A Ranma ½ / Tenchi Muyo! crossover story
by Jeffrey Vasquez
Disclaimer: "Ranma ½" was created by Takahashi Rumiko, and is licensed to Shogakukan Inc., Kitty, Fuji TV, and Viz Communications Inc. "Tenchi Muyo" was created by Kajishima Masaki, and is licensed to AIC/VAP, NTV, and Viz Communications Inc. All original characters belong to me.
It's all about timing. Everything in life is measured in rhythms, with pivotal moments becoming crescendos and not-so-pivotal moments joining together to form harmonious chords.
For someone like Nagi, who loved music, this metaphor made so much more sense than a lot of the other drivel that the philosophers were spouting nowadays. It helped that she could feel the rhythm of the universe more acutely than most. But then again, she could do a lot of things more acutely than your average sentient being… No thanks to her "mother".
Quite frankly, her love of music was one of the only gifts that she truly enjoyed from her mother. She would never admit it, but that didn't make it any less true. Yet in spite of that truth, Nagi was bound and determined to bring her mother to justice for crimes that could never be forgiven. Love could heal many wounds, but murder…? It was a sin that would not mend.
"Well, Malik?" Nagi growled. The harmonies that she felt swirling around her were agitated, and filled with strife. She could feel that something big was about to happen, and wanted to be done here before the whole mess came down around her ears. "Here's the totem. Now where is my information?"
The Myraian nodded his fishy head once and pulled a crystal out from behind the counter. He glanced nervously at the door and shook his head. "I should double my price, Nagi. This was harder to come by than it should have been."
"'All negotiations are final.'" She quoted the Myraian's words from an earlier encounter.
"You don't have to rub it in," he groused.
"Of course I do." She smiled warmly at the merchant. "For all the times that you've swindled me in the past." Malik made a gurgling noise and crossed his arms petulantly. "Don't pout, Malik. It's unbecoming." Nagi couldn't help but rib the merchant. After all, how often had she been on this end of the table?
"The crystal didn't come from me!" The Myraian shook his finger at Nagi fervidly, moving towards the back room as he did so.
"Of course. Of course." Nagi waved absently as she examined the data crystal for flaws. Finding none, she promptly tucked the jewel into a small purse at her waist and drew her cloak tightly around her shoulders. Her face beamed with a triumphant grin, as she reached out to open the door of Malik's shop.
Perhaps it was the sudden deathly silence in the area just outside of the shop, or maybe it was just a woman's intuition… Whichever it was, something made her pause just before the door. Then the first explosion came, shattering glass throughout the shop. The second explosion that followed was much more potent, sending a man through the heavy ceramic door.
Nagi had no time to dodge the fellow, or the wave of blue fire and mortar that washed in from the street. All that she could do was brace herself for the upcoming impact with one of Malik's showcases. She felt the air driven from her lungs as she and the man blasted through the wood and glass of the Myraian trader's faux merchandise.
Her ears rung with the report of the explosion, but she had survived far worse. The man in her lap, however, had surely seen better days. His tattered clothes marked him a royal, but the lacerations and the bruises were at odds with that station.
Who in their right mind would do this to a royal?
Her question was soon answered as a small troop of Juraian Lancers stormed through the smoking remains of Malik's front door. Blue and white energy coursed up and down their long polearms, crackling with menace. Nagi made no move and kept her hands out in the open. The last thing that she needed was to be tied to this person.
"Stand and surrender!"
She assumed that the brash young man before her was the captain of the group, and from the impatient way that he commanded her she marked him as the cruel and vindictive type. Whoever the idiot at her feet was, he had done a great job of pissing people off. She sighed and looked down at the man.
"You okay?" she whispered.
The man coughed at the settling dust and groaned. "…run… please… run," he pleaded.
Something about the desperation in his voice struck a chord in Nagi. This wasn't your typical criminal's response. Normally they just tried something insanely stupid, like holding you hostage. Nagi took note of the Lancers again, and could easily see who the bad guys were in this exchange.
"I gave you an order, wench!"
She watched spittle fly from the man's mouth, and smiled grimly. She had only started to ease her way from beneath the battered man, when the sharp sting of a Lancer's weapon seared her shoulder. She was going to like testifying at this prig's court marshal.
"Do you have any idea who I am?" Nagi's husky voice promised loads of pain to the next guard foolish enough to fire on her. Her blood-red eyes seemed to catch fire in the low light of the decimated shop.
"It wouldn't matter to me if you were the Empress herself! Consorting with this traitor is treason against the sovereignty of Jurai, and grounds for arrest." The squad didn't seem to share their leader's bravado as Nagi stood. Perhaps it had something to do with the cruel, vindictive smile that played across her sultry mouth….
Nagi closed her eyes for a moment, sending Ken-Ohki his orders. When she felt him closing on her position, she opened her eyes and smiled. The expression made the soldiers take an involuntary step back and ready their weapons.
"I'll be sure to tell Funaho-sama that you said that, captain." She blew the group a kiss as she, and the rest of the building around them simply disappeared.
The captain and his squad looked up at the massive shadow that hovered over them, and simply stared. The large, white crystalline craft seemed to growl at them before it slowly rotated and shot skyward.
The sound of the craft's passing left many in the Great Bazaar quivering with fear; the name of the Demon Ryoko was on everyone lips for the rest of the day and well into the night. Had Nagi heard this, she probably would have been very upset.
Kamiki Seto Jurai, the Devil Princess of Jurai, sighed deeply. The source of her melancholy lay on a table before her picturesque face. The holograph of Ayeka and little Sasami waved at her cheerily, as it had the one hundred and seventy-four times before. Behind them, standing before an intimate little house that called to her in a way that she had never felt before, was the boy named Tenchi.
