A Certain Distance / A Closer Distance - Sidestories

This page is where most of the sidestories for A Certain Distance and A Closer Distance will be presented. At the moment, there are three sidestories completed. A fourth, Urd and Shampoo Save the World, is in progress. Because of its length, it gets its own page.

The Wedding Day
Lost and Found
Photo Finish

The Wedding Day

Author's Note: While some events from the canonical Ranma, Sailor Moon, and Oh My Goddess universes can safely be assumed to take place the same way that they did (or are implied to happen) in the various manga (for AMG and Ranma) or anime (for Sailor Moon), others took place quite differently because of the character interaction, or never happened at all. The sidestory Urd and Shampoo Save The World, still in progress, presents an extreme example of this. This story presents a less drastic difference between the canonical worlds and my crossover story cycle.
The Wedding Day takes place a few months after A Certain Distance, placing it either during or immediately after Urd and Shampoo Save the World, and a few months before Lost and Found.

The long-awaited day had finally arrived, and they couldn't be happier. They were finally getting married!

Unless somebody decided to interfere, of course. But what were the chances of that happening?

"No, grandfather Happosai. You may not take her garter before the ceremony, and it isn't your place to take that pair of panties from her at all."

"Would you really begrudge an old man some simple pleasures, Kasumi?"

Deep down, Kasumi couldn't believe that she had willingly placed herself between Happosai and a pair of panties that he had targeted. But she did, so she had to see it through. "Today I would, yes. This is her wedding outfit. If you take any of it away, she'll hate you forever."

Happosai frowned. "I suppose, when you put it that way ..." Then he moved quickly and ran off with Kasumi's panties. "... that I'll just have to make do with these! Hee-hee-hee-hee-hee!"

Kasumi sighed, then smiled again as she locked the door and took a second pair of panties from her handbag.

"Thank you, Kasumi."

"Think nothing of it," she replied. "Your bridal outfit is still intact. That's what's important right now."

"I think Rei was right," said Ami as she walked to the door. "I'm not going to be a part of this either. It isn't too late to back out, guys. Are you sure you three want to do this?"

Makoto snarled at her friend. "Damn straight I want to do this! After how they humiliated us, they deserve some payback!"

"She's right," agreed Minako. "But we can't do this as the Senshi. Our powers are intended to defend love and justice, so they might not work if we try using them to break up a wedding."

"Minako, maybe Ami's right and we shouldn't do this," argued Usagi. "It wasn't their fault that they fought the Senshi. It was those Goddesses who got them to fight against us."

"Usagi, they made Crystal Tokyo never happen! That means we'll never see Chibi-Usa again!"

After a moment, Usagi found her voice. "Let's go kick their butts."

Ranma and Ryouga were double-checking each others' tuxedos, just for something to do that would keep them away from the assembled guests for a few more minutes.

"She's a lucky girl. You're probably the only person on Earth who could really make her happy."

"You know, there was a time, not that long ago, when I never would have thought you'd say anything nice about me, and I think I wouldn't have said any good things about you. And now you're my best man. Are we growing up?"

"We'd better be - you're getting married today! By the way, why are you two getting married with a Western ceremony?"

"Because that's what she wants ..."

"Urd's still not back, is she, Big Sister?"

"I'm afraid not, Skuld." Belldandy looked away from the television set showing the Senshi's current activities. "It's up to the two of us to make sure the wedding isn't spoiled."

"Unless somebody else stops them first, of course." Skuld pointed at the screen and turned up the volume.

"Fair damsels, as much as it pains me, I cannot allow you to pass through these gates without presenting your invitations."

Usagi and Minako looked at each other, wondering why somebody would speak in such an outmoded fashion in this day and age. Makoto decided to take the direct approach. "Look, whoever you are, we're coming in whether you like it or not! We've got something to say to the groom!" She walked forward until the end of a bokken was moved into her path.

"Nay, fair maiden. None without invitation shall pass by the Blue Thunder of Furinkan High. This is my gift to the couple who are becoming joined in matrimony this day."

"So you want a fight, do you?" Makoto cracked her knuckles. "Okay, you got one!"

"I strike!" And with a single movement of his bokken, Kuno sent the interloping girls flying by the force of the air pressure alone. He then turned to the teenager standing beside him. "Gosunkugi! Follow those women and ensure that they have not come to any permanent harm. I am honour-bound to remain at these gates so that no other interlopers may pass."

