Chapter Fifteen: Cracks in the PavementEdit
"And Lo; the light shall be stained by the dark, and love shall be
enslaved by that which it fights against. The dread shall grow stronger,
and begin to move, followed ever so closely by those who would fight. The
final chapter lies upon the horizon, and soon the forces of east and west
~ Chang Xi - The Book of Five Millennia; Final Entry
"It's already happened, you know," Saffron said, pacing back and forth from within his chambers.
Herb sipped his tea gingerly. Something was happening elsewhere and he was living in comfort with his former enemies. It just didn't seem right. A moment later, what Saffron had said suddenly clicked in.
"What's already happened?"
Kiima sighed at her liege. Since she had left, he had blossomed through puberty and now stood a handsome man with the physical appearance of someone no older than herself. He was at his prime age. She oddly wondered if he would continue to age or remain at his prime.
"Rogi. He's back already. He's already taken his servants and even one of the light."
Herb blinked. "What?"
"The prophecy spoke of us joining forces," Saffron said, turning around. "Yet it also speaks of additional help from the east."
"Additional help?" Kiima asked. "Sire, I'm not sure exactly..."
"You did your job, Kiima," Saffron said. "You brought Herb. There is still a third involved in this prophecy before we make the journey east to Xining."
"Xining?" Kiima asked, almost aghast. "But... sire--"
"I've asked you repeatedly to call me Saffron, Kiima. And before you ask, yes... the Phoenix must go to Xining." He turned to Herb. "As do the Musk."
"Prince Saffron!" A guard called from outside his chamber doors.
Saffron turned his attention to the guard and raised his eyebrow.
"We've discovered a groundling lurking about the base of the mountain. I believe it may be the Guide to Jusenkyo."
"What?" Kiima asked. "Why'd he come here?"
"That, my dear Kiima," Saffron smirked. "Is our third."
"All right, Kuno," Nabiki began. "Speak. What was she talking about?"
"I know not of what you speak, Nabiki Tendo. However, the tone of your voice and absence of your usual affectionate term for me would lead one such as I to believe that you are... shall we say... less that pleased?"
"You believe right. What did Kodachi mean by what she said?"
"Once again, you have me at a loss. I am unsure--"
"You know damn well what I'm talking about. Control. Family sessions. Talk now, Kuno."
Tatewaki sighed. "I do not wish to speak of it," he said.
"I was almost killed tonight because she wouldn't stop talking about it, Kuno. I think I have a right to know."
"Perhaps, but when all is said and done, you may take it upon yourself to have the right to sell this information to the highest bidder. I would not be willing to divulge under those, or any other circumstances."
Nabiki frowned. "You'd rather I sell my own take on the situation to the highest bidder? True or not, it would be very believable..." She paused. "But I'm not completely unreasonable, you know. If you tell me, I promise to keep it between us."
Kuno raised an eyebrow. "Your word?"
Nabiki nodded. "My word."
"Very well," he said. "But now is not the time. Someone approaches."
Ukyou grunted as she hefted Ranma from over her shoulders to allow him a good look of the Tendo Dojo. "Looks like they had problems of their own," she said.
Ranma narrowed his eyes and looked at the sizable hole in the Dojo wall and sighed. "We'd better make sure everyone there is okay," he said. "Then we have to get Akane."
Ukyou jumped down over the perimeter walls and through the hole in the Dojo, then let Ranma down.
"What happened?" Nabiki called, running over to Ranma. "Where's Akane?"
Ukyou surveyed the damage. "He had a run-in with Kodachi... Did she...?"
"Do this? Yeah. She's working for Rogi," she said. "Akane?"
"He got her," Ranma said through his teeth. "Hikaru and that bastard took her."
"Hikaru?" Nabiki asked. "Hikaru Gosunkugi? Short, sickly looking guy? Couldn't hurt a fly if he tried? Him?"
"We've got to get her back," Ranma said, straining under the paralysis to move.
"Impossible at this venture," Feng Bo said, leaning against the wall, clutching at his chest. "We cannot help her now."
"What are you saying?" Ranma shouted. "I'm going to get her once I can move again, now who's with me?"
Ryouga called from the other end of the Dojo, "I'm in... just wait until I can move."
"Perhaps Master Feng Bo speaks truth in this, Saotome. We all wish Akane back, but the path may be too impossible to follow," Kuno said, leaning against the wall, his sword cradled in his arms.
