Disclaimer: I own nothing. Literally, I have a laptop and pants, and that's about it. ... ... sooo yeah. *Ahem*.
A/N: Hello everybody, I know it has been quite some time, and for that I apologize. Duty calls and all that. At any rate, I had finished this chapter not long after mobilizing, but had no way of posting it as I would have liked, so I am posting it now. I am afraid to say that my inspiration for this story has run rather dry at this point, and though I shall endeavor to continue posting chapters now that I have returned, they will more than likely be few and far between. I might go so far as to rewrite the first five chapters, as I have seen many mistakes in them, and I wish to rectify that. Anyway, here it is, the long awaited chapter six.
Ruby Queen, Jade Knight
Usagi opened her eyes slowly, taking note that it was still dark in her room, and finding herself severely annoyed with this fact. For the last two weeks, she had been, as well as the rest of the senshi, training under the guidance of the two most sadistic men she had ever met, at least in her opinion. For their first session, she had been forced to get up at the ungodly hour of 0400 to run. Not a nice little once or twice around the block kind of run, but a ten lap SPRINT around the damn neighborhood. By the time they had finished they still had about an hour before they had to even get ready for school, so Ranma and Ryoga had run them through what they called 'cool down' exercises, which involved pushups, situps, and all manner of painful stretches.
That wasn't all though, not at all. That was only the morning workout. After school was where the training really began, as the two evil bastards worked them through balance exercises, endurance building exercises, pain tolerance, and lets not forget the actual forms, or katas. That had been going on for two weeks straight, and though she well and truly hated it, the benefits were already becoming quite obvious. Even though she was more physically exhausted than she had ever been in her entire life, she seemed to have far more energy at the same time, enough so that she had somehow managed to pay more attention in school than she could remember ever giving since elementary.
'Speaking of training' she thought, letting out a sigh, 'it's time to head over to the shrine'.
Makoto took a look at the clock as she finished stretching. 'Looks like it's almost time to head to the shrine' she thought, an exubarant *cough*maniacal*cough* grin spreading across her face. She couldn't believe how lucky she was. She had thought that she was a fairly decent martial artist, second only to Haruka among the Senshi, but after watching her two 'sensei's' going at it, she realized how much of an amatuer she really was. Not that that had discouraged her any, as her glee at the thought of the intense training she had been going through under Ranma and Ryoga's tutallage showed.
For the life of her she just could not understand why the rest of the Inners seemed so disgruntled about all of it. As far as she was concerned, she may as well have won the lottery, getting the two world class fighters as her own, semi-personal trainers. She knew, at least, that Haruka was of a similar mind- set, taking to the training with just as much vigor.
Sighing in contentment as she exited her apartment, a blue dufflebag in one hand, and her bookbag in the other, she made her way towards the shrine.
Ami sighed as she made her way down the rather empty street. She had, at first, agreed that physical training was a great idea, as it would allow them to better perform their duties as Senshi. At first. After the last two weeks of tortu...*ahem*, training, she was starting to think that she may very well have made a mistake, mostly due to the fact that she had simply been far too tired to study since starting training under Ranma and Ryoga. She had no idea how Makoto, Haruka, and even Rei could be so... so... chipper! about it all. Sure, she had felt more energized, mostly due to the exess of endorphines in her system from all of the strenuous exercize, but outside of school, any free time she had that would have normally been spent studying, was now spent recovering or sleeping.
'Well', she thought with a mirthless grin, 'I brought this upon myself, I am just going to have to take what good that I can from the situation'.
Glancing at her watch, she quickened her pace to ensure she wouldn't be late, remembering what her 'sensei's' had put Minako through when she showed up late the second day with the excuse that she had been too tired from the day before to get up on time. Shuddering a bit at that thought, she hastened her pace just a little bit more.
'Poor Minako, at least she got the hint and gets there on time now'.
