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

        There was a quick flash of lightning and rain began to pour.

        "Great, just great," the blonde girl muttered, tossing back one
of her two long pigtails.

        She looked into the reflective surface of a darkened shop's
window, attempting to readjust her ornate, white gown to compensate
for the dampness. She looked at the golden crescent moon on her
forehead, then glanced to the two buns on either side of her hair.
Her appearance was surprisingly elegant, especially considering
that she was soaked at the moment.

        "THIS again," she muttered in annoyance, picking at the wet
material of her dress.

        Next to her, a much younger girl half-giggled. She was wearing
a loose, white gi and had a white bandanna tied around her head, just
beneath her 'rabbit-ear' style pink hair. "I don't know what you're
complaining about, odango-atama. It's just a little rain."

        She looked up to the cat-faced balloon that was following her
around and grabbed it. She dribbled it on the ground like a
basketball, then threw it into the air. "Luna-P Henge!"

        The balloon vanished in a puff of pink smoke, and was replaced
by a small umbrella, which the young girl caught. She opened it above
her head and continued walking.

        The taller blonde girl glowered for a moment, then trudged
along in the rain behind her. "Please, just... stop calling me
'odango-atama.'" She glanced around. "Where was it you wanted to
go, anyway?"

        "I told you," the younger individual replied, "We're going
to visit an old friend of mine. Don't worry. It's only a little
further."

        The blonde sighed, shrugging. "Okay."

        The pink-haired girl paused. "First, though, I think you
should know something."

        The young woman wearing the flowing white gown frowned,
suddenly feeling a great sense of foreboding. "Like... what?"

^_^

        Tendo Soun read the postcard in his hands in joy. "They're
coming." He held the card to his chest and began to weep. "Oh, how
I have longed for this day..." He placed the postcard on the kitchen
table. "I must inform my daughters."

        Barely managing to contain his joy, Soun left in search of
his three beloved girls. He paused. "Where would they be now?" he
asked himself, then snapped his fingers in realization. "I know!"

        His middle daughter was probably out working on something...
 

        On the floor inside the garage adjoining the Tendo household,
a tall, somewhat androgynous short-haired blonde individual chuckled
as she finished tightening the last bolt on the back wheel of a
_very_ hyped-up motorcycle.

        "Nitro-powered motorcycles?" she asked herself, wiping the
sweat off her brow as she stood. She took an exhausted breath
and smiled. "Sure, why not? Could probably top one-fifty on this
baby now..."

        "Haruka!" a man's voice called.

        "Dad?" Tendo Haruka asked, looking toward the door to the rest
of the house as her father walked in. "What is it?"

        Soun had a very excited look on his face. "There's something I
need to tell you and the other girls. Could I see you in the dining
room in a couple of minutes?"

        Haruka shrugged, grabbing a rag off a tool shelf to wipe her
hands. "Sure, Dad. What's this about?"

        "I'll tell you when everyone's together," Soun said as he
hurriedly left the garage.

        The tall blonde blinked, frowning. "Hmm..."
 

        In the Tendo dojo, a raven-haired girl dressed in a white
practice gi took a deep breath as she relaxed, preparing to begin
her morning kata...

        "KIYAAA!!!" she shouted as she threw a one-foot-long knife
towards a circular target painted on a cement block on the opposite
side of the room.

        *Thunk!* The knife hit dead center, cleaving the block into
two perfectly equal halves.

        The girl calmly picked up two smaller daggers that were on
an unobtrusive wooden rack next to her, and flung them toward a
practice dummy, also on the other side of the room.

        *Shing*Shing* The daggers severed both cloth "hands" of the
dummy, pinning them to the wall behind it.

        She took three more daggers of exactly the same type and,
with calculated precision, threw them in rapid succession.

        *ThudThudThud* Each weapon was imbedded in the practice
dummy's forehead, mere millimeters from each other.

        The long-haired girl fluidly acquired eight more knives,
somewhat thinner than the others, and placed them between each
of her fingers.

        She held her hands up, poised to strike.

        Soun walked in and leaned against the wall, smiling at
his daughter proudly. "Ah, there you are!"

        The teenage girl instinctively whipped around toward the noise
and threw her weapons.

        *Th-Thud!*

        "Ah... Rei?" Soun asked, glancing nervously to the throwing
knives stuck in the wall behind him, which perfectly outlined his
head.

        Rei held a hand to her mouth in embarrassment. "Oh! I'm
sorry, Father. You surprised me."

        "I'll never do it again," Soun promised emphatically,
unmoving against the wall.

        Rei laughed as she walked over and pulled the knives out
of the wall, freeing her father. She casually tossed them over her
shoulder toward the practice dummy, where they made a sort of
rough "happy face" on its chest. As she tossed the final dagger,
it hit the side of the weapons rack with a little too much force,
tipping it over. The numerous bladed objects sprang towards the
dummy... and imbedded themselves in such a way around the "happy
face" to look like a perfectly texture-mapped rendition of the
Mona Lisa. "I thought you knew not to interrupt me while I'm
practicing."

        "I'm... sorry," the black-haired man said, still somewhat
dazed from his near-death experience.

        "It's alright, Father. It's alright," Rei said in a
comforting tone.

        "Oh... what a lucky man I am to have such daughters!" Soun
exclaimed, his eyes full of tears.

        "Now," Rei said, smiling at her father, "what made you forget
about my morning practice and just barge on in here?"

        Soun dried his tears. "There's something I have to tell
all of you girls... Can I see you in the dining room in a couple
of minutes?"

        "Of course," Rei replied. "Just let me clean things up around
here." She indicated the equipment rack and the daggers imbedded in
various things all over the place.

        Soun nodded. "Of course."

        Going back into his previous euphoric state, he left the dojo.

        "I wonder what he's so happy about..." Rei whispered.
 

        Soun climbed the steps to the upper floor, looking for his
eldest daughter. "Where could she be?" he asked himself, glancing
around in the darkened, misty hallway. "She can be so difficult to
find, sometimes..."

        "Hello, Father," a mysterious voice from behind him said.

        "Aah!" Soun shouted, jumping in shock as he whirled to face
the speaker.

        A somewhat tall, dark green-haired woman looked back at him,
an unreadable expression on her face. Her long hair was neatly
brushed back, and she was wearing formal woman's business attire.
"Hello," she repeated.

        Soun relaxed. "Oh, there you are, Setsuna." He took a moment
to catch his breath. "Could you come downstairs? There's something
important I need to tell you and the others."

        Setsuna smiled in such a way that made it look as if she was
aware of more than she was willing to tell. "I know, Father."

        Soun frowned for a moment. "You do?" He smiled and shrugged.
"Of course you do. You always do."

        Setsuna nodded. "One has to in my line of work," she said.
She began to walk off, then paused and turned back, adding, "I will
be there."

        She almost seemed to disappear into the shadows as she left...

        Soun, however, didn't seem to notice. He walked back down the
stairs, blissfully considering how to present the arrangement to
his daughters.
 

        "Okay, we're here, Dad!" Haruka called, drumming her fingers
on the table impatiently. She looked at her younger sister. "What
do you think he's up to?"

        Rei thought about it. "I'm not entirely sure, but if what
I saw in the fire at the temple yesterday is right... Then we're
probably going to have some new guests in our home very soon."

        Next to them, Setsuna shook her head and sighed. "I am afraid
that it is going to be far more complicated than that."

        Haruka chuckled at her older sister's sudden appearance and
turned to her. "Want to tell the rest of us anything...?"

        The green-haired woman just smiled at them.

        Haruka returned a wry grin, reclining back against her seat.
"Didn't think so."

        Soun finally came in. "Ah, my daughters!" he exclaimed with
outstretched arms. "This is truly a momentous day!" He moved closer
to the table. "It is the day when the uniting of the Tendo and the-"

        "Cut the dramatics, Father," Rei said. "Just tell us what's
going on."

        Their father stopped. "Alright, alright..." he said, taking a
seat in front of them. "My old friend is coming with another to
fulfil an agreement we made long ago..."

        "What kind of agreement?" Haruka asked, leaning forward.

        Soun took a deep breath. "A betrothal."

        Rei blinked. "With... us?"

        Haruka coughed, wide-eyed. "Uh, Dad... please tell me you
didn't."

        "He did," Setsuna said, in a very certain tone.

^_^

        "I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU ENGAGED ME TO SOME GIRL, YOU LITTLE PINK
SPORE!!!!!"

        "Hmph. Have a little respect, odango-atama," the pink-haired
girl said, continuing to walk toward her destination. As she noticed
that her companion was not following, she stopped and turned around.
"Are you coming or not?"

        The other girl shook her head, her blue eyes wide in disbelief.
"NOT A CHANCE!"

        The smaller of the two narrowed her eyes at the taller and
let go of her umbrella, which turned back into a floating, cat-faced
balloon. She grabbed it and moved into a combat stance, dribbling it
on a patch of earth that didn't have a water puddle on it. "Okay,
princess, are you gonna come quietly, or am I going to have to use
force?"

        "I'm not the only 'princess' around here, PRINCESS," the
blonde princess muttered. "And I'm NOT going with you just so I can
be part of some crazy agreement you made who-knows-when!" She turned
around and started to walk away. "I'm going back to-"

        "Luna-P..." the pink-haired princess started, leveling her
balloon at the young woman.

        The pigtailed girl stopped and whirled around, moving into
a defensive posture. "Your mind tricks aren't going to work on me
THIS time!"

        The young girl grinned. "...ATTACK!!!"

        The blonde girl blinked, frowning. "What..."

        *WHAM*THUMP*SLAM*BAM*POW*WHAM*THUMP*THUMP*THUMP* All at once,
it seemed, she was hit from every angle by the Luna-P... AND an
assortment of umbrellas, baby bottles, vases full of violets,
medkits, wooden figures of humpback whales, fire hydrants, and
practically everything else imaginable.

        Somewhat battered, but still standing, the older princess
started to laugh at the pink-haired girl. "That was it? Hah! That
wasn't-"

        *CLANG!* A large, white porcelain sink slammed into her head
from behind. She stopped, and was only able to watch dazedly as the
younger girl approached her with the Luna-P in her arms.

        *WHAM!* The pink-haired girl hit her on the head with it, then
caught her as she fell limply forward.

        The young princess nodded to herself, looking very determined
as she carried the larger girl off.
 

        Off to the side, two old men sitting on a high balcony had
been watching the short battle.

        "Now THAT's what I call going at it like rabbits!" the first
said to his friend.

        The second man nodded. "Yeah, I'd say the situation down
there was getting a little... HARE-y."

        They looked at each other and laughed, pointing at the two
departing girls. "Oh ho ho ho!"

^_^

        "So, when are these people going to show up?" Rei asked,
looking somewhat fascinated at the idea of having a fiance. "I can't
wait to meet them."

        "Soon," Soun said, "very soon."

        "Rei," Haruka said to her sister in disbelief, "you're acting
like you actually _want_ to be engaged to someone you've never met."

        "Well, you never know," the raven-haired girl said, smiling,
"this one might be cute."

        Setsuna shook her head sadly. "There will be no need to worry
about that... but it could at least have been someone older than
me..."

