Author's Notes –
More ideas out of my head. Let me know what you think.
No, I do not own Ranma ½ or any of Rumiko Takahashi's works. I also don't own anything done by Ken Akamatsu. I can only aspire to be as successful as either of them, though given how strict publishing laws are in the US I seriously doubt that I can become that successful through this medium of Fanfiction.
The usually busy Cat Café was unusually quiet today. A somber and sober atmosphere filled the air, making it all the more awkward for the handful of guests that entered.
"So, you all came," the owner of the café stated as she gazed at the quintet of guests.
"Yeah," the raven haired boy replied.
"Have a seat, son-in-law."
The air was thick with tension as the five seated themselves across from the ancient Amazon despite the barb.
"Why'd you call me out here?" the pigtailed martial artist asked as he eyed the matriarch.
Wrinkled eyes narrowed as they focused on the young man. "I know that your fool of a father promised his fool of a friend that you would marry one of his daughters to unite your schools."
Soun Tendo and Genma Saotome nodded.
"But our laws demand that you marry Shampoo," the crone added. "You defeated her in combat, and it is her responsibility to bring you back to our tribe as her husband."
"If it's her responsibility than why are you here?" the youngest Tendo exclaimed.
Cologne's piercing eyes locked with the fiery Tendo's, prompting Ranma to put his hand and arm before Akane. The gesture wasn't lost to anyone.
"Though she maybe the most talented Amazon of her generation, she has a long ways to go before I can accept her as my heir," the master martial artist stated. "But if she were to have your child, that child could well be the greatest warrior my people has seen in their history.
"Your rival, Ryoga, has mastered the Breaking Point, and did so without scarring himself, a feat that only I have done. Shampoo is not yet at the point where she is ready to undergo that training even, and she's a champion."
"So why not have Ryoga marry into your tribe?" Genma suggested.
"Because as good as he is, none of our warriors has lost to him," Cologne stated. "If he were to fight one I am certain he'd win, and thus have an Amazon warrior hound him as Shampoo has hounded you. But that is neither here nor there. We're here to discuss you, son-in-law.
"Shampoo and I did what was necessary to prevent you from marrying her, but if you truly persist in trying to marry her, we will simply have to step up our attempts to take you back with us and remove all obstacles that would dare to bar our path."
It was Ranma's turn to glare at the ancient master. "So you'd kill her," he stated.
"You can't imagine what we'd do to her and her family," Cologne stated. "Do you seriously think that you can defeat me child?"
"Yes," Ranma replied. "I used to think that you'd gone easy on me back when we fought over the Phoenix Pill, but then I realized, despite all your control and all the techniques you knew, you couldn't keep fighting on that level for much longer without serious risks to yourself. That's when you started pushing for a different approach to getting me to come back with you to China."
Cologne scowled. The boy really was much more observant that she or anyone gave him credit for. "We'll have you or no one will have you."
The tension in the air increased, nearly suffocating the others as the two martial artists glared at each other.
"I guess this meeting's over," Ranma stated.
Behind him the others stood. Slowly they made their way out of the café.
"You've been warned," Cologne exclaimed. "Whatever happens is on your head."
Mousse was not happy. Though he knew that Cologne and Shampoo wanted Ranma to come back to China with them, the myopic martial artists knew that it would never happen. Having fought Ranma the most of the Amazons, the near-sighted master of hidden weapons knew that the proud fighter would never subjugate himself to either Cologne or Shampoo. Sure, they could hate him and even cry, but there was only so much that Ranma was willing to put up with. And this - this was definitely going too far. It wasn't a case of the straw that broke the camel's back, this wasn't even a declaration of war – it was a fucking nuke.
Though he had never eaten Akane Tendo's cooking, the myopic one knew that her cooking had floored Ranma and Ryoga several times. If anyone could survive being poisoned, it was Ranma. Unfortunately, the others weren't as fortunate to have his iron constitution.
But trapped as he was in his cursed form, there was little that he could do to warn Saotome and the Tendos. Not only had the old ghoul taken each of her targets into account, she'd plotted and planned everything perfectly.
Well, not perfectly.
"You be good," Shampoo whispered as she pulled out the key to his chains and unlocked him.
As much as he disliked Ranma, Mousse would never wish that fate on his rival. But as good as he was he knew he didn't have a chance against Cologne. Ranma might, but he was too kind hearted to do what was needed. No, there was only one person left who could stand up to Cologne.
Total devastation greeted the Saotomes and the two Tendos as they returned to the Tendo household. It really wasn't a surprise considering that the dojo and house had been damaged during the failed wedding. Still, the sight was disheartening.
"Why don't we eat out?" Ranma suggested as his stomach began to growl. With even the kitchen in disarray, the pigtailed martial artist doubted that even Kasumi and his mom could serve them a nice meal. Then again, it was kind of hard to do given all the repair men stomping around the house.
"That's actually a good idea," Nabiki chimed in as she came down the stairs. "There's this new sushi shop that just opened up and they were handing out some coupons today."
Feeling his empty stomach turning, Ranma simply shrugged as the rest of the household voiced their opinions.
"Hey, with the price of all the repairs we need to save some money," Nabiki pointed out. "I'm sure Ranma can get some free food around town, but the rest of us aren't as fortunate."
Though the others (Genma and Soun) groused, none dared to refute Nabiki's argument.
The tiny corner restaurant was virtually empty save for the lone chef behind the bar.
"Ah, customers," the thin man smiled. "Please, have a seat at the bar."
Eight seats lined one side of the bar with three more along the end of the bar. Taking seven of the eight seats the Saotomes and Tendos eyed the chilled fish.
"You're my first customers," the chef and owner stated as he pulled out his knife.
"Why am I not surprised?" Nabiki mumbled as she eyed the dingy shop. Still, the bar and the seats at the bar appeared to be clean and up to par.
Before anyone even looked at the menu the slightly nervous chef handed them a large plate ten slices of sushi and ten slices of sashimi. "Please, this is on the house," the man insisted. "To celebrate my first customers."
Never one to turn down free food, Genma and Soun quickly snapped their chopsticks. Grabbing some wasabi, they poured soy sauce over it and blended the two ingredients in their own tiny dishes.
Knowing her husband and having seen the chaos that usually erupted over any meal, Nodoka quickly set a slice of sashimi and sushi on everyone's plate, leaving the extra slices and the ones for Genma and Soun on the original plate.
"What kind of fish is this?" Kasumi asked as she eyed the pinkish flesh.
"Why not try it and guess?" Soun teased as he dipped a slice in his brownish soy sauce. Setting it back on the white radish, he threw it into his mouth.
Beside him Genma did the same, though he'd managed to down two slices already.
In a matter of moments all twenty slices had been devoured.
"Hmmm, that's pretty tasty," Ranma remarked as he eyed the menu. Having had two slices (one sashimi and one sushi) he was curious as to what type of fish it was. "Can I get more of that?"
"Sure," the chef replied. "I just need to get more from the refrigerator."
"Hey, get some more red snapper and some squid too," Genma added as eyed the selection of fish behind the glass. "And some hot sake."
The man bowed before quickly retreating to the back.
"Ohhh…" Akane groaned.
"This is why I don't eat anything raw," Nabiki groaned as she clutched her stomach.
Ranma glanced at the others. Clearly something was wrong.
Slamming her hand to the counter, Kasumi dug her nails into the hardwood, scratching the sealed and finished dark wood.
"IT HURTS!" Nabiki growled as she ripped her blouse off, her clawed hands tearing into her flesh.
"NOO!" Soun cried out as he emptied the contents of his stomach.
Genma slammed his head against the glass, shattering it and opening up a long cut on his forehead. A greenish-brown tinge replaced his normally pale complexion. Strong, nimble fingers elongated even as the nails on his fingers grew into menacing claws. New muscles grew, expanding the skin. Clothes strained to contain the new growth before slowly being torn apart.
"So, you didn't have any of the sushi," Cologne sneered as she appeared at the back door. "That's too bad. I had hoped to bring you back as one of them if the meat hadn't killed you outright."
