Chapter Fourteen: Make Me BadEdit
"Salvation shall fall, and the dread forces of the demon shall rise
within the city. The warriors of light must face a difficult decision, and
leave behind all that they know to regain that which they have lost."
~ Chang Xi - The Book of Five Millennia
"We meet again, Masamoto," one of the police officers called, leaning over the body of a young man. "Pretty active today, wouldn't you say?"
Masamoto sighed. It was the same officer he had seen at Saint Hebereke, but this time two completely new victims. Both already had plastic sheets covering them, but the one he was closest to had his neck bent at a... less than natural angle.
"Christ," he said. "What happened here?"
The officer pointed a finger off toward another officer. "He took their initial statements. The kids are over there somewhere," he said, pointing toward a small crowd of school kids that had gathered behind the police line. Thankfully, most of their view had been obstructed by the presence of several police cars.
Masamoto nodded and walked toward the small crowd of kids gathered at the other end of the small park. He could talk to the officer later. Right now, he wanted to hear it from the source.
On his way, he stole a quick glance of the other body. He was covered, but it was easy to see how he died. The blood all over the stone wall verified the cause of death. He had struck the wall very hard.
Or at a very high velocity.
He finally reached the small crowd and pulled out his notebook. "Okay, who can tell me what went on here?"
A boy no older than sixteen replied. "Well, I already told the other officer all I know," he said.
"Well, you can tell me. You the only witness?"
The boy shook his head. "No. Daisuke, Yuka and Sayuri all saw, too."
"And your name?"
"Okay, where are the others?"
Daisuke slowly raised his hand while Yuka and Sayuri sheepishly stepped forward.
"Okay, kids," Masamoto said. "Come with me, will you?"
"Are we in trouble?" Yuka asked.
Masamoto shook his head. "No. This is just very important, and I need to make sure I've got all the information."
They all walked over to Masamoto's car before the questions began to ring out.
"Okay, so you kids saw it all?" he asked.
Then they all began to speak at once.
"Whoa, whoa. Hold on," he said. He pointed his pen at Sayuri. "You. What did you see?"
"Well," she began. "Yuka and I were walking home together..."
"These two weren't with you?" he asked, gesturing toward Hiroshi and Daisuke.
"No," Sayuri said, shaking her head. "They were behind us."
"Okay, go on."
"Well, we came across the park, and we saw Hi... Hikaru standing near the tree. Kensuke and his thugs were bothering Hikaru, so... Hikaru... killed them."
"She killed them?"
"Hikaru is a he," Yuka corrected. "Hikaru Gosunkugi. He was in our class."
"Okay, so he killed them? Just like that?"
"It was the way he killed them, though. He made Ranma look like... nothing! He just picked them all up and scattered them like they were roaches!"
Ranma? Must be some kind of action star, Masamoto dismissed. I'll never get used to the changing fads of pop culture.
"So, Hikaru just broke that kids neck? No weapons?"
Sayuri shook her head. "We saw it clearly. We were all in shock watching, but I remember distinctly that he never used any weapons."
"But to kill two and severely injure the other two. He must have been pretty big and tough? Maybe good at martial arts?"
Sayuri shook her head. "Hikaru was never strong. He was always one of the most frail, weakest students in our class."
"That's right. He always had bags under his eyes and everything," Hiroshi interjected.
Masamoto frowned. How the hell could he have done something like this? Those dead kids looked pretty tough, how could--
"But anyway, then Kodachi showed up and took him away," Sayuri continued. "Then we called you guys."
"Wait. Kodachi? Kuno?"
"Sister of Tatewaki Kuno? Are you SURE?"
"Yeah, you don't forget someone like Kodachi. She just kinda... sticks around in your head."
"Well... what the hell does she have to do with this?"
"I'd say their in cahoots. Kodachi seems like the type who would do something like this," Daisuke offered.
"Did you see which way they went? Could you follow them?"
"Follow Kodachi? HA! You'd have a better chance of locating the Titanic with a divining rod," Daisuke shot. "But she did go that way." He pointed to the east.
Masamoto thought. There was a link between Hikaru and the deaths at Saint Hebereke. He cold feel it, but still... the girl there were far less... well, present. These ones at least were still recognizable.
"Do you know if Hikaru left school at all today? Say around.. oh... lunchtime?"
Sayuri shook her head. "No. He was here all day."
"Are you sure?"
She nodded. "Yeah, after what Ranma and Kuno did this morning, he was acting kinda... different. It was easy to notice."
"Ranma and... Tatewaki Kuno?"
"Yeah. Those four," Sayuri said, gesturing toward the park. "Tried to pick on Hikaru this morning. Ranma and Kuno didn't like it much, though, so they helped him out."
"Really? Who's this Ranma fellow?"
"Ranma Saotome. He and Kuno aren't exactly on the best of terms, but they sure can fight," Hiroshi said.
"He's the fiancé of Akane Tendo," Yuka said.
"About yea tall," Masamoto said, bringing his hand level up to his nose. "Red shirt, pigtail?"
"That's him," Sayuri said.
Masamoto hummed in thought. "Well, where can I find Ranma?"
"He's staying at the Tendo Dojo," Hiroshi said.
"WAS," Sayuri interrupted. "He moved out, remember?"
"Oh yeah. He's living with his mom now or something."
"Do you know where that is?"
Hiroshi shook his head. "Not sure. Never met her."
"You could ask her dad," Yuka suggested. "He'd know where it is."
Masamoto sighed. "Thanks," he said. "I'll do that."
Soon, the group split ways. Konatsu, as requested by Feng Bo, left with Cologne, Shampoo and Mousse. While somewhat confused at being split from Ukyou, he still took it fairly calmly.
"I still don't understand this," Mousse mentioned. "We're reborn souls? It makes me feel so... recycled."
"Shampoo no like it, either. Why we listen to strange old man, Great-Grandmother? Shampoo's dreams no his business, or anyone's."
"Feng Bo knows what he's talking about, Shampoo. And Mousse," she began, meeting the tall boys gaze through his glasses. "We're hardly recycled. You and I, and most others are still as our own persons. Think of it more as..." She thought for a good definition. "Carrying a passenger."
"Yuck. That sound like tapeworm," Shampoo compared.
