Chapter 8: “Do You Remember Me?”
A Ranma ½ story
by D.B. Sommer
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.
All comments and criticisms appreciated. You can contact me at email@example.com
What’s gone on before (or what you really need to know to enjoy this fic.) In the Beginning, the Saotomes traveled to Jusenkyou and began sparring, not realizing that Shampoo and Mousse had already begun a dual there. One mid-air collision and bath In Spring of Young Drowned Man later, we have a Male Shampoo as well as a female Ranma. (So Ranma/Ranma-kun= male Ranma/ Ranma-chan= female Ranma. Shampoo /Shampoo-chan= female Shampoo. Shampoo-kun= male Shampoo.) Shampoo elects to travel to Japan with Ranma, and is briefly engaged to Kasumi. After that mix-up is corrected, Ranma is engaged to Akane. At school, water and confusion mix and the school believes Ranma-chan is Shampoo and Shampoo-kun is Ranma. The female student body has been after Shampoo-kun ever since. Last chapter RanRan and LinLin made an attempt to force Shampoo back to China, but were defeated by Akane and Ranma. Also, Ryouga had a journey through time and space in an effort to get Ukyou a part for her oven, Tsubasa tagging along for the entire trip. Now a mysterious girl has arrived at Furinkan in an effort to destroy some “Great Evil” there…
Akane found herself standing in the entryway of the Tendo House. She couldn’t remember how she got there; she was simply there. She looked around and realized something was disturbing her, something that was not quite… right. As she stood there it finally dawned on her, it was the house itself. It looked somehow different. It was difficult to make out the details on things, and it seemed to her there was a feeling of less color, as though everything was somehow drab and slightly off. A closer inspection revealed that things were out of place, some of the furniture looked different. She immediately spotted some new chairs in one of the rooms and a different coat rack from the one she was used to. But as different as they were, they also felt impossibly familiar. Her reverie was interrupted by the sounds of children’s laughter coming from upstairs. Maybe they had some idea of what was going on. Her mind went through the possibilities as she ascended the stairs. There was no way Kasumi could have done that much redecorating overnight. Her sister was a creature of habit, and would not have changed anything without mentioning it to someone. That pervert Happosai might have come done something, but this didn’t seem his style. Perhaps she simply wandered into someone else’s house. No, that didn’t make any sense either. There was too much she recognized. She was still running through the possibilities in her mind as she was almost to the top of the stairs. She heard small feet running around, and rushed up the last few steps in an attempt to see who was making the noise. When she arrived at the top there was no one to be seen. She turned and started to head towards one of the bedrooms when she heard a voice.
Akane looked back to see a woman standing where there was none a moment ago.
“I couldn’t have missed her standing there, and there’s nowhere she could have been hidden. Where did she come from?” Akane did notice that rather than feeling panicked by the woman’s sudden appearance, she felt at ease. She saw no reason not to respond.
Akane tried to make out the woman’s face, but there seemed to be some sort of haze blocking out her features. An impossible amount in the space between her and the newcomer. The woman spoke again.
“Do you remember me?”
Her voice was soft and gentle. Akane didn’t fell the least bit frightened by the faceless woman’s interrogation. In fact, she found herself relaxing and wanting to answer her.
“No. Should I?”
The woman’s tone took on a note of sorrow,
“How sad. Perhaps you should ask someone who would remember. Someone older.”
Akane was confused. What was that supposed to mean? Older how? What difference would that make? She shook her head.
“I don’t understand.”
The woman slowly raised her hand and caressed Akane’s face. It was a warm and gentle gesture, relaxing Akane further. She spoke once again. “I‘m sure it will all come back to you in time. When you’re ready.”
A loud noise suddenly erupted from all around, coming from the walls themselves. Everything started to become more and more hazy until it disappeared altogether. Then there was light. Akane reflexively hit the button on the alarm.
She rubbed her eyes, “A dream. All of that was a dream. What the heck was that all about?”
She paused for a moment to try and remember all that she could before it drifted from her mind, as most dreams did upon waking.. There was something about the house and children, and she distinctly remembered the encounter with the strange woman. She racked her mind to put a face with the voice. It was such a nice and pleasant voice she was sure she could remember it, but no one came to mind. She couldn’t waste anymore time wondering about it, so she started getting ready for school.
Ukyou had already dressed in her boy’s school uniform. She exhaled a bit in frustration, the source of it being Ryouga. His hair was an unruly mess, and she was fighting a losing battle trying to put it in somewhat decent shape.
She looked the Lost One over. “Come on Ryouga, work with me. You want to make a good first impression at school, right?”
“I’m a little nervous.” In fact, he looked as though he was about to pass out. “It’s been so long since I’ve attended school. What if I can’t keep up? What if I make a fool of myself? What if I have to take swimming in gym? Can bats get A’s in Phys. Ed.?” A cold sweat broke out on his brow.
Ukyou wasn’t going to play to his panic. “We’ll get you out of it somehow. Now come on, or we’ll be late.” She grabbed his arm and raced out the door with him. As they went outside he made her stop after only a few steps.
“Wait.” He started to look around furtively. “Tsubasa may be out here. Look! There!” He pointed out a trashcan. “That may be him.” He ran over and demolished the can. It didn’t scream. “Hmm, guess not, but what about that?” He pointed out a mailbox, ran over and demolished it.
Ukyou looked at him uncertainly “Are you going to destroy everything between here and school?”
“We can’t take any chances with your safety. I’m going destroy everything between here and there if it will keep you safe from him.” Ryouga then proceeded to demolish a telephone pole.
Ukyou gave a little smile, “That’s so sweet. Of course we’ll be late for school.” She shrugged, “Guess we’ll just have to leave earlier tomorrow.” She followed in the wake of Ryouga’s path of destruction.