        "Do they know martial arts?" Rei asked.

        Soun nodded. "Yes, as a matter of fact. One of the main points
of this engagement is to join our two fighting styles. They practice
something similar to what I've trained all of you in."

        Rei nodded, starting to like this idea even more. "It _would_
be nice to have someone equal to spar with..."

        "What am I?" Haruka asked, glancing sideways at her. "Chopped
liver?"

        "It's nice to practice with you, Haruka," Rei said, then
held her shoulders up in a long shrug, "but it's not really a
challenge anymore. I'm so much... better than you at martial arts."

        "Oh, really?" the short-haired blonde asked, standing.

        Rei nodded, smiling as she folded her arms.

        Haruka smirked, motioning to the hall outside the dining room.
"Let's take this one to the dojo, shall we?"

        "Alright," the younger girl said. "If you like the horrible
agony of defeat, who am I to deprive you of that?"

        "We'll just see about that, won't we, Rei?"

        "Um, girls?" Soun asked, motioning for them to sit back
down, which they did. "There's something else I have to tell you
about my friend and h-"

        *Thump*Thump* There was a knock at the door.

        Soun brightened. "Ah! That must be them now! Setsuna, could
you please open the door for them?"

        "Whatever you say, Father," the green-haired woman said,
not moving to do anything.

        "I'm up," Haruka noted. "I could-" She stopped as a small foot
kicked the door open.

        Into the room rushed a small, pink-headed girl with her hair
tied up in rabbit-ear odangos. This wasn't her distinguishing
feature, however. The oddest thing about her was that she was
carrying a much larger blonde girl who was wearing a long, flowing
gown and whose hair was done into round odangos, from which two very
long pigtails fell.

        "Let me go!" the blonde shouted.

        A floating, cat-faced balloon with a crescent moon on its
forehead and an antennae out the top floated in behind them.

        "Hello, Tendo," the little girl said to Soun, then dropped the
struggling girl she was carrying onto the table. "I've come to fulfil
the agreement we made so long ago."

        "Errrr..." Soun began in bewilderment. "Do I know you, little
girl?"

        The girl laughed. "Of course you do! My old friend Tendo, don't
you recognize me?"

        "Yeah," the blonde said, climbing off the table, "don't you
recognize that annoying spore that engaged me to your-"

        The smaller girl narrowed her eyes at her. "Don't talk about me
like that in front of your future father in law!"

        "Whatever, you little fungus," the pigtailed girl muttered.

        "Odango-atama!"

        "Spore!"

        "Princess!"

        "Takes one to know one!"

        "Father," Rei began, trying to ignore the two arguing girls,
"would these happen to be the ones you were telling us about?"

        Soun attempted to speak, but found that his voice and
comprehension skills had just decided to make good on the vacation
time they had been earning for the past while. "Ummmm..."

        He fainted.

        "They are," Setsuna confirmed, catching her father as he fell.

        "Hey, maybe this won't be so bad after all," Haruka said,
beginning to smile as she looked at the girl in the white gown. She
glanced at Rei. "You were right. She IS cute."

        "Don't you already _have_ a girlfriend?" Rei asked, snickering.

        Setsuna pulled her unconscious father off of his seat and laid
him out on the floor. She took a few steps back.

        "Enough of this," the pink-haired girl said, turning away from
the verbal combat and walking toward Soun. She grabbed him by the
shoulders and started shaking him. "Come on, Tendo. This is no time
to be napping!"

        "Emmm..." Soun mumbled, sitting up, then looked into the girl's
eyes. "I... No, I don't know you, I don't think."

        "Think back to grade school. Early on," the young girl said.
"Remember, we both agreed that if you were to have any daughters,
they'd be engaged to my-"

        "Oh, oh my... It _is_ you," Soun whispered in shock, then
fainted again.

        "Soun-kun," the little, pink-haired individual whispered in
a high, blood-curtling, saccharine voice, "wake uuu-uuuup. We have
business to discuss!"

        Rei shook her head, and started to laugh. "Well, I guess
this plan has pretty much fallen through."

        "Too bad," Haruka said, chuckling. "I was beginning to think
that this was one of Dad's better ideas..."

        The pigtailed girl glanced around at the others in the room,
looking somewhat flustered. "Okay, look... Um... Sorry about this."
She grabbed the smaller girl by the arm and started to drag her
out.

        "Lemme go!" the pink-haired girl protested. "Luna-P Heng-"
she began, before the other princess silenced her by clamping her
hand over her mouth.

        "Whatever this scheme of yours is," the blonde half-growled,
"it won't work. I don't want any part of it."

        "Poor girl," Rei noted. "She looks so sad and confused..."

        "Yeah," Haruka said, starting to frown, "dragged in here in
the middle of the rain by her little sister or whatever... getting
told that she was going to be married against her will..." She shook
her head. "Isn't that one of those scenarios that has to have a
knight in shining armor coming in to rescue her or something?"

        Rei nodded slightly, then, as the visitors reached the door,
she stood, holding up a hand. "No, wait," she called to them.

        The blonde sighed, then stopped and turned around, holding
her struggling companion in a firm grip. "What _now_?"

        "Look, we'd hate to leave a bad impression," Haruka said.

        Rei nodded. "Right... I mean, you just got here... and you're
drenched." She glanced outside. "It's still raining, and it doesn't
look like you even have an umbrella. We can't just kick you out into
that."

        "In addition," Setsuna said, kneeling by her father, "you
appear to have with you our father's friend..."

        "So," Haruka said, maneuvering close to the blue-eyed blonde
girl, wrapping her up in a friendly--perhaps a little _too_
friendly--hug, and escorting her back into the main room, "take a
load off, stay a while."

        The girl in the damp gown frowned, deep in thought during this,
then shrugged. "Uh... Okay, sure. I don't really have anyplace I
need to be right noOOW-" She broke off as the smaller girl she had
been holding onto bit one of her fingers, forcing her to let go.
"Owowowowow..." she said in pain, shaking her hand. "Why you..."

        The blonde tore out of Haruka's grasp and started to chase
after the pink-haired girl.

        The chase ended when the younger one hid behind Setsuna.
"Don't hurt meeeeee!" she cried.

        "Don't think acting cute'll help," the pigtailed girl said,
narrowing her eyes as she approached.

        "Stop," Setsuna intoned, protectively putting her arm around
the little girl's shoulders.

        The blonde stopped. "Why?"

        "It is improper ettiquette to murder in another's home."

        Haruka chuckled. "Yeah, leaves too much of a mess."

        The pigtailed girl blinked, then gave a sheepish grin. "I
wasn't going to..." She trailed off, looking down at her ornately
slippered feet. "Um..."

        "Haruka, please assist me," Setsuna said, releasing the
young girl and taking her father around the arms.

        Haruka nodded, then picked up Soun by the legs and, with
her older sister's help, carried him off.

        The 'rabbit-eared' girl followed them out. "Poor Tendo...
He always did take shocks rather poorly."

        In the dining room, there were was silence for a few moments.
Neither Rei nor the other girl could think if anything to say.

        Finally, Rei spoke up. "So... you're a martial artist?"

        The blonde perked up and nodded. "You bet I am."

        Rei smiled. "So am I. Do you spar?"

        The pigtailed girl laughed. "All the time!"

        "Care to have a quick match?"

        "Sure!"

        Rei nodded. "Follow me."

        Rei walked into the hall, then paused and looked back at the
girl. "You aren't going to practice in that dress, are you?" she
asked, indicating what the blonde was wearing. "It looks like it'd
be kinda... cumbersome while fighting."

        The other girl fingered her gown. "Well... I don't have
anything else with me right now."

        Rei laughed. "Come on, I'll lend you a gi."

        "Umm... One of... yours?" the blonde asked, almost nervously.

        Rei frowned and nodded slowly. "Yes... That would be the idea."

        The girl frowned, looking somewhat uneasy at this, for some
reason.

        "It's not that big of a deal," Rei said. "I mean... it's not
like I'm lending you... underwear or anything like that."

        The shorter girl laughed nervously, her arm behind her head.
"Oh yeah... Um... Yeah, I... guess it's okay, then."

^_^

        From inside the bathroom, aside from the sounds of moving
fabric, there were some muffled muttering that almost sounded like
cursing.

        "Aren't you done yet?" Rei asked impatiently, tapping her
foot against the floor.

        "Uh, just another minute!" another girl's voice called, then
continued muttering, "Stupid dress..."

        "That's what you said ten minutes ago," Rei said, rolling her
eyes. "It's a _gi_! You just sort of slip it on... It isn't supposed
to take _that_ long."

        "I'm sorry, I'm just... having some... problems here."

        Rei turned her back to the door and folded her arms, looking up
at the ceiling. "Hmm... Did you fall in or-"

        "-No!" the other girl cut in. "It's... Oh, whatever. I guess
I'll come out now. Promise you won't laugh."

        The raven-haired girl frowned. "Laugh at what?"

        The bathroom door opened, and the blonde girl tentatively
stepped out.

        As soon as Rei turned around, she coughed and let out a
disbelieving chortle. "What in the world?!"

        The 'odango'ed girl was wearing something that looked to be
somewhere between a sailor fuku and an ice-skating costume: It
included a white leotard topped with a red, sailor-style
ornamentation, blue bows on the chest and lower back, and a pleated
skirt made out of a rippling, ethereal white material.

        The girl's face fell into a pout as she noted Rei's reaction.
"I thought you wouldn't-"

        "Where did you get THAT outfit?!"

        The blonde sighed, holding her shoulders up in a long shrug.
"It's... It's a long story."

        Rei regained her composure and smiled. "I take it you're not
going to be wearing my gi after all, hmm?"

        The other girl returned half a nervous smile and looked down
at her bare feet. "I guess not..."

        "But," Rei began, examining the outfit, "I guess you could
practice in that. It doesn't exactly look... confining." She laughed.
"A little advice, though: Don't go near Haruka wearing that. You
might give her the wrong idea."

        "Who's Haruka?"

        "My older sister."

        "Oh... The one with the green hair?"

        "Blonde," Rei corrected. At the perplexed look the other girl
gave, she continued, "She walked you back in, remember?"

        The pigtailed girl blinked and frowned. "That's your... sister?
He... SHE looks kinda... Um... You know."

        "Kinda mannish?"

        "...Yeah."

        "It's just the way she likes to dress."

        "Oh..."

        Rei motioned toward the hallway. "If that's all, let's go to
the dojo, now, okay?"

        The blonde smiled, cracking her knuckles. "Now you're talking!"

---

        Now wearing a nurse cap with a red cross on it and carrying a
first aid kit, the pink-haired girl attended to her unconscious
friend, who was lying down on his bed.

        "You ever see a balloon turn into first-aid kit before?" Haruka
whispered to her sister as she watched the scenario with fascination.

        Setsuna smiled mysteriously.

        "Guess so, huh?"

        The green-haired woman's smile deepened slightly.

        The young girl rummaged through her kit, looking for something
to awaken her friend.

        She pulled out an oversized metal drill and toyed with it for a
second before tossing it over her shoulder.

