­Hgeocities.com/Tokyo/Dojo/1449/advav17.htmlgeocities.com/Tokyo/Dojo/1449/advav17.htmldelayedxй╝НJ                    ╚агэЋ╣OKtext/htmlђџ &Ћ╣    bЅ.HThu, 08 Jun 2000 21:37:35 GMT3Mozilla/4.5 (compatible; HTTrack 3.0x; Windows 98)en, *╗╝НJЋ╣ American Vacation Chapter 17

American Vacation Chapter 17

All Ranma characters are property of Rumiko Takahashi, first published by Shogakugan in Japan and brought over to North America by Viz Communications. Sailor Moon was created by Naoko Taeuchi.
 

                    A Different Viewpoint: American Vacation chapter 17
 

    Mike walked down the street slowly.  For once, his usually brisk pace was slowed, his back bent as he looked at the ground in front of him as he walked.  < The Tendo's didn't even want to listen to me.>  He shook his head, trying to rid himself of the depressed feelings.  < What am I going to do now?  I'm no closer to finding out...>  He paused in confusion.  < Whatever I'm here to find out...>  He started walking again, slightly faster.  < I've run into everyone here that might have helped me.  What have I learned?>  He picked up his pace again, settling into a thinking state he was comfortable in.  < OK, first, The Vice principal at Furinkan told me John went to China twice, once for eight months, and once for just a few weeks.  Ice Queen... Nabiki Tendo I suppose, only told me about the first trip, and not much more than that.  Nabiki then put me up across town with another friend of John's that is also keeping this... secret.  Huh... then that odd Martial arts class...  Nabiki's shut me out there... she certainly knows what ever secret John's hiding... and she knows I'm here to find out what it is... I won't get any further with the Tendos. She handled her father pretty adroitly... that was really odd how he kicked me out without listening to me.>

    Mike's train of thought was disrupted as something became evident. < Those footsteps, keep speeding up when I do.>

    Half a block back, Luna was trying to look inconspicuous while half jogging to keep up with the long legged Dwire.  She watched him turn the corner to the right.  < Where's he going now?  I almost thought we were headed towards Mamoru's apartment.  Is he headed somewhere else?>  She hurried over to the end of the block and peeked around the corner. "Huh?!"  She said in confusion.  "Where did he go?"  Luna started slowly down the new street, looking carefully into the stores as she passed them, but she didn't see Michael anywhere.  She started passing a coffee shop when a hand tapped her on the left shoulder.  She whirled around. "What...? You?!"

    Mike nodded to her.  "Me, you, coffee, now."

    Luna looked around, shocked and worried.  < How did he... what does he want?  Should I run?>

    Mike frowned slightly.  < Didn't mean to frighten her this much.> "Look."  He said is as reassuring a voice as he could muster.  "I just want to talk to you all right?  About Johnathon.  I'm not going to do anything to you... you're safe, OK?"

    Luna stared at him.  < Am I?>  She blinked.  "Coffee?"

    Mike chuckled.  "Right.  Unless you don't like coffee."

    She shook her head, shock turning to mild bemusment.  "All right."

    He led the way inside and picked out a booth.  She watched him as he sat down and gestured at her to join him.  < What do I... can I tell him... and what should I try to find out?>

    The black haired girl sat down at his gesture after a moments hesitation.  She was looking at him in an inquisitive fashion now.  < She got over her fright quickly enough.>  He waited a moment to see if she would say anything.  When she didn't he sighed slightly and nodded at her.  "What we have here is a question of trust."  He looked at her carefully as he said this.

    Surprised, she nodded.  "I suppose your right."  She said softly. "We don't... can't trust you."

    Mike nodded.  "And can I trust you?  You're keeping a secret about my brother remember."  He shook his head.  "If you're that willing to protect him, why can't you trust me... we are twins after all."  He smile at her winningly.  "Right?  Besides, I don't even know your name yet."

    Luna shook her head.  "My name?  But we...  I mean, I don't know you."

    Mike was still looking her in the eyes.  "John never talked about me?"

    Luna shook her head.  "He's never mentioned having a brother... much less a twin."

    Mike sighed.  "That's just like John... living for the moment, never brining up his past.... You know, he hates to write letters home?"  She shook her head.  Mike nodded.  "That runs in the family...  look, what do you want?  Proof?  Look, see?"  He pulled out his wallet and passed it too her.  "Check it, I'm who I say I am."

