Ah My Goddess Fan Fiction / Ranma 1/2 Fan Fiction / Sailor Moon Fan Fiction ❯ A Tale of Two Wallets ❯ Enter the Housewife, Exit the Destroyer ( Chapter 68 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]

A Tale of Two Wallets

(An Altered Destiny)

Written by Jim Robert Bader

Proofread by Shiva Barnwell

"It's no good," reported a fuku-clad short-haired girl who normally went by the name of Ami Mizuho as she stared at her handheld calculator, a blue visor covering the upper portion of her face, "The barrier has intensified in strength, and we lack sufficient energy as yet to attempt another penetration."

"Coitus interruptus again, eh?" remarked the short haired blonde who ordinarily was known as Haruka to a green haired girl who more often went by the name of Michiru, who smiled as if in a private jest between them.

"This is bad," said a girl with knee-length jet-black hair, who was usually referred to as Rei Hino, "This is very bad! I'm sensing mega amounts of Nega-energy concentrated in that place! It's not a Dark Kingdom stronghold, but it might as well be at this strong a level!"

"And Jupiter went in there all by herself?" fretted an extraordinarily pretty girl whose luxurious blonde hair showered down her back to about thigh-level, and who was more frequently known by the name Minako, or Mina-chan to her friends gathered here.

"She must really be hung on her old Senpai," observed the remaining blonde in their group, whose odango hair bulbs extended down into twin curling trails that gave one the impression of rabbit ears, which was fitting as her name (at the time of birth) was Usagi Tsukino, "I can't say I blame her either…I'm pretty worried myself about my cousin, if he is, in fact, in there."

"Yeah well," Rei growled at this blonde in what was actually a long-familiar pattern of bickering between them, "If you hadn't insisted on having the Double-Dutch Chocolate-and-Vanilla Sarsaparilla Expresso Mega Combo Banana Cream Special-and eating it all down like a pig-we might have had the time to teleport here sooner…"

"Hey!" Usagi glared back at Rei, "Are you saying this is all my fault…?"

"Guys, please!" Ami pleaded, hoping to head off yet another pointless argument between her dearest friends, "Bickering about why we are late will do us no good whatsoever! We have to find a way in there so that we help Jupiter out, because by herself she has absolutely no chance of defeating whatever is causing this barrier in the first place."

"Mercury is right," said Haruka, "We have to stay focused upon our main objective."

"Too bad Setsuna is back home taking care of Hotaru-chan," Michiru noted to her tall companion, "Who has a bad head cold and had to be excused from school this morning."

"I'd take just about any kind of help getting in there to see Jupiter," Minako said anxiously, "Who knows what kind of dangers she's facing even now, while I'm-we're not able to help her?"

"I don't know, Venus," replied Usagi, "But I'd give a month's manga allowance to know what she's doing at the minute…"

"BURN KNUCKLES!!!" cried Terry Bogart as he sent a blast of Chi-force at a concentration of the enemy forces.

Makoto Kino-the very tall girl with her long brown hair done up in a pony tail-was admiring the way that the handsome Terry was cutting a swath through the opposition with an ease that was almost as casual as his manly profile and congenial good manners. Such a nice guy, and oh-so-handsome, and easily the best fighter that she had ever seen in action, even better than Haruka-chan, and to all appearances he looked to be single.

Makoto shook herself out of her momentary daze and remembered that she, too, had to contribute to this fight. She saw a group of business-suit clad men massing on their flank and at once summoned up her power, which she unleashed upon them in the form of a massive thunderbolt that electrified the air and sent these suits off to dreamland.

"Not bad, Miss," Terry complimented before turning to face more of the opposition, striking his fist against the floor as he cried out, "POWER WAVE!!!" which sent a massive shockwave rolling outward to disburse the enemy on that flank.

Makoto felt like jumping for joy that the man had even noticed her in action. It was so rare to meet a guy who wasn't intimidated by her size and aggressive fighting style, and he had even given her a compliment! She felt like dancing on air, and it was only with great effort that she reminded herself that she was here on a mission to rescue her Senpai, Ukyo Kuonji!

Devil Hunter Kachu was in her element, laying about with her C'hi-Chi as men and women fell before the fury of her onslaught. She hummed chants and cast spells to bolster the spirit of her comrades while her husband diligently guarded her back and kept out of her way so as not to cramp her fighting prowess. In between inducing unconsciousness upon foeman after foeman, she would pause to admire the calm and collected way in which the man who had stolen her heart was holding up under a crisis. Tofu was not a warrior, but he well deserved the title of Healer, and his pressure-point attacks-far less brutal than her own fighting methods-were nonetheless quite effective in cutting down the ranks of the opposition as they waded through the battle together, a true husband and wife team in the best of Amazon traditions.

Happosai and Cologne fought as an even more formidable team as they pressed forward in the lead, breaking down barriers and obstacles while dispatching their opposition off to dream land, while Lotion guided them past false traps and optical misdirection that would have taken them away from their primary objective. The three Elders led the way for the others, sensing where they had to go and knowing with whom they were truly dealing while the rest of their party brought up the rear, which consisted primarily of Kasumi and Sasuke.

"Stay back, Mistress!" the valiant little ninja called to the elder Tendo sister as he fought tenaciously to keep the enemy forces away from the obvious non-fighter in their group.

Unfortunately he was only one man, and not a very good ninja at that, which left him at a horrible disadvantage in numbers as one man brought a brief case down on the back of his head, knocking the little man sprawling.

"Oh my!" Kasumi fretted, "Sasuke-chan?"

"Take the girl and use her for a hostage to make the others surrender," one of the three men in this group said as they rounded upon Kasumi.

"Oh my…" Kasumi saw the three men ganging up on her and started to worry, but fortunately for her Makoto saw them as well and sent a well-aimed charge in their direction. The three men started spontaneously jerking and spasming as though attempting to do a break dance in their business suits, and went down heavily with their teeth rattling a kind of staccato.

Kasumi spared only a moment of concern for her would-be assailants, then turned her attention towards Sasuke, bending down to examine him, and thus throwing off the man who had been about to leap on her from behind, who misjudged his timing and went stumbling past the Tendo girl in an effort to avoid tripping over her, only to come to an abrupt halt when Makoto's fist intercepted his face.

"Sasuke-chan?" Kasumi politely inquired as she felt gently probed the little man's neck area before partially removing his hood to examine the bump there, as she had read was a proper thing to do in one of the books that she had borrowed from Doctor Tofu.

"M-Mistress?" the little man groaned softly as he tried to get up, "N-Never fear…I will…protect…" he slumped forward, unconscious.

