Ranma/ X-Men
Age of the Warhorse
A dome of unstoppable might mowed down the resisting soldiers of the awesome empire that was the Warhorse's. Willing to sacrifice their lives and more for the sake of the empire, the fayadeen soldiers strained past their best in order to arrest the trek of amazing power that was taking a direct path to the Empire State Building, the Citadel of their empire.

They were told to expect confrontation. They were told that it would be heavy, spurred from desperation, once those who were seeking to face them realized that all their plans had been for naught. They were told that they probably wouldn't be able to defeat them outright. That was where their information was false...

There was not even a possibility of even slowing them down, what so ever.

Both Magneto and Exodus used their combined might to create an energy field that was neigh impenetrable to outside energy forces; anything stronger than their wills would provide an exeption, but such exeptions did not exist. As Richtor provided the distraction via his awesome power of manifesting seismic activity, shaking the footing of the Warhorse's troops; Domino, Nabiki, and Akane provided the 'light' offensive blasts that picked off individual soldiers, much like a lawn mower would pick off individual blades of grass.

Providing the 'heavy' firepower was Doom, Princess Herb, and Havoc; concentrating their own barrages against heavier artillary aimed in their direction from as far as a mile away. Finally, completing irresistable and untouchable force; Wolverine, Spiderman, and Crossbones handled any that came within proximity of their energy protective dome, ensuring the gunners were never distracted, and always had a clear shot.

Such a massive symphony of power displayed, but it well remained finely orchestrated. Not a note out of place, an instrument out of tune, with every iota of their hearts and souls poured into the rigorous battle they made look almost effortless.

That was the hallmark of the X-Men. And as they believed themselves to be the last of Xavier's dynasty, they would live up to the reputation, until the last one's dying, harrowing breath.

"NABIKI! SIX 'O CLOCK ON SPIDERMAN!" Domino shouted out, alerting their once-leader to clear some flank for the wall-crawler. The direct headshot was nothing that the soldier's armored helmet could contend with, as the weapon of origin was designed by both Doom and Forge.

Directly to her left, Wolverine's adamantium razor sharp claws severed another soldier nearly in half, leaving him unable to continue resistance. "Got another mile to cover, and we ain't seen any of the big guns, yet!"

"Lucky break?" Akane asked, casually taking time to put her hair back to cover the left side of her face, as she launched another vacuum blade that anniallated a virtual platoon flanking them, "Maybe we caught them unprepared? Most of his generals and horsemen were supposed to be away, after all."

"No, he knew we would do something like this," Nabiki countered, "plus, something else spooked him. I want to know what that was, and use it against him in the most painful way, possible."

"Hey, bosslady, thought you ain't bei'n da head no more?" Crossbones enquired, single-handedly snapping the neck of two fayadeen soldiers with a lariat forearm.

"Indeed, he was rather enraged that our own headquarters had been attacked" Exodus commented, deciding to take a few shots at surrounding soldiers, himself, while still maintaining his part of the energy negating dome.

"Yeah, he would have us down on the ropes," Domino shouted between her strafing fire, "Why would he be so down on us being no issue to him anymore?"

Anybody willing to give an answer stopped short before the could, almost instictively turning to Nabiki. The ex-leader's eyes narrowed, as her own already business-like demeanor became harder, and even colder. It was also noted that she started firing faster, and her aim became frighteningly more accurate.

"Hmm, so she knows, eh?" Wolverine commented, as he interlaced his claws between one soldier's intestines.

"Hurry up and get us in there," Nabiki simply stated, in an angry voice. Their plan was simplistic in nature, possibly even finding its inspiration in nature itself. Penetrate, then infect, like a virus throught an organism. Each of them didn't think they would ever survive this encounter, in fact, it was doubtful if any of them intended to. They were to continue fighting, even after completing their individual agendas, until either they, or more improbably, the empire, had fallen. All they needed to do first, was reach their targeted 'organism'; the Empire State Building.

And may whatever higher power that exists have mercy on those who fall into their way...

"Heavy disturbance down below in the Cradle of the War Horse's Empire!" One of the helmsmen commented, gaining a feral smile from the governing head of the Shi'Ar Imperial Army.

She had no intention of upholding the bargain she had made, for such a wiley enemy of her own beloved empire, meaning, she was the one that deserved to rule, he was indeed either desperately concerned, or overreaching his grasp. She was being presented with the opportunity to not only double-cross the Warhorse, but to asurp her own sister's crown through simple popularity. Such a beautiful win situation, she foresaw.

"Position the head fleet directly over it," Deathbird commanded. "Let us await the results of whatever conflict is being initiated, and then we shall act."

Of course, whoever be the victor, it didn't matter. The planet that provided a threat to the Shi'Ar would most likely be no more.

Ranma urgently attempted to trade blows against the Warhorse, but found his task already an impossibly steep incline. His opponent matched every strike made for him with a guard that bordered on unreality. the greater threat to Ranma's determination was the easy, victorious smile the Warhorse wore. It was one he knew he had also donned, when a battle was going his way, and the victor already apparent.

No, there was something more in it. There was a hint of a greater battle being fought, and the small one he was currently within was of no consequence.

Spurred on by his counterpart's arrogance, the pigtailed martial artist grit his teeth, and pushed harder. Nonetheless, his efforts met with the same consequences.

"Heh, I never realized how incessant I was when I was younger," the Warhorse commented rather cavalierly, as he suddenly snagged one of Ranma's arms, and precariously tossed him to the side.

Unable to gain any leverage, the younger crashed into the wall, and slumped down. For the initial trade-off, he already felt as if he had gone a whole match against his own Prince Herb.

"As much as you may hate it, this is your future," the elder Ranma stated, folding his arms behind his back. "You cannot change it, nor will I let you."

"Like Hell I'm gonna let all this come to pass!" Ranma proclaimed, finding the energy within his will to go more than ten rounds against his past greatest opponents.

The Warhorse sneered, finding distaste in his younger's optimism, "And how do you intend to hold that claim?"

With a stern expression, Ranma braced himself into stance. "You may know everything in martial arts that there is, but there's one that even you will succomb to..."

The Warhorse twisted his nose, before smirking, "There is little that I do not know of martial arts. What would an upstart version of me have to show that I wouldn't already know?"

Ranma continued in a superior and solumn tone, "Behold, a technique so potent, that the entire village of the Neiichizu were left in amazement..."

Slowly, the arrogant smirk fell from the Warhorse's face, as he subtly shifted into a hidden stance. As much as he knew his counterpart was bluffing, he refused to take the chance, "Show me this technique..."

With a deadly smirk, Ranma went into a forward horsemount stance, and swung his arms in a wide circle before him, before bringing his hands cupped together, and down to his side. Ranma's battle aura flared, as he began to emit a low, gutteral hum that resonated from deep within him. At the display, the Warhorse shifted into a more visible defensive stance, just in time for his opponent...

to turn tail, and run.

Precious seconds passed, as the Warhorse remained blinking in confusion and dumbfoundment, before his expression twisted into resigned irritation. "That was one technique I had sincerely forgot about..."

With that, he gave chase, very interested in catching his younger, and expressing his annoyance at the Saotome Secret Technique...


