A Ranma ½ / Wheel of Time crossover story
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. The Wheel of Time and its characters and settings belong to Robert Jordan.
The moment Ranma stepped through the doorway, he knew that many things had gone horribly wrong. There was no sign of his grandfather, not even a residue of Traveling gateway. The man couldn't hide, either, for the landscape was nothing more than blasted rubble for miles in all directions, where stone cliffs eventually rose thousands of feet. If he didn't know any better, and he didn't, Ranma could have assumed that a meteor had recently impacted.
Kuno stumbled out, catching his foot on a larger than average piece of rock. He caught himself with his bokken, almost steady on his feet when another figure streaked out of the doorway. Akane, her sister Nabiki clutched tightly in her grasp, barreled into Kuno at full speed. He went down in a tangle of limbs with a groan escaping his throat as Akane kneed him in the groin.
Ranma stood gaping at the site for a few moments before he even managed to squeeze a thought out. Nabiki was on top of the dog pile, but finally free from her sister's hold, she climbed to her feet, rubbing her sore wrist soothingly. Something had gone wrong. The thought repeated itself in Ranma's mind. They should have been standing under an enormous floating orb, some kind of high-energy test facility that his grandfather had told him about on several occasions. There should not be a crater large enough to fit most of Tokyo in.
Still more or less stunned, Ranma didn't immediately feel the itching tingle that radiated across his skin. He finally noticed as Akane was attempting to extricate herself from Kuno's joyous embrace. Saidin hummed in the air, a tangible throbbing that didn't even require effort to sense. Experimentally, he sunk into the Oneness, feeling his anxiety and worry slipping away. The light of saidin was an ocean of power around him. Ranma wove a tiny flow of Fire, gritting his teeth unconsciously as the weave swelled past his expectations into a dangerous strand of energy. He dissipated the Power through the ground and turned his attention back to Akane and Kuno.
She'd freed herself from the boy, who looked more than a little upset. Akane, however, looked absolutely murderous. Before blows could be exchanged, Ranma grasped saidin again. He didn't attempt to simply channel it as he normally would, instead drawing through the sa'angreal he wore on his right arm. The devices buffer acted as an adequate valve for the excess energy and he was able to restrain Akane in a cocoon of Air.
"Kuno, use your angreal if you need to use the Power. There is something wrong with the Source here. The last thing we need is to burn ourselves out." Less than a minute had passed since their arrival, but it felt like an Age had gone by.
Before he could say anything to the furious Akane, Nabiki yelped, reminding Ranma that she, too, was a part of their little group. Ranma saw what had caused the yelp and himself shouted in dismay. The doorway was slowly crumbling into white ash. Already half of the frame was gone. If he hadn't been in the void of the Oneness, Ranma would have sunk to his knees in despair. Even in the Oneness, the urge was powerful.
This particular doorway was a one-way trip. That was why he hadn't piled Kuno and the others through it immediately after realizing that they weren't where they were supposed to be. He hadn't been overly worried, though. His grandfather would be somewhere around, and he would know how to reverse the thing. The man had always said that time was a tricky thing to play with; perhaps he had simply arrived a few days earlier. Now, though, they were trapped. If this turned out to be the future they'd intended to travel to, there would be no problem, but Ranma wasn't convinced that he was that lucky.
"Sensei, what is happening?" Kuno asked dumbly, probably to awestruck by feeling Akane's breasts to think at even his less than amazing standards.
Ranma didn't answer. He faced Akane, unbinding a few coils of Air and allowing her to speak. She'd been trying to do so for the past minute or so, and when the opportunity presented itself, took full advantage of it. "Damn you! Let me go, you bastard! And give me back my magic!!!" With a sigh, Ranma replaced the gag. There wasn't much hope of getting any answers from her for a while.
"Nabiki, when you two came through, did you or your sister break any of the connections to the doorway?" Ranma had no idea if that would matter or not, but he knew that they were all specifically tuned to time variances, as Arin had said more than once, and somehow losing the power from one of those could have effected their arrival. Maybe this was just a few weeks after his grandfather's arrival and the floating laboratory had been destroyed.
Nabiki shook herself and shrugged. "I didn't see much." Now she glared at Akane in a very unsisterly fashion. "She pulled me through that damned door when my eyes were closed." She spitefully kicked the last remaining inches of the doorway.
"Shouldn't you let her down?" Nabiki asked Ranma a few hours later, pointing to where Akane stood, glowing like a then thousand watt neon blue lamp. He hadn't released the bonds that held her, nor the gag that quieted her, and if Kuno knew what was good for him, he wouldn't either. He shook his head and Nabiki asked, “What about Kuno?"
"Let him talk to her. She can't exactly deny him the privilege, and he's totally infatuated with her. This way we don't have to listen to her and he is out of our hair for the time being." Ranma and Nabiki had made themselves as comfortable as they could manage with the few possessions they'd brought along from the past. That mostly meant a bit of clothing to lie on so that the sharp gravel wasn't too biting and a wadded up bundle for a pillow. At least the chilled night air was no problem. Ranma had tied in several weak flows of Fire that warmed the ground beneath them and created a small, fuelless blaze to warm their surroundings.
