The Beast Within
Disclaimer: Go bother the owners of Ranma ½, Hellsing, Darkstalkers and everyone else mentioned in this story. I’m busy just writing a story.
< >: Thoughts
World Tour Part 9
Two days ago..
In some ruins in Ireland, an altar with a huge green gemstone began to glow with an eerie light. Not more than a couple of days had passed since a certain event had caused it to receive a huge amount of magical backlash from a nearby Ley Line. In retaliation, the greatest artifact of misfortune sent down an equal amount of eldritch energy back down the mystic pathway toward the source of the disturbance.
Soon enough, Akane Tendo, Soun Tendo and Genma Saotome would feel the wrath of the Emerald of Kilarney for disturbing the mana streams.
The present time…
“Oh come on!” Akane said in exasperation as her chopsticks broke for the third time while eating breakfast.
It was bad enough that she had gotten a smaller portion that what she used to get, due to the change in the house rules that Kasumi had set up. Because she had done such a sloppy job of cleaning the dojo floor, Kasumi had only given her a smaller portion of the morning meal. Genma and Soun were also given smaller meals as they had only done a half-decent job of cleaning the bathroom and fixing the hole in the roof. The only one who was eating well was Happosai. Using a special technique, he cleaned out the gutters in record time and earned a generous amount of delicious food, much to the disgust of the other occupants.
“Mmm-mmm! Marvelous! Absolutely delicious! Yum! Yum!” The ancient pervert commented as he enjoyed another well-cooked meal. “Well worth using the Bean Jam Blowout Technique on those gutters. Can’t wait for lunch!”
Genma drooled as he watched his master devour his meal. It wasn’t fair that old pervert got all the best food! It was almost like the dreaded old days of training again! Soun also looked on with envy at how well the letch was eating.
As he wolfed down his breakfast, Happosai smiled inwardly. Initially, he had intended to make his two treacherous students suffer with intense pain for sealing him away, but this arrangement with the house rules worked even better as a kind of psychological attack. And the best part was the fact that the old Dreaded Master didn’t need to do anything but a few simple chores. Kasumi would punish them by making them work and refusing them good food. A few weeks of this system should get them in line and perhaps get Soun back to teaching again.
As much as his School of Anything Goes Martial Arts was based on his perverted habits and stealing ways, he still wanted to see his Art grow and expand. Getting those two idiots to promote his school was going to need a LOT of motivation. Perhaps a seldom-filled stomach would be good incentive for them to get off their lazy rumps and get back to teaching. Judging from what he learned from Kasumi and the Talbane House Staff, Soun and Genma did nothing but play shogi all day.
As he continued to devour his meal, he noticed something strange about the auras of Genma, Soun and Akane. Saotome had the telltale instability in his personal aura due to the Jusenkyo curse he was under. Happosai had noticed that right away. However, there was something else clinging to their personal ki signatures, and seemed to flare up every now and then. He then noticed that Akane’s aura was especially erratic as she broke her fourth pair of chopsticks and swore in a most unladylike fashion.
<Now that’s strange. Now I know that curse with the terrible smell is gone, but it looks like they’ve been saddled with a new curse. Hmmm, this could get very interesting.>
Surprisingly, the old master wasn’t the only one who noticed that things were out of place with some of the occupants of the Tendo home. Kasumi also noticed that her family and guest had erratic auras. The eldest Tendo daughter did not have the spiritual awareness of a decent martial artist, but her studies in magic had begun to make her sensitive to individual life energy patterns. She had just started studying the chapter on magical divination and detection. In order to make accurate predictions about a person’s future, one must be able to read the kind of life energy waves a person emitted and how they interacted with Ley Lines and nearby magical auras. Already, she could sense a slight imbalance in her family’s regular wave patterns.
This didn’t bode well.
At that moment, the front doorbell rang. Kasumi went to answer it as the family finished off their breakfasts and prepared for the day. Akane had earned her lunch after she had taken out the trash and tidied her bedroom, but she was going to have to work in order to get dinner. As for Genma and Soun, they were going to have to do some yard work for lunch and dinner. Kasumi was planning to go shopping, as she didn’t trust her father or his friend with any amount of money. They would more than likely spend it on drinking. As for Happosai, he would have to take care of the dojo and some minor house repair. She was pretty certain he was capable of that, after seeing him clean out the gutters in an instant with that wind technique.
She smiled as she opened the door and greeted the mailman. Behind him, two other postal workers hefted a large crate. Another package had come from Nabiki from overseas. As the postal workers brought the crate inside, Kasumi walked toward the kitchen and started to read the letter that came with it.
To my family,
How are all of you doing? I hope those Amazons were able to remove that smell. Things have been great as I have been traveling in North America in the United States, and now I’m heading to Canada! Inside the crate, you’ll find souvenirs that I got from Las Vegas! (Sorry, they wouldn’t let me keep the money I won, due to the fact that I was underage. Too bad. I won over seven million American dollars. Just kidding). In any case, Talbane-sensei says that I’m coming along well with my martial arts training. He says that I’ll be coming home in about another three or four weeks or so. I’ll be glad to see all of you again and I want to see how much you’ve all changed over the last few weeks.
As always, love you all,
<How much we have all changed indeed.> Kasumi thought as she took out her magic wand and twirled it with a slight flourish, making a small pattern of light appear briefly. She then placed it back into her apron as she rejoined her family in the den.
Two days later in the Yukon…
“And that’s it for the first month’s worth of bananas. If you get through this before the month is up, I’ll be happy to restock your tribe.” Jon said as the final crate was unloaded off the newly-repaired Sea Wolf II. Since it was virtually impossible to fly in the huge shipment to the Sasquatch Village without compromising its secret location to outsiders, the first payment installment for the medallion fragment had to be brought in by submarine via the Arctic Ocean.
Bigfoot nodded as his people immediately started digging into the first crate. After eating nothing but fish and caribou meat, they were glad to have a change of diet and have something sweet to go with their venison. It was a bit comedic to see dozens of round, furry, snowmen pigging out on bananas. They weren’t even leaving any mess as they ate the fruit, peels and all.
“Whoa! These guys are really bananas for bananas!” Nabiki commented as she, Felicia, Matthew and Jon stood in the snow in front of Bigfoot’s hut. She and the other werewolves were in their hybrid forms as their fur protected them from the subzero temperatures and arctic winds. The catwoman however, didn’t care much for the cold, and her hybrid form didn’t have enough fur to keep her warm. She was wearing a stylish blue parka that hugged her voluptuous form.
The leader of the Sasquatch Tribe momentarily went inside his hut, and then came out with a small, simple container about the size of a jewelry box. He opened it up and presented its contents to Matthew’s father. The medallion fragment glinted in the sunlight.
“Here you go! One medallion fragment for one year’s worth of bananas.” Bigfoot said as he and Jon completed the bargain. The elder werewolf gratefully took the piece and attached it to the still-incomplete artifact. The other members of the Sasquatch Tribe cheered, which led to an impromptu celebration for the return of their leader.
After several more hours, the Talbains, Nabiki and Felicia finally bid the Sasquatch Tribe farewell, and headed back to the sub, where Kalesse the Undine was waiting for them in her human form.
“Kalesse! Good to see you! Why didn’t you join the party?” Nabiki asked as she and the others boarded the vessel.
“I’m not much for parties. Good to see you all again.” The sea warrior replied as she closed the hatch. She then nodded to Felicia. “Good to see you too, Felicia. So are you going with us, or are you heading back to your troupe?”
The feline entertainer shrugged her shoulders as she removed her parka and reveled in the heated interior of the sub. She then walked toward the bridge with everyone else. “I’ll be tagging along with Jon and others for a while to help with their quest. My troupe is finished with the contract to Ceasar’s Palace and a lot of my co-workers want to visit some relatives and get some down time. So we all decided to split up for a while and go on vacation. We’ll start up the show again in the Spring Season.”
“Good to have you with us. Ready to head out for Castle Talbain?” Jon asked as he buckled up in the pilot’s seat. His son took the copilot’s seat while Soun’s daughter sat behind him.
Both the catwoman and undine nodded as they also sat down and buckled up. The Sea Wolf II silently pulled out from the secluded cove and dove underneath the surface of the Arctic Ocean.
An hour later…
“So where are we?” The Tendo middle daughter asked as the vessel silently moved through the Arctic Ocean.
Matthew took a bearing and replied. “Let’s see, we’re well past Canadian waters, and if all things go well, we should be home in about… oh… four more hours or so.”
“If that’s the case, I’m going to take a nap.” Felicia declared as she got up from her seat, stretched her arms and yawned before heading toward one of the living quarters. Just as she was about to exit the bridge, she noticed a shiny blue gem and the incomplete medallion lying on a table, next to an ancient map.
“Hey Jon, is this what you’ve been using to find the other pieces?”
Matthew’s father nodded without looking over his shoulder. “That’s right. That Luna Eye Gem mimics moonlight. If we shine that on the medallion, it’ll point us to the next fragment on the Locator Map. We were going to go back to the castle and rest up a bit before going for the next piece.”
“Uh… Jon?” The catwoman said as she noted that a glint of light was now shining from the Luna Eye to the medallion, which then pointed to a spot on the map.
“You wouldn’t mind taking a little detour would you?”
“Huh? What are you talking about? What kind of detour?”
“Oh, about 370 miles southeast of Newfoundland. If I’m reading the map coordinates right, you should head to 41° 43′ 55″ N, 49° 56′ 45″ W.”
