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A Ranma ½ / Tenchi Muyo! crossover story
by Jeffrey Vasquez

Disclaimer: "Ranma ½" was created by Takahashi Rumiko, and is licensed to Shogakukan Inc., Kitty, Fuji TV, and Viz Communications Inc. "Tenchi Muyo" was created by Kajishima Masaki, and is licensed to AIC/VAP, NTV, and Viz Communications Inc. All original characters belong to me.

There are certain sounds that send terror racing through the soul: the proximity alarm of a submarine with a hull breach, the scream of a nuclear weapon falling from the heavens, or even the whistling charge of a Tutherian anti-matter device.

All of these would have been preferable to Washu in place of this specific alarm that she had set against her mortal nemesis. Then again, anything that heralded the apocalypse of every being within ten galaxies would have that effect on a person, wouldn't it?

Despite the impending doom, the crimson-haired genius walked at a sedate pace. More intriguing yet was the fact that she was wearing a smile on her face. The gesture could have been from the fact that Washu was fully confident in her abilities to fend off the disaster, or it could have been from the image of her hands around Mihoshi's neck. Either way, this was Washu, so what did it matter?

Mihoshi, and the small black piglet at her side, punched, pulled, and twisted every button in sight; hoping beyond hope that one of their frantic actions would stave off the inevitable. Both wept openly at the avid display of galactic destruction that a small holographic Washu was illustrating on the floating screen in front of them.

True, they couldn't understand a word the chibi-cartoon was saying, but the very lifelike animation of a galaxy of stars collapsing in on itself made the lesson very clear.

Mihoshi had experienced being sucked into a black hole before, and while it had demonstrated to her that Tenchi really did care for her, she was very reluctant to repeat such a scary encounter again.

Ryouga, who had never come anywhere near the thought of total oblivion in his life, rightfully began to panic. This, of course, involved massive amounts of destruction as he desperately sought for a way to stop the impending doom.

Washu's Gravometric Spatial Accelerator never stood a chance. It quickly fell in line with the Quantum Flux Balancer on the soon-to-be-deceased list.

When she finally arrived on the scene, Washu was amazed that the giant machines actually seemed to be in one piece. A quaking mass of twisted metal ten stories tall, yes, but it still looked functional to some degree.

Of course, this whole image was shattered when the GSA promptly shuddered and imploded soundlessly. The QFB, on the other hand, went the opposite route, exploding outwards at the exact instant that the GSA imploded.

Time itself seemed to freeze and slowly start up again in slow motion as two very different event horizons formed in opposition to each other. Time and space literally mingled, and, for a brief instant, something akin to a mini-universe was born.

Washu yawned. Been there. Done that.

The mini-universe began to slowly break down as time began to accelerate again. The redheaded scientist was tempted to let Bubble Head get sucked into the baby black hole that was forming, if for no other reason than to teach her a lesson. She could always retrieve her later, right?

Washu shook her head once and sighed. Time began to distort, and everything seemed to stretch as the tiny black hole began to extend outwards. Mihoshi screamed and Ryouga squealed, but the sound became drawn out as well through the time distortion. One note seemed to last forever.

Strangely, though, Washu seemed unaffected by any of the disastrous effects.

There wasn't enough time to wait for the blonde to get pulled into a time-space rip, not and save everyone else while she was at it. Besides, Pig Boy was there, hanging by the seat of Mihoshi's pants no less, and he hardly deserved such punishment. He had only trespassed, after all, and accidentally at that.

No, she would have to be satisfied with the leverage of saving Mihoshi's life; it might be enough to keep her out of the lab for at least a week. More than enough time to research a new security system. Washu began laughing maniacally. Fortunately for those present, all of the sound in the room was being distorted and drug into the ever-growing hole that the GSA and the QFB had occupied.

The house shuddered once, to everyone's great discomfort... Well, everyone except Kasumi that was. She was still thinking about the gingerbread men.

Tenchi stood, layered in as much goo from the monster as his cousin had been, and walked over to where Ryoko and Ayeka were laying. Careful examination of the pair relieved his tension, especially when they started growling at each other. He lingered by them for just a moment before moving over to where Akane stood. The destruction of the culinary monstrosity seemed totally anticlimactic, yet the unfolding drama between Ranma and his fiancée held a certain appeal for Tenchi.

Ranma seemed so much better with women than Tenchi; well, bolder at least. Tenchi hoped that he might be able to pick up some pointers from the brash young man. The fact that Ranma had stood up for himself was inspiring. Tenchi had always wanted to do something like that, to take control of his life back from all the insanity around him, but he knew that someone would get terribly hurt if he tried. Maybe someday he would uncover a way to find the peace that he yearned for… without having to pay the high cost that was associated with his dream.

The lingering smell of the Jell-O monster dampened that notion, however. Somehow, he knew that his problems would loiter very much like this stench.

"I'm going to get cleaned up," he said finally, feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Ryoko brightened immediately and made a beeline for Washu's lab. If she could somehow convince her egocentric mother to make the bath more communal, then she would be that much closer to her goal.

Her mind wrapped around the idea of burying her prissy rival under the mountain of love that she would give Tenchi. She lost herself in a little fantasy involving her would-be lover, never realizing that her forward momentum had ceased.

A very incensed Ayeka, who could readily read her rival's drooling intentions, clung resolutely to the back of Ryoko's dress. There was no way in hell that she was going to let this... this... succubus near her Tenchi!

