I don't own RWBY or Ranma.
Hunting with your Fists (temp title)
So, this is my attempt at a RWBY story, well the start of one at least. My RWBY muse demanded I write this and overcame my other muses with the equivalent of an army pounding on a company. The reason for this is simple: the fanfiction of RWBY is alive and growing in a way that Highschool of the Dead, Highschool DxD, Macross, Sekirei, even Star Wars doesn't match. There are several dozen really good RWBY stories, at least a dozen of which are currently being written and updated on a pretty decent basis, and even a few crossovers. This gives my muse much more impetus to work, something I've not seen before. Mind you, that doesn't mean I'll continue this story right away after Wild Wolf ends, but we'll see.
What can I tell you now?
1. Sorry, but it does use a cliché I've used before, the Nanban Mirror, to get Ranma into Remnant.
2. While OC's will abound in this first posting, only one will be a recurring character and even then she won't be one of the most important characters going forward. I intend to concentrate as much as possible on Ranma plus the original RWBYJNPR eight. Although I am tempted to play with team placements, if anyone can come up with alternate names that actually make sense and don't introduce OC's.
3. This is not the idea I initially thought up for this crossover, it has been changed somewhat (okay, a LOT), from the one on my profile. Apologies to those who I exchanged ideas with.
4. One idea that I did keep from those discussions is based off something Monty Oum was quoted as saying: dust, aura and Semblances are not magic. Magic does not exist in Remnant. Needless to say, this will have implications. Although honestly after seeing some of Season three, I don't know if you can say they stayed true to that concept.
5. And you can take that crap they call the third season and shove it. Not a bit of it is going down like it did in the canon. Especially those last few fucking episodes and how obviously Yang and Pyrrha were set up (honestly, the only surprise was that Yang only lost her forearm). Won't say my story will be all sweetness and light as you will see in this posting, but not nearly as angsty as that. Nor will a major plot point introduced in the last episode of season two just be forgotten as it seemed in canon. And I detest tournaments as a plot tool. There are much more important things your characters could be doing other than beating on one another for the pleasure of the sheeple. And as for Pyrrha suddenly pulling an Obi-Wan and deciding to sacrifice herself, fuck that. Just fuck that. Made no sense at the time, will not be happening here.
6. I am not going to be as… positive towards Ozpin as most authors seem to be, his whole attitude and the idea of sitting back and waiting won't endear him to Ranma. Frankly to my mind as a teacher or a general (or king or chess player whatever he thought he was) Ozpin failed practically from beginning to end, missing the forest for the trees. Nor will Ironwood like Ranma… at all… at first. Or possibly ever. As for Glynda… heh.
7. Pairings are up in the air. I initially wanted to go Ranma/Yang, but while I've read several good Jaune/Pyrrha fics and could go that way, I've looked at her character and honestly think Pyrrha and Ranma could be a match too. We'll see. If I go that route, I'll pair Jaune, a Jaune who is a much better fighter than in canon, with Ruby. Think they could be adorkable (holy hell that's actually a word?) together.
8. Some of the plot concepts used in this story can be traced back to Professor Arc, by Coeur Al'Aran. I have given them my own slant of course, but would highly recommend that fic and all his others to my readers if you haven't already seen them.
thanks go to ultimaflare0 for editing these chapters.
Prologue: Explosives and Magical Items Don't Mix
If Ranma was the sort of person to use the phrase 'now I've seen everything', then possibly being thrown back in time thanks to an old pervert crying on a magical item would've topped the list. As it was, it didn't, but it was high on his list of 'weird stuff I've had to deal with'. This was more a folder in his mind than a list, and a rather large one at that, but even in so, this current adventure was really out there.
Of course it had gotten worse when they saw the contemporary version of Happosai and Cologne. After his old man and Soun had their fun getting in a preemptive beating on the little sod, the girls had the bright idea of getting Cologne and Happosai together, since it was 'obvious' that Cologne had feelings for the little troll. Deep down Ranma doubted it was anything but the allure of the outsider, the unknown, but he'd gone along with the plan anyway. After all, if those two got together in the past, it'd certainly make his and everyone else's lives easier in the present, right?
We should've known it wouldn't work. Ranma groused internally, watching as the two girls tried to make their Happosai cry. The fact that his contemporary was a little pervert who preferred to fondle women's underwear or their chests rather than flirt with them should've given us a clue. Chaos follows that old pervert no matter his age, gotta wonder if it's some kind of curse, or maybe a secret perversion?
Ranma shuddered suddenly, shaking his head. That last idea made far too much sense. Ugh, what if he really likes getting beaten down like he does, at least if it's done by pretty girls anyway? Eughh, damn Hiroshi, why'd you have to show that magazine to me?! Need some brain bleach now.
Hearing a nearby scream of rage, Ranma shook his head, grabbing the excuse to leave those thoughts behind, where they would hopefully die an early death. "You girls better get a move on. I think Cologne's coming closer!"
Akane scowled angrily, throwing down the union they had been trying to use to get Happosai to cry again on the mirror, cracking her knuckles explosively. "Well, then I suppose we'll have to get do this the hard way."
To one side Genma and Soun nodded agreement while Cologne rolled her eyes at Happosai's contrary attitude. "The moment we need you to cry you don't want to when a moment ago you were bemoaning about how everyone was mean to you? Fine, you deserve the beating you're about to get a few dozen times over anyway."
"Gah, why are you all so mean to me!?" Happosai yowled, trying to escape Xian Pu's grip, failing as the lure of her bosom held him still just long enough for the others to crowd around and begin the beat down.
Just as they were about to start Ranma frowned. "Wait, why's the young Cologne coming this way, isn't she after Happy?"
He said that too late, because just as he did the younger version of Happosai, who Ranma mentally labelled as just Happy to avoid confusion, landed in front of them. Even now the sight of that diminutive little body, with the lank black hair and a face that only a mother could love, made Ranma want to laugh.
Behind Happosai came this time's Cologne. She was slightly less busty than Xian Pu but her dark blue hair was longer than her granddaughter's purple and she had green eyes rather than red. The big difference between the two though was the younger Cologne somehow conveyed a feeling of calm and serenity, while Xian Pu had a bubbly personality. That serenity was in stark abeyance right now though, instead her face was set in a rictus snarl as she chased after Happosai. "You get back here Happosai! You no steal from or fondle Amazon women!"
Just as Ranma opened his mouth to shout at Happy to back off, the little gnome bounded up over the group around the mirror, littering them with several of his ill-gotten gains. Much to the delight of his older self, who shouted "Sweeto!" and reached for several of them despite the others now trying to beat him into the dirt.
"I'd heard you were leaving, so consider these a going away present!" Happy cackled before running off again as fast as those little legs could carry him. Which, Ranma thought bemusedly as he removed a bra from his head, was actually quite damn fast.
"Yes!" Xian Pu shouted from behind him, as Happosai began to cry. The fact that Akane had just set fire to one of the panties that Happy had dropped and was busy tossing others into their camp fire probably had more to do with that than the beating Soun and the others had been delivering.
Cologne nodded, waving her walking stick. "Gather round, we have to go!" As she watched, Happosai's tears hit the mirror's face, which began to glow white with magical potential.
Ranma grinned, threw the bra that had been on his head aside, and was about to move towards the rest of the group when suddenly he had to dodge backwards. A huge battle axe slammed into the ground right where he had been about to step.
Where the heck did she get that? Does every Amazon know a variant of Mousse's hidden weapons technique? Ranma had been studying that technique for a while, and had come up with his own version though he couldn't organize it like Moose did, that took way too much energy.
"You no escape!" Cologne shouted, charging forward. Another smaller axe made Ranma leap away again, and in that brief moment the group around old man Happosai disappeared. The last thing he saw was Xian Pu and Akane's astonished faces as they realized they were leaving him behind.
Seeing that happen and realizing that he had no way back to his own time Ranma cursed. He really cursed for once in his life, using one he'd heard from an online show that Kasumi watched when she thought the house was empty. "Oh, fuck berries!"
As the words left his mouth Ranma ducked before rolling forward to dodge a scimitar blow that would have taken him in the back of the head. Cologne stood directly behind him, having crossed the distance from where she had thrown the axes that had nearly hit him while Ranma had been staring in shock at the space his friends had previously occupied. "Not know why you help Happy or why you meddle but ally of thief is thief in Amazon law! I not able take him back, I take you back!"
"How about no?" Ranma growled, rolling and kicking off quickly, throwing himself back towards Cologne as he twisted in midair to bring his foot around. This was a feint however, and he pulled the kickback midair using the momentum this caused to twist around as Cologne tried to skewer him with a scimitar.
Instead he smacked the scimitar to one side before bringing around a punch which connected with Cologne's jaw. Ranma's experiences against Xian Pu, Mousse and of course his own time's Cologne had given him a very high opinion of Amazon durability, so he knew that punch wouldn't hurt her all that much.
That and Ranma wasn't in an emotional state to care overmuch. Despite his habitual self-control and his upbringing which told him that all women were weaker than men, he had just seen his friends leave him behind in this past history. That was enough to get under anyone's skin and he was itching for a fight, especially against one of the two people who he could rightly blame for this disaster.
Cologne recovered quickly, coming back with a kick that aimed for his side, before segueing into a high kick and then a low kick in under a second, almost as fast as the Amiguriken technique. Ranma dodged the first, wasn't fooled by the second, but took the third right in the face, which flung him backwards slightly. Even so he rolled with it, dodging the next few punches that Cologne threw his way, pressing hard.
Smacking one of Cologne's arms out of position Ranma got in a shot at her stomach, which doubled the girl over. Not as durable as Xian Pu, though quite a bit faster, Ranma's analytical mind told him, and he pressed in accordingly. The two exchanged blows for a time, pressing this way and that across the field where the time travelers had made their camp. All the while Ranma hoped that his friends would come right back.
It didn't happen. When they arrived, Happosai had made a break for freedom, only to be chased down by Cologne. The two of them had thought, and the mirror had fallen to the ground where Nabiki had stepped on it, destroying it before any of the younger set could warn her it was there. They had all rushed out to the Cat Café, hoping that Cologne had some other item that could let them travel back to get Ranma, but the odds were grim.
Taking to the air between one kick and another from Cologne, Ranma pummeled the girl from above, his aerial style completely negating her fast kicking speed and decent footwork. Cologne growled angrily, wincing as a blow took her high in the face right above one eye, but turning with the blow to grab Ranma under the wrist, pulling him down towards her for punch to his face.
Ranma however blocked it with his open palm. Grabbing her fist he twisted her arm around behind her as he landed, landing a blow to her back at the same time. He could've also broken her arm from that position, but he wasn't that angry, he just wanted Cologne unconscious right now, not hurt badly.
Even so Cologne refused to concede defeat. Dipping her body forwards and kicking out backwards she caught Ranma in the leg knocking him off balance just enough to rip her arm out of his grip. Continuing to fall forward, Cologne rolled, landing by her scimitar. Grabbing it up and turning quickly she brought it around in a vicious arc towards Ranma.
Ranma threw himself up over it, his hands flashing down to catch the blade on the backswing , shattering it with A series of Amiguriken punches. At the same time his leg lashed out, catching Cologne in the jaw that he'd already bruised. That blow finally seems to overcome the girl's durability, and her body flew backwards end over end for a moment before she slammed into the ground and lay still.
Seeing this Ranma panicked. He rushed towards her, kneeling next to Cologne's head then gently feeling for a pulse. Breathing a sigh of relief when he found one Ranma sat back on his haunches. "Tough girl, better than Xian Pu that's for sure, though her speed, power and skill isn't as high. Weird combination."
Cologne's own punches hadn't mattered at all, the kick to the face had been startling but not painful. Without Cologne using a weapon, Ranma could've just tanked her punches and kicks, but that wasn't Ranma style. He could also have ended the fight with a ki technique, or with a full Amigurken assault, but again that wasn't Ranma style.
Ranma fought his opponents as close to their level as he could whenever he could, considering every battle a learning experience. If you overwhelmed your opponents too quickly, you didn't learn anything. It was thanks to this method that he had learned Mousse's hidden weapons technique, several blade techniques from Kuno including the air pressure move, several dozen katas from Xian Pu, and a lot of other things as well over the years.
Tying the girl up just in case, Ranma then moved over to where his friends disappeared, tending the fire they had made just to make certain that it didn't go out of control. Then he waited.
And waited, and waited. The sun was going down when Ranma finally decided that his friends weren't going to get back to him soon. Dammit, I'd hoped they'd be able to just turn around and come back, trust Happosai to make things difficult! Now what am I going to do? We're too close to Amazon territory for my liking, that hunting party that chased Happy is still out there somewhere and I just knocked out one of their clan members. I really, really don't want to find out what the matriarchs of this time will do to me if they find me here, especially after the crap that Happy pulled.
But, if I leave, will my friends be able to find me? Any kind of trail I leave, the Amazons could follow too! It's a pity most of them already so my female form, or I could simply wait here in that.
After a moment Ranma shrugged. I'll have to risk it I suppose, find someplace nearby so I can come back and check occasionally, but one that's out of the way enough the Amazons won't find me.
His thoughts broke off as Cologne stirred where she had been tied up, groaning aloud. Ranma moved over to Cologne, helping her sit up so he could look her in the face.
"You're not going to attack me again are you? I mean I'm willing ta untie you and let bygones be bygones, I even tried to you now gather those…" Ranma blushed. "The uh, the underthings that Happy left behind, we had nothing to do with him, we were just, um, my friends were just trying to play matchmaker 'cause they like doing that kinda thing." he ended rather lamely.
