"DewBlossom... That name is ridiculous. For daring to steal my darling Shampoo from me... I will see you punished! Entities of darkness, I free you now from your eternal slumber, asking only a single boon of thee! DESTROY RANMA DEWBLOSSOM!!!"
So saying, Mu Tsu of the Joketsuzoku cast an urn off the edge of a tall cliff, the many runes glowing eerily and wards flapping through the air as it plummeted to the base of the cliff.
"Dew... No, I can't make myself say that word any longer... Ranma! Your judgement is at hand, and after you have fallen Shampoo will be mine alone!"
"What stupid Mousse talking?"
Mu Tsu slowly turned around, a sweatdrop showing through his long hair.
"Sh-Shampoo! But... aren't you chasing that infernal cad who underhandedly defeated you in combat to bring him back to the tribe?"
"...? Shampoo think too-too stupid Mousse smoke something bad... Ranma no fight Shampoo... through complex series of accidents Ranma accidentally knock out Sorceress-in-training Perfume."
Mousse slowly glanced over the cliff, to the base where a strange cloud of vapor suddenly gathered together and blew away towards Japan.
Against the wind.
Setsuna paused in fighting her way through the heavily guarded safehouse. At first she'd passed it off as a joke, before she checked and there really was a magically warded and heavily guarded secret labyrinth sixty miles south of the school. But Ranma wasn't there, unless he was one of the thugs she'd already vaporized and none of them had pigtails, and now...
She ducked a sudden hail of bullets and teleported away to the time gates. She was getting that feeling again... that something happened that shouldn't have, and needed to be fixed. She opened her mind to the gates of time, scanning swiftly everything that had happened when the unsettling feeling had gone down her spine.
And nearly screamed in frustration.
There was another enemy to battle, but... they could not defeat this one on their own. The final blow had to be dealt by the one that this army of darkness had been set upon, without him they had no chance of victory.
If she had to work with him... then fine. Far be it from her to deny the facts... however... Nobody said she couldn't wait for him to exhaust himself fighting this strange new threat and then stab him in the back. Figuratively and/or literally. Whatever works.
Jupiter was slowly coming to the realization that Nerima was very large, with many many places to look for people, and it had been more than long enough for Pluto to have a hefty headstart on locating the hunk. She needed a miracle from... she paused to consider. She wasn't christian, buddhist, or shinto... hmm... This could take a moment. Who was the patron diety of Jupiter?
Jupiter... Jove... Zeus. She needed a sign from Zeus to show where the hunk had gone.
Lightning struck the backyard of a fairly decent sized residence nearby.
"Thank you Zeus!"
A few minutes ago, Kasumi had set out the tea and was casually ogling the newcomer as he and Ranma recounted old times, and everyone gathered around the table to listen. By the time Hotaru had made it dressed and down the stairs all the available seats were filled, with her sisters casually sneering at her from either side of her man. She contained the sudden urge to blast them to oblivion... hesitating for half a second to wonder just where that thought came from... then shrugged.
And took a seat in Ranma's lap, provoking a cold glance from her father and her sisters to smack their heads into the table, wondering why they hadn't thought of that. Ryoga casually ignored her right up until he realized that Ranma wasn't responding violently to the show of affection, was in fact calmly encouraging it... without the use of flowers or chocolate. At that point he very nearly choked on his own tongue.
"...and then there was the time that one guy summoned hordes of darkness on us, you remember? We were whacking skeledoids for weeks! Good times, eh? Good times."
"R-ranma... girl... lap... touching you... not kill... but..."
Ranma absently rearranged Hotaru on his lap so that bloodflow to his feet wasn't cut off, completely missing the shock in Ryoga's eyes.
"And then there was that time when we ran across that guy with a squid for his head... Good times, we knew how to have fun, eh?"
Ryoga was still stuttering incoherently as Soun began to converse quietly with Genma.
"These stories... seem familiar, do they not, Genma? Similar actually, to certain things we went through when the Master..."
"Yes, Tendo... Though I do not recall seeing my son through the skele-thing incident he mentioned... or remember the first time he met the Hibiki boy... Perhaps it was during?"
"...but... But I thought you were GAY!"
