Title: The Return of the Phoenix
misc adventures to lead up to this point. :)
The Return of the Phoenix
"There!" The eight young adventurers paused as they looked at the foreboding mansion. They had come through hell to get here and it was before them at last. "Akane," Ranma whispered in determined anguish. Ryoga glanced at him, then shouldered his way to the front, "Let's go!" He ran in through the door and Ranma and the others followed him. Kasumi and Nabiki brought up the rear, letting the fighters go first.
"So, you found me." The voice echoed through the dark room. Suddenly, a wall of dark energy appeared in front of the youths and lit up the room. Behind the crackling barrier they saw a stone altar with Akane laying on it. "It's too late, you know. The process has already begun." The figure of the magician appeared on the other side of the room, standing before a podium upon which rested a thick tome. He raised a hand and a funnel of energy over Akane became visible. The wide end of the funnel was over her body, sucking the energy from her, while the narrow end fed it into a dark cloud of electrified power that was part of the magician's aura.
The group of six warriors charged the barrier as one. And, as one, they were knocked back across the room, the floor cracking under them. The magician laughed again. "I can spare the time to play with you. The process is wholly automatic now. The only thing that can reverse the energy flow from Akane-chan is the free and willing trade of a female virgin of equal power." His smile was terrible to behold. "I still get the energy, no matter who gives it to me."
"You Fiend!" Ryoga flung himself forward again, his battle aura in full display.
"Ryoga! Wait!!" Ranma watched as Ryoga entered briefly into the barrier, moved two halting steps, and then was flung violently out. He landed heavily before Ranma, the incredible effort evident in the wounds across his body.
"Dammit, Ryoga -- think before you act." Ranma grabbed Ryoga's backpack off of him and started tossing out stuff. "Where the hell do you keep ---"
Ryoga grabbed the watersack off the side of the pack, "It's right here." He handed it to Ranma, their eyes meeting for a bare second, saying all that needed to be said of friendships and goodbyes.
Ranma poured the water over his head. "You want a sacrifice?" Ukyo and Shampoo put out their hands, realizing for the first time what he was doing. But Ranma was already on his way. He charged the barrier in girl-form, "I'll give you one -- and then my friends will tear you to pieces." Kuno and Mousse nodded grimly. Nabiki looked up at Kasumi, who silently shook her head. Nabiki's face went grim, then pale, then resigned. "So be it," she whispered.
The dark barrier flared in a rainbow hue of colors as Ranma entered it, sparks flying out and burning what they touched. Then all the colors turned to red and Ranma was hurled out at a speed that tore apart the walls from the air pressure. Ryoga jumped up and caught him before he hit the back wall. As they landed, Ranma's eyes blinked open, "Akane…"
"It didn't work?" The other four warriors were both aghast and relieved. Mousse looked up at the magician, clenching his fists, "So, you're a liar as well."
The magician's laughter almost seemed to be genuine. "You fools. I said a female. You might have the form of a girl, but you are still a man."
Ranma stood up, "Okay. We can still do it. If we join together. We are not complete without Akane, and we will get her back." Five of the warriors stood in wedge formation, their battle-auras rising to the room and twisting together. Ranma turned his head to the empty spot at his right side, "What the?"
Standing up from his backpack, Ryoga moved into his spot, upending a thermos over Ranma's head, "Baka. Fight with full strength."
The group of six auras flowed down around them and the form of a dragon shaped over their bodies. It reared its head, flame shooting from its mouth as it advanced upon the magician.
The magician raised an eyebrow. "Not bad. In other times, it might have worked." Gesturing to the barrier, his voice was derisive, "Did you think this was raised by me? Other powers are at force here, and the process will complete itself. And then her energy will be my power." Before the dragon reached it, the barrier flared again, and he turned his head, "What…?"
"Sis, you are gonna owe me for this one." The rainbow colors of the barrier transmuted to a rich golden color. Nabiki's body was highlighted by the glow and a funnel formed over her as she collapsed into a heap. The funnel over Akane changed in form as the ends reversed and golden energy poured back into her.
"She did it!" The magician raised his arms and energy swirled around him, his form growing larger and larger. The barrier vanished, merging its energy into him as well. "A free and willing sacrifice increases the power of the energy ten-fold. I am invincible!"
The dragon aura collapsed as the group lost its cohesiveness, attentions and worries focusing in different areas.
"Nabiki!!!!!" Kuno's cry rose above the rest.
Looking down upon the warriors, the form of the magician smiled evilly, "Now let's see how much more energy I can gather." He raised his hands, tracing a symbol in the air. The symbol glowed golden, then changed to green. He looked up at it, startled, "What…?"
"It is true," Kasumi's voice could be heard through the room, clear and strong while still remaining soft and gentle, "that the energy of a sacrifice freely given is the most powerful force in nature -- it is the most powerful force of Good. No sacrifice freely given can be used for Evil, and can not be forced to it."
The green symbol changed, and the color bled out into the gold, creating an envelope around the figure of the magician, shading him from their view. But they heard his scream. Then all light disappeared. Slowly, natural light made its way into the room from the tall windows. The group blinked as they refocused.
