Ranma: Mazoku Factor
The calm before the storm.
Akane Tendo was sitting in Onno Tofu's office with her sister. "What are you going to do?" She looked at her older sister in a tentative way with her hands folded on her lap and her eyes low.
"I am not marrying that thing." Nabiki growled it and glared at the younger girl. "Use your head. Do you really think it's interested in sleeping with me?"
Tofu's jaw worked, he was very confused. "What are you talking about?"
"I'm engaged to Ranma Saotome." Nabiki frowned at the man, and then turned back to her sister. "He's using us both. You know that."
"Yeah." Akane nodded and got a small grin on her face. "I don't think he's being dishonest either though."
The older girl rolled her eyes. "He's not telling us everything we need to know."
"No, but I don't think he's lied to us." The younger girl shrugged. "I don't trust him, but I believe him. It's kind of hard not to so far."
Her elder sister's jaw dropped as her eyes grew wide. "You've lost your mind!"
"I haven't." Akane turned her nose up.
"I'm sorry to hear that." Tofu frowned at Nabiki. "I suggest finding a way to break it off. Maybe talk with your father? I'm pretty sure Mr. Tendo might understand if you explain what allowing an evil wizard into his family might do to his honor."
The older girl seemed to forget about her sister. "You don't know the half of it."
Tofu frowned and gave her a hard glare. "What? Is he hurting you or something? I can get help if..."
"No. He's not hurt us." Akane shrugged.
"He's told me he doesn't mind a loveless marriage, just to honor a contract. I'm worried, okay? It's got something to do with the power he's using. It makes him honor contracts, more than a level headed person might." The girl hugged her shoulders and growled for a moment as she looked away from them both. "I'm not too worried though. I don't think he's interested in raping me or anything. He does want something though, and that's why it's bothering me."
Akane gave a small gasp. "Wh-what?" Her fists clenched tight and her glare grew hard.
"He's not threatened me." The girl frowned at her. "Calm down."
Tofu and Akane both relaxed a bit. "He's not going to get his claws on you. I won't let him." Her sister spoke up and gave her a hard glare.
"Stop being a drama queen! Before you make a promise you can't keep." Nabiki frowned at her.
"I can help stop him from forcing you." Tofu looked displeased once again.
"Look. He's not stepped over the line yet. I'm not sure how much I trust him, I'm pretty sure I'm not of much interest to him physically." Nabiki blushed and looked away. "It's different than that. I don't like it any more though."
Tofu growled a bit. "I don't know about that. I don't want to make you uncomfortable, but you are a pretty girl, and healthy young woman after all."
The girl leveled her eyes on him. "He's not human."
The man stood there and said nothing for a long moment. "What?"
Akane hung her head. "Um, he's not human. He's this giant dog looking thing that can make himself look..."
Tofu had hit the floor.
Both girls looked on in shock for a moment. Akane stood up with her eyes wide. "Doctor? Are you all right?"
He sat up with a few painful pops of his back and groaned. "I'm not sure I've heard your right, I thought you just said..."
"Yes. Ranma isn't human. He's some sort of monster. I don't think he eats people though. Well, not normally." Akane's brain flashed back to the giant monster snapping Ryoga Hibiki into it's jaws.
"You mean, that thing at the school?" The young doctor was as white as a ghost and shaking visibly.
"Yeah. It seems to actually like people though. On the whole I mean." Akane frowned and turned her eyes towards her sister.
"My god." The man was holding his arms and rubbing on them. "Something has to be done about it."
"We can't." Nabiki frowned.
"What? Why?" Tofu was staring at her in a way that made her think he didn't really want to know.
"We need him. There's something else going on it seems." Akane shrugged. "The world is in danger and all that."
The man's head was hung and he gave a heavy sigh. "Is there anything else I should know?"
Nabiki nodded. "Well, we should go outside first."
Tofu nodded, staggered to his feet, and shuffled his way to leading them out the back gate. He let them both out first, looked up at the sun from the doorway, took a deep breath, leaned against the doorway, lit a cigarette, and waved his arm to let them know to begin.
Akane nodded. "Right. You do it, I'll blow up the whole yard if I do."
Nabiki nodded and stepped forward. She pointed at a board leaning against the fence. The area was small, less than ten square feet and surrounded by a wood fence. The girl closed her eyes, muttered a few phrases under her breath, and waved her arm. A curved blade of air became visible in the wake of the older girl's hand as if she had tossed it. In a split second, it had split the wooden plank in two, and put a three foot gash in the side of his fence. He pushed himself off the doorway and adjusted his glasses to see the sidewalk had taken considerable damage as well. "Wow. That's impressive. I suppose you are wearing school girl uniforms. I dunno though, I guess I expected shorter skirts." He scratched his head with his cigarette in his grip and smiled at her.
"I thought you were gonna do a fireball." Akane frowned a little. "It's more impressive."
"It's a wood fence Akane. Do you want Dr. Tofu's clinic to burn down?" The older girl looked like she wanted to slap her sister upside her head.
