A Ranma ½ story
by Dragon Claw
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.
Chapter 6: Could The Cure Be Worse Than The Disease?
Part A: The Prepwork.
"Let's see now, where did I put them…?"
Assuming the baboon-staring-at-it's-own-toenails position, Ranma was sulking after hearing how he couldn't train with Vortex until he was healed. Stupid Pops, it was all his fault….
"Ah, here we go!"
Looking over to where Vortex had been digging through his pockets — how many of these he had was up to debate, given the discarded items in the background — Ranma blinked. "What's that, a cigar case?"
Smiling a very smug smile, Vortex popped the top of the small white box and removed one of the items present. "Nope."
Raising his arm, there was a wind-up, a pitch, and…
…a three-story house suddenly appeared out of nowhere.
Looking at their temporary home, Vortex sighed in satisfaction. "You know, no matter how much I travel from world to world, dimension to dimension, it still boggles the mind that one of the best bulk storage items in the Multiverse came from good old Earth."
Noticing a few locks of hair turning stiff in a variety of directions, Vortex held his head in pain. Noticing Ukyo and Kodachi gathering themselves to begin a deluge of questions, he just held up his hand. "Not right now. I'll explain later."
That effectively shut them up.
When they entered the house, the Nerimans were stupefied.
The interior was a good three times the size it appeared on the outside, containing a kitchen (filled with a number of interesting gadgets), lounge (filled with plush couches, chairs, and a low table), and a good sized dining room. The walls were decorated with intricate weavings of mystical creatures and symbols that seemed to catch the eye. On the side, a staircase to the upper floors was rather prominent, in fine wood with subtle metallic highlights. The floor was covered with a fine and soft carpet of the deepest green.
It was a complex and rather simple room, all in one. A place they were going to see all too little of in the intervening months, as it turned out.
"All right, Kodachi, it's time to earn your keep. Go into the kitchen and whip up some food. Anything tasty and in triple portions should be enough. We have a long night ahead of us."
Stiffening at his tone of dismissal, the Black Rose still did as she was bade, hoping that her French cooking lessons would be enough preparation for handling the oddly shaped appliances.
Sitting in the biggest of the comfy chairs (hey, you'd want to relax too after trekking through the Multiverse a couple of times) Vortex had everyone take a seat.
"I think we'll start it slow over the next couple of days. Ukyo and Shampoo, you will get two of the three rooms on the second floor, while Kodachi get the third. Don't make too big a deal about who gets which room or I'll intervene and you can sleep outside. Konatsu and Ranma will sleep in the third floor suite. I'll take the guest room on this floor, behind the staircase. Any questions?"
"Yeah, I got one," Ranma grumbled irritably "Why does everyone but me and Konatsu get their own rooms?"
Smiling slightly, Vortex lightly said, "Why, to insure that the rule of the house is followed, of course!"
Noting Ranma's raised eyebrow, he chuckled "Oh, it's a simple rule. No one is allowed to share sleeping space with a member of the opposite sex at this point. So by separating you from the girls by a flight of stairs and giving you a chaperone of sorts, you can rest without the concern of nightly visitors when you should be focused on your training."
Seeing him go pale, and the looks of irritation that Ukyo and Shampoo shared, Vortex almost felt like patting himself on the back.
Nah, the effort of popping his arm back into place wasn't worth the satisfaction.
"As for the next week, we're going to start healing some of the more outstanding problems. That means some extensive exercise and struggle to get any odd chemicals out of your system, followed by specialized treatment. So let's all get a big meal and good night's sleep. Tomorrow is going to be a long day."
Narrowing his eyes, Vortex turned to look at the kitchen, "Speaking of which… Kodachi! Where's dinner?"
"Er, Vortex-san, may I ask for some assistance?"
Blinking, Vortex went over to the kitchen, only to be stopped short by the odd sight ahead of him.
Kodachi, currently balancing three soup tureens on her arms and head, a platter on her foot filled with a smoking roast beef, and both hands stuffed with utensils.
Oh, and her long hair was currently caught in the refrigerator door.