"You!" Ranma roared as he spotted the diminutive figure. "What did you do to them?"
"I told you I'd remove all obstacles," she stated. "I tried to warn you, but you were too pig-headed to listen. But it's not too late for you. You can still come back to the village with us."
For the first time in his short life, rage and hate filled his eyes.
"I'll take that as a no," the ancient Amazon shrugged. "Pity, you are the greatest martial artist in over a hundred years. Oh well, I guess Shampoo will just have to settle for Ryoga."
Before Ranma could launch himself at the hated Amazon, he felt powerful claws rake his back. Rolling with the blow, he turned to face his attacker. Looking at the monsters before him he couldn't tell who had been whom as none of them appeared to have anything that identified them with who they had been. Each had sickly greenish-brown skin and the bulbous amphibian-like eyes, though it was the closest one who had blood dripping from his long, vicious claws.
"Mom?" he forced out. She had been the one closest to him at the bar.
Cologne forgotten, he focused on trying to identify his six companions. 'It was me, mom, pops, Mr. Tendo, Kasumi and Akane.'
Looking down the line, he tried to focus on a distinctive feature that would identify each one from the others.
'Mom's got four fingers; pop's is a bit heavier set; Mr. Tendo has two fingers and a thumb on each hand and is taller than pops,' he thought as he leapt onto the bar. 'Kasumi's slumped over; Nabiki's only half transformed; and Akane still has part of her bra.'
The creature, his mom, roared as she raised her powerful hand. Years of ingrained training propelled Ranma away from his mother's slow but vicious attack. The tiny restaurant offered little room for him to maneuver as the towering figures of his companions nearly touched the low ceiling.
"Mom!" he called out as he leapt over another swipe. "It's me, Ranma!"
Behind her the others roared. Akane and Mr. Tendo quickly turned on the slumped over girls, their wicked claws and powerful hands literally ripping their bodies into smaller, more manageable pieces before they began devouring them.
He wanted to scream, to tell them to stop, but he couldn't. All he could do was watch helplessly as the two Tendos devoured the others. And with his own transformed parents before him he couldn't even intervene physically.
Pure instinct and years of training his muscles and body allowed him to flow around their attacks. His mom attacked with her long arms, forcing him to leap out of her range. The sickening sound of Nabiki and Kasumi being devoured reached his ears despite his father's fierce howling as the stout monster joined the feast.
With only his mother to contend with, dodging was easy as he leapt off the wall or simply ducked under a swipe.
"Mom, it's me, Ranma," he called out, hoping that she would be able to beat whatever it was that Cologne did to her.
Using her long arms, she reached out for him, her clawed fingers seeking to imbed themselves in his soft flesh.
Undeterred, he caught her wrists. "Mom?"
Unbelievable brute power broke his tentative hold on her massive wrists, forcing Ranma to abandon his attempts to subdue his mother and break through to her.
A thundering roar filled the restaurant as Genma turned towards them. Nothing remained of Nabiki or Kasumi, leaving the hungry creatures to turn to the only other food source.
As was typical of the rotund Genma Saotome, he rushed in, seeing to claim the food for himself.
Ducking under the deadly claws, Ranma tripped his father, sending him crashing into the wall. Despite his increased bulk and power, Genma didn't crash through the reinforced wall.
'Not good,' he thought as he eyed his position.
Though he could leap over the others, he knew that he didn't have the room necessary to cleanly escape them. Unwilling to attack them, he could only hope that they'd leave an opening for him to escape. Still, there was only so much that he could do in the limited space that he had to work with. Dodging a swipe from his father, he left himself exposed as Mr. Tendo plowed into him.
Powerful, three fingered hands dug into his side as Mr. Tendo pinned him down. Roaring, he opened his gaping maw, exposing rows upon rows of shark-like teeth. Powerful muscles added by gravity brought his head down as he clamped its teeth down onto Ranma's shoulder.
His vision blurred even as he fought through the pain. "I'm sorry," he mumbled as darkness threatened to consume him. "I couldn't protect any of you… I couldn't even save you."
Fighting back tears he struck the creature with the Gaito Retsugan Dan. Despite the thick skin that now protected Mr. Tendo and the fact that he had not mastered the attack, his attack pierced the thick hide. Slipping his hand through the tough muscle and strong bones, he gripped Mr. Tendo's heart before brutally squashing it.
The Mr. Tendo's muffled roar of anguish caused his teeth to rip into Ranma's shoulder even more despite the fact that the Mr. Tendo was in his death throes. With the hold over him loosening, the pigtailed martial artist managed to get out from underneath his attacker though Mr. Tendo's teeth remained imbedded in his shoulder.
Another creature rushed in, kicking him hard enough to dislodge him from the other creature's mouth though it left him without the muscles on his shoulder. Had Ranma been all there he would have realized that it was his father kicking him.
Ignoring the pain, the broken boy reached for his mother's discarded sword. With only one working hand he unsheathed the blade, cutting off one of the creature's foot as it ran towards him. Unbalanced, the creature crashed into the sushi bar as Ranma rolled to his feet.
Armed, Ranma no longer gave up a considerable reach advantage to the monsters. Though he only had the use of one arm, it gave him another edge over his lumbering opponents.
The closest standing creature rushed him.
Ducking under the creature's strike, the pigtailed boy lashed out, cutting the creature in two.
The lingering light of day shone brightly in the office window, illuminating the room as two men sat across from each other.
"That's great news," the older man stated. "Truly an occasion worth celebrating."
One, the older of the two, stroked his long, white beard while the younger of the two poured some liquor for the both of them.
"Yes, it is," the younger man replied as he handed the first cup to the older man.
"To Konoka," the wrinkled man toasted.
"To Konoka," the taller man replied as he raised his cup.
The sound of several hurried steps approaching the large double doors interrupted the toast, announcing the sudden presence of the older man's assistant.
"Sir," the busty young blond exclaimed. "I'm sorry to bother you at such a time," she added, "but an emergency has come up."
Both men turned to face the blond, still clutching their drinks as they did so.
"A monster has been spotted in Nerima," the woman explained.
"Nerima?" the younger man scoffed. "There are always monsters showing up there. With the number of world class martial artists they have there, I'm surprised that they'd even ask for assistance."
The old man quickly knocked back his drink. "Be that as it may, we may have to investigate it. If there is a monster on the loose we should be ready to assist as needed."
The taller man shrugged as he knocked back his drink in one fell swoop. "I guess you are closer, but my escort and I are faster. If you want we can check up on things since most of your staff are probably off for the summer holidays."
"How kind," the Dean smiled, "but just in case, why don't we have Takamichi accompany you? It's been a while since the two of you have worked together, but I'm sure he's the best one for the job.
"Now, let us see what kind of monsters we're dealing with."
Motioning towards his wall, he summoned his scrying pool. "Now, let us see what transpires in Nerima."
With a wave of his hand the clear waters in the marble stand slowly shifted, taking on the image of a city as though being viewed from the sky. Slowly the image shifted as the buildings grew bigger and less distant. Soon, the image of a large creature with blotchy green and brown skin running through the street came into focus.
"A Lost Soul."
"You know of these creatures?" the blond asked.
The younger man nodded. "Those creatures are very hard to kill."
"How hard?" the shriveled old man asked.
"They're immortal," he added as he reached for his sword. "Cut off their head, destroy their brain, or burn them completely. Everything else they'll heal from eventually."
The Dean nodded grimly. "Shizuna, call Takahata immediately."
Nerima was no stranger to chaos and fighting. Many world class martial artists called the district home, and given the temperament of the young fighters, fights were an everyday occurrence. Unfortunately nothing that had happened before prepared the residents for what they experienced today.
"Foul creature, I, the Blue Thunder of Furinkan, shall smite you," the kendoka declared as the fierce monster advanced.
Drawing his feared weapon, he lashed out. Though his weapon fell well short of his opponent, the force of his strikes hit home as the pressure of the displaced air collided with the rampaging monster.
"So," Kuno exclaimed as he assessed his work, "you can take a beating – well none deliver divine punishment like the Blue Thunder can!"
