Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 and its characters are all the property of Rumiko Takahashi.
Also, note that chapters 1-6 are currently going through an extensive rewrite for quality and consistency purposes. I encourage you to read through chapter 7, because it's my personal opinion that it gets a lot better at that point. Regardless, I hope you enjoy what you do read! Any comments or thoughts on the story in the form of a review are greatly appreciated, and I'll respond to them in the notes of my latest chapter as I receive them.
It was a quiet summer day in Nerima. The sun shined brightly as it rose in the sky, nary a cloud to block its light. Birds chirped as they flew from their nests for their morning meals from various feeders, and the streets began to fill with young students on their way to school.
At least, they were all on their way to school, except one, Ryoga Hibiki. The young loner was walking against the stream of students, lost in his own thoughts as he wandered aimlessly, but with purpose.
No one paid him any mind, most having past experience with the perpetually lost boy whom often challenged, and lost, to Ranma Saotome. Their only concern was if they were going to get to see a fight between the two.
Akane Tendo…Ryoga thought to himself as he continued to gaze upwards at the rising sun. It's been so long since we were last together, but this time, things will be different.
Ryoga thought back to his last, self proclaimed 'fated' meeting with the youngest Tendo sister. It had been like any other meeting; him happening upon her after much wandering, searching for something else after declaring he was leaving for good.
This was the going theme for his run-ins with Akane since her failed wedding with Ranma. He had decided, back then, that he would allow Akane to choose for herself. In the mean time, he tried to be more devoted to Akari, but he kept finding himself mysteriously drawn away from her, and back towards Akane.
Fate keeps bringing us back together… it must be the power of my love, Akane! Ryoga thought. I'm sorry, Akari, but who am I to fight fate? If it's meant to be...
Lost in thought, Ryoga didn't notice he was no longer walking against a steady stream of students. In fact, no one at all was outside on the street he was now walking along, but this did not bother the boy, for he did not notice. He made a turn into an alley leading towards the river when a cold breeze blew past his legs. An icy chill ran up his spine as he snapped out of his daydream and was suddenly aware of a strange presence.
"Who goes there!?" he demanded, turning quickly and throwing a trio of razor sharp bandanas. The three spinning cloth blades struck nothing but thin air, shocking Ryoga. "What!?"
A strange voice, a man's, laughed grimly. Ryoga looked for the source of the laughter, but couldn't spot anyone else in the alley. His body tensed as the laughter returned, echoing through the vacant alley.
"Damn it," he cursed. He pulled out his umbrella, prepared to fight a potential ambush. "show yourself!"
Silence was his answer, until a shadowy figure suddenly appeared. Ryoga blinked and tried to remember exactly how the figure had appeared, not believing what he thought he had seen.
Did he just appear out of thin air? Ryoga tensed at the thought.
"You are strong," the man said. The figure stepped forward, but remained in the shadows, concealing his face. Ryoga sized him up to be pretty tall, the same height as Ranma and himself, but with a larger build.
"Who are you?" he asked the strange man.
The man did not answer, but took another step forward. Ryoga sensed ill intent and lowered himself into a battle stance. Another step and Ryoga could begin to feel the man's chi, and was surprised at how it felt. It felt like thirst.
"W… what are you?" He asked, starting to lose his resolve.
"Are you worthy?" the man asked, rather than answering the boy's question.
Without another word, the man suddenly lunged at him with incredible speed, closing the distance between them in a second. Ryoga tried to defend himself from the attack. But was too slow, and the blow made him see stars.
Ranma ½: Limitless
Chapter I: Strength
"Hurry up, Ranma!" Akane called as she stormed out the front gate. "We're going to be late!"
"I'm comin! I'm comin!" Ranma called back as he followed her out the gate a few steps behind.
Their usual morning spat had again left them late for school, but thanks to their lifelong training in martial arts, making up time by running wasn't hard to do. It also helped that doing this every day since Ranma had arrived at the Tendo dojo has forced them to discover every possible short cut leading to the school.
Akane didn't even bother looking to see if Ranma had caught up yet as she planned their path to school. She knew he'd follow her anywhere she went, for whatever perverted reason he had for not letting her out of his sight. Without a word, she cut to the left between two houses and Ranma quickly followed, nearly catching up with his tomboy fiancée at the turn.
Ranma was within reaching distance when he noticed the shortcut they had taken and cursed. "Ah! Akane! Why!?" he cried.
The sudden meow from beside them sent Ranma crashing into the wall beside him as he leapt in fear of the sound. Several cats were sitting beside the house they were passing, and Ranma knew what lay ahead, but looked anyways. Before him, dozens of cats were meowing and pawing at each other. Ranma didn't know why, but this alley between homes in Nerima was some kind of meeting place for pet cats and strays alike, leaving it a shortcut choice in only the most desperate of times.
"Hurry up Ranma!" Akane shouted. She was already out of the alley.
Ranma looked up ahead and gulped. "No turning back, I guess, heh heh," he said to himself nervously.
The cats all suddenly turned and gazed at him. Their eyes glowed brightly in the dark space between the houses, spiking Ranma's fears. Although he did not remember, Akane had told him when he was in the nekoken once, in the past, he had come here and become a favorite amongst the cats. While Ranma had doubts about any stories of his time in the nekoken, the way the cats all looked at him convinced him that one must've been true.
Steeling himself, Ranma closed his eyes tightly and ran forward full speed, screaming all the way as dozens of cats meowed and pounced on him. He could feel them touching him all over, but ignored any thoughts of them. As long as his eyes were closed, he could imagine they were squirrels, or tiny dogs, puppies! Yes, they were cute, little puppies! And the meowing? Well, he was screaming to drown them out.
