A Certain Distance

Author's preface:

I've noticed a quite few fanfics lately that are crossover stories between Ranma ½ and Sailor Moon. The thing is, they all seem a little "off" to me ...  The fact that Ranma joins up with the Sailor Team in almost all of these crossovers gnaws at my suspension of disbelief - Ranma's not the kind of person to join any long-term group, IMHO.

Rather than moan and complain, I decided to try my hand at writing one of these crossovers. Of course, I can't just do things the same way everyone else does - what would be the point? Thus, I added a third anime to the mix ...  Here's the result.

My thanks to Heather Monson and the ATU-ML for pre-reading, and to David Watson for his help with the story's title (which works so well on so many levels).

- Rob Kelk

Prologue | Chapter One | Chapter Two | Chapter Three | Chapter Four | Chapter Five | Chapter Six | Chapter Seven | Chapter Eight | Chapter Nine | Epilogue | Omake

Legal disclaimer:

Aah! Megami-sama (or Oh My Goddess!) was created by Fujishima Kosuke, and is licenced to Kodansha and AnimEigo.

Ranma ½ was created by Takahashi Rumiko, and is licenced to Shogakukan Inc., Kitty, Fuji TV, and Viz Communications Inc.

Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon (or Sailor Moon) was created by Takeuchi Naoko, and is licenced to Koudansha, TV Asahi, Toei Douga, and DIC Entertainment, L.P.

No challenge is intended to any of these intellectual properties.


Whatever it was, it was dark.

And malevolent.

And cold.

And on a course that would take it too close to the Solar System for comfort.

But the Outer Senshi were on guard, ready for just such an eventuality. At least, they thought they were ready ...

"Please observe this event, on the outskirts of the System."

"This does not bode well for the Earth."

"The Earth itself will survive, as will the humans. They will merely lose the capacity for war."

"Is that not as bad? There are many dangers the Humans will have to face as they expand into space, and some of them will require that they all be able to fight for their rights, or perhaps for their very survival."

"You speak wisely."

"What of my daughters?"

"You have the gift of foresight. You know they will remain on Earth for the foreseeable future."

"I know it is against our ways to interfere, but at least let them take part in the defence of the Earth!"

"Very well. Your youngest must be made ready. Do you have any objection to this plan?" With that question, information passed between the two at the speed of thought.

"Sir, I have no objections. I wish she did not need to be forced into her powers, though ..."

"There is no real alternative, is there?"

Whatever it was, it was dark.

And malevolent.

And cold.

And now, thanks to the attention paid it by the Outer Senshi, it was aware that there was life in the Solar System.

It changed course, heading straight for Earth.

Chapter One - A New School, and New to School

"The repair budget is completely drained." The auditor's announcement wasn't news to anyone on the school board - various Nerima construction crews were regular visitors to Furinkan High School.

"So what can we do about it?" The school's vice-principal (nobody trusted Principal Kuno enough to invite him to these meetings) held up a collection of photographs. "The problems started when the principal's son announced that anyone who wanted to date Tendo Akane had to defeat her in combat. The problems got worse when Tendo's fianceé, Saotome Ranma, started attending the school. And now that Saotome's self-proclaimed 'master' shows up on a regular basis, the school suffers damage almost continuously."

There was silence for a moment. One of the newer teachers finally asked, "Can't we just expel the problem students?"

"No," replied the vice-principal. "Tendo is a good student, and hasn't done anything deserving of explusion. She's just the focal point for the rest of them. Kuno is the principal's son, so we can't expel him. We've all seen how nasty Saotome can get when he's angry - do you want to tell him he's been expelled? And most of the other troublemakers aren't students here. The only one that is is that Kuonji girl, and she's nowhere near as bad as the others are."

"That comment about Saotome seems rather cowardly, sir."

"You're right. I would prefer to avoid a stay in the hospital, no matter how small the chance is that he'd become angry. Does anyone else have any ideas?"

The silence was longer this time.

Finally, the vice-principal's temporary secretary (his usual secretary being off sick) spoke up. "Couldn't we transfer some of the problem students to another school?"

"That's a great idea, Meiou-san!" The vice-principal smiled, then frowned. "But which school would we send them to?"

Meiou looked through the students' personal records. "It says here that Saotome's mother lives in Juuban. Can't we send him to one of the schools there?"

"Yes! Let's send them all there!"

The part-time secretary stared at her boss, who eventually wilted. "If we send them all to the same school, that simply moves the problem. However, if we keep the principal's son here, part of the problem is solved."

"You have a good point there. Please start the paperwork as soon as this meeting is finished."

Meiou Setsuna smiled. The Plan was proceeding on schedule.

Meanwhile, in Juuban, three young ladies were standing on the sidewalk across the street from the high school in question. The youngest, who looked to be barely old enough to attend the school, was smiling. The oldest, who might have been a college graduate, was scowling, and not just because of the youngest's attitude ...

"Wow! This is great! This is the right place, right?"

"Somebody please tell me we took a wrong turn somewhere. This place is ugly - no better than almost every other school in this city. And it's so far from home, too! Maybe we should find someplace else for you ..."

"You shut up - I like it here. Please tell me I get to go to this school, big sister!"

The third member of the group smiled. "Of course. This is the address that was included in the message we received, after all. Are you nervous?"

"Yeah, a bit, but it isn't my choice to make, is it? His message said I have to go to school to learn how people behave around here, so I have to go to school. But why this school, big sister?"

"I don't know ..."

A week later, two close friends were walking into the yard in front of that same school.

"Did you hear the news? We're getting four new students in class today!" Tsukino Usagi could barely keep her enthusiasm in check. "I hope they'll be friends with us!"

"I hope so too, Usagi. The alternative could be disquieting."

"Ami, sometimes I don't quite understand you. Do you think anyone who isn't a friend is an enemy?"

"No, I didn't mean that. It just seems sometimes that every new face hides a new enemy. Even the friendly newcomers are sometimes evil, like Ail and Ann."

"And sometimes they're not, like you and Makoto."

Mizuno Ami smiled. "I hope you're right, Usagi. I'm getting tired of fighting everyone who comes along." She looked at her watch. "We'd better hurry inside; class is about to start."

"Okay ..." And the two girls took their seats with half a minute to spare.

Once the teacher was finished calling the roll, she opened the door and looked down the hall, then came back into the classroom. "Some of you already know that there are some new students arriving today. Three of them are transfer students from Furinkan, in Nerima." She noticed the looks on some of the students' faces. "Yes, that school. Please try not to look too shocked at anything they might say. The other person is a foreign exchange student who placed well enough on her exams to pass a few grades ..."

Just then, there was a bone-jarring thud against the wall beside the classroom, followed by the phrase "What'd you do that for?"

The teacher stepped into the hallway and returned with three students in tow - two girls and one (slightly bruised) boy. "Here are three of your new classmates. Please introduce yourselves."

The boy stepped forward. "The name's Saotome Ranma. I'm a martial artist, and I don't see why I gotta put up with all this schoolwork."

"Wow! He's a hunk!" Usagi whispered to Ami.

"I thought you were in love with Mamoru," Ami whispered back.

"I can still look at other guys, can't I?"

Meanwhile, one of the girls had stepped forward. "My name is Tendo Akane. I'm pleased to meet you."

The other girl stepped forward. "I'm Kuonji Ukyo, Ranma-honey's cute fianceé."

"Fianceé?" gasped three-quarters of the females in the class.

"Hey! Don't go spreading wild rumours like that, Ukyo!"

"C'mon, Akane, we both know Ranma-honey's going to pick me, not an uncute fianceé like you."

"That's a lie!"

"They're both his fianceés?" Usagi was stunned.

"I can't believe it either." Ami was equally shocked.

The teacher finally got the two new students to settle down. "That's quite enough, you two. Ranma, please take the vacant seat beside Naru." The redhead waved at the mention of her name. "Akane, Ukyo, please take the seats on either side of Usagi. Maybe she'll be able to get you two to behave in the classroom."

The three transfer students took their places in silence. It was obvious that Akane was upset about losing her temper in front of her new classmates, so everyone left her alone. Well, almost everyone left her alone ...

"Hi! You're Akane, right? I'm Tsukino Usagi. Do you want to have lunch with me and my friends today?"

Akane smiled. Maybe things weren't as bad as she thought. "Thanks, Usagi, but I promised Ranma I'd have lunch with him," she whispered back.

"Oh, he can join us, too!"

"All right, then."

"Excuse me, sensei ..."

"Yes, Ami?"

"Didn't you say there were four new students joining us today?"

"That's right, I did. I don't know where the other student is." Just then, there was a knock at the door. "Perhaps that's her now." The teacher opened the door, then let the person waiting come in. "You're late."

The girl, a young gaijin with long black hair, looked like she was about to cry. "I'm sorry, ma'am. I missed the train, and had to wait for the next one. It won't happen again, I promise."

"All right," replied the teacher after a moment's thought. "I'll let it go this time. Please introduce yourself to the class."

The girl turned to face her classmates. "Hello! I'm really glad to be here! I've never attended a Japanese school before, so I hope you'll all help me avoid making any mistakes."

The students smiled at her enthusiasm, then realized she'd already made one mistake. Usagi raised her hand, then stood. "Ummmm ... what's your name?"

"Oops! Sorry about that! I'm Skuld Odinsdotter."

Chapter Two - Getting to Know You

Usagi, Ami, Minako and Makoto were sharing their lunches with their four new classmates. Needless to say, there was a lot of conversation going on around the mouthfulls of food.

"Makoto, this stuff's good!"

"Thank you, Ranma." Usagi and Ami had already mentioned that both Akane and Ukyo were engaged to Ranma, so Makoto wasn't trying to get "close" to him. Even if he did remind her of her old sempai ...

"Hey, Usagi, you have to try this okonomiyaki! It's the best I've ever tasted!"

Ukyo smiled. "Thanks for the compliment, Minako. I've been making okonomiyaki all my life, so I'm pretty good at it." Ukyo was already planning to trade recipes with Makoto, but she didn't want to admit any culinary weakness in front of the others. She was a Martial Arts Chef, after all ...

"Aak! What is this???" That was said by both Akane and Usagi, when they tried each other's lunches.

The other two students had already finished their lunches, and were looking at each other's portable computers. "This is incredible! Where did you get a hand-held computer like this, Skuld?"

"I made it myself, Ami."

"I'm impressed! But where did you get a processor this powerful that wouldn't drain the battery quickly?"

"I made that myself, too. My big sister always says I'm ahead of my time." Skuld smiled, as if enjoying a private joke. "But you've got a pretty advanced computer too, Ami. Where did it come from?"

Ami gestured to her laptop computer. "That was the prize in a Tokyo-wide scholastic competition."

Skuld frowned. "Not this one. Your other computer - the one I saw you use in class when the teacher wasn't looking."

