A Midsummer Night's Beauty, Part I
by rkOujirou

Author's note: This story is a continuation on the Ranma 1/2 anime, including the OVA's and movies. Therefore, keep in mind that anything exclusive to the manga hasn't happened in this story.

Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 is not my idea, it was created by a very talented manga artist named Rumiko Takahashi. The only characters I'll claim are my own original characters that I've added into this story. Just so you know.

Chapter 14

While a mass of orange energy grew in his right palm, Ryoga winced, trying to ignore the pain that all of his practice had caused his hand. Since learning how to perform the Happo Solar Flare from Happosai, he'd tripled the amount of time he could keep the energy intact from one second to three, but he knew he was still far from mastering the technique. After holding on for slightly over three seconds, the energy dissipated into the air.

Growling out of frustration, Ryoga grabbed his aching palm and stared angrily at it. "Why can't I get this right?!"

"Shut up already!" Meilin yelled as she walked alongside him. "I don't know what it is you're doing, but could you at least try to be quiet?!"

Ryoga narrowed his eyes and glared over at the woman. Her attitude was something he could deal with, but what was annoying him more was the fact that she was wearing his ushanka underneath the cloth she concealed her upper body with. "I haven't gotten to practice this move for two days because of the clouds, so deal with it. And I want my hat back."

Meilin turned her head away from him defiantly. "I have no idea what you're talking about. I found this hat in my cave, so it's mine."

After five days of trudging through the snow-covered plains of China, Ryoga and Meilin were finally nearing Nekonron.

Ryoga couldn't read the notice that Meilin had showed him five days ago, but she was happy to explain it to him after punting Happosai off into the distance. As it turned out, Kirin was holding a martial arts tournament in Nekonron today in celebration of the news that Lychee was carrying their first child. The prize for winning the tournament? Any one favor that the victor asked of the Seven Lucky Gods, so long as it was within reason.

Initially, Ryoga refused Meilin's demand that he come along with her, citing his need to find someone he was looking for. But as Meilin would point out in a very unflattering manner, Ryoga could use his favor to ask Kirin and the others to help find whoever he was looking for if he ended up winning. With this in mind, Ryoga finally agreed to follow her to Nekonron. He knew it would take some time out of his own search, but having the Seven Lucky Gods searching for Ranma along with everyone else could be a great help, he figured.

Back when Meilin had asked Ryoga to come with her, he'd immediately asked why she wanted him to tag along. She responded by saying that with all of the fighters that would be there, it would be safer to have someone watching her back. This Ryoga could understand, but there were other things that bothered him about all of this, or rather about Meilin.

For one, why was she so adamant about concealing her identity? She'd worn a cloth over her upper body, including her face, ever since they'd left from her cave. There had to be some reason she didn't want to be seen, and Ryoga had a feeling he didn't want to find out why.

In addition to this was the fact that she'd let Ryoga off so quickly for not only stealing her panties, but for pretending to be a pig and, albeit accidentally, seeing her in the nude when she was getting ready to take a bath. She was livid about the incident at first, but it seemed as though she put it behind her without much thought in favor of having him back her up at Nekonron. The only reason for this that Ryoga could come up with was that there must have been something far more important to Meilin waiting at Nekonron.

That was the final thing that had Ryoga wondering about the white-haired woman. It was clear that Meilin had her sights set on winning that tournament, but what favor did she want to ask of Kirin so badly? When Ryoga asked her, she simply shrugged it off and said it was none of his business. She did have a point, he figured, but it was something he would've liked to have known if they were going to be watching each others' backs.

"We're here," Meilin said, pointing at a group of people walking toward Seven Luck Mountain.

"Are they here to fight too?" Ryoga asked.

"They might just be here to watch," Meilin replied. "That notice did say people were welcome to come whether they wanted to fight or just observe. It's a happy occasion for Kirin, after all."

Ryoga and Meilin had both assumed that the tournament would be held on top of the mountain, but as they got closer they noticed a large hole in the ground and a banner raised in front of it reading: "All participants for the tournament, enter below."

