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 Two: Battles Under the Evening Star
Part One: Nephrite – Forgotten Sunset
Eyes closed, Ranma took a deep breath through his nose and let it out slowly through his mouth as he relaxed his muscles. While the teenager repeated the process, he used his ki to sense the world around him, just as his father had taught him. Emptying his mind, the pigtailed boy could feel the grass under his feet, the trees surrounding the clearing, and even the smallest living thing, their ki burning bright before his mind's eye. However, all of this paled when compared to what the dark haired martial artist turned warrior sensed from the other man standing across the clearing from him.
Nephrite’s aura was wildly different from anything Ranma had ever seen, and the first time he’d noticed it the pigtailed boy broke his meditative trance in surprise. The most readily apparent point of interest about Nephrite’s aura was the darkness. After some analysis, Ranma had determined that his sensei’s dark aura was not the black ki of hatred; it was more like the darkness of space than the almost oil-like, thick, heavy ki created by hatred and malice. It simply seemed to be an absence of ki, a void where Nephrite had depleted the surrounding area of its ambient lifeforce.
As Nephrite had explained it after Ranma had gotten his first good look at the dark general's aura, because of his training as a negawarrior, his very presence unconsciously absorbed lifeforce from the surrounding environment. Really, this effect was almost a survival instinct instead of an ability. The older man had already explained to his student about how, in order to contain and channel negaforce, a negawarrior had a certain 'up keep' to his reserves. "Think of it as a maintenance cost," Nephrite had said in an effort explain a mostly abstract concept to his not so philosophically–inclined student. "There is a constant drain on your reserves after you start channeling negaforce. It's tiny, but it's always there."
Looking past the outer darkness of his sensei's aura, Ranma marveled once again at how ordered Nephrite's aura actually was. Beneath the ki void, the meditating boy could see two very distinct pockets of ki, one larger than the other, almost encompassing the smaller one. The large one was Nephrite's own essence while the other was what he called his reserves. Recently, the dark general had taught Ranma how to regimen his own aura in the same way, and even now, the former martial artist could feel the separation of his own ki if he tried to sense it.
Even with the strangeness of the ki void, that still didn't prepare Ranma for what he saw when he looked at Nephrite's reserves for the first time. It was strange, actually: within the negawarrior's reserve was a huge amount of ki compressed into a very small space, and while it all seemed to be a part of Nephrite's overall aura, there were overtones and small currents that didn't seem to belong. Considering the ki void, Ranma came to the conclusion that those strange abnormalities were from the ambient lifeforce his sensei unconsciously absorbed from his environment. Either way, since Ranma wasn't doing that absorption yet, the ki in his reserves didn't have those oddities.
After a moment more of idle thought, Ranma forced his mind to stop wandering. While interesting, the lessons about ordering his aura were over; Nephrite said that this day, this test, would be the last before Ranma could attempt the final challenge to become a negawarrior himself.
Taking one more calming breath, Ranma opened his eyes and turned to face Nephrite. The older man nodded once, and Ranma dropped into a low stance, one good for both attack and defense but not overly much emphasis on either position. Without any more warning, dark general charged student leading off with a vicious upper cut.
As expected, the fierce blow was dodged by the younger man, and both combatants blurred as they fought without holding back. Between blocking a two kick combination from his mentor and dodging a spear hand aimed at his right shoulder, Ranma quickly remembered Nephrite's last words to him before the fight.
“Ranma,” Nephrite had said, a seriousness in his voice that Ranma had rarely heard from the older man. “In this match, hold nothing back. Let’s not kill each other, but this must be an accurate test of your fighting ability. I have to be certain you are ready for the final challenge before I’ll let you attempt it.”
At the time, Ranma had nodded without really understanding, but now his mentor's words became clear. As he ducked under a left hook and let loose with a rapid punching attack at Nephrite's gut, Ranma realized just how bad this 'final challenge' must be. If his sensei didn't believe him to be more than ready to face what ever it was he would have to face, then Ranma wouldn't be doing it. In a way, it was a very good feeling that someone wouldn't just throw him to the wolves, but on the other hand, Saotome Ranma didn't lose. He might suffer setbacks or even be defeated, but he never gave up. And eventually, he always won.
Suddenly, Ranma’s thoughts were rudely interrupted as Nephrite upped the pace of the fight by drawing on his negawarrior abilities. A punch blazing with dark power slammed into his gut, throwing the young warrior back over five meters, but Ranma was more determined than ever. Calling up a blazing, blue battle aura, Ranma flipped in the air, landed in a crouch, and launched himself at his mentor.
Once again, as had happened so many times since Ranma had agreed to become Nephrite's student, a battle of blue light and inky darkness raged in the small clearing. Neither warrior was visible as a human, but instead, it appeared that two balls of energy, each with a blurred, amorphous core, were battling for supremacy in the secluded grassy meadow in the middle of the woods.
