"Lord Stangmar, we have reports of 70,000 youma approaching the city from the south side!"
"Launch the Null-magic gas from main defensive grid. Have Jade Guardian battalions 1-5 go to fight the youmas. I want battalions 6 and 7 held in reserve incase we get attacked on a second front. Have the Dragonzord prepped for me in two minutes!"
"Sir, we're getting reports from the Zord cage, someone has hacked into the Zord's system and activated its self destruct device. We can't override it and its set to detonate in 10 minutes!"
"Keep your calm soldier. Prep the launch rail to send the Dragonzord into the sea. Have all the mages begin transporting the citizens to safety. I want the city shield lowered for transport. The 6th battalion will guard the mages. Where the hell are the reinforcements from Atlantis?"
Suddenly, the speaker was assaulted by horrible scenes of brutality. People were running through the streets in terror as monsters chased after them. Soldiers trying to protect the people were blown apart even as they fought to their last breath. The images shifted and suddenly he was in the middle of a field surrounded by the monsters. The sword in his hand was drenched in monster blood and his armor was badly damaged. As a mushroom cloud formed in the distance, the unknown person was stabbed through the stomach. Falling into a field of mutilated corpses, the speaker gasped out in rage, "Was she worth this Endymion?"
Ranma let loose a blood curdling scream of terror as he bolted awake on his futon. The martial artist's face was white with terror as he tried to catch his breath. Ranma's hands were shaking in terror even as he tried to will them to be steady. "It was just a nightmare; real men aren't frightened by dreams. It was just a nightmare; real men aren't frightened by dreams. It was just a nightmare-"
The young Saotome didn't get a chance to finish his mantra as Genma came barreling through the door like an angry bear. "What's with all of the noise boy? Don't you realize how disrespectful it is to interrupt your father's sleep?"
Very quickly, Ranma shot back at Genma. "Sure I realize its disrespectful Pops. However, it's not like I can stop the kami from turning my dreams into a warzone. Show me how to go threw World War III in my head without screaming and I'll gladly keep quiet."
A small frown appeared on Genma's face and his eyes shifted to hint at concern. "Don't tell me it was that it was one of those dreams again Ranma." Ever since that stupid Neko-ken debacle the boy had routinely suffered from nightmares of being in battle. At first, Genma had merely told Ranma to just go back to sleep. But, the dreams kept on returning and they honestly scared Genma when Ranma finally talked about them several years ago. These nightmares honestly made the stories Genma's father told about his experiences in WWII seem like bedtime stories.
Ranma clenched his fists finally managing to stop shaking. "Yah Pops, it was one of those. In fact, it was the dream where I die."
Genma sighed and then quickly replied, "Look Ranma, why don't you go do some katas to clear your head. After that, get yourself some breakfast and relax a bit. You've got that match with Ryoga later today and I don't want it said that my son was beaten because he couldn't get a good night's rest!" The last part of Genma's speech was said in a gruff manner to hide his concern and then he went back to bed.
Once Genma had left the room, Ranma headed to the apartment deck and started a light kata. It took several of them before Ranma was able to fully clear his head. Although the dreams were old and familiar to him, they always felt brand new. Even worse, the dreams were coming more frequently and with more details than they had in the past. Why was this happening to him?
Haruka was gulping down on her water bottle in the parking lot sitting next to Ranma as Michiru walked onto the lot. She turned her head to look at Michiru and smiled, "Hey there Michiru! I'm so glad you could join us."
Michiru sighed and replied, "If it wasn't for the fact that Ranma is leaving after this little match of his I wouldn't be here." The elegant musician then turned to Ranma and asked, "Tell me again Ranma, why did you agree to this juvenile match again?"
Ranma shrugged his shoulders and replied, "Do you want the real reason or the heroic sounding reason?"
"Give me the truth Ranma."
"Alright, Ryoga challenged me because I always got the good bread at lunch time and he thinks that he should have gotten it a few times. As a student of Anything Goes, I'm not supposed to turn down any martial arts challenge I'm given so here I am."
Michiru looked up at the sky in playful exasperation and dramatically said, "Why oh why do I put up with your juvenile and uncivilized ways Ranma?"
Ranma turned towards Haruka and loudly whispered, "What is she talking about Haruka?"
Unable to help herself, Haruka snorted and then started laughing. Haruka was holding her sides as she tried to reign in her laughter. "Alright you two, knock off the princess and the savage act will you?"
Both teens nodded their heads as smiles appeared on their faces. Michiru quickly sat down next to Haruka and rested her head on her girlfriend's shoulder. Ranma returned to meditate while waiting for Ryoga to show up. There was a small frown on his face that wasn't there when Michiru arrived. Her arrival reminded Ranma that he and his father were soon going to be leaving for China.
