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Sailor Ranko

A Ranma 1/2 / Sailor Moon Novel

Copyright 1999-2008, Duncan "Fire" Zillman

Edited by Rebecca Ann Heineman

All characters belong to someone else. They're not mine, so please don'tsue me, this is not for profit.

This story is set after Sailor Moon S, but prior to Sailor MoonSailor Stars. Assume that some time has passed, and that the Senshi have agedto about sixteen (aside from the obvious exceptions of Hotaru / Saturn andSetsuna / Pluto. The Ranma characters are their normal age (sixteen). Thishappens prior to volume 33 of the Ranma Manga and before Ranma is revealed toNodoka...

Thanks go to my pre-readers:

Kevin D. Hammel

Please distribute this work free, unaltered and crediting the author.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Chapter 1, Life In Juuban

Ranma stared out the window of the train and stubbornly refused to acknowledgeAkane's presence. Akane in turn refused to acknowledge Ranma's. Of all the badideas that their parents have had, this possibly had to be the worst. Sure,they could send Ranma off for a training trip, but why send Akane too? Ranmathought back on just how stupid his old man was. At least he hadn't engaged himto someone new this time.

"Boy, someday you will be the master of the Saotome School of Anything Goes MartialArts. When that day comes you must be prepared to take over the dojo."

"Sure, Pops, no problem."

Genma hit his son over the ear. "Be quiet and listen to what I'm saying. Beingable to fight is just the first step; a step that you're mastering well. Butyou must be capable of teaching whatyou know. And that requires brains. Brains, which you don't use."

Ranma glared at his father and prepared to hit him. From nowhere Soun appeared andjoined in on the argument. "Take it like a man, Ranma. You can fight butyou can't teach. Genma and I have made an arrangement with an old friend inTokyo. You will stay at his dojo, and he will begin to teach you what we cannotabout how to be a sensei."

Ranmabowed his head. He had to admit, they might be right for once. He knew therewas a lot to know about teaching; he just assumed that he would pick it up aseasily as anything else related to Martial Arts. Mind you, Cologne had taughthim so many secret techniques, maybe their "old friend" could teachhim the secret techniques of being a sensei. Besides, some time away from highschool and that uncute macho tomboy can't hurt. "OK, Pops, Mr. Tendo, I'lldo it. Hah! I'll be back here in no time!"

Genmabellowed as if he really knew what he was talking about. "Not so fast,boy. Didn't you realize that to be a fully recognized fitness instructor thesedays, you need qualifications? No? I didn't think so. This is why we've alsofound you a tutor at your new school. She's in your class, but everybody saysthat she's extremely smart, so she should have no problem teaching the likes ofyou."

Ranmajumped to his feet. I still have to go toschool? "No way! I don't need no tutor!"

GrabbingRanma's head, his father held Ranma's face into the report card that had comethrough recently, thanks to a home visit by Ranma's pint sized homeroomteacher, Miss Hinako. Each letter grade was covered in sad faces written incrayon. "Look at these grades. You passed, but only just. For shame, Boy,for shame!"

Witha flip, the elder Saotome crossed the room and slammed into the wall upsidedown. "And whose fault is that? If I didn't have all these fiancéeshanging off me, bugging me all the time, there'd be no problems. But, nooooo. SOMEONE had to get me engaged fivetimes over. Didn't they, POP!"

Soungrabbed Ranma's shirt and began to sob. "Waahh, I know Ranma. But that'swhy we're sending you to another part of Tokyo. Get away from the fiancées; getaway from the distractions and fights. Sob, sob! Oh, Ranma. Say you'll go.Juuban High will be perfect for you."

Pullingaway from the fountaining man before the water could trigger his curse, Ranmagave in. "All right, OKAYalready! Just so I can get some peace and quiet."

Bothfathers cheered up and smiled, patting him on the back. "Well done, Ranma!The next four months will pass so quickly; we'll hardly notice you're gone.We'll just tell everyone that you and Akane have gone to Hokkaido. Take care ofmy little girl."

Witha burst of anger, Ranma grabbed his father. "WHAT! If you think I'm going anywhere for four months with thattomboy, you've got another thing coming."

"Boy,you agreed to this, have you no honor?" SPLASH! Mr. Panda looked up from the Koi pond snarling.

"Sorry,Pop. Were you going to say something?"

From behind Ranma, came an angry voice. "Tomboy? Ranma, you jerk!" WHAM!

Driftingback to the present, Ranma looked around as he noticed the train slowing."Hey, Akane. It's our stop."

Withouta word, Akane grabbed her things and left the carriage. Ranma simply lookedaround and threw up his hands "What did I do this time?"

Jadeitesmiled and looked around. While everyone thought him dead, he had been toopowerful for Queen Beryl to easily destroy. When her final attack had come, hehad moved with the power of the magic. Instead of being forever destroyed, hehad been banished to this small proto-universe. Rather than being the massiveaffair he was used to, with galaxies and overlapping dimensions, this universehad but a single dimension, and all that it contained was a single sun; acomplete, stable universe. All the mass in existence was within easy reach.

Inthe years since his defeat he had spent his time and energy well. Since theuniverse was completely uninhabited by any others than himself, there werelittle of the life force energies needed for most magical spells. He did havecompletely uncontested sources of solar, geothermal, tidal and any other formof purely mundane power, however.

Hehad taken this power and his carefully husbanded supplies of life force tocreate vast machines to tap more energy. With this, he began to raise his newarmy. Over the course of two years, Jadeite developed a new level of youma. Hisnew creations had more power, discipline and armor than ever before. He alsomade them in greater numbers than the short sighted Beryl would ever allow.

Jadeitehad learned his lessons well. In the original invasion of the Moon Kingdom, theDark Kingdom had commanded a huge army, an army that not even the combinedmight of the Sailor Senshi could fight at the peak of their powers. When Berylhad commanded their forces to attack, they were under prepared, and the Senshihad destroyed them, forcing loss after loss despite the best of his plans.

NowJadeite had an army, a secure base of operations and a place from which tolaunch his strike. His only problem was that the spell needed to bridge the gapfrom his universe to the one he wished to conquer required vast quantities oflife force. For now, he would send through his scouts, and then he would gatherthe power from the people of Earth. Soon his army would crush all resistancebefore him.

Openingthe portal, Jadeite sent through the first of his scouts. Scouts, which werethe last of the youma he had brought with him when Beryl had tried to kill him.

Amiand Usagi walked down the street from school. They were both headed back toAmi's place for the night. Since the defeat of Queen Beryl, the Black Moon Clanand finally the Death Busters, attacks by demons had fallen to an almostnon-existent level. So low in fact, that Usagi had enough time to study thatshe even managed to pass everything without too much difficulty. The onlyproblem with few attacks was that Makoto was beginning to start fighting atschool again. The Senshi managed to help this by letting Jupiter take the bruntof the occasional demon attack whenever they could.

"Hey,Ami! You wanna go out for ice-cream tomorrow morning?"

Amilooked a bit down at the suggestion, "Sorry, Usagi, I can't. I'm going tobe tutoring a transfer student for the next few months, and since tomorrow isSunday, he's coming over."

Usagilooked really sad for a moment, her lip trembling. She could fight youma in thename of the Moon for all eternity, but any rejection from her friends made herwant to cry. Seeing the impending flood, Ami patted her on the back, "Comeon, I'll race you home!"

Tearsforgotten, the friends raced down the street, failing to see the light blueflash as a youma popped into existence behind them. The youma had bigger fishto fry than a pair of running schoolgirls. Searching for its partner, theydecided it was time to check the state of the Sailors. One youma would hide,and then return to Jadeite after watching the battle. The other would openlyattack some people for their energy. When the Sailor Senshi arrived - as theysurely would - the scout would be killed. But to kill it, the Senshi would needto attack, and when they did that, the youma could see what powers they hadgained in the last two years.

