A Tale Of Three Temples - Part Three

There's never an exact fit when an elemental takes on physical form in another world.

Is there?

Take one glowing, green blob of energy.

Have a group of monks turn it into an ordinary fourteen year old girl.

And it's an exact fit. Everything in place, eyes, feet, nose, hair...

So... either the statement's incorrect, the monks managed to bypass the problem...

...or she's not an elemental.

If she's /not/ an elemental... then what is she?

What /is/ the Key?

And how would a real elemental react to her?

Anji shook her head. She'd had elementals on the brain, recently...


The fire had been flickering when Rei had entered that morning.

Almost... agitatedly.

Nervous. Uncertain.

'Is something wrong?'

The fire flickered.

Not certain. Not certain.

'Is something happening? Something that affects the kami?'

The fire flared.

Okay, okay... one step at a time.

Not certain as to whether what was happening was /wrong/. Not something killing the kami, then.

She hesitated. 'Do you recognise it?'

The fire flared again.

Something they recognise - but they're uncertain about.

She took a deep breath.

And looked into the fire.


Fire reading.

Meditation. Divination.

A girl. Young, long brown hair.

Kin, yet not kin. Not of the fire. Energy, but not fire.

Not of the kami. Energy that /lives/.

Now bound in mortal form, a binding not to be undone until death.

A dark shape. Rejected by the fire. Rejected by the light.

But he is of the fire. Caught inbetween.

Accursed and embraced. Accursed for his nature. Embraced for his nature.

Youma, yet human.

A vampire. Human, and demon. The demon is rejected, the human embraced.

A short woman, her black hair cut short.

Something odd...

She has encountered the kami before, though she did not know then.

She does not speak to them - but they know her, and the man she walks with.

And with him, she has walked between the planes.

Shining one, white-haired one.

Lady of Fire. Lady of the Past.

Megami. She is megami. Not a simple spirit - a goddess.

In her flows the blood of megami and youma.

Hers is the past. Hers is the Covenant of the Norns.

They will come here.


Rei closed the shrine door behind her and breathed out. 'That was bizarre, even for a fire reading...'

A girl who was - or had been - something... a spirit of energy, apparently. Perhaps not a kami, but close. Now human.

Did she know? Rei wondered.

A vampire. A vampire with a love/hate relationship with the kami. They hated - and loved - him simultaneously. Not a wise thing to call on Usagi then, she supposed.

She wondered how he'd managed that.

A woman - not a priestess, not someone who spoke to the spirits. But someone who walked the planes, who'd /met/ the kami.

Who was the man they said she walked with?

And... one of the megami. A goddess. A /goddess/. A goddess of /fire/. No /wonder/ the kami had been so agitated.

Spirit, human, goddess, vampire...

No wonder. They didn't know /what/ to make of this.

Neither did she, for that matter.

Still, this didn't look like something which needed the others' help.


Oh no.

'We're doomed,' she said under her breath.


'Hmm. Juuban. Nice place.'

'Are you sure about this?' Dawn asked.

Urd considered. 'Well, K1 got a little cranky when I suggested using our temple...'

'No, I meant Juuban.'

'Of course! Okay, so the priest's a bit of a lech, but the kami are /fine/. Trust me.'

'The /what/?' Spike said.

'The spirits.'

'The... spirits.' Spike repeated.

'This is Japan. It's a Shinto temple. And in Shinto, you honour the spirits - the kami.' Urd explained.

'What, like you?'

'I'm a goddess. They're spirits.' Urd said.

'What's the difference?' Dawn asked.

'We're not native to Earth. The spirits are, and they draw their energy directly from the earth. We, on the other hand, have to use Yggdrasil to convert the energy into something we can use.'

'It's like the difference between 110V and 220V appliances. You need a converter to use the energy, but they don't.' Anji said.


Spike flung up his hands. 'Great. We're actually seriously discussing how spirits get /powered/.'

'Spike... /you/ are a demon.' Anji pointed out.

'Yeah? Doesn't mean I can't complain about this. 'Sides, how many spirits d'you think actually /like/ vampires?'

Dawn peered at him. 'Spike... did you piss off any spirits around here?'


'He was in China a hundred years ago.' Dawn explained.

'That was China. This is Japan.'

'Naah. Either way, I don't go around pissin' them off, no matter where they come from. Doesn't exactly make for a long unlife, you know?' Spike said.

'But... they don't like you.'

'Me - demon. Them - spirits. Demons I can get along with, no problem - well, used to. But spirits? No chance.'

