Arc 1: A Shadow in Nerima
A Ranma ½ multi-crossover story
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.
Act Two: Does Evil Dream of Butchering Sheep?
It couldn't be!
It just couldn't be!
Shampoo was at his side in an instant. Her frantic eyes roamed over his body. Her airen was so still, except for the slight rise and fall of his chest.
Then her brain finally caught up to what she was seeing. Ranma was breathing; therefore he wasn't dead, as she'd first feared, only asleep. That's when she started to notice that there was something different about the pigtailed boy.
The young man had always been attractive, but now there was a new predatory sharpness to his features. His unconscious form radiated a dark vitality that pulsed almost hungrily with each slow, sensuous breath he took. A sudden flash of silver drew her eyes reluctantly from his lean whipcord body to look further up.
The Amazon's breath briefly caught in her throat as she saw her beloved's hair. Once pure raven-black, the locks over his right eye looked like they had been dipped in liquid moonlight. A bolt of pure mithril that held her gaze and seemed to beg for her hands to reach out and caress it.
Shampoo's pert little nose twitched as an errant breeze finally brought Ranma's scent fully to her.
There was a new spicy tinge to his unique fragrance.
Whispers of warm exotic oils and the sensual bite of hot scented candles. Teasing promises of decadence, tantalizing the Amazon's senses with a heightened awareness of her own womanhood. Her nipples tightened to hard little pebbles behind the confines of her scanty bra, reflecting the aching need building within her core. The first hints of dampness appeared between her thighs, causing her to shift her legs from side to side as the moistened fabric of her panties brushed against her most sensitive part. Here lay her mate… That which would make her complete.
Shampoo was suddenly seized by a powerful desire to tear off both their clothes and immediately mount Ranma for a long round of mad passionate sex right there on the open street.
She was actually in the middle of trying to pull his shirt off when a soft groan from his lips stopped her.
Concern for her airen won out over lustful desire by a hair.
And thus was avoided a long and complicated chain of events that would have eventually ended up with the beautiful young woman being turned into Ranma's devoted love slave.
"Don't worry, Ranma. Great Grandmother will know what to do."
Pedaling harder than she'd ever pedaled before, the anxious Amazon raced her deadly bicycle down the nearly empty streets.
Her beloved's face was cradled protectively to Shampoo's ample chest as she supported his body's dead weight with her arms and lap. This seemed the easiest and safest way to get him to the restaurant. The fact that this position also ensured that Ranma's even breathing would gently tease her breasts during the whole trip had absolutely nothing to do with this particular choice.
It was just an extra bonus.
"First, Great Grandmother make husband all better. Then Ranma screw wife like wild crazed wease-- Er, Ranma be too, too grateful to Shampoo and make out like tiger in hea-- No, Airen take Shampoo like horny wild cavema-- That not right either, husband and Shampoo can go out and have hot steamy se-- No, no, no! Something wrong here! Shampoo always want Ranma, but this too much! Even for Amazon woman who been teased by shy airen for so long. Why is Shampoo having so much trouble thinking with head instead of silly loins?"
Could it be some kind of sinister enchantment? Perhaps from one of her husband's many enemies?
The thought brought a slight shudder from her.
Gimmick items and (mostly) harmless tricks were one thing; actual heavy-duty magic was something no Amazon worth her salt wanted to mess with!
"Need to see Great Grandmother quickly!"
With renewed intensity, the Amazon and her slumbering cargo raced across the neighborhoods of Nerima.
"This really not turning out to be Shampoo's day."
The ride to get Ranma home with her had taken longer then Shampoo had expected. For some reason she'd kept ending up in front of love hotels whenever her attention had been distracted from the road. And considering the fact that every time Ranma had moaned from his position it had sent the vibrations straight to her nipples, Shampoo had wound up getting distracted quite a bit. But they'd eventually reached the general vicinity of the Cat Cafe, for all the good that it was worth.
Because company had come to call, and it wasn't friendly.
"Stupid pervert girl would show up now. And she bring friends. Uptight spatula girl, cheating flasher girl with loud laugh, stupid fat panda-man, stupid lost pig-boy, stupid loud stick boy, and stupid stinky crying man. Gang is all here."
Though they hadn't seen her yet, there wasn't any way even an Amazon would be able to sneak inside. Not with that many eyes keeping watch. After all, they weren't all complete blockheads like Akane. Some of them were actually almost competent martial artists.
The young woman looked back and forth between the small crowd and her slumbering husband as indecision gnawed away at her.
The Amazon way was to charge straight into a fight, and consequences be damned. The subtle approach was not her forte, but it seemed she had no choice this time. A frontal assault with this crowd would endanger Ranma, as most of the group ahead had few or no compunctions about attacking such a helpless target.