Jon stiffened when he heard the coordinates, then he looked over to his son, just as he was punching in the coordinates to the navigational computer. Matthew’s eyes also widened in disbelief as his father addressed the catwoman.
“Felicia, do you realize what is at those coordinates?”
Another three hours later…
The group waited at the airlock as the Sea Wolf II was hovering near a very large shipwreck. A few minutes later, a certain undersea warrior came up through the airlock and into the chamber where the water was pumped out. As soon as it was relatively dry, she reverted back into her human form and opened the door. She then handed Jon a small piece of metal.
The werewolf nodded as he snapped the eighth piece to the medallion. Standing nearby and gazing intently at the scene from a large porthole was Matthew, Nabiki and Felicia. Ever since they came to this area, they couldn’t stop gawking at the wreckage of the ship before them. Emblazoned on its well-rusted hull was its name.
Several more hours later…
As the Sea Wolf II pulled into its secret hanger at Castle Talbain, the group couldn’t believe that they had found four of the thirteen pieces so easily. However, what they didn’t know was that the next fragment would push them like never before.
But now was the time for rest. Due to their world-hopping travels over the past couple of weeks, the Talbains and their guest were feeling the effects of jet lag, especially after passing through several time zones. For the next two days, they were just going to take it easy. Although the resident healers and members of the castle’s medical staff offered their services to their lord, Jon politely turned them down and instead told them to look after his son and guests.
In one of the recreation areas, Nabiki and Felicia were given the royal treatment as they lay naked on their stomachs on some benches, while female Swedish masseuses worked on their aching back muscles. Like the rest of the staff, they were sworn to secrecy, and they didn’t even blink an eye at the appearance of the catwoman and the werewolf girl. The adolescent lycanthrope had removed her pendant before undressing.
“Ooh! That feels wonderful!” Nabiki commented as all the tension of the quest was being worked away. Even though her lycanthrope powers healed her wounds with miraculous speed, the trials and tribulations of finding the medallion fragments had been building up a lot of stress in her.
“Mmm-hmm!” Felicia agreed emphatically as she always loved coming to Castle Talbain and enjoy the luxuries it had to offer. She was thinking about taking a long, relaxing soak in the hot tub and sip on some cool milk after the massage.
“So how are the Gerdenheims?” Soun’s daughter asked to strike up a conversation.
The feline performer nodded. “Victor decided to take Emily to see the sights in the United States after that gig in Las Vegas. He wanted to take her to Disneyland.”
“Disneyland? Don’t you think an oversized golem is going to be noticed in one of the world’s most crowded tourist spots?”
“Nope!” The catwoman assured. “Victor’s been seen a lot in my shows, and people just think of him as one of the ‘eccentrics’ who likes to wear his costume all the time. In any case, I think some guys at the Disney Company want to use him as a model for their next animated feature with Pixar.”
Nabiki couldn’t help but giggle as she imagined a cartoon version of the hulking stagehand. (1)
With the morning chores done and Akane off to school, Kasumi found herself with more free time than ever had in years. She decided to continue with her magic studies as the Talbane maids and bodyguards left on some personal business. Not wanting to be stuck with any more chores, Genma and Soun went out, while Happosai decided to indulge in one of his favorite pastimes; go on a panty raid around the neighborhood.
The eldest Tendo girl set up the small array of test tubes, beakers and racks in the kitchen, and began to read the section on potion preparation. Remembering back to her time assisting Shampoo, she laid out the necessary ingredients in good order, and reviewed the basics on making a base potion. With practiced movements that served her well in her cooking meals, she added each and every ingredient in their proper proportions and gently heated the beaker until the base potion turned a pale yellow. Then came the test for the potion’s viability. Taking out her wand, she spoke a simple incantation and tapped the side of beaker.
She waited for a long moment and began to think that her first attempt had been a failure as nothing happened. She was about to look back at the spellbook to discover what she had done wrong, but then noticed a glimmer of light coming from the glass vessel. She gasped in delight as the base potion emitted a small, faint, rainbow of color above its surface, indicating that the mixture was useable for magical spells. It wasn’t top quality as the aurora should have been brighter, but it wasn’t a half-bad first attempt.
Kasumi was well on her way to becoming an excellent sorceress. However, she felt that she needed a second opinion. With that in mind, she carefully poured her latest creation into a small, wide-bottomed flask with a cork. After cleaning her work area and putting away her laboratory equipment, she also decided to do some grocery shopping while she was out. Picking up her shopping basket, she carefully put in her base potion, and her spell book. She kept her beginner’s wand in one of her apron pockets.
In a crowded area in the Nerima district, a new Chinese restaurant had opened up. This was the new business being run by the Amazons as Cologne was getting her great-granddaughter ready to enroll in a Japanese high school. The Elder was just preparing for the lunch rush when a familiar face walked through the front door.
“Ah! And how is my little apprentice sorceress?”
Kasumi smiled as she held out her basket.
“I was wondering if you could rate my base potion.”
The Amazon matriarch invited the Tendo girl to sit down at a table. Shampoo walked over to them with broom in hand.
“Great-grandmother, Shampoo finished with storeroom.”
Cologne gestured for her to sit with them as she started to examine the flask. She gave Kasumi an encouraging smile as she evaluated the magic mixture.
“Impressive, Miss Tendo. For a first attempt at a base potion, it’s not half-bad at all. The color is right, and I see no sediment or any large particulates. Though, I might suggest that you use a bit less thyme and a pinch more rosemary.”
“May need more ginseng root.” Shampoo added.
“I followed the instructions exactly.” Kasumi pointed out as she took out the spell book and pointed to the article in question.
“Indeed.” Cologne concurred. “And you essentially came up with the correct formula. However, keep in mind that the directions in that spell book are only to be considered as guidelines to help you understand the basics of potion creation and build a working foundation. I believe that you have mastered those basics with this sample. Magic shapes itself toward its user, in order to become stronger and more efficient. A good sorceress makes the spell her own. You have the basics down, (at least in making a potion), so you can start adding your own personal touches.”
“So what can I do with this base potion?”
“With the right key ingredients added to it, this base potion can give you many different effects.”
“I’m afraid I don’t have any to add to it. I used up the small amount of ingredients you gave to me to make this.”
“Hmmm, that’s a problem. It would be a terrible shame to let this much base potion go to waste. I’m afraid I don’t have very much left on mystic ingredients to spare to you. We used a lot of it to undo that demonic smell hex. We certainly can’t go back to the Talbane castle for more, since it would take too long.” The old Amazon then snapped her fingers in realization. “Ah! I have it! I just remembered that there is a source of ingredients here in Japan!”
“Really?” Kasumi asked eagerly.
“Yes. It is a very quaint little store. My distant cousins told me that an old friend of theirs runs a Potion and Magical Supply shop here in the Nerima district. My relatives say the owner has very reasonable prices and the store is well-stocked. He doesn’t have as much quantity as the Talbane’s castle, but he’s well known among true magic users and comes highly recommended.”
“A magical store? I’ve never heard or seen such a place.” Nabiki’s older sister said in confusion. Over the years, she had gained an extensive knowledge of all the market locations and stores, in order to find the best deals and freshest produce. She also knew the location of each and every business in the district.
Cologne gave her a whimsical smile. “You won’t find this store on any of your maps. Unlike those trick and stage magic stores, this one deals in the real thing. And in order to find this store, you must have the gift of magic, which you do. However, before I reveal to you how to find this store, I must have your solemn vow that you will keep its very existence a secret. No one, not even your family, must know of the store’s location, its contents or the people who work there. Do I have your word on this matter? If you refuse or break this promise, then consider your magical training to be over.”
Kasumi took a deep breath, and nodded. “I swear that I will NEVER say a word about this store to anyone. Please tell me where to find it. I want to learn more about real magic.”
The matriarch looked deep into her eyes and found nothing but the utmost sincerity in them. She nodded as she began to write down the directions.
Kasumi found it odd to be standing in a dead end alley on the very outskirts of the Nerima district, just bordering on Itabashi. She looked about and checked for any unexpected observers and found none. Taking a deep breath, she took out her wand and tapped the wall in front of her three times. She then used the tip of her wand to draw a circular pattern on the surface and spoke the following incantation:
Patefacio veneficus ianua ut maioribus scientia! (2)
As soon as she spoke the phrase, the circle she drew suddenly became larger in front of her, and glowed with an eerie light. When the circle was big enough, she swallowed nervously, and then stepped forward.
Instead of running into a solid concrete wall, the girl instead found herself inside a small store that was crowded with shelves and various other items. The air was warm and exotic scents tingled her nose every now and then. Her surroundings reminded her of an ancient Chinese shop. Then she heard a cheerful voice coming from the front counter.
“Welcome young sorceress! Welcome to Henry the Halfling’s Potion and Magic Shop!”
She turned toward the counter and gasped as she beheld a dwarf of a man with pointed ears. He wore a set of blue coveralls, brown boots, and a red shirt. He waved at her and smiled at her seeming confusion.
“What’s the matter my dear? You have never set eyes upon a Halfling before?”
“She hasn’t Henry.” A new voice said as he approached the counter. “She’s just an apprentice right now, but she’s got what it takes to become a fine sorceress.”
Kasumi gasped as she recognized the man and walked up to him. “Oscar! What are you doing here?”
