A Midsummer Night's Beauty, Part II: Queen of Extreme
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 12

Within a vacant lot in the Nerima Ward of Tokyo, a heavy atmosphere of anticipation and excitement arose as two battle-tested warriors stared each other down.

Ranma Saotome, heir to the Saotome School of Anything-Goes Martial Arts, hadn't seen what he would consider serious competition in months. Though he'd been training hard with his father and Shampoo in that time, the absence of Ryoga, Mousse, and Tatewaki Kuno had left a void in his real battle experience. He had long been preparing for his opponent's eventual return based on what little he'd seen of him during his first visit, however, and his eagerness for this confrontation couldn't be higher.

Jukai, former Commander of the Viper Team of the Chinese military's special operations unit, was fresh off the heels of a losing fight against an unknown entity suspected of being the resurrected Sorceress Jusenkyo. While he wished to rectify that loss above all else, a grim medical diagnosis and subsequent dismissal from his military duties had altered his agenda, bringing him back to Japan sooner than he'd planned. He had been looking forward to this battle as well, but not for the conflict itself. Rather, what Jukai wanted, what he needed, was a certain item he believed he would obtain through a victory over Ranma.

It was a clash of nationalities, attitudes, and styles that wouldn't be derailed any longer. It was time for Ranma and Jukai to collide.

Ranma was as cocky as ever as he smirked in the direction of his adversary. "It's been so long I was startin' to think that punch I gave ya back then made ya change your mind."

"Were you just thinking that, or were you actually hoping for it?" Jukai returned the barb. "Sorry if you missed me, but duty just kept on calling...until now."

"That so? Looks like you've been on a diet, too. I remember you havin' more meat on ya than that," Ranma said.

Sick of hearing about his obvious decrease in weight, the expression on Jukai's face quickly became one of annoyance. "Shut the hell up! I don't got the time to talk about crap like that. You know what I'm here for."

As talkative as Jukai was during his initial visit, it was hard for Ranma not to remember what it was he desired. "Hate to tell ya, but I still ain't got that scythe," Ranma said, speaking of the cursed weapon, Yanlou. "Dunno where the thing is, but you're lookin' in the wrong place, pal."

"No, even if it's not here physically, you've still got it," Jukai remained unwavering in his claim. "This isn't like the last time, Pigtail. Situation's changed. Time isn't on my side anymore, so I'm not gonna play nice. I need that scythe and I'm taking you down to get it!"

Fired up by the threatening words, Ranma cracked his knuckles, readying for the inevitable clash. "I never expected ya to go easy. You think I got that scythe? Then come and get it, jerk!"

The man in the dark green uniform was all too happy to oblige. His falcon perched and ready atop his shoulder, Jukai crouched down near the ground and placed his left palm against the grass.

"Then, one more time...and for the last time...let's play, Pigtail!"

A cloud of dirt shot up into the air as Jukai became a spinning blur that immediately advanced toward Ranma.

"So he's spinnin' around again after all," Ranma thought. He'd wondered about Jukai's spinning ever since their first encounter outside the Cat Café restaurant. It now appeared that it was a regular part of Jukai's style. "He moves pretty quick, but he ain't faster than me. And I know how to stop him, too!"

Ranma focused his eyes on the approaching vortex. As he and Genma had discussed during their trip to the mountains, a properly-timed attack was all that was needed to bring Jukai's twirling to an end.

"That's right, come on," Ranma mumbled. "Now!"

With Jukai in striking range, Ranma swung his foot at the ex-soldier's lower back, a spot that Ranma believed would be unguarded.

"Gotch-...huh?"

Ranma was dumbfounded as his kick was easily deflected and his foot knocked to the side. "What the-?"

Seizing his opportunity, Jukai smashed his steel-toed boot into the off-balance Ranma's face and sent him swirling backward through the air. Ranma wasn't shaken up too badly and he managed to land on his feet, but he was at a loss at to how his plan didn't work.

"There's no way I missed! What the heck happened?" Ranma wondered to himself.

Still maintaining his rapid spinning motion, Jukai closed in on Ranma again.

"Let's try this one more time..." Ranma thought.

