Continuing Tales

Destiny's Child

A Crossovers Story
by Fire

Part 16 of 26

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Destiny's Child

If Wednesday was a time for talking, then Thursday was the calm before the storm. Friday was the day of action. Unknown to the participants, it was to be a day of pivotal importance. A day when cultures would collide, and issues once thought settled would be torn open like a new wound.

It all started so innocently. Ranma had come to the Hikawa shrine that afternoon for a quick lesson. Rei-san was expecting to go out with some of her friends, so he would only be visiting for a short while. When he walked through the entrance, he was surprised to see Rei walking towards him, holding something to her chest.

As they walked together to the room where they would be studying, he looked over her burden and was studied in return. Nestled in her arms, snuggled against her breasts was a small black piglet. It big, soulful eyes, a yellow and black bandanna, and looked enormously contented and snug. Staring at it intently, he could have sworn that it was Ryoga's cursed form. But Ryoga hated that form, so there was no way that he would voluntarily use it like this. Not only that, but the shrine's wards should cause him all manner of pain. Not to say the least, Ranma (and Rei) should have felt his demonic influence easily.

Rei noticed Ranma's rapt attention, and held up the little pig so he could see better. "I found him wandering around earlier today. Isn't he just unbelievably cute?"

Rei gave a smile so happy and warm, it could have heated a football stadium. Ranma's heart thudded in his chest. For an angry, uptight, aggressive, uncute, tomboy like her, she really was very beautiful. After a moment, Ranma shook his mind free of the thoughts in it. It was disgusting. She must have been fifteen, he was over four hundred. More importantly, he was married. How could he be thinking these unfaithful thoughts about Rei-san?

Yes! Yes, he would not be unfaithful to his beloved wife. Rei-san was not an uncute tomboy. She was just a beautiful girl. That was all. Just plain old beautiful. Nothing uncute about her at all.

Ranma noticed that in his concentration he had stopped walking, and was still starring at where the pig had been. Only Rei-san had lifted the pig up to give it a kiss. Which meant he had been staring intently at her breasts for several seconds. Slowly he lifted his eyes and, with his face burning in shame, looked in her face. Her very angry face.

"Ranma you pervert!"

The words were like music to his ears. He had first heard those words the day he met his wife. But somehow, the sheer pleasure of hearing those words was torture in his soul. They were words never again to be uttered by Akane, and that hurt more than the insult could possibly have intended. He looked at the ground and studied his feet for a moment before he could find his voice again.

"S-Sorry, Rei-san. I... I just thought I recognised the pig. It looks a lot like Hotaru's pet pig, Ryoga."

Ranma bent down and studied the pig at close range when she held it out to him. Looking into it's eyes, he pointed his finger at it and asked. "Is that you in there, Ryoga?"

Chomp! "Judging by the way that he gnawing on my finger, I'd say that it is Ryoga."

He barely heard Rei's offer to let him take the pig home, because while he was touching the pig, he was straining to sense the demon inside. Finally he found it, and was amazed at how well the demonic powers were hidden. Being in his piglet form seemed to have stripped Ryoga of almost all of his powers. Since Ryoga was also consciously hiding his heritage as much as possible, it was no wonder neither Rei nor the wards had been able to see the evil influence that permeated his being. The only reason Ranma could see it was he knew exactly what to look for.

The lesson was a fairly short one. Shorter still since the pig got more attention than Ranma did. Rei spent most of the time hugging the little porker to her, and cooing with little baby noises. As time went by, Ranma became more and more aggrieved, watching how the demon was taking advantage of his form.

As Ranma was leaving, one of Rei's friends walked in the gate. It was the girl with the short black hair he had met the other night. Whereas most people would not deny Rei qualified as beautiful, this girl more ranked as 'cute'. She was nice, but nothing to write home about, really. She seemed a fairly quite girl, and if he could remember her name, he might be able to say hello and brighten her day.

Just as the newcomer was captivated by the little pig in his hands, he remembered. "Hello, Ami-chan. Rei-san was just telling me you were going out tonight. I hope you have a good time."

Ami blushed under the scrutiny of the good looking man. It was sad in so many ways, really. She could not even remember being introduced to him, but he was immediately calling her 'Ami-chan', and acting friendly. Even after knowing Rei for a few months, he still called her 'Rei-san'. She knew that distant formality hurt Rei, it was easy enough for the Senshi to see how she felt about the man that she was teaching.

In the day following every training session with Ranma, Rei would tell her friends about what they had done. Ranma was always a perfect gentlemen. He was smart, a good student, and so wise and powerful in other ways. Not only that, but he refused to act in the same way that every other boy in school seemed to. While some of the boys thought Rei was an 'Ice Queen', cold and distant, most of them showed how their brains were suffering from hormone overload. Ranma never acted like that.

Ami noticed the way that Rei had flinched slightly when Ranma spoke to her. So forward with her, but so withdrawn from Rei. To hear her talk, he could be joking, friendly and comfortable one minute, and seconds later he would withdraw, seeming to hold a certain distance between the two of them.

Waving goodbye to Ranma and his pig, she watched the two of them wander down the road that joined the shrine. Looking at her friend, she wondered whether Rei had summoned the courage to ask Ranma to join them when the girls went to dinner. Looking at the dejected expression, she guessed she had not.

Ranma did not carry the pig for too long before he stepped into a cafe and bought some tea. Taking the disposable cup with him, he headed into a small alley between some houses and dropped the pig on the ground. Ryoga looked up at him with those big, mournful, piggy eyes of his, and Ranma forced himself to remember that this form was just an aberration. Normally Ryoga would change into a giant rampaging wild boar, almost a ton of muscle, hooves and tusks.