What the two of them saw when they looked into the hole was an entire arena made out of stone, and it was enough to amaze the both of them. There were four staircases around the pit that led downward and numerous rows of seats around the circular arena, some already occupied with onlookers, all of which faced toward the flat ground in the middle that had a stone barrier surrounding it.

"I don't remember this being here," Meilin said, staring down at some of the fighters who were warming up at the bottom of the arena. "They must have constructed it just for this occasion."

"Guess we just go down, then," Ryoga said as he began walking down a staircase, and Meilin followed close behind.

It wasn't long before they came to the end of the staircase and hopped over the barrier to the arena floor.

"You two there! If you want to enter the tournament then get over here and sign up!" the guardian Ebitan yelled out to them in Mandarin. He was standing in the middle of the arena with a clipboard in his hands while Kirin and Lychee looked on from a royal box of sorts in the front row of the crowd.

"Talk in a language I can understand!" Ryoga yelled back at him.

As Ryoga walked up to him, Ebitan recognized his face from the first time they'd met each other. "Hey, I remember you! You were one of those guys in Saotome's group!"

Meilin, who'd been quietly walking beside Ryoga, spun her head around and looked at him in shock when she heard Ebitan mention the name Saotome.

"What do you mean Saotome's group?" Ryoga asked, agitated by the name. "That makes me sound like I'm Ranma's subordinate. Don't put it like that."

"Whatever. Just sign up if you're participating," Ebitan said to him, obviously indifferent about his displeasure with the name.

After signing the sheet on the clipboard and handing it off to Meilin, Ryoga decided to make sure he could get what he wanted out of this. "Is it true that the winner can ask for any favor they want?"

"That's right, so long as it's within reason," Ebitan replied.

"So...if I asked you guys to help me find Ranma, you'd do it?" Ryoga asked him.

Ebitan scratched his head for a moment while he pondered the request. "Well...it sounds reasonable enough, but it's Master Kirin's decision in the end. Just so you know, we haven't heard anything about Saotome since he fought Li."

"Yeah, I figured as much," Ryoga replied, looking uncomfortable. The lack of any lead in five months made it seem more and more likely that Ranma was dead. He wasn't going to give up until he knew for sure though. He owed at least that much to Akane, he thought.

When Meilin handed the clipboard back to Ebitan, he raised an eyebrow curiously at her choice of names. "M? You're just M?"

"That's right," Meilin replied.

"What's with you people? First someone signs up as Y and now there's an M. Don't you have real names..." Ebitan began to say before being interrupted by the sound of some of the fighters getting a little too into their spars behind him. "Hey, save it for the tournament, you fools!"

While Ebitan rushed over to break up the fight, Ryoga looked over at the woman next to him. "You sure haven't said much since we came down here."

"I'm trying to keep a low profile right now. I've got a bit of a history with these people," Meilin replied, tugging the cloth over her face. "Let's take a look around and see if there's anyone we need to worry about here."

As the two of them began looking around the arena floor for anyone of interest, one person caught Meilin's eye.

"Hey, Ryoga, you see that guy in the black cloak over there?" Meilin asked him.

Ryoga turned around to look at the person in question. Although their face was covered by the hood on their cloak, it seemed as though they were staring right at him. And he wasn't sure what it was, but the handle of some sort of weapon was sticking out from behind the person's back.

"What's he think he's looking at?" Ryoga asked, irritated by the stare.

"Maybe he knows you," Meilin smiled.

After several seconds of staring back and forth, the person in the cloak turned around and walked off.

"I don't know if he's a threat or not, but I guess we'll find out soon enough," Meilin said.

No sooner had she finished her sentence when Meilin saw something flying at her. Immediately raising her snake sword in the air to shield herself, she watched as the strings of a lute wrapped themselves tightly around her weapon.

"You've got some nerve coming here. Did you think I wouldn't recognize you?" the woman with the lute asked with a furious look in her eyes.

