4: Two Sides of the Mirror
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 spell, or chant, or whatever it was that Vortex used made Ukyo feel as if every one of her limbs, organs, bones and blood cells had been ripped into two pots, one boiling hot one freezing cold, and blended together somewhere else.
Shaking her head, Ukyo tried to focus upon the new surroundings, but could only blink.
There was nothing.
To the left, nothing…
To the right, nothing…
Overhead there was nothing…
Underfoot there was nothing…
It was all some big gray void!
Where had that jackass Vortex stuck them?!
Looking around for the focus of her anger, Ukyo finally spotted him a few feet to the left.
To put it mildly, he didn’t look so good.
His face was sunken, his body was infused with twitching, and half his hair had gone stark white. The once-powerful muscles seemed to have decreased by twenty percent, and his eyes were dull and cloudy.
Standing with some effort, Ukyo realized that Vortex wasn’t the only one who was twitchy. She felt like throwing up, and there was no helpful horizon line to focus upon.
Shaking her head, she tried to concentrate on the others.
Thank goodness! Ranchan was just over to her right, looking around in confusion, and slightly off balance but otherwise unharmed.
Damn. That hussy Shampoo was over to her left, rapidly going to the right to ‘comfort’ Ranma.
Kodachi was just beyond Ranma, staring out into the void with a slightly green tinge marring her features. Heh heh heh.
Konatsu was just…
…Wait just a second…
Shampoo was going over to comfort Ranma?!?
No way in HELL was she getting away with that!!!
Trying to get a jump on the situation, so to speak, Ukyo ran to catch up with the sneaking Amazon just as she reached Ranma.
Caught by surprise in his disorientation, Ranma ended up in a pile of clothing and female flesh as Ukyo and Shampoo pounced on him.
Glaring at the Amazon, Ukyo pulled at Ranma’s right arm, not noticing the creak of pain the joints gave off. "Get off of him, you hussy!"
Shampoo retaliated with tugging the left arm, not noticing the slight give or whimper of pain that was the result. "Spatula girl leave airen alone!"
"…mommy…" whispered Ranma.
Turning over to Vortex, they could see he was now shaking from head to foot from the effort required to focus, but his voice still had enough force to level all of them. Holding up his right hand unsteadily, he recited while unfolding the fingers from his clenched palm.
"Rule one: No non-consensual romance.
"Rule Two: no loud noises right now, especially pulling body parts out of place.
"Rule three: don‘t walk away while I take a little nappy-nap. Night."
And with that bold pronouncement, Vortex fell flat on his face, snoring.
"…and then that idiot accepted, and the gaijin psycho took all of them to ‘train’! Ranma probably is having the time of his life with those sluts right now… not that I care!"
Looking at the fuming form of Akane Tendo, his first love, holding a bag of ice to her ribs, Ryoga cautiously nodded. "All… right."
Ryoga, after thankfully being led to the Tendo bathroom and back to the living room, was receiving a recap from Akane of what had happened to his greatest rival this time…
Throwing the ice pack out of the window, Akane arose in pure fury. "ARG! I don’t care if he is some super-powered reincarnated warrior! I’m going to kick his ass next time I see him!"
…and not believing a word of it.
You might think that he would blindly follow Akane’s denouncements to the ends of the Earth. Well, at one time that might have been true, but now there were a couple of changes to consider.
One: He had chosen Akari back at Jusendo, knowing that he could never have what he wanted around Akane — namely, true happiness. Despite her kind nature, Ryoga had this sinking feeling that she was an up-and-coming sadist. He wasn’t into that sort of thing.
Two: He had seen many powerful and confusing forces in his time, but to have
some ‘superwarrior’ teach Ranma and not he was absolutely
absurd. Any good sensei would of course see the benefits of a Hibiki as a
student! You just had to ask Cologne! ‘Poor Akane must have snapped from
the stress of
"Excuse me, but is Vortex still around here?"
Seeing the exasperated form of a goddess — currently clothed in a black leather one-piece body suit of armor, which was swelling in all the right places as she regained her breath — Ryoga had a single thought before passing into oblivion from the force of the nosebleed.
‘Okay, so maybe I was wrong.’
After Ryoga had been moved to the guest room to recover consciousness, Nemesis, assassin of the Greek Pantheon, found herself sitting at the dinning room table having tea with Kasumi, Cologne, and Akane.
