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2Bad
December 18th, 2013, 02:12 AM
Prologue

Heaven

The sound of the scepter's banging sounded for all the world like a the hinge door of a hangman's gallows.

"Suspension of all titles, confinement to the mortal realm, and relocation of Earthbound placement until such time as this fiasco is dealt with, whereupon your case will be reviewed and there may or may not be reinstatement of privileges," declared the bearded old judge before banging his scepter on the floor yet again, "Case dismissed."

There was little the three defendants could do but sigh.

--

Shortly Before

"All Rise, First Class God, First Category Unlimited, High Judge Forseti Presiding," spoke the Valkyrie bailiff, banging a spear on the ground as the old god shuffled in front of the room and took a seat at the throne in the center.

"Yes, yes, yes," the bearded man said, waving his hand for the small group to sit down, "Let's just skip the formalities and get on with this." The old man glanced at the trio of defendants, all of whom were doing their best to look as small as possible. "Aaaand of course it's you three." He sighed and turned to the other side of the courtroom, "Prosecution, in all this madness everyone has been loathe to explain what is actually going on, only that my presence was immediately required in this courtroom. I gather that Yggdrasil is down, again, but it's plainly different this time."

The goddess prosecutor nodded, "Indeed your honor, the largest disaster in Heaven's history."

The old man raised an eyebrow, "The prosecution will recall that this court has witnessed multiple successful apocalypses that required planetwide resets and refrain from hyperbole."

Gulping, the woman continued, "As you said, Yggdrasil has once again been left non-functional, and once again," the woman pointed at the defendant's bench, "our dear System Administrator is the culprit."

This accusation served to break the metaphorical silence spell on at least one of the Norns. As Goddess of the Past and Administrator to Yggdrasil, the dark skinned Goddess Second Class was not about to take lip from what amounted to a small time bureaucrat by Heaven's standards. "Now wait just a damn minute, I'm not culprit by any-"

It was like someone flipped a switch. Suddenly the irritable old High Judge changed from a snide, tired old man to a screaming firebrand, "THE DEFENSE SHALL REMAIN SILENT AS A SEALED GRAVE UNTIL SPOKEN TO OR SUFFER EVEN WORSE PUNISHMENT THAN IT MAY ALREADY BE IN FOR."

Any objections from the defendant's bench went dead immediately.

With that, the High Judge leaned back in his seat and returned his attention's to the prosecutor, "Continue."

"A-a-as I was saying your Honor, the System Administrator has once again failed in her duty to maintain the order of Yggdrasil. While the specifics are difficult to nail down, we can confirm a few things both first hand testimony of the System Admin herself, the testimony of other admins, and from observations from our field agents, along with... other sources which I shall get to in due course." The suit-clad goddess pulled a document from the folder she had under her arm and began to read, "The incident began very early this morning, when a bug appeared in the Yggdrasil system, as they are wont to do. However, when several lower level admins failed to pin it down, System Admin Urd and Deputy System Admin Skuld stepped in and attempted a more forceful purging."

Forseti considered this, and then eye'd the middle sister of the Norns, "And what does a Field Agent like Belldandy there have to do with it?"

"Hm? Ah, well sir... it was decided by certain authorities that, given the increasing frequency of unusual events concerning the sisters, that the highest ranking of the trio was not doing enough to direct her sisters. Thus, she's here too."

The old god snorted, "'Direct her sisters,' in a different department. Sounds like someone's political play nonsense, but if she's on the bench, she's on the bench." He glanced upward, his eyes staring at the ceiling curiously, "Odd indeed... The prosecution may continue."

"Er, yes, well by the time of the intervention of the System Admin and the Deputy System Admin, what seemed a simple bug quickly became apparent as a rather more malicious virus. Due to the lacking competence of the Administrative team, said virus quickly began infecting most of Yggdrasil major systems before containment was activated."

"Origin?" Forseti interrupted again.

"Sir?" The prosecutor asked, confused.

"The Virus girl, do we know where it originated from? Was this an attack by the demons?"