Nabiki looked troubled for a moment, but the expression passed quickly, suppressed expertly. "You seem intelligent enough not to abuse your power beyond certain bounds," Nabiki said carefully, “but what about Kuno? You don't know him like I do. He believes the world exists for his comfort and that he can do no wrong." When she'd learned of Kuno's channeling ability, Nabiki had had a hard time keeping herself from panicking.
"Oh, he's still an idiot and arrogant, for sure. The delusions, though, were caused by his first uses of the Power. Once I'd gotten him suppressing those properly, he mellowed out significantly. Besides, he isn't anywhere near my strength with the Power." Despite his general dislike for the boy, Ranma trusted Kuno a great deal more than he did most people. Kuno showed him a certain amount of respect and deference that he thought other didn't deserve. That he feared Ranma also secured his loyalties for a while.
"I'll have to take your word on it, for now at least." Perhaps half an hour passed. The only sounds that disturbed the silence of the unnatural crater came as low breathing and the distant murmurs of Kuno professing his love to Akane. Nabiki once again broke the silence, asking what no one so far had voiced. "What are we going to do?"
Ranma shrugged. "Tomorrow, we're leaving this big hole. I haven't really planned anything past that. I'm guessing, hoping anyway, that the old man arrived a few weeks ago and that we were just a little late. That would explain the crater and the weird saidin. He taught me the language, so if we need to, I can ask around until we find someone to take us to him."
"I figured something like that," Nabiki snapped. "I meant what are we going to do about going home? Your stupid magic door is a pile of dust now."
"Oh, that. Well, to tell you the truth, I really doubt you're ever going to be able to go home. Grandfather once told me about the creation of the doorways. The one we used was only the fourth ever made. You know that big ring of asteroids out past Mars? The stuff the doorways are made from comes from there. It took about three hundred years to find enough of the stuff to make the doorway we used. Then there are the countless hours of compression and shaping that only powerful channellers can accomplish, and the keying procedure, not to mention charging them…" Ranma trailed off, his impression made.
"You're saying that we're just not worth the effort of building another one?" Nabiki asked levelly.
"No, not really. The doorway we used exists here as a nearly finished, unkeyed, and as yet inactive ter'angreal. The people in charge could go through the trouble of finishing it and sending you and Nabiki back home. Of course, they would lose the doorway in the process, and probably the Portal stone it would be connected to. It's more like they can't waste it on something as insignificant as two people’s desire to go home. The other two doorways are very useful. One connects to a dimension inhabited by beings that will answer any three questions you ask, including those about the future. The other leads to a dimension where you can get any three wishes granted. Imagine where the last one will be able to go when it's finished as it was meant to be."
Nabiki mulled the words over. She couldn't blame Ranma for her predicament, that was Akane's doing, nor could she fault him for choosing to live here, in a time when his gifts were accepted and understood. "Am I going to be some kind of second class citizen?" she asked, wondering how many people here couldn't do magic, or channel as Ranma called it.
"You mean because you can't channel?" Nabiki nodded. "Nah. There aren't really that many of us, even now. Maybe something like one in every ten thousand or so people are channellers, and among those most aren't really that powerful. Aes Sedai— what channellers here call themselves— means Servants of All. From stories Grandfather has told me, before the Dark One was released from his prison, everyone got along pretty well. No wars or crime to speak of, so no channellers ever got a chance to really exploit their power. Instead, we just do things to make the world work better."
"Still, you're the only one of us who even speak the language. Integrating isn't going to be particularly easy," she finished with a mirthless chuckle. "All I need to do is learn the language, re-educate myself, fit into a new culture, somehow support Akane and myself… Ah, damn it. This really isn't like me, complaining about things that can't be helped."
Feeling strangely sympathetic, Ranma said, “I’m a powerful channeller. If my grandfather is to be believed, as strong as any who's ever lived. I'm going to have plenty of cash once I get settled in and begin taking contracts. I'm not talking charity or anything, more like a loan."
Nabiki could have turned the offer down— in fact she was tempted to— but she didn't. Ranma was being gracious, not something he had demonstrated himself capable of before. Instead of refusing, she began debating interest rates with him.
Ranma hadn't intended to charge interest, or even really try to collect on whatever Nabiki ended up owing him. The simple act of haggling seemed to lighten the girl's mood greatly, though, and he kept up the exchange until they were both yawning, their eyelids drooping with weariness.
The next day, Ranma awoke to the feeling of a thousand knives pricking into his back. Somehow, the rocks felt sharper than they had the night before. He lapsed into the Oneness to separate himself from the sensation as well as to probe saidin more closely. Yesterday, even with the aid of his sa'angreal, Ranma had been reluctant to create a gateway. Today, the fluctuations were merely slight ripples and surges where before they had been great heaving waves of Power. He felt confident that any gateway he created would stay stable and safe.