On the job or not, she NEVER turned down a drinking invitation.
Although she did prefer nectar, mortal brews could be interesting.
Cologne, after talking to the goddess, was becoming increasingly concerned. "So you’re saying that Kami-sama has placed a bounty on Vortex’s head for disobeying a supreme command?"
Sipping the tea, which was truly excellent in her book, Nemesis replied, "That is correct. This world was ranked as off-limits to celestial and major demonic forces, and I guess Vortex qualifies. Too bad I missed him, though. Those Jewels of the Four Souls don’t grow on trees."
Looking at her sharply, Cologne deadpanned, "Vortex is a god?"
Spit takes were all well and good, but Nemesis decided to avoid doing many more of them in the future. It was a waste of good drink.
"Oh no! Of course not! He’s the emotional embodiment of a mortal’s mental power that somehow figured out controlled reincarnation." Waving her hand like such a technique was some easy trick. "Not that this is unheard of, mind you, but to do it independently of a magical lens or anchor of some sort…"
Cutting the babbling Goddess off, Cologne went in for the kill. "And was Ranma REALLY to be executed?"
Nemesis at least had the decency to look sheepish.
Noticing the hostile looks she was receiving, she tried to explain it away quickly. Sometimes being unable to lie really sucked.
"Ah, well, you see, he DID break the ‘unauthorized killing of gods’ rule. So it is sort of necessary to take him out."
Slamming her fist into, and through, the table Akane added her two cents, sputtering in rage. "But… but… Saffron was trying to kill me!"
Looking at the glowing mortal, Nemesis decided talking faster would probably be a good idea. That mallet would probably hurt, if the rumors around the multiverse were to be believed.
"Um, that doesn’t really matter. The Phoenix King was seen as protecting his property and people from outside invaders, so it’s been decreed that his moves were all in self-defense."
Apparently her word choice was poor if the teeth grinding was any indication. She really needed to get down to Earth more often.
"Self-defense? SELF-DEFENSE!?! I get drowned in a Jusenkyo pool, tuned into a doll and nearly roasted by giant fireballs just ‘cause that overgrown parakeet was acting in SELF-DEFENSE?!"
Looking at the angry Akane, the scowling Cologne, and the frowning Kasumi, she whimpered. "Ah, yes?"
Running from the angry tomboy, Nemesis managed to transform into her hawk form before any damage was sustained.
It was a shame about the tea, though; she would have liked the recipe.
Waking up to bickering was one of those things that had made Vortex swear off College Frat Parties at least four thousand times. Watching other people in that situation was much more enjoyable, and the reason he went back to the parties half the time.
"Oy, did someone spike the punch again?" Noticing the odd looks he was receiving, Vortex shook his head and got his bearings. Phew, the spell had worked. It just cost him some nappy time and a dye job. Could have been worse. "Ah, good, we made it. Now then…"
"Excuse me but… Where the HELL are we?!" Ranma, Ukyo, Shampoo, Konatsu and Kodachi looked at each other, confused at the outburst.
Speaking in unison had felt… odd, yet appropriate.
Noticing the inner turmoil and hostility, Vortex sighed. The life of an inter-dimensional traveler was fraught with peril.
"Well you see, this is our training ground for the next five years."
Looking at Vortex in irritation, Kodachi sing-songed, "Oh, and does this place have a name, perchance?"
Looking at them steadily, Vortex stated in all seriousness, "About two thousand and twenty-six that I personally know of."
Looking at the face-planted teens, he idly wondered, "Doesn’t it hurt to do that so much?"
Brushing himself off, Ranma growled, "Vortex, explain. NOW!"
Rubbing his temples, Vortex proceeded to launch into his best lecturing tone. "This place is known by many names; The Void, The Grey, Tween, and SHIWKDKnsdnkaerIL (Translation from old Gremlark: That big line between the hot time and the cold time). For our purposes, let’s call it the Twilight Plain." Noticing that every one seemed to be paying attention, although Ranma and Shampoo both were having problems with the term SHIWKDKnsdnkaerIL. The rest had wisely ignored it. "Now then, this place is sort of a multiplanar neutral spot. Darkness and Light each have equal influence, so it is used as a zone where the normal authorities have no power. Anyone who refuses to take a side in conflicts of cosmic-level importance or higher can come to this place until things cool down. So, in other words, Kami-sama him/herself can’t do shit to us while we are here."
