A Ranma ½ story
by Wun Wong
Disclaimer: I certainly do not own Ranma ½ or its characters. They belong to Rumiko Takahashi and Shogakukan in Japan, Viz Video in the USA. I do not, and will not profit monetarily from this work. Thank you.
Chapter 6: Past and Present
A pair of butterflies was what saved Wen Mei from immediate defeat. They were taking advantage of the glorious spring to live their short lifespan to the fullest, fluttering carefree in the airy clearing where Wen Mei fought her opponent. A finishing strike was brought short, so that the motion would not crush the fortunate pairs of colored wings. She thanked them silently, and took the opportunity to gain distance from her opponent. Rebounding off tree branches and bouncing off the ground, she quickly circled the clearing, trying to create a strategy even as she maintained distance from the other fighter. An astounding leap brought Wen Mei's opponent to her with surprising speed. In panic, she planted herself on the ground firmly, twisting to the side while crouching low to avoid the initial strike, then lashed out with her duster and a leg sweep simultaneously. Both blows missed, for the intended recipient of her assault had bounced straight up into the air, past her strikes, and with a neat flip landed behind her. A light tap behind her head told her that the battle was over; her reprieve by the butterflies had only delayed the inevitable for a moment.
"Not bad at all, my springtime beauty." Wen Mei could feel her cheeks burn with embarrassment as she turned to face the victor of this match, one Xi Eun Hwa. Xi Eun Hwa, whose name was cursed by the parents of teenage daughters in all of the Middle Kingdom. Xi Eun Hwa, who was said to have deflowered over 3 thousand maidens, including at least 100 ladies of noble families, and rumored to have visited the Emperor's nieces under the cover of night. Xi Eun Hwa, who had somehow gotten both butterflies to perch on his hand, then placed them on her hair like a set of impromptu ribbons. Who was staring into her eyes with a strange intensity, face only a hair's breath away from her own as he leaned forward with a soft smile
"Indeed, not bad at all." Wen Mei jerked backwards so quickly, she almost fell at the voice of the venerable monk, Mo Ji. "The defense was well placed, and shifted properly in response to an agile opponent's approach. The counterblows were thoughtful rather than rushed. Very commendable for one so young." Wen Mei carefully took a deep breath to calm herself, then turned to face the ancient monk as he materialized from the woods. Grasping her right fist in her left, she acknowledged the praise of the ancient Shaolin Master. She was glad of this interruption, for without his intervention, she wouldn't know how to deal with Xi Eun Hwa's advances at all.
"Heh. You should train her, old monk. She's a lot more talented than anyone I've seen. And I have seen plenty of martial artists in my travels these last few years." Wen Mei could barely restrain her surprised expression, to hear such a disrespectful tone used to Mo Ji, and to have it come from someone like Xi Eun Hwa!
"Whom I choose to instruct is no concern of yours, young lecher." Wen Mei expected the rebuke, but was surprised to see a smile soften the old monk's expression. "Ever since my best student decided to leave Shaolin, this broken-hearted old monk had to mold lesser talents. So perhaps you should consider this old one's feelings, and stop rubbing salt into the wound?"
"Bah! You were well rid of him anyways! The sluggard's always daydreaming, and hardly put any effort into his studies." The younger man turned away from the ancient monk, and proceeded to stroll out of the clearing. "Take my advice, old monk. This one is a real treasure, in beauty and talents. Not that you'd appreciate her feminine charms, but no student of yours would ever be this good to teach." An awkward moment passed, as a confused and embarrassed Wen Mei watched the ancient monk consider the parting words of Xi Eun Hwa, unsure of what she should do at this point.