Amazingly, both fighters managed to keep this pace for almost six minutes before dropping to either side of the clearing, both breathing heavily. His aura still blazing around him, Ranma once again sized up his opponent. Nephrite was pushing this fight well beyond any other match he'd had with Ranma, and the pigtailed boy knew it. The intensity of the battle was beyond anything Ranma had done during his training journey, and it was for that reason that Ranma loved every second of it. 'Of course,' thought Ranma as Nephrite charged him again, 'I wouldn't have minded a slightly longer break.
As the negawarrior charged him, Ranma set his stance to take his sensei down with a high clothesline maneuver, but at the last second the pigtailed warrior ducked low with a sweep. However, this was not to be; Nephrite's black aura flashed darkly and vanished, taking the negawarrior with it. Ranma stood, and with wide eyes, he looked for his sensei.
‘How on earth did he do-‘ Ranma’s thoughts were rudely interrupted as a kick connected with his lower back, and the pigtailed boy’s face was introduced to the trunk of a near by tree, up close and personal.
Sliding down from the indention he’d made, Ranma’s only thoughts were, ‘That… really… hurt…’ Nevertheless, Ranma forced himself to stand and face his opponent, and the smirk on Nephrite’s face was easily enough to propel the black haired warrior back into the battle.
Ranma leapt up about three meters before pushing off of the tree he'd so recently rammed into, launching himself at his sensei. Nephrite didn't move as his student flew in for a vicious, gravity accelerated attack, and Ranma allowed a confident smirk to form on his face. Just before he finally connected, Ranma saw the change in Nephrite's face, something so miniscule that most wouldn't have noticed. Gasping internally, the youth made a split-second decision and changed his trajectory ever so slightly.
When his hands would have struck Nephrite's chest, Ranma instead struck an invisible shield, but he surprised his sensei by using the shield as a pivot instead of slamming full force into the barrier. Ranma flipped over his sensei's head, and before the dark general could react, the pigtailed boy's foot struck Nephrite's back with the force of a charging boar, sending the negawarrior flying.
Ranma landed just in time to see Nephrite slam into another of the many trees surrounding their clearing, and the evil smile on his face seemed to say, 'Gotcha back!' However, his satisfaction was not to last, and as he watched, Nephrite vanished from where his face was buried in the tree trunk.
Ranma immediately dropped into a crouch and strained his senses, trying to gain foreknowledge of where Nephrite would reappear, and the pigtailed boy was rewarded with a sudden impression of his sensei's aura directly above him. Rolling away on instinct and adrenaline alone, Ranma just barely managed to dodge a knee drop that would have connected with his upper back.
Faster than he could think of the moves, Ranma propelled himself back at the other man, and once again, blue ki infused attacks met black annihilation-powered blocks in a rapid fight for supremacy. The glowing former martial artist almost allowed himself to become overconfident as Nephrite gave ground, not seeming to have a chance to counterattack through the storm of blows Ranma rained down on the older man, but the look of concentration on Nephrite's face and his earlier surprises kept the younger man from underestimating his opponent.
After two minutes of this continuous assault, Nephrite finally made his move. Flashing his student a smile, the dark general took a step back and dropped his guard. Expecting another shield, Ranma jumped back, but suddenly, the pigtailed youth felt a burning strike in the middle of his back. As he stood there frozen in shock, Ranma could feel his ki draining away, but his eyes were still on Nephrite, still standing before him, unmoving.
A whisper in his ear finally made the whole ruse clear in the younger man's wavering mind. "You lose," whispered the voice of Ranma's sensei, his breath hot on the pigtailed boy's ear, and then the world went white.
The blast was a big one, and Nephrite, being more exhausted than he'd thought, was barely able to shield himself from its high-energy fury. Ranma had far more energy than the inventor of that construct expected in any one person, and when the technique reached its conclusion, the detonation was far more massive than the negawarrior had expected. Nephrite knelt as the force of blast tried to overwhelm his hastily erected shield.
As the blast finally faded, Nephrite blinked away the spots in his vision, his head pounding from the sudden bright light and pressure wave, but once the negawarrior had recovered his vision he could only gape at the sight around him.
The clearing was relatively destroyed: trees, broken at odd angles or uprooted wholesale, littered the area, and Nephrite stood in a three meter deep crater where the blast had blown the soil and grass away. The explosion of uncontrolled, annihilated lifeforce and negaforce, one of the oldest and most basic of all the negawarrior constructs, had ripped the clearing turned training ground apart.
Nephrite stood staring at the devastation, dazed, until he remembered his student. At the thought of Ranma, unshielded from this furious blast of raw energy, Nephrite became frantic, fearing for the life of his student and friend. Employing his nega-abilities, Nephrite ran, jumped, and teleported from spot to spot, searching for the pigtailed youth, hoping for the best but fearing the visage of a broken, and dead, Ranma.
