A Ranma Sailor Moon fic thingy.
By Sunshine Temple
Naturally, I own neither Sailor Moon nor Ranma. So here's the disclaimer
Ranma 1/2 and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon belongs to Naoko Takeuchi, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC.
Previous chapters and other works can be found at my fanfiction website.
Temporary Backup Site.
Other website Temple of Ranma's Senshi Seifuku
C&C is appreciated.
Book 6: Bonding Allure
Chapter 4: Exploring Options
The winding street was full of demons. What stood out to Usagi was that there was no press of bodies. Succubae, and a few humans and other races, hurried about their business, but everyone walked within a respectful bubble.
Tails and wings were out but at ease. People were busy but polite. It reminded her a bit of being back in Tokyo, if far less populated. Also trains would not be stuffed full in Silvana.
The street was paved with flat black stones; the lampposts flickered with gas jets. Cool evening air had begun to blow down from the mountains through the twisting roads and switchbacks that made up Silvana.
"What are you thinking?" the pale redhead asked as she strode to her side.
"They're so pretty." Usagi's eyes went to people going up and down the road. The full spectrum of skin, hair, tail, horn and wing colors was visible. There was a variety of heights and body shapes that ranged from voluptuous to petite, Rubenesque to wasp-waisted, zaftig to willowy.
"This is city of succubae," Kiri dryly noted.
"It's not like she's self conscious," Ranma smiled at the Moon queen. "You look as good as anyone here."
Usagi gave a smile. "That and the signs." She gestured up at the lighted, painted signs that hung over the sidewalk. Each painting was done in a style that was a cross between the buxom nose-art of old warplanes and the alluring sensual shading of Italian renaissance art. And it was then lit up with fine, curvy tubes of neon.
Ranma looked around at the bright signs. "Oh, you mean the Ginza and Vegas by way of Amsterdam's red light district style?"
"This is a high street for shopping." The young-seeming green-haired woman scanned around.
"Yeah, there's a leather goods store!" Usagi smirked pointing to a building made of green stones with broad, high windows and a sign that consisted of a succubus, who despite wearing the several of the store's wares, was still, functionally, nude.
Ranma adjusted her coat. "My, that is rather nice." She glanced at her watch. It was a slim silver mechanical given to her by her aunt DawnStrike. House BlackSky also had twenty-four hour days, but since their day was slightly longer there was a compatibility issue. Ranma was sure her sister Eve would commission some solution, one that took into account the full thirteen month Silvan year, but the redhead was fine with a second watch.
"I don't know if we have time," the redhead gave the leather shop, with its leather accessories, a longing gaze.
"They'd treat you like a princess," Usagi teased.
The redhead's purple eyes scanned the crowd. "Yeah, they would," her tone was a mix of prideful and... disquiet. She was still getting used to the... fame of being DarkStar.
"We've got time to stop at something quick, if we hurry," Kiri said as they went further up the twisting street.
"And browsing at... clothes wouldn't be quick," Usagi gave a glance back then into the plaza they had entered.
They were on the north side of the Phlegethon river. The Palace loomed behind them. The finger of rock fringed with its gardens, orchards, balconies, temples, and terraces dominated the skyline.
Rooted to an island over seven-hundred and fifty acres at the base, the slopping bottom third of the Palace was studded with a carefully-landscaped collection of, picturesque buildings, cottages, cottages and shops done with lots of gingerbread trim and slate roofs.
The village just above river-level encircling the Palace was largely hidden by the stone combination seawall and fortification that made up the edge of the island and the stone and glass towers buildings abutting to the riverfront on the mainland.
Rising above the island hamlet, the Palace was a blocky rock spire carved out of the remains of the spur of the Romwell Alps. The uppermost quarter section had been added to the height, largely by using stone quarried from the spire of the Palace and fused back into place.
The Palace had all been carved, and embellished to where it glittered with the light of windows and lit-up terraced gardens. As the evening began, the cyclopean structure could almost pass as a more conventional building, albeit one over six hundred and fifty meters tall.
Zeppelins with their own sparkling tracery serenely moved across the sky. Many followed the direction of the river, going downstream to the vast landing fields to the south of the city where the various transportation hubs, warehouses, and depots were.
There were also more than a few succubae who had simply taken to the air.
Usagi shook her head and found Ranma putting a hand across her chest. The silver-haired woman had almost stepped out of the narrow street and into a broad plaza.
The winding street, more of an alleyway, had been almost all foot traffic. The plaza on the other hand was a bit more chaotic.
There were trucks with high backed cargo compartments and wide tires mixed in with the occasional sleek sedan or teardrop-shaped roadster with extended fenders over thin blue-walled rubber tires.
Wobbling, Usagi took a step back. "Oh! They're quiet." She eyed the purring vehicles. They were not silent like electric cars but neither were they the rumbling of an internal combustion engine.
"They're Stirling engines," Kiri said.
Ranma tilted her head.
"It's a heat engine that works by the compression and expansion of air at different temperatures to turn heat energy into mechanical work. I could go into detail as to their benefits and limitations, and why they fell by the wayside on your earth," she offered Usagi. "A pyrokinetic species does... change perspective."
"Uh... no thanks," the silver-haired Moon princess' attention was on some of the glossy carts and wagons being pulled amid the cars. Several were pulled by horses, but a few were being pulled by...
"Those are dinosaurs!" Usagi nearly laughed in wonder.
"With feathers, and claws," Ranma agreed, looking over the three meter tall bipedal animals.
"Not going to comment on the tails?" Usagi teased.
Ranma eyed the silver-haired princess in her dark blue, gold-trimmed gown. "Come on, let's cross while the traffic's thinned."
The redhead led them out into the roadway and across the plaza. Most of the traffic was fairly sedate, though Usagi did have to pause to let a purring motorcycle with ivory-accented chrome-work slip past.
Beyond a perimeter of black iron bollards was a circle of more paved stones dotted with looming oak trees. A few trees were far shorter, indicating replacements. Beyond the arboreal ring was a large fountain.
Many succubae, a few humans, and a smaller number of other species were at the benches watching the fountain and the pool on the inside of the circle.
The marble pool was twenty meters in diameter and several meters deep. A group of children played in the water, wings flapping, tails swishing.
A two meter tall stone plinth rose out of the center of the pool. A tall black granite demoness with curling horns, tumbling hair, and sweeping armor had skewered an even larger dragon in red basalt with an immense silver sword.
Water poured, gushed, spurted, out of the various slashes, stabs and rends in the scaled hide of the creature as its long body wound out from the platform to splay over a good portion off its edges. The piece was martial, aggressive, and had been done with breathtaking skill and beauty.
And the open spots on of the plinth were being used as diving platforms for broodlings who played in the jets of water that spurted out of the fallen dragon. Some of the coils of the great wyrm, spilling off the side of the plinth in red stone loops showed wear from years of use as toe and hand holds.
Usagi tilted her head taking it all in. "It's a good likeness of her."
"The symbolism is a bit on the nose," Lady Pluto added.
Ranma snorted. "Please, not all the monuments to grandmother slaying some beast would be treated as hallowed relics." Though she did note none of the broodlings were using the statue of BlackSky herself as a higher diving platform.
"Succubae," Kiri shook her head.
As they went around the pool, the trio threaded past a few carts, hawkers and other peddlers. Mostly it was various beverages, some alcoholic, but there were snacks too. The one selling bars of candied nuts wrapped in wax paper held Usagi's attention.
Ranma, for her part, was sniffing the air and inspecting each glossy, gaudily colored cart. Then she stopped near a group of lounging legionaries.
They had slung large wood-stocked rifles with polished magazines, and on their belts were narrow-bladed weapons that could do duty as a long bayonet or short sword. Each rifle was slightly different in the checkering, inlay, and carvings on the stocks and grips. There was similar customization on the scabbards and grips of their blades. However, the jeweled silver hair pins they wore were identical.
Half of the young, lean succubae were wearing their articulated armor. The leather of the pleated skirting gleamed as much as the lacquered metal segments of the chest and torso armor.
The other half were wearing a combination of breezy dresses, shorts, bandeaux style tops and other overly casual sets of clothes. A couple were even in swim suits and stretched out on a towel near the base of a tree taking in the evening air.
What had Ranma's attention were the savory buns with steaming sausages a few were noshing on.
Slipping up next to the redhead, Usagi paused. Then she wrapped an arm around the shorter woman. As the succubus cooed and leaned on her side, Usagi ran her manicured nails along the redhead's torso.
"Hungry?" she asked.
"Succubae are always hungry," Pluto stated.
