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A Ranma ½ / Slayers crossover story
By Aaron Bergman

Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and all characters therein belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. Slayers and all characters belong to Hajime Kanzaka, Rui Araizumi, Kadokawa Shoten, TV Tokyo, Softx, and Marubeni.


Aahhh.

The patriarch of the Kuno clan wiggled his toes a bit deeper into the freshly warm sand resting in a tub at his feet and sighed. It wasn't easy being a coconut-obsessed headmaster of a school for samurai children with a penchant for fun new school rules and interesting haircuts and two ingrates for heirs, but he felt that he pulled it off with élan and style.

Thinking of his two children…

Where were they?

He hadn't heard his daughter's admittedly somewhat grating laugh for several days now, and he also hadn't seen scalp nor hair of his oddball son for at least a week. Dredging his unreliable memory, he dug out a vague image of his daughter saying something about going off to hunt down a lifelong rival. But of his son, he drew a complete blank.

"Greetings, you foul worm of a father."

Aha. He looked over his shoulder and saw Tatewaki standing there, holding yet another of his stupid bokken in hand. He smiled broadly. "Ah, Tatchi, it warms dis old man's heart to hear such love in 'is only son's voice."

To Headmaster Kuno's surprise, Tatewaki didn't charge in like a moron, swinging his stupid piece of wood as he released a barrage of bad samurai poetry. In fact, he didn't seem to notice the taunt at all. "How many times, father? How long have you tormented me?"

"Eight years? No, make dat nine. I wen' forget da time when…"

Tatewaki slid forward slowly, ready to strike at any time. He held his bokken in a low stance, ready to sweep forward in any number of rushing attacks. Sweat broke out on Headmaster Kuno's face as he saw the ki flaring visibly around his son's body and blade. "Now, dere, boy. It ain' polite to…"

His words were cut off as Tatewaki lunged. Desperately, the Headmaster dodged as he pulled out his favored weapons: Hair clippers the size of hedge trimmers. "Now you done it, boy. I be angry now, and you goan be finished, yeah!"


Kuno sheathed his bokken as he turned from the broken body of his father. Finally, was his first thought, then he lifted one fist to the heavens in victory. "At last I have defeated the foul demon that gave me life! Now, I shall defeat Ranma…"

NO.

He looked around, but once again failed to see where the voice of his new master, the one that had granted him such power, was coming from. "Where are You?"

IN A PLACE FAR AWAY. YOU ARE MY ONLY SOLDIER IN THAT PLACE, AND YOU WILL FINISH THE MISSION I HAVE GIVEN YOU BEFORE YOU PURSUE ANY MORE COMBATS FOR YOUR OWN PLEASURE.

For a moment, just a moment, Kuno contemplated rebelling against the order. But his honor demanded he fulfill his duty to his lord before any other obligations he might have. He went to one knee. "I shall find the Keys for You, master. And I shall use them in the way that You wish."

Kuno got back to his feet and stalked out the ruined door to the place that had once been his home, a holy light burning in his eyes.


Part the Sixth:
Convergence Squared


Atash, Most Exalted Warlord, Conqueror, and Ambassador Plenipotentiary for the mighty Mazoku Lord Dynast Grauscherra, was really ticked off. She stared at the map she had set up of the mountains around the invaders' valleys and asked the quivering remains of the scout one more time, "You say that this shield the puny humans have set up is invulnerable to your magic?"

The scout, who had once been a Mazoku dedicated to traveling through shadows and dark thought, twitched in a pile of entrails it hadn't possessed that morning and said weakly, "By my… pledge, Atash. It is a spirit riddle, an unsolvable one to beings of… our nature. Only humans could pass through. Even a Dragon could not penetrate! I swear it!"

Atash conjured up a heated blade, and impossible sweat stood out on the scout's face. It tried to convince itself of the fact that it didn't have sweat, didn't have entrails, and didn't have nerve endings to torment in the way Atash was so skilled at, but once again failed miserably. The simple fact was, Atash was far more powerful than it, and as long as she chose to, she could dictate its reality into whatever she wished. If she wanted it to have entrails and sweat and nerve endings, it did. And if she wanted to, she could leave it crippled forever, imposing a overriding command upon his flexible

Mazoku nature. Or, she could just…

It screamed soundlessly as Atash's blade sliced along one long nerve in its arm. Atash asked, emotionlessly, "Is there no way that we could penetrate it?"

The Mazoku gasped as the blade was removed. "It would take a genius, a twisted being with so many sick convolutions in its mind that a thousand lesser Mazoku, or even our esteemed lord, could never match its deviousness." Atash looked thoughtful for a moment after the Mazoku's declaration. It dared to add, "Does such a terrifying being exist?"

It was suddenly standing on its own four feet again, and not a hint remained of the blood that had so recently stained the ancient stone. Its blood. The Mazoku watched Atash as she said one word. "Xelloss."


Xelloss sneezed slightly and frowned. How did I do that?

"Oh, my! Are you all right, Mr. Xelloss?"

Xelloss looked across the table at the young woman sitting there, smiling beatifically at him, and shuddered. "Gosh, of course I am, Kasumi."

She smiled a bit wider, and Xelloss restrained the urge to say something evil. Something told him that would be a very… bad idea around Kasumi. "Oh, good. I'd hate to think that one of my guests might be coming down with a cold!"

Xelloss stood up suddenly. "Gee, look at the time, have to go, bye!" He ran for the nearest door and slumped against the wall, breathing heavily.

One more time, he tried to teleport away from this place and to Wolf Pack Island, and one more time he almost screamed in rage. Ever since that mirror… He hadn't expected the artifact to be powerful enough to overwhelm his innate abilities!

"Are you alright, Xelloss?"

"Now that is… a secret."

Nabiki tilted her head. "Not a very well-kept one."

He almost said something very sarcastic and quite bitter… almost. But Xelloss knew that Nabiki was a match for him on brains alone, and he couldn't bring his other powers to bear without earning enmity that his plans weren't ready for.

Besides, he wasn't feeling smart enough to match wits with Gourry, much less the sharp-minded Tendo. Xelloss turned around and headed out the small door into the garden, hoping to get some quiet contemplation done. Before he could get around to it, though, he heard two voices that he'd become altogether too familiar with these last few weeks.

