Dual Destinies
Disclaimer: It's been a while since I started this so…
<>: Thoughts
{" "}: Telepathic communication
                                  Chapter 34
                                  Third Trial
                                 Mind Games
     Ranma Red and his brother were recovering in the Amazon village 
when Taron and Soren once again appeared before them and their 
     "Well done you two. You have succeeded in winning the first of 
the two trials." Soren said.
     Ranma Red was sitting at the dining table in Shampoo's house, 
holding a hand against the shoulder that had been injured during 
their titanic battle with Gaizera. His palm glowed with a soft red light 
as he used a healing spell to the wound while his wife Shampoo was 
using a damp cloth to apply some special herbs to the shoulder to 
prevent any infection. On the other side, Ranma Blue and his wife 
Ukyo were also present, along with their mother and their three 
adopted sisters, Akane, Kasumi and Nabiki..
     "I must admit, you two have certainly performed very well, 
considering how little time we had to train you." Taron added.
     Ranma Blue nodded as he handed the second medallion to Taron. 
"I really feel bad that we had to kill Gaizera, but I didn't see any other 
     "That was a near thing though. He almost had us." His brother 
added as he completed the healing ritual. When his Amazon wife 
removed the cloth, there was nothing left of the injury that indicated 
that it had ever occurred. The magic-using Masaki twin flexed his 
shoulder a few times to make certain everything was in working order. 
"So who is it that we have to face tomorrow?"
     Soren cocked his head to one side as if he was listening to some 
unheard voice. A moment later he had the answer. "According to 
what Kami-sama just told me, you'll be going up against Ekoja, the 
     "Puzzler?" Akane asked.
     "Yes, he's supposed to be the trickster of the Dark World. He 
loves to play pranks and create riddles. The problem is, his tricks are 
always lethal. He's got a twisted sense of humor and he's very 
cunning." Taron turned to the twins. "You two had better watch you 
     "Don't worry, we can handle it." Ranma Blue assured.
     "For the sake of the Earth, let's hope so." 
     Ranma Red and Ranma Blue looked at each other and each gave 
his brother a look of uncertainty. Things were only going to get 
     Sometime later, the two boys were busy sparring with each other 
in preparation for tomorrow's trial. As they threw punches and kicks 
that were far too fast for the human eye to follow, they struck up a 
     "So Red…" Ranma Blue said as he threw a punch at his brother's 
face. "How's the shoulder?"
     Ranma Red evaded the blow then countered with an axe kick to his 
sibling's head. "It feels okay. That healing spell I learned from Soren 
works really great." His expression saddened as he thought about 
their former enemy. "It's a shame that we had to kill Gaizera." 
     "Yeah, I felt bad enough when we thought Mousse and Ryoga 
were dead because of us." Ranma Blue commented as he dodged the 
kick and retaliated with a fast three-hit combination. "But… Soren 
and Taron did warn us that we may have to face that kind of decision 
when we started training. I didn't see any other choice than to kill 
Gaizera in order to win."
     The magical twin nodded as he blocked each strike and countered. 
"By the way Blue, how are you and Ukyo getting along?"
     "Great!" The elemental twin replied. "She and I are planning to 
move to Kyoto when this is all over and start up a new business. She 
was doing great in Nerima but she wants to live closer to her father. 
We've also been planning on a couple of kids along the way. Say… 
speaking of kids, what's the deal with you and Shampoo? I would 
have thought she'd be pregnant by now."
     Ranma Red blushed a bit as he evaded a roundhouse kick. 
"Uhhhh… I've been kind of using that birth control spell on her a lot 
lately. You see, I didn't want her to be like that during the Contract. 
Don't want to put her or an unborn child of mine in any danger."
     "Oh. Well, don't wait too long bro. I can tell that Shampoo really 
wants to get started on that family."
     "Yeah, I know. When this is all over, she and I are going to make 
up for that lost time."
     The twins continued with their high-speed sparring session as the 
rest of their family went about their daily business.
     Kasumi was in one of the healer's huts, learning about their 
methods of pressure points and herbal remedies. As a promising 
nursing student, she found what the healers had to teach her was of 
invaluable aid. Nabiki was chatting with one of the village's lore 
masters, while Akane was busy with her latest training lesson with 
Cologne. In the guest house of the Masaki family, Soun Tendo and 
Nodoka were discussing their plans to have the Tendo patriarch 
begin teaching classes at the dojo, while Ukyo and Shampoo were in 
another room, talking about their future plans with their new 
husbands. For the time being, everything seemed right with the 
     However, by the next morning, the Chosen Twins were once again 
standing before their mentors and ready to face off against the forces 
of the Dark World. Behind them, the rest of the Masaki clan and the 
elders of the village waited.
     "Be careful Airen!" Shampoo gave her mate a crushing embrace 
and kissed him. Ukyo followed suit with her husband.
     "Go get 'em, Ran-chan!"
     Both twins nodded as they stepped back and waited for Soren and 
Taron to transport them to their next trial.
     "Remember this, Red and Blue." Soren warned. "You'll be battling 
Ekoja on his domain and by his rules."
     "Good luck." Taron added as he and his brother waved their 
hands and the Chosen Twins disappeared in a flash of light.
At the palace of Sharoka…
     "Ekoja?" Makana asked in confusion. "Why him?"
     Sharoka smiled as he replied. "Well, so far the Chosen Twins have 
defeated our servants with overwhelming power and their weapons. I 
thought it might be a bit more of a challenge if they had to use their 
minds, rather than their physical abilities. Besides, that Ekoja had 
become far too arrogant for my taste and I thought it would be 
amusing for him to be taken down a peg or two."
     "As you wish my lord." Katoka said. "But the Contract…"
     "Has not changed." Sharoka said as he smirked while watching the 
viewing portal. The circular disk depicted a scene where the twins 
appeared before a tall, skinny tower that seemed to be a mile high.
     When the two Ranmas appeared at the foot of the great tower, 
which resembled the Tower of Pisa only straight up, a ghostly image 
appeared before them in front of the main entrance. The wraith was 
humanoid in appearance, but had pointed ears and slitted eyes. His 
face resembled an elf's, or more accurately, a gremlin's. He wore a 
medieval tunic and leggings and his skin was green. His body was 
skinny and had long black hair. He wore a funny-looking hat that 
resembled a jester's and the twins began to wonder if this was some 
kind of joke. The figure was no more than five feet tall and didn't look 
anywhere near as threatening as the Barada and Gaizera did.
     Both twins took out their weapons as Ranma Red asked. "You… 
wouldn't happen to be…?"
     "Ekoja. At your service." The being gave them a smart bow and 
grinned at them. "I am honored to meet with the ones who destroyed 
Barada and Gaizera. I must say that this game of ours will be very 
amusing! Mind you though, I will win our little contest. I have never 
been beaten!"
     "We've heard that claim before!" Ranma Red said as he ignited the 
Light Star Blade. Ranma Blue followed suit by powering up Storm 
     "My, my, my. You two are certainly eager to die. Well, let's not 
have you expire too soon. It wouldn't be that much fun, now would 
     "Let's get started!" Ranma Blue said as he and his brother started 
to advance on the apparition.
     Ekoja held up his hands and said, "Oh, there's no point in 
attacking me here. What you see is only an astral projection of 
myself. No, if you wish to battle the real me, you must get to the top 
of the tower." He gestured to the top of the structure, which was 
enshrouded from sight by thick, black clouds. 