Scanning the plaza, Ranma nodded. Her nostrils flared and her tail flicked about. "Oh... there it is!"
Usagi felt herself being pulled along as her demonic companion dragged her to a small stand near the bottom of a wide set of stairs.
There was a brazier full of smoking sausages and a heaping basket that steamed with fresh rolls. Under the plank of the stand was a shelf full of various bottles.
Standing behind it was a chipper young woman with grey-black skin, white hair, red eyes and pointed ears. She wore a grey dress with red accenting.
At first Usagi wondered if she was seeing a drow. It would not be the first "fantasy race" she had spotted in Silvana. She had seen more than a few pointed ears and folks of varying heights either above or below the human, or succubus, norm.
But then she spotted the black horns and white-finned tail.
Ranma pulled them right to the short line in front of the stand.
Usagi squinted. There was a propped-up chalkboard, but the writing was a bit hard to read in the twilight, though the red streetlamps helped a little bit. However, it was all in Silvan Latin.
The customer in front of them had bright green hair and shining gold-colored eyes. She put some coins on the tray and then took the offered sausage in a fresh rye bun. Usagi noticed that neither party actually made physical contact on the transaction.
The woman wore a vaguely Roman toga with bronze accents that complimented the silver and bronze combs holding back her light emerald hair. Little silver sakura flowers sparkled on the combs.
Nibbling on the bun, she gave Ranma and Usagi a languid smile and slipped towards the fountain. Pluto frowned at that.
"Hi! This smells great!" the redhead happily said, leaning over just enough to eye the sizzling sausages. There was an icebox of some kind under the stand where the white-haired cook would pull out more links.
"Thanks! My aunt runs a butcher shop and I get a great deal on all sorts of overages." The sausage seller paused at the redhead but went back to deftly using the set of tongs.
Nodding, Ranma studied the sign and the prices.
Usagi tried to keep up. And then decided to venture a question. "What meat?" she asked, hoping her Latin was not so bad.
"Oh, outlanders!" The seller gave a brighter smile. "I'm Sabatine, how are you liking Silvana?"
"It's very impressive, I should have visited earlier," Ranma admitted.
Usagi nodded. "So... we're the outlanders right? Not the sausages?" she asked Ranma.
The redhead rolled her eyes. "Tell my human friend what you've got cooking."
Sabatine shrugged. "There's some smoked, some aged, some fresher stuff all with spices. If you're talking about meats, I've got some pork and beef, a beef and bison blend, a couple stockfish and a few ground magnus-codilius. Those are a bit gamey."
"Codilius, it's a very large crocodile-like creature that lives in muddy river deltas," Kiri said twice, once for Usagi, once for Sabatine.
Nodding, the sausage-seller shot Ranma a shy, curious look. "What'll you have?"
"Oh, I'll have two pork and beef on... do you have a dark bread?"
"I have pumpernickel! Fresh!" Sabatine assured.
"That'd be great." The redhead sniffed. "What sauces do you have?"
Sabatine started pulling things out from the shelf under the stand. "I've got garum, of course; mild or hot sanguic. Some white mustard, chili oil, and... oh... here's the horseradish!"
"I'll take some mustard and chili oil," Ranma looked back to Usagi and Kiri
"I'm good," Kiri politely declined while the redhead rolled her eyes.
"I could go for a fish, do you have wheat bread? And.. horseradish." Usagi asked.
'I do!" Sabatine nodded. "Very good!"
Sabatine rotated the smoking sausages and pulled a pair of circular rolls, one dark, almost black, the other a honey brown out of the basket.
"What do you think of the big city?" she asked as she deftly, slid the rolls and loaded the sausages into them and added the sauce.
Usagi gave a little smile. Tokyo was well over ten times bigger than Silvana. That seemed consistent with succubae. Houses all over the Home Plane were sparsely populated, at least by human standards.
Usagi supposed it was logistics. Succubae were hungrier than humans and required an amount of living food. Doubtless if she asked, someone like Kiri, or Eve, or Mira would go into detail about demographics, farming, transportation, energy requirements and more.
"It's a lovely city," Usagi gracefully accepted her sausage and roll and took a bite. She made a happy murmur.
Sabatine nodded and got Ranma's snack ready. As she handed it over she gave the redhead a shy look. "If I may... I mean you look..."
Ranma gave a somewhat strained smile as her wings ruffled. "Yes, I'm DarkStar."
Sabatine made a girlish squeal. "Really? That's awesome. You've come back!"
Ranma blushed. "Yeah... visiting and all. Grandma, um... BlackSky invited me over."
Sabatine's nod indicated that of course BlackSky would extend such an invitation.
"I'm still getting used to..." Ranma gestured to encompass the city. "All this..."
Taking a bite, Usagi found a bit of mirth at the redhead's embarrassment.
The sausage-seller looked to Usagi. "Oh... is this your consort? She smells delicious."
Usagi nearly choked
"She's a visiting royal, from the Moon Kingdom," Ranma took a bite from her sausage and nuzzled the princess.
"That's not a no," Sabatine giggled. "I can't believe you're back, DarkStar!"
"So... you know about me?"
Sabatine nodded. "I didn't go to the shrines as much as my friends, but I read the stories in the broadsheets and had a few of the pulps. There was even a story of you and Silva succubus."
Ranma's smile turned a bit glassy.
"Um... how much do I owe you?" she asked
"What? Princesses don't pay?"
"It's not that, I'm just..." the sausage seller shook her head. "Sorry, it's ten denarii."
After counting out the tiny silver coins and putting it on the tray atop the car, Usagi put her free arm around the redhead. She eyed the pile of money, there was something... familiar about the currency. They tingled just a tiny bit when she handled them.
"It was great seeing you!" Ranma bowed, as well as she could while eating and being held by the taller woman.
"The pleasure was mine!" Sabatine smiled and waved as the three left.
Ranma finished her nosh in a couple more bites.
Usagi was pensive as she ate a bit more, then gave the remainder to the demoness she was still holding.
"I wonder how frequently that'll happen," Ranma noted.
"You are rather famous here," Kiri said.
"Yeah, but it's not like there's photographs of me out in circulation, just my description," Ranma said as they came to the set of stairs on the far side of the plaza near Sabatine's stand.
Made of cut and dressed stone, the wide steps rose up through grove of swaying willows built into terraces between the levels of the city.
Halfway up the long flight, the stairwell split in a Y. The branch going to the left ascended sharply. It rose out of the ground on a series of arches until it met a funicular station that clung to a skeletal structure of curving steel beams.
An articulated train consisting of inclined cars trundled up the tracks. However, the stairwell to the station itself was closed. A group of workers in sturdy leather clothes were levering out worn stairs and replacing them with freshly dressed stone. Levels and guide ropes were well in use and one was sighting angles from a tripod off to the side.
Usagi paused to watch the demons work. "Huh, you'd think they'd use more magic."
"Properly mixed mortar and stonemasonry lasts longer than all but the most expensive spells," Kiri noted.
"They've got a whole city's worth of stone to keep maintained," Ranma agreed, after she finished the food Usagi had given her.
"I guess," Usagi gave the redhead another squeeze and they went up the other branch of the stairs. This one went through more willows and deposited them at the far end of a flat park
Statuary in cast bronze littered the park. As the trio walked, Usagi noted they were in a mix of seductive, stately, and jingoistic poses. She recognized a few; there was stern AshRain, sober DawnStrike, and saucy CloudFire. Usagi wondered if all the other statues were Daughters of BlackSky. Names, titles, and other ranks were engraved on the stone platforms that supported the statues.
There were also at least half a dozen empty plinths. Usagi did not have to ask Kiri or Ranma about the symbolism there.
One of the statues stood a bit to the side and was done in pale marble. In the dim light, it was hard or Usagi to tell the colors but she could see silver inlay in the stone. She was not sure if the statue's hair was made out of crimson stone intricately carved into scarlet curls or if the stone had been painted. A small reflecting pool surrounded around its plinth with niches for flickering votive candles around the stone lip.
Stopping, she squeezed her arm closer around Ranma.
The redhead sighed. "Yeah... that's me."
"Is it?" Usagi asked looking up. The statue's face was a bit... rounder and more innocent-looking. There was not the confident spark of the woman she knew.
"We were all different back in those days," Lady Pluto stated.
"I wanted Serenity to be proud of me," Ranma's voice was subdued.
"I'm sure she was," Usagi assured, hugging her. The magical girl felt a bit... melancholy. Serenity the First was... she was many things: ruler, diplomat, artificer... conqueror.
Mother was only part of that.
"BlackSky's going to be busy too," Ranma murmured.