"Yes," Feng Bo said, staggering towards Ranma. "The demon has her... I can only now tell you that she is safe with him... for now."
"How the hell do you know, old man?" Ranma asked.
"Uhh, Ranma... I wouldn't test him like that," Nabiki warned.
"Indeed. I would suspect that Master Feng Bo isn't exactly who he appears to be," Kuno said. "Isn't that right, Fei Liang?"
Feng Bo lowered his head. "I had hoped to spare you that knowledge until a time of graver circumstance," he said.
"Graver circumstance? Akane's been kidnapped!" Ranma shouted.
"Yes, but she has a purpose with Rogi, and she shall serve his purpose for the time at hand, and she will remain unharmed."
"How the hell do you know?"
"Chang Xi knew. Therefore I know."
"Chang Xi," Ranma scoffed. "I'm not relying on information from some guy that's been dead for thousands of years!"
"Then rely on one who has been around for longer!" he exclaimed, and then bent over in pain. He started to cough, and then caught his breath, regaining his former posture.
"What's... wrong?" Ukyou asked.
"Time grows short. If only Amaterasu had not... had not bound herself for so long," he replied.
"You're... you're dying, aren't you?" Ukyou asked.
Feng Bo raised his head and met Ukyou's eyes. He smiled gingerly. "Your eyes match hers perfectly, Ukyou. The colour is still vacant, but the feelings... they match."
Ukyou blinked. "What are you talking about?"
He shook his head. "If you do not know already, then you are not meant to know yet."
"Well, that's all fine and dandy, people," Nabiki said. "But I agree with Ranma, we need Akane back."
"And we will get her back," Feng Bo said. "At Xining... or the valley."
"You're fucking nuts," Ranma said. "God or not, Akane's in trouble, and if we don't get her back tonight..." He paused. "Dammit, they can't fight off against all of us!"
"They are strong," Feng Bo said. "Right now, stronger than us. His servant by herself took a lot out of me, and you, it would appear. Imagine fighting two more of equal power, as well as the demon himself. We would not last long."
"Two more? Wait, you said he only has two servants if Ryouga's on our side, right? That's three total, you're saying there's four?" Nabiki asked.
Feng Bo nodded. "There is a new servant," he said. "And she may be harder to defeat than the other two put together."
"What the hell are you saying?" Ranma shouted.
"I believe," Shinnosuke began. "That he's saying Akane is the third."
"Akane wouldn't do that," Ranma grimaced. "There's no way she'd help him."
"Nay, Saotome... though her love for her friends is strong, the magic of a true demon is enough to mask them, although possibly not completely."
"We shall get her back," Feng Bo said. "I'm certain of it."
"Did Chang Xi tell you that?" Ukyou asked.
He shook his head. "Beyond our departure, he's written nothing else. He died before that chance came up... although..."
"There are rumours," he said. "Rumours of another text written by him, kept by the citizens of Mount Phoenix..."
"Phoenix? Shit, they're a part of this too?" Ryouga asked.
"I don't really relish the idea of dealing with them again," Ranma growled.
"It's not important at this juncture. All we must do now is prepare for our morning departure."
"You can leave in the morning," Ranma said. "I'll leave as soon as I can move."
"Nay, Saotome," Kuno began. "To admit to that course of action would be folly, for the aircraft will not leave until morning."
"Aircraft?" Ryouga asked, gulping.
"Yes," he began. "The Kuno family wealth is... admittedly not as great as I may have led you to believe, we have had to sell many of our holdings in order to keep living... so it is with great dishonour that I inform you that we sold the family aircraft."
"Okay, that made no sense whatsoever," Nabiki said. "Especially now."
"So how are we getting there?"
"The friends of the Kuno family are few and far between... however one family has remained indebted to the Kuno family for decades. The noble Yamauchi's."
"As in Hiroshi Yamauchi?" Nabiki asked.
"Great," Nabiki laughed. "We're getting to China on Nintendo's buck."
Masamoto yawned as he stepped into the office. As promised, Kimi wasn't there. Of course, the very fact that it was past midnight would have told him that. The events of earlier in the day were still fresh in his mind. She had to leave, for family reasons she didn't want to elaborate on. That was fine, although the captain would probably fire her once he found out... family problems or not.