No one needed to draw their attention to the towering monument of the US's former might, now standing as a ward to those who would defy the rule of the Warhorse. Of course, that wasn't what Domino intended to warn them about.

"Heh," Wolverine chuckled, scraping his claws together, "I was wondering when the heavy artillary was gonna be brought out.

"This isn't a joking matter, Logan," Herb stated in a stern voice, "Eliminate them, at all possible, and attempt to survive to complete your own agenda." With that, Herb flew from the protective field, moving to intercept the legion of the Warhorse's most elite.

"HERB! NO!" Nabiki swore, before shouting out orders which came naturally. "EVERYONE! TRY TO STAY CLOSE UNTIL WE'RE AT THE DOORS!"

Both Akane and Wolverine gave one another a glance, before Akane seemed to vanish, and Wolverine replied to Nabiki's command, "Sorry, former boss-lady, but I see my dance partner up ahead..." With that, he broke off from the group.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" Nabiki shouted in fustration, before a pair of arms wrapped around her, and a hand silenced her.

"Listen, Sis," Akane stated in a quiet voice, after pressing her sister's pressure point for calming, "You're letting your judgement get clouded. Whatever you figured out about Ranma, it's getting to you."

Nabiki had stopped struggling, before she noticed that her and Akane were being completely ignored. The elder sister motioned the other to release her mouth, "Cloaking both of us in the Umisenken?"

Akane continued to hold onto Nabiki, and nodded, "We'll lose too many too soon if we attempt a direct confrontation with the Warhorse's Alphas. I'm going in for Kasumi, and you're going after Ranma, those are more important than deathwishes."

At that, Nabiki nodded, resignedly, "Take me inside." Unbeknownst to both of them, as several had seen Akane and Nabiki vanish from sight, the two went largly ignored, favoring to attack the more powerful members of what was left of the once Mighty X-Men, two had focused a keen intrest on the sisters, and chose to ignore the larger battle in favor of interception.

"CARRRRNNNNAAAAGGGGEEEEE!!!!" Like the night swallows the cheerful days light, Spiderman's personality was once again obsorbed by the bestial aspect of all humanity, manifesting itself as the creature of his nam de gurrere. Akane had mentioned that it was very much similar to the cat fist persona that used to envelope Ranma with his fear of cats. Though the concept was similar, there was a distinct difference between the personalities. Whereas the cat was benevolent, only returning harm as it was delt, the spider only lived to hunt and destroy one thing, the monstrosity that swam with blood red flesh and ebon black darkness; the one that always wore the greeting smile of death, and stank infinitely of it.

"Ah, Petey! You know how much I've missed ya?" If anything, Carnage looked disappointed at the lack of a verbal responce, "What'samatter? Somebody cut out your tongue? I always did think you talked too much!"

The spider landed in a crouch before its nemesis. even through wide lenses of the mask, the expression of sheer rage was heartfelt. It only took a nanosecond to recover from its landing, and moving with a speed that made alpha-mutant speeders somewhat envy, the Spider laid into the General of Apocolypse.

The deaths-head face of Carnage contorted with the blow, staggering him. As a second blow knocked Carnage sideways, he launched a barrage of skewering spears, formed of his own mass. As the creature did so, its face changed to one of intimate fimiliarity, "HONESTLY, Peter, is this any way to treat your Ex-wife?"

An inhuman scream of rage was the reply, as the Spider nimbly dodged the projectiles.

Omega Red, Famine of the Four Horsemen of Apocolypse, stood upon a nearby rooftop, his arms held folded as he observed the battle. He wasn't concerned with what went on below, in fact, he cared little of even the outcome. He had his cure for controlling his abilities, he had his own autonamy, the only thing he cared for, was settling with an old 'friend'.

"I am please you failed to keep me in waiting, Tovarish," the Russian replied, not even turning from observing the battle below.

"Well, Ruskie, I ain't for lett'n ladies or kills have to put everything on hold for just me."

Omega Red nodded, "So, shall we begin?" he finally turned to face Wolverine.

"Anytime you are, bud," Wolverine flickered his claws in and out in taunt, before crouching low in a feral stance. Arkady Rossovich grinned, and unleashed the enhanced version of his death aura, immidiately setting it to berate the limits of Wolverine's own mutant healing factor.

"You think running will allow you to escape destiny?" the Warhorse enquired stolling down the hallroom where he tracked his dobbleganger to, "I will ensure all this comes to pass, and you will do as needed."

The Warhorse knew that Ranma wasn't using the Umisenken any longer, since they both knew they couldn't detect each other. The despot smiled to himself, it has been a while since he was in a game of hide and seek.

Ranma hung from the ceiling, keeping his mind clear of any thoughts, unlike the constant almost audible "ignore me" thought of the Umisenken. Just as his opponent walked under him, he quietly released himself, and angled to cut wind resistance.

Even the subtle shift in the air alerted the Warhorse to what was above, as he easily stepped away from the descending fist. Undaunted, Ranma quickly recovered, and went on the offensive, "WHY! WHY DO YOU WANT ALL THIS?"

"Because it's my way, pure and simple." the Warhorse replied, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

"NO IT ISN'T!!!" Ranma shouted, putting the heat on. "THIS PLACE IS WRECKED TO HELL! WHY WOULD YOU WANT THAT?!?"

With a simple backhand, Ranma was launched away, "Why? It's the way of nature. It is one of the prime laws of the universe, Survival of the fittest."

Within the confine and the shadows of the Empire State building, Akane released her sister. Nabiki turned and nodded, before they both broke off in seperate directions. Akane once again set to scour the whole building, estimating it would take her less than fifteen minutes to do so. She vowed, no matter what, she was not going to leave her sister, if she still lived, within the thrall of their pledged enemy.

Nabiki lacked her sister's abilities of the Umisenken, but had trained diligently with the world's greatest in the art of stealth for several years. The few guards that had remained in the building had been oblivious to her presence, allowing her free reign to about wherever she chose.

The ex-leader of the X-Men had a single goal that required that freedom. She was to find Ranma, and either rescue him, or... save him from fate. She wasn't completely sure if the pigtailed martial artist had been discovered, knowing how resourceful he could be, in both past and present, and tipping the Warhorse off to his presence if he wasn't already aware was not an idea Nabiki cared to address. With that in mind, she decided to search for the possibility of another having been captured.

Shampoo had not made it out during the battle, and her whereabouts were unknown. Though the Amazon would choose death over imprisonment, the Warhorse would not allow her that option. Of course, Shampoo was herself no slouch in stealth, and she may be free of captivity, but the risk of The Horseman of War discovering her presence was much less of a threat.

Almost seeming to melt from the shadows, Nabiki latched onto a lone guard from behind, quickly accessing pressure points taught to her by Dr. Tofu that was availible through the armor the soldier wore. Once it was determined he could not resist, Nabiki faded back into the thin darkness like a specter.

"Where are your prisoners being held?" Nabiki demanded. She knew, that without hesitation, the guard would answer all her questions from the lusting pressure point she activated on him. He would sooner tear out his own heart than resist any wish of her's.

"Th-they're not held here, but on imprisonment island... where the old Statue of Apocolypse use to stand..." the guard answered, somewhat drunkenly.

