A Midsummer Night's Beauty, Part III: Requiem for Youth
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 OC's that I've added into this story. Just so you know.
Chapter 9: Only Us
A partner-in-crime; that was what Shampoo would have considered Ukyo as during the height of their relationship prior to the whole Li and Meilin incident. They were never friends—far from it. But together they worked at times, doing what they could to thwart the budding bond between Ranma and Akane in hopes that they themselves could capture the pigtailed boy's affection.
Shampoo was Ranma's girlfriend now, and, as of last night, his lover, but Ukyo may well have been his best friend, and Shampoo acknowledged that. With what Akane had done to Ranma a day earlier, Shampoo believed she and Ukyo were on the same page in their desire to bring Akane down before she could cause further destruction.
That made it all the more puzzling to Shampoo that she was here now in the wide open field of Hikarigaoka Park, locked in Ukyo's unwavering glare, the young okonomiyaki chef blocking her path to Akane.
Off in the background, Akane looked on with a smug smirk. "What's wrong?"
Shampoo grit her teeth, the sound of Akane's voice bringing her blood to a boil. "Ukyo, you get out of way now!"
Ukyo widened her stance, both hands gripping the handle of her spatula. She didn't blink even once.
Her hands trembling, Shampoo slammed her foot down in front of her, the ground splitting open around the point of impact. "Move!"
"Make me!" Ukyo shouted in response.
The tension between the girls simmered on the verge of an explosion, and Akane couldn't have been any more entertained by it. "Is it really that surprising to you?" she asked. "After everything you've done to her, did you seriously think she would fight alongside you?"
Shampoo could barely restrain herself as Akane flashed a wicked smile.
"Too bad," Akane said. "She's on my side now."
"The hell I am!" Ukyo roared abruptly.
Bewildered by the declaration, Akane's smile vanished as she set her gaze upon Ukyo's back.
"This has nothing to do with you," Ukyo said, not so much as turning around to face her. "There's only one side I'm on, and that's mine. Do you understand me?"
Akane pursed her lips. The silence that formed between she and Ukyo lingered uncomfortably until, mercifully, it was broken by an amused snort from the sorceress.
"I guess that works," Akane relented. Turning her back on the others, she walked toward the looming pillar up ahead. "This was what you wanted, so make sure you enjoy yourself to your heart's content."
Shampoo wasn't about to let Akane get away. She burst into a sprint and sprung up into the air, jumping above Ukyo in order to get to her target, but the spatula-wielding martial artist leaped up to intercept her, swinging her utensil downward into Shampoo's dual maces. It wasn't enough to break Shampoo's guard, but it did stop her advance as she was swatted back down to the grass.
Not ready to give up, Shampoo darted to her right to get around Ukyo. Again, Ukyo met her and their weapons collided. Ukyo was quick on her feet, Shampoo noted—quicker than she remembered. Shampoo backed off and dove to Ukyo's left this time, but once more Ukyo swooped over to cut her off.
With every clash, the fire in Ukyo's eyes grew.
Thanks to the assistance she was given, Akane reached the pillar uninterrupted. Looking over Ukyo's shoulder, Shampoo happened to catch sight of Akane placing her hand on the stone.
"Stupid Ukyo!" Shampoo snapped. "This no is time for-!"
"Stop ignoring me!" Ukyo screamed back at her. The intensity of her voice was something no one, not even Shampoo, could brush off as it reverberated throughout the park.
Akane, too, even as her body, led by her arm, passed through the pillar as if she were a specter, had her eyes drawn to her old friend.
"That's right. You can't ignore her anymore."
Akane vanished from sight. At once, the stone column she disappeared into shined with a brilliant white light.
Shampoo knew right away what that light meant: Akane had done what she needed to do here.
Even with the change in the pillar, Ukyo paid it no mind. Her focus remained on the one thing she was interested in from the beginning.
"You're always avoiding me. Always!" she yelled, the spatula shaking in her grasp. "Refusing my challenges again and again. After I knocked you out, I went and got myself ready. I got in the best shape of my life. And what do I get when I come back? You don't even care anymore! It's all about Akane now!"
The reality of letting Akane go percolated through Shampoo's consciousness. Scowling angrily at Ukyo, her chest moved in and out with short, rapid breaths.