Ranma wasn't going to miss this time. With his eyes again locked on Jukai, he waited for just the right moment and threw a vicious kick with his other foot this time. Much to the pigtailed boy's chagrin, the result was the same.

"What?" Ranma said as his foot was again knocked away.

Jukai slammed his fist into the bridge of Ranma's nose with enough force to lift him off the ground once more. Ranma flew five feet backwards before he dug his shoes into the dirt to halt his momentum. That last hit was hard enough that Ranma felt lucky his nose hadn't broken.

"Damn, that one hurt! What's goin' on here?" Ranma wondered as a small amount of blood trickled from his left nostril.

There wouldn't be any recuperation time for Ranma, either. As soon as he stopped, he saw something soaring straight for his head. It was Jukai's falcon.

"The bird?" Ranma mouthed. He wasn't sure what the falcon was up to, but it was moving in extremely fast and was already too close to attack.

Deciding to play it safe, Ranma hopped to his left to avoid the winged creature. He didn't avoid it completely though. As soon as the falcon flew by, a shallow cut opened up on Ranma's cheek.

"Crap! Did its wing just cut me?" Ranma thought with frustration.

With Ranma distracted, Jukai had closed in again. Jukai's spinning had stopped for the moment as he threw a right cross aimed at his adversary's chin. Ranma caught wind of the attack in time though and threw up his arms to block the blow.

"What's wrong, Pigtail? Let's go!" Jukai grinned maniacally, unloading on Ranma with a series of sharp attacks.

After failing to connect with Jukai while he was spinning around, Ranma was appreciating the opportunity to fight him normally. He used his speedy limbs to return some offense of his own and forced Jukai to focus more on guarding himself instead of attacking. Even with the tide starting to turn back in his favor, however, Ranma still was plagued by the mystery of how his kicks were nullified before.

"He shouldn't have been able to block me! How the heck did this guy do it?" Ranma posed the question in his mind.

It was then that Ranma felt a sharp pain in his back all of a sudden. Clenching his teeth to cope with it, he noticed Jukai's falcon flying out from behind him. The bird had sliced through his shirt and left a deep gash on the upper right side of his back.

This was all going according to Jukai's plan, and he was already prepared to capitalize. He threw two punches that Ranma managed to block, but his following kick struck Ranma directly in his chest and sent him tumbling backward yet again. Jukai's falcon perched itself back atop its master's shoulder now that its task was complete.

"Was this all you had? I'm not impressed, Pigtail!" Jukai taunted the martial artist.

Ranma angrily stood up and stomped his feet into the earth as a blood stain began to grow around the cut on his shirt. "That's it! I'm gonna shut your stupid mouth!"

Starting to lose his cool, Ranma darted in close to Jukai, who spun himself into a vortex again.

"Block this!" Ranma growled. "Kachu Tenshin Amaguriken!"

The pigtailed boy's flurry of fists bombarded the spinning Jukai. Though Ranma was clearly upset, he hadn't abandoned reason. The point of this attack wasn't just to hurt Jukai. It also served as an experiment.

Of all the punches Ranma threw, not a single one appeared to be doing any damage as the vortex knocked all of them away. In fact, the attack seemed to be having the opposite effect as it was Ranma who began grimacing in pain.

"It's like hittin' a bed of nails!" Ranma thought to himself.

Thinking better of letting his fists be damaged any further, Ranma pulled back and took a quick glance at his hands. There were spots of blood from fresh wounds all over them. That momentary lapse in attention would again come back to haunt Ranma as Jukai moved in and booted him in the chest again, this time sending him flying back into a retaining wall. Cracks spread throughout the wall from the point of impact as Ranma slid down and dropped to a knee.

"You're so WEAK!" Jukai shouted at him.

Ready to pound Ranma out of consciousness, Jukai quickly advanced toward his kneeling adversary and threw a heavy punch right toward his temple. Ranma was still far from out of it though. Seeing the attack coming, he leaped upward and onto the top of the wall as Jukai's fist smashed into it below. Chunks of concrete fell to the ground as Jukai looked up to see what Ranma's next move was. That move would turn out to be something he wasn't expecting.

Rather than engage Jukai again, Ranma jumped over to the other side of the wall and took off running. It was time to create some distance and devise a strategy.

