Disclaimer: I shouldn't even have to do this... I mean, does anyone really think I would be writing this if I actually owned the characters?
" " denotes speech.
' ' denotes thoughts.
Oh, and one more thing. I've never cleared this up before but I'm doing it now. Unless stated otherwise, all dialogue is in Japanese.
Chapter 3: Change
A small rabbit carelessly scampered around near a tiny puddle on the forest floor. The leaves of the tall trees swayed gently with the wind as the verdant vegetation seemed to be truly alive. The rabbit took a quick sip of water and then hopped away into the nearby underbrush, having sated its thirst. The small critter made its way over to a small pile of berries that had fallen from the branches of the tree above and carefully grabbed one of them with its small paws. It revelled in the peace and quiet as it happily munched down on its meal.
"WHERE THE HELL AM I NOW???"
The rabbit, a couple of deer and quite a number of birds fled in terror as Ryouga Hibiki shattered the peaceful atmosphere with a scream that had become his leiv motif over the years.
The teenager looked around in frustration, failing to see any significant indicators of where he was.
Resigning himself to the idea that he was getting nowhere, he decided to set up camp for the night. He unceremoniously dumped his burden on the floor, including a certain pigtailed warrior.
He quickly started a small fire to keep warm while he pitched up his own small tent, silently cursing Ranma for getting knocked out on purpose just to make his work harder.
When he finished, he sat by the fire, gazing into the starry night that had closed above him while he worked. So many times he'd look at the moon and curse his bad luck, but this time he seemed almost happy.
Ryouga's directional curse had afflicted his family for quite a number of generations. The curse took effect at birth, and was so powerful that he had even gotten lost while navigating the restricted space of his crib when he was nothing more than a toddler.
For years he had endured the hardship of being tied down, in the literal sense, while in class at school because of this problem. The few times he'd manage to get free, he invariably ended up lost.
One of such times he found himself inside the backyard of a great mansion. The kids at school had always told him that the house was haunted and that children's screams could be heard coming from inside.
"Where the hell am I now?" he silently asked, unaware that he would be repeating that same question many times in the years to come.
Ryouga jumped back, startled by the pigtailed boy that had suddenly appeared in front of him.
"What'cha doing?" the boy asked while approaching the surprised stranger he saw wandering about the gardens.
"I-I was just..."
"I'm Ranma," the other kid said, "who're you?"
"Ryouga," he replied, while still trying to shake the agitation out of his system. The stress of being lost, in this place, and the sudden shock of Ranma appearing in front of him just began to subside.
"So..." Ranma continued, his earlier question forgotten, "you a fighter?"
"I'm a martial artist," he replied, more at ease now that the conversation headed towards familiar ground. He'd began his training in the family style a couple of months before, whenever chance enabled both his father and himself to meet at home.
Those words signified the beginning of what was to become an almost frequent ritual of training for both boys. Ryouga would often find himself in that same yard, where Ranma was always waiting.He discovered that the more he tried to go about his normal routine, the easier it was to end up there.
The meetings boosted Ryouga's skill in the art tremendously, and soon both boys were analysing and discussing the advantages and drawbacks in their respective styles.
One afternoon, a couple of months after their initial meeting, Ryouga surprised Ranma by manifesting a battle aura during their match.
"What do you think about this Saotome?" Ryouga gloated with a confident smirk on his face. His rival had never shown any indication of knowing how to utilize ki, so he expected nothing short of amazement from him.
"Oh, you have one of those too?" he asked excitedly while a bright blue corona sprang up around him, "That's so cool! No other kid here has one yet... That means I can stop holding back!"
Ryouga's barely visible green glow winked out of existance at this sudden revelation. It couldn't be. The one thing he was sure that he'd beaten Ranma at and it turned out that he was miles ahead of him.
"How can it be? How can you have a more powerful ki than me already?" he lamented, talking more to himself than to Ranma.
"Ki... what's that?" the pigtailed boy asked in confusion.
Now it was Ryouga's turn to be confused, as he turned to face the smaller child. "That wasn't ki?" he asked.
That question sparked a very lengthy explanation from Ranma's part, which served to educate the bandanna-wearing boy about Cosmos.
"Where are you going Shiryu?" Seiya asked while the Dragon Saint was leaving.
"I have heard great tales about a man named Mu, who lives secluded from others in Jamir. My master once told me that if anyone could repair a Cloth, it would be him," he silently cursed his own stupid pride once again as he thought about the predicament they were now in. If only he hadn't been so consumed with arrogance both he and Seiya would not be in such a bad shape, and their Mantles would be intact, not devoid of life, as they were.