"I feel old, Minaho-chan." The entire bridge crew stiffened at her words. There were only three sentences that sparked fear in their stout hearts: "I am bored," "I feel old," and "I think they would make a great couple."
The first and the second were preludes to some greater adventure… usually life threatening… while the third more often than not lead to declarations of war. So it was that the crew had really no idea how to proceed. Luckily for them, Minaho-sama had been handling situations like these for a very long time.
"I must beg to differ, Seto-sama," she said politely. "Your beauty springs eternal."
Seto-sama grinned impishly and winked at her great-granddaughter. "You've inherited your father's wisdom, Minaho-chan, not to mention his silver tongue."
Minaho bowed at the compliment.
"Sadly, it is not my beauty that fades, it is my passion." The crew twitched again. "I grow bored playing with pirates and kings."
Somoe, the communications officer, began to weep silently.
Seto-sama caressed Sasami's holographic face and sighed. "I feel the need to be around family again. To embrace your cousins and meet your nephew." Minaho stiffened a little at the mention of her father's grandson. "Besides, from what I have heard, Ayeka-chan is having trouble getting together with young Tenchi." A spark lit in Seto-sama's eyes, and the crew realized that they were doomed.
Seto-sama had uttered all three forbidden verses in the same conversation! Somoe began to weep openly, and many of the bridge crew began praying to their gods as Seto-sama began to mentally lay her plans.
"Forgive me, Seto-sama, but what of the Fenarian Trade negotiations? What will you tell the Emperor?" Minaho bravely stepped to the plate, in spite of the danger. The crew grew hopeful that the inevitable could be postponed long enough for them to fall ill and be transferred to another ship.
"Pish-tosh, Minaho-chan! Contact Hemzul and G'Tir immediately."
Minaho bowed deeply and motioned for Somoe to open a line to the Fenarians. In no time at all the representatives were facing down the Devil Princess of Jurai.
"Seto-sama" Both delegates bowed nervously. The avian politicians began to molt in their nervousness.
"It has come to my attention that there is a dispute within the Fenarian Guilds."
"Yes, Seto-sama." Hemzul took the lead immediately, intent on presenting his case first. "The Mining and Shipping Guilds have gone on strike…"
Seto-sama held up one elegant finger that cut Hemzul off, as if she had stolen his voice. "I've little time to listen to long-winded grievances, Hemzul, nor am I feeling particularly patient today." Seto-sama narrowed her eyes. Both representatives nearly went bald as their feathers began molt at an alarming rate.
"I will give the Guilds one month to come to a mutual resolution. If by that time I have heard of no progress, I will be forced to return." Seto-sama's smile turned hard and cold. "Please do not make me return, Representatives. You would not like it if I were to return."
The Fenarian representatives swallowed at the not-so-veiled threat and nodded their heads. Seto-sama closed the channel and settled back onto her throne with a smile. Minaho placed her face in her hand and sighed. She silently prayed that the Fenarians would some to a mutual agreement. The last thing that she needed was a civil war on her hands. Still, fear of Seto-sama was a very powerful thing. It had worked before.
"There, Minaho-chan! Negotiations complete! That should satisfy old Puffy Cheeks! Now let's go visit Sasami and Ayeka!"
Minaho could only smile at the woman's sudden enthusiasm. She was the only woman in the Galaxy that could get away with calling the Emperor of Jurai "Puffy Cheeks". Seto-sama's smile, while frightening, was a beautiful thing to behold.
"Set course for Earth, Hiri. Best possible speed."
Mikagami silently slid back into subspace. If one could possibly listen to sound in a vacuum, they might have heard Seto-sama's enthusiastic voice gently chiding Minaho-chan. "Smile, Minaho-chan! We're going to see your daddy!"
It's all about timing. Everything in life is measured in rhythms, with pivotal moments becoming crescendos and not-so-pivotal moments joining together to form harmonious chords.
For someone like Ranma, who knew next to nothing about music, this metaphor made absolutely no sense whatsoever. It didn't help that he couldn't feel the rhythm of the universe any more acutely than the rest of creation. He wasn't a priest or anything; he was just a normal guy that had blown the top off a mountain and did ten impossible things on the way to breakfast. No, there was no siren song of the Universe playing in his ears — not that he could hear, anyway. If he could, perhaps his life would have made so much more sense. Either that, or he would have committed seppuku a long time ago.
Still, things had started to get rather interesting. Ranma wasn't certain if it was a ‘good' interesting or a ‘bad' interesting yet, but he had hopes. The stars above seemed to call to him in a way that they hadn't a week ago. They still made him feel small, but there was also a newness to them that he had never experienced before. Behind each of those stars, he now knew that there was a good possibility of a new experience.
No longer were they simple pinpoints of light, staring down at him coldly from the vault of heaven. Each of those tiny lights held a refreshing new adventure, and since he was a prince now, he could pretty much do whatever the heck he wanted, right? That's what royalty did, after all. He sighed and laid his head back against the tiled roof of the shrine and allowed himself to drift amongst the heavens for a time. The allure of flying freely amongst the stars tugged at him.
He sighed and slowly allowed himself to return to Earth. Dawn would be coming soon, and with it a new day full of pain and misunderstandings. Damn, he hated meeting new people when he was so tired. He hadn't found the time to sleep yet, and the way that his grandfathers snored and farted, he knew that there was no way in hell that he would catch any rest with them. They were almost as bad as Genma!
He heard someone scaling to the roof behind him, and sighed. It wasn't Ukyou or Shampoo, thank heaven. They were a lot quieter, and normally wore copious amounts of perfume. So that left any number of people.
