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Sailor Ranko

A Ranma 1/2 / Sailor Moon Novel

Copyright 1999-2008, Duncan "Fire" Zillman
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Edited by Rebecca Ann Heineman
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All characters belong to someone else. They're not mine, so please don't sue me, this is not for profit.

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

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 acknowledge Akane's presence. Akane in turn refused to acknowledge Ranma's. Of all the bad ideas 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? Ranma thought back on just how stupid his old man was. At least he hadn't engaged him to someone new this time.

"Boy, someday you will be the master of the Saotome School of Anything Goes Martial Arts. 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. Being able to fight is just the first step; a step that you're mastering well. But you must be capable of teaching what you 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 and joined in on the argument. "Take it like a man, Ranma. You can fight but you can't teach. Genma and I have made an arrangement with an old friend in Tokyo. You will stay at his dojo, and he will begin to teach you what we cannot about how to be a sensei."

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

Genma bellowed 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 these days, you need qualifications? No? I didn't think so. This is why we've also found you a tutor at your new school. She's in your class, but everybody says that she's extremely smart, so she should have no problem teaching the likes of you."

Ranma jumped to his feet. I still have to go to school? "No way! I don't need no tutor!"

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

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

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

Pulling away from the fountaining man before the water could trigger his curse, Ranma gave in. "All right, OKAY already! Just so I can get some peace and quiet."

Both fathers 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 of my little girl."

With a burst of anger, Ranma grabbed his father. "WHAT! If you think I'm going anywhere for four months with that tomboy, 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!

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

Without a word, Akane grabbed her things and left the carriage. Ranma simply looked around and threw up his hands "What did I do this time?"

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

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

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

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

Now Jadeite had an army, a secure base of operations and a place from which to launch his strike. His only problem was that the spell needed to bridge the gap from his universe to the one he wished to conquer required vast quantities of life force. For now, he would send through his scouts, and then he would gather the power from the people of Earth. Soon his army would crush all resistance before him.

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

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

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

Ami looked a bit down at the suggestion, "Sorry, Usagi, I can't. I'm going to be tutoring a transfer student for the next few months, and since tomorrow is Sunday, he's coming over."

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

Tears forgotten, the friends raced down the street, failing to see the light blue flash as a youma popped into existence behind them. The youma had bigger fish to fry than a pair of running schoolgirls. Searching for its partner, they decided 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 openly attack some people for their energy. When the Sailor Senshi arrived - as they surely would - the scout would be killed. But to kill it, the Senshi would need to attack, and when they did that, the youma could see what powers they had gained in the last two years.

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

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

Akane stiffened at that. Then she calmed. She knew she liked him, but she was never sure 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 and I'll kill you.' This was an improvement over that, sort of. Then, he had just been defending her and now he was willing to admit his relationship in public. "I know what you mean. Have you decided what you're going to tell people about your curse?"

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

Akane smiled. She'd have to try the cold shoulder technique more often. They had actually spoken several whole sentences to each other without him saying something stupid. Incredible. "Sure. But how about Mr. Miyagi? If we're living with him, he'll find out eventually."

Ranma grinned down at her and with a flourish reached into his pack, pulled out a pair of small bottles. "Thermos flasks. I stick one in my room, and hide one outside the dojo. If I top them up every day, I can get to hot water without a problem."

Akane was stunned. Ranma had actually thought of something like that himself. She could hardly believe it. "Wow, that's really clever. Getting you away from all of Shampoo's and Kodachi's drugs seems to have sharpened your mind."

Ranma stuck 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 seventeen and looked like the sort of impressionable kids he had been training back in America. This was really why he had returned to Japan. Americans had no respect. Americans had no talent. Americans had... He could go on forever. At least these two already knew something of the Art, and if the boy's father was to be believed, young Ranma was actually quite talented.

After showing them where they could sleep, he took them out to the dojo for a quick sparing session. If he could judge their fighting ability, then he could plan how to train them. The fight went like every other session that Akane and Ranma had. She kicked, punched, and struck at him as fast as she could. He just dodged.

