A Ranma ½ / Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon / Ah! My Goddess crossover story
by L. S. McGill
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ characters property of Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. Sailor Moon characters property of Takeuchi Naoko, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC. Ah! My Goddess property of Fujishima Kosuke, Kodansha, TBS and KSS films; AnimEigo, Studio Proteus, and Dark Horse Comics. Other characters who may cameo are property of respective owners. All are used without permission. I did not write this for profit, but for practice. Will be removed at request of original creators or authorized rep.
Zhu Shu (who shoo), Tao-Ching (dow ching), Xi'an Chi (zy-an chee), and Clans Dragon and Skorpion are mine, and may be used so long as I am asked beforehand.
Book Two: The Dragon's Child
Chapter Five: Mousetrap
Dawn came to the Joketsuzoku village and found Ranma awake. He was setting on a rooftop overlooking the site of the battle and trying to forget what the day was going to bring.
He'd come back to himself last night as Ke Lun was asking for volunteers to assault the Musk fortress, claiming that the Musk were known to possess an artifact that would allow the cursed girls to resume their normal forms. It had been unanimous, even Kuno forgoing his usual flowery speech to agree.
Indeed, he'd been unusually quiet since yesterday, absorbed in his own thoughts.
Ranma really couldn't blame him. Yesterday had been disturbing for him too, and he couldn't even remember the fight from the point he went neko.
"Is not easy to face death," a quiet voice said from behind. "This Shan Pu knows."
Ranma turned to see the Amazon girl as she sat down next to him. He shook his head. "No. I keep thinking I should have done something different. I know there's only one that I'm sure I wounded badly, and that he deserved it, and that if I hadn't he would have kept killing defenseless girls, but still "
"Airen should not torture self."
"I just feel I should have found a different way. I'm a martial arts master; I should have been able to control my anger and not cripple him."
Shan Pu sighed. "Airen save many others from death. Airen not have choice. Amazon only kill when must, not revel in death, but do not regret when must hurt, even kill. If law demand, honor demand, justice demand, will kill, like step on insect. Is done and forget."
Ranma shook his head. "I can't Shan Pu. At the very least I crippled him."
Shan Pu sighed. "Sister say would be like this. Is why she tells Shan Pu come."
Ranma laughed ruefully. "I should have known. I thought she was recuperating."
"She meditates. Rebuild chi for today."
"She's not coming along?"
"Great-grandmother tries to say no. Zhu Shu not listens. She blames self for Akane be cursed."
"Oh, for Kami's Sake! How can she think that's her fault?"
Shan Pu shrugged. "Is only blood-sister. Not always understand."
"Great. One more thing to worry about. Akane refused to stay either."
Shan Pu tilted her head. "Why would wish? Airen is warrior good as Shan Pu."
Ranma sighed. "Then I suppose it would be pointless to ask you to stay here too?"
Shan Pu stiffened. "Why would Airen insult Shan Pu so?" she asked with a glint in her eye.
Not looking at her, Ranma missed it. "I'm not insulting you. It's just that I can't protect all of—"
A bonbori impacting the back of his head interrupted him and knocked him off the roof.
"Shan Pu defends self! Shan Pu Champion! How— how—" Anger gave way to tears as she turned and ran off.
"Now what did I do?" Ranma muttered to himself as he stood up, rubbing the back of his head. He turned to see Akane standing in the door of the hut and tapping her fingers on her crossed arms, her long pink ears quivering.
"You would think you'd get the hint when I said no." She turned and stormed back into the hut.
Ranma sighed. "Women. I just don't understand them."
"Women are easy to handle, son. You just have to be firm with them," Genma said as he came out of the Hut. "Just look at how I told your mother I was taking you off to be trained. Just tell them what to do, and that's the end of it."
Ranma booted him to the far side of the village. "And that's why you had to make a promise I'd commit seppuku if you failed!" he yelled after the departing form.
"Ranma! You really shouldn't boot your father across the village," Nodoka said, emerging from the hut behind Genma. "Boot him over the wall. It's impolite to have him possibly crash into someone's house or land on someone."
