Please note that the beginning of this story uses the Ranma 1/2 Restart Premise, which provides multiple stories a similar start but a quick divergence within the first chapter.
Chapter 01: Out of the Pit, Out of the Pool
January 23, 1989
"Nyat sure why I'm trustin' a rival fur Shampoo with this. Nya sure it's gonna work?" The two-person-tall ghost cat asked, crouching in wait behind a tall concrete fence. He didn't like being the 'muscle' in such plans as much as the brains, but possibly getting Ranma out of the way of his ambitions won him over. His main concern was the unlikely partner in crime that had enlisted him for this, a certain glasses-wearing boy who had proposed this little scheme.
"Look. We can decide between us who gets Shampoo later. Our biggest obstacle is Ranma." The young man addressed a nearby light pole. "I can get rid of him, but we need to distract him so that he is ensnared. If he is off-balance due to his fear of cats, all the better. If he's stuck in the Neko-ken for this, he may not even remember what we've done to him."
After a pregnant pause comprised of the bakeneko staring at the back of Mouse's head, Maomolin lightly smacked it from behind with a paw and caused the glasses to fall back down over the boy's face. After an initial look of surprise, the Hidden Weapons Prodigy of the Amazon Village looked back to the massive white feline with a look of irritation. Retribution and bickering had to wait, in spite of his first impulse to retaliate. They needed to be united and on the same page...for now. "He can disappear quietly. No body, no witnesses, no killing. Just...gone elsewhere. It's better than he deserves for leading Shampoo along." This last part emerged from Mousse's mouth in a growl and was a sentiment that Maomolin could actually support. The Amazon male soon regained his composure though.
"The challenge letter had no name attached, so he shouldn't be expecting you. If he leaves the vacant lot's grounds before a victory is achieved, he loses any claim on Shampoo. Those are the terms I wrote." Mousse gave a smirk and his eyes shone with devious pleasure. "It is foolish to accept all challenges. His school's stolen arts may be powerful, but its ideology is easy to abuse." Mousse' smile became wider and almost predatory as he saw Ranma approach from their vantage point behind a tall fence. "Get ready. When he's entered the lot, go ahead and step out. Take what hits you have to, but get him into the Neko-ken!"
Soon, Ranma entered the lot and stood there in a relaxed stance. He had little concern. After all, he'd beaten Mousse before. "Hey, Duck-boy! Next time you disguise yourself, use some contacts! You handed the challenge letter to Akane! It was a pain gettin' it, since the tomboy thought she'd gotten a challenge of her own!"
It was then that Ranma saw a pair of ears rise behind the tall fence bordering the lot. He nearly felt his lunch come up as the massive set of ears then moved to the right along the fence. Maomolin, cowardly and lonely bakeneko and bane of one Ranma Saotome's existence, entered Ranma's view. "...Nyahaha! You didn't expect me, that's fur sure!"
"Glk! T-the heck are...you doin' here?" Ranma spat out, in spite of the fear. His legs anchored themselves to that spot, the cat electing to slowly approach, stomping like a sumo wrestler a few times to add an intimidation factor. It was more comical than intimidating, except to one Ranma Saotome.
"Nyai'm here for my bride! An' nyif you run away again, nyou looooose!" As the taunting bakeneko got closer, Ranma stepped back with his relaxed stance long since replaced with shaking and jerky motions. His pride was the one thing keeping him from fleeing. Ranma Saotome never backed down from a challenge. So he defaulted to the one thing he could think to do that didn't require his martial skill. Bluff.
"H...ha...HAHAHA...HAHA...HAHAHA...Y-you think you're scary? You're just...a-an annoying crybaby! I don' even want Shampoo! She's chasing me! Get outta here, scaredy c-cat! You're wasting my time!" Unconvincing, but enough to get Maomolin mad. He responded by approaching Ranma and starting to fight. Or rather, throwing aimless punches and generally flailing angrily.
"Nyou'll regret that, you jerk! How dare you insult my briiiiiide!" Mousse heard the sounds of punches and clumsy blocks from the other side of the wall as he prepared himself. The Amazon waited, monitoring for either the departure of Ranma from the battlegrounds or a certain sound to emerge from Ranma's throat.
"Nyyyoooowwww..." Of course, the latter would win out. Ranma was stubborn like that, even with his fear of cats in play. This time, it wouldn't save him. Leaping out around the wall and planting his feet, while ensuring that he would give Ranma nothing to grab onto, Mousse braced himself and outstretched one arm.
Mousse' hidden weapons and ki-space were based on what the Amazons liked to call 'dark magic', but it was based on ki like much else. Specifically, a shadowy ki that could be called upon to distort space-time to create his own storage area. He normally flung things out of this personal space or simply tucked them away for storage like other less skilled practitioners, but today, he would do something different. Using a forbidden art, he would reverse the flow and attempt to suck things into his space through his sleeve.
