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3-C: Let the Training Begin! First Lesson Ė How to Piss Off Heaven and Survive.

A Ranma ½ story
by Dragon Claw

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


Anoth Vortex hummed a slight tune as he made his way to the Tendo dojo. Things were actually going according to plan for once. The deal he had arranged with Cologne yesterday took care of that little matter of Amazon trouble and then some. One little treaty, and an alliance had formed that gave him access to their martial arts techniques, help in times of trouble, immunity from their smooching-based laws, and all he could eat at any Amazon-affiliated restaurant! All HE had to do was agree to train the best fighter of the generation, and give an annual gift of one magical item of HIS choice. Heh, there were times he LOVED politics.

Of course, offering to be the enemy of all Amazons for the next twenty incarnations seemed to make the paperwork go much more quickly.

Now his ultimate goal was only a few feet ahead of him! The only trouble was deciding WHAT was his ultimate goal.

Originally, he had come to Nerima to train Ranma, and only Ranma. But after seeing the available talent, he was intrigued.

No man is an island unless they hear voices. Hmm… That sounded about right.

The threat had been altered with his intervention, Vortex was sure, and that meant more power was needed to tip the scales properly. That was the official reason that he had slipped the "best fighter in the generation" clause into the treaty. Shampoo had a potential that the proper training could turn into a cyclone. The curses could also help overcome a problem that many mortals, including him, often suffered from: a limit. A plateau of their abilities imposed upon them by their set physical forms. With a little tweaking, the magic of Jusenkyo had MANY possibilities. Heh.

Balance was always required for maximum development, and having the "man amongst men" and the "women amongst women" training together would provide opportunities too numerous to contemplate.

After all, what was the point of living if you didnít share life with someone?

Man, this matchmaking stuff was kinda fun!


An eye-twitch. An UNINTENTIONAL eye-twitch. This was proving to be a little harder then he thought.

Oh, Vortex was thrilled that Ranma had seen reason. The large pack and determined expression were most welcome. However, the large number of injuries clearly inflicted on his pupil for the decision was not. The Amazon delegation was expected as well, despite the small amount of fear they excluded. Maybe using an aura of pure darkness to push his point had been a bit much.

It was the OTHER players that irritated him.

Ukyo had a number of small packed bundles by her side. However, she was decked out in a formal kimono and unarmed as far as he could see. Konatsu was by her left shoulder, looking at Vortex with an expression that was unreadable.

Kodachi, on the other hand, had at least twenty-seven expensive looking black trunks surrounding her, forming a small mountain that blocked the sun. While her look was demure and submissive, the fire of determination she held couldnít be hidden by the black satin sundress.

Genma, Soun and Happosai each looked like hell. New bruises and a couple of broken bones apiece compounded the injuries sustained yesterday during the duel. This didnít stop them from standing behind an irritated Akane, who happened to be wearing her training gi and a heavy backpack.

Nodoka, Kasumi, and Nabiki were nowhere to be seen.

This had clearly gotten slightly out of hand.


Ranmaíd had a rough night.

After staring at the water under the bridge for a couple of hours, he had come to a conclusion.

He couldnít do it.

Leaving like this, letting everyone he knew running from a threat, went simply against everything that he had worked towards in the last two… no, twelve… years of his life.

Ranma Saotome wouldnít lose.

So he decided to tell Vortex thanks, but no thanks, the next morning.

When he had returned, however, it was to an ambush of three angry martial artists.

First Genma had gotten in his face, saying things like "Boy how COULD you!" and "Youíre such a disgrace of a girl!" all the while trying to tie him up in chains with that Hellís Cradle technique.

Then there was Soun crying out incoherent denunciations and tears in equal measure. The buckets of quick dry cement he was tossing around were of much more concern to Ranma, though.

Then Happosai had come at him, crying about his precious "Ranma-chan" leaving the poor, innocent, spry, and humble master aside for some gaijin. Ranma got one good whiff of the "handkerchief" and avoided the old pervertís drugging attempts as best he could.

