By Jeffrey Vasquez


Based on the series Sailor Moon. All characters copyrighted by Naoko
Takeuchi, Toei Animation, and Kodansha.

The characters of Ranma ½ are the express property of the most
benevolent queen of comedy, her Highness, the revered Rumiko Takahashi
and Shogokukan. I am in no way claiming, or even pretending to own these

The rest belong to me.

Author's Notes:

For purposes of continuity, I have modified Nodoka Saotome's character
to better suit the story. She has spent the last ten years training in Kenjutsu
and Yarijutsu: the way of the sword and spear. Other changes will be
evident as the story progresses.

Chapter 3

Ami ignored the nasty cut on the palm of her hand as she watched
Ranma's body shrink and redistribute his mass. His chest filled out and his
hair changed from raven black to a flaming red. The strong features of his
face softened and his powerful hands thinned out, becoming small, and
graceful. A buxom, young woman stood where a boy had been a moment
ago. Stunned couldn't begin to describe what she was feeling.

". . . fascinating." She couldn't think of anything else to say. Ranma
simply stood and placed the pitcher and the glass on the table.

It was all that the cursed martial artist could do, not to shatter the
fragile glass. She reigned in her anger when she heard Ami's reaction to
the change. Looking down at the kneeling girl, a crooked smile worked
its way onto her face. She noticed the cut on Ami's palm, and immediately
went into action. One hand immediately cinched the tie on her pants,
making it easier to maneuver. While the other ripped a part of her now
oversized, sleeve off.

She carefully brushed the remaining glass from Ami's skin, careful
to avoid aggravating the wound further and then lifted the astonished girl
to her feet. Piloting her easily over to the sink, Ranma-chan carefully
removed a large sliver of glass from the cut.

Luckily the gash wasn't too deep, holding only two more pieces of
glass on the surface of the wound. She was glad that she wouldn't have to
dig anything out. She wasn't a very good surgeon, a fact that her father
could attest to. She remembered one incident with a Chinese farmer, two
chickens and Genma's butt full of buckshot. It brought a slight smile to her
lips as she turned the faucet on and allowed the water to warm a little. It
wouldn't trigger the curse, but would be enough to keep the pain down as
she rinsed the wound clean.

Ami was amazed at the change that had come over the young
man . . . girl . . . person before her. The predatory grace that Ranma had
displayed before became more fluid - if that was possible. The little red
head reminded Ami of a ballet dancer, or perhaps a deer. It was an
unnatural grace, more beautiful than threatening. Ranma pushed her hand
under the water, causing Ami to wince and suck in her breath.

"Sorry." Her voice was a higher pitch than her male form. Fascinating.
"Hold still now, this is going to sting." Ranma motioned for her to look at
the sink.

Ami complied, prying her attention away from her new friend. The
water stung her again, but not as bad as before. She focused on the small
hands holding hers, to blot out the pain. They were, petite, and very
elegant. Almost as if they had been sculpted from marble. She could feel
their deceptive strength as they held her hand steady beneath the tepid

"May I ask you a question, Ranma?"

Ranma looked at her, and then shrugged. "Go ahead." The
redhead started mentally preparing herself to relate a very long and painful

"Are you a boy that turns into a girl, or is it the other way around?"
Ranma looked at Ami's blushing face in surprise again.

"Huh, That's a new one," she answered. "Boy to girl." She assessed
Ami's reaction carefully, but wasn't prepared for the relief that washed
over the other girl's features. She tried her best to push aside the hidden
meaning behind the look and proceeded to dress Ami's cut. "Next

"Pardon?" Ami asked, confused.

"Don't worry I don't mind. I know you're curious, so go ahead and ask."

"I wouldn't want to pry, Ranma."

The redhead snorted in a very un-ladylike manner.

"Ami-chan, it's bound to come out sometime or another. I'd just as soon
you heard it from me than some rumor mill." Ranma returned his, um, her
attention to the make-shift bandage, and so missed Ami's deep blush.

**He just called me ‘Ami-chan'!** A flock of butterflies started squirming
in her stomach. She thought a moment before complying.

"What does it feel like?" She couldn't hide her eagerness.

Ranma looked thoughtful for a moment. "You know the feeling
you get when you foot falls asleep and you try to walk on it?" Ami
nodded. "Well, that's what it feels like when the water hits. Then —" the
small red head gyrated her hands dramatically in a churning motion. "—
it's like everything's swapping places."

"What happens to all the excess mass?" Her question drew a confused
look from Ranma. "I mean, what happens to all the extra weight? You
don't look like you weigh the same as when you're a boy."

Ranma laughed. "You know I don't know. But it's a great diet
program." Ami chuckled a bit before Ranma continued. "I lose about
seventy pounds with the change, and I've noticed that I'm much faster.
It's an even trade I suppose: strength and weight, for speed and quicker
reflexes." She shrugged. "Next."

A calm stillness settled between the two, as Ranma continued to
wrap her hand gently. There was one question that Ami wanted an answer
to more than anything, but she wasn't sure if she should. Ranma had been
very forthright with his answers, but she didn't want to embarrass him, er .
. . her.

"Could you tell me who Akane is?" Ranma winced visibly under the
question, as if it were a physical blow. "I'm sorry Ranma. That was a
stupid thing to ask. I didn't realize . . . ." Ranma looked up at her and
smiled. It was a tired smile that aged her pretty face.

"It's okay Ami-chan." Ranma finished tying off the wrap, and then
motioned for Ami to sit down at the table. She turned away from her new
friend and opened the hot water tap as high as it would go. "Just let me
change back, okay?" Ami nodded mutely and made her way to the table,
but did not sit down. "Could ya toss me that glass?"

