You can guess the crossover. Ranma won't wear a fuku, and also no tuxedo. He won't be some re-incarnation. He is just... Ranma. I want to avoid numerous stuff that became the norm in these crossovers but that actually is pretty stupid. I also will make it clear that while Ranma and the Senshi learn new techniques, I won't sink to the insane levels of the canon, where it became an absurd arms race in the later parts of both series. It's a common weakness in anime series that the power level increases to ridiculous levels. (In my opinion, DBZ is the worst offender in that regard in the anime world) I will try to stay on Earth and try to give everything a bit more realistic feeling (as much as it as it is possible) but don't worry... hilarity will still ensure!
Needless to say that I will slaughter the canon of both series, but I guess you expected this. Also I don't have any rights to both series, but I guess you know that, too.
This went surprisingly fast but the chapter grew to monstrous size - I think this is my biggest one yet. There's lots of story progression in this one, thus it was a bitch to write.
Note that specific notes are at the end of the chapter, to avoid spoilers.
Chapter 17: The Shadow Hunter
"I still feel as if I got bashed with a big club repeatedly. Poor Mamoru looked ready to fall into bed once he was done with all the healing," Naru winced.
"He said mending bones took a lot out of him, so excuse him if he didn't manage to cure every little thing. Ranma's slash wounds were quite serious as well and that took a lot out of him, too," Makoto reminded her, trying to ignore her own soreness.
Yesterday's events were still fresh on their minds while they were walking towards school at the morning. The streets were mostly empty, Tokyo still had not fully recovered from yesterday's events and panic. Quite a number of stores were still closed, the otherwise notorious traffic was only sporadic and the streets looked emptier than usual, although the number of students on the way to school seemed to be the same. They had no heard anything about school and imagined that perhaps the authorities wanted everything to return to normal as quick as possible.
Of course, there also were the newspapers.
While they had managed to dodge the bullet of being seen on national TV, pictures of them leaving the burning factory had appeared, together with quite speculative reports. Up until then, Senshi sightings and news had been either low-key events or very localized - even Sailor V had not been that prominent on a national scale. The previous reports and pictures of them had been limited to greater Tokyo. Now things had changed and even the national newspapers were writing about them and there was lots of speculation about their motives.
That of course also meant that the ones who were not OK with them voiced their opinion as well. Some said the Senshi were solving as many problems as they are creating, implying they they were causing these problems themselves. Some even called called for arresting them, citing the vigilantism and the caused property damage. The girls were hurt by these words - they gave their best to protect everyone and that was how some thanked them for it. They had no idea what Pluto had to say about it, since they had not seen her since yesterday and she didn't answer her communicator.
Walking up to the school, they were surprised to see that students were already leaving again.
"Are they all playing hooky or did something happen we don't know?" Akane wondered, raising an eyebrow at the situation.
It became even more confusing when they saw the teachers standing in front of the school, talking to incoming students who then would quickly turn around and leave. Spotting Ms. Meiou and Ms. Haruna, who currently were not busy with talking to students, they approached them.
"Did we miss something? Why is everyone sent away?" Usagi asked right away, forgetting proper etiquette. Thankfully, both women didn't seem to mind right at the moment.
"You could say you missed something, although it is no fault of yours. Due to the continued disruption of public life in the wake of yesterday's events, the prefecture government decided that all schools in the 23 special wards of Tokyo are to start the summer break today already in order to help calming the whole situation. They only decided it too late to spread it with the media - practically when most students were already on their way. So all schools were ordered to send their students back home after informing them of the situation," Ms. Meiou informed them.
"YES!" Usagi cheered, before realising that she was doing so in front of the teachers. "Eh... sorry?"
"I sincerely hope you won't slack off. I will test my students once the summer break is over. In case you fail that test, it means extra homework," Ms Haruna sternly reminded Usagi. "I won't tolerate you destroying the small progress you made recently."
Usagi looked horrified at these news and Makoto didn't look too happy, either. "Sensei, please tell me it is just your idea and that none of the other teachers are doing this."
"It was until now. Thanks for reminding me to tell the other teachers as well. It's a really good idea," Ms. Haruna replied.
"Oh yes, thank you so much, Makoto!" Usagi complained and Minako didn't look happy as well. It was no secret that both of them disliked school-related stuff. Makoto had the decency to look sheepish after realising what she just did.
Watching the group leave, Ms. Haruna looked a little envious. "I really envy today's young girls. I wish I could be this young and carefree again."
"Trust me, we should accept our lives and should make the best of it," Setsuna reminded her. You have no idea how wrong you are. Carefree... I wish I could give that back to them, but it's too late for that, she silently added.
While Setsuna was left in thoughts, the teenagers were quickly regaining their spirits.
"I say we should get Rei and then enjoy this rare opportunity! When do we have the morning free in the middle of the week?" Minako suggested.
"You better enjoy it. Remember what Khu-Lon (Ami did learn to pronounce it) told us; she'll put us through a lot to make sure we are ready. She also said with Xian-Pu on break from school, our training will shift from toughening us up to actual lessons as well," Ami reminded Minako, deflating the blonde outright.
That sobered them up. "I can't even blame her. After how Jadeite mopped the ground with us, I gladly accept anything that halps us to avoid a repeat performance," Naru said, trying to not remember yesterday's events. It had, as predicted, given her nightmares. "I guess there go any big plans for the summer."
"Well, I won't complain. The old woman can finally teach me all that awesome stuff she promised me to, which means the next time Jadeite crosses my path, he will regret it," Ranma said, feeling the anticipation, although he still was a bit unnerved at the idea of being bombarded with boulders.
"Since our summer is full, what about you, Akane? Any plans to visit your family over the summer?" Makoto asked Akane.
Akane shook her head. "Not right away. I plan to wait a little before I go home for several weeks. Right now the situation is still a little... let's say, delicate. My father is getting better due to his therapy, but his doctor said it would be better if I wait a little before visiting. I also have to take into account that Kasumi finally started dating and obviously wants some time for herself before I come back for the summer."
"She's dating? You mean that young doctor you told us of?" Minako eagerly asked, smelling something juicy.
Akane gave Minako a look that made her shut up, before she continued "Yes, Doctor Tofu. Remember how I said that he'd been in the hospital for some time? He finally learned why he was always freaking out when meeting her. It turned out that there was something wrong with his brain - something about a chemical imbalance. Whenever he'd get too emotional - which happened whenever Kasumi visited him - it'd cause havoc in his head. He's had surgery and is taking meds and up to now it looks really good. Kasumi also seems to be much more happy now that she's gaining a social life."
"What about you other sister?" Naru asked.
Akane grimaced a little. "Nabiki doesn't want anyone near her. It had always been like this and I don't think anyone can do anything about it. You can't help someone who doesn't want help." That was a good indicator for everyone to drop the matter.
Even Ranma picked up on that and changed the topic. "How's your training going? Last I heard it got canceled."
"Even sensei Chun-Li is now feeling the effect of her pregnancy. She says it will be some time before she's back and in shape. Seinsei Ryu takes over for the time being. And it actually goes well. I had never seen anyone fight like this. No offense, Ranma, but both of them could mop the floor with you," Akane told them, showing lots of respect for both of her sensei.
Ranma whistled. "Man, I really want to meet these two. They sound awesome."
With the discussion steered into more safe topics, they walked towards the Hikawa Shrine in order to wait for Rei to return from school. None of them did want to return straight to home, not so early in the morning. Ranma was walking a bit behind the girls, not wanting to be too close while they were gossiping. He wasn't exactly looking to the side, when suddenly...
By reflex, Ranma caught whatever had just collided with him from the side. Getting a closer look, he saw it was a girl, no older than twelve, wearing the uniform of a school whose colors he didn't recognise. The girl did look somewhat pale but otherwise didn't seem hurt by the collision. When she looked up to him he was surprised to see she had the most striking violet eyes he'd ever seen.
"Oh... sorry... I... I didn't look where I was going," the girl stammered, obviously embarrassed, while Ranma helped her to her feet.
"There's no damage done. This happens to all of us sometimes," Ranma said. "No need to apologise."
"Oh." The girl didn't seem to be used to someone being nice to her. "You really don't blame me?"
Ranma had the distinct impression that she was used to being blamed. "Why should I? Now come, kiddo. I think you want to get home since school's out early."
She did look in surprise to him. "Thanks... for not blaming me," she carefully thanked him, before walking away.
"You were really good there. You handled this far better than I expected," Minako commented and Ranma only now saw that the girls had watched him the entire time.
"She's just a cute kid. No way I'm could be mean to her," Ranma said, looking to where the girl was walking away.
"I recognised her uniform. She goes to the Mugen school. That's a very expensive private school, so she must be from a rich family," Ami added. "Just to give you an idea: my mother would be unable to pay for it. It's that expensive."
