Crystal Memories
A Ranma 1/2 Fanfiction
Author: Konsaki

The noon sun shone down brightly through the partly cloudy skies, driving the morning chill from the La Theine Plateau. A light breeze blew between the trees and bushes that dotted the landscape, sending the long grass covering the rest of the landscape waving like a great sea of green. Large birds soared overhead and small groups of car sized sheep calmly grazed, both ignoring the two people forging a path through the ocean of grain.

Glancing around at the beautiful scenery, Hiroshi couldn't stop herself from holding a dark mood as she looked ahead and saw Ranma's white feline tail swaying with the martial artist's steps. Beyond the human turned mithra, a small line of foliage of trees and shrubbery closed in. Following the black haired girl through, Hiroshi let out an anger filled yell as her cloak caught on something.

"You okay?" Ranma asked, looking over her shoulder with a quirked brow, seeing the red-headed mage yank her cloak free.

"Damn it! How the hell do you do it?!" Hiroshi cried out after getting free, sending a heated look towards her friend.

"Do what?" Ranma asked back, the confusion causing her ears to twitch forward. With the ear movement, Ranma was once again reminded of the small clip on earring that functioned as a magical communicator. She had started getting used to it since Kitoria gave it to her yesterday, but it was just odd; the combination of cat ears and the slight weight of the jewelry.

Jabbing a accusatory finger at the martial artist, Hiroshi exclaimed, "Three days ago, you looked like you walked in front of a bus! I've seen hamburger less beat up than you were after that fight! Then, one night and 'poof', all better!"

Blinking at that exclamation, Ranma leaned back against a nearby tree. "I've always healed fast. It's nothing new, so what's your problem?" As an almost afterthought, she added, "Besides, I won that fight."

"It's not fair, that's what!" The redhead whined out, clenching her hands into fists. "One day riding that damn chocobo, just one day, and I'm left walking funny. My legs feel like lead logs! It's just not fair!"

Ranma just silently stared at the now moping mage. Overhead, a bird cried out into the sky as Ranma took a moment to consider the situation. Scrunching her brow, Ranma pointedly asked, "Why're you so pissed off?"

"My legs feel like ass, we've been traveling almost non-stop for the past two weeks since we got here and I'm stuck with boobs on my chest cause I can't change back like you! That's why I'm pissed off!" The copper haired girl hissed out with a heated glare, as if this was all her friend's fault.

Hearing the list of complaints coming from her friend, Ranma quirked a brow at the last one. "Considering how you and Dai acted after finding out about my curse, I figured you'd be having a ball with those 'boobs stuck on your chest'."

Throwing her hands up, Hiroshi exclaimed, "Not when I haven't had the chance to enjoy them! All I've gotten out of this is I have to squat to pee now!"

Thinking back on all that had gone on since they arrived in this new world, Ranma hesitantly inquired, "What about when we were in San d'oria? I mean, you had a room to yourself." Really, this conversation was feeling a bit surreal to the martial artist. She'd never thought she'd be in this sort of talk with a similarly cursed friend. There was Herb, but he was definitely not a friend!

"The walls were too thin." Hiroshi muttered after a moment, her cheeks flushing as the conversation caught up with her. "It felt… weird, if Dai…"

Ranma considered that, remembering the layout of Kitoria's home and how sounds were only muffled by the walls. Hell, she could hear Daisuke moving around in his room while she was out in the living room. It didn't take much thought for the raven haired girl to empathise with her friend's situation. "Okay, how about this; when we get to the next town, we'll work it so you have a room to yourself for a while."

"Thanks, Ranma. You're a real pal, you know?" Hiroshi responded in genuine thanks but had a hesitant question. "But seriously, why're you being so...?"

Turning her head slightly to cough into a hand, the martial artist's face turned pink. "Can't really believe we're actually talking about this but… We're both guys, you know… I mean, you're going through what I went through, so…" The black haired mithra trailed off, turning her head away as her face reddened even further.

"Come on." The slightly taller redhead egged on, a grin adorning her lips. "Tell me!"

"Well, time to get going! That giant sheep won't find itself!" Ranma blatantly tried to change the subject, pushing off the tree to resume their search, her white tail waving behind her.

"Don't leave me hanging, Ranma! There's a story there, I know it!" Hiroshi called out with a wide grin, catching up to the martial artist easily. "You know I'm not going to leave you alone till you tell me."

"It's private, Hiro. I don't want to talk about it, alright." Ranma stated with conviction as she continued walking on.

Feeling the hairs on the back of her neck bristle slightly, Hiroshi heatedly pointed out, "You just helped plan out my 'private time' and you're trying to hide your's? Real nice going there, Ranma."

Pinching the bridge of her nose while her face still glowed red, Ranma sighed. "Fine, just keep it down, alright?" Seeing the redhead nod her head, Ranma boiled it down. "Few days after we got cursed, Pop n' me found a small town near a lake. I went to the lake to get clean and Pop went to the town to… forage. Since it was the first time we'd split up since getting cursed… Well, you can figure it out from there."