Attempting a technique that was said to bring even the strongest and surest of men (Ranma-sama included) to their knees, Kodachi gave her best puppydog look.
"Please help me, good sir. I am afraid that I will lose control and spill all of this lovely food."
Massaging his temples in irritation, Vortex nonetheless untangled the Black Roses ponytail without a single word. He then did a complete about face, heading for the door. This had the unfortunate side effect of leaving Kodachi with a single limb free for support.
"Master Vortex?! Please help me…"
Looking over his shoulder, Vortex stifled a chuckle, "But servant, you're doing so well."
If looks could kill, then Vortex would have been done in a hundred thousand times over. Kodachi was simply the latest individual to attempt it.
"Man, I'm stuffed!"
Patting his belly in satisfaction, Ranma stretched while suppressing a burp.
"I must admit, Kodachi-san's cooking talents are most exceptional. I wonder if she would be willing to give me her recipe. What was that wondrously succulent dish in the brown sauce?"
Looking around the spacious, if somewhat Spartan room, Ranma absently tried to decide which bed to take, the left near the door (meaning faster escapes but greater visibility to an entering enemy) or the right (more easily defended but limiting overall movement against opponents). Thank goodness there was no window. Realizing that a question had been asked, he answered, "Oh, I think that was roast beef. You know, when she's not using poisons, Kodachi is actually a pretty good cook."
Looking up from his nightly preparations, Konatsu held a hand to his mouth in feminine shock, "You mean that meal actually contained meat?!"
Blinking, Ranma looked over to where his roommate was preparing for bed. Complete with a frilly dressing gown. "Er, yeah?"
Putting his hands together, as if in prayer, Konatsu breathed in wonder stars in his eyes, "I have actually consumed a meal with cooked, unspoiled meat! Oh, that is such a wondrous treat, that I will never forget this night as long as I live!"
Sweat-dropping at the ninja's look of pure joy, Ranma edged away just a bit. "Right. Say, do you mind if I grab the left bed?"
"Of course not, Ranma-san."
"Now Shampoo, what did I tell you last night?"
Everyone had gathered outside the house after breakfast, stretching to get the kinks out of their system for what was going to be the first in a series of long days.
Or, in Shampoo's case, work out the strain from a large dose of electricity introduced into her system.
Vortex was berating the Amazon, to the distinct pleasure of Ukyo and Kodachi, even as Ranma and Konatsu tried to ignore the situation.
"When I said no mixing, I meant no mixing. You have no Kiss of Marriage, young one, so get it through your head that Ranma is off limits right now. That trap was a warning, but next time, I'll turn it up to half power, understood?"
Wilting under the gaze of anger, Shampoo sighed, "Yes, teacher." Oh well, it's going to be a long five years. Surely other opportunities will present themselves.
Stretching his back, Vortex enjoyed his returning health, now that the strain from the emergency spell was gone for the most part. How to start now, hmmm…. Oh, wait a sec.
"Konatsu, front and center!"
Looking up in surprise, the ninja bounded over as quickly as possible. "Yes, Vortex-sensei?"
Taking out his scanner, Vortex began to adjust the settings on the device. "I'm sorry, but in the shock of learning Ranma's condition last night, I completely forgot about scanning you! It should only take a second, so please stand still."
Nodding prettily, Konatsu stood ready as the familiar beam passed over.
Huh, so it isn't so much a lifestyle choice, as conditioning. Interesting. Looking up at the anxiously fidgeting Konatsu, Vortex smiled. "Don't worry, there's nothing too serious here. All right everyone, it's time to get started! Line up quickly, now."
Looking at the assembled martial artists, and the three females arguing about who lined up next to Ranma, Vortex felt a headache coming on. "KODACHI!"
Blinking at the anger, the Black Rose looked over at the towering form of her instructor. "Yes, Master?"
Wagging his finger in irritation, Vortex managed to give off the feeling of impending bloody murder. "I have told you repeatedly. YOU ARE NOT TRAINING UNDER ME! So get out of that lineup this instant!"
Sulking, the Black Rose inched away in defeat.
