Devil's Door

A Ranma Nibunoichi x-over

by Matthew Talbain

Disclaimer: I do not own Ranma Nibunoichi, nor do I own Ah! Megami-sama. Nor do I own Rurouni Kenshin.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Don't worry, Forgotten Yesterday is still on. I'm just having a hard time with chapter three.

------------Prologue: Fallen--------------

Blood spattered the landscape before him. His blood. The flames above him swirled mercilessly, his adversary pulsing with his fiery energies. The outlook grim, the young martial artist surveyed the scene around him. His fiancee's life hanging in the balance, he searched inside himself for an answer to this dilemma. He nodded, a lone tear falling to the bloody landscape, a single purifying drop whose repercussions would not be seen just yet. In this, the final proof that the martial artist was indeed human with human feelings, he saved himself from damnation.

For this next action would indeed be his last. He looked above, summoning what energy he had left in his body, leaping into the whirlwind of his own making. Manipulating it from within, the twister erupted first in flames as the martial artist steered it towards the blazing figure in the air. The warmth of the blazing conflagration washed over the phoenix prince, seemingly healing what few obvious injuries he had amassed during his battle with the young martial artist. However, with a single refocusing of his inner energies, the young man changed the blazing twister into a whirlwind riddled with frigid winds. The humidity of the surrounding air quickly condensed and solidified into large ice crystals. In mere seconds, both phoenix and martial artist alike were scathed and scored by masses of jagged crystals.

The phoenix, hindered by the intense cold and his efforts to dodge the myriad projectiles, could not focus long enough to regenerate himself. Bit by bit, his resolve was eating away, and below him, the boy with the bandanna was waiting. In a last ditch moment, the martial artist, his skin turning a frosted white, hurled the doll in his shirt to the ground, into the waiting arms of his rival. The boy caught her and ran for the spring, never looking back.

The martial artist, moving slowly due to the severe cold, grabbed his distracted adversary and locked his arms around him. Channeling more cold into his aura, his body began to freeze into large blocks of ice, the ice spreading from his chest outwards. He looked over the shoulder of the phoenix and saw his fiancee's eyes, her body and life restored. He closed his eyes in acceptance and intensified the cold, wishing briefly that he could have found another way, but knowing if he let the phoenix live now, he would never cease hunting him down.

Through the howling winds, through the biting cold, and through the pained screams of a dying phoenix prince, Ranma Saotome's last words echoed deep in the hearts of them all. A revived fiancee lowered her head in shame. A father wept for all of his misdeeds and the pains he'd inflicted upon his son. A hopeful father-in-law wept for the loss of a promising martial artist. A purple-haired amazon cried for the loss of her husband. A former rival, sometimes friend stared as his life hit him in the face, revealing the truth behind his own anger. A near-sighted rival fell to his knees in disbelief, praying to the gods above that it were not so.

"I wish I coulda lived longer..."

The tear-track on his cheek froze, the ice spidering over his face. His raven hair frosting white, his closed eyes frozen shut. And as the whirlwind slowed, setting the pair on the ground, it was plain to see that they had closed for the last time. To finish the picture, a large icicle had speared the two completely through, seamlessly merging with the crystalline water encasing the two opponents.

Moisture, in the heat of the thermal springs, began to leach off of the ice, the crystal prison melting quickly. Water began to run off of their bodies as they slumped to the ground in a lifeless mockery of exhaustion. The water remained cool, even as most of it evaporated and left the bodies damp. It was as though it were a final confirmation of the death of the most promising martial artist in many years. The cold water failed to change him into a girl.

A blaze of fire instantly melted and vaporized the remaining frost, and an egg appeared in Ranma's dead arms. The egg hatched, and the child Saffron stared at the dead body of its opponent. Kiima, Saffron's attendant, prepared to fly down to collect her charge when the latent energies in the air, and the remnant energies from the battle coalesced into his body. An adult Saffron, an adult FEMALE Saffron, appeared before them in a flash of white light. All of the mourners stepped back in horror, the realization that Ranma had failed to finish Saffron forever with his own death dawning upon them all. All but three prepared to run should Saffron seek revenge on the dead martial artist. Ryouga, Genma, and Mousse all stood, each summoning their own energies from within to attempt to avenge Ranma should Saffron look their way.

But she didn't attack. She bent over Ranma's body and, of all things, began to weep. Tears fell to the ground as she clutched at the damp remains of Ranma's shirt, her mouth moving but nothing more than soul-wrenching sobs echoing from within. Finally, she screamed a primal wail and lowered her head to his chest, crying desperately. The men of the party, thrown by the heart-wrenching scene, began to walk over, all thoughts of vengeance pushed from their minds, the only thought in their heads to comfort the wrecked woman before them.

She stood, holding his body to her chest as one would hold a precious treasure, her tears falling to wet his shirt as she looked at his lifeless face.

