Originally I based this story on the SNES version of the game, since that's the version I've played and grown up with, but the script I found at gamefaqs is for the GBA version. Much to my surprise there have been some important changes to the original story. That's why I've decided to play through the GBA version and will therefore base this story entirely on the GBA version.

I don't own a Nintendo DS, and I know that there have been even bigger changes in the NDS version. So, if you have the impression that something is missing or hasn't happened that way in the game, you might have played the NDS version.

Prologue

A very happy, although very wet and female Ranma was frolicking through the streets of Nerima, singing one of her favorite songs,

"Risin' up, back on the street,

Did my time, took my chances,

Went the distance, now I'm back on my feet,

Just a man and his will to survive..."

She understood the irony, as she really didn't look like a man at the moment. She was in a very good mood and couldn't wait to tell Kasumi about the big victory she had scored a few minutes earlier. Even the knowledge of what Happosai had planned to do to her after he had splashed her wasn't enough to dampen her mood. No siree; she got him, and good for once. He'll be nursing his bruises for quite some time.

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At the same time, in a whole different dimension, two soldiers on a mission were travelling through Mist Valley.

"Hey Kain, wait up!"

The dragoon just sighed. "Hurry up, slowpoke! The sooner we're done in Mist, the sooner we can head back home. You know, there are more interesting things to do than play delivery boy for the king."

Cecil was barely listening to what his friend had to say and was just nodding from time to time. He had more pressing thoughts on his mind. He was thinking about drastic changes to the king's behaviour over the last few months and what that could mean. He had no idea how such a caring and kind man could have become so cruel and power hungry. Heck, he had practically raised both Kain and him like his very own; and then there was Rosa, the discussion the both of them had had the night before was still vivid in his memory. He loved Rosa dearly, and the white mage reciprocated those feelings, but it was just impossible for a dark knight like him to get together with a girl like her.

"HELLO?!" the dragoon shouted in Cecil's ear, startling the dark knight.

"Wha…? Oh! Kain? I'm really sorry. I have a lot of my mind lately."

The dragoon gave his friend a sad look. "I understand. Being demoted must have been a very big shock. I don't understand why the king did that; you're one of his most loyal men."

"Yes I know. It's not like I was questioning his orders, but my men and I were just curious. And he has never objected before."

Kain pat his friend on the shoulder. "Well, don't be so gloomy. Maybe the king is sick and that's the reason why he reacted like that. You know what? I'm sure that after this mission the king will pardon you and give you back your command. He probably gave us this boring mission just to teach you a lesson. After all, you've been an exemplary soldier so far with quite an impressive record. And I for one don't really mind this mission all that much. At least this way I can get out of the castle for a while."

"Yeah, you're probably right," the dark knight agreed. "But that's not the only thing on my mind?"

"Oh?" That dragoon was visibly surprised. "What other problems could you have?"

Cecil gave a heavy sigh. "Rosa."

Kain raised an eyebrow. "Did she dump you?"

"NO! It's just… I love her, you know, but as a dark knight… I don't know if we can ever have a future."

"I can't help you there, buddy, you're on your own. But you know what? There's enough time to be gloomy later on. Let's concentrate on the mission for now. We should stay on our guard; monster activity has been steadily rising over the last months and I wouldn't be surprised if some of them had taken refuge here."

The last remark sobered the dark knight up and he immediately concentrated on the task at hand. "Right, we have a job to do. The King could at least have given me a few days to rest after the attack on Mysidia. You know, I still feel bad about what we had to do. They didn't stand a chance against us. We probably could have seized the crystal without causing all that bloodshed."

"Stop it, Cecil! You did what you had to do. It was for the wellbeing and the glorious future of our kingdom. A soldier does his duty without questioning his superiors' orders. There's nothing you... LOOK OUT! SWORD RATS!"

But the dark knight had already taken a defensive position, protecting his torso with his shield and keeping the sword at the ready. Kain was relieved to see that his friend's situation awareness hadn't suffered at all. A fight might just be what Cecil needed to get out of the funk he was in. It only took the dragoon a few seconds to ready himself. He copied Cecil's stance, but he used a lance instead of a sword. 'Guess that confirms it; there are monsters in these caves', the dragoon thought. "Alright! Let's do this," he shouted.

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In the meantime Ranma had made it back to the Tendo compound and she was still in a good mood and humming a catchy tune. "I'm hooooome," she shouted in a sing-song voice as she entered the house proper.

Kasumi immediately came out of the kitchen to greet her, a radiant smile on her face. She was happy to see her unofficial little brother, well, sister at the moment in such a good mood. The poor dear usually didn't have much reason to be happy, what with all the problems in her life. And Kasumi really regretted the fact that she couldn't do more for their guest but cheering her on and listening to her problems. With all the crap Ranma had been subjected to in her short life, she of all people deserved some happiness. "My, my, you seem to have had a really good day." She then intensely stared at a fidgeting Ranma before a huge, mischievous grin spread on her face. "Tell me everything!"

