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Ranma 1/2: New Challenges
Chapter 15

Yuni only had a few seconds to glimpse the crystal before
something struck her forcefully and sent her tumbling away. Through her
haze, she realized the red-headed girl was crouched protectively in
front of Akane. In one hand she held the crystal, which had lost it's

"You must give that to us," Hajime said sternly, having regained
his feet. "It is too dangerous to be allowed in the hands of mortals."

Ranma snorted. "Get real, pal. `Sides, you're mortal, too." She
eyed the opposition, the group of seven lining up across from her. "I
don't know what's going on, but this thing belongs to Akane. The only
way you're gettin' it is over my dead body."

"Don't you get it!" Hajime yelled, finally losing his temper.
"It cannot be destroyed, yet it cannot be allowed to fall into the wrong

Ranma looked down at the multi-faceted crystal, which almost
seemed to throb in her hand. "What's so important about this thing,

Hajime sighed. "A long time ago, a kami gave it to a woman, to
reward her for something the woman had done for the heavenly being. The
names were lost to antiquity, but our order has dedicated itself to
seeking out such dangerous artifacts and sealing them away. This
particular one has been dormant for most of it's life, but ten years
ago, we sensed the it's use, and have been searching for it ever since."

"So why's it so dangerous?" Ranma's eyes narrowed. "What kind of
threat is Akane supposed to be?" She glanced back at her fiancee
momentarily who appeared unconscious, but was still breathing, much to
the red-head's relief.

"I said before, it acts as sort of a amplifying lens for ki,"
the old one told him. "As it is used more and more by someone, the
amplification factor increases, and it has no limit. Soon, it would
reach a point where only a small amount of ki would be amplified
millions of times, enough to destroy the world! Don't you see? No one
can be trusted with it!"

Uncertainity warred within Ranma soul. It was true that the
Tora Dokiken was powerful, and her instincts told him not to give it to
these people, but it looked like they wouldn't stop until they got what
they were after. And if what the old man said were true, and Akane's ki
developed more fully, the next time she got angry or unleashed a ki-

"What about Akane?" Ranma said at last. "What did you do to

"Yuni merely drained enough ki to free the artifact," Hajime
told her. "She may yet live, if she gets help soon. You may be able to
beat all of us, but the time it would take you to do so would be fatal
to her. Just give us the crystal and you can save her."

Ranma fretted. I can't give this to them, but
if I don't, Akane'll die! I can't let that happen! She wracked her
brain for another way... and found one. "Fine then, I'll solve all our

The group of seven watched, wide-eyed, as Ranma tossed the
crystal into the air and drew his hand back.

What happened next was, to them, nothing short of impossible.

"Saotome!" Soun watched, helpless, as the tail of the beast
slammed into his old friend, planting him firmly in the ground. With as
much strength as he could muster, Soun pushed the wooden beam off his
legs and attempted to stand up.

It wasn't going well. Ever since Drakon had transformed, the
three martial artists had found themselves out-classed. The dragon's
scales were harder than steel, and he was quick for such a large beast.
None of their attacks seemed to do much, and the counters were taking
them out one by one.

Tatewaki was the first target, being blown back by a powerful
cold breath attack that tossed him in the what was left of the building
and burying him under ice and rubble. Soun attempted to retrieve his
naginata and plunge it into the beast's flank, but a claw caught him in
mid-air and sent him sailing into a wall. And now it was Genma-panda's
turn, as he tried to attack from the rear.

The Tendo patriarch tried to distract Drakon, to give Genma
enough time to recover, though he knew he wasn't in good shape. His legs
felt weak, and his gi was torn across his chest where three red gashes
ran diagonally from the claw.

Drakon merely glanced at Soun, but left his tail across the
giant panda, preventing Genma from getting up. He opened his giant
mouth, and another blast of freezing air came rushing forth to knock
Soun off his feet and send him tumbling away.

Soun thought sadly. Helplessly, he
watched as the dragon coiled it's tail around Genma and stood up on two
legs, lifting him up in front of it's own toothy maw and squeezing hard
with the tail.

Genma applied all his strength to break free from the coiled
grip, but it wasn't enough. He even tried biting the tail, but panda
teeth were no match for dragon scales. he despairingly realized. Then,
thinking was impossible, as the crushing grip rendered him unconscious.

"Release my husband!" cried a familiar voice. The voice was
accompianed by a stream of fire that bathed Drakon's backside. The
dragon roared in pain, and dropped Genma.

"And leave my Soun-chan alone!" cried another familiar female
voice. "Happo No-Yen Coin Return!" A blast of ki-energy struck the
dragon, knocking him back a few feet, but not appearing to hurt him

Then someone was there, helping him up. Soun blinked when he
realized who it was. "Hinako-san? You're Ranma and Akane's teacher. What
are you doing here?"

He kind of suspected that the woman felt more for him than
concern as Ranma and Akane's teacher. And he wasn't so old that he had
lost his eyes; she was quite attractive to look at. Then he would think
of wife and first love, and the mere thought of betraying her would curb
any forward actions on his part.

