Chapter Nine: Return
By Qaddafi the Ripper
Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 belongs to the almighty Takehashi Rumiko, Tenchi Muyo! to Pioneer (?), Sailor Moon to Takeuchi Naoko, Aa! Megami-sama! to Fujishima Kosuke, and Fushigi Yuugi to Watase Yuu. Please don't sue this poor college student!
“AAARRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! What is it?!? Get it offa me!!” Akane screeched incoherently. There was a small… something… cuddling her chest with a vengeance.
“Ah, Akane-chan, how nice it is to finally see you again! You’ve grown up to be a fine woman,” the thing said, glomping harder. Akane’s vision turned completely red. Before she could blow up the entire street (or do something even worse), Shampoo quickly pulled a bonbori out of Hammerspace and extracted the thing from its position (translation: she bashed Happosai so hard he let go. Ouch, but that’s hard!).
“What you?” Shampoo asked, calmly gazing at the creature which she could now identify as an old man as short and shriveled as her great grandmother.
The old man took one look at her and his eyes promptly bugged out and he began to drool. “Akane-chan! How lovely you are!” he cried joyfully leaping for her chest.
But Shampoo had predicted what he’s do, and was ready for him. At the very last second, she brought up her bonbori and slammed it into his skull as hard as she could. A lesser person would have been instantly killed by the blow, but Happosai is far from normal, especially when a pretty girl is in view. So, predictably, he charged in to try again. Deciding that pain is the best teacher, and that this pervert deserved whatever he got even if he didn’t learn, Shampoo started pummeling Happosai with her colorful weapons, Amaguriken speed. Unfortunately, Happosai recognized the technique from when he was young and managed to avoid most of it.
“Beautiful *and* an excellent martial artist. I’m so proud of you, Akane-chan! I've returned just to see *you*!”
Shampoo blinked and pointed to her left where the real Akane stood, still looking shell shocked. “Stupid pervert. *That* one Akane. I Shampoo.”
He stared in shock then turned to Akane. “So you’re really Tendo Soun’s daughter?” he asked incredulously. Akane nodded, dazed. His face lit up, “Oh, Akane-chan!” and he charged in for the glomp. This time, though, Akane was ready for his ‘attack’. She pulled her giant mallet out of her own Hammerspace and clobbered him. Happosai hit the pavement so hard he left a pervert-sized indentation in the pavement ten feet deep.
"I'm back!" Mousse called as he entered the Neko-haunten, Ryoga close on his heels. The other boy possessed a truly remarkable lack of a sense of direction. The moment Mousse took his eyes off him, it seemed, Ryoga would inevitably turn the wrong way. As they came in, Cologne said, "We're closed now, boy. You'll have to come back tomorrow."
"I'm not a customer, old lady," Ryoga said with a snort. Mousse winced, already envisioning the beating Cologne would give him for his impertinence. "I'm here to see a friend of mine."
"Oh? And who would that be?" Cologne asked impatiently.
"His name's Ranma, though occasionally goes by Ranko," Ryoga replied.
"And what makes you think anyone by either of those names lives here?" Cologne retorted.
"Easy," Ryoga smirked. "He told me as much. Now, is he here?"
"I had him step out for some quick errands. He should be back soon," the ancient Amazon finally admitted.
"Good. I'll wait here then." And with that, Ryoga dumped his large pack on the ground and seated himself comfortably at a table. Cologne gave him a reproachful look, which he either didn't see or chose to ignore.
From her place at the Time Gates, Setsuna, currently Sailor Pluto, frowned. "Something terrible is going to happen tonight..." she whispered, a shiver of dread coursing down her spine. "One of *them* will stage an attack..."
"Not much has changed around here," Ukyo noted to her companions, Akrai and Konatsu. "Look, there's the market, and there's the jewelry store owned by Oshindara-san, and there's that run-down hotel everyone thought was haunted-"
"Haunted hotel!" Akari squeaked. "I never heard about that!"
Ukyo nodded philosophically. "Nabiki arranged for us to ghost-busting once, but the owner had already... uh... heard of our reputation, so he wouldn't let us get within ten feet of the place for fear we'd trash it."
"Those were such fun times," Konatsu reflected with a wistful smile.
"What are *you* reminiscing for?" Ukyo demanded, punching him lightly in the shoulder. "You saw more of this place than Akari-chan, but not by much!"
"And you won't be seeing it for much longer..." a voice whispered as they passed a deserted lot. Ukyo and Konatsu were instantly in battle stance, spatula and katana in hand, respectively. Out of the middle of the lot, a black shadow arose from the ground, slowly becoming more material. The trio's eyes collectively widened when it had enough substance to recognize it.
