Sailor Moon Fan Fiction / Ranma 1/2 Fan Fiction / Mahou Sensei Negima! Fan Fiction ❯ In the Shadow of the Moon ❯ Chapter 35 - Deepening Shadows ( Chapter 35 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
There is a definite difference, between ground contractor in Negima and Flash step in Bleach, I plan to maintain this. Ground contractor travels through physical space at high speeds and can be blocked, i.e. when Takahata-sensei trips Negi during the Budokai. Flash Step seems to be on par with line of sight teleportation and can't be blocked even by another master, like when Yoruichi and Captain Kuchiki are bouncing around each other.

Ranma/Ranko on the other hand has a true teleportation ability that does not have to travel in straight lines :)

With this chapter I think I finally have all the playing of six degrees of separation out of my system......maybe.

Darkness never has only one face.

single quotes (' ') denote thoughts or telepathy
forward slashes (/ /) denote translated speech

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the series mentioned in this story. This story is created solely for entertainment and no intention of profit.

Chapter 35 - Deepening Shadows

Artemis allowed himself to be lead to the elevators and into a restaurant in the foot town below the tower. All the while still trying to come to terms with meeting a woman he thought had been dead for ten millennia.

"I am glad you still remember me." The redhead woman says as she sits down with him in a private booth. "I heard that cryosleep can play havoc with one's memories."

The man reaches across the table a gently places a hand on her cheek. "It is hard to forget a beautiful woman who starts off a decades long affair by dragging me into a kiss and then breaking down crying." Artemis finishes with a grin.

"I told you truthfully that you reminded me of a the man who was stolen from me by his family." She gently takes hold his wrist with both of her hands and leans into his touch. "I did come to love you for you when instead of running away you held me."

"I thought you died." Artemis says seriously. "When the battle with Queen Beryl's forces was in full swing, I could not find you, and you never told me your real name."

"We both had our reasons." The woman shrugs. "Myself because I chose to spend most of my time as the eternally child like research scientist. You because no one suspected that the handsome man listening to the gossip of the lesser nobles was also the one of the queen's cat advisors."

Artemis chuckles while caressing her cheek. "So Akai-chan, how much truth is there to the story that you are Pandra or are you Hakubi Washu?"

The woman closes her eyes. "As much as I am anyone. I have Pandra's memories including the memories of the deaths of the people in Atlantis. Who I was before she joined me and who I was after are irreparably different." Artemis watches as tears seep from her eyes. "I still wish to be Akaihane if you still care for me."

Artemis slides around the curved bench to sit next to her. "I do care for you, but with our home world being destroyed Luna and I are the only ones left of our race."

Artemis sweat drops as his companion breaks down in giggles. After she stops laughing, she finally is able to look up into his eyes and only snicker slightly. "I never visited your home world, but is it normal for females of your race to be loyal to a mate only as long as it takes to conceive a child. I was forced to watch whenever Pluto looked in on you and Luna. She barely even remembered you and had other love interests before you and Mina-chan came to help the inners."

Artemis gapes like a fish at this statement, while she continues. "Granted I only turned myself into a Mau for a few days, but I lost count of how many mates our daughter Yoru took over five hundred years."

"If your worried about the Mau becoming extinct," She says with a giggle. "You should know only one of the Amazons at the Nekohanten can not trace their heritage back to princess Li Yoru. If they were willing any of them could become a full blooded Mau."

"I suspected as much when I asked elder Ku Lon about the history of their goddess Artemis." Artemis sighs. "So our daughter is dead then?"

"All things must change from what they were in time, death is just the easy way out." The woman says sadly, before grinning. "My children, on the other hand, never seem to give in that easy. She calls herself Shihoin Yoruichi now." She lets go of his wrist and puts a finger to her lips thoughtfully. "Actually the change of setting seems to have mellowed her out some. At least I know of only one man she has been interested in, and only one new granddaughter. Mana just entered high school. If you want to meet her, I can ask Kari-chan to bring her along to the Nekohanten on Friday."

Artemis groans and rubs his temple. "Let me think about it for a while Akai-chan." The woman giggles and snuggles into his side.