"I ran into Saotome-san's mother and she said you might be in
danger," Hinako told him in her husky, adult voice. "I had to try and

She helped him sit up, and he noticed a round fishbowl sitting
nearby. She seemed to be awfully fond of that fish, since she had it
whenever he saw her. He also noticed Nodoka approaching the dragon, her
katana out and in a ready position. The surprising thing, was that it
appeared to be on fire. Also surprising, was she had shed her usual
kimono, revealing a decorative white and blue bodysuit underneath, with
matching white headband.

"What's going on?" Soun asked, confused. "What is she doing? She
can't possibly be thinking of taking that thing on alone!"

The dragon launched another wave of it's ice-cold breath, but
Nodoka's sword flared up, incinerating the blast before it could reach

Hinako stood. "She will fight for the one she loves. To a woman
in love, there is nothing she will not do for her man!" He gave him a
lusty smile and a wink, then turned back to the dragon, bringing her
hands back up. "Prepare to be punished, delinquent! Happo No-Yen Coin

The blast of yellowish-green ki struck the dragon head on,
sending him stumbling backward even as a lightning bolt flew from out of
the ruined building, impacting Drakon's chest. The dragon snarled in
response, shaking off the attack.

"Foul beast!" called Kuno's voice. "Get thee back to the abyss!"
He strode from the building, his sword crackling and flashing with blue
electric sparks.

The dragon took a couple of steps backward, eyeing the two
swords carefully. It was almost as if he recognized their power and
feared it.

At that moment, Lady Kuno reappeared from within the wrecked
building, her hand flying to her mouth when she caught sight of the
black dragon outside. "Kami-sama, no! It cannot be possible! Only the
true lord of your people can make that tranformation!"

The dragon's head swung around, his maw becoming a toothy grin
as he glimpsed his original target. Moving faster than anyone expected,
and before anyone could do anything, he snaked one hand out and plucked
her from the ground. He held her out as a shield between himself and his
attackers. With the woman in his grip, no one else dared attack, for
fear she might get caught in the crossfire.

Soun realized the dynamics had suddenly changed, and they were
helpless to do anything about it.

The group watched in utter shock as the crystal flew upwards.
Then, Ranma's hand blurred passed it. In slow motion, they beheld the
crystal seperate cleanly into five pieces.

"NO!" Hajime blurted, right before the dismembered crystal
exploded. A radiant gold light expanded outward, filling the ravine and
washing over it's occupants.

Moving faster than she ever had before in her life, Ranma
grabbed Akane and leapt outward, just ahead of the event horizon. It
caught up to them in mid-air however, sending her and her helpless
charge tumbling into the trees above the ravine wall. She instinctively
twisted her body in mid-air, protecting Akane by absorbing the tree
branch impacts with her own body.

The explsion behind them blasted into the ground, cratering the
ravine floor as it forced it's magical energies in all directions,
including downward. The ravine shook with the force of a magnitude 6
earthquake, then as the energies exploded upwards, the hole in the
ground spewed forth a mighty geyser of water from a hot spring that
happened to be located just underneath the ground.


The landing wasn't perfect, but the important thing was that
she hit first, Akane on top of him. The heated droplets of water from
the geyser began to pour down upon them, and Ranma shifted into his
masculine form as he got his wind back.

And then he was holding her in his lap, cradling her in his
arms like he did at Jusendo.

"Akane?" He brushed the unconscious girl's cheek with his hand.
"You can wake up now. It's all over. You did pretty good back there, but
it's over."

But there was still no action from her, besides her light
breathing. His hand moved from her cheek, down her neck

In the distance, the geyser lost it's pressure and died out.

"Come on, Akane!" he demanded, his voice getting shaky. "Don't
do this to me. Quit foolin' around and wake up!" He studied her face for
several moments, as he wiped the dirt scruffs off her cheeks. That's
when noticed the droplet of water that hit Akane's face. Ranma blinked
and wiped his face on his sleeve. "Now look what ya made me do! Snap out
of it!"

He sniffled a bit. He blinked. He dried his tears again, an idea forming in his
head. Concentrating, Ranma closed his eyes, focusing his breathing. His
blue aura soundlessly formed around him.

Ever since Happosai taught them his ki-charge technique, Ranma
had been working with it and studying it, like he did with every new
move he learned. One of the main points to the technique was that the
person in need of ki had to initiate the charge. But Ranma discovered
that the charge was greater when the one being charged off of, willingly
gave of their ki, and even greater when they did it out of love. Since
Happosai's victims never willingly gave in to him, the old freak never
would've figured that out.

But Ranma had never tried to give ki without Akane initiating
the charge. Then his thoughts were gone, his
mind clear. The only sound were the steady breathing of the two
teenagers that slowly synchronized. Ranma reached out for Akane with his
ki, his aura flowing over her.

For several minutes, nothing happened. Then he felt it, and

As the golden shockwave approached the group of seven, Hajime
shook off his stupor at what the pig-tailed girl had done. The crystal
was made by kami hands, and mortal men weren't supposed to be able to
destroy it. But there was no more time for thought; if he didn't act
swiftly, the explosion would consume them.