"Sister..." Meilin said quietly, staring forward at her older sibling. She was expecting to be engaged in a fight to the death right at that moment, but after taking a deep breath Monlon calmed down and retracted her lute's strings.

"Now is a time of celebration for the Seven Lucky Gods and I'm in a good mood, so I'll overlook your presence for the moment," Monlon said to her. "You intend to participate in the tournament?"

Meilin swallowed hard as she tried to control herself. Her goal was finally right in front of her, but now wasn't the time, she thought. "That's right..."

Monlon shrugged as she ran her hand through her hair. "It would be a shame if Master Kirin had to grant a favor to a coward who ran away like you, but I suppose the tournament is open to anyone."

"Ran away?" Meilin asked, gritting her teeth together. "I'd much rather live free than be a slave to Kirin like you! Why do you continue to live like this?!"

"Because it's the duty we were given upon our birth!" Monlon snapped back at her. "You would understand that if Li hadn't put all those ideals in your head!"

"Li?" Ryoga asked, recalling the name somewhere in his mind. "That's...the same Li that Jynn guy said attacked Ranma?"

"What, you mean she never told you?" Monlon asked. "Meilin here fought alongside Li against your friend Saotome and that Shampoo girl five months ago."

Ryoga stared wide-eyed at Meilin for a few moments as he finally came to realize the truth about the woman he'd been traveling with. "It was you?! Then...the one that gave you those burns was Shampoo?!"

Meilin looked away, trying to avoid direct eye contact with him. "I didn't know the person you were looking for was Saotome until Ebitan brought his name up, otherwise I would've told you. But it doesn't change the fact that you're my ally right now and not my enemy."

"It changes a lot, damn it!" Ryoga snapped at her. "You're one of the people who caused this whole mess that I'm trying to fix!"

"Well, seems you two have some issues to work out," Monlon said with a smirk as she began walking away. "Good luck in the tournament, little sister. I'll be rooting against you, of course."

Meilin had a less than happy look on her face as she watched Monlon walk away, but it was nothing compared to the look Ryoga was giving her right now.

While onlookers continued to fill the seats, Kirin stood up and raised his hand into the air. "Attention, warriors! Our deadline for entry into the tournament has now passed. The tournament will begin in one hour. Until then, we have prepared a suitable area for you all to prepare. If you would, please follow Ebitan."

While Ebitan began leading the fighters up one of the staircases, Ryoga turned around and began walking back up the stairs that he and Meilin had come down earlier.

"Where do you think you're going?" Meilin asked him.

"I'm going to be by myself for a while!" Ryoga yelled back at her.

Looking over for a moment at the group of fighters being led elsewhere by Ebitan, Meilin let out a sigh and reluctantly began following Ryoga up the stairs.

After walking out of the arena and far enough away from it that he couldn't hear the chatter of the spectators, Ryoga threw his backpack up against a rock and sat down next to it.

"Will you calm down and listen to me?!" Meilin said angrily as she stared down at him. "I told you, I didn't know you were looking for Saotome. If I had, I would've told you who I was earlier."

"What happened that day?" Ryoga suddenly asked her, keeping his eyes focused on the ground.

Meilin had an uncomfortable look on her face as she grabbed hold of her left arm. "I'll tell you right now, I don't know what happened with Saotome. His fight with Li was already over by the time I woke up in that godforsaken place."

Ryoga slammed his fist into the ground in frustration, growling as he raised his head to look at Meilin. "Do you realize what you and that Li guy did?! Right now there's a girl back in Japan who's been crying for five months because Ranma hasn't come home yet!"

"What do you want me to do about it?! What's done is done, I can't change what happened!" Meilin yelled at him.

"Instead of sitting around in a cave doing nothing, go out and help look for Ranma! At least make an effort to fix all the damage you caused!" Ryoga snapped.