'Somebody, kill me please' Was the thought that kept running through Minako's mind as she began climbing the steps to Rei's shrine. Her whole body was sore, and she was hurting in places she hadn't even know she had. 'I don't care how good looking they are' she thought as she continued to climb. 'I so hate those evil jerks'. Groaning aloud as she reached the top of the stairs and saw the two current targets of her ire sparring in the large open courtyard.
Forgetting for a moment that she was currently hating the martial artists, she watched in awe as they fought, fists and feet moving faster than she could follow. Even thought she had seen them in combat, and had, for the last couple weeks watched them do kata's in the morning, this was the first time she had seem them actually spar. "Beautiful" she whispered, and it was. The two clashed like water and stone, Ranma flowing around Ryoga's blows like so much smoke, and Ryoga standing against the flurry of Ranma's strikes like the preverbial cliffside.
The moment came and passed, and the soreness of her body penetrated her mind once more, pushing a pained groan from her lips as she turned to see the other four Inner's already present, as well as the outers, all of them watching in a similar state of awe as the two fighters pushed the limits of the physically possible.
"I think all this crap might just be worth it if I can do something like that," she said aloud, receiving agreements from the other assembled girls.
'Well, as they say, no pain, no grain. Though I'm sure harvesting grain is less painful than this'.
Rei sat, focusing on her minds eye, using her 'Ki Sight' to watch the ebb and flow of the two fighter's ki as they bounced around the courtyard. In awe at the pure power the two men controlled, she thought to herself, 'Kami, to have that level of power and control, it must be incredible'.
Recalling the last couple weeks and her training to gain more control over the spiritual power residing inside her. It had been taxing, to be sure, but she felt that it was completely worth it. If she could master Ranma's level of control, or even Ryoga's raw power, she could hardly imagine how much more profound her fire reading's could be, to say nothing of her performance as a Senshi.
The one thing that really surprised her about it all though, was Usagi. She had honestly expected her bubbly blonde leader to whine, complain, possibly even quit when it got too tough, but in the last two weeks, she had not only kept up, but pushed through, even if she did seem less than happy about it all. It was a bit gratifying for the senshi of Mars to see that quality of her leader. True, when push came to shove, Usagi was always able to step up, but other than that, had showed no signs of being a competant commander, and an even worse combatant, though that would be changing, in all of them, thanks to the two men who had taken up the task of their training.
All in all, she was quite happy with the current state of affairs, even if her entire body felt like a wet noodle by the end of each day. 'Well, as Ranma said, the life of a martial artist is fraught with peril.'
Hotaru looked around at her fellow Senshi, taking in thier looks of awe at their Sensei's antics. Looking back at the two older boys, she couldn't help but feel a little numb. She had always been weak, and sickly. She had assumed she would be frail for the rest of her life, but after the last week, she was starting to believe that that would really change.
After the Inners had gotten in touch with the Outers, and let them know of their training with the two martial artists, her Haruka-papa had been, well, more than a bit insenced that some 'supposed' tough guy martial artists were supposed to be training the Inners and had dragged her, and Michiru-mama directly over to the shrine, planning to prove that these outsiders weren't needed. Of course, hindsight being 20-20, that plan had been doomed to failure.
"So, you're supposed to be the 'hotshot' martial artist's who're training the girls huh. You don't look like much to me." Haruka said, standing barely a meter away from Ranma, arms crossed, with an arrogant sneer on her face as she sized him up.
Ranma, his own arms crossed, simply raised a brow, before his own smirk made an appearance. Haruka nearly flinched as she watched what had to be the single most arrogant look she had ever seen grace a humans face, slide onto Ranma's as though it was meant for him alone.
"Well than, if you're so sure of yourself, than why don't you put your money where your mouth is, and show me if you're really as good as you think you are."
Usagi watched the conflict with a sense of morbid facination, as though she were watching a funeral procession, which might well be the case for Haruka. The words 'Here lay Haruka Tenoh, we hardly knew ye.' flashed before her mind for a moment, just as the blonde crossdresser finally snapped and charged at Ranma.