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

They continued 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 as you. While Miyagi-do is a powerful Art, I can only teach you few things you do not already know. I am afraid that most of my students have been new to the Art, and needed to learn a great deal in a greater hurry."

Akane smiled and basked in his comment. She couldn't remember the last time anyone had actually said she was good at something. She began to drift off, reciting his 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 attack her?"

Ranma looked at the floor. "Well, Sensei, she's a girl. And she's my fiancée. I can't hurt Akane. I mean she might be a violent tomboy, and a macho uncute chick, but she's still a girl."

Akane snarled and pulled a mallet out of nowhere. While Miyagi watched, she yelled at Ranma, chasing him around the dojo, hitting him much more often than she did during 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 Ranma groaned and pulled his head out of the wall, Mr. Miyagi almost fell over. That was impossible. No one could receive those 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 his fiancée.

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

Akane bowed and left. When she was safely gone, Ranma stopped playing at unconsciousness and stood up, looking for the entire world like he had just walked in, rather than looking like an accident victim. "Ranma. This is training. I understand that you do not like to fight girls, especially your beloved fiancée, but this is only training. If you expect to run a dojo some day, you must be able to fight and train the girls that you teach. Remember this: the best way for them not to get hit in combat is for them to get hit in training. Akane's attack is very good, but her defense is not. "You will change 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 be serious. Some day she may need to fight for real - although I doubt it, few people ever really need to fight. And if you do not hurt her now, she will be hurt worse or possibly killed. Do you want that?"

For a moment, Ranma looked terrified. Then his gaze steadied, and his facial features firmed with resolve. "Yeah, Mr. Miyagi. I... I just don't like to hurt 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 things better. Now, before I begin to teach you to be a proper Sensei, can you show me how to fix that hole you made in the wall?" His eyes moved toward the hole then back to his student, and he gave a look of displeasure at the mess that was made in his dojo.

Ranma grinned. "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 fix the dojo in the future. I am not much of a carpenter."

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

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

Ranma asked. "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 taught me a technique called 'Paint Fence'. Sadly, it was used only to repay debts that he owed to a bra factory." He added smugly, thinking about a former pupil he once taught. "I was able to use that and other techniques like it to much better use."

Ranma raised an eyebrow and was about to ask more, but Mr. Migayi returned a look on his 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 to happen soon. She didn't know what it was, but it was bad. Calming her mind, she decided the best thing to do was try a fire reading. Minako was coming over shortly; 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 yet again.

All she saw initially was the fire, but then something more. It wasn't the fire that she was seeing; it was the image of fire. That was what the reading was showing. Subtle hints showed other things. Taking hold of the image, she dredged for more information. Images moved through the flames, the first being a red haired girl. She looked like she was fighting something, but Rei couldn't see what. Trying to remember her face, Rei look onwards. She must be important, but who is she?

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

Breathing deeply, Rei checked the time and was startled to see Minako coming into the small 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 of some strange red haired girl also. She couldn't be a Sailor, since all of them were 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 to teach him about fixing walls. Repairs were something he was almost as good at as fighting. And since he still couldn't really hit Akane, perhaps he was actually better at fixing than fighting.

Grabbing a couple of planks he had cut to length, he placed them in the hole that he had trimmed. 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."

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

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

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

Akane and Ranma perked up at this, then Ranma looked a bit sheepish. Guys don't eat ice cream. 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 added silently to herself, why were all the cute guys already taken?

Akane clapped 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, but if 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'll hurry her up."

When the girls nodded their assent, Ranma ran for the door. As soon as he was outside, he looked for a handy hose. Typically, there's never cold water when you need it. After a few minutes searching, a woman wringing her washing out the window drenched him. After growling at her to be careful, she sprinted back to Ami's.

Stepping into the room, Ranko looked around smiling. "Hi, I'm Ranko Tendo. Pleased to meet you!"

Rei simply fainted.