Shampoo ducked into the shadowed arch of a small sweets shop and carefully arranged Ranma into a comfortable position where he would hopefully not draw attention for a few minutes. She hated to leave him like this, even if it was for his own good.
"Wait here, Airen. Shampoo have to play tag for a bit with stupid people. Be back soon."
Bending down, the young woman stole a quick kiss from his lips for luck.
Then mustering her resolve before the taste of him could change her mind, Shampoo went out to play 'decoy and dummies'.
"Akane lose something? Or is pervert girl like stupid pig-boy who no know which way to go?
That detestable voice was all too familiar. The young Tendo bristled as she turned to face the annoyingly big-breasted bimbo who was one of the many banes of her existence. Behind her, she could hear Ryoga protesting Shampoo's choice of comparisons.
"Where are you hiding that baka?!"
It irked Akane to no end that this foreign slut was not only considered by others to be a better cook, but also never took Akane seriously in a fight unless she had outside assistance like during the Super Soba disaster. But at least the purple-haired bimbo wasn't better looking then her; the only attraction that the Amazon had was her oversized tits. And Shampoo was stupid, too. After all, she couldn't speak proper Japanese like a normal person. So that must indicate that she was obviously mentally defective (disregarding the facts that Shampoo's native language was Chinese, she had only a few months to pick up the language when it took most people years to get a grasp of the basic vocabulary, and that Japanese grammar was just plain weird).
"Shampoo no need keep airen from violent weakling. Akane do that all by herself."
The smug superior grin on the Amazon's face, along with that simple statement, managed to push exactly the right buttons on the shorthaired girl's quick fuse.
She hated to be reminded of her lack of attractive feminine qualities. This was always a sore point for Akane, but never more then when one of her rivals pointed it out.
It wasn't her fault that Ranma didn't like her cooking (never mind the fact that nobody else besides that girl Kurumi would ever eat it willingly). Recipes in the books were always so boring and bland, and usually it was simply easier to use whatever was at hand instead of taking the time to look for the required ingredients. It wasn't really such a big deal; Kasumi always made it look so easy. Ranma just kept blowing things out of proportion. If he'd just be a man and admit that she could prepare a meal as good as that of any other girl, she wouldn't have to keep punishing him. As for the dishes and mess, it was Kasumi's job to take care of those unimportant things. Stuff just seemed to always break into many little pieces whenever Akane tried to do any housework, though she wasn't to blame. Those weak items couldn't handle a little roughness, which meant that the products were simply defective.
Wait a second here. Was that empty headed gaijin trying to distract her? Shampoo hadn't answered Akane's question and that was enough to trigger her always-present suspicion.
"You know where Ranma is, don't you."
It wasn't a question. More like a growl declaring sentence and execution. One quickly rewarded by the insult of having Shampoo, Shampoo of all people, giving her the red-eye raspberry!
"Akane no can keep up with Shampoo. Thighs too thick, built like brick, and float like one too!"
With that parting shot, the Amazon went racing up and off like a gazelle on speed. Her bike left a dust trail on the roofs so big that only a Hibiki could possibly lose track of it.
"Get back here!!"
"Akane my love, I follow!"
"Oho ho ho!"
"After her! She knows where Ranma is!"
"Hey! Where'd everybody go?!"
"It's this way, Boy. Your left-- No, your other left."
And the chase was on.
In the exact opposite direction of their real quarry.
"Oh, good grief, Saotome, you're pathetic."
Looking down at the half-bundled form with the distinctive pigtail sticking out, Nabiki Tendo could only shake her head in mild amusement. It looked like poor little Ranma was in trouble again, and judging from the design of his makeshift blanket and pillow it was of the Chinese Amazon kind. All the makings of a profitable situation were here.
She could charge him an arm and a leg just for damage control. Even more to keep the news from the rest of his fiancées (Which she would then sell to them anyway. Only at a higher price). The fact that the young man was usually cash-poor didn't deter her; she was more then happy to take her payment in trade (since it made cheating him easier). Especially since some of the girls (and adult women) in town had been making "inquiries" regarding the young man as a potential "escort" for dates and other minor social events. A few had even been so bold as to request the pigtailed martial artist for certain special services.
Nabiki's features were filled with greedy delight as she looked down at the sleeping male, in her mind's eye seeing all the yen his time and body would be worth. The beauty of the whole setup was that once Ranma was blackmai-- Er, convinced to go through with the scheme, he would be trapped with incriminating photographic and audio evidence. And with that kind of a hold over Ranma, she would own him. He would have to do anything she wanted, and with each act her control over him would grow.
It was a perfect scheme.
