"Run!" he cried, pushing the one he loved away from him as he turned around ready to face the slavering hordes that hounded them. The girl looked back, concern, fear and pride warring for dominance inside of her. She was a martial artist of some skill while he was not; he should be the one to be protected, not her. So why was she unable to move? Not forward to safety, or backward to her protector… She stood motionless until she felt herself borne away. Strong arms held her safe as she was whisked toward safety. It was only later that she noticed tears had streaked down her face during those horrifying moments.
Tetsuya smiled as he thanked the unknown stranger who took Akane away. He closed his eyes and stood his ground, awaiting his fate. He knew he could not fight, but hoped that his death would somehow give Akane and her unknown savior more time to escape… more time to increase the distance between them and the monsters that followed. He whispered her name one last time before the horde fell on him with fangs and claws; and then there was pain…
Jiro Maeda presents
A Ranma ½ / Vampire Chronicles fanfic
Disclaimer, The characters and situations of Vampire Chronicles are owned by Anne O'Brien Rice and Random House.. The crazy bunch of martial artists living in Nerima, their quirks and circumstances and the events involving them are owned by Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. The other characters exist only in the mind of the author and are not intended to resemble any person living, deceased or undead. No amount of money was made in the production of this fanfic.
Act 3: Bonds of the Heart
In a château near southern France, two individuals waged battle. A young man in a matching silk suit and pants, and a man in what appeared to be his late twenties, dueled with swords near the cliff face of the château. The speed of their movements as they darted and dodged those deadly blades would boggle the mortal mind, and would be unfathomable for mortal eyes. But this little concern did not matter to the two combatants, for they were immortal, warriors who belonged in the ranks of the undead. The two combatants were vampires, uncrowned lords of the night.
It was then that one of the combatants stopped, his blade falling from nerveless fingers. Ranma felt it deep within that unbeating structure he called his heart. It was a strange sensation; one he’d felt before, but not recently. Not since being ‘turned’ had he felt this emotion. For the first time since being one of the undead, Ranma felt fear. Not for himself, but for someone a whole continent away. Akane was in danger, the feeling stated, making the young vampire lose concentration, and allowing his foe to draw first blood.
"Insufferable whelp! Are you so overconfident that you would let your guard down just to let me win? Am I supposed to be thankful then that you allowed me this win? Either the nine straight wins are going to your head, or something is troubling that poor excuse of a wet noodle that you call a brain," his nemesis ranted, wiping the blood off his saber and sheathing it with more force than necessary.
Ranma shook his head, trying to banish the feeling of dread, but failing. "Forgive me, Lord Léstat. It is nothing. Merely a feeling: a premonition, you might say. Has there been any word from my old home?" he asked, as he sat on the grass outside the large garden.
The vampire known to his coven as ‘the brat prince’ smiled. He admired and envied this young upstart, both at the same time. Years before, during the boy's first arrival, Léstat had detested him utterly. But being with him, seeing him as he truly was, the brat prince made a startling realization. He had, at first glance, despised Ranma because the boy reminded him of himself. A bit more serious, perhaps, but that could be chalked up to Pandora's influence. But the boy was another Léstat, just begging to be unleashed into the world. Oh, such potential the boy had! Ah, but first, ever first, the most important lesson: ‘The afterlife is a realm of wonder to be explored; why spoil it with worry?' A lesson, the brat prince thought, which needed to be taught immediately. "There have been some word of monsters in Tokyo, but we shrugged it off as rumor, nothing more. Do you perhaps know something that we do not, young one?" he asked, his eyebrow raised in question as he moved towards a waiting side table and the decanter of cooled wine resting on its top. He turned towards Ranma as he poured. "And please, drop the title. You have more claim to being a lord than I do, being Pandora's little boy… or is it girl?" he joked, tossing the remainder of his drink over his shoulder towards Ranma who dodged rather belatedly, causing the curse to take effect. His form altered dramatically, from a young male vampire in his late teens to a buxom, redheaded human female in between 15 and 16 years of age.
"Hey, no fair!" Ranma sputtered as he tried to wipe off the excess moisture from his clothes.
"Playtime's over, little Juliet. The sun's coming up. Uncle Léstat feels you'd like the view of the sunrise. This old vampire is heading for bed."