A slow silence fell through the room as Ranma's aura turned black and momentarily visible to everyone... except Hotaru, who's eyes were closed as she focused on how much she enjoyed being held in Ranma's lap.
"... WHAT, exactly, led you to that conclusion, my completely and totally platonic buddy?"
Ryoga gulped, sweating heavily, and Genma murmured a small prayer for the boys soul, quietly, barely loud enough for Soun, right next to him, to make out the general wording and lift an eyebrow. But both Genma and the unfortunate Ryoga had heard him use that tone of voice before.
Just before he tore the squid headed person's head off, dipped it in batter, fried it in oil, and ate it with dipping sauce. Ryoga remembered, far too late, just why he'd never brought up this subject before.
"B-but... girls have been trying to catch you since we were TEN! Remember? The incident with the Jacuzzi, a girl's school vacation, hot and cold springs, and twenty-five pounds of lime green gelatin powder? You never once showed any interest whatsoever in anything female... I ... Ijumpedtoconclusions,pleasedon'tkillme!"
A smirk settled down on Ranma's face as his aura dissappeared.
"Why would I do something like that? You've jumped to conclusions, and you've apologized. No biggie. By the way... I worked out a new technique earlier. Would you like to see it?"
Ryoga's eyes bugged out of his head as he leapt for the exit, hoping he could get lost before Ranma blasted him with whatever new skill he'd learned... and then make him learn it. 'To keep up with me.' Sadly if he'd stayed inside, he'd have been perfectly safe, as Ranma was somewhat unwilling to destroy Tendo-san's house, but the second he left the house he was a perfect target.
Then again, who expects to get hit by lightning in the middle of the city on a sunny day? Ryoga sure didn't.
"Kasumi! Would you mind keeping my buddy from running off while Hotaru-chan and I set the generators back up? I'd be much obliged."
The semiconscious Hibiki whimpered as Kasumi happily gathered him to her bosom, keeping him from darting for escape as Ranma set up those large machines in the... oh. So that's what those generators were there for. Generators.
'Generator, n. a mechanical device used primarily for the powering of household implements, a small one capable of converting gasonline into electricity capable of powering an entire house.'
Ryoga had seen generators before. His house was actually powered by a small gas generator which could be topped off by a company after a quick phone call. His father had decided that it was far more cost-effective to power the house that way, as they were rarely there, and it was considered courtesy to call the gas company to fill the tank if you used it all up. Much cheaper than paying for supplying electricity to a house you may not be at for months at a time.
The generator was, as stated, small... perhaps forty to fifty kilos at best. These monsters were at least in the 300-350 kilo range. Each. They could power this entire district for a long time... frankly, he wasn't sure he wanted to know what Ranma had done to get them.
Trying to avoid wondering what the hell those things could be used for, he thought about what had just happened. Ranma had said he wanted to 'demonstrate a new technique', and he'd been hit by lightning from a clear sky. Hmmm. With all these generators here, he was reminded slightly of something Ranma'd told him about once. The 'neko-ken', which was a powerful, albeit uncontrollable, technique, giving the trainee the reflexes, speed, demeanor, and most importantly, claws of a cat. Hmm. Ranma had struck him with lightning from a clear sky. To learn the neko-ken, one had to be repeatedly... mauled by... hunger-crazed housecats... He paused to draw the parallells and suddenly stare, horrified, at the generators Ranma had finished setting up.
Oh. Oh shit. This was really going to hurt.
Makoto, Sailor Jupiter, landed on the wall surrounding the household and took a deep breath to prepare her speech and apology.
And paused, staring in shock at the wild battle going on. The guy she'd tried to fry earlier was chasing another guy around in circles... she blinked with shock as she realized it was her old sempai, sighing as she noted the buxom, yet housewifish woman clinging around his neck... while the girl who was with him was leaning against a large... thing with wires coming out of it. She blinked as the Pigtailed Hunk stopped chasing her sempai around, but he continued running frantically in circles, then winced as PH pulled a... large pink mallet?... out of nowhere and held it out to the side. She felt like smacking herself as her sempai blindly ran straight into it, with the audible crunch of his nose flattening. Then the PH lifted her dazed sempai over his shoulder and turn back towards the large machines.