Shaking with bitterness, Meilin bit her lip as her eyes began to tear up. "Don't...don't you dare act like I came away from that day unscathed! I woke up in that place dehydrated and with a broken arm and ribs! I looked and looked for Li, and then...I found that grave marker with his name on it. You can't imagine what it feels like to realize that the only person in the world who ever understood you is dead."

Meilin wiped the tears from her eyes and collapsed to her knees as she stared at Ryoga. "This is the only time in my life that I've ever been by myself, and I hate it. I can't show my face anywhere because I don't have Li to help me escape if authorities find me. When I saw that notice for this tournament, I saw my chance to finish what he and I had set out to do. It's my only chance to duel my sister to the death without having to go through the other guardians first."

"And then what?" Ryoga asked sternly.

Meilin shifted her gaze toward the ground, unable to come up with an answer.

Ryoga let out a sigh as he looked over at her. "You plan on dying, don't you?"

"Why not?! There's nothing else for me in this world!" Meilin screamed at him.

Leaning back against the rock, Ryoga looked toward the sky and pictured Akane in his mind. "You know, I'm always traveling by myself in Japan. It's lonely, sure, but I keep going because there's things in this world that make me happy."

"What're you getting at?" Meilin asked, looking at him strangely.

"I'm just saying, there's always something to live for in this world," Ryoga replied, wincing as he pulled his umbrella out of his backpack with his right hand and pointed it at her. "You might not think so, but you can find something that makes you happy too."

To Ryoga's surprise, Meilin actually cracked a smile and began giggling at him. "God, that's so cheesy..."

"Shut up! I'm being serious!" Ryoga snarled, letting his umbrella drop to the ground to reduce the pain in his hand.

Noticing Ryoga's discomfort, Meilin grabbed him by the wrist and looked at his right palm. "These burns...came from practicing that technique?"

Ryoga jerked his hand back and looked away from her. "It's nothing. Don't worry about it."

"It's not nothing, you're hurt," she said, reaching into her pocket and pulling out a squeezable tube. "Give me your hand..."

As Meilin squeezed a cream onto his palm, Ryoga felt almost embarrassed and his face turned a shade of red. "What is this stuff?"

"An ointment I used to use for my burns," Meilin said, rubbing the cream over his palm. "It should help with some of the discomfort."

The two of them stayed silent until Meilin was finished applying the ointment.

Looking at his palm, Ryoga noticed that the pain was beginning to subside. "T-thanks..."

Meilin moved over and sat against the rock next to him. "Look, I know my sister doesn't want me to win this tournament, and I don't know what she and Kirin might do to make sure I don't. You don't have to like me, all I'm asking is that you watch my back until we have to fight each other. You look out for me, and I'll look out for you. Deal?"

After thinking to himself for a moment, Ryoga raised his head and looked over at her. "Fine. I still don't completely trust you though."

"You don't have anything to worry about," Meilin assured him, standing up and brushing herself off. "Let's go back and start warming up. It won't be too long before the tournament starts."

Once Ryoga and Meilin hopped down onto the arena floor, they walked over next to the box where Monlon, Ebitan, Lychee, and Kirin were seated. Looking over to the other side of the arena, they saw that the cloaked person they'd exchanged stares with earlier was the only other entrant present. He had his arms folded across his chest and was looking down at the ground, unmoving as he leaned against the barrier separating the floor and the first row of seats, the handle of a weapon still plainly visible behind his back.

"That guy again," Meilin said as she leered over at him. "Look at him, acting all tough. I'll show him just how weak he is once this thing starts."

"Don't underestimate people," Ryoga said to her. "If this guy's strong, he probably won't use his best moves until the later rounds."

"If that's the case, I hope I get him in the first round," Meilin said arrogantly. "I'll knock him out quick while he's still planning on holding back."

Looking for some details on how things would work, Ryoga raised his head and looked up at Ebitan. "Hey, how are the matches decided?"

"I picked them at random," Ebitan replied, holding his clipboard up. "There were thirty-two entrants, so we'll have five rounds."

"That works," Ryoga said. "Let us know when it's time to start."