Ranma sighed. It looked like it was going to be one of those days.
Several hours later they stood overlooking a pass into a mountaintop valley.
"I don't like it." Ke Lun said, surveying the empty pass. "They should have guards here, at least. It's almost like they want us to walk right in."
"Nay. We beat the blackguards so soundly they do cower like whipped curs before the might of Blue Thunder," Kuno said as he flourished his sword.
"Yeah, right, Kuno," Ranma said.
"It's obviously a trap," Tao-Ching said. "The question is, do we spring it or look for another way?"
Ke Lun pointed across the small valley to a fortress built atop the mountain's crest. "This is the only way. The far side of that crag is a sheer drop of a couple of thousand feet. That stairway is the only access to the fortress." She pointed to a narrow stair that wound its way up to the small plateau the castle was built on. Barely a hundred feet of open ground stood before the fortified gates.
Tao-Ching's eyes narrowed. "That area before the gates looks rather sandblasted. I'd say they've been using it for a helicopter landing."
Ke Lun nodded. "That would explain how Skorpion brought in so many troops without our scouts seeing them. I wonder what made Herb desperate enough to think he could trust them?"
Tao-Ching cracked his knuckles. "Doesn't really matter, does it?"
Ke Lun's ears twitched. "No, I suppose not."
She looked over the group, her twenty rabbit-eared Amazons and the group from Nerima, and mentally ticked off assets. "Tao-Ching. You take Soun, Genma, Kuno, Tal Cum, Pow Der, Blu She and Loo Fah. You're going straight in through the gates. Shan Pu, Akane, Ranma, Zhu Shu and I will go for the roof. The rest of you will surround the castle and prevent anyone from escaping." She glared at the couple of groans. "I brought you because you're our best archers, so stay where you're the most useful. I'm sure we'll send out plenty of targets."
Fea Tha, a tall willowy Amazon with blue hair, smacked the two groaners in the back of the head. "I'll see you both for practice for the next six months," she said ominously. Ke Lun nodded.
Ranma started to open his mouth when Zhu Shu raised her hand up to him. "No ask, Ranma. Know you think be noble to protect fiancée, but not now. Shan Pu will forgive for ask this morning, but not make same mistake twice," she said, her voice too low to carry to the rest.
"No, Ranma. If say one more word, cannot keep Amazons from being angry. They are ones offended. They will fight to avenge. Shampoo is Amazon, and champion. You not make her lose face! Must accept."
Ranma grimaced. "Fine. But I don't have to like it," he stage-whispered back.
Zhu Shu put her hands on her hips. "And think we do when put self in danger?"
"Hey, I can handle myself!"
"So can Amazons."
"Son-in-law. It's noble of you to want to protect her and Akane, but it's unneeded," Ke Lun interjected into the whispered argument. "We are about to go into a battle where we all need to be focused. If you are trying to protect them, you will leave yourself vulnerable. That in turn will make them try to watch out for you and leave them vulnerable. You must swear you will concentrate on your own fights and only your own fights, or I will force you to stay here."
"Oh yeah, I'd like to see—" He stopped dead as Ke Lun poked him with her stick.
"Promise, son-in-law," she said to the frozen figure.
His eyes looked to Akane and Shan Pu, who were both studiously ignoring him, then to Zhu Shu, and the pleading in hers. Finally, he relented, "Very well. I promise on the honor of the Saotome name, I will not try to defend anyone save myself in battle today."
Zhu Shu nodded as Ke Lun tapped him again. "Thank you, Ranma. Zhu Shu knows it hard, but please, trust her; is needed," the Mandarin girl said softly to him. "This Amazon affair. We here because Amazon need help, and you are betrothed to Champion. Must not make her less in Amazon eyes. Must not make her seem weaker than man, or you shame her."
Ranma sighed. "Okay, okay, fine. But I'm only doing this because I know they're almost as skilled as me. But if anything happens to you or Akane or Shampoo, I’m not going to promise I won’t come to save you."
Zhu Shu met his eyes for a long moment then looked down. "Zhu Shu would not ask that. Zhu Shu would not have asked to allow fiancées to fight own battles at all if not been important," she said softly.