Only to pause and smile as he caught sight of her, standing, slightly befuddled, on the wall.
The hair on the back of her neck rose as her senses, finely tuned from working so long with her element, warned her of an incoming blast of...
She leapt to the ground, barely missing being struck by a bolt of falling lightning.
"W-wait! I'm not here to..."
She was interrupted by a blow to the ribs, knocking the wind out of her as she fell to the ground and he leapt back... why would he...?
Her eyes widened as she realized why he'd given up the offensive and she threw herself into a desperate roll to the side to avoid another blast from the heavens. Shock and curiosity as to how this guy had managed to call lightning, she'd met people who could pass themselves of as magicians, but this was far more than some special gloves and static electricity, were replaced with the adrenaline high of a battle for her life.
It was exhilirating.
She had always enjoyed fighting... had earned something of a reputation for it in her old schools... but once she'd begun her extracurricular activites she'd begun to... At first, all youma had been a challenge. It was very dangerous to fight them, and she came close to serious injury several times. After a while though... The youma didn't become easier to battle, but they didn't become any more difficult either. The battle high had... stagnated. Now, she was fighting a human who could concievably tear her to shreds, and had somehow copied her own attacks and duplicated them... by a hundredfold.
It was like a rush of crackling lightning was flowing through her veins as she rolled back to her feet, electrical blasts forgotten in favor of straighforward battle with fists and feet.
A wide grin of battle-lust spread across her face and was mirrored by her pigtailed opponent. He flicked his arms forward, switchblades opening in mid-flight before kicking a wire to the side, where it landed inconspicuosly in the koi pond, and rushing for the brown haired Jupiter.
They clashed, meeting in the middle of the yard, Jupiters fist smashing into his cheekbone and his own driving forcefully into her stomach. Blood spurted from his nose and her mouth as they sprang back, only to rush forward again and reverse their strikes, Ranma's fist slamming into Makoto's jaw and her daintier fist driving into his side, obviously bruising a kidney. Blood flew through the air again and settled, trickling down their faces, crimson lines tracking down their jaws.
The mad grins never faded for a second.
"Haaah... so... haaah... girl... ready to... give up... and die?"
"Heh... not... heh... on your... heh... life..."
"Well far be it from me... to sway you from a death you are so eager to greet!"
"Hah! I'll beat you into a grinning mush... and make you accept my apology!"
"Not a chance in HELL!"
They sprang at each other once more, breathing back to normal, and Ranma accepted a painful kick to the ribs to grab her foot and launch her, gasping, towards the koi pond. Several koi were carried out of the pond by the wave and flopped, strangling, on the ground.
"Hotaru, the switch! Now!"
Hotaru blinked at the sudden command, but unquestioningly flipped the switch she was leaning against, wincing afterwards as the scream rang out from the koi pond and the entire yard filled with the smell of cooking fish. Ranma grinned as he flipped over to perch on one of the stones surrounding the koi pond, smirking down at the thrashin form under the electrified water.
He plunged his arm in, completely ignoring the crackling arcs of energy surging up his unprotected arm, and lifted the sorely beaten girl out of the deadly pond.
Of all times, her psyche chose now to give her another small fragment of the memory of her previous life, apparently triggered by the arcs of electricity surging up his arms.
Today was a good day for the princess of Jupiter, Iolanthe. She had been training, and her tutor said that perhaps by next year she'd be able to qualify for the tournament.
She blinked and made her way down the stairs, wondering what the commotion was about. She had heard that part of the tournament prize this year was a man, apparently a fine specimen, perfect husband material. She hadn't had the chance to take a look at him yet.
"Do you think he'll hurt himself? There's a lot of juice going through those bars."
"I think its cute how he refuses to give up."
Iolanthe ignored the idle chatter and gossip as she focused on its source, and had to catch her breath in astonishment. A fine specimen indeed, even with a huge current flowing through him and into the ground. So brave, even to touch the dangerous bars. So willful, refusing to release his hold on them even as his hair stood on end and it became obvious that the bars would not move, but he still attempted to exert his will upon them, oblivious to the pain.
She turned and headed, rather than back to her quarters to prepare to watch the tournament with her mother, to sign herself up into the games. She would win, because she would not let her prize slip away...