Akaneand Ranma were almost at the dojo where they would be staying when Akane brokethe silence. "Ranma, I'm sorry about being so cross with you all day. It'sjust, well, I hate it when our fathers force this sort of thing on us."

Shockedby her almost-apology, Ranma hesitated. When he caught her watching him, herealized that perhaps he should respond. "Um, Yeah. Same here. Look, justcause we‚Äôre gunna be together for the next four months, don't mean we gottabe... um... you know... I mean, we can say we're each other's, uh, fiancée andstuff, but, I mean, let's not go overboard."

Akanestiffened at that. Then she calmed. She knew she liked him, but she was neversure if he felt the same. At least he had offered to be acknowledged as her fiancée.She thought back to some of the times Mikado wanted to kiss her: 'Akane is MY fiancée. Lay one lip on her andI'll kill you.' This was an improvement over that, sort of. Then, he hadjust been defending her and now he was willing to admit his relationship inpublic. "I know what you mean. Have you decided what you're going to tellpeople about your curse?"

Ranmashrugged and tried to look nonchalant. "Nothing. I was sorta hoping wecould do the old Ranma and Ranko thing again. I just don't want to run into momand have people call me by my name and, well, you know. It's only gonna be forfour months... Would... would you mind helping?"

Akanesmiled. She'd have to try the cold shoulder technique more often. They hadactually spoken several whole sentences to each other without him sayingsomething stupid. Incredible. "Sure. But how about Mr. Miyagi? If we'reliving with him, he'll find out eventually."

Ranmagrinned down at her and with a flourish reached into his pack, pulled out apair of small bottles. "Thermos flasks. I stick one in my room, and hideone outside the dojo. If I top them up every day, I can get to hot waterwithout a problem."

Akanewas stunned. Ranma had actually thought of something like that himself. Shecould hardly believe it. "Wow, that's really clever. Getting you away fromall of Shampoo's and Kodachi's drugs seems to have sharpened your mind."

Ranmastuck his tongue out, and then ran down the street as she chased him, laughing.

Mr.Miyagi watched his two new pupils with great interest. Both were just seventeenand looked like the sort of impressionable kids he had been training back inAmerica. This was really why he had returned to Japan. Americans had norespect. Americans had no talent. Americans had... He could go on forever. Atleast these two already knew something of the Art, and if the boy's father wasto be believed, young Ranma was actually quite talented.

Aftershowing them where they could sleep, he took them out to the dojo for a quicksparing session. If he could judge their fighting ability, then he could planhow to train them. The fight went like every other session that Akane and Ranmahad. She kicked, punched, and struck at him as fast as she could. He justdodged.

WhenAkane started to get angry, Ranma simply leapt over her and touched her back."Come on, Akane. Your getting even slower."

Theycontinued in this vein for a while, until Miyagi called them to a halt. "Akane,you're very good. Rarely have I ever seen a girl who could fight as well asyou. While Miyagi-do is a powerful Art, I can only teach you few things you donot already know. I am afraid that most of my students have been new to theArt, and needed to learn a great deal in a greater hurry."

Akanesmiled and basked in his comment. She couldn't remember the last time anyonehad actually said she was good at something. She began to drift off, recitinghis words to herself again when she heard him continue talking to Ranma."But you, Ranma. You show great talent in dodging, but you never attack.The best defense in the world will never win you a fight. Why do you not attackher?"

Ranmalooked at the floor. "Well, Sensei, she's a girl. And she's my fiancée. Ican't hurt Akane. I mean she might be a violent tomboy, and a macho uncutechick, but she's still a girl."

Akanesnarled and pulled a mallet out of nowhere. While Miyagi watched, she yelled atRanma, chasing him around the dojo, hitting him much more often than she didduring training. Finally, she smashed his head into the wall of the dojo,shattering the wood with his face. "Humph."

Mr.Miyagi watched this match in much greater awe. He had seen some great fighters,but he had never seen anyone take so much damage in such a short space of time.If she kept this up, her fiancée would be lucky to survive a week. When Ranmagroaned and pulled his head out of the wall, Mr. Miyagi almost fell over. That was impossible. No one could receivethose sorts of hits and not be hospitalized. But there he was, standing up,just lightly bruised. He was even apologizing for the unsightly behavior of hisfiancée.

Akanemalleted him again, knocking him to the floor. Perhaps there was hope for this pair... "Akane. I need tospeak to Ranma alone. Would you like to take a bath? We will be inshortly."

Akanebowed and left. When she was safely gone, Ranma stopped playing atunconsciousness and stood up, looking for the entire world like he had justwalked in, rather than looking like an accident victim. "Ranma. This istraining. I understand that you do not like to fight girls, especially yourbeloved fiancée, but this is only training. If you expect to run a dojo someday, you must be able to fight and train the girls that you teach. Rememberthis: the best way for them not to get hit in combat is for them to get hit intraining. Akane's attack is very good, but her defense is not. "You willchange this. Each day the two of you will practice in the morning before school.When you train, you will hit her. It does not need to be hard, but it must beserious. Some day she may need to fight for real - although I doubt it, fewpeople ever really need to fight. And if you do not hurt her now, she will behurt worse or possibly killed. Do you want that?"

Fora moment, Ranma looked terrified. Then his gaze steadied, and his facialfeatures firmed with resolve. "Yeah, Mr. Miyagi. I... I just don't like tohurt her... I'd do anything so she wouldn't get hurt."

"Good.It is like a doctor. Sometimes we must do things that hurt to make thingsbetter. Now, before I begin to teach you to be a proper Sensei, can you show mehow to fix that hole you made in the wall?" His eyes moved toward the holethen back to his student, and he gave a look of displeasure at the mess thatwas made in his dojo.

Ranmagrinned. "Sure. We do this sort of thing all the time at home, err, Mr.Tendo's dojo. I'll have it fixed in a jiffy."

Mr.Miyagi held up his hand. "No, show me. I need to know this so I can fixthe dojo in the future. I am not much of a carpenter."

Ranmalooked around then waved at the hole. "Well, just get a few bits of wood,then put them in the right place, it's easy."

Pattingthe taller boy on the shoulder, Mr. Miyagi led him into the house. "Thinkon it tonight. Tomorrow, you can show me."

Ranmaasked. "I was wondering something. How do you know my pop and Mr.Tendo?"

Mr.Miyagi replied sheepishly. "I met their master many years ago. He taughtme a technique called 'Paint Fence'. Sadly, it was used only to repay debtsthat he owed to a bra factory." He added smugly, thinking about a formerpupil he once taught. "I was able to use that and other techniques like itto much better use."

Ranma raised an eyebrow and was about to ask more, but Mr. Migayi returned a look onhis face that warned Ranma that he wouldn't speak of this again.

Rei had been feeling nervous for the last few days. Something bad was going tohappen soon. She didn't know what it was, but it was bad. Calming her mind, shedecided the best thing to do was try a fire reading. Minako was coming overshortly; perhaps Rei could discuss whatever she saw with her teammate.

Building up the fire, Rei found her focus then looked into the fire and saw... fire.Sighing, she tried again, but all she saw was fire. Perhaps I'm losing the ability, or maybe I'm just too worried.Meditating for a few minutes, Rei opened her eyes and looked into the fire yetagain.

All she saw initially was the fire, but then something more. It wasn't the firethat she was seeing; it was the imageof fire. That was what the reading was showing. Subtle hints showed otherthings. Taking hold of the image, she dredged for more information. Imagesmoved through the flames, the first being a red haired girl. She looked likeshe was fighting something, but Rei couldn't see what. Trying to remember herface, Rei look onwards. She must beimportant, but who is she?

Next came the Senshi. All of them, fighting again, side by side, all surrounded byflames, and they looked like they were losing. The images stopped.

Breathing deeply, Rei checked the time and was startled to see Minako coming into thesmall courtyard to join her. Standing, Rei quenched the fire. "Sorry,Minako. The reading took longer than I expected."