It wasn't Akane. The rungs didn't ring with her determination. It wasn't Nabiki either. The middle Tendo daughter was certainly never up at this time of the morning. Kasumi had a more delicate step, and after the bath thing last night, Ranma was afraid that the eldest Tendo daughter would hate him for life. So, it wasn't the usual suspects. That meant Mom or some of her relatives.
The martial artist casually glanced over to the ladder, and noted Tenchi's face appearing over the edge of the roof. Ranma's cousin nodded at him and paused, silently asking for permission to join him. Ranma smiled and waved him over.
"Thanks." Tenchi said genuinely.
"For what?" Ranma returned his gaze to the stars above.
"For not beating the crap out of me last night."
Ranma chuckled. "You were the only one that turned your head away. You didn't deserve what the others got, so don't worry about it."
Tenchi sighed in relief and lay down on the roof to the right of Ranma. "I take it you get that a lot."
"More than you'd think."
"Must suck," Tenchi said sympathetically.
"More than you'd think."
Ranma's cousin smiled and nodded. "Seems we both have a rat's nest to worry about."
Ranma snorted and shook his head. "At least you're not obligated to marry yours."
Tenchi actually laughed at that. "I wouldn't be so sure. I'm always scared that I'll wake up one day and find four or five rings on my finger."
Ranma barked a laugh and shook his head in wonder. "So you've had that nightmare too?" Both young men shuddered in a way that had nothing to do with the chill night air.
"So how do you deal with it?" Tenchi finally asked. "All the pressure, I mean."
Ranma took a long moment and then grinned mischievously. "I beat up on my old man a lot."
That drew a chuckle from Tenchi.
"So what about you? How do you deal with it?"
Tenchi sat up and looked out over the valley. After a moment he pointed to a large field of carrots and smiled sadly. "I grow carrots."
Ranma laughed bitterly and propped himself up on his elbows to get a better view of the carrot field. It was large, and even from the shrine's roof he could tell that it was well tended. "We're so pathetic," Ranma said at last, drawing a tired smile from Tenchi. The two stared at the dark surface of the lake for a very long time.
"So," Ranma said at last, "you got a favorite?"
Tenchi shook his head and rubbed his face. "Nope. I love them all."
"Not hard ta do," Ranma admitted. "They're all pretty cute." Although he shuddered when he thought of Mihoshi.
Tenchi nodded. "What about you?"
Ranma sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "I thought I did, sorta."
"But?" Tenchi prodded. Ranma was silent for a moment before looking at his cousin.
"But there's just… just…."
"There's just something that is special about each of them," Tenchi said helpfully.
Ranma looked perplexed for a moment and then shrugged. "I guess. I mean, Shampoo's really affectionate, an' while I ain't so used ta cuddlin', she makes me feel…."
"Horny?" Tenchi said with a grin. Ranma blushed and nodded. "What about the chef?"
"Ucchan?" Ranma's blush became a smile. "She's my buddy. If I need something, she's usually there." The martial artist started to examine his relationship with the chef, frowning ponderously.
"And Akane?" Tenchi asked.
Ranma rolled his eyes, uncertain how to respond. "What ta say about Akane?" He tapped his lip for a moment and then lay back down. "She's the only one that don't take crap from me. She don't like sumthin', then I'm usually the first ta know about it." Ranma rubbed his head absently.
"She's got a vulnerable side that the other two don't show very often. I mean, Shampoo's tough as nails, and Ucchan's the most resourceful girl I know next ta Nabiki. It's like they don't need me for anything, ya know?"
Tenchi narrowed his eyes and nodded his head.
"I s'pose that if it came down ta it, I'd pick Akane. But, that don't mean I don't care about the others any less."
"It's nice to feel needed though, isn't it?" Tenchi returned his gaze to the lake. Ranma nodded his head and took a deep breath. "There's something else isn't there?" Tenchi could see it written all over Ranma's face.
"There always is, ain't there?" Ranma whispered. He looked up at his cousin and narrowed his eyes dangerously. "You breathe any o' this to anyone, and I'll pound ya inta' fish paste. Got it?"
Tenchi swallowed at the promise of violence in his cousin's eyes and nodded.
"Not even ta Nabiki. Especially not ta Nabiki!" Tenchi frantically nodded his head as Ranma grabbed the front of his shirt. "Good. Now, I don't know how much ya know about my life, but the old man got me a lot more fiancées than this."
Tenchi's eyes bugged. "More?! How many more?"
Ranma sighed and ran his hand through his hair. "Last count I had come up with was fifteen."
"FIFTE…!" Tenchi was amazed at how fast Ranma had crossed the space between them. He was more amazed at Ranma's casual strength. The young martial artist had his hand pressed over Tenchi's mouth before he could even finish the syllable.
"There's no way that you can honor all of those engagements!" Tenchi whispered. "What kind of irresponsible idiot pulls that kind of crap?"
Ranma smirked. "Genma Saotome. Who else?"
Tenchi shook his head. He thought that he and Ranma had something in common. Now he knew differently. Ranma had it worse than he ever did.
"Now, here's the real problem," Ranma began bitterly, drawing Tenchi's attention back to him. "Now that I'm a prince, I'm gonna have all those people after a piece of my hide."
"Who's to say they will ever find out?" Tenchi had been able to keep his ties a secret so far. Why not Ranma? His cousin gave him an extremely flat look.
"Oh, they'll find out, all right. Nabiki will sell the information to the highest bidders soon enough, if she ever gets wind of all the arrangements."
"She can't do that!" Tenchi protested.
