...Best Served Cold

This is a work of fan-fiction by me. This is a not-for-profit work, and anyone who pays money for it, would probably pay money to see the Evangelion hentai movie. Or possibly Ranma 1/3. It is not intended to infringe upon the rights of Rumiko Takahashi, Viz, or anyone else legally entitled to the Ranma 1/2 universe. But it probably does. All characters used without permission (except the ones I made up).

Questions, comments, and criticism are welcome, so long as you are not an ass about it. Email me at vtr9kvictor@yahoo.com. Thank you, I hope you enjoy it.



Part 1

Begun: July 20, 2001

Finished: July 4, 2003

Scene 1

As he hopped from rooftop to rooftop, Ryoga Hibiki savored thoughts of how he was going to pulverize Ranma Saotome the next time he saw him. His fantasy included excruciating punishment delivered to Ranma in a plethora of new and exciting ways. The Eternally Lost Boy grinned to himself maniacally at the happiness the thoughts brought him. Yes Ranma would pay for the indignities he had inflicted on Akane, and Ryoga too for that matter! That perverted sex-changing freak didn't deserve such an angel as Akane Tendo! It was obvious to anyone with eyes that Akane didn't want Ranma, he thought. (Of course, it was obvious to anyone but Ryoga that this was probably not the case.) Ryoga was just starting to think that maybe he was in the wrong town again when he caught sight of one of Ranma's fiancées, Shampoo. The cursed martial artist continued hopping from rooftop to rooftop, happily contemplating the latest punishment he would heap upon Ranma when they met again and his good fortune at having gotten back to Nerima so quickly.

Ryoga flew over Shampoo's head unnoticed by her to the next building. She was delivering an order of take-out to a nice family who lived a few blocks from her beloved Airen. As she pedaled her bike to the home in question she decided to visit the Tendo dojo afterwards and see if "Ranma take Shampoo to date." Smiling contentedly, after all how could he refuse her in her new dress, she pedaled faster, the better to be done with the delivery. Besides, the nice family were good tippers. She went right by Ucchan's Okonomiyaki Restaurant, the workplace and home of one of her rivals for Ranma's affections. But she didn't let that spoil her mood; surely Ranma would date her today!

Ukyo Kuonji was cooking for her customer when she saw Shampoo ride by on her bicycle. She repressed a momentary twinge of jealousy, and sank back into the comfort of her cooking. Seeing Shampoo made her think of Ranma-Honey. She decided to go visit him after she closed up shop for the day. Just to ensure that the bimbo Amazon didn't get her grubby mitts all over Her Man. She finished the okonomiyaki and served it to her current customer, Akane Tendo, another of Ranma's fiancees. She had a friendly smile today. Apparently, she hadn't seen Ranma-Honey all day. That had left Akane in a good mood. And to Ukyo's thinking, made her unworthy of him as a bride. Ukyo returned her smile, and contemplated the day when she and Ranma-Honey would be married.

Akane Tendo gratefully accepted the food from Ukyo, her mouth watering in anticipation. She was REALLY hungry today. The lunch her sister Kasumi had made for her just hadn't been enough today. And she couldn't bring herself to eat the cookies she had worked so hard to make for Ranma. And he hadn't even had the decency to come to school to eat them! She had even left for school early so that she could surprise him. She would show him! He would be on the receiving end of a malleting when she saw him again! She felt a momentary flicker of worry, because he had never just NOT gone to school since he had lived with them. He must be up to something perverted! Yes, it was time for the mallet! Unnoticed by Akane, her spot at the table now had two fist-sized dents in it. And Ukyo stood in front her with a nervous grin on her face sweating profusely. Akane finished her okonomiyaki, paid for it and left, already formulating her plan for just the right way to punish Ranma.

The focus of all this attention, most of which was unwanted, and the rest of it undeserved, was currently fighting for his life less than a kilometer away. Someone had poured cold water on him from above and then he had been set upon in his girl form by at least three large, seemingly male, attackers. Ranma was fast in his girl-form, faster than he was in male-form actually, and that, he figured, was the only thing that had kept him from being severely stomped up to this point. But this running battle had been going on most of the day, and even he had his limits. He was tiring, and getting sloppy and slower too. If something didn't change soon Ranma started to think that he might be in Big Trouble! He had given them his best shots and hadn't even managed to slow them down. He bitterly thought that his male form, which was physically stronger, might have had a better chance against them as he dodged the next round of attacks. The guy was huge, and hitting him was only slightly less painful than punching solid stone. He carried a stone ax and it had made a mess of his favorite outfit! The shirt was hanging together with only the good graces of fate, and his pants were only slightly less damaged. Where were all of his "friends" when he needed help? Oh they were always ready and available to lay the blame for some stupid misunderstanding, but the instant he needed help -

His thoughts were interrupted when the big ax-wielding man suddenly stopped and backed away. Before he could catch his breath Ranma turned and ran as fast as he could, straight into another solid wall of bone and muscle. This one carried no weapons; he just smiled evilly and began pummeling Ranma. Exhausted from fighting the others, his efforts at defending himself were a pitiful mockery of his true skill. Within seconds, Ranma was on the ground, dazed and confused. And the man said to Ranma ominously, "Now, take your medicine like a MAN Ranma Saotome." And then the real beating began and as it went on and on, Ranma began to fear. Fear for his life, worse than nearly anything he had ever feared before until finally, his body gave out and he wasn't able to fear anything anymore.

Hours later, as the sun was setting Ryoga Hibiki came down atop yet another roof. When suddenly - SUCCESS!! "There's Ranma now," he thought excitedly. Brandishing his umbrella he hurled himself off the roof with an earth-shattering cry of "RANMA PREPARE TO DIE!" But as he came closer to his arch foe he noticed something was amiss. Ranma had not made any attempt to dodge or retaliate to his attack. "No matter," he thought as the distance rapidly dwindled between them, "his trick won't save him." As he neared Ranma, and with only a couple of seconds to spare before impact, Ryoga noted that Ranma seemed unconscious. He altered his trajectory as much as he could, and at the last second, missed Ranma by a narrow margin, causing an impact crater in the concrete next to the redheaded female form of Ranma.

Ryoga rose to his feet prepared to defend himself from Ranma's newest trick. But Ranma still had not reacted in any way to his presence. Ryoga looked his perpetual foe over, and was shocked by what he saw. Ranma's right arm was broken, at least twice; his face a mass of swollen tissue and bloody pulp. Ranma's trademark red and black outfit was more memory than anything else, and his right ankle was broken too. Cuts crisscrossed his entire body and several handfuls of hair seemed to have been pulled out. But more disturbing was all the blood that caked Ranma's clothes. What little remained of the garments was thickly stained and crusted with the precious fluid. "I gotta get him to a doctor," Ryoga thought. He carefully gathered Ranma up in his arms and hopped up onto the nearest roof. "Don't worry Ranma, I'll get you some help," he told the silent form. As he set off for Dr. Tofu's office, he once again cursed his infamous sense of direction. If it got Ranma killed because he got lost, Ryoga thought he'd never be able to live with himself.

But miracles it seems do happen even in Nerima. Ryoga went straight to Dr. Tofu's as if a string was tied between him and his target building. His shoulder impacted the front door, shattering it into thousands of pieces and he yelled in near panic "Doctor Tofu! I need you! Doctor Tofu!" Said doctor came out of an exam room slightly angry at this rude interruption. "I'm with a patient, please be --" And then he noticed the limp form of Ranma Saotome in the arms of the Lost Boy. "What have you done!?!" Tofu cried.

"No, I found him like this! I swear it!" Was all Ryoga could say. He suddenly realized just exactly how many times he had sworn to be the instrument of Ranma's demise. Tofu neatly snatched the unresponsive form of Ranma from Ryoga and hurried him into an examination room. He then quickly went back to his previous patient (who wasn't really sick anyway, just a lonely old woman), and told her an emergency had come up. He begged her forgiveness and offered to talk more with her the next day before shooing her out of the office. He returned to Ranma's room to find Ryoga still standing by his side. "What happened," Tofu asked.

"I told you, I don't know, I found Ranma like this. I thought it was some kind of trick so I made to attack, but then I noticed he was unconscious. Then I noticed the rest," Ryoga's voice trailed off and his head fell forward. Shame was evident in his expression. "I almost attacked him, and he was utterly helpless. I'm worse than an enemy, I'm a coward," Ryoga cried his voice full of self-loathing.

"From a distance, in the dark, you might not have known Ranma was unconscious. Don't beat yourself up too bad," Tofu meanwhile continued to examine his patient. He started to remove what was left of Ranma's clothes, but stopped suddenly.

"What's wrong Doctor," Ryoga asked.

"You should wait outside Ryoga, I don't know if Ranma wants you to see him naked in female form," the doctor stated.

"What can I do then," Ryoga asked as he headed for the door.

"Call the Tendos, and the police," was the only reply he received.

Ranma was still out when the police and the Tendos arrived. A photographer began taking pictures of Ranma's wounds for evidence, while another officer questioned Ryoga about what he knew. Which was sadly very little, no more than Ranma's location after the attack. The Tendos and Genma sat in the waiting area, fear and anger apparent on their faces. When the officer finally sent Ryoga out to them, Akane was the first to descend on the hapless martial artist. Her fury shocked him into unresponsiveness,

"What did you DO Ryoga!?! Tell us!" She screamed at him and slapped him with all her might; Ryoga could only back away in fear unable to respond at all.

Genma was next to offer his words, "What did you do Boy? Speak up!"

"I swear, I found him like that. Really. I didn't lay a hand on him, except to carry him here," Ryoga was really scared now, Genma and Soun, while they didn't fight often, were too unknown a quantity. Ryoga didn't want to have to defend himself against either of them in a fight. Let alone both at once. And Akane, his sweet, perfect Akane, looked like she was ready to kill him. All three began hurling questions at him simultaneously; the Lost Boy collapsed to the floor in supplication, trying through sheer force of will to convince them of the truth. Finally a soft voice overrode the clamor, "I believe him," Ryoga looked up to see Kasumi Tendo standing between him and her family. She wore a determined look that would accept no further dissension.

"You do," he asked, almost unbelieving.

"Yes, I do. While you and Ranma fight all the time, neither of you has ever been willing to hurt the other enough to require police intervention. If Doctor Tofu called them, he must think it's much more serious than one of your little arguments."

Ryoga thanked her quietly for her support, but retained his place on the floor. He still felt guilty about almost attacking the helpless form of Ranma. After a few minutes, Dr. Tofu and the police officer came out of the examining room to speak to the family.

"Mr. Tendo, Mr. Saotome," the officer began, "we are going to transfer your 'son' (he wore a look of amusement at that comment) to a better equipped hospital. 'His' injuries are more serious than Dr. Tofu is capable of dealing with here."

Silence filled the room until the sound of the ambulance's siren could be heard on its approach.

Scene 2

No one outside of the police, the Tendos, Doctor Tofu, and Ryoga knew that Ranma had been attacked. Much less that he had been nearly killed. Consequently, as the night grew darker, Kodachi Kuno was making her way to the Tendo dojo to claim her Ranma's love. As she cackled like a mad hatter, hopping from roof to roof, she was happy. Her latest "special" cookies would render Ranma helpless before her. And then she would have her way with him. Said way was however, surprisingly tame. Most people didn't realize Kodachi had very little idea what to do with Ranma if she should ever finally get him. And so, as she neared the midway point of her journey, she closed her eyes and experienced a brief fantasy of cuddling with a paralyzed Ranma on her bed (I said tame, not sane).

She opened her eyes soon thereafter, safety first you see! And it was just in time to see five figures silently standing in her way on the next roof. "Hello, Black Rose," the one in the middle said. Kodachi had time to draw her ribbon before they were on her.

The next day dawned and Ukyo was worried. She had gone to the Tendo's last night but no one had been home. She had waited for a while, almost half an hour. She had seen Shampoo approaching and hid, to watch what happened. But the Amazon was no luckier. After she apparently had her fill of waiting, Shampoo had turned around and left, her head hanging low. Ukyo followed her to her restaurant, and then went home herself. But they would be at school she thought of Ranma-Honey and Akane. She would find out what the latest fiasco was. Maybe Akane had been kidnapped by another Prince and had decided to marry him! Then No One would be in her way with Ranma-Honey, well except Shampoo. But Ukyo knew she'd be easy to get rid of once Akane was out of the way. She finished dressing excitedly and bounded off to school.

Tatewaki Kuno was curious. His sister had left in the middle of the night to go after the sorcerer Saotome again. Now this was a fairly common occurrence, what wasn't common was that she hadn't returned. Perhaps Saotome had trounced her thoroughly and she hadn't returned yet out of shame, waiting for Tatewaki to leave for school before coming home. Yes, that must be the explanation. And so the Blue Thunder of Furinkan High quickened his pace preparing for school and left early, in order for his sister to have time enough to make it to her own school. As he left he instructed Sasuke to prepare Kodachi's uniform and a bath to save her some time. It was a gesture that would be ignored and unacknowledged, but he didn't do it for praise. She was his sister after all. It was his duty (and secret pleasure) to help her when possible. Hefting his bokken he made his way to the car for the ride to school.

Shampoo was disappointed. She had gone to see Ranma last night but no one had been home. She had even worn her new dress for him. The new purple dress matched the color of her hair perfectly. She was sure No Man could resist her in it. This was confirmed by Mousse who had managed to correctly identify her, instead of some random piece of furniture, and offered his complimentary remarks. She had, of course, pummeled him and doused him with cold water for his trouble, but it was nice to be appreciated. She turned to Cologne and asked once again about Ranma, "Great-Grandmother, what time Ranma get out school?"

Her ancient guardian sighed; this was the fifth time in two weeks, "Around three-thirty or four Child, same as always."

"Shampoo want go school too, why Great-Grandmother not allow it," she asked. Also a question asked multiple times this week.

"Their ways are not ours, Child, you have learned all you need to know from your tribe sisters and myself. Their world would only corrupt you and weaken your standing in the tribe," the same statement. Again. Shampoo seemed unable to remember anything she didn't WANT to for more than a few hours. Not for the first time Cologne debated the wisdom of throwing her into the Spring of Drowned Cat again. But as usual, she thought better of it. "Perhaps Son-in-Law will come by after school today Child. We should prepare something special for him. Then you could invite him."

Shampoo beamed! "Aiya! Shampoo make special dish for Ranma! " She bounced from the front of the restaurant to the kitchen in search of something REALLY special! Cologne was suddenly grateful Mousse was not a duck at the time. Mousse was too.

At the Nerima General Hospital, Ranma had yet to awaken. The Doctor had read off the long list of Ranma's injuries to the Tendos in agonizing detail; broken jaw, concussion, multiple contusions, lacerations, and abrasions, broken right ankle, right arm broken twice, several broken ribs, including one compound fracture on the right side of Ranma's chest, and severe blood loss. As she stood there and listened, the Doctor's words echoed in Akane's mind like some impossibly evil TV commercial jingle. Try though she might, even her considerable willpower couldn't shut them out.

She held off her tears in front of the others by denying that any of this was real. It just couldn't be real. Ranma was supposed to marry her; he was the best martial artist she knew! No one could possibly beat him! But in the back of her mind, the Little Akane that always accepted and told the rest of her the truth was speaking to her, it said; "And yet here we are. And there lies Ranma. What did you do yesterday while this was happening? Oh yes, you were plotting BEATING HIM UP, and for what!?! Because he didn't eat your cookies! You know they were burned anyway!"

Soun looked at the others clearly disturbed, "They cleaned Ranma's wounds correct?"

"Well, yeah Daddy," answered Nabiki quickly.

"And he is still a girl," he replied.

Realization dawned on the assembled Tendos and Genma. The staff used hot water to clean Ranma's wounds. But Ranma had not changed back into a girl.

"He's stuck again," Genma began, "It's not as if it hasn't happened before."

Akane shook with anger, "I can't believe you! How can you dismiss this so lightly?"

Genma wore a hurt and surprised look, "What?"

As Akane's mallet materialized from wherever she kept it, Soun had the presence of mind to lead the elder Saotome out of Ranma's room, "Come Saotome, let us discuss this elsewhere."

The Tendo sisters and Ryoga remained, Akane obviously furious. "Can you believe that man," she asked incredulous.

"I thank the gods everyday he isn't our father," Nabiki answered. "So what now? Ranma will be in surgery for a couple of hours at least."

"Oh my," Kasumi offered, "Someone has to tell Ranma's friends."

Everyone looked at each other with the "Uh-Uh-Not-Me" face. As the four of them stood there staring at each other, the silence became deafening.

Finally Nabiki spoke up, "Okay, I'll do it. Maybe it will be worth a little cash."

"NABIKI!?!" Akane exclaimed.

Kasumi interrupted them quietly, "Perhaps Ryoga would be willing to tell the others." And with that she offered him a soft, though sad smile.

Ryoga suddenly became the latest in the long line of people who could refuse Kasumi nothing. "Of course, Kasumi, you can count on me." And then he turned and left heading for the door. Ukyo lived the closest to the hospital, he would tell her first.

"As for the rest of us, we should get our father and Mr. Saotome and head home, there isn't anything to gain by waiting here." She and Kasumi started to follow their father out of the room and noticed Akane had not followed them.

"Are you going to stay Akane," Kasumi asked.

"Yes, I - I want to wait for Ranma to come out of surgery," she answered.

As they left, Akane excused herself from the room with as much composure as she could muster and, stumbled unsteadily to the nearest lady's room. Once there she gave up her resolve, and her breakfast, crying while she retched into the sink. Her stomach emptied itself long before she stopped trying to heave up her revulsion at what she had planned to do yesterday.

Akane returned to Ranma's bedside hours later, after his surgery, trying not to break down again, but barely succeeding. She tentatively reached out and took Ranma's hand, and when he did not respond, Akane again broke down and cried. Fear clutched her heart and squeezed, and Akane didn't know if it would ever let go. She remembered her demented little fantasy of beating Ranma senseless and sending him into Low Earth Orbit with her mallet yesterday for not eating her cookies. "And why hadn't he been able to eat them," she thought, "Because he was being beaten within an inch of his life!" Akane collapsed onto Ranma's bed burying her face in Ranma's shoulder, and praying to all the gods she could think of for him to wake up.

The evening seemed to be progressing pleasantly enough, the night was warm and the sky clear and the town seemed somewhat calmer than usual. Ukyo stood looking at herself in the mirrored reflection of the cooking surface before her. She wondered if her figure really was "cute" to Ranma-Honey. He called her "the Cute One" all the time, but was he sincere? He hadn't come to school today. Or yesterday. Maybe he was avoiding her. Then she had a troubling thought, Akane hadn't come today either! OH NO! Maybe they were avoiding her because they had declared their love for each other! Her eyes started to tear up as she heard the doorbell ring again.

Ryoga finally arrived at Ucchan's Okonomiyaki Restaurant, the nearest of Ranma's friends' homes to the hospital. He thought about that, it seemed his sense of direction was finally working. He wondered if it would go away once the current crisis was over. But he had to put that thought aside; it was time to be a man. Ukyo deserved to know what had happened. Steeling himself he walked up to the door and entered Ukyo's restaurant, causing the doorbell to ring. Ukyo stood behind the counter cooking yet another okonomiyaki. "Hi, Ryoga. How are you today? Hungry?" He raised her spirits initially when he walked in, but her exuberance was cut short when she noticed the severe expression on his face, "what's wrong Ryoga?" Ryoga couldn't bring himself to say it, he thought that if he didn't say it, maybe somehow it would turn out not to be true. Ukyo noticed his distress and started to get frightened, "Ryoga, tell me what's wrong," she begged, her own worry at the possibilities growing exponentially with each passing moment. Her customers looked embarrassed at what obviously was a very private and very important bit of information.

He almost failed to speak, his voice nearly cutting itself off, but finally he forced the words from his mouth, "Its Ranma, he's been hurt, its - really bad." Some of the customers left the restaurant in difference to the owner's privacy.

Ukyo stood there for a moment uncomprehending, then she took a step back, she tried to walk away, to speak, to do anything, but her body refused to answer her commands. Eventually, she managed to utter weakly, "How bad is he Ryoga?" Another couple left, the girl sadly shaking her head in sympathy for Ukyo.

"He's been unconscious for almost 24 hours." Ryoga knew that this part would be the hardest, but he had to keep going, he owed it to Ukyo and to Ranma too, "someone beat him almost to death Ukyo." The last customers filed out just as the statement left Ryoga's lips. One offered a whispered Shinto prayer.

"Oh gods NO! Stop! I don't want to hear anymore!" She cried as she put her hands over her ears, then she fell down on her rump, unable to support herself any longer and cried like a baby or someone whose fiancé had just been nearly killed.

Ryoga rushed to her side and held her, "I'm sorry Ucchan," he said to her softly. "I wish it weren't true also, but someone was skilled enough to beat the snot out of Ranma, and they might still be here."

Stoically, Ryoga continued his mission; his next stop was Shampoo's Cat Cafe. Walking in to the Café, Ryoga was greeted by Shampoo, who was busy performing her duties as a waitress. "Nyhao, Lost Boy, you want ramen today? Is too too good and on special!" She flashed him her most powerful "You'll-Buy-It-Even-If-You-Aren't-Hungry-After-Seeing-Me-In-This-Outfit" smile.

Ryoga had to admit, that short Chinese style dress always did look good on her. "Shampoo, I am not here for food, I have something to tell you and Granny, could we talk somewhere," he asked.

