Chapter One: The DreamersEdit
"Hidden by the unseeing eyes of Humans and Gods
alike, he lies in wait. His purpose unknown, but his
goal evident. It is the choice of mortal man that he
should succeed, or that he should fail. May the Gods
help us all should he succeed."
He stood unsure of his surroundings. He stood unknowing of what brought him to this place. And he stood unbelieving of who, and what, he saw before him.
Two figures blended into darkness. Had he been able to see with greater clarity, he could have made out shapes, maybe even colours or clothing.
But as it was, he could only make out one large figure, and a smaller, less threatening one.
"Maigo," the tall figure said. "You have disappointed me. I had thought I could put my trust in your loyalty."
"I've disavowed my oath. I owe you no loyalty, bomination!" he replied. The words came unbidden from him, as though it were an automated response.
The larger figure seemed to ripple. "You have made a grievous error Maigo. The price for betraying the trust of your Lord," the being said, then grinned before continuing, "is death."
The smaller figure laughed menacingly.
"You were never my Lord, demon."
The smaller figure stepped towards him, its form rippling as though it were being seen through a prism.
"You will pay for your insolence, Maigo." The thing said, "A slow death seems unfitting for such a betrayal. I must punish you in... other ways."
The creature paused in consideration for a few moments. As the smaller figure grabbed Maigo and held him down, it began to speak.
"In addition to the fitting death you will suffer by the hands of your former colleague, Maigo, you will suffer a curse."
Before the demon began to speak, the pain started. Stabbing pains, blanketing his ankles and wrists, and working its way to his center. Even though he was screaming, the creature's words did not escape his understanding.
"I curse you Maigo. I curse you from here to eternity. You will never ascend past this world. You shall be reborn time after time, each life will be as the last. You will never find happiness. You will forever be as lost as you are now, and love shall reject you time and time again."
The screams continued as the pain grew. Finally, the stress had gotten to an unbearable point.
He woke up.
Actually, he shot up, for lack of a better word. Wiping the sweat that had beaded up by his forehead, he sighed. As he realized it was only a nightmare, he slowly started to drifted back to sleep. It was then that he realized, he didn't remember any of it.
Staring into the night sky, he dozed off. It would still be some time until morning, and it would be best to sleep now, lest he be too tired in the morning to continue his travels.
The old man opened his eyes.
"Jiao, Aiko is... I'm sorry, Jiao."
"Shinnosuke?" he asked.
"Yes. It was Rogi."
The old man sighed. Ever since Shinnosuke had been healed with the help of the ones from outside of the forest, his memory had improved. But a side effect of that was his constant talking in his sleep.
"Jiao, Amaterasu should be here soon. We should hold off the attack until she arrives."
The old man squinted. A dream of Amaterasu?
"That would not be advisable in your condition. Kedakai, please assist me."
Kedakai? Jiao? Aiko? Rogi? The old man shook his head. Whatever Shinnosuke dreamt about must have been interesting.
"Rogi will not best us. Our fate is not to die."
The old man was tired. First the incident earlier, when the squirrel had jumped onto the roof, and broken a beam, and now he was losing sleep to Shinnosuke's ramblings.
"We must not fade away, our de--" He was interrupted by a swift pillow to the face. A moment later, he woke up.
"What... Grandfather?" he asked.
"Shinnosuke, its very late. I cannot bear to be deprived of my precious sleep by your midnight ramblings!"
Shinnosuke blinked as he recalled his dream. "I'm sorry, Grandfather."
The old man simply grumbled as he rolled over in his bed and fell asleep.
Shinnosuke lay awake a few more minutes. His dreams had been getting more vivid lately, and he was beginning to remember more and more about them. He knew the dreams meant something, and he would have to find out how.
As he lay, staring at his grandfather, he came to a decision. His memory was getting better by the day, and he would soon have to leave this place, not to abandon his Grandfather, but to search. Search for answers to his dream. And most of all, to find the people in them.
