch it you pervert!" Ranma spat out and he was blinded for a moment with the shampoo that streamed down the front of his face. He rapidly rubbed his eyes with water to cleanse them.

Ryoga pushed his body against the wall to keep from being crushed. "Look who's the pervert, Miss I'm going to change into something natural! What do you think that guy's going to do when he sees you come out?"

"Hadn't thought about that yet. Besides, who cares?" Ranma rinsed away the shampoo from his hair. "We're back to normal and that's what matters."

"Yeah, you're right about that."

Suddenly, a third man appeared in the shower as Mousse was restored to his birth form. All three men were barely able to breathe in the crowded shower and with a simple application of physics, they all tumbled out into a heap onto the floor.

Ranma was the first to get up. He jumped back into the shower to wash away the soap from his hair. "Couldn't you wait until I was done, sheesh! Can't a guy take a shower in peace?"

Mousse felt the ground for his glasses. "Hey, Saotome, no fair you hoggin' up the hot water."

Ryoga pushed Mousse away. "Pervert!"

Mousse pushed back and spoke in Chinese. "You're the pervert!"

"You're ALL PERVERTS!" Came from a very surprised Chinese man who spoke those words in his native language. He had come to see what the commotion was all about and found a lot more than what he had bargained for. Namely, three naked men in his bathroom, one in the shower and two on the floor in a shoving match. "Where's the girl?"

Mousse answered in Chinese and pointed at Ranma. "He's the one in the shower."

"No, it can't be..." He stared at the boy with the girl's hairstyle and despite his new height and broad chest, he was recognizable as that cute red head. He must have washed the red dye from his hair. "AAAAAHHHHH!!!" The man ran screaming away from the bathroom, out the door and down the hall.

Ranma popped out of the shower and looked at himself in the mirror. He removed his hair clip and began tying his hair in a pigtail. "Guys, if you want to use the shower, you'd better do it fast. I think we've overstayed our welcome."

Downstairs, the betting was going fast and furious until a scream was heard upstairs. The cashier looked at the betting log to find the closest match. "Who bet on him running away screaming?"

"I did!"

"Looks like we've got a winner."

The manager bolted out from the back area and stopped at the front counter. He screamed in anger and frustration. "She's a guy!"

"She is?" Asked the cashier.

"I win too." The chef behind the stove laughed and sliced another slab of meat with a mighty blow. "I bet that it wasn't a girl."

"We'll split it."

The medical hut was warm and inviting. The walls were painted in bright colors and children's drawings were taped everywhere. Konatsu lay on a small cot with bandages covering most of her body. She awoke to take in a deep breath and gagged. Coughing, she convulsed for a moment as her lungs spasmed from an internal injury.

Potion came out from behind a curtain and reached for a small clay bowl. She placed some herbs inside and mixed them rapidly. Still mixing, she sat on a tiny stool next to the low cot and spooned some of the foul smelling concoction into the kunoichi's mouth. "There, there, this will help you sleep."

Konatsu grew wide eyed. "I can't sleep right now, I need to..." Her eyes fluttered closed and she passed out.

Potion looked at her medicine and smelled the spoon. "Odd, it shouldn't have worked that fast. I'll have to make a note of this."

She set the bowl down on a small table and studied her patient intently. "Now, Konatsu, you rest up. You're safe here. We'll discuss your situation soon enough."

The tiger smelled trouble. Ahead were odors that were familiar and yet alien to her. She crept along the grass and stopped, waiting for her prey to make itself known. She slinked further, pressing her body against the grass to keep herself as low as possible.

She stopped again. Her senses warned her that something was amiss and she struggled to grasp as to what was wrong with her environment. The jungle was lush and green, filled with many places for her prey to hide. Then again, it was a perfect spot to be ambushed, but by what? She smelled the air again, trying to detect any trace of human and didn't find any. That didn't mean that humans weren't around, but at least it wasn't her first danger. What bothered her was that the smell ahead was very close to one of her own kind but wrong in some way.

She couldn't resolve the conflict. She smelled the scent of tiger blood but it was tainted, altered somehow. Deciding that caution was the best tactic, she edged backwards and leapt up into the thick branches of a tree. From her perch, she watched the path ahead and confirmed her suspicions. She was going to have some fun.