After knocking Genma into the chloroform rag in a dodge, cementing Happosai to the floor in a leg sweep, and wrapping Soun in the chains through a little cowboy lasso action, Ranma cracked his knuckles. The real fun was about to begin.

Forty minutes of concentrated beating, and Ranma was breathing heavily and SURE that he wouldnít have to worry about another attack that night. So rest would be an option.

He should have learned by now.

Akane had by that time returned from some extensive training in the dojo, taken one look at the beaten forms of her father, Genma, and Happosai, and turned to Ranma in a rage.

"How DARE you beat on my Daddy while heís down!"

She then retrieved her mallet and attempted to knock Ranma into the ground. When he wouldnít attack, she just got angrier.

"Donít you care about what they tried to do?! They defended the dojo and our school when you refused, you coward! Why donít you just go away and keep your demented screwed up life away from my family, you jerk!"

The fact that Vortex had challenged the masters of the school, that Happosai had ordered them to fight, or that the three had just attacked him meant nothing to her. But he was tired and not in the mood to trade insults.

She didnít seem to care.

"You IDIOT! Because of you, I have seen two years of headaches, danger, and pain come to my family! My Fatherís regularly beaten now! An ONI possessed Kasumi! Nabiki was attacked as your fiancťe! I almost died! But do you care? Nooooooooooo. You just sit back and laugh when we have to clean up your problems! Now youíve pissed off the KAMI! The fucking KAMI! I hope they string you out to dry, PERVERT!"

That last bit made him pause. But just as he was about to retort that this last problem came from SAVING her from death, Akane got a good hit in. She stopped after a mere fifteen minutes of constant impacts on her fiancť, leaving in a stream of tears. Normally she would have felt better, but beating on Ranma was simply no fun tonight.

It was after Kasumi carried him to the confines of the dojo that Ranma reevaluated his earlier position.

Leave and get the training he needed to survive and protect those he cared for. Stay and let things remain as they were. No choice at all, really.

Which was why Ranma was up bright and early the next morning, his pack in hand.

Breakfast was subdued. Ranma ate quietly as Kasumi and Nodoka looked on in worry. Nabiki would glance in his direction every now and then, but her expression was guarded. Akane glared at everybody, angrily wiping tears from her eyes when no one was looking

*Slurp* "What now Master?" And the Idiot Squad was conferring while eating their meal through a straw.

Although Genma, Soun and Happosai each looked like an Egyptian Mummy at this point, Ranma refused to let his guard down, much to their dismay.

After finishing breakfast, Ranma tried to say goodbye, but was surprised by a strong hug from behind. "Son, please be careful. Know that I will always love you, my man amongst men." Embarrassed by her outburst, Nodoka ran up the stairs to avoid further displays.

Kasumi seemed to debate with herself for a moment before smiling. She bowed once, deeply to Ranma, and stated — to the surprise of all those present — "Goodbye, Ranma Saotome. The Tendo family is in your debt for the safety of our heir. Train hard and return, warrior." Then she too went upstairs.

Stretching, Nabiki smirked at the shocked look on Ranmaís face. "See you around, Saotome. Just so weíre clear, you ARE coming back. You still owe me." She left, saying something about the jewelry district.

Akane looked dumbly at the stairs, and then started to turn her head eyes softening slightly. "Ranm…"

"Iíve got it!"

Akane then had a sudden unpleasant bout of dťjŗ vu as Happosai grabbed her, running upstairs with Soun and Genma hot on his heels.

Shrugging, Ranma went outside. Soun wouldnít let the old man do anything, and a little groping would serve her right for last night.

Waiting outside for Vortex to show up, Ranma was treated to a very unwelcome sight. The Amazons, Ukyo, Konatsu, and Kodachi approaching with luggage.

"What are you guys doing here?"

"Ranchan!"

"Ranma-sama!"

Ukyo and Kodachi blinked, and started to glare at each other. Surprisingly, that was as far as it went.

