A Ranma ½ / story by
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.
Seeing as how Ranma had taught himself chaos magic on Nox, it wasn't hard for him to detect the huge amount of chaotic magic radiating from the innocent looking pools of water. "Nabiki, whatever you do, don't cast a spell around here," Ranma warned.
"Why not?" Nabiki asked. They were following a fat man who was supposed to be leading them out of the valley.
"This place is saturated with chaos magic. If you cast any spells, the chaos energy will try to replace the mana that you lose. I'm not exactly sure what would happen after that, but it would probably be explosive and bloody." He had stopped working with chaos magic once he realized the effects it had on reality, though at first no one could figure out why gravity was weakening or how water could boil at half the usual temperature.
"Okay, just remember to take your own advice. I know how you like to test yourself."
"We here, sirs," announced the guide. His home was a little bamboo shack that barely could be classified as that. The fat man swung open the unlatched door and stepped inside, only to return almost immediately, a battered traveling pack thrown over one shoulder.
"What is this place?" Ranma asked.
"Jusenkyo, the ancient springs of woe, honorable sirs. Many tragic tales, many tragic lives," the guide answered as he started leading them away.
"Is there anything special about it?" The place radiated so much chaos magic that there absolutely had to be some noticeable effect, even to untrained people.
(What followed was a brief description of Jusenkyo and its curses and stuff. If you don't know all that already, then you shouldn’t be reading Ranma fan fiction. ^_^)
Nabiki began to slowly edge herself away from the cursed springs, taking Ranma's hand and pulling him with her.
"Is there a cure for any of the curses?" Ranma asked the guide, who by now was a good distance away thanks to Nabiki's course adjustment.
"Some say using opposite Jusenkyo curse break curse, but never seen happen in entire life."
The rest of the day passed in relative silence, except for idle conversation between the young couple.
Cologne expertly bound Shampoo's broken wrist while simultaneously changing the dressing on the arrow wound she had received from the berserk demon. She was pleased to see how the relatively young girl didn't flinch as the bone was properly set. The cries of the more seriously wounded and dying filled the morning air.
The two spell casters had inflicted massive casualties on her people. At least thirty deaths could be attributed to their actions alone. The powerful demon they had left behind had been responsible another twenty-four dead and eighteen wounded, some of whom were also expected to die. Who were they? Where had they come from? Most importantly of all, though, how had two teenagers, only a few years older than Shampoo, gained such power? Magic was a mostly lost art, but the two teens had practically glowed with it, and they knew how to use their power.
The use of the demon was a clue. It could mean that they were creatures from hell in disguise, simple agents of hell who had been granted power, or least likely of all, just normal children who had stumbled across a cache of ancient knowledge. Happosai could summon some demons occasionally, but he hadn't sold his soul and wasn't a demon, even if he was a perverted old freak. Then there had been the young man's fighting prowess. He had moved with the incredible speed and ease of one who had trained heavily in the martial arts.
The door of the infirmary opened slowly, and the light steps of a warrior moved over to Cologne and Shampoo, neither of whom looked up.
"The other elders wish to know what shall be done to bring the attackers to justice," Su Li, the Council's sometimes messenger, sometimes enforcer, and permanent bootlicker said.
"That should do it, Shampoo," Cologne said, standing up. “I’ll return to check the dressing in a few hours."
Cologne allowed herself to be escorted to the Council hall, a moderately ornamental building of cut stone that rested in the center of the village. The room was quiet as she entered, with all her fellow elders' eyes trained solely on her.
"How are we going to exact vengeance upon our attackers?" asked one of the elders once Cologne had taken her seat.
"First of all, it should be known that the two youngsters acted in a perfectly peaceful manner until the girl was injured by your great-granddaughter," Ban Tai, Cologne's greatest rival on the Council pointed out.
"Are you saying that the death of nearly sixty amazons should go unpunished?"
Cologne raised her hand, a clear signal for everyone to shut up. “Yes, I know that Shampoo's actions may have been the catalyst that brought about the massacre, and that the two youngsters may have had no hostile intentions. But we must also consider if they are deserving of punishment." At this announcement, there was an uncharacteristic display of emotion from the ancient women gathered around the table.
Once again Cologne raised her hand and the shouting women all closed their mouths, though nearly all of them glared at their leader. “Also, whether they can even be punished needs to be determined. Both the boy and girl displayed phenomenal power, enough to practically ignore my most powerful attacks. We could be talking about divine entities on vacation, or just as easily be planning to attack a pair of archdemons. Would that be wise? We have already lost too many people to risk this."
"And how do you propose that we learn what they are?"
"How were we going to find them?" Cologne asked with a small smile.
"We planned to scry for them, of course," answered another elder almost before Cologne's question had died on her lips.
"I assume that everyone knows just how much effort will be required to conceal our attempts from them? If not, everyone can be assured that we will need to be as cautious as if we were observing Saffron himself."
