aka Jared Ornstead
During the mushroom incident events diverge from normal and enemies try to take advantage of our pigtailed hero. Unfortunately for them, attempts to get rid of him often go disastrously wrong.
"I think we've found something, Father. The trouble is I don't know what it is."
Two figures were exploring an ice cave. Both were powerful martial artists, among the best in Japan, if they didn't occupy the highest slot themselves. One, much taller, was a quiet man with laughing eyes and a powerful build. The other, much smaller, was a beautiful girl.
No one who knew her from Nerima could mistake this girl for Ranma's girl's side, but that's who it was. Her long, flowing hair shone even in the cave's low, ice-tinted light. She wore it long and loose, draping clear down to her knees and brushing up against her calves. The red color was unusual in Japan, but they'd stopped remarking on it long ago. Like her crystal blue eyes, it just helped mark her for who she was.
Other than the fact that she was dressed as a miko, a shrine maiden, and carried two swords tucked into her sash, there wasn't much to distinguish her aside from a certain maidenly grace and a certain sparkling laughter within her sapphire eyes that her troubles had done nothing to diminish.
Easily accepting the term father, as it was a ruse they'd agreed upon ages ago until it had grown almost to where it was no ruse at all anymore, the older man came to stand by her side, sensing the air. "You are correct. I feel something. It comes from this way." The man gestured with his sheathed sword and the two set off through the ice-colored light of the twisty maze of cave.
In some ways, Ranma couldn't be happier. Sure, there was no hot water to speak of in this era, but then again staying in his cursed form most of the time wasn't so bad, and this time he'd enjoyed something approaching a normal childhood.
It had started, oh, many years ago. Back in Nerima, in the far-flung future, when he had lived among the Tendos, there had been an incident of magic mushrooms that had turned Ranma into a child of five years old. Ryoga had grabbed all of the mushroom and ran, scheming to keep the cure to himself so Ranma would stay a child and drop out of the running for Akane, his arranged fiancee. But the real successful one had been Kuno.
Someone, probably one of the Tendos (though Ranma wasn't going to assign blame without knowing for sure) had informed Kuno of his condition. It might've been Nabiki out to make a fast yen, or another out asking for help with the matter, he didn't know. But Kuno had become aware of the problem and gone to get some object dealing with Time, telling the Tendos that it could deal with the problem.
Well, apparently the problem was Ranma himself, because the next thing he knew there was a flash of light and he was falling toward ground from a couple of hundred feet up. Now normally that wouldn't have been any problem, but Akane had just recently forced him to eat some cookies she'd baked.
So he'd fallen, poisoned, to the ground, accepting the blow with his chi reinforcing his body to absorb the impact when it should have been helping to fight off the toxin. He'd survived the fall, and the cooking, but between them they'd left him sick and weak for days.
Luck being what it was for the Saotome heir, he'd no sooner crawled out of the bushes after his fall than he'd fallen into the laps of a camp of traveling slavers. Taking him for a survivor from a nearby ruined village, they'd added the weakened five-year old to their catalog of human merchandise without even a blink.
Ranma had been going to teach them a thing or two once he got better, but he never got that chance. Later that day, when he was still weak and nearly helpless, the band of slavers was attacked by a group of bloodthirsty bandits, who'd started killing everyone.
One other redhaired kid had tried to resist, but had been held back by those same women, fellow slaves, who had been caring for Ranma.
Too sick to move, and hardly well enough to see straight, Ranma had still managed to pick up a handful of gravel and flick stones with great force and unerring accuracy. He'd always come into his best when the fight was desperate, and turning aside the sword strokes of the killers had saved most of the slaves' lives.
Unfortunately, it wasn't to last. Despite the dark they'd noticed he was the one with the pebbles. His groans as he'd forced his arm to move had given him away. Fortunately for Ranma, he'd still been able to summon enough energy to do a body switch, letting a log dressed in his shirt and pants take his place in between the time it took for the bandit chief to raise his sword and for the blade to thunk down into its target.
Unfortunately, the move he'd done so many times before had exhausted what was left of the weakened boy, and though he was safely hidden under a nearby bush after making the switch, he'd nearly fallen unconscious, helpless in truth.
Fortunately, a wandering swordsman had come along at that moment and slaughtered the bandits with an ease that made Kuno look even more pathetic than he already was.
The freed slaves had departed, going off down the trail. A few of the nicer women, the ones who'd cared for him, buried Ranma's 'body' before they left, not able to tell in the dark that it was a dummy.
The next morning, Ranma was alone with the redhaired kid who'd stayed behind to bury the bodies of the bandits. After a day of getting better and helping with minor tasks, during which it rained, the wandering swordsman had come back. Impressed they'd made graves for the same guys who'd tried to kill them, he'd taken the two redhaired children on as students.
Ranma, sadly, had nothing better to do at the time. And, stuck with a five-year-old body, he had to do a lot of growing up before he could safely go searching for a way back home. It was better to be around a martial arts master than to go out encountering more slavers and bandits in his youthened condition, so he'd stayed, hoping to learn something during his wait and confident that it wouldn't be too hard.
