Chapter 12: To The Victor

                       C&A Productions Presents

                    A Work of Ranma 1/2 Fanfiction

                       Ranma: Curse of Darkness

                      Chapter 12: To The Victor

                   By Chris McNeil and Aaron Peori

The story so far: Shampoo, the enthusiastic and debatably overendowed
Chinese Amazon, gathered several new "husbands" when she was defeated
by both Tzubi and her fellow villager Mousse in combat.  Shampoo's
attempts to pursue a relationship with them-and with her original
flame, Ranma-have only served to drive home the fact that none of them
want her.  But now Cologne has offered Shampoo a way to prove that one
of them can be hers...

(The swords dance in intricate patterns through the air, each movement
flowing to the next as smooth as a gentle stream and as fast as a
lightning stroke.  Tzubi Meskiro twirls amid the fury of the flashing
blades like a ballerina, yet never once losing control over the
swords, gradually moving them faster and faster until they become an
nearly invisible blur around his body.  And then, in an instant, he
stops, holding so still as to appear frozen.  Unconscious of the
nearly gravity-defying twists of his body and weaponry he remains
motionless for well over a minute, until a single bead of sweat
trickles slowly down his brow.  With a sigh he spins the daisho,
breaking the stance, and slides them back into their sheaths.  As he
walks towards the door of the Tendo Dojo, his eyes narrow in thought.)

Tzubi: [I should have held that twice as long without effort.] (he
frowns) [I haven't been fighting nearly enough lately.]

Nabiki: (standing casually by the door) Nice workout.

Tzubi: I can do better. (picking up his jacket, he pulls his wallet
out of an interior pocket) Usual fee?

Nabiki: Well...there -was- the damage Shiad did to the lawn...

Tzubi: Which I had no part in at all.  (he gives her a thin smile) So
don't get any ideas.

Nabiki: (spreads her hands innocently) But we have to pay for repairs,
don't we?  And unfortunately, that cost gets passed on to you, the

Tzubi: (sighs) How much more?

Nabiki: Ten thousand.

Tzubi: I don't have that kind of money.

Nabiki: (smiles evilly) Well then, perhaps we can work out a

Tzubi: Your last "compromise" cost me more than the flat fee.

Nabiki: Life's always a gamble.

Tzubi: You occasionally win at gambling.

Nabiki: (her smile widens) Just call me lucky.

Tzubi: (shakes head) Why me?

Nabiki: Taking up philosophy?

Tzubi: Philosophy is part of most martial arts, actually.

Nabiki: (gives a doubtful look at the daisho) I don't know why you
bother with them.

Tzubi: (begins to walk past; frowns) It's what I am.  I could no more
give up my blades than you could your pocketbook.

Nabiki: But it's so much -easier- just to fleece people.  Martial arts
are too much effort for too little gain.

Tzubi: (annoyed look; begins down hallway) You haven't experienced the
thrill, then.  There's something...a -feel-, when you push your body
beyond what it should do...

Nabiki: (snorts; falling into step beside him) Masochism.  All I ever
got from martial arts was pain. (Tzubi glances at her) My father
-does- run a dojo.  When I was young, he tried to teach me some
things.  It didn't take.

Tzubi: Maybe... (shakes his head) Maybe that's all it really is.

Nabiki: Does that mean I win?

Tzubi: No, it means I don't think I can convince you.

Nabiki: In other words, I win.

Tzubi: I wasn't aware there was a contest.

Nabiki: Life is a contest.  You of all people should know that.

Tzubi: (laughs) A true martial artist knows what the difference
between battle and life is.  (face goes firm) Or else they end up
(That seems to stifle the conversation until they reach the house.
And then...)

Nabiki: Now, about your bill...
(Tzubi groans softly.)


(Scene: the Nekohanten is quiet, the few customers straggling in
between the breakfast and noon rushes making little sound as they eat
their ramen.  Shampoo stands at the counter, ostensibly ready to serve
but her thoughts obviously elsewhere.  Abruptly, Cologne pogos out
from the kitchen.)

Cologne: Everything is ready, great-granddaughter.

Shampoo: (eyes snap up) Aiya!  You mean is time to see who really love

Cologne: Yes.  But before we go any further...I want to make sure you
are willing to go through with this.

Shampoo: (pauses; then speaks, slowly) If I not, I never know truth
for sure.

Cologne: (frowns) And if the truth is not to your liking?

Shampoo: Then I go on, as true Joketsuzoku should.

Cologne: Very well.  As you know, this cannot be gone back on.  You
shall have to live with the result as it stands.

Shampoo: Shampoo understand.  You already tell her what happen.

Cologne: (turns away) This is your last chance.  Understand that as
well.  (she hops out of the room)

Shampoo: ...I ready.  (turns head to side; softly) Shampoo must know.


(Scene: Tendo household, early evening.  Genma and Soun play go on the
porch, while Kasumi is happily dusting some plant.  Ranma and Akane
are sitting by the television, eating snocones and apparently engaging
in what passes for intimate discussion with them.)

Ranma: ... (uncomfortable silence) So...

Akane: (takes a bite; another long pause) What do you want, Ranma?

Ranma: Nothin'.
(The two sit for another few minutes, both watching the TV-which is
tuned to a test pattern-with all outward signs of fascination.)

Ranma: So...

Akane: Will you spill it already?

Ranma: (glares) And you call -me- rude.

Akane: (glares back) Well, you -are-.

Ranma: I...

Cologne: (on Ranma's shoulder) Greetings, boy.