Fierce thrusts pierced the monster's already flayed skin as blood flowed freely. A final thrust pierced the creature's heart, prompting the creature to shudder then slump to its knees.
"Hahaha!" Satisfied with vanquishing the foul creature, Kuno extracted his weapon from the creature's heart. "Such is the might of the Blue Thunder of Furinka-ahh!"
The arrogant kendoka screamed in pain as the creature sunk its teeth into his leg. Stabbing pain ran up his other leg as the creature dug its claws into his other calf.
Unable to use his legs, the kendoka resorted to bashing the creature over the head and shoulders. "Cursed beast – ah! You shall not de-ahh defeat the Blue Thunder!"
Using its size to its advantage, the creature pulled him down to the ground despite the pummeling that it was receiving.
Only a well placed sword kept the creature from mauling him anymore.
Kuno looked up momentarily before composing himself again. "Saotome," he growled as he stabbed the creature in the eye. Tatewaki immediately banished the thought of needing Saotome's assistance, attributing it instead to the fact that Saotome had arrived at the last second to steal his kill.
Opening his mouth to voice just that, he noted the odd posture that the younger fighter had.
'Something is wrong,' he mused as he noted the lack of life in Ranma's eyes. The normally bright blue eyes sparkled with life and energy, but today, they were dead and lifeless. It was as though Ranma were simply going through the motions of slaying the creature. Almost as though he were enscrolled…
The accursed pigtailed boy stood over the thrashing beast, sword in hand. Said sword appeared to have pierced the monster's heart, causing it to shake violently in its apparent death throes. Fresh blood marred his normally pristine red silk shirt and pants, some of it his and some clearly from the beasts as the dark greenish-brown mixture stained the silk.
Momentarily free of the beast, Kuno managed to get to his feet. "What manor of foul magic is this?" he demanded. "The beast took a beating that even you would not have been able to get up from."
The other fighter seemed to ignore him. Extracting his sword, Ranma viciously stomped on the creature's back before stabbing it again. The creature shuddered violently then lay still.
Apparently satisfied that it was dead, the pigtailed boy left.
"Foul sorcerer," Tatewaki grumbled as he pulled himself to his feet. "More than likely, Saotome summoned these creatures just so that he could claim the glory of killing them himself."
Prodding the creature, the injured Kuno failed to notice that the creature's arm moved until it was too late. Mighty muscles in its arm and chest allowed it to push itself off of the ground while the other arm reached out, stabbing its three clawed fingers into Kuno's chest.
Powerful claws ripped through his chest, breaking ribs as the creature pulled itself onto its feet and drove the kendoka to his knees as the weight of his injuries hit him.
The last thing he was the creature's vicious teeth and disgusting tongue as the creature bit into his head.
Nerima was in chaos. In the handful of months that she'd been there the ancient Amazon had never seen things get to this point. As a fighter herself, Cologne knew that the 'chaos' generated by their fights was actually pretty structured as the fighters sought high ground or other ground that favored their strengths.
But watching the chaos unfold as civilians rushed through the streets was something altogether different. This was true chaos.
Still, the old crone didn't care. True, some of them had been good and loyal customers, but only because they lacked the culinary skills of centuries that she had.
"You know," a sagely voice called out, "I can't let you get away with this."
"Why Happi?" the Amazon asked as she turned to face her long time rival. "It's not as though you cared for any of them. Even you threw the fight when you realized what was in store for you had you won our fight back then."
"I was younger back then," he conceded. "But you have no right to impose your archaic laws on anyone else. Ranma didn't know, and your granddaughter's foolish pride as well as your peoples', is what is going to doom you. You've angered Ranma, and I know that the boy will do anything in his power to avenge his loved ones on you. But if I end things here your granddaughter and the others will have a chance to make amends."
"Ha," she scoffed. "You're doing this for me?"
"No," he shook his head. "I'm doing this for the others. I've let too many people get involved in your schemes just because I was entertained by them, but no more."
The ancient Amazon raised her brow.
"I know that when you discovered I was here you wanted revenge for what I did to the Amazons all those centuries ago. You knew that you couldn't force Ranma to come back with Shampoo, but you used her as justification for lashing out at the boy as a means of getting back at me. You also used him to get back at me as well, pitting me against my heir so that you could test me.
"Perhaps I should not have let you play your last card, but it all ends today. Shampoo will go back in disgrace and without your support she will lose her warrior status. If she doesn't accept her demotion, than that's up to her. If she does, than Mousse has a chance at winning her heart. She might have children, but they'll have to prove themselves to your council and without you around it'll be all the more difficult."
"My people need me!" Cologne snapped. "I have guided them for nearly two centuries! Everything I did was to ensure that my peoples' traditions would last. Four thousand years of tradition! Do you know what means?
"You, the master who was sealed away by your own students for nearly two decades – what would you know about tradition and doing right by your students?"
"You're right, I once thought only of myself," he replied. "And since escaping from the cave I've learned to enjoy life. True, I have often butted heads with the youngsters and you, but I've never forced my views on them. I may have provoked them with my antics, but I've never forced my ideals on them.
"But that's the difference between me and you - I've learned from my mistakes, so has Ranma. We've adapted, you haven't. That's the difference between us and you. While we have allowed traditions to mold us, we don't let them restrain us or define us. By following your traditions, or at least the ones you wish to follow, you've doomed your people."
Still scowling at her one-time suitor, she reconsidered her options. Though both were grandmasters, neither one knew all the other's tricks. Still, the battle would not last long. Neither would be holding back, but neither was capable of going all out for very long either.
"So, are you ready?" he asked, taunting her as though he knew what she was thinking.
Launching herself at her rival she jabbed at him with her cane. Just as expected he parried with his pipe, redirecting the force of her attack as he attempted to send her flying into the ceiling. For anyone else the short trip to the low ceiling might have been disastrous, but to a master martial artist of her caliber she could easily turn things around.
Flipping around in the air, she planted her feet on the ceiling as she scanned the area for the arrogant martial artist. Creating several images of herself she pushed off of the ceiling. Several images moved to engage Happosai, distracting him so that she could find an opening. With a casual swipe he dispelled three of the images.
"Is that all you got?" he taunted. "You're a century too late to beat me with that trick."
Spotting an opening, the Amazon dashed in, lashing out with her cane. The feel of cloth and padding connecting with the wooden shaft nearly brought a grin to her face but the lack of any further substance told her that her opponent had avoided taking the hit.
Swinging around his pipe, the old pervert slammed in into her cane, shattering it with casual ease. With a flick of the wrist he threw a handful of crushed pepper at her. Rather than close her eyes and leave herself exposed to whatever else Happosai had in store for her, the weathered Amazon endured the hot peppers. Though they irritated her she knew that she could overcome the slight burning sensation in her eyes.
The founder of the Musabetsu Kakutō Ryū simply smiled as he pulled out a lit match. Spitting out a mouthful of sake into the flame, he lit her up.
The flames weren't strong enough to do any real harm, but the bright light combined with the pepper dust to her eyes left the Amazon momentarily blind. Landing on her feet she felt her opponent rush her, seeking to take advantage of her momentary handicap. A desperate parry allowed her to grab onto the sleeve of his robe. A simple twist and turn allowed her to throw him into a pile of pots and pans.
As the owner and master of the Cat Café, she knew just where she was and how far she was from the sink. If she wanted to win she'd have to wash her eyes out so that she'd at least have some vision. Leaping towards the sink, she threw the remains of her cane at the faucet. The sound of running water greeted her ears as she rushed to clean her eyes out. Jumping into the sink, she reached for her eyes even as the water cascaded over her.
Something was wrong. She couldn't move her hands. She didn't have arms much less hands. Falling into the bottom of the sink she realized that she didn't have legs either.
"Well, well, well," her rival's voice called out, "that went better than I expected. It's sad that I had to actually use this against you, but there's a city that needs its martial artists."
