Away to Neverland
To begin, I must apologize. In my previous letter, I deliberately left hints suggesting that I was currently passing through Osaka. This was not the case, however I felt it neccessary, as upon due consideration I realized that no matter how much I trusted you to keep private correspondence private, I could not in all honesty believe that more than a day would pass before the entire district would nevertheless be aware that I had made contact with you. Such is the unfortunate reality of Nerima, and I have no doubt that a number of people have already left the area, and shall be most surprised indeed when they finish hunting for me in Osaka and return to find that I was never there.
In any case, Herb generously treated us to dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant before leaving Japan to return to his homeland. The meal was excellent, albeit served in distressingly small portions, and I have no doubt that I am far happier unaware of what the bill amounted to. As I have mentioned before, he is currently seeking a bride, and although I could not personally help him in that matter, I have suggested that he contact you, and would ask that you assist him in finding a young woman, who would not object to becoming the queen of a secret, foreign country, and with an appropriately open mind, as he bears a curse identical in many respects to my own. Having gotten to know her relatively well, I would suggest Nabiki as suitable for the role, except that I cannot say with certainty whether or not she would find the ancient draconic treasuries and stockpiles of gold and precious gemstones, as well as other assorted hoarded valuables, to be adequate recompense for removing herself from the modern amenities to which she is accustomed. Perhaps it would be better to make inquiries within her social circle for appropriate brides.
With regards to money, Suika and I have reached a compromise. So long as I do not bring up the idea of selling away her sake, Suika has offered instead to make use of her control over hellfires and density to manufacture diamonds from raw coal. This has so far served to increase my ready funds to many times over what was my previous maximum, by far more than what is necessary to outfit myself in cooking supplies and keep us in emergency provisions. Enclosed within the package are a sample diamond and a small bottle of Suika's sake, with her compliments. She refers to them, with much amusement, as the 'bride price', paid to my 'previous owner'. I find myself rather less enthused, though I cannot deny the point. Also enclosed within are assorted photographs, as it has been suggested you may appreciate them.
With love, your son,
"Waaaaaay too formal." Suika declared, reading the letter over Ranma's shoulder as he signed it. "Seriously, you don't talk like that at all."
"There's a difference between talking with someone and writing them a letter, you know." Ranma said, sealing the folded letter into an envelope and tying it to a package with a length of twine. "You aren't supposed to write the way you talk."
"You sure about that?" Suika asked dubiously.
Ranma shrugged as he folded up the paper and placed it into an addressed envelope, which he'd taped to a box. Without further note, he dropped the box into a mail-deposit.
"Anyway, I'm kind of hungry." He said, changing the subject. "Anything in particular that you want to eat?"
"Mm..." Suika mumbled noncommitally, glancing around the crowd of urbanity flowing around them who, for their part, were going well out of their way to give the horned girl a wide berth while at the same time doing their best to pretend that she didn't actually exist. "That salaryman looks-"
"Let's leave Soylent Green off the dinner plans for now, alright?" Ranma interrupted, noting how the man she'd pointed out was now walking just that little bit faster.
"Soy... what?" Suika wondered aloud.
"It's... it's a reference, sort of thing..." Ranma said, wilting at the failure of his attempt to sound clever. "From a movie I watched. It turns out that it's made of people."
"You know what, let's just forget this whole thing ever happened. Trying again, is there anything you particularly want to eat not including people?"
"... I wouldn't mind another bear. Or an elk." Suika said, vaguely.
"Aaaand yeah. I'll just pick up a couple dozen MkCheezy Burger's then." Ranma decided. "Hunting will have to wait a little bit, but that should tide you over."
"... Okay?" Suika agreed, still slightly confused.
Not particularly long after, they had retired to a secluded back-alley, and she found herself staring down at a partially wrapped burger with one bite taken out of it, chewing contemplatively.
"It's... it's something." She said. "The brown patty tastes almost like meat, but it isn't... I'm not sure what the yellow stuff is, but it's not cheese... there's so many weird, chemical flavors and aftertastes through the whole thing... it's kind of disgusting, and it feels like every bite is poison..."
She hesitated, then took another big bite and chewed carefully.
