The Titans and the Lost Boy - Stuck Between A Rock And A Hard Case

Chapter 1

Okay, hopefully you read this, because it's pretty important.

As far as the Teen Titans are concerned, this story takes place directly after the end of the second season of teen titans, after Terra and before Brother Blood makes his first appearance. It replaces Deception and everything that comes after it.

As far as Ranma goes, this series takes place 'before' the Saffron incident, roughly around Chapter 33 or so. So pretty much everyone is present now, and all of the major event have happened, 'except' for the Saffron incident. I'm also freely using Anime and OAV episodes as well, as there is some good stuff in there. In fact, as far as speed, strength and such goes, I'm using Anime as the primary source, so as to be a bit closer to the Titans animated show. Using comic stuff on both sides leads to too much extreme stuff that makes it hard to balance. Hope this won't be an issue.

P.S. - Recent Addendum - I don't know if anyone is still reading this, but I'm finally getting around to replacing the scene breaks which this lovely site saw fit to remove. Hopefully this will make things slightly more readable. Please bear with things, as it's likely going to take quite some time to redo all of the chapters after this one.

Now, Enjoy if you will, Tolerate if you won't.

Robin would be the first, though most reluctant, to admit that things weren't exactly progressing as he had hoped on this mission. Only a scant few hours ago, he and his friends were lounging in the tower watching some cheesy kung fu flick Beast Boy had dug out of his closet.

Now they were lost in the depths of China no less and minus one T-Ship to get them home.

A massive granite fist interrupted the small Titan's musings, nearly taking his head with it.

'Oh yeah.' To add to their luck, they were also stuck in the middle of a battle with the animated pile of rubble affectionately known as Cinderblock.

Folding nearly ninety degrees backwards before he even realized he was acting, his instincts removed his body from the destructive limb's path. Despite the fact that the attack missed by a good five inches, the tearing winds assaulted his ears and nearly dropped him to the ground.

Not only was the gigantic golem currently giving them a hard time, it had been on top of them nearly the instant they landed; literally on top of them, in fact. Cinderblock was also the reason they were now without a means of transportation. As soon as the T-Ship had landed, a looming black shadow blotting out the sun had been their only warning before the behemoth had landed dead center of the vehicle.

Robin's backwards dodge flowed into an effortless back flip and carried him well clear of Cinderblocks immediate range. He continued to back off several more feet, to make sense of the ensuing chaos.

The living statue's stone bulk had torn through the ship like tissue paper. If Beast Boy hadn't turned into something small enough to avoid the wreckage . . . well, Beast Boy was a lot less sturdy than the ship.

He quickly flipped to the side to avoid a hastily deflected Star Bolt, raising his titanium lined cape to protect himself from both the heat of the projectile and the resulting explosion of earth behind him. That minor threat avoided, Robin began to assess the situation once again.

They were in the in the Qinghai province of China, that much he knew. In the distance he could see the peaks of a vast mountain range, the Bayanlanka, or something like that; he'd only glanced at the map. They were in the rapidly widening clearing of a bamboo forest. The trees that were still standing shook violently from mere proximity to the brutal battle.

Starfire and Raven were both in the air, green and black energies blazing. Both females still looked shaken from the near miss. Neither of them had been hurt, but it must have been a tremendous shock to them, just how close Beast Boy had come to getting crushed. Indeed, he'd been worried for a few moments himself, before the green titan had miraculously reappeared, clinging to Cinderblock's face, and already cracking wise. It was a good thing, too; he had no idea how he would be able to live with himself if his decision to come here had gotten one of his teammates killed . . .

Feeling an uncharacteristic need for visual confirmation, Robin quickly scanned the clearing for the youngest Titan. Beast Boy was leaning against a large bamboo shoot at the edge of the clearing, catching his breath. The green youth might have vanished against the sea of green if not for his dark purple and black jumpsuit he wore. A moment later, the emerald shape changer pushed off from the bamboo, morphing himself into a bucking green bull to charge back into the fray.

Cyborg took advantage of Beast Boy's charge. As the Granite Behemoth spun to meet the changeling's reckless charge, Cyborg surged forward himself, slamming his titanium fist into Cinderblock's exposed back with a burst of white and blue sonic energy. The strike exploded in a cacophony of fury powerful enough to send the giant stumbling forward-

Right into the ebony horns of the charging bull.

The sound of keratin striking granite rang throughout the forest as Beast Boy slammed his lowered bovine cranium into Cinderblock's knees. Combined with the force of Cyborg's devastating punch, the stone monstrosity actually flipped over the bull and through the air before slamming to its back on the ground. The shockwave from the impact nearly knocked Robin off his feet again.

"BOOYAH! No one uses my baby as a door mat and gets away with it!" yelled the metallic titan, pumping his fists in the air.

"Heehee, the victory is ours!" giggled the floating Tamaranian. Starfire slowly floated down from her bird's eye view of the battle to land by the masked titan's side.

Robin was not so quick to celebrate their victory yet, though. He stepped back quickly, bringing his arms up defensively before him. "He's not done yet, everyone get back, quick!"

Unfortunately Beast Boy's enthusiastic attack had left him stunned and sitting on his butt only a few scant feet from the collapsed creature. The shape shifter's head was reeling and his eyes swirled madly from the force of the impact.

"Uh. . . I think I dislocated my brain guys," blurted out the emerald changeling.

Seeing the rather precarious position that Beast Boy was in, Cyborg sprinted forward to help his disoriented friend.

"Move it Grass Stain, before the nickname becomes reality!"

Beast Boy shook his head, finally stopping the mad (and stomach churning) spin of the world around him. The first thing his tenuous grasp on reality revealed was Cyborg running towards him. He wasn't quite sure why that was; however, he got a clue quickly enough. The far, far too loud grinding of stone on stone only several feet to his rear drew his attention like a magnet.

A squeal of fear escaped his lips as he turned his head to see Cinderblock rising to its feet a short distance behind him. And he was still sitting on his butt!

Like an answer to an unspoken prayer, a salvo of green Star Bolts and several bamboo poles cloaked in black energy slammed into the monster's face, giving Cyborg the time to grab the shape changer's arm and pull him to safety.

"Good hustle on that tackle BB, just gotta work on that follow through man," offered Cyborg, a smirk forming on his face.

"You know it, Dude! I just need something with a harder head next time," he replied, giving his friend the thumbs up.

"Something with a thicker skull than you normally have? Does such an animal exist? And if so, should we pity it?" came a wry remark from behind them.

Both turned to see Raven floating towards them.

"Heh, good one, Rae!" chuckled Cyborg.

Annoyance crossed Beast Boy's features for a moment, before he shrugged and laughed as well. "That was almost a joke, Raven, who knew you had it in you?"

Raven smirked vindictively at the jade Titan. "My attempts will always be funnier than your actual jokes."

She then turned to glare at Cyborg.

"And don't. Call. Me. Rae! Or I'll personally redecorate my room with your parts, understood?" The dark teen bit off each word with livid abandon.

Beast Boy looked to Cyborg, who looked back to Beast Boy. For a moment, they held their collective ground . . . for a moment. Then both were retreating to the tumultuous battle with Cinderblock.

After all, even a raging monolith wasn't nearly as frightful as Raven could be at times.