Still, he had promised he'd feed her fish. Strange thing to own, he thought. How often did you feed fish? Masamoto had a cat named Kaeda, and he had to keep him fed twice a day at least... so fish? Once, twice maybe? He was sure they didn't eat as much as cats did.
Still, why couldn't Kimi have gotten a cat or a dog? They were probably easier to manage, and she could even have taken the animal with her rather than--
Masamoto paused in thought. He had been to Kimi's house several times. A great many times, in fact. He wasn't sure why he didn't see it sooner.
Kimi didn't have fish. She had a bird once, but she was too intent on setting it free rather than keep it. But fish...? No, he was sure he would have noticed a fish tank.
It was only then that Masamoto let the second piece of information reach his cognitive center... She didn't have a TV stand, which is where she stated the fish food was.
He looked towards her desk and narrowed his eyes. Was Kimi trying to tell him something? She said she'd leave the key to her apartment taped to the underside of her desk.
He walked over and let his hand search under the desk. He felt no key... instead, he found a piece of paper. He pulled it up and looked at it.
It was an envelope. On the cover, it read 'Masamoto' in Katakana.
He opened it up and read the note inside.
If you're reading this, then I realize you understood what I was telling you. I need help, Masamoto. I apologize for not telling you outright, but if I did, it may have caused several situations that neither of us would have been willing-- or able to live through.
I belong to an organization that began it's roots in China. The Brotherhood of the Dark. It's an organization that roots from nearly five thousand years ago. While that may seem impressive in and of itself, it... it much more complicated than just that.
I know you must have a hard time believing it thus far, Masamoto, but... bear with me. I beg of you. Something needs to be done-- and soon, or else the whole world may be in grave and utter peril.
Five thousand years ago, there was an entity. The legends have said this, and I rely far too much on the Brotherhood to be able to deny this fact, in any way. It is true, and while I cannot prove it to you, you must believe me.
The entity, Rogi, is back, and thusly responsible for the murders yesterday at Saint Hebereke, and although not confirmed, may have had a hand in what happened near Furinkan.
Masamoto, please keep reading. I leave it to you to do something about this. There is a group of people-- warriors that are meant to battle the entity. I urge you, seek them out. Seek them out the same way the Brotherhood found Kodachi Kuno eleven years ago.
Yes, that's right. The Brotherhood was responsible for the rape and subsequent murder of her mother. I can name the very man who did it, because I am more than likely traveling with him at this very moment, to Xining, in the Qinghai Province of China.
The Brotherhood was forbidden to injure any of the warriors directly until this time. But for all their searching-- they only found Kodachi. Strangely enough, her brother, Tatewaki is one of the light. I will no doubt be forced to do the bidding of the entity, Rogi. I will remember you, Masamoto.
I know this is all hard to believe. You may not understand why I have said this-- but you soon will. The sygil of eight points, Masamoto. The sign of the Brotherhood. It wasn't in the file, and you know what I'm saying.
Please, do something.
Masamoto broke into a cold sweat. The... sygil. The design that had been carved into that poor woman's... chest, and forehead. They hadn't marked it in the file, because... Because something told Masamoto it hadn't mattered.
But how... now, looking back on it, he knew it would have mattered. With every fibre of his being, he knew it mattered. What had told him that it didn't?
Masamoto crumpled the letter in his hand and picked up the phone on Kimi's desk. He dialed a number and waited for an answer.
"Kuno residence," one of the servants answered.
"Tatewaki Kuno," Masamoto ordered.
"I'm sorry, the young Master has not returned."
Shit, Masamoto thought. "Do you know where he is?"
"I would imagine with young Master Ranma. He and Master Kuno left quite hurriedly."
"Could they be at..." Damn. Where did that kid say?
"The Tendo Dojo, sir?"
With that, Masamoto hung up the phone. Something strange was happening. Very strange, and he needed to find out what. He sighed as he rubbed his temples and leaned back in Kimi's chair. First, he would have to catch a few Z's. The day was long and it was about to get a whole lot longer.
"Now," Saffron said, smiling at the Jusenkyo Guide. "The final piece of the puzzle is in place."
The Guide eyed Saffron warily. "How are you old again?"
"Not important, Guide," Saffron said. "But before we get down to business, I'd better get this out of the way."
Saffron stood up from his seat and walked toward the Guide. He put his talon on the Guide's shoulder and smirked.
The Guide prepared to defend himself as he saw fit.
