The Bet

Before I go into the fic, I would like to post a slight explanation of what "The Bet" is. In 1998, a ranma author by the name of Gregg Sharpe released a multitude of fanfics onto the FFML. Each fic was very different, the only commonality being the cat god, Toltiir, who watches the goings on through the pool of the goddess Mimir. The cat god, in order to keep himself amused, created "The Bet", having other deities come to the pool and make ripples -- change things in the ranmaverse. This created several alternate timelines.

The Bet was put forth as a contest. The story entry that got the most votes would be the one continued. The winner of The Bet was Featherbrite's tail (not my first choice by any means). As for the rest... a great many were completed, by Gregg Sharpe himself, or by other interested authors. I will say no more on this subject.

Now, I bring The Bet to the Slayers Universe Let the wagering begin.

The Princess Who Wasn't

Coyote eyed the feline god with a wide smile on his lips. "So...I've got a new favorite play place, Toltiir. Why don't you come over here and take a look? Now that the betting in that one place is over, this might interest your feline curiosity." He saw the cat god's frown and grinned all the wider for it.

"What game are you up to, Coyote?" Toltiir's voice was measured, cautious, but Coyote could read a note of fascination buried there. This would be fun... Coyote knew the cat god was often bored, and let his sense of exploration rule him. Soon the black cat was gazing into Mimir's pool, almost raptly. "What dimension or world is this? Magic, demons... Maybe not quite as good as the last one, but not bad at all..."

"Good. Good." Coyote shifted as he looked into the pool himself. "You know Toltiir, I was rather disappointed that I didn't get to participate in the last game you played. I didn't find out about it until it was too late to lay down a wager for myself A very unfortunate turn, wouldn't you say?"

Toltiir glanced at him sharply. His eyes darted to the pool, then back to Coyote.

"Did you have anything in particular in mind?"

Hook, line and sinker. "Not for your old place. After all, everyone else has already had a turn at it. Who won anyway? That fae, Titania? Heh. Coming up with creative and interesting things to do after al that would be problematic, even for someone as clever as I. But this place on the other hand, is fresh, new and untouched. Just chock full of possibilities, wouldn't you agree?"

Dumbly the cat nodded his head in agreement. It did seem like a perfect setup.

"Then it's a bet?" Coyote smiled, flashing sharp fangs. Brown eyes were glinting with mischievous glee.

"It's a bet." Toltiir concurred. "Same rules as before. So," His eyes narrowed as he considered the myriad possibilities. "What exactly is your strategy going to be, if you don't mind me asking? You know that too much meddling is a disqualifier."

"I know the rules." Coyote reached out to dip his finger in the glassy water. "All it needs is a little ripple that will one day become a tsunami..."

"A little ripple...where?" One could never trust the word of a trickster, and although Coyote wasn't the worst, Toltiir would have to make sure to keep an eye out for possible cheats.

"Look. The kingdom of Xoana. The king wants to expand into his neighbor's territories, but he doesn't dare try anything. I'd say he needs a bit more initiative, wouldn't you? A little prod perhaps."

As Toltiir watched, a green-haired girl who looked to be around two years old, ran up to the man sitting in the throne. In her hand was clutched something that looked like a little toy, or perhaps a mask. As she climbed into her father's lap, a man dressed in black and carrying a staff walked up with a smile on his face.

"Initiative...right...." The cat frowned. "And just who might this "initiative" be?"

"Sore wa himitsu desu." The trickster waggled a finger at the cat. "Don't you know I can't give away all my good ideas?" His low chuckle rang out, almost maliciously.

"Your Highness!" A panting, flustered guard pushed his way into the throne room. The man's armor was banged up, and his helmet so askew that it was amazing he could navigate at all. But despite this, he seemed determined to speak with the prince.

The huge man he was addressing turned to look at him questioningly. The dark eyes widened beneath furrowed, bushy brows, and the mouth beneath that famously spiked black mustache was drawn into a wide frown.

