The air was thick with the scent of sweat and dried blood, the pale and intemperate light of wall torches casting long shadows upon the mossy stone walls. The stench of decay and the rot of long dead sorrows hung stale in the stagnant breeze.
It was the first thing she noticed, followed soon by the acrid tang of old piss and fermented bile that must surely have lain idly in puddles where the uneven, broken stone flooring was lowest. It was the smell of a place that would stain a mind for life, tearing itself a place in a person's memories.
Her left eye was swollen closed, bruised thickly into an interesting mottle of vermillion and azure. Blood had caked graciously upon the hairline of her scalp, causing one side of her bangs to clump together in a jagged, crusty manner. It provided a stark contrast to the scarlett of her hair, now damp and bodyless as it hung free, framing her face.
She felt the taint of dried blood on her face, and imagined it stained much of her numb cheeks; senseless from hours of facial abuse.
Cold iron shackles strangled her wrists, ankles, thighs, and biceps; too small and jagged to pull free from. The unclean metal was oily, sticky, and rusted in spots. She heard someone laughing, it might have been her. Sometimes it sounded like crying, and she wasn't sure how long occurred between instances of the gibbering, purposeless vocalizations.
Her one good eye, a striking blue, struggled to stay open through the unrelenting waves of nauseating pain and fatigue deep in the bones of her battered body. Through the blood-drenched haze of her mind, she sensed that some ribs were broken, as was one of her legs; though the leg registered only as a dull ache. There were burns and lacerations across the entire length of her body, and her clothes had been robbed from her.
She hung nakedly, twitching in moments of brief lucidity as she recalled the events that had brought her to this nightmare. Life had been joyous and finally, at long last, something resembling peaceful.
She began crying again, realizing that her fingers were naked. The evidence of her joy robbed of her, the simple gold memory which served as reminder of her Marriage to Akane. She strained against the bands binding her, feeling infected sores break open on the sharp, untended edges of the shackles. She did not care, she had been robbed.
She remembered that day clearly, as if it were yesterday; Akane in white, looking up at her as she said the words that had been unsaid between them for so long. Making the promise that would bind them together for life.
At first, all was as it was before. Despite the marriage, the others still fought with what breath they had to try and sever the ties that she and Akane had formed.
One by one, they learned that their efforts would no longer stand between their vows. Ryouga had learned first, accepting that his love for Akane would forever remain unrequited. After that, the two of them became fast friends and battle compatriots.
She had been Ryouga's best man at his wedding to Akarii. Her muscles twitch again, testing her bindings once more as she continues pulling upon them, the grimy iron creaking audibly to her ear. Her good eye flashes as her thoughts take on an intensity.
She sees her keeper, his skin a deep orange with black striping. She feels her mind tear screaming back into the abyss of memories at the sight of those feline eyes; feels the eyes of her own beast flicker open.
And then she feels nothing but searing pain as white hot iron is pressed between her breasts, the clarion screech blasting out of her mouth enough to cause flesh to crawl. She sags loosely back into her shackles, as a ragdoll saturated with suffering.
Memories take their place on the stage of her mind again, disjointed and opposed by the seemingly endless recollections of torture. She clings to the memories of her son, Kisho, and how tiny he was when she first held him in her arms.
The tender, frail life of her son changed her from husband to father. Her whole being shifted stance, becoming protector rather than warrior. It had happened without moment, the way in which a rivers currents shift suddenly and without warning.
Ranma found herself a new person, with a new life that redefined her. The others saw the change, and found themselves changed upon sight of the newborn. Now they had become family, the bonds they had formed in high school had changed from rivals and competitors. They were like a pack of wolves now, all their teeth aimed at protecting the next generation from harm.
Her memories were suddenly torn from her as she felt a new kind of torture. A torture that, from the moment it was felt, began to tear her fortified psyche to shreds. A violation, an invasion of her body. She was being raped.
A cold void of anguish silenced any other thoughts in her mind, the ceaseless screaming from her mouth quieted only as her vocal chords lost the capacity. Yet even after the coppery tang of blood stained the back of her mouth as she lost her voice, her thoughts wailed agony into the gaping void of her mind.
