A Ranma ½ / Sailor Moon crossover story
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon belongs to Takeuchi Naoko, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC.
Chapter One: Lessons in Twilight
Part Two: …and Life
Over the next several days, Nephrite watched Ranma finally deal with losing his father and having his first kill, though he was certain it would take a great deal more time. The boy poured his all into training, stopping only to eat or sleep, almost like before. However, Ranma was male again, and the boy was talkative, even animated, at meal times. Even though he trained almost every waking hour, the depression he'd exhibited before had not reasserted itself.
Beyond worrying about Ranma's mental health, the negawarrior continued to be amazed at the martial artist's prowess and general fighting ability; in fact, Nephrite would bet on Ranma over most youma in hand to hand combat. Slowly, the idea was firming in the dark general's mind to ask Ranma to become his student, but he needed to determine the right time to ask his companion. The stars would tell him; they always did.
Some days later, Ranma and Nephrite were sitting beside the fire eating dinner. The boy seemed to be doing much better, and Nephrite decided that tonight would be the right time to ask his companion. His reading of the constellations the previous night indicated that his prospective student would be most receptive to the question that evening, and while he doubted it would come easily, Nephrite had faith in the stars' portent.
"Ranma," Nephrite began. "We've been here for some time, and I believe that I've gotten a good gauge of your abilities. I'd like to offer to teach you my Art."
Ranma had been shoveling food away, as Nephrite had learned since he'd gotten over his depression, in the traditional Saotome style; that is, he was stuffing his face as quickly as he could. However, Nephrite's statement made him pause.
"You don't have to answer right away," the dark general continued. "But I see potential in you that I've rarely seen in any other human."
Slowly, Ranma put his bowl down and set his hashi in it. Nephrite could tell the boy was thinking seriously, so he waited patiently.
After nearly half an hour more, Ranma finally spoke. "Without Oyaji, I don't have any direction. No where to go… nothing to do…" The boy sighed but continued. "In any case, I guess I'd like to learn, to actually have some kind of direction. Let me thing about it for a little while."
As Ranma spoke, a small smile spread across Nephrite's face. The stars had spoken truthfully once more, and the boy was going to accept. It might take another demonstration or a practice match, but Ranma would learn the ways of the negawarrior.
Three days later, Ranma was totally consumed with a kata meditation. The boy's thoughts were confused, but the meditation was helping.
*Kick* *Kick* *Punch*
The movement of his body in time with the ki coursing through the area, the mingling of it with his own ki, the power and grace of the martial arts combined and balanced in perfect harmony.
*Strike* *Kick* *Sweep*
In short, this was what Ranma lived for, this feeling of being in complete control of his mind, body, and spirit. In this state, Ranma could think clearly, could find his center and stay there. Only here could he find peace from his father's death and his new, disturbing lack of emotion toward the first deaths caused by his own hands, killing those that killed his old man. In fact, Ranma didn't believe he would feel bad any more if the entire Joketsu tribe was annihilated. It was a strange change from his broken dreams of only nights before, and the drastic shift in perception worried the pigtailed former martial artist to some small degree.
After a few more minutes of free kata, Ranma became aware that he was being watched. Opening his eyes momentarily, the pigtailed martial artist saw Nephrite standing quietly next to a tree at the edge of the clearing. Ranma closed his eyes once more.
Nephrite's offer intrigued the young man, but he still wasn't sure that the older man's Art was worth learning. Sure, Nephrite displayed a very impressive battle aura, but that didn't mean that his techniques were actually effective at anything but scaring people. Certainly he had won the fight when he snapped Ranma out of his depression, but the pigtailed warrior knew that he couldn't have been fighting at his best in that state of mind. Finally, Ranma came to a decision.
Ceasing his kata, Ranma turned to face Nephrite, his smirk still only a shadow of its former cockiness, but it was still there. "You want to teach me your techniques?"
Nephrite nodded, and Ranma continued. "All right, I want to see what you can do. Let's have a practice match."
Again, Nephrite nodded, and this time a smile crept onto his face. Then, the grey-uniformed man walked forward a couple of meters and stood relaxed. "Come at me anytime," he said, now smirking.
That smirk, and the confidence it displayed, was mirrored on Ranma's face as he dropped into an offensive stance, more of the young man's cockiness returning in the face of the familiar circumstance. The pigtailed former martial artist sized his opponent up one last time and leapt forward.