Usagi nodded. "I'm sure she'll do her best with Dr. Saotome."
"Yeah, it's just, you know what these magical empress women are like."
"And you worry she'll only have so much time for your mother," Kiri stated.
Ranma gestured to the little shrine. "Oh no, I'm thinking Grandmother will invest all the time she has in my mother... her daughter."
"There is a legend about BlackSky," Kiri explained, looking around the statues, taking in the handful of empty plinths.
"Oh?" Usagi asked. She shivered there was something eerie about being among so many statues, like they were watching her.
Ranma followed the green-haired girl's gaze. "About the Roman legionary remnants she absorbed into her empire?"
Kiri nodded. "Most got along with the program."
"Let me guess, a group didn't?"
Lady Pluto tapped her staff. "Right. The Romans were not just a pragmatically imperialist system prideful of their superiority in art, culture, and military skill who absorbed what they felt useful from their clients. There were points where they did not get along with House BlackSky."
Ranma smiled at Usagi. "House BlackSky does not believe in prisons."
"The Romans didn't either," Kiri shrugged. "It didn't stop them from confining people; it just from using imprisonment as an official form of punishment."
"They were executed?" Usagi asked turning to look down the low fence that bounded the park from the rolling slope. The lights of the city, including boats worming up and down the river and various elevated trams and trains were visible through the trees.
"The ring leaders, very public, very quick, by Roman standards."
Ranma snorted. "A coup against succubae kinda requires some real operational security. Given how easily we can suborn folks."
"And the rest?" Usagi looked around, wondering if this park would be more lively during the day. However, even now it did not feel empty.
Kiri's little smile returned. "Loyally Serve the House until the end of their days or an Honorable Death."
"BlackSky allowed them to kill themselves?"
"Better than a ritual strangulation. The remaining plotters accepted; suicide was considered a way out. Though only about half took the knives."
Usagi sighed. "Let me guess another public spectacle?"
"Oh, no, this was private, just BlackSky, some of her Daughters and noble brood mothers."
Studying Kiri's explanation, Ranma exhaled. "They turned them?"
"As the traitors lay dying," Kiri smirked. "Yes, they had agreed to BlackSky's punishment. The new daughters would be made loyal."
"And serve until the end of their days?" Usagi shivered. "While those who didn't try to kill themselves would..."
"Get an honorable death in their old age," Kiri shrugged.
"Why?" Usagi asked.
"The peripheral members of the plot had useful skills and knowledge. Leadership and administrative abilities that a growing empire would need. BlackSky was loath to waste such talent. She could wait a few years to ensure their compliance."
The Moon Princess shook her head. "No, why tell us this?"
Kiri stepped around an empty plinth.
"Really? Going back to secretive and coy?" Usagi sighed. Closer, she could see that the inscriptions on the stone base had been studiously truncated and then neatly dressed. There were no more familial titles or awards of merits, only a name: Valetrix
"It's to show what Grandmother is capable of. Or that she'll bend her rules?" Ranma asked.
"Her rules?" Usagi asked as they passed through the statuary in the park.
"Turning without consent," Ranma leaned onto Usagi.
"They did consent to punishment... and death."
"I'm sure the exact details of their contract allowed for turning," Ranma exhaled.
"Ah, this is about Dr. Saotome's contract?" Usagi asked.
Kiri's eyes twinkled. "For now."
Absently looking down at the succubus she had cuddled to her side, Usagi gave a nervous laugh.
Ranma snorted. "Like you'll need a contract with Grandmother."
"Yeah, I've got my own... imperial ancestor issues," Usagi coughed. She could see Serenity I making... similar choices when faced with sedition.
Kiri made a noncommittal noise as they passed the last of the statuary and neared a tall pale-brick wall. An iron gate stood open.
Two Alpinum Guard stood on watch. The silver accents and gold insignia gleamed on their ceramic composite amour. Their custom engraved rifles were shouldered but their swords hung at the ready in their scabbards. They two women gave a the trio a nod.
One had pale eyes and dark hair that shone with starlight. Her companion had deep green skin and silver hair. As one, they tilted their heads and their tails stilled.
Usagi took a step back and glanced around. She could make out a few more Alpinum on watch further out by the roadway beyond the park. Glancing, back into the grove of statuary, she spotted a pair of Alpinum waiting by the DarkStar shrine.
She exhaled, so that was the feeling of being watched.
Ranma tugged at her and pulled her towards the gates.
The guard on watch saluted, extended pointer and middle fingers tapping exposed necks. They then stepped aside, allowing the trio to enter.
Stepping through the gate, Usagi blinked. Between the manicured grounds, the long dormitories, classical lecture halls, and buildings literally covered with creeping vines. There were even a handful of very prim students walking around in starched uniforms.
"It's a private school." she shook her head.
"Quite so," BlackSky's playful and resonant voice said as she stepped down a path to greet them. She wore a sleek black dress that complimented her tumbling, glossy tresses.
"Welcome to the Mima Lumina Academy," another voice said in crisp, cultured tones. A cascade of shining, curly blond hair fell down her shoulders. Even beyond her ears, neck, and wrists, she was adorned with gems: sparkling diamonds hung from bright blue horns, sapphires spiraled around her arms, her tail's golden fins were shining with ornamentation, and a shimmering gauzy mantle draped over her shoulders and wings.
Her cool, reserved features were a dusted in bronze like fine metallic freckles. A bright glint flickered in bright turquoise eyes as platinum lips curled into a smile Walking forward on sparkling high heels, her shimmering blue dress flowing around her as she bowed to the trio.
"DarkStar, Queen Serenity, Lady Pluto, Mother has said much about you, the pleasure is mine," her tone was courtly but Usagi felt that there was more than a bit of confidence, of superiority, in there.
Ranma disentangled herself and returned the bow.
Usagi gave a curtsy which caused Kiri to give a tiny sigh. "Ah, and you are?"
"Aedile Felisia," BlackSky said slipping next to her daughter, who was much shorter than her, but still fair bit taller than Ranma.
Nodding, the moon queen looked between them. The more Daughters of BlackSky she met, the more she could see how each took after certain aspects of the imperial mother.
With Felisia, Usagi got a vibe she had not felt since high school, that of a snide, but oh so polite, popular girl. The silver-haired woman frowned. House BlackSky was riddled with nepotism, but...
She recalled the empty plinths. And the conversations DawnStrike and CloudFire had when they first arrived. Mediocre Daughters, those who were nothing more than spoiled dilettantes and libertine wastrels, were gently, or not so gently, pushed aside.
Usagi smiled. "Aedile? Fascinating title, what do you do?" she asked in slow, but careful Silvan Latin.
Still giving a haughty grin, Felisia gave a tiny bow of her bright horns. "Infrastructure. Maintaining public buildings, finding public festivals, entertaining."
"And cultural matters," BlackSky added, with her own tiny smirk.
Ranma nodded and noticed the awed looks many of the students had. A few of the older ones, who looked no older than her own children, started gathering their younger classmates.
"I'm just here to help with arrangements," Felisia said with playfully faux humility.
"Nonsense, you know the Headmistress and the Chancellor, and it was a wonderful tour," Nodoka assured; her Silvan Latin was a bit rough, but eminently functional. She wore a dark grey suit coat with matching, but shiny leather skirt and wedge heels that were a bit taller than normal for her.
Cecilia was next to her, as were as a gaggle of Cecilia and Ranma's girls.
Usagi smiled as the conversation halted for various group hugs. She then noticed that the gawking students realized who the redhead with purple eyes and wings in the company of their empress was.
Her thoughts were interrupted when Kiri pushed her into one of the hugs.
"Perhaps we can go talk someplace without the audience? Or I could arrange a party?" Felisia suggested as she led them towards one of the round, columned buildings.
BlackSky crooked a finger and more of her Alpinum Guard ghosted into view and shadowed the group.
After catching up with her daughters, Ranma found Cecilia pulling her back to Nodoka.
"You know they're going to want to find that sausage stand," Cecilia said in a low voice.
"They are good sausages," Ranma defended.
"Yeah... and Misako's wanted to try something smoked and meaty." Cecilia gave Usagi a contemplative look. "But she's enjoying her vacation."
"And are your girls?" Ranma saw that Felisia seemed a bit less... stiff around Desiree and Meredith.
Though the curly-haired blonde did pause to correct both broodlings' stances. Ranma chuckled at a demoness who felt older than AshRain, but younger than CloudFire, and much younger than DawnStrike fuss over such thing.
"They're enjoying themselves." As they climbed up a set of steps leading to the building's doors, Cecilia looked around and shook her head. "All this..."
