It's back baby!

Sort of... well I was originally intending for this to be a really long piece and put it up when it was complete but My muse has been finicky and been focused on other stories... I did have this much done so I thought I would put it up for those who have been waiting... if still not the top story on my priority list but I do work on it from time to time. So Please enjoy. (I will be answering the reviewer's comments at the end of the chapter)

Chapter 7

The plains were quiet, after a few hours to set up camp over the ridge Miluda's squad got to preparing themselves. It would likely be at least a day maybe two before they heard news of Golgoros' mission, they had to keep vigilant in case The Hokuten got wise before the plan was executed fully. Ranma was first on watch, scanning the windswept plains for signs of movement. Human or Otherwise, though his brain was working out the amazing feat he saw Weigraf perform. It looked like magic but be was sure there was something more fundamental to it, Unfortunately he wasn't really in a study mindset at the time and Miluda didn't know how it worked either. "All I know is that sword definitely had something to do with it..." he said softly. The pigtailed warrior stared out with a frown, he didn't like the fact that a person he beat with great effort seemed to have been holding back such a powerful attack. "Hmph, I'll beat him for real next time..." he said with mild annoyance, he may not be able to figure out the sword trick but he could definitely start working out some of those moves he had seen in their duel.

Several yards behind him The rest of the squad was honing their skills for the upcoming conflict. Balancing on a high jut of rock the two black mages stood facing each other. Davis to the right, face hidden from view, and Jonas to the left hat tilted higher so his face was only shadowed. Their hands crackled with energy as they stood still. The tension grew and Jonas was the first to flinch. With a grunt he moved his arms in an arcane pattern and pointed toward Davis, a rush of flame shot forward. Unconcerned Davis moved his hands in a large sweeping gesture as a block of ice shot outward meeting the flame half way colliding with a burst of magical energies. Still on the move a larger block of ice appeared above him and with some effort he launched it toward the other mage.

Jonas gasped and rapidly summoned his energies trying to move quickly he pointed it palm out and lightning sped downward splintering the ice sending it in all directions. Recovering he moved in the motions of the fire earlier only to hear the sound of footsteps. Davis rushed through the cloud of ice and lunged with his staff. Off guard Jonas lost his spell concentration and stumbled back a hand catching him before he fell off the wall. Davis impassively pulled his coughing companion upright.

"That was a low blow." Jonas wheezed, Davis merely shrugged.

"Most of your opponents will not sit happily in the distance like training dummies, you have to be prepared for that. You were going for a powerful spell to overpower my Ice counters counter when if you had instead used a lower tier spell to the area in front of you I would not have charged or you would have caught me." he explained simply taking a seat on the wall beside him. "Your counters are improving, your work with bolt is quite good, you just need to think on your feet more." he said looking over to Jonas, impassive eyes unchanging through the lecture.

"I'll try harder..." he said with a little determination, his companion nodded and turned away looking off over the hills. "But next time we spar... could you hit a little lighter, I think I'm getting a bruise." Jonas said with a slight whimper.

"Always ruining my fun." Davis said in the same dry tone. By the fire Suki looked up from her notes and shook her head with a snort.

"Barbaric honestly..." she muttered in a haughty tone. Turning back to the journal with a thoughtful expression. "Hm, with an average duration of two minutes and lengthening the average reaction time of the victim by nearly three times I would still need to aim for more vital area by my third attack. Hm, there must be away to shorten the casting, some way to haste an action without hasting the whole form... hm, that may require further research." she muttered in a distracted tone opening an older notebook to double check her conclusions.

Toward the other side of camp the three knights worked on their forms. Amelia and Evans were squared off against each other with Miluda watching carefully on the sidelines. The dull practice blades clashed against shield and it's opposition. Periodically there would be a light hiss of pain when the dull blade hit a chink in the armor. This may be a drill but it was full force. It went on endurance beginning to wear on them as Amelia finally made a greater mistake overextending her swing, Evans instinctively jumped to exploit it landing a hard shot to her wrist disarming her. Miluda moved between them and called halt. Evans slumping to the ground catching his breath while Amelia fell into a cross-legged seat rubbing her sore wrist.

"You both need a lot of work." Miluda said simply causing both knights to hang their heads. "Your relying too much on your armor to protect you, sure it can shrug off a few shots but if you fall into the trap that if you have good armor you don't need defense your going to get a nasty surprise. The formal armies of knight the noble control will be better equipped then you, they will out number you so you have to be better then them. Trump their advantages with skill and tactics. The Hokuten are trained on mass, if you managed to get in combat one on one or even two on one you will notice the patterns of their attacks. Instinct will always have them default to their training so you must exploit that." Miluda explained firmly looking to the two under her command. "But be weary because you both could fall into the same trap. Evans, when you lunge you pull your shield lower exposing your shoulder and neck. If you dueled a veteran they would pick that up after only a few exchanges and would strike without hesitation." The squad leader said simply causing the male knight to pale slightly. "I want you to work on that tonight. When you can lunge 100 times without dropping your shield you can rest. But not a moment before." she instructed motioning for him to stand. With a small amount of reluctance he complied moving a little ways off and getting into stance.