    Luna glance at the wallet, then back at him.  She picked it up slowly and opened it.  She leafed through it for a minute.  < Well... this is a lot of ID...  if he's not Michael Alan Dwire, then he's gone to a lot of trouble here... and these do look real.>  She handed it back to him.  "No pictures of your family?"

    Mike winced.  < I never did get replacements for the pictures I lost.>  He shook his head.  "I haven't thought to put them in here."  He glanced at her again.  "Now, look... lets start from the beginning.  I need you to trust me.  What's your name?"

    She shook her head.  < Unbelievable.>  "Alright, It's Luna...."  She paused  < Ah!   I didn't mean to say that!>

    He looked at her, confusion mixing with humor.  "It's just your name.  What's so terrible?"

    Luna blinked.  "Oh... it's not that."

    He shrugged.  "OK, Luna.  What's your last name?"

    She looked at him, her mind a blank.  "Neko."  Was the first think to come out of her mouth.  < Arrgh.>

    He didn't seem to notice her annoyance.  "Moon Cat?"  He said in English.  "Interesting.  My name means something too.  I was named for the archangel Michael, the guardian of heaven."  Mike paused and glance up as a waitress came over.

    "Hello and welcome!  Are you ready to order?"  Mike looked at her. "Ah... sure, how about a vanilla milkshake?"

    The waitress turned to Luna.  "And you, miss?"

    Luna was still annoyed at her slip.  "Oh that sounds fine."

    "Two vanilla milkshakes, right away!"  The waitress hurried away, and Luna stared after her.

    < That girl could give Usagi a run for cheerfullness.>  She thought ruefully.  She turned back to Mike.  "Even if you are who you say you are... that doesn't mean I can trust you."  She looked him back in the eyes meaningfully.  "Not all brothers get along.  You don't seem much like Johnathon to me."

    Mike blinked, then grinned suddenly.  "Heh...  You're right... we are pretty different.  We're not regular twins after all.  We're mirror twins."

    Luna looked confused.  "Mirror?  What do you mean?"

*************************************************

    In his parents house in California, Johnathon Dwire was trying to answer a few questions of his own.

    Akane looked curious.  "You're a mirror twin, Johnathon?  What does that mean?"

    Kasumi nodded to her husband.  "Yes Johnathon-chan, tell us."

    Johnathon looked thoughtful and scratched his head.  "Well.... mirror twins are just that.  Instead of being precisely the same, like a photocopy, they're like a mirror image of each other."

    Ranma looked confused.  "What do you mean, isn't that basically the same thing?"

    Johnathon looked frustrated for a moment before his expression brightened.  "I know, come over here.  He lead the way into the bathroom, and pointed to their reflections in the mirror.  See here, I'm raising my right hand.  But, if my reflection was real, he would be raising his left hand.  It's like that.  Mike was born left handed, I was born right handed.  Just like that, it shows that the left hemisphere of my brain is prominent, and Mike's right hemisphere is dominant for him.  That's probably why we're as different as we are."

    Ranma nodded.  "I'll say.  Mike doesn't fight anything like you. The way he hides his aura and stuff...  He fooled Akane for a bit, but I could tell he was just mimicking your style ta fool her."

    Akane blushed.  "Ranma!"

    Johnathon nodded.  "Mike isn't as... aggressive as me I guess.  But he's so used to my style he uses it when he wants to."

    Ranma looked interested.  "Huh.  I bet I could do somethin like that... but I hardly need to fool nobody, since my style's the best." He boasted.

    Akane wasn't smiling anymore.  "Ranma you idiot!"  Mayhem ensues.

****************************************************

    Luna was slowly beginning to trust Michael.  He was telling her something about his and his brother's past, and she was surprised to find herself listening intently almost an hour later.  "You were really close back then, weren't you."

    Mike nodded.  "Yeah... for a long while, we never went anywhere without each other, almost.  Even when we weren't getting along, we'd hang out."  Mike chuckled,  "It's hard to explain... he was sort of my best friend, and my brother... and I could tell him anything.  Anything, you understand?  We moved apart two years ago, but we kept in close touch... until he came here.  I got just two messages from him before he apparently left for China... and he didn't even tell me about that! Next thing I know, he's getting married, and I...."