After a few seconds, Ranma felt the foreboding feeling subside, signaling he had escaped. Even after exiting the alley, though, he continued to run full speed, screaming with his eyes shut, quickly reaching Akane again.
"Get a grip!" she said, and punched him on the head.
Ranma jerked at the blow and opened his eyes, relieved to see no cats on him. With a deep sigh of relief and a hand on his heart he slowed to keep in step with Akane. "That was a dirty trick, Akane!" he accused.
"I Don't know what you're talking about," she said, grabbing him by the back of his collar. "Here!" she exclaimed, making a cut to the right this time.
Ranma was jerked off his feet when Akane grabbed his collar and couldn't see where they were going as she dragged him down a side street. He watched the passing scenery and soon recognized the street when something suddenly hit him from behind.
"What the!" Ranma rubbed his head and turned his face around to see where Akane was going and barely had a chance to identify the trash can as it smashed into him. Trash day… he recalled to himself.
Akane didn't give any sign of noticing Ranma's plight, and continued to rush down the street dragging him into countless bins of trash. At the end of the street, she turned left to run along the river road, releasing Ranma mid turn, sending him flying into the fence.
Ranma remained crushed against the fence, twitching with his thumb, index, and pinkie fingers extended, and remaining fingers folded. "You uncute tomboy…" he hissed.
Akane grinned to herself having released Ranma after getting the revenge she wanted for the early morning argument. Serves him right, she thought. That's the last time I go to the trouble of making him breakfast!
Akane played back the events of the morning in her head. Kasumi had been a bit behind on breakfast, so Akane actually thought she'd help out, and make eggs for her and Ranma while everyone ate what Kasumi prepared. It seemed like the perfect idea, since he was always last to the table anyways.
She remembered watching him take that first bite with such joy. He didn't know she had made them, so he dug right in. Once it went in though, he went pale, and asked what cruel soul had slipped garbage into his breakfast.
That hurt enough, but when she had explained she'd made the eggs just for him, she thought he'd apologize. Instead, he had said he should've known she was out to kill him.
That stupid jerk! Akane fought back the tear that tried to get out from her aching heart. She really had tried her best for him.
Akane was so engrossed in her thoughts that she hadn't noticed the young bandana wearing man that limped out in front of her. She collided with the man and fell to the ground with him.
"Ouch! Hey! Watch where you're going!" she shouted while rubbing her back. She then noticed who she had run into and her anger changed to concern. "Ryoga?" she asked.
Indeed, it was Ryoga whom she had run into, but he did not answer. His body lay there twitching, like he had just lost another fight to Ranma, only Akane knew it couldn't have been that. Not even Ranma was that fast.
"Ryoga, what happened to you!" Akane cried, shaking him a little.
By this time, Ranma had caught up and was getting ready to demand an explanation for the short cuts Akane had chosen when he saw Ryoga. "What happened to him?" he asked.
"I don't know," Akane answered. "He was like this when I got here."
"R… Ran… ma…" Ryoga mumbled out. The lost boy struggled to get his head up and looked over to his rival, and admittedly superior in combat. "Trouble… for you…" he gasped, and then fainted.
"Eh? Ryoga!" Ranma shouted, trying to wake the unconscious youth. "Ryoga! What are you going on about!"
"Ranma, let's take him to Dr. Tofu's" Akane said.
She was glad that their family doctor had finally returned from his mysterious trip. He had been gone for nearly three months, and still hadn't told anyone anything about the sudden trip.
Ranma was still trying to awaken the passed out Ryoga, and didn't notice Akane's suggestion. He continued to shake him, more violently than Akane had, until he was suddenly knocked out himself by a sudden blow to the side of his head.
"Honestly," Akane fumed while dragging both of the unconscious boys behind her as she walked to Dr. Tofu's clinic.
- x -
Elsewhere in Nerima, a long purple haired girl was riding a bike with a large metal take-out carrier. Behind her, a black haired man in a white robe sprinting behind. The girl seemed to pay the man no mind, giggling as she rode along innocently. The man, on the other hand, was gasping for air as he struggled to keep up while calling out to her.
"Shampoo! Wait for me!" Mousse pleaded.
Shampoo didn't answer or look back, and continued her carefree pace down the street towards the Nekohoten. She was humming a light-hearted tune to herself and didn't notice that her pursuer had been suddenly immobilized. It wasn't until she noticed how quiet it had become when she finally looked back to see Mousse sprawled out on the ground, looking like something had rampaged over him.
"Mousse?" she called as she turned her bike around and rode over to him. "What you doing on ground?"
Mousse could only let out a slightly annoyed groan in response. He tried to move, but could only twitch his hands and feet.
Shampoo sighed and lifted the defeated Mousse over her shoulder. "Silly boy need be more careful," she exclaimed before taking off on her bike again.
Shampoo noticed where she was in Nerima, and sighed. The Nekohoten was pretty far away, meaning it'd be faster to dump Mousse at Dr. Tofu's clinic. "Shampoo be late now cause take Mousse see doctor," she said.
Again, Mousse only groaned and grunted in reply, but sounded grateful as he was carried towards Dr. Tofu's. The pair arrived just as Akane finished hauling her pair of unconscious boys to the clinic.