Hiroshi quirked a brow as they continued walking through the tall grass. "I was expecting, well, more details. You know?"

"If you're looking for technique, I figure you know enough already from those manga you hide under your bed." Ranma dryly replied with a half-lidded look.

Hiroshi just coughed into a fist and pointedly looked away, trying to hide her blush of embarrassment. Deciding a change in topic was needed, the mage of the two asked, "So, what do you think this Tremor Ram is going to look like?"

Ranma just shrugged as they neared a rock outcropping of a steep hill. "Considering the sheep here are the size of cars; something bigger than that, I guess."

"Yeah, about that; are these things really sheep?" Hiroshi asked as her boots tread over the soft ground. "I mean, sheep are these short stumpy things that go 'baaa', not hulking things with a giant hump on their back. It's like someone mutated a camel, sheep and cow all into one thing."

"Considering all the crazy things I've seen and fought, these don't even register as 'weird' anymore." Ranma blandly replied as she reached the stone jutting out of the hillside and turned the corner.

Hiroshi almost ran into her raven haired friend who had come to a complete stop. "What's up?" She asked, looking over the shorter girl's shoulder.

"Think we found what we're looking for." Ranma stated, pointing to the large indents in the ground before them leading off into the distance. "Well, at least its tracks."

"You sure? I mean, it could be anything, right?" Hiroshi questioned, not wanting to correlate something that could make those tracks to what they were hunting.

Ranma just moved over and picked out a tuft of wool strands stuck to a section of jutted rock and then pointing to spots where the long grass had been torn out by it's roots. "I'm pretty sure." Reaching up to her ear, momentarily adjusting her hand from her non-existent human ear to the white furred feline ears further up, Ranma activated the clipped on earring. "Hey, guys. I think we found something. We're sending up a flare, so be ready."

Seeing Ranma nod towards her, Hiroshi took a deep breath. Feeling the flow of mana around and in her, she pulled on it and thrust her hands skyward. "Fireball!"

o0O0o

"It's just making it mad!" Hiroshi yelled out in a slightly panicked tone. If in agreement, the massive beast before her bellowed out as it shook it's head clear of the singing flames.

Notching another arrow into his massive bow, the galka hunter who hired them to assist in his hunt called out, "Just keep it up! It'll wear down eventually!" Drawing back with a mighty strain, the hunter let loose; the arrow shooting through the air to embed into the giant ram's flank.

"Look out!" Daisuke cried out in alarm a moment later, making a running evasive dive along with Kitoria and the hunter. An instant later, the Tremor Ram barreled through in a mad charge, just missing the relatively puny bipedal hunters.

Soon enough after it's charge, the Ram changed it's tactic and started bucking and spinning wildly. It's long fibrous hair worked against it, though, as a raven haired martial artist stood steadfast on it's back with long loops of the Ram's hair in her hands to anchor her. Sensing the thing on it's back not dislodging, it reared back before stomping it's forehooves to the ground, making a localized earthquake to where it's namesake came from. An instant later, it's maw opened up and an inaudible blast roared out, the air rippling with the pressure wave.

"Ranma!" Hiroshi cried out in alarm, seeing her friend just fall off the beast like a puppet with it's string's cut.

A bare instant before Ranma hit the ground, she seemed to snap out of it and rolled her feet underneath her. An instant later, she was diving away from a vengeful stop of the beasts powerful legs, still feeling the small quakes caused in the ground.

"Open fire!" Kitoria's voice commanded out, shaking everyone back to action as she let loose another bolt of lightning at the Ram.

With that call everyone let loose with a massive volley of firepower; magic, arrows, bullets and ki flying through the air all towards the towering Tremor Ram. As each hit impacted and rocked the beast, it showed more and more signs of the damage it was incurring before it finally let out one final bleat of anguish and toppled to the ground in one final quake signaling it's defeat.

Even as Daisuke let out a wild cheer, Hiroshi couldn't help but feel sorry for the felled beast. "I don't know about you, but I sorta feel bad about killing it."

"Don't let worry sour your heart." The galkan hunter responded in a deep bass voice. "This beast was twisted by natural magic gone wild. If left alone, it would have harmed the local environs and disturbed the natural order of things."

"I thought you were hunting it for it's materials." Kitoria wryly stated, handing over the mission scroll before taking off her hat momentarily to wipe her brow clear of sweat.

The galka just chuckled as he marked the mission as completed and signed with his officiating stamp. "Just because it must be culled doesn't mean we shouldn't reap it's bounty." He countered with a grin, handing the rolled up scroll back to the mithran mage.

A little further away, Daisuke was jamming with energy from the adrenaline high, a wide toothy grin on his face as he ran up to his raven haired friend. "We beat it! That was awesome! Did you feel the ground shake?! Whoo, crazy!"

