The Beast Within
Disclaimer: Ranma ½, Darkstalkers, Hellsing and all others belong to their respective creators. You know the rest.
< >: Thoughts
// \\: Russian
World Tour Part 5
Deep Water and Deeper Trouble
“NOOOOOOOOO! I WON’T DO IT! ALL THE ORCAS AND GIANT SQUID IN POSEIDON’S KINGDOM WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO DRAG ME BACK TO ATLANTIS!”
If ever the walls of Castle Talbain did shake with the howls of something other than a member of the lycanthrope clan living there, it was when Jon Talbain and his party returned home, and informed the resident Undine of where the next medallion fragment was.
Kalesse’s outburst was heard even on the other side of the compound as Head Butler Dubroke was busy polishing some fine China plates. Her sudden scream had made him drop a very expensive piece. Letting off tired sigh, he asked for a broom and dustpan.
The maid named Alice soon came and handed him the requested implements. As they began to clean up the broken dinnerware, they quietly discussed the current events.
“I do wish Master Jon had informed Lady Kalesse about their next destination with more subtlety.” The elderly butler mused.
“Subtlety is not one of the Master’s strong points.” The younger girl pointed out. “It’s a trait that Young Master Matthew shares. In any case, I am very puzzled as to why Lady Kalesse would refuse to go the legendary Kingdom of Atlantis. I would think she would feel right at home. Is it really that bad?”
“On the contrary, my dear Alice, Atlantis is a wondrous place, where the answers to some of the world’s greatest mysteries can be found. There are also incredible amounts of lost knowledge and untold riches there as well. The legacy of the Lemurian culture can be found in Atlantis.”
“So why does Kalesse refuse to accompany the Masters to such a place?”
The loyal servant to the Talbain Clan chuckled slightly. “It’s not so much as the place which has made her upset, but rather its current and only resident, the merman named Rikuo Aulbath.”
“NO! Absolutely not! I swore that I'd never return to Atlantis after that last time!”
Matthew’s instructor in underwater tactics paced about like an angry, caged tiger. Like many of her kind, she had the ability to morph her fish tail into human legs. Currently she was dressed in her halter top, skirt and was barefoot.
Kalesse came from a warrior tribe of undines that had encountered the Talbain family in the year 1507 AD. Matthew’s 16th great-grandfather, Simon Talbain, had saved them from a rampaging sea demon. Since that time, the water maidens had agreed to a pact and would train all future generations of lycanthropes in their aquatic battle moves. The sea fighter of Castle Talbain was quite adept at using the spear and trident, as well as manipulating water in various ways.
Jon took a deep breath as he tried to calm the undine down.
“Please Kalesse. I know how much you hate going there, but you're the only one who knows how to navigate those underwater caverns to get to the entranceway. It's only going to be a short time while I negotiate with King Rikuo of the Mermen and...”
“King Rikuo? Hah!” She remarked sarcastically. “Not my king! And he's more like an OCTOPUS than a proper merman! I want nothing to do with him, let alone MARRY him!”
“And I'm not asking you to accept his marriage proposal Kalesse, but we do need that medallion piece. Please Kalesse. We really need your help on this one.”
Kalesse let off an exasperated sigh and nodded.
“As you know, I am honor-bound to aid the Talbain clan in return for the great deed your ancestor had done for my people. We have gladly trained the Talbains in our underwater battle techniques, but you strain that contract with this favor. Very well, but it will ONLY for a short time. Understood?”
“That's all I ask Kalesse and thank you.”
At Lake Talbain…
“Hey Shinko! How’ve you been?” Matthew asked as he approached the edge of the pier.
Swimming near the pier, the resident Kappa waved to his friend.
“Is Bob around?”
The Japanese water spirit nodded as he dunked his head underwater and let off a muffled gurgle. He then rose back up and swam back to the pier. Hopping up onto the deck, he waited for his fellow aquatic monster to appear.
Lake Talbain was actually a lot larger than it appeared as it was in reality, an entrance to a near-bottomless water dimension. It had to be big enough to house all the aquatic-type monsters that resided on Talbain’s land. And you needed a lot room to keep a 250-foot mutated throwback from the Cretaceous Era happy.
Unknown to most people, the Loch Ness Monster was a member of an ancient species of evolved plesiosaurs, which were later known to man as the Leviathans. Unlike most of the other dinosaurs, the Leviathans managed to survive the Great Extinction by going into a state of suspended animation, which lasted well past the Ice Age, before the oceans were suitable enough to sustain them again.
However, Bob wasn’t very fortunate, as the place he had decided to rest in was changed over the millennia, due to the retreating glaciers and changing landscape. When he finally awoke, he found himself trapped inside a secluded, landlocked lake with very little for food and nourishment. As a result, he had to periodically go into stasis and only awaken when he absolutely had to feed. This led to the fantastic sightings and stories about the monster of Loch Ness.
It was almost a godsend when the Talbain family had found him and brought him to CastleTalbain. Now he had all the room he could swim in and would never go hungry again. If he wanted to, he could visit his relatives in the deep oceans.
At the dock, Matthew and Shinko waited for minute, before Bob came shooting up to surface in a huge eruption of waves and splashes. He let of a roar as he reared his head back and swayed his long neck from side to side. Then he turned his attention toward the dock and recognized Jon Talbain’s son.
“Hey Bob! You wanna go an ocean cruise?”
Meanwhile in the Talbain Family Museum…
“Hey, I didn't see this the last time I was here.” Nabiki pointed to an ornate medieval sword with some strange runes engraved on both sides of the blade. While her boyfriend was taking care of some business, she had decided to take another tour of the Talbain Museum and learn more about its history.
Grom the Gargoyle nodded as he explained the weapon in front of them.
“Ah lassie. Ye have a good eye. That be the crowning achievement of me great-uncle.”
“The one that forged the swords of Jacob Talbain?”