"Ukyo…you know what you just do?" she asked. "You know what going to happen if Akane get jewel? You know what she going do to planet? To Ranma?"
"I don't care!" Ukyo retorted. "I don't care about Akane, or Ran-chan, or anyone else! Let them do what they want! Akane can blow everything up for all I care!" Outstretching her arm, she pointed the sharp tip of her spatula at Shampoo. "As far as I'm concerned, there's only two people that exist in this world right now: you…and me."
Shampoo could only shake her head at Ukyo's obsessive words. "Shampoo no want do this, Ukyo." She aimed the mace in her left hand at the other girl, measuring her up. "But if you no get out of way, Shampoo no hold back!"
"I don't want you to hold back," Ukyo said. "I want you to kill me if you have to. So, come on! Fight me! FIGHT ME!"
Narrowing her eyes at Ukyo, Shampoo lunged forth without reservation, ready to attack.
At the first sign of movement, Ukyo whipped her spatula behind her back, cutting free one of the two larger ceramic containers she carried. As the container fell, she stepped aside, using the flat part of her spatula's blade to sling it at the approaching Amazon.
Shampoo didn't know what was inside the object, but her first instinct was to avoid touching it. She ducked down, looking to run past it and get Ukyo into her attack range. That was when she noticed the sun reflecting off of something: a thread, one end attached to the container, and the other in the hands of Ukyo.
As Shampoo's eyes widened, Ukyo gave the thread a forceful pull, yanking off the container's lid.
In a blinding flash, the container exploded with a blast so thunderous that the park grounds themselves quaked.
While the sounds of battle were still fresh off to the north, another conflict was already in full swing at the westernmost of Akane's pillars.
Ranma, feeding off the momentum from his surprise knee to Zonbi's face, was relentless in his attack. With blistering speed, he unleashed a hellish combination of offense to Zonbi's face and chest, gradually pushing the creature further and further away from the pillar as he navigated over and around the remnants of the leveled home where the stone column now stood.
Zonbi, being knocked back near the gate of a residence on the far side of the road, raised a hand up to try to catch Ranma, block his next move, anything really, but Ranma simply grabbed hold of the lengthy arm and, using it to push off of, turned his body horizontal in the air and slammed his shin into Zonbi's jaw. It was just one more of what felt to Zonbi like a thousand blows he'd taken in no more than a minute's time.
After three more on-point boots from Ranma, Zonbi's leg smashed back into the gate, tearing it from its hinges. Even after everything dished out upon it, the giant's sturdy body remained upright, and so Ranma pressed on.
A chunk of the other home's roof beneath Zonbi's feet combined with a four-punch barrage to the bridge of his nose and forehead altered the servant's course, forcing him back toward the wall separating the current residence from the next one over. The first trace of some dark-colored blood crept down from Zonbi's nostril as Ranma threw another spinning boot to the big man's cheek. Grunts of pain accompanied every blow—whatever Zonbi was allowed to let out before the next inevitable strike rocked him. Ranma threw his weight behind a double stomp to Zonbi's chest that pushed the giant back further. He then swooped down, grabbing a thin, steel pipe from the ground—perhaps once part of the plumbing setup across the street. As he rose back up, the sparkles of half a dozen base points for his Shift technique spread through the air and entered the ground around the property. A time for holding back this was not.
Ranma bounded again after Zonbi, who was afforded barely enough time to throw one wild punch in retaliation. Dancing to the side, Ranma felt the force of the air being pushed away by Zonbi's massive fist as it whizzed by his face. There was incredible weight behind the attack, so much that the air alone forced Ranma's head to turn the other way, but not before his heel connected cleanly with Zonbi's chin, knocking the giant back another several feet.
His mind screaming at him to keep on going, Ranma dug his foot into the grass and tried to push forward, but faltered, overcome with vertigo.
"Wh-wha-…?" Ranma stammered, one hand falling over his eyes.
He had to remind himself in that moment that losing vision of Zonbi wasn't something he could afford to do. As he lowered his arm, though his world spun, he could make out just enough of Zonbi's figure to realize he was raising his arms at his sides.