"Aiya!" Shampoo exclaimed at seeing Ranma unconscious in Akane's hands. She quickly leapt off her bike and dropped Mousse to the ground. When she landed she took Ranma and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. "What violent girl do to airen?" she asked, laying on heavy concern.
Akane's eye twitched at seeing Ranma wrapped in Shampoo's hands and she reflexively grabbed him by his pigtail and pulled him to her side. "That's none of your business!" she shouted.
"Violent girl watch what she say," Shampoo threatened. She glared into her rival's eyes and began to release her battle aura. Her body was consumed in a thin red light, as was Akane's as they continued to glare at each other, not noticing Ranma had come to.
Ranma grunted as he regained consciousness and rubbed his head where he had been hit. "Ouch…" he groaned. "Akane, what the hell was… huh?"
Ranma stopped talking when he saw the two young women having an epic staring contest complete with increasingly large battle auras. So thick were the glows that he could feel their heat like a hot summer sun. "Sh-shampoo, what're you doin here?" he asked meekly.
Shampoo's battle aura shrank until it vanished and the purple haired girl turned to the boy, whom was still sitting on the ground. "Aiya! Shampoo come see airen!" she exclaimed. She again wrapped her arms around Ranma, and this time snuggled into his chest.
Ranma wasn't able to stutter out his protest before Akane sent an elbow into his face. As Ranma collapsed onto his back again, Akane addressed the Amazon. "That's a lie!" she shouted. "What happened to Mousse?"
Shampoo looked at the rather pathetic looking man she had so easily discarded to the ground. He was more beat up now, having been thrown away like that, and was mumbling incoherently.
"Shampoo not know," she answered simply. "One minute, Mousse bugging Shampoo on way to make early morning delivery. The next, Mousse all beat up on ground."
Akane lost a bit of her edge after hearing Shampoo's story. She recollected the state at which she found Ryoga and found them to be odd coincidences. "That's how we found Ryoga," she said.
The two girls were interrupted when the door to the clinic opened. Dr. Tofu was taking out his "Open for patients" sign when he happened upon the group of youngsters.
"Akane, Shampoo!" He called, waving at the girls. He saw the three men lying on the ground in various stages of defeat, and Ranma still with Akane's elbow in his face. "Same old, same old, I see," he said.
Akane looked down and blushed slightly when she saw that she still had her elbow in Ranma's face. "Oh, no, Dr. Tofu," she answered. "Not exactly…"
"Well, why don't you help me bring them in, and you can explain everything," Tofu said.
Akane and Shampoo helped the three young men into the clinic and recollected their separate incidents to the doctor as he took a look at each individual. Ranma was the easiest of the three, having only sustained the usual blows from Akane. The other two, however, gave pause to the doctor.
"Hmm…" he hummed in contemplation.
"What is it, doctor?" Akane asked, wondering what could have caught his curiosity.
"These injuries…" he said while pointing at some marks on Ryoga. "You say you didn't see the attacker?"
Akane and Shampoo both shook their heads.
"I ran into Ryoga after it had happened," Akane explained.
"Shampoo no notice when Mousse get jumped," the Amazon said.
Silence fell on the trio before Ranma grumbled as he came to. He sat up slowly and rubbed his face while muttering. "Damn… what happened?" he asked.
"Ah, Ranma," Tofu exclaimed in a pleased manner. "Akane gave you quite the beating!" he said.
Ranma grunted and spun on the bed so his legs were bent over the edge. He looked over to the three other conscious people and asked, "The others come to yet?"
"I'm afraid not," Tofu said. "I haven't gotten a chance to fully treat them just yet."
"Oh, so you just need some more time then," Akane suggested, hopeful.
Tofu became downcast and stood from his seat. "Actually, the problem isn't time," he admitted grimly.
"What?" the others all said in unison. They all leaned in towards the doctor, waiting for an explanation.
"These injuries are quite severe," he said. "Whoever inflicted them had to have been a very powerful martial artist, and known some very special techniques."
"Heh, if that's all, I can take 'em!" Ranma declared, swelling with his massive ego.
"Aiya! Ranma beat up bad man for Shampoo!" Shampoo said happily as she glomped him.
Ranma flinched as the Amazon attached herself to him and went ice cold at seeing Akane flare up. "C-cut that out! Lemme go, Shampoo!" he begged feebly as Akane towered over him, glowing bright red. "C-come on Akane, wait! I'm not doing nothing!" he cried, but it was too late.
Akane gave Ranma a mighty uppercut, sending him flying out of Tofu's clinic and into the early morning sky.
Shampoo remained behind slightly shocked at the sudden departure of her airen. "Why violent girl always interfere?" she asked, getting up and meeting Akane's eyes.
"Oh, don't mind me;" Akane said sternly, "you two can do whatever you like!" And she stomped out of the clinic, walking nowhere in particular. Ranma, you idiot!
- x -
Ranma flew through the air screaming. He was used to this sort of treatment, but it didn't make it any less scary to be crashing towards the ground at such a high speed. Some people would describe seeing all of Nerima from the sky as a beautiful experience, but for Ranma it was a recurring nightmare.
Happosai skipped happily as he continued to fill his green sack. It was a particularly beautiful day, proving to bare more fruit for him to pick than usual. Of course, by fruit, he meant women's underwear.
"Hehe!" He laughed as he snatched a pair from a window clothesline. "What a haul! What a haul!" he chanted while hopping from the second story window and into the street. "Oh beautiful day! Granting me a bountiful treasure…"
Happosai was cut off as Ranma collided with him, head-to-head. The pair of martial artists collided into the street while Happi's sack blew open, releasing its contents.
