Ranma 1/2 Fan Fiction / Sailor Moon Fan Fiction ❯ Permutation ❯ Chapter 5

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

A Ranma ½ / Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon crossover
© 2004–2009 by gsteemso

Chapter Five

Not my characters — Ranma ½ belongs to Takahashi Rumiko and Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon belongs to Takeuchi Naoko.

“RANMA!” cried Sailor Saturn, frantically using her healing power on the prone martial artist. She was very intelligent and would not normally have gotten herself in such a flap, but she was also still a child… a child without many friends. Now it looked like she might lose her newest one before she could get to know her — him? Whatever — any better.

“His vital signs are back and looking good, Saturn. I think you got to him in time,” Mercury said gently, putting away her visor again.

“Oh… good…” Saturn replied distractedly, drawing back a bit. “How do we get a proper look at him with the disguise pen hiding everything?”

“Here, I got it!” said Moon, happy to be able to help. She reached down to where the disguise pen had concealed itself in Ranma’s Sailor suit’s front bow, and somehow detached it from his person — though the others couldn’t quite make out what she’d done, the dark of night being relieved only by the weak moonlight and their transformation-boosted night vision. The image of Sailor Europa flickered and disappeared, leaving a male Ranma in its place. He was apparently unharmed, save for the painful-looking scorch marks all down the left side of his torso, where the near miss by Mars’ Snake Fire demonstration had burnt a big hole through his shirt and undershirt.

“Why isn’t he awake?” asked Venus with concern.

“Aargh…” said Ranma faintly, waking up and immediately wishing he hadn’t. His entire body felt like it had toothache. The terrible burnt sensations from his left side were more or less completely drowned out by the cacophony of abused nerves.

“Okay, never mind,” muttered Venus.

“I think we should call it a night, everyone,” said Neptune. “It’s too dark to see properly for all this bouncing around.”

Murmurs of agreement came from all around. With some help from Uranus and Tuxedo Mask, Ranma dragged himself upright, and everyone gathered in a circle for the Sailor Teleport back to the Outers’ house.

The breeze blew softly across the empty asphalt where they’d been moments before. After a while, a figure under a huge backpack trudged up from the direction opposite the wrecked retaining wall.

“Hey, that’s funny, this section of Yokohama looks just like that part of Osaka all those pretty girls were in, earlier!”

Ryoga trudged onwards, absently musing on the surprising coincidences in life. Then he slipped on the short chunk of pipe left over from Sailor Venus’ demonstration, made a sort of strangled hen-squawk noise as he shot forwards, and went flying off the top of the retaining wall again, in yet another huge cloud of dust and rocks.

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Back in the secret headquarters under the Crown Amusement Centre, the Moon Cats were having some trouble deciding on the most likely implications of what they’d just seen happen to the mysterious new Pretty Soldier. They had expected him to be male inside the disguise field from the preceding conversation, but for him to almost die from trying to use his powers meant something was drastically amiss.

“So the computer won’t tell us what his role was in the Silver Millennium. So what? Even if he didn’t have a role back then, he still has to be a real Sailor Soldier — the magical linkage to Jupiter’s moon Europa was unmistakable, even if it did look really strange compared to the others’! That leaves us with NO MYSTERIES —” Artemis flattened his ears sideways and stared straight at Luna as he said this, to emphasize the point — “to sort out, other than the business with the gender-changing. Even the bit with the disguise pen makes sense, if he has some sort of weird gender-swapping condition to cover up. Seriously, you’re making a mountain out of a molehill here!”

“Okay, so he scans as the real Soldier for Europa, if we don’t take the inefficiency and bizarre dual layering in his planetary mana flows as indicative of anything suspicious. I’m willing to assume he’s genuine for the sake of discussion. I’m telling you, we still have a bigger problem! For one of the Sailors to collapse like that when they try to use their powers means something’s wrong with their planetary linkage, and we see from the monitors that his is indeed almost totally blocked — for that matter, one of the layers IS totally blocked! That should only happen if something’s happened to his focus planet — or something’s happened to his exoplanar power conduit, maybe — and that probably means a new enemy!” Luna glared across the desk at Artemis, wondering why he couldn’t see the obvious.

“Well, I suppose it could mean a new enemy, but there’s a much simpler explanation. Have you considered the possibility that the gender-inversion thingy, which plainly scans as being magical in origin, is simply interfering with the proper expression of Europa’s powers?” Artemis looked smug, sitting tall with his tail curled into an upright question-mark shape behind him.

Luna sputtered in disbelief for a moment, and only with difficulty prevented herself falling off the desk in sheer bogglement. “You careless goof-off!” she almost wailed. “If there is a threat, it could nail us at any moment. If there isn’t one, we’ll only have lost a day or so looking!”

“Okay, okay, keep your fur on,” soothed Artemis, somehow resisting the urge to roll his eyes as he turned back to the computers. With a sigh, he prepared to start examining Europa and its environs as closely as the recently restored Silver Millennium gear scattered around the Solar system would allow.