"Okay, I get Great Grandmother. MOUSSE where you at," she yelled. "You come and take care of costumers, MOUSSE!!"

The Hidden Weapons Master came out from the kitchen seconds later, "Of course my darling Shampoo, anything for you!" As he headed for the nearest table, Shampoo went around back and retrieved Cologne.

Moments later the three of them stood in the relative privacy of the stock room. Ryoga once again stumbled over the words, barely able to speak them.

"Come, come Boy, it can't be that bad," Cologne scolded.

At that moment Mousse entered the room seeking an exotic spice. "Ye- yes it is Granny. Its Ranma he - he," Ryoga fought hard to get the words out.

"What about Airen," Shampoo interrupted.

Realization began to dawn on Cologne, "Oh no."

"He's been beaten. Savagely. He's in the hospital right now, unconscious, has been for nearly a whole day," Ryoga finally got it all out. He felt relieved to be finished with it for now.

Shampoo was visibly upset by the news, so much so that when Mousse embraced her to comfort her, she did not respond with her usual level of violence, accepting the embrace quietly. "How did this happen," Cologne asked.

"We don't know," Ryoga answered solemnly, "Someone changed him into a girl and attacked him. We don't know who or why, but Ranma's messed up bad. There is going to be a meeting at the Tendo dojo once I get everyone together, Mr. Saotome and Mr. Tendo ask if you can attend."

"We will,' Cologne answered. "Son-in-Law's attacker must be brought to justice, and who better to do that, than his fiancée? Mousse, inform our remaining costumers the shop must regrettably close early tonight and send them on their way."

The nearly blind Amazon did as he was told and minutes later, after the last patrons had left, the four martial artists exited the restaurant too.

As the Amazons headed for the dojo, Ryoga headed for the Kuno Mansion, he spared a look in their direction and caught sight of Shampoo's expression. It had changed from one of fear and sadness, to one of anger.

Ryoga then went to the Kuno mansion, where Tatewaki was somewhat upset. His sister had not been seen for almost 24 hours. This was unheard of. Kuno had sent Sasuke, his loyal retainer out to find her but the diminutive ninja had yet to report in. The news that Ranma had been attacked was taken much better here. Almost joyfully in fact. Until Ryoga pointed out that it was the Pig-Tailed Girl who had been assaulted. This brought out new concern from Tatewaki, who called for additional servants to assist in the search for his wayward sister, and agreed to go himself to the Tendo dojo to discuss the situation. Oddly enough, he did so without his usual theatrics. Ryoga took this a sign of impending doom.

The group sat around the Tendo living room looking worried. Ukyo was crying, but Shampoo just looked like she was ready to kill something. Most of the others wore expressions somewhere between the two extremes. When Kuno informed them of his missing sister the mood darkened even more. The discussion mostly centered on helping the police track the attacker and questions regarding anyone seeing anything unusual lately. No one had noticed anything near a fighter strong enough to take out Ranma. Nabiki had summoned Happosai (by hanging some new panties in Akane's window) but the perverted old dwarf had yet to put in an appearance. And thus was the meeting interrupted by the arrival of Sasuke.

"Master, forgive me," he bowed to Kuno, the shame of failure clearly evident on his face, "we have found your sister. She has been treated in a manner the same as Ranma." His failure revealed, the small ninja attempted to become one with the floor in his shame.

"So Kuno, it seems there is a serious problem in Nerima. We will, of course, excuse you to tend to your sister," Soun spoke in a formal tone. "I thought these kinds of things only happened in America."

Kuno spoke, "Sasuke see to the care of my sister," but was interrupted before he could finish.

"You don't have to feel obligated to stay Kuno, we understand if you wish to leave," Genma stated.

Kuno held up a hand to forestall comment, "No, being trained neither in the medicinal nor the criminal investigative arts, there is precious little I can do for her at this time. I will remain. Sasuke you have my full confidence in assuring her attacker cannot repeat his deeds. This is no failure of yours. I did not send you out to watch over her last night, the fault is mine. Go and see that she is safe in the hospital. I will join her at the earliest opportunity."

Sasuke rose and bowed respectfully to his master before vanishing in a flicker of movement.

"Well, what now," Cologne asked unsure of what to do now that two of Nerima's most potent fighters had been laid low.

Silence answered her for a long time until Ryoga spoke, "It seems to me, this person has only attacked women. People he sees as less powerful than himself. Ranma is still skilled in his girl form, but his strength is less, and even though his speed is greater, that obviously wasn't enough to save him. As for Kodachi, she is one of the weaker of us, targeting her proves this person has little honor. As the criminal is unable or unwilling to attack and defeat males, we should deal with him like we would any other coward. I will smash him. He has hurt all of us with these two acts, we owe him, and that is a debt I will repay in full."

"And how will you do that," Soun asked, "You yourself pointed out that no males have been attacked. How will you lure him to you?"

Ryoga looked at Shampoo and Ukyo; "I'm going to need a volunteer."

Shampoo took on a predatory, feral grin and stood, "I help Lost Boy. We stomp bully who hurt Ranma."

Kasumi's distressed "Oh, My!" was the only further comment.

Scene 3

Ranma finally woke up two nights later. He was confused and scared. He had woken up as Akane sat next to him absently picking at the tray of food an orderly had brought in for her. After a tearful greeting to her fiancé Akane offered Ranma some of the soup and the redhead began to half-heartedly suck some of it through a straw. But his appetite had not yet returned. Akane called her family and informed them that Ranma was at last awake, which brought feelings of relief to them all. Akane began asking about the attack, "Do you remember what the man looked like Ranma?"

"Wha' d'ya mean," Ranma asked confused.

"The man who attacked you, he's done the same thing to Kodachi, Ranma tell us what he looks like. Everyone is out helping the police look for him," she said.

"I don' unerstan," Ranma said, "who tole you it was only one man? There was at leasse three, they kep at me so fast I couldn' be sure of their numbers."

Akane paled, "Oh No! Ryoga is out looking for him! He thinks its only one guy. He's gonna get creamed!" And she reached for the phone as fast as she could.

For two days Ryoga had searched unsuccessfully for the attacker, each night he, Mousse, and Shampoo went out and Shampoo did her best to look scared and weak. But there was no luck. The attacker, it seemed, had found something else to do with his time. Each night Ryoga got more and more angry that the guy was eluding them. And each night he decided justice would take longer to inflict upon the man than it would have the night before.

Ryoga was stubborn and sometimes careless, but he wasn't stupid. Mousse had insisted on going along to help protect Shampoo, and Ryoga gladly accepted his assistance. He would have appreciated the help of Soun, Genma, and the others too, but they had decided to stay and protect Nabiki and Kasumi, while Kuno went to his sister's side. As for the ghoul Cologne, she had gone in search of Happosai, confident in her own ability to defend herself. Grimly though, Ryoga thought, "Kodachi and Ranma were pretty confident too." But he stifled his musings in order to devote more attention to the task at hand. With all the stealth they could muster, Mousse and Ryoga stalked along behind Shampoo a few dozen meters away. Shampoo was doing her best to look vulnerable and frightened, playing her role of prey quite well. She stopped at a street corner and looked around before choosing to go down the darker street. Ryoga followed swiftly but Mousse hesitated. "What's wrong Mousse," Ryoga asked.

"I might have trouble seeing her down that way. Too dark," the nearly blind hidden weapons master replied.

"Damn!" Ryoga seethed. Without his backup the whole plan might be endangered. But Shampoo was slowly increasing the distance between them and he had no more time to waste. "Better make sure that doesn't happen Mousse, Shampoo is going to need BOTH of us," he whispered. And then he moved off to close with the Amazon girl followed by Mousse, who was somewhat nervous.

Five silent hulking masses watched the three martial artists move down the street. It was painfully obvious it was a trap for them, although the denizens of Nerima had seriously underestimated their opponents. The leader turned to his companions, "Shampoo, such a rare treat to find a Chinese Amazon away from her home. We will teach her why that is." And all five leapt into the air.

Ryoga's first hint that something was very wrong with his plan came when the huge stone ax buried itself in the ground less than two centimeters from the tip of his nose. "GYAHHH! Shampoo! Mousse! Watch it!" He yelled as he spun away desperately clawing for distance and trying to gain some time. His specially weighted umbrella was up as fast as he could bring it out, and it was barely enough to deflect the next swing, "SHIT!!" He leaped backward conceding more ground to his foe, which he still had not seen clearly. He was painfully aware of being driven away from both Mousse and Shampoo.

Mousse was roused from his concentration on stealth by the strong arm that closed around his throat, lifted him into the air, and tossed him aside like some stuffed animal. He managed to recover enough to avoid being splattered on any offending power poles, but other than that, he really couldn't brag. The big, empty-handed man leaped at him again, "FOOL!! Give me a distance advantage will you!!" Mousse yelled as he unleashed a hail of weighted chains in his opponent's direction. But Mousse knew he had already failed in his mission, he had lost sight of Shampoo and in this darkness he had no hope of finding her again. Praying Ryoga could help her; he threw more and more weapons at his opponent as he sought to subdue the man.

Shampoo had 5 full seconds to take in the scene of the ambush of the ambush. She leaped to help Ryoga who was nearer to her than Mousse, but never made it. The other three men cut her off. And they laughed. "We thought of letting you watch while we killed your boyfriends before we took you, but we couldn't wait anymore," one of them said. He lifted his staff and held it menacingly toward her. Another man carried a spiked mace, while the final man carried paired machetes. "Yeah baby, we gonna have some fun," the last man commented.

Shampoo turned on the three men and her feral grin returned, "Come then, Shampoo have plenty fun for all!" She dropped into a combat stance and her battle aura glowed purple and strong around her body. They had surprised Ranma and Kodachi, but they would enjoy no such advantage against Shampoo. "Come, Shampoo no like be kept waiting. She give you fight you not soon forget!"

The machete man leapt at her and took a swing with each of his weapons; he missed so cleanly that it was immediately obvious to Shampoo that he was playing with her. The nerve! Shampoo would teach them to underestimate her! When the fool again overshot his target mark, she leaped into the air and let fly with a roundhouse kick at his head, her shin blasted into the back of his head and sent him stumbling into a power pole. Shampoo landed lightly but was almost felled herself; looking at her leg she saw the already forming bruise spread across her leg where she had contacted the man. His head was hard as steel! If he hadn't been so carelessly off-balance, Shampoo doubted she would have even affected him. But they had proven something to her; they were good, but not perfect. They underestimated her, now all she had to do was teach them how seriously they had messed up.

At the Tendo dojo, the phone rang. There was almost no one there to answer it, but at the last second, just as Akane was about to hang up, Happosai answered it, "Hello? Anything Goes School of Martial Arts, can I help you?"

"Happosai, is Cologne with you," Akane asked.

"Akane Dear! How are you my Sweet?!? Oh why aren't you home to greet this poor old - "

"Shut up Old Man! This is serious! You've got to find Cologne. And then you two have to go help Ryoga and the others," Akane stated.

"Here, here, what's all this about now," the Old Letch asked.

"While you were gone someone beat Ranma and Kodachi really badly. The others are looking for a lone man, but Ranma just woke up and he says there were at least three of them in the gang, Kodachi got hurt so bad she's still in a coma," by the end of her speech Akane was crying.

"Don't worry Akane, I'll find the Old Ghoul and we'll go help Ryoga," with that Happosai hung up the phone and headed out of his home to look for the Amazon matriarch leaping into the night in search of the Old Ghoul.

Ryoga was barely keeping out of the way of the huge stone ax. He had given up trying to achieve an advantage over his opponent, in favor of simply maintaining parity with the man. He was HUGE, and fast! Ryoga thought he might be faster than even Ranma in his girl form. With that size and speed it was no wonder that Ranma had been beaten. The ax flashed in again and again, sometimes making it past Ryoga's defense and cutting through clothing and flesh. But Ryoga was getting mad. And that meant that things might change, and sooner than this bastard expected.

Mousse was starting to worry. He was nearly out of weapons. As he hurled his last few weighted chains, he decided to use his shruiken to distract his foe and gain some time. The weighted chains entangled the big empty-handed man, slowing him enough that Mousse thought his plan would work. He unleashed a volley of dozens of throwing stars and spikes in his opponent's general direction. Had there been bystanders, many would have been hurt, as it was, several buildings would bare the evidence of tonight's battle in the morning. The man shielded his eyes with his forearm and lost sight of Mousse for several crucial seconds, which Mousse used to flee to a better-lit section of the alley. Once there he turned back toward his foe and began to use some calming exercises to focus his chi and prepare for the coming confrontation. Mousse's white battle aura was like a beacon to the big man, who followed it in a determined effort to snuff the life from the upstart martial artist. "Ready for round two," Mousse stated to himself.

The mace wielding man next confronted Shampoo. His spiked implement of death flashed in at her rapidly and disappeared just as quickly. But as she continued to dodge him while observing his fighting style, she determined a weakness in his technique. The man was using the weapon two-handed, and was taking longer to recover from his swings than Shampoo thought necessary. He was also leaving himself somewhat vulnerable to strikes from the sides as he concentrated on her. All she had to do was keep all three of them in her line of sight and she was confident she could beat them, one at a time. She hopped up and hit him with a few snap kicks to his chest and head, which seemed to do little more than enrage him. But she lost sight of the man with the staff, she was unable to locate him quickly so she turned and ran. She had determined she was faster than the mace man was, and she ran headlong down the alley to open up the distance between them. She looked back over her shoulder to confirm that she had left him behind, and when she turned back around, a huge and very strong hand closed around her throat, hefting her into the air.

"Now Amazon, you have embarrassed us enough for one evening. It's time for you to get yours," the staff wielding man threatened.

Happosai went to the roof of the Furinkan High School building where he focused his chi using it to power his battle aura. A trained chi master would be able to see it as a huge red glow visible for several kilometers in all directions. As he allowed the flare to fade, he hoped Cologne had seen it. There was little time to waste, if Akane was to be believed.

Some distance away, Cologne sensed something behind her. She turned to see Happosai's huge red battle aura high atop Furinkan High School. She bounced toward the school on her cane, hoping she could convince the old pervert to help.

After a few minutes, she arrived atop the school to find Happosai waiting for her. "Happosai, you are needed," Cologne began.

"Yes, I know," he replied, "You are looking for a single man who has attacked Ranma and Kodachi."

"How did you know," Cologne asked.

"Akane called the dojo and I had just arrived. But you are mistaken, according to Ranma, there are at least three attackers to find," the old man sounded uncharacteristically serious.

"Then we must go quickly, Shampoo and the others are expecting only one opponent, we must help them," Cologne answered.

"Who is with her," Happosai asked.

"Ryoga and Mousse, why," Cologne questioned.

"Look above you woman, its going to rain," with that ominous comment the withered master of Anything Goes Martial Arts pointed skyward to draw the attention of his peer.

"They are on the northeast side of town tonight, we must hurry," Cologne exclaimed. And the two ancient martial artists hurried to the aid of the young people.

Ryoga thought things were looking up. Though he wasn't anywhere near crushing his foe, as he desired, he had at least finally stopped losing ground to him. Each swing of the great stone ax was met by a parry from Ryoga's umbrella. He grinned, he had achieved a stalemate, and his opponent knew it too. And the longer the battle went on, the more likely reinforcements for one or the other would arrive. Ryoga had great confidence in the abilities of Shampoo and Mousse, and he was sure the first help to arrive would be his. Ryoga smiled, sooner or later, this bastard would be dealt with and his companions would soon follow him.

The big man closed on Mousse, who calmly stood his ground beneath a street lamp.

"So, you've accepted your fate and stopped running, eh Moose," the big man taunted.

Mousse made no attempt to answer. His hands, concealed within the sleeves of his robes, reached for his two broadswords, he had very few remaining weapons, and the European style weapons were among the best of what remained. The Hidden Weapons Master had to call on all his lifetime of training to hold himself steady and calm while he waited for the overconfident bruiser to close on him.

"I'm going to kill you slow fool, for interrupting our fun with Shampoo," the large man stood only a meter from Mousse as he issued his taunt.

"YOU'LL NEVER TOUCH SHAMPOO!!" The master of hidden weapons drew the twin swords with blinding speed and immediately set upon his unarmed foe. The man dodged the first few strikes and then obtained a chunk of loose concrete to use as a shield, but each of his parries chipped off another piece of his protection, the big man began to worry that he had pushed the wrong button by threatening the Amazon woman, the warrior in front of him was possessed of a fury the man had never experienced before. As the hail of sword strikes continued to rain down on him, the man hoped for help to arrive soon.

The man with the staff held Shampoo by her throat several centimeters off the ground. As his grip tightened, Shampoo became sure that she would have nasty bruises there at the very least. He began to taunt her, "Oh, you're a feisty one aren't you," he cooed as she raked his arm with her nails. "Well, you're at least more fun than little Ranma, she barely gave us any sport at all." The man's grip tightened some more and Shampoo began to black out. "But I just bet we'll have LOTS of fun with you, won't we?" Shampoo's only reply was a series of choking coughs forced out with great effort. As blackness closed in on her she realized that if she passed out the barbarian would have his way with her, and likely, so too would his friends. Clinging to that thought like a life raft, she forced herself to calm down and focus her chi for a final strike to win her freedom. The big man noticed her aura begin to flicker out. He prematurely started to celebrate his victory, imagining all the things he would do to Shampoo's body once she was unconscious. What he didn't notice, because he was too busy describing the painful deeds to her in advance, was that all her chi energy was concentrating around her left foot, as her hands clawed at his face and arm to keep him distracted, her foot glowed and crackled with her remaining power. When she was ready she snapped her foot up at his chin, her chi increasing the force of the impact, she saw a tiny piece of pink flesh arc through the air and heard the satisfying sound of teeth crunching as the abomination of a man's head snapped back involuntarily. He reflexively dropped her bringing his hands up to his ruined mouth.

Shampoo hit the ground at a dead run, building momentum and leaping for the relative safety of the rooftops. She came down on one and immediately headed back to where she had last seen Ryoga and Mousse. She noticed the mace carrying man standing dumbly back in the alley, unsure of what to do, and she fled as fast as her tiring legs could carry her. She found Ryoga first. He was battling a man carrying a large stone ax. They seemed to have reached a stalemate, "Well, Shampoo just see about that," she thought.

The telltale sound of Shampoo's little cat bells, which she wore in her hair and around her ankle, attracted Ryoga's attention upward. His gaze followed the sound until he saw Shampoo coming down, he met his adversary's curious gaze and smiled, "I win," he said simply.

"Wha-," was all the man had time to say as Shampoo's heel connected with a satisfying 'crack' to the back of his head. Her momentum carried them forward, his face crashing into the pavement with great force, cracking it. Shampoo rolled away from him and came up unsteadily.

"You all right," Ryoga asked with much concern.

"Shampoo fine," she lied, "where Mousse?"

"Don't know," he answered. The pair looked around and listened for some sign of the fight. They could barely hear the clanging sounds of his blades impacting the improvised concrete shield, but it was enough to lead them to their companion. Ryoga noticed that Shampoo looked drained, but he hoped she could last the final rounds.

Meanwhile the big man was getting increasingly concerned for his own survival. Mousse had chipped his shield away to half its original size, and showed no signs of letting up. His battle aura glowed so brightly that the man thought he would go blind, and suddenly Mousse landed a direct hit to the block of concrete, shattering it in two. With no defense left, the big man shifted to offense throwing a powerful punch at Mousse's head. But the smaller weapons master easily ducked beneath the blow.

At that moment Ryoga and Shampoo arrived on the scene. They were just in time to witness Mousse burying one sword up to its hilt in the man's abdomen, and cleave deeply into his shoulder with the other. The ferocity of the two killing blows shocked Ryoga and Shampoo. As the man collapsed to the ground, Mousse resumed a serene posture and drew a katana from his robes. He raised the blade to deliver the coup de grace, when Shampoo and Ryoga snatched him away, shaking him out of his trance.

While the two of them looked at Mousse with questioning stares, the machete armed man and the mace armed man showed up. A distance behind them, somewhat unsteadily, stood the staff armed man. The three of them looked at the ruin of their partner and became very angry.

"Let's go," Ryoga ordered, and Shampoo and Mousse followed quickly. As they ran, Ryoga noticed something; he felt something cool and wet against his cheek. Looking up, he saw the storm's first lightning bolt rip through the night sky. As the other two cursed martial artists also looked up, it started to rain.

Still trying to find the young fighters, Cologne and Happosai were leaping from rooftop to rooftop as fast as they could. "Hurry Old Pervert," Cologne cried, "it has already started to rain." And with that they increased their speed.

The scene was quite comical, if one didn't know how serious it was. Two extremely large, armed men, chasing a pig, a cat, and a duck through the streets as fast as they could run. Trashcans were up ended without care as the chase pressed on. Ryoga-pig led the little menagerie down street after street, not trying to get anywhere particular, just trying to lose their pursuers. Suddenly, they came to a dead end.

"Bweee," was all the cursed martial artist could offer his meowing and quacking companions. The three turned to go back out of the alley when the two big men filled the passageway with their bulk. Shampoo-cat hissed and puffed herself up, Ryoga-pig looked really angry, and Mousse-duck flapped his wings and quacked menacingly (so to speak). Neither man was impressed. But unknown to them all, Mousse had one final trick, quite literally, up his sleeve. Six hand grenades were secreted under his wings, he only hoped they would be enough to ensure Shampoo's survival. As he prepared to sacrifice himself for his love, something unexpected happened.