"What is going on here? Are we under attack?" Raising one powerful hand he clenched it tightly into an impressive fist. "What fiends would dare to do such a thing!? Why the very thought makes the just blood in my veins boil with indignity!"

Sensing that his liege was about to go into one of his lengthy speeches about justice, and knowing his information was of vital importance, the soldier interrupted the prince in mid-sentence. "Y...your Majesty! It's Princess Amelia!"

The man could have uttered no words to stop the flow of Phil's speech so completely. For a moment his mouth continued opening and closing as he stood there in shell-shocked silence. Then the words sank in completely and lit a fire in Phil's normally friendly eyes that had the soldier quivering in a fit of near total terror. He had never seen such a look before, nor did he think he would ever wish to see its like again.

Turning on his heel with a rapidity that left the befuddled soldier gaping, Prince Phil dashed for his little daughter's bedroom. When he reached the closed door he did not hesitate in the slightest. "Pacifist Crush!" The wood shrieked in protest before giving way beneath his blow.

He froze as he saw the room. For a moment he could find nothing at all amiss, except for the splinters of the door, of course. Then he approached Amelia's crib and saw...nothing. There was the sound of loud panting as the soldier finally reached the door.

"My liege... Princess Amelia has been kidnapped..." The man gasped. He squeaked as he was suddenly grabbed by the front of his armor and lifted into the air.

"Who!?" The word was more a growl than anything else.

"M...mazoku..." The man managed to force the words out. A flash of black caught his eye and he coughed, gesturing wildly in alarm. A moment later he hit the floor as Phil's grip on him loosened.

Seyruun's prince was no fool. He turned the moment he caught the alarmed gesture of the soldier. A figure in a black cape stood framed against the white curtains of Amelia's window. In his hand he held a small wrapped bundle.

"Give my daughter back, you fiend!" Phil started towards the mazoku and froze as a smile crossed the dark man's face.

"You want this girl?" The smiling man held out the bundle for a moment. Then he drew back his arm and casually tossed it into the air. As Phil made a desperate rush for it, the mazoku laughed and vanished.

The baby landed safely against Phil's broad chest, and he cradled it for a moment, glaring after the escaped mazoku. Then he turned to smile down in relief at his daughter, and froze. The chubby little face looking back up at him was unfamiliar. There was no familiar dark fuzz covering the girl's head. His dark gaze was met by a pair of wide ruby eyes, her face surrounded by a shockingly brilliant mane of red.

"W...what?" As he stood there, disbelief and anger warring for dominance on his face, the baby girl let out a loud wail that attested to a healthy pair of lungs.

In an immediate, almost involuntary reaction, he immediately began to rock the girl gently, making soothing sounds to calm her. Slowly the girl's cries began to subside, and Phil sighed softly, walking to the window with the child still held close. He could see no sign of the mazoku. "Why would a mazoku kidnap my Amelia..." He asked no one in particular. A soft coo was the only answer, and he looked down at the red-haired baby. "And why leave you in her stead?" The little girl's only answer was to reach up eager little hands in an attempt to grab his mustache. Around one wrist was a little silver bracelet.

He examined the tiny bracelet briefly. On it were two words. "Lina Inverse... Is that your name?" Phil shook his head, snorting slightly. "Nevermind... what am I thinking, asking a baby?" He heard the clatter of armor and addressed his soldiers without turning from the window.

"Find my Amelia... search everywhere. Leave no stone unturned."

"What about the girl?" One of the soldiers gestured at the baby in Phil's arms with his spear. "Do you want us to get rid of her?"

With a growl, Phil swatted the man's sword aside. "Get rid of her!? Of a defenseless baby? What kind of hero of justice would even consider such a thing?" He advanced on the hapless soldier, backing the poor man into a corner.

"B...but your highness... the mazoku brought her here..."

"Obviously that villain kidnapped her from her parents as well. Luckily I was able to rescue her before he could do anything to her!" His eyes closed as he raised one clenched fist. "In the name of justice, I must keep this poor child safe!"

