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A Ranma ½ / Wheel of Time crossover story
by Dark_Phoneix

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.


Chapter Nine


Impatience and frustration didn't even begin to describe what Ranma was feeling as he sat through another Asha'man training exercise. Not only would he have to touch the Source slowly, so as not to seem too experienced, he also had to refrain from drawing a significant quantity of the Power. Finally, the older man next to him grunted with effort, weaving Fire and Earth to detonate a small boulder fifty or so paces away, belatedly raising a shield of Air to block any fragments of the exploding stone.

Taking hold of saidin and beating it into submission would have been Ranma's normal course of action. Today, he squinted and appeared to strain mightily, only touching the source after entire seconds of exertion. The weaves he used were so clumsy that he would have been ashamed of them as a nine-year-old child. The Asha'man set over his group of trainees seemed pleased, though. With an unhappy grunt that others probably took for a sign of weariness, Ranma sank back to his place on the bench.

Now that he had to go through with this charade, Ranma was beginning to understand how difficult it was for channellers to actually learn how to use the Power. He'd still been a kid when he'd first touched the Source, and he'd nearly died from it, but he'd learned so quickly, soaking up so many weaves that he thought everyone else could do it just as easily if a simple child could manage. Even the Asha'man themselves, not the lower-level Soldiers and Dedicated, were for the most part bumbling, graceless oafs.

This Dragon Reborn needed channellers to fight for him, and he definitely had them. They weren't good at much more than fighting, but from what Logain had told him, that's all they were intended for. Logain, on the other hand, was quite a talented channeller. Powerful, he learned the weaves Ranma taught him with relative ease and didn't waste his energy with large, bulky webs and clumped up weaves when a simple strand or two of the Power, properly twisted, would suffice.

Mazrim Taim, the M'Hael, also appeared among the gifted. Ranma hadn't met him yet, but he'd been close enough to him on several occasions in the past few days to watch him channel. That alone was enough to make Ranma distrustful of him. He had an entirely different style of weaving than anyone else at the Black Tower. If he didn't know any better, Ranma'd have said Taim had been trained by proper Aes Sedai, back in his grandfather's time. Actually, it was possible. Inverted weaves and some Air could provide an almost foolproof disguise.

"All right, you light-blinded whoresons," the Asha'man called out to the group, "time for some more sword drills. Get on over to Haslin's place and try not to let that hotshot brat with a stick make fools of you again." Ranma reminded himself that skinning the teacher wasn't exactly a good thing to do, and followed along with the other nine trainees.


To Ranma's surprise, he turned out to be pretty damned good with a sword. His arm still tired easily from the recently healed break, and it throbbed for hours after drills, but he got along much better than the others. Henre Haslin, an old man with a limp, who had trained a nearby Queen's guard for more years than Ranma had been alive, was still a good swordsman; among the best from what he was told. Ranma could defeat him five times out of six.

Kuno, inhuman juggernaut that he was, was an entirely different matter. Ranma's fellow recruits were terrified of him, and rightly so. Judging by everyone's reaction— Haslin's included— Kuno was the best thing since sliced bread. That Ranma could go whole minutes without getting hit more than a dozen times had earned him more respect in the eyes of his peers than if he'd been able to channel his name across the moon… Now, there was an idea to give some serious thought.

Ranma, though, knew that Kuno was holding back most of his skill and power. What would everyone say if the boy began cutting through trees and the like with his bokken, without using the Power? Hell, they'd probably take him for Shadowspawn. There'd been talk of warders, which had led Ranma to ask Logain a few questions. What kind of man would allow himself to be linked to a woman who had complete and utter control over his every action if she so wished? There were some small benefits, but they didn't outweigh the costs. Going insane with grief if the Aes Sedai dies isn't a good thing.

That's how Ranma had learned of Gabrelle and Toveine. They'd been Aes Sedai sent to capture what they'd thought were a few men trying to channel. The women had been captured with laughable ease and bonded to various Asha'man. Ranma didn't blame them. When someone attacked him, he took no chances, removing them as a threat. If someone had tried to sever him, Ranma couldn't imagine what he'd do to that person. No, these Aes Sedai were lucky indeed.

And that had led to why the Aes Sedai were bound by a criminal binder. Gabrelle had been required to answer that one, since Logain only knew the basics of the Oaths the women swore.

She'd said, "The Three Oaths are one of the finals rites an Accepted goes through before becoming Aes Sedai. To speak no word that is not true. To make no weapon with which one man may kill another. Never use the One Power as a weapon except against Shadowspawn, in extreme defense of our lives, or the lives of our warder." She looked proud of herself, or proud of the Oaths anyway.

Ranma thought they were nuttier than Kuno had been back before he'd started teaching him. "You do realize that a binder has side-effects, right?"