        Haruka moved her foot out of the way as the drill landed. "Oh,
please... You'd need a MUCH bigger bit on that to wake up OUR dad!"
she said in jest.

        The pink-haired girl 'hmph'ed in response, and drew a large
plastic band-aid out of the kit and put it on Soun's forehead.
"There," she said sweetly, "all better."

        The man began to stir.

        Haruka winced. "That was so cute," she gagged, "I think I have
to go shoot myself now." She turned around to leave.

        "Just wait for another moment," Setsuna whispered. "We are
almost to the interesting part."

        The tall blonde had already stopped and returned to her
previous standing position. "Hold it... I wasn't _really_ going to
leave."

        Setsuna's eyes seemed to glitter. "Of course you weren't."

        Haruka chuckled softly. "I love this game."

        Soun sat up and looked at the little girl beside him...

        "AAAH! The pink-haired demon!"

        ...then fainted once more.

        The girl narrowed her eyes. "That wasn't funny, Tendo." She
paused in thought, and smiled after a moment. "Ahem... Souuun-kun,
if you don't get up right now, I'm going to... GIVE YOU A GREAT,
BIG HUG AND A KISS!!!"

        The black-haired man jumped out of his bed and cowered before
the small individual. "Y-yes, master!" he exclaimed, then paused
and blinked at the girl before him. "If... if nothing else, this
proves it... No one else would remember the master's... morning
conditioning." He shuddered, then scowled. "And thank you for
bringing up such a painful memory."

        "Going to have to remember that one," Haruka whispered to
her sister, who nodded.

        "Tendo, Tendo," the little girl said, calmly waving the man
off, "we have more important things to worry about. Our agreement?"

        Soun nodded, beginning to look out the window with a far-off
expression. "Yes... the agreement. How long ago did we think of
this?"

        "Grade school," the girl reminded. "We lived in Juuban back
then. Then your family just picked up your entire house and moved
over here." She looked around. "How'd they move this place, anyway?
It's huge!"

        Soun sighed and held his hands up in a gesture of cluelessness.
"I don't remember." He looked down at the 'rabbit-eared' girl. "What
happened to you, old friend? You-"

        The girl had jumped up on the bed and started looking around.
"How much do you think it's worth? I know entire homes the size of
this room, and they're _expensive_!"

        Soun slowly shook his head. "You haven't changed a bit." He
paused. "Back to our agreement, though. How did it go?"

        The little girl cleared her throat. "If you, Tendo Soun, had
any daughters, they'd be engaged to my-"

        "Write that down," Setsuna whispered to Haruka. "It is going
to be important later."

        Haruka pulled out a pen and a small notepad. "You got it."

        Soun nodded as the girl finished the description of the
marriage contract. "For the family honor."

        The girl jumped into a sitting position on his shoulders.
"Yes! For the family honor!"

        The man pursed his lips as his mind took up another train of
thought. "How did this happen to you? Why are you...?"

        "Hmm," the girl began, and tossed her nurse cap onto the
medkit, which vanished in a puff of smoke and was replaced by the
cat-faced balloon. She looked at Setsuna. "Quick! Boil some water!"

        Haruka threw back her head and burst into laughter.

        Setsuna looked at the young girl with an amused expression.

        "Do you get it?" Haruka asked, snickering. "The bed... he was
lying down earlier... Boil some water?" She went to her knees,
continuing to laugh at some inner joke.

        The pink-haired girl narrowed her eyes. "Alright, fine!" She
turned to Soun. "You get it, then."

^_^

        "Are you ready?" Rei asked, currently in a ready combat stance.

        The sailor-suited pigtailed blonde was standing a short
distance away with her arms behind her back and her eyes closed.

        "First one to hit the floor," Rei said with a smile, "loses!"

        The other combatant nodded.

        "Ki-yah!" the raven-haired girl shouted, diving forward,
feinting a punch, then going down for a low, sweeping kick.

        The blonde stepped out of the way, almost casually.

        Rei frowned momentarily, then brought back an open, flat hand
and thrusted it at her. Her moves were swift, but without much
force. This was only practice, and she had no particular wish to harm
her new sparring partner.

        The other girl stepped aside, lightly tapping her on the
shoulder.

        Rei attepted to salvage the move with an elbow jab that could
easily have cracked the rib of an enemy... if she was going all-out.

        Again, the pigtailed girl effortlessly avoided the attack. Her
eyes still closed, she grinned at the black-haired girl.

        As the battle wore on, Rei began to get rather annoyed. Her
opponent was obviously much more skilled than she was, which was
something of a blow to her ego. Before this fight, she had been
the most powerful and skilled martial artist she had known... with
the theoretically possible exception of her sister... that is, if
Haruka was having an _extremely_ good day.

        With each new miss, Rei grew more and more impatient with her
current foe. It wouldn't have been so bad if the other girl didn't
seem to be making every effort to rub in how superior a fighter she
was. She hadn't said anything yet, but how casually she was dodging
and the fact that she hadn't pushed her down to finish the battle
showed that she was just doing this to taunt her.

        There was a difference between being a better fighter not
taking one's sparring seriously, and being a better fighter and not
taking one's sparring _partner_ seriously.

        And Rei did not appreciate being toyed with.

        "Alright," she said, narrowing her eyes, "let's finish this!"

        Rei crouched down, then jumped directly over the blonde's head
and landed behind her, chopping downward with both hands in a final,
powerful finishing move.

        The pigtailed girl opened her eyes and lightly hopped out of
the way, making her own overly showy frontflip away to the other
side of the dojo, where she folded her arms in front of her, and
smirked. "Ha! Is that all ya got?"

        Rei simmered for a moment, her fists clenched angrily at her
sides. Finally, she smiled at the blonde, a little too pleasantly.
"No... Here's something that should impress you." AND wipe that
annoying smirk off your face, she added silently. She clasped her
hands together with her index fingers extended forward.

        The sailor-suited girl looked on with a confident expression.

        "Kaki..." Rei began, a small, swirling ball of flame appearing
mere centimeters from her fingertips.

        The blonde's eyes widened as she watched the flame become more
intense, mesmerized like a rabbit in front of a car's headlights.

        "REIKON!!!"

        "Gaaah!" the blonde exclaimed as Rei released her strike, the
now-large fireball spiraling toward her. By the time she had thought
about dodging, the flame had almost reached her.

        She quickly dove to the right, barely being missed.

        In the process, she accidentally stepped on one of her long
pigtails, painfully dragging her head down and slamming her face
directly into the floor.

        The fireball dissipated just before it could hit the wall.

        Rei took a couple of deep breaths, exhausted from the effort of
using her ki attack, and collapsed into a sitting position on the
floor. She frowned as she looked over to see the girl roll over onto
her knees, eyes closed and red-faced, attempt to contain herself,
then burst into tears.

        "Oooooooooow," she whined, trying not to, but unable to prevent
herself from doing so, "that huuurt!"

        Rei winced. "Er... Sorry, maybe I shouldn't have done that..."

        The sailor-suited girl sniffled and rubbed her eyes, not
seeming to have heard her.

        The raven-haired girl sighed, shakily standing, then walked
over to her, holding out a hand to help her up. "Look, I'm sorry
about scaring you like that... but to be honest, you deserved it."

        The blonde looked up at her, frowning, appearing as if she were
muddling something over in her mind. After a moment of this, she
sighed, shook her head, and smiled half-heartedly at Rei. "Yeah...
I guess I'm kinda... sorry about... showing off and... Well, sorry."
She paused. "How did you do that?"

        Rei smiled slightly. "It's an advanced Ki technique. I've been
studying it for a while, but I don't use it that often. It _really_
takes a lot out of me."

        The other girl frowned, finally realizing an important detail.
"Wait, I just got beaten... by a _girl_."

        Rei nodded. "You sure did!"

        "A *GIRL*..."

        Rei raised an eyebrow. "Yes... your point being?"

        "I can't get beaten by some girl!" the odangoed girl ranted,
throwing her arms into the air. "Girls are..." She broke off as her
gaze fell self-consciously back toward herself. "Er... you know what
I mean!" She looked back at Rei. "Yeah... The only reason why I
lost is because I'm a girl."

        The raven-haired girl stared at the shorter girl for a moment,
then looked up and rolled her eyes. "I don't believe this..."

        The blonde got back into a fighting stance. "So... we have to
do it over. Right NOW."

        Rei sighed. "I don't know what goes on in that mind of yours,
odango-atama-"

        The blonde glared. "Hey! _Don't_ call me that!"

        "It's what that other girl called you."

        "I _hate_ being called that, especially by that little...
SPORE!"

        "Well, I wouldn't HAVE to call you that if you told me your
name."

        The pigtailed girl blinked. "Oh yeah..." She looked into Rei's
eyes. "What's _your_ name, by the way?"

        "Tendo Rei."

        The sailor-suited blonde nodded, pushing her pigtails behind
her. "I'm Ranma. Saotome Ranma."

^_^

        "Well, I'm disturbed," Haruka whispered to Setsuna. "How about
you?"

        Setsuna didn't respond, quietly watching the conversation
taking place across the dining room table between her father and the
rather large bald man that had replaced the little, pink-haired girl
with a splash of hot water.

        Haruka smiled slightly. "Funny, you know... On the girl, that
gi looked a little loose, but didn't really look like it could expand
THAT much..."

        "Ah, Saotome! Now it all makes sense!" Soun exclaimed, slapping
a hand over the man's back. "Why didn't you tell me earlier? We could
have avoided a lot of this confusion."

        Saotome Genma shrugged, glancing at the Luna-P, which had moved
away a short distance, looking almost frightened in its movements,
trying to stay out of the man's sight. "Yes, Tendo. But, my friend,
we wouldn't have had nearly as good a chance to get over any of our
initial trepidation if the explanation of my curse happened later.
There are times that things just happen, and you have to go with
them." He returned his friend's backslap. "Now, we can continue
finalizing the details of the marriage contract!"

        Setsuna leaned in to whisper to her sister. "You often like
to wash off and spend a little time in the furo after you finish
your mechanical work. I believe that the important information
has been discussed." She indicated Genma. "And, we may have our
visitors for an extended period today. Therefore-"

        Haruka chuckled. "Alright, you made your point. I'm going, I'm
going." She walked out of the room.

        "Ah... Genma?" Soun started. "There's still one little problem.
You said that your son is also affected by a curse. He was the girl
you brought in, was he not?"

        Genma nodded. "Indeed, he was." He smiled. "But, it's not so
bad: Yes, he turns into a girl when splashed with cold water, but,
like my curse, the process is easily reversable by the application
of hot water!"

        Soun brightened. "Excellent! It really isn't anything serious,
then! My daughters' minds and wills are strong! They will not be
frightened off by something as simple as this! Engaging this boy
to them could perhaps be the best thing that could happen to them."
He turned to his daughter. "Isn't that right, Setsuna?

        The green-haired woman continued to smile. "Of course, Father.
I am certain that both Rei and Haruka will be delighted to share
their unparalleled joy with you when they hear of this."

        "So you see, Saotome," Soun continued, unable to decipher the
sarcasm hidden in his daughter's voice, "all is well!"