She lost herself in the darkness, becoming aware only of the moments of violation. Empty and hollow otherwise, incapable of reminiscing. Her mind would not allow the recognition of what was being done to her.
At times she thrashed like a demon, only to feel the lick of nine tails upon her breasts, or smell the scorched scent of burning flesh as that unique pain registered through her rage-filled emotional catastrophe.
She never knew the time, nor how long these demons had done it to her. Her existence had become nothing but rage and anguish, interspersed by naked blasts of terror which reminded her that she was now female and would remain so.
What had ripped her world away? It had come on the news first, reports from China of hordes of the Musk descending in waves upon Shanghai and Beijing. The Chinese military had fought back with modern weaponry in as ruthless and murder starved as a well oiled killing machine can be.
Cologne had taken notice, and had heard nothing from the Amazons on the matter. After the attacks began, she had tried contacting her village, receiving no reply. Ranma still remembered the color of pale on Cologne's face.
The news continued for weeks, the Chinese army continuing to decimate the waves upon waves of Musk hordes that continued throwing themselves away, until one day, there was no more news from China.
It was at that point, that bombs were dropped on the major cities in China by the Americans, sanctioned by the U.N.
Uncertain of where the barbarian hordes had arisen from, and why modern military tactics had not deterred any of them from attacking, the nations of the world sat uneasily with the final decision. For some months, things had seemed to return to normal.
And then ships began to land on the shores of Japan. It was the Musk again, led by their Emperor. Just as the Chinese had before them, the Japanese government began a unified assault on the legions. They came endlessly, it seemed, and Japanese moral fell straight to hell as reports from infantry units described Musk legionnaires regenerating even from direct tank blasts.
The Musk seemed to seek out direct blasts with fervor, and where the gobbets of blasted flesh fell, MORE Musk seemed to spring into existence.
Ranma recalled, after that, Cologne had been found dead in her bed, poisoned tea in the kettle beside her. She knew that if she had been captured, the Musk would have extracted ancient Chinese secrets from her and become an even more terrible force.
The letter she left behind could not assuage the fears of those who lived on still. It confessed her inability to deduce how Herb had created such a hellish force in so short a time, positing only that Herb must have found some item lost to ancient history that gave him power over death itself.
Ill contented to merely let the inevitable force come to her, Ranma assembled the others. With the old Nerima Wrecking Crew, she had decided to try and finish Herb off herself. They managed to evade the Musk and spirit themselves to China by ship.
They had even managed to fight their way through the lax defenses in the outer regions of China, but things became progressively harder as they travelled further inland. The terrain was unforgiving, and the occasional gathering of Musk troops made progress painfully slow.
She had counted a year since leaving Akane and Kisho behind; A year when they set foot back into Jusenkyou, which had changed her Life those many years ago. They had planned the journey to take them through Jusenkyou, knowing that the Musk were not likely to have a strong force in the valley due to the cursed pools.
It also had the convenience of being on the way, and they had long decided that if they were to have the chance at a cure, then they had best do so before confronting Herb.
They were wrong on both counts. It had not been long after they arrived that they realized that the Musk forces had filled every cursed spring in with dirt, and that the only reminder of the once enchanted valley were the bamboo poles jutting up from the ground.
The forces filling the valley were vast, tents stretching as far as the eye could see. Their shock cost them everything. It took only a pebble to cause the landslide, and while it buried several dozen tents beneath the rubble, it alerted the entire valley as to their presence.
Concsciousness flowed slowly back into her, her mind still well aware of the shackles binding her. The terror was palpable as she took stock, though her bones had mended, she felt immense pain in her groin and thighs. She wanted to claw her face, try and dig her fingers into her brain to remove the part of her that knew what was done. She felt blood in her mind, anger, rage, sorrow.
"Ah, you are awake," The voice carried an heir of precision and egotism. The voice of born nobility, holding tightly the concept of Divine Right.
Her eyes snap open, seething hatred twisting her face as she jerked her arms against her bonds. Her throat burned from the screams she had filled days, weeks, possibly months with in the dungeon of Herb's palace. "…b-bastard…" she croaks. Her voice is a whisper, and barely that.
