Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 is copyrighted by Rumiko Takahashi and Blade is the property of Marvel. I had nothing to do with creating these works, unfortunately, or I'd be raking in the cash as we speak. Anyway, all non Ranma/Marvel characters are my original creations and I would be extremely displeased if anyone used them without my permission. This story is provided free of charge, so please leave the lawyers for people who are actually infringing copyrights for profit.

And now, our feature presentation...

Note: [] = end notes, * = bold text, = vampire tongue

The Long, Dark Night

Chapter 2 – Strangers in the Night

Ukyo Kuonji stood in a white-tiled shower under a hot stream of water, her head resting on the wall just underneath her crossed forearms. She cried silently, shudders racking her body as the water washed over her. Her dream of Ranma was still fresh in her mind, opening an old wound that never seemed to heal. The pig-tailed boy was always on her mind and, as much as she wanted to always have fond memories of her fiancé, she could never forget the last, tearful parting with him, when he had begun his quest for revenge.

She would not find out until later that she had been the last person he had seen before leaving Nerima and the only person to whom he had confided. Of course she had been jealous, but Akane had been something of a friend and she knew that Ranma would have done the same thing if she, herself, had been the one to be kidnapped. It was this selflessness in him that she truly loved.

The months after Akane's kidnapping had been difficult, especially for Ranma, whom nearly everyone blamed for the incident. Though he was quite clearly still in shock, the Tendos and his own parents declared he was without honor and subsequently kicked him out of the house until he avenged Akane. Ranma barely noticed anything, even when the distraught Tatewaki Kuno and Ryoga Hibiki both decided to physically take out their frustrations on him and when the unscrupulous Kodachi Kuno and Shampoo decided to seize the opportunity to take him for themselves. Ukyo had gone searching for him and eventually found him, battered, bruised, and nearly catatonic. She took him back to her shop and took care of him, hoping that somehow he would snap out of it. Slowly but surely, with her help, he had come back around. But the pain was still there, tearing away at him, until he finally decided to do something. She knew it was something he needed to do, not only to regain his honor but also to gain closure, and she had promised to wait for his return.

And now here she was, living sunset to sunrise out of a small warehouse in Kyoto with her own demons to battle, that promise long broken. She did not cry for herself and the path she had taken or even for that short-sighted promise to Ranma. She cried because of her responsibility, her terrible responsibility, and because of what she would do to Ranma. She prayed that he would somehow understand and forgive her.

Ukyo gave herself a few more minutes before shutting off the water. She walked out of the shower, grabbing a towel as she walked out of the bathroom and into her small room. The room was very Spartan, furnished with only a futon, a straight-backed metal chair, and a table near the door. She noticed some clothing had been laid out on the table next to an okonomiyaki and a cold beer. Ukyo walked over to the table, reading a note in sauce on the okonomiyaki that said "Cheer Up! ^_^", and smiled. Konatsu was as thoughtful as ever, one of the things she loved about him.

The dying light of the sun cast long shadows on the wall, reminding her of the time. She decided to forgo the food in favor of getting dressed, slipping on her panties, a pair of perfectly fitting low rise black jeans, and a white tank top. She sat down to slip on a comfortable pair of socks and her calf-high black leather boots before standing to look herself over in the mirror. She ran a comb through her still damp pixie-cut hair, more so out of habit than actually caring how it looked.

"You look mah-volous." said a comically accented voice. "Absolutely mah-volous!"

"Yeah right." she replied to Konatsu, who was dressed in his usual kunoichi uniform. "You say that every night."

"Well it's true, girl. A little vinyl and you'd be Trinity." Konatsu said, chuckling. "Besides, why break up a good routine? It's good luck."

"There you go again about luck." she said as she followed him out of the room. "Who needs luck when you have skill?"

"A little luck never hurts." he countered.

The walked down the hall and out onto a catwalk that overlooked the rest of the warehouse. Though small, the warehouse was very well stocked and furnished for what they were doing. It had dozens of machining tools, stacks of tool chests, and rows of storage lockers in addition to living quarters and plenty of internal parking. "How are our Yakuza friends?" she asked him casually.

"They're still out there, of course. Obviously they don't care if anyone notices. They're parked in the same spot as always."

"And the Triads?"

"Same."

"Good. They'll spend all night staring at each other while we're out." They walked down the stairs to the ground floor and through a work area on whose benches lay tools, ammunition, and half-finished guns. "Got anything new for me?"

"Not yet, but I'll have a nice surprise for you tomorrow. You'll just have to stick with regular silver dum-dums and your spatula till then." Konatsu replied, smiling. "I packed your trench. It's on the table next to your spatula."

"Damn it, you know I hate it when you do that!" she said with mock exasperation. Ukyo walked over to where the spatula lay on a sword holder and picked up the black trench coat. It was weighed down with what an ordinary man would consider to be a heavy load but was light as a feather to her when she picked it up.

"No you don't." he replied as she slipped the coat on. "You're just mad that I pack better than you." He promptly ducked as a small sack of flour sailed overhead.

"Jerk!" she said to him, playfully. "Well, let's get moving then. There's a lot to do before sunrise."

She buckled a bandolier of regular-sized, silver plated spatula around her waist and slipped on the trench coat before picking up her battle spatula and deftly securing it to the back of the coat. Konatsu slipped on his own trench coat, which looked odd with his standard kunoichi uniform. The two headed over to the two black motorcycles that sat in the parking area next to a big delivery truck. They were true sport bikes like the ones driven on the racing circuits, each having so many custom modifications that they were far beyond street legal even before factoring in the hidden weapons systems. They started automatically, sensing the approach of their owners, as Konatsu activated the sliding door of the warehouse.

"Ko-chan, let's go see our friend Chang." said Ukyo. Konatsu surreptitiously activated the warehouse's security system as they revved their bikes and sped out of the warehouse. As Ukyo had said, there was much to do, and the night was young.