“Right ye are. Me great-uncle be very proud to have made those blades for Master Jacob, but the one ye see now be legendary in human times.”
“What do you mean?”
“That be the sword the humans call Excalibur.”
“EXCALIBUR?! You mean THE EXCALIBUR?! The one that belonged to King Arthur?!”
The winged caretaker nodded.”That it be lassie. Some time abou' the 6th century or so, me great-uncle forged that blade and steeped it deeply in magic. But he later lost it due to some thievin' by some imps in the Makai. It later ended up in the human world and found by a sorceror named Merlin, a haflin' incubus. After Arthur's kingdom fell, Joseph Talbain got it from the Lady of the Lake and eventually brought it here fer safe keepin'.”
Nabiki couldn't believe that she was gazing upon the legendary weapon of King Arthur. She started to reach for it, but Grom shook his head.
“Nay lassie. That sword is not meant for werewolf hands. No offendin' mind ye, but that sword be forged of orichalcum and lots of silver. Ye canna touch it.”
The middle daughter of Soun Tendo nodded as she continued to gaze upon Exclaibur. She had no idea how involved Matthew’s family was in human history.
A little later…
“Well, it took some doing but she finally agreed to accompany us.” Jon said as he met up with his son and his girlfriend at Castle Talbain’s secret water port. The location was in the bottom of the cliff where the castle stood. It was connected to an underground channel that led to the Atlantic Ocean.
Matthew nodded as he also had some good news. “I talked to Bob and he wants to go out with us. He told me that he needs to hook up with some his relatives.”
“Relatives?” Nabiki asked in confusion. “What kind of relatives does the Loch Ness Monster have?”
“I believe in history, they were called Leviathans.” Matt’s father supplied. “In any case, we could use the extra water muscle. However, since we’re going to a place that happens to be two miles below the surface of the Atlantic, we’re going to need some special transportation.”
“Are we taking the Sea Wolf again?” The younger Talbain asked.
“What’s the Sea Wolf?” Soun’s daughter asked.
“That’s our submarine.”
“Submarine?! You have your own sub?!”
“Our family’s rich enough and just because we happen to use a lot of magic, doesn’t mean we can’t take advantage of technology too. We certainly didn’t ride on Bob’s back going to Atlantis.”
“Indeed.” Jon affirmed. “However, I’m afraid that we won’t be taking the Sea Wolf since it’s currently in dry dock for maintenance and upgrades. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t take Sea Wolf II.”
“Sea Wolf II?” Both teens asked in surprise.
The head of the Talbain Clan clapped his hands twice. In response to his signal, the hanger doors of the port opened up. The adolescents stood in awe on the docks as a huge vessel sailed out into the waterway.
The craft measured at least two hundred feet in length, and was about fifty feet high. It was cylindrical in shape and was colored white with gray highlights. The conning tower was built low but with smooth, curved lines. Emblazoned on the front and sides was the Talbain Family Crest.
Jon smiled as he gave an introduction of the new craft to the still-awestruck pair.
“Meet Sea Wolf II. She’s capable of 40 knots on the surface and can dive up to 8 miles. Her entire structure is composed of the best grade titanium alloys, with a thin outer hull coating of orichalcum.”
“Orichalcum? Isn’t that the same metal Jacob Talbain’s swords and Excalibur is made of?” Nabiki asked.
Jon gave her a long, appraising look, and then smiled. “You’ve been talking to Grom, haven’t you? Yes, you are correct. Sea Wolf II is protected not only from the crushing depths, but it’s highly resistant to any magical attacks. It took Grom’s clan more than two years to forge that outer hull. You might say we’ve combined the best of science with the supernatural. So are we ready to get underway?”
“We’re going now?”
“The sooner we get that medallion fragment, the sooner we can get your lycanthropy under control. I figured that a trip to Atlantis would be a good opportunity to work out any bugs in the systems and give Sea Wolf II a proper shakedown.”
“You mean this sub hasn’t gone out to sea yet?”
“This will be her maiden voyage. Don’t worry though. The sub has been certified as one hundred percent seaworthy and has triple-redundancy systems to take care of any and all kinds of emergencies. And she can defend herself if need be. So if you would please follow me, we can get this show on the road.”
A few minutes later on the bridge…
Nabiki was a bit uneasy as she sat in her chair behind Jon and his son, who were in the pilot and co-pilot’s seat respectively. Sitting beside her was Kalesse. Akane’s sister looked about in wonder of the high-tech surrounding her and could only barely comprehend the cost to build this craft. As the two werewolves went through their pre-launch checklists, she couldn’t help but reminisce about the past weeks and how far she had gone since she had met Matthew Talbain; Jusenkyo, a Chinese Amazon village, England, Castle Talbain, Stonehenge, France and now she was going to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean to see the legendary Kingdom of Atlantis!
Her boyfriend looked over his shoulder and gave her a smile.
“Feeling okay Nabs?”
“I’ll be fine. I just feel like I’m inside the Nautilus in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Either that or I’ve stepped into an episode of that American anime Johnny Quest.”
“Personally, I liked the older, original series.” Kalesse remarked. “Especially that episode with the fish monster.”
“Floodgates have been activated.” Jon announced. “Waterway is clear of obstructions and we have been given the green light to leave port.” He turned to his offspring. “Take us out son.”
“You can pilot a submarine?” Nabiki asked in surprise.
Matthew shrugged as he took hold of the control wheel. “It’s a lot easier than getting a driver’s license. There’s a lot more space and a lot less to hit out in the Atlantic.”
The Sea Wolf II powered up its drive turbines as its impellor blades began to spin. The massive craft moved forward with a smooth, even pace. There was nary a sound as its advanced audio suppressors did their job. In under a minute the submarine made its way through the channel and was soon on its way in the open waters. Lagging a few hundred meters behind the technological marvel, a very large form glided through the watery depths.
Through a secret tunnel near the bottom of Lake Talbain, the Loch Ness Monster, otherwise known as Bob to the other non-human inhabitants, followed behind his benefactors.
