C&A Productions Presents A Work of Ranma 1/2 Fanfiction Ranma: Curse of Darkness Chapter 13: The Soul of the Matter By Chris McNeil and Aaron Peori The story so far: An ancient, sinister organization known as the Dark Mysterious Secret Evasive Society of Really Evil People with Big Hair and Part-time Traveling Thespians-or DMSESREPBHPTT for short(!)-has developed an interest in young Ranma Saotome. A mystic misfire while trying to forcibly conscript Ranma led to his developing a psychotic split personality that inhabited his female side, and fell in love with -Ryouga-, of all people. But events have reached a critical moment for DMSESREPBHPTT's Amigi Diatonobi in his quest to capture Senchi, as Ranma's dark half refers to herself. His own people have tried to kill him, but he cannot abandon the only soul to perform the Ra Shin Ginkiri in millennia. And a desperate man makes for a dangerous enemy... (Opening scene: the roof of the Tendo household. A fingernail moon drifts up above the eaves, bathing the world in a soft, luminous nimbus. All around, the lights of the city glow like candles in the distance. A silhouette crouches on the edge of the roof, face averted from both waning moon and electric glow. He lowers his arms in front of himself and opens his hands, gazing down at the palms as if he could discern his future from the lines. Finally, with a sigh, he looks away.) Voice: Ranma? (The man turns again, to see a familiar figure pulling themself over the edge of the roof.) Ranma: Akane. Evening. (Straightening, Akane Tendo stands across from her reluctant fiancee, the breeze playing through her hair so that it seems to be made of woven shadow.) Akane: What are you doing up here? Ranma: Thinking. Akane: (walks over to sit a few feet from him) About what? Ranma: How...everything has gone wrong. Akane: Ranma... Ranma: (stares, unseeing, towards the ghost-flame of the city) I... (raises his arms) I still have scars, y'know. Small ones, but still scars. Tzubi could've killed me, would have killed me... Akane: But Ryouga and Mousse... Ranma: (shakes head) No. They were always a...hot problem. They'd get mad and get it out of their systems and that was all. Tzubi... (closes eyes) He was different. Cold. Akane, I could see it in his eyes. Even Herb was hot inside, even Tarou...but Tzubi was as cold as stone. Akane: That's his problem, Ranma, not yours. Ranma: But...Akane, that isn't what scared me. I've seen those eyes before, cold murderer eyes. Senchi has those eyes. Akane: How can you... Ranma: In my dreams, even sometimes when I'm awake. I can see her, I can...talk with her. I saw her eyes, Akane...but those eyes are in me! (he turns to her, and for the first time we can see the pain etched on his face) What is inside me, Akane? What am I capable of if I can create something with those cold eyes? Akane: Ranma, you aren't Senchi. She may be a murderer and a manipulator and other things much worse, but she isn't you! Ranma: How can I know that? Akane: Because however evil she may be, you would never do what she does. You can be a jerk, Ranma, but you could never take a life. Ranma: But I can't -know-, Akane! (reaching out, he grabs her shoulders) All this pain is because of the evil inside of me. If I could end it I don't know how far I'd go to stop it, to protect... (trails off) It isn't safe around me. Akane: Don't say stuff like that. I...we won't leave you now. (she moves his hands, pulling him closer) We'll pull through this together. Ranma: Akane... (he suddenly realises how close they are now and pulls back) I have to find out, somehow. Whether her eyes are just some magical freak accident, or if they exist in me. Akane: Ranma, don't torture yourself. Ranma: (stands up, turning away) I have to know. I have to end this. (clenches fist) I have to... ******** (Scene: Ucchan's, evening. The store is deserted, and the lights have been dimmed. Ukyou Kuonji stands by the door, searching through her pockets.) Ukyou: Darn keys... Tarou: (appearing near the back of the shop) Looking for these? (he holds up her keys) Ukyou: Yeah, great. Thanks for finding them, Tarou. Tarou: (shrugs, tossing them to her) Going to visit fem-boy? Ukyou: You have something against that? Tarou: No. (pause) I think I'll tag along. Fem-boy and I have something we need to...discuss. Ukyou: You aren't going to get into another fight, are you? Tarou: (snort) Why? Pounding fem-boy, while cathartic, doesn't get me any closer to my real goals. Ukyou: Can't you just...never mind. If you insist on tagging along, I want you to promise not to let your...feelings interfere with the evening. Tarou: (raise eyebrows) And if I don't promise, you plan on stopping me? Ukyou: ... Tarou: (shrugs) Fine. I promise not to let my feelings interfere with my better judgement. Happy? Ukyou: No. (sighs and opens the door; under breath) But then, you'd never do anything just to make me happy, would you, Tarou? (As she steps out, Tarou looks after her, his gaze shadowed. A moment passes before he follows, carefully closing the door behind him.) ******** (Scene: the dojo. The evening has reached the lazy part of night, before the world sleeps but after it has run down. Crickets chirp a slow rhythm, the heartbeat