Eventually the duo arrived at school just in time to see Shampoo-kun’s morning calisthenics with the female population. Ukyou saw Akane and Ranma-chan observing the fight off to the side. Ranma-chan had Kunou already beaten and underfoot, twisting her foot every now and then when he threatened to come around. Ukyou moved to join them, making the mistake of letting go of Ryouga’s arm. Fortunately, she realized her mistake and grabbed his arm before he ended up on Okinawa again. She came within earshot of the conversation Akane and Ranma-chan had started.
Akane spoke, “Did you hear they uncovered some old artifacts beneath the school?” Ranma-chan shook her head so Akane continued, “When those insane cheerleaders first arrived, they tore up one of the basements. Underneath were some old relics or something. They’re keeping them there until some archeologists can identify them.” Akane took notice of Ukyou and Ryouga, “Hey, look who’s coming!”
Ranma-chan started to smile and wave at Ukyou, but the smiled died halfway on her lips when she saw Ukyou’s companion, “What’s he doing here?” She pointed to Ryouga.
Ryouga immediately got defensive. “I’m attending school now.”
“And what makes you think you can even find your way here?”
Ryouga turned at looked at his companion and gave her a smile, “Ukyou is helping me.”
Ranma-chan just looked to the ground and shook her head, “Poor girl.”
Ukyou shrugged, “I don’t mind.”
Ranma-chan observed the fight taking place in the schoolyard. The number of attackers had definitely dropped to about half of what there was the first day of discovering the dating ritual. Shampoo-kun finished off the last of them as Ranma-chan handed him his school bag and everyone entered the school.
The principal was sitting behind his desk. It was too early in the morning to have to deal with this sort of thing. The girl that was confronting him appeared to be a normal sixteen years old, wearing glasses, and had red hair. If it weren’t for the shrine maiden’s outfit she was wearing, he would have sworn she was an ordinary Furinkan student. That was to say, she was as rude and obnoxious as the majority of the student body. It sounded as though she was winding down on her speech and he would soon be able to nod his head knowingly and dismiss her.
“I tell you, there is an evil presence in your school.” She was becoming more and more infuriated with the principal’s relaxed attitude. Didn’t he know there was danger?
“The students aren’t evil, just misguided.” It was a comment he heard frequently. What did they expect him to do? Discipline them?
“I meant a supernatural evil. Didn’t you listen to a word I said?”
In fact, that had been part of the conversation he had tuned out. He rose up from behind his desk and walked forward to the girl. “And I tell you there isn’t any. If our school was haunted, don’t you think I would be aware of it?”
A mysterious smile crossed the girl’s face. She turned to go, saying, “I’ll wait outside for your decision,” as she closed the door behind her.
The principal sat down, exhausted already, “What an odd girl. She’d fit right in here. The school is haunted, indeed.” He turned back to his desk and saw a disembodied head hovering above his desk, which was also levitating. “Then again, perhaps there is wisdom in her suggestion.”
At the homeroom there was still some time before class actually started. Most of the students had broken off into small groups discussing things with one another. Ukyou was talking with two such girls in one of the groups.
Sayuri looked directly at Ukyou, “So what’s up with the new guy?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
Chisa didn’t buy it, “We saw you arrive with him and noticed you had your arm in his. So is he, like, your boyfriend or something?”
Ukyou began to blush. “No. Nothing like that.”
Sayuri’s eyebrows shot up, “Then he’s available?”
Ukyou’s face changed shades of red, “I thought you wanted Ranma.”
“Well, I do. But since I haven’t come close to beating him, and I haven’t had a date in a while, I thought I might play the field a bit.” Chisa dittoed her friend’s sentiment, causing Ukyou to turn a deeper shade.
A little distance away Ranma-chan and Ryouga were having their own conversation.
“I can’t believe you’re making Ucchan take you to school every day. It’s like you’re a little kid or something.”
“She doesn’t mind. In fact, she volunteered. And don’t call her Ucchan.”
Ranma-chan shook her head. “She’s just taking pity on you. Just like when she hired you as a waiter.”
That really got Ryouga riled, he liked his job, “I do a fine job of waiting on tables.”
Ranma-chan gave him a flat stare, “Like when you were serving her food to the pet store because you kept getting lost.”
Ryouga started to blush, “She told you about that?”
“Yep. I’ll bet she has to go pretty far out of her way for you. So where do you live now anyway? The Batcave?”
Ryouga finally had one on her, “Ha, Ha. For your information, she doesn’t have to go far at all. I live with Ukyou.”
The entire room broke the laws of physics and instantly surrounded Ukyou and Ryouga’s desks.
“I don’t believe it.”
“You sly dog.”
“I think it’s shameful.”
“I wish I could live with a girl.”
“And here I thought Ukyou didn’t like guys, since she didn’t go after Ranma. Turns out she has one on the side already.”
“So what’s she like? You know?”
Ukyou went back to her shade of red from embarrassment, “Wait a minute. It’s not like that.”
Ryouga became red too, “It’s totally innocent.”
“He works for me…”
“…And I have trouble finding my way around…”
“…So it only makes sense…”
“…I’m even renting the room…”
“…It’s part of his pay.”
The room went silent as Godai-Sensei approached the two desks, looking over the duo intently. He nodded his head as if deciding on something, and then turned to Ryouga.
“So you are renting the room from her?” Ryouga nodded his head, “So that makes her your manager?” He nodded again. “I have a piece of advice to give you.”
Ryouga leaned forward intently, “Yes?”
“Whatever you do…”
“Yes?” Everyone leaned in to listen more closely.
“…Do not let her…”
“Yes?” Everyone now joined in with Ryouga.
“…Take tennis lessons.”
Godai-sensei continued, unaffected by the state of his class, and delivered his monologue. “Oh, sure. Tennis coaches may seem like nice, charming, rich, good-looking kinds of guys. But inside, they are nothing but busybody lowlifes that interfere with normal people’s love lives. Stay away from them at all costs.”
