Continuing Tales

Destiny's Child

A Crossovers Story
by Fire

Part 3 of 26

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Destiny's Child

Outside the gates to the village of the Joketsuzoku the black haired, pig tailed, young girl was challenged by two female sentries. When she said that she was a warrior from Japan who was seeking asylum within, they laughed. When Ranma demonstrated some Kata suited to the knowledge of a mid-level student of Anything Goes, one of them offered to escort him to a village elder.

The old woman - Deodorant - listened to Ranma story while appearing to nod off. She was a withered old woman, and must have been over a hundred years old, but she still moved with the grace of a warrior. When Ranma was finished the Matriarch's eyes snapped open and focused on the small girl. "Well, little miss. I have some trouble believing your story. After all, no-one has ever known the cursed springs to have a beneficial side. They are _cursed_ springs after all. Would you object to a demonstration?"

Ranma grumbled and eventually assented. If she was going to get the help of these people, she would need to show them everything. Besides which, it was also the polite thing to do, since they were to be her hosts for the near future. As soon as Ranma nodded, Deodorant whipped a kettle from nowhere and splashed the boiling water on her. As soon as Ranma stopped thrashing from the shock of the heat, Deodorant sniggered.

"Your story is true, but you relax your guard too much to be a true warrior."

"Grrr. Old woman, I am the Master of the Tendo School of Anything Goes Martial Arts. The day I need to be afraid of a decrepit old woman like you is the day I need to return to the beginner's classes."

"A challenge! Very well, please attack me, young Ronin."

"Feh! I don't attack helpless old women."

Even as the words left his mouth, Deodorant leapt at him, swinging her staff. Ranma jumped back out of the tent, doing back flips until he had space to recover. When he righted himself he saw the entire village had come to watch them fight. How they go here so fast, he was not sure. Then he realised that the sentries would have alerted anyone nearby. They would have told their friends, and so on. Now rather than watching a little girl fight an old woman, they would see a fully grown man in his fighting prime wipe the floor with her.

Deodorant came out of the house and took a stance near him. Ranma also took his stance while the Matriarch told the rest of the village that there was no need to interfere. This was merely a training exercise. Either side would stop when unconsciousness was achieved, or when mercy was requested. Then she leapt.

For anyone it was quite a jump, for an old woman, it was a miracle. She was beside Ranma in an instant and began throwing punches. At first he just dodged and blocked, but when she increased the pressure, he began to realise that he would loose if he never retaliated. Dodging to the side, he began to send his own fists flying.

Unbelievably, the old woman managed to block this and still keep striking at him, and since he was not blocking as much, he started taking hits. Time to try a different tactic. Now Ranma switched styles and began to use a highly athletic form of combat. He bounced around and struck at the Matriarch constantly, forcing her to try to match his movement in an attempt to keep things equal.

He had scored two decent hits when the old lady's arms vanished in a blur of speed. In a moment he had been struck two dozen times, then thrown across the arena and into a water barrel. Coughing and spitting, Ranma-chan burst from the barrel. Although she was much smaller and weaker, she was just as fast, and a smaller target to hit.

Back and forth the ranged across the arena. This time Ranma was alert to the possibility of her speed punching attack, and leapt backward whenever she started. After ten minutes she had barely hit the Amazon leader, and she was a mass of bruises. The old woman had managed at least three pressure point strikes in that time too. She had returned the function of her left arm, but the supposedly debilitating pain strike had almost done her in. It was only slowly beginning to fade, and the Amazon was beginning to use her as a punching bag.

Ignoring the pain, Ranma focused her energies and leapt vertically. Aerial combat was a speciality of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts; if the old woman wanted to fight her up here, she was welcome. When the Amazon did not join her, Ranma began striking her own pressure points. The woman obviously knew some she did not, because the pain strike could not be totally relieved.