"Well, even though I probably won't ever see her again, it still felt good that I was nice to her," Ranma shrugged, before they continued on their way. After all, in a city of eight million people, how big was the chance they'd meet again?
"Thanks that you covered for me. Why is it that big groups of girls almost always get the topic of discussion to embarrassing things?" Ranma asked Ami, while they walked up to his house.
Ami shook her head. "Do not get me wrong, I do like it sometimes, but this one became too uncomfortable for me, especially the way they looked to me as if to remind me that I'm the only girl of the group with a boyfriend. I do have my limits."
That was one of the reasons why Ranma could relate to Ami: she was not overly girly. Sure, she still enjoyed girl-stuff, but overt displays of such tended to make her uncomfortable. Thus was why she sometimes didn't hang out with the other girls and preferred to visit him - outside of her usual visits to his house after school of course. She was open-minded to things they could do in their free time, another thing he liked about her.
Both of them knew they were odd ducks relationship-wise. They were hardly fitting the picture of the young couple. First they were almost complete opposites with him being so physically attuned, while Ami was highly intellectual. Their relationship also hardly came along the traditional way. Their friendship had turned into careful love due to being forged when helping each other in conflict. Lastly, they didn't act as expected. One would guess they were just friends, since Ranma and Ami didn't like public displays of affection, they preferred to do these in private. Also, most teenagers would be disappointed to hear that they hadn't 'done it' yet. Both of them felt they weren't ready yet for actual intimate action.
Both of them however preferred it this way. Both were teenagers who were painfully new to these things and they simply needed their own way to ease into a deeper relationship. That of course didn't stop them from liking each other - they only went their own way about expressing it.
"I wonder how we can fill our free time besides training. After all, there's no homework," Ranma wondered.
"Before I met you, my summers was filled with extra studies and summer school," Ami remembered with a grimace. That time hadn't been fun and she still felt the pain of how lonely she'd felt. "Still, I guess I won't be home too often over the summer. There's all the training we have to do, and, well..."
"I thought you're getting along with your parents?" Ranma asked.
"I do! But... after being apart for such a long time, they always tend to... overcompensate. It can be quite embarrassing to be in the same apartment with them for the first weeks. I love them dearly, but I don't need to know of their attempts to finally release me of being a single child," Ami finally explained, blushing a little.
"I can understand that..." Truth to be told, Ranma didn't even want to imagine his own parents doing that - thankfully he'd been spared from accidently witnessing this, since Genma was not yet welcome in the master bedroom - although he was getting closer.
Walking by a dark side alley, Ranma remembered something he'd put on hold until now. He did feel the courage to do it. "You know, Ami, there is something I almost forgot to do."
"Really? What is it?" Ami wondered and gasped when Ranma effortlessly picked her up and carried her into the dark alley. "Ranma!"
"Don't worry..." Once out of sight, he put her back onto her feet. "I just want us to be alone... Since I didn't give this to you yesterday."
Ranma pulled her close and Ami opened her mouth in surprise, only for Ranma's lips to touch hers. Her first surprise melted away and she then understood. She was not used to Ranma being the aggressor in this, but it felt really nice. Arms around each other, their bodies were pressed together while the kiss escalated quickly into a tongue-wresting match which ended when Ami managed to shove her's and Ranma's tongue into his mouth. Both teenagers were a little red in the face and literally glowing when they finally parted, not minding the strands of saliva that connected their mouths for some more moments.
"That- that was really good," Ami said while trying to regain her breath. "This was for yesterday?"
"You were very brave yesterday... This is my 'thank you'," Ranma answered. "Was it OK for me to do so?" he added, which was more like Ranma.
"It... it was great." That wasn't a lie, it had felt really good. Ranma seemed to have overcome his awkwardness concerning kissing. They held onto each other for some more moments, before Ami noticed something. "I think we should better calm down now."
Separating, they both knew what was wrong. Ami felt a little hot and damp between her legs while Ranma's pants sported a noticeable bulge in front. Both of them gave the other a slightly guilty smile before they took deep breaths to calm down and some minutes later, they left the alley, acting as if nothing had happened.
Finally reaching the house, they were surprised when Nodoka was already waiting for them in the family room, looking at a letter. She then noticed them when looking up. "Ranma, dear, this letter came while you were away. Please read it thoroughly, since it concerns you."
Taking the letter, Ranma read it twice, before looking up. "Isamu Nakamura, my great-grandfather? Didn't even know he existed until now."
"You've met him before, but that was over ten years ago. You can't remember it," she explained.
Ranma looked pained for a moment. The loss of his early childhood memories in a pit full of cats still was a topic he didn't like. "I can't remember him at all."
"I wanted to bring it up, but it seems he beat me to it. He already was quite old at your birth; it is a small wonder he is still alive and in such good shape. He was a good fighter until his age and decreasing health forced him to retire from it. You'll like him, he is a lot like you," Nodoka explained.
Ranma took another look at the letter. "I understand that he wants to see me, although I have no idea, why."
"I mentioned your return to him in a letter and I think he finally wants to meet his great-grandson again. I was not exactly in my right mind during your childhood, and after so many years he wants to see how you've fared," Nodoka finally admitted, feeling the shame come back to the surface.
Ranma sensed his mother feeling guilty and quickly went on. "That's well and all... but I really don't get why he wants to see Ami as well. What is that about 'meeting a possible addition to the family'?"
Ami went red when hearing this. "Ranma! He wants to see if I would be a good fit for you. A good fit as a wife, that is."
Ranma barely held back a groan. "Really...?"
"No worries, he would never judge you or force you into anything," Nodoka quickly said, remembering how Isamu had ripped into her parents some years ago concerning her upbringing. The man really wasn't someone for archaic traditions. "I think it is completely harmless and he just wants to meet Ami - I, eh, might have accidently revealed you are together."
There was no comment from both teenagers, but the air of annoyance was answer enough.
"Please consider visiting him..."
...two days later...
"I understand you and Ranma visiting him, even bringing his girlfriend along, but I still don't understand why you want to have me along. Isamu made no secret of his dislike of me," Genma finally complained while the taxi was driving up to the house.
Nodoka had expected this question since Genma had learned of the invitation two days ago. He had said nothing while they had still been at home, nothing during the way to the train station, and nothing during the train ride to the village in which her grandfather had his house. It was remarkable that he'd managed to keep himself from asking the question for this long. It also was a good thing, since she'd memorised what she'd tell him.
"If you remember, he demanded you to be present. Since I can read between the lines, he wants to make sure to have you in his line of sight when meeting Ranma after all these years. After your first meeting, you should know what to expect if you displease him," Nodoka reminded her husband.
Genma did remember all too well. It had been shortly after Nodoka had found out she was expecting and she - despite her back then less than ideal relationship to the man - had insisted on telling her grandfather in person. The man had already been old back then, but still agile enough to punish Genma severely for some stupid remarks, which had been made more easy by the fact he didn't dare to fight back, fearing to displease his wife. And while Isamu Nakamura was now almost 80 years old, Genma had no wish to cross him.
"I do remember. I hope he doesn't have this cane of his with him. I think I can still feel where he hit me over the head with it," Genma winced.
"That was you own fault. You also should not have mentioned your former master. He reacts very badly to mention of this person," Nodoka reminded him.
"Who wants to be reminded of him...?" Genma muttered, barely holding back a scowl.
Both teenagers had followed this exchange without any comment. Both of them had been convinced to actually go on this trip without too much effort. Ranma was curious what kind of man his great-grandfather was and Ami couldn't help but want to be there to give him support. Ami had had an easy time to convince her parents that she could go on this trip. Not only was there adult supervision - meaning she and Ranma could not do what her parents suspected they could - it also gave her parents a whole day for themselves, since it fell on Saeko's free day.
At last, the taxi reached a modest house.
Ranma had not known what to expect from his great-grandfather. He knew the man was old, but that was it. He had no idea if he still was healthy, or fragile like some old people he'd seen on the streets. He also had no idea if the man would be open-minded, or painfully conservative and rooted in the past like too many old people he'd met before. It made him wonder if there could be some absolute bastard of old man out there, whose only life goal was, to make everyone else miserable. Ranma knew, should he ever meet that person, there would be bloodshed.
Ami meanwhile hoped that it would not be as bad as she feared. Rnama's great-grandfather surely didn't want to see her in order to inspect her like cattle if she was fit for marriage. She knew that most of it was irrational fear, and that an arranged marriage or even pressure would be shot down in the courts pretty quickly; yet it didn't stop these fears. She did like Ranma, but both of them were not ready for that kind of relationship.
When the door opened, Ranma learned several things.
First, while the man was old, he was still radiating an aura of danger, although Ranma's schooled eye clearly saw as well that the years had indeed forced him to retire. The cane might have been a hint as well. Also, when Nodoka tried the traditional greeting of your elders, the old man outright scolded her that he'd told her often enough to not do that since it made him feel old. That alone already gave him a big sympathy bonus in Ranma's mind. Ranma added bonus points when seeing how one look from him made Genma sweat in discomfort.