Shortly, the others roused themselves from sleep. Nabiki looked like he had felt when he'd first risen. There was no escaping into the void for her, though. Kuno didn't look uncomfortable in the slightest. He'd slept leaning against the statue-like Akane and Ranma didn't imagine that the boy could be any happier, not judging from the expression on his face. Murderous, homicidal fury played across Akane's face when she woke up, and Ranma didn't really blame her. He wouldn't have been very happy either if he'd had to sleep standing up like she had.
Sooner or later she would have to be freed, the sooner the better, lest she act on the obvious desire to rip his heart out.
"I first learned to ride a bicycle when I was—" Kuno was saying to Akane as Ranma approached. He stopped speaking when he saw Ranma and nodded to him gravely.
"Hey, Kuno, why don't you go do some of your sword exercises or something? I need to talk to Akane for a few moments," Ranma suggested.
"Very wise, sensei," Kuno said, not sounding happy to be separated from Akane now that he had her so close. He drew his bokken from within the voluminous robes he wore and stalked off, slashing through the air and creating deep ruts in the rocky ground with air pressure alone.
If it were possible, Ranma believed Akane's eyes would have burned him into a cinder at first glance. He could understand her anger with him, but not the blind hate she was displaying. "I'm gonna ungag you, then I'm gonna let you loose," he began. "If you scream at me, the gag goes back for a whole day. If you attack me, you get to be a statue for a week. Blink if you agree."
A long minute passed before Akane blinked, and only then reluctantly. Ranma nodded and untied the flows that encircled her. With the restraining pressure gone, Akane sagged for a moment, almost falling to her knees. Then she caught herself and stood, stretching aching limbs until her joints popped as they moved. After cracking her neck and shuddering, Akane asked, “What have you done to my magic?" Her voice was quiet and low, the tone held chained violence.
Ranma had to fight hard not to laugh himself silly. He hadn't intended to so thoroughly fool the girl when he'd first started the morning joke and he hadn't really believed Nabiki when she told him that Akane still believed herself gifted with magic, despite what her sister had told her of Ranma's actions and the evidence at hand. "Sorry to tell you, but there is no such thing as magic. There is the True Source, the One Power that drives the universe, saidar and saidin, if you will. That is not magic. I am a male channeller, which means I can manipulate saidin. A female channeller manipulates saidar. You may possibly be a channeller, though the odds are astronomically against it. If you are, it will take you quite some time to learn to use the Power. Everything you've done that you thought was magic was just me playing a cruel joke."
"Don't lie to me, you bastard!" Akane hissed. Her arm looked poised, as if ready to raise and swing.
Before the girl could get herself in trouble, Ranma continued, “I’m not lying. Ask Kuno if you don't believe me. Better yet, wait a few hours and we should have found someone that can take us to my grandfather. If you don't believe him, he'll know someone who can prove it. There are women channellers in this time. They'll be able to tell if you can use the Source as soon as they get within a couple feet of you."
Stiffly, looking as if it were the hardest thing she'd ever attempted, Akane turned away from Ranma and marched over to where Nabiki was attempting to stretch some of the cramps their less than pleasant night had gifted them with.
Cadsuanne fought the urge to snatch the looking glass away from the tall, blocky warder. Not only would it be immature and beneath her dignity, she would also lower herself in the eyes of her fellow Aes Sedai. Besides, she wasn't altogether sure she could snatch anything from Lan Mandragoran's grasp. "Well, what do you see, man?" she demanded, wincing at her own impatience. She was eager to be gone from this place. Compromise had been reached the night before when they had determined it to be safer to wait for the Source to calm down after the massive upstirring perpetrated by the boy the day before. Now, though, there was no reason to delay, no reason except for some strange lights seen the night before.
Without speaking, Lan passed her the looking glass and waved her towards the far distant point he had been observing the last several minutes. It took Cadsuanne a few moments to locate exactly what she'd been searching for. There were four of them, all young and with the exception of one of the boys, dressed most strangely, the two girls most strangely of all. They seemed to be arguing with one another, but the distance was too great and the looking glass too imprecise to allow her to read their lips. How had they arrived in the blasted remains of Shadar Logoth? There were no signs of horses, or even those flying creatures favored by the Seanchan, may the light burn their souls to ash.
Damer Flinn, once he had awoken, insisted that saidin had been used by someone within the crater, and Jahar Narishma had backed him up. Cadsuanne, to her distinct displeasure, found herself wishing the boy would awake. Despite his hubris, the cold arrogance that he almost seemed to radiate from every pore of his body, Rand al'Thor was an experienced channeller of the male half of the source, and considerably more reliable than the two Asha'man she had with her. For all she knew, the two men had simply felt the remaining dregs of the enormous amount of saidin used the day before. Still, their claims would explain why the four youths were currently arguing within the open grave of Aridhol.
Then, clearing all doubt from her mind, a Traveling gateway opened before the small group, and it wasn't a product of saidar, of that she was certain.
To be continued.
Author's Notes: Got this one out more quickly than I expected. Well, they're finally in Randland, and the little group will soon be meeting important people and splitting up to do various things. Mainly, I'm just going to dump Akane with the Wise Ones, or perhaps the Kin. I really only used her to get Nabiki through the doorway, but now that she's here, I might as well have some fun with her, you know?
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