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 11: Plan B
Ranma stood still as could be, his eyes never leaving that thick cloud of dust. He was barely aware of the presence of Zonbi and Yasei nearby, and, for the moment, the same could be said of them in relation to him.
From inside the haze came the sound of stones clattering, breaking the deafening silence. No more than a second later, those stones went flying at everyone's heads.
As the dust and the remains of the pyramid scattered, Ranma fell to his back, looking up at the sizable rocks soaring over him. Yasei ducked for cover behind Zonbi, who swung his heavy fists at the incoming objects, splitting them upon impact. The stones flew into every building in the vicinity, tearing holes in their outer walls. The countless windows that shattered rained shards of glass down upon the pavement along with the chunks of material that fell from the buildings' damaged exteriors.
The danger passed quickly, and Yasei peeked out from behind her fellow servant. They, along with Ranma, eyed closely the spot where the pyramid once stood.
There stood Akane, hunched over with her hands on her knees. Her once dark hair and eyebrows, bathed in the magical current unleashed by the Jewel of Eternity, were now silver in color with wisps of teal mixed in here and there. The jewel itself shone within its place in her chest where streaks of blue-green spread outward across her body, branching out around her arms, legs, back, neck, and even her cheeks like a layer of circuitry built upon her skin.
Ranma, sitting himself up, lowered his head. "Came to this, huh?" he said, offering a chuckle that carried with it no sense of amusement. "Alright. Plan B."
It was then that the jewel's owner spoke at last.
"I did it," she said in Mandarin, cackling with glee. "I did it! My Jewel of Eternity was too much for her!"
The girl stood upright, faltering slightly before catching herself. The irises of her eyes, too, were aglow with a teal hue.
"Akane…?" Ranma batted his eyes. Why, he wondered, was she speaking in Mandarin?
Ranma may not have understood what he was seeing, but Akane's servants understood plenty. Yasei's expression, in particular, transformed into a disgusted scowl.
"Tch," Yasei spat. "The old witch."
Ranma, overhearing her, briefly glanced her way before turning his attention back to the silver-haired girl. "Old witch? She can't mean...Jusenkyo?"
Stumbling to her left, Jusenkyo grabbed hold of her arm. "Gh…! This brat!" She took a quick look around, eventually setting her sights on Zonbi. "You! Come here, now! I can use your life force to help stabilize my hold on this body while I put the girl to sleep for good."
Jusenkyo made her way towards the larger of her two servants, struggling not to fall over with every step. Zonbi, though, wasn't budging.
"Have you gone deaf after all these years?" Jusenkyo snarled at him. "Clearly I should have made some better quality servants when I had the chance."
The sorceress, within arm's length of Zonbi, reached out to grab his wrist. But Zonbi, rather than allowing her to do so, stepped back out of range. Raising an eyebrow at the giant, Jusenkyo inched forward and tried to take hold of him again. Once more, Zonbi backed away.
"What do you think you are doing?" Jusenkyo asked, exasperated.
"My master," Zonbi said to her, "is Mistress Akane."
Jusenkyo gave him a disbelieving look, just long enough to realize he wasn't kidding about what he'd said. Her eyes darting to her left, she looked to Yasei.
"You!" Jusenkyo spoke, turning her body toward her female servant. "We…we had some difficulties, I know, but you do not like taking orders from this girl I am sure, yes?"
Just the same as she had with Zonbi, Jusenkyo reached for Yasei's arm. Yasei, having none of it, stepped away.
"Don't touch me," Yasei hissed.
Jusenkyo's jaw dropped. "You are not serious," she said. "You cannot possibly enjoy being in the company of this girl!"
"Well, duh! I can't stand her!" Yasei replied emphatically. "But now that Akane's got her jewel, she'll let me go free. Somehow I doubt you'll be offering me anything that good. So, do us a favor and disappear already."
Jusenkyo staggered backwards, her gaze wandering. As the rejection from her servants set in, her left hand suddenly clasped itself over her throat.
She grabbed at the arm with her right hand, trying desperately to pry it away. But try as she might, its grip wouldn't loosen. Gasping for air, she set her hateful eyes on her two servants.
"You…traitors!" Jusenkyo screamed. "I…created…you! You…you…!"
