Disclaimer: This one goes out to Djclyve, this chapter would not be possible were it not for him and the resources he made available for hacks such as myself. So, you know who to direct your hate mail to.
The Key to A Successful Interview is a Good First Impression!
Good Ol' End of Days Part 1
"Kids are cruel. All people are, by nature–they just lose touch with it as they get older."
-Sundowner, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Chapter R-04
"W-what is this?"
Standing in the doorway of the dojo of Furinkan High School's Kendo Club, Kuno's shock turned to anger as he beheld the sight before him: A dozen members of its members were sprawled about the floor, either groaning in pain or completely unconscious, and the source of this one-sided beatdown was sitting on a pile of bokken with a smug look on his face.
"Furinkan High School's Kendo Club isn't exactly what I was expecting. Impressive yes, but not very strong," the mysterious accoster, a young pony-tailed man dressed in a dark colored haori and hakama identical to Kuno's usual style, declared.
Kuno schooled his fury and gripped the bokken on his hip. "That's because these were first-years, and hardly fit for combat outside of competitions." Drawing it, he pointed it at the trespasser. "Identify yourself."
Rising from the pile of bokken, the swordsman entered a drawing stance. "I am a humble practitioner of the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Style of swordsmanship, Akifumi Wado."
Kuno looked the young man over. The katana he was using was certainly a real sword, but what he found unusual was that he was wearing sneakers instead of the traditional footwear or going barefoot. "You're the sort who needs every advantage he can get, aren't you?"
Akifumi smirked. "Maintaining a high efficiency is key to victory."
Kuno adjusted his sunglasses. "Quite. I suppose you're here for Ranma Saotome?"
"Yes, but I heard a rumor that if anyone wants to have a fair shot at him, they should measure themselves against you, first. That's the hierarchy of the School of Indiscriminate grappling, isn't it? Defeat the second strongest and then you're free to battle the master of the school!"
Akifumi attacked with impressive speed, lashing out with a drawing strike that Kuno quickly ducked under to slip past. Turning around to face his aggressor, Kuno stepped back to avoid a swift vertical slash aimed for his chest. Akifumi stayed on him, slashing at Kuno with unearthly speed.
"Huh, you're quick!" Kuno declared as he jumped a distance away from him. Akifumi was in perfect step with him, and slashed for his neck, the swift movement of the air leaving a mark on Kuno's neck as he barely avoided decapitation.
Kuno took another step back, as he watched the light gleam off the sword he wielded. "What speed, you must be quite strong to wield a katana with the same speed as a bokken."
Akifumi smirked and took his katana in both hands, the blade pointed towards Kuno. "The is the finest sword one can buy, specifically tailored to my style. While not as sharp, its lightness makes up for it, and allows me to cut even through concrete with ease."
Kuno frowned and prepared himself. "Sneakers to provide better traction on any terrain, a custom sword to maximize your swinging strength. You're practical, but not even remotely worth my time."
Akifumi recoiled. "What makes you say that?"
Kuno walked up to Akifumi, and then swung his bokken from five paces outside the reach of Akifumi's sword. The challenging swordsman stared at Kuno, puzzled, before the blade of his katana separated and fell to the dojo's floor.
"W-what?" Akifumi stared in horror at his bisected sword. "Impossible, this blade is made of titanium alloy, it shouldn't even be able to bend!"
"Had I used any more power, I would've cut you in half as well," Kuno replied before he pointed at his arms and stomach. "Look."
Akifumi looked down, then opened his haori. To his horror, he saw a thin red line across his stomach that seeped blood. "How?'
"Another thing, while the rumor is true that beating me will get Saotome's attention. I am not the second strongest in the School of Indiscriminate Grappling."
Akifumi's eyes widened as the bokken's demonic aura manifested and completely enveloped Kuno, giving off a brilliant, intimidating glow.
"I'm the weakest."
Suffice to say, Akifumi ran from Furinkan High School screaming to the sky (and the Ars Poetica) above that he quit.
Surrounded by all manner of weapons, electronics, and parts of various machines, Shampoo was sitting in the garage adjacent to the Cat Café, wearing on her right arm a gauntlet with a white emitter in its palm.
As she ran the gauntlet through its range of motion and took notes with her free hand, there was a knock on the garage door.
"Who is it?" She called.
"Your defeat! Come out and meet it, Xian Pu!" a woman called from outside.
Sighing, Shampoo pulled several USB cables from the gauntlet connecting it to a computer, and walked to the garage door. Opening an access door next to it, she stepped outside and found a blonde foreign girl, wearing skintight suit and armed with a pair of hook swords. It was enough to warrant some colorful Chinese from the Joketsuzoku warrior.
"Allow me to introduce myself, I'm Chamonix, a weapons master who specializes in Chinese weaponry."
Shampoo nodded. "Okay?"
Chamonix smiled "I've heard a lot about you."
"Oh?" Shampoo asked.
"A master of weapons of all types. Famous not only in your village back in China, but in Thailand as well as here. Everywhere you go, a trail of destruction miles long follows. You are a walking disaster, an unstoppable beautiful beast-" Chamonix noticed Shampoo was pressing buttons on her gauntlet. "Hey! I'm talking to you!"
Shampoo looked at her gauntlet. "Oh sorry, I'm busy trying to test this repulsor I put together."
The swordswoman stared blankly at Shampoo, before she asked, "A what?"
"Don't worry about it," Shampoo pointed the gauntlet at the girl. "Hold still for test, yes?" A blast fired from the palm and threw the woman back and into a brick wall. As the woman fell off the wall, unconscious, Shampoo shook her head in disappointment
"Output too low, should've put her through the wall." Muttering some Chinese in annoyance, Shampoo went back inside her shop.
In the back garden of the St. Bacchus School for girls, the president of St. Bacchus' Avian Enthusiasts Club was overjoyed as she sat in a very special aviary set up on the school. The aviary was special for it contained one species of bird that was impossible to find in Japan.
"They're like tiny helicopters!" Rei Hino gasped as she watched the Hummingbirds, imports from the US, flit about the sugar water feeders and flowers set up throughout the massive aviary, which covered the area of a football field and was almost as tall as the school itself.
"I have to admit, Rei-chan, it's something," her friend and visitor Usagi Tsukino said as she looked around.
"Where'd your school get the scratch for this?"
"Oh, Kodachi-sempai paid for it out off her own pocket, out of gratitude for some advice I gave her a while back," Rei replied.
Usagi tilted her head. "Wait, the chick who got fucked with a steamroller?"
"Ah… is that really the first thing you can remember about her?" Rei asked.
"Dude, she got smashed under a steamroller, you don't forget something like that." Usagi looked around again. "How's she been since?"
At that moment, Kodachi leaped over her and Rei's heads, spun through the air, and landed on the branch of a tree. She was in her leotard, and was carrying a ribbon in one hand and three clubs between the fingers of the other.
Letting out a huff, she leaped up towards the ceiling of the aviary as a blur that shot past two other intersecting blurs. Kodachi landed behind Usagi and Rei, now holding one club as her opponents landed on the other end of the path.
"Ah?! What's going on, why are you fighting in the Aviary?!" Rei demanded.
Kodachi turned to Rei and bowed. "Forgive me, Hino-san, it can't be helped; they challenged me."
Her opponents were two girls her age, one with long red hair that was bright yellow and spiked at the top of her head in a revealing leotard that showed off far too much of her front, and the other a short-haired girl in a plain white t-shirt and shorts that may as well have been painted on.
"Yeah, sorry about that!" the short-haired girl, Chie Ouei, said happily as she adopted a Karate stance.
"It will be over quickly," the slutty-leotard girl, Kiku Keichou said as she tossed aside one of the clubs that Kodachi had thrown at her.
Usagi bit her lower lip. "Rei-chan, do fights between hot women in skimpy clothes break out all the time around here?"