In his haste, Nephrite’s aura burned blackly in the late morning sunlight, and his path was littered with charred footprints where he had briefly stood, searching the remnants of the clearing. The negawarrior, his strength enhanced by the continuous stream of lifeforce and negaforce combining in a simple construct, threw broken trees from his path, his eyes darting from one place to another.
After ten minutes of searching, Nephrite finally saw a scrap of red cloth under the broken fragments of several trees. Not wasting a moment, the negawarrior made a telekinesis construct and immediately fueled it to its limit with annihilation power, the force of his will practically flinging the offending material from the possible body of his student.
As the now splintered remains of several trees flew off in a random direction, the brown haired man teleported to the spot, but he fell to his knees at what he saw. Ranma lay there, cuts and bruises covering his body. At first Nephrite thought the boy was dead, but as he forced himself to work through shock and fear, he found that his student was breathing slowly and he had a pulse, albeit both signs of life were weak. Worse, to Nephrite's negawarrior senses, Ranma's lifeforce seemed to flicker like the flame of a candle in high wind.
Manipulating the remaining lifeforce in his reservoir, the dark general placed his hands on Ranma's chest and began to shore up the pigtailed boy's own lifeforce. The older man's eyes widened as he felt the boy unconsciously latch onto the lifeline and begin to draw even more lifeforce from Nephrite's reserves than the slightly bishounen man was offering. 'Ranma shouldn't be able to do this,' thought Nephrite as Ranma began to deplete his reserves at an alarming rate. 'He couldn't possibly have this much lifeforce; its just not possible for a single being to actually contain such energy without negawarrior training and conditioning!'
As Nephrite felt the last of his reserves go dry from his student’s unconscious reaction, the dark general became increasingly alarmed when he felt the sensation. ‘It’s not possible…’ he thought as shock began to take over, and the older man felt the same, sweet agony he’d always associated with sacrificing some of his own lifeforce to fuel his constructs. ‘He’s actually draining my lifeforce!’
When Nephrite discovered that Ranma's unconscious action had gone beyond his reserves, the dark general instinctively tried to pull away, but like touching a live wire, as he tried to pull his hands from the pigtailed youth's chest, the flow of energy from Nephrite into Ranma began to pulse.
Nephrite screamed as his lifeforce fluctuated, his muscles spasming violently, but his hands wouldn't leave his student's chest. After a few moment of this, the negawarrior finally forced down the pain, and his face became determined, even fierce. Focusing all of his will, Nephrite pulled away with all of his might, and for one agonizing moment, he thought that he wouldn't be able to pull free of the powerful lifeforce drain. But finally, he wrenched his hands free of the torn red silk that had once been Ranma's shirt.
Nephrite collapsed next to his student, panting. Not only were his reserves completely empty, but Ranma had managed to drain over half of his actual lifeforce. The dark general tried to lift himself off of the ground, but after two minutes of trying with no success, he let out a weak groan and dropped back to his place on the ground.
‘At least Ranma is alright,’ thought Nephrite as the blissful unconsciousness of a healing trance overtook his mind.
When the blinding flash of light and the pressure wave struck him, Ranma thought he was dead. Besides having almost no ki from what ever technique Nephrite had used, he was too stunned from the savage blow to his spine to even attempt a dodge, and he could do nothing as he flew through the air, having barely enough energy to roll with his fall. The ground was unmercifully hard, and Ranma's last memory of the waking world was the sight of a splintered and broken tree flying through the air toward him.
Now, Ranma lay in darkness, consciousness having blessedly fled from his mind, but he was still aware. There had been a few times in the past that he'd retreated to the depths of his mind, and he knew them well. The first time he'd visited had been during the Nekoken training; to escape the fear and pain, Ranma retreated within himself. His father had never told him what had happened after, but Ranma hoped that he'd only become catatonic (no pun intended).
Of course, this latest trip to the darkness was unique, much like most everything else he'd experienced since becoming Nephrite's student. This time, instead of the void being warm and comforting, it was cold, barren, and lifeless. Ranma shivered as the chill tried to creep into his bones, and the pigtailed boy curled himself into a ball, shaking with cold and fear. Ranma found himself unable to move, unable to see, even unable to think; the need to find warmth was too great, an all consuming urge to find light in that dark place and escape the cold and the fear.
Just as the pigtailed boy thought he would be driven insane by the inexpressively powerful urge, a distant thread of warmth drew his attention. Looking in the direction of the aberrant heat, Ranma began to move toward it with out a thought, the instinct drawing him to it as strong as that to survive. The tiny trickle of warmth continued to flow into the frozen dark, and Ranma rushed toward it with the fervor of a man starved three months and then presented with a banquet.