-----

The docks in Kyoto were always busy and this night was no exception. Goods, legal and illegal, from the world over flowed into the port endlessly under the watchful eyes of the Triads. The Chinese organized crime syndicate had recently muscled its way into the docks, replacing the Yakuza, and, as most crime outfits did, set up a headquarters there. The continued activity on the docks, as well as their total control of the labor unions that staffed the place, kept the Yakuza and the police well away from their activities.

Ukyo and Konatsu sped through into docks, weaving through the maze of freight containers and warehouses and narrowly avoiding countless forklifts that moved freight around. They finally pulled into a nondescript warehouse that was amazingly empty of cargo or forklifts. It did, however, contain a dozen parked cars and SUVs, all foreign models, and twice as many men standing around the cars. After dismounting their bikes, Ukyo and Konatsu strode purposefully towards the stairs leading to a second story office, ignoring the men who were, no doubt, carrying concealed weapons. The men reached into their coats but, other than taking defensive stances, did nothing.

When they reached the office door, a young looking man stood in their way. "What the hell do you two think you're doing, barging in here like this?" he demanded.

"Move." Ukyo said, annoyed. "Now."

"Do you know who I am, bitch?" the man yelled, enraged. He jabbed her chest with his index finger. "You'd better fuckin' show some resp-"

"Ah shit, here we go..." said Konatsu, sighing to himself.

The man cried out in pain as Ukyo grabbed his finger and bent it sideways with a sickening snap. She then grabbed him by his throat and slammed him against the wall. "You must be new here." Konatsu said to the man, who was struggling to breathe under her vice-like grip. "When she says move, you *move the fuck out of the way.*"

The man barely heard that before she had flung him backwards over the railing. He crashed loudly onto the roof of a black Mercedes sedan, the windshield shattering from the impact. Konatsu looked down at him and whistled.

"Whoever owns that car is gonna be *pissed*." he said. He looked back at her with a slightly annoyed look. "Was that really necessary?"

"Whatever. That bastard touched my breast." she replied, opening the office door. Inside, five men were sitting at a table, all of whom wore alarmed expressions as they walked into the office.

"What is the meaning of this?" asked a man, who appeared to be the oldest among them, hearing the commotion outside. Unlike the other men, he was dressed in a Chinese tang, and was very short with graying hair grown in a long ponytail. "What have you done?"

"Calm down old man, I only tossed one of your little errand boys around for getting in my way." Ukyo said. Konatsu coughed loudly and looked away.

"My nephew...was it..." the man began, then trailed off. He stood up a little straighter before continuing. "No matter. Ukyo-san, Konatsu-san, please forgive my foolish nephew's impertinence."

"Really, it's nothing Chang-san." Konatsu replied, trying to smooth things over.

"Feh. He shoulda moved." Ukyo said before pulling up a chair to the table. Konatsu sighed, then sat down as well. Chang motioned to the other men to leave the room. After they were gone, he returned his attention to Konatsu and Ukyo.

"These late hours you two keep are difficult for me. Those men whom I just had to dismiss are very important for our business in this part of the country. If we could only meet sometime during the day..."

"You know we don't work the day shift, Chang. And last I checked, *our* people are making it possible for you Triads to muscle out the Yakuza for your 'business'." Ukyo said simply. Chang bowed his head, not disagreeing with her. "Now, I got your message about some intel and a possible job. Details?"

"To the point as always, Ukyo-san. Very well." He produced two manilla envelopes and tossed them onto the table. Konatsu and Ukyo opened them up and slid the contents, a small sheaf of photos and documents, onto the table.

"In two days, the Yakuza are set to receive a shipment of..."

"With all due respect, Chang-san, we don't care what the shipment is." Konatsu said. "Just tell us why we should get involved in this."

"Right...the reason you should care is because the Yakuza will be employing vampires for their security. My sources say only about twenty, but this shipment is very valuable and its arrival is no secret. They will probably have many more than twenty there. It's almost like..."

"They're daring us to crash the party." said Ukyo. "Okay, so you have some vampire problems. Get everyone silver bullets and UV lamps and it'll be no problem. You still haven't told us what's in it for us."

"I was getting to that." Chang picked up a photo from the table and held it up for them to see. "These people are the reason you should care. As you probably have guessed, they are vampires. But they're not just any vampires. They are, in fact, the vampires responsible for the current alliance between the Yakuza and the Japanese vampires."

Ukyo raised an eyebrow at the statement. "That'd make them very important vampires, right Ko-chan?" Ukyo said. He nodded in response.

"That's correct." Chang continued. "My sources tell me that they are close confidantes of the Emperor Hideki himself."

Ukyo and Konatsu gasped at the same time. "And if they lead us to him," Konatsu said in a low voice, "we'll find her."

"So, are you two with us?" Chang asked.

"Do you really have to ask, old man?" Ukyo replied, her voice low and dangerous. "You're damn right we're in."

-----

Much later, Konatsu waited patiently in a parking lot directly across the street from a small, hole-in-the-wall rave club in a seedy section of Kyoto. Though he leaned casually against his bike, as if unconcerned for his personal safety, the male kunoichi was quite aware of everyone, human or vampire, in his vicinity. That there were several concealed weapons trained on him was little more than amusing to him. Whether they held illusions of safety with the firearms or had been grossly misinformed about his abilities, Konatsu knew they posed no real threat to him.

He looked up as the techno music pouring from the club momentarily increased in volume, signaling that someone was exiting. Ukyo strode out as if in a hurry, pushing the two burly bouncers out of the way. Several more people, whom he could tell were vampires, followed her out of the club, obviously making sure not to get too close. She briskly walked across the street and, from the expression on her face, Konatsu could tell that she was agitated.

"Let's go Konatsu." she said, her voice wavering slightly.

"What happened?" he asked, concern showing on his face.

"He-he's back in Tokyo...the-they're trying to capture him tonight." She stammered before stopping herself. After taking a deep breath, she continued. "We have to go help him, Konatsu. He's walking into a trap, and they're gonna throw everything at him."