He'd later learned just how right that hasty estimate was.
In the ice caves, the shrine maiden closed her eyes, her posture as if smelling the air. "The chi here shows traces of magic, but it's probably not what we're looking for," she declared.
The giant figure of a man beside her gave one of his soft smiles as he gazed fondly down at her, "All the more reason for us to investigate, my daughter. If we don't deal with it now, the townsmen would only call us back later, once it breaks free."
"That could be hundreds of years from now, you now," she chided with a friendly grin.
"Of course! I still plan to be around then. I don't know about you." He gave a hearty laugh.
Smiling wider now, she joined in his laugh, eyes twinkling.
The redhaired boy's name had been Shinta, but no sooner had their mutual master taken them on than he'd changed that to Kenshin, saying that Shinta wasn't a strong enough name for a potential inheritor of Hiten Mitsurugi style swordsmanship.
The master, Seijuro Hiko, had told them both at the time that only one of them would inherit his style. They'd accepted that. Well, actually, Ranma had proudly proclaimed that he was already an heir to a fighting style - the Saotome School of Anything Goes martial arts. But once Seijuro had started questioning him about it, he'd had to endure no end of mocking over having such a weak style to be heir of.
One of the many beliefs to get punctured that first week was that weapons made you weak because they could be taken away. Master Hiko had taken them to another bandit camp and cut off all of the arms and legs of the criminals he found there. Standing proud over their painful, crippled bodies, he'd made Ranma see something he never would have learned back in Nerima - that in a true fight for life, your limbs weren't any safer from being lost than a swordsman's blade. And that, given a choice between the two, he'd far rather lose a sword.
Sparring with his original father had all been play-acting compared to the fights around here, where people bet their lives on contests of fighting skill and lost them in a second. That had been a sobering realization, almost as bad a one as learning he'd traveled through time to one of the bloodiest periods in Japan's recent history. A time of real samurai epics.
That left him more stuck than he'd imagined before. And, just his luck, Ranma hadn't known a thing about the period, having skipped those classes due to his father's training.
"Yes, there is definitely something in the chi," Seijuro Hiko agreed, sniffing the air. Beside him, Ranko grunted out her own happy agreement, leading the way deeper into the caves on the trail of magic-tainted chi.
The master of Hiten Mitsurugi was easily a dozen times more skilled than Genma in actual fighting, but it was a different age with different priorities. Genma had practiced larceny more than fighting arts, those were just the advantage that gave him opportunity to fill his belly at the expense of others. Seijuro could have killed him in an instant, before Genma was even aware of the danger, a dozen times in a dozen ways - even if Genma had warning of the attack beforehand. But the martial artists of Genma's day had branched out to a variety of techniques not directly related to surviving a position never more than a heartbeat away from death at the hands or blades of other martial artists. So, from that previous training, Ranma knew (or knew of) thousands of techniques no martial artist of his current era would waste time on.
Everyone around here was devoted to that last little touch, the edge that would leave you alive and your enemies dead at the end of a fight. Shaving a quarter of a second off an attack was far more useful to the here-and-now martial artists than worrying about what benefits you MIGHT get if you studied calligraphy or Okanomiyaki as a fighting style.
So there wasn't a lot of weird martial arts styles around, or the associated benefits from a bunch of oddball discoveries that had actually turned out to be useful.
Seijuro had treated Ranma's reliance on those as a disadvantage and a weakness to be overcome.
It had definitely stuck in Ranma's craw to be the 'other student' when he'd learned things at a rate many times that of Kenshin. But while Kenshin got taught things just because, Ranma had been forced to earn each opportunity for training, getting sent off for supplies (like jugs or sake) while Kenshin got instructed.
Something had to delay the hotheaded Saotome while Master Hiko taught his official pupil, and sending Ranma out to chop wood was useless. He could level a forest and bury their cottage under firewood in less time than it took for Kenshin to learn a single basic move. So Master Hiko sent Ranma out on long errands.
So, naturally, being Ranma, he'd used his knowledge of stealth techniques to observe the training techniques and method, before using his speed at leaping and jumping to make the trips to the village to get things quickly while Kenshin fumbled through those moves. Then, if he had to, he'd train himself in those techniques when the master wasn't looking.
Seijuro had gotten progressively better at detecting this, and suddenly nothing Ranma got was quite right. He'd get sent back for different pots, or sent to get one special made a certain way, or to fetch something from a traveling tinker it would take days to find. During those days of absence, of course, Kenshin was getting lots of personal instruction.
In desperation, Ranma had stopped trying to return to his master's camp for two weeks, just long enough to learn the basics of pottery by observation. Then, when his master sent him off to replace a bowl he'd probably broken deliberately, and whose replacement had to be just so, Ranma would still stay around and observe from concealment as Seijuro taught Kenshin, then save all of that unwanted travel time by making the bowl himself.