"Ung.. not so loud, Dai. My head is killing me." Ranma complained, holding a hand against her head. The pain was quickly fading, but whatever the Ram did to knock her senseless still left lingering effects on the martial artist.

"Sorry man, but it's just so cool!" The black haired gunslinger energetically replied, though at a noticeably lower volume. "I'm gonna go over and see if I can get a souvenir." Putting action to word, he ran over to the hunter who was just beginning to examine the giant corpse.

Ranma just shook her head and then grit her teeth from the small flare to her headache. Walking over to the two resting mages, Ranma asked out, "Your magic do anything for splitting headaches?"

"Sure, just a moment." Kitoria answered, placing her hands on both sides of Ranma's head as she knelt before the mage.

A small warming wave of healing magic later and Ranma let out a sigh of relief, already feeling the pain ebbing away at the quickened rate. "Thanks, it feels better already."

"No problem." The red haired mithra replied with a warm smile before leaning back to relax once more. "I wasn't quite expecting you to jump up on it's back when we told you to distract it, though."

One of her white furred ears flicked about as Ranma shrugged unconcernedly. "Wasn't the first time I climbed something that big. It sure got it's attention."

"Yeah, it was really pissed once you started trying to yank out it's hair by the handful." Hiroshi commented wryly before shaking her head. "So, what do we do now? I thought this was supposed to take three days, no two." She asked, running a hand through her copper bangs and making sure her long braided hair had nothing stuck in it.

Unfolding a small magical map which showed the local area, Kitoria pointed out their current location and dragged her finger to a different spot relatively close by. "I figure we can make it to the Crag in time for dinner. We'll camp there, rest up and get you three some crystal shards. If we leave first thing in the morning, we should make it to the edge of Jugner before nightfall."

Remembering the explanation of elemental crystals and their day to day uses before, Ranma quirked a brow. "What's so special about this specific crystal?"

"Well, if you have a shard on you, a White Mage can use it as an anchor and teleport you back to the Crag where you got it. It can save a lot of time if you're just trying to get somewhere quickly but it can get expensive to pay for each teleportation." Kitoria explained, pulling out a small chain with small shards of crystals on it from a pouch. "The problem is, once you pick up a shard it attunes to your aura, so you can't trade it to someone else."

"So there's more than one, then." Hiroshi stated, pointing at the chain. "What's it feel like to teleport?"

Putting the chain away, Kitoria mused on the question. "I guess if I had to describe it… a tingling sensation followed by falling for a split second."

"Guys, check it out!" Daisuke called out as he approached the group, a wide grin on his face and a fist size molar in his hand.

"Congrats?" Hiroshi said with an unsure tone, not really getting the same vibe from the macabre trophy.

"Thanks!" The cowboy hat wearing youth said, wrapping up the tooth in a rag and stuffing it in a spare pouch. "So, what're we doing next?"

"Well, since everyone looks recovered, let's head out. We've got a few hours of walking ahead of us before we reach the Crag." Kitoria directed, standing up and brushing off stray blades of grass.

Seeing the other two female members of the team follow the older mithra mage, Daisuke scratched the back of his head as he followed along. "What's a Crag?"

o0O0o

The Crag turned out to be a massive ten to fifteen story structure made of a bone white ceramic material. Even in the evening light, where everything else on the plateau had gained an orange hue from the setting sun, the Crag still maintained its bone white color. Somewhat oddly, there were four spires jutting up into the air at the 'corners' while a wall-like appendage called the 'Dragon's Spine' ran out the east side where it slowly sunk into the ground off in the distance.

As the group approached, many questions were asked by the three teens, curious about the giant domed structure: who made it, how old is it, what is it for and so on. Kitoria tried her best to answer the questions but researchers had puzzled over the structures for centuries but even still, most of her answers were pulled from old folklore.

Lore tells that before recorded time, an ancient people built the Crags as part of their grand civilization which spanned the entire world of Vana'diel. Ruins of this civilization still dot the world, which adventurers and researchers travel to in hopes to get rich in money, knowledge or both. The three Crags were unique, though, in the fact that they each held a Mother Crystal; pure tears of the Goddess Altana shed in joy for her children.

"...and that's pretty much what anyone knows about it." Kitoria finished saying, prodding the small campfire with a stick causing sparks to fly into the twilight air.

"Wow, that's pretty cool." Hiroshi whistled out in awe, looking up at the looming structure they were resting in the shadow of. Ranma and Daisuke nodded in agreement as well, clearly impressed by the story of the Crag.

Cocking his head, Daisuke wondered out loud, "If people can teleport directly here, why isn't there a town or something been made near this place?"

Prodding the fire again, Kitoria thought about it for a moment. "Some stories say that the three Mother Crystals are really focal points left by the Goddess to guide the souls of the dead back into her embrace."

"That doesn't sound too bad." Daisuke commented with a shrug.