As Nabiki sat in her seat and marveled at how smoothly the sub ran, she began to wonder how her family was doing, now that they were exiled. Even though Jon Talbain assured her that the MIB would keep an eye on them, she couldn’t help but worry for their well-being.
Somewhere deep in the mountains…
Akane grumbled as she cut firewood with her karate chop. It had been two days since her family and Genma had been banished from Nerima and later Tokyo itself, and at this point she was just about fed up with the entire situation. She still wouldn’t admit that the whole affair was just about all her fault.
At first, the group had tried to register at a hotel, but as soon as the other guests and staff smelled their odor, the Tendos and Mr. Saotome were immediately evicted. Word spread quickly and no hotel or inn would allow them admittance, with the exception of Kasumi. However, the eldest daughter still felt it was her responsibility to look after her family and guest until the crisis was over. As a consequence, they all ended up camping in a remote, mountainous area far from civilization.
Things would have been even tougher with a dwindling cash supply if Kasumi hadn’t contacted Nabiki and explained the situation. Jon Talbain had generously donated a very large amount of money to the Tendo family bank account, on the condition that the only sensible member of the clan would be able to withdraw any of it. This meant that Kasumi would have to go into town for food and supplies on her own. However, Jon had also flown in several members of his house staff to look after the Tendos and Genma. At present, Kasumi had the aid and company of two Talbain maids and a couple of bodyguards. When asked why they weren’t offended by Akane and the other’s stench, they simply explained they had no sense of smell or taste whatsoever.
What no one knew at the time, was that the newcomers were actually under a magical spell, cast by the Grimbard Witch Sisters, to ward away any unearthly smells and hexes. Currently, the trio of magic users was trying to find an antidote to Akane’s haphazard attempt of the Anti-Hair Grow Formula. Despite having more than two hundred and fifty years of potion-making under their belts, they were practically bamboozled over how a mere mortal girl could have created such a perplexing and incomprehensible mixture.
At Castle Talbain…
“No Girella!” Parelle the eldest sister insisted as she and her younger sibling argued over a bubbling cauldron. “I am certain that you must use FOUR teaspoons of powdered weasel gizzards to counter the effects of the powdered butterfly wings!”
“But the problem is that the foolish girl did not USE powdered butterfly wings as the recipe stated! According to what the report said, she used POWDERED SUGAR!” Girella argued back.
Nearby, the youngest of the three, Tyselli was hunched over a lab table; looking at a sample of Akane’s concoction with a microscope and punching away with a pocket calculator. When the Tendo home was repaired, an MIB agent had managed to obtain a small amount of the unorthodox formula for study. Even though the sisters were experts in magic, they did see the advantages of using scientific instruments when available.
Tyselli looked up from the eyepiece and remarked, “I can barely identify HALF of the components of this sample! How could ANYONE botch such a simple anti-hair remedy?”
Parelle and Girella shrugged their shoulders. The Chinese Amazon Anti-Hair Grow Formula was actually a derivative of one of the Grimbard’s recipes. In fact, the sisters had a few relatives in the Amazon Matriarch Council. Over the centuries, due to the pact between the Talbains and the warrior women, the Sisters had been exchanging potions and their ingredients with the tribe.
However, despite their vast combined knowledge, they still weren’t able to determine a counter-potion to the one Akane had created. Even the MIB labs were having a hard time analyzing it.
This was going to take a while.
Back in the woods…
As Akane was preparing the wood for the fire to cook lunch, her father and Genma were once again involved in a game of shogi. As they sat on opposing tree stumps with the shogi board between them, they began to reminisce of their past days of training under their dread master.
“Ah Tendo, this brings me back to the old days. Remember how we trained together in the wilderness like this?”
“Indeed Saotome! Though I cannot say that those were the happiest days of lives. How I shudder to think of the torture our dread master…”
“Don’t say his name!” Genma cried out quickly and he waved his hands frantically.
Soun nodded as he didn’t want to jinx their luck any worse than it already was. “Not to worry my friend. ‘He-whose-name-must-never-be-uttered’ has been sealed away forever! We made certain of that!”
Genma let off a sigh of relief. “It’s kind of ironic Tendo. Just one mile north of here is the very spot where the greatest evil in all of Japan lies buried.”
“Yes. And it’s been well over ten years since that day. Say, I have a thought Saotome. Since tomorrow is the anniversary of that time, should we go over there and pay our respects to him?”
There was a long silence between the two as it appeared they were actually serious. Then the two burst into laughter, shook their heads and said simultaneously…
At that moment, Genma reached over to pick up a glass of iced tea that Kasumi had left for him previously. However just as he put his hand on it, the glass mysteriously developed a crack and started leaking tea and ice water. At almost the same time, a crow suddenly dropped dead from a nearby tree, which was noticed by Soun and his friend. Both began to tremble as they recognized the signs as bad omens.
“Saotome… you don’t suppose…?”
As quick as he was to recognize signs of coming misfortune, Genma was just as quick to deny it, like everything else in his life.
“Oh come on Tendo! You don’t REALLY believe those old wives tales about bad omens do you?”
Akane’s father immediately shook head, eager to ignore things of importance and responsibility, just as he had always done in his life.
Some distance away from the campsite, in a very remote area of rocky cliffs and gorges, there was a huge boulder blocking the entranceway to a large cave. Wrapped about the rock were ceremonial sealing talismans and such. For over two decades, the spot had remained untouched. However, if one was to look closely, one could see that the solid rock was starting to crumble as the evil within began to stir.
Soun and Genma’s troubles were about to be magnified a hundred fold.
In a nearby small town, Kasumi was busy shopping for lunch and dinner and came across a quaint market that was having a sale on seafood. Behind her, a bodyguard with dark sunglasses and short black hair nodded as he helped carry the foodstuffs she had already purchased.
“What are you planning to make tonight, Miss Tendo?”
