RUNE SOLDIER RANMA
Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 and Rune Soldier Louie are series that I had nothing to do with in creating.
< >: Thoughts
Jenny smiled as Ranma and Melissa stood before her. Both were feeling less than enthusiastic over what had just happened an hour ago.
“Mistress Jenny! This is against my will!” Melissa protested as she still could not believe this unfortunate turn of events. She had been hoping for a TRUE hero, not... HIM!
“Oh yeah, like I wanted THIS to happen.” Ranma said with sarcastic disdain, as he crossed his arms and refused to look at the snobbish, know-nothing-know-it-all priestess. On his right shoulder was Shin, and in his right hand was the remnants of his magic wand. The mystical instrument had broken in half during his fall, thereby becoming useless as a medium for Ranma to focus his mystical abilities.
However, the loss of his wand was not his greatest concern at the moment. To be suddenly declared as someone’s chosen hero without his permission, made him have flashbacks of that fateful day, when his idiotic father Genma had sprung that ‘unite the schools’ crap, and had gotten him saddled with an uncute tomboy for a fiancée. Hell, that time when he had glimpsed Melissa’s naked body in that pool was like having deja vu with Akane in the bathroom. Though Melissa did have bigger...
<Argh! I shouldn’t even be thinking about that!>
Melissa glared at her ‘hero’ with total disgust. What had she done to deserve this? Wasn’t she one of Mylee’s most faithful? She knew all of the ancient scriptures by heart. She had always followed the way of Mylee with the utmost devotion. Had she not earned a worthy champion for such loyalty?
<This is against my will! This is against my will! This is against my will!>
Jenny continued to smile at the pair, despite the looks of anger and aversion on their faces. She had always hoped that her two most favorite pupils would get together as she knew that that they would eventually do great things. To have Ranma as Melissa’s champion was absolutely perfect. She couldn’t have asked for a more ideal scenario.
“Well now, I did not expect Mylee to give you a champion so soon, Melissa. Yet I must admit, I couldn’t have expected a better choice than my little Ranma.”
Ranma sweat-dropped as he became uncomfortable with Jenny’s endearing reference to him. “Aw c’mon Aunt Jenny. I wish you wouldn’t call me that.”
“AUNT JENNY?!” Melissa exclaimed.
“We’re not really related, but he’s always called me that when he was growing up.” The Head Priestess explained.
“You know THIS... PERSON?!”
“Yes indeed. I helped Master Carwess tutor him during his enrollment at Ohfun’s Magic Academy for over seven years. I watched him grow into this fine young man. I was unaware that you two already knew each other. How very convenient. This is even better than I hoped.”
“Mistress Jenny! You can’t expect me to accept HIM as my Chosen Hero!” Melissa protested as she tried to think of some way out of this fate, which in her mind was worse than death.
“And why not?” Jenny asked innocently, as she smiled at her disciple’s state of agitation. “Did not the mighty Mylee give you an unmistakable sign of your hero’s arrival?”
“Well... yes.” Melissa reluctantly admitted. The psychic message she received had been undeniable.
“And you are a loyal priestess of our order, are you not?”
“Yes.” At this point, the young girl’s head began to bow down in defeat. She had a feeling as to where this conversation was going.
“You know the ancient texts as well as I do, Melissa.” Jenny stated firmly. “The will of Mylee must be upheld. Ranma IS your hero, and you shall serve as his spiritual guide. You will also aid him in ALL aspects. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes.” Melissa replied in the quietest of whispers. Her body shuddered a bit as she thought of the kinds of duties she may be forced to ‘perform’ for him.
Fortunately, Ranma was not that kind of person and wanted out of this arrangement as much as she did. “Aunt Jenny, I really don't think this will work out. This was just one big accident!”
Jenny shook her head. “Accident? I think not, Ranma. The will of Mylee moves in mysterious ways and I believe that the two of you were destined for great things. I can imagine some high adventures for the both of you in the near future.”
“But I work alone. I’ve done fine so far and besides, the last time I went on an adventure with her, she...”
The Head of the Temple of Mylee held up a hand, silencing the young martial arts mage. She then gestured for Melissa to wait outside in the hallway. The younger priestess nodded and bowed before exiting. When the door closed behind her, Jenny nodded for Ranma to take a seat. When she sat down at her desk, she waved a hand over a large crystal that was mounted on a small stand.
Ranma nodded as he recognized the artifact as a Silence Stone, which enveloped the room in a soundproof barrier, thereby preventing any eavesdroppers from overhearing their conversation. Shin decided to leave his shoulder and land on the desk. Jenny smiled as she reached out to stroke the Rune Cat. Shin purred contentedly as he curled up in front of her. Then Ranma’s childhood sword instructor spoke.
“Ranma, I know that you are displeased over these developments...”
“Displeased is putting it mildly. If you knew what that know-nothing-know-it-all and her friends put me through, then you’d understand.”
“I would like to hear about it sometime. It must have been a very interesting adventure.” Jenny commented with a slight smile, then became a bit more serious. “However, I would like you to do me a favor.”
“I want you to be Melissa’s hero.”
“What?! Why would I want to be the hero to that pompous, snobbish, prissy, whiney...” Ranma stopped in his rant as he realized that was no way to speak of someone in front of the head of the Church of Mylee. He took a deep breath to calm himself down. “Sorry Aunt Jenny. I guess I still need to work on my manners.”
“Indeed you do, Ranma, but in this case, I want you exactly as you are now, especially when you deal with Melissa.”
“Huh?” To Ranma, this was a surprise. Usually Aunt Jenny would chide him on his boorish ways. Habits from his old life had been hard to break, despite being given a second chance to re-live his childhood. “You’re not going to lecture me this time?”
“No. The one who needs a lecture right now... is Melissa. Actually, a lesson in humility would be more appropriate.”
“What do you mean?”
“An object lesson in reality. Melissa is the most promising of my disciples. The other priestesses look up to her as a role model. She is quite knowledgeable of all of the texts of our order and she has great confidence in her position as the Lead Priestess of Mylee. However, she is sorely lacking in one particular aspect, in which I believe you can teach her.”
“What is that?”
“Melissa is very narrow-minded, especially when it deals with the outside world in general. She expects that the world works in the way that she interprets it. She clings to certain ideals that are quite naive, and she needs to be more open-minded, if she is to deal with the trials in the near-future.”
<Hmpf! Sounds like a certain Uncute Tomboy I knew of.>
Jenny continued. “I fear that she has been sheltered too long at this temple and assumes that the outside world to be like those childhood tales she always loved. She had been thinking that her hero was some perfect knight-in-shining armor. You know as well as I do, that NO ONE is perfect.”
“Hmpf! She should get her head out of those fairy tales, or they’ll rot her brain.” Ranma commented off-handedly.
“Exactly.” Jenny agreed. “That’s what I like most about you, Ranma. You tell things like they are, despite the fact that some people may not appreciate being told when they are wrong. And I believe that once Melissa becomes aware that the world is NOT like those silly fantasy stories, then she will be a better person because of it.”
“Well, I don’t know about this, Aunt Jenny. I’m not exactly the easiest person to get along with.” Ranma admitted.
“Which is exactly what I’m counting on. Melissa must learn that all people are different and that she should not judge everyone according to those silly ideals of hers. I know that your manners are crude and you can be quite a handful at times, but I also know that you have a good heart and you will always do what‘s right. I‘m certain that Melissa will see those good qualities in you, just as I‘m certain that you will see that she has some assets as well.”
“Well, I’m still don’t know. Besides, I’ve got to get a replacement for my wand and...”
“Perfect! Melissa shall accompany you.”
“And Ranma? Please, don’t be TOO hard on her. However, be sure to show her that she has to take her lumps, just like everyone else.”
“WHAT?!” Melissa gasped as she had just received her orders from Jenny.
“You shall accompany your Chosen Hero on his quest to replace his magic wand, which was broken during his... ah, revelation to you.” Jenny said simply.
“Are you already abandoning your duty to Mylee, Melissa?” Jenny stressed with a hard tone.
“It is a very simple task and I expect you to perform it to the best of your abilities. Ranma plans to head out in the morning tomorrow, so I would advise you to prepare for it.”
Melissa tried to protest further, but Jenny simply walked away with no further argument over the subject.
<THIS IS AGAINST MY WILL!> She mentally screamed. At this point, she really needed a couple of shoulders to cry on. She began to wonder where her comrades Genie and Merrill were.
Speaking of whom...
“That jerk!” Merrill growled as she and Genie trudged toward the temple. The two of them were reeking of manure, urine and other types of sewage. After being swept away by Ranma’s Hiryu Shoten Ha Technique, the two of them had landed in one of Ohfun’s main cesspools.
Genie growled. She still couldn’t believe that she had been unable to touch him, even with her best sword techniques. She was considered a top-notch soldier and warrior, but Ranma had made her look like a rank amateur! And then he went and cheated with that wind spell! In her mind, she could still hear his taunts. Her thighs weren’t THAT thick!
“I’m going to KILL that bastard!” The warrior-woman swore.
“Get in line! I get to kill him first!” Her diminutive associate stated. He was going to regret calling her a stick!
