Disclaimer: not mine, never will be, and if you can get here you'll have the ability to know that!
The solar system's astral plane was not a good place to be as Eris was completely pissed off. This was not a normal thing for a planetary spirit as extreme long life usually gave planetary spirits incredible patience. More often than not, whatever was annoying a planetary spirit would usually end before the spirit's patience ran out. However, Eris's temperament had gone from content to wrath of hell enraged in less then a minute.
Why was Eris so enraged? It was all very simple really. Luna's champion Sailor Moon had just used the Ginzushou to reset everything on Terra back to the way it was before the Dark Kingdom started their invasion. This reset stirred up things in the astral plane enough so that the planetary spirits were temporarily more sensitive to the future. Normally, this wouldn't be more than a minor annoyance for beings such as Eris. However, what Eris felt during that period enraged and horrified her.
The planetary spirit didn't know what exactly would happen in the future. Hell, no one really knew what the future would bring. What Eris did know is that there was a likely probability that something would happen that would greatly weaken the power of the planetary spirits in the solar system. These impressions told her that she would be imprisoned or corrupted somehow and that this would lead to her death.
Needless to say, Eris was enraged and terrified of what she had felt. Death was not something that spirits like her had to deal with. Even if her physical body was destroyed, an extremely unlikely situation given that it was a planet, she could always move to a young star system and forge a new physical body for herself. In order for Eris to die like she sensed, both her physical body and astral soul would have to be destroyed.
Eris created a projection of a young woman and had it appear on her physical body. She then looked at the stars from this projection's point of view and tried to think of a way out of the impending danger. Normally planetary spirits wouldn't project their astral selves outside the astral realm, but no one could ever accuse Eris of being normal.
The bronze skinned crimson haired woman put her hands on her hips and started talking to herself. "Alright Eris, how are you going to get yourself out of this mess? You don't know what might happen in the future to cause yourself to die. Argh! I hate these temporal scenarios. You can't tell whether doing or not doing something will lead you to your doom and you can't find out until it's too late!"
"Well said Eris." The planetary spirit quickly turned around to spot her unexpected visitor. Said visitor looked like a well built man in his late 30s or early 40s with a well groomed full beard.
Eris rolled her eyes at her uninvited visitor. "What are you doing here Sol? You star spirits usually don't hang out with us mere planetary spirits. Besides, you usually don't bother looking in these far reaches of your territory."
Sol nodded his head. "Very true Eris. But, until you leave my lands, your well being is my concern. I also felt what could happen to you thanks to Luna's champion. You may be one of my more troublesome subjects, but I don't want something like what we sensed to happen to you. I came here to offer you a suggestion on how you might be able to avert what we sensed. You could take on a champion of your own."
Eris immediately exploded at that suggestion. "WHAT! How can you even suggest that me?! In case you've forgotten, I deliberately didn't choose a champion back during the Silver Millennium because I didn't want to be tied to some prissy princess. Besides, having champions sure was great for everyone else." The sarcasm was practically dripping from Eris's mouth when she finished speaking.
Sol shook his head knowing it would take a good deal of convincing to get the stubborn spirit to do this for her own good. "You know that a champion doesn't have to be a princess, or even a girl for that matter. The fallacy of another spirit's champion does not have any bearing on the innate benefits that having a champion brings. You would have a conduit through which you could influence things on the physical plane outside of your physical body. A champion could fight off threats to you before they have a chance to hurt you."
"Even if you were weakened like those impressions suggested, a champion could still help you. A champion could still defend you even if all your other powers were locked away in the astral realm. Besides, the nature of the spirit-champion bond would help protect you from corrupting influences. Choose whomever among the humans to be your champion however you want to make the choice. Terra will not be able to complain about your selection with my backing."
Eris frowned as she considered Sol's words. After a long while she sighed and admitted defeat. "Fine then, I'll take a champion. But know this; my champion will not be some doe-eyed young girl with her head filled with fantasies or some goody-two-shoes nice guy. I'll only take the strongest fighter I can find with tolerable morals. My champion will have to win the privilege of wielding my power."
Sol nodded his head at Eris's announcement. "As you have declared, so shall it be. Whoever passes your challenges shall become your champion and known as the Soldier of Chaos and Evolution."