"All what?" Nodoka asked.
"It's just a lot to take in, Mom," Ranma said.
The Company officer nodded.
"And a school..." the redhead laughed. "For you?"
Nodoka adjusted her blouse. "I will be young in mind, if not body, for a time."
"Then why not both?" Felisia suggested.
"Logistics," Nodoka stated.
"Ah, yes, as you would not be youthened by natural means, then your aging would similarly be enhanced as needed." The Daughter bowed her head to BlackSky. "If that is your plan mother."
"Such a plan has occurred to me," BlackSky waited by the door, expectant and then waved at the students who had clustered around at the base of the stairs watching them.
Ranma looked out. The students were in their crisp uniforms, which seemed to get shorter in skirt and jacket the older the succubae. The upper-class girls were still minding their youngers but the redhead could hear the occasional girlish sigh.
Especially when she moved.
Trying an experiment, she reached out and took Usagi in a hug. The redhead smirked at the reaction.
Where BlackSky and Felisia engendered something almost like awe, she warranted sighs and suppressed squeals.
"This... is new," Ranma murmured.
"Surely, you expected such notoriety, niece," Felisia observed, as she gave a picture perfect wave to the students.
"Expecting is one thing, experiencing is another."
The blonde demon smirked.
"I suppose some of the blame is mine," BlackSky admitted.
"Now mother, it's not like all the stories, plays, chronicles, shrines, and temples were commissions on your part," Felisia's tone was light.
"Daughter," BlackSky smirked.
"Perhaps, we can go inside," Felisia suggested, mildly chagrined.
Entering the amphitheatre, Nodoka shook her head.
Usagi took in the tiers of polished wood chairs and carved stone pillars. On the walls were murals of inlaid metal loops of various shades. "Nice, looks kinda familiar."
"It's reminiscent of the Unification at styles popular on the polar regions of Luna," Kiri noted.
"Coincidence," Felisia stated.
The green haired girl tilted her head.
"For one, wood was only used as rare accenting in the Lunarian styles. Secondly, Lunarians would affect color changes within a single crystal," Felisia then smiled. "Art history is a vital part of an education at Mima Lumina."
"Even an abbreviated one?" Nodoka asked.
Felisia gave a small look of distaste. "Accommodations will have to be made."
The broodlings flittered about the stairs while Nabiki took a few photos and waited for Desiree and Meredith to get into frame. She then took a couple with Nariko and Akane.
"We have to arrange a..." Nodoka took in the room and nodded to BlackSky. "An itinerary."
"How much time do we have to work with?" Felisia asked.
"Nodoka would be eager to get back to her daughters, that is the purpose of this arrangement," BlackSky reminded.
"Months if we are lucky," Felisia shook her head. "Time will press."
"But where is the art without a challenge?" BlackSky smiled.
"Art?" Usagi asked.
"Speaking as the canvas the idea is, a bit, disquieting," Nodoka admitted as she looked around the lecture hall.
"Is being changed really what you fear?" BlackSky asked.
The officer shrugged. "It's the accepting afterwards."
Felisia flicked her tail. "Better than the alternative. For your mental stability alone."
"Yes, I'm aware," Nodoka took a seat between Ranma and Cecilia.
The blonde demoness shook her head. "You will be one of us. Mother will shape you. You losing your humanity will be the start, Little Sister."
She spread her hands to encompass the murals. Most of which were blatantly allegorical. There were more than a few in the style of Silva Succubus, but with a bit more artistry in the parables "Ethically, culturally, socially, you will be one of us."
"Your time as a human, who you were as human will not be lost," BlackSky stated. "It is the foundation, what your daughters care for, and what makes you so appealing."
"And that's merely the mental aspects, physically... well..." Felisia smiled and swished her tail.
"That part I'm quite comfortable with," Nodoka admitted.
"What human wouldn't want to get more appealing? Not that you don't look appealing as you are but..." Felisia smiled. "There's such potential."
BlackSky gave her a mild look.
"Of course, Mother, As long as she's not quite as severe and stark as AshRain or maybe not as indulgent as CloudFire... though for her age and her daughters some hips and mother figure, and a good tail could give the right impression."
"Doesn't the canvas get a choice?" Nodoka asked.
"Of course, Little Sister, we are shape-shifters. Maybe a bit of an ingenue, well with more sophistication."
Nodoka raised a hand. "Ah, but we have preferences no? Or that is I will, and the rest of you do."
"Take my eldest," Nodoka gestured to Ranma. "She's more than capable of taking a form far closer to how she... he... looked before any curses, rituals, or reincarnation awakenings."
Ranma blushed a bit. "Mom..."
"It's okay, Dear." Nodoka pulled her in close. "I know you're more comfortable this way, that this is who you are."
The redhead's tail flicked until the officer gently caught it.
"I'm proud of you, all you've done, all you've sacrificed," Nodoka assured.
"I know, I can feel it," Ranma leaned on her mother.
"And... I'll be able to feel it back," Nodoka put her other arm around Cecilia. "You girls deserve this."
BlackSky gave a smug smile.
"It is very generous, Grandmother," Ranma said.
"That is Mother's nature," Felisia's tone was rapt.
"Oh, you." Smiling at her daughter, BlackSky then took in the broodlings and the lone human.
She then nodded to Queen Serenity's heir and Lady Pluto. "And honored guests."
"Shall we break for dinner?" Felisia asked.
"That seems lovely," Nodoka settled next to her daughters and patted Ranma's tail before shifting it over to Usagi.
Smiling, the redhead shimmied in her seat while Usagi tried to manage the sudden imposition. Letting the tail curl around her wrist, she gave the other human a glare.
Felisia tilted her head. "It's a start, Sister."
Ranma nuzzled over to Usagi. "You want to share a meal with us?"
Despite blushing, the silver-haired magical girl squared her shoulders. "As long as it is an informal event, without diplomatic pretense."
Lady Pluto nodded approvingly to her queen.
BlackSky looked amused. "Oh, it'll just be a family affair, future family perhaps," she added looking over the two humans in the room.
Usagi turned to Ranma. "Really?"
"Grandmothers do want grandkids," Nodoka stated.
"I gave you five, "Ranma pouted while her daughters preened.
"And I gave her seven," Cecelia added.
Nodoka sagely nodded. "Yes, seventeen granddaughters is a start."
"We have a large party, but I know a place," Felisia gave a languid, confident smile at the assembled people.
However, Usagi felt the blonde demon's attention linger, hungrily, on her.
Ranma gave an interrogative murmured as her tail twitched. "Would I be recognized?"
Felisia blinked. She gave her mother a suffering look.
"You'd be at a party with this place's Empress and one of her Daughters," Usagi hissed in the redhead's ear."
"We can have a more private venue," Felisia offered. "Though niece, if you wish to be a bit more discreet in public, you can change your hair color. Maybe both you and your companion."
"I did not think the Lunarian Empire was that well known here," Lady Pluto noted.
BlackSky's patient, confident smile returned.
Ranma whispered into Usagi's ear. "Look at it this way; at least she used the word companion."
"Ah, I was a bit iffy on the translation," Usagi shook her head.
"I did not want to presume," Felisia purred. "And given you're not dressed like the concubine nor the consort of a Princess of House BlackSky..."
"Is that an offer?" Ranma asked.
Felisia's expression grew a bit aloof. "Unless you want us to force her."
Usagi met her gaze with a smile. "The last time demonic nobility tried, it went badly."
Turquoise eyes narrowed. "Oh, you are very much her daughter."
"Do not cause an incident," BlackSky said, her tone mild. "Not if you cannot accept the consequences, Daughter."
Felisia sniffed but broke eye contact with Usagi.
"Yes, your kind invaded Earth, but when it came to my family, you brokered an alliance; you never tried to take the Moon."
"That was before Felisia's time," BlackSky stated. Unspoken was the obvious part that the Invasion, the creation and death of DarkStar, the destruction of perfidious House Vephar, splitting the spoils of Earth with the Lunarian Empire, were all things BlackSky was intimately familiar with.
"Not by that many centuries," the blonde demoness' tone was slightly petulant.
BlackSky gave her a little hug then gave Usagi a thoughtful look. "How much of her do you remember?"
Usagi steeled herself. "Enough. Why?"
The empress smiled. "I know you fret of living up to the legend of Serenity the First. That you fear being in her shadow."
The Moon Princess exhaled.
"Do not. You are better than her."
"Hey!" Usagi bristled. "My mother-"
BlackSky moved in to embrace the silver-haired Lunarian and her redheaded granddaughter. "Was a powerful and decisive leader. It was just it came to family where she was lacking in..." the demoness made a low, amused noise, "humanity."