While they waited, Ryoga and Meilin walked away from the barrier and began warming themselves up. Time passed quickly as they got ready for their matches, but they couldn't help noticing that none of the other fighters were showing up. After a while, both of them went back over to the royal box to ask about it.

"Hey, aren't the others kind of late?" Ryoga asked Kirin.

"Kirin agrees. The tournament starts in five minutes. More of them should have arrived by now," Kirin said to him. "Ebitan, go check on their status."

"Yes, sire," Ebitan replied obediently, hopping out of his seat and running toward the area where he'd led the entrants earlier.

"So, the other slaves didn't want to come watch today?" Meilin asked venomously as she stared up at Kirin.

"Watch your tongue when addressing Master Kirin!" Monlon snapped at her younger sister.

Kirin chuckled a bit, unaffected by Meilin's harsh words. "As Kirin is allowing you to participate in this tournament, it would be preferable if you acted more civil, Meilin. The other guardians are looking after the mountain, as they have chosen to do."

Meilin turned her head and spat on the ground. "I bet..."

"If you are here with this man, does that mean the story of Li's death is true?" Kirin asked her.

"That's right," Meilin replied, shooting him a cold look. "What about it?"

Kirin closed his eyes and took a deep breath before responding. "Kirin is sorry for your loss."

"I don't want to hear that from you!" Meilin yelled angrily. "You...you caused him nothing but grief!"

"That's enough!" Monlon snarled, but Kirin raised his hand to stop her from going any further.

"You are correct," Kirin said, looking somewhat sad. "Kirin never should have allowed Li to continue using Yanlou. For making such a poor decision, Kirin is truly sorry."

Meilin was about to continue chiding him, but she and Ryoga spun around as they heard Ebitan shouting behind them.

"Sire, it's terrible! All of the fighters are unconscious! Completely knocked out!" Ebitan yelled.

"What?!" Monlon said in a surprised voice, then looking down at her sister. "Did you do this?!"

"No, she was with me the whole time," Ryoga said, jumping in immediately.

Meilin blinked as she looked over at Ryoga. She'd been ready to get confrontational with her sister and wasn't expecting him to jump to her defense so quickly.

"Then...it was that person?" Ebitan said, joining everyone else in staring over at the person in the black cloak. "He's the one that just gave his name as Y earlier..."

Ryoga's mood became more serious as he studied the person in the cloak. "If there's three of us here, that means he took out twenty-nine fighters on his own."

Meilin couldn't help smiling at the thought of the challenge. "Sounds fun. But what'll we do since there's only three of us?"

"Don't worry, Master Kirin will figure something out," Ebitan said to them. "You two just head to the middle of the-"

Ebitan went silent as he and everyone else saw the cloaked person suddenly appear behind Meilin, who spun around immediately when she heard the smack of flesh right behind her head. When she turned and looked, she saw Ryoga glaring at the cloaked person with their outstretched right arm caught in his grasp.

"It's a little early for that. Why don't you wait until they decide the matches?" Ryoga said in a stern tone.

As the cloaked person backed away, they seemed to nod their head, acknowledging Ryoga's request before walking to the middle of the arena floor.

"You...stopped him from attacking me?" Meilin asked Ryoga, still surprised at how fast everything had just happened.

"I watch your back, you watch mine. Right?" Ryoga said to her.

"Y-yeah, right," Meilin replied, watching Y as he walked away. "But...wasn't he just on the other side of the arena? How did he get behind me so fast?"

Kirin was intrigued, to say the least, by what he'd just seen. "Ebitan, keep an eye on that person."

"Yes, sire," Ebitan replied nervously. He'd seen the kind of speed Y had just displayed before, but not by anyone that was supposed to be alive at the moment.

After everything had calmed down, Kirin stood up and addressed the crowd in Mandarin. "Everyone, thank you for attending this tournament, which is being held in celebration of the news that my wife, Lychee, and I are expecting our first child!"

The crowd of nearly two thousand stood and gave Kirin a loud ovation before allowing him to continue.