He crossed his arms in front of his body and weaved his aura
through the six around him. It was dangerous to him to attempt what he
was going to do, but if he didn't, they would all perish. "Teleport!"

"Sensei! No!" Li chun gasped.

A spasm of pain wracked the old man's frame as the seven faded
out of existance, the expanding golden aura vaporizing their area a
split second later. They re-materialized on a hilltop a safe distance
away, from where they could behold the sphere of golden light explode
upwards in a column of dissipating energies.

They watched, tiredly and in awe, as five thin beams of light
shot out of the main one, streaking off in different directions. The
heated geyser burst up from the ground after the explosion died off, but
it didn't last long.

Hajime collapsed and the young Japanese girl named Yuni rushed
to his side, fearing the worst. "Sensei!" She knew that it was a strain
on the old man to attempt to teleport more than two or three at a time,
and he had just warped the entire group half a kilometer away.

"Please be okay!" Yuni pleaded. "You'll be fine. We'll get you
to a doctor and then-"

He shook his head, even as his raspy voice cut her off. "No.
Too late for me... old and weak..."

"No, sensei!" Yuni cried, tears leaking from her eyes. "You
can't leave me!" He was the closet thing the orphan had for a father,
and he had taught her much about controlling her gift.

"We all have our time, child," he replied, his voice a bit
steadier, though his eyes were still closed. "I have... led a full life
and have few regrets." He turned his head slightly. "Li chun... Kujo...
was he successful? Did he actually destroy the Heart of the Kami?"

Kujo's arms were folded across his chest, his eyes
expressionless as he watched the explosion die off. "No, I don't think
so." His voice was low and gruff.

"Kujo's right, sensei," Li Chun added impassively. "It looks
like he just shattered it into five pieces. They flew off in different

"Then they will need to be found, before someone uses them,"
Hajime said solemnly. Their task was not finished after all, quite the
contrary, it become that much more difficult. "You must track them,
Yuni. You're the only one who can."

"Sensei, I don't know, I-!" she blurted shakingly, then her
voice cut off.

"You are young, but you must trust yourself." He stopped and
coughed violently, his elderly frame shuddering. "You have learned all I
can teach." He felt lighter all of a sudden, his pain flowing away in a
kind of white heat. He could also sense his comrades gather around him.
"Wen Ho... you must lead now."

The short, Chinese man nodded solemly. "I shall, old friend.
Rest well, you have earned it."

Hajime smiled, even as he felt his sould slip away. "Goodbye...
my friends..." His head turned to the side and he breathed his last.

Cradling his body in her arms, Yuni bent over him and sobbed
while Li Chun embraced the smaller girl from behind.

They had lost one of their own today, and that wouldn't be
forgotten, or forgiven.

"MOTHER!" Tatewaki yelled. "Unhand her villainous monster!"

Drakon merely turned toward Kuno and growled menacingly,
warning the kendoist away. But Tatewaki refused to be cowed as he
advanced on the creature, his sword crackling with lightning.

Nodoka also continued to move forward, following an imperitive
she didn't understand. Somewhere in the back of her mind lingered the
realization that her katana was burning, but that was ignored over the
much stronger compulsion to destroy the darkness before her.


Soun glanced sideways as Genma emerged from the ruined remains
of the building in human form, apparently having found hot water inside.
He was limping slightly and holding his ribs. "Saotome! Are you

"What's she doing, Tendo!?" Genma cried. "She's going to get
herself killed!" He wanted to get in there and help her, but he was
barely able to move himself, compounding his feelings of helplessness.

"She's seemes to be doing better than we were," Soun remarked.

And it was the truth. Every attack that came her way, she
managed to turn aside. Swipes with a tail or a claw, she parried or
dodged. Blasts of freezing breath were incinerated. In fact, Kuno's
magic sword was helping him in much the same way. Still, the dragon's
actions were keeping them at bay, and it was all they could do to fend
off the attacks.

Drakon took another couple of steps back and spread his wings,
preparing to take flight. He had decided that since he had what he came
for, it was time to leave. However, the big appendages made excellent
targets. A crackling bolt of lightning impacted the right wing, while a
stream of fire struck the left. Drakon roared in pain, his anger
increasing. The fragile structures were now hanging in tatters, too
damaged to enable flight. They would also require too much time to
regenerate, time he didn't have.

He stomped his foot down hard, causing all the humans present
to lose their balance and fall to the ground. He then swiped his tail at
Tatewaki, who just barely managed to bring the sword up in time. Still,
the contact sent him flying into a pile of rubble.

That's when he noticed his captive trying to communicate with
him, telepathically.

Lady Kuno's thoughts told

he told her


Drakon snorted. He shook his
head. He forcefully cut the mental link.

Lady Kuno glanced downward at the two approaching figures. "Son, you cannot beat him. You don't have enough power,
not without all three swords!"

"Mother, not a single hair shall be harmed on thy head," he
spouted. "I shall save thee!"

she thought, despairingly.

It was almost like he was aware of her on some primal level.
His surroundings disappeared, leaving just him and her as the only
things in existence. He literally sensed her soul, and it was fading

He could feel the emptiness inside her that once once filled
with her ki. It would regenerate with time, but time was something Akane
didn't have. Instead, he forced his own ki into that void, filling it,
keeping her alive as her own regenerated.