"Get back here, you coward!" Jukai bellowed as he ran after him.

Ranma paid no mind to the insult. Winning through use of cowardly tactics as opposed to losing by being prideful was what the Anything-Goes School was all about. Losing despite using such methods only made the loss hurt that much more though, so Ranma needed to make the best of his break.

"Man, this is pathetic! I'm gettin' torn up!" Ranma said angrily. "This guy's defense is as good as Kirin or Li, but it shouldn't be! There's gotta be some trick he's usin'."

As he looked back over his shoulder to see how much distance he had on Jukai, Ranma noticed the falcon had left its perch and was now speeding toward him again. Ranma had some room to work with this time though. Intent on taking out the bird, he came to an abrupt halt and threw an upward kick at it. The falcon showed it was well-trained though. It flawlessly adjusted its flight path to narrowly avoid Ranma's foot and soared higher into the air to make another pass.

"Little rat," Ranma muttered.

With Ranma temporarily stopped, Jukai was able to make up ground on him and was back to using his spinning method as he reached his opponent. Ranma threw his arms up as Jukai hit him with another vicious kick. The blow was blocked, but it knocked Ranma back and off his feet. As soon as he landed, Ranma resumed running again. Jukai and his falcon both continued to give chase.

"I can't keep runnin' forever," Ranma said, looking down at the wounds on his fists. "Think, moron! How'd he do it?"

Starting to near an area with more people and businesses, Ranma inspected his wounds closely, then glanced back at the shaggy-haired man and falcon coming after him.

"Wait...that's it!" he thought.

Ranma immediately stopped, turned around, and took up a fighting stance. He had an idea.

"Finally ready, huh?" Jukai smirked. With his falcon flying in front of him, he began to spin again in anticipation of the clash with Ranma.

"That's right. Come on..." Ranma said under his breath. Timing would be key for his plan. Once the falcon was close enough, Ranma charged forward to confront it. "You're first, bird!"

Ranma reached back to unleash a punch on the falcon, but then suddenly dropped down and let it fly over his head. "Not!"

The true target wasn't the falcon at all. Rather, it was the twirling vortex behind it. Now that Jukai was within range, Ranma sprang off the ground and put all of his weight into one solid kick.

"Augh!" Jukai cried out.

The ex-soldier was stopped dead in his tracks as Ranma's foot slammed into his lower back.

"Yes!" Ranma shouted. His hypothesis was right, and he wasn't going to let this chance slip by.

Stunned by the damaging blow, Jukai took a knee to his gut followed by a kick to the right side of his head that sent him crashing into the side of a flower shop as Ranma followed up with more offense.

"Let's see how ya like this!" Ranma boasted as a yellow mass of chi grew in his palms. "Moko Takabisha!"

Jukai's eyes widened as the chi blast collided with him, almost entirely destroying the wall of the building in the process. A cloud of dust from the crumbled wall immersed the nearby area.

Ranma knew he'd landed a direct hit, but he needed to keep up the attack to put Jukai away. Without hesitation, he leaped into the cloud of dust and was about to stomp down on the spot where Jukai should have been when a hand grabbed hold of his ankle all of a sudden and flung him away. Once Ranma landed, he spun around to face the cloud as it began to clear. Within it, a heavily-breathing Jukai soon became visible. His jacket was torn up and he was none too happy, but Jukai was standing nonetheless.

The falcon returned to Jukai's shoulder as he and Ranma locked eyes with one another.

"So I was right. It was that bird that kept blockin' me before," Ranma said. "That's why ya keep it on your shoulder when you're spinnin' around like that."

"Not bad. Most everyone I face dies before they ever figure that out," Jukai told him. "But now that you know...I won't give you any more opportunities."

Jukai spun himself into a vortex once again, but this time was different. Ranma watched as Jukai seemed to multiply into three of himself. Two more additional clones then appeared from the others. Now totaling five, the spinning vortices quickly surrounded Ranma and began circling him.

"This...this is the old hag's trick!" Ranma said, remembering well the time when Cologne had used a similar technique against him. This time a leg of chicken probably wasn't going to be the answer. "He's got the bird, too. This might get rough."