Skuld turned the volume back down. "Well, that problem's solved."

Belldandy frowned slightly. "Skuld, do you really think those girls would give up so easily?"

The youngest Norn thought for a moment, then got up and started running to the furo. "We'd better get out there fast!"

The music quieted as the bride stepped forward and stood beside her love. Everyone in attendance turned to look at the priest that was officiating at the ceremony.

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here together to witness the joining in matrimony of Ryoga Hibiki and Akari Unryuu ..."

"The ceremony's probably started by now. Darn it!"

Makoto turned to Minako and smiled a thin, cold smile. "Then this would be the perfect time to show up, wouldn't it?"

Usagi was horrified. "We can't interrupt the wedding!"

"Why not?" asked her two companions in unison.

"...  If anyone present knows of any reason why these two people should not be joined in matrimony, let him speak now or forever hold his peace ..."

While Belldandy disliked the idea of upsetting the order of the neighbourhood, she liked the idea of the wedding being disrupted even less. She sighed as she placed the banana peel in the path of Minako, Makoto and Usagi. She then jumped into the mirror mounted above the corner of the road.

The three girls walked around the corner and headed toward the Tendo dojo. Somehow Usagi missed seeing the banana peel, stepped on it, lost her footing, and fell on her back.

"Ow! Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ..."

"Hey, are you okay?" asked Minako.

"I think I pulled a muscle. Ow! Now I know I pulled a muscle. I'm not going to be able to help you guys. I'm sorry!"

Minako kneeled down and helped Usagi get to her feet. "You go on ahead, Makoto. I'll make sure Usagi gets to a doctor."

After the girls went their separate ways, Belldandy returned and picked up the banana peel. It wouldn't do to leave litter on the sidewalk, after all ...

"I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride."

Ryouga lifted the veil from over his wife's face, then kissed her passionately.

Makoto stopped down the road from the gate. The kendoist was still guarding the gate.

Okay, so I'm not going in that way, she thought. Maybe there's a back door.

It took her a few minutes, but she finally found a back way in. It wasn't actually a door, or a gate - instead, it was a gap in the wall where the rocks had crumbled to dust. She smiled at her good fortune, stepped into the gap ... and cried in surprise as a bolt of energy from above nearly burnt her hair off. She quickly stepped back, then turned around to see Skuld grinning at her from across the road.

"No way, Kino-san! You aren't getting in that way, not while I still have a particle beam satellite in orbit!"

"You ... you ... you brat! I hate you!" Makoto quickly ran off before Skuld could re-align the targeting systems on her "death ray".

"I don't care if it is traditional at a Western wedding reception, Ryouga. If you mash a piece of cake into my face, I'll mash one into your face, then clean it off right here. With cold water."

Ryouga quickly put the cake back onto the plate.

Akane turned to Ranma, who was finishing off his fifth piece of cake. "Why would Ryouga care about Akari washing his face in front of us?"

Makoto finally made it to the property line. Skuld was nowhere to be seen. Now all she had to do was climb over the wall and she'd be inside.

Belldandy watched from the sidelines. She didn't have to do anything this time - others were guarding this approach.

Makoto put her hand on the wall, but then stopped when she heard clear, low-pitched voices on the other side of the wall.

"Do we really have to do this, Hikari? I like her ..."

"Of course you like her, Senrigan. She's a lot like you."

"Shush, both of you! Lady Belldandy will be upset if our talking spoils the ambush!"

"Sorry, Kodama," replied the other two to their leader.

Makoto stopped climbing. She had no desire to walk right into a trap. She dropped back to the ground and started looking for another way in.

After a moment, the three miniature ninja smiled. Their bluff had worked perfectly.

"Is everybody ready?" asked Akari while looking at the wall.

"Ready!" came the reply.

"Then here it comes!" She tossed the bouquet over her shoulder.

"Happo five-yen satsu!" Akari turned to see all but one of the single women collapsed on the floor. That one exception was full of energy, with a five-yen coin in one hand and the bouquet in the other. "Look, Soun! I caught it! Aren't you happy?"

Ryouga and Akari decided to wait until after Hinako's energy rush wore off and everyone else could stand again before continuing.

Belldandy was starting to get annoyed. Despite the ceremony being over hours ago, Makoto was still trying to disrupt things.

