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. The Legacy of Kain Series is © Copyright 1996 - 1997, 1999 - 2003 Crystal Dynamics and is published by Eidos Interactive.
Chapter Three: Pecking Order
It was neither a dark and stormy night, nor was there a storm brewing. And certainly, there were no lightning bolts flying around after each time someone said a word that would strike terror into the hearts of men. And women. Well, you get the general idea.
No, in fact the stars were rather bright, the moon full, and even though the glow of a huge city made those gems of the sky seem faint and immaterial they were still a fairly pretty sight. At least to those who bothered to look.
And those with eyesight keen enough would be startled to see a shade flitting through the skies, occasionally covering a star's light here and there, or highlighting itself on the face of the moon. Few looked, and through the city-glow even fewer were capable of seeing. And those who were didn't bother to actually look.
For Ranma, this was perfect.
His subconscious catalogued differences as he nearly flew, only seldom touching a rooftop to push off again. True flight was not beyond him, but he rather preferred to keep that advantage hidden for the time being, and all things aside, the fact that he rather enjoyed these roof-hopping escapades was a major influence on his decision as well.
It was something about the physical exertion, he figured. Even though he no longer needed to work on keeping his body in shape and fighting trim, it was a habit ingrained through two lifetimes more or less dedicated to battle. And habits died hard, whether the one displaying them was alive or undead.
Had he cared one way or another, he'd have thrown up a glamour to hide his wraith-white hair and slitted gold-flecked eyes, but he didn't, so the point was moot. He had no reason to hide here, meddling Time Streamers aside, and merely used the glamour to make things easier for himself. For example, it seemed his natural state was quite unusual to the eye, so when interacting with people the masquerade was actually useful.
There was nothing specific that drew him in the direction he headed, over rooftops of skyscrapers and condos, heading outwards from the center of Tokyo moving faster than many race cars at times. Or was there?
For a moment, the vampire froze in midstep which happened to be at the top of a fifty-foot-high arc between two buildings on opposite sides of a dual-lane road. Newton still held him, though, so there was really nothing he could do to stop the descent, and he caught himself at the low point. He skidded for a bit, stopping — this time really — in the middle of the roof he'd landed on.
There it was again, and this time he knew for certain what had made him start.
He contemplated cursing the laws of magic for a moment, before shaking his head in disgust. Destiny and Chance he'd never like them very much, but there was something else there that wasn't exactly his favorite thing in the universe either. In any universe.
He'd felt it back in Hong Kong, Beijing and in the wilds of China. Sympathy. Like drew like. In his case, it meant that a wholly different can of worms had been opened as soon as he felt the tug. Luckily, he was fairly sensitive in that regard — another thing that he didn't know whether to curse Moebius and his games for, or merely take as-is — so there was a small chance that whatever had called to him had felt his presence in turn.
For a moment he debated with his own reason whether or not he ought to go and find out what it was that had drawn his attention to itself. He shrugged it off, though. The fact that he was confident in his own prowess didn't mean he went out of his way to find danger. In any case, this was hardly his business, now was it?
It didn't feel like it, at least, and for him that was enough.
That in mind, Ranma turned again in the direction he'd been heading before the call had reached him, bent his legs slightly, and pushed off.
Kenshiro Koga was a tallish, lanky man who, if not overly ambitious, was quite competent at doing what he did. What he did being the making certain that certain people who owed a certain amount of a certain currency to certain other people were ascertained that bad things would happen to them if they were less than certain about paying back what they owed.
Certainly not a line of work for those faint of heart. Or fist.
At that very moment, though, Koga was less than certain about all this being such a good idea. "All this" being the person supposed to accompany him and make certain the job he'd been handed got done.
It wasn't that he was afraid, although he was not quite fool enough to try and pretend he wasn't even a little freaked by the man.
Oh, it was nothing as noticeable as the way he looked, but there were hints in his mannerism and words of what he really did. And of what he really was. And Kenshiro Koga hadn't lived this long without suffering any significant injuries, something very rare in his line of work, without knowing danger when he saw it.
Even though the man wasn't the most dangerous thing Ken Koga had ever seen in the course of his career still.
And "man" was, perhaps, a bit off in this case anyway.
The person in question looked like a perfectly normal sarariman, a little stocky with a high forehead that suggested early baldness, and beady little eyes behind a pair of wire-frame glasses that were sitting atop his nose.
Koga knew better. He saw the way people got tired around the man, heard the way he put his feet — or rather, didn't hear — and knew his uncanny way of always knowing where people and things were around him for what it was. Small hints, but together they made an altogether different picture form
Still, a job was a job. He'd been dealt worse hands, and had to work with worse "people" before.
