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 12: Amazons
Close to the heart of Akane's field lay one of the few areas yet untouched by the destruction running rampant since sunrise—an area that included the remnants of the Cat Café restaurant.
Across the street from the rubble, trash bags were piled atop one another beside a light post, no one left in town to collect them. All of a sudden, the bag at the top of the pile shifted, tumbling down to the concrete below. From beneath the heap of trash, out popped the head of a fat, yellow-feathered bird the size of an adult ostrich.
The bird shook itself free of the garbage and stood up, a leather pouch dangling from its neck. Opening its sizeable beak to let out a yawn, it peeked around, quickly scouring the area. The bird flapped its wings, slowly at first before gaining some momentum. Once it got going, it lifted up off the ground, and away into the sky it went.
Back and forth Ranma weaved, diving ahead, stopping and starting again, whatever her reflexes deemed necessary to avoid the raining spears of rock summoned by Akane. One after another, the stone projectiles impaled the grounds of Furinkan High in pursuit of their agile target, putting the speed of Ranma's girl form to the test.
Seeking cover, Ranma bolted for the school entrance, the spears right on her tail. She dove through the doors, scampering along the floor as more of the rock shards drilled themselves into the wall above her. The spears crashed through the windows of the first floor classrooms as she ran through the hall, spilling jagged pieces of glass everywhere in sight.
Ranma, spotting the stairwell at the end of the hall, quickly took it up to the second floor, but the rocks only seemed to follow. As the spears burst through the windows again, Ranma ducked down for cover, watching them rip into the walls up ahead as she was showered with glass. Glancing up at what was left of the windows above her, she planted her feet and sprung through the new opening, narrowly avoiding what shards of glass remained in place as she dropped down into the unoccupied classroom. She crawled over to the room's door and sat back against it, placing a hand over her mouth to keep her breathing quiet.
If the summoning of those rocks was any indication, the Jewel of Eternity was allowing Akane to use her magic without reciting an incantation now, Ranma thought. That was going to make it more difficult to prepare for her attacks, as if Ranma needed this to be tougher than it already was.
Ranma tensed up. Behind her, the sound of footsteps passing through the hall caught her ear, glass crunching beneath the person's feet.
"I remember having to stand in the hall on your first day here because we were late," came Akane's voice, loud enough that she was certain Ranma would hear it. "Was that one of the 'good memories' you were talking about?"
Akane's footsteps trailed off as she passed by the classroom and to the other end of the hall, giving Ranma a chance to breathe again…at least for a moment. Movement outside drew Ranma's eyes to the classroom's windows, where another barrage of rocks rose up into view.
"Damn it!" Ranma shrieked.
As the spears came smashing into the building, Ranma threw open the classroom door and rushed back out into the hallway, just evading a stone shard that flew past her left arm as she jumped into the classroom opposite the previous one. Darting over the remains of the room's shattered windows, she hopped up onto the ledge outside the building and sprung up to the school's third story by grabbing onto the ledge above and entering a classroom through an open window.
Back indoors, Ranma knelt down by the teacher's desk and wiped the sweat from her brow. "Man, this is crazy," she said.
An unexpected sound from the other end of the desk snapped Ranma to attention. Whirling into a defensive pose, she spied a patch of brown hair and a childish face peeking at her from behind the piece of furniture.
"S-S-Saotome?" a young girl spoke apprehensively.
Ranma's jaw dropped. "Miss Hinako?!" she exclaimed, eyeing the trembling teacher incredulously. "What the heck are you doin' here?"
"It's a teacher's duty to always be at school on time, e-even if there are loud, scary noises everywhere," Hinako replied, still cowering behind her desk.
"Are you serious?" Ranma said, slapping a hand over her own face. "Why didn't you just leave like everyone else, you moron?"
Hinako's eyes became teary over the harshness of Ranma's voice. "Don't yell at me!" she cried. "Especially when you're cross-dressing again, you delinquent!"