Miluda eyed his drills before turning to Amelia. "Amelia, you're still having trouble with the foot work, you have the basics down but there are many times that it would be far to easy to knock you off balance." she nodded not bringing her head up. "Come on now, I don't have room in my unit for moping. The only way to improve is to work on it. Up with you, come on." she said firmly with no room to argue, Amelia got back to her feet reclaiming her practice sword. "There you go, now get into stance and we'll drill this into your muscle so you won't have to think about it."

"Lady Miluda?" Amelia asked softly, the girl in question groaning at the nickname once more.

"I told you not to call me that..." she sighed crossing her arms. "what is it?"

"How can you keep doing this? Just keep training like the last two months haven't happened? Do you... do you really think we can win this battle?" she asked keeping eyes turned away. The words were obviously coming with great effort. "I mean I want payback for what they did to Henry... but this, it's such a long shot to risk everything on." she tried to look to Miluda's impassive gaze but could only hold it a few moments before she wavered in looked away. Afraid to say more with fear of her voice cracking.

"Amelia." The officer's voice was calm and composed. "I will not lie to you, this mission is dangerous and it could very well be the end for us all if we fail." she said simply, accepting the risks as if they didn't matter. "But if we do nothing now we likely won't have the power to do anymore before another war breaks out. We must take this chance to strike before things escalate out of our reach... If it is our fate to die then we can act as a beacon that will lead others to our cause. But should this gamble pay off we will have bought us a few years to build more strength of arms." she approached her soldier and place a hand on her shoulder. "Amelia, if this doubt or fear is going to interfere in our operation I will have to send you back to the base." she said coolly causing the girl to look up in shock.

"But Mil-"

"Enough." The officer cut into the exclamation silencing the girl once more. "I want you to turn in early and think it over. If you feel your heart is not in it I expect you gone by morning. If you stay I want no more of this wavering." she said firmly getting a small nod. "You're dismissed."

Amelia silently gathered herself and headed over to the campfire, unsure but clearly ashamed. The three mages, though concerned, seemed to give her some space keeping to what they had been working on before. Evans looked after her with a torn expression before Miluda's turned his way. "I didn't say you could stop." she said firmly causing his to jump back into his motions.

"Sorry mam." he replied immediately though a little distracted, his attention clearly toward his fellow knight. Miluda kept a close eye on the man as he ran through the drills, not going to allow him to stop until he reached her standards. Evans struck out, thrusting and fighting his arms inclination to drop.

Ranma watched the tension between the small squad from his look out perch. As confident as he was in their outcome he really couldn't begrudge Amelia's views. He may have not been raised in war but he'd been on enough dangerous excursions to know the doubt in yourself or your goal were more damaging then any foe you could face... He'd nearly lost faith in China back then. His eyes turned skyward as his memories traveled back. Akane had been evaporated into a doll, his body frozen and beaten... He'd almost given up. If the others hadn't been there he may not have been able to get his act together things could have gone south fast. "Akane..." he muttered softly to himself as he scanned the skies. "I hope you're doing okay... Hope you didn't get yerself kidnapped or something stupid like that." he continued chuckling a little at the thought, nothing like that had happened since Saffron but peace in Nerima could only last so long. He could practically hear her respond, 'Hmph stop saying stuff like that. I'm a martial artist too you know!' "Heh, uncute tomboy." he said in a more wistful tone. Footsteps behind him caused him to look seeing Davis approaching.

"My shift. Get yourself some food Saotome." Davis said calmly. I really must have zoned out the marital artist noted getting to his feet and stretching.

"Thanks man," Ranma said putting his hands in his pocked. He strolled casually back to the camp. He paused by the fire to pick up a cooked fish on a stick and started over to the side passing a tired Evans on his way to speak with Miluda. He could feel Jonas' eyes burning into his back and allowed himself a slight smirk, frustrating that little bastard felt like a small victory. The squad captain was armed with her full armaments, still dressed in her full armor, she struck out at invisible opponents. Judging from the expression on her face she seemed like she was picturing that Algus jerk that had apparently handed her a defeat in the last battle. He hadn't seen the boy but for what he heard from some of the other warriors back at the base the noble had really gotten under the girl's skin somehow. He took a bite out of the fish, it was kinda cold and it tasted a little dirty like it had been dropped. Of course Jonas would opt to cook when I'm on my watch. Oh well I've eaten worse. He mused as he watched her movements. For wearing such heavy gear she was quite quick, her attacks weren't as refined as the ones he'd seen from the Hokuten but they were much more natural and reactive. Smirking a little he moved in behind her, he could see her sense his movement and was already turning. He caught the wooden practice sword in his hand as is swung in toward his side.

"Ranma?" She looked surprised and then frowned. "You shouldn't sneak up on me when I'm practicing. What if I had been using a real blade." she said pulling her weapon back.

"I would have dodged it." he replied with a shrug.

"Well aren't you confident." she muttered with mild annoyance.

"Well I am the best."

"Oh is that so?" Miluda said gaining a challenging smirk. "You want to test that out?"

"Um no offense or anything. But I try not to fight girls if I can help it." he said, even though knowing that it would be the worst thing he could say. Judging by the decent from her challenging smirk to stiff frown he was right.

"Really now." she said coolly, her eyes piercing his own. "Makes you feel like more of a man?" she said voice gaining a little heat.