When Ranma touched down, she swayed for a moment then charged into battle. Everyone was obviously impressed by the jump, especially the old woman. For the next thirty seconds all she did was block and circle Ranma. Then, when Deodorant was finally close enough for Ranma to get some good blows in, she attacked. The next thing Ranma knew, she was flying high in the air, sucked up by a roaring, raging tornado.

Battered by debris, and bruised by the winds, Ranma fell to the ground. Looking up at the old woman, Ranma struggled to one knee. Seeing Ranma move, Deodorant almost fell over. She had defeated her pressure points, dodged the Chestnut Fist, and now she survived an Rising Dragon Defeat. Still this man turned girl continued to fight.

Ranma could barely move, but she crawled forwards. She had not lost a fight in three decades. Mercy or unconsciousness: there was no way she would ever ask for mercy. This time when the old woman used her speed punching technique, Ranma could not dodge.

Ranma's eyes flicked open and saw the ceiling of a small hut. Damn. Damn again. Beaten by an old woman. He was almost glad that his father was dead, for today would forever be a stain upon the Tendo name. How the School would ever be mentioned in public without ridicule was something he could not even guess at. What person would ever want to learn Anything Goes ever again? Its master was a twelve year old girl most of the time, and even when he was a grown man, old women could defeat him in fair combat.

Rolling over, Ranma saw Deodorant sitting on a chair. She was relieved to see that the old lady had a couple of bandages, and one arm was in a sling. She felt guilty about hurting her like that, but considering the way that she felt, it was nice to know that at least some of her blows had effect. With supreme effort, Ranma forced her way to her feet and stood shakily in front of the seated Matriarch, then bowed deeply. "Mistress, I humbly apologise for my presumption earlier."

Deodorant cackled. "Girl, there would be perhaps two women in this village which would have lasted as long as you did in that battle, and they know every move which I used against you. The Joketsuzoku Amazons have over 2700 years of history in fighting, and I am the living repository of that knowledge. If I had been defeated, I would have shamed our village. What you have done is to make us realise the value of the outside world. I have already discussed the matter with the other Elders of the village, and they would like you to stay and pass on your knowledge."

The girl's eyes closed to slits and she considered what she was being offered. "Mistress, your offer is most generous, but I have some problems with teaching. If I have to turn into a man before each lesson, I risk injury from the effect of such frequent boiling water. After all, who would want to take lessons from a twelve year old girl?"

"They will take lessons from you as a girl for three reasons: first, they saw you fight as a girl. They know you could beat most of them that way. And second: this is an _amazon_ village. It's more likely they would object to taking lessons from a man. What does it matter if you look young? Do you judge me by my looks? And well you should not, for knowledge is my ally. And a powerful ally it is too. In a hundred years will you look so good?"

When they stopped chuckling, Ranma sobered. "Actually, yes. In 100 years, I will look exactly as I do today. I fell into the spring of the drowned _young_ girl Mistress. That is why I came here: to try to find a cure for my curse."

Deodorant shook her head sadly. "Such a burden for one so young. I have grave news for you indeed my friend. There is no cure. In all my time living here, and in 2700 years of Amazon history, we have never heard of a cure. All I can offer you is a place to stay where you will be accepted for who you are. A place where your talents will never be wasted, and where the cornerstones of society are loyalty and sorority. I offer you an exchange: stay here and teach, and we will teach you in turn."

That statement bore thinking on. This was the closest village to the Cursed Training Grounds, and they had no cure. But the world was a large place... somewhere there would be magic powerful enough to cure him. He could not, would not, ever stop looking. "Mistress, your offer honours me. All I ask is that once I have taught you all I know, I may be free to leave some day. While I can stay here to learn and teach, I must someday find a cure; not just for myself, but for others who are affected."

"Ha, Ha! You are a sharp one! No blind agreement to stay here. I accept, a trade as it were. Since you are a teacher of the Art, I only ask that you refrain from teaching our secret techniques to others either in China or those who may harm us."