Cologne shrugged her shoulders and cracked her neck a little, looking away from Ranma then down at her own body before smiling slightly, and leaning forward catching Ranma in a surprise kiss. Ranma was on his haunches at the time, but he backpedaled quickly, blushing and staring at the girl, wondering if that was another kiss of death.
If so I'm damn sure not going to untie her, I'll leave a dagger somewhere nearby, and she can get herself back to her damn village. Ranma's temper was a little frayed at this point.
But what Cologne said was even worse than Xian Pu's cry of 'you I kill' and the memories it brought back. "Wo ai ni Airen." She said simply, pushing herself to her feet and lunging after Ranma despite still being tied up.
Ranma backed away quickly, staring at her in panic. And not just the panic of having another Amazon after them like that, or what Xian Pu and Akane would do to him if they found out about it. No, he remembered what this woman would look like in the future, and that was enough to terrify anyone. Blessed Amaterasu mouthwash, where's some mouthwash!
With that in mind he backed away quickly, throwing down a knife by the fire. "Well swell but I gottta go that knife'll allow you ta undo your bonds see you!" Spitting that out as if it was one word Ranma then raced off taking to the trees and hopping away, simply trying to put as much distance between him and Cologne as possible. He also made certain he was heading in the same general direction Happosai had taken.
He didn't stop running until early morning, having traveled through the night as via the treetops. Since there weren't any arboreal predators in China that would bother with a human and Ranma's night vision was very good, he covered a lot of distance in that time.
Eventually he paused. Taking off his shoes Ranma leaped down from a tree overhanging a river, splashing into the water and changing to his female form with a sigh. Soaking her feet in the water for a moment, Ranma leaned back against the tree trunk, thinking hard.
Okay, so my friends haven't shown up, and even if they did, I don't think they'd be able to track me. Well okay fine Xian Pu probably could, she tracked me across China once already. But, should I simply find a place to hold up and wait for them? Or should I try to get myself back home? Happosai has this timeline's mirror after all. Hell, it might actually be working better than our own given its younger and all. If so, it could get be home, couldn't it? That makes sense right?
Ranma didn't know anything about time travel theories, alternate dimensions, or as one particular author from Britain would put, the trousers of time. All he cared about was whether or not it could get him home. Whether that would be the home he had left was something that didn't enter his mind. Enough ego can solve any time travel paradox. But taking it from Happy is gonna be easier said than done.
Fighting Happy is always a chore, that little body means no grappling or throwing techniques can work on him. And while this Happy didn't seem ta have as much strength or speed as me when the old men were wailing on him, he's a lot trickier. And he probably has even more endurance than me, given how he's always running away. Against our timeframes Happy I'd be able ta outlast him if I could keep 'em away from women and their underwear, that ain't gonna fly with the younger version. And though I hate to say it, he's better at midair techniques that I am.
And boy, did Ranma hate saying that. He hated admitting he wasn't the best, but sometimes, well sometimes you had to face facts. Ranma knew he had a lot of training to go through yet to truly be the best, but admitting that aloud was really, really hard thanks to his old man's constant teasing, pushing and baggage. But his father wasn't here to call him a girl, or otherwise deride him. That made it easier..
However, his old man had taught Ranma more than his personal grab-bag of social inadequacies. If a frontal assault won't work, ambush might. I hate to use that kind of tactic, but I think it's needed here. And Happy in either timeframe's real easy to figure out. With a sigh Ranma looks down at her chest, shaking her head as she mentally went through the items of clothing she had in her hidden weapons space. That one piece bathing suit might do, I'm in the past, so maybe that will be racy enough to get his interest?
With that in mind Ranma stood up, wondering how he was going to track Happy down first. This actually didn't turn out to be as difficult as he feared.
This younger Happy didn't have any of the self-control or ability to hide his presence the older one had learned over time. Ranma had a very limited ki sense, something he'd only begun to learn a few weeks ago from Cologne as thanks for helping out at the Cat Cafe when he didn't have to, and it allowed him to find Happy easily. That, and the string of distraught farmwives helped.
Realizing that Happy was making for the coastline, on as straight a route as possible Ranma got ahead of him after only a few days travel. Figuring out where Happy would be next, Ranma searched around until he found a small pond, near what looked like an abandoned home, though why it was abandoned was not apparent. Perfect. After looking over the area, Ranma got his trap ready, placing large, hand-sized rocks everywhere around the pond hidden in the reeds. Once that was done, he changed forms, then pulled on a school issue swimsuit.
Jumping out into the water, Ranma splashed around for a moment, then dove down as deep as she could, before pushing up off of the bottom of the pond and coming back up. The water was cool and clear, fed by an underground spring of some kind, with several small fishes moving around in it, along with some turtles.
Ranma idly wondered what happened to the pond in the future because she didn't remember a spot this nice on his/her trip to Jusenkyou and back. I doubt even with Xian Pu following us we would've missed this. Blech, probably drained or walled off or something, progress bah, you can keep it.
She stood in the shallows, wringing her hands through her hair and stretching for a moment. For just a moment, Ranma forgot the fact that this was a trap for Happy, forgot that he/she didn't really like this form. She just luxuriated in the feel of the water on her legs, the sunny day around her. And the fact that there was no one around. That was always a bonus these days. Ranma liked being around people, some of the time anyway, and he liked his friends. But moments alone like this were so rare they had to be treasured.
And living like this on his/her own, moving around, that had been what Genma had trained him for just as much as martial arts. The trip might've been to teach Ranma simply martial arts, but it had engendered in Ranma a wanderlust, which had not been getting fed since they had dropped into the Tendo's lives. I seriously need to get away from Tokyo more often, maybe I can work out some deal with Cologne, I help train Xian Pu and she pays for us to get the hell out of dodge for a few days? Of course I'd have to deal with Akane for a bit, but I bet we could convince her to come along too. We've done it before after all.
Just then a loud "Sweeto!" sounded through the air ending Ranma's pleasant thoughts at the same time a small and very ugly body slammed into Ranma's chest. "So bouncy, so firm! And whatever you're wearing, it must be a fashion sent by the gods! Tell me where you got it every woman has to wear something like this!"
Ranma shrieked girlishly, trying to get away, flailing away at Happy as she fell backwards into the reeds along the pond's edge but that was all part of the plan. Her flailing covered one of her hands ducking into the reeds and coming up with a rock. A sudden powerful blow to Happy's head with the rock, and he was out like a light, not having anticipated anything from a demure redhead caught bathing.
As the little gnome slid off her body Ranma looked down at him shock. "The old coot really becomes more durable over time didn't he? Wait, blessed Amaterasu, that worked? Okay, note to self, sometimes plans work a hell of a lot better than you think, maybe you should try to make more of them rather than just assume they'll go wrong."
After a moment Ranma cocked her head and shook it. "Nah, I know my life to well ta think that'd work, my next plan'll no doubt just go wrong worse ta make up for it."
Grabbing the gnome she hurled him towards the ground around the lake, jumping out after him. Searching his person, Ranma shivered a bit before she found Happy's hidden weapons space in a small fold of his pants.
She began to pull things out of it, noting absently that she wasn't the only one that didn't waste the ki it took to organize the space. Then again, I'm not the one that created it, so I doubt I could actually interact with the organization anyway. Is that even possible? Something ta ask Cologne I suppose. I've never seen anyone else try to pull out a specific item from Mousse's hidden weapons space and succeed either so it's a good theory.
Eventually Ranma had dumped out enough stuff so that he was able to find the Nanban Mirror. Ignoring the pile of stolen underwear, stolen jewelry and other expensive looking things, Ranma took the mirror. "Now, I just have to cry on it, and wish myself home right?"
With that thought Ranma left Happy by the pond along with all of his stuff, though he was tempted to set fire to the man's underwear collection. But that just struck him as rather cruel and unusual. I've knocked him out, and stolen something from him already, no need to add insult to injury. Or would that be further injury to insult? I know how Happy thinks about those things after all.
Shaking his head from those idle thoughts Ranma made his way back to the small shack. He took the time to set a kettle to boil then headed out, hunting down some wild onions.
After transforming back, Ranma held the onions up, breaking them open with his hands right below his eyes, and felt himself almost immediately began to tear up, the tears quickly leaking down to hit the mirror. How the heck did old Happy not cry when the girls were doing this to him?
That was but an idle thought however, as under his fingers the mirror began to glow. The main thought Ranma at that moment was holy crap, I planed something out, and it's actually going to work! Without a hitch!
Just as the thought hit Ranma however, Happy burst through the door, his battle aura out and a burning Hapo-Dai-Kai-Ren in one hand. "No one steals from Happy of the Musabetsu Kakutō Ryū! How dare you prey on an innocent man's feelings!?"
With that he chucked the firecracker at Ranma, and the thing exploded on impact, knocking Ranma backwards. The explosion coincided with the mirror's white light expanding to engulf Ranma and he heard the tinkling of glass as the mirror shattered under the explosion's impact, as well as feeling the pain and the scorching heat of it on his own body. But worse was the fact the thought of home had left Ranma the moment the firecracker was thrown at him. Ranma had one brief moment to stare aghast at Happy from the floor of the hut while the white light covered him. "Oh I just know this just ain't gonna…" Then he was gone.
Cologne stared at the three girls in front of her, shaking her head. Ukyo had somehow learned that something had happened to Ranma, and she had come running to help however she could. It had been Ukyo who had the idea of trying to gather up the mirror pieces, and thankfully Kasumi had kept most of them. Cologne hadn't found anything in her collection of magical items that could send them after Ranma, but even so…
"Girls using this mirror again is a very bad idea. Even with magic glue, there's no way it will be as accurate as it was the first time we used it. I cannot in good conscience let you try this, not even to get Son-in-law back. Let me contact my fellow elders, maybe call some of my other contacts in the magic blackmarket, we'll come up with something else…"
She trailed off, watching in shock as the mirror on the kitchen table in the Cat Café began to disappear. "Oh no."
"What this mean grandmother?" Xian Pu asked. But by their faces, Akane's and Ukyo both had already guessed.
"It means child, that Ranma might well be lost to us forever."
The world of Remnant was an interesting place. It held several diverse cultures, a robust and equally diverse bio-system scattered across several continents ranging in size as such things normally did. It had a moon as large as Earth's that had in eons past shattered somehow, the pieces slowly moving away from one another and back together again now mimicking the phases of a regular moon. And it was home to two things which made it unique beyond even that.
The first were the beasts of Grimm. Soulless monsters whose origins were lost in the mists of time, the Grimm lived seemingly only to do one thing: kill humans. They were attracted to dark emotions, fear and anxiety most of all, with anger coming in a distant second. They came in dozens of varieties, some of which looked as if they were simply grotesque caricatures of normal animals, while others had no animal equivalent. All of them however were deadly to human life, which had forced the humans, and their biological subspecies the Faunus, to discover the second thing that was unique about their planet.
This was the substance called Dust. In simplest terms, Dust was the power of nature distilled into tiny, microscopic crystal structures, found in nature as large crystals or veins of ore. Humans developed the ability to harness dust in a myriad of ways, creating weapons, technology, and above all civilizations based upon the ability to use and manipulate dust to defend their borders against the creatures of Grimm. Civilizations rose and fall, like lights in the darkness burning and flaring out, but humans and Faunus went on, creating new lights as the old faded.
Yet for all the abilities Dust could give humanity, it was not magical, something the ancient scientist Monty Oum had first discovered by being able to quantify what dust was, its creation and the way it spent the energy inherent in it. The Oum System of Dust Measurement was still in use, and Monty Oum had become the pillar of science for all of Remnant.
Everything Dust could do had a quantifiable, noticeable drain on the Dust involved. Everything a semblance could do had a noticeable, and notable, drain on a person's Aura. Cause, fuel, and effect could all be noted and rated by observation. As such they were not magic.
Magic did not exist in Remnant. The magic of Jusenkyou, the magic that allowed Ranma's body or rather forced Ranma's body to change from male to female form with the application of cold water and vice versa could not work in Remnant. There was no framework within the universe for it to do so. And like in every other universe where something unnatural occurred, the universe itself rejected it in an abrupt and, admittedly, unusual manner. But the magic in Ranma's body did not go quietly.
"GAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" Ranma screamed. He screamed in more pain, more agony than he had ever felt before. More than the pain he'd felt in the pit when his father had tried to teach him the Cat-Fist. More even than that time he'd been splashed with cold water while his lower body was in the hot tub, though the pain felt somewhat similar.
That was in fact what was happening. The magic of Jusenkyou was much deeper and stronger than Ranma or any of the others truly gave it credit for. Changing something on the cellular level to something else regardless of mass was beyond the realm of any sorcerer, and it had deep roots, whose connections to its victims were almost absolute. The magic in Ranma now fought back against the universe, and while it was losing, it wasn't going down without a fight.
"GAHHHHHHHHHH!" Ranma screamed long and loud, not noticing anything around him, not the buildup from his back, not the fact his ki was being depleted or the ground around him disappearing in an explosion of some kind. He simply screamed in torment and didn't stop until he collapsed into unconsciousness. Never once noticing what was going on around him. The battle between magic and this universe went on uncaring of the pain it was causing him, creating a truly bizarre occurrence.
How long Ranma was unconscious he never figured out. But when he woke his body hurt like he had just been ripped apart and sewn back together, badly. Groggily Ranma opened his eyes, rolling on his back to stare around him. He was in a crater around 50 feet to a side he guessed, both wide and deep. And it was lined from one end to the other in some kind of weird crystal, with several dozen odd figurines stuck here and there covered by the same crystal. The crystal itself was blue, though what it was or where it came from Ranma had no idea. As he watched, the crystal began to shatter, the blue draining out of it and then the crystals slowly dissolving from the edge of the crater inward.