     "Not a problem." Ranma Red said as he and his brother powered 
up their flight abilities and started rising upward. "We'll see you 
     Ekoja chuckled a bit as he watched the twins streak upward. When 
the two got to an altitude of two hundred feet, they suddenly faded 
from view. A moment later, the twins reappeared back on the ground. 
Both had a confused expression on their faces as they found 
themselves back from where they started. 
     "What the…?"
     Ranma Red looked at his brother, then up at the tower, then back 
to his brother again. He then reactivated his levitation spell and tried 
to go up the tower again. When he got back to where he had 
disappeared before, he suddenly faded from view, then reappeared 
beside his twin.
     "What's going on?"
     Ranma Blue's aura glowed with an intense light as he powered up 
his gravity powers. He then rocketed up toward the top of the tower 
at supersonic speed, leaving a deafening sonic boom in his wake. 
However, once her got to an altitude of two hundred feet, he 
disappeared. He then reappeared beside his brother just as the last of 
the sonic boom was echoing away.
     "What the heck?"
     Both twins were dumbfounded as Ekoja was laughing his head off. 
The champions of Earth turned at the trickster with glares that could 
melt lead.
     "What's the deal Ekoja?" Ranma Reds snarled.
     Ekoja's laughter died down to small chuckles as he began 
explaining. "Oh, I forgot to mention. My tower happens to be 
surrounded by a dimensional field warp that causes anything and 
anyone to be transported back to ground level, should they try to 
ascend the structure from the outside. If you want to get to the top, 
you'll have to go inside the tower and take the stairs."
     Both twins grimaced as they realized how high the tower was. 
Then Ranma Red remembered that they could use their flight ability 
once inside the tower. Unfortunately, Ekoja dashed his hopes by 
adding, "Oh, and if you think that using your flight abilities inside the 
tower is going to help, think again. I have a modified version of the 
dimensional warp spell inside, that will instantly transport you back 
to the first floor should you try to fly." 
     Both Ranmas were getting quite annoyed at Ekoja's jeers and 
couldn't wait to wipe that smirk off his face. The trickster gave them a 
smile that would have put the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland to 
shame. He then pointed to a large set of doors, which opened up 
before them.
     Both twins were now on edge as they approached the entrance. 
They looked back at Ekoja who said, "You have no choice Chosen 
Twins. I believe that Soren had told you that this is my domain and 
my rules. If you don't go inside, then it will be seen as a forfeit. Now, 
are going in or not?"
     Ranma Red and his bother looked at each other as they considered 
their options, which were nonexistent at the moment. They both took 
a deep breath and stepped inside.
     Only to be hurled outside when a tremendous blast of energy 
suddenly exploded in front of them. Both twins were blasted out the 
doors and sent back twenty feet to land on their backs. The blast was 
more insulting than painful and the Masaki brothers quickly got to 
their feet.
     "WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA?!" Ranma Red shouted as he and his 
brother faced the apparition of their tormentor. 
     "WHAT GIVES?!" Ranma Blue yelled.
     Ekoja chuckled evilly as he replied, "Didn't you know that it's bad 
manners to enter a person's home with unsheathed weapons? The 
protective spell on the main entrance will forcibly eject anyone who 
does not conform to household etiquette. I'm afraid that you two will 
have to leave your weapons here. Don't worry. I'll make sure that NO 
ONE touches them."
     "Yeah right." Ranma Red scoffed. "Like we're going to leave them 
with you."
     "Well, you can't enter the tower with them in your possession." 
Ekoja interjected.
     Both Ranmas were at a loss of what to do until Ranma Red 
thought up a solution. "So we won't be carrying them with us."
     "So you'll be leaving them with me?" Ekoja asked hopefully.
     "Not a chance." Ranma Red said as he deactivated his sword and 
turned to his brother. "Hey Blue, give me the hammer."
     "Are you sure you have a way?"
     "Yeah, don't worry. We won't be losing our weapons to anyone, 
especially to this jerk."
     Ranma Blue regarded his twin for a moment, then handed him 
Storm Striker. Ranma Red began focusing his energies and a moment 
later, the two weapons disappeared. 
     {"What did you do Red?"}
     {"I teleported them to the Realm of Infinity. We still have our 
mental link to them so we can draw on them for information. We 
might not be able to use them when we're inside, but it's better than 
leaving them with him."}
     Ekoja nodded as he realized what Ranma Red had done. 
"Impressive. I must admit that I didn't think you would try something 
like that. But remember if you ever call on them, the protection spell 
will throw you out of the tower. In any case, you may enter now." 
After saying these words, the apparition disappeared from sight.
     "You ready, bro?" Ranma Blue asked.
     "Let's do it." Ranma Red replied.
     The two raced into the tower, eager to overcome the challenges 
that awaited them.
     On Earth, the Masaki clan was watching anxiously as they saw 
their champions enter the tower.
     "Won't my sons be at a disadvantage without the hammer and 
sword?" Nodoka asked Taron.
     "They had no choice Ms. Masaki." Taron replied. "I'm afraid that 
Ekoja had planned to have them weaponless. We can only hope that 
your sons can adapt to whatever he throws at them."
     In Ekoja's tower, the twins were awestruck at what they saw. The 
inside of the structure consisted of a huge, winding staircase that 
went up against the walls and spiraled skyward. The top of the tower 
could not be seen and the staircase had an infinite number of doors 
lined up alongside it. 
     "Whoa! This thing is bigger on the inside than on the outside!" 
Ranma Blue commented.
     "Well, no time to stand here and enjoy the architecture. Let's get 
to the top!" Ranma Red said as he began racing toward the foot of 
the stairs. Ranma Blue followed suit. However, before they could 
start ascending the steps, Ekoja's apparition appeared before them 
     "Hold on a moment! If you think that you can get to the top by 
simply climbing those stairs, then you'll be wasting your time. Those 
steps lead to infinity, and will never get you to the top of the tower. 
Those doors are what you should be using."
     "Why?" Ranma Red asked suspiciously. 
     "Quite simple really. Each door is a gateway into a subspace 
pocket. There are three pockets that link together to form a direct 
path to the top. However, each pocket contains a riddle in which you 
must solve in order to move on to the next level. And I must warn 
you; each pocket also contains many dangers that are very lethal. 
And so the game begins with this clue. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!"
     The projection disappeared in a flash, leaving a ghostly message 
that floated before the twins, which read:
                                 64 SQUARES
     A moment later the message disappeared in a puff of smoke. 
     "Huh? What does that mean?" Ranma Blue asked.
     "I'm not sure." Ranma Red then looked up at the first door and 
noted that there was some writing on it. Noticing that it was in 
English, he used his translation spell on himself and his sibling. 
Looking further up, he noted that the other doors were also labeled. 
Gesturing up toward the staircase, he said to his twin, "Looks like 
that clue has something to do with those door labels."
     "Yeah, but which one?"
     "Hmmm, sixty-four squares… what does that mean?" Ranma Red 
said in thought. A minute later his brother began heading up the 
stairs while reading the labels.
     "Hey brother! Over here!"
     Ranma Red looked up and saw that Ranma Blue was up a few 
meters and holding the knob to a door. He raced up the steps to 
where he was and looked at the door's label, which had the number 
4096 on it.
     "Yeah, so what about it?'
     Ranma Blue smiled as he said, "When the message said sixty-four 
squares, I got to thinking that maybe that clue had a double meaning 
to it. What's sixty-four times sixty four?"
     Ranma Red groaned a bit, as math had never been their best 
subject. A minute later he replied. "Four thousand and ninety-six?"
     "Right! Four thousand ninety-six is equal to…"
     "Sixty-four squared! I get it!" Ranma Red said happily, as he 
comprehended the meaning of the clue.