She agreed, and Deodorant pushed her back onto the bed, insisting it was time to rest. Ranma could have a few days to rest, then it would be time for their exchange of knowledge to begin. Deodorant was just heading out the door when Ranma stopped her with a quiet word.

"Mistress, you said that there were three reasons why they would learn from me. You told me two, what is the third?"

Deodorant cackled as she left the room. Glancing back she favoured her new student with a smile. "Ha! A sharp one! Third reason is because I told them to do it! HA HA HA HA HA HA!"

In the weeks which followed, Ranma found herself being accepted by the members of the tribe. The Amazons had taken in a number of women over the years, and it was this very policy of openness which had forged the village in the beginning. Although she needed to prove her abilities on a daily basis initially, Ranma realised that it was the first time since Akane's death that she had ever felt that she had a home.

Two months after he first arrived, Ranma changed back into a man. He had been in the form for twenty minutes when a group of angry looking armed women challenged him. Pleading his innocence, and dodging their attacks, he led them through the village in a high speed game of chase. Having fully developed muscles was such a blessing that Ranma regretted the need to change back. After playing with them for almost an hour, Ranma leapt on top of a water trough, feet straddling it.

Seeing their prey cornered, the women circled him and began to advance. Looking at the back of the crowd, Ranma spotted Deodorant. With a smile and a wave, he brought his feet together and fell into the sun warmed water. Just as the villagers closed in, Ranma-chan popped her head out and gave them the cutest smile she could manage. "I did tell you who it was."

The beating the gave her was all in good fun too: nothing too serious, but enough for her to remember not to surprise people like that. Ranma didn't mind, when they finished brawling, everyone was laughing, splashing water, and having fun. Having a few hundred sisters could drive the loneliness from her heart for hours at a time.

That night, Ranma realised how much she missed Akane and cried herself to sleep.

It was winter when the Musk and the Joketsuzoku went to war again. It was a harsh winter, and the Musk leaders had decided that it would be easier to survive without their perpetual enemies. Villagers clashed and high powered Martial Artists waged war as only they could.

By the time winter was over, no clear winner had emerged, and dozens from each side were dead. Deodorant died in the fighting, and was succeeded by Liniment. Ranma began her own collection of trophies in the cellar under her house. For every Musk warrior she defeated in battle, she was awarded 50% of the gold or items he carried. In the weeks which followed the battle, Ranma would occasionally go down to the cellar and look at the prizes. All his life he had been a teacher, fighting only to defend his family. Now he had a bigger family, and fought to defend their future, as well as their present.

As Spring began, all the tribe gathered for one of their many celebrations. Life as a warrior was hard and short, so everyone learned to live life to the fullest. The Joketsuzoku partied as hard as they fought, and their idea of party games could kill lesser mortals. During the feasting (before the really serious drinking and gaming), Liniment stood on the table in the middle of the village and called everyone to order.

"When she was alive, Deodorant was one of our greatest warriors and one of the wisest elders. Before she died, she made a request of the council of Elders. Normally the Elders would think on such a request for a long time and debate it's merits. This request took little consideration. Tendo Ranma: for what you have done, you are no more. For the way you acted in front of our enemies, I, leader of the Joketsuzoku say this: you are NO MORE!"

A stunned silence hovered over the party. Everyone knew Ranma, she was a brave and valiant (if a little short) fighter. None could question her courage or ability. Why would she be cast out?

"You wonder why I would cast her out? I do not, for only one of our village may be cast out. From this day fourth, Tendo Ranma is no more, she is now an honoured warrior of the Joketsuzoku! Rise, and let all people know and recognise you: Soap Onna Rope!"

Before she could move, the little girl was hoisted from her chair and carried on the shoulders of the winner of the village's yearly Martial Tournament. The party that night exceed any in Ranma's memory, and carried on until the first rays of light edged over the horizon.

It should be noted at this point that even though she was Martial Artist with tolerances and healing beyond the norm, it took four days to recover from the hang over.