"But... I just can't stop eating it." She said, in a confused sort of abstract horror.
"That's fast food for you." Ranma said, through a mouthful of his sixth burger, the rest carefully stowed in his not-pockets. "Odds are good you're happier not knowing what goes in it, and too much will probably kill you in the long run, but it's cheap and... theoretically, food."
"... That was probably the most horrible thing I've eaten in my life." Suika concluded, staring at the empty wrapper in her hands before disintegrating it with a puff of hellfire. "Why do I want more?"
"Never did figure that one out." Ranma admitted, tossing another burger her way. "But I think-"
"Paranormal activity located." A dull monotone echoed through the alley, coming from a nondescript man in a black suit and shades. There was a sharp flicker and, as Ranma squinted, he could barely make out light images and illegible words scrolling past one of the lenses, and an outline of his figure. It went blank as he turned his head slightly to look at Suika, and the words and images began scrolling past again, building rapidly as the image of her began to flash red.
"Paranormal subject located. Potential threat index: Moderate. Initiating subdual and retrieval protocols."
"Yeah, this is new." Ranma remarked, absently taking a bite of his current burger as the suit pulled a funny gun that gave off sparks every few seconds.
"Citizen, please stand aside." it said.
"Mm, no." Ranma replied, polishing off the burger and tossing the wrapper aside. "Dunno what kind of beef you have with Suika, but I'm not making any decisions about what to do until you start talking about it."
"... Affirmative." It stated, after a long moment of processing, during which numbers and words had flashed across its sunglasses too fast to comprehend. "Per standing orders, this unit is to locate and quarantine all paranormal activity within its area of operation. Following this, this unit is to follow the dual standard directive: A) To subdue any paranormal subjects, contain them, and escort them to the laboratories for proper study and research, or B) If subject proves hostile, to immediately terminate it."
"Well, isn't that nice." Ranma said dryly. "Except... when you say 'study and research', for some reason, what I hear sounds an awful lot like 'imprisonment and interrogation'. Could be I'm just paranoid, of course...?"
Ranma trailed off expectantly. Rather than any verbal answer, however, the suit's hand-cannon-thing gave off a sound uncomfortably similar to that of a cocking shotgun.
"Citizen, you will stand aside now. If you do not comply, this unit is authorized to bring escalating force to bear for the removal of unruly civilians."
"I'm shaking in my brand new pants." Ranma dryly replied. "Yo, Suika? Not that you need my help, but you have any objections to me beating the tar out of mister cheap suit?"
"Eh, knock yourself out." The oni said disinterestedly, currently involved in a fierce staring contenst with her half-eaten burger.
"Civilian belligerence acknowledged. Threat index: nonexistent. Setting to stun, mild."
Without a further word, the suit fired off a blast from his gun. The ball of energy that resulted moved almost insultingly slowly, and Ranma calmly slapped it out of its path to fizzle away harmlessly against a brick wall with nothing more than a slight tingle in his fingers. The suit's sunglasses went absolutely crazy, and it remained still for almost a full fifteen seconds as it seemed to process the turn of events, by which time Ranma was thoroughly bored with the situation and had begun to consider just ignoring it and leaving.
"Threat index revised: Minor." The suit said aloud, as the sunglasses faded again to black. "Scan complete. No notable paranormal activity present in subject. Request data update... acknowledged. Citizen, you will stand down and face interrogation."
"Yeah, that'll happen. You know, why don't you just take off and let us eat in peace, huh?"
The suit's answer was to raise its gun again, and was interrupted by Ranma closing the distance between them and delivering a palm thrust to the chin, sending him into a backwards flip and rough landing. Ranma winced at the audible crunch as his opponent crumpled into a painful looking heap.
"Oh... oh shit..." Ranma moaned rubbing at his forehead as he turned away. "I forgot... normal people can't take hits. That's just great..."
He paused as there was another crunch, followed by another. Disbelieving, he turned back, to where the figure was slowly rising, sparking and clearly robotic innards now visibly poking through the suit and false skin it was wearing.
"... Threat index revised: Significant." It droned in that same monotone.
"You gotta be kidding."
