Post Manga 38
Originally titled "Omamori" [Talisman] this fanfiction (like most of my other Ranma works) is centered on Akane. As you can tell from the bold "GRRRL POWER!" above, I'm intent on making Akane the good guy. I don't hate the other fiancees, but I am a Defender of the True Fiancee, so if you don't like R + A... leave now, and forever hold your peas. ^.~
Like I own Ranma. Hah. The idea of the talismans isn't mine either *sniff*. It's adapted from the Jackie Chan Adventures cartoon. ^^;; So sue me, I'm A Jackie Chan-atic.
Also, for Akane's first
"test" I use elements from Indiana Jones and
the Last Crusade. ^^;
Akane was busily deciding just which things she should pack into her bags for her sudden adventure. As for what she was going to tell her sisters and her Father... well, that was planned out. She just hoped it would be enough not to raise any suspicion-- or cause Ranma to follow her.
I think I knew how Fukami felt... at least a little bit. She might not have wanted the champion to beat her, but he did. She recognized that fact, and then decided to find her own path-- a part of the Art that could be hers and hers to master alone.
Akane paused. Sensibility was key in packing for a training trip with no definite destination or period of time set for return.
I guess this is what Ryoga feels like... always lost, never knowing exactly where he's going, where he is, or when he'll get to where he wants to be.
What need would she have for pictures? Maybe she wasn't the definition of a real martial artist-- one who devoted their entire life to the Art-- but she was ready to take something of that magnitude on. But she was still a teenager, who wanted a life outside the Art.
Without any further second thoughts, she shoved a small box of postcards and pens into her bag, followed by a camera and pocket notebook. Then went her clothes-- for all types of weather-- scorching hot, cool and foggy, freezing cold, or mild and warm. A few towels for those after-bathing times. The basic toiletries-- some deodorant, shampoo, a brush, and body soap. A washcloth, razor, scissors, and "feminine" products. Toothbrush, toothpaste, ponytail holders.
Hah. I don't think my hair's ever going to grow long enough to need these again...
Akane thought, fingering the bands. She tried to put on in her hair, just to see, and was amazed to find she had a two inch sprout of hair long enough to be held back. It held the hair out of her face just so, and only a few short, stray hairs made their way into her face.
This is more helpful than I thought.
Akane left the bands on her wrist as she continued packing, rolling her sleeping roll, extra blanket, and collapsable tent into one firm bundle. This she strapped to her large pack-- the same standard kind that Ranma and his Father had arrived here in Nerima with.
Who knows where my adventures may take me? I hope it doesn't take 10 years away from my family to find the talismans, and let me find my own road to traverse, but at least I'm making the effort.
Akane smiled to herself as the last strap was snapped, the last zipper zipped, and the final knot tied. At that moment, a brief rapping came on her door, and before Akane could even say, "Come in," Nabiki entered.
The middle Tendo scanned Akane's room, in a state of disarray due to the younger Tendo's packing habits, and blinked.
"Going somewhere, sis?"
Akane sighed, knowing it was useless to
try and hide anything from Nabiki.
"I'm not-- that's why you didn't
know." Akane responded with a grin.
"Take care of yourself. Don't make
me sic Ranma on you." Nabiki said seriously, a hint
of worry creeping into her voice. She moved towards the
door when Akane spoke.
Later that evening, when everyone was settled down to dinner, awaiting the delicious aroma that came with Nodoka and Kasumi's jointly prepared meals, Akane was nervously fidgeting. She planned to make her announcement just before dinner, so that everyone could have adequate time to "digest" it, so to speak. Nothing they could say would convince her to stay of course-- unless Nodoka said something dramatic. Akane could only hope her future-mother-in-law would remain quiet about the true nature of her trip.
When Kasumi and Nodoka finally seated themselves, Akane stopped Ranma and his nearly-carnivorous father from attacking the dinnerware. She did so by placing her hand on top of the dinner platter, effectively stopping any Kachuu Tenshins Ranma might have used with his chopsticks.
"Akane, what are you doing? It's
dinner, and I'm hungry!" Ranma whined.
Akane, for her part, was a bit mad at Ranma.
He always puts food before everything else. He accuses me of jumping to conclusions-- and I know I do, but at least I try to hear him out most of the time!