"Sure she can! The girl's an opportunist. If she can profit by it, she will."
"How can you stand to live with someone like that?" Tenchi asked in disgust.
"Because of what she's lost." Ranma closed his eyes and let the cool air dance across his skin. "Mr. Tendo folded after his wife died, and the girls couldn't rely on him any more. All three of 'em 're scrappers. They just took different routes in order to survive. I respect her like I would any enemy." Ranma smirked. "I keep 'er close at hand and control as much as I can."
Tenchi could only nod his head at that. He and his dad had struggled to pick up the pieces after Tenchi's mom died. "You're an amazing guy, Ranma. No doubt about it."
Ranma snorted. "I'm the best there is." Ranma's boast was hollow, and his eyes devoid of emotion. "But not cause I wanna be."
Dawn finally broke the horizon, burning Ranma's grainy eyes as the sun rose to warm the world. He saluted the fiery orb with the most obscene gesture that his tired muscles could muster. It was a pretty sad really, giving the sun the "bird", but it drew a chuckle from Tenchi all the same.
"So, how do you plan on spending the day?" An explosion down by the house caused both boys to cringe.
Ranma looked to his cousin with a hopeful grin. "We could make a break for it. You got a spaceship?"
Tenchi shook his head sadly.
"What kind of Space Prince doesn't have a spaceship?" Ranma asked grumpily. Tenchi laughed and shrugged. "Damn. Can we steal one?" Ranma's voice was starting to sound desperate.
"We wouldn't escape from Washu." Tenchi's voice was resigned to his fate.
"Damn!" Ranma slapped his fist into his palm. Both boys sat quietly and stared out across the glittering lake until the sun finally topped the trees. Ranma finally turned his attention back to Tenchi and smiled weakly as another explosion sounded across the valley.
His cousin smiled back and nodded.
"I don't mind the purple-haired chick…"
Ayeka had rarely heard Ryoko speak fondly of another woman. The fact that Ryoko had taken a liking to Lord Ranma's Chinese fiancée hadn't surprised her, though. The two seemed to be cut from the same cloth after all, which of course made Ayeka take an instant disliking to the bouncy girl. The fact that she had a better figure than Ayeka had nothing to do with it at all. The crown princess of Jurai returned her attention back to her needlepoint.
"…she's got spunk." Which was very much an understatement. Destroying what was left of the Masaki kitchen in a fight over who got to cook for Lord Ranma was a bit more than "spunk". In Ayeka's mind, it was more akin to barbarism.
"But the chef's got an attitude the size of Washu's ego!"
Ayeka grinned up from her project, and winced as the giant tanuki statue flattened the former space pirate beneath a ton of gaudily-painted ceramic. The mammoth effigy quivered slightly as a small redheaded figure emerged from behind it. The universe's number one greatest scientist bent over her daughter with a motherly smile that sent chills up and down Ayeka's spine.
"Respect your mother, Ryoko."
There was no doubt that Ayeka heard the veiled "or else" dancing behind the scientist's words. Ryoko, of course, missed the subtle innuendo, opting instead to confront Washu head on… as usual.
"WHY YOU LOUS…"
Washu's second "lesson" weighed three times that of the first, and buried Ryoko twenty feet under the house before she could even think of teleporting. The ground rocked, and a flock of birds was shaken from their roosts just outside the window.
"Good morning to you, Miss Wash…" Ayeka looked at the tanuki statue and shivered. "I mean… Good morning, Washu-chan."
Washu grinned and nodded as she sat across from the princess. Akane and her sister meandered their way into the living room, with Mihoshi bringing up the rear with a loud yawn. All three sized up the obnoxious statue in the center of the room, but couldn't bring themselves to comment on it. They'd seen the like before… after a fashion. Nabiki even mumbled something to the tune of "…just like home…" before she moved past Ayeka. The middle Tendo daughter curled up with a pillow beneath a blanket in the corner of the room and proceeded to pick up her sleep where she left off. Akane, on the other hand, made it a point to settle in next to Ayeka.
The Crown Princess of Jurai couldn't help but notice the envious gaze that Akane leveled at her hands as they deftly worked the needle with a casual rhythm. Ayeka read volumes in that look, but made it a point not to acknowledge it. Unsolicited aid never helped anyone to grow. A person had to want to be helped more than they want to breathe for any lesson to be beneficial. At least that was what Seto-sama had said to her right before she left in search of Yosho. And in some ways, Ayeka knew it for the truth, which was why she committed herself to waiting.
There was no doubt that Akane would approach her for help eventually. After all, who else could the girl really turn to? Akane was destined to be royalty, so who better to teach her how to be royal than Ayeka Masaki Jurai? Visions danced in Ayeka's mind of molding her young charge into the perfect princess. Someone who, unlike Sasami, would want to put her best foot forward at all times. It was a wonderful thing to behold, this vision of loveliness that Akane would become. And everyone would know that it had been Ayeka's masterful technique that had shaped the awkward young lady.
It wasn't long before Sasami, Kasumi, Nodoka, and the queens escorted Shampoo and Ukyou into the room. None noticed the faraway grin that was plastered on Ayeka's face, nor Akane's rather concerned look as she watched Ayeka absently sew her needlepoint to her kimono. It took a moment for Ayeka to realize her error.
Had her mother not been in the room she would have cursed. Misaki's hearing was legendary, and there was no way that Ayeka was going to join the procession of two in their melancholy march from the kitchen. From the looks of it, Ranma's other fiancées had been the subjects of the most severe butt-chew… er, reprimand that Misaki and Funaho could muster.
Ayeka remembered well the shame associated with such discipline. The princess could only smirk at the way the two young women were tenderly sitting. They must have made Sasami cry, poor dears.
