A Ranma ½ story
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. In no way is this a claim to these characters. I make no money from this.
The wind blew softly across the hillside, sweeping across stones large and small. It blew across a battered car of uncertain age, and it blew across the granite-chiseled features of a very old man. The man knelt in front of a pair of stones, both weathered and eroded from the passage of time. One stone read "Akane Saotome". The other, "Kasumi Saotome". The ancient man stared first at one, then the other, his lips moving as if speaking, but no sound emerging. Tears ran freely down his face. After an interminable time, he finished talking to his wives, rose, and walked to his car. Ranma Saotome had work to do.
The building blew apart, shrapnel flying in all directions. A nearby surveillance camera recorded dutifully as a blur, indistinct yet man-shaped, leapt out of the hole it had just created. It moved, scanning the area. It raised an appendage, making some kind of signal. Several other blurs leapt out and stood beside it. Suddenly, it seemed to notice the camera, as it raised a hand and shot a piece of itself at the lens. The recording ended, showing only static and snow.
A hand moved in front of the screen, pressing a few controls and rewinding the recording. It played once again, in slow motion. At the very end, the hand pressed another control, and carefully advanced the image to the very last frame. On the screen, crystals of ice covered the outside of the frame, and the unknown projectile hovered millimeters away from the lens.
"As close as we can tell, it's some kind of vacuum blade, Sir. How it was produced, I can't tell you."
"I know how it was produced. Thank you, Mr. Yamada."
"Yessir, General Hibiki."
"Dammit, Ranma, I thought you finished him off. Now he's trained others, and I have to call you in again."
Ranma pulled his car into the alley behind the Saotome-Tendo Dojo. He flipped off the blinker and pulled into the driveway. The car spent a good ten seconds dieseling after he pulled out the key. He sighed deeply as he got out of the car, slowly straightening. He walked towards the house, rubbing his back as he went. When he entered the house, the first thing he did was turn on the heat. As old as he was, his bones ached terribly in the cold.
He wandered into the bathroom, and checked the temperature in the furo. Just below boiling. Perfect. The timer was working just right. Ranma was glad he had it installed. He walked into the living room and noticed a light blinking on the videophone. A message? Activating the screen, he pressed the control to play the message.
The screen lit up, and a synthesized voice said, "Two, new, messages. Playing, message, one."
A woman's aged face appeared on the screen, and Ranma's immediately softened.
"Hello, Ranma, I'm sorry I missed you. I just called to let you know that your student, Hiro, arrived, and has started to train with the warriors. I'll make sure he doesn't end up married unless he wants to be. You're always welcome to call or visit, you know. Until I see you again, wo ai ni, my love."
"Message, one, played, save, or, delete?"
Ranma selected "save", then said, "Shampoo. She gets shorter every time I see her. Before too long, she'll look just like her grandmother."
"Playing, message, two."
A man's face appeared on the screen, and Ranma's wistful smile descended into a scowl.
"Ranma, something's come up. I need your help. I know you're ticked at me still, but I'm outta options. At least contact me and hear me out. This is important. I'm sorry, but I need Ranma Saotome. No one else can hope to do the job. Please… for old time's sake, contact me. You know how."
"Message, two, played, auto-deleting, now."
"Bastard. How dare he ask me for help? But he said it's big. He wouldn't dare ask me if he didn't really need my help. For your sake, I hope you aren't wasting my time, Ryoga."
Ranma hit the "off" button on the videophone and stalked out of the room.
To be continued.
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