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Chapter 4

A Ranma ½ story by
Dark Phoenix

Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.  Terry Brooks and the publisher of his books own all the characters and ideas that I use from them.

Author's Notes: This story will be crossing over with a trilogy of books by Terry Brooks: 'Running With the Demon', 'A Knight of the Word', and 'Angel Fire East'. Characters from these books may make short appearances throughout the story but it will mainly be Ranma with the concept of the trilogy.

Nabiki was just trying to remember what a Knight of the Word was a few minutes after the teacher had asked her a question, when she heard the explosion.

Ryoga ran for his life. This was all Ranma's fault, he was sure. Just another reason that the pigtailed boy must die, as far as he was concerned. He dodged out of the way of another one of the energy balls that the flying girl had been shooting at him for the last three hours.

"Get back here, you pervert!!" she yelled then hurled a much larger ball of energy at him, this one easily a meter in diameter.

He narrowly dodged it; the explosion that it generated did, however, throw him a dozen meters forward just in time to miss being pummeled by a dozen small balls of energy. Ryoga barely noticed the wall In his path that he plowed through. Not realizing that he was at Furinkan High, and as lost as ever, he continued running and dodging until one of the girl's attacks, a beam of emerald energy, hit him in the back and knocked him to the ground.

"I've got you now." The girl held her hands above her head and began building up energy within them. "Take this!"

Nearly every student in the school was observing the one-sided battle in awe.

"Wow, even Ranma can't fly," stated one of the boys in Ranma's class.

"Isn't he that boy that's always fighting with Ranma?" asked a girl as she pointed at Ryoga.

"Yeah, it looks like she's about to kill him too."

Akane watched in horror as the girl, dressed in an unfamiliar school uniform, readied what appeared to be a killing blow. "Ranma, you've got to stop her before she hurts Ryoga!"

Ranma was busy fighting an internal battle. Should he let P-chan get wasted and have a good number of problems die with him, or should he save Bacon-breath? In the end, his honor wouldn't allow him to see a defenseless—well, in Ryoga's case, just too retarded to fight back— person be harmed. Throwing open the window, he hopped onto the sill and in a single leap, covered the distance to Ryoga.

"Take this!" The ball of energy, now pulsing in a rainbow of colors raced towards its target only to be knocked aside by a red blur.

Ranma stood beside Ryoga, who was staring at his attacker, mumbling, "I didn't see anything," repeatedly.

"I don't know who you are or what you want to hurt P-chan for, but if anybody is going to beat the pig up, it's me!" yelled Ranma to the girl.

"How dare you interfere with my quest for justice?!" raged the girl.

Wondering if she was somehow related to Kuno, Ranma was narrowly missed by one of the girl's multicolored energy balls. "Hey, what's the big idea!?"

"A friend of mine enemy is also an enemy," misquoted the girl, who then fired a rapid series of energy balls at Ranma, forcing him to dodge frantically around the courtyard.

Ranma's foot caught on a piece of debris causing him to stumble and fall to the ground just as another salvo of energy balls rained down. This time they all hit their mark.

The entire became quiet for a moment. Had Ranma Saotome finally been defeated? By a girl no less?

The silence was quickly broken though by twin screams of, "Ranma!" one from Akane and strangely enough one from Nabiki.

"Now for you, pervert," said the girl when she turned to once again face Ryoga.

From the still-unsettled dust that surrounded the area where Ranma had been hit shot a blur of red, which resolved itself into Ranma. Hanging in the air he called out to his and Ryoga's attacker, "Want to try that again?"

Spinning around to confront Ranma, the girl's eyes became as wide as those of every other person viewing the fight. "How—?"

"You've got one more chance," Ranma said as he suddenly grew an aura of fire that strongly resembled a huge bird.

A look of fury sudden crossed the girl's face. She said, "I, Rumiko Takahashi, of the Takahashi clan of psychomancers and greatest of my line, challenge you to a duel to the death!"

Used to numerous challenges, Ranma took it in stride and smiled condescendingly at Rumiko. "I don't fight girls."

Rumiko looked ready to burst a blood vessel. Her body began to emit light in destructive waved that tore the foliage from nearby trees and pushed the still stupidly staring Ryoga into the side of the building.

