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Trials of Destiny/11

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Chapter Eleven: AbyssEdit

"First, allow me to tell a story. You may find bits and pieces match something all of you are familiar with," Feng Bo began.

"Yeah, yeah. Just get on with it."

"Long ago, the world was filled with gods and goddesses. Many of them still exist today, though not nearly as strong or known to the outside world," he began. "Gods have become forgotten, and have died as a consequence."

"Oh jeez, how long is this gonna take?"

"Silence, Saotome. He will soon explain it," Tatewaki said.

"Indeed," Feng Bo cleared his throat. "Five Thousand years ago, He came to this world. The harbinger. The darkness. He descended to our world to bring it hate and destruction. To feed off of it as one would consume food. His name was Rogi."

"Rogi, he's the one from our dreams," Mousse said, his mouth agape.

"Rogi was in this world for merely a day, and already he had gathered servants. The first was a criminal of the worst caliber. A warrior of the sword with minions of her own. She brought war to all regions of Japan and plundered. Her name was Nekkyo."

"Isn't that who you said--" Ukyou began.

"Yes, but allow me to finish," he continued. "The second was a man lost in his own mind. He had committed horrible crimes against the children of Japan, and was soon to be executed, before Rogi intervened. He killed the executioners, and freed him. His name was Saiko."

"And the third," Tatewaki said.

"Yes. Maigo," he said, looking towards Ranma. "Maigo was a good man at heart, but with a weak will. A weak heart. He allowed Rogi to infest his soul, filling it with his own whims. It was he who caused Maigo to kill the family of his own friend, only stopping at the one he loved, because he too harbored feelings for her."

Ranma narrowed his eyes. He knew what was coming.

"The family of his friend, Jiao."

"Go on," Ranma urged.

"The servants were willing to protect Rogi through any means possible. Even if it meant their lives. Nekkyo with her army, Saiko with his insanity, and Maigo with his ties.

"But Rogi had another purpose. A purpose that was not yet known. He needed to get to the sacred valley. He needed someone of divine caste. He needed a god for purposes unknown.

"And so he got one. The goddess, Amaterasu."

Ukyou felt a faint twinge of memory at the mention of the name, but then calmed herself.

"Jiao had grieved for three days, and three nights. On the fourth day, he found his unrealized love. He found Aiko, and the two of them swore revenge against Rogi and all that he stood for.

"And so the gathering began. Jiao and Aiko travelled together to find the wise one, Midari. Upon finding them, he set the two of them upon separate tasks.

"Jiao was to travel to the far ends of Japan, to gain the help of a God, while Aiko was sent to the worst, most criminal regions of Japan, to gather allies."

"As Jiao travelled, he became injured. He had become sick from infection, and was going to die."

Feng Bo smiled. Everyone was silent, and listening completely to his story.

"Then a man, Heisei, came across him as he lay unconscious in a forest near his home. Heisei took him to his home, and treated his wounds. A mere four days later, Jiao was at full health. After hearing Jiao's story, Heisei joined the cause.

"Together, the both of them travelled north, to the far reaches of Japan, when they came across a small army. The army of Kage, the shadow.

"Jiao knew Kage from long ago. The two of them had a rivalry which spanned their families. The two of them fought, for two days and nights, when one came out victorious. Jiao then sat next to Kage, as he lay bleeding on the ground, and asked him to join the cause.

"Kage refused, and then Heisei treated his wounds. The two of them continued north.

"They came across a village trying to protect itself against the advances of a warlord. Once inside, they befriended the captain of the guard, Kedakai, and the strategist, a woman by the name of Senkyo."

Tatewaki and Nabiki gave a brief glance towards one another as they heard the names mentioned.

"Jiao and Heisei visited a local shrine and prayed. They prayed for six hours, and gave offerings, without any reply. They soon decided their only choice would be to travel farther north, to a shrine known only in legend. A shrine said to have been built by the gods themselves. However, to go north would mean to travel through the lands occupied by an invading army, who was said to kill anyone who strayed too far from the village.

"Senkyo proposed an idea. She had listened to the tale Jiao had told, and offered the help of not only herself, but of Kedakai, if Jiao and Heisei would help against the army.