Hearing that, the redheaded mithra gained a dark smirk to her lips. "Oh, you wouldn't be saying that during a Dark Blood Moon." Seeing that she had the teens' full attention, she let out a sinister chuckle. "They say that during the Dark Blood Moon, the twilight god Promathia blocks the connection from the crystals to the Goddess Altana. With the way to their final rest blocked, the souls rage and return to Vana'diel as vengeful ghosts; destroying all they find near the Crags till the morning sun breaks the dark curse!"

"W-when is the next Blood Moon?" Hiroshi stuttered out, turning her crimson eyes towards the mysterious white ruins.

Hearing the nervousness in the girl's voice, Kitoria's smirk widened, showing her sharp teeth. "Legend say that nights where the wind is still and the moon hides its face in a cloudless sky… when the night is as black as the twilight god's evil soul, he'll cast his dire curse on the world once again." Leaning forwards, her bright green eyes brightly shining in the campfire light, she cut out every word. "Just. Like. Tonight!"

A startled shriek escaped into the night as the campfire flared, sending more embers skyward.

"Bwahahaha!"

"Sh-Shut up, jerk!" Hiroshi yelled out, hitting Daisuke hard in the shoulder. The night did nothing to hide her fierce flush of embarrassment from the fire's light. "You, too!" She bit out with a glare across the fire towards the martial artist who was grinning widely in mirth.

"Hey, I didn't say anything." Ranma defended himself, raising his hands in a placating gesture.

Ignoring the slight soreness in his right shoulder, Dai still had a toothy grin on his face. "Come on, Hiro! Admit it; she got you good!"

"It-it was just the fire catching me by surprise." The copper haired girl stuttered out in denial, turning her face away from her childhood friend.

"I'm disappointed I only got one of you." Kitoria complained lightly, crossing her arms under her breasts. Even still, she held a light smile on her lips from at least catching one of the teens off guard.

"My uncle would tell stories like that. You know, evil spirits, demons and stuff, whenever he took me camping as a kid." Pointing towards the campfire, he added, "Even did the whole 'flour flare' thing, too."

"Ah." Kitoria acknowledged, knowing that trying to scare someone if they'd seen the trick done was bound to fail. Turning her gaze towards the raven haired Ranma, she asked, "What about you?"

Ranma just shrugged. "I've dealt with ghosts before; they're more annoying than anything."

"Really?" Kitoria asked in mild skepticism as she quirked her brow. "Like how?"

"Eh…" The martial artist hemmed and hawed, rubbing the back of his neck as the tip of his tail flipped idly. "It's not really that interesting, really."

"Yeah, right." Daisuke countered with a roll of his eyes. "Ranma, anything you get up to is bound to be interesting. You know, like the time you were trying to use 'pressure points' on Hinako-sensei." The teen used air quoting fingers to emphasize his statement.

"That was good times." Hiroshi agreed with a laugh, remembering the event in her mind's eye.

"Fine." Ranma acquiesced with a frown. "One ghost wouldn't move on till he experienced at least one date; so I had to man up and do it."

"More like 'girl up'." Daisuke snarked, with a grin he shared with Hiroshi.

Purposefully ignoring his friends, Ranma continued on. "Another one was this old weird lady who wouldn't move on till she had her…" He halted his retelling of the event, having a hard time even thinking of it, let alone say it. "She wouldn't leave till someone stole her panties."

Blinking in disbelief at that, Kitoria stated, "You're kidding."

Raising his hands once more into a defensive position, Ranma shook his head. "I wish I was. She really wouldn't leave me alone till I get someone to do it. Problem was, even the most perverted pantyraider in the town wouldn't do it cause he only targets pretty women and the old ghost… yeah." Letting out a sigh, his feline ears folding down at the bad memory. "It took me pulling this big trick on him before she was able to move on."

Shaking his head again, he asked the older mithra, "Get why they're annoying?"

"Wow… just, wow." The mithran mage was almost speechless at that. Shaking her head to clear it, she warned the teen, "Just don't expect anything like that here. Sounds like ghosts are a lot less bloodthirsty where you're from."

"There aren't any here at the Crag, though. Right?" Hiroshi asked hopefully, looking towards the barely visible structure in the distance.

"Oh, they're there." Kitoria confirmed, with a nod. "They just hang out at the Dragon's Spine for some reason, which is why we're on 'this' side." Indicating the fact that the camp was on the complete opposite side of the Spine.

"Man, these ghosts sound like bad news." Daisuke stated, deciding he really didn't want to meet one. "Why do they stick around?"

"No one really knows." The fiery haired woman admitted with a shrug. "One of the biggest hauntings, Gusgen Mines, is still a complete mystery."

"Gusgen Mines?" Daisuke asked with curiosity.

Pointing to the south, she explained, "Down towards Bastok, there's another Crag and near that are the Gusgen Mines. No one knows what happened, but one day a merchant caravan shows up and finds that everyone had dropped dead. Tools still in their hands. Food and drink on the tables. No signs of fighting."