"Oh my," Kasumi diagnosed the little man as suffering from a mild form of concussion, which prompted her to feel a momentary stab of remorse since his injury had come in her defense. Kodachi's faithful manservant had proven himself loyal, for all his lack of fighting skills, and however was she going to face her beloved friend if anything bad should happen?

She considered what to do and decided that moving him right then and there might not be a very good idea, but the carpeted floor between office cubicles did not seem all that fine a resting place either. She was considering options when she heard a man's voice cry out behind her, turned around to look up over her shoulder and saw a man in a janitor's uniform charging her with what looked like a broom in his hands, but was being wielded in an altogether threatening manner.

"What am I paying these idiots for?" Cybelle complained bitterly as she studied the fight on the monitor display screens, "Can't even deal with the second-stringers? And who's that young girl fighting like an Amazon Elder? If I didn't know any better, I'd swear she and that blonde guy besides her look almost familiar…"

"Your people don't seem to be doing too hot, Momma," Atsuko noted with false solicitousness, "Maybe you ought to be considering letting us go so we can work something out here…"

"Work something out?" Cybelle turned a cynical glance towards her daughter, "When I still hold all the high cards, including you guys? I think not."

"Overconfidence has always been a weakness with you, Cybelle," Nodoka remarked, "One of these days it's going to get you into trouble."

"My middle name is Trouble," Cybelle held up a cell phone and spoke into it in harsh tones, "Listen up, you Interns, Temps and Junior Partners! If you don't start putting on a better show down there it's gonna look bad on your performance review evaluations, and that could stymie your chances of promotion!"

The threat had its effect as her "loyal troops" began fighting with renewed fury and desperation, slowing down the line so that the trio of Lotion, Happosai, and Cologne had to fall back a half step in order to cover each other.

"Whatever you're planning," Soun said gravely, "It's never going to work."

"We'll see about that," Cybelle smiled at him, then pulled out the music box again and played yet another sickly sweet tune, "I Love You, You Love Me…!" to which Soun recoiled in horror.

"Dad!" Akane cried out.

"You swine," Nabiki muttered darkly.

"Of course, I'm on a tight schedule, and this is cutting into my preparatory timeslice," Cybelle remarked as she put the music box away, "So maybe I ought to give these guys my special treatment," and she began to crack her knuckles together before flexing her fingers, then performing a complex hand gesture.

"Grandmother," Silk murmured softly, "Kachu…Kasumi…" and for a moment her expression grew taunt as though she were summoning her power for an entirely different purpose…

Kachu had a sudden sense of peril touch her mind, causing her to turn and see her near-twin sister as a man in a servant's uniform came bearing down upon Kasumi. There was too much distance between her and that man, and no clear shot for her to hurl her pole-arm like a javelin. Instead she sent a silent prayer Kasumi's way as bond suddenly opening between their minds without even conscious awareness of the rapport having been activated opened both ways.

Kasumi suddenly moved forward, catching the broom before it could reach her and forcing it downward so that the bristles pressed against the floor. The man in the janitor's uniform was taken by surprise as he forward momentum caused him to collide with his broom's handle, and then Kasumi dipped one shoulder, causing the man to trip over her as she straightened up, broom in hand, and toppled him onto his head with barely more than a jolt from the sudden collision.

"Oh my," Kasumi averred as she held the broom in her hand while the man who had attacked her was hearing the cries of birds circling his bruised noggin. A sound alerted her that someone else was behind her and she turned around to see who it was, unconsciously swinging the brook in her hands as though it were a kind of bo-staff and thus clipping the office secretary on the chin who had been about to attack her.

That was all the time, thought and energy that Kachu could spare for her sister as the press of battle drew her back to the main fray. There were fewer of the enemy to deal with now as those still conscious and able to withdrew a pace to lick their wounds and take stock of the battle. She was about to press on ahead when suddenly her instinct cried out to her in warning, and she lifted her C'hi-Chi in time to erect a defensive barrier with a hastily summoned spell, the blast impacting on her shields with the force of a hammer blow and driving her to her knees, while the rest of her allies suffered a similar reaction, including her husband.

"K-Kachu-chan," Tofu gasped before the second blow struck down their defenses and laid both husband and wife out, while momentarily stunning both Terry and Makoto.

"Uh oh," Happosai called back over his shoulder, feeling the impact wash over him and his own companions, "Looks like Cybelle decided to enter the fray for herself."

"We can't afford to waste time defending our allies," Cologne said grimly, "We must rescue the others, then deal with Cybelle, in that order."

"That's a mighty harsh and cynical judgement, even for you, Matriarch," Lotion noted.

"Ruthlessness is sometimes part of the burden of leadership," Cologne said with clear reluctance, "I do not enjoy doing this, but you both know that it is tactically necessary."

"Doesn't mean we have to like it either," Happosai noted, and with great remorse in his own expression he began summoning up his Chi energy in preparation for dealing with Cybelle directly.

"You go on ahead if you must," Lotion replied, "I will stay and watch over the children."

Cologne nodded her ascent, "Good luck to you…old friend. I fear you will need it."

"As do I," Lotion replied, turning back and hobbling towards their fallen comrades.

Kasumi saw her companions struck down while somehow managing not to be touched herself by the blast, and quite suddenly she realized that she was the only one still able to continue fighting. It had never been her way to follow the path of the warrior, even when she had been schooled in the martial arts, and the very thought of inflicting pain upon another human being was abhorrent to her nature. Nonetheless she knew that everyone was counting upon her, for in their momentarily weakened state they could not defend themselves and were helpless before the advancing men and women of the office.

Left alone to herself she might have taken the passive approach and offered no resistance to the enemy, hoping that everything would work out for the better. Instead a new thought arose in her mind, one that cried out to play a significant part in defending her family, the Wa of her household, the essence of her entire philosophy as the family domestic. It was her duty as the oldest and wisest of the daughters of Soun Tendo to uphold the honor and pride of the Tendo Ryu, and so she did what she so often did when confronted by difficult choices in much less tense situations.

She thought to herself, "What would mother do in this situation?"

And then the answer came to her with surprising simplicity, and she smiled a soft little smile, understanding exactly what her mother would expect her to do, and why she was the perfect candidate to protect the others as they fought to recover their strength.

She reached down and tore the slight rent in her dress that she had suffered without noticing during the battle, ripping of a band of silk, which she then proceeded to use to tie a serviceable headband around her head, keeping stray locks of hair from falling into her eyes. She then calmly assumed a relaxed posture, holding the broom out in both hands and thought back to her childhood when her mother first coached her in the arts of cleaning a house of dust, lint and cobwebs.