In the next moment the robed girl stormed into the room, looking all around the until her eyes settled on Ranma-chan, then dramatically spoke up, “I sense the aura of magic around you, girl. I see that a man is holding your soul. You shall be released from those bonds.” She reached inside her robes and stuck a strip of paper that suspiciously looks like a large price tag between Ranma-chan eyes.
Ranma-chan looked cross-eyed at it. “Am I on sale or something?”
The girl looked at the tag and took it off. “Damn! Thought I tore that off.” This time she put a ward between Ranma-chan’s eyes. Ranma-chan removed this one herself.
The newcomer stared in disbelief, “You can remove wards? What a powerful demon you are. We’ll try the direct approach.” She then pointed her finger at Ranma-chan. The finger began to glow. The girl waved it around and started forming a symbol in midair. The pattern remained glowing as her finger completed the symbol. “Begone, demon!”
The symbol shot out a beam of light that engulfed Ranma-chan. She felt a force start to blow her backwards. The beam became brighter as Ranma-chan’s image was lost from view, as everyone covered their eyes. The light faded and the symbol disappeared.
The girl gave a V for victory sign and began talking to no one in particular, “I have banished you to the nether regions you hellsp… WHAT?”
Ranma-chan was sitting there, apparently unaffected.
The girl quickly recovered, “So. You have some sort of resistance against banishment. Let’s try some more conventional magic.” She waved with her hands and shouted, “Repulsion!” A beam of energy shot out from the girl’s hands, the force of which plowed desks to the side and picked Ranma-chan up and threw her into a wall. Ryouga was sitting at a desk that was blown out the window. Ukyou rushed over to and looked out, seeing that Ryouga had landed in the pool directly under the window.
Shampoo-kun moved to strike the girl. “You hurt Ran… mean Shampoo. Now be hurt.”
The girl stared at Shampoo-kun, “So you are possessed as well; by a girl, I see. Very well. She started making another symbol in midair. This action did not go over well with the majority of the females in class.
“She’s attacking Ranma. Let’s get her.” The women moved as one and dog-piled on the girl.
The newcomer struggled to get out of the grasp, “He has you under a spell, I tell you. Let me free you.” She struggled further to no avail.
Godai-sensei spoke, “Good work, girls. You seem to have caught a terrorist.” As he finished the principal walked in. “Who’re you?”
The principal identified himself. Godai faintly remembered seeing the man once when he was hired five months ago. The principal continued, “She’s no terrorist. Her presence here is at the behest of the school. She’s going to take care of a, ah, ghost problem. Her name is Minami. Release her!” The girls reluctantly did so.
Akane moved closer to the girl, seeming to be somewhere in awe. “So what are you? A priestess?”
“I am no mere priestess. I am a ghost sweeper.” Minami struck the dramatic pose she had learned from her Ghost Sweeper supervisor.
Akane smiled, “I’ve heard of you. You were the one that rescued Tokyo from that Nosferatu.”
A battle aura erupted around Minami. Akane managed to use the one comparison that would set her off, “That was Reiko Mikami. M… I… K… A… M… I. My name is Minami. I would appreciate it if you did not compare me to that aging mercenary cow.” She briefly considered frying Akane on the spot, but elected not to since innocent deaths counted against you in field tests. Something like minus ten points, or some such.
Akane apologized, “Sorry. Wow! A genuine ghost sweeper.” She caught Minami muttering something under her breath. “What was that?”
Minami cleared her throat, “I said I am actually only a ghost sweeper in training. But one more demon and I’ll have enough points to become a full-fledged ghost sweeper. So you see why I must banish them. I can clearly see these two,” She pointed to Ranma-chan and Shampoo-kun, “are possessed.”
Ranma-chan spoke up, “I ain’t sad. I feel fine.”
“I said possessed, not depressed, you moron. You’re being controlled by a demon. Seems to be affecting your intelligence, too.”
“You said it looks like a boy above her,” Akane pointed to Ranma-chan. “and a girl with him?” She pointed to Shampoo-kun. Minami nodded. “I think I can explain this.”
It was at that moment that Ryouga-bat flew into the room. Minami stared at him intently. Her face perked up.
“A vampire! They’re worth double points!” She pulled out a hammer and stake and held them over her head as though she was about to hammer the stake into something, namely Ryouga. She began running around the room chasing him. Fortunately for the flying rodent, Ukyou jumped to his defense by holding her spatula so as to cut off Minami’s pursuit. “You will not harm him.”
Minami came to the obvious, and incorrect assumption, “I see. It’s already bewitched you. I will free you from his influence.” She began gesturing for another spell.
“Wait!” Akane grabbed Minami by the hair, disrupting the spell. “You come with me.” She began dragging her off. “Ranma! Shampoo! Bat! Follow me!”
Ukyou joined the group as they made their way to a closet in the hall, where some of the emergency water supply that Ranma-chan and Shampoo-kun had stashed for quick changes was located. Inside there was a thermos of hot water next to a canteen of cold water. Everyone sat down, Akane finally letting go of Minami’s hair.
Akane turned to Minami. “Have you ever heard of Jusenkyou?”
Minami spoke up as though reading form a book, “Located in China, an area of many cursed pools, that, if you fall into one you become whatever drowned in it when doused with cold water, and hot water reverses the process. Right?” Akane nodded. “No, I haven’t.” Everyone facefaulted.
Ranma-chan was the first to recover, “What do you mean you never heard of it? You just described it exactly!”
Minami held up her hand in a warding gesture, “What I mean is I don’t believe in it. Who ever heard of a curse as stupid as th…”
Her voice trailed off as she watched Akane pour hot water on Ranma-chan, Shampoo-kun, and Ryouga. Ryouga immediately covered up his private parts.
“Clothes! Clothes! Only do that when my clothes are near.”
“Oh, shut up.” Ranma dumped a canteen of cold water on him. He then doused himself and Shampoo back to their school forms.
Ukyou moved to go, “I’ll get his clothes. We’re going to have to leave several extra sets around here just in case.”
Minami had been watching the events with her mouth wide open.
