Ranma Saotome, heir to the Musabetsu Kakutō Ryū had never been one for negotiations.
He was a martial artist after all, and his idea of negotiations was an open palmed strike or swift kick in the ass depending on which combination or technique was favored at the time. Negotiations were certainly not a tent full of people bickering on the fairness of certain terms and conditions over the finer points of a peace treaty that seemed just as likely to collapse under the more passionate entreaties then actually stand the test of time.
"The Phoenix will not withdraw from the Jusenkyo Highlands and that is final!"
His gaze flicked over to the old man across the space with a mental sigh. 'Old's' an understatement,' Ranma revised mentally as he watched the amalgam of wrinkled flesh and feathers thump his fist down upon their mutual round table. How the appendage was able to withstand the solid thunk of the sturdy hard wood surface without snapping was beyond him and he all but tuned the Phoenix Ambassador out as the topic of boarders was revisited yet again. Behind him stood a woman clad in light pastel pink leotard cradling a small child in her arms; looking none too happy about it or the direction of the negotiations.
Ranma smirked slightly at Kiima's misfortune; his attention wandering from the bird woman to the two guards flanking her. Koruma and Masala stood by attempting to look menacing in spite of the fact that they still had the bruises from Mousse and Ryoga's beat down; and therein lay the crux of the problem facing the negotiations.
Their faction had beat the Phoenix soundly.
"The Phoenix used the Jusenkyo Highlands in order to stage an attack on our own Loresman." The pigtailed teen returned his attention to Cologne, who replied in a patient, if bored tone from the perch of her gnarled staff. "An offense normally punishable by death according to our laws."
"The Phoenix do not recognize your laws, Amazon."
'Yeah, see how well that one works out for you,' Ranma chuckled silently at the wrinkled ambassador's rebuttal and waited for Cologne's reply.
"Then perhaps we shall remove you from them by force," The old woman shrugged as if she cared little about potentially turning an isolated conflict into a full blown war. The Phoenix Elder sputtered his indignation, though Cologne simply overrode him calmly. "I think even the Musk would turn a blind eye after your blatant desecration of the valley."
'Told ya so,' Ranma quipped from the privacy of his thoughts as the Phoenix's sputtering died off with a horrified look.
"That would mean war, Elder." The old man warned, eyeing the woman with a narrow gaze that would have carried more weight if the robed Phoenix hadn't looked so frail to begin with.
"A war you started the moment you sought out the Guide and his Daughter." Cologne pointed out in that same bored tone. "By all rights it would be well within my prerogative to assemble the tribes, scour the Phoenix from the Highlands and lay siege to your damnable mountain."
The Elder Phoenix was posed to rebuke his counterpart when Kiima stepped forward to take over. She handed the baby off to the old man and took her place to stand at the table. The woman's slitted eyes flicked over to Ranma for a split second before turning her full attention on Cologne. "We will not be threatened, Elder. Even so, I'm sure we can come to a mutually reassuring arrangement."
The eye contact hadn't gone unnoticed and now Ranma waited for the other shoe to drop as the old Amazon woman two seats down from him merely nodded. "Such as?"
"A simple exchange," Kiima gestured disarmingly. "We will forfeit the highlands-"
"But Captain-ACK!" The old man sputtered, only to be smacked by Kiima's talon'd hand. The old man rubbed the his bald head profusely as the white haired woman favored him with a glare, then continued in a reasonable tone.
"The Phoenix will forfeit the Jusenkyo Highlands in the interest that it remains neutral grounds. This does, of course, represent a reduction in the defensive boarders around our kingdom and we would ask for reparations in return. Insurance against any Amazonian ambitions, as it were."
Cologne awaited the terms with a half lidded gaze. "Such as?"
"We would consider the Gekkaja as suitable insurance." Kiima replied easily, motioning in Ranma's direction. All eyes turned on the martial artist, who had allowed the Kinjakan's counterpart to lean haphazardly against his section of the table for the last two hours of mind-numbingly boring negotiations. The boy eyed the assembled crowd staring expectantly at him while he in turn looked at Cologne with a shrug that indicated he didn't care one way or the other.
At least until Kiima opened her mouth again.
"It would be in your best interest to accept this offer, Saotome-san." Kiima offered in a deceptively light tone that spoke of subtle threat. Outwardly, there was no change in the martial artist as he gripped the Gekkaja. Inwardly, the outcome that almost was visited his mind's eye and his heart hardened.