Ranma let his annoyance go. "Hey, it's okay, Zhu Shu. It's just Well, I don't want to see you hurt. I mean, well, you’re my friend, and Akane's been really, really nice lately, and I know Shan Pu's your blood-sister and all."
Zhu Shu gave him a small smile. "Zhu Shu sees," she said with a satisfied tone. She turned to go back to the others.
Ranma gave her a puzzled look. "Now what's that supposed to mean?"
The trip across the small valley was eerily quiet, the light seeming to get dimmer as they approached the fortress. No birds sang in the trees and no insects hummed.
"There is magic here," Ke Lun murmured. "Evil magic that hates life. It has drained this place."
Akane shivered. "It feels like a cold mist is hovering here, even though the sun is shining."
Ke Lun looked at her appraisingly, and nodded to herself.
Zhu Shu just looked sick. "Be glad do not see auras as deep as Zhu Shu," was all she said.
At the lower gates, Ke Lun and Tao-Ching looked at each other and nodded. They stepped to either side of the gates and shouted in unison as they poked the stone. A massive explosion erupted as the walls collapsed. Tao-Ching stepped back from the explosion, his shirt in tatters, and looked at Ke Lun, standing completely unharmed. "One day I will figure out how you do that, Warleader," he grinned.
The trek up the long winding stair was equally as unnerving as the valley had been. Shadows far darker than they should have been in the late morning sun seemed to shift of their own accord.
"Shan Pu have feeling whoever in castle try to intimidate."
"Fear not, fair maiden. The strong arm of Tatewaki Kuno shall defend thee from any sorcerous threats," Kuno boasted.
Ke Lun raised an eyebrow as the younger Amazon started to turn and brain the kendoist, but was stopped by Zhu Shu.
"He's just trying to make himself not feel afraid," she said softly in Chinese. "He is not totally crazy."
Under the shadow of the fortress, the sensation of being loomed over by a dark cloud was stronger than ever. They looked at the open gates and nodded. Tao-Ching cracked his knuckles and waited until the group heading for the roof had moved off a little before dousing himself with water.
Ke Lun lead her group up the walls as the smilodon's scream greeted the horde of warriors who poured out of the castle when they passed the gate. She caught flashes of the huge cat throwing bodies aside; Soun's Demon Head attack screaming at a group and sending them flying; the panda braining black-clad warriors with his signs. Then she was too busy dodging arrows from above.
Twin whirlwinds shredded the arrows as Shan Pu, Ke Lun and Ranma cleared the roof line and piled into the troops infesting the battlements. In moments bodies were flying from the roof as the trio opened up the way inside. Twin glowing orbs rained down golden destruction as ribbons tore across the rooftops like lightning. Then an explosion shattered the doorway into the castle, shrapnel cutting down black-clad warriors like chaff. As the smoke cleared, Ke Lun dusted her hands and led the way inside.
Down in the courtyard, Soun and Genma finally reached the doors and broke through into an empty hall. Surprised at the sudden lack of resistance they stalked down the corridor to a large set of double doors. They smashed them open and stopped.
Genma held up a sign that read, "Have we died and gone to heaven?"
Before them lay a large room. Women crowded the room from wall to wall, setting or laying on cushions. They were all ravishingly beautiful and dressed only in soft see-through silk robes. Small tables spread throughout the room held small glasses and large jugs bedewed with condensation. At first glance, it seemed a welcome invitation to debauchery, but then they noticed the hopeless stares, the bruises, the collars affixed to heavy chains. Genma's sign dropped further and further until finally he ground it underfoot.
With out a word, they moved forward. Chains broke in massive paws as Soun's more delicate strikes shattered locks. As they moved deeper into the room, the Amazon warriors who Ke Lun had sent in with them moved into the room, weapons ready, and saw what the pair was doing. They nodded grimly as they left the pair to their work and began gathering the girls to escort outside. The anger that was rising from the two men was growing more palpable with every girl freed.
As the last chain was cleared, they looked at the door that led deeper into the fortress. It was a hugely massive bronze monstrosity that looked more solid than a mountain. It didn't even slow them down.