As it came, they didn't speak until they were all inside, sitting in the family room while Isamu Nakamura was busy with preparing tea the traditional way. "Nodoka, dear. This is not a tea ceremony. I just like the taste better when it is made fresh instead of using tea bags. So please stop acting as if you've made a blunder."
"How did you know? I've not said a word," she wondered.
"Oh, the fact you looked uncomfortable was clue enough. I also know that you can't escape your upbringing, even after all these years. I don't think I can ever forgive your parents for messing you up like this," he told her, while pouring the hot tea into their cups.
Man, he's nothing like I imagined him to be. He's not messing around, Ranma thought. He couldn't help but to like the man just for this already. The man was the opposite of many old people he'd met before.
"Your mother wrote a lot to me about you, young man. I'm glad to finally meet you again after so many years," Isamu then finally said to Ranma.
"That's nice... What exactly did she tell you about me?" Ranma carefully said.
"Oh, she wrote me about your aspirations, your strength and skill and how you never give up." He then sent a dark look to Genma, making the man gulp hard. "I also learned of your hardships while on the road and I'm still amazed that you came out of this without permanent physical or psychological damage."
Intrigued, Ranma asked further "You seem to know a lot about fighting."
"Oh, I have lived a very interesting life and have been very active in many fights, although as you can see, I was forced to finally retire from it due to health problems. However, let me give you one piece of advice: fighting on itself won't pay the bills. Either find a way to get a regular income from it, or learn a job that supports you. I hear you have already made that decision?"
"Oh yes, I plan to become a martial arts sensei... My dream, which would've been dead had I not been told that I need a degree to become one," Ranma said, remembering his shock when learning he could forget his dream without a good education.
"Yes, it's no longer the same as in the old times. Things have changed a lot..." Isamu seemed a bit nostalgic, before looking to Ami. "From what I heard, you captured the heart of young Ranma here. Can I ask how this came to pass?... Oh, and please don't think I'm judging if you could make a proper wife. My late wife would have slapped me left and right for the mere idea."
Ami right then felt a huge burden being lifted off her. With the pressure gone, she finally broke her silence. "Oh... well. I honestly don't know. We started off as friends and went beyond it. We just grew onto each other and he helped me out of some tight situations several times." I can't tell him our relationship was forged in battle.
"Really...? Nodoka, dear, you kept a lot from me concerning these two," he mock-accused Ranma's mother.
"I wanted to give both of them some privacy..." she lamely tried to explain.
"I would be really delighted to hear what all of you had been up to since Ranma's return home," Isamu finally said, while pouring himself another tea.
And so all of them tried to give Isamu a heavily edited story, trying to leave out everything concerning Ranma's curse - since Nodoka felt she shouldn't burden her grandfather with this - or the Senshi - since after all they could hardly tell him. It was very difficult for them and editing the truth on the fly caused numerous small errors to slip in. They just hoped Isamu would buy it.
They had no idea that was doing this just for fun.
He knew it was mean, but he couldn't help himself and tried to see how badly they'd try to lie. He of course already knew of Ranma's curse and of his battles at the side of the Senshi. He knew even more now when having used his sight on Ami. Granted, it was just an educated guess, nothing more, but it did fit the puzzle perfectly together with all the things Hino-san had told him. Aside from that, he of course also got to hear more true things about Ranma's life and the girl that was with him. It gave him a good idea of both of them.
He finally decided to release them from trying to bend the truth after over half an hour by 'accidently' knocking over his cup of by now cold tea, which hit Ranma, with predictable results. His guests froze when that happened, but Isamu used the moment to give Ranma an interested look. "I actually wondered what you would look like in that form. The same red hair your mother had had in her youth, before it darkened."
"You... you knew?" Nodoka stammered, too confused to bother with maintaining etiquette.
Isamu couldn't help but to give off a guilty laugh. "Oh yes, for quite some time now. I knew you would be reluctant to tell me certain things and I apologise that I didn't tell you right away, but I couldn't resist trying to see how you'd try to bend the truth. Nodoka, you are a very bad liar and the same goes to your son. Both of you are too honest for your own good. Now, Genma I expected to be an expert at this and I was not disappointed."
"It's nothing that I'm proud of! After being with the master for several years, it became a survival trait," Genma tried to defend himself.
"That's why I don't take offense. And concerning this menace, I really hope he is dead, otherwise I could be tempted to come out of retirement and kill him personally," Isamu reminded Genma, then looked to Ranma. "I take it you are not very happy with this curse?"
"No, not at all," Ranma said, while eying the still warm tea water. "At first I outright hated it and I was scared I could turn into some prissy princess. I'm much better now and don't mind it any longer; after all it's now part of me. Doesn't mean however, that I'm happy about it."
"I didn't expect you to be." Having mercy, he gave Ranma the pot so that she could change back, while turning to Ami. "However, you are also a very bad liar, young lady. Why didn't you tell me that you and my great-grandson were fighting together?"
"I didn't want to, but I couldn't reveal that I'm..." Only then Ami realised that she'd let out more than she'd intended to. "I... eh..."
"Oh, at first it just was an educated guess, but after meeting you, it became clearer and your faux-pas proves it."
"Ok, timeout! What's going on and how do you know all these things?" Ranma finally wanted to know.
"Yes, you are right, I do owe you an explanation. Please follow me..." Isamu told them, while getting up.
It was a very confusing situation, so they followed him without comment to a locked door. Nodoka did recognise it. "This door was always locked when I was here."
"That's because it houses something very dear to me." her grandfather answered, while unlocking the door.
Behind the door they saw something that was breathtaking. It was a big stone altar, far bigger than any family shrine they'd seen before and made with such precision and detail that it was breathtaking. It reminded them of pictures of altars in European churches they'd seen. Its most striking feature was a big picture of a warrior battling a demon on the middle part. Unlit candles were put on rows on each of the side wings of the altar and the whole room looked like a cross between a prayer room and a weapon chamber, since the walls were filled with numerous weapons of all kind. There even were things they did not recognise. The room was windowless and without the lamps, it would have been dark.
"I would not show you this, had I not been sure about it. The explanation will be more lengthy. However, I do believe that you will believe me, especially seeing that you have come into contact with magic already," he explained, ignoring Ranma's grumbling that this hadn't been his choice.
"I think it won't any longer sound unbelievable to you, that there do exist things that defy the natural order, in the likes of demons, undead and dark powers. After all you do already have met your share of them in your battles." He seemed to enjoy that everyone again was being surprised at him knowing these things. "What you don't know however is, that there are clans that are chosen to fight against these powers of darkness. Don't ask me what exactly these powers of the light are that chose people, but the fact is that they do exist."
"Does this mean you are one of these people?" Ami said in wonder, finally connecting the dots. "Are you someone who actually hunts down these things?"
"You are very sharp and you obviously don't disbelieve me, which further proves my observation. Now... you are right, my clan has been doing this for many centuries already. We fight back against dark forces that are not of this world. We are Shadow Hunters," Isamu explained.
That name reminded Ranma of something. "Hey, wait a moment! I now remember when I was at the mercy of one monster, it said that my soul smells and called me a Shadow Hunter."
"That happened after the demon left your body, right? Yes, they can do that when close enough. We are mortal enemies, since after all, we do destroy dark creatures." He let out a sigh. "At least we did, until everything went wrong. Nodoka, dear, can you remember how many relatives from my side of the family or related to me there are?"
Nodoka looked troubled when she tried to remember, coming up with a rather bleak result. "Besides you, just my father, Ranma, and myself."
"And this already highlights the problem. During World War II, my clan was practically wiped out, dying either during battle or when cities got bombed. My wife, my son and myself literally were the last ones after the war was over... and as if this was not enough, my beloved wife was taken from me far too early... a stupid traffic accident. Then, as if to spit into my face, my only child, your father Nodoka, declared that I'm outright insane when I revealed the legacy to him and cut me out of his life."
Nodoka shook her head. "He almost never talked about you. I think he just wants to forget that you even exist."
"I think he hates me and I think your whole upbringing was just a huge way to spite me. They didn't even care about you, just wanted to cause me even more pain by making you so disconnected from reality that it was painful to watch. It outright destroyed the possibility that you could continue the legacy and when you finally came to your senses, it already was too late as the thread has been cut. It left only one person still eligble to take on the legacy..."
"Let me guess: me?" Ranma mock-asked.
"Exactly, although I got devastated when all of a sudden your connection to the legacy got lost. I now know that's due to cat-demon taking residence inside your body!" Isamu gave Genma a very harsh look which made the other man take several steps back.
"I wasn't in my right mind when I did that!" Genma tried to defend himself.