All at once the vortices converged on Ranma. He did his best to defend against the assault, but the attacks were large in quantity and coming in fast. Ranma took a shot to his left side that made him cringe, then one to his upper back where the falcon had cut him earlier. Realizing he needed to get out of there, Ranma hopped upward and used his feet to spring off of one of the vortices and propel himself outside of their entrapment. Jukai and his clones came after Ranma in a hurry, but the pigtailed boy started dashing down the road before they could encircle him again.

"No way I'm dealin' with that! Gotta think of a way to stop him," Ranma said.

The two warriors were beginning to encounter more bystanders, and Ranma could hear the expressions of surprise from people as Jukai's vortices swirled passed them. He was in the middle of trying to come up with a counterattack when he spotted something intriguing. Coming up with a plan on the fly, Ranma skidded to a stop and took a sharp right turn down a narrow alley. He looked back as he continued to run and, as he thought might happen, only one vortex followed him.

"Hah! Too small a space for all of 'em to be useful!" Ranma thought, proud of his decision. "He'll probably multiply again as soon as we're outta this alley, so I gotta get him now. Even if it's back to just one of him, he's still got the bird though. I gotta think of somethin' to split 'em up or I ain't gonna be able to hit him."

"There's no hope, Pigtail!" Jukai yelled as he barreled toward his foe.

Just ahead of where the alley ended, Ranma could see a large fountain that he'd passed by on occasion. The closer it got, the more urgent it became for Ranma to make a move. He would have to try something off the top of his head and hope for the best.

Ranma ran for eight more steps and then turned around and started running back toward Jukai.

"That's it! Come try it!" the spinning Jukai urged him.

"You're gonna wish I hadn't!" Ranma shouted back.

Jukai couldn't imagine what Ranma was thinking. He was practically salivating as the martial artist charged toward certain doom, but then, out of nowhere, Ranma vanished before his very eyes.

"What?" Jukai uttered.

As he soon noticed, Ranma wasn't gone at all. He was right at Jukai's feet.

"See ya!" Ranma grinned.

Ranma had planted a base point for his Shift technique while running moments ago, and he had now used it to catch his opponent off-guard by getting right up next to Jukai before he could prepare for it. Ranma used a baseball slide and connected with Jukai's feet, tripping him and sending him spiraling forward uncontrollably. The falcon abandoned its perch and went off on its own while Jukai went flying right into the fountain, causing water to splash everywhere.

One of the things Ranma had worked on tediously since returning from China was making his Shift technique more practical for use during battle. Thanks to his training since then, the move no longer took as much energy out of him as it originally did. He could now follow up more strongly after using the technique and could use it more often when the situation called for it.

This was an ideal chance for Ranma. Ready to capitalize, he hurried over to the edge of the fountain to try to finish Jukai off. What he saw when he got there, however, was baffling.

"Wh-what the...?" Ranma stammered.

Jukai's military uniform was floating atop the shallow pool of water, but Jukai himself was nowhere to be found. Ranma reached down to lift the jacket out of the cold water, careful not to trigger his Jusenkyo curse.

"If his clothes are here, then that means-"

In an instant, everything became clear. A large python with a black pair of boxer shorts wrapped around it shot out from underneath the floating jacket, coiled half of its body around Ranma's throat, and dragged the martial artist into the fountain.

Ranma, now in girl form, burst out of the water as she tried to pry the snake away from her neck.

"This guy had a Jusenkyo curse, too!" Ranma thought. "I-...I can't breathe!"

Jukai looked as pleased as a snake could be as he tightened his grip around the girl's wind pipes. Pythons were notorious for killing humans in this way. They were simply too strong to be removed once they'd locked on their grip. Ranma's girl form didn't have the strength that her male form had, and right now she was becoming very aware of the fact that she wasn't going to be able to pry the snake away with her bare hands. And that wasn't the only problem. Jukai was also crushing down on the jade necklace around Ranma's neck. If that were to somehow be damaged, the spirits from Yanlou that had entered Ranma's body weren't going to be contained any longer.

Knowing she needed to do something before she passed out from lack of oxygen, Ranma frantically ran down the street looking for something that might help.

As they watched the scene unfold, several onlookers were horrified at the sight of the girl being choked to death by the massive animal.

