".... And then they made me their king." Ranma said.
The train came to a grinding halt and the passenger he'd been talking to quickly stood and walked away as swiftly as could still be considered polite, having had more than his fill of outrageous boasts and ridiculous tales spun by the youth, perfectly willing at this point to get off two stops early to escape.
Ranma scowled the whole time passengers were getting on and off at the stop, and for several long minutes after the train pulled off. Then he calmly handed a 2000 yen note over to his traveling companion
"You were right, 'Natsu. My life is that weird."
"Yes. Of course, since leaving Nerima behind it has become remarkably less so, Ranma-dono. With luck, that trend will continue."
"Not sure about that. I mean, Department of Abnormal Phenomenae? Sounds like it'll fit right in with the rest of-"
"You two too, huh?" A nearby bluette said, dropping down into one of the seats. "Asuka Takami, field strategy. Nice to meet you."
"Heavy Combat." Konatsu finished for him, before continuing with the introductions. "And my own specialty would probably be something along the lines of infiltration. Konatsu."
Asuka nodded, taking in the not-at-all disguised soft pink ninja-suit and short sword, and deciding not to point out that the cadet seemed to think she was a ninja as long as the other one didn't. For that matter, she was pretty sure it was illegal just to carry that thing around, but there was probably some leeway for police officers.
"So, any ideas of what to expect from the DAPC? I was trying to get into the Central Organized Response Echelon myself, but... uh, that's not important." she finished in a mumble, seeming embarassed.
"No idea." Ranma cheerfully admitted. "Konatsu and I've been slated for this posting ever since the department got renamed and reopened, and with a name like 'Paranormal Investigations Specialty Squad' I can see why they wanted to change it, but apparently they keep a really tight lid on this stuff because we weren't able to get ahold of much information except that it was a dumping ground for people they didn't want to deal with, for whatever reason."
Asuka frowned, not pleased at that realization, moreso that the two seemed to be waiting for an admission of some kind from her. After a long moment, she let an unladylike grunt out and responded.
"One of the instructors at the Academy thought he was god's gift to women. I disagreed. He tried to force the issue and... I may have cracked his pelvis. Just a little."
"You too?" Ranma said, puzzling her somewhat before she decided that she really didn't want to know. "Well.... I suppose in my case it wasn't just that..."
"Indeed, Ranma-dono. There was also the humiliation of regularly outperforming all your combat instructors in every area, your somewhat arrogant lack of any real respect towards authority figures, your-"
Ranma's smile had gone slightly fixed and wooden.
"-patronizing and condescending attitude towards women and people with noncombatant focuses before I managed to break you of that, your curse, the three food fights you accidentally started in the communal cafeteria, the jello-pudding incident, the time-"
The corner of Ranma's eye had begun twitching slightly, and Konatsu was talking a bit too fast for Asuka to get more than just the drift.
"-you moved all the furniture of the whole facility around in the middle of the night without waking anyone on a dare, what you did when you found out Instructor Yamaguchi had several pet cats, and.... well, many, many more things. In short, Ranma-dono is usually pretty close to the perfect policeman or soldier while actually on duty, but has a lot of issues that the brass just don't want to deal with for some reason."
"....I can't imagine why." Asuka finally managed, slightly dazed at the laundry list of offenses, and wondering if she'd have been better off sticking around to chat with the gun nut she'd run across. "And... and you?"
"Oh.... I'm simply too devoted to my Master." Konatsu responded matter-of-factly, prompting a heavy twitch from Ranma. "So a 'guilt by association' sort of thing, for the most part."
Asuka wasn't entirely sure how to respond to that, and thankfully she didn't have to, as the train began pulling into their stop and she had an excuse to gather up her things and head off.
"Line up, fall in, stand straight, shoulders back!" The short, but beefy sergeant barked at the new recruits. "Check in time, ladies!"
Ranma didn't register the insult, except to wonder if he'd recieved advance notification of the curse, and Konatsu hadn't been aimed at for some reason, but the rest of the group reacted just as expected, with a seething, but impotent anger.
"Name and specializations, starting with you, punk." Ranma just blinked.
"Ranma, formerly Saotome, currently Ronin due to removing myself from-"
"I didn't ask for your life story, maggot! Name and specialization, and I'll check you off my list."
Ranma frowned, but complied.
"Ranma, no last name. Heavy Combat, focus primarily on martial arts, secondary specialties in some more esoteric areas."
The sergeant grumbled something that Ranma barely caught, along the lines of 'see what good punching does against something with skin made of acid.'