"More than the national average," Rei replied.
Kodachi twirled the last club and jumped to attack, unleashing her ribbon. Kiku jumped above the ribbon and spun through the air, as Chie side-flipped out of its zigzagging path. As Kodachi landed, she dodged a kick from Kiku, and then parried several punches with her club. Catching the leotard girl's foot with the ribbon at the last second, she swung her into the air before using her club and the ribbon's baton to parry Chie's punches.
"Geh!" Kodachi ducked down and swept Chie off her feet with the club, before she rolled out of the way of a falling kick from Kiku.
"I'll admit, you're amusing," Kodachi said. "You're fine acrobats, but your skills in hand to hand combat are meager."
"It's more than enough for a one-trick pony such as yourself," Kiku replied.
"And you're at a disadvantage using just those weapons," Chie taunted. "Rhythmic Gymnastic Wrestling is really only good for fighting Rhythmic Gymnastic Wrestlers. If you can't fight without a weapon, what good are you?"
Kodachi threw her last club at Chie, who expertly caught it and chuckled. "And now you're down one more."
"You might want to cover your mouth and nose," Kodachi said to Rei and Usagi, as the club opened and unleashed a rapidly spreading cloud of red smoke that enveloped both of her challengers.
As both opponents began to cough from the dense pepper-laden smoke, Kodachi snared Kiku around her legs and snatched her off her feet. "You were amusing."
Chie tried to back away from the cloud, but her partner was swung into her, sending them both into and through a tree. Watching the tree topple over, Kodachi twirled her ribbon around her and then over her head before letting out her boisterous laugh.
"But even insects can be fascinating." Walking up to both girls as they laid in a pile Kodachi lifted up her next weapon, a very large mallet. "From how pretty they are, to how they splatter all over the ground when crushed."
She swung the mallet down, and aboard the Ars Poetica two more indicators on a map of Tokyo turned from green to red. Watching the monitor, Leonora Piera shook her head. "Three competitors within as many minutes."
"How boring," Mousse dryly replied rom where he stood beside the base of the Benefactor's throne.
Turning away from the monitor, Leonora adjusted her glasses. "It has been one week since the start of the Grand Prix, and this has been the quality and result of every fight so far."
"Well, that's what happens when you let any old jack-off who thinks they can throw a punch into this sort of thing."
Mousse and Leonora looked towards the curtains covering the observation deck's windows. A skeevy-looking man in his late 20s was leaning against them with his arms folded. The man sported a low-fade haircut and spiky black-dyed hair, and was dressed in a simple business suit and tie much like Leonora.. He could be barely seen in the dark, but the light from the projector reached enough for Mousse and Leonora to see the smug, twisted look on his face.
"Well, you're free to participate at any time, Mr. Master," Leonora replied with a hint of disgust that elicited a smirk from Mousse.
The ne'er-do-well looking fellow grinned predatorily. "Right when it's about to get interesting?"
"Interesting, hm?" Mousse asked.
"The reason why all these weaklings have been jumping into the meatgrinder is because the interesting competitors want to go as late as possible into the fight. With half of the losers gone, we're going to start seeing some real fights."
Up on the Throne, the Benefactor wheezed deeply, before laughing.
Far below the Ars Poetica, Ranma and Akane walked from Furinkan High School and towards the Cat Café, joined by Nabiki who trailed behind them with her nose buried into her smart phone. They had left school early because today was the big day! Akane would finally get to remove her cast, and they were going to the restaurant in order to celebrate it's removal and Akane's official entry into the tournament.
"After all these weeks, it's finally coming off! If I have to wait any longer to get this thing off I'm going to lose my mind!"
Ranma nodded after Akane indicated the cast still wrapped around her arm. He wrapped his arm around her waist. "I know, that stupid thing gets in the way of everything."
"Yes, it'll be so nice to be able to use both hands to-"
Nabiki couldn't help herself. "Spare me the details of your weird sex with Ranma, please?"
Akane whirled on her sister. "I WAS GOING TO SAY PRACTICE MARTIAL ARTS!"
"Just practice safely, okay?"
Akane glared at her sister and hugged Ranma back. A blush then bloomed across her face when she conceded that she was right about that too–the stupid cast got in the way and was definitely unsexy. She looked up at Ranma, who was blushing from having the same thoughts, and giggled.
Inside the Cat Café, as Ranma and Akane approached, Cologne and Plum were engaged in a battle of wills and monsters.
"Granny! Come on that's not fair!" Plum cried out as she watched on the screen of a Nintendo handheld her pocket monster get outrun and knocked out by her opponent. Seated across from her, Cologne chuckled at the young girl's dismay from behind her own handheld.
"I told you child, I'm no slouch at these children's games. My Garburias's stats are maxed out perfectly, including IV and EV spreads," Cologne smugly explained.
Plum stared at her. "I don't even know what any of that means."
"With age comes knowledge, dearie," Cologne replied before Plum sent out her next pocket monster. Her bugged out eyes bugged out bigger. "Arceus? How did you get one?"
It was Plum's turn to laugh triumphantly. "With youth comes resourcefulness, granny!"
The doors opened and both Ranma and Akane walked in. "Granny, we're here!"
Cologne looked over, disappointed that Plum destroyed another monster of her team. "Hello children, did you hear?"
Akane nodded. "Yes, three in three minutes."
"That makes seventy-four, we're about halfway through!" Ranma declared. "Those guys must've been jokes."
"They were. I literally beat my opponent with a push of a button," Shampoo called as she emerged from the kitchen, carrying trays of her painstakingly prepared lunch with her.
Akane brightened at the sight of all that food. "Oh, it looks so good! And in a few minutes I'll get to eat it properly!"
"We're here!" Kasumi happily cried as she entered with Dr. Tofu at her side.
"I'm glad we won't keep you waiting any longer, removing a cast can be like finally getting out of jail for some people," Dr. Tofu said.
"More like an asylum, this thing won't stop driving me crazy!" Akane looked from her cast to Dr. Tofu. "Please can I take it off now?"
Dr. Tofu sat down with Kasumi and both were served plates by Shampoo. "There's no time like the present. As your Doctor I give you permission to remove it."
Akane didn't need to be told twice. With a single swipe of her fingers, she ran her good hand from end to end of the cast along the underside of her forearm, around her thumb, and then over the top. The room went silent as everyone stared at the cast, and with a single flex of her forearm's muscles Akane popped the halves of the cast fell to the ground with a clatter.
"Haha, yes freedom!" Akane shouted as her audience applauded. Her jubilation was short-lived, however, when she got a good look at her formerly broken arm and realized that it was hairer her Dad's arms. "Oh ew! Cast hair!"
Nabiki quickly snapped a picture with her phone. "What a scoop!" When her little sister glared at her, she snapped another picture of her face. "Don't be mad."
Getting over it, Akane looked up at her fully functioning hand, and smiled as she moved it through its range of motion. "Now I can actually fight in this tournament!" She looked over to Cologne. "And train to get the Breaking Point."
Cologne nodded assent. "But first, you should enjoy your lunch."
She whipped a pair of chopsticks at Akane, who snatched them out of the air between her middle and pointer fingers of her healed hand. Grinning, she twirled them around her thumb before she sat down with Kasumi and Dr. Tofu. "Let's eat!"
She had just speared some Sesame Chicken when the front wall of the café exploded, sending wood and drywall scattering everywhere and filling the room with dust.
"Oh, what the fu-" Akane stopped mid-profanity and swung her chopsticks, catching between them a red-tufted tranquilizer dart that otherwise would've gone into her neck. "Well, now this is happening."
She and Ranma both jumped from the table to avoid another dart. Standing up, Ranma scanned the clearing dust, before snatching another dart out of the air aimed at him. "Not even impressed."