Gabrelle nodded. "The feeling is quite awkward for the first several weeks, and the tightness takes a bit longer to completely fade from mind. The smooth featured faces, even when exceedingly old, also mark us for Aes Sedai to any who know what to look for."

"You mean you don't know that the binder shortens a channellers lifespan by a little more than half?" Ranma had whispered in stunned, disbelief. For how many years had they been committing such a slow suicide? The entire three thousand? No, memories from the Age of Legends wouldn't have faded so fast as that, but still…

Logain had at this point broken into an uncontrollable fit of laughter. Ranma could see where it came from. He hated the Aes Sedai, and rightly so. They had severed him after all, and that was about the worst thing Ranma could ever imagine happening to anyone. It was no wonder he treated Toveine like the lowest of the low; she was of the Red Ajah. "Oh, that's rich." More rumbling belly laughter. "And they don't even know!"

Ranma couldn't find enough spite to get amused over the situation. There had to be some good women who had never even reached their prime because of the misused binder. He glanced over at Gabrelle. She didn't look like her normal collected self. The woman had the look of someone about to burst into tears.


Back in the present, Ranma caught the wooden practice blade tossed to him by Haslin and swung it through a few experimental strikes, trying to loosen his arm up and get into the proper mindset for the upcoming exercise.


"Be glad he's letting her train you," Nabiki sighed, growing tired of Akane's whining. That had been happening a lot lately. Back home she could just lock herself in her room or threaten her sister with any number of forms of blackmail. They shared the same room now, though, and there wasn't a camera in sight. Any other form of coercion would have been the type that could ruin Akane's reputation at the Black Tower. As much as she wanted to hate the girl, she was still her sister.

"Bah, training. What kind of magic makes you surrender to it before you can even use it?" she shorted. Lessons with Gabrelle weren't going well for her little sister. Nabiki had talked to the Aes Sedai woman and discovered that while not all that impressive, her sister did have the ability to channel the Power Ranma had told her of. Gabrelle claimed that for women, channeling saidar was like redirecting a river. You couldn't go in and try to change its course, but you could open irrigation ditches or smaller streams. That was Akane's problem; Nabiki could never picture her surrendering to anything, man or magic.

Akane went on, "Tatewaki says that when he uses saidin, he has to grab it and fight it so he can channel. That's what I can do, that's how saidar should behave." The development between Kuno and her sister had very nearly stunned Nabiki into unconsciousness. He'd changed after Ranma's arrival, certainly, but he hadn't changed that much, for heaven's sake.

Nabiki kept her voice level, willing the disapproval not to show through. "Not everything can be how you want it, Akane. Be glad that you have the ability at all. Don't complain because it isn't exactly what you wanted." She said no more, going back to the books she had taken to balancing as her way of making herself useful. She ignored Akane's angry exclamation and the subsequent slamming of the door as the girl stormed out of the room.

The Dragon Reborn, Rand al'Thor, had amassed an absolute fortune in his conquests, a large portion of which went to supporting the Black Tower and its astoundingly rapid growth. Self-sufficient in many ways, most of the funds went towards paying the Asha'man their stipends, obtaining foodstuffs that couldn't be grown locally, and hiring skilled laborers to assist in construction of the wall and other projects where channellers unaided weren't enough to get the job done properly.


Ranma dived to the muddy ground, soaking his trousers but avoiding Kuno's swing. He lunged for his opponent, practice sword raised as if to run the older boy through the stomach. As he'd expected, the attack was beaten aside almost contemptuously. It unbalanced Kuno enough that Ranma could climb to his feet and put his guard up, as he'd intended. Wordlessly, Ranma and Kuno pressed forward, towards one another.

Now that Kuno couldn't bring out his full abilities, Ranma was lasting a little bit longer during every session, and had started to enjoy them more now that he could see a noticeable improvement in his skills. Practice blade met Power-altered bokken in a flurry of strokes and counterstrokes, filling the air with a steady echoing crack of wood on wood. Neither used the forms taught by Haslin, for they didn't know them and didn't need them.

Finally, when Ranma was reaching the limits of his endurance and his hand and arm felt like molten fire flowed through them, his much-abused weapon snapped. Kuno's bokken, as indestructible as Nodoka's Power-forged katana, cleaved through Ranma's mundane weapon and slammed into his shoulder. Much of the force of the blow had been cancelled by Ranma's attempt at defense, but enough had won through that Ranma felt his collarbone break, much like the wooden blade had a moment earlier. Pain flared down Ranma's entire left side. He cried out once before plunging into the Oneness, where sensations of the body were as numb as those of the mind.

"This is getting to be a disturbing habit, Kuno," Ranma ground at while supporting his injured shoulder with his only recently healed arm.