Running a hand through her hair before scratching behind one of her ears, she continued, "So, naturally, the merchants freak out and book it back to Bastok to tell of what they found." Grimacing, she explained, "When the soldiers finally arrived at the mines, the dead miners had... arisen with the curse of undeath. Now, their ghosts and skeletons wander the mines; sometimes mining like they did in life but always looking for their next piece of life flesh to rend."

"This is just another one of your stories, right?" Hiroshi asked nervously, quite freaked out over these talks of ghosts and the dead walking the world.

"No, I'm deadly serious about this one." She replied, her voice and gaze carrying the truth of her words to the younger mage.

A moment of silence held the night, broken only by the soft pop and snap of the campfire.

"Time for bed! Sleep well!" Kitoria cheerfully shattering both silence and solemn mood. Putting action to words, the mithra lay down in the sleeping bag she had been sitting on and zipped it up.

Sharing a glance with each other, Daisuke and Ranma just shrugged and followed suit a few moments later. It was quite a while longer before the fourth one of their group did the same and even longer before sleep found her..

o0O0o

"Maybe he was wrong?"

Daisuke turned his head slightly to his right, quirking his brow at Hiroshi's comment. "Really? This again?"

"What?" She defensively replied with a shrug. "I'm just saying; we've gone this far and haven't seen anything yet. He could've been wrong."

Daisuke just shook his head, turning back to the fore so he could step over an errant tree root in the path.

The Elvaan Royal Knight they received the warning from at the forest's edge seemed pretty trustworthy. At least the group was concerned enough to change their travel path through the forest to keep as much distance between themselves and Davoi, the Ork's warbase to the south. With that in mind, the group had made north, heading back to where the teens had first found themselves in this odd fantasy world.

"Do you really 'want' to see signs of Orks, Hiro?" The brown haired teen blithely inquired. "Cause I'm pretty happy with not seeing any. You know?"

The look the redheaded girl gave him definitely conveyed her displeasure at his words.

Making a placating gesture with his hands, he moved a little further away from his magic wielding friend. "Look, man, I ain't happy about spending another day walking through a jungle but if it keeps us away from the bloodthirsty green guys; I'm okay with it."

"And I'm okay with you two not talking so loud." Kitoria cut in using a hushed voice, waving a hand around her towards the pre-dusk gloom which had enveloped the forest. "Orks aren't the only thing we need to look out for right now and we still have a couple hours before we reach the lake."

"Sorry." "Got it." Both teens responded in similarly hushed tones, looking respectfully reprimanded.

"So, what are we trying to look out for?" Ranma asked with a quirked brow, his feline ears pivoting around to listen to their surroundings. "We've got giant bugs, walking mushrooms and killer orks. What else?"

"Shadowcats, wolves and the undead all prowl the dark, which is why we're pushing to camp at the lake." She felt the tension raise up in her companions, the Mithran mage quickly adding, "They're not that common around this area but you never know."

"Better safe, than sorry." Daisuke lowly intoned, earning a nod from the woman.

"That's a safe mindset to have." Kitoria agreed, going back to scanning the darkening woods.

"So, how much further is it?" Hiroshi asked, tired from the quick pace they'd pushed all day.

Ranma glanced back, his blue eyes shining in the gloom. "Just a couple more hours, Hiro. Keep it up."

The redheaded mage just let out a sigh. "Yeah, yeah…"

The quartet continued on in relative silence, only the sounds of their boots on the ground and the ambient jungle sounds of the early night filling the air. Their pace was noticeably slower with the vanishing light but the pair of mithra kept pushing the pace, both taking advantage of their greater night vision.

An hour passed and then another, the woods almost a pitch black obstical course of rocks, roots and branches. The group was forced to drastically lower their pace as the two humans of the group found themselves tripping and stumbling more than hiking.

After one particularly messy spill, Hiroshi hissed out in pain as she rubbed her sore leg. "Damnit! How much farther!?"

"Not much farther." Ranma stated, an apologetic tone in his words. Looking further behind, he lowly called out, "Hurry up, Dai."

"Dude! I'm going as fast as I can without falling on my face!" The brunette boy complained, using a hand to guide himself around a tree. "I can't see shit right now!"

"Sorry, Dai, but we're almost there." Ranma said with a sigh. "Just a little farther."

"You said that like an hour ago, man!"

"I know, I know." Ranma ran a hand through his disheveled black hair, the white tip of his tail flipping around in the darkness. "We just gotta keep…"

Both teens looked in confusion as the martial artists stopped mid word and jerked his head to the side. Each visible muscle was coiled and taut, causing the other two teens to become tense as well.

"Kit?"

"Yeah, I know." The elder mithra responded from the shadows ahead, slowly drawing out her rapier, the sound of metal sliding against the leather hissing into the silent night air.

No one moved for what seemed like ages until Hiroshi shifted her weight slightly.

A twig snapped.

A scream in the dark, scuffling movement and a strobe of lightning flashed the forest bright blue. In the bare instant of light, they saw a four legged being of pure black flying through the air passed the panicked dodge of the mithran mage. Before the woman could call out "Shadowcat!", Ranma had already shot off into the night to assist.

