A Ranma ½ story
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.
Chapter 1, Vengeance and Consequences
The woman died, blood gurgling out of what had once been her throat, but before the killing blow had been dealt, she'd screamed. Ranma cursed himself for a fool. He should have finished the bitch off and had fun later. Surely the sentries had heard the shriek. Nearly a hundred women patrolled the village and its surroundings at night, as much for the safety of those within its walls as to keep in the unfortunate husbands and slaves who did not have the power to escape.
Well, they would all be dead soon, anyway. So what if he couldn't personally kill as many as he'd hoped? Cologne was all that mattered. She was tough; there was a chance she could survive the incoming air strike. Besides, he owed her, owed her big time. She'd stolen his life away from him, literally, and Ranma was determined she know the downfall of her entire culture rested on her shoulders, the product of her actions.
The martial artist, his black fatigues making him nearly indistinguishable in the moonless night, shrugged out of his backpack. From within, Ranma retrieved several pieces of armor and a pair of knee braces. A few seconds later he had secured the ultra-light polymer bracers and locked them into a pair of gloves specially reinforced and armored with multiple locking panels of the same material that formed the bracers. The knee braces snapped into place and were tightened with a small ratchet before sliding the shin guards into their holding slots.
The armor wasn't purely for protection, though Ranma had had that in mind when he'd requisitioned it. To effectively combat Cologne, he'd have to slip into the soul stream, a higher dimension of existence only attainable if one moved at speeds several times that of sound, as well as resonated properly with the surrounding environment. Ranma had learned early on that the speed required to stay in the soul stream put immense stress on his joints, and the braces would keep him from making any damaging mistakes during the upcoming fight. Cologne didn't have this disadvantage. Her joints were little more than worn stubs of bone, made usable by perfectly controlled chi.
Cologne ghosted through the chaos that was her village ablaze. Repeated drills had turned the warriors into an effective firefighting force, and bucket lines were already forming to combat the major fires, yet the flames still spread, too well entrenched in some cases, but mostly too numerous to contain. The cellar carved into the bedrock beneath the communal council building had a number of magical artifacts, one of which had been originally crafted to provide protection against the Phoenix Lord of Jusendo, but also served as a rather effective fire extinguisher.
Hopefully another elder, one closer to the cellar, had already thought to retrieve the jewel, but Cologne couldn't take any chances. Winter was coming, and if the flames reached the food stores many could starve to death, maybe even forcing the tribe to resort to its long abandoned custom of raiding the surrounding villages for food instead of the just the more expendable goods, such as men.
The old woman's heart sank and a slow burning anger rose within her breast as she arrived to see the council building little more than a pile of smoking rubble. Sabotage, it could be nothing else. That building had been stone, the only wood within its structure was aged oak so dense and tough that it too may as well have been stone. The Musk? Unlikely, they were too few in numbers to hope to fend off an Amazon war party, even with the help of their sovereign, Prince Herb. The Phoenix People were much more likely culprits. Their wings gave them a definite mobility advantage, allowing them to strike silently, avoiding guards stationed on the walls, and Saffron wasn't the only member of that race capable of generating and manipulating fire.
There would be time for recrimination and retribution later; she had to retrieve the jewel from the rubble. The cellar was sturdily built and chances were high that it hadn't caved in. Other elders were arriving, finally. Cologne growled a warning to the woman to stay alert as she focused her senses on the soil below. She had barely expanded her perceptions a foot into the ground when a pained shout reached her ears. Slowly, the Amazon drew back into herself, automatically seeking out the source of the cry. One of her fellow elders was down, obviously dead from the removal of her head. Darkness and blood obscured the corpse's physical presence, yet Cologne could feel the lingering traces of chi well enough to know that the victim was one of her oldest and dearest friends, Shampoo. Her own great-granddaughter was named after the fallen woman.