In another part of the fortress, Tao-Ching padded along another empty corridor. He'd gotten separated from the others during the fighting and, as usual, had gotten himself lost.
He stopped outside a door that was slightly ajar as he heard a booming noise from the other side. He nosed the door open to find himself in a kitchen. The smell of blood hung heavy in the air from a butchered deer carcass that hung over a drain on the far side of the large room, next to a number of wooden casks.
Warily, he paced into the room, scanning for any hidden attackers until he stood next to the deer. A wooden cask lay on the ground next to the drain, its lid carelessly thrown into a corner. Next to the cask was a set of manacles. Puzzled, He squinted at the poorly written ideograms on the casks, then growled. He batted the lid of the cask on the floor over and looked at the word on it.
With a howl of pure rage, he bounded out of the kitchen door towards where he had heard the booming noise, looking for any black-clad soldiers on which to unleash his fury. Behind him in the kitchen, the lid to the water cask spun and rattled before finally settling once more on its top, mercifully concealing the word "Deer".
Ranma finally had to admit he was lost. This damn castle was a maze of twisting corridors, sliding walls and traps. He'd been separated from the others as they had tried to decide which corridor they were going to go down and he had just stepped into the mouth of one to see if he could tell where it went through heavy shadows. But when he had turned back, the corridor had stretched out behind him as well. He had tried going through the walls, but they were too thick and he hadn't figured out how Ke Lun did that trick with the exploding walls yet.
Eventually, after what seemed hours, he came to a set of double doors. Faint sounds came from behind it. Cautiously, he opened the door.
A large bed occupied the center of the room beyond, silk curtains hanging down and obscuring the occupants from the door. Ranma cautiously stepped around the bed until he could see what was occurring within.
A girl took center place in the bed, obviously enjoying the attentions of three men simultaneously. Her face was obscured by the body of the man standing in front of her, but her bobbing motions and the way she ground her hips back and forth between the other two men were unmistakable. As he realized the girl had red hair in a long braid, they convulsed in a massive orgasm. Frozen in shock, Ranma could only stare as following the display, the girl looked at him, her blue eyes glowing as she licked her lips.
"Come and join us, Ranma," his doppelganger cooed. "You know it's what you want to do, to give in, to forget you were ever anything else."
Ranma tried to back away, tried to step back but couldn't. "No! I'm a guy!"
The double slithered out of the bed. "Really?" Hands tore away his clothes revealing a female body. "This is who you really are; you know it is." Hands fluttered across her skin as her body betrayed her and responded.
"Come!" the soft voices of the waiting men whispered, echoing, "Come, come." Their words drew her forward against her will.
The door closing behind her cut off her screams
Ke Lun knew there was magic afoot when she was separated from her companions. It had been too quick to have been anything else. Now she walked down a featureless corridor tapping the walls and floor to see if they concealed hidden openings.
A faint scream, quickly cut off drew her attention. It had seemed to come from ahead. She started moving in that direction.
At the end of the corridor she found a large set of double doors. She looked around but there was no signs that anyone else had passed this way, or of any other corridors. The smell of trap was strong. She turned to look behind her, knowing already what she was going to see.
The corridor behind her was gone.
"So, I'm being herded," she muttered. She listened intently for several minutes, her long rabbit ears quivering, but no sound could be heard. "Well, then, let's see what you have for me, mine enemy."
She glided softly forward, her youthful body making not a sound as she opened the door enough to slip through.
Darkness greeted her. She strained to see through the enveloping gloom, but not a shred of light revealed itself. Her ears twitched as she tried to pick up a sound.
She stepped forward carefully, her stick feeling along the floor for pitfalls, but as she moved she felt herself stumble as a weakness struck her. She fell to the floor as she felt herself becoming heavier and all strength fled from her. Light returned to the room to show her that she had become a withered, aged thing, her health and beauty flown once more. She attempted to move, but the weight of years pinned her to the floor. Drool escaped from her lips as her head began wobbling on her pipe stem neck.