If anybody had blinked, they would have missed it, in fact, they pretty much still didn't get it even if they hadn't blinked. One second Haruka was making for a right handed haymaker to Ranma's face, the next she was about ten meters away from him, on her back, unconcious and looking quite battered.
Ranma just continued smirking, walking over to her prone form with all the ease of a Sunday stroller. Bending down once he reached her side, he poked and prodded her in a couple of places, then stood back up as the blonde began to groggily regain conciousness.
Looking up at Ranma for a moment, she managed to get out a slurred, "Wha' happn'd?" Still smirking, Ranma just shrugged and said, "I just gave you a demonstration of your severe lack of skill. Now I'm asking you if you wanna fix that problem?" he finished, quirking an inquisitive eyebrow.
Looking up at him for a couple more, rather tense, seconds, an unexpected grin made its way across her face. "Hell Yeah!"
Hotaru giggled a bit at that thought. She felt kind of bad that in comparison to the other girls, her training seemed a lot easier, but she knew, as well as everyone else, that because she was far weaker than the rest of the girls, physically anyway, that she would need more time to build herself to the same point as the others, though she could already feel the difference the training was making on her everyday life. She had actually been able to finish her run during PE, even if she came in last, the fact that she was able to run nonstop for TWO WHOLE KILOMETERS was amazing.
She found her progress surprising, but more than that was the interest Ranma-sensei seemed to have taken to her in particular. He always made time to instruct and guide her personally, and though he seemed intent on thoroughly training them all, she noticed that he seemed to be truly invested in her training. She might have assumed it to be because he was just trying to get her caught up to the others, if it weren't for some of the other oddities. He had begun to walk with her to school after their morning sessions. He didn't talk himself, though he encouraged her to, and would always listen intently as she did so, no matter the topic. Then he would wave her into school and stand at the gate until she would walk inside.
Also, there was the fact that he would meet her on her way home, if he wasn't already waiting at the gate for her, and he had even roughed up some of the bullies that enjoyed picking on her.
She had been on her way out of the gate after class when five of them had cornered her against the wall. They had been calling her names and had pushed and slapped her when Ranma had made his way onto the scene. One moment she was surrounded by them, the next they were laid out around her on the ground, with Ranma holding the leader of the group off the ground by his throat. He had warned them that should he ever see them picking on her again, he would personally make sure they were breathing through a tube for the rest of their lives. Than he had lit up his battle aura and the boys had run off screaming.
She wasn't really sure how to interpret his actions though. The pigtailed fighter was, for the most part, rather cold and indifferent in his words and actions, and when he wasn't, it was painfully obvious that anytime he tried to show emotion it was forced at best. The only expression he showed that didn't seem forced was the arrogant smirk that would make it's way to his face, but even then the actual emotion behind it never made it to his eyes. She just couldn't figure the pigtailed enigma out.
It was with this thought that she returned her attention to the ongoing feats of hand-to-hand prowess being displayed in front of her.
Michiru Kaioh was tired. She was sore. She was very much annoyed that Haruka was happy about it, and even more annoyed with the fact that her lover was in the same condition and couldn't give her a massage before the two of them went to bed at night after training. She was also frustrated that in the last week, she hadn't been able to have 'private' time with Haruka, for the same reasons.
She was all of those things, for those reasons, but she was also in awe of the two young men who were currently sparring in front of her. Their strength and speed were incredible, and she found herself envious of the grace with which the moved around one another. 'If I can achieve even a fraction of that ability,' she thought to herself, 'the possibilities would be endless.'
Then she blushed as she watched Ranma contort himself around Ryoga's fist and arm, bringing his leg around into an impossible mule kick, which Ryoga only barely dodged by almost doubling himself over backwards. 'Not to mention what Haruka and I could do with that flexibility and stamina' she thought with a look at her love.
