Chapter 6: Rumble In Nerima
A Ranma ½ story
by Adrian D. Moten
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.
Introduction: Now, before you the readers begin to dig into this section of fan fiction, I’m warning you right now that it diverges away from the romance-type feeling I had established in earlier chapters. It’s only fair and realistic, in that conflict has arisen and now Ranma will have to sleep in the bed he made, figuratively speaking, of course. Needless to say, things are going to get dark in this chapter, as well as seeming like an episode of Dragon Ball Z; however, that is only for this. I have no current plans to write another such piece in this series, so things will meander back to normal, so to speak. With that in mind, please enjoy this fan fiction. —ADR.
"Ranma dies tonight."
Ryouga’s vicious statement, said in a neutral, matter-of-fact tone of voice, oozed over the mood of the once frantic atmosphere of the Tendo family room, smothering it like tar over struggling mice. Most noticeably affected was the subject in question, though it was a question whether it was the words or the sight of Hibiki thinly veiled by a multitude of ebony threads of energy unnerved him more. The look of naked surprise on Ranma’s face, however, was quickly robed with the usual threads of arrogance and self-confidence.
"Yeah, right, Pig Boy. Like I haven’t heard that one a thousand times before. I’m still kickin’ though. Always have, and always will be, no matter how many people say that."
The challenger standing in the Tendo’s family room remained impassive; his expression, a deadly, serene calm. It never changed for a moment, not even when he exploded forward and launched several attacks, all which Ranma dodged by the barest of distances. Somewhere in the finale of the first assault, a near-hit lightly brushed Ranma’s left cheek, and he had to recoil as far away as he could within the restricting room; the skin was numbed with cold, but it burned like a flame taken from Hell.
"See you’ve been practicing again," Ranma said while cupping a hand on his cheek. The feeling returned after a moment, and it only stung a little, but the brief experience made him even more wary of his opponent than what past experience and unclear premonitions dictated.
"To end your pathetic life." Eerily, the placid expression never changed in any way. Even his voice was a flat monotone instead of his usual rancorous outbursts associated with his death threats.
…And nearly gotten his head taken off. A fist thundered just by his ear, where his head had been located at a millisecond ago, and tore through the wall behind him. Ryouga was moving faster, much faster than what Ranma knew of him, and that brief underestimation came precariously close to costing him a world of pain. Of course, the near hit, combined with the close proximity and the fact that Ryouga’s fist was temporarily embedded in the wall, had left him open underneath his arm. The pigtailed boy took full advantage of the brief flaw in his defense.
He drilled several punches into Ryouga’s ribs, and then grabbed his extended arm by the wrist. Flowing like water, Ranma slipped all the way behind him, yanking the arm painfully back and locking it in place high between his shoulder blades. The eternally lost boy quickly pivoted around, but Ranma held fast behind him, pushing him from the corner of the room and into more open space. Thankfully, the other occupants of the room had already given them wide berth when the fight started. Quickly, he slap-blocked a countering elbow, shot his hand out and seized hold of that wrist, and twisted it back to bear with the other hand.
‘Well, that wasn’t so tough,’ Ranma thought to himself, noticing that there was no reaction from the threads of energy. ‘I guess I must’ve been expecting too much out of a dream.’ "Give it up, Ryouga, you’re not gonna—” He never did get a chance to finish expressing his point. At that moment, the once-benign wispy, black tendrils, suddenly lashed at his hands, leaving a stinging coldness in their touches. This along with the surprise factor forced him to relinquish his immobilizing grip on Ryouga and to tend to his own injury.
"You were saying, Ranma?" Ryouga’s expression remained as placid as ever. There wasn’t the faintest trace of pain in his features. That meant one of two things: either he was a very good actor, or he didn’t feel it at all. Somehow, the first choice seemed more and more implausible by the moment.
‘This is bad,’ Ranma thought to himself. The current situation reminded him of the time when Ryouga had mastered the Bakusai Tenketsu and challenged him. Sure he won the fight, but it was after divining the minor limit of the technique. The body’s pain threshold was raised to obscene levels, but striking the same place repeatedly… A slow smile spread across his face. ‘Now why didn’t I think of that sooner? No sweat.’
Ryouga was fast upon him again; this time, Ranma had an ace up his sleeve. When his opponent swung, he blocked and slipped inside of his guard, then let loose hundreds of punches focused on the challenger’s abdomen in the span of the blink of an eye. Hundreds more came rushing in right after the first wave, and then hundreds more. The tremendous force of the third flurry of blows flung Ryouga far back, crashing through the shutters leading from the family room to the porch and into the backyard. He tumbled head over heels and came to a stop just before a groggy, waterlogged panda sitting in the koi pond. His inert body was folded over and upside down.
"That was too easy," Ranma said, dusting his hands off.
The remaining members of the Tendo family pulled away from the far corner of the room. Soun and Nabiki went to examine the damaged shutters while Kasumi approached Ranma. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah," he replied, looking at her with a hint of cockiness. "He wasn’t too hard to beat, you know.” Then his attitude shifted to mildly pensive. “He did kinda remain about… that dream last night…” The last part came out in a low whisper.