Usagi, Minako and Makoto immediately stopped eating and stared at Skuld. Was she asking about the Mercury Computer? She had to be! How was Ami going to get out of this problem?

Ami didn't hesitate. "Oh, that old thing. That was a gift. I don't know who made it." (This was true - the Mercury Computer was as old as the Silver Millenium, it was given to Ami by Luna, and Ami didn't know who originally made it.)

"Oh. Can I try it out? Pleeeease??? I'll let you borrow my computer!"

Just then, Ami's wristwatch started beeping. "Maybe some other time, Skuld. I have to go take care of something personal right now."

"Oh, okay. Hey, are you all leaving?"

Usagi and Makoto blushed as they realized they weren't being at all inconspicuous. Minako laughed. "We don't know what's going on, and you know what the English say: Mystery loves company!"

"I thought that was 'Misery loves company'," muttered Akane under her breath.

Minako went on, not having heard Akane's comment. "So we're all going to find out what Ami's little mystery is! 'Bye!"

The new students watched their classmates leave, then turned to each other. "Did that seem at all strange to you?" asked Skuld.

"Nah," replied Ranma. "Weirder stuff than that happenes all the time. Hey, pass me Makoto's lunch, will'ya?"

"Ranma! You just met that girl, and you're already eating her cooking!"

"Ranma-honey, I have to agree with Akane! Eat my okonoyaki, not her bento!"

"You stay out of this, Ukyo!"

Skuld didn't need to be the Goddess of the Future to see where this exchange was going (although that didn't hurt). She decided to leave while she could still move under her own power. Maybe she could find out what the others were doing ...

"Okay, Luna, we're all here, except for Rei, and nobody can hear us." Usagi was talking into her 'wristwatch'.

"Haruka and Michiru are in Mamoru's apartment. They've been in a fight."

"Haruka was in a fight? What else is new?" asked Minako.

"It would be more accurate to say Uranus and Neptune have been in a fight," Luna replied. "And they lost."

All four girls gasped. Ami quickly asked "Who were they fighting?"

"We don't know. They collapsed as soon as they teleported in."

"We can't make any plans if we don't know who the enemy is," Makoto said. "Any idea when they'll wake up?"

"No. You four had better stay alert. Luna out." And the girls' communicators went silent.

Usagi turned to Ami. "I hope you weren't right this morning."

"'Right'? Oh, yes. I hope so too - they're nice people."

"What are you two talking about?" asked Minako.

Ami answered her question with a question. "Isn't it strange that four new students show up at the same time as a new threat does?"

"You mean ...  You can't be serious!"

"It's happened before," Makoto interrupted. "And the Sailor Team has to be ready to defend the Moon Princess from any attack."

"Ami." Usagi was using her Serenity 'voice'. "Please learn as much as you can about all four of them."

"Of course, Usagi. I'll start tracing their computer records right after cram school tonight."

Skuld couldn't believe her ears. The Sailor Senshi were her classmates? She was glad that she had decided to add an audio pickup to the Skuld Comet, Mark IV, and point it at the schoolyard. (The matter of making an audio pickup that would work from a geosynchronous satellite was trivial to someone with Skuld's scientific expertise.) She definitely wanted to get a look at Ami's computer - it might contain technology lost when the Silver Millenium fell. (Urd was no help in getting technological secrets from the past, except for lost alchemical knowledge, which didn't interest Skuld in the least.)

Then she realized what else she had heard. There was some sort of new threat to the Earth? And they thought she might be one of the villians? She had to stop Ami's investigation before she learned about Skuld's true origin ...

Just then, her celphone rang. She muted her computer and answered the phone. "Hello? Skuld speaking."

"It is I."

"Kami-sama!" Skuld almost dropped her phone.

"Tell her everything. You have My permission to help her and her friends, until I say otherwise." And the line went dead.

"Tell her ...  everything?"

The afternoon classes were relatively quiet.

Akane and Ukyo were sitting quietly, hardly bruised at all after their lunchtime fight.

Ranma, who had decided to get between them in an attempt to stop the battle, looked worse than either of his fianceés. Instead of paying attention to the teachers, he was wondering why their arguement had come to blows.

Usagi was quite happily reading manga behind her textbooks.

Ami was paying attention, and taking notes during some of the more difficult courses. ("Difficult" being a relative term, of course.) She was surprised once, though, when she pulled a clean piece of paper from her desk, only to have words appear on it before her eyes:

"Meet me after school, where we had lunch. Bring hot water. Skuld"

The message was completely unexpected. The calligraphy was exceptionally good, too. I suppose I should go, she thought. I'll borrow Makoto's thermos flask, and get her to watch from a safe distance ...

The final class of the day was Phys. Ed., the only class Ranma cared anything about. The girls played softball, while the boys lined up for martial arts.

"I try to match students who are close in skill levels, Saotome." The boys' coach glared at him. "But I don't know what your skill level is. Where do you want to start?"

Ranma grinned. "At the top, of course. When it comes to martial arts, I'm the best."

"You think so, do you? Kintaro, see what you can do against this 'best' boy here." At that, a big, burly boy stepped forward and bowed to Ranma. Ranma bowed back, let him make the first move, then knocked him out with one blow.

"Okay, so you're better than Kintaro. Wait here a minute." The coach went over to the girls' coach, then came back with one of the students. "This is Kino Makoto, the school's best fighter. Let's see how well you do against her."

"Aw, man ...  I can't fight Makoto! She's too good a cook for me to get her angry at me!"

Makoto was surprised. "You won't fight me?"

"I won't fight Akane, I won't fight Ukyo, and I won't fight you, either. Real men don't fight girls!"

"Oh. All right." Makoto turned to walk away.

Wow, thought Ranma. She's just leaving? She doesn't insist we fight? That never happened before ...

Someone from the crowd yelled, "Saotome's a chicken!"

Makoto turned back to Ranma, who was sweating. Poor guy, she thought. He's too macho to fight a girl, but he's too macho to let someone call him "chicken". What's he going to do?

He did the last thing anyone expected - he grabbed the closest water bucket and poured its contents over his, now her, head. "But a girl can fight another girl! Here I come, Makoto!"

She didn't put up much of a fight - Ranma's obvious change of gender surprised her too much. The battle, if you want to call it that, was over almost as fast as Ranma's fight with Kintaro. As she lost consciousness, she heard Ranma say, "Can somebody get me some hot water, please?"

Chapter Three - The Enemy of My Enemy Had Better Be My Friend ...

Ami and Makoto were talking after class. "Are you sure that's what you saw, Makoto?"

"I saw Saotome change from a boy to a girl. I'm sure, Ami."

"Could he be a Starlight?"

"No; he wasn't wearing a fuku after the transformation. Besides, why would a Starlight be here, now? But that isn't important right now. What did you want me to do?"

"Skuld wants to speak with me. Would you mind watching from over here?"

"And come to your rescue if she's an enemy? Of course." Makoto pulled her henshin wand from her bag and sat down to watch.

"Thank you." Ami walked over to the spot where she expected to meet Skuld, and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

After five minutes, she remembered that Skuld's note had said "Bring hot water", got Makoto's thermos bottle from her bag, and opened the lid. Skuld appeared from the flask in a beam of pure light. "Hello, Ami! I was wondering when you were going to open that thing!"

"H-hello, Skuld. How did you do that?"

Skuld noticed the worried look on Ami's face, and decided not to tease her. "I just did it. Each Goddess has a special mode of transportation, Ami. Mine is the ability to move through hot water."

"'Goddess'?" Ami's expression had changed from suspicious to shocked.

"I'm afraid so. Can I still be your friend?" Skuld looked as if she was about to cry.

The tears in Skuld's eyes were almost enough to weaken Ami's resolve, but then she remembered deadly opponents who had played upon her emotions in the past. "If being friends means we try not to hurt each other, then we can always be friends, Skuld."

That got a smile. "Thank you, Ami. I hope 'not hurting each other' includes keeping each others' secrets. Nobody's supposed to know that I'm a Goddess - the only reason I told you is because Kami-sama said it was okay. And I think you don't want everyone to know that you're Sailor Mercury ..."

"What are you talking about?" Ami gasped.

Skuld looked straight at Ami, and spoke in the gravest voice she could manage. "All secrets become revealed in time, and I am the Goddess of the Future." Her tone lightened. "Besides, I can see the symbol on your forehead!"


Skuld passed her hand over her own face, and her Goddess Emblems became visible. "And now you can see mine!" She made another motion and they disappeared. "Ami, I have a confession to make. When you and the others left at lunch, I spied on you."

"You did?"

"Uh-huh." Skuld switched her computer on and showed Ami the recording of the call from Luna, and the Sailor Team's reaction to it. Skuld then asked Ami, "Are all of these people Sailors?"

Ami thought for a moment, then decided it would be pointless to try to lie to Skuld. "Yes, they are."

"Okay, they can know about me." An alert box popped up on the display, in a language Ami didn't recognize. Skuld read it, then turned toward where Makoto was hiding. "Hi!" she shouted as she waved.

Makoto jumped, then looked at Ami, who motioned for Makoto to join them. She walked over to the two girls. "How'd you spot me?"

"I didn't. The Skuld Comet, Mark IV, picked you up on its sensors."

"The what?"

"My current geosynchronous satellite."

Ami cleared her throat. "You have a satellite in orbit?"

"Yeah, I know - what does a Goddess need with a satellite?"

Makoto gasped. "'Goddess'?"

"Do I have to go through everything again?" moaned Skuld.

Ami put a hand on each of the other girls' shoulders. "Makoto, Skuld is the Goddess of the Future. She knows who we are. Skuld, Makoto is my teammate and one of my dearest friends, and she'll keep your secret."

The other two girls thought for a moment, then smiled and shook hands.

Meanwhile, three other students were having a serious discussion. At least, it was as serious as these three usually got ...

"Okay, you two - why are you fighting?"

"What do you mean, Ranma-honey?"

"These bruises on my face didn't just show up on their own, you know."

Akane and Ukyo blushed. "I'm sorry I hit you, Ranma," said Akane. "But you shouldn't have interfered in a fight between women."

"That sounds like my line, Akane. But it still doesn't answer my question: why are you two fighting?"

They thought for a moment. Finally, Ukyo said "I'm not sure. I guess it could be because it's something we know how to handle. Remember when I first showed up in Nerima?"

"That's right," added Akane. "You got into more than your share of fights until you got comfortable around us."

"It's nice that you two have found a way to cope with our changing schools, but it's gonna put me in the hospital if you're not more careful!"

"Sorry, Ranma-honey."

"Sorry, Ranma. I'll try to keep my fists to myself."

"So will I, Ranma-honey."


Two Senshi were trying to puzzle out an apparent problem while waiting for the others to join them for their weekly meeting.


"Yes, Usagi?"