Kasumi nodded as she responded. “I was thinking of a very nice sushi dish. Oh look! They’re having a special on squid! I must get some!”
After purchasing enough for her family, their guest and the members of the Talbain staff, the eldest daughter of Soun Tendo was escorted back toward the campsite. As she and the bodyguard quietly walked together, she gave off a small, forlorn sigh.
“Is something the matter, Miss Tendo.”
“I was just thinking about my sister Nabiki and how much I miss her.” She replied. “I wish she was with us right now. I know that she’d enjoy the squid dinner I’m going to make tonight.”
Meanwhile, somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, two miles below the surface…
“Dad! We got us a stowaway!”
Jon grumbled as he gripped the control wheel and fought to keep the Sea Wolf II on a level course. However, it proved to be quite difficult as there was an eighty-foot giant squid tightly latched onto the tail section, thereby impairing the function of the rudder. Its huge form was displayed prominently in the rearview monitor screen.
“How the HELL did that thing get close without the sonar system detecting it?”
As if in answer to his question, the intercom went off and a high-pitched voice was heard.
“Jon Master? So sorry! Snafu want clean out water filter! Mess up sonar thing! Will fix quick! What happen?”
“Glitch? Is that you?” Matthew cried out as he recognized the voice.
“Matthew Boy! Good hear again! So sorry no tell now! Jon Master make Glitch and gang fix-up crew!”
The younger werewolf turned to his father in a bit of a shock. “You made Glitch and his friends the maintenance crew on this sub?!”
“As good as they are with taking things apart; they also have a talent of putting things together. Never mind that now! “Jon then turned to Kalesse. “Tell that oversized sushi platter that he’s got ten seconds to let go of this sub, or I’m going to be cooking a LOT of calamari tonight!”
The undine nodded as she noticed that Jon was about to send a massive electrical charge through the hull. Even though the squid had no chance of even scratching the orichalcum coating, it was causing the sub to slow down, and they needed to get to Atlantis quickly. However, she also knew that squid tended to be extremely stubborn once they had their tentacles wrapped around something. She was spared the task of cutting the cephalopod free from the submarine when there was tremendous series of sounds being heard outside.
CHOMP! GNAW! GOBBLE! CRUNCH! GULP!
As suddenly as the attack began, it ended as the Sea Wolf II was running smoothly again.
Nabiki settled back down in her seat and looked about in puzzlement. She addressed the undine as she was also sitting back down.
“What just happened?”
The sea maiden shrugged. “If I had to guess, I’d say that Bob just had a giant squid for lunch.”
As if in confirmation of her theory, there was a loud booming noise that echoed throughout the submarine.
“Bob! Next time mind your manners!” Kalesse chided at the Loch Ness Monster.
Matthew chuckled as he got up from his seat and stretched out a bit. “Hey Dad… mind if I go down to the engine room and check on Glitch?”
“Go ahead Son. I can take care of things up here for a while. Take Nabiki with you and introduce her to Glitch and the others. The sub is built pretty much in the same layout as the first Sea Wolf so you shouldn’t have any problems finding the place.”
A few minutes later…
“So this is what powers the sub?” The middle Tendo girl asked as she found herself in a huge room. In front of her was the heart of Sea Wolf II, which resembled a nuclear reactor found in modern-day submarines.
However, unlike those vehicles, the power source was not an array of radioactive plutonium rods, but a single, multi-colored gem no bigger than a soccer ball. It was encased within a glass sphere and was radiating massive amounts of energy that was being harnessed by a system of collectors. Near the main reactor were several banks of highly-efficient back-up power cells. Darting about the area were several streaks of colored lights.
“What you’re looking at is a Makai demon crystal. A crystal that size could power all of Japan’s electrical grids for five hundred years.” Matthew explained. “No harmful radiation, no nuclear waste by-products, and a near-limitless supply of clean energy.”
“Of course, these crystals are extremely rare and expensive. And you can pretty much imagine the wars that would be fought by people to possess one. At this point, Earth is just NOT ready for us Darkstalkers to walk among the humans openly.”
Nabiki couldn’t help but agree. After all she had seen, she knew that the general populace weren’t as open-minded and understanding as she had become.
“So where’s this repair crew of yours?”
Matthew gestured to a large panel and walked over to it. He then rapped on the metal surface three times and waited. In a few moments, the panel opened up and several tiny figures came out. Nabiki tried not to stare, but she couldn’t help it as one thought repeated in her mind.
The repair crew of the Sea Wolf II consisted of little colored beings no bigger than Shamus O’Shea the Leprechaun. They were ranging in size from six to nine inches in height and had smooth skin in various colors. They appeared to be lizard-like, but each had a bit of a goofy expression on their faces. Some had trumpet-shaped ears that reminded Nabiki of the ogre Shrek, while others had curled horns. Some wore silly goggles on their heads and others had gaudy little vests. The leader, who was dressed in a miniature flight jacket and a leather flying helmet, stepped up and waved. All in all, they were an odd-looking group as Matthew introduced them to his girlfriend.
“Nabs, meet the Gremlins.”
“Gremlins?” Nabiki repeated, and then realized what he was talking about. “You mean those little imps that were said to sabotage planes in World War Two?”
“You got it. My great-uncle Kevin Talbain found them messing about the repair yards in the American Volunteer Group; you know, the Flying Tigers? He made a deal with them and used them as covert saboteurs against the Nazis. Hitler always wondered why his scientists couldn’t come up with the atomic bomb and win the war. These guys were the reason why. They were also the reason why the Axis couldn’t make enough fighter jets. Half of them kept on falling apart or malfunctioning.”
The lead Gremlin nodded and addressed the two lycanthropes. “Kevin Master give us home after war. Now serve Jon Master. Matthew Boy, who this?” He pointed to Nabiki.