    Luna watched Mike's face as his voice broke.  < I believe him, I think... poor Mike, if this is true... it makes sense in a way, John didn't want to tell his family about his curse I guess.>  She put her hand out to him, and placed it over his hands, clasped in front of him. Mike looked up, surprised.  "I... I trust you Michael."  She said all of a sudden. He looked her in the eyes, and a shudder passed through him. Luna shivered slightly as well.  Mike looked at her hand on his, and she quickly pulled it away.  "Ah... I...."

    Mike shook his head.  "But you still can't tell me, right?"

    Luna looked back at his face, surprised.  < That's exactly what I was thinking.  Johnathon must have a good reason.  I can't just tell him without breaking Johnathon's trust in me.>  She nodded to Mike slowly. "No.  You're right, I really shouldn't."

    For some reason, this made Michael more cheerful.  He laughed suddenly.  "Ha ha ha huh.  Well, I guess I can be relieved a bit by that after all."  At her questioning look he explained.  "Well, whatever John's secret is, It can't be that bad if he has such loyal friends." He reached over the table and took her hand.  "Even if you can't tell me... I'd like, well, I'd like to be your friend too, Luna."

    Luna smiled slightly.  < I think I like him better than his brother.>  "OK Mike.  Friends then."

    Mike sighed.  "Thanks."  He smiled wryly at her.  "But since it seems I'm not going to find out anymore from you or the rest of John's friends here,  I'm going to have to move on."  He stood up.  "It's been a pleasure meeting you Miss Luna.  Please... don't worry my brother. When he finds out where I'm going, tell him, I'll be fine.  Please... I need to find out what's going on.  Even if you can't tell me, don't try to stop me."

    Luna looked at him confused and started to rise.  "But... can't you wait for your brother to return?  You can talk to him, ask him...."

    Mike shook his head.  "No.  If he was willing to tell me, he would have told me already.  He thinks he's protecting me, I can tell that much... he won't budge."  He looked imploringly at her.  "If your really my brother's friend, you know that about him... he's stubborn when it come to things like this.  So please, don't worry him.  Tell him... tell him I'll be back soon, OK?"

    Mike started to leave and she quickly followed after him.  He turned back to her.  "No, don't worry, I'm just going back to Mamoru Chiba's apartment for tonight, so you don't need to follow me.  Why don't you finish your milkshake."  Luna sat back down reluctantly and he smiled and nodded.  "Have a nice day now.  Be seeing you."  He walked over to the counter and paid, then left.

    Luna was thinking.  < OK, what now.  I believe him... but what if I'm wrong?  I really should follow him... but he'll just see me again, so....>

    She got up and quickly headed for the restrooms in back.  As she reached the ladies room she noticed a pay phone.  < Right.  I'll check in and let the others know what's going on.>

*******************************************************

    Haruka reeled back again from Ryoga's relentless attack.  < Damn! What's he made of, steel?>  Setsuna had arrived a few moments after the class started again, and this time Haruka managed to pin their bandana wearing sensei down for a match.  She was already regretting it.  < I can't believe this guy.  No one's ever given me this much trouble.  And since I became a senshi, I've become even stronger, yet Ryoga-sensei doesn't even seem to notice when I hit him.>  Ryoga was standing still,
his umbrella slightly raised, he was waiting for Haruka to continue. She nodded at him.  < This time for real!>  She thought as she charged, bokken at the ready.

    Setsuna watched happily as the most skilled of the senshi once again got her ass handed to her.  < Oh this is perfect.  While they have this slow spell before the next encounter, it's the perfect time to train, and while Ryoga-san doesn't know it yet, he's given Haruka just the goal she needed to do her best.>  She grinned.

    Inside the house the phone rang.  Nabiki, already certain of the outcome of the sparring match stood up.  "I'll get it."  She walked inside and picked up the hall phone.  "Tendo Dojo, can I help you?"

        **********************************************

    "Oh, Nabiki-san..."  Luna hesitated.  "Is A... Ami-san available?"

    Nabiki answered.  "Diana?  Yeah, sure, she's still here.  What me to go get her?  She's in the dojo."

    Luna thought.  "Um..."  She was in the ladies bathroom at the restaurant.

    Just then she heard a curious voice ask,  "Miss?  are you OK in there?"

    Luna blushed.  She was mostly undressed already, and she had brought the phone cord into the bathroom.  Luna checked the water coming out of the sink's faucet.  < Almost hot enough.>  She pulled the phone away from her face and turned to say to the cracked door,  "I'm fine, really, I'll be out in a minute!"  She spoke into the phone again.  "Could you tell Ami... I'm fine, but I... left my... purse at Chi Chi's."

