A Ranma ˝ / 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 Three: Shampoo — Dying Embers
A chill ran down Shampoo's back as she walked home from her afternoon practice, her injuries from fighting the daemon a few weeks earlier barely healed. Her great grandmother and prevailed upon the council to give her a stay of obligation until the situation with the hellspawn was dealt with, but the young Joketsuzoku Champion couldn't keep her mind off of the girl that had humiliated her before her sisters. However, the chill she'd just felt was that of impending disaster, and without her great grandmother in the village, Shampoo felt very vulnerable. 'If that daemon should come here before great grandmother returns,' she thought with apprehension, 'we could all be dead…'
Shaking the chill from her body, Shampoo continued toward her home along the dirt streets of Nyuucheizu. Occasionally, another Joketsuzoku would greet her, and though she would return the greeting with the veneer of happiness and enthusiasm, she truly did not feel it. Each such encounter was ended as quickly as possible without offending the other woman, and Shampoo finally entered the house she shared with her great grandmother, the elder and Matriarch Cologne.
Shampoo's parents had died before she reached that age of three fighting a Musk incursion into Joketsuzoku lands, and only one of her grandmothers, the village healer, was still alive. The young amazon had poured her entire life into the training that her great grandmother offered, and she was the youngest warrior ever to win the village's yearly tournament. The amazon bristled at the memory: just as she'd won and taken her rightful place as Champion, she saw the red-head and her panda eating the feast that was her nominal prize. It was not the food that was the real prize, but the fact that some outsider would insult her by doing something like that was unconscionable.
Angered almost beyond words, she had jumped from the challenge log and slammed her bonbori through the table, demanding to know why the girl would eat her prize. The red haired Japanese girl looked at Shampoo in a way that told the young amazon that she did not know Mandarin, but before the new Champion could switch to her own imperfect Japanese, a fat old man Shampoo recognized as the Jusenkyo Guide translated for her. The purple haired amazon stood proud and angry as the girl's eyes showed understanding, but instead of the apology that would have solved the problem, a cocky grin settled on the girl's lips.
Shampoo sighed as she thought of what happened next. The red head stood and challenged Shampoo stating that if she were the winner, then there would be no problem if she and her father ate the food. While the amazon didn't understand the reference to the other girl's father, she accepted the challenge as was her duty as the village Champion, and within five minutes she was standing opposite to the girl in the dirty white gi on the tournament challenge log. That's when the nightmare began.
Underestimating the foreign girl and with pride bolstered nearly to hubris by her recent victory, Shampoo charged forward intent on simply overwhelming the obviously inferior girl, and her plan seemed to work as the girl stood stock still, just staring at the amazon Champion as she charged. However, Shampoo reflected, the staring was a ruse, and it was Shampoo who left the challenge log in a single attack, a high split kick launched by the outsider at the last moment.
After that, Shampoo was shamed beyond words, and she slowly rose from where she'd fallen just in time to see the judge of the tournament name the outsider as the winner of the battle. Her shame complete, the only thing she was allowed by law to perform was the Kiss of Death, and moving slowly to the girl, Shampoo turned her face and placed the kiss upon her cheek.
Since she was the Joketsuzoku Champion, Shampoo immediately drew her bonbori and attacked, several of her more overzealous sisters following suit, even though it was against tradition. The purple haired warrior was about to call off her sisters when the red head jumped high and leapt over the surrounding crowd.
Shampoo reflected on how she'd felt at that moment: her chance of redemption from the shame of being defeated would be ruined if she did not either kill the girl or force her to join the tribe, and the girl was now showing her true colors in running away from an honorable duel. Immediately, Shampoo had rallied her sisters to chase the erstwhile girl and her panda, but that was a mistake.
Looking back on the incident, hindsight being twenty twenty as the western saying went, Shampoo could understand completely why the other girl had run. If she had been surrounded by weapon wielding warriors intent on her blood, she would have run as well, and there would be no dishonor in her retreat from being so outnumbered within her enemies' home territory. However, at the time her blood was boiling at the perceived slight, and she whipped the surrounding warriors into a frenzy over her own dishonor, giving chase as soon as a war party could be gathered.
