Chapter One : The Ascension
Long ago, in a land far different from our own, a legend of a 8-headed serpent came to its supposed conclusion. The defeat and death of the vile serpent heralded an age of peace.
But with it, the serpent took the life of one of the hero's who helped defeat it, a wolf with a pelt the color or falling snow.
No one knows quite what happened to the serpent or the wolf. They both disappeared in a violent flash of light, leaving only the other hero; a man by the name of Nagi; to bear witness to the aftermath.
The island where the battle took place, the dreaded Moon Cave, was swallowed by the water that surrounded it. The man was heralded as a hero and a statue of the wolf was enshrined on top of the hill that overlooked the small village nearby.
It was believed that the wolf, who had already shown strange and wondrous powers while fighting the serpent, was forced to snatch itself away at that final moment... taking the serpent with it. Since neither one of them were ever seen again, people believed that both had died in that battle.
The village, from that day forth, held a festival on that day. A festival cerebrating the valiant defeat of the dreaded serpent Orochi by Nagi and the wolf, who was named Shiranui.
It has been countless years since then and the details of such legend have been lost in the ebb and flow of time.
This story starts in a place far from Nippon, known now as Japan. Far across the Chinese border.
Two men were standing atop bamboo poles.
An interesting way to start a conversation, no?
These two men, however, were also leaping to and fro trading blows between them. Both were exceptionally skilled at martial arts. Also, both of them were ignoring the shouts of the large rotund man nearby. He was yelling something about curses and water or something. Neither of the two men cared to listen.
"You're getting slow, Pop!" The younger of the two yelled.
His father didn't respond with anything but a flying kick, which the boy easily avoided.
"You shouldn't eat so much, old man," The younger man said, "All that weight you're carrying around slows you down!"
"Silence, boy!" The older man said, attacking again.
This chain of insults staccato by attacks went on for maybe a minute or two.
That all changed when the younger of the two suddenly saw something out of the corner of his eye. It looked like a person.
Glancing over in that direction quickly, he saw what looked like a person with odd disfigured green skin that had its face hidden behind a plain paper mask. The mask was inscribed with a strange symbol. The figure seemed to be watching them while lumbering about itself much like an ape would.
As the creature saw that the boy saw it, it suddenly went into a flurry of motions. These motions weren't very fast in themselves and more looked like some weird sort of dance than any sort of threat. It was just waving its arms around like a lunatic.
Because of this rather odd distraction, his father almost managed to land a kick that would have hit the boy strait in the face.
"You need to pay attention, boy!" His father yelled.
"Cut it out, pop!" He said, glaring at his father, before looking back towards the figure, "I thought I saw something."
It was gone.
"You're just seeing things!" His father attacked again.
"Quit it, Pop!" The boy yelled, "Seriously!"
"Stop whimpering! You sound like a girl!"
The battle continued for a few more moments. By this time the rotund guy nearby had given up trying to talk to the two.
The father ended up on a post a few feet in front of the boy. Like he had many times before, the older man rushed at the boy with a kick. A blow that the boy could easily avoid by jumping, which he did.
Or at least tried too.
When he tried to jump, he found that the foot that he was standing on was somehow firmly held in place. Looking down in confusion, he finally saw where the weird green figure went.
It was now currently latched onto his leg, not allowing him to move it.
The boy glanced quickly back towards his father. Because of his distraction, he was unable to avoid or dodge said blow.
The kick sent him flying a good ways away from his father. At the moment the kick connected, the strange... thing... let go of his leg.
The boy barely had time to register what the hell just happened before he slammed into one of the small bodies of water that the bamboo poles were set up in.
The older man simply landed and waited for the boy to come up so he could rant/gloat.
Ten seconds went by.
Okay, about a minute now.
Only after about three minutes did it dawn on the older man that his son might not be coming up nor might he be conscious.
The older man leap over towards the pool.
"No, sir!" The rotund guy yelled, "You must not go in spring! Honored Guest would be cursed!"
"Cursed?" He asked, only now noticing that the round man was even there.
"Yes, it very sad story," the pudgy guy said, "Springs curse whoever enter to turn into what last drown there. This one doesn't know what spring this is; is more ancient than others."
"What!?" He said, "So my son...!?"
"Probably drown," The man said, "Another sad story. Anyone who jump in now take form of young honored guest."
The older man was about to say something else when he noticed that the area was suddenly much darker than it had been a moment ago. Too dark for it simply to be a cloud blocking out the sun. It was almost like it was night all of a sudden.