His master got increasingly picky about his tastes in pottery, often sending Ranma off to local masters for replacement cups and dishes. But that just led to increases in his student's pottery skill. When he couldn't make it himself, he would go off to the local master, but only to watch them and obtain the technique so he could copy more of their work later instead of enduring any more long trips.
Then his pottery gear had gotten discovered by his master wandering the local woods, and suddenly it was metal bits that were always getting lost or needing replacements. Ranma had learned to copy Mousse's Hidden Weapons techniques to hide his tools after that, but once metal no longer delayed him, Ranma got sent out for wood carvings, or to buy food.
Carving wood into furniture and things was easy. However, food was something big. It took so much time to grow any that it was easier just to buy, but he swiftly took to doing work for the local peasants in town, earning far more supplies than Seijuro had sent him money for. The rest he'd hide in stuff space, and so make fewer trips. He even got to keep any unspent money as a sort of allowance, as in effect Master Hiko was paying him for things, instead of the local people.
Only, once one thing no longer delayed him, it was on to other tasks and different errands.
By the time he and Kenshin had hit their early teens together, Ranma could've run a whole town by himself easily. He had the needed trade skills just from trying to learn stuff to avoid unnecessary trips.
But that was also when the revolution was beginning to be in full uproar, and Kenshin left their master, telling him that he was going to use his sword to protect the innocent people who were suffering. Seijuro called him a fool, telling him that he'd just be used by one side or the other as a tool to cause more death, but Kenshin wasn't listening at that point, and left.
Between their master's various attempts to delay Ranma's learning, Kenshin had actually known more of the style than Ranma when he left. But he still was not a master, and didn't know any of the final attacks when he left to become an assassin for the rebels.
Once he departed, Seijuro and Ranma had made their peace together, and he had taken up her training with a seriousness that he'd never shown before, and between that and the child's impressive learning rate, Ranma had earned complete mastery of their style in a couple of months.
But that was when he'd encountered new problems.
In rural Japan and a log cabin style environment there wasn't much hot water. Since they were expected to train out during the rain or to contemplate beneath the flow of a waterfall, not to mention how often they fought in one or splashed water as they ran through streams and puddles, for the first several years he was there it was just easier for Ranma to remain a girl. It certainly saved explanations as to why his hair changed color, and the body of a very young girl isn't hard to disguise as a boy's. Seeing as how Ranma's speech patterns and mannerisms were all very masculine, for years there had never been any question.
But then puberty hit with a vengeance.
As well developed as his cursed form was, it became obvious that soon he'd not be able to disguise those curves on any more trips to the local villages.
The solution was a dual identity. He couldn't reveal that he was cursed, as superstitious local peasants treated those things like European peasants treated leprosy - if you had it, you'd better stay far, far away from them. Otherwise, they'd either run at the sight of you or get someone to kill you, preferably with arrows.
They treated anyone so unlucky as to get cursed as contagious and wanted nothing to do with them.
So Ranko became his girl side, and Ranma his boy one. It gave him an excuse to be either gender, allowing him access to the greater rights of being male on those occasions when circumstances didn't force him to be a girl. And with his training in the art of Hiten Mitsurugi completed, and his curse revealed to his former master (who turned out to be far more sanguine about those sorts of things than the superstitious peasantry - besides, they had been closely associated for years. If anything were contagious, it would already have spread), they could travel in search of a cure.
Having completed his life's work by training up a successor, Seijuro Hiko was free to do as he pleased, yet intrigued by this proof that magic existed. So, for years now, they'd been hunting down hints of magic, and picked up quite a reputation as devil hunters and demon exterminators. But in spite of what Nerima had conditioned him to believe, magic and stuff like actual demons were nowhere near as common as Ranma once thought. Most 'magic' they encountered were fairly simple tricks where someone deceived a gullible eye. Ranma could do more impressive stuff with his chi most of the time. There was enough real magic out there to keep them looking, but like his curse, most who had any exposure to actual magic kept that fact well concealed.
Still, both Seijuro and Ranma/Ranko had been picking up useful bits of knowledge as they hunted down whatever traces could be found. A few genuine finds here or there had taught them the rudimentary basics of what to look for, and how to tell the real bits from fakes. One of the first useful techniques they'd encountered was to sense the feel of magic as it altered the local chi, enabling them to detect even what the locals didn't know was magic, or confirm or deny what rumors and legends had brought them to investigate. Nothing they had found so far was very powerful, although they'd not yet risked a trip to China.
Traveling in Japan was hard enough as it was. They didn't want to be Foreign Devils on top of that, something the Chinese warlords would surely regard them as. Foreigners tracking down ancient and precious secrets were far more threatening than locals doing the same. It just seemed better to both of them to exhaust what they could learn or find in Japan first.
So, masquerading as a proud father and his child, they traveled Japan.