"Wen Mei, would you find your Sifu? I need to speak with her." Mo Ji's voice was kindly despite the seriousness of his expression. The young woman quickly obeyed, taking to the trees as she rushed toward the cave where her Sifu was deciphering the ancient scrolls. As she leaped from tree to tree, she caught a glimpse of the diminutive Hap Sai, spying on her from below. She could feel the raw desire radiating from Hap Sai, making her shiver in disgust
"Get off my sister, you old freak!!" A shivering Kasumi sat up, shaking her head in confusion. Through bleary eyes she could make out Akane standing in post-swing position, a chunk of wood and plaster in hand, and a disappearing dot in the sky that could only be Happosai. Wiping cold sweat from her brow, Kasumi took stock of her surroundings. She was sitting on top of an impromptu futon made of a tablecloth that used to adorn the Nekohanten. Flanking her were Nodoka and Ranma, unconscious on similar pads of cloth.
"Well, you seem to be okay, Kasumi." Nabiki handed her a cup of tea, then sat down beside Kasumi. "I was worried that your little bump was worse than mine."
"I am fine, I think." Kasumi gratefully accepted her sister's offering, and took a cautious sip. She looked around, and saw that the injured fiancées were up, and glaring sullenly at each other. Soun was crying about his little girl being all right, and Tarou apparently left the scene some time ago. "What's going on?"
"Beats me." Nabiki shrugged, and then turned her head, drawing Kasumi's eyes to Cologne's crouching form. The ancient Amazon seemed to be examining something on the ground. A moment later, she stood up, and called for Shampoo, Mousse, and Linfa. They quickly began clearing the floor of the Nekohanten once again, revealing a perfectly undisturbed rune on the floor.
"Wonderful. The rune has not been disturbed at all. We can proceed." Cologne's raspy voice reminded Kasumi that they still have a trip to China to complete. "Move Ranma and Nodoka onto the rune. Kasumi, can you move?"
"Wait a minute!" Akane directed her angry gaze on Cologne. "You can't just kidnap them while they are out!"
"We aren't kidnapping anyone, since they have already agreed to go. We are simply not wasting time." While Cologne confronted Akane, Ukyo had moved into position to block Shampoo's path to Ranma, and Kodachi had moved in front of Mousse to block his. Linfa circled around them in an attempt to grab the cloth that Nodoka was sleeping on, but Soun moved to intercept. Before the situation could degenerate into another brawl, an amused, but not unkindly voice spoke out.
"Now, now, you shouldn't be fighting when we have injured people." The owner of that voice was a stranger to Kasumi. He was wearing a white lab coat, and carrying a medical bag. His weathered face and graying hair gave him a distinguished-but-harsh look, which was softened by a friendly smile. "I leave for a minute to get my supplies, and look what happens. Really, I wish my nurse was here." Most of the people there relaxed slightly at his approach.
"He's just a passing doctor." Nabiki answered the question before the puzzled Kasumi could ask. "He helped patch up Mrs. Saotome while Ranma was fighting. He did some checking on you too." Kasumi observed the doctor as he set to work cleaning up the minor scrapes and bruises on everyone. Realized that she should probably help out, Kasumi got up on her unsteady feet and started toward the doctor. Nabiki pulled her back down before she could get closer. "Let someone else do the work this time, eh?" He seemed competent enough, and none of the people present seemed to mind getting patched up a bit. By the time he was finished, Nodoka and Ranma had woken up, one slightly sore, one exhausted.
"Why, Dr. Miasaki, what a surprise to see you here." Nodoka managed to sit up. "How fortunate it is, too, since it saves us a trip to another doctor." She caught sight of Ranma out of the corner of her eye, and smile brightly. "Ranma! When did you get here?"
"Mom, I am always there when monsters rampage, you know that." Ranma rubbed the back of his head as he grinned sheepishly. He was enduring a rather painful headache, somewhat similar to the result of eating ice cream too fast, but much more intense. He wondered if it was a side effect of what he did earlier, when he expanded his special mental state far beyond its usual duration. Ranma looked around at the situation, and was not surprised at all at the sight of the Amazons facing off against his fiancées. Inwardly he sighed, and tried to prepare his exhausted muscles for another battle.