"Now that we have that out of the way, can I ask you something." Artemis asks and the woman looks up at him expectantly. "First what should I call you?"

"Your the only one I have taken this appearance for since well before the Silver Millennium. So I guess normally you should call me Noriko." His companion hugs him closer. "Let's see a lovely bird told me that you would want to talk to me about Mithril and the Whispered tonight. I actually helped finance the founding of a friend's dream of a independent organization dedicated to maintaining peace, with the understanding that he would also find and protect the Whispered as much as possible."

Artemis wraps his arms around Noriko. "I should have guessed. even in the Moon Kingdom you seemed to know what was going on."

"Always too little or far too much it seemed." Noriko relaxes into his embrace. "Now I just try to support those who want to make a difference and let them go their own course."

----------

In a private booth in a restaurant in Mahora city two people were sharing a dinner after being separated for a much shorter time. Though they had seen each other just a few days before Takamichi still found Nodoka's hair color change impressive.

"You look incredible No-chan." The man was finally able to gasp out.
Nodoka's blush seemed to try rivaling the brightness of her hair. "Your sure it does not make me stand out to much."

"A beautiful woman should not be afraid to be noticed." The gentleman says as he takes her hand. "Just because others are jealous is no reason to hide."

The woman smiles and relaxes. "So why did you ask me to dinner this evening?"

"It could be I wanted to ask how you enjoyed the tour of the school." He says lightly before his expression turns somber. "The truth is I need to talk to you about something if you want to continue a relationship with me." With Nodoka's quick affirmative nod he continues. "You know something of my history with Ala Ruba and that I was Asuna's guardian for a number of years. What I need to tell you about is that slightly less than 20 years ago I made the choice to leave behind the woman I loved."

Nodoka finds herself holding his hand in support rather than the other way around. "Saeko was a graduate student here at Mahora. When I returned with Asuna, I hoped to find her again. Instead I found that she had died, and her family blamed me. They not only refused to let me see the child I suspected was my daughter, but took out a court order barring me from being near her."

Nodoka smiles sadly. "Are you hoping my family can help you?"

"No!!..... no it's not that." Takamichi quickly shakes his head negatively. "I am telling you about this because I care about you, and I have received word from one of my contacts that she is looking for me. If she comes here to the academy, there is a chance that she might want to stay with me if I can prove she is my child. I just did not want it to be a surprise to you."

"If that happens do you think she and Ranma could be friends?" Nodoka ask quietly.

"While I have tried to keep tabs on her through my contacts, I don't know her that well myself." Takamichi grins. "Off hand though I would say Ranma-kun's ability may not seem that odd to her."

Nodoka eyes him quizzically. "This sounds like she has lived an interesting life."

------------

Half way around the world two blond haired young men sit in comfortable leather chairs in a sitting room outside of an office in an english manor house. The slightly older looking of the two grins at the younger. "So how much of this do you think Lord Mallory will believe Al."

"Well he asked us to investigate the Searrs foundation's activities after their reorganization." Al fidgets with the coat draped over his arm. "It should not be a stretch for him to believe they have gone back to their german roots with the name Schwartz."

"That or whoever is in charge has watched one too many Mel Brooks comedies." The older one says with a grin.

Al groans. "Ed that is not even funny. Those weird mechas they were calling slaves are dangerous."

"As long as I don't have to watch you magically disintegrate again, I can laugh at just about anything." Ed says with a maniacal grin. "Doesn't mater if the sparkles are white or green. If it happens again, I'll find a way to bring you back just so I can beat you up myself."

"Now Midori did not mean for that to happen," Al protests. "and the festival has been stopped permanently this time."

Ed shakes his head. "I still am not sure what you see in that girl. She is borderline nuts and claims to be less than a hand full of years older than your granddaughter."

"Must be a family trait to be attracted to intelligent and determined women with some odd quirks." Al returns with a smirk. "Besides she did keep my secret that Professor Sasaki was not an old man like everyone thought."

"So then are you missing the old name you gave up when you let Fujitaka take over the department." Ed replies with a grin.

"No not really," is Al's easy response. "I am just trying to think of how to explain things to Makie-chan."