By necessity, his girl side was still the face and body Ranma wore much of the time. Water didn't get any hotter now that she was trained. But she was very beautiful; in an age where women were more property than people she'd already inspired more than a few men with lust to almost Kuno-like levels of wanting to own her. And in this day and age, a single girl had no right to say 'no' when a wealthy or powerful man wanted to possess her.
For that matter, few married women did. It was up to their husbands to object, and the few men that did gambled with their lives against the powers of those they told 'no'. Few dared, and most of those who dared died and the wealthy, powerful men got their wives anyway.
Thankfully, when Ranma's boy side dared, few could endanger him.
Whenever a marriage or less savory arrangement got suggested for Ranko, her 'husband' Ranma could make an appearance, vouched for by the boy's 'father' Seijuro, and agreed to independently by his 'daughter-in-law' Ranko. That staved off most of the potential suitors, though a few nobles had to be convinced by their swords that this wandering couple and their father were not to be disturbed for the sake of mere lust. Not unless he wanted to lose a large chunk of his private army, that was.
It wasn't perfect, but in a land torn by war and insanity, it did enable them to get around.
"This is it," Ranko declared, coming across a slab of blue-white metal embedded in the wall and covered with strange runes. Nearby was a small, underground pool, unfrozen despite the ice that covered everything else. "This is where the magic emanations are coming from."
Between the two of them, they'd had a decent amount of experience tracking down magic, and one of the first things they'd learned early on was to detect it, following the local chi. But they had expanded on that technique to where they could identify many types of magic by the flavor of their chi. This one seemed unfamiliar, which meant it was something new.
Her adopted father stepped around her to get a look at the slab. Ranko sadly had to admit that he was better at ancient languages than she was, and had to regret sleeping through so much school back when book learning was an opportunity for her.
Around here, it was a privilege, and a jealously guarded one at that.
Seijuro allowed himself a small smile, reaching out to run his hand over the carved words. "This could be interesting."
As if woken by words, or the touch on the misty slab, a bundle of rags in a corner beyond the pool stirred and shifted, revealing the oldest Yuki Onna either of them had ever seen. It was not unusual for the real magic stuff to have some sort of guardian. But her fighting spirit was pathetic, so neither felt particularly endangered. Besides, they'd fought enough actual demons to be aware of any surprise attacks it might try to pull.
Seeing as how she stayed on the far side of the pond, both swordsmen ignored the spirit, who it looked like could barely move. Secretly, Ranko rolled her eyes, wishing that she could fight another dragon. That had been fun, and she'd gotten some nice additions to her wardrobe out of it.
"Go back to whence ye came!" the old crone threw a snowball, which 'puffed' against the side of Seijuro harmlessly, who'd felt no threat and so not bothered to dodge it.
"Go back to whence ye came!" the blind woman repeated, grabbing another handful of snow in her gnarled old hand. Ranko similarly disregarded it, and failed to dodge until the last second. When it was no more than a hair's breadth from her robes she felt a sudden spike of danger. The magic of the snowball had been too indistinct and pathetic to notice before then.
Her adopted father whirled around, sword clear of its sheath in an instant, ready to strike down her foe as his own danger senses spiked.
But it was too late. With a harmless 'pfft' of impacting snow the girl was no longer in an ice cave, up in the mountains of feudal Japan. Instead, she was in the Tendo home, staring at the startled faces of a family she'd not seen in over eleven years.
"Pigtailed girl!!" Tatewaki Kuno leapt at her, arms spread in love, only to reverse course mid-air suddenly enough to startle everyone present at how fast that girl moved. Most would never have believed she had moved were it not for her posture change or the sword now in her hand.
Ranko blinked in her own surprise as the pretentious wanna-be samurai flew away from her stroke. She'd hit him with her sword still sheathed, as that was always easier to explain away to the law than carving young noblemen in half, but had honestly expected to leave a furrow behind, a canyon of broken ribs and pulped flesh. Instead, Kuno had merely gotten knocked across the room and out of a flimsy wooden wall, to make a crater in the more substantial stone wall around the compound.
The maiden gave herself a tiny, almost imperceptible shake. The knockback technique. She'd nearly forgotten about how just about everyone who called themselves a martial artist in this era knew it. It was rare in the revolution, because it didn't work against cutting attacks and if you got in a fight back then it was almost certainly going to be using swords or other edged weapons. But in the here-and-now of the Tendo home, most serious martial artists could trade a killing amount of blunt force for speed in an opposite direction. It was, like the falling from a great height technique, considered the barest minimum of what you needed to know in order to call yourself a martial artist.
Astonishing that she'd almost forgotten about that.
Unperturbed, she restored her still sheathed katana to its place in her sash. "I am the wife of Ranma Hiko, 14th master of the Hiten Mitsurugi style of ultrasonic sword techniques, which cannot fail to kill an opponent. You must refrain from expressing your desires toward me."
Her words, however, were useless, as Kuno'd already fallen into drooling unconsciousness, slumped back against the crater he'd made in the wall.