Nothing could possibly go wrong.
"Now, how are we going to get you back home?"
Well, maybe one thing.
Luckily, that was when she spotted some of Akane's friends, Yuka and Sayuri. Even more fortunate for Nabiki, she had some juicy dirt on them so they wouldn't even have to be paid for the work.
With toothy smile that would have done justice to any shark, the middle Tendo daughter moved in for the kill.
It took a little longer then she'd expected, but the end result had never been in doubt.
"They stubborn, but no make up for lack of brains."
The Amazon's breathing was a little heavy; some of her pursuers had been more difficult to lose then others. But lost them she had, and with all the crisscrossing and double-backed false trails she'd left behind they wouldn't be finding her any time soon. Which meant that now she could get back to her real mission, getting Ranma safely to the Cat Cafe so that Great Grandmother could take a look at him.
But when Shampoo got back to where she'd left him…
"Gone?! Oh, no! Airen in no condition for walk!"
"You look like you were expecting to find someone, sugar."
With a barely suppressed groan, the young Amazon turned to face her rival, Ukyo Kuonji. The pretty brown haired girl had her trusty battle spatula out and seemed ready and willing for a brawl. But as much as Shampoo would have loved to clean her clock, her airen was more important.
"Fight with spatula girl later. Need to talk to Great Grandmother now."
Shampoo left the cute okonomiyaki chef standing slack-jawed behind her.
A minute passed.
"Hey! Wait a minute!! Wait up!"
Then she went running after her.
The Amazon took one look inside the back of the restaurant and groaned. She'd lost track of the time, and now Cologne was currently engaging in her favorite form of recreation. A vice that the elder had picked up in Japan, and one that brooked no interruptions, not even from her own great granddaughter.
"One day Shampoo find out who responsible for great evil of silly story that never end. Then Shampoo give great big boot to head as punishment! Evil story turn Great Grandmother into chair turnip."
Shampoo decided to get some tea brewing while she waited. It was going to be awhile until Cologne would be available for advice. She was going through the various drawers and utensil racks when Ukyo entered.
"What do you think you're doing, Shampoo?"
"Making tea. What else it look like?"
"That's not what I meant!"
Shampoo started the water running to fill the teapot.
"Then why ask if no want answer?"
"Never mind! I thought you were going to talk to Cologne?"
The Amazon set the water on the stove to start heating.
"Great Grandmother busy."
"So? Just tell her we need to talk to her."
Shampoo shook her head.
"We wait. No interrupt Great Grandmother or else be big trouble."
"What? You can't be serious."
"Shampoo serious. Dangerous to bother now."
Ukyo couldn't understand the Amazon's reluctance. If Cologne knew where Ranma was, then she was damn well going to tell them!
"Well if you won't do it, then I will."
"Spatula girl deaf? Be very, very sorry if no listen to Shampoo."
But the brown-haired girl had already gone to confront the shrunken crone.
Shampoo put a hand to her head as she slowly followed, grumbling about crazy okonomiyaki chefs who had a death wish. She arrived just in time to see the other girl badgering the unresponsive old lady.
"Look, I just want to know what happened to Ranma. Are you listening?! Say something for crying out loud!"
Then Ukyo made a critical mistake.
She blocked the elder's view of the television.
"Stop watching that soap opera for a second and pay attent--"
Shaking her head at the perversity of people who had to learn things the hard way, Shampoo went to pull Ukyo out of the wall. At least the chef's impression in the concrete made a nice change from all the Mousse-shaped ones.
"Never ever get between Great Grandmother and Whirlwind of Love, Spatula girl."
Safely back home, Nabiki decided that Ranma could be left in his room where the other girls had dropped him off. It wasn't like there was anywhere he could escape to when she finally decided to put her very cunning plan into action. Let him sleep. Besides, it was just about time for another sexy photo session with her number one bestseller.
Though there had been something a little odd about their behavior earlier (aside from the expected complaints about being blackmailed into physical labor). Yuka had mentioned something about a strange smell, not unpleasant, but odd. What had been weird was that the girl's features had been flushed when she mentioned it. And Sayuri had copped several discrete feels of Ranma's buns when she'd thought (wrongly) that Nabiki wasn't looking.
But caught up in her greed, Nabiki dismissed these minor oddities as being unimportant to her plans. As long as Ranma was here, that was good enough for her schemes.
"Time to get nice and wet, my little moneymaker."
Dangling a plastic cup of water in one hand and her trusty camera in the other, Nabiki was prepared for a standard run of "change Ranma into a girl, loosen her clothes, and then take enough naughty pics to bilk Kuno and the rest of the local perverts out of their weekly allowance".