Kasumi simply nodded in understanding. He didn’t tell her the exact details of the dream he had early that morning, but she knew it had to be a hard thing to deal with, especially when it became reality. With that in mind, she planned to change the direction of the conversation.
The young adult in question jerked his head to one side. "What is it now, Nabiki?"
"Aren’t you missing something?"
He blinked. "Huh? Like what?"
"Oh, just a little fact, like Ryouga walking towards the house."
"What?!" Ranma darted from his newly acquired fiancée to the man-made exit hole to bear witness for himself. Sure enough, Ryouga was walking toward the Tendo home, his expression just as tranquil as can be, though his body was pulsing with black energy like a strobe light. "He should be out at least for a few minutes! How did he recover so soon?"
Nabiki raised an eyebrow in inquiry. "Do I look to be a fighting expert?"
‘I put nearly everything behind those attacks, though,’ Ranma
thought to himself in annoyance. He had struck Ryouga with over three
hundred full-strength Amaguriken-speed blows focused on the same spot.
Back then, it was enough to floor Ryouga for at least an hour, and probably
would have destroyed the cliff they’d been fighting on
‘Just what kind of training Ryouga’s been taking?’ he wondered to himself. ‘How can he just shrug off those kinds of punches?’ The dream crept up in his mind, only to be squashed back into the recesses. ‘Nah, it couldn’t be that. I’m just getting paranoid, that’s all. Dreams do not become reality.’
As he ran those thoughts through his mind, Ranma noticed something about the freakish black aura Ryouga was emitting. On the edges of the dark energy were traces of a greenish-blue hue. "Is he—? No." The Saotome son racked his brain for an answer to what he was seeing, but all conclusions he was drawing lead up to two words: Shishi Houkoudan.
It made absolutely no sense at all. Ryouga looked as if he discovered the path to Nirvana, yet he was channeling an emotive ki blast that thrived on depression. Then again, most things about him defied classical explanations. Still, something seemed amiss. The aura of the Shishi Houkoudan was a shimmering deep green-blue tone. At the moment, his body was crackling obsidian. Was it really Ryouga’s signature ki attack, or was it something more nightmarish?
The thoughts were shoved into the back of his mind. Ponder the nature of ki later; beat Ryouga right now before something bad happened. Immediately, he knew the best way to do so
Moving like quicksilver, Ranma shot through the air, leg extended forward. The heel of his foot connected solidly with Ryouga’s chest, knocking the young man back a couple of feet. Not wasting a moment, the pigtailed fighter, still hanging in mid-air, smashed a knee as well as many jabs to his opponent’s face, which snapped his opponent’s head back sharply. Once the ball of one foot made contact with the grassy surface of the ground, Ranma pivoted and slammed several thrust kicks into Ryouga’s midsection, which had the effect of staggering him back a few more feet. His last kick, aimed just below his opponent’s chin, removed the lost boy from the earth’s surface, leaving him in the grasp of the air surrounding him. The pigtailed fighter went in for more punishing blows, juggling Ryouga towards the koi pond. Genma-Panda had vacated once he managed to realize what was going on, leaving the area free for the inevitable body to plunge into.
One last volley of hits landed true to their marks. One body, pulsating with dark puissance, spiraled limply, arching through the cooling air of the evening with the grace of wet dough and crashed through the liquid mirror. Water rushed in, drawn by the vacuum Ryouga’s body created, and violently filled in the hole in its flawed surface, creating an explosive geyser that tried to soak everything around it. Ranma somersaulted out of the way of the cold water and watched the natural phenomenon subside into several frenzied ripples echoing itself over and over, slowly losing momentum.
Ranma let go of the breath he had been unconsciously holding. The task, which seemed daunting at first due to the ghosts of his dreams reminding him of its significance, proved to be much easier than he would have imagined. Simply put, just trigger Ryouga’s curse, and what was left to deal with was a little black pig. It was so simple; he wanted to smack himself for not thinking of it sooner. He ran around like a chicken with its head cut off, all for no real reason. He allowed himself a small laugh for being so foolish, then turned around and prepared to walk back inside the Tendo home and deal with his other predicament.
He only managed a good six steps before he heard a small, glassy, crackling sound behind him. It reminded him of what ice cubes sounded like seconds after dropping few of them into a cup of beverage. Curious, Ranma turned around to see what was making that noise.
His heart almost stopped cold once he laid eyes upon the sight. The surface of the koi pond was freezing over; spikes of liquid had frozen over as well, and began rippling outwards to the grassy banks of the pond. The ice expanded outwards from the center, smashing back and solidifying more water and ice into spires, leaving behind a void in the body. Within the solidified vacuum space stood a still-human Ryouga in all of his frightening glory.
‘He’s dry, completely dry!’ a panicking Ranma thought, as he remained awestricken by what he was seeing, but unable to believe. ‘How can this be?!’ A lump of coldness landed in the pit of his stomach and began drawing away all heat from his body, leaving it as chilled as the freezing pond must be. ‘Oh no. How am I gonna beat him now?!’ One look into the dead eyes of Ryouga left him desperate for answers to questions that he needed to solve quickly.