Ranma had seen that posture from his enemy before. Focusing as best he could, he knelt down and placed his palm against the earth. Then, he was gone. And just as Zonbi's arms were rising above his shoulders, so, too, did Ranma rise up behind Zonbi, twirling around in mid-air and drilling the back of the giant's bald head with a vicious kick.
"Oh no, you DON'T!" Ranma snarled.
Groaning in pain, Zonbi bent at the waist, his entire upper body hunched forward. Ranma, dropping down from above, grabbed hold of the back of Zonbi's head and thrust his knee into the creature's face, jarring him back to an upright position. Ranma's balance wasn't perfect yet, but it was good enough. He put his right side forward, lighting Zonbi up with five rapid kicks in a line from his waist to his throat. Zonbi, ailing, dropped back again, and with one last spinning, mid-air boot from Ranma, he fell back against the wall.
Ranma, gripping tightly each end of the pipe in his possession, jolted toward Zonbi. The big man raised his head, dark blood from his nose making its way down his chin. His ears were bombarded with a shrill roar from his pigtailed attacker as Ranma lunged upward and, with all his strength, drove the steel through the thick muscle in the center of Zonbi's chest, straight out his back, and into the wall behind him.
Zonbi let out a gasp as the black blood spurted from his chest down onto the leather of his shirt, and, soon after, from his gaping mouth as well. He grasped the pipe, trying to pull it out from himself, but Ranma kept a firm hold on it.
"I'd say sorry 'bout this," Ranma said, panting, "but after what you did to my friends, I'd just be lyin'. Too bad you ain't human or I mighta thought twice about it."
As his head drooped forward, another wave of blood poured from Zonbi's mouth, this time onto Ranma's hands. Zonbi's grip around the pipe loosened. His upper body slumped down onto the cold piece of steel, and his breathing ceased.
Ranma, feeling the fight leave Zonbi, finally allowed himself to relax a little. "Jeez, after all that, guy never went down once," he said, exhaling deeply as he peeked over at Akane's pillar. "Worked out, though. Nobody's gettin' that jewel now."
Looking ahead again, Ranma's eyes shot open. Even he didn't have the reaction time to avoid the sudden impact of Zonbi's size 23 boot against his chest. The rubber sole hit him like a battering ram, knocking him clear across the property and down to the hard ground.
Ranma rolled over onto his stomach, groaning and clutching at his aching chest, while Zonbi, still plenty functional, tightened his hold on the steel pipe. He worked the metal out from his torso inch by inch, his black blood splattering down onto his attire with each movement. Soon enough, the pipe was out. Zonbi allowed the weapon to fall to his feet, a mix of pain, relief, and outright annoyance plastered across his face.
Raising his head, Ranma eyed Zonbi sharply. "That's right..." he said, wincing as he pushed himself up. "You really ain't human, huh?"
Zonbi immediately moved to lift his arms again, and Ranma responded with a swift slam of the earth, vanishing and reappearing directly in front of his opponent. The difference in quickness again became apparent as Zonbi couldn't stop Ranma from leaping up and slugging him in the cheek. As Ranma went to retract his hand, however, he found that he couldn't do so.
Zonbi's dark blood, like a thick glue, kept Ranma's fist stuck right where it was. Ranma drove both feet into Zonbi's chest to try to pry himself free, but the blood oozing from the big man's wound held the same property as that on Ranma's fist, sticking to Ranma's shoes and keeping them from moving.
"Wha-what is this stuff?" Ranma complained, trying desperately to pull himself away.
Snapping his hand out, Zonbi grabbed Ranma by the collar of his shirt. With Ranma having only one limb free, Zonbi pulled him in, reared back with his head and delivered a crushing headbutt just above the pigtailed boy's nose. Ranma slumped back, his eyes glazed over. Zonbi, bringing Ranma to his right, flung him off toward the nearby house, allowing the bonds his blood had created to break. Ranma went crashing into the home's front door, where his body collapsed.
For the third time, Zonbi raised his arms, this time all the way up near his head. A blackness appeared on the ground beneath him and spread in a hurry, covering the entire property. From out of the rotted earth rose Zonbi's three puppets, Cologne, Jynn, and Mousse. Together, they formed a wall in front of the one controlling them. The one-on-one battle Ranma fought so fiercely to maintain was now four-on-one.