He smiled. He would leave tomorrow. He had never been outside of the forest before, at least not to his memory. And there was only one place he could even consider going to.
The Tendo Dojo.
It was dark, although it was midday. Maya stood at the center of the valley, amidst the carnage of the unseen battle ensuing around her.
And for the first time in her life, she knew exactly what to do.
The people around her seemed like blurs, black and white voids, battling silently. As she moved closer to her target, as yet unknown, she paused.
Had she known who or what caused her to stop dead in her tracks, she would have continued. But as it was, she didn't. Maya stood, dumbfounded. And then she spotted it.
A woman adorned in a sickening, crimson-stained armour. The leggings and arm-guards of the armour were riddled with rows of jagged barbs.
She frowned. The armour acted as a weapon.
"So, Whore of the Resistance," the woman began, "you think you can assassinate my lord in my presence?"
Maya narrowed her eyes. "Leave, Nekkyo. I have not the time to frolic with the likes of you."
Nekkyo laughed; a maniacal laughter that suited her appearance perfectly.
"You would order me around, Whore of the Resistance?"
She brought herself into a defensive stance. "My name is Maya," she said, "and I will thank you to remember that."
Nekkyo smiled. "I'll be sure to carve it on your gravestone."
The battle ensued. She drew forth her katana and managed to deflect Nekkyo's arm. She was wearing limited armour, most of it made by a light metal, and her legs and head were left unprotected.
As Nekkyo came by again, she tried to slice her legs. Maya managed to deflect it again, but Nekkyo came up at the last minute, slicing her cheek.
"Well, Maya, Whore of the Resistance. What do you think of that?"
Maya sneered. "I think I'll have to kill you for that."
The battle continued, even more fervored than before. Nekkyo started with her left arm. Maya deftly avoided it, bringing her sword up towards Nekkyo's throat.
Unfortunately for Maya, Nekkyo sidestepped it, knocking the katana down out of her hands.
Nekkyo swore. "Damn you, Whore!" She cupped her face, away from Maya. Acting quickly she rolled to the ground in time to get her katana and stand back up.
Unfortunately, Nekkyo had foreseen it. As Maya regained her bearings, Nekkyo used the chance to swipe the side of her face with her arm guard. Thankfully, Maya dodged just in time to only receive some minor cuts.
As the blood dribbled down to Maya's neck, she scowled. "Nekkyo. You'll die for this."
"As you will for this, Whore!" She turned around. Maya smiled in understanding. Either from chance or unknown skill, Maya had cut her. Deep. So deep, in fact, that it left only one of Nekkyo's eyes operational.
The cut ran down from her brow to her lower cheek. The blood ran thicker than any of Maya's wounds. Nekkyo stared at her, almost feral with anger and hatred.
"So, the great warrior of Rogi can be hurt," she said, smiling.
"You hateful whore!" Nekkyo ran towards her at full speed.
For the first time since the battle had started, Maya felt in control. That was her mistake.
As Nekkyo ran forth, preparing to swipe Maya with her armour, she did something unexpected. She put her hand out, bending her wrist with her hand pointed upwards. It was then that she saw it.
Nekkyo had attached a knife to her wrist.
The knife pierced through Maya's armour, plunging into one of her lungs. As she dropped her katana and fell to the ground, knife still inside of her, she coughed a thick crimson fluid.
"So, whore. You've tasted my superiority. May you rot in hell for eternity."
Maya looked up at her, half-conscious. She knew she was slipping out. As everything she could before see clearly started to disintegrate, she fell deeper towards the ground.
Suddenly, the laughter of Nekkyo was drowned out by a feral scream. A moment later, Maya managed to see one final thing before slipping into death.
The sword stabbed through Nekkyo's back, extending into her front. Nekkyo stopped laughing and looked down. As the blood flowed out of her mouth, she dropped to the ground. Dead.
Maya took comfort in knowing that Nekkyo had died before she did. She took even more comfort in seeing the form standing behind her.