Money didn't stink.
Nabiki felt something odd as she entered her home through the gate, taking care to close it behind her. The hurts were only now really starting to show, and she knew they'd get worse before they got better. She just hoped she could have a bath in peace, and that nobody would see her and ask uncomfortable questions.
Was it shame that kept her still about the matters at hand and their severity? Was it care for her father and caution about his fragile mental health (what there was of it)? She had no idea, and didn't really think she could care, be it one way or the other.
She didn't even care about hiding the disgusted sigh as she saw the empty sake bottle lying beside the door of the porch. She just turned her head and started up the stairs, hand supporting some of her weight on the rail.
Her day hadn't exactly been one a person would call pleasant, not after what happened last night. Or what had almost happened last night. And she was sure it had not been merely a dream. A few tabloids, and even one more respected paper, had a story about massacred Yakuza members having been found in an alley in Nerima. She needed no further proof.
And her mood wasn't exactly improving either, considerations flying through her mind with one conclusion at the fore. That after what happened to the ones who'd been after her with a "reminder" last night, the Yakuza would hardly let her simply pay up, even if she did have the money. No.
What was coming
She'd managed to make it to her room before tears started to flow freely from her eyes and her legs collapsed under her.
Setsuna Meiou was not a person who let her moods cloud reason, at least, not habitually. She was a logical person, or liked to think she was, not prone to fits of moodiness or doubt.
Still, that night she could be found doing nothing short of brooding.
She peered intently into the depths of the Gates, looking for something, anything that could give her the slightest clue how it could be that, despite what had happened in the Middle Ages, this creature she'd met the previous day was alive.
The cleansings were as she'd recalled them, each single bloodline exterminated one by one. So called "holy" knights working alongside demons and sorcerers to finally snuff out the light of the last bloodsucker's existence.
Then, could it have been that someone had discovered the Blood Rite again? That accursed Hermetic ritual could not have survived she'd made sure of that herself.
Had it been recreated? Had some modern mage discovered again the secrets that had already been buried in the sands of time once? A long, strenuous time later, the woman shook her head. Time had no actual meaning in this place of then and when, but be that as it may, she was dead tired. After scrying for the efforts of any mage powerful or mad enough to attempt something like this and finding nothing yet again, she was slowly running out of options.
Which was exactly when a shudder went through the Gates, ripples forming as something interacted with the flows of time.
Pluto snapped to attention, adrenalin pumping as her eyes widened. Harmonic vibrations of space-time made the Mists swirl and shudder, the pseudo-ground nearly slipping from underneath Setsuna's feet as they did so.
Power crackled around her staff in preparation for whatever it was she could feel coming, the hairs on the back of her neck standing on end as the swirling mists coalesced in front of the gates and started forming again
into a facsimile of a man's face. But she could feel it, a spirit in the time stream, imbuing the pseudo-form. In actuality, there was not much power there that she could sense
"Who are you?" she asked.
"Please! There is no time!" the face looked frantic. "Listen to me, I beseech you! Your world is in grave danger. If you act quickly, you may be able to save it, as even the slightest hesitation would bring doom and failure as it did to me! A great evil has come onto your Plane, one that has already consumed the one of my birth. All its guardians lay slain, myself the only survivor and even that only in spirit. This form is all I have left, and only my link to the flow of time on my world allows me to warn you!"
"Warn me of what, exactly?" her eyes narrowed.
"The vampire! An accursed bloodsucker who toppled my Plane's Balance, laying it bare to Outsiders! A servitor of the Daemons who used my key, my lens to venture from my world to yours!"
The husk rose, jerkily but steadily, its limbs moving with the awkward limpness of stiff and torn muscle. There was a grin on its face, but only because it was the only expression said face could take. Its lips had long since rotted away, and the one remaining eye was a milky white color — blind. The other socket gaped with emptiness, unless you count the wriggling maggots feasting on the dead flesh.
Finally, it stood.
Alongside the others.
And then they moved, in a steady march which would have seemed so much like a parody of the dance macabre that it wasn't even funny anymore.
Misshapen forms shambled through the thicket, rusty steel glinting here and there as they carried on their trek, from where an ancient scimitar or axe hung in the grasp of a limp limb. Like a wave of decay they swept over the landscape, a twisting serpent of long since dead bodies.
A parade of the dead, a literal menagerie of corpses.
Not all were even human, though, since here and there a form flitted past, on all fours and moving with that same gracelessly stiff gait if immeasurably faster.
All towards their goal.
The lights of Hong Kong glittered in the distance.
"I'm fine! Leave me alone, all right?!"