A splash of tea, and Ryoga was human in appearance once more. Snarling at Ranma, he summoned clothes and attired himself in his normal travelling wear. After a while, the two men stood there in the alley. Nose to nose, and both tense with emotions only just held in check, the stalemate held for numerous seconds. Finally Ranma spoke.

"So, Ryoga. Mind telling me what you were up to?"

Ryoga leaned back against the wall and looked away. His posture was deliberately insulting. Almost as insulting as the tone he used. "I really don't see how it's any of your problem Ranma. You made me like this, so I'm just keeping myself entertained."

Stepping in front of the demon boy, Ranma clenched his fists in anger. "Seeing as you're here to bother me, and she's a friend of mine, then 'yes', it is my problem. What are you up to?"

"Hey, I'm a demon. Use your imagination."

"You're not a demon at the moment, Ryoga. Try acting like a man for a change."

Ryoga grabbed fistfuls of Ranma's shirt and lifted him off the ground. "It's you're fault that I'm not a demon at the moment. I said I'm going to destroy your happiness, and I mean it. Besides, I don't want to go without food forever."

Ranma freed himself and stood his ground in the face of the bigger boy's anger. "Huh? Food? What food?"

"Oh, come on, Ranma. You know what demons eat. Souls. Preferably the souls and bodies of ripe young virgins. You're toy still is one you know. I can smell it. Her friends too. I can just see myself corrupting their souls."

"Idiot. She lives in a temple. With that many wards you'd fry before you ate any of her soul."

"Oh, but a little piggy can just walk around at night. And those wards aren't too hard to damage. A little bite, a little tear, and hey presto. No more ward.

"You know, I almost started to possess her last night. All alone. Just her and I. You know, she took her precious pet P-Chan to bed last night. There was I crawling all over ---"

He was cut off mid-sentence as Ranma's temper went ballistic. In the space of three words, Ranma lost his control and gave into his anger. Burning like a magnesium flare, his aura surrounded him. It flickered slightly as he brought his hands together and screamed "MOKO TAKABISHA!"

Weak compared to what he could have done, the focused beam of Ki burned it's way straight into Ryoga's sternum, through his spine, then through seven brick walls behind him. Still wearing an expression that was caught changing between gloating and surprise, Ryoga toppled over lifelessly.

'Hmm. For a class 4 demon, he really wasn't that powerful.' Ranma bent down and pressed his fingers to the side of the demon's neck, searching for a pulse. There was none.

Standing up to leave the scene of the crime, Ranma was taken completely off guard when a grip of iron caught his neck. Scrabbling at the fingers ineffectually, Ranma began to turn blue as he watched Ryoga stand. Ryoga rose to his feet, and held his struggling victim a foot off the ground.

"Demons don't have a pulse. Did you honestly think a little hole like that would slow me down? Me? A class 6 demon?"

Mentally, Ranma cursed himself. It had been over a century since he had first summoned Ryoga. Of course someone like him had grown more powerful. Even as he watched, the hole in Ryoga's chest filled with flesh and bone, sealing over. In under ten seconds he may never have been injured at all.

Laughing with glee (and a generous touch of megalomania), Ryoga threw the smaller man down the alley, and through the chain link fence that ended it. As garbage flew everywhere, Ryoga began to advance on Ranma. He would make this slow and painful. Initially he had wanted to make Ranma suffer as he had suffered. Now the anger was upon him. Rational thought fled his brain, and only the bloodlust mattered now.

Kicking boxes aside, Ryoga searched for his prey. As soon as he was close enough, Ranma threw off his cover and delivered a pair of powerful kicks to the demon's midsection. Punches followed, then a throw that packed enough force to crater the wall behind him.

Demons and humans fundamentally used the same source of magic. And that source - or more precisely: a person's ability to drain that source - was definitely limited. Every time Ryoga healed himself, he drained his magic. When Ryoga used up all his magic, he would no longer be able to heal. When he could no longer heal, he could be killed. Fine in theory, but a demon of Ryoga's calibre had a hell of a lot of magic, and healing took very little of it.

Even as this bare skeleton of a plan flashed through his brain, Ranma was up and moving. Scaling the sheer brick side of the building, he dodged the first two fireballs that Ryoga sent, then deflected the third off his magical shield.

Moving in to close quarters, Ranma's aura began to shrink as he pulled in the power, focusing it, and using it for productive means. His senses sharpened, his speed increased, and his strength multiplied beyond any credible limit. For a short time - say a minute or two - Ranma was entirely capable of slugging it out with pig-boy at close quarters. So he did.

At the end of two minutes their alley had widened to the size of a city block because of the collateral damage they were doing. Missed blows shattered brick and concrete, while a successful hit would send the recipient through a wall. Dimly, at the edge of his senses, Ranma could feel the people running from their battle. Any normal person that was caught in their next stage would be crisped like yesterdays toast.

By the end of two minutes, Ranma had accomplished very little against Ryoga, but he had achieved the effect that he desired. In order to prevent himself being reduced to a messy puddle by the enhanced Ranma, Ryoga had been forced to call on his own inner powers. Now Ryoga revealed his heritage for all to see.

Unable to convert to his most powerful battle form - the raging wild boar - Ryoga was now only one step away from unleashing his own private hell on earth. His fangs had grown to the point where they could no longer be fully contained in his mouth, and the massive fangs protruded out where they could do the most damage if he manage to bite someone. His skin, once smooth like any man's, was now covered in short, coarse, dark hairs. His skin was halfway between it's normal pink and the black of his pig form. While his hands and feet had not reached the cloven form of a pig's trotters, they were hardened and reinforced with extra bone and cartilage.