She had been a girl of only six when her mother had noticed her hovering in the background while Tendo Kimiko had been busy cleaning house. She asked Kasumi if she wanted to help out, and Kasumi had enthusiastically said yes, eager to join in with her mother's daily activities as she sensed that it would forge a closer bond between them as mother and daughter. Kimiko had even offered to turn it into a game, explaining how she had worked out her own system based on her husband's "Anything Goes" philosophy, and together they created a brand new martial arts system crafted around a system of motions that would be well suited to the chores involved in keeping their home clean and relatively spotless.

Kasumi had worked with her mother for close to four years to perfect this art, and she had practiced it every day since her mother's illness had taken her away, so she was well conditioned in the movements that would be needed, though it was the first time in nearly a decade that she had ever thought to use he arts in such an aggressive manner.

The Combat Lawyers and Interns were surprised at seeing this "Non-Combatant" suddenly taking up a weapon as though she were a Sohei Warrior Nun or some kind of domesticated Shi. Their hesitation was only momentary, of course, as this soft-seeming woman was only one left who could offer even token resistance, so they pressed in with the intent of an easy victory, only to discover why it was never wise to underestimate a Japanese Housewife.

Kasumi sensed movement on her right and at once performed the "Spinning Tassel Unwinds Cobweb" maneuver, which planted the business end of the broom into the face of the first man to attempt to rush her on her left flank. Without missing a beat Kasumi brought the handle-end of the broom around and struck the second man approaching her from her right while using the "Jab at Loose Panel Board" thrust to strike him between the eyes with force enough to cause the man to see double. Kasumi used the slight resistance this provided her to initiate momentum as she stepped forward and pivoted on one heal, bringing her weapon around and to the side at just the right level to strike another man in his stomach and double him over. Kasumi reversed her spin and pivoted around to bring her broom high in the "Caress the Ceiling" position before bringing it down again to strike with the bristly end in the face of a woman wielding a staple gun with force enough that she was driven to her knees.

Kasumi stepped back to assess what she had accomplished and unconsciously leaned her broom at an angle as yet another man attempted to rush her, unexpectedly encountered the handle between his legs and was unable to halt his forward momentum. The handle jerked in Kasumi's hand as the wood pressed up against the sensitive spot between the man's legs, and she turned in time to see him cross eyes and drop the pointer that he was going to use to slash at her, hands going to his groin as his sucked in on his cheeks and slowly toppled over.

"Oh my!" Kasumi said in surprise. THAT was certainly not a maneuver that she had learned from her mother…!

Nabiki's Journal resumes:

"I don't believe it!" Cybelle said in dull amazement, which pretty much summarized my own reaction to watching Kasumi take out half a dozen guys in as many seconds.

"Kasumi?" Akane exclaimed, sharing our sense of mutual disbelief.

"Kasumi-chan?" Kodachi was no less dismayed by the sound of it, and for once I had no trouble understanding her reaction.

"Well, what do you know?" Comb remarked aloud, "She's Kimiko's daughter after all. Who would have thought?"

"Never underestimate the power of a Japanese housewife," Nodoka remarked in what sounded like a cliché line from somewhere.

"It's always the quiet ones who surprise you," Silk remarked with surprising calm, as though she alone had anticipated this totally unexpected revelation about my sister.

"This whole business is proving a tedious investment of resources," Cybelle sighed, "It looks like I'm going to have to take a more personal hand in salvaging this fiasco."

And without warning the Demon Sorceress vanished from the chamber.

"Where did she go?" asked Ryoga.

"Who cares?" Ranma asked, rattling his chains, "This is our chance to get loose, so let's not waste it!"

"Aiyaa, Airen," Shampoo remarked, "Is good thought…but how we do?"

"Keep in mind, people," Atsuko called out, "Momma works mainly through the power of illusion, the same as me, only her powers are about a hundred times stronger, at least! These chains may look and feel solid, but they're just an illusion!"

"You mean we're not really being suspended on crosses over the ground?" Ukyo asked.

"Haven't you noticed that we've been hanging here for at least a half of an hour," Silk pointed out, "But our joints aren't aching and don't feel as though our arms are being pulled out of their sockets?"

I had begun to wonder about this as well and glanced down at the weights that I could feel pulling on my ankles, stretching me tight with my whole body rigid, and yet somehow I wasn't suffering as much as I objectively knew that I should have been experiencing. The obvious conclusion was that Silk and Atsuko were right, which meant that there had to be some way of convincing myself of the unreality of my bonds. The problem was that they felt pretty convincingly solid!

"Good to know that they're not really there," Comb summarized our thoughts for the rest of us, "Only how do we break this particular illusion?"

"Mistress?" a voice asked in a low, throaty growl that caused all of us to turn upward.

There, suspended on the chains above Atsuko's head, was a furry, ape-like shape with a canine-like muzzle clinging to the chains with the ease of a huge spider. One half of her body was covered in white fur, the other half was jet black, reminding me at once of the womanly form that we had briefly witnesses on the monitor screens before my sister and her allies had staged their daring attempted rescue.

"Shirokuro?" Atsuko blinked, then cried out, "It is you! Where the hell have you been?"

"Forgive me, Mistress," the wolf-like shape eased down until it was almost level with Ryoga's mother, "My former mistress captured and detained me in her stronghold, but I recently escaped in the hopes of finding you and my young Master. I'm sorry to be so late getting to you, but now that I'm here, how may I serve you?"

"By helping us get these bloody things off of us is how," Atsuko informed the humanoid canine, "Got any suggestions?"

"I have better than that, Mistress," the wolf-creature held itself erect on the chains while reaching down and presenting something looked like an arm-bracer, which she clamped around Atsuko's wrist, "I found it while searching for you in China, where you must have lost it during one of your changes."

"My At-band!" Atsuko cried in delight, "Shirokuro, you are a wonder!"

"I try, Mistress," the wolf-creature made a horrific grimace that must have been a smile before turning to grimace even more towards Ryoga, "Hello to you again, my Master. I am sorry that I have failed to serve you as I was ordered, but when my former Mistress, your grandmother, found me I had to lead her away from you, which is how I was captured."

"You're…Shirokuro?" Ryoga said in disbelief, "My dog?"

"Your humble servant," the wolf-creature replied before vaulting from the chain and doing a somersault that even Kodachi must have found impressive, transforming as she fell from creature shape to that of very nubile and unmistakably female shape, her ample breasts now protruding from the gaps created by the corset she wore beneath a black-and-white jacket.

Atsuko concentrated, and suddenly bands of flame curled about the arm that wore the bracer, sliding up the chains and melting the first one away, and then the other. Atsuko fell to the floor, easily catching her weight as the chains about her ankles disappeared, revealing themselves to be nothing more than cellophane strips of the kind used in photography.

Atsuko then extender her arm and the fires once again traveled up from the bracer to curl about Ryoga's body, and then he, too, fell free from his illusory bonds, landing as lightly as he could as the fall was no more than three meters.

