A Ranma ½ fan fiction story
Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 characters property of Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.
Book I: The Mantis Saga
Chapter Three: Mantis Hand
Teahouses have always claimed an important, yet undervalued place in the history of Japan. During the era known as Sengoku Jidai, or the age of warring states, teahouses were a hub of exchanged data. Merchants, emissaries and spies bought and bartered information about troop movement, alliances, war plans, political movements. However blood was never spilt. There was an unsaid treaty signed when you entered, an oath of peace. Throats were cut and wars fought beyond the doors, but no violence was done beneath the teahouses roof.
Even after the first Tokugawa brought his iron peace to the land, and through the years until black ships came, the peace lasted. Bound inexplicably to the aura of the buildings. It attracted many old samurai, seeking to test their arts and earn honour for the school they had founded, making challenges and preparing for duels. The fame of this accord spread over the world and soon foreign martial artist came to sample this phenomenon.
And so here he was, sitting quietly in a steel-framed chair, sipping slowly from his cup of green, jasmine tea and savouring the atmosphere. His acute senses could feel the latent harmony in the air, the aura of the room was like an open book to him, he read it perfectly as he could with every other being around him. The hallowed peace still pulsed through the walls, even though the surrounding had changed. The futons had been replaced with metal worked chairs, padded cushions and tables. The fragrant tea had given way to espressos, cappuccinos and lattés and the kimono were gone as the waitresses moved from tables to table in snug black skirts and smart white blouses. Even the people were different, when once teahouses were a place for civilised conversation and quiet contemplation, the customers of this coffee shop yelled and bustled, crowding around their tables and talking in excited, frenzied voices. But the aura never lied.
“Excuse me." A voice took his attention away from his musings. He turned and addressed the speaker.
“Yes, can I help?" he said, cursing the sound of his own accent.
“Would you mind if I sit here?" the stranger asked, gesturing to the chair opposite where he was sitting.
He looked the newcomer over, appraisingly. He was young and wore Chinese garb, a jade-green shirt of satin with yellow ties and loose black pants, tied at the ankles. The tilt of his blue-grey eyes showed that he was not Chinese. His brow was feathered by dark locks and a thin braid hung over his shoulder, swaying gently as he moved.
The clothes were probably worn for freedom of movement in combat he guessed. There was no questioning that the youth was a martial artist. He carried himself with trained grace, his posture relaxed but alert and steady, his movements fluid; he seemed to melt from one step to the next. His eyes never left the man sat before him yet, he seemed to be watching the whole room all at once, his senses focused for the slightest hint of danger.
His senses are highly attuned for one so young; he must get attacked out of the blue often.
“I would be honoured," the man said after making his judgment.
The pigtailed stranger sat in the seat he had earlier indicated, never once taking his eyes away.
“Would you like some tea, Mr…?"
“Saotome. Ranma Saotome. And yes I would, please."
He reached across the table and gently lifted the plain, white teapot. In his other hand he placed a small cup before the stranger, he was about to pour when the boy spoke again.
“Ranma Saotome of the Anything-Goes School of Martial Arts."
He nearly dropped the teapot. So that's what this is all about.
“I see," was all he said.
Ranma noticed the change in the man's demeanour, the slight widening of his almond-shaped eyes and the lowering of his shaven brows.
“So you know why I am here?" he asked.
“Yes," the man replied solemnly.
“Do you accept?"
“I accept your challenge." The man said again in a dull, sombre tone. “But I had hoped that this mess was over with. I would never have guessed that Happosai would have students, much less one who would come for revenge."
Ranma snorted. “I’m not doing this for that old freak."
The man blinked. “Then why?" He asked.
“For what you said about my Art."
A long silence stretched between them, so thick that it hung over them like a fog. The silence was like a shield that blocked out the murmuring conversation of the others in the coffee house. Finally it was shattered when Ranma spoke.
“May I ask your name?" he asked with the politeness that was traditional when martial artists met in such an event.
“I am called Lo Fu. Wong Lo Fu of the Sho Rin temple"
“Loaf," Ranma said bemused. What is it with these weird Chinese names? he wondered.
Loaf winced at the mispronunciation of his name.