"Didn't Sailor Pluto tell us that there wouldn't be any more enemies for us to fight?"

Hino Rei thought for a moment. "I think what she told us was that we wouldn't have to worry about any more enemies until the Earth was frozen."

"So, who were Uranus and Neptune fighting, then?"

Rei's response was cut off by the arrival of Mamoru. Usagi's attention immediately shifted to her boyfriend, leaving Rei to wonder about her friend's question ...

Whatever it was, it was dark.

And malevolent.

And cold.

And on a course that took it directly past Pluto.

It approved of Pluto - it found the ice on that planet aesthetically pleasing.

It decided to cover the other rockball planets in this star system with ice, as well. That would look pretty, and solve the problem on the third planet as well.

All that life was giving it the equivalent of a headache.

Not much later ...

"Ami, Makoto, why are we visiting a Shinto temple?"

"Our friend Rei lives here, Skuld," replied Ami. "I think you should meet her."


"Because she's a nice person," answered Makoto.

"That, and because she can sometimes see the future," added Ami.

"Really? She can do that?" Skuld was estatic. "Can she teach me?"

Ami and Makoto stopped walking.

"I thought you said you're the Goddess of the Future."

"Don't you already know what the future holds?"

Skuld blushed. "Well ...  I'm still learning how to use my powers. Neither of my sisters has the gift of foresight, so they can't teach me how to use my gift. But if your friend can help me, I'd be really really grateful ..."

"Help you with what?" asked a girl at the doorway to the shrine's living quarters. "Hello, Ami. Hello, Makoto," she added quickly.

"Hello, Rei. This is Skuld." Skuld bowed as Ami introduced her. "She has a favour to ask of you."

"Can it wait for a few hours? Usagi, Minako, and Mamoru are already here."

"I guess so ..." replied Skuld.

"No, it can't," interrupted Makoto. "All you need to do now is tell Skuld 'yes' or 'no', then we can start the meeting."


"Ami, there's no point in waiting." Makoto turned to Rei. "Skuld needs to learn how to control her visions of the future. Can you help her?"

Rei, Ami and Skuld were shocked at Makoto's bluntness. Skuld didn't expect anyone in Japan to behave that way, and the others didn't expect Makoto to behave that way in front of a new acquaintance.

"What? Rei, you already pointed out that we're short on time. Besides, if we aren't going to be able to keep secrets from Skuld, then she shouldn't be keeping secrets from us."

Rei looked Skuld straight in the eye. "What is Makoto saying about us not keeping secrets from you?"

Skuld didn't flinch. "I'm a Goddess." She looked at Rei's forehead. "Oh, you're Sailor Mars! Hello!"

Rei turned to Ami and Makoto, fire in her eyes. "Which one of you told her?"

Skuld waved her hand, and a bolt of light came from the sky and singed the grass at Rei's feet. (Skuld knew that a defence system would come in handy on the Skuld Comet, but she didn't think she'd ever use it like this. Now she'd have to be on the lookout for blasts from other people's particle beam satellites ...) She glared at Rei. "Stop that!"

Rei bowed deeply. "I'm sorry."

"Apology accepted." Skuld smiled, and the tension left her voice. "So, can you help me learn how to see the future, Rei?"

"I'll do my best."

"Yay!" cried Skuld with the enthusiasm she usually reserved for high-quality ice cream.

Ami and Makoto let out the breaths they had been holding. "Let's go in, and introduce you to Mamoru."


Rei grabbed Ami's sleeve. "Is that really a good idea?"

"Usagi told me to find out as much as I could about Skuld. Why not let Skuld answer everyone's questions herself?"

"I guess that makes sense ..."

"Besides, do you want to tell a Goddess 'no, you can't come in'?"

"That's a good point, Ami." The four girls went to join the others.

Meanwhile, an attractive woman was walking around a corner, fully expecting to bump into someone special. She didn't like what she was about to do, but she had done many things she didn't like ...


"Oof! Hey, I'm sorry about that, miss."

"That's all right." His friends should speak up right about now ...

"Ranma! Why weren't you paying attention to where you were going?"

"Yeah, Ranma-honey - that was really clumsy of you."

Ranma turned to Akane and Ukyo. "I was distracted, okay?"

The woman affected a surprised expression. "Excuse me? Did they say your name is 'Ranma'?"

"Yeah, I'm Saotome Ranma."

She really hated what she was about to do, but it had to be done. "Ranma, I've finally found you! It's me, Meiou Setsuna, your fianceé!" And she jumped into his arms.


"It's not my fault, Akane! I've never met this woman before in my life!"

Akane and Ukyo looked at each other, then looked at Ranma. For once, they saw the look of helplessness on his face. They looked at each other again, and spat out one word in unison.


Meanwhile, Setsuna was smiling. Everything was going according to the Plan ...

Chapter Four - Gains and Losses

Ranma was on the roof of his mother's house, doing something he rarely did.

He was thinking.

What's Pops gotten me into now? I thought he told me about all the fianceés, but another one pops up out of the blue!

Ranma grabbed a pork bun from the bag at his side, and began eating it.

At least she's cute, but she's gotta be years older than me! It's like I'm engaged to Kasumi, or something like that ...  And the way she stayed so calm ...

Ranma grabbed another pork bun.

... when Akane and Ukyo told her they were my fianceés. She just smiled and said, "Yes, I know." And that aura of hers - she's not a martial artist, but she's gotta have some serious power to take out Akane and Ukyo that fast without hurting them. Heck, I didn't even see what she did!

Yet another pork bun came out of the bag.

Maybe I should go ask the old ghoul about her. Yeah - Colonge knows everything!

Ranma grabbed the rest of his snack, stood, and jumped down to the sidewalk. He then headed for the train station - Nerima was too far away to just run ...

The supper rush was over by the time Ranma made it to the Nekohanten. He got a hug and a bowl of noodles from Shampoo (the first was accepted grudgingly, the second with hearty thanks), and a shouted challenge from Mousse. Unfortunately for Mousse, he attacked a potted plant instead of Ranma, and was doused with cold water by Colonge before he could correct his mistake.

"Yo, Colonge, you taught me the Chestnut Fist. You know anything about other forms of speed training?"

The Amazon Matriarch looked her 'future son-in-law' in the eye. "If I did, why should I tell you? Do you need more speed to go up against Happosai?"

"Nah, that ain't it. Earlier today, someone took out Akane and Ukyo right in front of me, and I didn't even see her move. I figured maybe you knew something about the technique she used."

"'She,' you say?"

"Yeah - her name's Meiou Setsuna. She said she's my fianceé."

Colonge's eyes narrowed. "Meiou Setsuna is your fianceé?"

"Do you know who she is?" Ranma asked excitedly.

"Not at all," was Colonge's reply. "But I cannot tolerate you having an engagement thrust upon you."

Maybe there's hope for the old ghoul yet, thought Ranma.

She continued speaking. "We will have to deal with her as well, before you return to our village and marry Shampoo."

And maybe there isn't, Ranma sighed.

"I have no other speed techniques to teach you, Son-In-Law. I'm afraid your trip back to Nerima was wasted."

The other two added their opinions on this statement.

"Shampoo no think so! Shampoo happy to see airen again!"

"Quack! Quaaack quaaack quack-quack-quack!!!"

"Same to you, Duck-boy," replied Ranma.

"Quaaack!?! Quack-quack quaaaaack!"

"You got it! Any time, any place! Just turn back into a human first, so I can beat you fair and square ..."

"Quack qu-quack."

"Noon tomorrow? Sure - see me in my new schoolyard. I'll be there. The usual stakes, right?" And Ranma left before Mousse could answer.

Meiou Setsuna, or rather Sailor Pluto, watched Ranma's progress from her sanctuary at the Time Gate. The grudge match held in front of Neo-Queen Serenity and the Sailor Team should impress them enough to ask Ranma to teach them the martial arts they'd need to survive the next time the Dark Moon came along. She extended her awareness along the timestream to the match ...

And found her awareness blocked.

She tried again, using a different technique ...

And found her awareness blocked again.

She looked into Usagi's future. There were no problems monitoring her until she got to school tomorrow, then Sailor Pluto couldn't follow her progress.

She tried following Mamoru's future for a few days. There was no problem there.

Ami's timeline was blocked to her awareness at the same point that Usagi's was. She could follow Makoto and Minako for a few hours more, but they were blocked at lunch as well.

There had to be a common denominator. Sailor Pluto looked at some of Usagi's classmates. Almost all of their timelines were blocked as soon as they entered their classroom, and the ones that weren't were all blocked at exactly the same time.

Something powerful that could interfere with Time had to have entered the classroom at that point. That was the only possibility.

Sailor Pluto left the Time Gate. Meiou Setsuna appeared in Usagi's classroom and started looking through the homeroom teacher's notes, hoping to find a clue as to who could be interfering with her time sense.

Her eye was drawn to the list of new students. Unlike most Japanese students and teachers, Setsuna recognized one of the names immediately.

The Norn of the Future was Usagi's classmate.

No wonder Setsuna's time sense was blocked - Skuld existed to confound everyone else's attempts to shape destiny. Something had to be done, if Neo-Queen Serenity was to take the throne of Crystal Tokyo, or even if Crystal Tokyo was to exist at all. But what? She couldn't neutralize Skuld - that would cause the future to become completely unpredictable. She couldn't let Skuld do whatever she wanted - that would almost certainly destroy the plans Setsuna had worked on for so many millenia.

Then she remembered - she had the perfect excuse to get closer to the Norn of the Future. After all, Skuld was her "fianceé's" classmate, too ...

"Ranma, ..."

"What is it, Usagi?"

The blonde looked around the schoolyard. "Are all of your fights like this?"

Ranma took a quick look around. All of their classmates were in attendance, as were some of the other students. Ukyo was off to one side, selling okonomiyaki. Shampoo had made the trip with Mousse, and she was selling ramen in another part of the crowd. Akane's sister Nabiki had made the trip just to take bets and sell information on the two fighters. Even Skuld's eldest sister had dropped by, "to see two cute, sweaty guys first-hand" as she put it.

(Neither of them saw Meiou Setsuna, watching the proceedings from the back of the crowd and waiting for Usagi to leave.)

"Nah, this is a pretty small turnout for a challenge match," he finally replied. "Hey, if Mousse sees you beside me, he might attack you too. Not on purpose, y'know, but because he's almost as blind as a bat - ya'd get caught in the crossfire."

"Actually, bats aren't blind ..." started Ami, but she trailed off when she realized nobody was listening.

Usagi was shouting to the crowd. "Hey, everybody! We have to give Ranma some room! Back up!" Her friends moved back almost immediately, followed by most of the other students. Eventually, the only people to stay close to Ramna were Akane, Ukyo, Makoto, and Skuld.

"Are you sure it's okay to stay here, Skuld?"

