by Trisar Alvein
THIS STORY IS HEREBY DISCONTINUED
Well, RR has seen moderate success with the reviewers, so I must be doing something right. Hope I keep continuing to do so.
Enjoy the fun.
Episode Two: Prince of the Netherworld... Again. (la-la-la!)
Kasumi Tendo, age nineteen, hummed quietly as she set the kettle on the stove to make tea, just the same as she had done exactly twenty-four hours ago, and again twenty-four hours before that. It was a routine she fell into whenever Ranma was not around to bring a new and unexpected household challenge for her—a routine which was, sadly, quite boring.
The front door opening distracted her thoughts away from her dull routine, as she tried to recall if either her father or the elder Saotome would be using the front door at this time. No, Father and Mister Saotome both went to the town council meeting, which won't be over for at least another hour, she mused. It certainly wasn't a challenger or one of Ranma's many female admirers—they never had the decency to use the door. Ranma, Akane, and Nabiki also weren't due home from school for some time yet.
"I'm home!" called a male voice from the door. A familiar male voice.
"Welcome home, Ranma-kun!" she replied, stepping out of the kitchen while wondering why the younger Saotome was home well before school would be over.
"...shoes off," said Ranma's voice from the entryway.
"It's customary," said another voice, one she recognized as Ryoga Hibiki. "You take your shoes off before entering someone's house in Japan."
"I do not quite understand, but if it is custom," replied a cultured voice that Kasumi definitely did not recognize. And when she stepped up to see her guests, she certainly did not recognize his face either, though she did recognize Ranma and Ryoga..
"Sorry for intruding," said Ryoga, bowing to Kasumi—which she returned in kind.
"My most humble apologies for intruding upon your home, mademoiselle," said the tall, black-haired man accompanying Ranma and Ryoga, sweeping his arm around in a western style bow. Kasumi smiled at this, practicing little-used skills to curtsy to him.
"Ghk!" was the only thing Ranma could manage when he caught sight of Kasumi. That was unusual.
"Ranma-kun, are you alright?" she asked, stepping toward him in concern.
"Gack!" came his eloquent response, stepping away from her.
"Ranma-kun, what's wro..." Kasumi trailed off as she noticed some differences in the pigtailed boy. "Goodness, what happened to your hair... and when did you grow wings?"
"Long story, please don't come any closer?" asked Ranma, practically pressing himself into the wall.
"Why not? Did I... did I do something wrong?"
"Non, mademoiselle. The problem here is young Ranma's. However, as it has involved you, I believe you deserve an explanation," said the tall man, stepping forward. "First, an introduction. I am the Dark Adonis, Vy—"
"Hey, Mid-Boss!" yelled Ranma, interrupting the Dark Adonis. "Just hurry up and tell her, will ya?!"
"Grr...! Very well! Young lady, Ranma has recently remembered a past life, which he is still feeling the effects of."
"Do I look like someone from his past life, Mid-Boss-san?" asked Kasumi, apparently not noticing the twitch she just caused.
"Not again... No, actually. You see..."
"My past life couldn't stand women with sexy bodies, okay?!" blurted out Ranma, before he got very wide-eyed and clapped his hands over his mouth. Very carefully, he glanced over at Kasumi, who was also wide-eyed—though not nearly as much as he was—and sporting a slight blush. "Uh..."
The four stood in the middle of a very awkward silence for several minutes, with two very embarrassed teenagers, one stupefied teenager, and one slightly annoyed adult. Finally, the silence was broken by the sound of a kettle whistling. Luckily, this broke the semi-trance Kasumi had apparently fallen into, and with a squeak she dashed off into the kitchen.
Fishing for something to say, Ranma decided the situation really couldn't get much worse, and so he opened his mouth and said the first thing that came to mind. "That actually went a lot better than I thought it would."
That earned him an irritated look from Vyers, though the other demon said nothing about it and merely gestured for him to lead on. Bopping Ryoga on the forehead to rouse him—and earning a bop in return—Ranma led his small following into the dining room. Once there, he plopped down at the dining room table in his usual spot, while Vyers and Ryoga sat across from him. Shortly, Kasumi walked into the dining room, seating herself in Akane's usual spot and beginning to serve everyone tea. Unlike before, Ranma managed to keep his displays of comfort down to a small grimace and constant fidgeting.