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Elsewhere, in a place that in some ways was not truly there, yet in others was more real than anything on Earth…

The everpresent grey mists curled lazily back behind her, her path not merely obscured but no longer existing, as she strode briskly into the presence of the Gates of Time. Sailor Pluto came to a stop directly facing the ancient artefact, and raised her Garnet Rod. “Open,” she intoned. The Gates swung noiselessly aside, revealing more grey, mist-filled void. “Now for the hard part…” she muttered to herself.

As she brought her will to bear, the swirling grey nothingness faded into a peculiarly insubstantial view of the Earth from Lunar orbit. The view was of the planet just as she had left it a timeless interval previously, on entering this place-that-wasn’t wherein loomed the Gates of Time. From here, the exact moment when she would leave that timeless realm was, inherently, thoroughly indeterminate — all that could be said with certainty was that some unguessable amount of time would have passed when she reëmerged, with a rather vague correlation to how long she felt she’d been away. This and other, more esoteric and abstruse, factors meant that the future became very difficult to pin down, except in broad terms, beyond a few hours after the point at which she’d left the timestream. Only what lay in the Already-Happened could be viewed with any great degree of confidence, and even that got harder the farther back you went, due to the interference caused by countless other Here-and-Nows that had descended from other possibilities in the same quantum decision chain. Pluto had such long memories of having worked with the Gates in her previous incarnations that she knew these facts implicitly, and gave them no thought.

Besides, what she wanted to know would almost certainly be found near the present. If she could only get the physical location sorted out, that was almost easy. Well, relatively speaking, at least.

Sailor Pluto pulled a plush, five-caster’d, ergonomic office chair out of the endless nothingness around her and sat down before the Gates, already intent on the problem. The view of Earth through the open portal had already descended through the uppermost few cloud strata over Japan, homing in on the Tokyo area, in the few well-they-felt-like-seconds it took her to do so.

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At the Minato Zoo, the roof-hopping party were gathered around Cologne and Happosai on the roof of the aquarium building, while the Tendos and Nodoka waited below, trying to stay out of sight of the security guards. The zoo had officially closed ten minutes previously.

“Akane saw them come up here, and there are two very powerful magical traces here. But after this cluster of machinery, the trail just disappears!” Cologne was baffled, and it annoyed her.

“She’s right about the magical traces,” agreed Happosai. “I think one of them is from some sort of healing spell, but I can’t make head or tail of the other one. What do you think?” he asked her.

“I… don’t know either. I’m sure it’s been encountered before in our three thousand years of history, but finding the records of it might take years, assuming we could even figure out how it was written up,” confessed the Amazon Elder reluctantly. “I don’t think it’s going to help us in the limited time we have before those magical girls make off with Son-in-Law for good. I’m sure their eye for a quality groom is just as good as ours.” There was some uneasy stirring and discontented muttering at this comment.

“Oh, I have such a selfish heir! Why couldn’t he share the pretty ladies and their magical underwear with his poor suffering old master?!” wailed Happosai. The lucky few of the group who rarely had much to do with the twisted old lecher stared at him in disbelief.

“Uhh… wasn’t Ranma-sama out of his mind at the time, honoured master Happosai?” asked Konatsu hesitantly.

“That right! HEALING magic, say old pervert! Strange girls must have try to cure husband!” cried Shampoo, struck by a sudden burst of inspiration.

“If it had worked, Ranchan would have stayed here in the zoo to meet Akane,” pointed out Ukyo.

Behind her, an increasingly hawkish Mousse was getting goose bumps from a dreadful mental picture of a Ranma who no longer feared cats acting like lovebirds with his cat-cursed fellow Amazon. “Or he’ll come swanning back to Nerima to poach my precious Shampoo,” he groused, badly ruffled by the possibility. “Well, if that booby thinks he can come and crow in my face about that, he’d better be ready to duck!”

There was a slightly incredulous pause.

“What?” he snapped, having a strange feeling despite his near blindness that people were giving him a look of owl-eyed disbelief. “The lot of you are cuckoo,” he muttered irritably.

As one person, the others shook themselves and silently vowed to ignore the armoury-toting quack, regardless of whether he was in a flap.

Shampoo cleared her throat theatrically and prompted the group, “I say weird girls try cure husband, but Spatula Girl say Husband no cured of Cat-Fist because we not seen him since they try, yes?”

“All right, but what else could they have been trying to cure? It’s not like he was sick or anything,” pointed out Happosai.

“Wait a minute, didn’t Akane say the boy was a girl at the time?” asked Genma. “What if they thought they were curing his curse, and locked him as a girl again?”

“Even worse… It was real magic they used… what if they ‘fixed’ both the curse and the insanity, and now she thinks she’s a real girl?” Ukyo looked positively grey at the thought. Poor Ranchan… Still, having a housewife is nearly as good as having a househusband, if it comes down to it, and I suppose we could always adopt. I’ll just have to help the poor thing cope.