“You three actually went to Jusenkyou?” They nodded, “How stupid can you be? HA HA HA…” Her survival instinct kicked in and she stopped laughing. She realized maybe it wasn’t a good idea to enrage powerful martial artists when you were locked up in a closet with them.
Shampoo-kun: “Was accident.”
Ranma-chan: “Believe me. If I had know I would never have gone.”
“SKEEEE!” (Bat for “it’s all Ranma’s fault.”)
Minami stared at the trio, “So you aren’t possessed. That means the demonic energy I detected must be somewhere else.”
Ranma-chan looked at her suspiciously, “Are you saying this place is haunted?” Minami nodded in agreement, “If this place were haunted then something weird, not relating to the three of us mind you, would be happening.” She opened the door and pointed out into the hallway without looking. “Do you see anything out of the ordinary?”
Ranma-chan noticed that the four of them are looking wide-eyed in surprise. She turned to see what they were staring at. She was greeted by the sight of dozens of gym shorts walking down the hall in single file. No one was in them.
“Okay. Maybe there is something odd going on.”
Minami waved the four of them off, “You can all go back to class. I must investigate further.”
Once Ukyou returned with Ryouga’s clothes, everyone headed back to class. During the day, the walls moaned, the pool filled with blood, objects moved of their own volition, and other ghostlike things occurred. After school everyone left, terrified. Ukyou, Akane, Kunou, Ryouga, Shampoo-kun, and Ranma-chan, remained behind and surrounded Minami.
Kunou complained first, “Something must be done about this. My kendo club could not be held today due to the bokken animating and attacking my members. If not for the “Blue Thunder”, they would surely have fallen.” He gave a dramatic pose and lightning struck in the background.
Minami gazed admiringly, “Neat trick! Anyway, I’ve determined that the danger here is getting worse. It has been increasing geometrically since my arrival. I shudder to think of what it will be like by tomorrow.”
Ranma-chan looked seriously at the girl, “Is there anything we can do?”
“In a situation like this there is only one thing to do.” Minami looked the group over.
Ukyou finally broke the silence, “Yes?”
Later that night everyone arrived at the school but Ukyou and Ryouga. The okonomiyaki chef finally arrived and apologized immediately.
“Sorry it took so long.”
Ranma-chan smiled, “No problem. Where’s Fangs?”
Ukyou looked to the ground, “He’s coming.”
Ryouga appeared, wearing a duster, chaps, cowboy boots, and a leather cowboy vest. Everyone save Ukyou gave the Universal Takahashi symbol of surprise.
Ranma-chan was aghast, “What the heck is that for?”
“I’ve watched American TV. I know what posses are supposed to wear.”
Ranma-chan looked at Ukyou. The cook gave a pleading look. “I tried to stop him. Really.”
Kunou placed his hands on Ranma-chan and Akane. “Akane Tendo, Shampoo. This is too dangerous for gentle creatures such as yourselves. Stay behind, where it is safe, and allow me to give you a parting embrace.” He began hugging them far too intimately.
Akane decided it was her turn, “The only danger around here is you.” Ranma-chan joined in as they beat the tar out of him and left his broken form on the floor.
Minami looked the group over, “Is everyone prepared now?”
Ryouga spoke up, “I think we should go over the basic Ghost Sweeper rules.”
Everyone looked towards Minami, who appeared as confused as everyone else. “Rules?”
Ryouga continued, “Yes. Like not thinking of giant marshmallow men. If someone asks you if you’re a god, say yes. Don’t cross the beams.”
Ranma-chan balled up her fist. “Please, Ucchan.”
Ukyou assented. “All right. But just this once.”
Ranma-chan punched Ryouga in the head.
“Why did you hit me?” Ryouga started to make a fist in Ranma-chan’s direction.
Ukyou stepped in, “Because you were embarrassing yourself, Ryouga.” That managed to calm the human bat down.
Minami saw that the group was as ready as it was going to be. “We shall begin. Everyone stay close together. And whatever you do, don’t separate.”
The group entered the school, weapons drawn, with Minami in the lead.
Minami informed the others of her discoveries. “I have been giving this much thought. I suspect that what we are dealing with is a Sanslaygh. They’re better known as fear-eaters. Basically it’s an empathic feeder that drains emotions from humans. The only thing it can live on is fear, though. It usually employs spirits to do its dirty work, and I warn you, it has the ability to alter your perceptions in order to create a fear reaction. You’ll find yourself confronted with the impossible, and believing it.” She looked over her group more closely, “It might actually be worse for you people since you tend to accept the unusual as commonplace. Just stay close to me, and you won’t have anything to worry about.” She didn’t continue with the “probably” that followed in her mind.
Ukyou suddenly realized someone was missing, “Where’s Ryouga?”
Ranma-chan stared at her, “You sound surprised he got lost. Why didn’t you cuff him to yourself, or put a bell on him or something?”
Minami turned and faced the group. “Well, that took record time. We have got to do better than this. We haven’t even seen a ghost yet.
Akane stared, bug-eyed, “G… G… Ghost.”
Exasperation crept into Minami’s voice. “Yes. We haven’t seen a ghost. Would you like me to say it more slowly, so you understand?” At this point she realized everyone’s eyes were bugging out at something behind her. She allowed a small smile to creep across her face, “Oh, I see. I can handle a ghost.” She pulled out a ward and turned. “Spirit! You now face Ghost Sweeper in Training, Minami.”
She was confronted by a horde of about fifty ghosts in front of her.
“Maybe I should wait a little longer for that promotion?”
She bolted, as did everyone else. The ghosts gave pursuit. After running for several minutes Ranma-chan pulled up next to Minami.
“You’re the ghost sweeper.”
“ Oh, yeah. You’re right.” She spoke up to everyone. “Lets make a stand.”