The Talbain bodyguard smiled as he began to explain. “You do remember that I told you that the staff members are well acquainted with things of myths and legends, right? Well, Henry here happens to be one of them. And since you now know about the existence of this store, I suppose you should know the truth about us, and of the Old Races.”
“Yes. And I believe I should tell you the truth, in my true form.”
With that, Oscar’s body was enveloped in a bright flash of light. His human frame became more muscular as his flesh started to turn green and scaly. Large, batlike wings sprouted from his back as his clothes rearranged themselves into a pair of shorts, short-sleeved vest and leather anklets. His feet became taloned and longer. His build became more muscular. And his face was framed by winged protrusions. When the transformation was complete, an eight-foot, humanoid dragon man stood before her.
“Quite a sight to see, eh Lass?” Henry chuckled. “Not very often a Dragon Man reveals himself to a human.”
Kasumi was so awestruck at the sight, that she couldn’t get any words to come out of her mouth. Oscar smiled at her as he gestured to a nearby table and chairs.
“Come. We have much to speak of.”
A little later…
“So, you’re telling me that monsters, aliens, demons and other non-humans exist and walk among us?” Kasumi asked as she and the dragon man quietly had tea together.
“Can you deny their existence?” The Talbain bodyguard said as he pointed to himself.
The brown-haired girl paused for a long moment, and then shook her head. After all, she was now a student of magic, and supernatural beings were not so unbelievable any more. As she thought about it, she started to realize how much she had changed in the past few days. She was becoming less the naïve and obedient housekeeper girl, and more assertive and open-minded. When she made the decision not to be the family caretaker, she found herself in a world of wonders and most of all, freedom.
Not too long ago, she would have never even thought about making her father and sister do part of the housework or even consider a future outside of the Tendo home. And now, here she was, studying to be a sorceress, shopping for magical ingredients and having tea with a Dragon Man inside a shop owned by a Halfling. In a short amount of time, her dull, dreary and predictable existence had done a complete reversal and she was enjoying every minute of it.
“So tell me, is everyone in the Talbane family staff like you?”
Oscar shook his head, and then took a sip of tea. Since she was now aware of the existence of the Old Races, it wasn’t considered breaking the Talbain rules to tell her certain things. “No. Many of the staff are human, though just as many of them, like me, are not. However, we all live together at the castle in good harmony and no one thinks badly of anyone else. All are considered equals under the master’s roof, human or nonhuman.”
“It sounds like a wonderful place. I’d like to visit someday.” As she took another sip of tea, Kasumi began to realize a few things. If the Talbane house staff had monster members in it, did that mean that the Talbane family was also made up of nonhumans as well? Then she started to think about Nabiki and the company she was currently with. She gathered up her courage and posed another question.
“May I ask you something?”
“What is it?”
“Your employers, the Talbanes. Are they human or are they something else?”
Oscar paused for a moment, and then replied. “Although you are now aware of the existence of the Old Races, it is not my place to reveal ANY of my Master Jon and Young Master Matthew’s business. They will tell you, when and if they decide to do so. I’m guessing you are asking because of your sister Nabiki, correct?”
Oscar took another sip of tea and gave her a smile. “I assure you, human or not, your sister is in the best of hands.”
The eldest of Soun’s children gazed deep into the Dragon Man’s eyes and saw the honesty in them. She nodded as she heard a beeping noise. Oscar lifted his right arm and noted the time on his wristwatch.
“Terribly sorry to cut this short, but I’m due to meet up with Helen and Carol in half an hour.” The Talbain employee apologized as he got up and shifted back to his human form. Dressed smartly in his dark suit and tie, he turned to the front counter. “Henry, do you have my order ready?”
“That I do.” The Halfling replied as he set a large paper sack before him. “You’ll find your Crysillis powder, Volcania rock, and Merrion sea salts.”
“Thank you.” He then addressed Kasumi. “Human soap and detergent doesn’t work very well on dragon scales. I chaff quite badly in some areas.” He turned back to Henry. “Put it all on my master’s account. Oh and whatever this young lady purchases today as well.”
“Oh no!” Akane and Nabiki’s sister said as she stood up in surprise at the sudden generosity. “You don’t have to pay for my ingredients.”
“I insist.” Oscar said in a gentle but firm tone. “My master provides well for those who are in his employ and covers all incidental expenses.” He went over to pick up his purchase. “He also instructed me and the others to assist you in way. Please Miss Tendo, accept this gesture as my thanks for the wonderful meals you have cooked for the staff.”
“Well, I don’t know what to say.”
“Please say yes.”
“Well, all right. Thank you.”
“Very good.” He gave her a bow and walked toward the front door with his purchase in hand. He paused for a moment and addressed her once more. “Oh, and Miss Tendo? About what I told you today?”
Kasumi held up a hand in understanding. “Not a word. I have already given my promise to Cologne and I will keep it.”
“Thank you Miss Tendo, and we shall see you tonight.”
With that, Oscar passed though the portal and back into the Human World. Kasumi then walked toward the front counter with her basket in hand.
“What can I be doing for you today, Lass?” The diminutive shopkeeper asked cheerfully.
The apprentice spellcaster took out her base potion and placed it on the counter. “What can I make with this?”
“Ah! A base potion!” Henry said approvingly. “The start to all magic elixirs and concoctions! And a very nicely-made base indeed! Well, for the aspiring apprentice, may I suggest a goodly amount of the most common additives?”
“What kind of additives?”
“Let’s see now.” The Halfling turned about and moved a small stepladder in front of some shelves behind the counter. He then began to bring down jars of various shapes and sizes, placing them beside the base potion on the counter. “Why don’t we start with some pixie dust, a little fairy water, dried bat wing, some ground Vernian toadstool, and the tried-and-true powdered lizard tail and eye of newt combo?”
Then the Halfling gasped in delight as he noticed the spellbook in the basket. “Aha! Any student of the Grimbards must also have a good supply of ingredients to make more base potion! You’re in luck! I just got a restock on Dryad tree sap, cured red dragon toenail, needle-spines from a Creleous cactus and the tears of a banshee!”
The gentle girl could only gaze in awe and a slight uneasiness as the shopkeeper continued to bring out more and more exotic ingredients. When he finished bringing out a wide array of jars and bottles, he then addressed Kasumi with the following question.
“So my pretty apprentice. What kind of potion would you like to make today?”
At this point, Kasumi was at a loss of what to do, as she had no idea there were so many ingredients to choose from. Furthermore, she hadn’t given any thought as to what kind of potion she wanted to make.
“Uhm, I was thinking of something simple and practical to start off with?”
“Practical, you say? Nothing easier. Why don’t you let this humble Halfling teach you a few things about potion-making?”
Some time later…
Kasumi couldn’t believe how fortunate she was as she prepared to bid her new Halfling friend goodbye. In addition to providing her with a good supply of base potion ingredients and other additives, Henry had also helped her create her first batch of magical mixtures. After portioning out her base potion into twenty-four small test tubes, the shopkeeper showed her how to mix certain ingredients together and what kind of preparation was needed.
Then it was Henry’s turn to be impressed as he had watched the Tendo girl’s cooking skills in action. She proved to be a very attentive pupil and in almost no time at all, the potions were finished and safely stored away in protective vials.
“I’d like to thank you for all your help today. I learned a lot.” She said as she packed away her creations in a new magical pouch that was about the size of a large wallet. Her basket was also laden with a supply of base potion ingredients, additives, and several other items, which Henry insisted that she have. After all, her entire bill was paid for by the wealthy Talbains.
“Ah, it was my pleasure to help such a talented magic student such as yourself.”
“Please, I’m not that talented.” She blushed at the compliment, as she didn’t think of herself as talented, especially in terms of magic.
“You don’t give yourself enough credit my dear. I’ve been around for about ten centuries, and I’ve seen very few apprentices who caught on to the basics of potion mixing as you have. Oscar was right. You’ll make an excellent sorceress some day.”
Kasumi blushed even further, and then realized the time. “Oh no! I forgot! I still need to go shopping for dinner tonight.” She looked down at her basket and realized that she didn’t have enough room for her new magical equipment and the groceries she would need to buy.
“Not a problem.” Henry assured her as he pointed to her pouch. “Seems to me that you could try out your new shrinking potion.”
She brightened up at his suggestion as she unzipped the pouch and took out a violet-colored vial and uncorked it. She sprinkled a small amount of the potion onto her newly-bought things. She waited for a minute but nothing happened.
“Remember the incantation, lass?” The Halfling reminded.
“Oh! Yes, of course.” The girl took out her wand, and paused to think of the right incantation. She nodded as she took a deep breath and waved her wand over her basket. “Fio vegrandis ut an formica! (3)”
The objects within the basket immediately became smaller until they could all fit on a five-yen piece. She smiled as she carefully placed the shrunken items into one of her apron pockets and bowed again to Henry. She then stepped out of the portal and back into the Human World.
Back at the Tendo home, Soun and Genma returned to an empty home and thankfully, no Happosai. Then they noticed that the Talbane staff was also not present and that got them to scheming.
With Nabiki gone, the maids had been using the absent girl’s room to sleep in while the two bodyguards had been sleeping in the living room. As such, Genma and Soun still had the notion that the pin with the Talbain Family Crest was what kept their dreaded master at bay. So far, they hadn’t gotten an opportunity to get a hold of one of the pins until now. They were certain that they wouldn’t miss one little pin.