"Aku-Hakai," Ukyo stated grimly. "I thought you and your brothers were sealed away."
"We were," the shadow creature calmly agreed, "but we've returned now, and I think you can guess what we want."
"Revenge," Konatsu said simply.
"Precisely. And this is just the beginning!" With that, Hakai charged at Konatsu, who barely knocked the clawed arm away in time. Fighting a shadow is not that simple, though; even as he hit it, the shadow shifted and wrapped itself around his arm, jerking him off his feet.
"This isn't good," Ukyo muttered as Konatsu flipped off a wall in time to avoid being thrown into it. "Akari-chan, go!"
"What? What do you mean, Ucchan? I can help-" she started.
"It won't be enough!" the other cut her off. "Go, find the Neko-haunten! Ranma and Ryoga will be there! Hurry!" Akari hesitated a moment longer; Hakai threw a portion of himself at her. With a scream, Akari fell to the ground. She looked up to see that Ukyo had caught the attack on her spatula. "Hurry, Akari-chan. We can last for a few more minutes, but if you don't get the others, we won't stand a chance!"
"Right!" Akari jumped back to her feet and dashed out of the lot, trying desperately to remember from the few times she'd been here before where the Neko-haunten restaurant was.
Ranma, currently Ranko, came back via the back door, barely able to see where she was going over the assortment of bags she was carrying. She carefully began to place them on one of the counters as Cologne bounced in to join her in the kitchen. "There's a young man come to see you, Ranko," she said.
"He's waiting in the dining area if you want to talk to him; I'll take care of the groceries."
"Thanks." Ranko wandered out of the kitchen curiously, and saw her "guest" at the same instant he saw her. "Ryoga," she noted.
The boy smiled eagerly, showing his teeth. "Ranma... prepare to die!" he exclaimed and launched himself at her, holding a red umbrella as if it was a weapon. Ranko quickly stepped out of the way.
"Not in here, baka! You wanna pay for the repairs?" She pointed the way she'd come. "There's room out back for a fight."
"Good," Ryoga said, still with a feral grin. "Let's go then." Mousse and Cologne shared a look, then followed them out. They both had felt Ryoga's battle aura the moment Ranko showed up, and judging from its strength, he might even be a match for the master of Saotome Musabetsu Kakuto Ryuu.
The two squared off at opposite ends of the lot, and Ranko asked, "What's this about, anyway? I thought you were over your urge to kill me."
"I developed a new technique recently. I want to try it out."
Ranko sighed. "So why do *I* always have to be your punching bag? You could practice with Konatsu, you know."
"You're more fun to beat up," Ryoga explained, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
"To *try* to beat up, you mean," Ranko corrected with a smirk. Ryoga growled and began his attack. Both the Amazons were used to seeing remarkable speed, strength, endurance, agility, and fighting prowess, especially since meeting Ranma. But all of that experience didn't help keep them from being astonished as they wanted Ranko and Ryoga fight.
Ryoga crossed the field with as much speed as Cologne could muster at her best. Judging from the way they didn't hear him passing until after the fact, Ryoga was going close to, if not over, Mach 1. He thrust his umbrella at Ranko as if it was a sword, which she easily jumped over. Ryoga, however, had been expecting this move, and threw a punch directly in her flight path. Ranko twisted her back to an angle that should have broken it, managing to land on Ryoga's right side.
The boy swung his umbrella at her again, this time causing her to fall back out of range. Ryoga reached up to his forehead and pulled off his bandanna -and twenty or thirty others that were beneath it. "Hidden Weapons?" Mousse wondered aloud. Ryoga whirled the bandannas around a few times before throwing them in Ranko's direction. The home-made shurikens easily cut through a tree branch, but Ranko managed to evade getting hit.
"Still using the same old tricks?" she called out tauntingly. "I thought you said you had something new worked out!"
"Oh, I do. I'm just not ready to use it yet," Ryoga replied easily before rushing her again. This time, instead of dodging the umbrella attack, Ranko executed an upper-handed chop, breaking the weapon clean in half. Ryoga casually threw it aside, where it fell down near where the Amazons were watching. He and Ranko then proceeded to exchange a number of blows that neither Cologne nor Mousse could fully follow. Ranko finally nailed him with a spin-kick, knocking the boy into -and through- the fence around the lot.