The soldier nodded frantically in agreement, and was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief as Phil turned away from him and left the room, still holding the baby protectively.

Despite weeks of desperate searching, no trace of the missing princess was found. The soldiers soon gave up any hopes of discovering her whereabouts. She was simply...gone, and not even magic could discertain her whereabouts. The hunt for her, and for her kidnapper slowly settled, and eventually stopped. The only one who could not be convinced to accept her complete disappearance was Prince Phil himself.

Often he said he would go out looking for her himself. But he could not abandon the baby he had rescued. So, after much deliberation, he came to the conclusion that he had to do something about it.

A week later he called his family together, along with most of the council to the throne, to make one of the most important announcements of his career...

"My family." He glanced around at them, including all of them in his wide gesture of welcome. "I think you know why I've called you all here. My daughter, your princess, has been kidnapped. I have a wish to go look for her myself, however..." They all looked at him, some relieved, others seemingly annoyed. "I have important duties left to discharge here. Therefore, I will take no action until after they are done."

"What 'important duties' are these?" Phil recognized the voice of his younger brother Christopher.

Phil nodded to one of the servants, and the girl quickly dashed up to him, offering up the little wrapped bundle. "This is the duty, my brother." He held up the little child so all of them could get a good look at her. "I rescued this baby from the same mazoku who stole my beloved Amelia. Being the man of justice that I am, I cannot now toss her to the wolves -- so to speak. My soldiers have not been able to locate her family, therefore..." He cleared his throat, and all those gathered in the room looked at him in expectant silence.

"From this moment, I am adopting this child as my own daughter. Her name is to be Lina Inverse Wil Seyruun."

His words brought about the expected outcry. What he was proposing simply wasn't done. To adopt some unknown child into their family. He ignored their protests and pleas alike as he cradled the blanket wrapped little body close.

"When you're old enough, Lina..." The prince began, in a voice pitched only for the infant's ears. "I will go and find my Amelia. Then I will introduce you to your sister... you'll like that won't you?"

The babe just burbled and giggled, tugging playfully at Phil's hair. Her crimson eyes were bright and intelligent as she blinked up at him. Yes... The prince thought, You're a fiesty one, aren't you, Lina? Something tells me that you will do great things... His dark gaze traveled to the window, and out into the dimming light as the sun set outside.

"Amelia... Where are you...?"

"Good job!" The Xoana king fairly crowed with delight as the mazoku stood before him, still in his priest garb. "You captured the little brat. You'll be well rewarded." He rubbed his hands together. "The leaders of Seyruun won't dare retaliate once they know I have Philionel's daughter!" He gestured to the mazoku. "Hand her over, now."

The black cloaked figure seemed to consider this for a moment, that enigmatic smile still on his face. "No. I don't think I will."

"What!? But..." The king was taken aback for a moment, then quickly resumed his composure. "This is part of the plan. Give her to me."

The priest merely smiled at him.

However, when the Xoana king opened his mouth to summon forth guards who would fetch the child for him, he found himself strangely unable to speak. The mazoku priest's normally shut eyes were open, and they were fixed on him. Like a bird caught in the gaze of a snake, the king was unable to make a move beneath that slitted amethyst gaze.

"I am going to keep this girl." The priest stated, his lips pulling back in that smile again, but this time it looked malicious.

"B...but why?" The king managed to force the question past his terror sealed lips. "What would a mazoku want with a baby?"

The mazoku priest lifted one finger. "Sore wa himitsu desu." That said, he turned, his cloak swirling around him like a black cloud. Before the stunned Xoana king could make another sound, he was gone.

To be continued -- perhaps. and in the continuation:

-- Lina as a fighter for justice?

-- What ARE the mazoku's plans for the young princess?

-- Will Xoana take over the world?

If you would like to see more of this story, vote for "The Princess Who Wasn't" (which will be up in "The Bet" poll, as soon as my webpage server stops fooling around and lets me log on.)