Disclaimer: Rumiko Takahashi is the greatest, but then again so is (whoever did SM). All Ranma ½ and Sailor Moon characters… and the occasional Devil Hunter, as well as any other character that belongs to someone else belong to someone else, not me. I ain’t that good. Jiejie and Tian Huan are my own creations, as are Inago, Kaji, Sansai, and Fusei.

C&C: C&C is both welcome and desired greatly at dancingimp@yahoo.com. This is my first fanfiction work to make it past Chapter Half. Also, though I have certain things set in mind, I am willing to modify the story as it continues if it becomes necessary. If this story is located elsewhere, the original can be found at http://www.geocities.com/dancingimp. Thankies!

Big Thanks: To my prereaders/editors/mallet-wielders, James Thomas <who has written one of the best Dragonball Z/Ranma Half crossovers, http://www.provalue.net/users/heed452/fanfic>, and Greg Beauchamp. Thanks for the mallets to the head and red ink to the paper.

What Went Before: This was starting to get long, so I think I’ll just say ‘Read the previous chapters’ from this point on. Sorry. 8)

 

 

 

Chapter 13

“Debts and Revenge”

 

            A crystalline ship circled the outer perimeter of Jusenkyo cautiously. Ryo-Ohki’s sensors were picking up massive fluxes in the energy patterns in the area and she was a bit nervous about getting any closer. On her bridge, no one noticed Yasha shivering as they looked for a good landing spot. Ranma finally pointed out a small building nearby. “Well, might as well stop by the Guide’s hut. Hope he doesn’t have a heart attack or somethin’.”

 

            Yasha looked closely at the view port. “Someone actually lives here?”

 

            Ranma and Akane nodded to her. “Yeah, the Jusenkyo guide. He tries to warn people away from the training grounds and helps them adapt when no one listens to him.”

 

            Yasha slapped her forehead and mumbled something about doing things a bit too well.

 

            Ryo-Ohki settled in for a gentle landing next to the hut and everyone got off. The guide stepped out of his hut and bowed to the new arrivals before taking a close look at them. He rubbed his eyes and looked again. Slowly, his hand slipped into a pocket and pulled out a flask. He cocked back his arm and threw the flask as far as he could before wandering back into his hut and slamming the door shut.

 

            “Ooookay, I guess that means we find it on our own,” Ranma commented. He started forwards a bit before stopping again. “Uh, guys… I’m thinking it might not be such a bright idea for all of us to go wandering about this place. It could be a bit hazardous.”

 

            “That’s fine with me. Tenchi and I will stay here and entertain ourselves,” Ryoko piped up as she fondled the boy’s chest. Another shouting match ensued between the pirate and the princess. In the end, the three stayed behind on Ryo-Ohki. Washu, naturally, wanted to come along, and Akane and Ranma were going. Mihoshi wanted to explore the forest and Ryoga volunteered to go along with her for protection. Shampoo, having had quite enough of Ranma and Akane getting time alone together, could not be talked out of going along. Cologne chose to go with them as well. Yasha refused to take another step near the place.

 

            “No way in the eleven rivers of Elivagar am I going anywhere near that place.” Yasha was growing more and more agitated.

 

            “Why not, Yasha? You’re a water demon, I figured you’d love this place!”

 

            “Love it?!” Yasha nearly screamed. That did it. Her patience was at an end. “I fuckin’ built this bloody place! I know what it’s capable of and I damn well hate it!”

 

            “You built it?!” Akane, Ranma, and the others cried out in shock.

 

            Yasha slapped her forehead again. “Look, about ten thousand years ago, the T’kara Ri invaded this dimension. Earth was going to be the starting point, however the gods and demons of this world did not appreciate the intrusion. The Priests had the advantage of being able to recall all of their troops at the moment of their deaths, so they pretty much never ran out of forces. The demons and gods had the advantage of not having permanent physical bodies to kill. Since I was kinda dating his brother at the time, Inago got my help in coming up with a plan to shift the balance. He used his alchemy and I used my powers to create a place that would give anything a permanent physical form. What you call Jusenkyo is actually a weapon.”

