Author's Note: The characters and setting herein- with the exception of one or two O.C.'s of my own design- are the property of Rumiko Takahashi. This story is intended for fun, not for profit. It's been a long time since I watched the original anime or read the manga, so my knowledge is sketchy at times; please remember this when reviewing. This story begins in the aftermath of the fight with Saffron and the wedding disaster. I encourage all constructive critiques, but would ask that flamers save their fire for the marshmallow roast. With that said, enjoy the show.
Ranma ½: The Truth and the Tempest
Chapter 1: When Worlds Collide
Thick black clouds roiled over the mountainous terrain, unleashing torrents of rain upon the valleys below. It was bucketing down, and had been for a considerable time. Streams turned into raging rivers, while small ponds threatened to turn into massive swamps. Most of the woodland animals had fled to their burrows or nests, desperately seeking a means to stay dry. Others had fled much earlier, not to escape the rain, but to avoid the shock of seeing the distant peak of Phoenix Mountain blow apart in a cataclysmic fury. Distant villagers, too, had seen the destruction from afar and had panicked, thinking it to be the precursor to a volcanic eruption.
Few, if any, knew the extent of what had truly transpired.
The smoke from the remains of the peak had dwindled to almost nothing from the sheer force of the rain, and as the night wore on people began to relax slightly. There was no eruption visible, no streams of lava running down the mountainside. Nary a soul ventured out to investigate further, however, partly out of fear of whatever had caused the cacophony in the first place, partly because of the chilling downpour that showed little to no signs of relenting. Most villagers had turned to their evening meals, children and pets eventually relaxed and resumed their innocent games with one another. Some, like the inhabitants of Joketsuzoku, were deeply concerned with what had transpired; such an event could very well be a sign from the gods, perhaps even a warning. Elders and the learned banded together in consultation, voicing concerns and postulating their theories well into the night.
The rain continued its barrage. It fell on roofs, it fell on gardens, it fell on piles of firewood which had not been covered, eliciting numerous expletives from tired farmers… it fell on plants and trees, on stables, on well-worn wagons, on dirt roads which were slowly turned into rivers of mud.
Most notably, it fell on a secluded valley dotted by many freshwater springs, with ancient bamboo poles forming a veritable forest across the water. Individual springs were impossible to discern anymore; the entire area had been transformed into a smallish lake.
Beside the lake stood a man, seemingly oblivious to the rain that pelted down upon him.
He was not conspicuously tall, standing just under six feet. His brownish-black hair was long in the back, reaching just above his shoulders, and thoroughly matted down by the rain, only kept out of his eyes by a black bandanna. He shivered slightly, though the chill of the storm was kept mostly at bay by the dark brown leather jacket across his shoulders. There seemed to be something etched or sewn across the back of the jacket, but in the darkness of the valley it was almost impossible to tell. Fingerless gloves adorned his hands; he flexed the fingers on his left hand briefly, bringing it up to his eyes as if inspecting a favored weapon. His blue-green irises lingered on the circular pattern etched on the back of the glove, tracing the runes and the pentagram within the circle slowly and deliberately.
A look of fire entered his eyes as he lowered his left hand. His right hand tightened its grip on the straight-bladed naginata at his side as he removed the sheath, exposing the blade to the elements. The polearm's double-edged blade seemed to shine from within, even in the blackness of the storm. Lightning flashed in the distance, highlighting the runes engraved along the four foot length of the staff and the pentagram sigil which seemed burned into the 16" blade. The man took a deep breath, then expelled it.
So this is it. This is the place Father spoke of. He took another breath. This isn't going to be easy. If Reika was here, it wouldn't be so bad… but our numbers are small enough as it is, and she has enough problems to worry about.
He twirled the naginata in his right hand slowly, glancing around the horizon.