"Oh. No sir, to both questions. While an infernal origin was originally suspected, this idea was quickly dismissed, as the virus made its way right down the connection and infected Nidhogg. While information is understandably limited at this time, the Daitenkaicho has apparently confirmed with the Daimakaicho that Nidhogg is in is in the same state that Yggdrasil is in. As for the origin of the virus, no progress can be made until one or both systems are running again."

"Alright then, then let's get to what makes this different from every other time the blasted machine has died on us," Forseti's eyes narrowed, and everyone in the room shrank back a bit.

"W-w-well sir, it happened once the virus, despite all resistance, had made it to every subsystem, save for the Daitenkaicho's sealed personal terminal. It... activated some strange embedded command, which along with the sheer speed of infection is what has led both Heaven and Hell to label it as an attack rather than a random mutation. Yggdrasil immediately revoked the powers of everyone with less magical power than standard 1st class requirements, and even most stronger than that suffered massive power drains. I'm told that only the very strongest demons and deities, your Honor among them apparently, were minimally affected. The only ones entirely unharmed were-"

"Tyr and Hild yes, that goes without saying," Forseti said, gesturing for her to move it along.

The woman shuddered a bit at the casual utterance of the given names for the strongest known beings in the universe, but continued, "Once Yggdrasil had removed all this godly magic, it proceeded to eject every drop of it onto Earth, wherein it followed, according to field reports, typical ambient magical behavior patterns and apparently concentrated itself in places where reality was already largely eroded as a day-to-day matter of course. A full 80% of it, in this case, centered on this location." At this point, she pulled a page from the report and approached Forseti's throne, handing the page, which contained a map, over to the High Judge before returning to her normal position. "Following the mass ejection of magic, the entire system shut down completely."

Forseti studied the map carefully for a minute, then asked, without looking up, "And this behavior mirrored itself in Hell?"

"Correct sir, Nidhogg's behavior was the same as Yggdrasil according to the ongoing consultation between-"

"It was a simple yes or no question, prosecution," The god noted, still studying the map. After a fashion, he folded the paper and declared, "The court is ready to deliver the sentence."

To the surprise of everyone, the objection came from neither Urd nor Skuld. "Your Honor," said Goddess of the Present and Goddess First Class Belldandy, "Is it not normally the case that the defense is allowed to... defend itself?"

"It's also normally the case that the High Judge isn't rushed out of bed to find that 90% of Heaven and Hell are offline due to the failures of Heaven's System Administration.... or at least it isn't supposed to be," the old god replied irritably. "However, as has been pointed out, outages are becoming an oddly common occurrence, and this is by far the worst yet. Since it was not treason or anything of the like, you won't be permanently banished, however... for such blatant failure in the line of duty... by two of you anyway, though higher forces than I have apparently deemed this a 'package' trial, I am going to have to take you all and drop you right in the middle of this mess."

After this response, the mighty High Judge of Heaven rose from this throne and banged his staff on the ground. "Suspension of all titles, confinement to the mortal realm, and relocation of Earthbound placement until such time as this fiasco is dealt with, whereupon your case will be reviewed and there may or may not be reinstatement of privileges," declared the bearded old judge before banging his scepter on the floor yet again, "Case dismissed."

---

Earth, Japan, Tokyo, Nerima Ward, Tendo Dojo

Ranma Saotome awoke as he essentially always did: flush with confidence that today, as always, he would prove be the greatest martial arts master on the face of the planet (except for every elderly person who was less than 2 feet tall). Things were proceeding normally at first, as he kicked his old man out of the way and, after stepping gingerly over his mother, exited the Saotome clan's shared room inside the Tendo Dojo. He then made his way for the bathroom, where Unusual Thing Number 1 made itself apparent.

There was no naked woman in there to hit him, or to summon someone who would hit him.

He was willing to take this as a good omen for the day, up until Unusual Thing Number 2. When Ranma looked himself in the mirror, instead of the usual embodiment of all things handsome and manly that usually greeted him, or the almost as sexy girl that greeted him at all other times, his reflection was slightly marred by some stranges marks on his forehead. His first instinct was, of course, to try and rub off the obvious doodles before going to bludgeon the pig or panda responsible. However, said marks proved impossible to remove. This was when he realized that the lack of naked, brutalizing females was probably just the calm before the storm of a truly unpleasant day.