But instead what she got was…
It was unbelievable! Even after fifteen minutes of trying, she still hadn't managed to douse the slumbering young man even once. Every time she dumped the water he would move aside at the very last moment and always look like it was naturally happening in his sleep. The devious young woman would have suspected Ranma was doing it on purpose except that she knew how bad an actor he was.
"This time for sure!"
The martial artist's leg stuck out and tripped her.
Nabiki got acquainted with a cup of cold water.
Ranma slept peacefully.
"I don't believe this!"
Nabiki glared steel daggers at the uncooperative young man. Her shirt and jeans were soaking wet, and the mercenary girl didn't feel like trying to take illicit pictures anymore.
She wanted a bath, a long hot bath.
"You'll pay for this, Saotome."
Her features dark with displeasure, Nabiki stalked off in the direction of the furo.
Sadly, so caught up in matters of profit and petty revenge was the little moneygrubber that she had not yet noticed anything different about him.
Had the middle Tendo daughter possessed any measure of foresight whatsoever, she would have been running for the nearest plane out of Japan.
Within most rational (and not so rational) beings resided a core of suppressed feelings and desires. Normally kept in check by rigid moral and ethical structures learned early in childhood, they were a throwback to the legacy of uncounted generations of evolution, festering remnants of the weak and terrified primitives that had once trembled and hid from the hungry night.
Ranma Saotome was no exception.
Buried beneath a thin shield of arrogance and crude chivalry lurked a rich ocean of buried fear, hate, envy, jealousy, and pure unadulterated rage. A thousand shades of darkness blended together into a nightmarish sea of concentrated negative psychic energy. Their very existence had always been rejected by the young man, but his refusal to confront his own humanity only forced them into hiding, and in so doing, made them that much stronger. To deny them had been to deny himself.
With almost contemptuous ease, the hungry soul fragment shattered the childish restraints that had sealed away those inner demons as though they were nothing more then a fragile toy.
Day passed into night.
Elsewhere in the house the other inhabitants gathered for the evening meal. Ranma's absence was noted, but under not-so-subtle urging from Genma, Akane and Nabiki, it was also ignored.
None of those present could sense the presence of the change taking place so close to where they sat. They did not feel the danger that grew with every beat of Ranma's heart. A crucial barrier had been breached. The forbidden had been released, not as a trickle, but in a flood that threatened to overwhelm everyone that had ever done him harm.
As the household settled down to sleep and dream, Ranma's body started to toss and turn. On the floor Genma snored away contentedly on his futon, untroubled by crimes of past and present. His presence seemed to agitate the young man's restless condition.
Outside the full moon rose towards its peak as the hours passed.
An eerie calm began descending upon the young man's form once more as midnight drew near. There was a finality to this stillness, an expectant hush that seemed to herald the coming of the dreaded hour.
As the hands on the old clock hanging on the wall above struck twelve, one of Ranma's eyes suddenly flashed open.
No longer was this orb the warm bluish-grey of a simple martial artist. It was an eye that had never been born to this world. The iris had changed to a rich purple shade so dark that it was almost black, a mark of the presence that was now a part of him. Inside of its cold depths burned a deadly hunger completely empty of any hint of light or mercy, an endless void held in check only by sheer force of will.
Evil had awakened.
Shade sighed as he looked at his aging computer's screen.
He'd never thought that his e-mail inbox would ever be so depressing.
"Spam, spam, crappy misspelled fic with no plot, spam, pointless flame, spam, chain spam, ad spam, crappy pointless spam, unsolicited porn spam, unsolicited gay porn spam (how the fraggin' hell do all these freaks get my address?!), spam, more ad spam…"
Damn it! Why couldn't there be a Metroanime or Skysaber fic in here?
"…Spam to the left, spam to the right, Spam for spam's sake, oh, the pain…"
Shade didn't know what was worse, receiving the crap or having to waste the time to go through and delete it all manually. He missed the good old days when writers knew how to write and grammar actually meant something.
He was just about to shut down and give up for the night when the last unread message in the folder caught his eye.
"An invitation? Okay, this is new."
Shade read through it once. Then twice. Then a third time. But he still couldn't believe that someone had sent this to him.
Shade couldn't believe it. How stupid did they think he was?!
"You have got to be kidding me."
It sounded like a trap.
One eyebrow went up.
Okay… this was pretty pathetic.
His suspicion died. Nobody, not even the Knights of the Terrible Fiancée, could possibly be this retarded. It had to be a gag or something.
"Yeah, probably the guys trying to hint that I need to get out more often. Oh well, what could it hurt? I'll just go tomorrow morning."
Thunder rumbled ominously overhead.
To be continued…
|Arc 1, Act 3|
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