"Ranma, it is good that you are awake," Cologne spoke, perching on her staff. "It's best we be gone quickly, before any other strangeness finds you here."
"Now? How?" Ranma stared at her disbelievingly. "I mean, how do we even leave?" He looked down to see an enormous rune as Cologne pointed down with her withered hands. "What the heck is that?" He stared at it in confusion.
"It is a very special spell that allows us to traverse vast distances. It is perfectly intact, and some of us should be on our way before it's too late." Cologne hopped past
Akane and landed next to Nodoka. "You, your son, Kasumi, and I should go now. Shampoo, Mousse, and Linfa will stay to rebuild this place for its new owner. There's little time to waste, if we are to make it out without further incident." Nodoka nodded slowly in agreement. There had been too much excitement for the day already.
"Now, hold on here! We are not going to just let you take Ranma!" Akane and Ukyo said simultaneously.
"Now, girls, he will come back to you when he's done." Nodoka nodded at them, then turned to the doctor. "Well, it's nice to see you again, Dr. Miasaki. We have to go now, but we can keep in touch?" Miasaki nodded in response. "Ranma, Kasumi, let's go." Ranma stood to follow his mother, still too much out of it to consider disobeying. Kasumi stood also, obedient to the older woman's authoritative voice.
"But Mrs. Saotome !" Akane's words were cut off by Nodoka's firm look. Cologne gestured to Mousse, who pulled a scroll out of his sleeve and handed it over. The Elder unrolled it, and began chanting an invocation. "Charlie Sheen, cheese machine, lean cuisine, get us the greasiest chicken you've ever seen?!" The scroll glowed for a second, then a bucket of KFC chicken strips popped into existence a foot in front of Cologne. She stared incredulously at the scroll for a moment, turned it over to read its title, rolled it up neatly, and brained Mousse with it. "Mr. Part-Time, the teleportation scroll! Not the summon fried chicken spell!" After a moment's search in his voluminous robes, Mousse handed Cologne the correct scroll. "Where on earth did he get a spell for that anyways? The boy just ain't right." The Elder then activated the rune with a string of nonsensical syllables. A bright glow from the rune permeated the area, and Ranma, Kasumi, Nodoka, and Cologne began to fade away, disappearing into the air.
It had been many weeks since Wen Mei's first sparring session with the roguish Xi Eun Hwa. During that time, she had worked feverishly to decipher the ancient scroll. The process required that she search for identical words in another scroll that was partially translated few hundred years ago. After a word was identified, she used the partial translation to record various guesses regarding the meaning of the word, and then repeat with the next one. When a particular phrase was done, she would combine the words, and test for its meaning. Despite the hard work of Wen Mei and dozens of others, the progress was very slow, with frequent errors. Occasionally, Wen Mei and the others would tire of their task, and took breaks to practice in the woods outside. Wen Mei was particularly delighted that Mo Ji would often give her instruction.
During that interval, Wen Mei and Xi Eun Hwa were often together, sparring, poring over ancient manuscripts, or talking about their lives and experiences. At the end of the first month, they had told each other their life stories. Wen Mei described her upbringing as a Taoist nun, and her tomboyish behavior that always got her in trouble as a child. It amused Xi Eun Hwa that she was still essentially that way inside, though she acted a proper nun for the sake of her Sifu. The only good thing was, Wen Mei pointed out, she wouldn't have to get married to someone she was not attracted to. What she did not mention was her lack of attraction to men in general, and her preference for the female sex, which she suppressed with absolute self-control. However, it flattered her a great deal to see that he seemed genuinely interested in her "experiences".
