The Phoenix, The Dragon and The Horse

Disclaimer: It's true--I have one now. All characters belong to their respective owners. If they were mine however, I'll be frigging rich right now and having them crossover in actual manga. :p

A big thanks goes to Lady Cosmos , Tannim, Bambi,Kris's and Thomas for putting this up on their page.

Tannim page is located here: http://home.earthlink.net/~tannim/

Lady Cosmos pages is located here: http://www.crosswinds.net/~ladycosmos/

Tomas page is located here: http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Quasar/6189/

Bambi Page can be found here: http://www.crosswinds.net/~salee/index.html

Kris's page can be found here: http://www.geocities.com/kuroi_hoshi/


Chapter 3
***

The wait was agonizing.

Nearly all of the senshi shifted restlessly as they eyed the distant forms of their Miko and her brother underneath the threadbare tree several dozen paces away. They watched as Ranma earnestly spoke to Miaka and developed an uncomfortable feeling in their stomachs as their Miko suddenly burst into tears and ran into her brother's arms.

Tamahome involuntarily took a step towards his love as he saw her sob into Ranma's shoulder. His way was barred as Chichiri held up an arm in front of him. The normally cheerful monk's face was solemn as he shook his head. Tamahome understood of course. It was a personal matter… just like what had happened to his family had been a personal matter.

Still, it hurt him to restrain himself from comforting Miaka.

"Hey, Nuriko," Tamahome abruptly said, desperate for a distraction. "How are your wounds holding up?"

"They're fine, Tamahome," answered Mitsukake's deep timbre. Tamahome turned to watch the last of Nuriko's injuries seal close. He blinked in surprise as Nuriko's clothing mended up as well.

Nuriko tentatively felt himself over for any other injuries before turning to flash a grin at Tamahome. "Ahh, good as new!" Nuriko sighed contently, spinning around a few times for Tamahome to inspect the verisimilitude of his words. "Thanks, Mitsukake!"

Tamahome smiled.

Nuriko paused in twirling around and examined Tamahome's face studiously.

"Err, what is it?" Tamahome asked self-consciously.

"Ne, Tama-chan," Nuriko grinned. "Do you know how cute you are when you smile? If you don't watch it, you're going to make Miaka very jealous…" The violet-haired senshi wagged a finger in front of Tamahome's nose.

Tamahome blinked as the rest of the senshi sweatdropped. "I'll let that slide," Tamahome said magnanimously, a tiny grin flickering on his lips. "Glad to see you feeling better, Nuriko. For a while, we were afraid that you were gonna…" He let the sentence trail off, feeling awkward.

"Die, hmmm?" Nuriko finished callously, critically watching Tamahome squirm a bit at his words. "So did I. In fact, if it hadn't been for Ranma-san…"

"Who cares what that friggin' big-head says," muttered Tasuki in the background. "I bet ya he's full of hot air."

Chichiri looked distant. "I wouldn't say that, no da," he said in a quiet whisper. Only Chiriko heard him and the prodigy looked up at his senior questioningly.

"Is he really that good at fighting?" Tamahome asked. Nuriko's respectful reference to Ranma served more credibility than anything else Tamahome would have been inclined to believe from Ranma himself.

"You might as well ask if Nakago's any good," Nuriko said dryly. "'Cause Ranma-san is up there on his level. His fighting ability is incredible. Though I had the strength to match Ashitare, I didn't have the speed. Ranma-san easily matched that monster blow for blow and took him out without breaking a sweat."

"So, he can protect Miaka better than we can?" Tamahome asked listlessly. His spirits sank as his evaluation of his capabilities fell.

"Look at it this way Tama-chan. He will give us a better chance of protecting Miaka," Nuriko said seriously.

"Feh! We can protect Miaka just fine. The guy just thinks he's better than us 'cause he hasn't gone up against me yet," Tasuki smirked arrogantly.

"In ego maybe," Nuriko said sourly. He glanced at Chiriko and Mitsukake. "There is something I need to mention that may be a bit insulting to you but…"

"Don't worry Nuriko-san. I know." Chiriko turned his gaze from Chichiri to look at Nuriko with brilliant gold-green eyes. Nuriko started in surprise. Chiriko smiled softly. "Mitsukake and I have been discussing it for a while."

"Eh? Whatcha talking about Chiriko?" asked Tasuki curiously.