Usagi huffed, unsure how to take that. She glanced to Lady Pluto. The diminutive Senshi shook her head slowly.
"I won't presume, but if you do want stories about your mother, just what she was like, no lecturing or hectoring, you can ask," BlackSky offered as she broke the hug.
Usagi still had Ranma pulled in close. "What did she think of you?"
BlackSky smiled. "Oh, a delicious question."
"That's not an answer," Pluto murmured.
The demonic empress slunk back up to the auditorium's stage. "It's not. At first she saw me as a rival. I was part of a force invading a neighboring world, a world she coveted. But she saved DarkStar, and treated her well. Maybe if DarkStar had stated with Serenity, maybe if I had my daughter, her mother Lilith, go with Serenity too..."
BlackSky exhaled. "But I was young, prideful, full of power."
"So was she," Pluto murmured.
"I did not grasp the limitations of my power, the wisdom of restraint." The demon reached up and made a fist. She turned to Usagi. "I'd like to think your mother learned to respect me, that she learned humility from my, from her mistakes."
"No, Felisia, I am not perfect."
"Mother, I know. Hubris begets nemesis. That is why our way is the velvet path. Serenity the First..."
"The Invasion was before her Unification War really got going," BlackSky gave Usagi a shrug. "By the time your mother brought the Sol System under her boot we were not... close."
Ranma felt the silver-haired princess's ire flutter.
"Under her boot? Who are you to say that?"
BlackSky waved a hand. "An imperialist queen who invaded earth from another dimension."
"Yeah, yeah, my mom just had to drop down the gravity well." Usagi chuckled. "So, dinner? I am just a guest here," she nodded to Nodoka.
"For now," the older auburn-haired woman smiled.
"Is this how deflect nervousness to such a change, Major Saotome?" Lady Pluto inquired.
Nodoka looked to her daughters. "I can imagine what a succubus version of myself would think of Miss Tsukino."
"Not much different from how you think already?" Usagi's curiosity rose. While she had met many succubae before they had been turned, she had not been terribly close to any of them beforehand.
Turning to BlackSky, Nodoka raised an eyebrow.
"A lot of trust is being put into my hands. If you consent, you will be exquisite, Daughter," the ancient demoness purred.
Nodoka nodded. "It has been very informative, but I believe we can come to an amenable contract."
"Contract?" Usagi asked as she took Ranma's hand and stood up.
"You can make a lawyers and demons joke," Cecilia smirked.
"That seems a bit on the nose."
"We are civilized, and part of that is having contracts and adhering to them," Felisia sniffed.
"Right, and where you have contracts you have advocates who debate the terms and mechanisms and enforcements," Lady Pluto noted, falling into step beside her queen.
"A litigious society does beat the alternatives." BlackSky lead them out of the auditorium.
"A violent one?" Usagi asked, hopefully.
BlackSky chuckled as they crossed the academy's grounds. Alpinum Guard seamlessly formed around their party.
"Perhaps we can go see an honor duel? I'm sure the Association has some bloodsport registered for tonight. Probably a private event but we could go to the Amphitheater, with such august guests wanting to see Silvan culture..." Felisia purred.
"Of course, you have legalized dueling." Usagi shook her head. "And you probably have all sorts of traditions, contracts. and rules."
BlackSky smiled. "But of course, that's what elevates common murder into something civilized."
"Until quite recently dueling was a socially expected, and quite popular, if frivolous means of settling matters on your world," Felisia sniffed.
"Oh, it's not usually to the death. We do heal quite well. Death for mere sport, for puffed, wounded pride, is a waste," Felisia scoffed.
Usagi looked thoughtful at least until Ranma nuzzled up to her side. "You're just tempted by the idea of seeing some succubae fight each other while being all fancy."
"If a more theatrical combat, perhaps with costumes and pageantry, there are several... martial plays we could see. The Pillaging of Mordivia has a wonderful bout in the third act." Felisia's eyes glistened.
"What no bikinis or mud-pit?" Usagi asked.
"Oh, you have heard of the play?" Felisia bowed her head to the moon queen. "I will confess the fight in the mud baths in the first act is a bit contrived, but the alto's solo during does make up for the artifice."
Usagi shook her head. "Succubae."
"Cultured succubae," Felisia sniffed. She turned to Nodoka. "If you are to be our little sister, there is much you will be responsible for, including enlightening outsiders."
Nodoka arched her brow.
BlackSky tisked as they neared a cluster of sleek, but imposing, but long vehicles. With a lot of glossy black bodywork and silver accents, they were a bit too rugged to be pure luxury, but were too nicely-appointed to be military.
However, Usagi's attention was on the group of Alpinum riding raptors. The dinosaurs with feathered frills down their necks bore their riders on tooled leather saddles. Compared to that, the two succubus troopers, one with a large silver wolf snuffling about, the other with a rather fluffy leopard prowling at her heel, were almost normal.
Eyeing the big cat and her lithe handler, Ranma stopped, her tail going still.
Usagi squeezed her hand. "You okay?"
The redhead's purple eyes met the cat's slitted amber. The leopard turned away and with an aloof sniff looked to her handler. The azure-pageboy haired demon clicked her tongue and led the big cat, which was about her own weight off to the far side of the convoy.
Ranma exhaled. "I'm fine. I really don't like cats."
Cecilia, Nariko, and Nodoka had slipped up to either side around the redhead.
BlackSky quietly observed.
"Is this a normal deployment?" Nodoka asked.
"In the heart of my House?" The empress chuckled. "I either move with a heavy guard or hardly one at all."
"It is less to protect her, and more to have a ready force for public management or any contingency. Until forces from the Palace, the Castra Argentum, or the Aerodrome arrive. A wing of Ritual Plate would not take long to deploy."
BlackSky shrugged and two aides approached. One was the amber-haired, purple-tinged form of Mira HeartWood. The librarian was in a stark black bodice and skirt and handed a glass tablet with scrolling symbols over as matching motes flickered on her glasses. Next to her was a woman in a black and gold-braided Legion staff uniform. BlackSky took a moment to confer with both.
"And in other locations?" Nodoka asked.
"When outside House territory, or even in some of the far-flung off-Plane colonies, fleet units provide a mobile base for support. If only to establish a beachhead and secure portal access. Depending on the nature of the visit, Mother will bring her personal ship Vault of the Heavens." Felisia pointed up to a portion of the night sky where an almost cetacean black hole blocked the bright, flickering silvery and orange stars.
At least Usagi presumed those were stars. She was not certain exactly what it was like once you got above the atmosphere in this demonic dimension. The stars did seem to be twinkling in a rapid, pulsating manner. Not to mention, the two medium-sized moons gave her a special kind of unease.
As for the great aerial shadow cruising across the sky, its ruby running lights were the only indication that it was a vessel and not some kind of cosmological phenomenon.
"Your mother's fleets were more impressive," Lady Pluto said in a quiet voice.
Usagi frowned at that. That was true, Serenity I had an interstellar empire. Though if House BlackSky had an inter-dimensional one... then maybe her mother had ships that teleported as well.
Her frown deepened when she took the other meaning of Meiou's words. The past tense. Serenity I had a mighty fleet. And it was no more.
This time Ranma comforted her.
"And what about you, Aedile?" Nodoka asked.
Felisia brightened. "When I travel? Well, tonight was too intimate for me to bring my handmaidens, and when traveling it is only prudent to bring as capable of companions as required. " She gave an airy shrug.
The elegant blonde demoness studied the human. Her gems sparkled in the flickering lamplight. "Another lesson, possible Sister. We have many duties for House and Family. We are not just seductresses, diplomats, and conquerors. Sometimes, our tasks are challenging."
"Pride much?" Usagi asked.
"When done with culture and class it takes on a veneer of glorification and honor," Nodoka stated. "But I would say when it comes to succubae, vanity and lust are the sins of choice."
The blonde succubus leaned towards the Moon princess and gave a haughty but lascivious smile. "I would rather say we are imperious. Though we justify our rule; perhaps we should see if we have more than just that in common with you," she purred.
Usagi found her arms were already full of one succubus, and that the redhead had put her head on her shoulder and her arms were exploring her dress.
The Moon Princess gave a wicked little smile and took a half step back pressing against DarkStar. Her silver hair piled up a bit more as her gold tiara flared out
"I'd have to ask Censor CloudFire first. She's expressed interest in the past. I would so hate to disappoint your sister," Usagi innocently stated.
Nodoka, Lady Pluto, Cecilia and the broodlings gave variations on light chuckles.