Makoto saw the banana peel on the road and pointedly avoided it. (Belldandy sighed; she hadn't really expected the same trick to work twice, but she was running out of ideas.) Makoto also bypassed the open manhole, and avoided the alley where Banpei was laying in wait.

It was time for a direct intervention. Belldandy stepped directly into Makoto's path. "Please don't do this."

"Shut up and get out of my way, megami. I've been through too much today to stop now just because you say so."

"But -"

"No buts! Move before I move you by force."

"Oh, dear. I can't allow you to continue on either of those paths."

Makoto was angry enough to fight anyone in her way, but she wasn't completely stupid. "Jupiter Star Power, Make-Up! Supreme Thunder!"

Belldandy managed to dodge the worst of the lightning blast, but still took enough of it to knock her to the ground. As she moved to get up, Sailor Jupiter brought her elbow down onto Belldandy's back, knocking her all the way to the ground.

"I'd stay and gloat, but I have a wedding reception to trash ...  What in the world is that?"

While she wasn't looking, Banpei had stepped out of the alley and advanced on Sailor Jupiter. Jupiter fired off another Supreme Thunder, which Banpei absorbed into his power battery. He then swung his arm, then attacked her again and again.

After a few minutes, Sailor Jupiter was so bruised and beaten that she passed out and transformed back to Makoto. Her last thought before falling unconscious was that Minako was right about the danger of using their powers to disrupt love.

As soon as Makoto collapsed, Banpei immediately stopped attacking, administered first aid to his fallen opponent, and helped Belldandy back to her feet.

"Here it comes!" Ryouga tossed Akari's garter behind him once Akari pointed him in the right direction.

"Whoo-hoo! I got it after all!"

Every other single man glared at the lucky catcher. "Happosai ...!"

She may have been alone, she may have been bruised, and she may have felt half-dead, but that wouldn't stop her righteous fury. She finally stormed into the dojo. "Curse you, Hibiki Ryouga! Because of you, I've seen hell!"

Akari held her husband close. "Who is this person, darling?"

Ryouga sighed. "Just someone I defeated in fair combat a while ago, dear."

(Ranma smiled at his friend's comment. He thought that it was about time Ryouga found out what he had been doing to Ranma's life those many months ago.)

Ryouga turned to the interloper. "Why did you have to interrupt our wedding reception? I wanted everything to be perfect for Akari, but you've ruined it! Shishi Houkoudan!"

The blast sent Makoto flying from the dojo.

"Ryouga, darling, she's gone now. Come dance with me?"

Ryouga's depression vanished as he looked into his bride's eyes. "I'd love to, my dearest Akari."

Makoto regained consciousness to discover she was laying on a futon. "Where am I?"

"You're in my bedroom," replied Kasumi. "Don't get up just yet; you've suffered a nasty blow to the head." She turned to the doorway and raised her voice. "She's finally awake."

Ranma opened the door and came in. "Hi, there. You okay?"

"What do you want?"

"To congratulate you, actually. While you were out cold, Skuld told me how hard she and her sister worked to keep you away from here. Anybody who could get past them's gotta be really determined."

Makoto thought for a moment. "I suppose so ...  But I still failed, didn't I?"

"Were you trying to marry Ryouga?" asked Kasumi.

"What? NO!" Makoto flinched as the sound of her own voice made her headache worsen. She continued in a quieter tone. "I wanted you to suffer, because you made all of us so unhappy ..."

Ranma chuckled. "The first time Akane met Ryouga, he was telling me that he was gonna destroy my happiness. Now we're each other's best friends." He held out his hand to Makoto. "I'm willing to be your friend, too, Makoto. If you want that."

"After everything that's happened, after everything I tried to do, you'd still offer that?" Makoto's tears started flowing. "You're a good person, Saotome. Saotome-san."

"Please, call me Ranma. Hey, you're interested in martial arts, right? Maybe I could train you in some of the more advanced techniques I know ..."

And then there was the wedding night.

But discretion forbids mentioning what happened then ...

Lost and Found

Author's Note: Very little is being said about Crystal Tokyo in A Certain Distance and A Closer Distance, except that some of the Nerima Wrecking Crew and all of the Goddesses are against it as described in the anime, while only a very few of the Senshi are actively in favour of trying to bring it back. Most of the senshi's opinions are shown in A Closer Distance, but there's very little room in the main story for Sailor Pluto's feelings on the matter ...