Not needing to look back to know what had hit him, Happosai began to glow bright blue as he prepared to punish his ingrate student.
"Ranma!" he hissed. He got to his feet and surveyed his precious collection scattered along the dirty pavement. Normally this scene would bring tears to his eyes, but it only fueled his anger, causing his aura to grow. "You're gonna pay for your insolence!"
Ranma was slow to recover from the collision, but saw his perverted, self-proclaimed, grand master and got to his feet. He looked around to see the street littered with panties and bras, and cracked his knuckles. "You dirty old letch!" he yelled. "I didn't do nothing you didn't deserve!"
"Silence!" the old master cried. His aura spiked with his shout, cracking the surrounding walls as it smashed into them like a shockwave. "Prepare to be punished!"
Ranma braced himself for the coming attack and began to channel his own battle aura, knowing full well that physical attacks would do no good when Happosai was like this. The old letch is serious! I better be careful... Huh? Ranma stopped suddenly as he felt something strange nearby. His aura drifted back into his body while he concentrated on the foreign presence.
Happosai also felt the mysterious presence, but unlike Ranma, did not fully lose his concentration. "Mmm?" he mumbled, looking to the street beside them with his aura still glowing brightly.
A tall, oddly dressed man was standing in the shadows of a building. Ranma couldn't make out his face, but could make out his clothes. They looked like traditional ninja garb, except unlike, say, Sasuke's, were more complete. Rather than just the clothes, Ranma could tell the man also wore the armor associated with a ninja. Light armor that protected the body without sacrificing speed or flexibility.
"Who goes there!?" Happosai hissed, still using his battle aura filled voice.
The man did not answer the old man's question, but at least spoke. "You are strong," he said. "But you are not worthy."
Ranma couldn't help but notice how strange the voice sounded. It was grim, and laced with hunger, or thirst. The voice suggested that the ninja was a cruel man, which went along with the icy chill his presence seemed to radiate.
Happosai raised an eyebrow at the comment and seemed to get even angrier. "Not worthy!? You punk!" He cursed. "After I'm finished with my ingrate student, I'll show you who's worthy and who isn't!"
The man began to glow with his own green battle aura and let out a laugh of superiority. His aura was indeed strong, and gave Ranma the chills; not because of its power, but because of its intent.
Happosai used his aura for intimidation, as most martial artists did. This one, however, wasn't like an extension of power. It felt like another presence entirely, and it felt like extreme hunger and thirst. This was no simple display of power. This man meant to destroy with his aura.
Happosai also noticed the strange difference in the man's aura. "You're a strange one," he declared. "But I accept your challenge!"
"Hmph," the man laughed again. "I have no time for the unworthy."
"You'll come to regret those words!" Happosai formed his aura into a massive serpent and charged at the man, having completely forgotten Ranma. "Have at you!"
Ranma watched as Happosai's serpent aura met with the strange man's own glowing extension. The collision resulted in an explosion of chi, tossing Ranma backwards into a wall and blinding him with light. As the light died down, Ranma opened his eyes to see the old man glaring at the young ninja, auras still clashing, causing sparks of electricity between the two.
"Not bad for a young one," the old master said with an impressed laugh.
The ninja gave no reply. Happosai was further angered by this and prepared to attack. He was through with testing his strength. "Now you're gonna get it!" he shouted while pulling out a small bomb. "Happo fire burst!"
Ranma became terrified as the bomb was pulled from the old man's gi and quickly got to his feet. Not wanting to be caught in the blast, he retreated at great speed, but was tossed by the explosion into yet another wall. As he got up, he cracked an eye open to see more explosions, slowly making their way towards him.
"Oh god!" he cried. He resumed his retreat, having no interested in the old letch doing battle with the strange man. No matter where he ran, however, the explosions seemed to follow, like the battle was gravitating towards him. He could still hear Happosai's battle cries, making the hair on the back of his neck stand on end and propel his feet faster.
This is crazy! Ranma thought as he bounded over a wall that was blown to dust just behind him. Whoever this guy is, not even the old letch is a match for him.
Ranma continued to run while the explosions drew dangerously close. Now he could not just hear them, but feel them on his back. Damn! Too close! He thought to himself in panic. He ran faster still, the world around him becoming a blur as he gave full concentration to his feet.
I hate to say it, but what I would give for some cold water right now! Ranma thought, wishing he had the speed of his girl form at the moment.
As if on cue, a splash of cold water hit Ranma in the face, having been tossed by the same old lady he seemed to pass every day. Girl type Ranma sprinted off at a blazing pace, not caring about the circumstance of her transformation at the moment.
Rounding another corner, Ranma saw the one thing in the world she did not want to come across in this situation. Akane! She cursed herself and shouted as loud as she could through the oncoming explosions. "Akane!" she shouted.
The fuming girl didn't notice Ranma's calls, or the explosions from Happosai's bombs. She continued to walk aimlessly, still fixed on her anger towards Ranma letting Shampoo hold him like that. Ranma, you idiot! Always letting Shampoo hug him like that! She kept telling herself as she marched down the street, fists clenched. He's such a jerk!
She can't hear me! Damn, and it's getting closer. I have no choice! Ranma took in a deep breath and shouted with everything she had. "HEY, TOMBOY!"
Ranma's girl voice echoed through all of Nerima, stirring the trees. Birds fled into the sky from what they believed to be a coming storm. Akane was snapped from her trance and turned towards the red headed girl running towards her, fist already rearing back to punch her lights out.