        In the next moment, Rei walked in. "Hello, Father. Hi, Setsuna.
Hello..." She trailed off when she took note of the large, bandanna-
wearing man. "Wait, who are _you_?"

^_^

        The black-haired boy sat hunched over in the warm furo,
muddling over his current dilemma...

        "Stupid curse... Stupid dress... Stupid hair... Made me lose
to a GIRL," he muttered in frustration. "Hmph..."

        After losing to that _girl_, Rei, he had been advised to go
and get washed up. Having been too frustrated to argue, he had
trudged off to the bathroom, ditched the sailor-suit as quickly as
he could, then omitted the traditional pre-washing bucket of cold
water and jumped right into the furo.

        The boy looked off to the side, where his clothes had been
haphazardly tossed. They consisted of a red, sleeveless, chinese-
style shirt, black pants, and a pair of sandals. The gi Rei had
lent him lay strewn near them.

        He grimaced. Since the curse, clothes had taken on an entirely
new dimension... and not one he liked.

        "I'm going back to China," he said, "and find a cure for this
curse, once and for all..." He stood up out of the water.

        At that moment, the door opened, and a tall, well-proportioned,
short-haired blonde woman strode in...

        Completely naked.

        Taking notice of the boy, she stopped abruptly, and raised
a confused eyebrow.

        The boy looked toward her, and found himself staring in wide-
eyed shock. "Oh, uhhhhhh, hi... Haruka?" he said, rather uneasily.

        Haruka narrowed her eyes, then wordlessly whirled around and
exited, slamming the door behind her.

        "Uh oh," the boy whispered quietly, "I... should probably go
and tell them about the curse."

        He stepped out of the furo, toweled off, and got dressed.

        The young man winced as he considered how literal his curse
had made that word. He sighed, taking a deep breath, straightened
his shirt, opened the door, and walked out...

        *THWACK!!* ...Promptly getting struck from behind at the base
of his skull. Without so much as a groan, he slumped to the floor.

        Haruka, now wearing a thick white bathrobe, casually twirled
her blackjack around once, then dropped it and pulled out a length
of thick, black cable...

^_^

        "Well, you see, Rei," Soun began, "this is my friend-"

        "Hey! Dad, look at what I found!" Haruka called, walking
into the dining room, carrying an unmoving young man who had his
black hair tied back into a single, short pigtail.

        The boy had been securely hogtied with a black cable and
gagged with a bandanna.

        Genma fainted.

        Soun looked at the boy, his lower lip trembling. After a
moment, he finally burst into tears. "Waaah! My daughter killed my
friend's only son!"

        "Yeah, serves 'em right," Haruka half-growled, dropping the
limp form to the floor. She paused. "Wait... Your friend's _son_?"

        Rei absorbed all this, remaining cautiously quiet.

        "He just came to fulfil an old agreement," the Tendo patriarch
continued to cry, "and you _killed_ kim... Waaaaah! My daughter's
a murderer!

        "He is not dead, Father," Setsuna noted, "only unconscious."

        Soun sniffled, his whining waterworks slowing to a halt.
"Really?"

        "Yeah," Haruka added, lightly nudging the individual on the
floor with her foot, "we don't kill 'guests' here. But, I mean, even
if he is the misbegotten _spawn_ of your 'best' friend, he's still
a peeping tom. Hmph... You should have seen the way he was staring
at me."

        The bound young man on the floor stirred. He groaned, spitting
out the gag. "You got a pretty good, loooong look at me, too."

        Haruka smirked, looking down at him. "Yeah, and I wasn't
exactly impressed, if you know what I mean."

        The boy paused for a moment, then blinked. "Hey!"

        "I've seen some _miniscule_ things in my life, kid, but _you_
take the-"

        Setsuna cleared her throat. "Haruka, I believe you have
made your point."

        "Point?!" Haruka asked incredulously. "Let me get my katana.
_Then_ you can watch me make my point."

        "Uhhh," the boy began, "I'm sorry?"

        The short-haired blonde looked down at him and nodded. "That's
a start. Now how about-"

        Setsuna prodded Genma lightly on the cheek with her finger. The
large man instantly bolted upright. "NOT THE SQUIRRELS, MASTER!!!!"
he shouted. "PLEASE NOT THE *SQUIRRELS*!!!"

        Everyone fell silent at this.

        Sounds of cars, birds, and the wind ceased.

        Rei blinked as the silence continued.

        *Chirp-chirp!* The quiet trudged on, unabated save for the
soft rubbing of crickets' legs.

        The lack of normal auditory input became unbearable.

        "That's the first time he's done that," Ranma finally admitted.

        The background noises resumed.

        "Saotome," Soun began quizzically, "what was that all about?"

        Cowering in a corner, trembling, Genma looked up at him with
feral, bloodshot eyes. "You're one of them, aren't you?!"

        Soun blinked, frowning.

        Genma returned the blink, then smiled. "Oh, sorry... I thought
you were a circus midget." He shook his head and sighed. "_Very_
dangerous men."

        "Pop," Ranma said, struggling against his restraints, "I'm
_really_ beginning to worry about you..."

        The large man glared at his son. "You mean you don't know
about the true dangers of-"

        Rei coughed in disbelief. "What is going on?!"

        Setsuna quietly sipped her tea. "You do not wish to know, Rei."

        The raven-haired girl cocked an eyebrow at her. "I think I do."

        Haruka shook her head. "Trust me on this one: You don't." She
paused. "What happened to that girl, by the way? The one in the
dress?"

        The young man on the floor began to speak, but was silenced
by Haruka stepping on his back with sufficient force to knock the
wind out of him.

        Rei frowned. "Umm... I don't know, I thought she was in the-"

        "Ah!" Genma cut in, moving forward. "Perhaps the best way to
explain would be..." He picked up his son by the black cable...

        *SPLAAAARRCKAAASH!!!!* ...and was spared the effort, being
thrown out the open window with Ranma by Haruka, into the large koi
pond outside.

        Rei frowned.

        Setsuna looked on impassively.

        Haruka stared.

        Floating facedown in the pond were a small girl with her pink
hair done into 'rabbit-ears,' and a somewhat older girl wearing a
long, white gown and her hair in two very long pigtails.

        "Oh my," Setsuna smiled, "I think you've killed them."

^_^;;;

        "Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow," the dronings went on and on in
the guest room of the Tendo household.

        In an attempt to ease the throbbing, the pink-haired girl
and the blonde held icepacks to their respective heads.

        "Spore," the blonde muttered, turning to the individual
lying next to her.

        "Odango-atama," the 'rabbit-eared' girl retorted, wincing at
the pain and glaring back at her.

        "That'll teach you to stare," Haruka said, grinning. "Just
be glad the pond isn't any shallower." Her grin became a full-blown
overconfident smile. "Though I'd say its victims were."

        "One more time," Rei said, her eyes narrowed in skepticism.
"Ranma is really a boy?"

        "Yup," Ranma replied with a groan.

        "And... my father's old friend is really a fat, bald old man
named Genma?"

        "He is indeed," Soun said proudly.

        "Hey, have some respe-" Genma began weakly, then stopped as the
pressure from the attempted outburst reached her head. She closed her
eyes tightly, the hint of tears forming. "Ow...ie..."

        The Luna-P floated nearby, no longer moving in a frightened
manner. It almost seemed to smile as it hovered in front of the
girl's face.

        Rei sighed. "This is _really_ bizarre... How did it happen?"

        "Well," the cute little girl began, "it happened like this..."

..

        It was a bright, sunny day, and the little puddles of water
glowed in the morning light.

        An overconfident pigtailed boy smirked at his father. "Heh
heh heh. So you want to fight in this stupid place, huh?"

        Genma adjusted his glasses. "Yes, son. I believe that your
skills will be greatly improved by this training ground." He looked
around. "This may be your most difficult excercise yet. Be careful,
though. I understand that these pools may be cursed. It would be wise
to-"

        "Cursed?" Ranma chuckled, idly toying with his pigtail. "Let's
check that out, okay, Oyaji?"

        *Thwack!* In a single move, Ranma kicked his dear, innocent
father away into one of the large ponds.

        With a splash, a small, pink-haired girl began her struggle
out of the pond, her poorly-fitting clothes hindering her every move.
"Son," she squeaked in fear, obviously losing her already tenacious
handhold, "please help me!"

        "G'hyuk," Ranma laughed at his 'father.' "Like I'd ever
do thaaaaa-"

        *Splash* Because of his clumsiness and lack of caution, the
undisciplined young man fell backward into another pool, his hair
growing long and turning blonde, becoming a rather stunning girl
in a white gown.

        Ranma climbed out of the pool, stopped, then looked down
at the new additions and subtractions. "AAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!"

..

        "And then," the little girl sniffed sadly, turning on her
side in one of the guest beds, "he chased me around, blaming me for
it."

        "That's so sad," Rei said, replacing the old icepack on Genma's
head with a new one.

        "That ain't how it happened, Pop, and you know it!" Ranma
snapped, flipping her pigtails out of the way as she sat up.

        Genma sat up quickly and glared at her son. "Oh yeah?!"

        "Yeah!"

        "What _did_ happen, then?" Soun asked.

        Ranma continued giving her 'father' a rather evil stare.
"Well, first of all, the _SPORE_ here drags me off to this one
training ground, only he doesn't know it's cursed. So we get
ready to fight, warm up for a bit, and before we could even
get started, he fell right into-"

        "No I didn't! You knocked me in!" Genma cut in, slapping her
small hand forcefully down to the bedding.

        There was a pause.

        Then an argument.

        "No I didn't!"

        "Yes you did!"

        "No. I. Didn't!"

        Then a brawl.

        *WHAM!* "Oh, yes you did!"

        *BAM!* "Did not!"

        *SLAM!* "Did too, Odango-atama!"

        *POW!* "Did not, you _spore_!"

        Setsuna cleared her throat, at which the fighting ceased...

        Midair.

        "If you cannot agree on what truly happened," the green-haired
woman said, "we will have to seek other resources to determine the
level of authenticity of either story."

        Ranma and Genma blinked as they looked at her. "Like what?"
they asked in unison.

        Setsuna held up a thin magazine; a copy of Very Tragic Story:
Jusenkyo Guide Monthly. On the cover was the picture of a drenched
blonde girl in a dress glaring at an equally wet, and all-too-
familiar pink-haired girl.

        "Oookay," Ranma said. "What does it say happened?"

..

        The ancient, cursed martial arts training ground, Jusenkyo,
glistened in the morning light as the sun crept over the high,
Chinese mountains surrounding this land. Thousands of small pools
with bamboo poles protruding from them dotted the landscape.

        The Jusenkyo tour guide, whom we shall call José, was a
middle-aged man with features that highlighted his Chinese and
northern Siberian heritage. He looked across the valley, took a deep
breath of fresh, cool air, and began his journey from his small
home toward the entrance of the grounds. There were undoubtedly
overzealous tourists waiting to get in...

        Surely enough, there they were: two of them, having for some
reason simply ignored the large, multilingual warning signs that
adorned the entrance. Obviously unaware of the danger that surrounded
them, they casually walked amidst the springs, coming frighteningly
closer to falling in with each passing step.