“So," Ranma began, “is there a place I could call upon you?"
The Chinese man paused in thought, idly scratching at his chin as he considered Ranma's inquiry.
“My hotel is not suitable for such things, and I do not know this city or this area very well," Loaf said after a while. “Is there anywhere you can suggest?"
“There is a park nearby, and there are several playing fields that would suffice," Ranma proposed. “Would you like to meet there later, or would you prefer we go now?"
“Now," Loaf replied immediately. “I would rather have this unpleasantness finished with."
“As you wish," Ranma said as he rose from his seat. “It is a shame that we have to do this. I was hoping that I wouldn't like you."
Loaf just nodded, throwing a few bills on the table and rising to follow Ranma out of the building.
They entered the river of striding people that typically occupied most Tokyo streets. Joining a throng of people that were determinately moving in the desired direction they began weaving their way down the street, slipping past slow-moving geriatrics and avoiding the highly dangerous power-walking business men.
“So what's your problem with the old freak?" Ranma asked. “Why come all the way to Japan chasing after a guy just for eating some food?"
Loaf started, missing a step and almost falling on his nose. Catching himself he scrabbled to regain his balance, arms flailing before him, and then blushed as he sheepishly looked around for anyone who saw his slip.
“Is that what he told you?" he spluttered, his voice hard.
“Yeah. Why?" Ranma asked, bemused. All he got was a low growl in reply.
“So what did he do, really?" Ranma sighed, mentally kicking himself for believing Happosai's lies.
“He stole my sister’s panties."
“Hmm," Ranma grunted, as if it was obvious.
“While she was wearing them."
“Ah." Ranma's eyes widened slightly.
“In front of our parents"
“And thirty-six Buddhist monks."
Loaf just nodded solemnly, his mouth working silently.
“Well I can understand why you wanted some payback," Ranma conceded after a moment. “I’ve had more than my share of lechery from that old pervert." The last statement was more addressed to the air than to Loaf, but the Chinaman nodded.
“Be that as it may," Ranma sighed as he noticed the steel gates, mounted in grey stone that opened out into the park. “You still insulted the Art I have spent my life mastering."
Loaf simply nodded as he stared at his feet, failing to meet Ranma's eyes.
It was a beautiful day to be in the park. The sun shone gently through the trees casting flitting shadows on the grass as the light breeze shook the boughs. Spring had been captured in the park, despite the encroaching winter. Displayed within the bright hues of the last daffodils and the falling of the cherry blossom petals.
Many who were not working enjoyed the day; couples strolled down the winding wood chipped paths, hand in hand. Old people sat in the many low benches reading papers or simply enjoying the scenery. Kids ran and laughed as they played with Frisbees and balls. There were others who were diligently jogging, and a few who threw sticks and stones to send their dogs chasing after.
The two fighters stopped in an open field, the chalk lines in the grass and goal post indicating that this was quite often used for sports such as soccer or rugby. It was a quite place, tucked into a far corner, nestled by a harmonious copse of willow trees and sakura blossoms. The ironic hand of fate being showing its work, since both were symbols of Japanese Martial arts and the warrior's code.
Ranma strode away, determination etched onto his face as he gave about ten yards of space before turning to face his opponent.
“Ready?" he asked, cracking his knuckles.
Loaf, clenched his jaw and his expression became hard like granite. Rotating his head, he worked the kinks out of his neck, emitting a faint series of pops as the bones ground together. Satisfied he nodded to the Japanese fighter, signalling his readiness and dropped into a fighting stance.
Ranma narrowed his eyes as he took in Loaf's bizarre posture. His body was held low on bent knees, his weight rooted in his back leg as his front was cocked before him, the toes barely resting on the grass. His back was hunched but just slightly, shoulders bowed but relaxed, his torso trained like a coiled spring. His arms were held curved and close to his body, moving warily in small circles protecting his chest and neck. The hands were strangest of all; they formed hooked shapes, fingers turned in towards his fist with his thumb pressed tightly along side, his index fingers protruded like small blades. Loaf's face was still as solid and impassive as stone.