"And so, the four of them infiltrated the army camp, and they destroyed the supplies of the camp. They set fire to the tents and destroyed the food. Together, the four of them demolished the army encampment.

"And then the warlord had found them. The four of them were surrounded, captured, and would have been killed by the army, which they had soon found out was foreign.

"Moments away from their imminent death, and a bright light appeared above the camp. As it descended towards the ground, it split into four parts.

"From each light, a form appeared. From each form, a warrior emerged. It was the Shi Tenno. They had battled the foreign army to death, and released the four captives.

"Before leaving again in the light, the Shi Tenno told Jiao to seek the shrine. That he would find divine help, but not from the Shi Tenno, for they had to remain and protect Japan.

"And so the four of them, protected from the foreign army, continued north. Soon, they had reached the farthest north region of Japan, and as they stood on the beach, they felt betrayed. There was no shrine. There was nowhere left to go.

"But Jiao would not give up. His three followers tried to hold him down as he stripped and tried to dive into the waters, searching for the shrine.

"But he escaped their grasp, and dived. He searched and searched, but found nothing. He returned to the shore and waited for low tide, and then tried again.

"He still found nothing. He camped on the northern beach for several more days, each day searching through the waters and beyond.

"And finally, he had no more searching to do. He had become so desperate to find the shrine, he dived underwater and remained there for hours. Heisei, Kedakai and Senkyo thought him dead, but he was merely searching, his desperation giving way to a life force he had never expected to derive power from.

"And then he found it. A white, jewel encrusted shrine hidden under the waters of Japan, nearly ten kilometers off shore. He swam into the shrine, and breathed.

"For then, he could breathe. He found his clothes were dry, and he stood in a forest. A beautiful forest of animals he had never before seen. Of trees that expanded thousands of feet into the air.

"And most of all, a golden sky. He found the altar, and prayed.

"He prayed for the longest time, for nearly seven days before he was answered. Starving, thirsty and tired, Jiao stood before the altar as the form appeared. A woman of golden locks and sparkling white clothing stood before him. She was the goddess Amaterasu.

"It took little convincing. Amaterasu had known of Jiao's destiny from the time he was born, and agreed to help his cause. She instructed him to return to Midari with his newfound allies and await for her.

"And so, Jiao found himself back on shore, standing among his friends. They greeted him openly, relieved that he was still alive. Together, the four of them returned to the south, finding their way back.

"On the way, the once again came across the army of Kage, and were welcomed with feast. Jiao found that Kage had left soon after his defeat, telling that he would not return until he had taken care of business. After a day there, the group continued south.

"One day, in the forest of Heisei's origin, Jiao found himself alone. It was then that Kage made his appearance. He descended from the trees above and spoke with Jiao, and then joined his cause.

"It was then that they returned to Midari. They had returned, and Midari was truly shocked. He was even more so shocked as Amaterasu appeared before them."

"What about Aiko?" Akane asked. "What happened to her?"

"As for Aiko, she had her own adventure," Feng Bo continued.


"Oh my God, I just came in here to get the supplies for the track meet and there they were, oh my God they were just there. I think that was Ariko, and the other one was her friend Sasumi, but they're not all there, and oh my God, they were just lying there, it's not right this is the middle of the day, how can something like this happen, I saw them walking together this morning, I don't believe this. It's horrible, I can't--"

"MISS!" the police officer cried. "Please, I'm afraid I'll need you to slow down."

o/~The way you're bathed in light o/~

The student simply nodded, her eyes wide with fear. The music permeating from the outside supply room made no difference.

o/~Reminds me of that night o/~

"All right, now. What were their names?"

o/~God led me down into your rose garden of trust o/~

"Ariko and Sasumi. I'm not sure of their last names."

o/~And now it's swept away o/~

"That's all right. Now... Did you find them like that?"

o/~With nothing left to say o/~

The student nodded. "Yes. I--" she paused, obviously trying to keep her lunch where it was. "--who would do this?"

o/~Some helpless fool, yeah I was lost in a swoon of peace o/~

"That's our job to find out, Miss. Now, you should go back to class, and we'll deal with this," the officer said. "If you remember anything else, my name is Detective Masamoto Hasuzi, and I can be reached at the Nerima Police department. Here's my card." He passed her his card.