"I think I understand, Elder," Konatsu said. "It's like... well, we are our own persons, as you said, but instead of holding one soul within us, we hold two. Is that it?"
"That is an accurate comparison."
"But why did it take so long for the dreams to start? I might have an easier time believing this if we'd been having these dreams out whole life. But it's been... what... less than a week since my first dream? And then all this demon stuff."
"Have you forgotten your roots, boy?"
"My roots have nothing to do with this," Mousse said.
Cologne smacked him on the back of the head with her staff, causing him to fall over.
"Hey!" Mousse exclaimed.
"Our roots have everything to do with this, boy," Cologne warned. "Taka... what was his real name?"
"_WHAT_ was Taka's real name."
"Real name? I--" Mousse thought. Taka's real name? He had never encountered it before. He had always assumed that--
But wait. Taka was of Chinese descent, while the name itself seemed Japanese in origin. Did that mean...?
Mousse blinked. "Who... Lu Pan?"
"Good, boy," Cologne said. "Perhaps you've got some brain up there after all."
"What? But... Who--?"
"Name the founders."
"Founders of Joketsuzoku, stupid Mousse," Shampoo said, sighing. "Names were Ghou Zan, Chin Wu, Xia Chan, and... Lu Pan."
"Good, Shampoo. You have been paying attention in your studies, I see," Cologne said. "The four founders of the Joketsuzoku. Three women, and one man. All of whom lost their lives protecting their lands."
"Look, what does that have to do with anything?" Mousse asked.
"Foolish boy," Cologne said, knocking her staff on his head again. "Lu Pan. Think of it."
Mousse blinked. Lu Pan. Taka's true name... but if that was true, then that would mean...
"Whoa, wait. The Joketsuzoku was founded my... me?"
"Not just you. Kaori's true name was Ghou Zan. Torako's true name was Chin Wu."
"But... what about Xia Chan?"
Mousse blinked. "So.. where's Maya?"
"Stupid Mousse," Shampoo said. "Pig-boy girlfriend!"
"Wait... She's one of us?"
"It would seem so. Though why she was reborn in Japan, I... truly couldn't say. Logic would dictate that she be born with us, back at Nyuchezu."
"Xia Chan love Maigo," Shampoo said, a finger in the air before her. "Could be soul that lead her to pig-girl."
"True. Many loves transcend death. It could be that Xia Chan's love for him led her that far."
"Well, if Maigo was Ryouga, then wouldn't that mean that he's one of the bad guys?"
"No," Konatsu said, breaking into the conversation. "I remember that clearly. Maigo... did something to betray Rogi. Rogi took out his vengeance by cursing his soul, and sending it to the next life. Maigo did it for Maya-- err... Xia Chan."
Cologne blinked in surprise. "Well," she said. "It's good to have such a skilled shadow fighter in our midst. Welcome, Kage."
Konatsu smiled. "Hello!"
"Ranma!" Nodoka called, frowning. "It's about time! I was beginning to worry, you know. School DID end over three hours ago!"
"Err... Sorry, Mom."
"Well, that's fine," Nodoka sighed, and looked toward Akane, and the small army they had behind them. "You do know we're not moving the furniture until tomorrow, right? And that there's not much to move. Oh, what happened to Master Happosai?"
"Err," Shinnosuke stammered. "He... uhh.. slipped and fell."
"Yeah. Nasty bump," Ryouga agreed.
"We're turning the Dojo into a MASH unit tonight, Auntie," Nabiki mentioned.
"Oh... well, it is okay with your father, right?" Nodoka asked.
Nabiki nodded. "Of course, Auntie."
"Very well," she said, eyeing the larger group behind them.
"Err, Mom?" Ranma began.
"This is kinda complicated to explain, but... Do ya mind if Ucchan spends the night?"
Nodoka blinked and looked toward Akane. "Er... Are you okay with this, dear?"
Akane nodded. "Yes, we need to... talk something over."
"Ah! Very well, then!" Nodoka smiled. "She's welcome to."
Ukyou didn't say anything, but just stood there, looking at the ground.
"Come, Genma!" Nodoka called as the small army snuck by the side of the house. "It's time to go!"
Within mere minutes, the five of them were off.
"You know," Feng Bo began, poking at the floor with a finger. "Armageddon or no, are you sure it's okay for all of us to stay here?"
"Sure," Nabiki said. "My Father may be a martial artist, but he's easy to manipulate."
"Nabiki! You shouldn't say that about Father!" Kasumi called from the entrance, looking very stern.
"Ahh, Kasumi. Your beauty enchants us all," Tatewaki greeted.
"Thank you!" she said, lighting up her face. Her previous mood seemed forgotten. "Oh, Master Feng Bo. Will you be spending the night?"
Feng Bo nodded. "Yes Kasumi, but... some of us will be leaving in the morning. I fear I will not see Tofu again for some time. Could you pass a message on to him?"
"A message?" Kasumi asked, cocking her head to one side.
"Yes. Tell him I said to open it."
"Open it? Is... that it?"
Feng Bo nodded. "That's it, Fair Kasumi."
"Okay," Kasumi said. "Oh my, will you all be spending the night?"
"Yes," Feng Bo said. "One more thing, Kasumi... There may be some tr--"
"A challenger to the Dojo, Kasumi," Nabiki interrupted. "A very dangerous one. You should just hang out in your room tonight, okay?"
"In.. my room? Okay, Nabiki," Kasumi said, blinking. "Oh, I should get to dinner!"
"Perhaps getting her away from the Dojo would be the wisest course of action, Nabiki Tendo," Tatewaki said.
"With a murderer stalking the streets?" Nabiki said. "I think not."
"That same murderer may well stalk the halls of this very building," Feng Bo said, sighing. "But I think not."
Nabiki pointed off to the book held against Feng Bo's chest. "So what's the deal with that, anyway?"
"This? 'Tis the Book of Five Millennia, Young Nabiki," Feng Bo said, smiling. "Long ago I held this very book in my hands, and knew every passage, every stroke by heart. But since then, things have faded. I lost the book some time ago, but now it seems... That young Tatewaki had acquired it. How, I dare not ask..."
"It was in the Library," Tatewaki said. "It was the oldest one there, and by far the most mysterious."
