A Ranma ½ / Wild Cards crossover story
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. The official Wild Cards short stories edited by George R. R. Martin.
The press of an attempted psychic attack brought a scowl to Ranma's confused face. The stance she took was loose and threatening, signaling her ability to defend herself. A moment later Ranma had to dodge to the left as an axe, attached to the arm of the purple-haired girl, buried itself where she'd stood. The reaction was reflexive, a rippling wave of darkness that instantly froze all moisture in the air and would do the same to anything it came in contact with.
Ranma's retaliatory attack would have killed her target, flash freezing and rupturing every cell in the girl's body. She tried to pull it back in, but it hadn't been released under willed guidance, so it continued to shriek towards the Amazon. The wave engulfed and encompassed the Amazon, going no farther and harming no one else. Ranma cringed at her mistake, wishing that she had learned better control over her augmented powers.
The enshrouding darkness lasted for a split second, becoming brighter and brighter until nothing but the Amazon remained, unharmed, amazingly. The girl shivered and clutched at herself with hands that had grown into enormous flaps of furry skin. The distance between them wasn't great, no more than ten meters, and Ranma knew that the girl shouldn't have been able to survive at that range. The answer came when a woman floating above the crowd collapsed, the slight glow that surrounded her dying out. As she fell, Ranma could feel an energy surrounding her attacker fade away, making the shivering girl's features slightly more distinct.
Outraged cries and shouts for outsider blood began to rise from the gathered Amazons. The spectacle was over with and their champion had been humiliated on her day of victory. Amazon honor, and more importantly, Amazon pride, had been wounded, and the only salve for such an insult was the blood of those who had done the deed.
Ranma's hopes of getting away safely, with her father or without, went down the drain. Her victim, slipping in the frost that had settled on the ground after Ranma's response, turned her arms into a pair of long, curving swords with a few too many serrated edges. Warriors were rallying behind the girl as she gained her footing.
A growl from behind reminded Ranma of her father. She glanced over her shoulder to find that he no longer floated above the table he had so recently devastated with his stomach and that he was human once again. In the man's hand was a pitcher of water— cold water, Ranma's senses told her. She nodded at him and prepared something that would hopefully distract the village's occupants long enough for the pair to escape.
Behind Ranma, Genma upended the pitcher of water over his head and his form was instantly replaced by that of a twenty-foot-tall, bipedal purple dinosaur with a writhing mass of tentacles emerging from his back and sides. At almost the same time, Ranma threw her hands into the air and released sheet after sheet of pure darkness, space utterly devoid of all energy. The sheets moved in different directions, driving back Amazons with their insatiable chill then forming into a single wall nearly a hundred feet high and twice that in width.
Almost immediately, several patches of the wall lightened to gray, sure signs that some form of energy was being directed at it from the other side. Those patched returned to black at varying rates, depending on how much energy was directed at each particular point. By the time any of the Amazons thought of going over or around the barrier, Ranma and Genmasaur were nearly out of the village. Genma allowed his tentacles free reign behind him as they sprayed acid randomly, forcing their pursuers to dodge frantically or shield themselves in some way or risk serious injury.
Ranma got a few strange looks from passersby as he and his father walked down the streets of Nerima. He was surrounded in a tight film of light that gave off visible waves of shimmering heat. It might draw attention, but at least it warmed the water enough before it struck him to not trigger the curse. The field had at first been nearly invisible, but too many people were getting burnt as they bumped into him on the crowded streets of Tokyo, so Ranma made it visible and toned down the power a bit.
"Tendo and I were training with the master when the virus infected us," Genma explained, his voice more subdued than normal. "We were lucky, all of us. My friend and I didn't even know we'd been affected for weeks. The Master was another matter entirely. He'd always had a healthy… appetite… for the ladies, but the wild card virus heightened his urges until they were nearly overwhelming. He could barely control himself in the presence of a woman. Ask Nodoka about it sometime. The Master probably still has nightmares about her. Anyway, the change did something to his chi, altered it somehow. After the virus he could drain the chi from a woman or something she had touched, like a vampire." Genma shuddered. "The level of power he could access if he prepared was frightening. It was after Tendo's girls were born that we decided to part ways with the Master. One thing led to another, and we ended up having to trap him in an abandoned bomb shelter lined with men's underwear and cardboard cut outs from a male strip bar. I wouldn't put it past the old bastard to still be alive down there." Finished, Genma fell silent and trudged alongside his glowing son.