Then a foot stepped into her sight. She fought to raise her eyes to look up at the strong silhouette of Shan Pu above her.
"You are old, Great-grandmother," the figure said.
Old old old old old old old old old the wind whispered around the room as she felt her heart begin to slow. Time seemed to be eating her up.
A figure appeared behind Shan Pu, a figure shadowy and dim. She tried to speak, to warn Shan Pu, but her tongue lolled uselessly in her mouth as she tried to form words.
Shan Pu leaned closer to pat her hand. "Don't worry Great-grandmother, I am the Champion." She laughed as she turned and embraced the shadowy figure, offering her lips in a kiss as Death claimed her.
The door closed softly behind her as Death laughed, enjoying her despair at the helplessness she felt as age robbed her of her last joy.
Shan Pu was not happy.
She had been wandering in this maze for what seemed hours, cut off from her friends and unable to find anyone to take her frustrations out on. The maze just wound on and on.
She had tried bashing through the walls, but they seemed to take no damage from her hardest blows, and she had given up on trying to keep track of the turns she had taken. Now she simply followed the corridor hoping that the end of it would bring her someone to hit.
Finally, she came to a large set of double doors. Cautiously, she pulled open the door and peeked inside.
"Oh, do stop pussyfooting around, Shan Pu," Akane said. "I know it comes naturally to your kitty nature, but it's annoying."
Shan Pu blinked. "How— Where— But—" she said in shock. The last thing she'd expected to see in the room was her fiancée, and Akane seemed angry with her.
"Oh, come now, surely you saw it coming. Did you really think I could love you? I beat you twice, Ranma beat you. Some Champion you are. And to top it off, you're just an animal."
Shan Pu's eyes filled with moisture. "Why Airen say such things?"
"Because they're true, Shan Pu," Ranma's voice said. He stepped out of the shadows behind Akane. "Really, did you think you could just waltz into our hearts and make us love you? You're worthless as an Amazon, and worthless as a wife. All you are is a failure! You can't even stay decently human. Why would you even think I would marry a cat?"
"But— but—" Shan Pu tried to back away from the accusing eyes, only to run into another body. She whirled to see Zhu Shu glaring at her as well.
"So you make all the work I did pointless," the Mandarin girl said harshly. "Why did I even bother? Why did I let myself be blood-sister to such a worthless piece of trash like you? Your mother should have saved everyone the bother and drowned you in a sack. Isn't that how to deal with unwanted kittens?"
"No no " Shan Pu sobbed and turned to see Ke Lun staring at her coldly.
"I can't believe I thought you might be worth training. I should have killed you when you failed to give Akane the Kiss of Death. An Amazon does not submit to an Outland woman. You weak, worthless creature!" Cold water splashed across Shan Pu as she turned into a cat. "Go! Live out your life with the animals! You are not worthy to be an Amazon!" She turned her back on Shan Pu.
The closing door cut off the long drawn-out yowl of pure misery.
The corridors stretched on endlessly. For all the rage they had built up in the harem room, the lack of enemies had allowed it to ebb and now, they sought only the way out.
Soun was worried about the women they had left to the Amazons. Had they gotten out? It seemed like he and Genma had wandered through this maze for hours. Had they taken the fortress?
The biggest problem with Genma being a panda was his silence, and they were too eager to find the exit to take the time for him to write a sign.
Then, they turned a corner and came to a large set of double doors.
"What do you think?" Genma's sign asked.
"Maybe it's the exit," Soun said softly.
They pushed the doors open carefully. A golden light poured out from inside, along with a delicious smell. Mouths watering, they pushed the door open further.
A huge banquet lay on a table surrounded by piles of gold and gems. Their jaws dropped as they took in the massive wealth and drifted towards the table. Genma took out his battered sign from earlier and held it up again.
They started to descend on the table when a querulous voice stopped them.
"You leave my treasures alone!"
A small shriveled man in a white gi covered in foodstains emerged from one of the piles of gold. His head was covered by a dirty bandanna and cracked glasses covered his eyes.