Ranma: GAAAH! (he leaps, banging his head on the ceiling-Cologne
wisely removing herself before this happens-and flops to the floor)
Don't DO that, old ghoul!

Cologne(icily): I'll do what I please.

Akane: What do you want?

Cologne: Nothing to do with you, girl.

Akane: Then you can get out of my house.

Cologne: Not until I finish my business with Ranma.

Ranma: (sits up, rubbing his head) Get it over with, then.  I'm busy.

Cologne: (glances at the television) So I see.

Ranma: What do you want, old ghoul?

Cologne: To see how strong you really are.

Ranma: (blinks, then swiftly rises into a defensive stance) You wanna

Cologne: So I can beat you senseless for no good reason?

Ranma: You wish.

Cologne: No Ranma, I didn't come here to deflate your precious ego

Ranma: (slowly eases out of his stance; still looking wary) So what
-do- you want?

Cologne: (eyes narrow) I no longer think you are worthy of my
great-granddaughter's love.  You are too weak.

Ranma: Weak!?

Cologne: After your defeat at Ryouga's hands, and your humiliation
with Tarou...

Ranma: (growls) They cheated.  I could beat either of them any day.

Cologne: Oh really?

Ranma: Yes, really.  And I'll prove it any time.

Akane: I'm sure Tarou'd love the chance.

Ranma: (glares) Stay outta this.

Akane: Hmph.  Be that way then. (she turns and stalks into the

Cologne: We don't -need- proof, Ranma.  (turns to leave) We have
enough, and it says you are weak.

Ranma: You can't do that!

Cologne: I can do whatever I want, boy, and I want nothing further to
do with you.  (she leaves)

Ranma: (gnashing teeth) Old ghoul!  Who needs her?
(He stalks away.  Outside, in the shadows, Cologne smiles.)


(It wasn't normal for the Kunou mansion to be this quiet.  Usually the
air would be split by the sound of the young master, boasting and
beheading innocent dummies.  When that failed, there was always
Kodachi's laughter, slowly driving the neighbours insane as it echoed
from within.  Perhaps even the family patriarch would have come back
and started "redecorating", at least until he got bored again, at
which point there was at least the sound of loyal Sasuke fixing the
mess.  But none of this was happening today.  Valiance, the Kunou
family bloodhound, was snoring near the dojo, exhausted by a rare fit
of hyperactivity that morning in which he'd moved nearly an entire
foot.  Kodachi's pet alligator lazed in the pond amongst the scattered
pieces of a mailman's outfit from yesterday's "incident".  Fortunately
for the young man, Midorigame had only been feeling playful.  He was
fine-he had quit, but he was fine, at least physically.  But that was
it.  The human (if you applied that term to them) inhabitants of the
mansion all seemed off on various outings.  All save one...)

Sasuke: (looks around) Quiet... (he scurries through the empty halls
of the mansion) Wow, nobody is home!  I can finally have some
much-deserved rest!  (laughs megalomaniacally) Rest and relaxation!
(dances around a bit) No orders to follow!  No mess to clean!  No
beatings to recover from!  (starts hopping around, waving his arms in
joy) I have no worries!  I have no cares!  I...
(He smashes facefirst into someone's stomach and staggers back.  Then
he looks up, and his face goes very, very pale.)

Sasuke: M-m-mistress Kodachi!  (Presses his face to the floor in a
fierce kowtow) Forgive me!  I beg of you!  Don't test your potions on
me again!

Kodachi: (not looking at him) What?, never mind, Sasuke.  I
shall eat later.

Sasuke: (looks up) [No laugh?  No torture?  What terrible and
wonderful thing has happened to her?]

Kodachi: Tell me, Sasuke.  If two people have the same name, who is

Sasuke: Eh?  Mistress, I d-don't understand what you mean...

Kodachi: And when one changes their name, does that change the person?

Sasuke: I...I don't know.

Kodachi: (clenches her fist) I MUST KNOW!  This simply will not do!  I
am the puppeteer, but how am I to pull the strings when I don't know
which is attached to where?

Sasuke: Erm...

Kodachi: But I -will- know.  (she grabs Sasuke by the scruff of the
neck and lifts him to her face) And you will help me.

Sasuke: (sweatdrop) ...

Kodachi: It will take time...but yes, I shall soon set it up so that I
will know, one way or the other.
(Sasuke, wisely, decides to faint.)


(Scene: a building, from which Tzubi Meskiro exits with a look of
disgust.  His attire, a well- tailored and rather flattering business
suit, sports a dark stain.)

Tzubi: Baka dress-code.  (he stretches his hand down and protectively
clasps the handle of his wakazashi) Baka employer.  And coffee is so
hard to get out... (sighs) I just -had- to show off...

Cologne: (on his shoulder) Talking to yourself is the first sign of a
diseased mind.
(Tzubi controls his reaction remarkably well, by which I mean he
merely shudders convulsively, his hair standing on end.)


Cologne: (calmly leaps down) Is that a threat?

Tzubi: (absently smoothing hair back to normal) I'm not that stupid.
(crosses arms) Speak, then leave.  I'm not having a good day.

Cologne: It is about my great granddaughter.

Tzubi: Keep her.  I'm not interested.

Cologne: (snorts) You think I want YOU to be her husband?

Tzubi: I don't care what you think.

Cologne: That makes sense.  Then, we have an agreement?

Tzubi: (blinks as he tries to catch that) What agreement?

Cologne: You stay away from Shampoo, obviously.

Tzubi: (rolls eyes) I have absolutely no problem with that, oba-san.
Shampoo, on the other hand...