Nabiki groaned, realizing she hadn't considered the option that Shampoo could have been moved elsewhere. "Xian Pu, the leader of the Neichizuu Amazons, whas she taken there?"

"He wouldn't know, even if I was captive."

"XIAN PU!" Nabiki cried out, both surprised and happy to hear the voice of her closest friend. Her joy was short lived, as she turned around, and found the Chinese woman standing in a neutral stance, with black bonbori held in each hand against her sides. What concerned the Tendou sister the most, was the solumn expression the other woman wore, "What...?"

"I'm afraid I cannot let you continue," Xian Pu decreed, bringing her bonbori up for stance.

Akane almost growled in fustration, nearly overwhelming her estatic joy, as she caught the scent of her sister nearby. The distinctive perfume Kasumi, Nabiki, and Akane chose to wear, almost as if a family trademark, hung loosely in the air. It was specifically brewed for them by the Amazons, an alerting to any Amazon nearby that a kinswoman was near, and possibly needed rescuing. Akane had been concerned that Kasumi would no longer have anymore, as she was imprisoned for so long.

Her fustration came from the fact that it lead her to a room that she could not access during her previous scouring the night prior, and chose to move ahead instead of waste time when there was so much more ground to cover. now, the control panel lay destroyed against the wall, and the entrance was clearly availible.

"Kasumi?" Akane hesitantly entered the threshold, wary that it may have been a trap.

Silence reigned in the room for several moments, before a hesitant, very hopeful voice answered in reply, "A... Akane?"

It was her, after so many years, it was her. "It's me... it's me Akane, Kasumi." Akane's voice almost cracked with overwhelming emotion.

"AKANE!!!" The younger woman was extremely surprised, not even seeing where her sister had come from, to find herself in the midst of a nearly bone-crushing hug. "AKANE! You really came! I never hoped, I... Ranma! Ranma's here too! The Ranma from the past! We..."

"Crushing... pain..."

"Ah, oh my!" Akane wheezed in a deep breath, before giving her sister a wry smile.

"You've definitely kept in shape, Sis." Kasumi flushed in slight embarrasment for her enthuesiasm. "Yeah," Akane continued after a moment, "Nabiki's taking care of that right now." The younger woman embraced her older sister in a softer hug that nonetheless eminated the same amount of love and caring she had just recieved, "We've both missed you."

Kasumi cried against Akane's shoulder, as her sister gently rubbed the small of her back, "I... I missed you too..."

"Well, isn't this touching?"

Both girls looked up to the dreadingly familiar voice. "No...."

Akane already had no love for the newcomer, but the look of sheer fright, and the terror spoken softly in Kasumi's voice brought her hate to levels only rivaled by her hate for the man who took her left eye.


"That's Pestilence to you, girl," The Horseman retorted, as he blocked the exit of the room with his arms folded.

After creatively extracting info from one of Generals of the Warhorse, Black Tom, he believed the coward's name to be, Victor Von Doom regally strolled within the confines of the Warhorse's stronghold in search for his quarry. He believed he was in the vicinity finally.

"You seem lost, former despot."

"I am well aware of my location, Onslaught," Doom retorted, turning sideways to find the beheomoth mutant standing off to the side.

If he could sneer, it would be evident in his expression, "I'm afraid your favored playmate, the midget lapdog of the Warhorse, is not present," Onslaught retorted with a haughty, thundering tone.

"Just as well," Doom replied, "I was in search of you, in actuality..."

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?" Nabiki shouted, as she once again dodged a strike from her best friend. The former leader of the X-Men came to kneeling from a roll, and aimed her gun once again at Shampoo. Try as she might, she could not bring herself to fire. Regardless, even as Shampoo was severely pulling her blows, the betrayal stung far worse than anything since Ranma's ascension to the Warhorse.

"I have to stop you, I'm sorry," Shampoo replied in a sad voice, while making no further move to dodge out of the way of Nabiki's aim.

"Xian Pu... Shampoo, whatever he's done to you, fight it," Nabiki pleaded, hoping to break whatever control the Warhorse may have over the other woman.

If anything, Shampoo's expression grew sadder, "He hasn't done anything to me, Nabiki."

At that, the other woman's eyes grew wide, before they became angry, "YOU! YOU BETRAYED US!" Nabiki screamed, before quickly coming to standing, and finding her finger a lot easier to tighten around the trigger of her gun.

Shampoo stared back, unflinching, but obviously pained at the truthful accusation.

At the silent acknowledgement of her guilt, Nabiki roared in rage, before unleashing a volley of blasts towards her once best friend. Shampoo suddenly blurred, evading Nabiki's sight

"You're insane!" Ranma shouted out, as he backpedaled from the despot.

"No, I'm just following my calling in life," the Warhorse retorted, "This is what we had been brought up to do, what we were made for, ever since we were taken on that training trip!"

"I WAS NOT MADE TO BE A KILLER!" Ranma shouted, using his sudden burst of emotion to throw a mako takabisha at his opponent.

The Warhorse snorted, and backhanded it away, "Not a killer, an instrument of war. It was just Apocolypse that opened our eyes to that. We were made purely for fighting, trained to be the best at war.


The Warhorse smirked, as he slowly approached his younger self, "Was it? Do you understand what it is like? To be the greatest weapon ever created, unneeded?" The smirk changed to a sneer, "Apocolypse attempted to take away my lot in life, by wiping all his enemies from the face of the earth. I rebelled, and destroyed my former master. Not that I'm not grateful for what he's done, but I couldn't let him continue with his plans..."

At that, Ranma came to a startling realization, the same one Nabiki, when the last of the X-Men moved to storm the Empire State Building.


"You won't be leaving with Kasumi," Pestilence stated in a stern voice. "Thanks to you, I now have access to her at any time. Ranma had put an end to our own... rendevous when he installed the spacial shift barrier to her quarters..." The Horseman gave Kasumi a leer, causing the older woman to whimper, and hide behind her sister, "It's been too long, and you were always my favorite, "Kasumi."

With what little defiance she could muster, Kasumi responded with venom, "You touch me, and Ranma would have your head!"

The third Horseman of Apocolypse tilted his head in amusement, "What he wouldn't know, won't hurt him. Especially if, during your escape with Akane, you ended up... disposed of..."

Akane attracted Pestilence's attention once again, "There is a great deal that I owe you, Happosai."

Pestilence's frown was apparent under the cloth mask that completely hid his face, "Impudent. If Ranma hadn't ruined that once pretty little face of yours, I would relish teaching you respect." Akane shuddered, as the frown became a wide smile, "Then again, I guess that wouldn't matter if you were facing away, would it? You've grown into a fine body, girl."

It was never that Akane was inferior to Ranma, or Xian Pu, or Ryoga, it was that in their youth, she was never trained in her personal strengths. Ranma's ability and fighting style was like the wind, fleeting, stinging, and relentless. Xian Pu was like the flow of water; fluid and uninhibited. Ryoga was as solid as the earth itself, unyeilding and assured. After the rise of Apocolypse, and the world took a turn for despair, Cologne insisted that Akane be trained in her true abilities among the Amazons; for a warrior, like a weapon, not honed to a fine edge, could only be weilded bluntly. Under the intense and unrelenting training of the Matriarch foremost knowledgeable in Akane's strength, the youngest Tendou sister discovered where her abilities lay.