Traveling around didn't use to bother Ranma. After all, it was like being on an adventure always looking for the next place to learn a new technique. The father son duo had been staying at their current apartment for six months while Genma got Ranma far enough ahead in his schoolwork to not get in trouble for the extended vacation to China. While it gave Genma a chance to sort everything out, it gave Ranma the unexpected opportunity to make some friends.
Ranma had made friends with Haruka first after he discovered that she was a girl. The only reason she was attending an all-boys school was because of a dare her cousins had given her. He had helped cover for her so her gender wasn't discovered at school and their friendship grew from there. Shortly after that, Ranma had become friends with Michiru through Haruka. Both Ranma and Michiru respected each other's dedication to their respective arts. That Michiru had been willing to iron out some of Ranma's social ignorance and Ranma's acceptance of her and Haruka's relationship turned that respect into a genuine friendship.
The trio began chatting about various future plans of theirs as they waited for Ryoga to show up. After about two hours of talking, Genma arrived on the scene. The older Saotome glanced around and scowled. "Ranma, where is that Ryoga kid you said was going to challenge you now? I didn't delay our trip just so you can hang around with your buddy from school and his girlfriend."
A tick mark appeared on Ranma's face as he had just been talking to Haruka about motorcycles when his father butted in. "Look Pops, this is lost boy Ryoga we're talking about. He's almost never on time because he can get lost in a room with one door and no windows. Give him some time or he'll do something crazy like follow us to China to hold the match."
Genma crossed his arms across his chest and his face took on a look of disgust. "If a man issues a challenge he should show up on time. If Ryoga's not here then you win by forfeit Ranma. Let's go and pack!"
Michiru politely coughed to get Genma's attention. "Sir, isn't the honorable thing for a man to do when he knows that someone has a disability is to give reasonable accommodations for the disability?"
Genma nodded his head agreey with what Michiru was saying. "Yes, that's true. But what is the point girl?"
"My point, sir, is that Ryoga is disabled in that he has a preexisting condition which makes it very difficult if not impossible for him to arrive anywhere on time. Even if Ryoga left early, which is likely given that he wanted to be here for this match, it was highly probably that he would be unable to get here in time. As that is the case, isn't waiting the honorable thing for Ranma to do? Surely an hour or two delay will not impede your travel plans too much, but will allow your son to both show he accepted the challenge and was willing to meet the needs of his challenger at great inconvenience to himself."
The older martial artist blinked his eyes for a few seconds and then dumbly nodded his head. How had she boxed him into this corner? If he dragged Ranma away it would look dishonorable and if he waited then Ranma would miss valuable training time. Finally, Genma huffed and said, "Alright, we'll wait one hour. If Ryoga hasn't shown up by then Ranma wins by forfeit and you'll have to inform him."
Haruka smirked and quickly answered for Michiru. "Don't worry Mr. S, if Ryoga doesn't show up I'll be sure to rub it in his face the next time he shows his mug in school." This proclamation seemed to placate Genma. To pass the time, the trio continued to talk. However, Genma was left completely out of the loop because the three were speaking Mandarin. Last month Michiru had pointed out how dumb it would be to go to China without being able to speak Chinese so the trio started taking Chinese lessons to prepare Ranma.
Soon enough, the hour came and went without Ryoga showing up. Ranma knew that his father wouldn't budge on another extension. He turned to his friends and smiled. "It's been great being your friend. If it's humanly possible I'll meet up with you two again once I get back from China and I'll try to write while I'm gone."
Haruka gave Ranma a big hug and then lightly hit the boy on the shoulder. "You'd better write mister or I'll track you down and pound you."
Michiru leaned forward and gave Ranma a quick kiss on the cheek. "Take care Ranma and try not to get into too much trouble. Remember to use your brain before your ego starts talking or you'll never have a moment's peace since Haruka and I won't be there to bail you out of trouble."
An angry red head stared at a panda in disbelief and started muttering to herself. "I can't believe this. How could Pops take us to those springs after I told him about the warnings? What part of 'Training ground is no longer used because the springs are cursed; only a complete dumbass would train here," did he not understand? Ranma had wanted to avoid the training grounds, but his father had surprised him and thrown him into the middle of the springs. Genma managed to knock him into the spring of drowned girl as he tried to get out of the training ground. At least Ranma had the satisfaction of sending the bozo into the spring of drowned panda as well.