o/~You know what I need to find o/~

The student nodded, took the card and stepped away.

o/~So when the time is right o/~

Masamoto shook his head and walked back into the track shed.

o/~Come to me sweetly, come to me o/~

"Okay, what's the story here?" he asked the first person he saw. "Cause of death?"

o/~Come to me o/~

"Well, the first is quite obvious. She was torn to shreds."

o/~Love will lead us, all right o/~

"Murder weapon?"

o/~Love will lead us, strength will lead us o/~

"As far as we can figure, none. It's like someone literally ripped her apart, piece by piece, with their bare hands."

o/~Can you hear the dolphins cry? o/~

"Anything else with her?"

o/~See the moon rise up to meet us o/~

"Well, we're assuming she was raped as well, but it's hard to tell right now. There's a touch of seminal fluid around some of the... uhh... parts."

o/~It's in the air we breathe tonight o/~

"So some sicko raped her, then ripped her to shreds?"

o/~Love will lead us, truth will lead us o/~

"That's what we're guessing."

o/~Oh yeah, we meet again o/~

"What about the other one?"

o/~It's like we never left o/~

"Ariko Kitohara. Age fifteen, address 4326 Hoki--"

o/~Time in between was just a dream, did we leave this place? o/~

"You found her ID?"

o/~This crazy fog surrounds me o/~

The other officer nodded. "We found it in her bag, it's over by the Walkman."

o/~You wrap your legs around me o/~

"What about the other girl?"

o/~All I can do to try and breathe o/~

"We found her bag too, but it... well, let's just say it was a little too close to her."

o/~Let me breathe, so we can be together o/~

Masamoto nodded. "As soon as we get the scene cleaned, check out the bag for ID. Anyway, the other one?"

o/~So we can be together o/~

"Yeah, she was definitely raped, but by WHAT, I've got no idea."

o/~Love will lead us, all right o/~

"What?"

o/~Love will lead us, strength will lead us o/~

"Well, take a look," the man walked over to lift the thick black sheet.

o/~Can you hear the dolphins cry? o/~

"Uhh, no. I'd rather not."

o/~See the moon rise up to meet us o/~

He shrugged, then continued. "Suit yourself. Anyway, it appears as though it happened with a... rather large object."

o/~It's in the air we breathe tonight o/~

"Male anatomy?"

o/~Love will lead us, truth will lead us o/~

"More like an elephants male anatomy. It succeeded in breaking both of her legs, and impaled through her stomach. Chances are, she died really quickly."

o/~Life is like a shooting star o/~

Masamoto didn't even have to see it or smell it. The mere thought of it made him retch. He leaned against a wooden post, trying to breath.

o/~It don't matter who you are o/~

"You okay?"

o/~You can only run for cover o/~

Masamoto nodded. "Look. I've gotta go. Just... keep me posted, all right?"

o/~It's just a waste of time o/~

The man nodded and watched Masamoto leave. After he left, he turned around and spoke up.

o/~We are lost too, we are found o/~

"All right, everyone. Let's get this place cleaned up! Remember, we've got a student body out there, so leave as little mess as possible!"

o/~As Phoenix rises up from the ground o/~

There were several groans of acceptance as the man stepped over towards the Walkman.

He bent over, and then picked it up.

o/~And all these wars are-- o/~

  • click*

"I hate American music."


"Damn clouds," Kima cursed, trying to pick herself up off of the ground and clean herself.

If only she had kept her eyes open, rather than allow herself to be distracted by talking to Herb.

Then, Herb also didn't know she was cursed, so she couldn't blame him.

"Kima?" Herb called from somewhere nearby. "Are you all right?"

"Yes, I just... scratched myself up pretty bad," she replied.

"Hold on, I'll be to you in a second."

Herb finally rounded the corner, running towards Kima. "Are you all right?"

Kima looked up towards him and nodded. "I'm fine. I guess I should have told you--"

"Oh my God," Herb said, looking down upon her. "You... That Japanese girl." He said, stepping back. "She's... drowned?"

Kima looked at herself. She was Akane Tendo again. This must have meant... Oh dear.

"You crossed paths with Ranma Saotome? He does get around, doesn't he?"

Herb sighed. "Yes. I... I owe him my life, really. But... how did his... fiancee drown?"