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

At the ice cream parlor, everyone watched in awe as Ranko shoveled away two massive 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 look like a girl, at least try and eat like one."

Ranma glared back at her, obviously wanting to say something in retaliation, but the presence of the other girls precluded that. Rei kept giving Ranko quiet glances, and whispering to the other Senshi. They weren't sure what it was, but this girl was more than she appeared, and there was something serious going on here.

Akane was 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, can you pay for this? I've got to go!"

In a blur, Akane leapt over their table and raced out of the restaurant. Ranko merely 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 for it, I'm eating it!"

Ami just looked at her. How on earth could she keep a figure like that when she ate some much? "Where's your cousin off to?"

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

Everyone just stopped and stared. Ranko was mocking Akane because she was taking advanced classes in Martial Arts? "Are you sure it's wise to pick on her if she's the one studying Martial Arts?"

Ranko leaned back and laughed so hard she almost fell off her chair. "Hah! Akane couldn't hit me on the best day of her life. That's why Mr. Miyagi is teaching her."

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

Ranko grinned. "Hmm, dinner. OK, but... um... I think Ranma's still going to be busy. So I'll eat his share, OK?"

Minako grinned. Perfect. First Usagi's house to get Luna, then when she and Artemis were together, they may be able to get some advice on Rei's fire reading. After paying for the ice cream, the friends set off to look around the city and show Ranko the sights. Apparently she was just visiting her cousin for a while.

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

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

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

None of the running people noted the flashing lights, which emanated from the alley as the four girls called for the greater powers. Magically their clothes changed, and the four sailor suited warriors for peace burst onto the scene.

Ranko had successfully lured the youma to more open ground: a plaza in the middle of the street. While the youma's four tentacles kept striking at Ranko, she dodged and flipped under them, occasionally moving in for a few lightning quick punches which sent the monster reeling, but accomplished little else, and taking a few blows in the process.

When Sailor Moon arrived, she struck a pose, and the monster briefly halted. As much as it liked fighting the human girl, it wanted to kill the Senshi. "Stores are there for all people to enjoy. To destroy them and hurt people is a thing of evil. Now the beautiful sailor suited warriors: Sailor Moon."

"Sailor Mars."

"Sailor Mercury."

"Sailor Venus."

"Shall punish you in the name of the Moon!"

Ranko took a moment to catch her breath as the stupid monster watched the Sailor Senshi. This monster was tougher than she thought. She had seen the Senshi on the news before, and always thought they were wimps, but if they fought this kind of thing as often as they did, she was willing to cut them some slack for their silly clothes and speeches. Sailor Moon seemed like she must have the same scriptwriter as Kuno.

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


Sailor Mercury was just preparing to launch a Shabon Spray Freezing when a blue bolt slammed into the side of the youma, blasting off a tentacle, and knocking the beast to the ground. All of the Senshi hesitated for a moment as Ranko prepared to unleash another attack.

Mars yelled as she advanced to cast her spell: "Sailor Mercury! Find out what that was! BURNING MANDALA!"

Even as Mars was speaking, Mercury was dropping her hands from casting her own spell and got out her computer. Venus immediately moved forward to guard her, and Moon joined Ranko and Mars, then launched her own attack.

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

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

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

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

Venus smiled. "They ran into us. I'll go off and tell them you're OK... they must be worried. Back soon."

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

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

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

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

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

Ranko wasn't particularly keen on the Sailor Senshi.

Landing near the group of girls, Ranko looked them over, and they looked her over. It was Moon who finally spoke. "I am Sailor Moon, and these are the Sailor Senshi: the beautiful sailor suited soldiers for love and justice. We are extremely grateful for what you did. We just have a few questions which may help us in the future."

Studying Moon's face intensely, she didn't look at the others directly. There was something wrong here. She was not sure what it was, but something was appealing to her instincts. 'Run' it was saying quietly. Not knowing what she should be afraid of, Ranko stayed, but she stayed tense and ready to fight or run. Spreading her palms, Ranko blinked and acted innocent. "Ask whatever you like."