"Look I was always taught that it wasn't right." Ranma said waving his hands in front of him, trying to dig himself out of the hole he'd fallen into. A shame he still hadn't learned that you can't dig up.

"Well you were taught wrong Saotome." Miluda said firmly. "It sounds like you need to relearn that gender doesn't matter on the battlefield. I won't stand for that kind of weakness on my squad" she said firmly clapping her sword to her shield twice. "Fight me, that's an order Soldier." she was all business. The pigtailed boy could only groan and put his face in his hands. Why did he get himself into situations like this?

"Fine..." he said with a sigh shifting into a reluctant stance. He could hear the murmurs behind him of the rest of the squad noticing the growing conflict.

"What's Happening?" Suki asked excitedly.

"Looks like Ranma managed to upset the captain." Evans said with a note of pity.

"Well that was stupid." the time mage replied plainly.

"Who do you think will win?" Amelia spoke up, her curiosity apparently overcoming her moping. There was a mix of opinions thrown out at that one, decisions split slightly in Ranma's favor. The boy in question couldn't help but sweat a little as the girl's determined frown deepened at that choice. It is going to be a long night...

Ranma wasn't too sure how long the 'practice' session went before Miluda finally called the match. Likely shortly after the second broken practice sword. He was sure of one thing, using the same tactics he'd used on Akane when she was mad was not advisable... He assumed letting her get a solid hit in would calm her down, after all usually after the tomboy got a good whack she'd leave and in a couple of minutes be just fine. Hell that worked on Ucchan and Shampoo as well... though the Amazon tended to prefer scaring him half to death with her curse if she was really mad. Miluda, on the other hand, had not only seemed to notice the maneuver right off but she got more incensed by it believing he was patronizing her. It seemed not all tomboys were made of the same parts...

Now compared to most of the fighters he'd sparred with Miluda was much more on the slow side, but she made up for it with experience and good reflexes. When he landed a solid hit she would strike back like a cobra, often at least clipping him before he could get out of range. Hell, all told it wasn't so bad until she nailed him with that nerve strike. His leg was still numb, though he could still move around it had cut his speed and reaction time down considerably. Needless to say he found himself fighting with more urgency. The captain didn't see fit to let up until her point was made. The battle was called at a draw, though he had been holding back... he was not particularly proud that he had to hit her but he would admit she could take a hit better than any of the other woman he'd been forced to fight. Except for the mummy of course.

"Saotome." Miluda placed her worn practice shield aside ignoring the forming bruises on her arms and stomach. Her tone was as cool as ice, the full chill aimed directly at him. "If I ever see you let yourself get hit, in drills or on the battlefield, then you can feel free to leave because I don't want that kind of arrogance in my unit." Having said her peace she turned and stalked off to her tent.

The martial artist groaned from his position on the ground running a hand over his face. It looked like he'd brought himself back to square one with the female knight and judging by some of the looks from around the camp he hadn't impressed anyone with his attitude or performance. Though that imp Jonas seemed pretty pleased with himself. On that sour note he dragged himself to his feet and made his way a little bit down to a large stream. Cold or not a good soak would help him get him mind off his frustration... and likely help dull the soreness of his bruises.

Carefully undressing and placing things aside he slipped into the cool pool, grunting as his body shrank irritating his wounds. The now petite red head continued into the water and allowed herself to float along the surface, the cold of the water seeped in and dulled her pain.

"What the hell have I gotten myself into?" the pigtailed girl grumbled as she stared upward at the twinkling stars. The short answer would be war, but more importantly he had joined a cause... An apparently desperate cause as this seemed akin to a suicide mission. She chuckled a little shaking her head. "Looks like I'm going to have to kill more people again Akane... I hope if-WHEN I get back that you can forgive me." The redhead spoke softly, a forced smile at her own slip in confidence. To return home... It may be too much to hope for. After all, the trip to Ivalice nearly killed her in the first place. Oh well she'd just have to find a safer path. She shook her head, she had more direct issues to deal with... to battle the Hokuten and keep Miluda alive.

"R-Ranma?" The soaking martial artist craned her head back to see a shocked knight on the shore. Amelia was staring openly as Ranma began to glide her way to the shore. "By Ajora... It's really true..."

"Ah you hadn't seen it in action yet huh." After this long and all the mischievous orphans back at the base it was hard to get riled up over her curse. At least not when she was finally getting some relaxing time. "So what brings you down this way?"

"Oh Um...I was just coming to... think." she muttered somewhat distracted by the oddness. The knight's gaze followed her all the way to the shore, by her expression a little disturbed.

"Think huh?" Ranma casually stretched not caring about the nakedness. "You seem to have packed pretty well for thinking." her tone held no accusation but Amelia flinched from the reveal. The knight had her head down in shame giving nothing, the martial artist decided to press. "So you're going then?"

"...Yes..." she clenched her fists at her side. "This mission... I..." Ranma busied herself with dressing to keep her patience from waning. Obviously the girl had something to say, she was just having trouble gathering the words together. "Henry died for those nobles. He followed orders and did his duty... what did he get? Abandoned, no rescue. No morning... just another commoner sacrificed to protect a noble." she lowered her head. "I need satisfaction but..."