"Well?" Comb asked impatiently, "What about the rest of us?"

"Ah," Atsuko grinned, "But you look so nice that way! Still, I suppose we could use more canon fodder when Momma comes back to investigate."

Once again her bracer glowed brightly, and now flames curled around the rest of our bodies, and one-by-one we began dropping to the floor as our bonds dissolved around us.

Of course when you're that high over the floor the sudden fall looks pretty jarring, and considering that I can't leap five meters into the air like Ranma and Shampoo, I was looking at a might nasty spill, only to find that Ranma got under me before this could happen, even as Ryoga positioned himself underneath Akane. Since we were the only ones in any imminent peril the others managed on their own to effect a good landing, and in very short order we were all safe and sound on ground level.

"Dad!" Akane cried the moment Ryoga set her down, and she rushed over to where our father still hung from the cross by the mini-spatulas, only to find the towering Kuonji Yumi blocked her path.

"Yumi-chan?" Ukyo-kun asked in his husky voice, dismayed at being confronted by another spatula-wielding relation.

Yumi smiled at us and then relaxed, "Don't worry, Niece, I'm not under her control, no matter what Cybelle told you. You should know us ninja-girls are harder to influence than that."

"You mean you weren't being mind controlled?" Ranma asked in clear suspicion.

"I wanted her to think that so she wouldn't keep her guard up too high around me," Yumi turned to regard her still-motionless brother, "And I wanted to learn the real scoop over why your father's been acting so peculiar lately. It seemed the right thing to do to play the dutiful older sister so I could get to the heart of this conspiracy, and now I know why he's been acting like such a baka lately."

"Why?" Ukyo-kun asked, "What's wrong with Dad?"

"He didn't want me to tell you this," Yumi said reluctantly as she studied her niece, "In fact he's gone to great lengths to keep you in the dark about his condition."

"His condition?" Ukyo-kun asked in dismay, "I know he's been sick a lot lately…"

"It's much worse than that, Kuonji-san," Comb pronounced as she leaned close to the man sitting motionless behind the desk in an open-eyed stupor, "His life-force is failing badly. I can't do too detailed an analysis here, but I'm afraid your father is not in good health…"

"Perceptive as always, I see, Comb-san," Yumi said grimly before laying a callused hand on Ukyo's shoulder, "In fact, it's Colon Cancer. I hate to tell you this, Ukyo-chan, but…your father is dying."

There was a long, silent moment before Ukyo gasped, "N-No…it can't be true! Why didn't he tell me?"

"He thought you had enough on your mind," Yumi replied, "It's why he's been putting so much pressure on your lately about your engagement to young Saotome."

We all looked to see Ranma standing there with a stricken expression, staring at a man he had not seen in over a decade and clearly trying to place him with his childhood memories. At last he approached Ukyo's father and said, "Kuonji-san? It's me…Saotome Ranma."

"Saotome," Akira said faintly, the first sign he had given in all this time of being even partially aware of his surroundings.

Ranma took a long, deep, ragged breath, and then I saw a look of such intense fury cross his face as I had never seen before, and without another thought he stormed in a semi-circle around us and went directly towards his father, who was still tied to a chair, though his wounds seemed less severe than before. Without a moment's pause he drew a hand back and slapped his father-hard! He struck him two more times, Genma's head rocketing from side to side with each blow, until Comb, Atsuko and his mother interposed themselves and sought to restrain him.

"SNAP OUT OF IT, OLD MAN!!!" Ranma shouted into his father's face, "You're the cause of all this! You're the one who made the deal and then broke it! What do you gotta say for yourself now, huh? You worthless old fool…!"

"Ranma," Nodoka spoke firmly, "This is no way for you to act around your father. No matter what he may have done to you, or what crimes he may have committed against the Kuonji's, he is still your father."

"Don't remind me!" Ranma hissed, but he nonetheless desisted.

"Foolish boy," Genma suddenly spoke up as he lifted his head to regard Ranma with what looked almost like disappointment, "Have you learned nothing in all your time around me?"

"Learned what?" Ranma sneered, "How to be a coward and a failure? Some example you set for me, Old Man! You wrecked Ucchan's life and drove her dad over the edge, so what are you gonna say that can possibly make things all right, huh? Huh?"

"Only this, Boy," Genma replied, "Never judge by appearances."

And with that he calmly and casually broke the chair that he was bound to, then stood erect and brushed the ropes off of his body.

"Now then," he said in a too-casual manner, "Since the rest of us managed to free ourselves, I suggest we do the same thing for Tendo-kun. Even the Master was never so harsh with us in training, eh old friend?"

"Saotome," Daddy replied, "I am glad to see that you have recovered, but would you mind getting me down from here?"

"Yumi-san?" Genma asked as he adjusted his glasses, "Since this is your handiwork, I assume that you'd like to do the honors?"

"I was hoping somebody might ask me," Yumi replied, "Too bad it had to be you."

With that she hefted her huge baker's peel and made a flying leap, bringing it down like it was a huge fly swatter, only she somehow batted away the mini-spatulas, allowing our father to tumble free from his bindings.

Silk was there before we knew it, catching Daddy before he even made contact with the floor and hugging him tightly as she asked, "Are you all right, Soun-chan? Are you injured…"

"Hey," Yumi growled, "I didn't free him so you could claim him!"

"This sounds familiar," Comb mused to Atsuko, "I wonder why?"

"Couldn't imagine," replied Ryoga's Oni mother.

"Dad," Akane said as she moved to join our father, which I was about to do myself when I felt something stagger me from within, a sudden jolt that went up and down my spine and caused me to gasp as my thought were suddenly flooded by the images of my mentor, Lotion.

"What…?" I glanced around, suddenly very much afraid that something bad had just happened to the Amazon Elder…

"So far so good," Happosai mused as they made it to the third floor without incident.

"That's usually what people say when they fall off of a cliff," Cologne remarked tartly.

"It's not the fall you gotta worry about," Happosai replied, "It's that sudden stop at the-YEOW!!!" he cried out as he ran face-first into an unseen barrier, that caused his outline to briefly be illuminated.

"Oh, did that hurt?" Cybelle asked as she seemed to flow through the walls of the corridor, "I'm so sorry, I meant it to be much more painful."

"Cybelle," Cologne fell into a defensive crouch, her staff at the ready.

The demon sorceress frowned as she studied the familiar battle-posture and said, "Have we met before? You do seem familiar…and your energy signature is almost like someone I've met before, give or take a couple of decades."

"I've changed somewhat since the last time you saw me," Cologne replied, "But I remember you quite well. This whole business has had your stench on it from the very beginning…"

"I'm flattered that you find me so unforgettable," Cybelle made a hand-gesture, "Now let's see what you're made of."

