Chaos Accelerando

Prologue

 

 

             In the months since the Dark Kingdom fell, Juuban had returned to its old state of calm. None of the youma that fled the final battle had popped up and the Senshi felt that they could retire, or at the very least take a nice, long vacation. Mamoru and the girls were training with Ranma and Ukyou, though the reason behind it had changed. Instead of preparing to fight monsters from the Dark Kingdom, they were instead training simply because it was something they could all do together and it had really helped in their every day lives. Usagi, while still not exactly the most observant of people, had lost a lot of her clumsiness once Ukyou helped her get over the fact that she was growing quickly and her balance was changing. Mamoru and Ranma had a bit of a bad run-in in the early days, however.

 

             “A ROSE?” Ranma’s voice nearly broke. “You fight with a frickin’ rose?”

 

             “It’s a magical rose!” Mamoru defended pathetically.

 

             “I don’t care! A rose is a frickin’ rose! No way. We’re getting’ ya something else. Is there anything else you can fight with?”

 

             Mamoru glared for a moment. “I have a cane and I have studied Kendo.”

 

             “NO WAY IN THE SEVEN #@!!S AM I TRAINING HIM!” Ranma turned around and stormed away, leaving a very irate Mamoru behind.

 

             The young man almost pursued him, but a firm hand on his shoulder kept him from following the martial artist. Turning to look at the owner of the hand, he saw Ukyou shaking her head. “Don’t. He’s in a real bad mood right now. He had a serious problem with a Kendoist with a thing for roses. He kept groping, fondling, and proposing to Ranchan’s girl side while trying to kill his boy half. It left some really bad scars on him, emotionally.”

 

             Mamoru felt much of his anger dissipate at the revelation. With shoulders sagging a little, he spoke. “I don’t really have much of a choice. I don’t know how to turn into ‘Endymion’, so I don’t have easy access to that magical sword and armor. And my Tuxedo Mask outfit just has roses and the cane.” Mamoru blushed a little as he continued. “And I thought the roses were a more romantic way to fight.”

 

             Ukyou smiled softly while Usagi giggled happily at that. “My Mamo-chan is the most romantic boyfriend in the world!”

 

             Everyone laughed good naturedly for a little bit before Ukyou came back to the original subject. “Are you sure that those are the only two things you can do? It seems a bit odd to have such hyper-specialized powers. The girls I can understand as elementalists, but you I can’t really figure out. Maybe if you had a universal control of plants or something like that, but the mystic ability to only create roses just doesn’t seem likely. Have you tried expanding your repertoire?”

 

             Mamoru shrugged. “Not really. I rarely appear as Tuxedo Mask, so I don’t have a lot of time to practice, especially with college and all.”

 

             Ukyou smirked a bit. “Well, that’s gonna change now, isn’t it?”

 

             Mamoru gulped a little while Makoto backed away. The last time she had seen that glint in her mother’s eyes had been right before a ten-kilometer run… while carrying a combat spatula, a banner, a backpack loaded with rocks, and her mother.

 

 

 

             After a few months, no new abilities had shown up in any of the girls or in Mamoru, but they could all feel a new source of confidence that the training had given them. The extra energy and self-assuredness had helped Usagi and Minako with getting to school not only on time, but wide awake as well. Several of the teachers had proclaimed the end of the world at this.

 

             After school one day, Makoto, Minako, Rei, Usagi, and Mamoru met at the mall for some fun time together. Makoto stretched her arms over her head as she walked alongside the others. “It’s been three months since Metallia was beaten and we haven’t heard a peep. Man, I’m glad we don’t have to worry about monster attacks any more.”

 

             Usagi, with her arms tightly wrapped around Mamoru’s arm, nodded vigorously. “And now we get to be normal girls without a care in the world! No youma, no monsters, no magic! I can’t believe that Ami and Siofra would rather stay home and study, though.”

 

             Suddenly there was the sound of shattering glass followed by many people screaming and running in panic. Looking towards the source, the friends could see that two strange looking men had broken the glass windows of a comic book shop. A third man, who was wearing strange clothing half-hidden by a cloak, was yelling at them in what Makoto guessed to be Chinese.