Father says he sent me because I'm the best… but a seal of this magnitude is something I've never even tried. Still… I have to do this. We can't let a place like this continue unabated any longer, or God knows what may become of it. The portals must be closed. Conditional portals they may be, but any portal is dangerous if left untreated…
A movement on the periphery of his vision caught his eye, and he slowed the rotation of his weapon.
Something's there… a forest spirit, perhaps? Or something else?
A vicious cackle rent the air as a diminutive crimson beast shot out of the undergrowth, a humanoid barely three feet in height with the grotesque appearance of a fanged, horned simian on amphetamines. It bounded towards the man in great strides, saliva drizzling down its pronounced jaw line as it babbled in an incoherent demon tongue. It threw itself at the man with the full intent of tearing out his throat, but the man shot his left hand up in front of his face, fingers clenched as the sigil on the back of the glove shone a brilliant white. Seconds later, the apelike being was sprawled whimpering in the mud, thrown backwards by an unseen force. It scrabbled to its feet, shrieked at the man and darted forward once again. This time, the man spun casually, sweeping the naginata in a wide crescent that tore a line of silver across the beast's body. The beast seemed to freeze in midair before exploding into a myriad of white shards that spun and whirled through the air, siphoned into the pentagram on the blade of his weapon.
The man sighed. Just a lesser oni. Hardly even worth my time.
Without wasting another moment, he turned and dug his boots into the mud at the edge of the lake. A quick grunt and he propelled himself high into the air, landing on one of the nearer bamboo poles with ease. He jumped again, gaining even higher altitude and landing on a further pole. Repeating the action, he twisted in midair and dug his free hand into his jacket, flinging a handful of narrow, sharp objects far and wide before landing on a third pole. A quick hop, and he was facing another direction. He sheathed the blade of his polearm and slung it across his back, digging more of the engraved steel slivers from within his jacket. He crouched and bounded into the air once more, showering the area with the projectiles; some shot into the water, others landed on distant dry banks, still others embedded themselves within the bamboo poles surrounding him. This action was repeated several times over until the man stood in the dead center of the lake.
He drew his polearm once again, unsheathing the blade and raising it high to the heavens.
"The soiled shall be cleansed," he began to chant. "The spirits of the dead shall be laid to rest. No more shall they be the key between this world and the next. Thou hast polluted this land for many a year, and now one sworn to defeat you shall seal the cleft and return peace to the land." All around him, the metal slivers he had thrown began to throb with a white light that grew in intensity every second. Lines of light scored their way across the surface of the water, tracing a crisscross pattern that seemed chaotic at first, yet gradually took on a semblance of order. "In the name of the House of Yamashira, I, Shingen, stand before your power and reject your intrusions upon this world!" he bellowed, raising his weapon with his right hand and tracing arcane symbols in the air with his left. The sigils on both his gloves shone pale as the patterns on the water solidified at an even greater rate, eventually forming a massive hexagram across the valley.
The water began to boil. Faint red forms became visible beneath the surface. Shingen pressed his eyes shut tightly in concentration, speaking new words in an unknown tongue. His left hand began to move faster, in sharp, tight movements that suggested he was conducting a symphony. The pentagram on his naginata blade was shining bright gold now, and the lines of the massive hexagram before him doubled in their intensity. Seconds stretched into minutes, and the light of the hexagram coupled with the throbbing red of the springs was almost blinding.
Faint squeals emerged from the flooded springs, turning into distant howls of anguish. Shingen's chant and his gestures continued unabated. The rain seemed to quiet down, as if retreating from the sight beneath it. Sweat began to trickle down his temples as the howls reached his ears, as if something was trying to rip at him from the inside. His words grew harsher still, his gestures became so sharp they seemed to cut into the air. The howls became louder, howls of pain, desperation, and pure, blinding rage. Suddenly, Shingen spun the weapon downwards, grasped it in both hands and thrust the blade towards the springs ten feet below him. "This land is yours no longer. The dead shall rest at peace. In the name of the gods, trouble this land NO MORE!"
Midnight became full day as the valley was engulfed in white fire.