     "You ready?"
     "Let's do it."
     Ranma Blue opened the door and the two entered the subspace 
pocket. They immediately began falling through an empty field of 
nothingness until they landed on a gigantic plane of black and white 
squares. The area was about the size of a football field. The twins 
picked themselves up and stared at the plane for a while. 
     "This must be the right place." Ranma Red commented.
     "How do you know?" Asked his brother.
     "I count sixty-four squares total."
     "Okay… got any idea what this place is?"
     Ranma Red focused on his connection with the Light Star Blade 
and a moment later had the answer. "It… looks like a giant… chess 
     "Chess? Is it something like shogi?"
     "In a way. Check it out with your own weapon for the rules of the 
game. I'll do the same with mine."
     After a few moments of contemplation, both boys had 
comprehended the rules and goal of the game. Suddenly, there was a 
flash of light and the astral image of Ekoja appeared.
     "Well done Chosen Twins! You have solved the first riddle! 
Now… let the game begin!"
     Both Masaki brothers were quite surprised when the surface they 
were standing on suddenly started rumbling. On one side of the 
playing field, gigantic stone figures in the shape of the white pieces 
appeared. On the other side, the black playing pieces also 
materialized and aligned themselves in accordance to their starting 
positions in the game. Both twins noticed that the pieces themselves 
were monstrous version of the normal characters in chess and almost 
seemed alive. The pawns had lizardlike faces and toted wicked-
looking spears. The rooks resembled huge turrets of castles and had 
tiny gremlins at their tops that were manning catapults. The kings, 
queens and other pieces were armed with swords, scepters and other 
blunt or sharp had-to-hand weapons. 
     Ekoja snickered as he then told them of the next clue. "Only you 
two can put the black king in checkmate. Move accordingly or it will 
be the end of the day."
     The image of the Dark World trickster disappeared which signaled 
the start of the battle. The white and black sides began advancing on 
each other and engaged in a parody of the Middle Ages. The rooks 
began shooting at each other with flaming fireballs. The pawns 
engaged in duels and the higher-ranking pieces each began shooting 
and cutting at anything that moved. Unfortunately, the magical and 
elemental twins were smack dab in the middle of it.
     Ranma Blue rolled to one side to avoid a fireball from the black 
rook. When he landed on a black square, it suddenly faded away and 
the elemental brother had to move fast to keep from falling through it.
     The twin barely managed to move to a square opposite to it. 
Fortunately, this square did not fade away. However, when a gigantic 
pawn moved to that square, it did not fall through. Ranma Blue 
puzzled at this development and wondered what was going on.
     On the other side, Ranma Red was also having difficulties. 
Jumping to the side to avoid a pawn's stab at him, he fell through a 
square that dematerialized beneath him. Luckily, he managed to grab 
the rim of the hole and swing himself out of the opening. He landed 
onto another square that also suddenly faded from view, but he did a 
fast vault to a side square that for some reason didn't fade away. He 
stood up and called to his brother.
     "Blue! What's going on?"
     "I'm not sure but right now I'm a little busy!" A viscous black 
queen that was firing sizzling bolts of energy with her scepter was 
savagely attacking Ranma Blue. He was jumping and swerving to 
dodge, taking special attention to where he was landing. Ever now 
and then, a hole would appear the moment he stepped on a square, 
then disappeared as soon as he got off it. He also fired bolts of 
elemental energy and chi blasts as soon as he got the opportunities 
to do so. Ranma Red began observing his sibling and noticed 
something. Close range shots were not having any effect on the 
black queen, but when Ranma Blue got two or three squares distant 
from her, his shots were felt. Furthermore, some of the squares that 
Ranma Blue landed on didn't fade away and those particular spots 
were where he was getting some hits through. Remembering back to 
Ekoja's clue, he took another look at the playing field. Noting how 
the pieces were moving and also realizing something else, he 
telepathically sent a message to his sibling.
     {"Blue! Get to the white square behind you and to your left and hit 
the queen hard with one of your stronger attacks!"}
     Ranma Red then gave him his idea by telepathic communication. 
Ranma Blue smiled, as he comprehended what his brother had figured 
out. Making a backflip, he neatly dodged another one of the black 
queen's attack and landed on the intended square. To his relief, it did 
not fade away as he fired off an elemental attack.
     A huge sphere of electrical energy was hurled at the black queen 
and impacted heavily against her. The figure let off a horrified scream 
as it was suddenly blown to pieces.
     "All right!"
     Ranma Red smiled as he leapt forward and twisted to his left. 
Landing on a black square that did not fade away, he then shot at a 
black pawn that was in front of him and a little to his right.
     The stream of confidence-powered chi blasts struck the relatively 
weak piece and reduced it to nothingness. Then Ranma Red jumped 
to the vacant spot and noted that it didn't fade away.
     On Earth, the observers were a bit confused with what was going 
     "I don't understand. How are they doing it?" Akane asked.
     "Are you familiar with the rules of chess?" Soren asked.
     Akane nodded. Some time ago Furinkan High had hosted a chess 
tournament. She, Nabiki, and Ukyo had competed against each other 
and Akane had been a little miffed when the okonomiyaki chef had 
beaten her but Nabiki had taken the championship.
     "Take a good look at the board and tell me what's missing from it." 
Soren asked.
     Akane looked back at the viewing portal. Ukyo and the others also 
looked at the playing field. Aside from the pieces that the twins had 
already destroyed, there wasn't anything that they could see that 
was unusual, relatively speaking.
     It was then that Ukyo noticed something. "Hey wait! I don't see 
any pieces that represent the white knights! I can see a couple of 
black pieces shaped like horses but no white ones!"
     "Exactly!" Taron confirmed. "The twins have figured out that 
THEY are the white knights. The name 'Ranma' means wild horse and 
the horse is the shape of the knight piece in chess. So that means 
that they have to move and attack like knights."
     Everyone who understood the game nodded as they watched the 
twins move across the board toward the black king. Every maneuver 
was two forwards and one-across, or one forward and two-across. 
Every square they landed on did not fade from view. Nabiki noted 
this and said, "Now I understand the rest of the clue. They have to 
move accordingly or it will be the end of the day or… 'Knight' fall!"
     Everyone groaned at the horrible, yet accurate pun.
     On the giant chessboard, the twins were systematically destroying 
the black army's pieces one by one as they advanced toward the 
main player, the black king. The important piece had already made a 
castle maneuver and was protected by a row of pawns and a rook. 
With a few smart maneuvers, the rook was eliminated and both 
brothers were in position to win the game. The black pawns tried to 
move forward to defend the king, but Ranma Blue took out the 
nearest one and was in its square to put the king into check. The 
piece tried to move away from his position but that was when Ranma 
Red moved up and blasted at the square nearest to it. 
     "Checkmate!" Ranma Red declared.
     There was a bright flash of light as the board exploded into a 
corona of whiteness.
     A moment later, the twins suddenly appeared at the staircase 
again. Looking down over the railing, they saw that they were several 
flights above from where they originally started from. They nodded 
to each other at having won the first game.
     Ekoja then appeared again and smirked at the two.
     "Impressive. Although, I could have ended that game in five less 
moves that you would have done. In any case, here is your next 
     He once again disappeared and left another ghostly message 
which read:
                            MINOTAUR'S SURPRISE
     "Say what? What's a Minotaur?" Ranma Red asked.
     "Hold on a second." Ranma Blue conferred with his weapon in the 
other realm, then had the answer. "It's a mythical beast from Greek 
mythology. It was half man, half bull. It was so dangerous that some 
guy put that thing in some… wait a second!"