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

Ranko laughed nervously. As the Senshi gathered around to hear her answer, she felt more and more nervous. Ranko tried backing up a step or two. "It was nothing, just a ki manipulation technique. Anything else?"

Everyone noticed Ranko's nervousness. She would charge a youma - a killing machine from another dimension - but she was afraid of the good guys? Moon was about to ask for a clarification when she felt something touch her leg. Looking down, she saw Luna look at her. "Meow?"

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

After another 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 a building stopped her. It wasn't the concrete wall that stopped her, she just ran straight through it. It was the steel pole behind the wall. Ranko blacked out.

Everyone gathered around and looked at the girl. Sailor Uranus touched the Ranko shaped hole in the wall in shock. "She just ran straight through it! I don't believe it! I mean, we could, because we're Sailors, but she... she just ran through it!"

Moon and Venus patted their cats while Sailor Saturn examined the girl. "She's just unconscious. How about we go back to your place, Sailor Moon? Isn't it close to here?"

Moon nodded in agreement. "Yeah, my dad is still at work and mom and my dumb brother are in Yokohama at some video game convention he likes. We can have some privacy tonight."

Hefting the 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 know why, 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."

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

Sitting on the edge of the bed, Ranko looked up at the Senshi, who had spread themselves around the room and were relaxing on various pieces of furniture as though they owned the place. Then she realized: they may be fighters for justice and garbage like that, but they were still young girls. Which meant she had 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 as a tutor, how would she feel knowing Ranma had woken up in a bedroom filled with scantily clad, good-looking girls? After all, they weren't called 'Pretty Soldiers' for nothing.

Seeing their guest getting nervous again, Moon pre-empted her question. "We've put the cats outside for the moment Ranko. Don't worry, they won't come in."

Ranko visibly sagged with relief. Then she realized: with the cats past the door, she was trapped here! Mercury tried again. "You were saying something about ki manipulations?"

Ranko perked up at the mention of her favorite topic, fighting: "Yeah, it's pretty simple. You just have to be able to focus your ki, and then you can project it out. Of course, the better you get, the more power you can deliver."

Sailor Jupiter leaned forward. "I've heard of people being able to manifest their ki, but I thought it was supposed to be almost impossible to use it as a weapon."

"Bah, you just need to be good. Here:" Ranko summoned a small sphere of ki. It was similar to what she had fired at the youma, only smaller and she held it on the 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 got so much! We'd better hope that they never return and capture you, they could leave most of Tokyo alone and siphon you like a tap."

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

As they ran along the rooftops, Mercury bridged the question they all wanted to know, but none had been willing to ask. "Ranko, why are you afraid of cats?"

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

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

Ranko sighed and slowed to a walk. "It's OK, I suppose people would find this out quick enough any way. Ever since I was really little, Pops trained me in the 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 training manual, 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'd have to be an idiot to teach this technique... Mind you, I suppose that means he would be able to teach it."

Mercury nodded. "Ah, so. When you realized just how ferocious cats are, you became afraid of them."

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

The two 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 the next day, he did it again, and again, and again... I don't know how many times it took; I was only five or six at the time, so I couldn't really count much then. Anyway, it ended up sort of working."

They resumed walking in silence. The Senshi were shocked. The youma and Queen Beryl seemed 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 any more youma, just leave them to us. We don't want you getting hurt."

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

Ranko huffed. "Sure I learnt it, but considering it drives me completely insane every time I use it, it's not very good. Is it?"

There was nothing they could say to that, so they left.

When Ranma told Akane where he had been all evening, he glossed over most of it. He just said there had been a bit of a fight, and he had been able to watch the Senshi in action. When he admitted to being impressed by their powers, she poked 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 be Senshi!"

Ranma thought of how callously they had killed the youma. "Trust me, I wouldn't want to be a Senshi for nothing."

Jadeite read 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 the strange ideas that Beryl held. To get energy, you don't harvest it all on the spot, 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 new youma. A small gate initially, then it could harvest the energy from the healthy, lively, young bodies, and afterwards the invasion could begin in force.

