Demonbane Ltd. presents a work of Ranma ½ fiction
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ characters property of Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon belongs to Takeuchi Naoko, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC.
Foreword: Well, there's certainly been a bit more reply than I'd expected for this old thing. Exactly how I found time to write this one down with all the other crap I've got going on at the time I don't know, but here it is. A bit choppy, but still here. Enjoy. Or not. Your choice.
It always is. ^^
Warning: the author has been known to have lapses in rational reasoning, resulting in plot hole creation more often than not, which aren't caught by his less-than-stellar correction efforts. Just so you know. Oh, yeah, and this thing may be a little screwed up in general, in principle if nothing else. Please bear with me.
Chapter Two: Knight Moved
Pluto stopped herself before a gasp could pass her throat. He was a vampire! A Deities-damned vampire! She thought they'd been eliminated from the timeline long ago, sometime during the Dark Ages. And he seemed to be not just any vampire. Setsuna recalled various of the kind, and none had ever been close to the raw power levels shown here. Heck, none of them had ever been able to walk in daylight without trouble, and this one was just standing there, sun overhead, and not showing any reaction at all.
"So tell me, Streamer," the being said with a grim smile, as it started to slowly circle her position in a manner far too casual to be faked nonchalance. "Does the blood of ages run sweet in your veins? Will you invite me to drink from you? I confess, it would be the first time I tasted the essence of one of your kind. If not for lack of trying."
Suddenly he flickered, and was gone
"Boo," came from behind her, and Pluto whirled around. The vampire was near the edge, still on the "spine" of the roof, hands in his pants pockets.
"You will not be permitted to disturb the Time Stream," she intoned, finding comfort in routine.
"We'll find out about that, I suppose. Won't we?" He grinned again, and a haze settled over him that is, it was what Setsuna thought had happened, until he faded from view completely, and the mist dispersed to show an empty roof.
Metal buckled as his shield was struck by a blow that would have dislocated another's arm, but the man scarcely noticed. His body reacted by instinct alone and took the brunt and force of impact, redirected it, used it to drive his blade around and into his assailant's chest. The masterfully forged weapon cut through heavy plate armor easily, piercing flesh and skin, stopping only as it reached the back of the man's torso.
He whirled, pain flaring in his lungs as they labored for breath, his arm feeling heavy as lead and his head ringing with the sounds of steel on steel but all was silent, and still.
A ring of bodies lay around him, both his men and the enemy the charge had stopped, broken and split, and was ultimately driven back.
The steely smell of blood stung his nostrils, as did the stench of opened entrails and the faint residue of power from the leftovers of battlemages' efforts.
The sharp noise of steel on leather sounded as he sheathed his sword, and then slung his shield onto his back. Breathing came easier now, as did movement, and around him the occasional man in the uniform of his Dukedom's army who still stood, against all odds, did the same.
Slaughter. That was one way to call it.
Victory was far too flattering a term for this.
And yet yet, he remained uninjured. Somehow, for some reason that was nigh-impossible to explain to others, it had always ended like this. From the day he could walk, from the earliest time he could consciously recall, he'd known there was something about him. Something alien to this land His odd skin-tone and features were one thing, but his uncanny skills in the art of combat were downright frightening. His body the odd way he'd trained it for some reason he couldn't place. He'd pushed it into what seemed a half-recalled mold, a picture in his mind. A picture that was the last thing his enemies ever saw of this world before they were sent to the next.
What did they call him, the other knights and soldiers, when they thought their Lord couldn't hear?
'Dancer in crimson'.
Wiping a smear of blood from his breastplate, he had to smirk at that. It was an oddly adequate name to be called, given his penchant for unconventional means of fencing among other things. He still didn't know why he'd been so reluctant to take a sword into his hand and fight with it during the first few years, even in training.
But, he chastised himself, this was no time for reminiscing. It was a time for joy. The war, the bloody war, was finally over, and the barony was theirs once again. His mother would be so proud of him. If only Albrecht were here to see this
"Father," the man said, gazing at the sky, light helm tucked under one arm and raven-black hair fluttering in the faint breeze, so welcome in that it chased away the horrid smells of combat and of a field afterwards. "Be proud."
As he let his gaze settle on the carnage before him, before turning around and setting off back towards camp with the remainder, however sorry, of his troops, he whispered the words none would have dared attribute to him:
"Be proud for me, because I know I cannot. Not of this."
Rays of the setting sun greeted him as he rose from where he'd lain on the bed for hours. His hand reflexively slipped the pair of shades over his eyes as his feet were planted on the thick, lush carpet and he moved to stand.