"Alright, alright, but let me take a warm bath first. As you can see I got splashed on and my clothes are still very damp. I don't want to catch a cold. You can bask in the awesomeness of my stories as soon as I'm back". The retreating redhead chuckled when she saw the eager look the brunette was giving her. She quickly went to her room to get some fresh clothes, before entering the bathroom, not forgetting to put up the 'occupied' sign. This had become a conditioned reflex since mallet strikes to the head were not very healthy, not that it bothered the tomboy all that much. Sometimes Ranma had the feeling that Akane had a hidden sadistic streak and enjoyed hitting her all too much. No, she really didn't want to have the youngest Tendo ruin her good mood.

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"Well, that was easy," Kain boasted as he removed his lance from the Sword Rat's corpse. "They hardly were a challenge. Nothing to be worried about."

"You should stay on your guard, Kain," the dark knight chided his friend and companion. "Who knows what else is lurking around."

"That coming from the guy who was daydreaming in hostile territory a few moments ago?" Kain chuckled.

Cecil couldn't hide a blush of embarrassment as he mentally admitted that fact. But he stayed focused. These enemies might have been easy to kill, but there was always the possibility that more of them had invaded the tunnels. Better safe than sorry. The wiseness of that approach became rapidly apparent when they stumbled into an ambush further along the way. Cecil was the first to notice the group of Insectus trapping them in a pincer attack. He congratulated himself for his foresight as he easily managed to block the first attack with his shield.

He looked at Kain and was relieved to see that his friend was alright. But as they were busy fighting off the four Insectus, neither of them noticed the fifth one creeping up on Kain and biting him in the leg.

"YEOUCH!" The dragoon jumped in the air in pain and when he looked down he was dismayed to see the monster was still firmly attached to his leg. With a mighty lance stab he impaled it, but the damage had already been done. His face slowly turned green and he felt queasy in the stomach.

"KAIN!" Cecil cried out after seeing the predicament his friend was in. "Jump as high as you can. I'll clear the way with my special attack." Kain gave a small nod of understanding and jumped as high as he could. He hoped that he could hold out long enough for Cecil's attack to do his job; he was starting to feel really sick and he didn't know how long he would be able to stay awake. He could already feel unconsciousness claiming him.

"DARK WAVE"! The dark knight yelled and was relieved and satisfied to see that the dark energy beam that he had channelled through his blade had been strong enough to obliterate the remaining enemies.

Kain was writhing on the ground in obvious pain while holding his injured leg. However, it didn't take long for his struggles to calm down and Cecil knew he had to act fast, lest he lost his friend. The pus coming out of the wound confirmed Cecil's suspicions; the Insectus had indeed poisoned his friend. He checked his backpack for an antidote and to his relief found several among the score of potions he had taken with him. He silently thanked Rosa for her foresight. She always insisted that he should carry a large assortment of all kind of potions on all of his missions.

He opened the dragoon's mouth and carefully poured the potion down his throat. To his relief the antidote took immediately effect and neutralized the poison. Soon after Kain's breathing became regular and a few minutes later he woke up. Cecil immediately handed him a healing potion and the wound closed up, not even leaving a scar behind. Kain got up and the two of them resumed their journey.

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Kasumi was busy preparing dinner. Outwardly she looked calm and serene, showing her usual happy face everyone was accustomed to, but inwardly she was bursting with curiosity. She wouldn't admit it to anyone, but sometimes she envied Ranma and his 'friends'. They were having all kinds of adventures while she had to stay home and do all of the household chores. She didn't really mind it all that much as she took pride in the impeccability of her work, but sometimes it got old, doing the same things day in and day out. At first she had frowned at the chaos Ranma had brought into her life, but her perception of the boy rapidly changed. Ranma was a godsend in her opinion; a welcome distraction from her daily routine. Now, she didn't have any romantic feelings for the pigtailed boy, but he had become a member of her family and he was just as much one of her siblings as her sisters were, and she would be very sad if he were to ever leave their home as he would probably take the chaos with him, and with it the only excitement Kasumi had in her boring life.

And the there were Ranma's stories. The pigtailed boy might exaggerate and embellish his adventures a little bit, but, if her sisters were to be believed, not by much. He was a natural when it came to telling poignant and entertaining stories, and while it may not be the same as being personally involved, it was enough to brighten her day. But still, the ponytailed woman would give a lot for the opportunity to accompany Ranma on at least one of his adventures. Thinking about the possibility was enough to make her giddy and sometimes she wondered how her family might react if they knew of her secret desire. After all, she was just 'good old Kasumi' to them.

Meanwhile, Ranma had finished his bath and was putting on some fresh clothes, while thinking about the most entertaining way to tell the story. And what a story it was. They should write a book about his impressive victory, and maybe give it an awe-inspiring title like 'The demise of the evil panty thief of Nerima'.