Raven shook her hooded head in amusement as the two young men fled from her mock wrath.

A moment later, she once more levitated over the raging melee. She lamented the battlefield which had been chosen for them. Normally a forest offered a variety of useful weapons for her to use against her opponents. Unfortunately, the same could not be said concerning the sea of bamboo that surrounded them.

As it was she was not fighting at her full potential. For the most part she was relegated to using the relatively flimsy bamboo shoots to distract the golem so it couldn't hurt her companions. And despite the fact that he had just turned tail and run from her, she was certain that Cyborg would have some choice words for her if she used the merrily burning wreckage of the T-Ship as projectiles, only to damage them even worse.

A flash of green drew her attention to the side. Starfire was beside her now, having just unleashed a powerful optic blast at the living statue below them. How effective it was, who could really say?

"Our opponent is most resilient is he not, friend Raven?" asked the floating alien.

Raven could only nod in agreement. "He does seem to be lasting longer than usual. Of course, I don't exactly have much to work with here and Robin lost a lot of his equipment getting out of the ship."

The two young women looked down to the bird in question. Even without his discs and birdarangs he was doing well. His staff was out and flashing in an intricate dance of steel and stone. To her side, Starfire winced as Robin narrowly dodged a haymaker from Cinderblock; only to cheer enthusiastically as the masked Titan recovered instantly to flip onto the golem's wrist and begin running up the length of its arm.

When he reached Cinderblock's shoulder, he lashed out with his staff in an elaborate string off attacks. The report of titanium staff against granite skull rang out with all of the reckless fury of an automatic rifle.

The massive beast reeled from the blows, stumbling back and desperately waving its limbs to dislodge its unwanted passenger. Robin nimbly leapt from its shoulder to land several yards away. Just in time, as well, as a second later the blue energy of Cyborg's sonic cannon blasted into Cinderblock's face with all of its acoustical wrath.

Already unbalanced, the giant once again teetered, crashing to its back in a massive cloud of dust and debris. Almost immediately, it began pulling itself from the crater created from its own monolithic weight.

"Titans, we're not doing enough damage. We need to combine our attacks!" yelled out their young leader.

Robin then ran over to Beast Boy's side. "You and I will ram him at the same time; that should put him off his feet long enough for them to put him down, got it?"

Beast Boy nodded eagerly. "No problemo, Robin, this overgrown garden gnome is goin down!"

Robin turned to the other three "You guys got it? When he's off balance, hit him with everything you've got at the same time!"

"Preferably after I'm out of the way, too, don't forget that part," added a nervous sounding Beast Boy.

Raven's eyes rolled even as Starfire and Cyborg nodded in the affirmative.

Taking another second to coordinate their efforts, Robin and Beast Boy then charged to attack the large creature before it could recover. Slowly rising up from the earth, the ponderous bulk that was Cinderblock spun awkwardly to face the coming assault.

The vigilante and the changeling leapt into the air at the same time. Robin's leap flowed into a powerful flying kick, while Beast Boy's form swelled obscenely into that of a four hundred pound gorilla in mid flight-

With a startling speed for something so large, Cinderblock lashed out; snagging the two heroes from of the air with a single motion. The collision was tremendous, knocking the air out of both titans even as the giant stumbled, however, Cinderblock did not fall this time, and quickly pulled the pair into a crushing bear hug.

"No!" The voices of the three free Titans mingled into one as they cried their distress.

Instantly, Cyborg shot forward and grabbed Cinderblock's left arm. Simultaneously, Starfire latched on to the beast's right arm. With their tremendous strength the duo strained to uncurl the golem's deadly grip.

Thinking quickly, Raven flew up in front of the beast. As carefully as she could, she focused her power and summoned forth an ebony cloak of energy to surround her friends; both to protect them and pull them free when Starfire and Cyborg had created enough space.

The ear splitting sounds of stone grinding and steel squealing were deafening as the two strongest titans pitted their might against the unnatural concrete behemoth.

Like the opening of a rusted gate, its arms slowly began to separate. Cyborg and Starfire strained in the contest of muscle, arms shaking, veins popping and sweat drenching their faces.

Raven floated closer to get a better mental hold on her friends. She could feel Cinderblock's hold on them begin to loosen, and she attempted to pull them free.

"Raven, get back!"

It was choked out by their gasping leader and was all the warning she got before Cinderblock burst into action. Suddenly, the beast's arms swept apart forcefully. Starfire and Cyborg both were launched to separate ends of the clearing, as all of their efforts were suddenly turned against them. Robin and Beast Boy, both wrapped in the black shroud of her power, shot upwards, the force that was holding them unexpectedly vanishing.

All of this happened so fast Raven could only gasp as she suddenly found herself floating approximately six feet in front of an enormous, enraged and unencumbered Cinderblock. The giant's fist, still reared back from throwing off the Tamaranian, shot forward towards her. The scream of its passage through the air was all she could hear as the massive stone appendage came to fill her vision.

And then her world exploded spectacularly to black.

Starfire's abrupt and undesired flight to the distant end of the clearing had been most distressing. One moment, she had been straining with all of her might to move the giant's arm, when suddenly it had obliged her. Fortunately, or unfortunately, her back had slammed with excruciating brutality into the unyielding hull of one of the remaining sections of the smashed T-Ship.

It was probably the only thing that kept her from leaving the clearing entirely, as Cyborg had seemed to have done. Thus it was that she was able to see the event that was unfolding at the center of the clearing.

Time seemed to slow down as she took in the scene before her. Cinderblock was standing at the center of the clearing, both arms held out behind it from its forceful ejection of its passengers. Some thirty feet above it were Robin and Beast Boy, Raven's dark energy just beginning to dissipate.

And there, floating directly in front of the frightfully enraged Cinderblock, a look of helpless shock on her face, was her dear friend Raven.

Starfire tried to stand, to go help her friend, but the pain in her back flared like a small sun. She instantly collapsed back against the uncomfortably warm steel of the T-Ship, yet, despite the pain she strived to move forward, her hand reaching out with wild desperation. In her heart, though, she knew there was nothing she could do. . .

Reflected in her jade eyes, Cinderblock's stony fist began to swing forward, slowly and inexorably, like the watching of a catastrophic locomotive collision.

Then, time once again resumed its normal flow. Robin and Beast Boy began to fall to the earth, helpless anger burning in their eyes. They had seen exactly what she had, and were just as helpless to stop it. Fighting the flaring pain in her spine, Starfire leaned forward, brilliant emerald energy building in her eyes-

But she was too slow. Cinderblock's fist flashed forward, so very fast now. Raven had only enough time to cross her arms in a pathetic attempt at defense.

In a flash of black energy, Cinderblock's strike crushed into the dark titan with a sound that would haunt Starfire's dreams for years to come. The unbelievable power of the attack launched the Gothic Titan into the air, a violet tipped bullet flying far beyond the tree line and out of sight.




The stabbing pain lancing through the Tamaranian's back melted away to nothing in an instant. Before she even realized what she was doing, Starfire was flying forward, leaving a flaming trail of scorched earth in her wake. She crossed the clearing in the blink of an eye, reaching the murderous Cinderblock at the same moment that Robin and Beast Boy descended from their own flights.