Her eyes rolling back in her head, Jusenkyo collapsed to all fours.
The sorceress stayed that way for a long while, panting heavily as she tried to regain her breath. Only when she heard the sound of footsteps approaching did she raise her head even slightly.
Brazenly, Ranma Saotome strolled right up to the girl, hands shoved in his pockets in a completely defenseless manner. Ignoring Zonbi and Yasei, he pulled up in front of her and stared downward.
"You still in there, Akane?" Ranma asked.
Crinkling her nose, the girl got one foot underneath her. "You think I would lose to some decrepit old woman?" she replied in Japanese. She pulled herself the rest of the way to her feet, glaring at Ranma with those teal eyes of hers. "This is my body."
No mistaking that tone, Ranma thought. Akane was back.
Akane's gaze trailed over her arms and chest, taking in the changes the Jewel of Eternity had brought about. "So, this is what it feels like to be immortal," she said, flexing her fingers in front of her. "I can get used to this."
"Yeah, that's some kinda makeover ya got there," Ranma commented. "So, how you wanna do this?"
" 'Do this?' You make it sound like we're going to fight," Akane replied, directing her glare back onto him. "Didn't I tell you? I'm going to take away everything you hold dear. Once I'm done with that, then you can die. And since there's no better place to start, why don't I go and find her?"
Turning her back on Ranma, Akane walked off in a northerly direction.
Out of view of the sorceress, Ranma clenched his teeth. Akane could only have been talking about Shampoo, he thought. That was the only possibility.
He couldn't let that happen. No matter the means, he had to stop her.
"Yeah, that's right. Run away," Ranma spoke in a condescending tone, laughing to himself. "I wouldn't wanna fight me either. Not like a girl could ever beat me anyway, 'specially one who's such a sorry excuse of a martial artist."
Abruptly, Akane stopped in her tracks. She licked around her mouth, remaining quiet.
"Guess I'll just stay here and fight this big guy," Ranma continued, gesturing to Zonbi. "At least he might give me a decent challenge. You go do whatever ya want. Go cry some more about how I dumped ya for all I care."
Akane's fists opened and closed repeatedly, her shoulders rising and falling with her increasingly heavy breaths.
"I'd tell ya to go cry into Dr. Tofu's shoulder," Ranma said, grinning from ear to ear, "but who am I kiddin'? He didn't want ya either. Not that I blame the guy. I mean, who'd want some chick that's built like a brick when you can have a real woman like Kasumi?"
Yasei, covering her mouth to stifle her laughter, put some distance between herself and Ranma. Then some more. And then even more. Zonbi, sensing danger, followed suit.
Something bad was about to happen.
Angling her head upward, Akane brushed back her silver and teal locks. "Now that I think about it," she spoke, "maybe showing your lifeless carcass to Shampoo wouldn't be a bad idea."
Akane whirled around and, with a light forming in her palm, unleashed an enormous blast of magical energy at Ranma. The horizontal pillar, reminiscent of the attack used by her Jusenkyo puppet back in China, ripped through the streets, annihilating a pair of businesses in its path and who knew how many buildings behind them.
The attack soon dissipated, leaving nothing but a large stretch of charred dirt and concrete in its path.
Yasei and Zonbi, having shielded their eyes from the brightness, lowered their arms. Ranma, they realized, was nowhere to be seen.
Akane cast a suspicious look at the smoking spot where Ranma once stood. Then, a bluish light beneath her caught her eye. She glanced down, then back behind her.
Ranma, smirking, had his palm placed against the pavement just half an inch from Akane's heel—exactly the size he'd calculated Akane's barrier to be on the pyramid earlier.
"Shift!" Ranma shouted.
In an intense flash, Ranma and Akane vanished.
Yasei, left alone with Zonbi, blinked her eyes. "They're gone?"
As the light faded, Ranma backed off, sweat dripping from his face as he jumped back into an open field.
Akane, looking to assess her new surroundings, peered about the area. What she and Ranma stood upon was a soccer field—one she knew all too well. Nearby was an outdoor basketball court. A swimming pool wasn't far away. And all of them were in the vicinity of a certain school building standing three stories high.
"Furinkan High School?" Akane wondered aloud.
