Tapping on the door, the young man looked nervously around. Ever since he'd woken up it had seemed like wherever he had gone, there was no one around. Frankly, it scared the hell out of him and it was no surprise that he was jumping at shadows. He saw there was only one place that appeared to have anyone present in it, if the lights and shapes occasionally moving across the windows were anything to go by. He wasted no time in making his way to the house, letting loose a tremendous sigh of relief when he reached the door.
As he waited, he wondered who lived in the house. It seemed an old building, nearly as old as some of the ruins he had visited over the years. Its style was decidely foreign, thick black stone walls and a solid iron door all covered in white carvings. He didn't pay much attention to them, save the one that made an ornamental doorknocker that looked like a leering skull. The small candles that lit the sockets from within served to give the young man a thoroughly creeped out feeling.
He was immensely relieved when the door opened, revealing a smiling, and somewhat pale, young woman who looked a year or two younger than his own eighteen. She gave him a warm smile, though her lips stayed closed. As she gestured him to enter, he took in the flowing black dress she had on, decorated with patterns in white lace that seemed to squirm under his focus and refused to resolve into actual images. A soft giggle brought him out of his musings and he realised with a start that he had been staring right into the young woman's cleavage.
His head snapped up so fast it was suprising that he didn't get any whiplash. The young woman simply looked at him and his blushing face with amusement. Her strange, reddish-brown eyes were dancing with the flickering of the candles that lined the house. Ducking his head in embarrassment, he nonetheless followed her gesture and stepped inside. As he followed her down the long door-lined hallway, he heard the great iron door slam shut, and he couldn't help but think about how similar the sound was to that of the lid of a coffin being nailed shut.
He flinched at what sounded like an animal screaming in terror or great pain, or maybe a combination of both, the sound coming from one of the many closed doors. He turned a nervous look to his hostess and found her staring at the door in question with a scowl. Feeling his attention, her head whipped back around, the smile back in place, as if the dark look had never been. She gave a shake of her head before idly pointing to the door.
"I must apologize, my pets can get quite bothersome when I have a guest over. I'm feeling quite peckish, would you care for something to eat or drink?" Her voice had a strange, almost hypnotic quality to it, and the young man started to feel as if he would do anything to keep hearing her voice. Absently he nodded his head, and then followed her down the rest of the hall until they reached the kitchen. Moving woodenly, he took a seat at the table in the center of the room and watched patiently as his hostess ran around preparing food.
The room was quiet, save for the sounds of the young woman chopping vegetables off on the side. The young man gave a start when the stillness was interrupted by the rude sound of a telephone ringing. Carefully wiping off the knife before setting it down next to the cutting board she turned to face the young man.
"I'll be right back, and whatever you do, don't go into any of those rooms. They're private." After receiving a nod, she left the room and he heard her answer the phone. The young man could hear her speaking, her tone still calm and peaceful. His attention though was caught by the sound of the animal, this time coming from a door that he could see was slightly ajar. Looking into the glass window over the sink he could see the young woman over in the other room speaking into the phone.
'Well, its not like I'm actually going to go into the room. I'll just take a peek from the door, no harm in that.' The young man thought to himself as he stealthily got up from the table and made his way over to the door. Taking a quick glance back to make sure that the woman was still on the phone, he leaned in close and tried to see through the small gap. He he couldn't see much all told, as the room was dark, with the only light coming from the oil lamp burning in the kitchen, the flickering light illuminating a stretch of the floor, plain tile flooring stained with what appeared to be puddles of dark wax.
Feeling curious, the young man gently tried to tease the door open a touch more. Instead it easily swung open, revealing the disturbing entirety of the room. The light spilled into the room, turning the puddles of wax into pools of dried blood. But that didn't even attract a touch of the young man's attention, as it was all spent on the figure leaning on the wall opposite the door.
The figure was wrapped around by several large chains, chains that seemed familiar to the young man, as did the figure himself. Though, it was hard to tell exactly who the figure was, as he had been covered in blood from several series' of small slashes. The figure's arms were somewhat free, the chains that held them allowing some movement of the arms with the hands free. The chains were each held in place by a large lock, the key's dangling from the ceiling on pieces of string. The young man was puzzled as to why the figure didn't simply grab the keys, as they were easily noticeable.