     "What is it?"
     "What's another word for surprise?"
     "Uh… shock? Wonder? Awe?"
     "How about as a verb? To surprise someone is to AMAZE 
     "Amaze?" Ranma Red thought for a moment then realized what his 
brother was talking about. "I get it! We have to go look for a maze!"
     "Right! It fits in with the legend of the Minotaur. It was trapped 
within a labyrinth or a maze! Look for any door that has anything to 
do with a maze."
     The twins started searching for their next entry into subspace. A 
few minutes later, Ranma Red gestured to a door further up the steps. 
The label on it had a picture of an elephant with an arrow pointing to 
its eye.
     "What does an elephant's eye have to do with it?" Ranma Blue 
     "Just remember that Ekoja's clues always have a double meaning 
to them." Ranma Red said. "At first I thought it was some kind of joke 
when I saw it, then I remembered some of the poetry that we studied 
in English class. I seem to recall an old song lyric that said something 
about growing something that's as high as an elephant's eye."
     "Hey! Now that you mention it, I remember that too. I think it was 
about growing corn as high as an elephant's eye. So?"
     "So… what's another word for corn?"
     "Uh… you got me there."
     "Mr. Sanoko told us that they used to call corn… maize."
     "Smart thinking bro! Let's go!"
     The twins went through the door. As before, the two found 
themselves floating through empty space until they landed on solid 
ground. This time however, they found themselves before a gigantic, 
enclosed area the size of ten football stadiums. Ekoja's image 
appeared before them and smiled.
     "Bravo! Welcome to the Minotaur's labyrinth. You must get to the 
center of the maze and defeat the beast within. Mind you, there will 
be some more puzzles for you to solve and plenty of death traps! 
     The little imp disappeared as the gates to the maze opened up. 
Knowing that Ekoja had probably enchanted the maze so the twins 
couldn't cheat by blasting through it or run across the top of it, the 
Chosen Twins had no choice but to run the maze on foot.
     They began by going down a corridor to their left, then made a 
right turn. It was then that Ranma Red noted a sign on the wall that 
                            MARRIAGE DEFINITION
     "Huh? What does that mean?" Ranma Blue commented. He then 
looked ahead and saw the answer.
     From out of nowhere, a huge steel sphere that was the size of a 
wrecking ball came swinging toward them on a massive chain that 
was attached to the roof. The twins barely managed to evade it by 
leaping to the sides. The massive orb smashed into the wall behind 
them with a tremendous crash, making a gigantic hole in the wall.
     Picking themselves up, the identical Ranmas looked at the rubble 
and then at each other. 
     "Ball and chain." Both of them said as they began heading down 
another corridor.
Some time later and another sign…
                               LOSER'S AHEAD
     "Say what?" Ranma Red asked.
     "Look out!"
     Ranma Red turned to the direction in which his brother was 
gesturing. A huge blade came swinging at their necks like a 
     The gigantic blade was reduced to harmless fragments before it 
had a chance to give the twins a haircut at shoulder level.
     "Loser's ahead." Ranma Blue growled.
     "Ekoja's got one sick sense of humor. I'm not sure which is worse, 
the traps or the puns."
Yet another sign…
                          COMPLETE BAKERY GOODS
     Ranma Red and Ranma Blue were running like mad over the tops 
of a herd of stampeding horses that suddenly appeared out of 
nowhere. The equines were at least five times larger than normal and 
would have trampled the twins if Ranma Red hadn't realized what the 
clue had meant.
     "Now what was that clue again?" Ranma Blue asked as he and his 
twin jumped to the end of the stampede and watched the horses fade 
away into the distant shadows.
     "Another word for complete is thorough. Bakery goods usually 
consist of pies, cakes and… breads."
     "Thoroughbreds? Aw, give me a break!" 
     After a few more twists, turns and god-awful traps (Both the 
dangers and the puns), the twins found themselves in an open space 
with three doors. Each door was colored differently.
     "Which door?" Ranma Blue asked.
     "I don't know." Ranma Red answered as he paused to catch his 
breath. They had been fighting hard for the last ten minutes, evading 
lethal traps and monsters that roamed the maze. 
     "Blue, red or purple?"
     "We have a one in three chance to get it right."
     "Hold on a sec!" Ranma Blue said as he approached the red door. 
He placed his hand on the knob and turned it. He screamed out as the 
door flared with light and blasted him with Dark World energy. He 
was sent flying backward and landed on his rear.
     "Blue! You okay?"
     Ranma Blue shook his head to clear it then said, "Yeah, I'm fine." 
He got back up to his feet and then walked tentatively to the blue 
door. Placing his hand on the doorknob, he slowly turned it. This 
time however, the door did not lash back at him and opened up.
     "All right! That's the right door!" Ranma Red exclaimed as he 
moved forward.
     It was then that his brother grabbed Ranma Red's arm. "Hold it 
Red! It's too easy."
     "What do you mean? You opened up the blue door and nothing 
bad happened."
     "Yeah, but think for a minute. If the red door didn't open for me 
but the blue door did, that must mean that the color of the doors must 
correspond to our names. Ranma Red and Ranma Blue."
     Ranma Red thought for a moment, then nodded. "So… if I tried to 
open up the red door, I wouldn't get blasted?"
     "Right. And if I miss my guess, if we tried to go through either 
door, it would be the wrong one and something nasty would 
probably be in the next room. Ekoja's riddles and puzzles always have 
a double meaning to them." Ranma Blue looked at the purple door, 
which was between the red and blue ones. "It's the purple door."
     "Purple? But that door isn't colored to match our names."
     Ranma Blue stepped up to the door and placed his hand on the 
doorknob. He then gestured to his sibling. "Red! Come over here and 
put your hand on this knob with me."
     "Trust me."
     The magical twin looked at his brother with a questioning gaze 
then shrugged as he did as he was asked.
     "Okay bro? On three. One… two… three!"
     The Masaki twins turned the knob together. The door opened.
     "Let's go!" Ranma Blue said as stepped through entrance. Ranma 
Red followed.
     They followed the hallway until they reached a large room that had 
a huge golden statue. Both twins saw that the giant figure was 
shaped like a man but had the head and lower body of a bull.
     "It's the Minotaur!" He looked to his side and saw that his brother 
had a knowing smirk. "How did you know?"
     "Simple. If you mixed the colors red and blue together, you get 
     "I get it. Since purple is made of both colors, we had to both turn 
the knob to open that door."
     "Right." Ranma Blue nodded. "I also reasoned that since Ekoja 
was using warping spells on us, the red and blue doors would 
probably only let one of us go though them. Red with red and blue 
with blue. That probably would have been Ekoja's plan to separate 
     "But the purple door would allow for both of us."
     "And since that door was in the middle, it also meant that it would 
lead us to the center of the maze and the Minotaur. Another word 
that means middle is center."
     "Excellent, Chosen Twins!" Ekoja's apparition appeared again. 
"You are indeed worthy adversaries! I commend you for figuring out 
my little ploy. You are correct! The red door would have only allowed 
Ranma Red to enter and vice-versa with the blue door. And now, to 
exit the maze, you must solve the Riddle of the Minotaur AND defeat 
     The specter of the trickster vanished as the statue suddenly to 
tremble. With a bright flare of light, the Minotaur came to life and 
began to approach them. In one hand was a massive scimitar, and its 
eyes glowed with a fiery light. As it neared the twins, it began 
speaking in a low, inhuman voice.
     "I am essential for all reality to exist. I have served as both 
destroyer and creator. I have no definite measure, yet all things are 
measured by me. What am I?"