Feng Bo opened the newly restored book and set it upon a table near the side of the Dojo. "Years and years ago, there was a man named Chang Xi. He was a... prophet, if you will. He dreamt of a battle that took place nearly a three thousand years earlier, and knew of events that were still years to come."
"So it's a book of prophecies? Like Nostradamus?" Nabiki asked.
"Nostradamus? No, I'm afraid not. This man saw things even he could not see. He saw the wars of the past, and the battles yet to come." He turned to the first page and smiled. "The true power of a man lies not in the strength of his muscles, but of his heart. Not by the skill of his art, but by the knowledge of his mind. Neither by the might of his allies, but by the trust he places in them."
"My... how... poetic," Nabiki deadpanned.
"They are words to live by, Nabiki," Tatewaki said. "What of the diagram?"
"Ah, yes. Chang Xi was a talented artist," he said. A moment later, he flipped a few more pages in, and let it rest on a page with a black ad white drawing of--
"That's Jusenkyo," Ryouga said, looking over Feng Bo's shoulder. "I know it!"
Tatewaki also ran his hands over the pages. "Many. Many warriors."
"Yes," Feng Bo. "But it is not the past. This was his view of the future."
"Is that a dragon?" Nabiki asked, pointing toward a figure in the sky above Jusenkyo.
"Indeed. Chang Xi was able to see more than any god alive. It was due to him that I could prepare much of this."
"Those are the Phoenix," Ryouga said, pointing toward a number of man-shaped figures around the dragon.
Feng Bo snapped the book shut. "You know of the Phoenix?"
"Yeah," Ryouga said. "Ranma killed Saffron, their king, a few weeks ago."
"Then... he's been reborn as an infant?" Feng Bo asked.
With a smirk, he sighed. "Then everything Chang Xi has predicted so far is truth."
"Well, does he happen to predict who wins?" Nabiki asked. "Maybe we can just show this to that demon guy and get this over with."
Feng Bo sighed. "No. The Brotherhood killed Chang Xi before he could finish the book," he said, and turned the book towards the end.
It was full of blank pages. "This picture was as far as he predicted, but it still helps us a great deal."
"So, now what?" Nabiki said. "We just do what the book says?"
Feng Bo nodded. "Yes."
"Well, let me see. If we--"
Feng Bo pulled the book from Nabiki's grasp. "At this time, Young Nabiki, I would prefer to be the only one with the book. There are many... truths in here that would be what one would expect. Or welcome."
Nabiki blinked. "So you're not going to let me read, in other words?"
"Not now," he said. "I trust in your abilities as a strategist, but now... is not the time."
Nabiki placed her hands on her hips and furrowed her brow as Feng Bo walked away with the book.
"Well, fine," Nabiki whispered. "If you won't let me read it now, we'll just see how you feel about it in the morning."
"Hello," Masamoto greeted. "I'm here to speak with either Kodachi or Tatewaki. Are either of them present?"
The man who had answered the door shook his head. "The young master and his sister are not present. I have not seen Miss Kodachi since early this morning, and Sir Tatewaki left with Ranma Saotome earlier today. I... do not think he will be returning.
Masamoto furrowed his brow. "Oh? Why... not?"
"He took his book with him," the servant said. "I... I can say no more than that to be sure."
"Wait," Masamoto said, shoving his foot in the door before the servant could close it. "Would you mind if I took a look inside? There have been a few... incidents within the city today, and I may have reason to believe that Tatewaki or Kodachi may have something to do with it."
The servant sighed, looked back into the mansion, and then nodded. "Be sure that if Miss Kodachi knew of this, my life would be in danger."
Masamoto blinked. "What do you mean?"
"I will say no more. The Young Master's room is upstairs. Fifth door on the right, while his sister is across the hallway. You may find what you are looking for in those rooms," the servant said, and then moved away from Masamoto. "Be careful, Inspector."
Masamoto raised an eyebrow as the servant disappeared from sight. Something was rotten in the estate of Kuno, he could smell it. Looking toward the stairs, he began to climb.
"You know your task, Kodachi?" Rogi asked, one clawed hand held upon her forehead.
Kodachi kept her eyes closed and nodded. The mere feeling of the demon actually... TOUCHING her nearly made her weep.
"Speak it, servant."
"I do, Master. I know of the task you have asked of me. I shall commit to your bidding."
Hikaru leaned up against the wall, watching the fascination. The demon within the man came as no real shock, but even watching the outer layer of... humanity peel away had made him vomit. Repeatedly.
And now the actual... thing. Demon. Rogi. It wasn't anything as he had expected.
It's outer shell resembled... well, in truth, it resembled one of those pig-demons he had seen while playing Doom. The horns on his head, the rows of teeth that made a shark look like a rabbit. But the eyes. The eyes weren't empty or soulless. They were intelligent. Scheming. The arms were slightly longer, and the skin... well, that was just it. There was no skin. It was as if the demon itself was nearly a human being turned inside out. Like he wore his organs on the outside.
But still, the demon was by far the most disturbingly disgusting thing he'd ever seen, or experienced.
Killing Kensuke and his crew was nothing compared to this.
"This accept me within you, Kodachi," Rogi said, and growled. "Accept my essence. Accept."
"Oh, Master. I accept."
Hikaru watched the kneeling form of Kodachi in front of the demon. He watched her weep with joy. He watched her arch her back in ecstasy as the demon infused her with her power. He heard her moan from the intense... pleasure? Pain? Who could tell.
And then, when it was over, Kodachi lay on the floor, unmoving.
"Now rise, Kodachi," Rogi said.
Kodachi did so. She rose from the floor and shot a sensually hungry smile toward Hikaru. "Master," she purred. "I... I feel so hungry."
"You may sate it after your task," he said. "For now, do as I bid."
Kodachi never let the smile leave her face as she closed her eyes and bowed her head before the demon. "I will do as you ask," she said, and then hopped off.
Hikaru could almost see the power leaking out from within her.
"Hikaru," Rogi said. "You will come now. We must fetch she who you have bewitched."
"Who I bewitched? Akane? But--"
"Now, Hikaru. I believe Saiko can tell you what happens when I am disobeyed."
*Alas, poor Maigo. I knew him, Horatio.*
Hikaru winced as Saiko once again invaded his thoughts. He sneered under the impact, and sent some rather naughty thoughts toward Saiko. Much of which included insults meant to berate the... man?... soul?... for ripping off Shakespeare.