"Thought we could use some alone time to catch up," Ranma said, wiping the perspiration from his chin. "How 'bout it? Brings back some good memories bein' here, huh?"
"Memories, sure. I don't know if I'd call them good, though," Akane replied, eyeing the pigtailed boy's abnormally soaked skin and clothing. "You're not looking so good. Sure you're up to this?"
"I'll manage," Ranma said, maintaining his confident smirk. "Been workin' on a little somethin' since my fights lately ain't been goin' the best."
"Ohh? Well, this I'm looking forward to seeing," Akane scoffed. "Ready?"
Akane was eager to begin. Ranma, however, held up his palm to stop her.
"Hang on a sec," Ranma said.
Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a metallic flask. He unscrewed the cap and held the container upside-down over his head, dumping its contents down onto himself. Ranma's body shrunk, his chest expanded, and his hair turned a fiery red, the cold water triggering his Jusenkyo curse.
Shaking the water from her hair, Ranma tossed the flask aside. "Whew! Been a while," she said, jumping around a bit to get a feel for her lighter body. " 'Kay, now I'm ready."
Akane sneered at the redhead's transformation. "Still too proud to fight a girl in your male form?"
"Nah," Ranma replied. "This time it's actually part of my plan."
"Your plan, huh?" Akane said, furrowing her brow.
The sorceress raised her arms at her sides, and the ground quaked. Around her, several spears of rock rose up from the soccer field's soil. More and more followed, and they just kept coming.
In stunned silence, Ranma watched hundreds of spears rise into the air. They stacked so far up into the sky that he wouldn't doubt the collection being taller than Furinkan High itself.
When all was said and done, 1000 spears of rock hovered around and above Akane, all with Ranma in the crosshairs of their sharpened tips.
"Oh, man," Ranma mouthed, putting on a nervous smile. "Guys, if you're still out there, I'm countin' on ya."
"Try not to die too fast," Akane said, her expression cold as the stone surrounding her. "I want to enjoy this for a while."
Back in the center of Akane's field, Yasei and Zonbi continued to stare at the spot where they last saw their master and Ranma.
"I don't think they're coming back," Yasei said, her arms folded.
Zonbi offered a light growl in agreement.
"Well, whatever." Yasei shrugged. "Akane's a total monster now. No need for us anymore, which means…we're free! Free, free, free! Ahh, finally, no more having to put up with her. So, you got any plans, big guy?"
Narrowing his eyes, Zonbi gave only another low growl in response.
Yasei had a snicker at the giant's expense. "Oh, right, your whole existence revolves around serving your little Mistress. Sucks for you," she said, giving him a sharp slap on the back. "Well, as for me, I got places to go, people to hunt down. So, I guess this is where we go our separa-"
Growing quiet, Yasei spun her head to the southwest. "What the hell?" Her eyebrows slanted downward. "Nevermind. Maybe there's one thing I need to take care of first."
The ground shaking, an enormous bulb erupted from out of the concrete around Yasei. It wrapped its large leaves over her, encasing her completely before sinking back down into the earth and vanishing from sight.
That left Zonbi all by his lonesome, and his pale ears immediately picked up on something splitting through the air behind him. Turning around, he raised his arms just in time to intercept the lead of a string of blades aimed at his head. The segmented sword didn't stop, whipping into Zonbi's arms repeatedly under the control of its owner, the white-haired warrior, Meilin.
Meilin's blades shredded the leather sleeves of Zonbi's coat with ease, but were unable to cut through the servant's sturdy arms reinforced by his heavy, black blood.
Trying to fend off his attacker, Zonbi managed to catch the lead blade between his hands and throw it back Meilin's way just long enough for him to raise his arms at his sides. Beneath Zonbi's feet, the pavement turned black, the darkness spreading outward. Behind him, however, an orange glow grew brighter.
Zonbi, picking up on the light out of the corner of his eye, glanced back over his shoulder where he spotted Ryoga, a mass of orange-colored energy swelling in the martial artist's palm.
"Go, Ryoga!" Meilin shouted.
Not needing to be told, Ryoga reached back and launched the sweltering ball of energy at Zonbi.
"Happo Solar Flare!"