     Ranma Red and his brother looked at each other as they prepared 
to do battle with the Minotaur. The gigantic statue slashed at Ranma 
Blue with its sword. The elemental twin evaded the stroke and fired 
off a chi blast.
     The yellow fire ball streaked toward the golem, only to be 
deflected by its sword. Ranma Red rushed toward the other side and 
leapt high. Twisting in midair to avoid a slash, he cut loose with a 
hyperspeed flurry of punches and kicks.
     The magic Masaki brother blurred as he rained thousands of 
punches and kicks on the Minotaur's back. The cavern echoed as his 
blows caused the metal to resonate with a constant clanging. The 
statue however, was unaffected as it used the flat of its blade to 
knock him off like an insect. It was then that Ranma Blue made his 
     The blue-white lance of freezing energies slammed into the bull-
like creature, freezing it in a block of ice. Ranma Red followed through 
with a magical attack.
     With their powers growing every day, the Masaki twins were able 
to launch more powerful attacks without having to take the time to 
focus. The huge, dragon-shaped apparition shot forward and 
impacted heavily on the frozen Minotaur, causing it to shatter into a 
pile of twisted metal and ice cubes. 
     Ranma Red stepped back and waited with his sibling. Then 
amazingly, before their eyes, the pieces began to move toward 
themselves, joining together and reforming the beast. In less than 
three seconds, the Minotaur was on its feet again and advancing on 
them again.
     "Aw man!" Ranma Blue groaned as he and his brother leapt up to 
avoid a slash.
     {"We're going to have to use a stronger attack!"} Ranma Red 
shouted as he rolled to one side and launched a stream of chi blasts. 
     These chi blasts were deflected by the Minotaur's sword and 
headed toward the elemental twin, which he dodged. {"Yeah, but 
even if we do destroy this thing, then what? How do we get out of 
here? I wish this thing would just lay off. We don't have the time to 
play with this thing!"}
     {"Time? What a second! That's it!"}
     Ranma Red got to a position on the right of the Minotaur, while 
Ranma Blue was on its left. {"Get ready to let him have one of your 
stronger attacks."}
     {"You got a plan?"}
     Ranma Red nodded as he began focusing his energies. Minotaur 
looked to each twin, as if considering which one to attack. Finally, it 
turned and charged at Ranma Red.
     {"Now Blue!"}
     Ranma Blue flared up with energy and slammed a palm to the 
     A huge spike made of diamond erupted from the ground and 
impaled the Minotaur from below. The spike kept rising with its 
hapless passenger until it slammed into the cavern ceiling. The 
Minotaur let off a wail as its body was rent in two. The halves of the 
beast came falling back toward the ground as Ranma Red prepared 
his spell. When the two pieces landed, he noted that the lower half 
was making its way toward the upper half in order to rejoin with it.
     "Oh no you don't!" Ranma Red thrust his arms forward and let 
loose with his attack, while saying, "The answer is TIME! DOUBLE 
     Twin globes of elderitch energies leapt forward and sped toward 
their targets. They slammed into the halves of the Minotaur, driving 
them back into the cavern's walls. However, the parts exploded into 
clouds of dust with no hope of ever resurrecting the beast again. As 
the dust settled down, a glowing circle of light appeared at the other 
end of the cavern.
     {"That's it Blue! The portal to the next level!"}
     Ranma Red gestured for his brother to follow him. The two leapt 
into the circle and was instantly transported to the stairway of the 
tower. When they looked over the railing, they saw that they were 
even higher above their last position than before.
     "So how did you figure that one out Red?"
     Ranma Blue's brother nodded as he said, "Remember that Ekoja 
said that we had to solve the Riddle of the Minotaur AND defeat 
him? We were so busy trying to destroy that thing that we totally 
forgot the riddle he gave us."
     Ranma Blue thought for a moment then repeated what the 
Minotaur had said to them. "I am essential for all reality to exist. I 
have served as both destroyer and creator. I have no definite 
measure, yet all things are measured by me."
     "Right. The answer was TIME!"
     The elemental Ranma cocked his head in thought, then nodded. "I 
get it. Without time to use as a reference, things wouldn't exist. It 
takes time to create or destroy things, and we can't measure time 
since it goes on to infinity. However, we can measure how long 
things can exist, like our ages."
     "You got it. And when Ekoja said that we had to defeat the 
Minotaur AND solve the riddle, that meant that we had to give the 
answer and destroy it at the same TIME!"
     The magic-using twin's brother groaned. "You were right. I'm not 
sure which is worse, the traps or the puns!"
     "Well anyway, there's the clue to get us to the top." Ranma Blue 
gestured to another sign that floated before them.
                           WHAT IS A BED USED FOR?
     "What's that supposed to mean?" Ranma Blue asked.
     "It's used for sleep? Should we start looking for something that 
has to do with sleeping or dreaming?" Ranma Red began looking up 
the doors and their labels.
     Ranma Blue followed his twin, then stopped suddenly when he 
saw something on a door. "Hold on a minute Red. Look at this."
     Ranma Red turned around and saw the pictures that were 
inscribed on the door. "So what? It's a picture of a tree. What's that 
got to do with sleep?"
     "Okay, what's another word for sleep?"
     "Hmmm… snooze? Nap? Forty winks? Rest?"
     "Right. A bed is used for sleep or FOR REST!"
     "For rest? Oh… I get it! Forrest! Oh brother. Well, it matches with 
every other clue we've been handed. Let's go."
     The two opened the door and stepped inside. They were instantly 
transported to the edge of a dark and spooky forest. Ekoja appeared 
before them and said, "Welcome to the Forest of Despair! You must 
cross these woods in order to reach the portal that will transport you 
to the top of the tower where I'll be waiting. I am very impressed at 
you having gotten this far. I'll see you there… maybe." With a 
chuckle, the apparition disappeared. 
     Ranma Red and his bother took a deep breath before heading off 
toward a path that was before them. For what seemed like hours, the 
two traveled through the dense forest. As they reached the center of 
the forest, they came upon a clearing that had a sign, which read,
     Ahead of them was a fork in the road. The twins paused to 
consider their options.
     "We have to take one of these roads." Ranma Blue said.
     "Yeah, but which one?"
     "Hmmm, the unseen path..." Ranma Blue considered it for the 
     "Well, I don't think Ekoja would have left us with that hint unless 
it had something to do with the trials." He then took another pause. 
"Hey, wait a minute. Close your eyes."
     "Trust me."
     Ranma Red looked at his brother for a moment and then did so. 
     "Now use those techniques the Soren and Taron taught us to 
enhance our senses. Let's find out if we can find the right path. The 
clue says to find the unseen path, so that means that we have to use 
something other than our eyes."
     For a long while, the twins stood motionless as their auras glowed 
with red and blue hues. Then a moment later, they took a step 
forward on the pathway to the left. Suddenly, the right pathway 
disappeared as a huge object came crashing down crashing down 
with a thunderous impact.
     Both twins were startled as they opened their eyes and saw what 
had crashed down on the path where had not taken. It was a huge, 
forty-ton… safe?
     Ranma Red groaned as he said in a sarcastic voice. "Ha-ha. Really 
funny. Taking that path would have been the 'safe' way." He saw 
that if they had taken that route, they would have been crushed 
underneath the massive storage vault.
     "Yeah, and you can bet that the other path will have a lot of traps, 
hence the meaning unsafe, but it's the one we have to take." Ranma 
Blue commented as he and his twin started down the path. 