Felisia exhaled. "Well said, but take care. CloudFire will take you up on that offer. Not that you'd regret it."
"Honestly, would I really regret going to bed with any of you? You are succubae princesses."
"Not if I had anything to say in raising them," BlackSky said as she returned. Her aides had walked off to talk with some of the other officers, and the part of the squad of mounted troops had started forward making sure the roadway was navigable.
Usagi noted that succubae on raptor-back made a fairly effect way to clear the street.
Felisia bowed her horns to her Mother.
"Now, shall we go to dinner?" BlackSky gestured and the doors to the gleaming black transports opened as the Alpinum making up the honor guard stepped back.
Nodoka shook her head, and helped her daughters and granddaughters, and daughter's friend in. There was some shifting as the logistics was organized, but the officer took the moment to lean back in the leather chair and relax.
There was so much she still had to do with her family, but the more she learned the more sure she felt with her decision.
"Please, sit," Captain Eve Jarvis gestured to an empty seat at the break room table. She then filled two cups from the coffee machine.
Her guest was another blue-eyed blonde woman. She looked a bit younger, shorter, and less broad in the shoulder. Her face was less stern looking, her hair was a more golden shade, and the blue of her eyes was deeper, more of a summer ocean than a pale ice-blue.
Giving a little ghost of a smile, the other blonde elegantly took a chair. She wore twin ponytails tied back with red bows and a blue dress with red accents and a matching blue jacket.
The other, much paler, woman took the seat and put down two mugs. Her hair was up in a tight bun and she wore a grey suit with a matching skirt. "Cream no sugar," Eve stated pushing a mug across the table. It was white with a golden crescent on it.
"Of course you'd know." The ghost of Minako Aino's smile solidified on Lady Venus' face as she continued. "Is this a social call?"
"Am I capable of such a thing?" Eve asked.
Venus smirked and took a sip. "You're hardly the cold inhuman thing you present yourself as."
Eve tilted her head.
The magical girl put the mug down. "See, a lesser person would have unfurled her wings, or flicked her tail, or maybe let her horns out to be subtle. You..."
The demoness shrugged. "I'm curious if you have any difficulties. You have been left in command."
"Command of two." Venus' lip curled back. "A rump force."
"Three Pattern Silvers."
"Now you speak of our power?" Venus then took a sip.
"Your power was never in doubt."
The magical girl snorted. "No, you doubted if we could get with the program. If we could work with you. Be your tip of the spear, your force multiplier." Her eyes flashed. "Then Ottawa happened, then London, not my London... London Ontario happened."
Eve gave a salute with her own black mug. It bore the grey logo of Willard International Consulting. "Yes."
Venus let her ire fade.
"Still, the question remains. Do you have any difficulties with Miss Hino or Miss Kino?"
"Ah, good. I was worried. Well, Miss Hino is the suspicious sort."
About to take a drink, Venus laughed.
Eve made a show of looking abashed. "I am fully capable of trusting those close to me. And I have no problem with someone worried about their friends."
Hand clenching, Venus had to consciously reduce the pressure when she started to hear the slight crinkling of stressed ceramic.
"I am sorry," Eve bowed her head.
"She... it's not like that."
"Miss Hino is cautious and devoted to Miss Tsukino. Same for Miss Kino, but I wonder."
"You don't have to keep referring to us by our last names," Venus smirked.
Eve gave a tiny smile.
"Well... we're all devoted to Usagi."
"To where you wear her face."
Venus ran a hand along her cheek. "Small change... and I've pretended to be the Moon Princess before."
"You've also been alone. You were the first."
Venus held her mug, gently this time. "Alone? Even then, it was me and... Artemis." She rubbed at the corner of her eye, but there were no tears. "I should get in contact with Alan and Katarina. It's been a while. I hear they're still together."
"Katarina Carnon of Interpol?"
"Do you know everything about us?" Venus smirked.
"It was mentioned four months ago at a lunch. Miss Hino was complaining about when the Tokyo police interfered with a Pattern Y attack and you mentioned how helpful... Katarina was, but that another Tokyo police Special Officer, by the name Wakagi I believe, was very unhelpful. Now, his boss Superintendent General Sakurada, yes? She assisted you."
"She would bug me every week to try and recruit me onto the force," Venus' tone was flat. "And don't pretend that you're struggling to remember their names."
"Many people find talking to someone with an eidetic memory disquieting. A few flaws makes one seem disarming."
Venus gave a level glare.
"Fine, no masks," Eve let her horns slide out. "Your interactions with Superintended Sakurada illustrates why you're hesitant to support a fuller integration with us. But it also shows why you are not against some form of cooperation."
"And now that Miss Tsukino, as you call her, is gone..."
"It's just us," Eve's voice softened.
Venus blinked. "You miss her, them."
Mirth touched, the blonde magical girl's eyes. "This is the first time you've been away from them. Big bad German scary agent misses her sisters."
Eve nodded. "And you? You've been close to Miss Tsukino. More than pretending to be her, you've been closer to her than anyone else."
"She no longer wears me as armor."
"Yes, you're no longer a thing. You're still at her side."
Venus exhaled. The action stuck out for how deliberate, almost forced, it was. "I miss her."
"Naturally. You love her."
Venus eyed the demon. There was no high handed judgment in her tone. It might have been sympathetic. "I loved her before Ami got to me."
"I know, Miss Mizuno's actions were redundant. She forced something upon you that was already there."
"Yeah, well, she did a lot of redundant things to me." Venus flexed her fingers.
"You got free of her control."
"Yes, back under the fealty of my true queen." Venus watched the demon's cool blue eyes. "You're conflicted. How many loyalties do you have?"
Eve sipped her coffee. "Command is well aware of my past and upbringing. Their background investigation was most thorough."
Venus shook her head. "No, not whatever Boys in Belize weirdo colony you grew up in."
"Boys from Brazil is the book you're thinking of," Eve corrected.
"Not really my taste in reading." Venus looked over her fellow blonde's stern features and her grey uniform.
"What have you been reading?" Eve asked.
"Oh, Makochan found a fun scifi book. It's about this vocaloid, well gynoid, in Japan. She's huge in rock and death-metal, but it turns out she's being reprogrammed into an assassin 'bot and has to learn how to fight for her freedom, her friend's, and expose the sinister conspiracies around her."
Eve nodded. "Escapism then?"
"It is a bit more black and white, and the book has an accompanying sound track that is really good. It's a bit girls-with-guns for my tastes, but since there's no magic and it's all cyberpunk, that's expected."
"You'll have to give me the title," Eve said.
"I suppose you could relate too, you do have so many masters." She pointed to the mug. "The Company." She pointed to Eve's horns. "Your sister. And now meeting with BlackSky, visits to exotic cities, turning your... well... making a mother."
Venus folded her hands. "I really can't complain. I'm not an orphan like Makochan. I'm not as estranged as Haruka and Michiru are."
Venus gave another deliberate exhale.
"But?" Eve asked, voice gentle.
Venus eyed her. The demon was an interrogator. And her tools were more than needles and demonic powers. A good memory, a flair for asking the right questions, and the patience to keep asking questions went a long way.
"I worry; no, I wonder. I know what Ami did to me. I'm seeing Kiri... Setsuna letting her hair down, being more, well, more Pluto. And Rei, she's got her passions."
"Wielding Kusanagi with her goddess' blessing had to have been illuminating."
Venus gave the demon a flat look. "Yeah, she's growing too."
"But?" Eve prompted.
"But what? I don't think she's going to go all FireStar and burn down the homecoming ball."
"You're confusing Firestarter and Carrie both books by the same author about young women who-" Eve stopped when she saw Venus' tiny grin.
"But it's not about Rei, or me, or even Ami and Usagi." Venus looked down. "You're worried about Makochan?"
"The quiet ones escape notice."
"Yeah... that was Ami and Janet, er Naru's, thing." Venus gave another faux exhale. "Makochan's fine."
Eve pursed her lips.
"I've been with her. She's getting along well with Rei, and we talk."
"Maybe a social event can be arranged?"
Venus smirked at the demon. "You really are an... organized person aren't you?
"Given my eldest and youngest sisters, someone has to be."
Venus laughed. "Yeah, well... Ami was that for us."
Eve gave a salute with her mug. "Being a magical girl is full of unexpected challenges."
Venus gave the demon a level look as if to say: "Like you would know."
With a little smile, Eve focused and there was another shimmer on her brow. This time, instead of horns appearing, a thin gold tiara with set with a single glossy obsidian stone formed.
Venus snorted. "Of course."
Eve let her tiara sublimate away. "I am not a very strong Pattern Silver, but it is there."