"Citizen, be advised. Reinforcements are currently en route. Threat index baseline has been crossed. Any and all hostile actions will now be met with lethal countermeasures. This is your final opportunity to surrender peacefully."
"Yeah... that'll happen." Ranma grumbled. "Suika, now would be a good time for us to get-"
"We'll come quietly. Please, escort us to your superior."
"What." Ranma said dully, muscles he'd been tensing in preparation for a quick getaway going slack.
"I'm a little curious about who wants to meet me so badly." She said, tossing aside an empty wrapper and holding out her hand expectantly.
Ranma groaned, but obediently forked over another burger. The action of pulling it out of nowhere did not go unnoticed by the suit's sunglasses, which once more went haywire.
"This is a bad, bad idea." He noted darkly, as two more suits appeared.
The Institute for the Advancement of Humanity was the name of the place. A large, squat brick building near the outer limits of town. By the name, you would guess that it housed a center for the appreciation of arts, or a charity of some sort. Not the case.
The person in charge, a doctor of some sort, had introduced himself as 'Smith'. No other name given, no names requested, no apologies for the obvious psuedonym he was using. Instead, just straight into the questioning.
"... And how, exactly, did you come across your... abilities?" Smith repeated, having swung back to this question, in one form or another, throughout the entire conversation.
"Like I said." Ranma said sharply. "Everything you've seen me do is the result of focused martial arts training."
"I'm sure. And in the course of this training... you've never, I suppose, been exposed to any sort of radioactivity? No... unusual chemical spills, or any such thing? Never, I suppose, have you encountered extraterrestrial activity, or sold yourself to fiendish, dark horrors for power?"
"No." Ranma snapped irritably.
"I see. Then... how, exactly, do you claim to have reached such superhuman ability?"
Smith did not seem in any way convinced, and at this point Ranma was pretty sure that nothing he could say was going to convince the man.
"Hmm... you're being quite difficult. You understand that such blatant lies-"
"I'm not lying!" Ranma barked.
"Such blatant lies will fool no-one. There is quite simply a hard, scientifically determined limit to how powerful a human can grow through even the most rigorous and brutal of training. A... peak, as it were, to what humanity can naturally achieve. You, my friend, are well past that limit. Now... since you refuse to speak about the source of your unnatural powers, perhaps we should instead focus on-"
Ranma brought one fist down on the table between them, silencing the scientist, who automatically flinched backwards somewhat as the robo-toughs shifted and set hands closer to their weapons.
"... 'Rigorous, brutal training'? What, running on treadmills while people take notes? Is that what you're talking about? I don't know... maybe I should tell you a little about my training?"
Smith's eyes gleamed.
"Then, at last you reveal the secret to-"
"When I was little, barely learned how to stand on my own, my father began my training in the family martial art." Ranma interrupted. "It began with properly learning how to fall."
"Yes, many schools of-"
"How to fall from any height, properly." Ranma continued, as though Smith had not spoken at all. "Rather than take things slowly, he showed his typical attitude of combined impatience and blind faith in my abilities and started off by throwing me off the roof of our family home."
Smith's mouth worked for a moment, but no sound emerged.
"It's hard to say, really, whether me living through the first year or two of training is more because of my own natural ability or just plain dumb luck. But yeah, it started off brutal, and only got worse. So tell me... any of your 'scientific peak of humanity' ever learned how to fight in water by being chained to a weight while their pops dumped buckets of pig blood over the sides of the boat to draw sharks? Any of them learned how to lose trackers by having raw steaks strapped to them and running away from packs of starving wild dogs? Huh?"
Smith gaped wordlessly, struck dumb by the outright ridiculously suicidal nature of the training.
"Yeah, that's what I thought. That peak of yours is only a limitation for the uncommitted. If you're willing to give your life for the sake of the art... it's nothing."
Smith polished his glasses furiously before replacing them.
"I see." He said, heavy cynicism and doubt coloring his words.
"You know, I don't even care if you believe me or not anymore, but I take my art very seriously. Don't expect me to just go back and say 'Oh, yeah, aliens did it' when you don't believe the truth."
"Then it was extraterrestrial in origin..."
"That's not what I said... ugh. You're just going to twist around whatever I say until it's what you want to hear."