Once the summoning was complete, Zonbi promptly dropped to his knees, one hand keeping him propped up off the ground. No longer was the blood escaping from his body, but the signs of damage inflicted by Ranma remained.
Over at the foot of the door, Ranma gingerly worked his way up to a seated position. He couldn't remember what hit him, but the numbness on his forehead and the fact that he was down told him enough. Grimacing, he brushed his fingertips over the area between his eyes. They came away stained with crimson blood—his own blood.
Ranma looked out near the edge of the property, where Zonbi remained down, protected by the trio of Chinese warriors. "That's some interesting blood ya got there," Ranma said, groaning as he tried to get up. "Makin' it all sticky to trap me there, guessin' ya made it thinner when ya wanted to get me away…you even made it heavy when ya tried to attack me, ain't that right?"
Through his swollen face, Zonbi stared down not Ranma, but rather the stone pillar beyond the gate. "I have no time…for you…" he uttered, stumbling to his feet.
Ranma lifted his right hand from his lap. "Yeah? Well you'd better make some then!" He dropped his palm on the doorstep and disappeared, using his Shift to take him back out onto the street at the nearest point outside of Zonbi's blackened territory.
There was nothing but a short fence between Ranma and his target, at least until Cologne, Jynn, and Mousse caught on. Ranma lunged at Zonbi and swung for his head, only to have his arm batted aside by Cologne's staff. A subsequent ball and chain from Jynn immobilized Ranma, and a flying kick from Mousse sent him away.
By the time Ranma's roll across the pavement stopped, Zonbi was already lurching through the broken gate and onto the road. Cologne, Jynn, and Mousse weren't continuing their attack either, Ranma realized. By the looks of it, their only purpose was to escort Zonbi to the pillar.
"You…stupid morons!" Ranma yelled. "Get the hell outta my way!"
Try and try as Ranma might, time and time again he was swatted away before he could so much as land a finger on Zonbi. Even if he broke away from one of the servant's defenders, the other two were always there for backup. Zonbi's territory swallowed up so much area around the pillar that Ranma couldn't make effective use of his Shift any longer. Zonbi didn't look well at all; he looked weary and vulnerable as he struggled toward Akane's pillar, even inhuman as he was. But what could Ranma do? How could he stop him like this?
Those questions ran through Ranma's mind repeatedly all the way until Zonbi placed his hand up against the pillar. Ranma gave one more valiant effort to knock him away, but the end result wasn't any different than before as Cologne's staff sent him off in defeat.
"DAMN IT!" Ranma shouted. His back hit the concrete with a thud and down he went, sprawled out on the street, left looking up at the top of Akane's barrier high above.
Dragging himself forward, Zonbi passed through the gigantic pillar just as his Mistress had at her own, and the stone column was enveloped in white light much the same as the one to the north.
Cologne, Mousse, and Jynn, their mission complete, sank down into the rotted earth at the pillar's base. Once they were half-submerged, though, a chain left behind by one of the Amazons wrapped itself around Mousse's upper body.
"Who said…you could leave?" Ranma growled, keeping Mousse in place with two fistfuls of the chain's other end.
Though Mousse fought the ensnarement, his hips and upper legs were soon exhumed from the dirt. Whatever remained came out with a mighty tug from Ranma, who yanked Mousse up into the air and threw him against the closest utility pole, spinning the length of the chain around the pole as well as Mousse's lower body to keep him in place.
Ranma, his face soaked with a mix of perspiration and the blood running down his nose, glanced over at the pillar. Cologne and Jynn were both gone, apparently having no intention of assisting Mousse.
While the captive Amazon tried with little success to squirm free of his binds, Ranma, hanging his head, plopped down at the base of the pole. His teeth clenched, he drove his fist down into the dark, softened concrete, almost wishing it hurt more for him to do so.
"Again," Ranma said under his breath, tightening his hand as two beads of sweat dripped down onto it. "Again…"
Over at the amusement park, Yasei, still perched atop her dandelion, looked up from her nails. Not just one, but both of the pillars off in the distance were lit up now.
"Ahh, they couldn't do it," she muttered. "Totally pointless, just like I thought."
Shrugging, she hopped down from the flower, her skirt floating in the air as she descended and touched ground. "Well, it's not like I can put off doing this without making Akane all kinds of pissed."