Living in the Amazon village gave Soap Onna Rope very little encouragement to change back into a man on a regular basis. The few times that he did over the following years he was usually treated as a stranger, and always as a second class citizen.

Sometimes the idea of being stuck as a girl forever would become too much, and Soap would leave the village for several days to hike in the mountains. In times like these she would pitch camp, boil water and change back to a man. Then he would stay there and watch the sunset, and think of the things which were important, or more precisely, who was important. When the sun sank below the horizon, Ranma would train for a few hours, luxuriating in the strength, speed and toughness of his body.

After training, Ranma would invariably change back to a girl, and cry herself to sleep. The Kami had made it quite plain about what they thought of him trying to stay a man and die of old age. Any night he went to bed a man, it would rain. Somehow, some way, he would get wet: welcome back Soap Onna Rope.

Soap was a popular girl in the village. She was smart, incredibly skilled for her age, and had the fiery spirit of a true warrior. Everyone in the village knew about Jusenkyo, but most did not realise that Soap was one of the cursed individuals. Certainly they may have seen his original fight with Deodorant, but by now that was fading into the past. A decade without reminders would tend to dull the sharpest memories. To most of the villagers, Soap was simply a villager who had been cursed to never bloom into womanhood.

Soap was a small girl, but she had obviously halted her ageing on the verge of blooming. This fact did not escape the notice of the young boys in the village. Kids which had been babes in arms when Soap first entered the village were now in her apparent age group. As one of her duties in the village, Soap was teaching an intermediate course in unarmed combat. Intermediate was a fuzzy sort of word, since it implied that there was a beginners and an advanced course. This was not really the case: everyone learned to fight from their family as soon as they could walk, and when you were good enough, you stopped the intermediate classes for private tuition.

After her class finished for the day, Soap watched with pride as the children moved off to relax for a while. Training was well and good, but even Amazons needed to rest some times. She was turning to go back to her own hut when one of her students came up to her and stood uncertainly beside her. Pretending not to notice him, she did a few stretches and let him sweat. Just when it looked like his nerve would fail him, Soap turned slightly and 'happened' to gain a glimpse.

"Oh, hello there Brush. I didn't notice you. Can I help you with something?"

Brush blushed all the way to the roots of his hair. 'She remembers my name!' "Err, Soap, I was wondering... would... would you like to take a walk?"

Shrugging, Soap looked around. No more classes today, don't have to see Liniment until tonight. "Sure, Brush. Lead on."

Walking beside her, Brush bubbled with excitement. He knew she was older than she looked, especially since she was the one teaching the class, not taking it. However, he was fourteen, so she could not be much older than him. They walked along the streets for a while, and gradually Brush led them to the main entrance to village. When they got there, Brush went and had a chat to his sister who was one of the two sentries.

Figuring that Brush was trying to arrange for the two of them to be outside without an adult, Soap wandered over to the other sentry. Smiling happily, the sentry gave the smaller girl a quick hug: Soap had been her unarmed combat instructor five years ago. "What's up with Brush?"

Soap glanced over her shoulder. "Don't know. He seemed a bit nervous. I figure he wants to ask out one of the girls in the class and wants to get some good advice from the teacher."

"Makes sense. Well, no Musk raiders have been reported recently, but there's a wolf pack somewhere to the south at the moment, so be careful or head north."

"Gotcha. Whoops, here he comes. I'll report in when we return."

Waving goodbye, Soap followed Brush, gently leading them north on one of the trails leading from the village. Brush spoke up, his voice filled with pride. "That was my big sister back there. She said she'd cover for me if I went for a walk with one of the girls from the class. I guess she figures I can keep the two of us safe."

"Probably, there shouldn't be anything out there at the moment to worry about. Did you tell her who you were taking?"

"No, she trusts me. She tells me that I fight so well I should start looking for a girl to be my wife sometime soon."