Steeling himself with characteristic determination Ranma assumed his own stance, a neutral position traditional in many Japanese styles. His posture was held high and natural, his feet shoulder with apart and just slightly bent, as if taking a large step. He held his back straight and his arms up, his lead outstretched an open, palm turned to present the edge of his hand like a sword. His back hand was balled into a loose fist, cocked back and held over his breast like the hammer of a gun, his forearm shielding his ribs.
The two combatants regarded each other in silence, their keen gazes scanning the other's form, looking for any hint of weakness, any sign of an opening in the other’s defence. Silence hung over the field, but for the rustle of the grass in the wind.
A dog barked, the sound ringing through the air. To Ranma it was like a starter pistol.
He blitzed forwards, rear hand drawing back in preparation to strike. Loaf's eyes narrowed as he noticed the subtle motion. Ranma twisted as he began to swing his fist. His opponent's arm moved upwards ready to intercept.
His fist abruptly changed in its course, dropping to meet his other hand as it slid forward beneath Loaf's guard. The two hands thrust forwards as one, fingers fanned out. A faint blue light sprouted from the base of the palms were the two arms met.
“MOUKO TAKABISHA!" Ranma yelled as he unleashed his pride from his centre.
A blaze of blue light shot forth, forming an incandescent fist of pure power, which caught the surprised Chinaman square in the chest. The force of the blast lifted him from his feet and sent him hurtling away. He landed with a grunt and a slight skid, ten paces from where the pigtailed boy now stood.
“Ouch," he muttered as he pushed himself back onto his feet. The stone of his face had cracked enough to allow a small smile to show.
“That was good," he said. “I wasn't expecting you to use a ki attack so early in the game."
“I like to keep my opponents on their toes," Ranma replied, grinning.
Loaf nodded as this then looked at Ranma through the corner of his eyes, his brow quirked curiously.
“That was a pathos attack, was it not?" he asked.
“Huh?" Ranma responded intelligently.
“I’m sorry; my Japanese is not so good," Loaf said sheepishly. "I meant that it was an attack that uses a strong emotion to summon a large amount of ki."
“Yes," Ranma agreed with furrowed brows. “It uses pride."
“I have encountered such an attack before," Loaf confessed. “So depressing. It was called the Roaring Lion Bullet, or something like that."
The smile dropped from Ranma's face as if it were made of lead. His brows lowered warily. Crap, He knows about the Shi Shi Houkodan! he thought. That's not good. He covered his concern by dropping back into his fighting stance.
His opponent did the same, his face returning to stony indifference.
The two fighters approached each other cautiously, each moving slowly towards the other, inch by inch. They resumed their probing stares, appraising each other critically.
Then Loaf attacked, darting at Ranma, who tensed defensively.
The black-clad Chinese lashed out with his lead hand in a quick jab towards Ranma's face. The youth turned his body, twisting out of the fists path. Loaf changed his hand's motion, swinging a back fist to where Ranma had dodged. His opponent ducked, weaving beneath the attack, and striking Loaf in the gut with a fast punch.
The Chinaman barely grunted, and shot his backhand forward in a powerful cross. Ranma blocked and was pressed back as Loaf followed with a series of punches at his midsection, sliding away as he batted the fists aside desperately. Changing the pace Loaf unleashed a right cross, which Ranma slid beneath, only to feel a knee crash into his jaw.
He was knocked from his feet by the force of the blow, landing hard on his back. That hurt, was the only thought he gave himself time for as he flipped back onto his feet and leaped to the assault.
Taking to the air, he launched a flying front kick, which his opponent slid around. Barely letting his foot touch the floor his bounced back up and swung his rear foot around in a crescent aimed for the head. Loaf jumped back and watched as Ranma's foot whirled through the space he had just occupied. The youth gave him no time to counter as he stomped his foot out in a side kick which would have broken the Chinaman's knee if he had not moved the limb. Ranma cocked the same foot back before flicking it out again, this time at Loaf's ribs.
Loaf blocked the kick with his forearm as he sidestepped. He then intercepted the young fighter’s back fist, and responded by thrusting his elbow out at Ranma's nose. The Japanese boy blocked barely before countering.