The purple haired Champion now reflected on the unfortunance of the battle that had occurred after, and her face fell with more shame, this time brought upon her by her own actions. Certainly her sisters did not perceive the battle as such, but with her hindsight, she took upon herself all the deaths caused by the girl and the daemon. It all began when one of the other warriors, wielding a bow, shot and killed the girl's panda. The red head's shriek of pain, anguish, and anger would live within Shampoo until the day she died, and her sorrow at her own actions pained her now and would do so forever.
As the giant beast fell, the girl whirled and faced the horde of amazons with death in her eyes. Shampoo could not help but admire such courage and loyalty, even to a pet, and she rushed forward to meet her adversary.
That, of course, was when the daemon arrived. It had the shape of a man, but it glowed black with unnatural power and threw forth a blast of dark energy that slew a full ten Joketsuzoku in a single attack. The purple haired Champion had skidded to a halt at the attack, and she called to her fellow warriors to fall back before the daemon could attack once more. Most of the other Joketsuzoku obeyed; all but the eight that were engaging the outsider girl. Shampoo had thought that though those eight would surely die at the hands of the daemon, the red head would die at their hands before the beast could attack. However, just as she crested the last hill between the field of battle and the village, the purple haired warrior glanced back, and she stopped in her tracks at the sight. Seven of the eight Joketsuzoku that had been facing the girl lay dead on the ground, most with their own weapons buried in their necks or torsos. The last was now engaging the girl, and it was obvious to Shampoo that the woman was already dead. Even as the young Champion watched, the red head thrust a spear hand through the final warrior's throat, and barely noticing the corpse that now hung from her hand, she turned to face the daemon.
'Certainly,' thought Shampoo with some unhappiness, 'the girl died at the hands of the daemon.' The thought made the Champion of the Joketsuzoku somewhat sad as the girl showed true warrior spirit in felling eight seasoned warriors and then facing a daemon, and Shampoo would have been proud to call the girl sister and friend should she have joined the tribe as was dictated by the law.
Finally, the purple haired warrior stepped into her home. Sitting heavily in a rough-hewn chair, she thought of her great grandmother who would normally be waiting for her after her afternoon sparring.
'I hope great grandmother is well,' she thought. It was a rare thing for Shampoo to be away from her great grandmother, but being sixteen, she could handle a little time apart. However, she worried for the older woman's safety. With the daemon out there, one could not be too careful.
Still, Shampoo could not shake the chill from her bones: something bad was going to happen, and she wasn't sure if she or any Joketsuzoku would survive the coming onslaught.
The Darkness that enveloped the pigtailed negawarrior with crushing weight changed to searing, white hot pain as he felt it touch his ki and attempt to force itself into his pattern. He screamed with the pain of ki and what his pain-drenched mind could only comprehend as anti-ki meeting and annihilating one another uncontrolled within his aura, a pain unlike any he had ever experienced before. It was agony like Ranma had never experienced… even in the pit. He screamed until his world was nothing but Darkness, pain, and the sound of his own ragged voice, and still, there was no cession from the pain. Finally, Ranma succumbed to the pain as he did with the fear from the Neko-ken, and his consciousness retreated to the warm, dark place.
Waking was a slow process, and as usual, he gained his sense of touch first. His entire body ached, and his head pounded with the worst headache in his sixteen year experience. A groan escaped his throat involuntarily, and Ranma became aware that his mouth was drier than a desert in summer, his lips cracking as he winced in pain.
Slowly, as motor control returned, he opened his eyes. The cloud covered night sky was the first thing he beheld, and he slowly began to stretch, painfully working the kinks from his muscles. The young man winced with each movement, but each was necessary if he was to recover quickly. His aching muscles at once sent signals of pain and pleasure to his brain as they obeyed the commands to stretch, but before he was more than half way through all the muscles that required attention, a face framed by shoulder length brown hair invaded his view of the night sky.
"Drink this," Nephrite said quietly as he proffered a cup, and Ranma slowly sipped the water, his parched throat thanking his sensei as the cool liquid slowly made its way to his stomach. "You've been unconscious for three days now, since you returned from the final test."
The pigtailed negawarrior tried to nod, but the pain of actually trying to move beyond a stretch caused him to wince once more. His mentor put a hand on his shoulder, and Ranma relaxed as his message was conveyed.
"Don't worry, Ranma," Nephrite continued in a calm, quiet voice. "I put a temporary block on your ability to draw negaforce. It will go away slowly as you learn to handle more of it, and I will be teaching you the constructs to use it in the mean time. For now, just rest."