According to Xi Eun Hwa, he was not much of a lecher despite his reputation; something she doubted but was too polite to mention. Hwa (she had gotten used to calling him by this diminutive) claimed that he actually spent most of his early childhood in the Shaolin temple, studying from, but mostly aggravating, the elder monks. After he reached adulthood, most of the elder monks save for Mo Ji decided that he was not suited to a monastic lifestyle, and Hwa agreed. He left then, and started traveling all over the country, seeing new sights and trying every experience he could. He drank, he fought, he raced horses, and he explored. He particularly enjoyed spending time with women, who fascinated him with their strangeness, their incredible "difference" from the male gender. Bedding them was never his primary concern, but becoming friends with them was. Of course, rarely did the fathers or husbands of such women believe that, and neither did the gossipmongers. Though Wen Mei took his story with a grain of salt, she nevertheless loved his description of places he had been, people he met, and things he had seen.
As time passed, Hwa stopped flirting with her, and a strange relationship sprung up between them. It was stronger than friendship, but without the usual sexual tension between man and woman. Wen Mei admired Hwa for his open-mindedness about everything, and his determination to experience it all. He smiled strangely in return, and told her he liked her true self, and the ‘proper' demeanor she chose to play vastly amused him. Wen Mei was confused about his response, but took it optimistically as a compliment of a sort.
This night was different than previous nights, for a particular excitement was in the air around all the researchers. For Wen Mei's part, she even managed to stop thinking about Xi Eun Hwa. After weeks of dedicated work, they had finally translated four full pages of the ancient text, and with the confirmation of those results, they'd be able to glimpse the first of the lost secrets. They all gathered around Mo Ji, who carefully checked their work against various scrolls. Satisfied with the results the old monk pulled forth a rare set of colored inks, and began grinding them out in several containers. They watched with uncontained excitement as he dipped a brush in the black well, and then wrote a word on the ceiling with a leap. He repeated the motions: a dip, a leap, a word. After he finished with the words, he started drawing a diagram with the colored ink, producing a guide to the first position one assumed in practice of this particular Art. As one, they stared upwards at the fruit of their labor, thoughts thoroughly concentrated in its deciphering. When the drawing was complete, and Wen Mei turned to look at Xi Eun Hwa, whose astonishment mirrored her expression. Not one, but TWO figures stood facing each other in the starting stance!
"You okay, Kasumi?" Ranma's concerned face filled Kasumi's vision, yet for a moment she could almost see another face in its place. Her vision cleared after that, leaving only Ranma's face, too quickly for Kasumi to identify the other face. Kasumi sat up with Ranma's aid, and look around her surroundings. She was sitting on a stone floor inscribed with a rune similar to the one in Nekohanten , ringed by Chinese-style chairs and tables, all of which were enclosed by the walls of a round building. Behind Ranma, she could make out Nodoka and Cologne conversing, and beyond them was a magnificent view of the Payenk'ala Mountains through the doorless entrance. "That spell the Old ghoul used was really strange. It made us all unconscious for a few minutes. You need a hand?"
"Thank you, Ranma." Kasumi gratefully grabbed his hand, and allowed Ranma to pull her to her feet. "I presume that we are at the Amazon village?" Brushing some of the dust off her dress, Kasumi noted that none of their luggage was with them. More importantly, the jade was no longer in her hands. Her desire for its touch was very strong, as strong as ever in her experience. With a tremendous effort of will, Kasumi buried her impulse to search for the jade for the time being, and managed another question. "Where are our things, Ranma?"
"Some of the Amazons took them to our rooms." Ranma looked somewhat apprehensive at the mention of Amazons. "Said our rooms were ready for us. Said they've prepared for our arrival."
"I am sure they aren't planning to force you into marriage with Shampoo." Kasumi said with her usual calmness, while Ranma fidgeted with worry. "After all, she's not here now, is she?"
"Yeah, but " Ranma glanced furtively around to make sure that no one was listening in to their conversation. "Some of them are eyeing me in a funny way. You know what I mean?" Kasumi shook her head in feinted innocence. "You know! That look they get before they decide that I am the one for them? Like I am their favorite snack?" Kasumi couldn't help but giggle lightly at Ranma's desperation. She was quick enough to cover her mouth, causing it the sound to become muted coughs though.