"Now, come," he said.
Hikaru did as he asked without argument.
"Well," Herb said, sucking in his breath. "Mount Phoenix. Never in a million years would I have imagined I'd be seeing this."
"Saffron's room is up there," Kiima pointed. "Just below the spire. We've suffered some... damage to the mountain recently. Many of the upward entrances are still being repaired. Many, if not all of the groundling entrances are severely trapped."
Herb looked up the side of the mountain. "So what do we do?"
"At this moment in time," Kiima said. "No idea. I suppose we could try the main entrance, but--"
"Where is that?"
"About two hundred yards," Kiima said, pointing toward a small cavity in the side of a cliff face. "I can carry you if--"
"No need," Herb said, raising his hand. A moment later, he pushed himself off the ground a few meters. "I should be able to handle this, so long as I'm near some form of earth."
Kiima smirked out from the corner of her mouth and began to flap her wings, allowing the wind to be caught under them, and push her up into the air. "That's pretty handy," she remarked.
"Part of my royal heritage," he said. "I was trained in the use of ki since I was very young. I think I could create ki-torches before I could even walk."
"Impressive. Must be useful in a fight."
"I've never lost," Herb said, smirking. "Except once."
"Ahh, let me guess. Saotome, right?"
"He does get around."
Kiima laughed as they ascended further up the side of the mountain. "We may experience some opposition within the entrance. Most of us are still quite bitter because of what happened recently."
"Yes, I had heard that Saffron was... defeated."
"Saotome," Kiima said, nodding. "It still amazes me to think that he managed to best Saffron."
"Indeed," Herb replied. "I don't even know if I would have been able to defeat Saffron, even on my best day."
"Master of Ki," Kiima said. "Master of Flame and Flight. I don't know."
"Saotome has indeed become more powerful. I wonder, though..."
Kiima looked toward Herb. "Wonder?"
"Saotome has gotten around quite a bit. From Jusenkyo, to Nyuchezu and the Joketsuzoku. I've encountered him, as have you. I can't help but wonder if we'll be meeting him again."
"I wouldn't be surprised," Kiima said. "But let's not worry about that now. Look, the entrance."
Herb nodded and pushed himself up the last few yards to the entrance to Mount Phoenix.
Kodachi's room didn't share much of anything. It was rather plain, but.. strangely gothic. Devoid of pictures, stuffed animals, or other things you'd normally find in a young girls bedroom, but... well, what WAS present didn't seem to be what you'd find in anyone's bedroom.
A wooden horse sat against the far side of her room.
A wooden horse. Masamoto had nearly fallen over when he saw that. What on earth was a sexual torture device doing in the bedroom of a teen girl?
But then, what where the several bottles of poisonous, and LETHAL drugs doing on her dresser?
Most of them were highly regulated by several government agencies. The Nitrous Oxide and helium may have been somewhat... normal, if you could consider it as such, but they were only simple gasses.
It was the Cyanide and Laudanum that had frightened him.
Not even a diary to be beheld within the entire room.
Heck, not even birth control pills, if the wooden horse was any testament to her sex life.
And then a quick run through the drawers had made him get sick very fast, and he had been among dead bodies all day.
Stepping out of the room, he took a breath. This was not boding well. Across the hall, he eyed the door to Tatewaki's room.
"Excuse me, Inspector?" the servant from before called.
Masamoto looked down the hallway toward him. "Yes?"
The servant began to walk up to him, holding a cordless phone in his hand. "Phone for you."
Masamoto blinked. The phone? For him? Well, besides Kimi, who knew he was there?"
He took the phone from the servant and thanked him. A moment later, he walked away.
"Hello?" he asked.
"I had a feeling you'd be there." It was Kimi.
"Yeah," he said, opening the door to Tatewaki's room. "I just finished looking through the girls bedroom. You wouldn't believe what I found in there."
"Now, now, Inspector. You know better than to be digging through a woman's underwear drawer."
"If only underwear was the only scary thing in there," he quipped. A moment later, he thought of something. "Hey, why are you calling me?"
"Well, dispatch said you weren't in the car, so I figured you'd be somewhere. This is the only place I could think that you'd be."
"Yeah, but... why?"
"Well," Kimi said, sighing. "I've got to... leave town for a little while."
"Leave town? What for?"
"Look, I really can't explain, but I need you... I need a favour from you."
"Can you feed my fish?"
Masamoto stopped dead in his tracks. "You called me in the middle of an investigation to ask me if I can feed your fish?"
"I wouldn't have done it if it wasn't so important."
"I guess I could," he said. "Hey, where you going, anyway? The captain know about it?"
"No, it's... well... call it a family emergency. It's very important."
"More important than your job?" Masamoto asked, laughing.
"Yes," she replied. Something in her voice made her seem dead serious.
"Well," Masamoto said. "I... I guess. You gonna leave your keys somewhere?"
"Yeah. I'm gonna tape them to the underside of your desk," she said. "Left side."
"Okay," he said. "You're leaving tonight?"
"Most likely. Maybe in the morning."
"So I'll need to stop by tomorrow to feed your fish?"
"Yes," she said. "The food is underneath the TV stand."
"Right," he said. "Will do, Kimi."
"No problem. I'll talk to you when you get back, then," he said.
"Maybe sooner," she said.
When she hung up, Masamoto put the phone on a nearby table and looked around Tatewaki's room. It was slightly less... well, disturbing. But there were tonnes of wooden swords, and old weaponry adorning the walls. The boy was wearing a hakama, so it seemed fairly normal. A couple of wall-sized posters stood against the far wall. Each one holding a picture of a young woman.
Obviously not glamour models, but they were cute. Probably a couple of girls he dated or something.
He looked around the room some more. Then he saw it.
A small book sitting on his night side table.
"Well," he began. "What do we have here?" He walked over to pick it up, and then opened the book near the end.
'Dear Diary,' one page read. 'It has now been two days since the dreams have begun. Each one is different, but the events are nearly the same. Walking through Japan as a true warrior. Climbing the mountains of China, and then the battle of the sacred valley, in which Jusenkyo was born. Even as the god Fei Liang carried me away from the field of battle, I could FEEL it. Everything. If it is normal to dream as such, I do not know. I fear it may be my insanity catching up with me. Kodachi still domineers over me, but I have long since broken free of her... hold. Diary, I can say no more, for I fear she may be coming soon.'