"Pool of drowned viper," the tiny man said as he stood atop the basin, cautiously turning off the water. "How fitting really. Crush the head of the snake and the body is useless. Just like how the Amazons are going to be once you're gone."
"Just kill her now," another voice stated. "We shouldn't give her any time to adapt to her new body."
"You're right lad," the old master replied. Pulling out his flask, he emptied it into the deep sink, dousing the snake with the alcoholic liquid. "You've set all the bombs?"
"Everything's set," Mousse proclaimed. "With Cologne dead and Shampoo returning to the village in disgrace, I can marry her without anyone interfering."
"She'll hate you, you know," the old man stated as he poured cooking oil into the sink.
Mousse shrugged. "She'll learn to be happy eventually."
"Good bye Cologne."
Coiling up, the vengeful Amazon turned deadly viper launched herself at the arrogant old man. Only the sudden intervention of a deadly blade prevented her from sinking her poison fangs into the little man.
"I told you she'd get used to her body," the younger martial artist chided.
"Guess you're right," Happosai lamented. "You better hope Shampoo doesn't turn out like her great-grandmother."
"Keep the customers safe," the brunette chef ordered as she eyed the two monstrous creatures.
Both had sickly greenish-brown molted skin, though the similarities ended there. The first appeared to be little some sort of serpentine creature with the torso of a humanoid while the second had two right forearms and mismatched legs that made it look as though it were limping as it walked.
Grabbing her battle gear, she eyed her trusty assistant. From the look in the cross-dressing ninja's face it was clear that he'd never faced anything like those creatures before.
Throwing her battle batter, she waited for the tell tale explosion of her customized weapon as she momentarily turned her back to the creatures. Hearing the loud 'puff' she turned around. As she'd hoped the two creatures were bound in the doughy trap.
A nod to her companion was all the signal she needed to give him as the male kunoichi rushed in, his ningato already drawn. A quick slash nearly took the head off of one creature though the impressive spray of blood did fill the air.
The sickening sound of her battle spatula connecting with the other creature's head echoed off the buildings, nearly making the battle hardened girl lose her stomach even as she used her weapon to push off of the creature and avoid getting caught in the dough. Landing well clear of the dough, she was surprised to see the creature continue to fight out of its sticky confines.
"Stop!" a voice called out.
The chef and waiter looked up at the newcomer.
"What do you mean?" Konatsu asked. "These monsters were terrorizing our customers."
"They're the Tendos," the male Amazon stated as he leapt off a building and landed on the street.
Both the chef and the waiter eyed the other boy.
"Cologne fed them mermaid's flesh," the myopic martial artist explained. "They've turned into… well, this."
"Bu-but we've already killed them," Ukyo exclaimed.
"They're immortal," Mousse explained as he reached into his robes. "The only way to kill them is to immolate them or cut their head off."
"Well, cooking them alive is going to leave a stench that is going to kill the restaurant," Ukyo remarked.
"We need to keep them trapped," Mousse interjected. "And keep Ranma away from them."
"Why?" the brunette turned to eye the Amazon.
"He's already killed of them five times," the Amazon explained. "The same one managed to kill Kuno."
"Five times?" the male kunoichi asked.
"The Principal, Tatewaki or Kodachi?"
Ukyo simply blinked as she absorbed the information. "He doesn't know how to kill them? He didn't stay to keep it from killing Kuno?"
"I didn't ask," the myopic fighter replied. "But… well, you know Ranma's not one to kill lightly. I don't think he'd be so cruel as to force the creature to endure five killing blows only to heal and be killed again. I.. I think he's finally lost it. He might not realize that he has to behead them to kill them for good."
Ukyo and Konatsu paused.
Though the ninja had a few encounters with Ranma, the pigtailed fighter had always been friendly if somewhat tactless. He might offend someone, but he rarely went out of his way to be cruel to anyone.
For Ukyo, the idea that the unbeatable and indomitable Ranma had been snapped was mind boggling.
"Why is it that you know so much about these creatures?" Konatsu asked.
"Because the Amazons have done this before," Mousse explained. "In the past we've secretly slipped the cursed flesh into the food of our enemies. Most die, but a few are turned into these. We've kept the few that are turned in a giant pit and allow our strongest fighters to test themselves against them. We also use feed them our enemies or those who break our laws.
"Cologne convinced someone who had a grudge against the Tendos and the Saotomes to feed them cursed meat. I wasn't able to stop her from but I was able to contact Happosai. I didn't see the start of the fighting, but I think Ranma snapped. Now if he does see the monsters, don't get in his way – I don't think that there's anything that can stop him right now. Just keep him from taking their heads off."
"What are you going to do?" Konatsu asked.
"I'm going to try the cursed water on them," Mousse replied as he put his glasses on. Checking the label of the vial he extracted from his robes.
The others nodded, understanding what he was trying to do.
"Could you cut off an arm for me?" Mousse asked as he turned to Konatsu. Though it was only a theory, Mousse hoped that his idea worked.
The ninja turned to his mistress, waiting for her nod of agreement. In a flash, he cleared the five meter distance between the martial artists and the monsters. A skillful stroke of his blade was all he needed to sever an arm off the closest beast. Skillfully he kicked the dismembered limb towards the Amazon.
The bloody limb landed with a thud, squirting more of the foul smelling blood. Both Ukyo and Mousse could see that the hand was still moving despite not being attached to the body.
"It's still alive!" Ukyo exclaimed in a mixture of disgust and awe.
Mousse nodded, uncorking the vial and pouring the cursed water on the limb.
All eyes waited for some sign that the cursed magic was working.
"You're sure you got the right stuff?" Ukyo asked.
As if to respond, Mousse reached into his sleeves, pulling out a mouse. Setting it down, he poured some of the water on the rodent. Suddenly a duck appeared. "This isn't good – even the cursed water isn't as powerful as this curse."
"You carry that around with you?" the chef asked.
"Why not?" he replied with a shrug. "It's not as though it'll work against me and it's always useful to have around if I'm hungry for duck."
Ukyo opened her mouth for a rebuttal but couldn't find any words.
"So, what do we do?" Konatsu asked as he appeared beside his mistress.
Reaching into sleeves once again, the myopic Amazon pulled out another pair of vials.
"Tranquilizers?" Ukyo asked.
Mousse nodded. "This should be enough to knock out an elephant. Once they're out we can move them to a more secure location. After that, it's up to Ranma to decide."
'I've lost him,' the violet haired girl thought as she watched the chaos from above.
Though she'd only known him for a relatively short time, the past year or so had proven that Ranma really was a worthwhile husband.
His ability to perceive, disassemble, learn, and adapt ancient Amazon techniques that even the greatest of her generation were not yet capable of learning was astounding. Then there was the string of victories he had over many of the mightiest warriors in all of China – Cologne, Herb, Saffron - and the other notable fighters in Japan proved the he was clearly the best of their generation.
But beyond his physical abilities and skills in the art, he was also a good person. He could have easily allowed Mousse to bind her once she hatched from the Phoenix's egg yet he hadn't. He could have killed her to free himself from her advances as well as to make things easier for himself and any of her rivals, but he'd helped her against her rivals despite the fact that she'd previously tried to entrap him with her many schemes.
Yes, Ranma was a good man despite his many flaws. He was trustworthy, honorable, and considerate. Though she had initially thought of those traits as weaknesses to be exploited, she'd learned that those very traits made him all the more desirable as a mate and spouse.
Though she'd enjoyed pursuing him, she'd recently realized that she would not be able to get him to love her as he loved Akane.
That very realization was what brought around the current chaos.
Cologne's unwillingness to allow her to return in disgrace, and thus robbing her of her last heir, as well as the fact that she could not simply wait for the next generation though had prompted the Amazon elder to take such drastic measures.
Apparently Ranma hadn't eaten the flesh, thus making it all the more miserable for him. It would have been kinder to simply kill him but seeing Ranma slaughter the remains of his family as well as the remains of the violent girl's family, she knew that he was broken. Fighting back her tears, the young Amazon held her ground.