Again, Ranma tried to nod, forgetting his present status as enfeebled. Nephrite smirked at his movement, and once Ranma'd drained the cup, he said, "Just try to get some more sleep, Ranma. We'll talk in the morning."
Letting his eyes close slowly, Ranma allowed himself to lose consciousness once more, but this time it was a peaceful sleep of one who is entirely too tired.
Some distance from the pair of males, one caring for the other, another pair, these female, made camp in a similar situation. One, seemingly far older, yet much, much younger, than her male counterpart in the other camp, watched over her own protégé with worry in her mind, the younger one having not yet awoken from her three day nap.
While Cologne knew that her great granddaughter would survive and eventually awake, she was at a loss as to what Shampoo had become. When the ancient elder found Shampoo, dark energy was still skittering across her skin like black lightning. To her eternal shame, the only way Cologne could manage to stabilize her heir, after exhausting all other options over the course of an hour, was to use Jusenkyo's power. The elder had taken her great granddaughter to the cursed training ground and bathed her in the first spring she found, not even considering which spring that might be. She was actually relieved when Shampoo only changed into a cat, and the effect was successful as Cologne saw that her heir would survive.
After allowing the healing powers of the curse work their magic on Shampoo, Cologne had splashed her heir with hot water, and thus received another shock: Shampoo no longer looked quite human. All of her features seemed more angular with sharper edges, and her ears were pointed like an elf from western mythology. Also, as she'd been checking her great granddaughter for concussion, she'd seen that her pupils were now slitted like a cat's. Though the pallor of her skin could be attributed to her current, injured condition, the elder did not think that was so. The crone was truly at a loss as to what her great granddaughter had become in the course of the daemon's attack. It was obvious that she had fought bravely, but at what cost…
Cologne closed her eyes in meditation of the events, her face clenching in anger at her inability to protect the Joketsuzoku from the daemon. It had been early morning when Cologne had finally gathered the final ingredients for the circle of binding, and she had made her way back toward the village with as much haste as she could muster. Sadly, she was too late, and she knew it before Nyuucheizu was even in sight. The unnatural red glow coming from over the last few hills told her that the village was burning, and the smell of smoke in the air spurred her onward with its adrenalizing fragrance. It was only as she crested the final hill that she stopped dead in her tracks.
Nyuucheizu was dead. Bodies littered the street, and no one was spared: not woman, man, or even child. The bodies seemed surreal in the light of the burning houses, and Colognes eyes could not contain her tears. Weeping, the ancient woman made her way down the slope and into the shattered Amazon village, knowing she had failed them.
Cologne had walked through the dirt streets of Nyuucheizu like the old woman she was rather than her usual energetic pogo-stick method of locomotion, and at each body she catalogued the damage, keeping her ears and eyes open for any survivors or the daemon that had robbed her of her people. Many appeared to have died of burns or strong impacts, but a few showed signs of being electrocuted, a mean trick for a village that had never had a generator. Some even lay peacefully and without marks, as though their very souls had been ripped from their bodies before they had even known what had happened. The tears coursing their way down her cheeks never ceased, but the old woman did not even notice them.
Finally, as she neared the house where that she shared with her great granddaughter, Cologne slowed. Fear returned full force as she thought of Shampoo facing the obvious wrath of the daemon, and she stepped forward with dread in her heart.
Cologne found Shampoo just before the steps to the front door, crumpled in a heap with black lightning skittering across her now-pale skin. The old woman rushed forward to her charge's side the moment she saw the younger woman, and her eyes widened at what she saw. Shampoo's aura had been attacked directly by some unknown force; it was as though portions of her ki simply ceased to be while damaging other areas. The only thing that was even close to the damage she was seeing was radiation poisoning from the strange power plants the Chinese government had set up in other provinces, but the analogy would only hold if radiation damaged the aura rather than the body.
After that, Cologne had taken her great granddaughter to Jusenkyo, and then she had set her camp toward Kunicheizu. Even now, having found and saved Shampoo, Cologne wept for her people. She had come too late to save them, and now she and Shampoo were all that was left of the Nyuucheizu Joketsuzoku. The old woman sighed as she contemplated her next move.