It was never openly apparent to her, but in her rage, she was able to repeatedly score hits against Ranma in her youth, and manifest a battle aura that rivaled Ranma or Ryoga's in much... much less time. Akane brought that same battle aura to flare, using the sheer hate she felt for Happosai; for him killing her father, for his part of the destruction of the world, for his desecration of her sister, and for the loss of honor to the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts.

Akane's strength was sheer... unadulterated... power.

"As the current master of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts," Akane replied in a cold, void-like voice that was enhanced by the roaring of the energy she was radiating, "It is my duty to punish those who practiced our school, and betrayed it's honor and principles... even if that practitioner was once the Grand Master."

"Feh," Happosai snorted, removing his mask to reveal his youthfully handsome face, and flowing gold lockes, "I abandoned that miserable excuse for a school because it's 'students' corrupted it," Happosai unleashed his own battle aura, easily towering Akane's, "But if this is what you wish, so be it. Let us find out if my former school is strong enough to continue. SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST!"

Kasumi wouldn't have been able to see them move, even if the collision of their battle auras hadn't expulged such a blinding light...

The X-Men outside were at the greatest, their proudest, their most powerful. Even in the sheer numbers they faced, they pressed on like an unstoppable force of nature. The Generals of the Warhorse, the Alpha mutants that had chose to side with Apocolypse's Darwinish beliefs, and the lowly Fayadeen soldiers that were both recruited and manufactured to serve the empire, all gave pause, and baulked under the unrestrained fury of their small number of opponents.

Unfortunately, even the mighty forces of nature would eventually falter.

"You guys get the idea that we probably could have planned this better?" Domino enquired, using her ion knife to slice through the throat of one soldier that had gotten to close. Even her probability-altering powers that gave her the advantage of odds, was being pushed to it's limit.

"If there was time to plan this well, I do not think the outcome would be any different," Magneto answered, splitting his concentration between the conversation, and slaughtering masses of soldiers with his magnetic powers.


"EXODUS!" Magneto cried out, before unleashing a magnetic pulse that relayed his rage. One of their most powerful had fallen, a friend to Eric Magnus Lescherr. Richtor had already been stopped previously, and Havoc was obviously using what little stored energy he had left.

"We gett'n kinda thin hea'," Crossbones called out, his own concern severely evident.

"WE CAN'T KEEP THIS UP!" Domino shouted out, finding her trigger finger becoming much more active to the point her weapon was close to overheating. As their morale shifted, it suddenly went downhill, as they saw, up ahead, still fresh for battle and waiting to participate; Juggernaught, Caliban, Lady Deathstrike, Iron Man, Archangel, Feral, and several other high powered Alpha-Mutants and meta-humans.

"Well, if we're gonna lose, may as well be big," Domino stated with some misplaced mirth, just before...


...a miracle occured.

Omega Red's carbondatium coils moved like maddened anaconda, twisting a lashing at their intended victim. Wolverine furiously fought through them, every so often making it close enough to their welder to lash out and make telling blows. Unfortunately, as devestating as Wolverine's strikes were, Famine's Death Aura caused greater harm to the clawed mutant.

After a furious clash, both broke apart to examine the damage to one another. "Wolverine, it seems as though you will not last much longer," Omega Red taunted, as he retracted his tendrils, and crossed his arms.

The stout mutant was breathing hard, feeling the effects of prologned exposure to his opponent's presence, "Looks like you may be right, bub." Omega Red blinked, as Wolverine's expression grew into a deadly smile, "So how about we wrap this up quickly?" With that, Wolverine crossed his own claws together, and slashed them across one another, causing sparks to flare from their contact. his pupils dialated to pinpricks, as he tossed his head back and howled. He had willingly unleashed the beast within, his unrestrained animalistic fury.

Omega Red's tendrils once again flailed in anticipation.


Being presented with an opportunity to explain herself, Shampoo took it with vehement passion, "I WAS TIRED! I HATED SEEING MY SISTERS DIE BECAUSE OF THIS! I *HATED* THE LOOK ON RAN RAN AND LIN LIN'S FACE, AS THEY WERE ABSORBED BY THE PHALANX!"

Shampoo forcably calmed herself, "Do you know, how it feels to think you've failed your own people, and they still look up to you for guidance?" Shampoo gave a wry grin that didn't reach her eyes, "I'm sorry."

Nabiki slowly strafed around the other woman, "There's more to this than that, isn't there? You would know that just trading sides wouldn't change any-..." For the third time that day, Nabiki came to a startling revelation, "Oh gods... you're still in love with him, aren't you?"

Shampoo didn't directly answer, "He's still Ranma! If we could only reach him, make him understand..."

"DAMN IT, XIAN PU!" Nabiki interrupted, shouting at her loudest, "DON'T YOU GET IT? HE DOESN'T WANT THIS WAR TO END! HE'S..."

"...trying to keep this war going!" Ranma whispered, in frightened awe.

The Warhorse smiled, "What can I say? I love my work! I didn't want the X-Men, nor the Avengers dealt with, as they provided a good amount of distraction. And with the impending war between me and the Shi'Ar, I'll be able to fight indefinitely! My own associate Deathbird should be making an attempt to betray me at any moment, of course. But that was expected, and planned for." The Warhorse's grin grew even wider.

"YOU BASTARD!" No matter how useless Ranma knew intellectually it was, he launched himself into direct confrontation.

Almost sighing in resignation, the Warhorse easily met with the impotent barrage.

"And what is it you want with me, human," Onslaught enquired with distain.

"You would say a partnership of sorts," Doom replied, "It's well known you distaste for the one that currently holds your reigns..." Onslaught's bearing became more menacing at the barb, "So, it came to my thoughts that I should assist you with your vendetta."

"I have no need of another master," Onslaught growled.

"Allow me to continue," Doom behooved, while remaining undaunted, "Before his death, Dr. Richards, with my assistance, researched a possibility of saving his son from you. Unfortunately, circumstances did not allow him to continue, but he made a request of me." Doom held out a small electronic device for Onslaught's viewing, "He created this, with what he had garnered. It was to be a device that would kill you, and his child along with it. He loathed the idea, but he would rather his son find peace in death, than eternal torment as a part of your being."

"You intend to use that device on me?" Onslaught questioned, as he held his hand forward, allowing his energy to pour into his palm, "You would never get the chance."

"Oh, that is no longer this device's intention," Doom stated, "My own genius, though almost rivaled by Reed Richards, was still superior. Instead of killing you and Richard's son..." Doom held the device firmly in his palm, ready to press the button to ignite it, "I intend to give you access your full power..." With that, Doom pulled the trigger.

Onslaught eyes widened, before he roared in victory, as he felt the barriers he didn't know existed within him become unlocked...

It was a battle that any martial artist would be left in awe for witnessing. Akane and Happosai traded blows that would shake the planet's surface on impact like a fault in the teutonic plates.

Akane finally broke away, and launched an oversized vacuum blade at Happosai, intending to sever him in half. The projectile was easily countered by a similar one, and as they cancelled one another out, the third horseman of Apocolypse quickly moved in.