Setsuna tried again to find what she wanted - no, needed - to see in the Time Gate, but to no avail. Then she tried once again. And again. But each time, the result was the same.

Crystal Tokyo was gone.

She was finally distracted from her search by hunger. It wouldn't do anyone any good to starve, so she left the Time Gate for a moment to get a sandwich.

She didn't expect to have company when she returned. Preparing to unleash a Dead Scream attack, she challenged the intruder. "Who are you, and how did you get here?"

"Allow me to introduce myself," replied the stranger in an unconcerned tone as she held out a business card. "My name is Peorth."

"... and that's why my colleagues acted against your plans to bring peace to the Earth. Really, ma cherie, did you honestly think that removing the aggressive nature from humanity was a good thing?"

Setsuna had the grace to blush. "Actually, I did." Seeing Peorth about to respond, she quickly continued, "but you've convinced me that I was wrong. These invaders that are likely to cross our paths in the future, though - are they really called Zentradi?"

Peorth laughed. "No, of course not! That's just a convenient name for them taken from your culture's fiction. I could just as easily have called them the Cthuwulf, or the Invid. What's important is that you now understand that there are races like those three in the universe, and that they'll eventually find mankind."

"I'm well aware of beings like the Cthuwulf," Setsuna replied. "We did defeat Pharoah 90."

"Of course you did. How silly of me to have forgotten how Sailor Moon protected the Earth from its encroachment. May I have another cup of tea?"

After refilling both of their cups, Setsuna spoke again. "I know that it had to be done to protect the human race. But I can't help but feel sad about it."

"Oh? And why would that be, ma cherie?" After a moment's silence, Peorth spoke again. "Pluto, if you don't want to talk to me about it, it's all right, but I think you should talk to someone about what's troubling you ..."

"And what would you know about it?" Setsuna was suddenly, uncharacteristically, angry with her smug, know-it-all, prying guest. "You've got all of your friends to talk to! All I have is this lonely guard duty, with nobody to talk to! Nobody who bothers to ask how I'm feeling, or to bring me some homemade cookies, or to tell me how her day in school went, or to ask whether -" Suddenly realizing what she was saying, Setsuna quickly stopped talking.

Peorth smiled, a small, sad smile. "There was somebody like that in Crystal Tokyo, wasn't there? Someone very close to you, who treated you as a person instead of a senshi. C'est vrai, n'est pas?"

After a moment, Setsuna replied. "I'm really getting annoyed by you switching languages all the time, Peorth."

"Pardonnez-moi, Setsuna. It's the way I talk. But I'll stay with one language if you answer my question."

The Senshi of Time sighed. "You're right. There was someone in Crystal Tokyo who was my friend. She even had a nickname for me - she called me 'Plu'. And, because of you goddesses and those Neriman martial artists, I'll never see her again."

Neither of them said anything for a long moment. Finally, Peorth broke the silence. "I truly am sorry, Setsuna. None of us realized how close the young Usagi was to you."

"That wouldn't have changed things, would it? You still would have gone ahead with your plans, and I'd still never see Small Lady again."

"Ah, she wasn't the only one to give a nickname, I see." Peorth smiled again, this time without the melancholy. "She must have been very special to you."

Setsuna nodded her head. "She was Usagi and Mamoru's daughter, but it was almost as if I was her mother. Maybe it was because I always had time for her ..."

"Always? Your duties here didn't take you away from her at all?"

"Well, almost always, then. But her parents had to rule the world, the Sailor Team had their own duties, Uranus and Neptune were almost always away from Earth, and Saturn ... Well, I don't want to talk about Sailor Saturn." Peorth noticed the shiver that ran down Pluto's spine, but chose not to pry. Setsuna continued talking. "But I almost always had time to spend with her. We became very close friends, despite the difference in our ages."

There was another pause as Setsuna refilled her teacup. "I miss her already, Peorth. I wish she could be here."

Peorth's smile grew wider as an aura formed around her body. "Thank you, Setsuna. You never did ask why I came here, did you?"

"What are you talking about? And what are you doing?"

"I came here to grant you a wish, Setsuna." The aura around Peorth subsided. "And the wish you spoke has been approved."

Setsuna's eyes grew wide, then narrowed. "Don't play with my emotions, Peorth, or you'll regret ..."