The young man had his answer when the figure looked up at the source of the sudden illumination. The young man nearly screamed as he was filled with frightening recognition. The large glasses that decked the figure's face were instantly recognizable, though they no longer served a purpose, since someone had plucked the eyes right out of the figure's sockets. The young man stumbled over his legs as he backed up, resorting to backpedalling with his hands, until he ran into something. Trembling he looked up into the grimly smiling visage of his hostess. This time her smile drew back her lips, revealing sharply pointed canine teeth.
"Now what did I tell you? You've gone and spoiled the surprise. Well I guess that just means we can get things started a bit sooner." She turned and faced the figure in the room, her smile becoming wider. "Don't worry Mousse-y boy, I'll be back for you soon enough." And with a wave of her hand the door slammed shut. Turning her attention back to the young man, she cocked her head to the side.
"Now, what to do with you, hmm precious?" She took a step forwards, clearly enjoying the terror on the young man's face. The patterns her dress had revealed themselves as various visages of death, a large winged skull reaching across her cleavage. Her eyes, where before had been a reddish brown, had become a shining pure crimson, with a look that screamed of the hunger in them.
The young man leaped away from her and stumbled backwards into another room. He swung around and this time he did scream. The figure in this room had been impaled by nearly fifty swords, two wooden bokkens serving to hold him suspended off the ground, as they had been rammed through his shoulders and into the wall itself. The young man trembled as he recognized the old style samurai outfit this figure wore. Shaking he backed up and turned, only to find himself, not in the hallway as conventional physics would expect, but within another room.
The sight in this room caused him to void his stomach, making him glad that he hadn't actually eaten anything yet. In the middle of the room was a young lady with a boyish cut to her hair, her eyes' rapid movement the only sign that she was alive, though considering her state such a thing seemed impossible. Suspended above her head was a massive cauldron slowly pouring its contents into a large funnel stuck in the woman's mouth. Her belly already appeared obscenely close to bursting, and her skin had begun to blister from the heat of the molten gold being poured into her stomach.
This time he didn't even register leaving the room, only the fact that the tiles had changed and become stained with prolific amounts of blood. Though he didn't desire the sight in the least, he found his head uncontrollably raising. What he saw once again set him screaming, though this time the horror in his voice was mixed with sorrow. The person in front of him could barely be called that any more. The only intact thing on her body was her head, the rest had been crushed as if by great weights applied to it, though it was apparent that it wasn't done all at once, instead it looked as if someone had spent several days with a massive sledge hammer crushing her body piece by piece.
He barely noticed any of the sights after that. As he staggered around lost, he registered the sight of a body obscured by a pack of wolves that was devouring it, a lock of purple hair serving to identify the body. In another room, he noticed a rather fat man who had screamed himself hoarse as his blood was being replaced by pure alcohol. And in another, a thinner man had his head surrounded by an orb of salt water, the man slowly drowning in tears.
Finally, the young man found himself standing right back where he had started, in the kitchen. He looked around the room wildly, and sighed in relief when he found the woman wasn't in sight. The young man ran for his life down the hallway, several times barely avoiding tripping over his own feet in his haste to escape. Reaching the door, he pulled with all of his might but the iron door wouldn't budge. Hearing something, he turned and found himself face to face with the young woman, a frown on her face.
"Now where do you think you're going, hmm? As I said before I'm feeling so very hungry right now. And you look like you'll make the perfect meal."
The young man gasped, before shakingly dropping his gaze to his chest, only to find a gaping hole where his heart would be. Turning his head back up he watched as the young woman held his heart in his hand and took a large bite out of it, making a show of chewing it before swallowing and giving him a bloody smile. As Ryoga collapsed to the ground, he couldn't help but think that the beautiful hair that was red like fire before, had darkened to the colour of spilled blood.
The red-haired woman stared at the corpse as she let loose a terrifying laugh. It wasn't a cackle or chortle, nor did it sound hysterical, but it simply terrified the one who heard it. Turning around slowly, the woman peered up at something out of sight. She cocked her head to the side and smiled, bits of blood and gore dripping off her chin.
"Why don't you let me out for a bit, then we can have some real fun. First, all you need to do is wake up."
Shaking in terror, Ranma did just that, only managing to keep from screaming thanks to his immense self-control. As he heaved in tremendous breaths of air, he looked around himself and relaxed slightly as he found himself still in the guestroom at the Tendo's, his old man snoring away next to him, and his mother sleeping peacefully on his father's side, the whole family staying over while his mother's house was being repaired. As he rubbed at his face he stifled small gasp of pain as his finger was pricked by something.