He threw the dart with such force that it scattered the dust that was obscuring the view from outside. The dart narrowly passed over the shoulder of a rifle-armed, balding foreigner wearing decked out in a pair of camouflage-patterned trousers, army boots, several bandoliers of tranquilizer darts, and a tactical shoulder holster equipped with two more tranquilizer pistols and what looked like tear gas grenades and flash bangs.
Ranma blinked once. "Okay and you would be?"
"Ivan Mikhailov, big game hunter, outdoorsman, and survivalist! I've come to hunt the most dangerous game!" the Russian man introduced himself before he fired again.
Ranma smacked the dart out of the air. "You ruined my lunch. I'm about to reenact the entirety of Tsushima all over your face."
He crossed the street between himself and Ivan, but the Russian had already tossed forward a flashbang and rolled clear, the powerful concussion weapon's flash and noise whiting out and deafening Ranma long enough for him to point his tranquilizer rifle at the pigtailed boy's chest. As he squeezed the trigger, he caught movement from his side and jumped back at the last possible second he had to avoid the table Akane attempted to crush him with.
"Spirited game, a fearsome boar and an equally fierce sow!" Ivan declared as he fired another dart from his rifle.
With an uppercut, Akane sliced the dart in half down its length and deflected both halves up and away from her. Her eyes were now as red as her vision. "Did you… just call me… a sow?!"
Both she and Ranma shot forth and respectively punched and kicked the Russian, who crossed his arms at the last second to block it. The force of the impact traveled through him and down the street, tearing apart pavement, knocking over light poles, and overturning a parked car. Despite this, the Russian laughed and quick drew the tranq pistols in his shoulder holsters to point into his preys' faces.
The guns promptly disappeared from his hands, before he was hit across his body with more punches than a champion boxer experienced in a lengthy winning career over the course of ten seconds. When Ranma's barrage stopped, Akane kicked him in the chin, launching him into the air and down the street. Tumbling over and over, Ivan crashed into the street face first, cracking the pavement underneath him.
Akane twirled the tranq pistols in her hands, as Ranma held up his fingers in the shape of guns and blew the steam that rose from them off. "It's good to have you back," the latter said to his fianceé.
"It's good to be back," she replied as she holstered both tranq pistols on the shoulder holsters she now wore.
Slowly but surely, Ivan managed to get back up, standing upright. His face was bloodied, his body was covered in bruises, and in addition to his holsters and pistols, everything else he wore had been stolen clean off his body except for his boots and a bright red had been pulled up and over his shoulders.
"Lewd," Nabiki said from the side of the street as she took a picture of him.
Ivan regained his bearings and stared in disbelief at his prey after realizing his near nudity. "What the fuck?!"
"This makes four in less than an hour, wouldn't it?" Akane asked.
Ranma nodded. "It's a shame we can't even claim this one."
"Yeah, it may have been our lunch, but it was her restaurant." Akane looked past Ivan as she said that.
Her restaurant? Ivan stopped and grew wide-eyed, before slowly turning around to find Shampoo standing there, her purple bangs hanging over her eyes as she gripped her chúi so tightly blood seeped from between her clenched fingers.
"Son of a bitch!" His dismayed yell became a scream of horror as Shampoo tore into him with such a ferocity that even the game he claimed to hunt would weep in sympathy. All the while, Nabiki snapped picture after picture, leaning in close and moving from side to side to get as many angles as possible.
"This is going into the scrapbook," she declared.
As Shampoo beat the Russian to as close to clinically dead as the contest rules would allow, Ranma and Akane walked back over towards the blown open Cat Café. Cologne was already assessing the damage done and calculating what it would cost.
"It doesn't look too bad, Granny," Ranma said as Cologne prodded the edge of the damaged wall.
"It isn't, child. I've long gotten the Café properly insured for these kinds of things." Cologne nevertheless shook her head and sighed. "But we'll be selling out of cart and doing deliveries for a few days while we repair, what a pain."
"I can help with deliveries!" Akane volunteered.
"That won't be necessary, but thank you dear," Cologne said to Akane.
Shampoo and Nabiki walked over, both splattered with blood that the latter was wiping off her camera. "All of Shampoo hard work, ruined by dumb Russian."
Akane pouted. "I didn't even get to try that Sesame Chicken."
"Still, a win's a win," Ranma acknowledged before he noticed Ivan getting back up. "Are you kidding me?"
His body trembling, Ivan wiped the blood from his face. "Zaroff, come here!"
The ground shook, when another three times the size of Ivan came crashing to the ground behind it. The heavily muscled and bearded Russian wore a huge black ear-hat, a Black Bear pelt for pants, several Arctic Wolf pelts for a shirt, and a Siberian Tiger pelt as a cape. He glared at his much smaller opponents, his dark eyes filled with anger.
Zaroff laughed. "Allow me to meet my partner and man-servant, Zaroff! He has successfully hunted more prey than I, but has never held a gun! Every animal he wears, he has killed with his own two hands and nothing else!"
"I'd be intimidated if that wasn't so awesome," Ranma lamented. "So you're saying if we beat you, we can keep your clothes?"
Akane broke into a grin.. "I will mount his head on my wall and wear his skin as a kimono."
The muscular Russian bellowed loudly and lifted his hands above his head in response, before leaping to crush Ranma, Akane, and Cologne under his mass. As his shadow fell over him, Ranma smiled. "Thank you for making this easy for me."
He performed a high kick, his foot going straight into Zaroff's crotch, causing his roar to go up astronomically in pitch. Balancing him on his foot, Ranma bent his leg and the tossed him into the air. "Hey Hunter-san, see if you can catch this!"
Jumping into the air, Ranma flipped and smashed another kick into Zaroff as he fell, launching him like a shrieking missile into Ivan. On impact, both went skipping down the street, across an intersection, and into the side of a dilapidated building, causing it to collapse with a roar.
Ranma landed dusted his hand. "Victory number seventy-five."
"WHAT THE FUCK?!"
Ranma jumped and took a step when he heard the shout from the rubble. That certainly was no Russian who shouted that out. "Huh?"
The collapsed building began moving again, shifting and rumbling, before a large portion exploded in a familiar pillar of bright red light that was joined by a familiar roar of despair.
Akane gasped in surprise. "That's…!"
"The Shishi Hokodan…" Ranma finished.
The beam faded and the dust cleared, revealing an annoyed Ryoga dusting himself off. "Jo why did you set off those charges early?! I was still in there!"
"What kind of amateur do you think I am? I did no such thing–the building got hit from the outside!" Jo Nezumi shouted back from a now overturned table of equipment connected to wires leading into the collapsed ruins. Letting out a few choice words that could only be spoken in the company of Good Demo-Men, she got up and headed over to the ruins.
Ryoga finished dusting himself. "From outside?
Both Ivan and Zaroff landed in a heap next to him, making him jump. Staring at the groaning, singed men, Ryoga blinked several times and then looked up at the sky. "Huh…"
"Oi, Ryoga!" Ranma called as he and Akane jogged over. "Sorry about that!"
Seeing the two, particularly Ranma, Ryoga's expression became pure deadpan. "Of course it would be you." He looked to Akane and became much less acerbic. "Hello Akane, what was going on?"
"We just had another match," Akane replied.
"Our seventy-fifth victory," Ranma boasted.
Ryoga's eyebrows rose in surprise. "Seventy-five? You're already halfway through?!"
"Just about, you think we'd slouch for a minute?" Ranma asked.
"I see, so are you looking forward to breezing through the rest of the tournament?" Ryoga asked.
Ranma shook his head. "I don't know, if we have to go through anymore fights like these… I'm going to die of boredom."
Jo, who was disarming the charges that Ryoga hadn't destroyed with the Shishi Hokodan, looked back.
"The Kunos and Shampoo beat three teams at like the same time. We beat this guy and his boyfriend without taking an actual hit from either of them," Ranma lamented of their opposition. "These people are scrubs."