Just then, the Time Gate came to life on its own, and a pink-haired girl stepped through it. "Plu!"

Setsuna fainted.

"You'll have to stay here, I'm afraid. There's no place for the young lady in the world until after Saotome Ranma is finally married, and the Time Gate needs to be watched carefully until after his first child is born."

"That's fine, Peorth" replied Setsuna as she hugged Chibi-Usa. "My best friend is back - I can live with her company for a while."

Chibi-Usa turned to look at the goddess. "Thank you for saving me from oblivion. I like spending time with Plu, but how long will it be until I can see my mother and father?"

"I'm not the Goddess of the Future, child. But even Skuld doesn't know when Ranma's wedding day will be, because she's one of his fiancees."

Chibi-Usa's eyes widened as she turned to the goddess. "Really? How did that happen?"

Peorth made herself comfortable, and Setsuna handed her a fresh cup of tea. "It all started a couple of years ago ..."

Photo Finish

Author's Note: This sidestory takes place after A Certain Distance, but before A Closer Distance. This story servers two purposes: it explains away an inconsistency between A Certain Distance and A Closer Distance, but more importantly, it gives me some experience writing a story from the point of view of someone that will never appear on my list of favourite characters. For those of you keeping score, the sidestory Lost and Found happens before this sidestory. (Not that it matters ...)

"Tell me again why we're letting college students work at the newspaper."

"Because their salaries are lower than graduates' are, and the work they do is about as good, boss."

"Okay, that makes sense. Now tell me why they want to work here."

"Because it looks good on their resumes when they graduate, and we pay them, boss."

"Fine. How many students did we hire, again? And stop calling me 'boss'."

"Three, chief. Here's one of them now." The assistant motioned the college student over. "Sir, this is one of the photojournalism students that we've hired for the summer. Are you enjoying your work here, miss ...?"

"Tendo Nabiki, sir. Yes, I'm very happy to have the chance to work here."

"I'm very happy to have the chance to work here", thought Nabiki as she left the subway station and walked down the street. Why did I say something so corny? To keep the job, of course. I guess it worked out for the best, though, if they're just letting me go out and find things to take pictures of ...

Just then, Nabiki heard a scream of terror from the next street over. She ducked down an alleyway and prepared her camera, hoping that someone else would be helping whoever screamed so she could take pictures of the story.

She wasn't the only one who had ducked into that particular alleyway. Another girl had taken refuge at the other end of the alley, presumably to get away from whatever the problem was. Nabiki quickly pointed her camera at the girl, hoping to get a picture good enough to print in the next edition of the paper.

Thoughts ran through Nabiki's mind as she set her camera to take pictures automatically. Well, well ... she doesn't look scared ... I wonder why she hid? Hey, haven't I seen her before? Yes, she's one of Ranma's students ... What's she doing with that pen?

Oblivious to Nabiki's presence, the girl at the end of the alleyway held up her pen and shouted four words: "Jupiter Star Power, Make-Up!"

Oh. My. God. The camera in Nabiki's unmoving hands continued to take pictures of Kino Makoto's transformation to Sailor Jupiter.

Nabiki knew better than to develop that roll of film at the newspaper. After all, if anyone else found out that Kino Makoto was Sailor Jupiter, Nabiki wouldn't be able to make any money from the knowledge. The only place to develop the film and profit from it was in her room at home.

Thus it was that Nabiki had copies of the photographs of Sailor Jupiter's transformation sequence hanging to dry when Kasumi walked into her room. "Nabiki, it's almost time for dinner ... Oh, my."

"Sis ..."

Kasumi took a closer look at the photos. "Oh, my! Nabiki, this really isn't up to your usual standards. You'll have to do better next time. Don't be late for dinner!" With that, Kasumi turned and left.

"Yeah. Sure. Okay," said Nabiki to the closed door.

After dinner, Nabiki asked Ranma about Makoto.

"She's one of my students. Why?"

"You don't want to know why I want to know, Ranma-kun."

"Why don't I want to know?"

"5000 yen."

Ranma thought for a moment. "Okay, I guess I don't want to know."

Nabiki frowned slightly; she thought he was going to pay for an answer. "What's her home address?"

Ranma smiled as he held out his hand. "5000 yen."

"You can be so infuriating sometimes, Saotome." And she turned and left, her wallet still in her pocket.