But that was secondary to what Ranma was feeling. By Hachiman, what the hell happened?! Looking down at himself, Ranma saw his clothing was utterly shredded. His front was fine, but the clothing on his back had simply disintegrated somehow. He couldn't feel anything but the crackling of tiny crystal on his back. Pulling off the remnants of his clothing with difficulty, shuddering at the pain of moving, Ranma paused again, clenching his teeth at the pain.
"Fuuu-gah…" It felt as if his body had been flayed inside and out, more pain than Ranma had ever dealt with before, and he shuddered at the memory of whatever had happened to them. "What the fuck was that!?"
He wasn't one to curse, but Ranma felt it was warranted at this point. Luckily his ki space was still around, his pants pockets having survived whatever had happened to his clothing. He reached inside and pulled out a change of clothes, before pushing himself to his feet and pulling them on with difficulty, pausing occasionally to clench his teeth at the pain. Finally he was dressed and Ranma looked around turning in place to take in more of the view, only then realizing that he wasn't alone.
Directly behind where Ranma had laid was a girl and at the sight of her Ranma blinked in shock. It was his female form! She was a little taller than normal he guessed, and of course naked at the moment, but that red hair and naked body couldn't be anything else.
As that thought permeated Ranma's mind he shook his head quickly. "Gross, don't look at yourself like that man, that way lies madness." Looking closer however he noticed one difference, a small streak of black going through her hair from above her left eye. Her hair also looked longer than Ranma's, but those were the only real differences.
Frowning Ranma stared around them, then at the girl then shuddered at the memory of the pain he gone through. This all pointed to something, but he wasn't certain what. Is this my female form, was I, was I somehow separated from it? If so, were there any drawbacks, and how did it happen anyway!? All right, that pain wasn't exactly fun or anything, but I don't…
He paused remembering the pain again and shook his head. "No, even if I'd known I don't think I'd've chosen ta go through that to get rid of my curse form." He shuddered at the agony he had felt then reached down gently, touching his female form on the neck. There was a pulse there, and he pulled back staring down at her. Okay, so if she wakes up, is she going to be another version of me? I don't think she/he/I would be very happy stuck in a female form in that case. And I'm in no condition to fight if she tries everything. Then again, neither is she.
Shrugging he began to clothe her, closing his eyes and looking away as he did so pulling on one of the last two bits of clothing he had, a muscle T-shirt and another one of his silk pants. He didn't have any extra shoes however, which meant they were both out of luck considering the back of his had been destroyed by whatever had happened to his clothing.
When the girl was sufficiently clothed, he picked her up with difficulty, setting her on his back and wincing at the contact even through his clothing. Whatever had happened to them had really done a number on Ranma's body, but for some reason this crater was giving him the willies. Those strange crystal creatures, they looked almost like animals, but not quite. Whatever the case, Ranma wanted to get away from here.
Climbing his way out of the crater was hard, much harder than it should have been given how much in pain Ranma was, but he managed it and stood staring around them. It looked as if they had been magically transported to what looked like a mountain in rocky or even desert conditions, all or almost but not quite. It reminded Ranma of some of the pictures he had seen of the Hindu Kush in Pakistan perhaps, though he doubted that was where he was.
Well wherever the hell we are, I think I need to find some place to rest, quick! Ranma could feel his body beginning to give out on him again, despite how little actual exertion he'd made since waking up. And if there are dangerous animals or people around they're more likely to be down than up. So thinking Ranma turned, and began to make his way up the mountain, slipping and sliding through the hardscrabble rock and scree for a time until he found some solid ground above that. From there he found the going much easier, and eventually found a small cave that would suit as shelter.
It wasn't much of a cave, simply a small gouge out of the mountainside, possibly where a large boulder or something had been dislodged in the recent past. But it was big enough for the two of them.
Setting his female form down gently, Ranma checked for a pulse again and was pleased to find it going much faster now. Good, maybe she'll recover soon. "At least I hope your mind's a female too, or else this is going to get really awkward and really angsty very quickly."
Sighing he left her there and turned to stare out from their little cave. Try as hard as he could, Ranma couldn't see anything within sight that looked man-made or indeed anything that hinted that there were humans about at all. That wasn't really surprising given the territory, what was surprising was the giant bird he could see in the distance.
It looked like a crow or raven in shape, but even from where he was, at least two miles distant he guessed, Ranma could tell it was a lot bigger. A lot, like the size of a pterodactyl. "Okay, that is not a good sign," Ranma said aloud, his words echoing off the rocks nearby. Those echoes were joined a moment later when his stomach growled, indicating he was late with his offerings.
Turning away from the bird Ranma scanned the nearby slope of the mountain then looked up, frowning irritably. He didn't see any normal animals, but given his memory of screaming that probably made sense. "Probably scared off all the animals in a 50 mile radius," Ranma growled irritably, trying to overcome the memory of the pain with bravado, with limited success.
Still, Ranma had lived off the wilds many times with his father, and knew how to make traps. Reaching into his hidden weapons space he pulled out the remnants of the clothing he'd worn during the aborted time jump. Using that he created small nooses then moved around into some of the scrub brush nearby, getting down on his hands and feet and feeling the ground from on.
The ground wasn't wet, but there were plants here, which meant there might've been water here deep down. Ranma didn't want to dig for it however, believing that doing so would take more energy than he'd get out of whatever water he could find. Still, plants like this meant animals, and he scattered a few traps around well away from the small cave.
With that done, Ranma forced himself to climb higher, wanting to see as much of the lay of the land as he could. He couldn't go far though before his body began to give out on him, but he did discover one lucky find: a small bird's nest whose owner had fled, probably during Ranma screaming. There were four small bird eggs there, and Ranma gleefully took him, heading back to the cave where he created a tiny fire and began to cook them on a rock set nearby. They were small and not very tasty, but they were food, and right now was the important thing.
Ranma left one egg however figuring that if his other woke up a bit of a peace offering might be necessary. His stomach somewhat assuaged, or as much as it was going to get, Ranma leaned against the wall across from her at least body, and closed his eyes.
It was dark out by the time he woke up, awakened by the sound of his female form waking up, cursing something in Chinese. Ranma didn't understand what she said, it sounded like Putonghua, but it wasn't quite, the emphasis was in all the wrong places. Maybe an ancient form of it? But wait, that means, oh thank Hachiman, my soul or whatever might not've been split in two that's good, I don't have a twin then or whatever.
This was proven when the girl opened her eyes and stared across at him. Unlike Ranma's deep blue eyes, her eyes were black, sharp and penetrating, entirely different from Ranma's. Clearing his throat, Ranma spoke in Japanese then Putonghua, a language he had learned to speak somewhat on his journey, then more later listening to the Amazons speak to one another at the Cat Café. "How are you feeling? And who or what are you?"
"I…" the woman began, then stopped her eyes widening somewhat before she went on in Japanese, her voice coming out faster with each word, sounding a little panicky at the end. "I am… I don't know…I remember some things. Not my name though, just, just images. What is this language I'm using?"
"Japanese." Ranma said his brows furrowing as he stared at the girl. "You saying you don't know Japanese?" Remembering the ancient form of Chinese the girl had been cursing in, he added, "That'd be Nippon I suppose?" He was beginning to form a theory about what had happened here, at least between the two of them not where they were, but he needed more information.
"I shouldn't know it but I, I have memories from…" the girl paused staring hard at Ranma covering her chest and suddenly looking angry rather than panicky. "From you! From the life you lead! You did not, you have no feminine modesty! Ugh, I feel dirty, what were you thinking, flashing people all those times, using my body like that!"
"Well I'm not female," Ranma said weakly, now he feeling a little abashed. "I'm sorry? I mean it was my body at the time so I thought, well, Anything Goes you know, use anything you can to win." Ranma said tentatively remembering all the times he used his female body to get a jump on someone or surprise an opponent, or and this was the most frequent sort of memory, scamming food from food vendors.
The girls sighed, and let her hands fall, though the rest of her body language was still defensive. "Not your fault I suppose, you were not born with it, I cannot fault you for not caring about my feelings, of course you did not know I existed at all."
Ranma breathed a sigh of relief, though it he wondered if the girl would've pressed the issue if the two of them had any energy to waste on a fight right now. Still, the impression he was getting from her wasn't anywhere near what he would've gotten if whoever inhabited that body was anything like Ranma envisioned himself.
After a moment he asked, "What exactly do you remember, I mean what're your memories of your, yourself I suppose? And you can have that egg. I don't have enough energy to hunt up anything major, hopefully some of my traps will get us some food. But tell me what you remember, and then I'll tell you where we are, at least as well as I can."
The girl frowned concentrating, speaking slowly. "I remember a fight. A fight over, over something stupid! I can't remember what, I can just remembered I thought it was so stupid to fight over it. I didn't want it, not at all, whatever it was. But Pedi-Cur, why can I remember her name but not my own? At any rate, she thought I did, that I wanted it like she did. She… ambushed me I think. At least I remember being surprised. And then I was…"
She paused looking up at him, her eyes widening. "I was tossed into a pool of Jusenkyou. I… I drowned…" She shuddered looking away.
Ranma leaned forward to pat her knee trying to give what comfort he could but hugging her or moving to do so felt too weird to him. Not just because he'd been taught to not be all touchy-feely by his father, but because she really did look like his female form and that was just too weird. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't've asked."
"No, you were right, you had to know I am not your female form or a piece of your soul, though I have your memories. My own personality is quite different from yours Ranma." She said smirking now as she almost visibly through off her dark memories. "Even though I don't remember my name, I certainly remember enough to be a distinct individual."
"You certainly talk fancier than I do!" Ranma said with a laugh. "So do ya think this means I was somehow un-cursed? And is that normal, I mean are there actual souls stuck in those pools?"
"At least the ones that have humans in them." the girl replied, nodding. "That was a well-known myth among the Amazons of my time." Before Ranma could ask she went on. "And I think I was born long before the time of your Cologne or Xian Pu. A remember my mother speaking of the journey we had taken to the Balakala mountains. We had very good magic users of our own who could tell us what Jusenkyou was. I remember how they were ecstatic about it, something about the cursed springs interfering with something else, though I can't remember what. But there are souls of its victims in those pools, sometimes more than one. That is why two people falling into the same pool won't have the same cursed form."
"So I no longer have my female form, I want to be clear on this." Ranma said laughing in relief. Even if he could have chosen to do so he wouldn't in his wildest dreams wants to go through that pain to get rid of his curse, but if it was true…
"Perhaps." she shrugged. "I cannot remember hearing about anyone ever being cured so I do not know. Now you tell me, where are we, and what happened? I do not remember everything you did, only bits and pieces from when you are male carry over… I think… Some of it is a blur right now, while other memories are all too clear."
Ranma winced again at the glare the girl was sending him, no doubt once more going over her memories of how Ranma used his female form. "Sorry," he said again before answering her questions in the hope she wouldn't keep going on about it. "You remember the little gnome jumping on us?"
The girl's lips turned up into a small but vicious smile. "Yes, that was a good ruse, and I remember laying the little pervert out, or remember you doing it, or whatever. What happened next?"
Ranma told her how Happosai had ambushed him later when he was crying onto the mirror, the explosion shattering the mirror, the white light and then the pain. The girl hadn't been awake during the pain thankfully, though her body was certainly paying the price for it. Ranma could tell even eating was taking a lot out of her, her arm shuddering as it lifted the cold egg to her mouth.
Then Ranma described the area as much of it as he had seen, ending the explanation with a shrug. "We might be somewhere in Pakistan or somewhere else in the Middle East, it's that kind of territory but I don't know. That giant pterodactyl, that's not something you'd see in those places. Least not in modern times anyway."
"Could we have traveled back in time then?" the girl scowled angrily. She broke off to say something in that ancient Chinses of hers, which Ranma couldn't quite follow.
What she said was, "Stupid fucking people using magic they don't understand. Magic isn't so simple like that, it always comes back to bite you on the ass! Why couldn't the Elders write that down as one of the rules of magic, don't fuck with it in big, blazing letters!"
The girl shook her head, putting one hand over her mouth for a moment as she thought of what she had just said. Ranma's personality seemed to have blended somewhat with her own, merging her at times foul mouth, which she remembered having, and a temper that she didn't remember having in her own life. But the memories of that life were so disjointed and distant at present, maybe she did have a temper and just didn't remember it?
I hope they start to become clearer as time goes on. Regardless, I can't remember enough of it to call myself anything even if I could remember my name. This is a whole new life for me, and that means I should take a new name, distance myself from my own memories the better to live this life to the fullest.
She looked up at Ranma and shrugged her shoulders. "I have no idea where we could be other than maybe back in time. But if we're in the past, we might never find any other humans, let alone someone who could help us get back. Would you be all right with that?"
Ranma ignored that question to ask his own. "We're in this together right?" The girl nodded and he nodded back. "Then yeah, I guess I can live with that if I have to." The conversation petered out after that, and the two of them soon fell asleep again.
They rested in the cave for two days, regaining their strength slowly from whatever had happened to them, though Ranma was honestly surprised by how quickly his own strength and ki returned to him. Ranma had developed the Moko Takabasha and knew enough about ki to understand that he had a reservoir of it which could be used expanded or depleted. When he had woken up Ranma had felt that it was empty, but now after only two days of rest and not a lot of food, Ranma having only found two rabbits in his traps, he was almost back to full strength and still felt he could get stronger. Like his reservoir had been expanded somehow.