Herb was dressed as regally as the first time Ranma had met him, rich silks and elegant attire befitting a Prince and future ruler of the Musk. The only addition to the wardrobe was the heavily gilded chain around Herb's neck. It was like a choker, with a large inset emerald that seemed to cast the room in a greenish hue.
Ranma felt immense power emanating from the stone, power that dwarfed Saffron's ten-fold. It was something primal, something eternal, something undying.
On either side of Herb, Mint and Lime stood. They were dressed less formally, in battle stained armor and capes. Their faces were intense and haunted with a barely contained lust for killing.
Herb removed the knife from the eye of Ranma's feline captor before idly handing the blade to Lime, who casually cleaned it and resheathed it.
Herb noticed her expression, seeing the calculation in it and the question hanging unsaid, "I am not freeing you. You are mine, and you live by my grace alone, Saotome Ranma," He spat Ranma's name as if it was bitter, sharpened canines gleaming prominently as Herb growled low and deep.
"Boobies," Mint muttered under his breath, a hungry look in his eyes as he stared at Ranma's chest.
The expression on the Tiger-man's face caused waves of revulsion to creep through Ranma's body, and reminded Ranma of her violation.
Both Mint and Lime cringed visibly after Lime's unwitting comment, averting their eyes from Ranma as Herb's displeasure became palpable.
"Both of you will go and wait outside," Herb ordered, and his minions bowed low, backing out of the room with their heads down. He crossed his arms as he looked over Ranma's naked form.
The wave of revulsion grew stronger as Herb's eyes roamed her body, she again tried desperately to free herself, her energy drained from the time in the dungeon.
"When I was first cursed, Saotome Ranma, I felt that I was shamed and humiliated. I had lost the mate I had chosen, and been cursed with the wretched female form," He lowered his eyes again to Ranma's chest, there was a sense of weighing and assessment as Herb did not bother hiding his obvious lust.
He began to speak again, that disgusting air of superiority thick in his voice, "Yet without that particular journey, I would not have met you, a far more suitable mate."
He fingered the jewel decorating his throat as his brow arches, lips curling back into a grin as he sees Ranma struggling not to gag. "Fortune seems to favor me in recent years, and I could think of no better mate than the one who defeated Saffron," Herb's eyelids cast his features into a half lidded, lustful expression.
"You will bear me strong young before your end, Saotome Ranma. You will give me a new Heir for the Musk, an Heir who will rule over my new empire as the new God King of the world," Intensity crept into Herb's voice, the motes of pale green light seeming to flicker and flow down Herb's fingertips.
Ranma's mind found itself cold as the fear short circuited her rational senses. She ceased feeling fear, pain, or sorrow. There was only a cold and abiding rage swelling within her breast. She feels the cool touch of Herb's fingers upon her navel, a cruel warmth nestling within her as the green motes seem to seep inside her flesh.
"…k-kill…," Her voice sounds cracked, dry, raspy and distant. Her eyes wide in manic obsession as a dangerously edgy laugh creeps out of her throat.
Herb pauses as he looks up into Ranma's maddened gaze, "What was that?"
"Will…. K-kill you, I swear it," She has trouble mouthing it, the words not enough to quiet her rage. Her body was loose, her mind flaring up in an inferno of hatred, as if her very will could incinerate the Emperor of the Musk.
He pulled his fingers back, a look of hesitance in his expression. He could feel the Ki trying to reach out and take hold of him, tearing at his own Ki. He took a step back at the intensity of the senation before he smiled, dismissing the feeling as fruitless and impotent in its threat.
"I cannot be killed, Saotome Ranma. I am Herb, God of the Musk, and a new age dawns for the Musk Empire," He turned away from her, his back to her in casual dismissal. He pauses, "And you will bear me an Heir, for it is my will and it shall be done."
She watched as he walked away from her, the feeling of tears on her face again as she recalls how much she has been robbed of. "Herb…" She mouthed as his boots echoed down the half-lit hallways of the dungeon. Her words received only silence.