"Your treasures!" A second voice called. From another pile crawled another shriveled figure, this one in a filthy black gi. His long white hair was knotted and unkempt and his mustache almost reached his toes. "Those are my treasures!" He picked up a jug of something from the table and smashed it over the first figure's head.
The shriveled, almost white panda began a furious fight with the second figure as Soun and Genma simply stared in horror while finding their voices.
The closing door shut off the horrified scream of "Noooooo—"
Akane was not happy. She had been cut off from everyone and lost in this maze for what seemed hours. Her ribbons lashed behind her like tails as she stalked the halls. She'd tried lashing out at the walls but no matter what she had tried, nothing made a dent.
The place was really freaking her out, though. The whole area felt strange, like currents blew through it constantly though there wasn't a breath of wind. It felt like the shadows moved when she wasn't looking, or like the walls slowly shifted place around her. Even the auras she could see seemed misty.
An explosion from ahead of her drew her attention and she ran for the noise. Several more explosions followed by a scream came before she saw the large double doors. She burst through into a scene straight out of hell.
Lightning arced around the room, and Akane froze for a moment to take stock. What she saw horrified her. The source of the lightning was a figure she recognized as Makoto, but the surges were completely uncontrolled, the last gasps of power leaking from her hands as she knelt, coughing up blood from a vicious stomach wound. A faint noise made it to her ears past the thunderclaps and she turned.
Rei wasn't in any better shape. She was impaled by her wrists to a steel I-beam. Blood streamed down her face from empty eye sockets, while her two crows sat on her shoulders relishing the treats. It was obvious from the amount of blood streaming from her wrists that the arteries had been severed, and the fact she was still barely alive as the crows picked at her made Akane nauseous.
Something hit her in the back and she whirled. The round object had two long tassels of blond hair. Akane didn't even try to turn it over, fearing what she'd see. Another scream drew her attention to Minako, busy dying while suspended from dozens of gold-heart-linked chains.
Then she saw Ami running towards her. "Akane! Run!"
A shadow moved behind the terrified girl as Akane found herself unable to move. She couldn't even scream as the shadow caught up to Ami. Bloody blades appeared from her chest as she was lifted off her feet. Blood fountained from her mouth as she reached towards Akane, then she convulsed as the blades were ripped from her. She landed in a heap at the shadow's feet.
Akane stared in horror at the blades in the shadow's hands, the ebony dragons seeming to drink in the light, then she saw the black fuku the figure wore and her eyes reluctantly rose to see the figure's face.
Jade green eyes met hers coldly from under a jet-black dragon. A vicious smile graced the blood red lips. "Well, hello, Akane. Have you come to 'save me' too? It's much, much too late for that."
"Zhu Shu," she whispered in disbelief.
"No, not anymore. Chaos has become my lover and Death my follower. I was reborn in the darkness. I am the Black Dragon."
"Oh, no no no " Akane's swords dropped from nerveless fingers as the other girl stepped up to her. One sword came to rest on her collar bone as tears ran down her face.
"So, you are powerless to fight me, though you know you alone may stop me." Zhu Shu's laugh was tinged with madness. "So instead, I shall make you my playtoy "
Akane's sobs were silenced as the door closed behind her.
Zhu Shu mistrusted the mists around her. She sensed too many currents through the fog, too many shifting auras. It was definitely a spell of some kind.
Time had been distorted in this place, and ever since they had entered from above. She had heard strange noises and echoing sounds that were so faint as to be barely audible. Flashes of light had also come briefly through the fog.
Closing her eyes, she felt along the traceries of energy around her, invisible walls bright in her mind. She sensed Akane and Shan Pu faintly, but the walls around her prevented any real sense of direction.
Enough was enough. She drew her swords and began a dance. Reaching out with her mind, she grabbed a hold of the energies around her and swirled them into a vortex with a cry of, "Ashura's Call!"
As more and more of the energy was drawn into her vortex, the fog around her began to roil and tendrils tried to reach for her. They were swept up into her dance as well. As her energy levels continued to rise she began the steps of one of her family's strongest techniques. According to her grandfather, the Amazons had long ago been taught part of the technique, but only her family knew how to do both halves of the Ascending Dragon.
