Chapter 2: Who the Heck is That?
A Ranma ½ story
by Dragon Claw
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.
Ranma Saotome of the Saotome-Ryu of Anything-Goes Martial Arts suddenly shivered as a feeling of unease took him. This was the sort of thing that only a powerful enemy or a new fiancée could cause, a severe overload to his danger sense that was akin to the violation of his future grave.
Since he was currently battling a steel-using Tatewaki Kuno, Ranma made the obvious decision that his Pop had hidden another arrangement under the futon.
“Foul Sorcerer! For the crime of binding Akane Tendo and the Pigtailed Goddess to your will, I shall slay thee!” Practically foaming at the mouth, Kuno was leading his katana through an intricate pattern of slashes and strikes. The air pressure was being shifted at an incredible rate, almost forming vacuums from the backlash of the swords passage.
However, being an unarmed school, the Anything Goes training had several doctrines concerning armed opponents. Stay too far within their reach for effective weapon use, doge through the eventual pattern weapon handling required for control, and the most important of all: Sharp things and human tissue don’t mix.
Since the patterns were familiar, the opponent’s speed pitiful, and the ‘vacuum blade’ concept yesterday’s news, Ranma was not worried in the least. So his overconfidence and slight distraction cost him a three-inch tear in his shirt.
Pressing his advantage, Kuno attempted a decapitation, only to find a glowing foot implanted in his skull. Said foot was attached to a very irritated Ranma, who preceded to beat Kuno to the point just short of a hospital stay.
Taking his book bag, Ranma proceeded to walk away with dignity, a perk to the added training he had put himself through the last few days. No more dragging himself away with a stick, that was damn sure.
It seemed like a hundred years since the battle with Saffron, but, in actuality, it had been a mere two weeks since the phoenix had met an icy end at Jusendo, ripped apart in a wash of gore.
Oh yeah, and five grueling days since that attempt at a wedding.
He was still angry with his parents about that one. He had given his mother the cold shoulder treatment for her part in the debacle, and his father the “you-really-wish-that-you-stayed-in-bed” sparring technique: black, blue and purple version. Of course, it broke Ranma’s heart that his own mother would again resort to the ‘cry-a-river’ technique to force him to marry Akane, but he had been very fed up, so the soul of ice was employed as a counter. He had walked out as she, sighing at the unmanliness of disobedient children, chipped the icicles off of her face.
At least Soun had stayed out of his way a bit since then.
Well, it was another day in the neighborhood. Akane had stalked off, leaving him to his duel with Kuno, irritated with the lack of concern that Ranma seemed to have for someone that she had always taken seriously as one of his opponents.
After all, if the upperclassman really WAS this pathetic, what did that say about her own prized skill? A skill she believed close to Kuno’s. (An incorrect assumption, of course. The boy was far outside of her abilities.)
With Mousse working on rebuilding the Nekohanten after Shampoo’s temper tantrum over the wedding, and Ryoga off with Akari, the upperclassman’s knockout isolated the last of his opponents. He should actually have a bit of peace and quiet at home now.
WHERE IS THE ONE WHO KILLED SAFFRON?
Sighing in resignation, Ranma Saotome started running towards the Tendo Dojo, the origin of the ki-enhanced voice.
Note to self: Give Pops a little, tiny, mini… uh… small amount of credit next time, and drop his punishment tomorrow to a dislocated left shoulder.
A wizened forehead, creased from decades of deep contemplation of battle tactics, snapped up, in conjunction with the mouth, which snapped open.
By the Goddess! This ki… the volume, complexity, and depth of emotion… it was impossible! Unbelievable! Magnificent!
It was also in front of Son-in-law’s home at the Tendo’s.
Muttering a word that is the equivalent of cursing your opponents to have their genitalia rearranged by a pack of hyenas, tigers, rats and cockroaches, without pain killers, Cologne of the Chinese Amazons hopped out of there as fast as inhumanly possible, Shampoo hot on her heels.
After stowing his tools— and weapons, and hot water kettle, and training potty, and everything else needed for a proper fight— Mousse hurried to catch up, flipping the closed sign with a loose knife.
WHERE IS THE ONE WHO KILLED SAFFRON?
Bleary eyed from a night of tears and sake, Ukyo looked out the window and growled.
Ok, that’s it. I have a hangover, my best friend hates me, and I just got to bed two hours ago. SOME JACKASS IS GOING TO PAY!
Yelling in unbridled fury, Ukyo tore her battle spatula off the wall, strapped on her bandoleer, and jumped out to the next rooftop blindly, wobbling slightly.