“Woohoo! I like these girls more and more as we go along!” crowed Happosai. He would have continued in the same vein, but he was unexpectedly interrupted by the sounds of a scuffle, punctuated by outbursts of swearing.

It was coming from the area where they’d left the others. The group on the roof looked at one another blankly, then hurried off to investigate.

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In a gently swirling void that existed, yet didn’t, Sailor Pluto smirked. “Jackpot! Ranma’s plan will work marvellously with a bit of tweaking. ‘What if now she thinks she’s a real girl?’ Heheheh. Perfect!”

She would have been rather less smug about the situation had she been a psychic and overheard Ukyo’s subsequent internal decision on the matter, but that was a wholly understandable oversight.

Invisible behind the Gates, the stumpy form of the Murphy’s Law Gremlin — which, as a personified natural law, could go absolutely anywhere that might one day hold a life form for it to inconvenience — wiped some sweat off its brow and brushed back its oversized pointy ears. Rubbing its hands together gleefully, it faded out on its way back to normal reality. “Ha! That’ll fix ’em!” it cackled to itself, once it was safely out of earshot.

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“PERVERT!” roared Akane, flattening a security guard — who’d had the poor judgement to grab her by the upper arm, thereby brushing the side of something he shouldn’t — with a convenient fence post. She absently wedged it back into the fence with one hand and swept her hair back with the other. As the girl withdrew a bit further behind the shrub she was lurking near, she backed into Nodoka. “Oh! Sorry, Auntie,” she said demurely.

“That’s all right, dear,” answered Nodoka. “Any sign of the others yet?”

“There they come!” said Kasumi excitedly, from Nodoka’s other side, pointing up to the roofline. This was just like being in a spy movie!

“There they go!” cried a security guard excitedly, from the other side of the bush. There were muted sounds of scuffling.

“I think we’ve worn out our welcome, everyone — better come on,” said Soun sagely, retreating — ah, tactically withdrawing in the direction of the zoo gates.

As the others made their way after him, there came the uncomfortably close-at-hand sound of a panicked reptile wrangler, shouting something into his walkie-talkie. It was rather incoherent, but seemed to concern ancestors rising from the grave; he’d suddenly come face to face with Cologne in a dark corner, with unfortunate results for his underpants. She was less than amused, and bonked him solidly over the head with her staff, producing a fairly impressive echo off of various distant buildings.

That luckless encounter was followed shortly by a shriek and a gleeful cackle, as Happosai discovered that another of the zookeepers was a pretty young woman with — alas for her! — very good taste in underwear. By unspoken agreement, everyone began moving faster.

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The last of them piled in an undignified rush through the front gate of the zoo, which slammed shut behind them with a sound of many locks being set.

“AND STAY OUT!” bellowed the largest of the security guards, who wasn’t used to being flattened by young women and generally treated like a minor annoyance rather than a scary looming menace. He hoped no one else was going to do that. It was embarrassing.

Back on the street side of the wall, there was some awkward coughing and general milling around. “Oh, look, here comes the last bus home!” said Kasumi cheerfully, pointing down the block. By unspoken consensus, everyone piled aboard for the trip back, too dispirited to consider going the direct route over the rooftops. As they left, they agreed to meet back at the Tendos’ in the morning, then lapsed into a heavy silence for the rest of the trip.

Shortly after the bus had left with its cargo of tired and cranky Nerimans, a pale blue limousine with garish Hawai’ian scenes painted all over it pulled up in front of the zoo. The Kuno siblings erupted from its rear doors and raced over to the admission booth.

There came a sound of muttering as the two read the sign in the window, Tatewaki’s lips moving as he went. “CLOSED?! To us?!” he bellowed when he finished.

“Outrageous!” shrieked Kodachi. “Come, let us go and stop them directly!” She leapt over the turnstile and disappeared behind the admission booth, her brother in close pursuit. There were a pair of simultaneous startled exclamations.

“Aha! Back for more, eh?” said the largest security guard, as menacingly as he could. He just couldn’t understand what had gone wrong earlier. He’d never had to work at being intimidating before. To his disappointment, it didn’t seem to work on these two, either.

“Stand aside, peasant!” snapped Kodachi imperiously.

“The Righteous Avenger of Furinkan and my deranged yet competent sister have business here this night!” agreed Tatewaki. Kodachi ignored the dubious compliment, in favour of wrapping a guard who’d moved behind her up in her ribbon. Scuffling ensued, which ended with most of the guards paralysed or unconscious and a pair of Kunos in hasty retreat.

Once they’d regained the safety of the limousine and were on their way home, Kodachi used the car phone to call the private investigator. The P.I. was no fool and had sent his secretary home before heading to the bar, but Kodachi left a message on his office answering machine anyway, instructing him to observe the Tendo dojo again in the morning.

“Good thinking, sister,” agreed Tatewaki. “They are sure to meet there again in the morning.”

“My thoughts precisely,” answered Kodachi. “Ranma-sama, you will be mine! OHOHOHOHOHOHOHO!”