Ranma shook her lightly, bringing Makoto swiftly back to reality.
"Now then... I believe you mentioned something about an apology for your crass and foolish attack upon my person earlier today?"
Makoto coughed as the pressure on her throat was released enough that the girl could force enough air into her semi-charred lungs to respond.
"Y... yes... I'm..."
Ranma shrugged and casually tossed her to slam against the wall and slide to the ground.
"Don't worry about it, girl. It actually happens rather more frequently than you might expect. I don't hold grudges... often."
She slumped to the ground, vision beginning to waver as the battle high wore off and left her feeling all the pain she'd ignored. Within moments, she had lost concsiousness and crumpled fully to the ground.
The smile, however, never left her face.
Hotaru didn't know why, but the fight seemed... wrong somehow. Like she should be in there, fighting alongside of... of who? Alongside the man she had been engaged to, and had decided to marry? Alongside the girl that she was sure she'd never met before today, but somehow felt a strange kinship to? Both? Neither?
Then the fight had ended, with the girl slumping against the wall and sprawling to the ground, and he had turned and their eyes met... and for one short moment, something primal urged her to flee before warmth spread through her body as he smiled, just for her, and the small voice was silenced. He paced forward and gathered her up into his arms, heedless of his ruined clothes and the blood yet trickling from the corner of his mouth, and drew her up into a passionate kiss.
At first she was shocked at his forwardness, unprecedented, as he had had no difficulty keeping himself to himself when he could have easily seduced her in bed... or just asked... and the oddly sweet flavor of his mingled blood and spittle, but after a moment her body began to melt into his embrace and...
He withdrew, flushing lightly.
"Ah... forgive me. The battle has stirred something in my blood. I feel the intense, burning urge to..."
He leaned in once more, crimson stained lips gently brushing against hers and...
Spluttered in shock as Nabiki flung a bucket of water at both of them.
"For god's sake you two, get a... room?"
All eyes turned to the pigtailed form that had shielded Hotaru. The first difference that was readily available showed through the pigtail itself, appearing slightly longer, an illusion because of its bearers sudden decrease in height. The second was the color, a brilliant fire-engine red, rather than the midnight blackness prior. Then he.. she... turned around and smirked at them, folding her arms under her chest and bringing her most obvious assets into a position that they couldn't be missed. Despite the fact that they were mainly hetero, they had once in a while contemplated pitching for the other team, so to speak. And Hotaru...
Hotaru reached forward, eyes wide and slightly glassy, and poked lightly at Ranma's breasts.
"They're real... What? Did you think Genma was the only one that fell in the cursed springs? That's serious magic in that valley... if the springs want you, they'll get you. There's no escape... I simply hide it better than most. ...Eh? H-hotammph?"
Hotaru had leaned forward, slipping her hand inside Ranma's chinese shirt as their lips met, traces of blood still clinging to her tongue. Ranma flushed lightly as her delicate fingers began tracing around her nipples and began trailing down to slip under the tie of her pants, softly stroking...
"Ah... ah... Ho... Hotaru..."
Hotaru blinked, and her eyes suddenly came back into focus, leaving her slightly bewildered as to why she was pinning Ranma-chan up against the generator with her fingers up...
Her eyes widened and she jerked back a step, prompting a soft moan from the flushing girl from the sheer speed of her hand leaving its position.
"I... I... I... I-I-I think, maybe, you should... take a bath... Ranma? You're... all sweaty and... I think I have to lie down."
A dark cloud paused, unnoticed, floating above the scene of destruction. It had been there the entire time... watching, waiting for its opportunity to strike... but...
It seemed to shiver for a moment. Such pure, raw power... thousands of years ago, it had been imprisoned in that urn by Jupiter herself. Perhaps the Jupiter slumped against the wall was not yet at the height of her growth... but it was still disturbing for its intended target to have defeated even a half-grown Jupiter so easily.
Also there was the problem of the gender-shifting. While male, the target was indeed formidable, but as a female... The potential was there. Astronomical.
It had to find allies... swiftly.