"You're scared."

"Huh?" She looked up suddenly at the petite red head sitting cross-legged on a nearby rock.

"You're scared to die."

"Well of course... no one wants to die." Amelia managed to get over her confusion to glare at the gender-skewed warrior. "This mission isn't going to accomplish anything. Even if we don't get wiped out the losses we'll take will be enormous. I mean there has to be another way!"

"Why are you trying to convince me?" Ranma raised an eyebrow.

"Damn it how can you be so calm about this?! You're not even from here, why are you fighting?" Ranma shrugged lightly.

"Seemed like the right thing to do."

"Seemed lik..." the knight glared. "Don't taunt me like that; you're some kind of mercenary right? Weigraf hired you to guard his sister." Ranma frowned at the accusation.

"Hey, It ain't like that."

"Like hell... your either a mercenary or a fool."

"Oh? So you're only here for revenge?" Ranma raised an eyebrow before closing both her eyes and leaning back to look up to the sky. "Then you should probably get going." the knight looked somewhere between angry and puzzled trying to figure on the redhead's game. Silence hung in the air between the two death corps fighters before Amelia gave a frustrated grunt reaching for her bag, preparing to leave. "Just one more thing." Ranma's voice traveled lazily from her relaxed position catching the other girl in her tracks once more. "How many do you need to kill to make up for Henry?"

"What?" her soft reply carried back easily in the night air.

"How many nobles will you kill before your satisfied? A life for a life? Ten? Fifty?"

"W-what does that matter? Numbers have nothing to do with this, I'll decide when they have paid enough," she muttered darkly.

"Revenge ain't a goal Amelia." Ranma looked to her hand, though long clean she could still feel the dried blood caked to her hand and under her nails. "It's a path, and that path doesn't lead anywhere good."

"Don't start preaching to me Ranma... I'm not going to take a lecture like that from a beast like you."

"Heh so I'm a beast huh?" Ranma sat up with a grim smirk. "Those were nobles I killed. Considering your virtues I'd think you'd be happy?"

"Stop turning this back around on me!" the knight threw her bag down, trying to set the martial artist on fire with sheer willpower.

"I didn't join the death corps to kill nobles stupid. I joined to protect people, if I'm going to have blood on my hands so be it." If she were to be honest she was still uncomfortable with killing but she was on a roll as it was, no need to let logic filter into this. "If you're only in it for revenge then this mission isn't for you. After we win and come back I'm sure Weigraf will have a more palatable mission for ya."

"...You can't seriously think you can win can you?"

"Hey it's worked well for me in the past," usually "What's the point in giving up before you try?" Ranma didn't need to fake the cocky smirk that came to her face at the statement. Amelia stared the girl down, searching for some chink in the armor but found nothing... The redhead serious believed it was going to be that simple.

"You...You are an idiot." the heat had drained away from her voice, much of the wind taken out of her sails. Arguing with this frustrating girl made her tired.

"Amelia!" Another voice caught both girls' attention accompanied by booted feet clomping down the slope at a good clip. "Amelia wait up. Don't... um hey..." Evans stumbled to a stop noting the puzzled looks of both girls. Obviously he seemed to have expected his fellow knight to be further away. "Oh I though you'd left back for the base." he said a little embarrassed.

"Nope, we were just chattin' a bit to kill time." Ranma replied smoothly. Evans' eyes must not have adjusted enough from the firelight to see the girl's pack. Evans passed an annoyed look to the red head.

"You have no right to be chatting up any girls... Especially looking like that. Aren't you satisfied?"

"Eh? Oh come on man. Get your mind out of the gutter." The red head chucked a river rock, which the male knight ducked easily. Amelia looked between the two bickering confused... Why did she lie like that?

"What did you want Will?" the redhead raised a slight eyebrow, she'd not heard anyone yet call the male knight by his first name...

"Ah well, I thought you were leaving so I was hoping I could convince you to stay..." The man scratched his cheek, his eyes turned off to the side. "I know the captain can be harsh but she's just making sure we're safe." he gave a nervous smile. "Besides it would be boring out here without you..."

"Boring?" Ranma raised an eyebrow. "We're waiting for a full scale war in like a couple of days."

"Well yeah... but that's in a couple of days."

"Mm, guess you have a point there." Ranma nodded at the male knight's dubious logic, Amelia staring at the two in disbelief. How could they be so calm about this? "Well you'd see her after we won the fight."

"I guess so." he easily accepted in return. "But if I had a choice I'd rather fight alongside Amelia than be returning home to her." Evans said with an easy smile.

It was madness. They were both totally insane, casually chatting about the battle like it was an afterthought to their day unless... No. It all was starting to make a weird kind of sense. The female knight shook her head chuckling a little. Her companions passed puzzled looks her way but she only laughed harder at the attention.

"This is all so stupid..." she said as she slowly got a measure of composure back, all the frustration and tension lifted from her momentary break in sanity.

"Hey it's not stupid. I was worried about you." Evans grumbled clearly annoyed. "Women..."

They were all idiots... casually going about business like it wasn't a potentially fatal mission. Amelia shook her head, and the fact she didn't want to leave them made her an idiot too. She may not be clear about what was going to happen or if it was the right course but she picked up her bag nonetheless.