"Konatsu, also no last name. Infiltration focus, along with some other things."
"Oh. Think you're a ninja, do you?" He sneered, and was taken completely off guard when Konatsu simply nodded somberly, with no trace of shame or even the realization of an attempted insult. He grunted and moved on.
"Asuka Takami. Field Strategy."
"Ken Yakata. Call me Snake. Demolition and Heavy Combat."
"Kyle Tekai. Uh... I do.... stuff?"
This time, the grumbling was clearly audible, on the topic of 'idiot daddy's boys' getting killed on their first mission, and how he was damn sure not going to take the fall for it.
Ranma phased out the rest of the meet n' greet, somehow unable to bring himself to care about the names or specialties of the remaining officers, getting the strange feeling that it wouldn't matter in the long run, for some reason.
"Alright, time for weapons. Combat knives and sidearms all around. Want something else, tough shit, 'cause we aint got the budget. I'm Sergeant Payne, and my job is to keep you worthless scum in line while not on patrol or assignment. Any questions?"
The sergeant's tone heavily indicated that it would be best if there weren't any, and mouths obligingly snapped shut. Ranma took a moment to check the knife... full tang, and looked to be tempered steel instead of that cooking pot stuff they used to make the knives cheaper. Well, at least it wasn't going to break easily, and it wasn't like he had to use the thing.
The handgun, in comparison, was a serious disappointment, and judging from the expressions on the other cadet's faces nobody else was particularly impressed either.
"What is this crap?" Snake howled, seeming to be not only disgusted but actually enraged at the sight of the tiny hole for bullets to come out of. "What am I supposed to do with this little piece of junk?"
"Not my problem." The sergeant said flatly. "The politicals in charge of that kind of thing don't give us enough money to both pay you and arm you properly. Take it up with requisitions, or file a petition to have more funds allocated to the department for better guns, or just buy something better with your own money. Don't get caught though. If you're implicated in illegal weapons trade, the DAPC will deny all knowledge of you, burn your records, and generally hang you out to dry."
"Fine, whatever. I'll do that then." Snake grumbled irritably.
"As for the rest of you, conserve ammo, because every clip you get from the armory will be deducted from your paycheck. Make them last, folks. Go for headshots."
Snake made a sort of 'duh' noise in the background, which the sergeant ignored.
"You will now be paired up and assigned a squad car for patrol. Any damage to your squad car will be taken out of your paycheck for repairs, and you'll be paying for gas out of your own pocket. Does anyone have any preferred partners?"
Konatsu raised a hand.
"Um, I really perform best with Ranma-dono, so-"
"Tough shit!" The sergeant barked, happy to deny the request. "Not gonna put you together with your boyfriend so you can spend your patrol time making kissyface. You and Takami." He pointed at Ranma. "You and Tekai. Yakata, you and..."
Konatsu sighed moodily from the passenger seat of a squad car. Seperated from Ranma-dono... Well, it couldn't be helped. There wasn't much to be done about patrol assignments. On the positive side, they would be pooling their paychecks for a decent apartment, as well as whatever other things they found themselves in need of, so...
The kunoichi's musings were cut off as the police dispatch radio crackled and came to life.
"All cars, we have a situation with a large dog in the park, terrorizing small children and their parents. Respond."
Asuka snatched the radio mike up and answered promptly.
"Takami here, we're currently passing the park, we'll deal with it."
"... Roger that Takami. Civilians have already evacuated. Please secure the area and await backup."
"For a dog?" The bluette snapped. "That really won't be neccessary. What's the worst that could possibly happen?"
Konatsu flinched, having long since learned to dread such words, as Asuka cut off the feed and slammed on the brakes, tires squealing as she spun into a parking space and got out, Konatsu just slightly behind.
"Um... perhaps it would be best to wait for backup, as dispatch suggested?" He wondered, eying the surroundings with mild anxiety, knowing from experience that now that the words had been uttered, something horrible was going to happen in the very near future.
"For a dog?" Asuka snapped again. "Look, worst possibility is it has rabies, and I have to shoot it and then explain why their pet's not coming back to some kid. If you-"
Asuka's rant was interrupted as there was a sudden rush of motion from the side, and the next thing she knew, Konatsu had been snatched up in a giant maw, bristling with razor sharp fangs, tearing and gnashing relentlessly at her body as her mouth went dry and her eyes dilated from horrified shock.
"That... that didn't just happen." She stammered, staring at the monstrous canine that stood at least a foot higher than her at the shoulder. "That... what kind of...?"