The Tendos and Genma-panda were witnessing the exact same thing Ranma had. Thoughts raged differently from person to person.
Genma-panda pinched himself twice to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. Ryouga’s curse had not triggered at all. He fell into a body of cold water— completely submerged below the waterline, in fact— yet, the Jusenkyou curse, something which the panda-cursed man knew about all too well, had not triggered at all. He wasn’t quite sure of what exactly was happening, aside from being on the receiving end of Soun’s fist— he would have to explain himself for that one, Genma mused— but he knew what he was seeing was not just wishful thinking. Now, how did he do it… perhaps, the dark aura had something to do with it…
Once it had disengaged itself from hyper-overdrive, Soun’s mind began to analyze the current situation. So far, he had accidentally hit Ryouga with a blow that would have felled even the Master— Soun hoped he couldn’t hear thoughts— once it connected; yet he shrugged it off so casually, it was as if it was just a little push. His body then started to hum with those strange, piceous tendrils of energy. A fight erupted in the middle of the family room between him and Ranma— it still pained him to think about what the Saotome boy had done and the guilty reaction Akane had invoked in his heart, but, as much as he wanted the youth to answer for his transgressions, other matters had to be attended to first. The more they fought, the stronger that energy grew; even more curious, no matter how much damage done to the lad, he did not feel it. It was like all his nerve endings were asleep. He was eventually beaten back and knocked into the koi pond, an act that perplexed him to no end, but the truly amazing thing was that all the water around him had frozen, keeping him as dry as possible. He wondered what the connection between Ryouga and the dark energy was…
Nabiki’s mind was completely blank. She had seen some amazing feats of martial arts prowess since the day Ranma and his father had moved into their home; however, this one was a little beyond weird, even for her high standards of weirdness. Water instantly freezing up while whoever fell into its grasp remained bone-dry. That was defying natural physics, right? Right. Of course, this was Ranma’s fault in the end; had he not cheated on Akane with her own older sister, none of this would be happening. Right? Right. So, it was really up to him to solve his own mess. Right? Right. After all, he has a baby to be concerned about now, since the deed was over and done. Right? Right. So, he better win or else…
Kasumi felt like crying, but dared not let herself go like she had last night. It should have been a simple matter. Admit her guilt and the situation. Everything should be all right. She knew well in advance how her little sister would have taken the news, but her father surprised her greatly with his sudden burst of fiery anger and subsequent assault on Ranma’s personage. The situation quickly worsened with Ryouga’s declaration of the death of her lover and father of her child. So far, the one-sided fight hadn’t held proof to that "promise," but at the rate things were going, she feared that the Hibiki boy might well do good on his vow. The uncertainty of it all bore hard upon Kasumi’s mind, sinking her closer towards depression. ‘If something goes horribly wrong, it will be all my fault…’
Each individual thought was suddenly snapped back to reality by an elderly voice that was firm and resolute like steel. "May I ask what is going on here?" Four sets of eyes immediately locked onto the dwarfish figure of Cologne standing on the ground with her oaken staff in hand. Her hard, veteran eyes took stock of the battle that had began anew between Ranma and Ryouga. Her brows furrowed in a disapproving look. "This is not a good sign,” she said.
"What is it, Cologne-san?" Soun asked quickly.
She never took her eyes away from the battlefield, where an extremely lethal game of Tag was underway. So far, Ranma hadn’t been "it" yet, but by the barest of margins. "Ryouga’s ki… it’s completely wrong. I could feel it no sooner than I had left the Nekohanten. It’s very malevolent, far more than what I thought capable."
"What does that mean?" Nabiki piped up.
"First, tell me what happened prior to now."
There was much hesitation at that, a fact that did not escape Cologne’s notice, but Nabiki filled her in on the lowdown— severely abbreviated, and carefully censored of any parts that may have alluded to Kasumi and Ranma’s surprise announcement. When she was done, Cologne’s brows furrowed even more; the look on her face was as if she had swallowed something extremely disgusting.
"Cologne-san…" Kasumi started to say.
"It sounds like Ryouga is possessed by the Demon’s Wrath." Cologne didn’t look behind her for the mortified looks on the Tendos and Genma’s faces. She continued on. "It’s not a true possession by spirits, but it’s said that anyone who has lived to tell about it claims it as such."
"Do you know of a way to defeat it?" Kasumi asked ahead of anyone else.
"I’m sorry, but it’s not that simple," the elder woman said, although she spared a quick glance at the maternal Tendo out of the corner of her eye. "This isn’t any ordinary technique that can be learned from scrolls; in fact, you could call it a berserker state. It’s fairly instinctual, and anyone could theoretically do the same thing, even someone as kind-hearted as you, Tendo Kasumi-san." Kasumi’s eyes widened at this. "However, it would take much more extreme emotions to do so."
"Oh…” She was relieved by that fact. "So, is there any way to snap someone out of this… ‘berserker state’?”
"As far as I know, there’s only one way."
A little hope began to glow in the soon-to-be-mother’s eyes.
Hope suddenly abandoned the area.
"Death?" Kasumi echoed, a little shakily.