"Tactics. Our team cannot match the Seiryuu senshi one on one," Chiriko said grimly.

"What do you mean?" Tamahome asked, startling his fellow senshi. Most of them thought that he was bent on brooding to himself.

"Look at it this way," Chiriko reasoned. "We have seven senshi and Seiryuu has seven… no wait, six senshi. In their case the number difference doesn't matter; all of the Seiryuu senshi are fighters. Out of all the Suzaku senshi only you, Nuriko, Tasuki, Chichiri and Hotohori-sama are fighters. Mitsukake and I are basically useless. Mitsukake has his healing ability and I only have my enhanced thinking." Chiriko paused to let his statement sink in. "Besides that fact, it is painfully obvious that Nakago can take on all five of you by himself every time we move against him. He can destroy all of us right now… but he hasn't done so."

Though stricken by Chiriko's words, Tamahome knew the young senshi was right. Slowly, as if apprehensive of the answer, Tamahome asked the simple question. "Why?"

Chiriko looked at a far off point, his clear eyes distant.

"He is waiting for something."

The sentence hung heavily in the air like a death knell. Tamahome and Tasuki looked sick. Mitsukake, Chiriko, and Chichiri merely looked resigned. Out of all of them, Nuriko was the only one smoldering with barely suppressed anger.

"To further the equation," said Chiriko in careful, precise tones, "there are only four of us that can engage Nakago in a fight since Hotohori-sama is not here. If Nakago was playing for keeps, he has three senshi that can capture Miaka-san or strike against Mitsukake and me. If Ranma-san had not appeared and Nuriko-san died, then that would've put us six against three. Mitsukake and I don't count because, frankly, fighting isn't within our capabilities."

"That's a lot of 'ifs' Chiriko…" Nuriko said quietly. "And Konan, along with Miaka, aren't worth gambling with in those kind of odds."

"You're telling me, Nuriko-san," whispered Chiriko bleakly.

There was a prolonged silence.

"Hey guys! Why are you so quiet all of a sudden?" Miaka's cheerful voice asked. If the senshi had been less worried, then they might have caught the subtle sadness underlying their beloved Miko's voice, but as it was, they missed it. Her voice seemed to snap the senshi out of their funk.

"Miaka? Are you alright?" Tamahome asked worriedly, anxiety returning full-force. She smiled her usual happy-go-lucky smile at him. Tamahome melted. It always warmed his heart whenever he saw her smile like that.

"Of course! I was just learning some family history," she said. She glanced back at her brother who was walking up next to her. "My brother forgot to mention something to me… Guys, let me introduce you to the heir of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts!"

The senshi turned to stare.

"Anything Goes? What kind of school is that?" Tasuki asked incredulously.

"What the name implies," Ranma said, a bit red from Miaka's reintroduction. "Anything Goes." He grinned Tasuki's disbelieving expression.

"Maa, everyone. Now that Mitsukake patched me up, let's go!" Nuriko jerked a thumb at the cleared entrance of the cave. "The shinzaho is in there!"

"Really?! Wow!" Miaka exclaimed excitedly. "Let's go get it!" She turned enthusiastically, unconsciously moving in an army march, as she proceeded to the cave entrance.

The senshi followed, with mild sweatdrops forming on the back of their heads.


Ranma stared after them for a moment; then he looked down at Ashitare's motionless body. "…"

"Ne, oniisan?" Miaka hollered. The mini-procession had halted. "Aren't you coming?!"

"Go ahead, Miaka!" Ranma answered back. "I'm just gonna bury Ashitare's body real quick, alright?"

Miaka looked at her brother, understanding his motives. Even though he was a pain most of the time, he had a kind heart. "Sure! We'll get the shinzaho and be back before you know it!" She flashed a grin and held a thumbs-up before turning away with the rest of the senshi.

Ranma smiled at his sister as he watched them go. Shifting a bit, he eyed the corpse before glancing around. Spotting a clear area, he moved to the nearby clearing. Breathing out, Ranma concentrated, bringing out his ki. His aura manifested in a shimmering blue light that flickered like a burning fire.

"HAH!" Ranma exhaled sharply, blasting a small crater into the ground. Stream rose from the dissolving snow he strode over to inspect his handiwork. He clasped his hands in satisfaction and turned to retrieve the corpse, grimacing slightly at the task on hand.