Had either woman been paying attention, they would have seen Misaki's eyes sparkle with joy. For Ayeka, the signs would have been clear, and even Ryoko would have realized that something unhealthy was playing out in the Queen's sparkling eyes.

Misaki's high-pitched squeal was more than enough to get everyone's attention, including the comatose Ranma, who bolted to his feet and into a fighting stance even before his eyes opened again. Ryoko and Ayeka found themselves clutching each other in abject terror as the blue-haired queen wrapped each in an enthusiastic hug.

"Oooooh! A bath sounds delightful!"

Both women paled at the implications and did their best to break free of the woman's iron grip. Misaki's eyes were so teary that she barely registered the frantic struggling of her captives.

"I haven't bathed with my babies in sooooo long!"

Ayeka nearly fainted in mortification as Misaki produced her favorite childhood bath toy presenting it for all to see. The long-necked violet swan was rather cute with its large rolling eyes and goofy smile.

Had she not known the terrible consequence involved, Ryoko would have laughed.

Emperor's flagship
Orbiting Earth

"Detective First Class Kiyone Makibi reporting for duty, sir!" Kiyone saluted crisply before the Juraian Grand Admiral. She had never been on the bridge of the Emperor's ship, Kirito, and felt more than a little overwhelmed.

"At ease, detective." Grand Admiral Obeyimi saluted absently, motioning for the young teal-haired woman to sit across from him. "Tea?"

Kiyone nodded thankfully and melted into the soft cushions.

"How was your trip?" the Grand Admiral asked politely.

"Faster than I expected," Kiyone admitted, accepting the tea a staff member poured for her. "The Academy's new Fold Drive is amazing. Akubi made the trip in a matter of minutes."

The Grand Admiral nodded quietly, trying to hide the frown that would voice his displeasure. Every time technology like this was achieved, someone ended up abusing it, leaving people like him to have to clean up the aftermath.

"I am pleased that you were able to arrive so quickly, detective. I will assume that you have read the initial briefing?"

Kiyone nodded, allowing her face to settle into her business mask. She liked the Grand Admiral's style: brief pleasantries, then straight to business.

"Good. Good. Now then, I would like you to ignore everything that you read."

The Detective's eyes bugged, before she was able to control herself. The light of hope blossomed fully in her eyes as she looked at the Grand Admiral.

"You mean that I won't..." She choked up with emotion at the thought of a dream come true. "...I won't be assigned to that... that Menace?"

The Grand Admiral winced and coughed once into his fist. "I am truly sorry, Makibi-san. That is the only part of the assignment that remains in effect." Kiyone slumped as the fires of hope were gutted. "However, you and your new partner will be receiving a promotion."

The Grand Admiral was glad to see that this assuaged Kiyone's broken spirit some. She lifted her tea to her lips and sipped, obviously trying to prepare herself for whatever charity that the powers that be had tossed her. The Grand Admiral smirked knowingly.

"But once you accept, there will be no turning back." His voice was serious, despite the small grin on his face. "Do you accept?"

He was pleased that she nodded without hesitation.

"Then First Captain Makibi, allow me to be the first to welcome you to the Royal Guard's Special Forces."

Kiyone did what any normal person would do; she sprayed her tea all over the Grand Admiral. "I'm so sorry, Admiral!" She immediately grabbed a napkin and began cleaning the liquid from his face.

"Quite all right, detective. Quite all right." The Grand Admiral smiled wanly and fought off her attempts to mop his face. He had expected something like this to happen. Anyone that had been Mihoshi's partner for that long had to come away scarred.

Soon, the mess was removed, and the Grand Admiral settled. Kiyone, however, was puzzling over the new assignment, trying to make sense of it. Obeyimi watched the woman fitting the pieces together, but unable to come to any logical conclusion. She finally looked up at the Grand Admiral and sighed.

"I'm honored, Grand Admiral, for the appointment, but I have to ask: why me? The Royal Guard is strictly a Juraian outfit, and I am not Juraian. Neither is Mihoshi, for that matter."

Obeyimi nodded and directed her to be silent. He looked around him and motioned for her to stand. "Walk with me."

Kiyone followed the Grand Admiral's lead, and soon the pair found themselves on the Grand Admiral's ship, Myun. The lavish, organic surroundings were nothing in comparison to the Emperor's ship, but Kiyone still felt a little uncomfortable.

"Please, Captain." Obeyimi motioned for his guest to seat herself in the comfortable couch across from him.

"Thank you," she said absently as she sat on the edge of the couch. "Permission to speak freely, sir?" He nodded his consent. "Is security so bad?"

"Times such as these are never easy, detective." Obeyimi frowned and sighed. "Since the council read a certain report filed by your partner, Jurai has never been the same."

"Report, sir?" Kiyone was confused. She thought that she had read all of Mihoshi's current reports. It had been mindnumbing, but Kiyone hadn't read anything out of the ordinary.

The Grand Admiral stood turned himself slightly away from Kiyone. "Myun, please display Lord Tenchi's battle with Kagato."

Kiyone frowned at the mention of "Lord Tenchi". She hadn't heard of anyone in court by that name, let alone his name in Mihoshi's report about the Kagato incident. A large movie began playing itself out with characters that weren't familiar to her. It was a magnificent battle, and remarkably one-sided. Kagato had the upper hand, and when all had been lost... Kiyone's eyes bugged. "No way!"

"That's exactly what I said," the Admiral said. "The boy was totally cut off from Tsunami, and yet he created the Light Hawk Wings."