Of course, it wasn't possible to store someone in his own ki-space. They had their own ki that would interfere. Instead, the victim would hypothetically find themselves dumped out somewhere across time and space, wherever they'd first tapped into such dark energies themselves. If they hadn't encountered such power yet...well, no one really knew what happened in that case. None who were dispatched in this manner had ever returned either way. Ranma was the intended target, but if Mousse could 'accidentally' suck Maomolin in along with him, all the better for his chances with Shampoo. Not that he told the bakeneko of that part of the plan.
Ranma was in the Neko-ken, dominating the much taller ghost cat with his skills. His cat-like perception allowed him to see Mousse move and see his sleeve inflate with air being sucked into it as the martial artist replicated an ages-old forbidden technique...
A dark vortex opened inside Mousse's sleeve and started to suck powerfully. Dead leaves, grass, rocks, whatever wasn't tied down was vanishing into the space as Mousse poured his power into the move of desperation. It was dishonorable because he was interfering in another fight. It was forbidden because of its power and the dangers of its abuse...but it was his best chance to finally win!
Maomolin and Ranma were both pulled toward the vortex with surprised feline cries. Maomolin managed to grab the ground firmly, but Ranma had no such chance. Sucked into the vortex, Ranma's cry faded into nothing over the sound of the vortex, which continued for several tense moments. Eventually, seeing that Maomolin wasn't going to succumb, Mousse finally tired out and stopped the technique. Falling to a single knee, he panted heavily before he gave a chuckle.
"At last...victory..." Mousse managed, as Maomolin finally rose.
"Hey...nyou weren't trying to suck me in too, were nya?" The suspicious ghost cat inquired regarding the added duration of the technique. Mousse, however, quickly elected to refute the suggestion.
"O-of course not! We had an alliance! It's just hard to stop once it's started. Besides, there will be plenty of time to resolve our own issues. Today was about defeating Ranma...and agreeing to our silence on the matter." Mousse said, crossing his arms and trying to look serious.
"...Nyoookay...just makin' sure." Maomolin was still suspicious and on guard against Mousse, but that was okay. Their mission had been accomplished, and the day had been won.
Ranma shuddered with an abrupt start. He instantly dropped out of the Neko-ken to a jarring degree which he'd never experienced before. At first, he saw nothing but black as he looked around for his opponents. "Damn it, Mousse! Intrudin' on a figh-!" Ranma was stunned by his own changed voice to where his hand reflexively covered his own lips. Had he been knocked unconscious and turned female? He didn't know. What he did know was the pain. Something inside his being was threatening to tear loose...no...it was already loose. He felt like it was attacking, trying to cling to him. To find a way in. It felt familiar, yet alien. Was Maomolin trying to possess him? The thought made him shudder.
"What was that, Ranma? Quit stalling and get to training!" A familiar voice from above him bellowed out. Looking up, Ranma saw that he was in a pit. Above him were the early morning sky and his father's face. Stunned, the boy trembled even harder. He knew what this was. Daring to look around himself and hoping that he would find nothing, his adjusting eyes were instead greeted by green glowing orbs reflecting back at him. He looked down and saw that he was wrapped in fish sausages.
He was back in the Neko-ken training. His own personal hell.
No more reprieve was given. While Ranma dealt with the feeling in the core of his being tearing him apart from within, the cats lunged out to replicate the feat physically. Not out of malice as much as starvation, but the effect was the same. Assaulted from two fronts, the boy struggled but endured. He wasn't six years old anymore though. He was a young man who had seen worse than this.
He leapt to try and clear the edge of the pit, but what should have been an easy jump for the boy was clumsy and short. Ranma was quite surprised when he smacked into the side of the pit, and Genma grumbled. "This isn't roof hopping training, this is for the Neko-ken! Don't you want to get stronger, Boy?"
Ranma slid back down the wall due to gravity rather than any feeling of obedience toward his father. That had been lost long ago. He could feel it. The cats' claws stinging his flesh. The ravenous tugs on the fish cakes. The Neko-ken trying to manifest, and whatever the heck was trying to tear his soul apart. This time, however, when faced with fight or flight, he didn't flee into his own mind. He fought, and fought hard.
"GET THE HELL AWAY FROM ME, YA MONGRELS!" roared from his lips, but not in a language that Genma or any non-feline could truly comprehend. Language wasn't needed, however, to understand the ki claws that emerged from his hands and slashed at solid rock. Genma looked on in awe and pride as Ranma asserted his authority and made the other cats fall back, though they were clearly still probing for weakness.
The martial artist was surprised though. The Neko-ken state usually caused him to black out. For some reason, he hadn't fully succumbed. Was it the pain he was in? Who knew. For now, though, he was in control. Getting on all fours and this time focusing more of his ki into his arms and legs, he leapt out of the pit with an ease that made Genma take a step back in surprise.
Ranma was clearly displeased, but Genma simply smiled and crossed his arms. "Hmph. Don't know why it took you this long, but it looks like you've figured it out. You're usually quicker at picking up these techniques. I won't have you slacking off just because you figured out the Neko-ken, Ranma." There was pride there, but Genma couldn't bring himself to give one crumb of positive re-enforcement. Starving Ranma for praise. It was one of his tactics of control.
