“Skuld!! What are you doing in my room?!?!?”
“What do you think? Come on, Urd, where did you hide it?”
“Where did I hide what? Don’t touch that!!!”
— while it lasted.
“Oh, dear, I had better see what is going on,” Belldandy said with a rueful smile.
Keiichi chuckled, shaking his head in amusement as she rushed from the room toward the sound of coughing as wisps of smoke drifted through the doorway along the ceiling. “That wish was the best joke I ever made, but it’s certainly made life interesting,” he mused.
The sounds of renewed shouting echoed down the hall, though not loud enough to drown out the phone when it rang, and a still chuckling Keiichi picked it up. “Moshi moshi,” he started, then froze. “Uh, yes, Sir, I’ll get her right away!” Putting his hand over the transmitter, he called down the hall, “Belldandy, your father wants to speak to you!”
“So, what did Father want?” Belldandy’s tall, voluptuous (if currently somewhat singed) platinum blonde older sister asked when the middle Norn rejoined her sisters, her fiancé right behind her. The goddess of the past was frowning slightly at the complete absence of her younger sister’s normal gentle smile.
“Yeah, it must be serious!” a suddenly nervous Skuld added. The dark-haired seeming-child was much older that she looked, and while she had seen her older sister when she was angry (scary!), sad, happy, loving (often when looking at Keiichi, ick!), disappointed and fearful, she couldn’t remember a time she had seen Belldandy’s face without any expression at all.
“He had an assignment for me, I will be gone most of the day. I’ve rushed the breakfast I was preparing, it’s waiting for you,” Belldandy replied in almost a monotone. “Urd, Father had an assignment for you, as well. It seems your mother is recruiting a new Fury. Father wants you to read his — her — file and observe her final test. Her self-chosen name is now Raven, but she was formerly Saotome Ranma.”
Without another word, she turned and stepped into Urd’s now-cracked full-length mirror and was gone, leaving one human male and two goddesses exchanging worried glances.
In Nyucheizu, a large village hidden in the Bayankala Range, a very old woman stirred with a groan as the early morning light coming through the window edged across her face. I had forgotten how ... interesting ... a newborn makes things at any and all hours, she thought as she cracked open her eyes to gaze up at the ceiling.
As if on cue, the newest addition to her line squalled out her renewed hunger, her cries easily penetrating the house’s thin interior walls. They were quickly followed by the sounds of the baby’s mother hastily rising from the bed she shared with her husband of less than a year, and within moments the cries were cut off as presumably her great-great-granddaughter drank her breakfast.
With a sigh, the Amazon matriarch rose from her own bed. She briefly considered waiting for Mu Tse to rise and prepare breakfast, but quickly decided against it — the meals in her home had been tense affairs lately, soured by her suspicions about the death of Xian Pu’s previous husband a year earlier. She simply hadn’t been able to stop wondering over how quickly Mu Tse had replaced Ranma in her great-granddaughter’s heart, and the questions she couldn’t bring herself to ask had created a wall between herself and the two teenagers. All in all, better to go hungry until lunch and be free of the household’s atmosphere.
Taking up her staff, Ku Lon pogoed out into the kitchen and grabbed some leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, then left for the training field where she had been training the youngest girls in the beginnings of the martial arts that all Amazon warriors learned. It was far from the prestigious duties her years as an Elder entitled her to, but she had not complained — after the Nerima fiasco she counted herself lucky to still be on the Council.
As she approached the field, a young child ran up to her, one she recognized from her classes — Ting Shu. “Elder Ku Lon! Elder Ku Lon! Come quick! There’s a Seeker of Justice at the front gate asking for you!” the girl called out excitedly. “It’s the Godkiller!”
Ku Lon carefully didn’t react at the words even as she felt her heart sink. There could be only one reason Ranma had returned from the dead, and come here, and the Seekers of Justice were not always particularly discriminating in their quests. Ranma alive had grown powerful enough to require the entire Council to deal with if he’d turned against the village; a Ranma returned from the dead with all that entailed was infinitely worse, and if he blamed the Joketsuzoku en mass for what had happened to him....
Ting Shu hadn’t waited for a reply from her teacher, turning as soon as she had shouted her message to rush back toward the gate, and Ku Lon pogoed in her wake, quickly overtaking and passing her student. Reaching the still-closed gate, she bounded to the walkway above it, landing on the shoulder of one of the guards, and looked down, her heart sinking even lower at the sight awaiting her.