"That's my curry bread!" This claim was immediately protested by several dozen other boys as they all claimed that the last curry bread would be theirs. It was lunch time at the all-boys junior high; though with how the students were acting one might think it was feeding time at the zoo. Actually, the animals at the Tokyo zoo were more civilized than the boys when their meals were served. The lunch lady with the food item in question quickly threw it into the wild pack of boys and let them fight it out over who got the bread.
The question of who got the curry bread was quickly decided as one of the boys jumped above the crowd, kicked another boy who was leaping for the bread away, and snatched the desired food. All the other boys turned to watch as the bread claimant casually landed on the floor. Someone from within the crowd shouted out, "Damn it Saotome! You just can't always take the best bread in the school!"
Ranma Saotome turned around and grinned at the crowd. "And why's that Gorou? Its first come first serve remember. However," a playful grin formed on Ranma's face, "if you want it that badly you can always fight me for it." The cafeteria floor quickly descended into a mob smack down as Ranma quickly defeated his challengers. Most of the boys at the school practiced martial arts, but Ranma lived martial arts. The brawl ended two minutes after it began with Ranma kicking the last boy across the hall and into the trashcan while the cafeteria ladies critiqued his performance.
Problem solved, Ranma sat down on a bench and began to eat his lunch while reading his history textbook. The young Saotome didn't like studying for school, but he knew how to study enough so that his grades weren't terrible. Years ago, Ranma and his father had stayed at a dojo for a few weeks and the master there had pointed out that no one would want to be taught by an ignorant and non-certified instructor. Genma had scoffed at that martial arts master, but Ranma could see that there was a reason why he was Pops' only student. Ever since that day, Ranma had forced himself to study just enough so that he clearly knew what was being taught. Luckily, the young Saotome's skill at learning martial arts carried over into academics so that he kept his B- average even with all the absences he had thanks to training trips.
After lunch, the rest of the school day blew by for Ranma and then he immediately headed home to spar with his father. If Ryoga had been around Ranma would have stopped and had a friendly spar. Sadly, the lost boy hadn't been seen for two days and Ranma was beginning to think that he wouldn't see his only real competition for the rest of the week. On his way back to the apartment, Ranma caused a bit of a ruckus as he walked across fence posts and ran on the roofs of the street vendors.
The young Saotome got into a defensive stance as he neared his apartment. Ranma waited a minute for an attack that never came and then scratched his head. "Huh? Why isn't Pops attacking? Must have gone to a bar early today." Ranma wasn't about to waste any time standing outside and quickly entered the apartment. To Ranma's surprise, he saw Genma sitting at the table talking with a woman in a business suit.
Genma noticed Ranma coming in and called out, "boy, get over here."
Ranma raised an eyebrow and did as he was told. "Hey pops, whose this?" It was rare for Genma to ever bring anyone over to the house. Usually he only socialized at the local bar.
The woman turned and smiled at Ranma allowing him to get a good look at her bronze complexion. "Hello Ranma, I am Eris and I am representing Discordia Defense Inc. It's a small company that handles private home defense issues for private citizens."
Ranma nodded his head as he listened to Eris's introduction. "Okay, so why are you here? It's not like Pops or I have anything that someone's going to be desperate or foolish enough to try stealing."
Genma suddenly smacked Ranma in the back of his head. "Be quiet boy! This isn't a time for sarcasm. Ms. Eris here has a job offer, though she won't tell me what it is about."
Eris smiled at the elder Saotome and replied, "That's because this is an offer for your son, Mr. Saotome. Since Ranma here is still a minor, we need your permission to make the offer. May I explain why I'm here now that your son has arrived?"
Once Genma nodded his head Eris started her explanation. "Discordia Defense looking for a new 'troubleshooter' if you will. We need someone young who is able to adapt to different situations and has the skill to succeed in stopping those who threaten our clients. Thus, we have turned to looking at young and skilled martial artists. Ranma here piqued our interest by being in the top 500 martial artists between 13-25 years of age and is thus on the list of invites to try out for our position as troubleshooter."
"If Ranma accepts our invitation, he would have to come with me back to corporate headquarters for testing and training. Ranma would, free of charge, be placed into training that would force his physical conditioning and martial arts skill to increase considerably. Please note that this training is designed to weed out great fighters from average fighters; over 80 of our accepted applicants can already use their chi and about half of them can use it as an attack of some sort. After three months of intensely hellish training, any remaining applicants will be put into a no restriction tournament with the winner becoming our new troubleshooter."