The group stopped and turned to confront the spirits. Minami pulled dozens of wards from her robes and hurled them at the spirits, each ghost disappearing as the mystic symbols touched them. Ranma-chan leapt up and started attacking the spirits. Surprisingly, the attacks worked and the ghosts dissolved from the assault. The others followed suit. Soon the room was clear.
Ranma-chan was breathing heavily, “That was a lot easier than I thought. Right Akane?” She looked around, but the girl was missing. “Great! Now she’s gone. Guess I’d better find her.”
“I’m going to find Ryouga. He might need help.” Ukyou walked off.
Shampoo-kun stared at Ranma’s retreating form. He looked down to the ground, and then walked off in the opposite direction.
Minami spoke to the empty room, “I am sooo glad you all took that advise about staying together so seriously. I hope you all get eaten alive.”
Ryouga hadn’t drifted too far off. He was still wandering around one of Furinkan’s corridors.
“She told us to stay together, and everyone left. What a dumb ghost sweeper.”
A large ghost, bearing a huge mouth, long sharp fangs, and pustule-like skin, charged at Ryouga from out of the darkness at the far end of the corridor. Ryouga stood his ground and punched the ghost, stopping it from the impact. “I know it’s you, Tsubasa. Get out of that stupid costume.” He pried open the creature’s jaws and stuck his head inside, and looked around. “I guess he isn’t in here after all.” He pulled his head out and walked on. The ghost remained behind, staring at Ryouga’s retreating form, with mouth still agape.
Minami was finishing off another series of ghosts, when they all stopped and suddenly disappeared into the walls.
“Now what are they up to?”
Ukyou strode the halls, spatula drawn.
“Where did the ghosts go? And where’s Ryouga?”
Ukyou suddenly felt a sharp pain in her head that disappeared instantly. She looked up and saw Ryouga emerge from one of the rooms, wearing his standard clothes and not the posse outfit. He saw Ukyou and gave a disgusted look.
“Ryouga. I’m glad I found you. You all right?”
He looked at her disdainfully. “Of course.” He began walking quickly away.
“Wait up!” She hurried and caught up. “Why are you in such a hurry?” No answer. Ukyou began to worry at the change in attitude of her companion. “I can’t believe there are ghosts in this school.”
Ryouga finally stopped and turned to Ukyou. “You know what I can’t believe? That a wannabe boy like yourself thinks she has any chance with a guy like me.”
Ukyou recoiled, “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Oh, come off it! You hang all over me. You hire me even though I get lost going to the bathroom. You pay me an outrageous wage. You let me stay at your restaurant for next to nothing.”
Ukyou looked very scared. “No! It’s not like that.”
Ryouga sneered, “It’s exactly like that. You even changed the name of the store just because I called you Uk-Chan once. Once!”
Ukyou voice started to crack, “I… I wanted to change it.”
He began grinning evilly. “And all this just because I called you pretty. You’re so pathetic. You know, there’s a reason why no one else ever called you pretty. You’re ugly. Even your fiancé dropped you because of it. Wearing boy’s clothes was just an excuse to hide. It’s so much easier to pretend you aren’t repulsive by intentionally making yourself that way. Did you know Ranma told me he was glad you didn’t want to be engaged to him anymore? He was afraid he’d get sick having to be around you.”
Ukyou started to cry, “That’s not true. Why are you saying that?”
Ryouga didn’t let up, “Shampoo laughs at you for being weak. Akane pities you for your pathetic life. And I only hang around because you give me everything. Face facts girl, I’m using you, just like the Saotomes did.” He started to laugh, producing a deep, cruel sound.
Ukyou huddled into a ball on the floor crying and mumbling that it wasn’t true. Ryouga smirked and looked extremely satisfied.
Elsewhere, another Ryouga was walking around in his posse outfit, perking his ears up.
“That sounded like Uk-chan. I wonder where she is?” He sighed, “Maybe I should change into a bat and find her.”
He felt a pain shoot through his skull, leaving as quickly as it came. He continued walking until he saw Ukyou at the end of the hall. She waved to him just as Ranma-kun appeared, as if from nowhere, next to her. Ranma picked her up, leaving Ukyou squirming trying to get out of his grasp. Ranma laughed and smiled at Ryouga.
“I’ll keep her company tonight. After all, I am her fiancé.” He quickly ran off.
“Let her down, Ranma! Fight like a man!”
Ryouga pursued until he came upon a labyrinth that mysteriously appeared in the middle of the school. He spotted Ranma carrying the still squirming Ukyou.
“Catch me if you can, Batboy.”
Ukyou continued kicking, “Ryouga save me!” Ranma entered the maze.
Ryouga started to really panic. How was he going to rescue her from within the maze? He continued onward into the labyrinth. Once inside, Ryouga could hear Ranma and Ukyou, but couldn’t see them. He could swear they were just ahead of him, but try as he might, he could never catch sight of them. He started to lose hope.
“The only way I can find them is if I change.”
He started looking around for some cold water, and surprisingly found a bucket of the stuff. He dumped it over his head, producing no change.
“What’s going on?”
Ranma’s disembodied voice came from seemingly everywhere. “Oh, what’s the matter? Batboy can’t change. Ain’t that just too bad. The one time that stupid curse could come in handy, and it doesn’t work. Guess you don’t have any excuses. You’re going to have to find her on your own. That should take what, ten, twenty years? Plenty of time for Ucchan and I to become better acquainted, since we haven’t seen each other in so long.”
Ukyou’s voice seemingly from all around as well. “Ranma what are you doing? Stop. Please don’t do that.” Her voice started to sob.
“UKYOU!!!” He started shattering walls at a breakneck pace trying to find Ukyou, tears forming in his eyes.
Shampoo-kun paused, “That sounded like Bat Boy.” He then felt a pain shoot through his head and pass just as quickly as it did for the others. He entered a room only to discover that it was no classroom. Inside was a huge building that was full to the rafters with people, mostly women in Amazon garb. A huge dais sat in the middle of the room, and at the far end there appeared to be a large raised judges bench. It sat high enough so the people sitting there could look down on everyone else to the room. She looked down to see that she had change back to her female type without the benefit of warm water. She looked at the room again.