Kiyone could only boggle as the boy on the screen won the duel, and apparently instantly regenerated a fatal wound. The fact that the Souja had been cleanly cut in twain wasn't lost on her. She sank back into the couch and put her hand to her head. "What's this all got to do with me?" she asked hoarsely.

Obeyimi smiled as he returned to his seat. "I've been authorized to tell you this, but you must understand that it cannot leave this room."

Kiyone nodded and sat forward again.

"The Lady Funaho has received various reports that a coup is being staged." The former Galaxy Police Operative cursed under her breath. "Most of the information is hearsay, but when you put enough information together, it soon becomes a cohesive whole."

"How many people know?" she asked.

"Five. You, myself, the Emperor, and his wives," the Admiral said gravely. Kiyone again wondered why she had been assigned to this detail; and, as if he had read her mind, Obeyimi smiled. "You've had an exemplary career to date, detective. And your familiarity with Detective Kuramitsu's operating procedures will make you a valuable asset to this assignment."

Kiyone grimaced, as if a bad taste had entered her mouth. "And just what is this assignment?" Her tone couldn't hide the displeasure she felt, just as her body couldn't help but shiver at the serious look that the Admiral gave her.

"To guard Lord Tenchi, the Crown Prince of Jurai."

Kiyone felt a faint tremor of fear pass through her. What in the world was she going to protect a kid that could generate his own Light Hawk Wings from? Somehow, she had the intense feeling that it was Mihoshi....

The Dimensional Baths
Masaki home

"I must say, Yosho, I'm impressed."

If there was one thing that the former Crown Prince of Jurai had not been expecting, it was the honest approval in his father's voice. "Father?"

"Ranma," Azusa said simply. "The boy's a formidable warrior, in spite of your neglect."

Yosho frowned, but allowed himself to sink into the warm water a little further rather than rise to the veiled insult.

Azusa wasn't intent on being so passive. "He reminds me of myself at that age — full of piss and wind, and not interested in anything but his art. Which begs the question, son…" Azusa lifted one lid to glance at his son through the rising steam of the bath. "Why haven't you taught him yet?"

"There was no need," Yosho said calmly. "Tenchi was the one bearing the burden of honor, and I felt it best to let Ranma live his own life."

Azusa snorted. "Some life."

Yosho felt ashamed, but hid it behind a thoughtful mask.

"Indeed. It made him what he is today," Yosho said pointedly, effectively dousing his father's steam.

For a long time the pair refused to speak at all, until finally Azusa broke the silence. "Why Tenchi?"

Yosho shrugged. "Convenience, I suppose. Nodoka and I did not part well; seeing Ranma was difficult at best." The silence dragged on longer this time around. "Why do you hate the boy so much?" Yosho finally asked.

Azusa mimicked his son's gesture. "Convenience, I suppose." He smirked at his son, and then laid a warm cloth over his eyes. "He wasn't you. He was a child that I'd never met who was more powerful than any king in the history of Jurai. How would you react?"

Yosho could only look at his father in shock. Never had he dared to admit so much. It stunned the former Crown Prince; so much so that the pair simply sat in uncomfortable silence.

Washu's lab

"Well, Bubblehead, it looks like your fat's out of the fire." Washu turned to regard the blonde-haired wonder, only to find that the flighty menace had disappeared along with the little black pig. A sudden fear gripped her heart as she thought about Mihoshi loose in the rest of the lab.

"Computer, track Ryouga's bio-signature." The red haired genius walked calmly through the fantastic lab. She had long ago learned that trying to find Mihoshi with any type of surveillance equipment was impossible. By the time anything spotted her, it was beyond too late.

[Unable to comply, Washu-chan. Anomalous bio-signature associated to life form designate: Ryouga is no longer present within the confines of the laboratory.]

Washu tapped her lips and smiled, intrigued. "Scan the house and grounds please."

[Anomalous bio-signature associated to life form designate: Ryouga is no longer present within the confines of the house proper or the surrounding grounds.]

"Hmmm. Twenty-five mile radius on the scan, and nothing turns up...." Washu was thoroughly intrigued now. Could the kid have teleported? Unlikely. Could Mihoshi have teleported? Washu didn't think that Mihoshi had the technology to teleport that far.

Yukinojo was at the bottom of the lake again, affecting repairs... and Ryouga would have been picked up on the scan at that close of a range....

"Full cycle scan please. Inform me when you have a match."

[Yes, Washu-chan.]

Poor Ryouga. Washu clapped her hands together and said a prayer for the kid. Knowing the Galaxy Police operative the way she did, she knew that the boy was going to need all the help he could get.

No sense in crying over spilt milk. She had guests to attend to.

Ukyou tried her best not to cry. Really. But when a loudspeaker starts blaring "Mihoshi you idiot!" in a tone that is anything but comforting, you start to worry. When a screen appears above your head and starts to illustrate just how you were going to die, coupled with a rapid countdown to said death....

Well, Shampoo herself had broken down and started crying. Not that the Amazon turned cat would ever admit it... but hey, it happened.

"Hi there!" A cute voice said cheerily. "How are you feeling?"

Ukyo's eyes bugged as Washu's face suddenly appeared in her restricted vision. She bucked against the restraints in a frantic attempt to free herself, but was unable to budge her bonds.

"Pretty scary, huh?" The scientist asked as a holoterminal appeared. Shampoo meowed indifferently, but Ukyo could only quiver with fear. "Well, nothing to worry about. The danger's all in the past now."

From the looks that Ukyo and Shampoo shared, neither felt that this was true.