"What the…" Ranma started. The body was gone. He sweatdropped nervously. What kind of pervert would want to drag away the dead body of Wolfie Jr.? Surveying the area where the body had lain, Ranma did a double-take.

"Hey… looks like a wolf dragged the corpse away." He examined the faint paw prints with an odd expression on his face. "That wolf has some weird taste…"

Shrugging, Ranma stood uncertainly for a moment. "Hn. Guess I'll go and join up with Miaka," he murmured, starting for a cave. A low growl stopped him in his tracks.

Whirling around, Ranma was presented with the not-so-pleasant sight of a wolf, snarling viciously at him. "Is it just me," Ranma muttered under his breath, eyeing the wolf warily, "or does that wolf look familiar…?"

The wolf made no sound as it suddenly leapt for Ranma's throat, intent on crushing it. In the split-second the wolf reached Ranma's eye level, Ranma noticed the twisted burn branded across its left eye.

"No way…" Ranma said in shock, as he easily tucked into a roll and got the hell out of the wolf's way. "ASHITARE?!" He quickly rolled back onto his feet. Fast as Ranma moved, the wolf was faster. It rebounded lightly off its paws and pushed into another jump, aiming at Ranma's chest.

"Shit! He's faster as a wolf!" Wondering if he should dodge, Ranma shook his head and stood his ground, allowing Ashitare to reach him.

Ashitare crashed into Ranma with a tackle that would've knocked any normal human three feet into the ground. Unfortunately, Ranma wasn't a normal human. Ashitare merely made him skid back a bit before he regained his balance. Not dwelling on his failed tackle, Ashitare snapped his jaws and lunged in an attempt to bite Ranma's head off.

Ashitare found his move obstructed.

He never registered Ranma's hand blurring a few moments earlier, clamping over the side of his muzzle and forcing his jaws shut. He paused in surprise, trying to unlock his jaw. Ranma eyed Ashitare with little amusement. "Listen, what the heck were you--"

Ignoring the irritated martial artist, the wolf let out a frustrated snort and proceeded to thrash its powerful head back and forth with jarring force. Ranma's grip was not impaired in the slightest. In fact, Ranma began to apply more pressure onto Ashitare's jaw. Blue eyes shot the wolf an extremely annoyed look. "Look, stay still--"

Ashitare slid out of his grip. Ranma cursed at the melted snow. The water had left his hands slippery and that leverage had given Ashitare the chance to escape.

His contemplation was rudely broken as intense pain flared from his right hand. Ashitare had bit him. Clenching his teeth against a scream, he reflexively boosted up his ki and fired it into the wolf's mouth.

Its head exploded into pulpy pieces of bloody tissue, thoroughly soaking Ranma's clothing. Repressing the urge to swear loudly and continuously, Ranma stood and winced at the dislodged tooth embedded in his hand. "Great… I better not turn into a werewolf on top of all this…" he grumbled, gingerly gripping the tooth. With a swift motion, he yanked out the offending particle and tossed it to one side as he simultaneously knelt and dipped his injured hand in snow to staunch the bleeding.

Swearing softly to himself, he pulled his hand out and examined the damage. "Not too bad…"

Ranma stiffened. A group of individuals with high ki readings was approaching him. One in particular outshone the rest. Where the group's auras burned with a constant fire, the strong one's seethed energy like a brooding volcano.

Ranma moved back onto his feet and stood motionlessly, waiting for the group to reveal themselves. When no one was forthcoming, Ranma decided to take the initiative.

"It's not nice to hide," Ranma said calmly, shifting into a ready stance. He narrowed his piercing blue eyes. "Why don't you people introduce yourselves?" There was a long silence. Ranma waited tensely.

His grim patience was rewarded when the eerie sound of giggling reached his ears. One by one, the individuals shimmered into view. "An illusion…" Ranma said quietly to himself.

There were five people in all. In back of him, to his left, there was a bald dwarf who inexplicably floated in midair. The midget held a spindle. Ranma couldn't really imagine what it was for, although he deduced it was a weapon of some type. Behind him, to his right, there was a woman decked out in a stylish combination of armor and skimpy clothing. Her kohl-rimmed eyes accented her pretty face; she was fairly attractive and she knew it. To his left was a guy who looked like he walked straight out of a Kabuki theatre. His face was masked with colored paint, and although creepy, Ranma didn't think the man was particularly intimidating. To his right was a boy around his age. He wasn't very imposing. However, the winding rope propelled in midair… The spinning balls linked to the ends of the rope reminded Ranma of Ryouga's bandanas. He made a note to himself to be careful around them. As Ranma finally turned his attentions to the man directly in front of him, he found himself being studied with distant interest.