Only to sigh as she noticed that Haruka was entirely focused on the fight. 'Oh well, thoughts for later I suppose' she concluded, smirking wickedly inside as her attention returned to the spar.
'If I only knew how little I actually knew before' were the thoughts of Haruka Tenoh as she watched her sensei's spar. Supressing a wince when Ranma connected with a wicked combo that Ryoga shrugged off with no more than a grunt, her memory of how hard Ranma could hit still strong in her mind.
She had been arrogant in her superiority as the strongest of the senshi, even if she fell behind Saturn and The Princess in terms of actual power, but that had been knocked out of her in the time it took for Ranma to strike her 150 times, which is to say, in under a second.
While her pride stung more than the bruises at this point, she was more than willing to throw herself into training, especially under Ryoga's guidance, his style being more suited to her than Ranma's.
She smiled as she thought of her lover, who seemed to be more suited for Ranma's style. The speed and grace of it being ideal for Michiru. Smirking to herself a bit at the thought of the graceful sway of her lovers hips when she walked, and how her improved stamina could come in handy later, she took a peek at her love, only to notice a light duting of pink on her cheeks, more than likely from thoughts similar to her own.
'Oh yes, that will definitely come in handy later' she said to herself with a lacivious smirk, before returning her attention to the sparring match, which looked to be coming to an end.
Setsuna looked on as the two martial artists came to a stop, their match finished. She had been the Guardian of the Time Gates for millenia now, and she had learnt when to take a calculated risk and when not to. The two fighters before her were just such a risk. She knew who they were. Who they were in this lifetime, and in previous ones. The power the two of them had buried was dangerous, extremely so, especially so in regards to Crystal Tokyo and the fragile stability that timeline held onto.
'But' she thought, 'the possible benefits outweigh the negatives at this point, so long as neither of them reawaken their memories. Goddess help us if that happens' though the likelyhood of them remembering their previous existance was highly unlikely at this point, which is why she had allowed the girls to recieve training from the two.
She had looked into the two martial artists past, and had seen glimpses of the power that had lay dormant inside their souls. When Ryoga had almost been killed by the musk warrior while trying to find the Hot Water Kettle of Liberation. When Ranma had defeated Prince Herb, and then the Demi-god Saffron. They had barely tapped a fraction of their true powers, and even so, the results had been terrifying.
She knew that there was always a chance that they might remember, but the best case senario, in which the two trained the girls, helped them defeat a few minor youma over the course of a couple of months, before finally departing from Tokyo, with the words "call us if you need us" following them away, currently had the highest probability of coming to pass, 'though' she thought with slight worry, 'whoever those two men were from before, I can't seem to find where they fit in the timestream. It's as though the gates are blind to them.'
With that thought in mind, Setsuna departed once more to the Time Gates, as the remainder of the Senshi began stretching at their sensei's prompting.
Ryoga took a heavy breath as him and Ranma seperated, bowing to eachother to conclude their spar. 'It just aint the same anymore' He thought to himself as they rose from their mutual bow, taking a moment to look at the pigtailed fighter before him as he turned to the assembled group of girls.
'He's still just as graceful, and he's even better now than he was when he beat that damned pheonix, but he doesn't enjoy it anymore' the lost boy thought with a sigh. 'It's like he's more determined than ever to get stronger, but he doesn't seem to want it the same way he did before. He trains like it's a necessary evil. What is going on in that thick skull of yours, Saotome?'
Deciding that that line of thought was giving him a headache, he called to his group, which consisted of Makoto, Haruka, Rei, and Minako, while Ami, Usagi, Michiru, and Hotaru went over to Ranma to begin their morning training.
Ryoga was actually rather surprised with the group before him. While he was not quite the misogynist that Ranma had been, he still held some old fashioned ideals about women, and wasn't sure how he should feel about the four girls that he was training. Of the four, Haruka was surely the best, and seemed well suited to his style of fighting, and the same could be said of Makoto, who was his second best student, though she had started to close the gap recently.