"Please...take me with you. I...I want to take responsibility for everything I have done in my rage. Please...let me atone for killing him."

And all thoughts of vengeance were pushed from their minds as they nodded. Akane, meanwhile, wondered why Saffron was looking at Ranma as though he were a dead best friend or love...

---------------Tendo Residence, One Week Later--------------

It was a calm Saturday in the Nerima ward. With Ranma gone, Nabiki and Kasumi had both realized how boring life was without the martial artist. Be it his charm, his luck (or lack thereof) with women, or his extremely acute ability to attract all manner of trouble, he kept things interesting.

For Kasumi, however, the feeling was intensified. She had realized only a day after he'd left that she missed the young man, and everything about him. She missed his smile in the morning, with his arrogant swagger and his cheerful "Mornin', Kasumi!". She missed all the times he'd secretly help her in the kitchen after everyone had gone to bed, winking at her in a conspiratorial manner and turning what used to be a chore into a late night show. But most of all, she missed the way he'd listen to her when she broke down and needed a shoulder to cry on. The way he'd always cheer her up with his indomitable will and his inability to give up. In her eyes, Ranma Saotome never would lose.

As she sat immersed in these thoughts on this Saturday, she happened to be setting the table for dinner when a knock came at the door.

"Oh, my! Nabiki, could you please set the table? Someone is at the door!"

A simple nod for her answer, Kasumi stood and quickly headed for the door. As she opened it, she met the somber faces of Akane, Ryouga, Soun, and Genma. A smile lit her features as she saw Akane, and she wasted no time in quickly enveloping her sister in a hug.

"Oh, Akane! I knew Ranma would bring you back! I'm so happy you're all home!"

As she escorted everyone in, she realized that they were all somber, and that there were an extra two people bearing a large pine box. The sight of these tall young woman bearing a large box such as this as lightly as they were wasn't new to her, but the women, one tall with silver hair and a large sword at her side, the other slightly taller with brilliant red hair and white bangs, and the box themselves were new. Suddenly, she realized the lack of Ranma's nearness, the lack of warmth his very presence exuded.

"Uncle Saotome...where...where's Ranma? he dropping the Amazons off at the Nekohanten?"

A shake of Genma's head caused Kasumi's uneasiness to turn into full-blown fear. She turned to the young women bearing the pine box, stared as they laid it down in the dojo. Hesitantly, Kasumi moved to the pine box. Hoping against hope that it contained spoils of battle, contained gold or even the young woman's clothes, she opened the top.

Nabiki rushed into the room from the dining area when Kasumi's wail pierced the afternoon air. She moved to her sister's side, wrapping her arms around her shoulders. Wondering what could cause her sister such distress, she looked around the room. Noting the open pine box behind her sister, Nabiki lifted the lid herself.

Nabiki almost fainted. Her whole world came tumbling down around her, as Kasumi's had done. She'd come to rely on Ranma, had come to trust him. It was hard not to. Ranma was never late, never did anything truly wrong. Ranma's only vice was his impeccable talent for getting into trouble or intensifying it by accident with his inability to think before he spoke. He was a good person. He gave without expecting much, if anything, in return, unless there was the possibility of a cure for his curse. He never broke his word, never failed to keep his promises. And he always paid his debts, even if it meant he'd have no money of his own for a while.

And now, before her, Ranma Saotome was dead. He'd kept his promise, oh yes. He'd saved Akane. But now, Nabiki realized he'd paid a debt. His debt had been bringing Akane back. And he'd gone broke in the process of doing so. Only this time, there would be no recouping his losses. Nabiki clapped three times and bowed her head, refusing to let even Kasumi see the tears she was shedding for the fallen martial artist.

Another knock on the door resounded, and this time it was Akane who answered. Everyone in the else heard Akane's gasp and exclamation over Nodoka Saotome's own.

"Akane-chan! How good to see you again! My son must be resting after his journey. Oh, it's so good to see that my son came through. I'll just leave my things in the dojo for now, Ak...Kasumi-chan, Nabiki-chan, what's wrong? Oh, kami-sama...!"

Nodoka had entered the dojo, a large duffel bag in hand, with Akane behind her. As she laid eyes on Kasumi and Nabiki, she set the bag down and rushed to see what was the matter. As she neared the two, she spotted the open casket and spied her son's remains inside. And, like the two before her had, she lost all resolve and cried.

She'd never truly know her own son, her own flesh and blood. When he was six, she'd practically signed his death warrant when she traded away her opportunity to watch Ranma grow for a mere slip of paper. Had it not been for that damnable slip of paper, her son may have grown into her family art. He never would have left home, never would have acquired so many fiancees and rivals. He'd have learned to think before speaking. He'd never have lost his life so soon. Now she'd never be able to hug him, to tell him how proud she was of him. She'd never see her son walk across the stage at graduation, never see him enter college. She hadn't really even gotten the chance to know him, to know his dreams, his desires. She never would, now. And so she cried.