"Don't worry, Makoto. How dangerous could this guy be?"

"Dangerous enough," answered Akane. "You really should back off, for your own safety."

But it was too late - the clock struck noon, and Mousse attacked. His usual opening attack, a brace of chains flying from his sleeves, had captured Akane and Skuld. "No hiding behind girls, Ranma! Be a man and fight me one-on-one!"

The taunt had the desired effect - Ranma stepped away from the others, making him the obvious target. Makoto and Ukyo worked on freeing their classmates, and thus missed seeing the fight.

Usagi, Ami and Minako were quite impressed at what they saw, though. Neither fighter was using pure chi attacks, but they were using chi to boost their normal attacks - a Fist of the White Swan was countered by a Chestnut-Fist enhanced flurry of punches; a leaping spin kick was blocked by the sudden appearance of a short staff (which broke from the impact); and so on. All in all, it was a typical match between Ranma and Mousse, but it impressed the students who were seeing it for the first time.

But with all the weapons being broken and splintered, it was only a matter of time before someone was hit by flying shrapnel. Unfortunately for the fighters, that "someone" was Skuld, and her eldest sister saw what happened.

(Setsuna, watching from the shadows, groaned. This was not part of the Plan. She knew that Norn would be trouble ...  She slipped away, returning home to plan anew.)

"You! You hurt my little sister!" Urd was, to put it mildly, pissed off. She threw a small vial at the combatants, then went to take Skuld from Makoto's grasp. "Are you all right? Belldandy'll kill me if she found out I let you get hurt!"

"I'm fine, Urd," moaned Skuld. "It's just a nick on my cheek ..."

"A girl's face is her fortune! Come with me - we're going home, and I'm going to fix you up good as new!" And with that, the two Goddesses left the schoolyard.

Meanwhile, the vial that Urd threw broke on impact with the ground, and odd-coloured smoke started billowing from it. Ranma, with his Chestnut-enhanced speed, got out of the way of the cloud.

Mousse wasn't as lucky.

When the smoke cleared a few seconds later, Mousse was lying on the ground, unmoving.

"Aiyaaaah!!! What happen to Mousse?" Shampoo rushed to Ranma's side, then started pulling him back to his opponent. "He so still!"

Ranma bent down, then stood up. "I don't think he's breathing. Does anyone here know first aid?"

Ami did, of course, and was quickly beside the fallen martial artist. "He's still breathing slowly, but he's in bad shape. We have to get him medical help quickly."

Usagi slipped away from the crowd, locket in hand.

Ranma picked Mousse up off the ground and slung him over his shoulder. "This'll be faster than waiting for an ambulance. You lead, I'll follow."

After a minute of running, Ami stopped in a copse of trees. Ranma stopped behind her, puzzled. "What're we doing here?" he asked.

"Getting that help, I believe," she replied. A flash of light behind Ranma caused him to turn around. Ami continued, "Hello, Sailor Moon."

"Hello, Ami."

Ranma's jaw was on the ground. "You're Sailor Moon?"

This puzzled the two girls. "Who else would I be?"

"Judging from your battle aura," replied Ranma, "you'd be my classmate, Usagi." Ranma didn't notice her gasp at that. "But that ain't important right now. Can you help Mousse?"

"Of course," smiled Sailor Moon. "Put him down and step back, please."

He did so, then stood beside Ami. "So, are you a Sailor, too?" She didn't answer. He asked again, then was distracted by the light show from in front of them.

Mousse stood up slowly. "What happened? Where am I?"

"You got in the way of somebody else's attack, Duck-boy," answered Ranma. "You're lucky Sailor Moon was here, otherwise you'd be dead."

"Sailor Moon?" Mousse turned straight to the girl in question. "What did you do to me? Everything seems so much sharper, clearer ...  I can see! I can see!!!!!"

"I healed you, Mu Tzu. My powers touched your soul and brought it back from the edge of the abyss, giving you your life and health."

Mousse looked surprised at the use of his actual name, then looked pensive for a moment. "But there was a price, wasn't there?"

"No. I healed you completely, Mu Tzu."

"Even of things I didn't know needed healing." Mousse turned to Ranma. "Our battles are over, Saotome. I see now that Xian Pu will never be mine." And he walked away peacefully.

Ranma watched him go, then turned to Sailor Moon. "What did you do to him???"

She looked puzzled. "I already told you - I healed him. He's no longer dying, or blind, or deluded, or cursed, or overly-passionate."

Ranma's blood chilled. "What'd'ya mean, 'overly-passionate'?"

Sailor Moon sighed. "His soul was chained by his strong emotions. I cleansed him of those, and set him free."

Ranma's reply was immediate. "So if you were to heal me, I'd never feel really prideful about anything any more?"

"That's right, Ranma," replied Usagi. (He hadn't even noticed that she'd transformed back.) "You wouldn't need to."

"I'll make you a deal then. I'll keep your secret, if you promise you never, and I mean never, 'heal' me! The Moko Takabisha is one of my strongest attacks, and I ain't gonna lose it! Oh, and you stay away from Hibiki Ryouga, too! He's my friend, and his Shishi Houkoudan'd be useless if you 'heal' him!"

Usagi looked straight at Ranma's face, and saw the mix of anger and fear there. That brought a tear to her eye. "I can't do that. There's a time coming when the Earth will be covered with ice. In order to save everyone's lives, I'll have to heal all of you. I think."

Ranma turned his back on Usagi. "I ain't gonna tell. Not now, at least. BUT YOU STAY AWAY FROM ME AND AKANE!" And he left.

Whatever it was, it was dark.

And malevolent.

And cold.

And covering Mars with a layer of ice, before it started on Earth.

Setsuna looked at the timestream in horror. This was exactly what she feared - Skuld's very presence disrupted the Plan enough to change Ranma from a valued friend to a distrusting opponent. She had to teach Usagi how to heal people without cleansing them, and vice versa, but that could wait. Setsuna hoped she could do something about Ranma quickly ...

Chapter Five - The Storm Before the Storm

Two attractive young women with long black hair were sitting on a park bench. While they had their eyes closed, they seemed to be looking at something ...

"What do you see now, Skuld?"

"It's all a mix of colours and shapes, Rei. No, wait a minute ...  I see you and Usagi in the Crown Game Center restaurant. You're with someone else. The clock on the wall reads 4:30."

Hino Rei opened her eyes and looked at the Goddess she was teaching. "I guess that could be a vision of the future, but I don't know why I'd be in a video game parlour with Usagi ..."

Just then, Tsukino Usagi ran past, then stopped, ran back, and stopped in front of them. "Rei! Skuld! The new Sailor V game's out! Come on!!!" She grabbed their arms and pulled them along with her.

Rei rolled her eyes. Well, that explains that ...

"Ranma, what's wrong?"

"I can't tell you, Akane."

Tendo Akane started to get angry with her fianceé. "Why not?"

"I promised I wouldn't say anything. It's a matter of honour."

Akane calmed down. She knew that if there was one thing Ranma valued, it was his honour. "All right, Ranma. Can you tell me who I should ask?" Ranma shook his head. "You can't even give me a hint? That's quite the promise."

"I know, but it had to be made. Akane, is there anything around here we can do to get my mind off this promise? Maybe go see a movie or something?"

Akane blinked. "Are you asking me on a date, Ranma?"

Ranma realized what he'd said, thought for a moment, then smiled. "Yeah, I guess I am."

After she got over her surprise, Akane smiled back at Ranma. "I'd love to go out with you. But I don't know where the theaters are around here ..."

"Neither do I. Have you got any other ideas?"

"Well, there's a game center in the shopping district. Some of the girls in class say it's got a good restaurant - maybe we could go there for a soda or something."

"Sure! I'll tell Mom where we're heading, and then we'll go ..."

Hibiki Ryoga walked into a storefront restaurant, wondering aloud, "Where in the world am I now?"

Ukyo looked up. "Welcome to Ucchan's! Sit anywhere you ...  Ryoga! What are you doing here?"

"Ukyo? Then I'm in Nerima!"

Ukyo shook her head. "Sorry, Ryoga-sugar - this is Juuban. Ranma-honey, Akane and me were all forced to transfer to a new high school."

"Oh. That's nice. Say, Ukyo, can I borrow your phone?"

"Sure thing, sugar." She lead him to the telephone booth in the back of the restaurant. "Say 'hi' to Akari for me, okay?"

"How did you know who I was going to call?"

"Who else would you be calling, Ryoga?"

She gave him some privacy, and used her own telephone to call Ranma - he'd want to know that Ryoga was in town. When she couldn't talk to Ranma, she was disappointed. When she found out why he wasn't available, she was furious. Ukyo hung the "Closed" sign on the door and pulled Ryoga to the game center ...

Sailor Pluto looked at the immediate future. Not even Skuld could block that from her sight ...  She gasped in horror at what she saw, then quickly left the Time Gate.

Meiou Setsuna walked around a corner and stopped in front of Ami, Minako and Makoto. She didn't have time to bother with pleasantries. "We have a problem."

"What's wrong?" they asked in unison.

"Usagi and Rei are in danger. You three have to get them away from the Crown Game Center before 4:30."

"Where will you be?" Minako asked.

Setsuna grimaced. "Inside the Game Center, containing the damage."

"All right, Meiou-san," replied Ami. "Let's go."

Whatever it was, it was dark.

And malevolent.

And cold.

And putting the finishing touches on the new ice coating over the planet Mars. It thought the ice made the planet look lovely.

The Earth was next on its list.

"Rei, what's wrong?"

Usagi stopped at the Crown Game Center door when she heard Skuld's question, and looked at her friend. "Rei, when did you start wearing blue lipstick?"

"I'm fine, Skuld. I'm not wearing lipstick, Usagi. Can we go inside and warm up, please?"

Usagi and Skuld looked at the people around them, then turned back to Rei. Skuld cleared her throat. "Rei-sempai, we're in the middle of a spring heat wave. Are you feeling okay?"

Rei shivered. "Yes, I'm fine. I'm just cold, that's all. Let's go in, okay?"

"Sure, Rei," replied Usagi with concern. "Let's get you a coffee or something." They went into the game center and headed straight for the restaurant.

A few minutes later, Ranma and Akane came in and took a table near their classmates. Neither group noticed the other.

A moment later, Ami, Minako and Makoto walked in, looked around, and headed straight for Usagi, Rei and Skuld. Ami looked at the clock on the wall, saw that they still had a few minutes, and sighed with relief. Then she saw how cold Rei looked, and immediately forgot about getting her friends to leave ...

At 4:30 exactly, the clock chimed and everybody looked up. As a result, they all saw Setsuna walk in.

Ranma glared at her. "Look, Meiou-san, you can just leave right now. I ain't interested in you, even if you are another one of my fianceés."

"Fianceé?!?" gasped the Sailor Team.