Masamoto frowned. It was dated only four days ago.
"Inspector?" he heard from the doorway. "Are you finished with the telephone?"
Masamoto quickly hid the book behind his back. "Err, yes," he said. "There you are."" He pointed toward the phone sitting on the table.
"Very good," the servant said. "Will you be leaving soon?"
Masamoto sighed. "Yes, I think that is all I need for now," he said. "But I should be in touch. Contact me when Tatewaki or Kodachi return, would you?"
"I will do so," the servant bowed, and then left.
Masamoto stuffed the diary into his coat pocket and walked out of the bedroom, and soon made his way back to his car.
Kiima and Herb easily found their way to the entrance to the mountain, located about several dozen yards above the canopy, but once they got there, things were all but... welcoming.
"Lady Kiima," the guard bowed. "You retur--" He blinked in complete shock upon seeing Herb. A moment later, he readied his weapon. "Musk! What is _HE_ doing here?!"
"Please, calm yourself, I--"
"Call out the defensive!" another guard called into the caverns. "The Musk have come to attack!"
Kiima frowned. "No, wait--"
"Lady Kiima?" the guard began, frowning. "You would willfully bring this... groundling evil into our midst?"
"Evil?" Herb seemed thoroughly offended.
"No, wait. He is out friend, he--"
"Kiima!" someone called from within, behind the guards. "Have you gone mad? To bring one of the Musk here? Where are Koruma and Masara?"
"They're at the Musk c--"
"What? You sold them out to the Musk?" he called, face now visible. It was the old man.
"Old one, wait! Saffron requested it of--"
"Saffron is barely an infant!" the guard said, his weapon now held to her throat. "You would disgrace his name so? Traitor!"
"Liar!" the other guard roared.
Kiima gasped. She had expected them to be... shocked, but that was putting it mildly. They were downright hostile!
"Traitor to the Phoenix!" the guard yelled. "Execute her and this Musk trash!"
Kiima rose into the air and began to ready her defense, while Herb did much the same, readying a ki attack.
The attack never came. What DID come, however, was a wall of flame that covered the ceiling, knocking three of the guards who had been running for cover down to their feet.
Kiima and Herb looked up in abstract shock as the source came walking into view.
"Now," Saffron began, baring his teeth while his eyes were still alight with the fires locked within. "Is that quite enough?"
The feeling of power coursed throughout Kodachi's veins. They pulsated with pleasure with each heartbeat, and only... saturated her desire. She needed release, and soon. But first she had to complete her task.
Ah, yes. The daunting task had been left to her to keep the others busy while he and Saiko-- no, Hikaru, she told herself took on the slut. Ranma would be with her, she knew, but that still meant nothing. Ranma was of no consequence to Rogi, and therefore, could still be a viable conquest.
She jumped onto the outer wall of the Tendo Dojo and scanned the area. Ah yes, she could feel it. Her brother was near. His scent pierced the air like no other.
And the others. There were many there. A great many. But with her master's power flowing through her, it meant nothing.
She jumped to the grass silently. She didn't want to launch the attack until she could be assured their defense would not act to hinder her. She wanted to leak the life from at least one of them. Yes, there were many there. She could easily take someone's life.
Perhaps it would sate a piece of her hunger, but perhaps not.
In fact, Kodachi hoped it would not.
She stealthily made her way to the outer wall of the Dojo and paused. With the power of her master, she could easily hear through the wall. Each of her senses were increased tenfold, as was her strength. Kodachi could only wait to test her newfound skill. Even in the darkness of night, her eyesight was near perfect.
Yes, the voices were within. She could hear them with crystal clarity. She strained to hear further.
Seven distinct heartbeats. Perhaps more, but they would be mingled in with the others. And then... two within the house.
The ones in the house mattered the least to Kodachi. They were not involved, and thus not worth her time.
But in the Dojo...
Kodachi readied herself to launch the attack.
Nabiki shielded herself instinctively as the wall exploded inward, toward her and the others. The dust washed over her quickly as she shouting began.
"Nabiki! Get away from there!"
Had Nabiki been able to figure out where 'there' was, she would have made like a bat out of hell. Unfortunately, she didn't. And thus when the blow came from behind her, she found herself vulnerable.
Her assailant held her closely, but it wasn't until the ribbon had managed to wrap itself around her neck that she managed to figure out who her assailant was.
"Kodachi," she croaked, half in shock.
"Indeed," Kodachi replied, smiling, and bringing her face toward Nabiki's ear. "You are a wise one, aren't you?" she whispered.
As soon as the dust settled, Nabiki saw the others. Akari had taken the still-unconscious form of Happosai and taken him to one side as Shinnosuke, Ryouga and Tatewaki neared Kodachi, staring menacingly.
Tatewaki didn't even blink when he recognized his sister.
"Release her, Sister."
Kodachi smiled. "Well, Brother Dear... If I had known before that you were one of the reborn, I surely would have exercised more..." She licked her lips. "Control over you."
"What the hell is this?" Ryouga asked.
Kodachi stared toward Ryouga. "Well, if it isn't Maigo. Defected to your light trash, already, have you?"
"What?" he asked.
"She's a servant of Rogi," Feng Bo said, sneering.
Kodachi turned her gaze. "I feel divinity within you, old man. Too bad you're too old and useless to put it to any good use."
"Release her, Nekkyo. You will harm no one tonight."
"Oh, but I think I will," Kodachi said, and then licked Nabiki's ear lobe. "But I'm oh so hungry."
Tatewaki took another step forward. "Release her."
"I would not come so close, Brother Dear. You never know just how... tight this ribbon can get." She pulled on the ribbon in demonstration, which caused Nabiki's eyes to bug out a bit.
Unnoticed by the others, Akari had pulled a small pocketknife from her jacket. She began to pull Happosai to the opposite side of the Dojo to get a better shot, when--
"Is there just the one, child?" Happosai asked.
Akari gasped. Happosai still looked unconscious, but--
"I can only see one," she whispered back.