Her eyes shifted back to Kasumi. "I’m afraid so. According to the story I’ve heard long ago, the berserker did not stop her reign of terror until she was killed herself. In exchange, she had killed at least hundreds of warriors that opposed her and thousands of innocent bystanders." Her eyes suddenly widened, and she whirled around, finding herself face-to-face with a sphere of malevolent, darkly burning ki. "Everybody, get down, now!" she commanded.
Instinctively, everyone collapsed to their knees, covering their heads as they could feel something akin to total fear crawl up the back of their necks, ruffling up every hair on the way. The air around them had suddenly chilled, prickling goosebumps on everyone’s skin, yet it also burned like brimstone in the lowest depths of the nine Hells. No sound, save for the bass of a low roaring could be heard, and the individuals reflexively drew themselves into tighter fetal positions as they braced themselves for whatever would happen next.
There came a clashing of energies, not that it was heard so much as it was felt, then nothing, like the world had suddenly came to an end. Then just as harried as the symptoms of apocalyptic doom struck, it evaporated. As if cued, the Tendos and Genma-panda lifted their heads to scout what had transpired for one heartbeat.
Cologne was hunched over, leaning heavily on her gnarled staff. The thick knob was billowing smoke, and it even looked a little charred, though it explained little why over half of the wooden object was layered with ice that was slowly melting away only to evaporate as if it had never been. A glance to the battlefield showed a wide-eyed Ranma staring down at the grass. A shift of viewpoints gave sight to the withered, frozen blades of grass that made a beeline from where Ryouga, who was strangely not pulsing any of the bizarre power he had demonstrated earlier, was standing with both palms extended outwards all the way to about twenty-five feet from the Tendo home. The shadow of a half-circle was scorched in the ground just in front of the elder Amazon as she righted herself.
"That was a little too close," she remarked, coughing.
The renewed fight had played out much like the first battle did, although Ranma was definitely more wary of his opponent than ever. The one method that normally worked against Ryouga, splashing him with cold water, had failed in the most spectacular way imagined. Not only did his Jusenkyou curse not trigger, the water in the koi pond had strangely iced over to keep the lost boy from changing into a somewhat more manageable piglet.
‘This is nuts,’ Ranma thought as he narrowly dodged out of the way of Ryouga’s blows. ‘He ain’t feeling my punches, he ain’t changing, and he ain’t generating any heat far as I can tell. How the hell as I going to stop him?!’ Seeing yet another opening— it was quickly noted early on in the fight that Ryouga had abandoned even the semblance of defense and was instead focused purely on trying to kill him outright— Saotome delivered a fast uppercut that caught his opponent square of the chin. Surprisingly, it elevated the young man cleanly off of his feet, and he tumbled head over heels in mid-air.
However, he didn’t fall onto his back; instead, Ryouga landed on both feet a good distance away. Both of his arms pulled back to his sides, leaving his hands just in front of his body. As he did so, the spidery tendrils hissed and crackled wildly, spitting their ethereal venom with each snap as the wisps traveled down the length of his arms and to his hands. A ball of black ichor pooled between his palms, just out of Ranma’s sight, humming savagely with its unearthly power. It doubled in size rapidly as it drew off more of the hostile energies from Ryouga’s person to feed its dark hunger, building up to that one moment of release. It struck, and he shot out both hands, propelling the dark ki forth at his hated enemy.
"Shishi Houkoudan," Ryouga said with the same flat, anticlimactic tone of voice he had been using since he vowed to kill Ranma not longer than ten minutes ago. However, the expulsion of energy was anything but. It rumbled like the gods buried below the earth were awakening as it raced down the strip of lawn, right towards Ranma.
It wasn’t a normal depression blast, Ranma’s brain quickly analyzed; the ki composition was entirely different. Instead of the humbled blue-green shade, it was a malicious black, stained with just the faintest hints of blue coloring its corona; the tendrils of energy trailing behind it like a mock comet. Instead of a seven-foot ball of hard air laced together by strands of ki, it was two-and-a-half feet in diameter at best, but the energy output his other senses were picking up was incredibly strong, stronger than anything he had encountered so far in his life; it felt like a ball comprised completely of the natural energies of all living beings, only twisted to a darker purpose. Instead of expanding out to a certain distance before abruptly ending like a burst, the threatening ball was tearing through the air like a bullet with his name on it. The flow of action was simple afterwards: get the hell out of the way.
And that was precisely what Ranma did. He swung low, darting away at an angle out of the path of the oncoming lethal projectile. However, when he glanced backwards, he saw Kasumi and the other members of the family standing before the Tendo house, right in the path of the demonic Shishi Houkoudan. The blood in his veins chilled as a cold lump landed in the pit of his stomach.
"Get down, now!!" he bellowed, belatedly running back to intercept the hellish missile. Everyone fell to their knees almost before he got the last syllables out of his mouth. He didn’t think about that, though; all he knew was that he had to stop that damned blast before—
He couldn’t think about anything else, as an explosion of energy suddenly blinded him. Ranma staggered back from the resulting shockwave that thumped him bodily. As quickly as it started, it ended, leaving him to wonder whether it really happened at all. Quickly he scanned the area where he last saw Kasumi and the others.