"Due to certain circumstances, the three fighters standing before you are the only ones able to participate in today's tournament," Kirin continued. "Therefore, there shall be only one match today! Ryoga Hibiki, Meilin, and Y will face each other at the same time, and the victor shall receive any favor they ask from myself and the Seven Lucky Gods!"

Ryoga looked over at Meilin as the crowd began to roar once again. "What did he just say?"

"Me, you, and this Y guy are facing each other at the same time," Meilin smiled, not seeming to mind Kirin's decision.

Once the crowd calmed down, Kirin began explaining the rules of the match. "Here are the rules. A combatant is eliminated if they either step outside the barrier surrounding the floor or lose consciousness. The last one standing shall be declared the victor!"

"He says don't leave the barrier around the floor and don't get knocked out," Meilin said to Ryoga before distancing herself from him.

"Got it," Ryoga replied. This was perfect. With he and Meilin working together, they could take out this Y person first. He would have to fight Meilin afterwards, which was something he didn't want to do, but he could worry about it when the time came, he thought.

The crowd roared in anticipation as the fighters spread out into a triangle around the arena floor. Ryoga had his weighty umbrella in hand and Meilin had her snake sword ready, but they both noticed that Y left his weapon strapped to his back.

As Kirin looked down at Ryoga, Meilin, and Y, he noted that they all appeared ready to begin. Ryoga was looking over at Y, fully intending to start off by attacking him, when he noticed that Meilin was staring at him.

Meilin winked slightly at Ryoga and shot him a smile, making him unsure about her intentions. Was she going to attack Y or attack him? He prepared for either case, taking up a defensive stance as he watched for an attack from both sides.

Finally ready to start the battle, Kirin grinned and raised his hand high into the air. "Begin!"

Ryoga had his eyes fixated on Y again as the fight officially began, but he quickly turned his head to the left when he saw Meilin's snake sword flying directly at him.

Swiftly raising his umbrella, Ryoga batted aside the lead blade of Meilin's sword once it came within range and began running to his right. Meilin was persistent in her attack though, and continued to maneuver the sword so that it continuously came back at him after he deflected it.

Ryoga had no idea what she was thinking, but he knew he had to fight back. After batting Meilin's sword away once more, he pulled his arm back and drilled his finger into the ground. "Bakusai Tenketsu!"

Shards of rock flew everywhere and the area around Ryoga was covered in a cloud of dust and dirt after he used his breaking point technique, something that drew a chorus of cheers from the impressed audience. Meilin, confident that it was a simple smoke screen trick and that Ryoga would come running out at any moment, pulled her sword back and began flailing it around inside the smoke covered area. She was surprised, however, when she didn't feel her weapon striking anything. As she retracted her sword and waited for the smoke to clear, she noticed that Ryoga was no longer there.

Meilin began looking up into the crowd to see if Ryoga had run away, but still she saw nothing. When she suddenly began to feel the ground shake, she jumped into the air and watched as it exploded beneath her. She was trying to shield herself from all of the rock shards that were flying at her when she saw one of Ryoga's bandanas headed her way. Unable to avoid it, she simply blocked it with her forearm. The impact of the bandana left a nasty stinging sensation and a cut on her arm, causing her to grimace as she landed on the ground. The audience again applauded as they saw Ryoga come out of the dust cloud and prepare to continue his attack.

Up in the royal box, the Seven Lucky Gods members began conversing as they looked on.

"This was an excellent idea to have them fight at the same time, Master Kirin," Ebitan said to him.

"I did not see any other choice. This was the only fair way to handle the situation," Kirin replied.

Monlon shifted her gaze to the cloaked man who was watching Meilin and Ryoga fight each other. "That Y guy is smart. He's just going to sit and wait for one of them to finish the other off, and then the one that's still standing will be tired and easy to defeat."

Kirin placed his hand on his chin as he looked on at the battle. "I am not sure about Ryoga, but Meilin was not trained to be so careless. I believe she has a clever plan in mind to ensure her victory."

