Of Demons and Cursed Springs

Hey everyone, I'm back! Sorry about the delay, but school this year has been really killer! I have some free time now, though, so I hope to spend that time updating some of my fanfics, and this one definitely needs it!

This might not be quite as polished as I wanted yet, but if I don't post this now, I probably won't be able to for a little while, and this thing has waited for updates long enough!

Chapter 4

Countless pools of water extended as far as the eye could see, with multiple tall bamboo poles growing out of each. Jusenkyo. Herb, flanked by his subordinates Mint and Lime, smirked. It had taken a while, but they had finally made it back to the cursed springs. All that was left was to find the Spring of Drowned Man, and then he could be finally free of his curse. 'It won't be long now.'

Of course, as Ranma had learned many times, things are never that easy when it comes to Jusenkyo.

Herb noticed something odd about the many pools. In every single one of them, the water appeared to be boiling. Herb knelt down next to one and cautiously placed his hand in. Being the descendant of a dragon, heat wasn't really a worry for him, but getting cursed a second time... he refused to let that happen. Stangley, though, the water was not hot at all. It was hardly even lukewarm! Still, that made the state of the pools even more worrisome. "What on earth is happening here?" Herb wondered aloud.

He received an answer in the form of a powerful growl coming from behind him. In one motion, the Prince of the Musk Dynasty stood, turned around, and got into his fighter's stance. Oddly, the noise was coming from Lime! The tiger-like warrior was hunched over, and staring at Herb with a violent, animal-like look, no pun intended. "What are you doing?" Herb questioned, only for his subordinate to rush forward, swinging his fist at the prince. Herb batted Lime away, only to be sucker-punched by Mint.

Herb quickly recovered and grimaced at his two team members, who were gearing up for another attack. "What the hell is wrong with you two?!" Herb shouted angrily as they charged forward.

Ranma smirked as she eyed the boy in green blast off into the sky. 'That should take care of Urameshi.' She thought, putting her hands in her pockets and starting to walk off. "Yessir, I shouldn't have to worry about him anymo-"

She was startled out of her musings by a loud monstrous roar. A very familiar monstrous roar. A roar that belonged to...

"Pantyhose Taro!" Ranma shouted, wheeling around to see Taro's gigantic chimera form rushing at her from a distant hill. "Dammit Pantyhose, I'm not in the mood for this right now!" The fact that it was raining would mean that Ramna would have a tough time transforming Taro back to normal, or even transforming herself male again. This was going to be a nuisance...

The winged, yeti-like creature flung his gigantic fist at the martial artist, but Ranma dodged to the side. Taro swung his other fist horizontally, so Ranma leapt into the air to avoid it. Unfortunately, she forgot about Taro's other animal parts, and, just as she was mentally planning her counterattack, she was swatted out of the air by a barrage of octopus tentacles extending from the monster's back.

As Ranma fell to the ground, Taro grabbed the small-framed girl in both of his monstruous hands and lifted her up, shaking her. This didn't seem to be an ordinary attack strategy, though. The monster seemed to be... no, he had to be... looking for something.

'What the hell is Pantyhose Taro looking for?' Ranma thought, as she attempted to free her arms from the monster's grip. 'Damn it!' Ranma's girl form might have been more agile than when she was in her usual body, but it was also weaker. It didn't help that she was already tired out from her duel with Urameshi.. Speaking of Uramashi, where was-

"Spirit Gun!"

Ranma saw a large explosion behind the monster, and Pantyhose Taro released her as he turned to face his assaulter. Ranma, too, landed on her feet and looked towards her apparent savior.

There stood Yusuke Urameshi, battered and bruised from the Hiryu Shoten Ha, but still standing confidently with his right index finger pointed at the behemoth. "Don't worry little girl, I don't know where this big guy came from, but demons are my speciality!" He had clearly figured out Ranma's masquerade, but there were more important things to worry about now.

"If you say so!" Ranma shouted across the lot. "But just remembered that this 'little girl' is the one who beat you!"

"Beat me?" Yusuke laughed back. "In case you haven't noticed, I'm still standing. It took a while for me to fall all the way back down after that last attack of yours, but I'm still ready to continue our fight!"

Pantyhose Taro, both enraged by the blast to his back, and also annoyed by the fact he was being ignored, rushed towards the newcomer with a loud roar. Yusuke simply got into his fighter's stance, and, once the beast was right in front of him, shouted "But first I'll handle this demon! Shotgun!" Taro was hit in the stomach by a dozen's of small energy blasts and stumbled backwards.

Ranma was ready, however, utilizing her own signature energy blast "Moko Takabisha!" Emboldened by the appearance of an unlikely ally as well as her desire to outperform Yusuke, the confidence-based blast was incredibly powerful, striking the creature in the back and knocking Pantyhose Taro to ground unconscious.

"I didn't know you could do that too!" Yusuke said, jogging over. "And I didn't know you were secretly a girl either!" He joked, barely avoiding Ranma's reflexive punch to his face. Obviously Ranma didn't like jokes about whatever they hell his/her condition was, but that certainly wasn't going to stop Yusuke. "Man, I can't wait to tell Kuwabara about this! He'll have a huge fit!"

Ranma gave an incredibly fake smile and said back, "Yeah, and then I can tell him not only did you lose, but you lost to a girl!"

Yusuke shook his head. "Wait a minute, we've been over this! I didn't lose. Your transformation just caught be off guard is all. And besides, it if you're Ranko, then I guess I beat you the first time!"