"Well I don't envy you that little brother." Ed says with a sigh. "She is aware of magic so she should take meeting your new Ministra Magi pretty well. Just give her time to adjust to the idea of her grandfather still being a young man before you two actually get married."

Al gives his brother the evil eye, but before he could respond a secretary walks in to tell them them may enter now. The two men walk into the office and the secretary closes the door behind them. "Intelligence officers Edward and Alphonse Elric reporting Lord Mallory sir." Ed announces with a grin.

The grey haired British gentleman looks at them across his desk. "I will judge if that is a true statement after you explain to me how two men I have worked with since before the second World War succeeded in sinking an entire island."

Edward started mumbling about, "not the first or likely the last", before Al elbowed him in the side.

"As you requested sir," Al quickly starts. "We investigated what the former Thule society, then calling themselves the Searrs Foundation, and their paramilitary organization had been involved in on the Island owned by Fuka Academy."

Edward continues the report, after recovering his breath. "The group had found information on a large ritual performed there called the Iksuhime festival. Apparently they believed they could use this power to found their new golden age they titled the Golden Millennium."

"Yes we have already discussed how they found archeological information on a supposed Moon Kingdom and a so called Silver Millennium." Lord Mallory snorts. "What balderdash believing they are the heirs destined to revive this Aryan utopia just because the supposed royal family had blond hair and blue eyes. If we can continue to what you discovered and what happened."
Ed and Al both nod before Edward continues. "We found a series of ruins in a large network of caves under the island. While we were working with a local contact there exploring the ruins, a group calling itself Schwartz attacked. We have gathered information that this was the remains of the foundation reorganized under a new name."

"Were you able to find the Whispered Joseph Greer, the cyborg he created, or the Robe battle suit he stole from us before defecting from Mithril?" Lord Mallory asks calmly.

"We located and identified his remains." Edward states just as calmly. "We located the cyborg Miyu and she informed us that her father, as she called him, had never been able to sufficiently analyze the suit or find anyone who could use it other than her."

Nodding the older man asks. "Where is the Multi Intelligential Yggdrasil Unit now?"

Al scratches the back of his head while responding. "We contacted the Himura family for assistance with the cleanup. Noriko insisted that the girl, as an intelligent being, be allowed to continue living on her own, and not shuttled off to a lab to be studied."

Having heard the like before the older man sighs. "Please continue to explain what happened after Schwartz arrived."

Edward coughs. "They apparently have obtained some new technology in the last year. A group of soldiers landed in a ship and somehow were able to summon creatures that looked like a hybrid between bizarre animals and Arm Slaves. We with some help from our local contact were able to defeat them. Unfortunately during the attack the new director, Himeno Fumi, was gravely injured trying to get the students to safety. Also the scale of the battle caused the already weakened cave system under the island to collapse and the island to sink."

"This is a very concerning development gentlemen." The executive director of Mithril intones gravely. "I want the both of you to continue determining countermeasures for these new weapons." The man turns to Al and grins. "I have spoken with Noriko recently. She told me that her great granddaughter, Sugiura Midori was it, took responsibility for looking after a group of children from Fuka Academy. Please be sure to invite your old friends to the wedding as well Alphonse.

Al groans and looks at the floor abashedly while the other two men have a good laugh.

----------

Back in Mahora Academy but still seemingly elsewhere. Kotaro is sprawled out dejectedly next to a table stacked with food. Ranma sitting nearby with Kaede can only shake his head before turning back to the entertainment.

In one corner of the common room of Kari's retreat a Karaoke system is setup. Currently Fuka and Fumika have an arm wrapped around each others shoulders while holding a mic in the other hand. On the screen behind them a anime female wearing what looks like a neon highlighted dive suit and a wrap around goggles dances along to the song as they trade singing lines.

Deep in the night

Far off the light

Missing my headache

Visions of light

Sweeter delight

Kissin' my loveache

The girls smile and increase their volume as they sing together.

How come I must know

Where Obsession needs to go

How come I must know

Where the passion hides its feelings

How come I must know

Where obsession needs to go

How come I must know

The direction of relieving.

The song closes with the dancer on the screen floating over a city skyline at night with an image of a small girl floating in the air superimposed over the moon.