Konatsu, acting as guardian angel for the bereaved mistress of his heart, was right behind her, helpfully informing the okonomiyaki chef of one little detail.
“Ukyo-sama! You forgot your chest bindings!”
Unmoving and silent, Ryoga Hibiki stared into the horizon, the intricate play of sunlight and scenery forming a picturesque environment this fine afternoon. The clouds were puffy, the sky untainted, and the view from the top of the mountain was breathtaking.
Crossing his arms over his chest, Ryoga’s green eyes seemed to flash as he contemplated information of the utmost importance. Giving up on his internal dialogue, he decided to simply ask, and wait for nature’s serenity to answer with its timeless wisdom.
Now then, which way to Akari’s bathroom?
Sighing at the sorry state her brother was in, Kodachi fluffed the muddled kendoist’s pillow, after properly re-sheathing the family sword.
“Silly Tachi, you should know that Ranma-sama is unbeatable. Especially if he can kill a god.”
It still thrilled her, this knowledge that her Ranma-sama had challenged a power from up high. But of course, if SHE had been the one who was being rescued, the whole mountain and all those heathen bird monsters would have been slaughtered in a wonderful display of might.
Ah, so generous! To allow those things to live after daring to invade his home. Ranma-sama was worth more than the entire Kuno fortune and estate combined, for he had a heart of gold, and a body of bronze.
WHERE IS THE ONE WHO KILLED SAFFRON?
Her private fantasies interrupted suddenly by the shout, Kodachi eyes widened, and a smile came to her lips as the meaning penetrated. Grabbing her ribbon, she ran off to once again view her god on Earth join in valiant battle, vocalizing her joy. “OHO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HOOOOOO!”
After the crazy rose girl had left, a mongrel dog ran up to the prone form of Kuno lying in the street, and started to gnaw at his left foot. After the bad taste penetrated, he settled on stealing the pillow and mauling it like a chew toy.
Happosai was undergoing a rather unique crisis.
A few days ago, he had ingested a large casket of spring of the drowned boy Jusenkyo water, mistaking it for wedding sake.
Now, drinking Jusenkyo water isn’t unheard of, but the drinkers tended be Jusenkyo victims that had inhaled some as they thrashed in a pool of water with an unfamiliar body.
In the tragic past of the Jusenkyo springs, the only ones who notably drank the stuff were the bird people of Phoenix Mountain. Over the centuries, this infusion of magic had created a race that was no longer human, but creatures of an entirely new hybrid species.
There were numerous theories concerning the effect of drinking Jusenkyo water without being cursed directly. Some said that it would result in death as the internal organs shifted to be too small or large for the body. Others said that it would cause a gradual change into what ever the springwater was for. Others thought it would simply cause a day or two of indigestion.
In Happosai’s case, the result was… different.
Having the tastes of a young man, you would think that it wouldn’t make much of a difference in Happosai’s situation, right?
“Man, how to I ask her out?! She is such a hottie, and I’m just this shriveled old man. She won’t even give me the time of day! ARGHHH!”
Happy was going through the insecurities of puberty, and as such, was nervous about approaching a girl, for fear of rejection. And since he sustained himself by leaching off excess female chi, the only thing that kept his heart beating was the old panty collection.
He was going NUTS from the inner conflict, so the sudden burst of ki outside the front door was a welcome relief.
That is, until he realized that it was a guy, and several higher orders above him in power. Then he just wanted to scream in terror, or frustration, or both.
The first thing Ranma felt was the rage.
Being a student of several ki-manipulation techniques, he was sensitive to the emotional state that an aura could put off. The boiling rage beneath the red glow made Akane seem like a paragon of even-headedness and serenity.
The second thing that he felt was the intensity of the aura. It was clearly not at full strength, but it had the raw power of his second attempt at the Hiryuu shouten ha technique. That move had required four of the strongest fighters in the area to conduct successfully, and was much more dispersed.
The third was the audience.
The Amazons were on the other end of the street, in defensive postures and gaping openly at the display. That caused him some concern. Cologne had better senses then he did from all her years of experience, so his estimate of power level must have undercut the true figure.
Konatsu was holding Ukyo back on the roof to the right of the Tendo’s, her spatula on the side and her bandoleer empty. The little throwing spatulas were scattered all over the ground around the fighter, deflected by something in an almost casual manner.
The Tendo’s were viewing the glowing figure with animosity. Their home and dojo had been wrecked by challengers of insane levels of skill on a disturbingly regular basis. Soun was gearing himself up for the Demon Head attack, Akane was decked out in a clean gi and a scowl, pop was a panda and focused in a bulky crane stance, and mom had the family sword unwrapped and ready for a quick draw.