Kima shook her head. "She didn't. It was a temporary spring, but the curse is permanent."

Kima saw Herb visibly calm. Under normal circumstances, he wouldn't have cared. But Herb was different. He had a different side to him. Nurturing, caring.

Loving.

"Well, we've got a problem now. I can't fly. We need to find some hot water."

Herb sighed and looked back. "We passed the Joketsuzoku a short time ago. We could go back there, I doubt they'd recognize me."

"But if they do, we run the risk of getting killed. If they see me in Phoenix form, they'll assume the worst."

Herb nodded. "To the north... well, I guess it's our only chance right now."

Kima looked towards the north. In the distance, she could see mountain ridges. A short path running up the side.

"We're on Quanjing right now, aren't we?"

Herb nodded.

Kima smirked, and then began to tread up the path. "Then let's go."


"Father?" Plum asked, skipping happily into the hut.

Plum's father, otherwise known as the Guide of Jusenkyo turned towards his daughter and smiled. "What is it, Plum?"

Plum smiled in return, and merely pointed outside of the hut. "We've got guests."

The Jusenkyo Guide sighed, and got up from his chair, putting his pipe out in the ash tray. Quickly, he walked out the front door.

And stopped dead in his tracks.

"Miss Akane?" he asked, looking at the first guest, and then frowned upon seeing the second guest.

"You seem to have caught us at a disadvantage," the second guest said, a woman with white hair, who the Jusenkyo Guide found all too familiar.

"Indeed," the other guest said. "We had some short exposure to a rain cloud slightly to the south of here. If you would be so kind as to supply us with some hot water?"

Plum narrowed her eyes. "That's not Miss Akane, is it, dad?"

The Jusenkyo Guide merely shook his head.

"We mean no harm to you, or Jusenkyo, good guide."

"You only bring havoc to the springs," he shot back. "Why should I help you, Phoenix?"

Kima sighed. "Because I mean no harm to you. The very fact that I'm standing next to a Musk should tell you of that fact."

Herb nodded in agreement. "Please, good guide. We merely wish to travel to Mount Phoenix. We mean no harm to you, your daughter, or the springs."

The Guide kept his eyes narrowed. "What proof do you have?"

Kima lifted her hands into the air. "None. But I give a promise--"

"After what happened before, can I believe a promise from you?"

Kima sighed. "No, good guide. I suppose not." She looked toward Herb. "Well, then. While you are here, do you want to regain your masculinity? There is no Spring of Drowned Phoenix here, so I will have to walk to distance back to Mount Phoenix."

Herb sighed. "I... I don't think it's possible for me to change back permanently."

The Guide narrowed his eyes.

"Ah yes, the prophecy?"

Herb nodded.

Kima sighed. "Very well then, good guide. We apologize for having troubled you."

The Guide merely kept his eyes narrowed as they walked away.

It wasn't until they were nearly out of sight, when something twinged in his memory.

(Prince of and Princess not of the Musk).

His mentor. His mentor had taught him the words long ago.

(Woman of flight, and girl of land).

Bit by bit, the Guide was beginning to place things together.

(Protector of the sacred valley).

"WAIT!" he called, and then ran after them.


"Any news?" Masamoto said, placing his hands on the desk of the secretary in front of him.

Kimi often heard a lot of the news of the murder cases before many of the detectives, mostly because she researched a lot of it. Therefore, it only seemed natural that she would be the liaison source between the detectives and the captain, or the computer. Wherever the information would come from.

Kimi looked up and nodded. "Which do you want? Autopsy reports or family information?"

Masamoto gritted his teeth. "Might as well get this part over with. Autopsy report."

Handing the two files over, she kept a grim face. This was strange for the unusually happy Kimi. When the Tokyo police had been outnumbered from the subway station gas attack a few years previous, Kimi had been smiling. When there had been the triple murder/suicide, she'd been smiling as she handed over the information.

It was her good nature. She always smiled, no matter what was happening. But now she wasn't. Masamoto opened the first file. It was the girl, Sasumi Kyotama.

As he read through the file, he understood why.

"Autopsy report says the girl was raped. They found a tad of human semen mixed in with the blood. After the--" Kimi began, trying to keep her wits up. "After it happened, she was literally ripped apart."