Saffron kneeled. "I apologize for the behavior that I and my kind have shown you in the past."
The Guide's jaw dropped.
Saffron stood up again and smiled. "Obviously you are here because you know of the prophecy."
The Guide nodded gingerly. "Yes... I learned it from my father."
"As did his own father before him," Saffron said. "The three of you have an amazing responsibility."
"Which is why we're here. You obviously know more of this responsibility than we do, Saffron... so spill it."
"Guide... Herb... I formally request your assistance in gathering an army."
Kiima blanched. "An army?"
Saffron nodded. "The Phoenix will be simple enough to organize," he said. "However the Musk and the Joketsuzoku will be difficult to win over."
"Okay, I can understand the Musk," Herb said. "We're already a part of this... but while I may be Prince, and my father king... we're not going to be able to convince the entire Dynasty to fight against anything. The title of King is merely that, a title. We're ruled by council."
"You can do it, Herb," Saffron said. "Kalla has the way, you merely must assist her ideals."
"And the Joketsuzoku?" Kiima asked. "Gathering them will be difficult."
"But not impossible. The Joketsuzoku are vaguely aware of the existence of both the Musk and the Phoenix. Basically, they believe our two tribes are merely legend."
"So then how will we do it?"
Saffron smiled and looked toward the Guide. "That's where you come in."
"This stone," Kalla began, holding a small pebble in her hand, "is older than I."
"But it's not alive," Lime pointed out.
"Ahh, but isn't it?" Kalla asked. "How can you prove that stones do not live? How can you prove that we live, for that matter?"
"Well," Mint said. "We can move and breathe. We've got blood... you can't get blood from a stone."
"You speak truth, Mint," Kalla said. "But does a flower move? Does a flower breathe as we do?" She smiled and lay the stone down. "Does a flower bleed? Because something does not have human qualities does not mean that it does not live. To believe in only what we can see and touch is complete folly."
"But flowers are vibrant," Lime said. "Full of colour. They smell nice. Rocks don't. They're gray and lifeless."
"And what happens when a flower dies?"
"They wilt," Mint said. "They turn brown and... well... keel over."
Lime pounded his fist into his palm. "Hey, doesn't that mean that rocks are just dead?"
"Life doesn't quite work like that. When a flower dies, it dies because it has served its purpose. Whether plucked and given to a lover, or eaten by an animal of some kind... it's purpose has been served, therefore its energies are passed to another."
"So what are you trying to say?"
"Do not rocks serve purposes as well? To be the foundation of a home, or to act as a ball for some small child? Yet even after a specific purpose is served, it continues existing."
"So it's immortal?"
Kalla smirked. "Even immortals have purposes to serve, Lime. That's why they are immortal."
"Miss Kalla?" Mint asked.
"Why are you telling us this?"
Kalla sighed. "I... wish not to be a rock."
There was a collective blink from both Lime and Mint.
Kalla laughed. "No, I suppose that wouldn't explain it. How old do you believe me to be?"
"I don't know," Mint said. "Twelve?"
Lime bopped him on the head. "That's your age, stupid! She's older than that!"
"My physical being is thirteen," Kalla said. "I look thirteen, yet I do not act it."
"Yeah," Lime said. "If you're thirteen then how come all these breas-- err.... women respect you and stuff? And how come you don't act like a kid?"
"She's a girl!" Mint exclaimed. "I read somewhere that girls mature faster than boys! She acts like an elder, so they must REALLY mature faster!"
Kalla chuckled softly. "A long time ago, I was less mature than either of you," she said.
"How old were you then? Six? Seven?"
Kalla smiled. "Thirteen."
"Huh?" Mint asked. "I'm confused."
"You're always confused," Lime corrected.
"Hey, shut up! You're the one who thought you could grow breasts if you went for a swim in the ocean!"
"That's only because Herb threw me overboard!"
Kalla continued to laugh. "We haven't had men around here for quite some time," she said. "The girls seem to like you two."
Lime and Mint both immediately shut up and blushed. Mint slowly edged over to Kalla and whispered. "Do you think they'll show us their breasts?" he asked.
"Well... that's up to them, I suppose," Kalla said. She looked at the two of them. "Would you like to hear a story?"
"What kind?" Lime asked. "Does it have fighting?"
"Gore! Gore! It has to have gore, right?"
"And car chases!"
"You've only ever seen cars when we went to Japan!"