The boom resulting from Ryoga's attack reverberated far from the site of battle—so far that it reached even the ears of a lone girl dragging her feet along the grass of a school's baseball field well to the southwest. That girl was the Extreme Gymnastics Federation Champion, Alysse Priscilla Winters.
"Over there?" she said, stopping for a moment as she looked in the direction of the noise.
Alysse was clad in the same t-shirt and shorts she wore yesterday—it was either that or a hospital gown, and one was much preferred to the other. She'd heard Akane's ultimatum the same as everyone else, but while the rest of the hospital was evacuated, she alone stayed. No matter the danger, she wasn't leaving Akane's field without Ringo.
Things weren't the same as Alysse remembered once she ventured outside today, though. The quiet and emptiness of the city was like something out of a dream, or maybe a nightmare. And while she hadn't come across any signs of damage yet, one odd thing she did see was the slew of tall, shivering flowers that seemed to have sprouted up just about everywhere. Even on the ball field she now traversed, there had to be around eight of the peculiar plants.
The flowers didn't seem to be a threat, and thus Alysse carried on past them. Then, all at once, those flowers sunk back into the ground, making the girl jump. Her heart beating a little faster, she scanned around the emptied field.
"What's going o-"
Suddenly, Alysse felt something on her lower leg. Looking down, she was surprised to see a thick vine wrapped around her ankle. Before she knew it, the vine rose high up out of the ground, taking her along with it. Alysse didn't even have the chance to scream before the vine slammed her back down onto the grass, jarring her busted ribs.
Alysse clutched at her abdomen, breathless from the pain as the vine lifted her back up into the air by her ankle, leaving her hanging upside-down.
Down on the ground, a large bulb burst out from the soil. The plant's leaves quickly peeled away, unveiling a particularly annoyed Yasei inside.
"I could've sworn I got rid of you yesterday," Yasei said, swinging her green locks back over her shoulder. As she stared up at the wounded, defenseless gymnast, her demeanor relaxed. "Well, so long as you're here, maybe you can answer some things for me."
Off to the north, Ukyo watched from her knees as Shampoo moved toward her, swaying from side to side with every step.
Ukyo still wondered if she was really seeing what was happening before her, but it was hard to deny. Nevermind Shampoo's rhythmic breathing, there was no reason for the girl to come at an enemy with her eyes closed unless she was actually asleep. That just left the question of how to respond to it.
"There's no way she's as responsive as before," Ukyo said to herself. "Not like that…"
Looking to put her theory to the test, Ukyo pulled her hand away from her bloodied nose and stood up. She reached into her bandolier, grabbed three of her miniature spatulas, and flung them at Shampoo.
Shampoo kept on advancing, not reacting to the projectiles until the very last moment when her body weaved to the right. Even with the evasive maneuver, only two of the spatulas missed completely; the third clipped Shampoo's ear lobe, splitting the skin open.
That was all Ukyo needed to see. She launched herself forward, taking aim at Shampoo's right side and her wounded arm yet again. A strike from her spatula would almost certainly connect, she thought. If nothing else, Shampoo would at least be forced to use both of her maces to defend given the state of her arm, eliminating the possibility of a counterattack.
Ukyo closed in and whipped her spatula at the Amazon girl, and, in fact, Shampoo did manage to defend against it. Much to Ukyo's surprise, though, it took Shampoo only her right mace to do so. No sooner had Ukyo looked to her right afterward when Shampoo's left mace came around and slammed into the okonomiyaki chef's already-sore shoulder, drawing a muffled whimper from her lips.
The blow pushed Ukyo back out of Shampoo's range, where she stayed. "What?" Ukyo shrieked, favoring her shoulder. "How did she do that? Does she not feel pain when she's asleep?"
After pondering her options momentarily, Ukyo gathered all but one of the remaining containers at her waist and tossed them at Shampoo's feet. The ceramic jars, all of which contained Ukyo's special adhesive batter, shattered, leaving a mess of the thick, sticky material just inches from Shampoo's toes.
For Ukyo, it was just as much a test of Shampoo's awareness as anything—not that she was without hope of the move actually working.
Shampoo continued to move toward Ukyo, lifting her foot and lowering it right over top of the batter. Ukyo jerked forward, ready to pounce as soon as her opponent became ensnared. Then, just as Shampoo's foot was about to land, her other foot propelled her up and over the trap, bringing Ukyo to a skidding halt.