She separated her chi as she danced, filtering out the angry hot chi of her frustration and the energies around her from the cool calmness of her normal self. A spiral began to form on the floor around her, half hot melted rock, half frozen stone. As she reached the center of her spiral, she released her hold on both sides and channeled them upwards with a shout of "Hiryuu Shouten Ha!"
For a second the fog fought, but it was unable to resist the howling call of the vortex and with a loud roar, it was sucked into the whirlwind that erupted through the roof of the large room that was revealed. Zhu Shu settled softly back to the ground, stumbling slightly as the last of the fog was stripped from the room. Despite the best restoratives the Amazons had given her, her chi was still far too low after yesterday's run.
She found herself in the middle of a maze painted in blood. Stairs led upwards to the shattered roof, ending where Zhu Shu's tornado had ripped it apart. Another set of stairs led downwards deeper into the castle. As she scanned the room, her eyes fell on a massive pile of fur lying on a pile of what smelled to be catnip. She frowned. Someone had anticipated dealing with a smilodon, and that meant this was definitely a trap.
Large double doors stood across the room from the stairs. The maze on the floor seemed to exit directly to it. Cautiously, she stepped across to it, taking care not to step on any of the blood lines. The door was ajar, but beyond it, only darkness could be seen. She stepped through and tried to let her eyes adjust. The sense of Shan Pu and Akane's presence was immediately obvious, but she still could not see anything beyond the single bright bar of light from the door behind her.
"Zhu Shu?" Akane's voice came faintly from somewhere in the darkness in front of her. "Zhu Shu, help! I can't move! I've caught my foot in something."
"Akane?" She stepped forward warily, peering into the darkness. Was that her moving at the very edge of the light?
Then bright flares of fire surrounded her as the door slammed shut. A hexagram burned in the darkness around her. She tried to jump out of it, but she ran into a barrier, her swords sparking furiously as they skittered along a wall of force. Mad laughter rang out around her as the darkness was ripped away revealing a throne room. Her friends were chained to the walls on either side, blank unseeing eyes staring forward. A tall shadowy figure sat in the throne, his form obscured by the haze of darkness that crawled around him.
"Welcome to my mousetrap, Little Mouse," he said, his voice chilling her as it seemed to crawl up and down her spine.
Zhu Shu tried to draw the energy in for a second time, but to her horror, she felt her chi draining away, eaten away second by second by the hexagram.
"I anticipated that, Child of the Dragon. The spells around you feed on you. The harder you attempt to escape, the more they will drain. Do not try too hard. My Master wishes you alive, and you would not enjoy the side effects of a resurrection spell."
Zhu Shu hacked at the barrier, but once again, her swords simply skittered along the unseen wall, drawing sparks. In despair she looked at her friends, feeling helpless as the spell drained away her strength. Her knees gave way as she slowly settled to the floor, hands pressed against the invisible wall.
"Fiend! Villain! Defiler of defenseless women!" A voice came behind her. She turned to see Kuno standing in the doorway. "Prepare to face the Wrath of Blue Thunder!" Blue light crawled along the naked blade in Kuno's hands.
"So the fool has finally made his entrance," the shadowy figure said. "I had expected you much sooner." He made a motion with his left hand as shadows leapt for Kuno.
The glowing blade slid around and sliced the shadows into shreds. Wails and shrieks could be heard faintly as the shadows faded.
"Your sorcery is useless against one who bears the Heart of Light, villain. With this ancient blade my ancestor slew the Shadowslayer, a mighty ninja who sought his Daimyo's life. Long have I awaited a quest worthy of it, and today, it shall drink your blood."
The shadowy figure had sat on the throne looking curiously at Kuno as he postured. "You don't really talk that way normally, do you?"
"Fiend! Draw your blade lest I slay you out of hand!"
The shadowy figure stood with a chuckle. "This should be entertaining." He drew a long Tai Chi sword, its blade black as midnight. "You stand no chance against one who may not be slain by mortal weapons." He assumed a stance.