"But they're fast and cool, and breasts always come with them!"
Kalla laughed. "I'm not sure what a car is," she said. "But I've been in here for a long time. But yes, it does include fighting and breasts."
"Whose breasts?" Mint asked.
"The breasts of the girl the story is about," Kalla said.
"Okay, tell! Tell!" Mint exclaimed.
"Very well, it starts out like this..."
Once, a long time ago, there was a young girl. Of course, there were many young girls, but there was one in particular. The offspring of a man from the far west, a man of pale skin and golden hair, and the daughter of a wealthy family in a village at the base of the mountains.
This girl, unlike many of her friends, shared traits with her father that separated her from the others. Blonde hair and blue eyes, coupled with her Oriental complexion made her stand out from any crowd.
And so she was different, but her friends saw no difference, and those in the village thought no differently of her, although some envied her because of her abnormal, yet different beauty.
And one day, a young man came to town. His lineage was purebred Chinese, yet he saw the girl, and became instantly smitten with her.
"Did he like her breasts?" Lime asked. "I bet he liked her breasts."
"Shush, she's getting to that. Go on, Miss Kalla!" Mint said.
But the girl did not like him, for she was far too young to care for boys. The young man saw this and left for a long time.
In that time, the girl slowly began to appreciate the opposite sex. She began to spend more time with boys, and yes, even a few times she had shown her breasts to them.
"What kind of breasts were they? Were they round ones or pointy?"
"I think they were pointy," Mint said.
"Okay, go on with the story."
Yes, well. Anyway, eventually the young man returned... but he had on him several scars of battle... and he saw the young girl and remembered her, and she remembered him.
The scars were from a battle happening high in the mountains. A battle between the man and his brothers, over the secrets of a valley. The man knew the secrets of a valley and wanted to protect it, yet his brothers wanted only to exploit it.
The girl soon fell in love with the man, and together, at such a young age, they eloped. Soon came the time when the man had to return to the field of battle, leaving the girl behind.
The girl waited for the man, but he never returned. So every day, she would take her ladle to the stream and fill it. She would then return to the house and heat the water up in a pot, and proceed to make tea for his return.
But still, he never came back.
So one day, the girl decided to take her ladle and her pot, and travel to find him. She traveled for several days and nights, until she found the field which the battle would have taken place.
The sacred grounds of Jusenkyo.
"Hey! Isn't that where Herb grew his breasts?" Lime asked.
"Yes, more than likely," Kalla said, smiling.
She soon found the man, tied to a bamboo pole sticking out of a spring. She called to him, and he would not move.
She began to wade into the pool, but before falling completely in, she saw his condition.
The man had been dead for a long time.
The girl sat at the edge of the pool and cried. She cried for what seemed like years, and then... she heard a voice.
The voiced called to her, and she looked to the source. At the source was a boy no older than she herself was.
'Why are you crying?' the boy asked.
'My husband is dead,' she replied.
The boy nodded in understand and looked to her again. 'Is not death but the doorway to another life?' he asked.
The girl thought about this. Was death truly that? She did not know for certain, so she asked the boy.
'I think it is,' he said, smiling. He placed his hand upon her shoulder. But it was not a hand. It was a talon.
"He was Phoenix, wasn't he?" Lime asked.
"I'm getting to that," Kalla reassured.
Yes, the boy was Phoenix. He had gone to the springs to meet with someone. The girl jumped away from the boy and he smiled at her.
'You don't need to fear me,' he said. 'I was once just like you.'
'But your hand.'
'You need not fear it if it means no harm,' he said.
And the girl understood. The boy meant no harm at all, therefore the girl relaxed.
Soon later, the person the boy had gone to meet had shown up. He was an older man wearing ancient armour and the sign of the gods upon his brow. It turned out that the man himself was a god.
"Really? Which one?"
Fei Liang. The boy's name was Saffron. The two of them commenced talking and soon the girl was included. She learned of a prophecy and an oath that Saffron had made in a previous life.
And Fei Liang looked upon the man at the center of the spring, and sighed. He looked upon the girl and her ladle and pot, and smiled.
He touched the ladle, and then the pot, and looked to the girl.
'Do you wish to punish those who have done this to him?' he asked.
The girl did, so she said yes.
'Take water from this spring,' he said, dipping the ladle into another spring. 'And douse those who have done this in it, and they will turn to mere animals.'