"Good morning all." Misaki's voice was sweet and filled with energy.
"Good morning!" Everyone quietly responded. Ayeka could feel the weight of her mother's stare and set aside her needlepoint quickly. It wasn't prudent to ignore her mother in light of the two sore women to the left of her.
"Good morning, Mommy!" False enthusiasm danced in Ayeka's eyes as she smothered her mother in a warm hug. She prayed that one day her mother would see her as the woman that she was, but somehow, she knew that this would never be the case.
The sound of fighting drew Misaki's attention, thankfully, away from her daughter. Ayeka was left spinning as the second queen of Jurai all but teleported herself to Washu's side. Her eyes took on a glazed look as she stared at the scientist's holographic computer.
Ayeka wasn't certain, but it looked like her mother was… drooling? The sound of Tenchi's voice echoed clearly throughout the room, followed closely by Lord Ranma's. Ayeka's curiosity got the better of her and she found herself drawn to the computer, along with every other woman in the room.
Washu frowned and typed a few keys on her console, bringing the wide-screen television to life. All eyes shifted away from the tiny screen to bask in the wonder of two very sweaty, shirtless male bodies dancing around the Sacred Tree, Funaho. More than once Ayeka had to wipe her chin.
There was a thunderous cry of disappointment when the television was turned off. Sasami had just returned with popcorn for everyone and looked extremely cross with Washu.
"What?" The redheaded mad scientist asked irreverently.
"What'd you shut it off for, Washu?" Ryoko demanded. "It was just getting good!"
Washu 'tsked' and shook her head. "Ryoko, Ryoko. There are times that I wonder what happened to you."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Ryoko loomed over her mother menacingly.
"It means, dear girl, that you're shortsighted." Ryoko's eyebrow furrowed dangerously. "Why watch a television screen when you can watch the real thing? Besides," the diminutive redhead grinned lecherously. "…you can't conduct experiments from a couch."
An involuntary shiver slid down more than one woman's spine. Washu continued to stare at the holographic screen, and licked her lips. "Come to me, my scrumptious guinea pigs!"
Washu cackled gleefully and disappeared from sight, causing more than one woman to curse. Ryoko teleported right behind her mother, but the others were forced to rely on foot power to reach Funaho's grove. It was a mad dash as the women stampeded to get an eye fu… er, stake their… um, save Ranma and Tenchi from the clutches of Washu!
Azusa and Yosho woke to the sounds of heavy sparring. The crisp morning air had done wonders for Azusa, who rarely slept longer than three hours a night. He felt refreshed and energized, something that hadn't happened in a very long time.
"It looks like the boys started without us." Yosho grinned at his father amicably, and motioned him up.
"Then we will have to teach them a lesson in patience." Azusa stood and dressed quickly. Soon there were four men engaged in battle rather than just two.
Nagi looked up at the Juraian noble floating in Ken-Ohki's medical tank and pursed her lips. She had heard through the usual channels that something big was happening on the outskirts of Jurai's influence, in the no-man's land between Jurai and Seniwa. Details were sketchy at best, but she had gleaned enough to know that a new faction was looking to make a grab for power.
At first glance it had looked like Airaian Fundamentalists looking for attention, but Nagi had been around long enough to know a smokescreen when she saw one. The questions of who, what, and why were still open to discussion. Somehow she knew that she was now hip-deep in that conflict. Which meant that she was going to become a target, if she weren't one already.
Thankfully, there had been no pursuit from Myrai. It didn't mean much, but Nagi was secure in the knowledge that Ken-Ohki could out run any two-bit GP cruiser. The Juraian authorities were another matter altogether, though, especially in light of the corruption that she had stumbled onto. She sighed deeply and fell back into the captain's chair her cabbit had provided her.
"Did we do the right thing, Ken-Ohki?" The cabbit "ciao'ed" sympathetically. "I hope you're right, partner. I hope you're right." Nagi leaned back in her chair and gazed at the ceiling of the cabin. "E.T.A. to Earth?"
The sentient ship displayed trajectory and velocity calculations for an instant before displaying the requested information.
Nagi laced her fingers behind her head and sighed. "Wake me if prince charming here stirs. Otherwise, wake me when we enter the solar system." Nagi's loyal partner sounded his affirmative and dimmed the lights for his mistress.
Ranma shot across the grove with enough speed to make the air crack. His body was slick with sweat as he and his grandfather faced off. When Yosho and Azusa had made their appearance over an hour ago, the pair of old farts had been talking some serious trash about the younger generation. Ranma and Tenchi had decided that such a challenge to their generational pride could not go unanswered. Thus their impromptu sparring match had been set aside in favor of making the old fogies chew some serious crow.
Azusa and Yosho had removed their shirts, done a little stretching — of which Ranma took great liberty in commenting loudly — and graciously told Tenchi and Ranma to begin the games.
Tenchi had looked nervous at the way the old men were eyeing him, but had settled himself into a firm stance. The sun glinted off his hard-earned muscles, warming his body and keeping him loose. Ranma stood at his side and fed him a number of strategies that seemed insightful and adaptive. He sort of knew what to expect from Grandpa, having fought with him and all, which meant that he would be going up against Azusa. Tenchi swallowed and reset himself, waiting for Ranma's cue. Something told him that this was going to hurt. A lot.