"I can only sense one. But she is of considerable power," he replied without moving any features other than his lips. "Use the knife, Xia Chan. You can do it."
Akari blinked in surprise. Xia Chan? Who--
*You. He is speaking to you.*
"Me?" Akari asked.
"Please, there is little time. If you do not, Senkyo may be lost."
"Senkyo, but... Old man, are you?"
"I am Midori now. Attack, or you may lose her."
Akari blinked, and then looked up toward the action before her. It took only a moment to ready her aim, and let loose.
Kodachi's enhanced hearing picked it up nearly a second too late. Still, she managed to move her shoulder out of the way before it cut through her ribbon. Nabiki fell to the floor, coughing, and scrambled away.
Kodachi looked toward Akari and sneered. "Wretched girl!" she exclaimed, and pulled another ribbon from within the confined of her leotard.
She managed to snap away her brother's bokken before he had a chance to strike, and lashed the ribbon against him like a whip, ripping his hakama and drawing blood from his arm.
The others converged upon her just as quickly, but Kodachi spun around and managed to knock Shinnosuke back before he could touch her. The other, however, got to her before she could do much the same.
Upon instinct, Kodachi pulled a small packet from her leotard and tossed it at his face. Ryouga coughed in response and hit the ground, swearing.
He couldn't move.
"Well," Kodachi smirked. "That I hadn't expected."
"Give up, Sister," Tatewaki said, frowning. "We can fight against you."
"I think not brother," Kodachi said, and snapped her ribbon against him again, this time drawing blood from his leg.
Tatewaki still stood and took another step toward her.
"My brother, you are as stupid as you are naive," she said. "You can't defeat me." She snapped her ribbon again, creating a deep gash in his chest.
Still, he walked further.
"Resilient today, aren't you Brother? Pity you were not as resilient during our..." She licked her lips. "Family sessions..."
"Silence!" Tatewaki exclaimed. "Do not speak a word of that to me, Sister! Thou art so--" he paused. "You... cannot control me like that, Sister."
"Oh, but Brother," she purred. "I can and have." She snapped her ribbon again.
It never connected. Instead, her ribbon seemed to rip to pieces, inch by inch. As if the very air before her had pulled it in every direction at once.
She looked toward Feng Bo, who was now hovering a good half meter from the ground.
"Well," she smirked. "Perhaps the old god has something in him yet."
"Silence!" Fei Liang cried, his eyes as white as the raging winds. "No more of this!"
"You could not hope to--"
Kodachi couldn't finished the sentence. Instead, she was sent flying back through the hole she had created in the Dojo wall just minutes earlier. She grunted loudly as she impacted with the stone wall and fell to the ground.
Fei Liang floated on his own winds to the hole in the wall. "Leave, servant! Leave and tell your master we will not succumb! He will take her, but we WILL have her back!"
Kodachi sneered and rose to her feet.
"Very well," she said. "But do not think THIS match is over, god. I'll claim your life myself."
Fei Liang watched as Kodachi leapt up over the wall and bounded away, her laughter ringing through their ears.
"Ryouga!" Akari exclaimed.
Shinnosuke attended to Tatewaki and Nabiki within mere moments.
"Ranma," Nabiki coughed. "We've got to warn Ranma."
"There is no need, Young Nabiki," Fei Liang said, sighing as he lowered himself to the ground and reverting back to human appearance. "Ranma already knows."
The blast came as a complete shock to everyone. Especially Ranma. He had heard no more than a confused growl from his father before it happened.
He, Akane, Ukyou and his mother had sat down to dinner, and his father was on his way in from outside, where he had been smoking his pipe.
But it looked like dinner would be interrupted.
Genma came flying through the wall at an immense speed. While, if in the Tendo house, it wouldn't have made much of a difference, here, it did. The walls were extremely well built, and built to last. Even the Dojo didn't have walls as strong as them.
But that didn't matter. What did matter was the fact that his father lay unconscious against the wall, with a gaping head wound.
Everyone stared in shock. It was Ukyou who had finally come up with something to say.
"What the hell?" she exclaimed.
Soon, the rumbling came closer, and knocked down the side of the living room wall. All of them, even Ranma's mother had stood up to avoid the flying debris.
When the dust settled, Ranma blinked in shock.
"Gosunkugi? What the hell is this?" he asked.
Hikaru looked around the room as a second shape came up from behind him. A rather large, menacing shape.
It didn't take long for Ranma's mother to launch into action, pulling her katana from the bundle of cloth that it had been encased in for so long. She frowned at the newcomers.
"What is this?" she asked. "Why have you come?"
"Insect," the second form said. "Ignore this one, Hikaru. You know your duty."
Hikaru nodded, and took a step into the house.
Nodoka sprung into action, aiming specifically for the second figure. She tore her sword upward in a wide arc, and almost when contact when--
Nodoka's leg fell out from under her. The... figure. The second man had somehow broken Nodoka's leg... without touching it.
Nodoka screamed, her voice seething with pain.
Finally, Ranma sprung into action. But he needed to get Hikaru. If Hikaru was down, maybe the other one would leave, and--
The strike came out of nowhere. Hikaru struck Ranma in the side, and then punched him in the stomach, sending him flying back against the wall. Ranma grunted as the wind was knocked from his lungs.
Aching, he stood up.
Ukyou stared in abstract horror. She stepped back.
Ranma got up again. However Hikaru had done it, it must have been a fluke. He couldn't have--
*Smack* *Whap* *Crash*
Ranma fell to the floor again. He looked up and sneered.
"Worry yourself with the girl, Hikaru," the second figure said. "I'll take care of this one."
The figure was before Ranma in less than a second. Akane yelled in horror as the thing passed her, but then--
Fell to the ground, unconscious. Hikaru then picked her up and hefted her over his shoulder.
The figure-- Ranma could now see him clearly. He was a man-- but moreso. The look in his eyes, the stench of his breath.
"Do you know who I am, reborn one?" the man breathed.
Ranma's heart jumped. "Rogi."
"Indeed," he said, smiling. "And do you know know your ultimate fate?"
Ukyou stared at what was happening in absolute horror. The... man had crossed a distance of nearly thirty feet in... less than a second. He already had Ranma up against the wall by his throat.