Akane hung her head and played with the dirt with her toes. "Oh. I guess when you put it that way..." An evil voice in the back of her mind thought the place might make a pretty cool burn, what with all the chemicals and gas tanks. It was best to not listen to that voice much though.
"Are you smiling?" Nabiki backed away from her sister. The elder sister thought she'd heard a small giggle.
"No. I don't want Tofu's office to burn down." The younger sister looked admonished and flushed a bit more.
Tofu looked nervous. "I hate to say it, but I'm not sure I believe you."
"I don't. Really." Akane put her hands behind her back and hung her head again.
"Oh yeah? Promise then?" Nabiki growled and shook her fist.
"No." Akane grumbled and glared at her sister as she poked her two fingers together. "You're just going to have to trust me."
"Why?" The older girl tapped her foot and crossed her arms.
"I have to live here, Akane. I'd like to know too." Tofu looked a bit weak kneed as he said it.
"Look, both of you shut up, or I really will burn it down." The girl glared at her sister.
"It's because of what Ranma said about keeping promises and using magic, isn't it?" Her sister didn't look impressed or intimidated.
"Shut up would you! Just let it go. I'm not gonna burn it down unless you both don't shut up already. I promise." The smaller girl cracked her knuckles and gave them a sunny smile.
Tofu looked at Nabiki. "Please, just let it go."
The older girl growled. "For now. She's turned into a little pyro. I think she trusts him too much. We're going on a trip for a while it seems."
"What's going on?" Tofu gave a heavy sigh and sat down at the coffee table.
"Well, Ranma told us about these magic seals. One of them broke somehow, and if we don't undo the others, the planet will rip itself apart and kill us all." Akane plopped herself down across from him and held her face up with her palms.
"That's the basic premise." Nabiki nodded. "We don't even know where to go. All we can do is sit around... and..."
Tofu was wincing behind the newspaper, wanting very badly to not hear it. His cover was ripped away as Nabiki Tendo gasped. "No. You've got to be kidding me. It can't be this..."
She spread it out on the table and leaned over it staring in shock. "Look!"
On the front page was an ancient map of the world. It was much older than any other accurate map of the world according to the headline. It's origins were a mystery, and it popped up two years ago. It two weeks, it would be at the museum. Across the continents, were seven distinct symbols. The photo wasn't good enough to make them out. They were each a different color. "It can't be this easy." In two weeks it would be in Japan as part of a museum show.
"That map?" Tofu seemed to clear up once his brain had a distraction.
"The seal in Japan has been broken." The older girl nodded and pointed at the white mark there. "We need that map."
Tofu nodded. "I'll bet we can buy a copy of it at the show."
"No. That will never do. Remember, you're dealing with magic here." Ranma was standing over all of them.
Tofu fell out of his chair and was sprawled out across the floor.
"Don't worry. I like humans, they amuse me." The boy was cheerful as he sat down across from Akane. "You don't taste very good I'm afraid. Rather like pork, I've developed a taste for beef actually. I'd have to really not like you much to do something like that."
"Here to explain just enough for us?" Akane frowned and didn't bother moving from her pose. Her cheeks were being pulled up a little and she was starting to drool. She had enough sense to reset herself and wipe her chin with her arm. "You leave my sister alone."
"Actually, you shouldn't worry. All I have to do is marry her. It won't matter if she decides to divorce me ten seconds later if she wants. I certainly won't stop her. I'll even only kiss her on the cheek to make her feel better about it if she likes." He shrugged and looked around.
"Really?" Nabiki gasped.
"Of course." Ranma smiled in a warm manner. "The only reason I've been here this long is to see that the contract is put into place properly. I'm afraid you'll be seeing me about for a while what with all this though. No hurry to get it done."
The girl glared at him, but nodded. "What's gotten you so talkative? Why do we need this map? You've gotten friendly since you want something. You want us to steal it for you."
"No, you need to steal it for you. I'm naturally attracted to them, but I'm afraid I can't break any of them myself." The boy leaned back and grinned at the group. "You need the map, because you're dealing with magic, and only the original will get you where you need to be. I'm afraid you've got little choice, because I can't lead you to them either."
"There are rules after all." Akane nodded and wiped the bottom of her nose. "You're a real jerk, but I don't hate you as much as the other boys at least. Don't read into that." She frowned as she added the last bit.
"Wouldn't dream of it." The boy nodded. "It won't be here for another two weeks." He stood up and turned to walk away. "Really, doctor. You should see yourself." Tofu was still on the floor looking rather shocked and alarmed.
His features fell. "Great. Well, good luck. I'll have no more of it. I don't mind giving you a little advice, but...I'm afraid..."
Ranma stopped in the doorway. "Oh yes! Don't forget what I told you. Bring Kasumi, you'll need her."
"I'm coming along!" Tofu was on his feet and holding both girls by the hand as he looked at them both and leaned in over them.