Jon’s son nodded as he introduced her. “This is Nabiki Tendo. She’s with me.” He then began pointing to several of the Gremlins, starting with their leader. “Nabiki, this is Glitch. Beside him is Snafu. Then there’s Mishap, Jinx, Bonkers, Topsy-Turvy, Snag, Boo-Boo, Calamity, Hitch, Hiccup and Foul Up.”
“And these little guys maintain the sub? I thought they liked to take things apart, not keep things together.”
“Well yeah they can build things pretty fast, but they can dismantle things even faster.” Matthew admitted. “I once saw these little guys strip a fully loaded limousine down to its bare chassis in less than two seconds. Dad was pretty ticked off when they did that. In any case, want to go see the rest of the sub?”
The short-haired girl nodded.
Back at Castle Talbain…
Tyselli grimaced as she took a whiff of the odor coming from the cauldron. This was her sisters’ nineteenth attempt to duplicate Akane’s Anti-Hair Grow formula, in order to make an antidote. However, they were still no closer to creating the exact mixture. They could make the potion either smell really bad or really good, but not at the same time. There were just too many variables.
“I think we’re going to need more help on this, my sisters.” Girella remarked as she tossed out their latest failure.
“I wonder if Cousin Cologne got the message?” Parelle mused.
“I did.” A new voice replied.
The three witch sisters looked toward the door to the chamber and gasped in delight as they saw who was standing there. The diminutive Elder of the Joketsuzoku stood on her staff. Beside her, William Dubroke bowed and introduced the newcomer.
“May I introduce Cologne of the Joketsuzoku?”
“COUSIN!” All three magic-users cried out as they ran over to the Amazon Elder and warmly embraced her.
Cologne returned the gesture as she greeted her distant relatives. After she had received a magical message from her cousins, Jon had arranged to have the Elder and Shampoo flown to Castle Talbain, since they would be the most logical people to ask about the Chinese Anti-Hair Grow formula. After exchanging pleasantries, the old Amazon then pogoed on her staff over the work table and began reading her cousins’ notes on the subject at hand. William politely excused himself and left them to their work.
“I understand that SOMEONE did not heed my great-granddaughter’s warnings about mixing the formula.”
“Yes and we must now find an antidote for the mixture some foolish Japanese girl created.” Girella explained. “The problem is that we don’t know exactly WHAT she put into the potion and how much or how little ingredients she used! I’ve only managed to identify a FEW of the components, and even those ingredients weren’t on the recipe!”
“What sort of ingredients?”
The ancient witch started counting off the ingredients with the fingers of her right hand. “I actually found out she had used a diet cola, powdered sugar, an old wad of chewing gum, some horseradish, a little mustard and some rat poison. As for the rest of the potion, your guess is as good as mine.”
“And the side-effects?”
“Well, the resulting explosion DID remove all the hair of those caught in the blast, but now they’re giving off a stench that smells differently to each person they meet.”
“Hard to say, but everyone is reporting a combination of their favorite and LEAST favorite smells… at the SAME TIME!”
Cologne’s face became one of complete puzzlement as she had NEVER heard of an effect like that. Just what did Akane Tendo put in that formula?
In another part of the castle, Shampoo was in awe as this was her first time visiting the ancestral home of the Talbains. Since there was a delay in getting her enrolled in a Japanese school, she had jumped at the chance to see her intended Airen and perhaps meet up with her honorary sister Amazon Nabiki. She was a bit disappointed to learn that both were off somewhere with Jon, but decided to explore the castle grounds and meet up with the mythical beings her great-grandmother had told her about.
Since she was a member of the Chinese Amazons which had a pact with the Talbains, Shampoo was given free access to most parts of the castle and the surrounding lands. She was also aware of the castle rules, passed down from generation to generation, all from the first Amazon who had visited; her very own ancestor Gel.
No fighting was allowed among the humans and the non-humans. Castle Talbain was considered neutral ground and that rule extended to all visitors; from Earth, space and the Makai. Once a person passed by the front gates, he/she was under the jurisdiction of the lord of the land, which was currently Matthew’s father Jon. Sparring and challenges were allowed only with his approval.
Rule number two was to swear a blood oath to never reveal the secrets of the Talbains to any outsider. That also included the multitudes of non-human residents. This rule was strictly enforced by the Hellsing Organization, the MIB and several other groups.
Rule number three was that bigotry and discrimination were not tolerated in the least. This also included youkai races that looked down upon humans and other citizens of the Makai. All were considered to having equal rights and privileges.
Any major violation of the three general rules was swiftly and sometimes permanently dealt with. The punishments ranged from memory erasure, banishment, hexes and in the most extreme cases, death. So far, the Talbain family had yet to invoke the final penalty. Just about all the monsters and spirit beings enjoyed living at the castle and had very little to complain about.
Since the establishment of Castle Talbain in the 6th Century, Mathew’s family had hosted hundreds of monster races and maintained the balance between the Makai and the Human World. However, even they knew that secrecy could not be maintained forever. There would come the day in which the Old Races would no longer be just the stuff of legends and folklore, but undeniable fact. As a result, the lycanthrope family had been working to integrating the monster races in with the humans and having them adapt to their culture. At present, Jon was cautiously optimistic of the eventual revelation, especially with such understanding people as Sir Integra and Zed of the MIB. They too knew that humankind would eventually learn that they were not alone in the universe. And they would have to be prepared for that contingency.
At this moment, Shampoo wandered around an array of hallways and kept her warrior senses on alert. Even though her great-grandmother assured her that none of the monsters would do her any harm, the purple-haired girl was still a bit nervous since this was her first time visiting Matthew’s home. So far, only the Amazon Elders and several of the elite warriors had the privilege of coming here. Her great-grandmother had already visited twice.
The Chinese girl then noticed a door that was slightly ajar. Curious, she walked over toward it and opened it fully. Looking about and seeing no one, she stepped inside. She noted that there were piles of cloth rolls and fine garments hanging on multiple racks. She surmised that this must be a seamstress’ quarters. She took hold of a dress hanging nearby and marveled at the quality of the silken material. Even the master cloth experts in her village couldn’t make such a weave of this caliber.