'Obviously,' she thought morosely. 'I am unfit to be Matriarch any longer. We must travel to Kunicheizu and I will tell them of what happened. Then I shall go into exile… I think Japan is nice this time of year…'
The old woman almost smiled at her mental jest, but it appeared on her face as more of a wince. She was just about to go find more firewood when she heard a groan coming from her great granddaughter, and in an instant, Cologne was next to her heir.
"Shampoo," she said in a quiet, earnest voice. "Great Granddaughter, how are you feeling?"
Shampoo's eyes opened slowly, and the elder had to clamp down on her natural impulse to flinch at her heir's disturbing, slit pupil gaze. Luckily, she didn't outwardly show how disturbed she was feeling. Shampoo's mouth opened, but it seemed that her throat was too dry to speak yet. Cologne almost kicked herself as she reached for the small mug of water sitting next to her great granddaughter.
"Don't try to speak, Great Granddaughter," she said softly. "Just drink a little of this and relax. You almost died, and I would rather you rest and tell me of events later than for you to strain yourself."
Shampoo nodded slightly and sipped the water from the proffered cup. After she finished it, her eyes closed once more. Cologne sighed, but returned to her position next to the fire. It had been a long few days, and this night didn't seem to be getting any shorter.
Nephrite returned to his watchfulness as Ranma's eyes closed, his mind already more at ease now that the younger man had finally woken. Thinking back to how he'd found Ranma, crazed and throwing energy bolts obviously charged with negaforce, with just the bare idea of a construct keeping them from annihilating with the surrounding lifeforce, at anything that moved, Nephrite was unsurprised that Ranma had been unconscious for three days.
'I completely forgot about the possibility of induction madness…' he thought in a self accusatory manner. 'If I'd remembered about it, I would have chosen a much more remote location for his testing…'
The brown haired negawarrior couldn't get the sight of so many dead innocents out of his mind as his thoughts continued. 'Well,' he amended, 'they weren't exactly innocents. That was the same village that chased Ranma and his father when we first met.'
Deciding to go back to the beginning, Nephrite relaxed against the log near the fire. When his construct warned him that Ranma had returned he'd been overjoyed; however, the amount of negaforce being channeled was insane, at a level even Kunzite was incapable of! Throwing caution to the wind, Nephrite had created a very unsubtle flight construct and winged his way toward his student, but even as he rushed to Ranma's side, he worried that his skill would not be able to best the raw power his student was channeling.
Nephrite had known that if his student was instinctually using negaforce when he'd just returned, then it had to be induction madness. The dark general remembered his own induction: the pain was incredible. Just gaining control of the negative energy trying to swallow him was a horrifyingly difficult task, and some new negawarriors allowed the pain to drive them temporarily insane, and some even failed, allowing the negaforce to destroy them, with devastating results. This induction madness would last until they were rendered unconscious, and until that happened, the crazed negawarrior would attack anything near him using pure, unconstructed negaforce or constructs formed on a purely instinctual level.
As Nephrite neared the emanations of negaforce, he could see the red of flames and smell smoke in the rapidly moving air. Finally, it dawned on him what had happened: Ranma had reappeared in the village of those crazy women. It almost seemed fitting that they should bear the pain of his student's insanity, but Nephrite knew that Ranma would only become more upset if he realized he'd killed so many when it could be avoided. Induction madness created a state of amnesia in the victim regarding their actions while under its influence, and right then, Nephrite decided never to tell Ranma of what he had done.
Finally arriving in the village, the dark general's mind shifted to that of the soldier he had been for so many millennia, and he dispassionately viewed the scene of utter destruction with a keen military eye. Ranma had appeared near the village center, obvious from the fact that the buildings there were absolutely leveled. That was usually the first thing a new negawarrior would do to try to escape the pain: an uncontrolled burst of negaforce with the power to level buildings with it's shockwave and annihilate anything with even a little lifeforce.
From there, Nephrite surmised that his student had attacked the nearest being with any lifeforce, and moved on from there. Bodies littered the ground, and Ranma seemed to be killing as indiscriminately as nature itself. Not even children survived the massacre, and the brown haired negawarrior firmed his resolve to keep the events of this night from his young student.