"Shit! We gotta help out!" Daisuke bit out, pulling his revolver from it's holster.

"We can't see shit! How the hell are we going to help!?" Hiroshi's panicked yell rang out in response over the skirmish happening not thirty meters away.

"Well, I can't do nothing!" He shouted back, taking a few steps forwards as another bolt of lightning flashed through the darkness.

Hiroshi's blood red eyes jerked wide, a flicker of movement seizing her chest for an instant. "Dai! Look out!"

Time slowed to a crawl as he turned his head back. The world flashed blue once more. Yellow eyes looked back from the blackness and coiled muscles pounced.

Daisuke's world devolved into screams, burning fire and pain... and finally merciful empty, unfeeling darkness.

o0O0o

"Nnnnnng"

Hiroshi's breath hitched at the sound, having just wrung the excess water out of a damp cold of cloth. Hearing the groan again, she looked over and saw the prone form shifting slightly in the layered sleeping bags. Standing up slowly, she made her way to the door of the rundown cabin and poked her head outside. "Ranma! He's waking up!"

Quickly shifting back into the shelter, the redheaded girl moved back to her laid out friend. He had raised a hand to his face, mouth grimacing as his hand touched the bandages..

"Ung… Wha… What happened?" Daisuke struggled to get out, slurring his words slightly.

"Dai… you're awake." Hiroshi whispered out, eyes misting at the realization.

"Hiro? What? What happened?" The brown haired youth repeated in confusion, his brain not yet running at full speed.

Hiro bit her lip lightly as she tried to think up what to say in answer. Thankfully, she was saved by another person entering the small building a moment later.

"Dai!" Ranma called out, concern in his voice.

"Arg… not so loud!" Daisuke cringed slightly at the loud noise before he lightly touched the bandages over his eyes once more. "Ranma… what happened, man?"

"Dai…" Ranma hesitated for a moment. "You got hurt, real bad."

"What happened? I… I remember the woods and Kit fighting, then…" The injured teen trailed off at a loss. "Tell me."

"We got attacked by Shadowcats." Ranma stated in explanation, scratching at the back of his neck as he spoke. "You got… well…"

"You were trying to help Ranma and Kitoria but… another Shadowcat came out of nowhere." Hiroshi cut in, looking at her hands fidgeting in her lap.

The following silence almost had a physical weight to it as it hung over the trio.

Daisuke softly fingered the bandages on his face once more as he lay in the bedding, doing the mental arithmetic of the situation. "How bad is it."

Ranma and Hiroshi glanced towards each other, neither speaking up at first before the raven haired mithra let out a sigh. "Dai, by the time I was able to get to you… You were a bloody mess."

"We did the best we could but…" Hiroshi trailed off, biting her lip once more.

"How. Bad. Is it." He demanded, biting out each word as he clenched his hands into fists.

Ranma let out a deep frustrated sigh through his nose, massaging the bridge of it as he leaned forward. "Dai, we don't know for sure. Now that you're awake, we can find out." Shifting over, he helped his friend slowly get into a seated position. "I'm gonna take em off but you gotta keep your eyes closed, okay?"

Taking a deep breath, Daisuke let out a resigned, "Fine."

It took a couple minutes to slowly unwind the bandages, making sure that nothing was sticking or tearing as they slowly revealed more and more of their friend's face. Both of his friends held their tongues as the last of the bandages came off. Even so, he could hear Hiroshi's female breath hitch slightly while Ranma let out another nasal sigh.

"Let's get this over with." He bit out, steeling himself for whatever might come next.

Opening his eyes slowly to the light, he blinked a few times before focusing in on Ranma's face nearby. The martial artist had a grim cast as he looked his friend directly in the eye.

"Alright, Dai. Got a couple of tests to check you out." Ranma explained before holding a hand up. "How many fingers?"

"Three."

"What color's my shirt?"

"Blue and green."

"Okay, now close your right eye and track my finger." A few seconds later, Ranma took a breath and finally directed, "Okay… now swap."

Daisuke sat completely still, not even breathing for a few moments before he spoke out. "Fuck!"

"What's wrong?" Hiroshi asked up in concern from her spot by the wall.

"I fucking can't see! That's what's wrong!" Daisuke exclaimed as he opened his good eye and speared Ranma with his gaze. He saw the martial artist run a hand down his face before leaning back. "I need a mirror or something."

"Yeah." Ranma agreed with a nod, reaching over to get his pack. "Just a sec.

Holding the smooth silvered steel in his hand, Daisuke took a breath and held it up. He only needed a moment to figure it all out but he couldn't help but stare at his face through his good left eye.

Raising his right hand, he slowly prodded at the four bright pink scars which sliced diagonally from ear to brow, crossing his right eye but never touching his nose. Right there in the middle sat his eye; perfect, as if nothing was wrong with it. Letting out the breath he didn't know he was holding, he lowered the mirror as he hung his head.