A reddish tint could still be seen in the sky, in a range from a color more orange in the west to the deep purple that verged on black and heralded the coming of night in the west.
That he had nothing to fear from the rays of the sun didn't mean that the instincts that had first emerged after he'd been returned to the world of the living had disappeared. It wasn't that they'd diminished either. He'd simply become adept at dealing with them more efficiently. He didn't fight them outright, since he wasn't foolish enough to believe he could deny what he was, but neither did he go through life reveling in them. He may not have been human any longer, but he was certainly no animal either. Reason and Will were enough of a guide for him.
A few minutes later, he stepped from under the scalding hot water and shut off the shower. He no longer sweated, lost hairs or small bits of dead skin, but a few human habits remained. A few he indulged in when circumstances permitted, and enjoyed them tremendously.
Vorador would have a fit, he thought with some glee. The old bastard hadn't had much aside from his so called "ideals" to carry him over the millennia of being hunted and despised. Shades of gray. Nobody had been truly in the wrong, Ranma knew. Just as nothing in life was entirely black or white.
Had it been a bad thing, an evil thing? Had his cause sanctified the methods he'd used? Ultimately, he'd stopped the world from tumbling into chaos, halted the Pillars' collapse through how much slaughter? He'd shown no mercy, actually reveling in his deeds. Even now he could even now feel the flesh give way underneath the wolf fangs of his beast form, claws tearing life from all who opposed him, the elation and excitement of moments used to tear the very nature of reality with destructive magicks.
But then, had the triumph he'd felt in his mortal lifetime there, as blade clashed against steel and battles were fought and won, been just as flawed? The reason was hardly more "noble" — he almost spat at the word — than the one for what he'd done in un-life had been. And he'd taken lives as well, even if not for his own survival
Was a soldier who killed because of some abstract concept of power, because of orders, more in the right than a creature that did what it did because that was how it survived?
Ranma snickered under his breath as he stepped out onto the balcony. Too much time to think ? No. There were few things that the being calling himself Ranma Saotome thought were unshakeable truths, and right or wrong were not in that group. Good and evil were as abstract as anything in the world of man.
Will. Fancy. Desire. Emotions of any description. One part recognized these as truths above all others. Another, much smaller one, said to him that some of those abstractions, those concepts of man were worthwhile.
Conscience, he thought distractedly. The winds caressed his naked body as he looked downwards, leaning slightly to gaze beyond the balcony's low mural wall.
The streets were alight below, with both electricity and the pulse that made a city as much a living being as anything had a right to be called. Did cities have spirits? Huge ones, ones that didn't notice the puny creatures they were made up of?
His thoughts turned once more to the former considerations. He knew himself well enough to realize that it was folly to lie about his own feelings feeling. There was a time there, for a few months, when he'd been cold, distant. A true harbinger of destruction, hell-bent on his goals. What had stopped him? What had given him back his hopes and fears, awoken desires thought lost and pleasures that had no right to apply anymore? Ariel? The spirit had been an influence, certainly, but that wasn't it really. The only thing he could feel for her was pity. Vorador? Not only no, but hells no! Oh, he felt a respect for the elder vampire, but also some contempt for his set ways of unlife. His inability to glimpse that all was mutable, give time enough to change.
Moebius was someone to hate. William? Nothing. Just a small pang of pity for the fool pawn — a pawn like he'd been himself, for a while there.
So what had awoken compassion within him? What had awoken a conscience, however warped it may have been? What reintroduced him to a world in which hatred and contempt were no longer the predominant emotions?
Maybe it was merely himself? The numbness of dying leaving his soul for some reason? Something that had no right to happen, and yet it did, for all intents and purposes.
He gave a contemptuous snort. Why had he helped that girl, then? Certainly, hunger had been sated, but he'd hardly have needed any feeding for another few days, maybe a week even. What had been the motive? Not familiarity, since he'd never seen her before. The line of destiny? Perhaps. But he wasn't fool enough to try and lie to himself about that being the only reason.
Injustice? He hardly cared about that, unless it was a promise broken to himself. For all he knew, the girl could have been in the "wrong"
"I'm trying to rationalize my actions again, aren't I?" the silver-haired young looking man said to the darkening sky. He shook his head in amusement. "Maybe it was merely fancy? Maybe something more? I'll certainly find no answers like this."