"Perhaps it would be better if we continued this discussion at a later date." Smith decided. "Escort him to the residential area."
Ranma grunted in disgust, but allowed the robots to lead him about with a minimum of gun-prodding. He wasn't particularly excited about the area they led him to either... a cluster of rooms which opened up to one larger room with a tv, which had the only door out from the area, which was locked and guarded on the outside by a pair of the robo-toughs. One of the smaller rooms was a bathroom, and the rest contained beds.
"So... what are you in for?" The only other resident of the area asked dully, from where he was sprawled on a couch.
"... You make it sound like we're in prison." Ranma noted.
"Aren't we? Hah... Kenshiro. I'm here because I'm a telekinetic. When I focus really hard, I can make things move. That's why I'm here. How 'bout you, newbie?"
"... Ranma Saotome. I'm a martial artist."
"Oh. With the punchy, kicky sort of stuff, huh? I guess it's not much help against guns, though."
Ranma just grunted, and frowned.
"Suika isn't here."
"Sounds like a girl's name to me... afraid they didn't bring in any girls. She get taken in with you?"
"Yeah." Ranma said. "Sure you haven't seen her? She's... short. Looks young... horns..."
Kenshiro broke into a startled burst of dark laughter.
"Oh? No... no, I haven't seen anyone like that. But I know where she is. Heh. At this point, you should resign yourself... you'll never be seeing her again."
"Aaaand that right there did it. I've had enough of this. I'm going to go find Suika, and we are gone."
"You're serious?" Kenshiro barked, bursting into another surprised round of laughter. "You're really serious? Oh man... you just don't get it. If we were allowed to leave do you think I'd still be here? They're guarding the door. Even if you somehow got past them, the entire area is under constant surveillance. You wouldn't make it ten feet."
"You let me worry about that. Just tell me... where's Suika?"
There was a long staredown before Kenshiro shrugged.
"Your life, I suppose. Anyway, up here is where they keep the ones that fit two criteria. Relatively cooperative, and unmistakeably human. The rest... go downstairs."
"That's it? Huh. Downstairs it is."
"You're throwing away your life, you know." Kenshiro noted. "Try to escape, and they stop playing nice. Yeah, you'll be going downstairs... if they don't just kill you right off. You can count me out... I like still being alive."
Kenshiro rose as Ranma snorted, and walked to one of the rooms, closing the door behind himself and locking it with an audible click.
Without another word, Ranma kicked down the door out, and immediately stepped through, catching hold of the robot's heads and smashing them together in a rain of sparks and ruined machinery. No need to hold back against robots.
Sure enough, within moments the lights turned to red and an alarm began wailing. No time for that, he needed to find the stairs... stairs... there. That door was labeled with stairs. That way.
He took the stairs quickly, but they went down further than just one floor. Much further. He stopped counting at six levels and just moved. At the bottom, there was a locked door. He kicked it open, and behind was a dimly lit railway of some sort.
"You've gotta be kidding me..." He grumbled, noting there was no car or trolley to ride in, and guessing correctly that it was at the other end of the tunnel. He ran.
No point thinking about how long the tunnel had run either, although it was a significant, ridiculous length. When he finally reached the end, it had evened out and brightened up, everything seemed to be tiled and off-white instead of brick, and there was a small subway train at the end. Also, another locked door, which he wasted no time in kicking down.
The hallways beyond were very... sterile. Clean, shiny even, he could see his reflection in most things in spite of the dimmed light, and odd smells hung in the air. It gave the sense of... almost of a science classroom.
No, he realized, even as one of the scents came clear, sharp and recognizable as blood. Not a classroom... a laboratory.
He slowly fumbled the lightswitch on and stared through the glassy openings into the enclosed cells as he walked through. Sometimes, mercifully, there were no real details of what had gone on inside, only a figure laying on a medical table, partially or entirely covered by a sheet. Sometimes, he was not so fortunate, and he was treated to the sight of exposed organs or hollowed out ribcages in all their glory. One window he passed held some sort of experiment in progress, of a horrible machine tearing into what would have passed for a stately middle aged-woman were it not for all the fur. He was sure that, for just a moment, her gaze met his and it was full of agonized pleading, before the machine wrenched and she went entirely limp.
