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Chapter 3-A: Where The First Beat-Downs Occur, With Much Rejoicing

A Ranma ½ story
by Dragon Claw

Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.


The two forces of nature faced each other.

In one side of the dojo, Vortex stood, his smile giving way to a blank look of preparation. He was utterly relaxed, with his arms crossed over his chest and his gaze unwavering.

In the other side, well…

"You hear that punk?! Yeah baby, you got jack! Iím too cool to face ya, but when your headís in the ground, me and my boyzíll show you not ta mess with the likes of us!"

Happy was going through the posing phase, trying to sound 'with it' and impressive, instead of the 'sage and elderly martial artist' routine. His students were currently trying to melt into the floor, and whether it was from fear of Vortex or embarrassment from their Masterís antics, even Soun and Genma didnít know the answer at this point.

Cologne was trying very hard not to laugh. There was a certain dignity an elder had to keep up, after all.

Ranma had no such problems normally, but he was a little distracted by his fate being decided. So he settled on a light nervous chuckle instead of a belly laugh.

Kodachi and Nodoka were simply steaming at the vulgarity of the little troll.

Shampoo was wondering what sort of dialect the little pervert was spouting, and why did she want to collapse in hysterics?

The others already KNEW the dialect, so they didnít have a problem at laughing, if somewhat quietly. After all, they didnít want to have a bomb thrown their way.

After twenty-seven minutes, however, Vortex began to get bored by the various pre-victory dances, self-promotional songs, and intricately graphic descriptions of Happosaiís claims of fighting prowess and sexual ability, so he decided to get things started. Motioning to the blushing spectators, (who REALLY didnít want those mental pictures) he indicated that he was ready whenever they were.

Off to the side, Kasumi took an off-white handkerchief and held it for everyone to see. "When the handkerchief touches the ground, the match will start. Ready?"

Both sides fell into subtle fighting stances instantly.

The handkerchief was released.

"BEGIN!"

Instantly, Happosai began to lob bomb after bomb. "Try this on for size, punk! HAPPO-FIRE-BURST!"

To the left, Soun immediately blasted out his battle aura, forming a horrific apparition of darkness and power, the Demon-Head Attack. "I SHALL SHOW YOU WHO YOUíRE DEALING WITH! FOR THREATENING MY CHILD, DIE!"

Frowning, Vortex stared at the two opponents. He then shifted to the right, just as the Happo-fire bombs came in range… coming in contact with the suddenly visible form of Genma Saotome. The result was one charbroiled, and unconscious, pseudo-panda, a shocked look clearly engraved on his face. "Ah, I see, the dual-weapon tactic. The obvious katana is utilized to take your focus from the hidden dagger. By distracting me with flashy tricks, you believed that Genma with his suppressed aura could disable me. A rather cheap move, but probably pretty effective normally."

Stretching, Vortex smiled.

"Now then, I believe that itís my turn. Vortex-Ryu special technique, ĎKi-Claw-Cycloneí!"

Raising his hands to the ceiling, Vortex seemed to swipe at Soun and Happosai in a manner similar to Ranmaís use of the Cat Fist. However, the result of this attack was not an invisible shredding force. Instead the technique seemed to make a cylinder of sharp energy blades. The demon bead suddenly started to swirl and disfigure, causing Soun to drop it from the strain.

Tracking the displays of skill intently, Cologne narrowed her eyes in surprise. Interesting… blades of pure, cold ki. Similar to the Hiryuu-Shoten-Ha, this attack appears to precisely cut through enraged or heated battle auras and sustain itself through the diffused energy. Very efficient.

Ranma, on the other hand, was seething at his fatherís display of skill.

'That, that IDIOT! He was using the Umisenken! Those are forbidden techniques, sealed on his honor! That moron, those moves are DANGEROUS! AND HEíS USING THEM HERE IN A STUPID DOJO CHALLENGE TO GET SOME FANCY KNIVES!!!'