        José cleared his throat and called to his new customers in
hopes that they would heed a verbal warning, "Ah, greetings, sirs!
It would be a good idea to avoid the springs. They are _far_ more
dangerous than they would first appear."

        The larger of the two, a bald man in a white gi with a
bandanna over his forehead, turned toward him and waved him off.
"Bang bang. Cooka Cola. Cheese and fish with rice!"

        The other visitor, a black-haired boy in a similar gi with his
hair in a short ponytail also turned toward José and waved. "Tuna
noodle goulash!"

        "I... see," José said, frowning. He recognized their Japanese
accents, and knew from their stunning lack of linguistic skill in the
local form of communication, they were going to be trouble. He
continued speaking, this time in Japanese. "Here, sirs, we have the
cursed training ground of Jusenkyo."

        "Ya ready, Pop?" the boy asked the large, bald man, getting
into a ready combat stance.

        The man nodded, moving into position in front of him.

        *Bambambam*Thwack!*Whooshwhoosh* The two spontaneously leapt
into the air, each a flurry of punches and kicks as they fought,
using the bamboo poles sticking out of the pools for the occasional
need to land and maintain balance.

        José watched in fascination, but not particularly impressed,
considering that he had seen some of the Amazons from a nearby tribe
fight, and then there were the Musk-

        *Splash!* That thought was cut off, however, as the smaller of
the two combatants dodged a midair kick and made a double-fisted
blow to the other's back, knocking him into one of the springs. The
boy landed on one of the other poles, maintaining a ready position
in preparation for the next counterattack.

        *WHARSH!* Out of the pool that the man had fallen into leapt
a giant black and white panda.

        "Gaaah!" the boy shouted in shock as the animal bounded toward
him.

        José shook his head. "Oh, very bad... He fall into Spring of
Drowned Panda. Very tragic story of panda who drown here five
hundred years ago. Now whoever fall into spring take body of giant
panda."

        The black-haired young man glanced wide-eyed at the guide,
leaving himself wide open for the panda's attack...

        *Wham!*SPLASH!*

        José sighed. "Oh, you fall into Spring of Drowned Girl...
Very tragic story of young girl who fall into spring fifteen hundred
years ago. Now whoever fall into spring..."

        The newest member of the drenched club paused, frowned, looked
down at herself, took a look down her gi, and quickly looked away,
quickly becoming pale with shock and confusion.

        "...take body of young girl," the guide finished.

        The panda took a moment to look down at itself, then looked
at José. "...Growlf?" it asked bemusedly.

        The redheaded girl scrambled out of the spring and rushed
toward the guide. "WHATTHEHOWDIDCANYOU...AAAAAAH!!!" She ran around
in a circle, pulling at her hair, screaming.

        José produced a kettle of hot water he always carried around
for such emergencies. "Now," he began, "hot water will-"

        The girl, still in a deep state of trauma, looked toward the
guide and pointed at the panda. "So... Is that... _thing_ my pop!?"

        José nodded, preparing to explain how the curse could be
reversed.

        *SHING!!!* "DIE!!!!" the girl screamed, pulling out a large
meat cleaver and beginning to chase the panda, who wisely decided
that running would be the best thing to do at this point. "BRING
ME TO A *CURSED* TRAINING GROUND WILL YOU?! THIS IS THE LAST
STRAW, AND I MEAN IT!!! GRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!!!!!!"

        "Grolf?" the panda asked weakly as it ducked under a slash.

        "'SNOT GONNA WORK THIS TIME!!!"

        "Mister... Miss... whatever, sirs... You will just make things
worse," the guide said with a sigh, looking down at the ground and
shrugging in a gesture of surrender. He paused, noticing a faded
character on the sign posted near the Spring of Drowned Girl. "Oh,
very sorry, sirs!" he called to them. "That was Spring of Drowned
Psychotic Murderer Young Lady With A Bad Temper And An Evil Gleam In
Her Eye Who Hates Pandas And Their Fathers Who Turn Into Them. Very
tragic story about talk show host who-"

        *SPLASH!* The redheaded girl finally chased her prey into
another spring. She stopped at the edge of the pool, her eyes burning
with anger and malice.

        "Waaaaah!" a little, pink-haired girl with her hair in 'rabbit-
ears' cried, desperately splashing around in the pool as she
attempted to stay above water.

        "ThAt'S NoT gOIng TO SaVE yOU," the redhead twitched, her voice
taking on an extra vibrato as she spoke. She raised her meat cleaver
in preparation to throw it.

        "WAAAAH!!!" the little girl cried, tears starting to pour from
her eyes. The hint of a golden crescent moon flickered on her
forehead before vanishing.

        *BOOM*CRASH*WHAM!!!*SPLASH!* There was a quick flash of
lightning and a purplish-black cat-faced balloon appeared, slamming
itself into the older girl's stomach with enough force to send her
flying several meters away into another spring.

        The balloon hovered near the struggling pink-haired girl,
and, with a puff of smoke, turned into an obnoxiously cute blow-up
rabbit life-preserver, which quietly slipped around the girl. With
its assistance, she swam to shore, pulling herself onto dry ground.
She took a moment to catch her breath and look to where the other
girl had gone.

        "What's going on?" a blonde with two long pigtails asked,
dazedly, climbing out of the spring, dripping water. She pulled back
and smoothed down the wet material of the short white skirt of her
leotard-like sailor fuku and- "Wait, what am I wearing...? AAAAAH!!
I'M A GIRL!!!"

        José sighed sadly. THIS was going to take a bit of effort to
work out... "Sirs? Madams? Whatever you like be called, I could
explain this if you just come over here!"

        The pink-haired girl slipped off the life preserver, took
several deep breaths, and glared at the blonde. "This is all your
fault, 'Son.' If you hadn't gone-"

        The blonde looked over to the other girl. "Son? Wait... Pop?"

        The little girl nodded.

        The blonde narrowed her eyes. "_MY_ fault?!"

        The pink-haired girl inched closer. "Yeah," she said, looking
over the other's appearance, "odango-atama."

        The older-looking girl frowned, idly reaching back and pulling
forward one of her pigtails. She felt back far enough to notice one
of the buns on the side of her head. "Hey!"

        The situation rapidly decayed from there... and the following
battle lasted for hours, ranged all over, destroyed a dozen unwashed
shirts, and knocked a poor, unsuspecting soul off a cliff...

        Eventually, though, they got tired, and made their way over to
José's run-down duplex house.
 

        It was sunset by the time the two made it to the door,
red-faced and exhausted from the long, hard conflict.

        "Spore," the blonde muttered with heavy distain, barely
tolerating the presence of the smaller girl behind her.

        "Hmph," the girl replied, her arms folded. The cat-faced
ball hovered just behind her. She turned toward it. "What are you
looking at?" she snapped. The balloon backed off slightly, making
confused twittering noises as it did.

        The blonde moved to knock on the door, but it opened before
she could.

        "Ah, sirs!" José greeted jovially, taking the girl in the
sailor suit by the hand. "I am glad to see you! Come in and I will
explain this to you." He clapped his hands together around the
girl's hand and looked into her eyes. "We shall discuss it over tea!
We seldom get-"

        *Bonk!* The levitating ball lightly slammed into the guide's
forehead, then spun around and returned to its position near the
pink-haired girl.

        "Ah, right!" José said, rubbing his forehead and smiling,
looking almost embarrassed. He quickly ushered them in, seating them
in a pair of ornate, highly polished dark wooden chairs. "Now wait
here while I get the hot water!"

        "Whoa," the blonde noted, stunned at how quickly they had been
taken inside, "he sure seems enthusiastic..."

        "Which is more than could be said about _you_," the pink-haired
girl added.

        The sailor-suited girl looked at her, raising a tired eyebrow.
"And... just what's that supposed to mean?"

        "I don't know," the little girl groaned, resting her head
against the back of the chair. "What were we arguing about again...?"

        "I forgot," the blonde young woman replied... then caught her
reflection in a mirror on the wall. "GAAH!"

        *SPLASH!* She stood, bumping into the hot water kettle that
the guide had poised over her head.

        "AAAH! THAT'S HOT," the black-haired boy shouted, knocking
away the white-hot tea kettle.

        "Oh, very sorry sir!" José gasped. "We just install new hot
water main last week. All bugs not quite worked out. It get really
hot. I have to carry with cloth anyway, so..." The guide trailed off
as the section of rug the kettle landed on started to sizzle. "Oh
no!"

        While José dealt with that little problem, the pigtailed boy
calmed down, seeing that he was in no danger of being a girl or
wearing a woman's figure-skating costume at the moment.

        "That's a relief," the boy sighed, sitting down.

        The 'rabbit-ear'ed girl looked at the guide. "Uh, hey,
can I get some of that...?"

        "Please just a moment," José replied, patting out the flames
that threatened to form. "AAH! No, not the eight-tracks!"

        The pigtailed boy looked at his 'father' and smirked. "You
know, 'pop...' You look REALLY cute like that... Maybe you should
_stay_ that way and-"

        *WHAM!* The cat-faced sphere quickly took action to eliminate
the forthcoming insult, making a decisive blow to the side of the
boy's head, knocking him out of his seat.

        "Oooh," the pink-haired girl said, wide-eyed, visibly impressed
by the object's prompt action. The ball hovered within her reach.
She took it in both hands, examining it closely.

        "Unnh," the black-haired boy groaned, using the chair as a
support as he made his way back up.

        "Ah," José said, tossing aside a wool blanket he had been using
to smother the fire, "I am done, I will get more-"

        The pink-haired girl looked up at him. "Could you tell us
about the curses first?"

        The guide blinked. "Well, yes..." He smiled. "Let us begin,
then. What would you like to know?"

        The boy gave an EVIL glare at the catlike sphere... which
somehow returned the glare, forcing him to back down.

        "Tell me about his curse," the girl said, pointing at the
young man.

        José nodded gravely. "Oh, yes... Spring of Drowned Moon
Princess." He shook his head and sighed. "That is a very tragic
story..."

..

        The couple walked amongst the shining, pristine pools of
the valley. One, a tall black-haired man wearing a set of black armor
and a cape held the hand of the other, a lovely young woman in a
flowing white gown with blonde hair done in two very long pigtails.
A golden mark resembling a crescent moon adorned her forehead.

        "Oh, Endymion," the woman said, leaning closer to her love,
"this is so beautiful... Thank you for bringing me here to see it."

        The man smiled secretively. "Good... Because it is the last
thing you will _ever_ see."

        The young woman frowned, stopping and letting go of him. "What
do you mean by that?"

        Prince Endymion continued walking, then halted and whirled
to face her. "It means..."

        Beside him, cherry blossoms swirled in the air, coalescing
into a very effeminate blonde man in a grey uniform. He levitated
a few feet off the ground and looked at the girl, an amused
expression on his face as he put a hand to his mouth and laughed
softly. "...your destruction, Princess Serenity."

        Serenity's eyes widened. She started taking steps backward,
away from the two men. "Endymion... What is Zoicite doing here?
What is he talking about?"