Realizing that sacrifice was a necessary part of war, Jadeite expected the Senshi to come in time to kill the youma. That was another problem of Beryl, he thought: every mission must be an unqualified success. Any losses meant a failure, and punishment.

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

"All right, 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. Repeat it a couple of times, and you'll be done."

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

Ryoga looked around and grabbed the man in the tartan skirt that was walking by. The man seemed to be torturing a cat in a bag under his arm... maybe this guy had once tried to learn the Neko-ken and was getting his revenge. "How do I get to the Tanaka Dojo in Hokkaido?"

The man only opened his eyes wide in non-comprehension at Ryoga's Japanese and continued on his way with the dozens of other bagpipe players marching in the parade.

Ryoga growled, scaring a small child who was watching the parade and the little boy clutched his mother in fear. "Ranma, you can't hide from me! Now, where did I put my map?"

"Are you 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, and tell me about using a saw. I came from a fishing village where I either fished or learned Martial Arts. I didn't do carpentry. Focus. Find your inner peace... Good. Now tell me of the saw."

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

Ranma and Akane walked to school, admiring what a beautiful day it was. With this much sun, it mean he wouldn't have to spend as much time hopping around hiding from girls who though he was Ranko, or guys trying to find out who the hot looking pig-tailed girl was.

Poor, Akane... it hurt her something awful the way that most of the girls in the school 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 keen on his carpentry - but he had taught Ranma that even girls could cope with a little pain. Ranma couldn't remember seeing Akane so happy as when he had thrown her across Mr. Miyagi's yard and into his small pond. When she got out of the water, she didn't attack him with her mallet as he expected, she thanked him for finally treating her like a real Martial Artist. He just couldn't understand the uncute macho tomboy.

He could understand something though. That was the way that Akane hurt when the girls launched themselves all over him. Normally he wasn't very perceptive, but he had taken to watching her face more often. Must be because he was looking for her to attack, he thought, or maybe it's 'cause she wasn't cute unless she smiles. Hey, that's it! Without Shampoo and Ukyou all over him, she didn't have to scowl so much, and she didn't hit him!

They entered 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 for desperate measures. Prizing her off, he dropped her on the ground and grabbed hold of Akane. "Hey! Back off. I'm not interested. Just leave me alone!"

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

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

Joining Ranma and the two girls, they went in to class.

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

He was wandering around aimlessly when he heard sounds of fighting. Not just fighting, but fighting Senshi style! Sprinting around the schoolyard to where the 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 attacking a group of students that had been doing some sort of literature study in the yard. Ranma agreed with its tastes. He hated literature too.

Looking for 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 and justice... um... these are the source of your powers... err... Now, kick its butt... no, Now use your staff and destroy this evil..."

Ranma looked at the guy as he took a quick drink of water from a plastic cup, and then grabbed a rose from inside his coat. A rose?!? "Kuno, is that you under that mask?"

Whoever it 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 speech because 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 been drinking. When the man finally calmed enough and had grabbed the tree for support, it was a dripping wet Ranko he saw.

"I'm not sure who 'Kuno' is, fair lady, but I am Tuxedo Kamen. I am here to aid the valiant Sailor Moon in her quest for peace and justice."

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

As they had been talking, the youma had successfully struck the defender of love and justice and knocked her flying. While Moon struggled to be able to rise, the thick, slimy arms of the creature had grabbed Mercury. Sailor Jupiter looked on with fear. Her attack was too powerful and widespread to use now that Mercury was in close. Hoisting her fists she charged in yelling, and began to beat upon the monster. Gouts of slime flew everywhere, but she wasn't sure if any real damage was being done. Meanwhile, poor Mercury was having the life crushed out of her!

In a flash Tuxedo Kamen was beside Sailor Moon, helping her gently to her feet, and giving her words of encouragement. Seeing Moon safe, Ranko charged the monster. Ranko remember what happened the last time that she mixed it up with one of these things, and wished she could heed the warning to let the Senshi deal with the problem. But even if they were magically powered, Ranko couldn't let a bunch of girls get beaten up. If it were a choice between a monster dying and a Senshi dying, she'd let the monster die.

