Deja Vu All Over Again.
Disclaimer: I do not own Ranma One Half, or any of the dozens of other series that may or may not show up later in this bit of insanity.
Timeline: Um, I can't seem to find my notes here... it's.... sometime.
Prologue, Fish Sausage?
Nerima was, for one of the very few times in its average day, quiet and peaceful. This wasn't due to any special events, or horrible tragedies, but rather because it was midnight, and Nabiki and Akane had tag-teamed Ranma and Ryoga for the tongue lashing of a lifetime last time anything had disturbed them this late.
As such, it came as a bit of a surprise that Happosai, who was usually out and about capturing undergarments all night, was tip-toeing through the second floor of the Tendo compound's main house, clutching something in his hands. As he entered Ranma's room, and passed the window that cast soft moonlight across the floor, the object in his hand gleamed brightly.
"Hmm." The old man sneered, ensuring that he was quiet as he did so. "It's time to get rid of the boy once and for all." He had taken this treasure out of his collection of stolen artifacts, a powerful item that had once belonged to the amazons, and fully intended to use it on the impudent brat… especially since he'd had the gall to beat the old man to within an inch of his life only two weeks earlier, after the wedding incident.
As he crept closer to Ranma's bed, Happosai noticed that the boy was clutching the sheets in white-knuckled fingers, soft gasps and whimpers coming from barely open lips. The old man pondered this for a moment, moving his gaze to the boy's eyes, and smiled. His original plan had been to inflict hell on the boy, but whatever he was dreaming about now, it had to be just as bad or worse to induce such a reaction.
Sliding the small object he'd been holding carefully forward, Happosai positioned it on the pillow right under the boy's head, and as his tightly closed eyes let loose a single tear, the room lit up with a bright white flash.
Ranma tumbled down, into the darkness. He had done so already tonight, he thought, but it didn't seem to matter as the nightmare had started itself again like a skipping record. As he hit the floor of the pit with a painful thud, he heard the tinkling sound of breaking glass, but that only intruded on his senses for the barest of moments as the smell of fish sausage, blood and unwashed animals assaulted his nose.
Strangely, unlike all of the other times he'd had the nightmare, the monsters weren't instantly closing in to tear his flesh, and he forced himself not to curl up into a ball, to look around and see what was going on. As always, the light of the world above stabbed down into the pit, giving some illumination, and Ranma could see the shadows that skulked around the edges, making him shiver, but he could also see something new.
There was a small figure in a tattered and torn white fighting gi only a few short feet away from him, the sound of whimpering sobs clearly audible even past that of the loudly mewling monsters circling. Confused, Ranma reached out to touch the other, but the cats acted as he did, as if his movement were somehow the trigger for theirs.
As they swarmed inward, sensing two pieces of fresh meat rather than one and not caring that one of them was many times larger, Ranma Saotome's sanity broke like a dry twig in summer… twice.
Sitting next to the pit of cats where he had just dropped his son, Genma Saotome looked out towards the forest, trying to ignore the sounds coming from beneath him. At the moment, he wished that he'd never even found that Neko-ken training manual, as it had tortured his son to the point of death while returning only a powerful phobia, but he was set on his path, now. Ranma had been given the weaknesses of the cat-fist, and Genma was determined that the boy would gain the strengths. After all, taking only the weaknesses of another style was anathema to practitioners of Anything Goes, and Genma knew that Ranma was destined to be one of the best.
Still, as he heard a new cry of pain and a loud thud from inside the pit, he cursed himself once more for ever thinking this was a good idea, and slowly brought his vision down, peering into the darkness. For a moment, he thought he could make out two shadows, before a loud, cat-like yowl emanated from the depths, and something streaked out of the hole, knocking the heavy-set martial artist down.
As he scrambled to his feet, Genma heard something growling behind him, and spun to see what it was. At the sight of his son, being held by the back of the gi in the teeth of what looked like an older boy in a pair of boxers and a tank-top, he blinked rapidly. "Wha… who are you?" He blustered. "How dare you interrupt my son's training!"
Genma knew he was in big trouble, since if anyone caught him out here doing this he'd probably end up in jail for years for child abuse, but he couldn't let that show on his face. The older boy's head snapped up, his jaws first letting go of Ranma to tumble onto the ground and to his side, and regarded Genma with inhuman, ice-blue eyes. For a moment, Genma thought he'd recognized the face, but that moment was short-lived as the boy started forward at speed, his hands and feet leaving deep furrows in the ground every time they impacted.