Explaining what she saw, and her feelings of dread, Rei found that Artemis had spoken ofsome strange red haired girl also. She couldn't be a Sailor, since all of themwere accounted for. Could she be the cause of the feelings of dread and fire?

After training with Akane in the morning, Ranma led Mr. Miyagi out to the dojo toteach him about fixing walls. Repairs were something he was almost as good atas fighting. And since he still couldn't really hit Akane, perhaps he wasactually better at fixing than fighting.

Grabbing a couple of planks he had cut to length, he placed them in the hole that he hadtrimmed. Nailing them in place, he showed the old man how well they fitted.Sitting back on his heels, he surveyed his work. Lovely.

"Not so good." Miyagi kicked his foot through the wall, destroying the repairs."How can I repair it myself if you plug good wood into a perfect hole?Show me again."

Aftera moderately successful tutoring session with Ranma, Ami heard Rei and Minakoarrive. While she finished up the last problems with her student, they could beheard talking to another girl who had arrived at the same time.

Headingdownstairs, Ami introduced Ranma to her friends, and Ranma introduced Akane toAmi. Akane was a bit mad about this. It's bad enough that he's got a girl for atutor, but does she have to be so cute? Smiling nicely, she began to chat, andfound that Ami was actually too nice a person to bear a grudge against.

Afterchatting for fifteen minutes, Usagi arrived, late as usual. "Sorryeverybody. I tripped and hurt my knee. Are we still going for ice cream?"

Akaneand Ranma perked up at this, then Ranma looked a bit sheepish. Guys don't eat icecream. Seeing the look on the face of Ami's student's fiancée, Rei piped up:"Say, do you two want to come with us for some ice-cream?" Rei addedsilently to herself, why were all thecute guys already taken?

Akaneclapped her hands and immediately nodded her head. Even Ranma wanted to nod,but instead, he got a strange grin on his face. "Listen, I can't come, butif you wait a few minutes, Akane's cousin will be coming here to meet us too.She must be running a bit late. I'll head off now, and if I run into her, I'llhurry her up."

Whenthe girls nodded their assent, Ranma ran for the door. As soon as he wasoutside, he looked for a handy hose. Typically, there's never cold water whenyou need it. After a few minutes searching, a woman wringing her washing outthe window drenched him. After growling at her to be careful, she sprinted backto Ami's.

Steppinginto the room, Ranko looked around smiling. "Hi, I'm Ranko Tendo. Pleasedto meet you!"

Reisimply fainted.

Rankostood there, nonplussed. "What's her problem?" She silently thoughtto herself for a moment while the other girls woke up Rei; Oh, please don't let her be someone Pops owes money to.

Atthe ice cream parlor, everyone watched in awe as Ranko shoveled away twomassive sundaes. Leaning over, Akane whispered in her ear. "You know,Ranma, it's bad enough that you had to change to do this. If your going to looklike a girl, at least try and eat like one."

Ranmaglared back at her, obviously wanting to say something in retaliation, but thepresence of the other girls precluded that. Rei kept giving Ranko quietglances, and whispering to the other Senshi. They weren't sure what it was, butthis girl was more than she appeared, and there was something serious going onhere.

Akanewas almost finished her ice cream when she looked at her watch and screamed."Oh, my god! Mr. Miyagi will kill me! I'm late. I'm late! Ranm-Ranko, canyou pay for this? I've got to go!"

Ina blur, Akane leapt over their table and raced out of the restaurant. Rankomerely grabbed her ice cream and made sure she got to eat it before the others.Noticing everyone's gaze on her, Ranko looked up. "Well, if I'm paying forit, I'm eating it!"

Amijust looked at her. How on earth couldshe keep a figure like that when she ate some much? "Where's yourcousin off to?"

"Oh,she's got remedial lessons with our new sensei. Clumsy tomboy can't evenfight."

Everyonejust stopped and stared. Ranko was mocking Akane because she was takingadvanced classes in Martial Arts? "Are you sure it's wise to pick on herif she's the one studying Martial Arts?"

Rankoleaned back and laughed so hard she almost fell off her chair. "Hah! Akanecouldn't hit me on the best day of her life. That's why Mr. Miyagi is teachingher."

Minakonudged Usagi in the ribs. "Say, Ranko. Do you want to go for a walk for abit and then have dinner at my place? If we drop over to Usagi's, we can getsome stuff and then invite Akane and Ranma."

Rankogrinned. "Hmm, dinner. OK, but... um... I think Ranma's still going to bebusy. So I'll eat his share, OK?"

Minakogrinned. Perfect. First Usagi's house to get Luna, then when she and Artemiswere together, they may be able to get some advice on Rei's fire reading. Afterpaying for the ice cream, the friends set off to look around the city and showRanko the sights. Apparently she was just visiting her cousin for a while.

Theywere all walking down a wide street, looking at some clothes (much to Ranma'sdisgust, but hey, this was a free meal we're talking about). A terrible screamrent the air, and a wave of foul odor washed over them. Near the end of thestreet, some sort of hideous monster had leapt out of the alley, and wasstarting to hit people and destroy cars.

Rankoimmediately pushed the girls behind her. "And I wanted to get away fromthis sort of thing. Go get help for these people. I'll deal with that thing."

Boundingforward, Ranko started yelling at the youma, trying to draw its attention, andlure it to a nearby mall. The Senshi were stunned for a moment. This crazy girlwas going to get herself killed! This thing looked like one of the youmaJadeite used to send at them during Queen Beryl's attempt at world conquest. Itwould be a challenge for any one of them as a Senshi, and this girl had justrun to attack it! Usagi took charge for a change, grabbing her transformationbrooch and running to an alley. "We can't let it kill Ranko! Let's transform!"

Noneof the running people noted the flashing lights, which emanated from the alleyas the four girls called for the greater powers. Magically their clotheschanged, and the four sailor suited warriors for peace burst onto the scene.

Rankohad successfully lured the youma to more open ground: a plaza in the middle ofthe street. While the youma's four tentacles kept striking at Ranko, she dodgedand flipped under them, occasionally moving in for a few lightning quickpunches which sent the monster reeling, but accomplished little else, andtaking a few blows in the process.

WhenSailor Moon arrived, she struck a pose, and the monster briefly halted. As muchas it liked fighting the human girl, it wanted to kill the Senshi. "Storesare there for all people to enjoy. To destroy them and hurt people is a thingof evil. Now the beautiful sailor suited warriors: Sailor Moon."




"Shallpunish you in the name of the Moon!"

Rankotook a moment to catch her breath as the stupid monster watched the SailorSenshi. This monster was tougher than she thought. She had seen the Senshi onthe news before, and always thought they were wimps, but if they fought thiskind of thing as often as they did, she was willing to cut them some slack fortheir silly clothes and speeches. Sailor Moon seemed like she must have thesame scriptwriter as Kuno.

WhenMoon was coming to the end of her speech, Ranko watched the monster turn toface them, and ignore her completely. Fine,then. If that's the way you like it. I'll teach you to ignore me for some sillylooking girls.


SailorMercury was just preparing to launch a Shabon Spray Freezing when a blue boltslammed into the side of the youma, blasting off a tentacle, and knocking thebeast to the ground. All of the Senshi hesitated for a moment as Ranko preparedto unleash another attack.

Marsyelled as she advanced to cast her spell: "Sailor Mercury! Find out whatthat was! BURNING MANDALA!"

Evenas Mars was speaking, Mercury was dropping her hands from casting her own spelland got out her computer. Venus immediately moved forward to guard her, andMoon joined Ranko and Mars, then launched her own attack.

Ranko'ssecond attack was nowhere near as effective as her first, since the youma wasnow prepared for it. By the time her third ki attack struck, the Senshi werefinishing the job. Their powers had improved since they last faced a demon ofthis quality. Three to one - and with Ranko's help - they quickly defeated it.