As Ranma withdrew breathing heavily, he eyed his opponent. Ranma's attack had weakened himself severely, but it had hardly phased his enemy. Before they started fighting, Ranma wondered if he would have been able to defeat Ryoga. It would have been close, too close. Now that he had wasted so much of his Ki on an ineffectual attack, there was no way that he would be able to outlast Ryoga in the extended battle that this was sure to become.

But now Ryoga looked like the demon he was. And the stench of demon would fill the air for miles, even more so when they began to hurl some serious magic. One thing he had learned from watching the news was that where there were demons, there were demon killers. With the amount of damage he was sure they were going to do, those girls in skirts would be here in a flash.

Fighting demons was not about fighting fair. It was about fighting to win, and winning was what Anything Goes specialised in. If winning meant roping in professional demon killers, he had no objection to that.

All this thinking had taken too long, however. While Ranma was still gathering himself, Ryoga was recharged and ready for more. Launching a series of fireballs, he began to track the running Ranma, each one closer than the last.

Eventually Ranma was hit, and the magical energies impacted on his shield, throwing the boy backwards into the wall of flames created by eight missed attacks. Although the magical strike failed to hurt him (only depleting his own reserves further), the perfectly natural flames on the ground eagerly attacked his shirt when he landed on a flaming support beam.

Although he had started the day in one his favourite outfits - black silk pants and a red silk Chinese shirt - he had to quickly doff his shirt. Running along half naked, Ranma looked for more clothes. Luck was with him, since Ryoga decided to change from the energy inefficient fireballs to the more focused Digger Bolt. A Digger Bolt would basically cause a small explosion at the point of contact for the spell. It was nowhere near as good for an area effect weapon, but against a single target like Ranma, it could be fired with abandon.

Changing course, Ranma jumped and leaped, avoiding several strikes. Two of those that missed opened up a house, and he saw his chance. Racing through what had once been a bedroom, he grabbed the first pieces of clothing he came to. Looking down into his hands, he grunted his disapproval. He needed the clothes in case he changed into a girl, and having two layers was useful against fire attacks, but was a white shirt and formal jacket really what he needed?

After dressing himself while on the run, it was time to take the fight back to Ryoga. Launching a pair of his own fireballs, he bracketed his foe. While Ryoga was locked in position with the flames, Ranma dropped to one knee and fired another Moko Takabisha. He was low on Ki, but spiritual attacks could be harder to deflect than mere magic.

Luck was with him, and the blast went exactly where he wanted. Shattering one knee, he briefly gained the manoeuvring advantage. Circling his opponent, Ranma almost cried out in dismay, Exchanging Digger Bolts shot for shot, Ryoga regained his feet, and regrew the damaged knee.

Both warriors were beginning to tire now. They were surrounded by shattered buildings, flame, and a modern vision of hell. Still they fought on, because the first one to try to retreat would be hunted down and killed in his weakness. To loose was to die. Ranma circled him again, throwing magic.

Suddenly Ryoga fell to one knee. Looking closely, Ranma could see the blazing pyre that engulfed half his body. Both fighters hesitated briefly and looked at the source of the new attack. Perhaps, this was the help Ranma had been hoping for.

Before he could see anyone, he head the words "MERCURY BUBBLE BLAST!" and the world was shrouded in impenetrable white fog. Damn! They must be short of some of the team members and need time for the others to arrive. Don't they realise that he's at his weakest now? If they give him time he'll just recover again!

Deciding that he needed to watch this fight in action, Ranma looked around. Several of the houses were still standing in the immediate vicinity. Dashing into one, he looked around for a disguise. The last thing he needed was for every demon hunter in the city to be looking for a certain Tendo Ranma. In the first house he visited he found exactly what he needed.

A black silk scarf with holes for eyes wrapped around his head. It was much the same way that his father used to wear it, but this style would cover his hair and eyes, giving him the anonymity that he needed. Grabbing a pitch black cloak on impulse he leaped to the top of a brick chimney and looked down on the thinning fog. Good. In moments the fight would be rejoined.

Sailor Mercury was the first to see the demon as the fog thinned. It was different from most of the ones she had fought in recent times. For one thing, it was an out and out demon: risen from the very pits of hell. Most of their recent opponents had been Daimons, a strange fusion of animate evil with inanimate objects.

Looking closely at the demon, she wondered exactly what sort it was. To all appearances it was a cross breed, a half man - half demon thing. All the other true demons she had known had the ability to convert to some true monstrous form. The forms they chose seemed to largely be composed of things with too many tentacles, too many teeth, too many mouths, and lots of dripping slime. This guy had the tooth size down pat, but the rest of him could almost pass for some hideously deformed man. Almost. If it was not for the aura of pure, distilled evil that fell form every pore of his skin, she may have been fooled.

Now that the fog had thinned, the demon regained it's feet from where it had been kneeling. It looked around and spotted the two pretty soldiers.

Then it smiled.

Sailor Mars had not concentrated on the demon initially because she was searching for it's enemy. Whatever it had been fighting, it was not a Senshi, and anything else capable of doing this much damage was worthy of grave consideration. After she looked for a while she could spot no- one aside from Tuxedo Kamen, mounting his vigil from on high.

Hmm, that's odd. He's not wearing his usual mask and top hat. Must be in the wash today... For that matter, he usually doesn't show himself until Sailor Moon is in trouble.

She had almost reached the conclusion that this was not Tuxedo Kamen when the demon started to move. Whoever was on the chimney could wait: they presented nowhere near the threat of an angry demon. Flashing a glance at her comrade in arms, they leapt in unison.