     As they went ever deeper into the deadly forest, they kept their 
senses on alert for any possible dangers. Every now and then, the 
two would encounter various obstacles and hidden traps. Among 
these was a barrage of poison-tipped darts, several hordes of nasty 
ogres, a group of flame-throwing beasts of various shapes and sizes 
and an army of trolls. Of course, the twins made short work of all the 
dangers they encountered, but they knew that Ekoja was only toying 
with them. It quite a while later when they came to the bank of a huge 
river. They saw a small raft waiting for them and another sign which 
was said,
                          DESTINATION OF THE GUILTY
     "Now what's that supposed to mean?" Ranma Red commented.
     "I got it." Ranma Blue said as he and his brother got on the raft. 
"Where do people go when they're found guilty of a serious crime?"
     "Uh, prison?"
     "Right. In other words, they're sent UP the river. He's directing us 
to go upstream."
     "Aw man!" Ranma Red moaned as he saw that the river was 
flowing at extreme speed and it was going to be hard work fighting 
those currents. Unfortunately, due to the threat of being transported 
back down to the first level, should they attempt to use their flight 
abilities, they had no choice but to make their way on the raft.
     The twins made quick progress as their enhanced strength allowed 
them to paddle hard against the currents and make their way up the 
river. However, that did not make their voyage any easier. The twins 
found themselves in constant battle to stay on the flimsy raft while 
beating off various monsters that inhabited the waters and the banks.
     "Look out!" Ranma Red screamed as a gigantic, winged lizard 
dive-bombed bombed them from overhead.
     The flying monster was encased in a solid block of ice and crashed 
into river, the gigantic splash almost caused the raft to capsize. It was 
then that Ranma Blue and his brother notice a huge black shape swim 
up and crush the frozen predator in its huge jaws.
     The Chosen Twins braced themselves as the water serpent broke 
through the surface of the water and then lunged at them.
     The mystic attack slammed into the water demon's head and sent 
it flying into a nearby whirlpool. The identical Ranmas paddled 
furiously to prevent themselves from being pulled into the swirling 
waters. The unfortunate water serpent was dragged down into the 
eddy and was gone from sight.
     With supreme effort, the two brothers managed to evade the 
serpent's fate, but were then swept toward some fast moving-rapids. 
     "Huh? I thought we were moving upstream!" Ranma Blue shouted 
as he used a chi blast to destroy a rock formation before their raft 
smashed into it.
     "Remember that Ekoja likes to warp things!" Ranma Red said as he 
used his chi ability to blast another river monster that was heading 
their way. He then saw a school of monstrous fish that resembled 
armored sharks head toward them. Looking behind them, he saw 
another group on a collision course with the first one. The problem 
was that they were smack dab in the middle. 
     Between keeping their raft afloat and defending themselves 
against the hordes of beasts that were attacking them from both 
sides, the twins had found themselves with their hands full. As they 
continually blasted the monsters and struggled to keep themselves 
from being dashed against the rocks, they were totally caught off 
guard when a large armored shark came up from below and smashed 
their raft apart. Both twins were pitched into the river as the predators 
dived in to devour them.
     The surface of the river thrashed about as the sharks went into an 
intense feeding frenzy. It seemed that the twins had finally been 
killed. However, a minute after the two had disappeared beneath the 
waters, there was a huge explosion as if someone had detonated a 
depth charge. The monstrous fish went flying, many of them already 
dead from sudden burst of chi energies. Several of them fell on the 
banks of the river, their carcasses flopping about like goldfish whose 
bowl had just been broken. Others splashed back down into the river 
and settled down on the river floor, later to be eaten by scavengers.
     Ranma Red and Ranma Blue came up a few minutes later and 
started swimming up the river.
A long time later…
     Both twins were beaten and had several cuts and bruises when 
they dragged themselves onto the bank. After a long a perilous swim 
up the river, fighting creatures that were too hideous to describe, 
they had finally made it to their destination.
     Ranma Red moaned as he took off his shirt and began wringing 
the water out. "Aw man! I thought we'd never get to the end of this 
     Ranma Blue nodded as he sat up and began assessing his body. 
Aside from a few superficial cuts and the lack of any broken bones, 
he and his brother were relatively fit to continue on. However, as of 
now, their stores of chi, mystical and elemental energies were getting 
low. Constantly fighting those water demons and swimming against 
the fast currents of the river had taxed them to their limits. It was then 
that he looked up and saw… it.
     It was a western style door that was just standing near the 
riverbank. Gesturing to his sibling, Ranma Blue began walking up to 
it. It was just a doorframe with nothing behind or in front of it. At first 
Ranma Red and his brother thought that it was some kind of joke, but 
then realized that this was where they needed to go. On the front of 
the door was a label that said 'Final Riddle.' Then suddenly, the label 
flipped itself over and showed the word on the other side, which said 
     "Well, this has to be it." Ranma Blue said.
     "Uh huh. Kinda strange that it's this easy. No riddles or any 
hidden traps. Maybe Ekoja's finally run out of tricks?"
     "I don't know, but we don't have anywhere else to go. We're at 
the edge of the forest and this is the only portal that I can see." The 
elemental twin took a deep breath and said, "Are you ready?"
     Ranma Red nodded as he said, "Let's do it."
     They reached out and grasped the doorknob, giving it a slow turn. 
When they found that it was unlocked, they slowly opened the door 
and stepped through it. As they had expected, the door was a 
dimensional portal and they were whisked away to the top of the 
     At the top of the Tower, Ekoja was waiting for the twins to arrive. 
He smiled as a bright flash of light appeared in the space before him. 
When it faded away, the two Ranmas found themselves face to face 
with their adversary.
     "Well done Chosen twins! No one had ever made it to the top of 
my tower before! I must commend you for solving my riddles and 
puzzles! You were indeed worthy adversaries."
     "What do you mean 'were?' We're not finished yet!" Ranma Red 
said as he and his brother took a stance.
     Ekoja snickered as he said, "Oh but I must insist on the past tense. 
Oh and by the way, look down at your feet."
     "Yeah, like we're going to fall for that one." Ranma Blue scoffed.
     "Don't say I didn't warn you." Ekoja said as he snapped his 
     The twins were about to charge their opponent when Ranma Red 
felt something grip his right ankle. Looking down, he saw a gristly 
hand emerge from the ground and wrap itself around his leg. Before 
he could power up his ki, another hand appeared and grabbed his 
other leg. Ranma started getting nauseated as he started to 
experience a familiar sensation. He could feel his energy reserves 
begin to drain as the hands grew in size and clamped themselves 
around his body.
     "Red!" Ranma Blue screamed as he rushed to his brother's aid. 
Unfortunately, two more hands burst from the ground, grew in size 
and clamped themselves around the elemental twin. He soon found 
himself in the same predicament as his sibling as his energies were 
being leeched away.
     Ekoja threw his head back and laughed as his enemies' powers 
were being drained. "Hah ha ha ha ha ha! I can't believe that you two 
fell for one of the oldest tricks in the book!" He was still snickering as 
he looked on the twins, who were struggling to free themselves from 
their bonds. "It's no use boys! Those hands were specially prepared 
for your individual energies. They happen to be modified versions of 
the Leech Dome. However, I have learned from the failures of 
Makana, Katoka and Barada. The hands that hold Ranma Red are 
specifically attuned his mystical energies while Ranma Blue is held 
fast by hands that drain elemental power. You can't rely on each 
other to break free this time! I have won! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!"
     "Don't count us out just yet, you jerk!" Ranma Red scoffed as he 
began focusing his energies.
     "Oh really? And what do you mean by that?" Ekoja said as he 
stifled a snicker.
     "These… hands stop elemental power, right?"