And then Hikaru, one of the weakest--
*The group is only as strong as it's weakest link, Ukyou.*
Ukyou blinked in surprise. What... who?
*We speak again... Concentrate, you can stop this.*
Concentrate? On what?
*Feel the fires within you. Feel it overtake your body. Let it flow, Ukyou Kuonji.*
Ukyou shut her eyes as the pain rocked throughout her body, causing her to grunt.
That was it. The fire. The heat. She could feel it.
A few moments later, the flame erupted from her. Ukyou opened her eyes to find everyone in the room staring at her-- including the demon.
"RELEASE HIM!" she boomed.
Rogi looked up at Ukyou as she floated a few feet from the ground. He smirked as he made eye contact with her, but did not look away from the flames trapped within her eyes. Already he could feel the heat of being close to her.
"We meet again, goddess," Rogi said, sneering.
"RELEASE HIM, ROGI!"
Rogi smiled, and looked toward Ranma. "Count yourself lucky, reborn one. You are the first mortal to have ever escaped my wrath... But this is out first meeting. We WILL meet again. You can count on it."
He released him, and Ranma fell to the ground, coughing.
Soon, he left.
Hikaru stood at the edge of the Saotome's outer wall and looked back toward Ranma. "I'm sorry, Saotome," he said.
"Fuck you," Ranma said, sneering up at him, but still too weak to do anything.
Hikaru closed his eyes. "I'll... protect her for you."
And with that, he disappeared.
"Ranma! Are you all right?" Nodoka called, looking at Ukyou every few moments.
"Akane," he gasped. "They got her."
Ukyou finally regained control and lowered herself to the ground. She looked at her hands. "I... I..."
"Ukyou," Ranma said, talking through his teeth. "Call the hospital and take care of my Mom. I've gotta go get her." He stood up.
"Just DO it!"
Ukyou jerked back in shock. "I... I will."
And with that, Ranma took off like a jet, bouncing over the wall and out of sight.
Ukyou blinked as her eyes followed him as far as they could. She sighed in defeat, and the moved over to check out Ranma's mother.
"Are you okay?" Ukyou asked.
"I'm fine," Nodoka grunted, already seeming to have forgotten the grand spectacle Ukyou had just portrayed. "What about my husband?"
Ukyou looked over to the unconscious panda. "I can't tell. I'm not really good at wounds on big animals."
"Call the hospital and change him back. I'll be fine," she said, patting her leg. "And then... call the police."
Ukyou sighed, and then nodded. She soon set off to take care of everything.
"Akane!" Ranma cried, hopping from rooftop to rooftop. "God dammit! AKANE!"
The search had come to nothing. Since he had left the house, there was no success in finding hide nor hair of her.
Dammit. How could Hikaru do that? _HOW?_ After all Ranma and Kuno had done for him that day, to help him. He managed to strike him down.
But that wasn't all. The very fact that Gosunkugi _COULD_ strike Ranma down was was caused him to fear more. It was an impossibility... unless...
Unless Hikaru was always a martial artist. Unless he had just been biding his time so that--
No. Ranma shook that thought out of his head. Hikaru was no martial artist. The magic paper dolls, the cameras, the battle suit. He wouldn't have gone to such lengths before if all he needed to do was swing his arm.
The other one. The man who had hurt his Pop. The man who told Hikaru what to do. He was behind it.
He remembered the look in Hikaru's eyes. It was... remorse. He was SORRY for doing it.
He had even stated it. He apologized, and made his promise.
For all the promise was worth at that time.
"Well, if it isn't my Ranma Darling..." Ranma heard from a nearby rooftop.
Kodachi! That's it! Kodachi could help him, and when Ukyou got off the phone, she could call the Tendo's, and the police. Everyone could help him. He'd get Akane back, or die trying.
He skidded to a halt and turned toward the source of the voice. Kodachi stood on a nearby rooftop, one hand on her hip and the other holding her ribbon over her shoulder.
"Kodachi!" Ranma exclaimed, and then hopped over. "You've gotta help me!"
"Oh?" Kodachi asked, a smirk growing over her features. "Whatever is wrong?"
"Akane... she's been kidnapped! You've gotta help me, she might be in trouble!"
Kodachi raised an eyebrow. "Oh? How unfortunate," she said, and then laughed. "Too bad."
"Too bad?" Ranma asked. "What? Kodachi, I'm serious. I need help!"
Kodachi let her ribbon fall over her. "Oh, but I CAN help you, Ranma Darling," she walked toward him. As she grew closer with every step, Ranma could... see something.
Something in her eyes. A darkness that was visible in the near dark of Nerima's rooftops.
"Kodachi," he began. "What--?"
Kodachi swung her arm by him, entrapping his arm within her ribbon. From there, it took but a moment for her to place her hands upon his forehead and blow some black dust into his face.
Ranma coughed. The sheer quickness of her attack had left him in shock, but the dust was... doing something.
He felt his knees buckle out from under him, and he fell to the rooftop.
When the dust cleared, he could see clearly. A little too clearly.
"Kodachi, what the HELL are you doing?" he asked, somewhat amazed he still had control of his vocal cords.
"I'm so hungry, Ranma Darling," she purred, gasping even as she moaned every word. "My master has given me a great gift, but it comes with..." She licked her lips. "Advantages..."
She leaned down toward him and placed her hands on his chest. Ranma could feel all of it, although he couldn't do a thing to move.
"Kodachi," Ranma said, sneering. "Get off."
"I think not, Ranma Darling. My, how I've waited for this. With that... slut and the harlot out of the way, there is nothing to stop me."
"Silence," Kodachi said, placing her finger upon his lips. She straddled him sexually, and began to rub against him. "This won't take but a moment."
Ranma watched in absolute horror as Kodachi rubbed her hands all over him, under his shirt, even down his...
He shut his eyes and strained to keep his mind elsewhere as her hands began to explore his less public regions. But, as much as he hated it, and as much as he wished Kodachi dead at the time... Nature was in control.
"I see you are not as disobedient as I had thought," she said, pulling Ranma's pants down to allow for less... pressure. "Perhaps you will be useful after all."
Ranma watched in horror as Kodachi began to pull her leotard to one side, exposing her nakedness underneath.