 

            Ranma and Ryoga stared at her, half in anger and half in amazement. “If you made it, you must know the cure!”

 

            Yasha nodded. “Sure do. Hot water.” The Nerima residents facefaulted.

 

            “We know that already! We meant a permanent cure!”

 

            Yasha nodded. “I know. But don’t you see, a weapon doesn’t do you a lot of good if it can be broken, right? I had to spend a long time debating with Inago to convince him to put in the hot water contingency. He wanted the curses to be permanent like they are on Togenkyo.”

 

            Ranma, Ryoga, and Shampoo shuddered at the idea of their cursed form being the only one they had. “Why didn’t you want it to be permanent?”

 

            “Simple. I didn’t want to be a victim of my own weapon. We figured it would take our enemies too long to figure out the temporary cure, so it wouldn’t make much of a difference. If you kill a god or demon while they’re in their cursed forms, they’re dead. Period. End of story. No resurrection, no reincarnation, nothing. Nada. Zilch. Kaputski. Now, understand why I don’t want to go anywhere near it?”

 

            “So if one of us dies in our cursed form…”

 

            “Nah, human’s don’t have that problem. Your body is merely a shell for carrying your soul around. For demons and gods, our bodies are our essence. Oh, and if you get the bright idea to try curing your curse with an opposite curse, forget about it. The curses were designed to mix. And if they’re too similar, like male human/female human… well, let’s just say that it could result in a spectacular molecular disruption at the cellular level.”

 

            “Huh?”

 

            “It’d be bad.”

 

            “Why didn’t the demons or kami just blast this place into oblivion?”

 

            “Two reasons. Backlash. Sansai and Inago both have a nasty reputation for spoil sporting. If the springs were dried up forever or destroyed, this whole region would get torn apart by a dimensional rift. That rift would slowly consume the planet, unless Sansai stopped it himself. Get the picture? The second reason is… well, we kinda got our asses handed to us before we could actually use it.”

 

            The others stared with mind numbing realization. “It’s a good thing we stopped Saffron then…” Yasha tilted an eyebrow and Ryoga continued. “Saffron was trying to drain Jusenkyo completely. Ranma stopped him.”

 

            Yasha grinned widely at Ranma. “Congratulations, kiddo. You saved the world. Have a sea cucumber.” She handed a sea cucumber to Ranma.

 

            Ranma dropped the object and grabbed Yasha’s arm. *Okay, listen up. You wanted to come. We agreed to bring you along with us. Now you’re backing out. It don’t work that way.*

 

            ‘Says who? I can do what I want and there’s nothing you can do to force me.’

 

            *Yer right. But the thing is, it’s your fault this place exists. It’s your creation that gave me this curse. And Ryoga, Shampoo, Mousse, Taro, Pops, and who knows how many others. I know a little about your abilities. You can shield us from any accidental spills, right? Besides, if something happens to me, you can’t recharge anymore, can you?*

 

            Yasha’s first instinct was to lie. Her second was to deny. For some reason those responses caused pain to begin sprouting in her heart. It wasn’t a physical pain either. ‘What in Nifelheim is wrong with me?’

 

            Ranma smirked. *It’s called guilt. Haven’t you ever felt that before?*

 

            ‘No! Demons don’t have guilt, remorse, or responsibility! It’s one of the things that make us who we are! How could I be feeling guilty?’

 

            Ranma shrugged. *Guess it’s my fault. Thanks to my life, guilt and responsibility are two things I know well. I think our link kinda bleeds over a bit.*

 

            Yasha ripped her arm away from him and glowered at the party. “Damn you. Damn you all.” With that, she turned into mist and flowed inside of Ranma.

 

            Akane blinked. “Ranma, what was that all about?” She’d never had a demon curse her before and it was a new experience.