"T... Torako," she muttered as death finally enveloped her.
However, she was not dead. Thought still worked, she found. And as she awoke, the thought turned into realization.
With a start, she woke up, staring at an unfamiliar ceiling. It remained unfamiliar for a few moments, until the realization had set in.
She laughed. Not very hard, just a soft chuckle, more of a scoff. It was simply a dream. She had lived another woman's death in a dream.
She lay back down and close her eyes as the pig next to her snored lightly. That was the first time she ever remembered having the dream.
The dream that she was Maya, a warrior for the Resistance. Whatever that was. Much else was not known, except that Torako was her sister.
No. She corrected herself. Maya's sister. Maya the dream girl.
As sleep started to envelope her again, it eased the tingling, numbed sensation in her chest.
"Saiko. You have served me well," it said, floating around him.
For some reason, the large, menacing figure standing above him did not threaten him. In fact, for some unknown reason, he felt nothing but the most sincere love for him.
"I am sorry, my lord," he answered.
"You have served your purpose well. The battle is nearly over, and the forces of the resistance have been all but diminished. Your death is at hand."
"It hurts, Lord."
The figure seemed to flinch somehow. He could tell it was smiling menacingly, but he still felt no threat.
"For your service, I shall grant you this wish, Saiko. May you serve under me in your next life."
He smiled. "That is my wish, Lord."
As the figure growled and bit into his neck, he felt a searing pain. And then it all stopped.
He merely opened his eyes.
Normally, he would have been screaming, as some of his more tame nightmares had sent him into. But now, for some reason, he felt safe. Secure, even.
As he slipped back into sleep, he wondered. Why was the dream so pleasant? It was more pleasurable than some more questionable dreams he had in the past. Dreams that involved himself and Akane Tendo, the girl who he had lusted after for as long as he had attended Furinkan High School.
Finally, he fell asleep, morbidly hoping to have the same dream again.
The morning brought itself from the east. Plowing over ocean, over island, and eventually bringing itself to Tokyo.
Tokyo was a vast place to Feng Bo. He had always hated densely populated cities. He avoided Hong Kong whenever he could. But the sights of Tokyo were breathtaking.
He stepped off of the boarding plank the minute his ship had touched ground. It wasn't actually his ship, he had just negotiated passage. And now, he had arrived at his destination.
Tokyo. He knew his task. He had to find the dreamers, but he had very limited time. Perhaps a week, maybe more if he was lucky. But any more than that, and he would have to return.
It was unfortunate for Feng Bo. He had so wanted to see the foreign country. But he tightened his resolve. He had one task and one task only.
"Might you know where I can find my way to Nerima?" he asked a man walking by. The man merely spit in response. With a sneer, he laughed and walked away.
Feng Bo wasn't used to that attitude. Not at home, not even here. But, he took it in stride, there was no reason to raise a stink about it all. He would just ask the next person.
"Might you know where I can find my way to Nerima?" he asked yet again.
Someone had surely smiled upon Feng Bo from heaven, because the man stopped long enough to give directions. After a quick thanks from Feng Bo, he was on his way.
"Miss Ukyou, wake up please. You're late!" Konatsu pleaded.
"I... uhh... What?" she finally said, trying her best to enter consciousness.
"Miss Ukyou, I'm sorry. I had to wake you up. You'll be late for school!"
Ukyou blinked as she came to the realization he was right. She had been so caught up in her dream, she failed to make use of her natural 'alarm clock', and Konatsu ended up having to fill the void.
"It's alright, Konatsu. Thank you." She got up and stepped toward her closet, turning away from him for only a moment.
"Can I have some--" She turned around to an empty room. "...Privacy...?"
She smiled and shook her head. After disrobing, she reached into her closet for her uniform and changed into it. After leaving her room, she hurried down the stairs and nodded towards Konatsu.
"Have fun at school, Ukyou!" he said as she left the restaurant.