Ryouga wiped Akane's brow with one of his bandanas as he surveyed the lands around them. Right from the start, he knew that he didn't know where he was. Nothing unusual for him, but right now was as good time as ever to get lost. There was no way those beasts would have been able to follow him, erratic as his path of flight was. He looked around, and noticed gigantic trees and thick foliage. Definitely not Tokyo. He had begun to gather twigs for a fire when he noted Akane beginning to stir from the corner of his eye. He dropped everything and rushed to her side, gently forcing her to lie still.
Akane blinked away the remnants of unconsciousness as she took in her surroundings. Ryouga, she noted, was at her side. There were trees all around them, and tall shrubs covered the remaining area. It was all so peaceful that she might have dismissed last night as a bad dream, and yet painful reminders remained. Foremost of these was the obvious lack of a certain Tetsuya Tatsuyama in the vicinity; another was the numbness that she still felt, the same sensation she felt yesterday as she watched helplessly as the beasts came nearer and nearer. Overwhelmed, she began to cry in earnest. The ever stoic Ryouga watched on in silence, vowing revenge for the pain the one he loved felt that night.
The man emerged from the shadows minutes after the beasts finished devouring the unfortunate Tetsuya. He daintily stepped over the bloody remains as the monstrous beings came bounding back to the gruesome scene. He whistled, and the beasts headed in his direction, tongues lolling out like dogs on a lark. He rubbed the head of the one nearest to him and nodded with some pride and satisfaction at the one still nibbling at Tetsuya's arm. "Now then, my pretties. Have you got Daddy's prize?" he asked, his voice a scratchy, nasal, broken tenor, a tone of voice usually possessed by nerds and mad scientists. He rubbed his hands in his anticipation. Finally after years of yearning for Akane Tendo, Kobayashi Godo — the former president of the Furinkan High Chemistry club — was going to have his prize. His eyes clouded over behind his thick glasses as his pets shook their heads no. He began to whack them randomly with what remained of Tetsuya's thighbone, and then stopped. 'There’s always another day, after all,' he thought, his glasses gleaming menacingly in the darkness. He began a laugh so horrid that his pets cringed and covered their ears.
Ryouga sat silently by the fire, watching Akane sleeping in a nearby futon. He gazed at the crackling flames as he thought back to what had transpired earlier. He had been following Tetsuya and Akane as usual; he still hadn't trusted the new 'boyfriend', and as standard practice tagged along as P-Chan. They’d watched a mushy romance movie and then proceeded to the park for a quiet, romantic stroll. Without warning, there had come a blood-chilling howl, then another, followed by shadowy creatures bursting out of the bushes. The creatures looked like dogs… except no dog had fangs the size of tanto, nor were they supposed to be as large as sports cars. And dogs most certainly did not have blood-red eyes that glowed menacingly in the darkness. He himself was so stunned by their appearance that he failed to move until Akane's scream galvanized him to action. He had run at a random direction, luckily falling into a bush bearing one of his secret caches of clothes. It was a good thing he had a thermos full of hot water ready; boiling water would have taken more time than he had available. Dressing quickly, he had rushed to the scene, moments too late for Tetsuya but thankfully in time to take Akane away to safety. 'Too bad Tetsuya passed away,' he thought. 'I was starting to respect him. Awfully nice of him to face those demonic things. Wonder where they came from? Could they be Ranma's doing? …Nah. He might be a jerk, but he's not that much of a jerk. Besides, he loves Akane.' Ryouga pondered over this conundrum as he stared into the fire, willing the answer to come to him. The fire remained silent and mysterious; the only sound it made was the crackling of its fuel.
Soun Tendo wasn't heartbroken by the news of the death of his daughter's boyfriend. He hadn't approved of the boy, seeing that he wasn't even half the man Ranma was. But then again, no one could be half the man Ranma was. But he’d kept silent, keeping his views to himself, seeing Akane was being drawn out of her shell. He had a cardiac arrest upon hearing that his daughter — his little baby girl — was missing. The attack was so bad that he had to be confined in Nerima General. Deep inside his subconscious, he called upon all the gods of Shinto, Buddha, even that Christ fellow the American down the street kept talking about; he begged whoever was listening to watch over his little baby.
Kasumi was, for once in her life, hysterical. Not even the comfort of being in her husband's arms had calmed her down. Unlike her father, she’d seen the poor boy's remains; she was so appalled that she’d thrown up in a nearby trashcan. Then her father had suffered a heart attack after he learned of her sister's fate. She couldn't remain calm, thinking that whoever did this horrid act took her baby sister with them to do who-knows-what. In her mind's eye, she kept seeing Tetsuya's mangled corpse; but it wasn't the boy, it was Akane. She cried hot tears, her fear for her sister overpowering her inner calm. She looked up to the heavens imploringly. "Kami-sama, haven't we suffered enough? You already took my mother and my little brother away; must you take my little sister too? Is there no end to this suffering?" she asked the heavens. The rain then began to fall, as if the heavens were weeping along with Kasumi. She was helped into the taxi by Tofu, still traumatized by this new tragedy that affected her family.