Washu pressed some buttons on her terminal, and Ukyo's bonds disappeared. "There you go! All better!" Washu said cheerily.

The okonomiyaki chef could only blink for fear that this was a dream. More buttons were typed, and Shampoo's little prison disappeared. Then the small purple cat was virtually drowned by a deluge of hot water.

"Aiyah!" The purple-haired Amazon grew to her normal proportions, naked but grateful to be free and mobile again.

"Feeling better?" Washu asked with a grin. Shampoo nodded, yet couldn't help but shiver. Her host took one look at the sorry-looking pair and tapped another key on her terminal, producing two piles of clothing and a pair of buckets filled with bathing accessories.

Ukyo finally mustered the strength and courage to speak. "W-why are you being so nice to us?"

Washu looked at her and shrugged. "I tried being nice from the start, but someone had a potty mouth and wouldn't listen to reason." The chef bristled, but found the restraint to keep her mouth shut. "Everything else was routine. I can't have foreign germs running amok in my lab." She paused to tap her lips thoughtfully.

"The last time that happened, a whole star system was wiped out. Mutant viruses are fun only so long as they're controllable." She winked at Shampoo and smiled roguishly. "Especially when they turn someone's skin blue, and can tattoo 'I love Washu-chan' across someone's butt!" There were members of the Royal Academy that still hadn't figured out how to remove the sentimental graffiti from their posteriors.

Shampoo grimaced and swallowed.

"Now then, do you guys want to get cleaned up or not?" The pair started to follow their guide up a large, sloping ramp that opened up onto a wide balcony overlooking an immense botanical garden.

"It's beautiful," Ukyo said in awe. Shampoo could only nod her head.

"Thanks," Washu said, preening herself.

"Hey! Where Pig-boy?" Shampoo asked when she finally noticed that the Lost Boy was missing.

Washu shrugged. "Last I saw of him, he was with Mihoshi. From there, I can only guess." Ukyo shrugged, and stared down at the garden longingly. Shampoo's reaction was much the same, only less concerned. The scientist noted that this news neither unsettled nor surprised her guests. "Well, come on. The bath's likely to be crowded tonight, and if we don't hurry Ryoko will drink all the booze."

Shampoo watched the red head walk away, and immediately grabbed Ukyo's arm. There was no way that she was going to be stuck with this woman alone. No way in hell!

Thystys, Port of Kings

Admiral Tozin debarked from the Johei amongst his retinue and moved forward towards the quay. His magnificent ship dwarfed the small cruisers that lay docked around it. It was a sight that filled him with pride and sorrow as he moved away from the jetty and into the main thoroughfares of Thystys.

Come this time next week, Johei would be dead along with the rest of the Juraian fleet, and with that fleet, so too would fall the royal trash that had ruined Jurai. Tozin smiled grimly as he entered his favorite restaurant. He scanned the crowd until he found his unwitting operative, seated, of all places, at the Admiral's customary table. The fool.

The Admiral watched as a waitress calmly addressed the man. Empty bottles were strewn everywhere in front of him, and clattered noisily as he jostled the table. Tozin had to admit that he appreciated the show that the man was putting on; it made everything so much easier.

The man at the table roared incoherently and stood drunkenly, sending bottles in every direction. People, alien and otherwise, turned to regard the scene with mixed interest. The poor waitress squealed, but to her credit held her ground. It was time for Tozin to take the matter in hand.

"Is there a problem, Kei?" His deep voice was quiet and controlled, but it managed to cut through the drunk's rage quick enough. The waitress bit her lip in frustration and curtsied to the Admiral.

"I'm terribly sorry, Admiral," she said, bobbing again. "I tried moving him, but he insisted that it would be all right with you."

"Not to worry, Kei. I know the man from Court. Bring me my usual and something stiff enough to clear Lord Segota's head here." Tozin smiled at the young woman with what little warmth that he could muster before sending her away.

"I like my h-head thish way," Segota slurred.

"Then, dear old friend, if you wish to keep it I would suggest that you sit down and shut up," Tozin growled under his breath. Segota fell sloppily into his chair, whether by designed obedience or simply spirits-induced vertigo, Tozin didn't know.

"The ol' bashtard had a dreem, Tozhin," Segota said moodily. His voice was hushed and filled with shame. "Shaid tha' I b-betrayed Jhurai."

Tozin frowned and laced his fingers in front of his mouth. "Have you?" he asked softly.

"NEVER!" Segota cried as he shakily took to his feet. A hundred pair of eyes turned on him, and the former son of Gotan quieted self-consciously. "Never!" he hissed as he sat down again.

"The why the drama?"

Segota fell into a deep silence; a look of utter defeat filled his eyes. "Why, Tozhin? Why'd you take the virus?"

Tozin felt something akin to fear well in his heart. "What are you implying, Segota?" The Admiral's eyes narrowed meaningfully. "Are you accusing me of theft?"

Segota reached across the table and grabbed the Admiral's shirt. "Don' toy wi' me, Tozin! You were th' only other person tha' knew 'bout the virus! Now tell me wha' you did wi' it!"

Tozin's steepled hands didn't move, but a smile did grow on his face in spite of Segota's foul breath. With a headiness that he hadn't felt in years, the Admiral answered the scientist's question. "I'm giving it to Tsunami, dear boy."

Segota's face drained of color, but his body reacted to a sudden welling of rage. Tozin went flying as Segota called upon his royal heritage. Energy danced around him angrily as he rounded on the fallen foe. He was given no opportunity to follow through with the rest of his attack, though, as the Guard made themselves known. They rushed him, forcing him to lash out viciously as he made good his escape through the kitchen.