That was all he could focus on. Her smile, the serene,almost pleased look on her face.
In fact, that was all he wanted to focus on.
"Jiao," she said, reaching up to stroke his face.
"Aiko, stay with me. Stay with me, you won't.. You can't leave us now!"
She continued to smile. "Jiao, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
He shook his head. "No," he said, "you have nothing to be sorry about. I.. It was my fault, I should have--"
"No, Jiao. That's not it," she stared into his eyes, her life force visibly fading from her.
"I never got the chance, Jiao. I never got to tell you."
"Tell me what, Aiko?"
"Jiao, I never got to tell you how I felt."
The feelings began to swell up inside of him. He put his arms around Aiko and hugged her deeply. "Aiko, I'm sorry!"
"Jiao. I love you." She began to fade away.
"Aiko, no. I love you too, Aiko. Please stay with us. Please live!"
A hand fell on his shoulder.
Nothing was uttered from his lips.
"Jiao, I'm sorry, Aiko is--"
"No. She's alive. She has to be!" He cried into her stiff shoulders.
An armed woman appeared beside them.
"Those BASTARDS. They got Maya," she said, barely holding on to her emotions. "Damnit! She killed her!"
Jiao seemed to flinch. He hardened quickly. "Enough of this. Who killed Aiko? Rogi?"
"Yes, it was Rogi."
He looked at the woman next to him. "And Maya?"
Holding back tears, she managed to answer, "it was Nekkyo. She won't be a problem anymore."
Jiao turned to the ensuing battle.
"We've lost too many. Its time to end this."
"What do you have in mind?"
He turned toward the man. "Amaterasu Ohmikami alone has the power to end this. We must clear her path."
"What do we do?"
He closed his eyes. "Kill all but Rogi."
Shampoo was feeling pretty good about herself.
It had been a mere twenty-four hours since the failed wedding attempt, which Shampoo had so graciously decided she would help Ranma out of.
And, with Ukyou's help, she found it had gone without flaw. Even some unsuspected help from others. Kuno, Kodachi. Even Ryouga showed up.
But all in all, Shampoo was in a good mood.
"Shampoo, dear," Cologne asked, coming out of the kitchen. "Are you planning on seeing son-in-law today?"
Shampoo smiled widely. After a nod, Cologne sighed.
"If that be your wish, child, I cannot stop you."
Shampoo blinked in confusion. "What Great Grandmother mean?"
Cologne closed her eyes for a moment. For a long time she had been very able to see clearly at human relationships. And not long ago, she also realized that Ranma was not in love with Shampoo. It would take a fool not to be able to see that.
She sighed. And then there was Shampoo. Her great-granddaughter was by no means a fool. However, the laws of Joketsuzoku, and her own love-blind eyes had prevented her from seeing the truth.
"I'm sorry Shampoo, I allowed my mind to wander for a moment," she sighed. "I... was disturbed last night by a dream."
Shampoo blinked. "Dream?"
"Yes." Cologne stretched her hand out. Long ago had she realized she could control her dreams with but a thought. But the one of the previous night defied explanation.
She shook her head. "Don't worry about it child," she looked around the Nekohanten casually. "Mousse should be awake soon, why don't you get the restaurant ready for the morning rush?"
Shampoo blinked. "Shampoo no see Ranma?"
"I'm sorry, child. I will need your help for today," she said, her mind still wandering.
Shampoo sighed in defeat. "All right, Great Grandmother. I stay and help."
"I can't believe you slept in again."
"Well, after a day like yesterday, who can blame me?" Ranma smirked.
Akane shook her head. "Yesterday was a disaster," she said, slightly blushing.
"You're telling me."
Ranma actually regretted what had happened the day before. He knew he wanted to marry Akane, eventually. But with so much interference from countless sources, it was getting harder and harder to get close.
But, even now, after what had happened, he felt somewhat thankful.
If it wasn't for that Nannichuan. He winced as he thought about it. He was so close. But for some reason, he didn't mind it all that much.