"Ranma, I don't want to fight you." Gosunkugi was so interesting, Xelloss thought sourly, until he became a goody-two shoes…. he better remember the plan!

"Then why did you try to kidnap Akane?"

Xelloss peered around the corner and saw as Gosunkugi tilted his head. "Plot filler, I guess." Then, he shook his head. "I just don't need any heroes coming after me, and now that you know where my Evil Wizard's Keep is, you could find me any time."

Ranma puffed out his chest and said, "You that scared of me?"

Gosunkugi said coolly,  "No. I just don't want to have to interrupt my experiments and waste precious time killing you."

Ranma laughed. "Hey, that's cool. It ain't like I go buggin' Herb or Kirin just 'cause they lost."

"I didn't lose, I gave up willingly. You would have too, if you'd've had to eat her cooking!"

As though Gosunkugi's words were some sort of demented charm, a voice rang out over the yard. "Ranma! Gosunkugi! I cooked lunch for you!" The two looked at each other, and ran. By some twisted coincidence, they ran for where Xelloss was standing, so he quickly ducked back around the corner just before they got there.

After rounding the corner, Ranma and Gosunkugi stopped and stared at Xelloss with fear in their eyes. "The horror…"

Xelloss realized that he was staring at the two teenagers from the momentous height of three whole feet. Angrily, he wrenched his morphic substance back to the size he preferred, but it was a reminder of things that he really didn't need to be reminded of…

Gosunkugi shook himself. "Let's run! If we're already eaten somewhere else, then there's no way she could blame us!"

Ranma shook his head. "That's what you think. But it's a better idea than staying here. At least the bruises you get when she gets mad go away after a few days. Her meals stay with you a lot longer than that…"

Xelloss added, "Can I come with?"

Ranma shrugged. "Do I got a choice?"

"Not really."

"Then let's get out of here!"


Lina sighed in relief as the gangplank hit the dock. "At last, we're here!"

"And this is where we part ways once again." Zelgadis pulled his hood over his face and waited for the inevitable comments.

"Aw, Zelgadis, don't be like that." That was Lina. Just as he'd expected, her tone was petulance mixed with her confidence that everything would go just the way she wanted. Easy enough to refuse.

"If you say so…. See ya around!" Gourry sounded as cheerful and accepting as always.

"Where are you going, anyway?" Ryouga sounded genuinely curious, and Zelgadis made a mental note to answer him. They'd gotten together several times and hung out while voyaging across the ocean. Since they were both warriors that wandered the world, looking for a cure for their curse and hating the person(s) that had inflicted it upon them, they had quite a bit in common.

"Good riddance to bad rubbish." That was… Amelia.

For some reason, now she barely tolerated his company and went out of her way to snub him at every opportunity. And he still didn't know why! What had that cup of Brew made him do? Had he groped her? Or… tried something even worse?

Whatever it had been didn't matter, as long as Amelia wasn't willing to forgive him. Sighing, he turned to Ryouga and said, "I'm going in search of the Japanese Cursed Spring of Drowned Man. It's supposed to be located in…"

Zelgadis trailed off as Ryouga looked at him sadly and slipped his backpack off. Rummaging through it, he handed the chimera a sign, tattered, as though it had been in there for quite some time. Translating quickly, Zelgadis slumped against the railing in shock. "The Japanese Spring of Drowned Man…"

"Is out of service." Ryouga looked just as sorrowful as Zelgadis, then Lina piped up.

"You want to know what would cheer anyone up?" Without waiting for an answer, she said, "A good meal!" Waving the flyer that had started her quest, Lina said, "The legendary Lost Restaurant of the Cat has great food. What better way to forget your troubles?"

Zelgadis smiled hesitantly. "Once again, you are right. After we eat, I'll leave. Until then…"

Amelia started down the gangplank. Gourry asked, "Where ya going, Amelia?"

She snapped, "Elsewhere!" Then, her voice softened slightly as she added, "I'll catch up with you at the restaurant, 'kay? I just wanna look around the town for a while."

Lina stared after Amelia's retreating back for a moment, then said, "What's gotten into her?"

"Ar, but I'll be sad to see ye go."

Lina turned around to see the pirate captain standing there, next to Captain Bangle, who was turning his hat around in his hands. She sighed. "Well, I won't miss the shipboard life a bit." Then, the sorceress smiled slightly. "But I guess that I might miss you guys. A little."

The surviving pirates, who had gathered behind their captain, chorused out "Arrr…"

Captain Bangle shrugged. "Oh, I get this feeling that we'll meet again. Maybe. One thing I am curious about…" He scratched his head. "How did we get out of there? The last thing I remember before being on board the ship, sailing away from Prayer Gate Rock, is the robots attacking and all hell breaking loose…"

Lina looked at Zelgadis and asked, "You wanna field this one?"

Zelgadis nodded. Stepping forward a bit, he cleared his throat and began, "It was a spell known as Purotu Dibise. But it was cast with such power that only a high-level Mazoku or Dragon could have managed it. Either that, or someone with the power of the gods themselves…"


The Keys cursed their bad fortune. They were having a very, very hard time convincing their current carrier to do anything really fun, and it was starting to upset them. Somehow, they'd managed to end up in the hands of a justice-loving, boring little girl without any real dreams other than becoming a true Hero!

Why, she'd only used their power twice, and both times that had to do with her piddly 'friends', friends that just weren't necessary with what the Keys gave.

How could things get any worse?

For just a moment, the Keys contemplated separating themselves from her, but reluctantly gave up that plan. They'd invested a lot of effort in her, and with just a few more 'tweaks'…


Luna looked up from the notepad that she was using to jot down an order and started sniffing, eerily like a deer just catching scent of a wolf that wishes to dine upon venison. Shampoo noticed and said, "What wrong, Luna?"

In the three days since she'd returned from the quest to rescue Akane (again), Shampoo had gotten to know Luna… as well as anyone knew her. She had the feeling that the waitress never let anyone too close. Nevertheless, the Amazon had developed a great deal of respect for her, and was starting to like her quite a bit.

Luna jerked in surprise, as though she wasn't expecting anyone to talk to her, and said softly, "It's startin'."

"What starting?"

Luna laughed. "Everything."