Cologne: Shampoo is blind to your flaws, as I was blind to Amigi's.

Tzubi: (laughs) Blind to Amigi's flaws?  You really must have been a

Cologne: (growls) No more than one who cannot recognize them in

Tzubi: (eyes narrow) What are you implying, old woman?

Cologne: Are you really that dense?

Tzubi(snarls): I am -nothing- like Amigi!  I will never be that

Cologne: Oh please... (turns head and waves her staff dismissively)
Amigi claimed an honour he never believed in either.  You use it as a
convenience, just like him.

Tzubi: (drops hand to his scabbard, thumbing the katana loose) I warn
you, old ghoul...

Cologne: That you'll what?  Attack me?  How honourable is that?

Tzubi: You have insulted my honour!

Cologne: And you betrayed your master.

Tzubi: (deflates a bit) I...I had no choice.

Cologne: I'm sure Amigi justified abandoning his family vows as well.

Tzubi(more to himself than Cologne): I had known for awhile he was
dishonourable...that he had stolen me for his own purposes... (grits
teeth) He lied about everything!  And I couldn't follow his word
blindly!  And then he ordered me to kill a defenceless girl...I could
not... (face falls) I simply could not kill her.

Cologne: And you do not lie and deceive?  (smiles smoothly) As with
the middle Tendo daughter?

Tzubi: (glares) If you lay a hand on her...

Cologne: As I expected, I was right.  You lie, cheat and betray.
Amigi taught you well.

Tzubi: (clenches hand around his katana hilt so hard the knuckles turn
white) I am nothing like him.

Cologne: Prove it.

Tzubi: Name it.

Cologne: (hops off) No, I think not now.  Farewell, honourless one.

Tzubi: (stares after her) That...that BITCH!  (clenches his fists)
I'll show her, teach her to insult the honour of Tzubi Meskiro!


(Scene: Outside Ucchan's okonomiyaki shop, where an umbrella stand
sits, unattended and out of place.  Presently Tarou sets out on his
next delivery, giving the stand a casual glance before crushing it
under one massive hoof and flying off.  Tsubasa Kurenai is left on the
ground, bleeding and moaning in pain.  Eventually he manages to
clamber out of the remains of his costume and begins staggering back
to Amigi's.)

Tsubasa: Ugh... (groan) [Stupid monster!  Third time this week...] (he
sways) Must...plan...awful...revenge... (collapses, unconscious)


(Scene: Mousse stands under the noon sun, his body poised in a perfect
crane stance.  Sweat forms on his brow, but this is excusable, as he
has been holding the position for nearly eight hours.)

Mousse: [Why do I bother?  I can never have Akane, or Shampoo either
now that I see her for what she is...] (sighs) There is noone for me,
here or elsewhere.

Cologne: True enough.  (she hops out of the shadows)

Mousse: What do you want?

Cologne: A formality, but it is the law.

Mousse: I never did care much for those laws.  (muses) I never cared
for much of anything back at the village.  Shampoo was the only reason
I stayed...

Cologne: Nonetheless, you shall obey them.

Mousse: Why should I? (shakes head slowly) No, I'm not a part of this
anymore.  I don't want Shampoo any longer, and Akane can't be mine

Cologne: ... (peers more closely at Mousse) It's burned out, hasn't

Mousse: What has?

Cologne: The magic has burned out of your system...somehow, your will
was strong enough to destroy it.

Mousse: (slowly relaxes; looking at his hands) Gone?  I hardly
realised it was there.  It seemed so...natural.  As if I could see
myself clearly for the first time.

Cologne: It was a very subtle magic I worked into the powder.  (under
breath) Even if I never intended it to work...

Mousse: Are you speaking to me?

Cologne: No.  (hops forward) You will cooperate with me here, though.

Mousse: (sits down) Or what?  Exile?  Death?  Don't make me laugh.

Cologne: If you do this, I shall grant you official renunciation.

Mousse: (blinks) Complete freedom from Amazon law?

Cologne: Yes.

Mouse: Then...I have nothing better to do, I suppose.  I might as
well.  When?

Cologne: You don't want to know what?

Mousse: I don't care.  Besides, I think I can guess.


(Scene: the Nekohanten, where Shampoo is sweeping the front step.  She
doesn't notice Ranma until he flips down from the awning, hanging
upside down and staring openly at her chest.)

Shampoo: (not recognizing him) AIYA!  Pervert!  (she slaps Ranma down
and begins stomping on him, kicking up a nice dust cloud) Hentai!
Lecher!  Shampoo kill!

Ranma: Agh!

Shampoo: (pauses) Shampoo recognize voice... (waits for the cloud to
settle down) Aiya, Ranma!  (she picks up and dusts off the slightly
tenderized boy) You okay?

Ranma: (staggers back, eyes slightly unfocused) Gruh...uh...nice

Shampoo(severely): Ranma!  You no scare Shampoo like that!  (pause)
Why you stare at Shampoo's breasts? (looks innocently at him)

Ranma: Err...well, that (turns away)

Shampoo: (piku) Say again?

Ranma: I was checking to see if you guys were tricking me again.

Shampoo: (face falls) Aiya.  Is no trick.  Great grandmother tell
Shampoo she no supposed to see you...oops...Shampoo have to go!
(She drops her broom and turns to dash into the restaurant, but Ranma
grabs her shoulder.)

Ranma: Wait!  Is she really forcing this?

Shampoo: (slumps) Shampoo have no choice.  It is laws.  Ranma grow too
weak.  Shampoo sorry, may not seem it but Shampoo doe...did care.