Sure, his curse was a nuisance. An annoyance. But he had grown used to it. He didn't even mind the curse as much anymore.
Not now, anyways. At first, he would have given anything to have it taken away. But now, it was as much a part of him as martial arts.
And, he had to admit, there were some definite advantages of changing into a girl. It could get him things he could never get as a man. Even the joke factor worked.
But, all things aside, he would rather be rid of it. He would rather be rid of his girl side, and stay male the rest of his life.
Akane tried to beat her blush down the best she could. As it was, she was failing miserably. It had, in fact, caused her blush to deepen. Thankfully, she noticed Ranma was in his own little world.
Akane cursed herself inwardly for the events that had transpired the day before. She should never have taken the side of her father. What they had done had ruined everything.
She had to tighten her resolve and decide that if she and Ranma were to get married, they would do it on their own. No interfering parents, amazon warriors, okonomiyaki chefs, kendoists or gymnasts ruining anything. Not to mention dirty, old underwear thieves.
She was fairly sure Ranma felt the same way about her that she did for him. At least, she hoped so. She could remember vaguely what he had said at Jusendo. But, there were parts that were unclear.
And then, the failed wedding had also made an impact on her self-esteem. He had seemed so unwilling to marry. She didn't know what to make of it until that night, when she lay in bed, thinking.
Then she had come to the conclusion of their fathers. All of this, in the beginning, was their idea. They did everything in their power to try and make Ranma and herself fall in love with each other. As it turned out, they had more success on their own, rather than being pushed into it.
As Akane walked onward, through the gates of the school, she blinked in confusion as she noticed Tatewaki Kuno walk by, without even acknowledging her presence.
Tatewaki sighed in frustration. Since the dream the night before, he had been visibly distracted by his thoughts.
He couldn't remember much of the dream, as he rarely did. But he did remember some things quite clearly. Death at the hand of a demon. Or, was it death? He didn't feel dead at the end of it. Usually during his dreams, if his life were taken, the dream would simulate death, although he was still able to observe.
And then there was the tall man dressed in samurai armour. The man who had picked him up and taken him to safety in a field of pools.
But, most of all, he could remember two names. Jiao and Senkyo.
Long ago, Tatewaki had realized that some dreams hold prophecies. Futures to be told, or pasts to be realized. Right now, Tatewaki was unsure what to make of this one.
Not even paying attention to his surroundings, he walked through the front gate to Furinkan High, and in the front door.
Nabiki stared in disbelief.
"Hey Nabiki, what's going on?"
"You didn't just see that?"
"Kuno just walked by Akane and Ranma like they weren't even there."
"So? You stopped taking bets on them a long time ago."
Nabiki shook her head. "It's not just that. I mean, he walked by without even noticing them."
"Maybe Kuno finally got a clue."
Nabiki scoffed, "Kuno, get a clue? Are you serious?"
"Good point. So, what do you want to do about it?"
Nabiki narrowed her eyes. "Nothing right now. Let's just work out a strategy."
"You want to WHAT?" He asked, astounded.
"Grandfather, please calm down."
"Calm down?! You want to leave me!"
Shinnosuke sighed. "No, Grandfather. I do wish to return. I've never been outside of the forest, and I--"
"There's nothing outside that would interest you,
boy! Where would you go?"
"The Tendo Dojo."
"Tendo? You mean those people who were here a few months ago?"
"Why would you want to go there?"
He sighed again. "Grandfather. My memory has improved. My life is no longer in danger because of their help. I merely wish to visit and give thanks." While it wasn't completely true, he had, in fact, planned to give thanks after he had arrived.
"Grandfather, many of the animals are hibernating now. There will not be many problems with them now."
"But what of me? What if I were to die while you were gone?"
Shinnosuke was losing his patience. "Grandfather," he said gruffly, "you will not die in my absence." He closed his eyes. "Please allow me this wish."