Akane faded from sight, giving her a split second before Pestilence was able to track her down, and nailed him from the side with a side thrust kick.

Happosai rebounded off the wall he had been hurled into, and delivered a powerful punch into Akane's guard, staggering her. As the Master of Anything Goes faltered, she praced her right hand against the ground, and thrust her left foot up into Happosai's gut, catching him unawares, and slamming him into the ceiling.

She rolled out of the way, as he launched himself down towards her, slamming both feet into the ground she had just been against, and denting the metal floor.

Once again, they were interlocked at one position, allowing Kasumi to see the blurs that were her sister and Happosai battle at a pace machine guns would envy. The longer the ordeal went on, the more frantic Kasumi became. The stakes of this battle were too high, too personal for her to contemplate, and if Happosai were to win...

Kasumi's thoughts were broken off, as Pestilence finally landed a telling blow on Akane, catching her chin with a downward right cross. As Akane fell, she roared, slashing out with her left hand like a claw. It was her adaptation of the catfist, one worked out by her, Shampoo, and Cologne from an idea her father had actually coined. The only thing that had been missing from making it a potent technique, was supplied by Wolverine and Spiderman, as they had shown her how to unleash her own animalistic fury, making it more dangerous, more dependable than the original catfist ever was.

Ki claws raked down across the right side of Happosai's youthful face, causing him to scream in outrage, and retaliate with a thunderclap that immidiately dazed Akane, as her sensitive ears were overwhelmed.

"YOU!! YOU RUINED MY FACE!!!" Happosai bellowed, as he flipped backwards, and swat his arm out at a wide arc, forming another vacuum blade to sever Akane's head from her neck.

Just as Akane was turning around to witness the projectile, Kasumi stepped in front of it with her arms wide. The older woman thought to herself, at least Happosai wouldn't get satisfaction from her, and Akane would at least have more of a chance to destroy the digusting troll.

The vacuum blade sailed into her, with the access going beyond her sides. She blinked, realizing she was still alive, and then realized that Akane had put herself between the blade and Kasumi, using her back to intercept it. Kasumi looked down Akane's back, and saw the large, deep gash going across it. The only thing that kept her from being cut in half, was Akane using her own ki to buffer the blow.

"Kasumi... why did you have to go an do that?" Akane asked with a very weak voice.

"I-" Kasumi was cut off, as Akane forcefully pushed her away. Kasumi went sailing into the wall behind her, impacting with enough force to almost knock her unconcious. In her blurred vision and scoped hearing, Kasumi witnessed and hear the primal scream her sister emitted, as she spun around, and unleashed a dome of her energy... all of her energy at once.

Happosai was caught flat-footed within the swirling tempest that was the zenith of Akane's rage.

Shampoo baulked at the notion, though her expression showed that it wasn't something she hadn't already considered, "No, he... we can get him to stop, we..."

"I DON'T HAVE TIME FOR THIS!" Nabiki brought her gun up, and fired again at Shampoo. Once again, it was dodged, and Nabiki now found herself disarmed, against the wall, and staring at the business end of one of Shampoo's bonbori.

"Please, I don't want to hurt you," Shampoo pleaded, with the corners of her eyes beginning to tear.

Nabiki closed her own eyes, and slid down the wall, as her emotions started to overwhelm her, "I trusted you, Shampoo."

Shampoo had slowly squatted down in the pace of Nabiki's descent, "I never wanted to betray you. You truly were the best, and possibly the only friend I've ever truly had that I looked to as my equal."

"Shampoo," Nabiki tried once more through her sobs to reach her once and best friend, "Don't do this..."

Shampoo pulled Nabiki into a hug, "I'm sorry, but I have no choice..."

"Then... neither do I," Nabiki whispered in Shampoo's ear.

Surprised, Shampoo quickly pulled Nabiki away from her, checking to see if she had any hidden weapons visible, but Nabiki's hands remained flat and lifeless against the ground. Even if she wasn't armed, Shampoo could tell that Nabiki was about to be the victor. "Vhei xianpu szhi shou shehui pai`e ji zhe meiyou"

The phrase Nabiki whispered was in an ancient Mandarin dialect that was somewhat remeniscent of the one spoken by the Neichiizu. She spoke it flawlessly, as she had been taught by Cologne, even in the hopes the deceased matriarch had that it would never come to use. Shampoo understood it, even if it was barely understandable for her.

'For Xian Pu shall be the pariah no more.'

As soon as the word hit Shampoo, her eyes went blank, as all her motor functions ceased. Lifelessly, she collapsed into Nabiki's arms, and the other woman gently laid the lavender haired woman down on her back, wondering if she was at least comfortable.

"Your Great-Grandmother was hesitant to teach me that, and she hoped and prayed to your ancestors that it would never have to be used." Nabiki started explain, as she continued kneeling next to Shampoo, and stroked the comatose woman's hair. "Gods, how I wish I didn't have to do this to you. I don't even know if you'll snap out of it, I don't even know if you can hear me. But I'm sorry, I'm very, very sorry."

Unable to bear what she had just done, Nabiki quickly ran away from the scene, retrieving her gun in the process. As she did so, she was unable to see one of her inquiries answered, as a lone tear rolled down Shampoo's cheek.

The was only one definitive word for what Kasumi was witnessing. Several other descriptions came to mind, such as astonishing, beautiful, majestic... but nothing encaptured the sight more than the word 'brutal'.

Akane remained kneeling within the dome of crimson and voilet-blue energy that swam around her like the mightest of hurricanes. Caught within it's torrentious winds, was the form of Pestilence, the third Horseman of Apocolypse.

Akane's scream would last as long as she was able to expell the sheer amount of ki she was. The technique she was using was a final attack that would leave her nearly drained, but usually nowhere near the battered shape that whomever or whatever had become caught in it would be in.

The Radical Swarm, as she had called it, was something she had intended for if she was ever alone with the Warhorse. It was a technique of her own devising that used every bit of emotion she could muster. Designed after the Roaring Tiger Bullet of Ryoga's, it most likely would cause adverse affects to the user, since it relied on her own pent up anger, fustration, desperation, and animosity towards everyone and everything that had hurt her, betrayed her, or left her. In the Age of the Warhorse, that was quite a bit she had managed to build up.

Most thought Akane was naturally cold, only warming up to her sister and neice. Those that knew her most realized the change only came when she was ultimately betrayed by the only man she ever loved; causing her to seal her heart away for access to only a select few. That wasn't the whole truth. She intentionally locked it away, for fear of the boiling cacophany of negative emotion may rip it from her body, leaving a black core that would rival even Apocolypse's in evil.

She never made an effort to purge the dark emotions, instead selecting to allow them to build, to fester, to grow like a ticking time bomb, a bomb she would only allow to detonate within the presence of War, the First Horseman of the Apocolypse. The third Horseman would have to suffice, considering her current condition.

As her cry weakened, so did the ki dome, until finally both subsided. Akane would only allow herself to collapse, once the body of Happosai fell to the ground, unmoving.

"AKANE!!!" Kasumi quickly rushed to her youngest sister's side, catching her before she fell flat on her face.