Both girls continued to grumble as the walked toward the Temple of Mylee. Nearby crowds of people gave the two a wide berth as they caught a whiff of the sewage that still clung to them. Several food shops had to close early, or the stench would spoil their wares. When they came to the gates of the temple, they saw Melissa sitting at a bench in the garden. When they came close to her, they could see that the priestess was not in a happy mood as she was sobbing at a level to give Soun Tendo a run for his money.
The Laughing Swan...
“You’re kidding!” Ila exclaimed after Ranma had told her of what had happened at the temple. They were both sitting at their usual table. The bespectacled girl was stroking Shin, who was napping in front of her.
“I wish I was!” Ranma stated as he downed his sixth mug of ale. “One minute, I’m fighting off a couple of uncute tomboys, and the next minute, I find myself stuck with that know-nothing-know-it-all priestess! Aunt Jenny won’t annul the arrangement, and I can’t get out of it! Damn! I had enough trouble whenever Pops engaged me without asking! Now this happens!”
“Hmm? What are you talking about? And what did Master Carwess do?”
Ranma shook his head while pinching the bridge of his nose. He had forgotten that Ila didn’t know about his past life. “Ah, sorry Ila-chan. When I said Pops, I didn’t mean Master Carwess. I was talking about my real father. In any case, that’s not important. What is important, is that I REALLY don’t need this ‘Chosen Hero’ business, and I certainly don’t want that priestess and her friends on my case. You wouldn’t happen to know any way I can get out of this, do you?” He drained another mug and let the alcohol take effect.
Ranma’s friend shook her head. “No, I’m afraid I don’t. From what I read about the Church of Mylee, this Chosen Champion ceremony is one of its most sacred acts, and nothing short of death can separate a priestess and her hero. It looks like you’re stuck.”
“Terrific. Jus’ perfeck.” Ranma groaned as he signaled to the waitress to bring him another round.
Ila became concerned at the amount of alcohol that her friend was taking in. At this rate, he was going to pass out on the table. She tried to make light of the situation. “Well, perhaps this won’t be so bad, Ranma. Maybe if you got to know her better...”
“Hah! I already know more about her... (hic).... in wun day, and it was more than I cared to know!” Ranma took another swallow and one could see that he beginning to reach his limit. His coordination was slipping and his speech was getting slurred. “She’s nuthin’... (hic)... but a know-nuthin’-know-it-all! She ain’t gut a clue.... as to what a real hero’s like!”
“Please Ranma, I think you’ve had enough.”
Ranma kept on talking, without any indication of hearing Ila. “She goes on... and on... and on... abou.... (hic)... whut a hero’s shupposed to be! He’s gut... t’be.... some goody-goody... (hic)... and shupposed to be absholutely... pherfect! Phah! You ever hear of anyting sho... stoopid?”
“Uh... yeah. Ranma, I really think you should stop now...”
“Take it fro’ me! Doze kinds of people don’t last long in da real wurld! She don’t know whut she’s talkin’ abou... an’ further more... (hic)... she ain’t gut no right... to say whoze a real hero... (hic)... ’cause she don’t know nuthin’ a t’all! She ain‘t no hero expurct! And dose friends of ‘ers don’t know much more. Hell, they’re jus’ as clueless! I wuz doin’ hero stuff before I met them! Most of duh time... (hic)... I had to save thizzzz Uncute... Tomboy... from eve’body else... and I didn’t gets no reshpect!”
Ranma, please! I really think you should stop.”
“Aw, a little drink now n’ den don’t hurt... nobody! Tendo-san always... did it, eshpectactly when he went on abou’ that stoopid... (hic)... pledgie... thingy...”
Ila could only shake her head and sigh as she gazed upon Ranma’s unconscious form. Only something that really bothered him would make the normally disciplined martial artist lose himself in an alcohol binge. She was curious about what Ranma talked about before he passed out. She knew very little about his past life and this new information made her even more interested.
Shin awoke from his catnap, padded over to where his master lay and attempted to rouse him by licking his face.
Tomorrow was going to be a big day.
The next day...
“I can’t believe you’re actually going to go through with this!” Genie exclaimed as she and Merrill stood by the Mylee priestess at the front of the temple.
Jenny’s disciple sighed despondently as she awaited for the arrival of her... hero. She was most definitely NOT looking forward to meeting up with Ranma gain. “I... have no choice. The will of Mylee... must be upheld. The fact that this is goes against MY will... is irrelevant.” She let off another tired sigh. “You two don’t have to come with us, you know.”
“What? And leave you alone with that jerk?!” Merrill exclaimed. “No way! Besides, Genie and me both have a score to settle with him for what he did to us yesterday and the day before!”
“Yes. And THIS time, he won’t have any magic to cheat with.” The warrior-woman added as she fingered the hilt of her sword at her hip.
“Hey! That’s right! He can’t do any magic without a wand!” Merrill said with a wicked grin. Ooh, sweet revenge was at hand. It was a well-known fact in Ohfun that magic was usually cast by using some kind of medium to focus one’s power and concentration. Objects such as medallions, potions or wands, were the most effective. And since Ranma was now looking for a new wand, that meant that he couldn’t use magic. That meant no wind spell or any other kind of battle magic... tee-hee!
Unfortunately for Genie and Merrill, normal rules usually didn’t apply when it came to Ranma, but they would soon find out the hard way.
At that moment, Melissa stiffened as she caught sight of two people approaching the temple. She recognized the red-haired, bespectacled girl as the sorceress who had introduced her to Ranma. Oh, if ONLY she had accompanied them, instead of... HIM!
Ranma groaned a bit as he was having one HELL of a hangover. It was not the best way to start off a new quest, but there was no help for it. He didn’t have any herbal remedies at the moment, and decided to live with the pain, as a way to keep his mind off the headaches that were sure to come from this adventure.
<Speaking of headaches, here’s two more.> Ranma thought as he caught sight of two familiar faces.
“You!” Both Genie and Merrill snarled as they glared at the one who had caused them so much of their recent miseries. Oh, they were going to enjoy making him suffer.
The magician-mage winced as he felt another twinge in his skull. No doubt about it, this was definitely going to be a trip to Hell.
Melissa became revolted by the condition of her champion. It was obvious that he had been drinking the previous night and couldn’t possibly be in any shape to go on a quest. Just what did she do to make Mylee punish her so?
Ila saw that the tension between the two sides and tried to keep things peaceful, at least until they were on their way. Putting on a smile, she greeted the trio. “Hello again. I hear that you were going to be accompanying Ranma in getting a replacement wand. I wanted to make certain that you all get a good send-off and give you some advice. The place you are going to is very dangerous, but it’s the only location where he can get some mystic wood to make a new wand. I’m glad that Ranma will have some people looking out for him.”
The three women gave Ila a nod, while still giving her friend stern looks. Then Merrill asked her a question.
“Say, I want to know something. Is it true that you need a magic wand in order to cast spells, like say... fireballs and wind attacks?”
“Well, yes. Those kinds of battle magic do require a very powerful medium in order to project them. Ranma can’t cast mystical flames or summon up the wind spirits without his wand. He’s at a bit of a disadvantage without it. So you can understand why it’s important for him to get a new one.”
“Oh sure. I can understand.” The thief took on a sweet, yet sinister look. Though Genie hid her expression well, she too was thinking of certain ideas of revenge.
As for Ranma, he was just wishing for the trip to start. He wanted to get this over with as soon as possible.
Some time later...
“Are we there yet?” Merrill asked as the group made their way through the forest heading toward an area, which was considered forbidden, due to the dangers it held within its green depths.
“We’ll get there, when we get there.” Ranma growled as he led the way.
“Hmpf! I’ll be he doesn’t even know where to go.” Genie sneered as she and her compatriots followed the martial arts mage.
“Oh? And I suppose Ms. I-Can’t-Fight-Without-A-Weapon knows the way to the Enchanted Tree?” Ranma said casually, not at all concerned with the short-tempered female’s inevitable reaction. He was used to such things by now.
The group stopped as Genie snarled and tensed up. Her right hand went to her sword hilt, drawing it halfway out of its scabbard. “And what’s that supposed to mean?!” She took great offence to Ranma’s disdain for her fighting skills. She had worked hard to perfect her techniques and abilities as a warrior and this arrogant cretin dared mock her battle prowess?!
Ranma shrugged his shoulders, as he didn’t even bother to turn around to face her. “Oh, put that thing away. We both know that you don’t have a chance of beating me with it. I already proved that yesterday.”
“Only because you cheated with magic!” The red-haired paladin stated as she drew her sword out and backed off a bit to get some fighting room.
Both Merrill and Melissa also backed away as they knew that things were about to get violent. Though a part of her wanted Genie to tear Ranma apart, she was still a priestess of Mylee and she had to stop it before things got out of hand.
“Genie, please! We can’t just...”
“Shut up, Ms. Know-Nothing-Know-It-All.” Ranma said as he turned about and let his pack drop to the ground. He then motioned for Shin to get out of the way. The Rune Cat understood his master’s command, jumped lightly off his shoulder and sat down on a nearby boulder.
“What?!” Melissa gasped. It was bad enough that she was stuck with him as her hero, but did he HAVE to keep on insulting her?!