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

Beaten back by the damage, the youma dropped Mercury, and Ranko grabbed her, moving over to the side of the yard. As she placed Mercury on the ground, Ranko looked in 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 was impossible! All of the Senshi were accounted for! Even Luna said that there were never any other Senshi in the Silver Millennium. All of the planets bar Earth had one, and the Moon did. There was no Sailor Terra, so who could this be?

Ranko didn'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 off a 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 you attack. GO!!"

With a dive roll over a massive arm, Ranko came in close to the creature. Launching another Tenshin Amaguriken, she mercilessly pounded the youma, buying Sailor Jupiter the time needed to prepare her attack. "SPARKLING WIDE..."

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



As Sailor Jupiter's heavy blast hit it from the front, Ranko's ki blast took it from above. Their efforts took the beast down, but not out. Smoking from its wounds, it continued to fight, and they only managed to hold it at bay. Minutes passed, and the two fighters began to weary. As their strength seemed to be almost 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 a crowd of very inquisitive Senshi.

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

Before they could stop her, Ranko sprinted off into the school.

"Did you see it?"

"Her head!"

"The mark!"

"Don't lose her!"

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

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

Usagi looked sternly at Luna. All the other Senshi other than Ami / Sailor Mercury and the mysterious Setsuna / Sailor Pluto were present. Ami had a tutoring position with the fiancée of Ranko's cousin, of all people! "Spill the beans, 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?"

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

"Could she be Sailor Earth?"

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

All was 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 and continued. "Back during the Silver Millennium, only children of royal birth could become members of the Sailor Senshi, and so all of the positions were filled as time went by. But there was one young girl of common birth, and all she wanted was to be a Sailor Senshi."

"Every day she trained. She learned and she focused. Whenever she could she observed the 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 she lived in a small orbital station close to the sun, and spent her life trying to draw the focus of the sun for her strength, the same way you draw on the power of the planets."

"When the Dark Kingdom launched their attack against the Moon Kingdom, I was once told 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 the space fleet that the Dark Kingdom sent. She wasn't a full Senshi, so she wasn't aided by the magic bestowed by Queen Serenity, but she had managed to tap the powers of the sun. Her power was devastating, even then. Short of Sailor Saturn'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 Dark Kingdom's fleet, and bought the Sailor Senshi time to recover and regroup. After Queen Serenity heard of this, she apparently decided she would posthumously make her a Sailor in honor of her deeds."

Artemis paused for a moment, remembering the terrible days at the end of the Moon Kingdom. "The only problem with this is that the Dark Kingdom's main attack came too soon. She never had time to make her a Senshi. Queen Serenity sacrificed herself in the same manner and bought the human race the time it needed to prepare against their return."

Everyone sat in silence. It was eventually Luna that broke the stillness. "Why didn't we know this before?"

Artemis merely 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 was only a minor character in a major production."

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

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

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

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

"All right, after you measure the wood, you place the saw on the waste side, and gently begin to cut. In no time, we stick it in the hole, bang in a couple of nails. Hey, Presto."

"Very good, Ranma. But I can't remember what you told me about how to hammer it in."

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

Ami approached Akane at school that day and asked her about getting her and Ranko out for ice cream again. Akane shook her head and admitted to other commitments, but she suspected that Ranko would be delighted. Timing was arranged, and Akane promised to let Ranko know.

When Ranma's tutorial was drawing to a close, both he and Ami were getting a bit restless. More restless than Ranma normally was when he's trying to learn something, that is. Given both their inattention, Ami finally let Ranma off early, much to his delight. As he streaked away to change into Ranko, it dawned on him that there actually was an upside to this stupid curse. Every grey cloud had a silver lining. His just happened to have a really small lining: an ice cream sized lining.