Konatsu nodded, understanding at once who she was talking about. Ranma. The thought of the pig-tailed martial artist always brought conflicting feelings to the surface. On one hand, he had a lifelong debt to Ranma for freeing him from his former clan. He also had to respect Ranma's abilities in the martial arts and how Ranma always stood by his friends. On the other hand, he loathed Ranma for his indecisiveness in the fiancé situation and how it had affected Ukyo. His current crusade to save Akane, while admittedly noble, was just like all the others. Though she would never admit it, Ukyo's heart was hurting because the man she loved was, once again, risking his life for another woman.

He did have to admit that, as formidable an opponent Ranma was, the man was far from invincible. From what they had gleaned from various sources about his killing spree through Japan's vampire community, he never used a gun, making it that much easier to wear him down. It would probably take a while, but they would throw as many bodies at him as possible. Despite Ranma's knack for getting out of tough situations, Konatsu had to wonder whether his luck would hold up again. He pushed those thoughts to the side. It would not do to upset Ukyo anymore.

"Okay, let's just stop by the warehouse to pick up some things. Then straight on to Tokyo." he replied.

She nodded before mounting her bike and starting the engine. He started his bike as well and then the two thundered out of the lot, barreling through the streets of Kyoto with no regard for traffic signals or speed limits. Within fifteen minutes they were several blocks from the warehouse and, as always, he checked the status of the building's defense system on a small screen that was near the bike's gauges. Everything seemed to be normal to him, but something was nagging him as they rolled past the fence towards the slowly opening big warehouse door. Forty feet from the door, he realized what was wrong. The security system was built to be triple redundant for every function and it had a vibration detector so sensitive that it should have sensed the approach of two motorcycles a block away. It never registered anything.

They were riding into a trap in their own warehouse.

As he looked up, almost with disbelief, he saw that the interior of the warehouse radiated with the pitch black aura of death and it made him feel fear in the pit of his stomach. "UKYO!!!" Konatsu yelled out as loudly as possible. "It's a trap!!!"

Whether she heard him or not, he was uncertain, but he knew that she could sense vampires nearby. She yelled out an Amazon battle cry before gunning the bike's engine, propelling herself into the darkness. Konatsu had the presence of mind to switch his headlight to UV before following her into the warehouse. Ahead of him, Ukyo suddenly slammed on her brakes and pushed forward on her handlebars, forcing the bike into a "stoppie". As an untold number of vampires descended on her position, she used the bike's momentum to catapult herself into a forward flip. As she flipped, she reached into her black trench coat and whipped out two black Desert Eagles and, before righting herself, began unloading the clips into the darkness. Despite the darkness and the fact that she simply was not looking at where she was firing, vampires began to crumble to dust as bullets struck them, nearly simultaneously, in the head and the heart. Ukyo hit the ground just as the last bullets were fired and, after throwing the guns to the ground, reached into her coat and produced two more Desert Eagles that were identical to the first ones she had used. She began running and dodging her assailants' bullets, emptying her guns as fast as one might empty an Uzi but no less accurate than if she had been firing with a sniper rifle.

Konatsu, meanwhile, was faring just as well, though his weapons of choice were MAC-10s. Silver bullets sprayed from the guns no less accurately, keeping the attackers at bay for the moment. He was not fooling himself, however; if his senses were right, and they almost always were, they were quite outnumbered and outgunned. He knew that they could hold out a while longer thanks to the amply stocked trench coats they wore but, if the Triads did not come in soon, that would hardly matter. He rolled away as a hail of bullets peppered the spot where he had been standing, reaching into his coat again for a fresh pair of MAC-10s and firing them as he returned to his feet. He could sense Ukyo on the other side of the warehouse and moving further away.

"Shit, they're dividing and conquering." he thought. "Not if I can help it."

He dropped a gun and reached into his trench again, this time pulling out two vaguely grenade shaped things. He pushed buttons on their surfaces before almost bowling them across the floor in Ukyo's direction. Two seconds later, a huge explosion shook the warehouse's foundation. Using the distraction to his advantage, Konatsu dashed towards the Ukyo. The devastating grenades had cut a swath of death through the vampire ranks, leaving many in the affected area to dissolve into heaps of black ash. The more lucky vampires were merely severely dismembered but they had only seconds to lament their fortune before Konatsu shot them in passing.

As he had expected, the vampire attack halted for the moment as all of them clutched their eyes in agony. This was no coincidence, as the grenades were designed to produce a high concentration of ultra-violet light along with concussive force. The result was a flash-bang grenade that only affected vampires and whose total ultra-violet output negated the protection of all but the thickest protective eyewear and clothing. Konatsu knew they needed this lull to regroup and possibly escape. He was relieved to see Ukyo was still shooting and was apparently unharmed.

"Ukyo!" he yelled out. "There's too many of them! We've gotta get out now!"

"Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!" she exclaimed, each expletive punctuated by the report of her guns. "Where're the Triads?"

"No time for that." He replied, grimly. They rushed towards the warehouse door, dodging more bullets apparently fired by human assailants. Konatsu was not so concerned with them as he was with the recovering vampires. The flash-bang had burned their eyes but it would not take them more than a minute to regenerate and, if he and Ukyo were not gone by then, their already slim chance of survival would be gone. As they approached the exit, though, he realized that the point was moot anyway. Just outside the warehouse, lying in wait should the two vampire-killers somehow escape, were, by Konatsu's count, another contingent of vampires and humans equal to the size of the one inside the warehouse. Overall, they were facing well over three hundred vampires and at least a hundred humans. The trap had been laid well; they had been doomed from the very beginning.

They pulled up short at the warehouse entrance and, for a moment, stared at the impressive force. "That's how they want it, then." said Ukyo, her voice dripping with malice. She dropped her guns, then slowly reached up with her left hand and grabbed the handle of her spatula. "They wanna play. Let's play."