Further evidence for this theory built up when he made his way to the first floor of the house and discovered a veritable feast, both delicious and nutricious looking, had been laid out. While not unusual by itself, the sheer volume of food set off Ranma's "karmatic payback is incoming" alarm.

"Oh! Ranma, up early as usual!" said a melodic voice, which Ranma correctly identified as the eternally kind and lovely eldest of the three Tendo sisters, Kasumi.

"Uh yeah," he agreed, his warrior mind and finely tuned martial artist sense of danger spurred into further paranoid speculations by the presence of yet another odd mark on the forehead of the Tendo eldest, "So Kasumi, what's with the smorgasbord? I didn't know we could afford all this."

"Oh well," she said, her cheeks turning crimson, "we had a few ingredients lying around and I had some great ideas this morning! They turned out better than expected, nothing more than that."

"I... see. And what about the thing on your forehead?" Ranma decided that it was probably best to just tackle the weirdness head on.

"Hm..." Kasumi said, putting a finger on her cheek and pondering, "Well I'm not really sure. I just got up first to make breakfast for everyone as always, but when I went to freshen up for the day, it was there. You've got one too you know, but yours is different." The ponderous look quickly faded and she returned to her usual look of warm indifference, "I couldn't get it off, so I decided to just ignore it. You'll probably fight whatever caused it by the end of the day anyway!" With that dark prophecy uttered, Kasumi went back into the kitchen, humming as she did.

Just as Ranma was about to sit down and eat to prepare for the no doubt horrendous day to come, when Kasumi poked her head out of the kitchen, "Oh and Ranma, you and my sisters might want to call in sick today, we're having the strangest weather!" She then withdrew, failing to elaborate further.

"Weather?" Ranma said, staring at where Kasumi had been for a moment. He then strolled outside and began to say to himself, "Why wouldn't we go to scho-" His thoughts abruptly stopped when he took note that, rather than the blue sky and sunshine that had been predicted on the forecast last night, the sky was blood red with black clouds. He then turned right around and went back inside to eat.

Strange bullshit could come to HIM today, he was staying inside for once.

2Bad
December 19th, 2013, 02:18 AM
Chapter 1: Dramatis Personae

The mortal world was, to put it lightly, never designed to handle the kind of power the recent disaster had dumped into it. The Earth itself, to say nothing of what covered it, was a carefully constructed system with very particular limits. It was for this reason that high ranking gods and demons alike work limiters on themselves: in their full splendor, their unrestricted power could, in theory, break the system itself.

Of course, that was the theory, and that theory was formed in a time when two things were assumed by default: there would never be a time when the great twin machines were both left incapacitated, and by no means could the mortal world itself produce things that eroded away the fabric of reality.

Both of these points were very much outmoded, but ancient bureaucracies locked in eternal Cold War are rather bad at adaptation.

There existed, in growing frequency as the mortal world aged more and more, various things which have been slowly eating away at the edge of the ancient boundaries set in place by Heaven and Hell. Such things varied in form, they could be places (such as an ancient training ground filled with increasing numbers of cursed springs), people (such as an ever larger number of elderly mortals capable of feats that broke physics without a drop of magical power), or things (such as a nearly infinite number of cursed items), and unfortunately for both deities and devils, all of them drew in spare magical power that leaked out of both kinds of beings whenever they did their business in the mortal realm. Typically this ambient magical power was minute enough that it was simply transformed into conceptual form (power, fortune, wisdom) and simply sped up the decay of the grand system slowly.

However when most of the power of the great realms of magic is unceremoniously released onto the world, the effect is both dramatic and likely beyond repair. Particularly when considering the existence of the Nerima Ward of Tokyo, Japan.

---

The three sisters who ostensibly governed time itself sat in an unfurnished apartment with no other company but an enormous pile of paperwork relevant to their current assignment and some assorted belongings they'd been allowed to grab from their former residence.