Ranma: She can't do this!

Shampoo: Is law.

Ranma: You should do whatever you want.  Noone should control your

Shampoo: Ranma no understand.  Go away now.

Ranma: [Aw what?] I won't let her do this.  
(He lets go and walks away; Shampoo casts a single, unreadable glance
at him before returning to the restaurant.)


(Scene: the gate leading from the street to the Tendo Dojo.  Ranma
walks through, head down, muttering to himself.  Abruptly, someone
steps across his path.  Ranma, noticing, jerks to a halt and steps
back.  His eyes drift up to see Mousse staring back at him.)

Ranma: (sighs) Hey Mousse.  Here to kill me?

Mousse: (shakes head) No, Saotome.  I came to tell you...that no
matter... (grits teeth) Damn, this is hard!

Ranma: What?

Mousse: I'm trying to be the better man here!  (sighs) If I can ever
do that.

Ranma: What are you talking about?

Mousse: Know that for what has passed between us, or what is going to
pass between us, I apologise.

Ranma: You' gave up, didn't you?  Despite the magic?

Mousse: (sighs) Magic is an act of will.  Where there is no will,
there can be no magic.  (starts to walk past) I wish to find peace
between us, but that doesn't mean my respect for you is greater.
Don't think this makes us friends, just no longer enemies.

Ranma: I...thank you...I think.

Mousse: (pauses) Your... (unseen by Ranma, a look of self-disgust
crosses his face) Your weakness is not my concern, after all.

Ranma: (hackles rising; he spins to face Mousse) Weakness?

Mousse: Weakness of spirit, weakness of mind...weakness of body.
(growls) All three are linked.

Ranma: (sharply) This is how you treat people who aren't your

Mousse: A weaker man deserves no respect!

Ranma: (clenches fist) I've had enough of that from Cologne, Mousse.
I am -not- weak!

Mousse: (looks down; under his breath) I do what I must...

Ranma: What are you saying?

Mousse: (glares at Ranma; louder) Then why can't you protect Akane?

Ranma: ... (his knuckles turn white; slow, even tones) Leave.  Now.
(Mousse does so.)


(Scene: the dojo, later that day.  Ranma is running through a series
of katas, eyes cold.  His body begins to move in ever more complex
patterns, faster and with increasing ferocity.  Soon he is spinning
around so fast that the nearby wallboards creak ominously from the
force of the passage.)

Voice: Keep it up, Ranma.  With my shares in construction around here,
I'll easily make back what you'll pay to have it fixed.
(Ranma turns to see Nabiki leaning in the doorway.  Tzubi is standing
slightly behind her, his gaze abstracted.)

Ranma: I'm not in the mood, Nabiki.  (looks at her companion) Going on
another "date", Meskiro?

Tzubi: (glances at him; snorts) No, I came to rent out the dojo so I
could do some training.  (smiles thinly) So sorry to kick you out, but
I actually pay to use it.

Ranma: Fine.  (walks towards them) I'll use the yard.

Voice: Not necessary.
(Everyone turns, to see Cologne standing at the far wall.)

Cologne: Hello Ranma, Tzubi.

Ranma&Tzubi: If you've come to insult... (they trail off, staring at
each other)

Cologne: I offer you both a chance to prove you are strong.

Ranma: Whatever it takes, old ghoul!

Tzubi: You insult my honour; I shall defend it.

Nabiki: Interesting...

Cologne: Meet me at the empty lot nearby tomorrow evening, as the sun
stains the sky red and the mountains claw forth to consume it, to
prove these things to me.  (she leaves through the opposite doorway)

Ranma: Masaka... (he pushes past Tzubi and Nabiki with a low growl)

Tzubi: It appears I'll have to do more training than I thought.

Nabiki: You know what is going to happen?

Tzubi: (nods) A fight.  Between her and me or me and Ranma or both.

Nabiki: Glad to see you're not a total nitwit.  (gives him a sidelong
glance) You do know why she has you and Ranma so worked up?

Tzubi: (waves hand dismissively) No doubt some foolishness to do with
my "betrothal" to Shampoo.

Nabiki: (nods) What she said sounded like a ceremony.  She's probably
planning to foist Shampoo off on whoever wins.

Tzubi: It is a possibility.

Nabiki: So then, the answer is obvious.  (Tzubi cocks an eyebrow)
Throw the fight.

Tzubi: Not an option.

Nabiki: (piku) But if you lose, then Shampoo won't chase you anymore
and we...

Tzubi(firmly): I said no.  No man of honour can throw a fight.
-Especially- to someone like Ranma.

Nabiki: Forget honour!  (takes a step back; face like ice) What do you
want, Tzubi?  Your outdated honour or... (she trails off)

Tzubi: (looks away from her) Honour is not dead in this world, but it
is dying.  Perhaps that is why the world is so...unliveable.  (turns
back) Honour is as much a part of me as my heart or mind.

Nabiki: It makes you weak.  (eyes narrow slightly) It lets Cologne and
others manipulate you.  It makes you stupid.

Tzubi: (frowns in annoyance) If it weren't for that weakness, Nabiki,
you would be dead right now.

Nabiki: Honour is like any other set of ethics.  Something to be used
to comfort yourself, but abandoned when it interferes with what you
want.  If you aren't willing to drop it when necessary, you won't get
any farther in life than you have now.

Tzubi: If I must live without honour, I would envy the dead.

Nabiki: What if I told you to throw the fight and lose all debt to me?

Tzubi: (grips his hilt; coldly) I do not take bribes, Tendo-san.