Two withered mummy like forms interposed themselves between the animal forms and the attackers. Shampoo purred with relief, Mousse stopped his self-destruct plot, and Ryoga got ready to run again. Happosai and Cologne had arrived, battle auras putting to shame those of the three younger fighters. The two men hesitated and Happosai took the opportunity, "Leave now and live. Or you can stay and die. Your choice."

The men looked at each other and laughed, these old fools were going to stop them? They drew their weapons and advanced, straight into Cologne's hiryu shoten ha attack technique. As the powerful hurricane force winds carried them off and then dumped them a full kilometer away, the two giants could only stare blankly in confusion at the sheer power the old woman had demonstrated.

"You were too easy on them Cologne, now they will come back," Happosai complained.

"Hush Happi, gather the youngsters and let's get out of here. I'll get their clothes."

"How about I get their clothes Cologne?"

Cologne shuddered, with slight revulsion, "Shampoo wears no bra or panties for you to steal Happosai."

His plans foiled, Happosai obediently turned to the youngsters, "Maybe you could tell her..."

"No chance," she stated. Cologne gathered the garments, and followed Happosai as he carried the three combatants back to the Tendo dojo.

Part 2

Scene 4

Five battered figures made their way unsteadily through the night. As they moved from shadow to shadow they found themselves near Shampoo's Cat Café. "Isn't this the restaurant owned by Shampoo," one of them asked.

"Yes, but we need to restore our energy before we face her again," answered the man with the stone ax.

"Someone's inside," the barehanded man stated, "but they don't move like Shampoo, wait, two some ones."

"They don't appear to be as competent as Shampoo either," the mace holder commented.

The evil light in the ax wielding man's eyes returned, confident that he had found new prey. "Let us go and properly greet the Amazon's friends," he growled.

Ling Ling and Lung Lung searched the Cat Café for signs of their Matriarch and Clan Sister Shampoo. Unfortunately, neither of them seemed to be home. "Maybe we should have called first," Ling Ling asked uncertain.

"Oh well, we wait for them to return, yes," answered Lung Lung.

"And in meantime, we make dinner, I hungry," Ling Ling stated.

But as the young girls began their search for tasty morsels, the doorbell rang, signaling the entrance of some guests. "We sorry, Cat Café closed now. Come back later, thank you," they chorused simultaneously.

"We, we are not hungry," giggled the big man with the ax. But his humor was a perverted twisting of the concept; sickeningly he laughed for a few seconds more. His companions fanned out around the room and brandished their weapons threateningly.

"Pathetic men, we crush you," the girls replied drawing their weapons with astounding speed.

Minutes later five figures left the scene of the Cat Café, inside the place was trashed, not a single piece of furniture escaped unharmed. Most of it was fit for little more than firewood, and two young female forms lay motionless, battered, and bloody amidst the wreckage.

"Their fear was an excellent snack, but their youth and lack of experience prevented them from fully appreciating what was happening. It would have been better for us if they knew the fate in store for them," the ax man said.

"Yes, but, any porthole in a storm as they say, at least they restored us" replied one of his companions.

"And if nothing else, we have left that Amazon bitch a message she will never forget," a third spoke up. All five enjoyed a short chuckle at that.

"So, who is next on our list," asked the barehanded man.

"Another restaurant owner, by all accounts," the ax wielder began, "Ukyo Kuonji, she uses the lessons of okonomiyaki making as a martial art. How pathetic. Once we have dealt with her, we will return for Shampoo. And once she's dead, we can get back to our real target, Ranma Saotome."

"And what of the girl Akane Tendo, and her sisters," asked the mace carrier.

"They will be destroyed before Ranma's eyes as he stands by helplessly in fear. Only then, can our Master be truly avenged. We WILL perform the task we were created for and crush the upstart Saotome once and for ALL!"

And then the five powerfully built and completely uninjured men stalked into the shadows and vanished.

Back at the Tendo dojo, the group had gathered to review the events of the night's fiasco; Dr. Tofu who was currently examining Shampoo's legs joined them. "Well, it seems as though you probably have a hairline fracture of your shin bone and I think probably another on your heel, plus you seem to have broken some of the toes on your left foot, how did you manage to walk let alone run?"

Shampoo shrugged.

"Of course, I recommend you go in for x-rays tomorrow to make sure. I can do something to relieve the pain but it won't help heal the injuries in any way. And those bruises around your throat are really bad, you should have your throat checked too."

Shampoo looked down at her injured appendage with some scorn, "Great-Grandmother, is necessary?"

"Yes Child," she replied, "I trust Dr. Tofu's opinion. We will go and visit the hospital tomorrow. Perhaps we can stop by and see Son-in-Law while we are there."

"AIYAA," Shampoo cooed, "Shampoo not see Airen since before attack. No can wait!"

Tofu knelt before her and began wrapping her injured limb in bandages, which were then augmented by stiff metal plates for support before being covered by additional bandages. Then he tapped a pair of pressure points on Shampoo's body, nearly eliminating her pain. "Now remember," he stated, "all I've done is take away the pain, you still have to go get additional treatment."

Shampoo nodded enthusiastically, "No worry, Shampoo be sure to go hospital to see Ranma."

Across the room Ryoga sat fingering some of the many bandages covering various parts of his upper body and legs. He had been the recipient of numerous small cuts from his opponent, but his wounds were minor annoyances nothing more. Still, he burned with desire for retribution. And not a small degree of embarrassment that he had been taken so completely by surprise.

Mousse stood uneasily off by himself. Though he was unhurt physically, it was easy to see that something was wrong with him. In his mind he waged a war trying to reconcile the guilt he felt for killing his opponent, and the knowledge that there simply was no other way to stop the fiend. Unnoticed by the others, behind his thick glasses tears began to form. No matter the justification, Mousse had killed. His life would never again be the same.

Now Soun spoke, "Well, let's get the meeting underway. It seems no one of you was seriously hurt. In this we were VERY lucky. Had it not been for Ranma's awakening when he did Cologne and Happosai would not have been able to come to your aid. In the future, we cannot rely on this kind of blind luck. We must plan more thoroughly if we wish to bring these beasts to justice."

As he spoke, Genma nodded sagely. After Soun finished he spoke up, "We also know we cannot count on my son's help in this situation. The doctor has estimated it will be six weeks before Ranma's casts can come off and his jaw unwired. After that, Ranma will have to undergo physical therapy to regain full mobility in his arm and get rid of a limp. A full recovery might take a year. Even though he heals fast, Ranma will NOT be helping us in this fight."

Kasumi was the next to speak up, "That assumes Ranma is mentally capable as well, has anyone talked to him? How is he coping with what happened?"

The whole group looked somewhat guilty and embarrassed, none of them had spoken to Ranma since the attack. Finally Soun again broke the uncomfortable silence in the room, "Akane is with Ranma. She will do what she can to help Ranma. I think she is the best qualified right now to help. I have however contacted Nodoka Saotome, she is on her way and will help as well."

Genma looked terrified, "WHAT!?! You called my wife?!? Are you mad!?! She might force me to commit seppuku! When is she due in?"

"She will arrive in the morning," Soun looked at his old friend with anger, "we need all the help we can get, not just to end this wave of terror, but to help Ranma recover. You should be ashamed, thinking only of yourself, Saotome! Besides, I remembered to say it was Ranko who was hurt. Your panic is shameful." Genma's only answer was to jump in the poi pond thereby assuming his panda form.

Ryoga brought the meeting back on track, "So, we have to stay on track here, the question we must ask is, what exactly have we accomplished up till now?"

The withered form of Cologne, silent to this point, spoke gravely, "We have learned the number of attackers and aquainted ourselves with their fighting styles. We know their weapons and basic skills. And we have killed one of them." Mousse recoiled from the group, hiding his head in shame. "Do not be ashamed Mousse, there is no cure for the sickness in these deviants. We may be required to kill all five before their madness is stopped."

And for the first time that evening Mousse spoke, "Then you will do it without me. I did not study the arts to be a killer. I will allow no more blood to stain my hands. I wish you all luck, and you will need it, but I will not assist in the taking of more lives." With that the hidden weapons master spun on one heel and walked away. No one in the dojo moved for several crucial moments, when Ryoga finally realized what had happened and went to stop him, Mousse was already long gone. And no one knew if they would ever see him again.

At the hospital, Akane sat talking quietly with Ranma about things that had no bearing on the situation at hand. As it happened Akane did most of the talking, Ranma's mouth being wired shut while his jaw healed. "I saw the cutest dress the other day Ranma, I think I might go buy it later this week. It was burgundy with a matching vest. I bet you would like it too."

Ranma groaned, "Don' need anymore grrl cloths," he said through his artificially restrained jaws. "'Sides, I ain't stayin dis way any longer'n I hafta." He shook his free hand accusingly at Akane. Ranma was trying to raise things to his usual level of confrontation with his fiancee but the drugs in his system were just keeping him too mellow. They were leaving him dangerously uninhibited too. Again he clamped down hard on another stray thought that might have been uncomfortable to admit to Akane. He really didn't want Akane's pity. That would just be the icing on the cake wouldn't it?

Akane turned suddenly from Ranma and even in his drug induced sensory haze Ranma could tell Akane was stifling tears. "Wha's wrong 'kane," he asked.

"Things are pretty bad Ranma," the girl replied. "With you like this Ryoga and Shampoo are trying to stop them, but they had a fight tonight and according to Dad, both of them got beat kind of bad." She saw Ranma pale a little and quickly continued, "Not as bad as, well, you. Or Kodachi, but they lost. It might have been worse, but Cologne and Happosai showed up in time-"

"Happosai," Ranma asked unbelieving.

Akane looked somewhat proud, "Yes, Happosai. Thanks to my phone call home, Happosai went out to help too!" She wore her most Satisfied-With-Herself grin; it rivaled Ranma's in sheer ego potential.

"Will wonders never cease," Ranma replied amazed. They giggled at that, and Akane was secretly very pleased. It was the first time Ranma had seemed anything other than afraid since waking up.

Officer Takeda of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Force was walking his beat. He had the night shift all this week and next week too. Fortunately, his beat included the ward where the Cat Cafe was located. Sometimes he could see Shampoo up in her room changing for bed as he walked by. He smiled a perverted little grin to himself, mentally scolding himself for his indiscretion. And during the day of course, the girl could be counted upon for a free lunch. Public servants had a hard job after all. So he was always extra observant when passing by the cafe, after all such helpful, civic-minded people deserved extra special attention. On this night unfortunately, the lights were already off, which meant that she was asleep now. But he decided to walk close by the shop's front window and look in on things anyway.

Upon walking up to the window, Takeda was stunned. Inside the place was wrecked; every piece of furniture smashed, panes of glass shattered, the large stove was up-ended. Reaching for his radio, he pushed upon the front door, which fell off its hinges and entered. He started to call in vandalism, but in the middle of his transmission, cut himself off to investigate two odd shapes toward the rear of the restaurant. When he walked to the back, he found the light switch, flipping it on; he spied the broken bodies of Ling Ling and Lung Lung. Each lay in a pool of her own blood, very badly beaten. He had met them the last time they were here, and although they had some eccentricities, he found them very pleasant and sweet young girls. As tears formed in his eyes, he called in a full forensics team and a coroner.

Scene 5

The next morning dawned much the same as any other. The Sun was shining, the birds were chirping, there was a little dew on the grass. But to those close to Ranma Saotome things were very different. Two of their number had been killed in the night, slaughtered like animals. Perhaps the beasts had killed them strictly for revenge, perhaps just for the simple love of violence and hate. None of the survivors knew. As the little group made their way to the hospital to visit the freshly awakened Ranma, all they did know was that the game had attained a level where the stakes were now too high.

Shampoo and Ryoga led Nabiki and Kasumi Tendo and Nodoka Saotome to the hospital. Ukyo had declined to go, she put on a brave face but Ryoga thought he saw through her. He was sure she was at home crying. As they walked they discussed whether or not they should even inform Ranma and Akane of the latest news. Shampoo, remained deathly quiet, the loss of Ling Ling and Lung Lung was affecting her a lot it seemed as the others talked about it.

Ryoga was the first to notice her stride falter, the first, but only by a handful of seconds. She took a single misstep, which he saw immediately and the others seemed to have missed, on her next stride her leg gave out beneath her and she toppled face first to the concrete.

No one missed the fall; Shampoo could hide her distress no longer. Doctor Tofu had eliminated most of her pain last night, but this morning there had been more. And with each step more and more. She had endured, her Honor as an Amazon demanded it, until they were halfway to the hospital. Then her body had finally overruled her mind and forced her to allow it to rest. She now had new pain, the pain of abrasions on her knees and the palms of her hands, which she had sacrificed to spare her face. She tried to hold back her tears, the shame and embarrassment she felt hurt her more than the mere physical discomfort, but failed even in that. As Kasumi knelt and offered to help her Shampoo refused - the Nice Girl, was kind and Shampoo liked her, but she was no warrior. Shampoo could not accept help from her. Nor were the others, sobbing dejectedly, Shampoo wondered what she would do.

Fortunately, Ryoga offered to help her, and while accepting help from a male who was not her Husband-to-Be was a dishonor, it was far less so than accepting from a non-warrior she reasoned. Ryoga dropped to his knees and Shampoo climbed onto his back, his decision to leave the heavy pack he always wore back at the Tendos's home had proved fortuitous as none of the other three women could possibly have carried it, even working together.

All this was conducted without words Shampoo realized. No one had voiced her weakness. It would be a secret between them; perhaps she could live with it, if Mercenary Girl didn't try to use it against her. With that thought Shampoo snuck a glance at Nabiki Tendo, who was simply walking as if nothing had happened.

At Ucchan's Café, Ukyo was indeed crying. Not only had she failed to go to school, or to see Ranma, she had failed to be able to bring herself to open the restaurant. She sat on the floor, just inside the door, quietly sobbing. It wasn't just that Ranma had been hurt. Ukyo accepted that sooner or later someone would hurt him in a fight, but then there was the whole situation with Kodachi, Shampoo, and the others. Ukyo was scared. She was afraid she would be no more successful defending herself than the others had been. Not even Konatsu was able to bring her around. After several unsuccessful hours, Ukyo's loyal assistant gave up trying to bring her around, and simply settled for holding her offering whatever reassurance he could.

Once at the hospital, Ryoga and Nodoka stayed with Shampoo in the Emergency Room, and Nabiki and Kasumi went on to see "Ranko," the official falsehood now officially in force. Shampoo's incomplete knowledge of Japanese (Shampoo's reading skills were about equal to her speaking skills) quickly proved inadequate to the task of filling out the forms necessary and Nodoka had to take over, Ryoga waited impatiently in the waiting area wishing he could be doing something, "but what," he wondered. "Just what do we do now," he mulled over in his mind their situation. "We are running out of combatants, what do I do if those guys come here, the people in here are incapable of defending themselves. There's even a children's ward," with that disturbing thought, Ryoga began watching the grounds outside. If the monsters showed up here, he would meet them. They would not be allowed inside the hospital, even if it killed him!

Kasumi and Nabiki walked into "Ranko's" room and were stunned. Ranma was virtually covered in bandages, some of which had faint traces of sickly brown that indicated dried blood. Kasumi however, quickly recovered and went into "Pleasant Mode" her standard operating mode. Nabiki covered her shock too, but it took a little longer and she was pretty sure Ranma had noticed, despite the painkillers that were doubtless flowing through his veins.

"hi guys," Ranma managed weakly.

"Ranma, its so nice that you are finally awake," Kasumi offered, "I brought you some soup." She produced a warm thermos, which Akane placed on the table next to Ranma's bed.

"And I brought you some magazines," Nabiki offered, "I know you'll probably have trouble with them, but you can have Akane read them to you."

Akane was somewhat embarrassed by that comment, so she set them aside and whispered to Nabiki, "We'll discuss this later Sister Dear."

Nabiki let out a little giggle and leaned over to her sister, "Now Akane, you know this is a perfect opportunity for you and Ranma to get some quality time together," the giggle turned to a full laugh as she rocked back avoided Akane's playful slap. "Ranma, we came up first so we could tell you guys your Mom is here. You two going to be able to keep up the 'Ranko' thing," Nabiki asked.

Akane nodded confidently, as for Ranma, well they were pretty certain Ranma had heard the question. And with the preliminaries out of the way, the Tendo Sisters began to inform Ranma and Akane of the previous night's battle, but they left out the aftermath, especially the part about Ling Ling and Lung Lung. The final decision on that had been left to Shampoo.

Hours later, Shampoo and Nodoka entered 'Ranko's' room, Shampoo borne inside in a wheelchair, her leg incased in a heavy looking cast, her mood decidedly displeased with her situation. Nodoka however seemed pleasant enough to Akane and Ranma. Shampoo blushed in embarrassment at her predicament and sheepishly squeaked out a quiet "nihao, Ranko."

"Auntie Saotome it's so good to see you," Akane chirped as she embraced her Mother-in-Law to be.

"hi anty," Ranma managed.

"Auntie Saotome," Kasumi began, "where is Ryoga?"

"Ryoga came too," Akane broke in, "see Ranko, he is your friend."

Ranko "hrmphed" her answer.

"Ryoga elected to stand watch out in front of the building. He feels that those - people" she said stumbling over the word, "might try to come here, and he wants to be able to meet them if they do."

"Oh my, I do hope he's careful," Kasumi stated. "And how is Shampoo, what did the Doctor say?"

"Doctor say Shampoo leg broken in too too many places," she answered. "He say Shampoo have to be in wheelchair - HRMPH!" And she turned her nose up indignantly at the ceiling crossing her arms over her chest in the traditional "And-I-Don't-Like-It-One-Little-Bit" pose.

"OH!!!" Kasumi seemed quite excited, in deed 'giddy as a school girl' may not have been a strong enough term for her new found joy, "We can sign Shampoo's cast!"

The others bore looks of bewilderment as Kasumi produced a fat marker and began writing her name in exquisite, perfectly neat, handwriting along the newest object of Shampoo's scorn.

"What a nice idea," Nodoka commented, and when Kasumi was finished, she signed her name too.

Shampoo, surrendered to their ministrations and allowed the others to sign it also, and when Ranma expressed an interest in the activity too, she got positively enthusiastic about it.

Once they were done, the girls turned to Ranma, whose one good eye wore a look of fear as the five women descended upon him with mischief in their eyes.

Finally, once the giggling was done and 'Ranko's' many casts covered with signatures and suitably embarrassing comments, Shampoo decided it was time to tell Ranma what had happened. "Ranko, those men - they come again after fight with Shampoo."

Ranma looked at her, not comprehending.

"They show up at Cat Café," she continued. "Shampoo not know, couldn't have," and she started to cry powerfully. "Ling Ling and Lung Lung, they visit last night," her head dropped forward hanging low in grief. "Men beat them," and her words failed her and she could only sob.

"wha' hosp'tal dey 'n" Ranma asked.

As Shampoo sobbed unable to continue, Nodoka spoke for her, "They aren't in a hospital dear, they have gone to meet their ancestors." And she bowed her head offering a silent prayer for the young girls.

Ranma and Akane paled. The room remained silent except for Shampoo's sobs until the Tendo sisters decided to take her home. To the dojo they said, Shampoo had refused to return to the Café.

Cologne was not so sentimental, nor apparently, afraid as Shampoo. Early the next morning she stealthily infiltrated her home, despite its police barricades and warnings refusing entry to all. She headed up to the living quarters to retrieve a few things, mostly for Shampoo. "If only that fool Mousse was here," she lamented, "the one time his skills would prove most useful too." And she gathered some of Shampoo's clothes and keepsakes for transferal to the Tendo dojo.

Once she had filled a pair of suitcases, she turned to leave her home away from home. "I wonder when we will be able to return here," she thought sadly.

Scene 6

Ryoga crouched atop a roof across from Ukyou's restaurant. It was late, almost 2 AM.

They weren't coming tonight he thought. But for some reason he couldn't bring himself to just leave. It had been two days since they had gone to see Ranma. Cologne was leaving for China in the morning bearing the remains of Ling Ling and Lung Lung back to their village for burial. Shampoo couldn't go, apparently the 'dishonor' of returning without her 'husband' after yet another defeat was too much for her. Cologne had left her a task though, hoping the girl could gain some measure of self-respect, she had asked Shampoo to help protect the Tendo sisters. Shampoo was capable of walking, with crutches, for short distances, even standing on her own for a short length of time. "And a surprise appearance by her at a crucial moment may yet have some value," Ryoga thought. As for Mousse he was nowhere to be found, maybe he was dead. Those five, no wait, and he smiled wickedly; four monsters would have been pretty steamed. They might've found him and gotten even for him killing their buddy. But that was idle speculation. He just didn't know what had happened to Mousse. No one did. Perhaps it was time to go looking for him Ryoga thought.

Ranma was still confined to his hospital bed. And they had been unable to change him back to his male form. Ryoga was worried about that. So were the Tendos and the others. Still there was some good news; Kodachi had finally woken up. Kuno remained by her side 24 hours a day. He had refused to attend school until she was released from the hospital. The rumor was that Tatewaki had retrieved the family's ancestral sword and was now carrying it instead of his traditional bokken wherever he went. The katana was said to be over 300 years old, and capable of splitting stone. If Kuno was carrying it, it was a sign that things in Nerima had changed and most certainly not for the better.

Ryoga pondered the worsening situation in Nerima for a few more minutes and straightened up to his full height, "Well, nothing more to do here tonight. I might as well get some sleep." And he turned to go back to the Tendo dojo.