Urd flipped page after page, file after file, her concern growing with each word she read, which was quite impressive considering the level of concern created by being greeted with a blood colored sky on returning to the mortal world. "Magic drain my ass, this place was a dark pit that swallowed all sanity way before we got involved."

"Language Urd," commented Belldandy, who was looking out the window, somewhat in a daze. "...Do you think Keichi is alright?" She asked.

"Yes," replied the elder sister irritably. "As I thought the last three times you asked!" Honestly, Urd thought, maybe all those potions I keep dumping in their food got through after all, though if that's the case why not just fuck already? The Goddess of the Past tossed aside the file on a con artist that turned into a panda in favor of one about an ancient Chinese witch. ...Or maybe getting drained is making her loopy. Can't say I feel much better myself and I've got way more juice than her. And of course... violet eyes settled on the third occupant.

Skuld, the youngest sister and the only one with less than first class magical power reserves, sat nearby, repeatedly trying to assemble her usual array of gadgetry... and finding herself unable to do anything but produce smoking failures without her usual Direct Manipulation Magic, since like all below the first class threshold, she'd lost every drop of her magic. The latest attempt by the tiny Goddess of the Future to create a small robot quite literally blew up in her face. Predictably, she responded to this by crying.

Urd's decided to leave comfort to the comforting (and indeed Belldandy, dazed state or not, swept down on the youngest sister at the first sign of tears) and instead focused on breaking open the largest file of the bunch, one with numerous warning stamps covering it.
Yggdrassil Systems Dossier: Saotome Ranma (Hardcopy Backup, Last Updated Following "Jusendo Incident")

Urd vaguely recalled the incident in question, Peorth had visited following it, quite eager to share the latest gossip. At the time, it had seemed like the other Goddess had been lying through her teeth: Mortals didn't just take down Rank S Earth Spirits without divine intervention. And yet here it was: the meticulously documented proof gathered by Heaven's agents that a teenage martial artists laid low the Phoenix King, a Chinese spirit worshiped by a tribe of hawkmen as their deity of warmth and life, with combat power equal to a third class demon or actual deity (excluding combat specialists of course).

Said young martial artists was also apparently the beacon which completely tore away what little sense of reality Nerima had before his arrival, bringing seemingly every destabilizing element in Asia to a ward that had already been abandoned by the mortal Japanese government decades ago as impossible to control. Amusingly, higher authorities seem to have come to similar conclusions:

Warning: Do not allow soul to be claimed by Demons. If allowed into Hell, the resulting losses will wreck havoc in Heaven through the Doublet System.

Warning: Do not claim soul for heavenly hosts, is known glory hound, cannot be ordered, and is often a huge ass.

Pre-judged: Upon demise, soul is to be immediately reincarnated into a position where it can't do any harm. Comfort level of new vessel to be decided upon death, but any martial arts practicing parents are to be automatically excluded.

Urd had to reread that last one a few times to make sure she wasn't going crazy. Deciding that she was not, the Norn deemed sanity the far worse fate in this scenario and set aside the walking natural disaster's file in favor of rereading their mission directives.

Penal Mission to Nerima Ward, Tokyo, Japan
Personnel: Skuld, Belldandy, Urd
Primary Objectives:
A. Search for Clues Regarding Origins of Virus
B. Ascertain Effects of Massive Magical Pollution on Mortal Realm
Secondary Objectives
a. Scout for possible demonic attempts at capitalizing on the situation
b. Minimize negative effects on inhabitants
c. Maintain secrecy of Heaven/Hell if at all possible


Urd looked from the mission statement to the backup files, then sighed. "Alright, so as far as I can tell, what we should do first is visit all of the most notable weirdos in this place, see what this nonsense has done to them. We take some notes on their current situations, compare them to the hardcopies, and send our reports skyward, see where that gets us."

If the other two were listening in-between failed machines and sisterly comforting, they gave no indication.