"Master Kirin is right. I could say plenty of bad things about her, but she's no dummy," Ebitan said in agreement.

Back on the arena floor, Ryoga was staring at Meilin, waiting for her to make another move when he noticed that she seemed to be motioning her eyes to his left ever so slightly. Curious, Ryoga peeked over his left shoulder and noticed that Y was standing there.

Was Meilin trying to tell him something, Ryoga wondered?

He didn't have much time to think about it though as he saw that Meilin was raising her sword to attack again. Before that, however, she once again batted her eyes in Y's direction. Finally, Ryoga understood what Meilin was trying to tell him. He had to admit, it was a good plan. Taking up a defensive stance and readying his umbrella once more, Ryoga shot Meilin a little smirk to acknowledge that he understood, something that Y couldn't see as he was facing Ryoga's back.

Ready for action, Meilin once again unleashed her snake sword. Ryoga was batting the sword away with his umbrella frantically, all the while moving backward to get out of it's attack range. Meilin pressed on though, and ran forward as she attacked. After moving their battle to the point on the arena floor that he was looking for, Ryoga changed tactics and once again used his breaking point technique. Several times he jammed his finger into the ground, sending plumes of dirt and dust everywhere that shrouded himself, Meilin, and Y.

It was at this point that Y made his first move of the battle, jumping into the air to get out of the smoke cloud. Unfortunately for him, this was exactly what Meilin and Ryoga were waiting for. Out of the smoke came both of them, their eyes locked on Y, Meilin swinging her snake sword and Ryoga throwing a handful of bandanas. Y put on an impressive display of maneuverability though, and unleashed a powerful swipe of his hand that sent the snake sword flying back at Meilin and planting the blades in the ground behind her. He swiped twice more, tearing apart all of the bandanas, but what he didn't notice was the closed up umbrella flying at him like a rocket from behind the last one. The head of the hefty umbrella struck Y in the gut, causing him to grab his stomach in pain and fall to one knee as he landed on the ground. The crowd let out a mix of cheers and boos as the exchange came to an end and Ryoga snagged his umbrella from the air, some excited about the action and others upset by the two-on-one tactics of Ryoga and Meilin.

"That was an impressive show of teamwork," Kirin said before looking over at Y. "That technique the cloaked person was using is familiar somehow though..."

"You were right, Meilin did have a plan in mind," Lychee added as she looked on excitedly.

"He must have taken more damage than I thought. Look at him shaking," Monlon pointed out, not exactly thrilled to see her sister with the upper hand, but impressed by the teamwork nonetheless.

It wasn't hard for anyone in the arena to notice that Y was shaking violently while he stood back up. Neither Meilin nor Ryoga knew what to think when he began breathing heavily and growling. Neither of them believed that Ryoga's one attack could cause such violent reactions, so Y's demeanor was a mystery at this point.

Ebitan blinked a few times as he stared at the cloaked person. "Hey, I don't think he's hurt. I think he's just angry..."

He and the rest watched as Y suddenly lunged at Meilin with speed that surprised even her. Y reached back with his right arm and swiped fiercely at her face, which she barely evaded. Meilin could feel a trickle of blood coming from the bridge of her nose as she took several leaps back to get some distance between herself and Y. Her enraged opponent had no intentions of waiting for her though, and charged after her. Trying to slow him down, Meilin began swinging her snake sword at Y as she moved away from him. Over and over, Meilin's blades came close to taking one of Y's limbs off, but his evasive skills were nothing to make light of and he somehow avoided every strike without taking any damage. As they continued their exchange, Ryoga began running toward them to help Meilin out.

Meilin was beginning to notice that Y wasn't only keeping her close, but he was closing in on her quickly. Once he got within an acceptable distance, Y took to the air and attempted one last leap that would put him within attacking distance of his white-haired opponent. The reality that running was no longer of any use becoming very clear, Meilin made a quick decision to change her form of attack. With Y closing in on her from above, Meilin took the red gourd from her waist and filled her mouth with its liquid before blowing an immense wave of fire into the air, consuming Y in the flames.