of darkness, and the world is at peace. Akane sits next to the pond, her face occasionally turning to cast hooded glances at the two on the porch when she thinks noone is looking. Ranma and Ukyou stand just within the pool of light from within, talking softly but in a reserved manned. Tarou leans against the wall farthest from all of them, absently juggling some small object one-handed. His face is hidden within the shadows, but his eyes seem to glow as they catch the light of the gibbous moon. For a single moment life seems to slow, simplify as emotions slip easily past unmaintained defences the rational mind has constructed. For a perfect instant, things are easy to understand. Then all hell breaks loose.) (The first explosion blasts a hole in the roof of the house, sending flaming debris raining across the yard. A second follows, an eruption of sparks cutting off the electricity and plunging the house into darkness. Ranma reacts, unthinking and automatic reflexes snapping to life, and springs away with Ukyou before a third blast engulfs the porch in a liquid inferno. Tarou is also in motion, eyes scanning the sky as he glides towards the shell-shocked duo.) Akane: (leaping to her feet) Who...? Ranma:(looking around) Shiad back... Tarou: (shakes head as he stops beside him) No lightning. Voice: Very good. (A dark form steps out of the shadows by the wall, resplendent in rich robes. Amigi Diatonobi smiles at the small group in front of him.) Ukyou: Amigi! (whips out her spatula) Why? Amigi: I can no longer wait. The arrival of Shiad has forced my hand. Tarou: (shrugs) Take fem-boy, then. I won't stop you. Akane: Tarou, you're not helping. Tarou(flatly): That's the point. Ukyou: (to Amigi) Get out of here, you jerk! Amigi: I'd love to, but not before young Saotome's mind is firmly under my control. Ranma: You can't have it. Tarou: It's not as if you use it, fem-boy. Ranma: Shut up, Pantyhose! Amigi: All of you, be silent or I shall destroy Ranma here and now! Tarou: Promises, promises. Akane: Just go, Amigi. We stopped you once, we can do it again. Amigi: But this time, we play by my rules! Tarou: (raise eyebrow) A sport you made up? Let me guess, it involves seeing who can shove the most spikes into their own brain, right? Amigi: (a dark aura forms around him) You fail to take me seriously. Tarou(dryly): I wonder why? Amigi: And that is your final mistake. (his aura expands, rippling with power) I shall show you why I am to be feared! (Everyone takes up defensive stances, except for Tarou, who merely smiles and shakes his head.) Amigi: By the power of Cthon and R'sark! (the anti-glow bursts out from him, the air seems to shake with waves of unfelt heat) Oh great power, Seud te Anihcam, grant me an audience! (the world seems to shift, reality takes a step right and turns around) Take me inside, and grant me access to the power within! (Everyone looks around, but see nothing...in fact, the world seems to be back to normal and the glow around the smiling Amigi has disappeared.) Tarou: (rolls his eyes) Impressive. Ever considered a career in special effects? Amigi: (points at Ranma) PATH OF KRYIOTATES! (Ranma suddenly cries out, falling to his knees. Amigi smirks as a ball of light erupts from his victim's forehead. Before Akane or Ukyou can react, the wizard leaps towards the light, a long graceful dive that resembles a soft glide more than an attack. Reacting without thinking, Akane throws herself between the two; Amigi slams into her, tossing both back. They seem to shrink, drawing further away as they slide into the light pouring out of Ranma. Seeing this, Ukyou moves to intervene, attempting to use her spatula to sweep them both away. Her efforts are in vain, however, as the strike only serves to get her own weapon caught in the light. She promptly finds her spatula, and herself, being dragged in. Amigi and Akane move past her, fading into the blindingly brilliant glow.) Tarou: (appearing next to Ukyou) Let it go! Ukyou: (skewers him with her eyes) No! I can't! Tarou: ... (Ukyou gasps as the force pulls her off her feet. Soon she too is receding into the light. Tarou yells something and reaches for her, but she is moving too fast now.) Tarou: Stupid... (Suddenly, he notices his hand is now trapped in the glow. With a growl of frustration he dives forward...) ******** (Scene: a land of mist and mountains, of solemn pools and bamboo shafts silhouetted in diffuse sunlight. Tarou lays beside a pool, unconscious and alone in the land of cursed springs. Presently, he awakes with a start, not so much getting to his feet as flowing from prone to standing in a single fluid motion. His eyes scan the distance, taking in every detail of his surroundings.) Tarou: (frowns) Jyusenkyou... (he closes his eyes) [Why here? Of all places...] (his eyes snap open again) Something's wrong. (Tarou takes a few halting steps forward. His body is tense, his muscles taut with anticipation. Sweat forms on his brow, and he wipes it away quickly, mechanically.) Tarou: Danger...everywhere. Like the air was out to choke me. (shakes his head violently) This isn't right. Why should I be afraid? There's nothing around... (he takes a deep breath, trying to calm himself with little success) I