His grandfather stood silent for a few minutes. After a moments consideration, he looked at him.
"Under one condition."
Shinnosuke smiled. "Anything, Grandfather."
His Grandfather smiled. "Return with a wife."
"Shinnosuke, I am growing old. We will need an heir for the next generation of Guardians for Ryugenzawa, and a female companion would do you a world of good!"
Shinnosuke stuttered for a moment, "I... I will, Grandfather. I will not return without a bride."
"Then go, my Grandson." He smiled. "Quickly, before I change my mind!"
Shinnosuke picked up his ready packed bag, attached his broom to his back, hugged his grandfather and left.
"Nodoka, please reconsider," Soun pleaded.
"I'm afraid that's impossible, Soun." Nodoka cast her gaze towards her husband out in the yard. "After all Ranma and my husband have put you through, it's the only thing to do."
Soun sighed. "Surely you can't just take them away like that?"
Nodoka shook her head. "I understand how you feel about this. The incident in China should amplify the fact that Ranma would be better off with me."
"But, we are in the midst of taking care of the excess problems," he pleaded. "Soon, they will be able to marry in peace."
"Soun, I am in no way against this marriage. In fact, I encourage it. Seeing Ranma and Akane together warms my heart." She smiled. "But she nearly died in China. You may argue that if it wasn't for Ranma, she would have. But I may argue that if it were not for my husbands visit to Jusenkyo, that child would never have come here, and thus Akane's life would never have been in danger to begin with."
Soun sighed. "But surely you see--"
"Yes, Soun. I see them. I am not so blind that I cannot. They harbour strong feelings for each other, and I will not stand between them."
Soun closed his eyes. "Then I have a favour to ask of you."
Nodoka smiled. "Anything, Soun."
"I know you don't live far from here," he sighed. "But will you accept Akane into your home as well." He opened his eyes. "I will pay for any expenses needed, I--"
"That won't be necessary, Soun. I would be happy to accept Akane into my home. As for payment, don't concern yourself with it." She smiled. "I have more than enough money to support her."
Soun smiled. "Thank you, Nodoka Saotome."
"Hey, Freak!" the masked boy yelled. "A little late today, aincha?"
Gosunkugi cast his gaze downward. "What is it now?"
"What, did he forget the drill already?" another asked.
"Money. All of it. Now," the third one said.
Hikaru sighed and reached into his bag. He played around with the idea of fighting back. Something he normally tried, and usually failed.
He felt around in his bag. His hand fell upon his hammer.
Correction. Something he had always failed. But unlike some other, more intelligent students, Gosunkugi failed to realize that.
He pulled the hammer out.
The ground shifted. Not so much that people could feel, just a small, inconsequential shift in the lower mantle of the earth, that set earth trembling under the ocean.
For most, it meant absolutely nothing. Just another random working of the earth's geology. Continental shift or some other scientific term.
But for one, it meant everything. It meant the day of release was near. It meant the day of his servant's return was at hand. It meant the one who he served would soon return.
The most dangerous thing was that over five thousand years, one can come up with one hell of a strategy.
Not in a thousand years had he ever suspected that he could beat one, let alone four bullies off with nothing but his hammer.
And yet, he did. They must have been expecting it. They always expect it, and they always end up beating Hikaru into the ground. And yet this time, they merely ran.
All he had done was hit one with his hammer. Not even in a vulnerable place. The arm. He hit him in the arm, and they ran.
If Gosunkugi had been paying closer attention to his own body, rather than the fleeing forms of the bullies, he'd have noticed why they were fleeing.
Hikaru Gosunkugi's battle aura flared. It took him a moment to notice, but it was flaring. How or why, he couldn't explain. And the fact that it was dark. Almost black, he also couldn't explain.
He examined his arms. He could see the aura start to flare down, but it was still a remarkable sight.
A few moments later, Gosunkugi packed his hammer back into his bag, and continued on his way to class. His battle aura slowly fading into non-existence as he continued.