Luckily, the Jusenkyo guide had quickly arrived and explained how the curses worked. He had then offered to take Ranma and Genma to a nearby village whose villagers could help them get use to the curse. Unfortunately, a freak storm had activated the curses. Even worse, Genma had immediately spotted a table loaded with food and began to chow down. Ranma had spotted the sign saying "winner's feast" and knew that this was just going to get worse.
Ranma quickly turned her head to see an enraged Shampoo storm towards her with a growing group of angry women. Shampoo yelled out. "That's my prize! Why are you letting your pet eat my food foreigner? Don't you realize how rude that is?"
It was times like these that Ranma was eternally grateful to have meet Michiru and her etiquette lessons. Ranma quickly bowed her head and replied in broken Chinese. "Not pet, is stupid cursed Dad. Please neuter-, er, beat him. How can Ranma repay you?"
Shampoo didn't need a second invitation. She whipped out her bonbori and slammed it into Genma's head. Genma was too busy stuffing his face to realize the danger he was in and quickly got an express ticket to dream land. Shampoo gave Genma a couple good whacks and then passed her bonbori around so that the other women in the crowd could play whack the moron.
With her father going from black and white to black and blue, Ranma sighed and wondered how she was going to get out of this mess. Her answer came as Shampoo walked over to Ranma and then motioned with her head for the cursed red head to follow her. As they walked Shampoo said, "The village elders will decide how you can repay this insult. You're likely to get off easy since you didn't touch any of the food. Your father on the other hand will get a much harsher punishment. How did such a rude man father such a smart daughter?"
Ranma chuckled and replied, "This Ranma's curse. Ranma born a boy."
The newly crowned Amazonian champion stopped in her tracks, looked at Ranma, turned to look at Genma, and then looked back at Ranma. She then sighed and said, "You must get it from your mother." Shampoo then continued leading Ranma towards the elders' building. The duo was briefly stopped by a guard who let them through once Shampoo explained the situation.
Now, Ranma had only found out that the village of Heroic Warrior Women, or the Amazon Village as some of the locals dubbed it, existed only an hour ago. Thus, he didn't really have much in the way of preconceived ideas on how their council of elders would be set up. The council itself was extremely simple: there were twelve councilors and one matriarch who functioned as the first among equals and the leader of the group. To Ranma's surprise, six of the councilors were men.
Cologne looked up in surprise as her great-granddaughter entered the room with a stranger. She quickly looked at the matriarch who nodded her head in agreement. With the matriarch's permission, Cologne spoke up. "Why have you come to us with this stranger, my great-granddaughter?"
Shampoo bowed to the matriarch and then to her great-grandmother. "This stranger is part of an incident that has just occurred in this village. A panda was eating the winner's feast. This stranger claims that the panda is her father under a Jusenkyo curse. Furthermore, she claims that she herself is currently under a Jusenkyo curse and would like to make restitution for his father's mistake. I brought this stranger here so that you could decide on a fair restitution."
One of the male councilors picked up his tea cup, heated it up with his ki, and then tossed it on Ranma reversing the curse. That elder smirked and said with a chuckle, "So far Shampoo's story checks out." A round of chuckles quickly passed through the elders and then subsided. They then rapidly began to ask questions concerning the details of the situation. Cologne quickly ended up fielding most of the questions with Ranma since she could speak Japanese.
Soon enough, the elders reached their decision. Cologne was chosen to speak on behalf of the elders. "Ranma Saotome, it is our opinion that your father carries most of the blame for this incident and thus he shall work in the fields for three months to replay the food he stole. However, it is our opinion that you did not do enough to stop your father in his stupidity. Thus, you yourself will work in the fields for one week in repentance. In addition, you will remain in your cursed form for this week. This should help you to both learn more about your new cursed form and also serve as a reminder about what happens when you do not act correctly."
"Oh the shame, what did I do to deserve such a dishonorable son that he won't help his poor father escape from slavery."
"Shut up Pops, you're embarrassing yourself. You've got two more months before your community service ends. Haven't you ever heard the phrase 'don't do the crime if you can't pay the time?' What did you think would happen when you ate all that food? Besides, losing all that weight has really helped you out!"
The Saotomes were currently in one of the many fields surrounding the Amazon village. Off to the side a bit, Shampoo who was serving as Genma's parole officer was observing the duo as they worked in the fields. Ranma's sentence had ended a while ago, but he still worked in the fields in exchange for the right to use some of the training fields around the village.
Genma snorted and got back to work. The longer they stayed here in this backwater village, the longer it would be until they could get back to Japan. Genma really wanted to be back home so that he could reminisce with his old buddy Soun. That, and introduce Ranma to his buddy's daughters.