He had walked for about five minutes when he saw something moving ahead of him in the dark. Ryoga dropped into a combat stance and froze. A few seconds later the misshapen blob revealed itself. He stared in horror at ALL FIVE of the mysterious attackers. They walked brazenly down the street; they took no notice of him. And they were headed for Ukyo's place.

He shook his head in denial, it was impossible! It just couldn't be! Mousse had KILLED one of them! There was no way ANYONE could have survived those injuries! He replayed the final strikes in his mind, saw the twin broadswords cleaving through flesh and bone, the blood pouring forth -- wait a minute. Something nagged at his mind. He edged up behind them, being as stealthy as possible. What was it he had seen? Something was wrong. The men stepped into a circle of light in front of Ukyo's, the illumination revealing every detail of them in stark white purity. And the answer hit Ryoga with a nearly physical force. There hadn't been any blood! He assumed there had to have been. But there was none. He remembered Mousse standing there at the meeting wearing his robes, they were stark white, and except for being slightly wet, totally clean! Shampoo's clothes were clean also. And except for his own blood, so were his own clothes. The men were quietly discussing something and Ryoga was running out of time, he had to act, either they'd notice him, or attack Ukyo's. But just what the hell were these people anyway?

And then his decision was made for him. One of them turned around casually, and in that instant Ryoga threw his umbrella at his foe. The man called out a warning, and the others started to turn to face the threat, just as Ryoga's weapon impacted against the man's face. The heavy object blasted into the man's jaw, and as Ryoga waited to see teeth and blood, he instead saw pinkish, flesh colored chunks flying away from the being. It doubled over in pain and emitted a growl of rage. No blood came forth; the chunks hit the ground with the weight of pebbles. Closing the distance quickly, the other four moved to attack, and in that instant, Ryoga tried something he thought he'd never get any real use out of in this situation.

"Bakusai Tenketsu!"

His finger impacted against the first man's chest, his Breaking Point technique used offensively for the first time in ages. There was an explosion, a flash of light and smoke, a raining of debris. And Ryoga stood, alone and opposed by only four attackers. Two huge machetes clattered to the ground just in front of him. As realization dawned on him, a wicked grin split his face.

The four remaining "men" stood and stared in real fear for the first time since their creation. They backed away from Ryoga and spread out. "Let's go!" the ax-wielding one cried, and they were gone. Behind them Ryoga stood, his arm still held out before him. He closed his eyes, and began to laugh maniacally!

Ukyo came running to the front of her restaurant, in a robe carrying a few small-throwing spatulas. She saw Ryoga standing outside laughing. She put down her weapons and stepped outside to see what he was doing. "Just what are you doing, Jackass! You'll wake the whole neighborhood," she fumed! "And what's all this garbage on the ground. It looks like rock. Well, answer me!"

Ryoga finally reasserted control over himself. He turned to look at her; "You need to get dressed. We're going to see the Tendos."

The Tendos, Shampoo and Cologne sat around the table in the Tendo Family Room, all looked somewhat angry and disheveled (except Kasumi who seemed pleasantly surprised at having guests), and they had obviously just been awakened. Ryoga and Ukyo stood to one side, Ryoga grinning wildly. He dropped several large pinkish chunks onto the table and began to speak.

"I fought those cowards tonight. I did this to one of them. And I don't think Mousse killed that one when we fought them before."

The others looked at the rock-like chunks in non-comprehension. Finally Cologne realized what had happened.

"You did this with the Bakusai Tenketsu," it was not a question.

"Yes, the things that attacked Ranma and the others are not men," Ryoga replied.

"Then what are they," Genma asked.

"Golems, ancient magic, very powerful too," answered Cologne. "No wonder Son-in-Law was defeated so easily. The power represented by this is awesome."

As the others looked on at the remains of one of the golems, Ryoga began to recount his tale of the battle.

Scene 7

It was a dusty smelling room. Full of ancient tomes, forbidden texts, and several issues of Playboy, the sorcerer's sanctum sanctorum was dimly lit and occupied by five figures. Four of them kneeled before the fifth who was sitting on an imposing throne made of bone, rock, and wood.

"Master, forgive us, Number 2 has been destroyed," the empty handed man began. "We did not suspect the power our opponent possessed, our first encounter with him gave no hint -"

"Please be silent!" The Master rose from his throne, robes flowing out around him, "I detest excuses! You have failed. No more, no less. But this is not the end; there will be other opportunities. The rest of you will go forth again but it is clear that you lack the power necessary to complete the task I have given you. This is my mistake; therefore I will provide you with more power. When next you meet Ranma's friend you will be powerful enough to defeat him. Now rise my minions, and come with me."

As the sorcerer strode from the room the four golems rose and followed him obediently into his workshop.

Several hours later the five forms emerged from the room. The Master addressed his minions: "Now, who is your next target?"

"We are to destroy Shampoo next Master," the Empty Handed one said.

"Wrong, one of your earlier targets yet lives."

The four golems exchanged blank looks of incomprehension. "Master, Shampoo is the only one who has escaped us," one of them began.

But the Master cut him off, "no, Kodachi Kuno still lives. Go and finish what you started." With a final wave of his hand, the Master dismissed his creations. He turned from them and his hood fell away from his hatchet-like face. He was bald and had a crocked scar running from his forehead to his chin on his right side.

"Ranma, Kodachi will be but the first. You will pay for what happened to me," absently his hand traced the full length of the scar. "Yes, you will pay DEARLY."

After the golems left, their Master paced uneasily around his throne room contemplating his actions over the course of the next few hours. "I may be forced to act sooner than I wanted to," he thought. "My golems encountered the two ancient ones and were quickly defeated," so quickly in fact that the sorcerer wasn't sure if he COULD make his golems strong enough to defeat Ranma's companions. After much debate he decided to go forth himself and assist his golems by removing the threat of the master of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts, Happosai.

Elsewhere in Nerima...

Happosai felt like crying. He had gone out to look for 'silky darlings' but found he couldn't focus on the task at hand. He had managed to collect only 8 pair so far, and that was for an entire day. The thrill of the hunt was missing without Ranma it seemed. Suddenly a figure in a brown robe appeared before him.

"Happosai, Master of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts, prepare to die by my hand," the figure said.

"What is this, you escape from a Jedi convention," Happosai taunted.

The cloaked figure moved forward with blinding speed, it was all Happosai could do to dodge the first attack.

The Kuno Estate...

Kodachi Kuno had been transferred to her family estate the day before. The considerable Kuno family fortune had allowed her brother to transform several of the rooms to accommodate his sister's current recuperation. The family doctor had moved in down stairs (though Tatewaki's thinly veiled threats of disembowelment had facilitated it) and thus Kuno felt the estate was fully capable of caring for her. He was wrong.

Sasuke sat guard near her bed while the mansion's numerous traps protected the grounds. Tatewaki Kuno himself paced the gardens, unsettled and highly agitated. In his hand he gripped his family's ancestral katana. And now Kuno hefted its weight and felt singularly proud and relieved to have it. As he crossed near Midorigame's pond, Kuno halted, hearing a slight sound. Spinning in its direction he was just in time to spy four hulking forms arraying themselves to meet him.

"Your sister is tough, you should be proud. We had not meant for her to survive," the Empty Handed golem said. "We've come to rectify that."

Kuno drew the blade and howled an incoherent bellow of rage. The battle was joined.



Sasuke was roused from his catnap by the loud crash outside the room. Crossing to the window he saw before him a scene out of an old samurai movie, Tatewaki Kuno stood bleeding from numerous small cuts, and holding before him his family's prized blade defiantly opposing his four massive adversaries. The diminutive retainer leaped through the window, shattering its glass going to the aid of his Master.

The ax wielding man engaged Kuno again, his heavy blade making every successful parry torture for Kuno as the weight and momentum of it threatened to break bones. Yet Kuno continued to fight, never once speaking, his singular bellow earlier the only sound he had uttered. The other three who blocked him engaging him in battle as well were interrupted by Sasuke's arrival; the ninja hurled catch web nets and small bladed shurikens at his foes, to little effect. Quickly he realized that the two of them were overmatched, but he fought on, he served this family, and he would not see it destroyed!

Elsewhere...

"Happo Fire Burst!" The diminutive master of Anything Goes Martial Arts hurled a powerful bomb at the cloaked man; this one exploded in the other's face and caught his cloak on fire. The other man simply shrugged the garment off with little apparent effort.

Happosai looked at him carefully. The hatchet-faced man was unfamiliar to him. "Do I know you," he asked.

The man's answer was to weave a powerful attack spell with his arms that hit the old pervert hard and hurled him several meters. Happosai's clothing smoldered with the residual heat from the impact. Rolling to his feet, the ancient fighter shrugged off his burning shirt and turned to face his attacker. "You sent those things after Ranma," his statement an accusation. "Fondling Ranma was one of the few joys in my life," the pervert continued, "and you've taken that from me." Sarcastic tears in his eyes, Happosai charged his battle aura and prepared to deal out some justice, "You are going to have to be punished."

The Mansion...

Kodachi Kuno had been sleeping pleasantly, but that was ended by the thud of a heavy weight across her battered body. Yelping in pain she opened her eyes and saw the beaten form of Sasuke removing himself from her bed. "wha's goin' on," she asked groggily.

Tatewaki came through the same window mere seconds later, though his entrance was somewhat more dignified, he leaped through under his own power. Seeing his sister was awake, Kuno immediately determined what to do, "Sasuke, get my sister out of here!!"

"But Master -" was all he could say before Kuno turned to face their opponents again.

Obeying his Master's order, Sasuke gathered up Kodachi Kuno and made his way out of her bedroom, in the hall he found the family doctor and a few other servants waiting. Placing her into the arms of one of the butlers, he ordered everyone to evacuate the premises, as he escorted the group to the garage and the safety of the family limousine, Sasuke decided he was going back once his Mistress was out of harm's way. During the whole trip Kodachi was wracked with agony as her broken bones ground together with each misstep or corner bumped into. But she did not cry out, Sasuke was proud of her. To serve such a family! What an honor! Once they were far enough away he ordered a driver to take her somewhere - anywhere else, as far away as he could get, and then Sasuke returned to help Tatewaki Kuno.

Tatewaki stumbled back into the hallway, and the empty-handed golem stumbled on, crashing head first into the wall. Kuno thrust his prized blade around the corner at the next foe and the ancient weapon bit into the stony skin of the man. The long, deep, slice would have opened any normal man from rib to groin, but these were no normal men. As chunks of pink flesh-like rock fell to the ground Kuno withdrew the blade and parried another strike from the ax-armed golem. The monsters were having trouble in the house; their bulk did not fare well in the confines of the building. Kuno hoped that would give him enough of an advantage to defeat them - or at least hold them off until Kodachi was safe. When the empty handed one righted himself he forced the others back out of necessity, at that moment Kuno struck him hard. His blade arced down in what would have been a killing blow against a normal person, as it was, the golem's right arm was cleaved from his body, the heavy limb fell to the floor limply and the beast howled in anger and pain. Kuno followed up using his remaining momentum to carry him in a full circle and brought the sword through an arc that cut up and into the golem's face. The manlike thing stumbled backward into his companions and Kuno withdrew. As he passed a trap he triggered it, causing a 6-inch thick steel door to fall separating him from his opponents. Sagging against a wall Kuno tried to catch his breath, and was alarmed when he found it very difficult to do. It was only then that Tatewaki Kuno noticed the burning in his chest. Testing the area, Kuno was sure he had some nicely broken ribs. "That damn staff," he thought. "Must've hit me harder than I thought." He turned down the hallway and sought out Sasuke, it was time to make good their escape. Nothing further could be done here.

Elsewhere...

Happosai still wasn't sure if he should know this person or not, the man had said nothing since starting the fight except to chant while casting spells. Who was this person anyway?



The Sorcerer was not getting anywhere; the old martial artist was just too good, he doubted if he could kill him at all. It was time to change tactics, the combat spells just weren't working. Reaching into his shirt the man pulled out a pink lace bra and hurled it towards Happosai.

"Hotcha!" The old man leapt at the sight of his obsession in so doing totally forgetting about his opponent. And in that moment, the battle was lost. One final, powerful fireball was hurled and Happosai lay unconscious on the ground before his enemy.

"Old Man," the Sorcerer began, "I shall enjoy letting Ranma watch while you die." And then he produced a mystic jar and ritually bound Happosai into it.

The Mansion...

On the other side of the steel door, the golems were enraged! They could not break it down and their leader was badly damaged. But they could not simply abandon this task, not this time. Kodachi Kuno must die, now. Their Creator had decreed it. With his one good arm the leader tested the wall next to them. Finding it to be not nearly as stout as the steel door, he struck it with all his might and opened a large hole in it. Working quickly, the others expanded it enough that they could all fit through, and their pursuit continued. The axe wielding man stopped short though, and began striking the floor. Soon his gigantic weapon had carved a hole down to the next level, and he leaped through it, two more levels separated them from the Kuno Family garage and their vehicles. He had to beat Kodachi to the garage!

Tatewaki Kuno was stumbling more and more. His vision was blurring and his breath came in ragged gasps, so he was very glad when he came across a returning Sasuke.

"Master, you are hurt, allow me to help," he said.

Accepting the assistance, Kuno leaned upon the ninja's shoulder and they descended, somewhat more steadily, to the escape promised by the garage.

Jiro Yamada had been a butler to the Kuno family for almost thirty years. In that time he had seen some strange things. Even some things that had been quite frightening, but never had he seen a human being so badly hurt as Kodachi Kuno. As the group waited for the return of the Master and Sasuke he wondered again at the wisdom of checking her out of the hospital, he should have argued more strongly with Master Kuno. With the vehicle a scant 5 meters away he allowed himself to relax some. The beasts upstairs would receive their Just Comeuppance from Master Tatewaki - and he would take Kodachi back to the hospital where she belonged. The Master would understand their waiting for his return to share in his inevitable triumph. That was when he heard a strange sound above him. Stopping he looked up at the roof, and when he did, so did the other servants with him.

"It sounds like, an axe," he said looking at the others.

"GO! Now! Its them," Kodachi yelled hoarsely, expelling as much energy as she could. But it was too late, the ceiling cracked and gave way, and the axe armed golem dropped down into the garage. He landed atop the doctor, crushing the life from the poor man instantly. As the servants stared transfixed by the bloody mess that had just been a man, the golem raised his weapon and waded into them swinging it about.

Yamada had been at the back of the group, and seeing the rampaging beast before him, he heroically turned trying to shield Kodachi's body with his own, his heroic act was the last of his life as the stone axe severed his spinal cord in a single swipe. His body collapsed to the ground dropping Kodachi with bone jarring force. The girl opened her eyes realizing she was unable to move fast enough to escape and looked into the face of the man who would be her executioner. She wanted to say something, to voice her defiance, but found she lacked the strength even for that. But she did manage to drop a mask of indifference over her terrified face. At least, she thought, she would deny him the satisfaction of seeing her fear.

"Are you scared girl," he asked as he menaced her. "I can feel it you know. It makes me stronger. You can't hide your fear from me. You've made me VERY strong." He raised the axe for his final blow, and Kodachi flinched in spite of herself. But the blow never came; instead of the sound of the axe crushing its way through her body she heard the clang of metal on stone. She looked up and saw her brother standing between her and the man-thing.

"My sister may fear you," he said as he held the axe back, "but - I - DO - NOT!!" And with a mighty heave he forced the huge man back a few stumbling, precious steps. Sasuke darted in and scooped up Kodachi, running as fast as he could away from the golem. Tatewaki stood his ground, there was no one and nothing left to guard his sister's retreat. He must be the wall between her and her attackers, no matter how wounded he was. As the huge golem regained his composure, Kuno prepared himself for his final stand. And in those last moments Kuno's thoughts turned to his 'romance' "ah, fair Akane, lovely Pig Tailed Girl, it would never have worked out anyway." Stealing himself, Kuno set his feet using the last of his strength to launch his final blow, hurling himself forward he brought his sword down upon his foe, a masterful stroke, truly. The blade impacted squarely into the golem's neck, biting deep and then moving forward. But Kuno lacked the power to bring it through, the blade caught and Kuno knew his day was done. The sorely hurt golem raised he free hand and brushed Kuno away, only afterwards pulling the ancient sword from its neck. As Kuno collapsed against the wall a few meters away he felt darkness stealing his sight, but he was content, Sasuke and his sister were no where to be seen. His sacrifice had saved her and his family would go on. There were few ends better for True Samurai.

The axe armed golem stood waiting for his neck wound to heal itself. In the few moments it took, he realized that the girl was gone. He had lost all trace of her. The fool brother had actually accomplished his mission, though at the cost of his own life. Looking at the Kuno family sword in disgust he tossed it aside and stalked out of the garage turned mortuary in search of his companions.

Frustrated in their efforts to find Kodachi, the golems contented themselves by slaughtering the remaining Kuno retainers, when they left the mansion that afternoon, only one person there remained alive.

Hours later, Sasuke returned to the garage seeking his Master. He found Kuno slumped against the wall, the family sword a mere meter from his outstretched hand. He gathered up his Master after storing the sword someplace out of sight. As he brought his Master out to the waiting vehicle he had managed to acquire, Sasuke reflected on the events of the last few days. Ranma, Mistress Kodachi, Master Kuno, the girl Shampoo, all had been sorely wounded by these nameless fiends, in addition, the Hidden Weapons Master, that boy Mousse, had disappeared. What was he, the lowly Sasuke to do? How could he protect the Kuno siblings now, when they had been unable to defend themselves? And what of the rest of the people of Nerima? So far the golem things had limited their attacks to worthy opponents, but what would happen if they started attacking the population? Who could stop them?

Scene 8

Ryoga Hibiki was on his way to see Ranma. He had been at it since that morning, and now the Sun was already fading below the horizon. It seemed his damnable sense of direction had returned. He was fairly confident he was still in Nerima, but beyond that, he had no idea where he was, or where the hospital he sought was either. Sighing in defeat he rounded yet another unfamiliar corner, and came upon the Kuno Estate.

"All the lights are off," he observed. "Usually some of them are on. I wonder where they are." And then Ryoga knocked at the gate, after several minutes he meekly pushed it open and called out to the inhabitants within.

"Hello, is anyone there? Hello?"

Moving deeper into the estate Ryoga began to get a sinking feeling. He was becoming more and more worried by the second. As he neared the main house he knew that someone should have challenged him by now. But there was no one. It was like a ghost town. He moved around back, looking for Kuno or Sasuke, perhaps they were patrolling the grounds.

Midorigame had been Kodachi's favorite pet. He even had some kind of reptilian sense of loyalty to her; perhaps it was because he had been insane too. That sense of loyalty had apparently led the giant alligator to defend its mistress, a decision that had cost it its life. The massive reptile lay dead on the ground, several feet from his pond. The monsters had removed his head, "must've wanted some kind of sick trophy," Ryoga thought. Finding no one on the grounds, Ryoga looked to the house, but he couldn't force himself to enter it. He already knew what he would find inside, the shattered windows and gaping holes in the wall attested to that. Instead, he leapt atop the nearest wall, he decided to head back to the Tendo Dojo, and inform everyone of the news. As he opened the distance between himself and the Kuno Estate, he heard the sounds of police sirens. Someone had finally reported what had happened there he thought. But the police were too late, they were always too late it seemed.

Feeling vaguely lost, as opposed to totally lost, Ryoga had started to feel better about himself. He was confident that he might even make it back to the dojo by noon tomorrow. He had stuck to the rooftops in hopes of quickening his journey. However all that changed when he came upon the district Volunteer Firefighter Station. Lying unceremoniously on its roof was the head of Midorigame. Leaping over to the grotesque display Ryoga cursed under his breath and looked around for the golems.

"Come out cowards!! Here I am! Face your executioner!" he bellowed impotently. And then he noticed he attracted no attention from within the building. He leaped down to the ground and looked inside. No one was in the living spaces. Going to the garage, he had an overwhelming sense of release and gratitude; the trucks were gone, off on some rescue mission.

"Thank the gods," he said, and leaned against the wall. He closed his eyes and allowed all his weight to bear on the metal and released a long calming breath, exhaling amounts of tension he had not realized he had had. After a few moments, he opened his eyes and thought about what to do.

"First I'll take Midorigame's head to his body, I guess I could - wait, maybe I should leave it here, it is evidence after all..."

But his train of thought was interrupted as he spied the massive forms billowing forth from the light evening fog.

"So you were here after all," he said, dropping into a combat stance.

"Yes, we found your display, amusing," the empty handed one said.

"Come on then, I got something for you, you guys are going to pay for what you did to Ranma. BAKUSAI TENKETSU!!!"

He charged forth, his hand and finger extended angrily at his first target. His aim was true, his speed phenomenal, his confidence total!

His miss was shocking.

"Huh!?!" He stood standing there looking at the empty handed golem, the thing was standing immediately to his left 40 centimeters away. Anger grew within Ryoga.

"BAKUSAI TENKETSU!!!"

And again, he missed. Now the four of them began laughing. "Your pitiful little attack cannot affect what you cannot touch boy. This is the end for you," the empty handed one said.

Raging in his anger-fueled madness Ryoga continued trying, "DIE!!!"

The Hospital...

Doctor Tofu had visited Ranma that day. He had examined the cursed and beaten martial artist most of the day and into the evening. Finally, satisfied that his assessment was complete and correct, he went out of the room to Akane who had been waiting patiently the whole time (well not patiently, but at least she had not pulverized anything in her nervousness, though several ampoules of thorazine awaited her at the nurse's station) with Nodoka Saotome who had also been watching Ranma the last few days.