"Herb!" She rallies again, her voice gaining in strength as she thrashes, trying to free herself from her bonds as angry tears seared her cheeks.
"HERB!" She screamed, and found only laughter ricocheting off the walls as Herb's humor faded into the distance.
She did not rest that day, nor the next, sleepless she tore at her imprisonment, her arms and legs becoming bloody and numb in the struggle. As weakness again began to claim her, she was dry of tears, and empty of her past. Only her hatred for Herb remained in her, her hatred for what had been done to her, and her desire for revenge. Her desire for Herb's blood.
"Gods… Gods, if there are Gods that listen, though I am weak and defeated, I will not give in and become some tool for Herb to secure his rule over the world. Give to me the power that I desire," her head hung limply, her bangs covering her eyes as she grinned her insanity, "I promise myself, I swear myself to you. My life, my soul is yours. If any Gods listen, I do not care what the price is, I want to kill Herb with my own two hands."
Darkness claimed her, she fell into the deepest of sleeps. The stillness of her dreamless slumber disturbed only by the tremulous waves of rage consuming the last vestiges of the once noble Saotome Ranma.
And in the gloaming place where the soul sits nestled beneath the will, she heard a deep masculine voice whose own tone seemed full of war and long-worded anger.
"WARRIOR, you beseech unto the Gods their aid, and ask of them to help YOU?" It was incredulous, doubting of Ranma's worthiness in the request.
"Yes," She mouthed, her lips echoing her unconscious sentiment.
"I, KRATOS, Titan of Time once demanded such a boon of the Gods! I can give you your revenge, but I will HOLD you to your vow, Mortal!" The voice boomed, wearing away the edges of Ranma's sufferance at the hands of Herb's minions.
"Yes, Yes, whatever it takes, give me vengeance!" Her voice gained force, power, strength. The bruises and wounds across her body glowing faintly and mending.
"You will be my servant on Earth, and you will bring my revenge to those who have betrayed me! In exchange, you will be granted the boon you seek. Rise, Ghost of Tokyo… I give you my power, the power of Kratos! Destroy all that would oppose our will!" The voice echoed in her mind as she felt herself fill like a cup with anger, with fury.
Her skin grew an immaculate pale as crimson Kanji began to form in spirals upon her skin. Her body took on shape, muscles becoming prominent once more. Her eyes snapped open, a deep and abiding torment burning in the reflection of her irises.
She found herself laughing, her voice clear and clarion as a morning song. Flexing her arms and pulling forwards, she felt the iron cut into her skin only slightly as her rage-filled being tore the chains clear from the granite walls, the ceiling shaking from the force of her freeing act.
She slung the broken fragments of rock against the floor, even as she met it. Slamming her hands into the solid ground, she pulled her legs free of the walls as well, tearing the bands off her thighs and ankles with only her fingers.
She felt the bands upon her arms begin to sear her flesh, seeming to join with it and fuse with the skin, the pain causing her to roar. Her hands grasp the wrack nearby, tearing it completely from the ground as the chains attached to her arms lengthen, pale blue Wakazashi materializing upon the ends opposite her arms.
"I give to you the blades of Athena, Goddess of War. Fulfill your vengeance," Kratos' voice rung again in her mind, clearer now than it had been before.
She swung the chains, feeling them as if they were a part of her. Grasping the handles of the Wakazashi she began to lope out of the dungeon.
The first Musk she met were startled, but before they were able to unsheathe their weapons she was upon them. She felt pleasure as she sunk one blade into the chest of one Musk warrior, then tore upwards, the corpse stumbling a moment before falling in two messy halves.
The other she stabbed in the face, and continued doing so for several moments, her eyes humorless and lost in the murder.
Ten, twenty, thirty, she lost count of the number of dismembered bodies she left in her wake. Her body dripped with the blood of her slain foes, yet remained a pale white.
"I am coming for you Herb… and God or not, you will die." Her words were said aloud, and though Herb could not hear them, they brought pleasure to her soul.
She would become Kratos' Goddess of war, and she would singlehandedly commit genocide against the Must Dynasty.