Coming back with their second rabbit Ranma plopped it down in front of the girl. She hadn't decided on a name, saying she'd have think about it. "When you're given a second chance at life, you should think about your name for a long time before labeling yourself," she'd said, "because names are important and powerful."
Ranma sort of understood what she was saying, and so dropped the subject. "Are you good here? I mean are you good if I leave for a bit?"
She looked up at him quizzically, cocking one red eyebrow. "Where are you going to go?" Even as she spoke her hands move forward plucking the rabbit from the ground and beginning to skin it expertly with a small flint knife that she had made. Ranma didn't have any cooking utensils or any camping equipment in his ki space unfortunately, save for a single large water bottle and some seasonings neither of them were willing to trust since Ranma couldn't remember where they came from.
"Up." Ranma said pointing up the mountainside. "I figure the higher I go, the better advantage I'll have in scoutin' the land."
The girl looked a little dubious at that, but shrugged her shoulders and nodded. "I will have food waiting for you… darling." She said teasingly, laughing at Ranma shuddered. Frankly both of them thought that was just wrong, though that had not stopped the girl from teasing Ranma about it a time or two, mostly to get back at the way he'd used his female form. After a moment however she went on much more seriously. "You realize we are going to have to leave soon? There is no water here, and it has not rained."
"I know," Ranma said with a nod. "I'd like to know what direction to head out towards first though. I'll be back."
With that Ranma turned and made his way up the mountain, finding the going much easier this time now that he had some of his energy back, leaping and running along as easily as someone else could walk on the sidewalk. I can't get how good I feel now. I mean yes my body's still sore from whatever happened, but my energy's returned and then some, what the heck happened? Or, could Jusenkyou have weakened me somehow? Or taken some of my energy to keep her soul alive in me? That guess might be a little out there, but it makes sense, right?
As he thought that Ranma had continued up to the mountain, but he stopped occasionally to take in the view. He also found it getting colder as he went, meaning he was getting really high indeed. Soon the air also began to thin, becoming even colder. Staring ahead of him Ranma looked around for any sign of ice or snow, which he could have transported down in his water bottle. But there wasn't anything, nothing except the side of the mountaintop and going further didn't seem to be a good idea.
He stared around, not seeing anything nearby that looked like human civilization, though he saw several large flying creatures in the distance. Not as large as the first one he spotted, these looked fatter in the body and longer in the neck but still the same general black shape. Wonder what those things are?
Suddenly Ranma heard a scrabbling sound behind him, and he turned to see something coming toward him, something he had never seen before. It wasn't an animal, Ranma was certain of that though how he knew it he didn't know. It looked sort of like a mountain goat, but instead of the horns going backwards, they were like that of the stag, all pointing forwards, their edges razor-sharp. It also had fangs which a goat of course wouldn't have, and a mass of bone white like that of its horns covering its face like a mask, along with red eyes.
"A demon goat? So does that mean we're in hell now?" Ranma scowled angrily at the very idea. "You know I know I've done a lot of questionable stuff over my life, but that's a little much ain't it? Or… did my old man so sell my soul to the devil somewhere along the line?" Ranma shuddered. "That makes far too much sense."
While Ranma was speaking to himself the demon goat had charged. Ranma dodged out of the way, his fist flashing to one side to catch the thing in the neck. There was a sharp crack, and it fell, tumbling down the mountainside its neck shattered. "Huh, that was easy…" Ranma muttered, going after the thing. They came to a stop several yards below where the demon goat had charged, and Ranma stared at it as it began to dissolve into little bit's and pieces of black smoke.
Scratching at his pigtail Ranma frowned. "Okay, that raises a hell of a lot more questions this place than I already had."
It was pushing evening when Ranma returned to the girl, arriving when it was already dark out. Ranma told her what it happened, and the girl evidenced just as much confusion as he. "I have no idea where we are still, but I think we are not in the past."
"How can you tell?" Ranma asked.
"Well," she said staring up into the night sky. "The moon is one clue."
Ranma turned, stared and then nodded slowly. "Yeeeeah, I have no idea how I missed that."
The girl shrugged. "We have both been so exhausted we haven't been able to stay up at night. But if your encounter with the demon goat is any indication, I think we need to take turns on watch tonight, and keep doing so in the future."
Ranma shrugged. "I don't know what that thing was, but if there are more out here that might be a good idea. Don't know how my sleep-fu would do against them." He did not however turn his eyes away from the shattered remnants of a moon high above them. "I don't think were in Japan anymore, Chihiro."
The girl kicked him in the side lightly. "Who are you calling Chihiro?" Then the two shared a laugh. Her memories were all over the place, but that one, watching Spirited Away with Ukyo and Akane, was one of the happier memories Ranma had from when he was in his female body.
Ranma took first watch using the moon pieces position in the sky as a timepiece, since he didn't normally have a watch on him or hidden in his hidden weapons space. When he estimated the night was around two thirds over he woke the girl up, heading to bed. The next day he woke to the sound of singing.
The girl's voice was beautiful and for a moment Ranma actually felt a bit of resentment. One of the few things outside of mooching food that he had really liked about his female body was the fact that it could hold a tune. In his own body Ranma couldn't hold a tune to save his life, and had no real musical ability.
But it was obvious the girl put his female body's abilities to shame, or perhaps used the physical skills of his female form far better than Ranma himself could ever do. The song was beautiful, Rin's version 'Sakura' sung with such perfect clarity that Ranma felt it put the trio of original composers to shame.
Opening his eyes he saw the girl sitting by the entrance to the cave, leaning against the wall as she stared out into the morning light. Smiling he said, "I think I found a name for you."
The girl jumped but he went on calmly, smiling at her. "Benzaiten. The Japanese goddess of music and other things."
The girl smiled. "Benzaiten," she mused, tasting the name on her tongue. "I like it. Though, I have to say that my voice is much better than it was before. I could've sworn at one point…" she shook her head. "Never mind, I think we've rested long enough, I can feel my chi has returned well enough to fight with if need, we should get moving."
"Ki." Ranma laughed, pushing himself to his feet. "The proper name is ki."
"Chi," she replied firmly. "The Chinese developed chi, developed martial arts based on it, long before you and your little island nation ever did, and we Amazons learned from them, adding it to our own skills and taking it to new heights."
"Whatever, least you're not calling it chakra." Ranma said with a shrug, exiting the cave to stand beside her. "We both mean the same thing and yer right, we should get going. But I still've no idea where we should go. I saw mountains that way." he said, pointing to one side before moving his arm in a wide half circle. "But other than that, I only saw rocky desert in every direction."
"You did not see any green anywhere?" the girl asked earnestly.
Ranma shook his head. "Nothing. We'll have to just trust ta luck."
The girls scowled angrily, but shrugged her shoulders. "Let's get a move on."
The two moved down the mountain as only martial artists could, racing down the mountainside leaping from rock to rock when they could and generally simply racing along faster than most humans could go for longer than trained sprinters could have. Soon they reached the mountain's bottom, where they found a small culvert in the ground where they chanced upon a small stream.
Ranma splashed through it without thinking before pausing in mid-step, turning to stare at it then down his own body. "I didn't change!" he said with a grin.
The newly named Benzaiten trooped through the water after them, looking down at her own body and smiling. "I did not change either, I thought I would not, but it is good to be sure."
Ranma leaped in place, bouncing around like a rubber ball on steroids. "Nevah gonna be a girl again!" he sang for a moment, then shook his head and pointed at the girl. "By the way, what are we exactly? Ya might have yer own soul, but that's my female form and you've got some of my memories, so we gotta be like brother and sister right?"
"Siblings work." Benzaiten replied with a nod. "Despite my having a share of your memories, we are certainly two distinct people."
"Then, sister I think we should follow the stream for a bit. Streams sometimes mean towns after all. And it's a better idea than heading out into what might be a desert out there."
"I… do not know about that." Benzaiten said with a frown. "If there was a town anywhere nearby, we should have seen some signs of it, unless they are hiding for some reason. But we do need water. Let us follow the stream, fill that water bottle of yours, and contrive some other way of transporting more. If we do not come upon any sign of human development within a day's journey, we should choose another direction and head away from the mountains."
"Sounds good." Ranma said, and the two went on their way, first exchanging theories about where they could possibly be then coming up with a way to create simple water containers out of wooden slats joined together. Ranma's martial arts construction skills came in handy here, allowing him to create small water stoppers as large as his forearm from slats of wood cut from nearby trees, then fit them together in such a way that they became watertight.
As they walked by the small stream they worked on these containers. Benzaiten eventually asked a question that had been on her mind for some time now. "Do you think your friends will find us? I remember them as being very persistent. And while we are on the subject, you were rather idiotic with those three girls, you do know that right?"
"I don't need ta hear that from you of all people!" Ranma barked back, scowling angrily before sighing and staring off to one side. "What was I supposed to do? Xian Pu thought I loved her, or thought she loved me anyway, but I remember the months and months of her chasing me down tryin' to kill me! Sure, she's nice and all when she isn't tryin' to kill me, and I'm not exactly blind, I know she's pretty but come on! Frankly I got along better with her grandmother than with her."
"Until you went back in time and met her younger version at least. I find it hilarious she gave you the kiss of marriage as well." Benzaiten laughed. "But what about Akane or Ukyo?"
"Ukyo, well thinkin' of her as a girl is still a bit weird to me. I mean, I always thought she was a guy when we were growin' up y'know? Then she just shows up, fights me, then because of one compliment think everythin's back to the way it was? And people sometimes call me weird."
As Benzaiten laughed rather ruefully at that, Ranma paused for a moment, staring down at the piece of wood he was cutting. "As for Akane… I don't know. Maybe eventually there could've been something good there, I mean she was cute, whatever I acted like I wasn't blind to that. But I know she had a problem with my female form, or maybe just how good I am at martial arts, or, or how much attention I took off her. We clicked sometimes, but other times, it was like we just couldn't get along, our personalities always lockin' horns. I don't know." he broke off, shaking his head.
Benzaiten put her arm around his shoulder, giving him a comradely hug. "You do not know how to interact with people normally, and you do not know what attraction is either, beyond the physical I think. From my own memories of your life, I can tell you did not love her." She stared off into the distance. "I remember being in love, though not with who surprisingly. Just the feelings evoked. What I get from your memories with Akane is more of an infatuation sort of feeling. You liked her, but you didn't love her yet, or vice versa. It could have become that in time, but I think as time went on you were also moving further away, further behind the barriers you both threw up. Does that make sense?"
"Yeah, I get it I guess. I mean, I know I wasn't ever able ta express my feelin's or whatever the books Nabiki read went on and on about." Ranma shrugged. "I was obligated to marry her, and that was held over our heads which, with our…"
"That works. That, the old men, all the rivals, all the random crap, and our own emotional baggage, I don't know what we would've become in time." Ranma visibly shook those thoughts out of his head. "Anyway, ya asked if I think they'll ever find us, the answer's no, I realized that pretty quick after ya pointed out that!"
He pointed up into the sky, where the moon would appear that night. "We're not on Earth. Then there's the fact there's no way they can re-create the accident that happened ta us, and even if they did, there's no way they could arrive here, since it was an accident in the first place that sent us here."
Ranma shook his head, this time like a martial artist shaking off a hard blow to the head. "Nah, I'm going to miss them, but there's no way they're going to find us. Besides, Not having my cursed form is sort of worth it." he smirked looking down at Benzaiten and giving her a sideways hug of his own. "Not worth the pain I went through there, but worth not meeting them again."
For some reason he was much more comfortable around her than he was around, well anyone really. It was as if a weight had been lifted off his shoulders, though what it could've been Ranma didn't know. Maybe it was the fact that she understood his life so well, having lived it with him. Or maybe it was because he was now away from all the obligations, real, contrived or self-made, and could start a new life. Yeah, come to think of it, it's probably that last bit.
Benzaiten laughed, pushing away. "Typical guy! Emotions are secondary to physical things?"
Ranma shrugged. "I am what I am, and now I'm going to stay that way even if I jump inta some water." Ranma said with a laugh, jumping into the spring for a moment and then back out.
The two of them continued to walk and laugh now, exchanging jokes and getting to know one another. Benzaiten turned out to be quite a bit more of a prude than Ranma had first expected, given the jokes she had been making about their situation at his expense. After he splashed her with some of the water she insisted on the two of them exchanging shirts, so that her chest was no longer visible through the white muscle T-shirt Ranma had given her.
Benzaiten also apparently had more than a singing voice in terms of musical talent. She could remember playing several different string instruments making her name even more appropriate, and being part of a show put on at a court somewhere at one point.
However she had little to no woodcraft, and couldn't spot any of the edible plants like Ranma could, going out of his way to pick them up and stashing them in his ki space. She didn't have one of those either, though she was proficient at martial arts, a quick ten minute spar told him that much. Benzaiten was slightly slower than he had been in his female form, and quite a bit weaker, but she had all the moves he did, all the training. But Ranma didn't think she had his instincts for combat. She didn't seem to be as fluid as he was, able to change from one style or mode of attack to another one the fly.
The spar ended abruptly when they heard a loud growl from one side of the stream they had been following. Out from the scrub came some kind of creature which looked like the goat demon, but it wasn't goat shaped. It was almost humanoid, crouching low to the ground with long claws and fangs. At the sight of the two martial artists it howled, and dozens more came out of the woods all around them.
Cocking his head Ranma stared at them. "What the hell are you things anyway?"
Benzaiten turned, putting her back to his. "They look unnatural is what they are. Do you think they're going to…?" She didn't finish that question because it was answered as the things charged forward, all of them at once from every direction.