The armored blonde looked like one of the gaijin models his sister went gah-gah over. Unlike the prissy superstars however, the man was well built and moved with a confidence and grace that hinted at his control and power. As the man studied Ranma with his sapphire eyes, his face was schooled into a perfect, expressionless mask.

"Nakago…" Ranma instantly deduced, pairing the man's looks with the formidable aura that the man emitted. "What a pleasure to finally meet you." Ranma's tone of voice strongly indicated otherwise.

"I don't believe we've met," Nakago retorted smoothly. "Who are you?"

Ranma smiled cockily at him, the underlying anger born from all the events he observed in the book flaring into life. "I'm Ranma, but you may call me 'The-Guy-Who-Took-You-Down.'"

Nakago's eyes revealed a flicker of amusement. "I was," he said, taking a step forward, "going to take the shinzaho from Suzaku no Miko after she and her senshi return; however, I think they'll hand it over to me without a fight if I were to hold you hostage."

"Wha?" Ranma blinked incredulously. Before he could grasp the concept, Nakago moved. There was a slight displacement of air as the Seiryuu senshi blurred from his position to reappear in front of Ranma. The martial artist abruptly found himself starting into Nakago's face. Caught off guard, Ranma reacted instinctively. Nakago was struck with hundreds of bone-jarring blows in the span of mere seconds--unable to start on his own attack. When Ranma finally let up, Nakago fell back on his heels, reeling amidst the disturbed dust. There was a tense moment of silence.

Ranma lazily raised an eyebrow inquiringly as Nakago slowly turned his face to look at him. There was respect in the blonde's eyes, although his face remained blank as stone.

"You were holding back against Ashitare," Nakago calmly stated, straightening himself up.

Ranma smiled crookedly. "He was pretty good… but not good enough."

"I haven't had a decent challenge in a long while," Nakago admitted. "This will be interesting." He turned searing blue eyes on his companions. "No one interfere." His tone was deadly and promised severe punishment to those who disobeyed.

The rest of the Seiryuu senshi hesitated for a moment before standing down.

A dull thud was heard as Nakago's battle armor hit the ground. Ranma watched as Nakago calmly unfastened the rest of his various accessories. "Let's begin," Nakago said coolly.

Ranma grinned with a hint of malice and eased into a defensive stance. "C'mon. Show me what you've got."

Nakago shifted and then charged in a dizzying rush. He lurched into a series of lighting-fast punches, which Ranma countered with his Amaguriken technique. Eventually, Ranma broke through Nakago's defense and struck the blond twenty times on his face. It was a credit to Nakago that he endured the blows; his stamina wasn't one to be looked down at. Nakago retaliated with a ki enhanced open hand strike. Ranma took the energy blast in his stomach and was propelled into a tree.

It looked like it should have hurt but… it didn't.

"Shit!" Ranma's eyes narrowed. Flipping back up, he rushed at Nakago and launched into several kicks and punches. Nakago blocked every one, striking back at the incensed martial artist with several hits. Ranma shrugged off the blows with ease, blocking gracefully.

"Not bad," Nakago said approvingly, lashing out in a vicious backhand.

"Same with you," Ranma admitted grudgingly, stopping the strike before it reached his jaw. He twisted into a powerful kick, aiming for the Seiryuu senshi's stomach. Nakago evaded the blow.

The rest of the Seiryuu senshi stared in awe at the sheer intensity of the battle. They had never seen Nakago go all out. His power was daunting. The fact that Ranma was able to match him sent a chill up their spines.

Ranma casually leapt ten feet high into the air to evade several of Nakago's deadly kicks. (Man, no wonder Tamahome can't beat him. This guy is _good_. He has speed and skill… kinda reminds me of Herb in a way.)

Nakago shot an energy ball at Ranma.

Ranma tensed. Though the blast seemed like it consisted of ki, it couldn't be… there was no life force emitting from the orb. Ranma charged up his ki and punched at the energy.

He immediately noted two things.