Shampoo thought for a moment, then asked another question. "Should make appointment for repairmen tomorrow, before his schedule fill up?"

Luna nodded. "Prudent, that."

Shampoo sighed. She had the feeling that it was going to be a very, very long day.


"OHO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO!!!!!"

Kodachi was having a great deal of fun, wandering the country-side and searching for her greatest rival, whom she only knew as…

Lina Inverse.

"Where does this urge to show how foolish this little girl is come from?" she pontificated. "I don't even know who she is, where she is, or what she looks like! How will I know her? And yet… I will know her as soon as I see her, of that I am certain."

Suddenly, the good laugh she'd had several minutes ago came back to her from over the hills. Kodachi cocked her head. "How odd. I didn't know this area had an echo…"

Curiosity provoked, Kodachi laughed again. Sure enough, an echo responded. Immediately, Kodachi cut her laugh off, and the echo stopped soon after. She smiled in a satisfied manner. "Just what I…"

The echo of her laugh sounded again, and Kodachi gasped in surprise. How could an echo move? It was coming closer…

Kodachi spotted a black speck flying close to the ground, approaching her at tremendous speed, so she shouted "RAYWING!" and took to the skies to intercept it.

The black dot soon resolved itself to be a statuesque woman wearing… not much, aside from a cape tastefully accessorized with spiked shoulder pads and the occasional skull.

They closed to within fifteen feet of each other and stopped, suspended seventy feet above the ground. The woman sighed as she eyed Kodachi. "Another copy. Ah, I suppose that those poor lonely alchemists can't help wanting to make more of me!" Then, she shrugged. "However, you seem to be somewhat… substandard. A shoddy job."

Kodachi's jaw worked in shock for a moment, then, she slowly gathered her wits about her again and prepared for battle. "'Copy'? 'Substandard'? Dearie, with your obvious lack of fashion sense, beauty, and intelligence, I rather doubt that anyone as amazing as I could ever come from stock such as you."

The woman gasped. "Wh… How dare you insult my fashion sense! What could possibly be wrong with this outfit?"

Kodachi raised the back of her hand to her mouth and smirked. "Why, there was nothing wrong with your outfit… two years ago. But the Less-Is-More™ Armor is sooo outré. Why don't you get yourself some real clothes and pull the thong out of your crack?"

The woman glared angrily for a moment, then put one hand on each hip. "Why, I haven't had an opponent such as you in a very long time. I believe that I will enjoy destroying you."


"What a haul! What a haul! Bwahahaha!"

Cologne was having the time of her life. Literally. She'd just got done raiding a tomb in company with Happosai and an attractive young woman wearing a tight shirt and shorts, she'd evaded the natives that had tried to hunt them down for desecrating their relics or some such, and she'd ditched the young woman before Happosai tried groping her…

Not that he'd given so much as a hint in that direction. But, people never really change, so Cologne had decided to plan a bit ahead.

Happosai hunched a bit more over his cup of tea. "Cologne, dearest, don't you think that you should be a bit more… cautious? We don't know if those natives are looking for us or not, and take it from someone who has experience, when you steal something from people like that, they tend to keep after you for a very, very long time."

Cologne shrugged. "Who cares? All I care about is this." She flourished a ring that looked as though it had been through centuries of hard use. "This is the first part to making both of our wishes come true!" She chuckled.

Then the door to the quiet little inn broke open, and short men wearing headdresses stalked in. Happosai sighed. "Time to run again…. And I already paid for the room, too!"


Ranma tried vainly to wring her shirt dry again. "Jeez, this always happens just when I don't need it…"

Gosunkugi smiled and said, "Look at it this way, Ranma. It might stop Shampoo from hanging all over you."

Ranma shuddered. "Man, you got no idea what you're talkin' about. Shampoo don't care if I'm a man or a woman, sometimes."

Xelloss chuckled nastily. "Gee, I think that would make it a lot more interesting…"

Just as they reached the door to the Nekohanten, it broke open and Konatsu stalked out. The veins stuck out on his delicate forehead, and rage clouded his visage. In other words, he looked pissed. Ranma reached out one hand before thinking better of it. "What's goin' on, man?"

Konatsu shoved a piece of paper at Ranma. "Ukyou left last night! I thought that maybe the Amazons had kidnapped her for some reason, but… they didn't."

Ranma scanned the note quickly. In a childish scrawl, it read, I'm gonna prove that I'm worthy of Ranchan!! Ucchan

Ranma handed it back to the kunoichi, who had by now assumed a despondent expression. "Don't worry about it. Ucchan can take care of herself…"

Konatsu interrupted. "Even the way that she is now?"

Ranma didn't like that thought much. "I… I don't know."

The kunoichi shoved Ranma out of the way. "Then I'm going to look for her. And… even though I don't understand why she loves you… I'll bring her back, so that she can have happiness."

Ranma watched as Konatsu stepped sideways into a shadow and disappeared. Xelloss harrumphed. "What a fool." When the other two looked at him, he said defensively, "Gosh, guys, it's true. I should know that she can't really be hurt when she's like this."

Ranma shrugged, but the redhead still looked concerned. "Y'know, I think that I should…"

The exchange that took place between Xelloss and Gosunkugi in the, oh, two or so seconds during which Ranma spoke the previous sentence could fill a novel by themselves, just describing the many subtle nuances of motion and attitude that each individual expression or action possessed. However, for the sake of my readers, I'll 'abbreviate' it.

Gosunkugi shot Xelloss a panicked look in lieu of saying "Dammit, we've come this far with our plans, we can't lose him now!"

Xelloss shrugged, as if to ask dubiously, "I've done what I can. How would you convince him?"

Gosunkugi paused, then nodded decisively instead of stating firmly, "I believe I'll use the 'hail fellow well met' attitude. That should work."

Xelloss smiled, replacing the need for him to verbalize "Whatever you think might work."

Gosunkugi said, "Do what? Go after her? That would be a very, very bad idea."

"Why?"

The sorcerer waved one finger. "Let's just say that this reminds me of a petulant child running away from home to get attention from her parents. If she is just trying to get attention from you, imagine how she'd act after finding out that you were so worried about her that you took off right after hearing she was gone!"