Cologne and Mousse, who were both well aquainted with how hard Ranma could pack a blow, even in girl form, were amazed when Ryoga easily rose again, looking none the worse for wear. "You really should have changed back into a guy, Ranma," he laughed. "You know that weak girl body of yours can't hurt me."
Ranko shrugged. "I didn't really have time to change. Are you ready for that new technique yet?"
"Yeah, I think so," Ryoga said, then fell back into a combat stance, hands cupped before him, as if he was about to use a ki-blast. But he quickly threw his arms out wide, and near-invisible ki-boomerangs flew from each. Ranko easily evaded the one on the right, but she had to do a back flip to dodge the other. Ryoga snapped his arms down so they were along side his body. Both the ki-bldes split apart into five parts which continued to spin around Ranko.
Seeing that the odds of her continuing to dodge them was low, Ranko went offensive. She adjusted her stance, and flared her aura. All the closest blades were instantly incinerated, and the other quickly dispersed. Ranko smiled, pleased, which left her completely unguarded for Ryoga's follow-up attack. He threw a bluish ki-blash, impacting her directly in the chest. He then crossed the intervening space again, and bashed his elbow down on Ranko's neck. The redhead fell limply to the ground.
Ryoga drew back, looking surprised. "Did I do it...? Did I actually beat him?"
Ranko flung herself off the ground, tackling him. "You wish!" The two struggled on the ground for a few seconds before Ranko managed to plant her foot in Ryoga's midsection, causing him to lose his grip. She hopped back to her feet, but Ryoga joined her before she could attack him. "That really hurt, you know!" she accused, annoyed.
"It was supposed to!" Ryoga retorted.
Ranko smirked. "And now it's my turn!" With that abbreviated warning, she started her own offense. She dodged under his fist, and pummeled his chest way past Amaguiken speed. Ryoga winced and fell back from the assault. Ranko quickly followed up her advantage with a kick to his chin, sending the boy lurching further back. She completed her attack with a leap that ended with her landing directly on Ryoga's (fortunately thick) head.
The Lost Boy was the one to fall to the ground this time, but he rose as easily as Ranko had. And with an equally strong desire to repay his opponent for various injuries. "Ranma! This time, I really will kill you!!" he screamed, running in for another attack, a furious look in his eyes.
"Ryoga-sama!" a voice called out, causing both fighters to freeze. A girl about the same age ran into the lot, her short hair in a disarray and breathing hard from a long run.
"Akari, what's wrong?" Ryoga asked, worried by the frantic expression on her face.
"Ucchan... and Konatsu... attacked... by Aku... need help," Akari gasped up, still short of breath due to her long (and not direct) run.
Ryoga and Ranko stiffed, then stood absolutely still, as if listening to something. "Oh no..." Ryoga whispered, horrified.
"We need to go *now*!" Ranko exclaimed, already leaping out of the lot. Ryoga nodded, picked Akari up easily, and followed the redhead across the rooftops of Nerima. Mousse and Cologne watched their retreating forms, curious about the disturbance, but niether followed. They reached the vacant lot in under a minute, just in time to see Ukyo fall to her knees, a stricken look on her face and blood running freely from a cut on her left arm.
Ranko ran up to her, and grabbed her by the shoulders. "Ukyo! What happened? Where's Konatsu?" Ryoga set Akari down, and the two of them joined Ranko in a protective circle around the chef.
"He's gone..." Ukyo whispered brokenly. "He took him..."
"*Who* took him?" Ranko persisted.
"Aku-Hakai," Ukyo breathed, and snapped out of her funk. "That damned Hakai beat us both up, then dragged Konatsu off to who knows where! Ranma! Get him back! Swear to me you'll get Konatsu back for me!"
"It's all right, Ukyo," Ranko said softly, holding Ukyo gently in her arms. "I will track down Aku-Hakai and his brothers, and save Konatsu. I promise you."
"Thank you..." Ukyo mumbled, burying her face in Ranko's shoulder.
"But first..." Ranko turned a piercing gaze to Ryoga. "Assemble as many of the gang as you can. I have a bad feeling that things are only going to get worse from here on out."
"We're going to war then?" Akari asked sadly.
"We have no choice," Ranko replied. "For the sake of our loved ones, we cannot allow the Aku brothers to roam free."
End Chapter Nine
Author's Notes: I have a plot for this now, as I'm hope you can tell ^_^ On another note, I suck at writing fight scenes, so if anyone has suggestions for improvement (or encouragement), I would greatly appreciate it...
Next chapter: a mass meeting to determine what course of actions will be taken against the bad bros.
-sama: very formal term
-chan: affectionate term usually used among family
Onto Chapter Ten
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