There will be: language, nudity, sex, violence, death, and rather detailed descriptions of such. I'm an adult, and a writer. I revel in the coincidence that I'm also an adult writer.
I only own what someone else does not.
It took her fifteen thousand years. Riding the cresting rise and fall of countless empires and civilizations. A gambit that would leave the world dead and cold... unless she rose again. Nothing else mattered. Nothing. Not life, or death, or eternal madness, or damning the galaxy to the cold death of time and space torn asunder.
Betrayal is just one of a million tools, in the machine she'd wrought, just for another chance. And nothing will stand in her way.
Chapter One: Say It Right
Ranma looked up at the darkening skies with a wry smile on his lips. It wasn't a happy expression, anymore than it was a sad one. It simply was. "Eh, kinda figures, really," he noted, making no move to take the large bamboo umbrella from his equally large pack. The rain came a few minutes later, and as the change washed over the cursed youth, the suddenly shorter redheaded girl didn't even break her stride.
"May as well leave Nerima the same way I got here."
She might be leaving Nerima, but Ranma knew well that the things there that had finally gotten too dangerous to ignore were only symptoms, not the problems themselves. It was a lesson Tofu had managed to impart, before his absence, but one she was understanding better by the day. There were too many mistakes there, too many reminders that she'd been playing at being an adult in a deadly game with the outlook of a child, for far too long. Her situation only threw fuel on that fire, as so much of it revolved around her. Soon, someone was going to cross a line, and then there would be blood on their hands. Ranma was frankly surprised it hadn't happened already, with as many people calling out for someone or another's death, but didn't linger on such thoughts. Irony liked to play havoc with her life enough already.
Distance would make those situations harder to come by. They wouldn't cease, of course, of leave her alone, but even small progress was progress.
One of the things that haunted the martial artist's life stood before her, an umbrella held over his own head to ward off the damning rain. "Saotome."
Red hair bobbed slightly, barely a bow as she grew closer, her stride unfaltering. "Hibiki."
When they were just a few paces apart, the taller boy loosed a gusty sigh. "Never thought I'd see the day."
Chuckling darkly for a moment, Ranma shrugged as she paused, the rain ignored as it soaked her clothes and hair. Despite the water running in rivulets down her face and along her skin, she showed very little notice. "There's a difference between losing, giving up, and refusing to fight a pointless battle."
The Hibiki boy's eyes narrowed fractionally. "So you are giving up, then."
Annoyance flashed through blue eyes, before it faded as quickly as it had appeared. A faint haze of chilled air rose from her skin, as she stared the boy in her way down, despite her smaller stature. "There's no honor in winning any of those fights, Hibiki. Pops saw to that. And don't you start," she warned when the young man opened his mouth, a quarrelsome expression on his face. "Got no right to say a word, with what you did. What you still do."
Ryoga looked ready to argue the point, before shaking his head tersely. "I'm not going to apologize."
"Then you're proving yourself to be just as honorless as you always accused me of being," the redhead replied with a glacial calm, before continuing on her way.
The growling rumble of the Hibiki boy's voice behind her didn't stall her steps. "Ranma..."
"Grow up, Ryoga. Lying to 'em both is only gonna cause them pain. What's that compared to your fear?"
"I'm not afraid!"
A single blue eye regarded him over the shorter girl's shoulder. "Then you better get a move on, pig-boy, to go say hello. She'll get home anytime now, and find my letter."
Ryoga paled almost white as a sheet, before taking an uncertain step in a random direction. "You... you wouldn't! You made a promise!"
Ranma laughed, a loud, barking, bitter sound. "And that's just what I'm talking about. Honor this, honor that. Use my honor against me, to hide and play the coward, while I stain Akane's by letting you get away with it, and Akari's too. Nah, I'm done with all these games, Hibiki." Waving over her shoulder, Ranma refused to look back as she walked on, as Ryoga found himself rooted in place, yelling at her incoherently, his fear of getting lost warring with his fear of what could be in Ranma's threatened letter, and his rage at the currently-redhead. The rain kept him from lashing out, knowing well that even with her massive pack, Ranma was a faster fighter that would capitalize on the rain to reduce him to his piglet form.
Like any good tactician, Ranma knew her opponent, and so knew all that as well. "When you're done growing up, I'll be waiting! So go train and get stronger!" She yelled back at the figure in the rain.
Checking one of the newer additions to her wardrobe, Ranma nodded. She was still on time. Jumping, she kicked off of a nearby lamp-post, using it to clear the distance to the roof above. Once there, she dashed along the upper reaches, intent on making it to her goal in Minato Ward before sundown.
Mamoru slept. Mamoru dreamed.