 

            Ranma smirked. “I guess I’ll make a good sensei some day. I just taught a demon how to feel guilty.” ‘Isn’t that right, Yasha?’

 

            *Bugger off.*

 

 

            Ranma remembered the path to the Nyannichuan and it should have only taken a few minutes to find it, but Washu was stopping at every pool along the way to collect samples. Ranma dreaded the idea of what she could do with them, but at the same time he let a tiny hope light up that she might be able to find a cure.

 

            They finally reached the pool and Ranma could not help but shudder. “This is where my life went to hell in a yatai.”

 

            “Actually, Ranma, your father was screwing up your life long before this,” Akane commented as she slipped her arm around his.

 

            “Yeah, good point.”

 

            Cologne spoke up. “Son-in-law, I believe you are mistaken. The Nyannichuan is over there.” She pointed to a pool a good twenty yards away.

 

            Ranma blinked in confusion. “But this is the one I fell into. I’m sure of it. And the guide said it was the Nyannichuan. Could there be two?” Ranma seemed to listen to something for a moment. “Yasha says that the springs have a redundancy safeguard built into them. Whatever that means.” He paused again. “Well, why didn’t you just say that the magic won’t make two of the same springs.” Ranma grumbled something about women that he should be very grateful went unheard.

 

            “Can the demon explain then how there are two springs of drowned girl?” Cologne asked. She hoped to gain a better understanding of the curses.

 

            “Yasha says that if there is already a generalized spring, then any further springs become more specific. The other Nyannichuan must have been created first. Then this one was made. Which kinda makes sense with the Akaneniichuan that the Phoenix people made.”

 

            Akane snapped her fingers. “That’s why you look just like that demon Jiejie was talking about! Anyone who falls into this spring will look like your cursed form! I always wondered where the red hair came from.”

 

            Ranma nodded. “So where’s the sword?”

 

            “It’s in the pool. Can Yasha push the water away so I can grab it?”

 

            Ranma, with Yasha’s guidance, did so. To everyone’s amazement, lying at the bottom of the spring was a body that was identical to Ranma’s cursed form. It was mostly covered by silt and a daikatana emerged from her chest. “That’s creepy,” Akane commented as she reached for the sword. “The body is intact.” Her hand reached for the hilt.

 

            *NO! DON’T!* Yasha screamed as loud as she could in Ranma’s mind.

 

            As her hand touched the handle, Akane felt a horrible sense of loss. She sensed the demonic power inside of her rush out and she dropped to her knees moments before a violent explosion flung her back a few feet. Fortunately for her, Washu managed to catch her and keep her from falling into another spring. Before their eyes, the body in the pool burst into flame and vanished. A moment later a cackling laugh echoed through the valley.

 

            “<Free again!>” The party spun around to witness a ball of flame form itself into a naked copy of Ranma’s girl side. The only thing she had in her possession was the daikatana in her hands. “<After all of these centuries, I am free of that accursed pool! And who do I have to thank?>” Gui Huo, the fire demon, glanced over the party. When her gaze landed on Akane, the demon’s eyes glowed with barely controlled rage. “<You! You are the one who stole my power. I will make you suffer!>” A casual swing of the sword sent a wave of flame burning towards the target of her anger.

 

            Akane held up both hands and concentrated on the lessons Washu’s computer had showed. She was almost overwhelmed, but she managed to divert the flames around herself, emerging relatively unscathed. Ranma came in with a flying kick, just as he had with Yasha. The results were the same as well. There was a horrible cracking noise and suddenly the demon’s neck was craned at an unusual angle. However, just as with Yasha, all it seemed to do was make Gui Huo mad.

 

            Having got her attention, Ranma began leading the demon into a tight spiral. Moments before completing it, Gui Huo suddenly detonated a fireball at the center. Ranma was thrown back and barely managed to right himself before falling into a pool. “<What? Did you think I’d fall for the same trick twice?>”

 

            ‘Yasha, we’re gonna have to break apart and double team her.’