Whistling an uplifting tune he joined Kasumi in the kitchen. As soon as the young woman saw the martial artist approach her heart skipped a beat and her eyes lit up. She started to reminisce about better times, when her mother would come into her room in the evening and tell her some nice bedtime stories. This was not the same thing, but Ranma always made her feel like a little girl again when he told his stories, a little girl with dreams of fairy tails and adventures and not a single worry in the world.

"Are you ready, Kasumi?" The young man enquired in the most dramatic tone he could manage. "Be prepared for a story of woe, a story of self-sacrifice and heroics, and a story about a gallant knight who rode off to slay the evil, perverted goblin of Nerima."

While the young martial artist was getting in the mood Kasumi was preparing dinner. Ranma loved Kasumi's admiring look whenever he arrived at a particularly juicy moment of his stories. He very much preferred the carefree Kasumi to the perfect housemaid she image she reluctantly projected most of the time. But the ponytailed girl wasn't neglecting her duties, since she had no problems to look at Ranma, listen to his stories and add ingredients and seasonings to her cooking at the same time. Her family would probably be shocked if they ever saw her like this, but she didn't care. Ranma's stories were one of the very few pleasures she had and she would never let them ruin that. No one would keep her from enjoying a good story.

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Back in the Mist Cave Cecil was cursing up a storm. "Dammit! This is really starting to piss me off. Already five encounters and we're not even out of the tunnel yet."

Kain shrugged his shoulders. "Nothing we can do about it. We have our orders and if we have to go through scores of monsters to finish the mission then so be it. The mission before anything else. Now, just calm down."

TURN BACK!

The two soldiers immediately took up their fighting stances and looked around for the owner of the strange voice. "Did you hear that, Kain? What do you make of it?"

"No idea. But it does sound rather solemn and hollow. Definitely not human, though. Do you think it might be a monster?"

LEAVE AT ONCE!

"Maybe it's the beast of Mist Valley, Kain. Hiding is probably futile since the voice knows we're here. Let's try and find out what it wants." The dark knight formed a horn with his hands and shouted, "Hello? Who are you? What do you want?"

KNIGHTS OF BARON!

Kain couldn't hide his surprise. "Hey Cecil. Looks like the thing knows who we are, and it doesn't sound very friendly. I have a bad feeling about this."

LEAVE AT ONCE OR SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES!

"Definitely not friendly," the dark knight confirmed his friend's suspicions. "But I can't see anyone. Let's just continue and see what happens. It's not like we can fight an invisible foe after all. What do you think?"

"Let me try something first, okay?" The dragoon didn't wait for his friend's confirmation and shouted, "SHOW YOURSELF!"

YOU CHOOSE TO IGNORE MY WARNINGS?

"Maybe we can reason with it," Cecil whispered to his friend. "I would rather avoid another fight so soon, and if we can find a peaceful solution all the better. It's worth a try at least."

Cecil tried to reason with the voice once more. "I'm sorry, but we have to get to Mist. We're not turning back. So please, let us through."

SO BE IT!

The two soldiers gulped. THAT hadn't sounded friendly at all.

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"... The old freak was already rather winded after his encounter with Pantyhose Taro and thought that splashing me with cold water and snuggling to my breasts for a quick recharge was a good idea. Unfortunately for him he wasn't nearly as fast as when he's in top condition and so I managed to block his attempt with a trash bin lid I found on the ground. Since he was already on his last leg it was rather easy for me to beat him. And you can't imagine how good it felt to finally be able to pay him back for all the crap he has put me through. He won't probably learn anything from it and be back to his usual antics very soon, but the thrashing was hopefully enough to keep him quiet for a few days. I could really use a break. You might think that I shouldn't be all that proud for beating an already diminished enemy, but if he hadn't tried to molest me I'd have left him alone."

Just as Kasumi was telling Ranma not to worry about it too much and confirm that the old man was in the wrong, the aforementioned person came crawling into the living room. He looked like shit, and that was also how he felt. He was very angry, furious even and already thinking about getting even. 'How dare that ungrateful whelp treat his master like that? Ranma should feel honoured that I consider his delightful female body beautiful enough to serve as a battery for my needs. He should know his place. In my time I would never have dared to defy my master like that. The bastard just had to spoil my fun. He'll pay for that… and with interest'.

With a Herculean effort Happosai managed to pull his tired and battered body up. In obvious pain he slowly hobbled over to the pair in the kitchen and addressed Ranma in a venomous tone, startling the two of them who hadn't even noticed his arrival, "Enjoy your small victory. This was a fluke and it will never happen again. But mark my words. You WILL pay!" Then he cackled evilly. "Oh yes, you will pay. You'll never know what hit you. I guarantee it." Then he slowly walked to his room to nurse his wounds, glad that he had kept the regeneration stone he had 'borrowed' from the Amazons all those years ago. That particular stone was an ancient artefact capable of healing almost any wound. Too bad it was only usable once every 50 years, but getting revenge was much more important than the waste of a priceless artefact. Ranma was probably feeling very safe now, but once Happosai recovered his energy he would get a nasty surprise. And the old grandmaster wouldn't give the pigtailed boy any time to recover."