Ranma laughed and charged too, smashing one aside with a hard punch which flung it backwards over the heads of two more, before leaping up over a slash from another, kicking out hard sending that one flying. Using the impetus from that kick Ranma flipped in the air to land on top of a third, smashing down into it with both feet on its back.
By this time Benzaiten had dealt with two more, using a crescent kick which smashed one's skull in as it charged at her. Like Ranma she used the impetus of that kick to push into the air before grabbing another thing's arm twisting bringing it with her. Landing behind its back she shattered its shoulder, kicking out at another who tried to turn to attack her.
The battle continued from there, but didn't get any more even, the black and white things simply weren't fast, durable or strong enough to bother the two martial artists. Eventually they finished off the pack of whatever they had been. As the last one dissolved, Benzaiten scowled angrily. "They are demons. Only demons are not consumed, returned to the earth when they die."
"I don't know, I'm going to go with science experiment gone horribly, horribly wrong." Ranma said with a faint smile, smirking as the adrenaline of the fight left him. "Or perhaps some kind of disease or mutation effecting animals. Let's get a move on, we're burnin' daylight."
Several hours and two more clashes later the two martial artists stopped once more. "I still say they are demons!" Benzaiten said gasping a little, wincing as she worked one of her shoulders.
Ranma shrugged, looking down at the side of his arm which had been opened by a stray claw strike from one of the creature Benzaiten had accidently let get behind him before dunking it into the cold water for a moment and wiping it away. He stared as his ki healing began to go to work quickly, far quicker than it ever had before. He liked it, he liked a lot, but Ranma was still wondering why his reserves were growing beyond where they had been before. "Yeah they're weird I'll give ya that. So, I think we're going the wrong way, you?"
Benzaiten rolled her eyes, and the two of them finished filling the latest containers then Benzaiten turned Ranma in place with one hand extended. When he stopped he was pointing in different direction. She looked at it, noted it was away from the mountains and the stream then nodded. "As good a direction is any."
The two walked off, in that direction still arguing on what to call the strange creatures.
Chapter 1: Journeys and Learnings
The new, if rather strange, sibling's journey continued for several weeks as they left the mountains, descending into and then making their way across a desert. As the two had feared water was nonexistent out here, though they haven't anticipated the sheer number of the strange black and white armored beasts. There were several varieties, the most dangerous being a giant scorpion type that occasionally showed up as they cross the desert. It didn't seem to hunt with sight or sound, possibly feeling the vibrations through its skin as it hid underneath the rocks and desert sand.
The first time the scorpion type had ambushed them had been out rather harrowing experience since it had caught Benzaiten by surprise, smacking her aside and nearly pinning Ranma underneath its weight which was considerable. But Ranma had been able to lift it enough to get out from underneath the flailing legs shattering several of them as he went, then put the things eyes out with a Amiguriken assault.
After that Benzaiten had come back landing on the things back striking at it with a stick she had taken to using to direct her wind pressure attacks, much like Kuno whose technique it had originally been. They bounced off its armor, creating cracks but not penetrating, but her movement had attracted the things attention enough that it tried to stab her with its scorpion tail. Leaping clear, the scorpion had stabbed itself.
After that Benzaiten and Ranma both knew what to look for. Small disturbed areas on the sand, slight humps out of the sand or rocks pushed out of the ground, all could point to a scorpion being nearby.
There were other monster types of course. There were small lizards about the same size as a large dog who roamed the desert in packs, four limbs, small masks and long tongues, and monstrous lizards that looked like a Komodo dragon only many, many times bigger, with longer claws, club tails and heavy armor covering their faces and shoulders. The second variety sometimes worked or led the smaller lizards, but not often. There was also what looked almost like hyenas, except hyenas didn't have white masks, or spikes sticking out from their sides and back, or could walk on their hind feet for short periods. But this variety stopped the further they got from the mountains, replaced by more of the small lizard types.
"What I don't understand," Ranma said smacking aside one of the small lizard demons, before bringing up his foot to kick another in the face shattering its mask and the skull underneath it. "Is why are there so many varieties of the things, and why aren't they competing with one another?"
"I don't follow." said Benzaiten, sitting up on a rock well away from the conflict as she stared up into the sky, her eyes narrowed on the specks she saw up there. They had seen several flyer type demons in the distance, but hadn't been attacked by any of them just yet, so she had volunteered to remain on lookout while Ranma dealt with the latest attackers.
Ranma was much happier fighting the things than she was. He claimed to be learning things from them, but Benzaiten didn't know what, other than new and easier ways of killing them, which she didn't particularly care about. She sighed, adjusting the makeshift hat she had made for them, sighing irritably at the heat.
But that was precisely the point really. Ranma was indeed learning those things, as well as some bits about how the different varieties thought and acted. For example, the small lizards had a group mentality, not unlike a wolf pack, but one that was much more willing to sacrifice its own members to reach its goal, in this case killing him and Benzaiten. They were also somewhat smarter than they should be for their size too, putting the hyenas to shame.
In contrast the giant scorpions were simply loners, not working with any of the others except if they attacked the two travelers at the same time as them. But they could afford to be solitary because they were patient and tricky, hiding in places where they shouldn't have been able to given their size.
Ranma brought down a punch onto one creature which lunged forward trying to bite his chest, using the momentum of the blow to flip into the air and over the heads of several others before landing behind them, his fingers flashing out. There was a weak point right at the back of their necks that the Iguanas seems to have, where even a medium-sized blow would shatter their spines.
With the current threat dealt with, he turned to Benzaiten. "I mean, in nature animals compete for one another if they're supposed to fill the same niche I think? Like there's supposed to be a alpha predator in an area, then below that're scavengers, below that prey, you follow?"
Benzaiten nodded and he went on. "These things though, they don't seem to compete with one another. Why would the little lizards allow the smaller scorpion types in their territory? They fill the same area, scavenger or beta predators. They're also a lot more single-minded about attacking us in they should be! If they're simply animals, animals should learn not to attack us, or at least have some idea of running away."
"It's like they hate us," Benzaiten said musingly. "I haven't seen a single one of them run away yet, even when they are overmatched like that last group of small lizards who tried to ambush us at night, or the group of the smaller scorpion types." Those had been around the same size as the lizards, but far deadlier even though they haven't worked together given they had even better ambushing skills than their larger brethren. But like the Iguanas , there was enough differences between the two to make it clear they were distinct, different species.
The Iguanas however suffered a much worse fate. Genma had trained Ranma to such a degree that even when sleeping he would react to someone trying to attack him, even going so far as to respond in similar manner without waking up. And Benzaiten had somehow gotten the same ability. The Iguanas had died to a creature with the last only living long enough to watch Benzaiten wake up to go to the bathroom. The cold of night on the desert was a worse enemy than any of the monsters to the two martial artists, but even that was solvable by enough fire warmed pebbles placed under their clothing.
"Exactly. And, I think I've seen a few camels in the distance. If those really are camels, they'd make much easier killing than us."
"So are we drawing them to us somehow, or are they purposefully hunting only us? If that is the case, I am much more inclined toward your idea of a science experiment gone wrong than I was earlier." She smiled suddenly, hopping down to join Ranma. "Or perhaps an out of control military weapon of some kind that has infected animals?"
Ranma laughed, and the two of them moved on, racing through the desert as only marital artists could. Going in as straight line a line as possible, they eventually traveled so far that the mountains they had arrived at were no longer in sight.
Their bodies soon acclimatized to traveling in the heat of the desert, and they didn't sweat nearly as much any longer. Ranma took a few birds on the wing with small stones and Benzaiten had been proven surprisingly adroit at hunting, surprising a camel.
But despite their speed and husbanding their water, they had gone through more than two thirds of it before they found their first side of civilization.
It was a road, a simple highway of some kind, raised off the normal desert floor by four foot of solid granite and stone. It traveled roughly east to west from where they intersected it, heading away into the distance. "And where there's a road, there's bound to be traffic." Ranma said with a laugh of relief. "It looks as if we haven't gone back in time somehow."
Benzaiten jumped up onto the road, tapping it thoughtfully with foot and nodding her head slightly. "It looks fit for road traffic, but which way?"
That was indeed the question, and Ranma frowned staring off into the distance west before turning to face the other way along the road towards the east. He tried to remember from which direction they had come from, and where the mountains were in relation to their current position, but in the end could only guess.
Eventually he shrugged, turned and made his way along the road in one direction going, he hoped, further away from the mountains they had arrived in. "One directions as good as the other I suppose. So long as we find something at the end of it."
Benzaiten nodded, and jumped up onto the road falling into step with him. Then as they began to run, she sang a walking song from her youth, speeding them on their way.
The two of them made their way down the road for several more days, slowly going through their remaining water supply. But thanks to Ranma knowing how to travel in the desert, and Benzaiten creating makeshift hats for them which protected their neck and faces from the sun, they were able to make their way relatively easily now. They were still attacked by monsters of course, but not as many, and the large scorpions, the most dangerous breed, seemingly had no interest in the road or anything on it.
Several more day's journey passed they heard a rumbling in the distance. It was coming from behind them, though at first they couldn't tell, the echoes over the desert being so strange. Turning, both of them saw a giant truck, about as large as a three story building, moving across the road. On its top was a machine gun of some kind. It swiveled this way and that staring out into the desert as well as above. "So those things are a common problem then." he mused aloud, causing Benzaiten to frown for a moment before she got it. "It's not just us they attack. Interesting."
The driver of the truck saw them, and soon enough the truck came to us long halt. Ranma and Benzaiten both tried to ignore the fact that the machine gun had centered it's eleven barrels on them, as the door to the giant truck opened.
A rather fat balding man stared out at them, one eyebrow raised in surprise, while a woman pushed out of a small living area behind the driver and copilot seat. "What the hell are you too young'uns doing out here!" he demanded.
But not in Japanese or Chinese. No, the man spoke English, with an accident Ranma had never heard before, but still English. Weird, Ranma thought to himself, though possibly it's even weirder that wherever the hell we are there's any language that's like anything back home. If this isn't Earth anyway.
Ranma quickly stepped forward, raising his hands palm out in token of greeting and showing that he had no weapons, coming up with a halfway believable lie on the spot. "I'm Ranma, and this is my sister Benzaiten. The two of us lived with our old man out in the mountains that way," Ranma said, pointing (hopefully) towards the mountains they had arrived in. "He trained as on how to fight, and had some really weird ideas about some stuff, he liked the isolation. But when he died, the two of us decided to hit the road, and here we are. Don't suppose you'd give us a lift would you?"
The man's brows furrowed, scowling lightly at them. "There are bandits around, not many'll chance the Grimm but those who do sometimes try to attack trucks like mine. How do I know you're tellin' the truth?"
"So long as you carry us, we'll be happy to ride on the top of your truck." Ranma said with a shrug. "We don't have to ride in the cockpit with you and your… wife?"
The man frowned but at a tug on his arm from the woman nodded slightly. "You two don't seem armed, and I've got a soft spot for young'uns wantin' to see the world. But how'd you survive out here all on your own, and why are you doing the talking, your sister there got nothing to say?"
"One of those little weird Ideas I mentioned was our father didn't teach us English." Ranma said with a shrug. "I learned from a book, but Benzaiten here can't speak it at all. She can understand some, but not much." Ranma had learned English before he got his curse after spending some time on an army base, but had not used it in Nerima or ever with his female form, so Benzaiten had no memory of it.
The man nodded, as if it made perfect sense. "Vacuo makes all sorts, yer story ain't the weirdest I've ever heard. Don't suppose you have any papers, IDs I mean? Most jobs, you'll need him."
"Fraid not." Ranma said with a shrug, as the man turned away and reentered his cockpit. The two of them made their way over to the side of the truck, leaping up onto the top of it with ease.
The man looked up whistling slightly. "Well, your old man might've had some issues, but he seems to've trained you up to be right good Hunters. If you can jump that high and survive out here in the desert you'll be able to pay your way soon enough."
"Will you need our help for anything to pay for our trip?"
"Nah," the man said shrugging his shoulders. "It don't cost me anything save a few moments tah stop, but a rule in Vacuo is if you don't earn you got pay, ya know, so you'll have ta help guard us, pay her way that way."
"But you just said we might need papers to get jobs." Ranma said frowning slightly while Benzaiten sat next to him, looking between the two of them and not following the conversation at all.
"I.D.'s won't matter here in the desert kid, but the big city and the other nations though, they'll need papers for near everything, and eventually most people yer age want ta see the world for a bit. But I wouldn't go to Atlas if I was you, bunch of stuck up prigs over there. If you don't got a paper telling those busybodies when you were born, when you first walked, where you trained, and where you last took a shit they don't want you there!"
He guffawed at his own joke while his wife rolled her eyes as he turned to his controls. "Better hold on tight, this things a little faster than you might expect."
Ranma nodded, and turned to Benzaiten relaying the conversation to her. "We probably should think that English is the go to language here. I can teach it to you, okay?"
The girl nodded, and the truck drove on below them. It didn't move nearly as fast as Ranma and Benzaiten could, but even so it was better than running. The group of truckers even shared some of their food.
They learned the driver was named Barnum Opal. He apparently worked for a Dust company, whatever that was, transporting Dust from one of their mines back to the Big City. The way he capitalized the Big City was interesting to Ranma, as was the way he also used the name Vacuo for the desert and the city interchangeably. He wondered if they were in a day of city-states or something similar. Ranma had enjoyed reading about the wars the Greek city-states fought, his kind of people really, so it had stuck in his mind more than most history lessons.
Barnum's wife was name Dusty. She was co-driver, co-shooter, cook and handy-woman. The third member of the truck's crew was named Derek Blue, and he seemed a little smitten with Benzaiten. Though whether or not that was caused by not having seen a woman in weeks according to him, or Benzaiten's good looks Ranma didn't care to know. Luckily the former Amazon hadn't noticed, or else the results might have been bad.