"Except I was caught off that some random high schooler could shoot his chi like that! Besides, it was raining and I wanted to avoid having my secret exposed!" Ranma shouted back. At this point, the two were standing face to face as they glared at each other. Pantyhose Taro made a grunting noise, and the two simultaniously punched the monster on the head, knocking him further into unconsciousness.

"So we each have one win due to being surprised." Yusuke summarized. "So what now? And what do we do about this guy?" He jerked his head at the chimera laying on the ground.

"Let's take him back to Akane's house." Ranma said. "And I'll make you a deal. You keep my curse quiet from your friends, and I won't tell them helpless little Ranko." She said, suddenly adopting the appearance of a weak-and innocent high school girl before reverting back to her loud borish self "sent you flying hundreds of feet into the air."

"...Fine." Yusuke said, shaking her hand. "But just what the hell is this condition of yours anyways?"

Ranma explained it, and Yusuke sincerly wished he hadn't made the deal. Messing with Saotome could have been so fun!

"They've been gone a long time." Keiko said, looking out into the Tendo's banzai garden.

"Eh, they're probably just still fightin'." Kuwabara shrugged, downing another cup of tea. "Urameshi gets a little crazy when it comes to fights."

Keiko ignored Kuwabara's completely hypocritical statement and noticed that the boy had something else on his mind. She had a pretty good idea what, too. "Do you think Ranko will be okay." Keiko asked Akane.

"Um... yeah." Akane said absendmindedly as she gazed at the falling rain. "I'm sure he's... she's fine."

This seemed to relieve Kuwabara when they suddenly heard a familiar voice.

"Hey!" Male Ranma said, entering carrying both an umbrella and the unconscious human form of Pantyhose Taro. Ranma had quickly heated some water while Yusuke bought an umbrella before returning. Carrying an uncounscious yeti might have been a little difficult otherwise. "We've got a bit of a problem."

"Pantyhose Taro!" Akane shouted, jumping to her feet.

Yusuke and Kuwabara both snickered at the name, and Keiko looked confused, but it was clear they had more important things to worry about.

"Quick, tie this guy down and keep him away from cold water!" Ranma commanded.

"Or what, Furinkan boy?" Kuwabara challenged. Despite his previous attempt to appear sophisticated, being ordered around by some cowerdly punk from a rival school was not something he would do willingly.

"Do what he says, Kuwabara." Yusuke said. "This guy can turn into a giant monster if he gets wet."

Kuwabara eyed the body with a much greater sense of dread. After all, the younger Toguro was pretty much a giant monster. If this guy was anything like that...

"Yusuke!" Botan shouted, flying into the banzai garden on her paddle, cursing herself for once again ignoring the present onlookers, but justifying it based on Yukuke's last statment, and dismounting (in that order) rushed to the spirit detective. "We've got a bit of a problem." She said, unknowingly echoing Ranma's previous statement.

"Great." Yusuke muttered sarcastically. 'Looks like things just went from bad to worse.'

"Hito Ryu-zan Ha!" Herb shouted, blasting away at his former team members. He didn't know why they were suddenly acting like feral beasts, and, altough he would rather not, he was still willing to put them down if they resisted.

"Enough." Said a deep voice behind him, and Lime and Mint stood down. Herb turned quickly, only to spot a strange looking man. He was wearing a brown cape that surrounded his body, while his black hair stood up like horns. Additionally, although most of his body was covered by the cape, his remaining exposed skin was adorned with intricate tatoos. "It seems you possess the willpower to resist my influence." The strange man said, eying Herb curiously.

"So you're the one who's controlling these two!" Herb shouted back, gesturing at Mint and Lime. "And I bet you're the one who did this to Jusenkyo!" He prepared to fight. "Anyone who prevents me from curing myself is in for one hell of a fight!"

The enigmatic man simply snapped his fingers with a bored expression and Mint and Lime each grabbed hold of one of Herb's arms. Herb threw them off, but when he looked back to the man, he was gone.

"Behind you." The deep voice said. Herb wheeled around for the third time that day, only to recieve a punch to the gut.

"W-what?!" Herb gasped out, falling to his knees. This human was strong. Was he another descendant of an animal? Herb didn't remember him from the Musk Dynasty. Was he some sort of dissenter? No... Herb couldn't sense any animal chi in him. He did, however, sense something, buried deep in the man. Something both powerful and inhuman. It was like nothing the prince had sensed before.

"Strange. Your spirit energy is neither human nor beast. It's some sort of mix. I sense it in your friends too, but yours is especially powerful for some reason."

"What of it?" Herb coughed, getted back to his feet, only to have them swept out from under him. 'Damn! This guy isn't even giving me a chance to get my bearings. Just what the hell is he?!'

The man ignored Herb's words and continued to talk. "It would be a shame to kil someone with your power. I feel you would to better on my side."

"Work for you?!" Herb spat, indignant. "I am no man's puppet!"

The stranger snapped his fingers again signaling Mint and Lime to pin Herb to the ground. He reached into the folds of his brown cloak and produced a glowing yellowish insect. "That was not a request, human."

All right! How was it? I'll try to get the next chapter out soon, but I must say that the one thing that motivates me is reviews! Seriously, this is on more favorites, alerts, and C2s than the significant majority of my other works, and yet it has so few reviews based on that! Come on, guys! I like hearing what you have to say; it helps me improve! Plus, I've only got the bare-bones plot thought up, so you can make suggestions as to what you want to see. No promises that I'll use them, but I've often been inspired by some reviewer's random comment. So what do you say? Just a quick review? Please [/grubbing]

On that note, thanks to the people who are reviewing! I write for the readers!