“Aiyah! So pretty!”
“Thank you, my dear.”
Shampoo whirled about when she heard the voice, but still could not see anyone else in the room.
“Up here.” The voice said.
The Amazon teen looked up and her eyes widened as she saw the resident Jurogumo and seamstress Arana, hanging upside-down from the ceiling. Her human feet stuck easily to the tiled surface, while the eight, spider legs protruding from her back, busied themselves with creating silken threads. Her human hands were slightly clawed and making smaller threads. She was manipulating the threads together with her nails like a pair of knitting needles. Once she finished weaving a square of cloth, she put it aside and produced a thicker strand of silk to lower herself down. Turning gracefully about in mid-air, she landed gracefully on her human feet and faced Cologne’s heir. All eight of her eyes focused on the visitor.
Mentally forcing herself to stay calm and remembering the castle rules, Shampoo managed to smile and greeted the spider-woman.
“Hello. Me Shampoo from Amazons.”
“Chalk up failure number fifty.” Cologne wearily remarked as the contents of the latest attempt to duplicate Akane’s failed Anti-Hair Grow formula, was dumped into a hazardous waste container.
“I feel that we are missing something.” Girella mused. “It’s not so much as the ingredients, but some key element we are overlooking.”
“I feel that way too, Cousin.” Shampoo’s relative agreed. “To think that a foolhardy girl with NO kitchen skill whatsoever; was able to concoct such a mixture that we are unable to duplicate.”
At that moment, Shampoo came to the front door to the chamber and waved to the Grimbard Sisters and her great-grandmother.
“Great-grandmother, I back!”
“Hello child.” The aged Amazon greeted, then noted Shampoo’s new attire. “Shampoo! Wherever did you get such a lovely dress?”
The younger girl smiled as she pirouetted in her new Chinese-style silk dress. It was colored a brilliant sapphire blue with white, highlights. “It is too, too nice gift from spider-woman!”
“Ah, so you’ve met up with Arana, did you?” The Elder remarked knowingly.
It was at that moment that Shampoo noted the smells coming from the waste container and wrinkled her nose in response. “Aiyah! What smell so bad?”
Cologne sighed as she did one of the few things she rarely did; admit to her mistakes. “I’m afraid what you’re smelling is our failures. We’ve been trying without success to copy the mistake that was made when you sent over that recipe for our tribe’s Anti-Hair Grow Formula.”
“Shampoo no understand. Why Sister Nabiki no follow recipe like Shampoo write down?”
“It wasn’t Nabiki who tried to make the formula.” The Elder corrected. “It was her halfwit sister who thought she could improve on a recipe that has worked flawlessly for centuries. Right now, Nabiki’s family and a guest are afflicted with some strange stench that they cannot get rid of.”
“What is smell like?”
“Think of the most wonderful smell you’ve ever encountered, and combine it with one that you hate the most. It seems to be different for every person.”
“Aiyah! That no sound like bad cooking. Sound more like curse!”
At that moment, Parelle snapped her withered fingers in realization. “That’s it! Why didn’t we think of that before?”
“What do you mean, Sister?” Tyselli asked.
“Think about it. Now I can see an explosion by mixing the wrong components. However, even with the ingredients that were provided and whatever regular items that foolish Tendo girl added, there is no POSSIBLE way she could have created such an unorthodox side-effect, unless she had some kind of magical catalyst!”
“Ah, I see where you’re going Parelle.” Girella remarked. “So even if we did manage to duplicate the exact mixture, it still wouldn’t have worked unless the conditions were identical. So what kind of supernatural catalyst are we lacking?”
All the females present went silent in deep thought for a long while, before the youngest of the Grimbard Sisters had a revelation.
“Since this happened at the Tendo home, wouldn’t it be logical to assume that something in that area would have affected the formula? Perhaps a nearby Ley Line?”
“It’s possible.” Cologne agreed. “Japan does have quite a few concentrations of Ley Lines.”
“A sudden chemical explosion WOULD cause a disruption in the mystical alignment of the surrounding auras of the individuals…” Girella continued.
“… added with the unusual ingredients, would result in a botched formula that clings to the personal aura…” Parelle mused.
“… which frequently flares up, causing a random mixture of smells!” Tyselli concluded by smacking her right fist into her left palm.
Shampoo took on a bit of a confused expression. “So Shampoo is right? Is really curse?”
“In essence… yes!” The oldest Grimbard Witch exclaimed. “I can scarcely believe it myself, but that fool girl SOMEHOW managed to cast a very primitive hex upon herself and her family!”
“That also explains why her older sister is unaffected.” The middle Grimbard added. “She managed to avoid being caught in the explosion, therefore that botched formula didn’t adhere to her personal aura.”
“Good grief, what a mess!” Shampoo’s great-grandmother shook her head in disbelief. How could ANYONE be that careless?
“Great-grandmother and cousins can cure now?” Shampoo asked.
“Not at the moment.” Parelle commented. “We know now that we should be looking for a counter-spell rather than an antidote. Problem is that finding the right spell to undo this hex is still going to take a while.”
“At least we’re now going in the right direction.” Tyselli commented as she pulled out an ancient and thick tome from a nearby bookshelf. She then started to leaf through it as she searched for the proper counter-spell.
“Hopefully we won’t run into any more potential problems.” Her oldest sister remarked.
Back in the Atlantic Ocean…
“Dad, I think we may have a problem.”
“What is it?” Jon asked as he and his son were once again jointly piloting the sub. It had been 3 hours since their underwater journey began and they were about halfway to Atlantis. After having lunch in the galley, Nabiki and Kalesse had decided to take a nap in the guest quarters.
“Sonar is picking up something on the surface. It’s pretty big.”