"Cologne?" ‘How did she get there? Did she stop that thing?’ he idly wondered. Then his eye caught a glimpse of the residual trail the depression bullet left in its wake, and his eyes widened. Where the corona had caressed the grass, it was either frosted over as if it was a cold winter’s morning, or has withered up and browned, like all of its life was just drained.
"He could have killed someone with that…” It was a stupid comment, considering that Ryouga had behaved in a similar, nihilistic manner often enough in the past. However, this fight was much different, and there were much higher stakes at hand.
He whirled onto Hibiki, who was slowly retracting his arms to his sides. At the moment, none of the alien ki was surrounding the Lost Boy; it was assumed he “expelled” all of it in his attempt to kill the pigtailed one. Of course, that line of thought did not cross Ranma’s mind; he was too angry to think about it then. "What the hell you’re trying to do, kill everybody else?!"
Ryouga casually tilted his head over one way, then another, then over in the direction of the seething Ranma. His eyes, which had some traces of life, began to dull again, as if he was entering a trance. "You hurt Akane."
"No shit. Don’t you think I know that?" the challenged growled in response, as he was increasingly becoming angry with the lost boy.
"I will kill you." The once-absent nightmarish ki began to snap and crackle into place once again, a little at a time.
"Kill me? Kill me?! I wish that’s all you were trying to do! Not only are you trying to kill me, you’re about to kill the rest of Akane’s family, too! That’s your idea of avenging her?!"
A trace of raging anger cracked the stoic calm of Ryouga’s face. “Shut up,” he said in a tone of voice that ended in an audible snarl instead of the unnerving flat acceptance. The resurging black energy started to gutter out. It tried to reassert itself after a moment, but Ranma fired out another heated comment. "You think killing Kasumi and everyone else is a good thing?! Are you nuts?!"
“Shut. Up” The lower lip curled in a hated sneer, as the darkness flickered like candles in the wind, its power source fluctuating, before it began to stabilize. In the space of those moments, the temperature had risen noticeably.
Well, noticeably to Cologne’s veteran senses. They picked up on the environmental change immediately and reported their findings. Quickly, her sharp mind gave birth to a plan to end the affair unfolding before her and the others.
"You think Akane’s gonna be grateful when she finds out you killed her family?! She’ll hate you like she hates me!!"
The balance of his anger and depression shifted drastically and heavily in favor of the former, and the dark energies collapsed into ill-fated nothingness. “SHUT UP!! Don’t compare me to you!!” Ryouga bellowed. He was completely livid by the statements Ranma spat out with heated venom. “YOU are the one who betrayed Akane! YOU are the one who broke her heart so completely! YOU are the one that’s going to pay! YOU ARE!!”
“Oh, like that changes everything you’ve done with her! YOU betrayed her—!”
“SHUT UP! I’m not like you!!”
“Oh, yeah?! Then would you like to explain the REAL reason why you tried to kill me the first time you came to Nerima to her?!”
He blinked for half a second, not expecting that line. The other half of the second, Ryouga raged. “Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!!” His anger took over any shreds of rationality left, and it reflected in the Tendo’s backyard environment. “I’LL KILL YOU!!” He howled like a demon, his aura flaring a crimson hue so intense, even Kasumi could see the corona enveloping the lost boy. The very air surrounding the audience of the battle boiled rapidly to the point a thin sheen of perspiration broke out on everyone’s skin.
"Ranma!" came an elder voice laced with iron command.
Shook out of his own anger, he whirled on the owner of that voice. “What?!”
His glare was met with the hardened, beady gaze of Cologne. "I do not have enough information about what transpired earlier for matters to become this heated; however, you must calm down now and prepare the Hiryuu Shouten Haa in order to beat Ryouga."
Ranma started to say something, but he was brutally cut off by the gnomish woman. "There is no time for questions! This may be your only chance to defeat him! Do it now!"
Chastised sharply, he did as commanded, forcing himself to calm down. As he did so, his aura cooled down to an acceptable level. Taking a cleansing breath of air, he began to make the counterclockwise motion around his target. Ryouga locked his hazed-over eyes on his enemy and gave chase, striking at him without reserve. Ranma weaved and bobbed about the attacks, his cooled aura setting up for the explosive force of the Hiryuu Shouten Haa.
Kasumi swallowed a little. "Won’t that attack kill him?"
"No, it shouldn’t. Ryouga is built solidly, plus his training in the Bakusai Tenketsu will save him. Of course, he should be knocked out in the end, which will end this madness."
"Oh, I see." A pause. "Will your plan work?"
The old woman remained quiet for a moment, observing Ranma’s speedy development of the Flying Dragon Ascension Strike. "A prayer or two won’t hurt." She then turned to the rest of the family members. "Everyone, find something secure to hold onto. This one is going to be violent."
As matters turned out, Cologne was right. The Hiryuu Shouten Haa was a torrid maelstrom of elemental violence. The hurricane howled like a pack of demons, its whips of wind lashing out at everything in its vicinity and sucking up anything not nailed down in the Tendo backyard. Clumps of dirt and dead vegetation, loose scraps of paper and other forms of litter, the half-frozen, half-thawed pond water, anything in the vicinity that could have been drawn into the wild vortex was, fueling the churning malevolence even more.