Soap smiled inwardly. She was right! He did want advice on one of the girls in the class. Probably wanted a bit of advice on their fighting styles. Nothing wrong with a little advance planning. "Probably a good idea. The younger you marry, the more time you can spend with the woman you love. Did you have anyone in mind?"

They stopped by a small stream. In the sunlight the water bubbled and gurgled happily. After looking at the ground for a while, Brush summoned his courage and looked into Soaps large purple eyes. "Soap Onna Rope... I would like to challenge you for marriage."

Immediately Soap went as rigid as a board and turned away from the boy. 'He doesn't know. He doesn't know. There's no need to kill him. There's no need to kill him.' Clenching and unclenching her fists beside her, she fought to bring her emotions under control. Bad enough that he would have the audacity to ask another guy out - 'he doesn't know' - but he happened to choose a day only a week after the anniversary of his marriage - 'there's no need to kill him'.

Finally she turned around and stared up at the boy. He was an inch or two taller, and looked a year or two older. Probably figures it will be an even fight, but he might wear me down... "Brush... You really don't know about me do you?"

"Not much, I've heard you're older than you look, but you can't be that much older. Now come on, I challenged you: let's fight."

Soap sighed and backed into a fighting stance. She knew the laws of the village when she became an Amazon, she just hadn't realised that this one would apply to her. "All right. I accept your challenge. All I ask is that if I win, you don't mention this to anyone for a week. After that... it's up to you."

Brush nodded once, then charged her, doing a leap kick. Needless to say, it went though empty space. When Brush recovered and turned, Soap was there, hands behind her back, trying to look innocent. He came in again, this time going for a series of punches and leg sweeps.

While Soap hopped and dodged, she examined his style. Reasonably fast, but not tight enough. Dropping under a left hook, she berated herself. A student's ability reflected on the teacher, and he had just left an opening wide enough to drive a cart through. Have to revise that in class. Hop over the leg sweep. Come on boy, get your arm down, your side is exposed.

After a dozen attacks, Soap gave a little jump and waved at Brush from ten meters away. "I hope your not getting tired. I haven't finished stretching yet!"

Brush puffed a few times and advanced on her again. Perhaps this wasn't the best idea. She had evaded everything he had, and made it look easy. But Brush had fought young girls before, he knew if he got a couple of blows in against someone as small as her, she would be on the ground permanently. He was still five meters away when Soap looked at him and smiled. "Goodnight."

Ceiling. Brush was sure that there were not any ceilings in this part of the forest. Sitting up, he looked around. Hmm, definitely one of the huts in the village... but I don't recognise it. The furniture (what little there was) was all simple. Just the mattress he was on, a table, some chairs, and a few cupboards. One of the chairs held a smiling man. Tall, dark hair, tied back like Soap's... he could almost be her brother. That was probably who he was, but Brush was sure that Soap did not have any relatives.

"Brush. Good to see you awake. My real name is Tendo Ranma, but when I'm in the village most people call me Soap Onna Rope."

Brush laughed. Soap was a girl, and quite a nice looking one at that. A bit small, and still young looking, but undeniably a girl. She was also at least a foot shorted than Ranma, and probably half his weight. Ranma stood up and wandered over to where Brush was sitting. When he was close enough, he crouched down and looked the boy in the eyes. Brush reached out for the glass of water Ranma carried, but he easily held it away. "This is why I didn't want you to challenge me."

With a splash, Ranma shrunk. The loose robe he had been wearing seemed to balloon on the small form, and in under a second the clear purple eyes of Soap stared at him, where once Ranma's blue eyes had been. "Jusenkyo. I'm a guy, Brush. Most people her don't know or care because I can't change back often. I thought you ought to know... just in case you wanted to try again. Follow me for a minute, I want to show you something."

Small tears trickled down the side of Brush's face. He was disgraced. Not only had he failed in his first challenge for marriage, but he had challenged a _man_. One of his best friends, his teacher, the girl he liked most in the whole village was a man. By this time tomorrow, he would be lucky if he could ever show his face in public again.