The two dashed forward under a hail of gunfire, their battle auras flaring violently. Ahead of them, vampires in black bodysuits rushed forward to meet them, their guns blazing.

"KACHU TENSHIN AMIGURIKEN REVISED:THOUSAND SPATULAS FLURRY!!!" she yelled out as she rushed towards her foes, flinging throwing spatulas with her right hand so fast that her arm was only a blur. The vampires that were too slow to recognize the projectiles paid for their lack of focus with their lives and the lives of comrades behind them, the spatulas flying with such force that they drove through multiple bodies. Konatsu followed close behind Ukyo, laying down a steady stream of fire with his MAC-10s. Behind him, he could hear yelling and the pounding of feet, telling him that the vampires in the warehouse had fully recovered and would be attacking their rear very soon.

"UKYO!!!" he yelled at her. "I'M TAKING THE BACK!"

He pulled up suddenly, not waiting for her acknowledgement, and, throwing down his guns, turned around to face the advancing horde. He reached into his jacket and produced three more flash-bangs, quickly activating and tossing them forward. Three vampires frantically dashed ahead of the pack and fell on the grenades, punching their hands through the concrete to anchor themselves. Within a second, the grenades exploded, reducing the vampires to dust, but they also absorbed most of the force and light from the explosion.

"Shit." said Konatsu, quickly reaching into his trench coat again, this time with both hands. Taking a page out of Mousse's book, he threw his arms outward, flinging silver shuriken that glowed with an icy blue tint. The projectiles slammed into vampire and human alike but, when they hit a vampire, they exploded, engulfing the vampires in an eerily unnatural red and black flame. The attack, however, hardly slowed their approach, as more vampires took the place of those that had fallen. Vampires and humans that had encircled him began shooting as he prepared to face the approaching vampires hand to hand. Konatsu ignored the gunfire, whipping off his coat and throwing it to the ground. He let off one more volley of the exploding shuriken in the general direction of the shooters, then reached behind him to the weapon secured to his back.

He grabbed his silver kusari-gama[1] with both hands, the kama end in his left hand, the weighted blade end in his right hand, and the chain itself dangling behind him. As the vampires closed in on him, they dropped their guns and pulled out various clubs, blades, and flails. Konatsu stood as still as a statue, his aura flaring icy blue and infusing the kusari-gama with intense cold. With a quick move that was far too fast for mere humans to see, he violently pulled the weight end of the kusari-gama. The kama end whipped around, slashing through the first row of the attackers and reducing them to dust. Ignoring the fate of their fallen comrades, some of the vampires moved to surround Konatsu while others leapt over them to attack him from the air. He gritted his teeth and continued spinning and flailing the chain with both hands, his ki infused silver weapon wreaking havoc on the vampires.

He realized almost immediately that simply relying on defense would very quickly wear him down. Having to also dodge the continuous gunfire from the periphery would only hasten his eventual fall. With each vampire or human he killed, two more would replace them. Ki attacks, he reluctantly recognized, would be the only way to even the odds, even if he would not be able to do them for very long.

He whipped the kama end of the kusari-gama around hard, then pulled it down hard towards the ground. "Suck on this! Bakusai Tenketsu!!!" he yelled as the blade slammed into the ground in the midst of his attackers. A spark seemed to flow through the chain and into the ground. A split second later the ground erupted in a four foot wide wave, originating from the kama. Vampires flew through the air, the concussive force tossing them around like so many rag dolls.

Before he could take advantage of the situation, a shot rang out, and Konatsu could tell immediately that it was different from the cacophony of gunfire ringing in his ears. He shifted his weight backwards and leaned back as quickly as possible but still felt pain as a bullet grazed his shoulder. He ignored the pain, ducking and rolling as more of the mysterious bullets chased after him. Staying low, Konatsu defended himself while on his knees, hoping the vampires would block the sniper's view. It seemed to work because the following shots were not aimed at him, giving him the opportunity to move the attackers further away with his kusari-gama.

A cry of pain from Ukyo jarred his attention away from defending himself for a moment, enough time for an opportunistic vampire ninja to kick him hard and send him flying through the air. Konatsu ignored the pain and twisted his body in the air for a better landing. He came down hard on yet another vampire, landing with a sickening crunch, and let off another volley of exploding shuriken. While the vampires ducked and rolled for cover, he dashed in Ukyo's direction. She was frantically dodging and fending off attackers while narrowly avoiding the sniper's bullets. They were so fast that, unlike normal bullets, he could not read their paths by sound but still was somehow able to sense their movement. Konatsu blindly threw shuriken at the most likely sniper positions with the hope of stopping the sniper long enough to get to Ukyo.

His aim obviously had been true as the shooting stopped abruptly. He covered the remaining distance between himself and Ukyo and leapt over the mob surrounding her, his kusari-gama spinning like a deadly whirling dervish that claimed several victims before he landed beside her. He spun the weapon furiously overhead, keeping the vampires at bay for the moment.

"You ok?" he asked, not taking his eyes off the vampires.

"I-I'm fine." she replied, sounding tired. "Just a few grazes..."

Her injuries seemed worse, but Konatsu decided not to press the issue. "There's something strange about that shooter...I can't follow the bullets right."

"But you can sense it." Ukyo said, pausing to tiredly throw spatulas at a few vampires who rolled in underneath the kusari-gama.

"Yeah. They'll wait for him to take another shot and try to get us when we start dodging." He did not bother voicing his low opinion of their chances of surviving much longer. They stood in a tense stalemate, waiting for what seemed like an eternity for the next shot. Ukyo leaned heavily against him but Konatsu knew she would be ready to fight in an instant. The hesitation of the vampires, however, was nagging him.

In his experience with vampires, the grunts rarely, if ever, showed any hesitation or fear of death. Indeed, during this very fight the ninja had veritably thrown themselves on his weapon, only to be replaced by even more of their brethren. Considering the time they had been fighting and that Ukyo was injured, now was the perfect time for the vampires to overrun them. And yet they hesitated, hanging on for the bullets of one sniper that, while the best sniper Konatsu had ever encountered, had yet to make a critical shot. It simply did not make any sense. He did not have to speculate further because a familiar voice boomed out, drawing every person's attention.

