A Ranma ½ story
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.
The streets were dark, enshrouded within a blanket of mist that lowered visibility dramatically. Far off in the distance, the screeching of a cat could be heard, followed by a dog's barking. Then, with a roar, the night was illuminated by an explosion of such magnitude that windows in nearby buildings shattered, and the cracked asphalt pavement peeled away from the street like the skin of an overripe orange.
The flare of light was gone in an instant, and the echoes of the explosion quickly faded, but the ring of steel against steel could now be heard. Silence, a few moments of peace, then a rapid staccato of blows, each one piercing the night with a metallic screech.
Almost burned away by the explosion, the mists parted to reveal two figures; each dressed in a loose black body suit, with a sword in either hand. They fought one another in a crater whose rim and surface were as smooth as glass, yet neither lost his footing. If anyone had watched the battle, they would have been unable to follow the majority of the action, their eyes too slow to keep track of the movements.
The black steel blades wielded by each fighter began to crackle with electricity and the surrounding air reeked of ozone. Now, as the two weapons met one another, great bolts of lighting appeared at each meeting, arching away from the men to strike the walls of the crater harmlessly. For another minute the fight appeared an even match between two equally skilled opponents, but then, just before the sirens of approaching police and rescue vehicles could be heard, one man made a mistake.
It was a paltry thing, something only a truly deadly swordsman could exploit, but the fractionally off-center swing was enough for the victor to knock aside his soon-to-be-victim's left blade and thrust cleanly into his heart. The man, his black lifeblood draining away, reflexively released his weapons to grasp at the blade protruding from his chest. Defenseless, he lost his head a moment later as the victorious stranger's other sword swept it from his neck with laser precision.
The remaining man watched as the body at his feet, clothing and weapons included, began to wither, turning to ashes within moments. His attention was jerked away by the blaring of approaching sirens. A quick survey of his immediate environment revealed no witnesses. The black-hilted, black-bladed swords disappeared, and with them, a moment later, followed Ranma Saotome.
All around him, Ranma saw reminders of his home. This world— no, this Earth— amazing at it was, appeared exactly like his once had, though his memories of such a place were blurred by time. He didn't know how he'd traveled between dimensions; it was hard enough to travel between planets, but the energy to break into another universe, that was simply staggering. His interaction with the last darkened soul, the strongest of its kind, must have somehow propelled him and his enemy to this paradise.
More importantly, Ranma had no idea how he could return to his home dimension. He didn't have the proper skills to even begin researching a solution, and he doubted that finding a specific universe among the infinite number that existed would be possible, even if he did succeed in discovering a way to leave. Why, though, would he want to leave? There were no remaining enemies of humanity to be fought, he'd seen to that personally, and the survivors of his world could rebuild without his help.
Ranma had fought for most of his young life, watching those he cared for die around him, and he was bone-weary of the death and killing. That's what he was: a killer, a man with no useful skills except as a living weapon meant to be unleashed on his enemies. Would the people of his Earth even want him there, the last living reminder of all the suffering over the last decade? Were he in their position, Ranma knew he wouldn't.
And so it appeared the decision had almost been made for him. He would not attempt to leave. There was a whole new world to explore, and Ranma wasn't the type of man to give up when confronted with a new challenge.
While not a member of the Amazon Nation, Ranma was privy to a good many of its secrets. He understood the basic hierarchy within the Council of Matriarchs and he knew how to get around the marriage laws. Their secret techniques were as much his as theirs, seeing as how half of them had been introduced to the tribe by one of his long dead ancestors, who had in turn stolen it from another tribe of warriors.
Ranma appeared outside the gates to the walled village just as the sun was setting, and before anyone could attempt to riddle him with arrows, he flashed a quick hand sign, the only way he had to communicate with the Chinese-speaking warriors. The sign couldn't be translated into a simple phrase, but meant something along the lines of 'emergency/take me to the elders/don't fuck with me/I'm not eligible'. The gate sentries were so startled by his method of travel that he might have been able to waltz right on into the village without being announced.
The older of the two women, the one more experienced with Amazon battle sign, nodded smartly and beckoned Ranma to follow her with her spear. Though her actions were fluid and well practiced, the woman still held a mixture of curiosity and apprehension in her eyes. She exchanged a few words with the other guard before leaving and they were on their way to the Council building. Ranma wasn't sure who would be in at this particular time, but there were always at least three elders in the structure.
Another pair of guards stood outside the building's entrance and each eyed Ranma suspiciously. Ranma ignored them and continued to follow the gate guard. He still couldn't believe how peaceful the village was. The last he'd seen of its twin on his own world, the village had been a semi-advanced tactical command center. He'd seen children playing and young women training today, where he'd grown accustomed to passing weapon depots and grave markers. With a shrug, Ranma chalked the whole thing up to another advantage of this universe not being overrun by soul-stealing shadow creatures.
The hallway leading to the inner chamber was short, constructed of smooth, unadorned gray stone, and for all its solidity failed to shield the immensely powerful auras of at least three skilled warriors. There were no sentries standing guard at the chamber's door. If an intruder made it this far without alerting the matriarchs to their presence, they deserved to actually get in.
Three small forms huddled around what Ranma recognized as a scrying device of some kind, though that was the to his limited knowledge on the subject. They all turned to look at him and his escort as they stepped through the thick, oak-paneled door. Annoyance flashed across the faces of each withered woman before she could school her emotions and expressions so as not to give anything away.