It was almost a week before Nabiki had a chance to track down Makoto. She did it the old-fashioned way - she waited until Makoto came to her.

More precisely, she waited until Makoto came to the dojo, but the principle was the same.

Unfortunately for Nabiki, Makoto didn't come alone to the dojo. This meant that she had to find some way to separate her from the friend that she had brought along. Nabiki thought through a few plans, dismissed them as being unworkable, and finally decided on the direct approach.

"Excuse me, Kino-san, but could I have a word with you? Alone?"

Makoto frowned slightly. "I suppose so. Could you wait for me here, Ami?"

"I think I'll go talk to Ranma-san, Makoto," replied the short-haired girl. "I'm thinking of taking some martial arts classes, and it may as well be here."

"Okay. I'll see you after this talk." Makoto and Nabiki walked over to the koi pond. "What did you want to talk about, Tendo-san?"

Nabiki got right to the point. "You might know that I've been working part-time at one of the newspapers around here. Last week, I took some photographs that I haven't yet given to the city editor."

"Oh? What kind of photographs?"

"They're pictures of you." Nabiki pulled one of the photos from her shirt pocket and handed it to Makoto. "That's number twenty-seven in the series of thirty-three. Maybe I'm just being optomistic, but I think the city editor would be interested in seeing the entire set."

"You wouldn't dare!"

"Well, then, you're just going to have to make it worth my while not to tell my friend not to mail the envelope with the other copy of the entire series to my boss. I'll be here after dinner this evening." With that, Nabiki turned and went into the house.

Makoto made her way to Ranma and Ami. "I have a problem." She passed the photo to Ami. "Tendo Nabiki says she has thirty-three pictures of me transforming, and she's going to mail them to her boss at the newspaper if I can't 'make it worth her while' not to."

Ami's face went white. "Oh, no. Do you have any money, Makoto?"

"That don't matter," interrupted Ranma. "Once you start paying Nabiki, you never stop. There's no way you've got that much money, Makoto."

"Damn. Maybe I should just beat the photos out of her."

"That won't work either," said Ranma. "Even if she did give 'em to you, she'd probably have another set somewhere else. And if you did try to beat her up, Akane'd try to stop you. And if you hurt Akane, then I'd have ta beat you up. And I'm a better fighter than Ryoga is."

Makoto thought back to the day she met Ryoga, and how, even as Sailor Jupiter, she only managed to fight him to a draw. She decided that she didn't want to fight Ranma - he might not be boasting. "So what should I do? Just let her print those pictures?"

Ami shook her head. "Even if you didn't care about your secret being revealed, you probably wouldn't want the pictures to be printed. You implied that Nabiki-san has photographs of the entire transformation sequence."

"That's what she told me."

"And there's a couple of seconds during our transformations when we're completely naked."

"There is?" asked Ranma, suddenly interested.

"You'll never see it, sensei," replied Makoto. "Besides, wouldn't your fianceés get upset if you looked at another girl?"

Ranma grinned. "Yeah, Akane'd have a few things to say to me if she caught me looking at you while you changed, like 'pervert' and 'letch' and 'you're worse than Happosai'. But I don't think Skuld would mind so much ..."

After a moment, Ami asked, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing. I just thought of something that might get Nabiki off'a Makoto's back, that's all. I gotta go make a phone call - when did Nabiki want your answer, Makoto?"

"Huh? Oh, after dinner tonight."

"Okay, that's enough time. Be here after dinner, but let us do the talking ..."

"It's so good of you to stop by, Kino-san." Nabiki smiled at Makoto, who was standing beside Ranma. She didn't let her concern about not knowing who else was with them show.

"Like I had a choice, Tendo."

The person around the corner cleared her throat.

"Sorry, 'Tendo-san'."

Nabiki smiled. "You brought someone with you to remind you to be polite to me? That's nice, although it doesn't matter."

Makoto shook her head. "No, she's here to plead my case for me. As much as I hate the idea."

"You'd prefer to fight your own battles, Kino-san, even when they're battles of words?"

"No, I just hate the idea of owing her a favour," replied Makoto, looking like she'd just bitten into a sour fruit.

"Now you've got me interested, Kino-san. Who is this mystery person?"

The person in question stepped into the light. "Surely you recognize your sister's fianceé's fianceé's sister, Nabiki-san."