At the peak of their arcs, both pretty soldiers sent their attacks streaming in. On one side, the demon was caught in the freezing blast of water, and on the other it was roasted alive with the cleansing fire of Mars' attack.

Each of them landed and struck a triumphant pose. The demon's skin was charred and blackened; looking and smelling like it was the get of honour for pig-on-a-spit. Moments after they landed, their confidence began to waver as the blackened skin simply fell off, revealing healthy skin underneath. The demon smiled most unnervingly and pulled a bandanna off it's head.

Watching carefully, Sailor Mercury was astounded to see that the demon was actually pulling several bandannas off. By the time it had six in it's hand, both Sailor's were quite nonplussed. Things became even stranger when the demon began to swing them around and throw them at the Senshi. Each of the girls took off in a different direction, circling the demon, trying to reduce the number of projectiles he could target on either one.

Their plan almost worked. They both managed to evade the bulk of the razor edged bandannas, but were caught by one or two each. Sailor Mars took a small cut to her upper arm, but both girls had their skirts ripped by the weapons. Normally this would have resulted in large expanses of firm legs being exposed indecently to the public, but the Senshi's clothes were designed with this in mind: their skirts were already so short, that even a massive tear hardly showed anything new.

The torn skirts did have a profound psychological effect however. An age of combat against Ranma, followed by the magic blasts by the Senshi had failed to do any permanent harm to Ryoga. At the thought of lovely bodies - with their scant clothing torn in strategically positioned ways - Ryoga's face went bright red, and a stream of blood began to pour from his nose.

High up on the chimney, Ranma shook his head in sorrow at the pathetic sight ahead of him. How Ryoga ever expected to be a demon and devour virgins he never knew. The fool would collapse from blood loss before he did anything.

Ranma watched the girls and studied their style as they carried the fight to the demon. They were fast and strong, that much was obvious. They also seemed to place a greater emphasis on strength over skill. He knew that if he wielded the level of power that they did, he was confident that he could do better. Then again, whenever he really cut loose, there tended to be a loss of accuracy. He could not really fault their style, since even though there was only two of them, they were fighting an even battle against Ryoga. It was only recently Ranma realised just how much of a challenge that would be.

Looking carefully at the girls, he tried to memorise their faces, so that he would recognise them next time. As he studied them, he realised that there was a glamour field surrounding each of them. A glamour was a spell which confused the viewer. When he looked at them, he might see a face, but it would not be their real face, even cameras would be fooled. The only way to break a glamour this powerful would be to watch it being cast; even a moments distraction at a critical time and he would not be able to see them. He would just have to hope of catching these girls some time when they were powering-up.

While the two girls changed tactics and tried to attack Ryoga physically - each one coming in from a different side - he tried studying them in another manner. He was already impressed with their beauty, especially that of girl with the long black hair and short red skirt. The only thing that upset him was that anyone that beautiful must surely be the result of the glamour spell they were using. This girl was even better looking than Rei-san, and that was certainly saying something. Concentrating, he shifted his vision and tried to look at their spirits, the manifestation of their Ki.

Although the glamour prevented him from positively identifying them in this manner, he could still see their overriding emotions. Both of them showed fear, worry and confusion; what else could you expect when you were fighting something the power of Ryoga? What startled him and drew him like a moth to the flame was the emotions of the girl in the red skirt again. Truly, she was even more beautiful spiritually than physically. She fairly boiled over with anger, aggression, and a fierce will. He had not seen anyone quite like that since he married Akane!

Suddenly a spike of pain surged through her aura, and he realised just how close hers was to Ryoga's. Shifting back to mundane vision, he was horrified to see the girl was behind held by the throat by one of Ryoga's powerful hands. Fortunately his other hand was being kept busy throwing small fireballs at the girl in the blue uniform, but that situation could not last. As soon as he realised that he could ignore one for a while, the Girl Guides would be looking for a new member.

His time watching had allowed him to rest for a while, so he gathered his Ki for another exhausting attack. Even as the girl was turning a similar shade, a large blue ball formed in his hands and he fired it out to the call of "MOKO TAKABISHA!"

The blast burned straight through Ryoga's fore-arm. There was no way it could be a lethal wound, but it would buy the girl the time she needed. When she sprawled at Ryoga's feet - luxurious black hair everywhere, and magnificent chest heaving in a most disturbing manner as she sucked in deep breaths - he realised he needed to distract Ryoga long enough for her to escape.

"Pretty soldier, hear my words. Never fear the darkness of evil, for you are the light that shines in the dark. Yours is the strength of a pure heart, and you shall have the strength of ten men - ten BIG men - because of it."

He felt like an idiot spouting poetic garbage like that, but it worked. The girl got to her feet while Ryoga was building for a magic attack against him. As soon as she started to run, the other warrior for love, justice and tight clothing cast her Mercury Bubble Blast again. Ranma groaned in resignation as the battlefield was covered in a fog so thick and impenetrable that he could no longer see anyone.

A bright flash in the clouds showed the path of Ryoga's fireball, but it blew up against a building in the distance. After this much fighting, and with three opponents still up and playing, Ryoga could not afford to cast spells wildly in the hope of getting a hit.

Within the fog, Ryoga looked around, desperately seeking his foes. He almost had one! He could feel her pulse weakening as he squeezed. He had almost killed one of the dreaded Sailor Senshi! Everyone in hell would celebrate if he returned with the news of that victory. Few demons bore them personal grudges but no one actually liked them; too many of their friends had failed to return over the years. The was a lot of bad blood between the demons and the Senshi.