---

Ranma decided to one-up his "stay inside" policy of the day to "stay in the dojo." When the sky is changing color, it seemed a fairly logical decision to just find a familiar position and fortify it until whatever caused this inevitably sought him out.

It also gave him time to ponder at to why he was slowly starting to "remember" all this incredibly detailed information about historical battles, weaponry he'd never seen or used, and complex strategic maneuverings that were as far removed from the Anything Goes classic "punch, and if punching does work, improvise" as possible.

---

Cologne was used to strange days. She was a master of the Art, well over a century old, a matriarch of the Chinese Amazons, and even a mage of no small amount of talent.

Yet none of that was presently availing her as to why the sky would change colors, or, perhaps more strangely in some ways, why her dear great-grandaughter Shampoo, ever more taken with the sword than the pen, had apparently woken up this morning bearing a mark on her forehead which, as far as the ancient marital arts master could tell, had the twofold effect of granting her great grandaughter an immense amount of life energy (well beyond human levels), a comparable amount of magical energy, and the ability to not only cast off her difficulties with Japanese, but animatedly chat with the French tourist who was paying her at the Cat Cafe's counter. The latter two being particularly disturbing, as the Amazon Matriarch knew that Shampoo had never had a drop of talent for magic, and was fairly certain that her great-grandaughter didn't actually even know where France was.

As the Frenchman departed, the old woman addressed her descendent, "Shampoo I must insist we close shop for the day. That you did not rouse me immediately upon discovering that mark was an act of foolishness! We must find out where it came from and what other effects, and I assure you from experience that magical brands that appear out of the blue rarely have strictly good effects, it may have!"

"But honored grandmother," Shampoo said, her new gift at language even having a pleasant effect on their native tongue through methods beyond even Cologne's ken, "If it's something bad, it's almost certain to go after my dear husband first. And then when he defeats it, the brand will most likely wear off, leaving us with a productive day of business and no more strange magical brands!"

Cologne felt like there should be counterpoints to this, felt it deep within her. And yet she was quite unable to find them. Instead she changed the subject to the other thing that had been bothering her: "Well then can you at least explain what that racket Mousse is making on the roof is about!?"

---

"I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW THE RAIN IS GOOOOOOOOOONE! I CAN SEE ALL OBSTACLES IN MY WAAAAAAAAAAAY!"

---

"Mousse had a mark when he woke up too!" Shampoo replied. "It gave him the power of irony."

---

Ryouga Hibiki had entered a tortured realm of nightmare from which there was no beginning or end. He was, of course, entirely aware of this, though whether this was due to his captor's deliberate cruelty, their incompetence, or his own damnable intuition, he could not say.

The first clue, had, of course, come with the early morning sky. In his wanderings, he would often eschew sleep, and instead cast his prayers to the heavens, begging the stars for a clue, a sign as to where he was heading. Of course, as the black blood that flowed through his veins had deafened him to the whispers of this lights which normally lit the way for travelers, he was doomed to days and nights of stumbling blind across the planet. Yet this morning, the skies saw fit to answer his prayer: by spitting on it. The clouds above blackened and the sky turned a foul red.

The second clue came when he was granted yet another impossible boon: recognition. The martial artist found himself walking down a road, and recognized it. He followed it over country roads, and arrived at the destination he'd sought, the home of his beloved Akari.

Such a blatant, obvious lie. Him? Hibiki Ryoga? Walk straight down a road? Who would be so foolish? Surely this foul sorcerer, if they knew enough to create an illusion of his dear Akari's home, had to know that this sorcery was too obvious. The bloody sky perhaps, but arriving on time? Impossible.

The Lost Boy's eyes narrowed, and he stepped forth, ready to face whatever foul monster would dare torment him so, right down to the perfect imitation of the pig breeder's warm smile and wave as she saw him approaching while she cared for her creatures in the morning.

---

Ukyo Kuonji stared at the nude form in the mirror. The chef had been doing this for the better part of half an hour after waking up. After much deliberation, she finally came to a conclusion regarding which odd thing about her body this morning she was more unsettled by.

"Yep. Definitely the dick."