"That ain't important right now!" Ranma snapped. "I brought Akane here 'cause I thought the place was empty!"
Just then, the booming sounds of Akane's spears striking the school's roof rang out. Down came several of them through the ceiling, impaling the floor Ranma and Hinako stood upon, one of them brushing the back of the young educator's skirt.
Without a second thought, Ranma scooped Hinako up under her arm and jumped outside. After a three-story fall and a clean landing, away from Furinkan High they both fled.
Ranma, running as fast as she could manage with her extra baggage, looked back over her shoulder. What she saw there caused a chill to run through her body.
From atop Furinkan High's clock tower, Akane was looking down, watching them. Grabbing one of the rocks hovering overhead, she rode it down to the ground below where her pursuit of Ranma continued.
"Is that…Miss Tendo?" Hinako asked, looking up at Ranma. "What is she doing there? And what did she do to her hair?"
"I ain't got time to explain!" Ranma told her. "Let's just say she's the one who put up the field around town, and now she's tryin' to kill me."
"What? That can't be!" Hinako said, her heart sinking. "Miss Tendo seemed so well-behaved, but now…she's a delinquent, too?"
Ranma jumped from side to side as more of Akane's projectiles flew past her. "Yeah, you could say that!" she replied.
Balling up her fist, Hinako had a determined look about her. "If that's the case," she spoke, "it's my duty to punish her."
"Are you nuts? Don't be stupid!" Ranma said, hopping over another spear that came in low.
Hinako, undeterred, stared up at the redhead. "Saotome, put me down!"
"No way!" Ranma barked at her. "You've got no idea what Akane's become! This ain't a fight you can win!"
Ranma was so focused on trying not to die that she didn't notice the scowl Hinako was giving her, nor the five-yen coin the girl pulled from her dress. Only when she felt herself slowing down and the weight in her arm growing heavier did she glance at Hinako again, who was already well into using her Happo Five-Yen Satsu to drain Ranma's battle aura.
"Wh-what're…you…" Ranma uttered. Exhausted, she let go of the teacher and dropped to the dirt, giving the now-adult Hinako an exasperated look from the woman's feet.
"Know your place, Saotome," Hinako said in her deep voice, brushing her long hair back over her shoulder. "Let your teachers handle matters like this."
As Hinako made her way over to face the incoming threat, Ranma spotted Akane drawing nearer, hundreds of stone spears still surrounding her.
"You idiot!" Ranma yelled out, crawling after Hinako. "Don't...!"
Akane strolled onto the scene looking much the same as she had before, no sign of emotion over seeing her former teacher here. Locking eyes with Hinako, she drew to a halt.
"Miss Hinako," Akane acknowledged the woman.
"Miss Tendo," Hinako greeted her back. "It's good to see you again after so long, though I can't say I approve of you dyeing your hair silver. Would you mind telling me what this is all about?"
"It's none of your business," Akane said, her tone stern. "I don't have anything against you, Miss Hinako, so I'll give you one chance. Get out of the way and leave."
Hinako narrowed her eyes at the girl. "I can't do that," she said. "No matter how much of a troublemaker Saotome may be, he's still your fellow student and I won't allow you to bring harm to him. Furthermore, Miss Tendo, I'll have to ask you to cease this inappropriate behavior at once."
As Akane glared ahead at her former teacher, the several hundred rock spears around her re-positioned themselves, aiming their pointed tips directly at Hinako.
"Move," Akane commanded, "or else."
Allowing a sigh to escape from her lips, Hinako shook her head. "I see, you really have fallen into delinquency," she said. "In that case, you leave me no choice."
Hinako held her hands out in front of her, palms facing outward with the tips of her thumbs touching.
"Happo No-Yen Coin Return!"
Taking what she'd absorbed from Ranma, Hinako unleashed a massive blast of chi energy that quickly engulfed Akane. The discharge of energy caused her body to shrink down to a childlike state once more, and with those big, curious eyes of hers, she was able to see the result of her attack.