"And that's the only thing that stops me from running a sword through you... Fast forward to several weeks ago when I prayed at this very shrine and felt your connection return. I felt hope... I needed to learn more about you to see if you could be trusted with this responsibility, so I activated my contacts to get more information. My most important and trusted contact is priest Hino. He told me of your... condition, of your hardships, your character and your battles at the side of the Senshi. He also told me how you already fight the forces of darkness but was bound by oath to leave out certain parts. He also told me of the young lady that is with us right at the moment and how you two are smitten with each other."
"Rei's grandfather told you all these things?" Ami wondered, while realizing, that the old man had kept his oath to keep silent about the identity of the Senshi. "Ehm, wait a moment..."
Isamu actually laughed. "As I said, it was an educated guess at first, after I put all of the information together. When I used one of my most difficult to master skills I saw that you were giving off a faint magical aura, something that only few people do. That on its own means nothing, but your reaction finally told me I'm right. You are one of the Senshi."
Ami no longer saw any reason to deny it. "You are good and it it true... Please promise to keep this to yourself! I really don't want to imagine what happens if this gets out."
"I promise to keep it quiet. In my profession, silence is everything. Please don't think I just called all of you here for this, I really want to learn what kind of man my great-grandson is and I have to say you surpassed every of my expectations. However, you hopefully understand why I press the issue."
"Why have you never told me any of this? I still have trouble to come to terms with the fact that you have hunted demons in your past," Nodoka weakly said, the implications hitting her now. Having seen a real demon in person, it made her realize her grandfather deserved heaps of respect for his courage.
Isamu again shook his head. "Nodoka, dear. Remember that we only got on good terms when you got better? That was after your son was lost to you and you felt incredibly guilty about it. I did not want to put guilt over missing your legacy on top of it."
Nodoka looked pained when being reminded of that difficult time and she knew that Isamu was right. Back then the guilt had nearly broken her, so he'd done well on keeping this from her. However, the reveal also created a big question. "I know now that I can't connect to the legacy... But if my son accepts, can't I still help him?"
The warm smile that Isamu gave her was almost overwhelming. "You've come so far... Years ago you would have killed your own son in your delusions... And now you want to help him despite never been able to touch the power of the Shadow Hunter yourself. Your selflessness would have made you a great Shadow Hunter... Of course your help would be good for him, since as you see, I don't get younger..."
"I will do it."
There was a moment a silence following what Ranma had said, before Isamu gathered himself. "I'm sorry? You say this right away? No time to consider?"
"Honestly, how that be different from what I'm already doing? Ami, you tell them," Ranma explained, looking to his girlfriend.
"Ranma is actively fighting monsters at our side, trying to prevent them from taking over the world. He does not hold back and is working hard on becoming stronger to be more effective. That actually matches what you do so much that accepting would be just a formality. Of course, accepting would give Ranma certain advantages in battle, does it?" Ami explained.
"I can see why he's smitten by you..." Isamu then collected himself. "Well, of course. However, the gifts of the Shadow Hunter are defensive in nature. Do not expect the sudden power to throw around magic or sudden super-strength. Real magic users are rare and suddenly becoming one only happens in comics..."
"...or being the next life of some girl that died 10.000 years ago," Ami added. "I guess you mean magic users are born, not made."
"Exactly. You were born with these powers, so you can control them. As for the powers of the Shadow Hunter... they are, as I said, defensive in nature and are from a divine source. Trust me, you'll need these, as they protect from some nasty stuff and I can feel that some of the protections have already awakened."
"Hey, wait a moment! Does this also mean protection from loss of life-energy? Something protected me some days ago, stumping the others," Ranma then realised, hoping that this could finally answer this enigma.
"It is one of the protection powers and it seems it activated when you were in danger...interesting," Isamu observed, wondering what this could mean. "As for the other powers, it mainly is protection of the mind and from magic directly affecting your body - although it's too late to do anything about your curse, sorry."
Ranma rolled his eyes. Somehow, he knew this would come. "Man, that sucks... What use these powers then?"
"Don't underestimate them! How would you like your mind being wiped? What about telepathic domination forcing you to commit suicide? If that's not enough, do you want your bones turned to water?" he saw that he'd gotten his point across when Ranma fell silent, gulping hard. "See, there are ways to kill you against which you can't defend yourself regardless how good of a fighter you are, this is where the granted powers come into play. Are you still going to go through with it?"
"Yes!" Ranma said, not hesitating for a second.
Some time later, the room was bathed in the soft light of the now burning candles, the rest hidden by darkness. A soft mat was placed in front of the altar and Ranma had changed into something that looked like a normal, black kimono for men. Interestingly enough, Ami was wearing a women's kimono, green with a flower motif. Both of them didn't look too comfortable in this borrowed formal wear.
"I understand Ranma wearing this, but why me?" Ami asked again, feeling unwell and wondering how Nodoka could wear this every day and looking so graceful in it.
"When a new Shadow Hunter is brought before the representative of the divine powers to be initiated and they already have a boy or girl in their lives, it is custom for them to go through this together. If you meet your certain someone afterwards, it's custom to present them to the representative to get its blessing for the union. It's more of a formality you have to fulfill. After hearing how close you two are, I felt I have to invite you along for this reason as well," Isamu explained, while putting the last candle into place.
"So, what do we do now?" Ranma wondered, having no clue how to proceed.
"Both of you just sit in front of to altar. The rest happens on its own," he instructed them.
Both teenagers did as told and at first they wondered what they were supposed to do. They did not notice becoming stock-still, nor did they notice that they had started staring without focus. Everything before their eyes faded into darkness, when awareness left them.
"Now we can only wait..." Isamu said when seeing how both teenagers had fallen into trance, their eyes showing no awareness. He then noticed a faintly glowing blue sigil on Ami's forehead. "That didn't happen before, although I can harbour a guess why it is glowing."
Blinking, Ranma tried to get his bearings. Everything seemed to spin in his head and before he knew it, he'd went down to his hands and knees in order to not fall over. He felt like stomach was very eager to evacuate its contents, but thankfully, nothing happened after he clamped down hard onto the urge. It seemed to take several minutes for his head to clear. He still felt a bit wobbly but managed to slowly get up and look around. Not that there was much to see in the first place.
The place was pretty barren and unreal. Just an unnaturally smooth, black floor that seemed to to go to the horizon and a clear, blue sky. Nothing to write home about. Ranma was no fool and assumed right away that considering he'd been kneeling in front of the altar moments ago that this wasn't real and just in his head. Still, it felt quite real. However, he was so occupied with trying to get what was going on that he didn't notice something more important, until...
That was Ami! Ranma spun around... and stopped in his tracks when he saw Ami... all of Ami.
Granted, he'd seen this before, but only for mere seconds. This time, he got the whole frontal view without a time limit. And man, was that a view. Ami was a very natural-looking girl. Everything on her body was in complete harmony with each other and it was how modestly she was shaped which made her look attractive to Ranma. Her breasts were a nice handful, topped with cute, brown areolas, her pubic hair was well cared for, her body showed no baby fat as it got removed through constant, recent exercise. All of it was crowed by a cute face with a currently faintly glowing sigl of Mercury on her forehead. His dreams really didn't do her justice; she looked even better than in his imagination.
However, he had little time to enjoy the view when he finally became aware of a very important fact: he was buck-naked as well. Naked, in front of a naked Ami.
Ami for her part had went through the same experience as Ranma, having felt sick as well and had almost vomited - she had barely managed to swallow it back down before the dam could burst and still felt the sensation from the acid in her throat. She had then turned around and had been greeted with the sight of Ranma's naked butt, causing her to let out a squeal of mortification... big error, since it caused Ranma to turn around, giving her an unobscured full frontal. Ami was speechless... while she had already seen his muscles, which made him look graceful instead of overloaded like a bodybuilder, he this time was completely bare, not even boxers obscuring her view.
She couldn't help but to notice that the meaning of Ranma's name - "wild horse" - was very fitting indeed, considering how well equipped he was. It was quite big and wasn't even erect yet. It took her some moments before she realised what she was actually doing.
Both of them looked at each other in silence for some more moments, before both of them blushed from head to toe. Ranma covered his crotch with his hands and used all of his control to calm down when feeling part of his anatomy react to the sight of Ami., who meanwhile wasted no time to apply the classical pose of the embarrassed nude female, covering her crotch and breasts with arms and hands, feeling her body betraying her at the sight of Ranma in the nude.
"Why does this happen to us?" Ranma openly complained.
Ami was trying hard to keep her composure - something she only partially succeeded in. "I've seen a number of anime where people are naked when having some sort of vision or are in some sort of higher plane of reality, but this is taking it too far! This is humiliating!"
Ranma knew who she felt; he himself felt as if someone was playing a cruel joke on them. "I wonder if he knew? Sending us here like this! What was he thinking?"
"Why?" Ami's trembling was a good indicator that she felt like screaming. "What's the use of doing this to us?"
"Always the same... They are always mortified when coming here... It never gets old."