Ryoga looked down at the two Russians again. "Scrub is a bit harsh, don't you think?"
"I had more fun getting kicked around by you," Ranma admitted.
Akane had finished divesting Zaroff of his clothes. "The tiger is going on my bedroom floor, and then you and I are going to ruin it, Ranma."
Ranma saw the amorous look in Akane's eyes and flushed. "Huh… okay…" He quickly looked back towards Ryoga, and saw him just snickering a bit. The only thing honestly weirder than Akane being openly affectionate in front of Ryoga, really, was Ryoga being so cool about it.
"Still, I don't think you should let your guard down," the former admirer of Akane warned. "There are good teams who want to win, really good teams."
Ranma shrugged his shoulders. "I'll believe that when I see it."
The yellow safety helmet Jo wore hit the ground with a strong clatter, quickly catching Ranma, Akane, and Ryoga's attention. The youthful blonde-haired woman stooped down to pick up her helmet, and affixed it back over her tied-up blonde hair. "Sorry, helmet slipped off."
Akane blinked in surprise at the surprisingly cute young lady. "Oh hello, are you a friend of Ryoga's?"
"I'm his senpai, yes," Jo quickly replied. "Jo Nezumi, you're Akane and the stud here is Ranma, yes?"
She offered her hand to Akane, who took and shook it gently. "Yes, it's nice to meet you. Ryoga said he was working with an interesting company."
"He's said a lot about you to us, too."
"Nothing bad, I hope?"
"Not about you in particular…" Jo looked towards Ranma, who had sidled over to Ryoga's left. "Hey pigtail, since you made this mess you can help clean up, right?"
Ranma nodded. "Sure thing, kiddo." At Jo's dark look, he quickly scooted off with Ryoga. "Testy, sheesh! So how's the wife and kid, man? It's been a while since we seen ya last."
"Oh, they've been fine. Osaka wants to finish high school, and has been taking Yoiko with her," Ryoga said as they walked over to the remaining rubble of the building. "The other girls help take care of her… she's become a class project, almost."
"Sheesh, you're all over town doing this demolition stuff, and she goes to school. Don't you have any time for each other?"
"Of course we do! I don't work every day… just… most of them." Ryoga sighed.
"Why all the hard work? Didn't Osaka's parents like you and stuff?"
"They do, and they really want to help, but Osaka didn't think it was fair to her parents to take care of her and their granddaughter, so we moved to an apartment closer to her school… in Juuban."
Ranma whistled. "Juuban? The rent must be through the roof."
"It's why I work."
Reaching another pile of ruined building, Ranma's hands became blurs and chunks of concrete were pounded into dust, wood to splinters, and rebar became scraps of metal. As Ranma punched his way through the rubble, Ryoga took a step back and folded his arms.
"So what's the deal?" He asked over the buzzing sound created by Ranma's movements.
"You and Akane hate having to deal with these kinds of people throwing themselves at you day in and day out, but now you're doing it for a quick buck. What's going on?"
Ranma picked up a large block of concrete and crushed it into dust between his hands. "You remember Kaori, the one who taught you your special technique, right?"
How could Ryoga forget? "Yeah."
"Her old man almost came around to breaking the engagement… but being the bourgeois he is, he invested way too much into making her the perfect wife, and he wants us to pay off on his loss. We win the tourney, we'll have the money to opt out and she'll have to leave me the hell alone and move on with her life. So the easier this whole farce goes, the better."
"How much do you owe her old man?"
"Eight hundred-ninety million yen."
Ryoga nearly fell over. "Who the hell invests that much in an engagement?!"
"I know!" Ranma shouted as he punted the last chunk of debris, sending it flying into the nearby river. "Oops."
Ryoga nodded slowly. He has a good reason for being in the Grand Prix…
"What about you? A billion yen is a lot of money for your family, why didn't you join?"
Ryoga looked at Ranma quietly for a moment, before he answered plainly. "I have a job doing something I love to do that lets me take care of my family, I'm happier here than fighting anyone." He smiled proudly with that.
Ranma slowly nodded, it was hard to not feel admiration for Ryoga. "Gotta say, Pig-boy, I'm impressed."
"Thanks. You know, tomorrow Osaka and I both have the day off. If you're not busy busting heads, you and Akane should come by and have dinner."
"That sounds good to me, we'll definitely be there," Ranma replied with a grin. "It'll be nice to have a night out with Akane."
Ryoga nodded and then called over to Jo. "Hey Jo-senpai, we're done early here!"
"Okay! I've already got our stuff packed up," Jo called as she and the ever helpful Akane finished loading her equipment onto the the back of a sky-blue pickup truck with the letters "N-B-K" painted on the doors. "Thank you, Akane-chan."
Giving a passing glance to the side door of the truck, Akane nodded to Jo. "Sure thing, Jo-chan."
Jo immediately gave her a brief, sour look. Shaking her head, she opened the driver's side door and climbed in as Ranma and Ryoga walk over.
"Hey Akane, we're having dinner over at Ryoga's new place Sunday," the former announced.
Akane looked from Ranma to Ryoga. "You moved out?"
Ryoga nodded before he rounded the truck to the passenger side. "Sure did, Osaka's looking forward to seeing you again."
Akane smiled brightly. "I look forward to seeing your new place! It was nice seeing you again, Ryoga!"
"You too!" Climbing in, Ryoga banged on the dashboard. "Let's get going, Mousie."
"Call me that again," Jo warned before she waved to Ranma and Akane. "See you soon enough, you guys!"
With that, the two pulled away from what was now an empty lot, bare except for Ranma, Akane, and the two unconscious Russians. Ranma looked to Akane. "Ryoga's doing pretty good."
Akane was a little more focused on the retreating truck. "Yeah… I wanna talk to Lucretia-san."
"About what?" Ranma asked as they turned and headed back towards the Cat Café.
Akane looked back again towards the truck, now out of sight. "I think Ryoga's company is in the Grand Prix, too."
Ranma grew wide-eyed. "What makes you say that?"
"Those letters on the truck, N-B-K, I'm pretty sure I saw them on the airship when they were showing the names of the competitors to pick the King of the Hill."
Frowning, Ranma slowly nodded just before a familiar white transport helicopter passed overhead and came to a hover over the Cat Café. "Yeah, let's go ask Lucretia to be sure."
"We're not going to be paying for this out of our pockets when this is over, are we child?" Cologne asked Lucretia as the two watched the repair staff get to work making it like the damage to the Cat Café's front never happened. Next to the old woman, Lucretia adjusted her glasses.
"As I explained to Mr. Saotome and Miss Tendo, these services are gratis, Ms. Lon," she replied.
Cologne laughed. "Well, as long as it's no money out of my pocket, can I get some renovations in?"
Lucretia nodded. "Do as you wish, but don't be too ridiculous."
"Oh, of course."
As the cacophony of carpentry commenced, Ranma and Akane returned to the Cat Café and immediately approached Lucretia and Cologne. "Hey, Pillar Lady!" Ranma called out to her.
"Mr. Saotome, Miss Tendo," Lucretia curtly replied with a nod. "Congratulations on reaching the halfway mark of the tournament-"
Ranma quickly cut her off on his way to the chase. "Yeah, yeah, we've been keeping count. I wanted to ask about one of the other teams."
Lucretia's eyebrows rose briefly. "What did you wish to know?"
"Is there a team called N-B-K, Nihon Break Kogyo, in the tournament?"
Lucretia nodded. "Yes, it is a four member team."
Ranma and Akane looked to one another, their concerned expressions identical.
"Ryoga wouldn't do that, would he? Lure us into a trap?" Akane asked. "I don't want to think he would…"
Folding his arms, Ranma shook his head. "Nah. If he says he's done fighting and just wants to have dinner then I believe him. I'm gonna give him the benefit of the doubt." But stay on his guard just in case, he added to himself.