"H-hey! That girl's being attacked by a huge snake!"

"Someone help her!"

"Miss! Please stop running!"

Already starting to feel weak, Ranma was considering stopping and leaving it to the bystanders to muscle Jukai loose until she spotted a public bath up ahead. Ranma knew she didn't have much time left. She rushed through the entrance of the bath, straight into the men's changing area, and then into the bathing area.

"Hey! That entrance is for the men's bath! And you need to pay first!" the bath's attendant shouted, but was completely ignored.

Surrounded by older, unclothed men expressing their shock at what they were seeing, Ranma used what strength and awareness she had left to dive into one of the larger hot water baths.

His transformation back into male form triggered by the heated water, Ranma emerged from the bath and took a huge breath. Never before had he been so grateful for air. As Ranma grabbed his throat and tried to control the coughing fit that followed, his opponent made his presence felt again. Wearing only the black boxer shorts that had remained with him, Jukai rose from the water in his human form and threw his bare foot into Ranma's gut. The impact of the blow sent Ranma crashing through a wall and into another area of the bath where a mass of high-pitched screams arose.

"Hah! I never knew you had a curse, too!" Jukai smirked. "Too bad yours worked against you!"

As Jukai stepped through the hole in the wall, Ranma struggled to his feet and checked his necklace to make sure it was still intact. It appeared to be undamaged.

"A python, huh? It...*cough*...it suits ya," Ranma said.

"Doesn't it?" Jukai coldly chuckled. "Come on! Let's-!"

*thunk!*

Jukai's head was knocked to its side as a bucket flew through the air and struck him dead-on. "Ow! Who did tha-...huh?"

As Ranma and Jukai both noticed, there were numerous women around holding towels up to cover themselves. To say they weren't pleased with the pair would have been an understatement.

"Perverts!" one of the older women screamed.

The loud cry triggered a barrage of buckets, bars of soap, and various bottles to be sent flying at the two warriors.

"Hey, wait! This ain't what it-oww!" Ranma tried to explain himself, but was struck in the face by a bottle of conditioner.

"Dammit, knock it off! Oww! Ouch! You crazy-...owww!" Jukai groaned as a a bar of soap hit him in the ear.

Ranma and Jukai shared a mutual look followed by each of them nodding at the other. It was a silent agreement to get the hell out of this spot and resume their battle outside. The two of them braved the shower of bathing instruments and screaming women through both the bathing area and then the changing area until finally they ran past the attendant and exited the business.

"That's the wrong side, you idiots! And you both forgot to pay! Get back here!" the attendant tried to get their attention. She had no better luck than she did with Ranma earlier.

Back on the street, Ranma and Jukai were both panting after their painful bathhouse experience. Jukai was getting a number of stares as he was still wearing nothing but boxers and the seemingly countless scars all over his body.

"You moron! What'd you knock me to the girl's side for?" Ranma snarled at him.

"Shut the hell up! How was I supposed to know?" Jukai hissed back.

Something then caught Ranma's eye. Above Jukai's head, his falcon had returned and was preparing to land back on his shoulder.

"No ya don't!" Ranma yelled.

Ranma quickly gathered some rocks from the ground and tossed them at the bird, striking it cleanly in its chest with one of them. Deterred from its plan, the falcon backed away from the battle scene, but not before dropping something that it held in its talons. What appeared to be a weapon fell right down into Jukai's grasp. Looking to be appreciative of the gift, he grabbed it by its handle and snapped it outward, causing the blade's leather sheath to fly off.

"Nice timing, buddy," Jukai complimented his falcon.

The blade of a finely-crafted combat knife glimmered in the sun, and Ranma now had something entirely new to deal with. "Gotta bring somethin' like that into this, huh?" he grumbled.

"Don't mistake a soldier for some honorable martial artist," Jukai said to him. "I'll do what it takes to win. That's all there is to it!"

Bystanders kept their distance as Jukai moved in and began slashing at Ranma with the knife. Jukai went after his prey relentlessly. While any hit would undoubtedly be damaging, however, thus far it was nothing that the speedy Ranma couldn't dodge. In fact, Ranma was beginning to pick up on something; Jukai was slowing down.