"If Sailor DarkStar's daughters can be Senshi then why not siblings." The golden golem girl laughed. "You've been trying to get magical girls, Pattern Silvers, for over a year and now you're one of them."
"I've already got a wizard in the family," Eve shrugged.
Venus' mirth grew..
Eve gave an inquisitive look.
"Sorry, I'm just imagining what it'd be like for some of our siblings turned out to be magical girls too."
The demoness shook her head.
"I better warn Usagi about her brother when she gets back," Venus said as she laughed.
"Is he not associating with Miss Tsukino's daughter?"
Venus gave a theatrical exhale through her teeth. "Oh, that rotten, little, pink spore."
Eve made a thoughtful noise.
"I have suspicions, like you." Eve tapped the table. "The younger sibling of a crown princess, an heir, has a certain historical role."
Venus pushed thoughts of what could happen to Usagi's little brother if... well not just if anything were to happen to the Moon Princess. There was also if a certain time traveling trickster decided to meddle.
"And what about your daughters?" she asked the demon.
Eve looked thoughtful. "What an idea."
Venus snorted. "Please, I know you'd have considered it."
Saluting with her mug again, Eve smiled. "Well, I am new to this magical girl stuff."
"And your teacher was Ranma. Someone who really didn't get us."
"She was distracted by other things when she first got those powers," Eve reminded.
"Still, you're got magical girl lessons from someone who made it up on her own." Venus sighed. "I mean it's not like our advisors... they tried their best. But we also had a long time to figure out what worked and didn't."
"Is this an offer?" Eve quirked her eyebrow up. "You do have the most experience."
"Do you want magical girl training?"
"Do you want the training I can offer?" Eve returned.
Venus eyed the demoness. "I'll agree just to see what your magical girl outfit is."
Eve looked skeptical.
"Oh not the 'operator vest with Kevlar bows and skirt' I mean the actual frilly thing. Or maybe something with a bare midriff and leather micro-skirt like your sister."
"Maybe it's a more metallic design, like the upgrade you and the other Guardian Senshi got."
Venus laughed. "As good as Rei looks in bronze and Makoto in patinated copper, I do wonder if they could get back to Seifukus that are softer."
"But not you?"
"Armor suits me." Venus shrugged.
Eve nodded. "We have a deal then?"
"I'll show you mine if you show me yours?" Venus cheekily said.
The blonde held the demon's gaze for a moment before giving a nod of her own.
Usagi looked at her reflection while two amber-haired demonic maids fussed over her. Black hair was... odd. The glossy black odangos and twin-tails made a statement. She was not well versed enough in the floral languages to know what the lilies and black and red roses nestled up upon a hair band meant.
Though, they did compliment the slinky, gold accented, black dress with a slit up one side. As a bonus it revealed most of her left leg. The garters to her smoky stockings were readily visible, and she experimentally stepped on a high black heel.
The choker around her neck with its red gem tied the whole look together.
On the other hand, she was concerned the maids were going a bit heavy on the eye-makeup. Not that it did not compliment the pale foundation and black lipstick but it gave her a certain... hauteur. The shiny black tiara with its own red stone in a gold setting helped with that as well.
She gave her reflection a stern frown. Gold earrings swayed.
A purple-skinned demoness with her magenta head piled up waves and curls totted up in an even tighter and shinier black dress and impressively arching red heels. Her tail curled around Usagi's leg as she leaned in. Long black nails ran down Usagi's side.
"I thought the point was to be incognito. It's a bit hard to do that with crescent moon earrings, and one on your forehead," Ranma added with a smirk.
"At least I changed my hair color," Usagi pouted.
"This is a lot more purple and pinkish than my normal shade!"
One of the twins smoothly went over to Ranma and began fussing over her hair and eye-makeup. "Thank you Ellia," the nearly-red-head smiled.
"And with you for contrast I don't look too overdone," Usagi closed one eye and peered at her eyelid.
"Nonsense, you're perfectly decadent," Ranma leaned closer with a creak of her dress.
"What does that make you?"
"Sinfully decadent," Ranma purred.
Usagi laughed and rolled her shoulders and hips to and fro to get a better angle of her reflection; Ranma's tail did make that a bit more challenging. "This dress does compliment my hips. Without being too..."
Her eyes went to the demon.
"Yes, it is a bit tight, Allia. I mean... sitting down will..."
"Remember to sit with your knees together-" Allia, the other maid, helpfully offered as she resumed working on Usagi's tresses.
"- and bend at the ankles," Ellia, her identical twin, completed as she fetched a tray of drinks.
"Bend my ankles? In these shoes?" Ranma gave a thin smile as she accepted a tiny glass of plum schnapps.
"Have you figured out how to get to the restaurant?" Usagi asked as she took a step back and took in her reflection, and that of the demoness on her arm.
"I'm sure we can get a limo or a chariot."
"If I recall the stables and garage are by that little village, near the bottom of the Palace." Usagi squeezed Ranma a bit close. "We've got over a hundred stories to go from there to here."
"It's not too far from here to the elevator," Allia offered.
"And it's a short distance across the lobby that separates the Upper Palace from the Lower," her twin offered. "And after the second elevator ride we can have a concierge waiting with your transport in Sunrise Receiving Hall."
"Maybe I'll just ask Puu to teleport us down," Usagi murmured.
The maids' tails went limp. "We do not recommend that, Mistress," they said.
"No teleporting in the Palace?" Usagi pondered. That seemed like a sensible security measure. Though she suspected that BlackSky herself and perhaps certain retainers and Family members were "white-listed' to allow a rapid response."
"That said, if you do wish to teleport to your restaurant there is a receiving platform only a few levels below us," Allia offered.
"And you wouldn't have any trouble getting through the security," Ellia reminded.
Usagi laughed. Of course there was a teleport platform. It was like the succubus equivalent of a helipad. Though the literal succubus equivalent of a helipad would be just a balcony or an open length of parapet.
She supposed the reason Ranma didn't offer to carry her and simply fly out was because it would muss up her hair.
"What do you say?" Ranma teased. "Us appearing on the dance floor would make quite the entrance."
"I thought the point of us disguising ourselves was to not draw attention."
The demoness laughed. "Really? If you wanted that then we could have just changed our hair colors and worn something plain." Ranma sipped her drink.
The twins looked a bit bashful.
"But you didn't want to put the poor HeartWood girls out of work did you?" Ranma asked
Usagi sighed and took one of the squat tulip-shaped glasses. "Fine." She swished some of the smooth, almost effervescent, liquor in her mouth. There were no actual bubbles but it felt like... spring. There was almost the feeling of sunshine and the mental image of a sprightly mid-morning grove. Maybe it was the subtle, minty notes and the delicate cinnamon warmth.
The Moon Princess gave the glass an appreciative look and drank some more.
"We are going to have to take notes. Akane and Nariko want to go to, but tonight they're seeing a play with Nabiki and Cecilia and the others. Which gives us the suites to ourselves when we get back."
The newly ebony-haired woman absently nodded.
The redhead gave little look of vexation but continued. "Aunt CloudFire has talked up the ambiance and quality of food, not to mention the dress code. Misako will be so put out if we don't get pictures."
Usagi's smile turned a bit glassy as she sipped some more of the plum schnapps and idly petted Ranma's tail. Fancy food, fancy succubus food, was... risky. Drinks too for that matter. She wondered if there was some succubus version of caffeine, only far more harmful to humans.
Though she was already in the heart of a demonic empire, and had a favored princess on her arm.
"Well, when in Silvana," she murmured.
Ranma snorted while the two maids looked a bit confused. "I'm not sure the joke translates well," the red, red-ish, haired demoness explained.
"Ah, it's an Earth thing," they both nodded.
"Well..." Ranma frowned. It was a joke about Rome and her grandmother was pretty blatant bout absorbing Roman culture. "Yes, it's a play on 'When in Rome, do as the Romans', but we're in Silvana and..."
The twins slowly nodded.
Ranma's tail went a bit limp in Usagi's hand.
Then there was a knock on the door and Alia went off to answer. Shortly, Nodoka in her grey Company dress uniform came in from the suite's entryway followed by AshRain in the black and gold braid of House Legate of the Legions.
"Mom!" Ranma cheered as she sashayed over.
Major Saotome looked her daughter up and down. "My, my. Glad to have caught you before you two went out on your date."
"It's not like we're in a rush," Usagi noted adjusting her skirt.
"Not in those heels, for either of you," AshRain noted as she accepted a glass from Allia. She sipped thoughtfully then looked at the bottle on the tray.
"How was the tour?" Ranma asked.