have to get out of here. (Tarou takes a few staggering steps forward, eyes closed and fists clenched so hard his knuckles show white. His toe hits an unfortunately-placed rock and he tumbles to the ground. For a few moments he lies facedown, seemingly unable to move. Then his eyes open, and he sees he is little more than a hair's breadth from one of the cursed springs.) Tarou: Idiot! Stumbling around Jyusenkyou with your eyes closed! How... (Suddenly his eyes narrow, focusing on the pool in front of him. With a grunt he levers himself up onto his elbows, looking down into the spring. Instead of the murky water one might expect, the water is crystal clear. Despite this, the bottom is not visible. Instead, below him is a scene, like a view through a window into somebody's life.) Tarou: What the... (Below, Ranma walks into the Tendo kitchen, moving up to Kasumi with a smile on his face.) Ranma: Hey Kasumi, got anything to eat? Tarou: (under breath) Trust fem-boy to think of his stomach... Kasumi: (cheerfully) Oh no, Ranma, we don't! Ranma: (face falls) Nothing in the fridge? Kasumi: (opens the fridge, to reveal it is indeed totally empty) No, sorry! Ranma: (stares) Uh...the cupboards? Kasumi: (reveals some empty cupboards) No food here either, Ranma! Ranma: (a hint of desperation enters his voice) What about take out? Kasumi: (smiles cheerfully) Oh no, Ranma. I've called every take-out place in Japan. Noone has ANY food! Ranma: (clutching head; surrounded by darkness) No food! No food in all of Japan! Tarou: (mutters) This is getting ridiculous... Kasumi(cheerfully): Worse than that, Ranma. All the food in all the world is gone! Isn't that exciting? Ranma: (falls to his knees) NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! How will I eat!? What shall I do? It isn't fair! Tarou: I disagree. (he pulls back from the pool) This obviously isn't Jyusenkyou. (looks about) Then where am I? (he stands up slowly) Still feel nervous...I have to find my way out of this place soon. (Tarou looks around, and his eyes fall upon another pool. Curiousity and wariness war for control on his face, and finally curiousity wins out. He leans over...) Ranma: (walking down the street) What a beautiful day! (Tarou starts as he watches himself leap out of the bushes.) Vision-Tarou: Take this, fem-boy! (proceeds to pound Ranma) Ranma: (staggers away) Guh...pain... (Ryouga leaps out of an alleyway.) Ryouga: You're mine, Ranma! (wails on Ranma for a few minutes) Ranma: (stumbling past) That was...unpleasant... (Tzubi leaps down from a rooftop.) Tzubi: (draws his daisho) Die. (slash, cut, gash, puree) Ranma: (bleed, groan) I... (cough) don't understand why... Mousse: (jumps out of a manhole) Now I shall have my revenge, Saotome! (reduce Ranma to a bloody pulp) Ranma: (crawl; moan) It...started out...so well... (Tsubasa appears above Ranma, silhouetted in an evil shadow.) Tsubasa: (crack knuckles) Now it ends! (Tarou laughs uproariously as Tsubasa engages Ranma in a comic dust cloud. Wiping tears of joy from his eyes, he straightens.) Tarou: [These must be fem-boy's fears, or something.] (he looks around) [But that still doesn't answer the important questions...] (He walks over to another pool and, smiling, looks down...) (Ranma stands in a field with Akane, Ukyou, Shampoo and Kodachi.) Ranma: Hi everybody! Kodachi: (slaps Ranma) Impudent fool! Ranma: (blinks) What did I do? Tarou(mutters): More like what didn't you do... Kodachi(spits): I despise you! I am going to marry a man of dignity and refinement! (Tzubi appears out of nowhere, and the two walk off arm in arm.) Ranma: Uh...geez, that came out of nowhere... Shampoo: (slaps Ranma) Stupid! Tarou: You go, girl. (evil chuckle) Shampoo: Shampoo no marry you, she find real man! (Gosunkugi appears out of nowhere, and the two walk off arm in arm.) Ranma: But Shampoo...! I mean, that's Gosunkugi! Ukyou: (slaps Ranma) You jackass! Tarou: (smirks) I could watch this all day. Ukyou: I can't believe I ever liked you! Now I've found a man who treats me like a lady! (Kunou appears from the same mysterious place as the other two, and strides away with Ukyou.) Ranma: But...but... Akane: (slaps Ranma) Idiot! I hate you! Ranma: (boggle) (Tarou laughs.) Akane: You're the biggest jerk I've ever met! The heck with that stupid engagement, I'm marrying a real man who can take care of me! (Tsubasa pops out of a nearby bush, and the happy couple walk off. Tarou falls to the ground, laughing so hard he nearly chokes. After a moment, he gets himself back under control.) Tarou: Ranma certainly has some amusing phobias. (walks towards another pool) But why would Amigi send us here...? (sitting next to the new pool, he looks down...) (The dojo is dark, midnight sky moonless overhead; rain batters the rooftops. Ranma stands at the threshold, looking out.) Ranma: Damn it...I can't go out in this... Voice: Why not? Ranma: I'll change. I can't risk letting her free. Voice: But you don't have much choice... Ranma(growls): No! (he clenches his fist...and stares at it in shock) My hand! It got smaller! Voice: Not your hand. (Ranma stares at the delicate skin, the slender fingers. He yells, grabbing it as if to tear it off...then notices his chest.) Ranma: