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Chapter 1

A Ranma ˝ / story by
Dark Phoneix

Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.

Nabiki found herself in a bit of a dilemma. Here she was, living with a kindly old man and a drop-dead gorgeous boy. She was being offered the chance to learn powerful magic that Horvath said was capable of miraculous and deadly feats. Over the last two weeks, Ranma had grown much closer to her. Nabiki might even dare to go so far as say that they were a couple, or at least close to it. But through it all, she was haunted by her family. How were they paying the bills now, with Nabiki gone? Neither Akane nor Kasumi had any job skills, and her father was an emotional wreck, so him teaching classes was an impossibility. Nabiki was worried about her family, but what scared her the most was that she didn't miss them.

She still loved her father, but being away from his emotional outbursts and foolish ideals was a relief beyond her imagining. Nabiki still loved her sisters, too, but she had no desire to be around Akane and her monstrous temper or Kasumi and her oblivious 'everything is right with the world' attitude. The sounds of Ranma and Horvath walking up the gravel path from the well brought Nabiki back to full awareness.

Today was the day that Andwywn, Horvath's conjurer friend, was visiting. The old man said that Andwywn was the greatest conjurer who had ever lived, and that he had agreed to apprentice Nabiki if she was willing. It was such an amazing offer. No one had ever done anything for her like that.

Ranma had already accepted Horvath's offer to instruct him to be a wizard. Ranma had been literally bouncing off the walls with excitement. Despite his upcoming education, Ranma had chosen to continue practicing the martial arts. Nabiki could understand. They were a part of his life. She had been slightly surprised when Ranma had turned down the warrior Horrendous' offer to tutor him in the arts of war, but Ranma hadn't been very impressed with the warriors of Nox. They fought with weapons, which he detested, and he had told Nabiki that the day he wore a tin can to fight in was the day he turned into a girl.

The door opened and Ranma came in, followed by Horvath and a stout man with a huge red beard and a horned helm covering his head.

"Ah, Nabiki. This is my good friend Andwywn. I told you about him," Horvath said once the door was closed.

"Goodness, Old Man, you didn't say that she was such a beauty!" Andwywn declared. His rosy face— the part that wasn't covered in hair— had a broad, friendly smile plastered across it.

Nabiki couldn't help but blush a bit. She didn't feel beautiful, in her conservative Furinkan school uniform and with no make-up on, but flattery never hurt.

"Easy there, boy, I believe that young Ranma may be getting a bit jealous," Horvath said, pointing to Ranma who was glaring at Andwywn while trying not to be obvious about it.

"Hahaha. Not to worry, young man. I'm forty years too old for her, and a little too married at the moment. I couldn't begin to imagine the things my wife would do to me if she thought I was unfaithful." He finished with another hearty laugh.

Ranma managed to grin sheepishly, and hurried off to the room Horvath had given him to gather his few belongings before he and Horvath set out for Castle Galava and the Tower of Illusion, where he would learn to be a wizard.

"So, what will it be, Nabiki?" Horvath asked as he levered himself into a nearby chair with his staff.

"Will I be able to visit Ranma?" Nabiki couldn't believe that she was basing her decision around Ranma. He was only fourteen, and she had never cared one way or another about boys, but he was just… Ranma. Anything else seemed to not quite explain him well enough. He was also her only remaining link with Earth.

Andwywn grinned at Horvath, and in a whisper that could have been heard across the room, said, "Ah, young love." To Nabiki he said. "That, dearie, won't be a problem. Horvath had some of his fancy teleport pads installed in Ix. We'll be able to hop on by Galava any time, not to mention a few choice hunting grounds. I'll have you a proper conjurer in a year, thanks to those pads."

Nabiki was relieved beyond her ability to express. He was only fourteen! And he was arrogant, and rude, and crude, and… Nabiki forced herself to think about rocks in order to keep the blush on her cheeks from becoming too much more noticeable. "Well, then the answer is yes, I guess."

Andwywn clapped her on the shoulder with a meaty hand and said, "Run along, then, and gather your things. I'd imagine that you would want to say goodbye to Ranma, too."

Nabiki got the hint and left. Andwywn and Horvath wanted to talk privately.

"You were right, old friend," Andwywn said in wonder. "She has great potential. I can't wait to see how she handles the beasties. What of your research into their arrival?"