Nephrite watched Ranma crouch with a feral smirk on his face; one that he was sure was mirrored his own lips. Then the boy flew through the air, attacking with a strong, flying kick. The dark general side-stepped the initial attack and tapped Ranma's leg to shove him off course, but Ranma recovered and renewed his attack on the ground. The boy's movements were much more controlled than in their last fight, and Nephrite knew that would make this fight quite a bit harder.
Most people would have been defeated by the lightning quick punches and kicks Ranma threw at Nephrite, but a negawarrior is no ordinary person. Still, without using any of his powers, Nephrite found himself hard pressed to defend against the martial artist's assault, much less counterattack.
Luckily, Nephrite had seen this match coming, and the previous night, the dark general had snuck out of camp while Ranma was sleeping to raid nearby villages for lifeforce. After five such nights and nearly fifty drained people, his internal reserves were almost completely full. It was too bad he couldn't revisit that first village: it would have only taken one night and a quarter of the people, but the negawarrior couldn't risk allowing those women to track him back to camp. Besides, the amount of lifeforce he would have had to expend to fight them if he were caught made the whole idea a somewhat risky proposition.
Finally, Nephrite decided he'd fought in the normal manner for long enough, especially since his prospective student looked less than impressed with the dark general's mundane fighting ability. Surprisingly, at least in Nephrite's opinion, he hadn't been able to get in a single hit yet. The dark general leapt back just as Ranma finished a rather vicious combination of barely blocked open-hand strikes, and before the boy could follow, Nephrite erected a physical shield construct around his body, fueled with annihilation power.
When Ranma attacked the negawarrior from above, he hit the shield; the former martial artist's shock was apparent on his face. However, Nephrite gave Ranma no chance to recover from his surprise. The negawarrior rushed forward to attack the pigtailed boy with a three punch combination powered by the annihilation of lifeforce and negaforce. His greatly increased strength and speed combined with Ranma's surprise, allowing Nephrite to fully connect with all three.
To his credit, Ranma wasn't immediately felled by the surprisingly strong attacks, and he even tried to counterattack. Just as the dark general knew, everything he threw at Nephrite bounced harmlessly off the dark general's skillfully manipulated shield, the negawarrior created another brief series of holes in his shield and attacked again. Seeing that, despite reeling from the blows, Ranma still up and fighting, Nephrite's respect for the boy and his skill rose yet another notch or two, but the negawarrior decided that it was time to end this. Gauging the strength of his blast to be more than enough to knock the boy out, though no enough to kill him, Nephrite let loose with a bolt of absolute darkness.
Ranma had just enough time to blink in surprise before the bolt of shadow slammed into his chest. The pain was incredible; it felt like the bolt was trying to rip his ki away. The world turned white, and Ranma screamed.
After what seemed to be an eternity of nothing but pain, Ranma slowly opened his eyes. The pigtailed boy was lying on his stomach, and his back hurt like he'd been rammed into a tree. Looking up, Ranma thought, 'Scratch that… I was rammed into a tree.'
Still gasping for breath, Ranma slowly climbed to his feet. Everything ached with a soreness he knew couldn't have been caused just by slamming into the tree. Checking his ki reserves, the part of his lifeforce he used for fighting, Ranma was shocked to find them almost completely depleted. For a person like Ranma, who used his ki to do almost everything, having no ki was almost like being blind, deaf, and moving through a world filled with molasses.
Ranma finally looked up, and to his credit, Nephrite was staring at the pigtailed martial artist in absolute shock. "I can't believe you're still conscious!" he exclaimed. "That's amazing."
Ranma couldn't help but smile at the praise even as he wobbled on his feet, but he also had decided. "That… that Art of yours is awesome. If you're still willing, I'd love to learn more. Just… just let me rest a little first."
With that, Ranma's strength finally gave out. The last thing he saw was his new sensei rushing forward to catch him.
Nephrite cradled the form of his new student, his mind still filled with amazement at the boy's fighting skill. Dazedly, Nephrite observed the battlefield. The last battle had done more damage to the environment, but that was because Ranma had not controlled his lifeforce at all. Last time, his battle aura, as the boy called it, created a wind that whipped through the clearing and scattered debris everywhere.
This time, Ranma had kept his ki, as Nephrite remembered him calling his lifeforce, tightly focused, and attacked with far more control, speed, strength, and skill. Rather than fighting as a feral, wild animal, Ranma showed just how good a warrior from Terra could be, and it was obvious to the dark general that the pigtailed boy would have won the exchange had Nephrite not used any of his vast repertoire of constructs.
The most striking feature of the battleground was the trees Ranma had hit after being blasted: one completely snapped and lying on its side and the second, a crater almost halfway through its trunk. Beyond that, more subtle damage, like the small chunks missing from the trunk of one tree, indicated where Nephrite had managed to dodge Ranma's ki enhanced strikes. The force of the air pressure alone had ripped bits of wood from the living trees.