"I am sure that they do want to get you, Ranma." Cologne grinned that horrible grin of hers as the young martial artist jumped up to the roof of the building, clinging to it upside-down. Somehow she had snuck behind him while he was whispering to Kasumi, close enough to startle him. "As my heir's former groom, you are considered a social prize of no small consequence. They'll be challenging you the moment we get out of this building." Horrified, Ranma dropped from the ceiling, ready to run like hell. "That's why you aren't staying in the village. You will be living in the cave itself."
"Well, as long as they are kept out of there. I guess it'd be okay." Ranma muttered. Two rows of Amazons, both young and old, stood by the exit to greet the return of their elder as the four of them exited the building. Kasumi could see that most of the buildings in the village were of an older style, though a few sported an antenna or a satellite dish. They first visited a modest, two-bedroom house, where Nodoka and Kasumi would be staying for the duration. After unpacking some of their belongings, they relaxed with a cup of tea, and then started the hike to the ancient cave.
Unbeknownst to them, a strange tube of metal within Nodoka's luggage slowly extruded four sets of ‘legs', which flexed in ways that real spiders would not be able to emulate. It carefully picked its way past other inanimate items out of the luggage, and settled into what might be described as a ‘kneeling' position. A compartment opened up on the topside, and over 200 surveillance drones shaped like flies swarmed out and quickly disappeared into China's wilderness. Several of them began surveying the area, while a mass of them followed the signal from their target, and began their ascent toward the mountains. The tube slowly stood up again, closed its opening, and began trudging in search of a good hiding place for itself. In an underground lab on the island of Japan, a monitor flared to life as various data packets arrived from China. Staring at the influx of data, Ichiro Miasaki smiled, and waited with anticipation.
Ryouga trudged dejectedly along one of the many paths in a park in Nerima, nursing his sore neck and cursing fate. ‘How could this day get any worse? Ranma defeated me again. I am lost in the woods again. I am running low on food. Akane and Ukyo are huddled together muttering about something, doubtless lost like I am. I passed by the same alligator four times today. Ryoga's brain had a temporary shutdown, then rebooted to go over its last few thoughts before the crash. After a quick analysis of his last observation, he turned toward the scheming pair of Ranma's fiancées, exclaiming his joy at this reunion. "Akane!"
"What are you doing here, Ryoga?" Akane and Ukyo turned to face the new arrival, surprise evident in their voices.
"I was just hiking through these woods, looking for a place to buy provisions." As Ryoga approached them, he could see numerous bandages covering the pair. "What happened to you? You are hurt! Where's Ranma?! I will beat him down for this!" Ukyo reflexively smacked Ryoga with her spatula before the flustered youth could run off looking for Ranma to kill.
"Idiot," Ukyo snorted as she retrieved her weapon from the slightly dazed Ryouga. "It's not Ranma's fault. Just little demon summoned up by Happosai gone awry, that's all." Ryoga cooled slightly when Akane gave a confirming nod.
"Then I will teach that old pervert a lesson! Just lead me to your house, Akane." He struck his palm for emphasis. "When I am done with him, he will never summon another demon again!"
"That's sweet of you, Ryoga, but why don't you sit over there while Akane and I plan how to get Ranchan back from China, huh?" Ukyo dismissed Ryoga with a wave. "We will take you to see the old freak after~" Ukyo and Akane looked at the rising trail of dust that marked Ryoga's passage. "What's his hurry?"
Akane shrugged, then returned to her planning.
A mile away from the plotting pair, Ryoga ran with a fierce determination in his heart. ‘Ranma, you are not going to get the cure to our curses and keep it all to yourself!"