Cologne braced herself as the first attack lanced at her with the speed of a striking cobra, but with her staff in hand she channeled her energies into a deflective spell, and the attack broke harmlessly against her own barrier like water off a duck's back.

"Impressive," Cybelle remarked with raised eyebrows, "Let's see how you handle this one."

She made a circular motion with her hand and all at once the energies surrounding Cologne swirled around her, closing inward and igniting into a brief, intense explosion. When the energy vapors trailed away, however, Cologne was still standing in the center, relatively unaffected.

"Well, well," Cybelle sounded impressed this time, "You are more than you appear, it seems. In fact, I'' rather surprised at myself for not recognizing you sooner, Elder Kho-Lon of the Joketsuzoku."

"At your service," Cologne replied in mock courtesy, "Took you this long to figure it out?"

"Your new look confused me for a while there," Cybelle smiled, "You look young enough to be dating my grandson. I take it, then, that this other youth is, in fact, your former paramour, Happosai?"

In spite of her determination to remain calm, Cologne could not help bristling, "HE IS NOT MY…!"

"SWEEET!!!" Happosai cried as he lurched to his feet and launched himself at the demoness, only to pass harmlessly through her form as though she were not even present.

"I guess that answers that question," Cybelle noted drolly, "A creature of habits, your old boyfriend. I must say that I do approve of his new look…very bishonen and distinctive, even if inside he's the same old pervert."

"I told you before," Cologne said in exasperation, "He IS NOT MY BOYFRIEND!!!"

"Whatever," Cybelle casually waved a hand, and suddenly the floor around Cologne snapped up to form an iron cage around her body, another cage forming about Happosai as a chain appeared to lift them from the floor. "There now, you're less trouble to me if you're safely detained in walls of iron. These are not so much illusions as specially made devices that I've had refined to almost pure levels of iron, the kind so hard that normal steel would seem brittle. Have fun contemplating your cages, I have other fish to fry, and you've both cost me more time than I can afford to expend here."

With that she vanished.

"Cologne-chan?" Happosai asked as the two "elders" found themselves hanging side-by-side together.

"What?" Cologne asked as she studied the cage, looking for the weak points that might be shattered.

"Why do you hate me so much?" the blonde man sat upright in his cage, pushing the blonde locks out of his face, "Did I really hurt you that badly all those years ago?"

Cologne heaved a very tired sigh, "Let's just say you didn't endear yourself to me when you stole those treasures from my village, AFTER you proved to be such a faithless wretch, unworthy of my trust."

"That hurts, Cologne-chan," Happosai pouted in a childlike manner, "I wasn't trying to deliberately hurt your feelings. I just…couldn't control myself back then…"

"You never even tried," Cologne said in increasing frustration, unable to discern the normal patterns of force that flowed around most solid objects.

Happosai glanced down at the floor of his cage and said, "If I could go back and do it all over…"

"You'd do the same thing you always do to annoy me," Cologne replied, "The Demoness was right about one thing, you are a creature of perverse habits."

A brief fire lit up in Happosai's eyes, and he sullenly glowered at the radiant beauty in the other cage, vowing to himself that he would make her regret those taunts and come to see the real him, at which point he would relish seeing her grovel at his feet begging for his favors. In fact he knew exactly how he could work his vengeance upon her, and an idea began to form in his crafty mind, one that even Cybelle would be impressed with had she bothered to listen in on the nefarious plot that he was silently hatching…

Lotion watched as Kasumi knocked down two more opponents with seemingly no effort, approving of the girl's ingenious adaptation of basic household chores into an effective combat system. It appeared as though the gentle Tendo daughter would not be requiring her services after all, so she stood guard over the others as they began to recover consciousness, the first being the tall girl in the white and green fuku, along with Terry Bogart and, of course, Lotion's great-granddaughter, Kachu.

But just as their party began to sort itself out and Kachu set about reawakening her husband, Lotion felt the hairs along her arms bristle and stared in dismay as several of the computer consoles flared to life, their energy congealing as a form flowed into being inside the chamber, there-yet-not-there-which she knew without question would be the demon sorceress.

Worse still the demoness took shape alongside Kasumi, smiled as the Tendo girl reflexively struck out at her with her broom, only to encounter nothing, then raise a hand as she replied, "My turn!"

Lotion gave no thought to the consequences as she all but flew across the room, interposing herself between the demon sorceress and Kasumi as she raised her staff to meet the attack, concentrating the remaining energies of the chamber into a defensive spell, which met and countered the blast that had been meant to fry Kasumi where she was standing. Unfortunately there was not time enough to make the spell more effective, and the reverberation traveled down the length of her arms into her frail body, knocking the aged Lore Master to the floor as though she had been struck by a bolt of lightning.

"Oops," Cybelle remarked, "Well, what do you know? Instead of one annoyance I got another. Long time no see, Elder…too bad for you it couldn't have been longer!"

"GREAT-GRANDMOTHER!!!" Kachu cried out, having witnessed the blast and felt it reverberate throughout her nervous system. In a flash she snatched her C'hi-Chi from the floor and leveled it at the demoness, "FOR THIS FOUL ACT YOU PAY, DEMONESS!!!"

"Eh?" Cybelle turned to regard the eldest of the Tendo siblings with only a slight frown, "What have we here? A child playing at being an Elder? You and Cologne ought to compare notes, though you're not in her class by a long grade point average!"

"You dare to challenge me?" Kachu asked with deceptive calm, "Your arrogance shall be your undoing!" and with no further warning she attacked the demoness, her weapon spinning in her hands like a helicopter blade as she summoned her power and slashed at the holographic demon.

"Eh?" Cybelle reacted as her body momentarily was rent in twain, then righted itself again, "What? But…!"

Kachu gave her no chance to recover but attacked again and again, her blade striking home each time and causing the image of the demon sorceress to ripple. Cybelle backed away, trying to summon her own energies, but Kachu was relentless, singing chants and prayers that caused her weapon to glow around the edges. Steadily by measure she drove the demoness away from Kasumi and the others.

Kasumi was kneeling down to examine the Elder, who was barely conscious in her arms when Tofu noticed her condition and went to her, allowing his wife to do her work without interference on his part. Meanwhile Terry and Makoto studied the fight between the Devil Hunter and the Demoness, hoping for the opportunity to contribute.

"Are you seriously hurt, Elder?" Kasumi asked the stricken Lotion.

"I'll live," the Elder replied weakly, "Barely…but I'm afraid I'm no good for any more fighting at the present."

"You've done enough, Grandmother," Tofu said to his adoptive great-grandmother-in-law, "Better to rest now and leave the fighting to us."

"Wise thoughts, Son-in-law," Lotion winced slightly, "But I sense…an evacuation would be in order. I must go into a healing trance to conserve my strength, but I trust you to do what is necessary, and take good care of my Kachu."