Then Ranma came face to face with Anoth Vortex.
The stranger was wearing a green, blue, and black fighting uniform that was clearly made for movement. Sleeveless shirt and baggy pants tied with a large sash of silver. His cape’s color matched the sash, with a purple lining. His head was uncovered, showing a youthful face of green eyes and blond hair. Despite the mask of pure hatred and fury, it wasn’t an ugly face, actually kinda handsome for a gaijin. With the aura blurring the stranger’s body, the only other thing that Ranma could make out was an odd amulet, shaped like a silver claw.
Forcing his unease down with sheer willpower, Ranma cockily smirked at what appeared to be his new opponent. “So, I hear ya been looking for me.”
Seeming to intensify his power, the mysterious figure loomed over the martial artist, in an odd mimicry of Soun’s Demon Head.
ARE YOU THE ONE WHO HAS KILLED SAFFRON?
“Yep! Ranma Saotome of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts.”
Suddenly, all the anger left the challenger’s aura, and one word was stated, as he smiled and tilted his head to the side.
The resulting group face-vault was of legendary proportions.
Damn that was fun!
Vortex was still pleasantly smiling, even as he analyzed the power levels of the children in front of him.
Hmmm, Akane actually wasn’t as bad as he thought. Decent ki potential, although only four percent developed. Raw physical power, fifty-four percent developed. Technique, based upon berserker potential and rather unstable. However, her will was impressive, and her emotional spectrum, while extensively angry, appeared to be unstable and unsettled. But there was something odd about her spiritual matrix, some hidden power.
Pah! Time enough to check that later.
Ukyo Kuonji, five percent of ki developed, although it appeared to be primarily for reinforcing objects. The sign of someone whose trademark martial arts weapon is truly an extension of his or her body. Raw physical power, hmmm, about forty-four percent developed. Technique heavily based upon weapon usage, but a variety of weapon sizes. Also appeared to be slightly off in form, suggesting self-training.
Konatsu, forty percent ki development, though it was primarily polarized towards speed. Raw physical development, twenty percent developed. Technique is excellent, the epitome of ninja training in stealth and evasion, based upon principle of ‘strike fast and run like hell’.
Shampoo of the Chinese Amazons… Shoot, only two percent of her ki had been developed? Raw physical power, eighty percent developed, a very good accomplishment for seventeen. Technique was flexible to a degree, weapons (heavy ones) were preferred, but unarmed her skill was notable. However, her overall potential had a long way to go for an Amazon.
Mousse, by the Seven, ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY TWO… Wait a minute. Ah, the masters’ version of this technique seems to require some sort of device that acted as a ki-battery and storage container. Interesting, but not very practical on a large scale. Okay, physical stats, about seventy-two percent developed. Technique flexible to the point of erosion with all the different weapon styles mixed in. Without a weapon, though, this boy is at the black belt stage in ability. Tsk, tsk, that just won’t do.
Kodachi Kuno, ki is actually three percent, similar usages to the Kuonji girl. Physical strength is about thirty three percent, with a technique based upon ranged attacks. A bit too formal and inflexible for your standard fights, though.
Now then, lets check the actual focus of this mess and
“Oh, Konichiwa, sir. Would you like to come in?”
Looking up from his suddenly forced smile, Vortex replied, I would be honored, Tendo-san. Please, do you have some tea?
Smiling in a quiet but somewhat empty way, Kasumi motioned him in, going to the kitchen. Then, poking her head out the door, she mentioned. “You might want to go out to the dojo. I am sure that everyone will want to hear what such an interesting man has to say.”
Bowing, Vortex replied absently, Arigato, Tendo-san, and leaped over the roof. The suddenly mobile martial artists quickly followed. He didn’t care about the squawks of indignation or the questions at this point. He had something bigger to think about.
A ki level development of POINT ZERO FOUR THREE SEVEN PERCENT?!? A physical strength level of POINT ZERO THIRTY-THREE PERCENT!?! A full mastery of twenty-four to twenty-eight martial arts disciplines?
And with his current power ranking, lets see carry the six, subtract the two
Vortex suddenly had a great need to sit down.
No WONDER Genma intentionally isolated and manipulated the boy to be dependent. Without the mental control he had, Ranma would have been a bloody force of nature. No WONDER that Kami-sama had the boy tortured and degraded to prevent ascension into power. Any position in heaven or hell would cause his eventual domination of the entire kami plane!
Damn this was going to be more fun then he thought!
Ah, thank you, Kasumi-san, the tea is truly excellent.
The group in front of him was obviously uncomfortable. They had all seemed to realize that, if information was desired, they had to share breathing space with people they would rather stay away from. However, Vortex was just too different from the normal challenger to pass up a calm information-gathering meeting.