Akane cringed at her own thoughts-- 'most'. Licking her lips, she drew a deep breath and began.
"I'm going on a training trip later. I won't say when, or where to, because I don't want you guys to try and stop me. This is my choice, and I want to do it alone."
"A training trip?!" Ranma sputtered, dropping his chopsticks. Surprise outweighed concern, so Ranma's foot went all the way into his mouth.
"A tomboy like you could train for your whole life and you'd never be as good as someone like me!" Ranma boasted.
Akane grit her teeth, wanting more than anything to mallet Ranma-- but that was just the kind of reaction he wanted. So he could tease her more, and make her feel worse about herself. She wanted -and would- make a new oath for herself, and it was starting here, right now. She wasn't going to let Ranma's overinflated ego ruin her self-esteem. She'd spent so long building it up, after hearing Fukami's story. She wanted to believe that someone else -Nodoka, especially- believed in her, where others didn't.
I'm not a thick, stupid tomboy! I might jump to conclusions and be irrational, but at least I try! I'm open to change! I'm not going to let that perverted... blowhard boss me around! But... I can't insult him in front of his mom. It's still the wrong reaction.
Akane sighed without saying anything, and Ranma blinked. A second later, Nodoka soundly thwapped Ranma on his head with her hand.
"You should be more polite to
Akane. She is the daughter of Soun, who is not only a
good friend of the family, but the owner of this dojo
which you plan to inherit one day-- isn't that right,
Ranma? Without Akane, you wouldn't be inheriting
anything, and would be out on the streets again. Would
you like that?"
Why do I always tease Akane anyway? I just don't want to admit that I get worried about her... not even to myself. It's rude, and I know she hates it. But when she gets riled up, we both get hurt. So why...?
"No," Ranma sighed, defeated. "I wouldn't like it one bit."
Akane blinked in surprise, but surmised that what Ranma said was the answer his mother wanted to hear. If he had any say in the matter, he'd be traveling right now-- to China, to get his impossible cure. She was sure of it.
"My little girl, going out into
the world all alone?" Soun wailed, hugging Akane
till her face was blue.
"Akane, just where are you
going?" Kasumi asked in her usual worried, motherly
"I can't say." Akane finally managed.
That sounded wrong! I'm not some secret agent, so...
"Because I don't know myself." Akane finished lamely.
At least it's the truth!
"Oh." Kasumi murmured. She
then leaned over and gave Akane a quick hug.
Ranma looked startled at the prospect that Akane could be gone for more than a week, and frowned. It was then that Kasumi opened the platter lid, and the fresh smell of dinner wafted around the dinner table's occupants.
Immediately Genma dug in, and Ranma had to fend for his own food. Once Nodoka had reprimaded her husband in kind, Ranma ate his food slowly. Akane avoided all eye contact with him. What had gotten into her?
Much later, when Akane surmised that everyone was asleep, she finished making up her room and grabbed her pack. She wanted to look over the house one last time, and imprint everything she sensed in her mind-- that way, when she came back, nothing would surprise her.
She was finished with her 'mind-imprinting' when she headed towards the exit out the hall near the dojo. She saw a shadow lurking in the corner, concelaed by the darkness provided by the contrasting white moonlight and the dark room. She sighed, knowing it had to be Ranma-- either trying to make her feel bad before leaving, or to convince her not to go at all.
Well, I won't listen to him.
"Come out, Ranma," Akane
sighed. "What do you want?"
I could just sock him and walk out. Why is part of me wanting to stay? It's not as if I'm afraid of what's ahead... 'Expect the unexpected' is my motto. I've seen it all, been there, done that. Why would I want to stay here when I've experienced all Nerima has to offer me?
"I'm not... going to try and stop
you." Ranma finally said, staring at his feet.
To her surprise, Ranma easily moved out of the way, and Akane nearly tripped forward. She continued walking, forcing herself not to look back, even though she knew Ranma's eyes were practically boring a hole in her pack. Almost to the door, she paused, this time of her own free will.
"When I come back... I won't be the same person." She said slowly.
If all goes well, that is.
Without another word, she continued forward. When Ranma looked back up again, towards the path Akane had just walked down, she was gone. The moon was shining brightly, full and illustrious in the midnight sky, over a still koi pond.