The loud, rumbling and yet amused voice stopped them in their tracks. Slowly turning around, they were greeted with a sight that normally would have instilled fear into everyone. It was a dragon... or at least looked like one, shaped like a Westerner would imagine a dragon. It was as big as an elephant, had dark green scales and two big, leathery wings. However, the very intimidating look was ruined by the fact that the dragon did look quite amused, however that was possible with his facial features (the voice was clearly male).
Ranma got over his surprise fairly fast. "Hey! What's the idea behind this? Do you have any idea how embarrassing this this?"
"Oh, I do know about human modesty. However, in this place, entering with the mind means appearing as bare as you are right now. Please don't ask for the why, since I have no idea. I've seen so many in the same situation already that I wish I could change it to make things easier for everyone involved, myself included. Alas, it's not to be." The Dragon then saw their looks. "Just because I'm old doesn't mean I'm stupid. Also, I got I a good idea of you two when you entered this plane."
Having regained her courage - and seeing that this dragon didn't seem to be dangerous - Ami addressed him. "All right, I'll accept you can't change this... So who are you? And you don't exactly act as I had expected."
The dragon looked interested at her, paying extra attention to her forehead and the faint blue glow of her sigl. "You know, it is long ago since I last met one of you Senshi. The Moon is about to leave the eclipse... Sorry, was just my curiosity. I don't have a name, don't even look like this in reality. You don't want to know what I really look like... You perhaps thought I would act all mysterious and aloof?"
"Something like that, yes," Ami confirmed.
"I don't do this any longer. It alienated possible candidates, so I decided to just be myself, which is quite nice." He then turned serious and looked to Ranma. "However, let's come to business. Let me take a good look at you."
Ranma felt uncomfortable with the dragon looking at him as if exploring his deepest secrets. However, there was no place to hide and his hands were already occupied with preserving his last shred of modesty. "Do you have to stare?" he finally complained.
"Why so sensitive? Your body has nothing to be ashamed of." The dragon seemed to enjoy mortifying people. "And all done... Very interesting. A fighter at heart. Rough around the edges and yet wouldn't hesitate to take arms for the just cause. You certainly do fulfill the criteria. Yet there are some... issues."
Ranma's face fell. "Of course, give me a good guess... A certain curse presents a problem?"
"Not for the reason you believe. First however, dear Isamu did tell you everything that the call does entail? I have to know first," the dragon explained.
"Oh, he did. It's basically what I'm already doing, just with some nifty protection thrown in," Ranma said, getting right to the point.
"It mostly is, but you also have to understand that it's a lifetime job which could be an issue at times. Therefore, are you still willing do do it, despite this?" the dragon asked.
"Hell, yes! I couldn't live with myself if I could do something and yet just let the monsters go rampant."
"Very good... It's far easier than anticipated. That leaves the literal elephant in the room..."
They knew what he meant, but then got surprised when someone stepped out from behind him and walked up to them. Ranma had to blush when seeing it was a young Chinese woman, who also was completely nude. He tried very hard to concentrate on her face since she made no effort to cover up at all. It was not helped by the fact that Ami was watching him very closely while sending the occasional look of annoyance to the other female.
"All right, who are you supposed to be?" Ami asked, not even bothering to hide the acid in her voice. She felt threatened by this woman parading around naked in front of Ranma.
The woman held up her hands in a peace gestue. "Hey no need to be hostile! He's your man and I would never try anything! I just no longer have any embarrassment about nudity. As for who I am... my name is no longer important, but I'm the girl that originally drowned in that spring."
"You don't look anything like my girl-form," Ranma finally said, looking skeptical.
The woman rolled her eyes. "I guess you haven't listened when they explained the springs to you or you forgot. The spring just uses what you would have looked like if born a girl. Just replace an Y with and X chromosome, some small changes in the rest of the code and voilá, instant girl, who is Ranma Saotome in her own right. So you still look like yourself and not like me, which I think you should be grateful for."
"That still doesn't explain your presence or why you don't act like someone from ancient China." Although Ami no longer felt threatened, she still was careful. "I'm also still not happy that you parade around naked in front of my boyfriend."
The woman now looked rather annoyed. "Look, I've already been dead for centuries, I'm just a spirit, so there's no risk of me trying to seduce your boyfriend. Also, can you even imagine me still acting like I did during my lifetimes after all these centuries in that stupid spring and seeing the tragedy of countless men? That's what caused me to become cynical and have the tact of a blunt axe."
"My dear, maybe you should finally come to the point. This is why I summoned you," the dragon gently told the woman.
"All right. As I mentioned, I was stuck in that spring and the only way my soul could be freed and reborn to a new life would be, if one that got cursed in the spring learns to accept and live with the curse." She sighed. "The springs have a very bad track record. Of the cursed people, almost two thirds, men and women alike, commit suicide shortly after their cursing. The rest barely tolerates their curses or just live a miserable life. There are only very few exceptions. And as if that's not enough, the Musk make it even worse for me..."
"Who are the Musk?" Ami asked, curious.
"They are jerks, that's what they are!" the woman shouted, before regaining her composure. "Sorry, it's just that the nobility and warrior caste of this tribe have that really perverse tradition to put animals into the spring to turn them into human women, then lock them into that state with magic and use them as fuck toys and child-bearing machines."
Ranma and Ami went green when hearing this blunt description of what the spring was used for. "That's... that's SICK!" Ranma then shouted in uttermost disgust.
Judging by the look of disgust, the woman thought so as well. "You don't have to tell me, no wonder they are as screwed up as they are. You can guess it was difficult for me to get out of this mess... at least until you came along. Don't get me wrong, I'm sorry you got cursed, but you are the first who took it well, also thanks to your girlfriend."
"I not exactly took it well at first. I'm only starting to learn to live with it," Ranma admitted, remembering his recent breakdown.
"I know and I won't expect you to love it, but you are starting to make your peace with it, and this is what counts for me." The woman then looked to Ami. "I can't thank you enough for how much you helped him through that hard time when he was about to break under the weight of the curse."
"Every decent person would have done this..." Ami tried to play down her part.
"No, you do deserve the recognition. I just need one final confirmation..." She looked to Ranma. "You do no longer mind your curse, right?"
Ranma let out a sigh. "I'll probably never like it, but I no longer resent it. I guess I'm starting to get along with it. Of course it helped that I now know I won't turn into some sort of prissy princess or look after guys. I actually do no longer mind... Life goes on and I guess it's now part of me."
The woman started to smile and a tear escaped her. "Oh, thank you... I can already feel myself getting out of the spring." She did start to fade away. "Thank you so much... I'm finally free to go on after such a long time... I'll be in your debt forever... Ranma Saotome."
Then she was gone.
"You have done the right thing, she now is on her way to be reborn, even though that infernal spring does still exist," the dragon congratulated Ranma. "You have earned the title of Shadow Hunter."
"Uhm, won't there be some sort of knighting thing when I get my powers?" Ranma wondered, still a bit out of it after witnessing the spirit disappear.
"Sadly, no. You'll just get them once you get out of this place, although I think your great-grandfather is more than willing to call for a celebration. There however is one final thing I want to address, and that concerns you, young lady, and why you are here," the dragon continued, looking to Ami.
"Isamu said that it's to get your blessing for being together with Ranma... although I imagine that there is more to it than he told us, right?" Ami asked, having the feeling that they'd been set up.
The dragon chuckled. "Well, he hasn't exactly lied, he just left out a few things. You see, when the pair is before me, it usually is to give my blessing to either a wedded pair or one that will be in due time."
"And I thought he wouldn't do this!" Ami protested, only to be silenced when the dragon lifted a paw.
"However, I don't think he did this because of that. He most likely just saw how much you like each other and wants to help you on that way. After all, my blessing results in a bond between the pair."
"Bond? You mean stuff like that we can talk to each other with our minds or always know where the other is?" Ranma wondered, remembering something he'd seen on TV.
Now the dragon laughed. "Oh no, nothing that drastically. It mostly is just a bond of trust and you will feel warm and safe in each other's company. See, nothing dramatic, such things after all only happen in fiction. Both of you won't feel any different apart from what I told you. Although, there is one nifty bonus in form of dream sharing..." The dragon looked at both of them and blinked. "Oh... I... That changes things. Somehow the bond already got partially activated and you are already sharing your dreams sometimes... especially the naughty ones."
"We do?" Ami now was concerned. Had Ranma seen one of he intense sexual dreams? "How is that possible?"
The dragon took a closer look at both of them. "I know now... The unique combination of Ranma's transformation magic and your powers of Mercury somehow partially ignited the bond. Call it a magical short-circuit. Believe me when I say you now have to let me finish it, or it could get ugly."
"How ugly?" Ranma had just processed the whole dream-sharing thing when that anvil got dropped onto them. He guessed that this just wasn't their day.
"I never expected this to happen... If I don't fix this, your ability to feel emotions could get seriously crippled. Sorry that you have no choice, but in both your interest I have to open the bond, if you want or not."