The room filled with angry mutters and resigned sighs because of Cologne's announcement. They all had known what would be required of them, but hearing it from the oldest of the old just confirmed what they dreaded.
It had been surprisingly easy to convert diamonds into both Chinese and Japanese currency. Well, it had been for Nabiki. Ranma didn't know what he would have done he she weren't there. How did she know where to sell them? More importantly, how did Nabiki, who had left earth at the age of fifteen, know how to get false passports and travel papers in a seedy little Chinese port with a name that Ranma couldn't even pronounce? When Ranma voiced his amazement, his young wife grinned at him and said, “A couple of years before we went to Nox, I decided that I wanted to be a spy like on the TV. I spent almost an entire year reading cheesy spy novels and watching the television equivalent. I still can't believe that any of it was remotely useful."
Ranma shrugged. “I’m not complaining. I wish you had gotten us on a better ship, though. We do have a lot of yen, and it wouldn't have hurt to have a bigger bed."
"Ranma, don't you think that someone would notice if we started throwing money around? Our passports aren't real, you know. If some nobody government official decides to assert himself and check us out, we would probably end up fighting our way back to Japan."
Ranma looked around their tiny, dim, cubicle-like room that had no windows and only a single narrow cot, and said, “Char had a bigger house than this when he was still a puppy. And his bed was a lot softer."
Nabiki mock growled and pushed Ranma down onto the bed. “One way or another, I'm going to make you stop from complaining all the way back to Japan."
Genma dragged his mourning friend to the dinner table just in time to see Akane lay a steaming platter of… something on it. Without speaking, Genma stood up and threw Soun over his shoulder and slowly carried him back to the parlor. He wished Kasumi didn't have so much schoolwork to do this week. She sure was a good cook. Akane, on the other hand… Genma shuddered and laid his unblinking friend on a cushion. Neither of the men could take another food poisoning.
Oh, how had everything gone so very, very wrong? He had been having a friendly game of catch and pummel with his son, an exercise almost as fun as eating, when the foolish boy had tried to save a girl involved in an auto accident. But he himself had witnessed, from across the street, the explosion that had engulfed Ranma and the unfortunate girl. Genma had been crushed. Fourteen years of his life were gone. His son was gone. Nodoka was going to fillet him.
Genma was certain he had gone to hell. But it only got worse. The authorities couldn't even find any remains of his son to be honored. In despair he had stumbled to his friend Soun's home, only to discover that his daughter Nabiki had just been lost in an auto accident. Genma put two and two together and that's when reality itself seemed to collapse around his ears. Not only was his son gone, and with him any chance of uniting the schools— much less carrying on the Saotome branch of anything goes— but his only friend in the whole world had turned into a zombie.
The loss of Nabiki, combined with the loss of his wife and all hopes of his and Genma's glorious dream being fulfilled, was just too much for Soun. He could no longer function.
With a sigh, Genma set up the shogi board between himself and Soun, and began playing against himself, imagining all of Soun's most devastating cheating techniques and carrying them out against his side. After a few minutes, he sighed again and gave up. It just wasn't the same. Maybe he should just call Nodoka and get it over with.
Ranma only vaguely recognized Nerima as he and Nabiki walked down the sidewalk. Nabiki, on the other hand, had spent most of her life in the ward and recognition came to her easily. “It all looks exactly the same," she said, her voice betraying her surprise.
"It's only been a little over three years, Nabiki," Ranma commented. “How much could it have changed?"
Nabiki blushed at how easily she had let that little fact slip by her. “I guess you're right, but I mean it really feels like nothing has changed."
"Maybe nothing has changed. What if we get to your house and no time has gone by at all? Heh. That would make you the oldest sister."
Nabiki shivered and smiled. “That would be weird. It really would be good, though. That way no one would have had time to grieve for me. Dad always has been emotional; I'd hate to see what my death would do to him."
As they walked, Ranma tried to imagine what his father had done when he had traveled to Nox. Probably just found another kid to train.
"Oh, shit!" Nabiki exclaimed, drawing Ranma out of his thoughts.
"What?" Ranma asked. He looked to Nabiki. She was holding a newspaper in her hands and trembling slightly. He absentmindedly passed the man at the newsstand a five hundred yen bill, and led Nabiki away without bothering to collect his change. “You okay, Nabiki?"
Shakily, Nabiki turned the paper and pointed to the upper left hand corner. It read Tokyo Times, April 22, 2001. Ranma had never really paid attention to the specific date when he and his father traveled, but he knew the year that he and Nabiki left earth was 2001. "I guess that not too much time has gone by after all." And as he said it, Ranma thought over the revelation. It had not been spring for too long in Japan when Ranma and Nabiki found themselves on Nox. April was definitely early spring. ‘Oh shit’ was right! They hadn't been gone from earth for more than a few weeks, but more than three years had passed on Nox. At least they didn't have to worry about anyone bothering the Castle while they were away.
"We really have traveled through time," Nabiki said. “This is more than I could have hoped for, Ranma!" She jumped up and gave him a quick, but passionate kiss-hug combination. “We can make sure that everyone knows we're okay!"