Without taking his eyes off his opponent, he addressed the priestess with a stern tone. “Stay out of this, Melissa. I may not like this ‘hero’ business any more than you do, but it looks like we’re all going to have to work together. So we might as well clear the air and establish who’s the best in this group, which is of course... me.”
“You don’t have your magic to help you this time!” Genie declared as she prepared to run him through.
“And YOU don’t know squat as to who you‘re messing with.” Ranma retorted as he got into a basic stance. “So come on, Greenhorn. Impress me.”
“AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHH!” The enraged swordswoman charged in.
“Well, that was a fun ten seconds.” Ranma commented as he dusted off his hands and went over to pick up his pack and Rune Cat.
“YOU BASTARD! YOU CHEATED WITH MAGIC AGAIN!!” Genie screamed out as she was on the ground on her belly, with her wrists hogtied to her ankles with her own sword belt. She struggled to free herself, but the position she was in left her with no leverage. Her sword was laying a few feet away and out of reach.
Merrill and Melissa stood by in shock, after witnessing Ranma effortlessly disarm their comrade and tie her up, with a speed that couldn’t have been humanly possible. They began to wonder if Ranma knew of a kind of magic that did not require a wand.
“I didn‘t use any magic, nor do I need any to handle somebody with your skills.” Ranma shrugged, while ignoring Genie’s cries of outrage, as he calmly walked up to her and knelt down. He then reached out with his right hand and flicked his middle finger at her nose as an insult. This act especially got her temper flaring.
“When I get my hands on you...!”
“You’ll end up losing, again.” The martial artist stated as he showed no signs of being concerned at Genie’s threats. “You’re not half-bad in a fight, but your skills need a LOT of improvement. You tend to overextend your reach, thereby leaving yourself wide-open to a counterattack. Your recovery time is way too long, and your reflexes are like a dead slug’s. All that strength means nothing if you can’t use it. You might as well send an engraved announcement to each of your moves, judging by the way you telegraph them. However, your MAIN problem is that you suffer from the same weakness as all weapon users. Separate you from your sword, and you’re screwed. Take it from someone who knows. Swords and such are only extensions of your TRUE weapons.”
He held up his fists, and then patted his right thigh, indicating his legs. Then he tapped his left temple with an index finger.
“If you can’t first use the weapons you were BORN with, then don’t BOTHER picking up a sword.”
With that, Ranma simply stood up and walked away, heading in the direction of the Enchanted Tree. He left Melissa and Merrill to free their friend. The redhead got up in a huff and looked toward her fallen blade. However, just as she was about to lunge for it, Ranma called back to them without looking over his shoulder.
“Don’t even think about it, you Uncute Tomboy. I’ll make you EAT that sword next time.” (1)
“He cheated! I KNOW he did! There’s NO way he could have beaten me without a weapon!” Genie snarled as she and her friends walked a few meters behind Melissa’s ‘Valiant Champion.’
“My, my, my! What a short memory the Uncute Tomboy has.” Ranma remarked off-handedly, then held up his right hand with three fingers extended. “Considering that I’ve already beaten you three times without a weapon.”
“You cheated with magic! I KNOW you did!” Genie accused.
“Hmpf! Typical! Just like all the other Uncute Tomboys I’ve met. They can’t admit when they’re wrong, and they won’t ever admit when somebody is WAY better than they are. Story of my old life.”
“And what are you going to do about it, Ms. I-Can’t-Fight-Without-A-Weapon? Face it. You can‘t beat me. End of story.”
“I can’t believe you’re so... cold!” Melissa said with slight disgust.
“Oh? And how do you figure that? All I’m doing is stating a fact.”
“How could you EVER be considered to be a hero by the Great Mylee?!” The priestess exclaimed as Ranma’s indifference REALLY started to get to her. Proper manners aside, this boorish, uncouth, crude lout was making her lose her composure and patience. (2)
Ranma sighed as he stopped to face Melissa. “And exactly WHAT is supposed to make a hero, Ms. Know-Nothing-Know-It-All?”
Melissa was at the end of her rope as she told him exactly what a proper champion should be. “A TRUE hero, is EVERYTHING that you’re not! I’ve never met anyone who was so crude, ill-mannered, uncultured, and absolutely uncivilized in my entire life!”
“So what you’re saying is that your ‘valiant champion,’ should always follow the rules, is courteous, courageous, always rescues the damsels in distress, virtuous, never lies, wouldn’t even think about cheating, and is the paragon of purity and chivalry! Right?”
“Of course! That is a TRUE hero!” Melissa said with a smug look, thinking that she had finally gotten this lout to understand. However...
“BWAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! OH THAT IS SOOOOOOO FUNNY! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! MAN! I NEEDED A GOOD LAUGH TODAY! WAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!”
Ranma leaned against a tree and started to pound the trunk with his fist. He continued to chortle and chuckle for a while. Even his cat got into the act as Shin let off an amused meow.
Melissa and her companions stood in disbelief as the warrior-mage continued to laugh his head off.
“OH MAN! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! THAT IS RICH! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! OOH! LOOK OUT VILLAINS! HERE COMES A ‘TRUE HERO!’ YOU BETTER SURRENDER NOW, BECAUSE HE KNOWS PROPER ETIQUETTE AND HE’S SUPPOSED TO WIN! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! OH PLEASE!”
“I do not see what you find so funny about what a true champion should be!” Melissa glared at the still-chortling martial arts magician.
Ranma finally calmed down and snorted a bit before walking again. He then gave Melissa some advice, though he knew she’d probably ignore it. “Words from your valiant champion, Ms. I’m-An-Expert-On-What-A-True-Hero-Should-Be. Get your head out of those fairy tales, before they rot your brain!”
The priestess became highly insulted at this point and wished even more desperately that this adventure would end.
Ranma nodded as he looked toward the horizon and noted the setting sun. The Enchanted Tree was still more than half a day’s walk from their current location. He sighed as he wished he could use Shin’s teleportation power to get him there. However, the Rune Cat had his limits. He could only teleport his master to places he had already been to, or within his eyesight. Furthermore, the feline could only use his teleporting ability a certain number of times a day, so it was just as well that he saved his power.
“Okay, it looks like we’ll be spending the night here.” Ranma remarked as he set down his pack in the middle of the clearing, which was near a small stream.
“What?!” Merrill squeaked as she and the other females realized that they had no provisions with them. They had assumed that it was not very far to the Enchanted Tree and that they’d be back in Ohfun by nightfall.
“Well, I would THINK that we’d be spending the night.” Ranma said with utter sarcasm. “Considering that we’re still a long ways off from the Enchanted Tree, it’s getting late, and that we need to be well-rested before we get there. I would say that making camp would be a good idea.” He began to unpack his camping supplies, which included a small tent, bedroll and various other items.
Melissa and Merrill began to panic, while Genie growled at Ranma’s attitude toward them.
“But... but, can’t we just use that Rune Cat to get us to that tree?” Melissa asked anxiously. “It’s got the power of teleportation, doesn’t it?” She remembered back to when the cat had gotten them out of those ruins.
Ranma snorted with disdain at the priestess. “Now how can Shin transport us to a place neither he nor I have ever been to? If he could, don’t you THINK I would have had him teleport us there by now? But no, you didn’t think, you just assumed, and I really hate it when that happens. Then again, THINKING is not a strong point with you three, is it?”
“And what’s THAT supposed to mean?!” Genie snapped as her hand went to her sword hilt.
“Just as I said.” Ranma replied simply as he prepared to pitch his tent. “For example, you three didn’t even prepare for this trip. You just assumed that it would be a quick errand. Duh, we’re going to a rare, MAGICAL tree. Magic wands are MADE from its branches, and they‘re very hard to come by! Did you REALLY believe that such a thing would be close to the city? If it was, then they’d be selling wands for a silver coin a dozen at the marketplace! Yeesh!”
Though they did not like Ranma’s tone with them, they had to admit to his logic. However, that still left them with one problem... no provisions.
At that point, Ranma had his tent set up. It was a small, utilitarian canopy with a protected bottom. It was made from a waterproof material and insulated against cold temperatures. It was sturdy and comfortable enough for two people, or one person and his Rune Cat.
When the three saw how small the shelter was, they all became horrified at the thought of having to share such confined quarters with... HIM!
“If you think that we’re going to sleep with you...!” Genie started.
“And who SAID that you were going to sleep in my tent?” Ranma interjected as he motioned for Shin to go into the shelter. After the cat had entered, he then stowed his backpack inside as well. “You can sleep in your own tents.”
“We don't have any tents!” Merrill cried out. “We don’t even have blankets or anything!”
“Oh.” The warrior-mage shrugged. “Well, I guess you three have a problem then.”
“We have a problem, because it’s all your fault!” Merrill screeched. Behind her, Melissa and Genie nodded.
“Oh? I can’t wait to hear how you figured that.”
“You’re the one who took our supplies and lost them!”
“Who says? I still got them.” He reached into the tent and hauled out his pack. With a series of blurring movements with his arm, he made all of the girls’ supplies appear on the ground in front of them. The three looked in total disbelief as their belongings piled up, as if by magic.