Nabiki: (takes a step back) Are you...are you threatening me!?

Tzubi: I have had enough of people dismissing my honour and insulting
me.  I don't need the same thing from you.

Nabiki: (throws up her hands) Fine.  Fight for your honour and your
morals.  See how far it gets you.

Tzubi: (eyes narrow suspiciously) What do you mean?

Nabiki: You'll fight Ranma with all your honour and lose; Ranma will
fight you without his and win.

Tzubi: I will not lose.

Nabiki: Do whatever.  Settle your debts when you can.  (she leaves,
closing the door behind her)
(Tzubi stands in silence, staring at the door with mute hatred.  His
hands tighten on his daisho hilts until the knuckles turn white.  Then
his mouth opens with a fierce kiai...outside of the dojo, the door
suddenly buckles and hurtles nearly halfway across the lawn.  Inside,
Tzubi stands almost five feet away, smiling.)


(Scene: next day, the vacant lot at sunset precisely.  A crowd has
gathered at the fringes of the field of combat, and Nabiki can be seen
selling tickets.  Tzubi does his best to ignore this as he, Ranma and
Mousse stand in a rough triangle around Cologne.  In the background,
Shampoo watches the determined expressions on Tzubi and Ranma's face
with awe.  Nearby, Akane is looking bored.)

Akane: What stupid thing is he up to this time?

Tarou: (walking past Akane with a plate of okonomiyaki) Nothing more
idiotic than usual.

Akane: Tarou-kun?  What are you doing here?

Tarou: Ukyou's acting the vendor again.  (points over his shoulder
across the field to where Ukyou has set up her portable grill)
Besides, I never miss a chance to watch fem-boy humiliate himself.

Akane: (sighs) I should have known.
(In the central field, Cologne is speaking to the combatants.)

Cologne: You three are here to prove yourselves worthy.  Now, as night
falls, you three face each other.  Whosoever is the last left standing
shall be the best man.

Ranma: Both of them?  At once?

Tzubi: (unlimbering his daisho; sneers) Scared, Saotome?

Ranma: (sneers back) Hell no.  I'm surprised this is gonna be so easy.

Mousse: Are you two going to talk... (he lets a chain drop from his
sleeve and begins to twirl it) ...or fight?

Cologne: Begin! 
(She leaps high into the air and out of the newly christened warzone.
Mousse moves first, lashing out at Tzubi.  There is a flash and the
severed chain falls as Tzubi leaps back, wakazashi drawn.  Ranma darts
at Tzubi, striking while he's distracted, but the swordsman isn't
caught unawares and unsheathes his katana to fend Ranma off.  Mousse
shifts his stance and launches himself at Ranma's flank, a combat claw
snapping out of his sleeve as he strikes.  Ranma ducks under it and
snaps a foot up, catching Mousse on the chin.  Tzubi frowns and
thrusts his katana...there is a flash of red.  Ranma yells and dances
back, his shirt laid open along the shoulder and a red line tracing
down the arm.)

Tzubi: You are fast.  That blow should have crippled your arm, not
merely hurt it.

Ranma: That's a little serious for a match like this, don't you think?
(Mousse steadies himself and looks between the two, but remains

Tzubi: She said until only one shall be left standing.  Let us say I
interpret that rather dramatically.

Ranma: (eyes narrow) If that's how you want to play it...
(On the sidelines...)

Akane: Th-this is serious!  Nabiki, what is Tzubi doing?

Nabiki: (standing nearby) He doesn't answer to or explain himself to

Tzubi: (falls into a low stance, swords held back) For my honour I
shall do whatever I find necessary!

Tarou: (smirks; evil chuckle) This could be more interesting than I


(Scene: Amigi Diatonobi's lab, where the demented sorcerer stands in
the centre of a pentagram, waving his hands in complex patterns and
mumbling arcane phrases.  Presently, he appears to finish and allows
his arms to fall.  Slowly he walks out of the circle, gestures
absently, and sinks into the chair that obligingly appears.)

Amigi: I have let my skills slip too much.  (frowns) I should have
secured the girl by now, the one who so casually wields the true power
of Ginkiri!  (sighs) The Circle grows annoyed with me, and my own
servants are becoming less useful... (stands up) Very well then.  I
tire of awaiting the fools to come to me.  I shall take matters into
my own hands!


(Back at the fight, Mousse is exchanging blows with Tzubi while Ranma
looks for an opening.  Suddenly, Tzubi slides below a dozen chains and
calmly slashes into Mousse's chest, sending the Chinese boy hurtling

Ranma: Mousse!

Mousse: Ugh...

Tzubi: He'll survive.  I used the flat, for now.

Ranma: What's gotten into you?

Tzubi: Nothing.  Any true battle is to the death, Saotome.  That is a
truth I have already known.

Ranma: Damn it!

Shampoo: Great grandmother...'Zubi is going all out!

Cologne: Yes, he is.

Tzubi: (dashes at Ranma) HI-KATANA KEN!  (he leaps, bringing his
swords down so fast the friction causes them to erupt in flame)

Ranma: (dodges sideways) Fine.  (Ranma lashes out with a flurry of
blows; Tzubi falls back to avoid the attack) Have it your w...

Tzubi: (slashes, sending Ranma backflipping away) Shut up.  
(Mousse pulls himself to his feet, and with a snarl sends a hail of
daggers at Tzubi.  The swordsman spins his wakazashi, sending all the
projectiles clattering to the ground, but Ranma uses the distraction
to leap in and land a kick to Tzubi's shoulder.  He flows with it,
slashing at Ranma, but his target flips away just in time...until a
chain entangles his ankles.  Mousse grins and yanks the chain, pulling
Ranma to the ground.  Unfortunately, he doesn't notice Tzubi's foot
until it connects.)