Akane arched her eyebrow and looked a bit confused. "Are...are you sure?"
"Yes." The man nodded in a violent manner.
The older girl shrugged, "I suppose you are a doctor. Kasumi knows healing magic though. We might not need him. I mean, he's..."
Akane nodded. "Ranma said take any help we get offered."
"Yeah, well, we've both got studying to do." She slapped Gosunkugi's book on the table between them.
"Encyclopedia Slayers?" Tofu arched his eyebrow.
"Yeah. Turns out it's a real spell book. It's got lots of other stuff in it too." The younger girl shrugged. "Ranma said, the more of those things we unseal, the more magic we'll be able to do. Not all the spells work yet."
"Stop repeating him. We know we can't trust him. He might just be using us to get this." She tapped her finger on the map.
"I'm going for it anyway. Stay here if you want." Akane glared at her sister and smirked. "Sure, I don't trust him. I don't think he's lied to us yet either."
"Do you realize what will happen to us if we steal that map?" Nabiki glared at the girl and slapped her palm on the table.
"Yeah. We'll have to leave the country. Like, to where the rest of these little symbols are." Akane shrugged.
"Actually, that would make you international criminals." Tofu pipped up, hoping to end the plans of a trip like this with Kasumi.
Both girl's heads whipped around. Akane's eyes narrowed. "What if he's not lying, Nabiki?"
"What if he is?" The girl put her nose up to her sister's.
"You believe him, that's what's bothering you. Isn't it?" Akane smirked at her and crossed her arms as she looked at Tofu.
The older girl backed off and looked at her hand for a moment. "We need to plan then. We need to study. We've got to learn these spells. We might not have time when this gets started. We need to know what works, and what doesn't."
"I've got a copy machine." Tofu grabbed the book. "I'll make copies of the whole thing."
"Yeah. There's all sorts of stuff in there. Trolls, dragons, all sorts of monsters." Akane gave a cheerful nod.
"We only need the spells. Save the paper. Akane, do you really think we'll be running into Trolls and Werewolves?" Nabiki wadded up the newspaper in her hands. She was going over the story and learning the details about the map, and when and where it was going to be shown.
"Well, it will be nice to have if we do." The younger girl shrugged.
"I don't like how all this is falling into place." The older girl flushed and put her nose back into the paper.
"I guess it is pretty convenient." Akane looked at the picture that was wrinkled up in her sisters hands. "Still."
"I'm going to agree with Akane." Tofu nodded and rushed away to make copies. Making more would eat up more time. "What am I going to do? I can't let them go through with this!" He wasn't sure there was anything he could do. One thing was for certain, he was making four copies of this manual. One for himself, and one for Kasumi, just in case. He needed to find a way to put a stop to it.
"...seen in the mountains of Tokyo. This unknown creature is just a small sign of many strange happenings in the world." A blurry photograph beside a news anchorman's head revealed a gray vaguely humanoid shaped blob.
"There sure have been a lot of odd unfocused photos these days, Tendo." Genma frowned as he looked at the man beside him.
"Must be some sort of fad. I grow weary of it. Is there no other news?" Soun gave a small sigh and sipped on his teacup.
Genma nodded. "Still, amusing for a time. Remember the dragon last week?"
"I don't know about that, Saotome. It looked more like a house fire to me. Something was burning." The man shook his head.
"I know that, Tendo." Genma put his up down, not noticing the two inch man who pulled it away to the middle of the table and rushed behind the flower vase before either man had spotted him. "It's all in good fun though, I'm sure."
"You're right I suppose, Saotome. Still, I grow weary of it. It would be more amusing if there wasn't so much of it." Soun closed his eyes as Genma looked on with a thoughtful frown. Just in time to miss the three inch long woman who fluttered by beside Genma on large dragonfly wings.
"I agree, it was more amusing last week, Tendo." Genma groped for his cup, looked back and spotted it. "Hmm."
"Something on your mind, Saotome?"
"No. Your eldest daughter makes a fine cup of tea." The larger man smiled and slapped his friend on his shoulder.
Neither one noticed the three tiny men, dressed in rat skins, rolling in laughter behind the vase.
Ryoga staggered on, the sky above was black, and the sun shined in the distance. The desert of red sand was endless, there was no water, the air tasted funny and seemed thinner. Still, he pressed, sweatless, haggard, and looking more like the walking dead. His skin was flaking off in dry flecks as he moved, revealing tough and rubbery muscle beneath. His eyes were sunken in, and stared forward in a dead way.
Ranma appeared before him, looking on with a wild grin on his face. "Hibiki. Do you feel death's hand upon your throat?"
"I hate you." His lips cracked, and his voice was a comical squeak.
"Yes. You admit defeat, I've destroyed you, ended you, beaten you."
The husk fell to it's knees. "Yes. I am defeated."
"Then I will end your suffering, and grant you power beyond imagination."
The husk lifted it's head, there was a sharp pain across his neck, and the skull hit the dirt.