Ranma feinted left and then shot quickly to the right, across Tenchi's field of vision, to engage Azusa in a furious attack. Yosho moved to intercept Ranma, but found Tenchi already there to protect his cousin's back. Something amazing seemed to descend over the young men, as they attacked the older men in harmonious concert. Yosho and Azusa had seen many fighting teams in their lives, but the level at which these two were synchronizing their attacks was nothing short of uncanny. It forced father and son to focus on each other as much as they were attending their opponents. There was little room for error, for the instant one faltered, both Ranma and Tenchi sought to exploit the weakness.
An hour into the match, both sides parted at some unspoken signal to catch their breath.
"By Tsunami's ten wings, Yosho!" Azusa wiped his forehead and shook the sweat from his bangs. "I thought you said they'd never met each other!"
Yosho was carefully controlling his breathing in order not to hyperventilate. He blinked several times and shook his head. "On my honor, they've never had contact, Father."
The Emperor of Jurai studied the pair critically and noted how well the two fit together. "What they are doing is impossible. Are you certain that they are not linked?"
Yosho shrugged and shook his head. "I have learned not to make too many rash judgments where Tenchi is concerned." The crown prince of Jurai smirked at his father mischievously. "He tends to surprise me at every turn."
Azusa nodded ponderously. "Ranma seems to share the same unpredictability. The whelp's slippery, and never does what you expect him to do. The Court will love them!" The Emperor barked a laugh and shook his head. Yosho laughed alongside his father.
"It seems the pups have served us our backsides in the first round. What do you say we up the ante this round, eh son?" Azusa shot his son a sneaky grin that was anything but fair.
Ranma and Tenchi huddled near each other grinning from ear to ear. Ranma had never had this much fun in his life, and Tenchi was just glad that he hadn't been pulped!
"We make a pretty good team, eh Tenchi?" Ranma slapped his cousin on the back and settled himself to watching Azusa and Gramps.
"That was amazing, Ranma-kun! I've never been able to hold my own against Grandpa like that!" He leaned heavily on his bokken and was amazed at the absence of bruises on his bare skin. Yosho hadn't even touched him!
Ranma smirked. "That was just the first round, Tenchi. The old farts aren't done with us yet. We spanked ‘em hard, but now's when the fun really starts!"
Tenchi blanched. "You mean it's not over yet?" Tenchi whined.
Ranma slugged him in the shoulder. "Don't be a panty-waist, Masaki! Are you a wuss or something?"
Tenchi's chest puffed up and he stood taller. "I'm a man."
"Good to know, ‘cause the old men are gonna start playin' nasty." Ranma's grin was anything but pleasant. "We're gonna haf'ta outthink ‘em and overpower ‘em."
"How?" Tenchi asked eagerly. The thought of beating Grandpa just once was intoxicating.
"You know any special attacks?" Ranma watched the old men carefully, while waiting for his cousin's response.
Tenchi shook his head tiredly. "Sorry."
Ranma smacked him lightly on the shoulder. "No worries. I'll be the heavy gun. You snipe at ‘em from the sides. Remember, focus and adapt, don't let yourself fall into a pattern or they'll have you." Ranma nudged Tenchi to show him that the old men were starting to stand. "If you see me movin' in a tight spiral, be ready to high-tail it out of there. Got it?"
Tenchi nodded and the young men stood together. They hit fists and moved cautiously back to the middle of the field.
The womenfolk had done an excellent job of hiding themselves in the underbrush at the edge of the grove. The first half of the match was spent drooling and giggling over the amount of testosterone in the air. Sasami and Kasumi had brought picnic baskets with them and began serving refreshments to the spectators. Downwind of Ranma, of course. It wouldn't do for the show to be stopped by the martial artist's stomach.
There were many loosened collars as the gathered women watched well-toned men beating the crap out of each other in a ballet of violence. It was such a primal exchange that Nabiki had forgotten to sell the fans that she had confiscated from the house.
Funaho and Misaki had spent the entire time trading a quiet commentary back and forth about things that made Akane blush like a beet. Ayeka followed her new friend's example and was soon forced to move away from the rather torrid discussion. Ukyou, Ryoko, Shampoo, and Mihoshi were all slack-jawed zombies, quietly drooling at the edge of the grove.
By the time half-time had rolled around, Nabiki had started a betting pool with Funaho, and the pair started taking wagers on who would be left standing by the end of the second half.
Washu declined to bet, saying that the fireworks were about to really start. The betting skyrocketed then. Two-to-one odds against Tenchi and Ranma were drawn, with Sasami the only one betting that Ranma would be the only one standing by the end.
Nabiki smirked and took the girl's money. Candy from a baby.
Mikagami slipped smoothly out of subspace to the port of Kirito and the twin ships Mizuho and Karin. Somoe sent out the coded transmission that Seto-sama had requested, but the reply was anything but what they expected. Misaki's flushed face appeared on-screen and asked if Mommy wanted to make a bet on the outcome of a match involving Azusa, Yosho, Tenchi, and a young man named Ranma.
After a brief glimpse of the candidates and a rundown on the odds, Seto-sama placed her bets — allowing her crew to make theirs as well — and then with little preamble teleported to her daughter's coordinates with Minaho. She was overwhelmed by hugs from her daughter and granddaughters, but in light of the voyeuristic nature of their entertainment, many of the pleasantries of greeting family had to be postponed.
When the match started up again, everyone was in place and well fed thanks to Sasami and Kasumi.
Round two opened with a shocker. Even though Ranma and Tenchi were expecting it, the older men's tactics nearly overwhelmed them. Tenchi was nearly buried beneath a wave of dirt that Yosho gouged out of the ground with his bokken. He evaded, only to be blind-sided by a nasty energy attack from Azusa.