Looking up, he didn't even have time to react before it came down upon both of them.
"Ugh," the young boy said, "Shit... why does my head hurt?"
He paused for a moment, trying to remember.
"Oh, right," He muttered to himself, "Pop kicked it."
Shaking his head slightly, he sat up to look around.
And realize that he didn't know where the hell he was.
Before him was a small path. that lead towards a crossing. One way went to what looked like a river. The other way went up to a high hill. But that wasn't the weird thing.
The weird thing was that the stars filled the skies, almost as if they were close enough for him to reach out and touch them. Also, to the sides of the path; with the exception to the strange river; there seemed to be nothing but what looked like swirling clouds below. The entire area seemed to resonate with a peaceful feeling.
"Where the hell am I?" He asked, looking around him.
Obviously, no one answered.
Seeing this; and seeing the fact that he wasn't getting anywhere just by sitting there; the boy stood up and slowly started to walk down the path. Now that he walked, he could see that small stone statues and pots lined the road.
Reaching the split in the road, he saw that what had looked like a river from far away was nothing more than what looked like a shimmering lake of liquid. The sign next to the river simply said 'Stardust River'.
The boy walked over to the edge of the river, which had an old broken bridge going across it. He slowly dipped his hand into it. The liquid was just that, a liquid, and therefore wet; although it didn't have the same consistency as water. But, being as he didn't know what the hell it was, he decided not to enter it; instead heading up the hill nearby.
The top of the hill was filled with lush foliage and flora. A small shrine was set atop it, holding only a very well done statue of a wolf. It was unlike a normal wolf, having strange markings all over it and strange tuffs of fur on certain places. Although it was in a pose that had it snarling, it didn't seem in any way threatening.
"Aw, man," He said, "I don't get this place. All I want to know is how to get out of he"
His sentence was interrupted by the sound of something whistling through the air towards him. It came from his left, bursting from the clouds below. He dropped into a defensive stance instantly and prepared to face whatever the hell this was coming at him. He expected that it could be anything.
Except a long white scaled dragon with strange red markings all over its body. In its four hands it clasped four different orbs of energy: one of red, one blue, one of green, and one of yellow. It had a long slender body and what looked like a scroll of some sort floating behind him, partially opened.
It coiled itself around the shrine once or twice before its stopped moving and just stared down at him.
"Young child," It said, "How is it that you came of this place?"
The boy simply looked at it for a long moment.
The dragon just floated there, waiting for an answer.
"Uh... um..." The boy said, "I... uh... I dunno."
"You do not know?" It asked.
"I... sorta just fell into a little spring or something and then poof... I was here," he said.
"Ah, I see," The dragon closed its eyes for a moment, "Then you are the one who fell into the Jusenkyo Spring that housed this place."
"Wh-what?" He asked, "I'm still in the spring?"
"Correct," The dragon said, "I am known as Yomigami, God of Restoration, and this area is called the Path of Heavens; a sacred realm that only the spirits and gods may enter. However, one link to the material realm was made; through the spring you fell into."
"So do all of the springs have weird places in them?" He asked.
"No," The dragon plainly remarked, "The Jusenkyo Springs are cursed to turn whoever falls into them into what drowned there last... and this spring is no exception."
"Wh-what!?" The boy yelled, "C-cursed!? I don't want to turn into anything! You said you were a god, can you just... ya know... restore me back to normal or something?"
"My power cannot be used as such," Yomigami said, "The curse of Jusenkyo is very strong indeed. Not even a god such as I has the power to reverse its affects, but a more powerful god may be able to alter it somewhat."
"Then what the hell drowned here!?" The boy asked.
"The wolf enshrined here," Yomigami said plainly, looking towards the statue of the wolf nearby.
"I'm gonna turn into a wolf?" The boy asked.
"It is uncertain," Yomigami said, "There are two possible outcomes."
"You refuse to accept the curse, the powers, and responsibility that come with it and stay in this plane of existence as your body drowns in the spring, thus making it so that whoever falls into that spring turns into you," Yomigami said, "Or you accept the curse and be released from here."
"Whadda ya mean... 'responsibilities'?" The boy asked.
"The wolf who is enshrined here was no normal wolf," Yomigami said, "It was a deity. The creator of all that is good and mother to us all."
"So its either die and stay in this place for the rest of eternity..." the boy said, "Or become some wolf-god... I think I'm gonna go with option two."
The dragon smirked.