"You just rest now, my young friend," said Nephrite, shaking his head. "I have a feeling that you are going to be a very powerful negawarrior."
Ranma was asleep, the latest training session having taken a lot out of him. Nephrite reflected on his pupil as he sat next to the small fire, a hot cup of tea in his hand. Every once in a while, the dark general would take a sip, savoring its flavor.
Ranma was making great progress in learning the ways of the Negaverse; in three short weeks the boy had already managed to prepare his lifeforce to contain negaforce without being annihilated. This was a feat in and of itself: Nephrite himself had required nearly four months of training before he'd come even this far. The negawarrior couldn't suppress a smirk: Ranma would be powerful, definitely more than Nephrite himself and perhaps even more than Kunzite. At least, one day he would be.
The unconscious smirk fell away from Nephrite's face as his mind moved forward to the next stage of Ranma's training. Training to accept negaforce was one thing, but it was much harder to actually draw it from the Negaverse. And this was Ranma's next step. Nephrite believed the boy to be ready, but there was always a chance that a negawarrior would be destroyed each time he drew on anti-lifeforce, and though that chance became almost non-existent by the time one was as skilled and experienced as Nephrite, it would be very dangerous the first few times Ranma did it.
Of course, that assumed that Ranma was able to defeat his reflection.
Nephrite sighed. The boy's capabilities, while astonishing, still were not great enough for the dark general to risk him in the final test yet. Looking into the fire, Nephrite took the final sip of tea from his cup and set it down gently. If he was to continue the boy's training, the negawarrior would need to replenish his reserves, and thus, it was time to go.
Concentrating on the illusion he set around their campsite to keep out unwanted visitors, Nephrite placed a small reservoir of lifeforce into the carefully made construct. This would keep the shield active without his presence to continue feeding it… at least for a time. Of course, the construct would eventually deplete the energy, but it would be enough for a full day. Besides, Nephrite planned on returning before dawn.
Quietly, so he wouldn't wake his sleeping student, the negawarrior stood and crept out of the campsite and headed for one of the nearby villages.
"All right, Ranma," Nephrite said as the pigtailed girl finished a twenty kilometer run. I think that's enough physical training for the moment. Let's work on those meditation techniques I taught you."
Ranma nodded to her sensei and immediately knelt in seiza, closing her eyes and focusing inward. After a few seconds the faint blue glow of her lifeforce was visible as a corona around her form.
Studying his student using constructs designed specifically for the purpose of judging when an aspiring negawarrior was ready for the final challenge, Nephrite once again gauged her abilities. Her lifeforce was properly configured for the transition, and her will did not allow the configuration to waver in the slightest. That was the most important part of the training, and in only the six weeks since starting, she was already as far along as Nephrite was a nine months. If Ranma continued to soak up training this well, she would be ready for induction only nine weeks into her training, a completely amazing and unheard of feat.
More than satisfied with his student's progress, Nephrite slipped into his own meditative trance.
Nephrite headed back to camp after helping three more villagers get a good, long night's sleep, this time from one of the towns to the north. Training a new negawarrior, even one of Ranma's obvious skill, was trying and difficult work. Teaching him to see, create, and manipulate even the simplest of constructs, even without the annihilation energy to power them, meant holding those lines for hours, and that was no easy task. Strangely, a powered construct was much easier to hold, but it was much harder to perceive with the unaided eye. Certainly there were sensory enhancement constructs that made it easy for a negawarrior to see the lines, but without the negaforce that was unavailable to Ranma before induction, there was no way to power them.
That simple paradox was the reason that negawarriors had always been rare; that, and the fact that the final test was either successful or lethal, without exception. Even exceptionally gifted negawarriors, such as he and his fellow generals, took a long time to learn their craft, and Ranma's progress was nothing short of a miracle.
"So," a voice startled the dark general out of his musings. "Where do you go every night, anyway?"
The question, spoken in Ranma's voice, made Nephrite realize he was back at their camp, and his student was awake. Ranma was in her female form, having taken a bath after dinner, and she was sitting on a log next to the fire, obviously well tended. That meant that the red head had been awake for a while, probably since just after Nephrite left.
"I needed to replenish my reserves," answered the dark general. "I've already taught you how to power constructs, even if you can't access the negaforce yet."
Ranma nodded. "So how do you do that?"
Knowing his student, this would be the thing she liked least about becoming a negawarrior, but he owed it to Ranma to tell him about it. "Negawarriors do it by draining lifeforce from people."