The sound of their combined fury rang across the countryside.

The young man knocked aside yet another shrubbery which dared to block his path. With a sigh of exhaustion he stopped walking. Drawing a weary arm across his brow to remove any sweat, the youth took in his surroundings.

It was obvious to him that he was lost, yet again. Not that that was anything new to the wandering teen. Being lost wasn't really an emergency for him, more of a lifestyle really.

It still sucked though.

"The world is a dark and lonely place," muttered the lost boy. Hardly an original thought for him, but he liked to verbally reassure himself of how terrible his life was every once in a while, if only to hear a human voice.

And the last few weeks had been some of the worst of his life, making his little diatribe feel that much truer. Of course, anyone that knew him would scoff; after all he was always saying that the past few weeks were the worst weeks of his life.

This time he really meant it.

But then, losing, irrevocably, his one true love, the girl whom he had given his heart to, was bound to put him in a lousy mood, he guessed.

He briefly shook his head, hoping to derail his current and depressing train of thought. His flailing black follicles revealed an unusual yellow and black bandana holding his hair out of his eyes, or attempting too at any rate. He had more immediate concerns than dwelling on the past anyway, no matter how painful.

Item one on that list, of course, was the fact that he was currently lost in a forest. . . . either that or he had gotten turned around in the panda exhibit at the zoo again. Damn designers making the habitat so realistic. If he hadn't noticed that it was the same panda he kept walking past, he'd probably still be there.

As it was, it had been an embarrassing conversation he ended up having with the panda's keeper.

Well he was pretty sure he wasn't in the zoo this time. And since he was surrounded by bamboo that narrowed down where he could be. It seemed pretty certain he was in China, again, and lost, as usual. Really, this country had caused him nothing but misery, in one form or another. At least it didn't look like it was going to rain.

Suddenly the wanderer cocked an ear to the air. A strange sound caught his attention. It wasn't the natural sounds that he had lived with and grown accustomed to for most of his life and stood out like a sour note. Strangely, it was a very familiar noise and he recognized it almost immediately.

It was the sound of a human body falling from a high altitude.

He took a quick moment to reflect on the fact that he should so intimately know that sound and chalked it up to being slightly worrying.

Turning his eyes skyward revealed only a green canopy. He needed to get above the trees quickly if he wanted to have any chance at helping whoever it was that was falling.

Slightly bending his legs, the young man launched himself into the air. Amazingly, his first jump sent him flying nearly thirty feet straight up. Then, grabbing a nearby tree in one hand, he launched himself even further skyward in an immense display of strength.

The unusually talented youth cleared the tops of the trees and witnessed the beautiful majesty of the cloudless sapphire sky hanging over him. He hardly had time to appreciate it, though, as he quickly spied the target of his search: a blue, gray and black form hurtling through the air. Whoever the person was, they were on the descent and would crash into the trees in another few seconds and then the ground a second or so after that.

Unfortunately it seemed that the figure would overshoot his position if he didn't do anything.

A quick scan of the bamboo below him revealed his only option.

He landed gracefully on the top of one of the shoots below him. The ball of his foot rested precariously on the shoot while his toes clung to the sides, his other leg he pulled tightly up to his chest for balance. He then exploded into motion, skillfully running from tree to tree, desperately trying to get beneath the falling form.

Just as the figure looked to be out of reach he gave one final push, leaping from the last tree. Shooting out like an arrow he just managed to catch the cape - 'Huh, who wears a cape?' - of the person. Not wanting to snap their neck like a twig, he used the cape to gently pull the figure close enough so that he could wrap his free arm around the figure's waist and draw them to his chest before he inevitably succumbed to gravity.

After the hectic chase and catch, the descent was quiet, almost serene. He took the fractions of a second to take in the scenery surrounding him. The sea of green really was vibrant and the gentle rustling of the leaves was rather soothing.

He landed easily from the free fall, though he did feel a slight strain in his knees. While his unknowing passenger felt nearly weightless in his arms, he forgot that he was still wearing his backpack and umbrella strapped to his back and that weight combined with the long fall was a bit much even for his legs.

Ignoring the pain, a feat he was more than used to, he took in the condition of the person whom he had just saved.

Well, it was obviously a girl; the leotard really didn't leave much to the imagination, that was for sure. He shuddered briefly, he sure hoped she wasn't as mentally unbalanced as the other girl he knew that ran around in a leotard all the time.

Other than that, she seemed to be pretty cute. She had purple hair. . . an Amazon maybe? He might even be close to their village. The unusual young woman also had a gem stuck to her forehead. For some reason it struck a memory, something he heard once in his wanderings. Chakra? Or something like that. It wasn't really his specialty; he only really worked with chi himself. It did make her look more exotic, though.

The gray skin was a little worrying. She didn't feel dead, or anything, and people turned blue when they weren't breathing . . . or so he'd heard, anyway. Maybe she was sick, or something? Still her breathing was steady and normal, so asides from being unconscious, she seemed to be fine.

Satisfied that she wasn't in any danger, he took a more analytical look. She had good muscle tone and obviously kept in shape. She might even be a martial artist like himself; come to think of it, he hadn't had a good spar in quite awhile.

His eyes suddenly widened in shock, not for anything he saw, but for what he sensed.

The young man prided himself on being a powerful martial artist and he had long since learned to harness his chi to enhance his skills. Another ability he had developed, almost as a byproduct, was the ability to sense the chi in others. It was a very useful ability, heck, he had gotten so used to it that he rarely registered it consciously anymore.

However, after holding this girl for a few moments, his senses had kicked into overdrive. Her chi was definitely not human. In fact the only thing he remembered having chi that felt like this was that damned Oni. And this girl felt vastly stronger than the demon that had possessed everyone all those months ago.

A strange sensation began crawling its way up his spine. He was pretty certain it was fear, as alien as that concept was to him; it had been awhile since he had felt it and quite frankly, he was usually too stubborn to let something like being totally outclassed stop him from attacking someone.

However this deceptively attractive young woman filled his heart with a cold dread unlike anything he had ever felt before . . .

Another strange sensation begged his attention. He found his eyes drawn up from the girl's body - where he had been staring, but not really staring . . . sort of . . . he wasn't sure how the whole chi sensing thing worked, to her face. Or, more importantly, to her eyes. The young woman's eyes which had opened while he was looking elsewhere.

Her violet orbs held him in place with frightening intensity, and probably anger. . . demons were usually angry about stuff.

And he seriously doubted she was going let him off easy just because he helped her out.

'Mmmmm' . . . the dark Titan felt the bonds of sleep loosening from her. It was a very odd sensation, and slightly worrying, as she had no recollection of actually going to sleep. Hmm, something else was registering as odd, as well. She couldn't feel the familiar weight of her blankets resting across her chest, yet she still felt warm . . . comfortably warm, actually and strangely, she felt safe as well. She was definitely lying on something, though. Whatever it was most certainly did not feel like her bed. Maybe she was in a chair? Whatever it was, it was warm, but felt very hard and unyielding.

Maybe opening her eyes would reveal the answers to her quandary?

Slowly and reluctantly, the young Goth forced her eyes to open.

'Yes.' She was definitely still dreaming.