“Let’s have a look.” The elder werewolf said as he brought up an enhanced image of the object. “Hmm, looks like we’ve got ourselves a destroyer up there. It’s probably on maneuvers or something. Judging from the radio chatter I’m picking up… it sounds like it’s Russian.”
“Russian?” Matthew repeated while grinning, then switched dialects. //”So comrade? No can see us down here?”\\
Jon chuckled in response. Like Mandarin and Cantonese, Matthew’s mastery of Russian was broken but passable. At the very least, his son had a decent grasp of several different dialects, which was more than one can say about his former father Genma. He made a note to thank his son’s language teacher when they get back to the castle. He then responded in kind. //”No my Son, I do not think so. The orichalcum hull absorbs sonar and radar waves instead of reflecting them, so we cannot be detected.”\\
//”Okay… uh oh!”\\
//”What is it?”\\
//BOB NO HAVE ORICHALCUM!”\\
Jon realized his son was right and pinched the bridge of his nose with his left hand.
“Боже мой!” (1)
Up on the surface, the Russian Destroyer named the Vice-Admiral Kulakov, was just going through its shakedown cruise after its refit, when the sonar operator exclaimed that there was something huge was moving below them. When the captain saw that the object was more than 200 feet in length, he immediately assumed the worse and ordered depth charges to be launched. There was no way even a blue whale could be THAT big! So it couldn’t be anything but an enemy sub!
In less than twenty seconds, a pair of RBU-6000 anti-submarine rocket launchers fired off their payloads, sending two dozen unguided depth charges into the water. The explosive devices detonated deep below the surface, causing massive shockwaves to ripple through the depths. A normal sub would have collapsed under such a pounding. However, the Sea Wolf II and the Loch Ness Monster were anything but normal.
The orichalcum outer hull coating and titanium structure easily withstood the underwater detonations with ease, while Bob barely felt the impacts against his thick skin. The noisy explosions did wake up Nabiki and Kalesse from their naps and had them rushing toward the bridge.
“What’s going on?!” Kalesse demanded as the craft shuddered slightly from the attack.
“We seem to have caught the attention of a Russian destroyer.” Jon replied. “Or rather Bob seems to have caught their attention on their sonar screens. I guess he appears to them as an enemy missile sub.”
“They’re dropping depth charges at us?!” Nabiki exclaimed as she saw through an observation window a device sink past them and exploded.
“Don’t worry Nabs!” Matthew assured her. “Those things won’t even come close to scratching the hull.” He then addressed his father. “Although they’re kind of annoying, and I think Bob might get ticked off enough to sink that destroyer.”
“And the last thing we need is to have the Loch Ness Monster plastered all over the world news.” The older lycanthrope concurred, and then spoke to the undine. “Kalesse? Please tell Bob to dive down to about a mile or so, while we take care of those trigger-happy seamen.”
Kalesse nodded as she closed her eyes for a moment and focused her mental powers. Once she made contact, her eyes snapped open and glowed with an eerie blue glow.
“What’s she doing?” The Tendo girl asked.
“She’s using her aquatic telepathy to send a message to Bob.” Her boyfriend explained. “She can use it to communicate to higher forms of sea life.”
The sea warrior’s eyes then returned to normal as she nodded to her employers. “Bob is heading down now and he’s leaving the rest up to you.”
The Loch Ness Monster let off a muffled noise as he began to dive down to the crushing depths of the Atlantic. As a Leviathan, Bob was equipped to handle the immense pressures and could remain submerged indefinitely if need be. His kind had evolved special lungs with gill-like structures that could take nutrients and oxygen from the water as well as from the air.
At more than seven thousand feet below the ocean surface, Bob waited for the explosions to cease.
“Okay, Bob should be deep enough for the Russians to lose him on their sonar scans. Let’s see if we can get those people upstairs to stop throwing junk into the ocean. Matthew, man the torpedoes.”
“You’re not going to sink them, are you?” Nabiki asked in alarm.
“No, but I do intend to throw a few gremlins into their works.”
“You mean monkey wrenches don’t you?”
“No, he means gremlins.” Matthew corrected as he realized what his father was referring to. He turned on the intercom. “Glitch! Get the guys ready to go topside! We got a destroyer upstairs! Break the ship’s engine and weapons. Don’t hurt anyone, okay?”
In the torpedo room, the group of mini-monsters suited up and all piled into a specially-made delivery device. Once they signaled the go ahead, they were loaded into one of the forward launching tubes and prepared to invade.
On the bridge, Matthew already had the destroyer lined up in his sights as he targeted the engine section.
A small, cylindrical projectile was launched from the front of the Sea Wolf II and made a curving turn toward its target. When the front of the device hit the underside of the destroyer’s hull, it instantly buried itself into the metal, making a tight seal so no water could leak in. Then the gremlins got to work.
Mishap put his hands on the hull and began emitting corrosive acid to the metal, burning a path into the engine compartment. Once there were in, the imps scattered and started to disassemble any and all mechanisms at supersonic speeds. The driveshaft to the propellers was rendered useless as it was disconnected from its moorings, courtesy of Foul Up and Hiccup. Fuel and hydraulic lines were severed, as Hitch used his razor-sharp claws. Electronics were short-circuited as Glitch emitted sparks from his hands. Weapon system relays were gummed up as Snafu emitted a sticky substance from his mouth. Bolts and rivets and fasteners were pulled out, thanks to Calamity, Bonkers and Boo-Boo. Every part of the destroyer that could attack the Talbains’ sub and Bob was immediately disabled.
“Break this Boss?” Jinx asked as he pointed to a room that had several warning signs on it.
Glitch looked up and winced as he noticed the flammable and explosive symbols on it. He especially didn’t like that yellow symbol with three triangles on it.
“No break that! Will break us! Finish up! Go back quick!”
In less than half a minute, the Vice-Admiral Kulakov was reduced to a harmless hulk drifting in the water. When the security teams came down to investigate, they were in a state of shock to see their massive engine in pieces. There was no sign of the perpetrators as they had already jumped ship and swam back to the Sea Wolf II.