"What's goin' on here? Is he tryin' to lure me in for something?" Ranma wondered. He didn't believe he'd done enough damage to Jukai to cause this yet. "Whatever it is, I ain't fallin' for it!"

Ranma had broken blades with his bare hands during past battles with Mousse, but Jukai had a much better sense of tact from his military background that forced Ranma to exercise more caution. Leaving his hands open within range of the knife wasn't something he felt like doing if he had other options. Luckily for Ranma, he did have another option, and it was one that he planned on using.

While Jukai continued to slash away, Ranma feigned trying to find an opening to attack the half-naked man.

"You're pretty quick, but you can't keep that up for long!" Jukai warned his adversary.

With his strategy of evasion, Ranma was slowly luring Jukai in a spiral pattern. Anyone who was familiar with Ranma's attacks would have known what he was planning, but Jukai wasn't privy to that information. He had no idea what was waiting for him once he reached the center of the spiral.

"That's it! Keep dancing around, you pest!" Jukai taunted Ranma.

As Jukai took another swing, Ranma ducked down near the ground. "Don't need to anymore," he smirked. "It's over, jerk! Hiryu Shoten Ha!"

Jukai's face lit up with surprise as he felt the ground shaking beneath him. Before he knew it, he was thrown up into the sky in the middle of a cold, twirling vortex of wind brought about by Ranma's attack.

While everyone looking on shielded themselves from the violent wind, Ranma stared up at his work with satisfaction.

"He never saw it comin'! Tough luck, Jukai," Ranma puffed his chest out. "Well, that oughtta do-...wait, what the heck is that?"

Far up in the sky, something appeared to be flying around above the top of the twister that Ranma had created. Careful to avoid getting caught in it, the flying entity began to dive closer to the ground. Once it was close enough to make out, Ranma couldn't believe what he was seeing.

"You gotta be kiddin' me!" he said in disbelief.

Cruising through the air above Ranma was none other than Jukai sitting atop a ridiculously large bird that bore a striking resemblance to his falcon.

"Too bad, Pigtail! Take a good luck at my buddy's true form!" Jukai laughed heinously.

Ranma wasn't expecting this. Jukai's bird was obviously much more than your run-of-the-mill falcon. With it being able to change shape like this and help Jukai escape the winds of the tornado, Ranma's Hiryu Shoten Ha was going to be useless, he realized.

"Now...it's time to finish this!" Jukai shouted.

Still hovering far above his opponent, Jukai began dumping some objects down from his falcon. Those objects, Ranma quickly noticed, were grenades.

"Oh, crap! Get outta here! They're gonna blow!" Ranma yelled out to the bystanders. Everyone screamed in panic as they started to run for cover.

The grenades exploded as soon as they hit the ground, tearing up the road and sending chunks of concrete flying everywhere. Ranma was darting away as fast as he possibly could, but Jukai followed from the air and kept dropping grenades along the way. "Run, Pigtail, run!" Jukai mocked his foe.

Even worse for Ranma, his Shift technique was something that took advantage of opponents on the ground. With Jukai up in the air like this, its use was lessened dramatically.

"Usin' grenades with all these people around...he's crazy!" Ranma fumed as an explosion behind him sent some concrete chunks flying by his head. "Huh? Now what's he doin'?"

As Ranma noticed, Jukai had descended close to the ground behind him. Ranma wasn't sure what he was up to, but now was an opportune time to attack while Jukai and his falcon were within range.

"Get ready, Pigtail," Jukai grinned as he grabbed onto the back of his bird tightly. "Let's go, buddy! Drill a hole in him!"

Jukai and his falcon began spinning in the air just as Jukai was doing earlier, only this time they were in a horizontal position. Not wanting to allow them to get out of reach again, Ranma stopped running and readied himself to take them on.

"Big mistake comin' down here again, pal," Ranma said confidently as a mass of chi grew in his hands. "You're gonna crash and burn! Moko Taka-aah!"

The spinning falcon and its master gained a sudden burst of incredible speed that sent them flying into Ranma so fast that he couldn't finish his attack. The falcon's beak, acting as a drill, tore through Ranma's Moko Takabisha and then into the left side of his abdomen, knocking him violently into a nearby fruit stand. With apples and all sorts of fruit falling all around him, Ranma grabbed his side in horrible pain as blood poured from his wound.