She complied with the other girl's request, but the glass fell short of
it's intended target. She was amazed again as Ranma demonstrated her
speed and agility. A foot shot out and caught the glass in mid spin, only to
fling it high in the air.

It hung suspended for an instant, twirling madly in the air and then
plummeted toward the tiled floor. Before it could join its sibling, Ranma-
chan stretched out her finger and caught it, balancing it easily on the glass'
lip. Ami wanted to applaud, but opted to whistle instead. Ranma-chan
bowed elaborately, flourishing her free hand.

"Thank you. You're too kind."

Ami giggled, and watched raptly as Ranma-chan filled the glass
with the hot water. When she deemed it full enough, she shut off the tap
and emptied it over her head.

The change was no less amazing than before. Limbs elongated, and
the chest sculpted itself accordingly. Feminine charm traded itself for
handsome, masculinity. It was a magic that Ami was familiar with and yet
was completely foreign to her. She must have been staring, because the
now male Ranma began to pat himself down.

"What? Did my clothes rip again?"

Ami smiled and shook her head. "No. I just find it fascinating."
She turned her gaze from Ranma as he adjusted his pants again. "I'm
sorry. It's rude of me to stare." Ranma shrugged as sat across from her.
The table top suddenly became very interesting to its occupants.

"I'm used to it." He looked uncomfortable for a moment before turning his
attention back to her. He explored her face intently, probing for what she
didn't know. His scrutiny seemed to last forever, and was beginning to
make her feel self conscious. The room's temperature seemed to raise a
few degrees as well.

"Is there something wrong?" She asked. Ranma simply shook his head.

"You look so much like her. I mean you coulda been her twin sister. So
close, and yet so different. Kinda like night and day."

"So who was she? A girlfriend?" Ranma's laugh was bitter, but not

"Naw, fiancee."

"Fiancee? Pardon me for saying this, but don't you think that you're a bit
young for that?" Ranma laughed again.

"I told Pops the exact same thing when he arranged the whole deal. He
didn't seem to think so." Ami looked at the boy across from her with

"An arranged marriage. Doesn't sound very romantic."

Ranma shrugged his shoulders.

"I ain't much into romance. It was an honor thing. Marry a daughter from
the Tendo clan to join the two schools." Ami's interest perked at the
mention of school.


"Yeah the Musabetsu Kakutou Ryuu; the Tendo and Saotome schools of
Indiscriminate Grappling. Though I don't much care for the name. I'm
kinda partial to Any Thing Goes Martial Arts." Ami quirked her brow at
the name, but didn't say anything about it.

"So you're a martial artist?" The question didn't phase him.

"Yeah." There was no blustering pride in his statement. It was just a fact.
It's what and who he was. There was a shocked outcry from the living
room that turned both of their heads.

Ami held up her good hand to forestall him. "Hold that thought."

She stood and poked her head out the kitchen door. Her mother
sat facing the kitchen, and the image that painted her face was filled with
disbelief and rage. Ami wondered what could have happened to cause her
mom to get upset.

"I can't believe that!" Her voice quivered with cold anger. Her mom only
got like this when she talked about Daddy and Ritsuko. "A pit of cats!
What an idiot!" Nodoka nodded sadly from her position next to Yuri. As
much as Ami wanted to hear this conversation too, she was committed to
Ranma. She cleared her throat to get their attention.

Nodoka raised her head. "Is anything wrong Ami-chan?" Yuri
looked up at her daughter as well.

"Is Ranma all right? We thought we heard a crash."

"We're fine, mother. I broke a glass and cut myself a little, but it's nothing
serious." She smiled to reassure her. "We heard someone cry out, and I
thought I'd better check on you."

Nodoka smiled at Ami's concern. "No dear. We are fine. Go back
and entertain Ranma." Ami looked at her mother, who made quick,
shooing gestures in her direction. Ami smiled again and returned to the
table. Ranma had replaced the broken glasses with fresh ones and cleaned
up the broken glass as best as he could..

"Everything okay?" He asked. Ami nodded as she sipped her water.
Ranma toyed with his glass for a moment before Ami picked up from
where she left off.

"So," she began hesitantly. "Was Akane a martial artist too?" This
question made him pause, as if by answering it would be painful. When he
spoke it was in a whisper.

"Yeah. She practiced the Art." Ami reached across the table and placed
her good hand over one of his. It seemed so tiny and fragile next to his.

"I'm sorry Ranma. If this is too much, you don't have to continue." He
straightened himself and took a deep breath.

"No. I'll be okay." It had been too long. It needed to come out, and Ami
listened good. He just wished that it didn't hurt so much.

Ami seemed to read his thoughts.

"It hurts, doesn't it?" Ranma nodded. "Did she leave you?" Ranma's
gaze shot up, startling her. She could see the war within him, and the
vulnerability. When he started laughing, she didn't know what to say.
"I'm sorry, but what's so funny?"

"She left me plenty of times." Memories of all the fights, swelled in his
heart filling him with warmth and regret. He sobered quickly, and the
laughter completely died altogether. "But the last time she left, she didn't
just leave me."

The deadness in his eyes, combined with so many other minute
clues, caused Ami's heart to break. Her hand covered her mouth, and her
eyes filled with genuine sympathy.

"Oh, Ranma I'm so sorry." The words sounded so hollow to her ears. Yet
what more could she say? A sense of deja vu washed over her and a
memory from her previous life surfaced.

Moon Kingdom

She had returned to the Crystal Palace after spending several weeks
away on diplomatic embassies to various nations on Terra and Mercury.
She couldn't wait to see Aramas again and spend some quality time with
her lover.