"That's what I'm afraid of." Ranma murmured to the darkness, turning as he went back to bed. This was going to be a long night.
Akane was walking in no general direction, thinking to herself and admiring the nocturnal scenery as she made her way through the streets of Nerima. It would be a while before she got to any sort of wilderness, and that was where Nodoka had indicated, just after dinner, that her training would begin.
Half the journey is getting there.
Akane reminded herself. She set down on a nearby corner, saying goodbye to her neighborhood. She took out a small necklace that Nodoka had given her "to aid in her quest." She had no idea what it meant, nor what the strange Chinese characters on it said, but she hoped it really would assist her in her quest. If not, the only "aide" it would provide would be extra money, should she need it.
Akane had a good deal of money-- some that Nabiki had 'donated' and the rest from Akane's own savings. She hadn't really thought of what she wanted to spend the money on anyway, so this was as good as anything. It was money for the pure necessities she didn't have on her, and couldn't trade or make herself. Things like food, or extra toiletries, or admission into a bathhouse.
All of a sudden, the character on the top started to glow, and Akane stared. It had created a beam of light leading north! Maybe that's what those characters were then-- the cardinal directions! How could she not have seen it!? She ran towards where the light was pointing, eager to find the clues to the whearabouts of the first talisman.
"It has begun." A low, raspy
The low voice said nothing-- it emanated from a shadowed, dragon-like statue of sorts, fastened on a wall. Its red slits for eyes were glowing an ominous red. They burned brighter, fixating on a spot behind the speaker. A dark spot grew in the place where the dragon's eyes stared, and from that spot rose a figure swathed in black, looking something like a ninja, concealed from head to foot.
When the speaker turned and faced this ninja, he recieved a strange statuette-- one that looked like the larger statue on the wall, only multiplied by four, and fastened together by a glowing orb.
"This is..." The man began, addressing the dragon on the wall.
"It will aid you in finding the talismans. But hurry. If that... child reaches them before we do..." The dragon had no need to finish its sentence to let the man know of the consquences of failure.
"I will get my best men on the job." The man said, executing a low bow. The narrow slits that were the dragon-statue's eyes dimmed a bit, to a blood red crimson shade. The raspy voice faded away, as if carried by an unseen, unfelt wind... "See that you do..."
When Akane finally reached the area the necklace's beam of light pointed, and the brightness faded, she was stunned. She'd run for the entire journey, excited to be started, and was now winded-- and on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean.
There it was, just a great blue-black expanse. The sky was slowly lightening, very far in the distance. Dawn was coming. There were still shadows, still stars, and the sky was still an almost-inky blue, but Akane felt somewhat relieved, without really knowing why.
The world around Akane suddenly seemed to warp and swirl, and the necklace's once dying light was shining around Akane in an aquamarine haze.
Dizzy and nauseous, Akane fell to her knees, the pressures hitting at her head from all directions. She could no longer keep her eyes open, and fell completely to the ground, unconscious.
When she woke up, it felt like an
eternity later. But the throbbing of her head remained,
and she groggily sat up, her vision blurry and her
hearing roaring with the rushing of...
Before her was a small campfire. It glowed red, orange, and a brilliant goldenrod, an unmistakeable source of light and heat, regardless of Akane's current state of vision. When that aforementioned vision began to clear, Akane saw a stick move in the fire, adjusting the twigs that burned within.
She looked up hastily, and realized she didn't wear her pack. Looking around frantically, it was nowhere to be found. When she looked up at the person sitting at the campfire with her, there was no one.
She was in a cave of sorts, it seemed. When she got up to look around, outside, there was a tremendous chasm, and in the distance-- at least 50 meters away, Akane could barely make out her pack, in the same place overlooking the ocean, where she had fallen.
When she shifted her gaze to the left, she saw another cave, similar to the one she was in now, across the chasm. She searched for a bridge, a rope, a ladder of any sort, but none was to be found. How was she supposed to get to that other side, where her pack was?
Maybe this is some kind of test. The necklace did say the talismans were around here somewhere... and if they're supposed to help me train in the Art, then maybe I have to fight to get to the talisman.