"Akane, I know why Ranma can't change back," he told her quietly. "I informed him and he seemed to be okay with it. Do you want to know? He said it was alright for you to know."

Unable to speak, she nodded her head slightly, it was the most she was capable of at the moment. Her eyes pleaded with Tofu to 'make it better.'

"Excuse us Mrs. Saotome, Ranko didn't give me permission to share this with you, please forgive me," he said leading Akane from the room.

She nodded her acquiescence, and turned to look out the window, waiting patiently for the two of them to return.

"Ranma's curse," he began, "affects his chi in a very negative way. Its flow is disrupted, sort of like a twisted, winding river, understand?" She nodded. "But the flow though twisted, is strong and healthy. In order for the curse to function, his chi most flow uninterrupted. Well," he continued, "when the golems attacked him, they broke several of his bones and reduced his chi severely through the sheer damage they inflicted on him. Now his chi doesn't flow strongly or properly, and it is blocked by the broken bones and all the pins and devices the Doctor added to aid Ranma's healing. The only way to restore the flow of his chi is through the healing of his injuries." Tofu finished.

And Akane thought out loud, "so Ranma is stuck as a girl until then."

"Basically, yes," Tofu said, "I'm sorry Akane, there's nothing I or anyone else can do to speed up the process either." He then led her back into the waiting room where Nodoka awaited them.

Nodoka called Dr. Tofu over to her, "Please Mr. Tofu, explain something to me..." Her voice dropped to a low volume Akane could not hear.

The Fire Station...

Again failing to connect with the empty handed one, Ryoga was suddenly aware of the proximity of his fellows. He reached up to his special bandanas, taking off three of the deceptively innocent looking bladed weapons, and hurled them at the other three golems. The light projectiles missed his foes but had the intended effect as the monsters dropped back a short distance buying Ryoga more time. Still airborne, he reached for his belt, the heavier version of the bandanas, and hesitated. He had not used it since accidentally cutting off Akane's hair so long ago. But he needed everything he had now. Pulling the weapon out he snapped it taut and sent it flying out at his adversary. But the weapon proved to be too slow; it whirled impotently away into the distance.

Ryoga collapsed to one knee as he landed, sweat pouring from nearly every part of his body. He was struggling to breathe in the aftermath of his exertion, his hair hung in wet, clammy, clumps over his eyes. Then he dropped forward again, catching himself on one hand. "I can't -huff- believe it. -huff- How can I not have hit ANY of them - huff-" He thought, unwilling to waste energy speaking the words out loud.

The four golems were still laughing.

"We expected so much more from you Boy. After last time," the empty handed one said. "Come on, can't you even reach me, I'll make it easy for you, come on," he taunted. But in his mind the man-shaped thing was worried, "my energy is too low, he isn't afraid yet, I can't keep this up, it takes too much power," it took a step back and looked to its companions. None of them seemed to have the power to wear the boy down either, they had exhausted themselves dodging him, and they knew it. The question was, did he? Golem Number 3, the empty handed one, figured he had maybe one or two bursts of speed left, and then it was game over.

They were still laughing, but they no longer found the situation funny.

Ryoga was still trying to catch his breath, the hour-long marathon of attack and miss had left him near the end of his limits, he had to do something. Run? Continue to try - they had to be tired too. What? His panting was becoming more controlled, but he was no closer to winning. He was done, but they weren't attacking. Maybe they didn't know how close to the edge he was. "Maybe I still have a chance," he thought.

Golem 3 was starting to worry, the boy had stopped shaking. He was recovering, and the golems were not. They needed fear to recharge themselves, and he was giving off none, if the boy was able to renew his attack it was over. They had to do something now. "Enough of this," he said "time to die boy."

The Hospital...

Akane went back into Ranma's room. At least now she knew Ranma would get better, but it would be SO long. How would he deal with it? How would she? The full, specific list of his injuries had been spared her until now. Tofu had related all of them in more detail than the doctors had when they first brought Ranma in. Akane couldn't get them out of her head. Why would they break all of the fingers of Ranma's right hand? What was the point of breaking the arm twice? They had dislocated his right knee and pounded his shoulder so hard it was dislocated as well. Four broken ribs, including the compound fracture, the broken jaw, Ranma's ankle, the cuts. There had been so many, and some of them were deep. Many required stitches. But what was the point? Surely any of those would have been enough to prevent Ranma from fighting effectively, why did they need to break so many bones? And why all on the right side of his body? Was there any purpose to it at all or was it just random violence that spurred their actions?

When she went in, Ranma was trying to sit up, and failing rather miserably.

"Let me help you Ranma," as she walked over to the bed. She put her hand carefully on a spot she knew there were no broken bones and lifted her fiancée up. "What's the matter Ranma," she asked, she could tell Ranma wanted to ask something, but seemed reluctant to do so.

"Its ben a copla dayz," Ranma managed through his wired jaw.

"Since," Akane asked.

"Feel dirty, I - umm. I don' like tha nurse ta do it, she's - rough" she managed.

Akane was still in the dark. "Do what Ranma? Come on you can ask me, I promise."

Ranma's face turned bright red, "- well, you know, - I" he stammered.

"Just say it Ranma," by now Akane was starting to lose her patience.

"Okay. I nee' a bath," impossibly Ranma's face became even redder, and it started to spread to the rest of him in a full body blush.

Akane's eyes almost popped out of her head, and her own face became nearly as red as Ranma's. "What?!?"

"Ne'er mind, I'll jus' call her," Ranma said dejectedly.

"No wait," Akane managed to grasp Ranma's arm before it made it to the call button. "I'll - I'll help you."

The Fire Station...

Ryoga's decision was made for him as the empty handed golem moved in on him. "This is it," he thought, "I haven't had enough time to recover. I'm done. It was all for nothing, I am a failure after all. And when they are done with me, Akane and the others will be next." And then something clicked in Ryoga's mind, an almost audible sound as he realized he had one more chance, "Shi Shi Hokodan!!" Ryoga's chi attack blasted forth with its powerful fury, the golems were caught off guard and flung away by his attack. "But its not enough," he thought trying to depress himself more, "it won't change anything. SHI SHI HOKODAN!" The second blast felled three of them, leaving the fourth shakily trying to regain his footing. "I can't beat them, they'll kill everyone, even Akane" he sank deeper in, knowing it would make his attack all the more powerful. "PERFECT SHI SHI HOKODAN!!" The final blast planted the golems at the bottom of a deep crater and left Ryoga barely standing. He recovered first though.

"All I have to do is outrun them," he thought, nearly exhausted, "I hope that speed of theirs is only good for short bursts." And he leapt away turned and ran, despite the humiliation. He turned to face them only once, unleashing a volley of bandana weapons to cover his withdrawal, just in case.

Golem 3 moved in for his final attack. He hoped to end it with a quick strike or two, cause he realized that that was about all he had left in him. Suddenly he found himself flattened on the ground, victim of something he had trouble even describing. The energy balls had leveled him and his companions. So he was greatly relieved when Ryoga turned and ran. He was easily able to dodge the poorly aimed bandanas thrown in his general direction. As the Lost Boy disappeared in the distance the huge false man rose to his knees and released a deep breath, "thank the Maker," he said, "That was close."

Golem 1, the axe bearing one, spoke up next, "Yes, let us get out of here too, we need to recharge, the boy has seriously drained us."

And with that, the four huge figures climbed out of the crater and melted unsteadily into the darkness and were gone.

The Hospital...

Akane helped Ranma remove the hospital gown and dressings in preparation for his bath and was shocked by what she saw. Until now she had only seen the casts, and bandages. There had been so many. But this - she felt nauseous. Under the bandage that covered most of Ranma's face lay a mass of swollen, angry red and purple tissue. It could barely be called a face at all. The bruise from where his jaw had been broken was especially disgusting to her. Being so close to Ranma's face, she noticed for the first time the half dozen spots atop his head where there was none of his red hair, and the crusty scabs of blood that had resulted from the hair's forcible removal. Turning her attention from those horrid wounds Akane sought refuge looking at Ranma's body. She found none. Almost his entire right side was one massive continuous bruise, from breast to hip, purple and black, with interposed bits of red for emphasis and in the center, the spot where the broken rib had ripped its way out of Ranma's skin. The edges of the wound were sickly white and swollen, surrounded all around by a sea of red. The stitches, which held it closed, looked like putrid furry black worms lined up along Ranma's abdomen. Some fluid seemed to ooze from the crevices in the wound - she hoped it was just the sickly looking antiseptic the doctors applied to keep out infection. The breasts themselves also bore bruises, where the beasts had groped Ranma in a most unfriendly way. All across the trunk of his body some 20 or more cuts criss-crossed like a waffle iron had been slapped against him. Some of the deeper ones of these also had stitches, and that horrid oozing fluid. Ranma's right arm was incased in a cast from the elbow down, even the fingers were enclosed. But the upper arm told a story of pain too; painful looking bruises roamed at will here also. As Akane tossed the soiled gown in the garbage she noticed Ranma's embarrassed look from his good eye (the other being nearly swollen shut over the broken jaw). Looking her fiancée over, she soon saw the cause of his distress. She leaned close to him and whispered in his ear, careful that no one else could possibly hear. And when he answered in the affirmative, she felt a burning embarrassment herself. In the days since Ranma had been awake no one had thought to bring him so much as a pair of boxer shorts to wear. The beaten martial artist suffered the further indignity of being forced into nakedness, for days. But there was nothing she could do now; it would have to wait until later. Pulling the covers back to expose his legs, Akane became witness to still more horror as she discovered Ranma's lower body had not been spared the ministrations of his foes. The right leg from mid-shin to toes was incased in yet another cast, the rest of it covered with yet more angry bruises. And the left also was heavily bruised, especially around the thigh near Ranma's -

And then she saw Ranma's privates. It too was bruised. "Ranma, what -" She could not bring herself to finish the question.

"Kick," Ranma said. He tried to look reassuring, but pretty much failed, "don' worry."

She suddenly felt greatly relieved. And then felt soiled herself at the thought of being relieved that Ranma had "merely" been kicked hard enough in the privates for a bruise to remain there over a week later. She desperately desired a bath herself after this, somehow hoping hot water and soap could wash away the feelings seeing Ranma's battered form were giving her. But she knew there was more. And she was driven by an inexplicable curiosity to see. Turning behind Ranma, Akane looked for the first time at his back. She quickly gave up trying to mentally catalog all the bruises there, and simply decided to think of all of it as one huge, continuous bruise. Ranma had assumed a fetal position at the end of the attack, and the feet of his tormentors had fully explored the surface turned to them. Even Ranma's buttocks were patterned with foot-shaped bruises.

"Oh Ranma," she choked out, "it must hurt so much."

"yeh," he uttered, "some."

And then his hand touched her face, wiping something from her eyes and Akane realized for the first time that she had been crying.

"Stop cryin' 'sall right. I'll get beter," he managed.

Steeling herself, she put on a false grin for his benefit and submerged the sponge into the basin of warm, soapy water she had prepared and began to bathe Ranma Saotome, one of the world's most skilled and dangerous martial artists, like he was a helpless, new born baby. As she went through the process of cleaning him, her mind began to shut itself down bit by bit. Strangely, she had absolutely no objections, she should object to that shouldn't she, she thought.

Scene 9

Later after finishing with Ranma, Akane dismissed herself from him saying she was going to go home and get him some clothes. Once outside his room, she shut the door, and her mind shut itself down almost completely. Her eyes wide and vacant she clumsily shuffled down the hall towards an elevator, her body running on autopilot.

Nodoka Saotome however, was waiting for her there. Upon seeing Akane's obviously reduced capacity, she took the girl by the arm and led her back to Ranma's room, "Dear Akane, what is it? What are you going to do," she asked.

"gotta get ranma some clothes," the girl monotoned her response, unaware she had used Ranma's real name.

"Why don't you let me go get Ranko some clothes for you, you look so tired," Nodoka answered quickly.

Akane nodded dumbly, barely hearing her at all, and allowed Nodoka to walk her back to Ranma's room and over to the couch near the room's window.

"Here Akane," the older woman began, "lie down and rest, I'll take care of your errand for you." She produced an extra blanket from a cabinet and draped it over Akane. "Take a nap dear, you seem to need one."

Akane nodded slightly and closed her eyes, allowing sleep to overtake her.

Ranma watched all this from the bed, "Antie Satomay, what erans'?"

Ranma's mother looked him over and smiled softly, "Akane was graciously going to get you some clothes Ranko, but she looked so tired I couldn't allow her. Don't worry though, I'll get you something." Ranma's smile brightened a lot and so Nodoka turned to leave the room on her way to the Tendos's. As she was leaving she heard Ranma's lightly spoken but very sincere 'thank you.'

Ryoga was heading for the dojo, tired. Desperately tired. He needed to rest. Those things were too powerful. He had been so confident when he discovered the Bakusai Tenketsu could destroy them. He had just known he could beat them. But that was before tonight. They had toyed with him until he was nearly too spent to go on. If it hadn't been for his Shi Shi Hokodan, he would be dead now. Ryoga had no illusions about that fact. He needed to rest. In his fatigue and the darkness, Ryoga lost his way; it was 10 minutes before he realized it. "Where am I NOW???" he raged impotently at the sky. "Am I even still in Tokyo?" He looked around, he knew this place, didn't he? It looked like the Kuno Mansion. But it wasn't damaged. Internal alarm bells ringing, he crept forward to observe.

Nodoka Saotome was walking to the Tendo home, a distance of only a few kilometers. A very short walk for someone in fine physical condition like herself. Oh, she was not up to the level of the others, in fact she was considered barely trained at all, but she was far from a couch potato. As she neared the halfway point of her journey she felt as if the hair on the back of her neck had stood up. Extremely wary and nervous, she stopped walking to concentrate on her surroundings. She unwrapped the katana she carried and drew it, the fight or flight response was wailing in her mind.

"Where are my servants now," the Hatchet Faced man asked his scrying pool. The mystic object showed him a scene. His creations were finishing off some female. "Ah, playing with their food I see. Well, I should expect it I guess, they are very young after all." As he said it, the final blow was struck. The female became still and energy flowed from her to the golems, all of whom seemed to regain their strength and posture. Then the four man-things simply walked away, leaving the body to rot.

"They are so good at what they do," the scared man said. "But the spell I put them under to fight the boy - it will drain them faster. I was afraid of it before. Now I know. They won't be able to wear down the better fighters as they did Ranma. What to do, what to do," he chanted to himself. He turned from the pool and walked to his library seeking knowledge.

Ryoga had watched it all from the skylight. When the woman collapsed for what he knew to be the final time, he hurled himself from the sight, grateful for the cover provided by the roof. Too often of late he had had to stifle a gag reflex to keep from throwing up. But here, now, he could do something. Anger built within him, the fatigue disappeared. Righteous rage. As his fury mounted, Ryoga became aware of something - the golems had killed the woman - somewhere else! This man here was apparently their creator. And he was without their protection.

Flipping through a text from his golem section, the sorcerer was suddenly distracted from his studies by the oh so subtle entry methods of one Ryoga Hibiki, "BAKUSAI TENKETSU!!!" With an explosion and flash of smoke, part of his wall disappeared revealing one extremely angry martial artist. "Monster, get ready I'm sending you to HELL!!!"

The sorcerer scrambled from his desk into a defensive stance of some kind. Ryoga could not identify it, but it wouldn't save him. "I am gonna beat you just like your pets did to Ranma!!!" His raw fury powered the boy through the magician's hastily erected barrier easily. Ryoga's umbrella flew out at the man, striking him full in the abdomen. With a loud 'HMPH!' all the air rushed from his enemy's lungs and the villain collapsed to the floor, rolling away to gain some distance and time. He arms were a blur as he mystically weaved another protective shield.

"That won't save you from ME," Ryoga shouted, barely able to contain his fury.

Kasumi answered the ringing phone, Shampoo had been stumbling over, but it was obviously very painful for her walking right now, so Kasumi had intervened. "Hello, Tendo dojo," she said pleasantly.

Ranma Saotome responded to her "hay Kas'me, is ma mom ther' yet?"

"No Ranma, she hasn't arrived yet," Kasumi said. "Perhaps she stopped for some groceries."

"She lef' a hour ago. She shood be ther by now."

Kasumi frowned at Ranma's difficulty speaking. The whole situation was so - inconvenient. She hoped the golems' ancestors were very cross with them for this. Wait, did golems have ancestors? "I'm sure she'll be along shortly Ranma, don't worry."

"kay, Kas'me," Ranma knew Kasumi was right. His Mom would be okay. He just wished she had taken Akane with her when she left. "I'l talk to ya'll latr kay?"

"Of course Ranma dear, get some rest," and with that Kasumi cheerily hung up the phone. But something was bothering her. Nodoka should have been here by now, it wasn't that far to the hospital. "What could be keeping her? Father and Mr. Saotome are out looking for Grandfather Happosai, maybe I should speak to Nabiki," she thought.

"AAAARRAGHH!! TRY THIS!!!" The tide was turning, the wizard or whatever he was, was chunking spells like chi attacks, except he was doing it faster than Ryoga could fire off a Shi Shi Hokodan. Ryoga hurled a section of marble bookshelf at the sorcerer. It had to have weighed at least a ton with all those books on it. Ryoga tossed it like a football. But a wave of his hands and the magician erected another barrier to block Ryoga's attack, like all Ryoga's other projectiles, this one too had failed to hit the man. Then he grinned. Ryoga noticed, maybe this wasn't such a good -

- SLAM -

The same bookcase was hurled back at him. He couldn't believe it. There was no way that skinny little punk could move that -

- SLAM -

Another impact. This time the desk. No doubt about it. The guy was using some kind of magic or The Jedi Mind Trick or something. Ryoga was crushed between the two hulking, heavy objects. But he wasn't helpless. Marshalling his strength, he shoved his way out of his makeshift prison, sending the desk tumbling away before shoving the bookcase off of himself. "What are you," he didn't realize he had said it aloud until the sorcerer answered him.

"I am the man who will destroy the life of Ranma Saotome and all he holds dear," the man said. He punctuated his statement with a powerful energy blast flung out from his hands.

Ryoga found himself hurtling through the air, then a wall, and then air again. Nearly insensate he forced his hands down towards the ground and felt the fingers dig into dirt. They helped to slow him down, and as he regained his senses he noticed the deep scars he was rapidly leaving in the ground. "What the hell was that?!?!" Finally, his momentum was broken and he fell to the earth and stopped. Looking over his shoulder he discovered he was sitting on a ledge overlooking a stream, a rather high ledge. Perhaps it wasn't a stream. He raised himself to his feet in time to register the presence of the sorcerer again.

"Oh man, I hope he doesn't try it aga-" and then another energy ball swept him over the ledge.

"Goodbye fool," the sorcerer taunted. "I wonder if your Iron Skin training will be enough to save you from the fall. I hope so. I would like for Ranma to be able to watch you die, rather than simply believe you had gotten so lost you never returned to Japan." And with that he turned seemingly without care and headed back to his home.

"Such an annoyance," he began, "The restoration spell for the house will probably take a whole day."

Kilometers away the four golems stood in a conspiratorial circle.

"I think she made us more powerful than we have ever been before," the axe wielding one said.

"Yes, I feel power surging through me," added the empty handed one.

"Let us find a suitable candidate for another test," said the mace carrier.

And the four of them walked into the night, heading for the Nerima district public park. So late at night there would be few if any people there. But this worked to their advantage - fewer witnesses. Heading for a secluded spot they settled in to wait for prey. They did not wait long, a young woman out for her nightly jog soon happened by.

"Ahh, nothing like a late night run," thought Megumi Subaru. She was dressed in her favorite sweat pants and t-shirt, this was the final leg of her 3-kilometer nightly jog. As she ran, she thought briefly of the violence in the district lately. Perhaps she should end these little jaunts, coming around a bend, she thought fondly of her scooter, bought for her by her Grandfather last year, now a mere 200 meters away, she slowed her speed in preparation for her cool down routine. "Maybe if I am so worried, I should take a self defense class," she thought.

And then four large males appeared suddenly in front of her. She had time for a brief scream before they began beating her. She had no training at all, her fear was total, the remainder of her life mercifully brief. The golems feasted upon the energy of her fear, and they became stronger.

The four false-men stood over the body. The axe wielder spoke, "Well, well. The Master never mentioned this. I wonder why." All of them were basking in the effects of the kill. The untrained woman's fear had been so completely different than any they had tasted before! And it was more powerful too. And now, so were they. "We are all in agreement then," he asked.

One by one the others nodded their agreement. The leader was pleased.

"It is settled then, first we kill this Saotome, then we acquire enough power to defeat the Master and set ourselves free. We will rule all Nerima before long brothers!!!" he said with maximum pleasure. He looked at his companions, and knew that they could do it. Soon this city would belong to them, and its citizens would tremble in fear, which they would feed upon!

Part 3

Scene 10

At the Tendo dojo, Kasumi stood in Nabiki's room talking to her younger sister, "Well, Ranma seemed upset, maybe we should go look for Auntie Saotome. Besides, it's such a lovely night for a walk."

"You have no idea what is going on around you, do you sister," Nabiki thought. "Still, maybe a little relaxing exercise is what we need right now," she continued.

As they conversed Shampoo hobbled along on her crutches to the stand unsteadily in the room's doorway. "What Nice Girl and Mercenary Girl talk about," she asked.

"Well, we were thinking of going out for a walk to meet Mrs. Saotome," Kasumi answered, "Would you like to come Shampoo? And please call me 'Kasumi' Shampoo, its alright I don't mind you know."