Akane nodded. "I don't think Osaka would like that anyway, ruining their new home with a fight."
"It's in Juuban, too. Last thing I want to do is aggro Sailor Moon."
Akane nodded again, much quicker, at the prospect of avoiding that terrible life decision.
Lucretia cleared her throat garnering their attention. "As you have reached the halfway point of the tournament, you have been granted additional benefits."
Ranma and Akane grew surprised. "Wait, there's more?"
"Yes, but I will not be explaining them." She looked up to the sky as the transport helicopter turned and flew away. When Ranma, Akane, and Cologne looked up, their eyes grew large at the sight the departing helicopter revealed.
Kira Takemikazuchi hovered in the air with her arms folded and the biggest smile on her face.
"Is she floating in the air?" Akane asked.
Ranma nodded. "Yeah, she is."
"A Grand Master of her art, no doubt…" Cologne surmised.
Upon getting the surprised reaction she desired, she dropped to the ground and smoothed out the short cut, tightly fitting dress she wore. "I just flew in from the Ars Poetica and boy are my arms tired!"
Akane blanched in disgust at that horrible, horrible joke, while Ranma attempted, awkwardly, to laugh at it. Still smiling, Kira walked up to Ranma and took his hands into her own. "Congratulations on making it to the halfway point, Ranma-kun! As MC for the Billion Yen Grand Prix, I want to personally tell you about all the wonderful things you'll be getting for the second half of your tenure as King of the Hill!"
She stopped and looked aside to Cologne and Lucretia. "However long that may last."
"Quite," Lucretia said as she adjusted her glasses while Cologne just hummed.
Kira put her arm around Ranma's shoulder to hugged him close, prompting a "Hey!" from Akane that went ignored. "Ranma-kun, as you're halfway through, people are now super hyped for you! You're popular, you're famous, Twitter is exploding over you."
She held up a phone and took a selfie of herself cuddling him. "#RanmaIsSoHot!"
"Hey!" Akane yelped.
Ranma was increasingly uncomfortable. "Uh, could you not-?"
Kira kissed him on the cheek and then pulled away. "So! We're going to give you a palace worthy of your status!"
She pointed to the distance, at one of the newly constructed buildings that sat on the Nerima Skyline, right next to the skyscraper that Kasumi had nearly dropped on Shampoo's head in fact. It was a much taller, more extravagant building than those around it, and had only been built over a month ago, setting a world record for completion time. Just two weeks.
"You, your family, and the other members of the School of Indiscriminate Grappling Team will be whisked away to the Imperial Penthouse Suite of the newly-built Tokyo Renaissance Hotel! An extravagant thirty room mansion that takes up the top two floors and includes the latest in technologies for comfort, security, and connectivity to and from the world below!"
Nabiki was suddenly at Ranma and Akane's side. "Oh. My. God. Yes."
Ranma looked at her. "Huh?"
"A penthouse suite? How wonderful!" Ranma whirled around to look at an equally enthusiastic Kasumi, who was standing behind him along with Dr. Tofu.
"Sheesh don't sneak-"
"SON I'M SO PROUD OF YOU! YOU WON YOUR OLD MAN A PENTHOUSE!" A sobbing Genma suddenly bellowed as he caught Ranma up in a crushing hug. "WITH A BIG SCREEN TV AND AN OPEN BAR AND-" He stopped and looked at Kira. "It's got servants too, right?"
Kira saluted him. "Maids and butlers, all highly trained and motivated."
"AND SERVANTS TOO! I'M FINALLY PROUD OF YOU, M'BOY!" Genma howled before Ranma punted him into the air.
"The only place you're living in is a gutter!" he yelled as his Father accelerated to transonic speeds.
Soun appeared, lamenting Genma's ejection. "It's only fair, Saotome. Ranma-kun is only in this situation because of your foolishness, it'd be wise of you to accept that you will not be permitted to stay in the-"
Ranma grabbed Soun and pitched him into the air as well. "You're not staying either!"
"We are though, yes?" Cologne asked.
"Of course, Granny, you've never done anything to us that wasn't legally forgiven," Ranma replied.
"Are you super hyped for this or what?" Kira asked.
"Well now that I've determined who isn't coming, yes," Ranma replied. "What else do we get?"
"Increased benefits include armed security for non-competing family members of your club, to prevent other competitors from using hostages to gain an advantage in matches." As she said that, two men in black suddenly stepped up to either side of Nabiki and scanned the area for threats.
"Oh man, I'm going to abuse the hell out of this," Nabiki said.
"A personal yacht to enjoy on Tokyo Bay with the weather heating up." She held up a picture of a hundred meter long Luxury yacht currently sitting in Tokyo Bay.
"I'll bring the autotune, if you bring the Pashmina Afghan," Shampoo said.
"We're not doing that anymore," Akane darkly warned the Amazon.
"And the biggest perk of them all." Kira beckoned for Ranma to come closer and he did… completely against his will. She leaned forward to him, as his eyes grew wide and he attempted to struggle against the force that was drawing him to her. "… Is a night, with me."
What in the actual hell? Ranma tried to pull back, to get free of the force holding onto him, but his body refused to obey him, he was completely held still as Kira rested a hand on his shoulder. As he stared into her brown eyes, he immediately noticed that at the center of them was a golden star that spun slowly.
"That'll be super swell, won't it?" She cooed. "There'll be dinner, dancing, and whatever may come after?" She bit her lower lip briefly. "Well… that's between us, right?"
"That does sound nice but I have a girlfriend," Ranma managed to reply, keeping as calm as he could given the terrifying helplessness of his position.
Kira stopped. "Huh?"
Akane then grabbed Kira's hand and wrenched it from Ranma's shoulder. "Yes. He does."
Kira got one look at Akane, and then jumped back from her with such speed that the streetlamp she backed into bent. In the space of that jump, she had transformed from cheerful and energetic to completely terrified–her face was pale, and her chest was heaving like she had just narrowly escaped a close brush with death.
Cologne, Dr. Tofu, and Kasumi all muted their surprise at the bizarre shift, and looked between Kira and Akane as the former lifted her hand and pointed at the latter. "W-who are you?"
"His girlfriend, Akane Tendo… the Tendo in the Saotome/Tendo School of Indiscriminate Grappling?" Akane replied, feeling both satisfied and confused at Kira's reaction to her.
Kira was still shaking, as she looked Akane over like she was face to face with a Shoggoth. "I see… I didn't realize that Ranma-kun's taste was for strange women."
Akane narrowed her eyes. "Strange doesn't even begin to start with it, Takemikazuchi-san."
The tension rose exponentially between both Akane and Kira, with even Nabiki even being able to see the air rippling and warping around them as Kira pushed herself off from the light pole, which suddenly and violently straightened itself out.
Ranma was suddenly between them, pushing Akane back and holding his other hand out towards Kira in a gesture to back off. "All right, that's enough!"
The tension bled away, as Kira relaxed and brought her hands to her mouth. "Oh my… that was… weird."
Akane looked to Ranma. "She started it…"
Ranma nodded and whispered back, "Yeah, and I wanted you to finish it, but she's the MC. As easily you could walk all over her–I'd rather we not start a fight with the guys in charge of the tournament."
"At least until we win," Akane whispered back.
"Yeah, after that do whatever you want to her." Ranma chuckled. "You're really pent up, huh?"
"I want the next fight to be a really good, long, cathartic one," she hissed back.
Kira's expression darkened ever so slightly, as she lowered her hands to her sides. Just as quickly, she brightened up. "Well! That's it for the benefits! The offer for dinner and dancing is still on the table… but feel free to bring your girlfriend, all your friends! It'll be a party!"
"That sounds much better," Dr. Tofu then cut in before anymore mouths could shoot off. "There's much I feel we could discuss, Takemikazuchi-dono."