"My... it's certainly a very large dog." Konatsu demurred from behind her and to the side.
Asuka's head snapped around to Konatsu, then back to the dog, which seemed to realize at the same time that she did that it was chewing on a straw dummy wearing Konatsu's DAPC uniform-jacket.
"Hm. Of course, one shouldn't just expect for a kunoichi to be caught unawares by something so simple as a surprise attack." The hound lunged again, and Asuka suddenly found herself in Konatsu's arms and up a tree as its teeth snapped together in empty air. "Oh dear... pull yourself together sempai. I'm afraid I can't go on the offensive if I'm forced to spend all my time defending you."
"Wha... how can you be so calm, in the face of that!?" Asuka snarled, channeling the fear into anger in a successful effort to regain control of herself.
"Ah... should I be worried? I'm sure it's quite a shocking beast in appearance... but to me, it's simply the latest opponent."
"I... plan. I need to make a plan. I wasn't expecting..."
"Such an Abnormal Phenomena? I'm afraid you will most likely have to learn to get used to it. For now, make your plan, and for my part I shall attempt to sever the beast's tendons."
"Wait, stop...! Dammit." Asuka hissed softly to herself as the ninja-girl-that-might-just-actually-be-a-ninja jumped down and drew her kodachi, entering battle immediately.
It was horrifying to watch, and at the same time awe-inspiring as the two flowed around in battle. The hound, with its rutheless savagery and raw power backing every movement it made, and Konatsu's sheer skill, finesse, and speed as she managed to always be just barely out of reach of those snapping fangs, though in turn she couldn't quite land any more than a glancing blow through the creatures thick pelt. And in turn, the best she could manage was to send a few bullets into the creatures mass that it didn't even seem to feel.
It made her feel so useless. She couldn't do anything with her gun, firing such tiny bits of lead it may as well have been throwing bees. It was pathetic. And it enraged her, and focused her mind to a razors edge as a plan formed.
"Lure it beneath me!" Asuka yelled.
Konatsu didn't give any overt signs that he'd heard the demand, but began to slowly retreat, just enough to keep in fighting range as he led it to where Asuka directed, hoping she knew what she was doing.
For that matter, Asuka hoped to hell that she knew what she was doing as she holstered the ineffective sidearm and pulled out the combat knife instead. This was going to be a pretty big gamble...
The hound passed beneath, and she let herself drop, slamming onto its shoulders. It hurt, far more than it should have... the things fur was like thousans of tiny, razor sharp needles, and she could feel them scratching away at her thin, fragile skin even through her uniform, which was definitely going to have to be replaced. Unimportant. She forcibly ignored it as she slammed the knife into its throat, then wrenched it out with a twist and slammed it in again as fast as she could.
For just a moment, she was convinced that the gambit had worked, as the hound dropped to its knees. Then it began to roll and she could do nothing but brace herself for pain as she understood what was happening just a moment too late to do anything about it.
Having her own weight pressing her into the creature's needly fur had been bad. Having its far more significant bulk doing the same, and pinned between it and the ground before it continued the roll, leaving her on the ground and bleeding profusely... that was at least an order of magnitude or two worse.
Asuka felt herself being snatched up again as her vision swam and spun, and then the two officers were away from danger, Konatsu having once more managed to move too fast for the beast to immediately track. She'd got it, though. That wound, while not immediately fatal, would bleed the thing out rapidly. They should just retreat now and let it thrash in its death throes and...
There was a loud sizzling noise and a huff of smoke that drifted away from the creatures neck, and the heavy spurting of arterial blood came to a near-instant stop as the beast snarled and looked around, a cunning and cruel intelligence in its eyes.
"Kami... what does it take to kill this thing?" She wondered aloud.
"The same as anything else, probably... just in much larger doses. You're injured, Sempai."
She had no doubt about that. She felt like her front had been scrubbed open with steel wool, and she probably looked like raw hamburger.
"Have to get you back to medical... but can't just leave that thing to its own devices... oh dear. Without Ranma-dono to back me up, I'm hopeless... I should have long since taken things to a higher level. Just hold tight for a few minutes, please Sempai?"
Konatsu dropped down from the tree and turned to face the slobbering brute, eyes flashing.
"Such as you do not deserve to witness any of my higher techniques in your last moments." The Kunoichi declared as she drew her kodachi and it began to sparkle with an eerie pink light. "But circumstances have forced my hand. Witness is my desperation technique. At full power!"