How else could she possibly explain the fact that she was currently being held in the arms of some strange man in the middle of a bamboo forest? Really, it made no sense whatsoever to her . . . though the bamboo ticked something in the back of her mind.

She shook off the strange feeling for a moment to analyze the situation.

The man. . . really not even that, he didn't really look much older than her or the other Titans. He was definitely Asian, with sharp features. After that she noted his raven black hair, held up by a really tacky yellow and black headband. The teen seemed to like yellow since he wore a sleeveless t-shirt of the same color. Said t-shirt gave her a fair look at his arms and chest, definitely well muscled and nicely toned and. . . and. . . she broke off that line of thought. It had been bad enough when she had embarrassed herself so thoroughly over Aqualad.

The stranger's mouth hung slightly open, taking in breath as if he had just exerted himself. Something else struck her as odd. He had fangs; not like Beast Boy's, though, these were long canines, like from her vampire novels.

Interesting, she decided to file that fact away for later consideration.

Finally she noticed his eyes. They were a dark brown and his stare was intense. More like he was staring through her than at her.

Overall, if she were Starfire, she would say the Asian youth was . . . cute? Possibly even handsome. But she wasn't Starfire, so she'd would just proceed with the minimalism that she was known for and say. . . nice. That seemed to sum it up.

He wore a concerned look on his face, which was good in her opinion, but he did seem to be staring a bit much. Not quite feeling up to talking yet, she decided to stare at him until she got his attention . . . it usually worked on the other Titans after all.

It seemed to work in record time. As if sensing her look, the boy's eyes refocused and slowly he turned his head to face her.

What wasn't going quite as she had planned was the look of borderline terror which seemed to be spreading across his face as he finally turned to meet her gaze. The two gazed into each other's eyes for what felt like an eternity. Raven was almost beginning to feel the temptation to start blushing from his scrutiny. She decided to break the long silence and introduce herself to the nice imaginary man her subconscious had manufactured-

When suddenly he dropped her to the ground - hard.

Her eyes widened in shock and she let out a small grunt of pain as her tailbone collided jarringly with the ground. The man then leapt away from her, almost fifteen feet, horizontally, from standing still, and backwards nonetheless. She would have been impressed if she weren't so annoyed that she had just been dropped on her bottom.

Slowly she stood up, gingerly rubbing her posterior. . . 'Hey!', come to think of it, her forearms were aching terribly as well, but why could that possibly be?

She decided to ignore that for the moment and focused her coldest glare on the inconsiderate oaf before her. She finally opened her mouth to speak.

The wandering martial artist watched the demon before him rise to its feet. He did feel a little bad about dropping her like that, but what could he say . . . he'd panicked. Still, she was putting on a pretty good show of being a normal girl.

Heck, he was no demon expert, but he definitely knew a glare of female wrath when he saw one. This demon really knew what it was doing. In fact her glare was more intimidating that most of the girls he already knew . . . Why did girls glare at him so much anyways? It's not like he went out of his way to offend anyone, really.

The presence of her demonic aura snapped him back to awareness. The girl's power was tremendous, greater than anything he had ever felt before and as black as all night. He'd never seen a black aura before. Unfortunately, she was also obviously mad at him . . . now he really regretted dropping her.

'Yes', he decided, 'I am so going to die.'

Still, no one said he had to go down without a fight.

As Ranma was so fond of saying, he had never known when to quit. If he was going to go down, at the very least, he was going to make sure this admittedly pretty demon never forgot the name of Hibiki Ryouga.

Raven was ready to vent her frustrations on her dream companion. This dream was quickly losing its charm. Here she was, intrigued at finally having one of those "romantic" dreams that Starfire was always telling her about. Everything seemed to be in line with the Tamaranian's stories; a handsome man (thankfully not Robin), a tender embrace, a concerned expression on his face-

And then he's dropped her, the look of concern melting into a mask of fear. This was a definite departure from her friend's steamy dreams.

She briefly bemoaned the unfairness of it all.

She opened her mouth, ready to give the boy a stern talking to about how this dream was supposed to go when-

"Demon! Do you know that you face Hibiki Ryouga!"

'Huh?' That had been unexpected. Everything started buffeting her at once. How did he know she was half demon? Why was he getting ready to attack her? . . .Why were his shins tied in criss-crossing cords?

Really, it made him look like a ballerina.

The young man then took an unfamiliar martial arts stance.

'Hmm.' Maybe this was one of Robin's dreams and she had fallen into it? But then why would Robin be dreaming about hunky Asian men? Though, actually, that could explain a few things; she did wonder about their masked leader sometimes.

"Excuse me?" She decided to try to figure this out before things got out of hand.

Either the strange martial artist didn't hear her, or he was ignoring her. He seemed to have gotten over his fear and had jumped directly into anger himself.

"I may not have anything to live for, Demon!" Well that was depressing; maybe he read the same books she did? "-But you won't take my life without a fight! Your reign of terror ends here!"

'What?' Reign of terror? Taking lives? What was this person thinking? That was the last time she watched one of Beast Boy's movies before bed-

'Wait just one moment!' With all of the subtlety of a bursting dam, her memories of the past several hours poured forth into her consciousness: Beast Boy's kung fu movie, following the H.I.V.E. ship, landing in China . . . fighting Cinderblock . . . a huge granite fist filling her vision . . .

This was no dream.

She gasped in shock, this was real and that Hibiki person was getting ready to fight her to the death because he thought she was a demon. She tried to yell out, tell him that this was all a misunderstanding, when the young man tightly crossed his arms across his chest.

"Shi Shi!" The strange words burst from the stranger's lips, a pale azure orb of energy forming directly before his crossed forearms, as if summoned by the cryptic chant.

And then Raven's world dissolved into a swirling green void of pain.

Ryouga stared at the demon before him. She still hadn't done anything, except perhaps quirk an eyebrow when he took his combat stance. She obviously didn't feel threatened by him at all.

She had said something but it had been lost over the distance and the sound of his blood pounding in his ears. He needed to end this quickly. He knew that demons were usually all but immune to physical attack. He was going to have to use his only chi attack, an all or nothing strike to destroy the demon before it could raise its defenses.

Of course he knew that there was no way the Shi Shi Houkodan was powerful enough to destroy this demon. He was certain that he was going to die. The demon would probably fly straight to Nerima after it was done with him to begin killing all of his old friends in retaliation for this slight.

The feelings of depression and worthlessness spiraled around him, pulling him to new depths of despair.

He almost smirked.

He crossed his arms in front of his chest, coalescing all of the pain, all of the heavy emotions which his soul into a physical manifestation of pure torment, a sphere of roiling spiritual power.

He looked to the demon before him; she looked like she was about to say something, when suddenly a look of surprise crossed her features.

Damn! She sensed what he was doing! It was now or never!

"Shi Shi!" He howled his mantra, focusing all of his concentration on the sphere before him. The orb took on a pale azure glow, becoming visible to the naked eye.

Once again he looked at the demon, preparing to utter the final word of his attack and unleash all of its devastating power upon her tiny frame-

When suddenly she collapsed, holding her temples in apparent agony.

'Huh! What was going on?' His concentration suddenly gone, the sphere of chi in front of him popped with all of the fury of a fragile soap bubble.