'I thought you were the Big Bad.' Anji commented.

'Yeah. I am. And one way I got to be like that is to know when /not/ to push your luck.'

'You fought two Slayers.'

'And to know when you /can/. Slayers? Yep. Spirits? Uh uh.' Spike said. 'Dru took care of that.'

'She was crazy.'

'Yeah. Get the idea? They /liked/ her...'

Anji winced.

Urd looked thoughtful. 'Of course, we've got the Sailor Senshi to deal with...'

'The /what/?!'

'It's a long story. Teenage girls, yadda yadda, draw power from their namesake planets, yadda yadda, wear sailor uniforms and short skirts, barely older than Dawn here, yadda yadda, reincarnations from a long lost kingdom...' Urd waved her hand.

Spike crossed his arms.'You're forgetting. Slayer. Kills vamps. Dies, and the next one gets chosen. Also teenage.'


Spike buried his head in his hands. 'Great. This trip's /really/ goin' well, have I told you that lately? You couldn't have mentioned this before we set off?'

'You didn't ask.'

'Stake me now. Just stake me now.'


'Hmm.' Anji said.

'Wow. Nice...' Dawn breathed.

Spike shrugged. 'Seen one, seen them all. Why they don't just get it over with...'

'They wanted at least /one/ ceremony to go right.' Urd said. 'After what happened at the last one...'

'Wait... they've already /had/ a wedding?'

'Well, they /tried/.' Urd said.

Anji pictured this, and shuddered.

'So was it really a good idea to get someone who's a magnet for chaos in his /own/ right to do this?'

'And who manages, usually, to get it to all work out in the end.' Urd said.

'True,' Anji admitted. 'It's that /usually/ that's bothering me.'

'Hm. Well, we should at /least/ be able to sort a wedding out... shouldn't we?'

Anji's mouth quirked. 'You haven't seen the Doctor plan a wedding.'

The other three stopped.

'He's done this /before/?'

Anji nodded. 'He was serious. About that part, anyway. He did it for one of the companions before us.'

'How did it go?'

'Well, they got to the altar... and so did the groom's double *and* several doubles of the Doctor.'

'Now /that/ sounds like a good party.' Urd observed.

'I don't think we want things quite /that/ weird.'

'No? We'll have to see.' Urd started whistling 'YMCA'.

'And /definitely/ not /that/ weird.' Spike muttered.


'Ah... Welcome to the Hikawa Shrine. I am High Priest Hino.' The old man caught sight of Urd. 'I don't suppose any of you wish to join the temple as acolytes?'


The old man sighed. 'Ah well, ah well... All I have to aid me at this temple is my granddaughter, Rei. It's hard, with only one other to assist you...'

'Where is she?' Anji asked curiously.

'Her friends came round after the morning ritual.' The old man sighed again. 'I don't know. I'm training her, she believes, and she honours the kami... Will she choose this life?... Ah, who needs to hear about my problems?'

'/I/ certainly didn't.' Spike muttered.

'How may I help you?'

'We're looking around prospective temples for our clients' forthcoming marriage,' Anji said. 'Ranma Saotome and Akane Tendo?'

'/Them/?' the old man spluttered. 'You're arranging a wedding for /them/? Truly, may the kami give you strength on your endeavour. You'll need it.'

'Thanks for the blessing.' Urd said drily.

'You do /know/ who you're arranging it for, don't you?'

'Yep. Impetuous martial artist and violent tomboy. With added lunatics.'

'I needed to be sure,' the old man said. 'Well, you know what you're getting into...'

Under his breath, he muttered 'I only hope they don't bring those Sailors down on our heads...'

Dawn raised an eyebrow.

The old man blinked. 'Hmm. Those symbols on your face... they seem familiar.'

Urd shrugged. 'Family markings.'

'Ah, that may be it. Come along...'

'You're not going to tell him?' Dawn asked.

Urd shook her head. 'No. Not just yet. And I wouldn't go mentioning Spike being a vampire, either.'


'This place tends to be... something of a magnet for demons. And gods. Besides, you never know who's watching.'

'Apart from those girls over there, you mean?' Spike wondered.

'Like I said...' Urd said. 'You never know who's watching.'


Rei's eyes widened when she saw the four newcomers enter the temple.

Luckily, Usagi was too busy babbling to notice.

'...I mean, the jerk's been harrassing me all /week/! I know he's my brother, but still! So, eventually...'

Ami, on the other hand...

'Rei, you okay?'