Hearing faint foot steps off to one side, he started to run at them. Turning to keep track of them, he ran smack into a wall. The concrete shattered easily when subject to his strength, but he could still not find them. As he held still for a moment, he listened. 'There! To the left! Voices, it sounds like a whole crowd!' He ran at them again, but once more they eluded him. This time he found a set of chain link fencing blocking off a drainage ditch.

Cursing his luck, he turned to the right and tried to run parallel to the drainage ditch. With his rotten curse, he could hardly risk falling into the ditch and turning into a harmless piglet. His vision was still clouded when he noticed the bitumen had changed in the soft loam of a forest. Moments later he ran face first into a sturdy tree.

Lost again? "Damn you, Tendo Ranma! I shall make you pay for this!"

The forest just echoed.

Back in Tokyo, Japan, Sailor Mercury was trying to track the demon using her computer. She normally cast the fog so that the Senshi could get some breathing space. Their enemies were unable to see through it, and it let them gather themselves for a few moments. After being half strangled, Sailor Mars had needed that time - this was even more true since Sailor Moon had just called saying that the remainder of the girls would be with them in one more minute.

Now the demon had managed to do something she had never heard of before. Without the slightest trace of magical power, the demon seemed to have teleported across half of Tokyo. Even as she watched, the computer tracked the demon as it teleported again. The forth time he did it, it lost every trace.

"My God! This thing is incredible! If it had tried teleporting during the fight, it would have had us for breakfast! But why did it run away now? Did it know that Sailor Moon was coming? And who was that hunk on the building?"

Realising that she was speaking out loud and no-one was likely to answer her questions, Sailor Mercury went to help her friend. As soon as she reassured her that the demon was gone, Sailor Mars collapsed to the ground and began to massage her sore throat.

When the fog cleared and the other Senshi gathered around, the discussed the best way to fight the demon, and tried to think of what they knew. The facts were few and far between.

A demon - name unknown, type unknown, powers unknown and summoner unknown - had been fighting an unknown enemy, for an unknown period, for reasons unknown. When they arrived, the unknown demon turned on them for more unknown reasons, and the unknown adversary had failed to be seen. They had spotted an unknown observer with unknown powers and unknown motivations. Said observer had also assisted the Senshi for more unknown reasons. Last - but not least - both the observer and the demon used means unknown to vanish to places unknown.

All in all, there were just a few too many unknowns here. The only bright spot was that while the demon was powerful, he was certainly within the ability of the Senshi to deal with. They all knew that they would have a major battle, but if they had the whole team, they were confident of success.

While the girls milled around, Ranma had wandered off. As soon as the fog had fallen, he realised that Ryoga would get lost. He had no idea how it was possible, but the boy could get lost walking down a one way tunnel. By now he could be almost anywhere. Briefly he considered dropping by and speaking to the girls, but if they had glamour spells on, there was not much point. Besides, he had no real interest in being identified by the vigilante demon hunters, even if they were pretty soldiers.

Ranma had had a bad end to the week, and he was sure that the weekend could not get much worse. He was almost right, it could not get much worse, but it could easily stay at the same high level on the 'Sucks- to-be-you' scale.

Saturday was school in the morning. That was awful. After that, every attempt he made to stay a guy was foiled. That really irked him. In the evening, his 'father' and Mistress 9 needed him to use some special treatments to prepare his body. They were painful, tasted bad and smelled worse.

Sunday he woke up late after an all night session in the lab with Souichi. That meant he missed his usually early morning training session. Not only that, but the workings in the lab had drained him dangerously low on both magic and Ki. Under Mistress 9's guidance, he had cast some of the spells that she needed, and he could feel the changes continuing apace.

Eventually, he set off, needing to work some of the frustration out of his system. He was four steps out of the door when he realised that today was a day he had agreed to teach a children's course at the dojo he had visited last week. He struggled to decided whether he was happy to be teaching again (especially kids, he always liked teaching them) or whether he should be mad since he would not be able to train again till Monday morning.

Even something as simple as crossing a small section of city could turn into a nightmare for a Jusenkyo cursed victim. As a plaything to the Kami, he was dodging cold water at every turn. The detours he needed to take lead him many blocks off his course, and into one of the more affluent sections of town.

He was just starting to turn back in the direction of the dojo when something caught his eye. He looked around again, searching the crowd for what he had subconsciously picked up on. There it was again. Green. Green. Ah! Green hair!

Not that green hair was uncommon. He had seen lots of people with green hair. Few of them had green hair like this girl. She was tall, elegant, and walked with a refined manner. The main thing that set him off was the fact that he recognised her face. It was Miko, or Mina, or Miyabi, well, it was Mi-something, and her name did not matter. What mattered was that she was the girlfriend of the tall boy with the Nyanniichuan curse.

Just thinking about him must have summoned him, because the next thing he knew, the tall blonde boy was walking out of a store and linking arms with the girl. Nice looking couple those two. The boy was a bit too pretty for what Ranma considered a 'real man', but lots of the girls seemed to like that pretty-boy, idol singer look these days.

Ranma checked his watch. He could watch the couple for ten minutes, then hurry and still make the class. Hmm, it was worth it. He wanted to get there early, but if there was the opportunity to find out where another Jusenkyo victim was living, there was no way he was going to pass it up.

After watching for twelve minutes (cursing constantly as the seconds ticked by) he was ready to leave. The pair had been walking quietly through the nice looking streets, obviously enjoying a morning together. He had concluded that they must like looking at expensive houses when they turned and entered one of them. These guys must be loaded!