 

             There was little doubt in their minds that at least two of the troublemakers were youma. One of the window-breakers had tiger-striped hair, claws, and cat’s eyes. The other had wolf ears as well as human ones. The girls and Mamoru ducked into the bathrooms that were nearby and transformed. When they came back out, they could see that the two youma were bowing to the other man. That pegged him as the leader in their book.

 

             Striking a pose together, the Senshi proclaimed, “In the name of the moon, we will punish you!"

 

             The reaction from the youma was completely unexpected. Faster than the Senshi had ever seen, the half-animals had bolted across the distance between them and Sailor Venus. The self-proclaimed Goddess of Love could only throw up her arms in a feeble block as they darted towards her. After several moments had passed with no attack, Venus slowly lowered her arms and looked around. At first she didn’t see anything until suddenly two Sailor V comics and a pair of pens were being thrust towards her. Looking down she saw that the two youma were prostrating themselves before her.

 

             The tiger-guy spoke first. “W-would you do me the great honor of signing this, Sailor V?”

 

             The wolf-guy nodded quickly. “P-please! Y-you’re our favorite manga hero!”

 

             Venus and the rest of the Senshi just blinked at them. The blonde Warrior of Love and Justice blushed fiercely as she fidgeted nervously. “Well, I suppose it’d be all right…” She reached out to take the comics and the pens.

 

             “ENOUGH of this foolishness!” That was all the warning anyone had as the third man held up one hand and unleashed a huge blast of energy that ploughed into the two youma. Smoking and somewhat charred, the two men went flying over Venus’ head as she ducked to avoid impact.

 

             “For attacking my weird-but-oddly-cute drooling fanboys, I, Sailor Venus, will punish you!”

 

             “Sailor Mars!”

 

             “Sailor Mercury!”

 

             “Sailor Jupiter!”

 

             “And I, Sailor Moon, will punish you in the name of Justice!”

 

             The man looked at them funny for a moment. It was obvious that he was trying to decide whether to be amused or insulted. “I am Pri-“ The man stopped with an angry scowl on his face. “I am Herb and you would do well to leave me and mine alone.” With a casual flick he threw back his cloak. Underneath they saw that he was wearing golden-scaled armor over his shoulders, arms, legs, and hips. Fine silk clothing of white and red covered the rest of his chest and legs. The exposed parts of his arms revealed extremely well defined muscles that hinted at an exceptional physique. His face was regally handsome in an extremely stunning way, though his violet eyes had an almost dragon-like appearance. He looked to be about the same age as Mamoru. His long, flowing, multi-colored hair was pulled back in a somewhat wild ponytail. His bangs were platinum-white, the ponytail was a pinkish color, and the rest, including a long trail of hair that came down each side of his head just in front of his ears, was blue. All in all, his appearance was strikingly exotic.

 

             For a few moments, all of the girls gazed at the man in open admiration. “Acres and acres of meat…” Having spoken in unison, Minako and Makoto looked at each other for a moment before blushing. Not liking the way Moon was almost drooling over this Herb fellow, Tuxedo pulled a rose out of his cape. A brief memory of Ranma’s admonishments about using ‘real weapons’ flittered through his mind, but he ignored it. With a skilled flick of his wrist he sent the rose darting point first at his target.

 

             Herb, for his part, looked both stunned and strangely angered by the attack. With a lightning-quick movement, he snatched the rose from the air and crushed it in his hands. Pointing his palm at Tuxedo, he let loose a blast that vaporized the petals and forced the Prince of Earth to dive out of the way.

 

             That attack galvanized the Senshi into action. Unfortunately, every single one of their attacks proved as effective as the rose. Their magical spells were dodged easily while Herb’s return blasts often only missed by centimeters. An odd thought flitted through Jupiter’s mind that he was missing on purpose, but she dismissed that idea. He was a bad guy, despite how cute he looked, and the bad guys didn’t miss on purpose.