The assembled group consisting of most of class 1-A, two of the Tendo girls, and Ukyo and Konatsu applaud while the girls' score comes up on the screen. Kotaro cheers when he sees that it is a ninety-one. Ranma chuckles and bows to the two girls. "As promised if you scored over an eighty-five, I will wait until later to play Mutation, and you can watch the next DVD of Sign. Come on Kotaro we can go practice now." Negi and Kaede eagerly join the group.

As the boys head off, Tomoyo chuckles while Kari switches the large screen back over to the DVD player and loads the mentioned DVD. In the kitchen we find Akane working on making curry in a large pot for everyone to have for dinner while Konoka supervises. Setsuna stands off to the side, trying to not obviously be near the fire extinguisher.

Konoka watches as Akane dips out some of the sauce into two small saki bowls to taste. Akane smiles as she tastes it and gives the other to Konoka. "You really have improved Akane-san." Konoka says with an effusive grin, while setting a smaller pot next to it on the stove. "Now if you will just separate out some into this smaller pot for me we can get the rice ready."

Akane does this while Konoka gathers extra ingredients. When Akane turns around she finds Konoka has set out an array of hot spices from wasabi paste to dried habanero peppers. At Akane and Setsuna's curious expressions she just giggles. "Tomoyo-san said I could make up a challenge for my birthday party in the morning with a certificate for free angel eggs and accessories to anyone who can complete it." With an almost sinister grin she looks over her array of armaments. "So I am going to create a devil's curry and the challenge will be to eat a small bowl." The group in the other room is a little disturbed by the evil cackle they hear over the shows dialogue.

Karinka helping Saki clean a room on the third floor grins at her sister. "I knew I would like her."

--------

The next morning the exhibition hall of the dorm is filled with breakfast foods, cakes and sweets. The smell alone would be enough to draw children from all over the area. Tomoyo happily looks over the organized chaos and turns to the red haired young woman next to her holding onto Kenji's hand. "Thank you so much for putting up the posters for the party yesterday Midori-chan, and thank you for agreeing to look after Kenji-kun on such short notice last night."

"It's no problem Tomoyo-san. I am grateful you gave me a job as your assistant here at the dorm on such short notice, and for getting rooms for those kids so quickly." The young woman replies.

The enchantress winks at the other woman. "I could hardly not help when dear Alphonse asked."

Midori looks at the boy, happily and messily eating a slice of cake, and whispers to Konoka. "You are certain this was the man my mother told me horror stories about."

Tomoyo leans into the girl and whispers. "You don't look quite as old as the picture I saw either. I could almost believe you are seventeen. If that is a benefit of becoming a Ministra Magi, I know quite a few socialites that would jump at the chance. Be sure to treat Al well for me."

Midori grins mischievously in response. "You enjoy seeing your own boyfriend this evening Tomoyo-sensei. Just leave everything else to me."
Their conversation is interrupted as the Narutaki twins rush up to them. "Tomoyo-sensei you promise you can get things squared away for us to make the angels we want if we can beat Konoka's challenge." Fuka hastily asks while the younger sister catches her breath.

"I should be able to get Bandai to consider it free advertising." She replies with a smile. "If you do really well they might even pay you." The girls cheer and rush off again to a table where Konoka is setting up her devil's curry with Misaki's help.

Because of how close it was to when school should start Ranko attended the party and considered participating in the challenge. She decided otherwise when getting within a few feet of the pot was enough, with her enhanced sense of smell, to make her eyes water. Moving back to a safe distance she decided to just observe the contestants. Kotaro seemed to be considering it until he had a similar reaction and walked over to join Ranko. Ranko just smiled and handed him a handkerchief.

The brave, and likely foolish, contenders rallied around the table. The twins were joined by Konatsu, Nabiki, and a black haired girl about the same size and age as Misaki. Ranko looked between the two girls, and just shook her head when she noticed they even had similar hair styles, except where Misaki had loose tassels this girl had braids. Ranko laughed when Nabiki said that this could not be worse then some of Akane's previous experiments.