 

            *Trust me on this Ranma, you do not want me out there.*

 

            ‘Yasha! You’re a water demon! Water beats fire!’

 

            *At full strength, yes! But I’m not at full! My license was revoked and hers is still working!*

 

            ‘Again with this license! What is with that? Never mind, just get out there and help me!’ Ranma focused his will and gave Yasha a not so gentle shove out of his body.

 

            ‘Don’t say I didn’t warn you.’

 

            Yasha formed next to him, assuming the appearance of his girl side. The effect on Gui Huo was remarkable. The demoness stopped her attack and stared for a few moments. Ranma felt the heat begin to build up in the area. After a few more moments of staring, glowing markings appeared on her forehead. The marks almost looked like over-exaggerated eyebrows that were placed over her real eyebrows. A third mark that looked like a starburst appeared between the other two as the demon suddenly screamed in absolute rage. “<TRAITOR!>”

 

            Ranma was only caught in the backwash of the attack that followed, but he was still badly charred and knocked off of his feet. Akane had managed to deflect the flames around her while Washu had erected a shield to protect her, Cologne, and Shampoo. Yasha wasn’t so lucky. Steam rose from her body as she lay on the ground motionless.

 

            Ranma cursed for a moment, afraid that Yasha was dead. If he had time, he would have been a little surprised at the fact that he was so concerned for a demon. He could still feel the link with her, though. She was in extreme pain, but she was alive. ‘Sorry, Pops. I gotta do this.’ Blocking out the pain as he picked himself up, he adopted a strange stance and suddenly disappeared.

 

            Akane tried to manipulate the water in the pools to attack Gui Huo since the other elements she called upon had little effect, but the magic in the pools resisted her. The demon seemed to be ignoring everything around her as she stalked towards Yasha’s fallen form. She barely even bothered blocking when Shampoo and Cologne attacked her. So intent on her target was she that she didn’t notice the temperature beginning to drop. She stood directly over Yasha’s body, the daikatana wreathed in fire as she held it over her head in a two-handed fashion.

 

            Suddenly she found herself sprawling forward as Ranma’s ice-covered fists pounded her repeatedly in the back. She wheeled around but couldn’t see or sense anything. Another barrage of strikes to her back sent her sprawling again. She wasn’t really injured so much as angered that her revenge was being held off. She expected a third barrage of attacks and sent a wave of fire behind her, but to her surprise she hit nothing. A voice from in front of her caught her off guard.

 

            “First rule of martial arts, never repeat the same move three times in a row.” Gui Huo suddenly felt a ball of freezing life energy slam into her chest and blast her back over a dozen yards. She fell into the real Nyannichuan and coughed repeatedly as her flames were snuffed out.

 

            She stood up, glaring angrily at the now visible Ranma. She hadn’t noticed a few slight changes in her form as she hurled the sword at him. Ranma dodged easily and smirked. A cry from Akane was the only warning he had as the sword made a one hundred-eighty degree turn and flew for his back. He grabbed the handle as it passed and tried to gain control over it. The distraction was enough for Gui Huo to launch a ball of fire at him. Ranma tried to let go of the sword to dodge, but his hands refused to respond. A look of fear crossed his face as he realized there was nothing he could do.

 

            The fireball exploded, blinding Ranma. To his amazement, he didn’t feel any new burns on his body. He felt pain, but he couldn’t tell where it was coming from. Slowly, he opened his eyes and realized what had happened. Yasha knelt on the ground in front of him, her back turned black by the fireball she had taken for him. She tilted her head up to look at him. “I hate you,” she whispered before falling forward and only barely catching herself with her hands.

 

            “What the hell?” Gui Huo said in Japanese. “Yasha? Sacrificing herself for a human?” Gui Huo shook her head to clear it. “Who cares?” Ranma suddenly felt the sword in his hand rise up and begin to descend, aiming straight for Yasha’s neck. “Die, Trai-hurk!” Gui Huo looked down in surprise at the sword point sticking out of her stomach. The sword in Ranma’s hand stopped instantly.