"Then take my powers and travel further into the Path of Heavens," Yomigami told him, "There you will find another god. Once you have collected both of our powers, you will return to the mortal plane."
"Take your powers?" The boy asked.
"All will be made clear when it is needed," Yomigami said, "Use my power to bridge the gap across the River of Stardust. Wield the powers of the gods and become who you were destined to be: Amaterasu reborn!"
With that name, the dragon shimmered slightly, its form melding away into what looked like a strange ball of light. It hovered there for a small moment before it ripped towards the boy, who didn't have a chance to react before it hit him.
Power surged into him. A warmth filled his body as if he was basking in the summer sun. It hurt at first, the power stinging and the heat too great. Eventually, the power settled down, although the warmth never fully faded. Now the cold and chilly air of the area didn't have the bite it had had previously. And with this warmth came a strange realization of sorts. The knowledge of the powers of Yomigami: the power of restoration.
The boy turned to look towards where the river was. He quickly moved down towards where it was, specifically towards the broken bridge.
Lifting his right hand, he looked at it skeptically for a moment, before he reached out, extending two fingers as he did so. He concentrated and almost instantly he could feel the warmth that covered him start to gather towards his hand. He closed his eyes, concentrating hard.
He slowly moved his hand downward, visualizing the bridge in his mind. He moved his fingers as if connected the two broken parts together. As he did this, he could feel the warm power exit his fingers.
He opened his eyes... and stood there in shock.
Almost as soon as he did, he saw the power flicker through the air slightly. As it dissipated, a brand new bridge now crossed across the river.
"Holy shit..." He said, staring at his hand, "That... was so awesome..."
The warmth that had left him left him with a slight chill even though he could still feel the warmth within him. After a few moments, however, he felt the warmth quickly returning.
Testing the bridge for a small moment, the boy slowly walked across it. For a bridge he had kinda willed into existence, it was as sturdy and nice looking as if it were made by a master carpenter just a few hours prior.
"I wonder what else I can do with this," He said, looking around, trying to think of stuff to create or repair.
Spying one of the stone statues nearby, he strolled over to it; and with a single kick; smashed it into pieces.
He watched as the dust slowly drifted away, leaving a small pile of rubble on the ground. Quickly cracking his fingers, he concentrated again, again moving his hands as if to fill in where it was broken. Even with him not closing his eyes, he couldn't see anything more than a small after image following his hands. The warmth gathered in his hands again, moving outwards to reform the statue. The same flicker of power appeared and the statue was again whole.
"Heheheh," He chuckled, "Sweet."
Looking around a small moment more, he eventually saw that off towards his left a small ways was an archway. A golden light seemed to flow from it, masking anything that was beyond it in a white glow.
Feeling much more confident, he walked over towards the archway and walked through it cautiously.
The light blinded him for a small moment.
As the light dimmed, the boy found himself in another strange place. Unlike the place he just was, there was no weird cloud stuff off to the side of the path. One side met a sheer cliff face hundreds off feet high. The other side was, in turn, a cliff face, although this was a sheer drop hundreds of feet down.
The sounds of running water came drifting down from up ahead. The path snaked around a turn, climbing ever upwards. He could see the fine mist probably created by a waterfall up ahead.
The walk up this part of the path was less surreal and more serene. The stars now looked like normal stars. The area wasn't bathed in the same strange ethereal light as the other area was.
By the time he got to a clearing, he had been climbing up a steep path for quite a while. He had to cross several bridges and went through several small archways; sans glowing light of course.
He wasn't terribly out of breath, but it was obvious he was getting a small workout from it. He slowly sat down up next to a tree nearby. The air in this area smelled sweet and crisp; the smell of a field of flowers after the morning dew.
"Hmm..." He muttered to himself, "This place doesn't look like its in the same place as the first area. I wonder where I am now...?"
After sitting there pondering that for a moment, he stood. Whatever fatigue he had gotten from the walk was quickly washed away by his endurance and the soothing warmth.
Looking father up the path, he only had one thing to say.
"Ah, crap. Now I have to climb stairs?"
The flight of stairs was long. Very long. Gruelingly long. Mind numbingly long.
So it was about a five minute climb up these stairs, although it did seem to take longer.
"Damn... stairs..." he was panting, out of breath, "Maybe I shouldn't... have regenerated... those trees... on the way up..."
True, although the walk tired him somewhat, the amount that he used his newfound abilities completely drained him of the warm feeling. He had become very tired, sore, and seemingly a little bit weakened. The warmth was coming back, but not nearly as fast as it had been earlier.