Punches were exchanged in the afternoon sun, fists flying with deadly speed and power, only to be knocked aside inches from their target. Then Loaf stepped to Ranma's left and grabbed both of the pigtailed boy's arms, twisting them against each other.
His grip! Ranma thought as he winced. Loaf fingers were like steel vices, crushing his bones in their grip. Then his arms were pushed savagely against his chest, knocking him off balance. A black-clad leg then lashed out, first catching him on the kneecap shocking the joint, then at the ankle sweeping his legs from under him.
Ranma fell to the floor with a jarring impact that drove the breath from his lungs. Gasping as his eyes widened, he noticed that he had seized Loaf's dark sleeves in his fist and yanked on the material sharply. The black-clad man was pulled forwards so that he stumbled and bent over Ranma's prone form. The youth then kicked his legs up, panting them in Loaf's stomach. Jerking the Chinaman forwards his thrust out his legs, launching his opponent into the air.
Loaf flipped forwards before landed heavily on his back. Ranma heard him gasp as the air was stolen from his own lungs.
Both fighters lay there as they painfully caught their breath. Then with muted groans and muffled curses they rolled over and pushed themselves up.
“I wasn't expecting this," Loaf said as he reached his knees, his voice haggard.
“Huh," Ranma panted as he looked across at his enemy.
“I expected you to jump around and throw bombs. You know, hide and run like that old freak."
Ranma chuckled. “Yeah, well, call me a traditionalist, but I believe that fighting should involve some actual combat."
“Well then," Loaf said standing straight. “Perhaps I should put it up notch, as you say."
Ranma smirked. “Great." He yelled before running forwards at his foe.
The Chinaman let him come, not even moving. Then as Ranma tensed, ready to attack, he shot forwards. He jumped forth and thrust his foot into the boy's chest, performing a vicious side kick that sent Ranma hurtling back.
He hit the floor and skidded back, the grass and dirt smearing his clothes. Idiot, he berated himself for being caught by such a simple manoeuvre. With a determined growl he rushed to his feet. Pushing his shoulders back he stretched his chest, stretching out the pain that now lanced across his ribs and muscles.
Slipping back into his stance he approached his opponent slowly and more cautiously. As he came closer his eyes widened.
A bright green aura surrounded the Chinese man. The air around him crackled as sparks of green energy streaked before him. Tiny, fluorescent flames flickered along his form like a coat of power, occasionally flaring brightly. The grass at his feet flattened beneath an unseen weight, cherry-blossom petals swirled and spiralled around him as his thick tail of hair flapped wildly on waves of power.
It's just a mind trick, Ranma told himself confidently. He's trying to intimidate you like the old freak does with his aura. Don't let him. Ranma kept on closing in, now circling his opponent warily.
Loaf took the initiative and attacked again, a lead punch shot straight for Ranma's head. The Japanese fighter slipped outside of the attack and unleashed a powerful rear hand blow to his opponent's gut. Loaf staggered back and Ranma seized the moment to whip his lead fist into the Chinaman's face.
Relentlessly he pressed the attack, unleashing a furious barrage of punches to the stomach, before following with a viscous hook, which smacked into Loaf's cheek, the wet slap of bone and flesh crunching echoing in the air.
Loaf stumbled back, out of the range of Ranma's fist. Lowering his stance and raising his hooked hands, he worked his mouth, sucking at the bruised cheek for a moment before turning his face as spitting. His saliva was red with the tinge of his own blood.
Ranma charged again, opening with a snapping kick to Loaf's face. Loaf spun away from the attack, sliding around to face the boy's back. Ranma twisted and swung out with the back of his fist. Loaf blocked and counter in the same motion, his left hand jamming his attack while his right smashed into Ranma's face.
He reeled back, staggering as his eyes watered. He was barely aware that his nose was bleeding, as he fumbled to keep up his guard. Shaking his head to clear his blurred vision, and blinking back tears, he raised one hand to wipe the blood from his face.
Loaf sprung forwards, reaping his hooked hand across in a slashing strike. Ranma twisted, barely avoiding the attack as he saw the Chinaman's fist fly forward. He jumped back, pulling himself out of reach.
He grunted, as something ploughed into his chest. He gasped in pain and back-pedalled rapidly, desperately scrabbling to stay on his feet. He looked down at his breast, where he could feel the pain throb and pulse.