"You have my word on that," Tofu replied, "You've be bouncing your great-great-grandchildren on your knee before you know it."

"I look forward to that," Lotion replied, then closed her eyes and took a deep breath before becoming relaxed, almost motionless.

Tofu felt the elder's pulse, which was very faint but strong enough to believe she was not in immediate danger. Nonetheless when Kasumi asked, "Is she…?" and he looked up into her eyes, he found that-for the first time in years-he could study her much-beloved face without feeling the effects of his normal hysterical impulses.

"She'll be fine, but we have to get her out of here," Tofu replied, gathering the frail old body into his arms before saying, "We'll have to count on Cologne and Happosai to do what we came here to do, and if they can't free the others, I rather doubt we would manage."

"You're probably right, Tofu-chan," Kasumi agreed as she took Lotion's staff in hand, feeling that it was only right to bring it with them.

"Correction," a voice said, "You are not going anywhere."

They turned to see a somewhat elderly man in the trademark suit of the Combat Lawyers holding an old-style pistol on them as he gave them a slight, congenial smile and said, "Congratulations on proving to be one of our toughest cases on record, but I am afraid that I cannot allow you to leave without the permission of the Mistress. As Senior Law Partner of Jun Mun Lun it is my duty to…as you might say…take care of problem assignments.

"What are you going to do?" Tofu asked the man, unable to attack with the unconscious Elder in his arms.

"The basements in this building are very deep," the man said pleasantly, "We bury problem cases, such as you, where they will not be discovered, possibly for many generations yet to come. If you give me any further difficulties I will be happy to file you there…under the heading of Post Mortem."

"That doesn't sound very lawyer like," Kasumi criticized, "Aren't you ordinarily the sort of people who do not like to get their hands dirty?"

"I make the odd exception," the man smiled, when all of a sudden a blurring motion struck the gun from his hands and it fell to the floor in several pieces. The man himself was hurled against one of the steel-reinforced cubical walls with jarring impact as Ranma's forearm cut across his windpipe.

"Care to try that again?" Ranma snarled, "That's my sister-in-law you're threatening, creep!"

"Ranma-kun?" Kasumi said in surprise, then turned to see the others appearing from a side-corridor, and she burst into a radiant smile as she cried, "Akane-chan, Nabiki-chan…Koda-MMMPH!!!"

The press of Kodachi's lips cut her off over her mouth as Kasumi staggered back a half step, only to recover in time to return the kiss with deep passion.

"AHEM!" Soun said a bit too loudly, reminding the two girls that they had an audience.

"You were magnificent, my love!" Kodachi said with enthusiasm, "A truly breathtaking sight to behold, worthy of the descendent of a noble Samurai house!"

"Thank you," Kasumi returned her smile with radiant warmth, "I'm glad to see you well."

"Ah…Ranma?" Ryoga tapped his half-brother on the shoulder.

"What?" Ranma snarled.

"I think the guy you're choking just passed out," Akane noted.

"Huh?" Ranma checked the elderly man to see if he was still awake or faking, then let him slide to the ground, snorting, "Wimp!"

"Elder?" Nabiki stepped forward to see the unconscious Lotion, and her expression was stricken.

"We need to get her to my clinic right away," Tofu replied, glancing over his shoulder before adding, "Assuming any of us survive the next few minutes…"

Nabiki's Journal Resumes:

I don't know what to tell you went through my mind when I saw the old woman hanging there limply in Tofu-sensei's embrace. A thousand thoughts must have gone through my head, but the one that was strongest there was, "WHY? Why did this happen?"

Okay, I was being melodramatic. The Elder didn't die saving my sister's life, but I almost felt as bad as if she had because it reminded me of just how frail old people really are, even if they're Amazon Elders. The old woman had taken a lot when that Demoness hit her, and it was a miracle of no small proportions that she even survived the blast, as I knew Kasumi would not have.

I love my sister very much, okay? So if anything bad did happen to Kasumi…then I'd probably feel it as if it were like with my mother all over again. That's the problem about caring for other people…they can hurt you by being hurt themselves, and I never wanted to feel that helpless again, ever. Somehow she had done it, though…the old woman had gotten to me, and I think I almost have started to think of her as though she were my own grandmother.

Oh yeah, about the fight with Cybelle…it was a pretty intense thing right about then and there, though I was only half aware that Kachu was beating on a hologram the whole time that I was fussing about Lotion. My Chinese half-sister was giving what for to the old witch, but right about the time when she had Cybelle on the ropes her body froze up on her and she started to double over. Tofu was not aware of this himself at first, but as Cybelle recovered her strength we all began to feel it, like electrical tension on our skin, and turned to watch the last act of the drama.

When Kachu unexpectedly faltered, falling down to one knee, she provided the opening that our friend, Terry, had been looking for, and he got a pretty good shot in that caused Cybelle's image to disrupt for several seconds. She reformed again within seconds, so Ukyo's friend, Makoto (Oh yeah, more about her later) unleashed what looked like a lightning burst that crackled about the whole room, causing several computer systems and some overhead lights to spontaneously short out. Cybelle reformed again, as mad as a hatter, only now her image appeared less well defined than it had before. That didn't stop her from returning the favor on Makoto and Terry, who went flying halfway across the room with a single broad sweep of her hand.

That was when Ukyo, Akane Shampoo and Ranma moved in to attack. Ryoga started to join them when his mother put a restraining hand to his shoulder and said, "Not yet, Ryo-chan…let the others take the point, you can join in when they make an opening for you."

"Their combined power is formidable, Mistress," the buxom lady with the white-and-black hair called Shirokuro related, "But it's insufficient to deal with my former Mistress."

"I know, Shirokuro," Atsuko turned to her and said, "I'm trusting you to help my son out on this. Do you think you can do it?"

The familiar nodded, "Understood and agreed, Mistress. The young Master will be safe with my protection."

Meanwhile Ukyo-kun was sweeping the space occupied by Cybelle's image with his baker's peel, having no other effect but to keep the demoness off-balance. Ranma tried the Chestnut fist but found his hands had little to strike at. Akane suffered from the same problem, while Shampoo's bonbori were just as ineffective.

"Oh dear," Cybelle's image remarked when the four of them stepped back to exchange looks over their apparent lack of progress, "Are you children having fun? You're just pale imitations compared with your elders."

Her hands moved and suddenly Ukyo staggered away, clutching at her chest as her bandoleer of spatulas fell away, while Ranma and Shampoo were batted aside with contemptible ease. Akane tried to duck low and get into the guard of the next attack, but all she managed to do was hurl herself through the holographic body, to land in a heap across the desk that was behind the demoness.

"Akane!" Ryoga at the same time that Makoto cried, "Senpai!"