Cologne had been right - this measure would end any chance for any of the other remaining rivals to acquire Ranma for themselves. But the venerable elder had also been wrong. The cursed flesh was supposed to have killed them. Mercenary girl and the kind Tendo had died as expected, but Akane and Nodoka had been turned. Cologne had initially estimated that only Ranma, his father, and possible Mr. Tendo would survive being turned. Bringing back three new toys for the Amazon would have been difficult to do, but it would have removed the stain on Shampoo's honor.
Watching Ranma cut down his father, Shampoo felt great sadness claim her heart. The Ranma she had loved was gone. This cold blooded killer that ruthlessly slaughter his transformed father was truly vicious and deadly.
As good as the elders were, none of them would be able to fight against this battle crazed Ranma. And then there was also Ryoga to contend with. Though the lost boy often played second fiddle to his rival, Ryoga was not far behind Ranma in skill and ability. The loss, no, death, of Akane Tendo as a result of an Amazon scheme would mark all Amazons as the lost boy's eternal enemy.
Despite her great-grandmother's best interests, Shampoo knew that they had pushed Ranma too far.
Many of the martial artists that had come through Nerima in the past year were drawn there for a reason. Most came to make a name for themselves, though some came to settle a score with one of the two Saotomes or the grandmaster of their style. Like the majority of the rest, he had come to Nerima for the same reasons.
Though he had taken longer than most to settle things with Ranma, Ryoga had come to respect Ranma as a fighter and even as a person. Over the past few months he'd come to see Ranma not as the source of his problems, but merely part of the total equation. Accepting his own role in his fate, the Lost boy had started to drift away from Nerima over the past few months, though he occasionally found his way back to Nerima as he did today.
Initially though he hadn't recognized the city, though in truth he never recognized anywhere he went unless there were obvious landmarks.
The sound of screaming and gunshots drew his attention. The lost boy paused, taking a moment to place himself.
All around him people were screaming. Even the police were scrambling as they herded the civilians away.
More shots rang out, drawing his attention to the armed police officers. Following their eyes, he spotted the monstrous creatures. Having fought against monsters like Pantyhose Taro as well as others, Ryoga thought little of the sight of the creatures. Seeing one of the creatures attacking despite being shot told him all he needed to know.
Dropping his pack, he let out a fierce roar (shouting 'Ranma, prepare to die!' just didn't feel right) as he ran past the fleeing civilians and non-combatants. Rushing past the closest monster's swipe, he connected with a powerful punch. Despite his ability to break giant boulders with a single punch, he failed to do more than knock the monster back a few steps.
Backpedalling, he avoided a fierce swipe. A punishing uppercut connected with the brute's jaw, knocking out several vicious teeth. A swift kick to the stomach jackknifed the creature, allowing Ryoga to connect with a hammer-fisted blow to the back of the creature's neck. The sound of bone breaking greeted Ryoga as he landed.
A confident smile formed on his face as he eyed the second monster.
Bloody wounds from the bullets healed before his eyes, but it was seeing the first monster shaking its head as its neck healed that wiped the smile off of his face.
'Regeneration,' he thought as he leapt out of the healing creature's reach. "Get back!" he shouted as he drew the creatures' attention. "I'll keep them busy!"
Though the police were initially skeptical, more than a few had seen him fight before. Trusting in the young martial artist's ability, they quickly retreated, ushering the other non-combatants away from monsters.
Pulling out several bandanas, he began to twirl them even as he channeled ki into the fabric. "Why don't you try these!" he shouted as he unleashed a barrage.
Before the deadly projectiles could connect with the creatures they were knocked down. Following the flight of his projectiles, Ryoga eyed the source of the disruption.
"Mousse - what are you doing?" he demanded as he considered the male Amazon.
"You can't kill them," the myopic fighter proclaimed.
Having fought beside and against the master of Hidden Weapons before, Ryoga knew that the other boy knew more than he was letting on. "Mousse, if you"
"I didn't," Mousse shouted as he unleashed a barrage of weighted chains that bound the creature in the back.
"Curse?" he hoped.
"In a way," the Amazon replied as he yanked the feet out from under the bound creature. "I'm not sure who these two are, but…"
"Cologne?" Ryoga guessed. Having been the willing pawn of the shrewd Amazon elder before, he knew that she was perhaps the only one capable of doing something like this to anyone who had crossed her path. Unfortunately only the Tendos and possibly the Saotomes were likely to draw her ire.
"Not good," Mousse grumbled as he released his hold on the chains.
"Wha- Ranma?" the lost boy exclaimed as he caught sight of his rival.
A red blur charged the unbalanced monster, lopping off an arm.
"Ranma!" another newcomer shouted.
"Happosai?" Ryoga called out, not sure what was going on.
"We have to stop him," the ancient grandmaster stated even as Ranma stabbed the creature through the heart.
"Why are you trying to stop him?" another new voice asked.
The three Nerimans eyed the three figures that stood atop an abandoned car.
"He seems to be the only one willing to vanquish the creatures," the smallest and lone female of the group stated.
"He's not in his right mind," the tiny grandmaster stated. "Ranma wouldn't take a life so easily."
"They aren't people anymore," the dark haired man stated as he drew his sword.
"That's not for us to judge," Happosai countered. "The boy doesn't know it now, but he's killing his own family."
She was nervous. All things considered, being nervous was completely acceptable, just as long as her nerves didn't interfere with her duty, even if that duty had just appeared before her.
Nerima was in chaos, which, according to rumor, wasn't unusual. As the home to several world class martial artists, fights and the ensuing chaos weren't unexpected as said fights could start virtually anywhere and at anytime.
The prospect of facing off against some of the infamous martial artists made her trip to Nerima all the more appealing, but she was there for other business. True, it did involve some of the fighters, but mostly it had to do with the fact that her school had scheduled a late season sparring session with Furinkan and their renowned kendo club.
Tatewaki Kuno was considered to be the favorite to win the approaching national high school tournament, and Nada High School had secured the coveted (though some considered it unenviable) invitation to spar with Furinkan.
Having won the national tournament in his first year of high school, Kuno had been absent during the previous tournament. But it was what he'd done to the two teams that had sparred with Furinkan that had made him infamous in the kendo world as the arrogant swordsman soundly defeated each member of the opposing squads, injuring each of them enough to keep them and their squads out of the national tournament held over a month later.
Despite his fearsome reputation though, the young swordswoman had hoped to face his blade. True, she preferred a naked blade to that of a shinai, but a match was a match. As a Shinmeiryu swordswoman she was more than prepared to face a skilled swordsman.
But it was her duty as a Shinmeiryu that demanded that she deal with the new threat.
"What the hell is that?" one of her classmates asked.
As a Shinmeiryu maiden, she had exorcised demons and spirits before, but this, this monstrosity was different. Regardless, it was a threat to the non-combatants.
Three long fingers with menacing claws tipped long, powerful arms and a mouthful of wicked teeth stood against her skill and her measly shinai. The odds weren't good. Still, she couldn't, wouldn't allow the creature to harm her peers without going through her first.
Before she could even grab her hilt though a mysterious martial artist appeared, drawing the creature's attention. Howling, the towering creature focused on the boy in red.
It was clear to her that the boy was a martial artist, though from the way he moved, it was obvious that he wasn't formally trained to fight with a sword despite the fact that he had one in his hand. Dark brown and black stains told her that as good as he was he'd been injured, yet he fought on.
"That must be Ranma," someone muttered.
"Ranma Saotome?" someone else asked for clarification.
"What other guys named Ranma do you know of?" the first replied. "He's supposed to be Nerima's top fighter."
The creature charged the martial artist.
Fearlessly, Ranma rushed to meet the charge. The flash of steel brought a squeal of delight from some of the younger and less experienced kendoka as he effortlessly cut off the creature's arm.
Howling in pain, the creature pulled back, but not fast enough as Ranma cut the creature's stomach.
The sudden spray of blood from the arm and stomach though made the street slick, causing the sword wielding martial artist to slip. The momentary lapse was all the creature needed as it lashed out at Ranma. Clawed toes ripped into the boy's side, tearing through his already blood stained shirt and sending him flying. An unfortunate Toyota stopped the pigtailed boy's flight as he crashed into the side of the car.