All in all however, their journey had certainly become much easier. Not that their trip was without incident, which allowed Ranma and Benzaiten to prove their worth to Barnum.
The first incident came without warning in the dead of night, dozens of black birds falling out of the sky high above them towards the moving vehicle. Ranma, who was on watch, stared up at them then kicked the top of the gun's swivel slightly. "We've got company coming from above!"
Derek rushed up into his position from where he had been dozing in a cot set directly below it. A second later the gun was on and he whirled the gun upwards, firing a stream of ammunition straight up. Ranma couldn't tell anything about the ammunition in question, it was going too fast for even he to make out, and he had never made a study of guns in any case.
But when the streams hit, they bisected two of the flying creatures wings, sending them plummeting down to the ground. Direct hits on their stomachs however proved ineffectual, bouncing off the white armor, which gleamed in the fractured moonlight. The rest of the attacking flock scattered, and as fast as it could move the pintle mount could only deal with one or two at a time.
The others closed in from above them, slamming into the truck momentarily before punches or kicks from Benzaiten and Ranma killed them. This close, Ranma saw they looked like monstrous vultures, long necks, fat bodies, and small heads. The underside of the neck, head and body were covered in heavy white armor, fending off any attacks there, but not from behind. "Benzaiten, help Blue keep them off us, I've got close in protection."
Benzaiten nodded, grabbing her stick. After the weeks spent working on it from where she had been with her flint dagger, it now resembled a very crude wooden sword. She slashed it through the air, and the pressure wave caught one of the flying creatures directly on its beak, sharing through its head in a welter of black blood which quickly dissipated in the night air.
"Derek!" Ranma ordered, taking charge for some reason which at the time eluded him. "Cover the back 180, Benzaiten's got the front, shout if they get too close."
With that Ranma went to work on attacking two of the monsters coming in from the sides directly towards the center of the truck, flying almost nape of the earth. Leaping out into space Ranma smashed into one of them, grabbing onto its beak and flipping himself up onto its back. Slamming his fist down with Amiguriken speed, he shattered its cranium, before pushing off its suddenly falling body moving onto the next target.
He remained in the air for the rest the battle, which seemingly threw off the attacking Vultures badly. Vulture was the name of the breed going by what Derek told them. They were large, fat, and, as Ranma had noticed, had a lot of armor on their undersides and heads, which made them dangerous to land-based enemies. Only high-powered cannons like the Gatling gun or Benzaiten's air slash could get through their armor, and even then it took several shots from the Gatling, nearly a full 2 seconds of sustained fire.
But they didn't have any armor covering their backs or their wings, which allowed Ranma to have a field day with them. Eventually he rode the last one down to slam into the desert, leaping off at the last second to roll along the ground kicking off easily into a run as he raced towards the road. The truck stopped obligingly, and Barnum opened his door looking down at Ranma then up towards where Benzaiten was standing on top of the truck, while his wife leaned back from the wheel, her eyes wide and staring. "Damn glad I stopped." he said simply. "Your old man trained you damn well to be Hunters kid. Those vultures would've gotten us if not for you two."
Ranma grinned at the man then leaped up to join Benzaiten on top of the truck before smacking his open palm down on top of the truck. "Move along little doggie!"
They were attacked three more times after that, but the combination of the swivel mount Ranma and Benzaiten saw them through. The Grimm were dangerous no doubt, but the common varieties weren't dangerous outside of huge numbers against Ranma or Benzaiten.
However, Derek told them that vultures were basically the middle class of the varieties you could find in the desert. "I don't know why your old man wouldn't tell you the classifications, but whatever." he said one evening as the truck moved on the three of them taking a meal together out top of it while Dusty took another turn at the wheel. Barnum was asleep, as was his wont when not driving.
"They go E up to A class, and then there's the S class, the specials. E through B're basically the normal varieties of Grimm, which can move up that ladder as they age. The younger a Grimm is, the less dangerous. That's why you've got Iguanas and Big Mamas."
Iguana was the name for the pack based lizards that Ranma and Benzaiten had met so often, while Big Mama was the name for the giant Komodo dragon look-alikes.
"But Grimm keep on changing the older they are, getting stronger and changing their shape somehow, I don't know how I'm not a Hunter. But one thing is known to practically everyone, the older the Grimm the tougher."
Ranma nodded understanding the point but asked, "So what's A-class?"
"A class are the next level, area dominators basically the oldest Grimm in the area. They've either survived or evolved or something and are much more dangerous than the rest. They can control other Grimm to a certain extent, and some of them develop more weapons than normal. They can think, plan ahead you know, not like animals which most of the Grimm're like."
Ranma nodded again, already used to the monsters being called Grimm by this point. "And S?"
The man shivered. "S-class is a step above A. Grimm so old and ancient they've learned patience."
"Death Stalkers are patient." Ranma objected, using the name Derek had used on the giant scorpions, who it turned out were simply upgrades of the Scorpio's, the smaller scorpion type. This despite looking and acting entirely different outside of their enjoyment of ambushing people.
"No they ain't." Derek said shaking his head. "Those big'uns are lazy, big difference. Death Stalkers will attack you if you come near, they won't go out of their way to move around to attack you unless they feel a lot o' fear or anxiety somewhere nearby. A and S class though, ya gotta understand the difference between the two ain't so as clear cut as between the other classes? They know how to wait, how to bide their time, stay near a target, watch it, and wait for an opening."
"Worse, S-class can control other Grimm, sometimes even create them. The Dragon type's known for that, they can create other flyers." The man shuddered a little. "There was a dragon that led an attack on a small settlement down south called Altar Rocks three years back, it created enough Grimm to overwhelm the defenses so quick even Vacuo couldn't get aid to 'em before they fell."
Ranma nodded his head thoughtfully. "What A classes could we run into out here in the desert?"
"The desert's home to more B-class Grimm, not many A-class." Derek said, smiling slightly. "Thank your god of choice for that. Most of the A class monsters live out in the real wilderness, beyond the borders. Here in the desert, you could run into two types of A-class monsters. One of them is the Death Spitter. Think a Big Mama, only about two-thirds the size again, with a massive frill of armor all around its head. Then imagine it can spit acid so deadly it can chew right through metal. And they can spit it accurately and over at distance.
"Not a good combination if they're smart about it." Ranma mused.
"They are." Derek said grimly. "Luckily they're damn rare, or else traveling like this over the desert'd be impossible. And then there are the Leos." He shuddered a little shaking his head.
"Leo's?" Ranma said gently motioning the man to continue while Benzaiten, who was only getting around to out of every seven words frowned at the man as well.
"Leos are something different entirely, they're really S-class Grimm, and are just as rare, but they don't have as much physical strength as most S-class, so they ain't classified as such. I said that most A-class'ld be able to command the Grimm, but Leos do something else, no one knows what, as y'know studying Grimm isn't exactly good for your health. But they make the Grimm around them stronger, faster, like they were all injected with steroids almost. Somehow they're also able ta get all of the different types of Grimm not just fight together but work together like a pack would. Death Stalkers don't help Scorpios, and Death Spitters don't help no-one, but with a Leo around they would, they'd all fight together like a pack of Beowulf's or Iguanas."
"What do they look like?" Ranma said after a moment. He didn't like that idea, not at all. Tactics you could make up for one type of Grimm wouldn't work on another, and it sounded almost as if the Grimm would become like a combined arms squad, very tough to combat.
"Like lions, only the size of a bull elephant, major spikes all around, and their masks look like something out of nightmare" Derek recited. He shrugged "Ya gotta understand, very few people live to tell about Leos, so there's not much recorded about what they look like. Like I said though according to the books, they're not as durable most S-class types out there, like Vale's Goliaths. Those are just massive monsters which can soak up any kind of punishment you care to name and keep on coming, dumb, but powerful. But Leos are fast, they're smart, and they're aggressive as all hell. Every time one of 'em's seen, it takes large groups of Hunters ta deal with 'em and even then most times the death toll's horrible."
Ranma nodded, and change the subject to Vacuo itself, wanting to learn about the city they were heading towards. It turned out Vacuo really wasn't the name of only city but the name of the city and the land as well.
Just like Ranma had suspected the nations here in Remnant (why it was called that Ranma didn't know) were more city-states than real countries. The countries consisted of two different areas. One was the city that gave the country its name. Then there was the rest of the country, which served the city giving it the food and other raw goods, particularly Dust, which the city needed. There were small cities and towns out there that could be sizable, but none that could be independent of the larger city, relying on it for a variety of things.
The countries of Vale and Vacuo were defended by natural defenses as well as Hunters, specially trained warriors who would go out and slaughter Grimm to defend other humans and Faunus, whatever they were. Those natural defenses consisted of the mountains that Ranma and Benzaiten had appeared in, massive mountains which kept most of the Grimm out of the countries. Not all of them of course, but most. After translating that, Ranma had shivered, not wanting to know what numbers the Grimm out there could come in if the numbers he and Beni had seen so far were any indication of the numbers that could be seen inside the kingdoms.
Ranma asked about them, and Derek shrugged his shoulders. "Just people of another stripe man, just people of another type. Other nations might have a problem with them, but here in Vacuo, as long as you're tough enough to stand the desert we don't care what you look like. Not like those bastards up in Atlas. Bunch o' stuck up prigs."
The next few days passed quickly, and soon enough they saw a low and extremely sheer mountain range in the distance. Soon however it resolved into a massive crater of some kind, and by massive Ranma meant that he couldn't see the edge of it the thing as they closed, it was so huge. On the other side of equally massive gates was a city, large and sprawling, with dozens of different architectures that Ranma noticed while they drove through the outskirts towards a large building with the words Desert Dust on its front in massive neon lights.
Barnum pulled the truck to a stop, and he, Dusty and Derek all got out, watching as Ranma and Benzaiten leaped down from the top of the truck. Several workers were already moving towards the back, and one man with a clipboard was coming towards them. Barnum held out his hands to Ranma and Benzaiten in turn, shaking their hands firmly. "If not for you too, that gaggle of vultures would've had us, and this'd been the last ride of Barnum and Dusty."
Next to him the normally silent Dusty rolled her eyes at her husband's attitude, but didn't say anything. Barnum went on quickly. "Look, I'll give you two directions to some bullheads that'll take you to Semaphore. It's a school for young Hunters. I noticed Beni here needs more learning in English, and you need ta know geography, writin' and other things. And yer both unarmed, that ain't gonna cut it long term."
He held up a hand as Ranma made to scoff, shaking his head. "Now hold up there, I realize you might not think that's worth much in a fight, but Hunters need to know more than just killing Grimm. They need to know how to work together, they need to know what weapons to take into what situation, they need to know where they are, the history of the place, maybe even the language. Hunters from one nation can be called on from all the others, and all those Hunters need to pass the primary schools before going on to the bigger academies."
Dusty broke in then. "Only after you graduate from the bigger ones will you be accredited a full Hunter." She smirked. "And going to Semaphore will start a paper trail. That might not matter here, like my husband says but it will matter in Vale, let alone Mistral or Atlas. Bunch of stuck up prigs."
Ranma chuckled. Every time Atlas came up in conversation the Vacuoans would tack those words on at the end. There seemed to be something between the countries, and Ranma wondered if they'd had a war in the past, or simply had differing social views.
But in terms of what he wanted to do with his new life here, there was really no choice. Ranma loved to travel and he firmly believed that the purpose of the Art was to help defend people who couldn't defend themselves. He could do both of those things as a Hunter, possibly with the help of locals if he actually became one. "All right, that does seem like a good idea for us." Ranma said looking over at Benzaiten
He relayed the conversation to her and after a moment's thought she nodded. "I would like to learn about this aura and semblance things Derek has mentioned when seeing you and I fight."
Ranma nodded, though he had put or down as simply another way of saying ki. Semblance however, that he was getting some interesting vibes from. Unlike Grimm however Derek didn't know much about semblances, simply that every one of them was unique to an individual, and based on their aura. Not a lot to go on.
So the pair of them nodded, and Barnum set them to following one of the workers. Soon enough they were on a small flying vehicle called a bullhead, heading out of the massive seaside crater that held Vacuo heading south towards. They rode for three hours in the bullhead before they came to a giant mesa, on top of which sat a small city and what looked like a large school, its sprawling campus taking up a good quarter of the mesa.
The school was situated at one side of the mesa, with a low wall separating it from the nearest edge of the mesa. It held several dozen buildings spread out over the rocky ground of the mesa, with only a few strips of green here and there denoting grass and bushes, and several large cleared areas separated by other low walls. The largest building was four story tall building shaped like an H that presumably held most of the classrooms. The second largest was a large gymnasium.
The city was far less sprawling. Most of it looked much like everything else, with two story tall buildings made of stone or brick, with heavy roofs that hung over where Ranma supposed their doors were. Other than a few large buildings that were obviously factories Ranma couldn't tell which buildings were businesses and which were homes. That was all Ranma had time to notice before the bullhead was on the ground.
The moment the bullhead's doors opened they were met with a guide who brought them immediately into an empty classroom. After filling out some very simplistic paperwork, the two were given various tests to see where they should be placed. They passed the combat tests to get in easily enough, and indeed impressed the instructors so much that the two of them were placed with the senior class combat class rather than the entrance-level class, which Ranma translated as freshman level. However the rest of their knowledge was below even freshman, and both of them were going to have to struggle for a bit to keep up thanks to having no idea how to read the language.