The two were making quite a mess of Nabiki’s room looking for the pins. Soun had thought since he was the father and head of the household, he had the right to do whatever he wanted in his home, while Genma simply reverted back to his thieving ways. After a lot of rummaging through their belongings, Saotome let off a whoop of joy as he emptied out a nearby dresser drawer.
“I found it Tendo! I found the pin!”
However, just as he reached for the object, a twinge of bad luck occurred.
“Ouch!” Genma pulled back his hand and sucked on his index finger.
“What is it, Saotome?”
“I pricked my finger on that blasted pin!”
“A bit of bad luck, but nothing we can’t handle, eh Saotome?” Akane’s father pointed out as he reached for the pin. However, just as he picked it up, the object fell through his fingers and dropped toward the floor.
He bent down to pick it up, but another stroke of bad luck made itself aware.
Genma had also bent down, knocking their two relatively empty heads together.
“OW!” Both cried out simultaneously.
As the pair staggered back from the unexpected collision, the pin bounced lightly on the floor and under the dresser drawer. Both bent down again, with a repeat of the last stroke of bad luck.
While rubbing their foreheads, Genma gestured to Soun that he would get the pin. Getting on his hands and knees, he reached under the dresser-drawer, and then yelped in pain as he pulled his hand back.
“What’s the matter?” Soun asked.
“I pricked my finger on that stupid pin again!”
“Perhaps it would be easier if we just moved the dresser-drawer out of the way?”
“Good idea Tendo! You take one side, and I’ll take the other!”
As Genma’s greed started to increase, so did Soun’s sense of obsession to be rid of Happosai. What both didn’t know that something else was increasing, which was their run of bad luck.
Just as they hoisted the piece of furniture up, one of the drawers fell out and landed on Genma’s left foot.
This made him drop his end of the dresser, on his other foot.
This sudden imbalance caught Soun by surprise as his right foot shifted one way, and onto the pin. The house slipper he was wearing was too thin and the sharp point had no trouble piercing the sole of the footwear and his skin.
This also made him drop his end, causing the dresser to come down on his left foot.
Both frantically worked to free themselves from the dresser-drawer. After a few moments, they simultaneously yanked themselves from under the heavy piece of furniture and stumbled backward. Since the pin was now stuck to Soun’s foot, as soon as he put his foot down, the pain shot up his leg, causing him to hop up and down on his other leg. This of course, made him flail about, swinging his arms around like a windmill, trying to grab onto something for support. He grabbed onto Genma’s right arm, pulling him off balance.
Before they knew it, they stumbled out of Nabiki’s room and down the short hallway to the edge of the stairs.
BAM! WHAM! WHOMP! CRASH!
Soun and Genma took an extremely painful tumble down the stairs and landed hard at the bottom. Both groaned in agony, as they sat up and shook their heads to compose themselves. Looking at his foot, Kasumi’s father reached down, pulled out the pin and held it up in triumph.
“Saotome! I have it!”
“At last Tendo! We have the means to finally get rid of the Evil Master!”
“Oh really?” A new voice asked.
Both of Happosai’s disciples cringed at the sound of the voice and turned about to see who had just come back from his panty raid.
“BACK YOU FOUL DEMON! BACK I SAY” Soun said as he stood up and took a righteous pose with the pin held out in front.
“We know that you fear this symbol!” Genma declared with a smug expression as he stood behind his fellow schemer. “From now on, you’ll do what WE say!”
“I want you out of my home and our lives forever! You shall never darken my doorstep ever again!”
Happosai grinned as he began to emit a very dark and malicious aura, which made his traitorous disciples begin to tremble as he calmly approached them.
“B-Back! Get back! I-I-I’m warning you! Stay back or I’ll… I’ll…”
“Or what, Tendo?” Happosai challenged while grinning even more evilly. “You’re going to cast a spell on me? Maybe put up some kind of mystic barrier? Are you going to call down the wrath of the gods upon me? Tell me, my treacherous disciples, what exactly do you intend to do with that pin?”
Both were petrified like statues and couldn’t even find their voices, as the diminutive Grandmaster of the Anything Goes hopped up and used his pipe to knock the pin out of Soun’s hand. Then things got really violent as Soun Tendo and Genma Saotome’s luck went from bad to worse.
By the time the Talbain staff returned, they found the less-than-dynamic duo on the floor with bruises ON TOP of their bruises! Happosai calmly walked over to Jon Talbain’s employees and graciously gave Helen back her pin. He then glared back at his students.
“You two WILL clean up that mess in their room, AND you’ll be doing without breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next week! In fact, you’ll be doing MY chores in addition to your own for the next MONTH!”
This declaration especially didn’t sit well with Genma as he tried to protest. However, before a single word could be uttered, he was suddenly silenced by a very angry glare from his Master. When he was like that, it was akin to suicide to try and argue with him.
At Furinken High…
Akane couldn’t understand why she was having such a bad day.
At first it concerned only small incidents, such as the tip of her pencil breaking off and not getting past the crowds at the cafeteria in time to get her favorite curry bread. Then things started to get even worse as her anger grew. Things such as crashing on her face while doing the vault jump, having a basketball smack her in the back of the head; a few objects dropping on her head, spilling grape soda on her dress, and getting trampled by the mob of lovesick boys as they followed that tramp Lilith.
The Tendo girl could almost swear that the kami had it in for her!
Another bit of bad luck was that Kuno had finally returned to school, with virtually no recollection of the time he was gone. What most people didn’t know was that once the spirit of Bishamon had been removed from his body and his severed arm had been reattached with no loss of strength, (courtesy of some alien technology), the MIB had wiped his memory clean with a neuralyzer, and placed in a cover story. As far as the Blue Thunder was concerned, he had just recovered from a surgical operation, (though he didn’t know the reason why he underwent it). As such, he was back among the crowds of Lilith fans.
Akane grumbled and wished that the day would end already.
The short-haired girl let off a growl as she rubbed her head and looked down at her soaked uniform, and then at the ground. She had just been beaned by a bucket that had dropped from above. On the second floor of the building, the caretaker who had been washing the window; wondered where his pail of water went.
<I can’t believe this! That’s the FOURTH TIME today this has happened! What am I? Cursed?!>
Back at Castle Talbain…
Nabiki and Matthew were thoroughly enjoying themselves in another recreation room. This one had a ping-pong table and the two werewolves were engaged in a high-speed match. The ball was just barely holding together after being whacked back and forth at near supersonic velocities. Finally after a sudden burst in speed, it couldn’t take it any longer and crumbled in midflight as it came bouncing back toward Nabiki.
The female lycanthrope sighed as she put down her paddle. “Was that ball number seven?”
“Number eight actually.” Matthew corrected.
At that moment Jon walked into the room, with Felicia following him. The catwoman was sipping on a smoothie made from exotic fruit. Jon gestured to the teens. “Hey there you two! It’s time for us to look up the next fragment.”
Both adolescents nodded and followed the older werewolf and feline out of the recreation room and toward the Oracle Sanctorum. Inside, Chance, Providence and Kismet waited for their arrival.
When Kasumi got home and found out what had happened in Nabiki’s room, she was quite upset that her father would violate her guests’ privacy and steal their possessions. There was no excuse and Soun soon learned that his gentle and sweet eldest child had an unpleasant side to her personality. And people thought his Demon Head was scary!
There were a lot of things Kasumi Tendo would have overlooked in the past. Everything from her father’s shirking of responsibility to his family and martial arts, to Akane’s temper tantrums, and Genma’s laziness and thieving ways. Before, she had simply accepted it all.
However, ever since she had started to study magic and became more self-confident, she wasn’t going to let such breaches in etiquette and proper manners go unpunished any more. Happosai’s suggestion that Soun and Genma go without meals for a week and do the ancient pervert’s chores for a month seemed fitting enough. And when Soun tried to assert his authority as the head of the household, he got the shock of his life as Kasumi’s hidden magical potential made itself known.
Through long and repetitive hours of mental exercises to harness mana, Kasumi had unconsciously developed her personal aura and ki reserves. It wasn’t enough to produce offensive spells and elemental attacks yet, but it was MORE than sufficient to put down Soun Tendo’s Demon Head of Outrage.
As soon as Soun tried to cow his daughter into submission, Kasumi’s aura suddenly flared in response. Her inner power took shape around her, superimposing itself as a huge, ghostly, roughly-shaped dragon head. The air became thick and heavy as her hair stared to wave about. Spiritual pressure was rising toward levels that impressed even Happosai. Her aura’s presence was so overwhelming that Soun’s Demon Head wept with tears of shame and shrank away. Both he and Genma sank to their knees in the Crouch of the White Tiger.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”
A moment later, the brown-haired girl’s aura also died away as she couldn’t hold it. But it was enough as no one present dared to challenge her authority in the matter, and Happosai was more than willing to carry out his students’ punishment. As the situation calmed down, Kasumi walked off to her room to compose herself and prepare for dinner. Oscar quietly discussed with his co-workers.
“Didn’t I tell you? If that’s not a sure sign of a great future sorceress, I don’t know what is.”
The others nodded in agreement and left the two disciples of Happosai to their punishment at their master’s feet.
The Oracle Sanctorum…
‘Well now, are we ready to find the next fragment?” Chance asked as the Crystal Shard of Destiny began to glow even brighter when the trio of werewolves entered the chamber. Providence and Kismet stood by as well.
“Go for it Chance.” Matthew said.