Horvath shook his head. "After two weeks of sleepless nights, I'm no closer to an answer. For my own health, I'm giving up on the matter. Whatever it was, it was obviously powerful, and the powerful don't always like to be named."

"Right you are. Is Nabiki an unarmed warrior like Ranma?" Andwywn didn't seem to understand the concept of an unarmed warrior.

"No, she claims that her sister practices such a way of fighting, but that she stopped training years ago."

"The whole concept of a warrior without weapons makes no sense to me. Are times changing so quickly around us?"

Horvath smiled slightly. "If you ever see Ranma practice his 'martial arts', you would understand why he needs no weapons. I've never seen anyone move so quickly as that boy does, not even Jandor when I had a haste spell cast on him. And more amazing is his strength. He accidentally uprooted one of my apple trees the day before yesterday when he kicked it too hard." Horvath had to laugh at his friend. The man looked ready to swallow his tongue.

"Surely you jest," Andwywn said, taking deep breathes to steady himself.

"No, it is no jest. At fourteen years of age, Ranma is nearly as strong as Horrendous or Jandor. Can you imagine what he will be like as an adult?" Horvath still had a few good decades in him. He planned to see Ranma achieve his potential. "A few good lads from that world of his, and we could have swept the northlands free of the necromancers a decade earlier."

Ranma and Nabiki came into the room, each carrying a bundle of clothing that Horvath had created for them. To Nabiki's amazement, there had also been a leather pouch full to bursting with gold coins waiting for her on her bed. Ranma told her that Horvath meant it for spending money while she learned from Andwywn.

"We're ready," Ranma said. He couldn't wait to be off and start learning magic. He would be the greatest martial artist ever, with Horvath's instruction. He didn't want to leave Nabiki, the only friend he had had since Ucchan, but she assured him that they would be allowed to visit each other often.

Ranma and Horvath walked with Nabiki and Andwywn to the teleport pad that would take them to Ix, Andwywn's village. The two old men exchanged their farewells and Andwywn stepped onto the pad, disappearing in a brief flash of blue light.

Nabiki ran up to Horvath and gave him a huge hug, thanking him for all that he had done for her and Ranma, then she looked from the teleport pad to Ranma and back again. In a rush, she threw her arms around Ranma and gave him a quick kiss before jumping onto the pad and disappearing in another flash of light.

Ranma was busily getting a full body blush when Horvath said, "You do right by that girl, and your world will be a much brighter place in your later years."

"Huh?" Ranma asked, distracted by Horvath's statement.

"Not to worry boy, you'll understand in a few years. Now we might as well get on to Galava. I'm sure that you're eager to begin your education."

Ranma nodded, and followed Horvath into his study where the teleport pad to his rooms in the Tower of Illusion was located.

Ranma's study of the magical arts began almost immediately upon his arrival at the Tower of Illusion. Horvath escorted him through the building's corridors, greeting several wizards along the way. They all welcomed Ranma, and wished him success as a wizard. Finally they came to a huge, vault-like library.

Horvath waved a glowing hand through the air, and a half-dozen books flew from their places on various shelves and landed on a nearby table. When he saw Ranma's disappointed frown, Horvath said, "Oh you don't have to actually read the book. Just open it up and the thing slams the knowledge right into your head."

Now that was Ranma's kind of book. It would have been difficult to read any way, especially since he didn't read or write the common language of Nox. Ranma sat down the old wooden table and pulled the first book from the pile. Strangely enough, he could read the book—well, the title anyway. Missiles of Magic. Ranma opened the book, and true enough, the knowledge was slammed into his head. Afterwards, he felt kind of woozy and his vision was blurred, but he was reasonably sure that he could caste the spell without error. Being in a room full of flammable books, he decided to wait until later to test it out. With similar speed and efficiency, Ranma learned the fireball, lesser heal, lightning, forcefield, and haste spell.

The haste and forcefield spells were non-hazardous, so Ranma gave them a go in the library. The forcefield formed a protective bubble around him that, while helpful, also restricted him from the close combat that he preferred. Haste was another matter entirely. It more than doubled his speed! Ranma was streaking up and down the aisles between shelves, trailing shimmering blue dots of light, when Horvath found him.