"Agh...ahh! Damn...he...!" Ranma groaned, trying to fight off the agony.

"Too fast for ya?" Jukai cackled from above as he and his falcon took to the sky again. "Don't expect any mercy!"

Jukai was again descending and Ranma knew it was only a matter of time before another one of those drill attacks would come.

"Ugh! Gotta...move...!" Ranma told himself.

By the time Ranma got up to one knee, Jukai and his falcon were already spinning again. Ranma desperately threw himself out of the way just as the deadly duo came in like a lightning bolt once more. What was left of the fruit stand was demolished and its contents pelted the area as Ranma fell hard against the street.

The hands that Ranma had kept pressed on his abdomen were now covered in blood. "Man...this ain't good," he mumbled.

"Fire in the hole!" Jukai jokingly called out from the sky.

Ranma looked up only to see another grenade falling right toward him. He hurried to his feet and staggered away from where he was, but couldn't get away fast enough with his wound. The ensuing blast was close enough that it blew him twenty feet down the street. Ranma collided with the pavement again and rolled half a dozen times before finally coming to a stop.

"Oww," Ranma grit his teeth as he pushed himself up off the ground. "I can't keep goin' like this. I either gotta stop the bleeding...or take him out now. But...how?"

The one grenade seemed to be all Jukai planned on using for now. He was again looking to prepare to drill through his opponent with his bird.

As he watched Jukai and the falcon get near the ground, Ranma managed to stand himself up. He let go of his wound and let his hands rest at his sides as he took a deep breath to focus himself.

"You've got some balls, Pigtail!" Jukai complimented Ranma. "Too bad they're gonna get you killed!"

Ranma remained unmoving while Jukai and his falcon began to spin. The deadly duo shot forward again with amazing speed and this time made clean contact with the pigtailed martial artist. Once the spinning stopped and his falcon flew back up into the sky, Jukai looked down to see what had become of their foe.

"Hmm? Where'd he go?" Jukai said. "Did we drill him into little pieces?"

Jukai nearly lost his balance as his falcon then began flying erratically from side to side.

"Hey! What gives?" Jukai complained.

"Maybe it don't like me comin' along for the ride!"

Hearing a voice from nearby, Jukai peeked over the side of his bird and saw Ranma smiling up at him. Ranma had latched onto the falcon's belly as it passed by and was now holding on with two handfuls of bird skin and feathers.

"Bastard! How the hell did you-...get offa my bird!" Jukai snarled as he kicked downward several times.

Ranma was holding on in such a position that Jukai's foot just couldn't reach him.

"Dammit! Come on, buddy, we'll throw him off with our special move!" Jukai instructed his falcon.

Hearing the command, the falcon and its master began spinning rapidly high above the ground. Underneath the bird, Ranma was threatened with the reality of being thrown off by the centrifugal force.

"I ain't lettin' go!" Ranma exclaimed with determination.

"The hell you ain't!" Jukai hissed back at him. "Keep it up, buddy!"

Rather than keeping its pattern of flying parallel with the ground, the falcon turned upward and then began diving back down toward the earth while still violently rotating.

"How 'bout it, Pigtail? How long can you take it?" Jukai taunted his unwanted passenger.

Though he was just about at his limit, Ranma allowed a sly smile to cross his face. "Dunno, but I don't gotta worry about it anymore!" he declared.

Jukai was taken aback as Ranma voluntarily let go of the falcon. Ranma now found himself hanging in the air above his opponent as the falcon continued downward at a greater speed.

"Thanks for the aura, pal!" Ranma smirked. Because of the downward spiraling motion of Jukai and the falcon, their combined battle aura and Ranma's cold aura had entwined in a spiral in the air. "If I can't send ya up, I guess I'll just send ya down!"

"What?" Jukai mouthed from below.

Reaching back, Ranma threw his fist downward and felt an incredible power explode from it. "Hiryu Shoten Ha: Downward Spiral!"

Jukai's face paled as he saw the vortex of wind about to engulf him. "Wha-...oh sh-!"