Looking at the various potential opponents, Ranma decided to start off with the most dangerous. "Whatís going on here old ghoul!? Trying to stop me?"

Winking at the nervous boy, Cologne forced a smile as she saw what could have been her greatest student. Oh well, whatís done is done. "Not at all, Ranma. Vortex simply contacted me yesterday in your interests. Congratulations. Youíre free of both the Kiss of Death and The Kiss of Marriage."

Ranma almost let out a sigh of relief, but stopped himself just in time

"In exchange, Shampoo will be coming along with you."

Or not.

Shaking his head, Ranma turned to the other two Fiancťes. "Okay. What about you, Ukyo? Kodachi?"

Sighing at his use of Ukyo instead of Ucchan, she replied, "Well, you left me in the dust once before Ran… ma. I donít plan on letting it happen again. So Iím going to officially ask to be Vortexís student."

"Foolish Girl!"

Everyone turned to the fuming Kodachi.

"Once Vortex-san sees the wondrous Black Rose offering herself up as a pupil, he will leave you lowborn hussies in the dirt, elevating Ranma-sama and myself into unspeakable glory! OH HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HO!"

"No! Vortex will only accept Akane as a new student!"

Looking back towards the dojo, the group was treated to the sight of Akane dressed in her training uniform, carrying a large pack, and being pushed out the front door by Genma, Soun and Happosai.

"Yes, it is only proper that as heir to the Tendo branch of Anything Goes, Akane should train alongside Ranma for the glory of their School!" Soun looked very smug with this pronouncement.

"WHAT?!"

The smugness continued, even as the group yell blew back his hair to its full length.

Ranma decided to give up understanding this mess and instead focused on his breathing. ĎIn and out in and out, must not kill anyone. That would be bad. They are you friends, sort of… uh, kill them and you have many more people out there trying to kill you! Thatís right, in and out…í

"Whatís going on here?"

Snapping out of his trance, Ranma saw his new sensei looking around with a mild scowl. It was going to be a long morning.


Great, I hope this is just a fan club sendoff.

"Ranma Saotome. Do you accept the offer of training in the Vortex-ryu, placing me as your sensei until the duration of five years has passed, as I see fit?"

Seeming to note the seriousness of the situation, Ranma straightened his back and bowed deeply to Vortex. "Yes Vortex-san. I humbly accept your offer of training. You honor me with this opportunity."

Say what you will, Ranma had picked up some tricks about etiquette during his training journey. Humility at the right times had given him access to the resources of several exclusive dojo. It was a weaker form of the Crouch of the Wild Tiger that Genma had taught him at eight.

Smiling, Vortex motioned with his right hand. "Well then, since that is settled, we should go on our way."

"Hold, Vortex!"

Sighing, the one in question turned to Cologne.

"Yes, yes I remember. Training of the champion and a magical artifact was it? Is she your candidate?" Nodding towards Shampoo, who was attired for battle but oddly docile, Cologne stated, "She is the best of her generation back home, and the years of conflict here have only improved her skills. She will do you proud, I think, as she has done for me."

Looking over the Amazon, Vortex sighed after his initial analysis appeared to be solid. "Let me guess. You held back in her training so she could get a good husband whom she could eventually dominate?"

Shampooís head snapped up in shock. Cologne had the decency to look a bit sheepish. Mousse quivered as he realized beating Shampoo might become impossible now.

"Okay, okay, I agreed to this bargain so Iíll carry through. Hereís the other half of the equation."

Reaching within his shirt, Vortex pulled out an orb of dark wood engraved with complex runes, and a scroll.

"This is a talisman of the Shadow Veil. With it, you can encompass a large area in an illusion that cannot be penetrated by those with ill intent. Chinese Army, Musk, Phoenix Warriors and the like should be unable to find the enclosed area unless you want them to. It should be useful in the protection of your village. The details of its operations are within the scroll. The next item will be presented in one year from this day."