Wait...I can't have... Voice: Why not? It is what you really are. Ranma: (gingerly touches the bulges in his shirt) But I'm a man! I'm Ranma! Voice: Really? What about your hair? (Reaching up, Ranma plucks a hair. He stares at the crimson strand in horror.) Ranma: But...I -am- Ranma! I'm... Voice: No, you are me! (Ranma lowers his head with a cry of agony. As he does so, his voice rises in pitch and the scream becomes a laugh. When his head rises, he is Ranma no longer.) Senchi: This body is mine! This mind is mine! You are mine! (Tarou frowns, stepping back.) Tarou: He's after Senchi...and what better place to get her... (his eyes narrow) ...than their own mind? (Tarou nods, and closing his eyes tightly, disappears.) ******** (Scene: a cavernous chamber, so vast that the walls cannot be seen. A diffuse light softly touches the row upon row of cases and piles of scrolls. Each one is an ancient scroll of a martial technique, marked with kanji and crude pictures. Akane is slumped against one of the scroll cases, breathing deeply in silent unconsciousness. With a start her eyes snap open.) Akane: Ranma! (standing, she looks around) Where am I...? (Stepping around the case, she begins to walk along the silent rows, her voice echoing in the silence as she calls for Ranma and Ukyou. Her footsteps ring out, providing a steady beat to her search. Time passes slowly...finally, Akane stops, her voice hoarse. Reaching out, she absently leans against one of the racks, but her hand jars one of the scrolls free...) (Ranma and the man who has claimed his name face off. A dark aura ripples in the air around the boy in the army fatigues.) Voice: Run boy! (Ranma can't afford to turn and see what his father means. He stares in almost stunned fascination as the other man launches himself upwards...) Man: KIJIN RAISHUUDAN! (The air seems to part, flowing downward in waves that...) Akane: RANMA! (she yells, drawing back from the scroll case) Wha...what happened? That was the Yamasenken match, but I didn't... (shakes head) (Looking around, she sees another scroll lying on the ground a few feet away. Frowning, she walks over to pick it up.) (Prince Herb stands triumphant, his scarlet eyes glistening in predatory glee as onna-Ranma rises wearily to fight him once more. The crater Ranma had been driven into by Herb's aerial assault steams as he staggers forward. In the distance, the cyclone of the Hiryuu Shoten Ha spins out of control.) Ranma: [I have to beat him!] Akane: Ah! (she drops the scroll, which clatters to the ground again) Herb? That Musk princess? But that was a guy... (she backs up a step) This is too weird. (Leaving the scroll case behind, Akane wanders into another section of the vast, deserted library. She scrupulously avoids touching any of the scrolls for several minutes, but finally curiousity overcomes her resolve and she reaches for another...) (Ranma watches the container flip end over end towards him. Amigi smiles evilly as it gets closer, spilling its contents before Ranma can react.) (Something, somewhere awakes.) (He felt the magic along his skin, lines of darkness ripping into his body. Tendrils of magic that seek something that isn't there, could not be there...) (...until a hand touches them, and the darkness pierces his body, burying itself deep in his heart. Dormant, silent, but lying in wait.) Voice: I will live again... (It laughs...) Akane(screams): Leave me alone! (she runs without thought, blind panic overcoming her. For the longest time the mocking laughter seems to follow her before reason takes over and fear recedes) What...what was that!? (She looks around, but there is no way of telling how near or far she might be from where she left. Endless scrolls, seemingly identical, stretch on in all directions.) Akane(angry): Damn it, where am I? (her voice echoes back at her) This isn't fair! (With a growl, she swings her fist, striking a nearby case. Dozens of scrolls fall around her...) Ranma: Kawaikune! Ranma: Flat-chested! Ranma: Gorilla face! Ranma: Stupid -girl-! Ranma: Rotten cook! Ranma: Tomboy! (Akane's eyes burn with anger as a multitude of Ranmas mock her with every insult she has ever heard from him. Driven to the breaking point, she lashes out at the only available target, the scrolls. Within seconds they lie in shreds, and the voices fade away to nothingness.) Akane(still angry): I just wish I could get my hands on you, Ranma! (And with that, she disappears.) ******** (The Tendo Dojo seems almost to glisten in the brilliant sunshine. Birds sing in the trees, and the fish swim contentedly in the pond. In the midst of thus picture-perfect scene, Ukyou lies slumped against the wall. With a gasp she awakens, staring wildly around for a moment.) Ukyou: (standing) Where did everyone go? Voices: ...good day for it...certainly is nice...about time they got around to...lovely occasion... (Frowning in puzzlement, Ukyou walks around the corner, blinking as she sees a multitude of familiar faces. Most of her friends, rivals and several people she doesn't even recognize stand around the yard in tuxedos, kimonos or dresses.) Ukyou: What's going on? Ryouga: (walking up to her) Ukyou, why aren't you dressed yet? Don't you know how special today