"Ranma, you jerk!" she shouted. She punched forward with blind rage, but hit air as Ranma ducked under the blow.
Ranma knew it was coming and quickly dodged below Akane's fist while lifting her in her arms. She quickly leapt onto a rooftop and took off with Akane in her arms.
"Let go of me!" Akane protested, completely consumed by her anger. She slapped Ranma across the face, but couldn't free herself. "Put me down, you pervert!"
Ranma ignored Akane's insults and held onto her tightly.
"You idiot! Take a look around you!" she shouted while leaping to another roof.
Akane didn't listen to what Ranma was saying, but a sudden explosion caught her attention. "Ah! What the hell is that!?" she cried.
"Oh, so NOW you notice!" Ranma shouted while jumping to an even higher roof. "The old letch is throwing bombs all over the place!"
At hearing Ranma's explanation, she returned to anger at her now girl bodied fiancé. "Ranma! What did you do!" she demanded.
"What!? They're not aimed at me, stupid!" She answered, making a jump for the top of an apartment building.
"They're not?" Akane asked, unbelieving. Suddenly she felt a cold presence behind them and turned to see a man dressed in ninja garb leaping after them. "Ranma! Look out!"
Damn! Ranma cursed while spinning in mid air. "Akane! Hang on!" She ordered.
Ranma released one of her arms from holding Akane and waited a moment for her to grab hold of her. Here goes… Ranma channeled her aura into her palm and concentrated on a single thought. Have to focus!
The man closed in on them, and Ranma focused as hard as she could. Gotta protect Akane! And she felt her chi form into a ball. Got it!
"Eat this!" she shouted.
Ranma tossed the chi ball one handed at the mysterious ninja while falling back with Akane holding onto her tightly. The man seemed to falter at hearing Ranma's girl voice, allowing the ball to strike him in the chest. The explosion knocked Ranma back but she was able to flip before landing on her feet atop the apartment building.
When the dust cleared, the man sneered at Ranma and Akane. "You're not the one," he said.
"Why you…" Ranma began to channel her chi again. She let Akane down from her hold, and concentrated her chi into both hands this time, determined to defeat the strange man. "I don't know what you're after, but you've caused enough trouble!" she declared. Ranma formed a ball of white chi and prepared to launch it when an imp-like figure suddenly appeared behind the ninja.
Happosai pulled two giant bombs from his gi and grinned evilly at the unsuspecting ninja.
"Oro?" Ranma suddenly lost her focus at the sight of the giant bombs and her chi fizzled.
"Happo fire burst!" Happosai shouted and threw the massive bombs.
Ranma grabbed Akane and leapt back in panic. Bombs of that size were going to cause a lot of damage. "Run away!" she cried, but it was too late.
The bombs exploded, throwing the two from the roof of the apartment. They were spinning uncontrollably towards the ground, screaming.
Akane! Ranma took hold of Akane and flipped around so that she was flying backwards to the ground with the other girl following above. As they crashed, Ranma absorbed the entire impact while Akane landed softly on top of the smaller girl.
When Akane recovered from the blow, she was overtaken by concern. She'd seen what Ranma had done, and knew that she took the brunt of the impact to save her. "Ranma!" she cried, worried that she may be hurt seriously.
Akane lifted the red headed girl's face in her hands and gave her a slap. When no response was made, Akane resorted to shaking her violently. "Ranma! Wake up!" she yelled desperately.
A loud thud next to her made her turn her attention away to see Happosai on the ground, looking like he had been trampled. The old man said nothing, and twitched while smoke rose from his body. "Grandpa Happosai!" she exclaimed in shock.
"Where is the other one?" a grim voice asked.
Akane looked up at the man that had defeated the grandmaster of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts. He was floating in the air and glowing an eerie green light. He looked ready for more.
"Other one? What other one?" Akane asked, not quite understanding.
"The young man that old fool was with!" he shouted. "Where is he!"
Akane raised her eyebrows as she realized what the man was asking. He doesn't know that Ranma… She looked down at the red headed girl in her hands and tried to think of what to say. If Happosai is no match, there's no way Ranma could…
"Answer me!" the man demanded, breaking Akane's line of thought.
Akane looked up at the man hopelessly, not knowing what to say. "I… I…" she stuttered.
The man scoffed, having lost patience with the girl. "Damn! I've lost him!" he cursed before vanishing into a cloud of black smoke that blew away with the wind.
Akane blinked, not believing what she had just seen when the girl in her arms suddenly awoke.
"Ow," Ranma groaned while sitting up. She winced at the pain that was burning all over her body, but remembered why she'd received it. "Akane… are you okay?" she asked.
Akane was more concerned with Ranma than herself, and ignored the question. She looked her over closely, looking for injuries, but she seemed to be mostly okay. "Ranma… who was that?" she asked.
"I don't know," Ranma said. "I never got a name... is that the old letch?" she asked and pointed to the smoking midget next to them.
"Yeah..." Akane said.
"Oh man... I've never seen him this bad before," Ranma stood up and walked over to her defeated master. "We'd better take him home."
- x -
Back at the Tendo household, Akane and Ranma sat next to a futon containing the unconscious Happosai. Usually, they would have reveled when the perverted master tasted defeat, but today's circumstances left many questions they needed to ask.
"You say he just suddenly appeared?" Akane asked Ranma while putting a cloth on the old man's forehead.
Ranma, now back in his normal male form, thought back to when he was about to square off with the old man. "Yeah," Ranma answered. "I didn't even notice him at first."
"And he attacked out of nowhere?"