Shampoo called out, "Hey Ranma, Great-grandmother says that you can enter the inter-village tournament for the region next month. Apparently, the committee in charge of the tournament wants to see how your style stands up against the local styles."
Ranma turned around to face Shampoo and nodded his head. "That sounds great. I'll be glad to enter." He then returned to plowing the field with his hands. It was an idea that Ranma got out of a manga and he had to say that it was working.
A low pitch horn suddenly started going off causing Shampoo to whip her head towards the village. "That's the emergency horn!" She then turned to the Saotomes and explained. "The village must be under attack as that horn only goes off if we're being invaded! We must hurry to get inside the village walls before the gates are shut!" Shampoo then bolted for the village.
Genma quickly threw down his hoe and said, "Let's not involve ourselves in this local affair son. It's time that we started heading home." The elder Saotome turned around and saw Ranma running after Shampoo towards the village. Genma's eyes buldge out and he shouted, "What do you think you're doing boy?"
Ranma turned around so that he was running backwards. "If the village is being attacked then that means there'll be invaders swarming this area. The safest place I can think of is behind the village walls. At least there we'll have the Amazon warriors to help cover our sides. Besides, all our stuff is in the village!"
Genma blinked his eyes and then muttered, "I can't believe the boy was right and I was wrong. That's a very good point." He quickly high tailed it to the village and barely made it inside the walls before they closed the village gates.
Shampoo quickly moved towards the meeting grounds where Cologne was assembling the Amazons. Ranma and Genma followed her because they didn't have a better idea of what they should do. Cologne shouted explanations rapidly. "10 minutes ago, a magical portal opened up around Jusenkyo. It's possible that the vortex is feeding off of the magical energies of the cursed springs, but that's not relevant at the moment. What is relevant is that creatures resembling demons are coming out of the portal. They killed the guide and our observers were only barely able to escape with their lives and the life of the guide's daughter. These monsters are heading this way and should be at the gates in a few minutes."
"All journeymen warriors are to take a crossbow and report to the walls. First level Ki adepts are go to the towers to help heat up the tar. unblooded second level Ki adepts are to be positioned equally at the four gates to hold off any breakthroughs. Blooded second level Ki adepts will be held in reserve in the center of the village. All second level ki adepts with appropriate weapons skills are to grab an AK-47 from the armory. Don't waste your ki if a bullet will do; we have villagers' lives at stake here."
The assembled amazons quickly left to do their assigned tasks leaving Cologne alone with the Saotomes. Cologne turned her head and snapped, "What is it boy?"
Ranma looked into her eye and replied, "I want to help. Where can I lend you all a hand?"
Cologne looked into Ranma's eyes for a few seconds searching for the truth of his words and then smiled. She reached into a hidden weapons pocket and pulled out a crossbow. This crossbow was a repeating crossbow that was as large as a European heavy siege crossbow. "Here you go boy, an Amazon Crossbow. It requires a great deal of upper body strength, the kind that normally requires ki muscle enhancement, which is why this baby isn't widely used. Just point it in the general direction of the enemy and fire. You can get a quiver of bolts on the west wall and try to hit the monsters a couple of times while you're getting the hang of it."
Ranma took the crossbow and bowed his head. He then raced through the village towards the wall. One of the guards gave Ranma a funny look and then handed him a quiver. Ranma grabbed the quiver and rushed to an opening in the line of defenders. Following the others' examples, Ranma loaded his crossbow and waited for the youma to appear.
The youma appeared over the horizon and quickly rushed towards the village. Ranma shivered for a second realizing that these were the same monsters from his dreams. Regaining his cool, Ranma carefully aimed his crossbow and waited for the order to fire. The Amazon in charge of the wall quickly gave the order to fire causing volley after volley of bolts to sail towards the youma.
Dozens of youma fell to the ground pierced by the steel bolts. The downed youma soon rose again and continued to march towards the walls of the village causing many of the younger Amazons to shiver in fear. Ranma frowned as a lecture that he had never heard before popped into his mind. "Youma have no weak spots to target. Unlike humans, they are a dark astral species that has the ability to physically manifest their consciousness bring them into this dimension. This manifestation is extremely energy intensive which why youma are notorious with draining ki: they need the energy to maintain their manifestations until they can return to their native realm. Normal weapons are ineffective against them. If you find yourself facing a youma and cannot use magic then your only option is to stab them with pure iron and run. This element causes the youma expend far more power to maintain their form and will soon kill them."