"Sorry, Dai. We did what we could but…" Ranma tried to say but floundered, running a hand through his hair in frustration. "We didn't know there'd be two of 'em and…"

"We should have stopped earlier."

"What?" Ranma asked, hand still caught in his hair by Daisuke's mumbled words.

"We should have just stopped when it got dark." The injured teen stated more clearly, still looking down to the green canvas sleeping bags.

The martial artist grimaced, knowing where this was going but unable to stop the train wreck about to happen. "You know why we didn't, Dai. We had almost made it to…"

"Then we should have had a fucking light or something!" Daisuke yelled out, glaring at his highschool friend. "We can't see in the dark like you can with your cat's eyes! And now, I can only see out of one!"

The silence hung in the air like a thick fog between the teens.

Running both of his hands through his thick brown hair, Daisuke choked out, "Dammit! Shit like this never happened back home!" He looked up at the raven haired teen. "You'd get into some crazy fight, break a lot of shit and then we'd all give you shit about it the next day. But, but nobody ever got hurt!"

"This isn't Nerima." Ranma lamely replied with a shake of his head. "By the time we were able to kill the one attacking Kit, yours was already dead." Ranma's lips quirked up in a wry grin, "Seems you got one shot off; right through the heart. It stayed alive just long enough to give you that and knock you out with it's weight."

"Yay, me." Daisuke blandly replied, touching at the scar tissue once more.

His face taking a serious look, Ranma asked, "Dai, you okay?"

"Yeah, fine… just… fine." Letting out a sigh, he asked back."Think it can be fixed?"

"Don't know… maybe?" Ranma offered up a guess, scratching the back of his neck. "You know magic's never worked well with me. You'd have to ask Kit or Hiro. Wouldn't hurt to find a doc or something in the next town, though."

Hearing Hiroshi brought up in the conversation, Daisuke blinked his brown eyes before turning his head. He'd forgotten all about his friend sitting in the building with him, not seeing her due to his newly acquired blind spot.

If he was being true to himself, the teen would have found it hard to see his childhood friend in the redheaded girl silently crying as she looked towards him. "Hiro?"

"I'm sorry…" She choked out, wiping at her eyes. "I tried but it was dark and… your eye…"

Seeing the injured teen glance towards him in silent question, Ranma blew a breath through his long bangs. "By the time we got to you, Hiro had already pulled the dead Shadowcat off you and started trying to heal you." Rubbing the back of his head, he added, "He managed to stop the bleeding but…" He gave a helpless shrug.

Daisuke nodded at the explanation. "Hey, Hiro… Thanks, man." Hiroshi managed a small smile at the thanks as she continued to wipe her eyes. Daisuke tactfully didn't mention his friend crying, choosing to look back at the mithra martial artist. "So, what now?"

"Well, today's a wash, so we're probably going to stay here overnight. Probably try and get out of the forest by tomorrow afternoon, if you can make it." Ranma mused out, using information he'd gotten from Kitoria.

"How long was I out?"

"Hmm… sixteen hours or so." Ranma plainly replied, patting his friend on the shoulder. "Give me a sec and I'll bring ya some food."

Hearing Ranma leave the one room building, Daisuke brought the mirror back up. After a few moments, he asked up, "Hey, Hiro, tell me straight; does it look cool?"

"What?" Hiroshi blinked in surprise before realising what was being asked. "Are you serious?"

Daisuke just shrugged before pointing to his damaged right eye. "What's the point of having scars if they don't look cool?" Seeing his friend roll her crimson eyes at him, he lamely asked, "What?"

o0O0o

Daisuke grunted as his right shoulder hit yet another person as he walked down the busy Jeuno street. "Damnit, I'm getting really tired of this." He muttered after apologizing to the other person.

The Mid Jeuno bridge, which connected the tower city of Jeuno to the Human region of Derfland, was packed with pedestrians going both ways. The inns, stores and warehouses which practically filled both sides of the bridge still allowed for a generous thorofare but the merchant city was booming that morning.

"Don't worry, Dai. Once we get to the doctor Kit told us about, you'll be good as new." Hiroshi cheerfully offered up, using both of the bigger boys as a meatshield against the crowd.

"Sure hope so." The gunslinger muttered, touching the bandages they had kept over his eye to prevent any further damage to it.

It had already been four days since the incident had happened, the group managing to leave Jugner forest and cross the Batallia Downs without any further problems. Having spent the entire last day trekking through the grassy plains, they spent the night at a small inn just off the Upper Jeuno bridge.

The morning sun had given the trio of teens a breathtaking view of the ivory stone tower of Jeuno. It had also given them a two hour trek across the Upper bridge, down a grading path which ringed the inside of the tower and then finally halfway out the Middle bridge.

"Looks like we're here." Ranma pointed out the simple red medical cross on a doorway, his white furred ears perked forwards.

"Well, let's roll the dice." Daisuke quipped as he pushed open the door to the small clinic.