"Ya mean this staff?" He questioned rhetorically, pushing up from the table for the first time while taking the half moon staff up with him. Kiima nodded with manufactured patience and the martial artist stepped away from his seat, past the Amazon guards in attendance to walk over to the Phoenix delegations table. He gave it a showy twirl while doing so and Kiima's guards shifted nervously; their hands floating to the hilts of their weapons.
"Ranma...?" Cologne asked, now completely unsure of what the boy had in mind as he approached their table. He hadn't spoken at all through the proceedings and even looked like he had nodded off several times. But now what? Now that they knew what Phoenix wanted, they could leverage-
The half moon blade came down in a blur, splitting their table in half before embedding itself in the very earth at Kiima's feet, causing the woman to stumble back in shock. Her green haired bodyguard stabilized the stumble and when she looked back up, found the black haired martial artist's cold blue-gray eyes burrowing into hers.
"How about this," Ranma's left hand flexed with anticipation around the staff's shaft as he offered a counter proposal. His tone was even and cold. "I keep the staff. You roll on out of the Highlands. I don't pay a visit and gut your goddamn mountain."
Kiima's mouth opened up but words failed to come out. After a moment of staring down the Phoenix woman, Ranma pulled the staff's edge from the hardened soil, leaving and ugly, frost bitten gouge. "And if ya say 'please' nice enough I might even let ya have it back so the kid can grow up again."
With that, he turned on the ball of his foot and left the delegation behind for the tent's exit.
Half an hour later found Ranma on a cliff side staring out over the valley of Jyusenkyo as roiling dark gray clouds took turns blotting out the sunlight. While he was never one to opine on the beauty of nature, he had to admit the rays of sunlight streaking down and refracting off the glittering lake Jyusenkyo had become was rather spectacular.
'Yeah, too bad it's still Jyusenkyo,' another portion of his mind not distracted by the beauty of the scene thought with bitter humor. Sheets of gray rain could be seen cascading down along the ridge-line several mountain tops away and that same portion of his intellect wondered how long it would be before it descended upon their location as well.
"Well that was the most fun I've had in years," A voice crackled sarcastically behind him. Its sage feminine tone assured the martial artist that it could only be one person and thus didn't even bother to turn around, let alone get up. The light tapping of a walking stick on rock halted beside him, confirming the woman's identity beyond any shadow of a doubt. The green robed elder admired the same sight from Ranma's cliff side vantage point for a silent minute before continuing her thoughts. "If I have to sit in on another one of those negotiations, however, I fear it will be the end of me."
"Killed me more than a couple times," Ranma chuckled back, remembering how many times he had been jerked back awake by his head lolling off to the left or right.
"Regardless, the deed is done." Cologne confirmed. Ranma glanced up at her, awaiting the final outcome of the meeting. "The Phoenix have chosen to withdraw from the highlands. They would request, however, your presence when Saffron's time comes again."
"If he's not a snot nose little brat, I'll think about it." Ranma sniffed, taking one of the keys to the child's ascension in hand. He rocked back up to his full height, using the Gekkaja's silvered length as a make shift walking stick.
"A thorn in our side for many generations," Cologne nodded sympathetically. "One less, hopefully."
"Ya got others?" The martial artist cast an teasing look at the old woman. "I just can't see why."
"Touché son-in-law," The old woman acknowledged and hopped away from the ledge, the tip of her cane ticking against the rock. Ranma followed with his own staff as she glanced back with a smirk. "But don't tell me you haven't enjoyed the attentions of so many women."
"When they aren't tryin' ta kill me," Ranma muttered but didn't pursue the point in fear of digging himself deeper. Instead, he decided to follow up on the original topic. 'Hell, might even prove useful ta know,' he decided and asked the old woman leading him back to the main trail. "What other thorns ya worried about, anyway?"
"The Communist would be the next biggest threat outside this valley," Cologne replied conversationally as she hopped along. "We would prefer to remain unnoticed and regularly take steps to ensure the status quo."
"Infiltration. Bribes. Magic. Convenient memory loss here and there." She explained. The pair rounded an outcropping of rock, bringing the tent and several attending Amazonian battle maidens into view. The Phoenix had apparently all gone home. The pigtailed teen was just about to ask another question when a cold droplet dabbed his nose.
"Almost went the day without changin' too," He groused aloud, but found it harder to insert any meaningful resentment into the statement. Cologne merely chuckled with the comment as her gray mane billowed in the crosswind.
"And just who are you trying to convince, Son-in-law?." The question held an edge of rhetorical mirth and Ranma's silence prompted her to continue even as the tiny rain droplets gained in density. "In any event, it will make tonight's festivities easier on you."