Ranma turned around in his chair, saw his classmates, and turned back to his date. "Oh. You. Let's get outta here before I get upset, Akane."

Usagi stood up. "Ranma, please don't leave on our account." She was using her Serenity 'voice'. "Setsuna, you have some explaining to do."

Akane saw the anger in Ranma's eyes. "Ranma ...  That promise you made - was it to Usagi?" He didn't answer. "Oh, Ranma ...  Please tell me what's wrong!"

He was about to reply when Ukyo burst in, dragging Ryoga behind her. "Rannnnnmaaaaa!!!!! How dare you date anyone but me!!! Just what do you think you're doing???"

Ranma was taken by surprise by Ukyo's arrival, and blurted out the truth. "Akane's my fianceé, and I love her!"

For a heartbeat, everyone was silent.

(Setsuna blinked in surprise. That hadn't happened when she foresaw this event. She realized that her own presence was enough to change the timestream - Usagi wouldn't be critically injured in the crossfire between Ranma and Ukyo.)

Minako was the first to find her voice. "Ah, young love! Isn't it wonderful?"

Ryoga's comment was less romantic, but no less heartfelt. "Ukyo. Let him go." He continued to himself, For Akane's sake, let him go.

Ukyo turned on him. "That's easy for you to say!!! You don't need to marry Ranma!!!"

For another heartbeat, everyone was silent.

Usagi was the first to recover this time. "What do you mean, 'need to marry Ranma'?" She thought for a moment, then came to the logical (but wrong) conclusion. "Ranma, you didn't get her p-... pr-... preg-... ?"

Ranma figured out what the last word was. "No!!!!! I ain't even touched her!!!!!"

Everyone but Ranma and Ukyo sighed in relief. (Akane's sigh was the loudest.) Usagi turned to Ukyo. "Then why do you need to marry Ranma?"


Usagi backed down. "Sorry!!! We'llJustBeLeavingNow!!!" The other patrons had already left. Usagi and Makoto pulled Setsuna along, while Ami and Skuld helped Rei walk while shivering. Skuld was so concerned for Rei, in fact, that she left her handbag on the table.

Minako smiled as she left. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do!"

Everyone marvelled at Minako actually getting a cliched line right for a change. This had the side effect of calming Ukyo enough to avoid her causing a massive amount of property damage.

Instead, she stared at Ranma until he wilted. "What's wrong, Ucchan?"

"Don't call me that!" Ukyo started crying. "You've made your choice, and you ... didn't choose ... me, and now I ... have to remove the ... stain on my family's honour ... the only way ... that's left, ... and ... and ... and I don't want to have to kill you!"

Skuld, who had come back for her handbag, gasped. "Why do you have to kill Ranma?"

Ukyo turned to her. "That's really none of your business, Skuld."

She thought for a moment, then decided playing by the rules wasn't going to work with this group. Besides, Kami-sama had given her permission to reveal her secret. Skuld let her Goddess Emblems become visible, started to levitate, and said "I'm making it my business, Ukyo. You wouldn't deny a Goddess her due, would you?"

Ranma sighed. "Great. Another hopped-up martial artist with delusions of godhood."

Skuld turned in place. "I am not crazy! If you really don't believe, maybe I should call my sisters ..."

Urd poked her head out of the television set. "Skuld! Kami-sama called for you - He says you have to stop spending all your free time with the Sailor Team right now ...  Oh, am I interrupting something? Sorry!" And she vanished back into the TV.

"... or maybe they'll just show up on their own," finished Skuld. "Hey! Wait a minute, Urd! I can't stop seeing them now - I've got another lesson tomorrow!" But Urd didn't return. "Oh, bugs!" she cursed.

"I guess she really is a Goddess," whispered Akane.

Ukyo nodded. "Um, Skuld? You were asking why I have to kill Ranma? Well, it all started when we were both children ..."

After a double-sized banana split and fifteen minutes of explanations, Skuld understood everything about the marriage agreements and the dowry. "Wait a minute, Ukyo. Didn't you already have your chance to kill Genma?"

Ukyo thought for a moment. "Yes, I did, Skuld-sugar. He didn't put up much of a fight at all."

"But you didn't kill him. Why not?"

"Because ...  because ..." Ukyo whispered the rest.

Skuld was shocked at what she heard. She wondered how does Big Sister handle this kind of thing? Oh, yeah - this should work! She put her hand on Ukyo's shoulder. "That's nothing to be ashamed of, Ukyo. There are too many people who think they're 'strong enough to kill', to use your words, but it takes a greater strength to not kill someone who did what Genma did to you." Just then, Skuld's celphone rang. "Whoever you are, your timing stinks ...  Hello? Skuld speaking ... Kami-sama! ...  Yes ...  Yes, she is ...  Yes! Right away! Bye!" She turned back to Ukyo, a smile on her face.

"What is it?"

"Kuonji Ukyo, for showing compassion and strength of character by letting Saotome Genma live when you had every moral right to kill him, you have been judged worthy of receiving a wish!" The smile left Skuld's face. "But there's a string attached - it can't involve Ranma or Akane."

"I ... get a wish?"


"Can I tell you what I want later?"

Skuld thought for a moment. "Sure! How about before school tomorrow?"

"That'll be just fine, Skuld-sugar. Hey, why are we standing here, Ryoga? Don't we have something better to do than get in the way of Ranma and Akane's date?"

"Ukyo," replied Ryoga, "are you feeling all right?"

"I feel great! A Goddess just told me I did the right thing!" Her back was to the others, so only Ryoga saw her tears. "Let's get out of here, you big silly! Bye, you two!"

"I should be going too, Akane, Ranma," added Skuld. "I've got a lot of homework to take care of tonight. Bye!"

The waitress came from behind the counter and put a large soda on the table between Ranma and Akane. She then added two straws to it. "You know, you two have some strange friends."

"We wouldn't trade them for the world," they both replied.

"I guess ...  This one's on the house, you two. Enjoy yourselves!"

Whatever it was, it was dark.

And malevolent.

And cold.

And readying itself to land on the Earth's surface, to prepare it for the ice ...

Chapter Six - Be Careful What You Wish For ...

"Urd, I need your help."

The Norn of the Past turned to her youngest sister. "I never expected to hear you say that, Skuld!" Then she saw the determined look on her sister's face, and stopped teasing. "What's wrong?"

"For some reason, Kami-sama told me that I have to grant a wish to Kuonji Ukyo ..."

"And you're not sure how to fulfill what she's wished for. Is that it?"

Skuld nodded. "Actually, she hasn't made her wish yet, but I'm pretty sure I know what it's going to be."


"I am the Goddess of the Future, Urd."

Urd sighed. She remembered when she was just beginning to use her powers, and wondered why she thought Skuld would act any differently. "Okay. I'm sorry I made that remark. So, what do you think Ukyo's wish is going to be? Will she wish that her boyfriend is madly in love with her?"

"No - she isn't allowed to wish for anything that involves Ranma, or his fianceé, Akane."

"Oh. So what are you expecting?"

Skuld pulled a presentation easel into the room and picked up a laser pointer.

"Without the visual aids, Skuld."

"Oh, all right." She pushed the easel back into the hall. "There's a half-percent chance that Ukyo's going to wish for something completely off-the-wall, like a goddess position for herself. I don't think that Kami-sama would allow that kind of wish, though, so I'm not worrying about it. There's an eight-percent chance that she's going to wish that she was never born. If that happens, I'll need you to go back in time and prevent her parents from conceiving her ..."

"Which I won't do. I don't interfere in people's lives that way."

"Oh, yeah. I forgot you like calling yourself the 'Goddess of Love', too." Skuld ignored Urd's glare and continued. "But it's most likely that Ukyo's going to realize that the prohibition against involving Ranma in her wish doesn't apply to Ranma's father ..."

As Skuld explained what she expected and how she planned to fulfill the wish, Urd's eyes grew wide.

Finally, Urd decided that she had to interrupt. "Skuld, are you sure you want to do this? You're coming dangerously close to invoking the Ultimate Force."

"I know." Skuld looked straight at Urd. "But there's another reason to do things this way. Are you familiar with the Sailor Senshi?"

Usagi, Ami, Makoto, Minako, and Setsuna sneezed.

"I wonder who's talking about us?" Setsuna asked.

"Don't change the subject, Pluto. Usagi asked you a question."

"Please don't take that tone of voice with me, Jupiter."

Usagi stepped between Setsuna and Makoto. "That's enough." She was getting used to using the Serenity 'voice' - the reminder of her position that it conveyed was the only way to keep these two Senshi from each others' throats in this matter ...  "There will be no more fighting amongst ourselves."

"Yes, ma'am," replied Setsuna and Makoto.

"Makoto is right, though, Setsuna," Usagi continued in her usual tones. "Why did you make a play for Saotome Ranma?"

Setsuna looked at her feet. "It was necessary."

"That's what you always say!"

"Makoto!" Usagi turned back to Setsuna. "And why was it necessary?"

"I can't tell you."

"I'll be the judge of that, Setsuna." Usagi was beginning to lose patience, which was frightening the others. "Answer my question."

Setsuna thought for a moment, then came to the conclusion that an upset Usagi was a greater threat to the Plan than an informed Usagi would be. "We need Saotome on our side. When the Dark Moon returns, and it will, you all need to be trained in practically every possible martial art in order to survive. Ranma knows practically every possible martial art."

"So what's wrong with just letting him teach us on his own terms?" asked Makoto.

"Do you really want him to know you're the Sailor Senshi?"

Makoto was about to answer, but Usagi stopped her. "That would have been better than playing with his emotions, Setsuna. I am very disappointed in you. You may return to the Time Gate - do not interfere with Ranma's life again."

Setsuna nodded, then turned and left.

Minako frowned. "While we're still here, I'd like to bring up another problem. Rei is slowly freezing to death."

Ami shook her head. "That isn't quite right, Minako. Rei's temperature is low, but it isn't life-threatening. However, her temperature drops to a near-fatal level when she transforms into Sailor Mars."

Usagi frowned. "Then she mustn't transform until you figure out what's wrong with her."

Ami switched her computer on. "I already have a good idea what's wrong." She called up a telescope image. "Look at this - there's a layer of ice completely covering the planet Mars."


"Rei gets her power from the planet. If the planet is cold, ..."

"... then she's cold as well." Usagi shivered in sympathy. "Why is Mars covered with ice?"

Just then, the door opened. "We can answer that question, Usa-ko."

"Mamo-chan!" Everyone smiled at Usagi's happy shout. Certainly they all understood why she reacted that way - they all knew what Galaxia had done, and how it had had to be undone. They all knew what their leader was about to do, too.

Sure enough, Usagi turned to the doorway and moved to rush into her love's arms. She stopped when she saw who was with Mamoru, though. "Michiru? When did you wake up?"