Finally, after what seemed an eternity of desperate striving, Ranma reached the trickle of heat, and the boy latched onto the flow, drawing it into his frozen awareness. As he felt the energy flow into him, Ranma began to relax, his panic fading in the comforting warmth. He even thought that there was something familiar about this heat… something he knew, but it wasn’t himself.
After an indeterminate amount of time, the flow of energy seemed to slow, and Ranma's fear and panic came back, greater than before. 'NO!' thought the pigtailed boy. 'Don't leave me alone again!'
With that, Ranma exerted his will on the tiny thread of heat. Pulling on the trickle, Ranma managed to draw more energy into himself than the initial thread provided. Latching onto the flow like a man addicted, Ranma pulled harder, and as he felt the energy flowing into him, the resistance began.
A light, almost toying tug through the energy flow at first, it began to grow as Ranma continued to draw and absorb more by sheer instinct and force of will. When the black haired awareness that was Ranma started pulling harder, the resisting force began to struggle against the force, but now, rather than playful, the tug seemed almost panicky and fearful. This might have meant something to Ranma under normal circumstances, but by this point, the former martial artist was fighting with the fury and mindless rage of an addict getting his next hit. An almost bloodlust had come over the young man, and as the flow began to fluctuate with his anger, he grasped the now rope of warmth and gave it a sharp, strong tug. A smile crossed his face as he could sense his opponent scream, and Ranma continued his war for warmth.
Finally, after another eternity of battle, Ranma pulled sharply with all of his might, and went flying. It was the same as when someone cuts a rope being used for tug of war, and Ranma's awareness rocketed away into the dark depths of his unconscious. However, Ranma didn't care any more: the darkness around him was once more warm and comforting, the war for energy a successful one.
Ranma slowed, and gradually, his awareness faded from the unconscious…
…and crossed over into the waking world.
Ranma’s eyes fluttered open, and he stared into the starry night sky of
As the night gave peace to the pigtailed warrior, Ranma allowed his mind to relax, trying to forget the dream of furious battle and absolute need. On a night as peaceful and quiet as this, how could such a debacle not be a dream?
Sensations filtered into the dark haired boy's mind, and Ranma listened and responded to each in turn in a methodical, relaxed attitude. After the outside world, the youth decided to listen to the queued messages his body had sent while he slept.
Most were messages that he was stiff and a bit sore, but to a person who trains every day and has done so since almost before he could walk, this variety of signal was very common. Ranma responded to the messages by methodically stretching each muscle in his body, in no hurry to get up and leave the peace he had so recently attained.
The other signals his body had sent to be perused by his brain at its leisure where rather strange, and when he finally decided to look at them, Ranma paused in his stretches. The oddity recorded by his internal senses was in his ki; more specifically, in the area of his ki that he now used as his 'reserves.' The pigtailed warrior quickly analyzed his own aura, and what he found there was enough of a shock to drive the peace and silence of the night from his being. While the ki in Ranma's reserves still, overall, seemed like his own, the same undercurrents and overtones he'd sensed in his sensei now ran through his own reservoir.
Ranma gasped and sat up as he looked at his own aura only to receive his second bad shock of the night: the clearing around him was utterly destroyed. The pigtailed boy's eyes ran over every splintered and broken tree, every piece of dirt or grass that was strewn over the now cratered ground, the terrain obviously surprising him.
However, that wasn’t the last shock the black haired warrior would receive in the once peaceful night. Ranma’s eyes widened when, as he surveyed the damage, he saw Nephrite. At that point, Ranma’s level of shock had rolled around to cold calculation, and he looked at the body of his sensei with a critical, practiced eye.
Nephrite was breathing slowly and shallowly, and the negawarrior was clearly unconscious. When Ranma felt for the man's pulse, it was weak, but still strong enough that the student knew that his sensei would survive. The strangest part of the whole scene was that Nephrite didn't have a scratch on him; despite the man's weak life signs and pale complexion, there was no indication of what could have put him in this state.
Ranma shrugged. Figuring that questions could wait until the older man was awake, and that practicality overruled curiosity and worry, the dark haired youth picked Nephrite up in a fireman's carry and began to pick his way back to their campsite.
To be continued.
Author’s notes: Originally, I had just a chapter called 'Battles Under the Evening Star' in my outline, but about halfway through writing this one part, I decided that I needed to break the chapter up if I was ever going to post anything (my schedule is a bit too packed right now to devote much time to writing, sorry), so now there are three parts to Chapter Two. I hope I can get Part Two of this chapter (called Ranma – Fading Light) out soon, but I doubt my schedule will allow for it. Besides, I told Poly I’d write the next chapter of Three, so that’s what I’m gonna do. Also, I now have a pre-reader for this story (Yay!), so thanks, Talon.
|Layout, design, & site revisions © 2005||
Webmaster: Larry F