Tozin frowned and wiped the blood from his lip. A loose end was dangling, but if Tozin had his way, then Segota was as good as dead. The guards helped the Admiral to his feet and helped clean him off.

"If what the man confessed was true, then Lord Segota has committed a great act of terrorism against Jurai, Captain. Worse than the Pirate's raid! I want him arrested and brought before a tribunal before the night is out to determine the veracity of his claim."

The Captain saluted crisply and pushed out onto the street. Tozin smiled to himself knowingly. Phase one and two, complete. Time to move forward with the next step.

The Baths
Misaki Home

"Scrubby! Scrubby! With all my lovey!" Misaki's cheerful, sweet voice echoed throughout the floating baths, causing four of the women to grit their teeth and regret their decisions to join in on "the fun". Nabiki especially. This was one of those "never do this again... ever... no matter how much they try to pay you!" moments.

Poor Ayeka had to giggle inanely as her mother thoroughly scrubbed her hair. The look on her face was flat and lifeless, though, despite the veneer of happiness that she voiced. On the other hand, Sasami winced, dreading her turn to be tended to. Ryoko just looked ill.

Akane wasn't sure how to react. She had snickered once, but the frantic and terribly fearful look that Ryoko had thrown her silenced the humor instantly. So here she was, soaking in the mammoth pool and trying to get a handle on the surreal turn that her life had taken. She had to smile at that.

Ranma had done it to her again. Just when she had gotten used to the status quo, he had to go and change all the rules again. He wasn't Ranma the über-annoying Martial Artist any more; now he was Ranma the Alien Prince and her "fiancé" to boot. Did that make her a princess?

She supposed it did at that. Go figure. How many would-be princes had kidnapped her? Only to find out that the rough and tumble jerk that she had been saddled with was a prince all along. Prince Charming, under her nose all along! The irony made her want to chuckle.

Now, if the idiot would only act like a prince, everything would be perfect. Her earlier confrontation with Ranma drifted through her mind as she soaked in the much-needed warmth. She could see how and where things had gone wrong, but she couldn't see how she could have approached the situation differently.

"How are you feeling, Akane-chan?" Funaho's voice cut through Misaki's caterwauling surprisingly well. Akane lifted her eyes up to meet the gaze of the First Queen of Jurai.

"I'm fine, Your Majesty," Akane said, hurriedly composing herself in what she hoped was proper decorum. She'd never bathed with a queen before.

"Please, Akane. You may call me Funaho when we are not in the public eye." Funaho smiled warmly as Akane relaxed. "You are thinking about Ranma, aren't you?" The question was more of a statement.

"I guess," Akane said self-consciously.

"He frustrates you."

Akane couldn't help but laugh in response to the question, drawing the attention of everyone in the room.

"And yet," Funaho continued. "You cannot help but love him."

The youngest Tendo blinked at the statement, and then she started to fidget uncomfortably. There was no escaping the pointed statement, or the truth for that matter. Akane knew from the heat her face was giving off that her answer was already plastered on her face. She just wished that everyone would stop staring at her.

"Well?" Ryoko's crass voice broke through the uncomfortable silence, demanding a response.

"Mind your own business, monster woman." Ayeka, bless her heart, came to Akane's defense. "Lady Akane's love life is no concern of yours!"

"What love life?" Ryoko ribbed. "From what I saw, loverboy wanted nothing to do with 'Red' here. Who'd want to be nagged to death anyway?"

Akane looked up at Ryoko in shock, and not for the first time felt her heart clench in fear. She was right, after all. Who in their right mind would want to be nagged? Akane's face fell as she started to realize what she had been doing to Ranma.

"That is quite enough, Ryoko!" Ayeka shouted, slipping out of her mother's grasp.

"Hey! Ease off, Princess! I'm just making an observation." There was no way that the former Space Pirate was going to pick a fight with Misaki in the room.

"As if you were one to be giving advice!" Ayeka sneered.

"Like you ever could! At least I've made it to Tenchi's bed!" Ryoko countered. Every ear seemed to wiggle in anticipation of hearing more details.

"You threw yourself on him when he woke up, you slut!"

"At least I'm not afraid to make a move!"

Sparks were literally flying, causing a great deal of concern for those that were in the water. Ayeka and Ryoko were tossing insults back and forth so liberally that no one noticed a tearful Akane start towards the other end of the pool. Nor did they notice that the door had admitted a very naked, and very confused male Ranma.

Well, one person noticed.

"Ranma!" Nodoka's elated voice cut through the noise, silencing the escalating battle. She had never hoped that he would be so bold as this! Her son was such a manly man!

Ranma blinked in shock and tried to cover himself with his wash bucket.

Everywhere that he looked, there was another naked body. He tried to step back and open the door, but for some reason it wouldn't open. Fear settled in the pit of his stomach as he caught sight of Ayeka and Ryoko glaring at him... or was 'angry leering' more appropriate?

He closed his eyes and started kicking the door, hoping to break through the barrier and run to safety without compromising what little modesty he had left. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end and a cold feeling of dread settled into the pit of his stomach.

He chanced a peak, back over his shoulder, and noticed Nabiki lick her lips. Oh, crap! The last time that he'd seen that look was when the economics club had told Nabiki that she was a two-bit fleece. She'd taught them proper respect, though, and it had only cost them two years of service and three years of their combined allowances. Ranma had a feeling that this was going to cost him a whole lot more than he could pay.