Masamoto closed the file. He didn't need to read any more. Not without losing his lunch just like earlier. "Did it state what the murder weapon was?"

If it was possible, Kimi looked even more grim. "No. They didn't make a positive identification, but it... It seemed like an animal dug its claws under her skin and ripped her apart."

Masamoto looked down. It didn't make sense. Human semen, but animal claws? Enough on that subject. "And the other girl? The Kitohara girl?"

"Well, she was quite obviously impaled by a large object, which caused her to... split," Kimi began. "It went so far as to actually puncture the stomach, but there was something else."

Masamoto narrowed his eyes. "What?"

"They found a tissue sample in the Kitohara girl. It's not human, they've determined that much. The med guys are still trying to figure it out."

"Not human? Does that make any sense?"

Kimi shook her head. "None at all. But it does mean we're not dealing with a normal killer-slash-rapist here. The guy was sloppy enough to leave a genetic sample of his semen, and some... tissue of whatever it was he used on the Kitohara girl. Chances are it was another animal altogether."

"A whole _animal_?"

Kimi nodded. "That's what we're assuming. An animal big enough to have caused that... problem, and to have left genetic residue, however... to break all the bones in the pelvic area, _and_ her legs..." She looked downwards. "It's confusing. I have a bad feeling about this. I think he'll strike again."

Masamoto sighed. "I understand how you feel. What about the families?"

Kimi nodded. "Both of them have been notified. The Kitoharas didn't take it well, neither did the Kyotamas. But the Kyotamas are in Kansai. Sasumi was staying with her brother in Nerima, who hasn't been notified yet."

Masamoto sighed. "I suppose her parents aren't in much of a state to tell him."

"To be honest, I don't think they're in much of a state to live."

"Where is he? I'll take care of it."

Kimi began to jot down an address on a slip of paper. "He runs an okonomiyaki shop on the outskirts of town, near Tokyo. Just so you don't have any surprises when you get there, he is... mildly deformed."

Masamoto narrowed his eyes. "Mildly?"


"Aiko, as I told you before, had been sent to the most criminal regions of Japan, where she was to gather allies. She was there for nearly a day before she was attacked for her money and her femininity. Fighting for her life as well as her honour, she ended up killing her attacker.

"Her attacker, however, was the son of the crime organization that ruled the area. His father had sworn revenge, and placed a price on her head.

"Aiko soon found herself having to fight for her life, and trust no one. One day, she had gone out for food, only to find her would-be killers attacking another man. Aiko jumped in to assist, helping the man to defeat his attackers, and live to see another day.

"The man, she soon found was a traveller. He gave her no name, except that he was ungrateful. Still, the man was injured, and Aiko nursed him back to health.

"The man stayed with her until he was better in health, and listened to her story. Having no cause to support, the traveller offered to lend his help. Aiko gratefully accepted.

"However, the stranger still had not given his name. He helped Aiko fight down the criminals who wanted her dead. Together, the two of them left the city. Aiko was extremely depressed, because she had not finished the task that was assigned to her.

"However she had, because the ally she had made was a more powerful fighter than she could have imagined.

"As the two of them approached Midari, the stranger stopped. He told her he could go no further, for he knew of Midari, and Midari knew of his line. Aiko begged for him to come along, but the stranger refused.

"Soon, Aiko had given up. She continued to Midari's home, and found herself there before long. She told Midari of the stranger, and how he feared coming to Midari's home.

"Midari took in the information and instructed Aiko to find the stranger again, and give her the message that upon Midari's word, as long as the stranger assists the cause, Midari will not harm him, or any of his line.

"Aiko once again traveled south, to look for the stranger. One night, she found herself exhausted, and camped in the middle of a forest. During the night, she was visited.

"The visitor was not human, but a Kappa. A water demon that is known to eat human beings. The Kappa sat next to the sleeping form of Aiko, and merely watched her. As morning approached, the Kappa stepped over to Aiko and woke her gently.

"Waking up, Aiko screamed at first sight of the Kappa. The Kappa explained itself, asking her to calm down. It had no need to consume her, for it was already full, but it had explained that he was there during the night to protect her from the Oni, a large demon that prowled the forest at night, searching for humans to consume.