"Arrrggghhh! Die!!!" A beam of intense white light shot from the mass of light that was now so bright that the girl could no longer be seen.

Ranma's aura drew in on itself and formed into a dense red bubble just as the beam struck him. The beam enveloped the bubble and continued on as far as the eye could see. When the light finally faded, nearly all of the students who were watching had minor sunburns, and the direct area around Rumiko was a charred testament to the strength of her aura. Rumiko herself was on her hands and knees panting from the expenditure of energy. Though completely exhausted, she happily looked to where a nice pile of ashes should have fallen, but nearly burst into tears when she saw a now deeply-tanned Ranma smirking at her.

"I win." Then before she could react, Ranma rushed forward and struck a pressure point on the back of her neck, rendering her unconscious.

An hour later, everyone was back in class and the teacher was trying to teach. Government agents had arrived within minutes of the incident and had taken Rumiko into protective custody, no doubt so no overzealous scientists could experiment on her. Ryoga had wondered off after telling Ranma that he 'Hadn't seen anything.' Now Ranma fidgeted nervously as he once again surveyed the room. He had no aversion to being the center of attention in a fight, but the slack-jawed expressions of complete astonishment he was receiving from everyone, including Akane, had him on edge and jumping at the slightest sound. So what if he had flown and played with fire? In his mind, he had just given away a serious advantage of surprise to save someone that he had hated for nearly a year.

"Something wrong, Mister Saotome?" asked the teacher sarcastically. He had convinced himself that he imagined the entire incident. It was just stress getting to him.

"How about making everybody stop staring at me."

Easily enough done. "In the hall, Saotome."

Ranma didn't care, in fact he was grateful. Staring at the wall was a lot less boring than math class and it was true that he could get away from the unblinking gazes of his classmates. Soon, though the class ended and Ranma was forced to return to the classroom; but this time the teacher who had come to teach history joined in the new sport of Ranma watching.

Finally the lunch bell rang and the students rushed out of the classroom to gossip about Ranma's latest fight, leaving Ranma alone. Thankful for some peace, he took from his school bag the bento that Kasumi made for him and began to eat.

Nabiki walked the halls in a daze, questions floating through her mind. The memories that she still retained from the latest dream contained Ranma doing the exact same thing to demons and robots that he did to the crazy girl trying to kill Ryoga earlier. How was that possible, though? She wasn't psychic, and the dreams were just that—dreams— so how did she already know that Ranma could fly and make fire? Luckily, her associates were handling business so her little break from her lunchtime duties wasn't costing her any profit.

"Maybe I should ask Ranma." Nah, he didn't have any reason to help her; she didn't deserve his help. In the quiet hall, Nabiki heard a loud thumping coming from one of the classrooms, Ranma and Akane's homeroom to be exact. "Akane's probably beating up on Ranma because he didn't tell her what he could do."

Ranma, enthusiastically beating his head on his desk, didn't notice Nabiki enter the room.

"Stupid me," he accused himself. "I just had to go and do that. Now everyone is even more scared of me, just like in the dreams…" Ranma trailed off as he looked up and saw Nabiki staring at him wide eyed. "Not you, too," he muttered dejectedly.

"What dreams?" Nabiki asked. Could Ranma be experiencing the same dreams that she was?

"Oh, uh, just some nightmares," he replied nervously.

Nabiki could easily see that there was something Ranma wasn't telling her so she asked, "Are you a Knight of the word?"

Ranma's response was to roll his eyes into the back of his head and faint dead away onto the floor.

Ranma's reaction was not what she had expected. It confirmed that they were somehow sharing similar dreams, Ranma's possibly being like hers; ones where they were married and wandering an apocalyptic wasteland. Nabiki glanced at her watch. If she hurried, she could make a call before class restarted.

"Nekohanten, Cologne speaking."

"Is Shampoo around?"

"No, she is unfortunately sick in bed with the flu. May I ask who's speaking, and why you wished to know of my great-granddaughter's whereabouts?"

"It's Nabiki Tendo, and I didn't want Shampoo to know that I'm bringing Ranma by there after school today."

"Why do you plan on bringing son-in-law by the restaurant?"

"For reasons too complicated and important to say over the phone."

"Very well, I'll be waiting."

When Ranma woke up to find no Nabiki in sight, he assumed he had just had another bad dream and returned to his desk seconds before students began piling into the classroom.