"OI! You fucking bloodsuckers never learn, do you?" the voice said menacingly. As the man walked from out of the shadows, Konatsu realized why his voice was so familiar. The man wore steel-toed boots with black jeans and a yellow cut-off shirt. Instead of a backpack, he carried a thick satchel that he wore across his shoulder and chest and to which was attached an umbrella. And though his look had changed, Ryoga still wore his black and yellow bandanna. He slowly detached the umbrella from the satchel and opened it. From the way it caught the light, Konatsu suspected it was, at the least, silver plated. The vampires, surprisingly, were looking at the wayward martial artist with a mixture of fear and confusion.

"Go back to hell, monsters!" Ryoga yelled as he flung the umbrella directly in the mob's direction. It was like a flying buzz-saw, cutting a swath through the vampires who tried in vain to deflect the projectile. Konatsu shoved Ukyo to the ground and threw himself on top of her. Around them, the vampires were yelling and taking cover in an attempt to regroup themselves while the whirling umbrella continued to move in and around them.

"Konatsu, we'd better move while they're distracted." said Ukyo. He hesitated, looking at her with concern. "Hey, worry about me after we get out of Ryoga's path."

Meanwhile, Ryoga began slowly walking towards them, arrogantly ignoring the bullets being directed his way. He smirked at the carnage his errant umbrella was causing. A group of vampires formed up and rushed at him but, instead of moving to engage them, he raised his hand to the sky, his index finger extended. Knowing what was coming, Ukyo and Konatsu ran as fast as possible to put distance between themselves and the oncoming destruction.

"Bakusai Tenketsu Revised! Earth Rising to Heaven Blast!" he exclaimed, driving his finger into the ground. For a moment nothing happened and the vampires continued their rush. They got no closer than fifteen feet before the ground nearly liquefied under their feet. Shards of glowing concrete exploded upwards, ripping into the vampires, and gouts of white energy burst from the ground in their wake. The vampires screamed in agony as they were engulfed, their bodies expanding and deforming horribly before bursting into unnatural black and red flame. Almost simultaneously they all exploded, the flames eating away their ashes. In one move, Ryoga had nearly decimated the vampire attackers.

"No challenge at all, as usual." he said to no one in particular. He stuck out his right hand and, almost immediately, the umbrella's handle smacked into his palm. He casually closed it and returned it to its holster on his satchel, pointedly ignoring the fleeing vampires and humans. Konatsu could only stare at him in awe, unable to understand how Ryoga could generate so much power. He did not dwell on the thought for more than a moment, turning his attention, instead, to Ukyo, who had collapsed to the ground.

"Ukyo!" he exclaimed. He kneeled next to her, helping her sit up. "Damn it, I knew your injuries were worse than you'd admit."

"Feh...I've been worse." she replied unconvincingly. To his dismay, she was bleeding in several places, but he had to agree with her.

"You two okay?" asked Ryoga as he walked toward them.

"Ukyo's a little banged up, but we're alright." said Konatsu. He gestured towards the fleeing vampires. "We should take care of the rest of them."

Ryoga waved his hand dismissively. "I don't waste my time on small fish."

"That's a dangerous way to think." Konatsu said as he stood up. "The less of them, the better. If you won't clean them up, I will."

The sound of gunfire turned their attention to the gate entrance to the warehouse. The vampires and their human compatriots were frantically shooting at two men who had just jumped out of a black SUV and were returning fire. While they were both definitely very accurate, Konatsu could not help thinking that the vampires were falling far too quickly, as if there were another person shooting that he could not see. Focusing a bit closer on the action, he could see that not all of the vampires were falling from being shot; some fell from being sliced, meaning that this third person was so skilled that even his trained eyes could not keep up. One of the other men, a black man in a black long coat, threw down his guns and drew out a sword, diving into the remaining resistance with unnatural speed and ferocity. In very short order, they had completely finished off their opposition and Konatsu finally saw who the third person was.

It was Ranma.

-----

Ranma stopped for only a moment, gulping in air and looking around frantically, and, on spotting them, he dashed over in what seemed like an instant. Ignoring Konatsu and Ryoga, he dropped to his knees beside Ukyo, cradling her in his arms. Too surprised to speak, she hugged him fiercely, tears streaming from her eyes. For once, he was not at a loss in responding to a girl's tears. "Sorry I'm late." Ranma whispered in her ear.

"I don't care, baka, as long as they didn't get you." She replied softly, pulling back to smile at him through her tears.

"You're hurt..." said Ranma, his face etched with concern.

"It's nothing." She replied, but her weakened voice did not agree with her. "Just some flesh wounds."

"Maybe, but these shallow wounds and your condition don't match up." He lightly touched one of her wounds and sniffed the blood on his fingers, wrinkling his nose at the smell. "Poison...very strong poison. If you weren't as strong as you are and the bullets hadn't just grazed you, you'd probably be dead by now."

He began to calmly tap a few places on her body. "I'm realigning your ki to slow down the poison till we can find somebody to make an antidote."

"Ranma-sama, " Konatsu said, "I can make the antidote."

"You sure...I don't recognize this poison. It could be hard to beat if that's the case."

"I've been trained by the best in poisons, Ranma-sama. I'm sure I could find the antidote."

"Alright then, take her with you and get on that." He picked Ukyo up and placed her into Konatsu's arms, who promptly ran into the warehouse. In moments the lights in the place flickered on.

Ranma let out a deep breath then turned to talk to Ryoga. "Hey Ryoga, thanks for-" He was cut off abruptly as Ryoga's fist slammed into his face, sending him flying directly into the Suburban. He slowly stood, wiping a trickle of blood from his mouth. "What the fuck is your problem, pig-boy?" he asked angrily.

"You are, you honorless bastard." Ryoga spat back.