The kitsune nodded as she and her compatriots focused their power on the huge artifact. The shard was rumored to have existed since beginning of time and was in tune with all the mana flows of the universe, making it especially useful in divinations. The giant crystal fragment let off a beam of light, striking the incomplete medallion in Jon’s hand. At the same time, a map of light appeared on the floor of the chamber, depicting all the world’s land masses. However, to everyone’s surprise, the map suddenly changed its appearance as the continents took on new shapes and moved about. When then came to rest in their new positions and configurations, a red dot appeared in near the center of some unknown geography.
The map faded away as the divination spell ended, and Jon Talbain gave the three oracles and questioning gaze. He then addressed the crow woman.
“Kismet? That spot wasn’t where I think it was, was it?”
The Tengu nodded. “You are most perceptive Lord Talbain. And one does not have to be psychic to predict what your next move will be.”
Chance nodded and smiled. “Say hello to Lady Morrigan and Lilith for me.”
Jon nodded as motioned for his son and Nabiki to follow him. Just as they were about to exit the chamber, Providence called back to them.
The Tri-Clopean took off her headband, revealing her third eye as it glowed with its prophecy of misfortune. “Seek the symbol of the sun.”
“So where are we going?” Nabiki asked as she and Matthew went through some katas in the open courtyard. “I didn’t recognize that spot on the map.”
“You won’t find that place on any map on Earth.” Matthew replied as he threw several dozens of punches in a heartbeat. To his satisfaction, Nabiki followed the motions perfectly with increasing speed. “The coordinates are near Lord Belial’s kingdom, in the Makai.”
The short-haired girl stopped in her motions in total disbelief. “The Makai?! As in the Demon Realm?!”
Matthew shrugged. “The Demon Realm… the Other World… the Land of Old Races… the Youkai Dimension… the birthplace of all myths and legends… whatever you call it, that’s where we’re going to find the ninth piece. It figures that one fragment would be there.”
“You sound like you’ve been there before.”
“Of course I’ve been there. I’ve been there many times.” Nabiki’s boyfriend confirmed nonchalantly. “Dad took me to the Makai a lot when I was growing up, so I’d learn about the Darkstalker side of my heritage. It’s a very dangerous place if you’re not mentally and physically prepared. But it’s also a place of wonders and powerful magic. Some of the most gifted of warriors and magicians of Earth are aware of the Makai and secretly go there in order to train and gain enlightenment.”
“Yeah. There are some naturally-occurring portals between this dimension and the Makai. They only open up periodically and only for a short time. We’re going to have to wait a few days before the nearest portal in this part of the world is available.”
Nabiki nodded as she resumed her katas, and then remembered a recent letter she got from home. “Oh, speaking of magic, I almost forgot! My sister wrote that she’s studying to become a sorceress.”
“Sorceress?” Jon’s son got a chill down his spine as an image of Akane in a witch’s outfit came to mind. Her martial arts couldn’t hurt him, but her using magic would be catastrophic to everyone around her. “Didn’t she learn anything from that Anti-Hair Formula mess?”
“Oh no! It’s not Akane. It’s my other sister Kasumi.”
“Kasumi? She’s your older sister right? You told me before that she’s the caretaker to your home and cooks all the meals.”
“Not any more.” Nabiki corrected with a bit of a smile of satisfaction. “Kasumi finally put her foot down and the rest of the family members are now doing their share of the chores. Apparently Elder Cologne assessed Kasumi of having some considerable magic potential and gave her a beginner’s spell book.” <I hope she keeps it away from Akane.> She added mentally. If her younger sibling was incompetent with an anti-hair formula, then having her perform magic was to be avoided at all costs.
“I see.” Matthew then considered the ramifications of this new development. “Hmmm, if she’s learning magic, then it’s only a matter of time before she learns the existence of the Old Races, if she hasn’t already done so.”
“I think she does. She may not know about me being a werewolf now, but in her letter, she says she visited some kind of magic shop run by a Halfling. She knows that one of the body guards is really a Dragon Man.”
“So she knows about Oscar?”
“Don’t worry though. She’s given her word to Cologne to never reveal the existence of the Old Races. And unlike Akane, Kasumi can be counted on to keep her promises.”
Two days later…
“Veho super ventus quod no!”
Kasumi waved her wand and smiled after her incantation made the pencil rise up from her desk and floated unsteadily a foot off the surface. Her hard work and patience had borne fruit as she had successfully made an object fly with a levitation spell. According to the spell book, levitation was one of the most practical of general magic, and could be used in many applications.
Now that she had the basics down, Kasumi then attempted to levitate more than one object at a time. While keeping the pencil aloft, she focused on a small pad of sticky notes. Slowly, but surely, the pad lifted off the desk and floated beside the pencil. Making a circular motion with her wand, she began to direct the objects like radio-controlled toys. She made them do small loops, turns and flybys. She felt like a child again as the pencil and notepad moved to her amusement. Finally, she set them back down on the desk, ending the spell. Then she started hearing applause.
“Bravo! Bravo! No doubt about it! You’re a natural!”
The voice had Kasumi scrambling to hide her wand and spell book.
Happosai gave her a wave of assurance as he stood at the doorway to her room. He calmly walked inside and stood in front of her “No need to hide that from me. I already know about the existence of true magic and of the Old Races.”
“You do?” The eldest Tendo daughter asked.
The ancient pervert nodded. “When you get to be my age, you see a LOT of things that can’t be explained by science or common reason. And what I saw just now, proves of what I suspected of you when we first met. You’ve got some ties to the Old Races, don’t you?”
“Please Grandmaster Happosai, don’t tell anyone that I know about the Old Races! I gave them my word!”
“Don’t worry about that, my dear. What we’re saying here will NOT go anywhere else. I’ve kept the existence of the Old Races a secret for over 250 years. Don’t see any reason why I should change that policy now.”
“You won’t tell anyone?”
The old lecher shook his head as he rolled up his right sleeve and displayed a scar on his forearm. “I may have my bad habits, but when the Grandmaster of the Anything Goes swears a blood oath to the Old Races, he keeps it. Besides, I already know firsthand what it’s like to be on the bad side of a Darkstalker.” Happosai shivered at the memory of his encounter with one of those beings. “Dying by mortal means is bad enough. However, being the subject of vengeance by a race that can make you suffer AFTER death? That is something you should avoid at all costs. Don’t worry about it.”
“No problem. Now then, if I’m not mistaken, that spell book had the ki signatures of a certain Amazon named Cologne and some magic makers called the Grimbard Sisters. Correct?”
“You know of them?”
“Oh yes.” Soun and Genma’s master remembered back to his not-so-happy days with Cologne and then felt a chill down his spine at his encounter with those Salem Witches. He had made the mistake of trying to steal one of their potions, and they turned him into a toad for a year. It took several more years before he could finally get the taste of flies, mealworms and crickets out of his mouth. All the more reason why he appreciated Kasumi’s home-cooking.
Standing some distance away, but listening in on their conversation with his sharp dragon hearing, Oscar nodded in satisfaction. If there was even the slightest indication that Happosai would violate his blood oath, the Dragon Man had the authority to reduce the little pervert to a stain on the wall. As for Happosai’s soul, that would have been consigned to an even worse fate.
At that moment, there was a loud noise as an angry Tendo girl came home and slammed the front door. This time, her uniform was disheveled and torn in several places.
“I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! JUST WHO DO THOSE PERVERTS THINK I AM?! SLOPPY SECONDS?! I CAN’T BELIEVE HOW BAD MY LUCK HAS BEEN!”
At Castle Talbain…
“Good to see you again Morrigan.” Jon greeted as his old flame and her daughter passed by the main gate.
“Hello you scrumptious wolf.” The succubus said playfully. “I hear that you and your son are planning a little trip to my father’s domain.”
“Yes, and I think it would be best if you and Lilith come with us to smooth over any details with Lord Belial. That’s why I had the two of you flown in.” He then addressed the younger succubus. “I hope I’m not inconveniencing you or interrupting your academic life.”
Lilith shrugged nonchalantly. “It was actually pretty boring without you and your son there. I wouldn’t mind going back to the Makai and seeing Grandpa Belial. In any case, my allure power should be wearing off by now, so those boys will probably go back to their previous obsession with Akane Tendo. I should think after all the fuss she made when they ignored her, she’ll be happy to get her fans back.”
At that point, Felicia and the two younger werewolves came out to meet with the succubi. Lilith nodded toward Nabiki in her hybrid form.
“Hey there! Looking good as a werewolf Tendo!”
Nabiki blushed a bit as she moved a little closer to Matthew. “So you know about our quest, right?”
“Oh yes, Matthew’s father already explained it all. Kind of surprised at first, but I think it suits you.”
“Have you heard from my family?”
“Well the good news is that they finally got rid of that bad smell. The bad news is that they seem to have some kind of perverted master living with them now. He might be the one responsible for a rash of underwear thefts that’s been going on in Nerima.”
“Underwear thefts?” Matthew asked.
“Yeah. A lot of women in the area have been reporting that their bras and panties are being stolen off their wash racks. All except ours of course. The thief seems to know that our laundry is off-limits.”
“And you think this perverted master who is living my house is the thief?” Nabiki asked.
“Happosai’s aura matches the residual energy trails he’s left at each crime scene. Of course, that won’t hold up much in a human court of law.”
“Happosai?” Jon said in surprise, then asked Lilith some more questions. “Really short, wrinkled old fellow with a purple gi, a lecherous aura and formidable martial arts skills? Has a fetish for women’s underwear and groping females?”