---

Demons were, by nature, gamblers. They were, after all, the creations and servants of what was essentially chaos incarnate in the form of the Damakaicho Hild. Consequently, many demons held the concept of "luck" with as much religious reverence as was possible all things considered.

Not Demon First Class Unlimited Mara. She was too well acquainted with both the Demon Queen and the former "God" of misfortune, Senbei, to hold much stock in luck or her boss. Rather she cursed both said boss and luck itself regularly (the former never in earshot of course). In fact, that was her present choice of activity, along with kicking a wall.

"'Get more souls Mara,' 'Leave my daughter alone Mara,' 'Go BOTHER my daughter Mara,' 'Fetch my coat Mara,' 'Back this dictator Mara,' 'Investigate the magic infected zone by yourself Mara,' 'TAKE IT SIDEWAYS MARA!'" The kicking and volume increased with each vented frustration, but just as as she was about to knock the wall down...

"Hold, dear lady!" came a cry from atop the wall, causing the demon a bit of mild confusion as she found herself faced with something she was under the impression wasn't supposed to exist presently: a third class god, or else the insignia on his forehead was a pretty convincing mockup.

"Oi, brat, how're you walking around not drain-"

The odd god was apparently quite deaf, continuing his speech as if someone far higher that him on the food chain wasn't talking at all, "Across sea and sky, the tears of maidens bring him running, as the clouds gather to signal his arrival!" Drawing a wooden sword seemingly from nowhere, he jumped from the wall down in front of the First Class Demon... and knelt. "Dear Maiden, Tatewaki Kuno, the Blue Thunder of Furnikan High, has heard your beseeching of his humble abode... although a small amount of confusion remains as to why you wouldn't use the front door. Ah, but your eccentricity only increases your beauty, rest assured! This humble swordsman shall be happy to aid in facing whatever has brought you such distress!"

Mara stared, a hair's breadth from her jaw dropping, at the clearly insane man. Deciding to test the depths of his madness, she removed the glamor concealing her full demonic features, "Do you really not know what's going on here kid?"

Kuno continued his spectacular streak of ignoring the patently unusual, such as the immense damage done to his mansion's outer wall or the girl before him being replaced by a slightly older looking woman with fangs and tattoos. Or at least, he ignored the part where any of that was unusual, "Ah, the beauty goes deeper that ever I'd realized! Why would you hide such a perfect visage from the mighty Kuno my lady? Fear not, for my own beauty is enough that I should never get jealous of your handsome countenance!"

Mara stared at the man for a second longer, and then realized something:

This guy was the biggest rube she'd ever met.

2Bad
December 24th, 2013, 02:35 AM
Chapter 2: It's Just Lunch

The first stop for the exiled Norns was the hideout of the Chinese Amazons in Nerima, the Cat Cafe. According to the documentation, there were 4 members of the Chinese Warrior tribe that had taken up residence in Japan.

The first, and most notable, member of the group was the ancient Cologne, a leading member of the Amazons and one of the mightiest martial artists in the world, and one of the two strongest most commonly seen in Nerima. The divine documentation took special note of her for several reasons. First and foremost, she was one of the only two mages in the area. The ancient Chinese woman was not a dedicated user of magic, but her skills at item crafting and potion making were prodigious. However she was much more notable for her physical prowess than her arcane talents, and all like the many members of the Nerima martial arts community, her special skills focused on either strange application of physical strength or using life energy, or "ki" as they termed it, rather than magical power. The second reason was that due to her age, knowledge, and skill, she was generally seen as something of a leader for the martial arts community, provided of course she wasn't the source of the issue of the day.

The other two notable residents of the Cat Cafe were Cologne's Great Grandaughter, the Amazon warrior woman Shampoo, and Shampoo's would-be suitor and fellow Amazon Mousse. Both were bearers of curses from Jusenkyo, the magical training ground in China which carried a variety of shapeshifting effects, which left Shampoo and Mousse turning into a cat and duck respectively. The data indicated that neither was likely to be much of a problem unless Shampoo's grandmother meddled with the magic, as outside of a minor ability to warp space on Mousse's part, they did not even use ki for anything but enhancing their physical strength.