He stood straight and scratched his head in confusion. That was odd; usually people were only hurt by the Shi Shi Houkodan when he actually fired the orb at them. He'd never seen anyone drop just from seeing it before. The cloaked figure hardly looked like an evil demon now. She looked kind of like a normal girl. . . well as normal as you can get wearing a leotard outside of a gymnasium. She also looked like a normal girl in a large amount of pain.

He stood there for several moments, shuffling from one foot to the other. True she was a demon; he could still feel her aura, even from fifteen feet away. However she looked like she could use help. And wasn't it part of the martial artist's code to help those in need?

With a heavy sigh, and against his better judgment, Ryouga walked over and knelt beside the violet haired young woman.

Raven's world was pain. Not physical pain, though. No, physical pain she could have dealt with, she was more than used to that after years of fighting super-powered criminals.

No, Raven was drowning in a sea of emotional anguish. Despair, anger, hatred, it was like nothing she had ever experienced before. Having so carefully controlled her own emotions for so long, she wasn't accustomed to such overpowering feelings. And now things besieged her which she couldn't even hope to control.

The dark colors swirled around her in a maelstrom. She felt loneliness, she knew the feeling well herself, but magnified far beyond her own controlled emotion. Then jealousy, a burning toxic feeling, of who she felt jealous she had no idea but it was as sharp as a razor to her sensitive psyche. Then a dozen other emotions, each powerful, all uncontrolled, and every one of them negative and destructive-

Her descent into chaos was distracted by something. A presence touched her mind . . . no, wait; that was a physical sensation. A hand on the shoulder, that's what it was. She latched onto the sensation, used it as an anchor to pull herself back into control.

Eventually she felt the emotions recede and begin to dissipate altogether. Other emotions began to take their place, faint by comparison. Concern, curiosity . . . embarrassment. After several more moments, she finally regained her equilibrium enough to open her eyes.

She looked down to her shoulder. Lying across it was a hand. It was larger than her own and much darker, obviously tanned from being outdoors a great deal. The hand itself was rough and calloused, but felt soft and reassuring on her shoulder.

She looked up from the hand and once again locked eyes with the strange Asian martial artist. He seemed to be slightly embarrassed, like touching her shoulder was more intimate than he was used to, it was slightly amusing.

"You know," she began slowly, "I liked it better when I thought you were a dream."

The strange teen looked down at her and blinked several times.

Cyborg finally found his way back to the clearing. Damn sneaky stone monsters, throwing you around when you least expect it. He added another tally to his list of reasons to bust Cinderblock into construction materials, right below smashing his beautiful T-Ship.

A sigh escaped his lips; he hadn't even had a chance to test the new turbo booster system he'd installed. He'd show Raven macho overcompensating when she was squashed like a pancake into her seat from the gee's they'd be pulling then! Oh well, perchance to dream, and all that junk.

As it was, something was different when he finally entered the clearing again. Granted Cinderblock was still there. And he was still fighting the titans, just like when Cyborg had been so rudely ejected.

However something seemed different this time around. Beast Boy, Robin and Starfire all looked pissed, damn pissed, really. Cinderblock looked a little worse off, a few cracks and craters had appeared since last he saw the creature.

Something was missing, too . . . T-Ship still in pieces (Jerk was gonna pay for that!) Big monster still there . . . wait!

Where was Raven?

Things started to add up in his mind. Titans angry, Cinderblock damaged, Raven missing.

Unfortunately the sums that were appearing in his head were not good. Something must have happened to Raven, and for everyone to be that mad, even Starfire, it must have been serious.

"Rrraaahhhh!" With a yell of fury, Cyborg reentered the fray, sonic cannon blazing.

No one hurt his friends.

No one.

The odd pair sat across from each other. Ryouga sat with his legs crossed and leaning lightly against his large backpack. Raven, sitting in the lotus position, and staring intently. What the difference between sitting cross-legged and lotus position was, who could know, but that's how they saw themselves sitting at any rate.

"Well I'd say the 'you saving me' thing was cancelled out by the 'you trying to kill me' thing," started the gothic Titan. Ryouga had the good graces to look ashamed at her accusation.

"However, even though you thought I was a demon intent on your destruction . . ." She let the statement hang in the air, silently enjoying the way he squirmed under her scrutiny. "You did come to my aid again. So, I suppose a thank you is in order."

He looked up at her tentatively to respond, "It's alright, really. It's a martial artist's duty to help people."

Raven quirked an eyebrow at that. "Robin never mentioned any martial artist code. But still, now that we've gotten past the awkward 'attacking each other phase' . . . My name is Raven." She then extended one of her hands to the young man in greetings.

The man looked at her hand in confusion for a moment before shrugging and taking it.

"My name is –"

"-Hibiki Ryouga, yes, you mentioned that," Raven interrupted with a smirk, "Do you always greet people by threatening them?"

Ryouga raised a hand behind his head and started rustling his hair in embarrassment. "Well. . . not always. . .," he finished lamely.

Raven felt a smile rising in her and quashed it immediately. Slowly she rose.

"Well it's been interesting meeting you Hibiki-"

"Ryouga," he interrupted.

"Excuse me?"

"Hibiki is my family name, it's traditional in Japan to say that first. But you can call me Ryouga. Since you gave me your first name as well, it's only proper." He bowed slightly to her.

"Ah yes, it had slipped my mind. Again, thank you, Ryouga, but I must go. My friends are fighting a powerful criminal and they need my help."

With that Raven began levitating and started to quickly fly back the way she came.

A sound from her side drew her attention. She looked over. . . and nearly fell from the sky for lack of concentration. She was moving fairly quickly, but right beside her, keeping pace by jumping from branch to branch like some super powered squirrel, was Ryouga. Impressively, he didn't really look like he was pushing himself too hard.

"Umm, what are you doing?" she asked calmly as the two raced along.

"Well, I don't know much about much," he started. Once again his hand moved through the hair at the back of his head. "But I do know a lot about fighting. And helping you and your friends out is the least I can do for hurting you."

She considered telling him to turn back, but, then he wasn't really slowing her down and it wasn't like she and her friends couldn't protect him when they got back to the fight. Frankly she couldn't really see the harm and couldn't gather the motivation to try to force the matter either.

With a shrug she continued to fly on. As a calm finally settled across the quickly moving pair, a moment of curiosity struck her.

"How did you do that, anyway?" she asked obscurely.

He looked back at her. "Do what?"

"That emotional attack you used on me, how did you do that? Are you a psychic?"

His look changed from curiosity to confusion quickly. "Heh, that's the first time anyone's accused me of having any mental power." He smirked self deprecatingly. Then caught something.

"How did you know it was an emotion based attack? Not even Ranma figured that out that quickly," he asked, somewhat surprised.

She looked back, with a somewhat blasé expression. "Because it was an attack that affected my emotions. I've never been hit with such a powerful psychic attack before."

His look of confusion only increased. He nearly missed the next branch completely and only after some scrambling was he able to get back in step with her.

"Umm what do you mean? I didn't even hit you with the Shi shi Houkodan; you collapsed before I even finished it."

This time it was her turn to be confused. "What? You didn't even finish the attack? Well what was it supposed to do then?"