He stumbled away from the window, clutching at his mouth as the bile rose.
"It's about time." Suika remarked from the cell behind him. "So far, this has been a lot less interesting than I'd hoped. And I'm hungry again."
He managed to turn to look, and was relieved to see that Suika's cell was full of pulped scrapmetal, where she had clearly compressed the density of the robots that had been intended for her.
"Anyway, time to go." She said, dispersing into mist and pooling through near-imperceptible cracks around the door before reforming.
"Wait..." Ranma croaked. "There could still be...some might still be alive!"
Suika shrugged disinterestedly, and Ranma rewarded her with a very stern look and frown.
"Geez, alright, fine. Go rescue the experiments if you have to... this is why we kidnap the princesses and fair damsels and not the hero-types." She grumbled to herself. "Burger first, though."
Ranma absently handed one over as he made his way deeper into the chambers of scientific horror, slowly coming to regret his decision to not leave immediately. The doors were all locked, but it only ever took a good kick to smash them down.
Many of the occupants were dead. Many of those dead were in some stage of dismemberment or decay, and some few of them had, horribly enough, been completely taken apart and neatly labeled. One room contained a particularly ghastly specimen that had been partially put back together afterwords, for what purpose he couldn't even begin to fathom. He at first couldn't decide which were more horrible, the corpses that were closer or further from human, and forced himself not to think about it.
He rapidly discovered that these dead may well have proven to be the better off of those Smith had ordered taken downstairs. Those rooms that still had living occupants were far, far worse.
There was a huge... almost-dog sort of creature in one. Its legs had been broken and left unset, nailed into place with spikes to prevent it from any sort of movement. It growled, snarled and snapped at him whenever he came close... understandable, as whatever it was, it was heavily pregnant and acting on instinct. Trying to keep him away from the casually carved holes and pinned back flesh and skin revealing the young growing within it. It would be dangerous even for him to approach, moreso if he freed it. And yet, it would also be pointless, as it wouldn't get far on ruined legs. He retreated from the room, not sure what to do.
One room held what at first glance might be mistaken for a butterfly collection, but on closer inspection Ranma realized that those were what looked like tiny people between the wings, and that every one of them was still alive, despite the pins holding them in place. Random handfuls of pins, pressed almost randomly through the people-bits, through arms and legs and... he had to shake off a brief surge of nausea as his overactive imagination provided thoughts of what it must be like, to be painfully impaled on a board, held behind glass for the gawking of giant onlookers.
Another room provided an even more vivid example than that his own imagination brought to bear. A rail-thin man, bolted into place on an iron framework, large screws holding him painfully in place, crusted with blood, and to top it all off a featureless steel mask bolted into his very skull. An uncountable number of tubes ran from the machines surrounding him into his body, pumping fluids in and out, likely the only thing responsible for his continued existence.
"Kill... me..." He rasped from behind the mask once he became aware of Ranma's presence, and he would say nothing else.
While Ranma was trapped in his moral dilemma, Suika, who had been following him around the whole time out of boredom, simply shrugged and with the merest extension of her will, a micro-black-hole popped into momentary existence inside his chest.
"What? What? Seriously, he literally asked for it!" She said, as Ranma sighed in distaste.
"That's not the point..." Ranma argued half-heartedly.
"Yes, yes, you humans and your angsty moral and philosophical issues. Bleh."
Ranma sighed again and opened another room, wincing as the blinded quadruple amputee within was revealed, albeit thoroughly wrapped in bandages to the point that not even a hint of skin showed..
"Hiya, stumpy." Suika nonchalantly chirped. "See anything interesting today, or... oh, wait, my bad."
"Just so you know, I don't actually approve of mocking tormented prisoners." Ranma grumbled.
"You don't have to! I'm the one doing it."
There was a soft hiss of... possibly amusement, possibly disgust. Amused disgust?... from the wrapped and stationary figure.
"Yo! Something funny, stumpy?"
"Not at all, mistress." She said raspily, suddenly completely sober.
"That's good. So, what are you gonna do? Been through the whole place, and there's nothing you can realistically save. Well, maybe the fairies, but depending on how long it's been since they've been fed, they might turn on you the second you unpin them. So, what now, Mr. hero-complex?" Suika asked dryly.
