Well, here's part four. The plot sickens...er, thickens!

Halftime

By Aaron Ziegler
spanner@visi.com

Chapter 4: Time Out

At the Tendo home, a week passed, more or less uneventfully. Marle and Crono, at Lucca's insistence, went to school every day, in an attempt to learn as much as they could about this new world that they found themselves in. They learned a little, but mostly they learned how irritating it was to have to stand in a hall while holding loaded water buckets. Crono was given several opportunities to practice his fighting techniques on Kunou, who seemed totally unwilling to forgive or forget his original brush with lightning.

One situation that amused Ranma and Shampoo to no end began when Akane and Crono took Lucca to the Neko Hanten. Lucca took one look at Mousse, and instantly became infatuated with him. Soon, to Mousse's great discomfort, Lucca was hanging onto him in much the same manner that Shampoo grappled Ranma.

Shampoo took vicious joy in taunting him about this. "Shampoo thought Mousse only faithful to Shampoo!" she mocked him, as Lucca tightened her embrace.

"No, dearest Shampoo!" he exclaimed in horror, as he attempted unsuccessfully to pry the love-stricken young inventor off. "It's not what it looks like!"

"What it supposed look like, then?" Shampoo asked sweetly.

"Um...er," stuttered Mousse. He had managed to push Lucca off for a moment, but like a magnet, she had wrapped herself around his left leg.

"Oh, what a hunk!" she crooned.

"Aughh!" screamed Mousse in horror, and abruptly pulled his leg free. He ran out of the shop, and down the street.

"Come back, Moosey!" Lucca exclaimed and took off after him.

"Good riddance," exclaimed Shampoo happily. "Stupid Mousse gone. Maybe Lucca make good wife for him, so he leave Shampoo alone."

For the next several days, whenever she wasn't tinkering with the Epoch, Lucca was thinking about Mousse, talking about Mousse, or stalking Mousse. "Did you know that Mousse is a master of hidden weapons?" she asked Ranma dreamily one day.

"Yeah," said Ranma, wincing. He had more than once been on the receiving end of those hidden weapons.

"I'm gonna make some for him!" proclaimed Lucca, suddenly. "Maybe then he'll stop running from me!"

"Er, is that really necessary?" asked Ranma, knowing full well who would most likely be the test subject for any new weapons Mousse came to be in possession of.

"Yeah! That's what I'll do," Lucca continued, ignoring Ranma. "I bet I can make new weapons ten times as painful as the ones he has now! This'll be fun!"

Lucca ran off to get her tools, leaving Ranma with visions of hidden horrors emerging from Mousse's sleeves. Still, Ranma couldn't help but to pity Mousse some. Ranma knew very well what it was like to have unwanted suitors. Then Ranma's expression hardened. It served Mousse right, after all the torment he put Ranma through just because Shampoo had decided to make Ranma her husband! Mousse was welcome to Shampoo, for all Ranma cared!

Ranma walked through the Tendo living room, trying hard to ignore the hooks, chains, barbs, blades, and bludgeons that a cheerfully whistling Lucca was fiddling with. Suddenly, she stopped whistling, and said, "Hey, look." Ranma, who was at the staircase, stopped. He didn't really want to see, but turned anyway. To his surprise, Lucca wasn't holding up a vile weapon. She was holding a short rod with a spherical end. The end was blinking rapidly with a yellow light.

"What's that?" asked Ranma curiously.

"It's my Gate key," Lucca answered, distractedly. "It seems to be indicating that a time Gate has opened up in the area."

"A time Gate?" repeated Ranma excitedly.

"We have to investigate," said Lucca. "Where's Crono and Marle?"

"Crono and Akane are at Ucchan's," said Ranma resentfully. "I think he spends a little too much time with Akane."

Lucca noted Ranma's discontent and laughed. "Don't be jealous, Ranma! I'm pretty sure Marle and Crono are destined for one another. He and Akane are just friends."

"What? Me, jealous of that violent tomboy?" Ranma asked incredulously. Still, he relaxed slightly.