 

            Shampoo looked shocked as well when a blue light surrounded the sword and began tearing away at the demon’s body. Gui Huo threw herself forward off of the sword and to her knees. “J-Jurai?” She coughed up a red fluid. Gui Huo took a moment to stare in amazement at the blood. “Human…” Shampoo stepped back, looking at the sword in her hands for a moment before dropping it.

 

            “Kill her,” Yasha whispered weakly. “She’s been cursed. If she dies now, that’s one less demon to deal with.”

 

            Ranma shook his head as he knelt next to the badly scorched water demon. “I don’t kill unless I have to. She doesn’t look like she’s in any condition to do anything to us.”

 

            “Ranma, you don’t understand. She detonated a volcano and destroyed a city just to try and injure me. She’s rather obsessed with my death.”

 

            “Why?”

 

            “She’s my sister. She didn’t take me joining Kaji very well. Especially after I created this place. She’s been hunting me for ten thousand years now. She won’t stop.”

 

            Ranma shook his head. “I won’t kill her, Yasha.”

 

            “Help me up, then.”

            “I won’t let you kill her either.”

 

            Yasha laughed weakly. “I ain’t got enough juice to power up an attack right now. I just need to say something to her.”

 

            Ranma helped the demoness over. Yasha put her hands on both sides of Gui Huo’s face. Sister locked eyes with sister. “Goodbye.” With a sudden twist of her hands, she snapped the girl’s neck. Gui Huo dropped lifelessly to the ground.

 

            Cologne nodded understandingly. Akane and Ranma stared in horror at what Yasha had done. The demoness snatched the sword out of Ranma’s hand and, using it like a crutch, began to hobble away. Ranma started after her but a supernaturally thick fog settled over the valley and he lost sight of her. Ranma tried to sense her through the link, but it was too weak. Suddenly he heard a muffled noise from nearby. After searching carefully through the thick fog, he found Akane coughing on the ground with Shampoo, Washu, and Cologne standing over her. Washu was typing away at her floating keyboard.

 

            “Well now, this is interesting,” Washu commented. Ranma raised an eyebrow at her before he finally noticed what was so odd. Akane was back. The scars were gone, her hair and eyes were back to normal, and the clothes were now abnormally tight on her body. That was the reason for her coughing, Ranma realized as he undid the clasp at her throat.

 

            “What happened?”

 

            “Yasha. She kissed me, the pervert!” Ranma felt a sweatdrop form. “And I can’t feel Jiejie any more! What happened?”

            Washu piped in. “I believe our demonic acquaintance decided to solve your problem for you. According to my scans, Akane’s body has stabilized and no evidence of any further mental contamination can be found. The damage is repairing itself and I estimate that she will have a full recovery. Congratulations!”

 

            Akane shook with anger. “She kissed me!”

 

            Washu sweatdropped a little bit. “Obsessive, isn’t she?”

 

            Ranma gave her a ‘you have no idea’ look. “Especially when it comes to anything perverted. Let’s get back to the others… there’s nothing more we can do.” Ranma sent his thoughts through the link, unsure if Yasha would get them or not. ‘Listen, you saved Akane’s life. Thank you. But did you have to kill Gigi and Gui Huo to do it?’ He listened as he walked, but there was no response.

 

 

            Everyone was waiting eagerly back at the landing site. Ranma and the others were surprised as the ones who had stayed behind congratulated them on a job well done. “What? How did you know?”

 

            Ryoga answered. “Yasha showed up a few minutes ago, saying that you had ‘done to do what had to be done’, whatever that means. Then she kissed the midget on the lips, gave me a hug, and left. She didn’t look so good. What happened?”

 

            “She kissed Gigi?” Akane blinked.

 

            “She hugged you?” Ranma blinked.

 

            Ryoga nodded. “After that, Gigi started crying a lot. So I guess you guys did it, huh?”