“That’s him.” The younger succubus confirmed.
“You know him Dad?” Matthew inquired.
“I’ve met him, and he knows our family and about the Old Races. He also knows NOT to trifle with Darkstalkers. I’m not at all surprised he avoided the Aenslade home. He probably detected their supernatural auras.”
“How do you know about him?”
“He’s had some run-ins with our family. I think it was about 1750 AD that he first me with the Talbains.”
“Seventeen fifty? That’s over two hundred and fifty years ago!” Nabiki said incredulously.
“Don’t be too surprised.” Matthew reminded her. “Remember Shampoo’s great-grandmother Cologne is over three hundred years old.” He turned back to his father. “So two hundred and fifty years ago would mean that Happosai met up with my sixth great-grandfather Walter Talbain?”
“Actually he met up with Walter’s brother Nicholas, but that’s about right. Your sixth great-uncle was quite perturbed when Happosai tried to steal from the family and he was showed the error of his ways by our ancestor.”
“In other words, Nicholas Talbain beat the living daylights out of the little pervert.” Felicia guessed. “And now he knows better than to trifle with the Old Races.”
“That’s about right. And he did swear a Blood Oath when our family did him a favor, so he’s not going to be telling anyone about us.”
At that moment, the Grimbard Sisters came up to the group. Tyselli addressed the head of the Talbain household.
“Lord Talbain. The portal to the Makai is ready.”
The group stood in front of the Great Crystal Shard of Destiny as the Oracles and Grimbard Sisters worked their magic spells. The artifact had the power to open a portal to the Makai but was only able to do so once a month. Instead of waiting for one of the naturally-occurring portals to open up, Jon had decided to use the resources of the castle. The estate lay on a huge concentration of Ley Lines and mana flows, allowing the spell casters to gather enough eldritch energy to bridge between the dimensions.
Nabiki watched in awe as a huge swirling cloud of colored lights formed above the crystal. Streaks of lightning crisscrossed the ceiling of the Sanctorum, creating a spectacular light show. A gigantic circle of blue fire appeared around the shard, illuminating the ancient runes that were carved in the floor tiles. When the spell was completed, a large circle of light appeared before the Talbains and their companions. Within that circle, an image of a rural countryside appeared.
The eldest of the Grimbards pointed to the image.
“Go quickly! We cannot hold this portal open for long! Good luck, Lord Talbain!”
Jon gestured to his party as he shifted to his hybrid form and ran toward the portal. Felicia, Matthew, Nabiki and the two succubi followed suit. Just as the last of the party passed through the mystic gateway, the spell ended as the Grimbards and the Oracles could not maintain the portal any longer.
Providence nodded as the group was on their way.
“So this is the Makai?” Nabiki asked as she looked about the unfamiliar surroundings. To her, it appeared to be a kind of open countryside. It wasn’t at all like the supposed Demon Realm she had thought it was going to be. It was actually very pleasant and serene. Aside from the three suns, it looked a lot like Earth.
“Yes, this is the Makai.” Jon confirmed. “We’re in the outer boundaries of the Mindorian Province, if I’m not mistaken. I would have preferred if they could have sent us to Lord Belial’s palace, but I suppose this was the only area where the dimensional barrier could be pierced at this time. Well, we’ve got quite a bit of traveling to do. I recognize this area and the town of Bestonia is north of here, maybe about 10 miles or so. Come on!”
The others nodded as they followed the werewolf down a country road. As they walked, Nabiki looked about in curiosity and confusion. Matthew soon noticed her inattentiveness and addressed her.
“Something wrong Nabs?”
“I don’t mean to be insulting or anything.” The female lycanthrope said. “But the Makai doesn’t seem to be as dangerous as you made it out to be. In fact, it looks a lot like the countryside back home in Japan.”
“Trust me, it’s dangerous.” Jon’s son assured. “There happens to be a LOT of places here that could chew you up and spit you out in a heartbeat. We were just lucky and ended up in one of the safer areas. However, there some places that could be described as paradise by human standards. In any case, here’s something that you’ll like about the Makai. You don’t need your pendant here.”
“I suppose. Werewolves are probably commonplace here so I don’t need to hide my appearance right?”
“That is true, but that’s not what my son meant.” Jon corrected. “The Makai possesses a higher amount of mana energy than Earth. This world is extremely conductive towards magic so anyone with an affinity with it will have greater control over spell casting and inner power. That includes all of us. On Earth we need to concentrate a bit to shift between our forms. In the Makai, a simple thought like an on/off switch is all we need. And since that’s the case, you shouldn’t have any problem shifting between your human, hybrid and wolf forms.”
“Really?” Nabiki simply thought about her human form and in less than two seconds, she shifted to her normal body. She then thought about being a wolf, and found herself walking on all fours. She then changed back into her hybrid form and looked down at her hands in amazement. “Whoa! That’s so cool!” Then a thought passed her mind. “Hold on. If I can control my transformations here, then does that mean what I think it does?”
Jon nodded. “Very good Nabiki. Technically speaking, we could stop our quest here and now if you decided to permanently remain in the Makai. However, you may want to reconsider once you see some of the more unpleasant features of this realm.” He then looked up and saw something diving down at them from high in the sky. “And here comes one now!”
There was a horrendous screech as a huge, black shadow blotted out one of the three suns and came down on the group. The thing was like a huge, mutated pteranodon, with a lot of teeth. It was about the size of small bus, with large, leathery wings that had wicked claws. Its feet sported a double set of armored talons. Its head was narrow with sharp horns. It had feathers that looked more like scales and a spiked tail. All in all, it wasn’t one wanted to meet in the dark. Heck, she didn’t even want to see it in broad daylight.
“TAKE COVER AND WATCH OUT FOR THE ACID!”
Matthew pulled Nabiki out of the way as the creature spewed out a huge torrent of caustic liquid, burning a deep hole in the ground she had been standing on. As the werewolves and catwoman prepared for another assault as the beast pulled up and turned about. However, they didn’t have to, as they had a couple of allies in the sky.
Morrigan and Lilith took to the sky as soon as they were attacked and they went on a counteroffensive. The flying monster didn’t expect its prey to fight back, especially in the air.
“SOUL FIST!” Morrigan shouted out as she shot out a bat-shaped blast, which impacted against the creature’s head. That knocked it for a loop, making it unprepared for Lilith’s attack.
In a move reminiscent of Ryu’s Shoryruken, the younger succubus came up in an uppercut maneuver, but used one of the edges of her wings like a blade. This sliced a big gash in the beast’s left side. Then the two succubi finished off the creature in a very gruesome manner.
Each flew back a bit and morphed the wings on their backs into a dozen appendages that resembled harpoons. Then they fired them off like projectiles, skewering their attacker in several places and literally tore it to shreds. The winged monster let off one final roar and fell down towards the ground as a bloody carcass. When it landed, it made a tremendous impact, causing the ground to tremble. Finally, the dust settled down as the succubi pair landed with their wings back in their normal shapes.
Nabiki could only stare at the dead monster in shock, and then gazed upon Lilith.
Morrigan’s daughter nodded at her unspoken question. “Now do you believe me when I said I went easy on your sister Akane?”
The middle Tendo daughter wordlessly nodded.
Two days later, on Earth…
Akane hobbled home after her latest bout with the Horde of Hentai and Kuno. She just couldn’t understand it. She had been practicing with her martial arts, breaking dozens of bricks and training dummies every day. Her skills hadn’t changed. She hadn’t been backsliding. However, for some reason, her disloyal fans seemed to be getting a lot of lucky breaks, especially the Blue Blunder. As a result, she got hit a lot more.
She couldn’t figure out why her timing was off, she was tripping over her own feet and her defenses had more holes than she remembered. Even the relative lightweights like the ping pong club and the track teams managed to tag her. She nearly got crushed by the sumo club and the sports teams that used clubs were actually able to score hits on her. Then there was Kuno.
She could almost swear that the kami had it in for her. Kuno was NEVER that fast! He was at the top his game while she was at the near bottom of hers. She had only managed to knock him out when he charged in and missed with his final swing. If that blow had connected, then she would have lost.
Akane shuddered at the thought and made a note to break even more bricks and dummies. Such a thing could not be permitted and she’d need to keep up her skills. She didn’t see any reason to improve what she believed was already perfect. She was the best martial artist in Nerima after all. All those losses to Lilith Aenslade and Matthew Talbane were just flukes and off-days, just like this one was.
It’s not like she was under a curse again, right?
Then she tripped over the welcome mat, falling through the front door and landing face first on the floor of the hallway. She let off a tired sigh.
“I can’t believe how bad things have gotten!” Akane said as she sat at the dining table, eating her dinner.
After messing up the laundry, (confusing bleach for fabric softener), she was only given a small portion of the food that Happosai was currently enjoying. She didn’t like the fact that the pervert was eating better than her. However, there wasn’t much she could do as Kasumi was adamant that everyone in house do their fair share of the chores and do them properly.
Everyone’s attention turned toward Genma as a fifth pair of chopsticks broke in his hands. Saotome just barely managed to hold in a tirade of profanity. He had been enjoying his first full meal in days and this had to happen! He grumbled as he went back to the kitchen for another pair of wooden utensils.
Sitting beside his seat, Soun also winced as the bowl in his hand developed a small crack on the side, spilling a few drops of hot soup into his lap. He had just been thinking of uniting the schools. Putting the bowl down, he reached for a napkin to wipe off the stain on his pants, only to knock over his glass of water.