Pandora opened the top of her casket and stretched languidly; a good day's sleep was always definitely assured in Léstat's home. She began the meticulous task of making herself presentable — a chore that involved several activities, starting with brushing her hair one thousand times. Being a vampire, she always looked her best; but she allowed herself this tiny bit of vanity, a habit that failed to die the day she did. Feeling that her appearance was acceptable, she strolled out into the main house just in time to see her adopted son staring morosely at the nighttime sky. "It is a lovely evening, my dear… Too lovely to waste sulking. Have you eaten?” she asked, putting her arms around his torso.
Her son embraced her back, nodding his head in assent. "Just now, I caught a burglar trying to get in the other chateau. She whimpered a little before she died."
Pandora raised an eyebrow in surprise, "A female burglar? What is the world coming to? Maybe it would be best if we spent the next few hundred years sleeping underground, much like Léstat did," she remarked jokingly. Sadly, her youngling failed to see the humor behind the jest, merely shrugging his shoulders in resignation. She turned him around and stared directly into those stormy eyes and asked, "What troubles you, my son? Tell your mother what clouds your eyes with worry, and causes your mouth to frown," she implored, gently stroking his face.
"It is nothing, mother, merely a feeling. I couldn't shake off the feel that something is not right in Nerima," he answered, a frown creasing his face.
Her son's answer stirred a feeling of dread inside the deepest recesses of the great lady; it was fear, and it was gnawing her insides like nothing else did. 'He won't return once he goes. Either he will opt to stay, or he will die fighting for his old home, and I will never see my precious child ever again,' she mused, her fear growing stronger by the moment. Yet seeing his worried expression, his hands clenching and unclenching in impotent restlessness, she knew that she had little choice in the matter. "Go then, dear one. Try to find a way to make your home safe. Rest assured that you will always have a place here should you decide to return," she said in benediction. She hugged him and turned away to hide the tears that coursed her face, only to find herself being hugged by him… no, her. Her child was never good with emotions, and always felt that only as a woman could she cry. They spent their last night together like that, hugging each other, giving each other strength to surpass the separation that was coming. All too soon, day began to break and Pandora returned to her casket, leaving her son to prepare for the journey he was about to undertake.
The Lear jet was waiting at the private airfield near the château. Juliet brushed the errant bangs that fell in front of her face. Loyal Felix was there loading up her luggage, including her casket and… Two others? "Why are there two more caskets being loaded, Felix? Is there a change of plans my mother forgot to tell me about?" she asked. Felix wordlessly handed her a note, sealed in wax with the Léstat family seal. She groaned aloud as she broke the seal and began to read the letter.
Juliet crumbled the letter and tossed it away. She sighed at the unfairness of it all and turned towards her manservant, who was at the moment supervising the loading of yet another casket, one she recognized as belonging to her mother. She raised an eyebrow in question, and the manservant-cum-nanny merely shrugged in reply. "Your mother decided to accompany you upon hearing that these two louts would be tagging along. She insisted that she be there to keep these two out of trouble," Felix explained as he finished loading the last of Juliet's suitcases. She turned away from him to keep him from seeing the tears that threatened to come down her face. In a way, she supposed she owed Léstat a word of thanks. Were not for his tagging along, she would have been separated from her mother. Juliet recomposed herself as she boarded the ramp, readying herself for her return to Nerima.
Akane stared at the flames morosely as she thought. 'I will avenge you, Tetsuya. One way or another, your killers shall be brought to justice,' she silently promised, steeling herself on the chance that Ranma might be one of her opponents soon. Well, so be it then; a martial artist protected the weak. If Ranma were a threat, he would be brought down, beloved or not. Her heart ached at the thought of putting an end to Ranma's second life. She blanched at the thought of putting a stake through Ranma's heart, and cried at her weakness. The natural sounds of the forest and the soft snoring of Ryouga nearby joined her quiet sobbing.
To be continued.
Author's notes: Tweaked this a wee bit. Thanks to Pam for the characterization pointers, and to Larry for editing and hosting my fic.
|Layout, design, & site revisions © 2005||
Webmaster: Larry F