Whenthe youma dissolved into a messy puddle on the street, the four Senshiconverged on Ranko, who began to look at them nervously. "Err, did I dosomething wrong? Or, uh, did you want me to clean that up?" She hoped thelast part wasn't the case, since that stuff smelled really bad.

SailorMoon looked at the girl, who seemed a bit worried at being the focus of some ofTokyo's most potent defenders. "Miss, we need to talk to you about whatjust happened. Can you spare a moment?"

Rankothought for a second. She had the worst feeling that she knew these people, andshe wanted to find out more about that monster. "OK, but you'll have totell my friends where I am, they should be hiding in the mall, or maybe theywent to call for help."

Venussmiled. "They ran into us. I'll go off and tell them you're OK... theymust be worried. Back soon."

WhenVenus left, Moon jumped to a rooftop, and motioned for Mars and Mercury to holdRanko and follow her. Much to their surprise, before they could even touch her,she leapt up and stood beside Sailor Moon. "Lead the way."

Althoughthey had to keep their speed down slightly, the Senshi were amazed at the speedwhich Ranko could maintain as they bounced across the rooftops. Moon led theway, with Mercury behind Ranko. The other two Senshi had headed off already andwere gathering Luna, Artemis and their teammates.

Theywere headed to a small park not far from Usagi's home, and all the way SailorMercury kept looking at her computer, marveling at the readings she getting.The Senshi were magically enhanced so that they were stronger and faster thanordinary humans, so they simply took long, fast steps. This enabled them tosprint across the roofs of buildings, with the occasional jump over streets andalleys.

Rankoon the other hand showed only the slightest of magical aura, but there wasassuredly some burst of energy every time the girl launched herself off theroof of a building. Instead of running like they did, Ranko simply bounced. Her feet hardly touched theroof before the computer registered a brief flash of energy in her, and sheleapt to the next roof. All in all, it was a remarkable performance.

Whenthey arrived in the park, Ranko looked around nervously. She had been runningat her best speed - using her ki to boost her jumps - and apparently the Senshihad been fast enough to outrun her and bring in reinforcements. Well, eight to one was a little bit of aworry. Best to keep her avenues of retreat open until she found out whatwas going on. All that Ranko knew about the Senshi was what appeared in thenews, and that wasn't much. She knew they enjoyed killing demons, and apparentlythey had been involved in some sort of inter-dimensional war. Ranko was aMartial Artist, and while she was happy to beat up monsters, she still didn'tlike to kill them. As a matter of fact, she felt concerned that the monsterthey fought today was the first creature that she had ever helped kill. As faras she was concerned, there was a fine line between killing monsters andcreatures from another dimension, and killing seventeen year olds like her.

Rankowasn't particularly keen on the Sailor Senshi.

Landingnear the group of girls, Ranko looked them over, and they looked her over. Itwas Moon who finally spoke. "I am Sailor Moon, and these are the SailorSenshi: the beautiful sailor suited soldiers for love and justice. We areextremely grateful for what you did. We just have a few questions which mayhelp us in the future."

StudyingMoon's face intensely, she didn't look at the others directly. There wassomething wrong here. She was not sure what it was, but something was appealingto her instincts. 'Run' it was sayingquietly. Not knowing what she should be afraid of, Ranko stayed, but she stayedtense and ready to fight or run. Spreading her palms, Ranko blinked and actedinnocent. "Ask whatever you like."

ImmediatelySailor Mercury stepped forward and held up her computer. Its screen showed animage of Ranko blasting the youma with a Moko Takabisha. "As you realize,the Sailors are magically endowed with our powers. My computer can detect anyform of magic, but I still don't know what it was that you did to the youma.Would you care to explain it?"

Rankolaughed nervously. As the Senshi gathered around to hear her answer, she feltmore and more nervous. Ranko tried backing up a step or two. "It wasnothing, just a ki manipulation technique. Anything else?"

Everyonenoticed Ranko's nervousness. She would charge a youma - a killing machine fromanother dimension - but she was afraid of the good guys? Moon was about to askfor a clarification when she felt something touch her leg. Looking down, shesaw Luna look at her. "Meow?"

Lunawas so smart. Every girl liked cats. If she showed Luna to Ranko, the girlmight relax a bit. She was just bending down when Ranko moved. Back-pedalingfuriously, her eyes grew to the size of saucers and she pointed with a shakinghand. "C - C - C- Caaaaaaats! Caaaats!"

Afteranother moment's hesitation, Ranko turned and ran, sprinting across the park.Immediately the Senshi took after her, trying to find out what the problem was,but they could hardly keep up. She made it all the way across the park before abuilding stopped her. It wasn't the concrete wall that stopped her, she justran straight through it. It was the steel pole behind the wall. Ranko blackedout.

Everyonegathered around and looked at the girl. Sailor Uranus touched the Ranko shapedhole in the wall in shock. "She just ran straight through it! I don'tbelieve it! I mean, we could, because we're Sailors, but she... she just ranthrough it!"

Moonand Venus patted their cats while Sailor Saturn examined the girl. "She'sjust unconscious. How about we go back to your place, Sailor Moon? Isn't itclose to here?"

Moonnodded in agreement. "Yeah, my dad is still at work and mom and my dumbbrother are in Yokohama at some video game convention he likes. We can havesome privacy tonight."

Heftingthe unconscious Ranko, they ran. On the way, Luna made a wise decision."Sailor Moon, I fear that your friend is frightened of us. I don't knowwhy, but if you wish to talk to her in your room, then we will wait outside.Perhaps you'll be able to get more information that way."

WithRanko lying on Usagi's bed, Sailor Saturn placed a hand on Ranko's forehead. Inmoments Ranko regained consciousness and looked around. Her fear was gone, andRanko felt relieved. It must have been the cats. Even if she could not seethem, Ranko could sense the presence of a cat in the same room as her. Catsinvariably could sense her too, because they would seek her out.

Sittingon the edge of the bed, Ranko looked up at the Senshi, who had spreadthemselves around the room and were relaxing on various pieces of furniture asthough they owned the place. Then she realized: they may be fighters forjustice and garbage like that, but they were still young girls. Which meant shehad been lying on some strange girl's bed! Akane would kill her! Ranko gulped.Better not tell her about this. She didn't like Ranma having a girl like Ami asa tutor, how would she feel knowing Ranma had woken up in a bedroom filled withscantily clad, good-looking girls? After all, they weren't called 'PrettySoldiers' for nothing.

Seeingtheir guest getting nervous again, Moon pre-empted her question. "We'veput the cats outside for the moment Ranko. Don't worry, they won't comein."

Rankovisibly sagged with relief. Then she realized: with the cats past the door, shewas trapped here! Mercury tried again. "You were saying something about kimanipulations?"

Rankoperked up at the mention of her favorite topic, fighting: "Yeah, it'spretty simple. You just have to be able to focus your ki, and then you canproject it out. Of course, the better you get, the more power you candeliver."

SailorJupiter leaned forward. "I've heard of people being able to manifest theirki, but I thought it was supposed to be almost impossible to use it as aweapon."

"Bah,you just need to be good. Here:" Ranko summoned a small sphere of ki. Itwas similar to what she had fired at the youma, only smaller and she held it onthe flat of her palm. All the Senshi came in close, going 'Ohhh' and 'Ahhhh'.Mercury held her computer up close and admired the results.

"Amazing!This is just the sort of energy that Beryl was trying to harvest, but she's gotso much! We'd better hope that they never return and capture you, they couldleave most of Tokyo alone and siphon you like a tap."

Rankogulped again, it was not a pretty image. Dissipating the sphere, she sat backand answered the rest of their questions. After almost an hour of talking, theSenshi decided there was not much more that they could learn, so Mars andMercury offered to take Ranko home, to make sure she would not get lost in theunfamiliar city.

Asthey ran along the rooftops, Mercury bridged the question they all wanted toknow, but none had been willing to ask. "Ranko, why are you afraid ofcats?"