Then, the sorcerer nodded. "Besides which, Xelloss is right. Very little could harm her in the state she's currently in. I'm certain she'll be just fine." He clapped one hand to Ranma's shoulders, wincing slightly from the impact, and guided him into the Nekohanten. "Let's eat, think about it, and after the meal I'm sure you'll see that I'm right. What could possibly happen to her?"


Ukyou looked up at the bandit boss that towered four feet above her head. She said threateningly, "If you don't get out of my way right now…"

The bandit boss laughed. "You'll do what, little girl? Clobber all my men, kill me, and take my gang's treasure? Who do you think you are, Lina Inverse?"

Ukyou waved her SD Uber-Spatula and yelled, "I warned you!"

The beatings were many and fierce, and the bandit boss watched as the little terror demolished his entire bandit band. Then, she turned to him, and he did the only thing that he could think of.

He pulled out a little lollipop and said, "Hey little girl, want some candy?"

"Candy? Wai!" She skipped happily over to the bandit boss, who promptly clobbered her with a massive club. He sighed in relief until she sat up, rubbing the huge bandage that had formed on her head. "That hurt! But if you think that I'm falling for that again…"

The bandit boss, confident that if he hit her enough times she would go down, pulled out something else from his pouch. "Hey little girl, want a cookie?"

"Cookie? Wai!" Ukyou skipped happily over to the bandit boss again, and he again clobbered her. He moved away, this time certain that she'd gone down for the last time, but once again he heard her voice say…

"That hurt! But if you think that I'm falling for that again…"

Desperate, he reached into his pouch and pulled out the last item in it. "Hey little girl, want a Gysahl Green?" He looked at the leafy plant in his hand. "Err…"

She said, fire in her eyes, "I hate Gysahl Greens!" Then, she started for him, slowly stalking forward…


The Nekohanten was bustling with the lunchtime crowd, and Shampoo was seriously lamenting having sent Luna to the Neriman Repairman to make an appointment. Although rarely seen, it was known that he could fix any amount of property damage in less than a day. Some suspect that he is, in fact, a minor deity, but what deity would be fool enough to work in Nerima?

"I'd like some service today, if you don't mind."

Mustn't… kill… customers… Shampoo juggled the eight bowls in her hand as if they were nothing as she continued serving frantically. Just when she was about to lose her tenuous self-control, the answer to all her problems walked in the door.

She was short, redheaded, curvaceous, and best of all, Shampoo knew that she'd work for food. Shampoo bounded to the door and shoved three hot bowls into Ranma's hands. "Here. Order for Table Five."

"Wha-- Shampoo, I ain't your waitress!"

Every female knows the signs of an incipient male rebellion, and are schooled in techniques designed to crush them utterly. One is tears that imply (without the female needing to say anything, of course) that the great big hulking male is being just the most horrid beast in the whole wide world! Another commonly used method is getting so visibly angry that the male (justifiably) fears to do anything but what the female wants.

Of the two, Shampoo much preferred tears: less room for hard feelings on the part of the male, and they never lose effectiveness, unlike anger, which males become inured to eventually. But like any good fighter, Shampoo knew that sometimes you had to 'spice up' your techniques by doing the unexpected.

Even Xelloss recoiled a bit as Shampoo's eyes lit with the flames of the frustration she'd been feeling for the past hour. She said, calm as a hurricane's eye, "What you just say, Ranma?" She didn't wait for an answer. "I give you free food, I help when you say, 'Shampoo, come here', I do anything you want, and you not can help me for just two hour?!"

"Er, uh, um…" Ranma would have put one hand behind her head, but the bowls were in the way. "When ya put it like that, Shampoo, I guess that I can't just say no. I'll do it if you feed me."

Shampoo smiled suddenly, and the three men (Ranma still counts as a man, perverts) were totally tossed into confusion at the sudden switch in mood. "Good! Shampoo even feed two creepy guys too!"

Xelloss waved one hand in negation. "Gee, that's nice of you, but I don't need to…" Shampoo turned the Eye of Death upon him. He continued, meekly, "…er, i'd be happy to eat your food…?"

"Good!" Cheerful once more, Shampoo pointed at the door into the kitchen. "Is spare apron in there. Yellow one suit your eyes best, I think."

Ranma, defeated, sighed in resignation as she walked slowly to the door. Opening it, she disappeared from the sight of her companions.

Gosunkugi spoke up tentatively. "Umm, Ms. Shampoo?"

Shampoo asked, "Yes?"

"The only open table is the really big one with the sign that says 'Adventuring Parties Only.' Are you really going to seat us there?"

Shampoo nodded. "Yes." She laughed. "What are chances of really big group of adventurers who been looking for Nekohanten showing up and asking for the Quest Special?" She shook her head.


Lina had been lost before. In the depths of wild forests, vicious animals waiting to spring at the slightest sign of weakness; in sandy, windswept deserts, where the only thing to drink was Gourry's blood (but she only drank a little, really!); and in caverns and dungeons too innumerable to count, the only sound that drip, drip, drip that drove her nuts!

Never had she been as lost as she was in this city.

It wasn't that the streets were winding; they were laid out semi-neatly, with signs at almost every corner. She just couldn't read the faded paint. It wasn't that the people weren't willing to give directions; everyone she'd stopped had been universally polite, if a bit distant, to the strangers lost in their hometown.

The problem was quite simple: She didn't understand their directions. "Go down to the Temple of the Sewer Kami and turn three-quarters left. Keep on Merchant's Way until you see a little back alley. Ignore it, but circle around that block twice. Do not pass Go, do not collect 200 gold."

And it didn't help that the so-called 'resident' of this town, one Ryouga Hibiki, kept on saying things like "It's down this way!" If he ran them down even one more blind alley, Lina was going to Dill Brand him and see if that helped him find his way!

And then, suddenly, almost magically, they were there.

Lina took a moment to inhale deeply. The first smell of a restaurant is an excellent way to gauge the quality of food served within. If it smells of quality cooking, with love poured into every serving, then of course it's a great meal just waiting to happen. If, however, it smells of stale beer or greasy food, don't expect the meal to be altogether palatable. If it smells of Pervish cooking, run away. Run far away.

Of course, how a meal smelled or tasted wasn't going to stop Lina Inverse from eating it. But it would affect the tip.