"Your definition of 'fine' being you collapsing in the middle of the hallway for no apparent reason?" the young woman told him, her voice wry. "You're pushing it, Kagato."
"Look, I feel fine now. Whatever it was, it wasn't "
"Don't give me that crap, Acupuncture. You're forgetting who you're talking to," she shook her head.
"And you know I hate that nickname with a vengeance. Damn soul-bond. Just my luck to get stuck with a bimbo looking over my shoulder every single minute ."
"If you're hoping to get me mad enough to get out of this one, you've struck out, needle-boy. You either get your ass to the medcenter yourself in the next ten minutes, or I'll hunt you down and personally haul it down there!"
"You and what army?!"
"I'll just report to Mistress Kage then," she said, dead serious. "I hate your guts, needle-boy, but you're not going to get yourself bedridden or killed on my watch, you get me?"
"How is he?"
Eileen Kage, adopted child and retainer of the Kage clan and legacy, shrugged as she replied: "As well as could be expected. He's obsessing for some reason, been going through divinations and research for the last two days straight without bothering to eat even. Idiot."
"Remember the last time he got like this?" the redheaded older woman asked. Her reply was a hesitant nod.
"Okay, so he's a useful idiot. I still get pissed every time he looks over my shoulder. It feels disgusting, not knowing whether you're alone or if someone's looking through things that you thought were your own exclusively."
"You know," the redhead grimaced. "You're beginning to sound like a broken record."
"Still, you're not that negatively set towards him. Otherwise you'd have just let him go on until he really did collapse for longer than a few seconds."
"Humph," Eileen snorted. "Well, he's an idiot, but not irredeemable."
"That aside, we need to prepare," the head of the Kage clan said. "Last time it was a Greater Being summoned. They're still not going near that part of Shinjuku if they can help it — the mundanes, I mean — what with that residue still clinging despite purification efforts. This time? Who knows? We need to gather the others."
"Shinji and Ikuko are in the city currently. Eric's within a day or two of travel. We've not heard from Nakamura in a while, but odds are we can call her in and she'll be "
"Yes?" the whispering voice came from right beside her, almost too quiet to be caught. She "eeped" briefly, then shuddered.
"Don't do that, Nakamura!" Eileen turned swiftly, and shouted at the shinobi. The dark clad girl shrugged, her mousy brown hair bobbing in the light, equally brown eyes peering from beneath the bangs.
"It keeps you on your toes." She gave a vicious little smile.
"Girls. Please, be nice," came the admonishment from the redhead.
"Right. Nakamura. Saito and Madoka are still out in Hiroshima as far as I know, and working on the case there. They'll be a few more days, I imagine. That's it, aside from the usual muster."
"Fair enough," Mistress Kage nodded. "When Kagato has rested, tell him to take up the assignment we talked about earlier tonight. He'll know what I mean. Call the others in."
The shadow landed silently, touching down without any preamble and unnoticed by anyone. Slitted eyes examined the property. Widened. Narrowed.
Fangs gleamed in a cruel if amused little grin.
Irony, the vampire thought, his senses reaching into the Tendou household and "touching" the slumbering occupants. Well, mostly slumbering. One, two, three, four five heartbeats, five scents predominant inside. Sweat, alcohol, food most predominant of the others.
A hop brought him from the compound wall to the porch, the soft soles of his boots not making a sound on the wooden floor there either. The only remaining vampire of Nosgoth reached out to the sliding door leading inside, fingers resting on the frame gingerly, not really taking care to be quiet about it but simply following the nature of his being.
And was halted by the sensation of presence coming from behind him, and closing. It wasn't that he'd never felt one like it. Actually, he had. It was that he didn't expect to find one here, of all places.
If there was anywhere he didn't expect a Revenant to be, it was the deities-forsaken backyard of some family Genma Saotome was staying with.
It meant either some major enchantments, great sadness, or another of the passions. Those were the only reasons he knew of that led to the creation of Revenants. Still, he moved to open the door, opening himself to sensation as the hostile intent of the unearthly energy came closer still
and leapt backwards a moment before it would have come into contact with him, the motion propelling him clear across the yard and onto one of the stones around the koi pond there.
He cocked an eyebrow at the apparition. The Revenant's energy signature was fairly conventional for its kind, being — literally — the leftover ki aura of a person whose body was killed. This one was no exception it being the second one he'd run across; the first one most likely had gone to the Beyond already, since it had fulfilled its purpose back in Nosgoth, so it didn't necessarily set a rule. After all, the chances were 50-50. Couldn't have been more than coincidence that the second one was a woman as well.