is? Ukyou: What? Uh...no, not really. What're you wearing a tux for? Ryouga: (smiles proudly) I'm Ranma's best man! After he soundly kicked my butt eight times in a row and I admitted I was P-chan to Akane, we've gotten along fine! (grins again) Ukyou: (piku) Huh? (she backs away from the hyper-happy Ryouga and bumps into someone; she turns around quickly) I'm sorry... Tarou: (also in a tux) Don't apologise, Ukyou! (smiles) I'm not worth it! Since I'm the lowest scum on the earth and unworthy even to be target practice for Ranma, you don't even have to notice me! (Bowing deeply, he scuttles away. Ukyou, her eyes bulging, turns to look for someone a bit more normal and nearly runs into Shampoo.) Shampoo: Nihao! (clasps Ukyou's hand) This is great, yes? Who would have thought Shampoo be so happy once finally give up on Ranma and stop tormenting him in front of Akane or by turning into cat! (she smiles in a manner eerily similar to the last two) Ukyou: D...did somebody spike the water or something? Genma: (walks over, wearing a pleasant expression) Why no. After I apologised to Ranma for all the bad things I did to him and then took the burden of the problems I caused upon myself, it's simply that I've felt so happy I can hardly contain myself! Especially with Happousai stuck in that black hole! (Ukyou stares in shock, wrenching herself away from Shampoo and backing away.) Ukyou: A dream...that's it, I have to be dreaming! Voice: Look! Here comes Ranma and his bride! (Everyone except Ukyou cheers as Ranma and a woman in a western bridal dress-face hidden by a demurely lowered veil-come out of the house.) Ranma: Yes! (smiles happily) I am very happy with my one true love! Various men: We envy and respect you Ranma, for your vast skills and great good fortune! Various women: We desire you Ranma but only wish to make you happy, so we shall leave you alone! Nodoka: My son! A man among men! Everyone: Hip-hip, hooray! (Someone pulls a string and a round ball disgorges reams of confetti and a banner reading "Ranma's life is perfect!") Ukyou: (runs up to Ranma, who smiles at her) Ranchan! Snap out of it! What's happened to you? Ranma: I got married! Isn't that great? But...why aren't you... Ukyou: Ranma... (she moves towards the couple) This is some weird dream! This isn't happening! (she reaches for the veil) You're not married to... (she grips the veil, and suddenly falters) ...to... (her hand tightens on the fabric) ...not married to...but you want... (Tears form in Ukyou's eyes as she turns and runs, leaving all the amazingly happy people behind.) Ukyou: (wiping her eyes) I...I just want to be with... (And as she flees the incomplete scene, she disappears.) ******** (Scene: the vacant lot near the dojo. Impromptu stadium for many a battle, it has seen better days; gouts and tears in the earth show the remnants of old conflicts. The slowly sinking sun casts a quiet pallor over the area. Then two women appear, a single name on both of their lips.) Akane&Ukyou: Ranma! (With a sigh of relief, they approach each other.) Ukyou: Akane-chan, are you alright? Akane: Uh...fine, just a little annoyed I guess. (looks closely at Ukyou) What happened to you? Have you been crying? Ukyou: I... (looks away) No, I just got something in my eye... Akane: (skeptically) I see. (looks around) Where are we? Ukyou: Some sort of dream, I think. Akane: (eyes widen) I hope you're right! Look! (She points and Ukyou follows the line of her vision, and then her eyes widen as well. There, in the centre of the field, two figures are locked in a contest of strength. Ranma grimaces as he strives to bring low...himself, or herself as the case may be. Senchi is his opponent, and she appears to be forcing him back.) Senchi(snarls): You cannot win! You cannot fight who you really are! (Ranma breaks the grip and kicks Senchi in the chest, knocking her back.) Ranma: I am my own man! You are nothing but a magic curse! (Senchi leaps at him, catching him on the jaw with a flying cross.) Senchi: Magic only released me! I am the you you never think about! I was always a part of you! The stronger part! (Ranma seizes her and drives an elbow into her shoulder, forcing her to her knees.) Ranma: I am the real me, what I should be! (Senchi hurls dirt into his face and slugs him in the gut.) Senchi: I am the you that was MEANT to be! Ukyou: Ranma! Don't give in! (She runs forward, but is hurled back by an invisible force.) Akane: Fight Ranma! We'll help you! Ukyou: (getting up slowly) I don't think he can hear you...I don't think either is really here. Akane: What do you mean? (Ranma lands a mighty uppercut, sending Senchi flying into the air.) Ranma: I am the one who lives my life! (he leaps after her) I am the one who chooses my destiny! (Senchi engages him in midair combat and manages to kick him to the ground.) Senchi: I am the you who is free of constraint! I act on your real desires! I am the you without fear! (Ranma roars and tosses a Moko Takabisha that drives the descending Senchi through a wall on the other side of the lot.) Ranma: I am the me I chose to be! (Senchi glows with black light and lashes out with a blast of darkness that sends Ranma to the ground.) Senchi: I am the you you WANT to be! Ranma: (getting up) Never! (The two run at each other and grip their hands again in the test of strength.) Ukyou: This is all a dream...like I thought... Akane: Amigi knocked us unconscious? Ukyou: No. This is a dream, but not -our- dream! Akane: (realisation dawns) You mean... (Unnoticed by the other two, Tarou watches the events from a nearby rooftop.) Tarou: Very good, Ukyou. You figured it out. (evil chuckle) We're inside fem-boy's mind. Isn't that right, Amigi? (Turning, he smirks at Amigi, who was trying to sneak up upon him. The wizard looks embarrassed for a moment, but then straightens and smiles cruelly.) Amigi: I should have suspected you would figure it out. You're much too clever for your own good. Tarou(flatly): Or yours. What was the point of coming here? Amigi: Them. (he points at the battling duo below) And this. (reaching into his robes, he draws forth a golden amulet) Tarou: Well, that was illuminating. Amigi: Those two are in a constant mental battle, one against the other for control of the mind. (he swings the amulet on the chain) When the body shifts, one or the other gains the upper hand, but both still exist. Here and now, however, the body is unimportant, so neither has the advantage. Tarou: Where is 'here'? Amigi: Ranma's mind, as you surmised, and yet not. It would be difficult to explain precisely... Tarou: Then don't. (stabs a finger at Amigi) How do we get out of here? Amigi: A portal I shall create just before using this amulet shall let me out. Tarou: And the amulet will do...? Amigi: Only destroy every sentient will in this plane except Senchi's. (megalomaniacal laugh) And then she shall belong to me. Tarou: (snorts) Unlikely. Why should I let you get away with this? Amigi: (shrugs) Why should you not? What have you to gain by stopping me? Tarou: ... Amigi: (smiles) That's right, nothing. I'll even let you leave. Tarou: (nods head vaguely) What about the girls? Amigi: I doubt they'll listen to reason. I warned them not to get involved, but... (smiles evilly) Well, I'm sure you realise that one can't make an okonomiyaki without breaking a few eggs, eh? Tarou: (eyetwitch) No... (clenches fists) I don't think I'll let you get away with that. (evil chuckle) After all, I still need fem-boy a little longer. Amigi: ... (begins to glow) And what makes you think you can stop me? Tarou: (smirks) As if that wasn't obvious... (Tarou is suddenly in motion, sliding forward at inhuman speed. His fist lashes out...but Amigi is no longer there. The magus has flown back out of range, and is holding glowing orbs in each hand.) Amigi: You underestimate me. Tarou: Is that even possible? Amigi: (laughs) Oh yes, it is very possible! ZERIAL BRAND! (Tarou dodges as Amigi hurls a lightning bolt at him, charring a hole in the roof. He moves as if to close, but is forced to break off as Amigi begins to fill the air with balls of fire and shards of ice. The Chinese youth dances between the magics, but is unable to move close enough to strike.) Tarou: [I'll have to get him to waste his energy, get careless...] (shouts) Impressive, mage-man! Going to pull a rabbit out of your hat next? Amigi: You make the mistake of thinking you can beat me... (floats higher) ...on a battlefield of the mind! Tarou: I don't get into battles of will with unarmed opponents! Amigi: How lucky you are, then. (smiles evilly) By heaven and earth, break the seals of one from another! Aerial Battle Theatre! (Tarou stops as the rooftop he stands upon shudders with an audible crack. With a grunt he leaps, barely avoiding being carried up as the roof shatters and rushes into the sky. He lands on a nearby house but is thrown to his knees at it too falls apart and floats upward. Regaining his feet, he shifts his balance to avoid being thrown off as the section of roof begins to spin and whirl through the air in a seemingly random circuit. Through the corner of his eyes, he notes that the other roofs, houses and even great chunks of earth and rock have been torn up and freed from gravity's control.) Amigi: (megalomaniacal laugh) Come and get me, boy! (he floats up to a giant chunk of pavement) If you can! Tarou: Nice trick, but I've seen better at county fairs! (he begins leaping from platform to platform, circling closer to Amigi) Amigi: Then perhaps this shall impress you further. TENSHO YAREYEN! (A bolt of darkness flies from his hands, striking a platform just as Tarou lands on it. With a shriek of protest the section of wall disintegrates. Tarou's eyes widen and he manages to leap before he is completely without support, but his frantic lunge only allows him to desperately grab a nearby chunk of rock, hanging suspended.) Amigi: Farewell. BAISUU TENSHO YAREYEN! (Dozens of black darts explode from his hands, each flying unerringly towards one of the pieces of floating debris near Tarou. With a growl, Tarou releases his grip on the rock just as it disintegrates...and kicks off a floating hatrack that is destroyed nanoseconds later...and catches and swings around a telephone as it ceases to exist...and flies straight past Amigi, delivering a vicious foreknuckle as he does. Tarou smirks, but the incipient gloating is cut off as he rams fulltilt into a rock that was floating behind the wizard.) Tarou: (long string of curses) That's annoying. (he gets up and turns to face his foe) Amigi: (massaging his bruised jaw; his lip is bleeding) Very good...but not sufficient. Tarou: Alright, now you've gotten me angry. (cracks knuckles; eyes flare dangerously) Don't mess with me, little wizard, or I'll rip your heart out. Amigi: (smiles) No, I think I'll teach you a lesson instead. Tarou: (leaps towards Amigi) Bastard! Amigi: (snaps a palm out) NEGATIVE VORTEX FIELD! (Tarou's only has time to widen his eyes before the eldritch lightning springs to life. A moment later he collapses, smoking, at Amigi's feet. He struggles to rise, but his body won't cooperate.) Amigi: There is a reason I'm over two hundred years old, boy! (laughs) Better than you have failed to defeat me! (he snaps his fingers and the world is suddenly back to normal, without even a hole to mark the previous destruction) Now you can die along with the rest! (he pulls out the amulet) Goodbye... (WHANG!) (Amigi falls forward, amulet slipping from nerveless fingers. Ukyou stands over him, brandishing her spatula.) Akane: Nice fireworks display. Did you think we wouldn't notice it? Amigi: (groans) I was rather hoping... (He turns suddenly, but finds the edge of a spatula at his throat.) Ukyou: Don't even think it! Amigi: (gulps; smiles thinly) Think what? Akane: Tarou-kun? Are you alright? (she offers her hand) Tarou: (weakly swipes it aside) Yes, I just do this for my health. Being fried takes years off you! (he struggles to his knees) [Of all the embarrassing...] Akane: (taken aback) I...fine then. (she crosses her arms and glares at him, then at Amigi) Ukyou: What are you up to, Diatonobi? Amigi: (smirks) Just pursuing a little hobby. Ukyou: Why don't I believe you? Amigi: Perhaps because... (his eyes shift to the amulet) Tarou: (eyes widen) Ukyou, put him down! Ukyou: What? Amigi: DEION FLARE! (Ukyou is pushed back a sudden surge of light) Fools! It's too late! (he points at the amulet) ACTIVATE! (The amulet suddenly snaps open, releasing a giant arc of lightning into the sky. Almost instantaneously, dark clouds appear and being to swirl overhead. Everyone stares in shock at this for a moment...and then the first bolt hits, reducing a house two doors down to vapour. Amigi laughs, leaping over to the next roof. Cursing, Tarou climbs to his feet and give chase as Ukyou and Akane go in the opposite direction, towards Ranma.) Tarou: You idiots! It's too late for him! Save yourselves! (Either not hearing or ignoring him, they leap down towards Ranma...and another giant white-hot arc strikes the vacant lot with an enormous explosion. The girls cry out as they are thrown back by the shockwave...Tarou stands in indecision, unable to choose where to run.) Amigi: Path of Kyriotates! (he draws arcane sigils in the air, which melt together to form a glowing blue portal) Enjoy the rest of your lives, however short they may be! Tarou: Not this time! (somehow ignoring his injuries, he leaps, tackling Amigi to the ground. With a roar he twists the mage's arms behind his back) Now you have to stop this, because I won't let you leave until you do! Voice: No. (Tarou turns and sees Senchi standing across from him. Her arms are crossed, and her expression dark.) Senchi: Let him go, Tarou. Tarou: Like hell I will. (bends the arms further, prompting a yell from Amigi) How do I stop this? Amigi: I'll...take you back! (Tarou risks a quick glance and sees the girls helping a dazed Ranma along the rooftops. It's obvious from the increased rhythm of the blasts that they won't make it in time.) Senchi: Forget them! This is your chance! Tarou: (turns his attention back to Senchi) What makes you think that? Senchi: If you leave with him now, you win! Ranma will be gone, and you will have fulfilled your part of our agreement. Tarou: ... Senchi: (eyes narrow) And I will get you a new name from Happousai, just as we agreed. (Tarou relaxes his grip slightly) And then you can leave Nerima, there'll be no reason for you to stay here anymore! Tarou: ... (he closes his eyes) [Gone. Finally I have a chance to get all I've ever wanted...no more name, no more Ranma, no more Nerima...] (Time stops.) Tarou: (softly) No more... (Time restarts.) Tarou: No. (he wrenches Amigi's arms almost to the breaking point) Talk, Amigi! How do I stop this!? Amigi: (cries out) The amulet...AHH!...destroy...the amulet! Senchi(shrieks): NO! (She leaps at Tarou, but is a fraction of a second too slow, for Tarou is already running along the rooftop as fast as his battered body can carry him. Senchi spins on her toes and takes off a half- step behind him, hand extended to catch him. Somehow, with a strength born of desperation he pushes himself even faster. Senchi roars in animal rage, and her hand turns black.) Senchi: I WILL NOT BE DENIED! (Tarou leaps, the amulet finally in range as he raises a fist overhead. The sky opens up, dozens of blasts all at once...) Senchi: RA SHIN GINKIRI!!! (Tarou's fist descends, the black energy racing him and a ball of supercharged air following him down...) (WHITEOUT) ******** (Scene: the backyard of the Tendo Dojo. Akane, Ukyou, Ranma and Amigi all lay on the ground, unconscious. Presently, Akane opens her eyes with