Comprehension started to dawn on the group. This was a hidey-hole from Heaven or Hell.
Stretching his muscles, Vortex then gave his own smirk. It wasn’t at the level of the Saotome-ryu, but it was close enough for now. "Now then, my students, it’s time to get to work."
"Well, I need to evaluate you all. I was not expecting a group this size, so I need to know where all of you stand before I begin training. Basics, like techniques, strength, speed, and all that stuff." Giving a lupine grin that promised years of pain, degradation, and suffering, Vortex spoke the words of doom for creation itself.
"Shall we begin?"
"Cologne! You miserable old mummy! Where the fuck are you!"
Looking over at the clock, cologne sighed. It seemed that she had lost track of time.
Mousse then took the direct Amazon approach to discovery: smash through walls, until you find your target. "I have you now, pathetic old troll! For sending Shampoo away, YOU WILL DIE!!!!"
After watching Mousse unload chains, throwing stars, swords, maces and Ginsu knives at two walls and a potted plant, Cologne decided a to take action. One tap of the unconsciousness point and a bucket of water later, and the Master of Hidden Weapons was a sitting duck.
Well, actually, he was a sleeping duck in Cologne’s hands, but close enough.
Blinking, Kasumi asked, "What was that all about?"
Tying up the limp form in front of her, the Matriarch replied, "Oh, Mousse was rather upset last night after I told him and Shampoo about our deal with Vortex. To insure that he didn’t make an ass of himself against such a powerful warrior, I touched a docility point. Problem is, the bloody thing just lasts twelve hours and only works once. Oh well, we’d best be going. Thank you for your hospitality."
With that, Cologne hopped out of the Tendo home, to all appearances the unreadable mistress of the martial arts she had always been. However, her mind was in turmoil. On one hand, she had just allied herself with a renegade force that had pissed off Kami-sama. That choice could jeopardize the lives of many Amazons, and her position within the tribe. On the other hand…
"Because I believe in justice, and Ranma deserves some."
He had seemed so sincere, and her evaluation did not suffer from this new information. Rather, her respect increased dramatically, something very hard to do at her age. Reaching the door of the Cat Café, Cologne stared at the sky for a moment before entering to pack.
She would give Vortex his five years. She just hoped that he could live up to her expectations.
Back at the Tendo Dojo, Kasumi worked to untangle Akane from all of the knives, swords, chains and the like that had shredded her clothing in Mousses attack. Happosai was currently on the floor from the power of the nosebleed, his sensitivity still boosted from the Spring of Drowned Man water. He couldn’t keep the smile off of his face, though.
"I thank you for your intervention, Masters." Kiima, the young Saffron, and three beings of immense power were flying towards the cursed springs of Jusenkyo: one by wings, one being carried, and the other three through willpower.
Turning to the fledging and his transport, the blond suddenly remarked, "You know, young one, I remember a mortal from long ago. He belonged to a race of people who could traverse the skies due to a particular brand of elemental magic they had happened upon."
Wincing at the references to his current age, Saffron sighed, "Yes, Master Apollo."
The beaked one, after making soothing chirps to the snake that was his constant companion, took up the tale. "This mortal saw his people in pain, for their mountain home, while impenetrable, was a cold and dark place. He saw his people freezing, their eyes becoming more and more worthless, and habits becoming bat-like. There was talk of traveling the world for a new home, or giving up the skies altogether."
Nodding at the half-remembered memory, Saffron murmured, "Yes, Master Ra."
The last of the group, while focused upon keeping her kimono sealed and katana in place, managed to continue the tale. "The young man, however, refused to watch his people lose their greatest gift. So, in desperation, he climbed to the peak of his home and cried to the heavens for aid."
Saffron turned to the woman, smiling in fondness.
"And you all came, Mistress Amaterasu."
Returning his smile with slightly less force, she answered, "Yes we did. We anointed you with the Eternal Flame. You became a reactor of power, which your people harnessed to survive in their barren home. You attained demigodhood that day. For nearly three millennia now, you have served faithfully, bearing the cross of immortality and rebirth with minimal complaint."