Ranko and Kotaro both cringed when the bowls were set out. True to her word the bowls were small and most of the dish was rice. The problem both hanyo had was that spreading the sauce out over the steaming rice made the smell even worse.

Misaki helpfully had glasses of milk at the ready, but only after the contestants finished or gave up. Konoka grinned at her victims...contestants and clapped her hands for the challenge to begin.
They all dug in and almost all had their eyes begin to water. Almost all, except for the black haired girl who's head tilted back, and Ranko could swear she saw fire and sparks fly from the girl's mouth, before the girl took off racing around the room on all fours screaming. Ranko's only thought was 'did she get trained in the Neko Ken?'

After several circuits of the room, at some points literally running on the walls. Ranko managed to catch the girl, or was barreled into and managed to keep ahold of the girl, depending on one's point of view. Misaki quickly brought over a glass of milk for the girl. Another girl with bright orange hair was trying to make apologies to Konoka, but soon stopped when she realized the birthday girl had her head down on the table because she was laughing and pounding her fist on it, instead of crying.

Ranko was relieved of her burden when an older boy came over to collect the girl. "I am sorry for any trouble my sister caused you, miss?"

Ranko felt a strange tightness in her chest looking at the handsome young man. "Himura Ranko." She was finally able to say.

The young man bows. "I am Minagi Reito and this is my younger sister Mikoto." The girl, now calmed down, bows.

Back at the table Konoka finally calmed back down. Tomoyo came over and they spoke quietly to each other. Each took a small taste of the dangerous substance, and after they had succeeded in getting their eyes to stop watering, Tomoyo made an announcement. "Well it seems no one was able to complete the challenge, but not from a lack of will. So after determining the challenge was too much for anyone to face, I have decided to award the prize to everyone who was willing to take the risk." From the cheering Ranko decided this was well received.

In a corner of the exhibition hall a student wearing a loose, bordering on formless, track suit stands watching the chaos. They jump when someone whispers in their ear. "My cousin shows back up after disappearing for more than a year, and then does not even say hello. Akira-chan I am hurt."
The younger child turns to where Kaede stood looking at them with an ear to ear grin. "Kaede-nee-san....ho...how have you been?"

Kaede smoothly grabs Akira's wrist and walks towards a group of her classmates. "Let me introduce you to some of my friends."

Ranko is in the middle of helping Paru, Makie, and Kazumi pick up some of the mess when Kaede walks over to them. "I would like to introduce my cousin, Okuzaki Akira degozaru"

Akira makes a good attempt at bowing with one wrist still caught in Kaede's hand. Kaede lets go when Akira offers to help with the cleanup. Makie quietly asks if Kaede's cousin already had a girlfriend. Kaede actually opened one eye to look at the girl before her grin got even wider. "Akira-kun why aren't you dressed for school yet?"

Akira tried to run, but Kaede snagged the shoulder of the track suit. One blurry whirlwind clothing change later Kaede was wearing her black uniform and a blushing Akira was dressed in a much more closely fitted Mahora girl's middle school uniform. With Kaede standing behind her, except for a difference in hair color, the two girls could be mistaken for sisters.

"So is that haircut a family thing?" Ranko asks with mild amusement. To which Kaede only shrugs.

-------------

After helping with the cleanup for as long as possible Ranko, headed for school with Kaede, Akane, Paru, Ukyo and their new friends Tessa and Chidori. The conversation was mostly centered around how good the food was and how big a laugh the challenge had been.

Ranko vaguely notices the sound of an approaching motorcycle but does not think much of it until it passes by their group at high speed towards the high school. Carrying with it a lot of wind that does not react favorably to the uniform's short skirts. Ranko's thoughts were along the lines of 'I would swear the old Happosai or some other letch had a hand in designing these things.'

In his office the headmaster sneezes.

Almost a block behind the group, perverted giggles can be heard coming from just inside a small alleyway. Kosame looks at the LCD display on her digital camera, with telephoto lens, and giggles again. "You know it is not professional to drool Kosame."

The woman slowly wipes her mouth and turns to the tall blond haired man who had spoken from deeper inside the alley. "Should I ask what you are doing here Hayate?"