-----------------The Funeral, Two Days Later----------------

The entire neighborhood of Nerima was decked out in black in honor of their defender's demise. Not a single citizen of Nerima was absent from the gathering in the cemetery, not even the Kuno clan. Countless times had Ranma saved the district, and at any cost. Muggers, thieves, and criminals of all types had long since ceased operation in Nerima. The yakuza for the entire Tokyo area had packed their bags and headed for Kyoto mere months after Ranma's arrival nearly two years ago. For all of this, Ranma's passing was mourned. Only three people did not arrive in black. Akane Tendo, refusing to mourn the man she still labelled a pervert, wore a pair of jeans and a sweater. Genma Saotome wore his usual gi, though Nodoka had forced him on pain of very gruesome death to wash the damned thing. Even the female Saffron wore all black, going so far as to cover her face with a veil. Finally, one unknown character, a tall young man with a long white hair covering one half of his face, wore nothing but white. In his hand, he carried a single red rose.

Even Tatewaki Kuno came to the funeral in black. He carried with him his family katana, and wore an expression that revealed true regret at Ranma's passing. As the priest finished blessing Ranma's body and grave, he stood up and walked to the podium to speak, surprising nearly everyone in the crowd.

"Friends, we are gathered here today to express our regrets at the passing of one of our own. Indeed, Ranma Saotome was one of us. He defended our district from many misfortunes, from thieves to natural disasters. At any cost, Ranma would defend those around him, even his own enemies. I am ashamed to say that I was one of those. Recently, it was discovered that my sister had been lacing my food with many potent poisons, causing many delusions that I could not dispel. In this haze, I treated an honorable man like a despisable dog. I am truly sorry that I can now never call him my friend."

Tatewaki stepped forward and laid his katana on Ranma's coffin before stepping back, and Nabiki took his place at the podium. She took a deep breath to steady herself, and felt Kuno's strong hand on her shoulder. Surprised at the gesture, she nodded and turned to the crowd.

"Ranma was a strong person, in many ways. He never gave up, never let anything get to him. He always came out on top, no matter the odds. He always paid back what he borrowed, even if it meant he'd go broke for a while. I remember once, he was in bad need of a new shirt, and there was one he'd had his eye on for a while. But the day came when he needed to buy it, and I'd even set aside his debt so he could get it. The day passed, and the next morning, I woke up and found an envelope filled with money and a note from Ranma. I never got the chance to give it back to him...and I never told him how much he meant to us. He was a true friend, and an honorable man. He will be missed."

Nabiki stepped back to mild clapping after laying a new set of formal Chinese tangs on the coffin and buried her face in her hands as Genma Saotome stepped up to the podium, earning himself many scowls and hateful glances for his choice of attire.

"My son was weak and foolish. I should know, I raised him! There was never a day when he didn't complain about hunger on the training trip. I was never hungry, how could he be? He couldn't even master the Neko-ken. My son deserved what he got. He didn't die because Saffron killed him! No, my son died because he gave up looking for any other way to win. He killed himself in order to stop his opponent, and he even failed to do that! Stop crying over him! It's not right to cry over one so weak! You shame yourselves!"

As this speech came to an end, too many eyes were riveted on Genma for him to feel comfortable. Everywhere in the crowd, he could see various weapons being drawn and sharpened. He even heard his own wife drawing her own katana. Genma was saved, but barely, by Mousse and Ryouga each taking a turn to speak for the deceased.

As the day wore down, many people had a tale to tell of Ranma's heroism. The local police all told of how he'd helped apprehend a murderer, or how he'd stopped many car chases on foot. Local chefs and restaurant owners told of how Ranma had spiced up business by waitressing or even by cooking in his special martial arts way. Each tale ended with the teller laying an article on Ranma's casket. In some cases, it was food. In others, the teller left a weapon, or a piece of a building. One person, Sayuri, even placed a lock of her hair on the coffin, along with a love note. Finally, the tales ebbed until only one person remained to speak. Kasumi Tendo stepped up to speak.

"Ranma Saotome was a true friend, and an honorable man. He'd always have a shoulder to cry on, no matter how gray his day had been. He always had a smile to spare for everyone, and he always gave of himself. Even now, he gave his own life to save my little sister's. He always helped me at night, after everyone had gone to sleep. He'd always listen to my troubles, never getting annoyed or short with me. He'd always cheer me up, going out of his way to buy little things, like roses or books, just to make sure my smile never left. And he always told me to live my own life, to follow my dreams. For all this, I loved Ranma. He was like a little brother to me, and now he's gone."

She took a deep breath, and wiped away her tears.