Ranma went along with Nabiki. She had a loving, normal family to think about. He had Oyaji. If the bastard found him, chances were that he would try to make him leave Nabiki and be his student once again. Ranma smiled in grim anticipation of that. Besides learning magic, he had devoted a considerable amount of time to improving his martial skills on Nox. Nabiki had been pretty helpful with that, since she could call up an infinite and varied number of powerful sparring partners.
Nabiki grabbed Ranma around the shoulders and jumped into arms that automatically reached out to hold her. “To the rooftops!" she exclaimed happily. “I’ll give you directions as we go,"
Oh well, it could be worse. Ranma smiled down at Nabiki and leapt to the top of a two-story gourmet grocery.
"Kiyah!" Akane shouted, murdering another brick. Angrily, she wiped her eyes. It was just dust from the crushed concrete. She wasn't crying!
In short order, three dozen innocent concrete bricks met their maker. It wasn't fair! First her mother died, leaving them all alone with a mostly-useless wreck of a father. Then Nabiki died, leaving Akane and Kasumi with a completely useless father, and a fat slob that ate more than everyone else combined. At least the man was taking care of her father. Maybe she could get him to train her some—
"Akane," Kasumi said from the entrance to the dojo, "could you make a quick trip to the market? I need some more cabbage and a new bottle of soy sauce."
Akane stood up, wiping dust from her eyes. “Sure Kasumi. Just let me get cleaned up a bit."
"Okay, Ranma, set us down here. My house is just across the street," Nabiki said to Ranma as he leapt across the rooftops of Nerima.
"Whoa, nice place!" Ranma exclaimed when he saw the Tendo Home and the connecting dojo from the air. Even he knew that that much property in Tokyo was expensive.
Nabiki liked the Castle better, but her old childhood home was a pretty comfortable place. “It’s not bad."
They walked across the street in the normal, non-superhuman way and were soon standing within the compound itself, at the door to the house. “What if they don't recognize you? You have filled out quite a bit since we got to Nox."
"I don't look that much different." Nabiki swept her shoulder length brown hair back. “They are my family, Ranma. They’ll recognize me."
"I suppose so. Pop would probably recognize me, too." A minute passed and Ranma asked, “We just going to stand here?"
Nabiki chuckled and opened the door. “I am a little nervous."
Ranma followed Nabiki into the foyer and from there into main house.
"Yes, can I help you?" a girl Nabiki recognized as Kasumi asked. It was amazing how her big sister was now shorter than her and looked much less mature than she once had. Before Nabiki or Ranma could say anything, though, Kasumi gasped and dropped the laundry basket she had been carrying. "Nabiki?" she asked a moment before fainting.
Ranma rushed forward and caught Kasumi before she could hit the hard floor. “From your description I'd guess that this is Kasumi?"
Nabiki nodded and said, “Follow me." She led Ranma up to Kasumi's room where they deposited the overwhelmed girl in her bed.
"I wonder if that's how they'll all react."
Nabiki grinned and said, “Just wait until you see Dad. He's liable to have a stroke."
Ranma briefly wondered if magic could heal the brain damage associated with a stroke. Probably. There was one way to find out. “Shall we?" Ranma offered Nabiki his arm and a grin.
Nabiki entwined her arm with Ranma's and together they walked back downstairs.
It wasn't too hard to find Soun. His almost constant blubbering led the pair straight to the parlor. Nabiki was embarrassed for Ranma to see her father acting like a baby, but then she heard Ranma gasp and say, “Pop?"
The fat man in a white gi looked up along with her father, and both of them turned deathly pale in an instant, then their eyes got fairly close to saucer size, then their mouths fell open. Unable to process the information their brains were receiving, Soun and Genma fell backwards like dead trees, their heads impacting with a THUMP on the wooden floor.
"I told you they would recognize me," Nabiki pointed out.
Ranma nodded and asked, “What in hell is my father doing here?"
"Our families are the only two that practice Anything Goes, so it isn't too hard to believe that they would know each other."
Akane walked into the house warily, a bottle of soy sauce held in one hand like a club. The front door had been left slightly ajar. Kasumi would never have done that. Adding to her fears was a basket of overturned laundry in the middle of the hallway. Oh, no! Someone had broken in and killed her family!
Akane ran down the hallway and into the parlor where her father and his friend Genma spent most of their time. Sure enough, there were two people bent over the two men, both of whom were dead.
With an inarticulate roar of rage and grief, Akane threw herself across the room and prepared to take vengeance.
To be continued.
Author's Notes: Yeah, pretty short chapter, I know, but it was a good place to end it. Took a short break from writing (only 5 days) and got a lot of sleep and read a few books. I should be studying for final exams but I already know that I'm gonna fail two classes and the others are nothing to worry about; so no worries. I've been getting a lot of email lately and it's really hard to respond to them all, so I'm gonna try to answer a couple of the major questions now.
As always, C&C welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
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