* * * * * *

The two of them found Marle, and soon Ranma and Marle were following Lucca, who, in turn, was being guided by the key. After a few minutes of walking, Lucca stopped. She frowned and shook the key. "It's stopped," she said. "The Gate must have disappeared. Still, let's keep walking. Something might have come through while the Gate was open."

Soon they began to hear voices arguing, one high-pitched and whiny, the other low and guttural, with an odd accent. "Release th' Masamune, Madame!" the low voice demanded. "'Tis not a plaything!"

"Let go of Pierre!" insisted the higher voice.

Even before they appeared on the scene, Marle and Lucca recognized one of the voices with joy. "It's Frog!" they exclaimed.

Ranma, for his part, recognized the other voice with irritation. "It's Asuza," Ranma groaned.

Soon, the three could see the odd scene. A cute young brown-haired woman with a pink hair bow, and a froglike creature dressed in medieval clothing with a flowing cape, each had a firm grasp on the hilt of an impressive broadsword. The sword was at least a meter in length, with a broad, flat blade that almost seemed to glow with an inner light.

Then, with a sudden pull, the young woman, who was apparently much stronger than she looked, ripped the mighty blade out of the frog-creature's grasp, causing the creature to take a tumble. Asuza gathered the broadsword to her chest, and cuddled it, crooning, "Pierre! Pierre!"

Oddly, one could almost imagine hearing a voice from the sword saying, "This is most embarrassing, Mune."

Or just as oddly, a response, "Too true, Masa. Do you think she is strong enough to use us?"

"Not a chance, my brother," replied the first.

"Then we must wait. We are good at waiting."

"MADAME!" exclaimed the creature, standing again, "I am afraid that I must insist-" Then he noticed Lucca and Marle. "By Lavos, how glad I am to see thee!" suddenly remembering his station, he bowed deeply to Marle. "Your highness!"

Marle giggled, "C'mon Frog, you don't need to be so formal with me. Just call me Marle, as always. Now, what is going on?"

"Of course, Marle. In truth, I am uncertain as to what hath transpired. I was patrolling the environs of Guardia Castle, when a Gate appeared before me without warning. I found myself here, though whither or when here be, I cannot guess. Before I couldst recover my bearings, the Gate vanished once more, leaving me stranded. I was then startled by a noise, and drew mine blade without thought. The noise was caused by yon damsel, who, upon seeing the Masamune thus drawn, shouted 'Pierre', and seized it. She will not listen to reason, and-"

Suddenly, Asuza shouted "Oh, how cute! Jacques!" and dropped the Masamune. The sword landed point first and easily sank into the concrete up to the hilt. With great speed, Asuza leapt over to where Lucca was standing, and snatched the Gate key from her.

"Hey!" shouted Lucca, shocked at the brazen theft. Frog, for his part, wasted no time in making his way over to where the Masamune was buried to the hilt in concrete. He pulled it easily free. As he sheathed the great sword, one could almost hear a twin sigh of relief coming from the blade.

"Jacques!" cooed Asuza, cuddling the uncuddly object.

"Who is that?" Marle demanded of Ranma.

"She's a member of a local championship Martial Arts Figure Skating team called the Golden Pair of Kolkhoz High," answered Ranma. "She's obsessed with anything she considers cute. If she sees something cute, then she gives it a French name and claims it for her own. Her name is-"

Suddenly, a voice snapped, "ASUZA!"

Asuza immediately stiffened in irritation. Without warning, an arm plucked the Gate key out of her loosened grasp. "Hey!" she exclaimed.

The arm was attached to a tall, handsome, well-dressed young man. "You really have to pardon my partner, my lovely ladies," he said gallantly to Lucca and Marle. "She does tend to get a bit carried away at times." The partner in question was repeatedly lunging for the key, which the young man deftly kept out of her grasp. It was evidently something he had done before.

'Lovely ladies', thought Lucca, flattered, Is he talking to me? Marle, for her part, just looked suspicious.