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On the other side of Minato, Ranma shivered uncomfortably without knowing why, then went back to contemplating the guest bed in the Outers’ house. He had only slept in an actual western-style bed a handful of times in the last eleven years — well, in a bed that he’d lain down in of his own volition, at least. He’d always just filed it under “a martial artist’s life is fraught with peril” before, but with his new insight into the way nice people treated each other, he was having second thoughts about his upbringing. He knew he’d had a real bed before the ten-year training trip with his father. Did that mean his mother thought a bed wouldn’t have made him too soft?

Reaching no conclusion, the pigtailed martial artist sighed and got under the covers. It had been a strange and stressful day — well, more so than usual — and he soon slipped into slumber.

As the night progressed, he began to dream, reliving various incidents from the past year in Nerima in an entirely new and much racier light. At first the dream could only be called a nightmare — between the Kuno siblings, Nabiki’s behaviour when he first met her, Sanzenin Mikado, Shampoo, Happosai, and every other pervert who’d groped or molested him on their way through town, he was developing some very bad associations with physical intimacy. He tossed and turned in his sleep, an expression of utter misery on his face, for upwards of half an hour; the only reason he didn’t wake up screaming was that every now and then, dream-Akane would smile at him in that special way she had when she was actually listening to him and no one else was around, and he’d be reminded what intimate moments were SUPPOSED to be like. Of course, in reality, these moments had always been ruined by someone, usually Nabiki and their fathers, so the overall dream was still not at all enjoyable.

After a while, though, the images calmed down and gradually took a much happier tone, though that sequence of memories started off just as negatively as the rest. He began to dream of a time in a remote Chinese hotel bathhouse, when Captain Kīma of the Phœnix people had taken Akane’s form via Jusenkyo’s cursed waters, in order to steal back a magical heat-based weapon called the Kinjakan from him — only to leap into the hot bath, regain her true form and laugh at him, once she had what she’d come for. However, in the dream, Kīma rattled impotently at the outside of the window and then faded away, and Akane was really there, sitting right in the hot water in front of him and not turning into a Phœnix woman. She’s so beautiful, so… so sexy… I can’t believe I ever called her undesirable! thought Ranma in the dream. He felt so profoundly happy that he couldn’t quite believe it wouldn’t get ruined, like so much else between them had.

Impossibly, though, it remained just the two of them, quite nude; and Akane was wearing the kind of gentle, loving smile on her face that he’d only seen from her on a few very special occasions. It was, Ranma suddenly realized, what he lived for the chance of seeing again. He didn’t know it, but he would have been wearing the same expression had any of it been happening outside his head, and in fact he was smiling in a similar way in his sleep. In the dream, they moved closer together in the hot bath, and reached out towards each other’s hands. The auras of their fingertips brushed —

Ranma shifted in his sleep, a radiant smile suffusing his features, and awoke with a start. Wha—? he wondered, looking under the blankets and paling visibly. What the hell was that? He shifted uncomfortably and, after a few moments of indecision, snuck out to the bathroom, his mind a whirl of confusion.

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The next morning, Ranma was very uneasy and subdued. He kept expecting some one of his hosts to look at him with an expression of shock, followed by growing disgust, as she realized what had happened to him in the night. Then the all-too-familiar cry would go up of “PERVERT!” and they would all throw him out of their house. Heck, they’d probably hold him down and call Akane in, to administer “correction” with her training sword. He didn’t think he could stand to lose his wonderful new friends in such a way, especially when he was just getting to know them.

It was really starting to get to him that they were still acting all relaxed and cheerful with one another, barely paying him any attention at all, beyond everyday politeness and an apparently genuine desire to see that he was enjoying his stay — which was new and unsettling in itself, for Ranma. He was getting even more nervous because of it. When was the other shoe going to drop? Surely they could tell by now —

“Is something wrong, Mr. Ranma?” asked Hotaru shyly, leaning in front of him.

Ranma stared at her with unrelieved horror. How was he supposed to answer THAT? She was just an innocent little kid! (Bear in mind that four years younger seems like an awfully long time when you’re 17.)

Ranma gave a small scream, and fled back upstairs to the guest room they’d lent him, locking the door behind him and pacing in frantic circles as he tried to figure out what to do. Hotaru gaped after him, blinking in bewilderment. She slowly shut her mouth and turned around to go tell her parents of Ranma’s strange behaviour.

Five minutes later, Haruka and Michiru stood in front of the firmly closed guest room door, uncertain of how to proceed. Hotaru was safely ensconced at the dining room table downstairs, eating her breakfast and hopefully not worrying too much.

“Ranma? Are you all right?” tried Michiru. “Hotaru was worried…”

There was no answer.

“Ranma? WE’RE getting kind of worried here. Please talk to us?” tried Haruka.

“I… I’m sorry…” answered Ranma’s voice through the door, quietly. “I, I can’t… talk to you right now.”

“Why not?” asked Michiru with concern. “Are you hurt?”