Ryoga stared out across the endless sea of red once again. He was startled by it, and his eyes went wide. The air tasted the same, but he was whole, unharmed. "So, I must continue to return. Is this my punishment?"
"Not at all. It's your initiation." Ranma chuckled and shook his head.
"What? What have you done to me?" Ryoga clenched his fist and glared at the boy. Ranma simply tapped his staff on the ground. In an instant they were standing on a grassy field, with a beautiful blue sky above them, and forests far in the distance.
"I've ended your curse, for starters." The ponytailed monster started to walk around him. "You'll never get lost again. There's a catch of course. You'll always end up where I need you to be. You're still a servant. I'm willing to grant you a bit of a leash though. Provided you behave. You can't work against me, but in return..."
Ranma was smiling in a way Ryoga didn't like. "I'm listening." His arms were relaxed at his sides.
"I've made you like me. You're not as powerful of course. I'm afraid I've got a direct connection to you, and I'll always know what you're up too."
"What?" The former human was looking at his arms.
"You think that is what you really look like?" Ranma waved his arm and a mirror appeared before him. "This is the real you, an astral form. A body for the cosmos, not just this material realm."
Ryoga fell on his knees before the mirror. In front of him was a huge tiger like beast, with six inch fangs protruding over it's lips, and limbs more like a man. It was almost ten feet tall, at least eight feet wide at the shoulders. "It...it..."
"Relax. You're going to outlive everyone you know. There's no reason they ever need to know really. If that's the way you want it." Ranma was leaning on his staff and grinning. "You'll suit my needs quite nicely. Don't worry, you'll get into it. Don't go thinking of it as a gift, or buy out. You've earned it. You've gone to great lengths, and it's impressed me. If I'd remained mortal, you'd have made a good rival. I've not known you that long. Try to be civil. Enjoy yourself, and leave the humans be. I don't mean let them push you around, but I don't want to catch you tormenting them. I don't mind if you kill a few from time to time, just don't get carried away."
"What?" Ryoga reached out towards him as he tried to keep pace and looked upset.
"I've got a job for you. Don't worry, some of it will be less than fun, but the payoff is worth it." Ranma was looking like he was telling a child about a surprise.
"What do you want from me?"
"Well, I want you to be a jerk." Ranma shrugged. "You're to get in Akane Tendo's way, get ahead of her, meet the worst people you can find, set them against her, and generally be a irritant. Don't kill her though, she needs to succeed." He winked at him. "There's something she and her friends need to do. I want you to help motivate them, lead them along, and make sure they don't get caught on other snags."
Ryoga snorted. "Why not just have me help her then? Why all this?"
Ranma looked surprised and thought about it a moment. "...but, where's the fun in that? We're not completely rooted in the light Hibiki. As I said, I don't mind if a few people die. Just don't get carried away, or start trying to take over the world or anything. Oh. I don't mind if you start your own religion if you'd like. Just don't be an oppressive jerk. Maybe later, but for now we should play mostly nice." The demon eater chuckled. "Let's just say I want you to make sure she gets there, but make her work for it. The rest of the opposition will likely not be very challenging. Not at first anyway."
Ryoga growled. "I think I get what you mean."
"I'll even get you started. In a few days, she'll be stealing a map from a museum in Tokyo. Don't bother trying to stop that." Ranma turned his back on his new servant. "You're to wait, and steal the map afterwards. Make sure they can follow you, play with them for a bit, and then make sure they get it back. "Don't worry, you'll stick with them from there on your own. They'll think you're always a step ahead of them. Just remember your part, and you'll have a good time of it." He glanced over his shoulder. "You'll be getting lots of people killed, but they'll be bad people mostly. I'm not telling you to murder families and babies after all."
"Right." Hibiki growled and nodded. "I don't have a choice about this, do I?"
"No. You don't. Don't worry. I'll be leaving you to your own devices for the most part. I'll be popping up from time to time though." He started walking away, leaving Hibiki standing in the field. He paused. "Oh, one more thing. Don't save anyone. You're supposed to be a villain. Akane and her friends are important, you shouldn't let them die. Anyone else, and you stand there and watch."
"You're supposed to be meeting nasty people, Hibiki. They need to like and trust you. Don't worry, you can do as you please with what's left once Akane and her friends have passed. I'll give you that much. You'll probably enjoy it more than you think. Just make sure word of you doesn't leave if it's less than pleasant. So, if you do...no survivors. No one who sees you stab them in the back can survive. Even prisoners and innocents. Think carefully before you act. Even word of something that follows you can ruin your usefulness. No one's word of silence is good enough."
Ryoga frowned. "I...I see." He was glaring at the grass. He clenched his fist and became angry. "Is this some sort of test?"
"No, they are instructions. I suggest you follow them, or it will not end well for you. I'm through testing you, Hibiki. You've passed." The creature chuckled as he watched what was happening behind him.