“He can't have hit me! His arms aren’t that long, Ranma told himself as he remembered dodging the attack.
A gust of wind chilled him and he could hear the flapping of silk. His shirt was torn. The green satin had been sliced through as cleanly, as if a sword had slashed through the cloth. He was also aware of a stinging sensation, as if his skin were being pricked by a thousand needles. Looking through the rip, he noticed the blood welling in a shallow cut along his ribs.
“What?!" he screamed mentally. “Nothing hit me."
He glanced back at Loaf, who was standing poised in his stance, clawed hands circling in front of him. He was still bathed in the fiery, green aura, the energy running over his body and through his finger.
The aura, it's solid! Ranma realised, but was unable to question this eventuality as his opponent lunged at him, his aura leaving a trail of green light in its wake.
Loaf punched, his hooked fists stabbing like knives. Ranma wove the outside and brought his hand across in an arc, chopping the edge of his hand into the dark-clothed man's throat. Loaf gargled as his throat muscles constricted. Thrusting his arms, beneath his opponent's he planted two fists into Loaf's chest before spreading his hands. He swept open Loaf's guard, opening the man's chest to attack.
“KACHUU TENSHIN AMIGURIKEN," Ranma screamed as he unleashed the power of the chestnut fist, his hands a blur as he pounded into Loaf.
The bombardment of punches knocked the Chinese Martial artist from his feet, sending him flying back. He landed on the chest with a grunt. Ranma remained poised, fist clenched before him. Loaf pushed himself up, spitting a thin stream of blood into the grass.
“I think you broke a rib," he said to the Japanese boy as he climbed to his feet.
Ranma, now frightened by Loaf's skills, summoned up all his determination and charged. Loaf was ready this time. He swivelled out of the path of Ranma's punch, grabbing the boy's left wrist in his pincer.
Ranma's eyes widened as his arm was seized and growled as he swung his other fist desperately. Loaf shifted to the side and caught the punch with his other hand.
With both of Ranma's hands in his grasp, he smirked. This fight was his.
He crushed Ranma's bones in his hooked fingers. The green flames twisted, and writhed around his hands, growing solid as they strengthened Loaf's grip. Ranma could feel his bones bending and twisting under the pressure as the sound of snapping tendons and marrow ground in his ears.
Ranma screamed, his nerves seeming to pop and burst in his arms.
Immobilised by pain and Loaf's iron hands, Ranma was defenceless against the onslaught of kicks that had began to batter his legs. The Chinaman's feet slammed against Ranma's ankles, shins, and knees. The pigtailed boy grunted with each kick, and struggled helpless in Loaf's grip
A sickening, wet snap rang in Ranma's ears. The sound disgusted him and he wondered where it had come from.
Pain answered him. He yelled at the top of his voice as he fell to the dirt, his broken leg buckling beneath him. His shin seemed consumed with fire as pain shot through his leg like a lance. But somewhere through the haze of agony that clouded his mind, he was aware of a voice.
“I’m sorry, Ranma," it said in laboured Japanese. “The match is over."
Somehow those words awoke a fire in Ranma. The flames grew, forging his will into steel. Tough, strong, relentless. Like a smith crafts a fine sword, the flames formed Ranma's pride into a blade, and honed a determined edge.
“No," he whispered at first, then louder: “No."
He slowly and with the last ounce of his strength pushed himself up. Forcing his body to stand on his uninjured leg, fighting the pain, the dizziness to face his enemy on his feet.
“I WILL NOT LOSE," he cried.
Charging off of his one leg, he stuck out with his fist, punching desperately for the black-clad figure before him.
“I’m sorry, Ranma," the voice said again.
Green light swallowed everything.
To be continued.
Author’s notes: Well folks, that was the big action scene you've been craving. It’s actually the first fight scene that I have ever written, being primarily a WAFF writer. But I am a martial artist; I study Shokukai Karate and Jujitsu, and I tried to put across a real sense of a martial artists’ duel, not just relying on a few punches and loads of Ki balls. So how did I do? Was it a good fight scene, or should I stick to WAFF?
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