"When asked why, the Kappa told her of a man. A man that was neither human, Kappa or Kitsune, but all three. A man born from a magic pact between three different races.

"The mans name was Pari. And he was a friend of the Kappa, of the Kitsune, and of the human. The Kappa then took Aiko to a nearby cave, filled with Kappa. Some of the Kappa looked longingly at Aiko, baring their teeth, but would not go near her.

"As Aiko neared the back of the cave, she was placed in front of a fire, with a man on the other end. She could not see the mans face until he stood up.

"And then he did, and she saw the man, Pari, was the man she had saved from the attackers. The man began to explain himself.

"The man held the image of a human being, the magic of a Kitsune, and the strength of a Kappa. His life span had been hundreds of years, and he would still live for hundreds more in his natural life.

"Aiko told the man of Midari's word, and he thought it over. The Kappa feared Midari. Midari could destroy the Kappa extremely easily, for their strength had no effect upon him.

"And so, Pari accepted the word, and travelled back to Midari's home. Once there, they had learned that Jiao had returned with allies, and Pari had met with Midari.

"Midari gave his word. Pari would not be harmed. Midari then spoke with Amaterasu. Amaterasu told Midari of Rogi's plans, to travel to the sacred valley, in the land to the west.

"So together, all of them set to travel to the west. Midari told of a warrior tribe that resided near the sacred valley, and told them how they would assist if they needed the help. And they travelled together."

"But what about Taka, Torako and Maya?" Mousse asked. "They're--

"I will get to them, boy. Believe me."

Before Mousse could issue a reply, there was a knock at the door. Feng Bo was the first to look over and smile.

As the people began to come in, one by one, he spoke. "Heisei."

Shinnosuke looked up in shock at the mention of the name. His mouth fell open for a moment, trying to find something to say.

"Maya and Midari," he continued as he say Akari walk in, with Happosai riding upon her shoulders.

And then, Feng Bo frowned.

"Maigo," he cursed.


"Hey there," he called. "Can I fry something up for you?"

Masamoto sighed. Mildly deformed wasn't the way he'd have put it. He seemed to have a normal speech pattern, his coordination seemed fine.

But the stick-thin body and squared head of Okoniro Kyotama was unmistakable.

It was almost as if his body was shaped like a spatula. What type of cruel irony was that? The doctors called it Spathacephalitis.

"Okoniro Kyotama?" Masamoto asked.

Okoniro smiled, put his hand up palm-out and shook it. "No, no. Call me Occhan, everyone does!"

Masamoto sighed. He hated it when they got overly friendly. It made his job twice as hard.

"Sir, my name is Detective Masamoto Hasuzi from the Nerima Police, I've got to speak with you about something."

Occhan narrowed his eyes. Obviously, he wasn't used to detectives coming in and being so formal. Suddenly, his eyes popped open.

"Oh my God, something happened, hasn't it?"

"Sir, do you have a sister? Sasumi Kyotama? She attended St. Hebereke?"

"Attended?" Occhan's eyes began to well up with tears.

Great. Way to go, Masamoto. The first thing he learned when informing someone that a family member has died, is never to speak in past tense. He had just slipped that one up.

"Sir, I'm sorry to inform you that she was found... dead about an hour and a half ago on her school grounds."

Occhan plopped himself down on a chair behind the grill. He placed his head in his hands and shook it slowly.

After a moment of extremely uncomfortable silence, Occhan looked up.

"How?"

"Sir, if you would rather--"

"NO, DAMMIT! TELL ME HOW!"

Best to do as he says, lest he get violent.

"She was found in the school supply room, along with her friend--"

"Oh God, Ariko too?"

Masamoto nodded. "They were both... raped and killed."

Occhan started with a choking sob. "Oh my God," he cried. "Oh my God, my poor little sister. She was only fifteen."

He began to mutter under his breath for several minutes. After another moment of pure silence, he looked up.

"Who did it?"

"We're not sure, but rest assured, we're looking for whoever did it as we speak, and won't stop until we find them."

Occhan stood up. "How long?"

"Excuse me?"

"How long till you find him?"

"Sir, I wouldn't be completely certain of that until we do find him."

Occhan just nodded solemnly. "How was she... killed?"

Oh great. This is just what he needed. "Sir, I'm not sure I want to--"

"Just tell me. I've taken this much, I can take more."