Kira clapped her hands to her cheeks. "Ahn! No need to be so formal with me, Doctor!" She turned to Lucretia. "I leave moving our King and his court to their new swanky digs, Ms. Piera! Do what you do best, okay?"
"Of course," Lucretia replied as Kira lifted off the ground and began to ascend into the air.
"Yay!" Kira twirled around. "Well, until the next time we meet! See you around, King!"
Wreathed in a golden battle aura, Kira blasted off like a rocket, leaving a looping and twirling trail across the sky towards the Ars Poetica.
Shampoo shook her head as she watched the golden light fade. "Someone that strong working as an idol."
"It's more common than you think; I was trained by Donny Osmond," Akane replied.
"It's still weird, it's like if the Sailor Senshi started a musical group."
Ranma hummed. "That would be the greatest hardcore metal band ever."
"Like GWAR but with miniskirts, yes," Shampoo agreed.
"So like GWAR, then?" Kasumi asked, warranting stares from everyone. "Come on, you do remember that I asked if Ranma's cursed form still had a dick, right?"
"I'm taking away your computer," Nabiki immediately said.
As the beam of light of Kira's ascent shot overhead, Plum sighed and walked down the street from the Cat Café and towards the park. With everyone else now taking care of more important things, it was time to amuse herself with the neighborhood kids.
"School's over too, finally," she murmured to herself before she overheard cheering from the park. "Eh?"
There were some kids fresh out of school gathered in a small crowd around a pair of masked men doing some kind of street performance on the path. One of the men, wearing a yellow sweater and blue pants sporting a octopus's mask, was holding a single Duel Monsters card in his hand.
"These Children's Card Games used to be so simple a long time ago…" Octopus Mask shook his head. "But now it's all holograms and mindbreak. What next… motorcycles?!"
With his cry, he slammed the card he held into the center of a circle of cards arranged on the ground, the impact of the foil card actually cracking the ground as the shockwave launched the other cards around it into the air.
As the same card bounced back into the air, the other man, a doll mask wearing man dressed in a green shirt and brown pants caught and swung it, creating a small tornado that quickly sucked up the other thrown cards, to the amazement of the gradeschoolers.
Plum stopped dead in her tracks as she watched the card tornado. "Huh!"
Standing back, Octopus Mask let out a boisterous laugh. "You don't need a hundred thousand yen in equipment to play a Children's Card Game!"
He was cut off from laughing again by the shrill chimes and hot-blooded singing of multiple ringtones. Stopping, he stared as each child pulled out a smart phone and looked at it. Suddenly busy schedules had called to the children, and they quickly scattered.
"Ah, Mom's wondering where I am!" one cried.
"I'm already late for cram school!" another gasped before turning and running off.
"It's that late?"
"Nobody plays Duel Monsters anymore anyway, Pocket Monster for the win!"
"N-nobody…?!" Octopus Mask slammed his cards on the ground. "Dang it to heck! What is with kids these days?! Do they like anything?!"
"Nothing real, just zeroes and ones on a tiny little screen," Doll Mask lamented.
As the last kids left, Plum sighed. "Maybe I should ask Granny about enrolling. Japanese Grade School must be really fun if they're willing to do it all day."
"It's not really."
Jumping, Plum turned around to find another gradeschooler, a little girl in a pink shirt and red skirt, holding a ball. The girl watched one of the students run by. "School is really boring. They spend all day filling their minds up with boring stuff, it turns them into zombies and salarymen."
Plum giggled. "Aren't those the same thing?"
The other girl shrugged her shoulders. "My Dad says so." She smiled to Plum. "My name's Temari, do you want to play?"
Plum quickly nodded. "Sure!"
By sundown, the residents of the Tendo Residence and Dr. Tofu were overlooking the spacious and western-furnished living room and adjacent kitchen of the Tokyo Renaissance's Imperial Suite. Against the sole wall not providing a spectacular view of the Tokyo Metropolitan area, was a massive flatscreen TV that could've only been air-lifted into the building, with three white couches set up in a semi-circle in front of it on the white wall to wall carpet.
In the kitchen area, a young chef looked up and tilted his chef's hat in greeting. Also bowing in greeting were the half dozen servants, three maids and three butlers, who stood before them.
"Welcome, Kings of the Hill," they all chimed at once.
"Heh, maids," Akane whispered aside to Ranma, who shook his head and laughed.
"Oh God, I want to live here forever," Nabiki said as she walked down the steps and across the carpet of the living room. She sighed dramatically and threw herself onto the couch. "This is the freaking high life!"
"It is nice," Akane said as she walked over to the window.
Kasumi bowed politely to the servants and dismissed them back to their duties. "It feels a little too much, if you ask me… I'm not sure what I'll be able to do with myself while we're here…"
Nabiki sat up. "Shopping, bitch!"
This was exactly the sort of thing Nabiki saved money for, after all.
Kasumi beamed to her younger sister. "Well, there are some dresses I would like."
"Fuck some dresses, we're buying Roppongi," Nabiki replied.
Ranma was a little unnerved, this was the most excited he'd ever seen Nabiki over… well… anything ever. Akane stepped away from the window, catching upon the feeling she smirked to Nabiki. "Easy, Nabiki, I think you're scaring Ranma."
"I'll buy him some therapy," Nabiki joked back before someone came walking up from the spiral staircase in the corner of the room leading to the lower floor. "Huh?"
Azusa, who had been drawn by the voices, immediately brightened when she saw the Tendos and Ranma. She bounded over and hugged Akane. "Akane-chan! Ranma-chan! We're already moved in!"
"I can't believe I'm saying this, but it's going to be great having you here!" Akane cheerily replied as she hugged Azusa back.
The elevator doors opened, revealing the siblings Kuno carrying their bags and accompanied by a short man dressed as a Ninja. Kodachi, upon seeing Akane and Azusa embraced, immediately bristled as she had the last time she'd caught sight of this. "Akane-sama, Ranma-sama, we have arrived!"
Akane looked over, and smiled. "Hey you guys!"
Kuno couldn't help his amusement at his sister's jealousy. "Easy, Kochi."
Kodachi brightened and went to Akane's side as Kuno joined Ranma's. "Akane-sama, this is an honor, living under the same roof as you."
As Akane became all atwitter about living with two girls who had graduated from pains in the ass to people she'd easily kill for, Ranma smirked to Kuno. "So, what do you think of the digs, a step up or down from what you're used to?"
"More to the right if anything, but it's still nice," he replied before he noticed Mikado make his way up the stairs. "Mikado Sanzenin…"
"Tatewaki Kuno," Mikado replied with a nod, before doing the same for Ranma. "Ranma, we probably would've done to have more team members, there's still plenty of room downstairs."
"The crew we've got is more than enough," Ranma and Kuno met Mikado over by the couches and sat down on the couch to the right of Nabiki, who was eagerly planning out her shopping adventures with Kasumi now. "You been doing all right?"
Mikado looked at his cane and then back to Ranma as he and Kuno sat on either side of him. "Even with my condition, defeating opponents was easy. Most took a single strike."
"What about the rest?"
"I wouldn't know, Azusa got to them before I could even introduce myself."
Ranma folded his arms and sat back. In front of him was the window showing an excellent view of the setting sun and the Ars Poetica and it's flashing marquees. "That's how it's been this whole time for all of us."
"Are you concerned that the competition is too easy?" Mikado asked.
"Nah," Ranma replied as Ryoga's warning and the fact that N-B-K were competitors echoed in his mind. "I'm just annoyed that there might actually be competition."
Kuno nodded. "We aren't actually here for the fun of it, no."
The last thing Ranma wanted out of all of this, was to come so close to actually winning, only for some strong as nails opponent like Kira to just swoop in and take the prize out of his hands. He had no doubts about his ability, hell he was even more certain of his abilities after the earlier encounter, but he wasn't about to take anything to chance.