"Well, usually I focus my chi into a sphere, and then I throw the sphere at my opponent. It hits them like. . . like, well like a big fist of solid air, I guess. And that generally knocks most people out," he explained.

"Hmm, that's odd, that's not what happened at all. . . wait, you said it was an emotion based technique, but what do emotions have to do with you smacking people around with balls of solid air?" she asked curiously.

Ryouga considered this question a bit before answering. "Well, the Shi Shi Houkodan is powered by heavy chi. So to make my chi heavy enough I focus on my negative emotions like depression and loneliness and things like that. And then I project my heavy chi at my enemy. How did Ranma put it, 'heavy heart, heavy chi'?"

Raven mulled that over in her mind. "So, basically you concentrate all of your negative feelings and then project them outwards?"

"Yeah I guess that's pretty much it."

Raven screeched to a stop, causing the following boy to completely lose his concentration and crash to the ground below. She floated down to where the, apparently undamaged, teen was getting to his feet.

"So you mean to tell me that you can fire an energy blast that is based solely on your feelings of angst?"

Something about the question put Ryouga on the defensive. "Yeah, what of it?"

This time a small smile formed on the gothic teens lips.

"I have a friend whom I think you simply must meet."

And then, without another word, she flew off again.

Ryouga could only stare in wonder for a moment.

Then he realized if he didn't follow her now. . . he was going to end up lost and probably never see her again.

Beast Boy continued his rather futile efforts to vent his frustrations on the run amok destruction set beneath him. He could hardly remember the last time that anything had gotten him so angry, but seeing Raven smacked out over the forest like a human homerun, that had set him off something fierce.

Of course, after nearly getting himself killed a few times, the changeling had quickly been forced to calm the heck down and start using his head again -

'Oops!' He quickly morphed into a mongoose to avoid a wild swing of the golem's bulky fist, then shifted into an elephant between its legs to throw Cinderblock off of its feet.

'Heh. Score, it worked!' And down goes the giant.

'Ouch!' Beast Boy quickly dove to the side, wincing in pained sympathy. That had looked extremely painful. Star Bolts should not go there . . . Ever!

Well, to be fair to the lovely Tamaranian, they were all pretty ticked, really. That jerk taking a cheap shot at Raven like that was so not cool. But it looked like Robin's hunch was turning out to be right. Ever since it had taken out Raven, Cinderblock has been fighting on the defensive.

'Like he's not trying to beat us, just delay us.' Unfortunately it was working, which was only making the situation that much more annoying.

Turning into a gorilla, Beast Boy jumped on the exposed back of the gray behemoth. He struggled vainly to hold the monster still as Cyborg laid into it with his sonic cannon. He could see a few flakes of masonry float past him as the blue beam of solid sound tore into the villain's stony hide.

Then he felt an overly large hand wrap around his arm. With a titanic surge, Cinderblock pulled him over its head and tossed him right at his cybernetic comrade-

As if that would work.

A quick change into an eagle and he soared up over his friend and circled back to face the animated inanimate object. Hmm if the clearing weren't so small, he could do his famous whale drop . . . but he'd likely squash all his friends flat here.

Well, he might as well take advantage of his bird form while he was up here.

Cinderblock's tiny mind was tightly wrapped around one single thought . . . 'Delay the Titans'. As such, it had restrained itself greatly, not charging off in random directions trying to bury his enemies like an avalanche. It was a bit hard staying in one place just letting his enemies' sting him continually like a nest of hornets.

The beast was planning to reduce the number of titans remaining to three-

When something white and slimy splattered across his eyes, blinding him.

Raven could clearly hear the sounds of combat now. Still, as eager as she was to rejoin her friends, she still found herself to be somewhat confused by her current companion. Ryouga seemed to have all of the classic signs of chronic depression; she boggled slightly, he had literally become so depressed that he could use it as a weapon. Did that even make sense?

And yet the boy she saw before her looked healthy and strong, he even joked with her and went out of his way to help her.

Really, she had expected someone with that much emotional baggage to be more . . . well more like her she supposed. Withdrawn, pale, reserved, but this strange teen seemed to have no emotional restraint whatsoever.

Well, it was a puzzle for another day; she could see the clearing ahead of her now. Bursts of blue and green energy were already visible between the foliage. She silently flew into the clearing and heard Ryouga land close beside her.

Things looked to be very hectic. Cinderblock looked damaged, a rarity indeed, and her friends were attacking with righteous fury . . . well, more righteous fury than usual in Starfire's case.

It struck her. They must have thought she was seriously hurt, or worse. She supposed it was natural considering how close Beast Boy had gotten to being hurt earlier. Still, if she hadn't gotten that shield in front of her just before Cinderblock's last hit connected, well, she'd have had a lot more than sore forearms.

Instead of falling on Ryouga she might have been raining on him.

She shivered slightly at the macabre image in her head.

"Stay back, we'll handle this monster," she ordered Ryouga. She started to float forward to join her friends when she heard a soft chuckle coming from behind her.

She turned slowly to see Ryouga chuckling to himself. With a little practice, and a lot of credit, it might have been called an evil chuckle. However it was ruined when he folded over and started laughing out loud.

In fact his laugh was loud enough to get the attention of everyone in the clearing, even Cinderblock's. Raven felt everyone's eyes on her now. She felt a little warm inside at the relieved and joyous gazes from her friends. Then their gazes moved over to the martial artist beside her and became questioning.

Ryouga straightened up, shaking his head and wiping a tear from his eye. A few last chuckles escaped his lips.

"Who is this guy?" muttered Cyborg to the green changeling standing beside him.

"A whacko from the looks of it, but what's he doin with Raven?" answered Beast Boy.

Robin's eye mask narrowed as the Asian stranger started walking towards Cinderblock, a smile on his face and a spring in his step.

Starfire floated to land beside Raven and gave her a quick, non-bone-crushing hug. "It is glorious to see you return to us unharmed, Raven. But who is your companion and why does he make with the laughing of the mentally destabilized?" asked the concerned alien.

Raven could only shake her head. "It's a long story, but we better save him before he gets himself killed."

Ryouga concentrated on following the girl in front of him. He knew if he didn't keep her in sight he'd likely get lost almost instantly. Luckily she seemed to be a fan of moving in straight lines so he wasn't having too much trouble.

He could hear the sound of combat ahead of him now. Several moments later, their destination was in sight. The bamboo opened wide before them, revealing a massive, recently created clearing absolutely filled with destruction. Raven landed at the outer edge of the carnage and he landed just behind her to take in the scene.

Okay . . . the scene was pretty strange, even for him

There were five figures in the clearing already. The one that stood out most was, of course, the twelve foot tall stone monster.

Things didn't get much more normal from there. Floating above the monster was a very tall girl with orange skin and flaming red hair. Not to mention jade beams of energy were shooting from her eyes.

Next there was a large, dark skinned person, well at least it seemed so, since most of the man seemed to be covered in some form of metallic armor.

Then there was the small boy with the green skin and purple jumpsuit. The pointed ears were a bit strange too. Cool fangs, though.

Finally, there was the most normal looking one of the group. Which wasn't saying much, really. He was a small teen, wearing a mask, spandex and a cape. The way he moved seemed to show he had a bit of training in the martial arts, but Ryouga couldn't really be sure how good he was without seeing him in action. Still, meeting another martial artist was always a fun prospect.