Tzubi: (sheathes both swords) This is between Ranma and me.  You have
interfered for the last time!
(Ranma pulls himself around and with a growl snaps the chain around
his foot.  Meanwhile, Tzubi glares at Mousse, and suddenly the air
around him...ripples.)

Ranma: [His chi is being focused!  What is he up to?]

Tzubi: (shifts his stance) You have Ranma to thank for this attack,

Mousse: (draws back) [Be ready for anything...]

(Tzubi draws and...Mousse cries out as he is flung back by an
invisible force.  He spins back, trying to reorient himself, only to
see Tzubi has leaped out to intercept him.)

Tzubi: Goodbye Mousse...ZANJI SHINJINKEN-RYO!
(Then there is only a blur as the flashing whirl of Tzubi's blades
obscure Mousse from view.  He pulls away just before hitting the
ground and lands several feet away as Mousse's unconscious form hits
the ground, clothes shredded and body covered with lacerations.)

Ranma: Did you have to be so nasty?

Tzubi: (turns, sheathing his swords) He's alive, which is better than
I might leave you.  Surrender now and I won't have to hurt you.

Tarou: Better take the chance now, fem-boy!

Ranma: (grits teeth) Shut up, Pantyhose.  (to Tzubi) No way!

Tzubi: So be it.

Cologne: This grows serious.
(The first move goes to Tzubi, a lightning-fast stab at the face
followed by a crossways cut.  Ranma angles away, slapping the blade
down by the flat.  A moment later he is on the offensive with a
blistering array of complex katas and maneuvers which force Tzubi
back.  Realizing the impossibility of countering from his current
position, Tzubi leaps away, landing several feet from Ranma.  His
opponent closes, feet sliding along the ground but never quite leaving
it; Tzubi counters by spinning sideways and lashing out with his
wakazashi.  Ranma ducks under the blow and unloads a solid fist right
into Tzubi's stomach.  He grunts, staggering back...and then his
katana falls and catches Ranma at the base of the neck.  Ranma gives a
strangled cry and collapses bonelessly in front of Tzubi.)

Akane: RANMA!

Ukyou: Oh god, Ranchan!

Tarou: (crossed arms) ...

Ranma: (groan) Itte... (pulls himself, shakily, to his knees)

Tzubi: (examining his sword) Hmm...hit at too much of an angle.
(looks at Ranma) You are lucky.  That should have cut your head off.

Ranma: ...

Nabiki: (blinks)

Tarou: Fem-boy's in trouble. [But I still need him alive...for the

Ranma: (getting to his feet)'re really serious!

Tzubi: And you are not.  That is why I shall win.
(Without another word Ranma leaps, performs a midair flip and kicks
out with both feet.  Tzubi reacts quicker than thought, a stagger-step
back while slashing upwards.  A red line traces across Ranma's
shin...and he collides with his opponent, taking them both to the
ground.  Ranma kippups and lashes out with a kick.  Tzubi takes it in
the ribs, but sweeps his arm and takes out Ranma's injured leg; he
rolls with the blow and handsprings back to his feet.  However, by
this time Tzubi is standing.  He moves in before his foe can recover,
blades flashing outward in a series of lethal cuts and thrusts too
fast for the naked eye to follow.  Ranma is pressed back, dodging from
foot to foot in an ever-more-desperate defence.  Suddenly, a chain
encircles Tzubi's waist, yanking him back.  With a sigh of relief,
Ranma watches as Tzubi falls to the ground.  This does not last long,
however.  There is a snarl and then dozens of flashes swirl around
Tzubi as he rises to his feet; the chain falls to the earth like
silver rain.)

Mousse: (grinning despite his massive injuries) You don't get rid of
me that easily!

Tzubi: (eyes narrow) Die.
(He flies across the ground towards Mousse, swords drawn back for a
lethal blow...)

Ranma: (planting a foot in Tzubi's back) Not likely!
(Tzubi falls on his face with a grunt, but quickly lurches to the
side, avoiding a mace dropped from Mousse's sleeve.)

Mousse: You can't dodge forever!
(Mousse pulls back his arms, then snaps them forward with a flourish,
allowing a hail of chained and projectile weaponry to burst forth.
Tzubi grimaces and begins to roll rapidly away, leaving a virtual
garden of weapons in his wake.  Pushing his hands under him as he
twists, he bounces smoothly to his feet, brandishing his daisho.
Mousse ceases the attack a moment later as he notices Tzubi is now
calmly deflecting all the projectiles.  Meanwhile, Ranma is circling
behind Tzubi again, and takes advantage of the momentary distraction
to rush forward.  The swordsman's eyes glint dangerously and he steps
forward, pivoting on his heel to slash at Ranma.  Ranma yelps and
backpeddles, the tip of the katana tracing a line in the air inches
from his neck.)

Akane: (clenches fist) Ranma...

Tarou: It's not like fem-boy would have -missed- it...

Ukyou: Jerk! (she pulls out her battle spatula and tries to whack
Tarou upside the head...emphasis on -tries-)

Tarou: (holding the haft of the weapon in an iron grip) Don't... (he
turns to look at her, eyes flat and mouth set in a thin line) Don't
think I won't...
(Ukyou glares at him for a moment, but then relaxes her hold on her
weapon.  Tarou releases it, then turns back to the fight.  Meanwhile,
positions on the field have reversed once again.  Mousse has spun on
Ranma and unloaded with a flurry of moves that forced Ranma to the
defensive.  Tzubi has backed off and is letting them go at it, taking
the chance to recover.)