Nervously looking at the sudden pillar of flame where her friend and sometimes fiancťe had been seated, Ukyo decided to try to diffuse the situation.

"Uh, Ran-chan? Could you turn down the heat a bit?"

"Shampoo agree with Spatula-girl, it too, too warm in here."

Looking at her purple-haired rival in surprise, Ukyo nodded in thanks.

"Besides son, this challenge is also determining your path for the next five years. Of course your father would like to insure victory. Itís for your own good, after all." Frowning, Nodoka looked at the defeated form of her mate and narrowed her eyes. "Of course, using sealed techniques is a little something I will have to talk to him about."

Looking at her incredulously, Ranma asked, "And HOW is getting assassinated by a buncha gods 'for my own good'?"

"We only have this Vortexís word, and the word of a gaijin is not necessarily honorable." Nodoka replied, sniffing in disdain.

Cologne turned sharply at this and stated flatly, "We have the word of a martial artist, and a very good one at that. Donít underestimate this one, Saotome-san, he is powerful, and is only offering this challenge to save face for all involved parties."

Nodoka frowned, but refused to comment further.

In the meantime, Soun had caught his second wind, but was more cautious about another attempt at the Demon Head. It was primarily an intimidation technique, and caused the opponents, more often than not, to run like mad. This upstart had not even blinked, and had been so aware of the environment that he had sensed the disturbance of Genmaís passing. Probably in the air currents of the area shifting, one of the few flaws the technique had.

Well then, Anything Goes meant Anything Goes, and there was the OTHER school that his wifeís family had been known for, teaching him their art after the marriage. These were the thoughts of one Soun Tendo as he took a Naginata and started swinging it in intricate arcs towards Vortex.

Of course, this irritated the challenging fighter just a little bit. So when the blade started for his face, he raised an arm to block.

*CLANG*

Soun looked on in shock as the honor weapon of his wifeís clan showed a large, arm-shaped dent.

"Heh, now that wasnít very nice. I was under the impression that this was a duel to the admitted defeat or unconsciousness. Since when were lethal techniques allowed?"

Dusting his arm off, Vortex looked Soun straight in the eye.

"If there is one thing I hate, itís a blatant cheater. Your School has two marks against it now. Letís see how you like to face a weapon unarmed."

The useless blade of the Naginata was slapped aside, and Vortex slashed a simple knife hand at Sounís throat. Dodging to the side, Soun was shocked by a stinging sensation on his chest. Looking down, the unpleasant sight of a ripped gi greeted him. Not to mention the moderately deep cut…

Suddenly, the strikes came faster and faster, a nick here, a slash there. No place was safe from injury. Every block attempted simply resulted in a deep gash. Arms that had punched through steel in their prime suddenly looked like raw meat that had been in the sun too long.

Staring intently, Ranma noticed the faint aura outline that enclosed each arm. It seemed like something familiar, if he could just…

Kunoís bokken!

Twisting to the side, Cologne grinned slyly at the shocked form of her Son-in-law.

"You noticed it too, eh?"

Looking at the Old Ghoul and Ran-chan in curiosity, Ukyo tried to make out what they were seeing. Then she gasped, in an odd symphony with Mousse, Shampoo and Konatsuís exclamations of surprise.

Nodoka just narrowed her eyes slightly, but Kodachi let off a startled curse.

Kasumi, Nabiki, and Akane just wondered what the big deal was.

What the group of Martial Artists perceived was a 'ki-sheath' around each limb. When weapon-users utilized their preferred art with enough intensity, they could infuse trace amounts of ki into their weapon to increase its sharpness and density, while negating its weight. The older and more used such weapons, the more easily they responded to the ki of warriors.

While infusing a limb with ki was not unheard of, it was primarily used for techniques like the Stonebreaker Fist, increasing the power of an impact for brief surges, or the Chestnut Fist, increasing the speed of the limb.