Ranko turned and gave one of the Tendo girls a low bow. "When the young man awakens, will you inform him that my husband will be only too glad to grant him a duel to the death when he arrives, should this young man desire it?"
Three blank, uncomprehending, blinking stares were her only reply.
Again, unperturbed, the elegant young lady stepped out of the veranda and onto the grass gazing about on the power lines and other aspects foreign to the scenes before her view for the last ten or more years, her face calm while inwardly remarking to herself how odd and foreign it all seemed to her now.
With a sudden narrowing of her eyes, the sword maiden drew a steel blade and made a strike too fast to see in the air.
Turning thirty or so flips to bleed off the knockback energy, Happosai landed easily on the compound wall, inspecting his pipe. Though his chi had kept it from being severed outright, the block he'd used to turn the edged attack into blunt energy had put a deep notch in it. As he looked at it, his pipe fell in half.
Unconcerned, the perverted old master drew another one from inside his gi and lit up, sitting down casually on the wall at a safe distance from the sword maiden he'd so recently tried to grab. "Well, it's been over a hundred years since I've seen an attack like that. You don't get sword training like that these days. I've not seen anything like it since the Meiji revolution, in fact." The old pervert popped back to his feet. "The question is, how did my lovely Ranko-chan come to be taught a killing art?!"
"A killing art?" one of the three Tendo girls repeated. Ranko blinked upon realizing that she was having trouble recalling who among them was who. But her attention remained focused on the perverted old man, who had an oddly clear idea of just how far she could lunge on a stroke, and was staying out of range.
But her senses clawed the whole area around her for other signs of danger, even as she waited for an opening to split the old man into pieces.
"Yes," Happosai took a long drag and blew out a smoke ring. "Don't let her fool you, that sword of hers is death. It can sink a battleship or cut through a bank vault door. I'll have to use more chi next time I need to block her to stop her from slicing my pipe apart. But who turned my lovely Ranko into a killing machine?!?" That last question was shouted out with considerable anger.
"Ranma," one of the Tendos, a tall one, was it Kasumi? asked of her. "You don't know what Grandfather Happosai is talking about, do you?"
"One more," Ranko spoke with cold voice and eyes, still focused on her enemy. "Only one more and my husband will have killed one thousand samurai who've tried to possess me. In some battles, the blood has flown like rain, drenching our hair and clothes till it ran down our faces like water and our garments were soaked clear through as we chopped through an army to break free of some lecherous noble pervert's clutches."
This was NOT the response she'd been expecting. That girl fainted. The other two looked ill. "Wait a minute, Ranma HIKO?!?" One of the remaining girls shouted. "Didn't we just read about him in our history class?!! It was part of our section on the Meiji Revolution! He was some kind of samurai... I think."
"Yes," Happosai once again puffed on his pipe, taking a canny hop to stay out of range of Ranko's careful advance. "Like I said, she's got a sword art that dates back to that era. The big question nobody's answered yet is, where did she come by it? I know by watching her moves well enough to say she's not come by it recently, those are too well practiced to be new. But at the same time, she didn't know this form last week! So somebody come up with an explanation!" the ancient pervert demanded.
"It could be that he's possessed again," one of the Tendo girls muttered. "He's certainly not acting like himself. That much I'll say for certain."
"Oh my, what happened?" The third Tendo girl woke up, sitting up and holding a hand to her head.
"Happosai says Ranma's a killer. What's more Ranma agreed," one of the Tendo girls, possibly the middle one, stated. "Since he says she's more skilled in this new art than she ought to be, I'd say Ranma got himself possessed again."
"Oh dear," the recently wakened one worried, putting a hand delicately to her cheek.
"Could it be a cursed sword, do you think?" The last, finally identified as the youngest of the Tendo girls, spoke aloud, wondering.
"It wouldn't be the first one, that's for sure," grumbled the middle one, crossing her arms. An expression of irritation crossing her features. She apparently dismissed the danger with that thought, considering the mystery solved and everything back to normal.
Ranko would have been glad to participate in this conversation somewhat, but her eyes and attention were focused too tightly on the perverted old master and converting him into ribbons. She hated lustful chi, and that man reeked of it.
The oldest Tendo girl's nose twitched, and she let out a delicate sneeze.
In that instant, Ranko's wonderful blue eyes flashed yellow and she was already across the compound, having slashed through the stone wall before any were aware of it. Any except Happosai this is. He bounced lightly in place on the opposite side of their yard, again on a wall, having moved at a speed beyond anything those present had seen him use before.
"That attack for instance," the ancient pervert commented, appearing unconcerned until you noticed a disturbing amount of concentration on Ranko as she resumed stalking him. "She led off by flashing her eyes in a chi attack that's designed not only to paralyze the body, but to freeze the heart and lungs. It's a killing stroke that can be delivered in an instant at range, but depending on the power behind it, the victim can take minutes to die. Only those with powerful chi can throw it off, all others are dead. She used it as a distraction, just hoping to slow me down for a heartbeat, so she could cut me in half with her sword! So somebody tell me what happened to my pretty Ranko-chan!"