Ryoga was on his knees as the sky grew dark overhead in a few seconds. Thunder rumbled angrily overhead as Ranma glared at him over his shoulders with his eyes glowing red. The former lost boy felt his chest burn and his limbs cramp as he fell to the ground in convulsions.
"This is nothing to the pain I can cause you, Hibiki." Ranma was smiling at him as it stopped. "I control you, I always know where you are and what you are doing. My grip will lessen as you grow stronger it's true, but it will always be there. I'll get tired of having just a puppet after a time after all. I'm not about to let you gain the ability to destroy me either."
"Yeah. Great." Ryoga gave a humorless laugh.
"Welcome to the club. You'll have a time of it once you get used to it I think. See you around." With that Ranma left him sitting in a light rain shower. Ryoga didn't care, the rain felt cool, but he wasn't getting chilled.
"Jerk." With a final heave Hibiki was on his feet and walking the other way. "I won't get lost huh? Then where the hell am I?"
"Hey, Kasumi." Akane had her arms behind her back. "Um..." The girl was flushed, and stared down at the floor while poking her fingers together.
Nabiki was hiding around the corner looking on. Glaring at her sister. "Come on, just spit it out already." She didn't say it loud enough for either of her sisters to hear of course.
"Um...we need to steal a magic map from the local museum, and then use it to break some kind of magic seals, so the world doesn't end." Akane had never felt so stupid in her life.
"Oh. That's nice. Have fun." The older girl nodded with a grin on her face.
"We...kind of need you to come with us." The younger girl swallowed and looked up at her. She was both horrified and embarrassed. "Oh, and we've got this book of spells we'd like you to learn... I-if you don't mind." Akane waved a handful of pages in her hand.
"R-really?" The older girl was surprised, but didn't seem to be taking what her sister was saying in. "You...want me to come with you?"
"Well, I..." Akane got a bit doe eyed. She was feeling a little light headed just standing under her sister's smile. "...well, um...Dr. Tofu is helping us. We'll be leaving Japan. These things are kind of all over the world and all."
The older girl nodded. "You really want me to come with you?" The elder sister's grin got even wider. "Are you sure? I'm not really sure what I could do."
Akane was starting to tear up, she was leaning over gripping the pages in her hand in a weak limp hand, her knees were visibly shaken and had buckled down. The girl's bottom lip was trembling. "Well, kind of...yeah."
"Oh! I'd be delighted! It will be kind of nice to take a little trip." Kasumi grabbed her sister in a warm embrace and Akane fell apart.
"Jeez, I'm glad I sent her to take care of that. Disgusting," said Nabiki Tendo as she took embarrassing photos of her sister from her spot around the corner. She loved her older sister of course, but being under her gaze for too long made her uncomfortable.
"Because we're already going to be thieves. I'd rather not end up a murderer too." Nabiki Tendo tapped her finger down on the tabletop. She had a cool even gaze directed at her sister. A map of the museum was laid out between them. Tofu was scratching at his head between them with a cigarette burning in his hand. He looked stressed, but nodded in agreement with the older girl.
"We could do it without killing someone. We just walk up, take it, and blast anything that tries to stop us before we get away. Shouldn't be too hard to lose the cops." Akane snorted.
"You are aware that your older sister will be standing next to you the whole time. We have to take her with us, remember?" Nabiki leaned in and smirked.
Akane worked her mouth for a bit. "I...uh...hey. Grrrr." She backed off the subject. "So what do we do then?"
"We get inside, have a look about the whole museum, while they are open. We need to see for ourselves before we start trying to plan this out." Nabiki frowned pushed the map away towards her sister. "The map will be more useful once we've had a look about the place."
Tofu nodded, he was still struggling with the fact that he was going to go through with this. "Right, what might look like a good hiding spot on this map, may turn out to be more open than expected."
"Very good, Doctor." Nabiki nodded. "That's the basic idea. I'll be taking notes, and updating the map with useful information. We can pick up a few more of these maps while we're there. That way we can each have one." She glanced at her sister. "It will be dangerous. We've got to be quiet, and we'll probably need you to get us past security. Quietly, and yes, that is important."
"Fine. I can handle that." The younger girl shrugged. She was giving her sister a displeased stare, and seemed to be brushing her off.
"Listen. I'm the brain here. You're the muscle." Nabiki growled and stood up to put both her palms on the tabletop.
"Yeah, yeah. So then what?" Akane nodded, brushing her sister off yet again.
Tofu gave a heavy sigh and glared at them both with a frown on his face. "Well, assuming we've made it to the map without having them call in the JSDF, of course..." He pulled the map in front of himself with his finger and looked down at it. "We get out quietly, and as fast as we can. We can't disable security completely, but we've got to remember that they check in regularly. We don't know how often. We could have anywhere from five minutes, to an hour before the rest realize something is up."
"Still, it will likely take them a while before they call in help. Not unless they find something interesting." Nabiki nodded.