    Nabiki answered.  "Sure Diana, on the house.  Anything else?"

    Luna finished undressing and quickly answered.  "No, that's all, thank you, Nabiki-san."  She listened until Nabiki hung up, then put the phone on the sink an splashed herself with the hot water coming from the faucet.  She then leapt out of the tiny bathroom window and ran towards down the alley towards the street Mike would have to take back to Mamoru's place.

    Back in the restroom, the waitress puzzled over the empty bathroom. "Miss?  Miss?  Where are you?"  She looked around in confusion.  "Even after taking off her clothes she couldn't have gotten out that window, so where is she?"

    Luna kept running quickly along the route to Mamoru's apartment.  < Oh, did I lose him?  What if he lied to me... no, there he is."

    The small black cat could see Michael striding briskly in the right direction over a block ahead.  She moved up to half a block from him again and followed him till he made the final turn onto Mamoru's street.  Suddenly she felt bad.  < I should have trusted him I suppose...  but I guess I should make sure.>

    She leapt down from the fence she's been walking on and went around the corner.  Mike was looking back in her direction as she came around. He gave her a long glance then smiled, his expression softening.

    Luna paused mid motion.  < Think CAT!>  She sat down haughtily and pretended to lick herself until. he turned away to continue walking.  < That was close.>  She thought to herself.  < Wait, he can't have suspected anything.  I'm just a cat to him right now... so why was he waiting at the corner?>  She shook her head.  < No, I'm just getting paranoid, it mush have been a coincidence.  Still, I'll be a bit more careful following him.  Just in case.>

    < I'm just getting paranoid.> Mike thought.  < The cat isn't following me, or if it is, it's because I smell good or something.>

    Luna followed him to Mamoru's apartment with no further difficulty. Mike entered the building, and Luna considered her next move.  < Do I follow him inside?  Makoto lost him when he went out a back way at Furinkan high... I suppose I should check to see if he's staying there like he said, and if he does leave, I can use Mamoru's phone to check in with the others.>  Resolved, she headed for the window Mamoru left open for her.  Once inside, she could hear him moving around in his room. She got on top of the tall bookcase in the living room to wait for a few minutes out of sight.  Only a minute or two later she heard his door
open. She peeked over a bit and saw him walking down the hallway.  He was bare chested, carrying a towel.  A scent of sweat came to her nose. As he moved into the furo, she heard him turn on the taps, low, and then come out again.

    Luna found herself comparing his chest and biceps to Mamoru's and blinked in astonishment.  < I'm not...  am I?  Attracted to this young man?  Preposterous, I'd be as bad as Artemis... imagine, courting a human...>  She sighed inwardly.  < It's not as if I'm attracted to cats... poor dumb beasts... and Artemis is certainly out of the question!  No, best to put any thought of romance out of my head entirely.>  She noted Michael coming out of the kitchen with a sandwich and a large glass of water.  < Is he going to eat in the furo?  How very American.  I wonder if that's a custom of theirs... mid day soak and a meal?>  She shrugged, undecided.  < I suppose it might be relaxing... no I'd just get a wet coat, unless I did it in a cold tub... not relaxing
at all.>

    Luna paused in thought.  < Unless I used my magical transformation to change instead of cold water?>  The idea was interesting, and it kept her thoughts busy for a few minutes.  Suddenly she realized.  < I can use the phone to call the girls while he's still washing up.  The noise should cover what sounds I make.>  She quickly hopped down and headed for the kitchen phone.  She got the receiver down with some effort with her fore paws, then looked at the phone in frustration.  < Up on the
wall like that, I'll have to jump to hit the numbers.>  "Oh bother." She said softly.  < Being human does have it's advantages.>  She thought about turning on the kitchen sink for cold water.  < No, why bother.  I can just transform... I've been needing the practice anyway.>  She leapt back down to the floor from the kitchen counter and concentrated on the transformation.  < It's been several days, I should be able to do it by now...>  With a soft flash of light, and a stretching sensation that seemed to last a lot longer than her Jusenkyo curse's transformation, she found herself standing on two legs.  She was pleasantly surprised to
find herself wearing the gym things she'd had on earlier when she'd worn this form.  < Now that's convenient.  I'll have to remember to put on something more substantial before I change back.>  She reached over to pick the phone receiver off the counter and began dialing.  < They should be getting back about now.>

**************************************************

    "Hello?"  Artemis put the phone awkwardly to her ear.  "Hello? I can barely hear you! Hello!"  She turned to Minako after a moment.  "They hung up."