One, he dispersed the attack. That was good.

Two, the ball exploded as it dispersed, thus obscuring his vision. That was bad.

The latter statement was confirmed with a vengeance as Nakago grabbed Ranma's leg from behind the explosion dust and slammed him into the ground. Disoriented, Ranma lost his concentration.

Ranma managed to yelp before he was unceremoniously swung into a tree. He then discovered how baseball bat felt as Nakago used him to whack at all the trees he found. "Hmmm," Nakago said conversationally, "You seem to have more bark than bite." Inwardly, the blonde was amazed at the sign of endurance Ranma displayed as every tree he was slammed through snapped into pieces.

Ranma was getting very upset. "You…" he growled, composing himself. He bent his body up, catching Nakago's arm and throwing him into a judo reverse move. "ASSHOLE! That hurt, you know!!" Nakago crashed into the rocky side of the mountain with a deafening _crunch. He was hit with a Moko Takashiba a second later. "That's it!! No more Mr. Nice Guy!!!"

Ranma introduced Nakago to his feet as the blonde got back up. Before Nakago could fall from the force of the blow however, Ranma shifted into a breaking sidekick, channeling his full strength into his leg, and hit Nakago's face with a loud crack. The blow sent him flying back into the mountainside with a resounding crash.

Nakago stared at Ranma with glazed eyes as Ranma walked towards him. Blood dribbled from where his head impacted against the rocky wall. Ranma reached up, grabbed Nakago by the neck, lifted him up, and kneed him in the gut, smashing Nakago's body back into the rocky wall. He then followed up with a barrage of punches enhanced by the Amaguriken. Nakago spat blood as Ranma tucked him into a headlock and proceeded to pick him up and slam him back against the wall. The sickening sound of breaking bones rippled through the air.

"This," said Ranma calmly, slamming Nakago's body, "is for Miaka."

"And this," Ranma continued, anger rising, "is for Tamahome's family!" He slammed Nakago again, with increased force.

Ranma's aura gently blossomed into sight around him as he lost his temper. "And THIS, you bastard, is for YUI!!!" Ranma swung Nakago high over his head before slamming him down with all his strength. A faint ring of blue ki exploded outward as Nakago came in contact with the ground and decimated the space beneath it. Dust gently rose from the small crater. Letting out a deep sigh, Ranma dropped his hold on Nakago, and allowed the tension to drain away from his muscles. He winced at the pain in his ribs; they were probably broken. His hand was also beginning to sting from the chomp Ashitare gave him.

Glancing over at Nakago's motionless body, Ranma felt his temper rise. The bastard deserved to die. And Ranma was tempted, very tempted, to be his executioner. If Nakago lived, he would only cause more death and destruction. Before he could further contemplate the situation, he was hit by lighting--and it wasn't one of those brilliant ideas.

"AHHH!!!" Ranma screamed, involuntarily hunching over to steady himself.

"You…" snarled Soi, body surrounded by lightening, "will NOT hurt Nakago-sama ANYMORE!!!" Viciously, she directed several more shots at the temporarily incapacitated martial artist.

Ranma managed to swerve out of the electricity's way and he turned to fire a burst of ki at Soi. Infuriated, Soi wasn't aware of the ki blast until it struck her and she went down hard, coughing blood.

"You know," Ranma said conversationally, eyes icy, "you shouldn't have hit me behind the back like that." He casually sidestepped the spinning ball that lunged for him, twirling inside of its attack. He turned to look at Suboshi. "As for you…" Ranma's eyes smoldered dangerously. He then looked more closely at the weapon. He match the look with the description he read and concluded that it was Suboshi, the child killer. There will be hell to pay.

Astounded at Ranma's casual evasion of his weapon, Suboshi did little else then stand there as Ranma suddenly moved in front of him and punched him in the gut. "You FUCKIN' BASTARD!! CHILD KILLER!!!" Ranma snarled. Furious at what happened to Tamahome's family, Ranma punched Suboshi over and over again. Suboshi gasped wordlessly, overcome by sheer pain. He finally kneeled over, passing out.

In the shadows, Tomo grimly snapped out one of his trademark shins and attempted to ensnare Ranma in one of his illusions. To his amazement, it didn't work. However, it did catch Ranma's attention.