“Did someone break in and attack you in the night?” asked Haruka. She wouldn’t have been surprised if someone had. From the sound of things, it had been practically a weekly occurrence at the Tendos’ place.

“Um, no… I just… can’t.”

The two girls looked blankly at each other.

“Is it something we did?” asked Michiru. “What do we tell Hotaru? She thinks you’re upset with her, you know,” she added disapprovingly, exaggerating somewhat for effect.

Unseen within the guest room, Ranma winced hard, and then took on a resigned expression. He’d have to tell them something. Maybe if he was vague enough, they wouldn’t catch on? “No, no, it’s not any of you, I’m… just upset because of this dream I had,” he said, cautiously.

Haruka and Michiru beamed at one another. A breakthrough! “Would it help if you talked to someone about it?” asked Michiru.

“Yeah, any one of us that you met yesterday would be happy to bend an ear,” Haruka added.

Ranma blanched behind the door. With an effort, he managed not to make any noises of alarm. He began, “No—” but stopped as soon as he heard himself. He was squeaking! He cleared his throat and started over, this time more strongly. “No need, really! It was just a really freaked out dream.” On a sudden impulse, he added, “I think all that magic messed with my head a bit, it’ll probably go away again.” Hey, that even sounded plausible! Go me! he thought proudly.

The two Outers were concerned by the idea. “You did get psychic surgery done on you twice yesterday,” agreed Haruka thoughtfully. “Maybe we should have Ami scan you again just to make sure nothing went wrong. Did you ever have a dream like that one before?”

“No, never!” said Ranma truthfully. “It was just, uh, really freaked out. I’ll be fine, honest!”

“We’ll have Ami come over anyway,” decided Michiru. “Better safe than sorry.”

Reluctantly, Ranma had to agree with that. What if the scan showed something wrong? It couldn’t possibly be healthy to have THAT happen to you in your sleep.

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At the Tendo home in Nerima, the fiancées and their varied hangers-on had gathered around the living room table by eight AM to discuss the day’s search patterns. Nabiki had the floor. “Well, the trail dead-ended at the zoo, so we’re right back where we started. The Sailor Soldiers probably still have him, which means he could be anywhere in or near Azabu-Jūban. Having to include the surrounding neighbourhoods too means that’s not a small area to search, especially with a subway station right there. Has anyone got any way to narrow it down a bit?” She scanned the bleary-eyed group, not expecting any sign of a positive reply.

Cologne spoke up. “We know they used a healing spell, probably on Son-in-Law, and it didn’t have the desired effect or he’d have waited for Akane. He either got better but couldn’t remember what he was doing, or stayed crazy. If he stayed crazy he either still thinks he’s a cat, or is just plain nuts. Also, all joking aside, they probably wouldn’t have known how to reverse the curse, so he’s most likely still female. So, we should be checking psychiatric wards and police stations for an amnesiac, a delusional cat-girl or a deranged but very strong martial artist,” she suggested.

“I tried those already while we were waiting for everybody,” replied Nabiki. “I figured that if I had to lose sleep at such an unholy hour of the morning, I’d damn well make good use of the time.”

Cologne observed the way Nabiki was faintly vibrating in place from all the caffeine she’d had to ingest to get moving so early, and forbore to comment.

“I think the direct approach is probably simplest,” put in Ukyo. “Let’s just split up and search the place. It can’t be that hard for people of our abilities to spot super-powered girls, right?”

This bit of ego-stroking made all the martial artists present sit up a bit straighter and feel self-important. There was no opposition to the idea to speak of, though the saner heads among the group looked less than fully convinced — surely, if it were that easy, someone would have found the Sailors already?

Then Nabiki unfolded a cheap tourists’ map of western central Tokyo on the table, and such doubts were set aside as the all-important topic of just who would search where was broached. Almost everyone began speaking at once. Things only got louder with the highly unwelcome arrival of the two Kuno siblings.

Happosai watched the bickering and pettiness flow back and forth in front of him for a couple of minutes, then deftly extracted each of the girls’ underwear from their persons, while their attention was diverted by the ebb and surge of the “discussion.” He then faded out of the room, headed for his own crowded lair at the other end of the house. Behind him, Nabiki was cleverly manœuvring Kuno Tatewaki into staking out the Minato Zoo, the same zoo that everyone else had already checked out the night before. Naturally, Kodachi went along too, to extricate “her darling Ranma-sama” from Tatewaki’s lunatic plans of real-katana-swinging vengeance. She would have been shocked to discover that everyone else viewed her plans in the same light.

In any case, as Happosai made his way towards his quarters, he suddenly realized that he’d snatched Konatsu’s unmentionables along with all the others. “Well, now, that’s no good!” he muttered to himself, stopping to rummage through the slightly damp collection concealed in his gi, in search of the dreaded Male Undergarments that must surely be poisoning the feminine aura of his haul. After he’d had a good look at each of the undies, a baffled look settled onto his features, and he thought in disbelief, They’re all full of female chi?