"Lets just go back to the fire it's cold out."

"Right," the male knight agreed, both eyes turned to the red head, who waved for a pass.

"I'm gonna chill out here a bit longer. I'll be up soon." the knights nodded and started back up, Ranma passing a small smirk to herself.

"Hey why do you have your bag?" Evans said, sounding puzzled and only getting a light chuckle in response...


Night fell and morning came, the scouting unit slowly getting up and about to meet the day and continue preparations. Miluda was up with the sun's first light going about maintenance of her armor before donning it piece by piece. A knight who did not make sure to keep their equipment it top condition was a knight waiting for disaster. One loose strap could throw your balance off and one snap would leave you vulnerable to a mortal wound. She didn't become captain through such negligence.

Opening the tent flap she surveyed the camp. Evans seemed to be starting is own preparations, though his eyes were still clouded with sleep. She was surprised to note Amelia was still among them. She had been sure of the defeated look in the knight's eyes...

"Hm..." she stepped out. A sleepy, half-dressed Suki was poking the fire alongside Davis, who was reluctantly preparing a small breakfast. "If I recall Jonas should be on watch so that just leaves Saotome." she muttered. The death corp. captain was still somewhat cross with the martial artist but he was still under her command. He should know by now that being underestimated was not something she would tolerate. Admittedly he had been quite smooth about it, if used on a lesser opponent they may not have even noticed the shift in his stance. That was no excuse and he had much explaining to do now that he had a night to think that over. The death corps strode confidently into the camp proper, her soldiers acknowledging her respectfully. She allowed her gaze to linger on Amelia who responded with a small, if somewhat uncomfortable, smile. Though the girl had returned she was apparently still guilty about her earlier doubt, Miluda nodded accepting the unspoken apology before moving on. "Saotome is training by the river, right?"

"Yes," the dark mage replied without looking up from the fire. Right to the point, just what she needed. Miluda passed the camp and hopped up the worn rocks that formed a natural wall between their camp and the riverside. One reaching the top her quarry was not hard to find. The pigtailed boy stood in stance a good ten paces from a large boulder by the rivers edge.

"Hm." Curious the knight trekked her way down the other side of the barrier. A distant mutter coming from the boy as he talked to himself.

"Damn it, it can't be that difficult if Kuno can do it." Ranma had set in his mind to start working on the tricks he'd seen Weigraf pull in their match. The Spin strike seemed easy enough but he didn't feel too comfortable with it. He dad had always said that spinning moves were a double edged sword, though you could build up more force if the opponent was ready for it you left your self much more open. Now Genma was hardly a scholar but he knew fighting and his word on such things was often learned from experience. So he'd moved onto a more versatile skill, the wave fist. At least that's what Weigraf called it.

Utilizing your inner strength you strike an opponent with a controlled blow of chi and air pressure that was just as strong as a normal strike. He'd fought several fighters that could pull such a strike. Not surprisingly none had ever obliged to sit and tell him how it worked. He'd managed to get a brief description from the white knight during one of his rare moments of free time. Though he didn't want to work on it at the base, too many distractions.

The martial artist was forced to admit there was more to the move then just charging up and punching as fast as you could. Not enough chi and the wind wouldn't move, too much and the strike wouldn't stay solid and disperse with in a couple of inches. It was a matter of balance. So fine that he was forced to reevaluate Kuno's "laughable" skill. He was too used to fighting the old geezer and hag at this point. If Kuno had the physical talents and training like himself or Ryoga then blue blunder would be a serious contender. It was much easier to compliment the swordsmen when he wasn't in the same world anymore.

"Okay one step at a time."

Miluda paused a little ways away, if he had noticed her he was not showing as such. His focus held firm on the bolder a head of him and his own flow of power. Taking a deep breath he performed a simple straight punch... then again... again. Wind buffeted, the strike fizzling immediately. Undaunted he continued putting more power in his strikes, most fizzled a few traveling a foot or two before dispersing. Though all throughout the exercise his face was the picture of calm determination.

"He's slowly powering it up at a measured pace until her gets the balance right," the knight whispered to herself with a note of approval. He was normally so laid back it was nice to see that boy could be serious about things as well. Four more measured punches and the death corps captain picked up a rock. She tossed it up and down getting a feel for its weight, eyes gauging the distance between herself and the young man. She didn't know why she as considering it, perhaps some measure of left over annoyance from the duel or having her own training interrupted last night. For some reason he brought a more immature side out of her, especially if it was just the two of them. Giving into the moment she winged the stone out, aiming for the martial artist's shoulder.

Ranma seemed to tense as the rock closed before he glanced and caught the stone before it impacted. It was like he had some danger sense. Most warriors had such a feeling but it rarely triggered with something as small and harmless as a rock. For someone who claimed not to be a warrior he always seemed to contradict his words with his actions.

"You know it's not nice to interrupt someone's training." Ranma said casually skipping the rock across the river.

"An eye for an eye than Saotome." she decided to go with the excuse that he'd interrupted her own session. He looked puzzled for a moment before he realized.

"Ah, I guess you got me there." the pigtailed boy chuckled, before turning back to the rock. "You could have at least said good morning if you were going to stare at me." As expected he had noticed her presence, she merely shrugged not bothering to explain herself.