        The prince's expression twisted into a mask of evil, his eyes
bulging and his mouth foaming. He tossed his head back and let off
a peel of loud, roaring insane laughter.

        "The prince," Zoicite said, smiling knowingly, "is no longer
with us..."

        "That's right," a small black cat with a crescent moon on its
forehead said as it faded into view, "he's under Our control... and
there's nothing you can do to break it."

        Endymion took a step forward and cackled, unsheathing his
sword and leveling it at the Princess.

        Serenity looked on, agape. "You too, Luna?" She looked at
Zoicite and narrowed her eyes. "What have you done to Endymion?!"

        "Why," the effeminate man replied, "I've relieved him of
his sanity, and given him a taste of what true Dark Energy can
do! He didn't stand a chance..."

        The man in black armor lunged forward, thick films of white
fluid trailing down his cheeks. He landed in front of the Princess,
snarling and waving his sword like a maniac. "RAAARRGHHH!!!"

        Zoicite laughed and shook his head. He pointed an open hand
at the Princess. "Zoi!" A swirl of cherry blossoms flew toward
the young woman in a sudden, intense gust of wind.

        "No..." Serenity whispered in despair, her eyes tightly closed
and tears beginning to form as she attempted in vain to resist the
force of the attack. "Ahhh!!"

        *SPLASH!* The pigtailed princess was flung backward into one
of the smaller pools. She coughed, struggling to keep her head above
water. Soon, though, she found that the pool was shallow enough for
her to stand. She did so... only to see the possessed prince and
corrupted guardian and advisor advancing upon her.

        For a moment, the Prince's gaze became intelligent... and he
reached behind his cape, pulling something indiscernable out.

        The blonde girl kept her eyes closed for several seconds,
awaiting the inevitable doom to overtake her...

        *Splash!* The sudden cascade of very cold water shocked her
into opening her eyes and taking a deep, surprised gasp. Serenity
suddenly shut her eyes again in pain as her lungs burned for air...

        Then, nothing...

        Yes, nothing happened for the next few seconds as the
Princess coughed out the water and looked up toward the apparent
assassins.

        Prince Endymion had a hankerchief out, wiping the foamy
substance off of his face. He smirked and pointed at her. "Heh...
Gotcha!"

        The blonde princess raised an eyebrow, noting that both
Luna and Zoicite were rolling on the ground, laughing hysterically.
Endymion soon joined in.

        Serenity stood, soaked from the water and shocked at what had
just happened.

        "Happy Venusian Idiot's Day!" Endymion chuckled loudly.

        The young woman narrowed her eyes, her expression quickly
going from shock to anger. "So you think that's funny, huh!?" she
shouted, her voice cracking slightly.

        Zoicite sat up and looked at Endymion. "Uh oh," he said,
grinning, "it looks like your fiancee's mad..."

        Luna was still rolling on the ground, giggling away.

        The crescent moon on the Princess's forehead glowed, and
a powerful golden aura sprang up around her. "Tsuki ni kawatté,"
she began through gritted teeth.

        Endymion quickly stood and looked at his friend. He chuckled.
"On the count of three..."

        The Princess rose out of the spring, her two long pigtails
whipping wildly behind her. "OSHOKYO!!!"

        "RUN!" the Prince finished, taking off at a phenominal rate.

        The black cat stopped laughing as she noticed the current
condition of the Princess. "Oh dear..."

..

        The Jusenkyo Guide frowned at the looks the boy and the pink-
haired girl were giving him. "Alright," he admitted, "so story not
so tragic!"

        "Ooookay," the black-haired young man said, "whatever... So,
the one I got was, like, Spring of NOT Drowned Moon Princess...?"

        José shook his head. "No. That not how it work."

        The boy shrugged. "Alright."

        The little girl looked up, almost bright-eyed. "What happened
then?

        The guide looked at her. "What?"

        "What happened to the prince and the princess?"

        "Oh," José said, nodding, "the Princess was angry, so she
went after them, and the magical battle of the year started. In
a few minutes, Spring of Drowned-"

        "Ooooooh," the girl said, visibly awed by the story.

        "Heh," the young man muttered, "I hope she punched that
guy's ticket REAL good..."

        "If you let me continue," José added, "I could tell you about-"

        "Riiight, right," the boy cut in. "But first..." He grinned
and pointed at the 'rabbit-ear'ed girl. "Tell me about _his_ curse."

        The guide paused, frowned, shrugged, then smiled. "Ah, he
fall into Spring of Almost Drowned Annoyingly Cute, Time Traveling
Princess From the Future." He looked sadly at the girl. "Very tragic
story..."

..

        It was an overcast autumn midday when a swirling purple vortex
opened above Jusenkyo valley...

        "Yaaaaaaaah!" a very young, pink-haired girl in a white and
blue sailor fuku yelled as she fell from the vortex... directly
onto the Jusenkyo Guide's head, the sudden impact pusing him to
the ground. "Hiya hiya, Myster Myan!" she bubbled cutely.

        The Guide was slow in his recovery from the sudden assault.
"Ahh... ow..." He held his head and attempted to stand, but
slumped onto his back from the weight of the girl.

        The girl hopped off of him and started wandering around.
"Gee," she said, "this doesn't look like Juuban..."

        The Guide sat up and gave a pained look at her. "Welcome,"
he said in Japanese, "to cursed training ground of Jusenkyo."

        "Jusinko?" the girl giggled. "I've never heard of that
place... Why's it cursed?"

        The Guide took a deep breath and stood, preparing to give
his standard tour description. "There are a thousand springs in
Jusenkyo, and each have its own tragic story-"

        "Tragic story?" the little girl asked, pouting. "That doesn't
sound very good..." She smiled. "I like stories about horsies and
butterflies and..." She stopped as she looked at her reflection in
one of the springs. "Tee-hee! I look funny!"

        The Jusenkyo Guide frowned. "Ah, yes, well, do not get too
close, young lady. If you fall in, you get cursed."

        "Call me Small Lady," the girl said, "not young lady."

        "Well... Small Lady, if you will..." the guide trailed off
as the girl jumped onto his back.

        "I wanna horsie ride!" she exclaimed, tugging at the man's
shirt. "C'mon!"

        The Guide raised an eyebrow. "Ah... Small... whoever you are,
I do not have the time to-"

        "Pleeeeeeeeeease?" the girl whined.

        The man winced. "Well, perhaps, if-"

        The girl hopped off him in a huff. "Fine. If you aren't
gonna do it, I don't wanna talk to you." She folded her arms,
closed her eyes, and started walking away. "Hmph!"

        The guide frowned for a moment, then held out a hand toward
her. "Please wait."

        The girl turned around, still pouting. "I'm not gonna talk to
you, you mean old man..."

        The Jusenkyo Guide sighed. "I could give you a tour..."

        The 'rabbit-eared' child instantly brightened. "A tour for
me? Waaaaai!" She ran up and jumped onto the guide's back. "Let's
gooo!"

        Deciding to take it all in stride, the man bore the girl to
one of the more scenic areas of the Cursed Training Ground.

        Not without inconvenience, however...

        "What's that one?" the girl asked, pointing to one of the
pools.

        "That," the guide replied sagely, "is Spring of Drowned
Panda. Very tragic story of-"

        "Oooh, what's THAT one?!" the girl bubbled, pointing at
another spring.

        "That is Spring of Drowned Girl-"

        "And that one?"

        "Spring of Drowned Yeti Riding Bull Carrying Crane and Eating
Eel. Very tragic-"

        "And that one?!"

        "Spring of Drowned Second Cousin. Very-"

        "Oh, cool! What's that one?!"

        "Spring of Drowned Battlefortress Pop Singer-"

        "And that one?"

        "Spring of Drowned H-Bomb. Very tragic story of nuclear
physicist who-"

        "How 'bout that one?"

        "Spring of Drowned Robotic Demon God-"

        "And that one over there?"

        "Spring of Drowned... Duck."

        "Noooo, that one way over there!"

        "Spring of Drowned Magical Pegasus. Very tragic story of-"

        The girl's eyes widened. "Magical Pegasus?" She giggled.
"And what happens if someone falls in?"

        "They become cursed to turn into whatever drowned-"

        The pink-haired girl leaned over the top of the guide's
head to look into his eyes. "I wanna see the ponies!"

        The man blinked. "Ponies...? This is a-"

        "I _wanna_ see the ponies!"

        "Ah, little girl, there are no ponies-"

        "You could jump into the Magical Pegasus thingy and turn
into one and we could fly off and-"

        The guide's shoulders slumped as he tilted his head back,
rolled his eyes, and groaned. "No... I do not think so."

        "Pleeeease?" the girl asked. "I'd like to see a magical
pegasus..."

        "No."

        "PRETTY please???"

        The guide sighed and looked back at her. "Would you...
maybe... rather see the rest of Jusenkyo?"

        The girl frowned. "I'd rather have a pegasus, but..." She
smiled. "Okay!" She looked around, then gasped and pointed to
another of the springs. "What's that one!?!?"
 

        For the next five hours, the guide patiently endured the girl's
endless, tireless, interrupting and overlapping questions about the
names of the springs, not letting him get much of a word in edgewise.

        She had resisted three forced removal attempts, always
managing to cling to the guide in one fashion or another, and
he couldn't bring himself to try to knock her off, no matter how
troublesome she got.

        Sooner or later, though, the subject returned to a certain
spring...

        "So when you gonna turn into a pegasus for me?" the
'rabbit-eared' girl pressed. "I wanna see a magical pegasus!!!"

        The guide shook his head. "I told you: No."

        "But I wanna see it! I wannawannawannawannawanna..." The
pink-haired child paused. "Hey, how did these things get cursed?"

        The man gritted his teeth, preparing to explain the tale
behind the springs... one more time. "For thousands of years,
creatures have drowned in-"

        "How'd they do that?"

        "They do it by... well, falling in and-"

        "How?"

        "Sometimes, they slip-"

        "How?" the girl giggled infuriatingly.

        The guide stopped and let his arms drop. He looked back at
the girl and smiled, a little too pleasantly. "Here, let me show
you..."

~Two seconds later...~

        The little girl coughed and struggled in vain to escape
her watery prison. The spring was too deep for her to swim in,
and she couldn't reach the edge from her position.

        She was unable to call for help as she consistantly failed
to bring her head above the eerily silent water. Again and again she
splashed wildly, almost, but not quite managing to reach the edge of
the spring.

        Finally, she went down for the last time...

        ...and was pulled out on the end of a silver, almost key-shaped
staff by a tall, green-haired woman in a white and black-highlighted
abbreviated sailor suit.

        The girl coughed out the water as she was set back onto the
ground. She looked up at the woman. "Thank you, Puu..."

        The woman shook her head. "Small Lady, how many times have I
told you that the time key is not a toy?"

        The pink-haired girl looked up at her and smiled weakly.
"Um... I'm sorry."

        "That's a start," the green-haired woman said, "but it's time
to go home now."

        The girl nodded. "I'm sorry," she said meekly. "I just... I
only wanted to..." She sighed and shook her head. "I don't know..."

        The woman picked her up into her arms, resting the child's
head on her shoulder. "I understand, Small Lady... I understand."