“You... had them all along?” Then Melissa’s expression became more angered. “AND YOU DIDN’T TELL US UNTIL NOW?!”
Ranma shrugged again as he put away his pack. “You didn’t bother to ask.” Then he added with sarcasm, “Now why would I even keep this stuff? It would have been much easier for me to dump it all, after you DUMPED me. Hold on, here’s a thought. Maybe, I had a change of HEART? Perhaps I was going to the Temple of Mylee to give this stuff to Aunt Jenny, so that she could return them to the Know-Nothing-Know-It-All and her two Uncute Tomboy friends? Hmmm?”
Melissa and the others were taken aback by Ranma’s explanation. Surely this arrogant jerk hadn’t really planned to do something so... nice.
“That... was the reason why... you came to the temple?” The blonde priestess asked with some hesitation.
“Hmmm, what do you think? Oh excuse me, I forgot. Thinking is not a skill that you three excel at. My mistake.”
The trio glared at Ranma anew. The momentary lapse in hostilities ended as they all began entertaining thoughts of killing him, ten times over.
Ranma sighed as he continued. “And just for the record, if two certain Uncute Tomboys hadn’t blown their tops and attacked me, then I would have never have crashed through the temple’s roof, and ended up becoming a Know-Nothing-Know-It-All’s Chosen Hero. Who’s says that the gods don’t have a sense of humor?”
Later that night...
Ranma watched the three girls eat the fish that they had caught for dinner. He grimaced as he took note of something, then decided to pose a question to them.
“Hey, you three DID gut those fish before cooking them, right?”
“What for? The guts are the best part!” Merrill said as she took a really big bite and chewed ravenously.
“Waste not, want not.” Melissa said as she daintily consumed her fish. “The innards are considered a delicacy in Ohfun.”
“And don’t think that we’re going to share!” Genie said as she chewed. “Go catch your own! This is our fish!”
Ranma shrugged as he reached into his pack and pulled out a packet of dried meat. “Oh I wouldn’t want those fish. But let me ask you a couple of questions. First of all, you used these as bait, right?” He picked up a nightcrawler from the ground.
“Yeah. So what? You can’t catch fish without bait.” Genie affirmed while swallowing.
“Well, I can catch them without bait, but that’s not the point. My point is that the stomach is part of the guts, right? So what do you think is in the stomachs of those fish?”
All three suddenly stopped eating as their eyes bulged out, along with their cheeks.
Then Ranma said, “Oh, and of course, you’ve got to think of what those fish ate, BEFORE you caught them. You know, things like water beetles, grubs, crickets and mosquitoes.”
Then all three began performing some very impressive spit-takes.
“ACK! ACK! ACK!”
Ranma snorted and chuckled as he cleaned his hands before opening his dinner. Beside him, Shin meowed as he dined on some dried, gutted fish. (3)
As Melissa and Merrill turned in for the night, Ranma and Genie sat about the campfire. The warrior woman continued to glare at the martial arts mage and his cat, as she had decided to take first watch.
“You know, you don’t HAVE to stay up. I’ll keep you three safe tonight.” Ranma assured as he casually sat against a tree with his hands behind his head. Shin was slumbering peacefully in his lap.
Genie snorted with disdain as she sharpened her sword with a stone. “Yeah, right. Like we’d trust YOU with our lives!”
“You’re not going to be very much help, if you stay up all night.” Ranma pointed out.
“And who says I’m going to be the only one keeping an eye out? Melissa will take the second watch, while Merrill will take the third until dawn!”
“And what about me?”
“What about you?” Genie scoffed. “Do whatever you want!”
The former son of Genma Saotome shrugged, as he got up with Shin carefully cradled in his arms, taking care not to awaken his familiar. He knew just how hazardous it was to disturb the Rune Cat. “Well, if I COULD do whatever I wanted, then you three wouldn’t even be here with me.”
“Hmpf! Well, that’s one thing I’ll agree with you. We don’t want to be here with you either! So where are you going?”
“As I recall, you told me that I could do whatever I wanted, so I’m going to go take care of some business, then I’m going to bed. Besides, why would you care?”
Genie snorted in disdain again as she watched him walk off into the trees. <Probably has to go answer the call of nature!> She thought.
Once he was out of sight of the camp, Ranma began to make preparations.
Ever since his group had entered the forest, he had the distinct feeling that they were being watched. Naturally of course, each of the three girls’ sense of awareness, Genie’s in particular, was pitifully underdeveloped. It was certainly nowhere NEAR the level that his refined danger sense were. Coupled with his mystical training at the Magic Academy in Ohfun, he was quite certain that the non-human inhabitants of this area were already aware of their presence, and that included more than just the forest wildlife. Ila had warned him that trolls, imps and elves frequented these woods.
Since the girls were at a disadvantage, it was up to Ranma to make certain they would get no surprise visitors tonight.
As he made a wide circular path around the surrounding areas near the campsite, he started chanting as he took out several small rolls of parchment, using the Hidden Weapons technique.
“Jihn Men, Ja A Ku, Do Kei Ru... Jihn Men, Ja A Ku, Do Kei Ru... Jihn Men, Ja A Ku, Do Kei Ru...”
As he focused his powers, the symbol on Shin’s forehead began to glow in rhythm with Ranma’s incantations. Even when asleep, the Rune Cat still maintained his psychic link with his master. With no magic wand, Ranma used his familiar as a medium in order to activate his Spell Scrolls. Though he could have used his ki, using Shin’s power helped Ranma conserve his own personal stores. Magic was quite draining, which was the main reason why he didn’t use it, until necessary.
The Spell Scrolls were an invention of Ranma’s, after four years of wandering. Each were inscribed with the same specialized kanji that Ranma had used on the sealed door. They were ready-made spells that were very handy in a pinch. Most could be used at a moment’s notice, as they didn’t require any preparation time. The downside was that they were limited in power and needed to be recharged every now and then with his own ki. Among them were Elemental Magic (fire, wind, ice, lightning, etc), Healing and Locator Spells, (divination and such), Defensive and of course, Spirit Wards.
Currently, he was using a Barrier Spell he had learned, along with a few Spirit Wards in order to ensure the camp’s safety. As he continued to chant, he applied several strips of mystic paper to the tree trunks. Each scroll unfolded itself as the kanji glowed with an eerie light...
Later that night, with Melissa on watch...
The priestess was disgusted as she looked over to Ranma’s tent and listened to her champion’s snoring. Just how could he just sleep like that? A true hero and a gentleman would do his best to protect them, and here he was, sleeping like a log! She let off a tired sigh and looked up toward the sky. She then prayed to her god Mylee for guidance and hoped that things would get better.
The next morning...
“Ah, nothing like a good night's sleep!” Ranma commented as he and Shin awoke to greet the morning sun.
“Rowr.” Shin stretched out and yawned as he followed his master out of the tent. However, as they exited the shelter, they were met by three very irritated expressions. Genie, Melissa and Merrill were not at all happy, as each did not get as much sleep as Ranma and Shin did.
“My, my, my. Aren’t we all cranky-looking in the morning? You girls look TERRIBLE with those bangs under your eyes.”
“Hmpf! At least we were responsible enough to keep a lookout for each other, while SOMEBODY decided to sleep through the night!” Genie growled. The other two girls nodded in agreement while glaring at him.
Ranma paid their irritation no heed as he began taking down his tent. In a flash, it was stowed away into his pack. “Hey, I said that you all didn't need to do that. I made certain that we’d be safe. And seeing that nothing happened, I’d say that you all lost sleep for no reason.”
“YOU DIDN’T DO ANYTHING BUT SLEEP!” Genie accused.
“Really? Then what may I ask are those?” He pointed toward some trees some thirty feet away.
The girls looked over toward them and saw several slips of parchment affixed to the trunks. Then they noticed that a circle of them surrounded the entire campsite. Melissa recognized the writing as they were similar to what Ranma had used before.
“What... are those things? Did you do that last night?” Melissa asked.
“Those are my early-warning alarms.” Ranma explained. “They would have stopped anything from coming close to us. A little magical insurance.”
“Yeah, right!” Genie snorted as she stomped toward one of the trees. “You can’t do ANY magic without a wand. A few pieces of paper wouldn’t stop anything!”
“I wouldn’t go there if I were...”
Genie lit up like a Christmas Tree the instant she crossed the mystical barrier that Ranma had set up. She then fell down in a smoking heap.
Both Merrill and Melissa ran over to where their comrade had fallen and checked on her condition. Besides being slightly crispy and unconscious, she was no worse or wear.
Ranma sighed as he reached into his tunic for a Healing Scroll.
“You and your friend are nothing but liars!” Genie accused as she and her friends walked a few meters behind Ranma. On her back were all the supplies Ranma had given back, all bundled up in a large tarp. After he had returned their belongings, he made it clear that they would have to carry their own stuff.
The comment against his childhood friend caused Ranma to become very irritated. He was used to being called a liar by Akane, but nobody badmouths Ila-chan. He stopped walking and turned to glare at Genie. On his shoulder, Shin hissed at her.
“I expect an apology for that remark! Ila didn’t lie about anything.”
“Yeah, right! She said that you couldn’t do any magic without a wand!”