Michiru whispered her reply. "About an hour ago. Haruka and I failed you. I'm sorry. We tried to drive it away ..."

"Drive what away?" asked Makoto.

"It's dark, and malevolent, and so very, very cold ..." Michiru collapsed against the wall. "I'm sorry, Neo-Queen Serenity."

Usagi held her hand out to Michiru, and smiled. "It's all right."

"Thank you, Usagi ..." were Michiru's last words before falling unconscious again.

While Ami was making Michiru comfortable, the others turned to Mamoru. He didn't disappoint them. "Michiru told me everything she knew on the way over. If we want the future to unfold the way Sailor Pluto said it would, we don't dare interfere. What we're looking at here is ..."

Ukyo awoke just before dawn. This was a special day - she was going to have a wish granted! She had decided on her wish, and wanted to see one last sunrise before it happened ...

A few hours later, she walked into the schoolyard. Ranma, Akane, Skuld and Urd were sitting under a tree, obviously waiting for her.

"Good morning, everyone!"

Skuld smiled. Notably, the others didn't. "Hi, Ukyo! Have you made your decision yet?"

"I sure have, Skuld-sugar. Why are the others here?"

Skuld stopped smiling. "If you wish for either of the things I'm expecting you to wish for, then Urd's going to help me fulfill your wish. Ranma and Akane need to be near me, so I can keep them from being affected by your wish."

"Oh. Okay. I wish ..."

Everyone held their breath.

"... that Father and Saotome Genma never made that marriage agreement!"

Skuld smiled. That was the 91½%-probable wish, all right. "Granted."

Urd vanished for a moment ...

... to appear near the Kuonji's okonomiyaki cart.

She pulled a document from her pocket. I sure hope you realize what you're doing, Skuld, she thought as she walked around the cart and saw two men sitting on the ground.

"How unfortunate. I was going to offer my okonomiyaki cart as the dowry."

She was just in time! "Genma! There you are!"

The two men looked up. "Do I know you?"

"How could you have forgotten? I'm Urd! Don't you remember?" She frowned, and quietly tossed a bit of dust from her alchemical lab into the air.

"I don't think we've met, miss ..." Genma then inhaled a bit of the dust. "Oh, of course! Urd!" He then started to sweat. "You don't mean to say ..."

"That's right! I've got a little sister now, and I expect you to carry out your part of the deal!" Urd pushed the document into Genma's face.

Kuonji took the document from Genma. "What's this? Saotome, this looks like an engagement agreement!" He started to glower. "How many girls have you engaged your son to?"

"Well, there's Tendo's daughter, and Urd's sister, ..."

"I've heard enough." Kuonji stood up. "The marriage offer is withdrawn. If I see you again, I may do something rash. Ukyo, we're leaving now!" And he took his leave of the Saotomes.

"That's too bad," muttered Genma. "That cart would have kept us fed for weeks ..."

Urd smiled at Genma. "Oh, you don't have to worry about that! Here's enough money to keep you going for a month!" She handed him a bag. "Now don't you go getting any strange ideas, Genma - my little sister's more than enough for your son, and I don't want her to have to share with too many other girls."

Genma was amazed at her poise, even after hearing what she had heard. "You're taking the multiple engagements awfully well, Urd."

"Hey, we aren't all hung up on monogamy, Genma. Your son's going to grow up to be a man among men, and that's worth a lot."

Genma smiled. "I'm glad you're happy with the engagement between Ranma and ...  What is your sister's name?"


"... and Skuld. I'm planning on bringing the boy to the Tendo dojo in Nerima when he's sixteen. We'll meet Skuld there and then, all right?"

"That's fine with me, Genma," replied Urd. "I have to go now, and let Skuld know about her fianceé!"

Urd walked away, then vanished ...

... to return to the same spot in space-time that she had originally left. Ranma and Akane hadn't visibly changed. Skuld and Ukyo looked comfortable wearing the school's girl's uniform. Ukyo's "battle spatula" was still on her back, but she was otherwise unarmed. Their classmates, Usagi and Ami, were present and talking with Ranma. Otherwise, it looked like everything was the same.

"I'm truly sorry about her behaviour, Ranma," Usagi was saying. "Setsuna won't be bothering you any more."

"Thanks, I guess. But I still don't want you doing anything to Akane or Ryoga or me without asking first. You got that?"

Usagi sighed. "Yes, Ranma, I understand."

Wait - there was another change. Skuld was sitting right beside Ranma. She looked up. "Hi, big sister!" smiled Skuld. "How'd it go?"

"Don't you know?"

"Wait a minute ..." Suddenly, all six of them got glazed expressions on their faces, which lasted for half a minute. Urd recognized the expression as an outward sign of memory reconciliation, and let it take its course. They then looked at each other, blushed, and looked at the ground. "Wow! We were like that before history changed? I really goofed this time!"

"What do you mean?" asked Urd, half-expecting the worst.

Skuld blushed even more. "We changed the past, all right. Ukyo decided to study martial arts, just like her best friend from childhood, and moved to Juuban last year. Ranma, Akane, Usagi and Ami are almost exactly the same, except that Ranma and Akane both know about Usagi and Ami's secret. However, ..."


Skuld, Ranma and Akane looked at each other, and smiled. Skuld turned back to her sister. "Well, the Ultimate Force kicked in, since you and I both agreed to do it this way and a balance has to be kept."

"Ukyo's happy with Kintaro, her boyfriend. I'm Ranma's fianceé now."

Chapter Seven - The First Snows of Fimbulvetr

Belldandy was happily drawing up the dinner menu for the evening. Then Time shifted, and she gained a second set of memories for the last decade. She reviewed the memories, smiled, and planned for two more people at dinner that night.

Then she prepared to go shopping. The last thing she expected was a telephone call ...

"Morisato residence, hello."

"It is I."

"Kami-sama! Is there a problem?"

The Almighty's voice was the gravest Belldandy had ever heard. "Fimbulvetr might begin today."

"No!" gasped Belldandy, just before she started to cry. Fimbulvetr was the time when Midgard would be shrouded in ice for years, thawing only at the End Time, Ragnarok. She understood that it would be nearly impossible for any mortal to survive. After a moment, she gathered her wits enough to ask, "Isn't there anything we can do?"

Although Belldandy couldn't see The Almighty, she was sure He smiled at her question. "Yes, child, there is. All of the preparations are in place, now that Skuld has granted her first wish ..."

Urd looked at Skuld. "WHAT???"

Skuld wrapped her arm around Ranma's. "I said, 'I'm Ranma's fianceé'."

Ukyo looked at Ranma and Akane, shock in her eyes. "Ran-chan, I never intended this to happen! I just wanted to be able to let you and Akane get married without honour demanding I kill you. What went wrong?"

They all thought for a moment. Finally, Akane asked, "Skuld, exactly how did you grant Ukyo's wish?"

Skuld pulled a piece of paper from her pocket. "I wrote this and got sister," and she nodded toward Urd, "to make sure Kuonji-san saw it. That kept him from engaging Ukyo to Ranma."

"And exactly what does that document say?" asked Urd.

Skuld's eyes widened, then narrowed. "You didn't read it, did you?" She sighed. "Okay: 'Saotome Genma and Urd Odinsdotter agree that a son of Saotome and a sister of Odinsdotter shall become affianced. This shall take effect on the day that either of them turns sixteen.' Honestly, Urd, don't you ever read the paperwork involved with a wish?"

"And why should I have read the paperwork on a wish you were told to grant? That's your job, not ...  Hey! Is that all it says?"

Akane nodded. "Except for your and Genma's signatures, that's all it says."

"So my sister doesn't actually have to marry Ranma, does she?"

"Nope!" Akane smiled. "And since she's already agreed not to get in our way, I don't have a problem with the situation." She turned to Ranma and Skuld, and started to glower. "Although I might get upset if she keeps hanging onto Ranma's arm ..."

Tears filled Skuld's eyes. "But ... but ... fianceés always act like this in the shojo manga Usagi let me read! I'm sorry!!!"

Despite herself, Akane smiled. She wondered whether this was an exceptionally well-developed survival trait of Skuld's, or some Goddess power, or was she really that sad? Either way, it was working. "Skuld, dear, ..."

"Yes, Akane-sempai?"

"You don't have to live your life exactly like the comic books. Now, would you please let go of my fianceé?"

"Oh. Okay." As Skuld released Ranma's arm, she noticed her wristwatch. "Oh, no! We're going to be late for class!"

Urd watched the others run to make it inside in time for their homeroom. "Was I ever that young?" She smiled and started walking to the train station, intending to window-shop on her way home.

But she didn't get to the station. As she was walking around a corner, she had an urge to look at the sky. Thus, Urd was the only being on Earth to see the invader enter the atmosphere. She immediately turned around and ran for the school - she wasn't allowed to interfere in mortal affairs, but she could warn Ranma, Akane, Ukyo, and the Sailor Team ...

The day's first class was over, and some lucky students were starting a free period. They didn't expect to see the sister of one of their classmates barge into the room, out of breath and panicky ...

"Skuld! Where's ...  Never mind! I see her!" Urd raced over to Akane's desk (conveniently right beside Usagi's). "Akane! Do you know where to find the Sailor Senshi?"

"Why would I know where to find them?"

"Right! Sorry! I just have to tell them I saw something come out of the sky, on a course to land in Hokkaido. If you do see them, let them know, okay?" And Urd left, saying, "Now, where's that Kintaro boy? He might know where to find the Senshi! I have to tell him, too!"

Ranma walked over to Akane's desk. "What was that all about? Why would she ask you to get in touch with the Sailor Senshi? I mean ..."

Akane kicked Ranma's shin. "You're right - we don't know any of the Senshi. Do we, Usagi?" She turned to her classmate.

Usagi was fast asleep.

Ami nudged Usagi's shoulder. "Huh? Is it time for class already?"

"Not yet, Usagi," answered Ami. "But if you're falling asleep in free period, I think you should get some fresh air."

"Okay!" And Ami, Usagi, Ranma, Akane and Ukyo all stepped outside, where they found Urd and Belldandy waiting for them.

"It's about time you got here! Look, I'm breaking a lot of rules just warning you about this invader ..."

Belldandy interrupted Urd. "No, you're not. The non-interference rule has been lifted for the duration of the emergency. We can help whoever we think needs our help."

Usagi smiled. "That's wonderful!"

Ami frowned. "Maybe, and maybe not. Urd, exactly what did you see?"

"I didn't exactly see it, Ami. But I couldn't help noticing its aura. It was dark, and malevolent, and cold ..."

Ami's frown grew. "I was afraid of that. Usagi, do you remember what Mamoru said Michiru told him yesterday?"

Usagi stopped smiling. "That's right."

Ranma, Akane, Ukyo, Belldandy, and Urd stared at the Sailors. "You already know what we're up against?" Belldandy asked.