"So you working on the wave fist?"

"Yeah, I've see a few different variations of this before but Weigraf was the first one willing to show me how to do it." Ranma spoke as he gave measured punches toward the boulder, though at a much slower pace then before.

"Is that so? More of your 'friends'?"

"Something like that," he chuckled. "I knew one who could do it with a sword, a wooden one but he could pull off some neat tricks with it. Thing was he was useless without it and had an ego the size of a bus. A real class A idiot." Miluda gave a confused frown at the unfamiliar 'bus' but seemed interested in the technique.

"He could strike with his sword from a distance?"

"Only with his thrusts but I could do so pretty rapidly. I pretty much outclassed him but he was tenacious and once and a while got get a solid hit on me," he admitted. It really was much easier to compliment Kuno when he knew the boy wouldn't hear of it.

"I see... so you think it's the same process as the wave fist?"

"I would guess so, but you'd have to channel your power into weapon, an extra step to consider."

"Your Power?" Miluda frowned "Like some form of magic?"

"Not Magic, Ki. Your inner strength. I don't know a lick about magic... save that it's nothin' but trouble."

"But that spell you used against my brother..."

"Spell? Oh! No, that was my Ki. I focus on my confidence in myself and I can change my inner power into a blast. I had to put it together to counter a technique of one of my friends and it's been useful for me on several other occasions."

"Interesting... This Ki you speak of. Can anyone harness it?" Miluda's tone had long since gathered a more serious weight, while she knew a trained monk could do interesting things the abilities Ranma claimed were certainly a step further beyond that. To strike a foe from a distance armed with a sword. It was almost like a holy swordsman.

Ranma had stopped to regard his captain, though she had placed her semi-mischief aside the aura of annoyance had also faded and she was showing clear interest in his stories. Perhaps this could get him off her shit list.

"Well it take a lot of hard work but all warriors at least have the starting block to using it." He smirked a little. "Tell you what... I'll show you what I know about Ki if you show me those nerve strikes you used on me yesterday. Deal?"

Miluda thought on it for a moment, she wasn't suppose to teach knight skills to anyone who hadn't trained as a squire for a time... but he was a warrior far beyond a mere squire. If the techniques he spoke of were real perhaps she could get over the wall that had been blocking her attempts to learn the holy knight skills her brother wielded with ease. She hopped of the rock and strolled over putting out her hand.

"Deal." The boy took and gave it a firm shake.

"Though Saotome… Don't mistake this for approval." Miluda crossed her arms giving him an even stare. "You're still on Probation."

"Of course." He replied though did allow a slight sigh. It had been too much to hope anyway. "Do you want to start now?"

"After breakfast I am on watch to perhaps closer to noon. We'll start then."

"Yes mam," Ranma gave a sarcastic Salute and wink that caused her shake her head, a fighting down a small smile.

"Don't get smart on me Saotome." She turned and started back over the wall. "Breakfast should be ready soon, though it seems it's Davis finally doing his share so you might be better off scavenging. Ranma followed smoothly, hand resting behind his head.

"Hey, food is food. never know when the next meal could come."

"True enough."


Breakfast was rough, it seemed Davis had not been lying about his cooking skills. Or lack there of. Food was food and there was not a single empty plate, but Ranma was the only one to ask for seconds. A rare blink of surprise appeared on the mage's shadowed face as the martial artist took another serving with a hungry smile. After all compared to food of certain tomboys this was hardly inedible.

The day continued along with a shifting watch. Miluda continued to put her knights through their paces. Suki joined in on the magical training enough for a short duel with each black mages, enough to at least get her captain off her back. Ranma's morning watch went smooth and through the afternoon Ranma and Miluda started to work on their own respective training.

Miluda started off with the skill she thought her bodyguard would find most useful, the Speed Break. Now that it was being described in detail Ranma was surprised to note it wasn't just a pressure point, at least not like the ones the old ghoul liked to use. Whether it was intentional or not the death corps officer head sent her Ki through her blade as she stuck the vulnerable spots. It was the crude dump of energy into the victim's body that caused the disruption. If pressure points were finesse then this 'breaking' art was brute force... imposing your own energy on to the victim and throwing off the subtle balance of nerves or muscles. This was an unexpected issue for the martial artists as his much beloved control and technique drilled into him by cologne and his pops would be working against him with this move. The strike points were not traditional vulnerable spots and a controlled, pinpoint strike would do nothing. This was much more up Ryoga's alley then his own but he would not let pig boy best him. Different world be damned.

Ranma, now seeing Miluda's Sword Art filled the first step began to explain the need of control. To reign in the powerful strikes for more precise movements... such would not be good in a true close combat fight but were necessary if she wished to master a long distance strike. The Knight was not one to pass up a challenge and listened to the instructions carefully. It seemed her first step would be to learn how to feel the Ki that she had been trained to use without thinking. As such her training was quieter that did not stop her from pushing herself to her limit.