"One night, right after Ranma and Akane had a particularly nasty fight, I woke up to get myself a glass of water around one in the morning. I found Ranma crying alone in the kitchen. I walked up and hugged him, and he poured out his soul to me, even as he tried to say he wasn't crying. He told me about his life on the road, how he'd hated his father's beatings. He told me how much he'd missed his mother, how much he'd longed to give up being a martial artist if it meant he could see her again. But he never gave up, and that night he told me he wondered if he'd made the right choice by not giving up. He kept telling me of various training exercises that I can't repeat, or Uncle Saotome won't leave here alive. But what surprised me was when he told me his dream. He told me that night that he didn't want to be the world's greatest martial artist for himself. He wanted to protect others, and it was necessary for him with people like Herb, Taro, and Happosai around to be the strongest. But most of all, he told me, he wanted to be free. Free to do as he wished, to become a police officer or a martial arts sensei. Free to choose his own path. But he never could choose his own path, and for that, I am truly regretful. I regret that I no longer have a valuable friend, but also that Ranma will never be able to choose his own path."

A lone tear fell as she bowed her head. She stepped forward and laid a picture of herself and Ranma on his birthday. It had been taken only weeks before, and featured Ranma unwrapping his present, a beautifully patterned silk shirt featuring a dragon wrapped around the sun, and hugging Kasumi. After this, Kasumi stepped back from the podium before she lost all resolve and broke into tears then and there. As she stepped back, the unknown visitor simply stepped forward and laid his rose on Ranma's coffin before taking his place at the podium. He lifted his head, revealing to all a mysterious face, mouth shrouded by a length of ribbon. He did not speak, he merely closed his eyes and let a single tear fall. As this tear fell, something miraculous happened.

A burst of black light erupted from the casket, and all of the treasures left upon it were somehow gently placed on the ground near it. The lid, however, soared into the sky before being consumed by the dark light, as though being slowly eaten away by fire. The light died away, revealing a figure standing amidst the ruins of the casket. A short pigtail fluttering in a light breeze, his blue eyes opened, revealing swirling depths familiar to all there, with the exception of red and black highlights swirling in the cobalt. His muscular chest, decked out in the formal shirt in the picture of himself and Kasumi, heaved as though breath were rushing to fill his lungs. He was slightly taller, and before everyone gathered, flexed his muscles unconsciously, reaquainting long-dead muscles with life once more.

Had anyone in the crowd besides the mysterious man had ethereal vision, or any divine or hellish blood, they would have seen a pair of long, black-feathered wings unfurl from Ranma's shoulder blades and three marks, a pair of slashes under each eye and an x-shaped mark in the center of his forehead flash before all disappearing. His eyes, refocusing slowly, blinked rapidly before the light died out completely.

Ranma fell, limp and unsupported, to the ground. Caught in the embrace of no less than fourteen people, Kasumi Tendo and Tatewaki Kuno included, Ranma was taken to the local clinic. Everyone needed to hear for sure it was Ranma, and that he was alive.

The only person who did not leave the cemetery was the tall, mysterious young man. Looking down at the pile of treasures, he raised his hand and sent them to Ranma's room in the Tendo Dojo. Sighing, he looked at a nearby tree and nodded. From behind it appeared a tall, young-seeming woman with platinum hair. A starburst under each eye and a larger one in the center of her forehead decorated and accentuated her exotic, tanned features.

"It's been a long time, Kami-sama."

The man merely nodded.

"Oh, come on. Drop the mysterious act. I know what you're like under all that, and I'm the only one here!"

A low chuckle escaped from under the ribbon.

"I never could fool you, Hild-chan. I guess it just gets to be habit after so many years."

Hild nodded cynically.

"Uh-huh. Or you just get your jollies by frustrating the hell out of everyone. So...the new recruit looks great. I haven't seen a demon with this much potential in...ages. He'll need some training, though..."

Kami-sama nodded, smiling broadly under the ribbon.

"Yes. Though it was only because of the balance that Ranma joined YOUR side. No, Hild-chan, his spirit is too good to be JUST a demon."

Hild stopped and stared at the man for a moment, what he said lingering briefly before her eyes widened dramatically.

"You mean..."

Kami-sama merely nodded. At this, Hild yelped and rushed into his arms, giddily dancing and singing like a little schoolgirl.

"He will have to have some intensive training, though. And he will need all the willpower and fortitude he has if he's going to make it through the challenges ahead. Say, shouldn't somebody tell Ranma thnat he's a de-"

Hild silenced him by pulling off his ribbon and kissing him fiercely.

"Shush you. I'm just glad we found him. Now, less talkin', more lovin'!"

Kami-sama merely chuckled and uttered a hasty "Yes, ma'am!" as the pair vanished, leaving behind only the still world of the Nerima cemetery.