For Ranma, this was another shock, smaller than many, but still surprising. The elders he knew had all been women appearing no older than thirty, at the most. The shrunken frames and shriveled features of these women were definitely out of place if they were indeed so young. Ranma knew the reason, of course; but just hearing about something is much different than actually seeing the proof with one's own eyes. Whenever war threatened the Amazon Nation, the elders would douse themselves with water from the spring of drowned girl. The younger bodies allowed more energy to be spent on leading and fighting, instead of just holding their ancient bodies together.
These barely-human-looking things weren't nearly as easy on the eyes, either. A rapid verbal exchange between his escort and the elders ensued, growing somewhat heated near the end. A minute or two later, the guard growled something that sounded rather painful and stalked away, glaring at Ranma with death in her eyes.
"I don't have a clue what you old crones are saying," Ranma said after two of the animated corpses said something to him in Chinese.
"Ah. You didn't have the look of a native about you, but we assumed anyone who knew our battle language would know our spoken language," rasped the wrinkliest, most dried-up looking of the trio. The large, bulging eyes that no longer seemed to fit the woman's tiny little skull squinted at him.
Ranma waved the comment aside and said, "I never had time to learn."
"Do you realize just how much trouble you may be in, young man? It is forbidden for a male, much less an outsider male, to know our secrets. You have seen a great deal of our home on your journey here and therefore are an even greater security risk. Not to mention the interruption of several hours of work on the part of my fellow elders and I. No one would even raise an eyebrow if we had you executed."
"Blah, blah, blah. Go suck a lemon, Cologne." Ranma recognized the woman's attitude and manner if not her voice and appearance. "And don't threaten me, either. All I came here for was to borrow some cash. I know you people keep a big vault of it down in the cellar, and last I heard, quite a bit of it was Japanese yen." Ranma was about to explain why they were going to give him the money when another of the elders spoke up.
"The nerve of this outsider is ghastly. Has the respect we as a tribe command sunk so low that a man can get away with disrespecting the matriarch and demanding we pay him without reason?" Battle aura still invisible, Ranma nonetheless sensed the woman's preparations for an attack. He could feel the chi-forged steel of a blade concealed within the shaft of her bamboo cane, and primed his mind to call on his own swords if this confrontation came to blows.
Ignoring the indignant elder, Ranma continued, "Of course I have reasons for knowing all that I do, and once you are made aware of it, you might part with a small portion of your horde."
Cologne handled her emotions much better than her fellow elders, but Ranma was beginning to feel a fraying around the edges of her being that indicated she was becoming slightly upset. "You seem to have me at a disadvantage. You know me well, it appears, but I know nothing of you, male."
"Ranma Saotome. I'm not going to tell you everything. To put it in the fewest possible words, I'm from another universe. I knew all of you there, though you had used the spring of drowned girl to reverse your age to help us fight the darkened ones." Ranma fumbled in the pocket of his black trousers for a moment before A few moments later he extracted a small leather bag that was tied shut with a loose thong. Prying it open, Ranma dumped the contents of the pouch into his hand.
The three troll-like women gasped as one, their eyes disbelieving of what they saw. In Ranma's hand rested several gray pearls about the size of the nail on his pinky finger. To mundane sight, the gems appeared ordinary, completely unassuming; but to anyone with even a small amount of training in the manipulation of chi or mystical energies, they throbbed with an inky blackness that threatened to envelope Ranma's hand.
"The heart stones of the darkened ones I slew in my universe. Those struck through the heart, and I can assure you that there were many, released no stone, but that is unimportant. I trust you recognize these and understand the process undertaken to destroy them." Darkened ones weren't really all that powerful. Just lost souls who had lingered in places of negative energy for too long and been corrupted by it. Their strength lay in their ability to totally possess another living being, subsuming their consciousness and becoming the master of the new body. Once that process was completed, the darkened ones would begin to change, drawing on negative emotions, altering their host bodies with it. A normal human body could become a nearly unstoppable killing menace within a week. More than a month and the defiled bodies became so powerful that only Ranma, a handful of Amazons, and the pervert Happosai had ever been able to stop one. Fortunately, once the darkened soul took up residence within a body, the strain would decay the host body's DNA, or so the scientists said, and they would be forced to find a new host before two months passed.
Ranma stepped closer and held his hand out so that its contents could be inspected. "They're genuine, if that's what you're wondering." He cupped his hand and carefully emptied the pearls into the pouch they'd originally occupied. Once it was tied shut, Ranma handed the container over to Cologne, unconsciously wiping his hand on his pants leg repeatedly.
For the next couple minutes, Ranma was completely ignored as the elders debated something in Chinese. He was beginning to regret not learning the language, but there was no help for it now. When they stopped, Ranma tensed and waited for an answer, but instead one of the elders, the only one to remain silent, scurried out of the chamber on some unknown errand. She returned a few minutes later, just as Ranma's patience was about to snap. Behind her, in a parody of marching children, strode another dozen shriveled little creatures that Ranma knew to be elders, no matter how much they didn't fit his preconceived picture of them.
"They are genuine," Cologne finally admitted. Ranma had been just about ready to give up on mooching off the Amazons. He looked at her questioningly and she continued, "Even in my lifetime I've never seen an actual heartstone, but I know the signs and have read the ancient scrolls. You must indeed be speaking the truth, or we would have long ago been alerted to the presence of such a large number of the defiled. The fact remains, though, that we have no reason to give you assets set aside for tribal emergencies."
Ranma sighed and said, "I suppose I could stay for a little while and teach a little." It'd be better than trying to find a job in a dojo back in Japan, where he would need a teaching license and recommendations, and stuff he didn't even know about.
To be continued.
Author's Notes- This is just something to write on until I work past my writer's block for all my other fics. It'll most likely be dropped once I begin working on my other fics. Whenever that happens, anyone who wishes to can pick up where I leave off and continue the story however they see fit.
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