Ranma thought back to the events of the battle and frowned. "Not unless you count insulting the pervert here first," he said, poking the still unconscious Happosai. "He really got the letch worked up and next thing I know, he goes completely ballistic with his happo fire bombs."
"I see…" Akane thought to herself while Ranma watched her curiously.
There was thing that bugged Ranma about the whole thing. "Why did he run off anyways?" Ranma asked, interested in how the fight ended.
Akane remained silent, thinking. After a moment of contemplation she answered him. "I'm not really sure," she said. "After defeating Happosai, he demanded to know where you had gone, and ran off when I had no answer."
"But I was right there!" Ranma shouted.
"He didn't know," Akane answered. "You were a girl at the time, and he seemed only interested in your boy form. He must not have seen you change."
"Huh? My boy form?" Ranma said, surprised. He wondered what the difference was to the ninja.
"Ranma…" a weak voice suddenly croaked.
Happosai had finally come to, but was still much too weak to speak easily. He did not move, but shook slightly as he tried to look at his chosen heir.
"Happosai," Ranma said, choosing to ignore his usual jabs and insults just this one time.
Happosai breathed deeply before speaking. "That man today… you'd best keep away from him," he said simply.
"What!?" Ranma stood up, fists clenched as if ready to fight. "You're telling me to run from a fight?"
Akane remained seated, but tried to reach up and pull Ranma down. "Ranma! Calm down!" she pleaded.
"But, Akane!" Ranma protested.
Happosai coughed and caught the two's attention once more. "You never listen to your master," he said weakly, "but listen to him now. This is one fight you should not confront."
"You're serious?" Ranma asked, completely shocked. Usually Happosai would be ordering Ranma to go out and hunt down the mysterious attacker. He would be demanding that his heir win back the school's honor. Ranma didn't understand how someone as battle hungry as Happosai could be so certain of him avoiding combat.
The door to the room suddenly slid open and an old voice cut in. "I'm afraid he's right, son-in-law," Cologne announced.
"Old ghoul," Ranma said, surprised to see her, and feeling more than a little nervous. Whenever she showed up unannounced, trouble was bound to be close.
Akane looked over and noticed who else had arrived with the old great grandmother of Shampoo's. "Dr. Tofu! Ryoga! Everybody!" she said, amazed.
Indeed, behind Cologne were the others that had been in the clinic when Akane had left. Along with them were both of their fathers and Ranma's mother. The group crowded into the small room and all sat around Happosai. The old grand master had passed out after his last words, and slept quietly in the center of their circle. Silence fell over them while they all waited for someone to speak.
"What's the big deal?" Ranma finally asked, still not understanding why he was being told to retreat by even the battle crazy Happosai. "What's so dangerous about this guy?"
"The man that attacked you today was no ordinary man," Cologne said grimly.
"Yeah, I gathered that," Ranma agreed. "He was a skilled martial artist."
"No," Cologne corrected the young man. "It's more than just that. I've heard what these two have had to say and felt this strange presence myself. We are not dealing with a man. We are dealing with a demon spirit."
"A what?" Akane asked for confirmation, not believing what she was hearing.
"It's true!" Ryoga said. "This morning, when I was attacked, it felt like nothing I had felt before. He had an aura cold as ice, and starving for something more. His attacks felt like they were sucking the energy from my body."
Ranma listened to his rival's words, but still didn't buy it. "That doesn't prove nothing!" he said. "Maybe he just has a technique like Hinako's happo five yen satsu."
"Even if it weren't true, that it is a demon," Mousse interjected, "this foe is more than you can handle, Ranma Saotome! His skills are unlike anything I've ever seen before!"
Everyone stared at Mousse as he pointed at Cologne. Before anyone could correct his mistake, the old Amazon elder cracked him over the head with her staff. She then turned back to Ranma.
"Listen to us, son-in-law," Cologne ordered. "I have felt this mysterious aura myself. There is more than just power there, or hunger, as Ryoga has explained. There is age," she said. "The aura this man emits is ancient."
"Age?" Akane said, bewildered.
"Ha! We all know auras don't give off someone's age!" Ranma said.
"Oh, but they do," Cologne said. "Battle auras are simply extensions of our own chi. Chi are made up of who we are, so they naturally also give off an age. You may not have been able to notice before, because it's not usually an important detail."
Ranma thought about what the old ghoul was saying, and had to admit she was right. He didn't care about the age of his opponents usually, just if they were good at martial arts or not. Even then, what did age have to do with anything? He wondered.
"What's more," Cologne continued, uninterrupted. "This mysterious aura lacks any human traits. It embodies only hunger and thirst, like a wild beast. That is why I am sure it is that of a demon."
"Ok, so what does it want?" Ranma asked.
Cologne closed her eyes in thought. "From what Ryoga and Mousse have told me," she said," he is looking for someone worthy. Of what, I do not know. I suspect that this hunger may have something to do with how its survived for so many centuries, however, and that's what troubles me."
Ranma thought about everything for a moment, and then punched his fist into his hand.
"Right," he declared. He stood up and announced, "I'll accept his challenge!" Ranma's chi flared outwards into a brilliant battle aura, radiating blue light. It was an impressive display of power, amazing most of the people surrounding him.
Nodoka in particular found her son's impressive display worthy of praise. She did so enjoy watching him act so manly. She hid her joyous smile, however, attempting to retain her modesty in the serious situation.
A sudden splash of cold water broke up the moment, transforming Ranma into a girl. Her aura shrank until it was nothing, and she spun around in the direction of the splash and glared at Akane.