That wasn't going to be a worry about this place, however. Lina's tastebuds went into Scarf Mode. She said through the drool that was threatening to drown her, "Smells good!"

"What?"

Lina swallowed and said, "Smells good!"

Gourry grinned and said, "Sure does! Let's get in there!" They rushed to the door, but it didn't quite fit Gourry, Lina, and Ryouga (who really, really wanted to see a familiar face at this point) all at once until Zelgadis applied a boot to the tangle.

The tangle tumbled in the door and came to rest at the feet of a rather discomfited purple-haired hostess. "What you doing…"

Lina popped to her feet and held out one hand, four fingers in the air. "Four Quest Specials, please!"

Shampoo knew, theoretically, that there was no such thing as coincidence. However, there's a difference between knowing it and being slapped with it like a dead stinky fish. So she thanked herself yet again for reserving the services of the Neriman Repairman in advance and readied herself.

She didn't wait long.

"XELLOSS?!?!"

The mentioned Mazoku tried hiding for one moment behind his menu, but in vain. Lina leveled one shaking finger at him. "W-what are you doing here?"

"Gosh, Lina, I was just about to have a quick snack."

That's when the door chime rung, and all the people not eating a meal turned to look at the statuesque redhead that had just walked in through the door, who waved unconcernedly. "Hi, Sis. Long time no see."

Lina's eyes rolled back in her head, and she fainted into an untidy heap on the well-polished floor.


Ling-Ling looked over at her sister Lung-Lung. "Do you really think that this will take us to Japan?"

Lung-Lung, rather than return the look, instead stared deeply into the whirlpool at their feet.

There were a number of oddities about this particular whirlpool. For one thing, rather than being blue (as is standard-issue for water) it was a deep, shimmering black. A ‘WOW, that's black!’ shade that draws the eyes like… like… something really weird that you just have to look at.

Also, it was upside-down, which is definitely not normal.

But they had to find the Heroes and bring them back as soon as possible, or else the village would be destroyed. The barrier the Elders had put up would only last so long, until one of the demons could somehow solve the Ward.

Lung-Lung tried to sound casual. "What, you don't believe the Elders?" She was proud of the way she kept the slightest hint of fear out of her voice; she was, after all, supposed to be the brave sister.

"Well, okay…" Ling-Ling jumped, and in mid-jump, just seemed to… elongate, as if she were a rubber strand being yanked hard on one end and held firmly on the other. Then, she just disappeared.

"Wait for me!"


Ukyou was lost in the really, really big forest, but she wasn't afraid…

"I'm scared I'm scared!"

…and she wasn't gonna cry either…

"WAHHH!!"

…because she had to prove to herself and Ranma how big and grownup she was…

"Somebody help me! WAHH!"

…and that's when her request was answered.

A man suddenly appeared in front of her. He was dressed all in black and had a sword across his back. He bowed to her and said, "Miss Kuonji, it would be my pleasure to escort you back to Tokyo."

Ukyou quieted suddenly and asked, head tilted to the side, "Are you a ninja?"

The ninja put one hand behind his head. "Uh, now that you mention it…"

"Ninja? Scary! WAAH!!" Ukyou started runn… er, scuttling away as fast as her chibi legs would let her, and the ninja stretched one hand after her.

"Wait!" The ninja sighed. "Dammit. Looks like I'll have to do this the hard way…"


Lina came to slowly. "I had the strangest dream, Gourry. My sister worked in the restaurant we've been searching for, and Xelloss was there, and you, and you…"

That's when she fully awoke, and realized she was still lying on the floor of the Legendary Lost Restaurant of the Cat. With Xelloss kneeling on one side, and Luna on the other.

The only thing that stopped her from fainting again was Xelloss's taunting little smile. There was no way she was going to show weakness twice in front of that monster.

Instead, she struggled to her feet and said, "Uh, hi, Big Sis."

In an eerily accurate impersonation of her younger sister, Luna said, "Uh, hi, Little Sis."

Xelloss nodded. "Gee, Luna-chan, it seems that Lina's all right!"

Luna nodded and felt Lina's forehead. "She's all right. No worries, Xelchan." She smiled at her younger sister. "Xelchan says ya've been through a lot. Cool."

"Wha- wha- wha…" Lina brushed her sister's hand away angrily and said, "How long have you two known each other?"

Xelloss raised one finger. "Now, that is…"

Luna cut him off. " 'Sa secret."

Xelloss whined, "Gee, Luna-chan, it isn't nice to tread on my lines! You don't see me stealing your lines, do you?"

"Don't got none."

"Point."

Lina was feeling very left out at the moment, and it didn't help to see Gourry, Ryouga, Zelgadis, and some other, creepy-looking guy already sitting down with menus. The irate sorceress waved one hand and looked at her sister in confusion. "B-but aren't you mad?"

Luna looked at her sister in confusion for a moment, then laughed in a way that had chilled Lina's nightmares for years. "Naw. Could never stay mad at my little sis, y'know?"

"B-but… I thought you wanted to take some horrible vengeance upon me!"

Now, Luna's eyes did widen in surprise. "You mean… you don't know?"

Lina backed a step away. Not able to speak, she simply shook her head in terror. Luna shrugged. "If'n ya don't know now, y'll find out some day."

"Wha…. Tell me!"

Zelgadis sighed. "Looks like this'll take a while. Waitress!"

A redhead looked up from the bowl she was placing in front of a customer. With teeth gritted in something vaguely resembling a smile, she said, "Coming!"

When she stepped up to the table, Gourry frowned. "You look… familiar."

She put one hand up to her mouth and faked a titter. "I'm sure it's just a coincidence, sir. What can I get you?" Her almost-smile didn't touch her eyes, which glinted like cold diamonds.

It didn't put Gourry off, though. "I knew it! Hey Lina!"

Lina looked up from where she was still pestering her sister. "What is it, Gourry? I'm busy right now."

Gourry pointed and said excitedly, "This girl sounds just like you!!"

Naturally enough, both girls protested at exactly the same moment, "She does not!" The glare that passed between them could have crushed mountains.

Zelgadis rubbed his chin. "How strange, indeed…"

Ryouga started nodding his head. "I knew that I'd heard Lina somewhere before!"