She entered her quarters, and quickly bathed. A change of clothes
was donned and the search for Aramas commenced. It was a fruitless
effort, she could find him nowhere. Not on the battlements, nor in the
practice yard where he spent the majority of his time. None of his
lieutenants had seen him since the day before. She was disappointed, but
it was not unusual for him to be absent, either on an errand for the Queen
or performing some other duty away from the castle.

Mercury could wait for him to return. She left word with the
commander of the watch, and set off for the gardens. A nice stroll would
clear the cobwebs from her mind before she retired to the library.

Her passage through the garden was, for the most part,
uninterrupted. But, as she was passing a secluded alcove she heard
someone weeping. To be distressed on such a beautiful day was simply
criminal. She had to do something to lift this person's spirits. Her gaze
fell on the lush flower beds and she immediately set about gathering a
colorful bouquet of flowers. Each was specially selected for its bright hue
and fragrance.

With her labor done, she returned to the alcove. One of the great
trees of Jupiter towered over the clearing, offering ample shade to any
who desired. Only one figure dominated the area, and he was dressed in a
very familiar uniform.

"Aramas?" The man before her flinched in recognition of her voice. His
back straightened stubbornly, and to her surprise he launched himself high
into the tree. Mercury tried to track his break neck pace through the
branches, but she quickly lost sight of him as he vaulted into the higher
branches. Her brow knitted in irritation, and she tossed the flowers to the

**Fine. If he wants to play Hide and Seek, I will indulge him.** Heaven
help the poor man if she found first. She hoped that this really was a
game, because the whole situation set her teeth on edge. Aramas never
cried. It was unbecoming of a man and a warrior, or so he claimed.

A sudden blue blur brought her attention back to the chase. She
watched in admiration as lover flew from the great tree and into the
branches of another. Mercury gave chase, and soon all but had caught up
to him. It was a mark of pride to her, that Aramas could pace all of the
Senshi stride for stride without the aid of magic. He was "all natural" as
Venus had one said, and he was all hers. Uranus had bested him once in a
foot race. It had been her forty fifth rematch, and the look on Aramas' face
was enough to tell Mercury why her fellow Senshi had won.

Another blur to her right brought her out of her trance. With an
incredible display of agility, Aramas wove in and out of the trees like a
gazelle evading a lioness. And to a certain degree he was; no one could
shake Senshi Mercury once they had piqued her interest. That went
double for the man that held her heart.

A worried smile decorated her face as she increased her speed. She
couldn't understand why he was running from her, but she wasn't about to
let him slip her grasp until she found out. She called out his name, but her
only answer was the warm breeze passing her ears.

She was getting desperate and more than a little upset. She needed
to slow him down, or at least stop him long enough to get some answers
from his stubborn hide. The power quickly built within her and begged to
be released. It was sweet and intoxicating at the same time, singing
through her whole being like a surging wave. She gathered it to her
lovingly, giving it form in her mind's eye, and then she gave it voice.

"Shabon Spray!" Her voice echoed throughout the garden,
enhanced now by the fog of bubbles that formed at her command. She
slowed her pursuit to avoid injuring herself, but Aramas barreled forward
unmindful or uncaring of the danger. There was a loud "CRACK!"
somewhere in front of her and to the left followed by a soft "Whuff!" as
something fell to the turf.

With a wave of her hand the mist disappeared, revealing an injured
Aramas clutching his head and cursing loudly at the base of a nearby tree.

"By Saturn's rings, woman! Why do you insist on badgering me!"

Mercury descended from the branches of the trees agilely, settling
not far from her love. "Because I love you too much for my own good."
Her voice was warm despite the cool look that marred her face.

"Did you brain me because you love me then?" He called over his shoulder
to her in a dry, humorless tone.

"No." Mercury said in a tone that mimicked his. "I brained you because
you were acting like a child, instead of the man I fell in love with." She
closed the distance between them, and wrapped her arms around him from
behind; her head rested atop his own. His cropped braid rested against her

"An apt description." He said morosely.

"Really Aramas. What darkens your mood so?"

"An old wound my Lady. A very old wound." His voice echoed the
despair that he relived.

"Care to talk about it?" He didn't respond readily, and soon, the only
sounds that could be heard were the rustling leaves above them. Terra
stood high above them, moving slowly in its daily track. She sighed and
settled in behind her love.

She rested her chin over his right shoulder, and leaned her head
against his. "Old wounds fester, dear Aramas. They poison the soul until
all that remains is a black void. Or so I'm told." She tried to jest, but the
playful mirth in her voice was met by tears. Great, heaving, soul
wrenching tears. She could do nothing, but hold him.

"I killed her." He whispered. Mercury's head whipped up to stare at his

"What?" Her throat constricted, cutting off her voice until it was only a

"I said I killed her." His voice was dead.

"Who?" There was real fear behind the worried question. Not fear for
herself, but rather fear for her love. A thousand questions began to
surface in her mind. **Was it an accident or by design? How long ago
had it happened? What do I need to do to protect him?**

"Reia. My first love." The words tumbled from his lips hesitantly at first,
but soon the dam broke and all was laid out before Mercury.

The patrol he had led had returned too late to stop a group of
marauding bandits. Many people in the township had died. The bandit
chief had taken his young love hostage to guarantee his safe passage.

Aramas challenged him, quickly freeing Reia from the bandit. The
chief fell to his blade easily, but when Aramas turned to check on his love,
he saw the archer. He raced the arrow that the archer loosed, and in a
burst of inhuman speed, nearly beat it. The shaft pierced her heart,
spraying his face with her blood. She held on long enough to proclaim her
love for him one last time, before passing into the next world.

"She died in my arms Athena. She died because I wasn't fast enough." He
turned into her embrace and buried his head against her neck.