"Not if they realize they're dropping like flies. Stealth is important, but we shouldn't disturb the guards whenever possible." Tofu frowned. "You're not the brains here. I am." He looked at both of them. Nabiki worked her mouth, but growled. He directed his rather serious gaze at her and puffed on his cigarette. "We shouldn't bring Kasumi. We don't need her. Not for this."
Nabiki shook her head. "We might not be able to come back and get her."
"I can keep her safe." Akane gave a firm nod.
"No, Nabiki will stay with Kasumi, outside the museum." Tofu looked at the girls. "Akane and I will go inside and get the map. I'm a fair martial artist myself, and we'll have an easier time dealing with it than you two. We're more agile, and that will make staying out of sight easier. This is a stealth operation." He turned his eyes towards Akane.
"I get it." Akane smiled at him and nodded. "Still, if we've got to get out fast. I'm pretty sure I can pull it off. I'm not leaving without that map, no matter what."
Tofu gave her a second glance and nodded. "As much as I hate to admit it, if Ranma isn't lying, the ends do justify the means." He peered down at the map, knowing there wasn't anything new there. "We'll go to the Museum tomorrow and have a look about. There's a hotel across the street. I'll rent a room out for Kasumi and Nabiki that night. They'll be able to keep watch on the building for us from there, it faces the entrance. " He looked over at the older girl. "We'll set up a meeting place for afterwards. Somewhere people won't be looking to find us."
Akane nodded. "So, not here or the dojo."
Tofu shrugged. "Not the school either, or any place someone might know you like to hang out. We'll pick a place later. I'll have a look about while you two are at school."
"We aren't going. We've got to learn this." Nabiki held up her copy of the spell book.
"Yeah." Akane agreed.
Tofu shook his head. "People will start asking questions if we don't act normally before then. Nothing personal, but you can't be hanging about here all the time and ducking school. It makes me look very bad, and I'd rather not already have the attention of the police. We aren't having another meeting like this for at least a week. I'm only taking you to the museum tomorrow because you don't have school then anyway."
Nabiki snorted. "He's right about hanging about here. We need to memorize this, and make sure Kasumi is practicing with us. I've memorized the spells already, but Akane and Kasumi don't have my memory either. No school till this is over. It won't make any difference anyway if this doesn't work out. We're all going to jail."
Tofu felt something pull at the back of his mind as he nodded. "Fine." She was using his feelings for Kasumi to get her way. Still, her ploy had been effective, he would protect the object of his affection at any cost. He knew it would be easier if she was as prepared as possible. His glasses fogged up as Kasumi entered the room.
"Oh. Hello. I hope you don't mind me interrupting." She had an apron on, and a wooden spoon in her hand. She'd spent the meeting in the doctor's small kitchen, making a meal for them all.
"Kasumi..." Tofu was in another world. "Fancy meeting you here."
The oldest of the girls giggled. "You're so silly Dr." She turned towards her sisters. "It's almost time to eat. I just wanted to let you know if you want it hot, you should finish up."
Tofu's eyes went completely out of focus and he seemed to freeze with a huge stupid grin and wide eyes. Akane waved her hand about in front of his face. "Um, thanks Kasumi."
Nabiki shook her head and snorted. "Yeah. Right. He's the brains here. Sure."
"Hello. Might I ask what you are doing in my yard?"
Ryoga frowned, he didn't have a traveling pack, or umbrella, but simply strolled with his hands in his pockets. He wasn't watching where he was going, and hopped over anything that had ended up in his way. He looked up. "Sorry. I wasn't watching where I was going."
"A poor excuse." The girl stuck her nose in the air. She was pretty, but didn't seem pleased to see him. She was wearing a local school for girl's uniform and twirling a ribbon behind her head. Her eyes were firm and cold, and she had long dark hair tied into a ponytail on the side of her head. The ribbon circled in a slow controlled spiral.
Ryoga snorted a chuckle and looked her dead in the eyes with a cool stare. His eyes were orange, and it startled the girl. "You smell like that idiot swordsman."
"Tachi?" Her features softened. "You know Tachi?" She didn't appear welcoming, more like amusement. It was obvious she still meant him harm.
The beast grinned, revealing oversize canine teeth. His smile was mostly human, but off somehow. "We've met. Didn't know he had a sister. Then again, he's somewhat beneath my notice."
Kodachi's ribbon had fallen to the ground, she twirled her ribbon wand not realizing her defense was gone. She looked confused and disgusted. "You are a demon." She snapped her wrist and the ribbon came to life. It flowed in the air behind her in a serpentine manner.
Ryoga snorted and raised his hand.
The girl gasped as her wrist was jerked downward. She looked over her shoulder just in time to see the ice covered ribbon hit the ground behind her. It shattered into thousands of small chucks and left only the bent wand in her grip. "What?"
"Get out of my way, girl."
"Wait. How did you do that? What are you?" The girl was confused, but her voice was still commanding, and she demanded it of him.
"Well, aren't we uppity." Ryoga snorted. He turned to face her. "Well, I suppose I've got some time to kill. You want to know if you can use magic do you?"