Ami was 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 more exciting. When they decided about this, she just knew they would become best friends. All the Senshi were good friends, even if they got on each other's nerves a bit; but Ami somehow felt she would be closer to Ranko. And they could visit her place, and meet her friends, and her parents, and see her school, and...

Ami slowed 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 was for her, but somehow she thought it was what she was destined for.

Leaving in 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 good plan. Rather than frighten Ranko with a whole crowd of girls powering up into their Sailor clothes, just Ami and Rei would be there initially. When they had told her the facts of life, then the rest of the Sailors could join them. Poor Luna and Artemis would just have to hear the details second hand.

After doing justice to another massive quantity of ice cream, Ranko let herself be led to the Shrine where Rei lived with her grandfather. "Grandfather is out 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 to visit some of his friends from the war."

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

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

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

Rei and Ami exchanged glances. Did Ranko have a 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."

The girls looked relieved. Ranko did not know. "Ranko, we have some wonderful news for you, and we need to show you something."

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

Immediately shining lights surrounded her. Despite the fact that she was covered in an impenetrable glow, Ranko averted her eyes as Rei's clothes vanished. When she did a pirouette, new clothes appeared. And after a few seconds, Sailor Mars stood where Rei had been and before the shock could settle in, Ami also transformed into Sailor Mercury.

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

As the clearly terrified girl backed up, the Sailors advanced and tried to calm her. "Ranko, Ranko! It's OK. Don't be frightened. We're still your friends. We just need to talk."

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

Sailor Mercury looked taken aback. "No! Why on earth would we want to kill you?"

Ranko looked sheepish. "Um... No reason. No reason at all. Ha, ha! Err... so why have you just shown me who you are? I mean, isn't that a closely guarded secret or something?"

Mars smiled and held out the new transformation stick. "It is. As a general rule, the only people who know our identities are the other Sailor Senshi. Take this."

Feeling bemused for a moment, Ranko took the pen, then the word sunk in. They want to make me a Senshi! Demon hunting, she could handle, but demon killing was something she'd rather not make 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 sailor suited defender of love and justice! This was every girl's dream! But, Ranko wanted to refuse. 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. The fact is, you already are. Sailors aren't chosen; they're born that way. Sometimes it just takes a while for them to awaken."

Ranko looked around and noticed that while they had been talking the rest of the Senshi had arrived. The courtyard of the shrine was filled with girls in those tight bodysuits and teeny-tiny skirts. Sailor Moon walked over and smiled at Ranko, trying to offer her the support of the entire team. "Ranko, you're one of us. Just take the transformation pen, raise it up, and say the first thing that comes into your head."

Ranko looked at the innocent looking stick. All she could think of was the words Akane 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 them looking at her expectantly. Sighing, she raised the transformation stick and spoke loudly. "Those dresses look really silly! I'm not gunna be a Senshi!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sailor Mars 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. Why don't you go home? I'll call you later. Don't worry, it will be OK."

The other Sailors headed for the exit, changing back into their normal selves when out of Ranko's sight. If Ranko did not want to join them, perhaps it was best that only Rei and Ami had been exposed. Rei also transformed back and looked at the forlorn Ranko. She was standing there in the middle of the garden, head bowed. Rei walked over, and was shocked to see the girl crying. Placing her arm around Ranko's shoulder, Rei led her to a bench and sat down next to her.

"I'm sor... 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 is slipping away. Akane warned me about this sort of thing, but I thought it was just a joke. But it's true."

Grabbing hold of the black haired girl, Ranko put her head on her shoulder, and really cried in earnest. Rei held her tight and rocked her back and forwards. She wasn't sure what was wrong with Ranko, or what frightened her so much about being a Senshi or what she meant by hating a curse. Rei wondered what her cousin could possibly have said which would make her frightened. Why Ranko's mother would want to kill her was another mystery. Rei always thought that being one of the chosen defenders of the earth was a great honor.

But what Rei thought, and what Rei wondered wasn't the issue. Obviously Ranko had some 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 your friends, and we all want to help. If you really feel that you don't want to be a Sailor Senshi, then you don't have to be."