"Shouldn't you be in school, Ranma-kun?" asked Kasumi, earning a double twitch and increased fidgeting. Kasumi then quietly sipped some tea, watching Ranma through the corner of her eye. The blue-haired boy shakily drank some of his own tea, setting the cup down with a loud clank! that betrayed his nervousness with the subject matter.
"This... this is a lot more important than school, Kasumi," he finally said. "Mid-Boss." At his nickname, Vyers twitched spasmodically, his face twisting in aggravation. Ranma took no notice. "I've gotta know. Flonne... Is she...?"
"Madam Flonne is alive and well, though a little different from how you may remember her, and awaits your return to the Netherworld with Madam Etna," replied Vyers, calming himself by drinking his own tea. "Though to be honest, we all expected you to come back as a Prinny."
"Pardon?" asked Kasumi, as Ryoga simultaneously asked, "What's a Prinny?"
"Prinnies are the souls of those who have committed great sins, and so must atone for those sins before they may truly pass on into reincarnation." The Dark Adonis emptied his cup and set it down, continuing as Kasumi refilled it. "You see, Ranma—that is, Laharl—gave up his life to save the life of another. That is why we were expecting a Prinny... not a human."
"That doesn't seem like a great sin," commented Kasumi.
"Taking your own life is the gravest sin you can commit, no matter what the reason."
"My life wasn't exchanged. Not like Mother's was," said Ranma. He set his own cup, still half-full, onto the table. "Which of you three would believe I met God?" he asked wryly. As expected, Ryoga and Kasumi both raised their hands without hesitation, which Vyers looked quite surprised at.
"Pardon, but might I ask why you two were so quick to believe that?" he asked.
"It's Ranma," said Ryoga simply. "Demon in a human body? That's bland compared to some of what we've seen. Met God? That barely makes par." Kasumi only nodded in agreement.
"Well, I have to give you a bit of the backstory to make all of this make sense," said Ranma, his eyes shifting from their normal blue to a faintly glowing red. And so he began speaking of what he remembered as Laharl. Awakening, memories of his father, his vassals, the arrival of an angel trainee sent as an "assassin", fighting for the title of Overlord, the "fly-by-night" of the Prinnies, the invasion from Earth, and the involvement of angels in that invasion. Here, Ryoga stepped in.
"Wait... This... what was his name? Carter? Why's it so surprising that he had angels helping him? Aren't angels and demons enemies?" he asked, confused.
"Not quite. There had been no open war between Celestia—the home of angels—and the Netherworld—the home of demons—for quite some time. That is why Flonne's arrival in the Netherworld came as such a surprise to everyone. In fact, there is a large gate at the entrance of Celestia that only Celestians can open," explained Vyers. "Also, without outside intervention, it is impossible to get to the Netherworld from the human world, no matter how advanced your technology is."
"So there was another angel, one of higher rank, that was pulling the strings?" inferred Kasumi, earning a nod from the two demons, Ranma frowning darkly as he did.
He began again, telling of the decision to invade Celestia, with Flonne opening the gate, in order to confront the Seraph. He spared no detail of the fight against the treasonous Archangel, Vulcanus, that they found in Celestia, nor did he spare details on how Vulcanus was spotted out by the Seraph himself and changed into a flower.
Ranma suddenly hesitated, glancing down at his tea. The beverage had long since cooled, but he was not thirsty anymore. He could sense the sadness of the demon that had awakened within him, and sympathized. It was exactly how Ranma—the human, not the reawakened Laharl—had felt with Akane's life on the line against the Phoenix King Saffron.
Seeing that Ranma was silent for the moment, Vyers picked up the story. "After Vulcanus was punished, Seraph Lamington also passed judgment on Flonne. You see, Flonne had broken many rules that govern Celestians. She helped to place a demon on the Overlord's throne, severely injured a human in the Netherworld, and did considerable harm to her fellow angels in Celestia while allowing demons through the gate."
"Oh my," said Kasumi, lacking anything else to say. After a moment she added, "The punishment must have been quite strict."
"It was a test! It was a damn test for me!" yelled Ranma, clenching his fists as rage fought with sadness in his mind, his human aspect fully in agreement with the demonic one. "He turned Flonne into a flower, saying that her life had been extinguished... but it wasn't. I couldn't help myself..."
"Ranma," said Ryoga, his tone suspicious. "What did you... what did Laharl do?"
I'll KILL YOU!!! roared Laharl's voice in Ranma's mind as he could clearly see himself leaping at an expectant Lamington, sword drawn back to make good on the threat.