 

            Ranma turned to Akane. “I guess she took Gigi’s soul into her own body and transferred it to her real one.”

 

            Akane nodded and everyone moved to be with Jiejie. After a few moments, Ryoga remembered something. “Oh yeah, she said something about fulfilling her end of the deal. She said that we needed to go to Jusendo to seek the Coldfire or something like that.”

 

            “Aw man. Not those bird people again. I’m not sure it’ll be safe for us to go there.”

 

            “Why not?” Tenchi asked.

 

            “Last time we were there, I kinda killed their leader.” Tenchi’s eyes went wide and Ranma waved his hands defensively in front of him. “Whoa, hold on a moment. They kidnapped Akane and she was gonna die if I hadn’t done it! Besides, he’s some kind of phoenix so he just resurrected a few moments later. But I doubt they’ll be happy to see us.”

 

            “They owe me,” a very soft, quiet voice surprised everyone. They looked down to see Jiejie sitting up.

 

            “You’re all right!” Akane said happily as she reached down to hug the girl. She let go as she felt the little lady go stiff.

 

            “I am not all right. My soul is dead. It died when I failed in my duties. I no longer deserve the name that Tian Huan gave me. The only name I deserve is the one that will let me achieve my sole purpose in life, the name given to me by the Black Mist cult, Kyuusei.  I will kill those who murdered my Lord. Should they prove immortal, I will find a way to destroy them for all time. I will succeed. Not even death will stop me. Any who get in my way had best stand aside unless they wish to suffer my wrath. The people of Phoenix Mountain owe me a debt. They will pay it.” With that, she began walking towards the relatively nearby Phoenix Mountain.

 

            “Great. She’s nuts,” Ranma grumbled.

 

            Akane nodded slowly. “But she’s right. Jiejie told me a while back that she saved Saffron from that same demon we just fought. Saffron told her that he owed her a great debt and that one day his people would repay it.”

 

            “Good, so maybe they won’t kill us on sight then.”

 

 

            The trip up the mountain proved uneventful until they reached the stairwell that landbound people were forced to use. Two winged men stood on either side of the stairs. “Who goes there?”

 

            “I have come to speak to your Lord Saffron,” Kyuusei answered flatly.

 

            The guard sneered. “And why would our great Lord Saffron want to see you?”

 

            “He owes me a life debt.”

 

            The guards burst into laughter. “Oh really? And what is your name, oh great savior?” The guard asked, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

 

            “I was once known as Jiejie Fenfen.”

 

            “Never heard of you.”

 

            “Good. Now send a messenger to tell your Lord Saffron that I await his presence.”

 

            The guard became enraged at the insolence of this little intruder, but the other one, who was older, shook his head at the first guard. “You know the rules. I’ll wait here while you go check in with the Captain.”

 

            Ranma’s foot-in-mouth disease kicked in again. “Tell Kiima I said hi!”

 

            Both guards froze as they paid close attention to Ranma for the first time. Their eyes went wide as the older one threw a lever. Alarm klaxons rang across the mountain as both guards dropped into ready stances. Ranma felt a quarter-inch tall thanks to the glares he was receiving from everyone else.

 

            “Baka,” Akane blurted as she slapped him on the back of the head.

 

            Two minutes later, dozens of armed and agitated winged warriors descended around the party. Ranma only recognized one, the female Captain of the Guard. “Hi Kiima. Uhm, long time no see.”

 

            Kiima’s chest heaved in barely restrained fury. “Not long enough. What makes you think you can DARE approach our mountain again?”

 

            Kyuusei stepped forward and spoke in a level tone. “I am the reason. I have come to collect on a debt owed to me by your Lord Saffron.”

 

            Kiima glared at the little lady for a moment, but the look in the woman’s eyes made her begin to feel fear. “Who are you?”

 

            “I was once known as Jiejie Fenfen.”