        They both vanished quetly.

..

        José shook his head. "Very tragic story..."

        The boy raised an eyebrow. "That was about as tragic as the
last one!"

        The guide shook his head. "No, this _very_ tragic story..." He
sniffed sadly, dabbing a tear from his eye as he looked at the boy's
transformed father. "She not drown in spring!"

        The young man blinked, glanced at the girl next to him, then
broke out laughing.

        The little girl frowned for a moment, then glared at them.
"Hey!"

^_^

        Haruka grinned at Genma. "Whoa, that's harsh..."

        "And," Setsuna continued, motioning her sister for silence,
"he explained your curse's qualities to you." She looked at Ranma.
"You did not take well the fact that the change would return with
cold water."

        Rei looked rather perplexed, still hung up on one particular
concept. "The guide's name... was José?" She raised a bemused
eyebrow. "The Chinese sure have strange names..."

        "You're telling _me_," Ranma said. "And that's before we got
to this... weird Amazon village where everyone's name was like-"

        Haruka looked interested. "Amazon village, huh? Going to
tell us about _that_ one?"

        The pigtailed blonde sighed. "Alright, after we got everything
straightened out at Jusenkyo, on the way back to Japan, we visited
this place... They called it... Joketsuzuki... or something like
that. So anyway, we walk in, and I start watching some of the
Amazons fight, to see if I can master any of their techniques..."
She looked at Genma. "So then the _SPORE_ here sits down and eats
the prize for the tournament they were having!"

        "The sign read 'Free Food!'" the little pink-haired girl
snapped.

        "Oh, really?! I could've sworn the sign read 'Don't eat,
or else!' Gimme a break! And if it weren't for your terminal
stupidity, neither of us would've gone to that training ground
and got cursed, so then you've been there to get _your_ tail
kicked by that Amazon, instead of playing stupid and making
_me_ fight her off-"

        "Oh, she enjoyed the fight!" Genma retorted. "Why else would
she kiss you like that?!"

        "Huh. And it just _had_ to be after a rainstorm." Ranma
sighed. "I mean, why would an Amazon kiss another _girl_?!"

        "I can think of a reason," Haruka noted with a grin.

        "We know what _you_ think, Haruka," Rei said, rolling her
eyes as she turned toward Ranma. "So... How long ago did you
get cursed?"

        "Uh... A couple months ago," Ranma replied.

        Rei shook her head, deep in thought. "I know of some _strange_
curses, but _this_ has to be the worst."

        The girl in the flowing gown nodded. "Yeah... It doesn't
just turn me into a _girl_, it puts me in a *DRESS*." She rubbed
the gold crescent moon mark on her forehead. "Stupid magic..."

        Rei looked at her. "What's so bad about being in a dress
when you're a girl?" She gave a bemused, weirded-out half-smile.
"Look at it this way: You'll never have to worry about being
called a tomboy wearing that."

        Haruka nodded emphatically. "And it looks _terrific_ on you."

        Ranma cringed visibly. She turned to glare at the pink-haired
girl. "This is all your fault, Pop. If you hadn't been so stupid,
we wouldn't have gone to Jusenkyo and-"

        Setsuna held up a hand. "Actually," she began.

        Ranma looked at her. "What?"

        "If your father had not taken you there," the green-haired
woman continued, "and if you discovered its existence, as a
legendary training ground, before leaving China, you would have
_demanded_ to go."

        The pigtailed blonde blinked. "No, I wouldn't! I'm not _that_-"

        Genma blew a long rasberry at her. "Biiii!"

        Ranma gritted her teeth. "Oh, now you're gonna get it, you
little fungus!" She dove at the little girl, a mini-brawl ensuing.

        *BAM!*SMASH*SLAM!*

        "STOP IT, YOU TWO!" Rei yelled at the duo of princesses,
shoving them apart. "You're acting like a bunch of squabbling brats!"

        Ranma and Genma turned their backs to eachother, their arms
folded. "We are not!" they shouted in unison, then glared back at one
another, sparks forming between them. Suddenly, they faced eachother
fully.

        "I think it's 'bout time the brat here got _disciplined_!"
Ranma said through gritted teeth.

        "I'm gonna teach you some respect, PRINCESS!" Genma replied.

        "Haruka," Setsuna whispered to her sister, "please meow in
Ranma's ear."

        The tall blonde blinked. "Uh, why?"

        "Humor me."

        "You got it," Haruka said, then skulked in close to Ranma,
and whispered softly to her, "Meow."

        "AAAH!" Ranma screamed, jumping up and clinging to the top of
the doorframe. She looked around frantically, hyperventalating. After
a moment, she calmed down and glared at Haruka. "DON'T do that!"

        Rei looked at Haruka with a raised eyebrow. "What...?"

        Setsuna spoke up. "It is the result of another technique Genma
has trained his son in: One which he would never admit willingness to
train in if he were asked now." She shook her head. "Unfortunately,
he is, in many ways, just as focused as his father when it comes to
mastery of the Art."

        "Uhh," Ranma began, "I'm not... quite sure how to take that."

        "A compliment if looked at one way," Setsuna replied, "but
a cruel insult if looked at in another. It truly depends on whether
you wish a critique of your intelligence or of your determination."

        Ranma blinked, not getting a word of the response. "Ummmm..."

        "She says you're both stubborn idiots," Haruka translated
without inflection.

        The pink-haired girl's 'rabbit-ears' pricked up slightly at
that. She and the pigtailed blonde glared at Haruka.

        "Don't look at _me_," Haruka chuckled. She turned to her older
sister. "And you guessed _all_ that from just this conversation?"

        Setsuna smiled, her head moving slightly so as to just barely
hint at shaking it. "Believe what you must..."

        The short-haired blonde didn't buy it. "Riiight."

        Soun, who had passed out somewhere in the middle of the
retelling of the very tragic story of the Spring of Drowned Moon
Princess, now awoke and sat up. "Ah, everyone is here," he said
quietly as he took a quick glance around.

        Setsuna took a seat on the guest bed near him. "We are
glad that you are again awake, Father," she half-whispered to him.

        The black-haired man nodded as everyone present turned to
look at him. "Yes! We must finalize the details of the engagement!"

        "To business, then!" Genma exclaimed, hopping into a seated
position on his shoulders.

        Ranma paled in remembrance. "...You aren't actually going to
go through with that, are you?!"

        Soun and Genma nodded at him in unison.

        Haruka held up a hand. "Nononononono... I don't think so."

        "They, apparently, 'think so,'" Setsuna noted, taking a quick
sip from a recently prepared cup of tea.

        Rei looked at her father. "You... want to marry us off to...
a boy that turns into a girl?" She glanced at Ranma. "That's kinda
creepy, you know..."

        "You get used to it," Genma said.

        "Only 'cause you're too lazy to change back most of the time,
you little _spore_," Ranma added.

        "Nonsense!" the pink-haired girl snapped. "You should be
prepared to give up _anything_ for the Art!" She sat up proudly.
"To advance my training, I have given up-"

        "Your dignity, your manhood, your adulthood," Setsuna said,
"and your sanity, on occasion."

        Genma blinked. "Uh, right, but..."

        Ranma smirked.

        Soun smiled, keeping balance with the added weight of the girl
on his shoulders. "Ranma, stop arguing with your spore... er, father.
This is more important than that. For you, the time has come..." He
held an open arm out toward the only "real" girls in the room. "These
are my daughters: Setsuna, nineteen. Haruka, eighteen. And Rei,
sixteen."

        There was a long, deep silence as what was just said caught up
with the blonde princess.

        "Oh, I believe he truly wants Haruka," Setsuna noted, smiling
as she once more took her teacup off its conveniently-placed saucer.

        Rei frowned momentarily, then grinned. "Hey, yeah..."

        Haruka's eyes widened. She held her hands up and backed off.
"Ooooh no you don't."

        Rei looked up at her. "You don't like... Well, you know...
boys. You're perfect for eachother. He's a girl!"

        Ranma looked incredulously between her transformed father and
the Tendo patriarch, pausing only to cringe at the conversation going
on with the other two girls. "I'm NOT going to go and pick someone
that I don't even know to get married!"

        Haruka glanced at him. "You got THAT right!"

        Soun sat up proudly. "You misunderstand. The agreement is very
specific on this."

        Setsuna watched with trepidation.

        Haruka relaxed.

        Rei tensed. "Er... Who was supposed to be getting engaged,
then?"

        Genma jumped up on the bed, her pink 'rabbit-ears' bouncing
up and down cutely. "ALL of you!" she exclaimed with joy.

        The room grew silent, save for the stifled, yet agonized sounds
of Setsuna choking on her tea.

        "ALL OF US!?!??!?!?!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?"
Soun's three daughters shouted at once.

        Soun nodded.

        "ALL OF THEM!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!?!?!?!?!?!" Ranma asked in shock.

        Soun nodded again.

        The blonde girl fainted.

..

        Somewhere, a black-haired young man looked around, agitated.

        "I hate that feeling..." he muttered. "It's like... like...
someone just got MY harem..."

        The voluptuous, scantily clad oni lying next to him smiled.
"You and that dream of yours again, darling?"

..

        Setsuna was the first one to recover. "Ah," she coughed, "em,
very interesting, Father." Her left eye twitched slightly, but the
rest of her expression remained firmly in control. "I will retrieve
the documentation." She stood and walked out of the guest room, her
feet making a slightly louder noise against the floor than they
normally would.

        Haruka stared agape at her father and Genma. "W...wha...?"
She straightened. "What have you been smoking, and WHERE can I get
some?!"

        Rei just sat there, looking at Soun. She tilted her head
toward Haruka. "Think he's serious?"

        Haruka nodded. "Look at them... They've got that... gleam
in their eye."

        "_That_ gleam?" Rei asked.

        "_That_ gleam," Haruka confirmed.

        The raven-haired girl grimaced. "Terrific..."

        Setsuna walked in, carrying an ancient, yet preserved scroll.
"I have the marriage contract, Father. This must be sorted out
before any arrangement is to be announced." She took a seat next
to Soun and unfurled the scroll. "You see, the penmanship is poor,
but the words can easily be made out."

        Soun nodded, taking the paper in his hands. "Ah, yes... If
I, Tendo Soun, had any daughters," he read, "they'd be engaged to
Saotome Genma's son."

        "That is an error," Setsuna noted. "It was obviously intended
to read 'Saotome Genma's sons.' This implies the fact that if Genma
had two sons, they would each be engaged to different daughters. As
it stands, he has only one son, so it should be to only one Tendo
daughter."

        "That's not what it says, though," Genma noted.

        "But the intention-" Setsuna began before being cut off.

        "My friend is right," Soun said, "It _clearly_ states for
all of my daughters to be engaged to his son."

        "Isn't that kind of... illegal?" Rei asked.

        Both Genma and Soun began to grin very broadly. "Nope," the
little girl said, "we're all moving to Brunei!"

        "It's perfectly legal there," Soun added.

        "We are not moving," Setsuna said firmly, her eyes narrowed
at him.

        "But we have to to get you three married, Setsuna," Soun said.