Rather than the figure of a dark-haired young man Ku Lon had expected, she found the fiery-haired girl Ranma had been cursed to turn into, a katana the matriarch recognized as the sword Ranma's mother had carried slung across her back, and she suddenly realized that in the retellings of how Ranma had come to die, neither Xian Pu nor Mu Tse had said just which form she’d been wearing. Nor had any member of the Council thought to ask.
And to make matters even worse, there was the large raven riding the redhead’s shoulder — the bird radiated Power, such that combined with what the girl it was with had become there was only one bird it could be. Ku Lon wondered for a brief moment how Ranma had gained the Queen of Hell’s personal attention before she forced the distraction aside as irrelevant.
Ting Shu had dashed up the stairs to the walkway, and was now bouncing up and down, trying to get high enough to see over the parapet, exclaiming, “I wanna see! I wanna see!” in her high-pitched child’s voice.
Glancing down at the eager girl, Ku Lon couldn’t help but smile at the spectacle even now. “Li Hwan, lift her up for a moment, let her get a look. And Ting Shu,” she continued after pausing for a moment to make room for the girl’s squeal of delight, “Once you’ve had your look, go find Dou Jan, and then the rest of the Council and let them know what’s happening. And then I want you to go home,” she added as the child pouted. “This is adult business, you aren’t nearly old enough yet. Promise?”
She glared sternly until Ting Shu reluctantly nodded, then nodded to Li Hwan. The guard set her spear aside and lifted the child up.
The young girl stared down in awe at the redheaded figure below, then impulsively waved. Ranma had been gazing up at the guards above the gate the entire time, and Ku Lon felt the singing tension at her heart ease when the spirit smiled and waved back. Whatever was to come, she didn’t have to worry about Ranma holding the entire village responsible for the sins of her great-granddaughter.
Raven patiently waited outside the closed main gate to Nyucheizu, gazing up at the guards atop the wall. She wouldn’t have been so patient, of course, or waited for hours before arriving for that matter, if it hadn’t been for the deal Hild-sama had told her about when she had returned from her execution of P-chan and announced that Shampoo and Mousse were her next targets. Apparently, there had been a revenant that the Amazons kept from his target, at the cost of half their warriors and a third of the Elders. Afterwards, the surviving Elders had summoned Hild-sama herself to ask why the ranting lunatic of a revenant had returned, and what they could do to prevent a follow-up visit. The result had been the execution of the revenant’s target, and Hild-sama had agreed to have future visiting revenants announce themselves at the gates.
Suddenly a familiar shrunken figure bounced up to land on a shoulder of one guard to gaze down at the waiting revenant. Ku Lon said something in a tone too low for Raven to hear, and few moments later the other guard leaned down and lifted up a girl-child. The child stared down at her for a moment, then hesitantly waved. Raven smiled and waved back, and the child clapped her hands in delight before the guard lowered the young girl back down out of sight. A moment later, Ku Lon hopped from her perch to the top of the parapet, then dropped down to the road leading to the gate and pogoed toward the waiting redhead.
“Well, Ranma, I must say that you have surprised me yet again,” the old woman said quietly when she reached the revenant. “However did you come to the attention of the Queen of Hell? While you were no saint, I would have expected you to have a different final destination.”
Raven’s face froze. “The name’s Raven, now. Shampoo an’ Mousse didn’t tell ya about the demon that showed up ta haul me off ta Hell after Ryoga and Mousse got done choppin’ me up?” she demanded.
“No, they didn’t,” Ku Lon said with a sigh. “It seems there was quite a lot they left out. How did a demon end up with a claim to your soul? I wouldn’t have expected you to have dealings with such.”
“No, but Pop did, usin’ my soul instead a’ his,” Raven ground out.
“I see.” Ku Lon glanced at the hilt of the katana. “From the sword you’re carrying I take it you already dealt with your father before coming here?”
“Yeah, and the Pig Boy, too. C’mon, Ole Ghoul, let’s get this over with, I still got another stop.” Raven’s voice was arctic cold, something the Amazon Elder had never heard before from the Ranma she’d known, and she abandoned all hope of convincing the revenant to give up her vengeance. She simply bowed, motioned to the guards to order the gates opened, then silently led the two Ravens into the village.