"How come you've never told me about these people?" Ranma asked. As much as his mother talked, he was stunned that she hadn't mentioned the perverted man before.
Genma shrugged. "It never came up, I guess. Your mother doesn't like to talk about it much because she nearly erased the Master's mind once. It was very disturbing for her." Well, that answered that question.
Ranma let the matter drop. Every so often he would raise his hand in greeting to an ace who flew by, or even to the occasional joker not too deformed or embarrassed to be seen outside of their own traditional neighborhoods. When a rhinoceros-skinned man ran down the middle of the street, a large safe held in one enormous hand, Ranma tensed, ready to intercept the man who was casually knocking aside cars in his efforts to escape.
Genma's hand on his shoulder stopped him. "Let the authorities handle it, boy," he said, pointing to a rapidly approaching blur farther down the street. It resolved into the form of a lightly tanned woman in a silver jumpsuit. With a silver net formed from crackling electricity, the woman ensnared the joker and flew out of sight. "If you're going to get involved with that kind of thing, we'll have to get you registered with the city. There are a lot of fines for interfering without a license."
It had all happened so fast that Ranma didn't know how to react. No one had even screamed for help and the woman had made such quick work of the thieving rhinoman that Ranma felt kind of useless. "Sure, no problem. Do they get paid to do that?" he asked curiously. If he could get a job with the city, he wouldn't have to beg his mom for money like his father did.
"Last time I came through Tokyo the city maintained a payroll for some aces." Genma didn't mention that his rather extensive criminal record had kept him from being on that payroll. Ranma's simple question told Genma just how isolated Ranma had been on their training journey, and the infrequent visits to their home in the mountains to see his mother hadn't been very informative. Furinkan had an unusually high number of wild card survivors— of all kinds— and Genma felt even better knowing that he'd enrolled his son there instead of the private school Nodoka had pushed for. Of course, it was just a coincidence that two of Tendo's daughters attended that same school.
Ranma didn't say anything to his father, since the man had a bad habit of screwing things up, but the prospect of a job of his own, and actual financial independence, was very appealing.
"This is the place," Genma said some time later when the sun was disappearing behind the skyline. The wall surrounding the compound was heavily reinforced steel, designed especially to survive in the event of superhuman assault, though its outer facade was nothing more than simple bricks. The sign proclaiming the Tendo dojo was also metal, painted to resemble wood. Genma knew of the architectural design of his friend's home— he had watched it being built, after all— but he was still amazed at just how overprotective the other man was of his daughters.
"It doesn't look like much," Ranma replied. He was in a much better mood ever since discovering that he could partially block the effects of his curse for short periods of time. It wasn't as good a fix as Genma had, lucky asshole that he was, though Ranma wasn't going to complain. A few hours at a time was all he could manage before the constant use of his powers, even if on a relatively minor scale, caused extreme exhaustion and dizziness. With no clouds or puddles in sight, Ranma released the field and absorbed the excess energy.
"Don't let the outer appearance fool you, boy. Soun is nearly as wealthy as your mother and I; he just chooses to stay within the city. His home and dojo are quite large and the land they rest on is worth more than you would believe."
"Whatever. Let's not stand around all day. I want to find a phone and tell mom about what happened in China." Ranma didn't really intend to do that over the phone. No, it would be much sweeter to tell her in person. Genma didn't know that, though, and he nearly fell over himself apologizing and groveling. Ranma eventually felt sorry for his father and told him to get up. A pleading, crying man tends to draw a lot of attention, even more than a glowing boy. "Oh, stop that already!" Ranma snapped. "I was just playing around."
Genma was up in an instant and his eyes showed no signs of his previous crying. "That wasn't very nice." Too scared to say anything else on the matter, Genma walked forward, pushing open the unlocked gate and heading for the front door of his friend's home.
"I'll get it, Father," Kasumi said from the kitchen. The doorbell chimed once again and she hurried to answer. The girl had only just finished tying her apron back on when she reached the door, and was opening it when she remembered to change her face back to its normal appearance.
An older man with a bandana tied across an obviously bald head, who wore a dingy white gi and could stand to lose a few pounds, stood beside a much younger man; a boy really. The younger of the two was dressed in baggy black trousers and a red silk shirt of Chinese make that had long sleeves despite the early summer climate. A slight gust of wind passed, blowing the boy's pigtail over his shoulder and causing his bangs to fall into his eyes. As he reached up to push them aside, Kasumi saw the ridged back of his arm where the sleeve slid down. Friends of Nabiki's?