"Leave them alone, Mikado. They're with me," said Ranma, eyes blazing with hatred. Marle vaguely recalled Akane mentioning Mikado as one of Ranma's 'suitors'.

Mikado frowned, "Oh, it's you. Ouch!" Asuza had chosen that moment to change tactics. She kicked Mikado hard in the shin, causing him to drop the Gate key, which she immediately recovered.

"Jacques!" she yelped happily.

Mikado glared at her. "Cut that out!" Then he turned back to Ranma. "Well, any friends of yours are no friends of mine, no matter how lovely. If they want that thing back, they'll have to challenge:" he struck a pose. After a tense moment, he kicked a distracted Asuza, who finally also struck a pose, "The Golden Pair!"

"No problem," snorted Ranma. "I beat you once, and I can do it again."

"No!" shouted Marle. "I have had ENOUGH. First Shampoo, then Kunou, and now you! Is everyone here bent on ruining our stay? Fine! I'll challenge you!" She grabbed Frog. "Frog will be my partner!"

"Er, milady, please-" stuttered the chivalrous amphibian.

Marle paid no attention. "Well?" She glowered at the Pair.

Mikado bowed deeply, and replied, "It will be an honor to meet you on the icy field of combat," he threw a puzzled glance at Frog, "even if your choice of partner seems...unusual." He glanced furtively at Ranma for a moment and then returned his gaze to the girl. "You can...skate, can't you? Our last opponents couldn't."

"Hey-"

Marle cut off Ranma's protest and gazed at Mikado frostily. "I do ice," she said coldly.

"Excellent," Mikado beamed. "Here are the terms. If you win, I liberate your trinket from Asuza, and prevent any further thefts against you and your friends. If I win," he flashed them a brilliant smile, "then you will be my escort for an evening of my choosing."

"Your highness! I cannot allow-" started Frog.

"I accept your terms," interrupted Marle with a chilling smile. "Just tell me when, and where."

"As for the when, let us meet at four o'clock tomorrow." He pointed at Ranma. "He can show you the where. Ta!"

The handsome skater and his partner left, he running a comb through his hair, and she making cute noises at her new acquisition. Frog cleared his throat loudly, which (his being a frog and all) was enough to gain the attention of all still present. He fumed, "Milady Marle, I must inform you that many a year has passed since I have partaken to set foot to ice, and I was e'en then no adept. If thee were possessed of skill enough for two, still would we lose! Further, that fellow seemed of a most ill character, and certainly not a one with whom a lady of your standing should dally!"

Marle, who had evidently calmed down a great deal, said, "It's sweet of you to be concerned, Frog, but we aren't going to lose. Just leave it up to me. Now, we have to see about getting some skates."

Frog shook his head. "'Tis madness!" he muttered. Then he realized that there was an ally that he had not met before. He bowed to Ranma with a flourish. "Please forgive my rudeness," he said, "but I had not the chance to properly introduce myself. I am called Frog. Though Glenn be my true name, I have gone by the moniker for so long that I find it comfortable, much like a well-worn shoe. I am a knight in good standing of the Knights of the Square Table of Guardia, and am the personal guardian of her Highness, the most royal Queen Leene. I would be honored to know thy name, thou who hast earned the friendship of my dear friends Lucca and Marle."

Ranma, more than a little overwhelmed by the elegant manner of speech used by the green-skinned knight, proceeded to plant his foot firmly in his mouth, "Um, my name is Ranma. Er, the name Frog suits you."

Marle and Lucca rolled their eyes, and Ranma turned red. Fortunately, Frog seemed not at all offended. He laughed, and patted Ranma's back. "Indeed it does. Fear not, lad! When one bears a form such as mine, one learns to put little stock in first impressions. Now, Sir Ranma, ladies, let us go forthwith to purchase ice skates. I shall require practice for the coming competition, lest I fall on mine face the moment mine skate toucheth ice."