"Aw, for ..." Nabiki sighed, then started again. "Hello, Belldandy-san."

"Hello, Nabiki-san. Ranma-san told me that you have some photographs of Makoto-san ..."


"I'm sorry. Nabiki-san, you have some photographs of Kino-san."

"That's better."

Ranma took Makoto aside. "It don't matter what she calls you, Makoto, as long as Nabiki listens to her."

Makoto shook her head. "She has no right to refer to me so informally. Not after what she did."

"I did more than she did, but ya forgave me."

Makoto had no answer to that.

Meanwhile, Belldandy had Nabiki's complete attention. "Kino-san fulfills an important role in this world, Nabiki-san. She has saved more lives than anyone else you've met, with one exception." Nabiki's brow furrowed at that, but she didn't interrupt. "She has even saved your life more than once, although you had no way to know that. Kino-san is one of the most important agents of justice and goodness alive in this world today. But she wouldn't be able to be an effective agent of goodness any more if people knew who she was. It's very important that as few people as possible know that she is Sailor Jupiter. I must ask that you please not show those photographs to anyone else, or tell anyone what you know about the Sailor Senshi."

Nabiki thought for a moment. "What's in it for me?"

Belldandy sighed. "Excuse me for a moment. May I borrow your telephone?"

"Is it a local call?"


"Then I'll have to ask you to pay the charges."

Ranma stepped between Nabiki and Belldandy. "Don't worry about the charges, Nabiki. If they even show up on the bill, I'll pay them."

A few moments later, Belldandy came back out of the house. "Nabiki-san, do you enjoy working at the newspaper?"

"That's a rather sudden change of topic, Belldandy-san."

"Is it, Ranma-san?"

Nabiki scowled. "Oh, I get it. If I don't give you the photos, then I can kiss my job good-bye, is that it? Well, I'd say that those photos are worth a lot more than my summer job is. No deal, Belldandy-san."

Belldandy was aghast. "Oh, dear. No, I didn't mean that!"

Nabiki's scowl disappeared. "What did you mean, then?"

"I know a few people in the newspaper industry. If you say nothing to anyone about what you know about the Senshi, then I'll ask them to give you a permanent position."

"What kind of position?"

Belldandy smiled. "You'd be doing the same work you're doing now."

Nabiki smiled. "This, I understand. Very well, I'll accept your bribe."

Belldandy's smiled disappeared. "But it isn't a ..."

Ranma put his hand over Belldandy's mouth as Makoto started pulling her away. "Of course it's a bribe, Tendo-san," replied the latter. "Just make sure you keep to your end of the deal, okay?"

Nabiki started laughing. "You three really are hopeless, you know. You should have decided what you were going to say before you came to see me! I already said I'd take the bribe, Kino-san, and I always keep my word." And she walked back into the house.

Makoto let go of Belldandy and turned to Ranma. "Does she keep her word, Ranma-sensei?"

"Well ..."

Belldandy placed her hand on Makoto's shoulder. "It doesn't matter. When she agreed to our deal, she knowingly completed a contract with a goddess. The Ultimate Force will ensure that she keeps to her side of the contract, Kino-san."

"Please, call me Makoto."

Belldandy looked confused. "Earlier you were upset when I called you by your given name."

"Earlier, Ranma-sensei hadn't pointed out that I was being a jackass about what happened last year."

"Hey, I didn't say anything like that!" interrupted Ranma.

"Yes, you did, sensei. You reminded me that I had forgiven you." Makoto turned back to Belldandy and bowed deeply. "Please accept my apology for not treating you the way I treated Ranma-sensei."

Belldandy smiled again. "There's nothing to forgive, Makoto-san. May I consider you to be a friend?"

Makoto thought for a moment. "I don't know if I'm ready to go that far yet. But I'll leave the option open."

"Thank you, Makoto-san."

"Remind me again why we're giving this student a full-time job, chief."

"Because she does good work; you said so yourself." And because it's the least I can do to repay the wish I was granted to make it big in the newspaper business, thought the city editor.

"Are you sure about this, chief?"

"Of course I'm sure! And don't call me chief."

"All right, boss. I'll make sure Tendo-san fills out the necessary paperwork."

Belldandy smiled as she watched from the far side of the mirror in the city room. She then returned home, with a set of thirty-three negatives in her hand.

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