So the girl did just that. She took water from the spring into her ladle and searched for the criminals who had killed her husband.
After several days, she found them. They were at the crest of a nearby mountain. She found them and walked into the middle of their conversation.
At first they laughed at her, and her threats of turning them into animals went unheeded.
'Stupid girl,' they laughed. 'There is no water you can spray us with that will make any difference, for hot water will always revert our form, and the Nannichuan can be utilized to cure us completely!'
The girl splashed the nearest one, and he turned into a dog. She looked at the others as they stepped back, yet they continued to laugh.
Once they had heated some water up, they found that their companion did not, as thought before, turn into a human again.
The others then feared the girl. They did not want to be turned into animals, so they ran.
The girl chased after them, but she could not keep up. She fell and hurt herself, and blacked out.
When she awoke, she stood in the center of the men, and their canine companion. They each took turns beating and raping her. Soon, she could take no more and begged for them to stop.
They made a deal with her. The deal was that she tell them how to cure their friend, and they shall allow her to live.
And so she told them of the pot that Fei Liang had touched. They heated up the water and gave the treatment to their companion, who returned to human form.
But they did not keep their word. They lied and proceeded to beat and rape her, and would have killed her if not for the intervention of a god.
Fei Liang blew over trees hundreds of feet tall in his rage. He lowered himself to the ground and held up the men with his wind. Soon, he reached over and offered a hand to the girl.
'I'm sorry,' he said, and he meant it. He turned to the men and was about to kill them when the girl stopped him.
'No,' she said. 'Death begets death. I know that now.'
'They should be punished,' he said.
'I know, but not with death.'
The god looked upon them and thought. 'You should deserve death, fighting over lands that are not rightfully yours to begin with,' he said. 'But she does not wish it. Therefore I come with a suggestion.'
The god turned to the girl and asked her a question. The girl thought about the question, and then agreed.
'Instead of killing you so easily, I will not. Instead, I will ensure that none of you can ever touch a woman again,' he said. 'Not in love, and not in rape. And to ensure this, I give this girl the power to live on forever until the last of you has died, and to her I give the power to protect herself and any other female that may need it for years to come from evil men such as yourself.' He then released them from his grip and they fell to the ground screaming. He kept his word and granted the girl her powers.
The men ran, and a few decades later, they all died, never being able to touch a woman again.
But the woman remained the same, and never died. Hundreds of years passed and the woman searched for the god.
One day, she found him.
He was older, though not by much. And he recognized her instantly. She asked one request of him, and that was simply to age again, for she had loved and loved again with many men, and they each died of old age while she remained young.
The god thought of this and agreed to her request, but asked a favour of her in return. The god explained the favour, and the girl thought.
She would serve a purpose greater than herself, and assist the world when it needed her utmost help.
She was entered into a pact with the descendants of her own village, which had moved deep into the mountains near Jusenkyo. She would help keep the men separated from the women except for the act of conception through her power, until such a time when two men who are also women stand upon the grounds, and that will be when her task is complete, and she can die happily.
"Hey, Herb's a man who's a woman. We should send him to that place so she can be freed!" Lime exclaimed. "We'd just need to find another one."
Kalla chuckled. "Don't worry about it, Lime. I'm sure he's already helped."
Mint stared at Kalla with a strange look on his face. "Miss Kalla?"
"Mint?" Kalla asked.
"Was that girl... you?"
Lime scoffed. "Don't be silly," he said. "Don't you think--" he paused. "Waitasec."
Kalla smiled gingerly. "We merely need to wait for Herb to return with another of the same affliction."
Lime and Mint both looked at each other and let their jaws drop.
"Saotome," they both said simultaneously.
Ranma sneezed violently and caught his sleeve on his nose. "Jeez, I've been doing that a lot lately. I must be coming down with something."
"Blasted trains were bad enough," Feng Bo muttered to himself. "Why do mortals persist in trusting their very lives to metal contraptions that allow them very little control?" He tapped impatiently on the car window.
"Why do you gods persist in following prophecies which tell only of the journey, but not of the destination?" Nabiki asked, almost absentmindedly. She blinked in surprise. "Did I just say that?"
Feng Bo smiled. "That could perhaps be Senkyo herself emerging from within you, young Nabiki."
"Or it could be breakfast... Oh wait, I forgot... we skipped breakfast."