The audience let out a gasp as they saw Meilin's fire attack, but they were even more astonished when Y came spinning out of the flames wrapped in his singed and smoking cloak. Unable to defend in time, Meilin felt the force of Y's heel against her chin when he unleashed a vicious kick after landing on the ground. Meilin flipped around in the air from the force of the kick before coming down to the ground and skidding to a halt on one knee. She was slightly stunned from the blow, but she didn't have time to recover as Y immediately came at her to finish her off.

"Bakusai Tenketsu!"

Out of nowhere, Ryoga used his breaking point technique on the ground in front of Y, who leaped back out of the ensuing dust cloud as Ryoga took off after him. Trying to buy some time for Meilin to compose herself, Ryoga continued to use his breaking point technique to send rocks flying at Y and keep him busy. He didn't need to keep it up for long, however, as he noticed out of the corner of his eye that Meilin was up and looking ready to fight again.

This Y person was proving to be a handful, but Ryoga was confident that he and Meilin could wear him out and eliminate him. After using his breaking point once more, he heard Meilin begin to yell out to him.

"Ryoga, move!"

As the plume of dust and rocks from his breaking point enveloped Y, Ryoga quickly turned and began running away. Once he came to a halt, he saw that Meilin had extended her snake sword high into the air above the dust cloud. In a move that brought the crowd to its feet, Meilin snapped the sword down and flipped a small latch on the hilt. Everyone watched as the connections between each of the sword's segments came apart and the numerous blades rained down at lightning speed into the cloud.

"Feel the pain of the Serpent's Tears attack," Meilin said as she smiled coldly.

While the crowd let out a loud cheer and began chanting Meilin's name, Monlon actually cracked a smile as she looked on from the royal box. Her sister was putting on a fantastic show for the audience. Ryoga continued looking at the lingering dust cloud for any signs of movement as he walked over to the white-haired woman.

"Not bad," Ryoga said to her.

"Just be happy you weren't on the receiving end of it," Meilin replied with a smirk. "I made some adjustments to my sword while my injuries from five months ago were healing. That was one of them. I don't think he'll be a problem anymore."

"Guess you can only do it once per fight though, huh?" Ryoga asked, pointing out the sword in her hand, which was now nothing more than the hilt and one blade.

"It doesn't matter," Meilin said to him. "Even now, I won't need my whole sword to defeat you."

Once the cloud of dust began to dissipate, the crowd looked on silently, as did Ryoga and Meilin, when they saw Y on one knee amongst the blades sticking out of the ground. Slowly, he managed to stand up, drops of blood dripping from a gash across his right arm and another across his right leg. He was lucky enough to avoid any fatal damage, but he couldn't avoid everything. Still, Ryoga and Meilin figured his movements would be slowed and more restricted now with the wounds he'd sustained. But as he clenched his fists and began shaking angrily again, the part of Y's cloak that had been covering his left arm fell to the ground, having been severed by another of Meilin's blades. It was then that Meilin and the occupants of the royal box saw something they couldn't believe.

"M-Master Kirin! That's..." Ebitan said, staring intently at Y's left arm.

"What...what is the meaning of this?!" Kirin stammered.

Ryoga looked over at Meilin curiously, who was in awe of what she was seeing. "Hey, what's wrong...?"

Y stretched out his left arm, which was covered in a strange black armor, and turned his palm upward. Kirin and the others were even more shocked as five spheres of light appeared in Y's palm. Many people in the crowd looked on silently in confusion about what was happening, but no one was as confused as the woman standing next to Ryoga.

"It...it can't be..." Meilin said, shaking as she looked over at Y. "There's only two people I've ever seen do that, Jynn and...Li...but he's...dead. Is that you, Jynn?"

As the spheres of light rapidly spread out and sank into the ground, Y hissed a venomous reply in her direction.


End of Chapter 14