He tried to close his eyes again, but he whimpered as his eyes fell on Kasumi. She scowled at him angrily and Ranma knew in that moment that he was doomed. DOOMED. She would make him eat Akane's cooking! He just knew it!

But the one thing that made Ranma want to cry was the cold, neutral look in Akane's eyes. Had she been crying? That was the worst. It wasn't his fault that she was halfway out of the bath! It wasn't his fault! He had gone in the right door! It had plainly said 'Men'. He had read the freaking sign three times! Oh, he was sooo dead! She was going to pound him! Why him? Why did this always happen to him? Damn it! He had gone through the right door!

Providence seemed to smile on the poor fool, as the door opened. Escape was a step away and Ranma acted quickly to take it. Unfortunately, as the frantic martial artist tried to make good on his getaway, he collided with three women coming into the bath.

Akane planted her face in her hand as Ranma collided with Washu and two shadowy figures. The result was rather dynamic as the bodies rolled further into the bath, rather than out of it. Towels and bathing supplies were thrown about wildly as poor Ranma did his best to escape the inevitable.

She had seen the look of confusion on his face, and could see the mistake was genuine. She watched the rolling figures edging closer to the warm pool of water, and decided that she might as well help drag his carcass out of here when everyone inevitably beat the tar out of him. She began wrapping her towel around her in an attempt to preserve what little modesty remained.

"Jackass! Watch where you're grabbing!"

Akane jolted when she heard that familiar, yet unwelcome voice.

"Aiyah! Pervert no touch there!" The second angry voice made Akane wince.

"Oh! Ranma!" Washu squealed. "You naughty boy!"

The room seemed to halt as the knot of rolling bodies stopped at the edge of the bath. Akane growled as all three young women seemed to dominate a whimpering Ranma. Everyone seemed to be naked as the day that they were born.

Shampoo cried out her joy and glomped the object of her affection, earning her a solid hit from Ukyo that sent her flying into the main bath with a loud splash. Her desperate, teary-eyed face took Akane back for a moment as Ukyo smothered Ranma with kisses, thanking him for coming to her rescue.

But the youngest Tendo began to glow visibly as Ukyo gave Ranma a rather lengthy, award-winning kiss. Washu and the others sensed the danger and somehow managed to huddle together at the far end of the pool... even Ryoko.

Ukyo was in heaven! Her Ranma had come to save her from that wicked mad scientist! He was naked, which was a curious bonus that made the okonomiyaki chef wonder if this was all some surreal dream.

Which made a certain amount of sense. Washu was just too unreal to be real, even after everything that Ukyo had seen in her life. And if this was a dream then she could indulge herself a little right? Mmmmm. Yes. She could almost feel Ranma's heart beating faster as she kissed him.

Wait a minute! She could feel his heart beating faster! Ukyo's eyes flared opened, and took in Ranma's catatonic, yet strangely blissful stare. He was really here! It wasn't a dream! A little squeal of pleasure sounded from her liplock with Ranma, as she re-doubled her efforts. The cold shadow that fell over her suddenly changed the heavenly dream into a living nightmare.

Ukyo reluctantly came up for air and looked at the hazy blue aura that surrounded Akane and almost begged for mercy. Almost, but not quite. Instead, she wrapped her arms around Ranma possessively, clutching him like a life preserver.

Akane mouthed one word that sent shivers down the chef's spine. "Mine."

Emperor's flagship
Orbiting Earth

Knohet emerged from the Galaxy Police shuttle in the form of a harmless gas. He had finally made it to his destination unchallenged, and in a few hours time Azusa would be dead and Washu would be on her way to Tokimi.

The gaseous cloud began to solidify, becoming a small insect that could easily slip unnoticed into a transport beam. All that the metamorph had to do was wait for someone to transport down to the planet.

And if they didn't, he would send himself.

All would have been well had some crazy blonde woman with a weird vacuum not come along and sucked up his scattered molecules as she cleaned the corridor.

Mitoto Kuramitsu hummed quietly to herself as she continued cleaning the corridor. Her unwelcome prisoner silently screamed as his component parts mingled and bonded with the dust and gunk that her WashuVac 5000™ was waiting to recycle. Soon she moved on to her next job, never realizing that she had been on the Imperial Flagship at all.

The Baths
Masaki Shrine

The men's bath seemed to rock with a tremendous blow, causing Tenchi to fall off the small stool where he was soaping himself. Smaller explosions seemed to happen in rapid succession, making the water of the bath splash over the rim of the pool.

He looked to his grandfathers as he scrambled for his towel and noted wryly that both were staring at something near the door. Tenchi tracked their gaze, and found himself looking at a very nubile and very naked young woman with red hair.

She had heavy bruises decorating her body, and her fiery red hair was definitely smoking. Most surprising of all were the many slap marks layered on her face. Tenchi clutched his nose to stem the flow of blood that threatened to come.

Ranma-chan slowly turned to face the leering faces of her grandfathers. Tenchi shivered and tried to look away without blushing too much — such a small act, but one that saved him a world of hurt in the long run.

If only Yosho hadn't asked Ranma for a date, then the bath might have survived.

Masaki home

The night passed uneventfully for all involved, save for the small yet explosive altercation in the men's side of the onsen. Ranma took exception to being ogled by a bunch of dirty old men, and had made that point very clear. It had been a long time since Azusa had been on the receiving end of anything remotely painful, and his respect for his grandson's... er, daughter's... uh, person's prowess went up another notch. As he sat beneath the dark pre-dawn sky he chuckled and shook his head.