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In the Tsukino home, Luna was laying upside down on Usagi’s bed, staring blankly at the wall with splayed ears and a furrowed brow. She’d been that way all night, trying to reconcile what Usagi had told her about Ranma with what she’d seen on the computers the night before. He wasn’t a real Sailor, only disguised as one… but he had a genuine Sailor Soldier planetary mana tap to the correct celestial body… which had been chosen largely on a whim, in consultation with Sailor Mercury’s extensive knowledge of science fact and fiction… he had no discernible connection to the original nine Sailors or Tuxedo Mask, even indirectly…

Even Luna had to admit that this seemed unlikely to be the work of a new enemy. Assuming they got his planetary power source untangled, he could only turn out to be of help to them — being successfully operated on by the Silver Crystal without it being alarmed by anything it saw in him, not just once but twice, pretty much guaranteed that he hadn’t been harbouring any evil intent when he met them.

Luna’s head hurt.

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Artemis slept deeply on at the foot of Minako’s bed, unaware that she had already gotten up and begun her Sunday morning routine. He’d gone cross-eyed staring at sensor readouts until late into the night, and hadn’t been able to talk with his charge when he got back home because she hadn’t woken up. He’d left himself a note to talk to Luna in the morning about a strange detail he’d noticed in the scans of Ranma, just before the humans had all gone home for the night. For some reason, the blocked-off one of the two layers in Ranma’s link to Europa had disappeared when the disguise pen had been turned off, and his resulting magical signature looked a lot more like the others’.

Secure in the knowledge of having this solid lead to examine on getting back to work in the morning, Artemis slept like a corpse and would awaken feeling wonderful.

He never would quite figure out why Luna was so grumpy and ill-humoured when everyone met up later on.

* ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ * ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ *

Once Happosai had made it to the sanctuary of his bra-festooned room — which, naturally, was the largest in the house apart from the main living area — the shrivelled old pervert set his latest prizes carefully aside, and got to work clearing off two adjacent tatami mats near the centre of the room. Once he’d found all the edges — no mean feat considering the quantity of women’s underwear that had been in the way — he levered them up and stacked them behind a heap of unsorted panties off to one side, revealing a complex and elaborate design carved into the wooden floor underneath, highlighted here and there with small dabs of colour. An observer would have noted several vaguely occult-looking designs laid out in the same space on the floor, somehow forming a coherent whole, and would then have prudently run away. After all, anything involving that many smiley and frowny faces couldn’t possibly be good for you — especially since so many of them were a little… unusual, like the ones that had oddly spaced fangs, or the wrong number of eyes.

[A devout monotheist might assume the diagram was for the purpose of summoning demons. That conclusion could only be considered accurate if you define a demon as “any supernatural entity that is not a monotheist’s One True God.” Anyone with any sense can see that summoning a real demon would only benefit the demon. No, what Happosai had just uncovered was a generalized spellcasting apparatus, intended for use with the aid of various benevolent (or at least neutral) supernatural entities.]

Muttering and cackling to himself, Happosai lit squat, dribbly candles at an apparently random series of points in the diagram, among the amateurishly carved stick animals and runes of power. Then he stacked the freshly harvested undergarments neatly in a part of the design that resembled, depending on how you looked at it, either an altar or a dinner plate.

After a long interlude while he rummaged through various cartons and trunks barely visible amidst the heaps of lingerie, muttering and grumbling irritably at himself, the old lecher cackled in triumph and held aloft a highly disturbing scroll case. One reason it was so disturbing was that it was fashioned from human leather — which was fairly easy to tell once you had the thing in the light, because one side of it consisted of the skin’s original owner’s face.

The other reason was that the unfortunate original tenant appeared to somehow still be in residence. The eyes and mouth were shut in peaceful repose, and a faint but unmistakable snore came from it as Happosai set it down — face up, of course — by the edge of the diagram, and patiently undertook all the steps needed to get into the highly secure crate containing his most prized possessions. He opened the lid with a respectful flourish, and reverently extracted an item from the tangled jumble of the contents, shaking residual bras off it as he went.

He spent several minutes resealing the crate and putting it away, then took the folded cloth object he’d extracted back to the magic circle. He picked up the ghastly — and still snoring, just at the edge of hearing — scroll case as he went, and continued to the centre of a protective seven-sided smiley face embedded in one side of the design, being careful not to touch any of the candles or ineptly-carved symbols on the way.

A few words are needed here about Happosai’s magical setup. The astute reader may be wondering why an athletically oriented panty thief would need a ritual diagram at all, much less such a complicated one. In truth, he had never needed — nor expected to need — all of the capabilities of this one, which had taken him nearly two weeks to secretly set up when his student Soun first came into possession of the Tendo Dojo. Still, the old pervert had been greatly relieved to find it was untouched during his long sequestration in a mountainside cave.