    Minako looked at her.   "Um, Artemis?  Your holding the phone upside down."

**************************************************

    Luna hung the phone up in disgust.  "He's human at Minako's place... that idiot."  She was angry enough not to realize she was raising her voice.  "That idiot, I don't care what he's doing.  I couldn't care less...."  She frowned, looking at the phone.  "I can't call Usagi, but maybe Ami is home by now.  She dialed the number, and Ami picked up on the second ring.

    "He's there now?"  Ami's voice was worried.  "I picked up your clothes from the cafe. Are you safe?"

    Luna affirmed.  "Yes, and yes I'm safe.  Look, I think that maybe... well he might be OK.  We've talked some, and I found myself trusting him.  I don't have anything to go on yet..."  As she started to repeat the conversation she kept her voice low, realizing that the sounds from the furo had stopped.  She had just reached the point in the conversation when Mike had started reminiscing about his brother when she heard the sounds of the Furo being drained.  "I've got to go, Ami." She whispered in a rush.  She hung up the phone and looked down the hallway at the furo.  < Where should I go?  Back outside?  No, he'd hear
me.  The living room?>  She hurried in that direction, spurred on by the sound of the furo door opening.

    Luna hid around the corner and listened.  < Now what's he doing in the kitchen?>  The sounds came form the faucet.   < Oh, is he washing his dishes?>  She pressed herself against the wall of the living room and tried not to breath too hard.  < When he goes back to his room to change, I'll sneak outside.>  She listened intently to the patter of water in the kitchen until he turned of the faucet.  < Now what's he doing?  Being human is so inconvenient, I can only hear half as well, and my sense of smell's practically gone... besides, he moves so quietly.  Has he gone back to his room yet?>  She hesitated, then curiosity got the better of her and she leaned over to take a peek into the kitchen.  As she did so she smacked head first into Michael's chest, nearly toppling the both of them, and getting splashed by the half full glass of water he was still carrying. He cried out, startled, and slipped on the wet tiles, falling over on top of her as she reeled back from the blow.

    Mike's world reeled.  He tried to put his free hand out to stop his fall, but the figure he'd knocked into was flailing about, and hit his arm aside.  He came down hard, his head striking the wooden floor of the living room, and he blacked out.

    Luna didn't black out, but everything looked very odd for a few moments.  When her vision cleared, she noticed several things.  The first was Michael's scent.  Even though the slight scent of water and soap she could still faintly make out his mildly musky odor.  His hair was still damp, as was patches of his chest that were pressed up against her.  She turned her head to look at his face.  (He was draped over her awkwardly.)  He appeared to be unconscious.  She couldn't see any injuries, but a trickle of blood was coming out of his hair onto the floor.  "Mike-san?"  She inquired softly.  "Mike-san?" she said a bit
more loudly, shaking him a bit, gently.  < If I move him will I hurt him?>

    After a few moments he groaned, his eyes opening slowly.  He looked blankly at the floor.  Even more slowly his eyes drifted over to her. Sudden clarity came into his expression, and he moved upwards rapidly... to rapidly.  His hands slipped beneath him in the water and he fell back on her, his head striking the ground again.  He moaned into the wood, clutching his head.

    "Michael-san, are you alright?"  Luna asked worriedly.

    He groaned a little more.  "Ah... Luna-san?  Why...?"  His voice cracked a bit and he grimaced.  Why are you...  ahh."

    She shook her head.  < He recognizes me?  How?>  She suddenly realized.  < The water?  did I transform? Or is it just my voice and he can't see clearly?>  She took a moment to examine herself as best she could from her position.  < I can't tell.  Are my breasts larger?  Am I shorter?  If I transformed, Why am I still dressed?>

    Mike was fumbling about again, trying to rise.  < Ouch, my aching skull.  What happened?>  He opened his eyes as he pressed down into a surface that was handy.  < Huh?  Oh?!>  He removed his hand from the girls chest, and gave her a close look as he tried to concentrate. "Luna?"

    She winced.  < He does recognize me. Damn, he'll know I followed him.>  She looked up into his eyes, glittering with suppressed pain.

    "Ah... Luna, you didn't need... to be so sneaky... I might have hurt you.  You're not hurt, are you?"  He asked, concern evident in his tone.