Relaxing slightly as Cologne hid the orb and scroll within her sleeves, Vortex gestured again to his new students, this time with a little more force. Ranma appeared ready to get going, and Shampoo was just threatening Mousse with unbelievable torture if the blind duck boy ever attempted to follow her.

"Stop! Please, stop!"

Vortex growled slightly as he turned to Ukyo. "Yes? What is it?"

Steeling herself, the Okonomiyaki mistress bowed formally. "I humbly request to be your student as well, Vortex-san."

-Oy vay! A little battle aura and every single one of them wants to learn the trick. Ė "And under what right do you ask this?"

Ukyo looked at him and the fire of determination and pain was unbelievable, causing him to pause. "The fact that I have already invested twelve years in Ranma Saotome and do not wish to lose him for another five."

Narrowing his eyes, Vortex sighed. Might as well try the test of worthiness. "If I took you as a student, the training would be intense, and you would spend several months at a time away from Ranma. Romance would not be permitted as a distraction, so you would have to renounce your marriage claim. Are you up to that?"

Matching his gaze evenly, Ukyo nodded. "If I can spend even one minute of the time with him, it will be worth it with my best friend."

Vortex could only blink at that statement. Unbelievable, she had passed! Such drive and loyalty was to be commended, and rewarded, in his book.

"Very well, my student. If that is all, we should…"

"Vortex-sama."

Looking at the cross-dressing ninja, who was currently in a deep bow, Vortex raised an eyebrow. "Yes?"

"May I be permitted to accompany you? I serve Mistress Ukyo and would hate to leave her alone for too long. Please?"

Vortex quickly came to a conclusion. Watery eyes of hope on a male were damn disturbing. However, he was obviously good, and honestly felt indebted to Ukyo. Hmmm…

"I suppose that you might make a decent pupil. Youíd be a good sparring partner if nothing else. Very well, come along."

"Oh, Vortex-san!"

A fireball would be a Bad Idea. Knocking down the city would be a Bad Idea. Causing Armageddon to shut them up would be a Bad Idea.

"Yes, Kodachi?"

Sweeping her ribbon up in a grand fashion, sprinkling her trademark black rose petals to the four winds, Kodachi Kuno went off on rant number five. (Why the Kuno Clan is so humble as to offer themselves for your aid.)

"Great sir, such a noble personage as yourself can plainly see the grace, beauty, and skill I posses. I request the honor of your training to remain close to Ranma and supplement my perfect art with your style." Finished, she bowed with flourish.

"No."

Kodachiís smile cracked into a frown of disbelief. "Pray tell, sir, you are in jest?"

The look of distain on Vortexís face spoke volumes.

"I said no. I extended the invitation to Ranma because of his potential, and right for survival after many years of hardship. Shampoo is coming along because of a treaty designed for the benefit of both the Amazons and myself. Ukyo got away with coming because I respect loyalty and self-sacrifice, traits she has in excess. Konatsu is allowed because of his diligence and devotion to Ukyo is quite touching. Those are things I can respect, and Iíll admit, are a little biased towards. However, you are simply a little girl who sees the world as her plaything and martial arts as a way to exert superiority over others. You donít have the confidence or determination to come along because you are so preoccupied with your own desires. Everyone I have allowed to join has shown the ability to sacrifice everything for what they want, but you donít have that drive."

Kodachi looked on, hurt and angry at this denouncement, but surprised everyone with her obvious restraint. "What, pray tell, would make me suitably deferential to your ideals so that I may accompany Ranma-sama?"

Nearly laughing at the noblewoman, Vortex threw out the first thing that came to mind. "Well, you would have to act as a servant for the duration of the trip, leaving the comforts of home aside." He made a sweeping gesture at the numerous personal trunks that seemed to shield Kodachi from all sides. "You would have to swear to abide by my personal command, give Ranma the space he deserves, and not utilize chemistry to alter the mood of your compatriots." Smirking in a fashion that would have pissed off a saint, he threw out one last barb. "Think you could handle that, little girl?"