"Master Narita will provide food upon the aircraft," the limo driver mentioned.
"If we did not have need for rapid transit, I'd rather take a ship," Feng Bo said. "But Rogi himself has the power of flight, therefore his minions would as well."
"Could we not refer to Akane as a minion, please?" Ranma asked.
"Of course," Feng Bo said.
"We're approaching the airport," the driver mentioned.
It was then that Nabiki, Feng Bo, Ranma and Shinnosuke, who was also in the limousine got the first look at their mode of transport.
"You've got to be kidding me," Nabiki said.
"You can't be serious, Kuno," Ukyou said as she stepped out of the limo. "We're going in that?"
"I am as surprised as you," he replied. "It seems Narita neglected to mention what we'd be traveling in."
"I don't see anything wrong with the airplane, Ukyou," Konatsu said. "It seems to be in good shape."
"It's not the shape I'm worried about," Ukyou said.
"Aiyah," they heard from another nearby limousine. They turned to see Shampoo step out of it, followed by Mousse, Cologne and Happosai. "Is... Pikachu!"
"Great, we're flying in a giant annoyingly cute rat," Nabiki said. "If Rogi doesn't shoot us out of the sky, then we've only got to worry about every other self-respecting citizen toting a bazooka on the face of the Earth."
"Hey, cool!" Akari shouted excitedly. "It's the Pokemon plane!"
Masamoto swore to himself. He had only meant to catch a few winks, instead, he slept through the entire night. Kind of hard to keep tabs on the situation if you're snoozing, he thought.
Still, it was morning, and he had a job to do. He slammed his car door shut and walked to the outer gate of the Tendo Dojo. Noticing the bell, he rang it.
A few moments later, a young woman came to the gate.
"Yes? Can I help you?"
"Miss Tendo?" Masamoto asked. "I'm Inspector Masamoto Hasuzi from the Nerima Police. I wonder... would you happen to know where I could find Tatewaki Kuno? He may be in the company of Ranma Saotome."
Kasumi blinked in surprise. "I'm sorry, Inspector, you just missed them," Kasumi said.
"Would you know when they are due back? Or where they went, if you could tell me, it would be very helpful."
"I'm not sure when they'll be back. They left with Cologne, Mousse, Shampoo, Ukyou, Konatsu, Shinnosuke, Grandfather Happosai, Akari, Nabiki and Ryouga this morning."
Masamoto blinked at the handful of names. "I see. Do you know where they went?"
"China," Kasumi replied without skipping a beat.
Masamoto's jaw dropped. "China?" He asked.
"Yes, they mentioned where they were going, but I'm not sure..."
"Is it... Xining by any chance?"
Kasumi snapped her finger. "That's it. They left this morning with Master Feng Bo to get Akane back from Kodachi and Hikaru."
Masamoto blanched. "Kodachi Kuno and Hikaru Gosunkugi? And who's Akane?"
"Yes. She's my little sister, she was kidnapped from Auntie Saotome's last night."
"Auntie... Saotome? Would you know where I could contact her?"
"She's in the hospital. When Hikaru kidnapped Akane his friend broke her leg. Uncle Saotome also had his skull cracked open. I don't think that was a very nice thing to do, do you?"
"Err, no," he replied. "But thank you, Miss Tendo." He paused in thought.
"Something wrong, Inspector?" Kasumi asked.
"Can I be candid with you, Miss Tendo?" he asked.
"A friend of mine recently... disappeared. She stated where she was going, and that place happened to be Xining, China."
Kasumi nodded. "What a coincidence!"
"I'm not so sure of that, Miss. I believe it's quite deliberate. This friend gave me the information that led to here... and I'm beginning to see my way through this, though I'm not quite sure why it's happening. You said Akane was kidnapped, correct? Did you report it to the police?"
Kasumi shook her head. "We stopped doing that after the second time."
"Second time? She's been kidnapped before?"
Kasumi nodded. "Yes, but never by a demon... well, actually there was that ghost doll once. And the god of the Phoenix Tribe, but I'm sure they meant well."
Masamoto blinked. "Ghost doll? Wait... demon? What are you telling me, Miss... that your sister was kidnapped by a demon?"
Kasumi nodded. "Stranger things have happened. I was once possessed by one."
Masamoto shook his head. "What about this other man you mentioned they left with? Master Fu Schwan?"
"Feng Bo, yes."