"What was that for?" she asked, obviously annoyed.
"That man seems only interested in your boy form," she answered. "This should keep you safe."
"Idiot!" Ranma shouted. "I said I'd accept his challenge!"
Akane twitched angrily at the insult and stood to meet Ranma's glaring eyes. "Who are you calling an idiot!?" she asked. "Haven't you heard a single word everyone's said!"
"Yeah! I'm standing right here!" Ranma said, pointing at herself with her thumb.
"So, don't be stupid!" Akane yelled. "They're telling you not to fight this guy!"
"Heh, don't worry about me," Ranma said, now sounding cocky. "I can handle my own fights, thank you."
A water pale suddenly smashed Ranma in the face, promptly ending the argument.
"Who said I was worried!" Akane yelled.
"Uncute tomboy…" Ranma muttered from behind the pale.
"What was that!" Akane shouted, preparing to punch the redhead.
"Enough!" Cologne shouted, sticking her staff between the pair of arguing girls. "Now is not the time for," Cologne suddenly gasped and the room became cold.
Everyone could feel a strange presence was nearby. They heard a strange, growling sound as the light from the window was blocked. When they looked at the source of the shadow they saw black smoke seeping through the open window. The cold chill seemed to be coming from it, as was the strange growling.
Once it had fully entered, the smoke thinned, and the ninja that had attacked them earlier revealed himself from it. As he fully appeared, the smoke seemed to recede into his body, suggesting that it was the demon that Cologne spoke of.
Now in the light, and standing still, Ranma and the others got their first good look at him. His attire was every bit traditional Japanese garb for a ninja. His togi had armor along its shoulders, as did his tekko, and sune-ate. A sword was sheathed on his back. His face was masked, and his head hooded, leaving his identity concealed.
"Where is he?" the ninja asked.
No one answered. They all stared at the mysterious man, most of them in fear, but there was one who looked at him in defiance.
"I'm your guy!" Ranma declared. She dropped into a fighting stance and prepared for battle.
The ninja looked at the redheaded girl with little concern. He returned his gaze to the others and repeated his question. "Where is he?"
"I said I'm right here!" Ranma shouted, but was suddenly silenced when Akane covered her mouth with her hand. Ranma struggled to keep talking, but was held back, not just by Akane, but Shampoo too.
Ryoga got to his feet and faced the man. "You caught me by surprise last time," he said," but now it's my turn!"
"Ryoga! No!" Akane cried, but it was too late.
Ryoga ran at the man with his fists raised to attack. The man did not move from his spot and simply stood with his arms crossed as the young boy closed in on him. What happened next, no one can be sure. The man moved with eerie quickness, like no man possibly could. Ryoga punched thin air and was suddenly struck, but from where, he could not tell. Rather than feeling a fist impact his body, it felt more like it went straight through, leaving him frozen in pain.
"Ryoga!" Akane cried again.
Ryoga slowly dropped to his knees, barely hanging on to consciousness. The man stepped past him, laughing.
"Unworthy fool," he said coldly.
Those words cut into Ryoga, making him remember his bitter defeats, and fabricated nightmares of rejection. "You…" he groaned, feeling more and more depressed as the words ate into his soul.
The man looked down at the boy with mild amusement.
"What's this? Must I strike you down a third time?" he asked coldly.
Ryoga envisioned a third defeat and was filled with despair at such a thought, especially in front of Akane. He let himself be consumed by his depression and focused it into a ball of red energy.
"Shi shi hokodan!" he roared, releasing the ball upwards at the man.
The red light filled the entire room and blew the roof off of the Tendo household. As the dust cleared, everyone looked up to see that the man was unharmed by Ryoga's devastating chi blast. In fact, he looked rather amused by the attack.
"Impossible…" Ryoga said before fainting. The attack had drained him of everything he had.
Ranma stepped in front of Ryoga's fallen body and shouted up at the man. "Hey!" she shouted. "Come back down here and face me!"
The man did not allow himself to drop back down into the room and looked away from the pathetic group before him. "I have no need for a woman's body," he said.
At this, Ranma snapped. "Who said anything about giving you my body!" she cried, thinking of things far different than combat. "You sick pervert!"
Ranma leapt out of the hole in the roof and at the man floating overhead. The man made no move to escape as Ranma reached him, providing her the opening she wanted.
"Kachu tenshin amaguriken!" Ranma shouted. She let loose a barrage of dozens of punches, but the man was able to easily block and dodge them all.
"What the hell?" Ranma asked, amazed.
"Humph," the man dodged underneath Ranma's attack and struck her in the stomach. Just like Ryoga, Ranma felt like the blow went straight through her body, like a sharp blade. She lost focus and fell back down through the hole in the roof on top of Ryoga.
"Oh no, Ranma!" Akane cried, running to the fallen redhead.
"My son!" Nodoka cried. She joined kneeled next to Akane, whom lifted Ranma into her arms.
Ranma groaned in Akane's arms and could barely open her eyes. "Damn it…" she said weakly.
"Aiya! Airen!" Shampoo cried. The purple haired girl leapt out of the hole in the roof at the attacker with her chui drawn in both hands. "You pay for hurting airen!"
"Shampoo!" Cologne shouted, "No!"
The attack was over in an instant. Shampoo attempted to strike the ninja in the head with her chui, but he dodged it. Shampoo's attack had been so wide from her rage, she was left wide open to the ninja's spinning kick to the side of her head.