"Damn..." He said, rubbing his arms, "When did it get so cold?"
Standing there for a moment longer, he waited for the warmth to come back. It did so, and he soon regained his breathe and energy.
The area at the top of the stairs was a small cave, in which was nestled a shrine. Wards hung from strings lined the hallways to keep out evil spirits, and a large wooden gate was partially open, the lock rusted and fallen off ages ago and the wood splintered and rotten.
Inside the shrine it was rather plain. It held a pit on the far side, from with a large statue rose from. A small walkway went over the pit towards the center of the room. The statue, like everything else, was overgrown with moss. The statue was of a man holding a sword up high, although the sword had been broken off so that only the hilt remained.
The boy looked at it for a while. The statue was old and almost worn so that it was impossible to tell who the man was. The identity of the man didn't truly concern him, but the shrine was just that, a shrine, and it had fallen into disrepair. He concentrated, doing the only thing he could think of to make the shrine more respectable again.
He drew his fingers upwards, forming a blade onto the giant hilt of the sword that the statue said. As it appeared, he brushed his hands off. He was about to turn to look around better when he heard the sound of steel being drawn across stone.
His danger sense flared and he instinctively tumbled out of the way as a rather large sword slammed down where he had been only moments ago. Sinking into a defensive position, he turned to see the wielder of the huge blade.
And he then promptly planted his face into the cold stone.
The creature that held the sword was a mouse. A mouse only as big as the swords hilt and pommel. The mouse had white fur with red makings all through it, akin to Yomigami; the dragon. The sword, however, was easily bigger than Ranma.
The mouse seemed to glare at him for a while, before it suddenly relaxed. It was now hanging from the pommel of the weapon, which was balanced on its tip, making the mouse and the boy have roughly equal height.
"Ah..." The mouse said, "It is Amaterasu reborn. I must apologize for my hasty actions. It has been long since I have interacted with others."
"Heh, you must be the other god or whatever that that dragon was talking about," The boy said, "Even if you are a pipsqueak."
The mouse made an angry... mouse sound and swung the sword very quickly. Far to quickly for something that size to swing something that huge. The boy had to duck the blade.
"Yes," It said after calming down, "Like Yomigami. I am Tachigami, wielder of the blade of evils bane. I have waited for the day that you would come again, Amaterasu."
"Who's this Amaterasu guy you guys keep talking about?" The boy asked.
"Amaterasu is the creator of all that is good and mother to us all," Tachigami said, "The deity of the sun; you are Amaterasu reborn."
"That wasn't what I meant..." the boy started.
"All will become known when Amaterasu comes to you," Tachigami squeaked a little, "It will not be long. You have chosen to accept these things. It is far too late to go back at this point."
Tachigame dropped from the sword, flinging it around by biting hold of it. The mouse then tossed it to the boys feet. He slowly kinda bent down and picked it up. For a sword of this size, it was quite light.
"Look," He said, "I don't do weapons, okay? I don't really want a sword."
"This is no normal sword," Tachigami said, "It is a blade forged to cut down evil. A blade that can slice a mountain in twain. It is not a blade you will wield with your hands... it is far more potent."
The boy looked down at the sword and then back up to the mouse. He blinked when he realized the mouse was gone. Then, he realized something, and realized that the sword he had been holding was gone too, vanished in his very hands.
For a moment, he simply looked around, trying to see where it went. After seeing it wasn't anywhere nearby, he simply started grumbling to himself.
"A sword you don't wield with you hand, what the hell use to I have for something like that?" He murmured, "Hmph... maybe..."
Looking off to his left, he saw that there was a large rock jutting from the floor. A small smirk came across his face when he saw it.
Concentrating quickly, he brought his hand up and then diagonally, as if tracing a line through the stone. The energy built up and released itself.
Cleanly slicing the rock in half even though he was more than twenty feet away.
"Holy shit!" he said, "Awesome!"
Glancing around, the rotten old gate caught his eye. Such an eyesore, really.
So, with a wave of his hand, he sliced it in twain.
"Having fun?" A voice asked from behind him.
The boy whirled around to look at who was there.
It was a wolf. A wolf with a snow white pelt marked with crimson, forming symbols over it.
"Hello, Ranma," It said, its voice one of a young womans.
"How do you know my name?" He asked.
"I know much about you," the wolf seemed to give a smile, "You did fall into my spring."
Ranma looked down for a moment.
"I am Amaterasu," The wolf said, "And you are my reincarnation."