Ranma quickly noticed that the youma who had been hit were pulling out the bolts and that their bodies looked sickly around the puncture wounds. He fired off several more bolts and then frowned as that lecture he had never heard before returned to his mind. "Iron alloys are useful in slowing youma down. However, the other elements that makes these alloys so useful for other purposes greatly weakens iron's anti-youma properties"
Shaking his head, Ranma tried to clear his head as he loaded more bolts into the crossbow's cartage. The youma used the reload period to reach the wall only to have cauldrons of boiling tar poured onto them. Many amazons started to turn green as they watched the tar dissolve through the screaming youma. Once the last of the tar passed through the youmas, they stopped screaming and let out a roar of hatred.
"No, it's happening again." Ranma whispered in shock. He stood frozen in terror as the youma began to blast through the walls. The crossbow fell from Ranma's hands as he numbly watched the youma tear through the Amazons. It was just like his dream, these monsters attack and then turned the city into a grave yard.
The only thing that shook Ranma out of his shock was the sound of a young woman's shriek. Ranma whipped his head around and saw that part of a watchtower was going to fall on an Amazonian crossbow woman. Not thinking at all, Ranma leaped off of the wall, rolled as he hit the ground, and used his momentum to shove the Amazon out of the way. Ranma was barely able to get the Amazon out of immediate danger when the failing debris hit him.
"Okay, what the hell is going on?" Ranma muttered to himself as he stared out into a dark and empty expanse. This didn't make any sense; the last thing he remembered was getting hit by the side of a watchtower as those youmas attack the Amazon village. How did he end up here?
A neigh caused Ranma to whip his head around and watch as a figure riding a skeleton horse slowly emerged from the darkness. The figure slowly had the horse walk closer to Ranma allowing the teen to see his face. Although the figure's face was deathly white, Ranma immediately recognized it. On impulse he whispered out, "Father."
Immediately afterward, Ranma smacked his forehead and gave his head a shake. "What the hell am I saying? You're not Pops, but why I have the sudden need to call you father? This isn't making any sense!"
The figure chuckled and said, "Of course it's not making any sense. These sorts of things never make any sense Stangmar."
"My name is Ranma Saotome and not Stangmar of Tir na nOg. I don't know who you think I am, but you've obviously got the wrong person."
To Ranma's surprise, the figure laughed and replied, "Oh I am quite certain that you are indeed Stangmar. I never mentioned Tir na nOg, but you were able to remember our lands just the same."
Ranma's eyes widened in shock as this stranger, from whom he felt the strange urge to call father, was correct. He then gulped and asked, "Does this have something to do with those nightmares of mine?"
The man nodded his head. "This has everything to do with those dreams. You see, they are not dreams. They are your memories."
"Bullshit! I never saw a Youma before in my life until today!" Ranma would have continued to rant, but something caught his eyes. His feet were losing color. Already his toes were as pale as the strange familiar man's face.
The man also glanced at Ranma's feet and scowled. "Listen son, you don't have time argue with me. Just in case you've forgotten, your body is currently crushed under a bunch of rubble! This place is the border region between the living and the dead. You ended up here because your soul is too damn stubborn to pass on without a fight. However, your will to survive can only last you so long and if you don't listen to what I have to say you'll die."
Ranma snapped to attention as his companion dismounted. The man walked over to Ranma and then continued. "Now that I've gotten your attention, I'd like to explain why I'm here. The leaders of the death realms have sent me here to try and bring you back to life. We know that the forces behind the youma are going to conduct a massive attack on the Earth with that village you were in being the opening act. Such an attack could really crowd the death realms if we suddenly have to put up with 6 billion more souls. You soul has a tenuous connection to a great source of power. Such power can revive you and possibly prevent the destruction of life on Earth; as such it can save our existing space so you've got to live."
Blinking his eyes, Ranma tried to wrap his brain around what Burai told him. Suddenly, Ranma's eyes narrowed and he asked. "You're Burai of Tir na nOg. I don't know how I know, but I know that is your name."
Burai nodded his head. "You're correct boy. In this realm the boundaries of the soul are weakened allowing one to remember things from their past lives. Your soul's boundaries were weakened a long time ago causing you to remember those nightmares because your soul clung so tightly to your past life's death. This is rather fortunate for us because your obsession with your death allowed you to keep a connection to the power that can save you. If you hadn't, your connection would have faded when your past life ended just like the connections the other Prince-Electors held."
Ranma was about to speak, but Burai cut him off. "The connection I speak of is to the Power Grid, the mystical core of Earth. Your previous incarnation Stangmar had this connection as a Prince-Elector of the Earth Kingdom so that he could become a Ranger; our champions to stand equal to the Senshi of the Silver Millennium. If you can fully reestablish your connection to the Power Grid, you'll be able to live and become a Ranger. Doing so would give you the power to protect everyone from those traitors attacking the village you are in."