Setting his cup aside, Vortex decided to begin before this time bomb exploded in his face.
Now then, my name is Anoth Vortex of the Vortex-Ryu. Two days ago, I received an interesting piece of information. It seems that a powerful deity known as Saffron was destroyed in the mountains of China. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the warrior responsible was an eighteen-year-old boy.
Ranma began to get really nervous at this point. He just KNEW that this guy was going to proceed to fight him because he was Saffron’s son or ally or friend or ava… ava… follower. Then, his friends would come and their friends, and he would never have a chance at a moment’s peace!
Since I value fair play, I thought it prudent to warn you of the consequences of such an act.
“Huh?!” That was unusual; this was the point of swearing eternal vengeance or at least requesting a ‘sparring-match’ or something like that. What was going on?
To kill a god is to make OTHER gods nervous. Oh, Saffron could fight, but his main power was as a battery. He served his people in a personal sense, but only as much as the sun will serve the life on Earth. All gods keep track of each other through an intricate web of magic, so when one is injured, a rumor mill churns out horror stories until someone gets around to checking the facts. Since you are a mortal, this data sweep will be much faster than normal because there will be no magical barriers to break through or unravel.
Suddenly, Cologne’s face went as white as chalk. A moment latter, Ranma’s heart skipped a beat in fear.
Smirking, Vortex said, It seems the honored elder has inferred the path of this discussion.
Turning around shakily, Ranma asked, “Granny, is he saying what I think he’s saying?”
“I believe so, child. Such a possibility had not occurred to me, but it makes sense in a perverse sort of way.”
Akane whipped her head between Vortex, Cologne, and Ranma. “What the heck are you three talking about?”
Pulling herself together, Cologne started to explain the hidden meaning of this information. “If there were a warrior who had defeated a Matriarch, through luck or skill, the tribe would go ballistic in fear. Hoping to surprise the adversary, a group of the best of the best would dogpile this hypothetical creature. I believe that Vortex here is saying that more than one god will attack Ranma and kill him as a safety measure.”
Everyone blinked in comprehension, and then involuntarily winced as the meaning sunk in.
Sighing, Vortex broke their inner dialogues before a decent head of steam could build. Exactly. What’s more, Saffron was a god of power, not much more than a battery. It wasn’t his purpose to possess FULL warrior training. My guess is that the assassins will be gods of the battlefield, who are greatly experienced in armed, unarmed and magical combat. So Ranma… Vortex suddenly smirked, do you think that you can take on three to six, or more, deities with superior skill and possibly power to the Phoenix?
Trying to comprehend the danger that he was in, Ranma tried to find a way out of this responsibility, this threat. If this were true, there would be nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Then he tried to deny it all. “Hold it! How can you know all this? Are you a demon or a ghost or what? I mean, you act as if you mess with gods on a regular basis!”
Understanding the pressure that these possibilities put on the boy’s already unstable mental condition, Vortex choose to explain rather than to take offense. My interaction with the gods is a slight side effect of one of my Schools principles of ki control. I do not believe that his world has a proper name for it, but I think that the concept of an ‘endless warrior’ covers some of the process.
Cologne suddenly inhaled sharply, and studied Vortex more closely.
“You’re just full of surprises. The endless warriors, the fighters whose sole destiny is constant combat, not for good or evil, but for their chosen lord. A position that changes hands every incarnation.”
Nodding at the summary, Vortex suddenly frowned. Yes, well, I said it covers some of it. The technique actually creates a backlog of one’s personality in your ki that manifests after reincarnation. High priority memories and skills override the body, integrating into the current incarnation at a point where they are needed. This usually happens when the individual is faced with a significant challenge or dire situation. Then, the previous experiences of the incarnation will cause the sides to be chosen. Knowledge of the gods is gathered by simply prioritizing memories of the afterlife, that’s all.
Seeing the uncomprehending stares that the majority of the group gave him, Vortex sighed. I guess that ‘Advanced Ki Tricks of the Masters 101’ is a little advanced for this group. Anyway, besides coming to warn you, I wish to offer Ranma training in the Vortex-Ryu.
Ranma suddenly focused upon the figure in front of him as if Vortex was a lifeboat in a storm filled sea. “Training?”
Vortex, a little nervous about the suddenly hungry look from Ranma, still smiled with some effort. Yes, you see I have a few little quirks, and one of them is training someone who has yet to reach a fraction of his full potential. Of course, the training is fairly rigorous, so I would need him for the equivalent of, oh, five years?