-She should start running away or at least ranting any minute now…- Vortex thought with confidence.

Kodachi was struggling with something rarely controlled, her feelings. Superiority in breeding and position was one of the few things that had allowed her to remain alive after her mothers passing.

But to lose Ranma-sama…

"Iíll… do it."

Vortex treated the shocked audience to his second face fault in personal memory. "Youíll do it?!" He said after wiping the blood from his nose. That hurt nearly as much as the last time.

Squaring her shoulders, Kodachi sighed as she began to remove numerous pouches, packets, weapons and the like from her garments. "I shall not abandon Ranma-sama for so long, and if this is the price for time with my love, then so be it. For the duration of this journey I, Kodachi Kuno, forswear any ties to my family and fortune, content with the guidance and demands of Anoth Vortex as his servant. If accepted, I shall obey with the understanding that I will serve toward the betterment of Ranma Saotome, the warrior that has captured my heart." Finishing, she took her last club and threw it behind her, toppling the pile of trunks without looking back.

Needless to say Ranma didnít look too thrilled with this declaration. Neither did Vortex, for that matter. -Me and my big mouth. I think this world is beginning to rub off on me. -

"Very well, you should be getting along then. Goodbye, Akane. Do your family proud!"

Blinking, Vortex then looked at Soun Tendo who appeared to be pushing Akane out the door, dressed in training gear.

By the Seven Bloody Hells!!!

"Let me guess. You want Akane along on the trip?" -As if it wasnít obvious. Heaven couldnít notice one, itty, teeny weenie fireball, could they?-

Akane was about to shout out that he could take his training trip and shove it in an orifice too small to handle the strain, but then Vortexís mocking tone and rolling eyes caught up with her. "Why not?! If Ranma, Shampoo, Ukyo, Konatsu, and Kodachi can do it, so can I!"

Vortex looked at Akane for a moment, about to deny the little brat who thought she could demand a position because of who she was: Akane Tendo, heir of the Tendo-ryu, a Ďmartial artist too!í Then the irregularity that he had noticed earlier made him pause. It was clearer now; some sort of pink spirit string shot through with crimson connected to Ranma. It looked so familiar…

Instantly, Vortex closed his mouth and shot her a gaze of loathing and hate.

He knew what she was, and given WHERE she was, his respect for Kami-sama dropped another four percent.

"No. I refuse to train one of YOU!"

Everyone was staring at the gaijin now, wondering where this heated emotion, this raw rage had come from again. He didnít care. This thing that held the form of a cute and temperamental girl was not worth his time, only his disdain.

"HEY! How DARE you talk to me like that!"

Akane was getting angry… ah… angrier. She hadnít wanted to go along with this creep. Some weirdo who played at martial arts and with peoples lives like games not worth his attention. Her father might try to salvage the situation by making it a long stretch of fiancťe time, but she had a life to live, and five years away was out of the question. But to be refused and disrespected like garbage, or… or… one of THEM!

The mallet was on target, but missed as Vortex shifted his posture at the last second, disarming her like a harmless child.

The kick to the ribs seemed to come out of nowhere.

"Get out of my way."

The tone was cold and final. Akane winced, shying back.

Satisfied, Vortex was about to demand they leave when his danger sense flashed a warning. It was the only thing that caused him to deflect the arrow to the ground.

The silence was deafening.

-Letís see, arrow. Check. Mark of Hephaestus, check. An invisible, silent assassin. Check. Okay, who fits that MO?-

"All right, Nemesis. Get your scrawny Greek butt out here, NOW!"

An irritable female voice seemed to call out of nowhere. "Whoís scrawny?"

From across the street a woman appeared and nearly caused several heart attacks. Not from the sudden appearance, mind you — invisibility was well known in the area — but the outfit. She was tanned, with athletic lines that in no way detracted from her significant attributes. Her long hair was tied in a shiny tail that fell over her left shoulder in a rippling wave of amber. Her features were carved and perfectly statuesque, but the skintight black armor didnít hurt her presentation either. The empty bow held loosely in her hands and silver arrow markings on her face made this Nemesis look dangerous and exotic.