The fourth, and least noteworthy, resident of the Cafe was Shampoo's entirely mundane father, whose profile outside of this information consisted solely of the phrase "Long-suffering."

It was Urd's conclusion that if anyone in Nerima would be able to harness all the excess magical power most immediately, it would be the old woman, since the other mage was little more than an apprentice hex user who tended to hurt himself more than others. And even if she weren't making use of the leaked energy, her position of theoretical leadership could provide some leads, if nothing else. Consequently, Urd led her sisters to the Cafe, planning to investigate the elderly amazon's activities and glean what information they could from the old ghoul.

This plan flew entirely out the window when they were greeted upon entrance by a girl who clearly matched the file's image of Shampoo, but who bore the mark and aura of a Goddess Second Class, Second Category Unlimited, and who cheerily welcomed them to the Cat Cafe in divine speech.

"Hello!" spoke the... Chinese Goddess? "Welcome to the Cat Cafe! Just three?"

"Um..." Urd replied, words failing her.

"Yes, just us!" Belldandy replied, also in divine speech, "A booth, if you please."

"Right this way then!" Shampoo said, leading Belldandy along to a corner booth. Urd followed automatically, the depressive Skuld pulled along by the middle sister.

---

Cologne did not believe in coincidence. Particularly not on days when her heir suddenly learned new languages, Mousse could see, and the sky changed color. So when a pair of women with similar auras to the ones Mousse and Shampoo had suddenly developed alongside their new abilities and massive energy stockpile increases showed up (trailing what seemed to be an ordinary child, oddly enough), she crushed any concept of chance.

"Shampoo," she muttered in Mandarin when the girl game back with the trio's orders, "beware those women. They are most likely connected to these strange events."

"Should I kill them?" The Amazon asked, entirely seriously.

Cologne stared at her great-grandaughter for moment before replying, "...No. No don't do that. Just observe them. We know nothing of their capabilities, nor, specifically what relation they have to events. Honestly girl, a bit of subtlety goes a long way."

---

"Well," Urd began, a grim expression on her face as she took notes on their latest discovery, "I didn't see that particular effect coming. Sudden ascension? Not unheard of, but ridiculously rare..."

Belldandy placed a finger on her chin, looked at the ceiling, and considered the issue carefully for a few moments, before coming to a particular issue: "But Urd, isn't everything about this situation rare, if not unheard of?"

The eldest Norn, elbows on the table, cradled her face in her hands, "Don't remind me."

"Look at the bright side," the middle sister said, putting on her most angelic smile, "at least Cologne hasn't ascended yet." I heard it was quite troublesome last time a mage managed it." And indeed, the old woman, still clearly human, was handling the register.

"Oh yes," Urd replied irritably, "Far better that it just be happening spontaneously, rather than under the control of a predictable individual."

"Hm?" Belldandy cocked her head, "What makes you think it's spontaneous?"

"Like you said, Cologne hasn't transformed. If she was responsible for Shampoo, she'd have done it to herself first."

"Maybe she just applied it to her grandaughter first?"

Urd discreetly nodded in the direction of Mousse, who could be seen cleaning up after a departing table in another part of the restaurant. The Amazon male had clearly ascended himself, to the same rank as unrequited love. "Doesn't add up. Even if she prioritized the great-grandaughter, she would have done it herself before doing to him. Intel is pretty clear, he's not really in good graces, they keep him around due to tribal bonds, that's it."

Belldandy, far less distreect in her observation, stared at the young Chinese busboy, "...I thought he wore glasses?"

"And I thought he wasn't a god. Clearly Bell, times have changed," the Goddess of the Past replied, the sarcasm dripping from her every word. Of course, the biting remark only seemed to drain her more, "...But getting back to the point: I'm pretty sure that they're not ascending by their own design. No, I think they're just absorbing all that extra magic and getting there themselves. Which is far worse, because that means there's probably even more running around the place... and knowing our luck, every one of them is going to be troublesome people like these two." Urd made a few more notes in Shampoo and Mousse's folders before closing them up and setting them aside at the sight of the Amazon-Turned-Goddess showing up with their orders.