"What's that supposed to mean?!" Once again, they spoke in chorus, and Zelgadis could swear that the table between the two redheads was starting to smoke slightly…

A vein in Lina's forehead was beginning to throb. It was just too much all crammed together. Xelloss had reappeared for the first time in too short of a time (eternity is the only way Lina could describe how long she wanted between visits from Xelloss), finding her sister working at the place she'd searched so hard to find (and who also had taken some unnamed vengeance for the way Lina had used images of her to… enhance her own finances) then, this person

Ranma was pissed. Genuinely. Such an active emotion was actually quite rare for her. Being ticked off at someone that didn't have the common sense to leave her alone, sure; irritated at Akane for hitting her with a mallet or frying pan or rock or shinai or whatever she had close to hand was fairly common; but infuriated with a total stranger that hadn't done anything but remind Ranma of someone that she couldn't quite put her finger on?

But never let it be said that either Ranma or Lina needed a reason to fight other than relieving frustration.

The waitress raised one fist. "My name is Ranma Saotome, and I challenge you!"

The sorceress raised one fist. "My name is Lina Inverse, and I accept your challenge! What should the venue be?"

Ranma looked the skinny redhead up and down. "Well, a beauty contest would hardly be fair" Lina turned a shade of red slightly brighter than her hair "and I suppose that hand-to-hand combat is out of the question, considering how… under-muscled you are" now, Lina's mouth worked slightly "so I guess that it's an eating contest. You look like you're pretty good at shoveling food into your gullet."

Lina couldn't speak for a moment, so Gourry kindly translated her violent hand motions for anyone who couldn't understand. "She graciously accepts the eating contest."

Shampoo sighed. "And who pay?"

Both Luna and Xelloss turned to the Amazon. "We'll pay!"

Xelloss added, under his breath, "I've been waiting a long time for this…"


The Sea of Chaos perked up. "It's happening! It's happening!"

Jusenkyou looked up from the magazine He was perusing. "What's happening?"

For a moment, Her only reply was a grin. "They're meeting for the first time!"

Jusenkyou stood and posed. "At last, the two mortals we have tangled in the skein of fate like puppets for our amusement have come together, dancing in the strings…"

Calmly, The Sea of Chaos walked behind Him and smacked Him in the head with a Tri-Ton Fan. "Just shut up and enjoy the show, Jusenkyou."


And so, it was on.

Raw appetite matched against refined martial arts techniques, the two combatants strove against the other. Bowl after bowl of ramen disappeared, as did the pizzas that mysteriously appeared when the ramen ran out. The takeout places for miles around were called, and though most looked askance at delivering to one of their competitors, they still came. Forks flew as falling stars and chopsticks became rapiers as they battled back and forth across the table, always reaching for the next meal.

The first table crushed under the onslaught of empty bowls and thrown utensils, the valiant warriors moved without pause to the next table, and the next, and the next…

The customers at first tried to leave, but when Nabiki showed up out of nowhere and offered two-to-one odds on Ranma (her SOP for any new challenger; while it was certain Ranma would lose the first fight, the loss she took let her up the odds to four-to-one in the inevitable rematch and clean up) they stuck around, looking for a chance to rip off the infamous ice queen.

Finally, it was down to the last bowl. The bowl had already been drained of noodles; however, in their haste, they'd forgotten to slurp the dregs. It sat, the naruto floating in the bottom of the bowl winking at them defiantly.

Ranma stared at it, trying very hard not to show how much she wanted to clutch her stomach and chuck everything she'd eaten over the last hour. "Now I crush you!" Martial Arts Taunting is a very important technique, and a healthy portion is not realizing when you've just said something really stupid; however, Ranma could tell how pathetic that had been.

Lina stood straight, disdaining the urge to clench both hands on her mouth to hold in all that she'd inhaled since the beginning of this challenge. "Oh, yeah?!" She grinned defiantly, fully aware that she had nothing to back it up with. Not a thing.

For a moment, it seemed neither combatant was going to reach for the final bowl. Then, finally, reluctantly, slowly, fractionally, infinitesimally, both redheads began reaching for the bowl.

Not even the gods (literally) could tell you what might have happened, what trouserleg Time might have traveled down, if two things hadn't've happened just then.

A bright, perky princess skipped in the door. "Hey Lina, it took me forever to find this place!"

A raving, deluded kendoist busted in the back wall with a single strike. "The Keys are here!"

Amelia froze, and though she didn't move a single muscle, all the onlookers were reminded of a cat with its back against a wall. "YOU. What is one of your kind doing here?"

Kuno stalked forward, slowly, as though he were a wild dog not wanting to startle the prey too soon. "Looking for you." He held out one hand. "Give my Master the Keys."

Amelia snarled into his face. "Never!" Then, shimmering lines of blue wove around her, just in time to stop an onslaught of pure white waves that appeared from Kuno's outstretched hand. They beat again and again against her defenses, driving the blue closer and closer to her skin.

His teeth gritted in a savage snarl. "I have you!" Then both Xelloss and Luna leapt to attack the kendoist, so he turned for just a moment from his attack to throw them against the walls like broken dolls.

However, his moment of inattention was costly to him, for it gave the beleaguered Amelia, whose mouth was still frozen in a snarl, time enough to craft a doorway behind her; a doorway seemingly made from water floating in midair. It rippled in a way that reminded both Ryouga and Ranma of their deepest nightmares…

Even after she stepped through and the doorway had slammed shut behind her, almost taking Kuno's hand with it, her voice hung in the air. "If you wish to find me, Agent of Order, than look for me where my Master makes His home! Challenge me in Jusenkyou, worm of Order, and if you defeat me, then you may have the Keys to His Apartment!"


Jusenkyou clutched His head and sunk to His knees, screaming in agony. The Sea of Chaos turned from the scene before Her, where everyone still stood in shock, knelt beside Him, putting one arm around Him. "What's wrong, Jusenkyou?!"

He managed to grit out between clenched teeth, "My Keys are tearing My power from Me! How can they do this to their Creator?"

The Sea of Chaos, deeply concerned for Her friend, did the only thing She could think of: Gave Him the energy to fight back. She wished that She was doing this for His sake and just that, but She knew that She had a very selfish reason for wanting Him to live.

Without Him, there was no way to find to find the Keys until their holder showed up to challenge Her.