The Tendos and Genma had taken heed of the elderly woman’s warning and found secure places to latch onto just in time as Ranma completed the final motions of the hurricane attack and let it fly up into the sky. Ryouga, who was still going all out to kill the pigtailed boy, was ripped away from the grassy earth and high into the deadly embrace of the Hiryuu Shouten Haa. Ranma, for his part stood fast in the calm eye of the storm, the fist he used to initiate the ki attack remaining outstretched towards the darkening sky.
A little less than four minutes had elapsed from the birth of the hurricane to its sudden demise. However, to all parties involved, it felt like eternity. The aftermath of the attack left the lost boy crashing down harshly, his body forcibly displacing dirt everywhere as he was imbedded a foot into the earth, about seven steps away from Ranma. The pigtailed boy finally retracted his fist and breathed deeply in relief. ‘It’s over,’ he thought quietly.
The Tendos, Genma, and Cologne relinquished their secure holds and returned to the yard where Ranma stood triumphant over his recent labor. Genma was in a celebrant mood again, though more sedated. He still wasn’t sure what triggered such a violent reaction in his best friend, but he was careful not to tread on anything that may reignite that fury again.
Soun, for his part, was very somber, his eyes sometimes secretly darting from the boy he had attacked earlier to the face of his eldest daughter. Now that one crisis was resolved, another needed to be dealt with. He was still angry with Ranma, of that, there was no doubt; however, matters were now complicated. Certainly, there would be much talking about his crimes against two of his daughters and what steps would be taken to begin to heal the hurt. At least, as well as it can be healed. Soun was no fool; he knew that his youngest was absolutely devastated, not only because of Ranma’s infidelity, but also because of his own inappropriate response. His face burned with shame.
Nabiki idly wondered how her sisters were faring. Akane, who looked completely devastated when she ran upstairs to her room, would need some time to adjust to the new situation laid out before the Tendos; of course, it wasn’t guaranteed that she could ever accept or even forgive her oldest sister for what she had done. The same went double for Ranma, as he would most likely be the recipient of the more physical aspect of her outrage. She tilted her head slightly to the perpetrator and catalyst of this entire mess— Kasumi. It was still incredibly hard to believe that she could even think about sex, let alone do the deed with her little sister’s fiancé. Yet, it happened. At least Ranma was going to take responsibility; otherwise his life would become Hell on Earth when she was finished with him. Her eyes shifted once to light on her elder sister, curious as to how she was taking matters and just how much of the sordid tale she would be willing to offer.
Obviously, Kasumi was relieved at the outcome of the fight. One less problem to deal with at the least, which was a welcomed thought; there were far too many complications in the beginning. If Ranma had been seriously injured, there would be no telling how the cards would have been played down the road. The most immediate situation that needed to be handled was her little sister Akane. It would be a very touchy area indeed, but if she was going to resolve any matters, it had to be done and soon; her resentment would end up festering into outright hatred and alienation left unchecked.
Cologne knew there had to be more to the story than what she had been let in on. Such cold fury that manifested in Ryouga was definitely not the work of a petty misgiving; it had to be an extremely serious offense to provoke that kind of reaction. As far as she gleaned, Ranma had done something to hurt his so-called fiancée Akane and Ryouga fell into a berserker state. Something was not adding up, and it seemed to have something to do with the maternal figure of the Tendo house Kasumi. However, before she could further her thinking, something prickled her senses. Her eyes turned and locked onto the source of the disturbance-the deep groove Ryouga’s body had carved out. "No, it cannot be…” She caught sight of Ranma approaching the crater. "Son-in-Law, don’t come any closer!"
Her warning, however, came too late.
Ranma was walking towards the gathering. He would come back and helped Ryouga out of the shallow grave in a moment; right now, he had matters to take care of.
"Son-in-Law, don’t come any closer!"
"Cologne?" Ranma said in surprise, taking a step that put him at the lip of the indentation of the backyard.
"Ryouga isn’t beaten! Get back, quickly!"
"What?!" he shouted, shocked. Before he could make good on the information, a hand clamped tightly onto his right leg just above his ankle. Ranma quickly saw that Ryouga—at least he thought it was Ryouga— had him. The life in his eyes was completely gone, and his irises glowed an eerie yellow. Ebon energies flowed like water, surrounding and embracing his personage. The hand that secured Ranma pulsated and sent hundreds of thousands of jolts screaming right up his leg and throughout the martial artist’s body. The bolts froze his skin as well as setting his nerves on fire. Unable to resist the searing frigid pain, he cried out in a fit of agony, his body convulsing erratically.
"Ranma!" Kasumi started, seeing her future husband being tortured by the bizarre energies.
“Kasumi, no!” Nabiki grabbed her older sister by her arm.
“You’d only get hurt, sis.” The brunette looked away from her startled and concerned face over to the pigtailed martial artist receiving a nasty shock. “Besides, he’s Ranma, the guy that refuses to lose to anyone. He knows what he’s doing,” she said in an effort to calm Kasumi. ‘I hope.’