Finally, the dark general came upon his student, the boy's red tang nearly shredded and his body covered in bruises and small cuts. Obviously the women had tried to resist him, but the fury of an insane negawarrior was not easily defeated, especially in a world that had forgotten negawarriors for twenty millennia. As he approached, Nephrite's eyes narrowed, and the brown haired man slowly began to perceive what Ranma was doing.
As soon as Nephrite understood what his protégé was doing, he called up a kinetic energy construct and launched it at Ranma. The newest negawarrior was bombarding the body of the girl who he'd defeated in the village tournament with pure negaforce, slowly and painfully tearing apart her lifeforce. It was a horrible way to die, and Nephrite couldn't stomach the idea of letting even a hated enemy die of the spiritual equivalent of radiation poisoning, particularly when it was caused by his own crazed student.
Ranma spun when Nephrite attacked, but he was unable to raise his guard in time to block or dodge the incoming construct, the madness obviously impeding his keen tactical mind. The bolt of dark energy slammed into the side of the young negawarrior's head, and he fell bonelessly to the ground, unconscious. Ignoring all else, Nephrite rushed forward and gathered his apprentice into his arms. Reactivating the flight construct, the dark general and his unconscious student fled back to their camp.
That had been three days ago, and only now did Ranma finally awaken. Not having suffered induction madness himself, Nephrite could only hope that his own lessons on the matter were true. He didn't think Ranma's psyche could stand a blow like killing an entire village, even the children.
Waking was not so painful this time. The quiet chirping of birds and the warm sunlight of morning greeted Shampoo as she slowly climbed from the depths of unconsciousness. Certainly, her body still ached as though she had gone through the bakusai tenketsu training without the toughening effects, and her head seemed to be stuffed inside a hornet's nest for the headache. This was like that hangover she'd had after her sixteenth birthday party, but thousands of times worse. Involuntarily, the young amazon groaned. Almost instantly, the face of her great grandmother eclipsed her view of the beautiful, cloudless blue sky.
"Don't try to move, child," her elder said gently. "You've had a rough time of it. Just relax and I'll get you a drink of water."
So saying, the Matriarch move away again, and Shampoo once more regarded the sky. However, it was not the flawless pastel blue of the sky that left her silent. Memories were filtering into her mind; memories of why she now lay here, badly hurt. Almost involuntarily, Shampoo slipped into reverie.
The explosion was the first thing that came to mind, loud and terrifying. The blast had woken her from her bed, and like a good Joketsuzoku, she leapt from her bed with bonbori in hand. It sounded like the last time the central government had tried to take control of the village by force of arms when she had been only seven, and if those communist idiots were back, she would be happy to continue the Amazon tradition of handing them their heads.
A snarl mixed with a smile planted itself on her face at those thoughts, the idea of dealing with normal humans armed with modern technology, while not enjoyable was a welcome distraction from her worry of a daemon attack, but when she exited the house that she shared with her great grandmother, she stopped dead in her tracks. There were no large, mechanized groups of soldiers closing on the village, but the houses near the center of the village were leveled as though from a huge blast. Flames had begun to send tendrils of smoke into the air as the rubble began to burn from the little technology the village incorporated: a gas heating system for some of the houses of the extreme elders, older still than her great grandmother, and the young Amazon Champion rushed forward, intent on helping her sisters.
Shampoo had almost reached the scene of the explosion when she first heard the screams, such sounds of pain and anguish as she had never wished to hear. At those sounds, she stopped in her tracks, her eyes the size of dinner plates. That was not the sound of battle, but more like the screams of those being tortured to death. Immediately, Shampoo knew what was happening: the daemon had come, just as they'd thought.
Forcing her fear down, Shampoo tightened her grip on her bonbori and clenched her teeth. If she faced the daemon, she would almost certainly die; however, she would sell her life dearly and die a proud, honorable death in battle against hellspawn most foul. After stirring up her courage, Shampoo moved again, drawn by the sounds of her sisters' agony.
As she ran, the young Champion began to see the bodies of those the daemon had already slain, and while this tried to shake her resolve, the sight of little Potion, only six years old, lying dead of what appeared to be electrocution injected pure rage into her blood. She would certainly kill this daemon and save her sisters! She was their Champion, was she not?