"Shampoo do anything to get out of house, go crazy here with nothing to do," she replied.

"Oh good," Kasumi said, "the three of us will have such a good time." Her grin seemed to defy the seriousness of the situation, as if nothing at all had ever happened.

"AIYA," Shampoo exclaimed, "What we do if golems show up?"

"Don't worry Kasumi, Shampoo" Nabiki said, "You know what a - cautious - girl I am." She punctuated her statement by reaching into dresser's top her drawer and pulling out a dirty looking old cloth. Unwrapping the object within, she revealed a Colt .44 Python, stainless steel, polished, and quite deadly looking. She expertly flipped open the cylinder and withdrew a quick loader from the drawer, dropped the six rounds in and flipped it shut almost faster than the eye could follow.

Kasumi covered her mouth and uttered "Oh My!"

Delving into the drawer again, Nabiki retrieved a holster, a box of shells, and 2 more quick loaders. Putting rounds into all three quickloaders, she then dropped the reloads into pouches on her shoulder holster, next she dropped the gun into its receiver, and put the rig on. Turning to Kasumi and Shampoo cheerily she grinned, threw jacket over herself (to conceal the weapon) and said, "Well, ready to go?"

"Where Mercenary Girl get gun," Shampoo asked, a little frightened.

"Let's just say some influential people owed me some favors, I got a license and everything," she smiled.

And then Kasumi left the room returning moments later with Shampoo's hated wheelchair, "Hop in Shampoo Dear, we're off!"

Her enthusiasm frightened the Amazon almost as much as the fact that Nabiki had a handgun. "Shampoo think she remember not to make Mercenary Girl angry - ever again," she thought.

Nodoka Saotome stood in a defensive stance, her katana and its sheath forming twin shields around her body. She looked everywhere but could not locate the threat, there were too many shadows. "Come out whoever you are," she bellowed, "I am not in the mood for games. Come and try your luck with a real woman." Her bravado was admirable, but she knew it was false. She lacked the skills to really defend herself from the kind of creatures that had stalked the streets lately. Nodoka only hoped she could survive her encounter with them.

"Please, I am no threat," a voice answered her. "I was simply following you. I - was trying to - help." The last words spoken were barely audible.

"Come out into the light then, that I might know you are not an enemy," Nodoka answered.

And out of a dark corner a figure in white robes walked forward, his head hung low in a gesture of shame.

"You are the one called Mousse, are you not," Nodoka was nearly ecstatic, "The others have been looking for you!"

"Yes, I am, but - why are they looking for me?"

"I am Nodoka Saotome. You must come with me to the Tendo dojo, there is much to discuss." She sheathed her sword and held out her hand to the Hidden Weapon Master. "Please, Mousse, do not leave us again. We need your skills."

"I am tainted, you would do better without me," he protested.

Adopting her Disapproving Mother Voice, Nodoka replied, "You must come back and hear us out. You are not tainted now, but if you run away now, you will be." The boy took her hand and allowed himself to be lead in the direction of the dojo. "Its so nice to have a young man escort me. You remind me of my Ranma," she cooed.

Mousse stifled his slight revulsion, "Ugh, to be compared to Ranma, will this torture never end?" But his comment was more in jest than truth. Rivals they may be, but Mousse respected Ranma's abilities, even envied the skill the boy possessed. "Th-thank you Mrs. Saotome," he said simply.

"Such a polite young boy," and then the two of them walked on casually towards the dojo.

Kasumi, and Nabiki had wheeled Shampoo about a third of the way to the hospital when they saw Nodoka walking along with someone beside her. "Who's that with Auntie Saotome," Kasumi asked.

Peering into the darkness Shampoo was the first to recognize the older woman's escort, "It Mousse, aiya! He alright!"

Nabiki looked at her sidelong, "And just how little do you like him again," she teased.

Shampoo's 'hrmph' was her only reply.

"Auntie Saotome," Kasumi called out to her, "Auntie, what took you so long we were worried."

Scene 11

Back at his mansion, the sorcerer once again viewed his scrying pool. This time however his expression bore no hint of the bemused frustration he had earlier. This time, he was angry. "So those fool golems plan to destroy me and take over this area to further their own interests. How bothersome. This cannot go unpunished, what a pity, I was really starting to like them."

The four false men were walking towards home, happy in their newfound power and impending independence. They were overconfident and distracted, thus until the spell had its effect and teleported the first one away from the others, they had no idea what was going on.

The mace-armed golem found himself in his master's throne room. He was alone, it was dark and the master was nowhere to be found. It did not take the creature long to realize it was in deep trouble.

The unarmed golem found himself outside a little bar somewhere in Nerima. He knew this was still Nerima because of the woman standing before him. Ukyo Kuonji was understandably frightened by his sudden appearance and her surprised 'yelp' had been rather loud. Mere seconds later she was joined by another woman, this one dressed as a ninja. The golem grinned, "This oughta be fun," he said to them menacingly.

The ax-armed golem found himself in front of the Cat Café. "This place again," he said disgustedly. "Why am I here of all places?"

"Perhaps I can answer that," he spun around at the sound, and saw Cologne sitting atop her ancient staff. "Fate, or karma, whichever you chose to call it, has apparently decided you are to be taught a lesson." She gave him a withering stare, and the golem took half a step back in spite of himself, "How fortunate I am to be your teacher."

Nodoka and her group were walking back to the safety of the Tendo dojo when a flash of light heralded the arrival of the staff-armed golem, right in front of them, and even better for them - facing away from them.

"Where the hell am I," it said to no one in particular.

The sound of a katana drawn from its sheath attracted its attention and it spun quickly, "You have just arrived at the very last place you will ever see, Monster," Nodoka threatened.

Next to her Mousse dropped a pipe from one sleeve and a length of chain from the other, he entered into his combat stance, Shampoo was behind him and to one side, she saw the pitiful objects he had armed himself with, "oh no, Mousse never make it back and get real weapons," she thought.

Nabiki had the revolver out so fast Kasumi had barely seen it, she held it steadily in both hands, clearly she was used to using it, yet another mystery for Kasumi to solve was how her sister had gained such a level of comfort handling the thing. Kasumi decided her task was to remove Shampoo from the vicinity once the fighting started. "Ranma would be ever so upset if she got hurt again," she thought.

Nabiki assumed her shooting stance and settled the gun in both hands for maximum stability and accuracy. She held it squarely on her opponent's chest, sighting down the barrel to the filed down sights (gave her an extra tenth of a second on the quick draw). She was chanting to herself, "its not a real person, its not a real person," over and over again. Another mantra repeating itself in the back of her mind, this time in her instructor's voice "never draw your weapon unless you intend to kill with it," she started to sweat, "Gods, please let it not be a real person."

The stand off lasted about 5 seconds. Nabiki was the first to act; she squeezed the trigger and absorbed the recoil with her arms. Then she watched as the bullet impacted the man shaped thing in the shoulder "DAMN! I jerked at the last second!!" She cursed to herself. Blood did not come forth, instead a hole opened in the thing about the size of a quarter, the entry wound. She knew from her teacher the exit wound would be the size of a softball. Cracks spread out like spider webs from the wound and the beast jerked backward crying out in pain. Instantly, in her mind all doubts were erased, "Its not a person! But it feels pain, and it can die," she thought. "MOUSSE DODGE LEFT!!"

As the Hidden Weapons Master complied she emptied the rest of her cylinder into the thing, the rounds this time on target, two striking it in the chest, one in the neck, one in the face, and the final round blowing off the top of its head. It tottered back - rendered totally insensate by the damage she had inflicted, and totally helpless. "MOUSSE, SAOTOME, GET HIM," she yelled, the adrenaline in her system allowing no other form of communication. She flicked open the cylinder ejected the spent shells and reached for a quick loader. Her weapon was ready again in less than 10 seconds.

She would need to get off no more shots however. Mousse reached the golem first, lashing out with the chain, he entangled the creature's arms and hauled it forward, off balance. Then he swooped in with the pipe striking the false-man just above the wound in its neck, nearly ripping its head clean off. He let his momentum carry himself over its dangling head and came down behind it, spinning around on one foot back into a ready position.

Nodoka Saotome was on top of the golem immediately after. She brought her family's sword down on it with all the fury she could muster. The blade cleaved off the golem's head easily. As the body sunk to the ground, the magical energies that had animated it flowed from the wound, a torrent of eldritch flame. Finally, the being's energy was released and what had been the golem crumbled into a mound of stones and sand.

Nabiki and others stood there dumbly, "it couldn't be THAT easy. Could it," they all wondered silently.

At the mansion, the mace-armed golem looked around in the darkness trying to sense his master's location. From the darkness he heard his creator's voice, "The four of you have greatly disappointed me."

Spinning towards the sound he brought up his twin maces. "I'm strong enough, I can take him. The women we took made us stronger than we have ever been," he desperately tried to boost his own confidence. "We beat Ranma and this person couldn't." But his thoughts gave him no real sense of relief. Finally his master moved out of the shadows and revealed himself.

"I will deal with you, others shall tend to your foolish comrades," the sorcerer said menacingly.

Filling himself with bravado he did not feel, the golem launched himself at his creator-turned-opponent. Swinging with all his might, the golem attempted to crush the life from his creator, but his weapons missed again and again and again. The Sorcerer's mystic gestures kept him well out of harm's way.

"The fool hasn't even realized I am slowing him down, rather than speeding myself up, this won't even be fun," he thought with a sigh of disappointment. "I have removed most of the enchantments that gave you and your friends your power, haven't you noticed yet," the sorcerer taunted.

As the golem continued to swing and miss he began to realize the truth of the statement, even worse, he knew no one was coming to help him, soon the master would end his life. Finally he began to maneuver his opponent into a corner where he hoped to turn the tide, and perhaps save his own existence. But his power was shrinking, he could feel his strength leaving him even as he fought.

But the Master was ahead of him. Just when the golem thought he had his creator dead-to-rights the spindly sorcerer vanished from his sight. Turning about wildly, the golem saw the small man land lightly behind him. Terrified and enraged, the golem launched himself bodily at his former master. But he never made it, the master dropped to one knee and thrust out a hand while chanting a spell. As his finger made contact, the spell was activated, instantly the life force within the golem was drawn out and into the sorcerer. Without that artificial power to keep it solid, the body of the golem returned to what it had been - sand and rocks scattered themselves all across the Sorcerer's floor.

The Sorcerer raised himself to his feet and spat a little dust out of his mouth, then proceeded to remove some of it from his head and clothes. "What a waste of a perfectly good incantation," he said sadly. And then he simply walked away, to decide what to do if any of his golems survived.

Outside Ucchan's Restaurant, the unarmed golem looked at the two women who confronted him, and he was pleased. "Ah, Ukyo Kuonji, how sad you must be that we have neglected you so long. Don't worry, I'll send you to the afterlife to await your beloved Ranma." And then he launched into a fierce barrage of punches and kicks.

Ukyo and Konatsu were barely able to move away in time to dodge the first flurry of attacks. And Ukyo was unarmed. Thus it fell to Konatsu to protect his honored mistress. He leapt to her defense quickly but learned, as had Mousse and Ryoga, that shuriken and similar weapons were next to useless against the false men. After wasting five of them on it, Konatsu drew his sword, he noticed Ukyo running inside to her weapons, all he had to do was not get killed before she got back. He warily circled the golem once, looking for a weakness. Finding none, however, he chose to attack on his next step. Konatsu launched himself at the golem, his sword struck the creature just below the sternum and carried through an arc out of the false-man's abdomen. The cut would have gutted any normal person. The golem just growled in pain and looked angry. Konatsu started to wonder just how hard it would be not to let Ukyo down just as she emerged from the restaurant, weapons in hand.

Ukyo struck before it could fully recover, her large spatula shaped weapon cleaved into the creature's midline. The power and momentum of her attack shoved the beast back and it fell to the ground, roaring in pain. Konatsu struck while she recovered, darting in and severing the beast's right forearm even as it tried to use the limb to right itself. It fell again, and Ukyo struck, "EAT THIS JACKASS," she yelled at the top of her lungs. Her weapon came down like a guillotine and neatly removed the golem's head from its body. As its life energy erupted from the wound, the head rolled away a meter or so and crumbled into dust. Once the last of its energy had been released so too, did its body.

She and Konatsu stood breathless in the aftermath. She turned and looked at him, "that was easy, wasn't it," she asked him.

"Yes Ms Ukyo," he replied. "How could Ranma have lost to such as this?"

The two looked at each other in silence, unknowing.

The ax-armed golem swung his weapon viciously at Cologne, and missed cleanly. The old woman was laughing at him! His rage increased and he swung again, and again. And still she simply hopped around him on that damn stick smiling. He was going to teach her a lesson!

"This fool beat Son-in-Law," Cologne thought disgustedly. "The boy must have been half asleep. Still, it was five to one, perhaps I should not scold him too severely." She was well into leading the golem straight into the Hiryu Shoten Ha. It didn't even seem to notice, and finally she let the blast loose, and the golem rose high into the air. His massive axe flew from his hands and came to earth a few meters from Cologne. She watched the sky, and positioned herself to await the golem's return as well. She did not have long to wait. As the creature fell, out of control, back to earth Cologne found that she could not even bring herself to taunt it, it was such a waste. This, thing, had killed two of her tribe's most promising warriors, and it was not even real, nothing would be gained from this. When the creature was in range she thrust her cane forward striking its breaking point, and all the golem's plans for Nerima came to an end in a rain of stones and sand.

"Well," she said to no one in particular, "at least I have some good news to report tonight when I meet the Tendos." And then she turned and hopped off at a leisurely pace towards the Tendo dojo.

That morning, Ryoga Hibiki awoke on top of a large and very painful rock. His head ached like he had just used it to smash boulders. Looking around he saw that he lay in the middle of what he had thought earlier was a stream. It was actually a good-sized river. He had no idea where he was or even how long had passed since he fell, but he could tell by the sky that it would be sun up soon. "Oh my aching body," he moaned. He stood atop the rock looking to see which side of shore was closer. "That side," he decided and leapt for the safety of dry land. His umbrella was gone, and his belt weapon and most of his bandana weapons too. "Time to go back to the dojo, and this time no distractions," he thought to himself. "Maybe I'll be there by next week."

Part 4

Scene 12

The Sorcerer's Ranch was a massive structure, built in an American Southwest style. It was fully enclosed by a stone wall 8 feet high, with strong iron gates in front and back. The property was perhaps 10 acres, in Japan a significant size. A corral stood to one side of the house with a one story wooden room at one end of it. The Main House was a two-story building of strong stone with elegant finishings. It looked as though someone VERY rich lived there. As the Sorcerer watched, Happosai leapt or walked or crawled all around the simple wooden building n the corral with a can of red spray paint. He paused at the seams between boards and sprayed them, it was all part of the spell, his "painting" of the seams helped to mystically seal them, and thus keep the creature within trapped. Happosai himself was unaware of what he was doing, another part of the spell had robbed the diminutive martial artist of conscious thought, even now his eyes were open, but Happosai saw nothing. The creature emitted its sickening, angry "gronf!" call again and its gaze fell on a section of wood. The section melted away and ran under its corrupting gaze. The ensorceled Happosai instantly went to the spot and sprayed the paint around the edges of the damaged section, dropping the spent can, he moved to the pile of others and grabbed one before renewing his attempts to complete sealing the structure. Inside another angry call issued forth "GRONK!!!!" and something heavy and solid impacted one of the walls. But the flimsy appearing structure held fast.

"Not quite yet, my pet. My golems have failed so it falls to you. You must be the instrument of Ranma's punishment," the Sorcerer stated flatly. "You must be patient, after all, the barrier is even stronger than you are. But perhaps it is best not to tempt fate." And then he began to chant a sleep spell, at length the creature fell silent, but the Sorcerer was left paled and frightened, the spell had barely worked. His Hell Beast already had power sufficient to nearly shrug off the sleep spell. He would have to accelerate his plans or the abomination would escape his control. "And that just wouldn't do at all."

The next morning dawned bright and sunny, it promised a wonderful day. To those gathered in the Tendo dojo however, the day would simply be another dark day in a line of them that had been too long.

The group, or those of them who were able, which did not include the Kunos both of whom were now in the hospital, and Ryoga who was lost who-knew-where, and Ranma and Akane who were still at the hospital, had gathered once again at the Tendo Dojo to discuss the recent events.

"So it seems that most of us encountered one of the golems then," Soun began.

"Yes, and the ease with which I defeated my adversary has me confused," Cologne offered.

"You too," Ukyo added, perplexed.

"And us as well," Mrs. Saotome stated. "The golems were remarkably easy to beat, considering the damage they did to Ranko and the others."

"Yes, even when Ryoga, Shampoo, and I fought them, they had been tougher than the one we faced last night. Much tougher," Mousse added.

"I wonder why," Soun thought aloud. "Perhaps their creator has abandoned them."

"We can only hope this is the case," Cologne answered. "But if he has, then why, must be our question."

Genma spoke next, "Perhaps they betrayed him in some way. Or proved unworthy."

Nodoka answered him, "That may make sense, they may have been in disfavor since failing to kill Shampoo."

The Amazon cringed slightly in spite of herself. "They do well enough against sisters," she said so softly the others barely heard her.

The tone of the meeting was changed sharply at that. And there was silence for a short while.

"Perhaps then, we should concentrate on other matters," Konatsu offered, changing the subject.

"Yes, the Master has disappeared," Genma began, "we have been unable to locate him. It is possible he has simply gone off to steal more panties, but I fear something more sinister is at work here."

"But pure speculation will get us nowhere," Nabiki said. "There are just too many variables. I wouldn't bet on any of the odds I have worked out for the various situations right now. We need some answers. We need to find those things' creator."

Ukyo was next to speak, "But there is one more of those things right?"

"Well, maybe," Nabiki started, "but remember, Ryoga isn't here, he may have found it and fought it. The odds are pretty long, but not impossible. He may just be looking for his way back here."

"Oh my, I hope poor Ryoga hasn't been hurt," Kasumi said with concern.

The others shared a grim nod in agreement.

Nodoka rose from her spot and headed upstairs.

"What are you going to do now, Wife," Genma asked.

"Ranko is expecting some clothes Husband, I must bring them to her, I have given my word." And then she turned from the group who were deceiving her and said, "If only my Ranma had been here, he could have stopped all this."

The silence that answered her was very intimidating she thought.

At the ranch, the Sorcerer sat upon his throne, the withered Master of Anything Goes Martial Arts bowed before him on the ground.

"Happosai, your task has been completed to my satisfaction. You may rise, hold yourself at your full height in my presence, as my honored peer."

Happosai stood, still hypnotized by the Sorcerer's power, and waited patiently before his master.

"Happosai," the Hatchet Faced Man began, "what is it you desire most?"

"Pan - ties," the withered old pervert let out, "and bras. Silky - darlings."

"Ewww," the Sorcerer grumbled under his breath, "oh well. How would you like it if I made it so that you would have a never ending supply of new panties for the rest of your days?"

Happosai perked up slightly. "Yes, master, I would like that."

"What would you do for your master, Puppet," he asked.

"Anything."

The Sorcerer smiled evilly, "Yes, I imagine you would. Cologne is coming to free you from me," he continued. "If she does this, I cannot give you the panties and bras you so richly deserve."

"Damn her," Happosai fumed, still mostly mesmerized.

"You must stop her Happosai. You must trick her and bind her into the jar." And the Sorcerer held up the same magic jar Happosai himself had been bound into.

Happosai took the item from him and asked, "How master? I want my silky darlings."

And the Sorcerer began to tell Happosai the ritual necessary to do it.

Those at the Tendo dojo sat around the family table, drinking tea and debating their next actions when a mystic light began to surround each of them. Looks of anticipation and fear came to some of their faces, and a couple even looked happy. Obviously their mysterious opponent was about to do something.

Tatewaki Kuno sat in a chair next to the bedside of his sister Kodachi. Their room at the hospital had a wonderful view of the facility's garden, something he was sure his sister would be grateful for when she finally awoke. Across his knees lay his family's katana. His broken ribs were wrapped well and would be only a minimal hindrance should he be called upon to defend her here. Sasuke sat outside the room, providing advanced warning when an attack came. He was contemplating going to take a short nap when a strange glow began to encompass his and his sister's bodies. Kuno drew the sword angrily, and then the two of them vanished, as if they had never been.

Ryoga was walking along on a long stretch of highway. He had seen a sign a while back that said "Tokyo 20 kilometers", and he was following the road intently. He would be back in Tokyo today if he could just maintain his concentration on his chosen path. And then the mystic light began to surround and engulf him, Ryoga recognized it after a few seconds as the same glow that the Sorcerer had when he was using his spells.

"So he is bringing me back to him," Ryoga thought. "This time we shall which of us is truly the better man!"

Ranma sat on the bed slurping some soup through a straw, "Ummmm, tomato," he thought. He was pleasantly attired in a nice set of shorts and a sports bra that his Mother had brought him earlier that morning, "Ahh, clean, clothed and fed, this is getting better," he thought. The clothes were probably Akane's, he thought all of a sudden. "At least Mom didn't get any of her panties," and Ranma shuddered slightly. He looked over at the sleeping form of Akane and hoped she would awaken soon. It was too quite this morning, he was in a sociable mood and wanted to have someone to talk to, though he was at a loss as to what to talk about. Then Ranma started to notice a strange feeling come over him, looking down at his body with his good eye, he saw the glow start to spread, and gasped.