Genma began to introduce himself and his son, but he had only barely spoken when a longhaired man charged through the doorway, nearly running Kasumi down in the process, and tightly embraced him.
"Genma!" the man wailed, slapping his friend on the back repeatedly.
"Soun!" Genma cried, laughing gaily.
Ranma dismissed the embarrassing sight and turned back to the attractive brown-haired girl. Despite the overly modest dress she wore, Ranma could still discern the shapely figure hidden beneath it. "Hi, I'm Ranma Saotome," he said. "The fat guy is my father."
"Pleased to meet you, Ranma. I'm Kasumi Tendo. Won't you come in?" Kasumi asked warmly. She silently hoped that her father could get control of himself before he made another neighborhood-wide scene like last time.
In a state bordering on ecstasy, Ranma shoved another of the delicious cookies into his mouth, following it with a large swallow of milk. "Wow," was all the young man could say about the cookies.
"They are rather good, aren't they? I'll be sure to give Akane your complements when she gets home from school." Kasumi bustled about her kitchen, retrieving ingredients from various cupboards and putting a pair of pots of water on the stove to boil.
Outside, the sound of the two men reacquainting themselves with one another momentarily increased in volume. Ranma and Kasumi exchanged knowing glances and Ranma said, 'This is probably all my old man's fault. His stupidity is infectious."
"Father always has been excitable," Kasumi added.
Meaningless small talk was exchanged and two plates of cookies met their demise until the two men, both exhausted, plodded into the kitchen for something to drink.
The two teens looked up from the table when the men entered. "…grown into a fine boy," Genma was saying. "Surpassed me in the art sometime last year and he just keeps getting better. And his powers," Genma mock-whistled, 'are unbelievable."
"You finally admitted it. I can't believe it," Ranma remarked sarcastically, a broad grin spread across his face.
Genma turned to face his son and started making gagging noises deep in his throat, as if allowing his son to hear his complements somehow deeply wounded him. Wounded his pride, anyway.
Soun laughed a bit weakly and said to his old friend, "Genma, old boy, you did fall into that one."
Genma was by now clutching his throat and turning blue.
"Mister Saotome!" Kasumi shouted in alarm, jumping up to administer aide to the ailing man. Ranma's arm caught hers and he waved her aside.
Getting kicked in the head seemed to fix Genma's condition quite handily.
"You just gotta know how to handle these things, you know?" Smirking, Ranma kicked his unconscious father once more then introduced himself to Soun.
At Soun's behest, Ranma dragged Genma into the parlor, a comfortable room dominated by a large shogi board that rested between two piles of overstuffed cushions. They all took seats around a small table, except for Genma, who groaned occasionally in his sleep and had to be propped up against the table so as not to fall over.
"I've waited so long for this day," Soun proclaimed, tears flowing freely down his cheeks to be caught in the short-cropped beard that he wore. "I know you haven't met my other daughters yet, Ranma, but that shouldn't be a problem. It's obvious that you get along well with Kasumi and she's long past the age where she should have found a husband. So, what do you say, should the wedding be held this evening or would you like to a wait a few days?"
Totally confused, Ranma asked, "Huh?"
Kasumi tilted her head at her father quizzically, understanding what he was insinuating, but still too shocked by his question to respond.
Oblivious to the danger, Soun answered. "The engagement, of course. Never mind; you must have forgotten. Years back, Genma and I made a solemn promise to unite our lines and join the two schools of Anything Goes Martial Arts. Isn't that grand?" Soun hopped to his feet and began dancing around while waving little multi-colored flags about.
"Father, I really think you should re—" Kasumi began, only to be cut off by Ranma.
"I'll be right back," he said, glaring darkly at his insensate father.
Genma awoke with a shattering scream, his buttocks smoking merrily. Ranma ceased the beam of heat and asked, 'What's this about a marriage?"
Thinking fast, Genma stuttered, 'Your mother suggested it. Soun and I were against the idea at first, but Nodoka was insistent, and you know how she can be." It was a bald-faced lie, with not a single sliver of truth to it. Nodoka didn't even know of the engagement, and Genma was profoundly thankful for that.
If he were more gullible, Ranma might have believed Genma, but he'd learned long ago not to trust the man. His face screwed up in concentration as he reached out with his mind for his mother's. His telepathic powers would never have allowed him to transmit so much as single word over such a great distance, but Nodoka Saotome was another matter entirely. She had, on more than one occasion, communicated with people on the other side of the planet.
The attempt at connection succeeded faster than Ranma had hoped and his mother mentally asked, 'Ranma, are you in trouble?'