Afternoon moved into evening and the squad rested. There would be one more day before their men should be passing through, that did not mean that they could lower their guard. News could arrive from either direction and they would need to be ready to act. Ranma took on his night shift as the sun fully sank. His eyes adjusted to the dark and scanned the shadowed landscape for movement. The only light for miles being the camp around the fire

"Brings back the old days..." Ranma noted with a small smile. Much of his life had been the hills and valleys of Japan. It was hard to see the stars in Nerima sometimes and it had been a long time since he'd seen a sky this clear. Though primitive in a way Ivalice was somewhat refreshing, far less touched by man. Admittedly he'd grown somewhat used to house living over the last crazy year or so with the Tendos. But deep inside it was the training trips he looked forward too. "Heh, I wonder if some of them have been celebrating... Gos I'm sure, Mousse no doubt, Kuno probably arranged a parade in his own honor for finally 'driving off the foul sorcerer." He couldn't help but snicker lightly to himself at the absurd images that came to his mind.

"I hope at least someone is keeping the old turd in line though... maybe pig boy with come by and taking him down a peg." His amused monologue cut off immediately as he caught a noise. His smile vanished to a stern look as he scanned the horizon. Something was out there. He stood though froze before he could make any sort of signal. A pair of yellow slited eyes held his own, a rumbling growl chilled his blood.


A yellowish brown form slinked out of the inky darkness; it's strides powerful and confident. Sensing the boy's fear only made it bolder, a second growl to his left indicated it was not alone.

"C-C-C." Whatever halted his brain released him with the overwhelming desire to get as far away as possible. "Cats!"

Miluda turned sharply at the shout from up the hill, her squad gathering their weapons in confusion. It was a rather curious warning, definitely not what they had agreed upon. The approach of rapid footsteps was easily heard. Ranma's silhouette sped out from the darkness, growls in his wake. The casually confident off-worlder was pale as a sheet and clearly shaking. Miluda grabbed him before he rushed past her.

"Get of a hold of yourself Saotome!"

"B-big c-cats... Sharp teeth... I have to hide, let me go!" He was panicking and threatening to break free when a low growl locked him stiff as a statue. A Red Panther paced into the firelight, keeping a slight distance, soon joined by a second. The pigtailed boy whimpered shifting so Miluda was in front of him. Now it wasn't like a big cat wasn't a threat but this squad of soldiers could no doubt handle several cats without suffering any major wounds. There was no need for such irrational behavior.

"Pathetic..." Jonas muttered softly, disgusted with the so-called bodyguards showing.

"He's terrified."

"Ailurophobia... a major case." Suki noted to herself.

"Right, well if these walking carpets want some action lets give it to them." Miluda's voice refocused her squad and they moved forward to engage the pair. Ranma, still too afraid to feel any shame, slipped further away hiding between a rather large rock and the natural wall. Slowly getting his breathing under control he tried to clear his clouded mind but a growl froze him cold. Slowly he looked up above to see a third beast peeking down from the top of the wall. With a roar it pounced down the pigtailed boy. Unsure what else he could do as the incarnation of his fear descended upon he blacked out...

A crack of thunder pierced the clear night sky, a lightning bolt launching a panther backwards where it struggled to stand. Amelia rushed forward to apply a coup de gras. Further to the right Miluda and Evan's flanked the second beast and proceeded to dismantle it. It's massive claws scrapped against shields and armor and their swords bit into the cat's hide.

"Keep pushing we've got it on the run."

"Reeooowwwrrr..." a strange moan rose up from the other side of the camp. Miluda cursed, this pride must have been staking them out since the night before.

"Damn... Evans you finish things here I'll investigate. Suki support Evans"

"Yes mam." Evan's took position face to face with the large cat, gaining a blurred glow as haste took into effect. The supernatural boost turning the tides and setting the cat to a more defensive behavior. Miluda moved back to the camp proper, Jonas falling into step shortly behind to back her up. The darkness outside the fire unclear to what could be hiding but one thing was easily noticed.

"Where's Saotome?"

The growl echoed again followed by a weak whimper. Miluda was forced to jump back as from above, a large Caur thumped into the space around the fire. Miluda didn't bother preparing her weapon. The cat's body was unmoving. It was covered with large lacerations and bites; its whole right side was carved opened by an uninterrupted claw wound.

"This was the victim..." She prepared her sword as a form padded into the firelight. The shock was clear in her eyes as the figure became clear, her bodyguard stooped on all fours like a beast. His uniform and arms were coated with blood, teeth bared with a light growl. His eyes had lightened and bore a slited pupil. Madeline's words coming back to her as he sword lowered to her side.

Shortly after he started fighting he changed. He wasn't human, more like an animal on two legs. His eyes were silted like a beast,

Back then she had found it interesting but now...


Ranma stalked forward placing a hand atop the slain cuar, claiming the it for his own. His eyes seemed to rest on Jonas in a challenging manner, like expected the me to try and take his kill. At Miluda's words the boy turned her way with a more curious look before... smiling? "Meowr!" the sound was far less threatening, more like a kitten then a panther. The boy bounced over the carcass toward the disturbed knight.

"He looks almost innocent now." she muttered noticing a dark hiss as Jonas had stepped in front of her, his staff held out defensively.