But this aura was shaped like a weapons edge, cutting with force greater than any katana.

Nearly a hundred strikes latter Soun was rendered unconscious. Not from blood loss; they were no more than paper cuts, really. Not from pain; regular beatings from master martial artists help to increase your pain threshold greatly.

No, the source of his passing out was quite different from all that.

He had just pictured what sort of welcome his wife would have for him in the next life, after she learned about the damage to her familyís best Naginata.

Let's just say that Akaneís temper and Nabikiís creativity are inherited from their Motherís family tree, and leave it at that.

Dusting his hands lightly, mostly to remove the blood, Vortex smiled slightly. Then he ducked, avoiding Happosaiís kick to the skull.

"I was wondering when you were going to play, little one."

Puffing out his chest, the Grand Master of Anything Goes smirked at the relaxed posture Vortex held.

"I was just waiting for those two buffoons to get out of the way. Now there will be no interruptions to our man-to-man duel of honor!"

Actually, Happosai just didnít want to share any of the glory.

"Now you face the true power of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts!"

The two remaining combatants suddenly leapt into action, starting the third stage in this duel to the finish.

"Uhhh, I hate to interrupt…"

Both Vortex and Happosai blinked, then looked over to the red, glowing form of Nabiki, trying to figure out what her problem was.

"…but GET ME DOWN FROM HERE, ALREADY!"

Looking at the chains and knifes that continued to pin the middle Tendo daughter to the far wall of the dojo, Vortex sheepishly muttered, "Ah, sorry about that. Actually, would you believe that it completely slipped my mind?"

Since facefaulting is painful while drinking hot tea-- thoughtfully provided by Kasumi-- or being tied up with sharp metal objects, the Nerimans settled on sweatdrops.

Afterward, Ranma-chan muttered something thankfully unintelligible as she upended the remaining tea upon her head.

Seizing the distraction, Happosai cried, "An opening!" and leaped at Vortexís head, pipe first.

But Vortex again ducked, coming up with his fists swinging.

Happosai, however, was getting angry. His chance to show off and get the adoration that he richly deserved was being stopped by this pathetic weakling! He would make Vortex fear the Anything Goes School for the rest of time!

Charging his aura on a familiar dark emotion, Anger, Happosai let out a loud yell and fought.

Now, say what you will about Happosai, he is a good martial artist, Grandmaster of one of Earthís most adaptable and powerful styles. Every defeat he had suffered at the hands of younger generations was caused by distraction or trickery. Ranma himself, while possessing the power necessary to beat up a god, didnít possess the raw volume of knowledge that Happosai had at his disposal. Over a century of power and battles had caused the diminutive troll to evolve past mere human fighting into a level that few alive could hope to match.

So Vortex found himself surprisingly hard-pressed to hit the little creep.

While he wasnít going at his maximum speed, Vortex couldnít access more of his higher talents without pushing the timetable of Yggdrasil forward a few weeks or harming the others in the dojo. That was completely unacceptable to him, but Happosai didnít have those reservations. 'Well then, letís try…'

Jumping back to gain some space, Vortex brought forth his aura, blazing silver, and cried, "Vortex School of Martial Arts Combination Technique! Hyper speed punch and Ghost Arm Combo: Silver Flurry!"

Suddenly, Happosai seemed to be hit from all sides. No matter how hard he tried to track Vortexís punches, they seemed to be too fast to catch more than afterimages. Every throw attempted met with failure, as the limbs seemed to melt into thin air when caught.

Ki blasts were knocked to the side, punches blocked, slashes parried. Happosai found himself loosing ground and energy, as the five days without fresh female chi caught up to him. The last thought that passed through his skull before darkness clamed him was this: 'What the hell is this boy! Another octopus?'


Ranma was grudgingly impressed.

The battle that he thought would be anti-climactic after all the hype Happosai had attempted-- 'Jeez, any MORE mental trauma and theyíll need ta set me up a suite in the loony bin'-- had actually been intense and informative.