Happosai had been forced to learn the ins and outs of applied magic very quickly, in his early fifties, when the staff of several temples he’d offended the women of had banded together to afflict him with a variety of curses and nuisance demons. In the decades since, he’d managed to outlive most of those responsible — or, more often, fool them into thinking the reverse was true, which amounted to the same thing — and he hadn’t seriously needed to defend himself with magic since the late 1940s, amid the turmoil of reconstruction after the Second World War. As a master martial artist (not to mention a notorious pervert), Happosai stood out in several ways on a spiritual level, and consequently looked more than usually edible to certain types of supernatural predators. He’d been most annoyed to discover just how many ancient evils had been released, during the war’s many bombing campaigns, by the accidental destruction of their binding sites.

In any case, his magical activities in recent decades had mostly been limited to scrying, in order to watch naked young women from the comfort of his own futon. It had never yet worked, but Happosai had always been an optimist. (He was one of the Murphy’s Law Gremlin’s favourite people in the whole world.) Every now and again, he would also make the odd ill-advised and worse-fated attempt to split off Ranma’s girl half, concerning which the less said, the better.

He’d only made the spellcasting layout so elaborate in the first place because of getting carried away; in truth, he’d almost forgotten how to work the thing, so seldom did he use it. Fortunately, he’d kept notes.

A wailing and a gnashing of teeth assaulted the neighbours’ long-suffering ears as Happosai realized that, as usual, he couldn’t read his own abysmal handwriting.

He cheered up again as the memory of this happening the last time he’d tried to use the diagram, too, welled up at the back of his mind. He’d remembered what to do eventually then, and that experience jogged his memory now. Cackling madly, he set to work. He absently reached into the open side of the scroll case (which lay along the face’s forehead), and—

“Hold it roight there, ye sawed-off excuse fer ae moonkey’s backside! What d’ye think YOU’RE doing?” it snarled, annoyed at being woken up. “Honestly, not aeven six moonths! How’s ae body supposed tae get any SLEEP aroond this doomp?” It seemed quite unbothered by the irony of referring to itself in such a way.

“Eh? Ah, oh, sorry, Mac,” apologized Happosai. “I didn’t mean to wake you up, but I really need to see the Kūrimoruhon. The boy’s found me a whole team’s worth of genuine magical panties, but he isn’t himself and needs help getting them to me!”

“Really? Ae magical panty team, ye say? Wow, I’ve na’ seen one o’ THEM in nigh sixty years! Hokay, at least it be soomthin’ important this time,” replied Angus Mackinaw the magical scroll-guardian, not just mollified but actually now quite interested. It opened the gap above its forehead wide enough for the irrepressible panty thief to reach in through. From the echoes, the space inside seemed to be at least as big as Happosai’s whole room, though nothing was visible except the inside of the scroll case curving away from the opening. It was also lit by a flickering light, as of a primitive torch, and smelled strongly of juniper.

“Got it!” cried the old pervert triumphantly, brandishing a brass-capped parchment scroll. “Now to refresh my memory. I need something that’s fast, and good at seeking what’s hidden…” he muttered to himself, popping the end caps off the scroll and squinting at the index that took up the first foot or so of the revealed surface.

“Mebbe try an agitovisor?” suggested Mac. “Fast an’ they’ve got the Second Sight.”

“Aren’t they the little tiny ones that turn themselves invisible and zip around watching everyone’s sins, then go report them to the nearest interested kami?” asked Happosai dubiously. He considered the idea for a minute or so, then brightened and said, “Yeah, that’s a great idea! My soul being so amazingly pure and innocent, the only kami around here that pays me any mind is Henkorōizumi, the Source of Old Perverts, and if anything, he ought to help!”

His mind made up, Happosai found the appropriate section of the Kūrimoruhon, and with Mac’s occasional spoken aid, proceeded to summon…

Happosai stared at the creature. It stared back.

“What the heck are YOU?” he asked it, nonplussed. Whatever this thing was, it was a lot bigger than he’d been expecting, and it didn’t appear able to fly at ALL. Most ominously of all, it seemed disconcertingly successful in the “hideous mockery of nature” department. Have I accidentally summoned a True Demon? he wondered. Nah, couldn’t be, I’m still alive. And although it’s way too big for an agitovisor, it still kinda looks too underwhelming to be anything REALLY bad…

While he still had to look up at it, the stoop-shouldered creature in front of him stood less than four feet tall. Most parts of it either bulged with fat, or were horribly scrawny, and the apparently random distribution of fat and thin parts was highly asymmetrical. It appeared to have two of most normal body parts, four of all the bits and bobs that normally come in pairs, and a full range of generously sized sex organs from both genders. This last was hard to miss, as the whatever-it-was wore absolutely no clothing, not even jewellery or tools.

It gave him a long-suffering look, using all four unevenly set and mismatched eyes, and spoke — from two mouths, almost but not quite at once. “We are Anthrateel-and-Jorveyzh’ekka, the only succinubus on this or any adjacent plane,” it said, in horribly discordant chorus. “For what purpose have you summoned us, O Dreaded Master?”