Injured, the creature used the opportunity to flee its hunter.
"We need to find someplace safe," someone, possibly the team's supervising teacher and coach, suggested.
Unwilling to simply seek shelter, the young swords mistress waited for her opportunity to slip away. By the time she made it back to the initial scene, neither the boy known as Ranma nor the beast he hunted remained, though the trail of blood (both human and other) was more than enough for her to follow.
A grim discovery greeted her less than a block away. Having been cut open before, the creature had literally spilled its guts. Judging from the contents, it was clear that the creature had feasted on humans recently. The sight of the partially dissolved face as well as a chewed upon hand greeted her, nearly making her lose her lunch.
Steeling herself, she focused on the remains of the creature. Judging from the way the pieces were strewn about, Ranma had managed to cut its other arm off before a second monster apparently appeared, knocking Ranma into a storefront.
The remains of the arm still twitched and the fingers appeared to be clawing at the cement street even though neither piece was attached to the creature's destroyed head.
'Like a chicken with its head cut off,' she mused as she watched the remaining parts try to move.
Shaking her head, she followed the trail left by the martial artist. 'He's lost a lot of blood,' she observed as the drops of blood became smaller and began to be spaced further and further apart. 'He can't go much further, not with all the blood he's lost.'
The feel of several fighters' battle ahead of her told her that she was on the right trail, prompting her to rush ahead. 'Ni-san? Wasn't he supposed to be visiting his daughter? Those other two must be from Mahora – could that be Kuzunoha-sempai? Three others… probably the local martial artists. Just how many creatures are there?'
Turning the corner, she spotted two creatures as they stood in the center of the street, one currently being assaulted by the martial artist in red. The other fighters lined the street, standing on cars or atop telephone poles. 'Wait, that doesn't add up…'
"That's not for us to judge," she heard someone proclaim. "The boy doesn't know it, but he's killing his own family."
Tsuruko blinked. That didn't make any sense.
The sound of breaking glass brought her out of her thoughts, drawing her attention to the cloud of gas that enveloped Ranma and the creature he was attacking.
"You have to get him out of there!" Tsuruko protested as she tried to sense the martial artist's battle aura. "He's spent and bleeding badly."
All eyes turned toward her.
"Tsuruko? What… that's right, your club..." Eishun grumbled. "You're not even properly armed."
In a flash the young woman beside her cousin vanished, appearing directly beside her.
"If you're going to be here," the young Shinmeiryu master said as she put her hand on her sword, "you should be properly equipped."
Tsuruko smiled, accepting the young swords mistress' second sword. "Thank you, but we must rescue him," she urged.
"He'll be fine," the young woman insisted.
A second cloud of gas erupted at the other creature's feet, prompting it to roar in protest.
Chains erupted from one of the local fighter's sleeves, wrapping themselves around the powerful creature's arms and legs.
A bandana clad boy charged at the howling creature, driving his fist into the creature's lungs and forcing out any air that had been inside. Doubling over, the creature's head vanished into the gray mist even as the fighter rushed out of the cloud.
"We need to destroy those things," Toko insisted as she unsheathed her blade.
"But, shouldn't we allow the local martial artists to deal with them?" Tsuruko asked. As the future leader of the Shinmeiryu, she knew that there were certain protocols when dealing with other martial artists and the occasional fits that one group or another would throw when someone disrupted their 'turf'.
"We were sent here because the situation as deemed to be beyond your control," Eishun proclaimed as he watched the second creature fall over.
"Well, we didn't ask for your help," the bandana clad boy shouted as he rushed towards his fallen companion. "We've managed to take care of them ourselves."
"What of the innocents already killed?" the scruffy blond man beside Eishun asked. "Too many people witnessed what happened here."
"We'll deal with them," the tiny, shriveled old man replied.
"I'm sorry, but we can't let you take those things away," Eishun stated.
"I'm not letting you kill the boy's parents," the tiny man said firmly.
Despite his size, it was clear to the young sword mistress that he was the most powerful fighter present. Even if she were to aid her cousin and his companions, Tsuruko doubted that they would be able to prevail in a straight fight. But this wasn't a straight fight. Their targets needed to be destroyed, and the creatures were already knocked out. But how good were these fighters?
Tension filled the street as the Nerima fighters eyed the unidentified fighters. With the immortal creatures unconscious and thus vulnerable, as well as the fact that they were outnumbered, Ryoga wasn't sure how the fight would go.
Sudden movement from the scruffy blond man set things in motion he fired some sort of ki blast at the chained monster.
Flinging several bandanas to intercept the blow, Ryoga rushed to intercept the attack and deal with the attacker.
Behind him the two swordswomen rushed at his unconscious rival, prompting Mousse to swoop down on them, leaving Happosai to deal with the sword wielding man.
The mysterious and unseen energy attack collided with his bandanas, knocking two away before dissipating.
Suddenly the man vanished, only to appear right before him.
"We can't let you take them," the blond stated as he decked Ryoga.
The punch was more than enough to dent the side of a car, but to someone who had mastered and endured the breaking point training it was little more than a love tap.
"Was that supposed to hurt?" Ryoga growled as he connected with a counterpunch to the man's stomach, launching him back at the car that he'd been standing on. The car crumpled before sliding into the curb and flipping over.
As experienced as he was in fighting Ranma, Ryoga knew that the fight was far from over. If he could shoot unseen ki blasts and move that fast, than he clearly was capable of taking more punishment than that.
"That's pretty impressive," the blond stated as he pulled himself out of the wreckage that was the Honda.
Not willing to let up on his opponent or allow him to use his speed to his advantage, Ryoga unleashed a barrage of bandanas, forcing the other man to shoot them down with is strange technique as he went on the defensive. Closing the distance, he opened with an overhead left that left him open to an uppercut. Taking the blow, he countered with an uppercut of his own that forced the blond back.
Swift punches and kicks kept the man on the defensive, slowly pushing him back away from Ranma and the others.
'He's got a good burst of speed, but he's nowhere near as fast as Ranma,' Ryoga gauged. 'And he doesn't have Ranma's hand speed either.'
Blocking and parrying the mighty blows, the blond used the force behind the attacks to put some distance between himself and his opponent.
'What's he reaching for?' the lost boy thought as he watched the blond put his hands into his pocket.
A sudden impact to his face startled him, throwing off his punch and allowing the blond to put even more distance between them. Three more unseen impacts hit him, forcing him to brace himself.
"You're pretty touch," the blond stated as he eyed Ryoga.
"Yeah," the bandana clad boy replied. "It'll take more than that to put me down."
"You're getting in our way," Eishun proclaimed as he engaged with the tiny little man. "We need to destroy those creatures."
"No," Happosai replied, "you're getting in our way. We're more than capable of destroying them if we want to, but that's not our decision to make. It's the boy's decision."
Slashing at the tiny figure, Eishun had hoped to avoid such a confrontation. Though he'd never met the diminutive man before, he had heard of him. The chaos he caused in Nerima had almost warranted outside intervention had not some of the younger fighters in the area stepped up to impede his reign of terror. Still, clearly they were much more interested in being loyal to one of their own than in doing the right thing.
Despite the little man's size, he was proving to be a very formidable fighter. Though he was probably old when the Dean was a babe, he moved like a spry young fighter.
"Shinmeiryu?" the ancient master guessed as he parried a strike with his pipe. "I haven't seen one of you around in decades… Then again I haven't been to Kyoto for a while."
Eishun grimaced as he was pressed back. Though the man was barely up to his knee and wielded only a pipe he was clearly a better fighter than the young Shinmeiryu master. Proportionately the pipe was the size of a sword for the pint-sized monster, and the way he used his weapon it was clear that he knew how to use it. Judging from his apparent age, he probably had studied the sword longer than even Eishun.
"What is the boy to you?" he asked as he was parried a thrust.