Turning his back and running to the dojo, Ranma's mind was whirling with the implications. He had an address. A little bit of elementary detective work and he would have names to attach to those faces. Ho, ho, ho! Now it didn't matter that the witch with the dark green hair had prevented him speaking to them at the concert. Soon. Soon he would find them, and then he could start to take some more steps to fixing his curse. He trusted Mistress 9, she had kept her part of the bargain well so far: he just liked to pursue every avenue that opened.

Ranma arrived at the dojo with only a minute or two to spare. Already most of the kids were there, and there were a fair few parents sitting around the outside of the dojo. Bowing to the elderly sensei, he hurriedly changed into a Gi and joined him at the front of the class.

"Sorry about being late, Sensei. Some personal business came up, and it took me a while to be able to postpone it."

The old man smiled. He had been worried that the talented young fighter had no intention of showing up and helping with the class. The fact that he remembered his commitments was a good sign.

"Don't worry, lad. The main thing is that you are here now."

The class bowed in, and the two Sensei led them through a series of warm ups. Most of the kids were between seven and ten, so their attention span was short. Keeping the exercises to a simple and easy level, Ranma and the old master gave them a bit of exercise.

While the children may have had short attention spans, the mothers watching did not. When he had first arrived, they expected that the handsome young man must have been a father of one of the students. Now that he was training them - and since he was not wearing a wedding ring - it was a different matter. In front of their eyes, this firm, healthy, HANDSOME, perfect specimen of manhood was moving with the grace of a dancer. Dozens of eyes watched and mentally undressed him.

Ranma did not notice any of the parents, they were not his concern, and they were obviously no danger. What was his concern was seeing these children properly trained. Trained so that they would have the interest in coming back in the future, and trained so that they would do their school proud. A lifetime spent running the Tendo dojo, three decades of teaching Amazon students, and centuries studying under some of the best (and worst) teachers in the world had taught Ranma lots of tricks of the trade.

He was on his knees teaching a trio of little girls the fundamentals of punching when a movement caught his eye. Even as he continued teaching, he split his attention and focused on the commotion at the entrance to the dojo.

Shampoo was currently struggling with her great-grandmother, attempting to get past her cane. After a few fruitless tries, she gave up at glared down at the shrunken old woman.

"Why you stop Shampoo? Shampoo see groom: Shampoo go get groom."

Bonk! "Show some respect, Great-Granddaughter. Son-in-law is teaching. To be a great fighter is one thing, to have the skill to teach is another. You have indeed found a most suitable husband, Shampoo."

As the two of them sat at the entrance and watched, the old crone continued to lecture her student and protégé. "Handsome, strong, smart: son-in-law will be an ideal match for you. Ha! Look at that! That little girl would make a fine Amazon!"

Noticing that the guests understood the importance of teaching children, Ranma again devoted his full, attention to the class. Time passed quickly, too quickly for his tastes. In no time, the class was winding to a close, and the sensei were up the front, bowing and saying goodbye to their students.

More than one single mother was in the audience, and started towards the handsome new teacher. None of them could match the sheer speed and enthusiasm of an elite Amazon warrior when confronted with her ideal mate. In less time than it took to blink, Shampoo had moved from the back of the hall, past all the mothers gathering children, to an 'affectionate' position on Ranma.

Considering the length of her dress, and the way she moulded herself to him, Shampoo and Ranma could almost get arrested for that sort of behaviour if she had done it in a public place. An audible sigh of disappointment went around the room. Of course someone so handsome would have a girlfriend. Actually, judging by the way that she was holding him and trying to suck his tonsils out, perhaps she was more then just his girlfriend. Sighing again, the mothers gathered their children and tried to avoid looking at them. There was no way any of them could compete with such a young, healthy and amazingly cute girl.

Finally Ranma managed to free himself slightly when Shampoo came up for air. "Shampoo! Cut that out! I'm married!"

Shampoo released him and backed away as though he had just grown an extra head. "You have wife? Aiyaa! Why you no tell Shampoo you have wife?"

Glad that she was off him, Ranma kept backing away. In all honesty, it really felt very nice when she was all over him. The big problem with it was that she was bringing up desires that he had been repressing for a long time. A very, very long time. Three hundred years without sex is enough to make anyone feel a little tense the first time you get a bundle of fun like Shampoo climbing all over you. Fortunately, twelve year old girls tend to have very little sex drive. Ranma really wanted a cold shower, right about now.

"Well... Actually, she died a while ago. But I still love her."

Shampoo smiled happily and tried to resume her former position. "Wo da airen! If Ranma wife dead, Shampoo wife now. Come back to village. Shampoo make you forget wife."

Ranma dodged her oncoming hug and flushed red in anger. "I've told you twice already, Shampoo! Your marriage challenge did not apply to me since I'm an Amazon, and you did not declare your intention first."

The purple haired beauty pointed at the two foot tall withered old crone. "Great-Grandmother! You tell husband. He no Amazon. He Shampoo husband!"

Nodding sagely from her perch on the stick, the woman croaked. "Shampoo is right, Son-in-law. I know all of the strongest warriors in the village, and you are not one of them. Since I do not know you, you are obviously not an Amazon."

"Feh! I don't care who you are Granny. Even if your the Matriarch herself, you couldn't cast me out. I was an Amazon. I am an Amazon. I will be an Amazon."

"Son-in-law, I do not know why you persist in this fallacy, but I am the Matriarch. If you want me to, I will cast you out, and then Shampoo can fight you again. If you defeat her, she will be your bride."

"Are you hard of hearing? I just said, 'even if your the Matriarch herself, you couldn't cast me out'. Only a full council of Mistresses can cast me out. I deny you the right to exile me. Now, please leave. I have to get ready to see some friends."