"Yes." The girl dropped her ribbon and rushed over to cling to his leg with her eyes locked onto his. "Tell me! I demand it!"
"Heh. I'll show you a few tricks. You're on your own after that." Ryoga stood up and pointed his hand at a fountain in the yard. He muttered a few phrases under his breath, raised his hand and called out. "Demona Crystal."
Kodachi stood watching as the fountain became in huge shards of clear pure ice. She stomped her foot and nodded. "I see then. You who crosses between sky and earth, raging water gather in my hand and give me power! Demona Crystal!" Kodachi repeated the words she'd heard and smirked. "I see." The gate to the family bath became encased in a wall of ice that poked with shards in every direction.
"Yeah. Good luck with that. You're on your own." The girl whirled around. After a moment of searching the yard with her eyes, she deduced she was alone. She put her hand up to the side of her face and laughed, long and hard, and continuously. "It seems my prowess has driven away the pathetic creature. No doubt it fears the power of my magical ability. Surely, lying dormant within me, to drive me to greatness forever upon this day! Ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho!"
Ryoga growled, and briefly considered going back to eat her. He shook his head, she'd picked up that trick faster than he was expecting. He didn't mean to teach someone that stupid anything, and had been planning playing with her for a bit, and then leaving her half frozen and tell her she didn't have any ability. "Heh. Might be fun to watch." He had a feeling he'd be seeing more of her in the future. In fact, given the huge desire to bite her head off he had from the start, he imagined this was one of those 'where I need you to be' things his new master had told him about.
He growled and closed his fist. The thing was hidden in the shadows of several nearby bushes as the girl continued to laugh. He shook his head as he sulked off, a continuous trail of her laughter filled the air. "That's got to be some kind of record. Is she going to pass out?" It was starting to get grating. A few hops to the roof of the building, and it was fading, and not fast enough for Ryoga Hibiki. It was almost like an alarm, and she'd not broken stride almost five minutes. "Agh! That's horrible!" The monster clutched at his head as he rushed away across the Kuno estate.
"Mom?" Ranma was confused for a brief moment. He wasn't expecting his father to try and attract his attention. Usually, the monster let his father win the morning routine, put up enough of a fight to satisfy him, and ignored him the rest of the day.
"That's right. We're going to see your mother. It's been ten years after all." Genma nodded and crossed his arms.
Ranma gave a small shrug. "Fine."
About two hours later, both of them stood side by side in front of the Saotome home. Neither had said anything throughout the trip. It was almost as if neither one had any idea the other was next to him, and hadn't noticed their destination was the same place.
"Ranma!" The monster was lifted off his feet by the woman who rushed from the house.
"Yes, here he is, just like I..." Genma found the door closed in his face as the woman dragged the boy into her home and ignored him. He opened the door and walked in.
"You're so, Manly!" The woman had red hair, a huge smile, a sword gripped in one hand.
The boy was looking at the weapon and smiled at her. "Well...n..."
"Oh. Hello dear." The woman seemed to realize there was another person in the room. She didn't let go of her son, her fingers tightened on his shoulders a bit as she smiled at Genma.
"Yes, as you can see. I've honored my promise. The boy is quite manly." Genma puffed out his chest and put his fists to his hip. He seemed to think she should be proud of him.
Ranma shook his head. "Don't be silly old man. I'm not even human anymore. How can I be 'manly'?" He took a great deal of pleasure from the expressions of both humans.
"Wh-what?" The woman swallowed and didn't let him go.
"He failed. I'm not manly. It's true I used to be, but I learned how to do magic, and now I've got an astral body, and I'm pretty much immortal. I'm actually a type of monster called a Mazoku." Ranma shrugged.
Nodoka gave a laugh and waved her hand. "This isn't the time for such jokes, my son. It's..."
"Boy! Do you have any idea..." Genma was giving him a look that implied he should shut his mouth.
"Yes. The two of you made a contract. I've no choice but to honor that contract. Regardless of whether the two of you intend too. We're both supposed to commit suicide by plunging a blade into our bellies while she cleaves off our heads with her sword." The boy nodded and smiled at him. "I'm actually kind of surprised you were dumb enough to bring me back here. I've told you before, I'm bound by contracts. I've taken steps to ensure that you don't drag me into any more of course. I'm still responsible for honoring some of the ones you made when I was younger though." He nodded and looked up at the man.
Nodoka screamed as she turned her eyes after realizing that her hand was on something warm, large, and furry. She backed away into the wall. Though smaller than he was in the school yard, Ranma's white beast like form dwarfed both the humans in the room. "Do I seem 'manly' now?"
Nodoka was still screaming as tentacles lashed out of the creature's body, grabbing her hands and feet. They forced her to grab her sword, and wrapped around her fingers, holding them closed around the hilt.
Genma tried to back away, but what his son had become grabbed him in more of his many hidden tentacles and forced him onto his knees as he sat him down beside him. "Mother. You must honor the contract."