"Being our troubleshooter will grant you certain benefits if you managed to claim the position. The troubleshooter will have access to the extreme training grounds my company owns, a good annual salary that will allow one to live comfortably in Tokyo, and the job is effectively a part-time job requiring only a few hours per week of work. Even if you don't get the job, you will get stronger from the training we will put you under."
"Of course, you can always decide to not take my offer and we won't bother you again. Please keep in mind that this is a once and a lifetime opportunity. This offer goes with me when I walk out that door."
Genma frowned as he thought about what Eris told him and Ranma. On the plus side, she was offering the boy a job and was willing to give him a couple months free training even if he didn't get the position. On the other side, that was several months where he wouldn't be able to monitor his son's progress in The Art and the competition would be extremely fierce. The elder Saotome knew that he wouldn't have to worry too much about Ranma slacking off in his training; despite the insults, Genma knew that his son had a better work ethic then he did. Besides, The Art was life for Ranma and the boy not training would be like him not breathing.
The problem for Genma was the mention of Chi users. Ranma wasn't ready as of yet to tackle that kind of opponent. After all, the boy only started unconsciously tapping into his Chi a few weeks ago. Genma had been planning on subtly encouraging Ranma's chi usage for the next couple of months and then take him on a trip to teach Ranma basic manipulation before heading over to Soun's to fulfill the pledge. Many would claim that Genma was a fool who never thought about things more than five seconds in advance. To a certain extent this was true, but when it came to Ranma's training Genma showed where Ranma got his battle brains.
Ranma watched in silence as Genma continued to weight the pros and cons carefully until he finally spoke. "I will allow my son to do this, provided I can have an hour to prepare some scrolls for him to take. Given the time he'll be with you, I want to make sure that he keeps up in his training."
Eris nodded her head and replied, "That's fine. I'll be back in one hour to pick Ranma up. If he gets the job he'll see you in three months."
An hour later Eris returned to the Saotome household and watched as Genma handed Ranma small briefcase. "Look son, under normal circumstances I wouldn't let you know of these scrolls' existence let alone let you study them. Don't get a big head about it! I'm only letting you study these scrolls because there are more people out there with skills at a much higher level than I was expecting and it's possible you'll be facing them. These are the secret techniques of our school and they are extremely powerful. Whatever you do, don't abuse them and make sure to use restraint when you must use them. A man died because he misused what I taught him. Now, train hard and I'll test you when you get the job."
Eris ignored the heartfelt goodbye that Ranma gave his father. All she cared about at the moment was that her last contestant was coming and that her subtle mental suggestions on Genma had worked. The planetary spirit had set things up so that all her contestants would have access to the techniques they could be reasonably expected to pick up in their lives. What she wanted to see was who would take advantage of the opportunity and just who could improve the most by coming out on top.
Ranma quickly walked up to Eris ready to go. The planetary spirit silently led Ranma away from the Saotome apartment. After a few seconds Ranma asked, "So, where are we going and how long will it take us? I want to get started on my training."
Eris smiled and quickly replied, "Don't worry Ranma. It won't take us long to go to the training zone. In fact," Eris grinned as a cloud of smoke exploded around the duo. Ranma immediately started coughing until the smoke cleared away. "We are already here Ranma. Welcome to, well myself, the planet Eris."
Blinking his eyes, Ranma took his first look at the alien landscape. The landscape was hilly and rugged with many rocks and boulders spread here and there were large ponds. Some of these ponds had steam coming off of them and others had ice floating on them. There were a few small trees spread about with each one growing on the top of a large boulder. The sky was filled with stars, but the land was covered with enough light for Ranma to see like a lighted parking lot at a major store.
Ranma nervously turned to face Eris who merely grinned. "This will be your home for the training Ranma. There is a cave behind you that has a clean spring and a bush whose berries will rapidly aid in healing you. Inside the cave you are safe. Outside the cave you will be subjected to wildly changing and extreme weather along with shifting levels of gravity. Your only food for the next three months will come from the trees you see whose fruit will be re-grown every night. Please note that any excess food you collect will spoil by the end of the day. If you travel ten km away from the cave you'll encounter a ring of fire that will kill you if you try to cross it; for the length of your training you'll remain in this circle."
"Your training is simple. For the first month you must merely survive the harsh conditions around you. In the next month dangerous beasts will be sent after you in order to see how you'll do against the monsters that being my champion will require you to face. Finally, if you make it to the last month you'll have to face that plus I will make you face your worst nightmares every time you sleep. If this ever get to be too much for you just call out my name and beg me to take you home. I'll heal you up and send you back to your father. Good luck Ranma, I'll be watching."