For the next hour, he was literally her life support.

But something unexpected was happening. Some of his ki was
being absorbed into her, even as her own was being absorbed into his.
Outside their bodies, her crimson aura mingled with his own deep azure,
creating strands of gold where they mixed.

Neither of them noticed this, however, as Ranma was too focused
on saving Akane, and she was unable to concentrate on much except
Ranma's presence.

For the next sixty minutes, their entire world was centered on
each other.

"Freeze Arrow!"

The female voice came out of the blue, as did the rapidly
moving ice spear. It struck the dragon's foot and expanded, covering the
dragon's leg up to it's thigh.

"Yes!" came the girl's voice again as she made herself known.
"Henki Ariko, supreme sorceress-in-training, strikes again!" The brown-
haired girl pranced into the courtyard, dragging a weakly struggling
Hikaru Gosunkugi with her. "Your turn, Hikaru-chan."
He took one look at what they were facing and very nearly
passed out. He had been learning a lot about magic from the book their
sensei had given them and it had boosted his confidence once he got a
couple of spells working. So far he had used them against bullies, which
were one thing, but this was a dragon!

As he thought about it now, he didn't know why he came along.
Somehow it all made sense back in Miyo's library. He had an overwhelming
need to see what the `dark power' the fortune teller sensed, and he
sensed Ariko felt the same. But now, looking up at the towering
monstrosity that could easily tear him up into little bits if it wanted
a light snack...

"I-I c-can't!" he whined.

Ariko sighed noisily. "Sure you can, I believe in you. Just use
the magic." She looked back up. "Uh oh." The dragon had noticed them,
and it didn't seem to be too happy about her attack. It opened it's
mouth, and a freezing blast of ice streaked toward them. Ariko thought
fast and raised her hands.

"Valis Wall!" The ice blast struck the barrier and parted around
them. "Hurry, Hi-chan. I can't keep it up... much longer..."

"Ariko..." Hikaru watched his partner in the arcane studies
struggle against the attack, and he knew he had to do something. Like
the battle at the mage compound half a year ago, a female in danger was
enough to compel him to act.

"Flare... Arrow!" The streak of flame parted the ice blast like
the Red Sea, before continuing on into the beast's mouth. Drakon was
forced to abort the attack in a fit violent coughing and gagging.

In response, he jumped up and came crashing back down. As his
clawed feet hit the ground, the very earth rippled, collapsing the rest
of the weakened walls. Nodoka cried out as she hit the ground, her
katana flying out of her hand and the flame winking out. Ariko activated
a quick levitation spell, grabbing Hikaru just before the shockwave hit
them. Genma and Soun crashed into each other as they tumbled to the
ground, but the worst effect, was what happened to Hinako.

The teacher fell to the ground with the rest of them, but her
fishbowl bounced into the air. It turned upside in mid-air, dumping the
water and fighting fish out and, upon hitting the ground, shattered into

Hinako promptly shrunk to child-size then glanced up in fear,
hoping Soun hadn't seen. To her horror however, he was gawking at her,
wide-eyed from the ground where he lay. It was quite obvious he had seen

Embarrassed, ashamed, and with tears leaking out of her child-
like eyes, Hinako Ninomiya ran out of the courtyard as fast as her
little legs could carry her.

Lady Kuno recovered from the jolt a few minutes later and
despaired as she viewed the battle scene. Her son was buried in rubble,
and this time she could see his hand sticking out and his sword laying
on the ground. He was quite unconscious.

The woman with the sword of flame was also down, encased in
ice. Drakon must have frozen her after the earthquake stomp. The other
two men that had come to help were not moving, and the last woman firing
those ki-blasts had disappeared. It was quite apparent that all of the
warriors arrayed against Drakon were down.

Except for two children.

The two little magic-users were standing at the far end of the
courtyard, somehow having escaped harm from the quake. She glanced back
up at Drakon, hoping that it was enough that he was victorious. By the
look in his eyes, she could tell it was not.

she told him, forging the mental link again.

he responded. The link was severed once more.

Lady Kuno cast about for a way to save her son and his friends,
and noticed the men were beginning to stir once more. "Get out of here!"
she cried. "He's going to kill all of you!"

The dragon began to sqeeze her, but she exerted what little
magic she had to keep from being crushed. However, it wouldn't last

Ariko reached inside, channeling most of her magic, and began
to chant. "Source of all power, light which burns beyond crimson, let
thy power gather in my hand. Fireball!"

The bright ball of orange flame was on target. Ariko could see
the hostage, but was able to control the fireball enough to avoid
hitting her, instead striking the dragon's jaw. It yelped in pain as
it's head was violently twisted to the left.

"H-he's t-too strong!" Hikaru yelled, his previous concentration
and courage leaving him again. His legs unconsciously took a step
backwards. "We have to get out of here!"

"No!" Ariko refused to go, pulling a book out of her backpack
and flipping through the pages. "There's got to be a strong enough spell
in here to kill a dragon!"