     "Yes." Ekoja said with a smug grin. "In a few minutes, they will 
drain every drop of elemental energy from your body, and your life 
force of course. I had it specifically made to your powers."
     "Well then…" It was then that the blue-shirted Ranma flared up 
with a red aura and let loose with a blast of mystical energy.
     Ekoja was taken by surprise as the Masaki twin let loose with a 
sudden burst of magical energies, causing the bony hands to explode 
into tiny shards which disintegrated into nothingness.
     "W-W-What?! This is impossible! You're not supposed to be able 
to do that!"
     It was then that the other Ranma burst free from his own bonds by 
causing flames to appear.
     Ekoja was more than shocked at seeing Ranma Red perform an 
elemental power and began stuttering. "Y-Y-You're not supposed to 
do that either!"
     Both Ranmas smiled as they began advancing on their enemy. 
Then the twin who was wearing the red shirt said, "Looks like YOU 
fell for an old trick! You see.. I'm not Ranma Red. THUNDERBOLT 
     A large blast of electrical energy blasted forth from the palm of the 
Ranma and blasted into the little imp, sending him back toward the 
edge of the tower.
     "And I'm not Ranma Blue! SPIRIT FIST!"
     The powered-up spectral fist sent Ekoja further back toward the 
edge. The Dark World trickster stopped himself before being forced 
off the tower. He got to his feet and staggered forward. "H-How?"
     Ranma Blue smiled as he said, "We used the old switcheroo on 
you. It was simple matter to change the color of our shirts to fool you 
while we were in that river."
     Ranma Red and Ranma Blue were underwater, using their strength 
and martial arts to keep the sharks at bay.
     {"Hey Red! We can't keep going like this! Every time we solve 
one of Ekoja's riddles, we use up more and more power, not to 
mention waste time!"}
     {"I know! He's wearing us down! We need a plan to catch him off 
     {"I got any idea! It's crazy but it just might work!"} Ranma Blue 
related his idea to his siblings as they began charging up their 
     {"You know… it's worth a shot! Let's do it!"}
End of flashback…
     Ekoja grinned as he considered the ruse. He had to admit, it had 
worked. "I am impressed! It was a simple yet effective tactic! But 
now, the games are over. Now, you will die!"
     Both twins readied themselves for the final attack as Ekoja took a 
ready stance. "Bring it on!" Ranma Blue barked.
     Ekoja chuckled as he said, "Oh I most certainly will. You see… 
what you see before you is NOT my true form. And now, you shall 
discover that I have been holding back my real power! Behold!"
     Ekoja's body began to glow with an intense light as his eyes 
glowed with an eerie green light. It was then that his body exploded 
into tiny gory bits as something burst out from within. At this 
moment, the Chosen Twins saw a twenty-foot monstrosity that 
loomed over them. Unlike the harmless-looking imp that had been 
tormenting them throughout the trial, this creature was anything but 
harmless. It was like a humanoid, but it had reptilian characteristics, 
including scales, a tail and a lizardlike head. Ekoja's jaw opened wide, 
revealing rows of sharp teeth and a forked tongue. Its hands had four 
fingers each and each digit had a sharp talon on its tip. 
     Ekoja let off a savage roar as his eyes suddenly glowed and 
released twin beams of green energies. Ranma Blue leapt high to 
dodge the blasts, then retaliated with a chi attack.
     The crescent-shaped blast sliced toward the monster, but Ekoja 
simply deflected it with a swipe of his claws. He then whipped his tail 
at Ranma Red with blinding speed. The magical twin ducked and 
rolled to the right. Raising a hand, he let loose with a spell of 
     Three lights appeared above the tower and were lined up in the 
belt pattern of the constellation of Orion. The hunter of legend 
appeared in a transparent image and let fly with a mystic arrow from 
his bow. After loosing the arrow, the hunter vanished from sight. 
Unlike Ranma Red's Soul Arrow attack, this projectile could cause 
physical damage and was far stronger. The arrow struck Ekoja in the 
chest, causing a large explosion that staggered the monster. 
However, Ekoja was made of sterner stuff and the journey to reach 
the top of the tower had taken much out of the twins. The attacks 
were far weaker than they should be.
     It was then that Ekoja opened his mouth and spat out a huge gout 
of green flames at the mystic martial artist. Ranma Red just barely had 
time to put up a mystic barrier, but that was when Ekoja rushed 
forward and used his eyebeams to shatter through the shield.
     Ranma Blue thought that he had a chance to get Ekoja while his 
back was turned and charge at him. His hands crackled with energy 
as he prepared to let loose with a sizzling electric attack.
     Ekoja suddenly smiled as he stopped his assault of Ranma Blue's 
brother and then used his tail to slam into the floor. The tower 
shuddered under the impact that caught both Ranmas off guard. 
They were momentarily unbalanced as the floor beneath them 
shuddered. With lightning fast moves, Ekoja grabbed both of them 
and the twins soon found themselves being crushed in the grip of the 
monster's massive hands.
     "Now you die!" Ekoja said as he continued to squeeze.
     Both Ranmas screamed out in pain as they felt their bodies being 
compressed. Their ribs began to creak under the intense pressure and 
it would only be a matter of seconds before they would snap. 
     {"Blue! It's time to give this jerk our other surprise!"}
     {"Go for it!"}
     Ranma Red began to glow with an intense light, but Ekoja just 
laughed as he said, "Struggle all you want! My grip is unbreakable! 
In a few moments, you and your twin shall be crushed like walnuts! 
Your powers are depleted and your little tricks won't work now!"
     Ranma Red managed to get an arm free as he smiled and said. 
"That… little switch we did before… was only part one of our plan. 
Here's part two!"
     The mystic twin focused his concentration and it was then that the 
Light Star Blade appeared in his hand and ignited its blade. Ranma 
Red swung down with the sword and the energy blade cut into 
Ekoja's arm. The transformed trickster howled in agony as his limb 
was sliced off. The sudden dismemberment caused his other hand to 
reflexively open. Once free, Ranma Blue summoned forth Storm 
Striker. Leaping high, he swung hard at Ekoja's head. There was a 
tremendous echo as the elemental hammer struck the giant lizard's 
head. Ekoja staggered back from the blow while his remaining arm 
clutched at the stump of the other.
     "It's… impossible! The spell… I cast…" Ekoja was in sheer 
disbelief as he stared at the twins.
     "Your spell only prevented us from taking our weapons INSIDE of 
the tower!" Ranma Red said with a smug look.
     Ranma Blue's expression mirrored his sibling's. "But we're not IN 
the tower any more. We're on TOP OF IT!"
     Both Ranmas charged at the wounded beast, intent of finishing 
him off. However, Ekoja was far from helpless. Despite the loss of one 
arm, and the granddaddy of all migraines, he still had oodles of 
power. He then started blasting at the twins with eyebeams, fire-
breath and power bolts from his remaining arm. The sudden barrage 
almost caught them off guard as they were forced to employ their 
weapons to parry and deflect the bolts and other energies.
     {"Man, he's still not going down!"}
     {"We're going to have to pull out all the stops! I may have a spell 
that'll stop him cold! Think you can keep him busy for a few 
     {"Just give me an opening!"}
     Ranma Red nodded as he charged at the beast. Ekoja started 
blasting at him, but the twin dodged each of the blasts, then set up 
for a slash to the trickster's eyes. Seeing that he was too close, Ekoja 
tried to swipe at him with his remaining arm. It was then that Ranma 
Red pulled back in a feint maneuver, then thrust out a palm.