Of course, they didn’t need to know that five years experienced, would be five DAYS in the real world. He didn’t think that Ranma could get any more leeway than that, before Yggdrasil noticed his absence, if not sooner.
Interesting, I didn’t know that human voices could REALLY knock the roof of the top of a house.
Genma started the denial tirade, getting right in Vortex face. Hmmm… so even part-time pandas have bad breath. “Ranma is the heir to the Saotome-Ryu! You will not make him your heir, because he has the previous obligation!”
Vortex decided to try to reason first with the overweight martial artist before fighting him. It worked with Genma every now and then, and looked better to the glowing crowd. But doesn’t the Saotome-Ryu have a doctrine in which it incorporates other styles? So training him will not threaten that.
“I can’t have my son being diminished by such an extended training trip with a weak school!”
Vortex continued to smile, even as his left eyebrow started to twitch slightly. Weak?
Soun Tendo, having some very strong survival instincts, tried to attack another important point. “Besides, Ranma has a duty of honor to marry one of my girls! He can’t go for a solid five years and leave them waiting!”
Worried that her son would break ties with the clan, and leave her forever if given half a chance, Nodoka also acted swiftly to protect her interests. “My son has already completed the majority of his training. Such an extended period of time for additional learning in the combat arts is unnecessary. While we thank you for your concern, I believe that my manly son can handle some more opponents.”
Yet during all of this yelling and posing, Ranma was still. His face was a now mask of indecision, but his eye’s were much more direct as they seemed to plead to Vortex. I… I can’t win that kinda battle, I’m gonna need the sorta all the training this guy’s got just to survive!
Ah, so he can read auras, and he’s afraid. Good, that will make this easier. Standing up, Vortex sighed. I had hoped that you would be more accepting of the danger Ranma is in, but I guess that it’s time for the traditional ‘get-your-opponent-where-you-want them’ technique.
Then he smirked, and the group was treated to the same shiver of foreboding that Ranma had dealt with a mere hour ago.
I challenge the masters of this school, Soun Tendo, Genma Saotome, and the grandmaster Happosai to a three-on-one duel. The terms are unconsciousness or admitting defeat. If I win, Ranma has the option of going off to train with me.
“And what if they win?”
Looking at the doorway, he saw the infamous Nabiki Tendo, ice queen extraordinaire coming close to glaring at him. Ah ha! So there IS some feeling there.
“Why, Ms. Tendo! If your school wins, then you get this.”
Suddenly, a number of blurs surrounded Vortex
Twenty throwing knives, platinum engraved, high quality steel. Throwing chains of platinum inlay with gold clawing spikes. Oh and a gold and silver, hand-engraved chain necklace. Jeez, all that drool from Mousse is going to damage the floor. It looks like Nabiki is switching from fear to fury to greed, an interesting combination.
Understandable considering that she was currently pinned by a bunch of very valuable and VERY sharp weapons.
Seeing his middle daughter snuggly wrapped by a cage of sharpened knives, Soun saw red. “HOW DARE YOU HURT…!!!”
Turning, Soun saw his old buddy Genma STARING at his daughter, or rather the large volume of precious metals enveloping her. Then, he stopped to think of how valuable the weapons were, and how long they could support themselves in sake and beer and food from the money they could get from selling them, and how quickly this could finance another wedding.
“Agreed! As masters of the Anything Goes School, it is against our code to refuse a challenge!”
Nodding sagely, Genma took his position as Soun’s side. “Right! So go get him, boy!”
Vortex raised an eyebrow at the two middle-aged men attempting to push Ranma, who was shaking his head and bearing his heels in the floor, towards him.
Clearing his throat to get their attention, Vortex decided to get some sense knocked into these two ASAP.
I don’t know if your ears are damaged, but the challenge was to the two MASTERS and the GRANDMASTER of the school of Anything Goes. By name, specifically, so this isn’t a challenge to the school that you can paw off on another. I suggest you take it like men.
“Very well, WE WILL DEFEAT YOU!”
Turning towards each other, Genma and Soun then looked at the diminutive form in front them posed in a battle stance in sheer disbelief.
Now then, some of you might be wondering WHY the grandmaster of lechery and perversity was bothering to fight for mere weapons, no matter what their material value. The simple fact is that his frustration had deteriorated from fear to violence. And there were all those cute girls to show off to as well. Ah, the wonders of a second puberty.
To be continued.
In the next chapter…
In this corner! Soun Tendo and Genma Saotome, A.K.A. "The Nerima Party Boys" and their trademark pervert mascot, Happi!
And in this corner! The one, the only (thank god) Anoth Vortex!
LET'S GET READY TO RUMBLE!!!!!!!!!!
Sorry, I just had to say that.
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