"I'm thinking." He grunted irritably, not willing to admit that he had no idea what to do when the victims he'd found were too dangerous, or damaged, for him to actually be capable of saving.
"... The dumb hero type?" bandages rustled as 'stumpy' shifted awkwardly where she lay. "I can't imagine why you choose to keep him around..."
"Oh, he makes up for it in other ways." Suika leered, ignoring Ranma's clear discomfort..
"I'm sure." She agreed with a raspy chuckle. "But if it's a rescue you plan..."
She shifted awkwardly again, wriggling until she forced her body into a more or less upright sitting position, revealing the tattered, torn and pitiful remnants of what were once some sort of wings.
"Do me a favor, and break my neck for me." She instructed. "Then take that which is left behind outside with you when you leave. That should be enough."
"Eh... right, that. Okay." Suika said, starting to walk forward before Ranma's arm moved, blocking her path.
"... I'll do it." He said, teeth grit.
"Suit yourself." Suika said blandly, shrugging and stepping back a pace.
Wordlessly, Ranma closed the distance and hesitated for a long moment before carefully reaching out and grasping.
"I'm sorry..." He said quietly, and sharply twisted. With a loud crack, her neck broke, and the body went limp in his hands. He dropped it as though it were hot coals.
And then, before he had the chance to dwell on what he had just done, it began to glow. And then, as he stared dumbly, it exploded, in a silent burst of light and heatless flame, leaving empty wrappings behind. As the glow faded, a single spark remained, settling into... not stone or glass or crystal or any other mineral that Ranma was in any way familiar with, a solid lump of some sort that glowed with a soft inner light.
"Yeah, that would be 'what's left behind'. Grab it and let's go, alright?"
"I don't... what?" Ranma said, giving voice to his confusion as he cupped the mote in his hands.
"Magic crap." Suika explained efficiently. "So, we leaving yet?"
"... I'm going to set the others loose first." He decided. "Whether the odds are good or not... I have to give them a chance."
"Yeah, that's what I thought you'd say." Suika grumbled. "So, I already dealt with that. They're free."
"... Really?" Ranma asked dubiously.
"Well yeah! Depending on your definition of 'free', anyway."
"You killed them, didn't you." Ranma said more than asked, seeming resigned to the fact.
"Yeah." She admitted without the slightest trace of shame. "But since I know how humans get all jittery over it, I left the unbirthed alive. Although, you know, given that they're youkai, that means instead of being born, now they're going to tear their way out of the mother in order to survive, and they'll be ravenously hungry when they get out. What's left of dear, dead mommy will keep them for a couple minutes, yeah, but they'll still be starving when they're done. So... ready to leave yet?"
"... I think I saw a door going outside from here, so we won't have to go through that tunnel." Ranma said, tucking the mote securely away in his shirt, where it pulsed softly against his chest with a gentle warmth.
The door was hidden from the outside by a shallow cave set into a rocky hill, presumably so that no wandering hikers or campers would notice the rear entrance, unless they were spectacularly unfortunate.
Smith was waiting outside. Of course Smith was waiting for them outside, with an entire squad, at least thirty, of his robo-thugs.
"And so, once again, an escape attempt is foiled by pointless heroism." He drawled. "It's your own fault, you know. Had you simply abandoned your companion to escape alone, you would have escaped, and might even have eluded our pursuit. Now, however..."
"What makes you think you can hold us?" Ranma interrupted. "This time, neither of us are going to come quietly."
"Ah... the amusing bravado of the trapped rats. Of course, you'll find..."
Smith was interrupted by a series of wheezing crunches as his robo-thugs collapsed inwards on themselves, most ceasing function immediately.
"Yeah, I'm bored of the banter." Suika said. "Can we move this along?"
"Revised threat index: Extreme." One of the robo-suits seemed to almost wheeze, despite its voice not even slightly deviating from the standard monotone. "Advise... immediate... re... treat..."
With a soft 'clunk', the last of them ceased function entirely, leaving Smith standing very still and silent, seeming almost stunned, as though he couldn't actually believe that this was actually happening.