The man shrugs slightly, barely causing the shoulders of his suit to move. "Ojo-sama was concerned about you since we had not heard from you in over a year."

"While I appreciate Lisa-san's concern, I am working on a job." Kosame looks back to where Ranko and the other girls were walking. "Please tell her I am doing well and have finally found my older sister."

"So who are you keeping surveillance on?" The man ask idly as he looks at the girls down the street.

"I am part of the security detail for the girls with the bright blue and silver hair." She answers while lining up her camera again.

"Really? It was interesting to see that the redhead wears short shorts under that short skirt. A good choice actually." Kosame gritted her teeth and turned to where the man had stood, but he was already gone.

-------------

A short while later in Winry's lab the teacher hands Shuko a new visor to try out. Instead of the tinted plastic normally worn by deuces this one has a solid covering. Looking inside Shuko finds small LCD screens. "The full sized cyborgs have functioning senses including eyesight. The necessarily enlarged arenas we will be using will preclude the normal overhead observation." Winry offers as an explanation.

"That does not explain why you have me sitting in a reclined position." Shuko says with a smile. "I will let that slide for now."

Winry reaches over and powers on the child gynoid form they had been working with. After some encouragement Shuko lies back on her chair before activating the new visor. As the three wings spread out behind her ears Shuko's body relaxes completely.

Icchan from the side stares at the gynoid that now seems to be looking around the room, and at it's arms as they move, in puzzlement. "This is amazing, Winry-san" The gynoid says with Shuko's voice.

Winry glances at a display that now shows Shuko's vital statistics. Seeing everything appears to be in a relaxed resting state, she smiles. "The new perspective will take some getting used to, especially in a angelic fight, but this is a far more elegant solution then the deuces staring at multiple screens."

The gynoid stands up out of the chair she was sitting in and walks over to Icchan. She reaches out and takes his hand, but quickly pulls back as if burned. "I can actually feel it when I touch someone."

The gynoid lets out a small squeal as Icchan picks her up. Icchan just smiles as he twirls them around and winks. "Your much easier to carry bridal style like this." Winry laughs and the gynoid pouts.

"We will need to run quite a few more tests and fine tuning to ensure there is no danger of sensory overload, but this is a promising start." Winry states before giggling helplessly as Icchan settles the gynoid in Shuko's lap.

-----------------

At the end of the school day Takahata-sensei finds himself alone in the middle school teachers office while he finishes organizing his notes for class the next day. He is interrupted by a quiet knock at the door. After he calls out for the person to enter, he finds his visitor is a lovely black haired teenage girl wearing the St. Ursula's uniform.

He rests his elbows on his desk while resting his chin on his interlaced fingers as the girl approaches his desk from the far side. "It is a pleasure to finally meet you Natsuki."

The girl maintains a neutral expression. "You know me then sensei?"

The man smiles warmly. "I could never forget your mother and you look just like her."

---------------

At the Nekohanten we find two moon cats in the back room with Xian Pu transformed into a cat herself. "I.. think... I starting..to get hang of this." The steel grey cat says, finishing with a grin.

Luna congratulates the young woman turned cat, and turns to her fellow cat advisor. "It is amazing don't you think Artemis. Less than a week since she asked for help to see if she could talk as a cat and already she is doing this well. If I did not know better I would think Xian Pu was a Mau."

Artemis sweat drops and tries his best to keep from laughing nervously. "Yes quite so Luna."

Fortunately for him, the rest of Xian Pu's patrol group and elder Ku Lon walked into the room to plan for the nights activities. Saving him from having to explore that subject further with the sometimes temperamental female.

"So tonight Bru Xi has asked that some friends of his be allowed to join in the patrol." Ku Lon opens the discussion. "Are there any objections?"

Seeing no indication of dissent, the elder continues. "Tonight I would ask that all of you take extra of the condensed spirit cartridges with you. I do not know why, but something feels ill about tonight." She finishes by handing each of the four amazons a pouch with four extra clips of five shells.

Bru Xi grins as he decides on a good place to meet his lady and her assistant in northwest section of Minato ward, their designated patrol area for the night. He calls to tell her of their intended location, while Xian Pu and Par Fum roll their eyes. Po Mad as always finds anything else to focus on when the other boy starts in.