"Is... is he?" Akane asked, barely able to keep her head straight in the dense fog of exhaustion.

Kasumi gave a heated glare towards the unmoving creature, "I think so. He's so still..."

Akane gave her dear sister a weak, barely formed smile, before she closed her eyes, and slumped forward. With sheer fright, it was then that Kasumi noticed how much the wide gash in her sister's back was flowing free of her life fluid.

Ranma's guard suddenly became totally overwhelmed, as he suddenly found himself careening through a plaster wall, and into something heavy and metal. The Warhorse stepped through the hole Ranma's body created, and noted the sarcophagus that Ranma had knocked over, spilling out its contents.

"Hmm, I'm pretty sure the Big A woulda been upset about you dumping his remains out," the Warhorse commented, "But he's not in a position to do anything about it, I guess."

"This... this isn't... over," Ranma managed to wheeze out, taking a swaying stance, showing exactly how dazed he was.

At the defiance, the Warhorse grew angry, and was suddenly in Ranma's face.

"WILL..." a backhand across Ranma's right cheek, "...YOU..." a hook down across the left side of his face, "...RESISTING..." a left palm thrust into Ranma's forehead, jerking him straight up, "...ME?!?"

The gut punch launched Ranma into another wall, this one concrete and steel reinforced. At that blow, Ranma slid down, barely able to breath.

"Now," The Warhorse managed to calm himself down, while dusting himself off, "If you will, tell me how they brought you here, so that I can send you back... after thoroughly wiping your memory, of course..."

The Warhorse blinked, finding himself now extremely impressed and ticked about his younger self's tenacity, as Ranma slowly picked himself up off the ground, using the wall to brace himself, "Stubborn moron..."

With a sharp glint of defiance, Ranma replied in a steady voice, "If you want me to tell ya, you're gonna have to beat it outta me..."

"If that's how you'll have it," The Warhorse decided he would make this as slow and painful as possible. In a brisque walk, he approached his younger, and let his fist fly. Summing up as much energy as possible, Ranma met him, keeping his back against the wall. Hundreds of blows traded became thousands, thousands became millions, and the count escalated, as Ranma attempted to best his elder, while the Warhorse casually, with cold, unamused indifference, attempted to force his younger to submit.

Ranma did his best to parry the attacks against him, keeping his guard tight, as he looked for openings to retaliate. Every time he attempted to land a glow against the Warhorse, the opening he left was capitalized upon. Regardless, Ranma remained defiant, he would finish this. He no longer cared if the jewel thingy made a mistake or not, he no longer cared if no one knew this battle was taking place. It was no longer about clearing his honor, or what and how everyone thought of him.

It was about putting an end to this atrocity. That's all. That was his single motivation, that was what drew his focus past the unbearable pain of ribs breaking, organs possibly rupturing, and the lightness of conciousness he was beginning to experience.

Ranma refused to look at his opponent as his future self, knowing deep within that it would lie to his ultimate defeat. He was Ranma Saotome, not this... this imposter. Ranma coughed up some blood, but continued to trade blows at lighting speed; the roaring of the soundbarrier being broken consistantly with each punch shook the room like a rictor 5 quake. Ranma Saotome would not lose this fight, especially when it was so damn important.

Finally, his physical strength was leaving him, but he refused to fall. Ranma Saotome NEEDED to win this fight.

His vision became blurred with the concussion, the pain, and his stamina waining. And yet, he still focused on keeping his guard as sound as possible, while attempting to land a blow in his heated, determined fury.

Ranma Saotome can't lose.

His punches slowed down tremendously.

Ranma Saotome WON'T lose.

He hiccuped more blood.

Ranma Saotome WILL WIN! It was simple as that.

The Warhorse pulled his fist back from the blow that landed dead center of Ranma's chest, and caught his younger by the shoulder, holding him against the wall. "Well, that accomplished nothing for you," he said casually, getting barely an inch from his younger's face. "Even now, when you're completely beaten, I can see you still trying to resist. You're in not shape to give me the information I need, so before I knock you out, heal you, and strip the necessary information from your brain, do you have any requests?"

"Y... yeah... j-just one..." Ranma managed to get out in a hoarse voice. With the teeming little bit of physical strength left, he sharply snapped his head up, revealing a deadly smile, "I wanna know how much this is gonna hurt..." With that, he jabbed his finger towards the center of the Warhorse's chest.

It was easily intercepted with one hand, and the Warhorse idly wondered what his counterpart was attempting to do. It wasn't any technique he knew that would harm a person, it wasn't even anything similar to the breaking point technique. It was then he noticed, in that nano-second of thought, that the wind between them was picking up. A quick glance down towards Ranma's chest had shown the what was going on, evident by the reversed cold-ki spiral on his younger's chest...

...beaten there by the Warhorse's own hands.

The Warhorse would have laughed, truly impressed by the ingenuity of his younger, but with haste, he could not allow the miniscule Hiryuu Shoten Ha to have any affect, as it would be the last thing to break his opponent's will.

With that, he quickly shifted his ki to his own chest, where the tip of the wind drill raced towards... proving to be his greatest mistake.

His ki was still cold, and fed the hungry windbeast like a starving predator, leaving his own chest no longer defended by the energy. Ranma's own finger was still shooting a steady stream of hot-ki towards the Warhorse, angling it into the funnel, powering it from his end. And as the two identicle ki signatures wouldn't mix, it only added to the potency of the later to be dubbed, 'Roaring Dragon's Tooth'.

Ranma was forced even harder against the wall, as the head of the funnel pushed against his chest, while the tip launched the Warhorse back into the air, against the ceiling. With a scream, the thin tornado, having picked up bits of debris from the ground particles from the air, drilled right through the Warhorse, before spreading him out fantastically around the room. It truly wasn't the effect Ranma was looking for, in fact, he had only hoped to maybe knock his older out. Nonetheless, he wasn't upset about the results.

Ranma slumped, unrelenquishing his steady ki stream, barely able to keep his eyes open. With what he could, he spoke. "I would sooner kill myself, than see all this happen again. I think I understand why that Maku Crystal thing or whatever brought me here. I may not have been supposed to physically defeat you, but... now that I've seen you, I know how to beat you, for real. And Ranma Saotome always wins in the end."

"DAMN YOU!!!!"

Ranma's eyes snapped wide open, as he heard the Warhorse's voice echo throughout the room.

"I HAVE TOO MUCH GOING, TOO MUCH TO BE DEFEATED BY SOME UPSTART YOUNGER PUNK VERSION OF MYSELF!" The ambient aura of the room gathered into a brilliant spector of the Warhorse that hung angrily in the air. "EVEN IF I HAVE TO TAKE YOUR BODY TO DO IT!"

Before the Warhorse could act, a blue wall of energy washed over him, wiping him out completely.

"No, War," Victor Von Doom stated in a strong, defiant tone. Sitting in the crook of his right arm was a five-year old blonde haired boy, holding out his own hand angrily, as it still swirled with blue energy residue. "It is over, you had lost."