        "Let me see that," Rei said, snatching the scroll. Upon
reading through it, her eyes grew very wide. "GREAT GRANDPA
SIGNED THIS!??!"

        Haruka took the contract and examined it. "And who are
all these other people? There has to be... at least thirty
names on this thing!"

        "Yes," their father said with a smile, "this has all been
planned far in advance. Four generations of the Tendo and Saotome
clans have endorsed this union, providing their signature as a
testament... It is your DESTINY!"

        Haruka glared down at him. "Hmph!" She threw the contract
down at Soun, then turned and stormed out, slamming the door behind
her.

        "Uh oh," Genma whispered.

        "That's alright," Soun quietly said to her. He turned back
to the remaining people in the room. "In just a few minutes, the
priest from Rei's temple, the Nerima Shrine, will be here to go
with us to Brunei, to have you all married. I'm sure Haruka will
have calmed down when its time for the plane to leave."

        There was a knock at the front door, followed quickly by
the sound of its opening.

        "Ah, Haruka, is it?" an unfamiliar voice said. "I'm here to-"

        "SEJOU DOUTEN!!!"

        "Hey, that looks like... WAAAH!!!"

        *BLAAAAAAAM!!!!!!!!*

        This was followed by several heavy footsteps outside, the
sound of the garage door opening, and finally of a motorcycle
revving up and speeding off.

        Both Soun and Genma winced.

        After a moment of consideration, Soun made a decision.
"Perhaps we should hold off on the trip to Brunei for now."

        Setsuna nodded. "That would be best."

        "Awww," Genma whined, looking downtrodden.

        "What's the point of all this?" Rei asked, raising an eyebrow.
"And how did you get so many signatures on that stupid contract of
yours?!"

        "Well..." Soun began, recalling some of his more distant
memories.

..

        It was the Tendo Family Reunion... which took place right
next to the Saotome Family Reuinion...

        Giggling maniacally, a six-year-old Genma handed off a small
sheet of paper to Soun.

        Soun smiled and nodded, walking over to an old man on his side
of the large park in which the reunions were taking place.

        "Good morning, Soun," the aging individual said, relaxing
in his lawn chair.

        "Hi, Grampa," the black-haired boy said. He handed the paper
he was carrying to the elder individual. "Could you please sign
this?"

        Tendo-sama looked over the scribblings on the sheet of
thick construction paper and smiled. "Playing games with your
friend, eh?" His expression took a mock-serious tone. "I don't
know..."

        "Pleeeease?"

        "Well... Alright."

        Soun's grandfather signed at the bottom of the paper, right
next to John Hancock, John Quincy Adams, John Guiterrez, and
Pope John Pauls I, II, and III.

        Lather, rinse, repeat.

..

        "It, er," Soun said, tripping over his words, and most
definitely not having told them _anything_ of what he just
remembered, "was a plan set in motion by forces beyond our
control."

        "Yeah, that's it," the pink-haired girl on his shoulders
said, nodding.

        Rei just sat there, an eyebrow raised, her mouth hanging open,
and her eyes disbelieving.

        "In any case," Soun continued, "I believe it has been decided
to postpone the event, so you can all get to know Ranma better."

        "Father," the raven-haired girl began, glancing at the
sleeping princess, "please tell me this is all one huge joke."

        "This ain't a joke," Genma said. "We've been working
toward this for a _long_ time."

        Setsuna looked at Genma. "You should leave... and perhaps
come back tomorrow, or the day after, to allow for all involved to
become accustomed to the idea. Especially Haruka."

        "Nope," Genma said, folding her arms, "we're staying right
here. We've been on the road a lot, and-"

        "And you don't have a house," Soun cut in. "Right, of course.
You can stay here, in the guest room." He smiled. "You're guests,
after all."

        The little girl nodded brightly. "Haaai."

        Soun stood, taking Genma off his shoulders and placing her
on one of the beds. "Now, what else is there to discuss..."

        *Beep-beep!* No one knew whose, but someone's digital watch
sounded a quick alarm, noting the change to a new hour.

        "Hmm," the black-haired man mumbled, and glanced at the
clock on the wall. He then looked outside... at the night sky.
"Ten 'o clock already... Where _does_ the time go?" He looked
down at Genma. "Oh, it must be bedtime for you, then..." He
pulled back the covers on the bed and tucked Genma in. "Good
night!"

        Genma watched bemusedly as Soun left, followed soon after
by Setsuna and Rei.

        As she left, Rei glanced back at both of them, frowned
thoughtfully, and switched off the lights, closing the door
behind her.

        "I don't get it," Genma muttered, pausing to think as
she found the bed surprisingly large and comfortable, especially as
compared to the ground and other variants thereof, such as the
ground with a thin mat, the ground with a thick mat, and the
ground with a side order of beef.

        So, the little, pink-haired girl snuggled into her pillow,
deciding that getting a little more sleep wouldn't hurt...

        Then she saw... IT.

        IT was a tall, black-clad figure standing in front of
what little light poured in through the window, its dark cloak
waving in the breeze, watching and looking at her, glorying in
her fear...

        Genma blinked, taking another look at IT.

        IT was just the curtains moving in the draft from the
slightly open window.

        "Oh," Genma whispered, then turned away...

        And came face to face with... THAT.

        THAT was a hulking beast with twin tusks that extended
through its snout, horns topping its head...

        But it wasn't moving: It was a coat rack.

        "Mmmmm," Genma hummed in slight worry, frightening images
assaulting her from every direction.

        Hurrying, she threw back the covers and dove into the bed
Ranma was sleeping in. Cowering under the blankets for a second,
but feeling the comforting warmth of another person, she slowly
calmed down.

        And finally, with an arm around the pigtailed girl next to
her, Genma fell asleep.

^_^

        The blonde girl floated through a misty, cloudy landscape,
the occasional prismatic bubble floating by as a stream of
reflective, sparkling stardust trailed behind her.

        Her pigtails flew behind her in the air currents, and her
white gown fluttered in the breeze.

        After several blissful moments of this, she approached
a black-clad figure.

        The man turned around. He was tall, wearing a formal black
tuxedo with a top hat and a cape with an inner red lining. His
eyes and part of his face were covered by a white mask.

        {Hello...} the man greeted in an ethereal tone.

        "Hello," the girl replied, smiling at him, "My Prince..."

        {Yes...} the man whispered.

        "Um," the girl began demurely, looking shyly at him, "are...
are you my lover?"

        {Yes...}

        The blonde jumped up and down in joy for several seconds
before preparing to ask another question. "My Prince... Can you
show me who you are?"

        {Yes... I want there to be no secrets between us...} the
tuxedo-clad figure began, removing the mask from his eyes.

        As the mask was cast aside, the girl could not quite make
out any features, but could tell that he was _very_ handsome...

^_^

        Ranma awoke softly. "Oh, My Prince," she whispered, then
realized what just happened... then jumped out of bed and started
screaming at the top of her lungs, knocking the little girl sleeping
next to her out the window. "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!"

        *SPLASH!* "WAAAH!!!" Genma screamed in shock from outside.

        When that ended, Ranma was suddenly wracked by waves of nausea,
and therefore rushed off to the bathroom as fast as her legs would
carry her... "AAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!"

~Ten minutes later~

        Ranma, male and wearing his red and black chinese outfit,
strode confidently into the kitchen. "Hello," he greeted everyone,
a little too cheerfully.

        Setsuna momentarily looked up from her copy of the Wall
Street Journal. "Greetings," she said in a subdued tone, and
turned back to her reading.

        "Hi... Ranma," Rei said, poking at her breakfast. She was
wearing the Furinkan school uniform: a white blouse with a blue
jumper.

        *Chomp*Munch*Munch* "Rough night last night," a damp, pink-
haired girl sitting at the table said between mouthfuls of her
titanic stack of blueberry pancakes.

        "And you have school in about ten minutes," Setsuna added.

        Ranma blinked. "School?"

        "Yes, it seems you've been registered at Furinkan High."

        "The school system's become... pretty obsessive about
this sort of thing," Rei said.

        "Couldn't I take today off?" Ranma asked. "I mean, I just
got here yesterday, and-"

        "That would be inadvisable," Setsuna cut in, not looking
away from her newspaper. "With a few recent problems, the truancy
system has started to employ mercenary forces. 'T' four-hundreds,
among other things."

        Ranma blinked, then shrugged. "Uh, okay. I guess I'll go,
then." He looked around. "Where's Haruka?"

        Rei looked up at him. "She stormed off after we started
talking about the engagement. _After_ you conked out. Later,
she called up and told us that she was spending the night over
at Michi's place."

        "Michi's?" Ranma queried.

        "A friend's home," Setsuna answered.

        "Oh."
 

        The small bits of conversation that went on after that were
essentially limited to basic 'morning talk.' Pretty boring, all
things considered. A short battle over the last remaining pancakes
between Ranma and Genma occurred, but it ended in a tie, each
party getting half.

        Finally, though, the time came for Rei and Ranma to leave
for school.
 

        "So, where is it?" Ranma asked, looking at the fence by the
sidewalk as they padded along, debating whether he really wanted to
spend the marginal effort necessary to jump on it and practice his
balance.

        Rei indicated the sidewalk in front of her. "It's basically
straight from here... What are you doing?"

        Ranma had jumped on top of the fence, folded his arms, and
continued walking on that. "Practice," he said. "I missed all
my katas this morning, and I'm _really_ going to need to do
some focusing to beat _you_."

        Rei couldn't keep herself from smiling slightly. "Well," she
said, "you're actually a _terrific_ fighter..." She laughed. "If
you could actually take your sparring partners seriously and keep
from tripping over your own pigtails, that is."

        Ranma shrugged, continuing to deepen his focus. "Yeah...
Well... If I had my choice with that, I wouldn't even have those
stupid pigtails..." Something occurred to him. "Uh, hey, do you
think you could teach me that fire attack of yours?"

        "Hmm... Maybe," Rei grinned, "if you promise not to go
through with that obnoxious plan our fathers cooked up..."

        The pigtailed boy nodded, his expression brightening.
"Works for me." He paused. "Not that I'd _mind_ being engaged to
you or anything..."

        The raven-haired girl, still smiling, sighed and nodded.
"Right..."

        Then, a sudden splash of cold water from on high hit Ranma...

^_^

        Somewhere, a black cat with a crescent moon mark on its
forehead opened its eyes.

        "I sense something," she whispered. "It's unmistakable..."

        The cat crept up to the bed, on which sat a young girl.

        "Usagi!" Luna exclaimed enthusiastically, "I know where our
Moon Princess is!"

&&&[End Part One...]
 

Okay... I haven't managed to frighten anyone yet, have I? Naah, it takes
more that _that_ to frighten _this_ sturdy lot...

For the ones who didn't catch this one the first time around, shame on
you! ^_^
 

Of course, I did hear something about the list having something of a
hiccup after it was posted last... so a repost may have been in order
anyway...
 

In any case, it is now posted... and I must ask the big question...
 

^_^ Anyone want me to continue _this_ particular scenario?
 

Aside from that, comments, suggestions?
 

Any and all C&C in any way, shape, or form, is greatly appreciated...