Mercury held him close, letting him cry in her arms. The tears
helped in the healing, and she vowed that what they didn't heal - she
would. She lifted his head up to meet her gaze, and she lost herself in his
stormy, grey blue eyes.


Ami watched as Ranma lifted his face to meet her gaze and she lost
herself in his stormy, grey blue eyes. The memory of Aramas' face was
crystal clear in her mind as she looked at Ranma. She compared them
mercilessly looking for any hint of change. Ranma's face was younger,
but the eyes didn't lie, they were the same. She shook her head to clear it.

**It's just a coincidence. I'm projecting him into my memories.** She
tried to convince herself, but the evidence in her heart told her otherwise.

Ranma took her bewildered look and her silence as an invitation to
stop. He was grateful for a moment to gather himself. The pain was still
very acute, and he wasn't sure how much he wanted to tell Ami yet. It
was enough that she knew that Akane had died. He didn't have to tell her
how she died, or his failure to save her.

Ami did her best to bury the feelings that she had for Aramas, and
was only partially successful. Love and concern welled from the past and
fought to seize control of the young woman. She looked into his eyes
again and saw the guilt there. It was growing like a cancer, consuming the
young man. She had to do something. So she latched onto the first thing
that formed in her mind and went with it.

"It wasn't your fault!" She blurted out, only to close her eyes again in

"Excuse me?" Ranma asked confused.

Ami sighed in resignation. **You've stuck your foot in it now Ami.
Better come up with something quick.** She thought bitterly.

"Uh. . . um, . . . . What I mean to say is that you shouldn't beat yourself up
over this." She wanted to find a rock to hide under. Forever. **Lame
Ami, really lame!**

They sat in an awkward silence for a few moments more, before
Nodoka entered the kitchen, saving Ami from her embarrassment.

"Excuse me Ami-chan, but it is getting late and Ranma-kun and I need to
get home." Ami nodded and stood. Nodoka saw that Ranma's shirt was
damp, and noted the tear on his sleeve. "Ranma, what happened to your
shirt?" Ami smiled sheepishly and quickly answered on Ranma's behalf.

"I'm afraid that it was my fault Auntie." She shrugged and held up her
doctored hand. "Ranma used his shirt to bind my hand."

"Another display of chivalry." Yuri's voice floated in from behind Nodoka
as she pushed her way into the kitchen. "Ami, this gallant knight has
shown you great favor today. I dare say that we need to reward him!" Ami
groaned and let her face drop into her good hand.

Yuriko maneuvered over and began inspecting Ami's injury. "This
is a very good wrap Ranma." She said approvingly, and without missing a
beat pressed forward with her original topic. "How about dinner
tomorrow night?" Ami shook her head at her mother's forwardness.

"You have the late shift at the hospital tomorrow night mother." Ami
grumbled audibly. "And you're speaking engagements on Thursday and
Friday, and cousin Mai's birthday on Saturday." Yuri's face looked
thoughtful for a moment.

"You're right. I guess we'll have to postpone it until Sunday then." She
smiled happily. Ami groaned again. Nodoka stepped forward and placed a
comforting hand on Ami's shoulder.

"All in good time Yuri-chan. Besides I think that Ami-chan could repay
Ranma in other ways." Ranma looked worriedly at his mother. Her ideas
of payment were often very extreme. Yuri looked intrigued.

"Oh?" Mother and daughter echoed each other eerily.

"Yes. Since Ranma will be attending Juuban high school, I was hoping that
she might escort him to school." Ami accepted the invitation without
hesitation, causing her mother to smile. "The many trophies in the living
room, note that Ami-chan is an accomplished scholar."

Ranma groaned and mirrored Ami's earlier action, by placing his
face in his hand. He knew that he was going to regret this.

"Due to Ranma's heavy training regime, his studies have suffered. It
would be in his best interests if he had a competent tutor to bring him up
to date on what he has missed. I was hoping that you might know
someone who could fill this role."

Yuri's face lit up. **Nodoka! I never thought that you had it in

Ami smiled genuinely.

"I think that I can recommend someone, Auntie." She looked at Ranma's
handsome face and sad eyes. One word reverberated in her mind care of
her libido. **Me me me me me me me!**

Inside, Ranma was panicking and looking for the nearest exit.


Hokkaido; Tuesday, 5:00 a.m.

How does one describe suffering? For Fusako Kaiko, it could only
be likened to having one's soul ripped from her body. Not that, that was
what she was currently experiencing, far from it in fact. But that was what
she had felt like three months ago.

Her world had turned to dust around her, and her only solace was
found in a pair of extremely wealthy - yet overly protective parents, who
loved her to the point of obsession. Being an only child tended to have
that effect on loving parents.

She sighed as she looked out into the darkness of the predawn from
her room's window. The only things that were readily visible in the inky
blackness were the stars. Their magic, like so many times before filled her
with a sense of peace and hope.

Six months ago she had reached her epiphany. She was married to
a wealthy businessman, whom her father was grooming as the heir-
apparent for his vast monetary empire; she taught mythology and ancient
literature at one of the most prestigious universities in all of Japan, and
was considered by most to be a prodigy of sorts in the area of linguistics.


Her ability to speak twenty some odd languages and read thirty
with fluency earned her family great honor. It allowed her to achieve her
doctorate at the tender age of twenty two from another prestigious college
in the United States, and by age twenty three she was teaching her first
classes at the university level.

The world was hers.

Or so she had thought.

Seven years of bliss had come crashing down around her ears when
within one week's time she had: uncovered a secret affair between her
husband and three of her best friends, broke an encrypted code that
unmasked and implicated twelve of the University's upper echelon as
embezzlers, and finally discovered that her favorite cousin, whom she
thought of as her sister, had cancer.