Ranma gave the paladin a stern expression. “No, she said that I was at a DISADVANTAGE without a wand. She never said I couldn’t DO any magic without one.”
“So, how did you cast that Protection Spell last night?” Melissa wondered.
Ranma snorted in disdain at Melissa’s inability to figure out the obvious. He gestured to Shin. “Duh! I’ve got a Rune Cat as a familiar. He’s just as good as a wand to help me focus my powers. And I also have a few dozen Spell Scrolls for emergencies.” He reached into his tunic and pulled out one of the mystical scrolls. The piece of parchment unfolded itself and glowed for a moment before he rolled it back up and put it away.
“Spell Scrolls? I’ve never heard of such things.” Melissa said.
“There’s a LOT about me, that you don’t know.” Ranma stated as he continued on.
“Well, if you have that Rune Cat and those scrolls, then how come we’re all risking our lives in getting you a new wand?” Merrill demanded.
“Hmpf! I would think that it’d be obvious, but I’ll tell you anyway. Shin does have his limits and can get tired. And my Spell Scrolls can only do so much. Magic takes up a lot of power. I’m sure that even Ms. Know-Nothing-Know-It-All can tell you that. A magic wand helps ease the burden.”
The priestess became very perturbed at Ranma’s attitude. He just couldn’t stop insulting her, though she had to admit that he was right. Magic did use up much of the caster’s power and will. She herself could only perform a limited amount of healing magic, before she became tired.
“And by the way, I didn’t ask you come with me.” Ranma reminded, then stopped suddenly as his sense of awareness alerted him, that they were being watched. He tensed up a bit as he extended his perceptions outward. He smiled slightly as he recognized a certain presence, despite not having sensed it for over five years.
“What now?” Genie grumbled as Ranma became quiet. Though she welcomed the fact that he wasn’t insulting them, this sudden silence was even more unnerving. In her life as a warrior, she had learned that a lack of noise, often meant that trouble was just around the bend.
The Rune Soldier assessed the level of danger, then decided that it was nothing to be worried about, at least not yet. He then motioned for the girls to follow as he led them deeper into the woods.
<He knows I’m here. He‘s changed a lot since I last saw him. Humans grow up so fast.> Celecia thought from her hiding place in the branches of a nearby tree. She watched Ranma’s party continue on their way toward her village and began to suspect the reason why they were heading there. She had not seen Ranma with his magic wand.
Now was NOT a good time. Currently, her people were in a very grave crisis. She had been sent out to scout for the raiding bands of trolls that had been frequenting the areas lately. More importantly, one of the treasures of her people had been stolen and they had been desperately searching for it. The village elders, including her father, were very suspicious of outsiders and the presence of humans would only make things worse.
She decided to leave the humans alone as she went off to find the trolls. A day ago, one of them had stolen a sacred relic, one that was vital to the protection of the village. If it was not returned before the other trolls attacked, then all would be lost.
Ranma’s danger senses perked up again, when he detected a disturbance some several meters away. He reacted.
“Ranma! Where are you going?” Melissa called out as he suddenly broke away from the group and headed off in another direction. Since Ranma was their only guide to get back to Ohfun, the girls had no choice but to follow him.
Ranma came to a clearing that was near a deep ravine, and saw a group of grotesque and vile beings. One of them was carrying a small box. However, the trolls were not happy to see him as they came at him with huge war clubs, axes and other crude weaponry.
The martial arts mage burst into action and made his battle staff appear in his hand. His Rune Cat leapt down from his master’s shoulder and began charging up his energies. Ranma leapt high, then bounced off several of the trolls’ heads, landing amid them in a defensive posture. Ranma parried a thrust by a troll’s club, then slammed one end of his weapon into the gut of another adversary. This caused the troll to slam into his comrades and gave Ranma and his cat more fighting room.
One troll, the one who was carrying the box, tried to make a break for it, but Ranma saw him out of the corner of his eye, then threw out a ki blast.
The ki bolt shot forward and tagged the troll on the back, causing him to stumble near the ravine.
“NO!” He desperately reached out to catch it, but the container slipped through his fingers and fell down toward the bottom. He could only watch helplessly as the box’s lid opened up and its contents were dumped into the river below.
Ranma didn’t have time to consider what the troll had lost, as he let loose with another ki blast, herding the trolls toward his secret weapon, namely his Rune Cat. Shin was powering up for a single attack and he was just about to unleash it.
“DO IT SHIN!”
At that moment, Melissa, Merrill and Genie came onto the scene and...
“What the...?!” Genie cried out as she and her friends were caught in the blast, along with the trolls. Fortunately for them ,they were not as close to Shin as the trolls were, so they only received minor, though very painful burns.
When the explosion vanished, there was a huge crater, in which the trolls lay in smoking heaps. Shin casually shook his fur and emerged from the crater, unharmed. The cat padded his way toward his master and an astonished elf. On the other side of the hole, three adventuring females lay smoking on the ground and moaning in pain.
Ranma chuckled a bit as he knelt down to pet his familiar. Once again, Shin had overdone it with the power blasts, but he got the job done. Of course, there were some casualties, but Ranma was certain that the two Uncute Tomboys and the Know-Nothing-Know-It-All were alive. A little extra crispy, but alive.
As he looked down the ravine, he noticed something glinting on a small ledge, halfway down to the bottom. He took out a Spell Scroll and focused his ki into it.
The object in question floated up toward him and Ranma saw that it was a small, tarnished key. It was very plain-looking and Ranma assumed that its use was probably to open that box. Since the box and its contents were lost, the key was now useless. He shrugged a bit and decided to hold onto it for the moment. He pocketed the key into his tunic along with the Levitation Spell Scroll.
Just then, another elf appeared on the scene and Ranma smiled as he recognized her.
“Hey there! Long time no see!”
“So that box contained an ancient treasure of your people, Celecia?” Ranma asked, after the elf had introduced herself to the group and explained her people’s situation. They were being led toward the elf village where the Enchanted Tree was located.
“Yes. Though I am not supposed to tell outsiders, it doesn’t really matter now.” Celecia sighed sadly. “That treasure was key to our village’s defenses and without it, we are doomed!”
“Well, maybe we can help you.” Ranma offered. Currently Shin was taking a catnap in his pack.
The elf nodded. “That’s what I’m hoping, Ranma. It’ll take a sorcerer to beat a sorcerer. I always knew that you would one day become a very powerful spell-caster. I sensed the potential within you.”
“Excuse me, but what did you mean that it would take a sorcerer to beat one?” Melissa inquired.
“Our village is being threatened by an unscrupulous human magic-user.” The elf explained. “He found our village and demanded to be led to the Enchanted Tree. The elders refused him and sent him away. He could not break through the mystic barrier, which surrounds our homes. That protection is strong enough to repel a dragon. However, just yesterday, the source of our protection was stolen by trolls, most likely sent by that sorcerer. Since then, bands of trolls have been attacking, and our warriors and magic-users are being pushed to their limits. We can’t hold out much longer and with the treasure now gone, we may not be able... ah, but enough of my troubles. What are you doing here?”
“Well, it’s... kind of complicated.” Ranma admitted. “But I think we can help each other. You see... I need to get to that Enchanted Tree too and...” He stopped suddenly as he sensed the presence of others.
Suddenly, the group found themselves surrounded as elf warriors appeared from out of nowhere and leveled their spears and swords at them.
The Elf Village was a rustic-looking hamlet that was composed mostly of simple lodges and tree houses. Surrounding the village were walls of thick timbers. In the center of the rural community, was the Enchanted Tree, which was surrounded by a very imposing stone wall, and guarded by dozens of guards.
Near the town square, a group of elves were hotly debating the fate of their human captives...
“Celecia, you have broken our laws by bringing these humans here!” The elf elder chided as he and the village council spoke with his disobedient daughter. Nearby, stripped of their weapons and supplies, Ranma and his group languished in a cage, awaiting their fate, which was of course, execution.
“But Father! These people have offered to help us against the sorcerer...”
“And ONE human sorcerer wasn’t enough trouble that you had to bring in another?!”
Inside their cage, Genie and the girls continued to glare at their male member of their group. Why is it, that every time he was around, they always ended up in these situations? As soon as the elves heard that Ranma was a sorcerer, they immediately threw them into this prison and called for the executioner.
“This is all your fault!” Genie growled.
“Yeah!” Merrill agreed. “Why do WE have to be executed along with you?!”
Nearby, Melissa was wringing her hands and continued to mumble to herself. “This is against my will. This is against my will.” She had thought that Ranma’s offer to help these people MIGHT be the beginning, to becoming the hero that she wanted. However, their impending execution caused that faint hope to be dashed. She desperately prayed to Mylee. Surely a devoted servant, such as herself, did not deserve to meet her end in this way!
Ranma however, ignored his companions as he continued to listen in on the elf council. At the same time, he looked toward his pack, which was lying in a pile nearby, along with Genie’s sword, Merrill’s daggers and thievery tools and Melissa’s Enchanted Hammer. He nodded as he saw the top flap of his pack stir. A certain familiar had awakened from his catnap. As soon as Shin poked his head out, he immediately saw his master inside a cage. He was about to go free him, when the martial arts mage shook his head and held up an index finger to his mouth, indicating to him to keep quiet for the moment.