Rei and Minako, while not as good as the other two, were no less determined to become even better, which was the source of his surprise. Even after knowing some of the female fighters of Nerima, he had not expected girls to have such drive to learn the art, especially 'normal' schoolgirls like these. Watching them training was quite the sight, as even the ditzy Minako would, more often than not, push herself to the point of collapse, not that Ranma or himself expected any less from their students. Both of them new to make true progress, one had to first break themselves down.
With a shake of his head Ryoga cleared his mind of those thoughts, and with a final glane at Ranma, he turned to instruct his students.
'So it begins again' were Ranma's thoughts as he began giving instructions to the four girls in front of him. Looking them over as they began to move through their warm up kata's, he allowed a moment for respect to wash through him at the young girls drive and dedication, and then firmly reestablished the soul of ice.
It had been the same thing since he had left Jusendo with Ryoga, carrying only one body, as the rest had been burnt to ash and scattered to the wind. He had tried more than once since then to release the soul of ice, to allow himself to grieve, but he couldn't. On several occasions he had been able to let go of it, but only for a moment, and then the cold would wash through his being once more.
Not that he could complain of course, the soul of ice kept the overwhelming depression that he could feel lurking at the edge of his senses from surfacing. It stopped the pain, but at the same time, it stopped everything else as well. He wasn't sure what it was, but he could clearly remember when, in the heat of battle above Jusendo, as his ki reserves were just bottoming out, he 'touched' something.
Whatever it had been it had been deep inside of him, buried beneath his ki, locked behind the door that barred the Neko-ken, and wrapped tightly in his subconcious. When he watched what remained of his friends, his father, drift away with the remnants of the attack that killed them, he had felt it, and whatever it was had been, the only way he could describe it was All-consuming. Nothing he had thrown at Saffron had worked up to that point, had in fact barely even fazed the godling, but the force he came in contact with, the miniscule fraction of that power he had pulled forth, was enough to erase the phoenix from existance.
Even now he could feel that sliver of power slithering through him. His ki reserves had deepend only marginally since then, and yet, it had also become so much more dense. His Moko Takabisha used to take a fair amount of his ki to utilise, but now, now it took barely a fraction of that same amount and the resulting attack was stronger than ever.
He didn't understand what this power of his was, but beyond increasing the density of his ki, and upping its potency, he found that it had effected him in other ways as well. The most disturbing of these changes was that he now had concious control of the Neko-ken. He remembered that he had been using it against Saffron at one point, and durning moments of privacy had managed to utilise the Neko-ken claws without losing himself to it. After that discovery, he had been unsure of himself. The Neko-ken had always been an uncontroled weapon, something that was used as a last resort, and to suddenly find that not only was it now under control, but that the aluriphobia that had plagued him throughout his life was also absent, was terribly unsettling.
As it stood now, he was more than aware that he could no longer count himself as a martial artist, killing Saffron had been the nail in the coffin for that. One of the ideals he had lived by as a martial artist, was that it was his duty to protect the weak, but unspoken was the stipulation that it was his duty to protect life itself. Every foe he had faced, no matter what, had always walked away with no more than a few injuries and a bruised ego. Until Saffron. He did not know that the godling would be reborn, and even so, the life that he had had been ended. By killing him, Ranma had crossed a line that was feared by martial artists. He had stepped away from that title and become a true warrior. A force of death, someone who killed his opponents, who didn't just defeat those who wished to do harm to others, but made sure that there was no chance for them to ever do evil again.
There was no going back, that much he knew as fact, and looking at the 'innocent' young girls that he was training, he knew that they had also crossed that line. Youma were not human, but they were still living breathing beings, and in the end there was no difference between killing a person, a demon, a youma, or a god. Killing was killing, and those girls had been baptised in the blood of their opponents from the start. That was the reason he was willing to train them, because they lived on the cusp of life and death, and they did it to protect the innocent, the weak, and that was something Ranma could respect.