In short life sucked. True to form, she stoically accepted her
husband's mistresses with the traditional Japanese aplomb, despite the
immense desire to castrate him and humiliate her friends. She lasted two
months more at the University, before she was gently forced from her
position in the Humanities Department.

Her colleagues didn't praise her integrity. Instead they ostracized
her. She suspected that more than one had been on the receiving end of
some very handsome bonuses from their superiors, gifts to the embezzlers'
favorite pets. When the authorities intervened and took the candy store
away, so to speak, traditional university politics reared their collective ugly

Fusako was shunned and her "Golden Girl" status was revoked.

The students fought on her behalf. Especially a little known fan
club that consisted mainly of a group of love-struck boys and one inspired
fireball that used her Sensei as her role model. Their efforts were
appreciated, but ultimately futile. In less than a month's time Fusako
found herself on the outside of her old classroom looking in.

Her only bright spot in all of the tumult, next to her fan club, had
been her dear friend Professor Tomoe. The man had been her mentor on
many occasions before his "sabbatical," and had done his best to repay her
for supporting him when the University had wanted to dismiss him after a
long and unproductive leave of absence. Souichi Tomoe had come back to
school aged, in a way that unnerved Fusako. It had been a brave effort on
her behalf, but one doomed to fail. She found out after her dismissal that
he left the university to teach at the high school level.

Sad, but life went on right?

Two weeks later, Kiki died in her home surrounded by her husband
and four children. She hadn't even had the chance to say goodbye. Her
cousin's funeral was held one week later.

She had thought that she had a handle on her emotions after her
cousin's death. Things obviously couldn't get any worse.

Fusako returned to her apartment in Tokyo the day after the funeral
to find her husband in bed with a new woman. She might have been okay,
if they hadn't been drinking the champagne that Fusako had been saving
for the celebration of her anniversary. What happened next was still foggy
to her. She could only remember the result of the blind rage that she had
entered. Something that brought a smile to her lips each and every time.

Her miserable, now ex-husband, had been hospitalized for a week.
The nameless tramp that had dallied with him had left the apartment naked
as the day she was born and hadn't returned since. She filed for divorce
the very next afternoon. Other, smaller, events brought her down further
still, until at last, she had to get away rather than face the nervous
breakdown that was imminent.

So Fusako ran. She wouldn't have consciously called it running, to
her it was more like a strategic retreat. A time to gather her thoughts and
take stock of her new freedom. She left the comfort of her parents' home,
and the stylish apartment near the university, and retired to the ancestral
home in the Hidaka Sammyaku mountain range, on the island of Hokkaido.

She had many fond memories of the home nestled in the mountains.
The summer vacations to visit grandfather, the spring trips up to the shrine
of the Akai Hane no Musha, and spending winter break skiing at the resort
that Kiki's father owned. It was the perfect place to regroup.

In the month and a half that she had spent here, she had become a
creature of habit. Wake up at five a.m., dress and hike to her grove on the
slopes of "Yasashii-san (1)," and watch as Amaterasu-sama ascended to
the Heavens. The sunrise was something that gave her hope. And so long
as the Goddess woke, Fusako knew that her world would mend itself.

She sighed as her alarm clock sounded next to her. She always
woke before it, and remained in bed until it sounded. She reached over to
her alarm and sighed contentedly. The warmth of the blankets beckoned
her to stay as they always did. And today, like every day before, she drew
the blankets back and set her feet on the cold wood floor.

She had a date with the Sun, and it wasn't polite to keep good
friends waiting.


(1) Fusako's name for the mountain where her ancestral home rests.
Means Mr. Gentle.

Juuban; Tuesday 6:30 a.m.

Nodoka Saotome was a creature of habit. Every morning she
would rise with the dawn, wash the sleep from her eyes, and then greet the
day by performing a few simple (at least by Saotome standards) katas.
Kenjutsu, the way of the sword, was her preferred focus. But she also
found pleasure in Yarijutsu, the way of the spear.

When she had been but a girl, she had dreamed of being a Samurai-
Ko; a woman dedicated to the tenants of Bushido. Unfortunately, there
weren't many practical uses for Samurai-Ko in modern society. Strong
mothers and stronger wives were needed to cultivate honorable men and
women, and to keep tradition alive.

That didn't mean that she couldn't indulge herself every once in a
while. And as far as fantasies went, being a Samurai-Ko for ten years was
far more preferable than being unfaithful to her husband and son.

She had lost herself this morning, in the great battle of the Hakata
Bay. The Mongol raiders had landed and pushed the defenders back.
The sound of drums kept beat with the pounding feet of the devils that
sought to soil the sacred soil of her nation. The smell of the sea bolstered
her spirit, and she could see that the honorable samurai around her were in
dire need of encouragement.

A great cry issued from her lips, drawing all eyes to her. She raised
her Naginata high above her head, and swore that she would not die like a
dog cowering beneath a house. A cheer went up around her, giving her the
support that she needed. Without further hesitation she threw herself into
the fray.

Her first opponent fell easily, as did the next three. The fourth an
the fifth challenged her, bu they too fell to her whirling blade. Nodoka
soon lost herself to the dance of the bladed spear in her hands. She lost
count of the foes that fell before her, but she noted that the battle was
turning. Reinforcements had arrived, and they were turning back the
invaders! Victory would soon be theirs.

She felt a presence behind her and whirled the naginata around to
bear. Before her stood a stripling Mongol, who had apparently lost his
sword during the battle. She would toy with him for a time, and then take
him prisoner. If her daimyo was feeling generous, he might even let her
keep him. She smiled and beaconed the youth forward.