* * * * * *

While the four were shopping for skates, Frog gathered a lot of stares from passers-by. But Frog's charming and eloquent manner of speech endeared him to the salespeople he interacted with, and soon they managed to make a decent purchase on two pairs of fine ice skates. Skates in hand, the four decided to return to the Tendo household for dinner before beginning Frog's training, to see if Crono and Akane had returned. "Indeed, I should like to see Sir Crono once again," Frog agreed.

Akane and Crono had returned, and Frog was introduced to Genma and the Tendo's. Frog bowed deeply, and spoke to Soun, "Truly thou art blest to have three such visions of beauty as thy daughters." Soun began to sob with joy at Frog's compliment. Akane and Kasumi both blushed, and even Nabiki's cynical expression softened for a moment.

"He CAN'T be talking about Akane," muttered Ranma loudly.

Akane's face darkened. "Ranma...you...IDIOT!" she screamed, pounding Ranma.

Frog was astounded at the violence. "Lady Akane, perhaps Sir Ranma was o'er hasty of tongue, but was that truly necessary?"

"Yes," she answered shortly.

Crono told Frog not to worry, as that sort of behavior was common in the Tendo household. "I see," responded Frog, as he watched Marle heal the crushed Ranma. "Methinks 'twould be best for one not to anger her unduly..." Crono, Marle and Lucca nodded their agreement.

Over dinner (cooked by Kasumi that night, and so earning complements from all present), they discussed the day's activities, and the coming competition. At the mention of a competition, Nabiki the Bookie came to full attention. Where there are competitions, she thought, there is money to be made! Best of all, I have an inside source for one of the teams.

"So, you two are gonna take on the Golden Pair," she asked Marle, smiling. "They've been beaten before, but believe me, it wasn't by skill."

"Was too!" piped up Ranma and Akane in unison.

"Get real, Ranma, you couldn't even skate," smirked Nabiki. "If Asuza hadn't taken Mikado down herself, you'd never have stood a chance!" Ranma glowered, but didn't respond.

"Can you skate?" Nabiki asked Marle and Frog bluntly.

Marle nodded, but Frog sadly answered, "Alas, no. Yet Marle assures me that the competition is but won. Once we have supped, she and I shall practice together, that I may stand without falling at the morrow's tournament."

Hmm, thought Nabiki, so Marle's got something up her sleeve. That's certainly worth knowing. Either that, or it's just bravado. Still, bravado, and a lot of luck, carried the day for Ranma. This should be worth watching! Then she silently admonished herself. Focus, Nabiki! Don't forget where the real money is: Lucca's little toy outside. Still, she thought with a slow smile, It's always best to put your eggs in more than one basket. "Well, best of luck to you!" she smiled.

"Mine thanks, milady!" He took another bite of his dinner. "Truly, Lady Kasumi, thy cooking skill doth rival thy beauty."

Everyone but Kasumi and Frog winced, knowing quite well what was going to follow a line like that. "Gee, Akane, I guess you have something in common with Kasumi after all," said Ranma innocently.

Across town, at Ucchan's, Ukyou paused a moment in her cooking to listen to the shrill, semi-coherent insults that Akane was unloading onto Ranma, along with who knows what ghastly physical abuse. Oh, Ran-chan, she thought, why must you taunt her so? Still, if she hurts you too badly, I'll always be here for you. Ukyou smiled, and closed her eyes, daydreaming of Ranma kissing her at their wedding. She sighed, and returned to her work.

* * * * * *

Later that evening, Frog, Marle, and Akane (Ranma, even after an Aura shot from Marle, was still out cold), walked to an indoor ice rink to practice. Frog, as he had predicted, was extremely clumsy at first. But with perseverance, Akane and Marle soon had him skating simple figures. This accomplished, Akane explained to the two just what Martial Arts Figure Skating was, and what they were to expect from the Golden Pair. "And most of all, remember that Mikado will put a lot of effort into trying to kiss you, Marle," Akane concluded.

"Not whilst I still stand," remarked Frog fiercely.