Akane stood exactly where she had been all along, untouched, unfazed. The chi blast was no match for her barrier, only managing to blow away some of the rocks that hovered too close to her.
"It…didn't do anything?" Hinako blinked.
"I warned you," Akane hissed.
Akane raised her hand up into the air, gathering control of all of the spears above her, and Hinako, looking up at the overwhelming arsenal, promptly fainted.
Only then did Akane spot Ranma with her hand on the ground behind the collapsed girl, the light for her Shift technique already glowing. Baring her teeth, Akane sent every remaining spear hurtling towards the two of them. They rained down and drilled into the earth with incredible force, many of them breaking apart from the impact before other spears came down behind them and finished the job.
Once the dust cleared, only a sizeable pile of rubble sat before Akane. Carefully, she looked the spot over.
"He got away."
Taking a breath, Akane closed her eyes. "I'll give him 30 seconds."
Those fighting within the Nerima Ward had little opportunity to consider what was happening in the outside world where the country's leaders continued their efforts to understand and try to find a solution to the ongoing predicament. For security purposes, a huge sum of military and police personnel were stationed at points around the perimeter of Akane's repulsion field. Though mostly stationed there to keep any curious civilians from getting too close, they were also ready to do what they found necessary should any threat make itself known.
Near the northwestern edge of the field, a pair of policemen stood near their squad car. One faced toward the field while his partner kept an eye on the rest of the area.
"What do you think is going on in there?" one of the men asked.
"Hell if I know," the other grumbled. "Aliens checking our planet out, maybe?"
The first officer was about to respond when something made him jump. On the other side of the field's wall, two girls appeared out of thin air.
"H-hey, you!" the officer shouted, rushing up as close as he could get. His partner, picking up on the situation, hurried to join him.
Within the field, Ranma, carrying Hinako with her, sluggishly approached the policemen.
"Here, catch!" Ranma shouted, tossing Hinako their way.
Hinako, still unconscious, passed through the field's wall to the other side, where one of the officers caught her.
While one of the men checked on Hinako, the other looked to Ranma. "Who-?"
"Get her somewhere safe!" Ranma instructed them, cutting the officer off. Still trying to shake off the effects of Hinako's draining attack, Ranma placed her palm against the ground.
"Wait, what's-!" the officer tried to say, but it was too late.
Just like that, Ranma vanished.
His mouth hanging open, the officer turned to his partner. "You see that?"
Back at Furinkan High School, Akane opened her eyes, glancing behind her just in time to see Ranma's foot zooming in for a strike. Coming into contact with Akane's barrier, Ranma, led by her foot, went sailing through the air and landed near the outdoor basketball court, sliding to a stop on one knee.
"That was fast," Akane commented, adjusting her body to face the pigtailed girl.
"Yeah, well, you know how I miss spendin' quality time with ya," Ranma replied, her sweat building up again as she took long, heavy breaths.
Akane snorted at the remark. "Cute."
The sorceress raised her right palm, and Ranma, wondering what might come her way, felt it immediately. A fierce gust of wind smacked into her, carrying her back until she went crashing through the backboard of one of the school's basketball hoops.
At the center of Akane's field, large, blackened chunks of steel hit the pavement with a series of loud clanks.
"Too slow," Ryoga muttered, smoke rising from his right hand.
The metal was what remained of a ball and chain that intercepted Ryoga's Happo Solar Flare before it could reach its target. The chain portion was reeled back in by its owner, Jynn, disappearing into the male Amazon's sleeve. Nearby, Cologne, too, stood guard before Zonbi.
Ryoga and Meilin had hoped to take out Akane's servant with a sneak attack, but he was unexpectedly quick in summoning his puppets.
While Ryoga eyed Cologne, pondering his next move, Meilin was keenly focused on an old acquaintance of hers.
"Jynn!" Meilin called out, hoping for some sort of response.