"Shiryu... be careful," the Pegasus Saint finally replied, knowing that the Dragon would not be deterred from this decision.
"I will," he whispered as he walked away.
The sudden groan brought Ryouga out of his reverie as his attention once again focused on the fallen warrior lying a couple of metres away from him.
"About time you woke up Saotome. It's been almost a day now since Aioria-san threw you up against that wall. You're getting softer," he taunted while the pigtailed boy sat up, holding his aching head with his right hand.
"Shut up Pig-boy, it's not like I expected nissan to just go all out on me," he replied, his pained face testament to what his nerves told his brain about the stimuli they had received earlier. "Where are we anyway?" he asked.
"We should be somewhere near that village you were talking about, I'm pretty sure I didn't stray that far this time," he answered while digging into his backpack for his fresh water.
Ryouga's sense of direction had consistedly improved ever since he actually accepted he had a problem with it. The fact that his control over Cosmos had increased exponentially over time also helped. He felt more attuned to the universe ever since the time Ranma had began training him.
"Do you remember the day you left the Kido Foundation?" Ryouga inquired, starting to remember once again.
"Sure do," Ranma replied, "you promised you'd hunt me down to the ends of the Earth to prove you were better than me,"
"What do you think would have happened if you hadn't managed to get Kido-san to agree letting me join you?" he asked.
"I dunno, but I'm pretty sure we wouldn't be here right now," Ranma said while fishing out a small pot filled with rice from his own backpack.
He winced at the sudden pain from his, still tender, ribs.
'I'm lucky that sensei held back more than usual this time,' he thought as he tentatively asessed the damage from the beating he had received from his master, 'he managed to reign him in enough so that he didn't break anything. It's a good thing he wasn't wearing his Cloth as well,' he knew that if Ares had been wearing the Gemini Gold Mantle when he attacked his pupil, bruised ribs would be the least of his problems.
'Then again, I did get hurt quite a lot...' he remembered his past few fights; the fight against Seiya, the fight against the Cobra, the fight against his master, Ryouga's surprise attack and the unplanned outburst from his brother.
'Maybe I should take it easy at least for another day,' he thought while managing to place the pot over the fire. Those kinds of thoughts could wait till after dinner. After all, he hadn't eaten in a whole day and was planning to catch up.
In the nearby underbrush, two girls were overlooking (more like underlooking, from their point of view) the two outsiders.
"So, Par fum, what do you make of them?" the youngest of the two asked, while adjusting some of her purple hair that had gotten stuck among the leaves.
"Dunno," the brown-haired teen replied, "the one with the bandanna's kind of cute,"
Both female Amazons were quite beautiful in their own way. One had the cute charm of a naive child, while the other had a certain sensuous air of maturity around her. The fact that they were both covered in dust and leaves diminished the effect somehow.
"You know that is not what I mean, sister," purple hair said, not too amused with the response she had received. Going out in patrol with her sister was no picnic for her. She couldn't complain though, her great-grandmother was quite adamant about her going to the field with a more experienced warrior, and, although she hated admitting it, Par Fum was a lot more experienced than her... in more ways than one.
"Relax Xian Pu," she said, "you know I'm just messing with you,"
She then proceeded to backpedal through the bush and out the other side, dusting herself off once she could stand again. Once outside, she stretched her arms above her head in a suggestive pose, showing off her ample curves that were barely being restrained by the blue silk Chinese dress she was wearing.
Xian Pu crawled out from within the leaves moments later, her pink dress a bit dirty from the contact with the ground.
In truth, both sisters were pretty similar. The only differences being their hair colour, and that Xian Pu's face was more round and baby-like, while Par Fum's was a bit more angular.
Well, that and the fact that she was also nearly a head taller than her younger sister. Hairstyles were different too, Xian Pu had hers just loose with bangs in the front with twin buns behind, reaching down to her lower back, while her sister had her own, longer, hair tied up into a lone, straightponytail that reached all the way to her hip.
"Okay then, let's go," Par Fum finally said.
"What?" Xian asked confused, "But we just got here!"
Her sister let out an annoyed breath at the reply, "Listen, Granny asked us to take a look at the disturbance. Well... we've looked at it; nothing more than two travelling martial artists. Now we go back," she said.
"But we should find out more about them!" Xian Pu countered, determined to know at least who these boys were.
A heated debate began and soon both sisters forgot about the pair of fighters having a relaxing dinner a few feet away.
"What are they saying?" Ranma asked, while wolfing down his third helping of rice so far.