Stumbling,she looked around. "Cats? Where? Where?"

"No!There're no cats. I was just wondering what made you so frightened of cats. Ifyou don't want to tell me, it's OK."

Rankosighed and slowed to a walk. "It's OK, I suppose people would find thisout quick enough any way. Ever since I was really little, Pops trained me inthe school of Anything Goes Martial Arts. Any technique, he would teach me.Anything that was needed, he would do. Well, one day he was reading a trainingmanual, and he found out about the Neko-ken. Basically it's a secret technique,which uses the unstoppable ferocity of the cat to make you unbeatable.Unfortunately, he didn't read the next page in the manual, which told him you'dhave to be an idiot to teach this technique... Mind you, I suppose that meanshe would be able to teach it."

Mercurynodded. "Ah, so. When you realized just how ferocious cats are, you becameafraid of them."

"Nope.From what he told me, I agreed and wanted to learn it. Then he wrapped me infish sausage and threw me into a pit full of starving cats."

Thetwo Senshi stopped dead in their tracks. "That's awful! No wonder..."

"Nah,that didn't do it. You see, I didn't learn the Neko-ken, immediately. So thenext day, he did it again, and again, and again... I don't know how many timesit took; I was only five or six at the time, so I couldn't really count muchthen. Anyway, it ended up sort of working."

Theyresumed walking in silence. The Senshi were shocked. The youma and Queen Berylseemed like true demons, but compared to this girl's father, they were normal."Ranko, this looks like where you said you were staying. If you see anymore youma, just leave them to us. We don't want you getting hurt."

Asthey turned to leave, Mars offered a consolation to Ranko. "I'm sorryabout your fear of cats, Ranko. But at least you learnt the technique,right?"

Rankohuffed. "Sure I learnt it, but considering it drives me completely insaneevery time I use it, it's not very good. Is it?"

Therewas nothing they could say to that, so they left.

WhenRanma told Akane where he had been all evening, he glossed over most of it. Hejust said there had been a bit of a fight, and he had been able to watch theSenshi in action. When he admitted to being impressed by their powers, shepoked him. "Ha, Ha! There's one thing you can never do, Mr.I-Can-Do-Anything! All the Senshi are girls! And you're a guy! Guys can't beSenshi!"

Ranmathought of how callously they had killed the youma. "Trust me, I wouldn'twant to be a Senshi for nothing."

Jadeiteread his report with only the slightest worry. The Senshi had become better,but he was better still. Not only that, he was not plagued by some of thestrange ideas that Beryl held. To get energy, you don't harvest it all on thespot, you get enough for a stable gate, and then you bring the cattle - err,people - to you. Selecting a school on the map, Jadeite prepared one of his newyouma. A small gate initially, then it could harvest the energy from thehealthy, lively, young bodies, and afterwards the invasion could begin inforce.

Realizingthat sacrifice was a necessary part of war, Jadeite expected the Senshi to comein time to kill the youma. That was another problem of Beryl, he thought: everymission must be an unqualified success. Any losses meant a failure, andpunishment.

Jadeitewas more than happy to swap a single youma for the energy he would be able toharvest in the short time. A couple of days worth of preparation, and all wouldbe ready. Ready for the end of the beginning, and the beginning of the end.

"Allright, Mr. Miyagi. First you cut the wood, and you clean out the hole, right?All right, now if I place a piece of wood here, I can nail it in place. Repeatit a couple of times, and you'll be done."

Mr.Miyagi nodded. Then kicked a hole in the wall. "Better, but how do I cutthe wood?"

Ryogalooked around and grabbed the man in the tartan skirt that was walking by. Theman seemed to be torturing a cat in a bag under his arm... maybe this guy hadonce tried to learn the Neko-ken and was getting his revenge. "How do Iget to the Tanaka Dojo in Hokkaido?"

Theman only opened his eyes wide in non-comprehension at Ryoga's Japanese andcontinued on his way with the dozens of other bagpipe players marching in theparade.

Ryogagrowled, scaring a small child who was watching the parade and the little boy clutchedhis mother in fear. "Ranma, you can't hide from me! Now, where did I putmy map?"

"Areyou thick? What do you mean you don't know how to use a saw?"

Mr.Miyagi shook his head. "Ranma, there is no need for anger. Stay calm, andtell me about using a saw. I came from a fishing village where I either fishedor learned Martial Arts. I didn't do carpentry. Focus. Find your inner peace...Good. Now tell me of the saw."

"Allright. When cutting wood, you use a saw. These sharp bits are called the teeth,and they are what do the cutting..."

Ranmaand Akane walked to school, admiring what a beautiful day it was. With thismuch sun, it mean he wouldn't have to spend as much time hopping around hidingfrom girls who though he was Ranko, or guys trying to find out who the hotlooking pig-tailed girl was.

Poor,Akane... it hurt her something awful the way that most of the girls in theschool seemed to fall all over him. But one thing had come of being with Mr.Miyagi. He may not have taught Ranma about being a Sensei yet - he was too keenon his carpentry - but he had taught Ranma that even girls could cope with alittle pain. Ranma couldn't remember seeing Akane so happy as when he hadthrown her across Mr. Miyagi's yard and into his small pond. When she got outof the water, she didn't attack him with her mallet as he expected, she thankedhim for finally treating her like a real Martial Artist. He just couldn'tunderstand the uncute macho tomboy.

Hecould understand something though. That was the way that Akane hurt when thegirls launched themselves all over him. Normally he wasn't very perceptive, buthe had taken to watching her face more often. Must be because he was lookingfor her to attack, he thought, or maybeit's 'cause she wasn't cute unless she smiles. Hey, that's it! Without Shampooand Ukyou all over him, she didn't have to scowl so much, and she didn't hithim!

Theyentered the school gates and he saw the smile slip from her face. Oh, I want that back; just smile once more!When the first girl ran up and latched onto him, he decided it was time fordesperate measures. Prizing her off, he dropped her on the ground and grabbedhold of Akane. "Hey! Back off. I'm not interested. Just leave me alone!"

Ranmaalmost went after the poor girl. The way she looked, so hurt and sad at hisrejection. But Akane looked at him, and he realized she hadn't pushed him awayyet. Quickly he let her go, maintaining a bit of a distance. "I...'s just that... um... Hey, there's Ami and Makoto!"

Akanealmost smiled at his back. Sure he had been pretty harsh on that poor girl, butit was the first time she could recall him ever doing something like that. I almost think he does like me... Shethought.

JoiningRanma and the two girls, they went in to class.

Atthe end of the day, Akane went back to Mr. Miyagi's dojo, while Ranma waitedfor Ami to finish her gym class and get cleaned up. Bah! Tutoring again. At least she seemed pretty smart, and she wasa good tutor.

Hewas wandering around aimlessly when he heard sounds of fighting. Not justfighting, but fighting Senshi style! Sprinting around the schoolyard to wherethe sounds came from, he saw most of the Senshi ganging up against a youma,which had appeared on the school grounds. It looked like it had been attackinga group of students that had been doing some sort of literature study in theyard. Ranma agreed with its tastes. He hated literature too.

Lookingfor a better place to watch, he saw a guy in a formal suit balancing in a tree.Curiosity got the better of him and he silently jumped up beside the stranger,and listened to him mumble. "Sailor Moon... you fight for love andjustice... um... these are the source of your powers... err... Now, kick itsbutt... no, Now use your staff and destroy this evil..."

Ranmalooked at the guy as he took a quick drink of water from a plastic cup, andthen grabbed a rose from inside his coat. A rose?!? "Kuno, is that youunder that mask?"

Whoeverit was, he made a startled motion when he saw Sailor Moon barely dodge a blow.Apparently he had been concentrating on the fight below or his horrible speechbecause he hadn't noticed Ranma. Ranma - being the water magnet that he was -immediately ended up with a face full of the cold water the man had beendrinking. When the man finally calmed enough and had grabbed the tree forsupport, it was a dripping wet Ranko he saw.