"Don't worry, Frog. This is what we're gonna do..."

* * * * * *

Finally, the hour of the competition arrived. Several familiar faces were in the audience at Kolkhoz High, including the Saotome's, the Tendo's, Lucca (clinging to an unwilling Mousse), Shampoo (clinging to an equally unwilling Ranma), Crono, Ukyou, and Cologne. Only Nabiki was missing, and Ranma had a good idea where she was. He disengaged himself from Shampoo and stood up.

"Where go?" asked a pouting Shampoo.

"Er, to get some popcorn," said Ranma.

This seemed to satisfy her, so Ranma quickly made his escape. He made his way downstairs, where he found several dozen people crowded around a table waving handfuls of yen in the air. As Ranma predicted, at the center of all this was Nabiki, taking bets. "So, what are the odds, Nabiki?" he asked.

"Oh, hi, Ranma!" she said cheerfully. "The odds are 10 to 1 against Marle and Frog. Even though the Golden Pair lost their last big match, most people call that a fluke. Especially since no one really knows what happened. Care to place a bet?"

Ranma wasn't listening. "Fluke?" he demanded. "It was no fluke!"

"Of course not," answered Nabiki in a patronizing tone.

"I don't have to take this!" exclaimed Ranma, storming out. Nabiki grinned and returned to her bookkeeping.

"Where popcorn?" asked Shampoo when Ranma returned.

"Er, I forgot it," said Ranma, sheepishly.

"It OK, Shampoo forgive." She leaned close to Ranma."Let Shampoo show," she whispered, puckering up.

Akane and Ukyou had had enough. Akane picked up Ranma, Ukyou grabbed Lucca, and forced them to trade seats. Now Ranma was sitting by Mousse, and Lucca was sitting by Shampoo. Ukyou and Akane were satisfied, and Ranma and Mousse were relieved. Shampoo and Lucca were irritated, and were about to try to reclaim their respective partners, when the competition finally began. They sat down again to watch.

The announcer spoke, "Welcome one and all to the grudge match of the year! On the west edge of the arena, a team that needs no introduction: The nearly undefeated Golden Pair of Kolkhoz High!" A spotlight blinked to life, illuminating Mikado and Asuza. The audience cheered wildly as Mikado bowed and threw them a kiss, and Asuza giggled and waved. Asuza, Lucca noted, had her Gate key on a chain around her neck. "And on the east edge, the challengers: A previously unknown skating duo who have asked to be called Princess and Frog!" The spotlight hit Marle and Frog. The two of them were dressed as usual, but Marle was also wearing a sparkling, jeweled tiara, and Frog was wearing an elegant feathered cap. Again the crowd cheered, but with a note of curiosity. Remarks on Frog's life-like costume could be heard, as well as estimations of their skill. On the ice, Marle and Frog bowed as one, she grinning and he doffing his cap. "And let the show begin!"

At that signal, the Golden Pair started down the ice toward the two challengers. Marle and Frog moved out halfway to meet them, and stopped. Frog menacingly drew his Masamune, drawing gasps from all the audience.

"Pierre!" shouted Asuza happily at the sight of the drawn blade. "I want Pierre!"

Irritated, Mikado shook the girl. "You can have it when we win! Now, concentrate!" The two of them increased speed toward the waiting team.

Then, without warning, Marle and Frog began to skate away from the oncoming Pair. Frog abruptly stabbed his sword into the ice, the blade slicing easily through the frozen surface into the water below. He held onto the great sword with one hand and Marle with the other, so that as Marle pulled him along, the two of them left a cut behind them. They circled around the now wary Golden Pair. As they completed the circle, the liberated ice sank under the weight of the Golden Pair, who momentarily lost balance. Quickly they recovered, and leapt to more sturdy footing. The unstable ice floe bobbed a little before returning to rest.

"A stunning maneuver on the part of Princess and Frog!" enthused the announcer. "But will it be enough to stop the Golden Pair?"