Eris's astral form faded from Ranma's view and the magic holding back the environmental conditions ended. The young Saotome immediately crashed face first into the hard and unforgiving rock at his feet. Near hurricane strength blistering hot winds buffeted Ranma as he crawled on his belly towards the cave. A minute later, the gravity rapidly decreased allowing the wind to pick up Ranma and slam him into the side of the cave above the entrance. Falling to the cave entrance floor, Ranma muttered to himself, "What did I agree to?"
It was both frustrating and invigorating for Eris to observe the mortals still on her physical body. Eighty percent of all her contestants had dropped out of the competition the first day! She had been expecting many to drop out, but not so many or so soon. Still, it was probably better that those weaklings dropped out when they did. If they couldn't handle her, what good would they be as her champion?
"So how's the selection going Eris?" The planetary spirit whirled around to see Sol standing behind her. "Just incase your curious, Terra has been complaining to me about your competition. She said something about you being too rough on her tenants."
Eris quickly muttered, "Tell that useless bitch to back off. I collected the 500 best fighters within an acceptable age range for champion power infusion. Is it my fault that most of them couldn't take a little challenge?"
Sol quickly nodded his head, "True Eris. However, what you consider a little challenge is a bit different than what others would consider a little challenge. How are the remaining contestants fairing?"
Eris shrugged her shoulders as she replied. "Most are not up to my expectations as the majority just spends their time in their caves only braving the outside when it comes time to forage for food. I really expect them to wash out when the next phase of the testing begins tomorrow. Luckily, there are eight who have a real shot at being my champion. Most are from the various 'mystical kingdoms' that survived Metalia's Assault. Surprisingly, young Saotome is among them."
Sol blinked his eyes and asked, "Who? Sorry I don't keep track of all the humans living on Terra. In fact, I don't think that Terra herself keeps track of all of them."
"Honestly I didn't give much thought about the kid either. Sure he had some skill for his age, but he was in the 400s as a fighter for this competition. Not only is he the only one from that tier still in the competition, but that boy has been training outside like crazy. I actually had to increase production of his healing berries because of how often he uses them to train for 10 hours in the worst conditions he can find. His abilities over the last month have doubled in all categories and in some have tripled. If I had to rate him now, I'd say he has entered the top 50 fighters of the bracket I'm interested in."
The star spirit's mouth was hanging wide open for a moment as he listened to what Eris told him. "Unbelievable, I didn't realize that humans could improve like that."
"Normally they can't. However, the cut-down on healing time and the harsh environment have let Ranma gain the strength he would have in one month that he could have gotten in a year of constant fights with regular people. That's why I extended my invitation for this contest to so many people. Every once and a while you can find something useful while sifting through garbage."
Currently, Ranma was waist deep in one of the scalding hot ponds practicing a kata while compensating for the opposite pull of the wind and tide. Who could imagine a little pond having stronger tidal forces then the ocean? It was just another odd thing that Ranma simply had to take as a fact of life on Eris. After being alone for a month, Ranma had concluded that bizarre was the norm here and even then things were bizarre. Even things that one could think of counting on couldn't be counted on. Ranma couldn't count the number of times he saw the landscape change before his very eyes or had been hit by a geyser that had suddenly formed while he was in mid-jump.
And yet, Ranma loved every minute he was here in this strange land. Simple training that had once been a boring routine was once again something exciting. The area around his cave was like some training paradise out of an action anime. Ranma felt that he could live here for a hundred years and not get bored. Also, the stuff he was learning from Pops' study packet was mind-boggling. Who knew that Genma knew so much about chi or could create such amazing styles like the Yamasenken or Umisenken? Ranma hadn't started to learn his father's forbidden techniques; he had been too busy working on building up is chi. But, it amazed Ranma that his father could have such powerful techniques at his disposal.
This solitary training came to an abrupt end when a loud roar broke the silence of the landscape. Ranma whipped his head around towards the sound of the roar and cursed out, "Oh, hell!" There were seven lizard-like things running towards Ranma. Each of these creatures was a big as a eighteen wheeler truck, had a mouth filled with sharp teeth, there were bladed ridges running down their back, each toe on their feet had a 3 m long claw. To top all of this off, the creatures all looked like they were made of stone.