"Won't take but a moment, Ranma Darling," she said, and then lowered herself--
"Get the FUCK off him, bitch!" Ranma heard from nearby. Kodachi frowned and turned her head to look--
--just to get knocked off of Ranma by a well placed ki-blast. Kodachi swore and fixed her leotard, and stood up.
"Looks like we'll have to continue this another time, Ranma Darling," Kodachi said, and then took off into the rooftops of Nerima.
A moment later, Ukyou walked up to him. "Ranchan... are you... okay?"
Ranma narrowed his eyes. "I want to kill her, Ukyou."
"I know sugar... Let's just worry about getting Akane back for now, okay?"
"I can't move," he said, then motioned his eyes down towards his pants.
Ukyou blushed, and then quickly fixed his... predicament. "I figured that. Otherwise you woulda done something about Kodachi."
Ranma laughed. "Kuno warned me," he said. "But I didn't listen."
"It's all right, Sugar," Ukyou said. "Look... I think we both know who we need to talk to."
Ranma shut his eyes as tightly as he could. "Dammit, I need to find her."
"Yeah, but we ain't gonna find her until we know exactly what we're up against," Ukyou said. "Until then, the only thing we can do is hope."
"Hope," Ranma sighed. "I'll rip their throats out." Ranma then seemed to notice something. "Hey, what are--"
"The ambulance was quick," Ukyou said. "A little too quick, but they loaded your parents."
"Well, what about--- I mean, how did--"
"The fire?" Ukyou asked. "I wish I knew."
Ranma sighed. "It's... well, it's..."
"I know, Sugar," Ukyou said, and then hoisted Ranma over her shoulders. Grunting, she looked up at him. "Maybe I should get you wet," she suggested.
"What will you do?" Hikaru asked.
Rogi sneered. "It is what you have wanted, Hikaru. The girl is yours now. The magic you placed upon her will be strengthened soon, and you may take her as your wife. Or slave. Or whatever you wish of her."
Hikaru swallowed. "Magic...? I..."
"Several months ago. Very weak, but... She is magically bound not to hate you, no matter what the circumstance," Rogi said. "I have strengthened the magical bond. Not only shall she not hate you, she shall do only as you yourself bids of her. Even love."
Hikaru placed a quivering hand on Akane's face, allowing the electric tinge of emotion to flow through him upon actually touching her. "So.... she is...?"
"Yours, Hikaru," Rogi said. "My gift to you, but remember. You serve me, and so shall this one. She is one of the reborn as well. The girl, Aiko. I can feel her aura from within her."
The key turned, allowing Kimi entrance into her one bedroom apartment. It was expensive for a woman her age to live alone, but her sources of income had well taken care of it. Her job paid well, but even then she was left short at the end of the month. But with her second source of income, she was easily--
--the attack came swiftly. A sharp jab to the side of her face, knocking her back up against the wall. The glass end tables near her doorway fell over as she stumbled by them. Covering her face instinctively, she awaited the second attack.
It came. Her assailant clasped her neck with large, burly hands. She managed to open her eyes to get a good look at him.
He sneered at her, raising her up the side of the wall by her throat.
Frantically, Kimi tried to choke out a few laboured words, but the grip was too tight, she could feel the blood trapped within her head. Slowly, she could feel herself losing consciousness.
And then her assailant let go of his grip, and as she fell the the floor, she gasped for air.
"Where the hell have you been? The gathering was called nearly four hours ago," he said, sneering at her.
Kimi rubbed her throat. "I know," she replied. "I couldn't get out of work that easily, Koji."
"The runereaders in China say that he's been awakened. He may even be in this city."
"He probably is. The Kuno girl has gone missing, and the other has awakened."
"Indeed?" Koji asked, his face alight. "Then the hour is nearly at hand."
"Should we seek him out?" Kimi asked.
Koji shook his head. "Not yet. We'll catch a flight to Xining in the morning and meet with the others. There may be complications which we may need to deal with."
"Shouldn't he be aware of the book?"
"He will be. We will meet him in Xining, Kimi. Perhaps even at the valley. Pack your things, we leave soon."
*Wake up, Akane,* the voice exclaimed. *Please, you MUST wake up.*
Akane opened her eyes. "What? Who's there?"
*It's better than you remain silent. Please. If they hear you, they may be able to block me out.*
Akane narrowed her eyes and looked around. She was in a small room, it looks like an old, abandoned office.
*One of Rogi's servants worked some magic on you not long ago. A paper doll, with the magic you were forbidden to hate him. Rogi has picked up on the magic, and is in the process now of strengthening it.*
Akane blinked. She didn't know anything about a paper doll. Come to think of it, she had no idea who the voice was talking about. Not to mention who the voice was.
*I'm Aiko,* the voice said, as if in reply to her thoughts. *You were not aware of the magic, but Ranma was.*
Oh great, Akane thought. I'm going nuts. Now all she needed was an eight foot ribbon and a poisons fetish.
*You aren't going insane, Akane. This is a dire situation.*
Wait, Akane thought again. Can you read my thoughts?
*I told you, I am Aiko. My soul has been caught within your own since birth. Look, you must listen, for time may be extremely short.*
Akane looked up toward the ceiling and sighed. What had happened? She remembered seeing a strange man--
*Rogi,* Aiko told her.
--and... Hikaru Gosunkugi?
*His servant, Akane. This very moment, Rogi strengthens the magical hold his servant placed upon you. Time is short, but you must listen.*
Akane sat in a wooden chair and sighed. Fine, she thought. I'm listening.
*I have a certain amount of power working within your mind. You will become a servant of Rogi, no matter what you want, but I can do something that may counteract the power he holds. I need your help to do it, Akane.*
To do what?
*It is... complicated. I would have to lock away all memories of the dreams, as well as... your friends and family.*
*If you remember them, Akane, you will know how to defeat them. You know all their weaknesses, and would share the information with Rogi if asked to. Not only that but... If you remember them while Rogi is in control of you, he is able to turn your feelings of love for Ranma to hatred, and not even I would be able to counteract that.*
My... love for Ranma? But... if I forget...
*Trust me, Akane. You will get out of this. In the end, you will fight with the forces of right.*
But... Akane sighed in defeat. She knew Ranma's weaknesses. Even further than the nekoken. If Rogi were to learn this, then...
No, she couldn't let him.
What do I do? she thought.