He remained silent until the stars were bright, and only then did he turn and enter the suite again. A walk-in closet was opened, and clothing retrieved. That he cared little for luxury didn't mean that the little bit of caring he had left for it wasn't some actual fondness. A shirt of burgundy silk lay before him, as did a pair of black slacks. Aside from that, he laid out a pair of soft leather boots — a hard thing to find in this world, he'd noted — and a plain-looking leather jacket that complemented the slacks rather nicely. Yes, this would do quite nicely.
Thus clad, he returned to the balcony. His left hand clutched the softly glowing golden orb of the Time Streaming device, feeling out the pulse of the sands of time as they ran between his fingers. Answers were of no use when you didn't really know the questions to those answers. As much as he hated the Time Streamer, Moebius had been right on that account.
And Ranma was really in no mood to go off looking for those questions right then.
In the stories he'd found about his kind, the main trait manifested was always the hunger for blood. The vampire, or vampires, would hunt every night, looking for victims and drinking the life-blood from them in order to sustain themselves.
As if even the neophytes of Nosgoth's unliving ranks were that foolish and singleminded Well, all right, most of them were. Then again, most people were plain and simply stupid, no matter the world. Case in point. He liked to think that he was a little better than that, though. And he did have some matters to attend to which were, if not pressing, then at least promising to be mildly interesting in their outcome.
And even if there would be no resolution to them, he could always go back to the thread of destiny that had touched upon last night's scrumptious little snackage.
Yes, the night was young, the world was a huge place, and even if the local Streamer was out for his hide, there was little that stopped him from at least trying to amuse himself.
The plane in which the Gates of Time lay was a dreary place, mists swirling in air currents that had no right to even exist there. It wasn't really somewhere you'd like to spend more time than absolutely necessary, to tell the truth, not the least of the reasons for that being the fact that the only thing actually there and not a manifestation of eroding temporal mana discharge were the Gates themselves.
Kind of a one-trick pony, and it'd never make a top vacation spot on any list.
Still, they were the holy grail of sorts for all manner of creatures and people gifted with powers that tapped into the temporal flux, no matter how optically or otherwise pleasing they or the place they were located in was.
For an instant so brief, so miniscule that even the Guardian of said Gates would not notice, there was a flicker. Had one looked into the empty void shown by the ancient artifact at that moment, that very fraction of a second, from the right perspective, one might have seen an image, blurred and unfocused, but an image nonetheless.
A pair of smoldering eyes, a vertically oriented Moebius loop between them.
And then it was gone, as if it had never been there in the first place.
"What do you mean, slaughtered?" the man's tone of voice was about as emotional as that of the counter-guys at any number of fast food restaurants the world around. As in "he was not amused". The fact was that he was a man who was rarely amused by anything, much less enthusiastic, so the reaction to that particular report was actually pretty much in character for him.
"Slaughtered. As in 'dead'. Killed by means of more than enough gratuitous violence to be an eyesore for one of our people," the person giving the report informed. He was of moderate height and built, with slicked-back black hair and brown eyes, dressed in a nondescript gray suit. Bland would be one way to describe him. Everything about him was average, from hairstyle to footwear. The two things that told the careful watcher differently were, one: a small bulge in the back of his suit's jacket, a little underneath the armpit, and, two: the fact that he was short the pinky on his left hand.
"And this is a result of what, exactly?" his superior showed some interest in the matter now. Slight interest, but interest nonetheless. "What were they doing that was so dangerous and that brought such results? Come, Jiro, tell me."
Jiro did. For a few moments there was a silence in the room that weighed heavier than the atmosphere in some less savory tombs.
Then, after a few more moments: "So, what you're saying is that several of our men were killed in the process of bringing in the loan payment from a high school student? Do correct me if I'm wrong."
"Sadly, that is indeed what appears to have happened," was Jiro's reply. A faint pang of discomfort was audible in his voice as he gave it, though.
"And there is no indication that this person is in any way protected? No, of course there isn't. You'd have told me if there was." The man's tone was now, if possible, even dryer. "What do you propose to do about this, I wonder? Enlighten a poor old man."