The cloud gathered itself together and blew away, searching for allies. Once the target had been eliminated, it would be free... free to exact vengeance on all those who had imprisoned it! And then... it would take its rightful place, burrow to the depths of the earth to grow and devour this puny world from the inside out, gathering to itself the fossilized genetic data of every creature that had lived on this floating ball of cohesive dirt, before it expanded past the surface and spawned, sending hundreds of its brethren throughout the bounds of space.
As their kind had done since the beginning of time.
The Lavos-spawn whisked away on the wind, perhaps or perhaps not cursing the immateriality of its current form. Were it still whole, it was certain it could destroy all the impudent mortals at once. But were it whole, it would have long since begun the cycle towards the destruction of this planet for the sake of creating its spawn. A dilemna indeed.
Jadeite stared out over the infinite snowy wastes. Not that he had much of a choice. He was locked in the Eternal Sleep, and when the Senshi had destroyed his masters, Beryl and Mettalia, the Dark Kingdom had fallen, leaving most of the Youma to starve to death in the snowy wastes, leaving no remains but dust that was swiftly integrated into the swirling snow.
At the very least, it was slightly more entertaining than simply staring into darkness for eternity, as Beryl had planned to punish his failure. After so long trapped in the crystal, he had begun to question things he had never before considered, and came to the conclusion that Beryl had been a wasteful fool. She would send out a Youma with no more explicit instructions than to 'gather energy', and be surprised when they failed. They had never been trained for something like that. They had never been trained at all come to think about it. The only reason he was a general, rather than some lower class youma, was that he had gone through extensive military training before being taken into Metallia's dark fold. Then, at the end of the war, they'd simply sat down and stewed in their own juices, barely eking enough energy to keep them alive from Metallia's 'generosity'. There had been many speeches, angry rants about how the forces of the light would pay for this travesty.
But no preparation.
They simply sat, speaking rage-filled words, for thousands of years until one day, the spell itself weakened, allowing them to return to the earth that had originally bore them. But they had faded. Stagnated. Youma that could have easily matched and beaten down a senshi during the war were easily defeated by a group of untried, untested schoolgirls. New to their power, unaware of what their strength would one day grow to become. He had been baffled at the time as to how a trio of senshi, with only two useful attacks between them had managed to defeat him. HIM! In his heyday, he and the other generals could easily match two fully matured senshi at a time... the brats hadn't even learned their second attacks yet!
Then Beryl and Metallia fell, and it was as though a haze of confusion had lifted from his eyes. A ragtag band of Youma, rejected from reality itself for millenia, not even having used their powers since the days of the war... How could the girls have failed to win. But it brought something to mind. He had only begun to see clearly once Beryl had died. Had she... intended to fail? It seemed impossible... but made a strange sense. Every time someone had failed, no matter how close they had come to success... they were executed. Only the generals were spared that fate, by dint of excessive pleading and the fact that they were the only readily accessible males in the entire Dark Kingdom. That brough up another question... why were all the other Youma female? It seemed odd. But no matter. It was as though Beryl was playing an intricate game of chess with someone, and they and the Senshi were mere pieces. And Beryl had simply stopped caring whether she won or lost, was simply playing to end the game. Why else, when he had told her he knew the secret identities of the three senshi then, would she have struck him, calling him a fool. If he had struck at their homes, in their sleep, they would have won. The girls wouldn't have had time even to react. But no... it was when he'd brought that plan up that she'd declined and sentenced him to the Eternal Sleep.
Why would she do that? Even if, as she'd said, she no longer trusted him personally to do such a thing, why not take the information from him and have one of the other three generals run the assassination? The only answer... was that Beryl was a true fool, which he doubted, but was possible... she had gone suicidal, which he also doubted, but did not discount... Or... she was being manipulated somehow, or had been replaced. These also were not likely, but were also not impossible. They were the most likely of a series of improbabilities though... Heh. He just wished he could get out of this prison and tell the cheerleader brats that someone had manipulated his queen, to serve as... as what?
The answer hit him, the same thing he was cursing his armies lack of. Training. Training! Someone had set up the entire Dark Kingdom to be destroyed as some sick and twisted form of training. He was sure the cheerleader girls would get a kick out of hearing that. If he could have breathed, he would have sighed.
Someone else did it for him.
"Well boss... nice night out, isn't it?"