Genma turned to run, but didn't do so fast enough, as bright lines of pain etched themselves down his back, his blood exploding from them in small streams. After this, the larger, more feral boy seemed to bat the fat man onto his side, and raise his hand for a killing blow. Just as he brought it most of the way down, a smaller, more tentative yowl came from behind him, and he turned, noting the smaller pigtailed boy padding up to him on all fours.
The larger neko-ken victim cocked his head sideways, surveying the smaller, who shook its head and pointed at Genma's still, and probably unconscious body with its nose. The larger meowed plaintively, but eventually caved at a look from the other, and the two jumped away, leaving Genma Saotome alone with his injuries.
By a river several miles away, an old woman leaned back in a lawn chair, a fishing rod held carefully in her hands. She really enjoyed fishing, as it was a peaceful activity, but had just enough of an element of unpredictability to it that it made it fun for someone as world weary as she was.
She really didn't like thinking about precisely how old she was, but then, when she was in the thick of things in Tokyo she didn't have to, and she still liked to come out here into the forest, where all she had to do was think. Chuckling to herself, the woman felt a tug on her line, and tightened her grip in order to start reeling in the fish she'd caught there. She brought it up expertly, smiling to herself as she saw a large carp dangling from the end of her line.
She was about to take it off and throw it back into the water, when something small and insanely fast flashed through the space right in front of her hands. When she stopped blinking, she noted that her carp was missing. "Hey!" She grumbled, turning to follow the movement of the fish thief, and gasped. Sitting on the ground nearby and consuming the food greedily was a young boy whose clothing looked like it'd been through the paper shredder, and who had large, deep gashes all over his body.
The old woman immediately jumped up from her chair, moving over to the boy and reaching down to check some of his wounds. When he turned to her with an indignant hiss, she jerked back, something in the back of her mind starting to set off warning bells.
About five seconds later, the brush nearby crackled, and the woman looked up to see a larger boy, this one perhaps seventeen, walking through the trees on all fours. It was about then that the alarm bells in the woman's mind took on actual meaning, especially as she saw the gouges the boy's hands and feet left in the ground, and the thin splatter of blood all over his face and chest.
"Oh… damn." She muttered, backing away slightly, but hearing the sounds of the other Neko-ken victim behind her still noisily devouring his fish. She'd honestly never seen two of them at once, and it was rather intimidating. As the larger one stalked towards her, she reached into subspace, withdrawing her trusty weapon. This seemed to set the large cat off, as it started bounding towards her.
Oddly enough, it gave out a happy "Meow!" before bounding at her and swiping out with one hand to knock the staff she'd drawn flying across the clearing. She closed her eyes, waiting for the savage martial artist's claws to tear her heart to pieces, when his weight caught her in the chest, sending her stumbling back, tripping over the smaller Neko-ken victim, and flailing, undignified, straight into the water.
As she blinked her eyes clear of river water and wondered why she hadn't been disemboweled, the old woman noticed that the teenager who had just slammed into her had changed, somehow. Rather than being a lean yet muscular young man, with intimidating, feral eyes, it was an equally lean, muscular young woman with a confused and terrified look on her face.
The girl blinked rapidly, looking around as if she'd never seen the river-side clearing before in her life. "Wha?" She asked, intelligently, before noticing that she was sitting on something. As she looked down, noticing the woman whose lap she knelt on in knee deep water, she started babbling. "Um, this was an accident, and I don't know what's goin on, and I'm really sorry, and it's probably all the ol' man's fault, 'n I'm really sorry, 'n…" She started, looking as if she was likely to be at this for quite a while.
The woman sighed, and having seen this kind of behavior in at least one of her teammates back in Tokyo before, slapped the redhead firmly across the cheek.
The shorter girl blinked several times, and then her eyes cleared of their panic. "Thanks, I needed that." She muttered, quickly getting up and allowing the woman to stand, ringing out the small part of her long green hair that had fallen into the water.
She merely nodded with an enigmatic smirk, trying to enfold herself in the remains of the dignity that had been lost to her when she'd been knocked on her ass in the river, and stepped out, cautiously noting that the smaller neko-ken victim had finished his fish, and was laying on the ground contentedly letting the sun play over his body.
Seeing the small boy, the redhead who had once been a larger, quite similar looking one blinked. "Okay, did I get hit on the head too hard again?" She mumbled, causing the old woman to quirk a curious eyebrow at her. Knowing that she had to explain, but not sure how, she answered "That's… me."
Ranma Saotome walked along a trail next to a woman who looked strangely familiar, carrying a sleeping duplicate of herself, or at least of how he'd looked about ten years ago, held in her arms. They were apparently going to a small cabin the woman owned, where she could treat the younger boy's injuries. Ranma winced as she looked down, noting the lacerations and bruising that covered the smaller child's frame.