Were Ranma less angry, he'd have realized that his father looked even taller than Maomolin right now. He'd realize that he was still in horrible pain. But right now, Ranma saw red. He lunged at the elder Saotome, who only had a brief time to dodge before a nearby rock gave way to the slash.
"Boy! You dare to attack your father...Ranma? Hey, snap out of it, boy!" Genma was starting to get concerned. Ranma had never been anything but happy, ignorant, and obedient. Now, though, he was enraged. Ranma shuddered, distracted from his anger toward his father by the pain, and turned away from Genma.
"Don't turn away from me-!"
"Get out..." Ranma growled as he started to glow with yellow ki.
"R-Ranma?" Genma stuttered in surprise.
"GET OUT YOU DAMN CAT! THIS IS MY BODY!" He focused the ki in his hands, the ki which was trying to snap at and claim him, and shuddered as it became a yellow ball encased in his confidence. Genma was absolutely stunned as his child did something he had no business trying at his level, much less succeeding at. Manipulating ki.
"MOKO TAKABISHA!" A blast of energy flew out of Ranma's hands in a focused sphere and off into the sky. The yellow ball damaged some tree branches and punched a hole in a low-hanging cloud as it raced away and curved to the west. Genma could only stare in awe as Ranma stood for a brief time, panting heavily before falling unconscious to the ground in a heap.
Genma stood there for several moments processing what had happened before going to check Ranma's pulse. Relieved to find one, he picked the now six-year-boy up. "For you to fire off a ki attack like that..." Genma considered that perhaps he had actually underestimated the strain of the Neko-ken. Fortunately, it seemed that he'd also underestimated his son. Truly, his child would be the best, if he was about to accomplish a ki attack at such an age. He acknowledged that Ranma could not be left outside in such a state though. If he turned ill from sleeping where he lay, it could undo what had been accomplished today. Thus it was more for pragmatism than for reward that Ranma was brought into the tent Genma had set up and treated with a few ki restoration herbs that Genma kept for emergencies.
The foolish man couldn't help but afford a small smile of pride as he applied the herbs, though. "'Pride of the Fierce Tiger', was it? Fitting of my heir. I wonder how you settled on that name." He pondered reading through the tome on the Neko-ken training for more information on it but elected against it. The best training was accomplished by doing and learning along the way. That was the way that the Master had beaten his techniques into his very flesh.
As impressive as it was, it wouldn't do for Ranma to have such an advantage. Genma would have to increase his own strength as well. Coming to a decision, the man allowed his son to sleep and started to set up a plan of his own.
The energy Ranma fired had lost its link with its host, the mass of female yin energy no longer tied to his physical form. However, this did not mean that it had no recourse. Many watched in alarm as the energy lanced from Japan's previous capital and rushed west. Across the Sea of Japan, over South Korea, across the Yellow Sea, and then over China proper. It flew along the general direction of the Yellow River toward its destination, Jusenkyo.
Even before it arrived, the ball of ki was sensed by the powers in the area. The Jusenkyo guide and his family were, however, not equipped to perceive such a thing. They were stunned by a flash of light, the crashing of rock, a sudden splash, and a hissing sound. Rushing outside, they saw the aftermath.
Part of Jusendo Mountain was damaged, from which a new vein of Jusendo water poured. In stark contrast, however, was the Spring of Drowned Girl. The Nyannichuan was bone dry and steaming with mist. The Jusenkyo Guide was quite distraught, hands going to his face.
'Oh no! This is no good at all! It is the worst tragedy since the Spring of Drowned Salmon! The Spring of Drowned Girl is gone!' Of course, as the guide spoke in his native tongue and the mist faded, he'd become aware of something else present. Clumsily, a young woman stood. The redhead appeared to be on the cusp of adulthood and was quite without clothing. With a blank look on her face, almost a daze, the girl climbed out of the pit that was once the spring. She walked over to the guide and his family, not mindful in the least of her state of undress.
'W-who are you, honored guest?' The frightened man asked, keeping his wife and daughter behind him. He'd seen much of the supernatural in his life, but this was a new one. Rather than respond, the woman turned and looked to the sky where a young woman with wings was in the process of descending.
'...Kiema.' The redhead said in Chinese. The young Phoenix woman's eyes widened briefly before narrowing once more.
'That's right, Landling. Who are you to know my name and to deface Jusendo?' The woman inquired, even as a wrinkled old woman using her staff as a Pogo stick caught up to the group. The redhead regarded the familiar face.
'...Elder Ku Long.' The redhead said, addressing the elder and ignoring Kiema. The Joketsuzoku Elder was surprised but gave a nod. It was tense for a moment, as the redhead who neither had seen before knew them by name. Finally, after another moment, she introduced herself.
'...I'm...Nyannichuan. Sorry about this.'