The crew would later be rescued as the gremlins had not disabled their communication systems, thereby allowing them to send out a distress signal. However, not a single one of them could explain why their engine and weapon systems suddenly fell apart.
“All gremlins present and accounted for.” Matt announced as he received word that the last of the imps had gone through the airlock.
Jon nodded as he set the coordinates for the final leg of the journey to Atlantis. Behind them, Bob swam at a leisurely pace.
Back in Japan…
In certain cave deep in the mountains, the seals on the boulder began to darken and disintegrate. Then the massive stone developed a crack down its center. After a long while, the crack traveled down the diameter of the boulder and split it in two.
The greatest evil in all of Japan had just been released.
“What is this place?” Nabiki asked as the Sea Wolf II glided past several underwater columns and canyons. She was looking through the main observation port on the bridge.
“What you’re looking at is the outermost boundary of the Kingdom of Atlantis.” Kalesse stated. “The main entranceway is located in a hidden crevasse that even deeper than the Marianas Trench.”
“Fortunately, Sea Wolf One and Two can dive to that depth.” Jon stated as he piloted the sub into an increasingly narrow channel. Bob followed behind and above them.
The middle Tendo girl gazed in awe at the multitudes of shipwrecks that littered the seascape.
“There are a lot of old ships out there, from just about every era by the looks of it.”
“That’s right.” The undine warrior confirmed. “Over the centuries, there have been countless attempts to find Atlantis and its untold riches and knowledge, but none have ever succeeded until a few years ago. The Talbains were the first non-merfolk to ever visit. And you, Miss Tendo shall be the first non-Talbain to visit.”
Nabiki gazed upon the seascape with wonder, and then noticed several large shapes swimming nearby. At first she thought it was Bob, but then saw that the newcomers were even larger than the Loch Ness Monster. Like Scotland’s legend, the beasts resembled lizards, but had flippers and fins, rather than limbs. Each had a long neck and tail and resembled dinosaurs.
“That’s right Nabs.” Matthew affirmed. “Meet the Leviathans.”
Bob let off a series of high-pitched sounds that resembled the songs of whales, which his brethren responded to. The Leviathans were glad to see their distant relative, and began to converse with him.
Jon nodded as he put the sub on auto-pilot and got up from his seat.
“Bob’s going to wait for us here, while we move on ahead to Atlantis.”
“He’s not coming with us?” Matthew’s girlfriend inquired.
“The entrance to Atlantis is WAY too small for a Leviathan to get through.” The younger Talbain explained.
“And I’m afraid that once we get to that entrance, we’ll have to use one of the smaller submersibles. The Sea Wolf II can’t fit through either.” His father said as the submarine made its way deeper down a narrow canyon. After reaching a depth of eight miles below the ocean surface, it leveled off and headed toward the hidden entrance. When it came to a dark opening, it stopped and remained in place.
Jon then motioned for his group to follow him to the launch area where the submersibles were standing by.
Five minutes later…
Jon steered the mini-sub known as Sea Fang Alpha out of the launching port of the Sea Wolf II and headed toward the entrance to Atlantis. The submersible was oval in shape and was also coated in orichalcum. Sitting behind the pilot’s seat was his son and girlfriend. Swimming ahead of them in her aquatic form was Kalesse. She motioned with hand signals as she began to guide them toward the underwater kingdom.
“So why do we need Kalesse to get to Atlantis?” Nabiki asked. “I was under the impression that she didn’t want to go.”
“She didn’t.” Jon affirmed. “However, due to the enchantment surrounding Atlantis, there’s no way to reach it without her. You see Nabiki, Rikuo’s people settled in Atlantis about a thousand years after it sunk. In order to protect it from outsiders and such, they placed a spell upon the area to cause anyone seeking the city to encounter grave misfortune and even death if they persisted. Remember all those shipwrecks you saw before? Those unfortunate souls met their ends when they neared the boundaries.”
“So the reason why we didn’t meet the same fate…”
“… was because the spell will not affect a child of Poseidon. In other words, our resident undine Kalesse. However, there is another reason. To further protect themselves, the merfolk of Atlantis created a maze of underwater tunnels and caverns, which fool even the most advanced sonar devices. However, Kalesse’s underwater telepathy and senses are more acute than any machine. That’s why she’s our guide to Atlantis.”
Nabiki nodded as they continued to follow the undine through the mind-boggling turns and twists of the maze. After an undetermined amount of time, they finally came to a large exit hole, and found themselves at the front gates of the mythical kingdom itself.
Akane grumbled as she continued to break some logs for the evening fire. She wanted to have some time alone and was some distance from the camp. She had hoped that this exile would be a good training experience. However, her father and Genma seemed to be content just to play shogi all day long and drink sake all night long. They didn’t seem to care that they were banished from Nerima, especially after being told by Kasumi that the Talbane family had made a large deposit into the bank account. They simply maintained that their unnatural odor would eventually wear off and they would return back home soon enough.
Akane shook her head in disgust and was about to chop another log in half when a couple of terrified screams was heard from the camp.
“NOOOOOOO! NOT YOU! ANYBODY BUT YOU!”
“IT CANNOT BE! YOU’RE DEAD! YOU CAN’T BE ALIVE!”
Soun’s daughter dropped what she was doing and made a beeline for the camp. When she got to the area, she found the Talbane maids cowering behind the two bodyguards and Kasumi. In front of them were the beaten and battered forms of her father and Genma. Standing on top of the fat panda’s rump was a very angry and wrinkled dwarf in a purple gi.
To be continued…
In the next chapter, we’ll meet with Rikuo and his attempts to get Kalesse as his bride, while the Talbains and Nabiki try to find the next medallion piece. As for Happosai, well let’s just say that Soun and Genma’s vacation is definitely over. See you then!
1) Good Grief! in Russian