Jadeite wanted to agree. He still didn't know why... why this one had stuck around. All the others had remained for a while, a week or two at most, in the hopes that with Beryl gone the spell cast on him would fail, giving the mob the leader they so needed. But the Eternal Sleep had proven truly to be just that. Eternal. One by one then two by two and then finally in droves they had left, scattering in every direction, choosing to take their chances with the devil hunters that semed to infest the larger hives of the humanity they, by nature, had to feed off of to live. After all, went the reasoning, better a swift death by a hunter's hand, than a slow one of starvation in the icy wilderness.
"It's so quiet... and empty. Were a weary traveler to find his way here even now, in the throes of hunger, would I wait and speak a while, simply to hear the sound of another's voice before I take what I must from him. A pity that no wanderer would trek alone, so far into the snow."
In her hunger, the Youma had begun to wax poetic, but he couldn't help but agree with her. Had she not been here, talking with him even when they both knew there was no way for him to respond, had he been left alone here, in the swirling snow and quiet wilderness... He would have long since gone mad. Every so often an animal more foolish than its arctic brethren would wander near, and she would suck it dry, converting even its flesh and bones to pure energy. It was barely enough to keep her alive, as the comparison between animal energy and human energy was like comparing a matchstick to a bonfire. The match would shed light and warmth for a time, but nowhere near long enough. The energy from animals was enough to patch up her reserves, but not enough to fill them.
"I think... I think I'm not going to last the night boss."
Despite his very nature, Jadeite felt like crying. He could see her, her skin paling from a healthy blue to a sickly pale tone, nearly white. Already he could see that for the past couple of days she had had trouble moving, showing that the starvation was beginning to take its toll on her skeletal structure. She lifted a hand, staring, fascinated, as the sickly off-white began fading to a pale grey, the last stage before she lost all molecular cohesion... turned to dust and blew away on the wind.
"What... What is this feeling? Is it... fear? Am I... afraid... to die? ... Yes. Yes, I am afraid. I don't... Will... Will it hurt... to die? I don't... I don't want to die, boss, I don't..."
He found himself fascinated by his emotions as the grayness spread, just fast enough to see. He wanted to rail at fate, to curse everything, to destroy all... for her. An insignificant servant class Youma. If she died... nothing mattered anymore. He wanted to break down, as she was, to weep for her. But he could not move, could not breathe, could not shed a single tear. It surprised him how much he wished to do so. It surprised him... that he would do anything... everything... simply for her sake, for her life.
"Would you? I could use one such as you. Would you really? Choose swiftly, she's fading fast."
His eyes, ever unblinking, caught a wisp of what appeared to be, but could surely not be, smoke, hovering a few feet away from the servant class Youma, whose skin was even now beginning to slowly crumble.
"I can stop it. I have slain several mortals on my path here, and their life energy remains as of yet untouched within me. I can save this servant, whom you value so highly, and foolishly... for a price."
The skin of her arms began to slowly slough off and crumble into the air. Her moans of pain and horror were more than enough. He'd never seen a Youma starve to death. She would NOT be the first.
'Yes!' He thought frantically, hoping the thing understood him. 'Yes, anything! My life, whats left of my soul, my arm in battle... all I have is yours if you can save her!'
"... So be it. You... are MINE now."
The 'shedding' of her crumbling skin slowed to a halt, then reversed, shifting from grey to once again the lightest shade of blue. And that color her skin remained, as she shuddered and gasped with the energy flowing through her veins. He wondered why her skin had not returned to its natural shade, but remained as the finest alabaster.
"Side effects. After so long, that is her skins natural coloring now. It matters little. Now servant, COME TO ME!"
The crystal prison shattered.
All right... wow... this chapter spun way off course. Hotaru-chan was way more agressive than I'd intended, and that last bit was so angsty... But I like it. I'll probably have to change the genre though... this isn't really turning out to be as much of a parody as I'd intended. Then again, sometimes it feels like the fics write themselves, through me.
Enough introspection! We have another cross in this chapter, first person to guess what and where, correctly, will be mentioned at the beginning of the next chapter! See your name in print... you know you want to. Also considering several more crosses and suchlike but nothing is finalized yet. Lots of ideas, but nothing specific, y'know?