Masamoto sighed again. "Very well. She was... found skinned alive, and... ripped apart. By what, we're not sure, but we are looking."

Occhan's jaw dropped open. "Ripped apart? Is... she recognizable?"

Masamoto sighed. "I'm afraid not, sir."

Occhan dropped down into the chair again.

Masamoto shook his head. "Sir, I'll return in a few hours. There are some questions I'd like to ask you about Sasumi, but it would be best if after you've calmed down."

Occhan merely nodded.

After another moment of silence, Masamoto left, closing the door behind him.

Occhan silently moved towards the door, and flipped over the sign that read 'open'.

The store was closed. He moved towards the table on the far wall, and sat down.

Sighing, and trying desperately to hold back tears, he picked up the phone.


Konatsu felt something.

That's all there was to it. Konatsu, the first and only male kunoichi ninja, felt something strange.

Whether it was the spot of grime he'd found in the far corner of the store, partially hidden by the long grill, or something else entirely, he knew he felt it.

After he delightfully cleaned the grime and still felt the feeling, as if some kind of knot in his stomach, he frowned. It felt almost as if he was being left out of something rather big, but didn't know what.

A moment later, the phone rang. Konatsu sprinted across the room to pick it up and greeted the caller.

"Hello?" he asked, in the sweetest voice he could muster. "Ucchan's okonomiyaki!"

"Ukyou?" the voice asked on the other end. "Is that you?"

Konatsu let his face fall in confusion. The voice was audibly distressed. It was cracking as if it had been crying.

"No, this is Konatsu. Miss Ukyou's waitress."

After a sigh, the voice continued. "Listen, this is a friend of Ukyou's. Is she there?"

"No, she went to school this morning. Is... there something I can help you with?"

"I... Is there any way you can bring her home? I... I really need to talk to her."

"I could, but as long as it's important."

"Yes, it's important. I... I need to talk to her."

Konatsu looked at the wall clock. Two-thirty. It was take her ten minutes to get to the school, ten minutes for them to get back. By that time, it would be time to get out of school.

"She gets out of school in thirty minutes. She'll be back in forty, if you want to wait for her, I'm sure--"

"No, it has to be sooner. I... I don't even know if I can last that long."

Konatsu could sense the urgency of the voice. "Okay. I'll... run up and get her. Do you want me to get her to call you back?"

He heard a sigh on the other end. "Yes. Please. Tell her it's Occhan, and it's about Sasumi."

Konatsu barely had time to utter anything else before he heard the click.

Obviously something was up. And for all Konatsu knew, he had the distinct feeling that the shopping trip would have to be postponed.


"Maigo... How... why are YOU here?" Feng Bo asked.

Ryouga's eyes widened. "How... did you know that?"

"That doesn't matter. What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be out looking for your master?"

"I... my... master? I... don't--"

"What's wrong with Ryouga being here?" Ranma asked. "He's not gonna hurt anyone."

"Have you been listening to me? Who were the three servants of Rogi?"

Akari was the first to speak. "Nekkyo, Saiko, and... Maigo." She suddenly turned towards Ryouga. "But how did you know about that?"

"But how... Those are just dreams," Ryouga said, falling to the floor gasping for air.

Feng Bo merely stared at him. "You may just be our unwelcome ally, Maigo. But I warn you now, should you ever even CONSIDER betraying us, I will end your life here and now."

Ryouga looked up at the figure of the old man in fear. He was skinny, full of wrinkles, and didn't look like he could harm a fly.

But something deep inside told him not to underestimate him. To fear him as much as he would fear a god.

And Ryouga merely nodded. A moment later, he managed to get a look around. "What's... going on?"


Konatsu rubbed his eyes in disbelief. He'd never seen so many people gathered at one place like that, unless there was some sort of attraction.

"Why's Ryouga being chastised?" he managed to hear.

Konatsu froze mid-step. He... recognized that voice.

Ukyou?

Running up to the entrance, he peeked in. It WAS Ukyou.

"Miss Ukyou!" he called. "Emergency!"


Feng Bo's eyes shot up at the newcomer, and he let his face do all the work. The final warrior had arrived.

But, from the looks of things, he was about to leave too.