Ranma hadn't even told his mother of his curse yet, afraid of what the psychic backlash would do to him, but he had to get this whole marriage mess straightened out as soon as possible. 'No, Mom, not really. Sorry to disturb you, but I'm about to kill pop and you should probably know why.'
Ranma sensed Nodoka's mental chuckle. 'I'm sure he deserves it, but you really should tell me why.'
'Did you know that he's got me engaged to some girl I've never even met before? She seems nice and all, but that's not the point.' Ranma wished he could cover his ears for what he thought would be an earthshaking mental scream.
The scream never came. Instead, after nearly a minute of silence, Nodoka said, 'Where are you now, son?' The thought held more than a bit of steel in it, and Ranma wondered if he should kill Genma now or just wait and watch the show when his mother got hold of the old man.
'Nerima, Tokyo; some place called the Tendo dojo,' Ranma answered.
'Ah, I know the… Oh, THOSE two. I expected more of Soun than something this harebrained. Just hold tight, Ranma. Play along with Genma, and I'll straighten everything out as soon as I can get back to Japan.'
'Where are you?' Play along with him, huh? Well, that could be fun, but he'd have to get Kasumi in on it, too. She was too nice to string along.
'I'm in New York having a meeting with an old friend of mine.' Ranma got a momentary flash of a tall black man with a shaved head and a bulging forehead. 'I'll finish up here and be back in a week.'
'A week?' Ranma didn't know if he could keep the act up for that long.
'Possibly two, though I doubt it will take quite that long.'
Ranma sighed resignedly and agreed to his mother's plan. A short farewell, and they broke the link. Ranma shook his head to clear it of mental static and looked down at his father who was eying him apprehensively. No more than a few seconds had passed since the long distance conversation began and Genma had no way of knowing that it had transpired.
"You better the hell not be lying to me. Now, let's talk about waiting until the last minute to tell me about something like this engagement business." Ranma cracked his knuckles lazily and rolled his sleeves up.
"Daddy, why is there a boy in the front yard trying to cook a panda?" Akane asked. She'd hurried into the house to get away from the smell of burning hair. She would have stopped the boy and saved the tortured animal, but she really needed to pee; then she would save the pitiful creature.
The girl didn't get her answer until she returned from the bathroom and had slipped into her yellow gi. "That's just my old friend Genma and his son Ranma. Ranma's a little upset about the engagement and he's taking it out on Genma. Genma's a tough old coot, so he'll be all right."
"So he's not an evil criminal bent on torturing poor animals who can't defend themselves?" she asked regretfully. The rest of Soun's response took a few moments to filter through into her mind. "What engagement?!"
Soun waved the question aside casually. "The one between Ranma and Kasumi. Genma wasn't very wise in withholding the information from his son, but Genma never was the most far-thinking of men." He completely ignored the fact that he hadn't said a thing about the engagement to any of his daughters.
Akane didn't stick around to ask any other questions of the man. She headed for the kitchen, and inevitably Kasumi, where the answers would make more sense.
"Kasumi, there you are!" Akane nearly shouted at her sister.
"Welcome home, Akane. How was your day?" the cheerful girl asked. She pulled a pan of brownies from the oven and sat them aside to cool.
"Never mind that. Kasumi, what's this about an engagement?" Akane wouldn't let any boys take advantage of her helpless sister.
Kasumi giggled. "Isn't it silly? Father and Mister Saotome think they can make Ranma and me get married. Ranma called his mother and she said to just play along until she could get here. We're just going to act like we agreed to the engagement. It'll be fun."
"So he's not a pervert boy who wants to take advantage of you?" she asked mournfully. If only she could find a reason to punish the boy, maybe then Nabiki would see that she was strong enough to work with her. She couldn't even pound on him for cruelty to animals. The panda, if she understood correctly, was really Ranma's father, and that evil man deserved whatever he got. Hey, that wasn't such a bad idea. Her father had played a part in this too.
"Okay, that's fine, I guess. If you hear daddy scream, it'll just be me punishing him." Akane snapped her fingers, calling a bullwhip into existence.
To be continued.
Author's Notes: I've decided to have this begin a few weeks before the Mother-Swarm invasion that takes place in the second book of the Wild Card series. If you don't know what that is, imagine an invasion of aliens that come in all shapes and sizes and are controlled by a giant living asteroid. That's a big oversimplification, but it's close enough and I'll explain better in the chapters that have the Swarm in them. C&C welcome at email@example.com
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