"I could have taken them." Ranma noted. "It... well, it would have taken longer, yeah, but I could have done it. Anyway, I want to know what's going on with this place. All the cruelty and death inside."
"Hmph..." Smith snorted, then smirked. "Well... like they say, it pays most to find a job you love to do."
The air noticeably chilled.
"So... what, then? All of that inside... was just for fun?" Ranma asked, his becoming like ice as he spoke.
"Fun?" Smith seemed almost disgusted at the question. "Of course I had fun. Didn't I just say so? A rarity, too, for a government official such as myself. Oh! You flinched!"
Smith seemed to delight in noting that, and Ranma grit his teeth.
"Does it pain you, my dear boy? To think that everything in there was planned, overlooked and supervised, and approved of by agents of the Emperor himself?"
"... Ugh." Ranma grunted.
"That's right, boy. You've become a wanted man, by interfering with this business. This is government work... and there are similar official research centers across the entire world! But don't linger on the messy bits." Smith said, his voice becoming oily and almost serpentine. "Consider the good that I've done! Why, through the study and research of these creatures, we've set medical science ahead decades, perhaps to become centuries with the next breakthroughs. We've cured illnesses that would prove fatal in all cases beforehand!"
"And all it took was a little bit of torture...?" Ranma growled.
"Why... not torture, my dear boy. Experimentation. It amounts to the same thing, yes... but humans are the only ones that can be tortured. Animals such as them..."
Ranma's knuckles cracked audibly from both fists.
"... Have I touched a nerve, dear boy? My word, do you intend to do me harm? And here I was under the impression that... martial artists, such as yourself made a point out of not attacking the defenseless... and I do believe you'll find me quite unarmed. Incapable of defending myself, even." he pointed out, smugly.
Ranma moved, and when he came to a stop, one hand had taken hold of Smith's shirt and lifted him off the ground with it, and the other was reared back, trembling. The movement had taken a fraction of a second at most, and Smith flinched. Slowly, Ranma relaxed his arm, letting it fall back to his side.
"... You're right." He said, reluctantly, his disgust clear. "I can't... won't... kill someone that can't, or won't, fight back. Not in cold blood. Not even someone like you."
Smith grinned smugly, even as Ranma turned and walked slowly to the door, opening it and shetting him down past its threshhold. He then made a careful, deliberate show of brushing some imaginary dust off of Smith's shoulders.
"But keep in mind." Ranma said, darkly, as he broke the doorknob off the inside and swung the door slowly closed. "I don't have to save you, either."
The smile flickered, and faded away as the door shut with a very final click, followed not long after by the sound of rocks falling. And then, very softly in the sudden silence, a series of clicks and scratches from behind him. Smith turned, very slowly. And there they were, a half dozen miserable, mostly formed monster pups, lookng exactly like the mostly formed fetuses that they were.
They sniffed loudly, and one let out a soft, drawn out whine. Another's tongue lolled out, and a third's drool began to drip noisily on the floor.
Sooo... this chapter, uh, kind of took on a life of it's own. I mean seriously, I keep rereading it, and I keep going 'what the hell'. This started as just 'I want Ranma to come into contact with more stuff before Gensokyo happens, particularly a greater fairy of some kind'... and then it just mutated beyond my control. Seriously, the letter home, burgers, what. I guess the diamond thing makes sense in retrospect, though... but I don't even know where to start with Smith and his little lab of horrors.
And yet, I just plain can't force myself to go back and rewrite the whole darn thing from scratch, either. Soo, I guess this is the first chapter of the sequel, then. Or an intermission chapter? Actually, kind of both, but still mostly filler? Meh.
I did rewrite a little, though. Originally, the beast thing was mostly cat, but then I went 'oh, wait, no' with the realization that that would switch Ranma from hero-mode directly to 'holy shit, holy shit, run, run, ruuun'-mode. Which just wouldn't work. So, tiny edit.
Anyway, Ranma's powerlevel... I don't really see a point in even trying to catalogue it as compared to other people. Stronger than some, weaker than most? Eh... straight fighting, he and China are probably top of the heapish. Straight fighting don't count for much in Gensokyo, though, what with the danmaku. And all the hax powers. I'll figure that out when I get there, I guess.