"I'mnot sure who 'Kuno' is, fair lady, but I am Tuxedo Kamen. I am here to aid thevaliant Sailor Moon in her quest for peace and justice."

Hmm,right script, right roses, wrong voice. "Sorry, I mistook you for anotheridio... person. And if you're here to help Moon, you better get a moveon!"

Asthey had been talking, the youma had successfully struck the defender of loveand justice and knocked her flying. While Moon struggled to be able to rise, thethick, slimy arms of the creature had grabbed Mercury. Sailor Jupiter looked onwith fear. Her attack was too powerful and widespread to use now that Mercurywas in close. Hoisting her fists she charged in yelling, and began to beat uponthe monster. Gouts of slime flew everywhere, but she wasn't sure if any realdamage was being done. Meanwhile, poor Mercury was having the life crushed outof her!

Ina flash Tuxedo Kamen was beside Sailor Moon, helping her gently to her feet,and giving her words of encouragement. Seeing Moon safe, Ranko charged themonster. Ranko remember what happened the last time that she mixed it up withone of these things, and wished she could heed the warning to let the Senshideal with the problem. But even if they were magically powered, Ranko couldn'tlet a bunch of girls get beaten up. If it were a choice between a monster dyingand a Senshi dying, she'd let the monster die.

Sincethe monster held Mercury high in the air, Ranko zipped right up to its smellyarmpit, which dripped some sort of equally smelly goo. "KACHUU TENSHIN AMAGURIKEN!"Launching a couple of hundred blows with her attack she realized that perhapsshe should not laugh at the Senshi for their silly poses and speeches. Afterall, anyone who liked screaming about chestnuts couldn't really complain.

Beatenback by the damage, the youma dropped Mercury, and Ranko grabbed her, movingover to the side of the yard. As she placed Mercury on the ground, Ranko lookedin her eyes and checked if she was OK. Mercury merely stared. No wonder they were concerned about Ranko!Her forehead was glowing with a symbol similar to her own. But that wasimpossible! All of the Senshi were accounted for! Even Luna said that therewere never any other Senshi in the Silver Millennium. All of the planets barEarth had one, and the Moon did. There was no Sailor Terra, so who could thisbe?

Rankodidn't wait long. With Mercury out of the way, recovering from cracked ribs,and Moon still concussed, it was up to her and Jupiter! Jupiter had backed offa bit, and was hopping about trying to get space to do an attack."Jupiter! When I go in, you hit it from the front! I'm gunna jump when youattack. GO!!"

Witha dive roll over a massive arm, Ranko came in close to the creature. Launchinganother Tenshin Amaguriken, she mercilessly pounded the youma, buying SailorJupiter the time needed to prepare her attack. "SPARKLING WIDE..."

Rankoleapt vertically, evading the arms that were about to slam into her.



AsSailor Jupiter's heavy blast hit it from the front, Ranko's ki blast took itfrom above. Their efforts took the beast down, but not out. Smoking from itswounds, it continued to fight, and they only managed to hold it at bay. Minutespassed, and the two fighters began to weary. As their strength seemed to bealmost gone, more Senshi arrived. Under the combined assault the demon died.With the death of the demon, Ranko's symbol also faded, leaving her facing acrowd of very inquisitive Senshi.

"Oh,no. I'm not staying this time! If my fiancée finds out I've been fighting I'llbe in big trouble."

Beforethey could stop her, Ranko sprinted off into the school.

"Didyou see it?"



"Don'tlose her!"

Followingher into the building, they lost her briefly, and then forever. The only personthey could see in the corridor was a slightly steaming damp Ranma coming out ofthe men's toilets. "No, no. I haven't seen any red-haired girls around here,nope, none at all. Not a single one."

Leavingthe slightly panicky Ranma behind, not panicked from the Senshi, but from anunexpected dousing of cold water properly timed for maximum embarrassment, theSenshi continued their search. Unfortunately, they were destined to fail,leaving them all filled with the question of just who she was. FortunatelyRanma was so preoccupied at his tutoring that night that he didn't notice howpre-occupied the tutor was.

Usagilooked sternly at Luna. All the other Senshi other than Ami / Sailor Mercuryand the mysterious Setsuna / Sailor Pluto were present. Ami had a tutoringposition with the fiancée of Ranko's cousin, of all people! "Spill thebeans, Luna. We need to know who she is. All of us saw the mark on her head,and we know she's a Senshi. Who is she?"

Lunashook her head sadly. "I don't know! There are no more Senshi! And thereare never more than one Senshi per planet."

"Couldshe be Sailor Earth?"

"No,from what you've described, the symbol is wrong. Besides, Earth already has aguardian, it's Tuxedo Kamen."

Allwas quite for a moment, and then Artemis spoke quietly. "I could be wrong,but I think I know who she is." He made a nervous glance at Minako andcontinued. "Back during the Silver Millennium, only children of royalbirth could become members of the Sailor Senshi, and so all of the positionswere filled as time went by. But there was one young girl of common birth, andall she wanted was to be a Sailor Senshi."

"Everyday she trained. She learned and she focused. Whenever she could she observedthe powers of the Senshi, and tried to imitate their every action and deed.This girl was very determined and very resourceful. Legend has it that shelived in a small orbital station close to the sun, and spent her life trying todraw the focus of the sun for her strength, the same way you draw on the powerof the planets."

"Whenthe Dark Kingdom launched their attack against the Moon Kingdom, I was oncetold that there was a tenth girl fighting with the Senshi. It was this girl,who called herself Sailor Sun, which managed to defeat and destroy much of thespace fleet that the Dark Kingdom sent. She wasn't a full Senshi, so she wasn'taided by the magic bestowed by Queen Serenity, but she had managed to tap thepowers of the sun. Her power was devastating, even then. Short of SailorSaturn's ability to destroy the world, she was more powerful than any individual.It was her final self-sacrificing attack that blasted much of the DarkKingdom's fleet, and bought the Sailor Senshi time to recover and regroup.After Queen Serenity heard of this, she apparently decided she wouldposthumously make her a Sailor in honor of her deeds."

Artemispaused for a moment, remembering the terrible days at the end of the MoonKingdom. "The only problem with this is that the Dark Kingdom's mainattack came too soon. She never had time to make her a Senshi. Queen Serenity sacrificedherself in the same manner and bought the human race the time it needed toprepare against their return."

Everyonesat in silence. It was eventually Luna that broke the stillness. "Whydidn't we know this before?"

Artemismerely shrugged. "It wasn't important then. She wasn't really a Senshi,and because she was already dead, she couldn't be reincarnated. The girl wasonly a minor character in a major production."

Puttingher arm around Michiru, Haruka caught the eye of the other moon cat. "Butwhat if Queen Serenity did make hera Sailor. Wouldn't Luna be able to produce a transformation wand for her?"

Lunathought about it for a bit. "I suppose. This doesn't explain how she ishere now... but that's not as important as gaining a new ally."

Withthat, Luna thought for a moment, and then executed a complex back flip. At thepinnacle of the arc, a small, bright pen came out. Rei picked it up off theground. "Well, what do you know? Now, Ranko is Akane's cousin. And Akanehas to train with her Sensei after school. What say we get Akane to inviteRanko for ice cream? She liked that before, and after all, the poor girl mustbe lonely in a strange city..."

Usagibounced happily, blond hair flying everywhere. "Oh, boy! ICE CREAM!"

"Allright, after you measure the wood, you place the saw on the waste side, andgently begin to cut. In no time, we stick it in the hole, bang in a couple ofnails. Hey, Presto."

"Verygood, Ranma. But I can't remember what you told me about how to hammer itin."

"ARRRG!"Ranma punched a hole in the dojo wall in frustration. Teaching Ryoga which waywas North was easier than this.

Amiapproached Akane at school that day and asked her about getting her and Rankoout for ice cream again. Akane shook her head and admitted to othercommitments, but she suspected that Ranko would be delighted. Timing wasarranged, and Akane promised to let Ranko know.