Marle continued to criss-cross the rink, leaving the ice shattered and loose behind them. Unfortunately, as they reached the other side of the rink, Mikado and Asuza finally caught up to them. Asuza lunged, and managed to grab onto Marle. Then she and Mikado shouted, "Couple Cleaver!"

"Ooh, bad news, folks!" said the announcer. "It looks like the Golden Pair is using their dreaded Couple Cleaver technique! Only one couple has ever been able to hang together in the face of this terrible maneuver!"

Mikado and Asuza began to spin around, swinging Frog and Marle faster and faster. Akane had explained this technique as a maneuver designed to incapacitate one or both of the opponents. Mikado would spin in place, while the centrifugal force lifted Asuza and the two opponents into the air. As Mikado spun faster and faster, the opponents would have a choice: hang onto one another until both were flung away by the building force, or let go, sacrificing one while leaving the other intact. Fortunately, Marle and Frog had prepared for this. Marle shouted, "Quickly, Frog! Plan B!" Frog quickly sheathed his sword and turned his head to look at Asuza. He opened his mouth, and his long, red tongue flew out to wrap around Asuza's waist.

"Ewww, yuck!" shrieked Asuza, nearly losing her grip on Marle. Then she recovered her hold. The four of them continued spinning, faster and faster. Marle gritted her teeth, and tightened her deteriorating grip on Frog. She looked over to Asuza and saw a most welcome sight. As Marle had planned, Frog's added anchor had made it much more difficult for the Golden Pair to rip them apart. Asuza was being pulled from Mikado by the same forces that were trying to pull Frog from her.

Mikado, straining under the effort of holding onto Asuza, suddenly became aware that their technique was backfiring. Nearly panicking, he ceased his spin and lowered Asuza to the ground. Asuza released Marle, and Frog wasted no time in releasing Asuza. The two teams coasted apart. "Unbelievable!" the frenzied announcer shouted. "The dreaded Couple Cleaver has actually been countered! What a night this is turning out to be!"

Mikado and Asuza came to a halt near the edge of one of Frog's Masamune cuts, while Frog and Marle ended up near the side of the rink. Frog and Marle were obviously exhausted. Mikado saw this quite clearly, and although he and his partner were a little tired themselves (not to mention more than a little unnerved by the defeat of their master technique), he spoke confidently as he announced, "You might as well concede! You may have stopped the Couple Cleaver, but it is obvious that you will not be able to keep this up as long as us! I will yet taste your lips, my lovely princess!"

Marle glared at him furiously. "Never!" she shouted. She held her hands out in front of her and closed her eyes. "Ice2," she chanted. Abruptly, a chilling wind began to blow, rippling Marle's clothes and hair. There was a bright blue flash, and Mikado and Asuza looked up just in time to see two multi-ton chunks of ice fall from the air above them. The ice of the rink, already weakened by Frog's slicing, snapped easily under the new weight. Then, just as suddenly as they had appeared, the ice chunks vanished, leaving only the hole in the ice, with a battered Golden Pair clinging to the edge. The two soggy skaters pulled themselves back onto the ice where Asuza promptly fainted. Mikado fell to his knees and looked at Marle in disbelief.

"Do YOU concede?" Marle asked sweetly. "Or do I have to drop some more ice on you?"

"We concede," said Mikado hastily. He removed the makeshift necklace from around Asuza's neck, and with a shaking hand, held it out for Marle to take.

Marle skated over and grabbed the proffered item. "I told you," she said smugly as she skated away, "I do ice."

Mikado collapsed, and the announcer announced, "And the winners are: Princess and Frog!" Marle skated back to Frog, and the two bowed once more to the cheering audience. A couple of paramedics skated out to where the Golden Pair lay, and loaded the two onto a stretcher. Marle and Frog skated triumphantly out of the arena, where they were met by their friends.

"That was fantastic!" exclaimed Ranma.

"You very strong fighters!" said Shampoo with admiration.