To start off, Pops, Mr. Tendo and Happosai had all shown some pretty impressive teamwork. That tricky initial strike was obviously a well-used tactic and seemed almost instinctive. Probably developed when the three of them had been training twenty-something years ago. It might have even worked on him, but now he knew better than to rely upon Genmaís desire to seal those stupid forbidden techniques.

The second attack was an eye-opener as well. The Tendo-Ryu had never really impressed Ranma very much, being limited to the ground and relying on power strikes. But he had apparently been seeing a weaker form of the technique from Akane, instead of the truer form Soun seemed to possess. He was obviously rusty, but Sounís techniques were designed on offensive power as well as a strong defense. Where the Saotome-Ryu flowed around an opponentís attacks and defense like a hurricane, the Tendo-Ryu plowed through them like an avalanche and blocked with the force of a mountain. Not bad at all.

The third attack was the biggest shock of them all. With all the felonies, petty crimes and other disgusting habits that Happosai seemed to thrive upon, Ranma had never really realized just how much that little pervert was holding back. He would play with them all, and then show his superiority at the last minute by retrieving himself from the latest trap. He wasnít worth respecting, but at least he showed that the Anything Goes was more than an excuse to steal sake and underwear. It was a powerful martial arts discipline that was almost without peer.

Almost.

Vortex as a fighter was not what Ranma would call high-level. Physically, he could probably take Tarou and Ryoga on at the same time in arm wrestling. His ki could definitely outdo Herb in potency. His grasp of battle tactics was clear and strong like Cologne's. However, besides that, his strikes were at the level of a black belt. His feel for his martial art made it seem like a hobby, done in his spare time. But the results of Vortexís training clearly had some impressive positive benefits. If that power and those special techniques came from his training, then the possibilities if it was coupled with a mastery of Anything Goes were nearly limitless.

"Ranma Saotome of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts."

Looking up, Ranma was startled by the remaining silver in Vortexís eyes. The aura from earlier was gone now, but traces of it were still diffusing around him. The solemn air was nearly suffocating.

"I have defeated the masters of this school, Soun Tendo and Genma Saotome. In addition, I have also defeated the Grandmaster Happosai. As such, the terms that I have set shall now come into play. Tomorrow at dawn, I will return to hear your answer. Will you go with me to learn my Art? Or will you remain here, where you now at least have some warning of the attack? I wish you 'good day'."

Turning, Vortex started off towards the setting sun with the dignity of the noble samurai.

"Excuse me, I believe you are forgetting something."

Turning to Kasumi, he asked, "Oh? What is it, Kasumi-san?"

She simply pointed to the far wall of the dojo, which was beginning to blacken from the battle auraís heat.

Sweat-dropping, Vortex then proceeded to unpin Nabiki from the wall. Each dagger and chain was removed with a hurried apology as he avoided looking the famed Ice Queen in the face. He was interested in living a while longer.

After the most lethal of his offerings had been returned to his person, Vortex gave the silver necklace to Nabiki as a gift. Turning away, he could almost hear the cash register going off in her head. He hid a smirk, thinking about the hidden properties the little bauble possessed. Damn, she was going to be pissed…

Walking past Kasumi, Vortex politely stated, "My thanks, Kasumi-san. That would have been very embarrassing, leaving the prize those three fought to gain after going through the trouble of defeating them. For helping me, here is a bit of advice."

He leaned into her ear, and whispered so softly that no one in the room could make out the words. The only reaction was a bit of concern tainting Kasumiís otherwise cheerful face.

Then he was gone.

 

To be continued.


Author's notes: Okay, okay, I know I shouldn't play with other people's toys without permission, but they're so much fun!

This chapter was FUN to write, but the game is far from over. After all, do you think Heaven has been sitting on its butt all this time? Stay tuned! It can only get better… I think.

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