Looking at the remaining two females, who hadn't even bothered to look up during his little spat, Vortex felt a headache coming on once again. All right then, it was time to get started.
"Konatsu, you can just start with a few kata, something simple that you can maintain for a while. Oh, and use Kodachi as a sparring partner. The rest of you will come with me."
Getting away from Konatsu and Kodachi seemed to be a good idea to Ranma at the moment. One was still a little weird for close contact and the other was still a bit crazy, even without any drugs. Now if only he could get away from the other two.
Vortex reached into his pocket and again withdrew the capsule case. Glancing over the contents quickly, he pulled out a red unit, and before you could say "gratuitous Dragonball Z reference"…
…One completely active sauna, with attached vending machine, was in front of them.
"Ok Ukyo, here's your stop. I want you to stay in here for about an hour. After that, hydrate from the machine, wait about fifteen minutes, and go back in. Repeat five times, or until you feel faint, whichever comes first, okay?"
Looking at the smug Shampoo hanging off of Ranma's arm and her nervous former fiancé, Ukyo hesitated. "Well…"
Activating a Vortex Loom Technique, Vortex growled, "OKAY?!" with fire in his eyes.
Even with her exposure to the Tendo Demon Head, Ukyo found herself running into the sauna, stripping as fast as she could.
Noting the slight nosebleed that Ranma gained as a result, Shampoo couldn't help but admit, "Not bad, but Shampoo seen better. Especially in mirror!"
Smirking, Vortex led them away as Ranma rubbed his nose self-consciously to the others amusement.
Shampoo couldn't help but sigh. Her Aire— Ranma was so cute when he blushed!
Walking until the sauna was out of sight, Vortex stopped and dug into his pockets, pulling out a speckled gray stone.
Looking over his shoulder, Ranma whistled, "What does this thing do? Grow into a giant statue to spar? Get really heavy to train strength? Fly through the air trying to hit you for dodging practice?"
Sweatdropping, Vortex felt an eyebrow twitch. "Er, this is a normal rock, Ranma. No magic or anything like that."
Putting his hand behind his head, Ranma managed to look even more sheepish than before.
Putting the rock down, Vortex explained, "Actually, this is to be Shampoo's focus during her meditation. I would prefer a candle, but with the lighting around here, that's not really practical."
Blinking, Shampoo pointed to herself. "Shampoo just meditate?"
Nodding, Vortex gestured in front of the stone. "Yup. Just look at the stone, and hold your breath half as long as it takes to draw or exhale. I personally prefer the six-count, three-count ratio myself. But it's the rhythm that's important."
Pouting, Shampoo sat down. "Shampoo get too, too bored by meditation."
Shrugging, Vortex smiled, "Well that's why they call it focus, student. Now I want you to do this all day until you can't see straight. Then do it for another twenty minutes."
Turning to leave, Vortex snapped his fingers. "Oh, and no destroying it in a fit of pique. The rock did nothing to you."
Giving a cute growl of irritation, Shampoo prepared herself for a very boring day.
Shifting from one foot to another, Ranma had to wonder about the Twilight Plain.
There were no notable landmarks, temperature changes, or shifts in the terrain to denote differences in location. Yet after walking for just five minutes, he had managed to lose sight of Kodachi and Konatsu. Another five minutes, and Ukyo hadn't been a speck on the horizon. Now he and Vortex were again walking along, without a sign of the purple-haired Amazon anywhere. It was like the place was eating the others whole.
"All right, this should do the trick."
Looking at Vortex's smirk, Ranma had a sudden feeling of foreboding. "Uh, just how are you going to heal me of everything? I don't think no hot spring is going to fix this mess up."
Sighing, Vortex took a seat on nothing, and gestured to Ranma to do the same. When the pigtailed martial artist was ready, Vortex smiled. "I'm afraid that healing you in one shot is far beyond my abilities."
Feeling panic at that pronouncement, Ranma began to sweat. Whenever he got home, Pops was going to pay for screwing him up so bad!
Smiling slightly, Vortex continued, "Healing in stages, on the other hand, might just do the trick."