Even after the old man had left the pigtailed boy was still shivering, thinking that it might not have been very wise to brag about his victory so much. He knew the pervert well enough to know the old coot never made empty threats. "What do you think, Kasumi? Should I feel concerned?"

The brunette considered this for a moment before answering. "I think you should. You know as well as I do that he can hold a grudge for a very long time. Maybe you should apologize."

"WHAT?" The teen shouted. "He tried to grope me, and I should be the one apologizing. No way. Hell will freeze over before I ever apologize to that letch."

Kasumi sighed. Damn the boy's ego. But then, that was also one of his charms. "Ranma, I know that it's not your fault, and that your reaction was justified, but sometimes it's better to swallow one's pride and to grin and bare it. You know how difficult it is to beat him when he's in top condition. So you had better avoid that confrontation and simply apologize."

"I'll, think about it", he answered, "but I don't like it one bit."

"I know. But consider this. You're still young and haven't reached your peak yet. Give it a few more years and you'll mop the floor with him. Just bide your time and hit him when he doesn't expect it. Ah well, enough of that now. Dinner's ready. Get the others while I serve the food."

"You're really devious, Kasumi Tendo. You know that? You'll come to a bad end. Mark my words!" Ranma prophesized before leaving, while Kasumi gave him her best 'I couldn't hurt a fly' impression.

While Ranma was calling the others for dinner, a fully healed Happosai was browsing through his most prized possessions, which didn't include his panty collection, searching for anything that could help him exact his revenge on his uncooperative student.

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Cecil and Kain were getting ready for battle. They didn't know what to expect, but their instincts told them that it wouldn't be an easy fight; they could feel it in their bones.

"Cecil, look! The mist is gathering. It's-it's taking shape."

Slowly the mist took a more defined shape as it morphed into a gigantic, misty dragon; the top half of one at least. The thing was more than 6 meters tall. Its spiky, crested, long neck ended in a large draconic head with pupil-less, green eyes. Two large batwings protruded out of its back and two small horns poked out of its head. The bottom half of the creature, however, was not defined at all as it was composed of formless mist. It looked imposing... and dangerous.

"It's-it's huge" Cecil gulped. "This looks really bad. How are we supposed to fight something like that?"

"No idea," Kain answered in a shaky voice, "and no time for planning. HERE IT COMES!"

The two warriors barely managed to jump out of the way of the large maw trying to bite them in two.

"That was close," Kain observed. "My turn now. I'll show you what a dragoon of Baron can do. JUMP!"

While the dragoon took to the air, Cecil attacked the creature with his sword. The creature let out a shriek as the slash managed to inflict a small wound. He quickly realized the importance of that fact. Anything that can be hurt can also be killed. "Kain!" The dark knight shouted. "I managed to wound it, so that means it's solid enough for our attacks to do damage."

Just then Kain came back down right above the monster and, keeping his lance downward, impaled the thing. The dragon let out a pained bellow but didn't look badly hurt. "That thing is tough," the dragoon remarked. "It might take us a while to bring it down."

And the fight went on. The dragon tried to disembowel Cecil with its sharp talons, but the dark knight managed to block the blow with his shield. The dragon couldn't land a decisive blow as the two knights were working together in perfect unison, making use of their intensive training to protect each other while dealing damage alternatively. Whenever the creature attacked one of them, the other would launch a retaliatory attack. However, the dragon was wearing them down, and they knew it.

But then the dragon suddenly changed tactics. Right in front of the astonished men it turned entirely into formless mist. They decided to be cautious and to wait for the monster's next move. To their surprise, nothing happened. The mist wasn't attacking them at all.

The two men were wondering what that meant and launched a combined attack at the monster, believing that it was an easy target.

Unfortunately, their attack didn't have the slightest effect as they passed right through the misty cloud. This surprised and distracted them to such an extent that they completely forgot to put their guard up again. The monster took advantage of their blunder and blew a cold cloud of mist at them, doing considerable damage and throwing them to the ground.

"Wha-what was that?" Cecil cried out, slowly getting up.

"I don't know." Kain answered. He looked much worse for the wear but he gritted his teeth and readied his next attack. "But it hurt a lot. How are we supposed to protect ourselves against that kind of attack? One more of those and we'll probably be done for. I just think it's strange that it didn't use that attack before. Do you think that its new shape might be the reason?"

"Hmmmm, you might be on to something. Did you notice that it didn't use that mist until we attacked? I got a hunch but… let's wait for a bit and see if I'm correct."

They were standing still in a defensive position and Cecil was glad to see that he had guessed right. "Just as I thought," he told his friend. "As long as we don't attack it doesn't react."

They waited for another minute and saw the mist returning to its draconic form. "Let's use our strongest attack," Cecil shouted.

"Right." Kain answered. "JUMP!"