Akane was stirred awake by Ranma's sudden startled gasp. Immediately she was fully aware but there were no enemies to be seen. Nothing was wrong. "Ranma, what's wrong - YIAH!! WHAT'S HAPPENING?" She cried as the glowing light engulfed her and her fiancée. And then when the ball of light was bright enough to hurt her eyes - the hospital room vanished.

When the glow faded, everyone saw that they had been brought somewhere else. They were at a ranch. Off to one side, a couple of meters away was a high stone fence. In the distance was a corral with a flimsy looking shed in it, and there was a two-story hacienda. It looked to be the home of someone very rich. Ranma, Akane, Ukyo, Nabiki, Kasumi, Shampoo, Cologne, Ryoga, Soun, Genma, Nodoka, Mousse, Konatsu, Tatewaki and Kodachi Kuno, and Dr. Tofu looked around them, a single man stood before them calmly, about halfway between them and the hacienda. Happosai knelt obediently beside him.

Ranma looked at the gathered group of martial artists with him and at the guy over there next to Happosai and came to a conclusion. "We are SOOOO gonna wreck this place," he said to the man. His lopsided, arrogant grin spoke to his utter confidence in the fact that he and his companions were about to lay waste to the home of the man who had ruined the last few weeks of his life.

The Sorcerer turned to Happosai, "Cologne is going to come and take away the panties I gave you soon Happosai, are you ready?"

"Yes, Master, I know what to do, she won't get my Silky-Darlings."

Cologne looked at Happosai and realized what had happened to him. "Happosai has been placed under a spell, he is not our ally in this," she told the others.

"Spells are your specialty Granny," Ranma said.

"Yes, Child," she replied. "I suppose it falls to me then to - save - Happosai." With that she hopped towards him atop her staff, but he surprised her, rather than fighting, he turned and ran. So she gave chase. "What are you doing Happi," she asked herself.

Happosai led her around the back of the hacienda where no one could see before he stopped to engage her. As she rounded the corner, he yanked the lid off the mystic jar he had hidden there and pointed it at her. Her eyes wide in the realization that she had been tricked, Cologne was sucked into the jar and bound there. Happosai replaced the lid, and went off to enjoy his panties as his Master had directed.

Suddenly Ranma, Shampoo, and the Kunos noticed something odd.

"The pain," Ranma said unbelieving, "It's gone! And my jaw, the wires holding it shut are gone too, and my eye, I can see out of it."

"Aiyaa," Shampoo breathed.

"What foul magic is this," questioned Kuno.

"How can this be, Ranma Dear, who is this person," Kodachi asked.

"I have healed you a little. Enough to make it more interesting for me," answered the Sorcerer. "How much fun would it be if a quarter of you were unable to oppose me? Though truthfully, I think, even with your help," he motioned to the four injured martial artists, "the lot of you will be dead by tonight."

Ranma swung his broken arm to gauge the truth of the man's words, and received a stab of pain. Not as severe as moving the limb had been yesterday, but still not fully healed either. He noticed that while Kodachi was standing, she was barely able to hold herself erect, and that was with leaning on her brother for support. Shampoo stood, somewhat more steadily, the fact that she was wearing a 'walking cast' was probably helping her some.

"You healed us some, not enough," he said under his breath.

"Alright, just who are you," Soun asked, his anger rising.

"I am a sorcerer," the man replied.

"What do you want with us," Akane asked, frightened.

The man chuckled softly, "I want you to meet my friend." And with a wave of his hand, he sent a bolt of power flying at the shed in the corral. The beam hit the flimsy structure and it exploded, and out came a hulking monstrosity.

"He's - anxious - to meet all of you."

Scene 13

Before the assembled martial artists and their relatives, stood a being of pure evil and power. It stood about 4 meters tall Ranma estimated. Its body was humanoid, powerfully muscled, and had a tail. At the end of each massive arm was a hand with three strong fingers and a thumb, its body from the waist down was covered in thick, dirty looking fur. Its feet had hooves. The daemon's head was bull-like, with two massive horns jutting from the sides. Its canines poked out from behind its lips even when the mouth was closed, but it wasn't closed often, or for very long. It kept emitting these horrid "gronf" calls at them. It was angry. But its eyes - the true depth of its evil could be seen in the eyes. They were solid black, soulless, like a shark's and they radiated hatred. Ranma and the others knew that this thing had been created specifically to kill them all.

It let out yet another of its disconcerting calls and finally went into action. The Kunos were nearest to it. A single swipe of its massive fist and Kodachi went flying through the air, she landed amidst the wreckage of the shack. Tatewaki, in a rage, struck at the beast with his sword, cutting a deep wound in its thigh. The creature responded with a backhanded punch that lifted Tatewaki up and hurled him into the stone wall. Kuno slid to the ground, and left a thin trail of blood on the wall where his head had hit it.

And just like that, there were two less opponents for the Sorcerer and his daemon.

It next turned towards Kasumi, who was next closest to it. As it closed in on her however, Nabiki knocked her older sister out of the way, Kasumi flew a meter or so and landed heavily. Nabiki reached into her jacket and drew her gun, but the daemon was already there, its hand flashed out at her. None of the group had noticed the claws, until its hand flashed in front of Nabiki Tendo and her blood was sent spraying into the air. She dropped to the ground bonelessly as the others looked on in horror.

Akane was the first to vocalize her reaction, "NABIKI!!! NO!!!"

And Ryoga decided he had had enough. He hurled himself at the daemon and landed a powerful blow to its abdomen. The beast turned on him, swinging its clawed hands with fury. But Ryoga was much tougher than Nabiki Tendo. The claws merely made angry red tracks across Ryoga's 'Iron Skin' face. "HA!! Better luck next time beast" he yelled at the monster. His fists flew, impacting against its flesh again and again. But for each blow he landed, the daemon landed one too, Ryoga was going to lose if the others didn't help him. He knew it, and he thought the daemon did too.

Doctor Tofu and Kasumi ran to Nabiki's side, and once there the Doctor started ripping up his tunic and the skirt of Kasumi's dress into bandages, he wrapped them around Nabiki's body in a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding. She had three deep parallel channels dug through the flesh of her body. Doctor Tofu didn't know if anything could save her.

Akane began to feel rage building in her, replacing her fear. She had to help Ryoga, or Nabiki might die!! She charged at the beast from behind and leapt up, locking her arms around its neck in a chokehold. Her strength was, according to Ranma, massive, and now as she tried to subdue the abomination, she hoped he was right. But she was being tossed around by the huge thing - as if she were light as a feather. Her grip was firm though, and she wasn't going to let go!

Genma, Soun, and Mousse, looked at each other, and silently agreed on a plan. All three joined in the battle against the daemon. Mousse's bladed weapons soon left its entire body crisscrossed with bleeding cuts. It howled in fury, but continued to fight.

The others, Ukyo, Konatsu, Ranma, Shampoo, and Nodoka stood between the daemon and the Sorcerer.

"I'll go check on Kuno," Ukyo volunteered. As she sprinted off to Tatewaki, Konatsu followed.

But before she got there, the Sorcerer intervened, "No you don't," he said evenly. And a bolt of pure mystic power leaped out of his hand to strike the woman. But before it could, another form moved into its path. Konatsu took a glancing blast and was hurled past his Mistress, landing on the ground like a sack of potatoes.

"KONATSU," Ukyo cried out for him, and dropped to the ground at his side, tying to help.

"Those fools will die most easily," the Hatchet Faced Man said. He raised his hand to send another bolt of death at the ninja and the woman.

But nothing happened. The Sorcerer was struck with a deep, searing, pain in his body, rather than the feeling of power that came with the release of one of his bolts. He looked down to see the end of a sword sticking out from his chest. He craned his neck around to look behind him and beheld the face of Nodoka Saotome.

"Does it hurt monster," she exclaimed. "I am going to make you pay for what you have done." And then she twisted the blade inside him and ripped it free, spilling a huge quantity of his blood in the process. She was disgusted to see that the blood was black.

The Sorcerer stumbled unsteadily a few steps from her and turned around. Nodoka raised her sword for a final strike at her defeated adversary, when all of a sudden, his features hardened and his attention focused on her with a clarity that should have been beyond someone so sorely wounded. He weaved his hands before him, and the fatal wound vanished. "That hurt, you bitch."

As Nodoka looked on, astonished, the Hatchet Faced Man raised his hand and blasted her with a bolt of lightning-like energy. Nodoka flew away from him and collapsed. There had been no chance of her dodging, not from that close.

"MOM," Ranma screamed. And inside him a tiny little spark lit itself. An emotion Ranma was unfamiliar with. He could give it no name. He rushed to his Mother's side as fast as he could, but when he got there, he saw that she was unconscious or worse.

Konatsu regained some semblance of consciousness shortly thereafter. "Ms. Ukyo, you must go and help the others, I will be alright, I - just need a minute."

"Konatsu, don't try to move, I'll help you," Ukyo began.

As she knelt over him, he began to speak. "No, I am alright, you must help the others, please Ms. Ukyo," he was begging her. She hated it when he begged. "Are you sure," she asked, uncertain.

"Yes, Ms. Ukyo, you know I would not lie to you," and to punctuate his statement, the ninja raised himself off his back. "I just need a minute to collect myself."

Ukyo looked over to the daemon and determined that she was needed there when the beast flung Akane from around its neck like she was a paper doll. "Alright, My Friend," she said. "Please try not to disappoint me by dying or something."

Konatsu emitted a pained chuckle, and watched his Mistress leap into battle with the infernal creature. Shortly thereafter, he dropped back onto his back, and began to count all his body parts, just to be sure they were all there.

The battle raged on. Ranma now stood unsteadily against a crumbling section of the ranch's fence over his Mother. Mousse, Ukyo, Akane, Soun, and Genma tried to battle the deamon.

Ryoga's charge was countered by a punch from the massive beast's fist that sent Ryoga flying into the mansion. Ukyo moved in next, she brought her huge spatula shaped weapon down and into the deamon's shoulder. It cleaved deeply, but got stuck there. The deamon then flung her away, but the damage was done, its arm hung limply at its side. The beast issued a tormented "GRONK!!" and waded in among its foes again.

Doctor Tofu was tending to Nabiki, and Kasumi stood near by the two of them. Nabiki looked bad and she wasn't moving. Ranma hoped she was just unconscious. Ranma and Shampoo had ended up out of the immediate battle area, a circumstance neither was happy with. "Just what is taking Cologne so long anyway," Ranma thought frustrated, "we're counting on her freeing Happosai, we're gonna need to Freak's help." Ranma couldn't locate the Old Ghoul or the Freak, he hoped they were okay.

Tofu rose from the ground cradling the still unresponsive Nabiki in his arms, "Ranma I have to get Nabiki out here or she might not make it," he said desperately.

Ranma looked around quickly, the deamon was occupied. But the Sorcerer was just standing there waiting for something. Ranma looked at Shampoo, "Well, looks like we ain't getting' off easy." Shampoo nodded and the two of them turned on the hawk-faced man. "Come on creep, its about time you and me had some words," he said.

At that, Tofu and Kasumi began to race for the gate and escape. But the Hatchet Faced Man did not allow it. He gestured and fired off a bolt of concussive energy at the three of them. Kasumi, who had only caught the edge of the blast, was knocked aside, but Tofu who was carrying Nabiki was flung into the crumbling remains of the shack that had held the deamon.

Inside Ranma, the tiny spark turned into a small flame.

"Now, now," the Sorcerer said, "no fair leaving the party early." He strode confidently over to Kasumi's prone form even as Ranma and Shampoo struggled to intercept him. By the time he reached her, Kasumi had regained her feet, she gave him an angry look that was lost on him. He raised a hand and it crackled with energy as he prepared to release another blast to deal with her.

But his blast was dissipated when he lost his concentration as Kasumi raised her hand and slapped him across his face. He stood there dumb founded, and gave her a precious opening. Kasumi hadn't trained in years, she barely knew the basics of martial arts, but she knew enough to know she had to take full advantage of the situation. So as he stood there befuddled by the fact that she had dared to raise her hand to him, she struck out with a punch to his abdomen, hitting him just below his sternum and knocking all his wind from him, he lost his footing and was dropped down to the ground. When he fell she turned and ran to Doctor Tofu.

Ranma was the next to arrive, using Kasumi's attack to the fullest, Ranma leaped as best as he could in his injured state, the leap turning more into an unbalanced tackle. Ranma came down with his right arm cast straight on the Sorcerer's chest, and he was rewarded with the satisfying sound of cracking bone beneath his arm. Ranma then began pummeling the man with his left arm as hard and fast as he could. Again and again the fist rose and fell on the Sorcerer, battering the man's face and turning it into bloody pulp and knocking out tooth after tooth, but Ranma wasn't scoring any real, telling blows, he needed both hands. Finally the Hatchet Faced Man managed to get some breath back and fired off a spell that dislodged Ranma, most painfully, from his chest.

But as the Sorcerer rose to his feet, his nose became the impact point for Shampoo's cast encased leg. Her flying leap landed the heavy object directly on the man's nose, crushing it and his mouth, knocking out most of the rest of his teeth. Blood flowed from the man's mouth and nose in torrents and he spun and went down, landing on his face, further compounding the damage. Shampoo produced a pair of bonbori, showing that Mousse was not the only person who had learned the techniques of hidden weapons, and began to flail at the back of the Sorcerer's head. In seconds she had pounded a depression into the back of his skull, but the man would not die. He continued to struggle, despite the fact that blood now flowed from his eyes and ears as well. "DIE ALREADY" Shampoo screamed.

And at that moment, the Sorcerer regained his full senses and strength. He pushed himself up from the ground, flinging Shampoo off in the process, and made it to his feet. When Shampoo hit the ground, the sorcerer was already prepared, his gesture sent a bolt of eldritch energy into her. The lightning-like bolt quickly overcame Shampoo and she dropped to the ground. Shampoo groggily moaned next to Ranma and then gave up her battle to stay awake and passed out as the Sorcerer turned to face them. Visible to Ranma were seemingly fatal injuries across the man's body; in addition to his caved in skull, there was a depression in the Sorcerer's chest where Ranma must have broken 4 or 5 ribs. Most of his teeth were missing, blood flowed freely from his head. Yet for all the injuries, the Sorcerer just stood there as if nothing at all was wrong with him.

As Ranma watched in horror, the man who could not possibly be alive just stood there. And then, he began to gesture and the spell he cast started to heal his injuries before their eyes. In only a few moments, there was no trace of his former injured state at all.

"What are you," Ranma asked, shocked.

The Sorcerer turned towards the shed and fired two bolts of energy into it, bringing it down upon whomever had been inside. As Kasumi stood there, shocked and worried for the lives of her sister and Doctor Tofu, the Sorcerer fired another bolt. This one slammed into the ground at her feet, lifted her bodily into the air, and dropped her flat on her face. She let out a small moan and was silent. He turned to Ranma with a sickening grin on his face.

The small flame within Ranma grew bigger.

Meanwhile, what was left of the Nerima Wrecking Crew was busy pummeling the deamon. Ryoga and Ukyo were down, as this thought registered in Akane's mind she realized she was the next closest to the beast. Summoning her anger, she began throwing punches as hard as she could. "HIYAAA," she bellowed. Again and again she struck the huge creature, usually in the chest or abdomen, since it was too tall for her to easily reach its head. Her vast strength began to force the unholy creature back, but it was apparent she could not win alone.

Witnessing her success, Mousse moved in, determined to capitalize on the damage she was doing by inflicting still more on the creature. Mousse produced two battle-axes from within his robes and leapt to the attack. Since Akane was attacking low, Mousse went in high. He chopped the monster's form about its neck and shoulders leaving a half dozen bleeding wounds in the wake of his strike. His attack also freed Ukyo's weapon from the deamon's shoulder.

Soun and Genma now moved in on the thing. Striking with all the power they could bring to bear on it. Their fists and feet crushed tissue and bruised bone all over the beast's body. Again and again they struck, and the deamon howled in pain and rage. Konatsu joined them, using his sword to strike against the mighty thing's chest.

With Mousse behind, Akane and Konatsu in front, and Genma and Soun to its sides the creature was assailed by a confusing torrent of pain. Not knowing what else to do, it struck out blindly with all the fury it could muster! Its tail slashed at Mousse and sent him flying, it backhanded Soun with similar results, flattened Genma with a kick, head-butted Konatsu away, and flung Akane away with another kick. Soun and Akane ended up nearest to Kasumi and the others in the remains of the shed, and Genma close to Ranma. The others had been widely scattered by the beast's power. Then it let out a triumphant bellow and flexed its functional limbs menacingly. The creature located its first target quickly, Akane Tendo lay on her back, stunned and groggy. She would die soon by its infernal power.

At that moment, in the twisted, collapsing remains of the mansion's sitting room, Ryoga came back to consciousness. Coughing dust out of his lungs, he raised himself from the floor and stumbled out the hole he had made entry through. He was just in time to notice the beast standing over the prone form of Akane Tendo, its fist raised to deliver the final blow.

Ranma was about to try to fire off a Moko Takabisha when he was interrupted by an earth-shattering cry of: "NOOOOOO!!!" Looking to the source of the sound, Ranma saw Ryoga hurl himself bodily from the mansion and into the creature. Ryoga hit it full force at the small of its back with tremendous impact, there was a cracking sound and both bodies flew forward from the momentum to come to rest in an enormous dust cloud.

"I'm stronger, but this thing has mass and leverage over me, I don't have long to beat it or it'll crush me," Ryoga thought. He jumped up to the creature's head height and threw a punch at its face. The blow wrenched the deamon's head around and sent its black blood flying through the air. More blood flew as Ryoga followed up with another before his body answered gravity's call and sank to the ground. He then slugged it in the gut and was rewarded by the sound of air rushing from its lungs. As Ryoga continued, his attacks seemed to bleed together in his mind, he lost track of the individual attacks quickly as he continued to pound the threat to Akane's safety. For several moments the cloud obscured the battle, but the huge deamon's head could occasionally be seen at the top of the cloud. Cries of rage and pain that could not be distinguished as being from the deamon or Ryoga issued forth as if from behind a curtain, they were loud enough to stir Ukyo from her involuntary slumber, she climbed to her hands and knees with great difficulty, but Konatsu quickly arrived at her side to aid his mistress to her feet. Soun, Genma, Akane, and Mousse did not stir. As Ranma, Ukyo and Konatsu looked on, the dust began to settle. In it, the giant form of the deamon stood still for a few moments, then toppled to the ground. The figure of Ryoga came walking slowly out of the curtain of dust, he cleared it by only a few meters before looking around.

"I *huff* did it *huff*," he said breathlessly. And then he wobbled on his feet and fell to the ground.

"Ryoga!!" Ranma and Ukyo cried simultaneously. Ukyo and Konatsu rushed to his side, but Ranma remained where he was. Just as Ukyo and Konatsu reached the Lost Boy, the Sorcerer gestured and sent a ball of mystic energy flying at them. It impacted just behind them, its explosive force hurling both of them into the air to land in unceremonious heaps several meters away.

"Oopsie," the Sorcerer said. "Poor Ranma, you seem to have run fresh out of friends."

And as Ranma looked around the battlefield, he noticed the madman was right. Not a single one of his companions remained standing. "Do you miss them Ranma," the Hatchet Faced Man asked. "I can send you to them quite easily," he added.

"You're going to pay for this," Ranma said. And the flame within him grew larger still. And yet, even now he could not name the feeling he was having.

"Yes, yes, 'pay dearly, suffer for the agony of my friends' blah, blah, blah. Ranma, my dear, I have heard it all before. They failed to make me pay, and so will you."

Ranma was practically vibrating in anger, "You bastard. You might beat me, but I am gonna mess you up." And then Ranma dropped into a combat stance and prepared to hurl himself at his foe. But before he could, a cough and wheeze attracted the two potential combatants' attention back to the battlefield. As Ranma's eyes sought out the source of the sound, Akane Tendo started to come around, she lifted herself up and spat a little blood out of her mouth.

"What happened," she asked still confused.

Ranma hobbled over to her as quickly as he was able, "Akane are you alright?"

"I, uh, yeah, I think so," she responded, not entirely sure of her answer. "What about Dad and the others?"

Ranma had by now reached her side and helped her to her feet, "I don't know, I hope they're okay."

As they stood there supporting one another, Soun Tendo began to regain consciousness and hefted his battered body up as well.

"I don't know you do I," Ranma asked, genuinely confused.

Akane stood slightly in front of the unsteady martial artist, blanched and turned to face her fiancé, "You don't remember!! He wants to kill us because of you and you have NO IDEA WHY????"

Ranma looked at the man carefully, thinking hard. "No. No idea at all."

Akane would have flattened him, had the situation not been so serious, as it was, she nearly collapsed from shock. When the man began to laugh sickly she turned her attention back to him.

"Of course Ranma doesn't remember me Dear Akane, why would he? Ranma does not know me."

Akane and Ranma stood mesmerized by the implications of the simple statement. Ranma spoke first, "Then all of this was for nothing, you just are doing this, just because you WANT to?!!?"

"Of course. Do I need any other reason," he answered.

Soun Tendo looked over to Kasumi's unconscious form a few meters away. She let out a soft moan, indicating she was starting to come around. Soun was obviously VERY angry. "Then there really is no meaning to this. You are torturing Ranma and the rest of us for your own sick pleasure," he accused. Soun's aura shifted from its normal whitish yellow over to red. "There can be no forgiveness for one such as yourself!" And he leapt into the attack forcing the magician back away from Kasumi and the others.