As if in answer to Akane's thoughts, the necklace around Akane's neck glimmered, and when she looked up again, a sparkle on the wall, in the other cave, could be seen. But there was still that one problem-- how could she get across a seemingly bottomless chasm without any of the supplies in her pack?
Not to mention the more pertinent point-- how the heck did she get over here in the first place? Akane sighed, sitting back down where the fire was. Well, this was an excellent turn of events. Stranded in a cave. Brought here by mysterious forces-- away from all her food and supplies, but warmed by a fire that had appeared and had been tended to out of nowhere.
"Hum? What's this?" Akane's eyes alighted on a small, withered scrap of paper, not far from the fire, and almost about to become ashes. On it was an a scrawled text, Japanese characters to be sure, but very large ones.
"Wh..." As Akane's eyes read the paper, they widened. This-- this was a clue! It had to be!
The leap of faith. Only in the leap from the lion's head will she prove her worth.
"Leap of faith?" Akane looked up, confused, amd then out to the bottomless chasm. A sharp break was taken in before she could control herself, and she found her lips saying "Oh my..."
When Akane walked out as far as she could go, she saw the overhang above the cave she had just been in. Carved in the red stone was a lion's head, looking as regal and beautiful as any statue carved for a museum or private collection.
"Leap of faith...?" Akane looked back to the cave, almost expecting to find someone to give her reassurance, but found no one. Even her own mind was rebelling against her about what she was about to do. The chasm had no bottom-- no handholds on the wall on the way down. There was no water to land in, no grass to bounce off of, nothing. Just endless blackness. As if that wasn't enough, the lion's head was a good six feet above Akane-- she would never be able to reach it.
"Leap of faith. Okay, time to expand my beliefs. I have to... believe."
Believe in what?! That I won't be turned into a pancake, or that I'll never stop falling? Not even Ranma could...
Akane snapped her fingers, "That's it!" Akane inhaled a deep breath and stepped back a few feet. She glanced over her shoulder to see, with some surprise, that the fire was gone. Nothing remained of it, not even branches, a scorch mark, or ashes.
Akane looked to the paper in her hand again, and closed her eyes, shoving it away in her pocket. She licked her lips with some trepidation, and then fell into a running stance-- the one that track members go into before one of their big races-- with hurdles.
If this ain't a hurdle, I don't know what is!
When Akane opened her eyes again, she seemed to have gained some confidence. Then, before she could blink twice, she was gone-- running as fast as she could, willing her legs to take her that seemingly endless distance to the other cave-- to the talisman!
With a force propelling her that she had never known before, she leapt off the cliff-face, and realized, just a millisecond too late, that she was several meters short of her goal. She clawed at the air in front of her, but was still too far from the other side.
That heady feeling of falling sutuck Akane, but that was when she... landed. Just like that. On her hands and knees, she was suspended above the endless chasm, with no apparent means of support.
Akane blinked, heaved a great sigh, and then attempted to stand. When she tilted her head to the side slightly, she realized the trick. An invisible pathway was what she had landed on-- made to look as though trying to leap would cause an endless fall into the chasm below. But when she moved her head, the line of sight changed, causing the illusion to be revealed.
With somewhat shaking legs, Akane made her way to the other side of the chasm, and looked back at the lion's head, from where she had leapt off. With a proud smile, she knelt down and threw some dirt over the pathway, so she could see it if she needed to return to the other side.
The cave in front of her --that had her pack and the first talisman-- seemed to be longer now that she stood at its mouth, but if a leap of faith was only one part of the test...
Akane glanced down at paper in her hands, to the section marked with the '2' character.
The Breath of the Goddess, only the penitent shall pass.
"'Breath of the Goddess?' What...?" Akane looked to the cave and then to the paper again, confused. Then, something inside her head clicked.
The Goddess-- Amaterasu! Penitent... the penitent person is humble before the Goddess. Humble... must... KNEEL!
Akane flattened herself on the floor just as an oversized axe and spinning blade came whirling towards her. Had she not solved that puzzle in time, she would have been headless. The very thought nauseated Akane, who touched her neck, and the warm necklace, glad to have them both still intact.
In order to prevent anyone else from getting beheaded, Akane pulled her belt off and tied it around the mechanism's gears, effectively jamming the blades in midswipe. Her pants were more than a bit too loose, but that wasn't her biggest concern at the moment.