"You know what, because you helped Ukyo and Konatsu out, I'm gonna let that slide." said Ranma, a menacing tone in his voice. "But if you ever question my honor again, I'll make you regret it."

"Am I supposed to be scared by that? Don't make me laugh, Ranma." replied Ryoga, smirking. "What the hell have you done to redeem your honor? Akane is still gone and that means you're still a ronin. Do you remember what I said to you the last time I saw you, Ranma? Do you?"

"My mind was on other things at the time, P-chan." Ranma retorted as he folded his arms across his chest in a gesture of annoyance. "Why don't you refresh my memory?"

Ryoga growled at the P-chan remark but kept his anger in check. "Before I left you in a battered heap in Nerima, I said that if you hadn't found Akane or avenged her before I saw you again, I'd kill you." He dropped his satchel as a yellowish battle aura began to form around him. "Prepare to die, Ranma."

"You know what, I'm not even going to try to reason with you, it never worked in the past, don't see why it would now." A red aura formed around Ranma as he spoke. "But no free shots this time, and nobody to help you like the last time."

Before the two could even make a move, however, Whistler interrupted them. "You know, I hate to interrupt this little reunion, but what is beating the shit out of each other going to do besides make it easier for the vamps to come back around and finish what they started?"

Ranma looked at the man, then reluctantly let his battle aura flicker out. "He's got a point Ryoga, and you know it." Ranma said.

"Don't try to get out of this fight, Ranma." Ryoga retorted. "And you stay outta this old man, if you know what's good for you."

"Ryoga, is it?" asked Blade "Tsk, tsk...you know, I really hate it when people threaten my partner. It's like they're threatening me. You don't want to do that."

"Feh. Don't kid yourself, Daywalker. You might be good, but you're not good enough."

"Ryoga-sama." Konatsu's voice came from directly behind Ryoga. Ryoga looked shocked, as if he had not heard the kunoichi approach. "I'm sorry, but I also can't allow you two to fight."

Ryoga stared straight at Ranma, his gaze unwavering. "Fine then, I can take a hint. Next time you won't have anyone to hide behind, Ranma." With that, he picked up his satchel and slung it over his shoulder before turning on his heel and walking towards the street.

"Ryoga-sama, wait!" Konatsu called out as he followed after Ryoga. Ryoga ignored him and continued walking. "Look, I'm not trying to gang up on you, especially after you saved me and Ukyo. But you saw what happened tonight, how close they came. The vampires are united to kill us all and we won't stand a chance unless we stick together."

"Forget it...as long as Ranma's there, we won't 'stick together'."

"Come on Ryoga, give him a break already! He hasn't just been sitting around since you left you know. He's just as much a target of the vampires as we are." said Konatsu. Ryoga looked like he wanted to say something, but kept it to himself. "Look, we're all trying to make the vampires pay for what they did to us. All I'm asking is for you to at least stick around for a couple days and think about joining us."

Ryoga stopped and turned to look Konatsu in the eyes. "All right. I can stick around, but I won't guarantee anything."

"Thank you." Konatsu said as they walked back to where the others were standing. "OK, Ranma-sama, Ryoga-sama, let's have a truce, especially in light of everything that's happened tonight."

Ranma folded his arms over his chest and stared hard at Ryoga. "Fine with me as long as pig-boy keeps to it."

Ryoga bristled at the comment but kept his tone even. "Don't worry about that, *Ranko*. I won't let your being an asshole break the truce."

As the two stared each other down, Blade could not help but comment. "Excuse me if I'm not exactly confident about this truce of theirs."

"Don't worry about that." replied Konatsu. "They may not like each other but they're honorable men. They'll keep their word."

"That's very reassuring." Whistler replied dryly. "So anyway, you're Konatsu, right?"

"Right. I guess Ranma-sama mentioned me and Ukyo. And let me guess; you are the infamous Whistler and Blade, correct?"

"I see our reputation precedes us." Blade said.

"You could say that. We, as I'm sure you understand, find it useful to keep our fingers on the pulse, so to speak, of the vampire community. They've been talking about you two since you set foot in Beijing. We decided to do some...'research' after hearing your names tossed around so much. I can't say I expected the Daywalker to show up at our door, and with Ranma-sama no less.

"Anyway, it's almost dawn, so let's head inside." Konatsu said, gesturing towards the warehouse. "They tore the place up pretty badly, but they didn't find the vault, so we actually do have a place to rest up."

He led Blade and Whistler into the warehouse. The building's interior looked like the scene of a disaster. The vampires had smashed up everything of practical use to the vampire hunters. They followed Konatsu past an overturned delivery truck to what looked like a manhole in the warehouse floor. They climbed down the steel ladder into a well lit, short corridor from which four doors opened.

"I'm surprised they didn't find this little bunker of yours, Konatsu." Blade said.

"Well, you can't tell now, but when that hole is covered it is very well camouflaged." Konatsu replied. "Excuse the cramped quarters, but this is our emergency bunker. It was only intended for two people, but we'll make do. The first door on the right is a weapon shop; after that, is a training room. On the left is the storage room and after that is the living area."

"You call this cramped? Just what kind of emergency were you planning for?" asked Whistler.

"The worst kind." replied Konatsu. "You're all welcome to rest up. There's food and some cots in the living area. If you'll excuse me, I have some things to take care of."

"Konatsu..." Ranma began.

"She's in the med room in the living quarters, Ranma." He replied as he climbed back up the ladder.

The four entered the living area which was a fair sized room. Even with five cots set up, the room did not feel cramped at all. Ranma immediately went into the door next to the kitchen area and Ryoga made his way to a cot. He dropped his satchel, which landed with the loud thud of an extremely heavy object, and threw himself on the bed. "Wake me up in a few hours." he said to no one in particular.

Blade sat on another cot and pulled his serum case from an internal coat pocket. As he was taking the serum, Whistler sat across from him on another cot. "So what do we do Blade?" Whistler asked. "We have that thing in a couple days..."