To bad she seemed pissed enough to kill… correctly, this time.

Before she could sputter much more than a retort though, Vortex seemed to blur, jumping with inhuman speed and drop kicking her into the pavement. After removing the bow and pinning the indignant woman to the ground, Vortex idly commented, "What IS it about my poker-playing buddies that makes you want to kill me right now?"

After wasting a few seconds trying to break his hold, Nemesis managed to choke out, "There is a high price on your head for interfering with Ranma, Vortex! Kami-sama is offering a Jewel of the Four Souls to whoever brings you in or kills you! I was just trying to save you from some torture, so please donít be mad! Besides," she said, narrowing her eyes in irritation, "youíve cheated in the last six strip marathons!"

Coughing into his free hand, Vortex had the decency to blush. "All right, I understand you might be a little angry about that, although in my opinion such a sight was WORTH the wrath of the gods. I also know this…"

He focused his gaze on the arrow, which suddenly snapped in half from a wave of pure mental force.

"You donít go after people if you miss. Either you give up or youíll need to commission a new arrow. One way or the other, you are not my enemy now."

Sighing, Nemesis got up and stretched, which would have caused nosebleeds to any normal spectator. Luckily, Nerimans are made of sterner stuff. "All right, but as old friends, why the heck did you go against Kami-samaís decree that Ranma Saotome was to be executed for killing Saffron? That was reckless and foolish!"

Vortex hardened his features into a mask of ice. "All right, an answer for an answer, assassin. Are there any others with you?"

Shying away from the intensity of his gaze, Nemesis hemmed and hawed. "Well, there ARE those four light constructs of level seven containment Iím supposed to use as back up. Youíre not the only one who knows my style."

Thinking for a second, Vortex idly wondered. "Tracking me or Ranma?"

Nemesis answered without thinking. "Both." Clapping her hands on her mouth in shock, she looked ready to clock someone. "Damn it, Vortex! How do you know me so well?!"

Smiling, he moved to placate her with a pat on the arm. "Because you know me so well. Not to mention that Gods and Goddesses canít easily lie. Theyíre just too bad at it. I guess Iíll see you around. Be well."

Nemesisís eyes widened in shock as the hidden seal in his palm started to banish her back to Heaven. "Wait! You didnít answer my question!"

Waving bon voyage over his shoulder, Vortex was already on his way to his new pupils. It was time to leave and then some. "Iím good at that! Ja!" With a shriek of rage, the deity was gone.

Looking around, Vortex noticed the looks of shock directed at him. "What? Do I have something on my face?"

The instinctive face fault managed to wake everybody out of his or her stupor, at least.

With lighting speed, Vortex had an energy scouter (borrowed from an expedition on its way to Earth led by some guy named Cooler) mounted on his skull and reading the incoming forces. He ended drawing a shocked breath. They were really going all out! No time for that now, Iíve got a lock on the problems, all four of them. "Damn it, this is NOT good!"

Over the initial shock, Ranma looked like he was torn between killing Vortex and running for his life. Not unusual for this sort of situation, actually. Anoth had seen a lot of people whoíd pissed off the kami, but those who piss off Kami-sama tend to disappear very quickly from circulation. "Iíll say. Didnít you think that mentioning the creator and father of all is after me would have been a good idea?!"

Looking like he had said something monumentally stupid, Vortex threw off the necessary witty comment while thinking of ways to get the fuck out of there. He would need months of intense training to use martial arts to escape, and magic would draw more elements from both sides than he could handle. "What, and boost your arrogance to inhuman levels? Or make you give up from desperation? No way. Whether or not you like it Ranma, you are hunted. You can either accept my help, or take on everyone on your own. However, youíve already made your choice, now live with it."