The final test is the Word of the Goddess.
That was all. It said nothing more than that, and Akane made a slight squeaking sound. First a leap of faith over an endless chasm, then a perplexing puzzle that almost could have sliced off her head! Now this!?
I just have to believe! That's what the leap of faith was about in the--
Akane's train of thought was suddenly derailed when she heard a scream.
"AKANE!! HELP!!" Akane looked up, startled. She muffled a scream as she saw her fiancee --Ranma-- being pulled by some force into a side wall of the cave. It was a good 10 meters in front of her, but if she--
Akane's feet stopped abruptly, as a few scatterd rocks fell into another bottomless chasm-- thought this one was really a hole in the ground between her and Ranma. It too, was too far to be crossed with a single leap, and there was no sort of bridge or contraption to get across with.
The floor was all rock, so there was no dirt to see if there was another invisible bridge. It was also too dark to see whether or not her line of sight was just being tricked, and Ranma was being taken...
The Word of the Goddess... her name!
She had to be careful. Without dirt or light to see if she was being tricked, everything really was a test of faith... she had to believe...
I have to save him! Even if that jerk did follow me when I told him not to, I have to!
The characters weren't Japanese though.
Damn! How am I supposed to know which ones spell out 'Amaterasu'?
Akane had to wing it, and stretched her mind as far as it would go, back to the days when she was learning the old Chinese characters that were in frequent use in Japan. But for the life of her, she couldn't remember that first character...
A. The character A in Ancient Chinese... it's...
Tentatively, with eyes pinched shut, Akane took that fateful first step...
And her foot became precariously off-balanced over the strange mini-chasm at her feet.
No! In Ancient Chinese, there is no character for just 'a'. It has to be...
Akane took one other step, and carefully looked for the rock carving illusions of the other characters that made up the Goddess' name. Step by step, wavering, she made it halfway through to the other side to the chasm. But her thoughts were on Ranma, her own fears about faith, and those dark shadows...
The characters stopped. Akane looked up, and she shadows -and Ranma- were gone. With a simple shriek, she dropped. But instead of landing on her hands and knees on an invisible platform, Akane's entire body swung downwards, and she realized with a sickening rush of blood to her head that she was, indeed, falling.
She barely managed to get out a scream when her fingers grabbed onto a protruding handhold. The hoarse screams of her fiancee that she had been depending on to keep her going, faith or no, were still silent. Sweat poured down Akane's neck.
Gods, don't let him be dead. Give me the strength, the ability, anything... I need to save him!
A voice suddenly rang out loud and clear, seemingly echoing off the walls of the cave and told Akane what to do.
Never forget to believe in yourself. Believing in yourself—having faith in your abilities, your hopes, desires, and dreams is the first step to becoming a martial artist, empowered by the soul of the Art.
"Wh-What?" Akane murmured, a rock hitting her. Her grip was loosening, and, even without her pack weighing her down, gravity wanted to pull the young martial artist down... down...
I have to believe! I have to... I... can't... I just...
Akane stretched as far as her arm could reach, but it was still too far away. At this rate, those weird dark figures would get to the first talisman before she would, having a head start! And Ranma...! She couldn't let anything happento him or the talisman! Right when she was ready to give up, though, Akane's vision blanked into white, and she found herself staring face to face with someone very familiar to her...
"It can't be..." Akane murmured. The man holding onto her arms was...
"Hang on, Akane, hang on!" Well, this was a change, Akane thought. She was hoisted up onto the cliff-face, and faced Mousse-- but not Mousse. His robes were all white, instead of decorated with that strange geometrical design, and he seemed to be... floating!?
"Who are you... and..." Akane stopped. What if this was an enemy? No, then why would he have saved her-- not to mention the fact that he knew who she was!
Sometimes it takes more courage to believe in someone, than to fight.
The voice was the same that had spoken before, in her head, when she was hanging off. Mousse's voice. Or at least, this weird, not-quite-Mousse-Mousse. It didn't make much sense when she said it, much less thought about it.