The force of the kick knocked her back through the roof, just like Ranma had been. She landed on the floor next to her and Akane. Unlike Ranma, however, she could not maintain consciousness.
Soun and Genma ran to the hole in the ceiling and looked up at the man floating overhead.
"What is it you want?" Soun asked, trying to sound stern.
"I do not answer to those who are unworthy," the man answered, rejecting Soun's request.
Genma thrust a fist in the man's direction and came to his friend's aid. ""Worthy of what?" he asked.
"Silence!" the man shouted. He began to glow an eerie green and drew out the katana from his back sheath. "I'm through playing with you insolent fools," he hissed.
Ranma watched the man move through barely cracked eyes. Her vision was blurred, so she couldn't make out what was going on. Her sixth sense, however, could still feel the flow of chi the man was sending to his sword. A sudden feeling of danger triggered her fully awake when she saw the man pull back to swing.
"Run for it!" Ranma shouted. she lifted Akane and her mother. She hoisted them over her shoulders while grabbing Shampoo and Ryoga by their collars and dragged them all from the pump of adrenaline in her blood.
While everyone ran out of the room, Happosai in tow of Tofu, the man swung his sword downwards towards where Ranma was still standing with the four supported by her. Ranma could not see the attack, but she could feel it. It was like a sharp blade splitting open the sky, and as she leapt out of the way, the entire room was cut in two.
The walls split apart, leaving a perfectly straight cut from ceiling to floor, and down to the first level. Tiles blew off the roof while the wood flooring burst open at the edge of the cut. The impact of whatever cut into the house was enough to toss Ranma, along with Akane, Nodoka, Ryoga, and Shampoo, but they were all unharmed.
Ranma landed in a crouch with Akane and her mom slung over her shoulders and held tightly by her arms. She had to release Shampoo and Ryoga in order to avoid any of them getting hurt when she dodged the attack.
Ranma saw the two unconscious teenagers on the floor beside them. Still unconscious, but unharmed. She looked up through the hole in the ceiling, but the man had vanished. The cold chill slowly faded until it was replaced by the normal warmth of the late spring day.
"He's gone," Ranma announced.
The others peeked into the room and slowly entered after confirming that the strange martial artist had indeed left. Tofu let Happosai back down on his futon and went over to Ranma and the other two, to tend to their wounds.
While he did so, Ranma was in deep thought, wondering just what that man wanted, and how she could stop him. One thing's for sure, she thought to herself. I'll have to be a guy for him to face me. "Ow!" Ranma suddenly cried. She bent over and grabbed his stomach where she had been hit.
Dr. Tofu was examining Ranma's wound when it happened and asked, "how does it feel?"
"Like there's something hot cutting into me," Ranma said, shaking in pain.
"Hmm…" Tofu adjusted his glasses and took a closer look at the spot Ranma was clenching.
"What is it doctor?" Soun asked, concerned over his future son-in-law's injuries.
"I'm not sure," he said. His tone was very serious, used only when he was very concerned, or truly perplexed. "There appears to be nothing physically wrong with Ranma. He has no bruising, which means there's no internal bleeding. In fact, none of these three appear to be hurt at all."
"But you healed them before," Akane said hopefully. "How did you do it last time?"
Tofu leaned back and crossed his arms. "I didn't do a thing," he admitted. "Eventually, Ryoga and Mousse just woke up and moved as if nothing had happened."
"Their chi," Cologne said.
Everyone looked at the elder with questioning faces, not quite understanding. The elder hopped over on her walking stick and looked over Shampoo very closely.
"That man's chi was thirsty, like a wild beast," she said, repeating what she had explained earlier. "These three were not attacked physically, but instead through their chi."
"What? Is that possible?" Genma asked.
Akane suddenly remembered another person that attacked through people's battle auras, and not through physical force. "It is!" she said. "It's like Ms. Hinako and her Happo five yen satsu."
"Not quite," Cologne corrected. "While this man's attacks do indeed strike at the opponent's chi like the happo five yen satsu, this one does not drain it. Rather, it appears to be cutting into it. It is inflicting pain, rather than draining one's energy."
"So that's why it felt like his attack went right through me," Ranma said. "He wasn't hitting my body at all. He was striking through my chi."
"This is most troubling," Cologne declared grimly. "I have not heard of any such attack in all my years of life."
"No way…" Ranma said, amazed. "Nothing at all?"
Cologne shook her head and took another puff from her pipe. "I can only assume it's one of the lost ancient arts from legends, or has something to do with the demon spirit within him."
"Whatever it is…" Akane turned to Ranma. "Ranma, stay a girl for a while."
"What? Are you nuts!" Ranma asked, not believing what she was hearing. She expected such a request from Happosai, but Akane? "I can't stay like this!"
"You have to!" Akane insisted. "If you turn into a boy, he'll come back for you!"
"We don't even know if he's after me," Ranma said, brushing off any such notion. Usually she took pride in being the focus of attention, but not if it meant she had to stay a girl.
"No, we don't" Akane admitted.
"But it is clear he is seeking out only males," Cologne added. "Son-in-law, I think it's for the best you grant Akane's request. Demons cannot exist in this world for long, usually, but this one clearly has. Whatever he is, he is dangerous."
Ranma stared forward and clenched her fists. "Fine," she conceded.
Author's Notes: Rewrite complete on 12/7/2012. Nothing major was changed, except I added Nodoka in for consistency with the later chapters. I also elaborated and reworked some parts so they make more sense. I also rewrote the parts explaining the ninja, since they were originally pretty hokey.