While the dragoon was in the air Cecil readied his signature move that all dark knights were able to use. He generally used the attack only as a last resort since it drained his life energy, but sometimes he had to do it anyway, even if he risked his life by doing so. He watched Kain come down, and just before the dragoon made contact Cecil jumped into action. "DARK WAVE!" He shouted before a malevolent looking dark beam left his hands. This attack was much larger than the one he used against de Insectus and left him panting. The two attacks impacted at exactly the same spot and were enough to deal a critical blow to the dragon. The imposing creature went down and slowly disintegrated, leaving nothing but some dust behind.

"Finally," the dark knight said as he let out a relieved sigh. "I'm completely spent. Thank God it's over. Hand me a potion, please."

Kain tossed his friend a vial and downed one himself, immediately recovering some of his energy. "Ah, that's the ticket. I really need to thank Rosa for her foresight. So, are you ready to continue? The exit is just over there, right where the monster had been. The mist had concealed it rather well."

Cecil nodded and the two men exited the large room, glad to finally be out of the gloomy atmosphere of the Mist Cave and back in the sunlight.

As they were walking through the plains Cecil and Kain were basking in the warm rays of the sun. "How far is it?" The dark knight asked.

"Not very far. About one or two kilometers if I remember correctly. I've only been to the village once, and that has been years ago."

"Thank god," Cecil said. "After we've delivered this package I'll have a drink or two at the bar and lay up my feet for a bit. They are killing me."

Kain laughed. "That sounds like a plan. I think I'll do the same. Let's hurry up. The sooner we're there, the sooner we can hit the bar."

As they hurried along they were attacked by another group of monsters, two Insectus and two Flying Eyes.

"Don't let the Insectus bite you, Kain," the dark knight warned. "I'm low on antidotes."

"Don't worry; I'm not planning on letting them. Once was enough. Let's kick some monster ass and then we can have a nice, cold beer once we're in Mist."

"Now you're talking," Cecil answered. "Let's go!"

Motivated by thoughts of a cool drink, the two men made quick work of the monsters. Having dealt with Insectus before they knew where the weak points were and one strike into their soft underbellies later they were dead. The Flying Eyes however were new to them. They were hovering in the air and were fast and flexible enough to evade almost all of the warriors' blows. Cecil didn't want to launch another Dark Wave since he didn0t want to waste any more of his life force, but that didn't mean he was out of ideas, not by a long shot.

"Hey, Kain. I have an idea but I need your help."

"What do you need?" The dragoon asked.

"Take my hand and throw me at them. I'll certainly be able to kill at least one of them. And your jump should then be enough to deal with the other one. They probably won't expect it."

Kain was a little dubious as this sounded rather reckless, but not having a better plan he agreed. The dark knight held his sword firmly in his right hand as Kain took his left and launched him in the air. With a mighty blow Cecil cut the monster in two. The dragoon didn't waste any time and jumped into the air coming down hard on the second monster.

"See? We did it," Cecil grinned. "And they didn't even hit us once. We're a great team, don't you think?"

Kain snorted. "Of course. Let's be on our way, it's not very far now. Look, you can already see the outskirts of the village in the distance. I'd say five minutes tops until we're there.

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In the Tendo dining room Ranma was busy setting the table, his growling stomach betraying his thoughts. He couldn't wait to get his teeth into another one of Kasumi's culinary masterworks. Damn, the girl could cook. Ranma wasn't a slouch in the kitchen either, much to Akane's dismay, and even if he had been able to learn a lot from the ponytailed girl, it would be a long time before he could match her skill, if ever.

Having finished with his task he rapidly went looking for the other residents and hoped they'd be quick. The fight had really taxed his reserves and was starving. So he called everyone to table and joined Kasumi in the kitchen once again to help her bring out the food.

When Kasumi and Ranma came out of the kitchen all of the others residents were already seated and waiting expectantly. She was happy too see the joy a simple meal could bring to their faces. One seat was empty, though. "Where's Uncle Happosai?" She asked.

"He didn't answer when I knocked at his door" the pigtailed martial artist answered. "Maybe I hurt him worse than I thought. Just as well. At least we can eat in peace for once."

"What was that about the Master?" Genma asked. He must have misheard. Ranma? Beat the Master? Preposterous. He scoffed at the idea. If a martial artist of his calibre couldn't defeat the Master, then his son's chances would not only be slim but inexistent.

The question got the attention of the rest of the household, minus Kasumi who had already heard the story.

"Oh yeah, I haven't told you yet. I defeated the freak earlier on. Now what do you say to that?" The pigtailed boy addressed his father and Mr. Tendo personally with an arrogant grin plastered on his face. "I managed to do what you two have never been able to."

Genma and Soun blanched. "YOU DID WHAT?" They shouted in unison. "Are you out of your mind?" Genma asked incredulously. "Don't you know what you've just unleashed? You have never felt the Master's wrath before. We have, and believe me when I say it isn't pretty. Apologize at once and maybe he'll spare you. The pranks he pulled the last time you angered him are nothing compared to his full wrath."

"Too late," an aged voice coming from the stairs proclaimed. "The boy has dug his grave and now he must lie in it."

Ranma was surprised to see a fully healed Happosai walking down the stairs and into the dining room and wondered how he could have recovered so fast. The young martial artist shuddered, not liking the malicious tone the old martial artist had used.