Ukyo nearly fell over backwards as she retreated a safe distance away. This was difficult, she thought, much more difficult than it should have been. Although Shampoo's reactions were coming extremely late, the girl still seemed to be aware of her surroundings. There she was, moving along with her maces hanging at her sides, her vitals entirely unguarded. And yet, in a way, this was even more troublesome to deal with. Unlike before, Shampoo was telegraphing none of her moves whatsoever.
"Fine," Ukyo growled. "Let's try something you can't avoid, then."
Reaching for her back, Ukyo took the last remaining large container strapped there and tossed it up over her head, splitting it open with the blade of her spatula. From out of its confines fell a giant ball of noodles that Ukyo promptly twirled around her weapon. Working the noodles thoroughly, she heaved the ball into the sky above Shampoo, where it unraveled into an intricate web ready to trap anyone caught in its grasp.
So wide was the area over which Ukyo's net was cast that Shampoo would find it tough to avoid even if awake. Shampoo, though, didn't appear interested in avoiding it. Rather, dropping the mace from her left hand, she took to the air. Reaching into the pack at her waist, she grabbed one of her throwing knives and used it to slice through the top of the net and escape through the newly-made hole.
"What?" Ukyo gasped. "That easily?"
Shampoo, descending now, tossed the knife at Ukyo. It cut through the strands of the noodle net that were attached to Ukyo's spatula and ripped into the bottom of her blouse before planting itself in the ground. Shampoo herself came down next, passing her mace into her left hand as she readied to attack.
Ukyo wasn't so rattled by her net's failure that she wasn't ready to defend. She held her spatula over her head and braced herself. The slumbering Shampoo's blow connected, jarring Ukyo's body, but Ukyo held strong, pushing back after the attack and launching toward Shampoo before the girl could land. Ukyo swung for Shampoo's upper body, striking her in the chest and sending her to the ground.
Not daring to waste such an opportunity, Ukyo pressed her advantage, chasing after Shampoo as the other girl rolled up to an unstable standing position. Ukyo threw her spatula at Shampoo with everything she had, and Shampoo, with her lagging reflexes and only one mace, found it hard to protect herself. Ukyo caught Shampoo not just in her wounded arm, but anywhere she could find an opening, tagging her in the left arm, on her abdomen, even her forehead as the girl was knocked back. Ukyo felt every shot run through her battered shoulder, but onward she surged, dead set on claiming victory.
"I can do it! I can do it!" Ukyo told herself, the adrenaline pumping through her veins.
Ukyo stayed to Shampoo's right side, knowing full well Shampoo hadn't attacked from there once throughout their entire battle. No matter how often Shampoo tried to attack from the left, Ukyo always had time to get out of range or defend against it.
Shampoo, her defense faltering, was shaky in swaying back to her feet, and Ukyo was preparing to finish her off. The young chef, leaning to Shampoo's right again, wielded her spatula high over her head. As the flat part of the utensil came down, Shampoo ducked to the side at the last instant, the tip of the metal brushing along her hair as she moved.
It was a wide swing, but Ukyo knew the risk and was confident enough in her ability to follow up that she was willing to take it. She looked toward Shampoo's left hand to see if the mace was coming her way. It wasn't. In fact, it wasn't in Shampoo's hand at all. Her eyes widening, Ukyo quickly turned to Shampoo's other hand—the one attached to the girl's bad arm. Sure enough, there was the bulky weapon.
Ukyo tried to bring her spatula handle over to protect herself, but the attack simply came too fast. Shampoo smashed her mace into Ukyo's midsection, knocking the girl right off her feet.
The air completely driven out of her, Ukyo went sailing, crashing hard onto her back, and, suddenly, Shampoo's eyes shot open. Finally awakened by the pain in her bloodied arm, Shampoo dropped the mace in her possession and cried out, clutching at her trembling, bandaged limb as she collapsed into the grass.
With tears welling from the feeling in her arm, Shampoo angled her head to get a look at Ukyo, who hadn't even attempted to get back up yet. She had no way of knowing what exactly had transpired over the past few minutes, but that didn't matter so much to her; what really mattered was the situation right now.