So he trained them, and he helped them to defeat those creatures who sought to kill his species. After listening to the girls stories, he knew that, while those who controlled the lesser demons were doing evil for their own gain, the beings they controlled were fuelled by human life, it was their food, and it came down to survival for them, which made killing them all the harder. Since Ryoga and himself had joined the Scouts in their fight, he had yet to let Ryoga land the finishing blow on any of their opponents, something he knew confused and angered the lost boy, but he refused to let Ryoga follow him on that path. The fanged martial artist was still unblooded, and Ranma was bound and determined to keep it that way.
Taking a moment away from his thoughts to correct Ami's form, he mused to himself that of the four girls that made up his training group, it was the ditziest one, Usagi, who was making the most progress thus far. By his estimate, she would, within a month or two at most, be able to outmatch Haruka, even with Ryoga's training. Ami herself was no slouch, despite her bookish nature, and Michiru was ideally suited for the flowing, airborn style that he practiced.
Stepping away from those three, he looked at the youngest member of the Scouts. Hotaru was an interesting case. As a Sailor Scout, she commanded more raw power than all of them combined, save for Usagi, but physically she was easily the weakest of them. He had spoken to her in private on a couple of occasions, and after learning of her past, and her fear that the power she barely controlled would someday consume her, he had made her a solemn promise that he would train her to have absolute control over it, and he had meant it.
She was a quiet girl, and that, combined with her gift of healing and sickly nature had ostracized her from her peers, something he could empathise with, being considered a freak and a weirdo by his classmates at Furinkan. He felt an odd connection to the girl, and had taken to walking her to and from school lately. He even found a sense of satisfaction at putting some of the punks who bullied her in their place when he had seen them corner her on her way from class.
Noticing that Hotaru was looking at him inquisitively, he gave her a ghost of a smirk and shook his head. "Sorry kiddo, just thinking." He said. She made a noise of understanding and began to run through her form once more. After she had finished her kata, Ranma said, "Okay kiddo, you've got that one down, so I'll show you the next form, and from now on I want you to try picking up speed, alright. Now, watch closely." and with that he once more lost himself in teaching.
Standing in the shadow of the forest surrounding the Hino shrine, a dark figure watched as the two males trained the eight females in their respective style's.
He had watched for the last three days as they went about their training, perfectly hidden from the ten warrior's notice, though, to his surprise, the pigtailed one had almost noticed him the first day. The more he watched the group, the better he felt about accepting the contract on them. He hadn't realised who exactly it was he was hired to erase, but after seeing them in action, he new that it was finally time.
Doschell, Nyavek, and himself would finally revive the Jade Knight Corps, and once they found their Queen, the Ruby Empire would be restored to glory, just as he had been imagining for the last Twenty-five thousand years.
'All that remains is for the commandant to awaken to his true nature, and we can restore our lost honor, after so very long a wait. Hail to the Ruby Queen' He thought to himself as he teleported away from the shrine, and back to his operating base.
End Chapter Six
A/N:Well, that's chapter six. I had intended this chapter to be a bit of a filler, but it also serves a purpose. Up until now the story has been, in a general sense, written in the third person. I wrote this as a way of showing what the current thought's and motivations of each character were, something that had been for the most part left out until now. Hopefully this will lend some understanding to you in regards to what's going on in everybodies heads at the moment, as well as revealing more of what the current enemy is upto, with, of course, a hefty dose of forshadowing. Oh, and about the metric system. Roughly speaking, One kilometer is about three fifth's of a mile, so Five kilometer's is roughly equal to three miles. Which would make two and a half kilometers somewhere in the range of a mile and a half, so I'm going with two kilometer's being close enough to a mile to make for a satisfactory 'One Mile PE Run' which tends to be the standard in most school's as far as I know, in the U.S. anyway. At any rate, I hope you enjoyed this chapter, and please review.