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

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

Rei smiled. "Everyone keeps secrets. Even us. I realize that she's your cousin, but you don't need to tell her everything. Remember, you only transform when you want to. No one can force you, and the disguise field prevents anyone from ever seeing who you really are."

Ranko thought about that. She had seen Sailor Mercury several times and she never put together that Ami and her were the same person, despite all those tutoring sessions and seeing her almost every day. Now, after seeing them transform in front 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 going to be a Senshi! I'm not a girl!

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

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

That revelation shocked Rei to the core, Ranko was so sure, so certain, she had trouble doubting her. But what was so bad that could force a mother to kill her daughter? She remembered she heard Ranko asking something about 'guys being Senshi', but that didn't make any sense.

Rei listened to Ranko's objections one after another. Each time she countered with logic, support and friendship. When Ranko's excuses began to get thin, Rei changed to the offensive. "Ranko, everybody has fears. There's danger in everything we do. But facing those fears is what courage is all about. I saw you 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 you didn't know Ami and I were Sailor Senshi, and you put your life in danger to save us. Why did you do that?"

The girl just looked baffled. Batting her big puppy dog eyes, she looked the other girl in the eye. "But it's the duty of every Martial Artist to protect those who are weak. That monster could have killed everyone there if it wasn't stopped. 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, he couldn't. Ryoga cried because his worst enemy had been struck down before he could do it."

She wasn't sure who Ryoga was, but this was definite progress. "What we face out there is more powerful than any Martial Artist. What we face is nothing less than a complete demonic invasion from another dimension. Once the Moon Kingdom ruled the entire solar system. In the first invasion, they were defeated, but at the cost of all civilization as it stood. Queen Serenity sacrificed her life to provide the time that was needed for us to regroup. The second time they invaded, we again defeated them, but only just. It was the combined efforts of all of the Sailor Senshi that managed to halt the advance of a foolish and ill-prepared enemy."

Looking into the distance, Rei remembered all the details that her friends had been discussing in the last week. "In the last week we have destroyed more youma than we did in the entire previous three months. Ami thinks there's a pattern. Sailor Moon is worried that this is just the start of something bigger. I think that this must be another invasion. The rulers of the Dark Kingdom 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 images in fire. It's a limited form of precognition. When I did a reading on the weekend, I saw you, fighting some great evil. There were flames everywhere and great suffering."

Rei was standing now, gesturing, imploring Ranko to understand. "Ranko, whether you like it or not, most of the people out there are weak. They can't defend themselves against the powers of the Dark Kingdom and its armies. We don't fight because we enjoy it. If I could give up being a Sailor Senshi, and know that it would stop the demons attacking: I would. But it can't, so I won't. To keep people safe, we need defenders. People willing to risk their lives 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 you don't, the consequences will be terrible. I know you care for your cousin, but the demons are getting stronger, and we're staying the same. If this keeps up, one day we will lose. We need you Ranko."

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

Standing again she looked down at Rei. "I still don't want to wear that silly skirt and, 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 getting worried about me, so she's probably gunna call before I get home. Just tell her... tell her I came asking advice. Tell her... tell her that I like her. A lot."

Nonplussed that Ranko could care that much about the opinion of a cousin she seemed to see only occasionally, Rei nodded. "Just raise your hand in the air, and say what comes naturally."

Ranko lifted the transformation stick and hesitated. She knew the words. They seemed natural and flowed from deep within her soul. It felt both right and wrong to her. Holding it high, she gulped knowing this was a point of no return. She closed 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 filled her body. Even at his strongest, Ranma had never felt such power flowing through him. But now, as a girl, he knew he had powers he only dreamed of.

Sailor Sun stood there, looking glorious in her new Sailor suit. Her costume was similar to that of Mars, since bright red was her primary color. Along with the white gloves and body suit, she had a short red skirt, and knee length red boots. Her bright red hair flowed loosely down her back, and was held in place by 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 her hands 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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