Ranma's eyes widened at his words, and then narrowed suspiciously. "Exactly when were you intending to tell me that?"
Nephrite sighed. He had known this conversation was inevitable, but he just didn't know how tell his student. "I was going to tell you before the final test, certainly, but the time never seemed right."
Even as he spoke, the dark general winced at his wording. This was not going well.
"So to use your Art, I have to be some kind of energy vampire?" Ranma asked hotly. "And you didn't think I needed to know this sooner?!"
Growling, Nephrite grated, "We didn't used to have to do it! The annihilation of lifeforce and negaforce is one of the most powerful and efficient sources of energy in either the universe or Negaverse. When I first became a negawarrior, mages used their magic to create crystals that would draw in and condense the ambient lifeforce of a planet, and the draining constructs were used to draw from them. I already told you that there was a barrier between the universe and the Negaverse for twenty millennia, and almost all the lifeforce crystals that remain in the Dark Kingdom are completely drained."
Ranma digested this information in silence, and Nephrite continued in a calmer voice. "I don't particularly like draining humans for energy, but I can always do it without endangering their lives. The drain only puts them to sleep for a few hours while their bodies replenish the lost lifeforce; it doesn't actually hurt them."
The Saotome heir looked dubious about that, but without saying more, Ranma walked away from his sensei and back to his bedroll. Nephrite sighed, heating some water in a kettle for a calming cup of tea.
Since Nephrite wasn't trying to instruct him, the next day found Ranma sitting alone beside the stream, thinking hard. What the dark general had told him the previous night weighed heavily on the pigtailed boy's mind, and he pondered the meaning. On the surface, the idea of draining people was abhorrent, but as he thought about it, it really wasn't as bad as it seemed. The people weren't hurt in the process, just rendered unconscious, and without the extra ki gained by draining, he knew a negawarrior would eventually die from negaforce exposure, that question answered the first time he looked at Nephrite's aura. The greatest factor, however, was one of the reasons he asked to learn his sensei's Art: if he had been stronger, he could have saved his father and maybe even avoided killing…
In addition to these factors, Ranma also thought about the power he was considering refusing. Perhaps he had enough ki to power all his constructs himself, or maybe he could create something similar to those lifeforce crystals Nephrite mentioned. Of course, if he never tried, he would never know.
Throughout the morning and into the afternoon, Ranma sat and pondered, even thoughts of training and food were pushed to the side in the face of his decision. Weighing and reweighing the sides of the argument, he finally came to his decision as evening arrived, and with decision came resolution.
Walking confidently back to where Nephrite was already cooking dinner, Ranma sat down next to the fire and watched his sensei. The older man looked weighed down by heavy emotions, and while the former martial artist couldn't see his aura well enough to determine exactly what those emotions were, he had a pretty good idea. Nephrite had reacted pretty badly to Ranma's accusation about being an energy vampire, and now that he looked back without the strong emotion of the moment, he felt bad for coming down on his benefactor so hard.
"Nephrite," he said quietly, gaining the older man's attention. "If you'll have me, I'd still like to learn your Art."
Stopping what he was doing, Nephrite gave him a serious look. "Ranma," he replied gravely. "You understand that once you complete the final challenge, once you become a true negawarrior, the change is irreversible, correct? There's no going back after that point."
Ranma did remember the dark general mentioning that earlier in his training, but he'd thought less of it before he realized where the power came from. Still, his decision was made, and he nodded solemnly at the brown haired man.
A slow, sincere smile spread across Nephrite's face, and he said, "Very well then, Ranma. We'll get back to work tomorrow."
To be continued.
Author's notes: I know this is a very short installment for being a part of a chapter, but it really felt right to distinguish this part from the other side. In my original outline all the chapters were a single part, but I don't want to imagine chapter 3 as a single part. I mean, I've only finished 4 of 7 parts, and none of them are less than 14,000 words! The difference between dealing with his father's death and beginning his training as a negawarrior is enough to warrant a split in the chapter, so that's what I did. One of the biggest review issues in later chapters was Ranma's easy acceptance of energy draining, and with this rewrite, I'm trying to put it to rest. This is what I envisioned, but I didn't write nearly as exhaustively in the original versions of these chapters. Now, with the rewrite, I'm lining things up better.
Unfortunately, this chapter's inclusion in the fic might mess up the ffnet review system a bit (moving all subsequent chapters forward without moving their reviews…), and while I regret doing so, I do believe that the story will be better for it.
Once again, I'd like to thank my prereaders for their much appreciated advice and proofreading. Until next time.
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