"He's something, isn't he?" Funaho's soft voice drifted to Azusa's ears on a gentle breeze. The scent of Hymeron tea followed soon after.

"Hmmm." The Emperor nodded, looking out over the quiet lake from his seat on the dock. The herbal pack on his eye was doing wonders for the swelling, but the black eye was going to be there for a while — unless, of course, he braved going back to his ship. The thought of trying to explain this to the Royal Physician was enough to help Azusa endure the bruise.

"Have you slept yet?" Funaho asked quietly as she made her way down the dock to where he sat. Azusa shook his head and returned his gaze to the stars, avoiding his wife's frowning face as she paused beside him. He waited for the scolding to start, but it never came.

"I was hoping that he would truly manifest, instead of just tapping the well."

The King of Jurai looked at his wife askance, and realized that she wasn't joking.

"Everything happens in it's own time, I suppose. Still, I was sure that Washu was going to have an episode then and there. She kept going on and on about the boy's readings, and cursing that her bath would need to be rebuilt." The smile in her voice belied the tension that they both felt. She settled down beside her husband and set the tea service down next to her, then poured her husband a cup. "The poor woman didn't know whether to hug Ranma or spank him."

"It was just energy, Funaho," Azusa said grumpily. "There's nothing to say that Ranma will turn out to be like Tenchi." He sighed as he took the cup and inhaled the rich scent, allowing it to easy the tension from his shoulders.

"The simple fact that the boy is focusing such high concentrations of energy, without the need for a focus, means..." she started enthusiastically.

"Nothing," Azusa cut his wife off, earning him a cross glance. "For all we know it could be something else entirely, an energy form unique to this planet. The youngest Tendo girl displays an incredible amount of energy."

Azusa was intent on proving his wife wrong. He knew that she was right, but couldn't bring himself to accept it. And for the life of him, he couldn't understand why.

"So test him," Funaho said coolly. "It's obvious that you like the boy. Take him up to the ship and get him away from the planet. Bond." She made an idle gesture with her free hand. "Or whatever you want to call it."

"We just met the boy. Don't you think that it's a bit soon for all of that?" He sipped his tea again, leaning his head against one of the dock posts. "He's just learned of his heritage, and after the display that he put on last night with the Tendo girl…."

Funaho was silent for a time, watching the dancing waves play across the lake's surface. "Good heavens, man! The boy is a younger version of you and your son!" she said in exasperation. "It's like watching Yosho and Airi all over again. And like it or not, Ayeka and Ryoko treat Tenchi the same way. You make excuses for not supporting Tenchi for the throne, and now you flounder with Ranma. I swear! None of the men in this family have any backbone at all!" Funaho sighed and looked out over the lake, trying to calm her frustration. "Make up your mind before you split our people asunder."

Azusa actually chuckled in spite of his wife's harshness. "They both have my irresistible charm, don't they?"

Funaho snorted and then fell silent. A cricket sounded nearby breaking the tenuous peace. "Auspicious, is it not?" she said at last.

Azusa looked at his wife from the corner of his eye. "How so?" He knew where she was taking this, and tried his best to act ignorant; out of sight, out of mind... that was the best attitude to adopt now.

She leveled him with a look that immediately set him on edge. "We have two young men, both in direct line for the throne now that Yosho has abdicated. One can generate the Wings of the Light Hawk, and the other could potentially be just as powerful. The timing is terribly suspect."

By the blank look on her husband's face, Funaho knew that the man was feigning ignorance. She would play his game, but only so far. Plausible deniability was well and good in some circumstances, but their current dilemma was fragile at best. Too much was at stake for her to let Azusa's pride run unchecked. "Do you mean to tell me that you haven't read this week's reports?"

"Well... Um... That is to say," he hemmed.

"AZUSA!" She wasn't sure if he was playing now or not.

"What! I've been busy!" He backed against the dock post.

"Planning on how best to get our son on the throne, no doubt!" Her eyes narrowed dangerously. He wasn't playing! He hadn't read the latest reports! "Really, Azusa! How could you dump this mess on Yosho and the boys?!"

"I'm not dumping this on anyone!" he countered. "I've all but lost the Parliament. The Senate was lost to me before I ever took the throne, and the Guild Congress has all but declared themselves independent. The PLF is becoming a force that will rival even the Navy's power. These are dark times, Funaho!" He threw his hands up hopelessly. "We need a miracle... something to inspire the people again. Something that will restore confidence." Azusa sighed and turned back to watching the lake. "You know as well as I that if someone doesn't unify them, the Empire will crumble. They loved Yosho."

"But he abandoned them," she replied.

Azusa sighed and set his teacup aside. "Yes, he did. And Ayeka and Sasami too. I can't help but feel that all of these problems revolve around their departures. The people have lost faith in us, and it is all because I wasn't a good father."

Funaho laid her head on her husband's shoulder and hugged his arm. She had no words to offer him that would comfort the weight he carried, nor ease his fears. All that she could do was hold him, and pray for the best.

Azusa hoped — no, prayed — that Ranma and Tenchi could do what he and his son could not. Tsunami had chosen them, and she would support them, but Azusa was afraid of what this would do to the Empire.

Misaki had suggested that Nodoka take blankets out to Azusa and Funaho while Sasami and Kasumi finished up breakfast. Naturally, Ayeka had volunteered to help, and it had nothing to do with the warning looks that the First Princess of Jurai was receiving from the other women. Not at all.

She just needed to escape her mother's good intentions for at least a little while; then she might even be able to keep her sanity intact until Ryoko woke up. She hadn't expected to walk in on such a revealing conversation.