Her face contorted as she struggled. The beast looked into the deep pools of blue of the creature's eyes. The iris was as large as her face.
"No! What are you doing? I'm your father!" She looked past the creature's head to realize that her husband had a short blade forced into his grip.
She felt herself being lifted through the air as her hands were pulled up over her head, raising the sword blade. She looked back with tear filled eyes, she wanted to scream, beg it to stop, but she couldn't. Her mouth worked open and closed impotent to even squeak a sound. She felt her arms come down, there was a loud blubbering scream, but it was cut off just after her arms swooped down. The woman squeezed her eyes shut, not wanting to see, gasping for breath, and choking on tears. She felt her arms raise up over her head again.
"Mother, you must fulfill the contract."
"You are not my son!" She opened her eyes and screamed in defiance. She gasped at what she saw. The animal had it's neck held out, and the hand like claws of it's paws was holding a blade up to it's belly.
"No!" She struggled, not wanting to bring the blade down, but it came anyway. The tentacles went limp and fell away from her, but she simply collapsed in tears without their weight. She shuddered as she curled up in tears.
"Why?!" she screamed.
"Because you signed a contract."
She gasped and sat up, alarmed. The boy was sitting beside her, a headless skeleton burning away to ashes and floating into the air around them vanished behind him. The fire didn't burn the floor of the home, and the ash simply drifted off into the sky. "You..."
"I'm grateful that you brought me into this world. I'm afraid, I'm not the boy who left here anymore. I've become something else." He nodded at her with a smile on his face. It was pleasant, but not warm or welcoming.
"But, you...that spirit..." She was shaken, tears fell from her eyes.
"Spirit? That was no spirit. What you see now is only a spirit. What you saw then, that was the truth. I'm not human, no man amongst men. I've become something more than a man. Goodbye, mother. Your husband, unlike me, will not return again. You are free. Your honor satisfied."
"I'm an old maid! What can I...what do I do?" The woman burst into tears. "Wait! My son!" She didn't look well. "I have nothing but this home, and you."
The boy shook his head. "Take a look at yourself. You're better off without me for now. I'll visit, once you've had time to think about what's happen. I assure you, it was no dream, but it's best of you keep it to yourself."
"Wait! Do not...do not go yet..." She stood up, fear clear on her features as she walked up and took him into her arms. "Please. I am alone. Tell me...tell me about my son? You...you are my son?" She gave a sort of delirious laugh as she looked at his face as if inspecting a diamond.
"I suppose there's no harm in explaining a bit." The boy shrugged. "I suppose you are my mother after all."
A short time later, Ranma sat across from his mother, drinking tea, and answering questions. "No. I don't care for humans. I've tried it a couple of times, but it just left a bad taste in my mouth. I eat demons mostly. I can exist on strong emotions as well. I had angel once, but I'd like to try it again. On occasion, I'll treat myself to a cow or catch a wild deer. I don't really need solid food though. I'm not prevented from enjoying it on occasion though."
Nodoka nodded, she'd calmed and seemed reserved. Still, she'd asked him many questions, and gotten strange, but satisfactory answers in return. "You've got a child?"
"Hmm? You could say that. I don't breed really, but I can make more like me. It's difficult to explain, requires a great deal of energy, and requires death to work. It's actually a form of reincarnation. He's not a 'child' though." Ranma shook his head. "There are no females yet. I'm not certain how well that will work anyway. I'm more a force of energy than a 'being' anymore, astral bodies aren't like physical forms. I'm just using this one because it interacts well with this dimension."
"Oh." The woman was confused, but seemed to understand he'd done his best to explain. "Ranma. I'd, like to see you again. You are my son. I suppose."
"Yes. I was once the boy who left this home. I'm your son. I've grown up, different, than you might have expected." He nodded and shrugged. "I'm also a lot more than he was when he left."
"I see." It was clear she didn't really get it, but she nodded once. "I'll see you again then?"
"Yes. I'll visit you again if you wish." The boy nodded. "I suppose I could find a way to drop by on occasion. You are my mother after all."
"I'd like that. I can accept you...as you are...I believe." She shuddered but nodded.
"Thank you. Don't worry. I'll take care of you mother. You'll never have to worry about losing your home, or starving. I promise. You will be taken care of." Ranma shrugged.
"Yes. You're free." The boy nodded.
"I am alone." She was looking out in the yard.
"That's up to you. His death had no honor. There was little I could do to save him from his own word and karma in the end. You are free to do as you please." He stood up and dusted off his pants and gave her a gentle smile. "If you need help, well, you don't even have to tell me. I'll take care of it anyway."
She looked up at him and nodded. "Yes." She arched her eyebrow and nodded.
She sat with her cup of tea, watching the yard. Her son left her in peace. She turned her eyes towards the spot where Genma had been. Not a trace of what had happened remained. Her eyes became lost, as she turned back towards the yard again.
Next time: The heist.