As Shampoo stood watching them - head moving back and forth as though watching a tennis match - her mentor laughed. "Son-in-law, you just dig yourself in deeper. Even if you pretend to know our laws, you should also realise the crimes you have committed. When you fought my great- granddaughter you used the Chestnut Fist. If you were an Amazon, you should realise the penalties for a man wandering the country-side unescorted holding such information in his head. Come, marry Shampoo, return to the village with us and you will be forgiven."

"Grrr, stop trying to blame me for everything! I already have permission to use and teach these techniques here. And before you ask, I was one of the Matriarchs which gave me permission."

The woman burst out laughing. "Trapped by your own cleverness! Ha, Ha! I have been Matriarch of the Joketsuzoku for over one hundred years. There is no way that you are older then I, and I have never give permission to any MALE to teach anything. Come. Time is wasting. Join us and leave."

Ranma just turned his back and began to pack a bag with his sweaty Gi and get changed into his normal clothes. "I really don't care what the two of you intend to do, but I'm not going with you. As far as I'm concerned, you can stay here for the rest of the day. See ya."

Ranma started to walk past them, but Shampoo put out an arm to stop him. "Husband... Ranma. If you say you Amazon, then I challenge you for marriage. We fight again. You win, you marry. OK?"

Silently, Shampoo cheered. There was no way to lose now. She was sure that a fighter like her husband would never turn down a challenge. Anyone with pride would take it, and then he would be hers. She did not really care if she had to throw the fight to make him win. He had already won once before, and that was good enough for her. She waited smiling while she watched his face contort in anguish. For any real Amazon, there can be one answer to a challenge.

"No, I refuse."

"YOU WHAT? How can you call yourself an Amazon and still turn down a challenge when it is offered?"

"Hey, Granny. No one has to be forced into marriage. An Amazon has the right to refuse a marriage challenge without loss of face. Shampoo, if you want to fight, I will fight you, but I will not fight you for a marriage challenge. Besides, marriage challenges are different between Amazons. It's the winner that gets to choose if they marry. I'd win, and I'd still refuse to marry you."

Shampoo cursed. Even if he was not an Amazon, he seemed to know their laws backwards and inside out. What was worse: he was right too. There was only one thing to do, go back to persuasion. If that failed, then Great-Grandmother would help her devise a new plan soon.

"Why Husband no want Shampoo? Shampoo pretty. Shampoo smart. Shampoo good fighter. Shampoo better than all Japanese girl. So Shampoo better than dead wife. Shampoo prettier than everyone too. Shampoo much prettier than dead wife! Come marry Shampoo. She make you forget about dead wife."

Quite simply, Ranma saw red. How dare she? How dare she say anything against his Akane? Without conscious thought, Ranma struck out, slapping her in the face, and knocking her to the ground. He then spat on the floor near her face.

"You dare too much, Shampoo! I challenge you! I challenge you to a duel of honour! You who would insult my dead wife, flesh of my flesh, joined with me, body and soul! I, her champion, defend her honour!

"Rise, coward! Rise and defend yourself against one who can fight back. Never will I accept the way you insult the honoured dead!

"Defeat me, and I am yours to command. Lose, and you shall do penance for this insult. Further, you and yours will never again slander nor act against my wife or her memory.

"Rise coward! Rise and be defeated!"

Shampoo cowered under the fierce gaze. This man, who seemed so handsome, had eyes filled with nothing but pain and anger. Glancing at her great-grandmother she realised she was on her own for this one. She had overstepped the bounds of decency. In Japan or China, insulting the dead like she had was perfect cause for this sort of duel.

Even as she nodded to him and started to rise, another thought struck her. This was actually what she was after... almost. If she could win this fight, she would have her husband. If she lost, she would apologise, learn her lesson, and be no worse off. Standing up, she took a defensive stance and waited for him to make the first move.

As soon as Shampoo acknowledged his challenge, Ranma realised that once again his mouth had gotten the better of his brain. Any other day, he would have wiped the floor with her without even breaking a sweat. Today... Today he had been without sleep, and was almost completely drained of both Ki and magic. Not only that but the horrid concoctions he had drunk last night had weakened him enormously.

As he took his stance the old woman hopped between them. "Wait! We are in a public place and a dojo at that! The last thing we want if for Amazon secret techniques to become public knowledge. For the duration of this challenge, I, Matriarch of the Joketsuzoku, restrict the battle to normal means only."

So subtly that neither opponent noticed, both of the combatants let out a breath of relief. Shampoo knew from the last time that she fought him, he could beat her with the Chestnut Fist. She only knew one other secret technique, so he may well have had an edge there. Ranma was equally relieved. Compared to his normal levels, his Ki was almost non- existent. Same with his magic. He hardly expected Shampoo to be proficient at spell casting so that would be a small loss, but it would mean he could save his Ki for basic defence and attack.

Moving forward warily, he loosened up with a couple of punches and a high, arcing kick to her head. Shampoo responded identically. There was no need to rush things yet. They both had time, and neither wanted to pull a muscle unnecessarily. For two minutes, they flowed back and forwards like this. A mid-pace ballet of feet and hands, neither quite trying to defeat their opponent yet... just gauging and preparing.

The dojo's sensei - Ranma's friend - was watching the second fight between his partner and this purple haired dojo destroyer. He had not quiet followed everything in the conversation, but he had understood most of it. The fight itself was another matter. Already both of them were moving at speeds that he would not have been able to attain even in his prime. Both of them moved with silken grace, mixed with animal ferocity. Then it got faster and harder.