"Go!" Atsuko ordered her son and Familiar, for which Ryoga needed no encouragement, but as he started to rush forward the familiar leaped upon him and suddenly his body was surrounded by a shimmering coat of burning black-and-white fire. In less than a second Ryoga's flame-covered fist struck the image of his grandmother, which resulted in a fire-storm of explosive colors, causing the entire room to shake as Cybelle's image was entirely disrupted.

"That won't hold her long," called Cologne, who mysteriously appeared alongside Happosai, neither looking the worst for the wear, though it was hard to tell if that were a good or bad thing, "She'll reform herself again in mere moments! We must attack the power source that she is using to project her image, only then will we be out of immediate danger!"

Sure enough a huge face took form over our head, crackling in the air over our heads as the demoness leered at us and said, "NICE TRY, PEOPLE, BUT YOU CAN'T BEAT ME IN MY OWN STRONGHOLD! THE BUILDING ITSELF WILL SUSTAIN ME LONG AFTER THE LOT OF YOU ARE SPENT AND EXHAUSTED!!!"

"The computer system," Silk murmured faintly, "It's the computer network itself that she's using to project her image!"

"My thoughts exactly," Nodoka agreed, "She's using the Internet to by-pass the wards Happosai used to imprison her physical body. We're only seeing her image because she's telecommuting!"

"Then we have to destroy all the computers and on-line systems for the whole building," I said, "But that could take forever!"

"Not necessarily," Genma said gravely, his eyes gleaming with a sudden intensity that I'd never seen there before, "Master?"

"Yes, Genma-my boy?" Happosai asked.

"Take my wife and son and see that they leave," Genma said softly, "I'll be the one to deal with her…my way."

"Your way?" Yumi snorted as she supported her brother over her shoulder, "What can a cowardly fool like you accomplish that an Amazon Elder can't do?"

"I said…" Uncle Genma turned around, and suddenly there was an intensity to his eyes that caused even the burly chef to back away, "I WILL DEAL WITH IT, UNDERSTAND?"

I heard Happosai gulp, and all at once the blonde pervert turned to the rest of us and said, "Everybody clear out of here, NOW!!!"

"Huh?" Ranma asked as he was rubbing his chest with one hand, helping Shampoo with his other, "What gives, Pop? Why are you suddenly being so dramatic?"

Genma did not immediately answer, he just looked up at the ceiling before saying, "You threatened my wife, sons and best friend…I too, have my limits."

"Better leave now, Boy," Happosai started to hustle us towards the corridor by which we had come, "Don't argue with your father!"

"Saotome?" Daddy was obviously confused, but he did not resist as Silk urged him to follow after Kasumi, Kachu and Doctor Tofu.

"What's wrong?" Ryoga asked as he fell in step, alongside the reformed familiar, Shirokuro.

"You've never seen your father when he gets really angry," Happosai replied, "I have, that's why we're leaving!"

"But…?" Atsuko turned back to stare at Genma, who had not moved from the spot where he had made his declaration.

"Husband?" Nodoka sounded just as puzzled.

"We can't leave that fool behind," Comb complained, though she was sensible enough to follow the example that the rest of us were taking.

"He'll be all right," Happosai assured us, "Trust me on this!"

"Trust you?" Cologne asked skeptically, but nonetheless followed the rest of us as we retreated from the building.

All at once I felt something gathering behind me and turned before fully leaving and saw Uncle Genma crouch down and assume a curiously hunched down posture, and then-right there before my eyes-he suddenly vanished completely!

"Pop?" Ranma had turned to witness the same thing, and all of a sudden computer systems started exploding all over the room, and a shadowy blur moved across the ceiling and along the tops of the cubicle walls as explosion after explosion sounded behind us, and then the room itself started vibrating.

"I was afraid of this," Happosai growled, "We'll never get out of here in time if he keeps it up at this level. I guess Genma is really, really pissed off about Cybelle…"

"I don't understand," Comb said above the rumbling noises that started reverberating throughout the whole structure, "How can he be doing this? I never knew he had this kind of technique!"

"That's because Genma sealed it away for fifteen years," Happosai replied, "I was there the day he buried the first scroll, then gave the other one to Nodoka for safe-keeping."

"Scroll?" Nodoka remarked, "I remember him giving me something that I thought was just another musty old volume, like all his other old martial arts tombs…"

"Take my word on this," Happosai urged, "This one isn't like all of the others…it's one half of a very evil martial arts system that Genma pioneered shortly after you married, the Umisenken, which differs from the Yamasenken in that one is the Soft-inner form and the other is the Hard-outer form of the same basic concept. Both systems together are the reason why Genma was once known as the Destroyer."

There was a long pause before anybody said anything, but then Cologne cried out, "THAT FAT FOOL IS THE DESTROYER??? You must be joking!"

The building shook under our feet again, at which point I said, "I think the point is rather academic at the moment people, and we still need to get out of here in a hurry!"

"No can take stairs," Shampoo reasoned.

"The elevator probably doesn't work either," her mother noted as the building shook again, "And I frankly wouldn't take my chances with the window."

"If no can go that way," Shampoo brightened, "Then we make own exit, Mother?"

Cologne and Comb both smiled, and the former said, "I like your thinking on this, Child, go to it."

"Make our own way?" I exchanged looks with Ranma, "But…?"

Silly me, I forgot who I was talking about here. Shampoo the Human Wrecking Ball turned ninety degrees to one side of a long hallway and began using the Bakusai Tenketsu (and probably a lot of other techniques I can't even pronounce) to start hammering her way through wall after wall, bursting through tone, wood and concrete and shattering steel in her passage while her mother and great grandmother worked to widen the passage for the rest of us to follow. Once they figured out what was happening, Ryoga and his mother joined in and their combined efforts cut down the time it would have taken us to get from the second floor to street level. Once we hit the pavements we started running and found the rest of Makoto's friends waiting for us with anxious expressions.

"Ranma!" called a girl with long blonde pigtails (and boy did that jog a memory when I saw that!) whose face was hard to identify but who reminded me a lot of Usagi Tsukino called out.

"Jupiter!" cried out another blonde who I'd swear I knew from somewhere, but as with the first girl her face was difficult to get a grasp on.

"Hey guys," Makoto called out as she helped Ukyo-kun along, holding her spatula and bandoleer in one hand, "Like to meet my Senpai?"

"Oh wow!" a dark haired girl (again I had that sense of familiarity working here).

"THAT'S your SENPAI???" said a shorthaired girl who reminded me a lot of Akane.

"Uh…hi," Ukyo-kun smiled awkwardly, holding a hand over her wounded chest.

"Let me see that wound, child," Comb turned to her and gently pried her hands away from the deep gash we saw there, "As I thought, you need to get that treated immediately or you could risk an infection."