"How should I know?" Ryouga replied, "I don't know a word of Chinese,"
"Oh, I just assumed you did, given that you've been all over the place," the pigtailed teen put down the pot and settled on his back to look at the stars above.
"So, what are we supposed to do here anyway?" the Wild Boar asked, quite ignorant about the instructions they had received from the High Priest and having deemed both girls as harmless.
"Nothing, just train I guess," Ranma replied, while staring at his own guardian stars.
"I just came here to escape from Sanctuary. I don't care about what I had to do, I needed to get out of there," he said, thinking about the last confrontation with his master.
"The episodes were getting worse I assume?" Ryouga asked, having known about the unique condition Ranma's sensei suffered.
"I refuse to believe it, but I may have seen the last of him already..." he trailed off as the topic suddenly became too painful to talk about.
"So, are we still going to this Amazon village?" Ryouga asked, trying to get Ranma's mind away from the topic of his master somehow.
"It's worth a shot. I've heard that they are supposed to be excellent martial artists, and it never hurts to train in something different," he replied.
"You think those two over there come from that place?" the badanna-wearing teen asked.
"Possibly," Ranma answered, "I don't think we'll be able to learn much stealth from them," he smiled at that point.
Both friends shared a laugh after that comment. It had been quite some tie since the two of them were alone like this, just camping out under the stars.
"So..." Ryouga suddenly said, "how is she doing?"
"What do you mean?" Ranma responded.
"Don't play dumb, you know who I'm talking about," he insisted.
"I don't know, okay I guess," he finally replied.
"What's been going on between the two of you?" he pried once again.
"Nothing, I mean, Seika and I are just friends. That's all there is to it," Ranma concluded, slightly unconfortable with the way the conversation had been going.
"But didn't you go out last week?" the Silver Saint asked, determined to find out as much as he could about the subject.
"I'm not in the mood to talk right now," Ranma replied, "I just want to rest,"
With those final words, he turned his back on the Wild Boar (his aching side punished him dearly for this action) and settled off into a deep sleep.
"Fine," Ryouga said, as he mimicked the actions of his companion.
Ranma suddenly sat up, covered in sweat.
The nightmare had seemed so real... He had seen his master being subjugated by his other self and coerced into killing the Goddess Athena. He then saw himself with an unidentifiable Cloth doing battle with the Gemini Gold Saint, the battle ending with his own death.
As he calmed down, he began to notice his surroundings.
Cold, stone floor was hardly the same as the warm dirt he had been lying on a few hours ago.
He looked around and saw that he was lying in some kind of cell, Ryouga was snoring a couple of feet away, still in deep sleep.
Somewhat confused, the pigtailed warrior slowly stood up and began stretching; he was pleased to discover that his wounds had mostly healed, and only a mild disconfort remained as testament to his previous injuries.
"Well," he said, "I feel great, Now I just have to find out where we are,"
"The question is not where you are sonny boy," a strange voice interrupted his musings. As Ranma turned to ascertain where it came from, an old woman who had been perched atop a wooden staff, hiding among the shadows of the dimly lit dungeon revealed herself, "but rather, who you are," she finished while approaching him.
"Who are you?" Ranma demanded, having been caught by surprise by the unexpected intrusion.
"I believe I asked that very same question first," the elder replied, with a mocking grin on her face.
Ranma then proceeded to say what he had always told people who met him for the very first time, "I am Ranma Saotome, of the Saotome Musabetsu Kakuto Ryuu,"
It wasn't a lie either, since he had kept training in his former style ever since he had been separated from his father. In fact, he would probably be with him right now if it wasn't for the promise Mr. Kido had made him that he would be stronger by training at Sanctuary. A promise that had been fulfilled.
"Anything Goes eh?" the old woman seemed amused at the response, "So you are a student of Happosai?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," Ranma seemed geniunely confused about her question, that was enough to satisfy her curiosity.
"I see, no matter," she replied.
"You still haven't told me who you are," Ranma said.
"I am Khu Lon, Matriarch of the Joketsuzoku Amazons,"
Ranma smiled at the revelation, "We've reached our destination after all," he said, more to himself that to the elder. He then turned to look at the sleeping Ryouga, "You weren't that far off-track this time,"
Once again, he faced the Matriarch, with a confident smirk on his face.
"I challenge you," he simply stated.
Khu Lon almost fell from her stick at the challenge. She couldn't believe tht this mere pup was attempting to battle her, the most powerful warrior of the entire tribe. 'This ought to be interesting,' she thought as she decided to indulge the poor boy.