"You stay away from Lady Miluda demon!" The mage met Ranma's glare with determination. If anything was proof of his unfitting position at Miluda's side this was it. The cat boy let out a distinct hiss on spotting the mage, back arching in an animalistic warning. "You don't scare me. Strip away the ground with Glistening Blades." There was the slight draw of mana being gathered, something that did not go unnoticed by the target. With an unreal burst of speed The cat-like Ranma had crossed the distance between himself and the mage, one armed raised. Jonas moved to block with his staff only to see the claw strike move through like the staff wasn't that. "Ah!" intense pain flared on his face, breaking the mage's concentration. Jonas fell back clutching his face, blood dripping between his fingers. Ranma's ire didn't lessen, the boy stalking closer with a low growl.

"Ranma!" The sudden order held the cat boy's hand. he turned curiously to the source looking up to a firm faced Miluda. "Leave him be." Under the cool exterior the knight was sweating, unsure if Ranma would even listen with the state he was in... he didn't always listen in his normal state of mind after all. Fortunately the boy's mood seemed to lift.

"Meowr!" the bestial Ranma chirped happily. With a sudden burst of speed he lunged knocking her off her feet.


"Lady Miluda!"

Returning from their assignments the squad was to see quite a strange sight. Their captain was laying one her back pinned to the ground by the other worldly martial artist. Perched oddly, in a not quite human way he held her down with a bizarre grin on is face.

"Jonas?" Amelia ran over to the bleeding mage shuffling through her belt for a potion, using the part of the healing elixir to heal the wounds. "Are you okay?"

"Okay?! That monster Saotome attacked me! He's lost his mind."

"Get off Ranma." Miluda tried her best to keep some measure of composure despite her predicament though as she started to struggle the boy shifted his weight and laid across her chest. That curious pleased grin setting not far from her own face as he... began to purr?

"What the..." Evans kept his sword raised as he watched unsure what to do. Ranma passed a weary glance his way, the boys body tensing.

"No! Everyone put down your weapons." Miluda shouted sharply much to everyones surprise. "He's working on instinct he responds violently to a perceived threat."

"But Mil-"

"That's an order." With great reluctance the knight placed his weapon down on the ground and stepped away. One by one rods and swords were rested and the tension began to flow out, the bestial boy relaxing once again. Though his chosen bed didn't seem as comfortable. She had a free arm, and likely a nice gauntleted strike to the ribs would get Ranma off of her, but there was no telling how he'd react in this mindset.

"What happened?" Suki finally spoke up. "Why is he acting like a cat?" she frowned looking on.

"Maybe he hit his head or something? How the hell should I know he just reappeared like this?" Miluda grumbled, this was humiliating. Ranma seemed to notice something in her mood as he looked down at her face inquisitively.

"Rreow?" he cocked his head to the side in an almost thoughtful manner. It would be cute if the boy was covered with blood spatter.

"Hmph," she pointedly turned away, or at least as much as she could. She jumped a bit as his face followed looking right at her again. "What?"

"Meowr!" he smiled brightly and began to nuzzle his cheek against her own. The knight tensed as a mered of gasps and whispered pulled up around her. A distant part of her realized he was was probably trying to comfort her distress, but that was overshadowed by the surge of embarrassment.

"Cut it out." Red coming to her face shifted and elbowed Ranma sending the confused cat boy rolling off her, whining at the unexpected pain.

"Strip away the ground with glistening blades. Bolt!" lightning pierced the clear night and struck Ranma clear on knocking him tumbling to the edge of the camps fire light where he lay unmoving. Eye turned to Jonas, hands extended forward glaring intensely at the boys unmoving form. Three parallel healing scars across his face.


to be continued

Reveiwer's Comments

Vilkath – Your arguments are valid but I feel I have to disagree... Personally I think people Underestimate the natives of Ivalice. Think about it. Heres a small sample of skills an average monk in Ivalice can easily get. Rapid fist (Chestnut training level punching speed), Self healing with Chakra (something Ranma doesn't even know much less has even seen), long distance 'chi punchs' with Wave fist (which Ranma will be learning to work with in this part). The warriors of Ivalice are quite powerful, and Weigraf is one of the more feared generals at this point in time (in game plot logic, not necessarily in stats) On the 'not picking up skills' not you have to consider he hasn't had time to properly train, like now for example he has down time to practice the Wave fist as well as another skill.

I think I'm showing fine on the power level but That will always be a point of contention with myself and others I think.

BukkakeNoJutsu – I haven't decided as of yet...

Sargon Dorsai – How far? Well for at least a little longer it will be following the main plot but after I make my main change things will start to really divert. Ranma will start learning some Ivalice brand skills this chapter since there is some down time. I've always liked Miluda and is one of the few enemies I have regretted being forced to kill...

Garahs – Weigraf isn't a child, he's a war vetern with years of live battle experience. People seem to forget that though strong Ranma is still young and experience DOES count for something in battle. Plus the battle was a bit longer then seemingly implied... I cut away to the crowd a few times not describing every single punch and all. Even if his stats don;t reflect in in his first appearance Weigraf is a powerful warrior, one of which Zalbag felt the need to fight personally, as he though his men would not be able to handle a until lead by him without his assistance. Plotwise weigraf is much more powerfully then he was shown in his battle in chapter one... but that's my personal belief... and as for speed nerf I do believe Ranma WAS moving around him very fast, Weigraf was holding his ground instead of trying to meet the speed head on.