"Yes, we know," replied Ami. "And the Sailor Senshi will not stop it."

Belldandy gasped in horror. "But they mean to start Fimbulvetr, the Last Days before Ragnarok! We must interfere!"

Usagi put her hand on her locket. "This will help bring peace to the world! We must not interfere!"

The two of them stared at each other, neither giving an inch.

Ranma leaned to Akane, and whispered in her ear. "What the hell are we going to do?"

Chapter Eight - The Die Is Cast

It was the ultimate Mexican Standoff. Neither Usagi not Belldandy were about to admit the other might be right, and the fate of the world was at stake.

Ami stood with Usagi. But what else could she do? The Sailor Senshi had the most to gain from letting the Earth be frozen - they knew it was a vital step toward the founding of Crystal Tokyo, a time of peace when Usagi would rule as Neo-Queen Serenity.

Urd stood with Belldandy. But what else could she do? The Norns had the most to lose from letting the Earth be frozen - that could only be Fimbulvetr, the Last Days before Ragnarok, the End of the World, and Keiichi, Megumi, Tamiya, Ootaki, Hasegawa, and their other mortal friends could never survive that.

Ukyo looked at Ranma. "Ran-chan, I'll trust your judgement on this."

Akane added, "And so will I."

Ranma started to sweat. All he could think was, Why do I always get into these kinds of messes?

Just then, Skuld came running out of the school. "Guys, the next class starts in five minutes ...  Big Sister! What are you doing here?"

Urd turned to Skuld. "We're trying to stop Fimbulvetr! But these two," and she gestured toward Usagi and Ami, "want to let it happen!" Urd recalled the love that Skuld had for Belldandy, and her willingness to cooperate with her big sister. She was sure the youngest Norn would side with them.

Ami turned to Skuld. "We're trying to bring peace to the world! You can see the future - you know what we're doing is right!" Ami recalled the Norse legends, where Urd and Velthandi would conspire to create the future, always to be thwarted by Skuld. She was sure the youngest Norn would side with them.

Skuld turned to Ranma. "I don't know what to do! I can't see that far into the future, at least not yet! I can only see a couple of years right now! I don't know who's right!" She started to cry. "Ranma, what should I do?"

This left the fate of the world in the hands of Saotome Ranma. And we all know how easily Ranma makes decisions ...

Suddenly, Ranma's thoughts returned to his fight with Mousse a few days ago, and what happened afterwards. He recalled the last words between Usagi and himself that day:

"His soul was chained by his strong emotions. I set him free."

"So if you were to heal me, I'd never feel really prideful about anything any more?"

"That's right, Ranma. You wouldn't need to."

"I'll make you a deal then. I'll keep your secret, if you promise you never, and I mean never, 'heal' me! The Moko Takabisha is one of my strongest attacks, and I ain't gonna lose it! Oh, and you stay away from Hibiki Ryouga, too! He's my friend, and his Shishi Houkoudan'd be useless if you 'heal' him!"

"I can't do that. There's a time coming when the Earth will be covered with ice. In order to save everyone's lives, I'll have to heal all of you. I think."

Ranma realized then that there was only one right answer, even if it hurt his friends. "All right, everyone. I've made my decision. Maybe I'm being selfish, maybe it's for all the wrong reasons, but the price for world peace is too high for me to pay." He walked over to Belldandy. "I'm with you."

Akane, Ukyo, and Skuld followed Ranma.

Usagi frowned. "You know we can't let you stop the invader."

"We know," replied Belldandy. "Please remember that we don't hate you. If things were different, we could have been friends ..." With that, her group left the schoolyard.

Usagi collapsed against Ami. "Why?" she sobbed. "Why can't they trust us?"

"Because that's the kind of people they are," was Ami's answer. "We wouldn't respect them otherwise. But we have to get the rest of the Team together ..."

Usagi shivered - she knew what Ami was about to say, and she didn't like it one bit.

"... so we can stop the Goddesses by any means necessary."

Usagi, Ami, Rei, Minako, and Makoto all left together before the beginning of third period. Ranma, Akane, Ukyo, and Skuld left at the same time, but went in the opposite direction.

When their teachers asked where they were going, they all said the same thing: "We're going to save the world."

School seemed empty, with so many people absent.

Skuld and Urd offered weapons to Ranma, Akane, and Ukyo. None of them accepted - Ukyo had her spatula, and the others preferred to fight unarmed.

Meanwhile, Belldandy was preparing a seeker spell. Kami-sama had told her that she would need allies who were relatively unknown to the Sailor Team on her side if she was to have any hope to win ...  She was surprised when the intended target of the spell walked into the temple yard before she could begin to cast it.

"Where in the world am I now?" he asked.

"Ryoga! Man, am I glad to see you!" Ranma explained the situation to his friend, with interruptions from Akane, Skuld, and Ukyo.

Meanwhile, Belldandy abandoned her spell, turned to the telephone, called a number Kami-sama had given her, spoke to the person who answered, then dove through the front hall mirror.

Finally, Ryoga nodded. "Of course I'm with you, Ranma. I don't want to lose the Shishi Houkoudan any more than you want to lose the Moko Takabisha. When do we leave?"

"As soon as I give you these," Urd answered as she held out two pendants. "They'll give you some control over your curses."

"You mean I'll be cured?!?"

"No, Ranma. You'll still be cursed, but you won't be forced to change as soon as you're hit with water. You'll have a few minutes grace period - if you want it." She turned to Ryoga. "And yours will give you some sense of direction." Leaning over to put it around his neck, she added in a whisper, "as well as offsetting your Jusenkyo curse."

"You know?" he whispered back.

"Of course I know - I'm a Goddess. I also know you don't want Akane to know."

"Um, thanks." Ryoga watched as Urd put the other pendant around Ranma's neck. "Hey, how long will these things last?"

Urd looked Ryoga in the eye. "As long as necessary. Besides," she added with a smile, "if we're not done in a week, you'll probably be dead anyway."

Just then, Belldandy returned through the mirror, bringing two people with her. "Urd, do you have another one of those pendants?"

"Right here, sis." She walked over to the younger of the two newcomers. "I'm pleased to meet you, Xian Pu."

"Shampoo happy to help airen!" she replied.

Ranma heard Shampoo's voice, turned, and saw the newcomers. "Hey! Shampoo! Colonge! Are you signing on for this fight, too?"

"We have little choice, Son-in-Law," the Elder replied. "Like yourself, we would prefer to survive the week."

Ranma turned to Belldandy. "Are you inviting anyone else?"

"No, Ranma; this is the entire war party."

"Then let's get going."

"Of course." Belldandy turned to her love, Keiichi, and handed him a slip of paper. "If we aren't back in six hours, call this number, explain what's happened to whoever answers, and tell them that we need Happosai's help."

The three Goddesses then chanted a spell, and the group teleported to Hokkaido.

The Sailor Team made their way to Mamoru's apartment, hoping to find him in. They weren't disappointed. In fact, his houseguests were finally awake ...

"Haruka! Michiru! Are you okay?"

"We're well enough to fight, Usagi," replied Haruka. "What is your will?"

Usagi turned to Ami, who answered for her. "There's a group who, for reasons they think are valid, are intent on stopping the creation of Crystal Tokyo. We have to stop them."

"How hard could that be?" Haruka asked.

"Harder than you might think," replied Sailor Pluto from the corner of the room.

Everyone turned to her. "Setsuna! Don't do that!"

"My apologies, Usagi. Haruka, three of our opponents are Goddesses. One of those three is able to block my ability to see the future."

"And the other two?" Michiru interrupted.

"Are stronger," was Pluto's reply. "That's why I made a detour on the way here ..."

The person behind Pluto stepped forward. "Hello, Mama-san, Papa-san."

"Hotaru!" Michiru turned to Setsuna. "You had no right to bring her here!"

"Perhaps not. But it was necessary."

Usagi thought about what she had heard, then turned to Hotaru. "Are you ready for the biggest fight of your life, Hotaru?"

"Yes, Usagi, I am."

"Then let's go."

They all transformed into their heroic forms, except for Rei - she still hadn't quite become used to her planet being covered in ice, so Usagi had decided to keep her in reserve rather than risking her life. "Good luck, you guys."

"Thanks, Rei." Sailor Moon, the Sailor Team (less Sailor Mars), Tuxedo Kamen, the Outer Senshi, and "one more" then formed a circle and held hands. With a cry of "Sailor Teleport!", they were on their way to Hokkaido.

They arrived in an open field, facing their opponents.

"In the name of the Moon, I ask you one last time to walk away!"

"You know we can't do that, Usagi," replied Ranma.

"Then we have no choice." They all adopted combat stances, facing their friends.

Chapter Nine - It All Comes Down to This

Whatever it was, it was dark.

And malevolent.

And cold.

And poised to cover the Earth with a layer of ice.

It expected resistance from the natives. But some of the natives seemed to be defending it ...

"So, who goes up against who?"

"Isn't it obvious, Ranma? We all hit Sailor Moon at the same time ..."

"... and the other Sailors and their friend would pick us off one at a time, Urd. No, we have to fight them one-on-one."

"So, who goes up against who?"

"Isn't it obvious, Usagi? We all hit Belldandy at the same time ..."

"... and the other Goddesses and their friends would pick us off one at a time, Hotaru. No, we have to fight them one-on-one."

Somehow, the two groups of heroes picked their opponents quickly. As the leaders of their groups, Sailor Moon and Belldandy fell into a battle of wills almost immediately. The others chose their opponents almost at random ...

"You too too bad girls if you let world freeze!"

"We have to let the Earth be frozen - it's the only way to bring about world peace!" Sailor Mercury activated her visor and looked at her opponent. Hmmmmm ...  That pendant the girl was wearing would protect against her attacks, but it could be overwhelmed by a strong enough attack from the back, on the chain securing it. But how could she get into position?

"Shampoo not let you hurt airen!" She started charging, her bonbori in a ready position.

Perfect. "We don't want to hurt anyone, miss. Shabon Spray!"

Suddenly, Shampoo couldn't see anything. Sailor Mercury dodged her attack, then turned and launched one of her own. "Mercury Aqua Rhaposdy!"

The chain on Shampoo's pendant broke, the pendant fell off, Urd's magic stopped working, and what was left of the blast of water forced Shampoo into her cat form. Mercury picked her up carefully and placed her out of harm's way, but where she couldn't interfere with the battle.

Oh man oh man oh man ...  I'm outclassed badly here ...  Why didn't I listen to Ranma when he said I was slow ... Akane's thoughts were interrupted by an object flying straight at her, which she reflexively caught. Then she took a look at what was in her hand.

It was a single red rose.

She looked at her fated opponent, Tuxedo Kamen, with fire in her eyes. Then she looked at the rose again. "First Kuno, and now you! You pervert!!!!!" Akane dropped the rose, and suddenly the big mallet was in her hands ...