Ranma: (furiously dodging) Mousse!  (ducks under an attack and sweeps;
Mousse somersaults away as the blow knocks him backward) Listen to me!

Mousse: (lands gracefully) I know what you're going to say!  (with a
cry he launches a spear at Ranma, who sidesteps) The answer is no!

Ranma: But Tzubi is out of his mind! (the swordsman glowers)

Tarou: At least he has one!

Ranma: Will-you-SHUT-UP! (barely dodges a rain of daggers) Mousse,
he's out for blood, but he can't beat both of us.

Mousse: (pulls back, one leg drawn up) You don't understand...
(There is a moment of silence, and then Ranma's eyes narrow.)

Ranma: Yes, I do.
(He sprints forward, bowing under Mousse's defence and cupping his


Mousse: (blanches) Not again...
(A flurry of yellow spheres blossoms around Mousse, leaving glowing
afterimages that obscure the Chinese fighter from view.  Barely a
second passes before Mousse flies out from the blasts and skids along
the ground, sending a wave of grit in his wake.  The crowd parts
hastily, allowing him to collide head-first with the concrete wall.)

Tarou: (winces) Man, hit with something so hard...

Ukyou: Painful.  (nods)

Tarou: Poor wall.

Ukyou: (sweatdrop)
(Ranma steps back, a slowly rising plume of smoke coming from his
hands and feet having dug small trenches from the recoil.  Turning, he
sees Tzubi standing not two feet away with daisho sheathed, a ripple
of hot air flowing around him.)

Ranma: Oh...

(His swords whip from their sheaths, and Ranma finds himself hurled
bodily into the air.  Tzubi launches himself in pursuit, arcing into
attack position.)

Ranma: [Damn!  Off-balance...but this is MY element!]

(Tzubi twists and begins to spin in midair, soon overtaking his

Ranma: (pushing palms into the flurry of blades) MOKO TAKABISHA!
(An explosion of yellow light, a dual scream of pain and a rain of
tiny red droplets later both combatants plow into the ground.  A flash
of silver indicates the landing of Tzubi's blades several metres from
his prone form; the katana's blade buried halfway to the grip.  After
a moment, Tzubi groans and pulls himself to his feet, shaking his head
to clear the cobwebs.  Across from him, Ranma hisses in pain but
smoothly kippups into a combat stance...and then notices that he is
bleeding heavily from several deep gashes in his forearms and hands.)

Ranma: Damn...I have to finish this soon...

Tzubi: (reaches down and pulls off his belt) Prepare to die, Saotome.
(with a flick of his wrist the cloth snaps straight as a razor; he
smiles) It appears I've disarmed you.

Ranma: [He really has me at a disadvantage...I'm almost out of
(Tzubi closes rapidly, belt-sword darting in and out like a viper.
Ranma gives ground for a moment, but then grins and dances into the
attack, throwing Tzubi off his stride.  The swordsman recovers quickly
however, and manages to leap back as the kick rams into his chest.
With a snarl, he lashes out at Ranma, too fast for his opponent to
back up.  But Ranma raises his arm to block...and there is a flash of
yellow light as Tzubi's cotton blade is harmlessly deflected.)

Ranma: (grins) Hah!  Useful trick, ne?

Tzubi: (backs up and begins to circle) hold a low-intensity
chi in your hands, and release it to block my blows.  Impressive, but
futile.  (looks pointedly at Ranma's hands) A defensive ploy, and all
I need to do is wait.
(Tarou, who has observed all this with a scowl, begins to move
forward, but stops as Cologne easily slides in front of him.)

Cologne: Noone interferes.

Tarou: (steps back; eyes narrow) Just wanted a better view, old hag.

Cologne: (smiles grimly) Be my guest, but no more.  This fight must be
decided, one way or the other.
(Ranma grimaces and moves in, ignoring his injuries and launching a
series of open-hand strikes.  Tzubi blocks each one, a flare of yellow
light marking each connection between belt and flesh.  Then he
sidesteps, bringing his blade around...)

(The belt erupts in flames as he swings it at the startled Ranma.  He
blocks and the familiar light flares...but then he falls back,

Ranma: (clutching a burn on his hand) Damn...cut through my defence...

Tzubi: (brandishing the still-flaming weapon) In the end, Ranma, none
of your cheap tricks will save you.

Ranma: That belt won't burn forever.

Tzubi: (steps into the attack, forcing Ranma to dodge wildly to avoid
him) It will burn long enough.  Long enough to prove I am the better
man!  (his face twists into a snarl and Ranma yelps as the burning
weapon tags his ribs) Long enough to prove that honour and discipline
defeats dishonour and cowardice!  (a furious blitzkrieg of blows
strikes Ranma three times, sending him to his knees) Long enough to
prove that order defeats chaos!  Now DIE!

Ranma: Not likely!  (he dodges the downward strike at the last second
and rolls to his feet) I'm not about to die to prove some stupid thing
that nobody cares about!  (kicks at Tzubi, who dodges easily)

Tzubi: I CARE!!!  (he launches himself forward with a series of
vicious cuts and thrusts)

Ranma: (smiles as he dodges) Honour is a pointless system of rules
designed to weaken the strong.

Tzubi: LIAR! 
(He steps up his assault, landing a few stinging blows on Ranma's arms
and chest.)