After a few moments he realised that Soap was waiting for him. She had pushed aside a floor mat and had lifted up a trapdoor. This was a reasonably common thing in Amazon houses, hidden cellars, false ceilings, false backs in cupboards, fake chimneys, even fake plumbing. If you have something valuable, you hide it; not from other villagers, but from thieves or attackers.

Getting off his backside, Brush followed Soap underground and into a series of locked rooms, radiating out from a central chamber. All he could think was it would take a lot of time and effort to dig this through the rock. When she opened one door, he trudged through the fell to his knees in awe. The entire room was filled with gold, jewels and ornate weapons and armour.

"You realise that when we fight another village or go to war, a winner gets to keep some of the loot, the spoils of victory? All this is mine. Every knife, every coin. Every item you see here I took from the dead hand of an enemy of the Joketsuzoku who I killed with my bare hands. Bandits, Musk, wild animals, traitors or regular Chinese army. I just wanted you to know there is a reason you lost today."

Soap ushered the star struck boy from her hoard and closed the door. Next she opened the opposite door. "This is a shrine Brush. It's a Japanese tradition, to help you remember someone dear to you. I would trade everything in that room for one more minute with Akane."

Akane was the woman in the pictures which adorned the shrine. Ranma had paid the best artist in the village to paint them and work until they matched the face in his memory. One large and two small portraits of the woman he loved. The large one was Akane in the prime of her beauty, say late twenties. The small ones were when she was a girl, and when she was older. In each she held the same beauty for Ranma. A tear trickled down Soap's cheek just looking at her.

"Your mother?"

"MY WIFE! When I married her she looked just like that. And when she died, that's her in the other picture. Find someone, Brush, and grow old with them. I got cursed, and thirteen years ago I watched my wife die of old age. Not a day goes by when I do not miss her. Believe me Brush, there is nothing worse than watching, day by day, year by year as the woman you love dies before your eyes and there is nothing you can do."

Soap took a deep breath, bowed to the pictures and lead Brush back up to the main room. "I never really expected to marry anyone here, either as a man or a woman. I'm afraid you caught me by surprise today. When I brought you back here, we came over the wall, so no-one knows we were here. I don't want people to know you challenged me, because they might try too. You probably don't want people to know either. I'll get us back out of here, then we can come in the normal way."

Brush looked at his teacher - possibly even his friend - with hope. "We just went for a walk?"

"We just went for a walk."

Class the next day was a bit different. Soap knew she needed to do something which would keep the wolves at bay, or more people would challenge her. "Today, I'm going to show you what it means to be a warrior of the village! Along with your sisters, and a few brothers, I have defended this village against all who would attack it. For practice today, I shall demonstrate how much you have to learn before you can consider yourself suitable to teach the advanced pupils. I currently teach three advanced warriors. Use any technique, and any blunt weapon.

"The person who defeats me and takes the tiara I am wearing gets to keep it."

The prize in question was a simple gold tiara which Soap had won when the village had killed a group of slavers which had travelled nearby. A pretty trinket, and a suitable reward if anyone was good enough. Even attacking twelve to one, she expected to keep it easily.

After arming themselves with staves, bokken and bonbori, the students attacked as one. She let them play for five minutes, simple dodging and blocking all their attacks. Then she struck back.

Soap not only beat them, she demolished them. Before rendering one of them unconscious, she would give them a quick work over. Nothing permanent, and no special techniques, just enough bruises to show them who was boss, and who was the better fighter.

The next day she gave the tiara to the one girl who had actually hit her.

Liniment was not entirely pleased with the little demonstration. She didn't mind the fact that Soap was showing off, or the fact that she beat up so many students. Liniment just disliked the fact that she was one of the best healers in the village, and she would have to prepare lots more pain killers and healing ointments. As punishment to Soap, she began to instruct her as a healer.

Destiny's Child

A Crossovers Story
by Fire

Part 3 of 26

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