Ranma woke feeling odd. He couldn't hear the loud snores of his
father in the room, nor could he hear Kasumi making breakfast down in
the kitchen. Confusion prompted him to open his eyes to see what was

He noted first that the window was in the wrong place. It should
have been on his right, not his left. Second, the futon was too large.
Sighing he willed himself to turn his head and take in the rest of the room.
Now Ranma, being Ranma, isn't normally that fast on the pick up. Unless
of course, it has something to do with martial arts or a related topic.

His mind began to slowly document and calculate the facts at hand.
After a few groggy moments, his brain finally postulated that this wasn't
the Tendo dojo. No Tendo dojo, no Kasumi. No Kasumi, no heavenly
breakfast. No heavenly breakfast, meant that Akane would be cooking

Ranma flew out of his bed and made it half way down the hall
before he realized where he was. There was an ache in his stomach at the
memory of Akane's cooking, and another, more powerful ache in his chest
at the memory of Akane.

**Geez. I'd eat Akane's cooking for the rest of my (hopefully short) life, if
it meant that I could have her back.** He sighed dejectedly as he returned
to his room to get ready for his day. Genma wasn't around to spar with
him, but that didn't mean that he was going to slack off.

He pulled a white silk shirt from his closet and donned it, followed
by a pair of formless navy blue draw string pants. He walked down the
hallway and entered the bathroom. He washed his face with cold water, to
cleanse his face and wake himself up fully.

As the change washed over him, he gripped his pants with one hand
and turned on the hot water with the other. A moment passed as the
water took its time to heat. The shifting of his, now her body, ended and
she turned her face to the mirror above the sink. Her shock of red hair
was in disarray, but that was normal. Her slate grey eyes drooped tiredly,
and that was normal too. But there was something that was out of place
this morning, and it had nothing to do with waking up in her mother's

She carefully examined her face again. The scrutiny took several
moments before she realized what was different. There were no bags
under her eyes. She thought back to her dreams, and discovered that, for
the first time in a very long while, she had not dreamed of Akane's death.

She didn't know what to make of that. One part of her was
extremely happy that she hadn't had to relive the tragedy and shame over
again. But another part felt incredibly guilty. She should have to relive
that for the rest of her life.

Another helpless sigh escaped her lips. Shaking her head, she
reached out and filled a handy plastic cup with the heated water. The
change tugged and pulled her body to its normal, manly proportions as
Ranma restored the cup to its place next to the sink. One last look in the
mirror showed a suitably stoic young man ready to face another hellish

By the time Ranma made it to the small dojo behind the house, he
had determined that his mother was training. The sounds of her work out
didn't really come as a surprise to him, he had seen the tail end of her
morning work outs before.

She had a lot of talent, but the forms she had practiced had always
been basic, giving him the impression that she hadn't progressed as far in
her as she could have. But then again, not many mothers could be very
dedicated to the Art, not and keep their house up and cook and stuff. He
admired his mother a great deal, and that she found time to pursue things
outside of the home made her all the more special.

It had come as a pleasant surprise when he had first discovered that
she practiced the art of Kendo. It lent her an air of nobility that he hadn't
associated with his mother. She had offered to spar with him, but he
declined politely. It wasn't right to fight with one's own mother.

He slid the door of the dojo open and proceeded in. There was so
much that he didn't know about this strange, wonderful woman that loved
him so much. He was glad that they were going to have the next two years
to reacquaint themselves.

His train of thought derailed as he watched the whirlwind that was
Nodoka, dancing through an intricate kata with an elegant naginata. He
admired her skill from his place near the door for a few moments, noting
small discrepancies in her form and holes in her defenses. He could tell that
she was way better than Kuno, but then again, that wasn't saying much.

He was confident that he could take her, but then again, why would
he ever want to? This was his mom for crying out loud! He could pound
his father into fish paste any day of the week, but the day he laid a finger on
his mom would be his last! A few more minutes passed before she
stiffened slightly. Ranma could tell that she was aware of his presence.

**Shoot. I interrupted her.** The thought died as the bladed spear came
to bare, and the frenzied light in his mother's eyes sent a chill down his
spine. She smiled, warmly, and then motioned for him to join her. Ranma
smiled weakly. She motioned to him again, deepening her smile ferally.

Ranma smiled back nervously and then held up his hands to decline
the invitation. As he shook his head a cold fire entered Nodoka's eyes.



In the northern reaches of Japan, on the island of Hokkaido, there
resides a mountain range that is both revered and shunned. The Hidaka
Sammyaku range is well known for its majesty as well as its treacherous
snows. Of lesser import are the myths and legends that surround the area.
To all but the locals, the stories that surround these mountains are fairy
tales meant to intrigue the young and draw tourism to the frigid island.

Those that live in or around the mountains know all too well, that
all myths and legends are based in truth. The majority have had some
encounter with ghosts and goblins, or fairy maidens or the sons of
Dragons. The Hidaka Sammyaku had become one of the last places on
the earth, where the old ways still held sway. And other worldly forces
took advantage of it.

Fusako secretly believed as many of the locals did. Which was
what brought her to the little grove she visited every morning. It felt
special to her, and special things were not ignored.

This morning's sunrise had been spectacular, and Fusako knew that
Amaterasu-sama had something extra special planned for the day. The
golden rays seemed to reach out and touch Fusako in a warm, motherly
gesture that filled the woman with renewed strength. She hadn't felt this
energized in years.

She watched a pair of eagles float on the first warm air currents of
the day; their cries calling out to each other joyously. For an instant,
Fusako felt as if she were flying with them, free of worldly cares. With
child-like glee she cried out to them from her aerie, mimicking their joy.