WhenRanma's tutorial was drawing to a close, both he and Ami were getting a bitrestless. More restless than Ranma normally was when he's trying to learnsomething, that is. Given both their inattention, Ami finally let Ranma offearly, much to his delight. As he streaked away to change into Ranko, it dawnedon him that there actually was an upside to this stupid curse. Every grey cloudhad a silver lining. His just happened to have a really small lining: an icecream sized lining.

Amiwas just as expectant, but not for the same reasons. Sure, she loved ice cream,but the prospect of inviting a new Senshi into their midst was even moreexciting. When they decided about this, she just knew they would become bestfriends. All the Senshi were good friends, even if they got on each other'snerves a bit; but Ami somehow felt she would be closer to Ranko. And they could visit her place, and meet herfriends, and her parents, and see her school, and...

Amislowed down her train of thought. Better not badger the poor girl too much;it's liable to be a bit of a shock for her. Ami realized what a surprise it wasfor her, but somehow she thought it was what she was destined for.

Leavingin plenty of time, Ami met Rei and they made their way to the ice cream parlor.The Senshi had discussed this amongst themselves and had come up with a goodplan. Rather than frighten Ranko with a whole crowd of girls powering up intotheir Sailor clothes, just Ami and Rei would be there initially. When they hadtold her the facts of life, then the rest of the Sailors could join them. PoorLuna and Artemis would just have to hear the details second hand.

Afterdoing justice to another massive quantity of ice cream, Ranko let herself beled to the Shrine where Rei lived with her grandfather. "Grandfather isout for a while tonight. I asked if he would mind if I had some friends over,and he said that the sounds of girls giggling would keep him up. So he's off tovisit some of his friends from the war."

War? Just how old is her grandpa anyways? Thought Ranko. Shelooked around and admired the peace and tranquility of the shrine. It was alovely place. Ranko thought it would be a nice place for some Martial Artstraining. Hey, perhaps they would like todo some training before dinner? "Hey, you two! Ever considered doingMartial Arts? This place looks like it would be great for training..."

Rankotook one look at the expressions on their faces and immediately realized hermistake. "Oh, damn, I'm sorry, Rei. I just realized. If you live here, youmust be a Shinto priestess or something. You wouldn't be able to fight even ifa great slimy monster attacked you."

Rankowatched as their expressions went from surprised to completely stunned; could she know already, and was just toyingwith us? Ranko reached the conclusion that she was digging herself indeeper, and tried to cover up. "Whoops! Just forget I ever mentioned aslimy monster. Or tentacles, or demons and Sailors and... Ah... Um... It's alovely night isn't it?"

Reiand Ami exchanged glances. Did Ranko havea guide like Luna? But that was silly; Ranko hated cats. Rei spoke up."Ranko, do you know why we're here?"

"Yep,it's your home."

"No,I mean why are we here?"

"Err,you wanted to pick up something."

Thegirls looked relieved. Ranko did not know. "Ranko, we have some wonderfulnews for you, and we need to show you something."

Rankowatched carefully as Rei and Ami both took out small pen shaped objects.Holding hers aloft, Rei called out. "Mars Star Power, Make Up!"

Immediatelyshining lights surrounded her. Despite the fact that she was covered in animpenetrable glow, Ranko averted her eyes as Rei's clothes vanished. When shedid a pirouette, new clothes appeared. And after a few seconds, Sailor Marsstood where Rei had been and before the shock could settle in, Ami alsotransformed into Sailor Mercury.

Rankobegan to back up. Oh, no! They've seen mechange sex! Why does this always happen to me? They must think I'm one of thosedemons! "No, No! It's just a curse! I'm not a demon! Honestly! Ami!I'm your friend! Don't do this to me!"

Asthe clearly terrified girl backed up, the Sailors advanced and tried to calmher. "Ranko, Ranko! It's OK. Don't be frightened. We're still yourfriends. We just need to talk."

Makingplacating gestures with their hands, the girls waited until Ranko calmed down."You... you don't want to kill me?" Thoughts of an upcoming weddingtaunted her mind. She quickly dismissed that idea since these girls didn't knowshe was a guy, or did they?

SailorMercury looked taken aback. "No! Why on earth would we want to killyou?"

Rankolooked sheepish. "Um... No reason. No reason at all. Ha, ha! Err... so whyhave you just shown me who you are? I mean, isn't that a closely guarded secretor something?"

Marssmiled and held out the new transformation stick. "It is. As a generalrule, the only people who know our identities are the other Sailor Senshi. Takethis."

Feelingbemused for a moment, Ranko took the pen, then the word sunk in. They want to make me a Senshi! Demonhunting, she could handle, but demon killing was something she'd rather notmake her full time occupation. Ranko started to hand the pen back. "Sorry.I realize that it's supposed to be an honor and all that, but I'm not interested."

Not interested in being a Senshi! A sailorsuited defender of love and justice! This was every girl's dream! But, Ranko wanted torefuse. Placing a hand on Ranko's shoulder, Mercury offered her support."No, Ranko. It's not just that we want you to become a Sailor Senshi. Thefact is, you already are. Sailors aren't chosen; they're born that way.Sometimes it just takes a while for them to awaken."

Rankolooked around and noticed that while they had been talking the rest of theSenshi had arrived. The courtyard of the shrine was filled with girls in thosetight bodysuits and teeny-tiny skirts. Sailor Moon walked over and smiled atRanko, trying to offer her the support of the entire team. "Ranko, you'reone of us. Just take the transformation pen, raise it up, and say the firstthing that comes into your head."

Rankolooked at the innocent looking stick. All she could think of was the wordsAkane had spoken the other day: 'All the Senshi are girls! And you're a guy!Guys can't be Senshi!' Looking around at all the girls, she could see themlooking at her expectantly. Sighing, she raised the transformation stick andspoke loudly. "Those dresses look really silly! I'm not gunna be aSenshi!"

Thegirls were stunned. That wasn't the response that should be on the top of hermind! "Ranko. I understand, you might be a bit afraid, but it's OK. We'rea team. You don't have to face these things alone. Join us. We need you."

Rankospied Tuxedo Kamen standing behind Sailor Moon. She asked inquisitivelywondering if Akane may be wrong. "I thought only girls could be Senshi.Are you saying that guys can be Senshi too?"

Marslooked puzzled. "No, only girls can be Senshi. Why do you ask that?"

Rankowas about to retort, "But I'm a g... never mind..." She quickly wentquiet with resignation. Her life never went the way she wanted it to.

Somethingstill didn't make sense and she pointed at Tuxedo Kamen. "What about him?Don't tell me he's a girl too."

SailorMoon giggled in a childish way and grabbed Tuxedo Kamen's arm in a lovingembrace. "He's not a Senshi, he's my guardian. He's the only one and he'smine." Ranko could almost see little hearts floating from Sailor Moon asshe hugged that uh... Guardian? Some guardian. Ranko remembered the fight atschool and all he did was give Kuno-speak and stood around doing nothing. Shewondered if that guy actually fought any of the monsters. So, he's eitherSailor Moon's husband or fiancé. Oh, no,not that fiancé stuff again.

Ashenat the idea of what it meant to be a male member of this group, Ranko gentlyshook her head. It figures, if I got atux, I'm marrying one of these girls. No way! Besides, he's the only one and hecan have Moon for all I cared. Ranko looked at the pen in her hand thinkingabout the mini-skirt alternative and found it not any better. Images of aritual suicide made up her mind as to what she had to do. She offered the penback to Rei. "I'm sorry, Rei. I can't. It's different for me. I'm... I'ma... Look, what if Akane found out! What would she say? What would my mom say?She'd kill me for sure."

SailorMars did not take the transformation stick, but she did back off slightly."Girls, I think I need to have a little talk with Ranko for a while. Whydon't you go home? I'll call you later. Don't worry, it will be OK."