Finally she saw it, and the sight boiled her blood to levels of anger, rage, and hatred that she could scarcely fathom. The creature radiated darkness in a ten foot aura easily visible to the naked eye, and it was difficult to see the actually form of the daemon beyond its humanoid stature. In one hand, fitfully twitching and held by the neck, was Comb, a girl only a little younger that Shampoo herself, and from the other the creature was throwing bolts of absolute darkness. One bolt hit a house, shearing through the normally sturdy wood construction, collapsing it. Another struck one of Shampoo's sisters, and the tribal Champion watched in horror as the other Amazon detonated like a small bomb, gore spraying liberally about the area.
Normally, this would have had Shampoo gibbering in fear, but in her rage induced madness, the action only served to heat her already boiling blood, her battle aura surging. Without thinking of the consequences, the Joketsuzoku charged forward screaming a battle cry into the night.
As it had been several days earlier, hindsight was always crystal clear, and Shampoo reflected on the second time she had made a major mistake due to allowing emotion to control her actions. Charging the hellspawn head on was a sure way to die, and even as the creature tossed Comb's corpse away and placed its full attention on Shampoo, the young Joketsuzoku finally realized this. However, it was much too late to stop now, and she could not dodge when a bolt of black energy struck her in the chest.
The pain was incredible! It felt like the energy was attacking her ki directly, and she spasmed and fell to the ground as her body twitched in agony. For one brief moment of clarity, Shampoo realized that she was lying right outside her own home, and then the creature was upon her. The purple haired Champion could almost sense the daemon's satisfaction as it raised its still indistinct hands toward her prone form, and much as she tried to move, to roll away as her training had taught her, to flee from the thing most horrible, all she could do was stare into its shadowed, human-like form in abject terror. Then all that existed for her was pain until the comfort of unconsciousness finally took her away.
A few tears leaked from Shampoo's eyes as the memories drew to a close. She had been able to do nothing but almost die, and once again her great grandmother had rescued her from certain doom. She felt utterly worthless as a Joketsuzoku; first her pride was stolen by a red headed outlander on the very day she'd earned it, and then she was completely unable to help her sisters when death came for them all. Somewhere in the rational part of Shampoo's mind, the young warrior understood that she had not truly failed. She could not be faulted for falling in battle before a hell spawned daemon, but the pain was still the same, her guilt as a survivor of the ordeal as much as her physical pain tormented her.
Shampoo's thoughts halted abruptly as her great grandmother returned. Slowly, and ignoring the old woman's entreats to lie still, the Joketsuzoku Champion pushed herself to a sitting position. Though her entire body ached to lie back down and let her elder care for her, Shampoo's pride, though much abused over the last two months, would not allow it.
When she finally reached a sitting position, she slowly reached for the cup her great grandmother held, and the ancient elder allowed Shampoo to take it, the younger girl slowly sipping the cool, clean contents. As she drank, the purple haired amazon watched as her great grandmother took a seat beside her, the older woman's eyes speaking clearly that she wanted an explanation. Once the cup was drained, Shampoo took a deep breath.
"Honored Elder," she intoned. "I thank you for rescuing me."
At this, Cologne's face fell a bit. Speaking quietly, she said, "Do not trouble yourself over it, child."
Shampoo nodded unsteadily. "Yes, Great Grandmother. I suppose you want to know what I saw."
The old woman did not seem surprised at the question, and Shampoo didn't expect her to be. Cologne nodded gently, and the purple haired Champion began to relate her story to the Joketsuzoku Matriarch.
Ranma slowly opened his eyes to mid-morning sunshine, memories of his last awakening still fuzzy in his mind. He still ached all over, but it wasn't nearly as bad as before. Slowly and carefully, the young negawarrior raised himself to a sitting position. The pigtailed boy was pleased with himself: he'd only winced twice.
Once sitting, Ranma surveyed his whereabouts. Oddly enough, he was back in the camp he'd shared with Nephrite for over two months, and a cheery fire was burning in the ring of stones central to the camp site. Of his teacher, there was no sign, but the other man couldn't be long gone if the fire was going so well.
For a moment, Ranma considered the possibility that it was all a dream. Passing through the dark portal, fighting and eventually killing his own reflection, the absolute pain of the crushing Darkness surrounding him, trying to enter his aura, his very being. For a single moment, he thought that maybe he was only going insane, and that the entire course of events was just a crazy dream. Then he checked his aura.
Ranma gasped and his eyes widened at what he saw: tiny tendrils of black energy moved slowly through his ki! That was where a good three quarters of his pain was coming from, and he didn't know what to make of them.