The humanoid shape that was formerly Ryouga, rose from the shallow grave and stood, Ranma’s leg still in hand, and began wielding the pigtailed boy like a railroad worker with a sledgehammer in hand. He swung him high overhead, then smashed him down to the ground heavily. Dirt, debris, and spat-up blood blossomed upwards on impact.
Horrified, Kasumi turned away from the carnage; unfortunately, she couldn’t help but hear the heavy thuds of a body, the bursts of desperate agony wafting from the mouth of her lover only to be silenced by another smashing of his body on the earth. She unconsciously shuddered with each crunch,
One more swing, and he relinquished his grip, letting his dazed opponent sail into the stone wall on the other side of the yard. Ranma’s body cracked the solid construct when he thumped off of it and landed facedown on the ground. He sluggishly stood up and rested against the wall for a split second before being forced to throw up a defense to parry the ebony abomination’s assault. With effort, he managed to dodge the especially lethal haymaker prepared to end the attack. Where it struck, it obliterated the wall within a four-foot radius of the impact point.
Ranma had little time to be amazed by the feat of strength; Ryouga was coming after him again, and his body felt heavy and slower with injury. His arms, which he used to ward off the earlier flurry of blows, were aching terribly, the flesh stinging with frostbite. His right leg felt brittle. Perhaps it was just an after-effect of whatever happened to him. He could not spare any more thought as he was forced to block more of the punishing blows. He could feel them taking a toll on his defenses, pushing them to their limits until a cracking sensation began to occur within his forearms.
‘Just like the dream…’
His loss of concentration cost him a free shot to the jaw that sent his head reeling to one side, opening him up for another set of punches to the body. The last of the flurry struck true, flinging him backwards towards the house. He tumbled head-over-heels nearly fifteen feet before stopping five feet past the initial crater Ryouga’s body made. Painstakingly, Ranma rolled over onto his stomach, holding his sides as he coughed up several small globs of blood mixed with his saliva. ‘Definitely cracked ribs, perhaps broken…’ he thought grimly. ‘Right leg’s seems to be numb, too. Not a good sign, right now…’ He took a quick glance at the limb.
His leg just below the calf was bent at an angle bones normally weren’t allowed to bend.
“Shit…” Gingerly he touched it at its crook. ‘Cold… no wonder it felt so numb…’ he thought, withdrawing his hand. His eyed flickered on the approaching creature of midnight energies, and his heart stopped beating. ‘Just like the dreams… no, this can’t be happening…’ Determination set in the muscles of his face. ‘I am Ranma Saotome,’ he reminded himself. His hands automatically dug into soil, coaxing his arms to drag the rest of him up. ‘I will not lose to this—!’ However, the strain on his arms sent jagged pain lancing through his nerves. He drew a little more blood when he bit his lower lip to avoid screaming out. ‘I… will not lose… to a dream!’ Scrunching his left leg beneath his body, he pushed his body into a squat defensive position, his lame leg jutting outwards.
The drive, the absolute need to defend, to win, all of those needs important to him and his life began to manifest. On the fringes of his figure, it sparked through his body, languidly pushing to the surface. It tethered on the edge of his aura with a sense of purpose, yet it could not fully pull free from his ego.
The person formerly known as Ryouga leapt at Ranma, one arm cocked back, ready to end the game once and for all…
…only to be suddenly blasted out of midair. His body hurtled all the way across the yard, crashing hard into the stone wall.
'Huh? What was that?'
"My, my, Son-in-Law, you do seem to have a talent for getting into many a dire situation…" Cologne commented absently, landing beside the young man lightly.
"Cologne!" he said, rather surprised, as well as relieved.
"This matter has progressed beyond control. I had hoped you could have taken care of this, but your body is tiring out, while Ryouga seemed to have an unlimited source of energy. I will try to put a stop to this, once and for all."
"But, Cologne, the Hiryuu Shouten Haa—"
"I know. I underestimated Ryouga’s resilience. This time, I plan to use a more direct approach."
"Dim Mak, a death blow."
His eyes widened. "Death blow?!"
"I’m afraid so. In the stories, once a person was overcome with the Demon’s Wrath, the only thing that will bring an
end to their reign of terror is their own death. I had hoped the Hiryuu Shouten Haa would have done the same thing without killing him, but that had failed. So, I will use a Dim Mak attack and end this once and for all. In the meantime—" She calmly watched Ryouga’s possessed form get back up, the energies of his body flaring up and killing most of the vegetation in his immediate vicinity. "—you and the others make good your escape." She darted away from Ranma’s side and met the demon head-on.
[Quiet boy! Time to go.] Genma-panda waved the sign in front of Ranma’s face, before tossing it aside to haul up his crippled son.
On the other side of the yard, the new conflict ignited. The knobby end of Cologne’s staff blurred, battering the Hibiki boy’s crackling body relentlessly and forcing him to giving up ground he had yet to control. One blunt swipe to the inside of his knee with the knobby part of her staff dropped the monster almost to her level, and then the elder Amazon struck hard and fast with the narrow point of her weapon, stabbing several key places on both his head and chest. The last blow of the barrage tagged him in the forehead, toppling him headlong into the damaged wall. Another bit of the structure was demolished on impact.