"Castra Argentum is an impressive facility. The security, that I could see, was very sensible, if different than the Palace's. The aspergillum was an interesting twist. Not one I expected."
AshRain laughed. "In the right hands, holy water can be very effective, especially for the cost." She took another sip.
Nodoka bowed her head.
"And the business side?"
"There may be some services the Company can offer House BlackSky. A few things we could offer their command ,control, and communications systems. Maybe some logistics. Possibly facilitating end user licensee agreements for equipment from our world."
"The House would prefer technical data packages and assistance in setting up our own manufacturing capability. Especially for consumable items like munitions or power systems," AshRain noted.
"And I can say with confidence that the Company would be more than happy to help you with such production needs," Nodoka assured. For a mercenary company having a source of funds, munitions, and gear that was... outside of the preview of earthly authorities had potential.
"Logistics," Usagi shook her head. She noticed that both her glass and AshRain's needed refilling.
"That is one of Eve's specialties. She can help take up the negotiations on her trip." Ranma looked to her mother. "So?"
Nodding, Nodoka accepted a drink. "We'll need to tell her and inform BlackStone. Ideally, she should visit too."
"Oh, Eve's already guessed, but, yeah, we'll have to visit the tall knucklehead."
"Your, 'little' sister?" Usagi asked.
"But... unless her wizard magic uncovers... something, you're going to become a demon." Still running a finger down Ranma's tail, Usagi looked over the human woman.
Nodoka's hand tightened a bit on the thick stem of her glass. "Yes." She sipped and studied the contents. "This is quite good."
"It should be," AshRain chuckled.
"Grandmother's personal stash?"
"From her personal orchard. Up at the penultimate level of the Palace." AshRain eyed the twins. "And I doubt these two would break into Mother's private liquor cellar."
Ellia and Allia bowed their heads.
Usagi swished a bit of the evocative, intriguing but not cloying drink. Even in a building that was more of a geological feature in scale, and composition, the orchard near the summit could not be that large. Especially, since BlackSky kept her personal chambers up there.
That meant that there could not be very many bottles of this stuff produced every year. The faux-ebony haired woman frowned in thought. "How personal of an orchard?"
AshRain smirked and savored another sip. "Yes, Mother tends to it herself, and does much of the fermenting, distilling, and bottling. And it is an... old Family recipe. It's a meditative way for her to relax."
Usagi swallowed. That... she was not sure how to calculate the cost of a bottle if someone tried to sell it in the city. And then there was the magic. Something made by a demon empress from her own trees had to have some sort of effect.
She eyed the glass. "Ah."
Usagi had to hope that if it had some negative effect, Pluto would warn her about it. Though Puu had gotten bored midway through the hair dying and wandered off to her rooms.
AshRain gave the two human, or approximately human, women a reassuring smile. "The effects are minor. And beneficial, among them no hangover. Provided you do not push yourselves to excess."
Ranma gestured to how she was dressed.
The Daughter of BlackSky laughed. "Oh, niece. You are a delight."
Her tail flexed in Usagi's hand as she frowned slightly.
"I was once your age," AshRain assured. "And I know I'm a bit less... overt than my sisters."
"Oh, no, I can understand," Usagi assured. "You should see her younger sister Eve."
"The captain?" AshRain asked.
"You will like her," Nodoka said, with pride.
Nodding amiably, AshRain took her drink. "I will say, you are not what I expected from the legends. Either of you," she looked between Ranma and Usagi.
"Well..." Ranma did point to Usagi's current hair color.
"Costumes aside," AshRain laughed. She looked at her glass. "But, you are better than legends, more than a mask a dancer wears onstage."
"And I'm not her anyway. At least not what the story became."
Ranma looked to Usagi.
"Hey, they're cash grabs of what me and the other Senshi got up to. Oddly enough, the videogames, especially that first arcade one about Venus, were the most accurate."
"And while Mother and DawnStrike were around back then... time, and loss, does things to memory," AshRain admitted.
"Not to mention reincarnation changes a person," Ranma pointed out.
Usagi smiled as she took a sip.
"True," AshRain laughed.
"I shouldn't keep you from your date," Nodoka smiled at the two women.
Usagi blushed a bit.
"Not going to try and deny it?" Ranma teased.
The darkly dressed Moon Princess clenched her hand, squeezing the demon's tail.
The magenta-haired woman gasped and purred.
"Kinda late to do that, no?"
Ranma slipped closer and continued to purr. "And what are your plans, Aunty? Doing any more tours or martial demonstrations?"
AshRain laughed. "My, you want to train? Even now? Even dressed as you are, with your... companion at your side?"
Usagi sipped her glass. "I'm used to it."
"I'm not that bad," Ranma pouted.
"You're saying you're not thinking about ways to fight while wearing a hobble skirt and some exceptionally high heels?" Usagi asked.
Ranma just gave her a confused look. "Well, yeah."
The demon smirked. "I dunno, my girls' magical girl outfits have combat boots, your girls still wear high heels."
"Not all of us! Makoto's still got boots... with high heels."
"And she wears them well; she's really got the legs for them." Ranma stuck out her tongue.
"It comes with being taller."
"Tell me about it, all my sisters are taller than me," Ranma looked down her skirt and to her heels.
"You could change that," Usagi noted.
"I could." Ranma shrugged and accepted a fresh glass.
"You can look pretty much however you want."
Ranma simply smirked at the, currently dark-haired, princess who had previously assumed the form of a silver-haired young queen several years older than her natural, and blonde, form.
AshRain smiled behind her glass. She looked to Nodoka. "It'll be similar for you too."
The older Saotome woman nodded. "You mean when I'm a... broodling?"
"Of course, young girls love to dress up, but even after you're advanced into an adult demoness, a brood mother, you will still be a young brood mother."
Nodoka put the glass to her lips and looked at her coiffured daughter.
"Oh, I doubt you'd be quite so embellishedly effeminate as her," AshRain laughed.
"Hey," Ranma pouted half-heartedly.
"Yes, yes, you can be a total tomboy," Usagi assured giving her a squeeze.
"But that's because BlackSky will make me, specifically that way." Nodoka looked out the window at the city lights rising up below them.
"To specification. Per agreement," AshRain stressed.
"You are sticklers," Usagi shook her head.
"Would you prefer a being like Mother was not too self-restrained?" AshRain's tone was mild.
"Probably not," Usagi admitted. She looked over the stark and leanly sensual succubus officer. "My mother, the first Serenity, could have... she could have gone really bad if she had not limited herself."
AshRain pressed her lips together for a moment. "Indeed."
Ranma leaned on Usagi and rustled her wings. "It's okay, we're building trust with them, and if BlackSky does break faith..." She smiled at the Moon Princess.
Usagi laughed. "Of all the times to have faith in my capabilities."
"Just playing to your strengths."
"Yeah, you did say I was here in case I had to deal with an evil demonic invader in the center of her inter-dimensional lair."
AshRain raised a thin eyebrow.
"I doubt you, a Daughter and House Legate, were unaware of the capabilities of DarkStar's guest and said guest's bodyguard. Or at least their recent actions."
"Let alone past interactions with the Lunarian kingdom and their royalty and retainers."
Usagi drank more. "I should be used to snarky demons by now."
"You haven't spent much time with my littlest sister," Ranma shook her head. "She's going to get herself killed..."
"Or turned into a sidhe succubus?" AshRain asked. "You are talking about the bonded Knight of the Queen of the Winter Fae court?"
Ranma's tail swished with pride. "That's the one."
"Ah, useful," AshRain sipped thoughtfully.
Usagi pouted. "More subterfuge?"
"More my sister DawnStrike's area; I'm afraid."
"Among other things, yes she heads what you would call our diplomatic service."
The dark-haired magical girl looked at the demons and then to the other human.
Nodoka was thoughtful.
Shaking her head, Usagi went to Ranma. "At least I can appreciate that you're straightforward."
Ranma pressed a bit tighter and let her tail swish over Usagi's hand. "Oh, you have my full attention," she purred. "And I am hungry.
"You want to go to the restaurant then?"
The purple-skinned, magenta-haired demoness gave a little pout. "Yes, Ellia, Alia we're ready to go, can you have a car ready for us." She then twisted on a high heel and nearly pulled the darkly-dressed Pattern Silver out of the suite with her.
End Chapter 4
Apologies for the delay. Upside there's a completed draft for a 4 part series called "Our Sister" and the next chapter of Selling the Fantasy.
Thanks to DCG, Ellf, Kevin D Hammel, Henry Stickman, and for their help with the corrections. And once more special thanks to . for giving this an especially detailed check.