"No, and the longer we have to plod through these weaklings means the more time any really strong opponent has to find a way to beat us." Ranma rested his elbows on his knees and steepled his hands together in front of his mouth. "We need a change of approach."
"Going on the offensive, then. Seeking out the other competitors and defeating them," Mikado said.
"Yeah. We jump 'em, beat 'em before they can even throw a punch, and get out."
"Admirably ruthless," Mikado complimented.
"A grim necessity, circumstances considered," Kuno added.
Ranma looked between the two of them. "Man, if you guys are going to hang out with me, could you tone down the sophistication? I'm poor, you know."
"Speak less like you were raised in a barn in Osaka and maybe we'll pretend to not be Toudai-bound," Kuno replied smugly.
"Hmph!" Mikado snorted with equal mock smugness.
Dr. Tofu sat across from them. "A strong offense will negate their advantage of coming at you as their leisure. And if you take out a suitably strong opponent first, you'll shake the morale of the other competitors waiting in the wings."
"Exactly," Ranma said. "Which is why I'm going after N-B-K tomorrow."
Akane looked over. "Ranma, no!"
"I'm not going to fight them at Ryoga's house, relax!" Ranma reassured her then. "But I am going to challenge them through Ryoga, and they can't refuse a challenge from the King of the Hill." He stopped briefly. "Right, Pillar Lady?"
Everyone looked over towards the kitchen, where Lucretia stood with the chef, who leaped from her in surprise. "That's correct, as the Challengers have the right to take on the King of the Hill, the King of the Hill reserves the right to challenge any opponents to a fight at any time."
"I'm going to put a bell on you, if you don't stop that," Nabiki warned.
"You are welcomed to try," Lucretia replied with an uncharacteristically catty smile.
"Done deal." Nabiki looked around. "Where's Shampoo? I need her to hold the Pillar Lady down."
"Still packing up at the Café, last I heard," Ranma said.
Akane frowned and looked to Ranma. Even if a fight wasn't going to break out, she didn't like the idea of Ranma going to Ryoga's with ulterior motives after affirming he trusted Ryoga to have none of his own. She just hoped that Ryoga and Osaka didn't think less of Ranma for it.
Down below, in Nerima's park, Genma and Soun sat on a bench, lamenting their plight. The kids had all moved out, albeit temporarily, and were now living in luxury while the two patriarchs had nothing but an empty home waiting for them. Frankly, it was hardly fair.
"I was the one who put him up to joining the tournament! He could at least acknowledge that by leaving some of the perks for being top of the pile for the both of us!" Genma grumbled.
Soun was smoking a cigarette to stave off the edge of being ditched by his daughters, but it was not doing it for him. "All we can do is endure, Saotome, and hope for their swift victory."
Genma snorted loudly. "Such impudent brats, no sense of gratitude at all! No respect for their elders."
"A common thing these days, isn't it?"
Genma and Soun looked over to see a man in a green kimono, wearing an Ultraman Mask walk over. Taken aback by the man's odd choice of attire, they sat aside when he stood at the bench and allowed him to sit down regardless. "They've got their faces stuck in tiny glowing screens, and don't even see the beautiful world around them, and they think they know so much because of them that they don't need to abide by old timers like us."
Soun took a drag of his cigarette, while Genma nodded in agreement. "My son is the worst offender! I'm not perfect, not by a mile, but he could at least respect his old man!"
"I've two sons and a little girl, myself. My boys went through their rebellious phase, but they straightened out just fine and took well to the art. I wasn't about to make the same mistake with my daughter, and I've kept her away from the glitz and glam of those provocative little distractions."
Genma and Soun both became much more interested. "A martial artist you say?" The latter asked. "What's your style?"
The masked man simply waved his hand. "Oh, it's an old family thing no one's heard of. It's embarrassing to even go into detail about it. What about you sirs? Do you practice?"
"The School of Indiscriminate Grappling," Soun replied. "We are the masters of separate branches. Mine specializes in swordsmanship and Saotome's in bare-handed combat."
The old man let out a surprised hum. "When you say Indiscriminate Grappling, do you by chance mean the school founded by Happosai?"
Both Genma and Soun blanched, before Genma nodded. "You've… heard of him?"
"There are very few who haven't. Judging by your reactions, I assume you are his students then. Last I heard he'd taken up two young wild men as his students and beaten them into fine martial artists."
Not sure how to take what sounded like praise for their master, but assuming that it was only because this man had no idea what Happosai was truly like, both men puffed their chests a bit with pride.
"Well, our old Master–rest his soul–certainly did a number on us," Soun replied.
"As ruthless as he was, he did know what he was doing." But Genma would still hate him forever.
Ultraman Mask gasped. "Happosai's passed?"
"Yes, it was a great tragedy," Soun quickly said. "He was buried deep underground in a cavern filled with lit dynamite."
"Or at least that was the last anyone had heard of him…" Genma added. "It's been just over a decade since we last saw him."
Silent for a moment, the man shook his head. "It feels… just like yesterday." He looked out at the setting sun. "Those old days, where men like Happosai ran wild, practicing and spreading the arts from town to town, land to land… and women too. The greatest Martial Artists in the world."
He sighed wistfully as in his eyes, the skyscrapers, gleaming lights, and fixtures of these modern times faded for wooden roofs and tall tree. Simpler, nostalgic days. "Those were days of uncertainty, when Japan was strong and independent, and the strength of the fist and the blade were revered. Where only strong warriors like Happosai, or Hina Urashima, or Josef Joestar, or Kenshiro Kasumi were certain that they would see another."
"Who?" Soun mouthed to Genma, in regards to the latter three.
Genma shrugged his shoulders.
"To think it's been so long, that the years have even caught up to Happosai…" The clearly old man shook his head. He then slipped his hand under his mask and over his eyes, as he began to weep.
As Genma reached out and patted the old man on the shoulder to console him, Temari caught a soccer ball against her chest and began dribbling it, bouncing it from one foot to another as Plum stood ready in between two trees, ready to block her free kick.
"Are you ready?" She asked.
"Born ready, you won't get by me! I was taught some moves!" Plum replied as she hopped from one foot to the other.
"Here it comes!" Temari shouted as she kicked the ball at Plum, the spin causing it to corkscrew through the air towards Plum. Plum, however, wasn't intimidated and leaped into a forward flip to heel-kick the ball straight down into the ground. The ball struck the ground and left a crater as it bounced high into the sky and out of sight.
Temari looked up into the sky, with wide eyes, as the ball disappeared. "Whoa… that was so cool!"
Plum folded her arms. "The people who work at the Cat Café taught me all sorts of cool stuff! This is nothing." She proceeded to jump into a complex set of moves, striking into the air like a much slower version of the Chestnuts Roasting over an Open Fire fist, before swaying her hands in Mantis Style, much like Akane's Umisenken movements.
"That's really good!" Temari praised. "I know some stuff too!"
Before she could demonstrate some of her moves, she noticed the old men on the park bench and frowned. "Oh no…"
"What?" Plum looked over, and frowned. "Oh, the Panda and the Crybaby… what are they doing here?"
"It's my Dad," Temari lamented. "It looks like I have to go."
Now that Plum noticed it, it was getting very dark now. "Oh shoot, I have to go home soon too…"
Temari pouted, right as she heard a voice behind her. "Temari-chan!"
She looked back, as Octopus Mask and Doll Mask walked up. "Oi, it's time to go," the latter said.
Octopus Mask looked over at the man crying on the bench and groaned. "Pop is crying again, great."
"Plum! We're going to the hotel now!" Shampoo then called out as she rode up on a new bicycle. Seeing her, Temari's red eyes widened slightly, as both Octopus Mask and Doll Mask pointed their masks in her direction.