"You will yet learn to respect your elders. After I'm through with you, you will beg me on your knees to spare your worthless life. And I've just the thing to teach you the error of your ways."

Ranma was really shivering now and when he looked for the rest of the family he noticed that Kasumi and he were the only ones left in the room.

Kasumi really feared for Ranma's life this time and didn't want to leave him alone. Throwing caution to the wind she thought that her friend should have at least someone to give him moral support in the hard fight that was about to take place. She wasn't about to abandon the pigtailed teen. But before she could say something to appease the aged master Ranma had already been sent flying through the window and into the yard. She run outside to check on him and helped the dazed boy get up on his feet.

Ranma took a stance, waiting for Happosai's next move, but was surprised to see the aged master calmly come out of the house while taking a scroll out of his gi and unrolling it very slowly.

"This here is the means to your punishment," the Anything Goes grandmaster said. He unrolled the scroll completely and intoned a chant in a language neither Ranma nor Kasumi had ever heard before.

Just as the old man had finished his incantation a large, fiery portal opened in the middle of the yard and a frightening, humanoid monster stepped out of it. The red skinned and heavily muscled creature was over six meters tall and two very long and intimidating horns were growing out of its head. In a loud, booming voice it asked "WHO HAS THE IMPUDENCE TO SUMMON THE SPIRIT OF FIRE, IFRIT?"

Neither the people in the yard, nor the cowards well hidden in the house and peering out of the windows had ever seen a creature more imposing than the one summoned by the aged master. Not even the Orochi, Herb or Saffron had exuded that much raw power. Ranma was afraid; very afraid even. He hated showing fear, but in this instance he could be forgiven, since the creature's aura was so heavy and imposing that it had effectively paralyzed him. But he was more afraid for Kasumi's life than his own since Kasumi was neither used to the craziness nor durable enough to withstand it. Usually she watched from the sidelines and was in no danger, but this time she was caught in the middle of it. Ranma knew that this was too big even for him, but with some effort, he had managed to shake off the paralyzing effect and positioned himself in front of the brunette, protecting her with his body. But how he secretly wished he could join the others inside. Anything to get away from the monster.

The ancient master had no idea what kind of creature he had just summoned, but that didn't bother him too much. He just did what he usually did in an unknown situation; he improvised and hoped for the best. "I did, oh Great Lord Ifrit," Happosai answered in a solemn tone. "I need you to teach my student a lesson he will never forget. It is unseemly for a student to defy his sensei."

Ifrit snorted. "YOU DARE SUMMON ME FOR SUCH A TRIVIAL PURPOSE WHEN YOU DON'T EVEN HAVE A VALID SUMMONING CONTRACT? WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? ONLY SUMMONERS THAT I APPOINT MYSELF ARE ENTITLED TO ASK ME FOR ASSISTANCE!"

But Happosai was known for his stubbornness, and he didn't take lightly to people not curbing to his wishes and so he made the gravest and last mistake in his long life; in his arrogance he defied the overly powerful being. "Now listen here; I've seen the movies and read the books. As long as I have the contract in my hands YOU-MUST-OBEY-ME!"

Happosai was totally shocked by Ifrit's reaction, however. He hadn't expected the powerful summon to simply laugh in his face. "ME? A DEMON? DON'T COMPARE ME TO THOSE WEAK FOOLS! YOU DON'T KNOW WHO YOU'RE DEALING WITH. MY KIND DATES BACK TO THE BEGINNING OF TIMES AND WE'RE MUCH MORE POWERFUL THAN DEMONS. I HAVE NO IDEA HOW THE PARCHMENT YOU USED HAS LANDED IN THIS WORLD, BUT SOMEONE VERY POWERFUL MUST HAVE CREATED AND SOMEHOW BROUGHT IT TO THIS PLANE. IN ANY CASE IT'S NOT A VALID SUMMONING CONTRACT. FURTHERMORE IT WOULD BE WISE NOT TO USE THAT TONE WITH ME."

Happosai was really furious now and before his brain could devise a prudent approach to this complication his mouth had already opened and pronounced the words that would seal his fate. "You will obey me! I hold the contract and whatever you say won't change that fact. Now, I want you to…"

The aged master didn't have time to finish the sentence. Ifrit had finally lost his patience and decided to terminally deal with the wretched, pitiful, and weak mortal creature who had dared to dismiss his warning. And after a booming shout of "HELLFIRE!" flames shot out of the powerful summon's mouth and engulfed the old man before he had time to react, incinerating him on the spot. The flames were so hot that they melted the ground underneath the old pervert, and after they had died down not even ashes were left. Happosai and the contract were no more. "I WARNED THE MORTAL. LET THAT BE A LESSON TO EVERYONE. WE OBEY NO ONE."

Not bothering with the other insignificant people around him, Ifrit opened a portal back to his home plane and stepped through.