 

            Kiima knew that name very well. It was from the history of the royal guard and a reminder of their greatest failure. “That’s impossible. Jiejie Fenfen-“

 

            “Saved the life of your Lord Saffron over fifteen hundred years ago. At that time he offered to do his best to fulfill a wish. I have finally come to collect on that promise.”

 

            Kiima considered what to do for several minutes. “Very well. You, Akane, and Ranma will be taken to the palace. The others shall wait here under guard until we return.”

 

            Kyuusei watched as one of the warriors tried to lift her and failed. Slowly she removed the robe she wore, revealing a skin-tight black outfit that resembled a ninja suit. She tossed robe to the side where it hit the ground with a loud clattering noise. The armor plates sewn into the robe, as well as the assortment of weapons, caused Kiima to re-evaluate her cynicism towards Kyuusei. As the guard tried to lift her again, Kyuusei held up her hand. “I will meet you there.” A strange shadow covered the area and when it was gone, so was the girl.

 

            Kiima cursed as she waved to the two guards carrying Ranma and Akane to follow her and she raced at top speed for the palace. To her horror she saw the girl standing there when she landed. The guards in the room stared at Kyuusei in shock. She had seemed to just appear before them. “How did you get here so quickly?”

 

            “I’ve been here once before, shortly before I saved Saffron’s life. I know the ways of your palace.”

 

            Kiima’s response was cut off as the huge doors to the throne room opened. Lord Saffron, currently resembling a ten-year-old child, calmly walked towards the gathered people. He stopped several feet before Kyuusei, his face an expressionless mask. After a few moments of looking her up and down, Saffron smiled. “You look the same, Jiejie Fenfen.”

 

            Kyuusei gave a small nod. “As do you. I understand your cycle was interrupted recently.” Kyuusei cast a glance towards Ranma, who gulped nervously

 

            Saffron frowned for a moment. “Yes. But, we must admit that it was somewhat our fault for the incident. We let our power go to our head and felt that everything in the world belonged to us. Despite the pain involved, we are actually grateful for the sense Ranma beat into us.”

 

            “No problem, squirt. Glad to see they’re raisin’ ya right this time,” Ranma beamed proudly. He gulped when Kiima’s hand clenched on the sword at her waist, as did every guard present.

 

            Saffron chose that moment to laugh. “Yes. Though it is not quite as much fun, acting with restraint and responsibility is more satisfying.” Saffron walked over to Akane. “Are you Tendo Akane?”

 

            Akane nodded silently. She was a bit worried at being so close to someone who had technically gotten her killed twice.

 

            To the shock and horror of the guards, Saffron knelt before her and bowed his head. “We wish to apologize to you for the treatment you received at our hands. Feel free to come and go about our palace as you wish and if there is anything we can do to make up for your troubles, please let us know.”

 

            Akane nodded numbly and Saffron returned to a standing position. He turned to Kyuusei. “Have you finally decided on how we can repay you, our savior?”

 

            Kyuusei nodded. “I am on a quest for revenge. I have come to understand that your people possess the key to that revenge. I wish to acquire it.”

 

            Saffron frowned a little. “Revenge is a dangerous occupation. We would be irresponsible if we were to give you what you need, only to get you killed.”

 

            The impassive mask on her face never even cracked. “The three Priests of T’kara Ri murdered my Lord. I will see them dead and nothing in Heaven, Hell, or on this Earth will stop me.”

 

            Saffron took a step back. “T’kara Ri? They are revived?”

 

            Kyuusei nodded. “Inago, Kaji, and Sansai have been reborn. I have been told that they will come here to acquire the Coldfire. I want you to give it to me so that I may set a trap for them.”

 

            Saffron turned around and walked partway to the throne room. His eyes were closed as he considered. “No.”

 

            Ranma started to say something, but Saffron held up his hand. “We can not give you the Coldfire. There are many reasons for this, the most important one being that none of you are capable of carrying it. Only one with immortal blood can touch the Coldfire and live. Second, we swore millennia ago to guard the Coldfire until the sun went out and all life in the solar system was ended. Third, we can not let the three of you risk your lives alone.”