Shampoo come to a halt, just as she dismounted from her bike. Both he and Doll Mask looked intently at her, as she regarded them with curiosity. "You street performers or something?" She asked.
Both masked men stood straight, and then posed. "Of course!" Doll Mask replied before he pulled out a frisbee. "We're just harmless street performers!"
"Yes, we perform tricks with simple toys!" Octopus Mask added as he pulled out his deck of Duel Monsters cards and began shuffling them.
Shampoo stared blankly at them, and shrugged her shoulders before looking to Plum. "Let's go, you can play with your friend tomorrow, okay?"
"Sure thing, battle sister," Plum replied before she looked back at Temari. "I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
Temari looked at Shampoo, and then back to Plum with a sad look. "No, you won't."
Confused, Plum began to ask what Temari meant by that. Shampoo herself had started to reassure her she would, when an overwhelming killing intent nearly froze her where she stood. Nearly, but she was able to throw herself out of the way of the frisbee thrown at her by Doll Mask, which went on to slice clean through her bicycle.
She slid back and immediately drew a shotgun she leveled and fired at Doll Mask, the bean bag round missing as the man moved just before she fired. Shampoo turned around and slamfired the weapon, the beanbag merely being caught in Octopus Mask's hand as he faced her.
Shampoo grinned. "Oh, this is interesting."
She tossed the weapon aside and her hands became blurs, catching out of the air the three Duel Monsters cards Octopus Mask threw at her. She then turned around and weaved her head around several bare hand strikes from Doll Mask, before she palm-thrust him in the chest to push him back and round-house kicked him to send him spinning back through the air.
She turned around and ducked beneath another set of thrown cards, and rushed Octopus Mask low to the ground, picking up her shotgun on the way. She thrust the weapon in his face, but Octopus Mask batted it out of the way before she fired. Using the recoil of the weapon, she flipped it over in her hand and smashed Octopus Mask in the face with the butt of the weapon.
Twirling the gun in her hand, she turned around and used it to catch the length of jump rope Doll Mask lashed out at her with like a whip. She let the weapon go, and as Doll Mask yanked it back, she produced a sawed off shotgun and shot him in the stomach with another bean bag, dropping him onto the ground, clutching his gut in pain.
Shampoo huffed. "I am no one's Worf." She turned around and fired at Octopus Mask as he got up, likewise giving him the worst tummy ache in the world with the weapon. "Plum, we are leaving!"
Plum was still in shock as she stared at Temari. "Your family are competitors too?"
Temari bowed her head. "Yes, sorry…"
Soun and Genma, rushed up to the scene, unsure of what had just happened after just witnessing it. "Another opponent?!" Genma asked.
"Another two losers," Shampoo grumbled as both men got up despite their injuries. "Who both should stay down!"
"Hey, big brother," Doll Mask said with a pained laugh. "It's been a while, hasn't it?"
"Yeah… I almost forgot what this sort of thing was like…" Octopus Mask replied with his own laugh.
Shampoo rolled her eyes. "I'll give you credit for being good, but you're not going to win against Shampoo."
"Young lady, we're going to win… you're still fifty years far too young to beat any of us!" Doll Mask produced a handful of marbles and threw them to Shampoo's feet. Seeing them simply regular marbles and nothing explosive immediately Shampoo aimed her shotgun as Doll Mask aimed a final marble at her.
"Miracle Fire!" Doll Mask shouted as he shot the marble at the marbles on the ground like a rifle shot. On hitting one marble, it ricocheted off, sending the marble it hit straight at Shampoo, who narrowly dodged it. The fired marble hit another marble, also sending it flying at Shampoo, and then another and another, until Shampoo was dodging and weaving to avoid the projectiles as they came at her from different directions.
Octopus Mask was on his feet, taking his card deck and simply throwing them up into the air except for one. Holding up the last card, a Blue Eyes White Dragon, his eyes narrowed behind the eyeholes of the mask. "Good Ol' Days Secret Technique!"
Genma and Soun heard that loud and clear.
"Tendo, he said Good Ol' Days!" Genma realized.
Soun actually grew serious. "This is dangerous! Why would these men be in a mere game?!"
He leaped up into the air above Shampoo and his scattered cards, and Plum immediately recognized what he was going to do. "Shampoo! It's a tornado attack!"
"Lightning Flip Blast!" He threw the card onto the ground in a tight spin, which created a large dust-filled tornado that swept up Shampoo into the mass of razor-sharp cards.
Buffeted by the winds for only a second, Shampoo caught herself and rode the wind right up to Octopus Mask. "You have no idea who you're up against!" she yelled as she swung a kick into Octopus Mask's chest, that he blocked. As she leaped back from Octopus mask and towards the opaque wall of the windstorm, she immediately noticed a pair of glowing yellow eyes lunging for her.
A second later, the tornado exploded outward, and Shampoo landed in a crouch before looking up into the air to see, of all people, Genma in Panda form blocking a strike from a baseball bat with one of his signs. The wielder of the bat, Ultraman Mask, kicked off Genma's chest and landed on the ground between Doll Mask and Octopus Mask as Genma landed on his back next to Shampoo.
"Hey! No interfering, you're not in this!" Shampoo said as she kicked Genma in the side.
Genma flipped around the sign to read "You should be more grateful that I just saved your life!"
"You didn't do anything!" Shampoo snapped back as she kicked him again.
"You have no idea what he did, not yet," Soun said as he imposed himself between the combatants with arms outstretched. He glowered at the masked men. "I should've realized it when I saw first saw it… but you… all of you have no reason to compete here, not if you intend to win like that."
Shampoo didn't know how to take the Crybaby and the Panda talking like they knew something she didn't, even moreso when Ultraman Mask let out a laugh confirming it.
"You certainly are Happosai's students, if you were able to recognize our style at all," Ultraman Mask replied to Soun.
Shampoo's expression darkened, as she immediately got over her ignorance. "Who are these guys?"
"The Good Ol' Days Arts, a school of Ninjutsu that specializes in improvised weapons and techniques for assassination… and it is without question one of the vilest arts in existence," Soun explained. "Even Master refused to have any part of it."
Shampoo nodded. "I see…"
Soun looked at Temari, and then back to Ultraman Mask, and he actually trembled with anger. "You didn't…"
"You know well enough about our school to know the answer to that," Ultraman Mask replied.
"Truly, a vile school," Soun spat. "Shampoo, a battle is not decided in this tournament unless someone is defeated, is that correct?"
Shampoo nodded again. "That's right."
"Then take Plum and leave, you won't beat all of them on your own. Especially with their strongest present," Soun advised.
Shampoo turned around. "I guess it can't be helped, if these guys are making you grow something resembling a spine it must be good advice. Don't die, okay Crybaby? Panda?" She picked up Plum, who was still staring in disbelief at Temari. The other young girl just looked away, unable to bring herself to look back. "You're the last people I want to avenge."
She sprinted off, and then took to the trees to put as much distance between her and the the battleground as possible. As she went into the distance, Soun faced the Good Ol' Days practitioners as Genma got back up, rubbing his side.
"Well, you spoiled our fun… shame there isn't a rule against that," Ultraman Mask lamented.
"The only rule is to not kill," Genma's sign read before he flipped it around. "And you can't even follow that one!"
"We intended to follow it to the letter," Ultraman Mask replied. "So long as the heart is beating, and the respiratory system is functioning, it is not considered death."
"I have always considered Master to be evil. We need to invent an entirely new word for what you are," Soun replied.
Ultraman Mask sighed. "You can ponder it while my boys and I pay you back for interfering."
He lifted the bat against his shoulder, as Doll Mask prepared some marbles, and Octopus Mask drew more cards.
"Do not worry, out of respect for your Master, we'll let you live wide and awake," Ultraman Mask added as the mask's eyes began to glow a bright yellow. "But it will be a very painful existence."
A/N: And we're back.