"Name the conditions, boy," she merely said, confident that this amateur had no idea who he was up against.
"Should I win," he said, "you will train my friend and I in your fighting style, and teach us your special techniques,"
The elder snorted, that was a typical request for challenge. She expected more out of this young man for some strange reason.
"And if you lose?" she asked.
Ranma's smirk intensified at the question, "If you win, then I will train you,"
"I like your spirit boy, but know that no male has ever defeated me in battle,"
"Then I will be the first," he retorted.
"You are to make sure neither one of the traitors survive,"
Both Saints nodded in understanding at the instructions received. Ranma and Ryouga were to be executed for high treason. Abandoning Sanctuary and seeking refuge in area controlled by its enemies was punished by death.
"Go now, and do not dare to return if you fail," he commanded.
"Yes master," the Saints responded and quickly departed.
'Just you wait Ranma,' the Cobra thought, 'I'll make you pay for humiliating me like that,'
"Shaina," the Saint next to her said, "We set out now. You know the way?" he asked.
"Yes," she replied, "I'll lead,"
"Fine," the Orion Silver Saint replied, while adjusting his white cape, "let's go,"
"You say that this male is going to fight great-grandmother? You're joking right?" Xian Pu asked while hiding behind a tree.
"Shh, keep your voice down," Par Fum replied, "I don't want them to know we're watching the fight,"
Xian Pu peered from behind the tree at the two fighters standing in the middle of a clearing overlooking the pools of sorrow. "I think this male is either stupid or suicidal,"
"Shh!!" Par Fum urged her once again to shut up, "It's starting,"
"The terms are agreed to. Win by knockout or submission," Khu Lon said, looking at Ranma for confirmation.
He nodded, and then set himself into a loose stance, indicating he was ready.
Both fighters remained staring at each other for some time, analysing any possible weakness or opening.
Suddenly, they were in motion; two blurs moving all over the place.
A few tentative kicks were blocked by the frail-looking stick, which, as Ranma discovered, turned out to be quite durable.
The momentary pause allowed the Amazon to press her advantage and deliver a series of devatating punches, all of them aimed at precise spots in her opponent's leg.
Ranma quickly leapt away and expanded his ki to repair the damage the assault had caused on his nerves.
"It seems you are better than I expected. Still, you have a long way to go before being at my level," the Matriarch said, while also releasing her hold on her own battle aura.
"We'll see," Ranma responded, moments before he dissapeared from sight.
Khu Lon was no amateur, and it showed as she evaded a strike meant to hit her lower back and quickly contered with a blow to the head, just as the pigtailed teen recovered.
As he fell back from the blow, he brought his legs up and caught the elder's chin with the tip of his right leg, sending her flying into a nearby tree.
Khu Lon stood up from where she had fallen and stared directly into the eyes of the teen, feeling alive for the first time in many years, "That was a lucky shot, but it won't happen again,"
"I know," Ranma said with a smile as he concentrated his battle aura into his right hand to form a protective layer of white ki around it.
"Want to take it up a notch?" he asked.
"If you feel you are up to it..." she trailed off as she too gathered her own ki.
Once again they exploded into motion, both fighters leaving a trail of glowing energy wherever they passed. Kicks and punches were traded between the battlers as they struggled for dominance.
Khu Lon ducked over a roundhouse and retaliated with an open hand strike to the chest.
Ranma jumped over a sweep and retaliated with a descending axe kick to the shoulder.
However, the fight was clearly going in the Matriarch's favour. Her level of ki control and the sheer amount of skill she possessed were slowly winning over Ranma's speed and strength.
He knew he had to to something fast if he wanted to win the challenge.
'Damn it,' he thought, 'I didn't want to rely on Cosmos, but it seems it's the only way to finish this... she's just too good,'
A blue aura then began to him, as he began to tap into the power he had unleashed as a child. Both ki and Cosmos merging together.
'I'm not going to do this with just Cosmos,' he thought, 'that would be too unfair,'
Khu Lon was shocked. What was this new energy that she felt coming from the boy? It was more powerful than anything she had ever seen. She summoned all of her ki and prepared to sheld herself against the imminent strike.
"PEGASUS HAKAZE NO BUREIDO!!!"
A multitude of vacuum blades were shot off by Ranma, who had combined the teachings of the Yamasenken scroll his father had left behind with his own Cosmos. The result was this multiple version of the attack, where the blades had a dull edge, and were no longer lethal.
Realising that her best bet would be to avoid the attack, the Matriarch quickly used the ki she had gathered to hasten her retreat as shejumped down towards Jusenkyo.