Noting the confused look Vortex got up and started to pace. "Most diseases have fairly easy cures. You use the right spring of life energy, the correct spell pattern, maybe a mental technique for focusing your energy reserves. However, you are such a mess that such methods are risky at best, downright insane at worse. So for each stage of training, I am going to have to heal your being as best I can without destabilizing your situation."
Seeing that the confusion had only gotten worse, Vortex sighed. "In other words, I'll heal you one part at a time. Since the first training in my art is the mind, we'll start there." Pulling out a piece of white chalk, Vortex looked Ranma straight in the eye. "Now don't move. I really don't want to mess up this construct."
Part B: The Treatment
*Glare some more*
*Squint out one eye*
*Try the other one*
"ARRRG! How Shampoo supposed to get stronger and win back Ranma if she stare at too, too stupid rock all day?!"
Some trade-off. Her Kiss of Marriage for a hunk of stone. Oh, the ancestors must be laughing at her from beyond at this point!
Stopping herself from pulling out too much hair, Shampoo tried to calm down and focus on the stone, putting all thoughts of her Ranma out of her head. She would have preferred the Breaking Point Training again, maybe using a whole mountain this time, to all the endless waiting. Ranma was just so much of her future now; the thought of losing him forever was incomprehensible. She loved him so much, but nothing she did managed to gain his interest for more than a few minutes. Heck, even being seen as a source of food was preferable to being ignored.
"Shampoo give up pride, lose too, too much honor, and devote soul to Airen. And what her reward? A thank you? A date? A wedding night? (Which she had earned three hundred times over damn it!) No, not that! Would end world! Must instead stare at hunk of rock while Ranma off doing who know what!"
Trying to calm down, Shampoo used all of her intricate eloquence to express her opinion of the matter as she continued to look at the stone Vortex had placed there three hours earlier.
"This sucks too, too much."
Stumbling out of the bath house, Ukyo grabbed the water cooler with her last vestiges of strength, and tried to reach for a glass. Giving up after three minutes, she settled for simply lying under the faucet and twisting.
Ukyo then proceeded to sigh as she was drenched from head to toe, removing what seemed to be a gallon of sweat from her skin. Shaking her head, Ukyo sighed in relief as the water sprayed out from her hair in a fan, relieving some of the weight on her scalp. Next to her, the ruined water cooler began to repair itself slowly, as a side panel opened, revealing a small fan. Resting against the side of the sauna, Ukyo allowed the slight breeze to take the bite out of her temperature, and tried to avoid falling asleep.
Well, either that or puking, both were pretty attractive after the previous two hours. Ukyo felt like every fiber of her being had just been stretched and squeezed like an accordion, as the numerous bodily fluids left her body. If this kept up, she would soon resemble a withered stump instead of a Cute Fiancée. And that wouldn't do, not no way, not nohow. So she had a slight attraction to sake… and beer on Saturdays… Okay, maybe the margaritas were a bit of overkill, but still….
It was one of the few methods of dreamless sleep that she knew of. For years, her psyche had been haunted by images of the day. That one day in which Ranma and his scum-sucking father had left her high and dry by the side of the road. That, she was used to.
But the alcohol helped to block out what had happened to her next. The ridicule, the abandonment, the helplessness as her father…. No, that was all in the past. But it still hurt. No child should have to watch their father sink into a gutter in despair. If it was anger, she could have handled it better. She was awfully angry herself. But the sheer look of helplessness on his face, day after day as they tried to make things work. As they tried to survive in a harsh and uncaring world. As he stopped caring completely…
But maybe she should have just let the dreams come. It couldn't be much more painful than this!
"Um… Vortex-sensei? What's with all the chalk?"
Ranma was sitting very still, as Vortex continued to draw a bunch of circles, lines and squares around him, occasionally looking at some notes from his left pocket.
"Shhh… Hold on, I'm almost finished." Drawing a six pointed star on the edge of the circle, Vortex sighed in appreciation. Man, this was cumbersome, but the only way to access healing this precise on the twilight plain away from the world tree computer matrix. Sitting to face opposite Ranma, Vortex smiled. "All right, now that that is done, I think its about time for me to explain what this is."