The elder woman observed the unmoving body for a few moments, seeing if he was truly defeated. Ryouga’s aura was fading away, a fact that gave her comfort. Soon, he would find peace, and this matter would end. True, there would be sadness; after all, a life had just been taken. However, it was a necessary sacrifice; otherwise, who knew how many others would have been destroyed in the bedlam that was sure to follow?
She suddenly blinked. “What was—“ She did not get a chance to finish her sentence. No sooner than her senses prickled, she was blown back across the yard by the sheer force of demon power rupturing from Ryouga’s assumed-to-be-dead body. So great the force was, that it ripped her staff out of her grip as she tumbled helplessly through the air like a runaway train.
Her wild momentum was suddenly brought to a halt in the form of Soun, who wasn’t exactly preparing for the human cannonball. As a result, she knocked the wind out of him before dropping to the ground momentarily dazed, and he stumbled backwards. His flailing hand instinctively shot out and grabbed his middle daughter’s shoulder to prevent himself from losing his balance. Nabiki was rudely yanked back, not only losing her grip on Kasumi’s arm, but also losing her own sense of balance. As a result, both she and her father crashed onto the porch in a heap of limbs.
“Oyaji, duck!” Ranma shouted. Genma-panda blinked and looked up, just in time for the thick knob of Cologne’s lost staff to club him directly in between the eyes. The huge panda fell over backwards, unconscious. Ranma fell back down to the ground without preamble, grunting in pain as he reflexively caught himself with his already abused arms, then shakily began to stand up on his good leg. His injuries caused him to falter and he went down to his right knee. His face upwards to grimace into the crackling visage of the demon Ryouga had become.
Another ball of ki, about the size of a small television set, expanded in the monstrosity’s hand as it stood back up again. The energies were all in a rage, hissing and spitting its own unique brand of fear. It lifted the spherical mass well over its head, and it rapidly doubled in size, then doubled again. It took several slow steps towards the pigtailed boy, the malignant onyx sphere pulsing and throbbing like the eve of doomsday. Its arm flexed, tensing to flick the destructive force at the target of his hatred.
"Ranma!" In the blink of the eye, someone imposed him or herself between him and the demon-Ryouga with arms spread out. Blinking, Ranma got a good look at his would-be savior, who was trembling at the sight.
The white ribbon was unmistakable. "Kasumi?! What the—"
Whatever he was going to say fell on deaf ears. The blazing ball was pitched, and time slowed down to a crawl.
"Kasumi!" came from the mouths of Nabiki and Soun as they struggled to reach her. Unfortunately, in their panic, they only furthered their entanglement.
"NO!!" Ranma bellowed at the top of his lungs as he willed himself to ignore the debilitating injuries of his battle as he rose, then sprang toward his lover and mother of his child, his arms extending out. As he did so, an unfamiliar aura of soft ivory glowed into life, a pool of the same snowy, radiant ki forming between his hands.
The now-stirring Cologne caught sight of the amazing and her eyes widened slightly, as she was the only one to bear witness. Something tickled the edge of her vision, and automatically, her viewpoint shifted. Again, she saw the ivory aura gently enveloping another—only this time, it was around Kasumi’s own body where she stood protecting someone who was no longer there. Small threads of her aura had linked to Ranma’s own, as if feeding it, or being fed from. It was impossible to tell which was which, but one thing the elder knew was that what she was witnessing could not be, unless… Her eyes widened more. “That cannot be… It was only a story…”
“Ranma!” Kasumi gasped as the near-crippled young man hung just in front of her, shielding her from the tangible sphere of entropy.
“No way you’re gonna hurt Kasumi!!” The white energies flared to match the intensity of his declaration; the aura became so bright, Kasumi threw up a hand to shield her eyes from the glare. Cologne wasn’t much better off; even with her view partially obstructed, she had to advert her gaze to one side of the illumination that was Ranma. “NO WAY I’LL LET YOU TOUCH HER!!”
“Ranma…” Kasumi spoke softly, his promise touching her to the core of her being.
“MOUKOU TAKABISHA!!” he cried out, letting the energy fly towards the hungry darkness.
Within the span of a second, the white and black energies collided, mingled, and snapped at each other like most hated enemies in their midair flight. Quickly, the ki war spiraled into a frenzy, the bolts spitting and hissing even as the main body boiled to its breaking point. The spiritual battle came to an abrupt end with no clear winner; the mass of dueling emotions faded into calmness…
…and then the entire world seemed to erupt in a mighty explosion. Its tremendous force rocked the whole of Nerima, and the corona of dissipating energy could be seen for miles around. The calamity gave way to a deathly calm that took up residence in the ward for an untold amount of time. Eventually, the silence was pierced by the wail of ambulance sirens racing towards the epicenter of the blast from the bay of Nerima General Hospital. What the drivers and paramedics onboard expected could not be any more grim; it was almost certain no one could have lived through anything of that magnitude, especially no one that happened to have been at ground zero.
To be continued….
Next Chapter of Kasumi ½: Bedside confessions in Nerima General Hospital make for a day most interesting as the players of this story bare their souls (and perhaps a bottom or two ^_^).
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