Then Ranma went back to listening to the Elf Council.
“It is bad enough that we can no longer use the Mystic Barrier to protect ourselves from those trolls!” Celecia’s father said sternly. “But now you endanger our lives even further by bringing in another human magic-user, who’s probably after our Enchanted Tree!”
“Well... actually... yes, that’s pretty much what I want.”
The elves turned their attention to Ranma after he had voiced out his intentions. The looks that nearly all of them gave to him, were not at all encouraging. Ranma gave them all a whimsical smile, while behind him, MElissa, Genie and Merrill were in a state of shock. They were in enough trouble as it is! Ranma’s statement could very well seal their doom!
“So! You admit that you intend to rob us of our most prized possession! It figures that you can’t trust a human!” Celecia’s father was seeing red now as he was on the verge to order an immediate execution of the prisoners.
“Well, I wasn‘t intending on stealing anything, not that I couldn‘t have done it.” Ranma pointed out. “Heck, if I wanted to steal a branch from your tree, I would have done it a LONG time ago and you wouldn’t have been able to stop me.”
“Rubbish!” One of the other elders said. “You are in an enchanted cage, with the most powerful locking spells and the strongest steel! There is no possible way you could get out!”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. I could get out of here, no problem, but that’s not the point.” The martial arts mage stated as he gave the prison a once-over. “Now, I couldn’t help but hear about your troubles with the Mystic Barrier, these trolls and that sorcerer, and I’m pretty sure I could help you, if you’ll let me. I think I might be able to solve your problem and mine.”
“Hah! As if we’d ever accept help from a human!” Celecia’s father snorted.
At that moment, the village alarms went off, and the inhabitants began scrambling to their battle stations. Outside the walls of the village, hordes of trolls began their assault, pounding against the front gates. Elf warriors took up their positions on top of the walls and began raining arrows and hot oil on their attackers.
However, the trolls continued to batter against the gates, as the desperate defenders tried to hold out.
In the village square, Ranma continued to try and persuade the Elders to let him help them.
“Aw c’mon! Just let me have a look at this barrier of yours. I’m sure I fix it. You really look like you could use some help. Now I’m willing to...”
“We do NOT accept help from humans!” Celecia’s father affirmed. Then a messenger came running up to him.
“The trolls have broken through the gates! And the human sorcerer is here as well!”
The Elders quickly began heading toward the front gates, in order to stave off a possible magical assault. However, with their Mystic Barrier unavailable and their magical abilities strained to their limits, things did not look good.
At that point, Ranma decided that it was time. Using his Hidden Weapon techniques, he made one of his Spell Scrolls appear. Focusing his ki into it, he applied the parchment to the lock on the cage, where he reasoned all of the Locking Spells were concentrated in.
“Jihn Men, Ja A Ku, Do Kei Ru.”
With a pop, the piece of paper exploded in a small burst of flame, then disappeared in a wisp of ashes. The door swung open after the lock disintegrated.
Melissa, Merrill and Genie stared in disbelief at the ease in which Ranma had freed them. Then the warrior woman shouted out in anger.
“WHY DIDN’T YOU DO THAT BEFORE?! WE WE‘RE GOING TO BE EXECUTED!”
Ranma shrugged as he went over to his pack and reached into it. He took out a his battle staff and motioned for Shin to follow him. The girls had no choice but to pick up their weapons and follow him.
The elves found themselves being pushed back as the trolls came in wave after wave. Even with the help of their Elders, the pointy-eared inhabitants of the village found themselves being slowly overwhelmed. In the rear of the troll forces, their sorcerer leader laughed as he threw out magical attacks to cause the elf defenders to scatter. It wouldn’t be long before the Enchanted Tree was his!
The enemy sorcerer was surprised when a blast of blue light slammed into the lead horde of trolls, sending them flying backward like bowling pins. Then a lone figure appeared in their midst and began taking down the sub-human army. He scowled as he recognized the newcomer.
Like the goblin monsters before, the trolls were mostly relying on brute force and sheer numbers to overwhelm their adversaries. However, their opponent was well-seasoned with such tactics and used incredibly fast maneuvers to dance about his foes. Like a grasshopper on steroids, Ranma bounced about, delivering quick strikes with his staff, dropping many trolls in several passes. However, even he knew that he couldn’t defeat this many enemies, so he needed an equalizer.
He got it in the form of his Rune Cat.
Shin jumped into the middle of the fray and let loose with another of his psychokinetic explosions. This caused more trolls to be blown out of the battle and eased the pressure off Ranma and the other defenders.
Genie, Melissa and Merrill found themselves beset by trolls and were now fighting for their lives. For the red-haired swordswoman, it was a great way to relieve her stress after all the Hell Ranma had put her through. Her sword hacked and slashed though several dozen of her enemies.
Ranma kept on darting back and forth among the attackers, but this time he had decided on a new tactic. Seeing that there were still a lot of trolls, he needed to take them all out, or they would eventually wear him down. As he made several passes among the sorcerer’s hordes, he began applying pieces of parchment to their backs and behind their heads. The near-brainless fighters didn’t even notice as they continued fighting.
<This is going to take a lot of my Spell Scrolls.>
When he had applied more than three dozen of the special strips of paper, he mentally contacted his Rune Cat. Shin acknowledged his master’s call and rushed to his side. Leaping onto his right shoulder, the cat’s eyes glowed as he sent a huge psychokinetic wave, separating the majority of elves from the trolls. Dark clouds suddenly appeared overhead as Ranma began calling on the wind and water spirits, using his cat as a medium. Then he thrust up his staff and cried out...
The clouds let loose with a huge electrical blast, which concentrated on the tip of Ranma’s staff, then spread out into several smaller bolts that blanketed the area. Trolls that had Spell Scrolls attached to them were struck and exploded, taking several of their comrades along with them. The attack also caused confusion among the remaining enemy, and the elves took advantage of the upset and began to push the trolls back. Then the enemy decided that the battle was lost and started a disorganized retreat.
The enemy sorcerer grumbled as he saw that his forces were being routed, decided that it was time to face the magic-user who was defending the village. He had also taken note of the three females who were fighting at his side. They weren’t of much consequence. Just a swordswoman, a priestess of Mylee, and a scrawny female that was most likely a thief. However, the cat perched on Ranma’s shoulder was what caught his attention.
<So. It looks like the peasant has a Rune Cat. Well, perhaps I should show him MY secret weapon.>
The crowds of elves cheered as the trolls ran away. At the front, both Ranma and Shin were tired, after expending a large amount of their personal stores of magical power. Melissa and her compatriots came up to them. The priestess was ecstatic for the first time since Ranma had become her ‘valiant champion.’
“We did it! We did it!”
Even Genie had to admit that Ranma’s attack had been impressive. “Not bad... for a loud-mouthed, egotistical magician.”
“We are so awesome!” Merrill cheered.
However, Ranma was not celebrating with his comrades, as he knew that the battle was not yet over. His suspicions were confirmed as a figure appeared suddenly in a puff of smoke at the gates of the village.
Ranma growled as he immediately recognized his final adversary. Shin hissed as he jumped down from his master’s shoulder and tensed up. His hair stood on end.
The enemy sorcerer smiled as he faced off against his old rival. He was a tall, slender individual with short blonde hair, and was dressed all in black, with a flowing red cape behind him. Around his neck appeared to be an amulet and in one hand, he held a magic wand.
“Well, well, well. If it isn’t the street-rat that Carwess took in nine years ago. I didn’t expect to see you again after you left the Ohfun Academy.” Kyle sneered.
“I had a feeling that someone like you was behind all this, Kyle.” Ranma pointed an accusing finger at him. “I didn’t see you at the Academy when I came back. I checked the records. Looks like SOMEBODY got expelled for breaking into the archives.”
“Do you know this person, Ranma?” Melissa asked.
“Wish I didn’t.” Ranma replied as he took a few steps forward. Shin followed at his side. “He used to be a third-rate trainee during my academy days. He never could beat me or Ila-chan.”
“Hmpf! I’ve changed since that time! I‘m not the same as I was.” Kyle said with confidence as he held out his wand.
“Yeah. You’re even more annoying than ever.” Ranma remarked as he twirled his staff before taking a stance.
Kyle smirked. “I see that you don’t have your wand, Ranma. Could it be that you don't have one anymore? You’re here to get a replacement from the Enchanted Tree, aren‘t you?”
“So why do you want it? You’ve already got a wand.”
“Yes, but it can only do so much. I figure that a staff made from the inner core of the Enchanted Tree would be FAR more powerful!”
Celecia gasped, along with other elves. “But, if you tear out the core, the Enchanted Tree will die... and so will we!”
Kyle shrugged as he said, “Oh well. Can’t make a magic staff without killing a village of elves. And I figure that all that extra magical wood will fetch a very good price to other wizards.”
“You’ll have to get past us first!” Genie shouted as she rushed out with her sword and stood in front of Ranma.
“Er... Genie, I hate to say this,” Ranma called out. “but you’ve GOT to be kidding.”
Kyle snickered as he waved his wand. “For once, I agree with the street rat. You have GOT to be kidding!” He then focused his power and swung his arm in a sweeping motion. A huge wind was summoned up and swept the swordswoman into the air.