Ranma's brain quickly assessed the situation and told his body to get out of dodge. The young martial artist leaped into the air seconds before the closest beast reached that location. As soon as Ranma's feet touched the ground he raced off towards his cave. Eris had warned that she would send monsters to test him when the second month started. However, Ranma hadn't realized that the time had flown by so quickly, it was kind of hard to tell time in eternal twilight, or that those monsters would so big!
The monsters chased Ranma all the way back to his cave and started to prowl around the cave entrance. Inside the cave, Ranma had retrieved the briefcase that held his scrolls and retreated to the reading room. This room was a small alcove that could only be reached by walking down a side corridor of the cave that had a spiral shape. Ranma emerged from the blackness of the passageway into a room that was made up of clear crystals of various sorts allowing the light generated by magma to come in, but not the heat. This room was just another one of Eris's little oddities.
After sitting down, Ranma reached into the briefcase and pulled out the Yamasenken and the Umisenken scrolls. He placed them on the ground in front of him and thought about which scroll he should study. Part of Ranma was unsure if he was physically and mentally ready to use the styles. That part of Ranma's mind was quickly squashed by the fact that he wasn't going to get something to eat if he couldn't sneak by or beat up the monsters outside.
Finally, Ranma picked up the Umisenken scroll and began to studiously learn the concepts and techniques of the silent thief. The thought of being able to beat those monsters head to head was cool, but Ranma wanted to insure that he could eat first. At its core, the Umisenken was based on the idea of a silent, sneaky thief who would sneak in through the backdoor and steal everything without being noticed. Not exactly the most noble of origins, but Ranma wasn't going to complain if it got him dinner.
The young Saotome read through the scroll three times and then started to practice in the reading room. At the moment, all Ranma wanted to do was learn how to mask his chi with that of the natural environment as dictated by the opening stance. The chi masking training was difficult; especially since Ranma didn't have anyone to tell him if they saw him. Luckily, Ranma had been able to use his reflection on the crystal walls to keep track of his progress.
Now, Ranma was able to do this because of how the chi masking technique worked. All living beings were some what in tune with chi because they were alive. This minute and unconscious sensitivity helped to focus a person's five senses by letting a person know that there was something to focus onto. By masking one's chi, the Umisenken hid the chi 'beacon' that was used by other beings to notice one's presence thereby making the person seemingly invisible and virtually undetectable. There were of course ways of detecting one who used the Umisenken to mask their chi. These methods relied on non-living means of deception like taking a photograph.
After several hours of intense training, a starving Ranma left the reading room and then exited the cave. The first test of the Umisenken came in the form of one of those earlier monsters patrolling near the cave opening. Ranma crept by the beast on his tiptoes with beads of sweet rolling down his face. Soon enough, Ranma and the beast parted ways allowing Ranma to carefully let out the breath that he had been holding. It looks like it was Umisenken 1, Monster 0.
Ranma quickly sped off to the nearest food tree only to find three more monsters sleeping at the base of the tree. After gulping, Ranma carefully crept by one of the sleeping monster's head next to their big and shine teeth. Passing by the jaws of certain doom, the young Saotome quickly climbed the tree and started collecting the strange fruit that had sustained him this past month.
Unfortunately for Ranma, Eris had been looking in on how he was doing and decided that he needed a little motivation. She suddenly increased the gravity pulling on one of the fruits so that it would fall on a monster's head. Ranma quickly spotted the falling fruit and nabbed it before it could hit the sleeping beast. This little routine repeated itself until Ranma had been forced to collect all the fruit on the tree. Eris then decided to show why the house always won by creating geysers and using them to wake up the sleeping beasts.
One of the beasts hit the tree with its tail as it woke up causing Ranma to fall and land on the face of another monster. This startled Ranma so badly that he let go of the Umisenken, not exactly the best thing to do when one is on a creature that wants to skewer you. The monsters immediately sensed Ranma and went on a rampage. It took all of Ranma's skill to avoid becoming dinner as he ran like hell back to his cave with his own dinner in hand. Meanwhile, Eris was laughing her butt off on the astral plane as she watched the whole thing.
Author's note: I know that someone is going to complain about this so let me explain: Genma didn't give the senkens to Ranma just because he wanted to. Eris planted the suggestion in his mind that encouraged him to give these schools to Ranma. She wants her contestants to be as strong as possible and to encourage their growth in order to have the best possible champion to be her senshi. Eris ensured Ranma got the senkens because as Genma's son and heir he has the right to learn them.