Kasumi was the only one not enjoying the hike. During their journey from the Amazon village, Kasumi fought her desire to possess the jade piece with will alone. Gradually, the need seemed to have subsided somewhat, and she devoted some of her mental faculties to examining her strange moods, visions, and obsession with the jade piece. While she could make little sense of it overall, she suspected that it might have something to do with the chamber they were approaching. In fact, the surroundings evoked such a sense of familiarity within her that she was convinced that this where her dreams took place. Another important conclusion was that the closer she was to the jade piece, the stronger her desire for it grew. With that thought in mind, she began to dread her return to the Amazon village, fearing that she would succumb to its lure and lose her composure completely. The only option would be to tell Cologne, and ask for the Amazon elder's help. The question was how to approach her.
"Is that the cave?" Ranma pointed to a cave barely concealed with vines at the end of their path. Cologne nodded, and led them to the entrance. As they approached, an Amazon warrior stepped out of the foliage and greeted the elder. She parted the vines for them, showing a chamber dimly lit with a couple of oil lamps. The four of them made their way into the former tiger den and delved into its depths. Halfway into the cave, they passed through a rough portal through a wall into a large chamber lit with numerous lamps. Nodoka sighed with appreciation at the unique monument to martial arts that greeted her eyes, while Ranma and Cologne gawked at the diagrams and words written on the ceiling in complete absorption. Kasumi was in a dazed state as she looked everywhere, confirming her previous suspicions. There, a symbol evoked the memory of the brush stroke that wrote it; here, a martial artist once sat, poring over ancient scrolls of bamboo fibers. Reality and dream collided here, and it was profoundly disturbing to Kasumi in ways she could not voice with words.
"Elder Cologne," Kasumi whispered. "Elder Cologne," she repeated, in a stronger voice this time. The Amazon turned, and immediately rushed to Kasumi's side when she saw the distress on her face. Ranma turned as well, to see Kasumi swooning into Cologne's arms.
Miasaki drew in a breath when an alarm sounded. Something rather interesting was happening to his subject in China. Pulling his chair in the front of the workstation dedicated to the subject, he could see that the data stream had suddenly doubled in speed. His fingers flew over the keyboard as he organized the data into several graphs for better reading. His eyes widened when he realized that the interesting readings were from one of those who traveled with him. Surprisingly, it wasn't the old woman or Nodoka. It was from that shy girl, the one who looked like a housewife. An excited Miasaki quickly added commands to the drones to gather additional data from her.
"Well, are you ready?" Xi Eun Hwa's tone was, for once, completely serious. It echoed through the cave like some unearthly sound, rather than the voice of someone in flesh and blood. Wen Mei nodded, ready to begin. The two of carefully removed their garments, then assumed the first stance of the Way. Wen Mei blushed slightly, somewhat unaccustomed to the sight of a nude man. She was envious of Hwa's self-control, he didn't seem affected by her nudity at all. Carefully, they maneuvered their hands to the proper pressure points on the other's body, and with great care and effort, channeled their chi into each other. Even though what they were doing could very well get her kicked out of her school, Wen Mei could not help but feel a spark of excitement at what they could accomplish.
Originally, there was little chance that its translators could practice the Way of the Transcendent. After all, it required the efforts of a man and a woman, who must touch each other in intimate places to access the proper pressure points. Most of the men were monks, or former students of Shaolin. In addition, the only women present were Taoist nuns, whose sects did not include Tantric practices in their traditions. The possibility was ruled out immediately. For months, the martial artists had worked to translate the rest of the text, hoping that there were other methods that could be applied. Alas, the Way described a complete regiment of exercise, diet, and mediation methods that required complete coordination between two practitioners of both genders. No deviation from it was allowed. Discouraged, many of the translators left. Most took some part of the Way's lessons with them, hoping that they could derive some benefit from it alone. To Wen Mei's relief, Hap Sai was one of those who left to study it on his own. A few others left to search for a female martial artist who would be both trustworthy, yet bold enough to participate. In the end only a dozen of the monks and nuns remained to refine their translation efforts. One day, Wen Mei and Xi Eun Hwa were debating the veracity of one of the passages they translated, when he suddenly stopped, and became still.