"Damn it, that's our luck! Tell us, if not for that, could we have just decided to hold that off until we are really sure about it?" Ranma now wanted to know.
"Yes. I would have accepted just waiting until you feel ready. I also think this is what your great-grandfather had in mind. Sadly... there now is little choice, unless you want to risk permanent damage," the dragon told them, sounding sincerely sorry.
Both teenagers sighed loudly. They both felt that they were a bit too young for this but there was little choice in the matter now. "So, how exactly do we do this? Does that also happen automatically when we wake up?" Ami asked.
"Not exactly..." The dragon now did seem a bit peevish. "While it does happen at that point, remember it's use. It requires close contact; very close contact." He ten interpreted their looks. "Not THAT. That's reserved for your bedroom... Let's do this slow. First face each other."
Both did as told. It became quite a bit hardened to ignore their nudity when looking at each other. "Now, hands to the side. No secrets from each other." They hesitated for a moment, since after all their modesty was rebelling. Finally, their hands fell to their sides, leaving them bare to each other's sight.
"Take a good look at each other." At first they were hesitant, yet in the end, curiosity to take a closer look won out.
"I think I already told you... but... wow. You look really good, Ami," Ranma finally got out, while still ogling her naked form.
"You are no slouch, either. I also... oh my!" Ami watched a certain body part of Ranma expanding. "Wild Horse... You really seem to like seeing me."
"Y-you seem to be excited as well..." Ranma said, observing the slight trickle of clear fluid on the inside of her legs.
"Now, to seal the deal, embrace each other and a kiss will do it all."
Again, there was some hesitation and they walked forward one step at the time, until they were finally in each other's arms. It was weird. Being so close together while completely naked felt quite right. It also felt nice, although Ami felt Ranma poking her lower belly.
"Come, let's do this..." Ami breathed, feeling the temperature rising by the second.
They engaged in a passionate, deep and wild kiss. The sigl of Mercury, which had glowed faintly on Ami's forehead the entire time, suddenly flared up and both of them felt something rushing through them. It by no means was bad or hurt, quite in the contrary. Their mouths separated and they both let out a loud moan, before vanishing in a flash of light.
The dragon had watched all this with satisfaction, then suddenly shrunk down to human size into an anthromorphic version of himself. "The legacy is secured and I made another pair happy... Well, as soon as they have come to terms with these events." He then noticed someone entering. "Tell me again, Helios, how did you convince the powers that are to throw in this bond you developed into the whole deal all these centuries ago? I nearly got into deep trouble and they almost got seriously hurt by it threatening to malfunction."
Said Helios was a man with white hair and yellow eyes, wearing a white suit. His most striking feature was a unicorn's horn on his forehead. "I explained to those above us that for all the hunters have to endure with this job, these people should also get some rewards. Sharing beautiful and hot dreams seems to be a good reward to me. They thought so as well," Helios explained.
"And yet we almost regretted it," the dragon grumbled.
"How should I have known he would fall in love with a Senshi of all people? Though, haven't seen any of these in a long time. Too bad that I have to stay neutral in the struggles still to come until the heir is ready to claim the crystal," Helios replied.
"Can you at least make sure this doesn't happen again? I feel really bad for scaring them with these news."
Helios scratched his chin. "If I tweak it here and there... Well, want to come to Elysion? I sure could use some company when making sure this won't happen again."
Ranma and Ami shook their heads, trying to get their vision to focus again. When it did, they saw that they were back in front of the altar and - thankfully - dressed. The candles had not become visibly shorter, so it couldn't have been that long. Slowly getting up, they saw all three adults watching them, wondering if they were alright.
Ranma gave Isamu a nasty look. "Thanks that you kept some certain details from us!" he told him in a very sarcastic tone that left no doubt about his feelings.
The old man had the dignity to look guilty. "I really thought I did the right thing! It eh... all worked out in the end, right?"
"It did, in the end, but you really could have warned us in advance," Ranma grumbled, still not happy with the whole thing.
"Did something happen we should know?" Nodoka wondered when listening to this exchange.
Ami shook her head. "No. This is a very private matter. So as much as I dislike saying so, but we won't tell you, unless we decide to; something we probably never will. Unless we do, it is none of your concern."
Nodoka and Genma looked at each other. If the polite Ami was this direct, it had to be a really private matter.
Some time later, things had come back to order.
Isamu was busy with checking something on the underside of Ranma's right, lower arm. It looked like a small tatoo of a sword. The old man was pleased when seeing it. "It is there. That means everything went well and you are officially initiated."
"I had hoped Ranma would never get a tatoo. Well, at least it's not that obvious," Genma stated, then noticed the looks. "What? You know tatoos are mainly associated with Yakuza. It's small enough that Ranma won't get trouble in the public baths."
Ranma didn't even want to imagine accidently getting confused with a Yakuza. "Let's hope it stays this way..."
"I think after all the excitement, all of us could use something really filling. However, I first want to show something..." Isamu went back into the shrine room and returned with to items in his hands. "It's an enigma on which I am working all of my life."
He put both items on the table. The first was a book with the tile "Of the Great Kingdom" printed on it. The second was a round stone disc the size of a dinner plate and almost as thick as the book. The disc had several sun phases - dawn, mid-day, sunset and night - engraved onto the outer ring. The depression taking up most of the surface meant that another, smaller disc was supposed to be put onto it and the hole in the middle meant they were to be put onto an axis.
"There is quite a story connected with this disc..." Isamu began.
-slap!- Ten-year old Isamu held back a cry when a hard slap sent him to the floor. Cruel laughter surrounded him while he held the left side of his face and watched an obese, blue-skinned demon wearing a white suit and fedora approach him, holding the stone disc in his hand.
"You little brat really thought you could take away what's mine?" he mocked Isamu.
"It's not yours! You killed the man who dug it out and stole it! You are a murderer and a thief!" Isamu spat back, disregarding his own safety.
"Brave words. Many grown men were less brave in my presence," the demon admitted, before kicking Isamu into the side, sending him back to the floor.
"Oh, come on, Duruganov! Let me slice this brat into nice bacon strips," one of the demon's three helpers giggled. She was looking like a dominatrix in her leather outfit... with huge bat-wings on her back, horns out of her shoulders and a devil's tail.
"Control yourself! Killing this brat will give us only more trouble," Duruganov warned her off.
"Why, boss?" another henchman demon wearing a gangster outfit and looking disgusting with his green, wart-filled skin asked.
"He's a Shadow Hunter brat. Kill him, and we have the entire clan on our heels, swearing revenge. Just leave him here and they'll never bother. Now come..." Duruganov called, turning around to leave.
They left, with exception of the last henchman demon. He walked to Isamu and helped the whispering boy to his feet.
"Why are you helping me? I thought all demons are evil" Isamu wondered. The demon didn't look like he could be mean. He just looked like an anthromorphic goat wearing a sailor suit.
The goat-being sighed. "I'm not a demon kid. I'm just a nature spirit. We are pacifists and I would love nothing more than return to my home dimension to my wife and children... "
"Why don't you leave? Duruganov is a complete jerk," Isamu wondered.
"He's tricked me into a contract and as long as he's alive, I'm bound to his whims." He then turned around. "I need to go. You lost today, kid, but I'm sure we'll meet again. I can see in your eyes that you are not one to give up."
That said, the goat left behind a thoughtful Isamu.
...Tokyo Bay, 1938...
-smack!- Isamu didn't say anything while the demon's fist hit him into the face. Being held in place by this succubus-demon's tentacles - which grew out of a place better left unsaid - was already bad enough, so he didn't really notice the hits any longer. The goat-spirit was standing a little away, looking pained each time the man was hurt.
It was a clear night and they were all on a ship in the middle of Tokyo Bay. The ship itself was a rather old one, a wonder it had not yet sunk into the sea. His long search had finally led him here and he had indeed found what he'd searched for, only to get ambushed by these two.
"Small world, isn't it, Shadow Hunter?" Duruganov then said, while approaching.
"Too small for both of us!" Isamu growled.
Duruganov opened Isamu's bag, pulling something out. It was the stone disc. "That's the second time I have to reclaim what's mine from you."
"And I repeat, you're a thief and murderer!" Isamu spat.
"You should not have come after me. You'll now regret it," Duruganov laughed.
Suddenly, Isamu smiled. "Oh, there is just one thing you forgot."
The sudden change of mood disturbed Duruganov. "And what could this be?"
"I'm no longer a harmless child."
Without warning, Isamu suddenly threw up his legs and a blade shot out of his boot, slamming in Duruganov's throat. Black blood shot out of his slashed throat and he fell backwards, while Isamu grabbed another blade out a wrist-holster and slammed it backwards directly into the succubus' left eye. The screaming demoness let go of him.