"I see that your time has been put to good use." Horvath led Ranma over to one of the glowing blue mana crystals and instructed him to stand close to it to allow his mana to recharge.

Ranma had been feeling a bit drained, but not in any physical way that he could identify.

A week passed. During this time Ranma was not introduced to any more spells, instead he was taught how to use them most effectively. He also began a regimen of meditation and magical exertion that would help to build of his mana capacity.

Ranma didn't spend all of his time on magic, though. Horvath had given him a magic staff on his second day at the Tower. It fired out balls of orange light that could knock a man off his feet, but Ranma didn't waste much time learning its use. The flashes were easy to direct, so instead he found the practice yard where the castle guards and knights practiced. Ranma quickly became a legend among the men who frequented the yard. With or without his staff, Ranma had defeated every man he went up against, without the use of magic.

Nabiki's time in Ix had been differently spent, but equally informative. When she and Andwywn had stepped off the teleport pad, they had been confronted by plump, smiling woman that turned out to be Andwywn's wife, Rosalyn. She greeted Nabiki with a quick hug and, with an arm around her shoulder, led her off into Ix.

"We must get you fitted for proper conjurer attire," she told Nabiki as she led the girl through the quiet streets of the little village. It was dusk and few people were out. "Andwywn was so excited to be getting a new apprentice. Tell me about yourself."

Nabiki couldn't help but be infected by Rosalyn's cheerful nature. She briefly described her home in Nerima and how she and Ranma had appeared near Horvath's home away from home.

"Most fortunate that Horvath found you. There are few men as good as that old goat." Rosalyn turned the corner and climbed a short set of steps into what appeared to be a general store or armory, or possibly both. Nabiki wasn't really sure.

Inside Nabiki was measured by an enormously fat man with a not-so-pleasant smell. He went into the back room, the storage room, Nabiki guesses, and came back with a virtual wardrobe, one of cotton and wool, another of leather and steel.

Nabiki didn't know what the armor was for, but she welcomed the comfortable cotton clothing over the copies of her school uniform that Horvath had made.

The next day after a breakfast of eggs and ham, Andwywn took Nabiki out behind his and Rosalyn's house. "Before I start teaching you the magic of a conjurer, there are things you must first know. How to treat your animals, creatures, demons, or whatever you decide to summon is most important, but we're going to spend today acquainting you with the weapons at our disposal."

By the end of the day Nabiki's arms were sore from repeated practice with a bow and the heavier crossbow, but she was certain that she could use one proficiently enough if she ever needed to. The next Andwywn had her dress in the heavy leather clothing before they went outside. She soon learned why.

Andwywn, with a few strange words and movements of his hands, called a wolf into being. "Every creature that you summon has a mind that works differently than any other. To properly control your animals, you must be able to give the proper commands."

That entire day Nabiki did nothing but learn how to control wolves, bears, and some huge spiders. The leather clothing never was needed, but it did make Nabiki feel safer around all those deadly claws and poisonous fangs. After dinner, Andwywn brought Nabiki three heavy green leather-bound books. She received the same instructions in their use as Ranma had, and before falling asleep that night, she could cast pixie swarm. lesser heal, and charm creature.

The rest of the week Nabiki and Andwywn spent most of their time in the forests around Ix. Nabiki had plenty of practice charming various forest creatures. By the time they returned at the end of the week, Nabiki could summon two attack pixies at a time and easily direct them with her mind.

Ranma, his staff held loosely in his right hand, stepped onto the teleport pad, and with a wave to Horvath, disappeared from the Tower of Illusion and reappeared in the village of Ix. He was met by Nabiki, Andwywn, and another woman. Ranma still remembered the peck of a kiss that Nabiki had gave him, and blushed as soon as he saw her smiling face.

"We'll let you two catch up," Rosalyn said, pulling her husband into the house by his beard.

"Um, hi," Ranma said nervously.

"Oh, cut it out, Ranma," Nabiki said. "It was just a little goodbye kiss." She walked over to Ranma, took hold of his and, and led him towards the back yard. In truth, Nabiki was as nervous as Ranma, but was much better at hiding her feelings than Ranma.