"He's the last heir to my school," the old man admitted as he leapt in, pushing past the other man's guard and forced the swordsman to jump out of the path of his attack. "But that's neither here nor there – we need to move them away so that they're not a danger to anyone else."
"You can't contain them for long," Eishin urged.
Happosai shrugged as he landed, planting himself between his opponent and the transformed creatures. "Only long enough."
"They're no longer human," the swordsman stated.
"The probably aren't, but I can't let the boy destroy them in the state he's currently in," the old man countered. Rushing in, he lashed out with his pipe again.
"He can't save them!" Eishun exclaimed as he fended off the onslaught. "Killing them now while he's out is a tender mercy you must give him."
Despite his argument, the tiny man refused to relent, pushing the younger man back with each strike. Leaping back, the swordsman prepared to cast a quick cantrip.
The Shinmeiryu swordsman stared at the empty space that his opponent had occupied a mere second ago. "That was unexpected."
Having spent much of his life under the thumb of a matriarchal society, Mousse was no stranger to fighting women and girls.
An opening barrage of throwing knives forced the women to stop in their tracks before the older woman set her feet and slashed. A wave of pressurized air met the deadly daggers, knocking them aside.
The myopic martial artist was glad he'd kept his glasses on as he knew that he'd need his eyes to fight the two. The taller and older woman was at least on Kuno's level, and the fact that she used an actual blade rather than a bokken meant that she couldn't be taken lightly.
Rushing in to keep them from using projectile attacks on the unconscious creatures, he knew that he'd be at a disadvantage if both of them were at or around Kuno's level. Still, he needed to do what he needed to do.
The Sanjiegun gave him the needed reach to keep the two swordswomen at bay and provided him with the flexibility to close into closer combat. His familiarity with using the bo, whip, flail, and escrima made the coiled dragon in his hands a deadly and unforgiving weapon but combining it with his hidden weapon style made him exceptionally fearsome.
Closing with the more experienced fighter, he waited for her to make the first move. She quickly obliged, attacking with a swift diagonal slash. Parrying with his left, he twisted with his right, forcing the central segment and the one in his right to join together. Releasing with his left he spun around, dodging a thrust from the younger woman before lashing out with his right. As expected the older woman blocked the staff, only to have the end twist around her blade and strike her right shoulder and back.
Before he could capitalize on the success of his attack, Mousse knew he had to deal with the other girl as she rushed towards Ranma. With his free hand he threw several weighted chains, barring her path. A simple flick of his wrist was enough to force her back as his chains threatened to entangle her as they had the monster she was headed towards.
Releasing the chains as she leapt back, he nimbly grabbed hold of the third segment of the sanjiegun. Another twist returned the weapon into its most flexible form. Blocking a slash with the steel joint of the weapon, he quickly trapped the blade between the two wooden segments and drew the woman to him. A swift kick to the stomach robbed her of her breath as well as her weapon.
"Kuzunoha-sempai!" the younger swordswoman shouted as she rushed to assist the other woman.
A flurry of slashes and thrusts forced Mousse back. As good as she was, she was definitely not as good as Kuno was in close quarters. Though she was nearly as fast as Tatewaki, it was clear that her attacks lacked the same impact as Kuno's bokken. The absence of the pressurized air attacks also made her attacks less threatening, though her katana was definitely formidable as it wore down the wax-wood weapon despite the fact that he was batting aside her blade and avoiding the keen edge. Still, her relentless barrage had allowed the other woman to recover both her breath and her sword.
With the two women now working in tandem, Mousse slowly gave ground. Pressing a button on the leftmost segment he quickly grabbed hold of the central segment, batting aside a slash even as he countered. The once blunt end of the weapon now sported a keen, if short blade as the release for the blade and the centrifugal force of the attack brought the fangs of the coiled dragon out.
The taller woman barely dodged, pulling back just enough that the blade cut through her tight blouse, exposing her modest but perky breasts.
Suddenly the fight took a startling turn as Happosai inserted himself in the woman's cleavage.
With the two women now focused on Happosai, Mousse turned around. Seeing the bewildered look on the swordsman's face, the myopic fighter sought to engage the distracted man. Discarding his weapon, he pulled out a pair of Shuanggou.
"So, he tagged out," the swordsman replied as he noted how the two younger swordswomen were chasing after the perverted old man. "He certainly is keeping them from doing their duty."
"He's got a certain way with women," Mousse replied as he eyed his new opponent.
Eishun refrained form smirking. "Yeah, I can definitely see that."
A slow fog seemed to lift from over him as he woke. His consciousness slowly registered the throbbing pain in his head and stomach. "Aww," he groaned. 'Did someone slip me some of Akane's cookies?'
The feel of hot concrete though told him that he wasn't at home. 'Did I get into a fight?' he wondered as he mentally examined his body. 'Doesn't feel like anything's broken. Must have insulted the tomboy's cooking again. Wait, that doesn't explain why I've got a sword in my hand.
'Someone's fighting,' he surmised as he tried to open his eyes. The sound of clashing steel and the shrieking of outraged woman suggested that someone was after Happosai. 'Nothing new there. Guess I gotta put a stop to his panty raiding for the day.'
Pushing himself off of the pavement, he slowly forced his eyes open.
"Yo P-chan," he replied automatically as his mind connected the voice to a name. Looking up at his long-time rival, he noted the disheveled appearance of his favorite silk shirt. "What's going on?"
Seeing Ryoga look away, he knew that the other boy didn't want to answer that.
"I'm not completely sure myself," his rival finally replied. "But something bad has happened."
"Sorta," Ryoga replied as he scratched his head.
Standing up, he surveyed the scene. "What are those?"
"The new fighters are here to kill the monsters."
"So why aren't they killing them?" the pigtailed boy asked. "It looks like I was fighting them too, but I don't have any apparent injuries. Still, it feels like you landed a few shots on me. They gotta be pretty tough."
"Yeah." Unsure of what to say, the lost boy simply stood by his rival.
Both boys turned to see the tiny grandmaster flying towards them.
"There's no time to explain, but we have to get these," the tiny man pointed to the two recovering monsters "out of here."
Ranma blinked as he tried to catch up with everything that was going on around him. Taking a closer look at the monsters he fell to one knee. 'Mom? Dad?' "Mom? Dad?"
A wave of dread washed over him.
"Ryoga," he said as he forced himself to his feet. "That's my mom and dad, isn't it?"
"No – we're not sure," he replied.
"That's my old man," Ranma repeated. "He turned into something after Cologne had the sushi chef feed us something. That's my mom over there."
Neither Ryoga nor Happosai could meet his gaze.
"You blacked out," Happosai stated. "You were cutting them up pretty badly and it looked like they'd torn into you pretty bad too."
A flood of memories filed his mind as his mother whimpered. Images of him cutting down Mr. Tendo, his pops, and his mother filled his mind even as he dry heaved.
"They're coming to," Happosai stated. "Ryoga, can you throw them into the construction pit over by the park?"
The bandana clad boy nodded, glad that he hadn't been asked to fight the girls instead. "Ranma, keep those women occupied."
"They're trying to kill my parents," Ranma said as he made the connection. Gritting his teeth, he gripped his mother's sword and wiped his mouth.
Calmly he walked towards the women, both of whom slowed down as they approached him.
"I can't let you kill them," he said firmly.
"They've already killed"
"Possibly, probably," the pigtailed boy replied, cutting off the older woman. "But they're my responsibility. I'll take care of them."
The two swordswomen exchanged a glance then turned to face him once again.
"Fine," the younger one replied.
"One dead, four injured," the scruffy blond said as he looked over the report. "Tatewaki Kuno died of injuries sustained from fighting one of the creatures, the one designated as Soun Tendo.
"Injuries are minor, mostly a result of people trampling over each other though one was caused by friendly fire when a policeman's bullet ricocheted of a building and hit a civilian. We've worked with the police to modify everyone's memories and even managed to keep the reporters from catching wind of what really happened. The incident is being reported as a fight between rogue martial artists resulting in collateral damage that caused the death of several people."
Sighing, the old man nodded, accepting the report. "What of Saotome?"