<They are beautiful, are they not?>

Fusako whirled around in alarm. She had heard no one approaching
her on the path, and the loose stones of the area should have given her more
than enough warning. Fear welled up at the sight of a man wearing traditional
armor, that could easily be dated to the Gempei Wars (1), as he stood not five
meters away from her.

The man in question did not move or make any sign to impede her
progress - he didn't speak or warn her away - he just stood there watching
her. The highly polished, traditional black, war mask hid his face
completely. The only thing that was truly disconcerting to Fusako, was
the way the man's eyes glowed blue in the half light of the shadows.

A beautiful No Dachi (2) rested casually in the crook of his arm,
and Fusako had no doubt that the man knew how to use it well. There
was something in his stance that told her that this man above all else was a
veteran warrior. She concluded that it was in her best interests not to
provoke him.

She knew that there was no way that she would survive a conflict
with this man, but she also knew that his armor was heavy. She was in
excellent condition and could easily make it back to the house before him.

<I bare you no ill Kaze no Koe.> (3) his manner was relaxed, and
surprisingly non-threatening. He simply stood his ground in the shadows
of the trees watching her.

Mustering her courage, she bowed formally to the warrior. If the
guy was going to take advantage of her he would have done so by now.
She hoped. To her utter surprise and pleasure, the warrior returned her
bow; descending just a little lower, according her the greater respect.
When he completed his bow, he motioned her to approach.

With trepidation that she hoped didn't show too much, Fusako
quickly walked forward until the warrior motioned for her to stop. They
were spaced two meters apart, and his eyes had brightened from a blue to
a bright white that illuminated the shadows of the forested path.

<Fusako Kaiko.> A rich, baritone voice addressed her telepathically. She
hadn't realized before then that he hadn't spoken out loud. It was a
startling experience for her, one that made her very uncomfortable. This
was straight out of the stuff that she taught in her classes! <Your
determination and fortitude do you family honor. You have sought the
Akai Hane no Musha (4), and you have found them. I must ask you now,
what are your intentions?>

Sought? When had she been seeking anything?

<Have you not sought renewal here on Yasshii-san? When you were a
child, did you not chase shadows in the hopes of finding us?> She nodded
dumbly. Before her stood a being who had walked out of her childhood
dreams. The secret kind that you hide as an adult and are afraid to
disclose, because you're afraid you'll look stupid.

The kind that you silently hope will one day be fulfilled.

She knew that she couldn't hide the truth from this being. If half of
the legends about Spirit Men were true, then he had already looked into
her soul and judged her. The only reason that she had been granted this
audience, was because she had been either judged worthy or harmless.

<You are correct on both accords Kaiko-san.> The man's handsome voice
in her mind confirmed her fears. She sighed and looked bravely up into
the man's eyes. Rather than speak aloud, she tried to project her thoughts.

<I've (meFusakoKaiko) always (SinceIWasAlittleGirlSnottyNoseAndAll)
wished (DesiredNeededWantedMoreThanAnything) to learn
(AbsorbBecomeAPartofUnifyMyselfWithYourCulture) from you

The masked warrior coughed gently. The light in his eyes turned an
interesting shade of pink, and he had a little difficulty speaking.

<Come then Fusako Kaiko. Learn of the Akai Hane no Musha.> There
was an interesting mix of embarrassment, mixed with curiosity and
excitement underlying his sending. The emotions faded away as the two
figures were absorbed into the shadows of the forest.


Author's notes:

1. Gempei Wars - Traditionally, a number of battles that amounted to civil
war. The battles started in 1156 with a dispute that arose over succession
to the throne, between the existing Emperor (Go-Shirakawa) and the
"Cloistered Emperor" Sotoku. - information taken from: "Arms and
Armor of the Samurai - the history of weapons in ancient Japan";
Bottomly & Hopson, Crescent Books, 1995.

2. No Dachi - A great sword, typically 5'-7' long. Shaped like any other
Katana, the No-Dachi is the Japanese version of the Claymore.

3. Kaze no Koe - Voice of the Wind

4. Akai Hane no Musha - Spirits/Souls of the Red Wing

Saotome Dojo, Juuban

Nodoka watched the boy before her with amusement. He was
definitely a brave Mongol, she had to give him that. It took a rare kind of
courage to face a superior opponent unarmed as he did. Rather than take
him as a slave, she felt that a quick death was a more worthy fate for the
bold youth.

She motioned for him to engage her, but the upstart declined! How
dare he insult her honor like that! She would teach him what it meant to be
a true warrior! She waited a moment longer before commencing her


Ranma watched his mother intently, waiting for her to attack. She
wasn't relenting, and Ranma knew that he had insulted her. He sighed
heavily and set himself in a loose ready stance. This wasn't going to be one
of his typical sparing sessions, but then again change was good.

It kept the skills sharp, and that is what he needed most right now.
He had made a vow to Akane's lifeless body that he would perfect his Art,
so that he would never fail anyone else again. It was time to start making
good on that promise. He just wished that his mother wasn't so dead set
on this.

Nodoka exploded into motion before him, forcing all of his
attention back to her. She was pushing him; testing his defenses. The
naginata danced in and out of cunning combinations that pressed Ranma
back toward the wall of the dojo. She was fast and Ranma could plainly
see where he had inherited that trait from. He watched as she clinically
herded him into the wall. Her form was flawless, making it difficult for
him to slip past her defenses. There was no way that he was going to
touch his mother, but that didn't mean that he was going to let her win.

In a dazzling display of acrobatics, Ranma launched his body into a
tight back flip that narrowly avoided Nodoka's blade. His body quickly
unfolded as he came to the wall. His powerful legs bunched as they
touched down onto the flat surface, only to propel him to the opposite
wall when he flexed. He pushed from the second wall, toward the third,
building his speed and momentum.