 

            Ranma started to speak up again, but this time it was Kyuusei who stopped him with a raised hand. Saffron continued to speak. “We will go with you. I will carry the Coldfire and my royal guard will come along. To make sure that my people are safe, they will leave Phoenix Mountain for a short time. We will also help you plan your ambush.” Saffron turned around with a smile on his face. “Is this acceptable to you?”

 

            Kyuusei nodded. “My companions are waiting at the bottom of your mountain. We will go to prepare the ambush. Meet us in Juuban in three days. We will have the final planning meeting at that time. I will take my leave now.” With that, Kyuusei bowed and vanished like a shadow.

 

            Saffron frowned a little. “That was a bit rude, but pride will not come before my people. Kiima! Take Ranma and Akane to their companions and then prepare the Royal Guard. Call the council and prepare our people for the journey.” Saffron strode into the throne room and the doors closed silently behind him.

 

            Kiima walked over to Ranma and scowled a little. “My Lord has forgiven you, so I must as well. But while I admire your courage and determination, I still do not like you.” She stared him in the eyes for a moment, long enough to make her feelings clear. “Would you care to walk or be flown?”

 

            “Walk!” Akane said enthusiastically.

 

 

            Near Jusenkyo, a figure sat on a boulder that jutted out of a small lake. Yasha dabbled her toes in the water as she glanced back towards Jusenkyo and then towards Jusendo. A chance to survive existed at either location. “I could always hop into the spring of my drowned sister. Survive as a mortal for a few decades. Then keel over from old age.” She shuddered. “Or I could unite with Ranma again.” That thought gave her a bit of a thrill, but at the same time she realized that it would be pretty pathetic. “And in a few decades, he dies of old age. Then what would I do?” There was also the fact that she felt she was losing a bit more of herself every time she merged with him.

 

            Yasha sighed as she trailed patterns in the water. Her body was growing numb as her power reserves slowly depleted themselves. “Had to go and fix their little problem, didn’t I? I coulda lasted at least a few hundred years more on minimum power, but noooooo, I had to go and save that psychotic little midget. And Ranma… dammit, why did saving Ranma feel so good, even though it hurt like hell? I don’t get it. Pain is bad. Stopping fireball with body is pain. Therefore, stopping fireball with body is bad. But I did it. And it felt good.” She hugged herself tightly for a moment. “And the dumbest thing is, if I had to do it all over again I wouldn’t change a thing. Is this love? Is this guilt? Is this stupidity? Did I somehow become a masochist? Demon love and mortal love is so different. I loved Kaji because he could grant me access to more power and had a lifestyle I could understand. That’s how demon love works. Ranma hurt me, stole my power, forced me to do things I didn’t want to. Mortals fall in love for the dumbest reasons. Dammit, I don’t understand this stuff at all.”

 

            Yasha curled up into a ball as she felt her essence drain towards the terminal point. “Ya know, I don’t know which I’d rather have; dying in a big fight, or keeling over next to a lake in the middle of nowhere… oh well, not much choice now anyways.” Yasha laid back on the rock and stared at the heavens, trying to decide if she wanted to close her eyes or not. “I wonder if they’ll find that ‘going away’ present I left them… I wonder if he’ll miss me… I wonder what oblivion is like…” As she caught a glimpse of the sun through the clouds, she decided she’d leave her eyes open. “Maybe it’ll creep out whoever finds my body. If they find…” Her voice drifted off as her thoughts faded.

 

            A few moments later, the grandfather of all thunderbolts struck a small lake in a remote region of China. Weathermen around the world marveled at the sudden storm that sprang up and lasted an entire day, with record shattering amounts of rain and lightning. Had she been witness to it, Yasha would have felt honored at the farewell party Nature was giving her.

 

 

Ending Notes:

Daikatana – A very long version of the katana, it was pretty much the equivalent of the claymore or flamberge in its use.