'Just a flash of deja vu.' Rei said. 'I thought I'd seen them before, somewhere.'

'Maybe you have!' Usagi said. 'Maybe they were in the Moon Kingdom, too, and you dream about them every night, and-'

'Not /everyone/ on Earth was at the Moon Kingdom, Usagi...' Ami sighed.

Usagi stopped, mid-babble. 'They weren't?'

'No matter how often it seems like it.' Ami amended. 'Even the Senshi can get deja vu, right, Rei?'

'Heh. Definitely.'

'Any ideas, Luna?' Makoto asked.

'Hmm...' the white cat said. 'They're not Sailors...'

'Youma? Ohnothey'regonnasuckGrandpaHinodry!'

'It /was/ deja vu,' Rei reminded Usagi. 'But... no, I don't think they're youma.'

Well, not entirely, she added to herself.

'She does have a point. And...' Luna frowned. 'No. I don't remember anyone who looked like them back then.'

'Looks like simple deja vu, then.'

'Awww...!' Usagi wailed.


Urd waved at the Sacred Flame.

It flickered back.

Urd grinned. 'Hey, don't worry about it. They're with me. And they /are/ sorta necessary for their timeline's futures.'

The flame flickered again.

Urd blinked. '/What/?'


'Are you /crazy/?'


'Fine, fine, be like that...'

The old man hadn't noticed, Anji fortunately managing to catch him in a long financial discussion.

Urd shook her head. /Kami/. Why, by Kami-sama's name, did they want that?!


'Come on, Usagi. Anyone would think you /wanted/ something weird to happen - a Negaverse attack, a mysterious figure from the Moon Kingdom coming back...' Minako said.

'I know, I know...'

'Or did you just want a chance to shout "MOON HEALING ACTIVATION!" again?' Rei asked.

Usagi blushed. 'Well...'

'We're Outside, remember. Not much chance of that happening.'

'Hmm.' Luna looked at the door to the shrine.

And something clicked into place.

Outside. /Outside/.

Luna sighed. Must be getting old, she thought. I'd have been able to keep track of everyone here, once upon a time.

Still, at least she'd remembered...

Now, what did Urd want here?

And who /were/ those with her? Fanfic characters? From the other Outside Zones?

It was times like this, she reflected, that having hands would /really/ be useful.


'I'm /telling/ you...!'

'/Them/? The first teenage girls we see here and - WHAM! "They're the Sailor Scouts"!'

'Hey, I know my narrative physics as well as the next vamp. 'Sides, you seen any /other/ teenage girls around here? I knew it, the moment she mentioned it!'

'And you're saying we're going to be facing off against a group of teenage girls with magical powers in short skirts?'


'Yes, ah. You - 120 year old vampire.'

'Shhh! Keep it down!'

'They're 16 year old... wait a minute. Buffy was /20/!'

'The Pouf managed it. And /he's/ 240. Or something.'

'/Don't/ remind me...'

'Mm-hmm. We're in Juuban. Do you know /anyone/ else who operates in Juuban?'


'I'm tellin' ya, nibblet. Facedown with the Sea Scouts, coming up.'

'Sailor Scouts.'

'You call them your name, I'll call them mine.'



Okay. Keep thinking like that.

Elementals embody the four 'classical' elements - of certain classical systems, anyway - Air, Earth, Fire and Water.

Not in Chinese or Japanese cosmologies, however. Depending on the system, Wood and/or Metal would be added, making five. Sometimes, one of the other elements was dropped to make room for both.

This is a temple devoted to fire.

Now... premise: Elementals exist.


Premise: Elemental spirits are worshipped.


Premise: The elemental spirits that are worshipped do /not/ necessarily correspond to existing elementals.


Premise: However, Urd mentioned this temple had fire elementals. Given she's a goddess...

I can see where this is going.

Ergo, this temple contains fire elementals, which are honoured by the priest here.

Premise: Fire elementals have an affinity for anything energy-based.

If so, then they /know/ what Urd and Dawn are. And may possibly know what Spike is.

Possible conclusion: The priest - and/or his acolyte granddaughter - may know what they are.

Observation: The priest hasn't freaked.

Possible conclusion: He doesn't know Urd is a goddess.

If so, then /he/ doesn't know.

Does his granddaughter know?


Auxilliary conclusion: Hmm. Looks like a good temple. If there was a way we could get those Sailor Senshi not to intervene during the wedding... this place has definite potential.

Problem: Aforementioned Sailor Senshi.


They'd gathered in the main shrine, while Hino had gone to the shrine office.