"Yeah, but I have a feeling they're gonna need our help."

"Help? You did watch these guys fight, right?" said Whistler, incredulously. "You see all those silver bullets out there? You notice that Ryoga's umbrella is silver? They're certified pros, Blade. They don't need our help."

"Maybe. But there's a lot more to this than we know right now. Look at how many vamps were out tonight for just these few people. There's something big going on and we need to find out what it is."

Whistler did not reply immediately. He looked over Blades shoulder at Ryoga, who seemed to be fast asleep. Confident the boy wouldn't wake up, he continued, this time in vampire tongue. Sounds like you want to go on a 'fact finding' trip.

Later tonight, yeah. Before that, we need to find out as much as we can about these four. Especially him. Blade said, nodding over his shoulder at Ryoga. With his strength, he should've been on our list. We're going to find out why that wasn't the case.

Ok. I'll go fish around for info from Konatsu. You get some rest and see what you can get out of them when they wake up. replied Whistler as he stood up. "I'm gonna go move the truck and see if Konatsu needs some help."

"Damn Whistler, don't you ever sleep?"

"Yeah right, there's too much to do. I'll have plenty of time to sleep when I'm dead!"

-----

"No Chang-san, I'm not angry. This wasn't your people's fault. We were arrogant; we should've had more of your men watching the place." Konatsu let out a deep sigh as he listened to Chang on his cell phone. "Yes, this does change things. Now there's no telling how many will be there...of course we'll still be there. Ukyo will be fine in-"

Konatsu stopped short when he heard Whistler approaching. "Chang-san, I'm sorry but I'll have to call you back." he said before hanging up and flipping the cell phone shut.

"Am I interrupting something?" the older man asked.

"Not at all, Whistler-san. I thought you'd be down below resting though."

"Not much for sleep, especially when there's dangerous business at hand." Said Whistler. "I was walking around in here. You guys had a pretty sophisticated set up. Plenty of tools for all sorts of useful stuff."

"All necessary for what we do, as I'm sure you understand."

"I do, believe me. I just don't understand where you got the money for it all."

Konatsu wasn't fazed by the subtle prod. "Let's just say we do favors for very generous people with vampire problems and leave it at that."

Whistler nodded at the vague answer. "Fair enough. Can I ask about your weapons? They're very interesting and, since I make Blade's weapons, maybe I can learn something from them."

The way Konatsu's eyes lit up at the remark, Whistler could tell he had found the way to more information. "Well, they're really not that special." Konatsu said modestly. "I plated Ukyo's spatula and my kusari-gama as well as all our throwing weapons. For bullets, I used to make hollow points before switching to a hollow slug with silver dust and cutting notches in the bullet heads."

"Why make them dum-dums?"

"They explode and rip the flesh worse than hollow points. It's much easier for the silver dust to penetrate then." He replied with obvious pride. "If you want to come down to the weapon shop, I'll show you my improved bullet. I think it'll be completely lethal for vampires, even on non-vital or surface hits."

"Sure, we can talk shop."

"Great! You don't know how hard it is to find people interested in weapon design; it'll be good to talk about it with someone who's knowledgeable. I need to show you the flash-bangs. They're probably the best things I ever made!"

-----

Several hours later, Konatsu and Whistler emerged from the weapons room, still talking about weapons. They broke off their conversation abruptly when they noticed Ryoga emerging from the storage room.

"Looking for something, Ryoga-sama?" Konatsu asked.

"Huh?!" Ryoga replied, seemingly startled. "Oh, right. I was going to work out, but I got lost..."

"OK, you want the training room. It's the door right after this one."

"Right, thanks." Ryoga replied before going into the training room.

Whistler looked after him with an incredulous look on his face. "Just how the hell do you get lost in *here*?"

"I don't even think Ryoga-sama knows. He has the worst sense of direction and spends more time lost than found." Konatsu responded.

"It's odd that he would run into you guys with that problem."

"Not really. He's always popping up when you least expect it."

"How convenient." said Whistler dryly. "Anyway, all that talking got me hungry. I think I'll go rustle up something."

"Whistler-san, I'd be a horrible host if I let you cook. I'd be happy to throw some food together. Besides, everyone should be up soon and the only other cooks won't be up to making any food."

They entered the living quarters, Konatsu heading straight for the small kitchenette. Whistler sat on the cot next to Blade, who appeared to be sleeping. "I thought you were going to talk to him." he said in a low voice.

"No opportunity."

"He's up and wandering around. How was there no opportunity?" Whistler asked. "Anyway, I think we need to keep an eye on him."

"I was going to say the same thing to you." replied Blade. "Something about him isn't sitting right with me."

"Hmmm...well, we just saw him coming out of the storage room. He said he was lost, if you can believe that."

"Bullshit. No one can get lost down here."

"That's what I thought too, but Konatsu seemed to think it was normal. Supposedly this guy has no sense of direction."

"But he conveniently shows up to save the day."

"Konatsu said that was normal too."

"It still doesn't add up. With all the power he has, a few encounters with vampires would put him on the radar, even if he's always lost and appears sporadically." Blade stated matter-of-factly. "We should know about him, but we don't. I'm not exactly buying that."

"Let's just keep our eyes open until we learn more. Something's bound to come out."

They both looked up as Ranma and Ukyo entered the room from the medical room. Ranma was female and looked a bit damp and annoyed. Ukyo, besides looking a bit pale, did not seem any worse for wear. They walked over to talk to Konatsu, who was busy in the kitchenette.

"Good afternoon Ukyo, Ranma-sama." Konatsu said to them as he continued working. "You're looking much better now, Ukyo."

"Thanks to you, Ko-chan." she replied as she hugged him from behind and kissed him on the cheek. "Thanks for saving me again."

Konatsu's cheeks burned. "It was nothing, really. Ranma-sama helped with his shiatsu. Now go on before Ranma-sama bursts a vein."