Happosai returned the creature’s long-suffering look with a piercing stare, which didn’t seem to have much effect on it. “And just what is a ‘succinubus’?” he asked suspiciously. “I’m pretty sure I was summoning something a little more commonplace…” He left unsaid exactly what he’d been trying for, just in case. Supernatural entities could be touchy about others of their kind.

“We were an incubus, and we were also a succubus,” the thing chorused patiently. Maddened by the horrible sound, a small housefly was immolated when it tried to fly across the edge of the binding component of the spellcasting diagram.

(A brief technical note: incubi and succubi — and presumably combinations thereof — are obviously undesirable, but few if any are actually evil. As nonmalevolent but sexually parasitic beings, they are more accurately classified with pubic lice than with True Demons.)

The bizarre creature continued explaining, “We were fused into one being by our last-but-three master, the Demon Lord K’ffjuu!ka. That entity tended to be infuriated by many things, our formerly unconnected selves unfortunately among them. For lack of a better term, those who keep records have since referred to us as a ‘succinubus’. Does giving this answer fulfill our obligation-of-binding? May we go now? It has been over eight months since we found a hermaphroditic being we could drink from the sexual energies of, and our search pattern will soon become obsolete if left unwatched —”

“Sorry, not my problem,” Happosai said briskly. “What I want you to do is find out where my young heir is staying. The poor fellow’s lost his mind and gone missing. So, your obligation-of-binding is to locate the boy who wore… THOSE!” He pointed triumphantly to the ground in front of the creature’s feet, where lay the folded cloth object he’d taken from the crate. “And the underwear of any magical girls in the vicinity, of course,” he mumbled absently as he watched the succinubus hesitantly prod the mystery object he’d left before it. Upon inspection, the folded cloth thing turned out to be a pair of boy’s boxer shorts, saturated with faded but unmistakable…

Female chi? We thought you said they were worn by a boy?” said Anthrateel-and-Jorveyzh’ekka in bewilderment, leavened with rapidly rising interest. It carefully ignored the muttered comment about magical girls’ underwear in the faint hope that it wouldn’t be enforced, as it was in no condition to fight anyone after eight months of fasting.

“Jusenkyo Spring of Drowned Girl,” explained Happosai sagely. “Those are from the last time he was locked in girl form. Ah, that was a glorious week!” He developed a rather disturbing dirty grin, remembering how much groping he’d been able to get in on the boy-turned-girl.

“You mean… you’ll help us find someone who is of both genders in one body?! Oh, thank you, most kind and generous Dreaded Master!” The succinubus was overjoyed, and immediately accepted the final bindings of the spell onto itselves. It was gone on its search, leaving a few scattered tears of rapturous joy as the only trace of its passing, before Happosai could do more than open his mouth to frame the first phoneme of a protest.

“Oops,” said the old pervert into the silent room, momentarily concerned as the realization stole over him that he had most likely just done something very foolish. “Good thing the boy’s probably strong enough to beat it off,” he rationalized to himself, before jettisoning the whole train of thought in favour of lamenting the passing of his most recently collected feminine underthings. The last one crumbled to dust in the dinner-plate-like altar area even as he watched, and he fell silent in a gesture of mourning for the departed.


Latest revision as of Sat. 2008/10/18

A note on the Permutation time frame: Based on the few hints in the source material (and ignoring the year given in the Martial Arts Tea Ceremony arc of the English-language edition manga, which I suspect got edited in translation), Ranma ½ seems to be set around 1990, or possibly a few years earlier. (I think Sailor Moon was originally set in the 1980s too, though I could very well be mistaken.) Back then, personal cell phones were bulky and extremely rare, but car phones were old hat — at least for the well-to-do — and answering machines were becoming fairly widespread, too.

I got the “entire body felt like it had toothache” line from one of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books (Sourcery, I think). I did try to think of a more original way to put it, but you just can’t improve on toothache as a metaphor for the kind of pain I had in mind. It describes the dreadful gnawing, hollow, yet painful feeling in a single neat capsule.

I introduced two new names composed in Japanese in this chapter. Here are the approximate translations, courtesy of the free English/Japanese dictionary on freedict.com. I have a feeling I mangled these; can anyone advise me?

Kūrimoruhon — KUURI (abstract or impracticable theory) + MORU (to leak, to run out -OR- to serve, to fill up, to prescribe) + HON (book, main, head, this, our) — approximately, “Book that Serves Up (Leaks) Impracticable Theories”.

Henkorōizumi — HEN (change, incident, disturbance, strange [the root of hentai]) + KOROU (old people, seniors, elders) + IZUMI (spring, fountain) — as stated above, approximately “Fount of Dirty Old Men and Women”. (I’d prefer KOROU to have implications more of venerability than of decrepitude, but that dictionary site doesn’t say.)

There’s also a very minor joke in the name of the magical scroll guardian Angus Mackinaw (late of Scotland, or so he would desperately like you to believe). If you can figure it out… well, you will have to be content with the adulation of your peers, as I left all the albino dust bunnies behind when I moved and so can no longer award them to those who get it right.