"But don't expect any extra help from your teachers. We here in Vacuo don't do that, if you can't hack it, it's best we learn it now." The principal, an elderly woman with a friendly face but stern clothing, and a noticeable limp, told them. She walked with the aid of a long staff, taller than she was, made of metal and seemingly stuffed with some red Dust. There were apertures on either end, and a place in the center where more rounds of Dust could be loaded at any time. Her name was Dorothy, and she was called the Flame-crafter.
Ranma and Benzaiten nodded, though Benzaiten looked apprehensive. She was already learning a new language, and having to actually take tests and classes in it was going to be very difficult.
This was proven their first class with the freshmen. The first class they had was history, the verbal portion of which Ranma followed avidly, learning about the history of Remnant, in particular the history of Vacuo and it's scattered settlements. Benzaiten didn't follow much of it, something one of their neighbors noticed. He was a young man around fourteen or so, with blonde hair and blue eyes, dressed in decent fitting armor over a t-shirt and jeans.
He nudged Benzaiten, trying to gesture that she could follow along in his book if she wasn't understanding what was being said, but she shrugged incomprehension, and Ranma leaned over her (an easy feat considering her height) whispering "Thanks for the offer kid, but Beni can't read, neither of us can. I was taught how to speak so I could haggle, but Benzaiten didn't learn even that. She's learning a bit now, but…"
The kid looked at him in shock then nodded. "You're from way out in the desert? I've heard of some weird communities out there. Especially some of the one's that've developed their own fighting styles, those make for some of the strangest stories you ever heard." The youth's diction was clearer than any local they'd since met, but he seemed friendly enough.
Ranma thought about the Anything Goes School and the people who practiced it. "Yeah… yeah, let's go with that." After that however Ranma had to turn his attention back to the teacher, nudging Benzaiten in the side, indicating that she could look at his notes later since he was writing in Japanese. .
The class ended, and the younger boy turned to them, smiling slightly and holding her hand. "My names Jaune Arc, short, sweet the ladies love it."
"To they really?" Ranma asked with a smirk.
"Well, my sisters do." Jaune said with an embarrassed laugh. "Everyone else, I guess we'll see."
"How many?" Benzaiten asked looking at him then it Ranma.
"How many sisters is what she's asking."
"Seven, two sets of twins, and three singles." Jaune's said with another laugh, though this time there seemed to be a bit of undertone to it, though neither his listeners caught it. "But at least the second set of twins is younger than me."
Ranma relayed this to Benzaiten, who laughed. She asked in halting English, "Big families normal?"
"Depends on the area I guess." Jaune said standing up and motioning the two newcomers to follow him. Since he had sat next to them Jaune supposed that he was elected official guide for the day. "And my parents can certainly afford it." Ranma cocked his head at that at and Jaune shrugged uncomfortably. "If I ever invite you over, you'll see why, trust me."
So the day went, the three of them taking classes together, with Ranma taking notes down in Japanese in those classes that interested him to share later with Benzaiten, while he and Jaune followed along with the conversation and Benzaiten grew more and more frustrated.
She took that frustration out at the end of the day in the senior level combat class, while Jaune went off to the freshman. In this class they were pitted against other students, and Ranma winced as Benzaiten slammed a huge student, who was pushing 7 feet tall at least to the ground with a single punch to the chest. The man flew across the room to slam into the wall with enough force to leave a dent and she huffed angrily, cursing under her breath.
Not that that was an isolated incident. While this might've been the advanced class for Semaphore, it certainly wasn't advanced for Ranma and Benzaiten. They didn't have weapons, which put them at a disadvantage at range, but they were simply too fast, too strong, and above all too mobile for seniors to deal with.
The combat instructor took them aside afterwards, shaking his head slightly. He was a tall man, with two floppy dog years sticking out of his head. On his back he wore a large circular shield, and at his side he wore a long, curved sword, a tulwar if Ranma's guess was accurate, plate armor covering his chest, and two pistols at his side. Both pistols looked like six shot revolvers from the old west, but the cylinders looked to be loaded with Dust rather than bullets.
The ears though were the bit that made Ranma cock his head to the side for a moment. So this is a Faunus. Ranma thought then internally shrugged. He'd seen weirder. Benzaiten too seemed to disregard it after a single glance.
When the man spoke, he had a crisp, clear accent, at odds with the laid-back tones Ranma had heard from the majority of Vacuans so far. "All right you two, it's pretty obvious that your combat abilities are well above what we can teach to here. So we've got two choices. One is to pair you with teachers to spar with from now on, which would be fine if any of our teachers didn't have classes to teach. But we don't have enough instructors here to let that happen. I'll devote some time on Saturday to working one-on-one with you two see if there's anything I can teach you."
The man shook his head, staring at a readout of the two newest students' aura levels. "Not that I think I'll have much honestly." Both of them had monstrous aura reserves, more even then Amethyst Arc, one of the Arc sisters and the only one currently at the school a senior.
The Arcs were known for massive aura reserves, and for being very peculiar about when they unlocked there were children's auras. They were unlocked on their sixteenth birthday, not a moment before. Most students in the Academy had their auras unlocked before they arrived, but Jaune, the man knew, did not. But since that was a decision by his parents, he didn't care too much. Amethyst hadn't had hers unlocked until she was sixteen, and it hadn't held her back much.
Although I would certainly like to not have a repeat of the free-for-all she started the day after. Sixteen students in the hospital and a recording released on Dust-net of assorted students crying for their mothers as she gleefully laughs at them, our school's reputation took a major hit from that abroad. In Vacuo the response was somewhat different of course.
The man shook off those thoughts with difficulty. "On the other hand, neither of you have weapons. I know Benzaiten has that stick of hers, but that's not a real weapon is it?" Ranma and Benzaiten both shook their heads. "Well then, you can use the combat class to either watch the other students, or research your own weapons. I'd recommend a mix of both."
Ranma nodded. "Seeing how other people fight is always a good idea, it'll give you insight into tactics and strategies that you can then add to your own repertoire, even if those tactics or strategies would work on you."
The instructor blinked but nodded, surprised at that level of insight from someone like Ranma, who he had pegged as a simple adrenaline junky. "Exactly. We're not like some other academies where we demand that our students make their own weapons, but we do encourage our students to find their particular style, and to always have at least a gun on them. I'd suggest you look at all of the weapons your classmates have, decide broadly what variety you could see yourself using. Then we've got hundreds you can try out to get a feel for them later. And if you want, we also have facilities where you can try to make your own."
Benzaiten nodded eagerly at that. In her previous life she had been trained on several different weapons, and was eager to get back into it. Ranma nodded too, which would have surprised most anyone who knew him back in Nerima. Ranma didn't particularly like weapons, feeling that weapons upped the ante in a fight whether you wanted it or not, and that no weapon was as flexible as your own hands and feet. But against Grimm, any weapon would be a help. A long range weapon of some kind, have to start training myself on guns.
He said that aloud, gesturing to Benzaiten. "We're good with our hands, but I think we'd both benefit from learning about guns and marksmanship."
The teacher, whose name was Aaron Pendragon, nodded eagerly. "Excellent, that's an area I can help you with, so we'll wait a few days and then we'll put together a real schedule all right?"
Ranma nodded, and the day continued.
After classes were over, they found Jaune sitting morosely in the cafeteria. The cafeteria served both lunch and a dinner meal after classes, since most of the students boarded here. Ranma and Benzaiten had been offered a room too, though since it was several weeks into the school year they'd have to wait for a room to be found for them.
They sat across from Jaune, staring at him. "What's up kiddo?" Ranma asked.
"You're not that much older than me." Jaune growled a little, looking up angrily, his face set somewhere between a snarl and a frown.
"Three years." Ranma said with a shrug, "besides, it's not so much the years but the mileage. Seriously, what's wrong? You look as if someone kicked you where it hurt."
"I suck at combat class!" Jaune said with a growl. "I've been training with my father and mother as often as I can, well, it's not often, but anytime I can, but most everyone who comes to Semaphore comes with years of experience being personally tutored or from a lower school. My parents kept me home and schooled me there so I'm good for most of the other classes, but the combat classes are kicking my ass, and I don't like it!" He looked away, thumping the table a few times with an angry fist.
"Why so angry about it?" Ranma asked, while Benzaiten looked concerned. She too had heard that tone of voice, though had been unable to follow most of what Jaune said. There seemed to be more to it than just simple irritation that he wasn't keeping up with the class. Jaune didn't seem the sort to care for grades overmuch if his falling asleep in math was any indication.
"My whole family has been Hunters as far back as memory goes. Our great, great, great grandfather was a hero in the Colors War, and my grandfather was a hero in the Great War, and my parents both fought in the Faunus Rights Revolution fighting for the Faunus, and I've got uncles and aunts and other ancestors who've fought against Grimm incursions here there and everywhere! My two older sisters are already accredited Hunters with a dozen combat missions to their names! My next eldest graduated from here year ago and is already making turning a name for herself. And Amethyst is following in their footsteps, a straight A student here and good to graduate first in her class this year!"
After Ranma relayed this to her Benzaiten frowned, trying to place the name then smiling faintly, remembering one blond girl with extremely long legs and a tendency to laugh as she sparred with her opponents. "Is that the one with the sniper rifle that changes into a glaive?"
"That's her," Jaune said morosely. "I've wanted to be a hero, a Hunter ever since I could read, but it's just… I don't seem to have any of the instincts or anything! I mean I've been training as hard as I can on my own, but my parents won't help me unless I beg, most of my older sisters are too busy, and…"
Ranma held up a hand stopping the man from speaking. "How good're your grades in your other classes?"
"Well we haven't had many tests yet of course, but I'd guess B's and C's mostly, except for math and history, I can guarantee I'll get A's in those. I'm even getting pretty good on designing, though we won't make our own weapons until next year."
Ranma nodded thoughtfully. "How about this then: the two of us are way above senior level in combat, but below freshman for nearly everything else. You help us with learning how to read the local language, and we'll help you with combat."
"You do that for me?" Jaune asked astonished.
"Hey, way I figure it, it's a trade." Ranma said with a shrug. He could speak English, but not read or write it, and any help in that direction or with Benzaiten, was a good thing.
The trio agreed to me early the next day before classes began so that Jaune could start tutoring the two of them in how to read the local language. Jaune was sitting in the cafeteria at the same table they had met yesterday afternoon, his head on the table as he seemed to be speaking a mantra to himself. "Mind over the body, mind over the stomach, keep it down, mind over the body..."
"Are, are you okay?" Ranma asked, while Benzaiten began rubbing the boy's back comfortingly.
Jaune looked toward them, his eyes closed as he seemed to grit his teeth to keep something down. "I get motion sickness, being in the air makes me want to puke. I'm a commuter, so I go through this every day at least twice." He shook his head, then in an effort to change the subject asked. "Do you guys board here, I didn't hear any other bullhead arrive." The cafeteria was directly next to the loading zone for the bullheads.
"We will be, they're tryin' to make room for us now, but until they do, we're just camping out on the rooftop over by the gym." Ranma shrugged.
Jaune frowned at that. "You should've said something! I can put you up at our place for a few days, easy!"
"Nah, we can't ask you ta do that." Ranma said shaking his head quickly.
"Seriously, you wouldn't be an imposition." Jaune said laughing lightly. "We've got the room."
Ranma relayed this to Benzaiten, who frowned slightly. "I think I know a cure for motion sickness, if it's the same kind of thing that people get when they are seasick from moving on a river?"
With a shrug Ranma relayed this back to Jaune who smiled happily. "See, right there that right there would be enough to pay me for putting you up at my place easy!"
Benzaiten nodded. "I'll look around in the kitchen for the ingredients, I should have some by the time class lets out. For now, let's start learning okay?"
That first day Jaune started to teach the two newcomers how to read and write, before leaving that to Ranma and talking with Benzaiten, teaching her the language as Ranma had been doing since they'd learned what the local dialect was. Later that day, while Benzaiten was working with Aaron on ranged weaponry Ranma joined the freshman combat class, taking Jaune apart from the rest of the class and beginning to force him through some strength exercises, though they couldn't do much in the limited time frame of a combat class. Still, it gave Ranma some hope. Jaune might complain at the beginning, but once they started he obeyed Ranma's instructions without further issue.
Lunchtime found the trio sitting together once more, ignoring the odd glances shot their way about the two newest, toughest fighters sitting with the freshman class's wimp. After only a day Ranma and Benzaiten had carved their place on top of the social hierarchy, but they didn't care. For Benzaiten, that was because she had died as a 25 or something woman (she refused to be more accurate than that). She had the mind and mentality of a woman that age, and found most of the seniors uninteresting, with a few notable exceptions. But even with those, she was unwilling to rush into friendships so quickly.
For Ranma, he was really unconcerned about making friends. If it happened it happened, but he didn't want to have friends like Hiroshi and Daisuke again, who Ukyo had once called his 'followers' rather than friends, which Ranma had reluctantly come to agree with since. Besides, learning about Grimm and how to kill them was much more interesting.
After classes ended for the day, Ranma and Benzaiten both worked with Jaune, running him ragged as they got an idea of his athletic level. It wasn't very high, but it was okay, good enough to start with, around the same level as the normal martial artists back in Nerima. Ranma put together a training regimen for him, which he would follow for five months before Ranma would start him on weapons.
"But what if the combat instructor tells me to start pairing up with the other students and spar with them? I'm happy for your help, but I was hoping for, well, some super-duper move or epic badass assault or something." Jaune said, smiling a little sheepishly, yet hopefully.
"Nope, sorry kiddo. You have to put in the sweat and the time to get better Jaune, that's all there is to it." Ranma laughed.