Each pass caused Nodoka to stagger, not from blows but from the
dizzying display. She couldn't believe the agility that this Mongol had
demonstrated. **He must be a sorcerer.** She thought grimly. It
explained why he didn't carry a weapon. **Well, there are ways to deal
with sorcerers.** There was something nagging at the back of Nodoka's
mind, but she thoroughly ignored it.

She knew that the blade would be of no use. Sorcerers were
notorious for their ability to heal miraculously. What she needed was to
break his concentration. If he couldn't think, he couldn't cast. The
difficult part was in reading his pattern. He moved randomly and used the
terrain to his advantage. She smiled as inspiration struck. He was
reluctant to hit a woman. She might not have been able to read the pattern
of his attack, but she could engage him in another way.


Ranma watched in horror as his mother stepped into his trajectory
at the last instant. He tried his best to avoid bowling her over, and in doing
so lined himself up for a blow to the head.

It landed quickly and with a good amount of muscle behind it too.
The large crack, accompanied by the sharp pain in his head, told him that
he would be sporting a nice bruise to school today. His head was going to
be ringing for a large portion of the morning too. He silently thanked
Akane for conditioning his skull to take a good amount of punishment. If
she hadn't, that blow might have split his head wide open.

He was surprised to find himself grinning. The workout had lifted
his spirits a great deal. He hadn't moved very fast nor had he learned any
new technique, it was simply the fact that he had been able to let loose for
a while. All of this introspection was giving him a stomachache.


Nodoka felt the jarring as her blow struck. She had never before
felt a blow strike an opponent. It was enough to upset her fantasy. There
a few feet away from her, was her beloved son rubbing vigorously at the
side of his head. The grin that was plastered happily across his face was
enough to tell her that he was going to be okay.

Embarrassment surged within her. She had lost herself to the
fantasy, and had almost hurt her son. But the look that she received from
Ranma burned some of the mortification away. His eyes were filled with a
deep respect that honored her.

With practiced ease, Ranma flipped himself off of the floor. He
settled himself casually, and then with solemn decorum, he bowed deeply
to her at the waist. She returned his bow with all the grace that she could
muster. The smile on her son's face infected her as she brought her gaze
back up to meet his.

"That was great Mom!" He said enthusiastically, rubbing his head.
Nodoka blushed at his comment, but accepted it with candor.

"Thank you Ranma." She watched him happily as he seemed to
regain some of his old swagger. An idea began to form in her mind that
would not only help him, but would hopefully bring in some extra money
on the side.

"No problem. I mean who woulda thought that my mom could be a
good fighter?" Nodoka beamed beneath the praise. "I always thought
that you were, . . . you know, like other normal, moms." The smile
progressively slid from her face.

"Oh?" She asked uninterestedly. There was a gleam in her eye
that, had Ranma been more observant, would have sent chills of dread
down his spine. A false cheerfulness asserted itself as she continued.
"And how is that?"

"You know, cooking and cleaning all day, watching soap operas and stuff.
Never doing anything fun."

"Is that all that you think a mother does Ranma?"

"Well, yeah. Ain't it?" Ranma stood stock still, as Nodoka loomed before
him. He fidgeted nervously, not knowing any better. He smiled flaccidly
and shrugged.

Nodoka took a deep, measured, breath and released it. All that she
said in response to Ranma's prolific insight to the fairer sex was; "I see."
Ranma released the breath that he'd been holding and relaxed notably. For
the second time that morning, Nodoka lashed out at her son with a
devastating blow. The effect was dramatically humiliating for the boy.

He flipped up high into the air, as Nodoka's naginata swept his feet
out from underneath him. He squawked indignantly, and plummeted to
the unforgiving floor of the dojo. He opened his eyes to find a very sharp
blade pricking his throat. He gulped down a nervous swallow, and looked
into his mother's disappointed gaze.

"We will begin your re-education tomorrow morning." There was no room
to hedge, or contend with the woman that brought him into the world. All
that he could do was nod his head in acquiescence. She removed the blade
and held out her hand to her son, who reluctantly accepted it. They both
returned to the house and began preparing breakfast in silence.

Juuban, 7:30 a.m.

Ami walked through the small gate of the Saotome compound, and
approached the door. From somewhere above her she heard Ranma
yelling, followed quickly by a sharp reproach from Nodoka. The
conversation was suppressed by the house. The long moment of silence
that ensued was broken by a scream from Ranma.

SCHOOL!" Nodoka's voice rose again, but was still muffled by the
meddlesome home. "NO WAY AM I WEARIN' A DRESS TO
SCHOOL! AND THAT'S FINAL!" A window abruptly opened above
Ami, and the offending garment landed squarely atop her head.

A smirk formed on Ami's lips at the idea of Ranma-kun wearing a
regulation, Juuban High School, girl's uniform to school. It was too much
for her to keep locked in, causing her to laugh out loud. The sound
attracted the attentions of the feuding parent and child. Ranma blushed a
deep crimson and with a violent grumble withdrew his head, back into the
house. Nodoka smiled sweetly.

"Please come in and make yourself at home Ami-chan, I will be right down.
Ranma and I are discussing his wardrobe." The smile deepened
mischievously causing Ami to giggle again. Ranma's mortified cry
resounded throughout the neighborhood.


"Really Ranma, it's only a dress. It's not as if you haven't worn one
before." Ami heard Nodoka say as she turned back into the room.
Ranma's reply cracked a ceramic planter at the base of the steps.


Ami shook her head at the poor young man's plight and let herself
into the house.


End Chapter Three