Drawn by the sounds of shouting, two broken men appeared. In spite of how gladly she would've forgotten him, Ranko still recognized one as Genma Saotome. The other had to be his friend, Soun.
The two stank of the rot of laziness and drunkenness that had settled into their chi.
Genma immediately started crying fake tears, clenching a fist as he directed an impious gaze toward heaven. "Oh, how sad to see my only son dressed up as a weak and pathetic GIRL!!"
"Ranma!" Soun Tendo rushed forward, heedless of his life, trying to take the wayward child in his arms. A second later he was running away, shrieking and naked.
Ranko was not the only one puzzled, but she was wondering how he'd survived, not how he'd come to be running away from her. That stroke had been meant to kill, not scare!
Happosai was chuckling. "The Luck of the Coward Technique. It will save a user's life from the most deadly of blows, at the expense of all of his dignity. I invented it based on this guy called Charlie Brown I saw in a comic book once. He dodged baseballs that way." The ancient master puffed twice on his pipe before continuing, "None of which explains why you tried to chop him in half with your blow!"
The old master was standing now, radiating anger.
"RAN... ma?" Genma screeching stupidly to a halt mid-shout as he beheld his child stalking his old master. Normally he'd accompany his shout with a friendly assault, but that came to a stop as he sized up his cursed son, poised like a snake to strike to deadly effect. It wasn't something he'd ever seen in his child before, or anyone for that matter. Sure, the thief may have been subject to a large amount of attacks and even a fair number of beatings, angry ones at that, but never before had he seen someone so ready, so prepared to strike to kill.
Screeching to a halt in puzzlement easily saved his life.
Uncomprehending of how close his closest friend had come to being cut in half on a single stroke, the dishonorable thief leaned over to his blubbering and sobbing friend (who was now huddled behind the rain barrel) and wondered to the broken man who was patriarch of the household, "What's gotten into the boy, Tendo?"
"Nabiki seems to think Ranma's picked up a cursed sword," the eldest of the broken man's daughters supplied for him.
"Ah, yes. That would explain everything," Genma nodded, light glinting off his glasses as he pretended to have deep thoughts. "WELL IN THAT CASE!!"
The man leapt for his son, intending to prove to him the folly of using weapons by the time honored tactic of disarming him. Unfortunately for his plans, he got caught and detained by Happosai, who'd already crammed a potion down his overweight student's throat before the deceitful man had anything to say about it.
Then the perverted master hopped back another ten feet and, with empty potion bottle still in hand, scowled at his disciple and ordered him up. "Well? What are you waiting for? Are you going to disarm your son or aren't you?"
"Yes master," Genma took a moment to grovel, abasing himself before Happosai's feet before resuming his leaping charge at the daintily-dressed yet implacable-stanced son of his. "Hiyaa.. AAAGGGHHH!!!"
Genma's leap and charge cry changed to one more of terror in mid-leap, and the aged and pudgy martial artist landed in seven pieces behind his target, arms and legs separated from his body by a distance measured in yards, and the torso landing in multiple chunks.
"A weapons-user isn't the only one who can be disarmed," Ranko said cryptically, before leaping into her own attack on Happosai, leading off with a volley of vacuum blades and following immediately behind herself, eyes ablaze.
Happosai retreated before her charge, used to keeping his enemies behind him. Ranko was equally accustomed to pursuit and being on the attacking side, but was finding it hard to come within sword range of the incredibly agile old man.
Happosai, it must be said, was surpassing himself as he dodged about the yard. Even his lackluster students were impressed.
Then Ranko felt a sudden spike of warning and countered an attack from behind, only to see that she'd just beheaded her birth father - again. Staring in disbelief at the now walking (and nearly intact, except where she'd removed the head again) corpse nearly cost her the fight as the old master reversed his course to attack her from behind. After trading a flurry of blows with him, the combatants separated long enough for Happosai to chug a potion himself, of identical style to the one he'd given Genma, before he would gloat and explain.
"HA! A Troll's Blood Potion! A drinker can be shredded into confetti and still reassemble to heal perfectly and fight on! You can never tell when a batch has gone sour, though, and so I had to test it before using any myself. I used these constantly to survive the Meiji era."
A quick glance toward the sometimes panda proved that decapitation hadn't slowed him down a bit, and that he'd quickly regained his head, which was reattaching as she watched. It was disgusting, worse in a way than watching a body being taken apart. She also noted the distinct lack of fluids most people sprayed when they got disassembled. Thinking back, he hadn't even gotten her kimono dirty when she'd shredded him that first time.
"So you can't be harmed," she relaxed her stance a little, shifting focus to defense, mindful that just because HE couldn't be hurt effectively right now didn't mean that SHE couldn't.
"Yup!" The old master agreed, stretching and flexing to show off before he produced a lacy and racy negligee. "Now if you'll just slip into this little number..."