What gods fear, above all else, is being deposed, for they know that it is the only way They can die. Without at least one believer, a god is little more than a whisper on the wind, searching in vain for something They've lost forever…

And now, Jusenkyou was in danger of being toppled from His Throne by what He had created to aid Him so long ago. And so The Sea of Chaos watched, helpless, as Her roommate screamed and battled for His very life.


Kuno stood for a moment, staring at where his prey had disappeared into thin air, then laughed. "It seems that the sparrow has escaped the snare. But how fun would a hunt be if it was over this soon?"

The crowd had mysteriously dispersed, leaving only Nabiki behind. She moved as quickly as she could out of the restaurant, however. She knew the kind of collateral damage that some of the people there could cause, and had no urge to be part of it.

Ranma stood up, fully aware that the hot dregs in the shattered ramen bowl had spilled all over him. The yellow apron only added to his anger. He clenched one fist. "Look, Kuno-sempai, I don't know what you were plannin' to do to that girl, but it ain't right to just go around beatin' up people you ain't never met before, rippin' through Shampoo's restaurant, and actin' like you're some kinda god!" Like that ever stopped him before, the martial artist thought to himself. Before, though, he never had the power to back himself up…. Dammit! When the hell did he get so strong!

Kuno only smiled slightly, tauntingly. "Oh? And who shall stop me? You, the lowborn son of a lowborn son?" He shook his head slowly. "I think not."

Ranma swallowed the sudden knot of fear in his stomach. "I think so."

Summoning every ounce of speed that he had ever possessed, Ranma moved to the attack, at first throwing a punch right at Kuno's face, then shifting from the feint into a low sweep. Kuno calmly stepped over Ranma's sweep one foot at a time. "I warn you, Saotome, I am too powerful for you to ever dream of overcoming… now."

"Shut up!" Ranma recovered from his sweep, and crushing his swelling fear with the confidence that had carried him through all his battles of the last two years, he shouted "MOUKOU TAKASHIBA!"

The beam of solid chi washed Kuno from sight, and Ranma released the breath he'd been holding. Did I…

Then, the chi wavered and vanished from sight, and Kuno stood there, arms folded across his chest, bokken poking out from under one arm. "Are you quite done?" Without waiting for an answer, he swept his bokken out into an attack stance and charged.

Ranma tried to dodge, but the wooden blade caught him in the lower ribs despite his efforts. He heard the ribs groan and crack as he flew across the room and slammed into the wall right above Xelloss. Falling unceremoniously onto the purple-haired priest, he tried to get up, but couldn't.

His vision wavered in and out as Lina, the redhead that he had challenged, stepped between the advancing Kuno and where Ranma had fallen. "Now I've seen enough, and I'm mad."

From behind Kuno, the strange guy with purple skin and hair added, "And I as well. We've slain our share of gods, demons, and dragons before, haven't we, Gourry?"

The dumb-looking blonde guy said over his readied blade, "Yep. Besides, he looks pretty good with that wooden stick of his. I'd like to challenge him with a real sword in his hands!"

Ryouga already had a ball of his depression readied between his hands, Ranma saw, and he looked ready to release it at any time. "I can't let you kill Ranma. That's my right!"

Gosunkugi was too busy chanting to be taunting, an eldritch flame flickering in each hand.

Shampoo had pulled her bonbori from… somewhere, and she had a bloodthirsty look on her face. "You I kill."

Mousse threatened a potted plant with an array of bills, naginatas, scythes, pitchforks, and razor-sharp rakes. "I'll be the one to kill Ranma. That you dare to do such an act fills me with RAGE!"

Kuno looked at the seven (minus one) surrounding him, and laughed lightly. "Sadly, my Master will not let me spare five minutes from my quest so I may crush you all. I bid you adieu." A tear in Reality opened behind him, and he stepped through, giving a mocking bow to those left behind. It closed before any of the people once surrounding him could react.

Lina kicked the floorboards. "Dammit! He got away!"

"That's lucky for you, Sis."

All the warriors who had surrounded Kuno turned to face Luna, who was struggling to her feet. She said, words slurred as though she was suffering from a head injury, "That guy's worse'n Evil. He belongs to Order."

"What?" Lina scratched her head. "I hate to steal Gourry's lines, but what are you talking about? How can order be worse than evil?"

Xelloss was in a very bad position. Not only had he chibified from the impact, but he had an overly burly martial artist lying on him. He wasn't one to let adversity get him down, though, so he gently lifted Ranma, who stirred and groaned in pain even though he was unconscious, and set him carefully to the side. "Let me answer that question with another. Where does the Lord of Nightmares, the Creator of our world, live in?"

Gourry raised his hand eagerly. "Oh! Oh! I know! She lives on the Sea of Chaos!" He beamed proudly. Finally, he'd been able to answer one of those weird questions that everyone he chummed with were constantly stressing about!

Xelloss shook his head slowly, and Gourry's face fell. "Right, but wrong, Gourry. She doesn't live in the Sea of Chaos; She is the Sea of Chaos. It embodies all that She is, and all that She creates."

Lina nodded. "I think I'm beginning to understand. But what's up with this 'order' thing you told us about?"

"Not 'order', 'Order.'" Xelloss was careful to pronounce the capital. "Order is all that is opposed to Chaos. Order is a being that seeks only to unmake Chaos, and, according to legend, It has power as great as that of the Lord of Nightmares. The fact that the Lord of Nightmares has failed in Her vigilance, and allowed a being infected with Order's power into Her world…" He shook his head. "Gosh, it could mean the end of e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g." Xelloss pronounced the word with chilling finality.

Zelgadis frowned. "So what you're saying is that this guy could destroy everything. That's all fine and dandy, but what does that have to do with Amelia?"

"Now that is… a secret." Xelloss sighed mentally and said to himself, Thank LoN that I don't have to admit I don't know the secret myself…

Shampoo, who'd been examining Luna carefully for injuries, said, "You not so good. Need to see doctor, so I take you and Air… er, Ranma to Doctor Tofu."

Ryouga nodded. "That's a great idea. After that, can you, uh, er, um… guidemetotheTendo's?" He blurted the last out, hoping that she didn't ask why he wanted to be taken to the Tendo's. But she just smiled.

"That okay with me, Lost Boy."