Hikaru's jaw dropped.. Even when faced with a 30 foot tall,
cold-breathing monstrosity, Ariko didn't appear to be the least bit
scared. Instead, she was determined to stand up to it, even when it
appeared to be hopeless.

the familiar thought ran through his
head. Another couple of steps brought him closer to the exit out
of the battlefield, and farther from Ariko.

That's why he wasn't in the way when the dragon attacked.

While Ariko was busy looking through her book of spells, Drakon
seized the opportunity to stomp forward, lower his head, and belt out
another freezing ice blast. Thanks to the internal damge caused by
Hikaru's earlier Flare Arrow, it wasn't as powerful, which was why the
dark dragon had gotten closer.

Ariko, so absorbed in searching the spellbook, didn't realize
Drakon had closed on her until she looked up to see the dragon's open
maw staring back at her. She yelped in fright as she tossed herself out
of the way, but the freezing breath caught her feet and encased them
ice. Losing her balance, she screamed as she fell forward, the spellbook
fluttering out of her hands and coming to rest several meters away.

Hikaru watched in horror as Drakon continued up the young
sorcereress's body, bestowing upon her the same icy caress he had given
her legs. Yet again, the young mage's fear was shoved aside in face of
the greater terror of of what would happen if he did nothing.

"Flare Arrow!" The reddish-orange bolt flew from his hands, but
the great beast sensed the magic this time, moving his head out of the
way as the fiery arrow zipped harmlessly on by.

Soun and Genma recovered enough to stand and get moving, having
heard the warning from the woman in the dragon's grip. Soun began to
quickly dig Tatewaki out of the rubble. Once freed, he grabbed the
unconscious youth and checked his vitals, releasing a breath of relief
when he realized the Kuno boy was okay.

The katana laying nearby crackled once, a single bolt of
electricity arcing through the air the strike Tatwaki in the chest. The
body spasmed from the impact, then the boy's eyes shot open.

So suprised and startled was Soun, that he wasn't able to act
while Tatewaki laept to his feet, grabbed the katana, and returned to
the battle.

Genma had made a beeline for his wife, shock and fear foremost
among his emotions when he realized her condition. Wasting no time, he
grabbed the katana and aimed carefully. He swung
the blade down in a clean stroke, splitting and shattering the ice off
of her. Her then cradled her cold body in his arms as he held her close,
hoping to warm her by his own body heat as he prepared to leave the

His insides were screaming for him to rend the hated beast limb
from limb, but his first concern was his wife. However, he didn't get
the chance. As he picked up the katana and turned to leave, Nodoka's
eyes fluttered open.


"No-chan!?" Genma gasped. "Are you okay?"

"What... happened?"

He blinked. "Don't you know?" "You were fighting with a fiery katana."

Her brow creased in puzzlement. "Genma, what are you saying?"
She suddenly patted herself, her face darting around rapidly. "My sword!
Where is it!?"

Interpreting her signals, he set her on her feet and held up
the weapon. "Right here." His brow crinkled in confusion, but his eyes
showed surprise when she grasped the handle and the blade flared up

Genma's expression changed to shock as her seemingly attitude
changed, right in front of him. Before she seemed weak and somewhat
scared, but now, she looked strong, determined, and ready to fight.

She pushed passed her husband, sword up and blazing, ready to
do battle once more.

Hikaru wasn't through yet either, the mostly-frozen form of
Ariko was still in danger. "Flare Bit!" Dozens of small orange balls
appeared in between his outstretched hands and shot towards the dragon,
bombarding him with the fiery assault.

His larger opponent backpedaled under the onslaught, his arms
flailing, his roar of surprise and pain loud. The clawed fist containing
his hostage suddenly opened, and Lady Kuno went flying through the air
with a shriek.

Tatewaki watched in horror as his mother sailed through the
air. He was unable to do anything to help her, being too far away to
catch her. Still, he sprinted across the battlefield towards the pile of
rubble he had calculated as her landing point. The impulse was still
pounding through his veins, the siren song of the sword calling for him
to ignore the woman and return to fighting the dark abomination. But for
the first time, he fought against it, his will overturning the one
streaming from his weapon.

He didn't make it in time.

Lady Kuno's body hit the piled of ruined cement blocks and iron
piping, making a sick crunching sound as it partly swallowed her. With
tears stinging his eyes, the young swordsman leapt to where his mother
lay, half-buried in her concrete bed, dropping his blade upon the
ground. Her eyes were unfocused, yet they seemed to pierce his soul as
she turned her gaze upon him. The muted warrior's part of his mind noted
that there seemed to be too much blood dampening her torn and tattered
kimono, turning the blue material a sickly, dark brown.

"Mother..." he gasped, the tightness in his throat barely able
to lend him speech capability at all.

"I'm... sorry, Tatchi," she replied, her voice barely above a
whisper. "It appears... my time has... come."


Hikaru Gosunkugi, mage-wannabe for most of his life, was
finally tapping the forces he had long sought after as he drove the
dragon back. But he was too caught up his command of the literal fire
power he wielded, to realize what it was doing inside him. He was being
changed, his body beginning to crave the high the magic gave.