Shampoo gathered herself up and made it back on all fours, taking hold of her mace as she looked ahead at the other girl. "Why…why we need fight, Ukyo?" she asked, pushing her body to get to one knee. "You no can forgive Shampoo for take Ranma? That why?"
Dragging her forehead along the grass as she painstakingly tried to regroup, Ukyo took her spatula and drove the blade into the soil. "You're…wrong," she said, using the spatula to help pull herself to her feet. "The one I can't forgive…is myself…for giving him up without a fight. I won't ever forgive myself until we finish this!"
Ukyo, through sheer determination, got herself standing upright again, and Shampoo managed to do the same.
The girls shared a long stare, their clothes torn and dirtied and their bodies bruised and bloodied. Amidst the silence that filled Hikarigaoka Park, it was Ukyo who made the first move, pushing off her front foot and charging ahead. Shampoo, clutching the mace tightly in her left hand, sprung forth to meet her.
Ukyo immediately grabbed the last of the ceramic containers at her waist and threw it at her incoming opponent. Shampoo, not wanting anything to do with it, took a throwing knife from her pack and flung it ahead of her to intercept the object. The knife split the container open right at the bottom, triggering a small explosion. It wasn't the same level as Ukyo's initial Tempura Bomb, but it was enough to create a cloud of smoke and tempura residue that interfered with Shampoo's vision.
Shampoo knew better than to inhale any of the substance after what the flour had done earlier. Rather than pushing through, she darted to the right of the cloud. There, Ukyo was waiting, spatula raised over her head and prepared to strike. Shampoo quickly planted her right foot and swung her mace to attack.
Ukyo had the jump on Shampoo; the flat part of her spatula was on a direct path for the girl's skull. Then…it dropped. The utensil's handle fell from Ukyo's grip as her fingers loosened around it. The damage done to her right shoulder was too great; it just couldn't take another swing.
With no means of defending herself, Ukyo felt Shampoo's mace slam into her abdomen yet again, this time with such force that she heard the sickening sound of her ribs cracking upon impact. Ukyo was blown back and sent rolling to the ground where she curled up into a ball, the pain in her midsection overwhelming.
Shampoo, her chest heaving in and out with rapid breaths, stepped over the spatula that was dropped at her feet and made her way over to Ukyo. Walking up beside the girl, she started to raise her mace up to strike. She took a long look at her, watching her writhe on the grass, and, gradually, she let her weapon fall back to her side.
The fight was over.
Ready to be done with this, Shampoo turned to leave, but a hand wrapping around her ankle stopped her. She glanced down, where Ukyo was rolled onto her stomach, clinging to Shampoo with whatever energy she had left. Shampoo looked upon the girl incredulously as she tried to use Shampoo's clothes to pull herself up, whimpering with every attempt she made to breathe. Ukyo made her way up Shampoo's pant legs, then to her waistband as she somehow got back on her own knees.
Shaking her head as she looked on, Shampoo flicked her wrists outward as if silently imploring Ukyo to tell her what more she wanted her to do.
Ukyo, grabbing onto Shampoo's breastplate, finally, but barely, made it to her feet. Resting the top of her head against Shampoo's armor for a brief moment, she let go and stood on her own. Her hair disheveled and covered in grass, she weakly looked up.
Bringing her left hand around, Ukyo delivered a resounding slap to Shampoo's face.
Staggered, Shampoo regained her footing and, nostrils flaring, lunged forward and drove her mace into the underside of Ukyo's chin. Ukyo's body, knocked upward, floated through the air before dropping back down to the earth below, motionless.
Shampoo, still feeling the sting in her cheek, paused as she looked upon her defeated rival. Allowing her weapon to fall from her hand, she wandered over to where the spatula lay, picked it up, and sauntered over to Ukyo. There, she gingerly dropped down beside the girl, wrapping Ukyo's left hand around her spatula's handle before placing it on her chest.
Brushing the hair from Ukyo's face, Shampoo trailed her fingers down along the girl's cheek.
"Ukyo have Shampoo respect."
Shampoo stood herself back up. Grimacing as she grabbed her right arm, she turned her head, looking off toward the south.
End of Chapter 11