Really, though, there was far too much skintight clothing in this clearing for his comfort.

Judging by everyone's reaction to them entering the clearing, it was fairly obvious that the latter four were Raven's friends and the large stone monster was not. Not that that really surprised him in retrospect.

Then suddenly it hit him.

He couldn't stop himself; he started chuckling quietly.

Oh, to hell with it, this was too funny. He started laughing till he was nearly folded over. At least until the silence from the clearing caught his attention. He looked up slightly to see everyone looking at him strangely.

'Oops' He didn't want everyone thinking he was crazy now.

With a small chuckle he straightened up, wiping away a tear of amusement from his eye.

Then, with a confident step, he started towards the giant stone monster at the center of the clearing.

Robin reeled in shock from Raven's miraculous return, not to mention the laughing stranger that had appeared with her. There was definitely something different about this person.

The masked vigilante instantly picked up on the teen's Japanese features, but the rest of his outfit didn't seem to match. He was wearing a yellow muscle shirt, which was pretty roughed up. It seemed to match the oddly patterned headband the boy wore, though. On his back was a large backpack, with a delicate looking ornamental bamboo umbrella lying across the top.

The two things that really caught the detective's attention were much closer to the ground. On the stranger's feet were a pair of light slippers, the same style that kung fu practitioners were famed for wearing. The most telling things, though, were the criss-crossing straps tied around the youth's shins. While most people would think them to be like what a ballerina wore, Robin knew better. His mentor had long ago taught him about the Shaolin Monks of China, whom also tied cords around their shins in that very manner.

On closer inspection Robin noticed the other boy was also wearing black bracers around his wrists. So without ever seeing him move or fight, and despite the discrepancy of Japanese features and Chinese clothing, Robin already knew the boy was a martial artist. A slight tingle of excitement ran down the young titan's spine. He very rarely got a chance to fight actual martial artists. Most of the people he fought were either street fighters or just relied entirely on their super powers to fight.

The prospect of matching himself against another person that was dedicated solely to the perfection of his skills (one that wasn't a psychopath like Slade, anyway) was interesting to say the least. He might even be able to learn a few new tricks for their next bad guy of the week.

Now he just had to figure out how to get rid of Cinderblock so he could start plotting a reason to spar with this guy.

'Huh, wait a sec . . .'

Whoever he was, the martial artist besides Raven had stopped laughing and started moving towards the mammoth beast towering over the clearing.

Robin started forward. "Wait, Stop! You don't know what you're up against!"

In his peripheral vision, Robin saw the other Titans moving forward to intercept as well.

Then the stranger looked back in his direction . . . And smiled.

The smile was so full of confidence and humor that Robin was stopped in his tracks. Slightly confused, but curious now, he waved a hand and signaled the other Titans to stop. Reluctantly they obeyed his order, staring at both him and the apparently suicidal teen standing before the granite behemoth.

Then the Japanese boy said something to Cinderblock. Robin cocked an ear but couldn't quite make it out.

Whatever it was, Cinderblock didn't seem impressed. The massive monster raised a stone arm high into the air, getting ready to squash the annoyance before it.

Robin quickly pulled out his staff and prepared to throw it to distract the beast, when something completely incomprehensible happened.

The boy yelled something in Japanese, Back eye ten keys? Whatever that meant.

And then, against all common sense and logic, he did the last thing that Robin expected anyone to do. . . ever.

He poked Cinderblock.

Ryouga smirked evilly as he stood before the massive beast. This thing was a heck of a lot bigger than Lime ever was. And way more imposing to boot. He chuckled quietly to himself; he'd never been less afraid of something in his entire life. He almost laughed again, despite his attempts to be serious.

Staring up into the monstrosity's eyes he couldn't resist making a little pre fight banter.

"I don't suppose you've ever been to China before, have you?"

The monster glared at him, not appearing to understand him but probably still too confused to try to squash him quite yet.

Ryouga shrugged slightly. "Well I guess you've never heard of the Chinese Amazons before, either. A pity, really, because if you had, you'd understand what's about to happen to you."

Whether it understood him or not, he couldn't tell. He could tell it was tired of his chatter as it raised one of its large igneous arms to smash him.

A quick glance revealed the point he had seen earlier when he entered the clearing. This was almost unsporting really, but then this thing did try to kill Raven. And attacking women was the most dishonorable thing you could do.

The creature's movements turned to molasses as Ryouga brought all of his focus onto that one point. It was a glowing beacon to his eyes, drawing his attention like a moth to a flame. With deliberate speed he drew back his right arm and extended his index finger. He then willed all of his energy into his hand; he could feel it flowing down his arm like a river, funneling to a single point at the very end of his extended finger.


His roar shattered the silence of the forest and his arm shot forward with unstoppable force. His finger slammed into the concrete hide of the beast and he felt it dig in slightly from the impact, small flakes of stone flying.

Then he took a step back, folded his arms. . .

And waited.

Beast Boy had seen many strange things in his life. In fact he was pretty sure that was some kind of understatement of an epic scope. He had also had the privilege of meeting some very brave people in his day as well. But he had never seen a person walk up to a twelve foot tall granite killing machine and poke it in the stomach before.

And then the crazy freak just stood back and folded his arm like he was waiting for the bus!

This dude was soo awesome! Totally out of his mind, but . . . but man he'd never seen anything like it before. Even Cinderblock looked confused.

Well it did for a moment, now it looked mad and was getting ready to crush Raven's new friend into a fine paste. The giant stood to its full height, its fist so high up that Beast Boy was worried low flying planes might hit it.

And the guy was Still. Just. Standing there! The smile never left the guy's face and he looked about as concerned as a cat watching a mouse.

Well, because of Robin's orders they were all too far away to help him now. That fist was gonna come down like a. . . well like one of those space rock things with all the cool fire and stuff. And then the guy would be paste.

Then, as he had predicted, Cinderblock began its strike. Beast Boy heard the high-pitched whistle of the air angrily resisting the bulky limb's passage. His attention was focused on the scene before him, but in his peripheral vision he could see his teammate's reactions.

Robin's eye mask was wider than he'd ever seen it before, but he didn't even have anything to throw now. Cyborg was watching with morbid fascination. . . kinda like he was he guessed. Starfire had already covered her eyes with her hands and was looking away . . . that was probably a good idea actually.

Raven - Raven looked like she was doing something. Her eyes were glowing and that weird black stuff was around her hands, even across the clearing his keen ears could pick up her muttering her magic words.

He sure hoped whatever she was doing worked.

Really, he'd forgotten his Gallagher rain tarp at the tower . . . Okay, nasty imagery there.

A loud crack brought him back into focus. Beast Boy took in the scene before him and tried to figure it out. Cinderblock's fist had stopped only halfway to its target. And now the massive creature was reeling back.

'What the heck?'

All across Cinderblock's massive frame, small cracks began to form – Ouch . . . That one wasn't so small, Cinderblock's face was split vertically now by a nasty fissure.

The creature swung its arms violently, chunks of stone flying. Then it curled up, all the time the cracks spreading, connecting and deepening.

The stranger just stood there smiling.

Then Beast Boy's world exploded into gray.