Then Genma came back and tripped on the rug, breaking the chopsticks in his hands. He knocked against the side of the table, thereby causing the plates and bowls to rattle. This made the food inside them jump, including the one in front of Akane and Happosai. The aged master easily dodged the flying food. Akane wasn’t as lucky as a bottle of condiment went flying toward her and splashed its contents.
“ARGH!” The short-haired girl growled as she angrily wiped the soy sauce from her face.
At that point, both Kasumi and Happosai gave the three a puzzled look before standing off to one side and discussed between themselves.
“You sensed it too, didn’t you Kasumi? That strange disturbance hanging about their personal auras?”
“Well, I’ve only started to increase my sensitivity toward spiritual power and its usage in divination.” The eldest Tendo daughter admitted. “You would probably be able to sense it better than I, Grandmaster Happosai.”
The old pervert nodded. “But you did feel it, did you not? You’ve been feeling it for some time now, correct?”
Kasumi paused for a moment and then nodded. “I have noticed that their personal auras seemed a bit off. It was as if something was randomly directing mana energy toward them. Very dark mana unfortunately.”
“Hmm.” He then addressed the three at the table. “Genma! Soun! Akane! Come to the living room! Kasumi and I wish to speak to you of something.”
The living room…
Soun, Akane and Genma were seated one side of the living room table as Kasumi and Happosai sat opposite to them. Then the brown-haired girl took out a hundred-yen piece and held it out.
“The number one hundred we will call as heads.” She then addressed Soun. “Father, please choose, heads or tails. I wish to find something out.”
The patriarch of the family shrugged his shoulders and replied. “Heads.”
Kasumi casually flipped the coin up, catching it in her right hand before flipping it onto the back of her left hand. When she revealed the face of the coin, she announced the result.
“Do it again Kasumi.” Happosai instructed before addressing his disciple. “You will continue to guess until I tell you to stop. Understood?”
“Err, y-yes Master!”
Kasumi flipped the coin again.
A third flip.
This process went on for about a hundred times, with Soun guessing each flip wrong. After 10 minutes, Happosai held out his hand.
“That’s enough Kasumi. We’re done with your father.” He then turned to his second disciple. “Your turn Genma.”
The fat, Jusenkyo-cursed father of ‘Ranma’ swallowed hard as his master gave him a stern look. As Kasumi flipped the coin, he cried out while it was still in midair.
“Heads! No, wait tails!”
When the coin came down and was covered on the back of Kasumi’s left hand, he then said quickly, “No, I mean heads!”
The oldest of Soun’s children revealed the coin. “Tails.”
“I said tails before!” Genma frantically argued. He was immediately silenced by a harsh glare from Happosai.
“You chose heads! Now continue! One guess per flip!”
The head of Saotome clan nodded meekly as Kasumi flipped again.
Another hundred flips later, the test was then administered to Akane. Like Soun, Genma had guessed all of his flips wrong. Halfway through his trial, Kasumi changed to a fifty-yen piece. It didn’t make any difference.
“I don’t see why I’m doing this! This is just a stupid game!” Akane scoffed as Kasumi flipped the coin. This time it was a five-hundred yen piece.
When she covered it with her hand, she gave her younger sister a concerned expression before asking. “Heads or tails?”
The youngest daughter snorted in disdain before replying. “Heads!”
Kasumi revealed the result. “Tails.”
This got Akane’s temper to boiling. It was bad enough things were going downhill at school, but not being able to win at a simple coin toss was just embarrassing!
“One more time!”
Her sibling complied as she flipped the coin again.
Akane growled even harder as Kasumi flipped the coin again.
This went on for another hundred flips, with Akane just barely able to keep her temper in check as she lost each round. Finally, after the last flip and incorrect guess, Kasumi turned to Happosai.
The three-hundred-year-old martial artist shook his head. “We went and tried three hundred flips, each with a fifty-fifty chance of success. However, the three of them got them all wrong, and we used three different coins! That goes BEYOND the law of averages!” He then addressed the trio. “No doubt about it! The three of you are cursed with some kind of bad luck hex!” He turned back toward Kasumi. “I don’t suppose you know how to undo such a thing?”
She shook her head. “I haven’t gotten that far in my magic studies. There’s only one person I know of who has the expertise.”
Akane immediately shook her head as she knew whom Kasumi was talking about.
“Oh no! No way! I don’t want to any help from those stupid Chinese Amazons!”
Happosai let off a tired sigh as well. In truth, he didn’t want to meet up with Cologne either, but there was no other choice.
Either way, this was going to be painful.
Nabiki winced as she got back on her feet. Her sensei had warned her that she would be getting some intense training while she was in this alternate world, and now she was feeling the pressure and pain. She stood with her tonfa held out in a defensive posture.
Her opponent smirked as she held up a wicked-looking polearm. She was a young girl, barely a teenager by her race’s standards. Of course, when you’re talking about a two-hundred-year-old lamia, it was all relative. Nabiki’s opponent had the upper body of a human, but the lower half terminated in a snake’s tail. She had long blonde hair and had quite a generous bosom. She wore a leather halter top and had gold hoop earrings. Wrapped about her waist where her human body ended and her reptilian body began was a kind of sarong.
The lamia stood up on her snake tail and twirled her weapon as she prepared to make another strike. However, just as she reared back to attack, Nabiki burst forward with her first attempted ki attack.
The Secondary Lycanthrope was surrounded with a dim and very faint nimbus of light as she rocketed upward. Her control was sloppy and the flight trajectory was unstable. She slammed heavily into her opponent and managed to catch the lamia off-guard, knocking her to the ground. Nabiki tumbled end over end and just barely landed on her feet. She unsteadily whirled about to face off against her foe, but found that she had won the match. The snake girl was unconscious from the impact.
Jon and the rest of the party applauded her as they stood on the sidelines in front of a large inn at a small town in the Makai. Crowds of human and nonhuman citizens crowded about the area, also gave her a round of applause. She took a deep breath and dropped her arms down to her side.
“Not too shabby, Nabs.” Matthew commented as he and the others came up to her.
“Yes, but that Beast Cannon was pretty rough.” Jon commented. “You didn’t focus enough on your ki and I could tell that it hurt you almost as much as it did to your opponent. Still, it wasn’t a bad first attempt. I would advise that you review all your ki exercises and work on building it up some more before trying that move in combat again.”
“Hai, Sensei.” The middle Tendo girl nodded as she put away her weapons and walked over to her foe as the lamia was just regaining consciousness. The snake girl looked up and saw the werewolf as she offered a hand to help her up. Giving Nabiki a smile, she reached out and took it.
“So where are we going tomorrow?” Nabiki asked as she and her group sat down to eat their first meal in the Demon Realm. They were inside the inn’s Main Dining Hall. Sitting around them were various members of the Old Races of all shapes and sizes. She also noted a very large number of humans wearing various clothes and armor. She felt as if she was in Lord of the Rings or a Harry Potter movie.
“We’ll be going to a city called Ala Maron. It’ll take us a few days to get there.” Jon replied as he began eating from a bowl of heavy, meat-laden stew.
“Ala Maron?” Matthew’s girlfriend asked.
Morrigan nodded as she took a bite of what appeared to be roast lamb. “Ala Maron happens to be one of the most CONCENTRATED sources of magic in the Makai. Many call it the Magician’s Mecca or Wizard’s Wonderland. It’s practically a huge marketplace of magical weapons, artifacts, spell ingredients and whatnot. They’ve got very good prices and all aspiring apprentices and masters go there.”
With the mention of apprentices, Nabiki began to think about her sister Kasumi and her beginning studies in spell-casting.
Then the catwoman in their party spoke up. “Hey, I just remembered. I heard that the Annual Apprenticeship Games are going to be held there in about a week or so. Maybe we can check them out?”
“Apprenticeship Games?” The Tendo girl asked.
“That’s right.” Lilith affirmed. “Every year, the most prestigious magical academies in the Makai hold a tournament for all apprentice-level spell-casters. Anyone can enter, even those who have no master or are self-taught. I believe that the winner receives a full scholarship to a top-rated academy as a grand prize.”
“Wow. That’s some prize.” The werewolf girl commented as she thought to herself. <Kasumi could really use that! I wish she could take part!>
Back on Earth…
At the newly-opened Chinese restaurant called the Nekohanten, Cologne glared in silence at Happosai. A flood of very bad memories had entered her mind the moment he came through the door. However, with several patrons still eating their dinners and Kasumi present, she could not act on her overwhelming desire to pound the perverted Anything Goes Grandmaster into paste. It was a very lucky thing that she restrained herself, as the surrounding areas would not be able to survive the property damage.
Standing at the doorway, Happosai could only sheepishly grin and let off a nervous chuckle. Right now, he had the same feeling as one would have just before going off on a leisurely stroll through a minefield, while carrying a gallon of nitroglycerine and several sticks of dynamite. To label the situation as potentially explosive would be a gross understatement. He silently thanked his lucky stars that the eldest Tendo girl was with them. He could tell that Cologne was only a heartbeat away from launching two hundred and eighty-two years of righteous Chinese Amazon fury. He was pretty certain she had not forgotten the events of when they were both eighteen.
At that moment, the Elder broke the silence as she addressed Soun and Genma’s master with a not-too-friendly tone.
“It’s been a while, Happy.”