Theother Sailors headed for the exit, changing back into their normal selves whenout of Ranko's sight. If Ranko did not want to join them, perhaps it was bestthat only Rei and Ami had been exposed. Rei also transformed back and looked atthe forlorn Ranko. She was standing there in the middle of the garden, headbowed. Rei walked over, and was shocked to see the girl crying. Placing her armaround Ranko's shoulder, Rei led her to a bench and sat down next to her.

"I'msor... sorry, Rei. It's bad for me. I just... I just can't take this much more.I hate this stupid curse. It's like every day; another little piece of me isslipping away. Akane warned me about this sort of thing, but I thought it wasjust a joke. But it's true."

Grabbinghold of the black haired girl, Ranko put her head on her shoulder, and reallycried in earnest. Rei held her tight and rocked her back and forwards. Shewasn't sure what was wrong with Ranko, or what frightened her so much aboutbeing a Senshi or what she meant by hating a curse. Rei wondered what hercousin could possibly have said which would make her frightened. Why Ranko'smother would want to kill her was another mystery. Rei always thought thatbeing one of the chosen defenders of the earth was a great honor.

Butwhat Rei thought, and what Rei wondered wasn't the issue. Obviously Ranko hadsome serious fears, and Rei needed to help her get past them. "Ranko.Ranko, I know you're scared. But you don't need to be. We all want to be yourfriends, and we all want to help. If you really feel that you don't want to bea Sailor Senshi, then you don't have to be."

Rankostifled her sobs and looked up. When Rei started speaking, she was sure Rei wasgoing to badger her into joining, but then again maybe not. She started to giveback the stick again, but Rei didn't take it. "As I said, Ranko, you don'thave to be a Sailor, but we would really like you on the team. Can you tell mewhat's wrong? Maybe I can help."

Rankosighed and sat back. She wiped her face with her sleeve, and then looked up atRei. "Well, what if Akane finds out. She'd kill me. Well, maybe not killme, but I don't think she'd ever speak to me again. I just couldn't cope withthat."

Reismiled. "Everyone keeps secrets. Even us. I realize that she's yourcousin, but you don't need to tell her everything. Remember, you only transformwhen you want to. No one can force you, and the disguise field prevents anyonefrom ever seeing who you really are."

Rankothought about that. She had seen Sailor Mercury several times and she never puttogether that Ami and her were the same person, despite all those tutoringsessions and seeing her almost every day. Now, after seeing them transform infront of her, it was obvious who Mars and Mercury were. I wonder if I can use that technique in other ways? No, I'm not goingto be a Senshi! I'm not a girl!

Reiasked gently. "And what about your mom? She wouldn't really kill you,would she?"

Rankomerely nodded her head. "Yes. That one I'm sure of. I... I can't reallyexplain it now; it's too complex. But trust me: if I became a Sailor Senshi andmom ever found out, she would hunt me to the ends of the earth and force me tocommit seppuku. It's because of a promise I made many years ago."

Thatrevelation shocked Rei to the core, Ranko was so sure, so certain, she hadtrouble doubting her. But what was so bad that could force a mother to kill herdaughter? She remembered she heard Ranko asking something about 'guys beingSenshi', but that didn't make any sense.

Reilistened to Ranko's objections one after another. Each time she countered withlogic, support and friendship. When Ranko's excuses began to get thin, Reichanged to the offensive. "Ranko, everybody has fears. There's danger ineverything we do. But facing those fears is what courage is all about. I sawyou charge in and attack that youma with only your bare hands a few days ago.And why? To protect a few people you hardly knew? I was with you. Back then youdidn't know Ami and I were Sailor Senshi, and you put your life in danger tosave us. Why did you do that?"

Thegirl just looked baffled. Batting her big puppy dog eyes, she looked the othergirl in the eye. "But it's the duty of every Martial Artist to protectthose who are weak. That monster could have killed everyone there if it wasn'tstopped. And I was the only one who could stop it. Well, I thought I was. Even that jerk Ryoga wouldn't pick on someone weak.Ha, he's always trying to kill me, and when I was finally weak once, hecouldn't. Ryoga cried because his worst enemy had been struck down before hecould do it."

Shewasn't sure who Ryoga was, but this was definite progress. "What we faceout there is more powerful than any Martial Artist. What we face is nothingless than a complete demonic invasion from another dimension. Once the MoonKingdom ruled the entire solar system. In the first invasion, they weredefeated, but at the cost of all civilization as it stood. Queen Serenitysacrificed her life to provide the time that was needed for us to regroup. Thesecond time they invaded, we again defeated them, but only just. It was thecombined efforts of all of the Sailor Senshi that managed to halt the advanceof a foolish and ill-prepared enemy."

Lookinginto the distance, Rei remembered all the details that her friends had beendiscussing in the last week. "In the last week we have destroyed moreyouma than we did in the entire previous three months. Ami thinks there's apattern. Sailor Moon is worried that this is just the start of somethingbigger. I think that this must be another invasion. The rulers of the DarkKingdom are just as bad as the youma they control. If we don't destroy them,they'll just keep coming back again and again. I have an ability to see imagesin fire. It's a limited form of precognition. When I did a reading on theweekend, I saw you, fighting some great evil. There were flames everywhere andgreat suffering."

Reiwas standing now, gesturing, imploring Ranko to understand. "Ranko,whether you like it or not, most of the people out there are weak. They can'tdefend themselves against the powers of the Dark Kingdom and its armies. Wedon't fight because we enjoy it. If I could give up being a Sailor Senshi, andknow that it would stop the demons attacking: I would. But it can't, so Iwon't. To keep people safe, we need defenders. People willing to risk theirlives so that the people they love can continue their lives in peace. Ranko,don't do it because you can, or what you can get from it. Do it because if youdon't, the consequences will be terrible. I know you care for your cousin, butthe demons are getting stronger, and we're staying the same. If this keeps up,one day we will lose. We need you Ranko."

Rankosimply sat there. Rei's impassioned speech had touched her. Sure, Ranma wouldsuffer from this. He seemed to suffer from all of the calamities that followedhim. But as Rei said: if not her, then who? If not now, then when?

Standingagain she looked down at Rei. "I still don't want to wear that silly skirtand, err... leotard, but I'll do it. If you show me what to do, I'll change,and I'll be a Sailor Senshi. But I can't stay long now. Akane will be gettingworried about me, so she's probably gunna call before I get home. Just tellher... tell her I came asking advice. Tell her... tell her that I like her. Alot."

Nonplussedthat Ranko could care that much about the opinion of a cousin she seemed to seeonly occasionally, Rei nodded. "Just raise your hand in the air, and saywhat comes naturally."

Rankolifted the transformation stick and hesitated. She knew the words. They seemednatural and flowed from deep within her soul. It felt both right and wrong toher. Holding it high, she gulped knowing this was a point of no return. Sheclosed her eyes and called out: "Sun Star Power, Make Up!"

A blinding light shone around her, and she felt herself float free of the ground.While she rotated in the air, she felt her clothes change, and the power filledher body. Even at his strongest, Ranma had never felt such power flowingthrough him. But now, as a girl, he knew he had powers he only dreamed of.

SailorSun stood there, looking glorious in her new Sailor suit. Her costume wassimilar to that of Mars, since bright red was her primary color. Along with thewhite gloves and body suit, she had a short red skirt, and knee length redboots. Her bright red hair flowed loosely down her back, and was held in placeby a simple headband of red metal. In the center of the band was a clear jewel,which seemed to contain a continual flame, burning deep inside. Rei clapped herhands and looked on with pride.

Sailor Sun felt a draft. "Is there any way I can get a uniform that has pants?"

Rei and Ami looked at each other in disbelief. Rei stuttered, "P-Pants? Why? You look beautiful in that."

Sun groaned at the remark and thought of one more piece of information she had to know right this instant. "Another thing, Rei. How do I change back?"

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