Once they passed through the gate into the back yard, Ranma was assaulted by an overactive, coal-black puppy. It barked squeakily at him, jumped up trying to snag his staff in its little teeth, and eventually settled for gnawing on the leather shin guard of Ranma's left leg.

"Good boy," Nabiki cooed to the puppy. "Protect mommy from the bad man."

The puppy seemed to understand Nabiki's command and laid into Ranma with all the more force. "Hey, get this little monster off of me!" Ranma cried.

"Don't be such a baby, Ranma. Char's teeth can't get through the leather, and he's just having fun."

"What kind of dog is he?" Ranma asked while waving his leg around in the air. Char held on, even as Ranma swung him around mercilessly.

"He's a wolf," Nabiki said excitedly. "Isn't he cute?"

Ranma, still flinging the wolf pup around like a doll said, "Sure… cute. Think maybe you could get him off of me before he chews my leg off?"

"I guess. You should be glad that Rosalyn wouldn't let me keep a bear in the house." Nabiki mentally commanded Char to release Ranma's leg.

The little puppy let go of his new chew toy and came to a somewhat graceful landing on his feet next to Nabiki. She reached down and scratched him behind the ears.

"So, what have you been up to?" Ranma asked after a couple minutes of awkward silence.

Nabiki hopped up to the top of the fence and sat down. "Learned a few spells, and Andwywn has been taking into the forest to learn about the animals that I can control and stuff. What about you?"

"About the same, except that instead of a forest I have to learn to meditate properly so that I can caste more spells. How about showing me the forest?"

Nabiki was grateful for Ranma's proposal. With something to do besides around and stare at the ground, the day would be much more pleasant.

"The forest is pretty wild, so watch your back," Nabiki warned.

"No problem, it's nothing I can't handle."

Nabiki rolled her eyes and led Ranma deeper into the woods. They had been walking along the barely visible trail for no more than five minutes when Ranma's staff whistled out, deflecting a stone from hitting Nabiki in the face.

"It's just an urchin, Ranma." Nabiki performed the spell to summon her little attack pixies.

"What are those?" Ranma asked when he saw the little winged, glowing child-like pixies.

"They're pixies. Andwywn says that they're like the missiles of magic that you wizards use. These just stick around for a while once summoned."

Ranma nodded and readied his staff. He didn't know how many of these urchin things were out there, and there didn't appear to be any mana crystals nearby to recharge from if he caste too many spells. The enchanted staff would have to do unless they ran into something bigger.

No sooner had Ranma raised his staff than a hail of rocks came flying from three different directions. Ranma's staff spun through the air, knocking most of the projectiles to the ground. Ranma saw a little creature behind a bush and assuming that it was an urchin, leveled his staff at it, releasing a handful of glowing balls of light. One of Nabiki's pixies trailed behind the lights, coming a moment to late to do any good as Ranma's attack killed their attacker. The pixie changed course and collided explosively with another urchin.

The rocks were still coming from two separate directions, and Ranma couldn't knock them all out of the air. The ones that did make it through didn't hurt much, but they were an annoyance that could add up to major pain. Ranma heard Nabiki caste a spell, and all of a sudden one of the urchins turned on its comrade and began pelting it with rocks instead of them.

Ranma saw that they were facing no serious threat and decided to open up some of is own magic on the little nuisances. After that, they made short work of their attackers, coming out with no serious injuries. Nabiki had, however, taken control of a pair of urchins.

"It looks like Char is going to have some new playmates, eh?"

"I don't know yet. Urchins are destructive little creatures, Rosalyn might not let me keep them."

"And how many of them did you say there were?" Andwywn asked once they had returned and told of the events in the forest.

"A dozen, if none of them ran away," Ranma answered.

Andwywn sighed. "I thought that I had run them out for at least another year. Oh, well. Nabiki and I are going to have to start sweeping the forest for them. Would you like to help?"



To be continued.

Author's Notes: I know that a lot of stuff happened in a little bit of time, but I'm trying to get Nabiki and Ranma up to their normal ages as quickly as possible, so… Anyway, next chapter they're are gonna be their normal ages and things will slow down from there. Also, in the game Nox, Andwywn is actually the master conjurer, but I made a few adjustments to his character and got him hitched for purposes of the story. No big deal really. C&C welcome at dark_phoneix@hotmail.com

Chapter 2
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