"So you saw it," came a voice from behind him, and Ranma attempted to whirl to face the speaker. As usual for an injured person, that was a mistake.
It couldn't have been more than a few minutes when the pigtailed youth's eyes opened again as Nephrite was still standing there with a bowl of miso and rice and a cup of tea. "You know," he said, sounding amused. "You really should try to curb that jumpy nature of yours. Especially when you're injured."
Ranma didn't particularly appreciate the sarcastic tone or the wry grin on Nephrite's face, but his growl came out more like a groan. Sighing, the pigtailed negawarrior decided to drop the subject in favor of what was going on in his aura.
"You said I saw it, right?" asked Ranma, his tone both worried and intrigued. "What is 'it'?"
Nephrite walked over and knelt across from Ranma before answering, offering the younger man the food. "'It,' as you so eloquently put it, is the negaforce that is currently trying to enter your lifeforce and annihilate with it. That's what happens when you eliminate the barrier between you and the Negaverse."
Ranma found himself slowly nodding at what Nephrite was saying; the older man had explained it before during his lessons. However, Ranma couldn't just leave it at that. "You mean I really did go to that weird, Dark place? And killed my reflection?"
The dark general nodded quietly, his eyes closed, and Ranma bowed his head. He was now forever changed, forever a negawarrior, practicing Nephrite's Art. The pigtailed boy couldn't decide if he was happy or upset at that: happy that he would finally be able to learn all the amazing skills that Nephrite had demonstrated over the last several weeks or upset that he would now and forever have to deal with holding the negaforce at bay lest it destroy him.
"Not having second thoughts, I hope," said Nephrite, seeming to read his mind. Ranma glanced up at his teacher with a 'deer in headlights' expression, and Nephrite chuckled. "No, I wasn't reading your mind or some such. I just remember how I felt when I was inducted. Your first experience with negaforce is never a pleasant one, I'll assure you, but the benefits of its use far out weigh the drawbacks."
"I know," Ranma replied, though he wished that his voice sounded stronger. "It's just a weird feeling to have something that wants to kill me moving around inside my aura."
"It doesn't 'want to kill you,' Ranma," Nephrite replied in a reassuring voice. "It has no mind or will of its own, so it doesn't want to kill you any more than a lava flow does. However, it is still a dangerous and unpredictable energy, so until you have a lot more experience handling it, I'm going to keep the block on your ability to draw it."
"So, what's next?" asked Ranma as he finally recognized that food was close at hand and began to eat with his normal gusto. "You teach me how to keep from killing myself when I try to use this stuff?"
Nephrite smiled in a way that Ranma found none too reassuring as the dark general replied, "Precisely."
Cologne was holding her great granddaughter close as the girl cried, the elder's hands gently rubbing her heir's back as the child bawled. It was so easy, she reflected, to forget that Shampoo was only a mere girl of sixteen, a babe barely out of diapers to an elder such as she.
Shampoo had only been about halfway through her account of what happened at Nyuucheizu when tears began to trickle from her eyes, and when she reached the part of the story regarding Potion, the girl, warrior status and tribal Champion or no, flung her arms around her elder and began to sob. Cologne could well understand her heir's emotions, and while she could not indulge in her own comforted cry, the ancient woman did everything in her power to help assuage her heir's guilt and grief.
As Shampoo continued with her story between fits of weeping, the girl had begun to talk about how she felt about the whole series of events, and Cologne could see the amazing amount of guilt she now held. Her purple haired great granddaughter even spoke of the outsider girl who defeated her just as she won the annual tournament, and Cologne tried everything in her power to calm the girl.
True, she had witnessed Shampoo's break with custom in whipping her fellow warriors into a frenzy and chasing after the red head and her panda, but she never revealed that the two of them were Jusenkyo cursed. Cologne had seen the mark of Jusenkyo on their auras easily, though she could not tell if they were in their birth forms or their cursed ones. In any case, she was loathe to countermand her only heir when the girl had made the decision to form a war party to chase after the red head. Of course, the fact that she realized and mourned her mistake was proof that she would some day be worthy of the Matriarchy, and this please Cologne to no end, though she did not show her happiness.