Yasei strolled over to the third and final pillar and, holding her hand out in front of her, touched the outside and passed through.
The pillar was illuminated the same as the others, and together they all resonated. From each pillar, a streak of light as wide as the columns themselves appeared and traveled along the earth toward the very center of the area between the structures.
Somewhere between the paths where the light from Yasei's and Zonbi's pillars originated, Ryoga and Meilin halted their trek to the west. Unlike the others, they weren't certain what the lighting up of the pillars meant when it was just one or two of them. But thanks to the happenings in front of them now, the meaning was abundantly clear. From where they stood, the streaks of light looked to be on a collision course up to their north.
"Ranma…damn," Ryoga said, looking to the pillar they had been en route to. "Zonbi was too much for him?"
Part of Meilin would have liked to remind Ryoga about the opportunity to eliminate Yasei that was passed up, but it wouldn't have done any good now. "Can't be helped," she said calmly. "We'll just have to do this the hard way."
The lights from the east and west, as well as the one from the north came together in a business-heavy section of the city, their convergence producing a flash that even Ryoga and Meilin, as far away as they were, had to shield their eyes from. The earth rumbled with even greater ferocity than when the pillars appeared, and at the point where the light was brightest, an object of incredible mass erupted from beneath the streets.
Tearing through the ground, a structure bearing similarities to an ancient pyramid rose up, casting aside roads and buildings as if they were mere toys. Its ascension was swift, rising up not nearly as high as the pillars before it, but still easily taller than nearby buildings and with a much, much wider base.
Eventually, the pyramid's growth slowed, then ceased altogether. The light beneath it faded, and that of the pillars followed suit.
One hundred fifty steps marked the path from the bottom of the pyramid all the way to the top. Beside the first of them, Akane, Zonbi, and Yasei stood now, all of them taking in the sight of the newly-risen hunk of rock.
Up above, the very tip of the pyramid crumbled, the excess stones rolling down along its sides. In its place, a deep, teal-colored glow shined.
Seeing that glow for the first time, Akane couldn't help but smile.
Off to the west, Ranma remained seated on the pavement, his drooping head angled in the direction of the pyramid. He heard and felt the rumbling; there wasn't any mystery as to what it was.
Slowly, he sat up, turning his attention to the restrained Mousse who still fought hopelessly to free himself. Crawling back to his feet, Ranma sauntered over to the pale-skinned Amazon and placed his fingertips against the boy's neck, just to the side of his windpipe.
Ranma waited for ten seconds, then another ten, his expression unchanging from beginning to the eventual end when he allowed his hand to slide away. Spotting a blade connected to a chain dangling from the lengthy, torn sleeve of Mousse's robe, he grabbed hold of the weapon and, with slight hesitation, sliced open the skin on Mousse's palm.
Breathlessly, Ranma stood and watched as the blood trickled down from the cut. It was black, the same as Zonbi.
Ranma, closing his eyes, stepped back. With the slightest nod, he paced around the debris-laden road, locking his hands atop his head. It took him some time to gather himself. Only then did he find the courage to look upon his old rival again.
"Mousse," he said, his voice taut, "when this is all over, I'll make sure ya get buried properly. That's all I can do for ya."
Back at the pyramid, Akane was already taking her first steps toward the top. Behind her, Yasei didn't bother trying to contain a chortle as she caught a glimpse of her fellow servant's discolored face.
"The hell happened to you?" Yasei asked, grinning like a child.
Not in the mood to humor her, Zonbi scrunched his nose and offered a dismissive grunt.
Akane couldn't have cared less about what her servants were discussing; her ultimate goal was right in front of her. "You two," she spoke, "stay here. I'll be back soon."
Her ascent up the stairs was brisk yet not rushed, more out of eagerness than urgency, at least until she neared the fifteenth step.
Abruptly, Akane stopped. Curious, she looked back over her shoulder, casting a glance down the littered mess that once represented a thriving area of her hometown. Zonbi and Yasei, too, spun around, their attention drawn by the same shout that reached their master's ear.
With all eyes upon him, Ranma Saotome rose from a knee a short distance away. Heart beating wildly and nostrils flaring, he threw his chest out and bellowed toward the pyramid with all his might.
"ENOUGH OF THIS-!"
End of Chapter 9