Ranma(coldly): Honour only makes you weak, only limits your true
strength.  Honour will only make you lose in the end.

Tzubi: DIE! (he steps back and strikes, a focused blow aimed at
Ranma's neck)

Ranma: HIRYUU SHOTEN HA! (and the wind suddenly wails like the howl of
a banshee)

Tarou: He's won.  (crosses arms) He's improving.
(The funnel of heaven's fury dies down as swiftly as it formed,
leaving Ranma in a crater of earth scoured clear, fist extended
upward.  He remains still, and shortly thereafter the limp form of
Tzubi falls to the ground with a soft thump.)

Cologne: It's over.  Ranma wins.
(Ranma nods slowly, and then falls to the ground.)


(Scene: Tofu's clinic.  Ranma wakes up, to find himself alone, lying
on the bed.  Sitting up, he looks down at his hands, wrapped tightly
in bandages, and notes his burns have already begun healing smoothly.
Turning, he looks in the mirror...and sees Senchi staring back at

Ranma: Come to mock me?

Senchi: [You should have killed him.]

Ranma: I won't do that.  Ever.

Senchi: [Never make promises you can't keep.]
(The door opens and in walks Tofu, who smiles as he sees his
all-too-frequent patient up and about.)

Tofu: You're a remarkable young man, Ranma.  (frowns) But you're also
very lucky.  You shouldn't take risks like that.  Next time, give up
if your injuries are that severe.

Ranma: (sighs) I don't always have that choice.  So, how is everyone?

Tofu: (laughs) You've only been out for a few hours.  Akane is waiting
outside, but everyone else went home when they found out you were

Ranma: What about Mousse...and Tzubi?

Tofu: Mousse had a mild concussion, but was otherwise okay.  Cologne
signed him out.  Tzubi is in the next room, still unconscious.

Ranma: (rises to his feet) Right.  I think I want to go home now.

Tofu: (nods) But I insist you take it -easy- for a few days.

Ranma: (grins) You know, doc, I think I'll take you up on that for


(Scene: the Nekohanten.  Shampoo sits at an empty table, her eyes
haunted.  Cologne pogos up behind her.)

Cologne: What's the matter, child?  I thought that this was what you

Shampoo: know.  (shakes head) It seem so easy now...
(softly) Just like before.

Cologne: There is no choice now, Shampoo.  There is no going back.

Shampoo: But...was it right?

Cologne: It was the law.  It IS the law.

Shampoo: It...I understand.  Shampoo just need time.

Cologne: You don't have time now.  This was your decision; live with

Shampoo(almost imperceptible): But it hurt so much...

Cologne: We all grow up sometime.  Some grow up too late.
(She moves away, leaving Shampoo alone with her thoughts.)


(Scene: another room in Tofu's clinic.  Tzubi lies on the examining
table, breathing slowly.  Abruptly, his eyes snap open and he looks
around.  Alone.  He sits up and looks down at himself.  Time passes,
and nothing moves save for the clock on the wall.  After an
indeterminate length of time he sighs, closing his eyes.  Standing up
somewhat stiffly, he walks to the door and looks out.  Seeing noone
outside, he closes the door and walks back to the bed.  Alone.  He
sits back and stares at the wall, face devoid of emotion.  Then his
eyes close and a tear rolls down his cheek.)


Author's notes...

Epsilon: Whew.  Remind me NEVER to complain about how long it takes
Jordan to get out the next book of the Wheel of Time.

Blade: (snort) Perhaps not, but I feel no such compunctions about
complaining about how what utter -crap- the latest book was...

Epsilon: Well, naturally not.  Still, maybe the next one will be

Blade: It had better be.  And speaking of which-although we
weren't-how much you wanna bet the comments just made draw more C&C
than the actual fanfic?

Epsilon: (flat look) Subtle as always, eh, Blade?

Blade: One does what one must.  Oh, and speaking of, I'd just like to
remind all the nice people out there that Epsi IS a real person, and
he really -does- help write this series.

Epsilon: "Help"?

Blade: So as much as its gratifying to hear about "my" series, it's
starting to get on Epsi's nerves to be regarded as a -complete-

Epsilon: Indeed.  In any case, onto more pertinent took
awhile, but finally some serious development for Tzubi!  Hopefully,
this chapter should have dispelled any lingering myths about him being
either a self-insert or a "perfect" character.

Blade: Just lack of familiarity.  Hey, even Tarou looked perfect until
you got to know him better, and then he was revealed to simply be
incredibly great. ^_^

Epsilon: 9_9

Blade: Anyway, for all you Senchi fans out there-there must be at
least a couple of you-don't be put off by the lack of your favourite
psychopathic split personality.  Next chapter will reveal more than
you may wish to know about her.

Epsilon: Also, stay tuned for a pivotal moment in one relationship you
won't want to miss.

Blade: Or maybe you do, but you won't know until you read it, will
you?  And, of course, they can't read it until you write it, sooooo...

Epsilon: Alright already!  Geez...I have classes, you know.  Be lucky
I still have time to write at all.

Blade: And I have a baby daughter, you know, but -I- still find time
to bug you.  Take a lesson from my dedication.

Epsilon: (facepalm)

Blade: Anyway, join in next time for "Journey to the Centre of Ranma's
Mind"!  (And no, I am NOT going to put in a Tarou comment here.)

Handy Special Move Guide:

Kamikaze no Zan - Slash of the Divine Wind

All content unless stated otherwise is ©2021 Chris McNeil. He can be contacted here. The banner picture is courtesy of Jason Heavensrun. You can find more of his stuff at Checkmate Studios.