Shampoo was the first to up the ante. She moved from the easy going fight to an all out assault. In an instant she was moving powerfully, nothing but strikes and kicks. Her defence dropped as she spent more and more effort on attacking, but it was worth it. She had her opponent on the ropes. No matter what he tried, he was restricted to blocking and dodging her attacks.

Ranma fought to hold back a moan as a third punch got through his defences. In his condition it was like trying to fight in a pool of molasses. Every move he made sent small signals of pain trough his body, and his limbs were so slow and heavy. To make matters worse, he was so fatigued that even his brain refused to work as it should. Rather than looking six or seven moves ahead, he could only just match her. Half her blows he deflected on pure reflex, and that scared him.

As Shampoo closed in again, he continued to give ground. Working on reflex was fine, it did wonderful things for your reaction speed. Even better, it allowed the mind to work on strategy, and leave the actual implementation to the body. This was all well and good if you had the right reflexes wired in. That was what scared Ranma.

Ranma had spent the last four hundred years mastering the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts. While Anything Goes had plenty of punches, kicks, throws and hold which you could use to incapacitate an opponent, they were more the icing on the cake. Anything Goes specialised in just one thing: winning. Winning at the expense of the enemy. If you have the luxury of mercy, more power to you. Your first priority was to win.

Winning meant killing in the final count. If someone was attacking you, they were probably trying to kill you, or beat you to the point where you could no longer defend yourself. The fastest and most effective way to stop them was to either kill them, or do them such massive damage that the could no longer fight.

Ranma knew that on any other day, he could have incapacitated Shampoo without harming a hair on her pretty head. Today... he could not. Today he was struggling to keep even. Today he was deliberately hampering his own reflexes, and consciously refusing to take almost every attack he saw. The reason was easy. If he attacked, he would almost certainly fight largely on reflex. If that happened, Shampoo's best option would be being smashed into a bloodied, crippled heap on the floor. Anything else he did would end up being even worse for her.

When Shampoo swept his feet out, she forced him to do a series of rolls and back flips until he could gain the time and distance to be able to resume his stance. Finally he had endured enough. There was only one option left other than Shampoo's death, or his defeat. Releasing the tight hold he had on his Ki, he let his battle aura bloom. Freed from the massive constraints and techniques he used to hide his Ki, he would briefly have the strength and speed to defeat her without lethal or crippling force.

Everyone in the dojo (other then Ranma) gasped in awe. The defender had just summoned a battle aura that was frightening in its size and intensity. A swirling blue glow surrounded his body, extending out by at least three inches. Both Amazons were stunned. The had witnessed the battle auras of some of the most powerful martial artists in their village. Even at their best, they would only just equal the magnitude of Ranma's.

Ranma sighed and hoped he had enough power for what he wanted. By the looks of it, it would be a close call.

The Chestnut Fist, the dreaded speed punching attack of the Joketsuzoku, relied upon using Ki to give the arms an explosive speed that could hardly be matched. Now Ranma used his Ki in a similar manner. Filling every part of his body with energy, Ranma was faster, stronger, and tougher than normal by many times.

Shampoo seemed to move in slow motion as she brought her arm around for a back handed fist to his temple. Dropping his guard, Ranma immediately stepped inside her arm. His first hit - done with the knife edge of his left hand - caught her striking arm at the elbow, stunning and paralysing it. Not to be overconfident, he brought both arms in for another strike under her armpits. It was not a nice thing to do, but it would work. Rather than limiting her motion by a nerve block, this attack was designed to temporarily cripple both her arms by sending mind blowing pain signals at her slightest movement.

To finish her off, he whipped his left leg past her and swept her feet into the air. As her body moved to horizontal, he finished her off with a palm strike under her chin. The blow slammed her jaw closed, and jerked her head on her spine. All in all, the effect was calculated to deliver a relieving unconsciousness. If he had judged his blow correctly, the armpit nerve strike should wear off just before she regained consciousness.

The entire attack cycle took under a second, so no-one else really saw what was happening. One moment, Ranma had burned bright blue, standing still as Shampoo closed in for the kill. Next, he had moved forward a couple of meters, and an unconscious Shampoo was flying through the air to land like a rag doll.

Ranma sank to one knee and looked up at the Matriarch. He had his Ki under control again, but it felt so low, he hardly needed to conceal it anymore. Actually, his Ki was so low, it would not even manifest visibly unless he forced it. Ranma shuddered. His Ki had not been this low for over three hundred years, and suddenly he could feel every day of it.

"Well, Granny. It would seem I have won the challenge. Tell young Shampoo that her only penance is to learn some respect for the dead. I must bid you good day."

To say that the old woman was surprised was an understatement. When Shampoo had told her of the warrior who had defeated her, she had scarcely believed her. Now she had just seen the near impossible. This man, no more than a boy really, had managed to generate a battle aura that most masters of the art would aspire to. Not only that, but he had managed to channel his Ki to an amazing degree. This one was a prize she would not let escape.

The old woman watched as the boy walked to the exit of the dojo. She had not moved to tend Shampoo yet. She had seen the care he had used when fighting her: Shampoo would survive that final attack without her help. At the door, young Ranma turned and looked back over his shoulder.

"Somehow, Matriarch, I suspect that my real competitor now will be you, not Shampoo. May I have the honour of knowing your name?"

"Of course Son-in-law. I am Cologne, Matriarch of the Joketsuzoku."

"Hmm. I suspected as much. Farewell. We shall meet again. I am sure of it."

Destiny's Child

A Crossovers Story
by Fire

Part 16 of 26

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