She swung as the hound lunged forward, maw gaping wide, and Asuka's eyes involuntarily snapped shut. She forced them open almost immediately, but by then it was all over.
The hound had split off into two different directions, neatly bisected down the middle by Konatsu's strike.
Oddly, her first reaction wasn't even disbelief. It was irritation. Couldn't she have just done that from the beginning and saved them all this trouble? And then Konatsu collapsed to her knees, and Asuka realized that obviously there had been a good reason for the restraint.
And then her vision swam again, and everything went dark.
When she woke, it was in the department infirmary, the scent of medicinal alcohol disenfectants heavy in the air. As well as the stench of actual alcohol. She blinked at that, and there was the sudden hurried noise of something being quickly concealed in a drawer.
"You're awake! Good. You slipped into a coma for an hour or two from bloodloss and shock from having most of the front of your torso shredded from whatever trouble you got into. Bit touch and go there for a while, but fortunately we were able to stitch you back together- no don't poke at it! Honestly... you strain that stitching too much and it'll pop and then you'll start bleeding again, and then you'll die."
Asuka instantly dropped her arm back to her side and remained as completely motionless as she could manage. Then, at the same time, her nose began to itch horribly and the medical officer started snickering.
"You fell for it? I can't believe how gullible... Relax miss Takami. The damage was superficial for the most part. You probably won't be winning any bikini contests, but you're in no danger of immediate death, and those stitches are made strong enough that your flesh will tear apart long before any of them start popping."
"That's... reassuring." She deadpanned. "You are?"
"Seras Tuko, Chief Medical Officer!" He stated sharply, doing his best to hide his current insobriety with a sloppy salute. After a few moments of Asuka's cool stare he dropped it and sagged slightly. "Would you believe... only medical officer? The previous Chief Medic apparently contracted some rare, untreatable, fatal disease from one of the officers, who contracted it in the field. Vampirism, I'm told."
"Tell me you're joking again."
"Afraid not. Only... it was less 'powerful, immortal undead' vampirism and more 'blood disease leaving you pale and a quarter of your previous weight, going slowly mad until you start feebly chewing at peoples jugulars in a vain attempt to get fresh, untainted blood into your system' vampirism. Nasty stuff. Had to be put down, of course, or else it would have spread."
Asuka just stared flatly at the doctor, who sighed.
"You'll see far worse than just that, if you remain in the department for any length of time." He stated as he withdrew a half-full bottle of whiskey from his desk and took a long pull. "And you'd best hope you do, because so far all the people who have 'left' us have only gone away in the spiritual sense. Still, I'm sure you're eager to catch up with your partner and what happened after you lost consciousness."
"What's there to tell?" Asuka wondered. "I saw the... dog, fall apart. Can't be much more to the story than...." She trailed off as Seras began shaking his head and took another pull of the whiskey.
"I'll just let them tell the story. Jush a moment." He slurred, stepping out of the infirmary. A minute or two passed before Ranma and Konatsu walked in.
"So. I'm told there was more to hear about after I passed out. Hit me, already."
"Well, after I unleashed my desperation move, the 'Instant Destruction Of Any Opponent, Cleave Through Everything Strike'..."
Asuka's eyebrow twitched upwards at the mouthful of a name as Konatsu began the story.
The beautiful kunoichi had done it, slaying the fell beast for the sake of her unfortunately less talented, injured comrade-in-arms. All was well as she dropped to her knees daintily for a mere moment of respite, or so she thought.
Unfortunately, the battle had not yet quite ended. With a sickening groan, the two halves of the beast lurched to their feet, tendrils of oozing, slimy darkness extending to knit together flesh and bone, hissing and smoking wherever they touched, until at once the creature was whole, even undamaged, as it let cry a fierce howl of bloodthirst.
Could this be the end of our heroine, the beautiful kunoichi in distress?
"Fear not, beautiful one!" Came a rallying cry from nearby, as the formally clad heroic reinforcement dropped in from the trees, dramatically swishing his cane. "For I, Tuxedo Ranma-dono, shall not allow harm to befall one so bewitchingly lovely. For our love. Have at you!"
Ranma thwacked Konatsu over the head with a rolled up newspaper as Asuka twitched, the story having rapidly spiralled out of control.
"Bad ninja. No biscuit."
"Oh dear. My apologies, Ranma-dono, it seems I got a little carried away. Oops?"
"Anyhow, it didn't happen quite like that. We got the message that you'd need reinforcements, and I left Kyle to deal with the domestic violence thing on his own. Anyway, I got there right about when the Baskerville pulled itself together..."