"Okay, who is he? It's a Chinese name, he was in the country legally, correct?"
"I'm not sure," Kasumi said. "But he taught Doctor Tofu everything he knows, so I'm sure he's here legally. But that's also not his real name."
"Oh? What's his real name?"
"Well, not everyone knows it yet but I think I can trust you with it. Fei Liang."
"Fei Liang," Masamoto said, writing the name down. "Are there any other aliases?"
"Tao God of the Winds."
Masamoto paused. "Tao God of... Miss, are you feeling all right?"
"Oh my, yes."
"Well... Miss," he began, searching for the right words. "Look at it from my point of view. You're trying to tell me that Tatewaki and Ranma left with a handful of other people, with a GOD, in order to retrieve your sister, who was kidnapped by a DEMON of some kind. Now, if you were me, would you believe you?"
Kasumi thought for a moment. "I see your point," she said. "It does sound a little silly, I suppose."
"Are you sure this isn't some misunderstanding?"
"Well, I'm remembering what I was told. They had to leave this morning to beat Rogi and his Brotherhood to Xining, so--"
"Rogi?" Masamoto asked, his heart jumping at recognizing the name. It was the same name... as the entity in Kimi's letter.
"Yes, that was his name."
"And the Brotherhood," he said.
"Yes, I think it's like a cult. I'd rather worship flowers."
Masamoto shook his head. "Miss, something strange is going on here," he said. "But I don't know about this whole demon business... either way, I don't think I'll find any more answers here." He flipped his notebook shut. "I'll call here from China, hopefully Saotome will have called to give his location."
Masamoto turned away from Kasumi and set his jaw. Flying to China would take a lot out of him. He'd have to pull in his vacation in order to get there, but once there... then what? He couldn't very well arrest anyone, it was way out of his jurisdiction. And even then, how would he enforce it?
It didn't matter. He'd get there before worrying about it. The flight would take a while.
Ranma leaned back in his chair, looking out the window at the passing fields thousands of feet below him.
"You miss her, don't you?" a voice asked from next to him. Ranma looked up in surprise.
"Yeah, what do you care, Kuno?" Ranma scowled.
"A great deal more than you think, Saotome," he said. "May I sit?"
Ranma shrugged. Kuno took it as an affirmative answer and sat.
"It ain't right, you know?" Ranma said, not taking his eyes off of the ground.
"Indeed. For Akane to be taken from us in such a way is unforgivable. We shall retrieve her, though."
"Yeah, but how are you so sure?" Ranma asked, whipping his head toward Kuno. "These fucking dreams. This whole damn situation. Look at you, look at me. In the space of a damned WEEK we've changed more than ever."
"I know," he said, closing his eyes. "I apologize for my behavior. I.. have no excuse. Call it what you will... working out stress, escapism... But I am different now because I no longer choose to hide from my problems."
"Yeah, well at least you _could_ hide from them."
"I should have seen it before, Saotome. Akane Tendo never loved me, but I continued to grasp the hope," he sighed. "Hope is a dangerous thing."
"You're wrong, Kuno," a third voice said from the aisle. The both of them looked over to see Ukyou looking at the two of them. "Hope keeps us going. Without hope, would we have even bothered with this trip? We just would have sit back and said, 'Well, hey! Fuck this! It's the Armageddon? Who gives a shit? Pass the sake, we'll party like it's 2099.' No, I'm sorry. I disagree."
Ranma looked back out the window and remained silent.
"You do love her," Kuno said.
"You think?" he shot back.
Ukyou sighed. "I saw it at times. I just didn't want to believe."
"Then we are more alike than one would believe, are we not, Ukyou Kuonji?"
Ukyou sighed. "We'll... get her back, Ranma. For you."
"For her," Ranma corrected.
Ranma lapsed into silence for a few moments as he stared out the window. Nobody said a word.
"What do you think it'll be like?" he asked.
"Well, if we have to face against her... are we going to have to fight her?"
"I wish that we not have to, Saotome," Kuno said. "But if the occasion shows itself, we may be forced to."
"Honestly," he began. "You think I'd be able to hurt her?"
"No, I suppose not," Ukyou said. "We can find a way to get her back without hurting her, though."
"We'd better," Ranma said. "Listen, guys... I just need some time to myself for now, okay?"
Kuno and Ukyou both nodded and stood up. "We shall return later," Kuno said.