a groan of pain. She sits up, and notes Ukyou also getting herself together.) Ukyou: (looks around) Did that...did that really happen? Akane: I think so... (Both girls spot Ranma at the same time and with twin gasps run over to him. After a few moment, he stirs and sits up.) Ranma: Man, do I ever have a headache... Ukyou: (relieved sigh) You're okay. Ranma: I had the weirdest dream... (looks at Ukyou and Akane) You guys were in it. (points at Amigi) And so was he. Amigi: (wailing) My beautiful plan! Ruined! Curses! Foiled again! Several other villain cliches! Akane: (sweatdrop) Get lost, Amigi. Amigi: (stands, obviously in pain) This isn't over! (he vanishes into a cloud of smoke) Ranma: (shakes his head) Geez, what a... (pauses) Ukyou: A what? Ranma: (frowns) A... Akane: Well, spit it out. Ranma: (glares at her) I will, you... ...uh, that is, you... girl! (Akane and Ukyou blink.) Akane: What are you saying, Ranma? Ranma: I said you're... ...! Akane: (sweats) Oh no...I...I'm sorry, Ranma! (bows) I think I broke your brain! Ranma: (eyes bulge) You -what-!? You ...! You ...! ...! ...! Akane: Err...well, at least the part that lets you insult people. Ranma(growls): Just great! Some ... ...errgh, some girl messed up my head! Akane: Well, maybe I'm not all that sorry. (smiles) Ukyou: (looking around) Wait. Where's Tarou? Ranma: Who cares? (crosses arms) This ... girl broke my brain! Akane: (laughs) It didn't take much! ******** (Scene: Ucchan's. Ukyou steps inside and walks towards the back, but stops as she notices a piece of paper on the grill. With a frown she picks it up...) Tarou-voiceover: Ukyou. By the time you read this note I will have left. (Scene fades to show Tarou walking along a path out of Tokyo, carrying a large pack.) Tarou-vo: I have packed all of my things and cleaned the room. Don't worry about my pay; I don't need it. (Tarou turns, looking back at the lights of the city.) Tarou-vo: I am leaving because I can no longer live here. I am a wanderer, and can make no attachments to anything. I have left all the money I made, in order to help you cope with losing your delivery service. (Tarou lowers his head and walks away.) Tarou-vo: Goodbye, Ukyou. (Scene dissolves back to the Ucchan. Ukyou puts down the note and stares at the wall in silence...) End. Author's notes: Epsilon: That ought to keep the slavering Tarou fanboys happy. Blade: Heh, it's strange to think that there might be slavering Tarou fanboys. Aside from me, of course. Epsilon: Of course. Anyway, was that the last of our favourite aquatransabomination? Will he return? Blade: That's for us to know and you to find out! But for everyone who's confidently predicting a return next chapter, go take a flying leap, 'cause I can tell you that's not the case! Epsilon: Of course, anyone with that low of an opinion of us probably isn't reading this anyway. Blade: You're assuming anyone, good, bad, or indifferent, is reading this. The amount of C&C we get indicates otherwise. Epsilon: That would be because we're so damn good that nobody has anything to complain about. Blade: Ah-ha! Why didn't I see that before? It's so obvious! Epsilon: Anyway, next chapter...the long-awaited return appearance of Kodachi! Blade: A big fight! Epsilon: A sentient spinach! Blade: All this and more in the next chapter of CoD! Epsilon: Which isn't finn-ished yet! Blade: (facefault) Handy Special Move Guide: Tensho Yareyen - Rising Heaven Devour Arrow Baisuu Tensho Yareyen - Multiple Rising Heaven Devour Arrows SPECIAL NOTE: These last three CoD chapters were delayed in release due to Blade's having travelled to Africa, subsequently getting hit by a truck, and spending several months in the hospital (for anybody who's interested, he's recovering, although he won't walk for quite a few months and may require a hip replacement). In any case, during that time, Blade and Epsilon had some long discussions about CoD. We had already decided to heavily rewrite the first eight chapters, basically due to the fact that we now look back on them and find them completely chock-full of fanboyish crap, inaccurate character/special move depictions, blatent character bias, and all the other fun things that we like to criticise other writers for having. In fact, as it turned out, we've decided to be even a little more thorough in rewriting than we first expected: we've decided to redo the entire series in prose format. Yes! One of the last major bastions of script format fanfic-if we may be so completely arrogant as to call it that-has finally converted. This is mostly due to the increasingly serious tone of the series; while we like to think we've done a good job with the last few chapters in script, they and future developments will work better in prose. Plus, frankly, we're now more comfortable writing in prose format. Thus, while it will necessitate some delay-but hey, any CoD fans out there are used to THAT-we are confident the result will be a much better overall fanfic, which should move faster in the future. Further details, and information for anybody wanting to be a prereader for the CoD rewrites, can be found out at the brand-new, ultra-spiffy C&A Productions website, at: http://www.crosswinds.net/~ayiekie/fanfic.htm Jya ne!