Less than a second had passed since her withdrawal from the ground, but another strangled cry sounded to Cologne's left. Spinning around, Cologne saw an older Amazon woman clutching at the stump that had once been her arm. Before she could render any assistance, the woman's hand glowed with an intense yellow aura, liberally streaked with the orange of pain. With a primal scream of purest pain, the woman cauterized her own wound and ran off to join her sisters in the effort to save the village.
Then Cologne felt it. A disturbance in the harmonics of the soul stream, that mysterious place that acted as an intermediary stop between life and death. Reflexively, she sent out feelers of chi, shifting them to the proper pattern to pierce the stream. The action triggered a response, something she hadn't expected. It came as a shock, a literal blow of psychic energy that left Cologne reeling, her staff the only means of supporting herself.
"Ah, Cologne, fancy meeting you here," came a voice from behind. Now she knew her enemy, now she had something to fight. Cologne turned to face Ranma, seeing the man as a dark splotch of shadow backlit by the flames in the background. Closer examination revealed that he wore armor. It wasn't much, compared to the garb of a modern-day soldier, and even less impressive than that used by Amazons in battle. That Ranma wore armor meant he was serious, deadly serious.
Ranma's use of the soul stream, a carefully guarded Amazon secret, would have warranted his death, and the massive damage to the village meant weeks, if not months of torture, but the murder of an elder of the tribe was a fate worse than death, an eternal existence imprisoned within the springs of woe, eternal agony and despair his only companions. Now, how was she supposed to subdue him for the punishment to be dealt?
He watched as Cologne stared at him impassively. Had old age finally caught up with her just when his revenge would be wrought? Without turning his attention from the woman before him, Ranma's arm blurred, launching a small, flattened metal projectile at an unfortunate Amazon who wandered too close. In mid-flight a mechanism activated causing the device to pivot on itself, seemingly growing into a flying cross. Before it struck the woman a moment later, the change repeated, leaving a spinning blade three feet long to bisect the woman at a forty five degree angle from shoulder to hip.
"Aren't you going to say something?" Ranma queried. He had roughly two hours to get out of the valley, plenty of time at the speeds he could move, but this moment had been years in coming, and further delays were annoying.
"What is there to say, young warrior?" Cologne responded, unshaken by the gruesome death of her fellow tribeswoman.
Ranma shrugged. "Nothing, really, though it would be nice to hear an apology. I mean, you did destroy my life. Not that it was much of a life in the first place, but it was all I had, and you took it upon yourself to interfere with it. Oh well, all that doesn't matter anyway. I'll kill you in a few minutes— I'm not arrogant enough to believe I can take you too easily— then watch as your village is destroyed, along with every man, woman, and child." He looked at the surrounding village, the immediate area nearly deserted as everyone expended their efforts in a futile attempt to save their homes. "Twisted as it may sound, all this just brings a warm glow to my heart. Kinda funny, I'd say, since I am what you made me, after all."
Something between the rasping of steel and stretching of rubber sounded within the nearly silent clearing, and from the armored bracelet on each of Ranma's forearms, a three foot blade of dull gray metal grew. Each was so slender as to nearly disappear if looked at crosswise, and they terminated in needle fine points capable of piercing the protective plating of a tank.
"And the battle is joined," Ranma heard Cologne whisper as she blurred, fading into the stream.
It was the swords that made the final difference. Cologne had the reach advantage, even with Ranma's weapons, but the martial artist was as fast as her and used the twin blades to weave an impossible defense, as she found out when several inches of her staff became wood chips after attempting an early debilitating shiatsu strike.
Sound didn't exist within the stream, and very little energy was transmitted from it to the world of life, so the battle, a spectacular display of skill and power, went unwitnessed by the frantically laboring Amazons. Chi blasts that would have vaporized acres of real estate did little more than kick up puffs of dust, and physical impacts possessing the force of speeding locomotives barely shook the earth.