    "Ah no, it didn't hurt that much really...."  Luna was saying when they both heard someone gasp.

    Somehow, they had missed the front door opening.  Mamoru Chiba and Usagi Tsukino were standing in the entrance to the living room. "Usagi?"  The image on her charges face was priceless.  Later, Luna would wish that the moment had be captured on film, for she was never satisfied with her ability to describe it.  Mamoru's embarrassed look was commonplace compared to her princess's mix of shock, embarrassment, titillation and even anger.

    Mamoru quickly, (though not quickly enough in Luna's opinion,) removed his sweetheart.  "Ah... excuse me, sorry to interrupt."  Luna stared after them a few long moments before coming to her senses.  "No! Wait!  Your not interrupting!  I mean..."  Mike had finally managed to lever himself off her, and she looked back at him, as he picked up the fallen towel and wrapped it about his waist again.  "Oh dear."  She said.

    Mike walked back into the hallway, and into his room.  He lay down holding his head.  < Ohhh, man. This isn't happening.>

    Luna got up after Mike had left, her face bright red.  She checked herself.  < My curse form all right. At least he didn't see the other me.>  She blushed again as she thought about what she had seen, and debated going to explain to Michael or Usagi and Mamoru.>  She sighed. < No doubt they got the wrong impression, but they'd be easier to explain it too.>  She walked into the kitchen, and was surprised to see Mamoru waiting there.  He glanced up as she entered, and just as quickly glanced away, blushing.  Luna blinked, confused.  "What?"

    Mamoru shook his head.  "Your top is wet."

    Luna glanced down at her chest, "Oh...."  < Water and a white shirt. Got it.>  "Where's Usagi?"

    Mamoru gestured at the door.  "Outside.  She said she'd wait for me at the ice cream parlor."  He hesitated before saying.  "I think she's a little mad."

    Luna frowned.  < Silly girl, didn't wait for me to explain.  She's as bad as her mother.>   "So what are you still doing here then?"

    Mamoru blushed again slightly.  "Ah, um..."  He mumbled.  "... was worried about you... didn't mean to... sorry if I...."

    She grabbed his arm.  "Never mind, come on, let's find Usagi and I'll explain."  She went over to the sink and started the hot water running.  A few moments passed.  "Blast, what's taking so long?"

    Mamoru glanced at Luna again.  < Calm down.  Don't you think that way about your girlfriend's cat!>  As much as he hated to admit it, even to himself, Luna's body was spectacular.  < Ouch... as she doesn't even realize it.>

    Finally the water heated up enough and Luna transformed... a little.  "I'm still human?"  She said confused momentarily.

    Mamoru's eyes widened.  < This is her magical human form?  She's taller, but not barely as... well, she looks a lot older too.>

    Before he could say anything, Luna realized the problem and she shrunk, her clothes vanishing even as she became a small black cat.  She leapt up onto the sink.  "Turn off the water and we'll go."  Mamoru hurriedly did so, then went to open the front door for her.  "Carry me so I can whisper to you." she said to him.  He picked her up after a moments pause, and carried her out of of the building.  "That man has excellent hearing.  I think he recognized my voice from before, and he certainly seemed to know we are friends."

    Mamoru whistled.  "How much does he know?  And why...."  He shook his head.  "Never mind, it's none of my business."

    Luna hissed at him.  "Hey, I told you I'd explain.  Nothing happened, OK?"

    Mamoru shook his head, replaying the scene in his head.  < Nothing? I wish 'nothing' would happen to Usagi and me.>  He just grinned slightly at the mental image that brought to mind.

    Luna was still explaining.  "Though I suppose it was good of you to worry about me... I just don't know what Michael thinks of me now.  I certainly can't tell him the truth, and any other explanation seems so pointless."  She suddenly seem to realize that she was rambling, for she looked up at Mamoru and sighed.

    They reached the ice-cream parlor.  Usagi wasn't hard to find. Surrounded by empty bowls and glasses she was working her way through another sundae.  Her face brightened when she saw Mamoru, darkened again when she saw the moon cat.  Mamoru sat down opposite her.  Luna looked around for possible eavesdroppers.

    Usagi apparently didn't think of that.  She started talking rapidly, as if running away with her words.  "Was it nice?  I mean, I hope he's good to you and treats you right, and do you love him?  You must trust him pretty well, and I'm sure he's a great guy, and he's got a cute butt..."