“The Hall of Judgment!”
Two powerful Amazons moved out from some shadows and grabbed her arms and placed shackles on them. She was quickly dragged and placed in front of the tribunal before her. She was thrown onto the dais alone. Cologne sat in the highest seat at the bench, pounding her gavel for silence.
“Is there anyone who wishes to say anything before sentence is passed on this… man?” The last was said with loathsome contempt.
Shampoo wasn’t going to give up. “I want to speak!”
One of the other members spoke. “We cannot hear your voice” She motioned to the two women beside Shampoo. “Gag him, and let judgment be passed!”
Shampoo was gagged as a large woman came forth with an even larger ax.
“That sounded like Shampoo,” Ranma-chan paused for moment, but heard nothing further. She continued her search.
“Where did that uncute tomboy get to now? Baka!” She sounded more concerned than her words indicated. Ranma-chan felt a pain go through her head like the others. She entered a room and came face to face with Ranma-kun, wearing the same outfit she was.
Ranma-chan dropped into a defensive posture. “Who the heck are you supposed to be?”
Ranma moved into an identical posture. “Ranma Saotome. And you?”
“Back up, pal. That’s my name.”
Ranma sneered back, “Try again. Ranma is a guy. You’re a girl.”
“Look, buddy. I don’t know what you think you’re trying to pull, but I’m the real one. I’m a guy too.”
She looked around and found a bucket of hot water sitting next to her. “Watch.”
She dumped the water over her head, resulting in no change.
Ranma sneer changed to a smirk. “See, I told you. Ranma’s a guy. You’re just some pathetic girl having delusions.”
Ranma-chan balled up her fists. “No, I’m not! I’m going to beat the truth out of you!” She threw a punch, which her male counterpart easily blocked. She threw two more punches that Ranma easily blocked as well. He looked down at the girl with even more contempt.
“You can’t beat me. But don’t worry, I’ll tell you the truth anyway. The truth is, you were never much of a man to begin with. You get nervous around women. You avoid responsibility, like your old man. You don’t even try to think. You can’t even win the heart of your own fiancée.” He smiled at the girl. “Let me take over. I will do a much better job.”
“The hell you will!”
Ranma shrugged, “Not convinced? Let’s ask some others.”
Family members start appearing from the darkness behind Ranma. None of them looked pleased.
Genma began, “He’s right. The son I raised would be more responsible.”
Soun continued, “A real man would have won Akane’s heart.”
Kasumi looked disdainfully at Ranma-chan, “He really is a better man than you are, little girl.”
“Too bad you can’t figure out a way to get rid of this curse. Anyone else would have solved the problem by now.” Nabiki threw in.
Shampoo giggled, “You just weak little girl. Even Mousse better than Ranma girl type.”
Somehow that hurt Ranma-chan more than the other’s comments, but the worst was yet to come.
Akane snuggled under Ranma’s arm and spoke dreamily. “Now here is a real man.” She turned her attention to Ranma-chan. “Why don’t you run off and play, little girl?”
Her laugh began the torrent of chuckling that came form the others.
Ranma-chan held her hands over her ears. “No. It’s not true. I am a man. I AM A MAN!”
“That sounded like Ranma.” Akane’s voice wavered badly, indicating just how on edge she was. “What is happening? I hate this.” She took a deep breath. “Got to pull myself together. No more running.”
She felt a sharp pain in her head like the others. She exited the room and came face to face with Ranma-kun.
“Oh, thank goodness I found you.” Akane sounded relieved.
Ranma just gave her a disdainful look, “Yeah. Whatever.”
That changed Akane’s tune in a hurry, “You could at least act like you’re happy.”
Ranma now became openly angry towards Akane, “Why would I be happy? Do you know how much I hate being engaged to you? Look at you. You’re ugly, clumsy, dress badly, and can’t do a single thing like a normal girl could.”
“Why you…” Her diatribe was cut short, as Ranma began screaming in her face.
“SHUT THE HELL UP! If you think I’m going to let you hit me, think again. You know I’m a better martial artist than you and can clean your clock anytime I want. All you know how to do is abuse. No wonder I don’t love you.”
Akane suddenly felt shamed. “That’s not why I…”
“I said shut up! You can’t do anything. Kasumi would make a perfect wife, through her gentleness and homemaking abilities. Nabiki at least has some intelligence. But you, all you have is martial arts, and now everyone around you is better at it than you are. I can’t believe I got stuck with you.”
Akane voice started to crack, “I am a good martial artist.”
Ranma scoffed, “You’re so good that your own father has no faith in you. Why else would he be so desperate to pawn you off on some guy he never even met? Admit it. He wants a guy to run the dojo, so you won’t lead it down the tubes. You’re the one he wants to get rid of. You’re the only one that really is useless.”
Akane began crying. “I am not!”
“Oh, is that so? Let’s see. You have a fiancé who doesn’t love you. A father that has no faith in you. Sisters that view you as so much excess baggage.” He held his arms out. “Congratulations! You are officially worthless.”
Akane felt herself breaking down. She started curling up into a ball like Ukyou did earlier. “I am not worthless. I am not.”
Akane’s mind, like the others, started to drift back on a journey of denial. There was an unexpected stop, however. She opened her eyes and discovered was in a hospital room sitting next to a bed. A woman was lying in the bed, but Akane could not make out the face because of a haze that was like the one from her dream. The woman began to speak using the same voice as the one from the dream, save that she now sounded weak and very sad.
“Akane. There you are. How are you?”
Akane was uncertain, “I’m okay, I guess.”
The woman had a coughing fit, and then continued. “Akane. I have to tell you something.”
Akane felt a surge of sadness begin to overwhelm her. Tears formed at her eyes unbidden. “Yes?”
“There may be a time, not so far off, when I may not be able to help you. I wish with all my heart I could be there for you, but I can’t.”