She was relatively sure she knew how he'd gotten them, too, even if she didn't know why this was happening. As the group was approaching a small, cozy looking cottage that was just off the clear-cut trail that lead through the woods, however, the woman who was leading Ranma asked her a question that almost made her drop the small boy she was carrying.
"So, why are you time traveling?" She asked, off-hand. Seeing the shorter girl stop dead in her tracks, she sighed. "I can tell, you know, especially when you come charging into my favorite fishing spot with a younger version of yourself."
Ranma frowned for a moment, but had to admit that explanation did make sense. "I really don't know. I just sorta woke up falling into the pit." She shuddered, not wanting to remember that again, and then winced. "If I met a younger version of myself, isn't that really bad, or something?"
The green haired woman snorted. "You've been reading too much manga. If you were from this timeline's future, you'd be giving me a migraine by now." She explained. Seeing the redhead's confused look, she continued. "This is his timeline, not yours. They haven't been the same since you arrived."
Ranma nodded, not really sure what she meant by that, but knowing that the details weren't her problem. After the other woman had unlocked the door to the cottage, Ranma walked in and put the smaller boy on a comfortable looking feather bed that lay in the corner.
"I can start patchin him up." She said, as she was handed a box of medical supplies. "Can ya get me a cup of hot water?" The woman nodded, and Ranma sat next to the bed, bandaging her own injuries and wondering what to do next. Time travel, unlike a lot of other things, was honestly something she'd never had to deal with before. Still, if what the green haired woman said was true, it was possible that she could help this kid, this smaller version of herself, have a less crappy life than she had. Even telling him enough to let him avoid Jusenkyo or the Amazon village would be a step up.
"Here's your water." The green haired woman said, and watched with interest as the smaller girl accepted it and dumped a small amount over her hand, her body shifting and reforming until she looked like the male who had first jumped on her.
"Um, thanks." The now male martial artist said, then realized something and scratched the back of his neck sheepishly. "I'm Ranma Saotome, by the way."
"Setsuna." The woman returned, and grabbed up several bits of gauze from the first aid kit, helping Ranma work with a proficiency that spoke of much practice.
Ranma Saotome awoke to a headache to rival the one he'd gotten that one time he'd snuck into his father's sake stash. The last thing he'd remembered, the older man had told him that he would only have to go into the pit two or three more times, and had shoved him down while he protested. The blackness had closed around him, and there had been a flash of bright light, and then everything had gone dark.
Forcing his eyes open, he saw that there were two older people hovering over him, looking worried. One was a pretty older woman with forest green hair, while the other wore his jet black hair in a pigtail, similar to his own, and had strangely familiar blue eyes. "What happened?" He asked, confused.
The woman sighed in relief, offering the young boy a glass of water with a straw in it as she talked. "You've been through quite a bit." She said, concerned. "How do you feel?"
"I'm fine." Ranma returned, and then sipped a bit of the water, allowing the cool liquid to soothe his dry throat. "But, where's my dad?"
The boy cleared his throat and spoke this time, sounding a little bit nervous. "I haven't seen your father," He said, "But he's probably lookin for ya."
Ranma nodded, wondering if his dad would come and grab him in the middle of the night this time, and lay back for a moment before remembering something. "Where am I? Who are you?"
"I'm Setsuna." The woman returned. "You're at a cabin I maintain in the woods. As for him…" She trailed off, and threw a look at the older boy, whose face furrowed in concentration for a moment.
"Um," He said, uncertain, as if he couldn't remember his own name. "I'm… Saffron." He finally decided, causing the woman to give him an odd look. "Ya should probably rest for a while. I know that I was tired when I first woke up from the Neko-ken."
"You know the Neko-ken?" Ranma asked, surprised, but the boy shook his head, and gestured for the woman to follow as he stood up and walked away. She smiled, leaving the glass of water on a table within easy reach of Ranma, and followed.
As they moved past Ranma's earshot, Setsuna raised an eyebrow. "Saffron?" She asked.
The older boy shrugged uncomfortably. "I hadn't been through much weird stuff yet." He explained. "Doubt he'd react too well to me saying I'm him. As for who Saffron is, let's just say he's not likely ta know I swiped his name… I hope… and leave it at that."
"True." Setsuna said, nodding. "So, what did you want to tell me outside of his earshot?"
Saffron frowned darkly. "This isn't goin the way I remember it." He explained. "I don't really remember if it was you who found me or not, it's kinda hazy, but I know Pops was there when I woke up the first time."