This one wasn't as well, "whiny" would be the word as Ariel had been. He was actually impressed. The level of focus was way beyond that which the former Pillar had achieved. Then again, this one was obviously a warrior and no healer.
"You will not touch my family, beast," the quiet voice was carried on a breeze, bringing with it a determination that was mirrored in the Revenant's eyes. She was around five feet and nine inches in height, with longish sable hair in a ponytail that reached between her shoulderblades, and wore what looked like a man's kimono. In her hands was another reason for Ranma's raised eyebrow. He'd heard that it was extremely rare for a Revenant to have enough willpower that it could affect the physical world. Manifestation and speech came at enough of a cost to them apparently. But this one held in her hands a plain-looking, if finely crafted, naginata. One that was very much material. He could tell.
"What makes you think I have a desire to?" Ranma asked casually, shoulder slumping in semi-faux relaxation.
"Simply what you are," came the voice again. This time he noticed the Revenant's mouth moving. Capable of dividing attention between two modes of affecting the material realm? He was again duly impressed.
There was no noise save the rush — and I do mean rush — of air, as the white haired vampire launched himself forward. He almost literally flew over the koi pond, the water parting in his wake and sloshing around noisily simply from the generated gust of wind.
The Revenant reacted at the speed of thought, blade flashing forward in a perfectly timed attack, but her eyes widened as he simply stopped, inches in front of the slash that would have otherwise cut him in twain. She tried to bring the weapon around, but the vampire's hand shot outwards to grip the shaft just below the blade, effectively immobilizing it.
"What makes you think you could stop me?" He grinned, making her stumble backwards at the savage glee reflecting from within his slitted eyes.
In reply, she set herself, falling into a martial arts stance and flashing forward faster than he'd expected her to be capable of, literally at the speed of thought. Before the vampire could defend himself, he felt a surprisingly strong impact on the side of his jaw, then right on his solar plexus, the latter sending him into the air and flying backwards to finally tumble onto the ground of the yard.
"I won't let another like you touch my family, even if I have to die again to do it!" the voice was louder now, like a wind chime in a strong breeze. Swirls of dust collected around the Revenant's form, the naginata floating back into its hand. The female spirit's eyes blazed with inner light as she flew forward, much as the vampire had, point of her weapon leading the way.
"Okay, I'm convinced," Ranma replied, rolling to his feet and thrusting forward with one hand, fingers clawing at the air. A bolt of crackling power seared forward, jumping from his hand and into the Revenant's abdomen, discharging into the spirit and making its form waver, falter, and then reform to fall to the ground. The naginata continued on for a few feet before embedding itself into the soil of the yard, blade first. "And I just remembered why it's damn stupid to try and fight manifestations physically."
After all, no matter how fast and well-trained a body is, or how much power it can hold, a manifestation is thought. No inertia, no mass, just willpower. And nothing is faster than thought. Well, few things, at least. And he wasn't one of them.
"Actually, I came here for the fat lummox," he informed her casually, retrieving her weapon and looking it over. The woman still lay on the ground, nearly unmoving. "I had no intention of touching your family."
She managed to turn over onto her back, looking at him with equal parts disbelief and hopeless anger.
"But since you've made me feel so unwelcome, I suppose I should return the favor. After all, give as you get and all that." He grinned at her expression as he said that. "Delightful girls, I'm sure. Actually "
He made sure she saw him lick his fangs.
"The middle one. She was quite tasty. Maybe I should pay her a return visit?"
Ranma amused himself, watching her expression turn from angered, to horrified, to pleading. She barely had the strength to keep her manifestation visible, much less to talk or move. Shaking his head he made to move for the house and stopped.
He could feel something approaching, but couldn't really tell what. It was a little similar to what he'd felt earlier that night
Destiny was playing tricks on him again? It looked that way.
But it looked like an interesting trick, somewhat at least.
"Well, what do we have here?" he glanced at the Revenant, and was a little surprised to see an expression of true terror cross her face as she dissolved, likely to gather more energy in order to manifest again later.
The sensation was nearing, and Ranma decided on a course of action a moment later. His body blurred, discolored, and fell apart into
To be continued.
Author's notes: Well, this came out faster than I thought it would. Thank Dro'gan Niteflier and a certain Immortal for providing the inspiration that kicked my butt into gear. I think I'm finally beginning to see a story form from all the ideas I have flying around. This time it's less pseudo-soul-searching filler scenes and a little more action. I'd like to think so, at least. And foreshadowing. Mustn't forget that. Not that this is very much text, but for Crimson I'm sticking to 20K-25K chapters. Just because. Maybe the next one will come out faster than this one did.
I have something else that might amuse you in the works as well, so it can go either way. Or I can actually start studying for finals. Heh.
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