     The sudden flare of superbright light was totally unexpected and 
at point-blank range, it was extremely effective. Ekoja was instantly 
blinded as Ranma Red jumped back to begin focusing his energies.
     Ranma Blue, seeing that Ekoja was temporarily disabled, charged 
forward and began slamming Storm Striker against his body. The 
night was alive with sound as the copy of Mjolnir dealt out massive 
amounts of damage. 
     Back where Ranma Red was, the mystic began chanting as he 
stood in a ready stance. He had sheathed his blade and was making 
slow, intricate motions with his hands.
     As soon as Ranma Blue heard the echoing tones of his twin, he 
knew what was about to happen. Storm Striker was also aware what 
was about to happen. The elemental twin leapt clear as Ranma Red 
continued to build power. The only person who was unaware of the 
imminent danger was Ekoja. He was still sightless due to the light 
spell and was now blindly thrashing about.
     Ekoja stopped thrashing about when he heard these words. He 
strained his eyes to clear them of the flashes that still clouded his 
     Ranma Red was enveloped in a pillar of light as he prepared to let 
loose with the spell. Ekoja trembled as his vision finally cleared. It 
was then that he saw his opponent fly toward him, his body alive 
with a brilliant corona.
     Ekoja barely managed to launch a barrage of power bolts, but they 
were as nothing to Ranma Red's attack. The fire-based energies were 
easily absorbed and added to the destructive power of the spell. 
Ekoja screamed as Ranma Red hit him head on.
     Ranma Blue ducked for cover as the two collided. The top of the 
tower was bathed in a torrent of heat and light. The stone ramparts 
began melting under the searing temperatures and many of the 
tower's structures crumbled. After a minute of total chaos, the 
conflagration began to die down. Miraculously, the tower was still 
standing after the explosion and finally, the eternal night of the Dark 
World was returned.
     Ranma Blue managed to pick himself up and he stared in 
amazement at what was left.
     The entire top of the tower had been reduced to a smoldering and 
blackened ruin. In the middle of the roof stood his brother and at his 
feet was the charred body of Ekoja. He slowly began walking over to 
them and was soon standing next to them. He bent over slightly to 
look at their opponent.
     "I don't believe it. He's still alive after all that?"
     Ranma Red nodded as he said, "Yeah, he's a tough bastard. But, 
he's too weak to fight back now."
     Ekoja was just barely conscious as he looked up at the ones who 
defeated him. In a strained and ragged voice, he spoke. "Well… it 
seems… that… I underestimated you. You… beat me."
     "Damn straight." Ranma Red commented as he nodded to his 
brother. "We've won the third trial."
     Ekoja's face was a disfigured mess, but he still managed to give a 
smile as he chuckled and said, "Who said… that you won the trial? I 
said… you have beaten me. That doesn't… mean that you'll leave 
this… tower alive. Heh, heh. You still haven't solved… the final 
     It was then that the tower began to tremble and shake. Both twins 
were put on alert as the entire structure shuddered. The tower began 
to sway as support pillars began collapsing and it would only be a 
matter of seconds before the entire thing would topple over.
     Both twins began powering up their flight abilities. Since they 
were already at the top, then the warping spell that Ekoja had set up 
would not apply to them. Ekoja chuckled as he felt his life force 
ebbing away. "Heh, heh. If you think… that you can just fly off the… 
tower, think again. Look above you."
     Both twins looked up and saw that the sky was shimmering with a 
transparent field.
     "It's not a very powerful… leech dome… since I used up a lot of 
energy… to trap you with those specialized… hands, but it will hold 
you here … long enough to… make… sure that you… will go with 
me." Ekoja's smile became even wider. "And if you… think that you 
could… survive the tower collapsing… think again. The energies you 
two… used to get up to the top… had been absorbed by the… tower. 
When the tower… collapses… then it will cause a massive chain 
reaction. You may… have beaten… me… but the Dark World… has 
the final victory!"
     Ranma Blue and Ranma Red looked at each other then approached 
the dying Dark World representative. "We haven't lost yet Ekoja. 
You told us yourself that we have to solve the final riddle."
     Ekoja gave off another short laugh. "Yes, if you can solve the 
riddle, then you'll be safely transported away. Good luck in finding 
the answer when you don't even know the question. I don't even 
what the last riddle is. To ensure that you would be killed, Sharoka 
himself had made up the final riddle for the trial. He didn't tell me 
what it was, so there's no point in trying to beat it out of me. Face it! 
You are doomed!"
     "Not really." Ranma Blue commented.
     Ranma Red nodded. "Yeah. We already know the answer."
     Ekoja's eyes became wide when he heard this. "WHAT?!"
     "We figured it out a long time ago. The door that led to the top of 
the tower was the final riddle. It even said so." Ranma Blue stated.
     "Since that door led us to you, then that means that you were the 
'answer' to that clue."
     "How can I be the answer?" Ekoja demanded, his life almost at an 
     "It's pretty simple." Ranma Red said. "This entire tower has been 
nothing but a long series of double meanings and warped 
     "You twisted words. You used warping spells to make things 
topsy-turvy. Everything was turned around, reversed and made 
backward to torment us and entertain you. You know what? Because 
of your inverted sense of humor, you forgot one thing. Because 
everything was the opposite of reality, to solve the final riddle, we 
must turn the answer around as well."
     "Stop speaking in riddles and TELL ME!"
     Both twins grinned as they had the trickster stumped. Then Ranma 
Red lowered the boom. "You were always so fond of using English 
words, since they can have a double meaning to them. You also liked 
to turn things around. Well, guess what? When we read the sign on 
the door, it flipped itself over. That means that the answer must be 
flipped over as well. Your own name spelled backward is the answer. 
E… K… O… J… A. Spelled backward, you are nothing more… than 
     Ekoja was stunned at the very ramifications of the final riddle. It 
was then that the Ranma twins faded from view and were gone, just 
as the tower shuddered its last and toppled toward the ground. Ekoja, 
driven mad by the entire event, burst into a bout of insane laughter. 
An instant later, the entire structure exploded in a massive fireball of 
energy and the body of the trickster was obliterated, along with his 
     At ground level, Ranma Red and his brother reappeared at a 
distance of five miles from the explosion. They checked themselves 
over and saw that they were relatively unharmed. A small flash of 
light caught their eyes and they looked down to see another 
medallion at their feet. This one had a question mark engraved on it. 
Ranma Blue bent over to pick it up. Once he had it in his hand, the 
two were transported back to the Earth realm.
     At his castle, Sharoka was laughing his head off when news of 
Ekoja's defeat reached him. Nearby, the demonic sisters were a bit 
nervous over the three victories of the Chosen Twins.
     "My lord. Shouldn't we be more concerned with the fact that the 
twins have now won three of the trials?" Katoka asked.
     Sharoka calmed down, his guffaws dying down to slight chuckles. 
"You two need not worry about that." He gestured over to where the 
mysterious orb was, its gleaming surface seemed to be ready to 
release the pulsating energies within it. "After all, you two will be 
facing off against the twins in the next trial."
     Both sisters were surprised at this development. "Us?" Both said 
at the same time.
     Sharoka nodded as once again burst into hideous laughter.
To be continued…
Author's Notes
     Whew! It took longer than I thought to finish this chapter. In any 
case, we're coming close to the home stretch and I'd say that the 
story has about three more chapters to it before it ends. Due to the 
other projects and the start of school again, I've been getting 
sidetracked lately but I will try to keep on top of things. I'd like to 
thank all my readers for sticking by this story for this long. 
     I was inspired to write this chapter after seeing Batman Vs the 
Riddler on TV.