Lina sputtered out, "Hey! Where the heck does that leave us?"

There have been casual words, spoken in full innocence, that have shattered nations, split worlds, and spoilt movies for everyone. Never have words changed fate as much as the simple sentence Ryouga is going to say now. Let's listen carefully, shall we?

Ryouga just waved one hand. "Aww, I'm sure that the Tendos won't mind having you over there. It's just for one night; what could possibly go wrong?"


Ranma came to slowly, swimming through a thick morass of pain to consciousness.

"Well Ranma, this time you certainly managed to get mangled. Did Akane hit you again?"

Ranma opened his eyes slowly, and there was a big white thing that hurt outside of them. After a moment, he remembered that the big white thing was called 'Light' and it wasn't that bad, after you got used to it. "Doctor Tofu…"

Tofu laughed lightly. "Oh, I know it was Kuno. Don't worry about it, though. I'm sure you'll come back in your usual style! Hahahaha!"


Xelloss was feeling… awkward… with the way he was dealing with Luna. Admittedly, they'd never exactly been enemies per se, but they had tried to kill each other more than a few times. The natural way that he and she fell into banter, as though they were old friends parted by circumstance long ago, was very… puzzling.

Right now, Luna was laughing. "An' remember the time that Tike was fighting the dragon with 'is bare hands, and he said, he said…" She gave up, fighting for breath at the long-ago memory.

Xelloss had to admit, it had been a funny situation. Dropping his voice about three octaves, he muttered out, "'I don't care how long it takes me, I'm gonna spank this dragon as if I were a leather-clad princess!'"

Both of them broke up into helpless laughter after that. Ranma and Doctor Tofu looked at them strangely. Luna wiped tears from her eyes as she said, "Guess… y' just had ta… be there…" Then, she was off again, borne on gales of helpless laughter.

Tofu shrugged. "I suppose so."

In fact, even as he was laughing, Xelloss was wondering just why he'd agreed to help keep Luna awake until the danger of her concussion had passed. Was he becoming sentimental?

Surely not.

After they'd stopped laughing somewhat (there was still the occasional little hiccup of leftover mirth that bubbled out), Xelloss leaned closer. "I've got a question. What you said to your sister in the restaurant… you didn't do anything to her in revenge, did you?"

Luna leaned forward, waving Xelloss closer. He obliged, putting his ear next to her mouth. She whispered in his ear, breath warm on his face, "Now that is a secret."

"Nee, Luna-chan, that was meeeean!" Xelloss whined.


Shampoo had not had the greatest day of her life. There had been worse, of course; the first day she'd met Ranma, the day she'd been taken to Jusenkyo by her grandmother, and a few others all ranked well above this one. But knowing that you've had worse days doesn't make the one you're in feel any better.

Her day got a lot better when, on the walk from Doctor Tofu's clinic to the Tendo's house, a ninja appeared in front of her on his hands and knees. Bowing deeply, Konatsu said, "I apologize most humbly to you for accusing you of having anything to do with the disappearance of Ukyou-sama."

Shampoo was surprised, but not unpleasantly so, by something like this coming from out of nowhere. "I tell you that before. But what make you believe me now?"

"Him."

As Konatsu stood up and pointed behind her, another ninja shimmered into view. This one holding an irate superdeformed okonomiyaki cook.

"Put me down, ya big meanie! WAHHH!"

The unnamed ninja set down the chibified Ukyou, who quickly scuttled to Konatsu. Safely by her own protector, she stuck her tongue out at the ninja.

Ryouga was wondering why Ukyou was three foot tall and acting like… like… well, like a child. Not being the subtle type, he asked, "What the heck is going on here?"

The unnamed ninja took that to mean something about him. With a single tug, the mask around his head came off, and all the people there were staring into the face of a moderately handsome man approaching his middle years. Sparse gray flecked his hair at the temples and in his rough, stubbly beard, but both Shampoo and Ryouga could swear that he looked familiar somehow, as though the only way they had ever seen him before was through a funhouse mirror…

He bowed, and said, "Sasuke Sarugakure, Family Ninja to the Kuno family, at your service."


Not so far away, a grandmother babysitting her grandchild looked up as a horrible laugh drifted to her on the winds. The child shivered. "Gramma, what's that?"

She picked the little girl up and hugged her close. "That's a demon laughing, child. Best not to ask why a demon laughs."

Now that the grandmother listened a bit more closely, the laugh sounded like two voices, almost in unison…

"OHO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO!"

 

To be continued.


Author's notes: Well, what do you think, sirs and madames?

Darn, I forgot the Squaresoft reference I didn't mean to include in this but thought about as I was posting it to the ffml refuge. Oh well, maybe in the website version…

I think I had one heck of a time writing this. Ah, the perils of RL, always dragging us from what is really important: the Wired…

Yeah, I watched Lain for the first time not to long ago. It was quite kewl.

Anyway, I ain't gonna bitch about real life here, that ain't what this spot's for. Instead, I'm going to take questions from the audience.

What? I don't have an audience?

Then I'll just imagine having one asking me silly questions.

WHY DO YOU USE THE -O ENDING FOR NAMES SOMETIMES AND THE -OU ENDING OTHERS?

Because I get absent-minded at two in the morning when I type for three hours after getting off watch so I do whatever comes out of my fingers. What, you were expecting something deep and metaphysical?

WHAT'S UP WITH SASUKE? ISN'T HE LIKE, A SHORT, SHRIVELED-UP PATHETIC WANNABE NINJA?

All will be revealed in the next part of Slayers: NIBUNNOICHI.

WHEN WILL THE NEXT CHAPTER BE OUT?

Whenever I get the chance. It'll probably be a shorter interval than the one between Part the Fifth and this one, though.

ARE YOU HAPPY THAT YOU BROKE THE 50k MARK ON A FIC OF YOURS?

positively ecstatic. really. would i lie?

Well, I really need to get to sleep (The three hours of SNK vs. Capcom I played didn't help much, but Evil Ryu is just so much FUN! MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!), so this is Aaron Bergman saying good fight, good night.

Aaron Bergman
iamfanboy@hotmail.com

"Guaranteed delivery in thirty minutes or less, or we commit Seppuku"
-Ninja Burger motto

Part 7
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