Once inside, he found a sparse entry room consisting of a nurse sitting at a desk working on some paperwork, a few flower pots and a few wooden chairs along a wall. Hearing the door chime, the human woman looked up and greeted the entering teens. "Good morning. How can we help you?"

"Yeah, I need my eye fixed." Daisuke bluntly stated, pointing towards the bandaged part of his face.

"Oh. Oh! I see." The brown haired woman stood up and gestured to the chairs. "Please have a seat while I notify the doctor."

"Thanks." Hiroshi said, moving to the chairs to rest her feet.

Glancing around the room, the brown haired young man hummed. "What do you guys think?"

"Looks like a small family clinic, I guess." The coppery haired girl stated with a shrug.

"Smells clean, like Doc Tofu's place did." Ranma offered up with a slight flare of his nostrils.

"High praise, I'm sure."

Hearing the amused feminine tones coming from the doorway leading deeper into the clinic, the trio saw an older human woman standing there in a white frock with her silver hair pulled back up into a bun. She brought her attention to bare on Daisuke's bandaged injury and mused, "I assume you're the patient?"

"Yeah, that's me." He replied with a nod, gesturing towards his face. "Got mauled by a shadowcat a few days ago. Hiro and another mage healed me up but I still can't see anything with it."

"Hmm…" The doctor hummed while cupping her chin, most likely thinking of possible problem scenarios. "Come on back and let's see what I can do."

As the doctor and Daisuke headed on back, Ranma and Hiroshi watched them go; both choosing to stay in the front waiting room.

"I really hope this works." Hiroshi whispered, voice full with hopeful trepidation.

Ranma just let out a breath through his long black bangs. "Hiro, it wasn't your fault, alright? You did the best you could, so did Kit. Things just happen; believe me, I know."

"I know… I just can't help but feel guilty about it… like I could have done something, I don't know, different… better."

"Yeah, we all feel that way." He replied, white tipped tail swaying behind him, as he vocalised the feeling all four of them had felt at one time or another during their adventure in Vana'diel.

The pair wound up having to wait almost two hours, the pair having filled their time quite differently. Ranma took advantage of the downtime to get a quick nap in, crashing out in a chair at the corner of the room. Hiroshi, on the other hand, spent her time reading a small primer book on magical theory she had found in a nearby magic store, having had to get some fresh air.

'Hey, guys." A lethargic sounding Daisuke greeted from the doorway to the medical rooms.

Hiroshi blinked as she looked up from her book, noticing the gunslinger still had his right eye covered, though this time with a black eyepatch instead of bandages. Elbowing Ranma awake, she stood up and asked, "Hey, how're you doing?"

"Tired as shit." The brown haired teen replied, using the nearby wall to keep his balance as he stepped into the room.

As Hiroshi stepped forward to provide her friend some support, the doctor stepped into the room behind him. "He'll need to rest the rest of the day. He'll need to keep the patch over his eye till tomorrow as well, to let the damaged tissue finish healing without any undue stress."

"So, you were able to fix it?" Hiroshi hopefully asked, looking from Dai's face to the doctor.

"It was a rare condition but, due to the quality of the immediate healing he received, I was able to finish the regeneration process." The aging doctor nodded with a smile.

"That's great!" The coppery haired girl exclaimed, causing Daisuke to flinch.

"Yeah, yeah. Let's just get back to the hotel, alright?" He tiredly complained, gesturing towards the entrance of the clinic.

Seeing his two human friends moving towards the door, Ranma walked up to the doctor. "Thanks for your help, doc. What do we owe you?"

It was a couple minutes later that Ranma caught up to his friends, his purse significantly lighter but feeling quite content with the cost. Each Gil spent for a friend was well spent, in his mind.

o0O0o

End of Chapter 6

- A/N

First off, let me say thanks to you readers for taking your time to read my story. Especially those of you who spent a little extra to leave a review!

Q - Fast Frank asked: How did they not notice the Crag the first time through La Theine Plateau?

A - I've increased the size of the zones to a slightly more realistic size, so they never really saw it clearly enough to ask about it.

Q - Fast Frank asked: What about the Giant Crabs, Tigers and Goblin Fishers?

A - As I'm trying to make the world slightly more 'real', I've smoothed out some of the 'game' artifacts, like spawn areas for monsters, as well as trying to make the mobs more intelligent and reactive. This means the tigers hide away from the big group of adventurers and the crabs do the same. As for the Goblins, there weren't any fishers at that spot when the group rolled through.

Q - Hishin Trueflame asked: Couldn't Hiroshi just remember the spells casting Lina does in the series and the names of Lina spells to use her magic?

A - Hiroshi looks like Lina Inverse and has the ability to use magic like Lina, but she doesn't have any of the knowledge or experience Lina had. This means she has to learn magic from scratch, like any other mage in the world.

Anyways, thanks for reading and your reviews. Sorry it took so long to get another chapter up but I hope to keep riding this muse as long as I can!