The tears that had started to form began to fall. “Don’t…”
The woman silenced her, “Listen. There is something I want you to do for me. You have to be strong. Your sisters and father are going to need your strength very much, as much as you will need theirs. Just because you are the youngest doesn’t mean you can’t help.” She had another coughing fit, worse than the others. The sadness in her voice deepened, “Oh! I wish there was some way I could be here longer. Of all the girls you still have the most to learn. In many ways, you will have it the hardest. You probably won’t understand any of this for a long time, but listen to me, and believe what I say. You will never be alone. A part of me will always be with you. Draw strength from the fact that there will always be someone who loves you, no matter what happens, no matter what you do, no matter where you go. Remember.”
The vision began to fade. Akane tried to stay but there was nothing she could do as darkness overtook everything. She opened her tear filled eyes to see she was still in the schoolroom, Ranma still ranting about how useless she was. Akane slowly stood up.
“And another thing…” It was “Ranma’s” turn to be cut off.
Akane looked down at the ground and spoke quietly, “Shut up.”
Ranma was taken aback. “What?”
Akane applied a bit for edge to her voice, “Shut up!”
Murder glared in her eyes, as she finally looked him in the face. “I SAID BE QUIET! IT IS MY TURN!”
She stalked over to Ranma, “I am not worthless. My sisters love me and I love them. My martial arts are good; Ranma is better, but that just means I have a goal to shoot for. Why do you think I’ve been training so hard? You may also be right about Ranma not loving me; I don’t even know if I love him. Until I get that sorted out, I’m not going to worry about it. You may even be right about daddy and the dojo. He can be positively archaic about some things, and he might not believe a girl can run the dojo, but you listen to me and listen to me well. He may think I can’t run it but I KNOW I CAN. I don’t need a husband for that.” Akane felt a sharp pain in her head identical to the one from before.
“STOP THAT!” She slapped Ranma in the face. “It’s too late! You thought you could confront me with my fears, but all you did was hit me with a few of my insecurities.”
She grabbed Ranma by the collar and started talking much more softly, yet sounded even more dangerous. “Would you like to know what real fear is all about? Would you? Real fear is the first time you realize the world is a harsh place that no one can protect you from. Real fear is when you discover that those you love and thought were invincible are just as helpless as you are. Real fear is when you watch a loved one slowly whither away until there’s nothing left but a dried out husk, and all the hope and love in the world isn’t going to bring them back. Understanding reality. That is the greatest fear of all.”
She finally releases him, eyes still glaring.
“Now get out of here before you make me do something you will really regret.”
Ranma disappeared as though he never existed at all. Akane heard some unusual noises coming from the basement below her. She allowed curiosity to win out and entered the first level boiler room to see a huge, bright light at the far end of the room. The glare prevented her from seeing what might be there, but she saw Minami drawing an elaborate circle on the ground with chalk. She paused to look up at Akane.
“So you were the one that did it.” She lets out a low whistle.
Akane was confused, “What do you mean?”
“That thing,” Minami pointed to the light, “was reeling in pain a little while ago. You must have done something nasty to him. He was hit pretty hard. “
Akane gave a small smile, “It tried to use some fears against me. I stood up to him.”
Minami looked impressively before giving a soft chuckle, “Talking back to a Fear-Eater. You’d make a pretty tough ghost sweeper. If you ever want to become one, I’ll put in a good word for you.”
Akane raised her hands defensively, “No thanks. I’ve had enough ghosts to last a lifetime. What did it do to you?”
“It tried to terrify me with a bully from fourth grade. I was worried for a moment, but then I remembered he was a toad.”
“Yeah. Guys like that are just jerks. I’m glad you remembered what a loser he was.”
Minami shook her head. “You misunderstand. I don’t mean the guy was like a toad; I mean I turned him into one. He pushed me too far one day, so the next he was eating flies.” She looked up from her drawing and sounded far away, “Poor Sentaro. He really should have learned to keep his mouth shut.”
Akane was taken aback a bit by her newfound friend’s confession. “Remind me not to get on your bad side. Now, how can I help?”
“Just stay where you are. It regards you as indigestible material. Your mere presence hurts this thing plenty.”
Minami finished the circle, stood in the center, and began to chant. Her body began to hover above the ground and give off an iridescent glow. The circle released burst of energy into the ceiling and winked out. The light across the room went out as well. Minami floated back down as Akane stared on.
“Neat. Is that it?”
Minami nodded, “Yep. That thing is history.”
Tentacles sprang out from across the room and grabbed Minami. With the light gone there was an unrestricted view of what the creature really looked like. It was a repulsive thing with dozens of green tentacles and a huge bloodshot eye in the middle.
Minami started to panic, “This isn’t possible! It’s a Sanslaygh; that circle always works against them!”
Minami managed to reach into her robes and grab a ward. She touched the tentacles with it, smoke rising where it touched the creature. As the tentacles released her, she hurled several other wards at it, keeping it at bay.
Minami shook her head in confusion, “I don’t understand. The only way it could stay was if it was summoned, or it has an anchor. I would have spotted any summoning circles. That must mean…” She snapped her fingers. “Akane, come here.”
Akane rushed over, and Minami chanted something, placing her hand over Akane’s eyes. Akane felt a burning sensation that seemed to come from within. The heat passed but her eyes still felt distant, almost as though something else was seeing through them. She drew back.
“What did you just do?” She felt nauseated by the feeling that something was inside her eyes themselves.
Minami pulled out a ward. “Does this glow?” Akane nodded in the affirmative. “Then the spell took. You can see enchanted objects. Now, I need you to find a glowing object and destroy it. That is this creature’s anchor. Once that’s gone, I can banish it. I’ll have to stay here and distract it to keep it from trying to protect the anchor.”
Akane agreed. The sooner she got rid of the feeling in her eyes, the better. “Where is it?”
“It has to be nearby. Given the Sanslaygh’s position, I would say it lies beyond that corridor.”