"The – he ingested the mermaid flesh," the raven haired swordsman replied. "Apparently one in a couple thousand survives and doesn't become a Lost Soul while also gaining immortality."
The old man eyed his son-in-law.
"He's psychologically unbalanced," Eishun added. "Apparently he blacked out and his body simply reacted to the creatures by fighting back. He even killed his father four times and before finally getting knocked out. Since the Incident he appears to have lapses of excessive depression. Unfortunately one of the techniques he knows mixes his emotional state with his ki reserves to manifest ki. The weight of his despair at those times is… considerable."
"He's capable of leveling a building," Takahata answered.
"And the creatures?" the dean asked.
"Ranma killed each of them personally," the swordswoman replied.
"Who gave them the mermaid's flesh?" the old man asked. "I thought that they'd no longer frequented the waters around Japan or China."
"Apparently the Amazons of China have a live mermaid," Eishun answered. "Mao Tsu, a male from the Amazon tribe, has promised to continue searching for the mermaid and to keep the Amazons from using it against anyone again."
The old man rubbed his wrinkled forehead before sighing. "What of Saotome?"
"Grandmaster Happosai has sealed him," Takahata replied. "The Saotome clan owns some land outside of Hinata and they sealed him there."
"Hinata…" the old man grumbled, recalling the tiny village.
"The Urashima clan has been contacted and informed of the sealing," Eishun added. "Additionally, the Shinmeiryu is sending one of their masters to ensure that he does not leave his family's land."
"Is he such a threat?" the dean asked.
"As I said, he is psychologically damaged," Eishun replied. "Though he is normally a carefree person, the loss of his family and of his fiancée and her family has… unbalanced him. He has moments where he is completely cold yet radiates killer intent."
"What sort of seal was used?" the ancient mage asked.
"A Keystone," Takahata answered. "Saotome is bound to the stone and cannot venture too far from it nor can he approach it to move it as the immediate vicinity of the stone is warded against his presence. No martial artist may approach the Keystone actually."
The bright glow of the moonlight illuminated the small glade, providing more than enough light for the young swordswoman as she watched the two young men sparring.
"Is that all you've got?" the man in a white gi shouted as he gracefully avoided a barrage of punches. "You're still too slow!"
Though she only knew him for a month, it was easy for Tsuruko to tell that Ranma was clearly the greatest martial artist of their generation. His relatively easy going nature and confident demeanor (when he wasn't dwelling on the Incident at least) made it easy for her to find out so much about him and his time in Nerima.
Even though she lived as far away as Kyoto she'd heard of the fantastic and awe-inspiring fights that seemed to take place on a weekly basis in Nerima. Giant manifestations of a fighter's battle aura that appeared on the news, conjuring a tornado in the middle of the school's baseball field, and the leveling of a mountain had all been entertaining (though Ranma had nearly lapsed and had gotten fairly depressed and angry when recalling the Amazons).
Due to the number of incidents where one or all of the Amazons were involved, the young swordswoman had learned to avoid asking about Ranma's past fights, even if they were the ones where he fought Ryoga, unless the lost boy was there himself. Still, she'd learned much of various styles of martial arts both in Nerima and Japan, and in China as well as about other martial arts traditions and the people who still practiced the dying art.
Having been raised to understand the traditions of the Shinmeiryu, Tsuruko knew that there were such things as monsters, demons, and spirits. Unfortunately the world as a whole seemed to have relegated those things into myth. It didn't help that those who knew of those things like magic, monsters, and spirits kept that information from the general public. She herself was supposed to help hide the existence of the mystical and magical.
But the Incident had threatened to expose the public to the existence to monsters and magic. Most of those who exposed the world to the existence of magic and monsters were punished by being forced to live out the rest of their lives as an ermine. Unfortunately Ranma was the victim of the Amazons, an elder known as Cologne in particular. The fact that she was now dead (having been turned into a viper before being beheaded if one were to believe Mao Tzu and Happosai and apparently acting on her own had absolved the elder's great-granddaughter of any involvement, though the girl had been sent back to China along with the male Amazon. It also didn't help that the curse Ranma received as a result of consuming the mermaid's flesh had prevented him from being additionally cursed. Though that fact actually pleased the immortal as he apparently used to turn into a girl when splashed with cold water.
With no one to punish, the governing council had decided to simply allow Ranma to be sealed away. True, he had an entire mountain to himself, but the mountain and shrine were relatively secluded, limiting who could see him.
"It is getting late, Lady Aoyama," Happosai said as he approached the young swordswoman.
It was odd to think that the shriveled old man was a grandmaster and that he had once been the terror of Nerima – stealing women's undergarments and groping women all to prolong his life through some odd formula that involved siphoning the residual ki from said articles of clothing. Though she had seen him grope Kuzunoha-sempai during the Incident, the old man never made a move against her.
Tsuruko wasn't sure if she should feel honored that he respected her or offended that he didn't think she was attractive.
"I know," the Shinmeiryu swordswoman replied. "But I'm expecting a guest tonight."
"Really," the old man exclaimed as he pulled out his pipe. "I wonder if Sakura knows about your guest."
"She only guards one of the entrances," Tsuruko stated.
As the future leader of the Shinmeiryu, she knew that one of the school's top exorcists had been assigned as a 'guard' for Ranma. To avoid being constantly groped, the experienced swordswoman had stationed herself at the foot of the mountain at one of the two shrines that welcomed those who came to the mountain.
"It must be Hinata," the old man sighed. "She's too old for my tastes."
Tsuruko smiled. 'You're too old for everyone too.'
"Hah, I beat you!" Ryoga growled as he brushed the dirt off of his knit shirt.
The pigtailed boy simply smiled.
In all the time that he'd known Ranma, his rival had always come off as arrogant and confident. For the 'second best' fighter in Nerima, Ranma's demeanor had been irritating. But ever since the Incident, well, Ranma had changed. Gone was that confidence and arrogance that irritated others so well. Gone was the sparkle in his eyes when he fought.
In the past month the pair had fought six times – four narrow victories for Ranma, one draw, and this lone victory for Ryoga. Though their once violent fights had been seen as little more than a spar on Ranma's behalf, the recent 'spars' were starting to concern the proud fighter.
"Ranma," Happosai shouted as he waved at the two rivals, "why don't you fight Tsuruko?"
Ryoga eyed the old man, unsure what he had in mind.
Hesitantly, Ryoga walked over to the ancient grandmaster as the swordswoman switched places with him.
"What are you up to?" he asked, clearly skeptical of the old man.
"You fought Ranma and won," the tiny man stated. "But you're not happy with the victory, are you?"
Ryoga blinked. Sitting beside the old man, he watched as the elegant swordswoman attacked Ranma with her bokken.
"No," he finally replied. The victory had been hollow. Though he'd longed for a chance to fight and beat his old rival, there was something about their recent fights that had seemed, well, off.
"He's lost the will to fight," Happosai finally said as the two watched Ranma narrowly avoid a wave of pressurized air. "His body is still reacting, but his mind… his heart isn't in it."
Ryoga rubbed his chin in a rare display of contemplation. Not sure what to do or say, he could only watch as Ranma continued to dodge Tsuruko's relentless assault.
"I want you to be my heir," Happosai stated, breaking the long silence. "You're now the greatest fighter of your generation."
"B-but Ranma will get over this," Ryoga sputtered.
"He probably will," Happosai conceded. "But I may not be around when that happens."
The lost boy eyed his companion. Though he'd always looked old, Happosai rarely ever acted his age. For the first time though, Happosai looked tired.
"He's going to out live us all," the old man stated. "But I can't help him find his way any longer. The flame inside of him is died that day. Only the embers remain right now. Perhaps one day the flame will come to life again and burn brightly, but I can't wait for that. I can't guide his heart."
"And you think I can?"
"No," the old man sighed. "That is not something you can do either. All I can ask of you is to keep the school alive once I'm gone."
Yeah, this turned out to be a lot longer than I planned.
I've got an idea in my head and it probably won't head down the path that most readers think it's going to go down. Be prepared for what's to come.