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Cecil examined the village as they were approaching it, trying to discern what made this village so special that it had warranted the deployment of two high-ranking officers to deliver a simple package when a courier could have accomplished the task just as well. He wondered if it really was a mere punitive mission or if the King might have had an ulterior motive. But Kain was right; it wasn't up to him to question his superior's orders.

They weren't far away from the village when Kain noticed something about their mysterious package. "Cecil, look at the package. It's glowing. Cecil unhooked the package from his belt and examined it. It was cylindrical and wrapped in ordinary paper. But when he saw the glow increase in intensity and the cylinder expand he threw the package away from him as far as he could manage. That he had made the right choice became evident very soon as the thing exploded shortly after he had got rid of it and released a large quantity of bombs. But they didn't look like your ordinary everyday bomb. Someone had tampered with them and they were a lot bigger than normal ones and reeked even more of dark magic. They flew over to Mist Village and began laying waste to it.

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The portal in the Tendo yard was slowly collapsing into itself, but just as it was about to close completely it rapidly expanded again, getting even larger than it was originally. That was when something frightening happened; it started sucking in everything in its vicinity, just like a black hole would. Ranma was clinging to a tree root with his left hand while grasping Kasumi's arm with his right. If it had only been him the pigtailed teen would probably have been able to resist the pull, but as he had to think about Kasumi's safety he couldn't let her go and use his other hand to anchor himself more firmly to the tree. So it was no surprise that after a short while the pull was too strong for him to resist and he reluctantly let go of the eldest Tendo daughter's hand. "KASUUUUMI!" He shouted just before the attraction force of the portal got so strong it uprooted Ranma's anchor point and sucked both the tree and Ranma in. Just after the young martial artist had disappeared the portal rapidly shrunk down until it disappeared with a 'pop', leaving a destroyed yard in its wake.

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On the outskirts of Mist a portal opened a few meters above the ground and spewed out two unconscious teenagers as well as most of the Tendo's yard, before collapsing. No more than a hundred meters away Mist was burning and the stench of burning flesh and wood permeated the air, causing both teens to wake up and fall into a coughing fit. Ranma was still a little dazed but rapidly got his bearings back. "KASUMI!" He shouted and looked frantically around, fearing the worst. When he saw her on the ground, coughing her lungs out, he hurried over to the young woman. "Are you *cough* all right?" He asked in a caring voice.

Kasumi opened her eyes and smiled at the pigtailed boy. "It *cough* could be better *cough*, but *cough* I'll survive."

Just then the wind direction changed and they were able to breathe easier. They looked into the direction the stench was coming from. Their eyes opened wide when they saw the burning village and people on fire running out of the houses and rolling on the ground, trying to extinguish the flames.

Ranma immediately knew what he had to do, but before he could run to the village and try to save as many of the poor souls as possible he was held back by Kasumi. "Kasumi, what are you doing? Can't you see that the people are in pain? I have to help them."

Kasumi bowed her head apologetically. "I'm sorry, Ranma, but please, take a closer look. See? It's already too late. There's nothing you can do. You would only put yourself in danger without making a difference. I know you consider it your duty to help people whenever you can, and I like that side of you, but you're often too impulsive for your own good. Don't take this the wrong way, but you could have avoided a lot of your problems if you had just taken the time to think before acting. Just wait until the fire looses in intensity. Even an accomplished martial artist like you won't be able to survive very long in those toxic fumes."

"But they..." Before Ranma could finish his sentence the brunette had put a finger on his lips.

"Look at the village. There's nothing left but burning ruins, and I can't imagine anyone being able to survive such a catastrophe. I know it's hard and I feel for the poor souls, but I don't want to lose you. I have no idea where we are, and should anything happen to you, I'd be all alone. I know I might sound egoistic, but… I'm scared. We don't know anything about the cause of the fire and we should be cautious."

The pigtailed youth listened attentively to Kasumi's arguments and was really impressed by her situational awareness. He didn't like to think about his shortcomings, but he knew that he was a tad bit impulsive, which incidentally was the cause a lot of the misunderstandings he had with Akane. He was also aware that Kasumi had a lot more common sense than he had. He nodded his head and waited with his friend for the fire to die down.

Not much later, and much to their surprise, they saw one of the bodies moving and a young, green haired girl crawling out from under it with tears flowing out of her eyes. She kneeled down in front of the corpse and cried even harder.

Ranma and Kasumi were crying and grieving with the girl, but unanimously decided to try and help her. But when they saw two men wearing heavy, sinister looking armour approach the crying girl they decided to hide behind a rock and see how that played out. "Mommy! If your dragon hadn't died you'd still be alive. Who would do something like that? You never hurt anyone and always had a kind word for everyone in the village. Why did this have to happen?"

Cecil's and Kain's eyes widened when they heard this.

"So it was true," Kain said. "I've heard of people with the power to summon monsters... Summoners, they are called."

"Then..." Cecil stammered, "we are the ones responsible for killing her mother by killing the

Dragon?"

The young girl immediately looked over to them and her grief turned into rage. "WHAT? You killed my mother's dragon? It's your fault she's dead?"