The combined might of the remaining X-Men, the survivors of the X-Men Arctic base slaughter, and the surviving Avengers battled against the forces of the Warhorse's empire with a furious pitch that told of their unrelenting zealous to finish it, once and for all. The battle was now on even level, as either side refused to give an inch, suffering grave casualties in return.

it was greater than any conflict they had ever come to, and without saying, both sides knew it would be the final one.

Nabiki staggered outside, hoping to gain her bearings, and see how everyone was doing. She experienced shock and elation at the sight before her. The sight of Ryoga meant the possibility that others were alive. That meant...

With the thought remaining uncompleted, Nabiki quickly drew her weapon, finding herself eager to rejoin the battle that may just be won, yet.

Deathbird was far from happy with the way things were going. It would be much harder to convince many of the terrain sympathizers of the Shi'Ar Empire of her necessity if the battle was to make a turn against the favor of the Warhorse. Decisive action needed to be taken.

"On my mark..." The commander of the Shi'Ar Royal Military began in a steady voice, "I want the area known as New York obliterated."

"But," one of the helmsmen spoke up, "Shouldn't we wait until the outcome? We are in no fear of detection by-"

"THIS IS TOO IMPORTANT FOR STALLING!" Deathbird shouted, "YOU WILL DO AS I SAY, FOR THE GOOD OF THE EMPIRE!" She turned back to the viewscreen with barely restrained fury, "DESTROY THEM!!!"

"I'm afraid that order will have to be belayed," one of the admirals of Deathbird's forces interjected in a calm tone.

"Relax, and let the boy heal you. You can do this, Franklin?" Doom enquired to the young boy in his care.

With a hearty nod, Franklin put his hands upon Ranma's chest, willing him to be all better again. "Whoa," Ranma exclaimed, "That's pretty amazing!"

Franklin Richards looked up at Doom with a puzzled expression, before the former despot translated for him. The young boy's eyes lit up before he replied to Ranma, "You're welcome! Thanks for beating up that bad guy!"

Doom translated, earning a smile from Ranma. The pigtailed martial artist's expression turned serious, "Hey, I can hear the battle outside, how's it going?"

"It is at even pitch, but...

Doom looked to the east, concerned for what he now knew was approaching.

Ranma gritted his teeth, he did his part, but he still felt it wasn't enough. As he stood up, he searched the room, before his eyes fell on something. With a devious smile, Ranma spoke up, "I have an idea..."

Slowly but surely, the rightous fury of the combined X-Men and Avengers began to turn the tide. Victory was becoming assured for the side of good, and with that realization, they began to push harder, stronger...

Until the sun became blocked out by the massive fleet of sentinels flying overhead from the east.

Further to crush their morale and punctuate their impending defeat, from the middle of the building, the Warhorse leapt out, falling backwards in a graceful swandive, and descended to join his troops in battle. The tides of battle shifted faster than the fickle winds, as all watched the Warhorse, in the midst of his freefall, cup his hands together...


The blast broke into the group of the Warhorse's troops, scattering and disorganizing them.


The X-Men realized, intuitively, that the Warhorse was no more.

"Ranma... Ranma beat him?" Ryoga whispered with amazement. That shock turned into a feral grin, as he turned back to his opponents, and ran into them with a newfound fury, that completely caught them in their dumbfoundment at their own leader attacking them.

"Ain't that kid the Warhorse?" Hulk enquired, as Herb flew next to him.

"No, that 'kid' managed to do what none of us could ever accomplish," the princess stated with no little pride, "The Warhorse is no more."

"What? By a little hood?" At that thought, the Hulk roared with laughter, before grabbing the nearest servant of the now deceased Warhorse, which happened to be Caliban, "You hear that? Your own tin god's Judas is dead!" With that, the Hulk threw the mutant into the crowd of opponents.

Even with the Warhorse gone, it still left them with finishing the battle, and even with their newfound morale, the legion of Sentinals would provide a problem.

Well, they were a problem, prior to the massive beam from high above the atmousphere homing in on them, and annialating them before they could even land.

"[X-Men and their allies]" a voice broadcast from whereabouts unknown, but heard over the dins and clatter of battle, "[Do not concern yourselves with the robotic forces above you. Allow the might of the Imperial Shi'Ar forces eliminate their threat, as you do so with the Warhorse and his lackeys]"

Like the fickle winds, the tides of battle shifted, as the soldiers of the deceased Warhorse realized the tactical advantage, as well as the superior morale, lay with the combined forces of the X-Men and Avengers.

Like a flag that raised the spirits of those who fell under it, Ranma inspired those who wished to put an end to the menace of what was once Apocolypse's empire.

With every factor of favor, it was inevitable that the Age of the Warhorse, came to it's conclusion.

The prisoners of war were handled by the Shi'Ar forces, having the resources to do so, as the victors tended their wounds, and their dead.

The losses were heavy, far too heavy a price to pay, but one that yeilded the freedom of the world. Nabiki looked down at Richtor's unblinking eyes, before she knelt, and closed them. "I've found Richtor, Domino?"

The pale white woman with raven hair and a domino eye to match stared somewhat dispassionately at the results of Wolverine and Omega Red's struggle. They were leaned against each other, as if in a struggle to overpower one another, when either still had life within their forms. Wolverine's claws remained inside of his opponent's heart, dripping only sparse droplets of blood, as much of it had already pooled from the body. The stout mutant didn't have much of physical wounds, so it was apparent to Domino that his healing factor could only withstand so much before Omega Red's death aura forced it to succomb.

"I've found Wolverine," Domino replied solumnly over her comm. unit, before turning away.

"Spiderman's still alive, but unapproachable," Princess Herb stated, as she looked down at the feral man with a beast's mind who was hiding in the shadows. Syrn and Sunspot had went to the assistance of Spiderman to deal with Carnage; the outcome left the charred remains of the former general. Even if they were inclined to, there would be no mourning for the creature, as the symbiote long ago had shown it's true colors, and saught to absorb the bodies of its hosts, instead of merely bonding with them. All that weilded the symbiote were dead, long ago.

Spiderman, on the other hand, could be brought out of his bestial mindset, only if he was given time to calm down.

Ranma overlooked the devistation and destruction before him. He had never been to New York, but knew that the sight was a far cry from what must have been a granderous city. "So much... because of me?"

"It wasn't you, Ranma," Ryoga stated with a solumn voice, "It was the Warhorse, the thing that Apocolypse remade you into."

"Yeah," Ranma replied, half-heartedly, "Maybe..."

"Ranma," Ryoga's tone became stern, "Don't go beating yourself up, or do anything stupid, blaming... blaming..." Ryoga began to chuckle, before roaring into laughter.

The pigtailed martial artist turned an incredulous stare towards the man, "What the heck's your problem?"

"I....it-t's....not... your fault... Ranma..." Ryoga managed to get out between guffaws. Ranma realized the irony of Ryoga, of all people, saying this, and soon found himself joining in. Their saddened mirth was cut sharply by a cry.


Both Ryoga and Ranma turned, to find Kasumi, carrying a very limp Akane, who was barely able to keep herself from dragging her own sister down.

Ranma froze, finding himself for the first time getting a clear look at the woman his own fiancee could one day become. That pause did not last long, as he realized the urgency of the situation.

Akane could not hold herself any longer, as she relenquished her hold from around Kasumi's neck, and dropped to the floor, earning a desperate cry from her sister.