"Val-Flare!" He finished by launching one of his strongest
blasts, that sent Drakon to the ground in a fiery explosion. He then
turned and layed his hands on the frozen girl, warmth spreading from his
palms and enveloping her.

Ariko's eyes opened and met his as the last of the ice melted
away. Her lips twisted into a small smile and her gaze softened, as if
to tell him, "I knew you could do it." Despite himself, Hikaru couldn't
help blushing a little, his guard dropping.

The moment was short-lived, and Ariko's eyes widened in horror
and shock as she beheld the dragon rear up behind the young boy. She
tried to scream, to say anything, but her vocal cords were still a
little numb from the ice. Still, he noticed her expression change, but
was too slow to prevent the scaled claw from grabbing him and squeezing,
the other hand batting the girl and sending her tumbling across the
embattled courtyard.

Being physically weak, Hikaru's struggles came to naught, and
only succeeded in furthering his trip to unconsciousness.

Drakon then turned to a certain pile of rubble where a woman
lay half-buried and a young man knelt over her, intent on finishing off
his originial target.

Lady Kuno was suddenly suddenly aware of Drakon's attention on
them, and she weakly reached up and tried to push her son away, even as
he tried to free her body from the rubble. "You must... go, Tatchi."

"No, I just have to get you to a hospital and you'll be fine!"
His voice was near-hysterical, his vision blurring from . "Then you can
make father well and we can be a family again! That is all Kodachi and I
really wanted: To be part of a real family! You cannot take that away
from us again! YOU CAN'T!" The last was belted out as a fevered demand.

Touched by her son's needs and desires, the woman who was his
mother and yet was not, found tears drawn to her own eyes. But she was
out of time. Behind her son, the dark dragon was opening its mouth, and
her mystic sight could detect the energies gathering for the attack.

"I wanted... to see you and `Dachi grow up. Forgive me."

He stopped his frantic excavation and met her tearful gaze with
his own. She placed her hands on his chest and the next thing Tatewaki
Kuno knew, an invisible force had tossed several meters away. His head
came up just in time to see a large, dark blue beam of energy crash into
the pile where he had been kneeling a moment before. The debris exploded
in a shower of icicle shards.

His anquished cry echoed throughout the battlefield. "MOTHER!"

"Let him go!" the young girl screamed, finally regaining the use
of her voice.

Her eyes began to glow even as a violent tempest whipped around
her small form. The winds tornado'ed upwards from her feet while the
white ribbon tied around her ponytail, unwound and fell off. The net
effect was that her mid-back length, brown locks shot upwards, held
there by the gathered forces swirling around her.

Drakon froze in outrage as he witnessed and felt the sheer
magical energy the young girl was channeling. In his left hand, Hikaru's
limp form stirred slightly. His head lifted a bit as his left eye
cracked open, sensing the power building around her, and it both scared
and awed him at the same time.

She reiterated her command in a more forceful tone. "LET...
HIM... GO!"

The dark dragon snarled and tightened his grip on his hostage.
"I think not." He spoke for the first time, his voice deep and throaty,
and sounding somehow... unnatural as it reverberated throughout the

Ariko didn't bother with a response, but let the magical
energies she had been gathering whip up harder around her, even as a
white glow began to outline her form. She thrust her hands forward and
there was a mighty flash of brilliant white.

The scaled claw holding the limp boy was suddenly forced open,
against the will of the owner. Hikaru fell listlessly for several feet,
then stopped in mid-air as Ariko psycho-kinetically caught him and
levitated his body to rest at her feet. She then turned her vengeful,
glowing eyes on her enemy.

The katana of Nodoka Saotome blazed in the darkening skies, as
her fighting instincts drove her forward. Genma stuck close to her,
knowing he couldn't stop her while she had the sword, but still wanting
to protect her. Soun had limped off the field, having realized there was
no longer anything he could do to help.

Tatewaki Kuno slowly regained his feet, then plucked his
discarded katana from the ground, brilliant blue bolts of electricity
crackling along the blade. He had nothing left to say, since there was
nothing to say. Only one imperitive was on his mind: the destruction of
the beast that had just taken his mother from him.

Together, these four were poised to confront Drakon for the
final time.

Seeing them approach and wanting to seize the initiative, the
dark dragon dropped to all fours and took to the air as they approached,
spraying the area with a wide burst of freezing breath.

Nodoka's katana flared brightly as a gout of flame leapt up to
absorb the attack, sheltering the others. Ariko's fist shot forward, and
an invisible force struck the dragon from the air, sending it crashing
into the ground. Immediately afterward, Kuno sprinted forward, his
katana discharging a long stream of lightning that covered the beast in
a blanket of electricity.

Drakon thought as he shakily regained his
feet. He had been fighting for too long and his bodily reserves were
beginning to wear out. If he was in his human form he knew he'd be far
from tired, but apparently this dragon form took more out of him.

So decided, he turned and took to the air once more... only to
come crashing back down as an unknown force grabbed his ankles and
slammed him back into the ground. He turned his head just in time to see
the martial artist with the large build hit him with several vacuum
blades that actually managed to rend his scales and open up gashes in
his flesh.