"We... we didn't know that would happen," Cecil tried to apologize.

But the girl was in too much emotional turmoil to hear the dark knight's heartfelt apology and ran over to him and struck him repeatedly in the stomach with her small fists. "I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU!"

Kain looked dispassionately at the spectacle and addressed his friend in an uncaring tone, "So that was the king's wish... to annihilate every summoner in this village.

That thought horrified Cecil. "That can't be..."

"I'm afraid it's true," Kain continued. "I'm also afraid we're going to have to get rid of the girl."

Cecil looked at the dragoon with a 'you can't be serious' expression etched on his face. "WHAT !?"

"NO!" They heard the girl shout as she took a step back, her earlier rage induced courage spent.

Ranma had heard enough. He had no intention of letting the sinister, armour-clad men kill a helpless and innocent girl. A very strong battle aura formed around him as he was about to run over to the two killers, but before he had made even one step a strange but frighteningly familiar thing happened. A portal opened in front of the girl and a huge, overly muscled, curly haired man stepped out of it. The giant was at least 6 meters tall and only clad in a loincloth. 'Oh shit', Cecil and Kain thought simultaneously.

***BESTIARY***

Sword Rat: the intimidating, pony-sized Sword Rat looks like a cross between a rat and a porcupine. While this grey coloured monster is usually very peaceful it can become very aggressive when it feels threatened or when it protects its young. Its most dangerous weapon, and also its greatest protection, are the razor sharp needles covering its back. The Sword Rat has the ability to launch a volley of these at its enemies and they grow back very fast. This ability is triggered reflexively when the monster is attacked physically and it survives the first attack. It is therefore advised to use spells against this creature.

Insectus: the Insectus is a very large blue larva with yellow motives covering its body. It looks rather harmless at first glance, but appearances can be deceiving. Its greatest threat lies in the number of creatures attacking. They generally appear in groups of at least three individuals, but groups of more than 10-15 individuals have been spotted. Its most potent attack is the venom it injects into its victims through its bite. It only has animal level intelligence though, and so, to a careful adventurer who carries a supply of antidotes, this monster is nothing more than an irritating pest. But woe to the unlucky souls who stumble upon a larger group. So here's a tip to all of you aspiring and novice adventurers: never forget to restock at the nearest village if you run out of antidotes.

Flying Eyes: the Flying Eyes is the evolved form of the Insectus. It looks like a sinister, giant butterfly and has large, purple butterfly wings, with a large, round spot on each wing. Two long antennae grow out of its head. It's a very fast flyer and therefore very hard to hit for most adventurers. Thankfully it's not very durable and one solid blow is usually enough to kill it. Its most frightening feature is its very long proboscis, which it uses to inject a digestive fluid into an incapacitated victim; afterwards it only has to wait for the fluid to liquefy the organs, before completely draining the corpse of its fluids, leaving only an empty husk behind.

Bomb: the Bomb is one of the most vicious and spiteful magical creatures in existence. It's not a natural monster, but it was created by mages centuries ago to serve as sentient bombs against their enemies. Unfortunately, the mages lost control of their creations and the Bomb was able to spread over the world. The vicious and spiteful creature has no sense of self-preservation and revels in the destruction of other sentient beings. Thus, it doesn't hesitate to sacrifice its life for the chance to cause extreme prejudice and take its enemies with it into death. The Bomb is a burning, red sphere the size of a human with a very large maw, filled with large and pointy teeth. Its arms are only small stubs that are not even strong enough to grab anything. It has two very large eyes that are set in a perpetual frown. Its 'hair' is formed of fiery tendrils that end in small balls of fire.

AUTHOR'S NOTES!

I try to use a more realistic approach and to forgo a lot of RPG elements from the FF games that don't make sense, like monsters dropping items or money. The only monsters dropping money and items will be humanoid monsters and some of the more intelligent creatures. Monsters with only animal level intelligence won't drop anything, but it's possible to find items nearby that belonged to previous victims.

To earn money and adventurer needs to belong to a hunter's guild. Every member gets a magical book that catalogues the number of monsters an adventurer kills. The tougher the monster, the more money the guild pays.

Some monster parts can be used as potion ingredients and harvesting them can bring in extra money, but I don't think I'll use that idea very much, except if it is vital to the plot.

Magic users recover mana gradually. Sleeping or meditating increases the mana recovery rate.

There'll be elements from other Final Fantasy games (spells, jobs and items) in this fic and I plan to add an extra continent. Ranma won't join Cecil's party until much later in the story but will form his own instead (major members being Kasumi and Rydia). After all, his main goal is to find a way back into his home dimension.

The bestiary entries are of course completely fictional and if you have any interesting ideas I'll add them and credit you for them.

And please vote or tell me what you think. I'll answer every review I get. And the more reviews I get the faster I'll update. After all, if I see that my stories are appreciated by the readers it gives me the necessary incentive to update faster.

POSTED 2008/10/26

EDITED 2009/07/01

EDITED 2015/02/24