Kuno's eyes narrowed as he took in his opponent. Nabiki had warned him the fiend feared his blade, so he knew the wizard was bluffing. With a loud cry, he attacked.
Blades met with a crash of thunder, blue light clashing with the shadowy haze around the other sword, and both opponents strove to bear the other back. With a grunt, Kuno forced the shadow back.
Lightning fast thrusts met and blocked each other as they danced around one another in a lethal contest, neither lowering their guard even a fraction. Zhu Shu looked on, amazed. Kuno may have been limited in his ability to deal with other arts, but when it came to the blade, he was every bit as skilled as he claimed. Had he ever fought her seriously, one sword to one sword, he might have been her match.
Yet as she watched, she realized Kuno wasn't done with surprises yet. He had a purposefulness she had never seen before and every stroke seemed precise, without the carelessness he exhibited so often with the bokken.
She watched as he drew his opponent into a momentary bind that resulted in them both backing up a few steps and he unleashed a call of, "I strike!"
His sword flashed into a blur of thrusts as his opponent tried to dodge, but air pressure ripped into him, driving him back. He did a flip to escape Kuno's range and landed, the tatters of shadows ripped from him flowing back to rejoin. The shadow being laughed. "I told you, no mortal weapon may slay me!" He threw back his head and laughed.
Kuno took advantage of the opening and lunged, beating aside the shadow's blade and driving his sword through the figure's heart. "'Tis fortunate indeed, then, that the Heart of Light be no mortal blade, but a gift of the gods!"
The shadow screamed as light flared from his wound, pouring from the sword buried in his chest. Streamers of light erupted from his eyes and mouth as he was consumed from within. Then, with a last wail of agony, he was gone.
The Hexagram on the floor around Zhu Shu flared into brilliance than faded and was gone. Around her, one by one, the others woke from their blank-eyed stares.
A hand reached down to offer Zhu Shu a help up. She took Kuno's hand in wonder.
"Art thou well?" he asked gently.
"Yes, Zhu Shu thanks for freeing her."
Kuno blushed. "There is no need for thanks, fair goddess. It is the duty of any true samurai."
Zhu Shu nodded, staring at Kuno in wonder. Why was he so different than normal?
"Kuno? Are you feeling okay?" Akane asked seeing the strange exchange.
Kuno turned and bowed. "Indeed, my beauteous Akane. I have never felt better. I have slain the evil sorcerer to save my Chinese Goddess and free you from the evil spell he cast on both you and my sister. Now, pray, let me give to you the Kiss of True Love which will break forever its evil hold on you and free you from this desire for thine own sex which it hath cursed thee with!"
Zhu Shu sighed. She should have known. She winced as a foot and a bonbori connected with Kuno's head from either side.
They managed to drag the Sabertooth tiger off the pile of catnip and get him groggily awake before dousing him with hot water, then the Amazons found them, having been blocked from entry to the outer room until the death of the shadow. Along the way, they had found the treasury, and with the aid of the girls Soun and Genma had freed, they had emptied it.
Daylight was fading a half hour later as they crested the pass, burdened with the wealth of the Musk. Tao-Ching kept looking at the sky as they crept along the mountain path.
"What are you looking for, cousin?" Shan Pu asked.
The roar of several jets passing overhead drowned out his reply. As they dove past the crest, several white plumes erupted from their undersides and streaked down towards the Musk fortress. Several loud explosions ripped through the dusk as a fireball rose above the pass. The ground shuddered violently as a loud groaning noise followed the initial explosion. A massive cracking noise sundered the air as they watched the stone plateau separate from the mountainside. For a long frozen moment, the castle tilted crazily over the ravine, then with a rumble of shattered rock, it fell into the gulf. A massive plume of dust obscured the area where it fell, but the rumbles of its destruction shook the pass, dislodging boulders and dust. Then the massive noise faded into an overwhelming silence.
Tao-Ching grinned at the stunned group. "That cost a fortune, but it was worth it."
Ke Lun laughed as she turned and lead the way down the mountain.
To be continued.
|Book 2, Chapter 6|
|Layout, design, & site revisions © 2005||
Webmaster: Larry F