"It was most likely a fluke, sir. That's the only way I can explain it. The reasonable answer is that it had nothing to do with the Tendou girl at all, and that someone is trying to send us a message. Who would be foolish enough to attempt that sort of behavior remains to be seen, if that is indeed the case." Jiro inclined his head. "Of course, there is the possibility that it was simply some raving lunatic, or a contemporary of some of the more unusual contacts we hold who'd gotten overly bold. It's been known to happen. And it would certainly fit with the state of the site afterwards." For a second, it looked as if that had been all the younger man had to say, but then he nodded to himself and continued. "Of course, we can't really confirm any of those. In your own words, sir, arrogance cannot be excused, and neither can ignorance. I will see to having it investigated with due haste," were his words. "And send to remind Tendou that just because she missed one reminder doesn't mean she's off the hook. Just in case though, I'd like to have permission to have Koga accompanied by someone who could, on the off chance that Tendou has managed to hide something from us, assure that the message gets delivered."
A nod. "It is good to see that you've not forgotten caution and sense, Jiro. You have my permission. I do want to be updated as to the results of your endeavor, however. I trust you find that understandable?"
"Yes, grandfather. I will keep you up-to-date on it. By your leave?"
"This is decidedly odd," the young man frowned as he looked about, oblivious to the smell of blood and death in the air about him. He was slim and not particularly tall, clad in a pair of gray jeans and a bomber jacket over a camo-pattern shirt. Blond-gray hair hung from his head in straight strands, going as far as the shoulders, and his eyes were almost a uniform black.
"What is odd, Kagato?" the redheaded woman, attired similarly even though she was a fair bit older than her teen-aged companion, raised an eyebrow. "The fact that there are traces of cold iron around in that blood that positively glow with Earth and Blood magicks — which in itself should be impossible — or that there is enough of a mess left here for twice this many dead? Or maybe the fact that whatever did this was more vicious than anything short of a Pit Fiend and didn't leave any trace of itself at all?"
"No, I meant this, actually, Boss." He was crouched in one corner of the alley, gloved hand holding one of the thin, long-bladed throwing needles he so favored. On the tip of it, a small silver crucifix, barely larger than his thumb actually, was held up by the small loop on the top end. As she took a closer look, not unaided by a small harmonic burst of Lune-drawn mana that resonated with the silver, she saw that underneath some of the blood and grime a number of links from what would have been the chain on which the crucifix had hung. Possibly part of a necklace?
"I see what you mean," she nodded thoughtfully, one hand running fingers over the hilt of a plain-seeming katana that jutted from over her left shoulder. Even in its saya, the Lune-spelled blade resonated with the aura of the dreary place, showing her that whatever had happened to the owner of said necklace, he or she had not died in the alley, and neither were they too seriously injured apparently. She stopped as a few beads of sweat covered her forehead, and wiped them with a gloved hand. Channeling subtle enough mana flows and reading the results had always been tiring, even with the help of her blade's innate magicks, but worth the effort on the few occasions it was employed. She was actually one of the few in the country — if not the world — who were able to do what she'd just done and remain conscious. "It seems we have someone who survived this little incident."
"Oh?" Kagato frowned. Well, no. His frown merely increased. "This should make for some interesting hours. Especially after what Eileen just Minded me."
Eileen and Kagato were soul-bound; had been soul-bound by a sorcerous experiment that was years in the past and not fondly recalled by either. Thanks to that bond, they could communicate almost instantly, no matter where one or the other was. It was neither sorcery or telepathy, though it bore traits of either talent, and they rarely did so because quite frankly, they didn't even like each other that much, different as they were. Where Kagato was somber and often sardonic, Eileen was vivacious and outgoing, with an altogether different view of the world. It was a clash of personalities, even though both admitted there was nothing either actively disliked about the other, and the antithesis of the so called "opposites attract" theorem. Still, their talents were useful at times.
"Do tell," said the woman.
"The ones that were dispatched were apparently Yakuza. Minor thugs, and one that was a little more 'promising', as some circles would have termed him," the young man stated. "Aside from some minor taint, not so unusual. Their ambient life-force traces show signs of having being siphoned passively. Possibly some energy absorber?"
"Certainly not our witness. Silver isn't friendly to most of those," was the reply. "But it's more of a lead on what happened than what we had earlier. Come on, there's little else to find here. That aside, we need to put that little trinket through the aura scans and take some DNA prints off it."
Kagato stood, dusting off his hands after he slipped the crucifix — enclosed within a minor stasis spell — into one pocket. The needle had simply disappeared somewhere in that time.
"Yes, Mistress Kage."
To be continued.
Author's notes: I'd actually wanted to make it a Hellsing crossover at one point, but then reconsidered. I'm already doing that somewhere else, though it'll take a looong while for that project to bear fruits. For now though, I have no idea when the next part of this will be out. Blame it on the moon if you must. I'll stop before I start making less sense than usual.
As always, comments go to either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Feel free to tell me what you think.
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