At uncommon intervals, both combatants would slip back into the real for a breath of air, returning too quickly for their opponent to gain an advantage. Soon, Cologne felt the draining effect of remaining in the soul stream for such and extended period of time. She had to end the fight before her reserves became too depleted to sustain her deficient body. A burst of speed, the equivalent of to the kachu tenshin amaguriken, but several magnitudes faster and designed specifically for use within the stream, propelled Cologne forward. She saw that Ranma would not be able to bring his blades around to properly defend himself and was relieved, for this was a fight whose outcome could decide the future of her people.
Alas, it was not to be.
Ranma smirked internally, ignoring the throbbing in his knees and ankles. He had a minute, two at the most, before he would need a serious break and time to regenerate the damage done to his legs by such high-speed combat. Thankfully, the old ghoul fell for the bait, leaving herself open in an attempt to take him down before her own flagging strength failed.
The look upon the bulging, bloodshot eyes as Ranma's sword sprung from a forward position to its preprogrammed back facing one and speared Cologne to the ground would live in his memory forever, a moment to be cherished for decades to come. With the cessation of motion, they both returned from the soul stream.
"So much for three thousand years of Amazon knowledge, eh?" Ranma taunted. The diminutive body pinned below him convulsed, coughing up a bloody froth. "Hurts, don't it, knowing that you've failed, that everyone you care about is going to die because of mistakes you made?" A slightly unstable chuckle was followed by one last statement. "Then again, getting run through like that probably doesn't feel all that great, either."
Ranma stood, withdrawing the blade from Cologne's back and using the proper blink sequence to resheath the swords within his bracers. A minute build up of chi drew Ranma's attention and he bent to look at his victim, the true object of his wrath. She raised a trembling hand into the air, pointing vaguely in his direction, and released a spark of white energy. Ranma sensed the threat embodied within the harmless appearing gesture, and leapt clear as the spark expanded into a twenty foot wide column of light that turned the area he had stood on, as well as Cologne's body, into a pool of molten rock.
Looked like the old bitch had one last trick left in her. It was a nice one, too; maybe he could duplicate it? Time for that later. Ranma looked back to the village he and Cologne had left behind during their fight. The fires were dying down and the sky no longer glowed as intensely red as it had during the first few minutes of his excursion into arson.
Ranma relaxed, leaning back in his seat as the pilot engaged the engines and the rotors shrieked into activity before being quieted by sonic dampeners. The dull thump of high explosives sounded throughout the clearing, and needles fell from the disturbed trees, as Ranma's air support finished what he hadn't.
Now he could see about getting some therapy, or at the very least, a vacation. Yes'm, he deserved a vacation. He'd just single-handedly— well, almost single-handedly— destroyed a serious threat to global security. No one who knew of the Amazons wanted a spy or agent with access to their abilities or paranormal artifacts free to wreak havoc.
The stealth chopper set down on the carrier deck with a slight jar. Ranma unbuckled his safety harness, clapped the pilot on the shoulder for a job well done, and went to get some rest.
The quarters aboard the Freedom were cramped, not as bad as the previous generation of carriers, but nothing to write home about. Ranma's special status meant he got his own cabin, an area smaller than most prison cells. It served its purpose, allowing him to stretch out and sleep, as well as having walls shielded heavily enough to block the interference the ship's quasi-plasma engine generated with his chi.
'For Your Eyes Only :' Read the block lettering stamped on the manila envelope Ranma awoke to find lying next to his head. Jeez, couldn't he get a little R&R after a hard night of murder and mayhem? With a sigh, Ranma tore open the thick yellow packet and dumped its contents onto his mattress.
A tour brochure, a wad of cash, and a plane ticket. Okay, THAT was unexpected. A note slid out last. Ranma caught it in before it landed and read:
To be continued.
Author's Notes: This is unusual. I wrote it cause I got pissed off at something I read and had a prologue lying around on my computer that I figured would fit in nicely with this. If I continue with this fic it will be in shorter chapters, each with Ranma doing secret agent stuff, but none of them this dark or violent.
|Layout, design, & site revisions © 2005||
Webmaster: Larry F