Once again the subject of intense study by his peers, Ranma decided to attempt sleep, something he had been avoiding since five minutes after school had begun, in an attempt to experience as few dreams as possible.

"Come on Ranma, I want you to tell me how you did that stuff today," said Akane. She firmly gripped his shoulder and pulled him alongside her as they traversed the hallways of Furinkan.

Halfway to the gate, Nabiki broke from a conversation with an associate and joined her sister and Ranma, who was being as much dragged as he was walking on his own.

"Just who I wanted to see." Akane said a quick greeting and continued towards home. "Akane, I need to borrow Ranma," she said, finally after figuring out how to get her sister out of the picture for a small time.

"What, so you can sell him to those government guys who took that crazy girl away? I'm sure the pervert wouldn't mind a chance to get another fiancée."

"Hey! I haven't said anything about a fiancée," said Ranma, jerking himself free of Akane's grip. "Why would I need more fiancées when I've got such a wonderful one as you?" The words may have been kind but they were said with such sarcasm that Kasumi would have taken offense.

"What's that supposed to mean?!"

"I think it was an insult," replied Nabiki helpfully.

Ranma found himself caught off guard by the descending mallet, since he was too busy directing an unintentional look of hurt at Nabiki. Akane, proper punishment dealt in full, left her stunned fiancé on the sidewalk as she ran home.

"What'd you do that for? You knew she would react like that." He got to his feet, none the worse for wear.

"I'm sorry," apologized Nabiki sincerely, "but I needed your help, and Akane would have been a problem."

Irritated, he asked, "Well, what do you need my help for?"

"I can't explain here."

"Well, where can you explain why you, of all people, need help?" This Nabiki was nothing like the one in his dreams. His Nabiki was warm and caring; the real Nabiki was little more than heartless.

"The Nekohanten." She winced in anticipation.

Understanding dawned then; she intended to trick him into a date with Shampoo, or was planning on getting compromising photos of him with the amorous Amazon. Ranma turned on his heel and proceeded to walk home.

"Wait!" She ran to him. "Please, this is important." Nabiki knew that she was begging and pretty much making a fool of herself, but she had to find out. She had plenty of time and the influence to squash any rumors this behavior could bring if witnessed by others.

Ranma turned and in Nabiki's eyes he saw desperation and fear. It hurt him a bit to see the face of someone he was growing to care about in the world of his dreams suffering, even if the person behind the face was only a pale shadow of his Nabiki. That small hurt didn't show on his face though, it was buried far too deep in his subconscious.

"Shampoo is sick. She won't be able to bother you, she won't even know that you're there," pleaded Nabiki. She nearly took hold of his hand to reassure him but feared the reaction that would almost certainly result.

"No tricks?"

"None, I just need your and Cologne's help with a problem." She didn't mention the title 'Knight of the Word' since the last time he heard it, Ranma had fainted. If she had told him the problem was due to their shared dreams, there would have been nothing she could do to make him cooperate, not anymore.

The sign read closed, but they entered anyway. Nabiki assumed that Cologne had respected her request of privacy and closed the restaurant, and not just because of Shampoo's illness.

"Old Ghoul, we're here." Ranma sat himself at a booth and began drumming his fingers on the tabletop impatiently.

A short series of 'thuds'— the sound of Cologne using her staff to travel— and the two teenagers were facing her. She took a seat across from them and waited.

"Okay, what am I here for?" asked Ranma.

"I too would like to know," added Cologne.

Nabiki was glad that she had Ranma trapped in the booth, her seat on the outside; otherwise he would surely bolt when she answered. "I have been having disturbing dreams the last few days. I believe Ranma is too."

"W-what dreams?" Ranma asked, nearly in a panic. It had to be a bad coincidence.

"The ones where you and I are married. Am I right?"

Cologne, despite a life centuries long where she had experienced wondrous things, facefaulted.

Ranma hung his head in shame, the near opposite of what Nabiki was expecting. He couldn't deny it. If Akane found out that he was having dreams of being married to her middle sister, he had little chance of escaping at the least a long hospital stay. "No tricks, huh?"