Being who and what he was, the young college student was used to having odd dreams. They came with the territory really. Dark Kingdoms, reborn fiancees, ancient evils, annoying foes... all these had featured in his dreaming at some time or another. Sometimes, they gave him warnings, showing him what to expect, to plan for. Other times, they were used against him, assaulting his mind for some end or another. He'd even used the tactic against himself, if what he understood was correct.
So, it was no surprise to feel the familiar sensation of his dream changing, becoming something it wasn't just a moment before due to some outside source. Unlike before, however, the man sometimes known as Tuxedo Mask didn't detect the bite of malicious intent in the change. Quite the opposite, really, as his dream of class bled away, leaving him feeling secure, safe, warm and comforted.
The transition from sitting at a desk to laying in the grass didn't register to him, though the warm lap and hand in his hair, as fingers slowly ran through it, did. It was an almost cliché backdrop he found, with a towering tree in full leaf, the sound of birds chirping, singing, flying above. There were sounds of other things as well, but those hints didn't make him paranoid at their source, or wary. "Natural noises," the man decided, with something like instinct guiding him. All around him, things were peaceful. As they should be.
Looking up at the first thing to gain his attention, the young man paused. Mamoru blinked, then strained his eyes without effect. Whoever the woman was whose lap he inhabited, he couldn't focus on her face, or anything about her really for that matter. He knew she was there, knew she could be seen clearly in some way that only knowing in dreams worked, but his eyes denied him. What he could make out made him wonder slightly, as he'd never had good experiences with redheads, with Beryl being the biggest reference against them. Definitely not what he expected out of a pleasant dream.
"You have betrayed my trust."
Liquid ice crawled down the man's spine at those words, and all the warmth in the idyllic, grassy glen faded like so much morning mist. Behind the fleeing sense of life, all that remained was a glassy, frozen wasteland. Spires of dirty, lifeless, jagged ice shot with stone and sod blasted up from the ground, rising like a forest grown in an instant as far as the eye could see, while the air grew thin and wasted, making him gasp at how it bit at his lungs.
"You have broken your vow."
The sun grew bitter and harsh above, as the water in the air was drawn into brief flurries of ice and snow. Shifting like dunes across the rime-glassed ground, the snow shifted in from the harsh winds that scoured the land. The scene before the young man reminded him of something he'd seen... something that didn't fill him with such dread and foreboding. He knew this place, but the last time he'd seen it, it filled him with wonder and hope, not cold anticipation.
"This is the future you seek."
Mamoru opened his mouth to deny it, but those words stopped, dying in his throat as a distant light glinted from the near distance. How he'd missed the citadel, the towers, the arching byways and vast walls, all made of polished crystal he'd never know. It was a familiar and welcome sight in the desolation he was laying in, the transition between idyllic Eden and hellish waste taking only the blink of an eye. Recognizing where he was finally, Mamoru made to sigh in relief, but the air froze in his lungs as the woman above him placed her hand on his chest.
"This death is the repayment you'd give me?"
Transfixed by the sudden, suffocating, enveloping sense of absolute malice from the woman, Chiba could do nothing as the vision shifted. Crystal Tokyo, the future home he shared with his destined one, crumbled like a sandcastle in the surf. As the image melted away, so did the ice and the snow that layered and blew across the ground. Gentle grasses, small trees, and all manner of living things shimmered into being, from where the desolate waste had just a moment before been. Despite the returning life, Chiba couldn't shake the feeling of impending doom that settled on him like a great weight. Glancing around, Mamoru could see no trace of Crystal Tokyo.
"I deny you that so-called destiny."
In a distortion resembling heat-haze, a vast metropolitan sprawl came into view, but this was no Tokyo he knew. Overgrown with the encroaching wilderness that teemed beyond the concrete and pavement, it looked like something from a post-apocalyptic movie. Animals and – were those youma? – loitered, mingled, grazed, hunted through those broken towers. People were there, sparser, but also clearly recognizable. Cars still ran, but they looked different. People still milled, but they didn't shy away from the grip of nature. Hardier, hardened, clearly survivors, the humans he saw seemed more in tune with their world. A part of it.
"Her will cannot stay me, any longer."
The fingers against his chest stabbed down with savage strength, robbing Chiba of the strength to scream as something basic, primal, fundamental was gripped from within him. Pain hazed his vision, and for a moment, he could recognize the figure above him, or at least recognize the feel of the woman. Though he'd never seen her face, the word mother sprang to the beleaguered man's lips, just as the figure closed her fist around his heart.
"I reclaim what is mine."
Only it wasn't his heart, and he wasn't bleeding when is eyes fell to the expected wound. That hand that phased, ghostlike through his ribs, didn't grip something physical. With slow deliberation, that limb was drawn forth, and with it things within Mamoru's mind grew taught, strained, and snapped. Memories flashed vividly through his mind's eye, recollections of the Silver Millennium, the vows he swore on the oddly auspicious day when he was granted the mantle of Guardian of Earth, despite being male. Memories of war and strife, of the Empire that had come before the peace, and the bargain he'd made with the Serenity of that era. They all came, blazed vividly, then faded to nothing.