"Individually, we are unable to do much to it," Kuno shouted,
loosing another lightning bolt. "T'would be best if combined our

"I am with you, Kuno-san," Nodoka offered, Genma nodding beside

"Me, too!" Hikaru added, shakily rising to his feet. Somehow, in
the presence of the courage of those around him, his initial fear had
faded. He had seen what the beast had offered, and born witness to these
men and women who refused to give up. Some of that was rubbing off on

Drakon had other ideas, striking with another ice blast that
Nodoka incinerated. But under the cover of the thick steam that
resulted, he lanced out with his tail, sweeping his opponents off their
feet and then leaping in the the air once more.

"The vile beast doth flee from my rightful vengeance!" Tatewaki

"Not if I have anything to say about it!" Ariko screamed, her
white aura intensifying. She lanced out with both hands and clenched her
fists, and Drakon suddenly found himself halted in mid-air. "NOW!"

They struck as one, Kuno's lightning flaying the dragon, while
Nodoka bathed it in fire. Genma launched wave after wave of vacuum
blades, the only attack he had that seemed to work on the beast. Hikaru
raised his hands, sweating as he tried to channel every ounce of magical
power he could. A ball of deep crimson red mass of magical energy formed
in front of him.

"Vice Flare!" The ball lanced into a beam that rocketed upwards,
the retro-force knocking the young boy onto his rear. But his aim was
true, the attack impacting the ebony dragon perfectly. The resulting
explosion flared so brightly, all were forced to shield their eyes from
the the miniature sun.

But when the the nova finally died, Drakon was nowhere in

Hikaru was awed by the sheer power of the attack, becoming
light-headed when he realized he had been part of that.
Then he turned to look at Ariko, and his heart dropped into his stomach,
his giddyness extinguished. She was laying on ground, unmoving. He
rushed to her side and turned her over onto her back, somewhat relieved
to see her still breathing, if a bit shallow.

Then he noticed her hair had turned completely white.

Her breathing was slow, but it was steady. She would live, and
the thought lifted Ranma's heart and eased his burden.

As the campfire blazed, he watched her sleep from where he sat
beside her, knowing he should get some rest as well. It would be night
soon and they had quite a bit of travel to do tomorrow to get back home.

Every once and awhile, she would moan, toss and turn, as if she
was having some sort of bad dream. In response, he would brush her
cheek, whisper that he was here and that everything was alright, and she
would settle back down.

Of course, he'd never have the guts to do this sort of inane
thing while she was awake...

It was funny, he decided. A year ago he'd never thought he'd be
acting like this now; that one girl could come to mean so much to him.
The memories of all they had been through together floated through his
mind; some happy, some sad, yet he knew that if it was the only way he
could be with her, he'd do it all over again. Nothing else mattered.

A strange feeling passed through him as he watched her. He had
always been hesitant to get married, even after realizing that he loved
her. After all, he didn't know the first thing about being a husband,
seeing as how his only example was his own father and Tendo-san. He had
watched the interaction between his parents, and it didn't take a genius
to see they didn't get along too well.

What kind of husband would he be? Would he be able to take care
of her? Could he provide for her like a good husband should? Or would he
screw up and lose her forever?

Looking at her peacefully sleeping face, he suddenly realized
he wanted to find out. He was still scared at the prospect of failing,
but if he didn't try, he knew he'd regret it. He decided to look at like
a personal challenge; a challenge he intended to win.

After all, Ranma Saotome Doesn't Lose.

He half-smiled at his iinazuke. "Hey Akane, wanna get married
when we get back?" Naturally, he didn't expect an answer from the
sleeping girl.

"You really mean that?"

Ranma blinked, startled at the unexpected response. Akane
rolled over on her side to look at him, her big brown eyes wavering with
reflected firelight.There was a pause as they gazed at each other, then
Ranma realized she was waiting for an answer. A year ago, shoot, even a
few months ago he would have balked at the commitment marriage entailed.

But that was then.

He nodded slightly, his face reddening. "I-I mean, if ya don't
mind, I don't mind. Ya know, before somethin' else happens and... well,
you know." His mind slowly realized he was starting to babble, and it
berated him for how much of an idiot he was beginning to sound like.
Fortunately, Akane came to the same conclusion and put a pair of fingers
of his mouth to quiet him.

"You asked me several months ago, and my answer still stands,"
she replied with a smile made him catch his breath, especially with the
fire dancing in her eyes, and not from the campfire. She nearly giggled
at his stupified expression.


She brought up her ring hand, the one with the small inlaid gem
in a ying-yang symbol. "In case you're too dense to figure it out, I
said yes then, and I still mean it."

"Hey!" he protested, but he lost the apprehension.

She patted the space next to her. "Now get down here, silly. We
both need plenty of rest and I need a pillow." Her tone took on a tone
of mock severity. "But no perverted stuff!"

Ranma's mouth quirked, once, then he slowly laid down on his
back next to her. She snuggled up to his side, laying her head on his
shoulder. For several minutes, the only sounds were of the fire
crackling, the crickets singing, and the sounds of two people breathing.
Occasionaly, the hoot of an owl echoed in the distance.

"I love you, Ranma Saotome," Akane said softly, marveling at how
easy that phrase was to say compared to a year ago. "You know that?"