Seeing Ranma's enthusiastic nod, he had to suppress a smirk. Poor boy is magic-shy, all right. Have to work on that.
Pointing to the various geometric shapes, Vortex calmly lectured, "To heal your mind, we have to work on three levels because your mind — like you — is composed of three levels. The first is the physical, or the actual mass of the brain. The second is the mental, or the content of the brain. The third is the spiritual, or the power of intent of the brain. All three are damaged, and all three must be healed. Hopefully, this will make mainstream repairs to the other parts of your self easier. However, I cannot do this alone." Pointing dramatically to Ranma, Vortex shouted "Ranma! You must face your greatest fears!"
Just as Ranma was about to go into a conditioned reaction concerning felines, he stopped suddenly. Blinking, he couldn't help but ask, "Fears? Isn't that line supposed to go 'You must face your greatest fear'?"
Vortex decided to go ahead and smirk, impressed that Ranma had caught the distinction. There might be hope for the guy yet. "Normally, yes. Before you came to Nerima, you only had two very impressive fears. One was that disaster with the Cat Fist, the other was that issue of losing, and thus invalidating all of the effort that you had put into your training trip. But since you came to Nerima… Well, let's just say things are a little out of proportion now."
Ranma could only say what was on his mind… "Huh?" …absolutely nothing worth mentioning.
Holding up his hands, Vortex began ticking off the points. "Well, first, the fear of cats and the fear of losing are still there. Then you have the fear of dishonoring yourself, the fear of becoming like your father, the fear of dishonoring someone else, the fear of a blood feud… The list just goes on and on. You have this fairly extensive list of traumas kicking around in your head, and you cannot truly heal without some balance within your mind. So first I will heal the physical mind, and then we will go into a sort of trance. The mind will become the reality, one over which you must gain a level of control. The more control you gain, the more progress we will make. However, this will not be easy, and you will probably require my presence at several points of the way. But, know this, once we begin, we will not stop. So, are you ready?"
Swallowing, Ranma tried to stoke his ego as much as he could. It was one of the few weapons he had left. "Heh, I guess if I have to fight, I might as well begin, right? Let's do this."
Nodding, Vortex began to chant.
"Ranma! Wake up, you lazy idiot!"
Blinking, Ranma shook his head, trying to figure out why the inside of his skull was in Tokyo and the skull itself was in Hokkaido.
Looking over, he was treated to the sight of Akane, standing up straight and glaring right at him. Just like any normal day… Except that Akane was obviously pregnant, five years older, and had a small mustache.
Shaking his head, several things came to his attention rather rapidly. Ranma's head was lighter and all of his movements felt off. Reaching up, Ranma was shocked to find a good chunk of his hair was missing. His stomach also seemed to be… bigger? "All right, you whining bitch, I'll be up in a second."
Wait a minute! He had never talked to Akane like that! Tomboy or un-cute were one thing, but bitch? And in that tone…
Looking up, he again saw an Akane Glare. But this time, it was tempered with hatred and loathing. Well, more than he usually saw after only one set of insults. Looking at her stomach, he felt another insult coming to the surface. "How's the little bastard today? If he's anything like his old man, he might just learn the breaking point technique from the womb."
Now Akane's skin was a purplish hew, and she reached back a fist. "RANMA! How dare you talk to your wife like that?!"
Blinking, Ranma was about to ask if she had fallen on her head (or if he had recently) when she connected. The pain was intense, as his left arm broke in four places.
Sniffing, Akane walked away calmly, muttering something about justice served.
What the heck was going on?
"Interesting problem. Maybe facing fears in threes wasn't such a hot move."
Looking over his shoulder, Ranma was shocked to see some foreigner. He looked kind of familiar… Maybe he had challenged the dojo at some point? What was his name…? Thinking was kind of hard to do… vision going red….
Turning his head, the foreigner smiled, "The name you are looking for is Anoth Vortex. And do you enjoy that broken arm? Or are you just leaving it like that because of the dramatic effect? Anyway, keeping it like that is a very bad idea at the moment. The shock might be enough to kill you, and we have barely just begun."