Ranma watched Tenchi get slammed, and maneuvered himself behind Yosho, who was attempting to flank his cousin. With a mighty cry of "Moko Takabisha!" he hurtled his projected ki into the back of his grandfather's head. Yosho managed to get a shield in place at just the last instant, but was still sent face-first into the ground. The pigtailed prince had no time to celebrate his victory, for the Emperor was on him the instant he had fired.
The two clashed in midair, seeming to hover while trading blows at an insane rate. When they landed, Azusa had managed to get Ranma in a body lock that looked impossible to break.
"Seems to me that you're out of your league, pup." Azusa grinned mercilessly at his great-grandson and applied pressure to the lock. "Care to bow out gracefully while you still can?"
Ranma's smile was just as ruthless. "In your dreams, old man!" The boy demonstrated an amount of flexibility that should have been humanly unattainable, and bent his body nearly in half and smashed a fist into Azusa's groin. There was a sympathetic groan from Yosho and Tenchi as Azusa held himself.
"I play to win! Kachu Tenshin Amagurikan!" Hundreds of blows smashed against a shield that had appeared an inch before Azusa's face. The Emperor wasn't certain what to be more concerned about, the blinding pain in his loins, or the way that his shield was starting to flicker and fade beneath his great-grandson's amazing assault.
If the haze of pain hadn't been so much, the shield would have surely held. But as it was, the Emperor was having trouble keeping his eyes from crossing, let alone focusing a shield.
Ranma refused to let up on the man, and ducked and jumped as Yosho pressed him. It was probably the most harrying few seconds of the battle for Ranma as he danced around over and on Yosho's blade, while hammering on Azusa's shield. He heaved a sigh of relief when Tenchi came in low at Yosho's legs, forcing the older man off the offensive. But by the time Tenchi had come, Azusa had regained his feet.
"So, you like to play dirty, do you?"
Ranma shrugged and grinned again. "There's another way?"
And the battle commenced anew.
Tenchi was getting his butt handed to him. There was no denying it. The harmony that he and Ranma had developed in the first half of the match had been broken when everyone had started using their flashy tricks. He felt extremely useless to his cousin, in spite of the plan that they had developed.
The bruises that he had avoided so well in the first half of the match were now being delivered with interest, much to his disappointment. He knew that he had the power deep within him to even the playing field, but using it scared him. The well was so large, and using it always resulted in something too large for his mind to wrap around. Cutting the Souja in half, flattening the gravity well of a black hole… using the light hawk wings in a sparring match seemed like overkill.
What he needed was something smaller, something more in line with what everyone else was using. Yosho sent another blast into the dirt, sending up a screen of choking dust that blinded Tenchi. He immediately dropped to the ground and rolled to avoid Yosho's follow-up attack.
He wasn't sure how much longer he could take the beating from his grandfather, which meant that Ranma was going to be facing these two alone. Tenchi couldn't let that happen.
"Focus and adapt." Tenchi repeated Ranma's words and hunted for his grandpa. He dug deep within himself and began focusing a trickle of his gift to the fore. Tenchi felt that he had almost accomplished something, when he felt a rather familiar pain atop his head. The world blurred for a moment, and then darkness claimed him. His last word for the match seemed to sum up his frustration and disappointment. "Damn."
Yosho patted his grandson on the shoulder and then dragged him to the base of Funaho's trunk so that the boy wouldn't get in the way of Ranma's trouncing. He had to admit with an immense amount of pride that the boy had fought Yosho to a standstill with skill alone. Had he been more versed in his own abilities, the crown prince had no doubt that it would be Tenchi standing over his unconscious form. It was a wonderful sign.
Yosho grinned and turned his attention back to Ranma and Azusa, who were dancing across the grove wildly. There was something odd about the way that Ranma was leading Azusa, but Yosho couldn't see where the boy was going with the movements. It could have been just a random pattern developing from the way that Azusa was pushing the boy, but somehow Yosho didn't believe it.
Azusa couldn't believe how dirty the kid was fighting. Every time the Emperor was setting the boy up, he would bounce left when he should have been going right. Then there was the way the boy would take potshots that most honorable fighters would ignore. All of that Azusa could have dealt with — he'd suffered worse in his lifetime, most at the hands of his mother-in-law.
It was the brat's smirk that was driving Azusa over the edge. No matter how hard the King of Jurai hit the boy, he seemed to bounce back with that condescending smile still in place. It was enough to make the man want to scream! He was definitely going to put the boy in his place. Whatever the cost to himself!
Ranma's smirk grew wider as Yosho began moving towards him. Tenchi had lasted a whole lot longer than expected, and from the way that Yosho was favoring his right arm, his cousin had gotten at least one good shot in before going down.
The spiral he was making was starting to get tighter and tighter, and with all of the hot chi that had built in Azusa, Ranma knew that this Hiryu Shoten Ha was going to be a hum-dinger! From the amount of damage that the old farts had absorbed, Ranma was certain that they'd survive the cyclone with a few bumps and bruises to their pride.
Now then, how to make this victory a little sweeter? He absently dodged the quadruple combo from Yosho, and sidestepped Azusa's weird chi blast. Now, what would make this all the more humiliating for the old farts? Ranma grinned impishly at the old men as he blurred around another combo. The spiral was set, and all he had to do was trigger the built-up chi.
"Make you geezer's a bet?" Ranma taunted. Yosho's speed suddenly doubled, putting Ranma on the defensive. Whoa! The old man'd been holding back! Azusa pulled a similar move, and tried to box Ranma between him and his partner. The erratic fighter disappointed the trap by dropping straight to the ground.
Yosho almost repeated his father's earlier mistake, but was able to block Ranma's wicked uppercut in time to stave off a great deal of pain. Amazingly, the boy anticipated Azusa's blind attack and held the pair at bay for an instant. He glanced at both from the corner of his eyes, panting heavily at the exertion he'd put forth.