 

             Deciding that a change of tactics was in order, she called out to the others. “Stay back!” Ranma had been training them all and though they performed well together when it came to their magic, the Senshi had yet to get their team tactics to flow smoothly when it came down to hand-to-hand. They would most likely get in each other’s way.

 

             Darting forward with a quick jab, Jupiter was caught completely off guard as her target shifted just enough for her punch to miss. Suddenly she found herself flying upwards into the ceiling. The impact rattled her badly as she fell to the ground and a groan escaped her lips as she struggled to stand up. The look in her eyes let Herb know that the fight was not over yet.

 

             Venus was just about to dive in to rescue her friend when she found her way blocked by the two youma. Their backs were turned to her and it looked more like they had blocked her unintentionally.  “Herb is playing with the Japanese again, Lime,” the wolf-like one commented. That comment made Venus pause.

 

             “I thought we weren’t supposed to hurt anyone this time? Isn’t that what Herb said on the way here, Mint?” The tiger-man replied.

 

             “Well, he’s not REALLY hurting her. You know how he gets when people attack him for no reason. Especially after…” Mint’s voice stopped as his eyes came to rest on Venus again. “W-w-w-woman… I mean, g-goddess!” Dropping to his knees, Mint was quickly joined by Lime in prostrating himself before Sailor Venus and began chanting, “Sailor V! Sailor V!” After a few of those, Lime stood up with tears in his eyes. “We’re actually talking to Sailor V! I never thought I’d get this chance.” Mint nodded enthusiastically. “Yes, we are so lucky!” The blush that appeared on the object of their attentions threatened to overwhelm her.

 

             Mars was distracted from Jupiter’s plight by the commotion. A hard stab of jealous struck her at what she saw. Vanity had always been her Achilles Heel. “What about me?”

 

             Mint and Lime looked at her for a moment. “Who are you?”

 

             Mars let out a frustrated scream.

 

             Meanwhile, Jupiter had performed a strong series of punches and kicks that should have worked. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell her opponent that. He dodged all of them easily before tripping her to the ground. Jupiter growled fiercely as she bounced back onto her feet. ‘I hope this works,’ she thought to herself as she set up a technique her father had shown her. She feinted into a jump. To her surprise, Herb went for it. He threw a straight jab that would have caught her on the chest, right between her breasts, had she been there. However, she had dropped down instead and thrown a crescent kick from a crouching position. She just barely missed catching her opponent, but her hi-heeled boot caught the fabric of his tunic and pulled it open.

 

             As she stood back up in a ready position, she was startled by the strange look of recognition that came into the man’s eyes. Faster than he had been moving before, Herb closed the distance and gripped her by the throat. With one hand he lifted her into the air and glared into her eyes. “Where is he? Where is Ranma Saotome?”

 

             Jupiter’s eyes went wide as the others gasped in shock. Before anyone could respond, another voice called out, “Right here!” The Senshi of Thunder suddenly found herself rising even higher. Glancing out the corner of her eye she saw her father lifting Herb up by the throat. She felt a wave of fear run through her at the cold rage in her father’s eyes as he growled, “Let my daughter go, Herb.”

 

             A look of surprise came over Herb’s features at Ranma’s words. He released his grip on Jupiter, causing her to fall roughly on her rear. Before Ranma could react however, Herb brought his legs up and kicked Ranma across the jaw. Ranma’s head rocked back and his grip broke as he stumbled a bit.

 

             “It’s been a long time, Saotome,” Herb commented as he took up a ready stance.

 

             Ranma remained silent as he checked over his opponent. Herb had gotten stronger over the years, as the kick to his jaw could prove. The funny thing was, he didn’t look much older at all. If Ranma didn’t know better, he’d have guessed that Herb was in his mid twenties. However, sixteen years had passed since their last meeting, so that guess was obviously wrong. ‘Must be that dragon blood in him…’

 

             “Dad? What are you doing here?”

 

             Ranma’s eyes never left Herb as he answered his daughter. “When you get sensitive enough, I’ll teach you how to detect ki. And people like Herb put out a ton of it. I could sense him coming for miles. I was waiting until he quit moving around to try and find out what he was up to. Now, you and the girls stay back. This is between me and him.”