    "Usagi!"  Luna tried to interrupt the motormouth.

    "Not like he's Mamoru or anything, but cute, and did you enjoy yourself, um, but... I mean... um..."  She was almost stuttering now. "... he didn't' take advantage of you did he, cause your in heat or something?"

    Luna put a paw over her eyes.  "Usagi!"

    "Cause if he did I'll moon dust him but I don't know and, and..."

    Luna crossed the table and put a paw over Usagi's lips.  "Shssh. Sshh.  Quiet Usagi-chan.  Nothing happened."  She huffed.  'Well, nothing like your thinking, it was a simple accident."

    Mamoru coughed lightly.  "Ah."  < I can see how an 'accident' could happen, her walking around like that.>

    Luna was still looking in Usagi's eyes.  "He'd just come out of the furo, and got a glass of water in the kitchen.  I just got too close, he ran into me and splashed me, and we fell over... that was all.  That's when you came in."

    Usagi was wide eyed.  "Really?"

    Mamoru was more alarmed then relieved.  "He saw you transform then?"

    Luna shook her head.  "No.  I was already in my human form... my magical transformation , not the curse.  I was calling the girls, so I needed hands.  When he came out of the furo I hid, but I got curious after a few minutes, and that's when he came around the corner and bumped into me."  She shook her head, remembering.  "I was already human, so I wasn't aware I had transformed until later...  it was strange I suppose, but  I doubt he noticed the difference, because he didn't freak out or anything afterwards."  She looked sternly at Usagi who had rapidly recovered from her earlier melancholy and was giggling
at her.  "It's not funny!  Anyway..." She continued, trying to ignore the interruption, "he was a gentleman, he got off me when you left and went back into his room.  I think he hurt his head a bit when he fell... but I think he'll be OK."

    Mamoru was looking at his watch.  "Oh no. Look at the time!  Usagi we've got to get you home before your parents get too suspicious."

    Usagi whined.  "But We're having a Senshi meeting later and I wanted to gooo!"

    Luna just sighed and shook her head.

***************************************************

    An hour later at the Hino shrine, Luna was repeating her story.

    "He didn't even grope you?  Not at all?"  was Minako's assessment. She sounded mildly disappointed.  "Wow, maybe he doesn't like girls?"

    Luna shrugged, but she was recalling Michael's long thoughtful look at her.  < Am I imagining it or was there an approving look in his eyes?>  Luna could see Artemis 'not paying attention' over in the corner, and said firmly.  "Oh, I don't think so.  I think he was just being noble.... He liked what he saw all right."  Luna was satisfied when Artemis's ears flicked with annoyance.  "It worries me though." She said after a moment.  "What he must think, I mean."

    Makoto queried.  "Why, Luna?  Why should you care what he thinks?"

    Ami nodded agreement.  "After all, it was just an accident."

    Luna sighed.

    Makoto looked at her slyly.  "Unless you like him?"

    Luna sat up and glared at the tall girl.  "It's not that!  It's just... I don't think we left him with a very good impression of all of
us..."  She turned back to Ami.  "Look, what have you found out so far?"

    Ami consulted her computer screen.  "Well, he's definitely Johanthon-san's brother, that checks out.  He bought his ticket to
Japan, two days before Johnathon was scheduled to come home, so he must have had some reason to think his brother wouldn't approve of his plans, what ever they are.  He's a highly trained martial artist, like Johnathon, but practices a very different style.  As Ryoga-sensei put it, a 'sneaky' style, more like Ranma's than his own.  Ryoga also noted several of Michael's moves seemed to come from a Ninja or Tong style, and the nerve strike in particular disturbed Mr. Tendo.  Makoto witnessed the altercation between Michael and the ruffian outside the dojo, and Minako and Artemis have identified him as a fairly typical
Tong thug.  Makoto and Luna have both reported his ability to move silently, again, perhaps Ninja training?  Nabiki Tendo has indicated that he is quite sophisticated in money matters, and has made a 'bundle' as she puts it, on the growing Japanese market."  Ami looked around at the others.  "Does anyone have anything to add?"

    Minako nodded, and looked around seriously at the others, then turned to Luna.  In a hushed voice, as if she was about to discuss state secrets, she asked.  "So... how was it?  Your first time I mean?"

    Luna hissed.  "It was NOT my first... I mean...."

    Minako nodded sagely.  "Oh?  You sneaky girl, who else?"