Peace, from Earth, and all it cost was the death of it's former Guardian, and the marriage to another. Knowledge of the planet's condition, the power he once inexpertly wielded but jealously guarded, and the future he'd been denied and promised once more fled before the strain. White light and the sound of heavy rain were all that remained, after the golden, glowing shard of something precious left him, cradled in the mysterious woman's palm. Faintly, Mamoru Chiba – physics major, orphan, and wholly normal Tokyo citizen now – thought he could hear the sound of a woman crying out in loss and anger.
Writing it off as a trick of his dreaming mind, the young man looked up at the unfamiliar woman above him, seeing her sky-blue eyes full of pain and determination. "Are... who are you?" He asked, suddenly feeling the tension that he couldn't place or recall gripping him, wash away.
With a kindly smile, the woman shook her head slowly. "Just a memory," she replied with a tired sigh. A gesture dismissed the befuddled form from her presence, leaving her alone once more in a vast wilderness, seemingly a part of it, yet its center. Staring at the golden crystal in her hand, her fist clenched, the determination in sky-colored eyes flaring once more.
"You... are released from your service.
The warehouse was old, somewhat run-down with its broken upper windows, rusted siding, and weather-blackened wood, but to Ranma, it was a more welcome sight than any she'd seen in a long while. Sighing in relief when she noted the car parked nearby, the redhead hurried up alongside, waving and yelling a greeting.
The window rolled down, revealing a bored looking man in a suit, who seemed rather displeased by the weather. Smiling regardless, Ranma offered a slight bow. "Sorry to keep you waiting."
"Not a problem," the man inside remarked, his eyes scanning her for a moment. "You're Ranma Saotome's sister?"
Nodding, the martial artist didn't miss a beat. "Ranko. Yeah, he's dealing with the rain right now."
"That's fine," the estate agent allowed, shrugging noncommittally. The martial artist was relieved that her directions had been followed, from when she – at the time in her birth form – had visited the estate office. A simple disclaimer that allowed Ranma's 'sister' to sign documents for him had been easy to get, and there had been ideas percolating in the cursed boy's mind about how to use such things to his advantage... shaking off those notions along with some rainwater, the redhead scratched out a signature, and received a waxed and sealed packet in return. Opening it on the spot, she scanned the documents and contents within, nodding. "Thanks, I'll make sure Ranma gets these." She didn't mind that the man barely nodded in reply, before he rolled up his window and pulled off.
Glancing back across the street at the dilapidated warehouse, a happy smile lit the redhead's face. "Home sweet home."
Grabbing her pack as she ran back across the street, Ranma dug the set of keys from the estate packet, unlocking the front door. Though she was soaked to the bone, and her pack little better, the martial artist regardless toed off her shoes and offered the empty building a cheery greeting. "I'm home!"
The echo that answered pulled a chuckle from her. Breathing in the musty air with a great sigh, she settled the overlarge umbrella beside the door, and pulled open the massive pack she'd been carrying. Rifling around a moment, she pulled a wooden plaque from her backpack, unwrapping the worn white Gi that it had been packed with. With an unpleasant smile, she dusted the thing off from the dirt that had carried over from the Gi, before setting it beside the door where it would stay dry. It was a familiar thing, easily recognized from her travels with her father when younger, as they'd visited many dojo's in their time. More recently, there had been the Dojo Destroyer incident, where a frankly monstrous man had come to claim the Tendo dojo tile, which would have effectively closed the dojo.
There was no rule or law for such a thing, but the practice of challenging a dojo for their tile was an old tradition, and to lose one in that challenge said much about those that practiced there. Defeating a School's master was almost a guarantee, once knowledge spread, that students would depart for other Schools with unblemished records. Other dojo's would lose respect for the defeated School, as clearly their master had proven in their defeat, that the title may have been false. Such things were high insult, in the world of martial arts. Regardless, a dojo and School whose tile had been taken often fell into obscurity, unless their master could reclaim their honor.
Ranma ran her fingers along the worn, smooth wood. "Tendo School of Musabetsu Kakutō," she read quietly, her lips quirking slightly. She mused on what the slab of wood represented, looking around the vast, empty space that the warehouse provided. There was now one less School of Anything Goes, with the Tendo branch's fate in her hands. In her minds eye, she envisioned tatami mats, polished floors, and her own dojo tile.
With a familiar smirk, she took up a bedroll and started on the way to the second floor. It'd been a busy day. A little sleep would be welcome. "It's one way to join the Schools, I suppose."
"Just not the way they were planning on."
AN: Not going to be a lot of these. Notes, I mean. Chapter length will bounce around. You better pay attention to that warning at the top. When this warms up... well. You were warned. And I ain't gonna repeat myself.