"I fought the Seraph... And I killed him on the very alter he stood on when he turned Flonne into a flower. I couldn't stop myself... Flonne just... grew on you after a while. I couldn't stand that he would just take her from us like that after all we'd been through. Try to tell me you wouldn't do the same, Ryoga! You were just as ready to kill Saffron as I was!"
Ryoga only nodded solemnly, his face a mask of neutrality. For just a moment, he and Ranma had been kindred spirits... and if Ranma had fallen to Saffron, Ryoga would have very gladly tagged in. If this Flonne had meant even half as much to Laharl as Akane did to Ranma, one could hardly blame the demon prince for wanting to kill the Seraph.
"The problem was," interjected Vyers, "Seraph Lamington never meant it in the way that it had been interpreted. In one sense, it was very true, as the being known as Angel Trainee Flonne was no more. As a flower, she was being changed by Lamington's punishment to a different form. Had Lamington survived, Flonne would have been restored to life. Instead, without Lamington to restore her..."
Kasumi and Ryoga went pale as Ranma clenched his hands onto his knees, the demonic aspect again struggling against the humanity. "I killed her... just as much as I killed Lamington, I killed Flonne... Which is why I offered my life to save her. That's when I met God. My exact words that day were, 'If there is a God, may he hear my plea. Take my life in exchange for Flonne's.' I can remember the agreement now... It was quid pro quo."
"Quid pro quo?" Ryoga rolled the unfamiliar term around in his head.
"Equivalent exchange," clarified Vyers. "Ranma means that, as Laharl, he offered his life to God to save Flonne's, and God accepted."
"Not without a price. There's no such thing as real 'equivalent exchange.' Someone's always going to pay a higher price. In exchange for my life restoring Flonne's, God wanted something else."
All curious, the three listeners paid rapt attention to Ranma as he began again.
"Where am I...?" asked Laharl, his vision blurry and fogged. As he turned around, he found it wasn't just his vision... everything around him was nothing but fog for miles. "Etna! Gordon! Curtis! Mid-Boss!" he yelled, listening for anything. No response. "What's going on? Probably just my luck I overdid it and vaporized Celestia and this is all that's left..."
"Not quite, son of Krichevskoy," intoned a solemn, deep voice. Definitely masculine in origin, it also sounded quite amused. Laharl spun toward it, having seen nothing in that direction before, but now seeing a tall, long-haired man of timeless features, seating in what looked to be a very comfortable chair. "Have a seat," he said, smiling gently and gesturing to his side.
Finding another chair where nothing had been, Laharl sat down, noting that the chair had apparently been sized just for him. "Where am I? And who are you?" he asked.
"I am he who you have called upon, young Laharl." Recognition appeared on the demon's face, and the man smiled. "You have asked me to use your unique spark, known as Life, to restore the spark lost to another. This is not something easily accomplished by a single being... but for you, it shall be done. However, the cost is greater than simply your life."
"Why?! You're the all-powerful being, the creator of existence! I'll gladly give my life for Flonne's, so why isn't that enough?!" yelled Laharl, worried that perhaps others close to him would pay blood sacrifice for Flonne as well.
"Do not worry, young Overlord," said the Creator with a faintly amused but disarming smile. "The price is yours alone. Not a drop of blood shall be shed by your friends to pay for it, nor a day of their lives sacrificed. However, you must also learn that it was your mistake that caused this to come to pass. By acting rashly and slaying my servant, the Seraph Lamington, you are responsible for having to pay this very price."
"So... the extra cost is learning from my mistake?"
A nod answered Laharl's question. "You disregarded the value of life. You knew, consciously, that Lamington's death would not allow you to restore Flonne to life, yet you acted in your wrath by ignoring that fact. The punishment you will face is to live. You will live for seventeen years in the body of an ordinary human, a mortal being, to better understand the value of life. You will remember nothing of your life as a demon, including this very meeting—you are in fact quite dead, by the way—until the end of those seventeen years.
"Are you ready to, as your people would say it, transmigrate?"
"... Yes. I am."
Ranma's audience was silent as he concluded his tale. Apparently, no one could think of anything to say. How exactly do you comment on a conversation with God? He decided to break the silence himself. "I have to admit, God was surprisingly casual for an all-powerful being," he said. The other three blinked, and Kasumi began giggling slightly while Vyers and Ryoga just shook their heads, smiling wryly.