The amazon Matriarch briefly thought about Shampoo's appearance as the girl cried, but she decided not to tell the girl about her changed form just yet. Seeing how emotionally distraught her heir was, it didn't seem prudent to add to the burden. The week it would require to get to Kunicheizu from their somewhat impromptu encampment would be ample time to break the change to the lavender haired girl.
Continuing her soothing motions, Cologne considered what Shampoo had told her of the battle. The daemon was obviously highly powerful if it could throw bolts of power that would simply vaporize any warrior struck. She had vastly underestimated the power of the hellspawn, and the village had paid for her misjudgment. A hard edge came across the old woman's face as she felt her anger toward the beast that would kill her people.
It was a long hour after Shampoo's story ended that the girl finally finished her weeping. Much to Cologne's approval, she immediately distanced herself from the woman who raised her and bowed, asking forgiveness at her unworthy behavior. While the ancient elder kept her face impassive, she inwardly beamed at this observance of custom, once again affirming her choice of Shampoo as the heir to the Matriarchy. Of course, that would not happen now, but she could still be proud of her descendant.
"Rise, Child," Cologne said in a gentle manner. "As long as you understand and atone for your mistakes, the law has no problems with your actions."
The elder's face darkened as she continued, her voice taking on a hard edge. "The death of Nyuucheizu rests on the daemon." 'And myself,' she added silently.
"For now, Great Granddaughter, we must leave here and make our way to Kunicheizu," she commanded in her more normal tone. "The other Joketsuzoku must know of the events that have transpired here."
Once again pleasing her, Shampoo placed a serious expression on her face as she nodded, completely recovering from her previous emotive overload. Such was a necessary trait in a warrior, and the purple haired amazon could always put her emotions aside to complete that which must be done. It was only a scant half hour before the pair of Joketsuzoku began to make their way toward the sister village of Nyuucheizu and what ever fate had in store for them.
Nephrite nodded slowly as Ranma meditated, still in his girl form after the light rain earlier in the day. He had slowly adjusted the negaforce block he'd placed on his now female student, and now she was handling a full five percent of the normal flow, a very impressive achievement only a week since her induction. The dark general had required a significantly longer time, nearly two months, before he'd been able to handle a similar amount of power.
"Alright, Ranma," said Nephrite. "That's enough meditation for today."
The dark blue glow surrounding his student faded slowly, and a few seconds later Ranma opened her crystalline blue eyes. "Alright," she said softly, her amazement at the feel of negaforce, now controlled, evident on her face. "What's next, Sensei?"
"A talk, I think," replied the brown haired negawarrior, and he proceeded to sit in front of his young student.
"Whacha wanna talk about?" Ranma's tone was quizzical, and her face certainly showed her interest.
"I think it's time we moved on, Ranma," Nephrite said after a moment. "Your training is far enough along that we can head back toward civilization."
Ranma's eyes lit up, and the dark general couldn't help but feel that his student really was a girl. Just for a moment.
"You mean we can go back to Japan?" she asked, her voice filled with the same light as her eyes.
"I guess we can go that direction," replied Nephrite, nodding. Then he added in his own mind, 'Nowhere is further from or nearer to the Dark Kingdom.'
"Yatta!" Ranma cried out, jumping to her feet and almost dancing around. "I can go home!" Slowly, the red head came back to herself from her happiness, and then her face lost a bit of its newly found light. "China has too many bad memories. Oya- Otousan… Jusenkyo… Those damned women… I don't think I ever want to come back here."
Seeing her spirits falling, Nephrite quickly said, "Tell you what. Why don't we go over a couple of new constructs this afternoon and get an early start tomorrow morning?"
Her smile returning in full force along with that determined gleam in her eye that Nephrite found so endearing in his apprentice, Ranma nodded resolutely and said, "Right!"
The dark general returned the nod, once more reaffirming his decision never to tell his young charge what she had done to 'those women.'
'She… he must be ready to join the Dark Kingdom before we reach Japan…' Nephrite thought, his face still portraying enjoyment. 'And I'll make sure he is.'
To be continued.
Author's notes: Wow, I'm actually managing something like timely updates for once! I think this idea about writing on a fic until it has full out writers block is a good one, and I'm going to try to keep it up. Of course, all I ask is that you don't kill me if I don't.
I tried a new style in this chapter: namely, describing events as memories of the various participants. Please tell me what you think of it. Later, all.
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