As they were getting ready to leave a massive spike of celestial energy is detected. The first one since they had been looking for it. The location is isolated to a warehouse in the area of the docks. On the other side of the ward from where they planed to patrol. Bru Xi hurriedly calls on his cell phone to relay this new information and rushes to catch up with the other three.

The elder and the moon cats do their best to call all the others to the Nekohanten and send them as reinforcements.

The Xian Pu's group quickly arrive at the location and find nothing out of the ordinary from the outside. Bru Xi does note that the location was used to host a rave they had investigated earlier in the week. They consider waiting for the others to arrive but Po Mad argues against it.

"We have no idea how long this will last." The raven haired young man insists. "If we miss this chance who knows when it will happen again."

After more discussion and insistence on speed the group prepares to enter the warehouse. Each taking a different window or door. Xian Pu drops through a skylight only to find herself within a large pyramidal crystal labyrinth. Calling through Voulge she finds that the other members of her team are in different areas of the same place but each can see a pillar of light at the top.

'We should find the exit there.' Po Mad assures the others. Par Fum and Bru Xi agree, and they begin to work their way to the top only to find the paths choked with demons on the way there.

Astarte laughs merrily at their efforts while looking into her crystal mirror. "Yes fight and destroy. Unleash pain and death to please my lord. When you arrive exhausted and spent at the top I will feed your souls to him."

The goddess pours a glass of deep red wine and turns to her guest. "You have served me well child, but do you truly feel nothing about what is going to happen to your former friends?"

Po Mad takes the offered glass of wine and smirks. "For so long I lived in that village in the shadow of that fool Mu Se. Even after he followed after Xian Pu like a loyal dog, my skills were ignored and unvalued."

"Yes all because you could not claim a bloodline back to the princess those wenches ignored your charms." Astarte consoles while leading the boy to a chair. "I swear I will never underestimate your value Po Mad."

The teenager settles into the chair with a grin. The glass of wine never made it to his lips as his arms and legs were violently pulled against the chair by golden chains. Astarte laughs without a hint of warmth as the wooden chair morphs into a crystal throne. "Yes such a treacherous heart would soon find a way to betray me as well. You shall serve well as a vessel for my lord after he has consumed your soul." Astarte pulls her crystal mirror over where the boy's bound head is forced to look into it. "Now watch quietly as those you betrayed approach their deaths for yours will come at the same time."

The blond haired goddess is too involved in gloating to notice as two young women enter the warehouse and find a meter tall crystal pyramid surrounded by eight, meter and a half tall, crystal obelisks. the tops of the obelisks are joined by golden wire forming an eight pointed star.

The taller of the two girls, wearing a black cheongsam dress with a stylized yin-yang symbol on the chest spreads her hands and an axe like weapon with a clawed top appears in her hands. Spreading her hands wider the claw extends revealing a glowing whip. She proceeds to attack the crystal altar but a magical field prevents her whip from getting close.
The disruption does draw Astarte's attention though. As she looks out the window of the raised office she is in she shrieks as she sees the girls. Gathering energy for an attack she prepares to kill both girls, only to have her efforts disrupted as a blue and pink blur crashes through a window and kicks her in the back.

The goddess is is distracted but uninjured by the blow. She turns to find herself facing a pink haired girl in a maids outfit. Sneering she prepares to destroy this new annoyance.

Within the compressed time space of the altar the three amazons have succeeded in reaching the top. Bru Xi comments to the others that the fights had seemed far to easy. The three of them see what appears to be a door in the center and agree to approach it cautiously. As soon as they all set foot on the top the final trap is sprung and begins to drain them of life energy.

On the warehouse floor the older girl tired of using her whip, turning to the young girl in a blue short skirted dress with an identical seal. Waving the grinning girl forward she slumps to the ground. The younger girl raises her hand and a spear spins into existence. Holding the weapon like a tonfa by a spike to the side of the bladed tip the girl charges forward.

The girl swings the end of the spear around with all of her might towards one of the obelisks, only to have it bounce off. Unfortunately she had badly overextended for the swing and falls forward rolling into another of the pillars.