Raising it to his face he could a drop of blood beading itself on the tip. As he looked at he felt a strange urge welling up inside of himself. Giving in to it, he moved the finger in front of his gouth and gave it a lick, and then proceeded to put his other hand over his mouth to stifle the gasp of pleasure that the taste of the blood evoked from him.
Pulling out his finger he stared at its now healed surface in confusion. As he licked his suddenly too dry lips, he felt his tongue run over something sharp in his mouth. Freezing, he tentatively put his finger in his mouth and felt his teeth, trying hard not to panic as he felt his suddenly much larger and sharper canines. 'Just like the ones the girl in the dream had. What-what the hell is happening to me.'
The suddenly larger and sharper teeth weren't the only strange thing that had happened to his body. Ever since he first fell into the cursed spring he'd noticed both of his bodies slowly changing, his female form changing slightly faster. When it started he hadn't even known, the change being very subtle, he only noticed it after Nabiki had made mention of how he hadn't seemed to get a tan during their trip to beach. In fact, it seemed that his skin had become paler, to the extent that it now had the appearance of alabaster almost.
He'd also noticed that if he looked at them in the right light, his eyes possessed streaks of red hidden in the blue. But the most noticeable change was the fact that he hadn't seemed to have aged a day since he had fallen into the spring. There were also the dreams which seemed to him to be of the girl who had drowned in the spring, the dreams having started only after Jusendo.
His best guess was that the pure un-affaliated magic of the Jusenkyo cursed waters had supercharged his own curse, bringing over not just the body, but also the mind of the person who had drowned. And if he was right then whoever the girl was, she wanted out. Quite frankly he was terrifyied, not just for his sake, but also for the sake of his friends and family. He was scared to find out what would happen if she actually did get out, if the dreams were anything to go by, it woudn't be pretty.
Ranma lay back on his futon with a sigh. At the moment he was too tired to think hard about things, besides they could wait until morning. Releasing a deep breath he let himself fall into the comfort of a dreamless sleep. It was a sign of his preoccupied state of mind in that he failed to notice the fact that one of the other occupants of the room was awake as well.
Nodoka's mind was also thinking about her son's state of being. Having spent the last month and a half at the Tendo's, everyday providing assistance to young Kasumi, she had seen and learn a lot about her son of which she had been completely unaware. She had also had many quite enlightening conversations with the eldest Tendo daughter, many which gave her cause to rethink the ideals to which held fast to, especially concerning Ranma.
She had also learned of some of the worse parts of her son's life. She had learned of some of the abuses he had undergone in the name of training, though she was still unaware at the moment of the Neko-ken, as well as some of her husband's less clandesting dealings. After her discussions with Kasumi, she had also reevaluated the interactions between Ranma and his fiancees.
What she had found she did not like, not one bit. She had seen how instead of treating him as he should be, as a future husband and father of their children, she saw him treated as one would a trophy to be fought over. None of the girls showed more than the slightest amount of love or affection to her son, but still demanded his love for themselves. And there was also the way they showed their displeasure towards her son, with physical beatings, that truly disturbed her. How could she let her son get married to someone who would simply abuse him and treat him as an object?
And between the fiancees and all the various challengers and rivals that were seeking out her son, he had fallen deeply behind in his academical pursuits, something that was dearly important to her and her side of the family. Maybe it would be best if she and her son left Nerima for a while, they could always come back once he finished his schoolwork elsewhere, and by that point maybe the tensions between the girls would have cooled.
Yes maybe leaving Nerima would be for the best. If she recalled correctly her dear niece was studying at the same school she and her sister had attended. Tommorow she'd see about setting up a meeting with the headmaster about some placement tests for her son. And with all the young women who studied at Mahora, she'd have plenty of grand-babies in no time!
And with that thought, Nodoka drifted off into a dreamworld filled of beautiful grand-babies. And somewhere a young boy felt a chill run down his spine, as if his life had suddenly gotten a hundred times worse.
Holy crap that first section was incredibly disturbed. I mean, wow. I had no clue I had that in me. The story should get lighter from here. I hope.
Anyway, the next chapter should be up a bit faster than normal, since it was going to be part of this one, but I split it up as it was getting too long.
At the moment I am also working on a fic title, Take the Red and Run, and I will be giving a prize to whoever is the first to correctly guess the crossover. And for those eagerly awaiting it, the next chapter of Touch of Time has been sent to the beta and will be ready to post soon, hopefully.
FG signing off.
Next Chapter: Meeting Mahora, A new Student and Teacher Arrive!