Quickly moving from pole to pole, she avoided the blasts which cut through most of the bamboo.
Ranma followed, intent on finishing the battle.
Once again, the fighters faced each other. Standing atop the bamboo poles, they reassessed their respective opponent.
Ranma then sensed a familiar Cosmos nearby.
'Where have I felt this pattern before?' he thought to himself as his opponent seized the opportunity to put more distance between them. She had realised her best chance to defeat him was to let him tire himself out.
'Oh no...' he thought, as he finally recognised who this person was.
Those were the last words he heard before being smashed into the air by Shaina. The Cobra Saint was wearing her Cloth now, and was much more prepared for him this time.
While sailing through the air, he positioned himself to land on a nearby pole.
A spark of power and a crimson splatter.
The Dragon Saint stood over both broken Cloths, arms slit at the wrists while his blood flowed freely onto the dead shells.
'I promised Seiya I would come back with his Mantle...' he thought to himself as the suits of armor were bathed with the scarlet liquid.
His knees almost buckled as the bloodloss began to get to him, but still he held on, intent of giving up every last drop of his essence in order to fulfill his oath.
'Why waste my blood on a Cloth with no Saint to wear it?' he thought as he recalled Mu saying he would die from this process, 'I'll just give everything to the Pegasus,' he decided with both hands over the small equine construct.
It was at that point that Shiryu's strength began to wane. His legs gave way as the exhausting effort finally took its toll on his body.
The Aries Gold Saint was quick to catch him as he fell, a caring look on his face as he thought about Shiryu's deed. He brought his right hand over the Dragon's wrists, and as he did so, the wounds magically healed as a golden glow briefly sparked around them.
"That you were willing to make this sacrifice, my friend, shows that you are indeed worthy enough to continue wearing your own Mantle," he said as he signaled his apprentice Kiki to move the Cloths inside so he could get started on the repairs while he carried the weakened teen over to a suitable resting place.
Just as he reached the threshold, a sudden flash of blue emerged from the Pegasus Cloth, as the eyes lit up unexpectedly.
"It seems that he's already uncovered the other one," he commented with a smile, while making his way inside.
Ranma was powerless to prevent his fall. Arms flailing aimlessly, he hit the water with a resounding splash.
The Jusenkyo Guide quickly approached the spring as he had seen the incident from his cabin. "Oh no! Very bad Young Sir fall in spring! Very tragic story of..." the Guide thought about it for a second, scanning his memories to find which pool Ranma had fallen into, "...I no know what spring is..." he finally said, having drawn a blank.
Inside the spring Ranma was sinking deeper every second.
Completely immersed in darkness, he continued his descent into the seemingly endless pool. He could feel something changing within him, as if something had been unlocked and he was just encountering it for the first time.
Then he saw it. He reached out his hand into the depths...
And then, there was light.
Well, there it is. The long awaited chapter three. I have just finished my second set of midterms and now have a couple of weeks before finals so I thought I needed to finish this before I could move on with my studies. I had been stuck on a scene here for a looong time (writer's block sucks) and didn't advance at all for about a month.
Many people told me that I was making Ranma too powerful. Not powerful in the sense that he beats everyone, but in the sense that he basically survived everything that had been thrown at him (sounds like someone familiar? Here's a hint: his name begins with an S and ends with eiya.) I never actually intended for him to come off as so strong, I hope that a few lines I included here serve to clear that subject up.
Another thing most people thought was that Ranma and Shaina would be together. Now that's a nice assumption, but you'll have to wait and see if it comes true. As you can tell, there's another woman in Ranma's life right now (for those of you who haven't read the Hades Saga, here's a minor spoiler, she's Seiya's sister), but even I'm not sure how this will evolve so don't assume anything yet.
Anyway... I probably won't write anything for the next few days but I really want to continue doing a couple of AGDM chapters. I've bee seeing the Battle City Finals and that has inspired me to write a bit of that again. Well, that and the fact that I got some COOL cards.
I really appreciate all the comments you send, and I read them all and take them into consideration, even if I haven't got the time to answer every single one, restassured that I have read it, and it has helped me with doing this. So please, keep them coming. Feedback is really important for me.
Comments, flames(haven't gotten any so far, that's good I think), anything, e-mail me at or (MSN)
Note: no e-mails above 10k or with attachments will be opened. My brother lost his entire hard drive due to a stupid virus last week and I'm not taking any chances at all.
P.S.: Ranma's attack roughly translates to wings flapping blade.