"Who... are you?" Akane repeated, much sucpicion creeping into her voice. She peered around the floating Mousse's shoulder to see if there was any sign of Ranma, the talisman, or those shadowy figures that had grabbed her fiancee. She wasn't about to get detained by a floating... Mousse!
"Where did those guys go...?" Akane murmured, mostly to herself. But the Mousse figure looked back to the cave too, and didn't seem too impressed with the scenery-- or lack thereof. There was no sign of a side opening in the cave, or any dark and shadowy figures... or Ranma.
"Were you looking for me?" When Akane turned around again, Mousse was gone, and there stood Ranma, a cocky grin on his face.
"W-Wh-How...?" Akane mumbled, stumbling back. Before her eyes, the figure that looked a hell of a lot like Ranma shifted back into that strange floating Mousse.
"How...? I don't understand." Akane said, short of breath and confused beyond words.
"This was your first test, as you suspected. As with any of the talismans, you will need to have faith in the abilities you already have-- courage to believe in those who inspire and motivate you-- like... this young man here." Mousse switched back into Ranma, and Akane sucked in a breath.
"So you're not really Mousse." Akane stated flatly.
"No, and you knew that as well. I just picked the most suitable forms to inspire, motivate... or help you. In this case, you wouldn't have expected someone like..." Mousse tilted his head up as if thinking, "Shampoo, or Ukyo, would you?"
"How do you know all this? Who are you, if you're not Mousse?"
"I am... well, I don't really have a... a name, I guess." Mousse shrugged nonchalantly.
"In any case, you pass. You show great faith in your abilities, especially when motivated by your emotions."
"What do you mean?" Akane asked, frowning a bit.
"Your emotions-- your... love for that young man. Ranma." Akane blushed bright crimson and shook her head.
"Love? For that... that... baka?!" Akane was raging, babbling off nonsense about why she most certainly was not in love with Ranma. Mousse, or the person who looked like Mousse, wasn't listening at all, and yawned, causing Akane to blink and stop her rambling.
"Why you..." Akane started fuming, and the floating Mousse simply smiled genially at her, throwing her somewhat off guard.
"I'll be going now!" He winked and then vanished in a plume of smoke, finally trailing off into a sparkling talisman on the red stone floor. Akane gingerly bent down and picked the stone up, looking at the talisman in her hand. The Rooster.
Turning it over, she discovered some strange Ancient Chinese writings that she no doubt would have to get translated-- but that was a worry for another time! She was so excited that she'd obtained her first talisman, she wanted to get home and show it to Nodoka. Her mission was officially started!
Akane practically ran through the cave, heedless of any further dangers the "Goddess" and any other lurking spirits or shadows would impose on her. She picked up her untouched pack and happily kissed the talisman. It sparkled once more in the growing daylight.
Don't you want to go home now, Akane-san? I can read your mind you know.
Akane looked around, confused and more than a bit angry at the prospect of anyone readinf her mind, but she looked down at the talisman. It sparkled again, and before she could say or do anything about it, she vanished in a blast of white light.
The tail end of Akane's scream was heard as she fell out of the sky, right onto an unsuspecting Ranma. He fell to the grass outside the Tendo dojo with an "oof!"
"AAAA... huh?" Akane stopped her scream as she realized-- she was home! The talisman was still in her hand, safe, intact... and she could feel the power within it! She didn't know exactly what that power was, but she could feel it!
And I believe in myself more than I ever have...
Akane smiled, and then realized that she was sitting on Ranma.
"Would you mind getting off of me!?" Ranma yelped, and Akane did just that, practically leaping over the koi pond to find her "Auntie Nodoka" and tell her the good news.
"Hi Ranma! Sorry about landing on you!" She waved to him and smiled brilliantly, so much so that Ranma landed back on his butt again.
"T-That tomboy..." Ranma muttered, standing up somewhat shakily. Having been landed on by a girl and her monstrous pack didn't help matters any...
She's back! She's back! She's back!
Ranma smiled from his position on the ground.
The end of Chapter 2: Out of Reach.
Coming up in Chapter 3 of "The Search for the Talismans"...
I'm learning Ranma, I'm learning! Akane laughed, running down the fence-top. Ranma shook his head to clear his thoughts, blinked, and then stared as Akane ran off. That was when he realized—her feet weren't actually touching the poles!
What in the