"And just how's that?" Ranma asked with skepticism, his eyebrow arched. The droplets had staying power now and were now creating tiny spots on the blue of his silk shirt. A glance up at the boiling gray clouds above indicated it wouldn't be long now.
"How many women in our village do you think would jump at the chance to challenge the Slayer of Saffron for his hand in marriage, hmmm?" Cologne stopped her forward progress, eyeing the martial artist with no small measure of mirth. Ranma too stopped in his tracks with the sudden realization, his eyes widening. "Likewise, my great granddaughter's claim is only valid until the next woman challenges her. Losing to you is the proverbial foot in that door."
A peal of thunder accompanied the advisement, filling Ranma with an ominous foreboding as the rain began to patter around him in earnest, wetting his hair while he in turn imagined the Joketsuzoku celebration turning into an all out melee as one Amazon battled another for his hand in marriage. The martial artist realized it all sounded epically conceited, but damned if it wasn't a very real possibility in his mind. Ranma nodded his suddenly willing agreement. "I'm thinkin' girl's good right about now."
"I knew you would see it my way," Cologne snickered and continued hopping alongside her charge. Another gust of wind sent her green robe rippling, carrying with it enough drizzle to finally trigger Ranma's curse. The old woman barely noted the change as the boy next to her melted upon himself into a form only marginally taller than she was on her cane. The newly conjured redhead wiped a droplet out of her eye while the Elder herself took stock of the weather. "It will slacken once we reach the lower elevations. Should it persist, the forest canopy will protect us from the worst of it."
"Sounds good to me," Ranma nodded, eyeing the sky as if it had gone out of its way to trigger her curse on purpose.
"Then come; celebration awaits." She nodded, the smirk still plain on her face. The retinue of Amazonian women took up station around them; Four within their immediate proximity, two in advance and two trailing in their wake. Several males scurried around the site of negotiations even as their party took to the path, disassembling the main negotiations tent as the women continued on. Ranma balanced the staff over her left shoulder while Cologne hopped along beside her. One of the warriors off Ranma's left flank- Du Xiu if the martial artist recalled the pink haired woman's name correctly -shouted a something in mandarin and one of the woman on point started into a spring taking off ahead and out of sight around the curvature of the downward sloping path.
"So, Son-in-law, what are your thoughts of the future?" The old woman continued hopping along, glancing over to the martial artist in idle conversation. The martial artist threw her a searching look, but shrugged.
"How the hell should I know?" Ranma wondered aloud, hardly sure of the answer herself. "If it ain't one thing, it's another. A rival here, a kidnappin' there. Fiancées droppin from the sky, y'know?"
"Indeed," Cologne acknowledged with the slightest trace of humor. "Interesting times seem to follow you like Mousse follows Shampoo."
"Ya mean all incessant and annoying like?" Ranma chuckled at the visual the Elder's words had created, but ultimately found herself nodding. "Too much crap, not enough time." She paused, eyeing the elder warily. "This don't have something to do with Shampoo, does it?"
"My, how suspicious you are, son-in-law." The Elder favored her charge with a wrinkled smile. "Perhaps not unwarranted, however."
Ranma maintained her staring. "Well?"
Cologne cackled. "No, it does not. My curiosity is a... personal interest."
The redhead held her study for another moment before relaxing once more for lack of an obvious conversational threat. "I guess. Doesn't change my answer though. Still got a lot on my plate."
"Of course," Cologne nodded sympathetically as she tapped alongside the martial artist. "Then what if I offered you a way to lessen the helpings on your plate?"
Ranma's walk slowed as he regarded the gray haired elder suspiciously. "And just how would ya do that?"
"Before your return to Tokyo we will talk," The woman offered easily. "Speaking of which, what are your plans for the Gekkaja?"
"Other than carry it around all night?" Ranma sniffed and the elder nodded, as if she had expected the answer.
"Perhaps remanding it to an honor guard would be for the best," Cologne advised. "Legendary artifacts and large quantities of mead tend not to mix well during celebrations such as these."
"Ah, right," The martial artist eyed the elder skeptically, wondering just what the aforementioned celebrations would consist of. Still a celebration was a celebration. In her honor so less.
That didn't sound half bad.
I've had this on ice for a while in various build states, so I figure why not release some of it. I'm not huge into the endless cesspool of meaningless violence that is WH40k by and large, so I'm doing this my way- A cesspool of violence with meaning ;)
A Challenge is Fine, Too; I normally don't respond to challenges but there are occasionally exceptions to the rule. here? I was bribed. By Alamandorious specifically, so if you want somebody to take the pitchforks and torches to any one person, he's the one :)