"I might agree to do that..." Ranko dropped her fearsome demeanor to offer demurely, "If you'll get me a copy of the Golden Academy's training manuals, the research archives of the Jusenkyo society and Clow Reed's notes." She said, naming the three most significant magical treatise that she'd even heard rumors of.
"Hot Dog! I have one of those on hand!" Happosai shouted, then leaped forward to plead. "Will you give me a peek now, if I get it to you this instant?"
"Oh dear!" the girl twittered theatrically, loosening her obi so her robe started to come apart. "Look at that, my clothing is coming undone."
"Here!" The old master produced a huge, leatherbound book out of nowhere and threw it at the girl's feet, before practically assaulting her. "Now lemmeseelemmeseelemmesee!"
His tirade was cut off by a tanto stuck in his throat and emerging from the crown of his head. "You don't mind me sticking a knife in your skull, just to make sure you weren't bluffing, do you?"
"'S'alright," the hentai muttered, eyes bulging around the knife stuck through his head.
"Good," Ranko withdrew the blade and tightened her robe. "Now once you come back with the other two I'll even take a bath and let you watch, so long as you promise no touching."
"I go!" The hentai shouted, unaware that he'd essentially agreed to terms that he'd never normally accept. But as he had no intention of living up to any restrictions, it made no matter what he'd agreed to anyway.
Ranko was quite calmly readjusting her clothes, after having retrieved and stored the first book. It was heavy, even more so than Ryoga's umbrella, which made her wonder how many pages were in it.
"Ran... AAAGGGHHH!!" Genma cried as he jumped, shouting, at his wayward offspring only to be disassembled into his component pieces in what looked to be a single slash. At the speeds she struck at, it was hard even for an advanced martial artist to tell for sure.
Ranko blinked thoughtfully, before stating, "You know, I've dreamed so often of killing him but never could find a method that would hurt enough to make up for all he's done to me. I think I prefer him this way."
She began to gather Genma strips which she then put to roast on sticks over a slow fire.
"Uhm," Nabiki restarted her brain as the savory smell of roast Genma began to tickle her nostrils. The man's head was stuck in a tree, screaming without lungs to grant voice, while his limbs were all pinned to various walls and nailed there.
Shaking herself out of that horrible observation and averting her eyes, the girl asked, "Are you sure you need to salt him like that?"
"Roast meat needs to be salted," the girl replied calmly. "And though I don't intend to eat him, I want him to be having bad memories to associate with all those times he's stolen food. Besides, putting salt in wounds makes them hurt more," the redhead continued.
Another soundless scream, or was it just a continuation of the first? Nabiki averted her eyes and made sure they STAYED averted this time.
"Besides," Ranko continued in a genial tone, "I was hoping to test out various types of damage. I can see he recovers from sword cuts effortlessly, but what about fire? Acid? Freezing? These all have to be tested. I might discover a way to beat this thing."
"At the cost of killing your father?" Nabiki choked out, unbelieving. This situation had to be some sort of bad dream. A nightmare made more sense than what she'd seen.
"Is that something I should be concerned about?"
Events of the last few moments penetrated through the shock to Kasumi's awareness and she fainted dead away. It looked like she was out for the count this time.
"Besides," Ranko continued affably, as if not noticing the distress she was causing, "he's not really my father. I've got another one now, one that I like much better."
"RANMA!" Akane finally found voice. "YOU STOP THAT RIGHT NOW!!"
Cold hard eyes narrowed at the youngest Tendo. "Akane, that was your name, wasn't it? The only thing you can do to change this situation is to join Genma in little strips here over this fire, and you don't have a potion keeping you alive so I don't think that's something that you want to do. Is it?"
Nabiki grabbed her sister before she could take out her trusty mallet, dragging her back within the shelter of their family home before pinning her with a gaze. "Akane, drop it! You go out there to hammer that boy now and he really will put you in little strips over that fire. Happosai was right, Ranma's become a killer. I hope that's just a cursed sword talking, but I really don't know for sure. One thing you can be sure of, he's tried to chop in pieces all of the people who've attacked him so far. Daddy had a technique that kept him alive, and Mr. Saotome and Happosai had potions, otherwise all three of them would be dead already. Now I want you to think about this clearly: You don't have any such thing protecting you. Don't go out there or you won't come back in one piece!"
For one second, Akane considered what her sister said, actually thought about it. But then she allowed herself to get angry. Anger gave her clarity. Anger took away all of her doubts. Anger made her powerful and blew away all other distracting thoughts or emotions.
Anger was her drug.
"I DON'T CARE!!" Akane shouted, forcing herself out of restraint, past her sister and out the door onto their lawn, mallet at the ready as she pulled up her sleeves.
Only to find that pig-boy had gotten on scene before her.
Seeing her arrive out of the corner of her eye, Ranko smiled and turned to where she could keep both of her opponents in view. Her smile wasn't very nice at all. "Ah, Akane, you're just in time."