"There's no point," Zonbi said in his deep voice.
Sneering at the giant, Meilin clutched the handle of her snake sword at her waist, the compacted blades taking on a reddish glow. "Jynn, say something!" she shouted. "Show me you can understand me!"
Jynn didn't speak, nor did he make any movement where he stood.
"Do you need a demonstration?" Zonbi asked.
Just like that, Jynn bolted towards Meilin, throwing a total of eight hiltless blades—four from each of his robe's sleeves—at his former partner. Meilin made a quick evasive maneuver, ducking down and to her right, her left leg fully extended as she was able to avoid the onslaught of weaponry.
Ryoga, currently a fair distance from the skirmish, wanted to join up with Meilin again, but the presence of Cologne standing near the would-be path was a daunting one. "Damn!" he cursed.
Meilin rose up again, holding her sword with its blades glowing increasingly bright out at her side. "You would never let yourself be controlled," she said.
Jynn continued in. From each of his sleeves, five ball-and-chain combinations dropped down. He held his arms as far back as they would go, readying to put all of the weapons to use at once.
Before Jynn could get the chance, Meilin whipped her sword out in front of her. The extending blades, drawing a line of fire through the air with their red hue, tore through everything in a flash. The ten steel orbs of Jynn's tools scattered across the ground, their chains severed like they were nothing. Jynn himself, a streak of charred cloth along his waist, fell forward, the top half of his body separating from the bottom as he collapsed to the ground. The dark blood within came pouring out, staining the surrounding concrete black.
"Happo Solar Flare: Solar Serpent," Meilin spoke, rescinding her sword's blades—their glow fading—with a regretful sigh. "Sorry, Jynn. Time isn't on our side."
The instant the white-haired warrior's weapon closed back up, Cologne abruptly left her position. Her new target: Meilin.
"Meilin, look out!" Ryoga shouted. He charged forth, looking to aid her, only to find Zonbi lurching into his path. Ryoga, though, had no intention of stopping.
While Cologne took to the air, Meilin readied her sword to defend herself. Cologne took her wooden staff and jabbed it downward at blinding speed. Down below, Meilin felt every single one of those jabs, the air pressure alone from Cologne's staff slamming into the front of her body, drawing a sharp gasp of pain.
As Cologne descended, Meilin swung her still-compacted sword at the Amazon elder. Cologne's speed was a level above any opponent Meilin had faced, though, and she showed it by landing directly atop the flat part of Meilin's weapon. The old woman tapped the thick end of her staff against Meilin's forehead, and that was all it took to send the girl flying into the exterior wall of an antique shop lining the road.
"Meilin!" Ryoga screamed.
Meilin, stunned, slid down to the pavement.
Cologne advanced on Ryoga's partner in a hurry, prepared to finish her off. Then, out of nowhere, something came flying in from above. That something was a mace, and Cologne, batting it away with her staff, backed off to reassess the situation.
From atop the line of businesses appeared Cologne's great-granddaughter, Shampoo, taking back her mace from the air as she dropped down in front of Meilin.
Ryoga, still on his collision course with Zonbi, stopped in his tracks. "Shampoo?"
Shampoo's chest expanded in and out with deep breaths. Her right arm, with bandages soaked in red, hung practically limp at her side, the hand attached to it empty. The only mace she had with her was the one she held in her left hand.
From the moment she landed, Shampoo had her eyes locked on Cologne. "Great-grandmother…"
With just a small glance to her right, Shampoo was able to see the remains of Jynn lying on the street, and the mess of black blood all around them.
"He was…gone…" Meilin spoke, struggling to push herself up off the ground. "He wasn't in there…not anymore."
Her lips quivering, Shampoo looked back to her great-grandmother. She'd never seen her skin so pale or her robe so ragged before. For someone to have done this to her mentor, the one who trained her and taught her everything she knew…
Shampoo, her eyes ablaze, set her sights on Zonbi. "You let Shampoo fight this one," she demanded, speaking of Cologne.