The border regions would be the best hiding place, but how the heck to set up the spell and escape? Aha!

"Ranma! Flare you aura! Now!"

Looking at him in disbelief, Ranma harnessed some of his ki and made a basic aura, which was carefully shielded. He was sensing something too, and the power involved made him nervous.

Taking his hands, Vortex seemed to summon a small sphere of nothingness, only notable through the rippling air. "Vortex Energy Conversion!"

Suddenly, Ranma was staring at a sphere of blue that was HIM! His aura anyway, which seemed replicated in perfect detail right down to the levels of confidence. Then there were two, then three, then four He blinked as five Vortexís appeared before his senses as well.

Damn! Kami-sama or not, he was learning that trick!

Wiping the sweat from his brow, Vortex smiled. This was perfect. These should be a decent distraction. HAAAAAAAAA!

The spheres split into four groups, spreading all over Nerima.

After a small self-congratulatory smirk, Vortex was all business. "Weíve got twelve minutes, tops! Ranma, Shampoo, Ukyo, Konatsu, Kodachi; front and center! Iím getting us out of here!"


The creature of light traveled far from its brethren, seeking that which could not be seen. These were known as The Light Imps, creatures that served the same capacity of your average booster demon, only acting independently of the will a god or goddess produced. They answered as Kami-samaís personal enforcers.

Since the goddess had failed, it was up to them for the moment.

The original plan was now delegated as a backup in case of failure by the forces of Light. Not that they would be needed, but Anoth Vortex was known for his power and trickery. That traitor would pay, one way or another.

Sensing its prey, the sexless luminescent humanoid went down towards the pond of a large estate. Seeing with eyes that tracked energy, and not light spectrum interpretations, the Imp went after the joint patterns in the pool, thinking that the targets ruse of holding their breath did nothing in the end against Kami-samaís chosen.

*chomp*

Being swallowed by Mr. Green Turtle was unpleasant, as many chickens, sides of beef, and martial artists could attest to. However the Imp, a form of pure energy, simply reacted to its preprogramming: Take the path of least resistance.

Tatewaki Kuno, bandaged and slightly drugged for the pain of his beating yesterday, idly wondered from a futon at his sisterís preoccupations as of late and whether or not she had been neglecting her pet.

From the sounds and odor, the giant alligator was having rather severe digestion problems.


Another of the Imps floated towards what appeared to be its prey, conversing with the secondary target. Both of them would fall, their souls to be carried directly to Kami-sama for judgment.

Neither was expected to survive the onslaught of His/Her wrath.

But such thoughts werenít for its consideration. There was a job to do. Too bad they werenít here.

Blinking, the Imp determined from the rapidly dissipating energy that they had used a teleport spell. Extending its senses, the light construct was honestly surprised by some sort of barrier. Attempting to relocate, it was halted by a set of powerful wards.

Focusing its power, the Imp attempted to blast through, but was met by some very potent magic. Again and again it attempted to force the wards, but failed each time, its energy used to reinforce the binding rather than destroy it. The light construct fell, completely drained and in dire need of rest.

The Ghost Cat, observing the white Imp that had accidentally been trapped by the extra protections the old Amazon crone had thrown up in retribution for his new years marriage scheme, left to find some ceremonial sake in the basement.

It looked like the little fellow could use it.


Another Imp was traveling along the road, feeling that its objectives were close by. Each aura was powerful, a beacon in this place of chaos and conflict.

The feel of this area was making it edgy. The dark energies of hate, jealousy, and vengeance were seeping out of every wall and nook. It was the perfect place for such evils as Ranma or Vortex to hide.

Feeling the power of its goal to the right, the Imp readied a containment spell in each of its arms and charged.

"EEEEEEEEEEEKK!!!!"

The ladies of Nerima, used to the unusual and the skilled, had come to the conclusion that either another pervert or ghost had come to peep in the public bathhouse again.

They responded in the normal way: attack en masse and beat the crap out of it.

No one had even noticed the extra sources of colored light near the ceiling.