 

             As everyone moved back, the battle that ensued left the Senshi gaping. Herb and Ranma danced around each other, hurling concentrated blasts back and forth as well as pummeling one another. The ki they used during the fight was far more concentrated and tightly controlled than what Herb had been throwing around before. Jupiter, in particular, was amazed at the skill the two warriors displayed, especially since they were not wrecking the place.

 

             Venus was a bit surprised when a bucket of popcorn and a soda were held out to her. Looking down she saw Mint and Lime offering her the food. With a blush and a smile she accepted. Moon started sneaking a few handfuls herself and Mars fumed at the attention (or lack thereof) as they turned their attention back to the fight.

 

             A few minutes later came the conclusion. With a resounding crash Herb came plowing into the ground. As the Musk warrior picked himself up slowly, Ranma growled, “Stay down.”

 

             “Never,” was the grunted response. Before Ranma could respond, Herb held up his hand. “But I yield this fight to you.”

 

             Ranma backed off and slowly lowered his hands. “What brings you back here, Herb? If ya came to pick a fight, ya obviously need more work. And I seriously doubt you’d bother comin’ all the way from China just to play with me.”

 

             “As irritating as ever, I see. But you are right, I did not come here just to ‘play’ with you, and I do need more work. And that is the reason I have come.”

 

             Ranma blinked back, the incredulous look on his face plain for everyone to see. “Are you asking me to train you?”

 

             Herb suppressed a low growl as he looked around. “Perhaps somewhere more private would be better for this… discussion.”

 

             Ranma glanced over where the girls were standing. It was difficult to suppress the smirk he felt coming when he saw Mint and Lime drooling over Venus, but he managed to succeed. “Girls, I’ll take over from here.”

 

             “Are you sure?” Moon asked.

 

             Ranma nodded in response. “I can handle them. You girls just go back to doing whatever you were doing.” He turned back to Herb. “If you’ll bring your two drones with you, Herb, we’ll go back to my place.”

 

             “Mint! Lime! Leave the woman alone and come with me.”

 

             The ‘kicked kitten’ looks on the two men’s faces earned a sad smile from Venus. To cheer them up, she kissed them on the cheek, which turned out to be a bad idea as they both froze in place. It took another blast from Herb before they could regain motor functions and promise to never again wash their faces. The somewhat disgusted look on Venus’ face showed that she didn’t quite approve of that level of fanaticism.

 

             The walk to Ranma’s home was relatively silent. It wasn’t until Makoto, who had slipped away to transform back to her civilian guise, rejoined them that anyone spoke.

 

             “How did you know that I knew my dad?” Makoto asked curiously.

 

             Herb snorted. “Your father used that exact same combination on me many years ago. I knew he had to have trained you.”

 

             Makoto absently rubbed at her throat despite the fact that Herb hadn’t left any marks on her. Ranma happened to glance over his shoulder at that moment and saw her. An angry scowl came over his features. “By the way, Herb-chan. Why did you attack my daughter?”

 

             Herb scowled back. He did not like having his honor impeached. “For your information, she and her lascivious friends attacked me first.”

 

             “LASCIVIOUS?” Makoto flared. “What’s that supposed to mean?!” She turned to her father for support, but she noticed a strange look on her Ranma’s face.

 

             “I did warn you about those skirts. I thought I told you to wear that mage-suit I got you for when you transform.”

 

             Makoto blushed and looked down at her hands. “I forgot.”

 

             “Did you also forget the first rule of our school? Never initiate an attack.”

 

             “But he blasted those two guys! We thought he was a bad guy!”

 

             “He does that all the time, and Mint and Lime can take it. The question is ‘Did he attack you first’?”

 

             “No.”

 

             Ranma sighed. “Look, he may be a rude, arrogant, self-centered, egotistical, stuck-up jackass, but that doesn’t give you girls the right to attack him, no matter how funny he looks.”

 

             Herb fumed at the insulting comments but held his tongue. He watched as Makoto turned to look at him for a moment before apologizing for the attack. Herb’s only response was a silent nod of acceptance.