The altered Hiryu Shoten Ha caught Jukai and his falcon and slammed them down into the street below, the impact creating a large crater in the pavement. The signs of nearby business were ripped away from where they sat and passersby ducked indoors to take cover from the swirling winds.

After falling from the sky, Ranma landed on the canopy of one of the businesses and slid off of it before landing gingerly on the ground. The damage he'd taken thus far and the magnitude of his last attack had him feeling dizzy though. Ranma stumbled forward looking as if he were about to fall over, but someone caught him before he had the chance.

With Ranma's right arm draped over her shoulder, a girl glanced over at him and smiled.

"Shampoo?" Ranma said hazily.

"Nihao," Shampoo greeted him. "That one big fight."

"You were watchin', huh?" Ranma asked her.

Shampoo nodded her head. "Is no hard figure out what Ranma do when leave restaurant so sudden," she told him. "Shampoo keep promise from long time ago, too. Ranma remember?"

"Promise?"

"Ranma ask Shampoo let you fight when that man show up before, yes? So Shampoo only watch. No get involved."

The pigtailed boy quietly chuckled to himself. "Yeah, thanks for that. But...I ain't sure he's finished yet."

As the winds from Ranma's attack died down, he and Shampoo stared at the edge of the crater where Jukai had collided with the ground. As of yet, there was no sign of movement.

"Silly Ranma, he no get up from that one," Shampoo said.

But Shampoo was wrong. No sooner had she finished her sentence that a hand appeared from the crater and gripped the concrete.

"You is kidding!" Shampoo's jaw dropped.

His dirty blonde hair disheveled and his body covered in dirt and dust, Jukai painstakingly muscled his body out of the crater. Staggering to his feet, he slowly raised his head and shot Ranma a look that could kill.

Ranma looked surprisingly excited as he pulled away from Shampoo and propped himself up. "Yeah, I guess that wouldn't be enough to put you down, would it?" he grinned. "C'mon, Jukai! Time to-"

Just then, Jukai abruptly leaned forward and coughed up a huge amount of blood. Ranma and Shampoo stood in stunned silence as the ex-soldier wilted and collapsed face first onto the pavement.

At first Ranma expected Jukai to pop right back up, but it soon became apparent that it wasn't going to happen. Holding the still bleeding wound on his abdomen tightly, Ranma walked over to where Jukai lay and looked down at him while Shampoo stayed back. "H-hey..."

With his head now laying on the ground sideways in a puddle of his own blood, Jukai weakly looked up at his opponent. "You win, Pigtail," he managed to say, his voice barely audible. "I guess...I'll leave it to you."

"Leave what to me? What's goin' on?" Ranma asked him.

"You'll find out...soon enough," Jukai told him. "Now...get out of here."

Ranma didn't much like the vague answer, but there was a more pressing concern for him. He'd never seen someone cough up blood like Jukai just had. He didn't like Jukai one bit, but he didn't want to just leave him laying there either. "You're messed up bad, man. You need some help."

"Don't you touch me!" Jukai hissed venomously. "I don't want your pity. Get lost."

Though he didn't feel great about it, Ranma knew how important a warrior's pride was. He was going to honor Jukai's wishes.

With his battle at an end, Ranma turned around and stumbled back to his girlfriend. "Come on, Shampoo. Let's go home."

Shampoo grabbed Ranma's arm and put it around her shoulder again to help him walk. "Ranma sure is okay leave that one?"

"It's what he wants, Shampoo. I ain't...gonna go against it," Ranma told her, grimacing again as he held his side. "That stupid moron. He came here to fight me even though he was..."

Once Ranma and Shampoo disappeared down the road, Jukai managed the strength to roll himself back down into the crater. He fell and hit the dirt hard, landing right next to his unconscious falcon, which had reverted back to its smaller form. Barely hanging onto consciousness himself, Jukai moved his hand over to his bird and lightly brushed his fingers against the creature's feathers.

"Looks like...I lost again, buddy. That's...twice in a row now," he said.

Jukai could hear a crowd starting to gather up above. Slowly, he let his eyes close and exhaled.

"They say bad things...come in threes. Let's...prove 'em...wrong..."


End of Chapter 12