Kuno's whispered apology was drowned out by the thunderous applause from the other trainees. Ranma had forgotten about the men, so intent had he been on his fight with Kuno. Where before there had been two groups of trainees not totaling twenty, now there was a small gathering of at least fifty men. Despite Ranma's injury, most of them had smiles on their faces as if they had just witnessed a great show. Were they that much of a spectacle, Ranma wondered?

"Break it up, break it up. I'm sure you layabouts have better things to do than stand around here all day," Haslin said fiercely. Once they showed signs of dispersing, Haslin turned to Ranma, who was picking his way towards him while trying to fend off Kuno's helping hand. "Mighty fine display of swordsmanship, boys, mighty fine indeed. Keep it up, Ranma, and you'll end up a Blademaster like Kuno. Just you see if you don't." He clapped Ranma heavily on his good shoulder and told Kuno, "Get to a Healer and call it a day, you've earned it."


Healing was a wonderful thing. Ranma rotated his newly Healed shoulder, feeling nothing out of place except for a lethargic weakness that a good meal and a few hours of sleep would take care of with ease.


Today they were moving into their new home. It wasn't fancy, not at all, but it was comfortable and more private that Logain's house. Ranma hadn't complained about having to share a home with the other 'newlywed' couple. He and Nabiki wouldn't mind at all. With the number of trainees and their families being brought in now that the Taint had been eradicated, space was at a premium. It had only been Ranma's extremely high potential, and his and Kuno's sword skills, that'd gotten them a house so soon, even with Logain's sizable influence.

To everyone but Logain and his two tamed Aes Sedai, Ranma and Nabiki had been happily married for over a year, just as soon as their village elders and parents had consented to the union. Kuno and Akane were a newer couple, freshly married and still getting used to living with one another. It was all a load of shit; funny, but still reeking of sewers. Ranma wouldn't have minded sharing a bed with Nabiki, but he had resigned himself to taking turns between the floor and the bed with Kuno.

Nabiki disabused him of this notion when he mentioned it to her. "You are definitely out of the loop, Ranma," Nabiki said with a chuckle. Even here, as out of her element as anyone could manage and still be on the same planet, she still managed to keep abreast of everything that was happening. It was actually one of the things Ranma admired about her.

"What are you going on about now, Nabiki?" he asked, going through the motions. He wouldn't pay her for the info, and she knew it, so she would have told him whether he wanted to know or not.

"Only that Kuno and my little sister intend to share a room for real," she replied, deliberately casual.

The tea, the very hot tea, that Ranma had been sipping, now decorated the front of his shirt, his lap, and most of his face. "What?!" he nearly screeched. He channeled the steaming liquid back into the cup, any desire for the drink squashed.

Nabiki smirked evilly and said, "You heard me. Kuno and Akane are an item. Disturbing as it is, I think they deserve each other." She went about scribbling something in one of the ledgers she'd been working in for the past two weeks, not paying attention as her free hand automatically spooned her breakfast into her mouth. She probably didn't notice that she was chewing or swallowing, either, Ranma concluded.

Ranma didn't ask her to clarify the news. She would expect payment for it with no compromises. He didn't have enough gold to be throwing it away when he could go to the source of the information if he needed to. He'd only seen Akane a handful of times over the weeks, to his continuing happiness. Ranma knew she was taking lessons from Gabrelle in channeling saidar and that she had so far been unable to so much as touch the Source. That was as far as his knowledge on her doings went. Kuno wasn't much better. He saw the boy each day during sword drills and in a lot of the channeling lessons, but they never talked beyond discussing the mediocre lessons and whatnot.

Then Ranma realized something else. The home they'd been assigned had two bedrooms; that he'd known beforehand. With Akane and Kuno in one, that left him and Nabiki in the other. Well then, that wouldn't be so bad. Who knew, one thing could lead to another and…

As if she could read his thoughts, Nabiki said, "Not a chance, Ranma. We'll take turns just like you and Kuno had planned from the beginning." She didn't even deign to look at him.

"You have a dirty mind, Nabiki. I wasn't even thinking about that until you mentioned it. Now it'll be on my mind for hours." Big whopper of a lie, and Nabiki probably knew it. Ranma felt a little less stupid having said it, though, so it wasn't a totally wasted effort.

 

To be continued.


Author's notes: Not all that long, but I did get it out pretty quickly, so there isn't much room to complain about that. Things are happening kind of fast, but I have to do that or the fic will get bogged down with a lot of explanations and never get to the good parts that I'm really looking forward to writing. I've changed the idea for Akane back and forth quite a bit. Originally she was going to be a moderately powerful channeller, then I changed that to really weak, then back to a decent showing. Now I've made up my mind. She will be about average among Aes Sedai once she learns how to do things, but there's the beauty of it. She's going to have a block. Akane will only be able to channel when she ISN'T angry, otherwise she won't be able to give herself to saidar to channel it, kinda like a reverse Nynaeve.

Chapter 10
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