 

             After a moment of embarrassed silence, Makoto spoke. “How old are you, anyways? To look, I’d guess twenty. But dad’s been gone for eight years…” Herb raised an eyebrow at that, but Makoto ignored him. “So if you two fought, you’d have to be a lot older than twenty.”

 

             “I am thirty-four years old and the descendant of dragons. It is their blood which causes me to age more slowly than an average human.”

 

             “DRAGONS? How is that possible?”

 

             Herb raised an eyebrow and glanced at Ranma. “He apparently has never told you of my people, the Musk.” At Makoto’s negative response, he explained. “For centuries my people have fought and defeated various animals, and then thrown them into Jusenkyo’s cursed waters to make them human women. We then take them as wives and the offspring of these unions gain many of the powers of their mother’s animal form.” He motioned to Lime and Mint, who obviously showed their tiger and wolf heritage. “The royalty of the Musk are in this way descended from dragons.”

 

             “You mate with animals?!” Makoto shuddered. “That’s sick!”

 

             Herb scowled heavily. If it were not for his need of Ranma’s assistance, he would show this woman her proper place. Turning to glare at her, he spoke in an imperious tone. “They were human after their immersion in the Nyannichuan. Besides, that was our old way, when women were scarce and we needed all of the strength we could get to survive. We no longer follow those practices.”

 

             For a moment, Makoto glared back into Herb’s violet eyes and felt her breath catch. Herb, too, seemed to see something as the glare changed into something indescribable. Ranma’s voice broke suddenly through the trance. “Especially after their prince freaked over a naked monkey-girl and went for a swim in the Nyannichuan.”

 

             Anger swelled inside of Herb as he turned to glare at the back of Ranma’s head. “You are not one to talk, man-woman!”

 

             Behind his head, Ranma made a rude gesture at Herb. The dragon-warrior nearly lost his control at that point, but he managed to rope in his temper. They fell silent again for a while before Herb noticed something.

 

             Looking a bit more closely at Makoto as they walked he made an observation. “Speaking of heritage, I must say that you do not resemble your father or your mother. Are you, perchance, adopted?”

 

             Makoto was shocked. Almost everyone said that she looked like a younger version of her mother. She was about to make a rude comment to that effect when she collided with her father, who had apparently frozen in place. “Dad?”

 

             Ranma’s voice was quiet and oddly hollow. “Akane died before Makoto was born, Herb.”

 

             The silence that fell this time remained unbroken until they had arrived at the Kino residence. Ranma wordlessly motioned for the Musk to follow him as he entered the living room, much to Ukyou’s surprise.

 

             “Ranchan? Who’s that?”

 

             “Ucchan, this is Prince Herb of the Musk. Herb, this is my wife, Ukyou.”

 

             Ukyou raised an eyebrow. “Prince? Oh no, he’s not one of the NWC, is he?”

 

             Ranma nodded his head while Makoto and the Musk blinked in confusion.

 

             Ukyou groaned. “And he’s here why?”

 

             “Uh, what is the NWC? National Wrestling Commity?” Makoto asked with a thoroughly confused look on her face.

 

             “Nerima Wrecking Crew,” Ranma answered bluntly while staring hard at Herb. “We ended up trashing a good chunk of Horaisan mountain the last time he was here.”

 

             “Oh.”

 

             “Now, why ARE you here? You mentioned something about training?”

 

             Herb sat in silence for a moment before speaking. “Many years ago, my world was changed by that fateful accident at Jusenkyou, followed by my first ever defeat in combat at your hands. A week ago, the fate of my entire people was changed by my second defeat…”

 

 

 

…Flashback…

 

 

 

             Herb sighed as he glared around his throne room. ‘I am utterly bored. Everything is progressing well with my people. The Amazons have gotten far too touchy lately, so I can’t have fun there. I don’t feel like risking the wrath of the Phoenix people, so there goes that idea.’ With one last sigh, Herb continued his train of thought, ‘Why can’t something interesting happen?’

 

             (A.N.: Who can’t see this coming?)