Vortex… If that wasn't a dream, then this must be. Suddenly, Ranma was standing up straight, the pain a forgotten memory. Looking at Vortex, Ranma was shocked that he seemed sort of transparent. What was this?
Sighing at the look that was directed at him, Vortex shrugged his shoulders. "Hey, I said that this would be difficult. Oh, and before you ask, yes, this is a dream. The physical part of the healing is finished. Now we are on to the more tedious process of clearing out your mental reality."
Blinking, Ranma shot back, "But why did that hurt so much then if this is just my mind? And why are you see-through all of a sudden?"
Rolling his eyes, Vortex calmly replied, "In reverse order, then. Firstly, I am 'see-through' because the only thing real here is your mind. Since I am not a part of your mind, I need to be careful in case I contaminate your thoughts by accident. So I am only partially submerged. Secondly, that hurt because the basis of the mind is intent. Since the Akane there was real in your mind and intended to cause you that much pain, you felt the pain caused by her intent."
Looking into the room that he now recognized as the guest room of the Tendo Dojo, Ranma couldn't help the sinking feeling in his gut as he saw the shoddy repair jobs all over the place. Not to mention the signs that only one person was in this room.
Rubbing his eyes, Ranma tiredly asked, "What three fears were you talking about?"
Ticking off the points on his hand Vortex listed each fear with the finality of a death sentence. "Well, there's the fear of marriage to Akane, the fear of becoming your father, and the fear of dishonor, although only one facet of potential dishonor is present: not being man enough for your wife."
Ranma could feel the vibrations of his pigtail at the word "wife".
"Since this is a worst-case situation of your fears, you have created the worst possible ending of each these situations, in the form of a fake future memory. Here, you finally married Akane after the pressure became too much. Soun retired and left town to live in the mountains away from the bustle of the city and leaving the dojo to you two. However, the anger of being forced into the decision poisoned your marriage. You have an affair or two with Akane, but mostly try to attract business to the dojo by showing off. You land unsteady gigs trying to teach stuntmen, but no one wants to learn from you because of intimidation by your skills. Instead of showing your greatness, people are afraid of you and view you as a freak. Akane is shunned by many people because of this and develops a need to 'protect' herself from you. She decides that a mustache is a decent price to pay to keep you away, and finds some more of the super soba. With it, she humiliated you in public, injuring you enough that you are incapable of practicing consistently. You end up losing a large amount of your strength, and, well… things get worse from there."
Remembering his insult, Ranma grits his teeth. "She has an affair with Ryoga, right?"
Nodding, Vortex sighs. "Actually, she seduces him in the dark as he gets lost trying to find his way back to his wedding with Akari. Finding out that he has dishonored you and his bride-to-be, Ryoga commits suicide, ruining Akari and putting the final nail in the coffin of your and Akane's chances at reconciliation."
Shaking his head, Vortex clearly looked uncomfortable with the level of chaos.
"Honestly, I am unsure of where to begin. With this mess, each issue reinforces another, causing an endless cycle of depression and self-destruction. In fact, there is only one thing that can prevent this torment."
Carefully feeling his scalp, Ranma shuddered in pain. The baldness was almost worse that the broken arm! "So what can prevent all of this?"
Looking as solid as he could, Vortex looked Ranma straight in the eye, and said, "You."
To be continued.
Author's notes: All right, I also admit that this chapter is a bit of a cop out. However, I was getting bored with how long things have been dragging, and decided, "Hey, what the heck! Let's throw out something just to get the juices flowing again." So I did. So there.
I have actually gotten some fan mail, and for that, I am very grateful. I honestly questioned if anyone was reading this at times. For those of you who asked: yes, what's up with Akane is big, and no, I won't tell you what it is. In fact, it's going to take a long time before that is answered, so hold tight. Funny thing is that no one's bugged me about Kodachi yet. Weird… are my intentions that transparent?
Well, we've just set up the group for one heck of a recovery period. Hopefully, for their health, I can get motivated again, because I am really dragging my heels here. Sorry about that.
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