Setsuna nodded. "As I said, this is a different timeline, so it's possible that your father won't find you as quickly."
Saffron nodded, then frowned and looked back at Ranma. "Yeah… I just, I'm not sure if I wanna have the ol' bastard find him. I know I'm probably just supposed ta leave and find a way to go home, but if he goes through what I did over the next ten years, it's gunna screw his life up pretty good."
Setsuna nodded. "And you want to spare him that." She said, then smiled. "I'm not sure if that's altruism or self-interest, but it's a sentiment I can understand." She looked at the boys, both of them, who were in her house, and thought for a moment. Neither of them had made a ripple on her temporal radar, the sense that informed her of things that would cause great change to what she had been planning for several thousand years, and if the boy somehow managed to get a Jusenkyo curse in the future, his life would turn out strange, and perhaps tough, indeed.
"I'm not sure what to tell you." She admitted. "One in my position is usually expected to strongly urge you not to change things…" She looked off into the distance, and then smiled sadly. "Then again, I'm not fond of being so hypocritical."
Saffron considered asking about that, but decided it wasn't any of his business. Nodding, he said, "I'll do what I thinks' right, then." For a moment, he saw an image of his mother, her face so sad, every time Kasumi told her that Ranma and Genma were on another training trip.
Turning, he walked back to the bed where Ranma was sitting now, sipping at his glass of water, and smiled at him. "Hey, kid?" He asked.
"Hmm?" Ranma returned, looking the other over speculatively.
"Ya wanna go see your mom before you keep traveling with the old man? The injuries you took during the Neko-ken training are gunna need some time to heal, anyway."
The boy's eyes lit up. "You know where she is?" He asked, surprised. "I can show her how good I've gotten in the art so far!"
The larger pigtailed boy nodded, smirking. "Yeah, definitely." He said, simply. 'Sorry ol' man, but you ain't getting this kid cursed and hunted if (I've got anything to say about it.' He thought, looking for a moment out into the forest where he knew Genma was hobbling around somewhere. He knew the man should have been here sooner, but didn't really care. After all, this was Genma, and he could probably survive a military bombing run.
About two hours later, Ranma had rested to the point where he could walk with some help, and Saffron had chopped and stacked enough wood out in front of Setsuna's place to keep the fire stoked for a couple years, earning about six thousand yen in the process, which would help them on their way to Tokyo.
"Hey, you've got to show me that speed technique!" The younger boy said, and he would have been bouncing with excitement if his injuries allowed it.
The older boy shook his head, laughing. "I would, but then the ghoul I learned it from would probably kill me."
"Aw," The younger said, but 'Saffron' could see his eyes narrow in a way he recognized. He made a mental note not to use anymore Amazon Chi techniques, since he'd sort of promised Cologne that he wouldn't teach them to anyone else when she'd told him about them.
"So, you two are ready?" Setsuna asked, though she looked at the bandages on the younger boy's leg dubiously. Since the smaller one nodded his head the fastest, evidently excited about where they were going, she sighed in exasperation. "All right, then I should wish you good luck." She commented, then raised a hand as they were about to leave. "Just one request. Both of you, stay out of the Minato ward of Tokyo for the next five years or so."
Saffron was about to nod, when he suddenly winced, a memory flashing up at the back of his head of the same woman saying the same thing to his father, and adding the qualifier that if he ever stepped foot within the ward's limits, she'd use his intestines for washing line. Shivering, he was suddenly very aware of why the old man had avoided the place. "Yeah, no problem." He simply said, resisting the urge to turn grey.
As the two martial artists turned and started to walk off, the younger once again badgering the older to learn his speed technique, Setsuna wondered if she'd perhaps been a bit too helpful and lenient to the pigtailed time traveler. Still, she had been on her vacation, and he hadn't tripped any alarms. It probably wouldn't matter.
Okay, well there it is. I hope you like the first chapter of what may be yet another ill-fated fic of mine, or may not.
Now, some "helpful" explanation.
I'm using the Manga timeline, where the Namban Mirror was never shown or used. I figure I can use it, since if I didn't I'd just have to make up another artifact, but that's why it's here and not broken into thousands of little bits.
The second note is on the time this story's set in, and is why I wouldn't say where in the timeline everything was at the top.
Older Ranma - Age 17 - Post Saffron - Home Time: Late 1989.
Younger Ranma - Age 6 - Post Neko-ken - Home Time: Mid 1978.
Setsuna Meiou - Age ??? - Mid Super-S Season - Home Time Mid 1978.
I hope that helps.