The others had similar sentiments to share, with the exception of Cologne, who simply stared at Frog and smiled, an expression which, on her face, was rather unnerving. Eventually, Frog noticed her attention, and turned to her, "Er, begging your pardon, madame, but I don't believe I have made thy acquaintance."

Cologne cackled and responded, "My name is Cologne. Don't bother to tell me yours, Glenn, I already know. I must admit, I am happy to see you."

"I am afraid that I do not understand," said Frog, bewildered.

"Don't worry, Frog, you will soon enough. Just let me say, that you will soon be faced with a test, and that I know you to be man enough to face it, despite your inhuman form. But for now..." she whirled suddenly, and rapped Marle and Crono lightly on the head with her staff. "You two! Do you remember what I told you to remember?"

Irritated, the two dutifully repeated the three items. "And Lucca's already made the gun," said Marle, "but we still don't understand-"

Cologne wasn't listening, "You should remember as well, Frog."

"As you wish," Frog said, glancing at her oddly. Cologne seemed satisfied.

After Frog was, somewhat belatedly, introduced to those he had not yet been introduced, the group waded through legions of well-wishers, stopping only momentarily to receive a Martial Arts Figure Skating championship trophy. Finally, they made it outside, and each started for their respective homes (after tearful partings for Shampoo and Lucca from Ranma and Mousse). Before long, Nabiki caught up to Ranma, Crono, and the rest. She looked very self-satisfied, and her purse was filled to overflowing with yen.

"Made a good take, eh Nabiki?" asked Ranma.

"Of course," she grinned. Playfully, she addressed Frog and Marle, "You ever think of going professional? I could be your agent, with proper consulting fees, of course."

The two weary skaters groaned a heartfelt groan. Frog pleaded, "Speaketh not such horror!"

"All I want now is a good, long night's sleep, and to never have to skate again!" said Marle.

Nabiki shrugged, "Worth a try."

And another day ended.

Afterword:

When I first wrote this chapter, I had never seen the 'Couple Cleaver' (or 'Merry-Go-Round Separation', or whatever you want to call it) in action. I had only read about it (in other fanfictions, and in the synopsis for the anime). Then, one day, almost by chance, I was perusing various 'Ranma 1/2' web pages when I came across a scanned image from the manga of that scene. To my chagrin, I found that the actual technique was pretty much nothing like I had imagined it (for one thing, I had thought that Mikado was the one holding onto the opposing team, and I had no idea that anyone was lifted into the air). So, the battle scene has already undergone a rather extensive rewrite, and I hope that it came across all right.

I have a request for all you Ukyou Kounji fans and Tatewaki Kunou buffs out there: These two characters I found to be (for me, at least) rather difficult to write. Keep an eye on them in subsequent chapters, and let me know if I've done their characters justice.

Chrono Trigger Tip #4:

How can I get the second stage armors and weapons from the sealed chests in 600 A.D. and 1000 A.D.?

Once you have charged Marle's pendant with the Mammon Machine in 12,000 B.C., you have access to all of the doors and treasure boxes that previously were sealed by some mysterious force. However, be patient. Don't open any of the sealed chests in 1000 A.D. Instead, go back in time to 600 A.D., and visit those same chests in the past. When you try to open the chest, the pendant will react to something inside the chest, and it will ask you again whether you want to open it. Don't. Instead, go forward to 1000 A.D. again, and NOW open the chest. Inside will be a more powerful version of the armor or weapon (for instance, the Black Vest will become the Black Mail--hey, is this armor for Nabiki, or what?). This works for almost all of the magically sealed chests.

Even better, after you've emptied the chests in 1000 A.D., you can go back in time to 600 A.D. and empty them again! (Try not to think too hard about this one folks. You'll just get a headache, and probably disrupt the space-time continuum.) Inside will be the lower level version of the armor, which you can sell for much-needed currency. How else are you going to by those Hyper Ethers on board the Black Omen? (The Mindlessly Obsessive, of course, realize the necessity of acquiring the maximum of 99 Hyper Ethers is just as great as the necessity of reaching level 99 for each character.)

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