"You up for a little wager, Gramps?" Ranma's voice was full of smug self-confidence that caused both men to growl.
"What did you have in mind, Ranma-kun?" Yosho's voice was calm and collected, as he pressed harder on Ranma's trapped fist.
"I win, you run naked around the lake during lunch."
Azusa barked an incredulous laugh and tossed his great grandson a scathing look. "And if we win, you boastful little brat?" Azusa couldn't believe the audacity of the boy!
"I'll do the same, but as a girl." Yosho and Azusa grinned lecherously and nodded their acceptance. Ranma smiled devilishly. "Suckers!" He pulled his fist free from Yosho's grasp and initiated a leg sweep that his grandfathers easily jumped over. In one fluid motion Ranma rotated in a rapid tight spiral and finalized his attack.
Both Azusa and Yosho looked shocked for an instant before the area erupted into a raging cyclone.
Shampoo had been disappointed that Tenchi had been disabled. He had shown such promise! She might have lost her bet, but her beloved was kicking butt and taking names! More than once she had entertained steamy fantasies about the sweaty boy, and from the glazed looks on many of the eyes around her, she wasn't the only one.
So long as they didn't touch the merchandise, she didn't care if the others daydreamed to their heart's content. Envy, after all, was a wonderful spice that added a rich flavor to any Amazon marriage.
Shampoo almost lost herself in another fantasy, when she saw the buildup to Ranma's finishing move. It didn't register at first, but when she saw him explode upward, she knew that the fight was over.
It was a magnificent end to an incredible match. Only one person had believed that Ranma could pull it off, and Nabiki cursed herself for not knowing better. Ranma Saotome never lost.
Washu had kept their party from getting sucked up into the cyclone, but poor Yosho and his father were sent sky-high. They landed in Funaho's branches dazed and unable to continue. As Sasami predicted, Ranma was the last one standing, but that lasted until about forty-five seconds after the Hiryu Shoten Ha had died down.
Ranma was laughing and mocking his grandfathers mercilessly, when Tenchi-kun fell from the sky. The two partners collided with a loud crack, leaving both very much unconscious.
Sasami collected her winnings from everyone, much to Nabiki's annoyance, and then the battle began over who would carry the boys back to the house. It was a raging mess until everyone noted Washu, Sasami, and Seto-sama carrying Ranma and Tenchi back to the house. Azusa and Yosho were left to Minaho, Nodoka, and the queens.
Ranma grinned at his grandfathers from his seat on the dock, and motioned them to get on with the show. He had won, no matter how much Azusa had protested otherwise.
"A deal's a deal! So quit stallin'!"
"You're going to regret this, boy!" Azusa was completely flushed as the entire house watched the interplay, mostly from secret. He had tried to deny the agreement had taken place, but Funaho, with a great deal of help from Washu, had produced enough evidence and witnesses to the contrary.
"Talk is cheap, Gramps! Get the show on the road!" Ranma folded his arms over his chest and smirked.
"Yes, Azusa-chan, do get on with the show." Seto-sama called from her seat next to her daughter. Misaki wolf-whistled, causing her husband to grumble further.
"I swear on all that I hold dear and true, that you will pay for this!" Azusa seethed.
"I've heard it all before, old man!" Ranma gloated. "Just be glad that ya ain't out there alone!" Yosho grimaced and began making plans to humble his grandson, preferably in the most painful and demeaning way possible. Misaki and Funaho were starting to get impatient and began booing Azusa, making the situation even worse for the Emperor of Jurai.
"Come, father. Let the boy have his moment." Yosho smiled devilishly at Ranma, intimidating the young martial artist more than Azusa's bluster. "It will make the payback all the sweeter."
Azusa nodded and began to strip. Seto-sama let out an incredibly loud whistle, and from somewhere behind Ranma there was a flash of light. Azusa blanched and stared at his mother-in-law in shock. She laughed raucously and winked at the Emperor.
"For posterity, Azusa-chan!"
The women laughed until their sides hurt, and Ranma thought that maybe, just maybe, he had bitten off more than he could chew with this one.
"At least it can't get any worse," Yosho said. Thunder sounded in the distance just as his disguise field failed. There was a gasp from many hidden voices as the disguise field surrounding Yosho abruptly disappeared, revealing the crown prince of Jurai in all of his youthful glory.
"YOSHO!!!" At the sound of Ayeka's voice, Yosho bolted. Azusa wasn't far behind either, as Misaki and Seto-sama began the chase. Both women were shouting something about posterity.
Ranma sat on the dock, pleased for once that someone else was being chased. He knew that there would be hell to pay later on, but in his mind it was all worth it.
Sasami snickered from her hiding place on Tenchi's balcony. It was well past time that Yosho-niichan stopped hiding behind his masks. She hoped that someone had gotten a picture of his face; Airi-neechan would definitely want a copy.
The teal-haired girl yawned tiredly, and stretched out in the noonday sun. In no time at all she was fast asleep, and in her place stood a statuesque woman of immeasurable beauty.
Tsunami smiled down at Ranma lovingly. He had done it again, overcoming all odds to pull a victory out of thin air. It was pure luck, to be certain. Azusa and Yosho wouldn't fall for the same ploy twice. He had won, though, which would say something to those who would challenge him in the future. She hoped and prayed that his luck would be enough to save her from herself. Tsunami looked down at the boy with unmasked longing. If all went as she had planned, then she would no longer be shackled to her prison. Soon, she would walk with a physical body with all of its pleasures and pains. Soon, she would be able to love.
To be continued.
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