"Bastard!" the third demon cursed and was about to cast a horrible spell, before three throwing stars slammed into his gut, making him keel over. Right before a blade slammed into his neck, cutting off his head.
"Arrrggghh!" the demoness screamed, looking even more angry with heft left eye cut out. That was to little avail, as Isamu dodged her attack, before slamming his blade directly into the place between her legs, knowing that a succubus was must vulnerable there. She slammed to the deck, pathetically gasping for breath, while dying.
Isamu looked at his dead foes, before walking to the also dying Duruganov, taking the stone disc from the deck. "You thought you are big shots... Correction: for demons, you are weak wannabes with very little power."
Duruganov looked shocked, before dying, his body dissolving into goo.
Isamu then looked to the goat-spirit who had done nothing during all this. "You were right, we met again. Now that he's history, I think you want to return home?"
The spirit gave Isamu a smile.
"...and then he returned home and I finally got this here back," Isamu concluded his tale, holding up the stone disc.
"Wow, what a story..." Ranma had known his great-grandfather had been doing these things in his past, but dipatching three demons, even weak ones, like this was impressive. This man deserved respect.
Ami meanwhile took a look at the disc. "Have you made any progress in finding out what disc is good for?"
"I did, but it only opened up even more enigmas in the big one," Isamu explained, giving her the book. "I marked the most important passages. Take a look at it and tell me what you think."
Ami did so, and her eyes widened the longer she read. "Would it be an inconvenience if we take both items with us? We want to try and solve this."
"Feel free to do so... After I all, I didn't manage to solve it in all these years. Time for someone else to try themselves at it..."
...evening, Hikawa Shrine...
Everyone had listened to Ranma and Ami telling the story of their visit to Isamu Nakamura, Ranma's new responsibilities and the story that old Isamu had told them. Needless to say, everyone was quite fascinated by the whole story - Pluto most of all, since she never had had any idea of these things and it made her wonder if that was another change she had caused with her escape. One way or another, this suddenly opened possibilities she hadn't thought possible.
Of course, Ranma and Ami had worked hard on leaving out certain details. The fact that they'd been buck-naked during that spiritual experience would stay a secret and the whole deal with them being bonded even more. They had no wish for anyone to make a big deal of it - also it was a very private matter and therefore no one's concern but theirs.
"Wow, Ranma! Does that mean you now can do magic?" Minako asked, only for Artemis to correct her.
"Haven't you listened? It doesn't give Ranma any attacks or even active magic. People are born with magic, they can't gain it. All he got are passive protection magics put onto him, like the one that protects him from energy loss. However, do not underestimate these; this is a strong defense he has gotten. It eliminates some of the most dangerous vulnerabilities, mostly psychic attacks," Artemis lectured her.
"Fine, but I'll still go through with my training. He was clear on that while it gives protection, I should be prepared for everything," Ranma added.
"You must have a masochistic streak if you can't wait to get hit by boulders," Makoto snarked, remembering what kind training Ranma was about to start.
Ranma crossed his arms. "Better a masochist than dead."
Before it could get any more out of hand, Pluto knocked with her staff onto the floor. "You mentioned a stone disc and a book."
"We have them here. The book we can read together. I have already read it... it is very interesting to say the least," Ami said, while opening her backpack, taking out the copy of Isamu's book and the stone disc. "Does this disc mean anything to you? I have my theories but need more opinions," she wondered, handing Pluto the disc.
Pluto looked at the round disc, and guessed that together with others it worked the same way as a numerical lock. The disc didn't look familiar, but she did feel something about it. "I can't say I recognise it, although I do feel the magic woven into it," she said, then noticed Mamoru approaching. "You look like you recognise it."
"Not entirely. I do know this is something from the old Earth Kingdom, but its use eludes me, even though I should know. Maybe it comes back to me in due time," he said, after looking at the disc. "It's almost as if Endymion mocks me and says I should try to remember harder."
"The more I hear of Endymion, the more it sounds like he'd been sort of a jerk. Thank goodness you don't take after him," Usagi observed, before quickly looking away when realizing what she'd said.
"Then this book will be most helpful. Rei, you read it to us, the important parts are all marked," Ami told Rei, putting the book into her hands.
The miko saw that there were only a few markings, so it probably wouldn't take too long. "All right. Then let's see what this is about..."
OF THE GREAT KINGDOM
Finally I have managed to translate all fragments and put them into the right order to reconstruct the document. Most of the original, apart from the final part, got lost, so that I had to reconstruct the text from sources which describe it in length, meaning that for the most part, it has the view of an outsider on the events chronicled. Now I wonder... will I ever manage to solve the puzzle presented to myself? Perhaps not. I still lack crucial information even where to start the quest in the first place. I am printing it all into book form for later, easy reference.
-Isamu Nakamura, Tokyo, 1980
"A puzzle? A quest? Are we meant to do that?" Usagi interrupted Rei, before a strong look from the miko silenced her.
"Interupt me like this again and you gonna get it!" she said heatedly, before continuing to read.
Of the Kingdom and its Values
The kingdom of old had encompassed all of the known lands under its banner during the days of its glory, which are said to have been 6000 years in our past. The kingdom of old had been a very powerful one, indeed. And yet, despite their great power, they ruled their lands wise and just, ensuring that the ones less fortunate would not suffer and that the ones who had in abundance would not misuse their power.
Its capital was located on a far-away island of such beauty, that the whole world spoke of it. Much of the old kingdom sounds strange to our ears. It was said that the people didn't need horses, as they had harnessed the power of ligtning, using it to animate constructs, which then did the work for them like magic.
Since that part was all that was marked on that page, Rei looked up. "This book seems to be about the old Earth Kingdom." She looked to Mamoru. "I get the feeling that this could be really important for you."
Hearing that, Mamoru now was even more interested. "Maybe this book finally tells us what this stone disc is good for. I only know it must be important."
"Trust me, it is. The important part about that comes a little later," Ami assured him.
Rei returned her attention to the next part.
The foundation of the kingdom was set into a set of virtues, basic human values, which in turn were derived from three basic principles. The principles were as follows:
Truth - The principle of Truth has its foundations in seeing the true nature of the world surrounding us and defying any kind of illusion, may it be from the outside or from ourselves, that clouds the mind and judgment.
Love - The principle of Love is necessary for all humans to interact in a civilised manner with each other. Love gives people the respect for each other they need and makes everyone aware of the needs of others and oneself.
Courage - The principle of Courage is most important to survive in a hostile environment and to do the task, even if it is difficult. It gives the strength needed to prevail through all kind of hardships.
From there, eight virtues form the core of society:
Honesty - Honesty, founded on the principle of Truth, is scrupulous respect for truth- the willingness never to deceive oneself or another. The pursuit of truthfulness, with respect to oneself and with respect to other beings.
Compassion - Compassion, founded on the principle of Love, is non-judgmental empathy for one's fellow creatures. The quality of empathy, of recognizing and sharing the feelings of others.
Valor - Valor, founded on the principle of Courage, is the courage to take actions in support of one's convictions. The courage to uphold virtue, even in the face of a physical or psychological threat.
Justice - Justice, founded on the principles of Truth and Love, is the devotion to truth, tempered by love. It is the wisdom that perceives what is right and what is wrong in human action.
Sacrifice - Sacrifice, founded on the principles of Courage and Love, is the courage to give of oneself in the name of love. It is the placing of the interests of others and the ends of virtue over one's own well-being.
Honor - Honor, founded on the principles of Courage and Truth, is the courage to stand for the truth, against any odds. It is the courage to stand for truth regardless of the circumstances.
Spirituality - Spirituality, founded on all three principles in equal parts, is the concern with one's inner being and how one deals with truth, love, and courage. It is also the awareness of the love that unites one's own inner being to those around one.
Humility - Humility is the opposite of Pride, and independent of the principles of Virtue, is about perceiving one's place in the world, not according to one's own accomplishments, but according to the intrinsic value of all individuals. It is the recognition of the worthiness of all beings, and the perception of one's own place among them, regardless of one's own personal accomplishments or mistakes in the world.
Only few would manage to put all the virtues and principles into full use. The highest standard that would result is, that someone would reach Infinity, since the rules of human decency survive the times and are universal to everyone.
"That sure was... extensive. However, it's also quite interesting. It makes you wonder which of these virtues we could represent," Naru wondered while Rei was looking for the next part.
Pluto only remembered these things now, cursing time paradoxes that were messing with her memories. "This might be an interesting question, but it can surely wait for later, until we have heard all of this."
Rei went on with the next part.
Of the Crystal and the Stone Discs
The rulers of the kingdom of course also had power. All the strength and determination they got to steer the kingdom partly came from a special source. A source, which gave them a power far above what normal mortal could achive, yet the usage of it was strictly limited, as the temptation for its theft and misuse was far too great to ignore.