The older girl would have laughed if the situation was not so dangerous. She did gasp when the pillar her friend had hit head on toppled over, falling out of the circle and pulling another obelisk it was connected to by the wires. The second pillar toppled forward instead of out, crashing into the altar itself. The glow disappeared, and the older girl found Bru Xi lying on the ground in front of her. Finding he had a slow but steady pulse the girl sobbed in relief.

Astarte having now been surrounded by all three of the angels watched the destruction of the altar in horror. She shrieked and simply unleashed her power in all directions. The steel angels were thrown back to land in heaps, their limbs twisted at odd angles.

Astarte noticed one area of the office not destroyed and and howled as Sakura dropped her shield reveling herself as well as Tomoyo and Kari. "You witches, how dare you interfere with my lords vision. Do you think you are the fates?"

Sakura grinned and cheered. "I call the sexy dress."

Kari could not help giggling when a heartbeat later Sakura had turned into a platinum blond dark skinned woman wearing a purple dress with a V shaped neckline plunging to her waist and a long skirt with side slits going past where the neck ended. Kari turned to look at Tomoyo and found instead a sable haired young teenage girl wearing a long white coat and shorts.

"No fair." Kari mock whines. "If I had know we were going to play this game I would have brought Kasumi." Astarte in the background had backed up and lapsed into unintelligible shrieks.

Back in the Warehouse the girls had been joined by a tall brown haired man with chinese features. "A good start to ending this, but let me add the finishing touch." The man says politely as a meter and a half long double edged chinese great sword appears in his hands. with a call of "Kashin Shourai" a wave of flames sweeps forward melting and then vaporizing the altar.

Astarte had backed up to the throne and seemed to be gathering all of her energy for a powerful attack. Urd/Sakura only smiled and said "Check".
Astarte stopped cold as a long thick blade pierced her back and exited the front of her chest. Black wings spread out behind her. As Po Mad's face came up past her shoulder, a deep unearthly voice whispered "Astarte, you have failed me."

notes:

Saeko - Kuga Saeko - researcher for first division in Mai-Hime and mother of Kuga Natsuki.

Schwartz - the main antagonistic organization in Mai Otome

Lord Mallory - in FMP the de facto head of Mithril.

Midori - Sugiura Midori - In Mai-Hime she is the oldest of the Hime's and to defeat the Searr's foundation helps organize the known ones into a group she later dubs the Hime Sentai. She has a very energetic personality and is nearly as bad as sailor moon about making speeches before a fight. Her most precious person in the anime was a archeology professor with the last name of Sasaki.

Makie - Sasaski Makie - member of class 3-A, and Baka Pink of the Baka Rangers. She is the only member of the baka rangers not to be part of Ala Alba. She does travel to the magical world and shows a talent for magic.

Thule - German organization dedicated to proving the superiority of the Aryan race that Hitler had looked to for support before the rise of the National Socialist (Nazi) party. They were represented as the main antagonist group in "Conqueror of Shambala"

Joseph Greer - Member to the Searrs Foundation that created the cyborg Miyu. During the first part of the series he was controlling orphans to identify the Hime.

Himeno Fumi - one of the Hime in Mai Hime, at the end of the series she had become the new director of the academy. In Mai Otome she was called the last true materializer and was apparently kept in suspended animation to allow the Otome to materialize their Robes.

Obsession (the song the twins are finishing) - is the opening theme to .Hack//sign

Minagi (Kanagi) Reito - Third year student at Fuka academy during Mai Hime. At the end of the series it is revealed that he is Mikoto's missing brother and the vessel for the obsidian lord, who the Himes must appease through their suffering. As for Ranko's reaction, I reiterate my statement in the notes about Kosame. I am evil :)

Minagi Mikoto - Hime who was trained from birth to serve the will of her older brother who would become the obsidian lord

Okuzaki Akira - A kunoichi and the youngest Hime who spent most of her time in the series pretending to be a boy and was the roommate of Mai's younger brother Takumi, who she fell in love with.

The two girls that were coming to join the Amazons are characters from Devil Hunter Yohko.

Chapter 34
Chapter 36
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