"Konatsu?" Ukyou asked. "What's wrong?"

"Someone named Occhan called the restaurant. He said he REALLY needed to talk to you about... Sasumi, I think."

Ukyou blinked. "Sasumi... his sister?"

Konatsu shrugged. "I don't know, but he sent me to get you at school. He said he didn't know if he would be able to last long enough to wait."

Ukyou felt a rush of urgency. "I need to use the phone."


What was there for him? His parents were probably devastated. They were probably in the same situation he himself was in. Sitting on a table, holding a knife to his throat.

Probably contemplating the same thing he was.

Probably...

But maybe not. Maybe they were glad he was hurting so much. They hadn't helped at all during school. During the teasing. The beatings he got, just because he looked different.

Spatula-head! Spatula-head! That's what they'd call him.

Maybe if they'd never moved away from Kansai, this wouldn't have happened. If Occhan hadn't suspected there would be better business in Nerima, it may not have happened.

It was his fault. All his fault.

He should have put up with the teasing. He should have stayed in Kansai, or at least not dragged his sister down with him.

She wanted a change. She wanted to get away from Kansai, a place where she was only known as the sister of Spatula-head.

And it was all his fault. All of it.

Even while Ukyou was there to protect them, there was nothing he could do.

And now, he knew it.

Occhan brought the knife closer to his throat. Just a swipe, and it would be over. Just a swipe, and it wouldn't hurt any more.

Just a swipe.

And then the phone rang. Occhan dropped the knife carelessly and ran over to pick the phone up.

"Occhan?" the voice called on the other end.

"Ukyou," was his only reply.


"What's happened? What happened to Sasumi?" Ukyou asked.

"She's... She's dead, Ukyou."

Ukyou felt something inside of her break. Innocent Sasumi. Carefree Sasumi.

How could it have happened?

"How?"

The sobs began to rack up on the other end. "She's... she's been ripped to shreds, Ukyou. Raped and murdered like a dog!"

Ukyou began to feel faint. How could someone do something like that?

"What's wrong?" Akane asked, walking up to Ukyou.

"Ukyou, I need someone. I need some help. I'm... I'm afraid."

"Listen, I'll be RIGHT there, all right? Don't do anything rash."

"Ukyou, I--"

"Occhan, promise me," her voice was strangely stale.

"I... I promise, Ucchan... just... just hurry," he said, just before he hung up the phone.

Ukyou placed the phone down, the shock still lingering on her face.

"Ukyou?" Akane asked. "What's wrong?"

Ukyou looked towards Akane for a moment, seemingly trying to consider her answer.

"Nothing," she replied. "I... I just have to go."

"Miss Ukyou?" Konatsu asked.

"Wait," Feng Bo said, standing before her. "We still have much to discuss."

Ukyou just shook her head. "It doesn't matter. I've got to go. Now."

"I must confess, there is something that worries me about your leaving before we can properly explain your... troubles," Tatewaki said, his eyes narrowed in remembrance of what Ukyou had done to Shampoo.

"Ucchan," Ranma stepped towards her. "What happened?"

Ukyou looked at Ranma for a moment, and let her eyes narrow. "It's Sasumi."

Ranma didn't know Sasumi. He knew he didn't know her, but he remembered Occhan, even if a little... vaguely. Still, something serious had happened to someone Ukyou knew.

"What happened to her?"

"Occhan... he... he said she's dead."

Ranma's eyes shot open. "Dead?"

The word meant a lot to him. It meant the opposite of alive. Never having been head on with death before, Ranma found himself inexperienced in dealing with such a situation.

Still, he had to help. Even if he didn't know Occhan that well, he couldn't sit by.

"She was murdered."

Ranma's eyes narrowed. Now he knew he had to help.

Feng Bo sighed. "It appears that your minds are not easily changed. Very well. Then we shall all go." He turned towards Tofu and sighed.

"Feng Bo?" he asked.

"Tofu, keep our young visitor company while we accompany Miss Kuonji to the residence of her friend."

Tofu blinked, and then looked around the room. "Which one?"

Feng Bo laughed. "I suppose I would have to point her out." Feng Bo raised one hand and pointed at a single entity in the small crowd.

Tofu's glasses immediately fogged over.

"Me?" Kasumi asked.

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