Only the current king and his successor would know the exactly location of the artifact of power, for it was hidden deep beneath the surface. And again only very few actually knew it existed. There, on an altar in front of the giant mana tree, source of all magic on Earth, rested the Golden Crystal, symbol of the king's power, waiting for its rightful owners to use it in times of great need.
Rei looked up is disbelief. "A tree that supplies the magic of Earth? A Golden Crystal... as a source of power for Mamoru? What do you think... does it really exist? It sounds so fantastic I can hardly believe it, despite what we've already been through."
Suddenly Mamoru almost keeled over, holding his head in pain! "AHHH! No...I..." Everyone was on their guard, but Mamoru held up a hand to show he was all right. "Sorry... the memories came all of a sudden and it hurt quite a bit..."
"If there is a memory... does that mean the tree and the crystal are real?" Usagi asked in wonder, feeling as if it was some kind of very exciting story.
Mamoru poured himself some water. "I don't know everything, since Endymion died before he'd have been old enough to know all secrets. However... both are quite real, as impossible as it seems. However, we should first hear the rest of it."
Agreeing, Rei returned to the book.
In order to aid keeping the mana tree and the Golden Crystal safe from those who would try to misuse its powers, three special, magical stone discs were created. The location of the sanctum was known only to the current king and to learn of it, each new ruler would have to visit three temples, which each held a third of the knowledge where to find the sanctum. The first two third would also give hints to the location of the next temple.
It was said, that the first temple is located in the lands 1370 kilometers east of the capital. At the first temple, a Sunstone sufficed, if hot sunlight bathed the Earth. Final entrance to the inner sanctum was granted, if sunset made the Earth red.
At the second temple a Moonstone was also needed, with the noon sun riding above the waning moon. Final entrance to the inner sanctum was granted, with the sun dying as a new moon is born.
To approach the third temple a Worldstone was required as well, with the rising sun chasing away the full moon from from above the fiery peak. Final entrance to the inner sanctum was granted with a waxing moon reflecting in the western sea below.
Entrance through the final barrier towards the inner sanctum of the mana tree was only allowed to contrary minds.
"It seems we're now getting to the really important stuff. That does sound like a code. So that means we already have the Sunstone, but need the two others if we actually want to accomplish anything... Of course only if we are planning to do anything about it in the first place," Makoto observed.
"We should decide about that after Rei is done with reading. There seems only little left," Luna said, noticing that only one marker was left.
Rei opened the page, which was at the end of the book.
Of the End of the Kingdom
Note: I found it especially difficult to find any sources about the end of the kingdom. The suddenness of its end must have been devastating. In the end I found out, that just a singe parchment in the original works which spoke of the final days and the aftermath, and it is here in its entirety. It was a direct transcript from the original, with no flavoring.
"I write this in sorrow, as the world as we knew it is coming to an end. The last days of our kingdom had been beautiful... and we would have given them more attention, had we known what would follow. I myself have no idea how it happened, only that one day, a dark shadow had settled over the world and destroyed our leaders before making our army go insane. When the shadow collapsed, the insane ones remaining on the world started a senseless slaughter.
The world is now in ruins and the fight for basic survival is driving more and more people to desperation. Even the virtues, the foundation of our society, are now violated freely. Our world is torn apart by a disregard for the very thing that made it such a beautiful place. I fear for what the future will bring and as the last one knowing these secrets, have written them all down so that hopefully future generations can return the world to its glory.
A very dark age is ahead of us, and we don't even know how it had come this far..."
Rei closed the book. "That was quite interesting, but what should we make of all this? That last part was more of an apocalyptic log than anything else."
"I think it's all clear," Ami said, having had time to come up with her own conclusions since she'd read the book earlier that day. "The book speaks of the Golden Crystal and that only the rightful heir to the Earth throne can claim it. It seems to be an artifact of great power and although Mamoru will never wield any sort of political power, he is the rightful heir to the crystal."
"Do we even have the time for this sort of treasure hunt? Especially since it seems to be all over the world? Is the crystal really that important?" Makoto asked into the room, doubtful.
Pluto has holding back a grimace while her memories got further additions, causing her a horrible headache when she leaned of these facts only now after being made aware of them. "While the Earth Kingdom was quite secretive about these things, I can say it is very powerful. After all it is the brother to the Silver Crystal and linked to similarly strong powers. Alas, I think this is a quest we should not yet start, since we currently have different priorities."
"Isn't that a bit risky? I mean, what if the Dark Kingdom gets it first?" Minako wondered.
"I honestly doubt it," Mamoru said, holding up the Sunstone. "They won't get it without this and the information provided in the book. Both I think will be safely locked away until we need them ourselves. I also remember a small problem that could make this whole thing a little more complicated... Endymion had the Moonstone on his person when he died, meaning it still is on his body... on the Moon."
Silence swept through the room when confronted with this problem. "So I think until we've found a way to reach the Moon and survive in the vacuum of space, this pretty much is a dead end," Mamoru finally added.
"I fear so. Until your combined magic is strong enough for long-range teleportation - even I on my own can not teleport off the planet - and creating an environmental shield, the Golden Crystal has to wait. Good thing that it right at the moment is safe," Pluto explained.
That pretty much closed discussion on that topic.
"However, I do have a different lead towards the Silver Crystal and it looks very promising and I can soon tell you more about it," Pluto said, knowing that the hunt for the Rainbow Crystals would soon start.
"You mean that crystal we need for the Moon Princess?" Usagi asked, causing Luna to facepaw and wonder, if the girl actually was enjoying to act ignorant.
Thankfully, Pluto seemed to have lots of patience. "Exactly that one. I hope to give you answers very soon. In the meantime... Mamoru, can I take the stone and the book with me? I think they are safe when stored at the gates."
No more words were exchanged and Pluto vanished as soon as she'd gotten both objects.
Ranma let out a breath he'd held. "Magic crystals, travel to the Moon, a tree that creates magic... Wouldn't have thought my life gets this crazy. I only know one thing for sure: you girls will be, just like me, in training hell for the near future."
The girls didn't look happy with that, but knew that they needed it.
...meanwhile, in the Dark Kingdom...
"...we therefore give you this gathered energy to reawaken you from your slumber!"
Beryl was kneeling in the chamber which was situated at the lowest point of the huge complex that was the Dark Kingdom. It was a scary place. Bare rock walls were formed like people who had been absorbed into the walls, screaming in terror at their final moments, the light in the place was dim and murky, a small of rotting flesh was in the air and the big cave was dominated by something that looked like a a huge, transparent container that was held in place by rocks that looked like teeth. Even more disturbing, several things swimming in the fluid in the container looked like organs while the transparent container looked like a huge, deformed heart.
Energy blasted through vein-like conduits in the walls, feeding into the huge heart.
At first, nothing seemed to happen. Then, the container started to contract rhythmically, like a beating heart, deep breathing filling the cave. The fluids inside the container lit up, glowing orange and bathing the cave in an unnatural light.
"Our great master Metallia has awakened!" Beryl said in awe, when seeing what happened.
Black energy pulsed through the orange liquid, forming a shadow outline of a face. "Human energy has woken me from my long slumber..." a creepy, hoarse and only vaguely female voice echoed through the cave.
"Master! How long have I waited to hear your voice again!" Beryl called, enthusiastic to the fact that they finally had managed what they had worked so hard for.
"Yes...yes... Yet, the chains that were put onto me were not broken." From the sound of it, the being that was Metallia was barely restraining her anger. "Find the Silver Crystal in order to speed up my freedom by breaking my chains early."
"Queen Metallia, our search has ended in failure. We were unable to locate the Silver Crystal," Beryl fearfully told the being, hoping it wouldn't result in a punishment.
"Your search met with failure as the crystal is not whole. Foolish queen of the Moon, imprisoned your seven most powerful warriors within the Silver Crystal... Broken into seven rainbow-colored crystals it got at her death."
"This is why we were unable to locate it?" Beryl said in surprise. This was news to her.
"Yes... Find a way to locate your seven warriors, still locked inside the seven crystals, carried by seven unsuspecting beings. Collect all seven crystals and re-form the Silver Crystal," Metallia commanded.
"Yes, my queen! I already have an idea!"
to be continued...
"The Hunt begins"
Now, considering how long this chapter is, here some notes.
I admit I lited certain ideas from other sources. The flshback scene is from "Last Crusade" and parts of the book and the stone disc from "Fate of Atlantis". I also based the virtues on those from the "Ultima" series. The dragon scene is a parody of the one in "Gabriel Knight".
I know these quite a lot of nudity and borderline situations between Ranma and Ami, but what do you expect? They are not in a monastery. However, don't expect this to happen often in this story.
There's lots of foreshadowing in this chapter. Can you find it all?
There are 8 virtues, three principles and Infinity, and there are 12 people (10 Senshi + Mamoru and Ranma). Can you guess who represents what? I already assigned it (not story important but interesting) but are curious what others think.
I was tempted to split part off of this monster chapter, but in the end kept in intact.