Zonbi's neck cracked loudly as he cocked his head to the side. "Why should I?"
"If you no take chance now," Shampoo said, her voice rumbling, "Shampoo promise kill Akane!"
Falling silent, Zonbi looked the Amazon girl over from her dirtied, burned clothes to the bloodied side of her face, and, especially, to that dangling arm of hers. He peeked behind Shampoo for a brief moment, where Meilin continued to have a difficult time recovering from Cologne's attack.
Zonbi, straightening his head out, brought his gaze back to Shampoo. "Fine."
Cologne sprung into action, wasting no time going after her great-granddaughter, and Shampoo, looking to lead her away, jumped back into the air and landed atop a liquor shop.
"You follow, Great-grandmother!" Shampoo instructed her.
Cologne did just that, and off the two of them went, soon disappearing from view.
The departure left just two individuals remaining upright on the torn-up road: Zonbi and Ryoga Hibiki.
Sliding off his backpack, Ryoga brought his hands together and cracked his knuckles. "Looks like it's only you now," he said.
Zonbi, a low growl reverberating in his throat, calmly removed his leather trench coat. Grabbing his shirt by the collar, he tore it clear off of his body, exposing the spot where Ranma had put a hole in his chest earlier.
"You would have lived longer against the old woman," Zonbi suggested.
Sitting atop the pavement, the black blood from Jynn's body pooled together. Slithering across the road as if it had a life of its own, the substance ran up Zonbi's body and was taken in through his mouth. And it didn't end there. From out of the darkened ground at his feet, even more of the blood oozed up to the surface.
Ryoga looked on, guarded, as the large quantity of black goop just kept coming, sliding up Zonbi's pant legs and chest before being gulped down by the towering servant. The more Zonbi consumed, the more his body swelled with muscle, dark-colored veins bulging on his entire torso.
Finally, the last droplets were absorbed. Zonbi, looking every bit like a hulking beast, directed a terrifying growl at the martial artist standing before him.
"Ready to die, boy?" Zonbi spoke.
Faced with his enemy's new look, Ryoga scoffed at the threatening words. "Are those muscles supposed to scare me?"
Ryoga, taking a handful of his own shirt, tore it away and tossed it aside, putting on display his own muscular frame.
"There isn't a body on this planet that I can't break," he said, slamming his fists together. "Let's go!"
Moving further and further from the others by the second, Shampoo led Cologne on a rooftop chase. The buildings in this direction hadn't felt the full wrath of Akane's destructive magic yet, giving Shampoo an elevated path to travel along.
Across the rooftops they bounded, passing over all sorts of businesses along the way. One of the taller buildings in particular had a recently-repaired skylight on its roof that brought back some interesting memories for Shampoo as she jumped across it. It was the very same bookstore she had watched Kodachi plummet into just weeks earlier, bringing an end to their brutal fight.
Further down the line, Shampoo peeked behind her. Cologne, she noticed, was gaining ground rapidly. The old woman wasn't going to wait any longer to be led somewhere.
Cologne closed the remaining distance, and Shampoo, spinning around, blocked a heavy blow from the woman's staff with her lone mace. The force of the strike altered Shampoo's path, knocking her all the way down to the street below where she had to skip back along the road to slow her momentum before finally drawing to a halt.
There was little time for Shampoo to prepare as Cologne came right after her, again using her staff to attack. Shampoo put every ounce of focus she had into trying to follow the Amazon elder's offense with her eyes. The staff came at her head first. Shampoo raised her mace to deflect it. The next strike went for her waist. Another successful defense. Two more blows aimed for her thigh and her right shoulder. Still, Cologne couldn't get through.
Then came the fifth attack, aimed right at Shampoo's gut. Shampoo lowered her mace to protect herself, but she wasn't quick enough. The weapon slipped by, catching her cleanly, and blew her right off her feet. Soaring down the road went Shampoo until the sound of glass breaking marked her stop. She had slammed into the windshield of an abandoned delivery truck.