To Miboshi's credit, the little monk tried to get out of Ranma's line of sight. However, Ranma still saw him… and Tomo. The two learned that being the focus of an enraged heir to the Anything-Goes martial arts school is a baaad thing as Ranma proceeded to beat the living crap out of them.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, Nakago regained consciousness.

Taking stock of the situation, Nakago knew they were in trouble. Besides the fact that Ranma was beating the living daylights out of the Seiryuu senshi, Nakago himself was feeling weak from blood loss. Though not all of the blood pooling on the ground was his, most of it was.

It was clear that they would fail in obtaining the shinzaho. Feeling the *slightest* bit desperate, Nakago reached into his energy reserves and charged his up power.

Ranma felt the change in Nakago's aura and started to turn around. The move caused him to be hit dead center in the chest and propelled backwards into a nearby river. The strong currents of the icy water hit him hard, triggering his transformation. The shock of impact along with the pain of being hit by Nakago's energy blast was sufficient enough to knock him out. Ranma was swept downstream, his red shirt and hair bright spots of color floating amidst the pale white and blue hues of the river, ice, and snow.

If Nakago hadn't been so dazed, he might have seen that Ranma looked a bit different when he hit the water. As it was, he numbly staggered to his feet and felt a cold prickle on the back of his neck. His eyes widened. Clearing his mind, he grunted a bit at the pain screaming throughout his body. Gradually managing to steady himself, he carefully scooped Soi up into his arms. "Miboshi?"

The little monk twitched from his position on the ground and slowly forced himself up. "Hai, Nakago-san?"

"Teleport us back to the base immediately."

"Hai." Miboshi painstakingly picked up his discarded spindle and held up his other hand, whispering a short, cryptic phrase. A brief flash of blue washed over the clearing; then it was empty.


Mere seconds after the Seiryuu senshi left, the sound of footsteps echoed through the air.

"Oniichan!" Miaka exclaimed excitedly, bursting from the entrance of the cave. "We've got the shinzaho!!"

Outside it was dead silent, the ground was torn up, and tuffs of dirt were scattered everywhere. Several uprooted trees lay forlornly on their side, facing their splintered brethren. Broken rock bits crumbled off the holes on the cave wall and fell with soft plops to the snow, which was tainted with blood. Blood that mingled with the melting snow and turned the soft white into a sea of crimson red.

"Onii…chan?" Miaka whispered, staring at the devastation in the deserted clearing. The shinzaho slipped from her numb fingers and fell to the bloodstained ground.

There came a splatter of hurried steps as the Suzaku senshi caught up with their Miko. "Miaka!" Tamahome asked breathlessly, "What's wro--"

"Oh my…" Nuriko whispered. The senshi stared in stunned horror.

"What the fuck just happened?" Tasuki asked into the silence.

***
Some time later in Kutou… "He was too strong." Nakago rasped, clenching a hand to his bandaged ribs.

"So I saw," whispered the eerie voice. "Recover quickly. Seven new players are arriving in the game."

"Seven? So I was not mistaken?" Nakago queried. "Who do they belong to?"

"That is unknown," said the voice. "But not for long." There was a slight slimmer in the black fire Nakago was facing before all the flames dissipated.

***
Elsewhere…

"Mother! Father and I found this young girl floating in the river!" Kaika breathlessly said, quickly dropping the load of firewood he was carrying into the woodbin next to the door.

"What?" she said, wiping her hands on a towel. "Where? Lead me to her."

"It's okay dear," Kaika's father said, walking up to the door. A wet, bedraggled redhead was curled up in his arms. Kaika quickly moved out of his father's way.

"Oh my," exclaimed Kaika's mom softly. "The dearie is all cold! Quick, bring her inside…"

***
In the real world…

Ryouga snapped the Shijin Ten Shou shut with a click and rushed out of his workroom…

…to become very, very lost.

Ryouga stared at the toilet with a resigned degree of frustration. "How the hell did I get here?" he muttered to himself. "I'm over eighteen, and I still can't find my way to the living room in my own house…" Gritting his teeth, Ryouga stopped moving before he made things worse and left his house entirely. "Akari!!" he yelled desperately. "Uhh… could you come over here?"

"Ryo-chan?" came Akari's gentle voice. "Where are… err, where do you think you are?"

"I'm pretty sure I'm in the bathroom… there's a toilet in here," Ryouga answered.