"Konatsu!" Ranma yelled, zipping down and yanking the stunned, exhausted, and motionless kunoichi out of the way of the jaw full of fangs that were slamming shut, breathing a sigh of relief as they cleared the gap.
"Idiot!" He continued from the safety of a treetop. "You went into head to head combat with something like that? You know that direct fights aren't your strong point!"
"Ah... forgive me, Ranma-dono. In my exuberance, it seems..."
"Sheesh." He grumbled. "I get it... you panicked. Don't worry about it, alright? Anyway... that thing down there? It's called a Baskerville, named after some english story that featured one, I think. The thing is, it's a being of elemental force and darkness, bound and given shape by someone. What you've been fighting is just it's body... and as long as it's connected to the source of its origin, it can keep drawing in power and repairing that body indefinitely. In short, unless you had realized that, you were doomed to lose."
"Oh! Ranma-dono knows so much about these things!" Konatsu stated, in clear admiration.
"H-hey.... I looked up a lot of references on mystical and daemonical things from the old ghoul a while back, alright? For a while, it was looking like everything was crawling out of the woodworks after me, and I wanted to know what I was up against before the fact."
"Anyway though." He finished. "I know how to deal with this thing. Either find the person who brought it here and deal with them instead, sever its link to its place of origin and destroy its body, or seal it into something. First is no good... we don't know who we'd have to look for, and this thing won't just let us leave that easily. Second's a bust... its link could be tied to just about anything in the park, a statue, tree, fountain, bench, anything. We'd have to destroy it all systematically to find it. Third it is then... fortunately, I spent a couple weeks at a shrine in Hokkaido for just such an occasion! Leave it to me, I just have to get it to stay put long enough to set things up, and it's finished! You take care of your partner, now."
Ranma dropped down into the park proper, smirking at the great hound.
"Hey, hey! You're an... ugly mutt, aren't you?" He started in, ignoring that he couldn't really expect a dog to react the same way and fall into the same predictable pattern as people did when he set things up for this technique.
Amazingly, though, it worked. The Baskerville's hackles raised as it growled, eyes blazing with furious rage.
"Hah! Nothing special, just an overgrown, slobbery mutt. You think you're- whoa!"
When it lunged, it was more than twice as fast as it had been before, rage driving it to new heights. That was good, Ranma knew, as he began the spiral and continued to mock and deride the dog-spirit as it snapped and slashed at him. The hotter the rage burned, the more intense the winds would be...
He unleashed the Hiryu Shoten Ha as they reached the center of the spiral, creating hurricane-force winds that lifted the Baskerville and carved into it with invisible blades as he quickly knelt and began preparations, carefully but swiftly inscribing ancient Kanji onto a slip of thick paper with a horsehair brush and octopus ink.
The dog-spirit, above, seemed to have caught on to the trick of the whirlwind technique much faster than any human opponents had to date, as its fiery rage cooled to ice and the winds stopped, leaving it to drop straight down at Ranma, maw gaping. Too late, though, as Ranma had finished, and hurled the paper ward, which pasted itself to the Baskerville's nose.
The Baskervile erupted into tiny motes of floating darkness, hovering in a cloud and slowly coalescing back into its canine shape. It was vulnerable.
The motes gathered faster, but the canine shape of them disappeared entirely as they were drawn to a single spot, being absorbed into the paper ward as though it was a sponge. Once every last mote had been drawn in, it dropped like a stone. Ranma caught it and quickly slammed it against a nearby circular rock.
"And Seal! Evil Spirit Sealing Technique, complete! Victory was assured from before our battle even began."
"And that was that." Ranma finished smugly.
"For the most part, anyway." Konatsu countered. "There was still getting you to the infirmary, and the Baskerville kept trying to break free, so Ranma had to place a few more seals on it..." She produced the heavy stone, coated liberally with wards and a fresh paint job. "But yes, that was how the battle ended."
"Do I.... want to know why the rock got decorated into a pokeball...?" Asuka hesitantly wondered aloud.
She was answered with unanimous negative headshakes.
"Fine then, I won't bother asking."
Civilians Traumatized by Ranma's Life Story: 1
Horrible, Horrible Acronyms: 1
Bullets fired pointlessly: 7
Secret techniques unveiled: 2
Little Children who will never look at a Doggy the same again: Lots
Monsters Sealed, likely only to break free at the worst time: 1
A.N. Ahahaha.... right into the deep end from the very beginning. Oh well.
Kyle- "Pokeball, go! I choose you, Baskerville! Use Crunch!"