"Whoa whoa whoa," Ranma said, "The reincarnation of a wolf? How does that work?"
"It involves the realities of my death," Amaterasu told him, "I died in a battle against a great evil eons ago. Under normal circumstances, I would have simply gone into a slumber until my power was again needed. But when the blood of the evil being fell into the springs, they became cursed. And when I fell into one, I was trapped by that curse. Until now."
"Because I fell in it by accident," Ranma said.
"It was no accident," Amaterasu told him, "My powers were trapped, but even the curse of Jusenkyo couldn't bind my soul. But... without my powers, I was forced to become reincarnated in a mortal form... you."
"Me?" Ranma asked.
"Future is preordained, to a point," She said, "You were fated to fall in that spring. Reality willed it to happen."
"I fell in because this weird green thing jumped on me," Ranma argued.
"An Imp, I know," Amaterasu nodded, "Vile tricksters, but maybe not without their purposes."
"An imp? You mean like a demon or something?"
"Exactly. Humans are typically not privy to such things. Demons and the like go unseen by most, allowing them to reap havoc without worry."
Ranma paused, looking down.
"So... what now?" He asked.
"A... difficult answer," The wolf looked down, "One I fear you will not take kindly too."
"This is about the curse thing, isn't it?" He deadpanned.
"The part you won't like is the curse, at least partially," Amaterasu responded, "Beyond the curse, you will become me in my stead. It will be your responsibility to battle evil where it rears its head and to help the world around you."
"Become you?" Ranma said, looking worried, "You mean, like a wolf?"
"No," Amaterasu said, "You will not become a wolf, at least not fully. You will most likely take on some lupine traits, although I do not know what. But such changes will be like the demons, humans will normally not be privy to it. Only those who had a celestial connection or have great spiritual power will be able to see them. To the rest, you will appear to be a normal human girl."
"Oh, okay," He said, looking down, "If I have to be a freaky thing, at least no one will..."
He stopped dead, literally frozen in place.
"Wait..." He said, "A... a-a g... g-g...?"
"That is what I knew you wouldn't like," Amaterasu said, "To those who see solely using spiritual means, I would appear to be a maiden most fair. Thus... although I am a wolf... the spring will turn you instead into a maiden yourself."
"But... but... but..."
"And I wish I could tell you that you would be able to change back into a man with application of hot water, as the other Jusenkyo curses, but..." She said.
"But... but... but...?"
"Since you will become body physically and spiritually 'me'... the magick will dissipate immediately afterwards, locking you into that form... rather permanently."
"But... but... but...!"
Amaterasu didn't say anything else. She just let Ranma sputter for a moment before he just went slack.
"Although it will not comfort you now," Amaterasu said, "The changes to yourself after it is locked may actually include several... things that will help you cope."
"Things!?" Ranma yelled, "What THINGS!?"
"Um..." Amaterasu looked away, "Nothing very big... you know... small things..."
"What small things!?"
"Nothing in particular..."
"What small things!?"
"Really, they're not that..."
"WHAT SMALL THINGS!?"
"It'll change your personality a little, okay!?" Amaterasu yelled back.
Ranma instantly deflated. Almost literally; he went completely slack, almost to the point where he would fall over.
"So you're saying I'll act like a girl, too?" Ranma asked.
"Possibly," Amaterasu said, "You must trust me, I do not wish this. If I had the choice, I would have made you been born female."
"That isn't very comforting..." Ranma deadpanned.
"Sorry..." Amaterasu responded.
"So... how long do I have?"
Amaterasu somehow managed to make a nervously laughing expression.
"Um... heh..." She said, looking around, "Not very long, actually. We are on a time limit."
"What time limit?" Ranma asked.
"Well, truthfully, you're body is still underwater at Jusenkyo," Amaterasu said, "Just that time flows differently here. For every hour in here, roughly a minute passes on the outside."
"So I've been underwater for almost two minutes now?" Ranma said, "Like I'm drowning?"
"That is a distinct possibility, yes," She answered.
"Well, I don't really wanna DIE," Ranma said, "That's kinda why I agreed to this in the first place."
"So then..." Amaterasu said.
"Yeah... I guess," Ranma said, "Just promise me I'll still be me."
"I promise," Amaterasu smiled.
Note: This story wasn't written in chapter to chapter form, so the transition between them may be a little rough. I tried to pick the best places to separate the chapters, but I know that I tend to leave strange cliff hangers and things like that. Bear with me people! Huzzah!