Minami pointed to a doorway that was very close to the monster. Akane ran for it at top speed as the creature shot out a dozen tentacles to snare her. They ended up being seared off by a white beam of light from a ring Minami had. The creature reeled in pain as Akane made it to the corridor. Minami’s drew a hilt from her robes, which produced a blade of ebony energy.
“You remind me of my last boyfriend. He was all clutchy and grabby too. That’s why I had to use this on him.” She indicated the sword. “DIVINE RETRIBUTION!” Minami leapt into the fray.
Akane was looking desperately around for something, anything that glowed. Her eyes finally rested upon a table next to a hole in the ground with huge piles of dirt around it. There was tape marking off the hole and a sign saying to stay away from the excavation. Akane saw several objects next to a sign that was labeled “Do not touch!” All of the objects looked unclean. She noticed one of them was a glowing blue bracelet. She retrieved it and placed it on a cinderblock. She drew back her hand and delivered a chop. The blow broke not only the bracelet, but the block underneath it as well.
Sensing the anchor’s destruction, Minami ran back to the circle and repeated the process. This time the creature vanished after the spellcasting. Akane came into the room with the shattered pieces of bracelet. Minami took them from her and examined it. After a few moments, she made an announcement.
“It’s a shard’al.”
Akane looked confused, “It’s a what?”
“An ancient magic device used to summon Sanslayghs.”
“Who would want to do that?”
“As part of the rights of passage into adulthood for some cultures, they would make a youth confront his fears by summoning a Sanslaygh. If the youth passed it, then he would officially be recognized as an adult. It was never too popular though. Too dangerous.” She tossed the pieces away.
Akane looked at her wide-eyed, “Why would anyone be crazy enough to do that?”
Minami gave Akane a sober look. “It is a terrible trial, but if you can confront your fears, it can change you. Wouldn’t you agree?”
Akane allowed the information to sink in and then nodded her head in agreement.
Minami spoke up, “Let’s get the others.”
“Ranma!” Akane quickly ran out of the room.
Eventually the others were gathered up. The group appeared shaken in their confrontations and was unusually quiet. Ukyou glanced at Ryouga suspiciously. He caught the look and misinterpreted it, promptly falling into one of his depressions. Shampoo-kun was holding his throat and Ranma had changed into a guy and was constantly feeling his chest. Only one was unaffected by the events. Well, only one wasn’t depressed by the events.
“Hot damn! I am officially a ghost sweeper. I gotta call dad.” She grabbed a pay phone and made a call. “Hi, Dad. I did it. I banished the demon. Sanslaygh with an anchor. Tough one.” She paused. “Great; you’ll process the paperwork?” She paused again, “Yes, now I can… What? You can’t be serious. What do you mean there’s more to life than being a ghost sweeper? No, there isn’t. I won’t do it.” She paused once more as the others heard incoherent shouting emitted from the phone. “But it’s not fair.” She finally reluctantly acceded to the demands, “I’ll do it, but I won’t like it.” She slammed the phone down, and then pulled out her hilt, destroying the phone.
Ranma spoke the question on everyone’s minds. “What’s wrong?”
“I am officially a member of Furinkan High. I’m going back to school. Dad thinks I need an education.” Minami railed up to the heavens. “I don’t need a regular education. You don’t need know physics to banish ghosts. All you need are circles and wards. WAAAAA!” She started crying. The others elected to leave her there rather than accidentally get hit with one of her spells.
Several hours after the others returned home, Akane entered the kitchen. The object of her search was there, as Kasumi was cooking dinner.
Akane was uncertain how to begin, “Sis. I need to ask you a favor. I’ll understand if you don’t want to do it though.”
Kasumi turned to smile at Akane, then turned back to the oven, “Don’t be silly. Ask away.”
“Could you tell me about… Mom?” Her voice was just above a whisper.
Kasumi stopped as though struck by a bolt of lightning. She didn’t turn around but rather spoke to Akane with her back to her.
“What do you want to know?”
“What she was like, I mean really like. What you thought of her. What she looked like. I started remembering a little bit, but it’s all hazy. I don’t think I felt up to facing it before now, but I want to remember. Please.”
Kasumi turned. A slight look of sadness was in her face. Despite this she smiled. “Of course. Let me put on some tea. This might take a while.”
The talk lasted until sunrise.
The control tower crew at Nerima gathered around the radar screen. One of the controllers spoke up.
“That’s the flight, right?”
The one sitting at the console answered, “Yes. It is. Put the ground crew on standby.”
“Do you think they’re going to land safely?” A third man broke in.
The tower chief added his opinion. “Nakajima is one of our best pilots. He won’t crack.”
The object of their concern touched down without a problem. Ground crews placed the stairs next to the plane to disembark the passengers. The first two off were a girl, wearing a fez, cowboy boots, sarong, and leather flight jacket. Her companion was a panda wearing glasses, a tricorn hat, chaps, ice skates, and a T-shirt that said, “I visited Paraguay and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.”
Kodachi looked at the airport terminal, and took a deep breath, “It feels good to be back home, darling. What should we do first?”
Mousse-panda held up a sign. “Visit Doom upon Saotome?”
Kodachi smiled. “That sounds like a splendid idea. OHHOHOHOHOHOHO!”
Kodachi ripped off her accessories and stood clad only in her leotard, running off, ribbon twirling. Mousse-panda attempted to follow, but ended up on the tarmac because of his skates. Kodachi wrapped her ribbon around Mousse-panda’s ankle and dragged him behind her. Ground crews quickly ran into the jet to unload the passengers. Fifty of the people had to be treated for the psychological trauma of being locked in a plane with Kodachi’s laugh for ten hours straight. The pilot retired and became a Shinto Priest in an effort to atone for whatever evil he did that required him to be punished for having to be on the plane.
To be continued.
Special Thanks to:
Ryan Anderson and Harold Ancell for their tips and C+C.
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