Lime, a member of the Musk Dynasty and a human with the blood of a tiger, sat in silent vigil of his tiger trap. He kept low with the patience of a hunter waiting for his prey to come to him.

Today's hunt was a special one. His master, Prince Herb, had decreed that they needed to purify their race and to do that, they needed to bring in fresh animals into their bloodlines. To that end, all eligible bachelors, or in other words their entire clan since they only had males among them, were to go on hunts for animals that they would transform into human wives.

Lime was excited at the idea of being able to touch female breasts that belonged to a woman who was to bear his children. He couldn't wait and the day they were to journey to Jusenkyo was approaching fast. He didn't want to come back empty handed because if he did, he would miss out on the boob-fest that all the other Musk would partake in.

Too deep in thought about fondling breasts, he didn't notice the feline shadow that had been cast over his position. When he did, the tiger pounced on him. The two wrestled in the grass for a moment. Each trying to claw or bite their opponent into submission. Birds flew off in fright as the fight escalated. Lime threw off the tiger and rolled away to gain some distance to plan a new strategy when he fell into his own trap.

He fell for ten meters until he landed in a soft thud. An instant later, he was covered in twigs, mud and grass as the rest of the lid that covered the trap collapsed upon his head. Lime stood up, ready to fight only to see the face of a tiger peering down at him from the rim of the pit.

If a tiger could laugh, it would have been chuckling a storm. Instead, it turned away and disappeared into the jungle, looking for easier and tastier prey.

Lime leaned against the dirt wall of his trap. "I hope Mint's faring better."

Somewhere else, in another part of China, a small man with wolf's blood hung upside down in a snare. A wolf sniffed at the man, turned up its nose and wandered off in search of its pack. Mint, the man who was hanging around, moaned, "I hope Lime's faring better."

Hikaru Gosenkugi was ready to try again. This time, he was armed with a Ronco Brand Everlight Automatic Candle Lighter. He had purchased it from answering an ad in the back of Sorcerer's Monthly. He stood at the rim of the summoning circle and pressed the button. A long flame shot out and flew across the clearing, nearly setting a tree on fire. "Oops."

He adjusted the intensity setting on the lighter and tried again. A flame about two centimeters high popped out and he made contact with it on the wick of his candle. It lit with no effort at all. He placed the candle into the left holder on his headdress and picked up a second candle. It was lit and placed shortly thereafter. Hikaru let go of the lighter and dropped it onto the ground. He opened his book to the proper page and began the incantation.

"Oh, deities and devils,"
"Heed my unworthy plea,"
"Come forth from the depths,"
"And appear before me,"
"May those who defy,"
"Our combined will,"
"Be made to pay and suffer,"
"And to foot the bill,"

Hikaru shook his head to make sure he was reading it right. Nope, that's what it said. Above him, the bright daylight was obscured by a storm cloud that appeared out of nowhere and completely encased the sky with darkness.

"Ranma Saotome,"
"Our mutual enemy,"

Hikaru felt great at uttering that line. How'd the book know that he wanted to punish Ranma was beyond him.

"Will be made to embrace,"
"Her true identity,"
"I summon forth,"
"The thing that must be,"
"So once and for all,"
"The darlings will be free."

Lightning struck a nearby tree, sending a flash of light that startled the thin man and he almost dropped his book. "Can't screw up... So close." He held the book out so the candles would illuminate the pages. "The next step is the sacrifice."

He closed the book and held it under his arm. He opened the cooler and extracted the uncooked chicken. He tossed it into the center of the circle and waited expectantly.

Nothing happened.

He waited a few seconds more.

Nothing still happened.

Did he skip a step? He opened the book and went back to the proper page. There it said clearly to throw the sacrifices into the center of the circle. He lowered the book and checked. Yep, the chicken was in the center of the circle. He turned back a page to the sacrifice list. Let's see, one dead animal and the... D'oh!

Hikaru wanted to pound his head on the book for forgetting the most important spell component of them all. His mother was going to be furious if she ever found out, but this was for a good cause. He reached over to a small paper bag and pulled out a silky bra and panty set that he had sneaked away. To his horror, they were singed on one side. He looked down and saw that the lighter was still aflame and it had burned a small circle in the grass.