"Hang on…" Akari said calmly. Ryouga waited. He turned as he heard Akari entered the bathroom. "What is it?" she asked.

Holding back a sigh of relief, Ryouga found himself thinking, once again, on how great it was to have someone as understanding as Akari. Shaking his head, he turned to more pressing matters. "Ranma's in trouble, Ri-chan… Eh?" He blinked as he realized that Akari was staring fixedly at him. "What's wrong?"

"Ryouga, dear… what is that?" Akari pointed at her husband's arm.

Ryouga looked down. "What the…" A gold symbol burned in the skin of his forearm. It looked like a point with seven swerving lines of varying lengths. Three of the seven twisting lines were shorter than the other four and curved into a small circle around the dotted center of the symbol. Ryouga stared at the sigil for along moment. "We need to go to see Cologue, Ri-chan…"

"But she's in China…" Akari said. Her voice trailed off as she remembered her husband's one, crippling handicap. She smiled in amusement and raised an eyebrow at him. "We?"

Ryouga blushed sheepishly. "Exactly."

***
Somewhere in the wilderness…

"Moof." Taro growled to himself as he flew across the countryside in his cursed form.

*Great, not only will they laugh at my name, they'll mock this damn symbol on my foot as well!*

And then there was that sudden need to protect something. He couldn't explain it. It was weird. All he knew was that whatever he was looking for was leading him to China… so he was hauling his behemoth minotaur butt over there.

"Whhmm…"

*Why me…?*

***
Musk Citadel…

"Herb-sama!"

An imposing man decked in dully shining scaled armor lifted regal eyes to look at the wolf-skin clothed man padding up to his throne. "What is it, Mint?" Beside Herb, a man dressed in tiger-skins waved a greeting at Mint with his right hand.

"Look!" Mint said excitedly, pulling his tunic open to reveal the glowing symbol tattooed over his left chest. "I found this on me this morning! Hi, Lime!" He waved back at the man clothed in tiger-skins.

"Herb-sama… me too," Lime adjoined. "Look at this!" He uncurled his left hand to show an identical gold symbol shimmering on his palm.

Herb blinked with interest, examining the symbols. "Well. I guess that means the cure I used yesterday to rid myself of my curse isn't the cause of this…" He unbuttoned his gold embroidered collar to expose another copy of the golden symbol glowing on his neck.

"Heeh?" Lime and Mint crowded around their leader for a better look. After a while, the three men stopped studying each other's sigil and looked at each other.

"Herb-sama, I have come to request leave," Mint announced. "I need to go somewhere."

"Oh?" Herb raised an eyebrow, retying his collar. "Where are you going?"

Mint hesitated, visibly struggling for words. "I dunno," he said at last. "I just know it's somewhere important."

"Me too, Herb-sama…" Lime said slowly.

Herb clasped his hands together in front of him. "I see… well, let's leave together then. I need to check up on something as well…" A compulsive need to find and protect something throbbed in his veins.

***
On Mt. Phoenix…

"Kima! Kima, look at this thing I found on me this morning," an 8-year old looking Saffron exclaimed to his caretaker as he shoved up the bangs brushing across his forehead. An odd, gold symbol glimmered on his brow.

"Oh my…" Kima gently took her liege's face in her hands and tilted it up for a closer look. Saffron waited patiently as Kima examined his forehead. A gold glitter caught the young immortal's eye.

"Wow! Kima, you've got one on your right knee too!" Kima smiled serenely.

"It appears that I do." She removed her hands and Saffron bent down to study the sigil glowing on his caretaker's knee.

"Kima?"

"Yes, my liege?"

"I am leaving," Saffron stated nonchalantly. "There's something important I need to do."

"If it's alright with you, I shall go with you. I feel that I need to do something as well…" Kima admitted. "And I've got a feeling that the Joketsozuku Amazons will know what it is."

"Sure," Saffron consented.

To be continued…

Authors Rants…

Well here is the third installment of the fic. I just want to Thank you guys for supporting Crimson-chan and me on our fic. Any who I just want to tell you guys that chapters will becoming out slower then usual now because of schooling putting more pressure on me. Oh and for those who read Warp and wonder when the next installment will come out? Well I am having currently having writer's block on it but I hope to work it off as soon as school ease up on me. Well thank and now on to Crimson-chan rants.

CI: Hello again. Hope you liked the fic.

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