Skuld's foresight was in overdrive - she was sensing Pluto's possible attacks, and her counters to those attacks, and Pluto's counters to those counters.

Pluto's time sense was in overdrive - she was sensing Skuld's possible attacks, and her counters to those attacks, and Skuld's counters to those counters.

Both of them had yet to move a muscle.

"Ranma tells me you're pretty good, Makoto."

"You have the advantage of me, mister ..."

"Hibiki Ryoga. And, unlike Ranma, I don't have any problems hitting girls."

"Then I won't let you get close enough! Supreme Thunder!"

Ryoga picked himself up off the ground. "You're probably better than me. Everyone's counting on me to stop you, but I don't know if I can ..."

"Then give up now! Sparkling Wide Pressure!"

He just barely dodged her attack. "You may be too good for me to beat." A chi ball started to form between his hands. "But I still have to try ...  Shishi Houkoudan!"

"Jupiter Oak Evolution!"

When the smoke cleared, they were both unconscious.

"Ain't you gonna make a fancy speech?"

"Why? World Shaking!"

"Moko Takabisha!"

Sailor Uranus' and Ranma's attacks collided in midair. The Moko Takabisha was annihilated, but the impact was enough to blunt the World Shaking to the point where Ranma could shrug it off. He moved in to attack up close, dodging her attacks with Chestnut speed.

Uranus was out cold within a minute.

She's just a child, thought Colonge. But aren't they all? All she said as she parried her opponent's weapon was, "You can't hope to beat three thousand years of Amazon history, girl."

"Maybe, maybe not," replied her opponent. "Silence Glaive ..."

Colonge's eyes widened in terror. This wasn't just any senshi - this was Sailor Saturn, the Senshi of Death! She hadn't agreed to fight just to throw her life away! "I surrender! I surrender!!!"

Hotaru sighed with relief. "Please go away, then." She watched Colonge leave the field while she got her composure back.

Skuld and Sailor Pluto still hadn't moved. Sweat was running off their foreheads, though ...

"Deep Submerge!"


Sailor Neptune's attack washed over Urd, who didn't bother trying to dodge.

When the wave subsided, Urd was still standing in place. She smiled. "Ah, that was a refreshing bath. Thank you, Michiru-san."

"But ... How?"

"I'm a Goddess, silly. My power level is vastly higher than yours. But don't worry - I won't hurt you." Urd tossed a potion bottle at Sailor Neptune's feet. It broke, releasing vapours that engulfed the Outer Senshi.

When the vapours cleared, Michiru was wearing her normal clothing. She looked at herself, then at Urd.

Urd's smile became nasty. "You won't be able to become Sailor Neptune again until I give you the antidote. Do you surrender?" Michiru thought for a moment, then nodded. "Good girl. Go sit the rest of the battle out with Shampoo - I think your teammate took her over there."

As Michiru quickly abandoned the battlefield, Urd muttered to herself, "Too bad I didn't have any more of those ready ..."

The two girls with bows in their hair looked at each other, each waiting for the other to make the first move. For some reason, they both thought about the day they met ...  Minako had complimented Ukyo on her cooking, so Ukyo had made an extra okonomiyaki for Minako.

Who would have thought they would end up in this situation?

"I can't let you do this, Minako-sugar."

"I can't let you stop us, Ukyo. Venus Love-Me Chain!" And Ukyo's spatula was pulled from her grasp.

"Ouch! Now you're going to fry me with a Crescent Beam, aren't you?"

Sailor Venus shook her head. "You're my friend, Ukyo. I won't kill you just because you're misguided."

"You're the misguided one, sugar!" And Ukyo charged Sailor Venus. Unfortunately, the lack of her battle spatula threw off her form, and Venus managed to knock her out after a few minutes.

Skuld and Sailor Pluto were still staring each other down. They were so busy countering each other's best probabilities, they still hadn't moved.

Suddenly, Skuld realized what she was doing wrong. Her opponent was millenia old - there was very little left for her to learn in the future. Skuld, however, still had most of her life ahead of her. She had to use knowledge she hadn't yet learned ...  But what?

Then the Ultimate Force caused her fianceé to move into her field of vision.

Of course! It would be the last thing Setsuna would expect, and Skuld knew she could pull it off! ("I don't teach just anyone these things," she 'heard' Ranma say eighteen months from now. "Just my fianceés - you and Akane.")

Skuld moved into the correct stance at Chestnut speed. "Moko Takabisha!"

And Sailor Pluto was knocked off her feet. Skuld quickly moved in to finish the fight, using all the tricks that Ranma was about to teach her over the next few years.

Belldandy and Sailor Moon were at a stalemate. Then Usagi realized what she had to do to win ...

"Moon Eternal MakeUp!"

Once she finished transforming, she let loose a bolt of pure energy which Belldandy almost dodged. Belldandy wasn't hurt, but some of her jewelry were damaged, including her Seal earring. That was the item that had limited her power in the mortal realm ...

The stalemate resumed.

The others regrouped to catch their breath - Mercury, Venus and Saturn on one side, and Ranma, Akane, Skuld, and Urd on the other.

"What now?"

"We keep fighting. She needs us to win."

The youngest Senshi and the youngest Goddess faced off.

"You won't get me with the tricks you used on Setsuna," cried Sailor Saturn defiantly.

"And I'm not as easy a target as Colonge," replied Skuld.

The Silence Glaive rang against Mjolnir II's shaft, then Saturn dodged the countering hammerblow.

"You're good."

"So are you."

"But this isn't my only trick ..." Skuld made that motion with her hand that she had made the day she met Rei, and the particle beam on the Skuld Comet, Mark IV, fired. The beam hit the Silence Glaive, setting the shaft on fire. Saturn dropped it reflexively and Skuld grabbed it in her off hand. "Now what?" she asked sweetly.

"Mama-saaaaan!!!!!" Saturn went running for Michiru, abandoning the fight.

Skuld watched her leave. "Now to do something with this, before it falls into the wrong hands ..." She opened a thermos flask, then dove in, shouting, "I'll be back later!"

"So, you're the Senshi of Love. Well, I'm the Goddess of Love. Do you still want to fight?"

"What choice do I have? Crescent Beam!"

"Shield!" Unfortunately, Urd's shield did nothing to block Venus' laser attack. Urd's potion bag was slit, causing all the bottles to fall out and break. The mixture of various vapours had no apparent effect on Venus. Urd, though, collapsed from the admixture of potions.

Sailor Mercury looked at the person left in front of her. "I thought you said real men didn't hit girls, Ranma."

"Yeah, I did say that ...  Would you hit me with one of your water attacks so we can have a girl-to-girl fight?"


"And do you think you can touch me?" asked Ranma, with a grin on his face.

Sailor Mercury shook her head. "Which means we're at an impasse."

"At a what?"

"Neither of us can do anything against the other," she explained.

"Oh, well ..." Ranma sighed theatrically ...

... just as Akane hit Sailor Mercury over the head from behind.

Ranma walked over to Akane. "We make a good team, don't we?"

"We sure do. But wasn't that cheating?"

"Akane, in a real fight like this one, Anything Goes."

"Right. Thanks for distracting her, Ranma."

Ranma grimaced. "I'd rather've attacked someone else, but but I'm out of their league ..."

"Not all of us are!" shouted Sailor Venus from behind him. "Venus Love-Me Chain!" Ranma dodged, but Akane was caught by the chain.

They looked around. Sailor Moon and Belldandy were still locked in a battle of willpower. Everyone else was either unconscious or gone. It was up to him to save Akane. Again. And his confidence had taken a severe blow when Sailor Uranus' weaker attack got through one of his best ...

Akane turned her head to look at her fianceé. "Ranma, I love you."

His heart sang with her declaration. Better yet, his ego was boosted by it. "Thanks, Akane! Moko Takabisha!"

The blast knocked Sailor Venus unconscious, and the Love-Me Chain disappeared.

Ranma helped his fianceé to her feet. "I love you, too, Akane."

"What do we do now, Ranma?" Akane looked toward Belldandy and Sailor Moon, shielding her eyes from the glare of energies between them. "That fight is out of our league ..."

"So we ignore it and do what we came here to do." They ran past the two combatants and headed for the invader's touchdown site.

Whatever it was, it was dark.

And malevolent.

And cold.

And used to living and fighting in space. It was ridiculously crippled by the Earth's gravity.

Ranma and Akane made mincemeat of it in five minutes.


They had gathered in the Goddesses' temple.

Usagi was in shock; she was sure that she wasn't going to become a Queen after all. Mamoru was busy comforting her.

Belldandy was on the phone to Kami-sama, requesting permission to completely break the Seal on her powers so that she could re-Seal them properly.

Skuld returned the Silence Glaive to Hotaru, who then healed Urd of the potion overdose she had taken in combat, who then restored Michiru's ability to become Sailor Neptune. Urd and Hotaru together made sure Minako was unaffected by the potions she had briefly breathed, as well.

"No hard feelings?" asked Urd.

"No hard feelings," replied Haruka. "You did what you felt you had to do. We understand all too well what that's like."

"But you don't approve."

"Sailor Pluto told us that Crystal Tokyo would be founded after the Earth had been frozen. You stopped that. You ruined Neo-Queen Serenity's future and the world's best chance for peace." Haruka's logic didn't seem quite right to Urd, but she didn't say anything - Haruka didn't give her a chance. "How could we approve?" And the Senshi left without saying another word.

Skuld, Ranma, and Akane watched them leave. "It's a good day to be alive," mused Akane.

Ranma turned to Skuld. "Hey, Skuld, we're friends, right? And friends do things for their friends, right? And ..."

"I'm sorry, Ranma," Skuld interrupted, "but I can't cure your curse."

"Aw, man ..."

"But I can do you a different favour. In fact, I must do this favour now in order to avoid a time paradox. Hang on a minute ..." She stood up and walked into the next room. "Ku Lon, Xian Pu, do you know who I am?"

"You are the Norn of the Future," replied Colonge. "I assume you have come to tell us when Ranma will be returning with us to wed Shampoo ..."

"He will not. His future lies on a different path. I Have Spoken." With that, Skuld turned and walked out, back to her fianceé.

Akane noticed the smile on Skuld's face first. "What did you just do?"

"Oh, I solved one of Ranma's problems for him. Friends do things for their friends, right?" They watched as Shampoo and Colonge left the temple's courtyard, somehow knowing that they were heading back to China.

"You mean ..."

"Yep! You're down to two fianceés now!" Skuld pulled a water-gun from her pocket and doused Ranma. "So let's us three girls go get some ice cream!"

"You little ..." Ranma chased her newest fianceé out the gates, Akane following close behind. All three of them were laughing like they didn't have a care in the world.

But that's because they didn't, really.

Continued in A Closer Distance ...

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