Grimacing, Shampoo rolled down from the hood of the truck and dropped to the concrete below. From all fours, she raised her head, watching as Cologne walked down the street toward her.
"That right," Shampoo said, wincing from the pain, "Shampoo always lose Great-grandmother."
Though her legs were shaky, the girl pushed herself back up, managing to stand again on her own two feet. Staring ahead at her approaching mentor, she tossed her mace aside—a move perplexing enough to Cologne that she temporarily ceased her advance.
"But…Great-grandmother teach Shampoo well," Shampoo added.
Slowing her breathing, Shampoo closed her eyes, allowing her body to relax. Down by her waist, she flexed her right hand softly.
"One more," Shampoo whispered, the sound of her voice barely audible. "That all Shampoo ask."
Cologne's hesitation ended there. Twirling her staff in the air, she launched herself forward.
Shampoo opened her eyelids just a crack. The next moment, she vanished.
Even Cologne's sharp eyes couldn't follow Shampoo's movement until she felt knuckles pressing up against her abdomen.
Shampoo's damaged right arm propelled her fist into Cologne in the blink of an eye, rocketing the old woman up into the sky. The bandages on Shampoo's arm ripped away and blood splattered onto the ground as the road cratered beneath her feet. The windows of buildings and vehicles in the vicinity blew out and power lines snapped, raining a shower of glass and sparks down onto the street below.
At the bottom of the crater, Shampoo's body shook as she held her right hand up in the air, blood running down the length of her arm.
"Speed of Light…Fist…"
Her body wilting, Shampoo collapsed face-first to the ground. Her pant legs and top were riddled with fresh tears and her body exhausted to the point that it wouldn't move. Such was the trade-off for using the Speed of Light Fist. She could feel very clearly the pain in her right arm, though. It was done, and she knew it.
A shadow growing in size on the ground, Cologne came crashing down in front of Shampoo. As she lay there with her eyelids shut, a stream of black blood dripped from her mouth.
Shampoo's eyes welled up with tears as she took in the sight of the old woman. "Shampoo learn that one just like you say, Great-grandmother."
At that moment, an unusual squawking sound reached Shampoo's ears. She tried to move her head enough to see where it came from, but without much luck. She wouldn't have to wait for long, though, as a giant, yellow-feathered bird floated down and joined her in the crater.
Shampoo blinked at the creature. "You…"
Lowering its head, the bird used its beak to undo the leather pouch hanging from its neck, allowing a thick book with a faded, violet cover to drop to the ground.
While Shampoo gave the book a curious look, the bird emitted a somber whimper, nudging Cologne with its beak. Picking the elder up by the robe behind her neck, the bird flapped its wings and took to the sky, carrying Cologne away from the battlefield.
Watching them leave, Shampoo couldn't keep herself from getting choked up as the tears streamed down her face. "Goodbye, Great-grandmother."
As emotional as it was for her, Shampoo knew there was still business to take care of if she didn't want to lose anyone else. Though it took some time and effort, she gradually dragged her left hand over the broken chunks of pavement to the book the bird had left with her. She used her fingers to bring it closer before having to creatively use her face and hands together to actually get the book open.
When the book finally did open, it opened to a page near the middle where a brown feather had been left as a bookmark. There, a note sat inside.
The village is gone. It's all gone. That girl destroyed it all. Even Granny lost to her. I don't know what to do, but I'm looking after everyone who survived as best as I can.
Granny said to get this book to you if anything ever happened to her. Please, promise me you'll be careful. You're all I've got left.
Shampoo sniffled as she read through the note a second time. "Aroma…"
Moving the piece of paper and the feather aside, Shampoo started to read, resting her head on one side of the book or the concrete of the damaged road as she went. Soon, her eyes lit up.
"This one is…!"
End of Chapter 12