"What's the matter?" Wen Mei was worried. He had a serious expression on his face, and that was a rare thing indeed.
"I just had an incredible thought." The intensity in his eyes belies the excitement in his voice. "What if WE practiced the stances?"
"We can't! I am forbidden to know a man that way!" Wen Mei was aghast at the thought. Her Sifu would be so angry!
"Well, you don't have to ‘know' me for the stance to work you know." Xi Eun Hwa was smiling at her in that strange way again. "The points of contact are close to some intimate places, but they aren't on them exactly. The only taboo we break would be seeing each other nude. Not a particularly bad one in this case." He smirked. "After all, I am gentlemen enough to resist even the most beautiful of women's bodies if their hearts were not willing." Wen Mei snorted, and turned so that he could not see her expression. She wondered, if she herself felt no lust toward this man, could they commit the minor infraction without falling into deeper sin?
For days, they had prepared their bodies with diet and meditation. Finally, they walked the first steps together. That morning, Wen Mei performed her part of the First Stance with perfect concentration, and Xi Eun Hwa did his part with flawless skill. They both could feel their bodies responding to the energies they manipulated, changing slowly as they changed each other's chi flows. When they finally finished the First Stance, over twelve hours had passed, yet either of them felt any amount of fatigue. Instead, they could feel themselves renewed, their chi growing steadier and stronger, if only by a small amount. They smiled at each other with triumph. They replaced their clothing with great care, and began ascending to the upper levels of the cave.
Miasaki worked frantically to analyze the new data stream, bemoaning the fact that it did not have the same level of sophistication as the subject's data. ‘But then, I can't put a chip in everybody's brains.' He worked for hours, until exhaustion finally overcame his excitement at the new find. The weary scientist called it a day, and pushed away from his surveillance equipment. Miasaki stretched his body as he stood up, involuntarily letting out a yawn before turning toward his bed in the corner of the lab. Taking only enough time to loosen his shirt collar, he flopped down on his bed and waited for sleep.
Despite the exhaustion of his body, Miasaki found that rest would elude him for several hours. It had everything to do with Ranma's performance that day, and that goal he sought so many years ago. Wavering between waking and dreaming, Miasaki's mind wandered back to the time of his youth, in the second and third decade after World War II.
In the time of Miasaki's youth, Japan had begun rebuilding, both industrially and socially, into something that was a strange chimera of the West and the East. Though it would see prosperity and stability in the years ahead, there was a shadow over the collective mind of the Japanese people. The trauma of defeat had left them confused over their identity, the rightness of their collective destiny. They sported both an inferiority complex that urged them to imitate the foreigners, and a rage at that aforementioned complex that stressed the society in ways that few have yet to understand. Miasaki was fortunate in his blood. He grew up in a wealthy household that had little ties with the War, and its business flourished even after the World War. As a result he received a proper education, both Western and traditional Japanese, and his path to practice medicine was wide open.
However, despite the luck of his birth, he was not sheltered from the shadow that had hung over the Japanese people since before his birth. His interest in history and culture, his quick and powerful mind that observed human behavior with great intensity, all showed him the rough shape of that unhealed trauma. He could see it in the pride in their traditions, which seemed to him somehow muted, lacking the proper fervor of the faithful. He could picture in the slight hesitation in the people, in the rare instances when an American would pass by, as though they felt some unreasonable fear buried beneath their souls. He could see it every week, when his manga showed protagonists with exaggeratedly large eyes, and hair colors no Japanese could have. Because it was not in his nature to submit, slowly, a cold fury began to build within him. At first he studied, and delved deeply into matters philosophical and cultural, before finally learning the shape of that hidden knot in his nation's heart. He sought for ways to overcome that oppressive weight on his soul, and the souls of his people. Despite his love for the subject, it did not lie in modern medicine, for much of that was imported from the West. It did not lie in the strength of arms, for Japan would never again rise as a military power in the world. What he did find was something else, something he never expected
"Hahaha!! You'll never catch Happosai! The Greatest Martial Artist in Japan!" Miasaki was accompanying a young cousin who wanted to visit her childhood friend in Yokosuka. They were strolling from the train station toward her friend's house when they heard a loud disturbance from the direction of the U.S. naval base. Miasaki turned to see a diminutive figure, carrying what seemed to be an enormous bundle three times his size, raced over the rooftops at breathtaking speed. Behind were four U.S. army jeeps, jam-packed with soldiers all shouting in English for the ‘little bastard' to stop. People around the street scattered out the way of the spectacle, watching with amazement as the tiny old man confounded the efforts of the soldiers. "You will need to do better than that to keep Happosai away from your girly magazines! Or your wives' panties either!"