---

Cologne supressed a small laugh. Everyone always underestimates and old woman's hearing. Still, despite her focusing in on the whispered conversation in the distant corner of the restaurant, she didn't make much sense of it. Ascension? Mousse a god? Much did not add up yet. She was, however, able to come to two conclusions: First off, these women were clearly part of some larger organization, one with at least limited intelligence on the Nerima Amazons. Second, though the conclusion was tentative, she dismissed them as the culprits of recent events, but rather observers sent to study the effects. It's just a theory, but it's more than we had this morning.

The old woman looked out the front door of her little cafe, staring at the blood red sky outside as a few businessmen came in for lunch. That aside... I will never cease to be amazed by how nonchalant the citizenry around here are about this kind of nonsense.

---

"So," Mara said, as she rubbed her temples in an ultimately futile attempt to soothe the growing headache, "You have no idea what that mark is?"

Tatewaki Kuno studied his own face in the mirror Mara was holding up, particularly the new mark on his forehead, "I must confess, dear lady, that your question does leave me at quite a loss."

"And what's the last thing you remember doing yesterday?"

Kuno pointed back into the courtyard of his family home, "Well, nothing unusual, I merely performed my usual sword exercises and went to bed. All very routine for I, Tatewaki Kuno, the Blue Thund-"

"Yes shut up I know," the demon said angrily, as she scribbled something in her notebook before dismissing it and her hand mirror into her pocket dimension. "Well kid, congrats, you've been deified, for as long as that lasts."

Kuno actually looked genuinely surprised for once... and then started laughing. "Ah milday, your praise is far too much! Tatewaki Kuno, the Blue Thunder of Furinkan High, does not require your worsh-"

"Yeah, I'm gonna stop you right there," Mara said abruptly, putting her palm in Kuno's face. "That ain't what I meant."

The cogs in Kuno's mind wheezed, attempting to make sense of this based on his own internal logic. Failing to arrive at any particular answer, he simply asked, "Well, oh gorgeous one, then what did you mean?"

Rather than answer verbally, Mara instead turned her palm towards a nearby mailbox and blew it to pieces with a bolt of lightning.

Kuno once again tried to process what he was seeing, and upon adding two and two, arrived at one. "My, between this and the sky, such strange weather we're having..."

The demon first class gave the kendo user a flat look, then turned to walk off, giving Kuno a parting wave, "Just... don't hurt yourself kid. Or do. Whatever."

Kuno panicked a bit at this, "B-but Milady Mara!" He cried, chasing after her. Once he caught up, he knelt before her, "Are we truly fated to part so soon?"

Mara stopped and sighed, "Look kid, I got things to do. Don't you? Leave me be."

"But Milday I..." He trailed off, as if in thought, then smacked a fist against his palm, "Actually, now that you mention it, I should go seek out that foul Saotome."

"Great," the demon said, resuming her departure, "You do that."

"Indeed!" Kuno said, leaping to his feed and brandishing his wooden sword at thin air, "No doubt this red sky, and this foul mark are all his doing! Every disaster that comes to our fair corner of Tokyo always is!"

Mara once again halted, and, after serious consideration, turned to face Kuno once more. "So... you really think this Saotome guy has something to do with all this?"

It was better than no leads at all.

---

As the goddesses ate amongst amazons, and god joined with demon, another new deity had closed up her own small business for the day. Ukyo crossed the rooftops of Nerima, making her way to the Tendo Dojo. She had heard on the radio that school had been cancelled due to the "atmospheric conditions," so her Ranma would, in all likelihood, be at home.

Granted, she wasn't sure, specifically, what she'd do when she found him. Well, she considered some things, but she was pretty sure they wouldn't fly and also wasn't sure where she got those ideas from. But the fact remained, when things were odd in Nerima, it was usually a pretty good idea to seek out Ranma. If he wasn't already involved, he would be eventually anyway, so it was best to get right to it.