Ranma noted that Soun was at least as good as he had been before he started to learn from Cologne. But, good as he was, the Sorcerer was using magic to avoid Soun's attacks, and it was just a matter of time. One of them would get tired. Sickeningly, Ranma realized it would be Soun who tired first. Akane moved to help, but before she got a full step Ranma placed a hand on her shoulder stopping her. "No," he said simply.

Ranma turned to Genma, who was just recovering his wits next to Kasumi, "Pop, you gotta help Mr. Tendo. Akane has to get Kasumi out of here."

Akane turned to look at Ranma, horrified by the statement, "I am NOT leaving!!"

"Yes, you are," Ranma told her.

She spun on him, more angry than she ever remembered being in her life, "I will not leave you and the others here to die so I can be safe!!"

Rather than Ranma answering her however, it was Genma who spoke, "Akane Dear, please get Kasumi away from here, you are the only one who can carry her, Ranma can't do it injured like he is, and your father and I must fight the sorcerer. We will ensure you are not followed." And with that he turned and attacked the Sorcerer alongside his longtime friend, Soun Tendo.

Akane stood there, unwilling, unable, to move from that spot. "Why? Why is he doing this to us?"

And to everyone's surprise, the sorcerer answered, "Five thousand years ago I was a powerful sorcerer, serving a mighty king," he began while still fighting Genma and Soun. "He ruled a vast empire, mountains of dead and rivers of blood spoke to the folly of opposing him. And I was his second. The people trembled in fear before us."

Ranma stared at the man, not believing, "oh great, he's nuts too," he thought.

"One day, a warrior came to the kingdom. And this warrior sought to address the 'wrongs' he said we had committed there. What arrogance! What outrageousness! The guards went out to reward him for his concern with death. But as my Lord and I watched through my scrying pool, we saw them all defeated. Fifty men, all hardened warriors, veterans of numerous campaigns of pillaging and murdering. And this, one man, simply waded through them. As though they were not even there. When the last one fell, I cursed them all for their failure, they would spend eternity trapped here on the earthly plane, forever denied the release of the afterlife. Everyone in the castle was sent out to fight him. He defeated all who stood in his way. Finally, the last few guards held some of the slaves before them. They would slay them if he did not surrender. The fool actually managed to save a few of the concubines and orphans. As if they were worthy of anything but death."

As he went on Ranma and Akane began to see the depth of his evil. Their fathers saw only the depth of his skill, as all their attention was focused on not being killed by this man they had yet to land a hand on.

"Finally, this man made it to the throne room itself. The King and I stood before the Throne of Skulls, and the Lord battled him. And then my world was destroyed. He killed my Lord with staggering swiftness. Before I could even complete chanting my first spell, the Master was dead." At that, the Hatchet Faced Man stepped up his efforts and Genma and Soun found themselves hard pressed to merely survive.

"Akane, you're almost out of time, go - now," Ranma begged.

She stood there looking from the fight back to Ranma, "I, I, what - do - I - do?" She forced out.

"And then it was just the two of us. And we fought a great battle. My spells inflicted suffering on him such as no mortal has experienced in a thousand years! But still he fought on. Finally he hurled a section of my magic mirror at me that he had broken from the wall. It was that section which gave me the scar you see on my face now. The pain broke my concentration, and I collapsed. Then he began to set fire to the room, and began crushing all the objects of power I had collected in my lifetime. My anger rose, but I could do nothing, for each time I got more angry it was because he was destroying more of my power."

"Finally, he had reduced me to a pitiful level, he lifted me from the floor contemptuously, and looked into my eyes. He said, 'you will live out your days powerless and frightened, running forever from those you once terrorized.' And with that he dropped me, and walked away."

"I survived, but I was broken. For years I wandered the lands, powerless and afraid. And then I found a new source of power. At The Temple of the Forgotten Daemon I sacrificed my soul in exchange for long life and the chance for vengeance. With my new power I destroyed the temple so that no others could benefit from its gifts. And so I have walked the Earth ever since, hunting down those who seek to oppose the forces of darkness. You, Ranma Saotome, were prophesied to do so. And so, I am here to kill you and all those who would have stood with you."

And with that he broke through Genma and Soun's defenses, his spells striking each man in the chest and sending them flying.

Ranma looked at Akane, still frozen she was meat on the magician's table, he knew it and so did the Sorcerer. Genma and Soun had not risen after they hit the ground, Ranma hoped they weren't dead. Ranma looked at the Hatchet Faced Man and hardened his resolve, "Looks like it's just you and me now. Time for the main event." With that, Ranma brought his right arm up and struck it on the crumbling section of wall next to him, shattering the cast and freeing his limb for use. He then kicked out with his leg shattering its cast as well. Ranma made a fist with his right hand, and the joints popped loudly. Standing unsteadily, the female form of Ranma Saotome faced his opponent.

"Not quite yet, boy," the Sorcerer said, "I have to deal with your little bitch girlfriend, Akane, first."

Looking over at her, Ranma realized she had not even heard what he had said. "There's no way you'll ever touch her. Not while I live."

"Don't be a spoilsport," the Sorcerer said.

"That's your mistake, this - is NOT - a game."

"No, Saotome, it is not. It is the last act in the play of your life."

And with that, still uncertain of his limbs, Ranma Saotome leapt into battle. His first attack was met by a powerful mystic shield, Ranma compensated for the blocked punch with a swift kick that made it past the shield and struck the sorcerer in the head near his temple. The force of the impact threw the man aside and he nearly fell to his knees.

"An excellent blow," he said. "You may be the most formidable opponent I have faced in at least 2000 years."

"Gee, thanks," Ranma replied as he launched another kick. This one was blocked, as was the next. "Damn," he thought, "I gotta get through his defenses, but how?" Ranma fell back several meters, conceding ground to his foe and buying time to check on Akane. She was still immobile, not having moved since her last spoken words. "Oh hell, I think she's in shock."

The Sorcerer had noticed it too. "She is insensate," he thought. "What a shame, her death will not even register in her mind as she dies." With some regret, he looked at the helpless girl, "Oh well, life was not meant to be perfect." And he raised his arms and cast a powerful fireball at her.

"AKANE!! DUCK!!" But Akane did not hear Ranma, she was lost to the world, her mind overwhelmed by the events of the last few weeks, had finally just shut down for a rest. And so Ranma found himself forced to tackle her out of the path of the deadly missile.

Ranma had been angry before in his life. He had thought he had experienced just about as much anger as was possible actually. But the casual disregard for Akane's life the magician had shown opened Ranma up to a whole new level of rage. He wondered if even Ryoga had ever known such pure fury. Ranma recognized the emotion he was feeling, and finally gave it a name - hate. It took only about a tenth of a second for Ranma to explode into action, he leaped at the man and began dropping a rain of punches and kicks on him. Ranma's arms and legs were a blur of motion as he attacked with all the speed and power he possessed. The Sorcerer just kept raising shield after shield and blocked move after move. Ranma tried roundhouse kicks, right crosses, rabbit punches to the abdomen, pressure point attacks, anything he could think of. But again and again the spell shield interfered and Ranma's attacks were deflected. He did have the satisfaction of noting that the Hatchet Faced Man mounted no offensive attacks of his own however.

"I'm too fast for you to defend yourself and attack at the same time," Ranma thought. "All I have to do is get through your defenses."

Ranma kept up the pressure for nearly ten minutes of ceaseless, furious, attacks. He had lost count of the number of punches and kicks he had thrown. And all of a sudden, one of his punches hit something other than mystic energy. Ranma was so shocked he failed to launch another for about a second. He had hit the Sorcerer in the face. Recovering, he sent another barrage of attacks at the man. "I got through once, I'll do it again," Ranma thought, "and eventually, I'll finish you."

Ranma continued to throw punches and kicks. Sometimes he got through, but most of the time he did not. He did have the satisfaction of seeing the Sorcerer could not attack him though. But Ranma wasn't getting anywhere. The ancient wizard was using his powers to cast healing spell after healing spell. None of the damage Ranma inflicted was enough to drop the man in one shot, so the Sorcerer healed the wounds and continued on. Ranma came to the sickening conclusion that sooner or later, the Sorcerer would wear him down, and that would be it.

Until Ranma noticed a section of metal bar sticking up through a portion of the ruined stone wall. Ranma leapt for it, and used all his strength to rip it out. Then he turned his weapon on his foe. Again and again the heavy iron bar slammed into some part of the sorcerer or hit his mystic shield. Ranma thought he had gained some ground, but he didn't know if it would be enough.

No matter what Ranma did to the magician, he would simply use his mystic abilities to restore himself. Ranma was getting tired, and his arm already throbbed with pain from the abuse of using it to fight with. Deciding to take some time and come up with a plan, Ranma backed off a few meters and shifted over to a defensive mode. He watched the Sorcerer gesture wildly, sending spell after spell to deal death or pain to Ranma. Ranma was forced to give up his weapon in order to gain full mobility. And so, most of the attacks Ranma managed to dodge. A few he found he could block, and some actually hit him. Ranma knew he wouldn't have long to come up with a winning plan, either he did this quick, or not at all. The magician was too powerful. But Ranma could detect no weaknesses in the man's style of combat. Every hand gesture and arm sweep formed and cast a new spell, no movements were wasted on posturing - wait. "His arms," Ranma thought excitedly!! "That's his weakness! He needs to use his arms to do magic!! I just gotta break his arms," Ranma thought.

"Play time is over," Ranma told the sorcerer.

"Is it, and I was just starting to have fun," he replied trying to sound disappointed.

"Well, I hope I haven't bored you to death," with that Ranma closed in on his foe, trying to lull him into a false sense of security.

The sorcerer shot off a few blasts of energy as Ranma approached but none came close. And then Ranma launched into his attack. He feinted with a kick with his good leg, and the sorcerer blocked it with the expected shield spell. But rather than follow up the kick, Ranma launched himself up and over his adversary, landing behind him lightly. Too late, the sorcerer realized he had been tricked, as Ranma grabbed the man's arm, and yanked it back, locking the elbow joint and extending the wrist painfully.

Sadly, Ranma realized that what he was about to do would permanently cripple this person, but he had to do this, the madman wouldn't be stopped any other way. Ranma applied slightly more pressure - and the elbow and wrist emitted short, sharp, 'pop' sounds, Ranma then twisted the ends of the limb in opposite directions and there was a definite 'crunch' sound. The sorcerer collapsed from the pain as the two joints were rent apart, the ligaments torn and the bones themselves broken from Ranma's actions. Ranma used the now useless limb to lift his opponent from the ground and force him to turn and face him. "This is the end for you," Ranma told him.

"KACHUU TENSHIN AMAGURIKEN!!!"

Ranma rained dozens of blows on the man's face and body, pummeling him mercilessly. Each hit landed forced the magician nearer to the still standing section of stone wall behind him. But even as the blows landed, Ranma himself was nearly felled, by the pain in his own right arm, and the nausea and weakness its severity caused in him. But he couldn't stop. This was the end, Ranma had to finish the guy now or not at all. Finally, Ranma's attack was finished. But the sorcerer still stood, unsteadily and barely conscious, but he was still standing. Ranma dropped to his good arm and lashed out with as hard and powerful a kick as he could muster. His left leg struck the Sorcerer in the face and propelled him into the unyielding wall less than a meter behind him. And still he did not fall. The Hatchet Faced Man managed to stay upright, though only by dropping to his knees and supporting himself with his remaining good arm.

Ranma himself lay on his back, nearly spent. But he was now wild with anger, his inhibitions long since gone, "Why won't you FALL," he exclaimed! And then he lashed out with his left leg again, hissing out an angry "HIYARGH!!" and pinning the magician's head to the wall. Teeth flew and Ranma heard the sounds of the man's skull breaking, but still his anger and desire for revenge drove him on, and Ranma could see the madman still lived. He thrust his hands forward, only centimeters from the sorcerer's face taking extreme satisfaction in what he was about to do, "MOKO TAKABISHA!!!"

The chi ball engulfed both of their forms briefly before it exploded in blinding, angry fury.

Scene 14

Happosai knew it instantly. His new Master was dead. There would be no more of the promised panties. His anger flared within him, but what was he to do? Cologne had been bound, as he was told, but still the Master had been defeated. Who was to blame for this? "Ranma," a voice said in his mind. "Ranma must be punished for taking away my silky darlings," Happosai thought in answer to the voice. And so the withered Master of Anything Goes Martial Arts left his dark, panty and bra - filled room in the hacienda and went outside to punish Ranma Saotome.

In the aftermath of the battle, the ranch was quiet. No one and nothing moved or made a sound. All was still, except for the buzzing of a few insects near the corpse of the daemon Ryoga had slain. Mousse was the first to regain consciousness. As he rose to a sitting position, his head throbbed as if it were going to burst, the daemon's tail had struck him quite hard. He reached into his robes and pulled out a spare pair of glasses, wondering why no one was celebrating their victory. He knew they had won, because he was still alive.

Mousse detected a female form lying insensate on the ground next to him, assuming it was Shampoo (She must have come to help me!!! Oh joy!), he bent over her to rouse her with a kiss. Fortunately, he stopped himself for a better look. Akane Tendo, he thought, would not be pleased if he had stolen a kiss from her. Rather than that, he decided to look her over for obvious injuries, finding none, he produced a blanket from his robes and wrapped it around her without moving her too much, lest she be injured. He then stood and began searching for Shampoo, and the others - of course.

Mousse moved from person to person, cursing his luck that he didn't find Shampoo, until he noticed that someone was standing in front of him a few meters away. "Granny," he began, "Is that you?"

"No, it is not," the small figure replied. "You stood with her against my Master, and I'm going to make you pay for taking away my silky darlings."

Mousse knew it was Happosai once he started talking. He also knew he didn't have the skill to beat the withered old letch. But he was the only one able to oppose Happosai, if he didn't defeat him, the freak might do something perverted to Shampoo. "For the Honor of my beautiful Shampoo, I will defeat you, you enemy of women," Mousse bellowed. And then he drew a sword from his robes and hurled himself into battle.

The battle was so one-sided as to hardly qualify as a fight. Mousse launched himself at Happosai, had time for a single attempted strike, and Happosai simply batted him away like an insect. Mousse impacted the ground and slid along it with the momentum. He was dazed and astounded that Happosai could toss him around so easily. He came to rest with his back against the stone wall. Shaking his head to clear it, Mousse noticed a redheaded female form on the ground nearby.

"Ranma," he exclaimed. "Wake up, Ranma!"

Happosai closed in on his foe. "Don't worry about Ranma, she'll get hers in a minute, after you get yours," he menaced Mousse some more as he closed in on the nearly blind martial artist. "I think I'll have a little fun with Shampoo after I finish with you."



"DIE! PERVERT!!" Mousse screamed. He hurled a volley of throwing spikes which Happosai easily dodged, and followed up with a pair of chains which the dwarf did not.

"HA! Got you now! I'm gonna get rid of you once and for - GACK!!"

Happosai yanked back on the chains with unnatural strength provided to him by the Sorcerer, Mousse found himself flying through the air towards Happosai. And when he was within an arm's length of the ancient one, Happosai struck out, hitting a pressure point on Mousse.

Mousse felt agony sear through his entire body as Happosai hit some pressure point Cologne had never bothered to teach him about. Mousse's arms and legs twisted around his body against his will and his stomach and intestines groaned and grumbled, if he didn't know better, he'd think he had a case of the Bends. Unable to continue to fight, Mousse simply collapsed where Happosai dropped him. The pain of muscle cramps filled his entire world, torture wracking his every thought. Mousse found he could not even force himself to cry out, so great was his pain.

After a few moments, some of the pain in his face lessened and he opened his eyes. Mousse discovered he still wore his glasses. "Odd that," he thought. He could make out the form of Ranma a few feet away, still lying on his back. In the distance, what he assumed to be Happosai was doing something to some other person.

"I have to wake up Ranma," he thought, "but how?" Testing his voice, and finding that it responded, he started to call out to Ranma.

True to his word, Happosai had sought out Shampoo after dealing with the Duck-Boy. Removing her dress, Happosai was distraught to learn that Cologne had told him the truth, Shampoo did not wear a bra or panties. "Such a waste," Happosai lamented. But, on the other hand, here was a perfectly exquisite female form just asking for him to appreciate it. Surely such a lovely model of womanhood would want validation by receiving his affections!!! Happosai ecstatically prepared to grope her as she lay there. And she wouldn't resist! Ahhh, to be accepted at last! THIS must be his reward for his years of faithful service to the Art and his benevolent role as mentor to Ranma and the others. To say nothing of his Selfless Protection of -

The Freak's self serving ego trip was interrupted by the foot of one Ranma Saotome as it planted itself firmly in between Happosai's eyes. The little pervert flew from the body of Shampoo as if he had been launched on a missile. Coming to his senses quickly, Happosai righted himself in mid-air and altered his momentum to bring him to the ground in a three-point stance. It was the most dignified result he could have hoped for. Happosai knew there could be only one person who would dare to oppose him in such a manner, "Ranma - I'll teach you respect for Your Master yet!!"

"Bring it on letch," Ranma retorted. Happosai hadn't done anything really disgusting to Shampoo, but he could have. She was still senseless, so was almost everyone here. Happosai had to be dealt with, immediately. But as he stood there, Ranma began to catalogue his own injuries and doubted if he would be able to stop the Freak. Ranma's lower body, which had been engulfed by his Moko Takabisha, looked like it had a severe case of sunburn, and anything that touched it hurt as could be expected. His right ankle was throbbing from the abuse it had taken during the fight earlier. He knew that he had rebroken at least the ring finger on his right hand, and possibly a couple of others too. That was just the start for that limb. He didn't know if it would stand up to any more punishment. And his back hurt. When he had dropped onto his back, at the end, he had landed on a rock, just his luck if he had broken a rib that hadn't been broken before. At least his jaw was still okay. "Besides," he taunted, "When have YOU ever taught ME anything?"

With a furious snarl, Happosai leapt at Ranma, only to be slugged silly by Ranma's powerful right cross. As the dwarf flew away Ranma clenched his teeth and stifled a scream of pain. "Oh yeah," he thought. "Definitely broke two fingers."

Happosai collided with the hacienda's outer wall heavily. He lacked the mass and momentum to break through it, and so simply slid to the ground. Rising to his feet, he shook off the last of his disorientation angrily. "Ran - Ma!!! You've made me angry!"

Ranma had used the time to close in on Happosai, and grabbed his tiny so-called Master by the remaining useful fingers of his right hand, and hurled him straight up into the air. As Happosai descended, foolishly thinking Ranma had given him an opening, Ranma met his tiny body with a mighty punch from his left hand. At this distance, the imparted kinetic energy was more than sufficient to propel Happosai through the hacienda's out wall and into the room beyond, Happosai sweeping a torrent of small and light objects from the room into a wake behind him. Happosai slammed into a bookcase on the far side, but before gravity could take over and pull him down, Ranma was there again, again he slammed the perverted troll with a strong left handed punch, this time straight into the floor. Happosai lay in the bottom of an impact crater in the middle of the stone floor, stunned.

"Can't let up now, I got him on the ropes," Ranma thought, and then he sent yet another pile driver-like fist into his opponent. Ranma drove Happosai even deeper into the ground with the next punch, and the Master of Anything Goes simply lay there, apparently spent.

Ranma huffed and wheezed a little and then thrust forth his hands for the final strike. "MOKO TAKABISHA!!"

The blast consumed the loose material around Happosai's form, dropping him another inch deeper into the hole. Ranma looked at him again, certain his "Master" was down for the count. Then he turned around to observe the remains of the library he was in. Spotting the support timber he wanted he walked over to it, thrust out his left hand, and almost casually uttered, "Bakusai Tenketsu."

Its breaking point shattered, the support beam crumbled. Without that beam, the rest of the house started to crumble as well. Ranma made it outside just as the entire building fell down, burying Happosai beneath tons of stone, wood, and metal. Ranma turned to look at the remains of the flimsy shed that similarly entombed Nabiki Tendo and Doctor Tofu.

"Hope you guys are alright, I'm on my way," he said at last.

By the time he had dug Nabiki and Tofu from the wreckage of the shed, several of the others had regained consciousness. Konatsu had been sent to locate a phone and call for assistance, Ryoga stood guard over the group, and most everyone else who was awake, spent the time making sure they still had all their parts, and that all those parts worked the way that they were supposed to. Cologne had been freed by falling debris from the house, which had cracked the mystic jar she had been imprisoned in. She contributed with her knowledge of Amazon medical lore helping to stabilize those who were worst injured. By the time medical help arrived, only Kodachi, Tatewaki, Nabiki, and Akane remained unconscious. But of the others, Ranma, Mousse, and Shampoo would need medical attention as well.

As Ranma was loaded into the ambulance for the trip to yet another hospital, he looked at the ranch and its pulverized grounds and smiled contentedly. "Told ya we'd wreck the place," he said to no one in particular.

The demolition crew arrived a few days later, to raze the remnants of the structure and remove any debris that might be dangerous. They cleared it all away efficiently and quickly, by the end of the second day - the foundation of the hacienda lay uncovered by any of the house's broken parts.

But there was an odd find made that day. A hole was found in the foundation. About two feet long and a little over three feet deep, the hole was vaguely humanoid in shape. The entire crew was at a loss as to what had caused it. They had hoped to find the cause at its bottom, but when they finally dug out all the garbage in it, there was nothing there. No trace at all of the diminutive Master of Anything Goes Martial Arts.

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