“Er, yes.” Happosai replied with a slightly nervous tremor. “You… seem to be holding up well… Cologne.”
Kasumi looked down in surprise. “Oh my! I didn’t know that you were already acquainted with Elder Cologne. Are you old friends?”
“In a sense.” Happosai admitted very reluctantly.
“Barely.” Cologne corrected.
Shampoo’s great-grandmother took a deep, cleansing breath, and then addressed the novice sorceress. “May I ask what brings you here? Do you need more advice on your, (ahem) studies?”
“Well,” The brown-haired girl began. “This does have something to do with what I’ve been reading about. I’m not too certain how to say this.”
Happosai noted her reluctance to talk about magic in public and nodded. “Don’t worry Kasumi. Cologne and I already have an understanding.” He then rolled up the sleeve on his right arm, and showed his Blood Oath scar to the Amazon.
The matriarch gazed upon the wound, before finally nodding and revealed a similar mark on her left forearm. To a normal person, the scar appeared to be nothing but a small, thin line of fibrous skin tissue. However, to those who were attuned to magic or ki, the mark was actually a disguised phrase in the Runic Alphabet. Kasumi gazed upon their Blood Oath marks, focusing her mystic awareness on them. She then saw them for what they truly were. Cologne’s Blood Oath mark was a line of symbols which translated as ‘sacred vow.’ Happosai’s mark meant quite literally as ‘debt of life.’
She began to wonder about the meaning behind those scars when a sudden scream caught her attention, and that of the two martial arts masters. They all looked out the door to see Soun, Genma and Akane all doused in water. Somehow the nearby fire hydrant sprung a big leak.
“Hmmm… now that’s interesting.” Cologne commented as she and the others were crowded in her quarters. The restaurant had closed down for the night, allowing the Amazon Elder time to study the auras of the Tendo family and Genma. For Kasumi’s sake, both she and Happosai had decided on a temporary truce.
Akane snorted in disgust as she was once again standing in a mystic circle. However, unlike the last time, this particular circle’s purpose was merely for examination and would not leave any ill effects should the subject suddenly leave its perimeter. When the scrying spell ended, Cologne checked an ancient map of the world and shook her head. She then addressed the Tendos and their houseguest.
“I’m sorry to say, but the three of you are under a hex… again.” She gave Akane a disproving look, which she immediately turned her head in disdain and crossed her arms over her chest.
An hour later, the Tendos and Genma were enjoying some ramen as the Elder and Shampoo explained the hex in better detail.
“According to what I was able to discern from my divinations, apparently you are suffering from the side-effects of the spell we used to get rid of that demonic smell.”
“Hmph! Then it’s all your fault!” Akane said with a combination of anger and a bit of a gloat, only to be swatted upside the head with a rap from Cologne’s cane. “OW!”
“In case you’ve forgotten, (or don’t care to remember), Akane Tendo, I explicitly instructed you, your father and Genma Saotome not to move from the magic circle until the spell was completed.”
Shampoo nodded. “Is not great-grandmother’s fault you no listen!”
Akane growled while rubbing the bump that was forming on her head.
The Elder continued with her explanations. “I would assume that you all remember the ensuing explosion when that particular rule was violated? According to what I was able to discern, that caused a magical backlash to travel down a nearby Ley Line.”
“What’s a Ley Line?” Soun asked.
Kasumi answered in this case. “Ley Lines are the magical flows and alignments of energy that surround the Earth. Some say that they were created at the same time as the universe and are even rumored to be connected to the power of gods. They are used by magicians, priests, and spiritual entities to cast spells, divine the future, and open up doorways to other dimensions.”
The Amazon Matriarch nodded with approval. “Very good Kasumi. You have been keeping up with your magic studies.” She then addressed the cursed trio. “When the backlash traveled down that particular Ley Line, I divined its destination. It apparently leads to a spot in Northern Europe, in a place called Ireland.”
“Ireland? Isn’t that supposed to be a lucky place?” Akane asked.
The three-hundred-year-old Amazon shook her head. “We’re not talking about horseshoes or four-leaf clovers. We’re talking about one of the most malevolent sources of misfortune on Earth! What we’re talking about is a very large emerald.”
“Emerald?” Genma repeated, his eyes gleaming with greed as soon as he heard the word. However, a moment later, the bowl of ramen he had been eating from suddenly developed a crack and split apart, spilling the hot soup and noodles into his lap. He screamed as his privates were nearly scalded.
As Soun went over to help his friend, Cologne sighed and indicated with a finger. “As you can see, the result of the backlash has caused the personal auras of Genma Saotome, Soun Tendo and Akane Tendo to become connected to that source of bad luck. And that concentration of ill-fortune can be none other than the dreaded Emerald of Kilarney.”
“THE EMERALD OF KILARNEY?!” Happosai exclaimed while nearly choking on his ramen. He then cleared his throat as he commented on the discovery. “Talk about your bad luck! No WONDER they couldn’t even win a simple coin toss!”
“Master? Do you know about this emerald?” Soun asked.
“Oh yes. It’s probably the most infamous artifact of misfortune ever created to plague mankind! It’s the one gemstone that NO ONE wants! I wouldn’t come within a hundred miles of that thing! All the good luck charms in the world wouldn’t be enough to offset its bad luck magic!”
“And according to my divinations,” Cologne continued. “… the backlash of bad luck magic has attached itself to your personal auras and releases sporadic misfortune in proportion to your strongest emotions.”
“What?!” Akane said with a total lack of comprehension.
“Basically,” Kasumi explained, “… whatever emotion you feel the strongest, will cause the bad luck to increase. The more you feel that emotion, the worse your luck becomes.”
“Very good Kasumi.” Elder Cologne praised before addressing the Tendos and Genma again. “As you had just witnessed, greed is Genma Saotome’s strongest emotion, which caused a perfectly good bowl to suddenly split in half. As soon as I mentioned the word emerald, he was probably thinking of stealing it.”
“That’s about right.” Happosai affirmed. He then pointed to Soun. “My other disciple has pride and obsession as his strongest emotions. He just can’t keep quiet about joining the schools and being a martial artist.”
“Oh! Shampoo get it!” The purple-haired Amazon then pointed to Akane. “And More-Stupid-Than-Monkey-Girl no can stop getting mad, so she gets more bad luck!”
“WHY YOU CHINESE BIMBO! I’M GOING TO…!”
Before Akane could act on her aggression against Cologne’s great-granddaughter, one of the metal Chinese ornaments hanging from the ceiling suddenly broke loose and dropped down on the angry girl’s head. The effect was like having a washtub hitting her from a second-story window.
“There, you see!” The matriarch pointed out. “A perfectly good ornament that had no reason to break loose, until you lost your temper. I would suggest that you curb that anger of yours, lest you want to suffer even worse misfortune, until Shampoo and I are able to remove this latest hex!”
The youngest Tendo then got up from her seat and began to stomp toward the door.
“This is all a bunch of @$#%! I’m not under some bad luck curse! I’m going home!
Akane stomped out of the Nekohanten, only to find herself in the path of a skateboarder. The impact sent the boarder sprawling, while Akane is painfully shoved toward a sewage truck, which was currently dumping its load down an open manhole. The pipe suddenly burst a leak, spraying Akane with a good amount of raw sewage. She was blinded by the sludge and stumbled forward, not seeing the bathhouse as she entered without paying and ended up in the male section, which happened to be hosting the Association of Pervert Speed Strippers.
As Soun and Genma raced to get her out, Cologne and Happosai turned to Kasumi.
“We must begin gathering spell ingredients as soon as possible, in order to undo this new hex.” Shampoo’s great-grandmother said with a sigh.
“You know how to cure them?” The eldest Tendo girl asked.
“Actually, no I do not.” Cologne admitted. “I’m going to have to consult with the Grimbard Sisters. However, we will need to get at least the basic ingredients for base potions and Rune inscriptions. I used most of what I had neutralizing that demonic smell.”
“Oh goody!” Happosai said while rubbing his hands with glee. “If you’re going shopping for spell ingredients, then that means you’ll be going to the only magic shop in Japan. It’ll be good to see my old friend Henry after all these decades.”
Both Kasumi and Cologne looked upon the old pervert with a bit of surprise.
“You know Henry?” Kasumi asked.
“Of course I do!” The old grandmaster of the Anything Goes showed his Blood Oath scar again. “Henry’s an old drinking buddy of mine! He had the best grog, mead and ale I’ve ever tasted! Certainly puts any sake to shame!”
The next day…
In the secret alley where Henry the Halfling’s store was, Happosai, Cologne and Kasumi stood before a wall. The Tendo family and Genma would be looked after by the Talbain staff, while Shampoo would run the Nekohanten. Just as the novice sorceress was about to take out her wand, she was stopped as Soun and Genma’s master stepped forward.
“Now, let’s see if I remember the incantation after 50 years…”
Using his pipe, he tapped the wall three times, followed by drawing a circle on the surface. He then spoke the correct incantation.
“Patefacio veneficus ianua ut maioribus scientia!”
Sure enough the portal opened to admit the three into the magic shop.
To be continued…
This was getting long, so I decided to cut it off here. In the next chapter, we’ll be seeing more of the Makai and Kasumi’s first trip into that place. See you then!
(1) We know what Victor looks like in the Darkstalkers video game.
(2) Latin Translation: Open the mystic portal to greatest knowledge.
(3) Latin Translation: Become as small as an ant.
(4) Latin Translation: Ride upon the wind and fly!