Hoping for the best, he tossed the underwear into the circle and stood his ground. The book was very clear that he was protected only if he was inside the pentagram of protection that he had drawn and stepping outside of it would be really really bad. In the glossary, it defined really really bad as "Don't ask".

Hikaru waited another moment. Nothing happened.

He looked back into the book and double checked everything. Circle, sacrifice, incantation, and... D'oh!

At least this was the final step, so there was no harm done. He took a deep breath and slowly spoke the words of power. "Klatuu, Barada, Nikto!"

With the final syllable uttered, a terrible thunder crashed across the landscape. A small earthquake shook the ground and the circle glowed with a sickly green glow. The light grew brighter, threatening to blind the sorcerer in training. He averted his eyes and used the book as a shield. Suddenly, all was silent and dark.

The silence was terrifying. Hikaru slowly lowered his book and before him was a portal to another plane of reality. The oval was taller than it was wider. It was large enough to drive a large truck through. He gulped at the thought of what size the creature would have to be to need a gateway this large. His lips crept up into a smile as the idea that this thing was here to do his bidding and it didn't look like Ranma was going to have a chance against it.

A heavy breathing was heard and a cloven hoof emerged from the portal and it touched down on the soft ground. Towering above Gosenkugi appeared a gigantic bull like demon with massive horns, brown fur and an expression on its face that it was ready to rip someone into small pieces and repeat the action just for fun.

"Wow." Was all he could say at the impressive beast before him. He was in awe of the brute strength and might that it possessed. The more he gazed at it, the more convinced he was that this was the right creature for the job.

In a deep voice he bellowed out a mighty roar. The sound was deafening in its volume and put the fear of god into the wizard wanna-be. Hikaru hoped that the pentagram was enough to protect him because the creature could squash him like a bug and there wasn't anything he could do about it.

"Who opens the portal?" Asked the beast in a terrible voice. His red eyes that appeared to look straight into someone's soul were fixed on Hikaru.

Hikaru lost bladder control. He gave his pants leg a little shake in a feeble attempt to dry it. He wanted to speak, but his vocal cords had declared it a day off and refused to operate.

The creature blinked and frowned. He turned to look at the portal and a small creature popped out and landed with a thud. The beast looked at the creature. The beast looked at Gosenkugi. The beast looked at the creature again. It looked at Gos. It looked at the creature.

It stopped looking and held his massive hand up to his chin in thought. He kicked the chicken out of the circle and bent down and intentionally erased the glyph of dimension connection.

Hikaru was flabbergasted. The being was breaking the spell that allowed it to stay on Earth.

The monster smiled at Hikaru. "He's your problem now." With that, he jumped into the portal back into the nether dimensions and it shut and vanished behind him.

Another loud thunder clap was heard and the storm cloud vanished as it never was. The sky was blue with a few fluffy white clouds lazily moving by. The clearing was bright, cheery and a total mess.

Gos dropped his book while standing like a statue. "I was so close."

A groan snapped Gos out of his stupor. At the edge of the circle, was a tiny man with a small tuft of white hair that rimmed a bald head. He stepped closer to see who was this person and to check if he needed first aid.

The man slowly reached out toward Hikaru's mother's bra. Reaching, reaching, he rolled to move his arm closer and touched it.

In a flash, the man was up and holding the bra and panty, one item in each hand, and rubbing them onto his cheeks. "Oh, how I've missed you."

"Sir?" Gosenkugi asked sheepishly. "Are you alright?"

The little evil man laughed, "Never felt better, you're that Gosenkugi kid aren't you?"

How did he know my name? "Yes I am. Who are you?" He paused. The man looked familiar.

"Why, my boy! I'm the founding master of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts. Happosai's the name, and silky darlings are my game. You wouldn't know where I could find Ranma Saotome, now would you?"

Hikaru smiled. Maybe his luck wasn't 100% bad after all.

Author's Notes: Please review my story. It makes me feel oh so happy and keeps me from selling you to the gypsies.

Last edited on January 27th, 2007

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