Ranma winced as he watched Genie soar in an arc, then came crashing down into a nearby haystack. She groaned from the impact and seemed to be a little dazed, but unharmed.
The martial artist and magician sighed and shook his head. “Why is it that Uncute Tomboys always want to learn things the HARD way?” He then faced off against his rival. “Oh that was REAL brave of you, Kyle. You know how I hate to see someone picking on the weak.”
“Meow!” Shin agreed as he began powering up.
Genie, just now regaining her senses, heard Ranma’s remark.
“HEY! WHO ARE YOU CALLING WEAK?!”
Kyle chuckled at Ranma’s pet, while ignoring Genie’s cry of outrage. “Ooh, you have a Rune Cat. I’m impressed! A very rare and powerful beast to be used as a familiar... almost as powerful as mine!”
Kyle’s chuckle became a scornful laugh, then pulled out a small whistle from a pocket in his cape. He then blew it, making a high-pitched sound. A moment later, a dark shadow appeared from the sky, then came down behind the sorcerer, kicking up huge gusts of wind and dust. The crowds of elves cried out and began backing away as a huge, black dragon came onto the scene and let off a monstrous roar.
Ranma tensed up as he and Shin faced off against a beast of destruction. His rival laughed as he levitated himself to perch on top of the dragon’s head. Curls of smoke came out of the monster’s mouth, indicating that it was a fire-breather.
“Well, how do you like MY pet, Ranma? It cost me a lot to get this dragon under my control. His name is Drak and I had intended to use him as a backup, if my trolls failed to conquer the village.” He then addressed his monster. “Drak... destroy everything here, except for the Enchanted Tree.” He then pointed to Ranma. “Start with him!”
Ranma knew that things were about to get hot as the dragon began taking a deep breath. He reached into his tunic for a Spell Scroll as he called out to the priestess.
“MELISSA! GET EVERYONE OUT OF HERE! NOW!”
This time, priestess of Mylee did not argue as she and her compatriots began shouting and urging the elves to take cover. The crowds started to scream and panic as they moved away from the battle.
The dragon roared as it let loose with a fiery gout of flame, which would have reduced Ranma to a pile of ashes, if he had not defended himself with his Spell Scroll.
The Spell Scroll unfolded itself and floated in front of its user. The flames struck against it and were deflected to the side, as if they were impacting against an invisible wall.
Kyle chuckled again as he saw Ranma’s pitiful attempt to hold off his pet. “Well, it look like the street rat actually learned some kind of defensive magic. It won’t save you! My dragon’s power cannot be beaten!”
Ranma gritted his teeth as he knew that Kyle was right. Already his Spell Scroll was starting to disintegrate under the heat of the dragon’s breath. Shin was using his magic to strengthen it, but even he couldn’t hold out against that kind of firepower for long.
<SHIN! We’ll HAVE to use... that spell.>
<I know it’s dangerous, but we don’t got a choice!>
<Hey, I don't want to use it either, but it’s all we’ve got left! We have to distract it long enough to make it work!>
<Get Kyle mad? Heh. I won’t have any problem with that! What about the dragon?>
<Oh, I see. Okay, let’s do it!>
Just as the Spell Scroll burned up and disappeared, both Ranma and his Rune Cat split up and ran to opposite sides, each avoiding the flames. Ranma leapt up toward Kyle and landed on the dragon’s back. Running up its spine, he engaged his rival, while the beast thrashed about, trying to throw him off.
“HOW DARE YOU?!” Kyle roared as he let loose with several fireballs at him.
Ranma easily dodge the projectiles and slammed into him, knocking him off the head of the dragon. Both tumbled to the ground, leaving the dragon to carry out its master’s last orders, which was to destroy the elf village. The inhabitants screamed in terror as their homes were set ablaze.
On the ground, Shin let off an aura of power as he charged up all of his remaining stores of energy. His body became white and began to grow. Powerful, rippling muscles flexed as the Rune Cat underwent a startling transformation. The cat’s teeth became sharper and his four canines elongated to become wicked-looking fangs. More rune symbols appeared on his shoulders, flanks and legs. When the transformation was finished, Shin had become a six-hundred pound, saber-toothed feline!
“Arrrrgggghhh!” Kyle cried out as he continued to battle his greatest enemy.
Ranma danced around another barrage of fireballs, while retaliating with quick strikes with his staff... in a spiral.
“You’re no better than the last time we fought Kyle! You’re STILL a third-rate magic user, who’s only good for entertaining at kids parties!”
“I’ll kill you!”
“You mean, you’ll try... and fail as always!”
Kyle’s rage began to boil even faster as Ranma continued to mock him.
“Hey Genie, doesn’t this look familiar?” Merrill asked as she and her friends watched Ranma battle with Kyle.
“Yeah, I remember this! Ranma pulled this same stunt on us!” Genie replied.
“What are you talking about?” Melissa asked.
“Just watch.” Merrill said.
At the same time Ranma was leading Kyle into a trap, Shin was taking on Drak. Using his superior speed and agility, the Rune Cat led the dragon away from the village and toward the place where there masters were fighting. Then Ranma added the final touch.
“Hey Kyle! You’re built like a stick!”
“Your face makes me sick!”
“You’ve got lousy magic tricks!”
“Your head is too thick! You’re dumb as a brick! You talk like a hick! Your hair’s a cowlick! And you itch like a tick! In other words...”
“Here it comes!” Merrill chirped.
“WHAT A TOTAL MORON!”
By this time Kyle was enraged to the point of no return. At the same time, his dragon let loose with a gout of flame at Shin, who happened to end up at Ranma’s side, just as he finished the spiral.
Kyle fired off a huge blast of rage-fueled flame. Combined with the dragon’s breath, the results were spectacular!
“HIRYU SHOTEN HA!”
Both the dragon and its master were caught up in the massive whirlwind that the imbalance of temperatures had created, and were sent skyward. The effect had an unexpected dividend as the winds also put out the fires, saving the village. However, as the winds continued to blow with hurricane-like force, everyone had to hold on for dear life, or else be swept away like leaves.
Ranma and Shin now prepared to finish the job. They knew that the Rising Dragon Ascension Wave would only distract Kyle and his pet momentarily. Both began to glow with power as they communicated with each other telepathically.
<Shin! You ready?>
<I know this is going to drain just about all the magic we’ve got left, but there’s no other way. We can’t let Kyle keep that dragon.>
<I know. Okay... here goes. I’ll just... make something up. Don’t want anyone else to figure out how we did this! Hey! I got it! I’ll do what Lina Inverse did in the Slayers!>
<Never mind! Just do it!>
Everyone looked on with awe as Ranma began making some funny gestures with his hands.
“What’s he doing now?” Melissa asked.
Both Genie and Merrill shrugged as they went back to watching him. Then Ranma began to chant... but not his usual incantations.
“Darkness beyond twilight...”
“What is this?” Merrill asked.
“Crimson beyond blood that flows...”
“Sounds like some kind of spell. But I’ve never heard of these incantations.” Melissa said.
“Buried in the stream of time, that’s where you’re power grows...”
“What kind of spell is this?” Celecia wondered.
“I pledge myself to conquer, all the foes that stand.... against the mighty gift bestowed in my unworthy hand...”
<DAMN! This is going to take a lot of my ki along with it!> Ranma thought as he formed a huge ball of energy above his outstretched arms.
“Let the fools that stand against me be destroyed by the power you and I possess...”
Shin let loose with a massive roar as he transferred his power to Ranma.
With those words, a massive blast of energy was released and sent skyward. A shockwave rippled out and shook the village as the spell lanced toward Drak and struck the dragon dead center. The beast let off one final roar and died as its body fell like a flaming meteor. It landed heavily on the ground some miles away.
Ranma sank to his knees in total exhaustion as Shin’s body returned to normal.
It was over.
Nearby, Melissa and everyone else stood in shock. The Mylee Priestess was trembling uncontrollably. Ranma was strong enough to kill a dragon!
The next day...
“So this was the source of your Mystic Barrier?” Ranma asked as he and his group were shown a large chest that was made of jade. Merrill was practically drooling at the sight of the magical container. The box alone would make her rich beyond her wildest dreams.
“Yes.” Celecia’s father replied. “Though we have never shown this secret to a human, I suppose we owe you this much. Within this box is an ancient sapphire which is able to project a protective barrier. It is a defensive shield that’s so powerful, it could protect our village from nearly all kinds of spells or physical attacks. However, without the key to open the mystic chest, we cannot use the power of the gemstone to protect our village. This chest is enchanted with a very powerful Locking Spell to prevent the sapphire from being stolen. The key is what those trolls took and is now lost to us. We can never use the gem again.”
“Key? You mean... this thing?” Ranma pulled out the key he had found, from his tunic and showed it to the elves.
The Elders all stared in disbelief at what was in Ranma’s hand. Celecia’s father looked like he was about to have a stroke. They had the means to save their village all along and never knew it!
“The key! Where did you get it?!”