 

             Suddenly a strange portal appeared at the entrance to the throne room. Mint and Lime were instantly at the ready as three figures emerged. Unfortunately, the hormonal warriors were frozen in their tracks by two of the visitors. They were both attractive ladies dressed in women’s tuxedos. One had chocolate skin and hair. The suit she wore had red trousers, shoes, and gloves with a golden shirt. The other had fair skin and dark hair, and her clothing was done in shades of purple.

 

             Rolling his eyes at the incompetence of his two best fighters, as well as best friends, Herb leaned forward in his throne. “What is the meaning of this intrusion?”

 

             The third figure stepped forward and gave a mocking bow. He appeared to be of European decent, with brown hair and glasses. His dress was very fine and it was obvious that the man was not lacking in material wealth. “Greetings, ‘Prince’ Herb.” The mocking tone was obvious even to Lime and Mint, who snapped out of their slack-jawed gaping to glare at the intruder. “Or should I say ‘Princess’?”

 

             Herb’s scowl was so menacing that even his two friends felt a touch of fear. The target of the glare, however, seemed not to notice. “It is Prince, outlander.”

 

             “For now. I am Lord Fauntleroy and I am here on very important business.”

 

             “And what is this ‘important business’ that brings you here to sully my throne and my kingdom with your unwanted presence.”

 

             Fauntleroy laughed lightly. “To put it simply, I am here for the throne and the kingdom of the Musk. Though it is not much of a kingdom, it will have to do.”

 

             Before Herb could react, Mint and Lime were in motion. They had only taken a few steps when suddenly Fauntleroy’s two escorts transformed. Where the raven-haired woman had been standing was now a large purple wurm. The brunette had become a gold and red drake. The pair of psuedo-dragons proceeded to pound the two Musk warriors into unconsciousness.

 

             Herb only barely managed to keep his composure as he stared at the former women. They were only psuedo-dragons, but no dragon-kin save for Herb’s own family had been seen in China, or anywhere on Earth, for centuries.

 

             Fauntleroy looked around again before turning back towards Herb with a sneer. “As dragon-born, I challenge you for leadership of the Musk. As dragon-born, you must accept. My wives,” he motioned to the psuedo-dragons, “will verify my claims of being dragon-kin.”

 

             Herb wasn’t sure, but he could hear something strange in the way Fauntleroy described his bloodline. ‘He is hiding something, but I can not tell what.’ However, there was no doubt in the prince’s mind that Fauntleroy was dragon-kin. He could sense the aura coming off of him, and it was similar to his own. He had no choice. “Very well. I accept.”

 

 

 

…End Flashback…

 

 

 

             “He defeated me. He acted as if he couldn’t even feel my punches. He blocked my ki attacks and his strength was greater than mine. I… I lost.”

 

             Ranma could see how hard it was for Herb to get out that simple admission, but he was still angry. “What’s that got to do with me?”

 

             Herb scowled for a moment. “Approximately fifteen years ago, you defeated me at my own game. You took a ki technique that I was completely familiar with and turned it around so that it beat me. I wanted to ask you to help me. Help me to regain my throne by training me to fight in your way.”

 

             Ranma stared hard at the former prince for several long minutes. Herb stared right back. “No.”

 

             Herb shook with barely contained fury. “No?!”

 

             “No.” He held up a hand to forestall Herb’s angry retort. “Unless you agree to some conditions.”

 

             Herb seethed at the demand. ‘I can not believe I am subjugating myself to these demands!’ However, he had little choice. “What conditions.”

 

             “First, no Musk will ever attack any of my family ever again, no matter how many generations down the road it is, without a formal challenge and acceptance. Second, you will owe me. If my family is ever in trouble and asks for help, YOU or your own descendants will give it. And third, I want an apology.”

 

             “Apology?!”

 

             “Not to me, though. You should know what I’m talking about.”