Cinderblock's massive frame convulsed and cracked, then, as if it had swallowed a dozen sticks of dynamite . . .

Cinderblock exploded!

The blast deafened all the Titans and shrapnel from the explosion pelted them all.

Robin swept his cape in front of himself; he could feel the chunks of stone bouncing off the titanium fiber and knew he'd be bruised tomorrow.

Cyborg raised his titanium arms to cover his vulnerable face. The sound of gravel hitting steel sounded off like he was standing in front of a firing squad.

Beast Boy wasn't even able to hold his footing. The shockwave from the blast picked up his small elfin form and tossed him out of the clearing.

Raven, who luckily was already concentrating on using her powers, was able to quickly pull together a shield of ebon energy to protect herself from the blast and the ensuing hail storm.

Starfire withstood the force of the blast easily, her alien strength and toughness protecting her. However, thinking fast she brought her hands forward and generated the largest star bolt she was capable of in such a short time and held it in front of herself. The heat of her emerald energy vaporized all of the debris coming her way leaving the Tamaranian titan totally unscathed.

The same could not be said for the forest. Bamboo trees were shredded in every direction, shoots tipped over and canopy just gone. The clearing had easily doubled in size in the last fraction of a second.

And when the smoke cleared; there, standing in the center of the clearing, looking none the worse for wear, stood Ryouga Hibiki.

Ryouga idly brushed some of the rubble from his shoulder. Curiously he noticed several small tears in his shirt. He fingered one of the tears absently.

That had easily been the more intense blast that his Bakusai Tenketsu technique had caused, startlingly intense, really. Usually his clothing wasn't affected anymore than he was. As it was he felt what could be the beginnings of a few bumps and bruises across his body. However his conditioning from the Bakusai Tenketsu training protected him from any real harm . . . as usual.

He turned to find Raven in the mess he had created, just to make sure she was alright of course. He only got about halfway when he suddenly found himself swarmed by three of the people he had seen in the clearing earlier.

"How did you do that, Dawg!" yelled the large one.

"You are undamaged, is that correct, Raven's new friend?" the girl with the flaming red hair asked. He could hear real concern in her voice and it made him feel a little warm and fuzzy inside.

The small framed boy wearing the mask approached Ryouga, but addressed Raven. "So, Raven, why don't you introduce your new friend to us?"

"Yeah, Rae, you don't usually bring strange men home with you, this is a momentous event," chortled Beast Boy, his eyebrows wiggling suggestively in the dark titan's direction. Ryouga's face blushed red in embarrassment at the comment and he started twiddling his thumbs spouting half formed denials. Unfortunately the display only caused Starfire to giggle in amusement, embarrassing him further.

Raven responded to Beast Boys immature antics by glaring at him until, with a squeak, the changeling dived behind Cyborg's titanium frame. She then turned to face her more serious teammates. "This is Hibiki Ryouga, he saved me after Cinderblock sent me flying over the jungle," she stated with absolutely zero aplomb.

Ryouga puffed up a bit at the light praise and happy looks he was receiving from her four friends. He wasn't usually the center of attention . . . well not in a good way, anyway.

The small green boy snickered. "Dude, that must have been some catch, are you, like, some kinda super outfielder or something?" he asked jokingly.

Cyborg laughed a bit at the joke while Ryouga just looked confused.

Raven continued like Beast Boy hadn't spoken. "Of course right after saving me he attempted to kill me." She wore a sly smirk on her features now.

Ryouga cringed as he suddenly felt the scowls of four angry teens. Yeah, that seemed more like normal now. "Um heh heh heh, about that . . ." He desperately tried to find an explanation that would get him out of this unscathed. Unfortunately he was drawing a blank . . . he really couldn't work under pressure at all!

Fortunately, Raven came to his rescue. "Don't worry, though, it was all a misunderstanding and we resolved it without any incidents. After that we made our way here and you know the rest."

Cyborg, sounding a bit confused, had to ask, "Wait a sec, Man, you mean you-" He pointed at Ryouga. "save her, and then you attack her? What's up with that, did you change your mind or something?"

Ryouga was a little confused at some of the pretty obvious gaps in Raven's story, but if she didn't want to mention the part about the Shi Shi Houkodan he wouldn't either.

"Well, I guess she startled me a bit. I mean I was pretty distracted by having to get over the trees to catch her and then landing safely, so I didn't notice her aura until she was already waking up," Ryouga replied to Cyborg's question.

Starfire nodded knowingly, even as all of the males present looked all the more confused

"You sensed that Raven's Chakra is much more predominating than is common amongst members of your species. I have only started my own research with Raven, but I have noticed the large differences between the auras of each of my friends. It is most glorious to be able to sense such things," exclaimed the Tamaranian.

Silently Ryouga mouthed the words, 'member of your species', to himself for a moment before filing it away for later. Then he raised a hand to the back of his head unconsciously.

"I don't know that much about Chakras or anything. I just sensed her chi . . . um, Raven has . . . different chi then I normally sense from people, even other strong martial artists. It just shocked me for a moment and I acted on instinct," explained the Lost Boy.

Ryouga wasn't sure whether or not Raven's friends knew about her demonic heritage or not, but they seemed to like her, and he trusted Raven, so he saw no need to make a fuss over it.

Beast Boy nodded in sympathy. "Yeah, I know what you mean. My instinct is always to run whenever I see Raven."

He proved his point by ducking back behind the laughing Cyborg to avoid another of Raven's glares. Starfire rolled her eyes at her young friend's antics, as if anyone would run from such a dear friend as Raven.

Robin extended a hand to Ryouga. "Well, for saving Raven and for helping us out here, you have our thanks, Ryouga. If you're ever in Jump city, look us up, we live in the Giant T." The Titan's young leader wore an amused smirk.

"Yeah, Dawg, you were great back there, um whatever it was you did back there, anyway, Man," added Cyborg.

"Yeah, Dudes, we've finally beat Cinderblock so we can head home and get some grub. How sweet it is!" exclaimed the happy green elf.

Starfire looked slightly confused. "But, Beast Boy, our reason for traveling to this continental mass was to do the following of the H.I.V.E. vessel. Would it not make sense that the H.I.V.E. operatives would have more nefarious purposes in mind than simply laying an ambush for us?"

Beast Boy's shoulders slumped in defeat.

"Starfire is right, now that we've taken care of the distraction we need to find out what they could possibly be after in such a remote area of China," stated Robin.

The connection of the words 'Remote' and 'China' sparked a sense of dread in the lost boy's mind. Knowing just how abysmal his own luck was, there was really only one place he could imagine they could be thinking about.

"Um, you said we're in China, right? Do you happen to know where in China we are?" asked the martial artist hesitantly.

Robin answered the seemingly random question. "We're in the Qinghai province, near the Bayanlanka mountains, I think."

"The Byankala Mountain Range?" Ryouga cut him off insistently.

"Yes, that is the name inscribed upon the navigational charts," supplied the orange haired female helpfully.

Instantly, Ryouga's darkest fears were confirmed. He knew exactly why the Titan's quarry was in China. A single word escaped his lips-


Cyborg smiled brightly. "You know where they're goin? That's great, you can give us directions!"

. . . Ryouga felt himself die a little inside.