Finally, one of the soldiers opened fire with his pistol, the loud pop causing most of the civilians to duck into the surrounding buildings to avoid trouble. Miasaki stood still however, for he was deeply entranced at the sight of the ancient Master laughing at the Americans. He could sense something extraordinary about this event, as though the world had suddenly started spinning the other way for him. Each time that Happosai dodge a pistol shot, his heart leaped. Each time that an enraged American face bellowed in helpless rage and disbelief, his mouth twitched closer to a smile. Slowly, a plan began to form in his mind, something that he would pursue for the rest of his life.
Far away from the dreaming scientist, in the midst of a deep forest, Happosai dug through the earth beneath an ancient boulder. Working at great speed, he made economical motions an old shovel to create a path to the bottom of the boulder. Even though the boulder was almost a hundred feet in diameter, and despite his exhaustion from earlier battles, Happosai was making good progress toward his goal. "Soon, the instrument of my revenge will be at hand!!" However, his excitement was quickly dampened when the shovelhead shattered on a relatively large rock hidden in the earth. "Dammit! I am out of bombs too! Now what?" As the disgruntled Happosai climbed out of the tunnel he created, he heard a strange noise that might be trees falling in the forest far from his position. He stood still, listened, and quickly determined that there were multiple trees being knocked down, and whoever was doing the knocking was also getting closer. Taking a seat on top of the boulder, Happosai lit his pipe and waited.
"Where on Earth am I now?!" Ryouga crashed through an ancient tree trunk in an amazing display of strength and frustration. Happosai smiled as a plan formed in his mind.
Ranma dashed from treetop to treetop joyfully, enjoying the beauty of the relatively unspoiled wilderness and the lack of ambushes. For the first time in a long time, he was free from his father, free from the annoyance of people who wanted him, or wanted him dead. The only worry that plagued him was the strange fainting spells that Kasumi was having, and even that he placed in the back of his mind. Exhaling his breath, he made an incredible leap far up into the air, and then reveled in the winds as he plunged back toward the earth. Landing in a small clearing lit by the moon and the stars, Ranma filled his lungs with the sweet air of the valley. He stood still for a moment, staring up at the bright stars that had been obscured in the night-sky of Nerima. Feeling his body and mind fall into a familiar harmony, he moved into a stance he saw in the cave earlier. "This is what I have been searching for, all my life." Closing his eyes, he imagined, then felt the flow of his life energy. Slowly, his chi began to change their flow under his direction. "I will master this and more." Moving deeper into a trance state as he explored further inward, he failed to notice a pair of butterflies landing on his shoulders for a moment, before fluttering off into the night.
To be continued.
Author's notes (4/27/03): I must apologize for the incredible lateness of this chapter. I originally planned to release it sometime near December last year, but ran into a nasty writer's block, and was unable to properly structure/complete the last 15% of this chapter. Since then, I have worked at it until it finally looked semi decent. Special thanks to Larry F for editing my English. So here it is! Enjoy! My next chapter will hopefully be written in less time than this one. I welcome any criticism or comments you might have. Thank you. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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