He sounded like his life was over. Nabiki nearly cried at the thought of Ranma reacting that way to a marriage with her. She tried to brush his cheek with her hand in a simple reassuring gesture, but he slapped it away without looking. Why was she acting like this? Her intentions had been to find a way to rid herself of the emotion altering dreams, not this.

Cologne who had watched the little scene, asked, "What are these dreams like, exactly? Are they surreal or hallucinatory?"

It was easy for Nabiki to regain some control over the emotions threatening to break free; she had practiced for years. "No, they are very vivid."

"What are you doing in them?"

"In mine, Ranma and I are wandering across the globe after the apocalypse. Both of us are in the service of some force called the Word. Most of the details and facts of the dreams fade away shortly after I wake up, though."

Ranma made no attempt to contradict Nabiki. Cologne looked ready to burst.

"So can you make them go away?" Ranma asked impatiently.

Shaking her head slowly, the elder said, "This shouldn't be happening." She suddenly seemed to show her years, even more so than normal.

"What shouldn't be happening?" Nabiki was disturbed the change in Cologne's posture, she seemed burdened.

"Because of an oath I took before either of your grandparents were born, I can tell you no more than to seek answers in Gwynedd." Her answer carried with it finality that Nabiki knew was unshakable; Ranma totally ignored it.

"What do you mean you can't tell us?! This is important! Someone is screwing around with my head, and after all the times that you and Shampoo have done that, it's gotten pretty damned annoying!!" Ranma's battle aura was now dimly evident, a testament to lose of the normally ferocious grip he maintained on it.

"I'm truly sorry, but I can tell you no more."

Ranma, in one fluid, and seemingly impossible motion, flipped himself sideways over Nabiki, and then stalked out of the Nekohanten.

"Isn't there anything you can tell us?" asked Nabiki.

"Ask your questions, and I'll answer them if I can."

Nabiki didn't know what to ask. All possible information that she could have received from the woman had been effectively cut off by her oath. "What's a psychomancer?" she finally asked out of personal curiosity.

"That I can answer, but tell me, where did you here that term?"

"At school today, a girl claiming to be one attacked and nearly killed Ryoga. If Ranma hadn't stopped her, I'm sure that she would have."

"Son-in-law fought a psychomancer and sustained no visible injuries? That is incredible," wondered the ancient woman.

"What is a psychomancer though?"

"Psychomancers are people with the ability to control a substance or form of energy with their mind. The Amazon Nation was founded by a female psychomancer who could control water."

Nabiki immediately asked, "Are there any side-effects? I mean, bad ones?" She couldn't hide the concern in her voice.

Cologne answered, "There are several side-effects," Nabiki's tensed," none of them are harmful, though. Why would you wish to know?" she asked suspiciously.

"Today when Ranma fought that girl, the psychomancer, he flew around and surrounded himself in fire, and there was that giant firebird aura, too."

"That does not mean son-in-law is a psychomancer. He could be using his chi to imitate the fire that you speak of, and flight is not unheard of; Prince Herb of the Musk flew when he fought son-in-law."

To Nabiki, Cologne sounded too ready to believe her own theory. "It was real fire, trust me. I've seen enough chi blasts and battle auras this past year to be able to tell the difference." Now it was Nabiki's turn to ask a question. "What side-effects do they experience?"

"Once the power awakens within a person, their lifespan increases ten-fold, diseases cannot take hold in their bodies, and they gain immunity to whatever it is they control: Ranma would be immune to fire if he is indeed a psychomancer."

"I guess I don't really have anymore questions. Thanks for your time." Nabiki stood and exited the Nekohanten.

When Nabiki was gone, Cologne quickly hopped to her room. If Ranma were indeed a psychomancer, he would be an even greater addition to the tribe, but if he was to be a Knight, things were about to get interesting.

"Stupid Old Ghoul!" shouted Ranma. He was sitting under the canal bridge, contenting himself with melting small pebbles and throwing them into the water. He was so distracted that he didn't even notice Nabiki behind him.

"I thought I'd find you here," she said after sitting down next to Ranma.

"You found me. So, what do you want?" he asked gruffly.

Nabiki recoiled at the anger in Ranma's voice. "Please, Ranma, can we talk?"

"About what?"

"The dreams that you and I are having and what you did today."


To be continued.

Author's Notes: In the coming chapters, more details will be revealed and Ranma and Nabiki will face their feelings.

Chapter 5
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