    Luna's eyes widened to record levels, as she stammered... "But... I didn't sleep with him!"

    Minako was agreeing.  "Oh I know, no 'sleeping' involved.  Tell us all about it."

    Luna put her head beneath her paws and moaned.

    Rei tried to bring to meeting back to some semblance of order. "Anyway, Luna... you did spend the most time with him, what did you think?"  Luna looked up and glared at her and she hastily amended. "About his personality I mean."

    Luna sat up again and looked around.  Everyone shut up and paid attention.  "OK.  For starters, he seemed quite a polite, well spoke young man.   He was very restrained, and there was a almost noble quality..."

    Artemis said quietly from the corner.  "Your just saying that because he wasn't interested in you."

    Luna ignored him.  "He had a nice smile, but he seemed rather quiet, almost shy at first."

    Makoto shivered.  "I... I kind of think... it's a mask.  When I got between him and Nabiki when they were arguing... it felt like he was... containing a great anger... a rage even, and it scared me... a bit."

    Ami thoughtfully added.  "He was always looking and listening... I think he heard, and saw... and more importantly understood, more than he was letting on.  Nabiki thought he was devious... I say he's cunning."

    Minako chimed in.  "At least he's cute!"

    Rei said softly.  "I think I'd like to get to know him better."

    The door slid open.  ""That may be more difficult than you think Rei."  Mamoru Chiba entered the room, holding a letter in his hand. "He's gone."

    Inside the envelope were several smaller envelopes with names on them.  The girls set aside the ones reading, John, Kasumi, Nabiki, and Mr. Tendo.  There was one addressed to a Luna, and a second to Mamoru. Finally there was a letter without an envelope.  It said.

            *    *    *    *

     To the friends of my brother,

    Farewell.  I am leaving Japan.  Your tenacity has won out.  Whatever my brother's secret is, I have not discovered it.  I admire and respect your desire to protect my only sibling.  Indeed, I share it to a high degree!  And so I feel no anger, no malice at being balked in my quest, only sadness and confusion... but I leave with a lighter heart knowing... whatever John's secret, whatever... peril he seeks to shield me from, he has such loyal friends to help him.

    Hoping to be your friend,  Michael Alan Dwire.

    P.S. If you tell John of my visit and what I DID learn here, he will know what my next step will be.  I leave it to you to protect him from himself.

            *    *    *    *

    Luna insisted upon changing human to read her note.  If the other girls noted her slight flush when she was done, they didn't mention it. She had laughed once or twice as well, but she wouldn't share the contents.  "He says...." Luna shook her head blushing slightly.  "Well he says he trusts me, though he's not sure exactly why.  He's asked me to... tell John everything that happened... two days after he gets here.  He thinks I can pursuade his brother not to ah..."  She consulted the note, "Engage in any foolish heroics."  She paused.  "He's also left me his email address, and he says that a message there will reach him within 24 hours no mater where in the world he is."  After she finished reading the note, she stuck it in her magical pocket.

    Mamoru's letter was much shorter, and he showed it to the girls.

            *    *    *    *

        Mr. Chiba,

    Here enclosed is half a month's rent... I know it can be hard to find replacement renters in a hurry.  I apologize for any
inconvenience.  As for the incident between Luna Neko and myself, everything she tells you is true."

Yours truly, M.A.D.

            *    *    *    *

    Rei stared at Luna.  "What you say?  He doesn't tell us what happened, just to believe you."

    Luna nodded.  "Why of course you should believe me."  < A real gentleman, Mr. Dwire.>

    Ami noted, "Luna Neko? I thought you were going by Diana?"

    Luna shrugged.  "I told you he has good ears.  It just slipped out, and I went with it."

    Ami nodded but still didn't look satisfied.

    Rei was relieved.  "Well, he's gone at least.  If he's not here, there's no way he can find out John's secret, or ours."

    Luna wasn't so sure, but she kept her doubts to herself.  < Maybe. But what if he follows his brother's path to China?  If he does that, he may very well find out first hand what his brother's 'secret' is.  But what can I do about it?  Michael was right when he said his brother is stubborn... he might follow him right to Jusenkyo, and then what? Another curse on top of the others?  Can I or should I tell John what Mike found out here? With Johnathon, Ranma, Akane and Kasumi returning in a few hours, can I ruin their homecoming with news of Michael's doomed crusade?>  Having kept many secrets herself over the years, Luna wasn't sure.

                        end of chapter 17

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