"So you won't be unlocking my aura for me." Jaune said with a side. "Dammit! Everyone else is too scared of what my parents will do to them to do it, ugh I have to wait another year…"
"I haven't even figured out what unlocking your aura means." Ranma said with a laugh, which Benzaiten shared. They both still thought of aura and ki as the same thing, but the idea of unlocking anything like that was bizarre to them.
After all, a person's ki could be somewhat blocked with the correct pressure points, but it certainly wasn't natural to start that way. Although, Benzaiten mused, there were stories about some kind of Inner gates that locked away people's life energy. But if so, then both Ranma and myself have probably opened them anyway.
Jaune frowned, but then shrugged his shoulders simply assuming that the two students had their auras unlocked at some point in the past but didn't remember it. "So are we done for the day?"
"Nope." Ranma said with a laugh. "That was just a warm-up. Now we start getting serious." He flicked a small stone in one hand, then he shot it at Jaune's feet causing him to twitch and shout leaping into the air. He stumbled, then glared at Ranma who merely chuckled. Then he picked up a small tennis ball. "These better?"
"What exactly are you training me here for?"
"Speed, reaction time, and overall coordination. After that, I'll start you on a few general katas." Ranma spouted quickly. "Now no more questions. Dodge!"
By the time that portion of the training was over, Jaune was a quivering mess, and had to be helped towards the bullheads. One of them had a pilot who was sitting outside, and he looked at Jaune in shock. "When you said you were going to get some new training to try'n keep up with the other kids boyo I didn't expect you to train yourself into the ground!"
From where he was on Benzaiten's shoulder Jaune muttered something unintelligible. Ranma merely shrugged his shoulders. "You the pilot who's gonna take him home?"
The man's eyebrows rose. "Does this look like a regular school bullhead to you?" he said pointing a finger over his shoulder. "I'm Victor Green, I work at Arclight as one of the farm's pilots."
Ranma blinked and batted, then looked over at Jaune. "Arclight?"
The motion sickness remedy that Benzaiten came up with that day worked like a charm. So Jaune, despite every part of his body battered beyond all recognition came in to class the next day happy and willing to continue the arrangement.
From then on the trio's days settled into a routine. They would show up at school early exercise for a time then have breakfast together. During class Jaune would do his best to keep Ranma awake in the Writing, Math and Science classes, while the two of them would do the same to Benzaiten during history. Then either Benzaiten or Ranma would meet up with Jaune during training combat class while the other practiced their own. Benzaiten learned the language well enough to follow the verbal portion of the classes easily enough after a few weeks, but the written portion still bothered her months later.
After school ended, the trio would train Jaune some more, then send him off back to Arclight, sometimes with his sister, sometimes not. Amethyst became good friends with Benzaiten, bonding over a shared joy in clothes and music, but not so much Ranma, who she didn't have much in common with. Then, after Jaune was gone, Ranma and Benzaiten would practice together until Benzaiten retired, then Ranma would practice until the sun set.
Indeed, Ranma became known for his insane training regimen quickly. He would wake up, go on a run throughout the city over the rooftops then do some weight exercises in the gym before meeting Jaune for the younger boy's training. Benzaiten in contrast was not a morning person, and never woke up earlier than she could help it, nor was she as insane as Ranma was about training.
Months passed like this, with Ranma and Benzaiten reluctantly coming to the conclusion that they could no longer learned tactics or strategy from the other students or even the teachers. More than once one of the teachers would have time spar with them, only to face the fact that they couldn't keep up with Ranma or Benzaiten's sheer speed or strength. As one wag put it, 'their base stats are too high!'. There was some talk that the two of them had a family semblance which allowed them to pour their aura into their own bodies, adding to their strength, speed and reaction times, but neither of them cared to comment.
After a few months Ranma had learned enough of the local language to start reading on his own, looking up books about Grimm and about aura. The books about Grimm were confusing. Ranma wanted to know where they came from, when their attacks had started, what their life cycles were like. All things that should have been known, after all, know your enemy was one of the oldest military/martial arts wisdoms out there.
There was some about the life cycle of a few of the small kinds of Grimm which could evolve into larger ones, but nothing about specific time frames from changing from one type to another, or how a leap from one subgroup such as Iguanas and Big Mamas, to another occurred. Worse, they didn't know where Grimm came from. As far as any of the books could tell you, Grimm simply came into being. There was nothing about how they propagated or mated or whatever. And as to when they had started preying on humanity that went further back than recorded history. It was a little weird to Ranma frankly: that people had thousands of years fighting the Grimm but didn't know much.
On the other hand there was a lot about Aura, and he finally figured out what everyone was talking about when they said 'unlocking'. It was ki, and yet it wasn't either. Ki couldn't defend your like aura could, preventing you from taking damage like that automatically, that was a technique you had to learn to do with ki, not something you could do automatically.
Unless they mix it up somehow? Ranma thought after reading yet another book on Aura. Like I know my body's been trained ta be tougher than most through endurance trainin' and sparring with my old man, that's given me more durability than aura could, but it doesn't seem ta hurt as much through aura as it does with me. And my own healing ability is way above what they describe here. Still seems a little off to me though.
And there was nowhere in the books anything like his Moko Takabasha or the other ki attacks he had seen. Ranma had tested out the Moko Takabasha, and found he could still do them here in this weird alternate dimension/planet/place/whatever. There were attacks that could let you pump your aura into your opponent, but the effects varied wildly, and none of them except Semblance types, were distant attacks. Nah, give me ki any day.
It was Benzaiten however who found Aura most interesting. Specifically because of the semblances which put practically any ki based technique to shame. Most of them were not as flexible, but their effects could be much more powerful. She also had an idea that maybe she had one. She sometimes got a feeling when singing, a sort of heavy feeling in the air, which could point to it. Even without that though, her voice had garnered Benzaiten a lot of attention, almost as much as Ranma and his training regimen.
After four months, Ranma finally decided that Jaune was ready to train on weapons. He took Jaune into the school's armory, and gestured around. "Let's start with the hand-to-hand weapons then move up to the others."
"Have you chosen yours yet?" Jaune asked, picking up a poleaxe like one of his sisters used and almost tripping over his own feet when he tried to make a cut with it.
Ranma quickly grabbed it out of his hand, pushing Jaune's grip down the shaft with one hand and up with the other, so that he hold held it more like a pole arm rather than a greatsword. "If you hold it like this, remember it's got both ends you can use, just because ones blunt metal doesn't mean it won't hurt if you hit someone with it. Try again."
Jaune did so, but even after a few practice moves got the end stuck between his feed and tripped once more. "Oh come on!"
"So no polearms then," Ranma said with a laugh, grabbing the weapon out of his hand. "Next."
Jaune moved down the row searching though he turned to look over his shoulder. "You didn't answer my question."
"I'm a horrible shot, so guns are sorta out for me." Ranma admitted with a shrug. It kind of irritated him that that was the case. He tried to use the sniper rifle, then the regular rifle, then a machine gun. He could sort of aim the machine gun, at a short distance around 100 yards, but anything beyond that he had trouble hitting. It was a weakness in Ranma's combat style, but a small enough one given his mobility.
"I'm thinking of a shotgun for myself, maybe with an underslung grenade launcher. You can't go wrong with things that go boom!"
Jaune tried to imagine the kind of shotgun that Ranma, with his massive strength, could wield and shuddered a little. That thing could probably take out a B-class Grimm with one shot! Shaking his head of such thoughts he reached forward, picking up a sword much like the family blade his father used. He had been given a replica of it to take to school, but wouldn't be given the real thing until he proved himself as heir. Despite his seven sisters their family was actually patriarchal. This meant he was the one in line to take the family name. Not that his sisters cared of course.
He wielded it for a moment, going through one of the practice swings his father had told him several times before moving on to a sword kata that Beni had shown him. Ranma watched, thinking. "How does it feel?"
"It feels okay I guess…" Jaune said after a moment. "Not sure what you're asking."
Ranma shrugged. "I don't know myself really, I've never been trained with weapons, I've just picked up a lot of the skills over time, no formal anything. But they're supposed to be a sort of feel to it when you've picked up a weapon that you can make a part of your body and style in combat."
Jaune frowned then shook his head. "I can't feel anything like that, it's still just a weapon to me does that make sense?"
"Sure, maybe I'm wrong, who knows." Ranma said with a shrug. The two of them continued, but eventually they decided to stop for the day. When it came to weapons at least, Jaune would be on his own, since Ranma didn't know enough about guns or even other weapons on to train him in their use or figure out what he was best suited for. Benzaiten, for all the fact that she had been trained with weapons in her past life couldn't help them much either. She was having a lot of trouble with the ranged weapons herself, despite having training as an archer.
Just as they were leaving, Ranma stopped, staring at what looked for all the world like a yoyo stuck onto a built up vambrace of some kind. "What the heck is that?"
Jaune looked where his friend was pointing and frowned. "No idea."
Intrigued Ranma moved over to the item, holding it up and pulling at the yoyo portion. It was a vambrace fit to go over someone's forearm, with what looked like half a glove with small pressure plates on the inside. The outer portion of the vambrace was a built up rectangle slopping at the back, with the yoyo stuck into a front aperture.
To his surprise the yoyo came out of the aperture attached to a piece of string or something that was so thin Ranma could barely see it. "Or is it wire," Ranma murmured, intrigued.
Looking over his shoulder Jaune blinked. "That's monomolecular wire. Huh, I didn't think we had anything that old. Mono-wire was popular for a while before the Great War, but since then it's fallen into disfavor. Using it is supposed to be incredibly tricky, and its also really dangerous to use around your allies."
Ranma pursed his lips thoughtfully, then put on the bracer. "Ya might want ta stand over by the doorway for a bit." He waited until Jaune was well away then with a flick of his arm shot out the yoyo. The mono wire followed with a slight zoom sort of noise. A twitch of his palm brought it back, the wire reeled in by a small motor in the vambrace.
Getting a feel for the weapon, Ranma continually flicked his hand, sending the wire this way and that, learning how far it could stretch, getting used to the very light weight of the yoyo and how it acted in the air. Finally, he flipped it so the wire first cut through several unused armor stands in one corner of the armory, then flicked it forward to wrap around the last one. With a tug the mono wire cut straight through the metal stand before Ranma reeled it back in. "I like it, it's sneaky, deadly and light. I like this a lot."
"Somehow I doubt the Grimm will though." Jaune laughed weakly, wondering at the destruction Ranma could commit with that thing.
Another few months passed, with Benzaiten finally learning enough of the local language to begin reading on her own. The lessons with Jaune stopped at that point, and his training stepped up in compensation. He was showing a marked improvement in class, and now when the teachers called on him stepped forward eagerly to try his luck against his fellow freshman. He even won a few matches, not many but some.
One day, flush with us at the success Jaune sat down across from Benzaiten and Amethyst at a small table at in the cafeteria. "What are you working on Beni, sis?" Jaune asked, while Ranma sat down beside him, nodding to the two.
The two women smiled at the two boys, gesturing them into the table alongside them. "It's a stringed instrument from ancient history called a pipa, I saw it in a book my father had, and it stuck in my mind. Then I mentioned it to Beni and she said she could play it, so we're planning to make one, with a few… enhancements."
The two women grinned somewhat evilly and Jaune gulped. Ranma raised an eyebrow with a grin, wondering what his 'sister' would come up with.
And so life progressed. Benzaiten continued to work on her weaponfied-pipa, while Ranma enjoyed using his molecular wire. Under their teachings Jaune came far, eventually surpassing the other students in hand to hand skills, and finally starting training with his family blade, Crocea Mors.
When he saw the blade for the first time, Ranma was not impressed. "Jaune, its just a sword, I don't get why it's a big deal. I mean, it's a damn nice sword, decent weight, good edge, no frills, but it's still just a sword."
Jaune laughed. "I used to think so too, but watch this." Jaune moved over to a practice dummy and with a rather half-hearted swing brought his sword down on the dummy's extended arm. The arm fell, shorn clear through. "See? Crocea Mors is made of some old kind of steel no one can make anymore. It's edge never needs sharpening, it's a lot heavier than you think, and it's never broken."
"Okay, I'll admit that's pretty cool. I…" Ranma paused as he saw Amethyst and Beni walking towards the practice range, their bright, rather evil looking grins visible even from the hand to hand weapons testing area. "I think we should go see what my sisters done to that poor instrument."
Jaune looked, and nodded and the two of them moved over to the wall separating the shooting range from where they were, staring.
The two women stopped at the mid-range point, close enough for Ranma to see some details about the pipa in Beni's hand. It was a normal size for the breed, a short neck coming out of a wide, pear shaped body with four long tuners coming out of the neck's head, two to a side. It was painted dark blue all over except for the tuners, which were green.
When Beni lifted the weapon slightly Ranma could see on the bottom of the body several apertures. One looked like a nozzle, while the others Ranma could only guess at.
Benzaiten raised the weapon, first playing a few bars of some sort, the notes easily heard from where the two teens were watching. She proceeded to play a short song, before tapping a bottom of some kind on the neck, pointing the head toward the dummy directly in front of her position.
There was a brief high-pitched whine, and the dummy began to vibrate. A moment later, the wooden dummy suddenly came apart, the vibrations having ripped it to pieces.
At the sight of this the two girls cheered, and Beni threw her arm around Amethyst's shoulders, laughing aloud. In response, Amethyst hugged her back then asked her something neither boy could hear.
In response Benzaiten turned her pipa around, walking forward as she did. When she reached shotgun range she pressed another button, and a flash of lightning arced out from the weapon to skewered another practice dummy, incinerating it.
Jaune gulped, shaking his head. "Okay, Crocea Mors doesn't look all that impressive now."