*Thump!* "And!?"

"Ow, jeez." Ranma rubbed his chest, grinning. "I love you, too,
Akane Tendo."

Satisfied and contented, Akane drifted off to a peaceful sleep,
Ranma following shortly thereafter.

The black-robed individual parted the low-hanging tree branches
and bushes, and stepped into the clearing. It wasn't a clearing a few
moments ago, but a vibrant, verdant part of the forest, until an object
fell out of the sky and crashed into it.

He was immediately assaulted by a strong, acrid, burnt meat
smell, and he delighted in the aroma as he surveyed the damage. After
gaining a good look at it, he stepped up to the head, amused to find it
still alive.

Darmondo tsked. "Ah, Drakon. You played your part well. Pity
that your loyalty blinds your intelligence."

The bloody and charred dragon opened it's one good eye
slightly, smoke still wafting from its body. "You... how did... you

"That this would happen?" Drakon could sense the smirk from
under the wizard's robed hood. "I didn't, not really. Oh I knew you had
a good chance of killing the Lady in Blue, but I had pawns in place to
make sure you wouldn't survive to make it back. Speaking of which, how
are my two-little magic users? They make great apprentices!"

The creature that was once Drakon, coughed up clouds of steam.

"You should know the answer to that," he replied, darkly.
"You're not that stupid. When our true lord and master returns, I will
finally attain the knowledge and power I seek. The wisdom of the ages,
the knowledge of the ancients, and the secrets of the universe will all
be mine to unlock."

"So lives... mean nothing... to you?" The weariness is his voice
was evident, as was the contempt.

"The only thing that matters to me is that I get what I want!"
Darmondo snarled. "These pitiful human lives mean nothing! They scurry
and scamper about, never realizing their potential, happy to lead their
insignificant existences, and blissfully ignorant of the true powers
around them! I do not care one way or the other if they get squashed
along the way. If I can use them, then they should consider it an honor.
Like my two mages."

The dark sorcerer stepped back and shook his head. "But enough
of this. You were a threat, so I had you eliminated, and in such a way
that will not point to me. Two more must die before my dreams can be
realized, but any more that get in my way will end up the same."

He turned his back to the dying dragon and began to walk out of
the clearing. Just before he re-entered the forest however, he stopped
and help up his left palm. "Do not think I'm completely without mercy,"
he said, and Drakon's eye widened as a ball of black light formed in the
wizard's hand, contained by a faint purple hue. With an almost casual
attitude, he tossed it back at the dragon.


There was a flash of an ebony explosion, and when it was over,
the clearing was empty.


Author's notes:

No, I'm NOT doing a crossover with Slayers. I'm only using the spells
because many people who like Ranma 1/2 also like Slayers, and are
familiar with the magic used. So this will hopefully give you readers a
nice visualization of the spells's effects. There will be NO Dragon
Slave, Giga slave, Rah Tilt, or Ragna Blade, etc.. No mazoku in this
world to draw power from. The only magic they can draw from is the

Now, finally, this arc is out of the way! And the last chapter is twice
as big as my previous chapters! I didn't plan it this way, it just sort
of ended up like that.

Kodachi is back, for all you Kodachi fans, so expect to see more of her
in the story from now on. Ryu showed up, though he left at the end and I
don't know when you might see him again. I still haven't decided if
Natsume and Kurumi will stick around, you'll just have to see. Zhao Len
is back and she's got control of Kenji, or at least the body that was

And one more favorite cursed character will finally appear in the next

At lastly, Konatsu and Yuri. All of the fics I read, Konatsu either gets
shafted, or somehow hooks up with Ukyo (or Akari, though what's the deal
with that!?!?). 90% of the time he gets shafted. I like ALL of the
characters, because that's what makes Ranma 1/2 entertaining, and I'm a
softie at heart, so I try to give fair treatment to all of them.

So, I gave him somebody, I'll admit it, I created a character for him to
love. For those of you who think his conversion from Ukyo to Yuri was
too fast, remember that he fell in love with Ukyo just because she was
nice to him. What do you think would happen if a girl kissed him?

So, who passed and who failed? Well, I'll mostly leave that up to you to
decide, but I'll say that Ranma and Akane's trials are definitely not

What's next? Well, the next volume is `Bonds and Connections'. It will
deal with the next wedding attempt of Ranma and Akane. Will this one
succeed? Will it go off without a hitch? Stay tuned and find out!!!!

It will also focus and expand on the myriad character relationships that
have sprung up, both in the manga and my fic, as wel as shed much light
into what's happening, why, and tie together many loose ends. To all
that have read this far, many of your questions will be answered by that
volume's end.

Thanks to everyone who helped me with this.... which is not a whole lot,
to tell the truth. I get a few e-mails from people who tell me they want
to see more, so I guess a few folks out there like it. But nobody has
much, if any, comments or suggestions, so I'm going on the assumption my
work is perfect!

I will thank MWhaleK, who provided me with an invaluable list of
techniques in Japanese. Thank you!!!!!!!

If you disagree, tell me!

Another work by Brad the Kaiphantom (because every writer needs a cool