 

             Herb could honestly not think of what he had to apologize for. That girl, Makoto, had admitted to attacking him first. However, if that is what it took, Herb was willing to give an ‘apology’. Turning to Makoto, he gave a short bow. The smug look on her face caused him to clench his teeth tightly for a moment before giving a small, almost mocking smile. “I am sorry that my power caused you to attack me out of fear and that I harmed you while defending myself.” His smile became a smirk at the look of outrage on Makoto’s face.

 

             “That’s not who you’re supposed to apologize to, Herb. She’s already admitted her mistake.”

 

             Turning to face Ranma, Herb blinked. He noticed that the martial artist’s face was as hard as stone. “Surely I have nothing to apologize to you for.”

 

             “You’re right. I’m not going to tell you who. If you can’t figure it out, I ain’t willing to help you.”

 

             Outrage and fury nearly overwhelmed the former prince as he struggled to avoid strangling his potential ally. ‘The last time someone made me this angry was when he and his woman…’ Understanding evaporated every last vestige of his anger. With a genuinely respectful bow, Herb spoke softly. “If you will show me where I may find her resting place, I will apologize for my inappropriate behavior those many years ago.”

 

             The hard look on Ranma’s face softened. “You do remember. Her shrine was destroyed fifteen years ago, so that’ll have to do.” Ranma bowed his head for a moment. “I’ll be glad to help. Just don’t make me regret it.”

 

             “Thank you. I only wish that my people were not suffering under him while we train. It galls me that he is using my warriors as his own private army to take revenge on some kingdom I’ve never heard of.”

 

             Ranma cocked an eyebrow. “Which one?”

 

             “Some land called ‘Jade’. I thought perhaps it was a small kingdom in Asia, but I have never-“

 

             “I can’t train ya.”

 

             “WHAT?!” Herb’s fury nearly exploded. ‘All that humiliation and he dares say NO?! After he had already agreed!?’

 

             “We ain’t got time if he’s gonna attack Jade. The Musk ain’t strong enough to take over that place, but they could do a lot of damage before they got their collective butts handed to them. Chances are a lot of people on both sides would get killed. I’m going to have to go with you back to China. We’ll fight this Fauntleroy guy together before he can make his move.”

 

             “Then you know of this Jade?”

 

             “Yeah. Me and Ucchan spent the past eight years there. It’s a long story. The point is, you and me gotta go now ta keep him from messin’ with Jade.”

 

             “Thank y-“ Herb found himself cut off.

 

             “WE’LL be glad to help,” Ukyou said with an insincere smile. “That’s what you meant to say. Isn’t that right, Ranchan?”

 

             Ranma laughed nervously as he put his hand behind his head. “Of course. I just didn’t want ta volunteer ya or nothin’.”

 

             Ukyou did not look convinced. “Right.”

 

             “So, when do we leave, dad?” Makoto smiled confidently as her parents turned to look at her. “Ohhhh, no. I am NOT letting you guys leave me behind again. Uh-uh. Not after what happened the last time you went to China. Forget it. I’M GOING!”

 

             Herb blinked as Ranma and Ukyou quickly degraded from ordering their daughter to stay home to begging. Personally, the former prince hoped they succeeded. ‘That girl is infuriating, egotistical, stuck-up, and pretty.’ Herb growled as he realized what he had just thought. ‘I meant pushy, not pretty. I no longer lose all rational thought at the sight of a pretty face, firm chest, athletic body, and toned legs… STOP IT!’

 

             Ranma tried everything from reason to threats, but to no avail. Ukyou brought up school, but that didn’t help either. Makoto finally won the argument with, “What part of ‘I’m going’ did you not understand? I’m going, with you. Period. End of statement. All sales are final.”

 

             Ranma finally sighed. “All right. You and Siofra will both come with us. If you’re coming, there’s no way we can make her stay. But if comes down to a fight, you two will stay out of it, am I understood? You are NOT ready to take on the Musk! Ryouga nearly died fighting Lime and even I got my butt handed to me a couple of times. You are not ready.”

 

             Makoto sighed as well. “All right.” She crossed her fingers behind her back. “I’ll stay out of it if you get into a fight.”

 

             Ranma turned to Ukyou. “Well, Ucchan… it looks like we’re going back to China.”

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