'So what did you think?'

'Definite potential.' Anji said. 'Although we'd probably have to hold the party somewhere else.'

Spike was looking around furtively. 'Come on, come on...'

'Waiting for a crossover.' Dawn explained.

'Yes...' Urd frowned. 'Hmm... Then again, we haven't had any demons or monsters show up.'

'If there are /supposed/ to be monsters or demons around, where are they?'

'Taking a break,' Spike said.

'Even monsters need to kick back.' Anji said. 'They get pummelled so often /Inside/, they need a break Outside.'

She half-smiled. 'There was this Sailor Moon parody fic somewhere - can't remember where, now - I got a cameo, and Compassion got to guest star as Dark Queen Compassion.'

'Dark Queen-' Spike started laughing.

'Wait until you hear about the Cinderella story. Fitz dressed as a woman and Compassion as the Evil Stepmother...'

'Oh, that's a good one. Hey, how about Angel as Inigo Montoya?'

'You're not serious.'

Spike smirked. 'Or Angel as the Evil Queen, with yours truly as Snow White.'

'Insane. Absolutely insane...'

'We get the Christmas Carol takeoffs. Or the It's A Wonderful Life parodies.' Urd chimed in.

'I dont know...' Anji grinned. 'Anyway, I think Compassion's actually /enjoying/ the chance to play evil for once.'

'She's /not/?'

'I think... oh yes. 'I'm not good or evil. But I'm okay'.'

'No originality, these days.' Spike shook his head, an amused grin on his face. 'So how'd a girl like her end up with you guys?'

'It's a long story. In effect, what it amounts to is that Compassion acted on the signals she recieved through an earpiece - and then, after an attempt to understand human principles, she found herself /with/ a few.'

'How'd they try to learn?'

'From Sam.'

'From /Sam/?'

Anji grinned. 'Ironic, isn't it? Sam was the perfect companion, Compassion was the perfect anti-companion. But without Sam, Compassion wouldn't have the principles she did have - and maybe wouldn't have become a TARDIS.'

And, she rather suspected, /she/ wouldn't have met Fitz. Or the Doctor.

'You know, you guys are gonna have to explain how you all relate sometime.'

'Maybe later.' Anji considered. 'Well, if we do... why don't you?'

Spike and Dawn looked at each other.

Urd grinned. 'Tales of ghosts and visions, that shall last for a long, long night...' It almost sounded as if she were quoting something, but Anji couldn't quite put her finger on it.

'Any story with Dru in it's gonna have visions... Why the hell not? 'Sides, Dawn'll get to hear my sordid past straight from the horse's mouth.'

Dawn's eyes lit up.

'And...' Anji frowned. '/Do/ we want to get into our Alternative Universe counterparts?'

Spike opened his mouth.

Urd clapped a hand over it.

'Have you /seen/ how many Buffy fanfics there are? Not unless you want to make it longer than it already is.'

'We've got a date?'


Anji smiled.

Something caught her eye.

The sacred flame flickering.

And then-



No, not...

Black. It's pure black.

No... Stars.

Silent, like the silence between the stars.

Is this what the Doctor dreams?

'Well and well.'

She looks around for the source of the voice. She cannot.

It seems to be coming from everywhere, and nowhere, simultaneously.

'So. Your gift is granted. The adaptation is made.

'The story continues.

'Events are set in motion.

'And soon, the others will remember.'

Then it goes black.


The flame burned brightly.

'I think they like you,' Urd said eventually.

'Oh no...' Dawn moaned.

'Great. Now we've got a bloody /flame/-' Spike groaned. 'Oh bloody hell. Spirits. Fire spirits. Damn thing's got a crush on the Key, hasn't it?'

'It's /what/?!' Dawn eeped.

'Not entirely,' Urd said.

'I haven't even had a date with a /human/ yet!' Dawn wailed.

'Yeah, and if anyone tries...' Spike muttered.

'And I'm not a blob of energy any more! I'm human!'

'That might not matter,' Urd observed.

'Oh, and me getting burned to a crisp when we lean forward for the kiss doesn't matter?'

'See about /that/...' Spike muttered.

'They're just being friendly,' Urd said.


'Seriously. They're trying to be friendly.'

'Mm. So could you tell them /not/ to scorch my eyebrows off, please?'

'Okay, okay...' Urd paused. 'Did either of you see why Anji collapsed?'

They shook their heads.

Urd drummed her fingers. 'It wasn't magical... I would have felt the waves. Nothing solid - nothing hit earth. Internal? Possibly...'