"Akane!" Ranma ran to her, lifting her up from the altar. She opened her eyes, seeing him. Then her eyes turned to one side… "Nabiki!" Akane scrambled away from Ranma and was instantly by her sister's side, holding her in her arms. "Nabiki…" The tears flowed down her cheeks. Ranma placed a hand on her shoulder, bowing his head. The group gathered around.
"Nabiki Tendo." Kuno moved forward, and took Nabiki's body from Akane, who let him. Kuno looked down at her face, "Na-chan… You can't leave me. You can't."
Akane sobbed and Ranma held her tightly. Akane raised her head, "Kasumi!!!!"
All the group but Kuno looked around. Kasumi was standing by the podium, staring down at the spot where the magician had stood.
"Kasumi -- Nabiki…" Akane's voice broke in her plead.
Kasumi blinked, "Oh yes. A moment more, please. I'll be there as soon as this is finished."
"Finished?" The warriors looked around, the two girls and Mousse and Ryoga dropping to fighting crouches instantly.
"There." Kasumi dusted her hands and walked towards the group. "Tatawaki-san, could you please place her on the altar."
Kuno slowly moved to it, walking as if in a trance, his face blank. He placed Nabiki down and then sank to his knees, bowing his head as he held her hand between his own.
"But Kasumi," Ryoga looked between the sisters, "she's…" He couldn't say it.
The eldest sister tilted her head, "Oh, he took her energy, but first she gave her soul to me." She held out her hand where a golden sphere of light rested gently upon it. Kasumi tilted her hand and the sphere floated lightly down to rest upon Nabiki's chest. Then it sank within her. Kasumi spread her hands over her sister's body and a green light flowed through the room.
The light grew brighter and brighter until the warriors had to cover their eyes briefly from the intensity. Every one of them instantly looked again when they could. And they saw not each other nor the dark and gloomy room, but rather a tall mountain, with snow on the top. Their view zoomed inward and they saw meadows, and lakes -- tall green trees amid pastures of green grass. A hummingbird flew to a cherry tree and nuzzled the blossoms. A bee circled down to a patch of clover, not disturbing the rabbit nibbling upon the rest. The view backed out again and they saw the mountain -- and atop the mountain was a golden glow. And they heard a rather familiar squawk.
"You've got 'ta be kidding." Ranma muttered. Ryoga's jaw dropped.
The familiar figure of a fuzzy yellow bird with beady eyes appeared before them. It glared at the group before turning its gaze on Kasumi, Nabiki, and Kuno. Then the bird spread its wings. An aura spread over the bird, changing its feathers to molten-gold. Its wings were powerful and tapered, its neck, body and tail long and graceful. Its head was regal and the eyes intelligent. The crest over its head sparkled with the jewels of legend. Fire flowed around it and then flared up in a burst that had the group exclaiming in pain.
When they opened their eyes again, the vision was gone.
A low groan caught their attention. Nabiki sat up, holding her head, "Sis, I'm not doing that again." She looked up at Kasumi, "but truthfully, I didn't really think it would work."
"Of course," Kasumi smiled down at her, "If you believed, it wouldn't have been a real sacrifice."
"Nabiki!" Akane flung herself into her sister's arms, her tears changing to joy.
Patting her awkwardly, Nabiki exclaimed, "Hey, hey, it's all right. Calm down, already. I'm fine."
Nabiki looked up, her eyebrow raising.
Kuno dropped to one knee before her, focusing his gaze on the hand he lifted up, "Na-chan -- I'm gla--" his controlled voice broke for a moment. He cleared his throat, still not looking at her, "I'm glad you are safe." He lowered his forehead to her hand, then turned and walked out of the room. Nabiki stared after him, her face slack with surprise… "Kuno-chan…?" She put Akane to one side absently as she stood up, "Tatawaki? What the heck?"
Ranma laughed in more surprise and relief than amusement, "What -- the ever-seeing one hadn't seen it?"
"Seen what?" Nabiki glared half-heartedly at him.
"He's always watching you," Ryoga put in, arms crossed, grinning in delight.
"For at least the last couple of months." Ranma put his arm around Akane and drew her in close again. She looked at him in surprise, but he wasn't watching her.
Shampoo and Ukyo glanced at each other, then shrugged in unison.
"Kasumi, did you know about…" Nabiki looked around, "Kasumi?"
They finally found her coming out of a side door.
Ranma's head lifted, "Do I smell smoke?"
"Of course. We probably should leave now." In her graceful glide, Kasumi moved towards the main entrance.
Ranma and Ryoga peered inside the room she'd walked out of. It was stacked to the ceiling with books and parchments… and it was burning up. "Ahhh…"
"Let's get outta here!"
The group ran full force, pelting out of the area. Ranma swung Akane up in his arms, while Ryoga grabbed Nabiki. They passed through several doors and corridors. "I don't remember all this when coming in." "Ryoga was leading." "Oh yeah."
When they finally got outside, Kasumi and Kuno were waiting for them, gazes fixed on the mansion. They all backed off and watched.
"Is it my imagination, or does that fire have a green tinge to it?"
"Don't ask. Just don't ask."
When the last ashes floated in the wind, the group turned to go back home.