Pausing in her mirth, Kasumi glanced over to the clock. "Oh my! Nabiki and Akane will be home any minute now! Erm..." She speculatively glanced at Ranma, particularly focused on his blue hair, red eyes, and rather prominent wings. "Ranma-kun, I don't know how to say it, but..."
"We'll tell the truth, or some of it anyway," replied the pigtailed demon. "There's no way to hide these without being more obvious."
"That's true, I suppose... Oh, Mid-Boss-san, will you be staying for dinner?"
"I am afraid I cannot, fair mademoiselle, though I thank you for the offer," replied Vyers with a strained smile. Obviously he was long tired of being called by his branded title. "Unfortunately, neither can young Ranma."
"He can't?" stereoed Ryoga and Kasumi.
"Non! Of course not! You must come to the Netherworld right away! There are two very important people waiting for your return. Let us not keep them in suspense."
Two important people... Ranma chewed on the concept, easily reaching a rational conclusion for it. Etna... and... Flonne... Mid-Boss said she made it...
"What about you, Ryoga-kun? Will you stay for dinner?"
Ryoga quickly shook his head. "No, thanks. I'll be going with Ranma and... heh... Mid-Boss."
Ranma's question of "You will?" was drowned out by Vyers's yelling and attempting to tear out his own hair, managing to grind out, "My name is not Mid-Boss! I told you, I am the Dark Adonis!"
"Oh knock it off. You even admitted to being a mid-boss. Twice," growled the pigtailed demon. "You sure you wanna come with us, Ryoga? If I remember right, the Netherworld ain't exactly human-friendly, and with the way you get lost..."
Growling slightly at the jibe, Ryoga quickly brushed it off. Even he couldn't deny his tendency to get lost. "I've got to keep an eye on you to make sure you don't disgrace Akane-san, that's all," he said indignantly, crossing his arms over his chest and glaring at Ranma.
"In any case, we should get going. Miss Kasumi, can we count on your discretion until we return?" queried the Dark Adonis. Kasumi nodded, earning a warm smile from the taller man. "Then you have all our thanks. We should be going then." So saying, Vyers made for the front door.
"Have a safe trip," said Kasumi with a smile.
"We'll be back soon, don't worry," said Ranma, turning and following the taller demon.
"Give my regards to Akane-san," added Ryoga, walking hastily after the other two so as not to get lost.
"If you can, I'd like to meet Flonne-san, Ranma-kun. She sounds like a wonderful person," called Kasumi.
"We'll see what we can do!" was the reply, before the front door opened and was quickly shut.
Smiling, Kasumi picked up the tea things and went into the kitchen with them, beginning to prepare dinner. A few minutes later, the door was opened and shut again, with Nabiki and Akane calling out "We're home!" Kasumi replied with, "Welcome back!" and turned back to dinner preparations. Not surprisingly, Nabiki quickly poked her head into the kitchen.
"Sis, did Ranma-kun stop by with anyone? He hasn't been seen since he fought a challenger at school," asked the middle Tendo.
"Ranma-kun, Ryoga-kun, and Mid-Boss-san have already left. They said they'd be back soon, but likely not in time for dinner."
Nabiki blinked. Twice. Then a third time. Kasumi could almost swear she heard gears grinding together as Nabiki blinked for a fourth time. On the fifth, she was just about certain smoke was pouring out from her younger sister's ears. Finally, the girl spoke, "Ranma-kun... miss... dinner?"
Quickly hiding her smile, Kasumi replied, "Oh, yes. He didn't say when he'd be back, just that it would be soon. I suppose you'll have to wait to talk to him, won't you?"
"Uh... sure. Right." Obviously blown with disbelief, Nabiki could only walk off in thought.
"Really, it's not that odd for him to miss dinner, is it?" asked Kasumi, quietly enough to not be heard though. "Well, maybe it is a little strange..."
Shaking her head, she went back to fixing dinner for her family. I do hope I get to meet Flonne-san, though, she thought with a smile.
About time I finished this chapter... Sheesh. Oh well. At least I did finish it.
Ranma's personality, as I'm sure you've noticed, hasn't been submerged into Laharl... though, neither has Laharl's been crushed under Ranma. The question is, then, is Ranma's mind big enough to hold two egos like that?
And yes, I did totally rip the idea for the 'equivalent exchange' bit from Full Metal Alchemist. Now, the conversation with God, on the other hand...
I don't know where that came from, but I was so very tempted to have someone ask, "So, does God still want a starship?"
Bonus points if you get the joke.
Trisar Alvein, signing off!
See you next mission.