"AKANE!" Ranma's shout possibly reverberated from Niagra falls, to the harbor. Almost as if teleporting, he was cradling Akane before she fell backwards, "Akane? Akane!"

The cry had brought Nabiki running, and she didn't stop even after seeing the situation. Pei Ling was also at hand looking solumnly at the scene.

Kasumi and Nabiki crouched by the side of Akane, as Ranma held her aloft on his lap. he could feel his hands slick with her blood from her back, and felt panic almost overwhelming him.


Nabiki knew who he was talking about, and found her chest grow hard, "D-Doom took Franklin out of th-the city..."



The pigtailed martial artist's pleas were cut off, by the quiet voice of the woman in his arms. Ranma looked down at her, finding his eyes begin to tear, but he refused to allow them to water his vision. The hair on the left side of Akane's face covered it from view, and he carefully moved it away, not even caring of the scar it hid.

"I.. I'm sorry... that I... I..."

"Akane, don't speak," Ranma urged, "Someone's going to help you in a bit... CAN SOMEONE GET THE HELL OVER HERE?!?"

"I... never... no one after... you..." Akane whispered, as her voice grew faint. Very slightly, she turned her head to her sisters, "At... least we were t-toge...ther... one last.. time."

Neither of Akane's sisters could trust themselves to speak, as their bodies were barely containing the sobs that were demanding escape.

"I... guess we won... huh?" Even at the edge of death, her voice held a wryness to it, "That's good..."

With that, Akane's eyes closed completely, as her head slumped back. It was then that the remaining Tendou sisters allowed themselves to cry. Ranma did so also, as he put his forehead against Akane's, as he lay her down.

He remained deathly silent, as he stood up, and turned an emotionless stare towards Ryoga. He walked up to the unflinching man, and socked him with as much force as he could muster.


Ryoga could not respond, as he felt his own guilt in the situation. At his silence, Ranma readied himself to pounce, before he felt all his muscles lock up.

"That will be enough, boy," Magneto's voice commanded, "Her death is not his fault."

When Magneto no longer felt Ranma resist, he relenquished his magnetic hold over the pigtailed boy. Ranma fell to his knees, with his head bowed, unable to face anything at the moment.

He barely knew Nabiki's hand had laid on his shoulder, as she knelt down by him. "Ranma... I think we should... be able to send you home now..."

The Makraan Crystal apparently felt Ranma's obligation had been fulfilled, closing the portal behind the pigtailed boy, who never even looked back.

The X-Men stood, watching well after the final light of it had flickered out. Doom snorted, before taking Franklin's hand, and turning to leave.

"Where do you think you're going, Victor?" Nabiki asked, still looking towards the spot Ranma had departed.

"I've fulfilled my debt to both Reed Richards and Charles Xavier." Doom replied, wanting to leave it at that. At the mention of 'Charles Savior', Franklin began to tear up. The man had told him to be strong, and never give up hope, even as he gave up his own life to ensure that the young boy would be protected from harm within Onslaught. If he was older, he may have thought of the signifigance in his own misunderstanding of the once leader of the X-Men's sirname.

"You're taking Dr. Richard's son with you?"

"I will raise the boy, as my final respects to my intellectual rival. Do not concern yourself..." Doom found himself wanting to say more, surprised at his own hesitancy, "unless, you choose to have a part, along side myself."

Nabiki didn't miss the implication, "I'm afraid that could never be possible between us... Victor."

"I see," Victor Von Doom replied, "Then there is no more to say, is there?"

"Are we to just let you walk away with such a powerful young man in your custody?" Magneto enquired, sceptically, "I do not have doubt that we will have to contend with you in the future, if we did so."

"Doom is patient, and has his priorities," Victor replied, "Young Franklin will first learn, and I shall be the one who teaches him. You will not hear from me until we are both ready." With that, Doom and Franklin teleported to parts unknown.

"Goodbye, Doom," Nabiki whispered, finally closing her eyes, and bowing her head.

"So, what now?" Havoc enquired, turning to see the rays of the morning sun coloring the skies between the peaks of the Quangxi mountains with golds and pinks and oranges.

"Lilandra offered the Shi'Ar's assistance to rebuild, without the threat of being forced into sovergn rule, unless we choose it," Nabiki replied. "Other than that, we go on."

Silence reigned for moments, as individual X-Men departed for their own business. Eventually, Nabiki gave her leave, "If you'll excuse me, I must go see my daughter..." The once leader of the X-Men, now only finding duties to her own family, found her thoughts on her deceased husband, and idly wondered what the once proud member of the X-Men would think of how far she had come now...

Over six months since his ordeal in another dimension, and his time lost had been reflected in his own reality. When asked about his departure, Ranma gave the evasive answer of 'impromptu training trip', and refused to say anything more.

At the time, Akane had been very irritated at the answer, but Ranma's overall attitude towards her had changed exponentially. She knew their relationship had grown another step after the Saffron ordeal, but she didn't realize that it had become so much. She looked up towards Ranma from her seat on the porch steps from staring at the bonfire in the back yard, and studied his emotionless face, as he read the note in his hand.

Ranma didn't know the name, but felt a sense of forboding as he read the note. It was a challenge letter. A challenge sent to him by someone named...

"En Saba Nur?" Nabiki enquired, reading over Ranma's shoulder. The pigtailed boy jolted, as he was shocked that the girl was able to sneak up on him. the middle Tendou sister paused in consideration, "Sounds like it's Middle Eastern, or something."

Ranma shrugged, while he looked at the letter. It gave him a feeling of uneasiness that he could not get rid of. The letter was written by hand in elloquent caligraphy. It was most assuradly a serious challenge.

"Actually, it's Egyptian," Kasumi interjected, coming into the yard with hot tea to help combat the slight chill of the Fall air.

Nabiki tilted her head, "Well, I guess you would know, what with your studies in archeology during school."

"An Egyptian martial artist?" Akane enquired, "Sounds pretty exotic."

Ranma thought back, back to six months ago, to a battle against an unbeatable foe. He could feel phantom pains from when he had been knocked through a wall, and into a large metal object...

An Egyptian sarcophagus.

"Huh? Ranma?" Nabiki enquiry drew the attention of the other two girls. She had noted his face turning more solumn, laced with a slight touch of sadness; sadness that was only the tip of the iceburg for what he truly felt. Schooling his expression back to neutral, Ranma calmly, and slowly, tore the letter to shreds.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING, BOY?" Genma shouted, suddenly in his son's face, "ARE YOU REFUSING A CHALLENGE?"

Without turning around, Ranma knew the Tendou Patriarch was standing on the other side of him, "A practitioner of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts can never refuse a challenge, no matter what!"

Ranma threw them a glare that quickly cowered them. If he could see it himself, he would have greatly feared, as it was the same one the Warhorse had given him during his defiance.

Without saying a word, Ranma tossed the shreds into the fire, and walked back into the house. Akane quickly caught up with him, surprised at his actions. "Ranma? Why?"

The question was simple, but the answer was far more complicated to explain. "I've already won," Ranma replied putting his left hand onto the one Akane rested on his right shoulder.

And thus, the Warhorse suffered his complete defeat.