Ukyo turned to look at Ranma-chan, who quickly looked away from them. She still caught a glimpse of jealously and confusion in her face and couldn't help but giggle at her. "Aww, what's wrong Ran-chan? Is that jealousy I see?"

"No way, why would I be jealous?" she replied unconvincingly.

"You can have a hug too." Ukyo said, glomping onto her.

"Gah! C'mon, cut it out Ukyo." Ranma-chan said as she made a half-hearted attempt to fend her off. She rolled her eyes as Ukyo put on a hurt look. "And you're not fooling me with those sad eyes, you know."

"Boo, you're no fun." She said, pouting.

"Sure I am. Anyway, can I get some hot water Konatsu?" She took the proffered glass of hot water and dumped it over her head, quickly filling out the baggy clothes. "Thanks."

"No problem." Konatsu replied. "The food's almost ready. Can someone go get Ryoga-sama?"

Before anyone got up to find Ryoga, he walked into the room. Whistler and Blade looked at each other as he entered but did not say anything. "Did I miss dinner?" he asked.

"You're right on time apparently, Ryoga." Ukyo said, smiling. She walked up to him and embraced him. "Thanks for helping us yesterday."

"Um...erm..." Ryoga stammered, obviously flustered, and rubbed the back of his head. "Uh...you-you're welcome."

Ukyo giggled at his reaction. "It's good to see some things have changed about you guys."

Konatsu clapped his hands for attention. "Ok everyone, the okonomiyaki are ready and there are some drinks here on the counter. Just help yourself."

Ranma stood back while Ukyo, Whistler, and Ryoga helped themselves, eyeing the okonomiyaki suspiciously. "Are these safe to eat? No offense Konatsu, but you used to make some lethal okonomiyaki."

Ukyo punched him on the arm and laughed. "Ranma, you meanie, of course they're ok! He's gotten a lot better since..." she trailed off, leaving the sentence unfinished. Before an awkward silence could settle, Konatsu spoke up.

"Yeah, I'm not nearly as good as Ukyo but I think you'll be surprised, Ranma-sama. Go ahead and try one."

Ranma put one of the okonomiyaki on a plate and took a bite. He nodded his approval before getting another from the platter and grabbing a can of melon soda. Konatsu watched Ranma and Ukyo as they went to sit on a cot near Blade and he noticed that the black man was not getting up to get any food. Before he could say anything, Whistler answered his unasked question.

"Don't worry about him, he doesn't need to eat very much." he said as he took a bite of his okonomiyaki. "It's an unfortunate side effect of being half vampire."

"I see." He grabbed an okonomiyaki and a beer and followed Whistler to where everyone was sitting on the cots.

"So...does that mean you-" Ukyo began asking before Blade cut her off.

"Not in a long time." Blade answered quickly.

"He takes a serum that substitutes for blood." Whistler volunteered. His explanation seemed to satisfy everyone for the moment. A silence fell over the room as everyone went back to their food and thoughts.

Blade cleared his throat. "I have a question for you all. Ranma already told us he's hunting vampires to find his fiancé Akane. Why are you?"

"I've been looking for Akane too." Ryoga replied between bites.

Konatsu glanced at Ukyo, who was concentrating on her plate and staying conspicuously silent. He sighed, somewhat tiredly, before answering Blade. "We are also looking for Akane."

"You do realize that, after all this time, she's probably-"

"Dead. Yeah yeah, you and Whistler keep trying to remind me of that." Ranma interjected. "Nothing you guys say is going to change what I'm doing, Blade. I'll avenge her death if it's the last thing I do."

As Ranma spoke, Konatsu looked over at Ukyo again. She wore an expression of both fear and, when their eyes met, she surreptitiously shook her head. Konatsu folded and unfolded his hands a few times, then nodded at her. She sighed dejectedly and nodded at him, looking down as she did so. Whistler noticed the exchange but did not know what to make of it.

"Um, Ranma-sama, that's not possible." Konatsu said.

"What?!" Ryoga and Ranma said simultaneously.

"You...you two really don't know?" The male kunouichi asked them incredulously.

"Know what, Konatsu? What about Akane?" Ranma asked, a hint of desperation in his voice.

"Think about it Ranma." Ukyo said, her voice hard as steel. "If she's not dead, what else could she be?"

It took a moment for the implication to sink in and, when it did, it hit the two martial artists like a ton of bricks. "Oh God no..." Ranma said, stunned.

"I'm sorry Ranma-sama, but Akane was turned." Konatsu said, hesitating for a moment before continuing. His next statement was no less devastating. "And she's now the Empress of the Japanese vampires."

To Be Continued...

-----

Author's Notes

[1] The kusari-gama is a traditional weapon of the ninja made of two individual weapons, the kama (or sickle) and the kusari-fundo (or weighted chain). In this case, Konatsu has modified the weapon a bit so that the weight on the end of the chain is also a blade. For more information on this and other ninja weaponry, try http://www.martialarts.com/martial-arts-articles/ninja_weapons.htm

First off, apologies for taking four months to get this one done. Real life plus struggling through writer's block and properly planning this chapter slowed me down a lot. I think I'm through promising chapters on a schedule because I never keep to it :p Seriously, a goal of mine for the year is to churn out at least 1 chapter of fan fiction a month so hopefully I'll stick to that. This one turned out to be quite a bit longer than I expected, hopefully not to the story's detriment. I still maintain that the story will only be about 10 chapters with none of that "3a,3b,..." nonsense I do with HoaW. Also, I'd like to note that this story is a cross between the movie version of Blade and the Ranma manga. If you're not read up on the manga (shame on you :p ) you can find out more at www.furinkan.com. Somebody also mentioned to me that Blade is out of his league or is merely a secondary character. Trust me, that couldn't be further from the truth; he's got a lot more tricks up his sleeve that will come in quite handy later on. Finally, to everyone who reviewed this and other stories I've written, thanks for the ego boost ^_^ Don't be afraid to get really critical though, I can use the help. Till next time...

Sorry for making your read this long AN section ~_~