Apollo broke in, his voice grave. "However, despite our actions to aid you and your people, you abused the power. You willfully tried to take life, and your failure is a testament to Ranma Saotome’s strength, not your weakness or compassion. What has happened to the one we aided? Where is your sense of responsibility and desire to help those you have died for?"
Saffron flinched at the accusatory stares of his masters, the three gods who had given his people hope. As Kiima watched helplessly, he attempted to articulate his thoughts.
"The memory loss was the problem. Each time I was reborn, I lost something. It got to the point where my past was no more with each rebirth. I began to allow the praises of my people cloud my judgment, and soon I lived for my peoples worship instead of their lives. But, with your aid once more, I hope to make up for my mistakes."
Looking at the hopeful expression on Saffron’s face, Ra simply turned his attention forward. "We shall see."
Saffron felt crushed.
Amaterasu suddenly broke in. "Do you know the true power of Jusenkyo?"
Saffron opened his mouth as if to answer, but in his wisdom closed it with an audible snap.
Nodding at his actions, Apollo answered the question. "Change. It changes anything that comes in contact with it. If we do this, you will be changed. No longer will the bliss of death or the void of the mind come to your side. You shall live as a god forever. You shall never be reborn. Can you take such a step?"
Firming his mouth in determination, Saffron nodded. "I can and will. It is past time for me to face myself."
Ra would have smiled, if it were possible. "Very well, then. It is good to see that your soul still has some spark left."
Kiima coughed delicately. "We are here."
Two gods, one goddess, one demigod, and one hereditary retainer gazed upon the springs of sorrow. Over one hundred pools rested here, each with the power to change someone’s life forever. Now that power would be sacrificed to raise Saffron to full god status, with all that entailed.
Amaterasu turned to look at Kiima, and ordered, "Take your lord to the center of the pools, and clear out of the valley. The guide and his child have been taken care of."
While she bristled at the tone, Kiima did as she was told.
Once the Phoenix Warrior had cleared the border of the valley, the deities nodded to each other and separated, forming an equilateral triangle overhead.
Saffron shifted nervously down bellow, waiting for the last dredges of his mortality to be burned away. It didn’t take long.
Apollo began the chant, a deep rumbling bass that sounded like an earthquake.
"Water’s of change
"Hear my call
"Forge our sword
"To walk Heavens hall!"
Ra joined in, his speech flutelike with a hissing snake as background music.
"Changing waters of cursed light
"Bringing wrong and halting right
"Justice cries like a damned soul
"Our desire shall collect your toll!"
Amaterasu completed the trinity of power, bringing the forces full circle.
"POWER we name you now!
"MAGIC to us you bow!
"SPIRITS restless you may be!
"By our will we set you FREE!"
As one they shouted:
"ASCEND Saffron! Phoenix King!
"On this day of your rebirth.
"Hear our cry as we appeal!
"And invoke the Celestial Seal!"
The power of the springs suddenly erupted into a solid white beam that rose to the skies. Each soul that had lost its life at this horrid place was released at once. A flood of spirits that had endured the horrid torture of waking imprisonment in the pools suddenly found themselves heading for their final resting place, often centuries behind schedule. Each wept at least one tear of happiness as their afterlife came to be.
Saffron screamed. He would gain his full godhood, to be sure, but the price was far from cheap. He would touch each soul, as they used his body as a gateway to travel to the next world. That touch would bring another life into his mind, even as he stripped the magic they possessed.
A scene of a forbidden lover…
They filled him with disgust, horror, wonder and most of all pain. The forge makes you or breaks you, after all.
But then it stopped.
Saffron was once again an adult. However, his flame burned with bluish light, and a trio of black burn marks adorned his face.
Floating down to the now barren valley floor, the three gods approached Saffron calmly.
Clapping his hand on the Phoenix’s shoulder, Apollo suddenly broke out into a youthful grin. "And thus it comes to pass. Welcome to your new post, Saffron, God of Rebirth and Protection, Class one, Type two, unlimited."
Amaterasu and Ra smiled as well, welcoming the newest God of Heaven.
Now the threat of Ranma Saotome would soon be a thing of the past.
To be continued.
Author's notes: Hiya! Didja miss me? Unfortunately, I will be on a slight hiatus as I adapt to the trials and tribulations of college. Wish me luck, because you know I'm going to need it.
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