Half an hour had passed, and the rainfall had slowed to a light drizzle. The clouds were beginning to thin out enough to let moonlight play across the hills and valleys, prompting several animals out of their hiding places.
The valley of a hundred springs had been decimated. Broken bamboo lay strewn about the landscape, mud and grass had churned into a swampy pudding that coated the surface of the water and some of the surrounding cliff walls. A strange, peaceful silence had settled over the area, disturbed only by the sloshing footsteps of a jacket-clad warrior dragging his way out of the lake.
Shingen trudged towards the nearest outcropping of rocks, leaning on his polearm for support, his breathing slow and ragged. A twinge shot across his face and he screwed his eyes shut, his left hand on his forehead as he collapsed to the ground by the rocks.
"Damn," he expectorated. "That took more out of me than I thought it would… can't even see straight." He flexed his fingers and let his weapon fall to one side. "Still, it's done. I just hope it holds, because I sure as hell don't want to go through that again." He sighed heavily, staring up at the thinning clouds for a moment.
"Well, that's one path they won't be able to use anymore," he mumbled with a hint of a smile. "On to the next assignment, I guess."
He reached into his jacket and pulled out a small waterproof tube sealed with a runic wax marker, pausing for a moment as he noticed how much lighter his jacket was. "Better retrieve the darts before I go," he noted as he broke the seal on the tube, unrolling a tightly bound sheaf of papers within.
If you are reading this I may only assume the destruction of the portals in China is complete. You are the only one I could trust to see this errand to completion, and I am most proud of you. You are, after all, our finest Hunter. I would that I could have sent another with you, but you know too well how few in number the Hunters have become. I myself am too overwhelmed, even here at our family grounds in Hokkaido, to be as effective in the field as once I was. Your sister Reika, too, has problems of her own in the south- but I know your skills and strength, and I trust you.
I must warn you, though, not to pursue your next goal until you have recovered from the mission at Jusenkyo. A portal closure of that magnitude, even for one as skilled as you, carries severe risk of backlash- the powers of our bloodline could be severely impaired for some time, making you more susceptible to misdirection, or even unable to read auras properly. I urge you, do NOT make any major advances until you have rested at least five days. This should be sufficient time for you to recover.
Once you are sure you are well, make your way to Tokyo. There have been some alarming disturbances there as of late, all focusing on a particular ward. From my own observations and those in the field, chaos tremors have been steadily increasing over the past year… for what reason, I do not yet know. It is possible our ancient enemies are gathering forces to make a move against the center of Japan in one fell swoop, possibly through the manipulation of unwitting pawns. It is also possible there is a ley line shift in progression, though this will need to be verified. All signs, however, point to a common result- there is a gathering demonic presence therein, which must be stopped.
I have no doubt in your ability to discover and destroy the source of these tremors, but I must again warn you not to make a move until your senses recover fully. If you move too quickly, Shingen, you may well lose sight of your objective. Practice patience, my son, and be on guard at all times. It is quite possible that the area in question, Nerima ward, could well turn into our next great battlefield. We must be alert and at full strength if we are to prevent that.
Be well, my son, and stay true to the Hunter's Code.
Shingen pored over the message for a moment before rolling it back up and stuffing it in his jacket. Looking around, he caught sight of his duffel bag on the far side of the rocks. He staggered up and opened the top, retrieving a bottle of water from which he took several hefty swigs.
"Nerima ward, eh?" he muttered to himself, a smirk tugging the corners of his mouth. "Guess it could be a bit of fun." He paused for a moment, stretching out his back muscles. "Still, five days' rest… heh, no way in hell am I staying here that long. What's the worst that could happen?"
To be continued…
A/N: Yes, our famous gender-confused martial artist hasn't shown up yet. Rest assured, he will, and a few other favorites as well. Just setting things up. Please review; I'd like to know if there's some interest or if I'm just wasting my time. -Neon Ronin