"You know as well as I that if someone doesn't unify them, the Empire will crumble. They loved Yosho." Her father's words shocked her so much that her forward momentum halted. Nodoka made as if to leave, afraid of eavesdropping further, but Ayeka halted her niece.

"But he abandoned them," Funaho replied. The comment cut Ayeka's soul, for she knew it to be true. Yosho had selfishly run away from his duty.

Azusa sighed and set his teacup aside. She could see the way that her father's shoulders slumped, and somehow she knew what was coming. She wanted to run, rather than hear those words, but some perverse need held her rooted to the spot.

"Yes, he did. And Ayeka and Sasami too. I can't help but feel that all of these problems revolve around their departures. The people have lost faith in us, and it is all because I wasn't a good father."

Ayeka's voice caught in her throat as she remembered all of the wonderful things that her father had done for her. All the demons that he had slain, real or imagined. He had liberated so many worlds, and brought peace to countless others. Her father, the gruff man that had always made time for her when she was troubled.

A sob escaped her lips, drawing the attention of her parents.

"Ayeka?" Azusa looked up in surprise to see his baby girl hide her face in shame.

"I-I am... I am sorry, Father!" she sobbed uncontrollably and dropped her blanket, to hide her face from the man that she had so selfishly betrayed.

"Ayeka." Azusa stood quickly, and reached for his daughter.

She couldn't stand the love that, even now, echoed in his words. She had betrayed her family and her people, all because of some lovesick quest! How could she have been so blind! How many had suffered these last seven hundred years because of her?

"Ayeka, please try to understand." Funaho tried to soothe her stepdaughter's anguish. "Things aren't as bad as they seem."

Ayeka pulled her hands from in front of her face and bit her trembling lip. The pain that she felt was raw on her face. "Please, Funaho, don't lie." She couldn't face them any more; their sad, pitying eyes were just too much to bear. So she turned and fled, leaving Nodoka alone with her grandparents.

"Ayeka!" Azusa started to follow, but was pulled up short by his wife. He looked at her in frustration, hoping that she would relent. Funaho shook her head once then looked to her granddaughter. Azusa followed her gaze and looked at the young woman before him.

Nodoka bowed deeply before the Emperor, and held that pose. "Forgive us, Grandfather. We thought the air by the water would be chilly... We didn't mean to eavesdrop on your conversation."

Funaho nudged her husband forward when he didn't immediately acknowledge their granddaughter. He looked at her askance, then stepped forward and placed his hand on Nodoka's shoulder.

Funaho motioned him forward impatiently as she took off after Ayeka.

"There is nothing to forgive, Granddaughter." He placed an arm around Nodoka's shoulders awkwardly and led her back to the dock. "Problems of state are always a minefield that must be navigated cautiously. Goddess willing, everything will be fine."

Nodoka wrapped the blanket that she had been carrying around Azusa's shoulders, before settling down next to him. "And if everything is not all right?" she asked tentatively.

Azusa frowned, unsure of how to respond. "Let us speak of happier things, granddaughter. Tell me about yourself."

Nodoka began hesitantly, speaking of her son almost exclusively, but soon Azusa had steered his son's daughter to speaking about her past. She regaled the Emperor with wild tales about her childhood, and growing up with her mother and sister.

For a time, Azusa was transported into the past, to meet the daughter-in-law that he had never met. He decided that she was the type of woman that he would have approved of.

The Hall of Trees
Jurai's Royal Palace

Kagumo had been head of the Royal Garden for nearly fifteen thousand years. He was old and grouchy, but well loved by all. His family had been entrusted with the care of the young, un-joined trees, as well as for Tsunami, for as long as he could remember.

It had been Kagumo that had found Princess Sasami after the Pirate's Raid. And it was he that had carried her to her mother's arms.

The Royal Trees cherished Kagumo for his loving heart, which is why he had lived as long as he did, he supposed. When questioned about his relationship with the Trees, the old man would simply smile and make a comment about a good pair of broken-in boots.

Good things don't last forever. The gardener knew that better than anyone. He'd married six times over the course of his life, and unfortunately outlived every one of his wives. And today, on the anniversary of his first love's death, he felt each of those fifteen thousand years weighing him down.

<Hello, Kagumo.> Tsunami's voice was sweet and filled him with a wonderful sense of peace.

"Hello, Goddess." The smell of her bark hit him even as he materialized on her platform.

<How are you today?>

"Tired Goddess. Very tired." He smiled weakly up at the tree and sat down beside her trunk. He sneezed once, and knuckled his nose slowly. "I think I may be coming down with a cold."

<You should rest, Kagumo,> Tsunami said fondly. Her leaves rustled softly as the man closed his wrinkled eyes.

"...rest... sounds... nice."

<Would you like to see them again, Kagumo? Nana? Jhu? Rhes? Yuko?>

The old man smiled and chuckled deeply. "Don't forget Tomi and Fuu." His breathing started to become more labored. "They'd... they'd kill me if... if I forgot... them...." He sighed once, and then his spirit left him.

One after the other, the trees exploded with light, signaling the passing of one of their favored sons. The light pierced the heavens and all of Jurai seemed to glow, mourning the death of Kagumo.

In the port of Thystys, Tozin smiled cruelly into his drink. Phase three complete, the package had been delivered. Soon, the old chapter would come to a close, and a new one would begin. All he had to do was wait patiently for Segota's virus to begin its work.


End Chapter Five

Chapter 6
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