"Time for what? To see you picking on Ryoga?" The unexpected (completely without fear) stance of her fiance caused her to pause, the 'charge and mallet' on hold ready for instant action the moment the confusion could be resolved - or discarded by a further surge of anger.
"He's still in one piece, isn't he?" came the cold reply. "I can assure you, that if I'd been 'picking' on him, as you say, you wouldn't be able to pick him up without a basket."
The previously homicidal Ryoga had sudden doubts at that calm pronouncement - so serious!
Back inside of the house, Nabiki shuddered, wanting to cover her ears but unable to stop listening. Out of the corner of her eye she saw that a mess of slightly smoldering Genma scraps wadded into a loose ball was sneaking out the other way during this distraction.
"No," the redhaired girl continued, before indicating the pig-boy who'd paused in his threats on Akane's arrival. "This dishonorable scumbag extorted a promise out of Ranma Saotome on false pretenses - a promise which he then abused for foul and dishonorable purposes."
"W... wha... what are you saying, Ranma?" Ryoga had gone from an aggressive stance to one of backpedaling and wheedling, holding out his hands as if to block any blame from coming his way.
With a cruel smirk, Ranko ignored him. "However, all can be made right by a simple revealing of the truth. As I am NOT Ranma Saotome, I can do so easily. This cheat, this freak, this voyeur and lecher has a Jusenkyo curse that he tricked Ranma into never revealing. Guess what? Your own pet P-chan is none other than Ryoga Hibiki."
Of the MANY responses possible, blind stinking anger, loud rages, or even shrieking in denial as she fled from the scene, the one LEAST likely to be seen, in the sword maiden's opinion, was an arrogant smirk, and a calm, "I know."
Ranko's face went flat. "So, you deliberately cheated on your fiance? You knowingly took another man to your bed? I thought better of you, and I was wrong. Akane Tendo, from this time forth you must beware of me, for I can no longer stand your dishonorable actions."
The redhead crossed the yard to stand before her, and a breeze blew between them.
"Hey! It wasn't like that! I was just trying to get you jealous!" Akane shouted, then something dripped. Heh, just like that pervert. Wherever he went, it rained. The she looked up at the sky to see no clouds anywhere. That was funny, her face was all wet. Where was the water coming from?
Akane paid no attention as Ranko walked calmly out of the yard, passing Ryoga and without facing him paused to whisper, "Hibiki, the next time I see you, you die. Is that clearly understood?"
Ryoga, who unlike Akane had seen (if only just barely) what had happened, nodded in real fear. This wasn't the Ranma he knew! That was for sure.
The sword maiden walked calmly out of the compound, took a look around, and started walking. As she stepped away from the dojo the air of rage fell away like the mask it was and she assumed a cheerful demeanor that was as bright as sunshine and as bubbly as a fountain in a refined and traditional way (that became less and less restrained as she walked further away from the dojo and saw more and more exciting, nearly forgotten things).
Then, Ranko was witness as a giant floating image of a man appeared above Tokyo and challenged someone called the Sailor Scouts to battle him at some airport. A moment of thought and the professional Demon Hunter began to make her way there at once.
Behind her, in the Tendo dojo, Akane finally went and found a mirror and she screamed at seeing all of the blood.
She'd never even felt the cuts.
Why did Ranma/Ranko mostly forget the Tendos? Well, look at Ryoga's entry to the series. Ranma didn't have many friends, especially not growing up, and he felt he and Ryoga were friends. But when Ryoga shows up, Ranma can't recall him at all. And they had been apart only a couple years, not the decade+ that Ranma's been missing from Nerima, from his point of view.
As far as the Tendos were concerned, he's been gone a couple seconds. However, from his, they stopped being important to him once he felt he would never see them again. And, no longer being important, they faded from his mind until he had difficulty recalling their names again. He had other, more pressing, things to be concerned about during that time. Things like staying alive.
As far as him being overpowering, well, that's just not the case. He's even more of a social misfit in 1990's Japan than he was before. His father and Soun hold exactly the same position relative to him that they did before - prime annoyances and hatchers of lame plots. Happosai remains gullible yet untouchable. Ryoga will do as he always does and go out to find some powerup from somewhere that will put him on a more even level, weird rivals will appear out of nowhere, and by and large the balance of power will return to normal. I'm not promising any of that, but can't you just see it happening?
As far as the martial art he now uses, yes it is powerful. But it's out of its proper setting, and Ranma/Ranko will quickly find it hampered by the ban on casual killing. Also, I've already been dropping hints (read: stating outright), that the explosion of non-killing arts has produced a great many things that turned out to have real benefits. So while her new martial art is powerful, it can be outflanked - as I've already demonstrated by both Kuno and Soun surviving blows meant to kill/permanently incapacitate them.
Kuno and Soun aren't the strongest martial artists in the Ranma 1/2 series. Far from it. So if THEY can evade or sidestep death at Ranko's hands, how much more easily could others do so?