The fourth trap was ignored, however, as the aura of insanity from Furinkan High School repelled the remaining Imp like nails on a chalkboard.

Vortexís days were numbered. As were Ranmaís.


- Ok, now how did that spell go again? -

"OH NO, YOU DONíT!" Akane was trying to drag Ranma out of the tight circle of martial artists. No way in HELL her fiancťe was going off with those destructive floozies or that psycho gaijin!

"Akane! Let him go now!" Ukyo had given up much to be here, but all of that would be rendered moot if Ranma didnít come along. Besides, after the display of power Vortex had made yesterday, she really didnít want to tangle with anything that made him nervous.

"Let go, ya stupid tomboy! I gave my word, and you get no say in this!" Ranma wasnít thrilled, to say the least. All of that thinking and effort to decide, and Akane was trying to stop him! Did the tomboy want him DEAD?! There were times that she really pissed him off.

Vortex grit his teeth. This particular spell was a last-ditch effort deal and very draining. He didnít have the resources to take out Akane and still get the large group to their home for the next few years. Weaving the spell of light and shadow, Vortex came up with the only available plan.

"Get rid of her, Shampoo."

Looking at the strange man who seemed to be shaping the air, Shampoo blinked before asking the obvious. "How?"

Loosing his temper, for a minute, he made a slightly bad judgment call. "I donít care. Throw a bonbori at her skull or something!"

*Clang!*

Akane dropped to the ground, consciousness spent.

"AKANE!"

Sighing, Vortex continued his spell, even as Ranma rushed to his fiancťeís side. The bond was way too strong for his tastes. It would have to go. "We donít have time, Ranma! Sheíll be fine."

Caught between his instinctive need to protect Akane and his desire to go with Vortex, Ranmaís indecision rooted him just where he needed to be; inside the spell radius.

- Ok, the energy matrix is set, the power supplied, and group contained. Itís point of no return time. -

Lifting his hands overhead, Vortex began the chant.

"Powers of Darkness! Powers of Light! I COMMAND THEE! COME TO MY SIGHT! Joint thy strength as a matter of course; Powers of ancients form Neutrality Force!

"Pit of blackest, unholy hell! Where demons, evil, and shadow dwell! Guide our path, stay our sight! To our left, may your powers bite!

"Source of light, burning bright! That shatters the deepest, darkest night! Break our bonds, but keep away! To our right, hold at bay!

"We seek the place that is no place! The guard where such epic legends base! The meeting that defines the moment! The Gray of Hero Atonement!

"Warriors, both young and old. Seek the place of no domain. Where shadow and light are begot. And the forge light shall come to naught!

"PATH OF THE TWILIGHT!"

Instantly, the group of warriors began to fade into a murky gray void. Each was ready to face the trials and tribulations of the next five years.

So of course the Imp of light found them at this point.

The amount of power Vortex used was immense, giving the construct ample time to track them down. Although it couldnít tell where the subjects were going, the spell had obviously been a last ditch effort to escape. Unacceptable.

The construct of light flew in, its spell of confinement ready to work on the fading figures before they would become unreachable. It had only a few more moments

"SHI SHI HOKOUDAN!!!!"

The Light Imp was blasted through a wall, the dark emotion contained within the attack enough to incapacitate it for the vital four seconds the group needed to escape.

Seeing that the prey had managed to escape, it returned home to wait for its brethren and further instructions.

The remaining assemblage, who had just managed to find their voices again, looked over to the source of the disturbance.

Ryoga Hibiki in full, travel worn appearance complete with pack and umbrella stood there. He was obviously uncomfortable under the scrutiny, but finally managed to screw his courage to express his innermost thoughts.

"Uh, could someone please show me where the bathroom is?"

 

To be continued.


Authorís notes: Sorry that took so long, but parts of this just seemed to drag. I know that I opened a couple of cans of worms here, but don't worry. All will become clear. It's just going to take a while.

Omake 2
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