Ranma took on a very stern expression as he replied. “How I got it is NOT important! What IS important is that if you had accepted my help, when I first offered it to you, then all of this could have been avoided!” He gestured to the devastated village, in which the elves were busy rebuilding. He then looked over the crowds that were also in shock over this unexpected turn of events. Melissa, Genia and Merrill were in a state of astonishment as well.
“WILL IT KILL ANYONE TO LISTEN TO ME WHEN I HAVE SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO SAY?!” Ranma yelled out in frustration.
There was a long moment of silence as his words sunk in to everyone present. The Elders became a bit red-faced as they realized they had made a very BIG mistake. Finally, one of the Elders spoke.
“You make a valid point, human...” Celecia’s father began.
“This HUMAN has a name, and it’s Ranma!” The Rune Soldier stated firmly with some irritation.
The Elder sighed and nodded as he reached out for the key. “Perhaps we were a bit... hasty, Ranma. Now then, we’ll take our key and...”
“Ah-ah!” Ranma pulled his hand back out of his reach. “Not so fast, Gramps!”
“You could have gotten this key back for free, if you had simply shown some courtesy and not judged me, simply because I‘m human. I think a little object lesson is in order, so here’s the deal. My group and I get safe passage out of your village and one branch from your Enchanted Tree, in exchange for your key.”
“Ah-ah!” Ranma wagged an index finger at him. “It would be in your best interest to consider this offer. Remember, I just destroyed a dragon and saved all of your lives, even though you were planning to execute me, the Know-Nothing-Know-It-All and the Two Uncute Tomboys.”
Both Merrill and Genie were about to shout in outrage, but Melissa quickly stopped them. Though she didn’t like the insults either, she knew that now was not the time. They could always pound on Ranma later.
There was a very long silence between the Elders and Ranma and no one dared to speak. Finally, Celecia’s father broke the silence.
“Once again, you make a valid point. We do owe you much.”
“I’d say that free passage out of here and one small branch of enchanted wood would be payment enough.”
“We do not give up any branch of our Enchanted Tree easily. You drive a hard bargain, Ranma.”
“Take or leave it.” He held up the key.
The Elders all looked at each other for a moment before nodding in unison. Finally Celecia’s father nodded as well.
Though the Elf Elders were still in a bit of a snit, Ranma’s group were cheered by the crowds of elves as they were led by Celecia toward the edge of the village. Just about everyone were calling out a certain Rune Soldier’s name.
“RANMA! RANMA! RANMA! RANMA! RANMA! RANMA!”
Melissa found the ovation to be elating, as she saw the cheering crowds when her champion walked by victorious. This was what a true hero should be! Perhaps, having Ranma as her hero was not so bad...
However, her elation was short-lived as reality sunk in. Her Valiant Champion’s deeds would never be revealed to the Outside World and it was most likely the elves would never tell of how a human had saved them. It was so unfair! He had done a feat of unparalleled heroism and no one will ever know!
Outside of the Elf Village...
“Well, this is where we part company, Ranma. It was good to see you again.” Celecia said then added. “I know that the Council of Elders are still ungrateful, but I think deep down, even they appreciated what you had done.”
“I didn’t come here for gratitude, Celecia. I just came here for a piece of wood.” Ranma twirled the branch in his hand before making it disappear with his Hidden Weapons technique. He would carve out his new wand when he got back to Ohfun. On his shoulder, Shin meowed. “Take care of yourself, Celecia.”
Celecia nodded as she levitated into the branches of a nearby tree and disappeared from sight.
Ranma stretched out his arms and yawned. “Well, that’s that. Come on, gang. We got us a LONG walk back to Ohfun. Don’t worry though. I recognize this area.” He pointed east towards a row of bushes. “Ohfun is about one day’s walk from here.” Then he pointed toward a path that headed north. “Of course, we’re going to have to take this route. It’ll cost us an extra day but...”
“WHAT?!” All three girls cried out, while giving him angry glares.
“Is something wrong?” Ranma asked innocently.
“Is something wrong?!” Genie repeated incredulously. “After all the hell you put through, you’ve got some nerve to ask us that!”
“I don’t follow.”
“You had us lose our dinner, constantly insult us, had us blown up and almost had us executed!” Genie raged.
“And on top of that, we didn’t get any treasure! We’re as broke as ever!” Merrill added. “You must think we’re crazy to spend more time with you than we have to!”
“Can’t you just use that Rune Cat to teleport us back to Ohfun?” Melissa asked. She didn’t like the prospect of having to walk with him either. “You told us that Shin could transport us to places he’s already been to.”
“Yeah he would if he could.” Ranma admitted. “But he can’t so he won’t.”
“Well that last spell we used to destroy that dragon drained nearly all of his magical reserves.” <And mine, but you don’t need to know that.> “It’ll take him at least three days before he’s able to teleport.” <And by that time, I should be back up to snuff as well.> “I guess you’re going to be stuck with me for a little while longer. You lucky girls!”
“THREE DAYS?!” The girls all cried out, then Genie decided that enough was enough. She began stomping away toward the hedges and Ohfun. Merrill and Melissa followed.
“Hey, where are you going?” Ranma called out as he watched the three.
“Back to Ohfun and far away from you!” Genie shouted back. “If the city is east from here, then we’re going this way!”
“Yeah, Ohfun is in that direction, but if I were you, I’d follow that path.” He pointed to the route he had planned to take.
“Well it’s a good thing that we’re not you!” Merrill shouted back.
“Having a boorish, crude lout such as you as my hero is against my will!” Melissa agreed.
Ranma sighed as things seemed to be back to normal. He then said to them as they were about to clear those bushes. “Okay, but can I just say three little words?”
“WHAT?” All three said angrily.
“Watch your step.”
“OOF! OW! YOW!”
“OW! OW! OW! OW!”
Ranma shook his head and sighed as he walked over to the bushes, and peered over the side to the steep ravine that was hidden behind them. He watched as the three girls went tumbling down the rocky slope toward the river at the bottom.
“Yeah, I know Shin. But what can you do? The Uncute Tomboys and the Know-Nothing-Know-It-All always insist on learning things the HARD way.” He looked back down and winced as Genie crashed through a small patch of very thorny brambles. “Ooh, that’ll leave a mark.”
The girls were quite battered as they landed in the river and were swept downstream by the current. As they became small dots in the distance, they all screamed out...
“RANMA, YOU JERK!”
At that point, the martial artist and his Rune Cat began to make their way down the ravine.
“Well, I guess they know now why I wanted to take the longer way back. Come on, Shin. We’ve got to go fish them out.”
“Yes we have to.”
Some distance away, a certain sorcerer was lamenting over the burned carcass of his dragon. He was a sorry sight as his clothes were shredded and his body was burned and bruised in places he never knew he had. He would have perished if his pet hadn’t taken the brunt of Ranma’s spell.
<It’s impossible! There’s no spell that’s strong enough to kill a dragon! I’ve never heard of a thing called a Dragon Slave! How did he do it?! How?! You’ll pay for this, Ranma! I swear it!>
Then Kyle cried out to the heavens.
“CURSE YOU RANMA!” (4)
To be continued...
Whooo! Now that was a long one! I almost decided to break this chapter into two parts. In any case, like Beast Within, Rune Soldier Ranma has gained enough feedback to become a full-blown project, but like BW, another of my other projects must be put on indefinite hold. Sorry Way of the Force.
As for your questions about Ranma’s Dragon Slave, it’s not really Lina Inverse’s spell, since there’s no Shabrinigdo to call on. Ranma ad-libbed to throw anyone off who tries to learn it. Unlike Lina Inverse, casting this spell is VERY draining for Ranma and his Rune Cat, and they can’t cast anything else for several days. Lina Inverse can do it repeatedly. Ranma’s Dragon Slave is mostly a last-ditch spell and he’ll only use it when there’s no other option.
In any case, I hope you all enjoyed this chapter. In the next episode, Melissa is going to learn that despite her protests, Ranma is her champion and may just be the kind she needs, rather that the kind she wants.
(1) Ranma is most certainly acting true to his old personality, but then again, this time he’s not being such a wuss against a girl. He KNOWS he’s better than Genie, and he’ll rub it in at any given opportunity. One might think that this is cruel, but then again, Ranma may just be showing her, in his own way, to not depend solely on her weapon, and that she’d better be prepared for the time, when she has no weapon.
(2) One reader pointed out that Melissa wasn’t quite as prissy and snobby as she was in the original Rune Soldier Louie series, but I beg to differ. I’ve watched the entire series, and time and time again, she’d whine and look down on Louie, despite his best efforts to please her. Louie was a goofball, but he was a WELL-MEANING goofball, with the heart of a hero, if not the head. Melissa doesn’t start to accept him until much later in the series, and at times she‘d much rather have the near-useless, but handsome Leonard, rather than the more competent, though silly Louie.
Now remember that in this story, it’s Ranma that we’re talking about, and we all know that his personality will annoy others, despite the fact that he’s just being bluntly honest. Like Louie, his heart’s in the right place, though he lacks overall subtlety. He’s not going to try to be the hero that Melissa wants, but rather be the hero that he IS. And it’s going to take a while before Melissa finally realizes this.
(3) Heh. I liked this scene so much from the Slayers that I couldn’t resist adding it here.
(4) It was only a matter of time before we heard this one!