'She's waking up.' Dawn interrupted.

'Are her eyes supposed to be-'

'Ye gods. Which demon did /you/ make a deal with?' Spike said.

'What the-?' Anji shook her head. 'Wonderful. Falling unconscious again.'

She frowned. 'And I'm not groggy, either. Which /would/ rather confirm it's not a normal blackout...'

'Demons? Not usually... at least, I don't think so...' Her voice quieted. 'My eyes went black, didn't they.'

'How did-?'

Anji's voice was low. 'Because it happened before, in continuity. I got... affected... by a telepathic virus.'

'Are you-'

'No... The last time... the last time, I ended up plugged into a planet's lifeforce.'

'Oh *wonderful*. Sailor Earth.' Spike groaned.

'The question is, were you affected by the virus again?'

Anji frowned. 'I don't know. It /could/ be... but the Doctor and I thought it had cleared up.'

'Hmm. Better get it checked out. I hate guessing with no information...' Urd said.

Spike raised an eyebrow.


Luna frowned. /Another/ Sailor Earth?


There were certainly enough of them running around.

If so... who - or what - had decided to empower her?

If not - then what /had/ happened?

This bore watching.


'We'll need the Doctor,' Anji decided, ' and have this checked out.' She got - slowly - to her feet.

'Just what we needed,' Spike muttered. 'More weirdness.'

'It's in the job description.' Anji said. 'Unfortunately.'

'So apart from the weirdness, the being knocked uinconscious, and all... what did you think?'

'Let me put it like this. Compared to what my life /Inside/ is like, this place is a haven of sanity.' Anji said. 'Does that answer your question?'

'So we'll suggest it as a possibility?'



'Is she okay?'

'She's just woken up. Seems to be okay at the moment.' Ami said.

'Oh good.'

'Not everything we encounter is supernatural,' Rei mused. 'We go through all that wild apeculating, and it turned out to be something natural.'

'So what are they gonna do next?'

'Check back in on Ranma and the gang.'

'Why?' Usagi asked.

'He's getting married. Apparently, they're scouting temples for the wedding.'

'He's getting WHAT?!' Usagi squeaked. 'Oh my God, that's /wonderful/!'

Ami's eyebrow raised. If she was right, then...

Usagi's face fell. 'OhmyGodohmygodohmygod.... what if a youma decided it wanted to stop his wedding?!'

Then it'd have to get in line, Ami thought. Out loud, she said 'He /is/ capable of dealing with a youma - along with the others.'

'But what if it tried to disrupt the wedding, or tried to kill Akane or him again? We can't let that happen, can we? He /should/ get the chance to have a quiet wedding, and this is what we're /about/ - fighting for love, and justice... They've been through so /much/ before they realised they loved each other. They should have the chance to appreciate that!'

'And we /could/ ask our parents to take us...' Minako mused. 'It /would/ be a big event...'

And it would answer why the kami were so agitated, Rei thought. Ranma'd always been a magnet for chaos - it wasn't too surprising that his wedding planners were unusual, too. There was also the fact he /was/ getting married... no *wonder* they hadn't known what to make of them...

She found herself smiling.


'Thanks for the look around. Sorry about what happened with Anji...' Urd said.

'As long as she's okay.' Hino said.

'She's fine. A fainting spell. She'll get it checked out when we get back.' Anji winced.

'I am sorry. I do hope your trip here wasn't spoiled.'

'It's okay. It's been... interesting, looking around.'

'Thank you.'

'We will definitely be considering this shrine.'

'*Thank you!*' the old man exclaimed.

'Granddad!' Rei shouted.

'So I can't get a little enthusiastic that someone wishes to retain our services?'

'Well... yes, but you don't have to make it sound as if we're desperate!'

'Um... we'll be going now...'


'And I thought we were weird.' Dawn said under her breath as they left for the train station. 'They're weird even without special powers...'

'Oh yeah? We'll see about that...' Spike said.

'Oh, come on. You don't seriously think they're the Sailor Scouts?'

'Haven't seen anyone prove they ain't.'

'You can't prove a negative. Even /I/ know that.'

'So you're saying they /are/ the Sea Scouts.'

'No, I'm not! I'm just saying we can't prove they're /not/ them!'

'And you're just saying they're not because you don't wanna get chatted up by a flame spirit.'

'I am /not/ saying that.'


'Spike...' Dawn said dangerously.

Spike grinned wickedly, and started whistling 'Firestarter'.



The End


Copyright 2001 Imran Inayat