"But…?" I saw Makoto's face (yeah, I could see her pretty clearly, don't know why it was easier with her than with the others) go rigid with shock as she stared at the hard, MALE chest of Ukyo, and then she turned an astonished look at Ukyo, who smiled back at her a bit shyly.

"I-uh-wanted to tell you about that," Ukyo-kun remarked, "You see…there've been a few changes since last I saw you…"

"What's this?" Yumi looked towards her niece from where she was tending to her brother, "What changes?"

"Will Ukyo be all right?" Akane gasped as she saw the blood on Ukyo's shirt that was seeping from the claw marks.

"Set her down and I'll do what I can on short notice," Comb instructed.

"Gemi-chan?" Atsuko suddenly murmured as she turned around, hearing a rumble grow with intensity behind us, and as we all turned to look the building began to collapse inwardly as though imploding from a series of timed explosions.

"Husband?" Nodoka asked in the same anxious tones.

"Saotome," Daddy said grimly, "You didn't have to do that."

"Incredible," Cologne said in mild dismay, "To think that such a powerful technique resides in the mind of such a fool…"

"Pop?" Ranma sounded unexpectedly worried, "POP!"

"Father?" Ryoga asked in the same worried tone of voice.

"Look," Silk pointed, "I see survivors."

Sure enough as we watched the dust settle a number of the Combat Lawyers began staggering from the remains of the building, first one or two, then two at a time, followed by larger groups until a full mob appeared, some looking pretty banged up and bruises but otherwise surprisingly unhurt for all the level of damage that had been sustained to the building. Their suits were torn and rent in places, but that was the extent of the damage, which I found frankly as unbelievable at the thought that one man could destroy an entire building bare-handed.

And then, amid all the carnage, Saotome Genma himself came striding out from the ruins with a body slung over his shoulder, which he tossed down onto the street and turned out to be none other than the creep who had pulled a gun on Tofu and Kasumi. Without acting as if anything out of the ordinary had occurred he turned to Happosai and said, "Thank you for getting everyone clear, Master. Now, I think it's time we should be going home, people."

"Pop?" Ranma asked his father, looking as stunned as everyone else was.

"Let that be a lesson to you son," Genma nodded slowly, "Don't judge by appearances, and never turn your back on a coward."

With that he turned to leave, even Yumi giving him a new kind of respect that heretofore none of us would have shared in the slightest.

"Aiyaa," Shampoo said in tones of incredulity, "First time Shampoo understand why Shampoo mother think Ranma father very special."

"I still don't get it," Akane said in what had to be the universal thought of the moment between us, "If Uncle Genma's that powerful, then why does he always run away for his problems?"

"Has to do with what happened fifteen years ago," Happosai replied, "Genma once sold the scroll containing the Yamasenken to a friend, only that poor devil literally brought his dojo crumbling down on top of him and he died. Genma blames himself for that…it pretty much broke what was left of courage."

"You mean because someone died using his technique he chose to bury the system and become a coward?" Silk asked in dismay.

"Running away from problems is often a lot easier than trying to deal with them," Happosai remarked, "And when the thing you fear the most is yourself, you pretty much have to keep running all the time, or so I imagine."

"And of course he's following your fine example," Cologne remarked, earning a withering glare from the blonde pervert.

I exchanged looks with Shampoo, then we each glanced towards Ranma, who still seemed pretty stunned by the notion that his father might at one time have been a formidable martial artist, then we turned to see Comb straightening up after laying hands upon Ukyo-kun, who was glancing down at herself in surprise with her wounds almost healed as if by magic.

"I recommend plenty of rest for you…young Master," Comb winked in a conspiratorial manner, giving a sidelong glance at the girls in pretty sailor fuku who were gathered around to examine their friend's "Senpai."

"Gosh," one of them remarked, "He's gorgeous!"

"What a hunk!"

"No wonder you compare him to just about every guy you meet, Jupiter."

"Ah…" Makoto replied, still looking stunned at the revelation of Ukyo's current gender.

"I think Saotome had an excellent suggestion," Daddy noted to the rest of us, "I think a victory celebration would be in order. What do you say, Kasumi-chan, Silk-chan?"

"Yes, Father," Kasumi smiled as she held Kodachi's hand, who added for her, "It would be our sincerest pleasure."

"Don't I at least rate favorable mention?" Yumi asked as she began carrying her brother while following after Tofu, who was still holding Lotion.

I turned to Ranma and Shampoo and said, "Guys? If it's all the same…"

"We come with you," Shampoo assured me.

"Yeah," Ranma replied gruffly, "We wanna see the old woman pull through as much as you do."

"Then I'd better be heading back to my office," Terry remarked, "Before my boss thinks I've taken the rest of the day off."

"Would you mind if we walk with you?" one of the blond haired girls smiled eagerly, a sentiment shared by many of the others.

"Uh…sure, I guess," Terry said with some reluctance.

The girls in Sailor Fuku began to crowd about our studly repair guy, all except Makoto, who lifted Ukyo-kun into her arms while murmuring under her breath, "You got some explaining to do, 'Mister.'"

"Uh…whatever you say, Mako-chan," Ukyo-kun replied, while Akane frowned and decided to follow.

"What'll happen to Grandma now that we destroyed her building?" Ryoga asked his mother.

"Don't know," Atsuko replied, "And I don't particularly care. I'm sure we haven't seen the last of her, but for now that's one place she isn't gonna using in the future."

"Say," one of the Sailor girls said as they barely drifted out of earshot, "You guys feel a draft all of a sudden?"

I turned around and saw Happosai tucking some incriminating white fluff into his shirt while chuckling as Cologne rounded upon him, easily avoiding her staff and skipping off with the pilfered items he had somehow confiscated. I saw the two Fuku-suited girls who had been standing back from the others watch all of this with a certain wry detachment, and then the blonde said to the green-haired girl, "There are some very strange people living in this Ward."

A sentiment to which I only nodded in silent agreement before hurrying to catch up with Tofu, hoping against hope that Lotion would continue to be around a while longer to further bother and befuddle me with her conundrums…

Tatewaki Kuno leaned back in his chair and studied the reports that were on his desk, deciding which of them would warrant his most immediate attention and while could be postponed for a later time. So much work to do to get his family assets back in the profit zone. For too long things had been starting to decline, but with his leadership at the helm he had every hope of turning things around for the next quarter.

His terminal display was on but he ignored it as he gazed out a side window, and in doing so failed to see the woman's face smirking at him as Cybelle thought to herself that one long-range plan might not have panned out, but this new project that she had undertaken was indeed showing definite promise.

There was more than one way to skin a panda in Nerima…


Comments/Criticism/Genma the Human Conundrum: Shadowmane@msn.com